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All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes: Christians and Popular Culture (Turning Point Christian Worldview) Paperback – October 1, 1989
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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
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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
"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
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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."
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.