Conclusion

Just as popular culture has been busy trotting out rehabilitated images of God and fretting in theological ways over the human condition, it has also been generating a variety of conceptions of salvation. Through various ecstatic aids, motley collections of icons, diversionary promises of consumer advertising, genres of rock music, and therapeutic introspection, we turn to popular culture to prod, entice, and feel ourselves into believing that our sinful ways can be redeemed, that obstacles to...

Scripts of fear

Convinced as it is that the Powers that dominate reality are at best indifferent toward us, and at worst opposed to us, works of popular culture in this vein depict our helplessness in the face of unknown forces - forces both external to us and inside of us. The Gothic is the purest variety of this subcategory of broken faith. Slasher movies, vampire tales, films like Silence of the Lambs, Kalifornia and Natural Born Killers about the sociopaths among us, the work of Stephen King (who has 250...

What We Learn from God Fiction

Connections were made earlier between these God novels and the Book of Job. Job was probably written late in the biblical period of ancient Israel, when Judaism had suffered the humiliation of exile at the hands of pagan nations, and at a time when its theological beliefs were in flux. The experience of exile had required a revamping of much of the Jewish understanding of God. We, too, live in a time of change in which we have lost many of our inherited theological certainties. Jobian...

Into the mystic

Paths to salvation in rock and roll can be found, then, in songs of social protest and love, but also, in the work of some artists, through an almost medieval understanding of mystical rapture. This is a prominent feature in some Irish musicians, like the Waterboys, Sinead O'Connor and Van Morrison, and in some makers of ambient music, like Moby and Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance). These performers sing about various registers of the holy, and write music designed to lift one out of oneself to...

Introduction

In Battery Park in Lower Manhattan, next to a cart selling roasted pecans and hot pretzels, is a kiosk with Empire State Building pencil sharpeners, Statue of Liberty snow globes, and the standard-issue rack of souvenir postcards. On this rack are pictures of Grand Central Station, St Patrick's Cathedral, Central Park, the United Nations Plaza, the Chrysler Building, the American Museum of Natural History, the Guggenheim Museum, and Macy's Department Store. That each of these architectural...

The Holy

Art theorists and cultural critics sometimes describe certain works of art as being expressions of the sublime. Etymologically, sublime means below (sub) the threshold (limen), suggesting a deeper reality than what at first meets the eye. In the eighteenth century, the Irish writer Edmund Burke and the German philosopher Immanuel Kant both wrote treatises that explored the peculiar relationship between the sublime and the beautiful, and developed aesthetic theories to explain the satisfying mix...

Religion

Up to this point two modes of religion have been denoted - religion (religion as the surging of unconditioned forces beneath the surface of a culture) and religion (religion as a discrete sphere within a culture). Religion refers to religion as ultimate concern. This is our for the most part pre-conscious faith that existence is worthwhile, the faith that can be found in the depths of each of the spheres of culture - art, science, politics, family, economy, religion, and the media-world -...

Scripts of defiance

The theme of hostile resentment toward God or toward the metaphysical order of things is not hard to spot in popular culture. The classic example of this is Ivan Karamazov in Fyodor Dostoevsky's The Brothers Karamazov. After rehearsing a litany of grievances, from the soldiers who amused themselves by cutting the unborn child from the mother's womb, tossing babies up in the air, and catching them on the points of their bayonets before their mother's eyes, to the savage beating of an old and...

Revelation and Ecstasy

William James relates the testimony of a man who, while hiking in a coastal range, experiences the momentary obliteration of all the conventionalities which usually surround and cover my life F rom the summit of a high mountain I looked over a gashed and corrugated landscape extending to a long convex of ocean that ascended to the horizon, and I could see nothing beneath me but a boundless expanse of white cloud. What I felt on these occasions was a temporary loss of my own identity,...

The ordered memory

In his Confessions, Augustine puzzled over the different operations of the memory, this mystery he found inside of himself which is like a great field or a spacious palace, a storehouse for countless images of all kinds which are conveyed to it by the senses. As he examined its contents, he found that the power of the memory is such that the sky, the earth and the sea are lodged within it, awaiting his summons to bring them before his mind's eye, as was everything he had ever experienced, with...

