The Christian Pop Cultures of Rapture Ready
A humanistic Jew spent a year immersed in the Christian entertainment world. When he came back up for breath, Daniel Radosh wrote about the $7 billion industry.
In Rapture Ready! Adventures in the Parallel Universe of Christian Pop Culture, Radosh describes his experiences with the Cornerstone Music Festival, Christian comedians, creationist Ken Ham, Bibleman, Ultimate Christian Wrestling, Jay Bakker, and others.
Actually, he concludes, merging pop culture and Jesus isn't as bad as he expected:
"The best aspects of Christian culture the unabashed celebration of the transcendent, the challenge to crass materialism, the commitment to personal responsibility helped me see more clearly what is too often lacking in secular entertainment and media," Radosh writes. "Jesus' radical message of brotherhood, selflessness, and dignity may be just the antidote to our contemporary ethos of shamelessness and overindulgence."
Radosh is a frequent contributor to The New Yorker and a contributing editor at The Week magazine. He also blogs at Radosh.net.
What prompted you to work on this book?
The initial idea for it came because the world is totally unfamiliar to me as a secular Jewish New Yorker. But I have a teenage sister-in-law who is a born-again Christian, and I met her for the first time visiting my wife's family in Wichita and tagged along with her and her Christian friends to a rock festival. At that point I really wanted to try to understand what was going on in this society, and how I could have missed it all these years.
Did you have something you wanted to accomplish, or was your intent pure observation?
Honestly, I did it because a lot of it is quite funny. I think even many Christians will recognize how humorous a lot of Christian pop culture can be, especially from the outside. But I also thought they were interesting ideas to explore. We think about pop culture as something ephemeral and superficial, and I wanted to try to understand how that could be combined with something like faith, which is eternal and deep. Even Christians consume this culture and participate in this culture but don't give as much thought as they might to what it means for their faith life.
A lot of people in your book a lot of them are really concerned with distinguishing themselves from "those other really crazy Christians," especially others in the Christian entertainment / pop culture world. Are they successful in making that distinction?
Unfortunately, from the outside, no. Everybody gets lumped together to the extent that the non-Christian world is aware of Christian pop culture. It tends to be the most outlandish, and in many cases, the most obnoxious voices that are the loudest and get heard. People aren't really aware of the more interesting and more authentic and more meaningful strains of the culture. People do get lumped in, and I think that's why so many people said to me, "I'm not like these other people that you may have heard of." Now, that is not entirely their fault. That is in many ways our fault as non-Christians for not making the effort to make such distinctions. If the awareness is not there, it's partly because these people are often choosing not to identify as Christian in the same way, partly because they don't want to be tarred by that brush. And I think that's unfortunate in many ways because I think what they're doing is very Christian in the best ways, and that by ceding that word to the forces they don't particularly like, they're doing a disservice to the faith.