I have just begun reading Rapture Ready! (Adventures in the parallel universe of Christian pop culture). The book was recommended by Larry Eskridge during his seminar appearance at Calvin College this summer. Larry called it the best look at the topic by an outsider. The snob in me suggests that if it is the best "by an outsider" it is probably the best, period.
So, I've just begun, and it is going to be difficult to not read straight through. It will probably push other, arguably more important reading, aside for the week. Author Daniel Radosh is Jewish ("My own Judaism is neither orthodox nor conservative - in either the denominational or the colloquial senses of the words ..." p. 16). Over the course of a year he looked in on the evangelical sub culture, and each chapter addresses a single aspect of it.
I learned this morning that this is a book I cannot read in a coffee shop. I don't know, it's just a bit embarrassing to sit alone, laughing out loud or trying not to. Radosh nails the ridiculous aspects, but he is not (so far, at least) mean-spirited. It's a good read along the lines of A. J. Jacobs The Know It All.
So, today after reading in a coffee shop and trying not to laugh out loud, it occurred to me: the very things that are easiest for us insiders to ridicule (largely the attempt to be, in Ken Myers' elegant critique: "of the world but not in it") often stops short of a careful critique of music, including music in worship. We find it easy to scoff at Jesus junk jewelry, knock-off/rip-off T-shirt slogans, Christian fitness regimens, and on and on ... but somehow don't seem to worry that we not only copy but embrace any and all kinds of popluar music?
This will bear reflection, and perhaps become a talking point in conversations about the role of popluar music in serious Christian worship.
Some great quotes ... oh I have the feeling there will be many in this book:
Radosh cites the T-shirt slogan "Modest is the hottest." "The tangled rationale of that last one - we can persuade girls to dress in a way that does not attract sexual attention by telling them that doing so will attract sexual attention, especially if they wear this form-fitting shirt - begins to hint at the tension in bending Christian messages to pop-culture forms." (12) [I had to go to the LarkNews site to make sure this wasn't one of their parody T's. Nope. Sadly, it is hard for satirists to stay ahead of real life in this realm.]
"Apparently there is an insatiable demand for the timeless message of the gospel slapped onto anything made out of plastic." (13)
Well, you get the drift, and I could probably go page to page with funny, insightful, really sad observations when you stop to think about it. I will just end this post with this, upon seeing, at a Christian retail convention, the Smiling Cross: "This was, as it sounds, an anthropomorphic cross with its horizontal beam bent up into a cheery smile. Apparently the traditional symbol of Christ's agonizing death by torture was just too depressing. For the first time, I had the experience of seeing devout Christians embrace something that I, as a non-Christian, found sacreligious. It wouldn't be the last." (12) Nor are you alone, Mr. Radosh.