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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flipping the Script
(Note: This review not only attempts to review the book, but also engage some previous reviews.)
What Detweiler and Taylor have done here is what Detweiler calls "reversing the hermeneutical flow" (a.k.a. "flip the script", to quote "8 Mile"). In other words, rather than taking the Bible and looking at (a.k.a. criticizing) Pop Culture...
Published on March 19, 2004 by Sterling Koch

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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative Guide to Popular Culture from a Christian Perspective
Detweiler and Taylor has written a resourceful book. It is informative on the development and social effects of popular culture. While sensitive to some contemporary critique of the role of media in late capitalism, these authors focus more on exploring the content of poplar culture and the spirituality it conveys. In doing so, the authors recognize the effects of...
Published on May 9, 2008 by Amazon Customer


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22 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Flipping the Script, March 19, 2004
This review is from: A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture) (Paperback)
(Note: This review not only attempts to review the book, but also engage some previous reviews.)
What Detweiler and Taylor have done here is what Detweiler calls "reversing the hermeneutical flow" (a.k.a. "flip the script", to quote "8 Mile"). In other words, rather than taking the Bible and looking at (a.k.a. criticizing) Pop Culture through what we think the Bible says, they take a thorough look at pop culture and use than as a method of viewing - or at least presenting - the God of the Bible. For any who have a hard time with that, read on.
As one reviewer has already stated, from the outset this book states that it's primarily for people that already like Pop Culture and have wondered how to reconcile that with their Christian worldview. Furthermore, the authors ask tough questions of the Church. If the majority of the world connects with Pop Culture way better than they do with the Church, then why is that and what are we to do about it? Sorry, but the "they're fallen beings" excuse isn't gonna cut it anymore. Detweiler and Taylor take us beyond the "seeker-sensitive" approach and genuinely challenge the Church to engage Pop Culture in a respectful, dynamic way. Even in the profane, God is talking and it's time we recognized holy ground when we saw it. It's a different and (I think) more accurate version of things than we typically hear from the evangelical pulpit. God is talking through culture with or without the Church's approval!
For those who have "reservations" about whether Christians should be as comfortable with culture as the book suggests, I offer this thought. The Bible was not written in a cultural vacuum, nor was Jesus born into one. Inspired? Sure. Absolutely devoid of any cultural influence? I think not. Read John 1 to those who haven't grown up in the church (or even those who have) and most would have a blank expression on their face because it was written to appeal to those influenced by the contemporary hot worldview: Stoicism. Parables were the movies of the day. There are four different Gospels in order to present Jesus slightly diffently to four different cultures. Paul understood culture enough to address it in Athens at the tribute to the "unknown god" (note that he didn't try to disprove their other gods before making the connection for them). These guys presented God (and, I would argue, understood God) through the lens of their culture. Why are we so affronted by others suggesting we do the same?
"There's nothing new under the sun", and God is still looking for those who will help meet Pop Culture where it's at and make those connections. This book does it in a whole different sort of way. Rather than giving easy examples ("this movie means this") that you can use in your next Bible study, they attempt to form a worldview that takes in all of culture and finds where God is working ("teach a man to fish", etc). Bottom line: most of us still need to have our "scipt flipped". For me, this book, and the thought behind it, was the best place to do that.
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19 of 23 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Looking at God through the lens of pop culture, November 25, 2003
This review is from: A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture) (Paperback)
In a time when individualism can slide into solipsism and alienation, and community can slip into the masses, we need books like this to keep us mindful of the real value of "mass" media for each one of us as God's children.

Overall, I'm impressed with the penetrating and embracing analysis of pop culture as the expression of the deepest yearnings of the human heart. I'm used to and sick of Christian's rejection of pop culture and read each chapter with huge sighs of relief. The encyclopedic overview, the scores of references and quotes from books, magazines, websites, and the great minds of the past are an embarrassment of riches. I am also impressed with the balance and fair-mindedness given to the full spectrum of faith expressions, from the conservative to the radical. And also that the authors take on areas that are rarely dealt with in these kinds of books, like fashion or sports or celebs.

