MEGAN BASHAM, HOST: It’s Friday, the 21st of June. Glad to have you along for today’s edition of The World and Everything in It. Good morning, I’m Mary Reichard.
NICK EICHER, HOST: And I’m Nick Eicher. Trevin Wax joins me today for Culture Friday. Trevin’s a pastor, a blogger, and author. His books include This Is Our Time: Everyday Myths in Light of the Gospel.
Trevin, glad to have you today. Welcome back, good morning.
TREVIN WAX, GUEST: Great to be with you, Nick!
EICHER: A few interesting cultural signposts this month. Of course, June’s unofficially known as “pride month” and that means major corporations are very conspicuously signaling LGBT support, positioning themselves for a slice of the economic pie. I looked this up at the national LGBT chamber of commerce. Maybe you didn’t know there was such an entity, but there is. And the LGBT chamber of commerce estimates gay purchasing power of about a trillion dollars, and given the wealth of this group, that doesn’t seem to be a stretch, at about 5 percent of the U.S. economy.
So there’s money to make.
And not a lot of people know more about making money than pop musicians. I speak of Taylor Swift, who’d pretty recently come under criticism for staying out of politics. But she jumped in in 2016, and she’s landed with both feet with the LGBT camp as an ally. She produced a pop anthem and star-studded video with LGBT celebrities that mocks opponents who, she says, need to get out of the dark ages and just need to calm down.
SWIFT: You just need to take several seats / And then try to restore the peace / And control your urges to scream / About all the people you hate / ’Cause shade never made anybody less gay
So, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh! / You need to calm down. / You’re being too loud. / And I’m just like, / “Oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh, oh-oh! / You need to just stop. / (Can you stop?) / Like, can you just not step on our gowns. / You need to calm down.
The video is even less subtle than the lyrics. The LGBT characters are all clean and happy, the protesters are rage-filled and don’t know how to spell.
Trevin, you’re a student of pop culture. I’m actually hearing voices calling this catchy little tune “LGBT cultural appropriation.”
Is this one backfiring a bit?
WAX: Well, it’s been interesting to watch. There are more and more people who—even though they resonate with calls and celebration of the LGBT community—many people are watching as this becomes more mainstream how there’s really not a lot of risk involved anymore with organizations or celebrities or pop stars or people getting in on the action—so to speak—and making some money off of this kind of thing. And so I think some criticism has come about saying, “Is she comparing her own critics of her music to the kinds of criticisms that gay and lesbian youth have had to face,” and things like that. And so it’s just been interesting to watch the backlash be for her a little more from the left than from the right. From the right, I just don’t think people are surprised anymore when it comes to things like this.
EICHER: We’ve criticized some Christian-themed films for being message movies and not doing a great job of storytelling. But as I say, this mainstream artist has given us a really ham-handed piece. It’s very preachy for its point of view.
WAX: No question. No question. In fact, I think anytime that your main message—that you’re trying to put forth a message through a work of art rather than letting a work of art subtly have its own message, but whenever that happens—whether it’s Christian art or the new Taylor Swift video—it tends to come across very preachy, very almost propaganda-ish. But, you know, Taylor Swift is certainly a mainstream pop star and I don’t think we should underestimate the cultural power of people like her and her music and the fact that pride month is being so openly acknowledged, recognized, celebrated in so many different sectors of business and entertainment.
But I wonder 10 years down the road, 15 years down the road if this continues with the kind of speed that it has, that the real enemies won’t be Christians who are standing on the side of a parade picketing, but are just Christians who don’t join in the celebration. Because the cultural pressure will be so much that to not join in or at least signal the celebration, have a flag banner on your Facebook page or some kind of recognition that you also are joining in the celebration of the revolution—it reminds me of those kinds of governments in the past. We could wind up in a place like certain governments in other parts of the world where your affirmation and celebration of the regime is crucial to your civic responsibility, to your ability to get along in society.
And, of course, we saw this all the way back in the early Christian days with the Romans, the Christians in the Roman empire who were pressured to offer just the pinch of incense to show that they at least would nod toward the idols of the cultural authorities and the gods of the day, that they would at least tip the hat to the idolatries that would have brought compromise.
You know, we could be—in years down the road—in a similar situation. I think we need to begin to fortify ourselves now for that kind of moment should it arrive.
EICHER: There’s another sort of corporate signaling going on and it’s an interesting trend. You and I were talking the other day and I told you I remembered when corporations were very risk-averse, they stayed away from divisive issues. But not so much anymore.
You’ve got major corporations boycotting entire states over the abortion issue, and it’s really a one-way street. You find zero corporate opposition to extreme abortion-liberalization laws like New York’s. But you do find opposition to laws, such as in Georgia, that protect unborn children.
Then last week an ad in The New York Times, signed by almost 200 CEOs, said pro-life laws are bad for business. The state of Arkansas has a pro-life law and the appearance of the ad prompted one of the state’s U.S. senators to speak up. Tom Cotton, Arkansas Republican, took issue with the “bad for business” idea.
COTTON: How disgusting is that? Caring for a little baby is bad for business. Now I get why outfits like Planned Parenthood or NARAL would say babies are bad for business. Abortion is their business after all, and they’re just protecting market share. What about all those other CEOs? Why do they think babies are ‘bad for business’? Because they want their workers to focus single mindedly on working, not building a family and raising children. All these politically correct CEOs want company-men and -women, not family-men and -women. They’ll support your individuality and self expression just so long as you stay unattached and on the clock.
Now, these are media and entertainment businesses, tech companies, fashion industry, so that’s not a massive surprise. But it seems increasingly that corporate America is tethering itself to issues, whether it’s moral revolution issues, or environmental issues, or tech companies policing speech on their platforms. It’s been a trend and I wonder what you think it says about the culture.
WAX: Well, primarily, if we don’t look at the fact that a lot of these trends are more to the left, I think primarily shows the politicization of so much of our society. We used to have certain spheres of business, of sports, of community, responsibility and things where politics could be there, it could be in the background. It could be a topic of conversation. But simply wasn’t front and center and so you didn’t feel like you were making a political statement when you chose this restaurant over that restaurant or this store over that store or this brand over that brand.
But as we become increasingly consumeristic, we are in a very capitalist society where people are more and more likely to identify themselves by the brands that they choose. People want to know that the brands that they choose also share in something of the worldview or the identity that they want to portray to the world. The identity they want to put on display.
And so I think a lot of different factors are leading to this. The politicization of everything, as I just said. The fact that we tend to identify ourselves by brands. I think that’s another reason.
The reason so many of these issues lean left is because big business is not necessarily the friend to the family and to Christianity, just like big government generally isn’t a friend to Christianity or a friend to the family.
And I think we have to recognize that because conservatives tend to fear big government more than big business and liberals tend to fear big business more than big government. But those who are concerned about the health of the family—have good reason to look at threats coming to the family from both of those areas. And I think it’s important for us, whichever way we lean politically, to recognize dangers that can come in these ways and we’re seeing some of the outworking of that right now in our culture with this sort of conversation about causes and how businesses should be involved in different causes.
EICHER: Trevin Wax is Director for Bibles and Reference at LifeWay Christian Resources and a visiting professor at Wheaton College. He is the general editor of The Gospel Project, and serves as a teaching pastor in Middle Tennessee.
It’s Culture Friday. Trevin, thanks so much for being with us today.
WAX: Always good to be with you, Nick. Thank you.