By Matthew Becker
As Christians, how should we engage with popular culture? Some might suggest that we only consume movies, TV, video games, music, and online media that contains an overt Christian message, believing there is nothing biblical to be found in anything secular.
However, Dayo Adewoye, in his article titled The Sacred Secular Split, argues that “such a mindset goes against God’s revelation. For His word reveals that He is the Lord of all the Earth – in all its fullness (Psalm 24:1). He created all that exists and takes pleasure in every detail.”
The talented writers over at Think Christian would agree to this way of thinking. ThinkChristian is an online magazine and podcast with a motto that states “no such thing as secular.” Originally known as the website Gospel.com, the goal was to seek God’s sovereignty in all things, whether that be science, business, politics, or pop culture. It wasn’t until ReFrame Ministries took control of the site over ten years ago that the focus began to shift solely on pop culture.
On this site, you will find that they discuss nearly everything from the latest Marvel movie to lesser-known art house films to Dungeons & Dragons to Phoebe Bridgers to even raunchy, absurdist cartoons like Rick and Morty, and all through a Christian lens. However, they do more than simply point out unintentional biblical parallels. Instead, the writers show us what we can learn about Christ and how we can grow in our faith through a particular piece of media.
As Christopher Hunt states in his article titled Orcs and Evil in Dungeons & Dragons, “as we bear the image of our creator, we emulate his creativity with our own.” As such, Think Christian seeks to find where examples of God’s image can be found within works that aren’t often looked at as Christ-like. In his article about the 2021 South Korean drama series Squid Game, Zachary Lee explains how the characters’ need for financial stability is rooted in the need for a more holistic salvation. Michael McKoy drew upon the themes of justice found within The Godfather and compared it to the acts of justice brought on by God, David, and Solomon throughout the Bible. And yes, D. Marquel was even able to find Christian themes within Rick and Morty of all things, citing how Rick’s self-righteousness due to his overwhelming intelligence can serve as a parallel to the self-righteousness that can sometimes be found within the Christian community.
Think Christian is hosted by Editor/Producer Josh Larsen. Starting out as a freelance film critic, Larsen was asked to join the site in 2011, where he says he truly found his place as a critic writing from a Christian perspective. He stated that even before joining the site, he never viewed Christianity and mainstream, secular media as being at odds with each other. Being able to bring these two elements more tightly together has given him a greater appreciation for culture as a gift. Larsen also mentioned the process that goes into discussing music, citing how while most theological critics will solely evaluate a song’s spiritual merit based on the lyrics, Larsen acknowledges that instrumentation is also something that can be viewed theologically and thus shouldn’t be overlooked.
Recently, Think Christian has branched out into the realm of YouTube video essays and podcasts hosted by Larsen. With their video essays in particular, they have started the TC Movie Club, where Larsen explores the theology of a handful films connected by a certain theme with the current one being the films of Joel and Ethan Coen.
Regarding the sacred vs. secular debate, it’s important to remember that all movies, shows, songs, and other forms that make up popular culture are made by human beings who are all made in the image of God. For this reason, it’s not only possible to examine potential theology within such works, but I, and presumably Think Christian as well, believe it to be crucial in order for us as Christians to engage with culture at large.
The philosophy of Think Christian is consistent with the well-known quote from theologian Abraham Kuyper: “No single piece of our mental world is to be hermetically sealed off from the rest, and there is not a square inch in the whole domain of our human existence over which Christ, who is sovereign over all, does not cry: ‘Mine!’”
Matthew Becker, a recent graduate of Gordon College, served as an intern this spring at tristatevoice.com.