HomeSomething to Think AboutThe Audacity of Finding God in Pop Culture

The Audacity of Finding God in Pop Culture

Pop Culture text over geometric background. Background: shuoshu/DigitalVision/Getty Images. Pop text by: Clker-Free-Vector-Images from Pixabay.

Editor’s note: Throughout July, we’re hosting 31 Days with St. Ignatius, a month-long celebration of Ignatian spirituality. In addition to the calendar of Ignatian articles found here, posts on dotMagis this month will explore the theme of “The Audacity of Ignatian Spirituality.”

Inspired by the Ignatian tradition, we make a bold claim: God is to be found in all things. This insight revolutionizes how we look at our lives, at the nitty-gritty, seemingly mundane details to be found in our own stories. God so delights in us as beloved creatures that God desires to draw ever nearer. Nothing is beyond God’s gaze, and everything shimmers with grace. God is intimately involved in the unfolding of our unique vocations.

And so, we make another leap of faith: if God is to be found in our vocational stories, then God is found in the stories that we create. We are made in the image and likeness of our God, who is creative; the constant unfurling of our vocational paths is a creative journey. And the stories that surround us—fruits of the human imagination that has been touched by God—are revelatory of the Spirit at work.

This is why we can confidently say that God can be found—and, in fact, is at work—in the stories of pop culture. The Spirit is there in the movies we watch and the books that we read, in the songs that we sing along to in the car and the video games we play late into the night. God is in the panels of our favorite comic books and in our favorite TV shows when we binge-watch.

I’m not saying that every aspect of pop culture is instructive on how to live as God desires. But I am saying that, if we believe God is in all things and permit the Spirit to speak to us through the very fabric of reality, then pop culture becomes an expression of our grappling with God’s dreams and stories.

Here’s how we know God is present in seemingly secular plotlines. How often, after finishing a film or a novel, do we insist to family and friends that they, too, must experience the same story?

“You have to watch this show. You have to read this book.”

What we’re really saying is, “I loved it, and you will too.”

Beyond that, what we’re saying is, “This story affected me deeply. Something moved within me, and I want the same thing for you.”

This is a spiritual need, and it’s a need that bubbles over and into community. It demands connection. And here, in this need and expression of community, we glimpse God.

It’s here that we touch something in story that resonates with our own story, our own vocation. A film, novel, or play so moves, surprises, or consoles us that we get in touch with something profound within ourselves. We see our own story reflected outside of ourselves. We feel seen.

Dare we say, we feel God, who is always beholding us, ever-present in our stories. Bolstered by this grace of this moment of consolation, we go out to share this good news with others.

Here’s my challenge to you. Name a story within pop culture that has profoundly moved you. What’s the last book or movie that you insisted others read or watch? Why? What did you hope to share? What does that sharing reveal about you, what really matters to you, and your own vocational story?

Might God’s Spirit be at work here? Is that Christ whispering something in your ear, speaking through secular parables that drive home a spiritual point?

Audaciously, God is in all things. God is in all stories. We humans are storytellers, story sharers, and story receivers. And God’s story is still unfolding.


Share your answers to Eric’s challenge in the comments below or with #31DayswithIgnatius on social media channels. Then read Repeat Returns and the Examen by Marina Berzins McCoy, today’s featured article in 31 Days with St. Ignatius.

Eric Clayton
Eric Claytonhttps://ericclaytonwrites.com/
Eric A. Clayton is the deputy director of communications for the Jesuit Conference of Canada and the United States. He has a BA in creative writing and international studies from Fairfield University and an MA in international media from American University. Eric writes Story Scraps on Substack. He lives in Baltimore, MD, with his wife and two daughters. Clayton is the author of Cannonball Moments: Telling Your Story, Deepening Your Faith and My Life with the Jedi: The Spirituality of Star Wars.

5 COMMENTS

  1. Awesome reflection. Thanks Eric. Finding and experiencing God’s tender presence in all places, in every event, at all moments, and in every person is a massive grace.

  2. Hi there,

    Thinking about pop culture spiritual deepness, I recall “Mad Men” series. Althought it has a lot of sexual content and some immodest scenes, it also features a realistic depiction of the root sin, or ignatianly putting it, the “disordered affections”, id est: the psychological foundations of Don Draper lusftul behavior – his premature maternal deprivation and miserable childhood spent as a unwanted son in the house of his father and stepmother – who had been cheated on.

    Also, it depicts realistically the consequences of sin itself. Don Draper is not James Bond, who is a seemingly indestrutible womanizer. On the contrary: he suffers with familiar erosion, guilt, alcoholism, self-destructive behavior and so on. It causes damage beyond reparation. But also, there is God presence somehow helping him to move forward. Of course the show leaves unanswered the question about his final redemption, but life is also like that. One should never be totally self-assured of his own righteousness.

  3. Some pop culture seems to me to promote values and ways of living that are very anti Christian. Could you explain a bit more please about how God can be found in these ?
    I recently saw a play that was funny in parts but also very vulgar. At times I couldn’t believe what I was hearing. I left the theatre feeling I should have walked out sooner. I still feel tainted by the production.
    I also found Klara and the Sun very moving. It seemed to me to be a parable.

  4. There have actually been quite a few pieces of pop culture media over the past couple of years the I think have moved me. These particular pieces of pop culture, whether it be songs, or shows, or content off the internet, all have had the theme of vocation or ones own calling. pieces of media with subject matter that most would say has no meaning or is written or produced by people or a person who is not seen as religious but still have these themes. I was watching a show relatively recently called the Legend of Vox Machina that stuck with me, now for context this was a fantasy show so they had their own pantheon of “gods”. In this show there was a character was struggling with her Faith and felt separated from her god after searching out answers she finds that it was her who had distanced herself from her god because she felt the path she should be on was not what she wanted in life and didn’t know what to do, but she was taught that there are different paths to take to live a life of holiness.
    That struck a cord with me, feeling myself the pressure of finding the right path or vocation in life, the struggle of what I might be called to do and what I want or feel comfortable doing , and the guilt of if it feels too comfortable or easy is it right? something I feel many others might be feeling. something that the pressure might cause them to do nothing or go off in a different direction and may cause people to distance themselves from God and others out of guilt.
    because of this I want to share media like that show and more forms of media that cover the topic of vocation from different angles. I wish to through sharing encourage others and help people to feel God is with them cheering and waiting for them as they discern.
    I hope this in part answered the questions even is I babbled a lot.
    respectfully

  5. Although I’m a voracious reader, I’ve never liked science fiction. However, I recently read “Klara and the Sun,” by Kazuo Ishiguro, the British Nobel Laureate and was so moved by the story that I have not stopped telling relatives and friends about it.
    Without giving away too much of the story, it is about a robot, AI and a family looking for a cure. Klara, the robot, is a “person” living the Great Commandment of Loving your neighbor. I was in tears at the end and I don’t usually cry. My brother who considers himself an atheist although a graduate of a Jesuit school, was very moved by this book and agreed with me about what the book meant for me. If anyone here reads it, I would like to know her/his opinion.

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