Walt Muller, president of the Center for Parent/Youth Understanding (CPYU), spoke at our Covenant Midwinter pastor’s conference a few decades ago. What I remember most from his discussion was the fact that, “media is both mirror and map.” This means that as we look at movies, television, music, and any other modern day media, we know that it directs and guides our teenage (and adult!) culture. We think what we think because of what we see and hear. We wear what we wear because we see others wearing it on TV. And everything from our fashion sense to our belies systems are guided by our media. Media is, in this case, a map guiding us to what is “groovy, hip, cool, in, hot” or whatever means “socially acceptable” in today’s culture.
But it is also a mirror. It reflects what is going on in the culture. Why did superhero movies become such a hit after 9/11? We needed heroes to help us feel safe in a suddenly unsafe world. If we want to learn about our culture, watch some media for a while.
As such, our media has changed over the years to both guide and reflect the culture around us. We moved from “The Waltons” and “Little House on the Prairie” about family values and togetherness, to “The Simpsons” and “Friends” about family dysfunction and friend groups closer than family. We moved from Batman and Superman, heroes who stood alone against the universe, to The Avengers and Justice League, where the collection of individuals formed a team to work together. The group is more important than the individual.
This is Paul’s message here in 1 Cor. 14. The gift of tongues is good, but it is a gift for the individual. It does not edify the body. Better is the gift of prophecy, which is not for the individual but for the body. The group is more important than the individual!
I wonder if we are in a time in history where this kind of message, the message of the gospel that has not changed through the years, might ring truer with the world around us. Self-sacrifice, unity in community, the group worth more than the individual… might these themes speak to our world now in a way they haven’t for the past century?