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Understanding Theology and Popular Culture Paperback – 27 Dec 2004

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Product details

  • Paperback: 254 pages
  • Publisher: John Wiley & Sons; 1 edition (27 Dec. 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1405117486
  • ISBN-13: 978-1405117487
  • Product Dimensions: 15.2 x 1.5 x 22.9 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (1 customer review)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 250,295 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
  • See Complete Table of Contents

More About the Author

Gordon Lynch is Michael Ramsey Professor of Modern Theology at the University of Kent. His work explores contemporary meanings and values within and beyond organised forms of religion, including what has come to be taken as 'sacred' in the contemporary world. His current work examines State-supported welfare programmes run by religious organizations which removed children from families and home communities to new environments that were claimed to be redemptive for them, such as child migration schemes.

Product Description


This presumes some level of bricolage, but I think it is safe to say this seems normal in the modern West. As Lynch argues, in so far as theology is concerned with issues of truth, goodness, evil, suffering, redemption, and beauty ( 37) then it becomes clear that popular culture, as it is engaged with similar themes, is an important field of investigation for theologians, and thus for anyone interested in the study of religions.   (International Journal for the Study of New Religions, 2012)

It offers an engaging and well–informed synthesis of contemporary theological reflection in the context of today s popular culture An excellent volume that will serve the discussion of theology and popular culture well.
Jeff Keuss, Northwest Graduate School

"Lynch has written an excellent introduction for dialogue between theology and popular culture. . . This book is useful in undergraduate or graduate courses in religion and popular culture, media studies or individuals interest in critical reflection on theology and popular culture."
Religious Studies Review


"What is ′popular′ about popular culture? What is the relationship between religion and popular culture? Why would a theologian, or anyone involved in the study of religion, give attention to popular culture? The work of theologians and others related to popular culture often begs such questions. Lynch′s book is important in that it puts such questions in perspective. This book clarifies the exchange between religion and popular culture and what scholars have made of the interconnections. Understanding Theology and Popular Culture is an intriguing and insightful study. I highly recommend it."
Anthony B. Pinn, Rice University

"This is an excellent introduction to the field of cultural studies as a whole, as well as providing a clear map of the ways in which theology and religious studies have sought to engage with popular culture."
Third Way

Lynch s discussion of the definitions of popular culture provides an excellent introduction to the topic, and his rationale for theology joining other academic disciplines in the serious study of popular is convincing Informed throughout by a wide reading in the literature of popular culture, this book deserves careful consideration for any course focusing on the understanding of theology and popular culture.

"Those of us who have plunged deeply (and boldly, if somewhat unpreparedly) into the murky interdisciplinary waters of studying theology and popular culture will no doubt be grateful to have Gordon Lynch as a lifeguard, throwing us a lifeline of method and theory for which we were desparately searching."
Gaye Williams Ortiz, Augusta State University, Journal of Contemporary Religion

"Understanding Theology and Popular Culture is a well–structured volume which competently deals with the work of a wide range of theologians, philosophers and cultural researchers. This will, therefore, be an extremely valuable book for students and other readers."
Crucible, July–Sept 2006

From the Back Cover

Understanding Theology and Popular Culture is one of the first books to give a complete overview of the key issues and methods in this field of study. It provides a clear introduction to key theories and debates for those new to the subject, as well as developing a useful discussion and overview for more advanced researchers. Drawing on original case studies ranging from Eminem to The Simpsons, the text examines the nature and functions of popular culture, and presents a reasoned argument about the distinctive contribution that theology can make to popular culture studies.

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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful By A Customer on 4 April 2005
Format: Paperback
A call to action for theologians to take popular culture seriously, not with rose-tinted raybans or at the end of a pitchfork. Using the methodologies of cultural studies and sociology Lynch outlines many different ways that 'popular culture' (and defining what we mean by this is half the problem) has been seen to relate to other aspects of society, especially the religious. Taking three different subjects - Eminem, Homer Simpson and Club Culture and three different approaches - Author-focused, Text-based and Ethnographic, Lynch concisely and perceptively shows the strengths and weaknesses of each in the way they relate to popular views of religious questions.
This is Lynch's most penetrating book yet, powerful, persuasive and energising. The challenge is for other theologians to take seriously both the power of popular culture in our lives and the discipline of studying its religious aspects rigourously. After all, it is easy to condemn Jerry Springer the Opera as blasphemy without asking if it is asking valid questions about contemporary perceptions of religious subjects and it is also easy to sit down with Madonna's lyrics and find a passionate yearning for the Other, but does that ever strike the clubbers on the dance floor?
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews on (beta) 7 reviews
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
An Excellent Introduction to Theology and Popular Culture 10 May 2008
By Amazon Customer - Published on
Format: Paperback
This is a preferred book on theology and popular culture. Gordon Lynch gives a fair account of the relevant issues, well written and concise. He notes how media and technology relates to capitalism and social organization, and he is cautious of the danger of putting too much explanatory weight on technology and media.

