My Favorite Christ and Pop Culture Articles of 2016
As you probably know, my other main writing gig is contributor and editor for Christ and Pop Culture. Obviously, I’m a little biased, but as I went back through the site’s output for 2016, I was once again impressed by its depth and breadth of coverage.
There were, of course, articles about Hollywood blockbusters and major political happenings, but there were also numerous articles on a wide range of topics: racial issues, parenting, fast food, video games, the Cubs winning the World Series, and much more. Suffice to say, I’m really proud of our work at Christ and Pop Culture, so I’ve compiled a list of some of my favorite CAPC articles from the year.
If any of them pique your curiosity or you find them thought-provoking, then I strongly recommend becoming a member. It’s only $5/month and comes with a host of benefits, including exclusive member offerings (e.g., free books and music) and perhaps best of all, access to the “Members Only” Facebook group.
Access to a Facebook group might sound trivial, but this particular group has become my favorite online community. It’s full of people who actually care about each other, engage in thoughtful discussion, and help each other out in some truly incredible ways. I consider it a real privilege to be part of it, and I encourage you to check it out.
Because I’m all about self-promotion, I’m going to list some articles I wrote that I was particularly pleased with:
“Penn & Teller Reveal Secrets but Never Lose the Magic” (November 22, 2016) — This was a fun article to write because I’ve been a fan of Penn & Teller for years. Best of all, Penn and Teller both actually responded quite positively to the article.
“Doctor Strange Helped Me Survive Election Night” (November 10, 2016) — When people ask how pop culture like superhero movies can actually help you, I’m just going to point them to this article.
“Hyper Light Drifter’s Groan for Redemption” (May 12, 2016) — I didn’t play too many games in 2016, but even so, Hyper Light Drifter really stood out. Not just for its interesting, retro-inspired artwork and gameplay, but also for its tone and themes.
“Reading Ms. Marvel Made Me a Better Dad (No, Really)” (May 3, 2016) — For what it’s worth, my wife says this is her favorite article of mine.
And now, the rest:
“Suffering Beautifully with That Dragon, Cancer” (Nathaniel Valle, January 19, 2016) — “Stories like [That Dragon, Cancer] remind us that even the most piercing tragedies are only for a season. We experience them to know ourselves and to know our God. When doubt and fear threaten to drown us in our own uncertainties, those moments remind us that we’re human, that our faith isn’t in vain.”
“Rain for Roots: Music That Teaches Us How to Wait for the Lord” (Matthew Loftus, January 20, 2016) — “Good music for children doesn’t dumb anything down; it just uses simplicity and repetition to draw out universal truths.”
“The Ache of Divine Absence in The Banner Saga” (John Kloosterman, March 1, 2016) — “The Banner Saga’s depiction of a godless world echoes clearly in our own time; one can’t help but sense the developers’ yearning for an older age with its legends, heroes — and yes, its gods.”
Who Speaks for Chi-Raq? A Conversation About Spike Lee’s Misguided Film & the Critics Who Loved It (Bradford William Davis, March 3, 2016) — “[A]s we are discussing the disparity between the way the mostly white film critics received Chi-Raq versus the way some black people (self-included) reacted to the film, it reminds me of the disparate views on gun control between white and black people.”
“Can Leslie Knope Save Our Politics?” (S.D. Kelly, March 9, 2016) — “The characters in [Parks and Recreation] are real in the ways that matter in fiction, providing a great example of how to engage in friendship and civic life for the American people, their fellow citizens (so to speak).”
“Forbidden Planet Is Still Relevant & Thought-Provoking 60 Years Later” (Geoffrey Reiter, March 15, 2016) — “Advances in visual effects, ironically, may make Forbidden Planet’s ‘high-tech’ look seem quaint. But the film’s warnings about the consequences of elevating innovation over humanity are anything but dated.”
“How a Nostalgic Jesus Freak Learned to Love Growing up in the Church” (Wade Bearden, April 12, 2016) — “At this point in my life, nostalgia has become indispensable to my formation as a spiritual disciple. Nostalgia reminds me of my religious progress but it also reveals the cynicism I’ve accumulated along the way.”
“Midnight Special Explores Belief & Doubt With Surprising Honesty” (Wade Bearden, May 10, 2016) — “For all its plot gaps, Midnight Special is one of the best films in the last decade to explore the questions of faith and doubt.”
“The Unflinching Introspection of David Bazan’s Blanco” (Kurt Armstrong, June 7, 2016) — “Rather than aiming at the easy, obvious targets hogging the headlines and newsfeeds, Blanco is instead like an alcoholic’s ‘searching and fearless moral self-inventory’ — unblinking, unflinching introspection poured into ten songs.”
“A Model of Christian Parody: What The Babylon Bee Can Learn from Weird Al” (Matthew Towles, June 17, 2016) — “Let’s face it, though: there are things in our Christian culture worthy of mockery. But we don’t have to be so harsh when we do it. That’s the danger of parody. Anyone can do it, but few do it well.”
