Thursday, February 14, 2013


I am not someone who has a whole lot of rules about living.  One of the few I hold dear is as follows: No one over the age of 30 should pretend to understand pop culture.

This also applies to politicians and church people.  Trying to create some kind of "credibility" with younger people through the earnest insistence that individuals and institutions are culturally "hip" is embarrassing.  Remember the recent election, with Paul Ryan attempting to demonstrate credibility by claiming to be a fan of heavy metal music, saying his iPod has songs "from AC/DC to Zeppelin".  First of all, neither of these bands are really heavy metal.  Second, the latter isn't even a band.

Now we have Marco Rubio, apparently well-known as a fan of hip-hop, being heralded as being able to connect with young people because "he knows who Tupac is."

Tupac Shakur's been dead for seventeen years.  So, maybe not so current?

On the church side, this kind of thing makes me lunge for something to poke my eyes out.  Not the article so much, which is both vague and slightly condescending; the comment section, rather, produces exactly what one would expect - equal parts clueless pandering and the kind of "Neener-neener" back-and-forth that make the Internet so mind-numbingly stupid at times.

Look, I love music, and am always looking for something new and exciting.  I find myself moved by songs from performers as diverse as the Grateful Dead, Lady Gaga, and Opeth.  I would never pretend, however, that gives me some kind of credibility with young people.  Even being a disc jockey, playing music for high school dances only demonstrates I know how to read pop radio playlists.  As for the "moral lessons" from contemporary films such as Knocked Up, I couldn't agree more but I also find such things irrelevant.

We middle-aged and older folks should just admit our basic cluelessness when it comes to contemporary popular culture.  After all, it isn't being produced for us; Carly Rae Jepsen isn't being marketed to folks much beyond high school graduation, and plenty of people I know are scandalized by films by Judd Apatow, even as the films themselves are remarkably conservative in their view of American life.

It is important to give people tools to see and hear with grace-filled eyes and ears the movement of the Spirit in things as diverse as contemporary art and music and film.  We shouldn't pretend, however, that we either "get it" in some way other's do not; nor should be pretend to know things about popular culture in some misguided effort at appearing relevant to youth.  Leave youth culture for them.  They deserve it.

Virtual Tin Cup

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