Review by Stephen W. Hiemstra
For anyone who grew up in the period before 1970, the slide of American culture into secularism has been shockingly rapid. What happened to television shows like I love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver during prime time? By 1984 when I got married, I tried but failed to make my home a television free zone. Today, my kids make fun of me as I mute the television during racy ads and leave the room when newscasters broadcast filler.  How are we to understand the messages that media routinely pours on us and reasonably communicate standards within the family? In their book, The Culture-Wise Family, Ted Baehr and Pat Boone offer a Christian perspective on these issues.
In her foreword, Janet Parshall writes:
“The Culture-Wise Family looks into the abysmal future possibilities of where the current collapse of civilization may lead and also into the hope offered by renewed rededication to biblical wisdom, knowledge, and understanding. Furthermore, The Culture-Wise Family helps the reader understand what must be done, why it must be done, and how it can be done.” (13)
Ted Baehr is the Chairman of the Christian Film and Television Commission which publishes MovieGuides, a Christian movie review service, which makes him a credible commentator on visual media. Meanwhile, Pat Boone is himself a well-known gospel singer from the 1950s and 1960s, as well as a film star and television host, The Pat Boone/Chevy Showroom which aired for 3 years nationally on television.
Baehr and Boone clearly have a heart for young people and they offer these 5 pillars of media wisdom:
- “Understand the influence of the media on your children.”
- “Ascertain your children’s susceptibility at each stage of cognitive development.”
- “Teach your children how the media communicates its message.”
- “Help your children know the fundamentals of Christian faith.”
- “Help your children learn to ask the right questions.” (27-28)
Citing a 2003 report in Movieguide, they note that by the time our children reach the age of 17, they have spent 63,000 hours exposed to media, 11,000 hours in school, 2,000 hours with their parents, and only 800 hours in church (88). The implication is, of course, that media educates our children more than is commonly understand, in part, through repetition—if you repeat something enough times, people tend to believe it. One measure of that influence reported is that in 1950, 70 percent of 12-15 year olds felt that the messages of the Bible applied to their lives while in 2001 that figure was only 4 percent (Movieguide, 2005; 89). How exactly did that immensely important cultural shift occur?
In our household, we experienced this shift first-hand. At one point when my son was in elementary school, he became ill and was having trouble sleeping. Thinking that he was experiencing complications relative to a medical challenge that he faced back then, we took him to see his pediatrician. Alarmed, the pediatrician referred him to several specialists for tests—they must have tried a dozen times to draw blood sample without success and subjected him to scans of this and that. As parents, we were horrified and in great distress over these medical tests that went late into the night. The result? My son was having a reaction to a video game that pictured aliens as attacking rubber chickens and meat cuts, like in bone hams (imagine your dinner coming back to attack you). What was completely innocuous to us as adults terrified our son.
Baehr and Boone provide a lot of historical details that provide insights into some of the cultural changes that we have seen. For example, they report that between 1933 and 1966, every script in Hollywood was reviewed by representatives of the Roman Catholic Church, the Southern Baptist Church, and Protestant film office. If the film passed the review and adhered to their code, it could be screened; otherwise, not. During this period, “there was no explicit sex, violence, profanity, or blasphemy in movies”. Inexplicably, the churches withdrew from Hollywood in 1966 (48-49). Who in their right mind would trade Leave it to Beaver for Family Guy? In effect, we have made this trade.
Baehr and Boone include a number of essays targeting issues of obvious interest. One that sticks in my mind is William S. Lind’s Who Stole Our Culture? (178-185) The short answer is the cultural Marxists of the Frankfurt school, now known as the New School for Social Research in New York City. Particularly important in the strategy for advancing cultural Marxism is known as critical theory. Critical theory advocates subjecting every traditional institution—the family, traditional morality, the church, schools, government, and anyone in authority to unrelenting criticism, making no attempt to offer any real facts or an alternative solution (think of Marx’s own slander of religion as the “opiate of the masses”). Those in authority are characterized as oppressors (and subject to relentless criticism) while everyone else is a victim (automatically good). Cultural Marxism is responsible for the political correctness movement and for mainstreaming homosexuality. By aiding the destruction of the major institutions of Western Civilization, the cultural Marxists have paved the way for Marx’s ideas in ways that communists in the former Soviet Union and other communist countries failed to accomplish.
Ted Baehr and Pat Boone’s book, The Culture-Wise Family, is a difficult book to read and absorb. No matter what your social position is, the question of culture and the culture wars is a hot button topic where few people agree on much of anything. However, basic information is needed to assess what issues are really at stake and which are not. Here Baehr and Boone provide a real resource. I encourage you to take a look.
 Filler is content used in place of real news. Examples are animal tidies, around the clock reporting of disasters, or content-free news coverage which leaves out background required to understand what is being presented. The reporting of disasters is particularly pernicious because by exposing the public to repeated video clips of diaster footage, people can develop symptoms known as “secondary trauma” much like actual first responders and other caregivers. For example, see: http://secondarytrauma.org/secondarytrauma.htm.
 For example, Boone was one of the stars in the film, The Cross and the Switchblade, which helped me come to faith as a young person.
 This repetition is sometimes referred to as the “broken-record negotiating strategy”.
 Key books in this effort include: Antonio Gramsci’s Prison Notebooks (1929-1935), Theodor W. Adorno’s The Authoritarian Personality (1950), and Herbert Marcuse’s Eros and Civilization.