iab-728x90

The Magazine of The Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

iab-728x90

The American religion

So what's the stir created by Regis Philbin and Who Wants to be a Millionaire? (left), the new TV game show that has captured Americans' imaginations?

 

"It's just the latest manifestation of our fascination with money as a religious object," says John Lyden, associate professor of religion at Dana College, Blair, Neb.

"Our cultural religion is related to money. Money is a spiritual commodity. In a consumerist society, having wealth is a mark of worth as a person. You're looked up to. It satisfies the quest for love and acceptance."

Lyden says popular culture often functions as a religion. It tells us how the world is, how we ought to live and offers a ritual structure that acts out its central story and values.

The contestants who offer their "final answer" to Regis "are role models ... heroes of the faith," Lynden argues. "[The simplicity of many of the questions reinforces] the American myth that anybody can do this. It's a '90s version of Horatio Alger."

Quentin Schultze, professor of communication at Calvin College, Grand Rapids, Mich., adds, "It says that American life is about luck and greed. With a little common sense — with luck and pluck — you, too, can succeed. My prediction is that we'll see more shows like this next fall, and they'll find a way to incorporate sexuality [into the program.]"

The Fox network has already created its nastier, more aggressive clone, Greed, which requires contestants to do each other in.


Comments



Print subscribers and supporting Web members may comment.

Log in or Subscribe to comment.

text size:

this page: email | print

iab-728x90
November issue

NOVEMBER issue:

The ELCA's aging clergy wave

More...