Popular Theology and Communication

Paul A. Soukup, SJ

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Lynn Schofield Clark’s study, From Angels to Aliens, explores how teens seek and explore spiritual and religious identities, often drawing on narratives, images and characters from popular culture, i.e. those artistic expressions of various kinds that have had mass diffusion since the second half of the 20th century.[1] The teenage years, perhaps more than other moments in our lives, mark a time of exploration of identity and a time of finding oneself within peer groups.

Clark noted how teens drew on popular culture to find religious meaning independently of their levels of religious sophistication, with similar processes of exploration in the various groups of teens she studied, ranging from the “Resisters” (those not interested in organized religion or even opposed to it) to the “Experimenters” (those exploring what they saw as a supernatural realm) to the “Intrigued” (those committed to organized religion).[2] The television culture she explored with these teens provided materials for their search.

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