Coincidentally, I just read Kreitzer's books, referenced in the intro, on reversing the hermeneutical flow with film, fiction and the two testaments, and I'm also a big fan of Johnston and his work on Reel Spirituality. I also have been reading up on Bresson and was led by it to Tarkovsky's brilliant work, Sculpting in Time. Glad to see that work and director getting his due in this book.

And I would never have thought the chapter on sports would touch me the way it did. I had a dismally bad experience with sports as a kid -- and then moved to Dallas of all places, where I felt like I was in a sports prison and every other sermon had a team sports analogy to God. I'm glad to see that extreme sports are on the rise (I'm going to copy the Dilbert cartoon for a teenager in our apartment complex who has been restricted by our new Draconian managers from skateboarding in the driveway) and I'm glad to see that team sports are on the demise. Nothing against team sports, but I side with the millions of disgusted fans and, with that bad experience in my past, take a "sick" pleasure in seeing them tank.

One personal negative: although this is a book, the authors do not consider books as an area of investigation, although thanks to Oprah and Amazon, reading is back. And although they bring the 'net in on the chapter about TV, I think it got short shrift in comparison to its importance to the children of the (technological) revolution. But perhaps they will put up a website that deals with the internet more fully. They will surely find their best audience online.
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12 of 16 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Read the preface and introduction, February 12, 2004
This review is from: A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture) (Paperback)
Some in haste to dismiss this book might fail to recognize the starting point the authors readily admit they are coming from.
"We acknowledge that the entertainment industry generates plenty of products worth criticizing...we believe that the "sins" of pop culture have received ample coverage in previous books. Our book will concentrate on what's right with pop culture." (pg. 9)
"We congratulate those who have sought to frame cultural engagements as a test of personal purity...For those hoping to find clear prescriptions for what Christians should or shouldn't watch and listen to, this is not your book. Instead, we write for students who have decided to live out their faith with feet planted firmly in the world." (pg. 9)
With a proper understanding of the context the authors are coming from, this is a quietly engaging book with deep insight into the many mundane and profane works of God.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Matrix of Meaning, August 12, 2006
This review is from: A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture) (Paperback)
This is one of my favorite books. Fuller Seminary Professors Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor (who both also happen to be involved in the Hollywood world) approach popular cultural with anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and theology to discover the questions of culture, what God is doing in the world today and how Christians can join Him in this work. They inspect advertising, celebrities, music, movies, television, fashion, sports, and art from the perspective of being both artist and pastor. Detweiler and Taylor see a Jesus who walked the streets, of whose ministry we read more of his interaction with marketplace people than synagogue teachings, who was accused of spending his time with "sinners," with the rejects of the church, a Jesus that lived in a specific culture at a specific time, a characteristic sometimes forgotten in our almost docetic approach to Christianity. In the introduction, the authors write, "We embrace pop culture because we believe it offers a refreshing, alternative route to a Jesus who for many has been domesticated, declawed, and kept under wraps" (p. 9). The book introduces a new aspect to hermeneutic and suggest ways to open the church doors to "that bright, passionate audience of young people whom advertisers covet and the church is in danger of losing" (p. 8). Some of their ideas may feel dangerous to the shepherds of the flock and the guardians of truth that want to protect their people from the threatening ideas and philosophies of the world, but they dive in to play with the dolphins and the whales and the coral. More than deconstructing the modern method, they seek to reconfigure and recontextualize. They remythologize the gospels, not in order to create a story devoid of truth, but in order to recapture and embodied heroism and life that invites us to find our community in God's metanarrative of creation, fall, and recreation.

I found this book a refreshing challenge to engage with culture, rather than standing outside of culture waving our parental fingers with a "tsk, tsk." While not losing the integrity of their Christian heritage, Detweiler and Taylor walk the streets to dialogue, to learn, and to share wisdom, to find God in pop culture.

I have put this book on my must-read list and have become a self-designated publicist. My only regret is not being able to give this over 5 stars.
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3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Informative Guide to Popular Culture from a Christian Perspective, May 9, 2008
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This review is from: A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture) (Paperback)
Detweiler and Taylor has written a resourceful book. It is informative on the development and social effects of popular culture. While sensitive to some contemporary critique of the role of media in late capitalism, these authors focus more on exploring the content of poplar culture and the spirituality it conveys. In doing so, the authors recognize the effects of consumerism, individualism, etc., and reflects on the need, for instance, of communal integration and a healthy theology of sexuality.

