Books about Culture by Christians

I’ve been recently looking at books written about mythology and culture.  In particular, I was looking at books that look at the mythology of movies.  But, in the past, I noticed a similar trend in books about Jungian typology.

One thing I notice is that books that have a Christian slant often aren’t as interesting or insightful as those that have a more general or universal slant.  This is partly just my personal bias, but I think others might agree with me.

Its not that Christianity is itself a weakness in analyzing deeper truths within culture.  Instead, the problem is that many Christians who write about mythology in culture(movies, chidren’s novels, etc) use mythology as a proselytizing device rather than taking mythology as a serious field in an of itself.   I certainly don’t mean to imply that Christians lack insight, but someone who tries to see the entire world through Christian theology has a limited view through which to express what insight they may have.

I’m not criticizing Christianity in general, but I am criticizing proselytizing.  Even so, my criticism is slightly wider than simply preachy didacticism.  Often these Christian category of books suffer from the same superficial quality that many self-help New Age books have.  As such, there can be a lack of detailed analysis and objective discernment… which can too often translate into a lack of deep insight, or at least a lack of deep insight outside of the Christianity.

Why I bring this up is because it annoys me, but it doesn’t annoy me because it comes from Christians.  I look for spiritual perspectives and I appreciate the Christian perspective, but few of the Christian books that flood the market are worth reading.  Of course, there are lots of junk writing being published from more than Christians, and, so, my criticisms are applicable to writers of other persuasions.  The reason I’m picking on Christians is because when looking for spiritual views on culture I tend to find a slew of Christian books.

Plus, I think that what I’m pointing out demonstrates a real trend that exists within mainstream Christianity itself.  I went to hear a Christian author speak(I don’t remember her name) and she spoke about the relationship Christians should have towards secular culture.  She pretty much said that Christians should use art to communicate the Christian message.  She was saying that Christians should try to effect culture all the while not letting themselves be influenced in return.  That seems a rather condescending and manipulative attitude.  It seemed that the only purpose she saw for art was as propaganda.  She was a nice and intelligent person, but she saw the world as an us vs them conflict.

This Christian author was speaking at the University library and there was also an exhibit of Blake’s work there.  After the talk, I perused through Blake’s writing.  Blake demonstrated how art and religion can inform eachother rather than either one controlling/manipulating the other for its own purposes.  Also, unlike the Christian author, Blake had genuine insight that anyone could learn from… no matter what the religious belief or lack thereof.

 

18 minutes later

Nicole said

looks like a good thread starter on the God Pod – what thinkest thou?

 

about 20 hours later

Marmalade said

There is two other points I want to add.

Firstly, the attitude of this kind of Christian is that they’re trying to justify something.  If they like some pop culture product such as Harry Potter, they feel a need to justify why a Christian can morally appreciate a movie about magic.  So, they feel a need to justify their enjoyment to other Christians, and they feel a need to justify their Christianity to other fans.  All of this can distort their view of what they’re analyzing.  They’ll look for Christianity in something the creator may never intended as Christian art.

The other thing is that the reason all of this is happening is because Christianity is no longer the center of mainstream culture.  This makes life more challenging for a traditional Christian who wants to solely devote themselves to their Christian tradition.  The fact of the matter is that most mainstream entertainment and culture isn’t Christian.  Beyond this, even Christians are less Biblically literate because the younger generations spend less time reading the Bible.  Nowadays, much of what Christians know about the Bible comes from movies and tv.

Biblical exponents realize the younger generation is focused on popular culture.  So, they try to use popular culture to explain Christianity, but they do so warily.  In the process, what they use to communicate Christianity comes to alter how Christianity is understood.  They realize that Christianity no longer plays as dominant a role and is now being influenced in return by the culture it exists in.

Personally, I see this two-way influence as a good thing.  Christianity has survived not only in its power to influence but also in its power of relevance by its ability(and willingness) to respond to changes.  Christianity spread so widely because its adaptable, and because its able to hold onto its core truths while adapting.

