Tuesday, May 06, 2008

The Contraditions of Christian Culture

It's not often you read an essay that goes right to the core of what you've been thinking for the last fifteen years but just couldn't put your finger on it. Hanna Rosin over at Slate.com has done just that with her contemplative article on the marketing of Christian culture in America.

Her article is based around Daniel Radosh's book called Rapture Ready: Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture. If the title sounds whimsical, it's supposed to.

Rosin writes:

Reading Radosh's book is like coming across another planet hidden somewhere on Earth where everything is just exactly like it is here except blue or made out of plastic. Every American pop phenomenon has its Christian equivalent, no matter how improbable. And Radosh seems to have experienced them all.

Rosin mentions another section of the book where the author attends a Christian retail show where there are "rip-off trinkets of every kind"-- from My Little Ponies, to mood rings, to catchy Christian t-shirts subverting Madison Avenue taglines. Christianity has it all--from Christian rap, to Christian comedians, to sex-advice sites. The only problem is the core of all of those areas has been bored out, and replaced by a cheesy imitation. Christian rap, of course, has none of the inner city angst that makes actual rap so passionate. Christian comedians are just not funny. And Christian sex-advice sites are at best a joke and at worst unhealthy and dangerous. This brings up a huge flaw with American Christianity--the secular version is far more sincere and passionate and effective.

As one who was stepped in this culture for many years, I found Rosin's article to be both succinct and accurate in its portrayal. I always had a nagging sense of disappointment as I watched something that was supposed to be divine and eternal inflated and manipulated like a clown's balloon animal. It reminded me of the time a recruiter from a Christian college came to my youth group. His "promotion" of higher education involved sticking a rubber glove on his head and acting like a chicken. The point was--Christian college is fun, it's cool, it's safe!

This was the tip of the iceberg as I descended into a sort of fabricated hell where kids wore shirts, listened to music, read books, watched movies, that all were a sort of a sedated and Christianized version of American pop culture. There was something disingenuous and inauthentic to it all. Why should I have been surprised when these kids were also living disingenuous and inauthentic Christian lives. They were no better equipped and thus no different than kids who did not participate in this masquerade. All too often these kids got pregnant by teen-aged boyfriends who were too ignorant to even consider using protection. Their whole lives had been set up to be shallow, and irresponsible.

The title of Radosh's book is intentionally whimsical. The divine has been created after pop culture's image, rather than the other way around. This is entertaining to many. But it's also dangerous. It leads to a type of shadow existence that has no basis in reality. As Rosin says Christian pop culture creates an "eternal oxymoron."

No comments: