Vampire Novels. Tim Tebow. Fashion. From Thursday, November 1, to Saturday, November 3, a variety of speakers will be lecturing and leading discussions on these exact topics during “The Christian Evasion of Popular Culture” conference held on campus, asking what it means for Christians to encounter and interact with the things that are a part of today’s pop culture.
The conference itself will be a kick off for a new major at Dordt: Christianity and Pop Culture. But the idea of popular culture being discussed at the conference and involved in the major will be broader than the memes and movies that first come to mind, said Assistant Professor of Theology Jason Lief, one of the main professors involved in the conference. “What we mean is more like ‘popular practice’ and cultural theory – the practices of everyday life, how they form and shape who we are, and how identity is created and influenced by popular culture.”
After a call for papers was sent out, over 60 papers were submitted by professors, grad students, and locals to be presented at the conference. In looking for “quality and creativity,” said Lief, that number was narrowed down to 30.
During the plenaries, speakers from all around the country will be presenting these papers, and just a few of the topics that will be addressed are heavy metal music, architecture, graphic novels, farming, The Hunger Games, Lady Gaga, and sports media. There will also be a free concert featuring the band Kindlewood at 55th Avenue at 9:30 p.m. on Friday night.
Between the plenaries will be breakout sessions, a time for speakers and the audience to discuss both the topics presented and the overarching questions of the conference. “Even though we live in pop culture, do we ever stop and ask questions about how we are living and why we are living the way we do?” asked Lief. Even as Christians we evade popular culture, said Lief, either by being moralistic and only looking at the surface of culture, or by “haphazardly accepting it.”
“We are in popular culture, you can’t really ever evade it, but we do evade it by not stopping and critically evaluating it,” said Lief. “We want to see what it looks like to stop and critically examine popular culture.”
Lief also wanted to encourage students to attend as many speakers as they can. “This is the world you inhabit,” said Lief. “I hope students recognize the complexity of the world in which we live, and the goodness of the cultural forms. We think pop culture is this flat thing, but its complex when we really begin to look at what is going on.”
Three of the speakers featured at the conference are Peter Rawlins, Tony Jones, and Elaine Storkey, each with their own unique message. “Rawlins focuses on what it means to be a Christian living in the world,” said Lief, and Jones is “interested in the church and how it relates to the broader culture, and Elaine Storkey looks at the relationship between Christianity and society.”
“If I had to summarize and say what it was, I would say that it’s going to be a good time,” Lief laughed. “There is going to be some creative stuff happening.”
Hannah DeVries, Staff Writer