Aug 14, 09
Read in August, 2009
Daniel Radosh is NOT an evangelical - in fact, he's a Humanistic Jew (his own description) - which for the purposes of this book is a very good thing. One of the pieces of advice you're often given when getting ready to sell your house is to have someone who's never been there come to walk through & look for all the things that need fixing or repainting. There's a reason - you've lived there for so long that you've become used to the imperfections, blemishes & outright broken stuff. Mr. Radosh's book that does just that for Christian pop culture (primarily evangelical pop culture).
I was impressed with the breadth of his knowledge, his willingness to have his pre-conceived notions corrected (or confirmed), and his sense of humor. (Honestly, we evangelicals are a pretty funny bunch sometimes... and occasionally even on purpose.) Particularly interesting is his interview with Frank Peretti & Ted Dekker.
He deals with Jesus junk, CCM, passion plays, Bibleman, Hell Houses, the sad state of Christian fiction, niche marketing for Bibles, "Left Behind" (and not kindly, which I wholeheartedly approve!), abortion politics, Christian comedians (including lots of time w/Dan Rupple), creation science museums, abstinence education & Christian sex therapy... even Christian wrestling. He admits that his coverage isn't exhaustive, but it's still pretty darn good.
His confrontation at Cornerstone with the volunteer at the Rock for Life booth should be required reading for every pro-life person... and I'm one of those people. Daniel Radosh does an amazing job of pointing out one of our biggest blind spots - the very accusation we make (that pro-choice folks treat babies/people as objects) is all too often the way we treat those who do things we think are wrong - we objectify them as "the enemy".
There's really only one clunker chapter in the book - his "fake interview" with Stephen Baldwin reads more like "I'm ticked at this guy for standing me up" than "I've found a humorous way to deal with the fact that Mr. Baldwin is kind of a knucklehead."
Some warnings for those who've lived inside the Christian bubble: the language here can be pretty raw - both from Mr. Radosh & from the folks he's interviewing. There are going to be theological & political things that you disagree with espoused both by the author & by some of the folks he talks to. If you don't like the way your faith is expressed being challenged, this book will make you downright uncomfortable.
But, I think you'll be making a mistake if you don't take this book seriously. We need to see ourselves through the eyes of the secular culture - not so we can change our theology or our faith in God, but so we can stop doing things that keep people from hearing the truth of Jesus Christ because our cultural expressions are shouting too loudly.
Some quotes that stuck out to me:
"If you are trying to communicate to people, it makes sense that you want to find a common currency, a bridge which you can communicate across." He glanced around. "Now, having said that, you can do it with style or you can do it tackily. But that's true of any endeavor, not just the Christian retailing world."
I nodded. "That's true, but I have to say that from what I've seen, it kind of looks like tacky is winning."
Butcher sighed ruefully. "When you are born again, God gives you a new heart & a new opportunity. He doesn't necessarily give you new taste."
Cameron Williams is one of "Left Behind"'s two main heroes. His friends call him Buck, "because they said he was always bucking tradition & authority." The other hero is Rayford Steele, an airline pilot. That's right, Buck Williams & Rayford Steele. There's also Steve Plank, Bruce Barnes & Dirk Burton. Apparently, having a porn star name is enough to keep you from getting raptured.
As I discovered when I asked Christians about it, the secular world's continued fascination with LEFT BEHIND is seen as a sign of how out of touch we are with evangelical culture. Imagine thinking that THE REAL WORLD still defined American TV.
R.T. asked if he could pray for me, which didn't surprise me. And then he prayed that my book would help Christians see some hard truths about themselves, even if it hurt. Which I hadn't expected at all.
Escape from the hard work of thinking about everything was, in fact, one of the main reasons I listened to music. Not only is it all right for Christian kids to want that same avenue of retreat, but more non-Christian kids would do well to develop the kind of critical listening skills that Christians bring to secular music. It is to the great credit of evangelical teens that they aren't as thoughtless as the rest of us about such things.
As Christians make their mark on the mainstream, the rest of us will feel their influence. If our response is hostile, it will only... feed the growth of the most mean-spirited strain of Christian pop culture, and mainstream culture will be warped accordingly. But if we are welcoming, we help nurture a form of Christian culture that can in turn enrich our own.