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The Soundtrack to Their Life

Dr. James Emery White | Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary | Thursday, September 24, 2015

The Soundtrack to Their Life

The great communications theorist Marshall McLuhan wrote, “All media work us over completely.”

“They are so pervasive in their personal, political, economic, aesthetic, psychological, moral, ethical, and social consequences,” he added, “that they leave no part of us untouched, unaffected, unaltered.”

Fred Fedler, author of one of the most widely used college textbooks on the mass media, says that “the media may constitute the most powerful education system ever known to man.”

Or as MTV founder Bob Pittman once said, “At MTV, we don’t shoot for the 14-year-olds, we own them.”

Yet few Christians stay abreast of popular media in terms of their message on even the most basic of levels.

I am currently teaching a series on parenting at the church I have the privilege of serving as pastor. In one of the installments, I challenged them that “before you let your child be exposed to, or experience, anything related to media, you need to know what they’re being exposed to.

“You need to know what they’ll be experiencing;

“You need to know what the movie is going to say, and show, before they see it;

“You need to know about the site they are wanting to visit before they click on it;

“You need to know who they are wanting to text, and what they are wanting to text, before they text it;

“You need to know what kind of game it is they are wanting to play before they play it.

“So do you?”

The reason I posed the question was because I’m not sure that the average parent does. 

It’s not because they are bad parents, just uninformed. And the reason they are not informed is because somehow, someway, they’ve been led to believe that it simply isn’t important. Or, even more likely, they think that what they do know is enough.

But is it?

Think about the music on the average child’s phone. It will be, of course, popular music - the top songs currently being downloaded off of iTunes. The kind you have mindlessly playing in the background as you drive.

Not a real issue, right?

Here’s what I did.

As I prepared my talk, I went and looked at the five most downloaded songs on my writing day on iTunes. And then googled their lyrics.

During the service we put together a two-minute video overview of what I found writing out some of the lyrics.

Suffice it to say, parents were stunned.

And equally stunned that there are many more "songs" like these playing in the background through Halo and HBO, Snapchat and Facebook, Netflix and Instagram.

And all of them are providing the soundtrack to our children’s lives.

James Emery White


Marshall McLuhan with Quentin Fiore, The Medium is the Massage: An Inventory of Effects.

About the Author

James Emery White is the founding and senior pastor of Mecklenburg Community Church in Charlotte, NC, and the ranked adjunctive professor of theology and culture at Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary, which he also served as their fourth president. His latest book, The Rise of the Nones: Understanding and Reaching the Religiously Unaffiliated, is available on Amazon. To enjoy a free subscription to the Church and Culture blog, visit ChurchAndCulture.org, where you can view past blogs in our archive and read the latest church and culture news from around the world. Follow Dr. White on twitter @JamesEmeryWhite.

The Soundtrack to Their Life