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A blog of the Evangelical Lutheran Liturgy

Cultural Symbols Mean Things

So there I am sitting in Saint Louis University hospital's third floor surgical waiting room with a parishioner's family. You know the score: big surgery, long wait, annoying TV.

Said TV is always hard to ignore. Others round about are laughing at it, which causes one to look up from one's reading to see what was so funny. It was some sitcom from the Disney Network. A basic teen sitcom. Here is what I learned.

* Teenagers should have boyfriends and girlfriends.
* These boyfriends and girlfriends make out a lot.
* Women and girls of all ages wear very tight shirts. Some have long sleeves, some short, some plunging necklines, some plunging backlines. Such things are accidents, but the substance of the proper shirt according to this show is: tight.
* Men and boys, on the other hand, are fully and comfortably clothed.

The show was obviously meant to be disarming and cute. It was what our culture thinks of as safe and nice. It was supposed to put parents' minds at ease. Clean cut. Disney channel.

So that's our culture's version of tame and nice and disarming and cute. Women are to dress so that men can stare at their breasts with a minimum of fabric interference. A 13 year-old should have exclusive relationships with a member of the opposite sex and they should express affection for each other by kissing. Indeed, a kiss is met by that disembodied applause that some genius in mind-control invented back in the 1940's.

The symbol of the torso hugging shirt that leaves nothing to the imagination is ubiquitous in our culture. If a woman doesn't wear one, she's a prude or just down right odd (not unpretty or unshapely: women of less than idealized form are still required to paint on their blouses so as to be more easily judged). To not wear one is to opt out of the culture. To wear one is to join up.

Contemporary Worship advocates tell us that we must communicate with the culture, be relevant, etc. They encourage us to use the culture's symbols so that we might spread the Word. But do the symbols mean nothing on their own? Do they not, at a minimum, at least call to mind the rest of the culture's norms and implicitly approve them? Can you display a bunch of your congregation's young women on a stage dressed like the gals in TV shows and magazine covers and then feign surprise when all of the culture's hang ups about sex and the sexes steamroll into the Church?

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Homer nods.

Advertise your coffee shop!!

Or church!

And now for something completely different. . .

O Cecilia, they're breakin' your heart....


Pr. H. R.65 Comments