Making resources on popular culture and imagination available to those curious about how they relate to the Christian faith (like me), even if they don't call themselves Christian.

"The Pop Culture Parent" Preview

Chapter 1
Why We Need Pop Culture Parents

Popular culture lives everywhere. Stories, songs, shows, games, and images all flow into our eyes, ears, and imaginations. They come from television screens, books, and radio stations. Even more often, they’re reaching us over our computers and mobile devices.

As a parent, you already live in this inevitable world of popular culture. So do your kids.

If you’re on a family vacation and you pass something as simple as a billboard, that’s a bit of popular culture. When your young child comes home from church talking about a TV show, or your teenage child shares photos on a new social-media app, that’s even more popular culture. As the internet grows, this popular culture–filled world will become even larger for your kids. On the internet, movie fans of all ages share news and art about their favorite stories. Music fans download songs, video gamers swap tips on beating the most difficult levels. Book fans follow their favorite authors and order new volumes from retailers.

In fact, by reading this book, you’re engaging in (Christian-made) popular culture yourself.

Popular culture is like the very air we breathe. We can take it in and give it out and not even think about it.

In this book, we define popular culture as human-created works that occupy common spaces, such as TV, the internet, music, and beyond. Popular culture is everywhere. We can’t resist it or escape its influence.

Or can we?

Should Christians try to defend ourselves against popular culture, screening out its influence in our families? How many TV shows, movies, or games are too much for our kids? What about certain movies with violent or sexual content? Or is popular culture neutral? Is it “just entertainment” that is ultimately harmless as long as parents avoid legalism?

These questions have launched many discussions, books, and blog articles. We’ve read movie-review websites and picked up discernment resources. And from academic sorts of Christians, we’ve seen articles that promise to find the gospel or a redemptive theme in a popular movie franchise or streaming drama series.

All these can help Christians, but they haven’t explored the most crucial need of all. As parents, we need to understand popular culture and parenting according to God’s Word. Only then can we avoid both (1) fearing popular culture and (2) embracing it with little discernment. And only then can we apply this truth to our parenting and to the entertainments our children love. That way, we can best glorify God as we fulfill our incredible and biblical calling as parents.

That’s why this book isn’t only a “tips and tricks” guide for helping your kids handle specific types of popular culture. Instead, we created this book to give you a stronger and more biblical understanding of your calling as a parent and what popular culture has to do with it.

We will challenge several assumptions about kids, parents, and their relationships to popular culture. Once you understand these relationships, you will be better able to enter your children’s favorite worlds—the popular culture they love—so you can lead and serve your children in fantastic, Christlike ways.

Ted’s story: How I entered my children’s favorite world

One day in 2006, my son came home from middle school absolutely excited. He told me, “Dad! Dad! You’ve got to watch this Japanese anime series with me! It’s called One

I asked him what the series was about.

“It’s about a pirate named Monkey D. Luffy who wants to find a treasure called the One Piece and become king of the Pirates!”

Honestly, it sounded like the dumbest thing ever. I didn’t jump in right away, but I noticed he was watching a lot of it and that he’d also gotten his younger sister involved.
Eventually I sat down with them to give it a try. After five or six episodes, I found that I liked the over-the-top, very stylized, and goofy visuals. I found the characters growing
on me. I developed an affection for this show that obviously meant a lot to my kids. They even went back and started from the beginning, so my wife and I could get the whole story from episode 1. One Piece has been part of our family life ever since (and it is still running).

Yes, the show includes some elements we don’t agree with. We’ve often talked about the characters’ moral choices. After all, they are pirates, even if they engage in little piracy! We’ve also explored the artists’ decision to portray characters (especially women) in revealing attire. But we’ve delighted too in the story’s deep excellence. One Piece includes signs of grace as well as idolatry, like most popular cultural works. And the stories have provoked many interesting and important conversations about all sorts of moral and spiritual topics. These conversations would have never occurred if we as parents hadn’t decided to step into our children’s world to share something that delighted them so.