Popular Culture

Knick-knacks, plaques, shirts, art prints, tattoos, coffee mugs, wall calendars, newspapers, greeting cards, book covers, magazines, billboards, murals, television, movie and computer screens, comic books, coffee table books, cereal boxes, neckties, scarves, toilet paper, wrapping paper, grocery sacks, and the chipboard, polystyrene and paper that everything we consume comes packaged in - we are swimming in images. How different this is from the world of our...

God Fiction

When a fiction writer rummages around in the theological bag of tricks for inspiration and attempts to put into narrative order what he or she finds there, it should catch the attention of theologians. Liberated by the genre of fiction, a writer is free to experiment with inherited scraps of doctrine and put them to work in the lives of characters drawn from the present cultural milieu - characters who have been forged by historical forces that didn't exist when the original revelation, or the...

Signs of the Times

Television shows related to law and order (police squads, private investigators, courtrooms, federal agents, lawyers, sheriffs, politicians, mafiosos, forensic scientists, etc.) represent a substantial amount of air time. Based on the ratings, we still like shows that pit good guys against bad guys. We like to enter the criminal mind, see how it works, feel our own moral hackles rise, and be reassured, in the end, that crooks and murderers get what is coming to them. This assures us that there...

Scripts of escape

There are multiple ways to script escape, some of which provide invaluable lessons in how to live. One is to devote oneself to the immediate concerns of life and to view mundane struggles, achievements, and commitments as the most sacred plane of existence to be had. The novelist John Irving is very skilled at scripting escape, and his blend of tragedy and comedy teaches us that neither sorrow nor happiness are endless, that one will necessarily and inevitably prepare us for the other, and that...

Confession in religion3

The practical correlation between guilt and good works still found in Western societies is an enduring artifact of religio . But it is eroding, and has been at least since the nineteenth century. Nietzsche is a key figure in this (the bermensch does not act out of guilt, but out of the joy of asserting unrestrained power), as is Arthur Rimbaud, whose legendary contempt for morality and the values of ordinary people was viewed by himself and his admirers as evidence of his poetic genius. But...

Forgiveness of Sins The Therapeutic Confession

A recurring plotline in cinema tells the story of a suffering soul who defies the stultifying repression of a rigid, moralistic community in order to be true to the gift of insight and beauty that churns inside, and which must find a way out - even at the cost of being ostracized by the community. It is the story of Vincent van Gogh - the solemn, awkward son of a Dutch Calvinist pastor who, rejected by his church and wavering on the edge of insanity, paints canvases that reenchant the ordinary...

The Culture Concept

The use of the word culture to refer to distinctively human ways of being is of relatively recent vintage. The term comes from the Latin, cultura and its root, colere, which means to till or cultivate the soil, conjuring the image of human labor massaging nature into crops. With this root meaning it has always held great promise as a metaphor for thinking about any conversion of raw nature into a habitable world through the exercise of human labor and attention. The metaphor was reified into a...

Soteriology in Song

A character in one of Oscar Wilde's plays confesses, After playing Chopin, I feel as if I had been weeping over sins that I had never committed, and mourning over tragedies that were not my own. Music always seems to me to produce that effect. It creates for one a past of which one has been ignorant, and fills one with a sense of sorrows that have been hidden from one's tears. I can fancy a man who had led a perfectly commonplace life, hearing by chance some curious piece of music, and suddenly...

Sin

In the last chapter we considered the first half of what theologians deal with in examining theological anthropology, namely, Who are these humans God has made But now we come to the second half What has gone wrong When trying to understand the springs that move humanity, it is not only a matter of determining the material out of which we are made and the purposes for which we aim, but also a matter of ascertaining why things seem out of whack. We now move into the province of the doctrine of...

Theology and Culture

The media-world is the shelter where the vast majority of those of us who live in the West dwell and from which we draw the material out of which we make sense of our lives. It is under the canopy of the media that we imbibe, speculate about and negotiate the meaning of love, friendship, beauty, happiness, truth, hope, pain, grace, luck, work, sacrifice, and death. The mediated world of electronic images, sounds, and printed words provides us with our most broadly shared symbols, icons, myths...

Are you both attracted and repelled by the internet at the very same time

Figure 4 The Internet is a nexus of knowledge, power and transcendence that evokes a classic sense of the holy, as boldly suggested in this ad from MCI WorldCom, Inc. (1999). Figure 4 The Internet is a nexus of knowledge, power and transcendence that evokes a classic sense of the holy, as boldly suggested in this ad from MCI WorldCom, Inc. (1999). Taking a more optimistic view of these developments, Scott Adams, the creator of the comic strip Dilbert, wrote a curious book recently that promotes...

