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Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture Paperback – Poster Calendar, February 1, 2007

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Calvin College professor Romanowski writes for the millions of "Christians who drink beer" those who, in tension with evangelical mores, partake of the fruits of popular culture, from Titanic to Bruce Springsteen to ER. His scope is ambitious, including a theologically informed chapter on the nature of culture itself, to treatment of sex, violence and materialism, to a thoughtful exposition of the story structure of the typical Hollywood film. Though he wants to reach a broad audience, readers new to the subject may be put off by Romanowski's sometimes ponderous and often didactic prose, and they will not be helped to explore the subject further by his reliance on numerous unnamed "scholars" and "theorists" who are quoted without accompanying footnotes or bibliography. As the phrase "Christians who drink beer" illustrates, the book is also marred by its tendency to use the word "Christian" to refer to a particular subset of North American Christianity. The focus on big-grossing films and acts sometimes limits Romanowski's obviously fertile mind: a concluding appendix on the movie Titanic has something of the flavor of a college term paper. Still, this book will be an encouragement to evangelicals looking for an alternative to moralistic criticism of popular culture.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Library Journal

Romanowski (communications, Calvin Coll.; Pop Culture Wars) here helps the reader evaluate popular culture from a Christian perspective. He points out that all elements of pop culture reflect the beliefs and assumptions of current society and argues that it is important to consider the products of contemporary culture objectively and rationally, neither mindlessly rejecting nor na?vely accepting them. The book includes a thought-provoking examination of the Hollywood mythology that still permeates our culture and the cumulative effect of unrealistic approaches to complex problems of life. Nonetheless, pop culture can often provide a useful starting point for dialog. Romanowski feels that good popular art, effectively examined, is often more useful for Christian discussion than much self-consciously religious material. In support of his argument, he provides a good list of questions to apply to such analysis. A good book of its type; for public libraries. C. Robert Nixon, M.L.S., Lafayette, IN
Copyright 2001 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 272 pages
  • Publisher: Brazos Press; Rev Exp edition (February 1, 2007)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1587432013
  • ISBN-13: 978-1587432019
  • Product Dimensions: 6 x 0.6 x 9 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (17 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #422,308 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

More About the Author

Not to be confused with the former NFL linebacker, William "Bill" Romanowski is a nationally recognized scholar and award-winning commentator on the intersection of religion and popular culture. He earned his Ph.D. in American Culture Studies from Bowling Green State University and is currently Professor of Communication Arts and Sciences at Calvin College where he teaches courses in film and media studies.

Critics commended his book, Pop Culture Wars: Religion and the Role of Entertainment in American Life (1998) as "remarkably balanced" and "a stunning portrait of the interplay of religion and popular culture." His Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture (2001, 2007) won the ECPA Gold Medallion Award. A three-part DVD series based on Eyes Wide Open earned an Aegis Award and a Communicator Award of Distinction.

Dr. Romanowski is a recipient of the National Endowment for the Humanities Fellowship and Faculty Research Award. His latest book, Reforming Hollywood: How American Protestants Fought for Freedom at the Movies (2012), won the Religious Communication Association Book of the Year Award 2013 and received the President's Author Series Award, Indiana Wesleyan University. Bill is a member of the editorial board of Popular Music and Society, and author of various publications investigating the relation of American Christianity, popular art and culture.


Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
William Romanowski is Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences at Calvin College. He teaches courses on film, communication and cultural studies, and is a well respected authority on the interaction of Christianity and popular culture. He has written numerous articles and a handful of books on popular culture, with an emphasis on film. The thesis of Eyes Wide Open is that "Christians should help preserve the best features, improve the weakest parts, and eliminate the worst traits of popular art" (21).

