The State of Minnesota has an awesome program through which a high school junior or senior can attend college and get both high and college credit for the same. And the best part is that the State pays for the whole thing. So Rachel has been attending Anoka-Ramsey Community College in Coon Rapids this year and was recently invited to join Phi Theta Kappa, the only major honor society for two-year colleges in the country. Rachel, we're VERY proud of you!
Last night we attended her official induction ceremony at the college at which a man named Richard Broderick gave a mini-lecture on mass media and culture. Broderick proposed that the mass media in the United States is the most powerful "normative institution" in the country. By "normative institution" he means an institution which teaches us what it means to be normal. What it means to be a man, a woman, a child, a husband, a wife, an employer or employee, an American, a human being, etc.
I think Broderick's assertion is probably correct, if not, it's awfully close. Other sociological institutions like family, religion, schools, and workplaces still have a profound normative effect on the American psyche, however, the mass media has thoroughly infiltrated them all. Now, not everything in the mass media is problematic, in fact, some of the information that flows through it is vital for our life in the modern world. However, along with this vital information comes a host of other things that are problematic, primarily because they promote values which are contrary to the values of families, churches, schools, etc.
For instance, values such as respect and loyalty are vital to families but the mass media tends to promote opposite values such as disrespect and self-centeredness. My wife, who is a Spanish teacher, had a kid cuss her out yesterday because she asked him to do something he already knew he was supposed to do. This kind of over the top behavior would not have been tolerated a couple of generations ago but now, largely due to the influence of television and the internet, such behavior is commonplace.
This was, I think, Broderick's most impactful point: the values of the mass media are largely opposed to the values of other normative institutions in our culture and the former is undermining the latter. In the long run this trend will not be good. By the way, his point in the context of the induction ceremony was to encourage the inductees to be "counter-cultural" and war against the values of the media. I didn't agree with everything he said but I nearly shouted "amen" to this!
Now, as a lover of Jesus Christ, this train of thought led me to ask the following questions of myself: what is truly influencing my heart, soul, mind, and behavior? What are the most powerful "normative institutions" in my life? What is teaching me what it means to be a normal man, husband, father, pastor, citizen, etc? Is Jesus' voice the most prevalent voice in my life or not? If so, how so? If not, why not?
I invite you to ask these questions of yourself as well. We are all a mix of influences and that's a good thing. This has always been and will always be. But those of us who have come to know Jesus Christ, by grace through faith, must look to the Lord above all others and let his influence dictate all other influences in our lives. We must allow him to teach us what is normal to the extent that we die to all other "normals."
I will close with Paul's words from Colossians 3:1-4 and Philippians 4:8-9 which teach us that Christ and the things of Christ are the new normal for those who believe in Christ.
"If then you have been raised with Christ, seek the things that are above, where Christ is, seated at the right hand of God. Set your minds on things that are above, not on things that are on earth. For you have died, and your life is hidden with Christ in God. When Christ who is your life appears, then you also will appear with him in glory."
"Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable, if there is any excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think about these things.What you have learned and received and heard and seen in me--practice these things, and the God of peace will be with you" (Phil 4:8-9).