Everyday Theology: How to Read Cultural Texts and Interpret Trend by Kevin J. Vanhoozer, Charles A. Anderson and Michael J. Sleasman.

I first saw mention of this book when I was reading a post at Brent Thomas’ blog. And the title intrigued my interest and I have liked the other books of Vanhoozer.

I just finished his section on the four things that culture does: culture communicates–culture orients–culture reproduces–culture cultivates.

These four things have me thinking a lot about what culture is communicating to me and how it is re-orienting me to a life that is different, or might be different than that of Jesus Christ.

He closes the section by saying:

Enough nurture of a particular kind produces in us a kind of second nature. Researchers at an Australian university looking into the neurophysiology of watching television discovered this telling fact: repeated and prolonged viewing destroys the capacity of the viewer to pay attention. Here is a kind of nurture, then, that corrupts nature.

Prolonged exposure to cultural texts–and we are always exposed–produces various types of effects for good or ill. Culture is always cultivating our spirits in one way or another, sensitizing or desensitizing us, and enlivening or dulling our capacity to attend to various aspects of reality. Many of us may be unaware of the effect that culture is having on our spirits. Yet disciples cannot afford to sleepwalk their way through everyday life. those who confuse the real world with pathetic imitations can hardly be effective ambassadors for Jesus Christ.

Here is an everyday example: how should we read the holiday season. How a culture “does” Christmas reveals much about its ultimate concern. On the one hand, Christmas is a theological event that marks the birth of Jesus Christ, the moment when the eternal Son of God became man. On the other hand, Christmas has become a cultural event that has evolved over time in an increasingly materialist direction. What is the meaning of Christmas according to twenty-first century North America? It is important to recall that cultures does not often communicate directly: there are few explicit answers or thesis statements in the texts of popular culture. Yet there is copious indirect communication. Instead of addressing our belief-systems head-on, cultural works structure our daily practices and colonize our imaginations. Culture’s power to shape our habits of thinking and acting is on conspicuous display during the Christmas season, the holiest of holy times for commercial retailers.

We need to carefully and honestly ask ourselves in what world of meaning do we dwell, at Christmastime or in ordinary time? Where do we spend most of our time, in our bodies and, just as importantly, in our imaginations? We need to guard what enters and inhabits our hearts. We should be dwelling in the real world displayed in Scripture, not the counterfeit worlds projected by other, non-canonical texts. Sleepwalkers of the world, awake!

Wow! What does our infatuation with reality TV especially, say about us as a culture….we can’t even handle living in our own reality, we instead have to live in others reality…not even their real reality, but their fake reality.