Romanowski goes about defending his claim in a very engaging way. He speaks of modern day Christians who propose to shun all `evil' things such as movies, rock music and dancing, yet they are just as immersed in popular culture as the next person, only in the form of a ghettoized Christian subculture. The reality is that very few truly avoid popular culture, only prefer those elements of it which are, or appear to be sterile and safe. It is within this context that Romanowski argues for discernment. He believes strongly that this oversimplification has created Christians who have no idea how to discern good from bad, truth from error. The easiest way for evangelicals to make judgments is to simply count swear words, violent acts and sexual innuendos. Romanowski notes the Biblical mandate to cultivate: to create and tend to culture. Cultural forms, like anything else in creation, are corrupted by sin and in need of transformation, and we do a disservice to everyone when we make rigid divisions between sacred and secular. It is a sign of secularization that we would even think to label activities in God's world as secular.
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Format: Paperback
Christians are not that much different than non-Christians when it comes to consumption of popular culture. All but the most legalistic watch many of the same movies, listen to the same music, and watch the same TV shows as everyone else. Romanowski realizes this, and with this book (along with others he has written) he analyzes the culture from a Christian perspective and gives the Christian, who is in the world but (hopefully) not of it, valuable tools for being a cultural critic. I would have rated this book higher, but for me it doesn't break a lot of new ground, and the appendices concerning an analysis of the movie "Titanic" could have been better utilized on a movie with more depth and meaning (even though I do admit that, like everyone else, I cried at the end of the movie). On the other hand, you've got to love a book with a chapter entitled "Christians Who Drink Beer" (even though, personally, I don't). Others who haven't read widely in this field like I have would surely give it a higher rating, because it is a very competent, easy to read book on an important subject.
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Eyes Wide Open is an important read for Christians living the 21st Century. Romanowski dives deep into the heart of music, television, and movies. It is a constant struggle for Christians to remain separate from the world while still remaining in the world. There is a struggle to balance and maintain the sacred and secular in our personal lives. There is a never-ending pull to embrace the culture that surrounds us in order to be effective and relatable.
Christians need to recognize certain things before submersing oneself into pop culture.
The entertainment media is consumed with so much corruption and inappropriate material that it can easily make a believer stray. As Christians we have to discern what is worth partaking in. Are we being a light in this darkened world if we watch/listen to this? Are we being relatable or are we just enjoying this for the wrong reasons? People of faith need to be informed and ready to defend what they believe. It is so important to be well-rounded and knowledgeable about all different areas. The entertainment world may be the most important because it involves almost every person in society in some way. But ultimately as a Christ follower they need to be grounded and know when to draw the line.
Coming from a Christian prospective it is important to recognize the difference between popular art and entertainment because the idea of popular art was meant to be taken as an artists purpose behind work rather than its entertainment value. "Understanding the roles that contemporary popular art plays in our lives, culture, and society is central to the development of a critical approach." The arts were made to "help understand our lives and culture." So as a Christian it is important to recognize the difference before critiquing them under the same standard.
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The basic premise of EYES WIDE OPEN is that in the realm of culture, Christians have been too complacent for far too long. Romanowski begins the book with an introduction illustrating why Christians should become involved in culture, specifically pop culture. In the following chapters the author gives a detailed description of what culture is, the "difference" between high culture and low culture (as well as an explanation of why there really isn't a difference), what often is associated with being "faith" friendly in popular art nowadays, what makes up a Christian worldview, the typical Hollywood cultural landscape, the importance of Christian criticism, etc. Towards the end of the book the author makes some very general suggestions about how Christians can become involved in pop culture and the last section of the book (appendix two) is a review of the movie TITANIC from a Christian perspective.

The book raises many salient points that Christians should be aware off. Culture is a part of our lives and as believers in Christ, we are called to be involved in the world. For someone who has never seriously considered these issues, EYES WIDE OPEN might serve as a wake-up call. Also, even though the book is directed towards the lay person, the book is written in such a way it could confuse someone who has never had a beyond-high-school-education. I was able to follow the book's over-arching structure and pattern but there were several times I found myself thinking, "If I hadn't heard any of this before, this would be really confusing." The other criticism I have of the book is that the book is marketed as an "easy-to-read guide for interpreting and evaluating popular culture as a Christian." The author appears to be at least an amateur critic of film and movies.
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