One paradox of the web age is that standard tradition is simpler than ever to entry however tougher than ever to seek out. We gained comfort however misplaced clarifying consensus on what may be price our time. Streaming websites have made entry to music, motion pictures, and TV extremely simple, however they’ve additionally bombarded us with a paralyzing array of decisions. How does one navigate the loopy quantity of cultural content material being served up every day by social-media pals and algorithms? Given how a lot junk-food leisure is on the market, how is the prudent Christian supposed to seek out nourishing bits of tradition to devour?
Some have prompt its higher for Christians to simply unplug or delete their streaming accounts. I sympathize with these arguments however finally imagine the reply isn’t whole avoidance, however moderation and intentionality; not participating standard tradition extra, however higher. Thats what I attempt to encourage within the evaluations and curated lists I write for TGC, in addition to in mymonth-to-month arts and tradition publication. I do know popular culture may be hazardous to ones well being. However there are bits of goodness, reality, and wonder to be discovered.
To that finish, listed below are 19 items of pop-culture goodness (every thing from movies and TV exhibits to YouTube clips and cultural developments) I got here throughout in 2019. Like final years listing, whats listed (in alphabetical order) isn’t an exhaustive account of all that was good this 12 months. However for these misplaced within the glut of content material who dont know the place to start out, listed below are just a few concepts.
A Stunning Day within the Neighborhood
If the one factor America may watch on a display for the following 12 months was a livestream of Tom Hanks in character as Mister Rogers, we’d all be higher off. Severely, although, Hanks as Rogers in A Stunning Day within the Neighborhood(now in theaters)is what we’d like proper now. The film could also be darker than some viewers hoped it will likely be, however so was the world Rogers helped younger youngsters navigate. Like final years wonderful documentary, Wont You Be My Neighbor?,this movie captures the genuine, plausible, and contagious goodness of Fred Rogersa man who wasnt nave to the worlds darkness, however who didn’t let it make him cynical or hopeless in his effort to be a light-weight.
There have been some good music documentaries in 2019Pavarotti, Homecoming, Echo within the Canyonhowever none was higher than Superb Grace. This decades-in-the-making movie resurrects misplaced footage to immerse viewers in a 1972 live performance at New Temple Missionary Baptist Church in Los Angeles, the place a younger Aretha Franklin recorded a reside Gospel album. As I wrote in my TGC assessment of the movie, The expertise of watching the movie is visceral and goosebump-inducing, one thing famous in most secular evaluations of the movie, which have referred to as it transcendent, a revelation, and the closest factor to witnessing a miracle. Its the type of movie that captures how deeply our secular age nonetheless longs for transcendence.
Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert Focus on Struggling
Occasionally, a second on cable information hits on one thing deep, even transcendent. This transferring clip was a type of moments. In it, Anderson Cooper and Stephen Colbert sort out one of many hardest of all topics: what to do with the issue of struggling. Cooper asks Colbert if he actually meant it when he mentioned What punishments of God are usually not items? Colbert goes on to unpack the present of struggling in a Christian worldview, that youre actually not alone in struggling as a result of God does it too. Its a outstanding second and one Colbert is uniquely positioned to drag off. Heres hoping he continues to make use of his platform to winsomely share theological reality.
You mentioned “what punishment of gods are not gifts. Do you really believe that?” @andersoncooper, choking again tears, asks Stephen Colbert, as they focus on grief.
“Yes,” replies the comic. “It’s a gift to exist and with existence comes suffering. There’s no escaping that.” pic.twitter.com/p5rUUhZKxq
— Anderson Cooper 360 (@AC360) August 16, 2019
Biola College President Serenaded by Justin Bieber
Only a few days into 2019, the web delivered its first feel-good viral second of the 12 months (at the least for evangelicals acquainted with Biola College). It occurred in a valet pickup space on the Montage Resort in Beverly Hills, the place Justin Bieber was serenading his spouse, Hailey, with Marvin Gayes Sexual Therapeutic. Standing nearbyapparently oblivious to the crooning younger mans identitywas Barry H. Corey, president of certainly one of Americas largest evangelical universities, Biola. Ultimately Corey (dubbed random man in tabloid studies) shared a second with Bieber (who he thought may be Justin Timberlake), and the web smiled on the serendipitous episode.
Was there something higher on TV in 2019 than HBOs Chernobyl? Not in my e-book. Primarily based on true occasions surrounding the notorious 1986 Soviet nuclear catastrophe, the restricted sequence was totally harrowing to look at. However greater than a fascinating thriller with excellent appearing and manufacturing values, Chernobyl raised well timed questions on reality and deception in politics. As Nancy French wrote in her TGC assessment, The sequence poignantly exhibits the despair of a society the place dishonesty is the norm, the place reality is snuffed out by authorities officers even at the price of actual human lives.
