Feminism: Daniel Radosh on Moderating Fundamentalism

[Content Note: Infertility, the Holocaust, Appropriation, Fundamentalism]

In the final chapter of his book "Rapture Ready", Daniel Radosh argues that by keeping blatantly Christian pop culture out of mainstream outlets (book stores, radio stations, etc.), the effect is to isolate Christian pop culture and create a sort of feedback loop where the artists are forced to become more and more extreme in order to please the conservative gatekeepers who control the Christian pop culture outlets. Radosh suggests that if secular consumers accept Christian pop culture in their mainstream outlets, the result might radically moderate the Christian offerings:

As evangelical artists forgo the safety of the Christian bubble for the greater risks and rewards of competing in the mainstream, I hope the mainstream will make a similar effort to explore this “crossover” Christian culture.

This will strike many people as counterintuitive. Before I began this project, the idea that the influence of conservative Christianity could be checked by encouraging the further spread of Christian pop culture would have seemed ridiculous. But from what I’ve seen, it is precisely insularity that breeds intolerance. Even if mainstream radio doesn’t expand its embrace of Christian rock and Christian comedians never get their own sitcoms, Christians are going to continue to create Christian culture. When their only audience is other Christians, though, the feedback loop amplifies narrow-mindedness and inhibits self-examination.

What’s more, the existence of a separate Christian bubble gives fundamentalists greater influence on Christian culture than they deserve based on their numbers (or their ideas). That’s because the Christian subculture is dependent on gatekeepers, who by job description are more conservative than either the artists on one side of the gate or many consumers on the other. Thanks to the clout of the Christian Booksellers Association, Christian publishers will not publish and Christian authors will not write very many books that Christian bookstores will not carry. And the owners of Christian bookstores, for the most part, reject books that offend the sensibilities and ideologies of their most conservative customers.

But imagine now that mainstream cultural outlets were more open to Christian culture. In response, perhaps, Christian authors—and musicians and comedians—might find themselves playing to a wider, much less conservative audience. They might then be moved to experiment with more broad-minded material. This in turn might whet Christian audiences’ appetites for more such material, or at the very least encourage a healthy debate that the current gatekeepers generally suppress.

[...] Secular consumers may be understandably wary of having Christian content foisted on them, but ignoring Christian pop culture is not a solution to the spread of conservative Christianity. Our ignorance of Christian culture not only causes us to misunderstand, misinterpret, and misjudge our Christian neighbors, it also precludes our effectively challenging those aspects of Christian culture that may be properly judged as offensive. To the extent that we hope to change Christian culture, we have to understand and appreciate it.

How does this theory mesh with Radosh's other experiences in the book with Christian pop culture? Throughout his journey, he encountered upsetting and triggering material in unexpected places: fliers that demonized IVF children and their parents at a music festival; books that glamorized Holocaust concentration camps as settings for fictional Jewish protagonists to 'come to Christ'. Where is the line -- if any -- between being open to new experiences and new perspectives versus understandably wanting to protect oneself from harmful or triggering material in one's pop culture consumption?

How do you choose what pop culture to consume in your daily life? 
Are you open to pop culture from different ideologies, and if so, why? 
What responsibility (if any) do we have to help moderate ideologies we may not agree with?

55 comments:

AnonaMiss said...

His suggestion is bullshit.

It's bullshit because Christian themes and Christian media already exist in the mainstream. To suggest that the mainstream excludes Christian material is ludicrous in the face of the grand majority of Western literature, in the face of Christian Brand bands with their occasional breakout mainstream hits, in the face of Touched by an Angel, Joan of Arcadia, etc.

To suggest that the mainstream "excludes" Christian Brand stuff is to buy into their framing of fundementalist Christians as a minority marginalized by the World, instead of as a minority that has withdrawn from the World voluntarily. If the mainstream suddenly reoriented itself to contain only what we'd currently consider Christian Brand Entertainment Product, I suspect the gatekeepers would just move their goalposts.

Isolation/separation isn't a side effect; it's the goal.

John Magnum said...

My immediate reaction is skepticism. Any point that seems to be "Christian culture is too marginalized and pushed to the side; it needs greater mainstream recognition and acceptance" makes me go "hwuh?" I don't think there is a dearth of Christian pop-cultural content. If we're talking specifically about fundamentalist Christian stuff that's very overtly and specifically Christian and passes the gatekeepers' tests, maybe, but...

As he recognizes, it's not that Amazon or 20th Century Fox or whatever is keeping the Christians out, it's that the fundamentalist gatekeepers are keeping fundamentalist Christians out. When cultural isolation is self-imposed, and when there's a conscious rejection of pluralism or interfaith tolerance, there's really no level of niceness on behalf of the secular pop culture establishment that will be sufficient to get fundamentalist Christian works into the broader pop-cultural sphere.

Yamikuronue said...

My thoughts exactly. The reason this stuff is being isolated is because a) the culture producing it wants to believe they're something special, something above and beyond ordinary human beings, and b) nobody else really wants to be assaulted with what basically amounts to "You're a lesser person, STFU" on a daily basis so they don't go out of their way to purchase nastiness. Those Christians who do not partake in exclusive, cult-like behavior find themselves reflected in most areas of the media.

The basic assumption in the US and in the UK is that any given person is a Christian but not a hateful person. There's basically no controversy in talking about going to church or mentioning God or claiming you'll pray for someone in everyday life. There's a lot of controversy in claiming that everyone around you isn't holy enough to be saved, or that certain groups of people are vile abominations in the eyes of God -- and claiming that that's "anti-Christian bias" is claiming that those things are necessary for being considered a Christian, which, I suspect, is exactly the point. In one fell swoop you get to shame large portions of the population AND feel smug and superior AND claim to be persecuted.

(I don't feel like I've phrased everything right but hopefully the basic meaning got through)

John Magnum said...

I'm also not really sure what's going on with the passage beginning "Our ignorance of Christian culture..." because a cursory glance at Wikipedia reminds me that 77 percent of the United States self-identifies as Christian. Christian culture is not mysterious or unknown! For a large majority of people, it is their culture. For many others, it is the predominant culture that they live and work and interact in all the time. The number of people going "My neighbors are all right, but so Christian. What mysterious religious ways are going on over there?" would seem to be vanishingly small. Does he really think there's a big problem where people in the United States just aren't aware of what Christianity is like?

Dav said...

This idea that if you're a Christian artist, your only audience is Christians is hilarious. Most people in the U.S. are Christians or fluent in Christian culture. There are slews of actors and comedians and musicians that are Christian, make no secret of being Christian, and have mainstream success. There are approximately 6 general FM Christian radio stations in town, plus a dedicated Catholic station. If I listen to a non-Christian radio station, there will be a number of songs that mention God (and they mean the God of Abraham) or Jesus or church or Sunday School. There's a section for Christian romances in my bookstore that's browsed by a lot of people who aren't evangelical Christians. Romances not in that section tend to have a significant portion of protagonists that are Christian.