“Trump and the Consequences of Being a Single-Issue Voter” (Luke T. Harrington, June 29, 2016) — “As long as you are a single-issue voter, you’re essentially a lapdog for corporate interests.”
“Wild Kratts and the Love of the Creature” (Geoffrey Reiter, July 12, 2016) — “Wild Kratts seeks to synthesize education about the animal world with child-appropriate humor and action in a way that respects the creatures it portrays. In so doing, the Kratts successfully exemplify an approach to the natural world that is thoroughly compatible with a Christian approach to creation care, emphasizing the intrinsic goodness of the world God has made.”
“Do racial issues really ‘disappear’ because of the Gospel? A response to John MacArthur.” (Nana Dolce, July 26, 2016) — “Yes, the Gospel enables believers to see social issues from a spiritual perspective — but does it remove social issues altogether? Indeed, do we actually diminish (or perhaps even doubt) the power of the Gospel to conquer racism if we ignore the reality of that sin?”
“Star Trek Beyond Explores the Cosmography of Relationship” (Geoffrey Reiter, July 29, 2016) — “The Enterprise crew are not directly comparable to the Church, of course. But it may be worth asking why our own Christian relationships don’t look more like theirs. Because after all, we do have a stable reference point from which to build our community.”
“The Babadook Shows That Sometimes, Self-Care Isn’t Strong Enough” (Matthew Loftus, August 9, 2016) — “The only way we can reckon with the evil in the world — particularly as it’s experienced by people who don’t even get the choice about how to care for themselves — is to find ways to bear the risk and pain together.”
“Beyond the Final Frontier: A CaPC Tribute to Star Trek” (Geoffrey Reiter, September 8, 2016) — “Roddenberry himself was a progressive, deeply ambivalent about religion, and so any thoughtful Christian fan of the Trek universe will have to navigate through his agnostic humanism. Still, believers of every stripe have found qualities to appreciate in the rich secondary world that Roddenberry conceived and countless subsequent writers and producers developed.”
“Nick Cave’s Skeleton Tree Is a Modern Cry of Lament” (Cameron McAllister, September 27, 2016) — “It’s difficult to put into words why a beautiful melody coupled with tragedy is so heartbreaking. Maybe it has something to do with the way in which beauty seems to point forward to some eventual wholeness.”
“Unborn Witness: An Unlikely Hero Pursues Justice in Ian McEwan’s Nutshell” (Gina Dalfonzo, October 11, 2016) — “Could there be something inside each of us that whispers of the existence of goodness — the image of God implanted in our natures? Something that love might spur us to accept, or that anger and vengeance might tempt us to reject?”
“I Found God’s Image in My Son’s Autism” (Valerie Dunham, October 13, 2016) — “God does not merely sculpt ideas of people; He knits together creatures made in His image and endows them with the full weight of humanity. I have seen the gaps humanity fills. I have seen the image of God wrought upon inconvenient children. I have seen it re-frame still shots of panic-inducing symptoms until they move and breathe with light and color.”
“Jack Chick’s Vision of the World Was a Fear-Filled Caricature” (Amanda Wortham, November 1, 2016) — “It was a strange education, one I probably would’ve rejected if I’d had other means to acquire such knowledge. But I was steeped in the evangelical subculture and suspicious of any kind of understanding that wasn’t presented in an overtly Christian context. I was afraid, and Jack Chick’s tracts validated and magnified my fears.”
“Three Films to Watch before You Vote (and One to Watch After)” (Gina Dalfonzo, November 2, 2016) — “It’s been a tough election year in the United States, possibly one of the toughest on record. Perhaps it’s a good time to step back and gain a little healthy perspective — to be reminded that bad politicians and corrupt journalists and confused voters have always been with us. And for that matter, so have good and incorruptible and clear-thinking ones.”
“The False Gods of Rory Gilmore” (Gina Dalfonzo, November 30, 2016) — “As a show, Gilmore Girls always had many strengths: fun and interesting characters, witty dialogue, and a lot of heart. But in these last four episodes, the weaknesses that had always been there, beneath the surface, became impossible to ignore.”
“Low’s Somber Christmas Music Is Perfect for 2016’s Holiday Season” (Ethan McCarthy, December 20, 2016) — “If Christmas means anything, Low seems to be saying, it has to begin by being honest about the heartache all around us. It can’t always be a white Christmas — it has to be a blue Christmas, too.”
“ ‘An Odd Sort of Mercy’: Jen Hatmaker, Glennon Doyle Melton, and The End of the Affair” (Gina Dalfonzo, December 22, 2016) — “Evangelical Christians have fallen too much into the habit of believing God exists to affirm our deepest desires, whether material or sexual. We have forgotten that sometimes God, for reasons of His own, calls us to nail our desires to that ugly, painful, bitter cross.