The title is what caught my eye. If you know me, or have been reading this blog for a while, you know that I like pondering the intersection of faith and pop culture. So, I was interested in Asay’s take, especially in his take on how pop culture has replaced the prophet.
In each chapter, Asay writes on a theme, weaving in different elements of pop culture. For example, one of the chapters deals with call (the burning bush connection) and Asay uses illustrations from various superhero films. Along the way, he makes valid points about why we should expand our thinking enough to hear what God may be saying to us through pop culture.
This is the strongest aspect of the book. Some excellent connections are made, some that are worth using as illustrations in a sermon or teaching session. He puts the Pixar film Up in dialogue with C. S. Lewis to ponder pain theologically. The serial killer Dexter and forgiveness. The film Children of Men and the birth narrative of Christ. Yet, this can only go so far for the reader, at least this one. As one blogger wrote, “the further along I got, the more I felt it was a little pointless.”
I would have to agree. Though Asay is a great observer of film, and writes with an ease and humor, it was a little bit much for what it was. Perhaps in a blog post or a newspaper or magazine article. But it seemed to miss the mark.
Paul Asay is a writer and editor for PluggedIn, a faith-based media review magazine published by Focus on the Family. The publication tends to focus on the negative before it focuses on what God may be saying through the film. Asay tends to the do the same throughout this book. He calls out atheists, other religions, and Donald Sterling. He refers to a female character in a film as “Eugene’s lady” instead of by her name. All of which seems counter productive when communicating how pop culture can connect us to God.
The idea that pop culture is not “Christian” and yet can be used by the Holy to communicate with people of faith should not warrant apologies. The prophets of old did some pretty offense things. Isaiah and Micah walked around and preached nude for years. Hosea bought his wife, Gomer, a whore (using the language of the KJV) as a metaphor for the people’s relationship with God. And we can rest assured that there were more such things that would only be worthy of HBO.
The actions of the prophets were metaphors pointing toward reconciliation with God. Pop culture in its various forms does that as well. While Asay makes great connections between theological themes and pop culture, he doesn’t quite tell us how pop culture replaces the prophets.
Perhaps that’s the book I should write.