I began to feel physically ill while reading this chapter, absolutely overwhelmed with the amount of excess and waste that comes out of the extraordinary means of some people, mostly in the US and Europe.  Even those who do not have excess are being caught up in the MORE MORE MORE MORE MORE of our society’s cultural messages.  Sine writes that the middle class “increasingly derive our sense of identity, self-esteem and even our life purpose from our success in the marketplace of more” (149).  Remember the Olympic medalist Lauren Williams (who lost her race, by the way)?  Big house, big truck, big dog.  Is that really what life is about?  Is that really what we want to define us?  Is that what people see when they look at us, not our Christian values and God-driven love for people, but our STUFF?  Is that what WE see when we look at others?

I agree with Sine when he writes, “Not only does this imperial global economy claim to define what is ultimate, I believe it is increasingly colonizing the imaginations of peoples all over our planet to buy into its notions of what constitutes the good life and better future” (69). I was watching the Olympics on TV last night, and a commercial came on for Lauren Williams. As she talked about her life after the previous Olympic games where she won a medal, she made this statement: “Big house, big truck, big dog. That’s what makes me, me.” I was floored! She actually defined herself not by her values, her family, or even her accomplishments. She defined herself by her STUFF!

How’s this for another stab at body theology: “All the time we look at people…but over time we can develop new eyes and look into people. Rather than looking at people as sex objects or work tools, we can see them as sacred. We can enter the Holiest of Holies through their eyes [because, remember, the curtain is torn and the sacred is free]” (265). Our culture teaches us to look at people, and it teaches us what we should look for and how we should judge what we see. We label and categorize based on what we see, and that is more of the identity-shaping that culture is oh-so-good about providing. But God gives us new eyes (so much new-ness going on) to look deeper, to see people the way he sees them (and, I hope, to see ourselves). Good body theology is learning to change the lens we look through to see the world, to see people, and to see ourselves.

The challenge of radical Christianity is putting your faith into visible, active practices that affect change in the world, even if it’s just the world for your next-door neighbor: “They cared for people and put stagnant nominal Christianity to shame. They took tremendous risks to invite people to experience love, grace, and community” (100). Do people say that about us here at Fuller? Do people say that about people in our home churches? Maybe nominal Christianity isn’t just in the South.

I’ve been thinking a lot about Bonhoeffer since reading Claiborne’s book. He talks about the cost of discipleship in pretty challenging terms, and then he goes out and gets executed for living it out. Claiborne writes, “The temptation we face is to compromise the cost of discipleship, and in the process, the Christian identity can get lost” (105). We just looked together at all those articles in Fandom that kept reminding us how malleable our identities are, how susceptible we are to being defined in terms of our culture and media experiences. How quickly we fall into cheap grace.

And here’s a side note: I finish my degree in the fall, and I don’t know what’s next. Claiborne told people he was “more interested in who I am becoming” than in what he would do/be. He quotes Mother Theresa: “Do not worry about your career. Concern yourself with your vocation, and that is to be lovers of Jesus” (108). But I wonder if I’m brave enough for that.

I found this article really interesting in light of a class I took in the Spring with Barry Taylor on pop music. We talked about some of these same issues, especially regarding the changing experience of music with the entrance of technology and the ability to buy music to listen to over and over whenever you wanted to under any conditions. I like that we can trace fandom (at least in music) further back than merely the entrance of the internet or the TV. That tells us it’s not just a technology-driven phenomenon (though it is certainly technology-enabled). The negative in the article was the tracing of the commodification of art and performance (and people, and personalities, and public personas). We sell everything these days, even (and perhaps especially, or rather essentially?) ourselves. Which means on some level we buy each other. So identity value decreases, self-image decreases, oh my. What a dark path I’ve started down.

I was most interested in this article’s description of the changing attitudes about acceptable masculinity in Asian (or at least Korean) culture. Kan was on top of the world with his portrayal of the “traditional” valued traits, but when the wind shifted, his fandom nearly evaporated. The rise of “a more masculine feminine,” the “male antihero” and the “flower boy” raise disturbing questions about gender issues surfacing all over the world (truly a global issue?).

A good question: does “cultural identity in any way determine the performance of fan identities” (211)? Although the article does not offer an answer. It was interesting, however, to consider the difference between TV characters and film characters in terms of longevity. The more background or “meta-text” a character has, the more attachment to that character. People tend to attach more to film stars and TV characters. That’s an interesting phenomenon and I think goes back to the fact that fandom is about emotional relationship, which is hard to build with a character who appears over two-three hours and then vanishes forever.

I know it’s typically postmodern of me, but I like the ideas Abercrombie (the clothing company? surely not!) & Longhurst assert about the “fluidity of identity formulation and reformulation” (qtd. 120) through engagement with culture–high or popular. We’ve already realized that identity is bound to culture (like religion), and here it surfaces again. As we encounter the world, through whatever means, in a way that activates our emotional (and consequently rational?) selves to respond and seek out others who respond, our identities are being shaped and formed and re-shaped and re-formed over and over in the relativism that is our secularized society. What holds firm is our foundation (can you hear the organ?) in Christ…but how to build bridges that won’t break in an ever-shifting culture?