09 (September 2014)

Pop Cultured

Simon Arscott
Simon Arscott Simon has been sent by the International Presbyterian Church to lead All Nations Church, Ilford. Born and bred south of the river in Camberwell, London, he studied in York.
31 August, 2014 2 min read

Pop cultured
Steve Turner
IVP, 256 pages, £10.99
ISBN: 978-1-84474-905-8
Star rating : 3

Steve Turner is clearly an enthusiastic Christian with a wealth of experience in pop culture. He has contributed to rock music magazines, as well as written books on Johnny Cash and the Beatles. In Pop cultured he relates that he was once even contacted by David Bowie, inviting him for dinner (p.97)! He would, no doubt, be a fascinating person to spend an evening with.

In this book, Turner encourages Christians to be more deliberate in how they consume, critique and create pop culture. There are chapters on such subjects as cinema, journalism, celebrities, fashion, comedy and advertising. Each concludes with activities to help the reader reflect on how they are influenced by a particular aspect of pop culture, along with suggestions for further reading.

Many chapters I found stimulating, alerting me to aspects of pop culture I hadn’t considered before. Turner argues convincingly that pop culture is worth our careful attention, although perhaps not quite in the way he intends.

I remained unconvinced that today’s pop culture says anything unique, and that we need to watch major Hollywood films to understand the profound place contemporary society has reached. I believe the Bible already gives clear answers to that question. Nonetheless, this stirs a good deal of thought about how much and how indiscriminately we consume pop culture.

If Christians should carry their Bible in one hand and their newspaper in the other, the author certainly gives incentives to read the newspaper and take notice of things they may have overlooked previously. However, his attempts to connect the Bible to popular culture were not as full as I would have liked. While this book is strong on critiquing culture, it could do with a bigger helping of theology.

There is a weak discussion of myth and history (pp. 70-71) and an unnecessary avoidance of masculine pronouns, because they are believed to assume ‘male supremacy’ (p.81). I found this ironic in the light of the author’s aim of promoting careful thought about modern culture. I also fear this book will date quite quickly.

Despite these shortcomings, Turner knows his stuff and is a helpful stimulus to those of us liable to forget that we are preaching Jesus Christ in the 21st rather than 18th century.

I’d consider slipping this book into the hands of someone interested in art and culture, albeit with the proviso that for every book on culture they read, they read a further three on Jesus Christ himself.

Simon Arscott
York

Simon Arscott
Simon has been sent by the International Presbyterian Church to lead All Nations Church, Ilford. Born and bred south of the river in Camberwell, London, he studied in York.
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