Thursday, June 18, 2009

An Entertaining Theology

I absolutely LOVE Barry Taylor's "Entertainment Theology: New-Edge Spirituality in a Digital Democracy." I love it so much that I'm thinking of just submitting this book when it comes to putting in my ordination papers... but i don't think that will fly with my future committee.

here are some great quotes that Barry uses to introduce his chapters that I will use to speak about this wonderful book:

"...At the very cry from the cross: the cry which confesses that God was forsaken by God. And now let the revolutionists choose a creed from all the creeds and a god from all the gods... they will not find another god who has himself been in revolt... They will find only one religion which God seemed for an instant to be an atheist." -G.K. Chesterson: Orthodoxy


Taylor talks about a re-encoding of the message. Taking artistic license, risking and endeavoring to take new routes with stories that have so long been closed to new meanings. No longer can the theological connection point for Christianity be "You are a sinner who will die in your sins unless you repent. You must be born again." Taylor asks "Is it really the only connection with God through the Jesus story? I think not, though I think it is A connection to Christianity and has been the dominant mode of connection in the church post-Reformation." (page 198).

This approach means no pre-packaged dogmas, doctrines, or resting on old answers. Nor is it throwing out all the dogmas, doctrines or old answers. It is a wide net that Taylor is casting... or actually, asking others to cast. It is a multi-disciplinary approach to life that seeks to encapsulate and make room for people "at the foot of the cross... even atheists." It is keeping Christus Victor right alongside all the other forms of atonement and inventing new ones or not having atonement at all! All of these are possibilities depending on context.

"Poetry will reach a superior dignity, it will become in the end what it was in the beginning---- the teacher of humanity." Friedrich Schelling, Philosophy of Mythology


Taylor constantly uses pop culture to talk about his spiritual outlook. He is quite wise to point out the difference between the movies Stigmata and the Exorcist. He then uses movies and art and poetry to classify 4 movements and expressions of spirituality in the world: 1. Zen Culture 2. The Next Enlightenment 3. Retrolution and 4. Resistant Communities. here are some brief descriptions:

Zen Culture: a "westernized Asian Thought" is being seen through the growing popularity of Anime, ancient wisdom, and use of imagery in movies. Think THE MATRIX here, where it is a blend of Christianity, Gnostic, and Mystic western thought mixed with Tao, Buddhist, Zen, and Kung-Fu eastern notions. Much like the music that's produced by Washington D.C.'s own Thievery Corporation:



Next Enlightenment: Rational Mystics Taylor terms them. Books like The Celestine Prophecy and the Golden Compass are about finding ways to connect to the divine and trusting one's self to do that without the traditional support structures of formalized religion. This approach is all about the WHOLE PROCESS of things and emphasizes community, relationality, and level playing field... there is a "serious concern for their inner lives with a strong penchant for social activism, including a commitment to a sustainable future." but Taylor notes that it's equally important to see their dislikes and those are "social inequality, intolerance, and the Religious Right." U2 would be the biggest band in the strain, but then you get Springsteen, Saves the Day, and the Flobots here as well. Here's one of my fave songs by Switchfoot:



Retrolution: Postmodern Gothic, a blend of ancient and modern.. like what we find in The Da Vinci Code, Harry Potter, and Donnie Darko. These stories "explore the old and a little under the surface deal with the new; past literary forms and present concerns exist side by side." The is also an element of mystery and shock value and no guarantee for happy endings. Think spirituality ala Marilyn Manson, Slipknot, and Nick Cave and the Bad Seeds. can't count the amount of social and religious imagery found in my fave Manson video (not to mention the cheerleader like chant within it, i LOVE this song!):




Resistant Communities: the religious right, street preachers, and the like. Jerry Falwell style, that is directly engaged and obsessed with "the other". This community has a desire which is commoditized and the motivating factor is fear. The Left Behind Series would be an example here. Of course my bias is showing here... not Taylors.. because i'm rather sick of these communities and i deal with them all the time. they want to rest of "old answers" yet ignore that the answers they're coming up with are new permutations of old things... there is many positive aspects to these communities, it's not all bad.. and there's even some good music coming out of it... well it's been awhile, but here's what I remember being "cool" when i listened to "Christian Music":



I highly recommend this book! I'm all about it! I feel that it perfectly articulates many of the crazy thoughts zooming around in my head. I hope you'll check it out!

5 comments:

lneely said...

Hahaha, dc Talk. I remember them from my days at the Christian school. It was the cool thing at the time. As musicians, though, they were actually pretty decent if I recall. Looking back, they were outstanding in the otherwise dull and formulaic world of so-called Christian music, but nothing special otherwise.

Sally said...

Of course new interpretation of old dogma could be refreshing and provide enlightening and interesting insights. The danger here succombing to the pride of being the one to "find" that something new and fresh. The desire to discover the "aha moment" can lure a person into "false" instead of "new" interpretation in order to claim it. Now just what do I mean by "false"? I believe that scripture can be viewed through a variety of lenses to extract many meanings from the same text. The historical, sociological, critical and other characteristics of the text highlight its many facets. Each one may be useful, valid and within God's intended meaning. I do, however, believe that scripture can be twisted and manipulated so that it SEEMS to say things that were never God's intention. RE-encoding, taking artistic license, risking and endeavoring to take new routes through old stories is fine as long as one retains the integrity of the original text. Sometimes it sounds like you think it is impossible to "go too far" with the text and that any interpretation is ok. I would say that MANY interpretations are ok but that there is a line that can be crossed by an over-zealous albeit well intentioned heresiarch.

Luke said...

Sally you bring up excellent points... and i can see how i come across like it is "impossible to go to far." which i should spend more time talking about.

if anything, seminary has shown me how moderate i actually am. i came in thinking i could be a unitarian at a drop of a hat, but in actuality, i can't. not because there's anything wrong with being a unitarian! but because it's not a path i can be on.. i have a higher liturgical outlook, a respect for tradition, and a need for structure and discipline. i'm not into "mash ups" of religions, like Wicca which combines many diverse and contradictory elements into one unified whole. this is akin to putting Wesley and Calvin together and calling them "the same thing." they are not! they have many touchstones, but they also have many points of departure.

Like you, i don't think scripture has just one irreducible explanation but numerous explanations, many of which conflict, but all of which shed light on ourselves, our context, and our inner-natures.

there are some jumps that i have problems with.. namely "slash and burn" Christianity... and even in The Message's interpretation of the "mustard seed parable" which switches it to a "pine seed" which doesn't make sense because Jesus is talking about a weed, not a mighty tree.

i think the re-encoding of the story must have limits of the criticisms because the art that truly inspires me looks at the limits and then transcends them without too much transgression. to use my own example on 2 Corinthians, to re-encode "faith not sight" faitfully would be to say "insight not sight." it wouldn't be to deny science and stick with a "young earth" nonsence.. anyway... what i mean to say is "You RAWK! and thanks for brining to light this important point!"

*off soapbox ;-)

Sally said...

So funny that through the seminary experience we will probably end up very close to each other in theology! I am so glad to hear that you are not willing to "jump the shark" when it comes to the biblical text! You RAWK too!!

freestyleroadtrip said...

I love this post. Love, love, love it. Can't get the video's viewed on this dumb PC at work so will have to do it at home later. I will have to get THAT book!