Spectacle has become the most valuable resource in America's cultural economy. That explains Lil Nas X's ascendancy, his hypersexualized grip on the nation's attention span, and the recent viral cross-dressing images of NBA star Russell Westbrook and rapper Kid Cudi.
Our uber-wealthy celebrities keep proving that no amount of financial prosperity can make up for spiritual impoverishment.
My initial reaction to seeing Westbrook and Cudi in skirts was to lament the continued assault on masculinity in pop culture. That effort is certainly under way. It was showcased at Monday night's Met Gala, the annual charity event centered around outrageous costumes. Lil Nas X was the star. The New York Times hailed his three-in-one outfit that started as an oversized cape, covered a Versace suit of armor, and eventually revealed an ornate jumpsuit.
Our country is being influenced by spiritually empty people who will do anything to be seen, acknowledged, and affirmed by complete strangers. Their decadence is causing the culture to collapse in on itself, and people are struggling to make sense of how we got here and where we are going. As is often the case, the Bible provides lessons from antiquity that shed light on things we find hard to understand in the modern world.
The book of Deuteronomy is the fifth book in the Old Testament. It includes a number of instructions from Moses to the Israelites before they enter the promised land. At different points throughout the chapter, Moses instructs the Israelites to love God with all of their heart, soul, and strength. There is also a command to parents to teach the children, whether inside or outside the home, about God's standards of righteousness. Some of the instructions regarding prosperity and ungodliness are particularly relevant today.
America is a country with tremendous prosperity and wealth, and like the ancient Israelites, we are susceptible to the temptations that come with material comfort. The most important one is forgetting God altogether and chasing after idols. The second is the belief that we were able to accomplish everything that we have done on our own. The last is the assumption that what we have today will always be there in the future.
It feels as if we are losing the battle with all three of those temptations every day. We live in an age in which a young man is celebrated for making a video where he gives Satan a lap dance and depicts himself as pregnant to announce an upcoming album. The cultural tastemakers like anything edgy and subversive, but they aren't the only culprits. One young mother posted the results of searching "baby video" in YouTube and tweeted a screenshot that showed Lil Nas X's "Industry Baby" video. The thumbnail for that video depicts him and five other men naked in a jailhouse shower scene. I am not surprised that YouTube's algorithms would produce these results. What shocked me is how many people who responded to her tweet, which went viral in part because Lil Nas X retweeted it, saw nothing wrong with it.
This is why it is so important for parents to get serious about raising their children and equipping them with a coherent worldview. My family, like many other Christians, see that as one demonstrable benefit of homeschooling. My wife and I decided to homeschool our children using a classical Christian curriculum that acknowledges God as the center of all knowledge and absolute truth as something that can be grasped. This model is the perfect antidote to an education system steeped in secular humanism and moral relativism.
The classical model also breaks down the K-12 years into three stages (the Trivium) that generally align with children's ages in elementary, middle, and high school. The Grammar stage is when students learn to define the objects they observe and memorize information. The Logic stage is when students learn to use facts to compose sound arguments. The Rhetoric stage equips students to use their acquired knowledge and critical thinking skills to persuasively defend their ideas. Contrast these stages of development to the students who are being taught that the common meanings of well-defined terms are constantly changing, arguments are justified by feelings and experience rather than facts and evidence, and minds are changed by coercion rather than persuasion. Without a solid grounding in truth, the next generation will be even more lost than we are today.
To paraphrase Pastor Voddie Baucham, parents who send their children to Caesar to be educated shouldn't be surprised when they come home acting like Romans. We are seeing this play out on a national level. American schools, especially in large metropolitan areas, are taken over by ideologues who are practicing their own religion. They are dogmatic in their beliefs about race, gender, and sexuality and have no problem proselytizing to our children. They have set themselves up as an opposing authority to parents and believe their values should shape the minds and morals of our children. Christian parents who hold to a biblical worldview need to understand how hard the culture is trying to get our children to apostatize. Much like the serpent in the Garden of Eden, their goal is to get people to question God and follow them. They want society to worship the false idol of self, but people who have to invent new sexual identities, twerk on restaurant tables, or get high to make it through each day don't exhibit the type of contentment, peace, and joy I desire. I prefer to put my trust in the One who promises soul-rest for the burdened and weary. I think you should too.