Looking for God in Popular Culture

Eyes Wide Open

I recently read Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture, by William Romanowski. Romanowski is a Professor of Communication Arts at Calvin College in Grand Rapids, Michigan. I’ve had the opportunity to hear and talk with him a few times. He has a good, rational view of popular culture derived from his Christian faith. His approach is more Calvinistic. Though the college I went to wasn’t Calvinistic, I did have some exposure to modern Calvinistic thought as it relates to culture, and came away impressed. They believe is the Cultural Mandate, which “teaches that the Christian faith provides principles that are applicable not only to be to one’s personal life and the life of the church, but also to the structures and governance of society, which if appropriately comprehended can assist Christians to thereby ‘redeem the culture’ for the good of all.”

Romanowski believes there is good to be found in popular culture, and that we need to discern rather than just be passive in our consumption of it. For instance, he notes how many people, Christians included, like Hollywood melodrama and sentimentalism, which is oversimplified and has prepackaged happy endings. A lot of family-friendly entertainment endorsed by Christians is sentimental. He questions whether this value is a Christian value. That’s not to say it’s bad, but how many Bible characters are independent heroes apart from any community who overcome all odds, unaided by any person or any God, to achieve their goals?

As one reviewer of his book eloquently states: “He speaks of modern day Christians who propose to shun all ‘evil’ things such as movies, rock music and dancing, yet they are just as immersed in popular culture as the next person, only in the form of a ghettoized Christian subculture. The reality is that very few truly avoid popular culture, only prefer those elements of it which are, or appear to be sterile and safe. It is within this context that Romanowski argues for discernment. He believes strongly that this oversimplification has created Christians who have no idea how to discern good from bad, truth from error. The easiest way for evangelicals to make judgments is to simply count swear words, violent acts and sexual innuendos.”

This is not a comprehensive book, but more of an introduction. He is also the author of Pop Culture Wars and a co-author of Dancing in the Dark.