Lassoing The Elusive Notion of Culture
When I was growing up, my parents cultivated a slightly demented sense of humor in our home. When someone crashed a bike or car and came out unscathed, after a general thankfulness to The Man Upstairs, we would laugh for years to come with each re-telling.
To this day, my 88 year old Mom is known as a trouble maker in her retirement complex. She has endeared the staff and (most of) the residents to herself with her spunk, jabs, and light-heartedness.
This cultivation of humor has served me well as I’ve sought to follow Jesus in challenging ministry positions since the 1980’s. And though the mental health challenges some of my loved ones have faced are not funny in themselves, still, laugher has been a balm for all of us.
No wonder, then, that Becky and I thoroughly enjoyed Apple TV’s show Ted Lasso. We laughed and cried, and you will too if you get hooked, as we did, after Episode 1.
But what does this have to do with faith in Christ? To engage culture, rather than to simply react to it or battle it, must you be able to laugh along with the world?
Watching a show like Ted Lasso with kingdom eyes (Matthew 6:33) is an act of engaging culture that can make us not only more aware of the stories our neighbors care about, it can also humanize us in ways that make us better neighbors.
Plus, you’ll laugh, and laughter is good for the soul.
Lasso is a football coach from Kansas, thrust into London to lead a “real” football team.
As the show develops, we see that beneath Lasso’s generous mustache and buckaroo spirit, he is a savant at knowing what makes people tick.
Picture Lasso placing thoughtfully-selected gifts in each of his player’s lockers. Confused, they handle them like they’re moon rocks. Of all things, they’re books!
The team’s aging superstar, Roy Kent, is puzzled by his: A Wrinkle In Time by Madeleine L’Engle, but he ends up reading it to his niece Chloe anyhow. Then it dawns on him.
Roy is just like one of the kids in the novel who were given gifts. But the power isn’t in the gift; it’s in its apprehension and use.
At this epiphany, Roy sits up in Chloe’s bed and shouts an expletive, demonstrating his gift of anger!
He realizes in that moment that his rage has gone underground, making him miserable to everyone. He must recover it to his play of soccer.
Like any great manager, coach, or teacher, he saw what made Roy tick. Don’t each of us long to be known at such a level? Don’t we all struggle to love others more deeply? I know I do.
As I’ve watched Ted Lasso, I’m not only entertained. I’m struck by the emotional intelligence and masterful writing of its creators.
Whether or not it’s intentional, here’s a smart and hilarious show that traces the contours of how God knows each of us intimately and loves humanity passionately in the person of Jesus.
The question is, having been plunked down into this turbulent world, are you demonstrating a belief in a time of cynicism? Hope in the face of corruption? Love in a culture of suspicion?
Or are you still fighting a culture war, holed up in a holy huddle and hurling Molotov cocktails at so-called enemies?
Why are more of us not out there cultivating entertainment like this? (I trust some are doing just that, perhaps on the staff of Ted Lasso. I’d like to meet them).
Speaking of such engagement, consider The Trust Performing Arts Center. Under Dr. Robert Bigley’s direction, a story is being told. It’s a story of the inherent worth of creation, the arts, and the stories of people.
His vision for the Trust, which The Row House heartily partners with, is not is anti-culture, high culture, or pop culture. It’s pro-culture, the cultivation of beauty, goodness, and truth.
We Christians need to learn how to engage culture, not as a means to winning souls or arguments, but as an exercise in being human.
You can witness such an attitude about culture in Acts 14 when Paul and Barnabas preach to a crowd of true-blue pagans. Read it again. You’ll be surprised at what they preach, how they do it, and what they don’t preach.
This is why The Row House Forums happen. They give us a bridge to walk out on with fellow humans to converse about things we all should care about because God cares about them.
It’s an experiment in Ted Lasso-ism, really. We bring events to Lancaster City that are a bit of a marvel, fueled by faith, hope, and love.
We want you to join us in the upcoming year, and bring a neighbor, a relative, or a stranger!
Spoiler alert: Laugher happens.