The Christian Evasion of Popular Culture

That’s the name of an academic conference at Dordt College next fall at which Andy Root, Peter Rollins, and I will be plenary speakers. They’ve opened a call for papers, so if this is your thing, you should consider it.

Here’s the description of the conference:

Christianity is often the focus of popular culture, whether it is through the blood and gore of The Passion of the Christ, the satire of South Park and Family Guy, or exposés of Jesus Camp or Religulous.

The Christian community tends to respond by either ignoring popular culture or critiquing it moralistically through discussion about popular culture, rather than reflecting on our inescapable existence within it. Even those Christian perspectives that emphasize cultural transformation have a dearth of positive engagement with contemporary manifestations of culture.

This tendency towards “evasion” forms a posture towards popular culture—we pray for it, we decry its excesses—that is at odds with the reality of our being immersed within popular culture: From food to fashion, guitars to guns, and pipe organs to orbiting telecommunication satellites. Every square inch of our lives is saturated by patterns and expressions of popular culture.

To make culture is an inextricable part of our human identity that has too often been ignored within the Christian tradition.

This conference, which will take place at Dordt College on November 1–3, 2012, will explore the Christian tendency to “evade” popular culture. Speakers and presenters will seek answers to questions like: Is it possible to be in the world but not of the world? How can the Christian community sustain the impulse of reformation with regard to the social and cultural aspects of human life? What are the implications of the Christian faith and the hope for “new creation” with regard to the human proclivity to make culture?

via Conference 2012.

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  • Andrew

    Tony Jones and Peter Rollins at my alma mater! My head is about to explode.

    Sounds like fun. I hope I can make it.

  • Let me guess, let me guess, let me guess….

    Root, Rollins, and Jones are engaging and not evasive?

  • Daniel

    Might I suggest a book by D.A. Carson that I’m currently reading “Christ and Culture Revisited”

  • ME

    Fascinating topic and so many ways to approach it.

    Jesus said you are the salt of the earth, and what good is salt if it loses its saltiness? I interpret this as a statement on culture. We are salt on a potato that is the earth. If we look, taste and smell like potato, what good are we as salt? So we have to be different.

    This we all know. But what are we to do? I don’t know that it is to “make culture.”

    From a distance, people pretty much behave as sheep, going along with whatever culture does. Almost all of us do the same things, go to college, get married, have kids, follow the script of the American dream. In Asia people follow a different script, but they are still following a script. In general, few strike out and live according to a rule other than what culture dictates.

    So, if we change the culture, and make it a Christian culture, certainly the world will improve, but, will it still be sheep following the dictates of whatever the culture happens to be? I think so. So, while there certainly is good in making Christian culture, I think the higher good is to focus on making disciples. Jesus said on the last day there will be many who said, “Lord, Lord, we healed the sick and performed miracles” but Jesus will respond, “I never knew you!” It’s not enough to make a culture where sheep go along with the herd doing good works. Loving and following Jesus is the higher concern.

    • Evelyn

      Sheep go to heaven. Goats go to hell.

      • ME

        ““Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord,’ will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only the one who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name and in your name drive out demons and in your name perform many miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!’”

        If what you do is follow along with culture you are not doing the will of the Father. Instead, you are following culture.

        • Phil Miller

          Seems like an exegetical stretch to draw that point from that parable. It seems to me that Jesus’ point has more to do with answering the disciple’s question about the end of the age than it does about individuals being sent to heaven or hell. Jesus is making the point to the disciples that they will see vindication, in contrast to the unbelieving Jews who missed their chance to honor Jesus while He was on earth and who are facing impending judgment.

          • ME

            To each his own!

            I looked up Matthew 7 on biblegateway (NIV). Here are the verse headings right around this verse:
            The Narrow and Wide Gates
            True and False Prophets
            True and False Disciples
            The Wise and Foolish Builders

            I don’t see it as Jesus making a point about vindication. But, we all have our own interpretations.

          • Phil Miller

            Well, actually I guess I read your second comment too quickly, and thought you were referring again to the parable of the sheep and the goats. But my comment is similar for that passage in Matthew 7. I think the immediate context for the warnings of judgement is more with the people Jesus is actually talking to.

            That’s not to say that none of these passages can be universalized or used in a homiletic fashion. It’s just that I don’t think much of Jesus’ talk of impending judgment is meant as a warning for Christians to “do this, or else!”. I think it’s judgment on Israel for consistently failing to live up to its God-given mission.

      • Scot Miller

        Evelyn, I love CAKE!

        • Evelyn

          As soon as you’re born, you start dying, So you might as well have a good time …

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