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 our happiness can be overcome and that we can enjoy more fulfilling lives.

The uses of music and confession in popular culture, in particular, testify to certain reflexes we retain for following paths to salvation. Through the spectacle of the live concert, we enter liminal time and space and expose ourselves to the transformative powers of ecstatic experience, sacred icons, and communitas. Our pop-protest musicians educate us in the multifarious ways of our collective sinfulness and provide us with a soundtrack for social reform. Love songs enchant us with preludes to the beatific vision, while more contemplative artists can sing our souls into actual moments of sacred consciousness and illumination. Through a great variety of manifestations of the therapeutic we seek to care for our souls and purge our lives of encumbrances that detain us from living to the fullest. Some forms of purgation elevate personal happiness to the status of an ultimate concern and jettison all obligations as dead weight; others pursue a more traditional method of self-contrition and repentance with the aim of aligning the self with communal obligations and larger conceptions of transcendent goodness.

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