Culture

Joshua Witchger 1-10-2012

A zombie version of the Oregon Trial, what it would look like if Batman had been created by Dr. Suess, and could an App a day keep the doctor away? Plus, videos of wackadoo political candidates, what happens in a book store at night when no one's around, how to get discovered on YouTube by Russell Crowe (without even trying), and ... Aunt Carol grooving to Usher’s “You Make Me Wanna.”

http://youtu.be/V755gIgP700

Steve Stockman 1-10-2012
Kicking at the Darkness by Brian Walsh

Kicking at the Darkness by Brian Walsh

When a friend told me about this book late last year, I thought that all my Christmas had come early.

A theological treatise on Bruce Cockburn has been very necessary for years, but surely he was such a cult artist that no publisher would ever see a book on him as profitable. So fair play to Brazos Press for the courage and vision. And the author might have swayed the deal.

Walsh does a good few things in Kicking At The Darkness; Bruce Cockburn and the Christian Imagination. He confirms all your thoughts on your favorite Cockburn lyrics. (They were as theologically potent as you always thought!) He also reminds you how many great lines Cockburn has written, causing you to scuttle back to re-listen to every album right back to the first.

Tripp Hudgins 1-10-2012
Imagine. Image via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/2512334908

The Strawberry Fields "Imagine" memorial in NYC's Central Park. Image via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/2512334908

Cee Lo Green got himself in some pop-culture hot water on New Years Eve when he changed the lyrics to John Lennon's "Imagine." You would think he was changing the Bible or something, but no, it was much worse. He changed the lyrics to a John Lennon song. "No religions" became "all religions" and all hell broke loose....

Suffice it to say that people were put out. They defended Lennon's unchangeable artistic canon. Green's supporters suggested that all art can be reinterpreted...even John Lennon's. Personally, I didn't find it offensive at all. Instead, I thought it was a thoughtful (if momentary) update to the iconic pop song. Given the religious strife in the world, expressing a love for humanity through all the world's religion was generous and very appropriate for a New Year celebration.

Alas, no. We're beset by fundamentalisms of all kinds (Lennonists?) and on all sides in this nation of ours. We're sufficiently afraid of religiosity that we've turned anti-religiosity into a religion and musicians become gods and their three minute songs become scripture...unchangeable holy writ.

We're afraid and that fear strips us of our compassion.

Richard Beck 1-09-2012
Lady Gaga. Image via http://bit.ly/AjdhWA

Lady Gaga. Image via http://bit.ly/AjdhWA

During all my reading about Robyn and Lady Gaga I came across some stuff about Lady Gaga that I found interesting, theologically speaking. As I told Jana over the summer, "I'm sort of developing a theological curiosity about Lady Gaga." Jana asked, "How so?"

Well, Lady Gaga calls her fans "monsters." Or "little monsters." And by that she means freaks--the odd, the weird, the lonely, the rejects, the nerds, the castoffs. And you can't help but wonder, in light of the gospels, about that demographic. In my book Unclean I have a chapter on monsters. And I've written about the theology of monsters on this blog. Consequently, Lady Gaga's use of the label "monsters" caught my attention.

Because as I've written, the category "monster" is charged with ambivalence. On the surface the monster is a normative threat--a defilement, a degradation, a location of moral and communal harm. Thus, monsters are expelled from community. And yet, most monster stories suggest that the monster is often a scapegoat. That the monster is more victim than victimizer. Underneath, if we could but see it, the monster is one of us.

So it's theologically apt that Lady Gaga uses the category monster for her fans. Because she's targeting a group that has been cast out of society. Again, she's explicitly embracing the freaks, weirdos and social outcasts. But Gaga, like in the monster stories, has flipped this and made the label "monster" a term of affection, welcome, embrace, community, inclusion and hospitality. (The diminutive "little" signals the playful affection.) This parallels my own interests in Unclean--Can we show hospitality toward monsters? So I'm intrigued by Gaga's community of "little monsters."

the Web Editors 1-06-2012

Evangelicalism's Changing Heart On Immigration, Congress, White House Cut Heating Assistance Just In Time For Winter, Unemployment Rate Key To 2012 Election, College Kids Vow To End Slavery, The 23 Best Countries For Work-Life Balance (We Are Number 23), Rick Santorum’s God And Gays Message Falls Flat In New Hampshire.

Joshua Witchger 1-06-2012

Stephen Colbert takes Pat Robertson's challenge to America and prays at full volume, file sharing considered "religious expression," Harrison Ford watches Indiana Jones for the first time, Gary Busey and Ted Haggard on Wife Swap, facebook plans networking offline, part two of Jimmy Kimmel's Christmas trick, and — our of the mouths of babes —a Christian version of the Black Eyed Peas song "My Humps."

http://youtu.be/wSmHGjEmNC8

Cathleen Falsani 1-06-2012
Paul Simon. Image via PaulSimon.com

Paul Simon. Image via PaulSimon.com

"How was all of this created? If the answer to that question is God created everything, there was a creator, than I say, great! What a great job. And I like the idea. I find it very, I don’t know, I find it comforting in some way. But if the answer to that is there is no God, I don’t feel like, well, what a jerk I’ve been. I feel, oh fine, so there’s another answer. I don’t know the answer. I’m just a speck of dust here for a nanosecond, and I’m very grateful." — Paul Simon in an interview that will air this weekend on the PBS program Religion & Ethics Newsweekly.

