Pop music is now an ever-present force shaping citizens in the West. Even at funerals, it is often requested over hymns. But how does popular music work? And what roles does it play for listeners who engage it? This new addition to the critically acclaimed Engaging Culture series explores the theological significance of the ways pop music is listened to and used today.
Clive Marsh and Vaughan Roberts show that popular music is used by religious and nonreligious people alike to make meaning, enabling listeners to explore human concerns about embodiment, create communities, and tap into transcendence. They assess what is happening to Christian faith and theology as a result. Personal Jesus incorporates case studies featuring noted music artists of our day—including David Bowie, Michael Jackson, Sigur Rós, Pete Seeger, Bruce Springsteen, and Lady Gaga—and includes practical implications for the church, the academy, and daily musical listening. It will be of interest to professors and students of theology and culture, religious studies, and popular culture.
Personal Jesus is one of the best theological treatments of pop culture I have ever read. Marsh and Roberts offer a many-layered, comprehensive model for how we can more thoughtfully understand and engage pop music. Weaving together an impressive array of scholarship on the subject and a wide variety of music—everyone from Springsteen to Lady Gaga—Personal Jesus is a book that will help pastors, students, scholars, and everyday music fans better understand how and why pop music matters in the Christian life.
—Brett McCracken, film critic, Christianity Today and Relevant
Marsh and Roberts prepare the way for a new style of making theological sense of popular culture. The continued decline of the influence of religious traditions makes this kind of theological study even more imperative. In this situation, Marsh and Roberts show us why studying the lived experience of popular music is an imperative if we want to find out where religion cohabitates with ordinary stuff, more or less openly, today: in the spaces of meaning communicated by music in everyday life.
—Tom Beaudoin, associate professor of theology, Fordham University (from the foreword)
Clive Marsh is senior lecturer and director of learning and teaching at the Institute of Lifelong Learning, University of Leicester. He is the author of many books, including Cinema and Sentiment: Film’s Challenge to Theology and Theology Goes to the Movies: An Introduction to Critical Christian Thinking.
Vaughan S. Roberts is the rector of St. Ebbe’s Church, Oxford, United Kingdom, and an active writer on topics of religion and contemporary culture.