Posted by: Yvonne | January 8, 2009

Confusing Cultural Conversation

When I was a teenager, Home Box Office (HBO) became the latest television watching phenomenon.  My brothers hboand I somehow managed to talk our parents into having it installed on our family set.  However, because of the content of the many of the shows, we siblings had only a few options from which to choose.  So, being the rebellious sinners that we were, we snuck downstairs after everyone was asleep to watch the ‘forbidden’ programming.  Once my parents finally caught onto our late-night escapades, they immediately had it un-installed. 

A number of years ago, the satellite service that we purchased offered HBO for free on certain weekends in an effort to encourage new customers.  Also, in many hotel rooms, these days, HBO is standard as a choice on in-room televisions.  Suffice it to say, I am quite aware of the genre of programming that can be seen on HBO.

That is why while I was reading an interview with Andy Crouch on the Kingdom People blog, I was surprised to read Crouch’s comment to the question about cultural goods, specifically, whether or not to just enjoy them or to be critical of them.  Crouch begins by telling us about the purchase of  his family’s first television set and all the concerns that this move brought about.  He shared:

“I need to articulate values for our kids about what we will use the TV for—watching movies we have chosen in advance rather than, God forbid, turning on the TV to see “what’s on,” and for the most part avoiding advertising-supported content since I think that advertising-supported content is almost always inferior to content that people are asked to pay for directly. (This is why HBO is so much consistently better than network television.)”   {emphasis mine}

Huh?   HBO better?  Paying for programming makes it better? It’s all relative. Right?

Let me try to understand.  Watching HBO is better than network television because the programs on network television are supported by advertisers and HBO is not?  Because we PAY for HBO the programs are worthy for our children to watch? 

Then he finishes with these thoughts:

“But you see that if all I do is ask those five questions, I will have done very little to harness the good and minimize the harm of this new artifact I’m introducing into our family’s culture. I can’t just be a “cultural critic.” I have to move beyond that to asking what I will create if I’m to have any hope of shaping a flourishing culture in our home.”  {emphasis mine}

More clarity is needed!  The television is the new cultural artifact that he is introducing to the family culture and he’s going to attempt to shape this ‘flourishing culture’ in his home by allowing HBO?


Am I missing something here?



  1. Very fair question! Actually the only reason we bought the TV was to watch movies on DVD in higher fidelity. (Our favorites currently are WALL-E and RATATOUILLE, which I’ve written about elsewhere.) We have the cheapest possible cable service which is used exclusively to watch the Philadelphia Phillies. Believe me, we will not be watching HBO any time soon, with our kids or otherwise. Sorry if the interview gave another impression.

    But the quality of filmmaking on HBO is indeed far better than primetime network TV, just as the quality of the best Hollywood films is far better than anything that advertiser support has ever created, in my opinion. The fact that HBO often resorts to salacious material doesn’t change the fact that some incredible work has been done on that channel. And I have no problem with discerning Christian adults watching (even subscribing to) HBO, though personally I can’t imagine doing so—as I’ve written elsewhere, my life is too full and too short to watch television. Which is why we haven’t had one at all until this winter.

    Realistically I don’t expect to convince you on the aesthetic merits of some of HBO’s programming (or on the general topic of my orthodoxy which you are obviously very vigilant about!), but I did want to clear up this one point. Grace and peace to you!

  2. Welcome to our corner of the blogsphere, Andy, and thank you for stopping by to ‘clear up’ the HBO confusion.

    Despite the ‘quality of filmaking on HBO’ and ‘the aesthetic merits of some (their) programming’, God’s command for His people to be holy (Eph.1:4) precludes the viewing of this ‘salacious’ type of entertainment.

    You say, “I have no problem with discerning Christian adults watching (even subscribing to) HBO, though personally I can’t imagine doing so…”

    This is a confusing statement. On one hand you support some Christians watching while on the other hand you couldn’t imagine watching HBO yourself.

    Why wouldn’t you?

    I would hope your answer was because God’s Word tells us to meditate on things which are true, noble, just, pure, lovely, praiseworthy. -Phil.4:8- How can even ‘discerning Christian adults’ fulfill this command if they are filling their heads with ‘salacious material’?

    Using your own thoughts about not just being a ‘cultural critic,’ but by hoping to create a flourishing culture at home would require ALL Christians to eliminate that ‘culture’ which is NOT true, noble, just, etc. Would it not?

    Obviously, Sir, you have the ‘ears’ of many Christians because of your book, Culture Making, and your many speaking engagements. May I humbly suggest that you be a bit more ‘vigilant’ about your own ‘orthodoxy’ so as not to present conflicting notions to your listeners?


  3. […] To Recap: On this post at Kingdom People, Critiquing Culture, Yvonne responded with this post, Confusing Cultural Conversation. […]


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