The question: What influence is culture having on your family? Posed on the back of the cover jacket, this question sets the framework for this most truthful book. About American culture's decline through at least the second half of the twentieth century and certainly the beginning of the twenty-first century, The Culture-wise Family explains the way our country has slid into a most derelict state and how Christians have failed to stand fast against immorality. However, if you see what is happening and you don't like it, there is a solution for you and your family. Learn how to guard your precious children from the debauchery that calls itself popular music and more.
Formatted into six parts, each part having several chapters, this book will not overwhelm you with new information, but will reintroduced information you already know and haven't previously considered in this context. You may find yourself saying out loud, "Ah-ha and Of course," any number of times.
It is really nice, how the two authors weave the information through their distinctively different, yet complimentary, styles of writing. The fact-based arguments are nicely augmented with anecdotal stories from the media news as well as the authors' personal and inspirational stories.
Part I includes chapters: We are not in Kansas or Kiev Anymore, Dare to Care, Salt and Light, and Snapshots of Our Culture. If you are old enough to remember the 1960s and 1970s clearly, you can't help but compare how it was back then, when there was some remnant of a moral voice in the media, to the way it is today, when media presents the unacceptable and somehow wraps it in the Constitutional concept known as "freedom of speech." In truth, much of what we see and here today only serves to degrade the very people it professes to represent or entertain. Shock is not entertaining and embarrassed laughter isn't funny, but that's where we find ourselves. Who could argue the decline of American culture over the last 30 or 40 years? But it has been over a period of 40 years, little by little, while we hardly noticed. Now that we're here, what do we do? Parents find themselves ever taxed with unending chores and little time to guide the children they love. The disturbing statistics in this book include a 130 percent rise in the divorce rate and a 370 percent increase of violent crime. The implications are staggering and the reality of this truth are heartbreaking.
In one of Pat Boone's portions, he laments the condition of the movie and music industries by comparing some Oscar winning songs of the past to the 2006 winner from the Movie Hustle and Flow.
"Incredibly, `It's Hard out There for a Pimp' will now take its place beside `Moon River', `Over the Rainbow', and `White Christmas.'"
Particularly disturbing is the lyric comparison between the First Oscar winning song from 1936, "the Way You Look Tonight" from Swing Time, and the 2006 Hustle and Flow theme song, "It's Hard Out There for a Pimp."
Someday when I'm awfully low
When the world is cold
I will feel a glow
Just thinking of you
And the way you look tonight
Wait, I got a snow bunny, and a black girl too
You pay the right price and they'll both do you
That's the way the game goes, gotta keep it strictly pimpin
Gotta have my hustle tight, makin change off these women, yeah
Is there an argument for allowing children to be exposed to what the Oscar voters believe to be the best the movie music industry has to offer??
Part II has two chapters: The Eyes of Innocence, and Child's Play.
In case you're a bit rusty on the developmental stages from childhood into adulthood, there is a brief review of the Five Seasons: Sensation Stage, 0-2 years; Imagination Stage, 2-7 years; Concrete Stage, 7-11 years; Reflection or formal Operations Stage, 12-15 years; and Relationship Stage, adolescence to adult. Media impacts us during these stages, and much of modern media's impact hinders the individual's development into a fully responsible human being.
Children who are repeatedly exposed to the disconnected world of media have difficulty connecting cause and effect, and are therefore slow or unable to comprehend consequences of actions. Part of the overall impact on American youth is that a growing number of teens are able to recite the reasons for wearing condoms, but not the Ten Commandments. They can rap the latest ghetto pimp, but they can neither read nor understand the Constitution or Bill of Rights. Comparisons between the quality and quantity of information retained by today's children versus those of previous generations may distress some parents. But don't give up hope.
Part III shares Behind the Scenes of Hollywood, and The Power of Parables.
Hollywood is a world unto itself. It is clearly out of sync with values desirable for a functioning civilization. It wasn't always this way. Christian ministers and theologians were once invited to help shape the movies Hollywood produced. Today, without moral guidance, only in pursuit of More and Money, Hollywood serves itself, and Hollywood is empty of much other than envy, greed and other sins. In general, the people of Hollywood are as lost as many who view their productions. However, some producers are beginning to find that there is an audience, a big audience, that is seeking family films, and films of Faith. For instance, Mel Gibson's movie shocked the Hollywood crowd into reevaluating the exclusion of Christian Values from the Big Screen. Clearly, our cries have been heard.
Part IV gets down to the important questions about values, principles and worldviews with three chapters: Worldviews and Beyond, Who Stole Our Culture?, and Where are We Going?
Part V provides hope and a way to develop discernment with chapters entitled: Asking the Right Questions About Media Influence, Seeing Connections of Contemporary Art and Biblical Faith, Impressing God's Commands on Our children, and Is the Mainstream Media Fair and Balanced?
When we look at what American media has to offer, it is natural to question the content, but are we asking the right questions? Do our children benefit from our questioning? I particularly liked this portion:
"If a picture is worth a thousand words... then the mass media of entertainment that combines pictures, music and other communication forms is the hydrogen bomb of influence."
Teaching children how to discern, interpreting what they see in media, is a large task and one that takes vigilance. Violent content is more easily avoided, but what about humor? What the greater population finds funny may not be appropriate for children, nor may it actually be funny. People laugh for different reasons: laughing at or laughing with, laughing as they relate, laughing from embarrassment...laughter may or may not come from a tickled funny bone, but do children understand that everything that gets a laugh, isn't necessarily funny?
Part VI helps with understanding the answers. Its chapters are More than Conquerors and For the Kid's Sake.
As our culture runs, so goes the money, while many may believe that avoiding the inappropriate is enough, the argument is made in this chapter to vote with your dollars. Buy literature, movie tickets, and DVDs that support a healthy, child-friendly view. If the audience only spends money on media that reflects Christ-like values, then there will be a producer in Hollywood that will strive to reach us and make appropriate movies.
Better yet, if we in the Christian community supported our own creative people, it is conceivable that there could be many more studios, TV stations, and music production companies only producing culture-wise family media. That would be wonderful!
Thanks to Ted Baehr and Pat Boone, my media critical vigilance remains intact with more evidence to back up my reasoning. As a parent, it is difficult to screen everything, but screening is too important to let it slide. I must stand between inappropriate cultural media and my children's psyche. God has given me this most important job and I strive to meet His expectations.
Every parent should read The Culture-wise Family. Your children will thank you for it.