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Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture Paperback – Poster Calendar, February 1, 2007
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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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Top Customer Reviews
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.
The popular arts aid us in cultural communication (reflecting cultural ideals), social criticism (challenging or dealing with culturally contentious issues), social unity (when we've all seen the same movie) and collective memory (the way we view history is shaped by pop culture). This is what pop culture should be doing, but Romanowski notes that the primary venue for popular film in western culture is the melodrama, a dramatic genre with oversimplified depictions of good and evil, with prepackaged endings that end in "domestic bliss or harmonious community" (111). These melodramatic categories absolutely dominate the "Christian, family-friendly" genre and Romanowski wants to challenge this. The Biblical narrative conveys no such clear cut pattern, and he argues that this emphasis on sentimentalism indicates assimilation to, rather than a break from mainstream popular culture.
Christians who want to engage popular culture need to keep these things in mind. We are called to discern beyond whether something is "family-friendly" or not. The presence of violence and swearing and even sex is not always anti-Christian, but can very well be a catalyst for a story of redemption. And what we see as a story of redemption is often brazen individualism where someone pulls themselves up by the bootstraps and defeats the odds. This tells more about the autonomous human than redemption that can only come from God.
So beyond a "Jesus' per minute" scale and an "f-bomb count," Christians are called and even mandated to discern truth from error in popular culture. We are not to become mere consumers, but people who take seriously the message presented in a piece of popular art. He offers a helpful "matrix" for analyzing popular culture which lists questions to ask, but I feel that so many Christians are so far out of this discussion that more direction is needed. Romanowski presents a full analysis of Titanic through this matrix, also helpful, but I wish he gave further direction on how we can practice this act of discernment as Christians. We are conditioned to think that the acceptable Christian films are G, PG, and occasionally PG-13 (The Passion of the Christ excluded, of course), and we need time to learn to see God's beauty in culture again. In light of these facts, I would recommend this book to individuals and even church small groups. I hope it will help us all keep our eyes open a little wider.
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. Knowing this before analyzing the two is a more fair way to go about ones approach.
This book is important for any Christian living in today's society to gain prospective and insight on how to be well informed and prepared for any apologetics discussion.
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