Engaging our culture, or selling our souls?

Have evangelicals fallen into the trap of validating all sorts of entertainment choices in the name of ‘cultural engagement’?

LeoLast year, I shared some thoughts on how Christians ought to engage with and consume popular culture, based around the final episode of Breaking Bad. It’s a perennial question, one that will continue to confront Christians for a long time to come.

The latest incarnation of this issue centres around the film The Wolf of Wall Street, the Oscar-nominated film starring Leonardo DiCaprio and directed by Martin Scorsese. I haven’t seen it, but I greatly appreciated Trevin Wax’s insights over at The Gospel Coalition. For me, here is the big question: “I never subscribed to the fundamentalist vision that saw holiness in terms of cultural retreat or worldliness as anything that smacked of cultural engagement. I don’t subscribe to that position today. But sometimes I wonder if evangelicals have swung the pendulum too far to the other side, to the point where all sorts of entertainment choices are validated in the name of cultural engagement.

Trevin has followed up his initial post with some further thoughts, and also points us to Christianity Today‘s review of The Wolf of Wall Street. I’d been waiting for this argument: ‘The Wolf of Wall Street is wonderfully made – Scorsese is a genius, after all. And it doesn’t glorify sin; it subtly condemns it and shows the consequences of sin.’ The CT review doesn’t say it in these exact words, but it goes very close. And I’m sure that view is one that many Christians hold.

In case you have no idea what all the fuss is about with this movie, you might want to read this review from Plugged In.

What do you think? Have evangelicals sacrificed their discernment – and their willingness to avoid what is unhelpful, perhaps even their holiness – on the altars of ‘cultural engagement’ and ‘freedom in Christ’?

One thought on “Engaging our culture, or selling our souls?

  1. Hi Geoff,

    Right there with you on this one. Thanks for taking a stand.

    I now check the content advisory on imdb for all potential viewing. The Wolf of Wall Street is now well and truly off the list. The reading alone of the content in the movie makes for some pretty shocking stuff.

    As someone in our year at MTC once said, ‘if your next door neighbour invited you around to watch him do [in this case, insert the content advisory for this movie on imdb]’ you’d feel sick and yet this is exactly what people do when they watch these things’. I’m going to engage the culture for Christ and watch an orgy? It feels blasphemous even just to write that.

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