Broken Hallelujahs

Why Popular Music Matters to Those Seeking God

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Building on the success of One Step Closer: Why U2 Matters to Those Seeking God, Christian Scharen shows how to engage faith and culture through a wide range of popular music, including the blues, hip-hop, and rock. He examines artists such as Arcade Fire, Kanye West, Leonard Cohen, and Billie Holiday, offering a fresh, compelling theology of culture in conversation with C. S. Lewis that can look suffering and brokenness in the face because it knows of a love deeper than hate, a hope stronger than despair. Written engagingly yet with theological depth, this book will resonate with readers interested in the interface between pop culture, music, and theology, as well as with pastors and youth ministers.


"The realm of popular music, like much in pop culture, is often written off as bleak and godless. Scharen pleads that this is the result of a 'constricted imagination,' and rightly so. This very readable book will provoke discussions that are much needed in the church and beyond."--Jeremy Begbie, Thomas A. Langford Research Professor of Theology, Duke University

"Christian Scharen's theological meditation on popular music shows why Christians and popular artists have serious spiritual concerns in common. He argues that pop musicians are already literate about the creative character of surrender in their lives and work, and that Christian theology too finds its center in graceful surrender to God with and for others. Fans of music and students of spirituality will and should be drawn in by the work of this discerning, inquisitive theological thinker and unapologetic--but not uncritical--music fan."--Tom Beaudoin, assistant professor, Fordham University

The Author

  1. Christian Scharen

    Christian Scharen

    Christian Scharen (PhD, Emory University) is vice president of applied research at Auburn Theological Seminary in New York City. He previously taught at Luther Seminary. He has authored a number of books, including One Step Closer and Faith as a Way...

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"[Scharen] provides a useful template for believers to evaluate their favorite forms of entertainment from a spiritual perspective."--John D. Leatherman, Christian Retailing

"[Scharen] provides thoughtful readers with a relatively brief, but probing framework for understanding popular culture and the degrees to which the divine may be reflected therein."--Jamie Lee Rake, CBA Retailers + Resources

"Scharen shapes Broken Hallelujahs into a progressive argument, building each chapter on what has preceded it. . . . While the whole of the argument is significant, there are points in the midst of it that shine. . . . Although Broken Hallelujahs is about music and the search for God in our broken world, deep down it has much to do with language and the power it has over the way we see the world and live within it. Scharen excellently highlights the danger in placing our own manufactured labels on things within the world--all of which can be considered as creations of our almighty Creator. . . . The words he uses add clarity to the discussion, while never straying away from the brokenness that every fallen being has in common."--Sam Edgin, Englewood Review of Books

"Scharen examines why popular culture is often disdained by the Christian church and suggests that by entering this paradoxical world, the church will find God's mercy and grace in rich supply. . . . His theology of popular culture is written in a minor key, as is his theology of the cross, and both are ultimately hopeful."--Kristine Morris, ForeWord

"Scharen's book is well-written, thoughtful, clear, and provocative. It offers a needed corrective."--Matt Edwards and Walker Sherman, Jesus Creed blog

"Scharen's book may be understood as a theological-cultural exploration of imagination. . . . Scharen's remarkable blend of being both poetic and profound--and everywhere theologically minded and informed--comes out nowhere more prominently than in his choice of Leonard Cohen's lyric 'broken hallelujahs,' from Cohen's song 'Hallelujah,' as a focal point. Arguably one of the most frustratingly enigmatic songs, you simply can't ignore it. But you also can't merely enjoy it either. The song is in the end perhaps a bit like beauty itself. It remains elusive. And as such it compels a listen (and the tune has a way of sticking with you anyway). Someday we will arrive at the final verse of Cohen's song. The broken will fall off and the pure, true, righteous, and just 'hallelujahs' will be sung. But for now we need to hear the broken hallelujahs. For now we live in some ambiguity and perplexity. King David, also a musician, lived there himself and sung about it. So did Luther. So, Scharen commends, should we."--Stephen J. Nichols, Themelios

"[This book] can help us reflect on popular music from a Christian perspective. . . . I recommend Broken Hallelujahs as worthy of careful reading, discussion, and reflection. Engaging it thoughtfully will sharpen our skill in cultural discernment, even at the points where we may disagree or see things a bit differently."--Denis Haack, Critique