Saturday, July 30, 2011

Record: Let's Sing About Jesus

I must be honest here, I got this one from another blog, The Other Side of Music, which in fact seems like a great blog focusing on the bizarre in the world of records at large.

P.S.: I wonder why the girl hugging Jesus doesn't seem to be all too happy with her doing so.

Friday, July 29, 2011

Christian Graffiti

Somehow, graffiti and Christianity seem to be a logical match. There is a rebellious side to Christianity, inviting to speak out against injustice and corruption of mundane powers if they are thought to be contradicting divine law as it is revealed in the scriptures. In short, the idea that in the end you serve no king, only the King of kings. Graffiti seems to be if not rebellious in nature, then at least a favored tool in rebellion. Moreover, Christianity is a tradition that values both images and words, the very things that graffiti as an art form depends on. Christianity then might prove to be a rich resource. All of this would lead me to expect a natural alliance between the two, although probably a lot of Christians might dislike graffiti art, just as some graffiti artists are likely to dislike Christianity. At first glance, Christian graffiti does seem to exist, however I'm not sure yet if it is being practiced quite the way I expect it.

Indeed this seems to be a world on it's own. However, it surprises me that what I find most at first glance is graffiti that preaches the gospel itself on a popular level, instead of reminding believers of their own breaking of laws they hold dear. These are just first impressions upon looking into this subject, I will look into it more. While searching, I came across some practicing artists and blogs, that I'd like to include.

Gospel Graffiti Crew
Jesus Saves artist
Lovepusher artist
Christian Graffiti blog

Thursday, July 28, 2011

Circle Square

From what I understand, Circle Square was a Canadian kids show from the 80s, with a heavy emphasis on religion (read: Christianity). It probably was meant to be the religious alternative to the secular Sesame Street. It seems to brilliantly miss the mark in a way that turns that what is meant to appeal to kids into something excessively hyperactive bordering on terror. It is not uncommon to see something that is meant as "the christian alternative" spiral down into a display of horror due to incompetence on behalf of the producers, underestimating what it takes to "get it right", being interested in simply making a christian product. Alternatively though, commercial producers might experience less of a perfectionist pressure due to the target audience being loyal to their "brand" (in this case, Christianity), being willing to purchase anything under the rubric, and at the same time, the competition among producers might be smaller due to the market being less interesting than the secular one. Whatever the reason though, the results are obviously fantastic!

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

Inflatable Church

Ladies and gentlemen, it is with great pleasure today that I present to you... the inflatable church!!!

If you were still looking for a reason to get married, the fact that you can get married in this church should finally win you over!

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Web Art 2

I came across more animated GIF art on a website called dazzlejunction, which caters not only to the religious it seems. But are their animated GIF files ever fantastic! The logo is embedded I fear, but don't let that spoil it! I love certain details. How for instance the animation is more than epileptic and how the quotation is not ended in the first image. All of them possess what seems to be a certain nervous quality.


Monday, July 25, 2011

Christian Art: Kathy Fincher

 A Princess and a Prayer

 Jesus Loves Me

 Etched into Our Hearts

 Communion Girl 1

 Communion Boy 1

 Communion Boy 2

 Communion Girl 2
God Has a Plan for You
The Dream Keepers

Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Noah's Ark Toys

Animated GIF Files

One expression that really only appeared as recently as the internet is the digital animated gif file. This type of file typically has a sort of easy early digital effect like glitter or water flow. Somehow it reminds me of art that I see on the flea markets. There is a website that has many of these images listed and I have only selected a few.

Website where I got these that has quite an impressive collection:

Monday, July 18, 2011

Jesus Walks On Water

Book: Religion and Popular Culture in America by Bruce David Forbes (Editor) and Jeffrey H. Mahan (Editor)

Bruce David Forbes and Jeffrey H. Mahan. Relgion and Popular Culture in America. University of California Press. Berkeley and Los Angeles, 2005.

