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Religion and popular culture in America /

Other Authors: Forbes, Bruce David., Mahan, Jeffrey H.
Format: Book
Language: English
Published: Berkeley : University of California Press, 2005
Edition: Rev. ed.
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Review by Choice Review

Coeditors Forbes (Morningside College, Iowa) and Mahan (Iliff School of Theology, Colorado) have produced a splendid collection of lively essays by 14 scholars that deal with religion and popular culture on the contemporary American scene. They suggest three classifications of culture--high, folk, and popular--and delineate four different ways in which religion and popular culture relate to each other: religion in popular culture, popular culture in religion, popular culture as religion, and religion and popular culture in dialogue. Here there is a sparkling spectrum of lively themes that reveal "religion in unexpected places": "Star Trek Fandom as Cultural Religion," "The Church of Baseball, The Fetish of Coca Cola, and the Potlatch of Rock 'n' Roll," and "Losing Their Way to Salvation: Women, Weight Loss, and the Salvation Myth of Culture Lite." Even rap music gets its just deserts, with its own "nitty gritty hermeneutics," "funky stuff," and "gutbucket experiences." This is a funky fun book that makes for "lite" reading and is a welcome addition to a spate of new books on popular culture that include Kalle Lasn, Culture Jam: The Uncooling of America (1999) and Karen Armstrong, The Battle for God (2000). A solid selected bibliography and index. ; formerly, Colby College

Copyright American Library Association, used with permission.
Review by Publisher's Weekly Review

This is an uninspired and uninspiring hodgepodge of 14 unrelated essays of uneven quality. Forbes and Thompson, professors at Morningside College and Iliff School of Theology, respectively, offer four classifications for understanding the relationship between religion and popular culture: various essays examine explicitly religious themes in television and mass market novels, ways that popular culture affects traditional evangelical Christianity, how popular culture promulgates its own myths and traditions, and ways that religion and popular culture can inform each other. None of these classifications seems particularly helpful. There are a few interesting articles here, a number of which have been published before, on such subjects as Madonna, Cormac McCarthy, Star Trek fandom, weight loss books, the Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles and gangsta rap. But these are paired with essays on topics whose novelty has long worn out--on television as an "electronic golden calf," on sports as a form of religion and on the megachurch as a spiritual marketplace. This is a case in which the sum of the parts is greater than the whole. There are flashes of insight scattered throughout the volume, but overall the project is woefully undertheorized (indeed, setting up religion and popular culture as opposing categories in the first place seems unsophisticated). In the end, the editors offer no conclusions on religion or popular culture--and no clear direction for thinking about either subject. (Feb.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

(c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved