Entertainment has often been the whipping boy of culture warriors, who cite anything from movies to music videos as vanguards for a rampant secularism which dilutes the Christian-ness of our culture.
The casual observer, however, might have reasons to be skeptical about this claim. Though this may have been true in the last 40 years of the 20th century, this claim’s veracity is questionable as we head midway into the second decade of the 21st. We may instead be seeing the emergence of an entertainment that is post-secular, that is, unafraid of considering not only natural manifestations of what is commonly known as the “supernatural” (ie aliens and vampires), but the idea of the realm that transcends everything natural.
This is particularly acute in the most prominent forms of visual media, particularly television and film, and is particularly so in the exploration of the angelic and the demonic. Witness, for instance, the popularity of the series Touched by an Angel or movies such as Dogma and the Adjustment Bureau. This should not surprise us since, as Graham Ward reminded us in his Cities of God, that cities are now
…producing angels of all of us…concepts and construals of the perfect corporeality are disciplining us in what we eat and binding us with fears of infection. The cult of sport, with glamourisation of sweat, flesh-not-fat and sculptured mascularity; the marketing of cosmetic surgery, facial injections to erase the effects of aging, breast implants – all demonstrate that we are perfecting the techniques for turning each of us into angels. We are manufacturing and manufactured by a contemporary angelology (207)
What is more subtle is the seepage of the supernatural in music, particularly in the trance or techno genres. Consider, for instance, the DJ Seven Lions and his single Days to Come (featuring Australia’s Fiora Cutler).
If you view the video below, the viewer might notice lyrics with eschatological content, talking about the undoing of hurts in the days to come, a parallel to Jesus’ eventual promise to “wipe every tear” in the Book of Revelation 21:4. There are also baptismal images which parallel this promise of renewal, which may make one tempted to think there is a neat dovetailing between the song and the Christian tradition. Such transcendental references, however, have to be balanced against another Nietzschean angle, in which such renewal is treated as a nihilistic annihilation of oneself. What seems to bind both the transcendentalism with the nihilism is a modern twist to Romanticism, in which reaching this eschatological horizon must be accompanied by a passionate plunging into the waters, and with it, self-annihilation.