What we're discussing are the Christians whose art consists mostly of posting giant DO NOT TRESPASS signs all along their cultural boundaries. There's plenty of Christian authors and musicians who have crossed over into mainstream - some because they were sampled, but more because they were not posting giant DO NOT TRESPASS signs all over their material. (This is a double whammy, because those signs make it much harder to do enjoyable work, unless the enjoyable part is reinforcing the cultural rules of your people. Which can be enjoyable, especially if you're scared and insular, but does not leave a lot of leeway for creativity or playfulness or reality. It's an art that tends to envelop itself in cultural markers and jargon and secret handshakes and dog whistles and assumed history.

If those artists find mainstream audiences, some of them will moderate themselves, but that's also just another opportunity for someone new to delineate the proper lines. Some will not change, because their art is not, generally, aimed at connecting with the other but defining it, excluding it, and demonizing it.

I consume a lot of pop culture from other cultures, and sort of by definition, other ideologies. I consume stuff I love, and that I love to pick on, but the stuff I love to pick on needs to have some honesty to it, some substance I can connect with. I think Twilight has a terrible honesty to it that makes it interesting (plus, it was awesome to describe certain scenes to people who hadn't read it and watch their faces sag). There needs to be a resonance, and I need to feel like - I don't know how to say it, but I'm engaging with the work and the work is engaging with me. A lot of the far-right Christian culture is like climbing glass - there's no purchase for me or my experiences there. There's no awareness of the world outside that culture, or much awareness of the world inside the culture. I've never read an evangelical book that resonated with my experience as an evangelical Christian. Fear, boredom, weariness, doubt, ostracization from the mainstream and the church, loneliness, the constant playacting, the hypocrisy - these are touched on as theoretical, if they're addressed at all.

The soap opera-y dramas I watch, for all their amnesia and evil twins and birth secrets and mineshaft collapses, at least have emotional resonance. They're honest (if amplified) in character, and they let me feel something, or enjoy the sheer ridiculousness of them. But the vast majority of the insular Christian plots are as predictable as a Chick tract - something worth reading only to mock their insipid misunderstanding of what it is to be human. And that doesn't make me feel good about them or me.

JarredH said...

Left Behind: In stock at both of my local B&N stores.
This Present Darkness: In stock at both of my local B&N stores.
Chronicles of Narnia: In stock at both of my local B&N stores.

Will Wildman said...

I have a serious problem with the idea that it's the responsibility of non-Christians to appreciate Christian stuff so that the Christian-stuff-makers will stop making stuff hostile to non-Christians.

I want to say more but my mind is going in too many other directions this morning to focus.

JarredH said...

I'll also point out that when Christian authors do write books that might appeal to non-Christians, the fundamentalist gatekeepers kick those books -- and possibly the author along with them no matter how "acceptable" zir other books may be -- out. For a recent example of this, look at "The Shack."

As such, there will always be those who (1) want to make the gatekeepers happy and (2) will focus on making media that caters to the isolationist group (bear in mind that many of them are a part of that group, themselves), even if it means (and it will) vilifying those outside of the group in the process.

MaryKaye said...

If strongly Christian work becomes popular in the mainstream, the gatekeepers may actually reject it. People have reported Christian booksellers refusing to stock Handel's _Messiah_. Given that Messiah's lyrics consist 100% of quotes from the Bible, it is hard to see any reason for this other than rejection of the mainstream--the work is popular with Catholics and mainstream Protestants (and Wiccans and atheists, as our yearly singalong makes clear), so it must be bad.

There is nothing that can be done about this from the outside. It has to heal from the inside.

In the meantime, I get to enjoy songs like U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", which is very Christian (though not in a way that the gatekeepers could accept) right alongside of their "She Moves In Mysterious Ways", which I at least take to be about the Goddess.

Likethis57 said...

Cold-blooded, and on point!

Nathaniel said...

Want me to start reading "Christian" literature? Stop being shit.

Sums it up for me.

JarredH said...

To answer a couple of Ana's questions.

How do you choose what pop culture to consume in your daily life?

In terms of music, I'm very much a "whatever comes on the radio when I'm driving" kind of guy. On occasion, a friend may introduce me to a new artist or song. If I like what I hear, I may make a trip to the iTunes store.

In terms of television, movies, and books, I tend to take the approach of, "If it looks interesting and/or entertaining, I'll check it out."

Are you open to pop culture from different ideologies, and if so, why?

If it meets my selection criteria above and I become aware of it, sure.

I will note that I'm inclined to find pop culture that pushes ideologies (or at least certain ideologies) less interesting or entertaining. There comes a point where the ideology just overtakes a work.

As an aside, I've bought Peretti's books in three different media formats (eBook, audio book, and softcover) since converting to Paganism. One of them (The Visitation), I actually enjoy and cherish, though not for the primary plot but for Peretti's exploration and critique of the church culture he himself is involved in. I picked up This Present Darkness because I remember reading it when I was a part of his target audience and I wanted to see what my reaction to the book would be like from my post-Christian perspective.

FrenchRoast said...

I get what he's trying to say, but as others have already pointed out, it just doesn't work that way. For one, he's equating fundamentalist/One True Religion Christians with all other Christians, and there is a difference. For two, you *can* find plenty of explicitly Christian works in mainstream outlets. For three, a lot of the "Christian" works that go mainstream end up, as someone else pointed out, getting rejected by the OTR Christian gatekeepers. Until the OTR Christians who are only looking for explicitly Christian works stop doing so and start looking for other things (or at least demanding better quality in their explicitly Christian works*), they're not going to change...and that's exactly how those gatekeepers want it.

*I grew up in a sort of Christian household--went to Christian pre-k & kindergarten, but public schools after that, but we didn't start attending church until I was in 7th grade, and that was mostly because my then-stepfather was being pressured by his fundie mother, and because he wanted to use it for networking purposes. I consider myself a liberal Christian, and outside of a couple of random relatives, my family is of the "you don't have to listen to a particular church/etc. for God/Jesus to love you, but if you want to go to church, that's cool too" variety of Christanity. My fundie stepgrandmother was a nice person(at least until my mom divorced my stepfather), and knowing I loved to read, she bought me lots of books from both Christian and mainstream bookstores. Even in middle school (when I was unaware of the many problematic things going on in those books), there was a very noticeable difference in the quality of writing between most of the books that came from the Christian bookstore vs. books that came from everywhere else.

Annafel said...

Wow. When I read the excerpt, it struck me that Daniel Radosh was treating the so-called gatekeepers as a "missing stair" (see: http://pervocracy.blogspot.ca/2012/06/missing-stair.html ) by assuming that they are an immutable fact of life and it is the responsibility of everyone else to jump over them. Then a bunch of the comments pointed out that his whole premise is factually incorrect - Christian artists and Christian media are already prevalent in mainstream pop culture.

