Improving Your Cultural Literacy
Thomas de Zengotita’s Mediated: How the Media Shapes Our World and the Way We Live in It (2006) assesses the impact of living in a media-immersed society by exploring the influence technology has on the relationships in American culture.
Sherry Turkle’s Alone Together: Why We Expect More from Technology and Less from Each Other (2011) explores how technology challenges the desire for community.
Likewise, Jake Halpern’s Fame-Junkies: America’s Favorite Addiction (2008) assesses the American obsession with achieving fame, cultural recognition, and its influence on society in general.
These books apprise us of the opportunities and challenges afforded by contemporary cultural trends.
Improving Your Contemporary Religious Literacy
How has Christianity fared in American culture over the past decades, and what is its trajectory in the near future? Ross Douthat’s Bad Religion: How We Became a Nation of Heretics (2012) documents the decline of Christianity’s influence in the United States, and its potential impact on American society.
Similarly, American Religion: Contemporary Trends (2013) by Mark Chaves shows that Americans regard themselves as religious and spiritual, but often overestimate the practice of their faith.
Robert J. Nash and Penny A. Bishop, in Teaching Adolescents Religious Literacy in a Post-9/11 World (2009), identify the essential knowledge necessary to make informed decisions in light of religion’s influence on American foreign policy and culture in this new era of international terrorism.
A trio of books by Stephen Prothero is available for those trying to better comprehend the role of Christianity and religion in contemporary American life: Religious Literacy: What Every American Needs to Know—and Doesn’t (2008), God Is Not One: The Eight Rival Religions that Run the World (2010), and American Jesus: How the Son of God Became a National Icon (2004). In these, Prothero captures and analyzes a significant amount of crucial information in a concise fashion.
Trying to understand contemporary expressions of the Christian faith among the millennial generation, or discern the direction of the contemporary Evangelical church? Thomas E. Bergler, in The Juvenilization of American Christianity (2012), describes their influence on worship and church life in the early 21st century.
Similarly, Kenda Creasy Dean, in Almost Christian: What the Faith of Our Teenagers Is Telling the American Church (2010), offers insight into the spiritual lives of millennial Christians, described as moral therapeutic deism, and the challenge it poses for the church.
Improving Your Biblical Literacy
As a product of the 2005 Biblical Literacy Project, Cullen Schippe and Chuck Stetson wrote The Bible and Its Influence: Student Text (2005), which emphasizes the essential biblical narratives that have had impact on literature, cinema, politics, and Western culture in general.
Similarly, Timothy Beal’s Biblical Literacy: The Essential Bible Stories Everyone Needs to Know (2009) provides a thorough guide to the Scriptures organized around familiar phrases and narratives, with a basic glossary of relevant terms to aid the reader.