Hi everybody and welcome to another episode of the Sectarian Review Podcast. Today, we’re going quite a bit out of my depth and looking at a recent controversy that Taylor Swift found herself in. I’ve of course heard the name Taylor Swift before, but it’s a genre that has escaped me almost completely. But there is something underneath the situation we’ll be discussing today that really appeals to me and I think it’s perfect for the show because it will, I think, allow us to think about the intersection of political activism, celebrity, and commerce. So this is why I was delighted that Victoria Farmer of the Christian Feminist Podcast suggested we take an episode to explore this really weird moment in pop music.
Regular listeners will know by now that we tend to cover topics here that bounce around Religion, Politics, Pop Culture, Foreign Films, and many things in between. Today our topic is going to focus on a particularly unique institution that crosses a lot of those boundaries: Christian College. I’ve personally spent some time as a student and a professor in this world and I have...thoughts. First, I think that we’re going to have to wrestle with terms here a lot. What do we mean exactly when we say “Christian” for instance? That may sound simple, but it’s wildly complicated. Second, my own opinion is that the Platonic ideal of Christian College is probably without question the best form of education for me and my taste. The practice of creating these institutions, however, often results in troubling consequences.
Let me be clear here. Many people have been hurt by Christian Colleges, just as many people have been hurt by Christian institutions of other kinds. I am absolutely one of those people (I may or may not get into this during the show). Yet, there is something so wonderful about, to use an old warhorse slogan, “integrating faith and learning.”
Today I want to talk about the mass of contradictions that is the Christian College.
Joining me today are Michial Farmer and Michael Gruber (introduce selves).
A discussion about how these issues play out at any school that would even try to align themselves conservatively (and I mean in lifestyle, not the voting booth) would be adding something. For instance how does this play out at say Zaytuna College? Or among any of our Muslim brothers and sisters institutions of higher ed? Do we want to pretend they aren't marking out the same shrinking territory?
I think to smear these schools for an effort that inarguably crosses swords with the entire current of education is a really easy caricature. I mean what do we say "How dare they!?". How dare they what? Enjoy the pluralism that's been championed by those of higher learning?
(Danny) 1. The dangers of demanding “consensus” or “adherence” 2. Just as Christian Colleges scold secular ed for prohibiting diversity, this is what they do themselves under the banner and protection of “Biblical Values”
Danny Anderson returns from hiatus with an episode about why superheroes and horror just don't mix very well. Joining the show today is Dr. Sam Cowling who will discuss some of the philosophical foundations of horror and why they seem to be incompatible with superhero comics. Up for discussion today is Batman, Swamp Thing, Blade, Underworld, and so very much more. Also, there is a bonus discussion about the current boom in horror that is taken seriously by mainstream critics.
That discussion is available to Patreon subscribers, who help make so much happen here. Head over to https://www.patreon.com/sectarianreview for more info on how you can get more content from the show.
In this episode, Danny is joined by Dr. Angelo Letizia to discuss the usefulness of Batman's mythology for teaching civics in American classrooms. Letizia advocates for creative approaches to teaching civics and one of his assignments is having students adapt an image from Batman's oeuvre to a current political event or controversy. At stake in Letizia's approach is an ideological question of whether civic education should be a) about making responsible citizens, b) empowering citizens to participate, or c) created justice-oriented citizens. Comics, for Letizia, becomes a great medium to tap into this justice-centered goal, and Batman provides plenty of fertile soil for the political imagination.
Angelo Letizia on Twitter (Academic Comics)
Unmaking the Public University: The Forty-Year Assault on the Middle Class, Christopher Newfield
"Cultural Acupuncture:" Fan Activism and the Harry Potter Alliance, Henry Jenkins
Popular Culture is obsessed with apocalypse. Avengers: Endgame is the most recent pop drama that explores variations on eschatology, but it is by no means unique in doing so. Joining the show today to discuss this theological concern in pop culture is Joshua Wise, scholar, writer, and podcaster who has two books coming out that explore this very subject: No Avatars Allowed, and Eschatology and Pop Culture. Danny and Josh discuss such topics as Mad Max, the Fallout video game, Zombie Films, Kingdom Come, and much more.
