Plugged In (Book Review)
Dan Strange’s latest book helps us to think about our secular media consumption.
This book prompted lively discussion in our church book group. We all agreed that, as believers, we struggle with how to engage with secular culture and with how to helpfully process the vast amounts of material we watch, read and hear.
The stream of stuff we interact with via our phones, televisions, tablets and other platforms provides us with a constant battle. This is why the author guesses – probably correctly – that readers are likely to head straight for the chapter titled Can I watch…?
This chapter provides a soul-searching ‘health check’ on our media consumption. But Dan’s book has so much more to say to us.
Despite fears that the gospel can seem irrelevant and offensive in today’s post-modern culture, Dan encourages us to recognise that people are more religious than we might think.
He says that everyone worships something. If it’s not God, then it’s an idol that takes God’s rightful place. These are idols that enslave and never satisfy. These idols lie at the heart of secular song lyrics, the scripts of Netflix series and Instagram stories, each expressing hopes and longings that only Christ can truly satisfy.
The book shows how the gospel ‘confronts’ and ‘connects to’ the hopes and desires underlying any modern trend (which he calls ‘subversive fulfilment’).
We, like Paul in Athens in Acts 17, can train ourselves to ‘walk round and observe’ the deeper message of the ‘objects of worship’ around us, and ask how the gospel speaks a better ‘story’.
Some humorous but instructive examples of cultural analysis are highlighted in the book. These include the Football’s Coming Home song, colouring books for adults, and Japanese loos!
Our church book group tackled the ‘prosecco culture’ theme, which led us to think more deeply about the desires of pleasure and escapism for many. Dan says each of us belongs to a culture, and that we are created to be ‘culture-makers’.
Believers can be a positive influence for God’s glory, ‘take every thought captive’ for Christ, and find exciting opportunities for the gospel if we engage with culture and get ‘plugged in’ with the gospel.
Dan’s passion to think biblically about culture is infectious. He writes in a lively style, with humour, personal anecdotes and memorable quotes. You will need to apply your mind as you read, but it will be well worth it! This book would be ideal for reading in a book group or in a one-to-one setting chapter by chapter.
Plugged In: Connecting your faith with everything you watch, read, and play by Dan Strange is published by The Good Book Company.