At this point, the communications about the passing of the CEO of Rolex has simmered down and I can get back to our regularly scheduled material. If you have any further comments on my four blog posts on Judaism and Yoga, then let me know before I speak on the topic this week. I am not ready for Hanukkah in a few hours. In the meantime, I was asked to speak on Orthodoxy and Culture, so I will have a series of posts on the topic,moving from the general to specific posts on Certau and Bourdieu.
Here is an announcement for conference. It says “Pop culture functions today as a key location for the shared exploration of what it means to be truly human.” How does that play itself out in Orthodoxy? What happens to the Talmud which is neither pop-culture or defining human in these terms? What happens to Jewish thought, Maimonides, Maharal, or Rav Soloveitchik if humanity is defined through pop-culture? And what happens to the halakhah as shaping and modeling human experience? How does the language of pop culture become part of Orthodoxy? Or how is Orthodoxy embedded in “Hollywood, Billboard Hot 100, professional sports, New York Times bestsellers”? And how does pop-culture break down the divide between sacred and profane, Torah and the world? How does the internet define our humanity and our Judaism? (I welcome interesting links on the topic with an explanation by the one posting, but assume I have already seen much of the obvious. )
Religion in Popular Culture
We live today in a world in which popular culture—Hollywood, Billboard Hot 100, professional sports, New York Times bestsellers, etc.—constitutes our lingua franca, our society’s “common language.” Pop culture functions today as a key location for the shared exploration of what it means to be truly human. For this reason, it is appropriate that Christians attentively engage pop culture in a scholarly fashion. Doing so not only helps to bridge the divide between the academy and the wider society, but it also disrupts the temptation toward religious insularity and creatively expands the horizons of Christian self-reflection. For these and other reasons, the thoughtful analysis of religion in popular culture is an important task today.
What does it mean when a shul offers for Hanukah, “The Hebrew Hammer Movie Showing, Movie, Popcorn and Beer” Help save Chanukkah from Santa Clause’s Evil Son- Join us for the Hebrew Hammer, beer and popcorn followed by a discussion about what is truly hip about Chanukah.
What does it mean when an Orthodox synagogue is having a Rock N’ Roll Shabbaton -with the Lead singer of the The Who. Roger Daltrey? After the wow, the jokes, and humming a few bars of Baba o’Reily – what does it mean for orthodoxy, if anything?
What does it mean when the major form of Chanukah Torah today is youtube videos that are in hip-hop, boy-band, or glee style? Religiosity is identified and situated with the watching of the videos. And the videos are filled with Jews dancing with non-Jews of all races and ethnicities? They portray a broad world.
As noted in Rabbi Buchwald teshuvah video- how does the universalism relate to their provincial lives? What do people get from watching the video? We are as cool as TV? Chanukah is fun, therefore mizvot are fun and we create fun videos. Why do I get a feeling that the sense of finding God as described in the hanukah passages of Sefat Emet or Shem MiShmuel are more cited among Neo-Hasidm, Habakuk, and Jewish renewal, and the Hanukah Torah of Centrist Orthodoxy is the message of the videos. What is that message of the videos and what function does it play? Have meaning given way to a moral order of fun?
With apologies to Lila Abu-Lughod, The Interpretation of Culture(s) After Television (1997) it seems the Centrist world is reading themselves into the world of TV and its values. The non-Jews and universal values in the videos seem to be a self-perceptions as secular Americans. They are not using TV to formulate difference from Holllwood and the secular world around them, rather they are using it to show their vision of themselves. How does this universal vision relate to the Hanukah Torah from Yeshiva and shul? Are successful shuls and rabbis now preaching the same pop-culture universalism? [Let me know which hanukah sermons and shiurim go viral and are actually popular this year. I have already received some which are DOA.]
Some of these issues I had already started to discuss in my post on Christian Rock and Kiruv, but I got no comments. You can comment now on the relationship of rock and kiruv.