Glorious Movies Concerning the First World Struggle
A century after the conclusion of The Nice Struggle, two wonderful 2019 movies have helped a brand new technology do not forget that cataclysmic second in world historical past. Peter Jacksons They Shall Not Develop Previouswhen you have been fortunate sufficient to see it in its restricted engagementswas a state-of-the-art documentary respiration recent life into 100-year-old struggle footage. Sam Mendess 1917releasing in theaters this Christmasis equally as immersive and technologically spectacular. Each movies use the distinctive potentialities of the cinematic kind to make historical past come alive in memorable methods.
More healthy Digital Habits
The backlash to tech overload has begun, and for good purpose. As we develop into increasingly conscious of how sick a digital weight-reduction plan is making our society, extra voices are talking up with steerage for more healthy habits. Cal Newports Digital Minimalism: Selecting a Targeted Life in a Noisy World and Justin Earleys The Frequent Rule: Habits of Goal for an Age of Distraction have been useful books launched this 12 months. Right here at TGC we revealed many sources alongside these traces in 2019, together with a podcast with Tech-Clever Household writer Andy Crouch, and articles on screen-time recommendation for folks, the way to keep away from anger overload, and the way to keep away from being a social-media narcissist.
Inescapable Eager for Justice
One of many easiest-to-spot widespread graces in our secular age is the eager for justice. Whilst society tries to rid itself of God and faith, we cant rid ourselves of the realities of injustice and evil. Accordingly, our collective ache for an ideal justice is palpable. We noticed it in every single place in 2019 popular culture, from Netflixs When They See Us (learn TGCs assessment) to NPRs White Liespodcast(learn TGCs assessment), to movies exploring racial injustice (Harriet, Simply Mercy) and socioeconomic injustice (Parasite, Knives Out, Peterloo). Even Quentin Tarantinos revisionist historical past Hollywood fairytale, As soon as Upon a Time . . . in Hollywood, displays this theme. As I wrote in my assessment, the movie inflames our eager for injustice to be addressed and demise to be reversed.
Inside Payments Mind
Netflix typically appears like extra hassle than it’s price, however amid the hard-to-navigate glut of content material, there are gems. This years Invoice Gates documentary, Inside Payments Mind, is certainly one of them. Its every thing you need in a documentary: fascinating, informative, inspiring, and curious. This isnt agenda-driven (too many documentaries are); its merely a visible doc of how Invoice and Melinda Gates are attempting to use their appreciable monetary and cerebral sources to fixing a number of the worlds hardest issues. Watching their philanthropic instance is time nicely spent.
Who would have thought initially of 2019 that Kanye West would develop into the largest theology story of the 12 months? His outstanding conversionfrom profane narcissist to God-fearing evangelist, from proclaiming I Am a God to shouting Jesus Is Kingis the good-news headline few may have predicted. There may be a lot to applaud about this flip of occasions. Kanyes album, Jesus Is King, is Christian hip hop at its greatest and debuted on the high of the Billboard 200, in addition to Billboards Christian albums and Gospel albums charts. The accompanying IMAX movie was even higher than the album, and Kanyes Sunday Service live shows are hovering worship experiences, even when they showcase the rappers considerably underdeveloped ecclesiology. Kanyes conversion appears totally real, evidenced partially by his joyous new dispositionon pretty show in his Airpool Karaoke episode with James Corden (watch beneath). Ought to we tread rigorously in elevating this still-in-process new convert? Ought to we be cautious about what would possibly occur subsequent? Completely. However we will nonetheless rejoice in whats already occurred.
Kodi Lee on Americas Acquired Expertise
This viral clip was this years Susan Boyle second. On the 14th season of Americas Acquired Expertise, Kodi Leewho is blind and autisticwowed the judges (and the greater than 50 million who watched on YouTube) along with his efficiency of A Track for You. These kind of feel-good actuality TV moments could also be clichdat this level, however they’re nonetheless stunning. Its an excellent factor to look at someones uncooked expertise and keenness upend expectations like this.
Masterpiece Theaters Les Misrables
Did we’d like one other adaptation of Victor Hugos theologically wealthy novel? Arguably not. However the high quality of this new modela six-episode sequence produced by the BBC and aired on PBS in america this springis stellar, so followers of the beloved story won’t remorse watching it. Drawing from the unique novel reasonably than the up to date musical, the sequence permits viewers to deal with the wealthy plot and compelling charactersbeautifully rendered by a formidable solid. Christian actor David Oyelowo performs Javert, Dominic West performs Jean Valjean, and the remainder of the solid is equally spectacular (particularly Lily Collins as Fantine and The Crowns Olivia Coleman as Madame Thnardier).