No Avatars Allowed pre-order page
No Avatars Allowed podcast
Theology and Pop Culture Series (Eschatology and Pop Culture forthcoming)
All Ports Open Network
Joshua Wise on Twitter
Based on box office figures, everyone has seen Endgame by now. As required by law, every podcast must have an episode about it. Here is the Sectarian Review take. Our in-house pop culture theologians join the show to discuss the finale to the Infinity Saga. Nathan Gilmour of the Christian Humanist Podcast and Matthew Brake of Pop Culture and Theology help Danny discuss: how the the film completes its character arcs; theological analyses of the film's employment of sacrifice; and how the film's treatment of time travel poses potential ethical quandaries going forward. All this and much much more.
In this very special episode, Danny Anderson interviews John Warner (of Inside Higher Ed's "Just Visiting" blog) about his important new books Why They Can't Write and The Writer's Practice. Why They Can't Write dissects the underlying causes of why so much writing instruction fails in the American system and it provides tested, practical solutions for doing better. The book is more than a how-to-teach guide, however. It diagnoses several important structural problems in American education, including standardized testing, the allure of educational fads, the abuses of technology-driven solutions, and cruel working conditions for teachers. Warner discusses this and a lot more in this interview, which anyone interested in education will want to listen to.
Why They Can't Write
The Writer's Practice
John Warner's work on Inside Higher Ed
As it prepares to enter its fourth season, here's a look at the hilarious and profound NBC comedy, The Good Place. The show, created by Michael Schur, follows four hapless souls who try to navigate the afterlife. Along the way, there are a lot of in depth philosophy classes, debating the merits of utilitarianism among many other things. And the show also explores the question of redemption as flawed characters learn to be better people, and even an demon (played brilliantly by Ted Danson) finds redemption in seeking the well-being of others. Joining the show to discuss is CHRN media liaison Kristen Filipic and Mount Aloysius College Theater professor Nathan Magee.
On April 12-13, 2019, Bowling Green State University held a conference in recognition of Batman's 80th anniversary. Danny joined forces with Coyle Neal (or is it Neal Coyle?) of the City of Man Podcast and Chris "Mav" Maverick of the VoxPopcast for a roundtable discussion about Batman's problem with race (see either City of Man or Vox Popcast to hear that discussion). Another show contributor, Pop Culture and Theology's Matthew Brake was also there and in this episode of Sectarian Review, the four join forces to talk about the conference and reflect on the perpetual significance of Batman.
BGSU Batman Conference Website
The masterful YouTube series Cobra Kai is the focus of this week's episode. This week, Danny Anderson is joined by Nathan Gilmour of the Christian Humanist Podcast and Coyle Neal of the City of Man Podcast to discuss the shockingly good Karate Kid sequel series Cobra Kai. How does this series move beyond simple, destructive nostalgia and create something contemporary and vital? How does it employ Shakespearean storytelling devices? What political statement is this series trying to make in the age of the Alt-right and Donald Trump? All this and much much more!
The Federalist on Cobra Kai
Masculinity on the Mat
Recently Weezer released an album (referred to as the "Teal Album") of faithful covers. The project began as a fan-generated joke (the cover of Toto's "Africa") and developed into a full-fledged dive into uncritical nostalgia. Adam Ray Adkins (Dirt, Son of the Earth) joins the show today to talk about how Mark Fisher's classic Capitalist Realism helps us understand and critique this album. What is laudable about Weezer's project? How is Capitalist Realism related to postmodernism? What can we gain by comparing Weezer and Kurt Cobain? All this plus an announcement about this summer's planned SR hiatus.
The Cedars by John Vanderslice
Dirt: Son of Earth
"Local Girl Convinces Weezer to Cover "Africa""
"Africa" by Angel City Chorale
SNL Weezer Skit
As May Day approaches, the Sectarian Review Podcast explores the classic pagan horror film, The Wicker Man. C. Derick Varn joins the show for a discussion about this fascinating and chilling religious horror film, pitting fundamentalist Christianity against a neo-Pagan cult off the coast of Britain. In this film, a stuffy, Christian, British cop gets called to a bizarre Pagan island off the coast to investigate the disappearance of a young girl and....blah blah blah....human sacrifice! What does this film say about religion? About secularism (is that just another form of religion?)? How does the movie connect with other Christopher Lee films, like The Devil Rides Out? A wonderful discussion of a truly great, truly disturbing film.
