CHAPTER ONE Religion and Pop Cultures: What Do Seekers Seek? Thomas G. Bandy There are many ways to define “pop culture,” but perhaps the most useful way to understand the phenomenon is through demographic research. This is certainly how corporate and public sectors do it. They are not particularly interested in theories or philosophies, nor do they want to spend much time analyzing historical trends and cultural conditions. They want “useful” information. What does a particular public want? How will it vote? What is it most likely to volunteer to do? How can profits be made from this information? How can this organization (political party, corpora- tion, nonprofit, social service agency, entertainment industry, or church) use this information to achieve its goals? Demographic research functions like progressive lenses in a microscope. Today this “microscope” is extraordinarily sophisticated. The power and detail of demographic search engines has increased exponentially in just the last 10 years. International corporations like Experian and Prizm gather and synthesize immense quantities of data from every survey and swipe of a credit card, providing detailed information for corporate retail, com- munity planning, social services, school boards, and all levels of govern- ment. Churches are only just starting to use this rich resource for church planning and planting.1 The largest and most general magnification is pure demographics (ana- lyzing age, gender, race, national origin, family status, occupation, income, debt, generosity, and so on). Only 20 years ago this was about all anyone
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