That may be true on one level, but such labeling is misleading. It makes it seem that if you have understood the philosophical tag, you’ve completely understood the worldview of that piece of popular culture. Rather, we need to keep in mind that the worldview is something woven into the narrative and stylistic structures of the popular cultural work that you’re listening to or watching or playing. The worldview is all about the contours of the imaginative landscape of the world that the creators of this particular piece of popular culture have produced. We need to interpret these complex worlds, not simply place labels on them that we find convenient, for it is through the specific shape of that popular cultural world that our own worldview is influenced.10
As theologian Kevin Vanhoozer reminds us, popular culture rarely influences our worldviews directly: “Instead of addressing our belief-systems head-on, cultural works structure our daily practices and colonize our imaginations.”11 Popular culture influences by inviting us into imaginative worlds, allowing us to try on a different perspective on reality. In this way, popular culture guides and orients us. Popular culture gives us “scripts” or “templates” that model the way life is, or should be.12 For example, popular cultural worlds can model what your first kiss is supposed to be like, or how you are supposed to act in the face of injustice and evil. William Romanowski makes the same point when he speaks of popular culture as giving us “maps of reality,” symbolic representations that orient us within the world.13 By weaving a perspective into its own imaginative world, and by inviting us into its world, a popular cultural work proposes a way of being, thought and belief to us. It bestows upon us a vision of reality that can influence the way we think about God, the world around us, and even our own identity. Over time, without critical engagement, popular culture can even change our very character, shaping the habits of our heart.14
If popular culture does indeed have this shaping and framing effect on worldviews, then we are faced with an obvious question: How should we as Christians respond? I would argue that our response must involve worldview apologetics.
Summary and Overview
Let us review some of the major points covered in this chapter:
We explored the conversation between popular culture and worldview. We are not merely passive in the process, but we actively use what we find in popular culture to construct our worldview and identities.
Popular culture influences the shape of our worldviews by circulating meaning through a dynamic cycle of production, reception and feedback.
Popular culture is also produced in conversation with its own traditions, often creating new traditions that challenge and entertain us.
Most importantly, popular culture’s texts shape our worldviews by creating imaginative worlds for us to inhabit. The worldviews displayed in popular culture are embedded into the narrative and stylistic structures of its many imaginative worlds. We are influenced through invitations to live within these worlds, trying on the worldviews woven into these imaginative worlds. In this way, popular culture influences our identity and perspective, especially in postmodern, media-saturated, consumer-driven societies.
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10We shall discuss in more detail how to interpret popular cultural worlds in chapter nine.
11Kevin J. Vanhoozer, “What Is Everyday Theology? How and Why Christians Should Read Culture,” in Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends, ed. Kevin J. Vanhoozer
13Romanowski, Eyes Wide Open, 95.