Civil religion

Bellah, Robert, The Broken Covenant American Civil Religion in Time of Trial (New York Seabury Press, 1975). Civil Religion in America, in Daedalus (Winter, 1967). Linenthal, Edward, Sacred Ground Americans and Their Battlefields (Champaign, IL University of Illinois Press, 1993). Marvin, Carolyn and David Ingle, Blood Sacrifice and the Nation Totem Rituals and the American Flag (Cambridge Cambridge University Press, 1999). Meyer, Jeffrey F., Myths in Stone Religious Dimensions of Washington,...

Ultimate Concern

There are certain things in life that we value even though they don't make us feel good or benefit us in any obvious way. That there is wilderness remaining on this planet in remote parts of Canada, Siberia and Brazil is something most of us value, even though we are unlikely to ever go there to experience its wonders, and even though leaving it as wilderness means its natural resources will not be extracted to produce manufactured goods for us to consume. We have this idea that we would find...

Is God Dead or Just Packing His Bags

Like the Book of Job, the novels of James Morrow and Franco Ferrucci depict a God who is ordinarily credited with creation and with maintaining the order of the cosmos, but who suddenly does something wildly out of character - either he packs his bags and gradually puts out the lights in preparation to depart to another universe, or he plunges into the ocean in a dramatic suicide. And, again like the Book of Job, these books detail how individuals representing different strains of faith respond...

Cultural Studies

Similar to the Frankfurt School in its Marxist leanings, the Centre for Contemporary Cultural Studies at the University of Birmingham in Britain has been an important influence on the evolving discipline of theorizing about popular culture - arguably generating the most trenchant concepts for thinking about popular culture that are now in use.1 Founded by Richard Hoggart in 1964 (reportedly with money contributed by Penguin Books in appreciation for Hoggart's then recent assistance in their...

Scripts of the twiceborn

The faith of the twice-born is distinguished by its having passed through the dark night of the soul and transcended it to gain what Paul Ricoeur has called a second-naivete. This is a faith sobered by the awful grace of God, the faith of many saints - perhaps the primary requirement of sainthood, although not the only one. This script can be found hidden within the sometimes prurient humor of the movie, Dogma, by the young filmmaker Kevin Smith.32 Like Wings of Desire, Dogma is a story about...

The cyborg

The techno-magical world of Disney's theme parks is noted for pioneering work in audio-animatronics, motivated by a desire to bring three-dimensional figures to life just as Disney's animators had done earlier with characters in films. The first really life-like human animat-ronic robot was Abraham Lincoln, a Disney creation that premiered at the 1964 New York World's Fair and later was installed at Disneyland. Inside a rubbery latex body sheath were a complex of levers, cams and solenoids that...

Index

Note n after a page reference indicates a note on that page page numbers in italics refer to figures. A Canticle for Leibowitz, 218-20, 264 180,202,206,213, 240 Adams, Scott, 169-70, 175 Adatto, Kiku, 38 Adbusters, 60-1 Adorno, Theodor, 45, 46-7, 97 advertising, 123, 158-62, 164-7, 183, 232, 236 Aerosmith, 50 aesthetic of cool, 57 aesthetics of design, 185-6 affective forecasting, 192 affirmation of the ordinary, 181-4, 188 Africa, spirits in, 288 afterlife, 277-89 agnosticism, 136, 141-2 AI...

The Ghost in the Machine

It has long been noted that technology has come to serve a religious function in modern societies. We revere our machines. Our ancestors depended upon God for many of the services that machines now provide better and more reliably. Health technologies have dramatically reduced the infant mortality rate, made us healthier, more likely to recover from disease, made the blind see and the lame walk, and given us longer lives. Household machinery (furnaces, hot water heaters, electric lights,...

Market populism

Cowan, Tyler, In Praise of Commercial Culture (Cambridge, MA Harvard University Press, 1998). Frank, Thomas, One Market under God Extreme Capitalism, Market Populism, and the End of Economic Democracy (New York Doubleday, 2000). Gans, Herbert, Popular Culture and High Culture An Analysis and Evaluation of Taste (New York Basic Books, 1974). Heath, Joseph and Andrew Potter, The Rebel Sell Why the Culture Can't be Jammed (Toronto HarperCollins, 2004). Hine, Thomas, I Want That How We All Became...

