(This article originally appeared on the Texas Baptists web site.)
Millions upon millions of Americans know the music and lyrics of the mega hit, “Uptown Funk” by Mark Ronson (featuring Bruno Mars). Billboard says “Uptown Funk” is still the No. 1 song. It is the quintessential pop song – a beat you can dance to, repetitive lyrics that get stuck in your head, and themes that connect with the young and young-at-heart. Listen to “Uptown Funk” here…
“Uptown Funk,” however, is not just your ordinary pop song; it has expanded its reach. It is becoming iconic. Two Texas schoolteachers are part of the craze.
In January, Dallas high school drama teacher Scot Pankey organized students into a presentation of their own video to the song. “I wanted to give them a project after the holidays that would get them excited and pumped out about learning,” Pankey told ABC News. As of this week, the video had more than 12 million views on YouTube. Watch Pankey’s video here…
Now, another Dallas area teacher has joined the game. Kelli Hauser, aka “Lady Hauza,” is a sixth-grade reading teacher at McMath Middle School in Denton. Her video to the “Uptown Funk” music changes the lyrics to motivate kids regarding the required STAAR tests. It already has 426,000 views on YouTube. Watch Hauser’s video here…
In case you’re not a big fan of pop culture, it might be good to understand how important it is. Rock star Jon Bon Jovi once said:
“It’s unbelievable the power that music has; it’s unbelievable the reach that American pop culture has. It’s truly phenomenal. It bridges all kinds of cultures, language barriers; they don’t speak English but they get the concepts. They don’t believe the same things that you do, but it brings people together. You find that though someone may look different than you and have a different background than you, you have a lot of common thread.”
Pop culture matters because it is, well, popular. It is the way a culture “talks” and the way other cultures listen.
Now, we Christians have a challenge. The Apostle Paul famously said:
Do not be conformed to this world, but be transformed by the renewing of your minds, so that you may discern what is the will of God — what is good and acceptable and perfect. (Romans 12:2, NRSV)
Pop culture draws people into its vortex. I like “Uptown Funk” for the same reasons many others like it, but some of the lyrics bother my tender ears . It’s basically about being cool and showing off for others – not exactly classic virtues. Humility takes a beating. But it’s fun, and everyone loves to have a little fun.
I hope I’m conveying the tension we Christians can feel. There are parts of pop culture that are consistent with godly living, such as the line in “Uptown Funk” that says, “Them good girls straight masterpieces.” But there also are parts of pop culture that abruptly conflict with godly living – most often seen in attitudes about sex.
Christians face a double challenge – stay in the world enough to reach the world for Christ and be apart from the world enough to stand with God when many popular forces would pull us away. I end with Jesus’ prayer to the Father on behalf of His followers:
Now I’m returning to you [Father].… I gave them [my followers] your word; The godless world hated them because of it, Because they didn’t join the world’s ways, Just as I didn’t join the world’s ways. I’m not asking that you take them out of the world But that you guard them from the Evil One. They are no more defined by the world Than I am defined by the world. Make them holy—consecrated—with the truth; Your word is consecrating truth. In the same way that you gave me a mission in the world, I give them a mission in the world. I’m consecrating myself for their sakes So they’ll be truth-consecrated in their mission. (John 17:13-19, The Message)