From what I know of our BookNotes readers, I would guess that many of you know, and some have read, Eyes Wide Open: Finding God in Popular Culture by William D. Romanowski (Brazos) $17.99 (See blog special below for sale pricing.) Some may have inclinations to work on this topic, and like that we have commended books like The Culturally Savvy Christian by Dick Staub, our well-loved Everyday Apocalypse, by the extraordinary David Dark, or, yesterday, the books that offer Christian insights into Harry Potter, but haven’t read Romo yet. If so, now is the time to buy this important book. I know I say it a lot, but you should trust me on this.
As we noted in yesterday’s post, many have expressed delight and approval that we stock the Harry Potter books; once again, the local paper mentioned us in a story (is it really newsworthy that a Christianly-run store stocks Deathly Hallows?) And, yet, yes, there are reports of religious criticisms of Potter fans, including us, and not everybody understands our interests in fantasy lit (and, more generally, why we carry any “secular” novels and music.) Even some that I thought knew us well have been surprised that we stock HP, even though they are glad.
Why are they surprised? It seems that we still don’t quite appreciate the Biblical basis for engaging in culture, playing our part in the human task of culture-forming. Our worldviews just aren’t Christian enough; we are enmeshed in dualism that minimizes such stuff. I sometimes pontificate about being salt and light, Biblical metaphors for being in the world, and quote Paul on Mars Hill (Acts 17) who knew the pagan poetry of the day. But how about the “foundational command” to cultivate the Earth, the “cultural mandate” as Reformed folk call it, from Genesis 1:28? It doesn’t get much more basic than that.
Of the plethora of books about these kinds of things that have come out in recent years, and there are many, Bill Romanowski’s book is among the best, and, I believe, the most important. He has studied hard and long about this stuff, having grappled with everything from the neo-Marxist Frankfurt school to the Dooyeweerdian aesthetics of Calvin Seerveld; he’s paid his dues in the academic world of social history and he knows his Biblical theology; and he, well, he loves the movies! I would think that every church library should have Eyes Wide Open. Book groups should be using it. It should be given to college students and other young adults, especially, so they know that their church cares about their world, at least. As we increasingly find ourselves in a media-drenched, entertainment-oriented, cultural matrix driven by the movie industry and the “star-maker machinery” (yes, I know, I date myself with a Joni Mitchell line), it is imperative that we master the stuff in this book. Our times demand it, and, really, our faith requires it.
I admit it: I am fond of this particular text because Bill and I were housemates in college and remain good friends. He’s a great communicator, serious yet with more than his share of whimsy. Hearts & Minds has supported the book since its earlier edition (and his earlier work, Pop Culture Wars, too.) We stock the Calvin College produced videos of Bill lecturing on the WB lot with oodles of film clips. This new edition of Eyes…, as I exclaimed when it came out a half a year ago, is significantly updated and expanded. It is a must-have. For what it is worth, our L’Abrai-influenced friends at Ransom Fellowship (who publish the excellent Critique magazine) agree. Go here to see why.
In this Potter-esque season in the book-selling liturgical calandar the discussions about literary criticism, religion & fiction, God and popular entertainment, will be everywhere. The debates among some Christians will be firm, but even where there is only a mild uneasiness—readers who don’t want to tell their church friends that they love the Harry & Hermione & Ron Weasley—we don’t really have a coherent way to get at the issue. In a time when some pastors get in trouble for being seen lining up with their kids to buy the book, where some Christian book industry leaders dare not mention it to their stores (I was told this last week by a very significant person in the trade) since most Christian booksellers refuse to stock it and would take offense by the mention, when folks do buy it yet don’t have any skills of discernement about it, I think we must continue to have resources on hand like Eyes Wide Open.
Here is a great interview from INFUZE with Romanowski. He talks a bit about the updated version of the book and other good stuff. Check it out!
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