Religion and Popular Culture in America

Bruce David Forbes, Editor, Jeffrey H. Mahan, Editor
Bruce David Forbes, Editor, Jeffrey H. Mahan, Editor University of California Press $21.95 (335p) ISBN 978-0-520-22028-7
Reviewed on: 01/31/2000
Release date: 02/01/2000
Hardcover - 335 pages - 978-0-520-21324-1
Paperback - 326 pages - 978-0-520-24689-8
Open Ebook - 341 pages - 978-1-306-96393-0
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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.)
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