Letter from the Editor: Breaking from the Old

It was around Inauguration Day when I selected “Renewal” as the theme for the next issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine. We’d just turned our calendars to a new year, we were ushering in a new president, and with the help of modern science, we’d hopefully be entering a new edition of the “new normal” that meant we’d be able to see our families, friends, and coworkers soon. Of course, the magic of New Year’s Eve or an Inauguration (for political junkies like myself) is an idyllic moment in a longer, more arduous course toward newness.

We’re three months into 2021. Is it everything you hoped? Or nothing like you dreamed? For many of us, the excitement has worn off, and the hard work of renewal has begun.

It’s this difficult path of renewal that our authors capture so well in this issue of Christ and Pop Culture Magazine. Alexander Sosler starts off our magazine by reminding us how easy it is to be captured in the seemingly innocuous cycle of comfort in, “Addictive Consumption and the Antidote of Beauty.” Sosler doesn’t argue against consumption of pop culture, but reflecting on David Foster Wallace’s ideas on entertainment addiction, suggests that we take audit of our entertainment choices:

We live in a world devoid of beauty that challenges us to pay attention to something that may challenge us or to see the world in a new way. And if we’re not challenged, we’ll never be changed. We can be sustained for a bit with faux feelings. But when pain or discomfort come, we self-sabotage with more faux feelings. And like a binge of sugar, we’re sick. However, the antidote to the addict is not an absence of feeling but a properly directed feeling. The addict must not forsake pleasure but turn his pleasure higher. Addicts must learn to love—and one central way to love is paying attention

In this search for beauty in pop culture, the rest of our authors turn our attention to works where we can find messages of renewal.

Ryan Duncan’s feature, “How Wynd Rises Toward Renewal” demonstrates, like Sosler contends, that we must often break through the walls of comfort—both in our personal lives and in the church—to walk the path of renewal that God has destined for us. In the graphic novel, Wynd, Wynd and his traveling companions leave the comfortable-but-not-wonderful home of Pipetown for something better, to become who they are meant to be. At times this is difficult, but instructive to those of us who seek lives beyond complacency:

Throughout His ministry, Jesus would introduce His disciples to the very people they sought to avoid. He placed them in situations where they were compelled to practice the love, justice, and mercy they professed to represent. Christ’s words and actions challenged their preconceptions and forced many of His followers to reckon with their own moral failings. Outside the safety of their insulated communities, the disciples learned there was a sharp difference between claiming to follow God, and actually living as a follower. It was through these moments that Jesus touched their hearts and minds, molding each person into someone new.

Wynd’s journey toward renewal, like ours, is not straightforward.

The winding, painful road to renewal is highlighted in Jeffrey Porter’s feature, “The Long Obedience of Sunderland A.F.C.” In describing the journey of the downtrodden Sunderland soccer team featured in  the Netflix docuseries Sunderland ‘Til I Die, Duncan reminds us that renewal is difficult work requiring discipline. Turning to Eugene Peterson’s A Long Obedience in the Same Direction, we are reminded that spiritual growth is often slow:

Throughout Sunderland’ Til I Die, the club burns through new coaches, players, and strategies attempting easy tweaks and quick fixes. But there is no single problem keeping them from winning. Similarly, no simple panacea is guaranteed to make your life better or fix your sin problem. The hope for Sunderland finally comes when the new ownership realizes that to turn the ship around, they first have to focus on the mundane organizational and financial issues. They also recognize that the road back is likely to be a long one. The spiritual analog to this would be repentance, which itself is also a life-long practice of renewal and recommitment. It involves the patient awareness of how we are losing battles to our sinful nature and are in continual need of God’s forgiveness and the gracious transformative work of the Holy Spirit.

Importantly, the journey toward betterment, toward progress is unique for those in relationship with Christ. As Scott Bryant points out in our final feature, “Battlestar Galactica: A Retrospective Look at a ‘Jewish’ Tale of Orientation, Disorientation, and Reorientation,” history for Christians is not linear, but a cycle awaiting our disruption:

As anyone who has read the Hebrew Scriptures for any length of time well knows, the story of the Jewish people is a story of orientation, disorientation, and reorientation that cycles repeatedly with a single caveat on which everything hangs. At any point in the history of humanity, should the people demonstrate contrition, should they embrace the shema, should they come to love their neighbor even as they love themselves, then G-d would show mercy to them. They would be His people and He would be their G-d. What’s more, this mercy—this unmerited grace—that would “cover” their sin would culminate in the true “end of history,” wherein humanity, having reconciled with G-d and with one another, would finally live in a state of shalom or “peace.”

Renewal, both Porter and Bryant point out, depends on our obedience. In our obedience, we answer one of the final questions asked in Battlestar Galactica: “does all of this have to happen again?”

We’re three months into 2021. Is it everything you hoped? Or nothing like you dreamed? For many of us, the excitement has worn off, and the hard work of renewal has begun. May we orient ourselves to what is good, true, and beautiful in this journey and may we be strengthened by the promise of the ultimate renewal that awaits us in Christ.


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In This Issue

Addictive Consumption and the Antidote of Beauty

Whereas the world of addictive pleasure teaches us to feel, the world of beauty teaches us to sacrifice: to go beyond attention to the self and give attention toward another.

by Alex Sosler

How Wynd Rises Toward Renewal

At its heart, Wynd is about our own search for renewal and who we become through the journey.

by Ryan Duncan

The Long Obedience of Sunderland A.F.C.

Throughout Sunderland’ Til I Die, the club burns through new coaches, players, and strategies attempting easy tweaks and quick fixes. But there is no single problem keeping them from winning.

by Jeffery Porter

Battlestar Galactica: A Retrospective Look at a “Jewish” Tale of Orientation, Disorientation, and Reorientation

But what the writers knew that the viewers did not is that history—as Battlestar understood it—was neither linear nor cyclical. Quite surprisingly, and to the consternation of more than a few, it was Jewish.

by Scott Bryant

It’s the End of the World as We Know It (and We Don’t Care)

We don’t just need this world to be improved; we need to see it broken and remade.

by Cameron McAllister

The Dollop Teaches Us about the Past because We Keep Repeating It

In The Dollop, our past is often more than just our past. Sometimes, it’s our present and future.

by Keegan Bradford

Lady Bird Offers Us an Antidote for Our Cultural Homesickness

Lady Bird invites us to consider the nature of our love and our roots in a time when the concepts are as nebulous and mishandled as ever.

by Hal Koss

Transcending Evolution: Love and Death in Spring

Spring suggests that to be truly human is to love in a manner that transcends any evolutionary roots.

by Alisa Ruddell

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