1] Rodney Clapp’s ‘Border Crossings affirms that and that forays into other areas of public culture (across “borders”) should be undertaken first and foremost as Christians. Popular culture has gone mainstream in the US and religion has been swept up into popular culture American evangelicals have got to stop being so rational and seemingly intellectual, it wont reach anyone. It assumes people we disagree with are “benighted or ill-intentioned.” He says the plan of identifying with American culture leaves no alternative if it fails. Clapp instead wants greater emphasis on community and worship and less on individual belief or individual practice.
What about the future? Clapp wants greater involvement in culture but as religious people.What does a film or jazz piece teach? How does it help our journey?
Any thoughts on the application of this to orthodoxy? It seems higher education as in Mada is opposed to Torah, but popular culture seems to be synthesized well with Torah. Can we make any of Torah as counter popular culture?
Rodney Clapp’s ‘Border Crossings’ says that everything evangelicals think they know about American culture is wrong.
For this baby boomer, it’s jarring, and a little unsettling, to see Jimi Hendrix’s “Voodoo Child, Part II” being used to sell a truck. Wasn’t rock and roll–at least the good stuff–supposed to be about maintaining a critical distance from corruptive influences such as the marketplace?
American evangelicalism (specifically, the white suburban variety) is even more captive in this regard than is the music of Hendrix.
Christians should work at being an alternative to the “technologically-oriented” and “consumer-based” mainstream culture.
According to Clapp, evangelicals believe that Christian truths are “available to rationally able, well-intended individuals quite apart from any particular tradition or social context.” It may be hard to believe in our post-“Inherit the Wind” world, but evangelical faith is indeed dominated by a kind of rationalism, which says that the content of evangelical faith is expressed in propositions supposedly accessible to any “well-intended individual.” The Bible is a sort of instruction manual, albeit one sometimes more difficult to interpret than what comes with Ikea furniture.
Clapp is saying that almost everything American evangelicals know about relating to their non-evangelical contemporaries is wrong, or at least outdated. Other Americans share neither their spiritual aspirations nor their moral reasoning. Sticking to the “foundationalist” script is not only unproductive, it’s counterproductive. Why? Because in addition to assuming something about your interlocutor that isn’t true, it “inclines us towards believing that those who disagree are necessarily benighted or ill-intentioned.”
Evangelical faith places huge emphasis on the individual and the idea of a personal relationship with God. And the less said about liturgy, the better.
With no real sense of what it means to be the church–what Christians call an ecclesiology–evangelicals depend on being American–and Americans being Christian–as their sole source of a corporate identity. Little wonder so much of the “religious right’s” rhetoric is characterized by fear and sense of crisis. There’s no plan “B.”
Full review here.
2] Another Book on the topic- this one argues that youth leaders should strive for something deeper than entertainment.
In Growing Souls Mark Yaconelli reaches beyond the tendency for youth pastors to make ministry to adolescents an exercise in entertainment. He believes both adolescents and those who work with them are longing for “deeper, more authentic forms of … discipleship” but that traditional approaches don’t cultivate this
3] Finally, I wish to discuss the SNL sketch from last night.
The sketch opened and closed with a nice shot of Park East Synagogue. The sketch itself made fun of the 1980’s Bar Mizvah’s that were all Bar and no Torah. Garish Bar Mitzvah’s of entertainment, hiring Hollywood stars, sports figures, rock musicians, wild themes and high budgets. Nick Kroll, better known as the caveman of Geico commercials, helped produce a humorous documentary book on the topic a few years ago, Bar Mizvah Disco.
25 years later these bar mizvah’s seems not religious, garish and devoid of Torah and spirituality- everything that made people leave their suburban and predominately Conservative congregations. But at the same time, these events kept people in the synagogue, they served to show the relevance of Judaism.If people were into ostentatious wealth, then they found a way to keep it in the synagogue.
The NYT wrote about the book in 2005:
During this period, Mr. Neuman said, “the country clubs that used to not want to have us as members want us as members.” So the proud new members of the Cadillac-driving gentry began organizing religious ceremonies around “enduring American themes,” he continued..”
“Part of the move to the suburbs is seen as a step to being more integrated with your non-Jewish neighbors,” Dr. Shandler said. “It’s not just a family celebration. It becomes a kind of mega birthday party. Parents are using this as a social occasion, so their business associates and neighbors get invited to the celebration.
Now to what I really want to ask. Here is the SNL clip making fun of one of these Bar-Mitzvah. The father in the skit says that we do tis because we can afford it and to entertain the guests. Meaning that they see that Jews don’t have to be excluded, they can have everything in popular culture. How is this different than a Rock and Roll Shabbaton? In both there are rock performers instead of Torah. If you answer kiruv and getting people into shul, I can say the same thing about the 1980’s bar mitzvah. People wanted to be part of these suburban Jewish centers because it allowed to do the things that interested them. Both assumed that once in the door the rabbi would teach them more about Judaism. So what is the difference?