Author Archive

On Christian Objectivity: Practical Suggestions

Everybody thinks whatever they have to in order to keep thinking what they already thought. Yeah, that’s right. Your perception of any charged event is strongly shaped by your desire to reinforce what you already thought. We are capable of thinking critically, but we don’t do it nearly as often as we think we do. Basically, we interpret the world the way we already decided we interpret it, which reinforces our conviction that we interpret it correctly. Continue reading

Theology & Pop Culture 2: How?

The last post in this series explored why it is important to have communication between Christian theology and pop culture. This post will show seven broad ways this can be done. Most of the following is taken from Gordon Lynch’s Understanding Theology and Pop Culture. His book is great for, among other things, laying out some basic methods.

1) Study how religion and popular culture of everyday life interact. How does religion shape the way people live life? How does pop culture change the way people believe?

2) Study the ways pop culture serves religious functions. When people point out the religious nature of football games, they are doing this.

Similarly, you could see in pop culture a way of doing theology. Remember, theology is a way of communicating eternal truths to a particular situation. Christian theology, then, is a way of communicating eternal truths, particularly about God, to a particular situation. Robert Beckford has shown how Bob Marley works out theology in his music. The blues was originally a way of doing gospel music for themes that were not to be discussed in church. Worship music, which is absolutely a piece of pop culture, is a way of doing theology.

3) Understanding pop culture in order to respond to it missionally. This is exactly what many missionaries do all over the world, except in the United States, or Britain (or wherever).

4) The use of pop culture “texts” and practices as a medium for theological reflection. Every time your pastor works some cheesy reference to pop culture into a sermon, she is doing a very basic example of this.

“We’re like iPhones, and we don’t have any bars. But when we are in better communion with Jesus, we get more bars!”

This could also be done in a deeper way, such as I did with Lady Gaga’s “Judas” here.

4a) Relate pop culture to the Bible. For example, you could point out that Mumford & Son’s “Sigh No More” is similar to 1 Corinthians 13:4 (“love is patient, love is kind. Love does not envy, etc.”), and 2 Cor. 5:14, 17:
Love it will not betray you, dismay or enslave you,
It will set you free
Be more like the man you were made to be.
There is a design,
An alignment to cry,
Of my heart to see,
The beauty of love as it was made to be

2 Cor. 15:14, 17 (NIV)
For Christ’s love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died…Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, the new creation has come: The old has gone, the new is here!

4b) Compare certain theological ideas to certain pieces of popular culture. Considering how closely Neo (The Matrix) fits Christology is an example of this. I did this with P. Diddy here, and with Christan Bale’s infamous rant here.

Seeing the variety of ways this can be done is helpful to clarify one’s thoughts and aims. It also is a testimony to how important these comparisons are, because they are so versatile.

4c) Search for theological truth in popular culture. This depends on a respect for pop culture, and a recognition that Christians do not already know everything there is to be known about theology. This fact alone limits the variety of Christians able to participate in this method.

Theology & Pop Culture 1: Why?

I’ve written a good deal about the intersection between theology and pop culture lately. (See this on Christan Bale and sin, this on P. Diddy and evangelism, or this or this on Lady Gaga’s “Judas”) This seems trivial at first. It’s certainly fun. However, I think it’s also very important. Continue reading

Album Review: Lady Gaga, Born This Way

Ok, ok. So if Trent Reznor produced a Cindy Lauper album…no, wait. Ok. If Trent Reznor produced a Bruce Springsteen album, except Tina Turner sang….dang. Ok, I’m pretty sure we need to involve Trent Reznor, and I’m sure we need some pop from the ’80s. The stuff that was popular in the 80s, not the stuff from the 80s that people like now (Yes, they’re different).

In short, this album is good. Gaga is very good as self-promotion, so when she began calling her new album “amazing” a year ago, I was a bit skeptical. Hopeful, but skeptical. Now it’s arrived. Born This Way doesn’t sound like her previous albums, but it’s good and it’s interesting! On the other hand, a lot of people have accused her of essentially stealing other peoples songs. A number of these melodies sound suspiciously like other songs…

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On Christian Objectivity 5: bin Laden is dead!

The way Christians responded to bin Laden’s death has been on my mind. It’s been on the minds of lots of people, actually. This theme alone probably accounts for half of my Facebook feed for the last few days. Continue reading

Easy Answers and Loving My Neighbor

This week I watched a TED Talk [1]. The presenter, Dr. Brene Brown, recently finished research on the way some people are able to overcome shame and have deep relationships while others remain overwhelmed by it. According to her, the basic difference between these two groups is that the former believes themselves worthy of love, while the second isn’t convinced. It’s one of the more important lectures I’ve heard recently, especially for Christians.
Continue reading

P. Diddy and The Kingdom of God: Your Evangelism is Too Small

Diddy’s “Coming Home,” describes his hope for redemption. The refrain says

I’m coming home, I’m coming home! Tell the world I’m coming home.
Let the rain wash away all the pain of yesterday.
I know my kingdom awaits, and they’ve forgiven my mistakes.

The raps make it clear the narrator is ashamed of the way he has treated his kids and girlfriend/wife. In the refrain he longs for his painful memories, the devastating mistakes of his past, to be washed away. He imagines his family waiting, having forgiven his mistakes. The narrator is drowning in the awareness of his own sin. Continue reading

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