Who Are these Humans God Has Made

How are we to understand human existence Are we one edge of a cosmic event that will never be explained, an event that is simply happening without purpose, that could either go on forever or end in an instant and make no difference, sustained for the moment by some constant physical laws, but ultimately suspended over nothing more than whirl and flux 5 Within this purposeless cosmos, are we like other organisms, perhaps a little smarter, but driven by the same instincts of hunger, reproduction,...

Scripts of the onceborn

According to James, the healthy-minded soul trusts in divine providence and, while not ignoring the sin and evil in the world, trusts sufficiently in the benevolent intent of providence to not be intimidated by them. Figure 1 Angels Damiel and Cassiel briefing each other on the captivating behavior of the citizens of Berlin in Wim Wenders 1987 film, Wings of Desire (used with the kind permission of Reverse Angle Library, GmbH, all rights reserved). Figure 1 Angels Damiel and Cassiel briefing...

Reflections on Cultural Studies

To review, the achievements of the post-Frankfurt School approach to cultural studies, which have been treated in this chapter largely as elements within research associated with the Birmingham Centre (although the concepts have been used by many outside the Birmingham circle), are as follows First, there is an affinity with the disenfranchised in society. This is the legacy of the Frankfurt School that persists in cultural studies. Hoggart romanticized the working class his students, with a...

What Has Gone Wrong

Myths about the creation of the human race generally tell us what we are made of - dirt, divine breath, images of our gods, the mundane pressures of life, consumable products, designer brands, hardware, software, microchips - and what we are for - to subdue the earth, cultivate our gardens, build egalitarian societies, inhabit semiological lifestyles, surrender ourselves to the pleasures of hyperreality, compile and order memories, or transcend our finitude and become like gods. The plots of...

Architecture and sacred space

Linenthal, American Sacred Space (Bloomington, IN Indiana University Press, 1995). Gorringe, Timothy, A Theology of the Built Environment (Cambridge Cambridge University Press, 2002). Lane, Belden, Landscapes of the Sacred (Baltimore The Johns Hopkins University Press, 2001). Nye, David E., American Technological Sublime (Cambridge, MA MIT Press, 1994). Pahl, Jon, Shopping Malls and Other Sacred Spaces (Grand Rapids, MI Brazos, 2003). Zepp, Ira, Jr, The New...

The Gothic

The covenant jeremiad formula is a lost paradise script, and one of the most recurring in popular culture. Perhaps we hold onto the covenant idea because even though we may be in breach of it and suffering pangs of a chronically guilty conscience, sustaining it in our collective memory assures us that human history is in the care of a just dealmaker who will abide with our species to the end. A less sanguine lost paradise script is found in the Gothic. Tom Beaudoin claims that GenX harbors many...

Open Resistance or Cautious Compromise

So, between Tertullian and Augustine we have two different views of culture, both of which have had enduring influence on Western Christianity. From Tertullian we have inherited a view of culture and the church as discrete realities, in which the surrounding culture is essentially a great expanse of human activity riddled with idolatry that beckons as a sweet poison to the pious. From Augustine we have received a view of culture and church as two intertwined cities with many common spaces and...

Postmodernism and the Sublime

Chapter 2 ended quoting Dick Hebdige's lament about the foreclosure on trawling for hidden truths that our current fascination with surfaces, with the simulacra, has imposed on us. In the same essay, Hebdige raised the interesting possibility that the very postmodernist thinkers who have imposed this ban may not have abandoned depth entirely themselves. Surveying the writings of such heirs of Nietzsche as Jacques Lacan, Michel Foucault, Julia Kristeva, Jacques Derrida and Jean-Fran ois...

The ritual roots of rock

Music has always had an association with the numinous and has been commonly put to ritual use. It was performed by our ancestors to placate the gods and invoke their assistance. Psalmody (chanted prayers sometimes accompanied by stringed instruments) arose in ancient Israel and was passed on to both Rabbinic Judaism and Christianity in the first century ce. Both Tertullian and Augustine endorsed the use of music in prayers and to lift the heart in worship. The Mass was recited in plainsong and...

Tableaus of the peaceable kingdom

A noteworthy feature of the Lord of the Rings, particularly as it was brought to the screen in the three recent films by director Peter Jackson, is its scenery. The tranquil Hobbit's shire and the misty surrealism of the elves' ancestral home at Rivendell are stunning achievements of New Zealand's natural beauty enhanced by the artistry of stage crews and CGI (computer generated imagery) technology. These are utopian landscapes, both in their idealized beauty and in their ideological ways of...