The Peanut Butter Falcon
Really feel-good movies can usually be accused of being emotionally manipulative, formulaic, and saccharine. However Peanut Butter Falcon is a feel-good movie that manages to avoid these stereotypes. Its an indie movie that’s well-acted, artistically fascinating, gritty in theme but healthful in content material. As I wrote in my TGC assessment, This can be a uncommon film that’s honest, joyous, and un-cynical, but in addition artfully made. Its not low-cost or tacky. In darkish and anxious occasions, we’d like extra movies like this.
Playlists Assist Navigate Music Glut
Music on the whole has by no means been higher, although its simple to disclaim this and retreat to nostalgia. Why? As a result of whereas music has by no means been extra accessible, it has additionally by no means been extra overwhelming. One of many methods we will rejoice the brand new streaming age is by benefiting from the social dynamic of sharing playlists on Spotify, Apple Music, Amazon Music, and related platforms. Whether or not via customized algorithm playlists like Spotifys Uncover Weekly (which I discover to be remarkably good), or via actual curators whose style you belief, playlists are nice methods to find wonderful music. To that finish, dont miss the brand new playlist I created for TGC to spotlight 119 wonderful Christian songs from 2019. Discover it on Spotify or Apple Music.
Placing Scripture to Track
Scripture as an inspiration for music isn’t new. However in 2019 the musically inventive choices on this style have been particularly robust. Take into account Psallos, who launched their tackle the epistle of Jude this summer season, or The Nook Room, who launched a group of songs based mostly on Isaiah 53. Then there are the psalms. Cardiphonia Music launched an album of songs impressed by Psalm 119, a follow-up to 2 volumes of authentic psalm settings impressed by the Psalms of Ascents (120134): Songs for the Sojourn, Vol. 1 and Vol. 2. And Kansas Citybased folks duo Poor Bishop Hooper introduced the outstanding EveryPsalm projecta three-year undertaking that begins January 1. A number of of those songs and artists, together with many others, are featured in my newly created TGC playlist: 119 Nice Christian Songs from 2019.
Operating Membership Information
At a time when up to date worship music feels caught in a formulaic rut, the roster of artists being assembled by Operating Membership Information (RCR) is a breath of recent air. The UK-based label is residence to Rivers & Robots and has launched me this 12 months to proficient new artists like Josh Gauton, Tenielle Neda, Junior Garr, and Danny OCallaghan. Describing its mission, RCR says, It could not sound like conventional Christian music, no matter meaning, however we expect one thing particular is brewing on this a part of tradition and have been going to do every thing we will to get behind it. One thing particular certainly.
Secular Highlight on Marriage
The common-grace goodness of marriage was in every single place in standard tradition in 2019. Probability the RappersThe Massive Daywas a beautiful idea album celebrating the fallen-on-hard-times marital covenant. Rolling Stone referred to as the file a contemporary monument to matrimony. Equally, Vampire Weekends albumFather of the Brideexplored matrimonial themes, even at occasions in a theological vein. Then there have been motion pictures like A Hidden Life, which celebrates the sanctity of marital constancy below nice duress, and Marriage Story, which laments the approaching aside of a one-flesh union. All these circumstances and others reveal a transparent longing to protect and combat for this most treasured establishment.
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
Technically this movie was launched in the previous couple of weeks of 2018, however it was nonetheless in theaters in 2019 after I noticed it. Wow! Im not an enormous comic-book film fan, however this animated entry within the Spiderman franchise was electrifying. Not solely is the film stylistically compellingcapturing the comedian kind higher than every other movie Ive seenbut its themes are highly effective and good. Joe Carter wrote concerning the movie for TGC in January: Whereas circuitously non secular, Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse is a deeply ethical film that examines the significance of decisions and advantage from a common-grace perspective.
Tobe Nwigwes Tiny Desk Live performance
Nigerian American rapper Toby Nwigwe made my listing final 12 months as nicely, and since then he has solely continued to provide wonderful, faith-infused rap that’s crossing over to the mainstream. This August he was invited by NPR to present a Tiny Desk Live performance (a pleasant sequence of intimate, stripped-down live shows that has lately featured the likes of Taylor Swift and Carly Rae Jepson). The 16-minute video of his performancewhich options Tobes musically spectacular entourage, together with his spouse and 7-week-old-daughteris joyful in each sense of the phrase.