Friday, March 29, 2013

Don't Stop Believin': Pop Culture and Religion from Ben-Hur to Zombies, by Robert K. Johnston, Craig Detweiler, Barry Taylor (eds.)

Don't Stop Believin'
Pop Culture and Religion from Ben-Hur to Zombies
Editors: Robert K. Johnston, Craig Detweiler, Barry Taylor
Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press
Publication Date: October 13, 2012
I'm not sure I quite get the point of this book. I was expecting a little insight into the ways religious images are used (or interpreted) in various ways in popular culture, like how The Simpsons is one of the few TV families that regularly goes to church or how many of Leonard Cohen's songs reference the Torah. But there was only a little bit of that. Mostly it seemed like a group of people from Fuller School of Theology and other religious colleges were simply asked to write a brief article about their favourite movies, actors or pop stars. Occasionally the connections were made to religion. But many times the connection seemed to extend no further than "I'm a fan of this person and I'm a Christian. Therefore this person is pertinent to Christianity." Micky Mantle and Marilyn Monroe are gushed over for being "idols" of the 1950's, but the religiosity of that "idolatry" isn't very well articulated. Miles Davis is praised for his "cool jazz" while the author laments that Christianity can't be more "cool." 

As a fan of pop culture and a student of religious studies (I have an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies from McGill University), I can honestly say there wasn't anything in this book that I didn't already know. I didn't learn anything new or gain new insights or perspective. I don't think that's as much an endorsement of my body of knowledge as it is an indictment of the lack of depth presented in this book. If I were grading it, I would check the box that says, "Fails to meet expectations." Such a shame.

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