WHAT IS CULTURE? There are many definitions, but the best is simply this. Culture is a nation’s religion externalized. It is a snapshot of our values and beliefs put on display for all to see. The Super Bowl is the biggest cultural event in North America. It is a snapshot of American religion and the hidden assumptions about ultimate reality that proceed from it.

When I say culture I am referring to the arts, music, cinema, literature, politics, and our educational and media establishments. By Super Bowl culture I am referring explicitly to the halftime show which sums these up.


The history of the halftime shows is a history of our changing cultural, and therefore religious landscape. The first Super Bowl was in 1967, and for the next ten years, the halftime shows were mostly first-class marching bands.

In the second decade, the halftime shows began to change. They featured wholesome groups like “Up With People,” butlast marching bands still figured prominently.

But by the middle of the third-decade popular rock bands and performers began to take prominence. This culminated in Justin Timberlake using Janet Jackson’s “wardrobe malfunction” to expose her breast in Super Bowl XXXVIII.

That takes us to last week’s Super Bowl LVII. Rihanna was the featured guest. She appeared boasting a “belly bump,’ i.e. a new pregnancy, and her show spoke volumes about our current cultural moment and its underlying religion. Her outfit, emphasizing her breasts, and the choreography, were overtly sexual. Her lyrics were hard to understand, and we are thankful because they were often raunch. Here is a sample from her opening song—

Bitch, better have my money

Y’all should know me well enough…

Turn up to Rihanna while the whole fucking club wasted

Bitch, Better Have My Money, Rihanna

The song closed with 20 repetitions of the line, “Bitch, better have my money.” To top it off, at one point in the show she grabbed her crotch sending a provocative, sensual message.

Rhianna’s show was a display of hip-hop culture. We should not celebrate hip-hop. Why? Think the 2022 hip-hop hit by Cardi B and Megan Thee Stallion, tiled “WAP.” It was number one for three weeks last Spring. The lyrics are so pornographic and misogynistic I can’t repeat them on this blog. Nevertheless, it was the eleventh best-selling hit of 2022.

Cultural Analysis

What did Rihanna’s show tell us about the underlying religion of America?

First, our national religion is secular. Our worldview is the “closed system” of philosophical materialism. There is no spiritual world. Nothing exists unless our five senses can detect it. So eat, drink, and be merry, for tomorrow we all die, and then it will be too late to enjoy the bacchanalia.

Second, our national religion is idolatrous, and the primary idol is sex, perfidiously displayed by its many perversions. Throughout the Bible sexual immorality is a fruit of idolatry. For example, the Baal worship in Numbers 25 immediately terminated in group fornication between the men of Israel and the women of Moab.

Third, to keep anyone from objecting to the sexual excess, our national religion promotes pluralism, inclusivism, and tolerance. But these values are not applied consistently. There is no tolerance or acceptance or inclusiveness towards Christians and the biblical sexual morality they attempt to live by. The reason is clear. Tolerance of Christians would mean the end of our rampant sexual idolatry.

Fourth, our religion is not just about sex, it has degenerated into raunch. Third-wave feminism now means female vulgarity, degrading women into mere sex objects for male abuse. Yeah, men and women really are different after all.

Fifth, religion and guilt always go together. This new religion is no different. Guilt for our forefathers slavery and the racism that that fueled it cripples us. That is one reason that Jesus came—to cleanse us from guilt. But this new religion has no way to do this. So, although African Americans only comprise 12% of our population, they dominate our commercials, and of course the Super Bowl halftime.

All of this is a secular attempt to propitiate racial guilt. We love our black friends and neighbors. We are heartbroken by racism and slavery, but for the good of our culture, we must move on, and Christianity is the only religion that empowers us to expunge the guilt. By contrast, our cultural religion leaves us perpetually culpable.

God’s Solution

Tragically, this national religion is sucking us into a vortex of suffering and national fragmentation, and no one wants that. So what can Christians do? How can we be agents of grace and healing?

First, recognize the definition of culture above and what it tells us about the national religion it expresses.

Second, all of us are part of this culture. Therefore, we bear some responsibility. So confess your sins, your family’s sins, the sins of our fathers, and the gross idolatry of the United States seeking God’s forgiveness.

Third, ask God to “shed his grace” on America. Grace is unmerited favor, something not deserved, but God loves to be gracious. So pray for revival. Pray for a great outpouring of God’s Spirit. Pray that God would bring our culture to its knees in faith and repentance. There is no other solution.

If my people who are called by my name humble themselves, and pray and seek my face and turn from their wicked ways, then I will hear from heaven and will forgive their sin and heal their land.

(2 Chronicles 7:14)