I’ve been reading a lot of “Critical Theory” in preparation for my Doctoral Dissertation. Critical Theory, to give a really quick and crude explanation, essentially tries to understand society by looking at the ways our economy and psychological processing interact to produce culture, art, and personal beliefs. It can be very interesting and at times very boring.
One of the interesting concepts in Critical Theory that philosophers who adhere to this school of thought examine, are the importance of “low-culture” (think pop culture, the Kardashians, Love and Hip Hop, etc.) .To the Critical Theorists “low-culture” rarely serves to teach people anything. Most Critical Theorists believe that “low-culture” keeps society selfish, mean, and overall narcissistic.
I tend to agree with the Critical Theorists. Although I do watch and consume a lot of what can be considered “low-culture” I will consume things arguably considered “high-culture” to balance out my diet and atone for the sin of enjoying sleazy reality TV. I believe, in accordance with Cultural Theory, that there is no shortage of popular culture that adds to our societies propensity for greed, violence, nationalism, and exploitation.
As a Christian I tend to think that most of us agree in some form with the analysis made by Critical Theorists. I know there is no shortage of Christians that as a rule assume every Super-Bowl halftime show will end in debauchery. However, I think if we look at things with a more open mind we might be shocked by what occurs in our popular culture.
My wife and kids have become very big fans of American Idol (for the record I have started to enjoy it and watch it with them. I think Justin Guaraní has the possibility to make a big comeback. Who’s with me???). They particularly enjoy the role Katy Perry plays as the very “happy and inspiring judge”. This has lead them, in particular my wife, to look deeper into her music and some of the interviews she has given over the years.
In one interview Katy Perry explains that she had grown up as a “born again Christian” but has since ceased practicing the faith. The “Born-Again experience” as she proclaims in one interview has not gone completely away. In one song she writes openly about the power God has over her life and how she turned to God in times of personal despair. I have to admit her depth of Christian spirituality shocked me.
Yesterday, while getting ready for work I heard the news say that Katy Perry had apologized to Country star Taylor Swift for their recent feud. As my 9-year-old daughter explained when I asked what the news was talking about “Katy Perry made a song in response to a song Taylor Swift made about Katy Perry. They both don’t like each other so they made songs saying that they were better singers than the other.” While I don’t know the finer details of the argument I was interested to see what details the news story had to offer.
The news shared that Katy Perry had reached out to Taylor Swift personally. They stated that she sent a note and an olive branch (I enjoyed her use of the olive branch. Seems fitting considering her background in the church). It appears that Katy Perry was asking for forgiveness from Taylor Swift and is interested in restarting their relationship.
My daughter, who is a really shrewd judge of social conflict, asked me “why Katy Perry would apologize if all she did was defend herself? Katy didn’t start this fight; all she was doing is just defending herself. It’s Taylor who should be apologizing.” As any good dad who wears cardigan sweaters would do, I thought this would make a good “teaching moment.”
I talked with my daughter and reminded her of Christ’s words that “blessed are the peacemakers.” I explained that regardless of who started the fight and who is truly right or wrong, Jesus only cares about our actions and our hearts. I explained that what Katy Perry did, in apologizing for her role and seeking to make things better with her adversary, is the exact behavior that God wants us all to emulate. My daughter’s response is one I wish to emulate “wow, so Katy Perry is like a really good Jesus person.”
While I don’t know Katy Perry personally, or feel comfortable commenting on anybody’s personal beliefs or spiritual walk, I must say that her actions do make her a “really good Jesus person.” I hope that in the end I exhibit behavior that will make my daughter say of me “wow, my dad is a really good Jesus person.” In the end that is all that really matters.