03 July 2006

Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture

This is one of my favorite books. Written by Fuller Seminary Professors Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor (who both also happen to be involved in the Hollywood world) approach popular cultural with anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and theology to discover the questions of culture, what God is doing in the world today and how Christians can join Him in this work. They inspect advertising, celebrities, music, movies, television, fashion, sports, and art from the perspective of being both artist and pastor. They see a Jesus who walked the streets, of whose ministry we read more of his interaction with marketplace people than synagogue teachings, who was accused of spending his time with “sinners,” with the rejects of the church. In the introduction, the authors write, “We embrace pop culture because we believe it offers a refreshing, alternative route to a Jesus who for many has been domesticated, declawed, and kept under wraps” (p. 9). They introduce a new aspect to hermeneutic and suggest ways to open the church doors to “that bright, passionate audience of young people whom advertisers covet and the church is in danger of losing” (p. 8). Some of their ideas may feel dangerous to the shepherds of the flock and the guardians of truth that want to protect their people from the threatening ideas and philosophies of the world, but they dive in to play with the dolphins and the whales and the coral. More than deconstructing the modern method, they seek to reconfigure and recontextualize. They remythologize the gospels, not in order to create a story devoid of truth, but in order to recapture and embodied heroism and life that invites us to find our community in God’s metanarrative of creation, fall, and recreation. I found this book a refreshing challenge to engage with culture, rather than standing outside of culture waving our parental fingers with a “tsk, tsk.” While not losing the integrity of their Christian heritage, Detweiler and Taylor walk the streets to dialogue, to learn, and to share wisdom, to find God in pop culture.

4 comments:

Michael Hamblin said...

"Some of their ideas may feel dangerous to the shepherds of the flock and the guardians of truth that want to protect their people from the threatening ideas and philosophies of the world, but they dive in to play with the dolphins and the whales and the coral."

"I found this book a refreshing challenge to engage with culture, rather than standing outside of culture waving our parental fingers with a “tsk, tsk.”"

Heather, I think these statements are rather judgemental and prejudicial on your part. It's easy to characterize people as radical separatists when all they are doing is expressing genuine concern. The best way to protect people from philosophies of the world is to educate them on what those worldly philosophies are and how to think Christianly about them. This does take time - discipleship is not something that happens overnight after all. Certainly it takes time before people can grow from being seperate from culture to being culture transforming. We should be respectful of the needs of people for growth and not simply dismiss them as hopelessly anti-cultural.

Heather said...

Michael, I agree with you that I do sound rather harsh and reactionist. As I have noted before, I want to learn to be more of a peacemaker and less arrogant about how I feel about my ideas. I am a big fan of discipleship. Whether we accurately reflect Christ or not, we are His body, and I deeply desire to more and more embody His love and Truth rather than me (I say this, but I struggle with it every moment!). I do want to check the perceived movement from being separate from culture. The truth is, while we may attempt to isolate ourselves from culture, we are never separate from it. My observations have been that more often than not, we just recreate culture in our own world and label it "Christian fill-in-the-blank," whether it is political, bands, T-shirts, advertisement, marketing, materialism... We should be culture transforming, and we should also recognize how culture influences us (for good, negative, and neutral). Even Christ is influenced by the world He created. He became human - 1st century Palestinian Jew all the way. And He still is human. Each of our Christianity is influenced by the philosophies around us, whether that is to hold up the "self-evident" and inalienable right to happiness or to resist any social change because it would be a sin to resist the authorities from which "truth" is handed, to shame your family because of Christ or to remain within the relationship in order to reveal Christ's love to them.
I sound judgemental because I grew up in a system that on the one hand brought me closer to Christ, but on the other hand really screwed some things up. I find myself more sympathetic with the post-modern culture than the modern culture. I know both. I've lived in both. And now, as a post-modern, I, at the worst, have been labeled heretical and, at the least, have had people praying for me to see the "error" of my ways. I believe God is reflected in both cultures. I believe both cultures corrupt our view of God. I believe Christians are influenced by both cultures and need to transform both cultures.

Craig Detweiler said...

heather,

thanks for your generous review.
so glad our thoughts connected with
your own journey/perspective.
best wishes as you move forward.

much appreciation,

craig

Anonymous said...

^^Thanks!!

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