So that leaves the question, why is Radosh using a flawed premise to argue that non-fundamentalist Christians have a responsibility to engage with fundamentalist Christian media? It seems like he wants those products to be more widely read. And my response to anyone telling me I have a responsibility to engage with hateful products that are hostile to my values and my self-image is: No. We are done here.

As far as I am concerned, the fact that these products are isolated from the mainstream culture, whether by influence of these gatekeepers or (imo, more likely) through their own insularity and hostility towards outsiders, is a feature, not a bug. I don't accept any degree of responsibility towards moderating extremist cultures.

And to respond to a different question: I do consume media from different ideologies. Just not any that are based on the premise that there is only one right way to live.

MaryKaye said...

I have read and enjoyed books which were extremely distant from me ideologically. The book that leaps to mind is _A Voyage to Arcturus_. To the extent that I think I understand the author's worldview, I reject it completely. But the imagery will stick with me for the rest of my life: it's one of the four or five most obvious influences on my writing and roleplaying creativity.

The thing that makes _Arcturus_ palatable to me, I believe, is that Lindsay is dedicated to his work's integrity first and ideology second, or at least that is the impression given by the work. The book has a fever-dream quality, as if the author were possessed by it rather than constructing it.

I have in my collection no less than four sets of books where the first one seemed to have this quality--inner honesty or integrity despite the author's ideological views--and the second, to my disgust, did not. It seems like an easy thing to lose. And, interestingly, in two of those cases the first book was published by a mainstream publisher and the second by a Christian publisher. I don't know which way cause and effect worked: did the books start out bad and earn rejection by the mainstream publisher, or were they okay until editorial intervention by the Christian publisher?

Thomas Keyton said...

have a serious problem with the idea that it's the responsibility of non-Christians to appreciate Christian stuff so that the Christian-stuff-makers will stop making stuff hostile to non-Christians.

This.

It sounds very like "oh but he wouldn't be such an asshole if you'd only sleep with him!"

Ana Mardoll said...

I have nothing of value to add except that I probably broke Disqus by Like-ing every comment in this thread.

Good conversation, and I hope it continues. Radosh's final chapter didn't sit well with me (though I *love* the book overall) because I do think expecting people to read things that are hostile and triggering in order to "change the culture" is...a strange expectation, to put it mildly. (Not the least reason because buying X would seem to indicate approval of X, so I'm not certain how buying X is supposed to make X grow into Y.)

Dav said...

Just wanted to add: The Poisonwood Bible is pretty much the best oh-my-god-me-too book insofar as my negative experience as a Baptist girl went. None of the details, none of the events, but pretty much all the feelings. Book of Mormon encapsulates pretty much everything that was good about it. If fundamentalist Christianity could bring to the table some art that brought up even just the good things or memories, I would be all over it. I'm just healed enough from my childhood to be interested in reconnecting a little with my roots, but only if my roots want to connect with me. I'm one of a lot of ex-fundamental evangelicals who left the church young, and I bet I'm not alone.

Which makes me wonder if maybe I should be writing exploitation fiction for my cohort.

Steve Morrison said...

The book that leaps to mind is _A Voyage to Arcturus_. To the extent that I think I understand the author's worldview, I reject it completely. But the imagery will stick with me for the rest of my lifeAh, I recognize the feeling! Interestingly, C. S. Lewis also felt exactly that way about A Voyage to Arcturus; loved the imagination, hated the ideology. (He also responded that way to Olaf Stapledon's books.)

Antigone10 said...

Just want to sort of add to the chorus that yes, there is plenty of Christian stuff- explicitly and implicitly- in the mainstream society. I am not actually opposed to popular media that is explicitly Christian, provided that it doesn't substitute "sincere" with "good".

And that can kind of be the rub- if it's good Christian works, it probably is already in the mainstream, or going to make the jump. Christian subculture is all about whether or not it has the right propaganda, not whether or not it is high quality. That's not bad- all subcultures do this to some extent- but it isn't because the mainstream is blocking them out. Left Behind isn't popular in "mainstream society*" because people don't like end-times stories that borrow from Christian mythology; it isn't popular because it sucks.

The "gatekeeper problem" is going away, and not because mainstream society is becoming more or less effective, but rather that people don't have to go through the gate. Online purchasing appeals to a lot of the Christian crowd, and there is NO way to be the ultimate gatekeeper of the internet.

*Although, it sold millions of copies, so I'm kind of curious where exactly to draw the line on this one.

Silver Adept said...

@Antigone10 re: Left Behind: It's kind of the progenitor of books that are quality-not-so-good but thrive on excellent viral marketing. One can class Twilight in there based on your opinion, but I will firmly require Fifty Shades Of Grey to be put there. We sometimes really like "trashy" fiction. (Given enough time, vulgar entertainment can become respected classics, like Shakespeare.)

As for the substance of the post, in addition to all the excellent posts about the flawed premise and the Great Wall function of the gatekeepers in Christian fiction, I might note the contrast - to the best of my knowledge, we're unlikely to have people advocating in books for the inclusion of non-Abrahamaic culture in the mainstream, lest it turn into some sort of cancerous entity that turns it's membership ever-more extreme. Instead, things like that tend to be drawn in for how much they can be commercially exploited and possibly allowed status as a second-class religio, rather than being condemned to the wilds of superstitio. The conversation's existence at all assets the primacy of Christian culture in the United States.

I think that someone has to be open to pop culture from other ideologies if they really want to understand those ideologies. Otherwise you look at textbook examples and think they apply to the real world.

As for the role of moderating, as a United States based commenter, I find the tension of "your right to swing your fist ends at the point it contacts anyone else's body" to be a good starting point. A person who is only interested in speech and talking and idea exchange is welcome. The minute the goals start changing to influence people or (in extreme cases) do violence to them, though, I think we then have to start thinking about how far is acceptable (first, do no harm?) and what responsibilities someone may have if their speech or action influences another person to action. It's a very complex dance, though, and I don't claim to have anything approaching expertise at determining that.

depizan said...

His suggestion is bullshit.

Yeah. Not only are Christian themes pretty damn mainstream, but unless he's living in an alternate reality, explicitly Christian media is found in normal secular stores all the time, and quite likely always has been. Bookstores - regular bookstores (local and national) - have had Christian Inspiration and Christian Fiction sections _at least_ since 1996, when I first got a job in one. Though I'm fairly certain said sections were there long before I was. (I just never paid any attention to them before.) Likewise, Christian books are found at your local library - though not explicitly separated, except by call number (though this does not apply to Christian Fiction in a Dewey Decimal organized library - it's right there touching those nasty secular fiction books.) You can buy Christian music at Barnes and Noble, check it out from the library, or download it from iTunes.

The gatekeeping is being chosen by the creators. They're seeking Christian Brand publishers, distributors, and venues. This is not secular society's fault and secular society can't change it.

