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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 MP3 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)
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.
Kenneth Myers has some serious concerns with popular culture and what it is doing to our society. More specifically, he has problems with evangelical pop culture and what it is doing to the hearts, minds and spirits of evangelical Christians. Myers issue is not so much with the content of pop culture, but with the form itself. He insists that even the "Christianized" forms of pop culture emphasize the immediate and shallow over the transcendent and deep. It promotes numb mindlessness over deep reflection.
This book is a call for Christians and the Church to stop imitating pop culture with our own versions of celebrity, television, music and magazines (just visit any Christian bookstore to get a sense of the magnitude of Christian pop culture knock off), but to provide a true alternative, as a living example of alternative methods and content.
Myers distinguishes between Folk culture, High culture and Pop culture. He traces the history of Pop culture, a relatively new phenomenon. Basically it is a result of the lowest common denominator. It is a leveling out and smoothing over of high and folk culture to appeal to a mass audience in a global and industrial society. It is designed and marketed not to encourage reflection, but to maintain the status quo.
High culture is designed to elevate the thoughts and emotions and to encourage reflection on the transcendent. It takes an engaged mind and work to understand and appreciate. It doesn't leave a person the same. Folk culture is a product of a place and a community, the product of a worldview. It is a shared tradition and contains shared values. Folk culture holds one accountable to shared community values while pop culture is all about the individual. I think anyone who has listened to much modern worship music will recognize this effect working it's way into Christian culture.
Myers points to Philippians 4:8, "Whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable - if anything is excellent or praiseworthy - think about such things." For Myers these are definitely exhibited easier and better in folk and high culture and rarely if ever in pop culture.
One of the key issues that Meyer is seeking to address is the wholesale embrace of the methodology of pop culture by the church under the banner of contextualization. He points out that the church has long been the bastion of High culture, elevating minds and hearts and focusing people's attention to the transcendent, and folk culture, instilling communal values and cultural heritage. Now, however, the church is often simply imitating the worst of pop culture and mixing in a little Jesus. A major result of this is that the church has adopted the marketing stance of pop culture, luring people with cool music and advertising rather than the Gospel. Myers believes that this is a direct result of evangelical Christianity's wholesale embrace of popular culture's methodology.
I don't always agree with Myers. I'm not sure that rock music, movies, etc. cannot become high or at least folk culture. I'm thinking here of some great and transcendent films or music with excellent lyrics. Basically I'm saying things aren't always as cut and dried as Myers makes them and he obviously never cared much for rock or television or film to begin with.
I do agree with most of what he says because his point is basically this: Christians need to stop selling out to trite and cheap imitations of a trite and cheap world. We need to think about the means as well as the end. We need to think about what our methodology conveys. Instead of asking what people want and giving it to them (pop culture) we need to ask what they need and help them come to understand their need for it and we need to remind them of their great cultural heritage (high and folk culture).
While you may not agree with everything here, I would strongly recommend this book.