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Understanding Evangelical Media: The Changing Face of Christian Communication
Quentin J. Schultze & Robert H. Woods Jr., Editors
IVP Academic, 2008

Most academic books written by Evangelicals that I have seen have been about theology. Rarely do Evangelicals write studies regarding non-theological aspects of Christianity, and more rare still does one find an unbiased, critical review of Evangelical culture written by Evangelicals. Understanding Evangelical Media is the first book of its kind, one that attempts to critically analyze Evangelical media, exposing the good and bad aspects of it while still maintaining an Evangelical viewpoint.

Note the use of the word "Evangelical"-as the book points out, Evangelicals tend to refer to themselves and their beliefs as "Christian," to the exclusion of non-Evangelical Christian groups such as Catholics and Mainline Christians. Thus in the spirit of the book I will use the word Evangelical to refer to Evangelical Christians to avoid confusion.

The book is separated into twenty-one essays by different authors, and each discusses a different aspect or form of Evangelical media-everything from the common music, radio and television to the more obscure Evangelical video games and even theme parks. Also discussed is the much-maligned (yet always successful) "Jesus junk."

Each chapter follows a set pattern: first it will discuss the particular form of media in its mainstream form, giving a brief history of its development. Then the author will discuss various Evangelical versions of the media in question, followed by a critical analysis of Evangelical involvement in it. The author will then offer discuss the successes and failures of the Evangelical media followed by suggestions as to how Evangelicals can better harness the media.

The book draws some disturbing (but not shocking) conclusions: Evangelicals avoid self-criticism in tribal media, Evangelical media lacks originality, Evangelical media lacks ethnic diversity, etc. It is refreshing to see an academic text written from a Christian viewpoint that doesn't shy away from these issues.

This book is a thought provoking read for any Evangelical, and I recommend it to everyone. Whether you are personally involved in the creation of media, or merely a consumer, the book will make you question the purpose and value of Evangelical media. This may not be a theological text, but its subject matter is equally important, and equally vital, to our witness as Evangelicals in the media soaked twenty-first century.

Noah Salo


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