post-constintinian Cultural Studies
Spinning off my last about reinventing my blog I thought I would go back to some of my earlier posts which in a sense set the direction of my continuing investigations of theology and culture. (so this is a reworked former post. but that’s ok no one was reading my blog when I wrote it).
Coming out of my reading in African theology (Theology and Identity) I’ve come to see the necessity of learning about “media studies” and “communication theory.” (this is coming from a guy who usually bashes things like this b/c it seems like an attempt to become “relevant.”)
I’m at this place b/c (summarizing Bediako): Who are we (past) and where are we (present) intersects in the question of identity as Christians. Bediako says that we locate our position through reflecting on our “religious past” and our “cultural present.” The Church Father’s grappled with who they were as Christians in relation to their religious past, Judaism, and where they were culturally in the Graeco-Roman world. And for African Theology the question of identity it is who are we as African Christians in relationship to Mission/Western Christianity (religious past) and Traditional African religions (cultural present).
So the question for us at the end of modernity in the West is “what is our religious past?” and “where is our cultural present?” The first question follows the trajectory of a Post-Constantinian reflection. The second question for African theologians leads right through an understanding of Traditional African religions, but for those in the West it leads through both the “Enlightenment” as the source/lack of values and symbols, and through “cultural studies” b/c media/culture enables the symbolic exchange of meaning/referencing (i.e. what religion usually does in societies.).
Therefore, it is necessary to understand how mass media (film, tv, radio, internet, etc.) effect and enable the “work” and “world” of culture in the west. This is not so that we can be “relevant” to others, but so that we can truly understand our own “identity” as follower of Christ in N. America.
And while I think that many Christian culture watchers as definitely wanting to understand the “sign of the time” so that they might know how to live, I think that too often it just means commentary on movies, music, or politics w/o diving any deeper than the surface of these medians. What we need is not to “notice” that media shapes culture and then use “media” to share the gospel (as consevatives do with the arts- pimping the arts). We need to dig deepers, looking at how the foundations of “consumer culture” shape us, how the media links with Ideologies which subvert the gospel, and how technologies alienate us from ourselves/bodies/other, or how they might emancipate us.
And because of this conviction I”ve been spending the last six months learning about Marxism and Lacanian psychoanalysis (must of it mediated through Slovoj Zizek), as well as reading through Baudrillard and other cultural theorists.
All this to say, the basic project of my blog is to investigate the question of Christian identity along the axes of our religious past (Modern Constintinianism) and our cultural present (Western Consumer Capitalism).