Earlier this week I started readingÂ Â Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop CultureÂ by Daniel Radosh.
It’s full of descriptions of Jesus Junk, Bible-themed games and toys, religious theme parks (who don’t call themselves theme parks because they want to be tax exempt), Christian rock concerts and aerobics classes, Biblical sex advice — you name it. If it’s kitschy and Jesusy, it’s in this book.Â Check out some of the Jesus Junk on the author’s website.Â The stuff I remember from the 70s and 80s is on steroids in the 21st century!Â
I wasn’t planning to write about this book on Skepchick, but it turned out to be much more interesting than the cover and title let on.
Serious part below the fold:
I shopped for Christian albums and comic books, sheet music, Bibles and books at Christian book stores in the 1970s and 80s, but other products were scarce. Message t-shirts had started to come out but I was a Christian when I was in high school. I’d gotten used to not being popular, and although I did carry my fat leather-covered Bible to all of my classes, there was no way I was going to sport “Jesus Saves” on my boobs. Today, apparently, Witness Wear can be cool. I always seem to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Although it’s easy to make fun of Christian kitsch and Jesus Junk, Radosh goes beyond his initial instinct to laugh and he takes the time to talk to the people who produce and consume products and services for the Christian market. What he discovers, is that the evangelical community is much more diverse than one would be led to believe by the media.
I must admit, many of the products and ideas discussed in Rapture Ready! deserve to be mocked. Although I can still feel the tug of my old beliefs whenever I read books like this, I also feel disgust and anger over the way I was manipulated when I was younger. I also can’t stand the arrogance andÂ hypocrisyÂ of people who think they know the best and only right way to live, and who claim that they can’t be expected to live up to their own standards because “I’m not perfect. Just forgiven.” This kind of false humility makes me want to puke. It comes from living a sheltered and coddled life, insulated in a subculture that considers the outside World — the real world — to be dangerous and evil. This insulation, I think, is a both a cause and effect of fundamentalism. One question Radosh raises is: does Christian pop culture encourage or discourage this type of isolation?
As usual, after reading the first couple of chapters, I skipped to the end. I found something very interesting there, and much more serious than I expected to find in a book about pop culture.Â
Having met [moderate Christians] and seen their growing discomfort with the way their faith has been represented to the nation over the past two and a half decades, I’ve come to conclude that they are the ones who will bring about the demise of the religious right — probably the only ones who can. The recent vogue for neoatheism notwithstanding, nontheistic rationalists are grossly outnumbered and outgunned. Picking a fight with fundamentalists may be emotionally satisfying, and morally and academically correct, but we’re going to get our teeth kicked in. Moderate Christians, however, have a fighting chance at quelling fundamentalism, ant at least as much at stake in doing so.
It is often said that the strident tone of the new atheists turns off potential allies to the “secular cause.” That may be true, but I don’t think it’s terribly important. What is of greater consequence is that by framing the debate as any religion versus no religion, atheists force religious moderates to side with fundamentalists–to forge alliances based on a single shared concept about the existence of a supernatural deity when they might actually have more in common with people who share their beliefs about other things, such as the nature of society and the respect that should be accorded to one’s fellow man. After all, secularism as a sociopolitical model is not exclusively the property of the nonreligious.
What do you think? I’m not quite willing to admit that I’m going to get my teeth kicked in. But I do sometimes wish I were still a Christian so I could speak to a Christian audience without being automatically written off as a mouthpiece of Satan.