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Religion and Popular Culture

A Hyper-Real Testament


Adam Possamai

Popular culture can no longer be exclusively seen as a source of escapism. It can amuse, entertain, instruct, and relax people, but what if it provides inspiration for religion?
The Church of All Worlds, the Church of Satan and Jediism from the Star Wars series are but three examples of new religious groups that have been greatly inspired by popular culture to (re)create a religious message. These are hyper-real religions, that is a simulacrum of a religion partly created out of popular culture which provides inspiration for believers/consumers. These postmodern expressions of religion are likely to be consumed and individualised, and thus have more relevance to the self than to a community and/or congregation. On the other hand, religious fundamentalist groups tend, at times, to resist this synergy between popular culture and religion, and at other times, re-appropriate popular culture to promote their own religion. Examples of this re-appropriation are Christian super-hero comics and role playing games, Bible-based PC games, and ‘White Metal’ music.
To explore these new phenomena, this book views itself as the ‘hyper-real testament’ of these new religious phenomena by addressing the theories, among many others, of Baudrillard, Jameson and Lipovetsky, and by exploring the use of fictions such as those from Harry Potter, The Matrix, Star Trek, Buffy and The Lord of the Rings.


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CHAPTER 8. Popular Culture and Hypo-Consumer Religious Groups 135


CHAPTER 8 Popular Culture and Hypo-Consumer Religious Groups Introduction This Present Darkness by Frank Peretti, an Assemblies of God min- ister, is a supernatural thriller that topped the Evangelical Christian Publishers Association charts in 1988 and 1989 with 370,000 copies, reaching 1,122,000 prints at the beginning of the 1990s. It has been described as a Christian Stephen King novel. The story narrates a conspiracy about New Agers, humanist psy- chologists and Satanists plotting to rule the earth and overthrow Christi- anity. The demonic cohorts of the New Age permeate the educational system, various associations and businesses, and financial powers which prepare for the coming of the Antichrist. The only defence to such a conspiracy is the Church in which the role of the pastor is of great importance. Demonic activities are hiding behind these New Age activities and Christians must be ready to intercede with prayer and react with the power of the cross. Within this spiritual warfare between good and evil, a few Christians fight for the soul of a small town called Ashton. In this fiction, Christian prayers are opposed to occult incantations. This thriller expresses the trend of some religious groups in their view of current popular culture. Popular culture would be dominated by global corporations which allow for the spreading of Satanic sub-texts. For example, the novel, movie and games from Harry Potter would be a stepping-stone towards the wrong/dark side of religion; such as that of occultism, witchcraft, and Satanism. We have...

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