‘God is a woman’: What does pop theology teach us about word, image, ritual and religion today?

Stephanie MacGillivray discusses how the language and images used in popular music can challenge us to think about Christian ritual in new ways.

‘Often, the authors and creators of utopias lift ideas from one context (such as philosophy or political theory) and play with them in another (such as a fiction; novel, story, or film). This act of transposition (in which ideas are shifted into a new space for consideration) often provokes a reflection of deep and difficult questions.’1
Several years ago, this quote from Dr Lucy Sargisson prompted me to write my Musicology dissertation on societal utopias created and explored through music. Here I will revisit this concept, arguing that popular musicians ‘transpose’ theological language, images and rituals into their works in order to reflect and ask ‘deep and difficult questions’ about God and religion.

In this article I assume that both as individuals and as a society we are always working towards a ‘utopian ideal’ or goal. However, acknowledging the unattainability of traditional utopian ideals, I will follow Tom Moylan’s terminology of ‘critical utopia’.2 This understands utopia as ‘both an attitude and a method’.3 According to Sargisson, this is ‘the dual function of utopian thought which, historically, has offered simultaneous political criticism and the creation of something new’.4 In other words, to truly make progress towards an ideal or goal, we must reflect upon and come to a critical understanding of our current situation while simultaneously actively working towards the creation of a new or improved reality.

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