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All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes (With a New Introduction / Redesign): Christians and Popular Culture Paperback – February 29, 2012
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In All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes Ken Myers looks at the entire phenomenon of popular culture--its roots, assumptions, practices, and effects. The result is a provocative book that shows how our thought, communication, and living have all been affected by popular culture's omnipresence. It should make us take a hard look at what we've accepted as harmless entertainment. --Ted Prescott, sculptor, past president of Christians in the Visual Arts
Ken Myers has made an excellent contribution here, dealing not only with the roots of popular culture in social history and philosophy but also with its ultimate impact on character. --Dick Keyes, L'Abri Fellowship
A magnificent and timely book. Fresh, witty, informative, trenchant, and eminently sane, Ken Myers's book is a must for thoughtful evangelicals. . . . I only hope there are enough of them left to read it. --Os Guinness --This text refers to the Audio CD edition.
“A magnificent and timely book. Fresh, witty, informative, trenchant, and eminently sane, Ken Myers's book is a must for thoughtful evangelicals... I only hope there are enough of them left to read it.”
—Os Guinness, cofounder, The Trinity Forum; author, The Call
“In All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes Ken Myers looks at the entire phenomenon of popular culture–its roots, assumptions, practices, and effects. The result is a provocative book that shows how our thought, communication, and living have all been affected by popular culture's omnipresence. It should make us take a hard look at what we've accepted as harmless entertainment.”
—Ted Prescott, Sculptor, former president of Christians in the Visual Arts
“Ken Myers has made an excellent contribution here, dealing not only with the roots of popular culture in social history and philosophy but also with its ultimate impact on character.”
—Dick Keyes, L'Abri Fellowship
“This book is a modern classic on discerning culture from a Christian perspective. Because of its interdisciplinary range, engaging style, and sophisticated analysis, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes is a needed antidote to worldliness, especially in its less detectable and socially acceptable forms. It makes a fine text for sociology, aesthetics, and evangelism courses at the college and graduate levels.”
—Doug Groothuis, Professor of Philosophy, Denver Seminary; author, Christian Apologetics
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“It might seem an extreme assertion at first, but I believe that the challenge of living with popular culture may well be as serious for modern Christians as persecution and plagues were for the saints of earlier centuries. Being thrown to the lions or living in the shadow of gruesome death are fairly straightforward if unattractive threats. Enemies that come loudly and visibly are usually much easier to fight than those that are undetectable. Physical affliction (even to the point of death) for the sake of Christ is a heavy cross, but at least it can be readily recognized at the time as a trial of faith. But the erosion of character, the spoiling of innocent pleasures, and the cheapening of life itself that often accompany modern popular culture can occur so subtly that we believe nothing has happened.” (xii=xiii)
Here's another quote, one that really gets to the heart of what Myers is after:
“Christian concern about popular culture should be as much about the sensibilities it encourages as about its content. This book focuses on those sensibilities.” (xiii)
In "All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes," Ken Myers has taken this literary insight and applied it not only to the arts but also to the technological, economic, social and religious forms of culture as well as to the media of communications. He further shows that the forms of culture or of the media may contradict, even overwhelm the verbal messages associated with them. Cultural forms as well as ideas have consequences for good or for evil. Using these insights and those of many other writers, Myers makes a powerful argument that our era's pervasive popular culture may be more challenging to living Christianly than were either the persecutions of the early centuries of the Church or the plagues of the medieval period.
Myers sees rock music's predominance in popular culture as a central problem. And not just the distracting omnipresence of the music but also the power of the rock myth of salvation through its novel yet primitive consciousness. For him, the greatest spiritual danger of rock seems to be its inclination towards pantheism. But he neglects the element of occult spirituality especially apparent in acid-influenced bands such as The Grateful Dead. (See Chapter 7 of the e-book edition of the following book, [...], for a discussion of this aspect of Deadhead spirituality).
As a result of his detailed cultural analysis and from his observations of the consequences of Christian efforts to use the mechanisms of popular culture to advance the gospel, Myers rejects such methods. For he sees the church's mission not to be merely to get individuals saved, but "to nurture and shape their members into disciples, who observe everything their Lord . . . has commanded." In his introduction to the new release of his book, Myers says he has learned "that the Church should properly understand itself as a people: not as a club or a clinic or a show or a service provider, but something more like a nation, a polis."
As valuable as this text is, however, the huge cultural changes that have continued since the book was written in 1989, especially the impact of the Internet, iPods, etc., call out for a much-needed update. In addition, the book's arguments are sometimes weakened by Myers' tendency to equate "culture" (versus "pop culture" which he generally pans) with only "classical," European and American music, painting and sculpture. Nonetheless, this remains essential reading for anyone interested in popular culture and its influence on thought and behavior in today's society.
With the need for updating and the less than expected acceptance of culture from other backgrounds, this very good text only earns 3 stars.
My favorite part of the book is chapter 4 "Popular Culture and the Restless Ones" wherein he expounds on the way in which we live in a "culture of diversion" which leaves us chasing one fresh new enterprise after the next. Sensuous and bored, we have found ways as a society to entertain and amuse ourselves in an society that has removed the need for a God.
In all, the work is scholarly yet easily adapted to the broader readership in the way in which it lays out what has failed in a secular-modernist worldview and what must be understood and practiced by the church if she is going to remain a light to truth in such a dark and unsettled culture.