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A Matrix of Meanings: finding God in pop culture (Engaging Culture) [Paperback]

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Item Number 145054  
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Item Specifications...

Pages   320
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 9.26" Width: 5.9" Height: 0.75"
Weight:   1.05 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Apr 5, 2012
Publisher   Baker Academic
ISBN  080102417X  
EAN  9780801024177  

Availability  93 units.
Availability accurate as of Oct 25, 2016 03:13.
Usually ships within one to two business days from La Vergne, TN.
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Item Description...
A lighthearted analysis of modern pop culture considers what lessons can be learned from today's movies, music, television, and more, exploring how its popularity and successes reflects today's society. Original.

Publishers Description
Ross and Rachel had a baby, Britney and Justin broke up, and Time magazine asked if Bono could save the world. 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.

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More About Craig Detweiler & Barry Taylor

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Craig Detweiler (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary) is professor of communication at Pepperdine University in Malibu, California. He previously served as codirector of the Reel Spirituality Institute at Fuller Theological Seminary. Detweiler has written scripts for numerous Hollywood films, and his social documentary, Purple State of Mind (, debuted in 2008. He has been featured in the New York Times, on CNN, and on NPR.
Barry Taylor (PhD, Fuller Theological Seminary), adjunct professor of popular culture and theology at Fuller, is a professional musician, painter, and the leader of New Ground, an alternative worship gathering in Los Angeles.

Craig Detweiler was born in 1964.

Craig Detweiler has published or released items in the following series...
  1. Engaging Culture

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Product Categories
1Books > Subjects > Nonfiction > Social Sciences > Popular Culture   [2997  similar products]
2Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Christian Living   [0  similar products]
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4Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Philosophy   [1924  similar products]
6Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality > General   [11744  similar products]
7Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Spirituality   [1945  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
Informative Guide to Popular Culture from a Christian Perspective  May 10, 2008
Detweiler and Taylor has written a resourceful book. It is informative on the development and social effects of popular culture. While sensitive to some contemporary critique of the role of media in late capitalism, these authors focus more on exploring the content of poplar culture and the spirituality it conveys. In doing so, the authors recognize the effects of consumerism, individualism, etc., and reflects on the need, for instance, of communal integration and a healthy theology of sexuality.

This book is helpful in bringing different strands of popular into a historical context. Such things as reviewing the invention of the sewing machine to the beginning of department stores, for instance, or the formation of punk culture, I found informative and interesting.

The overall approach is sympathetic to contemporary evangelical Christianity, valuing culture from a missional and dialogical standpoint, and its use of social-critical resources (especially from a Marxist tradition) is very limited. The authors affirm the importance of engaging popular culture as a conscious effort to understand and appreciate it. They affirm the notion of common grace, affirming that God present in popular and that Christians can learn through it. In engaging popluar culture, the authors attempt to make space for alternative visions of how to rethink and re-organize alternative theologies and ideas.
Great Resource for Understanding Post-Modern Pop Culture and Christianity  Jun 30, 2007
"A Matrix of Meanings," although somewhat outdated, did a fair job at breaking down the common aspects of pop culture and analyzing them a post-modern secular and Christian world view.

The book, although skips over some areas that I personally would have liked to discuss, clearly describes what "post-modern" means and how this current mindset is reflected in movies, art, music, fashion, etc.

Overall, it challenges the Evangelical Christian to rethink methods and opinions about "the world" and how to go forward with Christ without devaluing culture and things that may not be "Christian." It also does a great job at promoting the mindset that everyone in culture is seeking answers and doing so through many media and pop culture outlets, and not necessarily through the institution of church as before.

