Eyes Wide Open, Revised and Expanded Edition

Looking for God in Popular Culture

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"This revised and expanded edition of Eyes Wide Open, already a standard on the topic, widens and deepens the discourse on the popular entertainment arts. . . . A manifesto of Christian involvement and a matrix assessment of the sights and sounds that inescapably shape our everyday life."--Scott Young, founder, City of Angels Film Festival

William Romanowski's Eyes Wide Open has been one of the most-used Christian college textbooks on popular culture. This revised and expanded second edition is now even more useful for students. It has been expanded to delve more deeply into how Christians can most profitably and critically hear, read, and view popular culture; it more clearly explains how popular culture is art; and it furthers the discussion on media sex and violence. All of the chapters have been updated with fresh examples from the world of film and popular music. Other helpful additions include documenting endnotes, a bibliography, an index, study questions, and end-of-chapter summaries.

Grounded in Christian principles, this accessible and engaging book offers an informed and fascinating approach to popular culture. Romanowski provides affectionate yet astute analysis of familiar, well-loved movies and television characters from Indiana Jones to Homer Simpson, and he speaks with historical depth and expertise on films from Casablanca to Crash and music from Bruce Springsteen to U2.

Romanowski's confessional approach affirms a role for popular culture in faithful living. Practical, analytical approaches to content, meaning, and artistic style offer the tools to participate responsibly and imaginatively in popular cultural activities. An engaging read, this new edition introduces students and thoughtful readers to popular culture--one of the most influential forces in contemporary society.


Praise for the revised and expanded edition:

"This revised and expanded edition of Eyes Wide Open, already a standard on the topic, widens and deepens the discourse on the popular entertainment arts. Readers will find in William Romanowski's imaginative and down-to-earth approach to popular art as art a manifesto of Christian involvement and a matrix assessment of the sights and sounds that inescapably shape our everyday life."--Scott Young, founder, City of Angels Film Festival

"When Eyes Wide Open first came out we celebrated! It was just the text we were looking for. In our media-saturated age we felt we needed a resource that could both equip students to understand the nature of the genres they consume and give them the 'eyes' to bring appropriate critique as well. Romanowski's book has done that for us and more. At Geneva College we have used it for the last several years in one of our core classes. How could we be anything but enthusiastic to see the new edition? As a sociologist I struggle to get my students to see how their own habits connect to the broader society in which they live, what C. Wright Mills called the 'sociological imagination.' I have seldom seen a resource that makes that happen like Romanowski's book. His scholarship is impeccable, his writing is engaging, and his faith perspective is compelling. I not only teach from it but I deeply enjoy it and highly recommend it."--Bradshaw Frey, Geneva College

"I have used Eyes Wide Open as a companion text in my Introduction to Mass Communication course. Students find Romanowski's cogent synthesis of complex theological and philosophical concepts both accessible and engaging. Simply put, the book helps students to 'think Christianly' about faith and culture in meaningful ways--ways that challenge overly simplistic sacred-secular dichotomies that tend to prevent Christians from critical participation in contemporary culture. Romanowski's work articulates in a compelling way how a faith-based perspective can function as the filter for our consumption, critique, and even creation of popular art and culture. Regardless of your church background, this book should resonate at some level."--Robert Woods, Spring Arbor University

"Eyes Wide Open provides clear biblical insights, accessible aesthetic criteria, and challenging approaches to what is often our all too casual interaction with popular culture. Romanowski's book provides an excellent tool for students to learn the skills to navigate 'the world behind the art.' Over the last several years Eyes Wide Open has become the favorite text of our students. They find it interesting, relevant, and easy to discuss and apply. And with this updated version that links the examples to the most recent experience of students, I'm sure it will continue to be enthusiastically embraced. So give it a try--you'll laugh, you'll cry--it's better than Cats."--Terry Thomas, Geneva College

