Last week Adam Yauch, MCA of the Beastie Boys, passed away from complications with cancer.
It’s always interesting to see how we’re affected by celebrity deaths. Sometimes celebrities die and I couldn’t care less. Other times celebrities die and it feels like someone I know passed away.
When I heard that MCA had died I was really upset.
Even though it came out five years after I was born, the Beastie Boys album Licensed to Ill provided the soundtrack to my high school experience. Everyone in my group of friends had the album and we all listened to it, when we were alone and when we were together.
Hearing that MCA died was like hearing I’d lost one of my high school friends. Licensed to Ill really was that big a part of our lives.
As a cultural artifact, though, Licensed to Ill isn’t terribly redeemable. The album is misogynistic and all about drinking, partying and getting with women. In Philippians 4:8, when Paul wrote about thinking about whatever is true, noble, true and right, I don’t he would have included Licensed to Ill on that list.
I listened to that album nonstop but didn’t end up as a misogynistic drinker, partier or philanderer. It wasn’t the best album in the world to listen to but apparently it didn’t have a negative impact on my life. If anything Licensed to Ill is a positive part of my past that only brings up good memories. Those memories aren’t about smoking and drinking but of hanging out with friends and building relationships that are still bearing fruit today.
There really is a gray area when it comes to culture and how we interact with it. Licensed to Ill didn’t have the best content but I was able to listen to it without doing everything the Beasties rapped about. There may be some people, though, who would have been far too influenced by the album and shouldn’t have listened to it. And I’m sure there are people who can interact with cultural artifacts that I avoid because they would lead me to sin.
We really need all the wisdom and discernment we have when choosing how to interact with the grayer areas of culture. If it’s somewhere between The Avengers XXX and The 700 Club, we need some discernment.
How do you apply discernment to your cultural choices?