Outdated Cultural Depictions

If you watch a Disney movie over the school holidays, many will display this new disclaimer: ‘This program is presented as originally created. It may contain outdated cultural depictions.’ It’s an example of a recent trend, where enlightened (or woke) people feel the need to criticise, censure, and distance themselves from views held in the past.

Is this a helpful trend, or not? I do agree that previous cultures accepted levels of racism, or sexism, or other forms of discrimination as normal. We do not wish to endorse that. Having said that, I am disturbed and unsettled by this new trend, for several reasons.

It is profoundly arrogant. We are enlightened, they were not. We have arrived, they are outdated.

This arrogance in turn shuts down dialogue and debate. If one holds a view different from the mainstream view, then you are racist, or sexist, or discriminatory. All out of step opinions are all lumped together, considered ‘unsafe’, and not allowed to be voiced and heard in public.

This represents a seismic shift. Voltaire was perhaps the most influential philosopher of the 18th Century (1694 – 1778). He affirms the right of the human individual to be a free thinker. Hence “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.” Can you hear the passion of a French revolutionary?

The current mindset also fails to appreciate that we all see things through the blinkers of our culture. What disclaimers will be put on movies made in this decade in years to come?

Community, especially and including Christian community, must live in this illusive tension between standing on biblical historical foundations, being confident about those truths, yet open to discussion, and aware that at times we all have culture bound glasses that shade what we see. All of this must happen in ways where our endeavours to speak truth are done in love.

Rev David Rietveld Senior Minister

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