On this blog different themes are at work than what I wrote while working on my dissertation at A Lively Experiment. There I wondered how religious perspectives emerge in material and popular cultures. This interest grew out of connections between my research subjects–evangelical spiritual warriors–and popular interest in supernatural horror films like The Exorcist. This swiftly led me to study the religious elements of video games, comic books, and television.
My first love was the study of sacred space. You’d be surprised at how often I found myself saying again and again that religion in comics matters or that religion in video games matters. But I worried this first about spaces–specifically the production of religious spaces outside churches that I wrote about in my dissertation.
More than ever I think these two branches of my research — call them sacred space and sacred culture — are intertwined.
We should be paying attention not just because religious themes are common — they seem hard not to find — but because this abundance indicates that the way we interact with religion(s) has changed. Church attendance is down. Denominational affiliation is down. The discussion of religious themes, if we can measure such a thing, is up. The visibility of religion in the public sphere seems up, too.
So the new discourse on religion is taking place in more places and in more ways than it did previously. This is an age of production that exceeds our capacity for consumption. More content is produced every minute that we can read in a lifetime. We are overwhelmed by noise drowning out the signal. Most frustratingly of all, many of us feel the signal, say one of the big ideas that have guided human history, aren’t worth hearing anymore. We struggle to think through the past to better experience the future. Time to get to work figuring out not just how things work today, but what we think we lost and whether we really want it back.
So I say, welcome to the age of metasacralities.