Also, this: "Our ignorance of Christian culture not only causes us to misunderstand, misinterpret, and misjudge our Christian neighbors, it also precludes our effectively challenging those aspects of Christian culture that may be properly judged as offensive." makes it sound as if Christians are some picked on minority group. To which I call BULL and SHIT. Also, HELL FUCKING NO. The majority of Americans identify as Christian and our pop culture, holidays, and daily life are steeped in Christianity.

And who the fuck is he to decide what I find offensive? Or to grant me the right to properly judge something as offensive. Fuck off, dude. If you were defending a genuine minority from possible misunderstanding (say a culture that believed eating the dead was honoring them) that'd be one thing, but again CHRISTIANS AREN'T A FUCKING MINORITY. Nor are their ways mysterious and different.

...

Wow, that made me a lot madder than I realized before I started typing. Let me quickly clarify. I am angry at him and his suggestions, not Christians in general.

Pqw said...

Not only can explicitly-fundamentalist/Biblical Christian books and media be found at bookstores (including our locally-owned independent bookstore), but our SUPERMARKET sells stuff written by Dobson and his ilk, conveniently located next to the self-checkout kiosks. I would actually appreciate seeing LESS of them everywhere, especially since there isn't any equivalent aggressive marketing of atheist/Muslim/Pagan/other nonmainstream works. And I live in a very pluralistic part of the country.

I just finished reading a book WAY outside of my normal interests: Military sff/time travel/alternate history, and 750 pages of it. I'm now planning to make it my first Deconstruction because there's so much to work with. But overall, I enjoyed it. (My tastes are changing, as old certainties fall away, and are replaced by ambiguity and surprises.)

I think being social at all requires us to talk about what we like and don't like, and why. Whether anyone else agrees, or thinks our opinions are worth acting on, is something we can't predict. To me, having the conversation is where the magic happens, not mandating what other people should like (or dislike) and why.

graylor said...

Really. Christianity is totally absent from the mainstream. Which is why you can buy 'make your own rosary kits' in Wal-Mart. Okay, so that's the wrong kind of Christian. They sell crosses in the craft aisle in Wal-Mart, too, but I guess they look scary, with their distressed fake tarnished silver and fake rubies or what have you, no doubt the people who wear those aren't Real True Christians either..

If he means Christianity As Seen in Christian Bookstores as opposed to, well, duh, most people in the US are Christians of some variety, well... I seem to recall something about salt, and what good it is if it has lost its flavor. I've killed time in Christian bookstores, and, I assure you, if there is any salt with any flavor left there, it is well hidden. Christian bookstores are extremely soothing, muted colors, muted music, books and art that are all very alike, nothing challenging in the least and certainly nothing provoking. These gatekeepers take the 'come as a child' thing seriously, only its a Victorian sort of childishness that has nothing to do with real childhood. These stores are a refuge for adults who want their adult doubts and troubles soothed away.

The merchandise in Chsitrian bookstores tends to be fairly useless (they carry Bible covers, but how many of those does one person need?). Mostly it's kitsch--soothing art, soothing doodads, soothing music boxes. The point is not so much to seize the interest of the buyer, but to be the sort of thing a Real True Christian would buy. They are tribal markers (and the last refuge for gift-buyers looking for something that won't offend). Part of the importance there is possibly spiritual: they feel like bad Christians because they are human and there is a certain very nasty thread of fundamentalist thought that makes humanity an evil. They also may feel like bad Christians because some of them are bad Christians--they may order their lives by commands from the pulpit, but they don't care for the least of those in any concrete or useful manner, unless you count donating a random bag of worn-out clothes every Christmas counts. They will know you by your WWJD T-shirts, not by the way the holy spirit shines through you *or* by your works.

This stuff doesn't sell in secular stores because it flat out cannot compete--let Real True Christians make something worthwhile, and it will sell just fine. Exactly like it already does (for a given value of worthwhile. see also, the Left Behind books).

depizan said...

For happier posting, howabout those questions?

How do you choose what pop culture to consume in your daily life?

Whatever I stumble over. For example, the last piece of music that made me go "wow, I want that" was one someone had used for an AMV at an anime convention. Music my friends listen to, whatever comes on on the assorted radio stations I listen to. Books and movies that I check in or out or put on hold for people. Things people mention in their blogs.


Are you open to pop culture from different ideologies, and if so, why?

That depends on what you mean. I certainly don't check creator's religion, political leanings, or country of origin before choosing to consume something. But, at the same time, I don't like being hit over the head with any beliefs, even ones I agree with. (See also why I'm not fond of the later seasons of MacGyver.) As long as something is of a type of pop culture I like, isn't actively hostile to me, and isn't whacking me over the head with the author's point of view, it's all good.


What responsibility (if any) do we have to help moderate ideologies we may not agree with?

This is teetering uncomfortably on the edge of "if you love him, maybe he'll stop hitting you." Open discussion is good, but the kind of thing the book suggests really seems like it's putting the responsibility on the wrong people.

Rikalous said...

How do you choose what pop culture to consume in your daily life?
TVTropes, mostly. Either I run across the page for it and it sounds interesting, or it shows up enough on the site that I decide to check it out to see why it's so popular. Since I'm cheap (or frugal, depending on how charitable you want to be), my selection's also limited by what I can consume for free. Yay library system.

Are you open to pop culture from different ideologies, and if so, why?
Sure, if it's a decent story told well. I've read a few books of Dean Koontz and noticed that his writing seems to be more "Christianity is the best thing ever!"* than my agnostic self, but I still enjoyed the storytelling. Also, I enjoyed Narnia and the Wrinkle in Time series the last times I read them, although that was a while ago.

What responsibility (if any) do we have to help moderate ideologies we may not agree with?
Maybe sometimes we might have a responsibility to moderate ideologies in people we're responsible for, but for the most part it's everyone's job to keep their own ideology under control.

*In the four books I've read, the villains were a) Evil Satanists (who were annoyed that real life Satanists weren't supervillains), b) Evil Occultists (one of whom referred to her minions as chevals, which I understand is a Voudoun term), c) Evil guy trying to understand the mind of God, and d) Evil guy creating life and thinking of himself as a god. Also, one criminal turning from his wicked ways thanks to the influence of a couple of Christians, and one who turned from his wicked ways and became a monk.

Asha said...

My feelings echo the rest on how it is not secular society's job to moderate the worst of the fundamentalists. I think I was over at pathoes, reading Slactivist (or it might have been here, but I don't think it was) where someone mentioned that the fundamentalist fringe gets more strident and incestuous the fewer and fewer there are because all the moderates leave. In a way, it feels like that observation is a mirror image of what Radosh was saying. Yet those very fundamentalists are what is driving the moderates and open-minded folks away, evaporating a lake into a stagnant, rancid pond. Those moderates aren't likely to go back to a place that poisoned them for the sake of the poisoners. Yet they are the only people who really can, if anyone can, if anyone should, which remains to be seen.