Conclusion On Popular Culture

In his novel, About a Boy, Nick Hornby introduces us to a character who has essentially sealed himself up inside a universe of popular culture. Will Freeman is a 36-year-old who, because he lives off the generous royalties from a hit Christmas song his deceased father wrote in 1938, enjoys a life of uninterrupted leisure. From his high-tech, gadget-filled bachelor's flat in London, he plots his days around perfecting his wardrobe, making regular visits to the hair stylist, eating at the newest...

Shades of Faith and Broken Faith

Night Shyamalan is a filmmaker who uses his craft to openly raise issues of religious faith. In the movie, Signs (2002),17 which he wrote and directed, crop circles are reported to have begun appearing all over the world and rumors are circulating of UFOs hovering in the earth's orbit. When a crop circle appears in the corn field of their family farm, the lead character in the story, Graham Hess - a disillusioned and recently widowed Episcopal priest played by Mel Gibson - is asked by his...

Chapter

1 One doesn't have to travel back in time to be confronted by the absence of images that has typified most of human history. The filmmaker, Wim Wenders, recalls a trip to Hungary in the years before the fall of communism When I first came to a city in the Eastern bloc, it was Budapest, I went into shock there was nothing. A few traffic signs, some ugly banners, otherwise the city was empty of imagery, of advertising. That's when I realized how used I was to all that stuff, how addicted. From...

Popular Cultures Religious Vitality Augustine

While he lived there about 150 years after Tertullian had died, Saint Augustine was familiar with Carthage. In his Confessions he recalls this city where he was sent to be educated at the age of sixteen, and where he spent most of the decade of his twenties, first as a student, later as a teacher I went to Carthage, where I found myself in the midst of a hissing cauldron of lust. As the largest cosmopolitan city in the Roman territory of Africa, Carthage was an epicenter of popular...

Religious Symbols

American patriotism is surrounded by a latticework of symbols the stars and stripes, the Liberty Bell, the Declaration of Independence, the White House, fireworks, the Washington Monument, the Statue of Liberty, Gettysburg, Apollo, cowboys and the Supreme Court, to name a few. An outsider would see a flag, a bell, a parchment, a building, an explosive, an obelisk, a statue, a battlefield, a rocket, a herdsman, a courthouse. But to an insider each of these objects is a vessel in which something...

The dearly departed

Popular culture has been brimming lately with bold conjectures about the afterlife. The matter of what follows death is one of those middle concerns from which many Christian theologians have kept a respectful distance, not wanting to speculate beyond a general hopefulness, and still smarting from Marx's rebuke that the promise of eternal life distracts people from demanding justice in this life. For decades popular culture concurred in this Marxist suspicion of the debilitating effects of the...

Fanfare for the common man

Aaron Copland premiered his Fanfare for the Common Man in 1943, a soaring and triumphant tribute in honor of - take your pick - soldiers fighting at that time in Europe and the Pacific, American taxpayers who consented to an early filing deadline that spring, and the poor woman who cleaned his office at night - depending on which music historian is to be believed. Fanfares generally are composed as tributes, or to announce with trumpeted flourish the entrance into the hall of some great...

Love songs

So, there are salvific themes in songs of protest. In Tillich's terms, these songs express a moral faith, a faith that the holy enters the world through acts of justice and human kindness. Love songs, too, are sometimes infused with more hope for salvation than first meets the eye. True, at one level, all love songs are about salvation - we place much stock in having love returned by the human object of our affections. We can turn any person into an ultimate concern and torture them with the...

Hegemony

Like the Frankfurt School, the Birmingham Centre was driven by strong Marxist undercurrents. But, again like the Frankfurt School, its Marxism was selective. It retained the view that the ruling class seeks to impose its ideology on the rest of society, and remained committed to the priority of praxis in the way it analyzed popular artifacts - that is, that the purpose of scholarly analysis is to change the order of society and the power relations that exist between social classes. But, as...

The secular apocalyptic

In Chapter 7 some attention was given to how effective science fiction can be, particularly in its apocalyptic mode, for isolating the sin de jure and imagining its consequences if left unchecked. Thus, in A Canticle for Leibowitz, the craving for absolute security was seen to lead, ironically, to the devastation of the planet, which then ejects the human race as the consequence for this craving. This genre of the apocalyptic has become common in popular culture since the advent of the atomic...

