Cover image for A matrix of meanings : finding God in pop culture
A matrix of meanings : finding God in pop culture
Detweiler, Craig, 1964-
Personal Author:
Publication Information:
Grand Rapids, Mich. : Baker Academic, [2003]

Physical Description:
351 pages : illustrations ; 23 cm.
Added Author:
Format :


Call Number
Material Type
Home Location
Item Holds
BR115.C8 D42 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Open Shelf
BR115.C8 D42 2003 Adult Non-Fiction Central Closed Stacks

On Order



From the glittering tinsel of Hollywood to the advertising slogan you can't get out of your head, we are surrounded by popular culture. In A Matrix of Meanings Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor analyze aspects of popular culture and ask, What are they doing? What do they represent? and What do they say about the world in which we live? Rather than deciding whether Bono deserves our admiration, the authors examine the phenomenon of celebrity idolization. Instead of deciding whether Nike's "Just do it" campaign is morally questionable, they ask what its success reflects about our society.
A Matrix of Meanings is a hip, entertaining guide to the maze of popular culture. Plentiful photos, artwork, and humorous sidebars make for delightful reading. Readers who distrust popular culture as well as those who love it will find useful insight into developing a Christian worldview in a secular culture.

Author Notes

Craig Detweiler is associate professor of mass communications at Biola University. A professional screenwriter with a number of films to his credit, he serves on the board of the City of Angels Film Festival, codirects the Reel Spirituality think tank, and teaches at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center
Barry Taylor is adjunct professor of popular culture and theology at Fuller Theological Seminary. A professional musician, painter, and international conference speaker, he is the leader of New Ground, an alternative worship gathering in Los Angeles

Reviews 3

Publisher's Weekly Review

Until a few years ago, many faithful Christians saw popular culture the way the Dutch presumably see the oceanas a vast force to be kept at bay by any means necessary. That began to change with Tom Beaudoin's Virtual Faith, a heady mix of cultural analysis and theology. Fuller Theological Seminary alumni Detweiler and Taylor are the latest authors to call fellow Christians to take their thumbs out of the dike. Detweiler, producer of the City of the Angels Film Festival, and Taylor, a sound engineer with a roster of top clients, follow (ir)reverently in Beaudoin's wake, exploring the signs of a God-haunted generation in everything from Chris Ofili's dung-smattered Madonna to Jesus' appearance in South Park. Their book is ambitious in scope and smartly structured. Detweiler and Taylor begin with chapters on advertising and the role of celebrities, topics that other Christian commentators have generally ignored, and they are consistently alert to the commercial forces that drive pop culture's production and consumption. They are also witty, readable and passionate about both pop culture and their evangelical faith. But their cultural analysis borrows heavily from previous writers, and their claim to be discovering a "theology" of pop culture may surprise readers who expect a book from the Baker Academic imprint to engage its sources, whether Tom Beaudoin or Ned Flanders, with more critical rigor. (Nov.) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved

Library Journal Review

This study of today's pop culture and the marketplace is widely aimed. It is written for the young ("today's aspiring artists and culture consumers, who dig God but can't stomach religion"), for Christians who don't see much that relates to God in the culture of our day, and for anyone who wants to better relate to popular culture. The authors are immersed in their topic: Detweiler writes screenplays and teaches at the Los Angeles Film Studies Center, and Taylor (popular culture, Fuller Theological Seminary) paints and is a professional musician and songwriter. Chapters address advertising, celebrities, music, movies, TV, fashion, sports, and art. They show how artistic production in our postmodern world is characterized by "blending, fragments, and sampling." The writing is emotionally direct: "doubts are aired, gloves come off, and politeness takes a rest." The authors find recurring themes such as alienation and loneliness and see wisdom and God contained and shining through even the most debased popular culture. This book will offer patient readers a new understanding of and appreciation for pop culture and its often hidden connection to God. Recommended for large public and academic libraries.-George Westerlund, formerly with Providence P.L. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.

Choice Review

The body of literature in religion and popular culture coalesces around a few assertions: popular culture enriches institutional religion; popular culture threatens institutional religion; popular culture has transformed religion (i.e., into "spirituality"); and religious categories like myth and ritual can be found throughout popular culture. The literature within these areas is uneven, and includes a mix of confessional, apologetic, and scholarly, as well as tongue-in-cheek, contributions. In A Matrix of Meanings, authors Detweiler (Biola Univ.) and Taylor (Fuller Theological Seminary) approach popular culture as an arena of great potential from which a (specifically Christian) religious believer can derive spiritual significance. Shunning the anxiety of their fellow religionists (they self-identify as evangelical Christians), they explore all aspects of contemporary popular culture, including the usual genres of contemporary music, film, and television, but also advertising, fashion, sports, and art. Though the argument is one of engagement of the believing Christian with contemporary culture, the individual chapters are closer analyses of specific examples of the identified genres. Nonetheless, the work is likely to be of greatest interest to sympathetic believers and curious clergy rather than an academic audience. Miller's Consuming Religion is a much more theory-driven analysis of consumerism and its effect on religion in advanced capitalism. A theologian, Miller (Georgetown Univ.) does not lament the "commodification" of religion, but instead examines the impact on religion (positive and negative) of the encounter between two systems. His analysis of desire, which drives both consumerism and (primarily Christian) religion, underscores his argument that the two systems are not in opposition; nor is the contemporary "spirituality" movement necessarily bereft of significant religious value. Instead, careful engagement in the new cultural condition is necessary for a meaningful religious life. Though his prose is not as light as Detweiler and Taylor's, Miller's analysis is much more sophisticated; it explores the changes in the relationship between believer and beliefs that are unavoidable in a consumeristic society. These two works are best suited for significantly different audiences. Detweiler and Taylor's volume is a breezy read, and can be approached in smaller portions once the authors' presuppositions are understood. Miller's work is for a more sophisticated audience, and though a significant portion of the volume is a reworking of recent theory in the sociology of religion, it is clearly written for both the theologian and the cultural critic interested in the shape of religious life in contemporary society. ^BSumming Up: Recommended. Matrix, for general readers; Consuming Religion, for graduate students and above. E. M. Mazur Bucknell University

Table of Contents

Prefacep. 7
Acknowledgmentsp. 13
Introduction: Postmodernity in the Marketplacep. 15
1. Methodology: A Matrix of Meaningsp. 29
2. Advertising: The Air That We Breathep. 61
3. Celebrities: Ancient and Future Saintsp. 89
4. Music: Al Green Makes Us Cryp. 125
5. Movies: Look Closerp. 155
6. Television: Our Constant Companionp. 185
7. Fashion: Dressing Up the Soulp. 221
8. Sports: Board Generationp. 243
9. Art: Sharks, Pills, and Ashtraysp. 271
Conclusion: A Top 10 Theologyp. 293
Notesp. 319
Bibliographyp. 341
Indexp. 343