I'm pretty much like anyone else here; I stumble on something in pop culture, like the tagline or hook, and get immersed. For example, a friend wanted me to understand D&D, sent me Neverwinter Nights and I started playing PC games. From there, I was into the medium and checked out rec lists and reviews. Its pretty organic. It was only when I was very fundamentalist christian myself that I restricted what I watched or listened to. Ironically, no one told me to censor my reading, which exposed me to all sorts of feminist fantasy (because SHE-RA was my hero as a girl and when I saw a picture of a woman with a sword on the cover of a book, I had to have it), as well as comics and sci-fi.

As for being open to pop culture from different ideologies, I suppose there's no reason why I wouldn't. Yet it would have to be up to a certain artistic standard. I still love a lot of hymns for the beauty and joy in the song- I will belt out traditional Christmas song at any time of year. A lot of evangelical pop culture just comes across as poor quality knock-offs. I remember reading about the Left Behind video game, and it just had nothing in it that appealed to me.

Eh... no one is obliged to help the people who hurt them. We're obliged to keep them from starting a war that will hurt others, but not to keep them from hurting themselves.

Anthony Rosa said...

You know, from my experience, this sort of fundamentalist/evangelical/nondenominational Christianity, the flavor that's being discussed, is indeed out of the mainstream. Yes, Christianity is mainstream, but one cannot forget that Christians are not One Big Happy Family. Catholics and mainstream Protestants have differing cultures, mores, language, ideology and sometimes values, and that's not to mention Orthodox churches or the Evangelical churches.

When I was a Catholic, talking to people of some of those other groups felt like talking to someone who speaks a completely different language. And it was kind of true. What was all this emphasis on being "born again", I thought, as it was obvious since I'd gone through the requisite Sacraments of First Communion and Confirmation. A lot of their customs were alien and uncomfortable to me in those days, because of such differences.

So yeah, the fundamentalist groups are definitely in the minority, among Christians. They are definitely different than the many other trains of thought in Christianity. And they definitely isolate themselves from the common culture.

But though I wanted to point out the above, let me emphasize, I agree with you all: That's not our problem! We aren't excluding them, they WANT to pull away... and they aren't being discriminated against in the least, instead they are a powerful political influence in the United States. If one looks at the common culture, I agree, it's inundated with Christian ideography and themes, to the point that if one looks at depictions of non-Christian cultures, you find that they're oddly Christianized. (Hades as a Satan-analogue? That common depiction makes no sense except as looked at through said Christianification.)

This particular subculture, because it IS a subculture and not the Christian culture at large, doesn't need our help, because nobody's forcing it out of the mainstream but them. And when they vilify good people and good things, it makes me not particularly inclined to help pull them kicking and streaming into the open, either...

Tigerpetals said...

If I were more open to Christian pop culture, the only thing I would have to do would be not avoid explicitly marketed as Christian products. I get enough of that sort of thing without deciding to make including it in experiences as a priority.

I take it for granted that books, tv shows, movies, and music come from a Christian perspective, whether or not the author is Christian. The latter doesn't even come up in my head; not because I think they are Christian, but because Western cultures are, to my knowledge, Christian-dominated and Christian-shaped. I don't mind and am actually curious when I find something that seems to be different. Also, I wonder if Christian stuff counts. It's not foreign to me, but even the more moderate thoughts aren't necessarily beliefs I share or that resonate with me. I'm going to say it doesn't count, because it's not going against the dominant culture I was made by and can't escape even if I don't agree with everything.

As for choosing, it's influenced by established likes, though not necessarily of ideology - fairytales will attract attention even if I ultimately reject the book, for example - what I'm reading on the Internet, things people drop out on purpose or by accident, and browsing what's available in a physical book-selling place. For example, Borders closed last year and I haven't seen any mainly English-language bookshops around. Lately, I've been buying more books than usual from the English seminar at my university, which sells books donated for that purpose. This might be because of the afore-mentioned closing of Borders. Many of the books they sell are lit-crit or literary. I've also been wanting to read more books in my native language, thanks to university and my own impulses, so I've been keeping an eye out. And for the first time, I've been able to attend an international book festival, where the books are in Spanish. Those have, I think, been my main sources for books. Except for online stores, where I try to buy used and like to take advantage of deals. But I mostly only buy from there on birthday and holidays, because of the expense of shipping and because I prefer to be able to read books before I buy them, and not just the little previews Amazon lets you have. Of course that is often moot for new Spanish books, because of the popular tendency to wrap them in plastic.

As for moderating ideologies - I can't understand how. These people, if we are talking about extreme Christians, are members of a dominant culture who didn't feel it was dominant enough, among other things, and so they made their own subculture.(I suppose once you're in it, especially born in it, it can be hard to get out if your life gets built around it and you are kept from having an idea of how else to live.) From what I've read in the comments and what I've seen, it's as if explicitly Christian bookstores and other things are explicitly there to make sure that subculture gets perpetuated, and by perpetuated I mean gets to be the dominant and maybe even the only one its members are in contact with. So I just don't understand how wanting to participate in it, by giving them money, is supposed to help that. Unless maybe he meant people aren't seeing Christian extremists as people, and that the way to reach such extremists is to understand their culture and try to see the good parts of it. Perhaps that people who actually dismiss it or sneer at it are validating the feelings of these Christians. It is alienating to be insulted or dismissed, even if one is not a persecuted minority. I can see that, though I'm not sure where I'd draw the line. I don't think people who actually are minorities, for one thing, should have to worry about alienating the dominant. We do of course, but that's all the more reason why exposing ourselves to it more is not something we need to do to be moral, open-minded, understanding, or fair.

Redwood Rhiadra said...

I've read a few books of Dean Koontz and noticed that his writing seems to be more "Christianity is the best thing ever!"* than my agnostic self, but I still enjoyed the storytelling.

If you like his storytelling, check out his older works, particularly from the 80's and early 90's - there was much less of a heavily Christian orientation in his earlier books. I highly recommend Watchers, Strangers, and Phantoms in particular.

Ymfon Tviergh said...

Well met, fellow troper! I hadn't even realized it, but now that you mention it, this is exactly how I found a lot of the books and TV shows I've been consuming lately.

chris the cynic said...

I haven't read all the comments but I'm getting the impression that everything I want to say has been said already. Normally this would make me not post because it's kind of pointless to repeat what's already been said, but today not so much. So prepare for a bit of deja vu.

The author set out to learn about a certain subculture and in so doing seems to have picked up some of the misconceptions of said subculture. Notably that things are not being accepted outside of the subculture. They are. You won't find every Christian Author (which is different from “author who is Christian”) at a mainstream bookstore, but that's because unlike a Christian Bookstore they carry other books and need some space for them.

The problem isn't that people can't get the stuff if they step beyond the gate, the problem is that the gatekeepers are doing a good job of keeping the gate. It's not just that they only let approved stuff in, it's that they keep those within the subculture in.

The reason that Christian Authors have to abide by the gatekeeper's rules isn't that they can't sell their books outside of the gates, it's that their primary audience won't be there to buy them because their primary audience stays inside of the gates.

