“Defined by the Culture?”
“Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out. Readily recognize what he wants from you, and quickly respond to it. Unlike the culture around you, always dragging you down to its level of immaturity, God brings the best out of you, develops well-formed maturity in you.” Romans 12: 2 (The Message)
The term “gaslighting” has resurfaced recently and is now a part of our cultural vocabulary for 2020. We hear news reporters and interviewers frequently toss this word around. But what does it mean?
“The term originated from the British play, Gas Light (1938), performed as Angel Street in the United States, and its 1940 and 1944 film adaptations (both titled Gaslight). The term has now been used in clinical psychological literature, as well as in political commentary and philosophy.” (Wikipedia)
“Gaslighting is usually thought of at the personal level—where one person forces another to question their reality. It is an effective technique to place the gaslighter in a position of power. Exactly the same thing takes place at a cultural level… Most of what we hear and read about gaslighting is in terms of how one person ‘gaslights’ another by using emotional bullying and manipulative techniques. There are many ways to go about gaslighting—including lying, reinterpreting the past, and ridiculing someone else’s opinion—but the end goal, if you like, is to force the person on the receiving end to question their own version of reality and to effectively silence them into accepting (or at least being unable to openly disagree with) the gaslighter’s version of reality.” (“Why We Need to Consider Gaslighting at the Social Level and How it Marginalizes Sections of Society”, June 15, 2020, PsychologyToday.com)
Imagine the impact of gaslighting on politics… or even a presidential election. It’s like the old adage, “If you repeat a lie often enough, people will believe it.”
The BLM movement has shouted to us this year that “black lives matter” (which, of course, they do) but is outraged by the phrase, “all lives matter”, demanding apologies if anyone dares to say it. This is “cultural gaslighting”.
Gaslighting is the effort to discredit what we know or believe is true or acceptable. Its purpose is to cause us to doubt our own belief systems and values.
Consider this one-year reversal by the Hallmark Channel:
2019: “In December, the Hallmark Channel faced backlash after it pulled ads for the wedding website Zola that featured same-sex couples. The network reversed its decision after the hashtag #BoycottHallmarkChannel began trending on Twitter, and celebrities, including Ellen DeGeneres and William Shatner, critiqued the decision.” (www.usatoday.com/story/entertainment/tv/2020/09/23/hallmark-channel-christmas-movie-lgbtq-storyline-gay-couple-jonathan-bennett/3502638001/)
2020: “Hallmark Channel and its parent company, Crown Media Family Network, have delivered on a promise to diversify their holiday movies… Jonathan Bennett will star in ‘The Christmas House,’ which features a storyline about a gay couple looking to adopt their first child.” (www.kake.com/story/42964452/the-hallmark-channel-debuts-its-first-christmas-movie-featuring-a-gay-lead-couple)
The Hallmark Channel, like Disney, succumbed to cultural gaslighting, determining that whatever is the “norm of the moment” moves the needle with expected profits as the bottomline.
Cultures undulate, and we can become like corks on ocean waves if we aren’t anchored to the Truth. What is unmoving and consistent? What is “the same yesterday and today and forever?” (Hebrews 13:8) As Christians, we hold onto the grid of Truth, the Bible, as the north star for our beliefs.
So how can we help teens become media-savvy about the culture that surrounds them?
• Locate and attend a Bible-believing church that is bold enough to resist the current culture’s ideas and teaches the Christian worldview.
• Encourage teens to be involved in a youth group that takes a stand for Truth.
• Have discussions at home, in the car, and during outings, that stimulate critical thinking about the present culture and its vacillating ideas.
• Watch TV programs and movies together as a family and then discuss what values were portrayed and whether they reflect the family’s beliefs.
• Feel free to share opinions and ideas with children in the course of daily life. That’s where they get their opportunities to hear rational thinking.
• Stay up-to-date on the cultural norms and express how Jesus might react to them.
• Consider this scripture as the antidote to cultural gaslighting:
“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. Whatever you have learned or received or heard from me, or seen in me—put it into practice. And the God of peace will be with you.” (Phil. 4: 8-9 NIV)
• Share this blog and the suggested discussion items with the youth group at your church.
EXCITING NEWS BELOW!
Sue Summers is a Christian media analyst, teacher, author, and speaker. She is the Director of Media Alert!
“I am not defined by the culture” tee shirts are now available.
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© Sue Summers 2020