Archive for the ‘ Cultural Health ’ Category

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.

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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.
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Why Atheists Follow Christ Better than Christians, and What to do About it.

Western culture is permeated by Christian values. That is to say, though the culture is not submitted to God, it mostly behaves as if it is. Continue reading

Why Christians are Arrogant (when discussing religion)

In a fairly recent book, researchers from the Barna Institute show why Christianity is rejected or just plain ignored among younger Americans. There are a lot of issues the author brings up, but the one I’d like to focus on is the perception that Christians are arrogant. (Here’s a link to two of the most useful negative reviews of the book, Unchristian. One reviewer is not a Christian, and has a lot of important insights. The other reviewer is a Christian with his head in the sand.) Continue reading

Is It Sarah Palin’s Fault? No, but…

After the incident in Tucson last week, there was a lot of talk partially blaming Sarah Palin (among others) for the political climate contributing to the incident. Now, they did not blame her for the incident, but by poisoning the tone of political debate in the United States she is said to have contributed strongly to the situation. This purportedly happened because of her use of violent metaphors for political talk. The ridiculous nature of this accusation soon became apparent, as these metaphors are quite common in American dialogue in general. In political dialogue they have been widely used as well, by Democrats as well as Republicans. I was caught up in blaming her for a bit, maybe a couple of days. I was wrong for the same reasons everyone else was wrong: these metaphors are not the problem, and they’re so pervasive in American society that blaming Sarah Palin for using them is ridiculous. Further, the attacker had no political motivations, which knocked the wind out of these accusations.

However, I think these accusations are close to true, but the focus has been on the wrong rhetoric. Continue reading

Followup on “Suffering for Doing”

Evil happens in the world, and it usually happens with the compliance of the general population rather than the whole-hearted support. I might even go as far as to venture that the grossest of abuses are done by those who have surrendered their minds to a degenerate line of thinking rather than the “evil genius” who came up with a wacky ideology in the first place. In the Rwandan genocide in 1994, Hutu officials organizing the attack against the Tutsis facilitated weapons distribution for the people who actually hacked hundreds of thousands to death. Thus, “Bubba” with a machete did the killing while educated officials sat back and watched. Those who would oppose a genocidal mass movement must think for themselves and contend with evildoers, thinking and unthinking alike.

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On Objective Christianity, Part 2: Limited Options

This is the second part of a series arguing that American Christianity is a victim of self-deception more often than most of us would like to acknowledge. For the first part of this series, click here. This topic is important because the tendency towards self-deception is subtle, universal, and blindingly overpowering. If (when) we are guilty of self-deception, we are almost certainly not aware of it.

There are some things that are more commonly debated in the sorts of circles many of us hang out in. For example, some people love to argue about Calvinism vs. Arminianism.[1] You know the type. Hell, you might be the type. If you spend very much time in church, or in a Christian school, everyone figures out they have to pick a camp to be in: Calvinist or Arminian. Then, if you’re a Calvinist, you get to decide if you’re going all the way (all 5 points!) or if you’re going to half-ass it (4 points).[2] This effect is particularly pronounced on those raised in the Church. That is to say, Christian kids grow up in an environment where this question is easily one of the three or four questions most dominant in the Christian discourse, and that has to have a powerful effect on them.

Incidentally, do you know what R.C. Sproul calls a 4-point Calvinist? Continue reading

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