"As a professor of popular culture at a faith-based university, I find Eyes Wide Open an ideal text. It has academic rigor yet does not overwhelm undergraduates; it has strong theology yet does not rely upon a Christian readership. Without compromising scholarship, Bill Romanowski is able to make abstract ideas concrete with clear and compelling explanations, specific illustrations, and accessible language. He has done professors and students a great favor and has gone a long way in equipping the next generation of culture makers as agents of change and agents of grace."--Monica Ganas, Azusa Pacific University

Praise for the first edition:

"Eyes Wide Open is a 'must' book for every thinking Christian who is concerned with popular culture, but who is also concerned with the way Christians can 'demonize' that culture. When we rush to our nice, 'militarily defended' bastions of 'Christianized' culture, we deprive ourselves of reality and we deprive the culture of the witness and truth Christians owe the world. Repent! The works of repentance, in this case, can start with reading this book and then giving it to everybody you know. You'll be glad and they will, too."--Steve Brown, president, KeyLife Network; professor, Reformed Theological Seminary, Orlando

"Eyes Wide Open inspires us to be wholly human and wholly Christian--using our faith, our emotions, and our brains to fully experience movies, music, television, and art. Romanowski encourages us to worry less about 'What would Jesus think of me watching this?' and more to think like Jesus while watching. As a Christian in Hollywood, this book revitalized and legitimized my 'calling' in the entertainment industry. We can produce entertainment that is esthetically excellent and promotes a worldview based on God's influence in our lives." --Brenda Bos, television production manager

"When it comes to mapping the tricky intersection of faith and culture, William Romanowski is a trustworthy and masterful guide. Like Bob Briner's Roaring Lambs, Eyes Wide Open is a must for any Christian who is bold enough to engage and understand popular culture, rather than point fingers at Hollywood or hide in a safe, sanitized Christian ghetto."--Lou Carlozo, features writer, Chicago Tribune

"William Romanowski confronts the culture with his eyes wide open to the negative effects it can have upon us. He also informs us of ways we can increase our understanding of the world in which we live and thus be aided in the task of addressing our culture in a relevant way. His commentary on contemporary music and films will get the Christian reader to discern things that otherwise would go unnoticed in the world around us."--Tony Campolo, professor of sociology, Eastern University

"Eyes Wide Open is a wonderfully caring book. It seeks to meet a pressing, legitimate need of the church by answering the questions: How should a student/follower of Jesus think about culture? And, having thought, what does action look like? Romanowski is one of the kings of cultural analysis and critique. Every disciple of Jesus ought to avail themselves of his royal expertise."--Charlie Peacock, Ashworth Record Producer and author of At the Crossroads: An Insider's Look at Contemporary Christian Music

"This is a lively and much needed Christian perspective on the popular arts--helping the reader to move beyond a mindless acquiescence to popular culture, on the one hand, and blanket condemnation, on the other. The style is direct and accessible, giving it a natural appeal to a wide audience."--Jeremy Begbie, Duke Divinity School

"Among those working at the intersection of faith and popular culture, Bill Romanowski uniquely blends the mind of the academic, the heart of a disciple of Jesus, and the ear of a dual listener who hears a conversation between faith and culture and helps interpret both. His matrix for analyzing popular artworks is especially useful. Eyes Wide Open is an essential resource for the emerging cadre of Christians who desire to engage culture effectively."--Dick Staub, president, Center for Faith and Culture, CRS Productions

"I love the broader perspective of Eyes Wide Open, especially as a Christian working in the business. . . . Particularly his observation regarding our naive assumptions over or under spiritualizing the movie and television business. Bill keeps bringing us back and challenging us (me) as to how we can develop a grid to sift entertainment against our Christian worldview."--Ralph Winter, producer, X-MEN, Star Trek VI; executive producer, Planet of the Apes

