FaithGoesPop, part 1: What’s this all about?

This entry is part 1 of 5 in the series FaithGoesPop

NOTE from Dr. Wayne Baker—This week, I’m welcoming a fellow academic: Ken Chitwood, a PhD student studying Religion in the Americas and Global Islam at the University of Florida. Ken also is a well-known journalist with a specialty in reporting on religious diversity. Plus, he’s the creative force behind the FaithGoesPop project. Just as the OurValues project looks at the many ways American values shape our world—FaithGoesPop explores the impact of faith on our culture and vice versa. Here is Ken’s first column this week …

Faith_Goes_Pop_-_Ken_ChitwoodFaith_Goes_Pop (1)

CLICK HERE to jump from the OurValues project to Ken Chitwood’s home base: FaithGoesPop, where you’ll find a wide array of his earlier columns.

Here’s the premise: In a world where lines are drawn between the public sphere and private spaces and religion is meant to be kept to the latter—it is evermore important to pay attention to where “faith goes pop.” That is, as religion has been forced into the private realm it continues to bubble up in pop culture and blur the lines between public/private.

Indeed, it is my contention that to understand how religion works these days we have to look at religion in popular culture because that’s where we see it in action.

This means that to understand the religious dimensions of the popular images we encounter we must respectfully inquire of the interchange betwixt and between religious belief and material confession and commitment.

So then, what is “faith” and what is “pop”?

“Faith” here is religion (in its broadest sense) in all its multitudinous expressions: Hindu and Muslim, Christian and Jain, spiritual but not religious, and those yet to be defined or delineated.

“Pop” refers to popular culture in all its multitudinous expressions, since the pace and distribution of technology has popularized nearly every aspect of culture both global and local, both print and digital, audio and visual. This broad category includes music, movies, material culture, popular objects, news media, popular movements, memes, graphic novels, television, social media, books, etc.

It seems, given the above, that our exploration of “Faith Goes Pop” must be broad enough to include both religion re-appropriating or presenting itself in popular culture—and popular culture representing and re-situating religious themes. All the while, a major part of the “Faith Goes Pop” mission is to make us all more aware of the culture that we already take part in, more conscious of the construction and transcendence of our cultural and religious boundaries, and more sensitive to the interplay between religion and culture.

In one sentence: The aim of exploring “Faith Goes Pop” is an invitation to greater religious literacy.

This week I invite you to join me in some initial forays into the world of “Faith Goes Pop” to not only have some fun, but to see religion in ways we may never have expected and in the process to learn what “religion” means in the advent of the 21st-century.

Start a discussion with friends …

The OurValues project is designed to spark spirited, civil discussions—which foster healthier communities. You’re free to print out, repost or share these columns on social media. Many readers like to bring these materials to their weekly classes or small groups. So, please, get people talking!

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