The Popular

In 1936, Walter Benjamin wrote a seminal essay reflecting on the impact that the new technologies of mechanical reproduction (lithography, photography, sound recording, movies) were having on Western culture.4 What distinguished a work of art before these technologies was its aura, the sacred, one-of-a-kind quality that inheres in a painting like the Mona Lisa or the live performance of a Beethoven symphony. The genius and originality of this paint on this piece of canvas hanging on this wall...

Annotated Bibliography of Books on Theology and Popular Culture

These are works that search for culturally influential religious or theological themes based upon a cross-referencing of (with a few exceptions) multiple avenues of popular culture, for example, film, novels, television, advertising, music. Books that do the same kind of analysis but limit themselves to a single medium are listed separately. By background theorists, an attempt is made to single out the thinkers these authors favor or are consciously in conversation with. This is intended to...

The amused bricoleur

The theme of the dignity of ordinary life explored earlier is in tension with the powers and aspirations we come to believe about ourselves through this accessorizing of our identities. Our celebration of ordinary life affirms the bonds of work, marriage, family, neighborhood and community, including the limitations on our individual freedoms that these bonds entail. The fetishized world that is being projected to us through commodities, on the other hand, entices us to disregard bonds and...

Paul Tillichs Theology of Culture

Paul Tillich was born in 1886, the son of a Lutheran pastor in a village near Berlin, Germany. By the age of 28, he had received his doctorate in philosophy, been ordained as a Lutheran pastor, and had served for several years in a church in a working-class neighborhood of Berlin. Within months of the outbreak of the First World War in 1914, Tillich volunteered for military service and was appointed to serve as a chaplain in the Army. His first orders took him to the western front, where for 4...

Reading the Signs of the Times

The Second Vatican Council tract, Gaudium et Spes, among the more significant documents to emerge from the Council, was organized around the proposal that At all times the Church carries the responsibility of reading the signs of the time and of interpreting them in the light of the Gospel, if it is to carry out its task. This trope, reading the signs of the time, is an allusion to Matthew 16.3, in which Jesus criticizes religious leaders who can interpret the skies for tomorrow's weather, but...

Theologians and the Study of Culture

Christian theologians are notorious for either preemptively dismissing theory that is making the rounds outside their discipline, or rushing headlong to embrace it. The work of cultural studies has caught the attention of many of us, and, true to form, some view it as yet more evidence for the decline of godly civilization, while others, at the opposite end, herald it as the key to understanding all past failures of godly civilization.1 What has caught the interest of its heralds, in...

Accessorized identities

Near the beginning of FightClub, Jack is seen sitting on the toilet in his stylish condo, studying a magazine and rotating it as if to examine a racy centerfold. The magazine, it turns out, is an Ikea catalogue, and he is on his cell phone placing an order for an Erika Pekkari dust ruffle. Like so many others, he voices over, I had become a slave to the Ikea nesting instinct. If I saw something clever like a little coffee table in the shape of a yin-yang, I'd have to have it I'd flip through...

Laurence Coss A Corner of the Veil 1996

Laurence Coss is a journalist in France and past president of the European Community Commission. Her expertise is primarily in the area of political science. The tantalizing surprise in her novel is that an unknown physics professor has written a six-page proof for the existence of God that is not only unassailably true, but it also demonstrates that the cruelty of the world and the goodness of God aren't contradictory anymore. Human errors, follies, atrocities, finally make sense.47 As we...

Confession in religion2

Paul Ricoeur has argued that the notion of human beings standing guilty before some transcendent tribunal for evil deeds they have committed is one that had to gestate over many centuries, and go through several stages of development, before it entered the minds of our ancestors.37 In its earliest stages, evil was viewed as some impurity in the environment that needed to be avoided because it defiled those who came into contact with it. Like an infection that was contracted through the body's...

Social protest

Reaching back to Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger, and through the folk music scene of the early 1960s with Joan Baez and Bob Dylan, a lineage of pop-protest balladeers folk musicians with electric guitars can be traced, including Marvin Gaye, John Lennon, Billy Bragg, The Pretenders, The Police, Suzanne Vega, REM, U2, and Joe Strummer. The pop-protest song bears one of the most direct debts of rock music to the black churches through the civil rights movement. Its roots are in the music sung on...