"The Various Versions of The Wicker Man"
"Christopher Lee Defeats the Devil"
Documentary about The Wicker Man
Recently President Donald Trump caused a minor stir by signing Bibles in Alabama. The reaction was swift and predictably driven by either outrage or defensiveness. In this episode Danny Anderson is joined by Nathan Gilmour of the Christian Humanist Podcast and Matthew Brake of Popular Culture and Theology to discuss the situation with some nuance. Some topics covered: what is so special about an autograph anyway? Is the bound book something sacred to be defaced in the first place? How much of this has to do with Donald Trump's moral character? If another, less odious president were to sign a Bible would the backlash have happened? All this and much much more.
"Trump's Bible signing called Southern Tradition"
"Most Christians find Trump Signing Bibles Inappropriate"
"Yes Trump Signed Bibles in Alabama But it isn't as Strange as You Think"
Ack! Tentacles! In this episode, David Grubbs, Carter Stepper, and Danny Anderson discuss the horror subgenre, “Weird Fiction.” Typified by H.P. Lovecraft’s “cosmic horror,” the genre is low Modernism at its finest. What defines Weird Fiction? How does it subvert and challenge Gothic horror? What challenges does it off the Christian reader? This episode focuses the discussion on three exemplars of the genre: M.R. James’ “Count Magnus,” R.E. Howard’s “Pigeons From Hell,” and H.P. Lovecraft’s “Pickman’s Model."
Pigeons From Hell
Danny Anderson welcomes back Matthew Brake from Pop Culture and Theology for another discussion. This time, we explore the ways in which comics offer occasions to theologize, or think about God. The conversation breaks down into three basic parts. First, what are some ways in which religion has been represented in popular comics? Second, how do comics address religious concepts or motifs through metaphor (i.e. Superman as Christ-figure). Finally, what are some primary theological concepts that are explored through comics? Along the way, look for discussions about Frank Miller, Alan Moore, Neil Gaiman, Batman, the X-Men, eschatology and much much more.
Pop Culture and Theology
G. Willow Wilson
Frank Miller’s Holy Terror
Peter Enns’ Inspiration and Incarnation
X-Men God Loves Man Kills
A. David Lewis’s Graven Images: Religion in Comic Books and Graphic Novels
Alan Moore’s Saga of the Swamp Thing
Grant Morrison’s Animal Man
Neil Gaiman’s View from the Cheap Seats
Neil Gaiman’s Sandman
Mark Waid’s Kingdom Come
Carl Schmitt Four Chapters on the Concept of Sovereignty
In this episode Danny Anderson interviews Stephen Waldron ad Ben Crosby of the new podcast "Theology and Socialism." Waldron and Crosby approach Christian Socialism from a much more traditional and even orthodox theological perspective than many Left Christians do and this gives their show a distinctive feel that makes them perfect guests for Sectarian Review. How does a traditional Protestant Christian arrive at socialist politics? How does the book of Exodus provide an understanding of the rest of the Bible? What is socialist Vacation Bible School? All this and much more.
Theology and Socialism Podcast
The Crucifixion by Fleming Rutledge
This week, Danny Anderson is pleased to present a wide-ranging interview with Yahia Lababidi, an Egyptian-American poet, about his recent collection of aphorisms, Where Epics Fail. The aphorism is an ancient form of poetic wisdom, and we discuss what that form offers the modern world. In addition, Lababidi discusses his experiences an an Egyptian immigrant to America before an after the Trump presidency. Other topics include: the value of silence and solitude, how to be gracious and merciful while living in community with others, the challenges of social media, and the significance of alien invasion films!
Where Epics Fail: Book Trailer and Purchase Information
PBS Newshour Profile of Yahia and his Work
Get out your red Swingline staplers, everyone. Danny Anderson is joined by Jordan Poss and Jeffrey Carter for a fun, lively discussion about the enduring appeal of Mike Judge's 1999 classic, 'Office Space.' What makes Judge's work so effective? (hint- it's all in the details). What was it about office life that this film captures? One of the most memeable movies ever turns 20 this week, and the Sectarian Review Podcast is there.
