What fuels popular culture? In a word, hype. We, however, should be fueled by something else. Especially during Advent.
Not surprisingly, we rarely, if ever, discuss Mixed Marital Arts, or MMA, here at BreakPoint. Especially women's MMA. Our view is the less said about women pounding each other for the entertainment of an overwhelmingly male audience, the better.
Still, a recent headline at ESPN.com is worth noting. It read "Ronda Rousey Emerges after UFC 193 Loss with a Funny Hat and a Smiling Face."
Even if you don't know anything about MMA, chances are you've seen a picture of Rousey somewhere, or heard her name. She has dominated sports headlines this year. It's not much of an exaggeration to say that, in the run-up to her fights, the only people more ubiquitous than she are the Kardashians.
And all the hype surrounding Rousey, as the ESPN headline demonstrates, continues even after she was knocked out by her opponent, a 20-to-1 underdog.
Now, I'm not picking on Rousey, and this may very well be the last time MMA is ever be mentioned on BreakPoint. But we do need to think through the role that hype plays in American culture, especially popular culture.
Simply put, American pop culture and increasingly American culture overall is driven by hype and self-promotion.
Case in point: pop music. In an article aptly entitled "Hit Charade," the Atlantic Monthly told readers how "the bald Norwegians and other unknowns … actually create the songs that top the charts."
The article noted that a handful of people, "a crazily high percentage of them middle-aged Scandinavian men, write most of America's pop hits."
So what do the stars bring to the mix? The "full time job" of being "a global celebrity," of course. In other words, hype and self-promotion.
At least we can say they sing the songs. Over the past two decades "reality television" has given us "stars" who are the epitome of historian Daniel Boorstin's definition of a celebrity: "a person who is known for his well-knownness."
This barely tolerable hype and self-promotion is almost sacrilegious during Advent. After all, this is the time when we prepare ourselves to celebrate the Incarnation of the One, as Paul tells the Colossians, by whom all things were created and in whom all things hold together.
And yet when this One became flesh, He did so not in the center of power, but in a backwater province of the Roman Empire. And the announcement of the fulfillment and the fulcrum of human history came not to the great and powerful, but to "shepherds out in the field, keeping watch over their flock by night."
And later, when in the wilderness, Jesus was twice offered a chance at self-promotion, a way of announcing that He was the Messiah without having to endure the hardships, sacrifice, rejection, and ultimately death that had been foretold told in the scriptures.
But Jesus rejected all of this — along with Satan's offer of earthly power.
Instead, as Paul said to the church at Philippi in one of the most important descriptions of the Incarnation in Holy Writ, Jesus "humbled Himself, and became obedient unto death, even death on a cross."
That humble obedience, Paul continues, is why God has "highly exalted Him, so at the name of Jesus, every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord."
This attitude, Paul also says, is the one that we should take on. It's difficult to imagine a greater contrast than between this vision and what our culture has staked as its understandings of human dignity.
For the Christian, our God-given dignity and worth were resoundingly and forever affirmed two thousand years ago in a stable in Bethlehem when God took on flesh. Thus, the life worth living is one that emulates that self-emptying and service.
And that's no hype.
This article was originally posted here.