"As a screenwriter working in Hollywood, I appreciate Bill Romanowski's thoughtful challenge to people of faith to move beyond mere moralizing and melodrama. He dares us to think critically, to create truthfully, and to respond authentically to our complex twenty-first-century culture."--Craig Detweiler, codirector, Reel Spirituality, Fuller Theological Seminary

"This is a work of a passionate imagination and incisive intellect. Romanowski proposes a crisp approach to criticism that salutes poular culture and commends religious faith. His cheerleading for varied expressions of popular culture are sobered by advancing a Christian criticism that is not mired in mobilized moralisms but is spiced with theological themes. The cineplex and the sanctuary will both be blessed by paying critical attention to this important book. I thank William Romanowski for assisting us in seeing the connections between Stanley Kubrick and the Christian worldview."--Rev. Scott D. Young, founder, City of Angels Film Festival

"Romanowski has done it again. Thought provoking and true--a must read!"--Barry Landis, vice president/general manager, Atlantic Records

"In the tradition of C. S. Lewis and Francis Schaeffer, William Romanowski has articulated a deep theological perspective on culture and the popular arts. He urges Christians to love music and the movies as God would have us love them--not as passive consumers but as thoughtful critics who are wide awake and enthusiastically enjoying the whole of God's creation."--Scott Derrickson, screenwriter and director, The Exorcism of Emily Rose

The Author

  1. William D. Romanowski

    William D. Romanowski

    William D. Romanowski (PhD, Bowling Green State University) is Arthur H. DeKruyter Chair in Communication at Calvin University and speaks frequently on subjects dealing with American culture and the entertainment industry. He is the widely respected...

    Continue reading about William D. Romanowski


Praise for the revised and expanded edition:

"A revised, expanded edition of a standard best-selling survey of spirituality in the entertainment world. Here's a Christian perspective on the popular arts which lends well to any Christian library: a survey which blends theological analysis on culture and the arts with admonitions to Christians to find God in music, movies and popular culture. From aesthetic to religious experience, Eyes Wide Open is a winner, especially for college-level spirituality collections."--California Bookwatch

"This thorough expansion of [Eyes Wide Open] contains new examples and new insights, securing its status as the standard for classroom works on culture."--Steve Rabey, Youthworker Journal

"An easy reading volume on popular culture. While it is used as a college text, it offers a practical way to evaluate movies, music, and television programs. This book will increase your understanding of the world and will help you to address the culture in a pertinent way."--bookbargainsandpreviews.com

"The book has been thoroughly updated since its first printing in 2001, and resources, including an index and study questions, have been added. Each chapter is infused with references to, and often significant treatment of, recent controversies and additions to the pop culture landscape. . . . There is much here to recommend. [Romanowski's] nuanced and comprehensive treatment of the topic . . . provides plenty of rich fodder for a small group--and for all of us who consume culture like nobody's business (let alone Jesus')."--Laurel Rae Mathewson, Sojourners

"Romanowski has added additional material, clarified his arguments, and updated many of the illustrations to include more contemporary examples. Unlike some 'expanded' editions, this volume has actually undergone substantial revision, and Romanowski has added almost one hundred pages of additional material. . . . Romanowski's work has much to commend it. His critique of evangelical approaches to popular arts is insightful. . . . Romanowski has produced a valuable contribution to the ongoing debate about how Christians can best understand and interact with popular art. This volume convincingly argues for an approach to art that takes seriously both the artist's perspective and a Christian worldview. Additionally, it is written in an accessible manner without oversimplifying the often complicated arguments that surround discussion of appropriate Christian cultural engagement. This volume is easily recommended for undergraduate level classes, as well as for church people struggling to understand how to think about popular art from a Christian perspective."--Jacob Christian, Stone-Campbell Journal

"If [the] notion of watching movies in a uniquely Christian fashion is new to you . . . Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture remains the best introduction. . . . Every church library should have this book on hand; youth leaders, young adult ministries, college fellowship leaders, and anyone interested in the popular arts should own it. . . . This is an excellent study."--Byron Borger, heartsandmindsbooks.com

