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Sam Van Eman: On Earth as It Is In Advertising

In the third part, Van Eman looks at “Building the Kingdom … Together.” He calls on Christians to be more like Christ and to think about others. He encourages them to work within the body of Christ to affect change in popular culture and in the society as a whole.

Van Eman closes his discussion with a chapter entitled, “Reacclimating,” in which he compares the Christian to Dorothy in The Wizard of Oz. “Dorothy’s longing for home didn’t occur until she discovered what being away from it was like,” he writes. “And she didn’t discover what being away was like until her dream-time in Oz gave her a comparison from which to know the reality of Kansas” (p. 183-184) With that analogy in mind, he concludes:

Navigating through a culture that is decorated, influenced, perpetuated, and preached at by a second-rate message system is much the same. We need a reality compass to make our way through the simulation presented in so much media and advertising (p. 184).

An analysis

Van Eman’s stated intent for writing this book is “to clarify that within popular culture, no element has more influence than advertising” (p.14). He also wanted to show that the biblical narrative is a valid alternative to pop culture and that it offers real solutions for real problems. I believe he succeeded in doing just what he set out to do. Even though he points out the dangers of advertising and pop culture, he cleverly uses ideas from the culture to illustrate the role of Christians from a biblical standpoint.

Van Eman’s awareness of advertising and pop culture comes through loud and clear, but on a deeper, more critical level than one may find in a typical sermon on the topic. Though he takes great pains to point out the problems we face with unfiltered media messages, he also explains in detail how the Christian can properly address the problems. In addition to challenging readers to rethink their priorities, he calls on them to spend less time with television and more time with Scripture. In his closing chapter, he provides practical ideas for counteracting the influence of the SimGospel. He writes: “Set your lifestyle at 75 percent of the wage you earn, and use the surplus to provide for a family who makes only 50 percent of your total income” (p. 185). In another example, he suggests giving away an old car instead of trying to make $500 from it.


In conclusion, I believe that Van Eman makes a compelling argument for his case. His discussion is both penetrating and provocative. He goes below the surface of pop culture and shows in a critical way how it affects people on a psychological and spiritual level.

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Category: Living the Faith, Summer 2007

About the Author: Roscoe Barnes III, Ph.D., is a prison chaplain, former award-winning journalist, and independent scholar of church history. He holds a doctorate from the University of Pretoria, South Africa, a M.A.R. from the Lutheran Theological Seminary at Gettysburg, and B.S. and A.S. degrees from East Coast Bible College, Charlotte, N.C. He is the author of numerous books including F.F. Bosworth: The Man Behind “Christ the Healer” (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2009), The Guide to Effective Gospel Tract Ministry (Church Growth Institute, 2004) and Off to War: Franklin Countians in World War II (White Mane Publishing, 1996). His articles have appeared in Refleks Journal, The Journal of the European Pentecostal Theological Association, The Africa Journal of Pentecostal Studies, and in numerous newspapers and popular magazines. He blogs at Roscoe Reporting and shares his F. F. Bosworth research at Professional: Roscoe Barnes III. Twitter: @Roscoebarnes3

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