Exegeting the Times

Thinking Woman.jpg
I just received a speaking request asking me to talk about “exegeting” pop culture. It is one of the topics I like to speak about (I accept about one invitation per month in case you’d like me to speak to your group email us at CW). I like to direct people to the daily newspaper as a source of opportunities for exegeting culture. To exegete means to examine, analyze and interpret, especially a text and Sunday’s paper is a good example of some interesting sightings.

The NYT carried a front page story about prayer at sporting events, showing an increase in participation. Joe Drape reports, “As in politics and culture in the United States, college football is increasingly becoming a more visible home for the Gospel. In the past year more than 2,000 college football coaches participated in events sponsored by the Fellowship of Christian Athletes, which said that more than 1.4 million athletes and coaches from youth to professional levels had attended in 2005, up from 500,000 in 1990.” He quotes the concerns of Rev. Barry W. Lynn, a lawyer and executive director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State. Lynn is the go to guy on this issue and I wonder why, if there is widespread concern about the issue, reporters rely so regularly on Lynn and a handful of others?

Ruth La Ferla did an amazing piece on popular culture’s embrace of the dark side, and it raises all sorts of issues worth discussing. What does it say about our culture that ” Gothic images and themes that have seeped darkly into the culture. Books, movies, stage productions, photographs and, perhaps most emphatically, fashion are all evoking those familiar Gothic obsessions: death, decay, destructive passions and the specter of nature run amok. They’ve surfaced at times before, of course. But rarely since the mid-19th century, when it first became a crowd pleaser, has the Gothic aesthetic gained such a throttlehold on the collective imagination?”

The Seattle Times carried a piece on “Little Women” and reported accurately about Louisa May Alcott’s father and his transcendentalist beliefs, “Louisa’s father, Bronson Alcott, was a poor breadwinner but a noted educator and social reformer. As a member of the Transcendentalist movement, he rejected formal religion, sought spirituality in nature, home-schooled his children and befriended such writers as Henry David Thoreau and Ralph Waldo Emerson.” This little tidbit is fun as it touches on some very contemporary movements in America, the rejection of religion, the search for God in nature and home schooling to name a few!

Also in the times was an AP piece about Calvin & Hobbe’s creator Bill Watterson, with an interesting note about his irreligiosity, “Bill Watterson, 47, hasn’t made a public appearance since he delivered the commencement speech in 1990 at his alma mater, Kenyon College. But he recently welcomed some written questions from fans to promote the Oct. 4 release of the three-volume “The Complete Calvin and Hobbes,” which contains every one of the 3,160 strips printed during its 10-year run. Among his revelations: ¢â‚¬¢ He reads newspaper comics but doesn’t consider this their golden age.¢â‚¬¢ He’s never attended any church. ¢â‚¬¢ He’s currently interested in art from the 1600s.” I find the inclusion of a question about his religious affiliation or lack thereof an interesting one.

NYT Sunday paper carried a story about Dave Ramsey whose national show and best selling books aim to get people out of debt and right there in the article we read, “as an evangelical Christian, he insists that his followers make regular donations to churches or other charitable organizations. When I asked Ramsey about the wisdom of preaching philanthropy to those not yet back on their feet, he replied: “One way to bust the pity party is to be a giver. Giving breaks loose the whining child inside you.”

Read each of these. Think about what is said, how it is placed in the context of the entire article and ask how the typical reader will react. When people say they find it difficult to get in conversations about faith, I tell them read the NYT any day of the week and start discussing what your read there!

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

PS 2. If you haven’t yet done so, register for our daily updates. You won’t regret it!

  • Register for CW
  • PS 3.

    If you have comments regarding this column please contact us at:

  • CultureWatch: culturewatch@dickstaub.com

  • This web site is supported solely by tax-deductible donations. Please mail your generous contributions to: The Center for Faith and Culture, PO Box 77385, Seattle, Washington 98177

    ‚©CRS Communications 2005

    Posted in Staublog in October 31, 2005 by | No Comments »

    Leave a Reply

    Your email address will not be published.

    − 1 = 4

    More from Staublog