Thursday, October 04, 2007

Pop Culture Roundup

Last night I started Religious Literacy by Stephen Prothero. The tagline is, "What Every American Needs to Know and Doesn't." If James Twitchell's thesis is that churches are increasingly in the business of selling a nice feeling, then Prothero's is that we have a bunch of people who feel good but don't know anything about their religion. Prothero presents stat after stat that shows how little a "Christian nation" knows about Christianity. Here are some fun ones:

~Only half of American adults can name even one of the four Gospels.
~1/3 of American adults know that Jesus delivered the Sermon on the Mount.
~A majority of Americans believe that Jesus was born in Jerusalem.
~10% of Americans believe that Noah's wife was Joan of Arc.
~In 2005 a journalist called the ten co-sponsors of an Alabama bill seeking to keep the 10 Commandments displayed in public, and only one of those sponsors could name all ten.

Prothero especially cites new educational techniques as the problem: techniques less concerned with facts and more with "exploring one's own thoughts on the subject." Think the Simpsons episode where the school is divided into boys and girls, and the girls spend all their time exploring how math makes them feel. The problem, Prothero says, is that people can't talk about how they feel about a subject until they know something about it. He'll note that this style of education is in rebellion against overly authoritarian, doctrinaire styles of education, and will place some blame with parents who don't take any time to educate their children either (perhaps because they don't know much themselves).

Ultimately, Prothero will argue that religious literacy is important, not just for Christians but for all Americans, because it will aid in understanding one another. It's such an important part of culture in many parts of the world that we can't afford to ignore it. Ambassadors to the Middle East need to know something about Islam, people with Buddhist neighbors should know something about Buddhism, and so on. It's an important part of understanding one another. That, and maybe churches could do a tad more education.

We finally saw The Bourne Ultimatum this week, with about five other people. It was a Monday afternoon and the movie has been out for a month and a half or so, so we actually were surprised that we were sharing the theater at all. The movie itself was decent. David Strathairn is good in just about anything, and takes his turn as the Big CIA Guy Desperate to Cover Something Up By Killing Bourne. As far as the plot goes, it was fairly predictable: Bourne discovers and remembers and gets justice and all that. As always, there are some good action sequences and some tie-ins to the other movies, including a somewhat creative indication that this movie starts before the last movie ended. It was good as the ending to a trilogy, but not much different from or better than the others.

We watched Ghost Hunters the other night, where TAPS was called in to investigate a store that the owners believed was haunted by a former employee named Jean. The guys collected evidence and asked repeatedly, "If this is Jean, let us know." They went back to review their audio recordings and in one instance caught a very deep voice saying, "There is no Jean here." I freaking get goosebumps just typing that.

Music-wise, I've been listening to the Sneaker Pimps lately. Yeah...the Sneaker Pimps.

Around the web, in honor of Stephen Prothero's book, here's Congressman Lynn Westmoreland trying to name the 10 Commandments for Stephen Colbert.