All You Want to Know About the Bible in Pop Culture – Review
That’s one of the primary insights of Kevin Harvey’s delightfully entertaining and edifying new book, “All You Want to Know About the Bible in Pop Culture: Finding Our Creator in Superheroes, Prince Charming, and Other Modern Marvels.” The book was released in late March, and it can be found here at the official site.
Harvey uses humor, self-effacing wit (i.e. I love the little sections like, “Note to My Pastor Friends Who Are About to Put Me on Their Blacklist”), and a well-balanced approach — highlighting both the strengths and flaws of our pop culture’s grasp of the Bible — to make a powerful point: the Bible, from the beginning, has played a central role in Western Civilization, and no matter how hard our secular culture tries to pretend it’s not there, the Bible’s influence is still felt in every corner of pop culture.
Whether or not directors, writers, musicians, or Hollywood execs are intentionally drawing upon Biblical truths is not the point. The point is that the Bible still wields tremendous influence, consciously and subconsciously, on creative minds today; and, in some cases, without these people even realizing it.
The trick for Christians, however, is learning how to find the many Biblical truths that have wedged themselves into pop culture, drawing them out with care and thoughtfulness, and using our culture’s partial understandings of the Bible to point people to the rest of the story: Jesus Christ. And that is what this book is all about.
Here’s a perfect example from the chapter “Imperfect Movies, Perfect God” (pp. 34-35):
I have a friend who used to say, “Why are we surprised when a non-Christian acts like a non-Christian?” By the same token, why do we act surprised when imperfect people make imperfect movies? Even worse, why don’t we support their heroic (yes, heroic) efforts to try and put meaningful content on the big screen that could result in planting the seeds necessary to changing lives? Because without our support of these films, the Christians attributing to the production of them could end up being replaced by those only concerned with making the next popcorn flick or sex romp.
There are also many movies released each year that may not have some of the more obvious and intentional biblical themes as the ones detailed in this chapter, yet the allegories in them are begging for dialogue. Movies such as “Frozen,” “The Hunger Games,” and the Harry Potter series are centered on stories of sacrifice. Anytime one person, fictional or not, is willing to give up his life for another, we are left with the message of the gospel.
I’ve noticed that the Millenial Generation in particular has developed a keen eye and a hunger for finding any trace of the Gospel or Biblical truths in pop culture and using it as an artful platform to spread the Good News. In fact, one of our readers, a college student and a Christian named Zack Johnson, recently left this comment on my review of the 2014 film “Godzilla”:
I have been a Godzilla fan before I could even tie my shoes. I often got judged by my Christian friends because of it, but ever since this movie came out, people have thought about it differently. I did a presentation at my College’s CRU program about comparing Godzilla to Jesus in this movie, and they were so impressed that Godzilla is now our mascot. Godzilla has been a big part of my life so it felt good to be able to use this character to spread the gospel to people.
Kevin Harvey, like others who have written about the Bible and pop culture (Hollywood Director Brian Godawa and his classic book “Hollywood Worldviews: Watching Films with Wisdom & Discernment” comes to mind), has discovered something: it shouldn’t be our mission to demonize pop culture — whether it’s Superman, “Lost,” “Godzilla,” or Top 40 radio hits — no, in fact, our mission should be to use pop culture as a tool that points the world to the True Superhero and Savior — Jesus Christ.
And this book accomplishes that mission with creativity, humor, and thoughtful exposition of passages in the Bible as Harvey holds countless pop culture examples — from movies, TV shows, and comic books — up to the light of Christ to see what treasures are illuminated.
My favorite thing about the book, however — if I were to sum it up neatly — would be the way it appreciates the good things in our pop culture just far enough to know its limitations. As the book states: “Even the best of pop culture does not bring lasting joy, nor does it usually claim to….We won’t find that [joy] outside of Jesus.”
Harvey concludes that pop culture — whether it intends to or not — provides the perfect lead into the first half of the Bible’s message: that we all need a Savior and we all crave perfect love.
But it’s the church’s job to tell them the rest of the story.
Amen to that!
*Superman photo by CC BY-SA 2.0