This plea for biblically-informed discernment of the culture around us displays just that, and with the authority of someone who has proved himself over and over again.
Publisher: InterVarsity Press
Publication date: 7/28/2013
“What does Kim Kardashian do?” asks Turner rhetorically, as he explores celebrity culture in this valuable guide to assessing 21st century life.
Turner is just the man for this project. He has kept his Christian moorings while successfully working inside a changing culture, as a journalist (The Times, Rolling Stone), a poet (equally potent in work for adults and children) and author (U2: Rattle and Hum, The Man Called Cash, etc). His integrity has probably been a major factor in securing interviews with rock royalty (he published Conversations with Eric Clapton at a time when the guitarist was highly reclusive). Retaining friends in high places, some chapters here have been checked by Ali Hewson, Cliff Richard, Milton Jones and Donata Wenders.
The author rightly asserts that too many Christians either run away and hide from today's culture, not knowing how to deal with it, or absorb it all indiscriminately. He aims to guide consumers – and creators – of 2013 culture to do so Christianly. Coming from the Rookmaaker/Schaeffer school, he claims that if Christ is Lord of all life, then he must have a view on everything from Matchbox 20 to Catch 22 and from Avatar to Avalon.
I expected Turner to cover his main areas of expertise, but he goes much deeper, making only passing reference to music, and explores movies, fashion, comedy, TV and - in one of the best chapters - photography. Crucially, he also looks below the surface to the undercurrents, commenting on and critiquing such areas as celebrity culture, the search for sensation, the world of advertising and the culture-driving implications of technology.
What he writes sounds a lot like wise and scripturally-informed common sense, with few surprises. (The only paragraph that I would challenge is one that seems to misjudge the Simpsons' approach to its Christian characters). Yet he goes deeply enough into each topic to make it relevant to industry professionals. Undergirding that are lists of books, websites, points for action and questions for reflection in each chapter. Ministers who want to give their people a relevant guide to living in this century could build a sermon series around this book.
His insights probably come across best from a sample of the questions he poses:
- In Maslow's well-known 'hierarchy of needs', creativity is deemed to be something we can only concentrate on once such basic needs as safety, love, belonging and esteem are dealt with. Does this mean that popular culture is a luxury, rather than a necessity?
- Do you imagine that there will be culture in the renewed heaven and Earth?
- How do you distinguish between much-needed relaxation and wasting time?
- Name a movie that you believe has been genuinely prophetic in that it pointed out a flaw in society and challenged viewers to behave differently.
- Identify some of the ways that newspapers, magazines and web sites promote assumptions without flagging up their beliefs in an explicit way.
- Should 'Christian celebrity' be an oxymoron?
- Think of 2 ways that the Internet has improved your spiritual life and two ways that it has damaged it.
These are typical examples of Turner's gently probing style. This book is highly relevant, full of integrity, deeply informed and packed with clear, incisive thought. Recommended.