Religion and Popular Culture: Studies on the Interaction of Worldviews. Daniel A. Stout and Judith M. Buddenbaum, eds. Ames, IA: Iowa State University Press, 2001. 327 pp. $59.95 hbk.
The interplay of religion and popular culture traditionally has been cast as an interaction of conflict, even a "cultural war." This characterization tends to oversimplify and leave critical issues unaddressed. Religion and Popular Culture, edited by Daniel A. Stout and Judith W. Buddenbaum, addresses these issues in a collection of interesting essays.
Noting that the cultural wars premise has been the dominant hypothesis, the book explores other explanations. Its main questions, according to Stout, are "how do members of religious groups make decisions about the use of media of popular culture" and "whether our explanation of these choices have been accurate." The book's contents are divided into three parts, representing different approaches to answering these questions. First it provides a series of theoretical perspectives on the relationship between religion and popular culture and then an institutional perspective, and finally a collection of empirical studies, essays, and case studies.
In the theoretical section, Stewart Hoover's meaningful essay on "Religion, Media, and the Cultural Center of Gravity" argues that a dualism between religion and media does not reflect today's reality. He suggests instead that media should be regarded as a resource, which represents and constitutes religious meaning.
The institutional section expands beyond Christianity in the United States by including informative essays about Judaism by Yoel Cohen, Islam by Allen W. Palmer …