Saturday, June 20, 2015

"burning bush 2.0" by paul asay

In Burning Bush 2.0: How Pop Culture Replaced the Prophet, Paul Asay dives into popular entertainment to show where God can be found.

Maybe God doesn’t speak through prophets as often these days because he knows people wouldn’t listen. Maybe God speaks to us in different ways—and in the places he knows where we congregate: in our movie theaters, living rooms, iPods, and smartphones. Maybe God still longs to connect with us, and so goes into the places where we’re most likely to listen. Burning Bush 2.0 is a whimsical and sincere examination of the ways God communicates with us—sometimes subtly and secretly—through our media and entertainment streams. Asay examines how faith and God’s fingerprints mark movies and music, television and technology. Through word and picture, God still speaks to us through unsuspecting voices—in ways we’re best able to hear—even if we don’t fully comprehend it completely in the moment. God is everywhere, and doesn’t ask permission to speak, shout out, or whisper his name. Includes study guide for individuals and church groups.

I've been familiar with Paul Asay for several years, due to his work at Plugged In, an entertainment review site. I often go to Plugged In when I'm considering whether to watch a movie. (While Plugged In points out every teensy little thing that someone might find offensive, I like having a good idea of a movie's content so I can make an informed decision.) So I was intrigued when I learned that Asay had released a book about pop culture. I've ended up having mixed feelings about it.

I'm going to start at the end, because I feel like it's the strongest section. In it, Asay talks about the importance of discernment in entertainment choices, and he's careful to point out that for each person, this will look different because we are all prone to certain sins and temptations. He also encourages readers to always go into entertainment with their brains engaged—to not just let entertainment wash over them but to be an active mental participant. He then gives a list of conversation starters that will help people discuss works of entertainment. I think this is the most valuable section of the book, and I would have loved to have the whole book focus on this.

The rest of the book (the first 10 chapters) is about finding God (or at least biblical principles) in pop culture. Each chapter focuses on a different aspect of pop culture—superhero movies, video games, music, and reality TV, to name a few. This part is fine, and I enjoyed Asay's thoughts on things, but I didn't find it particularly engaging or enlightening. It's a lighthearted and conversational book, which I appreciated, but some of Asay's jokes fell a bit flat—he tends to harp on certain entertainers (Miley Cyrus), and I found it offputting.

Honestly, I'm not sure who Asay's target audience is. Obviously, Christians—I'm not sure why someone who doesn't believe would pick up this book. But beyond that, is the audience Christians who are in tune with pop culture? (I'd say no—because it doesn't take a lot of movie knowledge to realize that films are full of Christ figures or that something redeeming can be found in much of today's entertainment if you look deeply enough.) Christians who only watch Christian films and listen to Christian music? (Again, I'd say no—many of the examples in this book are decidedly not family friendly.) It's almost like this book doesn't quite know what it wants to be.

I know this review has been largely critical, but I did enjoy the book. I just didn't find it particularly memorable, and I'm not sure who I'd recommend it to. 3 stars.

Buy the book.

Paul Asay is associate editor at Plugged In, a ministry that reaches more than six million people with movie reviews that help people understand popular cultural trends and how they intersect with spiritual issues. Paul is an award-winning journalist who covered religion at The (Colorado Springs) Gazette and whose work has been published by such outlets as The Washington Post, Christianity Today, Youth Worker Journal and Paul has a special interest in the unexpected ways faith and media intersect. He lives in Colorado Springs with his wife, Wendy, and two children. Feel free to check out his website at

Disclosure of Material Connection: I received this product free for review from through its Vine reviewer program. I was not required to write a positive review. The opinions expressed are my own. Also, some of the links in the post above are “affiliate links.” This means if you click on the link and purchase the item, I will receive an affiliate commission. I am disclosing this in accordance with the Federal Trade Commission's 16 CFR, Part 255: "Guides Concerning the Use of Endorsements and Testimonials in Advertising."

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