*(This article is very short but it’s good to find common ground when two world-views are constantly colliding).
Most of what I have studied and written about as it relates to Logical Faith has revolved around the major differences in theism and atheism, Christianity and secularism, and the like. Make no mistake, the differences in Christian theism and secularism are numerous and worth studying. Both world-views make exclusive claims which simply are not compatible. But, that doesn’t mean the opposing world-views have nothing in common.
This article will depart from the usual fare and highlight an area where non-believing secularists and thinking Christians may find agreement. Many secularists and Christians share a common concern about the direction of intellectual thought in the West. A self-proclaimed atheist, Susan Jacoby, writes, “During the past four decades, America’s endemic anti-intellectual tendencies have been grievously exacerbated by a new species of semiconscious anti-rationalism, feeding on and fed by an ignorant popular culture of video images and unremitting noise that leaves no room for contemplation or logic.” (Susan Jacoby, The Age of American Unreason (New York: Vintage Books, 2008), xi-xii).
Clearly this atheist is referring to mindless television programs and tasteless music that serve as mere junk food for the mind and soul. This is the essence of “pop culture.” Thoughtful Christians would have to agree with her assessment.
Take music, for example. In school, you may have been required to take a music appreciation class. You were taught about the complex structure of Mozart’s and Beethoven’s work. Appreciating that kind of music takes concentration, thoughtfulness, and focus. These are reasons we aren’t studying Justin Beiber or Katy Perry in music class. Who needs to study to understand such simplistic and thoughtless noise? This kind of music is specifically designed to cause us to think less. It requires “virtually no intellectual discipline or effort. If anything, [it] strives to avoid making the audience work. It’s intended to be simple, entertaining, and easy to understand, offering immediate gratification…It is designed to bypass the mind and appeal directly to the senses and emotions.” (Colson & Nancy Pearcey, How Now Shall We L Charles ive (Carol Stream, Ill: Tyndall House Publishers, 1999), 466-467. This cited chapter in this book is the inspiration for this article).
Television is similar. It is intended to deliver quick, flashing images that spoon feed us information which requires very little thought and evokes emotional responses. Constantly force feeding our minds with this barrage is actually impairing our mental capacities.
In order to study effectively, there are certain disciplines that require sharpening. Whether you are studying God’s word as a Christian or Nietzsche as a secularist, you will need the ability to concentrate and focus on what you are doing. You need self-discipline, the ability to analyze, and a long attention span. A steady diet of mind numbing pop culture often tastes great and looks attractive but will eventually erode these essentials of a good study life.
In 1 Corinthians 10:23, Paul explains that while it’s ok to enjoy some pop-culture fast food every now and then, it may not always be good for you or beneficial. It certainly should not be your main course! In Philippians 4:8 Paul instructs us to fix our minds on what is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, and admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. It is noted that “Paul doesn’t limit that principle to spiritual things; he says if anything is excellent. Paul is telling us to train our tastes to love the higher things—things that challenge our mind, deepen our character, and foster a love of excellence.” (See Colson and Pearcey, 473).
I think it’s reasonable to assume that most secularists would agree with what Paul wrote in this context. We should all desire that the life of the mind be rescued from the shallowness of the pop-culture. If we do this we will sharpen our innermost man and for the Christian this means having a deeper understanding and love for Jesus Christ that will last throughout our eternity. For the secularist, I’m not sure what ultimate purpose they may have in rescuing the life of the mind, but I think we can all agree that a turnaround is needed.