If you would like to know more about post-modern thinking and recent trends in pop culture media, read this book!
Matrix of Meaning  Aug 13, 2006
This is one of my favorite books. Fuller Seminary Professors Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor (who both also happen to be involved in the Hollywood world) approach popular cultural with anthropology, sociology, philosophy, and theology to discover the questions of culture, what God is doing in the world today and how Christians can join Him in this work. They inspect advertising, celebrities, music, movies, television, fashion, sports, and art from the perspective of being both artist and pastor. Detweiler and Taylor see a Jesus who walked the streets, of whose ministry we read more of his interaction with marketplace people than synagogue teachings, who was accused of spending his time with "sinners," with the rejects of the church, a Jesus that lived in a specific culture at a specific time, a characteristic sometimes forgotten in our almost docetic approach to Christianity. In the introduction, the authors write, "We embrace pop culture because we believe it offers a refreshing, alternative route to a Jesus who for many has been domesticated, declawed, and kept under wraps" (p. 9). The book introduces a new aspect to hermeneutic and suggest ways to open the church doors to "that bright, passionate audience of young people whom advertisers covet and the church is in danger of losing" (p. 8). Some of their ideas may feel dangerous to the shepherds of the flock and the guardians of truth that want to protect their people from the threatening ideas and philosophies of the world, but they dive in to play with the dolphins and the whales and the coral. More than deconstructing the modern method, they seek to reconfigure and recontextualize. They remythologize the gospels, not in order to create a story devoid of truth, but in order to recapture and embodied heroism and life that invites us to find our community in God's metanarrative of creation, fall, and recreation.
I found this book a refreshing challenge to engage with culture, rather than standing outside of culture waving our parental fingers with a "tsk, tsk." While not losing the integrity of their Christian heritage, Detweiler and Taylor walk the streets to dialogue, to learn, and to share wisdom, to find God in pop culture.
I have put this book on my must-read list and have become a self-designated publicist. My only regret is not being able to give this over 5 stars.
Not just looking, but FINDING God in Pop Culture  Apr 1, 2004
Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor have bettered and deepened their theology, their knowledge of the Creator of life, and have shared insights from their discovery in their recent book, A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture. Their methodology is rather simple; they immersed themselves in pop culture and allowed it to inform and transform their theology. Having done so, they are pretty adamant that this is the only way to ascertain theological significance in pop culture. Viewing pop culture from the inside out enables one to find patterns of meaning within, a matrix, which further allows one to comprehend the theological contribution of a pop cultural event. Bernard Lonergan, a Catholic theologian who is quoted in the first chapter of A Matrix of Meanings, believes a shift from the modern empirical approach to theology to a postmodern approach "requires that theology be conceived, not as a permanent achievement, but as an ongoing process of mediation between...a cultural matrix of meanings and values and a religion within that matrix." Detweiler and Taylor stress "only after careful inspection and reflection do we dare to locate values and religion within that matrix" (31).

The postmodern shift happening in contemporary culture is addressed at the beginning of this text. In postmodernity, the ancient serves as the foundation for the present. And due to globalization, borders are blurred, which creates a global village that enables the everyday individual to have access to new ideas, interaction with new perspectives, and expansion into new values. As such, a consciousness of pluralisms is expressed in society, in everyday relationships, and, more specific to the aims of A Matrix of Meanings, in theologizing.

Consequently, recognizing the importance of engaging pop culture on its own terms in an ongoing relationship, Detweiler and Taylor have responded by creating a rather ingenious matrix to aid in making and discovering meaning and theological significance. Included are various artistic forms (TV, movies, music, fashion, art, and sports), a study of the marketplace (driven by consumerism, fueled by advertising, attained by celebrity), and ten trends that invite serious, theological reflection, which sum up postmodernity as being post-national, post-rational, post-literal, post-scientific/technological, post-sexual, post-racial, post-human, post-traumatic/therapeutic, post-ethical/institutional, post-Christian. Basically, assumptions and understandings across many fronts need to be shifted in light of the current cultural climate.

