Archives For Pop Culture

 

Looking for God’s Fingerprint

 
A Feature Review of

Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet
Paul Asay

Paperback: Abingdon Press, 2015
Buy now: [ Amazon ]  [ Kindle ]

 

Reviewed by Danny Wright

 

In Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet, Paul Asay, from the often-visited website www.unplugged.com, takes the reader on a journey through pop culture’s music, movies, television shows and video games in order to experience God’s message that extends to each of us through those various forms of communication. Asay knows that we search for God in all of our stories and that we need to make sure we do not miss his revelations as we live in this storied existence. He wants to help us hone our ability to be sensitive to the Spirit’s guidance as we live, move and have our being in God and shuffle through this God-created, God-soaked and God-sustained world in which He is not very far from any one of us. Each chapter begins with a quote that focuses the reader and prepares them for the journey of the following pages as he begins to bounce back and forth through a variety of references to well-known media.

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How then Should We Navigate?

A Review of

Not Your Mother’s Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better

Jonathan Fitzgerald

Ebook: Bondfire Books, 2012.
Buy now:  [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by C. Christopher Smith

 

Jonathan Fitzgerald, editor of Patrol Magazine, has offered in his new ebook Not Your Mother’s Morals: How the New Sincerity is Changing Pop Culture for the Better, an excellent introduction to the ethos of the New Sincerity.  A 21st Century movement in pop culture, the New Sincerity is characterized by its willingness to convey morality through the stories it tells, and to foster a “cool to care” mentality.  It is perhaps best understood in contrast to the “detached irony and cynicism” of previous generations (especially Generation X). “The New Sincerity asks nothing more of us than that we act authentically and out of sincere motivations, considering what is right not just for us but for those around us;” says Fitzgerald, “It asks only that, but then, that is really all there is.”

 

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“Given Realities of Our Fallen World

A Review of

Hard Times Come Again No More:
Suffering and Hope
.

By Alex Joyner.

Reviewed by Chris Smith.

Hard Times Come Again No More:
Suffering and Hope
.

Alex Joyner.

Paperback: Abingdon, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

The length of our days is seventy years—
or eighty, if we have the strength;
yet their span is but trouble and sorrow,
for they quickly pass, and we fly away.

Ps. 90:10 NIV

[ Listen to Mavis Staples’s moving rendition of the title song… ]

The story of the fall in Genesis 3 reminds us that life will be difficult and painful in our fallen world.  This reality is one that for many decades we in the United States have found ways to suppress or to outsource to other parts of the globe.  Our labor-saving devices often do save us labor, but are we storing up even greater trouble for our children and grandchildren in the ecological consequences of generating the energy that these machines require?  We are too busy to make (or to learn how to make) our clothes and basic household items, so we search the globe for cheap goods made by people who are willing to do this sort of labor, often in substandard conditions.  Similarly, we buy all manner of processed foods that we do not know where they come from and that are filled with all sorts of substances whose effects on our bodies are questionable at best, and in some instances likely harmful.  Additionally, we face the massive, yet underexplored, emotional crisis created by our alienation from the land and from other humans, as we find ourselves interacting less and less with humans and more and more with machines and other technologies.  It is amidst crises of this sort, obesity, sweatshop labor, global warming, etc. – crises that very much have their roots in our avoidance of the pain and monotony of labor – that Alex Joyner has written his lovely new book Hard Times Come Again No More: Suffering And Hope.

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“Van Morrison Has a Lot of
The Holy Ghost in Him”

A Review of
When That Rough God Goes Riding:
Listening To Van Morrison

By Greil Marcus.

Reviewed by Ken Carter.


When That Rough God Goes Riding:
Listening To Van Morrison

Greil Marcus.

Hardback: Public Affairs, 2010.
Buy now: [ Amazon ]

WHEN THAT ROUGH GOD... Greil MarcusThis is someone who can abandon himself,” Elvis Costello once observed;  “for a Protestant from East Belfast, Van Morrison has a lot of the Holy Ghost in him.”   Greil Marcus, one of our more astute and unconventional cultural critics, has written a reflection on Morrison’s abandonment to this art,   a journey that  has at times been astonishingly successful, and at others, Marcus insists,  utterly forgettable.  The title When That Rough God Goes Riding is taken from the first selection on Morrison’s The Healing Game (1997, and also based on a line from W. B. Yeats’ poem “The Second Coming.” Less a biography than a deeply personal guide to listening, or an extensive set of liner notes, a medium that matched the album but not the mp3,  Marcus  first succeeds by simply moving the reader to discover again the tapes, albums and compact discs that span thirty plus recorded works over forty years.

