Russell and Duenes

Full of “glee”

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My wife and I happened upon the television show “Glee” at our home this week. We’d heard of it before – some of my high school students talk about it – but had never watched it. Anyone who has seen it will be familiar with its theme and content. Think “High School Musical” with an R-rating. After it was over I went trolling around the blogosphere to find some thoughts on it, and I found an excellent review on Christian the Christian’s blog. In his post, “Are You a GLEEk,” he insightfully commented,

It seems the primary purpose of the show is to promote one worldview: “follow your heart” (which should have the subtitle: “regardless of the consequences”). Instead of encouraging virtue it takes the obvious fact that the world is broken and no one is perfect and embraces it, encouraging people to accept it and enjoy it. Instead of encouraging students to guard their heart they use teens as the vehicle for promoting reckless living.

This is spot on, yet I find myself increasingly uncomfortable with laying the ultimate blame for these things on “secular” culture (not that Christian was doing this). When thinking about the cultural foundations that support the popularity of a show like “Glee,” I find that I agree with pastor Douglas Wilson’s thought, viz. that the culture is largely a reflection of the ethos and practice within evangelicalism. For shows like “Glee” are a problem, but they are a problem spawned by unfaithfulness among us as “evangelicals.” Wilson writes,

Evangelicalism is not the solution to America’s problem. Evangelicalism is America’s problem. That reflection we see of ourselves in the outside culture is simply our own reflection in a set of fun house mirrors. That’s us you are looking at. You name the problem in the outside culture, and it is simply an overblown and grotesque version of what we have going on in the sanctuary.

I’d never heard the notion so well articulated. This brought me full circle to USC philosophy professor Dallas Willard’s rightful assertion that “sensuality” is now our guide to life, both inside and outside the church. He writes,

The current guide to reality and what is good in the United States, if not the Western world as a whole, is sensuality or feeling. The worldview answers people now live by are provided by feelings. Desire, not reality and not what is good, rules our world. That is even true for the most part within religion. Most of what Americans do in their religion now is done at the behest of feelings. The quest for pleasure takes over the house of God. What is good or what is true is no longer the guide…Media and popular arts step in to fill the vacuum of worldview guidance with suggestions and images that reinforce sensuality as the way of life and that appeal to feelings to promote themselves…Pastors may occasionally protest against this state of things and its impacts upon life, but…they do not forcefully analyze it to the bottom and make unmistakably clear what a disaster it is for humanity [Knowing Christ Today, 201].

“Glee” does not use suggestions or images. Rather, it puts the sensual life front and center, out in the open. “Follow your heart! Act on what feels good! For the dictates of your heart are always right.” This, and not the gospel, is what has captured the majority of our hearts.



Written by Michael Duenes

October 23, 2009 at 8:58 pm

Posted in Duenes, Reflections

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