The problem isn't that the mainstream won't carry the subculture's stuff in their stores -it will, it is, and it has- the problem is that the members of the subculture either won't come to those stores or won't leave their specific section. It's that the gatekeepers have convinced them either that they won't find it in mainstream stores (they will) or that if they leave the Christian section they'll be damned.

The culture is isolated because they won't come out, not because other people won't accept them if they do. The gatekeepers are doing a good job of keeping the gate and that job has two parts, one part is only to let approved materials in, the other is to keep everyone inside from going out. And unless they come out it doesn't matter how much of their stuff is accepted by the mainstream because they won't see it.

And if you want to know how much of their stuff is accepted by the mainstream, consider the Rapture. Most Christians don't believe in it. Yet that is the Christian endtime story the mainstream knows. The subculture is so accepted by the mainstream that their particular version of the story has overshadowed that of all mainstream Christians put together.

Which brings me to another thing that the author seems to have picked up from the subculture. The idea that only those within the subculture are Christian. Fred Clark had a post that, in part, responded to an article saying that something was the first Christian Album at number one in the charts for 15 years. First off, number one in the charts means you are being accepted in the mainstream, but that's not Fred's point and it's not mine in bringing it up. Instead what Fred did was point out that the article was claimed it was only the third Christian Album to ever reach that point, and then rattle off a list of Christian albums that weren't counted.

The subculture claims exclusive rights to the name Christian, and only the things that the gatekeepers approve get to use that label. The author seems to have internalized that. Yet, even if we make that concession (and we shouldn't) his point still doesn't hold because the subculture's products are carried outside of their bubble, it's just that the subculture's inhabitants don't venture outside of the bubble to see that fact.

Kristy said...

I didn't listen to, watch, or read much Christian pop-culture stuff even when I was a Christian. REason being - in the mainstream, there's a certain expectation of quality, and the competition is fierce. But by creating - and pandering to - a specifically Christian subculture, especially one that either hasn't been exposed to or feels it's more virtuous to avoid the mainstream, artists have an easy out. They don't HAVE to be good, as long as they have the "right message." This is why Left Behind sells so well despite being rubbish as far as writing goes, and why so much "Christian rock" tends to be trite and treacly.

Add to that the fact that, as a rule, I find hatefulness of any kind in my entertainment highly distasteful, and yeah - there's a lot of "Christian" stuff that I don't consider worth my time, regardless of whether or not I'm Christian.

OTOH, there are quite a few movies, books, and songs that are either implicitly or explicitly Christian, yet are still very well-crafted and focus on the good aspects of the religion, and those I enjoy as much now as I ever did. Because (unlike, apparently, some of the more insular sects of Christianity) I am perfectly able to find something beautiful, moving, or just plain fun without necessarily having to believe everything it's saying.

Makabit said...

Hmmm. I choose pop culture that I like, and screen out what I don't the best I can. What do I like? Well that's all over the map.

Radosh's argument doesn't hold much water for me, both for reasons that everyone else has delineated, and because, coming from a Jewish perspective, my two responses are "Dudes (Christians), you're EVERYWHERE, what's the problem?" and "OK, so some stuff Barnes and Noble doesn't carry. It's all on Amazon anyway."

I can't find Devora Doresh mysteries at B&N. That's why I either go to a small Jewish bookstore or a small Jewish website, or AMAZON.I can't get tefillin at the department store. Most of my religious and cultural needs I get from somewhere other than big mainstream stores. Nu? Why not?

Yamikuronue said...

My thoughts exactly. The reason this stuff is being isolated is because a) the culture producing it wants to believe they're something special, something above and beyond ordinary human beings, and b) nobody else really wants to be assaulted with what basically amounts to "You're a lesser person, STFU" on a daily basis so they don't go out of their way to purchase nastiness. Those Christians who do not partake in exclusive, cult-like behavior find themselves reflected in most areas of the media.

The basic assumption in the US and in the UK is that any given person is a Christian but not a hateful person. There's basically no controversy in talking about going to church or mentioning God or claiming you'll pray for someone in everyday life. There's a lot of controversy in claiming that everyone around you isn't holy enough to be saved, or that certain groups of people are vile abominations in the eyes of God -- and claiming that that's "anti-Christian bias" is claiming that those things are necessary for being considered a Christian, which, I suspect, is exactly the point. In one fell swoop you get to shame large portions of the population AND feel smug and superior AND claim to be persecuted.

(I don't feel like I've phrased everything right but hopefully the basic meaning got through)

Antigone10 said...

Just want to sort of add to the chorus that yes, there is plenty of Christian stuff- explicitly and implicitly- in the mainstream society. I am not actually opposed to popular media that is explicitly Christian, provided that it doesn't substitute "sincere" with "good".

And that can kind of be the rub- if it's good Christian works, it probably is already in the mainstream, or going to make the jump. Christian subculture is all about whether or not it has the right propaganda, not whether or not it is high quality. That's not bad- all subcultures do this to some extent- but it isn't because the mainstream is blocking them out. Left Behind isn't popular in "mainstream society*" because people don't like end-times stories that borrow from Christian mythology; it isn't popular because it sucks.

The "gatekeeper problem" is going away, and not because mainstream society is becoming more or less effective, but rather that people don't have to go through the gate. Online purchasing appeals to a lot of the Christian crowd, and there is NO way to be the ultimate gatekeeper of the internet.

*Although, it sold millions of copies, so I'm kind of curious where exactly to draw the line on this one.

Steve Morrison said...

The book that leaps to mind is _A Voyage to Arcturus_. To the extent that I think I understand the author's worldview, I reject it completely. But the imagery will stick with me for the rest of my lifeAh, I recognize the feeling! Interestingly, C. S. Lewis also felt exactly that way about A Voyage to Arcturus; loved the imagination, hated the ideology. (He also responded that way to Olaf Stapledon's books.)

Ana Mardoll said...

I have nothing of value to add except that I probably broke Disqus by Like-ing every comment in this thread.

Good conversation, and I hope it continues. Radosh's final chapter didn't sit well with me (though I *love* the book overall) because I do think expecting people to read things that are hostile and triggering in order to "change the culture" is...a strange expectation, to put it mildly. (Not the least reason because buying X would seem to indicate approval of X, so I'm not certain how buying X is supposed to make X grow into Y.)

FrenchRoast said...

I get what he's trying to say, but as others have already pointed out, it just doesn't work that way. For one, he's equating fundamentalist/One True Religion Christians with all other Christians, and there is a difference. For two, you *can* find plenty of explicitly Christian works in mainstream outlets. For three, a lot of the "Christian" works that go mainstream end up, as someone else pointed out, getting rejected by the OTR Christian gatekeepers. Until the OTR Christians who are only looking for explicitly Christian works stop doing so and start looking for other things (or at least demanding better quality in their explicitly Christian works*), they're not going to change...and that's exactly how those gatekeepers want it.

