Religion as Entertainment

Article excerpt

Religion as Entertainment

C. K. Robertson, Editor. New York: Peter Lang, 2003.

This collection of essays dealing with religion in the United States explores how religion interacts with an entertainment-focused culture. The editor, an episcopal priest and professor of ethics and communications at Georgia State University, has given us an informative account. His main conclusion is that many Americans have left behind the need for a structured spirituality and sought other means of self-fulfillment. Still others are shopping for a place that offers new, nontraditional, and entertaining religion.

"While the traditional worship establishment sits quietly in sedate convention on Sunday mornings," Clark Heindel writes in the book's final essay, "Dionysus and his pantheistic host continue to dance the night away every Saturday night" (289).

The entertainment community provides a safe setting and means of expression for Dionysian rituals. Can rock and roll be both show business and soul business? Many believe it can.

In some instances, the traditional crucified Christ has been replaced by the "Buddy Christ." The old goal of transformation is replaced by affirmation: "I'm OK, you're OK." The key word for a new generation: whatever. "Do your thing."

Since this book appeared, a movie (The Passion of The Christ), which centers on the pain and not the mystery of that event, has broken all box-office records. In some ways, is Robertson's book already dated? Is a return to orthodoxy in the wind? The movie is causing breakaways in several major Protestant denominations, including Robertson's. This is a real crisis.

The first half of the book explores how religion actually plays an "entertaining" role in society, pointing to such things as lay participation, the rise of nontraditional religions, and the attraction of meditation. The second half of the book focuses on how religion is treated in major entertainment media, such as film, music, television, and literature.

We are a race of storytellers. From primitive cave paintings to televised spectacles in places like Robert Schuller's Crystal Cathedral, from Homer to Harry Potter, we want stories that we can imagine and direct in our mind's eye. …