Image Journal short review of BH
The Image Journal, a wonderful space for the conversation between faith and the arts, has posted a short summary of Broken Hallelujahs on their ImageUpdate website.
They write: "Christian Scharen's Broken Hallelujahs: Why Popular Music Matters to Those Seeking God opens as he is on his way to give a talk for the series “Imagination and the Kingdom of God” at a conservative Christian university. Scharen is sweating through his shirt as his presentation begins, wondering if his topic—a Kanye West video that includes “a prostitute, a cocaine bust, and little girls singing profanity while they jump rope”—will be too much for his conservative audience. Turns out, it was. Broken Hallelujahs is written from this experience of opposition, though without becoming polarizing or polemical. His argument is simply for the meaningfulness of contemporary pop music. While some have called blues “the devil’s music,” Scharen sees the blues as “secular spirituals.” “Secular spirituals,” “broken hallelujahs”—this kind of worldly-spiritual language is central to Scharen’s conception of art, and theology as well. He sees modern Christians as having two different attitudes toward human nature: that of seeing sin as a “minor defect,” with the Spirit as an “energy drink” that boosts us toward good; and that of seeing sin as “something wrong at our core, something we cannot overcome alone.” Scharen argues that Christians ought to hold the cross—and suffering itself—at the center of our understanding of the world. Once we do this, we can hear the cries of the pop singer as expressions of deep humanity, however flawed they may be. He invokes C.S. Lewis’s often-neglected critical theory of looking with a piece of art, rather than just at it, and mounts a critique of the clinical, “autopsy”-like approach that organizations like Focus on the Family have used in examining content in music. Broken Hallelujahs bids us to seek “deep and substantial imagination” in creating and encountering music that deals with a broken world."
I like their summary save the report about the lecture at the "conservative Christian university". In fact, my lecture was not at all "too much" for my audience and I say so in the first chapter. The book was lauched because I realized they wanted to be with me, but needed a theological framework to think more generously about the pop music (Kanye West, in that instance) that they were already tapping their feet to. But a small quibble with an otherwise very appreciative and careful summary.