What do Fleabag and Queen Elizabeth II have in Common?
The Best of Connecting with Culture 2019
It’s been quite a year. From Stormzy’s game-changing Glasto slot and Fleabag’s clean sweep at the Emmys to Kanye’s Damascene conversion and the stately return of The Crown.
We goggled at Thomas Cook’s collapse, Margaret Atwood’s Testaments, Chernobyl’s small-screen outing, Extinction Rebellion’s big pink boat, and Notre Dame’s fire. FaceApp made us look old and Snapchat made us feel young. Politics continued to… happen.
Through it all, LICC’s Connecting with Culture has been bringing you insightful reflections on how we make sense of the world around us through a biblical lens. What are the longings embedded in contemporary culture, and what light does the gospel shed on them? How do we engage productively with our culture – as those in the world, but not of it?
At the gate of the year, here’s our pick of the top five Connecting with Culture articles of 2019. May they inspire and intrigue you – and may God work through you in your cultural context in 2020.
On Fleabag and Fear
As far as TV was concerned, 2019 was the year of Phoebe Waller-Bridge and her semi-autobiographical creation, Fleabag.
The show, which sees its protagonist blundering through 30-something life and, in her words, ‘using sex to deflect from the screaming void inside my empty heart’, won big at the Emmys and has captured a legion of fans.
Nell Goddard explored what Fleabag can teach us about the brokenness of humanity and the need to love each other better. ‘By balancing the line between laughter and tears on a knife edge, Fleabag compels us to think not only about what fears and hurts lie hidden in the hearts of our friends and colleagues, but in our own as well.’
Grace at Glastonbury
In June, grime artist Stormzy became the second youngest and first black British solo artist to headline Glastonbury.
His set peaked with ‘Blinded By Your Grace pt. 2’, a song that features words you might expect to find in a worship song: ‘Lord I’ve been broken, although I’m not worthy, you fixed me, now I’m blinded by your grace, you came and saved me.’
Nell Goddard considered how Christians might respond. ‘It’s clear that this artist has introduced the Christian concepts of grace, salvation, prayer, and brokenness to an audience who may otherwise never come across them. We do not have to affirm everything about Stormzy’s set and his music, but we can and should celebrate that – and pray that God would give the increase.’
Kanye West and the Prodigal God
The gospel takeover of mainstream music continued in October with the release of Kanye West’s Jesus Is King. The album and subsequent press tour felt like a moment of repentance for an often controversial artist. But some were sceptical.
Ollie Lansdowne reflected on the comparisons to the prodigal son – and the call to joy when he comes home. ‘Salvation comes before sanctification. As Christian rapper Shai Linne tweeted, ‘Let us not despise the loud, passionate cries of a newborn.’ We need to acknowledge the dissonance, but the instinct to dance when you hear a prodigal professing the gospel isn’t just beautiful – it’s vital.
Wellbeing at Work
Mental health has never been higher on the national agenda. According to a recent survey, the proportion of employees experiencing poor work-related mental health is rising and currently stands at almost 40 per cent.
In response, Peter Heslam looked at how the Bible portrays wellbeing at work.
‘Contrary to some popular perceptions, ‘wellbeing’ is about much more than happiness or positive feelings. It is about a meaningful life, with good work and relationships, and a sense of responsibility and freedom. This idea, often associated with Aristotle, is in fact embodied in the earlier and broader Hebrew notion of ‘shalom’. In it lies the redemption of the contemporary workplace.’
The Crown and the Queen
What better way to end the year than with the return of everyone’s favourite royalty-based drama, The Crown? Olivia Colman’s performance and the ever-engaging storyline drew praise from across the board – but Mark Greene pointed out that the show was missing a key plot point.
‘For all The Crown’s strengths, it fails, like most biographies of the Queen, to understand how her deep sense of divine calling and her living faith in Christ have shaped how she does everything – from the way she engages with staff to the content of her Christmas broadcasts.’
Marketing & Editorial Lead, LICC