Tuesday, May 06, 2008

Too Good Not to Blog

I've been seeing a fair amount of buzz lately about a new book called Rapture Ready (e.g. Tim Challies thought it was enjoyable but not particularly powerful). The best I've read so far is from TheSlate.com, an article by Hanna Rosin called Pop Goes Christianity.

Not a Christian (like the author of the book), Hanna keys in on some of the deep ironies and even theological challenges presented by the way the Christian sub-culture has worked in the last two decades to co-opt the "evil secular culture." How to do it right, oh how to do it well!!!

Anyway, here are a few (extended) quotes I appreciated from Hanna's article:

At this point in history, American evangelicals resemble the Israelites at
various dangerous moments in the Old Testament: They are blending into the
surrounding heathen culture, and having ever more trouble figuring out where it
ends and they begin. In politics, and in business, they've mostly gone ahead and
joined the existing networks. With pop culture, they've instead created their
own enormous "parallel universe," as Daniel Radosh calls it in his rich
exploration of the realm, Rapture Ready! A Christian can now buy books, movies,
music—and anything else lowbrow to middlebrow—tailor-made for his or her
sensibilities. Worried that American popular culture leads people—and especially
teenagers—astray, the Christian version is designed to satisfy all the same
needs in a cleaner form. The problem is that purity boundaries are hard to
police in the Internet age. Show a kid a Christian comedian, and soon he's
likely to discover that the guy is a pale imitation of this much funnier guy—Jon
Stewart—who's not a Christian at all, and doesn't even like Christians. Which
might then lead to a whole new set of anxieties, such as: Why are Christians so
constitutionally unfunny? And, what is the point of Christian culture, anyway?


What does commercializing do to the substance of belief, and what does an
infusion of belief do to the product? When you make loving Christ sound just
like loving your boyfriend, you can do damage to both your faith and your
ballad. That's true when you create a sanitized version of bands like Nirvana or
artists like Jay-Z, too: You shoehorn a message that's essentially about obeying
authority into a genre that's rebellious and nihilistic, and the result can be
ugly, fake, or just limp.


The new generation of Christians is likely to be a different kind of
audience. Raised on iPods and downloadable music, they find it difficult truly
to commit to the idea of a separate Christian pop culture. They might watch Jon
Stewart or Pulp Fiction and also listen to the Christian band Jars of Clay,
assuming the next album is any good. They are much more critical consumers and
excellent spotters of schlock. The creators of Christian pop culture may just
adapt and ease up on the Jesus-per-minute count, and artistic quality might show
some improvement. But in my experience, where young souls are at stake,
Christian creators tend to balk. It's always been a stretch to defend Christian
pop culture as the path to eternal salvation. Now, they may have to face up to
the fact that it's more like an eternal oxymoron.

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