January 2017 Pop Culture Roundup
1. My first book of 2017 was Trouble I've Seen by Drew G.I. Hart. Hart challenges everyone, but particularly the church, to be honest about racism and white supremacy in our society. He lays out definitions for terms like these and other relevant ones he uses throughout the book, as well as provides historical background for how they have manifested in the U.S. and elsewhere over the centuries. But his primary concern is how people of faith--of all races--address these issues openly rather than pretend they don't exist (which he would argue is a symptom of the problem to begin with). It's an excellent introduction to the problem as well as a prophetic call to Christians to do something about it.
2. I also read Outlaw Christian by Jacqueline Bussie this month. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, as I've read so many books in recent years echoing similar themes of deconstructing and pushing back against church convention and theological norms, but this ended up standing out for me. Bussie takes on what she calls the unspoken laws of Christian culture, including things like never getting angry at God, spouting clichés in times of tragedy and loss, and keeping doubts and questions to oneself. She handles these with a depth of thoughtfulness that I don't always see in books like these, including extensive Biblical exegesis, anecdotes from her life and those of others, and theological richness. Besides that, I really enjoyed her writing style.
3. I also read The New Jim Crow by Michelle Alexander this month. Alexander analyzes how the "War on Drugs," began by the Reagan administration in the early '80s, has contributed to incarceration and stigmatization of black people. She carefully analyzes how the criminal justice system--before, during, and after one is imprisoned--has led to the creation of what she calls a racial "undercaste." Over the course of this analysis, she shows how black neighborhoods are disproportionately targeted for drug searches with little oversight for the reasons one could be stopped or searched, as well as the very limited rights and options one has during trial and after being released from prison. It's a very eye-opening read that I've found myself applying when reading or watching the news many times already.
4. I've been listening to a lot of The Fast Feeling's debut album, Pulses. This group is a side project of several members of Five Iron Frenzy, one of my all-time favorite groups. This is certainly a departure from Five Iron's ska-rock sound, though. This is a very pop-oriented album, with heavy doses of electronica and some rock. It recalls some of the '80s-revival sound that has been popular off and on the last few years. Here's one of my favorite tracks from the album, "Factions:"
5. My favorite radio station has been playing "On Hold" by The xx pretty regularly the past few weeks, so I decided to check out their entire new album, I See You. The overall feel of the album is very relaxed, yet with some underlying yearning that helps drive each song. I've been into a more electronic sound the past few years, and this is a chill sort of album with a lot of depth. Here's one of my favorites, "Brave For You:"