Today while walking Clive I was listening to the latest podcast episode of On the Media. This episode, “The Feelings Show“, is their end of the year episode, and consists primarily of some of their favorite interviews from 2017. One of those interviews was with Radiolab co-host Jad Abumrad, and Jad’s brother-in-law Eugene Thacker concerning Nihilism in our modern culture. Tacker wrote a book on the horror genre and confronting the unthinkable of our world (i.e. Nihilism) titled “In the Dust of this Planet“. Tacker made the following statement that had me thinking during the rest of Clive’s walk (Clive was too busy sniffing things to be distracted by the quote). Tacker said:
Yeah, I would go with that. …I think that that is nothing more than a posture…. and that’s why it’s in pop culture because that’s what pop culture is.
To mildly paraphrase Tacker – Pop culture postures. Pop culture tries to convey deep meaning without the work necessary for actual meaning. So it strikes a heroic pose while avoiding the actual sacrifice of true heroism. It tells love stories that focus on the intense, emotional feelings while avoiding the hard work of genuine commitment. It puffs itself up and tries to look much bigger and more meaningful than it actually is. As I paraphrased Tacker at the beginning of this paragraph, pop culture postures.
I meet lots of people who like to posture meaning. As a teen I loved things that looked deep. Of course, I just wanted to look deep, not actually put in all the time and effort necessary for actual depth. Real meaning takes work. Posturing meaning would be one thing if just teens did such posturing. Unfortunately, many of us adult continue to strike poses instead of actually becoming people of depth. Doing things that look meaningful is so much easier than doing the hard work necessary to actually live meaningfully.
This is part of what bothers me with pop spirituality, it postures significance. Whether it is Christian pop spirituality or pop spirituality from other faith backgrounds I believe it generally postures significance. I’ve written more about this in two previous posts (“Sentimentality vs Faith” and “ARGH! Sentimentalism“) so I won’t write about it again in this post.
In my opinion, the danger of posturing faith/pop spirituality is two fold. First, since posturing only merely looks like the thing you are poising like it, but isn’t actually the real thing, it doesn’t really hold up when times are difficult. Pop faith is built on sand and can’t stand through storms, Storm facing faith takes digging down and building a solid foundation, and that requires effort, sacrifice, and most importantly trust (Matthew 7:24-29). Trust takes time and experience. Secondly, pop faith is dangerous because it looks just similar enough to meaningful faith that it can keep us from actually developing the discipline of meaningful faith. After all, if you don’t have to work at real faith and can just get if from posturing, why would you choose effort and sacrifice?
We only have one more day of 2017. In 2018 I hope each of us is able to give up whatever postures we tried to maintain during the past year.