First there was the U2charist,
in which churches invited young folks into their deepest and most
mysterious ritual by building a service around the music of a
30-year-old band (that’s the band, not the members) that occasionally
writes songs with vaguely spiritual themes.
The cover of the August 1996 Atlantic Monthly announced a Christian cultural revolution: “Giant ‘full-service’ churches are winning millions of ‘customers’ with [their] pop-culture packaging. They may also be building an important new form of community.” Author Charles Trueheart described what he calls the “Next Church”: No spires. No crosses. No robes. No clerical collars.
The church regularly gets criticized for being behind the times. Let the culture come up with something and, in time, churches follow, critics say. Let there be rock music and 30 years later there is Christian rock. The secular culture invents horror films and 50 years later evangelicals follow with Christian horror films.
The enormous popularity of The Simpsons, now in its 12th television season, suggests that religious people have a sense of humor—contrary to the usual wisdom in Hollywood. The program takes more satirical jabs at spiritual matters than any other TV show, yet the erratic cartoon family has an appreciative audience among many people of faith and among many analysts of religion.