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Don't Stop Believin': Pop Culture and Religion from <i>Ben-Hur</i> to Zombies Paperback – October 13, 2012

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Don't Stop Believin': Pop Culture and Religion from <i>Ben-Hur</i> to Zombies + Understanding Theology and Popular Culture + A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 176 pages
  • Publisher: Westminster John Knox Press (October 13, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0664235050
  • ISBN-13: 978-0664235055
  • Product Dimensions: 9 x 6 x 1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (4 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,264,577 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


"This fantastic collection of essays (more like conversation starters, really) encourages us to take a deeper look at the popular entertainment that our world enjoys--because we just might find God there. If a contemporary apostle Paul had to defend the faith on a modern-day Mars Hill, I'd recommend he refer to this book for a quick update about how our culture reflects what we believe." Dean Batali, Writer/Producer, That '70s Show and Buffy the Vampire Slayer

"Ranging widely and wisely across the panoply of people, places and events that defined the heart and soul of the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, this is a spiritual tour de force about the things that have shaped our histories and defined our context of culture and meaning." J. Walker Smith, Executive Chairman, The Futures Company; author of Generation Ageless

"Rejecting the tendency to see the spiritual as made of a different quality than the popular, Robert Johnston, Craig Detweiler, and Barry Taylor invite us--in fact, usher us--into spiritual themes that have shaped American, and world, culture over the last half century. Don't Stop Believin' is a fast-paced, timely dictionary of popular, meaningful spiritual vitality." Doug Pagitt, pastor, radio host, and author of A Christianity Worth Believing

"A captivating, idiosyncratic, journey through the icons of popular culture from the 1950s to today. This book will inspire and inform anyone who seeks to find a deeper meaning in the ever-changing world around us." George Nolfi, writer-director of The Adjustment Bureau and co-writer of The Bourne Ultimatum

About the Author

Robert K. Johnston is Professor of Theology and Culture at Fuller Theological Seminary. He is the author of Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue and Finding God in the Movies: 33 Films of Reel Faith, and editor of Reframing Theology & Film: New Focus for an Emerging Discipline.

Craig Detweiler is Associate Professor of Communication at Pepperdine University. He is the editor of Halos and Avatars: Playing Video Games with God; the author of Into the Dark: Seeing the Sacred in the Top Films of the 21st Century; and coauthor (with Barry Taylor) of A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture.

Barry Taylor is Adjunct Professor of Popular Culture and Theology at Fuller Theological Seminary and coauthor (with Craig Detweiler) of A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture. He is a professional musician, painter, and the leader of New Ground, an alternative worship gathering in Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By Mary Lavers on February 11, 2013
Format: Paperback
I'm not sure I quite get the point of this book. I was expecting a little insight into the ways religious images are used (or interpreted) in various ways in popular culture, like how The Simpsons is one of the few TV families that regularly goes to church or how many of Leonard Cohen's songs reference the Torah. But there was only a little bit of that. Mostly it seemed like a group of people from Fuller School of Theology and other religious colleges were simply asked to write a brief article about their favourite movies, actors or pop stars. Occasionally the connections were made to religion. But many times the connection seemed to extend no further than "I'm a fan of this person and I'm a Christian. Therefore this person is pertinent to Christianity." Micky Mantle and Marilyn Monroe are gushed over for being "idols" of the 1950's, but the religiosity of that "idolatry" isn't very well articulated. Miles Davis is praised for his "cool jazz" while the author laments that Christianity can't be more "cool."

As a fan of pop culture and a student of religious studies (I have an undergraduate degree in Religious Studies from McGill University), I can honestly say there wasn't anything in this book that I didn't already know. I didn't learn anything new or gain new insights or perspective. I don't think that's as much an endorsement of my body of knowledge as it is an indictment of the lack of depth presented in this book. If I were grading it, I would check the box that says, "Fails to meet expectations." Such a shame.

Disclaimer: I received a digital galley of this book free from Edelweiss (Above the Tree Line). I was asked to write an honest review, though not necessarily a favourable one. The opinions expressed are strictly my own.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful By Dr Conrade Yap on December 12, 2012
Format: Paperback
This book is a collection of commentaries on pop icons and various well-known symbols in the cultures from the 50s to the present. The title of the book is very similar to the pop group Journey who released this hit in 1981. Perhaps, it is chosen because 1981 is somewhere near the midpoint from the 50s to now. Probably, its very title represents a kind of an intersection of faith, pop culture, religion, and people. Maybe, the name of the pop group that produced the song is reflective of where culture is going. It is a journey of belief. Comprising articles written by an assortment of people from many different walks of life. It asks questions about what are the stories, the songs, and the symbols, and the messages they carry that remain valid or has evolved over time. Are there deep theological truths beneath them? What is the gospel according to Peanuts, or Twilight? Through 101 "theologically significant figures," the contributors in this book seek to make some sense out of them.They notice the trends pertaining to gender, sexuality, and religious views that have changed over time. There are lesser of traditional boundaries especially in an electronic age. There are also increasing limitations that we are only beginning to understand. Here is why.

The first 15 articles sketch out what the 50s are about. It is a time where families are more closely knitted, coming together to watch TV sitcoms like "I Love Lucy" and "Father Knows Best." It is time of growing awareness of a need for greater equality, especially race and gender. This gives rise to rebellious symbols such as JD Salinger's counter-cultural "Catcher in the Rye" or Elvis Presley's Rock and Roll against a culture of uptight, prim-and-proper Pleasantville atmosphere.
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Format: Kindle Edition Verified Purchase
I find it difficult to imagine you would want to read this book from cover to cover, or even cherry pick from its many articles. I read the book because it was assigned for a course, and we had to pick two entries from it, twice, and report on the entries in class.

Some of the entries had the virtue of often being so obscure that I was totally unaware of the subject, such as "Banksy", a London graffiti artist. Unfortunately, the information provided was minimal. There were neither pictures nor references to where one may find more information. For me, the other end of the spectrum was The Lord of the Rings and J. R. R. Tolkien, about which I knew volumes.

But there were only two such entries, and dozens on which I know far more than what was in the book. Most were like "Goth" and "Left Behind". I never read any of the "Left Behind" books, but I have heard enough about them that I could write a paragraph about them.

Aside from the use of this in my course, it's best use might be for either kids, or as the source of trivia questions, or some other party game.
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Format: Paperback
I gave this book 4/5 stars. This book is a bunch of chapters and each chapter is about something in our culture. The chapters are divided by what ten year period they took place in. Some of the chapter titles are Clint Eastwood, The Simpsons, SimCity and Dr. Phil. I did not really learn anything from this book and that is why I gave it a lower rating. I thought some of the commentaries on certain subjects were well written and some were actually funny however the majority of them were just plain boring! I say all that but also think that everyone will at least enjoy some of these commentaries so don't not get this book just because I did not like it!

I would like to thank the publisher for the copy of this book I enjoyed reading. I gave an honest review based on my opinion of what I read.
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