This book is helpful in bringing different strands of popular into a historical context. Such things as reviewing the invention of the sewing machine to the beginning of department stores, for instance, or the formation of punk culture, I found informative and interesting.

The overall approach is sympathetic to contemporary evangelical Christianity, valuing culture from a missional and dialogical standpoint, and its use of social-critical resources (especially from a Marxist tradition) is very limited. The authors affirm the importance of engaging popular culture as a conscious effort to understand and appreciate it. They affirm the notion of common grace, affirming that God present in popular and that Christians can learn through it. In engaging popluar culture, the authors attempt to make space for alternative visions of how to rethink and re-organize alternative theologies and ideas.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Great Resource for Understanding Post-Modern Pop Culture and Christianity, June 30, 2007
By 
J. Tennant (Springfield, MO) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
This review is from: A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture) (Paperback)
"A Matrix of Meanings," although somewhat outdated, did a fair job at breaking down the common aspects of pop culture and analyzing them a post-modern secular and Christian world view.

The book, although skips over some areas that I personally would have liked to discuss, clearly describes what "post-modern" means and how this current mindset is reflected in movies, art, music, fashion, etc.

Overall, it challenges the Evangelical Christian to rethink methods and opinions about "the world" and how to go forward with Christ without devaluing culture and things that may not be "Christian." It also does a great job at promoting the mindset that everyone in culture is seeking answers and doing so through many media and pop culture outlets, and not necessarily through the institution of church as before.

If you would like to know more about post-modern thinking and recent trends in pop culture media, read this book!
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52 of 87 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars The discernment gap, January 17, 2004
This review is from: A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture) (Paperback)
The authors have assembled am impressive compendium of popular culture. Since I assiduously avoid direct contact with most of it (particularly movies and television), I learned a considerable amount about the rampant diseases that surround us. Hence, I award two stars instead of one.
However, the reader is left without any discernible theology of popular culture based on a biblical worldview. While the authors are associated with conservative Protestant schools, their approach is that of the archetypical theological liberal: Let's see what's happening in popular culture and make that the model for theologizing and encountering culture. Or, "The world sets the agenda for the church." They want to contruct a theology "out of popular culture" and refuse to theologize about popular culture from a biblical vantage point. The result is (1) an avoidance of the widespread moral and intellectual debachery that pervades popular culture and (2) a grasping at straws to find anything remotely like a biblical theme within it. For example, they attempt to draw out a profound idea from the scatological perverse and adolescent Austin Powers film. The result is embarrassing if not sacrilegious.
There is no sense of critique or antithesis regarding the wanton and gratituous violence of much of cinema, the schatological hate-mongering of much of rap (the infamous Eminem is mentioned, but never criticized), the pure vapidity of contemporary celebrity (they, in fact, try to redeem the idea--vapidly), and so on. The only outrage they can seem to muster is over the greed that has engulfed modern team sports. (Such greed expressed by musical and film celebrities is not mentioned.) Exteme sports, however, generates a smile from them--despite the fact that it often symbolizes narcissism on steroids with no concern for one's safety (or even that of innocent bystanders). One searches the book in vain to find any discussion of the concept of worldiness (see Romans 12:1-2; 1 John 2:15-17).
These supposedly Protestant authors repeatedly bash Reformed thought and practice for its iconoclasm and emphasis on written communication--the Word. The authors embrace an avowedly Roman Catholic sensibility of the image as sacramental (even outside the church) with no worries about sanctioning idolatry or about the inherent conceptual limits of images to convey truth. For a wiser response, read Arthur Hunt's, "The Vanishing Word" (Crossway, 2003). Tellingly, the authors bring up the most imporant book ever written on televison--Neil Postman's "Amusing Ourselves to Death (1985)"--only to dismiss it without an argument. The attitude is this: "Well, we cannot stop it, so let's learn to adjust to it." Never! One should refuse this counsel of despair--and read Postman (d. 2003) if you have not already.
All in all, I was repeatedly outraged by "A Matrix of Meanings" for the reasons cited above--and many, many more. My wife begged me to stop reading it, since I was sounding off about it constantly for days. Adding to the discomfort was a glib, ever-so-hip style adopted by the authors. Popular culture has indeed left its mark here.
Douglas Groothuis
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10 of 19 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Not just looking, but FINDING God in Pop Culture, March 31, 2004
By 
Nick (Pasadena, CA United States) - See all my reviews
This review is from: A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture) (Paperback)
Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor have bettered and deepened their theology, their knowledge of the Creator of life, and have shared insights from their discovery in their recent book, A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture. Their methodology is rather simple; they immersed themselves in pop culture and allowed it to inform and transform their theology. Having done so, they are pretty adamant that this is the only way to ascertain theological significance in pop culture. Viewing pop culture from the inside out enables one to find patterns of meaning within, a matrix, which further allows one to comprehend the theological contribution of a pop cultural event. Bernard Lonergan, a Catholic theologian who is quoted in the first chapter of A Matrix of Meanings, believes a shift from the modern empirical approach to theology to a postmodern approach "requires that theology be conceived, not as a permanent achievement, but as an ongoing process of mediation between...a cultural matrix of meanings and values and a religion within that matrix." Detweiler and Taylor stress "only after careful inspection and reflection do we dare to locate values and religion within that matrix" (31).
The postmodern shift happening in contemporary culture is addressed at the beginning of this text. In postmodernity, the ancient serves as the foundation for the present. And due to globalization, borders are blurred, which creates a global village that enables the everyday individual to have access to new ideas, interaction with new perspectives, and expansion into new values. As such, a consciousness of pluralisms is expressed in society, in everyday relationships, and, more specific to the aims of A Matrix of Meanings, in theologizing.
Consequently, recognizing the importance of engaging pop culture on its own terms in an ongoing relationship, Detweiler and Taylor have responded by creating a rather ingenious matrix to aid in making and discovering meaning and theological significance. Included are various artistic forms (TV, movies, music, fashion, art, and sports), a study of the marketplace (driven by consumerism, fueled by advertising, attained by celebrity), and ten trends that invite serious, theological reflection, which sum up postmodernity as being post-national, post-rational, post-literal, post-scientific/technological, post-sexual, post-racial, post-human, post-traumatic/therapeutic, post-ethical/institutional, post-Christian. Basically, assumptions and understandings across many fronts need to be shifted in light of the current cultural climate.

