Prophetically Incorrect

A Christian Introduction to Media Criticism

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"A cogent argument for the prophetic imagination. Part cultural critique and part classical devotional, Prophetically Incorrect strikes with keen and accurate insight."--Terry Lindvall, Virginia Wesleyan College
The Bible contains plenty of prophetic speech, but the title of "prophet" today is often used to describe those outside the biblical record: novelist Mark Twain, songwriter Bob Dylan, British poet William Blake, and legendary filmmaker Ingmar Bergman have each been dubbed a "prophet." However, there is little consensus about what the word "prophetic" means as it relates to communication. How does prophetic communication differ from prophecy? In a media-saturated age when many claim to speak for God, how can we evaluate the avalanche of supposedly prophetic speech? How can we communicate prophetically within a culture characterized by ideological division?

Prophetically Incorrect argues that we must understand the priestly role of media before focusing on the prophetic. Media confirm everyday cultural assumptions and help propagandize political and religious establishments on both the right and the left. Using vivid examples, this book offers Christian communicators an integrated theology of culture and a model of communication that equips them to create, critique, and consume popular media. It helps readers discern when to communicate prophetically and how to do so biblically and effectively. The book also provides practical suggestions for faithful communication and enables readers to think critically about communication technology.

This provocative book will be a valuable resource for communication and speech courses at Christian colleges and universities, pastors and other Christian communicators, journalists, and media critics.
Foreword: The Audacity of Prophetic Truth (Quentin J. Schultze, Calvin College)
Preface: The Moral Order (Clifford G. Christians, University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign)
Introduction: Prophetically Incorrect
1. Communicating Faithfully in a Culture of Ideological Division
2. Cultivating a Prophetic Voice
3. Becoming Burdened
4. Considering Humanity's Plight
5. Rejecting a Spirit of Acceptance
6. Shocking the Complacent
7. Promoting Prophetic Critique of Technology: A Case Study
Conclusion: Considering the Downs and Ups of Prophetic Media Criticism


"Woods and Patton take on a big theme, probe deeply and carefully, and require attentiveness from the reader. In the end the reader is summoned to engage, think, and decide. The authors are aware of the totalizing impact of the media in our culture, and offer a self-aware, prophetic critique of that pretense. They move easily between popular culture and prophetic tradition, doing so in a puckish, knowing manner that engages and delights. For the knowing reader, this prophetic foray echoes and replicates Jeremiah's savage truthfulness against the temple of his day; only now the temple exists in the liturgies of sitcoms, professional sports, advocacy news, and infomercials. The hunger for truth voiced here is an urgent one."--Walter Brueggemann, professor emeritus of Old Testament, Columbia Theological Seminary

"Prophetically Incorrect presents the radical possibility that a moral accounting is and always has been inescapably human. Social health and personal wellbeing keep it at the very center of entertainment, storytelling, and education. In turn, Woods and Patton offer a powerfully consistent argument that leads readers to ask--whether about U2 or Lady Gaga--what's the moral point? The authors' 'prophetic' angle is that moral claims are different from common first impressions or gut hunches. Clear-headed and intellectually competent, these authors want seats at the Cynics' Cafe, the Debate of the Disenchanted, and the Church Council--all of which will be challenged by their presence."--Mark Fackler, professor of communications, Calvin College

"A characteristic fault of prophets is that they are so damn clear, and I use that theologically explosive word intentionally, for prophets speak uneasy truth to a complacent world slipping into damnation. Authors Robert H. Woods and Paul D. Patton have crafted a cogent argument for the prophetic imagination. Part cultural critique and part classical devotional, Prophetically Incorrect strikes with keen and accurate insight and disturbs our tiny universes."--Terry Lindvall, C. S. Lewis Chair of Communication and Christian Thought, Virginia Wesleyan College

"As consumers and critics of the media, we must develop a prophetic voice, say Robert Woods and Paul Patton. This isn't a book for those who are given to knee-jerk reactions or bumper-sticker slogans. But for Christians willing to be courageously reflective, Prophetically Incorrect is a gem."--Em Griffin, professor emeritus of communication, Wheaton College; author, A First Look at Communication Theory

The Authors

  1. Robert H. Woods Jr.

    Robert H. Woods Jr.

    Robert H. Woods Jr. (PhD, JD, Regent University) is associate professor of communication at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan. He is the coauthor of a widely adopted communications textbook, Media Ethics: Cases and Moral Reasoning, and...

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  2. Paul D. Patton

    Paul D. Patton

    Paul D. Patton (PhD, Regent University) is associate professor of communication at Spring Arbor University in Spring Arbor, Michigan. He is a contributing author to Understanding Evangelical Media and is an accomplished playwright, actor, and director.

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"A very clear, easy-to-read guide to media criticism that appropriately warns against the 'preach to the choir' pitfalls that can befall the prophetic work of contemporary Christians. Throughout, I felt, 'this would be a great book for my freshman self,' and I am likely to pass the book along to students of all ages who are just now becoming conscious of critically engaging with media and mediums, which Woods and Patton rightfully point out, is all the time. . . . What Woods and Patton offer is truly an introduction to prophetic media criticism and it accomplishes its goal well."--Ragan Sutterfield, Englewood Review of Books

"This [book] includes some pretty serious prophetic imagination. . . . With close readings of pop icons like Lady Gaga and serious biblical vision, [it] offers us important guidance in learning the art of cultural criticism, with no glib answers or simplistic reactions. Excellent!"--Byron Borger,

"There's a simplistic version of Christian media criticism that says to shut off the TV at the first sign of sex, violence, or profanity. And then there's actual media criticism: active, engaged, intelligent, non-partisan, the kind described in the excellent new book Prophetically Incorrect. . . . The authors give us a broad range of critical tools for evaluating the form and content of the media we watch and participate in. . . . Whether you're a daily-download teenager, a parent who wants to help the kids make good media choices, or a pastor trying to lead the congregation in uncharted media waters, this is a book that has plenty to offer. I recommend it very highly."--Kurt Armstrong, ChristianWeek

"The book is best suited for an undergrad classroom or a small group. . . . The book is organized well; clearly stated previews and summaries characterize each chapter, and there is a logical flow throughout. . . . The book is a good challenge to all Christians that we are not only a part of the 'priesthood of all believers, but the prophethood of all believers as well.' It is a good introduction for those who have not given much thought to how we, as Christians, can be in, but not of, this world."--Brandon Cash, Journal of the Evangelical Homiletics Society