This book popped up in a course on popular culture and religion. I thought I’d read it again now, in its entirety, since for the course only a few chapters were treated if I remember correctly. I liked it back then and still do, be it not without the necessary criticism.
The book proved to me to be a very helpful tool in distinguishing between the different types of relationships between religion and popular culture. In the introductory chapter, Bruce David Forbes describe four such relationships and especially the second one, popular culture in religion, that Forbes describes as “the appropriation of aspects of popular culture by religious groups and institutions” I find interesting. The book in fact is divided into four parts, each part consisting of various essays by different writers dealing with subjects that fit into the respective categories. The essays that fall into this category indeed I did appreciate the most. William D. Romanowski in his essay Evangelicals and Popular Music: The Contemporary Christian Music Industry argues that “the Christian music industry promoted an evangelical popular culture based on the rules of commercialism and not those of churches, elevating consumer values and taste at the expense of doctrine and tradition.” (p. 107). His perspective on religion as being personalized and commodified under the influence of, in the first place, the baby-boom generation is sympathetic to the way Stewart M. Hoover describes the development of religion in the United States when he looks into the functioning of the megachurch at Willow Creek. Hoover in his article proposes that “it is at [the] very direct and concrete level of practice, of actually touching and feeling objects, that a kind of piety can increasingly be invoked by, and satisfied by, commodity culture.” (p. 145). Hoover’s also talks about the idea of “seekers”, those whose “religious practice [is] oriented toward the self and conceiving of religion as a conscious search for a variety of inputs, which can then be coalesced into an identity for which the individual considers him- or herself responsible” (p. 144). This is in turn very sympathetic to the idea of the “questing” that Greg Peterson presents in his article The Internet and Christian and Muslim Communities, that he describes as “religious seeking motivated by dissatisfaction with existing answers.” (p. 127). All of these ideas are potentially very useful and also are in keeping with ideas that Moore and McDannell developed, to which indeed the authors heavily refer.
So what about the other three relationships? The first relationship is described as religion in popular culture that deals with such things as Madonna Videos and The Da Vinci Code. Products that make use of religious imagery rather than being explicitly religious expressions. The third relationship, popular culture as religion, explores the idea of popular cultural products functioning as religion like Star Trek, sports or even Coca Cola. It’s also about the question what religion really is or can be. If a definition of religion is broad enough to include Star Trek, does that mean that the definition is too broad or does it mean that we should acknowledge it? The fourth relationship then finally, religion and popular culture in dialogue, sort of concerns itself with “interactions between religious and popular culture [that] do not fit well in the three categories considered thus far.” (p. 15).
The results are mixed I’d say. Some articles seem well researched and have a good point, like the one by Romanowski. Others just seem far-fetched and seem to lose themselves in method and theory rather than properly researching a popcultural phenomenon, almost seemingly abusing it just to get a point across, quite like Bado-Fralick & Norris sometimes seemed to do. Still, I like the broadness of the range of topics that are being treated and the various methods that respective authors care to select to treat these topics with. The results may be mixed, but this mix seems healthy. It seems to present the reader with a good overview of what is going on in the field and it is a good introduction to some of the key authors that operate in it. It seems that Forbes and Mahan themselves were careful to set up an honest balance of representative work even when they mightn’t agree with all of the ideas that those works present. This makes it a fair work and leaves it up to the reader to make up his mind about it all. The variety of approaches indeed makes the whole greater than the sum of its parts.
It is in the very last part of the book that something surprised me. In the conclusion, Jeffrey H. Mahan notes that the audience for the studies is varied. He describes four diverse audiences. Audience one seeks description and analysis, audience two seeks methodological reflection, audience three seeks to clarify the religious life, and audience four seeks social or cultural reform (p. 291-293). Of the third kind, he writes: “The implied audience for these essays are thinking practitioners of religion who desire to more clearly understand the interactions between faith and culture, in order to enable lives of religious integrity.” (p. 292). This is debatable, because works like these can also serve an anthropological function. They can take you by the hand when you’re trying to make sense of a system of values that is alien to you.

Sunday, July 17, 2011

Christian Nymphos

Christianity and sex is a whole universe in its own right. There is so much to say about it, like the way that people who feel uncomfortable with their own sexuality might either use religion as a tool to justify or repress sexual behavior that they are led to believe is deviant. I could even start talking about mystics like Hadewych of Antwerp who one might say substituted her physical desires with a devotion to God. But dear Lord, when do I have time to reflect when I'm being greeted by terms like "saved and sexy" or slogans like "Married Sex: Spicy, the way God intended it to be"?

Christian Nymphos:

Thursday, July 14, 2011

Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman

Like 7th Heaven, this series was one of the few glimpses we got of American religious reasoning. Looking back at it now, it actually doesn't seem that explicitly religious. From Wikipedia: "Dr. Quinn, Medicine Woman is an American western/drama series created by Beth Sullivan. Dr. Michaela "Mike" Quinn, played by Jane Seymour, left Boston in search of adventure. She goes to Colorado Springs, Colorado where she establishes herself as doctor / advisor. DQ, MW is a post-Civil War, 19th-century drama." Personally I probably associate it with Evangelicalism because our Evangelical broadcasting company, de Evangelische Omroep, was the one that aired it here. Somehow it did seem to tie in with an idealistic outlook on life so obviously naive that only the Evangelical broadcasting company would dare present it to their audience. There does seem to have been a strong Christian bias in the way human relations were being portrayed by the series, also reinforcing these interactions as absolutely effective. I might even go so far as to say that it presents Dr. Quinn as the hope for the West. The rough and ruthless realities of the West being redeemable if (and only if) Christian ethics, understood in a New England fashion, would be applied properly. Interesting that she is also a Medicine Woman, the healer, one might say, and that she takes upon herself her duty to not only heal but also to redeem and show the "uncultured" the way to happiness through proper behavior and relations. Adds a little bit of martyrdom and missionary zeal to it all, celebrating the good that dare seek out the lost. But enough far fetched over-analysis, let us enjoy the shameless music and acting skills from this also somehow typically 90s series!

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

One Nation Under God

So, this post deals more with nationalism explicitly, not only in the context of one artist. Religion and nationalism seem to have buddied up in the United States. Not only do Christians there seem to make use of nationalism but also nationalists seem to make use of Christianity. This myth is created that if you are a "true" US citizen, then you are also a Christian. At the same time though, Christianity is interpreted in such a way that it seems to only emphasize the values associated with the American Way of Life. Think for example of capitalism and democracy that might be supported with Biblical passages. Sometimes the support sought isn't even textual but just visual, juxtaposing the cross or the Bible next to the hawk and the star-spangled banner for example, associating the two symbolic systems with one another. The fruits of this fusion are nothing short of sweet.