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Pop Culture vs. the Commandments

A. J. Church

People who love God accept His commandments as truth. Popular culture is against God’s commandments. Just think about some of the things you see in mass media, or maybe the friends you hang out with. How do they compare to God’s law found in Exodus 20:3-17?
• First commandment: Only one God. Today many people are interested in spiritualism and believe that there are many gods, not just one. And, people think they can just pick the god they want.
• Second commandment: No idolatry. Ever notice that a whole lot of people love the things they create, work for, or possess more than they love God?
• Third commandment: Don’t misuse God’s name. How often do you hear people at school, work, or in movies use the name “Jesus” or “God” in an offensive way?
• Fourth commandment: The Sabbath. Most people spend Saturday very differently than Sabbathkeepers do.
• Fifth commandment: Honor parents. Is this a popular theme in today’s selfish society? Nope.
• Sixth commandment: Don’t murder. These days it seems that the stories that interest people involve murder.
• Seventh commandment: Don’t commit adultery. These days the rest of the stories that interest people involve adultery. And, it’s hard not to commit adultery in your heart when attractive people are dressed immodestly.
• Eighth commandment: Don’t steal. As the world’s population grows, people have to compete more for wealth. Many people today don’t think stealing is morally wrong.
• Ninth commandment: Don’t lie. Like stealing, a lot of people don’t think it’s wrong to lie when doing so will serve them or put down their competition.
• Tenth commandment: Don’t covet. How many songs, shows, or movies have you heard or seen that promote wanting something you shouldn’t have?
If you want to be different, if you want to duck out of the mainstream for good, let God’s law be your guide.

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Don’t Wanna Be a Pop Christian

by A. J. Church

I’m sick of living according to mainstream culture, so I’ve found a better way to live—according to God’s commandments.

My skin feels baked from the hot, dry summer day. The sun just went down, and the bands are still playing. The hard rock music is trailing along the well-worn rocky paths, echoing through the woods.
More than 100 underground punk groups from all over the world are performing all night and day this weekend in eastern Canada in 1997.
Wearing shorts and a t-shirt, I’m walking by myself now. I’m nearing a clearing where the stage is. The music is getting louder and louder. The fast, steady beat is pulsing through the air. Impossible to ignore, the sounds seem to control the way I walk, act, even the way I think.
My heart starts racing when I see the side of the stage. An ambulance behind me somehow made it through the rough trail and is bouncing back to the main road.  Someone must have overdosed on drugs. A bunch of people are jumping on and off the vehicle, laughing as it races away.
I saw two uniformed cops by the road the other night. They wanted to enter the 50-acre campground, but the landowner, an old punk rocker with a hot pink mohawk, wouldn’t allow them on his property.
God’s protecting angels probably wouldn’t visit this property, either. It’s a dangerous scene to be a part of, but at least it repels the popular culture outside, I reassure myself.
Going against the mainstream
Most people came to the all-weekend party to escape the mainstream, including me. Back then I didn’t truly understand what it meant to be set apart from pop culture.
I’ve never fit in with city kids. I was 10 years old when my family moved to the Seattle suburbs. I came to enjoy pop music, clothing, and entertainment, but I didn’t know how to act cool around people. I got in a lot of fights, got bad grades, and I even got arrested a few times.
I moved to Canada for a few years to escape legal problems in Seattle. I thought the move would also distance me from that society. I hoped to start over and finally fit into the popular culture. I planned to have a lot of friends.
But even in Canada I realized I’d never be able to identify with the majority. The community I lived in seemed dishonest, cruel, and fake, just like the place I moved away from. I sided with kids from broken homes and those with similar feelings about society. We justified our rebellion by labeling the majority of North Americans as morally defective. And though many in our society called themselves Christians, we had proof from history and the injustices all around us that they were hypocrites.
As I met more people who thought the way I did about popular culture, I found clothing, music, and entertainment that countered the mainstream. Most of my friends were punkers, because their culture seemed the best example of my ideal culture.
When I moved back to Seattle it amazed me that punk rock had become popular there. I saw clean-cut kids with mohawks, leather jackets, and studded bracelets wandering suburban streets, staring blankly at passersby. I couldn’t believe it; punk rock had finally become part of the mainstream.  
It disgusted me that the underground culture I’d been a part of had become exploited and transformed by pop culture. So once again I found myself alone in the world, with no group to belong to.
Giving up—to Christ
My sadness caused me to pray to God, who I always knew was near, but I never committed myself to. Finally I let go and put myself in Christ’s care. I gave my heart to Jesus, and I became part of the body of Christ—the heavenly culture.
The first Seventh-day Adventist church I attended had traditional types of services with mostly hymn music. For me church was a sacred place, an oasis amidst the popular society outside its doors. But I had to laugh when during the closing song one Sabbath, a drunken, middle-aged man with a mohawk wandered into the building.
He strutted to the end of the center aisle, to the front of the stage where the pastor and elders stood. He kneeled down and rested the side of his head on the communion table. In the foyer, after the service, he gave as many hugs as he could.
As I attended other Adventist church services, I noticed that the music sounded familiar. It was pop music—the kind of music that brought back disturbing memories to me. Shocking! Then I gradually saw more people in church dressing and posing like actors in a soap opera. They reminded me of the preppy city kids that ostracized me in school.
It didn’t take me long to discover the controversy in our church called liberalism versus conservatism. I decided these groups were two popular cultures of their own that no sane person should be a part of. It scared me that no matter where I turned, I couldn’t escape pop culture.
What exactly is pop culture? You can easily point to things like TV, music, and dress for definitions, but what do all these things have in common? What is it about the way people look, act, and think that makes them part of a mass majority?
Pop culture is an attempt by people to unite humankind.
Since Adam and Eve fell, humans have tried to unite themselves to make up
for their broken relationship with God.  Remember the Bible story of the Tower of Babel, or how old Jerusalem cried for a king instead of allowing God to be their leader? What about when the early Christian church joined popular paganism, which resulted in the Papacy?
Like the Tower of Babel, in modern times the punk movement ultimately promotes working together for humankind at the expense of those who don’t agree with the punk ideal government. And just like ancient Jerusalem’s insistence on becoming a monarchy like the rest of the world, today’s preppies and jocks want to fit in and look like everyone else. Even politics and religion are mixing, like Christianity and ancient Rome did.
But God has His own way of uniting humankind, even uniting them with Himself—through the gospel. Unfortunately, not every person accepts the gospel.
Jesus experienced death to give us eternal life in order to unify us with Him and  with each other. Humankind has always been and always will be divided between those who truly believe and accept Christ, and those who don’t.
When He explained to the disciples their work ahead, Jesus said: “Do not suppose that I have come to bring peace to the earth. I did not come to bring peace, but a
sword. . . . a man’s enemies will be the members of his own household” (Matthew 10:34-36).
Though Jesus wants all humankind to embrace the good news, not all of us will. We are blessed with our own free wills, but we’re desperately heard-hearted. However, for those who are willing to fight against self and grab on to Jesus, God has a message about how to live: “You are to be holy to me because I, the Lord, am holy, and I have set you apart from the nations to be my own” (Leviticus 20:26).
A. J. Church is studying nursing at Walla Walla University in College Place, Washington.

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