In Christotainment: Selling Jesus Through Popular Culture Boulder, CO: Westview, , Shirley Steinberg and Joe Kincheloe assemble essays that critically examine the adoption by popular evangelicalism of media like movies, television, music, and video games which were once disdained. He also offer his thoughts as a pastor on how Christians might remain rooted firmly in their spiritual traditions while exploiting the possibilities offered by new communications technologies.
Quentin Schultze and Robert Woods, Jr. The recognition of the tightly knit relationship between popular culture and consumerism takes center stage in Consuming Religion: Christian Faith and Practice in a Consumer Culture by Vincent Miller New York: Continuum, His book bemoans the negative ways in which religious belief and practice—theological method, doctrine, belief, community—have been transformed by our ravenous consumer culture and proposes strategies for resisting that transformation.
Most books on youth ministry cannot avoid reference, at least in passing, to the challenges of ministering to youth immersed in popular culture in one or another of its many manifestations. Lewis is his model of creative engagement. Mark Roncace and Patrick Gray, in their book, Teaching the Bible Through Popular Culture and the Arts Atlanta: Society of Biblical Literature, , briefly survey hundreds of examples of art, film, literature, music, and other media and suggest how they might be used to engage students in the study of the Bible.
Though intended for college and university classes, the book could be useful in non-academic settings like youth meetings and adult Sunday school as well. Of course, this is a controversial appeal, and readers will find his wide-ranging discussion, though sprinkled with keen insights, either frustrating or exhilarating—or perhaps both.
I have focused attention on a select few reference works, monographs, and essay collections, most published in the last ten years or so, and not at all on online resources. I am prepared to argue that detailed and extended discussion and argument still requires a book, or a longer essay at least. Moreover, works in such specialty areas as faith and television, film, 7 literature, music, art, leisure, sport, and—an area of which no parent will be ignorant—video gaming 8 have been ignored only to keep the size of this essay down; their inclusion would have greatly increased the number of its pages.
But interested readers should note that such works are many and for the most part easy to find. What should be clear in any case is that critical reflection—discernment—continues apace with no signs of abating. Constant changes and new developments in popular culture will guarantee that new data requiring interpretation and evaluation will not soon be in short supply.
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Faith and Popular Culture: A Bibliographic Essay
The automobile arbitrated urban development after World War Two. Razzle dazzle Among the many terms entering the vocabulary of popular culture in the interwar period, one effectively describes the conditions of the time. It has, for instance, been used in discussion of Hollywood productions. The dominance of urban life in the Western world was confirmed in the s when France, last of the major industrial powers, saw its population shift from a predominantly rural to a predominantly urban base.
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Urban life, with its own rhythm, expressed the change noisily in the fad of tap dancing. Its rapid beat and metallic sound made it a near-perfect analogue of the industrial system and its efficient use of machinery. The machine-like precision of the chorus line was visually perfected by the film director and choreographer Busby Berkeley. Arguably, his most celebrated film was Gold Diggers of His use of the camera as a moveable instrument led to a series of overhead shots, his specialty. The angle of passenger ship funnels and the shape of car fenders swooped backward.
These objects spoke of grace, smooth efficiency and an age on the move. Pace, considered as increments of time, was altered socially as well. The 90minute full length movie, the minute soap opera episode on radio, the car moving at 35 miles an hour or the airplane at miles an hour changed the long enduring sun-up, sun-down arrangement of diurnal life that seldom extended beyond the distance an individual could walk in daylight. Electricity altered the urban pattern of existence and gave popular culture its nocturnal hours of entertainment.
Night clubs and cabarets became commonplace in the Western world; night baseball and soccer games, illuminated by pods of highvoltage light, changed the nature of spectator sports. Neon tubing added to urban nighttime glitz. Frenchman Georges Claude applied an electrical discharge to a glass tube of neon gas in the early s, which caused neon and other gases to combine.
The resulting blue, yellow and red coloring made electrical signage an art form and allowed the entertainment districts of cities as far apart as Tokyo, New York, London and Las Vegas to glow in a swirl of nightly color. By the s the so-called developed world had been electrified. It seemed that V. The vital juice of popular culture flowed through the wire. Every element of contemporary popular culture depended directly or indirectly on electricity. Of course, talent and organization are partially exempt — but not even in the early s would Rudolph Valentino have had any 22 A History of Popular Culture significance if his profile had not been filmed, while no one in the late s could have imagined Frank Sinatra crooning other than into a microphone.
Filmed and photographed, appearing in ads and in publicity releases, sought after for autographed photographs, the celebrity may have promoted the sale of breakfast cereal or cigarettes but primarily promoted self — or images of self. The publicity agent and the make-up artist, two new professionals, were responsible for assuring that the celebrity was presented in the best light.
