Pop Goes the CulturePosted: January 4, 2010
Hip priests use pop culture references in their sermons. Or at least priests who think they’re hip in a connect-with-the-people kind of way. In a way that says I-may-be-a-priest-but-I’m-still-cool-(really) kind of way. Hip priests also have goatees but that’s another subject.
I use pop culture references on occasion not because I’m hip, necessarily, but because it’s the world in which I live. They may date me — they often seem to come from the ’80’s — but if something pops into my head I’ll often work it into a sermon. I don’t preach the reference but consider it the “salt” that spices up my text and keeps people engaged. You never know what might get worked in. I try never try to force anything and I certainly don’t use them every week. But I have fun with them. Though I admit I sometimes edit them out at the 8 o’clock service because I’m not a big fan of blank stares from the pulpit.
The categories tend to be movies, music, and sports. Here are a few from the last couple of months:
Yesterday, I quoted Mel Brooks’ History of the World, Part I in reference to Herod’s tight grip on his earthly kingdom: “It’s good to be the king.” Some got it; some didn’t. Which was just fine. In a sermon about the apocalypse this fall I worked in REM’s “It’s the end of the world as we know it (and I feel fine).” How could I not? During Advent I compared John the Baptist to a fullback clearing the way for Jesus (gotta throw a bone to the guys in the congregation on occasion). And the Sunday after Christmas, in reminding people that Christmas is not just a day but a season, I told them to “Party like it’s 1999,” quoting Prince, if not the Prince of Peace.
My friend and colleague Scott Gunn, a priest in Rhode Island, quoted both and Origen and Will Ferrell’s Talladega Nights in yesterday’s sermon. Brilliant — I assume. And, knowing Scott, quite authentic. Which is precisely the point. If the reference isn’t forced; if it relates to the readings; then it has the potential to help people see the gospel in a new way.
And heck, what were the parables of Jesus if not the pop culture references of ancient Palestine?