When I was an actor in art school, we learned how an artists responsibility was to look deep into the culture and create a conversation where people might think of a certain issue a different way. Sexuality, War, Conflict in the Human Condition, it all froths to the top in good writing. For some, we need new ways of approaching these issues so we can come to different conclusions.
Theater is an interesting art form. So many genres give actors, directors, and producers different pallets to approach this cultural mirror. But what happens when there's a critical mass? What happens when the audience turns from 100 people to 100 Million? Is there a responsibility for the artists to start explaining the direction they're driving?
I've been amazed at my previous article concerning Miley Cyrus and the VMA award show on Sunday. As of right now, nearly 26,854 people have viewed the article in just over 24 hours. Which tells me we need a long hard look at how to respond when we don't know where the culture is going. We need to ask a few questions to help us frame this debate well.
1.) How much of Miley Cyrus lives in us?
As per my article below, We need to be careful to check our response at the door. Artists have an ingrained responsibility to reflect, and it's easy to point our finger at someone on stage without taking the proper examination into our own dark heart. Remember, Cyrus is 20 something years old and has been spit out of a HUGE machine. I don't need to defend her, but before I start seeing Christian Antagonists who want to be the moral cultural police, we need to take a long hard look into the sexuality among our own.
Did Miley hit a nerve because we want to distance ourselves from the sexual revolution happening right before our eyes? Pornography is still a $13 Billion industry And I would argue the choreography from Sunday's MTV event was as close to porn as you can get without crossing into XXX ratings.
Even Bill Maher tweeted, "Watching the VMA's Haven't been in a strip Club in a while, but good to see nothing has changed."
One might take the position Cyrus was just subject to her own machine, a 20 something year old woman trying to distance herself from the cute Disney label she was known for, obviously swinging the pendulum too far to the other side. OR, we can see the VMA's as a reflection of what's really going on in our society.
"Miley was one artist in the room who truly understands what MTV Video Music Awards are all about" tweeted Rolling Stone Magazine after the event.
Is it about reflection or a culture seeking to drive us deeper into the mud and myre of our own depravity?
When I was young there were traveling pastors who tried to make the case that if you listened to certain music or watched certain movies you were actually partnering with evil to take down the moral compass of our civilization. But is that really what's going on? Is art a tool for evil? Or, can we take a minute to ask ourselves, why?
Why are we so offended?
Why is there a repulsive reaction?
Anybody walk in Cyrus' shoes to understand why she would make the choices she made?
Like I said before, I'm not defending Miley, the VMA's, MTV, or any other artist that chooses to put on a display of outright sexuality on cable T.V. I'm only proposing we ask questions of reflection before we jump to judgement.
2.) Do Christians have a place to be honest and examine the ills in our own lives?
I've been intrigued lately with the pain and trauma families are dealing with as they walk through potentially destructive situations. The guilt and shame accompanying events around sexuality, greed, pride, and failure, seem to bring out the most secretive in all of us. We have a sense that if we serve a good God, then most evil in the world will just pass us by like the angel of death during the Israelite Exodus of Moses' day.
But that's not the case.
We live in a world that is filled with evil. The stain of the world is prevalent everywhere. From television to the super market, we don't have a place to hide, and we are not guaranteed life is going to be easy just because we decide to follow Jesus. Addiction is real. Death and Disease are real. Sexual immorality is part of the human condition, and I'm not sure the question is 'should we run and hide' as much as it is 'how can we deal with it while we breath here on the planet.
James 1:27 says, "Pure and undefiled religion is this...That we take care of the widows and orphans in their distress, AND to remain unstained from the world." It's not an either or situation. It's a both and command.
Widows and Orphans can be those who we see physically lonely, but they can also be the spiritual lonely. Those in our communities who are hiding in the secret sin and are living in a world shadowed by shame. And in order to get there to walk with our friends, we have to be able to look deep into our own world and ask the hard questions about humanity, God, and our response to God's Sovereignty.
I recently talked with a friend going through tremendous amount of pain, and his comment was, "What if someone finds out?"
To which I quickly responded, "Yea? If they find out you'll know who is going to be able to walk with you through this for real. You don't have to put on a 'Christian' show for the world. You don't have to defend God. He's capable of defending himself. You shouldn't even have to defend yourself. God made you, created you, loves you, judges you, and ultimately forgives you. The fact you feel the pressure to be an example is exactly where YOU SHOULDN'T have to live."
Freedom will come when we can lay down the things we find most repulsive in our own existence and take steps to confront those things that are most offensive.
3.) How do you talk to your teenagers about representing themselves in culture?
The sad part of the VMA's is that Miley Cyrus will forever be on the playback reel for the foreseeable future. It seems like when artists push the boundaries to either reflection or driving, those are the times that continue making the news reel. USA Today had three articles yesterday concerning one moment of a two hour awards show.
Well, we can look at it as a cultural demise, or we can take the opportunity afforded to talk with our kids about right and wrong. The questions at the dinner table ought to sound like...
What did they say about the VMA's at school yesterday?
Why do you think Cyrus chose to dance like that?
Do you do things to prove a point sometimes?
Do you ever respond to others out of pain, hurt, or the need to express yourself?
What do you think are the proper ways to call for help?
And then follow up with lessons you can help your kids see how impactful this will be. Tell them of lessons you learned about how to represent yourself in public. Help your girls see why boys will give them attention for dressing a certain way, talking a certain way, or dancing a certain way. Help your boys see the world is interested in what kind of girl you can get to walk with you, but God is interested in how you treat a woman.
I think there are some incredible opportunities for us to learn, teach, train, and still remain pure from the ills of the world but we have to stop ignoring our own community issues long enough to look them in the face and push to find answers.