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Pop Goes Religion: Faith in Popular Culture [Paperback]

By Terry Mattingly (Author) & Mark Joseph (Editor)
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Item description for Pop Goes Religion: Faith in Popular Culture by Terry Mattingly & Mark Joseph...

Terry Mattingly teaches readers how to identify elements of faith in today's pop culture. Topics include God and popular music, faith and the big screen, and God on TV. From music to movies, politics to the pope, Mattingly explores matters of the heart with a fresh and relevant perspective.

Publishers Description

Johnny Cash, Harry Potter, the Simpsons, and John Grisham. What do all of these icons in pop culture have to do with faith? Find the answer in Pop Goes Religion; relevant insight into the world of today's entertainment.

In this collection of essays, popular American journalist, Terry Mattingly teaches readers how to identify elements of faith in today's pop culture.

Topics include: God & Popular Music Faith & the Big Screen God on TV Ink, Paper, and God Politics and Current Events

From music to movies, politics to the pope, Mattingly explores the matters of the heart with a fresh and relevant perspective.

Citations And Professional Reviews
Pop Goes Religion: Faith in Popular Culture by Terry Mattingly & Mark Joseph has been reviewed by professional book reviewers and journalists at the following establishments -

  • Library Journal - 11/15/2005 page 68

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Item Specifications...

Studio: Thomas Nelson
Pages   199
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.42" Width: 6.06" Height: 0.62"
Weight:   0.52 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 15, 2005
Publisher   Thomas Nelson
ISBN  0849909988  
ISBN13  9780849909986  

Availability  2 units.
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Reviews - What do customers think about Pop Goes Religion: Faith in Popular Culture?

Where the Church and the Culture Meet  Oct 12, 2006
Terry Mattingly is one of the best commentators on the point where the secular meets the sacred in the public square. In Pop Goes Religion, he offers a collection of his collums concerning the overlapping of faith and popular culture. This might seem absurd to some - often nothing seems so devoid of religious intent than what we see in films and on TV and hear in popular music. Yet Mattingly points out again and again how even within the decadence of pop culture, man can't seem to avoid religious concerns. It may not be stated in a conventional manner, it might not be overtly Christian, it certainly is not to the standards of what most would call an orthodox belief, but the great questions still prod us to find answers.

In Mattingly's panaorama of popdom, the answers range from the challenging to the silly, but the impulse to seek the spiritual is always present. In successive sections on music, film, television, publishing, and fantasy, we are shown these impulses at work under our very noses. The final section of articles shows the influence is certainly not a one-way affair as attention is given to those areas where pop culture has influenced the Church.

The articles may concern, confuse, and even infuriate some as they see the popular use of religious ideas as trivializing spirituality but this misses the point that our faith is something that should affect every part of our being and not just what happens Sunday morning. Popular culture reflects the ideals of the masses and spiritual things are still central to those ideals. In the current environment they may be poorly informed, inconsistent, and at times ridiculous, but the concern is still there.

One might have expected Mattingly, as a convert to the rich spirituality of the Eastern Orthodox tradition, to take a wholely negative view of the interaction of pop culture and religion. Yet Mattingly, in Pop Goes Religion is more than aware that God can work in the souls of the unlikliest people in the strangest of circumstances. He sees the tradeoff betwen the pop secular world for what it is and praises what is right and good, condemns what is wrong and bad, and laughs at that which is silly and trivial. But he laughs with and not at the subjects as it is all too clear each of us have our own such moments.

A clear head addresses issues of religion in culture.  Jul 7, 2006
Terry Mattingly is a writer, journalist, syndicated columnist and more. If you want find out more, Google him and check out his web site. He is a keen observer of culture and how religion fits or doesn't fit in.

In Pop Goes Religion, we get a collection of columns Terry composed over the last several years on a wide range of topics, including music, musicians, movies, TV, books, personalities, etc. They are concise and make good points. Don't worry. He is not a boycott organizer or an inflammatory voice. He doesn't rant and rave against Hollywood. Nor does he hold back when illuminating the shortcomings of Christians when it comes to being good influences on culture. Why do most Christians sit on the sidelines and just complain?

His observations will be found interesting by Christians, people of other faiths and the non-religious (I think that is everyone). Some of these columns are a bit dated, having been written about events or movies that were current as many as 6 years ago, but I still found them interesting. The movies may not be playing, but the ideas are still quite pertinent.

BTW: All of these columns and more may be found in the archives on his website.
Entertaining, readable commentary  Jun 21, 2006

In this spare, 200 page book, journalist and educator Mattingly gives a glimpse of faith & popular culture in the best way possible: he gets out of the way and lets the subject speak. He never preaches; he lets the story do the work.

This "collection of snapshots from the front lines of the pop-culture wars" is divided into five areas of about 10 articles each: music, movies, TV, books, and church and family. Each article is about 2-pages and 5-minutes long. Voices of preachers, producers, writers, and others populate the page. Just right.