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A Brief Review of

Hear No Evil:
My Story of Innocence, Music, and the Holy Ghost
.
Matthew Paul Turner.

Paperback: WaterBrook, 2010.
Buy now: [ ChristianBook.com ] [ Kindle ]

Reviewed by Jonathan Schindler.

Matthew Paul Turner - Hear No EvilHear No Evil chronicles former CCM editor Matthew Paul Turner’s life following the common thread of music. Raised in an Independent Fundamentalist Baptist family, Turner tells stories that are by turns laugh-out-loud funny, poignant, and scarier than a Jack Chick tract. Turner’s honest memoir does not offer easy answers or canned take-aways, but his winsome writing, sharp wit, and keen observations provide enough material to laugh and think about for days after the book is closed.

Hear No Evil is comprised of fifteen memoir-essays on faith and music. While they are all variations on the same theme and are in roughly chronological order, each essay serves as a snapshot rather than a continuation. There is little connection between one essay and another. (This is not a David Copperfield kind of memoir. Its closer kin is David Sedaris’s books.) Because of this, “the point” may be hard to find, and at times the essays close without resolution. This lack of closure may be a turn-off for some readers, but I found the open-endedness refreshing. Like Jesus’ parables, we are told what happened up to a point; the rest is left for the reader to decide how he or she will live.

I mentioned that “the point” may be hard to find—but I certainly am not referring to the sharpness of the writing. Turner uses humor to examine his life in music so far. He relates the crush he had on Sandi Patty (which he had to hide from the members of his church), the excitement at hearing George Michael’s “Faith” on the radio and wondering if it was a Christian song, the purchase/guilt cycle he experienced when he bought/threw away Amy Grant’s album Heart in Motion several times, and God’s calling on his life to be the Christian Michael Jackson.

Humor is double-edged, and the line between surgery and stabbing is sometimes hard to discern, but Turner does a surprisingly good job walking the fine line between destructive and constructive uses. Turner’s first essay of the book, “Overture,” is probably the most cynical and made me unsure of the contents of the rest of the book. (In the essay he describes what could be an almost typical occurrence at a Nashville coffee shop: He sees someone come in, ill at ease in his rock-star regalia, and immediately pegs him as a “Christian rocker.”) This essay caused unease at the beginning of the book, but by the end, I could understand much better where Turner was coming from.

Turner’s essays are laced with vivid nostalgia. There were several times while reading this book that I was taken back to my own childhood in the church, and while the names of the congregants are different, I could picture these people in my own life. And Turner treats them like people. They are not stark images or abstract ideas to make a point (“Jim is Greed, Sandy is Fame, Bill is Hypocrisy,” and so on); they are paradoxes wrapped in flesh, as all humans are. His sensitive treatment of his “subjects” is what makes Hear No Evil work. Instead of a rant (which a book like this could have easily become), it is a rehabilitation.

Turner clearly loves the church—spots, wrinkles, blemishes, and all—and while he laughs at its foibles, it’s the kind of laughter that comes from the inside, not the outside—laughing with, not laughing at. Hear No Evil may not resonate with everyone (it seems to be aimed at twenty/thirty-somethings), but I thoroughly enjoyed it for its honesty and wit and reveled through the therapy of all 225 pages.

 

ERB editors Chris Smith and Brent Aldrich will be speaking at Calvin College next Monday with our friend Ragan Sutterfield:

Taking Pop Culture Back to the People:
The Church as a Catalyst of Local Culture
A Lecture in the Calvin College Pop Culture Series

3:30 PM Monday March 8, 2010
Meeter Center Lecture Hall
Calvin College
Grand Rapids, MI

Free and Open to the Public.

The effects of several centuries of individualism and several decades of globalization, have served to disconnect us from our neighbors and from the places in which we live. Brent Aldrich, Chris Smith and Ragan Sutterfield will make a case that churches, as communities of God’s people guided by the redemptive mission of God, are not only essential to the reclaiming of the identity of their specific places, but can also serve to nurture a distinctive local culture that is of the people (i.e., popular). Brent, Chris and Ragan will also share stories from our own adventures in embodying this vision of the Church – Ragan as a farmer, Brent as a visual artist and Chris as a community developer and urban naturalist.

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