He reviews theories on the proper Christian engagement with culture as well as interpretive approaches to media. He also affirms the need to be critical of how technology and media sustain oppressive systems and distorts values. Hence Lynch brings in view a healthy interdisciplinary awareness involved in understanding the integration of theology and popular culture.

To get a sense of the author's perspective, he prefers what he refers to as the revised conversational model, which "envisions theology as a mutual critical dialogue between interpretations of the Christian message and interpretations of contemporary cultural experiences and practices."(130) This method is preferred because "it recognizes that truth and goodness are not the sole positions of one particular religious tradition or world-view."(105) Then he states that his model needs to be informed by another model called the praxis model. "What distinguishes the praxis its commitment to critiquing religious and cultural beliefs on the basis of their promotion of liberation and well being."(104) This model "is invaluable in reminding us that appropriate theological reflection should ultimately inspire ways of living and acting that are liberating and transformative."(106)

If you have to read only one book on theology and popular culture, I would recommend this one as having a nice balance of perspective. However no book is comprehensive and I would encourage other resources.

Other authors on the subject, include Kelton Cobb, Detweiler & Taylor, Shane Hipps, Robert Johnston, and William Romanski. Also some articles in the Routledge Companion to Postmodernism (Such as "Postmodernism and Popular Culture) are helpful.
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
Excellent, methodological 10 May 2010
By Stephen P. Hale - Published on
Format: Hardcover
There are many books about the intersection of Theology & Culture. Most of them are just a collection of interesting musings. Some are a bit more organized than others, but most lack a clear, coherent thesis. Most lack a clear method of analysis. This keeps them from being more useful than they might be.

In this book, Lynch provides a method. To be precise, Lynch identifies a small collection of (4) methods used to compare theology and culture. He identifies questions largely asked in this interdisciplinary topic. Mostly, he just provides a useful introduction, a useful MAP to this topic.

It is difficult to overestimate how useful this is. It's very, very useful. I used the text for a class I took on a related topic, and this was by far the most helpful book. After reading this, reading other books became more...easy to assimilate. I began to take away more from OTHER books after reading THIS book.

Very, very highly recommended. Also, if you're interested in a book that uses a method somewhat consistently from an evangelical (in the American sense of the word) perspective, see a book called "Everyday Apocalypse." I recommend Lynch's book more than that, but it's good as well.

4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
A Creative and Helpful Overview of the Field 25 Nov. 2005
By T. Beaudoin - Published on
Format: Paperback
Many theologians write about "popular culture," either directly or indirectly, but theology has been lacking a text that would help situate the larger field of studies in religion and popular culture. Lynch has written such a text: a map for theologians interested in the contemporary debates, as well as a proposal for a theological development of the key questions.

This book makes some very important contributions: foregrounding the importance of theological debates in the correlational tradition for pop culture/theology work; holding out the dignity of the experimental moment in which the "field" finds itself, mirrored in the trifecta of readings of pop culture artifacts in the latter part of the book; introducing the significance of judgment for pop culture/theology work; and strongly joining theological analysis of pop culture to the problematic of the everyday. That's a lot of boulders moved forward in about 200 pages.

I have some questions about whether and how the problem of "normativity" is the best way to describe the ethical impasse Lynch narrates in the field today. Still, this is an excellent book for helping theologians catch up to where the current debates are, or as a text for students to help them see how a seemingly simple task--asking how God and culture relate--is so complicated.

Tom Beaudoin

Santa Clara University
A "Must Read" 3 Jan. 2012
By Emil Lavsen - Published on
Format: Paperback
It started so many new thoughts and ideas on this subject in my own mind. I absolutly had no idea of what it meant until my professor asked me to write a report about "Popular Culture" and buy this book.
I willingly read it (Maybe Non-Willing at that time hahaha) and I surely loved every single page of the book.
Understanding this term has in some ways changed the way I look at the world we are living in. It has given me a broader way of seeing life and it has helped me in my analytical approach to life.
Thank you Mr. Gordon Lynch for a wonderful book
Good survey and overview of the Relationship between theology and culture 25 May 2013
By Dave - Published on
Format: Paperback
This book is about as contemporary as an academic book on the topic of popular culture can be. Lynch's approach to the theological task in relationship to pop culture is refreshing and relevant. Lunch takes the conversation beyond "good" or "bad" when approaching pop culture. He surveys a number of approaches as well as a number of voices within each approach allowing the reader to grasp the breadth of opinion on the topic.
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