As to Mattingly's motive: perhaps it's found in his quote from a book by George Barna and Mark Hatch: "From commercials to sitcoms... to hit songs.... to talk shows, God's principles are challenged every moment of every day, in very entertaining, palatable and discreet ways. Few Christians currently have the intellectual and spiritual tools to identify and reject the garbage."

While Mattingly doesn't presume to equip everyone with the requisite tools, he does expose and comment on the issues in a meaningful way. For anyone looking for insight into popular culture through the lense of faith/Christianity, I recommend Pop Goes Religion. Sample more of Mattingly's writing in his weekly newspaper column, "On Religion", and at
Pop Culture Meets Religion  May 22, 2006
Mattingly has background to be the entertaining, enlightening commentor on how religion interacts with pop culture in this book which is compilation of articles he wrote on the topic.

The cover says it well graphically what the reader can expect to find within its pages: comments on how fims, books and music such as U2, Harry Potter, Simpsons, Star Wars, Lord of the Rings, etc. engage the popular culture with religion, especially with author's interest in Christianity.

I found all this engaging, except that he doesnt' provide much in the way of supporting how a Christian can be faithful yet engage with pop culture so opposed to truth. His point however that the church should not abandon cultural areas of arts and music in film, books, TV, etc. is well taken. When the church as current evidence provides models the culture in this, it doesn't really contribute anything to the cultural tide. Take the history of church in these areas and great cultural contributors did their work from within, and went on to influence the culture somewhat, e.g. Bach.

A survey course in pop culture appreciation for Christians  Dec 1, 2005
In the summer of 1986, Terry Mattingly was a journalist camped out in front of the elevators at a Denver hotel, hoping to catch the first interview with the city's new archbishop. "The rest of the media is waiting in the lobby and outside the building," he writes in the introduction to his new book, POP GOES RELIGION. "However, a source inside the archdiocese staff has told me when [Archbishop] Stafford plans to leave the hotel, and with that information, it was easy to figure out which elevator he would almost certainly be using. So I'm thinking that, if I play my cards right, when the elevator doors open I may be able to quietly steer this future prince around the corner into a conference room and get that interview. Then I might even be able to kindly point him toward a side door out of the hotel, helping him avoid the rest of the media hoard and, by the way, making my interview an exclusive. Reporters do things like that."

As Mattingly stood there, a vaguely familiar voice came from behind and asked, "Port Arthur Teen Club, right?" He turned around and there stood Rock and Roll Hall-of-Famer Billy J. Gibson, lead singer and guitarist for the trio ZZ Top. Mattingly met Gibson when he was a teenager in Texas in the early 1970s, hanging out at a local music club called the Port Arthur Teen Club and helping bands set up for their gigs. The hottest band in the area in those years was ZZ Top. Mattingly had used that connection a decade later to get past security and interview ZZ Top when they finally made it big. And though even more years had passed since then, Gibson remembered the erstwhile reporter.

At that moment, the elevator doors opened and two worlds collided. Gibson, in his trademark sunglasses and waist-length hair, and Stafford, in his priestly robes, eyed each other and Mattingly made a halting introduction. After chatting for a moment Gibson asked a question that could be construed as a mission statement for the book: "Wait a minute. You went from interviewing people like me to interviewing people like him?"

"Yes I did, I said. It was an interesting career move. But, you see, I never stopped being interested in what rock stars and other entertainers had to say about issues of life and death, joy and sorrow, heaven and hell. I also become more and more interested in what all those archbishops and other mainstream religious leaders said --- or didn't say --- about the world of entertainment and pop culture," he writes.

Based on those two interests, Mattingly has carved a niche for himself with his syndicated column, "On Religion." Read in more than 350 papers worldwide, it covers the intersection of religion and culture, and POP GOES RELIGION is a collection of some of his most popular columns from the last several years. Divided into chapters dealing with music, movies, television and books, his short missives provide insight into everything from Lord of the Rings director Peter Jackson's take on the moral of the famous story to the popularity of Left Behind to the spirituality of Elvis. Here you'll find essays titled "Harry Potter and Free Will," "Oprah, Babe and Religious Liberty," and "George Lucas, the Force and God."

His columns are short and rarely involve significant analysis. Instead they provide a kind of survey course in pop culture appreciation for Christians. He specializes in throwing out thought-provoking ideas about the ways faith and pop culture are in tension and the ways they're not in tension. It's often the latter that's more surprising. For example, who do you think is TV's most popular Christian family? How about "The Simpsons"?

To those who scoff at this kind of faithful attention to pop culture, Mattingly points out that a typical modern American is much more likely to be exposed to a new religious insight or doctrine at the mall or the movie multiplex than in a traditional sanctuary. This is how modern Americans spend their time and money, and make their decisions. Day by day, they have evolved into mass-media disciples. "People are worshipping at all kinds of new altars," he writes. "Journalists and preachers cannot afford to ignore that."

--- Reviewed by Lisa Ann Cockrel

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