Yesterday I read Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trends (Cultural Exegesis) by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Charles A. Anderson, and Michael J. Sleasman. You can read an excerpt here. Also check out an interview with Vanhoozer at The Resurgence: part 1 and part 2.
Just as the title suggests, it provides a model to read, understand, and interpret both cultural texts (i.e. products of culture) and cultural trends that affect everyone—in the US particularly. It’s basically a collection of essays by Vanhoozer’s student in a cultural hermeneutic class taught at Trinity.
The first and last chapters are highly recommended. The first chapter by Vanhoozer sets up the entire system of reading and interpretation culture. It’s a bit long winded (as are all of his books), but well worth the time.
Then the last chapter by Vanhoozer’s students/co-editors provides a good summary of how to actually apply what was talked about in the opening chapter, via America’s infatuation with wedding.
Some of the better chapters by the students include:
- The Gospel according to Safeway: The Checkout line and the Good life.
- Despair and Redemption: A Theological Account of Eminem
- The Business of Busyness: What Should we Make of Martha?
Some quotes that I found interesting included:
One reason “to be able to read culture… is to ensure that the church at any particular place and time is serving the gospel rather than taking it hostage through acculturation. We need to be aware of the way in which culture may be influencing or programming us… The church is never wholly isolate form its surround culture… the church has porous ‘boundaries’… Those who ignore culture, like history, are doomed to repeat it.” (page 34)
“… the church is a community of interpreters—of Scripture and of culture—it is for the sake of becoming an effective community of cultural agents. This involves, first, interpreting culture in light of a biblical—theological frame and second interpreting Scripture by embodying gospel values and truths in concrete cultural forms. The mission of the church is to witness to the truth of the gospel by participation in God’s building project, realizing the well-wrought world redeemed in Christ.” (page 55)
“If we rush to judgment on a test we may inadvertently muzzle part of its message to us. Taking Eminem again as an example: if as Christina we too quickly condemn his violent and profane lyrics, way may miss his implicit rebuke of our failure [as a church] to reach out to the hurting and disadvantaged. A hermeneutic of charity strives to hear what the text is saying before it makes judgments.” (page 234)
The church, as a community of cultural agents, must be able to make its distinctive mark—the cross of Christ—on culture. (page 55)
In all, a bit cumbersome at times as many points could have been reduced to one or two pages instead of 15 or more. But it’s a very good book that should continue to spark creativity and interest in culture exegesis with the main objective to properly contextualize the Gospel for the glory of God in present day United States.