The Culturally Savvy Christian
I saw this book and was immediately intrigued. I had never heard of Dick Staub before (the jacket cover tells me he has a national radio show that has been on for 15 years), but even so, I picked it up. Am I glad I did. I found this book to be a great read and a very challenging one at that.
At first it seems like an updated version of Niebuhr's Christ and Culture, but I found it to be that and so much more. Mr. Staub interacts with a lot of scripture and to a lesser extent much popular culture. A definition he uses to divide the book into three sections (talking about faith, culture, and the two in relation to one another) is:
The culturally savvy Christian is serious about faith, savvy about faith and culture, and skilled in relating the two.
He opens by talking about being savvy about faith and culture. He (rightly) talks about how many people can quote lines from their favorite movies, TV shows, and/or songs than verses from the Bible. I have found this to be true in my circles and, sadly, in my own life. I must say that I found the opening chapter rather depressing - in the sense that we all let such a magnitude of mindless "amusement" (which Mr. Staub says could be defined as 'to be absent in mind'). He then looks at the soullessness of popular culture (celebrity-driven, money-centered, spread by marketing and sustained by technology), but does not at all suggest turning our backs on culture, but rather, engaging it with the soulfulness of Christ.
He then turns to talking about getting serious about our faith. He bashes what he calls "Christianity-Lite". Too often we are not shedding light into darkness, but living duplicitous lives at church and away from church. Mr. Staub says that we need to have God's deep presence, His transforming presence, as well as His loving presence, and explores each one.
Lastly, Mr. Staub offers action on how to maintain a serious faith and actively engage culture - to transform culture, create soulful culture. We do this by countering culture like aliens, ambassadors, and artists. Mr. Staub is very interested in the hope that serious Christians can not only transform culture but also create culture. He is not interested in our Christian sub-culture, but in leading culture with our art, values and creativity.
I would agree with N.T. Wright who writes a sentence of recommendation for the book - "This is an urgent book for our times - and for our health."
Other books of interest touching on this subject:
Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts & Interpret Trends, ed. by Kevin VanHoozer
Visual Faith: Art, Theology, and Worship in Dialogue, by William Dyrness
A Matrix of Meanings: Finding God in Pop Culture, by Craig Detweiler and Barry Taylor
Reel Spirituality: Theology and Film in Dialogue, by Robert Johnston
Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture, by William Romanowski