Just about a month ago Emergency Ministries hosted a small weekend conference talking about the effect of media (i.e. music, video, magazines…) on teenage culture. Brett Ullman (www.brettullman.com) was our guest speaker for the weekend and he challenged many of us to examine the media that we allow to impact our lives. Some media has a great message about the way the world is and our role in it; other media has a distorted view and does not communicate truth about life. We were also challenged to think beyond the labels of “Christian” and “secular” when it comes to media; great messages can exist within “secular” media and some not so great messages can exist within “Christian” media.  This certainly makes decision making in our lives a little messier; however, you might be surprised with what you come up with in the end.

Last night after watching Glee, Mandy and I briefly discussed different musical artists with our houseguests. I am a music lover and sometimes I get caught up with the energy and music of a song without realizing what the song is actually saying about life. Here is a prime example of this: last night on Glee one of the competitors at regionals did the song “Raise Your Glass” by Pink. The song is full of energy and musical competence and I must say that I liked Glee’s rendition…although I have never really listened to the words.  I decided this afternoon to check it out and see if I had landed myself a “secular” song that has a message I can affirm

After doing my research…I seem to have been a little off base with this one. The whole song is a call to misfits and underdogs to rise above cultural stereotype and enjoy their distinctive and unique life (“raise your glass if you are wrong, in all the right ways, all my underdogs”). However, the alternate approach to ‘life’ portrayed in the song is about as shallow as the life that Pink is calling her “nitty gritty dirty little freaks” to come out of; it seems that she is calling them to a life of partying and indulging in senseless role reversals (in the video there is a scene where human breast milk is being fed to young cows). While the message of this song may be catchy for a while I don’t think it has the substance to make a lasting positive impact on our culture.

So…I decided to give it one more shot. I remember last night talking about the song “Firework” that was highlighted on Glee a few months back. I had forgotten which artist had recorded the song but after a simple google search I discovered that it was Katy Perry. When I read the lyrics I became convinced that I had discovered just the kind of song I was looking for: ‘secular’ in its label but with a very truthful, noble, and inspiring message. The message of the song is this: if you ever feel down and out like you’ve blown it for the last time, there is still hope for you! You are unique and cannot be replaced so don’t check out of life. You just have to find the light inside of you and let it shine…like a firework! This is the essence of the whole song; there is no obscene language and no reference to substances or sex to take away pain or hurt. This is a life giving and life inspiring song that I do feel has the substance to make a lasting positive impact on our culture. I also think it fits the Philippians 4:8 test:

Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things. (NIV)

Kudos to Katy for giving us such an inspiring message!

In saying all of this I am not suggesting that Katy Parry should become a role model of morality and taste for teenaged culture. (In fact, there is one short segment from this song’s video that I think we could do without…I’ll let you decide which one).  I am somewhat perplexed that the same girl that sang this song also sang “I Kissed a Girl (and I liked it)” just a few years ago. Nevertheless, I am reminded of something that my systematic theology professor would tell us students in seminary: all truth is God’s truth. What he meant is that wherever in life you find something that is true, noble, right, pure, lovely, admirable…that is evidence of God’s fingerprints on humanity and we can celebrate that together. We can look around in our culture and find pieces of truth here and there and use these to say to people, “this, my friend, is the way!”

Unfortunately truth and lies can come out of the same mouth; I guess this is just another reason why our faith is in God and not in each other.  I believe however that truth shines brightly no matter where it is found. When our faith is in God truth will be evident and we can use this as a witness to God’s ever-present interaction with our world.

So, listen and be encouraged by Katy Perry’s talent and the truthful and admirable message she declares in her song “Firework”.