In the September 2007 issue of Touchstone Russell Moore writes: "The gospel of Jesus is always combated by other gospels--today by one that is often embedded in music, film, and visual art."
Moore: "in place of certainty that the gospel required Christians to keep themselves separate from the world of popular culture, many Christians are now just confused about how to relate to the two."
He sees two large groups in American Evangelicalism. One he calls the "off-brand Evangelicals." They "take trends in popular culture and reproduce them in Christian dialect for us within the Evangelical sub-culture." The other he labels "South Park Evangelicals." According to Moore, "They turn up their noses at Christian pop culture and look for 'signs of redemption' in the products Hollywood and Manhattan create." He says, "This model is popular among a generation that humbly dares to call itself 'the emerging church,' although it includes aging baby boomers who have been writing movie and music reviews for Christianity Today and Campus Life since the Partridge Family last had a hit record."
In the "South Park" model, "You don't fight a 'culture war' with Hollywood, you seek to redeem Hollywood instead." If you criticize pop culture Moore notes, the emerging Christians will begin to see you as a fundamentalist or too "simplistic."
Moore believes "Too many attempts at reconciling Christianity and pop culture, it seems to me, have to do with being seen 'relevant' by the culture on its own terms. We will never be able to do that."
He believes that we must see the other gospels in our pop culture: "And 'gospel' is often not too strong a word. Neil Postman warned in Conscientious Objections that 'important television commercials take the form of religious parables organized around a coherent theology."
I was struck, as I was reading this, by what I had been reading this week in Gender: Key Concepts in Philosophy
Feminists, for one example, practice a discerning eye in pop culture: "Advertisements are allegedly directed towards the individuality, while in fact promoting a stereotypical norm...Women are constantly exhorted to reveal their femininity, not to dress in a masculine way, not to hide their figures, not to dress in a fashion that is too young or too old, too tight or too baggy, to dress in a way that is sexy and not frumpy, to show just the right amount of cleavage, to show not too much, but enough leg, to cover up those body parts that show signs of aging, and to make the best of those body parts that still pass as youthful. Women are encouraged to wear high heels, trained to apply make-up in the right way, broken down, often to the point of tears, until they realize the error of their ways, are ready to be enlightened, built up again, and reshaped into willing, pliable fashion plates, onto whose bodies are inscribed the message of patriarchal, heterosexual, normative sexuality. Look like the woman that you are! Allow yourself to emerge! Develop your true, feminine, sexuality!" Tina Charter
I can just imagine that different responses I would get from various women on feminine sexuality.
There is no such thing as a "feminist." There is no such thing as a feminine sexuality
There are however, plenty of feminists. There are different feminist epistemologies; different woman voices shaping feminist epistemologies (knowledge) and ontologies (being). Susan Butler is a feminist; Martha Nussbaum is a feminist, too. You can invite Phyllis Chesler for another shade of feminism. Personally, I like to spend a day with these three women discussing feminist epistemology! It would be fascinating.
1. Christians should practice a thick reading of pop culture.
"Readers of culture must have some way of discerning whether and to what extent a given cultural text has the effect of imprisoning human imagination and existence rather than liberating it" (Vanhoozer, Everyday Theology). Vanhoozer adds, "The truth is nothing less than what God is doing in Jesus Christ through His Spirit to bring about transformation this world."
2. A Christian is called to be a "cultural agent" (Vanhoozer).
"To be a cultural agent--a person able to make his or her own mark on culture rather than simply submit to cultural programming--one needs to be culturally literate and a critical thinker." Vanhoozer writes, "Everyday theologians are not helpless victims of popular culture...Indeed, the church itself is a kind of counter-cultural industry, concerned not with making products for consumption (and worldly gain) but with cultivating certain practices: the practices of the kingdom of God."
3. As a cultural agent, the Christian is not called to be a friend of the world.
Stanley Hauerwas and Charles Pinches observe: "In an important way the church is never a friend to the world" (Christians Among the Virtues).
4. There are a plurality of Christian cultural agents engaging the pop culture.