*I grew up in a sort of Christian household--went to Christian pre-k & kindergarten, but public schools after that, but we didn't start attending church until I was in 7th grade, and that was mostly because my then-stepfather was being pressured by his fundie mother, and because he wanted to use it for networking purposes. I consider myself a liberal Christian, and outside of a couple of random relatives, my family is of the "you don't have to listen to a particular church/etc. for God/Jesus to love you, but if you want to go to church, that's cool too" variety of Christanity. My fundie stepgrandmother was a nice person(at least until my mom divorced my stepfather), and knowing I loved to read, she bought me lots of books from both Christian and mainstream bookstores. Even in middle school (when I was unaware of the many problematic things going on in those books), there was a very noticeable difference in the quality of writing between most of the books that came from the Christian bookstore vs. books that came from everywhere else.

AnonaMiss said...

His suggestion is bullshit.

It's bullshit because Christian themes and Christian media already exist in the mainstream. To suggest that the mainstream excludes Christian material is ludicrous in the face of the grand majority of Western literature, in the face of Christian Brand bands with their occasional breakout mainstream hits, in the face of Touched by an Angel, Joan of Arcadia, etc.

To suggest that the mainstream "excludes" Christian Brand stuff is to buy into their framing of fundementalist Christians as a minority marginalized by the World, instead of as a minority that has withdrawn from the World voluntarily. If the mainstream suddenly reoriented itself to contain only what we'd currently consider Christian Brand Entertainment Product, I suspect the gatekeepers would just move their goalposts.

Isolation/separation isn't a side effect; it's the goal.

Likethis57 said...

Cold-blooded, and on point!

Nathaniel said...

Want me to start reading "Christian" literature? Stop being shit.

Sums it up for me.

JarredH said...

I'll also point out that when Christian authors do write books that might appeal to non-Christians, the fundamentalist gatekeepers kick those books -- and possibly the author along with them no matter how "acceptable" zir other books may be -- out. For a recent example of this, look at "The Shack."

As such, there will always be those who (1) want to make the gatekeepers happy and (2) will focus on making media that caters to the isolationist group (bear in mind that many of them are a part of that group, themselves), even if it means (and it will) vilifying those outside of the group in the process.

JarredH said...

Left Behind: In stock at both of my local B&N stores.
This Present Darkness: In stock at both of my local B&N stores.
Chronicles of Narnia: In stock at both of my local B&N stores.

Dav said...

This idea that if you're a Christian artist, your only audience is Christians is hilarious. Most people in the U.S. are Christians or fluent in Christian culture. There are slews of actors and comedians and musicians that are Christian, make no secret of being Christian, and have mainstream success. There are approximately 6 general FM Christian radio stations in town, plus a dedicated Catholic station. If I listen to a non-Christian radio station, there will be a number of songs that mention God (and they mean the God of Abraham) or Jesus or church or Sunday School. There's a section for Christian romances in my bookstore that's browsed by a lot of people who aren't evangelical Christians. Romances not in that section tend to have a significant portion of protagonists that are Christian.

What we're discussing are the Christians whose art consists mostly of posting giant DO NOT TRESPASS signs all along their cultural boundaries. There's plenty of Christian authors and musicians who have crossed over into mainstream - some because they were sampled, but more because they were not posting giant DO NOT TRESPASS signs all over their material. (This is a double whammy, because those signs make it much harder to do enjoyable work, unless the enjoyable part is reinforcing the cultural rules of your people. Which can be enjoyable, especially if you're scared and insular, but does not leave a lot of leeway for creativity or playfulness or reality. It's an art that tends to envelop itself in cultural markers and jargon and secret handshakes and dog whistles and assumed history.

If those artists find mainstream audiences, some of them will moderate themselves, but that's also just another opportunity for someone new to delineate the proper lines. Some will not change, because their art is not, generally, aimed at connecting with the other but defining it, excluding it, and demonizing it.

I consume a lot of pop culture from other cultures, and sort of by definition, other ideologies. I consume stuff I love, and that I love to pick on, but the stuff I love to pick on needs to have some honesty to it, some substance I can connect with. I think Twilight has a terrible honesty to it that makes it interesting (plus, it was awesome to describe certain scenes to people who hadn't read it and watch their faces sag). There needs to be a resonance, and I need to feel like - I don't know how to say it, but I'm engaging with the work and the work is engaging with me. A lot of the far-right Christian culture is like climbing glass - there's no purchase for me or my experiences there. There's no awareness of the world outside that culture, or much awareness of the world inside the culture. I've never read an evangelical book that resonated with my experience as an evangelical Christian. Fear, boredom, weariness, doubt, ostracization from the mainstream and the church, loneliness, the constant playacting, the hypocrisy - these are touched on as theoretical, if they're addressed at all.

The soap opera-y dramas I watch, for all their amnesia and evil twins and birth secrets and mineshaft collapses, at least have emotional resonance. They're honest (if amplified) in character, and they let me feel something, or enjoy the sheer ridiculousness of them. But the vast majority of the insular Christian plots are as predictable as a Chick tract - something worth reading only to mock their insipid misunderstanding of what it is to be human. And that doesn't make me feel good about them or me.

JarredH said...

To answer a couple of Ana's questions.

How do you choose what pop culture to consume in your daily life?

In terms of music, I'm very much a "whatever comes on the radio when I'm driving" kind of guy. On occasion, a friend may introduce me to a new artist or song. If I like what I hear, I may make a trip to the iTunes store.

In terms of television, movies, and books, I tend to take the approach of, "If it looks interesting and/or entertaining, I'll check it out."

Are you open to pop culture from different ideologies, and if so, why?

If it meets my selection criteria above and I become aware of it, sure.

I will note that I'm inclined to find pop culture that pushes ideologies (or at least certain ideologies) less interesting or entertaining. There comes a point where the ideology just overtakes a work.

As an aside, I've bought Peretti's books in three different media formats (eBook, audio book, and softcover) since converting to Paganism. One of them (The Visitation), I actually enjoy and cherish, though not for the primary plot but for Peretti's exploration and critique of the church culture he himself is involved in. I picked up This Present Darkness because I remember reading it when I was a part of his target audience and I wanted to see what my reaction to the book would be like from my post-Christian perspective.

depizan said...

His suggestion is bullshit.

Yeah. Not only are Christian themes pretty damn mainstream, but unless he's living in an alternate reality, explicitly Christian media is found in normal secular stores all the time, and quite likely always has been. Bookstores - regular bookstores (local and national) - have had Christian Inspiration and Christian Fiction sections _at least_ since 1996, when I first got a job in one. Though I'm fairly certain said sections were there long before I was. (I just never paid any attention to them before.) Likewise, Christian books are found at your local library - though not explicitly separated, except by call number (though this does not apply to Christian Fiction in a Dewey Decimal organized library - it's right there touching those nasty secular fiction books.) You can buy Christian music at Barnes and Noble, check it out from the library, or download it from iTunes.

