SEX, DRUGS AND CALVIN COLLEGE

Chuck Klosterman admitted to a fair amount of nervousness in addressing the crowd at Calvin’s Festival of Faith & Music.

Being a “nothing” religiously, so he says, he guessed that his remarks on pop culture would touch a nerve. They did. He also guessed that the audience, made up of imports like me, mostly adult, and undergrads from the campus, would fall into three categories according to where they would be spiritually in 20 years:

1. Some would be galvanized in their faith tradition. 2. Some would be long gone from their religion (looking back on this fest as naive and embarrassing). 3. Some would still be unsure about the big questions of life.

His “take away” point from his entertaining lecture was that he implored us to be those in category 3: Lifelong questioners.

Can I claim two categories, please, please, Chuck?

I am more devoted than ever to the story of Jesus in the Scriptures. I’m neither ashamed nor flamboyant in my testimony: I love Jesus. And yet I still ponder, learn and question the dominant paradigms foisted on me by my culture and especially the evangelical culture in America.

He illustrated a very fascinating tension in American pop culture. Using religious iconography of any kind in art produces a bifurcation in audience response. That is, people either assume the an artist is either pushing or bashing religion by including  religious notions in his/her art.

We want evangelism, or we want blood. We aren’t comfortable with the wheat and the tares. He used the example of Spring Breakers, a new film in which the Selena Gomez character represents a Christian college girl who does not spiral in decadence after a brief stint in the gutter.

He called this kind of anti-climax unusual in a culture that has to dis or preach and can’t just live and be human and act nice.

Klosterman himself appears awkward about his own life. Having grown up deeply Roman Catholic, and having tossed that tradition off, he still tends to see the world in terms of goodness and badness (he used that language often). Characters are good or bad. Some kinds of behavior or attitude are good or bad.

I don’t have that baggage, being raised a Happy Heathen. So I guess I was trained to tolerate more ambiguity. I’ve always assumed we humans were capable of good deeds and bad crap. I just needed the Scriptures and the Gospel of Jesus Christ to codify what I saw all around me. And I needed a savior to pluck me from the fire and get me moving toward the good, something I couldn’t arrive on my own.

No matter how many questions I will ever ask, sometimes answers are really welcome.