LYON, David, Jesus in Disneyland: Religion in Postmodern Times.

Cambridge, UK : Polity Press, 2000. (The 188 pages, including 40 pages of foonotes, cost me $42.75 Canadian, inc. tax, and well worth it).

by Robert Brow   (

This does not offer a philosophical definition of what Postmodernism is (see Lyon's previous Postmodernity, 1994, 1999), and there is no mention of foundationalism. It is strictly a book by a sociologist (Prof. Lyon teaches at Queen's University, Kingston) for sociologists. The image of Disneyland is to capture our modern fragmented consumerism and fantasy world (11) as it is offered through CITs (communication and information technologies, x-xi, 16, 64-65, 102). In this world the old contrasts between religious faith and secularization are no longer valid (ix, 21, 24, 26-28, 137, 140). Sociologists need to view religion as a cultural resource (9, 32-33). Nor is it relevant to define religion as customary behavior (church-going) or cognitive activity (logical beliefs). It has to do with "faith, identity, and noncognitive aspects of life , such as emotion" (23).

Denominations used to be the "bureaucratic organizations" which were "used by social scientists and opinion pollsters as a means of gauging the strength of religion" (48, 139). But we need to include para-church organizations such as Promise Keepers (38), IVCF, educational institutions such as Trinity Western in B.C. and St. Paul's University in Ottawa, Willow Creek Community Church in Chicago, the Crystal Cathredral in California (48-50). Add in all the adherents who watch at home, and those who access the web sites of the Starseed Schools of Melchizedek and every other religious offering on the Internet. "The sacred symbols of religious communication circulate unpredictably, and promiscuously" (72). The Toronto Blessing (Airport Church Community Fellowship in Toronto) quickly had reverberations throughout the world (97). The whole global village turns out to be alive with "faith, spirituality, and the quest for transcendence" (137).

In all this confusion Jesus is popular because "He's a pluralist, he welcomes outsiders, he welcomes women, he is against organized religion, he's for economic justice" (137, a quote from the Globe & Mail, January 2, 1999, A1, A6).

As Christians, what do we do with this confusion? I think Lyon's conclusion is that "The groups that will find a voice will be those that are able to encode their messages, their symbols, in ways that adapt them to the new media" (144). I would want to add that the creativity of the Holy Spirit gives all that we need to relate to that postmodern CIT world. That is what Paul did as he planted communities of the Spirit in every place. And I am sick of people who claim the Lord's church is losing ground.

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