Choose an artifact from contemporary culture that you find interesting, compelling, problematic, or suggestive—in short, an artifact that you find worth thinking about a little more deeply

| February 26, 2014

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Choose an artifact from contemporary culture that you find interesting, compelling, problematic, or suggestive—in short, an artifact that you find worth thinking about a little more deeply. This could be a novel, short story, play, children’s book, poem, film, musical composition or performance, painting, sculpture, comic book, television show or series—even an advertisement. Your choice, however, should entail some theological themes with which you are now familiar. Write a 5 page (typed, double-spaced) essay noting and critiquing the theological ideas implicated in your artifact. Ask yourself questions such as the following:
• How does the artifact imagine the world or the universe? Does it see the world as chaos or order? Chance or design? Mechanism or free-developing process?
• How does the artifact imagine God? Is God very like a human being or not? Is God benevolent or vengeful? Is God present or absent? Is God knowable or mysterious? Is there a God, or is that an illusion?
• How does the artifact think about human beings? What are our special attributes? Are we just like the other species of animals or different in some way? Are humans free to make themselves, or do some kinds of external pressures limit human choices? Are humans basically good, basically selfish, or some kind of mixture of good and bad? Do humans have any hopes that extend beyond the finite realm of existence?
• How does your artifact think about evil in the world? What causes it? Can it be cured or healed? Does your artifact imagine that evil is a challenge to the reality of God or to the meaningfulness of life?
• What can be done about our plight if anything? Is there any help available to us? If so, how does it come to us? What does salvation, or health or reconciliation look like when it happens?
• What kind of community is humanity supposed to live in or into? How do we get to it?
• What hope is there for history? For ourselves as creatures? For planet earth?
This list of questions is meant to be suggestive, not exhaustive. There are many ways you can inquire into the theological presuppositions or ideas latent in a cultural production. The purpose of this paper is to aid in developing your skills in theological analysis. One part of the work of thinking theologically is the ability to recognize theological themes and problems whenever and wherever they arise. If you develop and sharpen your skills in this area, you will discover that there is virtually no theology-free zone in the contemporary world.
When submitting your paper, be sure to include a reference to the source where you discovered your artifact. And, of course, if you make reference to books, articles, websites, or other sources in developing your own argument in analyzing the artifact, do be sure to properly reference them in your paper as well.
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