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CCM and Brio Magazine: Christian media’s impersonation of secular pop culture

Meghan O’ Ghieblyn’s article at GUERNICA about Christian Contemporary Music (CCM) is a wry retrospective that limns the Catch-22 of Christian pop culture: by imitating secular culture–and, at the same time, disparaging worldliness–Christian media can’t help but look derivative, naive, and inauthentic.*

On this odd trap:

This trend spreads beyond CCM into many areas of evangelical culture. The church is becoming increasingly consumer-friendly. Jacob Hill, director of “worship arts” at New Walk Church, describes the Sunday service music as “exciting, loud, powerful, and relevant,” and boasts that “a lot of people say they feel like they’ve just been at a rock concert.” Over the past ten years, I’ve visited churches that have Starbucks kiosks in the foyer and youth wings decked out with air hockey tables. I’ve witnessed a preacher stop his sermon to play a five-minute clip fromBilly Madison. I’ve walked into a sanctuary that was blasting the Black Eyed Peas’s “Let’s Get it Started” to get the congregation pumped for the morning’s message, which was on joy. I have heard a pastor say, from a pulpit, “Hey, I’m not here to preach at anyone.” And yet, in spite of these efforts, churches are retaining only 4 percent of the young people raised in their congregations.

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Read this: The Revealer on the Catholic sexual abuse study

The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010 came out on May 18th.

So now we know what we need to about the stories behind the shocking statistics about child abuse by priests, right?

As the study’s largest percentage of funding came from the Catholic church, the report reflects the conflict of interest.

The report features an invective against the 1960’s counterculture and sexual revolution; feminism, “singles culture”, premarital sex, divorce, working mothers, rising crime and drug use rates, and acceptance of homosexuality are all targeted by this detour from the empirical data. So much for the priesthood considering itself in–but not of–the world.

Notably, the study denies a relationship between homosexuality and abuse, thankfully not lending credence to a flawed, bigoted argument. The study also denies the influence of celibacy.

Glossing over the potential benefits of womenpriests, backing down on mandated celibacy, reconsideration of the stance on birth control, and other issues, the Catholic Church’s study reinforces the status quo.

Check out the Revealer’s coverage here–especially Amanda Marcotte’s article which highlights the patriarchal reasoning that calls feminism and openness about sex fueling forces of the abuse, rather than what they are–tools with which to fight for victims’ rights.


Slog readers know that it is not merely a Catholic problem, but a ministry problem. See Dan Savage’s Youth Pastor Watch, a running column.

Is there a correlation between religion and financial success?

This NYT article asks “Is your religion your financial destiny?,” but a better question may be “How does religion affect your financial destiny?” or “How does religion affect attitudes towards finance?, ” if fatalism isn’t your thing.

More after the jump + why “Calvinist Islam” is a flawed term…

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The Rapture went viral–but what does it all mean?

It is bad weather for Camping today…sunny, with no chance of earthquake.

Harold Camping was disappointed; there were no earthquakes today–he had been hoping for a momentous one, signaling the Rapture.

Camping’s prediction that “the Rapture” would happen on May 21st made Christian prophecy crowd out the zombie apocalypse in popular paranoia zeitgeist, becoming a meme, an advertising gimmick.

Camping, a Christian broadcaster known for Open Forum, kicked off a $100 million global advertising campaign financed by the sale of his media properties–after all, he would hardly be profiting from them post-rapture, but don’t worry about his financial state, he has been raking in the donations. Don’t worry about his ego either–after a failed prediction in 1994, he still had the confidence to publicly predict this one.

Eschatology looms large in the minds of believers, non-believers, and every guy who has ever been told “only if you were the last man on Earth”–but why?

Lorenzo DiTommaso, a professor at Concordia University in Montreal, is writing a book called “The Architecture of Apocalypticism,” has this to say about eschatological frenzies:

“Problems have become so big, with no solutions in sight, that we no longer see ourselves able as human beings to solve these problems,” DiTommaso said. “From a biblical point of view, God is going to solve them. From other points of view, there has to be some sort of catastrophe.”