Very excited to present another entry in our artists and creators series! In this episode, Danny welcomes Adam Ray Adkins, who creates art under the name “Dirt: Son of the Earth.” In addition to learning about the creative process, listen for the following: the intersection between left politics and art, Andy Warhol’s failings as an artist, what Mark Fisher’s writing says about imaginative thinking and utopia, why depressed cities like Memphis can be productive for art and imagination, and making art in community. Plus some great insight into Jordan Peterson. Finally, if you are a creative type yourself and want to share your ideas with the world, feel free to contact the show at www.sectarianreviewpodcast.com
Dirt’s Patreon page
Dirt: Son of Earth Instagram
Art of Dirt Redbubble Store
The Leaky Ship: Dirt’s song and video about Jordan Peterson
Beehive Design Collective
In this episode Danny Anderson interviews Andrew Pessin, Professor of Philosophy at Connecticut College and author of The Jewish God Question. Pessin’s book explores “what Jewish thinkers have said about God, The Book, The People, and The Land.” Divided into many micro-essays that condense difficult philosophical ideas into conversation-starting summaries, the book is aimed at bringing philosophy to the people. How has Jewish philosophy reacted to Western thought since the Greeks? What changed in the Enlightenment period? How did Spinoza upend centuries of Jewish philosophy? What have Jewish thinkers focused on in the Twentieth Century and beyond? In addition, we find out why it is so important to take philosophy out of the academy and into the general public. Plus, hear about Andrew’s recurring role on The Late Show with David Letterman!
The Jewish God Question
Discover how Goethe's Faust provides the template for the modern world. How does his version of the scholar who sells his soul to the Devil inspire and describe our world? Patrick Higgins joins the show this week to discuss the Faustian tale, theology, capitalism, Marxism, Evangelical Trumpism and ritual magic.
From Pen and Screen:
Manifestophilis: Ritual, Medium, Turnings
Manifestopheles: An Investigation into the Faustian Nature of Adaptation
Review of Patrick Higgins’ stage version of Faust
Marshall Berman’s All That is Solid Melts into Air
Owls at Dawn Podcast
Danny Anderson is joined by Michial Farmer of the Christian Humanist Podcast and Michael Gruber (one of Farmer’s former students!). On tap this week is an exploration of the phenomenon we call “Rock Star Face.” Why is it that rock stars, particularly male ones, feel the urge to pose for pictures with ridiculously self-serious looks on their stupid faces? Taking the abominable Don Henley as a test case, the trio trace this tendency through jazz, the 1960s, and Romanticism. Bashing the Eagles all along the way, of course.
As part of the Sectarian Review New Year’s Resolution to interview working artists, this week Danny Anderson speaks to poet C.W. Buckley about his new collection of poems Bluing, from Finishing Line Press. Hear about the process for the poet who works full time in the tech industry, and learn what “Bluing” has to do with the poetic imagination. An archaic bleaching method, “bluing” becomes a metaphor for revealing meaning in the past, rescuing our memories from mere nostalgia, which Buckley sees as decay when used to simply prefer the past. There’s also a little conversation about the latest DC Comics film, Aquaman, as well as some theological rumination. Finally, no Sectarian Review would be complete without a discuss of Bigfoot, and Chris’s uncle once appeared on the great Leonard Nimoy show In Search Of to talk about it! And head to sectarianreviewpodcast.com for some really interesting links related to the conversation. And a note from Chris: “And of course, as with the podcast, if you find the work rewarding, please consider leaving a favorable comment or review on the publisher's site or on Amazon.”
Bluing, from Finishing Line Press
Mrs. Stewart’s Bluing
Rock and Sling Journal
Chris’s Grandmother becomes Homecoming Queen at age 99
Chris’s Uncle talks Bigfoot on In Search Of!
K-Tel Records commercial
Ed Simon returns to the show to discuss his new book America and Other Fictions, published by Zero Books. The collection of essays is subtitled “on Radical Faith and Post-Religion,” and the book explores a variety of subjects that explore the inherently religious nature of the American project, even its irreligious aspects. Danny and Ed discuss: the uses of religious language for the Left, Bob Dylan as American prophet, and the dual nature of the American Civil Religion. In addition, Ed explains his influences and creative processes as a writer and explains why Pittsburgh is so instrumental in his development.
Click here to purchase America and Other Fictions
Zero Books Blog
Happy New Year to all! We start the year off by exploring how Popular Culture can open up important theological conversations. Joining the show this week is Matthew Brake, founder and editor of Popular Culture and Theology, a book series from Lexington Books and Fortress Academic, and an accompanying blog. What is the importance for exploring theology in pop culture? Why is it controversial in some quarters? What are the limitations of academia? How can Sectarian Review listeners submit blog posts and article ideas? All this, plus Danny once again tries to defend Justice League!
Pop Culture and Theology
“Fancy Taking a Pop?” - William Irwin defends the growth of books on pop culture and philosophy.