Thursday, September 18, 2008

If you miss this Rapture

Who should not read Daniel Radosh, Rapture Ready: Adventures in the parallel universe of Christian pop culture?
The author uses irregular, non-gratuitous use of some vulgar language. If this offends, just be forewarned. Even more alarming to some evangelical readers will be the rough vulgar language used by some of the evangelical subjects of his interviews. I don't travel much in the pop sub-culture described in this book ... but nor do I interact much with self-professed evangelicals with salty language. Just be aware, it's in here.
I imagine each chapter will have its detractors, people who say "yeah, but ..." or who are just plain offended by the critique of their pet dimension of this parallel universe.
If one is simply dismissive of an evaluation of our world by one who is admittedly an outsider, this will not be a pleasant read.

Who should read the book?
Anyone who wants to take a look at who evangelicals appear to be will appreciate and learn from Daniel Radosh. Read his rationale for writing, and as you read, look for the ways he affirms aspects of the sub-culture. He is not making fun of evangelicals - well, OK, so he really only makes fun of or takes on evangelicals who may appear extreme even to other evangelicals. ("I had a moment of quiet despair. All my effortsto seek out the darkest corners of this parallel universe had finally brought me to geocentricism, only to find out that even geocentrists insist on distinguishing themselves from those other, really crazy geocentrists." p.294, author's emphasis) He is uniformly good-natured, and in several cases he observes how secular pop culture could integrate and accept Christian contributions.

The book does not address worship. This is important to keep in mind. It seems to me that underlying Radosh's book is a presumed or nascent theology of entertainment. It would be interesting to explore that with readers.

Ultimately, he expresses this hope: "I loved American pop culture going into this project, and for the most part I still do. But the best aspects of Christian culture - the unabashed celebration of the transcendent, the challenge to crass materialism, the commitment to personal responsibility - helped me see more clearly what is too often lacking in secular entertainment and media. Jesus's radical message of brotherhood, selflessness, and dignity may be just the antidote to our contemoporary ethos of shamelessness and overindulgence.
"Evangelicalism and pop culture are two quintessentially American innovations that have never outgrown their worst impulses. Both James Dobson and Paris Hilton still exist. As our alternate universes begin to merge, we can either brace for an explosion, or we can open ourselves to the possibility that the new integrated universe will be better, richer, and more humane for everyone. And at least as much fun." (308)

I'll be cautious about recommending this book, but I have already begun to. I have yet to explore the corrolary website, on which the author has posted photos, video, and interviews that comprised his research:

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