The chapters in both the second and third sections were originally term papers written by students who took the Cultural Hermeneutics class. They look at everything from Eminem to megachurch architecture to the film Gladiator. In Dr. Vanhoozer's words, "each chapter is an exercise in 'reading' culture theologically, that is, with a view to achieving Christian understanding of what is going on in out part of the world, why it is going on, and how we should respond."
Dr. Vanhoozer submits that we have become a people of the "soundbyte". We get our news from headlines, blurbs and short audio clips, and believe that we have a handle of the situation. We do this culturally and, sadly, spiritually as well. Not often enough do we search the Scriptures like the Bereans to check up on our leaders (Acts 17.11).
Derek Webb speaks about this in his song A New Law on his record Mockingbird (which I cannot recommend enough). Mr. Webb talks about being spoon fed from leaders,
don’t teach me about politics and government just tell me who to vote for
don’t teach me about truth and beauty
just label my music
don’t teach me how to live like a free man
just give me a new law
i don’t wanna know if the answers aren’t easy
so just bring it down from the mountain to me
Dr. Vanhoozer states that "the purpose of this book is to teach Christians to get the theological lay of the cultural land."
This book is a very important one to wrestle with, mull over and interact with. This is not a matter of understanding American Idol or NASCAR or Starbucks. It is a matter of being able to speak truth into a culture where those things are important to people. Dr. Vanhoozer says, "cultural agents can use the locutions of popular culture (e.g., clothes, films) to perform new illocutionary and perlocutionary acts. We. can speak our meaning with their language."