This is a reflection on a review of a book. So call me derivative. Hey, this is the Internet. Daniel Radosh’s new book, Rapture Ready!, reveals to secular America what many of us have known for a long time: Christians have no taste.
The book, which is an examination of the parallel universe of the evangelical Christian subculture, has a lot to make you think.
Here’s a key passage from a review by Hanna Rosin on Slate:
“In the ’80s, Christians were known as the boycotters, refusing to see movies or buy products that offended them. They felt about commercial culture much the way a Marxist might: that it was a decadent glorification of money and meaningless human relationships. Then, sometime during the ’90s, when conservative evangelicals started coming out of their shells, they took a different tack. The boycotters became co-opters and embarked on the curious quest to enlist America’s crassest material culture in the service of spiritual growth.
Most non-Christians are aware that there is something called Christian rock. We’ve all had the slightly unsettling experience of pausing the car radio on a pleasant, unfamiliar ballad until we realized … Ahhh. That’s not her boyfriend she’s mooning over! But few of us have any idea of how truly extensive this so-called subculture is. Reading Radosh’s book is like coming across another planet hidden somewhere on Earth where everything is just exactly like it is here except blue or made out of plastic. Every American pop phenomenon has its Christian equivalent, no matter how improbable. And Radosh seems to have experienced them all.”
So this shows us something about Christians living under the Law: In the 80s, they tried to go cold turkey: “We will not ingest anything from corrupted mainstream culture.”
Then, casuistry set in: “Well, let’s see if we can just re-jigger the culture so that it conforms to our narrow and self-righteous morality. So now rock music is OK, as long as it’s about Jesus.”
But this article also says something about non-Christian understandings of Christianity: They are just as legalistic as Christians–just in a different way.
Check out this bit from Rosin:
“What does commercializing do to the substance of belief, and what does an infusion of belief do to the product? When you make loving Christ sound just like loving your boyfriend, you can do damage to both your faith and your ballad. That’s true when you create a sanitized version of bands like Nirvana or artists like Jay-Z, too: You shoehorn a message that’s essentially about obeying authority into a genre that’s rebellious and nihilistic, and the result can be ugly, fake, or just limp.”
Now, there’s a lot there I can agree with. No one likes bad art (except when it’s so bad it’s great). But look at how Rosin characterizes Christianity in the last sentence: “a message that’s essentially about obeying authority.”
What? That’s the essence of Christianity?
Rosin’s article implies that Christians growing up with iPods are wising up to the fact that Christian pop music/art/comedy/literature is almost all bad. But if the remedy is to get more in touch with the “true” Christianity of obedience to authority, or to simply become insufferable snobs about art, then, as my grandmother used to say, Lord have mercy.
Contrary to what this article says, and what the Christians who make bad art (appear to) think, Christianity is about freedom. And if we understood that, there would be no such thing as “Christian rock” or “Christian T-shirts” or, as this article mentions, “Christian planetariums.”
As 20th-century German theologian Ernst Kasemann said: Jesus means freedom.
But you already knew that…