Praise for the first edition:

"Romanowski's scope is ambitious, including a theologically informed chapter on the nature of culture itself, to treatment of sex, violence and materialism, to a thoughtful exposition of the story structure of the typical Hollywood film. . . . This book will be an encouragement to evangelicals looking for an alternative to moralistic criticism of popular culture."--Publishers Weekly

"If you're a Christian artist, patron, or critic, Eyes Wide Open is for you. . . . It is part of Christian artists' cultural mandate to honestly address all topics within the context of their faith, Romanowski asserts, but without support from critics and patrons, the few brave enough to journey there with their art will likely wither. Hopefully Romanowski's book will open some eyes to this 'critical' deficiency."--Prism

"The book includes a thought-provoking examination of the Hollywood mythology that still permeates our culture and the cumulative effect of unrealistic approaches to complex problems of life. Nonetheless, pop culture can often provide a useful starting point for dialog. Romanowski feels that good popular art, effectively examined, is often more useful for Christian discussion that much self-consciously religious material. In support of his argument, he provides a good list of questions to apply to such analysis. A good book of its type; for public libraries."--C. Robert Nixon, Library Journal

"Christian books on popular culture usually fit one of two categories: artsy or preachy. The artsy ones are over my head and the preachy ones annoy me. Romanowski's book, however, avoids these categories and provides a terrific overview of culture, including a section on world view and how it affects our interaction with and understanding of what we view today. This book is a fine introduction to popular culture and features an excellent Web site that provides summaries and discussion questions of each chapter."--G. F., Youthworker

"Eyes Wide Open can be a conversation catalyst for Christians who care to interact redemptively with culture, and Romanowski surveys the landscape issues with insight and care."--CCM

"In Eyes Wide Open, parents, teens, teachers and pastors will discover a perspective on entertainment that includes a distinctly Christian worldview. Romanowski has provided the tools for Christians to begin to engage popular culture and will likely be successful in his quest to generate constructive criticism of contemporary media."--Christian Retailing

"Romanowski raises good questions about popular art and Christian participation in the arts. The author implores us to engage popular art, not simply to write it off as 'unChristian.' . . . The book seems firmly grounded theologically and doctrinally, encouraging us to examine popular art through a scriptural lens. . . . If you have a passion for the arts and a strong intellectual bend, this book is a must-read."--Moody

"Eyes Wide Open: Looking for God in Popular Culture is an easy-to-read, highly engaging guide for interpreting and evaluating popular culture from a Christian perspective and framework. . . . Informative, rewarding, insightful, and strongly recommended reading for parents, pastors, teachers, and teens."--Midwest Book Review

"Romanowski's main argument . . . holds true: Christians should think about what they ingest, expose entertainment's destructive messages, and hold up the positive aspects. Anyone seeking a cogent discussion on pop culture will love this book."--Group

"For any Christian consumer of pop culture, this is a fascinating book. After reading it, you may see your favorite film through new, more discerning eyes. It would also be an excellent resources for discussion-starters with older homeschoolers or young adult Sunday School classes."--L. Paige Cleverly, Crosspoint

"Eyes Wide Open
by William D. Romanowski is addressed to an Evangelical audience deeply suspicious of popular culture, but it is packed with keen observations for all kinds of readers. He writes that 'the entertainment media are more influential when other social institutions are weak.' He points out the popular art is often superficial because it is geared to a large audience. This can mislead us. For example, a survey showed that while Seinfeld ranked second in popularity among whites, it was only 54th with black audiences. Romanowski offers easy-to-read analyses of pop culture, with the goal of encouraging Christians to understand our culture and help make it better."--The Mennonite

