cover image Don’t Stop Believin’: Pop Culture and Religion from Ben-Hur to Zombies

Don’t Stop Believin’: Pop Culture and Religion from Ben-Hur to Zombies

Edited by Robert K. Johnston, Craig Detweiler, and Barry Taylor. Westminster John Knox, $20 trade paper (176p) ISBN 978-0-664-23505-5

This edited collection seeks to answer why certain pop cultural icons, from Godzilla to Mickey Mantle, “stir up something in our spirit,” and how they might “sharpen our understanding and appreciation of Scripture.” Organized by decade starting with the 1950s, the brief entries meditate on a wide range of figures with results of varying quality. Essays on Philip Pullman, Miles Davis, and the Left Behind series produce illuminating accounts of how the religious is mediated through culture. Comparing Miles Davis to Jesus, Detweiler argues that when religious authorities tried to pin Jesus down, he responded with a creative riff…, when his popularity grew, he often turned his back on the crowds. Other analyses stretch for theological import (Neil Diamond incarnates people’s hopes) or resort to bland platitudes (Facebook raises “interesting questions about the nature of intimacy and relationships”). Fascinating figures like Billy Graham and Johnny Cash are granted fairly straightforward biographical narratives. In attempting to answer whether our attention to Michael Jordan and Madonna come at the expense of timeless truths, editor Johnston, a professor of theology and culture at Fuller Theological Seminary, concludes that they are vehicles for God’s Spirit and presence in the world. (Oct.)