I am completely open to each of the post categories because I have been undergoing a major life-shift for several years now, redefining and rediscovering faith and its lived reality in my life. Bastions of society are still gripping tightly to conservative, fundamentalist values and approaches to life, theology, and the discovery of meaningfulness. Most notable to me are the many who buy into the nationalist fervor of President Bush, who views America as the savior of the rest of the supposed uncivilized, non-democratic world. That behavior is deeply misguided and dehumanizing, arrogant and destructive, to say the least. We are living in a post-national world! Wake up, Mr. President. Global boundaries are increasingly indistinct, and it is more important to recognize people for their humanity, celebrating their culture and differences, seeking similarities as points of connection. Another trend I easily agree with is the post-sexual shift; no longer is sex defined as being between a man and a woman, not even just as two people physically together (cyber sex). Sexuality is increasingly being explored, spiritualized, done, overdone, explicitly shown in films, not even included, and so on. So much contradiction is apparent, for example, teens saying they are not interested in sex and yet dressing skimpily. In this post-sexual world, much room is made for exploration and redefining, and the new trend/rebellion could very well be abstinence. Suffice to say new thoughts and attitudes towards sex are developing. I most identify with the post-Christian trend. I nearly despise anything labeled "Christian" because of the connections attributed to that label, not to mention it being merely an economic label to sell more unnecessary "Christian" products. And for me the typical Christian rituals have lost their meaningfulness because they are disconnected from the rest of pop culture, which is deeply meaningful to me. Yet, I am still not swayed from my fervor for knowing Jesus. Pop culture rather greatly fuels my desire as I continue to see glimpses of Jesus within films and music mostly. (...)

Great book! Excellent matrix! Sound guidance for engaging pop culture, increasing one's awareness and relationships, and doing serious theologizing!

Flipping the Script  Mar 19, 2004
(Note: This review not only attempts to review the book, but also engage some previous reviews.)

What Detweiler and Taylor have done here is what Detweiler calls "reversing the hermeneutical flow" (a.k.a. "flip the script", to quote "8 Mile"). In other words, rather than taking the Bible and looking at (a.k.a. criticizing) Pop Culture through what we think the Bible says, they take a thorough look at pop culture and use than as a method of viewing - or at least presenting - the God of the Bible. For any who have a hard time with that, read on.

As one reviewer has already stated, from the outset this book states that it's primarily for people that already like Pop Culture and have wondered how to reconcile that with their Christian worldview. Furthermore, the authors ask tough questions of the Church. If the majority of the world connects with Pop Culture way better than they do with the Church, then why is that and what are we to do about it? Sorry, but the "they're fallen beings" excuse isn't gonna cut it anymore. Detweiler and Taylor take us beyond the "seeker-sensitive" approach and genuinely challenge the Church to engage Pop Culture in a respectful, dynamic way. Even in the profane, God is talking and it's time we recognized holy ground when we saw it. It's a different and (I think) more accurate version of things than we typically hear from the evangelical pulpit. God is talking through culture with or without the Church's approval!

For those who have "reservations" about whether Christians should be as comfortable with culture as the book suggests, I offer this thought. The Bible was not written in a cultural vacuum, nor was Jesus born into one. Inspired? Sure. Absolutely devoid of any cultural influence? I think not. Read John 1 to those who haven't grown up in the church (or even those who have) and most would have a blank expression on their face because it was written to appeal to those influenced by the contemporary hot worldview: Stoicism. Parables were the movies of the day. There are four different Gospels in order to present Jesus slightly diffently to four different cultures. Paul understood culture enough to address it in Athens at the tribute to the "unknown god" (note that he didn't try to disprove their other gods before making the connection for them). These guys presented God (and, I would argue, understood God) through the lens of their culture. Why are we so affronted by others suggesting we do the same?

"There's nothing new under the sun", and God is still looking for those who will help meet Pop Culture where it's at and make those connections. This book does it in a whole different sort of way. Rather than giving easy examples ("this movie means this") that you can use in your next Bible study, they attempt to form a worldview that takes in all of culture and finds where God is working ("teach a man to fish", etc). Bottom line: most of us still need to have our "scipt flipped". For me, this book, and the thought behind it, was the best place to do that.


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