Christ and Pop Culture: Already and Not Yet

Christ and Pop Culture began as a pipe dream. It was a way to kill time while David Dunham and I were bored in class. Inspired by a class we had recently taken on theology and the arts and frustrated by the lack deep thinking given to popular culture, we brainstormed about what sort of things we could do to encourage such deep thinking. During that summer class in 2007, David and I came up with an idea for a podcast.

That podcast was also called Christ and Pop Culture, and it was simple in concept: because David and I often talked about popular culture from a Christian perspective, we would do that on a podcast. We agreed on the foundational stuff, but we differed quite a bit on the specifics, which made the podcast fairly interesting. We argued about villains, action films, sitcoms, videogames, and most notably, Harry Potter as a Christ figure.

Alan Noble enjoyed our podcast. He was literally our first real supporter. He saw the purpose behind the site and expressed his appreciation for it. He commented on the podcasts often and articulately. Here was a guy who knew his stuff. So naturally, when we decided to make our podcast page a proper blog, we invited Alan to join us. The early days were full of irony: I wrote about how the iPhone isn’t that big of a deal, and Alan wrote about a videogame. We now find ourselves in a world where the iPhone dominates and directs several industries at once and, more crucially, Alan Noble can’t play videogames because his hands are destroyed.

Soon other writers joined us and the site became more consistent and varied. We also crystalized the purpose of the site: we were interested in thinking deeply about the popular culture of our age from a Christian perspective. We dug our heels into our niche, and we never lost sight of how valuable it could be to relentlessly think through art, cultural signals, or artifacts. These things may be crude and common, but they were affecting us all in very real and complex ways. Even though we have changed, and the world has changed, we have stubbornly held fast to our convictions, our goals, and our Savior.

We’ve changed at lightning speed in the last year, and I’m more excited about these changes than I have been about anything in our past. These changes have been about quality over quantity. We’ve been lucky enough to attract writers with a deeply-rooted faith and an unmatched knowledge of their interest. More importantly, we’ve attracted writers with different perspectives: nearly half of us are women and many of us are parents. We have pastors, students, teachers, tech guys, web designers and full-time mothers on board. We also have three formal editors: Alan Noble, Drew Dixon and I. We have taken a proactive approach to the site, setting goals and shattering them as quickly as possible. Drew and Alan are busy people with lives and jobs and families, but they treat Christ and Pop Culture as if it were a second job because they’re passionate about it.

Part of the struggle with Christ and Pop Culture over the years has been covering popular culture without succumbing to some of its’ inherent dangers. The Internet, television, fads, trends and commercialism all affect us in negative ways – these are side-effects we want to combat and call out rather than accept. We’ve been trying to strike a balance between culture’s fast-paced instant-analysis punditry and Christianity’s call to be sober, vigilant, thoughtful people of the Book.

The big steps we’ve taken lately have been toward changing Christ and Pop Culture’s considered genre from a blog to an online magazine. This may seem like a trivial, merely semantic step, but for us it means a intense focus on quality features. We have begun to edit our feature articles relentlessly, often giving them two or three passes before we’re willing to publish them (and that goes for my own articles more than any – man, is that process a brutal one). We’ve taken on two associate editors, Ben Bartlett and Jason Morehead, to help with this editing load so that we can continue to offer you around three amazing features every week. We can now say that every single Feature article we published is something we’re genuinely proud of, even if we don’t always all agree with their conclusions.

Meanwhile, to make room for timely and candid thoughts, we have regular columns like When Games Matter, The Kiddy Pool and What Memes Mean. These columns are more open venues for our writers to share their expertise with few rules or requirements. Between regular columns and features, we believe we’ve crafted a website that provides both quality analysis and timely insight on a daily basis.

The cherry on top of all of this is Seth T. Hahne‘s masterful illustrations – it’s something he does for us as a favor. We couldn’t be more happy. They perfectly portray not only the subject matter of the articles, but the unique perspective we bring to even the most tired subjects. You can see more of his design work, as well as some incredibly insightful reviews of graphic novels, over at his web site, Good Ok Bad.

We believe all of these changes reflect our key motivation: to provide a unique, thoughtful perspective about things that lack such treatment. When all of the world seems to have gone insane with consumption and polarization, we want to do our best to take a step back and be reasonable. Some recent articles I think best illustrate this commitment are: Drew Dixon’s response to Driscoll’s latest Facebook blunder, Erin Newcomb’s ode to balanced parenting, and Ben Bartlett’s nuanced introduction to Rick Perry.

We never thought Christ and Pop Culture would become this big, but we still have a lot of exciting plans for the future. We believe we’ve found a new audience, an audience that is tired of taking their culture at face value and is more interested in thinking through the underpinnings and implications of the things the world places before us; an audience that’s not willing to dismiss truth and beauty outright just because it comes from unexpected places. An audience that knows there’s no such thing as “overthinking” something. An audience that is growing every day.

Seriously, we know you’re out there. Will you take this journey with us? Let’s think through this together.

About Richard Clark

Richard H. Clark is the co-founder and editor-in-chief of Christ and Pop Culture. He has a Master of Arts in Theology and the Arts from the Southern Baptist Theological Seminary. He lives in Louisville, Ky. He is also the managing editor of Gamechurch and a freelance writer for Unwinnable, Paste, and other outlets.
E-mail: clarkrichardh [at] gmail [dot] com.
Twitter: @deadyetliving

  • Peter

    Congratulations on the growth. It is great to see the hard work of the writers/editors translating into more readership. Love the site and here is to even more growth in the future!

  • http://electexiles.wordpress.com/ Drew Dixon

    Thanks Peter! We are glad you love the site and we hope to continue to live up to your praise!

  • Blake

    Any chance of the podcast coming back? I miss it.

  • http://www.christandpopculture.com/ Richard Clark

    Me too, Blake. Me too.

    Truth is, the time and money it took to keep it up was not offset by its relatively sparse popularity. We’re sitting on the idea for now, but I promise: as soon as we can manage it, we’ll bring it back.

  • http://popparables.com/ Keri

    Super excited to see where this all leads. I don’t even know how I found your blog, but I have become a fan. We are likeminded in our approach and I firmly believe we can learn much about ourselves, others, and the world around us by deeply analyzing pop culture and the significant topics it addresses. I’m definitely along for the ride. :)


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