 

1 day later

Nicole said

good, and i also want to expand on the wider Christian community ie Catholics, liberals… will do so in God Pod. light and peace

 

8 days later

debyemm said

I ended up reading here because I started at your subsequent blog post, which referred to this and so, I felt I needed to read this to put that one into context.  So, still not having read it, I do understand the disappointment you express here.

Agendas are the reason, in my opinion.  So, if the writing or art is a means to an end, to convert you to the author’s point of view, or as you point out, justify the author’s interest in a topic as not violating the author’s Christian ethics, then I think the writing betrays it’s agenda and so, to a reader intent on discovering quality content worthy of their time, it may appear to their mind as shallow or diluted, or as not originating in thoughtful contemplation, or inauthentic and deceptive.

I believe that the best Christian writing, which express a depth of insight, would be expressed by an author who utilizes their core values as the foundation for their discussion or contemplation of a topic, even a non-Christian one.  It would also be possible to utilize these same values as measured critical or analytical tool for questioning beliefs, theirs or some others, or for expanding upon them in a novel way.

While your main criticism – proselytizing – is a characteristic of unquestioned or strongly defended beliefs (as in my way is the only way to truth and salvation); I believe the fault lies in the total lack of inquiry into their validity, as well as in the overall quality or skill of the writing itself.

Even an author whose intent it is simply proselytizing has a right to publish.  There are no rules as to who can write what or for what purpose and being Christian or writing about Christian topics does not change that fact.  The burden is on the reader to discern whether the writing appeals to their personal bend of mind and to put aside those writings that do not.

Deborah

 

8 days later

Marmalade said

Deborah, you said:
“I believe that the best Christian writing, which express a depth of insight, would be expressed by an author who utilizes their core values as the foundation for their discussion or contemplation of a topic, even a non-Christian one.  It would also be possible to utilize these same values as measured critical or analytical tool for questioning beliefs, theirs or some others, or for expanding upon them in a novel way.”

I agree with that.  Certainly, its not that a Christian has core values that is the issue.  Core values can give a reference point for insight, a lense through which to discern meaning.

“While your main criticism – proselytizing – is a characteristic of unquestioned or strongly defended beliefs (as in my way is the only way to truth and salvation); I believe the fault lies in the total lack of inquiry into their validity, as well as in the overall quality or skill of the writing itself.”

I don’t think I meant proselytizing to be my main criticism.  Its just one of the more obvious factors.  The behavior of prosyletizing is an external sign of a general attitude… and, as you said, a defended/unquestioned belief system.  Everything is secondary to the belief system including the quality of writing.  As long as God’s Word is communicated, it doesn’t matter the author’s words used to do the communicating.

However, this level of proselytizing is an extreme.  Many people can have a desire to communicate their beliefs all the while being able to question, but the stronger the beliefs the more difficult it is to question them.

“Even an author whose intent it is simply proselytizing has a right to publish.  There are no rules as to who can write what or for what purpose and being Christian or writing about Christian topics does not change that fact.  The burden is on the reader to discern whether the writing appeals to their personal bend of mind and to put aside those writings that do not.”

Yep, they have a right to publish.  I have absolutely no criticism of Christians writing.  In fact, I’ve been recently reclaiming my own sense of Christianity.

Discernment of the individual is paramount, but mass of superficial and uninsightful writing out there still annoys me.  I’m a writer and love to write.  I’d love to be published some day, but I would only want to be published if I had something to say that was worthy of being said and hadn’t been said many times before.  Even when I  blog, I try to add something that is meaningful or helpful or kind.  There is enough meaningless words on the web.

Of course, what seems worthy is different for different people.  Those Christian books that annoy me probably seem quite wonderful to many others.  Even if only a minority of people like your work, its worthy of being published.  Even if nobody appreciates your work, maybe its worthy.  Many artists weren’t appreciated in their own lifetime.

Blessings,
Marmalade

 

9 days later

debyemm said

Yes, I sensed all along that your love for good writing is why the kinds you outline bother you.  Like you, I try to add something meaningful or helpful or kind.  Otherwise, it does seem pointless to me.  Noise to hear myself chatter.  I have to keep that at bay enough as it is.

Who has time for meaningless words?  Well I guess someone does obviously.  But you and I, while recognizing equal right of access for all, still like the cream, do we not?

Deb

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