Popular Culture and Christianity have a shaky relationship. . . . Author William Romanowski seeks to restore the relationship in Eyes Wide Open. He writes that in the same way missionaries use elements and symbols of a tribal culture to share the gospel in other countries, Christians can use the symbols and elements of pop culture to introduce Christian concepts to an increasingly unbelieving society. . . . Eyes Wide Open also provides some guidelines for critiquing moves, TV programs, and music to understand their worldview and message from a Christian point of view. Such criticism can be a stepping-stone to introducing Biblical topics in conversation as well as sharing the gospel."--World Christian

"Romanowski rightly wants Christians to consider movies and television programs as a whole rather than merely counting profanities and bullet holes. He gives his readers thought-provoking insights into the elements that drive popular culture and some handles for evaluating them. Especially helpful is an appendix in which he lays out important questions Christians should ask of any movie, program, CD, or play."--Journal of Evangelism and Missions

"William Romanowski has been one of the foremost evangelical writers on popular culture in the last ten years. . . . For those looking for a readable introduction to the issues associated with popular culture from a Christian perspective, and for some constructive advice on how Christians can interact with popular culture in a sane and thoughtful way, Romanowski's book is certainly a good place to start."--Zadok Perspectives Journal

"Eyes Wide Open
allows us the opportunity to discover what our response to popular culture is--condemnation, appropriation or consumption--or should be as Christians. Romanowski takes seriously the possibility that some expressions of popular art have serious application and comment on our lives. . . . A welcome resource for all."--St. Anthony Messenger

"Romanowski's Eyes Wide Open is the one book that offers Christian readers a critical and constructive perspective on the popular arts and culture."--Christian Week

"A comprehensive look at the relationship between Christianity and popular culture. . . . For those Christians who value popular culture as a resource for theological reflection, Eyes Wide Open is an important piece in the puzzle."--Circultrader Reviews, Online

"Romanowski provides the reader with a wealth of practical advice and insight regarding the implementation of Christian thinking into the various art forms. . . . Throughout the book, Romanowski uses appropriate illustrations from a wide-range of art forms to make his points. Artists and all who are interested in discerning art Biblically will find much thought-provoking material in this very practical volume."--Chalcedon Report

"Eyes Wide Open
offers Christians an artistic vision that avoids sentimental Christian art and morally bankrupt pop culture. Romanowski's introduction to Christian cultural criticism teaches discernment in our encounter with pop culture. I wish my friends and I could have read Eyes Wide Open ten years ago. We could have enjoyed rock music and movies without whole heartedly believing its message."--Culture is Not Optional online review

"Romanowski has done us a service by challenging us to examine a world that is here to stay and to assess it responsibly."--Christian Educators Journal

"In a very readable and engaging discourse, Romanowski undertakes a mammoth task. His book engages current attitudes and misconceptions among Christian audiences toward popular arts and culture and attempts to challenge that audience to evaluate and participate at a critical level. . . . Eyes Wide Open will be helpful in several different scenarios. If a church class is seriously dedicated to exploring an alternative paradigm for the evaluation of popular art, then this text will be of use. This text will also be helpful in a survey course, at an introductory level., to help students get an idea of the cultural landscape and what a 'Biblical map of reality' might look like. For the interested and curious, this text will challenge the prevailing passive model and teach how to {Look} for God in Popular Culture."--Jennifer Hamilton, Stone-Campbell Journal

"Provides a unique, evangelical perspective on the relationship between religion and popular culture that is meant to serve as a practical theological framework for laypeople. . . . Particularly beneficial because it provides practical step-by-step questions that can encourage proactive discussions. . . . The strength of this book lies in its presentation of an explicitly evangelical critique not voiced in other studies. . . . Romanowski provides a change of pace from the academic perspectives dominating this field of study and offers a unique point of view that merits attention."--Christopher Daryl Healea, Religious Studies Review

"This short book is 171 pages of useful wisdom. . . . Romanowski's subject is the popular arts and the Christian; his contribution would have to be among the most biblical and useful of the ever-advancing tide. . . . Read it with profit, and enjoy."--Adriaan Schepel, Reformed Theological Review