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Prophetic Critique and Popular Media

Woods, Jr., Robert H. / Healey, Kevin (eds.)

Prophetic Critique and Popular Media

Theoretical Foundations and Practical Applications

Year of Publication: 2013

New York, Bern, Berlin, Bruxelles, Frankfurt am Main, Oxford, Wien, 2013. 209 pp.
ISBN 978-1-4331-1814-2 hb.  (Hardcover)
ISBN 978-1-4331-1813-5 pb.  (Softcover)

Weight: 0.440 kg, 0.970 lbs

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Book synopsis

This book positions the «prophetic» as an organizing concept that can bridge religious and secular criticism of popular media. Drawing from philosophical ethics and moral psychology, the book argues that prophetic critique engages a complex set of universal human capabilities. Whether religious or secular in origin, prophetic critique requires developmentally complex modes of critical reflection, imagination, empathy, and communication. Although this book is diverse in perspective, each author seeks to expose how the content, institutions, and technologies of popular media alternately support – or undermine – the basic values of equality, human dignity, and social justice. By foregrounding such universal principles, the authors distinguish their arguments from critical/cultural scholarship that fails to acknowledge its own normative foundations and implicit theology of culture. The authors demonstrate the efficacy of this framework by applying it to specific case studies in popular media including theater, film, music, journalism, and digital culture. The book argues that the prophetic critique of mass media is essential to maintaining a productive tension between religious communities and the institutions of secular democracy. More broadly, in outlining an inclusive understanding of prophetic critique, this book builds bridges between religious and secular scholarship and generates a unique vision for a revitalized, mass-mediated public sphere.


Contents: Robert W. McChesney: Foreword – Robert H. Woods, Jr./Kevin Healey: Prophetic Critique and Popular Media – Robert Jensen: Our Challenge: Prophetic Voices – Laurie Ann Britt-Smith: Faith, Rhetoric, Rock ‘n’ Roll: The Boundary Crossing Influence of Bono’s Prophetic Vision – Naaman K. Wood: The Flawed Prophetic Critique in Michael Moore Documentaries – Marvin A. McMickle: «We Don’t Need a Preacher»: Prophetic Critique of the Film Portrayal of the Black Preacher – Paul D. Patton: The Prophetic Imagination and Passion of David Mamet – Melba L. Hoffer/Clifford G. Christians: A Witness for Our Survival: Jacques Ellul and the Prophetic Case of Rachel Carson – Brian Dolber: «Justice, Justice You Shall Pursue»: The Prophetic Battle of the Jewish Funds for Justice against Glenn Beck – Haydar Badawi Sadig/Gussai H. Sheikheldin: Profaning the Sacred: A Prophetic Critique of Consumerism in the Heart of the Muslim World – Kevin Healey: «You Are Not a Gadget»: Prophetic Critique in the Age of Google – Eric McLuhan: Afterword.

About the author(s)/editor(s)

Robert H. Woods, Jr., J.D., PhD, is Professor of Communication and Media at Spring Arbor University. He is co-editor of Understanding Evangelical Media: The Changing Face of Christian Communication, co-author of Prophetically Incorrect: A Christian Introduction to Media Criticism, and one of the authors of Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning.
Kevin Healey, PhD, is Assistant Professor of Communication at the University of New Hampshire. His research appears in Journal of Mass Media Ethics, Cultural Studies↔Critical Methodologies, Symbolic Interaction, and Trans/missions.


«This engaging volume demonstrates the uncanny connections between religious and secular ‘faith’ when it comes to media criticism. It also proves that in humble hands the connections can contribute to the quality of justice-sensitive, neighbor-loving scholarship among diverse academicians.» (Quentin J. Schultze, Arthur H. DeKruyter Chair in Communication, Calvin College)
«The fast-growing segment of religious ‘nones,’ many of whom have strong ethical and spiritual convictions, is just one reason why this is such a timely volume. How does, how can, and how should contemporary media critique a culture increasingly bent on the celebration of amoral profiteering? The book’s authors explore examples of film, music and theater that challenge rather than lull, demanding thoughtful engagement instead of numbing consumption. Media are not transparent, they serve political interests. Robert H. Woods, Jr. and Kevin Healey ask whose interests are being served and what we intend to do about it.» (Diane Winston, Knight Chair in Media and Religion, Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism, University of Southern California)
«Where is the voice of the prophetic crying in the wilderness of media? This fresh and timely collection of essays compiled by Robert H. Woods, Jr. and Kevin Healey speaks forth with clarity, authority, and cogency to provide piercing prophetic critiques to a technological culture out of balance. Here are some of the most authentic and compelling voices to awake a slumbering society and to disturb the universe of media studies.» (Terry Lindvall, Virginia Wesleyan College)
«‘Hear’ is the verb most often used by prophets of old. Hearing is not just sound waves acting on nerve and soft tissue. To hear is to live on a new plane, to set new directions (or recover the integrity of old ones), to act justly and show mercy (nearly a direct prophetic quote). Robert H. Woods, Jr. and Kevin Healey call modern scholars to the significance and challenge of deep hearing, despite formidable din, in order that people might live and flourish. Totally prophetic.» (Mark Fackler, Professor of Communication Arts & Sciences, Calvin College)