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Robert W. Patterson

The Foxhole Subculture

Pop Culture Wars: Religion and the Role of Entertainment in American Life
By William D. Romanowski
379 pp.; $19.99, paper

What on Earth Are We Doing? Finding Our Place As Christians in the WorldBy John Fischer
220 pp.; $12.99, paper

When I applied for admission to a Christian college in 1971, I was required to sign a pledge that I would not, among other things, attend the legitimate theater or motion picture houses, or participate in social dancing of any sort from time of acceptance until graduation. Having grown up in a home where these amusements were commonplace, I signed the pledge reluctantly, thinking the education and experience at this particular school would be worth the sacrifice.

Little did I realize that such a pledge was not simply a neutral instrument of collegiate discipline and conformity such as one might find at a military academy. No, the code of conduct was a potent symbol of what Kim Riddlebarger, in a spin from a Frank Peretti novel, calls "this present paranoia": a fearfulness that has haunted American evangelicalism since the turn of the century. And though the Christian college I attended is one of many to have since dropped their stringent codes of behavior, that anxiety has hardly abated.

While evangelicals continue to presume that the modern world is by nature hostile to the Christian faith, a Michigan college professor and a California folk singer raise the possibility that, far from being oppressed by a secular society, evangelicals themselves may actually project the very hostility to the world they claim is directed at them. In Pop Culture Wars, William Romanowski of Calvin College places today's entertainment wars in historical context, thoroughly documenting the rather bumpy ride that has characterized the relationship between the popular arts and religion in the United States. In What on Earth Are We Doing? recording artist and popular campus speaker John Fischer reveals his misgivings about the consumer-driven, ...

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