Watch the interview in its entirety inside ...

Christian Piatt 1-06-2012
"Nerd Clear" by Jose Jara Ramirez via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/

"Nerd Clear" by Jose Jara Ramirez via Wylio http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/3847013903

I have a number of identifiers on my various venues I write for and on my email signature: heretic, antagonist, father, son, instigator, pop culture junkie, theologian, social media guru, and so on. But one seems to resonate with folks more than any other: GOD NERD.

For some it’s just a funny juxtaposition of words. For others, there is something deeply relate-able in the moniker. Incidentally, the simple fact that I use words like “moniker” make clear the fact that I and a card-carrying, credentialed nerd.

the Web Editors 1-05-2012

Huffington Post: An Interview with United States 39th President Jimmy Carter, Religion News Service: Romney’s Evangelical Problem Starts with Theology, Huffington Post: On Scripture: Mark 1:4-11: Does Baptism Make for Better Presidents?, Huffington Post: Obama Fails on Minimum Wage Pledge, Slate: NAACP Condemns Rick Santorum’s “Black People” Gaffe, TPM: Defense Secretary Panetta: Defense Cuts Come With ‘Additional But Acceptable Risk’, CNN: Controversial Catholic program for gays begins in Connecticut, CNN: What happens when candidates called by God drop out?

Annie Deppe 1-01-2012

There were two sets of stairs: the front ones curving and formal while the backstairs rose steep as a canyon wall. As a girl, I used to fly from their heights when I wasn’t falling.

Julie Polter 1-01-2012

Free South Africa, To Love More Deeply, When Disaster Strikes, Wrestling with Tradition.

Gareth Higgins 1-01-2012

Roland Emmerich is known for making the kind of disaster movies that fans of quality filmmaking love to hate.

Christopher Smith 1-01-2012

War and the American Difference: Theological Reflections on Violence and National Identity, by Stanley Hauerwas.

Robert Hirschfield 1-01-2012

Orange Alert: Essays on Poetry, Art, and the Architecture of Silence. And, Fasting For Ramadan: Notes from a Spiritual Practice.

Ed Spivey Jr. 1-01-2012

At first, I thought I had the flu because I didn't get a flu shot this year and naturally had to be punished by the medical community.

Michaela Bruzzese 1-01-2012

Multigenerational households are becoming more common, by choice or by necessity -- and these expanded family circles have both benefits and perils.

Jason Storbakken 1-01-2012

Activist pastor Gardener C. Taylor on lessons learned in a long life of faithfully taking the side of the oppressed.

Timothy King 12-28-2011
Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Image by Tim King

Illustration from Dickens' "Christmas Carol." Image by Tim King

“Marley was dead, to begin with.”

So begins the classic tale of A Christmas Carol by Charles Dickens. It is a story that has been told and re-told through various mediums since the novella was published December 19, 1843.

I sat down recently to watch the new Disney version of the tale. It features a CGI rendition of Scrooge with the voice of Jim Carrey.

After 15 minutes I shut it off.

It wasn’t that it was particularly bad. I didn’t give the movie enough of a chance even to figure whether it was worth watching. What I realized is that I wasn’t much interested in hearing the same story again from a secular perspective.

A Christmas Carol, I would argue, is not ultimately about Christmas, but conversion.

Christmas is the stage and the catalyst through which transformation occurs. It is a leading character to be sure. But, it is the radical change that occurs in Ebenezer Scrooge that most compels me.

Cathleen Falsani 12-23-2011

Each day leading until Christmas we will post a different video rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" for your holiday enjoyment and edification.

Today's entry is a traditional orchestration and performance of Handel's famed chorus by The Cathedral Choir of New Jersey. The video is taken from the 66th rendition of the "Hallelujah Chorus" performed by the choir on Dec. 5, 2009 at Hawthorne Gospel Church in Hawthorne, NJ.

Hallelujah Chorus from RVR Video Productions on Vimeo.

Jack Palmer 12-23-2011
Christmas lights in London's Trafalgar Square, St. Martin's in the Field behind.

Christmas lights in London's Trafalgar Square, St. Martin's in the Field behind. Via http://www.wylio.com/credits/Flickr/839615

I’m not sure we can quite get our heads around the latest ‘war’ being waged in the United States – the ‘war on Christmas’.

Visions of the 101st Airborne heading towards the North Pole abound. Anti-reindeer defense weapons, covert elf anti-merriment operatives and a unilateral ban on all copies of A Christmas Carol (in its various media iterations)? Is that what we have come to?

Surely — and thankfully — not, but given some of the rhetoric that is thrown around in the media at this time of year, you might be forgiven for thinking so!

Given that most reporting about religion in the UK and Europe usually includes the phrase “an increasingly secular country," you might think that the "war on Christmas" back on the old sod is even more sustained and sophisticated than in the United States.

Picture heavily fortified nativity scenes being assaulted by atheist flash mobs chanting “HAPPY HOLIDAYS!” if you will.

Well, I’m sorry to tell you that I’ve yet to witness such a terrifying scene on the streets of London.

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