The celebrity necessarily does today, as he or she did in the s. Logos and symbols represented particular companies and corporations but also implied a distinctive quality not otherwise available. Ford and Coca-Cola, for instance, developed the print style of their corporate name — stylized cursives in the s that they have retained ever since. Animals figured too: Mickey Mouse, recently renewed as a copyrighted figure, was quickly and then inextricably identified with Disney films and products. Logos took wing with the airlines. Lufthansa used a sleek stylized bird in flight; Air France concocted a seahorse with wings; Pan-American Airways first used a winged arrow and later a stylized globe.
The most memorable incidence of brand recognition concerned no company, no product. When the Nazis took over power in Germany in , they made the swastika the logo of their rule. Stark black, firmly rectangular, usually situated in a white circle in a field of bright red, this variant of an ages-old religious symbol, found both in Hindu and Native American cultures, came to represent the ruthlessness of Nazi power. On the flags everywhere present in Germany of the late s, on armbands and party pins, on the huge vertical tail fins of the Zeppelin Hindenburg and on the foredeck of the battleship Bismarck, the swastika stamped the identity of the regime.
One of the most dramatic scenes in the Nazi propaganda film Triumph of the Will gives the illusion of a vast sea of flags moving inexorably onward.
Mass transportation, mass communications and mass entertainment joined older terms like urban mass and mass production to explain the quantitative effect on quality. Numbers added up to a qualitatively different social and cultural environment. Spatially, popular culture engaged wider and The early twentieth century 23 more diversified audiences and participants than it ever had before.
National and international markets now developed for its products, as movies and films clearly demonstrated. Temporally, everyone and everything closed in, became both more immediate and intimate — but less personal and direct — than the neighborhood or town had been. Telephone and radio joined to bring the previously far-away and out-oftouch into the intimacy of the house — and did so frequently, every day and even hourly.
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But the physical presence that neighborhood gossip and downtown politics had been based on — a whisper or an aside, a hand on the shoulder or a finger sharply pointed in anger — such tactile qualities — were absent. Disembodied voices now formed public opinion. Virtual reality was decades away. Then World War Two occurred.
A History of Popular Culture
In the early morning of 7 December , two years and three months after Nazi Germany had invaded Poland and begun the world war, Japanese aircraft approaching Pearl Harbor homed in on the radio frequency of Honolulu radio stations playing popular music. The new war expanded the dimensions of popular culture. Consumer products and entertainment, pleasure and diversion — particularly for the millions of young Americans who became soldiers — were introduced to large numbers of civilians in war-torn countries.
Chewing gum and candy bars, the jokes of Bob Hope and the music of Glenn Miller were such military exports. As warfare expanded to new dimensions, so did the manufacture and distribution of military equipment. The most significant if unintended effects of the war effort on postwar popular culture were aspects of this spread of things. The two chief ones were spatial: proximity and mobility, an exceptional distribution of goods and services reaching most war fronts, and reaching them quickly, a phenomenon that would only increase after the war to become the vast commodification of our own age.
Islanders, witnessing American landing vehicles discharging quantities of goods, assumed the beneficence was the gift of some offshore, unseen deity. The cult was built around the premise that the ships would come again in the future. War material both amazed populations around the world and littered their places of residence. President Franklin D. One anecdote recounts that General Dwight D. Eisenhower had been photographed drinking Coca-Cola with a straw to the chagrin of company officials, who thought it suggested unclean bottle tops.
A statistical advantage went to other American products as well. Cigarettes, chewing gum and chocolate candy found in American field rations developed a taste for such unnecessary products among young soldiers and civilians in war-torn countries. By the end of the war American cigarettes, appearing in packages of five in the field C-rations of American soldiers, were serving as surrogate currency in Germany.
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Both the most affectionately treated and the most versatile of war weapons, the Jeep raced across the North African desert, bounced along jungle trails in New Guinea and plunged ahead in heavy snow during the Battle of the Bulge in Belgium in December The Jeep was just about everywhere, the , produced during the war assuring that it was indeed commonplace, equally so because it was clearly an all-terrain vehicle, an SUV before its time.
When produced after the war, it continued to be popular among American youth as the first sport utility vehicle. The Jeep also suggested a further democratization of the technology that had made the automobile the conveyance of large numbers of people. The Jeep was driven by both corporal and colonel, a new equality of military position. And when the high-ranking officer was not at the wheel, he was at the side of the driver.
Everyone drove a Jeep, and no one of consequence sat in the back seat. The story goes that, during the Battle of the Bulge, a group of German soldiers wearing American uniforms had seized a Jeep and driven it behind American lines. Democratization, in whatever form, was clearly not happening in wartime Germany.
And then there was military clothing. So much of it was produced that it became a postwar commodity featured in the army and navy surplus stores that flourished in the United States, Great Britain, Canada and even Australia. Surplus khaki clothing, the summer wear of fighting men, became popular casual wear of the s.