Franco Ferrucci The Life of God as Told by Himself 1996

Franco Ferrucci is a literary critic from Italy whose previous published work has focused on Dante. The Life of God as Told by Himself is offered as autobiography, told throughout from God's first-person point of view. From the outset, the story follows a biblical sequence that is blended with evolutionary spans of time. But given that the genesis of the cosmos is told here with an eye to God's own consciousness of these events, some imaginative liberties are taken. In Ferrucci's account, God...

Commodity Fetishism

Richard Niebuhr contended that we find ourselves pulled almost irresistibly toward polytheism, and that epicureanism Ferucci and existentialism Morrow are mere pauses between traditional monotheisms and the polytheism of modernity. Polytheism, as he defined it, is a religion of many small and mostly unintegrated concerns, inspiring adherents to chase haphazardly after many shiny gods - purported sources of meaning and power - to provide life with direction and consolation. The marketing of...

Popular Cultures Congenital Defects Tertullians de Spectaculus

Tertullian was a church father from Carthage, a Roman city on the north coast of Africa, who lived from 160-225 ce. Born a pagan, he studied law in Rome, converted to Christianity in his thirties and had a long career as a theologian and apologist for the Christian faith. He stands out for the moral rigor he expected of Christians, and for his vigorous defenses of the minority Christian community against charges of atheism, cannibalism, and treachery toward the state that circulated in the...

James Morrow The Towing Jehovah Saga34

The next work of fiction to be examined is actually a trilogy written by James Morrow, a science fiction writer from Pennsylvania, about a chain of events that begins with the splashdown of the Corpus Dei in the early 1990s. In 1992, to be precise, a giant male corpse, two miles long, was discovered floating face-up in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of Africa. The Vatican and a handful of other individuals were notified of this by dying angels, who confirmed that it was indeed God. The...

Covenants and Jeremiads

When the descendants of Jacob fled Egypt and followed Moses into the desert, they waited at the foot of Mt Sinai until God made a covenant with them. The covenant acknowledged that this God had delivered them from slavery and was preparing to make them into a great nation, and it assured them that the same God would remain faithful to them and to their descendants. In turn, the covenant stipulated civil and religious obligations that they now had to accept in order to be worthy of God's...

Images of

In 1946, Nikos Kazantzakis wrote Zorba the Greek, a novel about a laborer named Zorba, who exuded a colossal zeal for life, and his boss, a well-educated, wealthy mine-owner who hired Zorba as a foreman at one of his mines. The two became friends. Late in their friendship, Zorba became ill and, knowing that he was dying, turned to his boss for some comforting words. I want you to tell me, Zorba said, where we have come from and where we are going to. During all these years you've been burning...

Liminality

Arnold van Gennep was a Dutch anthropologist who wrote an important study in the early twentieth century on patterns he had detected across cultures in the rituals that marked life transitions. He began his book, The Rites of Passage, describing what he took to be the more obvious phenomenon of territorial passage, noting the way human beings in archaic societies divide land into a patchwork of domains with boundaries that they mark with sacred stones, trees, or rivers. Passage across these...

The Frankfurt School

The earliest concerted effort to theorize popular culture is to be found in the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research, which was founded in Germany in 1923 by neo-Marxist sociologists who pioneered the field of critical theory. Walter Benjamin, Theodor Adorno, Max Horkheimer, Leo Lowenthal, Herbert Marcuse, and Erich Fromm were among its celebrated roster of intellectuals. Expelled from Germany by the Nazis, all of them migrated to the US in the early 1930's and temporarily relocated the...

Tillich and the Frankfurt School

There is an interesting and enduring connection between Paul Tillich and the Frankfurt Institute for Social Research. From 1929 to 1933 Tillich taught at the University of Frankfurt. As a professor of philosophy at Frankfurt, Tillich oversaw Theodor Adorno's dissertation on Kierkegaard's aesthetics, and later helped him secure a teaching position at the university. It was with Tillich's support as dean that Max Horkheimer was appointed in 1929 to a new chair in social philosophy at Frankfurt,...

Antinomianism and Anarchy

In 1975, Robert Bellah, after reflecting on the cultural experimentation of the 1960s' counterculture, made the comment, A period of great social change always produces a certain amount of antinomianism and anarchism.11 Antinomianism is a rich term in Christian theology, referring to Gnostic sects in the early centuries of the church, some of them loosely Christian, who believed that spirit and matter were so opposed to each other that what one did with one's body was of no consequence to the...