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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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Top Customer Reviews
This book is so needed today. So much of pop evangelicalism and even the mainline churches have unwisely and unthinkingly schmaltzed the Church's glorious message into a dumbed-down, styrofoam, homogenized pop culture framework and are submerging the Church's heritage into it. (See Marva Dawn's book "Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down"). I refuse to listen to my local Christian radio station because they've pretty much pancaked their format to just watered-down pop Christian music, pretty much devoid of hymnody or anything with any history to it. What if the World War II generation had demanded that the Church's glorious history and hymnody be replaced by Lawrence Welk-style tunes? That's exactly what's happening today.
Read Myers' book to find out the values of popular culture and how they compare to high and folk cultures. This book will provide you with much great background, and, most importantly, helps you to think Christianly. It's creative, intelligent and a very enjoyable read.
This book is a serious and stern critique of popular culture and it's main medium: television. Although some reviewers of this book have considered it a little highbrow, if not extreme, to be useful, I would wholeheartedly disagree. If you feel that way by the end of chapter two simply read it like you would Kierkegaard- "don't be put off by the hyperbole or generalizations, he's making an important point so don't miss it."
Meyers main thrust in the book is that post 60's there is a firmly established thing called popular culture mediated to us in images and that this cultural medium is making us dumber. He argues popular culture, in distinction to folk culture and high culture, does not do what the great artists of the past did, and that this is often true because it is the product of jaded marketers instead of real artists. The artists of high and folk culture tended to draw us into human universals. They stretched us, and experiencing their art was a human exercise of the mind and affections. We had to work at it to understand and we experienced either a clarification, a deepening appreciation, or a revelation of something we somehow didn't know but knew we should have known. The artist helped us become more human by drawing us into a more developed experience with a human universal.
Contrary to this, popular art does not do this with nearly the same frequency or depth. It is immediate, easy (not an exercise of growth), it markets to us what we already know, and deals mostly with trivialities- or treats serious subjects trivially, and communicats a form of knowledge that is immediate rather than reflective, physical rather than mental, and emotional rather than volitional. Meyers argues this is true in the degeneration of high cultural art forms, but even more so in the transition form what Neil Postman called "print-based epistemology" and "television-based epistemology", or what Jacques Ellul has called "the humiliation of the word". Because television holds to the main medium of images, it does not communicate linearly or logically. As Meyers says, "images cannot make an argument", they are at the mercy of the response of the viewer, and whatever the viewer transfers onto the images.
Throughout the volume Meyers brings us to the right discussions. How the medium effects the message, the nature of post-industrialism boredom, the contrast of Montaigne's and Pascal's theories of leisure and diversion and their effects on culture, the concrete differences between high, folk and popular culture, the effects of the 60's on the transition to image based cultural discourse, the liberating and isolating effects of "Liberalism", tension of Romanticism celebration of the primitive and Rationalism's triumphalist machine of secular scientific progress effected the development of rock music, and on and on and on.
Negatively, There are many places I wish Meyers had argued as if we were not agreeing with him as he asserts things. Truly, his authoritative sources are very good ones who say what they say compellingly, but there were a bunch of places I wanted more explanation of why something is the case. I wanted more reasons and more development.
Concerning recommendation, this book is no doubt written with an evangelical Christian readership in mind. Yet, Meyers is no homeowner in the Evangelical intellectual ghetto. This book could be read much more widely with profit, and I would recommend it to a non-Christian reader without hesitation, not because it is evangelistic; but because Meyers is a Christian who can think and clearly has. And I think one of the greatest weaknesses of the libertarian and liberal intellectual projects today is a misunderstanding of the teleology of culture and the inability of the free market or the secular liberal to make a culture good. Meyers offers a meditation that is inclusive and should not be alienating to the non-Christian reader, though it is distinctively Christian. Most can take away something important from this book.
In short I recommend this book highly because Ken Meyers has actually though more than ten minutes about orthodox Christianity and how scriptural religion affects our understanding of culture. So many American Christians are in his words "of the world but not in the world" (the tongue in cheek opposite of the biblical injunction to be "in the world but not of the world"). Meyers simultaneously calls Christians out of the evangelical ghetto where we copy everything we liked in the "secular world" and make it, to use Derek Webb's category, "explicit" (meaning we dumped explicitly Christian lyrics into rock riffs we like, etc) and yet he also does not call us to drink deeply from whatever popular culture offers us (For example one might see that a Christian might want to avoid most of the summer block busters that feature mostly flesh and fighting, but yet see universal human art in films like Fight Club or Unbreakable or The Village).
In short, it may be true that we (contemporary Americans) are being controlled by those who seek to inflict pleasure on us, and that it is what we love that will ruin us. (in case that sounds like fundamentalist ramblings, that is almost a direct quote from Aldous Huxley as quoted by Neil Postman)
This is a refreshing book, with a great bibliography and a refreshing reach outside the common Evangelical sources.
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.
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