Book review: “Eyes Wide Open:Looking for GOD in popular Culture”

Calvin College Professor William D. Romanowski’s book “Eyes Wide Open: Looking for GOD in popular Culture” is a very thought provoking book that challenges and provokes Christians to think about their impact and secular culture’s view and display of art and media. Some key issues discussed in this book that really interested me were faith and culture, using the arts for glorifying God, and the role of sex, violence, and materialism in the media forms we consume today.
First, the relationship of faith and culture is reviewed in reaction to Christian’s personal opinions that effect the way we live in regards to entertainment and the way that popular art conveys an experience of society. Christians often hold more conservative stances on what is appropriate for them to view or consume, but in Romanowski’s opinion believe that they are “personally immune. (31)” There is a possibility for harm to be done to a person with this attitude because they aren’t engaging critically with the piece of media as an artpiece.
Also, very little involvement in popular art is another problem for Christians. It seems that in order for it to be ok for a Christian to create art it must have a “Christian” stamp of approval (i.e. Christian label, publisher, etc.). This relates to culture in the way that

Popular artworks are a reflection of society insofar as they address contemporary issues and threat them in ways consistent with current perspectives, but the popular arts are never merely a reflection. (32)

As Christians, if all we want to do is tell things from our perspective no one will listen because often times our brands, labels, and “Jesus is my Homeboy” shirts we come off as critical and often insensitive to “real world” issues that popular media discuss such as sexuality, violence, and other moral issues.

Second, and most conveniently placed, is the topic of using the arts to glorify God. Through reading this book I had to ask myself some questions such as “can secular media be used to glorify God?”, “what should we take away from films that give certain perspectives of the world?”, and “how do we respond as Christians in our works of art?” Reviewing Bruce Springsteen’s music, Romanowski sees that many of his songs have themes that could be used to explain the human condition and the chance for new life. In order to see if secular media can be used to glorify God, Romanowski suggests,

Faith should serve as the context for artistic engagement; it is not the subject matter that makes a popular artwork Christian but the perspective that is brought to bear on the subject. (93)

I believe that this can also be the way that we examine films. I liked the quote from Maxim Magazine at the beginning of chapter six because I think that it states the way a lot of people feel about Christian art:

“In a reader survey by a magazine geared toward 18-to-34-year-old men, seventy-five percent said they would rather kill themselves with a steak knife than watch an episode of Touched by an Angel.”

Unfortunately, I would have to include myself in that statistic because that show, like many other Christian form of media, seek to be a sanitized version of secular shows. My response would be that as Christians we shouldn’t always be concerned about the label, but we should seek the intent, and then respond to it creatively or just be creative for the sake of showing how God has uniquely gifted us.

Third, an issue that is very pressing in our society is the role of sex, violence, and materialism. Before we become critical of the secular world we need to acknowledge that the Bible is full of narratives that include pre-marital sex, incest, rape, adultery, murder, war, genocide, selfishness, greed, and extortion in their record of history. These issues need to be addressed because we face these same exact issues in our world today. There is porn, rape in the Congo, genocide in Sudan, corporate scandals, and devastation that is a reality of the society that we live in. With God on our side and a biblical mindset I believe that Christians can use media to influence people’s thoughts and opinions about these critical issues. Maybe if that happens then Hollywood can continue to capture these issues but in a more responsible and honest way.

In conclusion, I really enjoyed “Eyes Wide Open” by William D. Romanowski. This book made me think critically about the media that I consume, the way that I create media as a believer, and what can be done in the media to present sex, violence, and materialism in a more responsible, honest way, and when possible, a godly more biblical way.

Check it out at Amazon:

4 thoughts on “Book review: “Eyes Wide Open:Looking for GOD in popular Culture”

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