The apocalyptic worldview springs from a desire to reconcile two conflicting beliefs.

“The first is that there is something dreadfully wrong with the world of human existence today,” he said. “On the other hand, there is a sense that there is a higher good or some purpose for existence, a hope for a better future.”

Viewing the world as a flawed place headed toward some sort of cosmic correction reconciles these two beliefs, DiTommaso said.

And because believers are certain that their sacred text can never be wrong, failed doomsday predictions only convince them that their own interpretations were flawed, opening the door to new predictions. Historically, those who have predicted doomsday, including the early Christians, have been persecuted and oppressed, so the prospect of a final judgment is comforting, DiTomasso said.

“Despite fire, death and destruction, the god of apocalypticism is a god of order, not chaos,” DiTomasso said. “That’s the reassurance.”

Dystopian and apocalyptic entertainment is popular in times of generalized anxiety, and often parallels an upswing of interest in survivalism. Witness the aforementioned zombie zeitgeist in pop culture*–as well as the also-ascendant vampire trope, and the perpetual super-hero story.**

The supernatural, primitive monster, and the helpless, preyed-upon, drained victim are rendered in stark contrast and strange parallels to our recession-ridden society, troubled by too much tech, looping us back to DiTommaso big-problem theme.


* Even my grandmother noticed it: she called to ask if I had a copy of Pride and Prejudice and Zombies, and if so, could she borrow it? I didn’t, so I got her a copy…which she gave to me after a two days of reading. Here’s her review: “Too scary, and I had to put it face down on my nightstand…the cover is so gross.”

**Speaking of which, did you know this existed? Hello insomnia.

Religious Tolerance offers a timeline of failed end times predictions.

For some people, the Rapture was a sincerely held anticipation, not an excuse to hold an “Rapture party.” This LA Times story gets their reactions and includes quote from Camping’s daughter and PR aide. The end quote, however, shows another instance of an end-times mistake…, Jim Jones used Flavor-Aid, not Kool-Aid

Tim LaHaye thinks Harold Camping is trivializing Christian prophecy. Oh really?

Sex and Religion 101 with Nick Kristof

This does not appear in the quiz.

Check out Nick Kristof’s column, in which he limns the ways in which Scripture has been co-opted by politicians and challenge some common assumptions by featuring a quiz on sex and religion…and then administer it to your local Tea Party/Religious Right politician over the phone.

That ill-timed, accidental, blog hiatus will be over soon.

I have a saved draft back log: how does burial at sea jive with Islamic burial practices? What statements where American Muslim organizations making after the death of Osama bin Laden? Why are evangelicals fussing about Rob Bell’s book, Love Wins: A Book About Heaven, Hell, and the Fate of Every Person Who Has Ever Lived? Spoiler: he asks ‘What if there is no hell?’

Big stories and I missed the window of opportunity to blog about them. With finals week and moving from NY to VA over with, I’ll be getting back to business. I’m job-hunting, interning, and enjoying my summer, but plan on keeping sharp as well.

Hey Tim Pawlenty, what’s so wrong with culturally-sensitive finance?

The American Prospect credited Tim Pawlenty with encouraging the expansion of Shariah-compliant finance in the name of increasing minority home ownership in Minnesota.

In 2004, Pawlenty encouraged the Minnesota Housing Financing Agency to partner with special-interest groups and businesses to up the state’s minority homeownership rate of 42%; this initiative became known as the  Emerging Markets Homeowners Initiative, through which the MHFA partnered with the African Development Center to develop Shariah-compliant loan and mortgage products. This aligns neatly with Pawlenty’s populist ideals.

Shariah-compliant finance is not a manifestation of jihad, as many states considering anti-Shariah legislation fear. It’s capitalism–Citigroup, Visa, and AIG have all explored it.

Pawlenty’s detractors are, predictably, linking Shariah-compliant finance to the Muslim Brotherhood and a desire to take over the United States and institute Shariah law.

Looking at the housing market, discouraging the purchase of property is ill-advised.

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