Rain-soaked and waiting to cheer my wife across the finish line of a half-marathon, I heard these lyrics thumping through the PA system:
So it’s here I stand,
as a broken man,
But I’ve found my friend,
At the curtains of the waterfall.
Now I’m falling down,
Through the crashing sounds.
And you’ve come around,
At the curtains of the waterfall.
And you rushed to me,
And it sets us free.
So I fall to my knees,
At the curtains of the water fall.
Intrigued, I went full-blown millennial, tapped some key words into my phone, and discovered two things. First, I’m woefully behind the times. And, second, these are the culminating lyrics of the multi-platinum, award-winning, smash-hit Geronimo by the Australian band, Sheppard. (Actually, millennials everywhere just said, “You know there’s an app for that.”) Regardless, let’s review those themes once again: brokenness, neediness, salvation through faith in a person (in this case, a love interest), and, then, worship. Wow. That sounds like some really, really good news.
I had a similar thought recently while screening The Lego Movie. Emmet Brickowski, of whom a prophecy was made, is the protagonist and hero. He starts a little slow, but eventually delivers Legoland from an evil tyrant, a superior power who resides in a greater reality. Emmet conquers this seemingly invincible foe by his sacrificial death, his resurrection, and, ultimately, his patient love.
When we see these types of philosophical motifs played out in pop culture, we have a choice. We can assume these writers, knowing well the Christian gospel, are mocking our great Savior whose unfathomable mercy preserves their very ability to mock His goodness. That’s dark and sinister and imminently possible.
Or. We can hope in God.
You see, I have a crazy theory. I wonder if these pop cultural expressions aren’t sinister, but desperate. The writers are not the children, not the grandchildren, but the great-grandchildren of the West’s Cultural Revolution. And far from trashing the Christian worldview, their souls just might be calling out for hope in all their brokenness. They’ve got nothing left to rebel against; secularism has destroyed it all.
Could it be that these cultural expressions are desperate cries for redemption? That the world is enunciating its need for salvation both powerfully and emotionally? And in doing so, they’re simply demonstrating that God created them in His image (Gen. 1), made them uniquely capable of worship (Ps. 147:1), etched eternity into their souls (Ecc. 3:11), and inscribed the law onto their hearts (Rom. 2:15)?
I think Christians are under the mistaken notion that Western civilization at large is still fighting a culture war. In some senses, it is. But a long time ago, secularism declared victory and withdrew from the field. And try as we might to re-engage, they’re unwilling and dismissive.
Could it be that our culture is so post-Christian as to have turned some sort of corner? The gospel is, suddenly and unexpectedly, a new message to most Americans? And like Paul in Acts 17, we can point to various cries for redemption as indicative of a greater heart need?
Eternity is a long time. And we’ll have all eternity to boast in the victory that Jesus already secured over sin and death. So, instead of withdrawing, fighting, or raging, let’s toss out the life-rafts.
Am I suggesting we imbibe popular culture attempting to capitalize on every shred of raw redemptive material? Hardly. The best way to evangelize is to “know nothing … except Jesus Christ and Him crucified” (1 Cor. 2:2). When, however, we encounter these echoes of the greatest story ever told, let’s be ready not to dismiss these people out of bitterness over social decline, but to assume a posture of love, mercy, grace, and pity. It’s a mistake to read the movement of our nation as a whole back into specific individuals.
John Newton wrote so many timeless words. Let’s consider his counsel for Christians on their behavior before a watching world: “[Unbelievers] know that meekness, humility, and love are the characteristics of a Christian temper; … they always expect such dispositions as correspond with the precepts of the gospel. They are quick-sighted to discern when we deviate from such a spirit, and avail themselves of it to justify their contempt of our arguments … If our zeal is embittered by expressions of anger, invective, or scorn, we may think we are doing service of the cause of truth, when in reality we shall only bring it into discredit.”