Intro: Hello everyone and welcome to another episode of the Sectarian Review Podcast. Today’s episode is going to focus on a mini-controversy from early July, when Mere Orthodoxy published an essay by Brad East called “Against Pop Culture.” In the essay, East argues (or at least seems to) that Christians should not partake of pop culture as an essential part of their Christian practice. The piece was heavily commented upon in social media, including by Yours Truly, and became one of those “internet things” for a couple of days. The next day, East tagged me and others in a Twitter post that linked to a clarification he wrote and between the two essays, I think that there is a lot to talk about here at the Sectarian Review.
Joining me today to do so is Coyle Neal!
Q1: Before we get into the weeds of philosophy, theology, and pop culture, can we summarize the main points of East’s original article? (Try as much as we can to keep his follow-up out of our heads).
Q2: In the follow-up, East tries to clarify that he was not Against Pop culture per se, but rather against a movement within Christians that supposedly pressures people into consuming more pop culture. What do you make of this idea? It was rather surprising to me as that has not been my experience at all.
Q3: So let’s focus on the original piece, and try to be fair to his full intention. One main point he makes that has some legs for me is the seeming endlessness of binge-watching. Can we talk about how the technology of pop culture delivery might shape us. Medium is message etc…
Q4: What do you make of his generational claim about attention spans and what not? Does pop culture have a corrosive impact on us, making it harder to sit through more difficult,but gratifying material.
Q5: As educators, how much should we push against pop culture and toward the “classics?”
Q6: I want to talk a bit about content here before we go. I am fairly liberal with regard to watching things like horror etc, but there is a debate among Christians about such matters. Where do you fall on the whole “be careful little eyes…” argument?
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
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
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.
Merry Christmas 2018! This year’s celebration centers around our shared national obsession, Hallmark Christmas movies. Whether you love them or hate them, they are no doubt in your mind this season. For this particular episode, we generally trash them, but as always we try to find something redeeming about them as well. They clearly do reflect a desire for something good, but how much damage to the collective imagination is that worth? Joining Danny today is Kim Anderson, Jordan Poss, and Christopher Pipkin to share, reminisce, and theorize. Danny’s own argument in this show is that these films are not ‘lowbrow’ popular entertainment, but rather ‘middlebrow’ disposable art that perpetuates Capitalism’s most oppressive structures. But they are also rather fun, he supposes. Also in this episode, a “make a Hallmark story” game you can play with your family! If you’re going to watch these things, you might as well do something productive with them. Also, Chris Pipkin and his wife have created an online 12 Days of Christmas and everyone is welcome to check it out. Merry Christmas to all and check out the links in the shownotes!
“Hallmark Christmas Movies: Guilty Pleasures No More”
“Made for TV Christmas Movies are Big Business for the Hallmark Channel”
Deck the Hallmark Podcast
“Hallmark Channel is Finally Producing Holiday Movies with Black Leads”
“Why are Hallmark Movie Casts So White?”
“Five Behind-the-Scenes Secrets of Hallmark Holiday Movies”
Danny’s Article about Tom Waits’ “Christmas Card from a Hooker in Minneapolis”
Pipkin’s Twelve Days of Christmas Site (Highly Recommended!!)
Excelsior! In this mighty episode, Danny is joined by the Christian Humanist Podcast’s own Nathan Gilmour to talk about the cultural impact of the late Stan Lee. Lee, who died a few weeks ago, was a staggering figure in American culture, helping to create many of the icons that have captured the imaginations of the 20th and 21st Centuries. Spider-Man, the Fantastic Four, the Hulk, Iron Man, Thor, the X-Men, Daredevil, and Dr. Strange all trace part of their roots back to Lee. In this episode, learn about: the social media response to Lee’s passing, Lee’s controversial history of collaborative artistry, Lee’s place in Jewish art, the political subtext of the Marvel universe, and much much more. Stan Lee helped provide a “superhero mythology in a religiously pluralistic world.”
“Stan Lee Built the World I Live In,” by Wayne Wise: http://www.legacy.com/news/celebrity-deaths/notable-deaths/article/stan-lee-built-the-world-i-live-in
“Marvel Icon Stan Lee Leaves a Legacy as Complicated As His Heroes,” by Spencer Ackerman: https://www.thedailybeast.com/rip-stan-lee-the-man-who-sold-the-world
Joining the show today is Dr. Douglas E. Cowan, Professor of Religious Studies and Social Development Studies at Renison University College. Cowan has recently published a book for NYU Press called America’s Dark Theologian: The Religious Imagination of Stephen King. In the book, Cowan argues that King’s fiction represents a way of “doing” theology outside the traditional structures of historical churches. The argument has immense implications for both theology and popular culture studies. Tune in and learn how King’s work qualifies as theological and why academia too often dismisses the work of popular writers. Is academia its own kind of priesthood, guarding its own traditions? Also, what is the distinction between “answers” and “questions” in theology? How does King’s work challenge the idea of “safe” religion? What King’s work has to say about Ritual, Theodicy, and Cosmology? How does Pet Sematary model a comparative religions seminar? Many thanks to Doug Cowan for a fun, educational discussion.
America’s Dark Theologian