I am completely open to each of the post categories because I have been undergoing a major life-shift for several years now, redefining and rediscovering faith and its lived reality in my life. Bastions of society are still gripping tightly to conservative, fundamentalist values and approaches to life, theology, and the discovery of meaningfulness. Most notable to me are the many who buy into the nationalist fervor of President Bush, who views America as the savior of the rest of the supposed uncivilized, non-democratic world. That behavior is deeply misguided and dehumanizing, arrogant and destructive, to say the least. We are living in a post-national world! Wake up, Mr. President. Global boundaries are increasingly indistinct, and it is more important to recognize people for their humanity, celebrating their culture and differences, seeking similarities as points of connection. Another trend I easily agree with is the post-sexual shift; no longer is sex defined as being between a man and a woman, not even just as two people physically together (cyber sex). Sexuality is increasingly being explored, spiritualized, done, overdone, explicitly shown in films, not even included, and so on. So much contradiction is apparent, for example, teens saying they are not interested in sex and yet dressing skimpily. In this post-sexual world, much room is made for exploration and redefining, and the new trend/rebellion could very well be abstinence. Suffice to say new thoughts and attitudes towards sex are developing. I most identify with the post-Christian trend. I nearly despise anything labeled "Christian" because of the connections attributed to that label, not to mention it being merely an economic label to sell more unnecessary "Christian" products. And for me the typical Christian rituals have lost their meaningfulness because they are disconnected from the rest of pop culture, which is deeply meaningful to me. Yet, I am still not swayed from my fervor for knowing Jesus. Pop culture rather greatly fuels my desire as I continue to see glimpses of Jesus within films and music mostly. (...)
Great book! Excellent matrix! Sound guidance for engaging pop culture, increasing one's awareness and relationships, and doing serious theologizing!
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A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture)
A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture) by Craig Detweiler (Paperback - November 1, 2003)
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