Today, we live in a world where cultural values are becoming more dominant than religious values. "Do what feels right" seems to be the answer to many inner struggles people, especially teenagers, go through on a daily basis. However, why are people turning their back on religion? Well, some think of religion as a pointless practice perused only for spiritual satisfaction. Others do not believe that they get rewarded for being religious, not even after death. Mainly, though, a lot of people are so caught up with the culture they live in that they base all of their thoughts, beliefs, morals, and values on that culture. For them, religion becomes useless, and most importantly, outdated to a point where it pushes people a way from being religious. These ideas are reflected in David Kupelian's "Killer Culture" and Noah Feldman's "Schools and Morals." Both essays focus on how today's media and schools affect our religion and can sometimes hold us back from being good Christians.
Media today has become a major part of our daily lives. Whether we are studying, communicating with friends and family, or even just sitting at home, media is certainly involved one way or another. However, what many of us fail to realize is that media can have disadvantages and sometimes become harmful, especially to youngsters who are going through a period of confusion and self-establishment. In his essay, David Kupelian quotes a documentary that talks about how major production companies play with children's minds to sell their products. "what emerges in the following sixty minutes is a scandalous portrait of how major corporations - Viacom, Disney, AOL/Time Warner, and others - study America's children like laboratory rats in order to sell them billions of dollars in merchandise by tempting, degrading, and corrupting them" (Kupelian 650).
Thus, temptation, degradation, and corruption can be problematic when it comes to religion because all of these ideas clash right on with what religion stands for: Elevation, honor, pureness, and morality. The main question here is: how are children learning their morals as they are growing up? Is it through Religion or the media? Sadly enough, the media dominates. Kupelian claims, "To win teens' loyalty, marketers believe, they have to speak their language the best" (Kupelian 650). Thus, for example, children are better able to suck in moral thoughts and ideas from television rather than reading the Bible because to them, television is simply cool and easy to understand.
It is unfortunate when children do not realize how the media affects their religion, but what about young adults? Well, they are victims as well. MTV is the perfect example used by Kupelian in "Killer Culture." He mentions shows like "Midriff," "Howard Stern," and "Mook," which he claims as a "marketing caricature of the wild, uninhibited, outrageous, and amoral male sex maniac" (Kupelian 652). Kupelian adds, "These are the extremes to which teens are willing to go to ensure the authenticity of their own scene. It's the front line of teen cultural resistance: Become so crude, so intolerable, and break so many rules that you become indigestible" (Kupelian 654). Thus, it is apparent from this quote that the media is drifting away from any values or morals stressed by Christianity in the Bible. To be specific, let's use sex as an example. Many reality TV shows on MTV show inappropriate sex scenes between complete strangers that range from heterosexuals, to homosexuals, or even bisexuals. In the Bible, on the other hand, it is emphasized that Christians should not have sex until marriage. Better yet, the Bible does not even allow homosexuality to begin with. Therefore, where are we in terms of following religion? Apparently, on the other side of the scope. When sex is portrayed the way it is in reality shows, it becomes cheap and meaningless to youngsters to a point where people think you have a problem if you have not experienced sex by the age of eighteen, whether you are married or not.
Now, when it comes to properly learning about religion, we think, shouldn't schools take care of that? Yes, they should. However, schools today are not doing a good job teaching religion to the young. This goes back to the problem that Americans are hopelessly divided on which version of Christianity is right, which resulted in a drastically increased religious diversity in the United States. In his essay, "Schools and Morals," Noah Feldman states that the solution to this problem was to come up with "Nonsectarianism: the claim that there are moral principles shared in common by all Christian sects, independent of their particular theological beliefs" (Feldman 728).
Nonsectarianism is more of a problem than a solution, however, because it is based on interpreting the Bible by the individual and not by the school. Feldman quotes the theorist Horace Mann, who claims that, "The Bible was allowed to do what it is allowed to do in no other system - to speak for itself. By reading the Bible in an unmediated fashion, with no comment from the teacher, the student would be enabled to judge for himself according to the dictates of his own reason and conscience" (Feldman 729). The main problem here is that the student's own reason and conscience are being influenced by the aspects of the media just mentioned previously. If students are left to interpret the Bible by themselves, some might interpret it so that it is fitting with the ideas they are learning from television and the internet. Thus, no matter how definite and clear a rule is stated in the Bible, people will always find exceptions in order feel better their situations. This is dangerous because aside from not learning about Christianity the proper way, the real meaning of the Bible will soon be ruined as it is already being misinterpreted by youngsters.
It is, therefore, apparent that religion is giving so much to the culture in terms of morals and values but our culture today is not giving anything back. Instead, it is pulling us further and further away from religion. The best solution for this problem should not just be homeschooling children, as stated by Kupelian. Students should be able to choose the kind of schooling they want to receive. Most importantly, though, students must remain honest with themselves. They should give time to their religion, try reading the Bible deeply, and get Bible interpretations from those who truly understand it. Furthermore, parents should be more careful about what their children are watching on television. Parents should also start educating their children about religion at an early age. Doing so will ensure that the children's morals and values will not be shaken by the sinful culture that awaits them.
Work CitedFeldman, Noah. "Schools and Morals." Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. Colombo Gary, Cullen Robert, Lisle Bonnie. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2007. 724-736.
Kupelian, David. "Killer Culture." Rereading America: Cultural Contexts for Critical Thinking and Writing. Colombo Gary, Cullen Robert, Lisle Bonnie. New York: Bedford/St. Martins, 2007. 646-664.