By Matt Cleaver For those of us who work with teenagers, we are aware of the vast influence of mass media in their lives. Most teenagers spend hours a day listening to music, watching television, or surfing the internet. Disturbingly, the messages that stream across the airwaves, through fiber-optic cable, and over Wi-Fi networks often seem to be in contradiction with the values, standards, and norms we are trying to instill into our Christian young people. How should we deal with this? Ted Baehr and Pat Boone (along with other guest authors) try to answer this question in The Culture-Wise Family: Upholding Christian Values in a Mass Media World. The authors come from the premise that America was founded as a Christian nation (Chapter 4) and that Christians must win the “cultural battle” (157). Ever since the removal of prayer from school, America’s social problems and illnesses have grown exponentially. Statistics charting the changes in America’s cultural landscape from the 1960s to 1990s help support this claim. In attempting to turn the tide, Christians who want to “apply biblical principles to all areas of life, and Christ’s authority over all things” are left with no choice but to say, “Our goal is nothing less than a Christian civilization”. This is the approach the authors take in regard to culture.
The authors assert that the proper interaction of Christians with our culture is to avoid any form of media that does not conform fully to a biblical, Christian world view. Books and movies like The Da Vinci Code and Harry Potter series should be off-limits for Christians. In reference to the media we consume, Christians must always remember that “Jesus, who sits at the right hand of our Father in Heaven and sees all, is watching us, and God is taking down our names”. By voting with our pocketbook, those who control the media will be forced to begin producing works that are in line with a Christian world view.
One of the most helpful chapters in the book is chapter 5, which explains the different ways that children interact with media according to their age and development. It is important for parents and youth workers to realize that children and teenagers do not process media in the same ways as adults because of their mental development.
Perhaps the compilation of authors hurt the book’s cohesiveness. The chapters seem to suffer from a lack of flow and obvious thought-pattern. Even within a chapter it is sometimes difficult to see the relevance of some of the author’s stories and examples. Additionally, although it is not an academic work, more documentation of sources would be helpful to support some of the claims made in the book.
While there is some value to be gained from this book in regard to interacting with culture, the book suffers from too much sprawl related to issues that have little to nothing to do with helping Christians interact with culture. The book could stand some significant editing or a new title. Too much space is spent hearkening back to the 1950s and waging war against liberals. Readers hoping to find a robust, systematic, and cohesive approach to interacting with culture should look elsewhere.