The gatekeeping is being chosen by the creators. They're seeking Christian Brand publishers, distributors, and venues. This is not secular society's fault and secular society can't change it.

Also, this: "Our ignorance of Christian culture not only causes us to misunderstand, misinterpret, and misjudge our Christian neighbors, it also precludes our effectively challenging those aspects of Christian culture that may be properly judged as offensive." makes it sound as if Christians are some picked on minority group. To which I call BULL and SHIT. Also, HELL FUCKING NO. The majority of Americans identify as Christian and our pop culture, holidays, and daily life are steeped in Christianity.

And who the fuck is he to decide what I find offensive? Or to grant me the right to properly judge something as offensive. Fuck off, dude. If you were defending a genuine minority from possible misunderstanding (say a culture that believed eating the dead was honoring them) that'd be one thing, but again CHRISTIANS AREN'T A FUCKING MINORITY. Nor are their ways mysterious and different.

...

Wow, that made me a lot madder than I realized before I started typing. Let me quickly clarify. I am angry at him and his suggestions, not Christians in general.

Silver Adept said...

@Antigone10 re: Left Behind: It's kind of the progenitor of books that are quality-not-so-good but thrive on excellent viral marketing. One can class Twilight in there based on your opinion, but I will firmly require Fifty Shades Of Grey to be put there. We sometimes really like "trashy" fiction. (Given enough time, vulgar entertainment can become respected classics, like Shakespeare.)

As for the substance of the post, in addition to all the excellent posts about the flawed premise and the Great Wall function of the gatekeepers in Christian fiction, I might note the contrast - to the best of my knowledge, we're unlikely to have people advocating in books for the inclusion of non-Abrahamaic culture in the mainstream, lest it turn into some sort of cancerous entity that turns it's membership ever-more extreme. Instead, things like that tend to be drawn in for how much they can be commercially exploited and possibly allowed status as a second-class religio, rather than being condemned to the wilds of superstitio. The conversation's existence at all assets the primacy of Christian culture in the United States.

I think that someone has to be open to pop culture from other ideologies if they really want to understand those ideologies. Otherwise you look at textbook examples and think they apply to the real world.

As for the role of moderating, as a United States based commenter, I find the tension of "your right to swing your fist ends at the point it contacts anyone else's body" to be a good starting point. A person who is only interested in speech and talking and idea exchange is welcome. The minute the goals start changing to influence people or (in extreme cases) do violence to them, though, I think we then have to start thinking about how far is acceptable (first, do no harm?) and what responsibilities someone may have if their speech or action influences another person to action. It's a very complex dance, though, and I don't claim to have anything approaching expertise at determining that.

Dav said...

Just wanted to add: The Poisonwood Bible is pretty much the best oh-my-god-me-too book insofar as my negative experience as a Baptist girl went. None of the details, none of the events, but pretty much all the feelings. Book of Mormon encapsulates pretty much everything that was good about it. If fundamentalist Christianity could bring to the table some art that brought up even just the good things or memories, I would be all over it. I'm just healed enough from my childhood to be interested in reconnecting a little with my roots, but only if my roots want to connect with me. I'm one of a lot of ex-fundamental evangelicals who left the church young, and I bet I'm not alone.

Which makes me wonder if maybe I should be writing exploitation fiction for my cohort.

Thomas Keyton said...

have a serious problem with the idea that it's the responsibility of non-Christians to appreciate Christian stuff so that the Christian-stuff-makers will stop making stuff hostile to non-Christians.

This.

It sounds very like "oh but he wouldn't be such an asshole if you'd only sleep with him!"

Annafel said...

Wow. When I read the excerpt, it struck me that Daniel Radosh was treating the so-called gatekeepers as a "missing stair" (see: http://pervocracy.blogspot.ca/2012/06/missing-stair.html ) by assuming that they are an immutable fact of life and it is the responsibility of everyone else to jump over them. Then a bunch of the comments pointed out that his whole premise is factually incorrect - Christian artists and Christian media are already prevalent in mainstream pop culture.

So that leaves the question, why is Radosh using a flawed premise to argue that non-fundamentalist Christians have a responsibility to engage with fundamentalist Christian media? It seems like he wants those products to be more widely read. And my response to anyone telling me I have a responsibility to engage with hateful products that are hostile to my values and my self-image is: No. We are done here.

As far as I am concerned, the fact that these products are isolated from the mainstream culture, whether by influence of these gatekeepers or (imo, more likely) through their own insularity and hostility towards outsiders, is a feature, not a bug. I don't accept any degree of responsibility towards moderating extremist cultures.

And to respond to a different question: I do consume media from different ideologies. Just not any that are based on the premise that there is only one right way to live.

John Magnum said...

My immediate reaction is skepticism. Any point that seems to be "Christian culture is too marginalized and pushed to the side; it needs greater mainstream recognition and acceptance" makes me go "hwuh?" I don't think there is a dearth of Christian pop-cultural content. If we're talking specifically about fundamentalist Christian stuff that's very overtly and specifically Christian and passes the gatekeepers' tests, maybe, but...

As he recognizes, it's not that Amazon or 20th Century Fox or whatever is keeping the Christians out, it's that the fundamentalist gatekeepers are keeping fundamentalist Christians out. When cultural isolation is self-imposed, and when there's a conscious rejection of pluralism or interfaith tolerance, there's really no level of niceness on behalf of the secular pop culture establishment that will be sufficient to get fundamentalist Christian works into the broader pop-cultural sphere.

MaryKaye said...

If strongly Christian work becomes popular in the mainstream, the gatekeepers may actually reject it. People have reported Christian booksellers refusing to stock Handel's _Messiah_. Given that Messiah's lyrics consist 100% of quotes from the Bible, it is hard to see any reason for this other than rejection of the mainstream--the work is popular with Catholics and mainstream Protestants (and Wiccans and atheists, as our yearly singalong makes clear), so it must be bad.

There is nothing that can be done about this from the outside. It has to heal from the inside.

In the meantime, I get to enjoy songs like U2's "Still Haven't Found What I'm Looking For", which is very Christian (though not in a way that the gatekeepers could accept) right alongside of their "She Moves In Mysterious Ways", which I at least take to be about the Goddess.

Will Wildman said...

I have a serious problem with the idea that it's the responsibility of non-Christians to appreciate Christian stuff so that the Christian-stuff-makers will stop making stuff hostile to non-Christians.

I want to say more but my mind is going in too many other directions this morning to focus.

John Magnum said...

I'm also not really sure what's going on with the passage beginning "Our ignorance of Christian culture..." because a cursory glance at Wikipedia reminds me that 77 percent of the United States self-identifies as Christian. Christian culture is not mysterious or unknown! For a large majority of people, it is their culture. For many others, it is the predominant culture that they live and work and interact in all the time. The number of people going "My neighbors are all right, but so Christian. What mysterious religious ways are going on over there?" would seem to be vanishingly small. Does he really think there's a big problem where people in the United States just aren't aware of what Christianity is like?

Post a Comment