Posted on | February 20, 2013 | 10 Comments
The question of exactly how to re-engage the culture is a serious one, especially when approached from a Christian viewpoint. This is a political blog with a SoCon flavor that is neither hidden, nor preached like Jonathan Edwards. And yet, Jerry at Goldfish and Clowns issues “A Challenge to Conservatives” that tempts one to shift tone a bit, at least for a post (emphasis mine):
One of the more raging debate points these days within conservative new media is what exactly needs to be done as far as influencing popular culture. There is a general consensus that the right has abandoned the culture influencers — entertainment media, news media (insert obligatory “there’s a difference?” snark here) — in favor of either continuing to consume whatever is thrown its way by the aforementioned entities, regardless of how much it is slanted against they believe, or retreating behind a wall to create its own entertainment.
In both cases, it reinforces my belief that conservative new media is in the exact same position the contemporary Christian music industry was twenty to thirty years ago.
Last month this blog featured a poem, the first verse of which goes:
with exactly. . .zero engagement whether the metaphor was any good. So, rather than thumping a Bible, I’ll fall back to the secular Maslow’s Hierarchy for discussion. But before doing that, let us note: unless preaching to a choir, coming off as ‘preachy’ ends up as distracting, even to a friendly audience. Not because Jesus isn’t the Water of Life; rather, that water has been muddied masterfully in a secular context. So we opt for subliminal means.
Summarizing Maslow, you’ve got a body, a mind, and some ‘actualization’ (avoiding the use of ‘soul’).
Markets tend to the secular, and are purely a mind/body activity. Sure, the Left offers faux-actualization through smarmy memes: “I’m driving a Prius because I’m making a difference!” But really, we’re talking about the meat and the mind here. So how do we smuggle in a refreshment of the soul, which Christians know really means ‘revival’? Our target is a culture that is as barren as the Sinai where the Hebrews wandered for two generations and the second book of the Bible, Exodus. Jerry’s post notes:
there are conservatives doing their best to address the public through different channels — music, film, etc. These efforts ought to be rewarded, or at the least supported. Yet, what is taking place is that when one or more of these artists does work that is overtly political and conservative, the praise flows like a river. Should they step out of that into doing something of an outreach nature, the crickets come to call. Without a Buddy Holly in sight.
Why is this?
Why, indeed. First, the market is saturated. You can start listening to artists, and never repeat an thing, and also never run out of good material. And the barriers to market entry get lower every day for both goldfish and clowns. Thus, time, social media, and old-fashioned advertising are important filters to try to whittle down the ‘good stuff’. Confession: I don’t even listen to much contemporary music at all, much less Christian. It’s great that Christian music has gotten past the saccharine sweet stuff of the past, which always seemed so artificial and escapist. It didn’t offer much to the body or the mind, or any real actualization.
Here then is the acme of skill in any medium: to deal honestly with the darkness of life, in a way that edifies the mind, feeds that hunger for actualization, and in no way panders to the flesh. It’s easier to talk about it in terms of fiction. As a writer, I need to deal with the Evil That Men Do, but keep the grisly details off-stage, so that the moral impacts and repercussions drive the plot in a non-preachy way. Without glorifying the fact that dad got his leg over.
But wait: before we go on tour with our book or our band, we’re still talking about a secular world here. Should Christians even bother? How do we want to slice Matthew 28, the Great Commission? Should we be ascetic, or Amish, or mainstream? Take this blog, for example. Without doing any math, the percentage of posts that directly address faith is really, really low, totally overshadowed by the bikini posts. Are we pagan, for all that? Are we leading people astray? (We get a lot of that sort of feedback.) Are we a bunch of rationalizers for contending that we’re appreciating loveliness in a way that falls short of inappropriate, while simultaneously arguing against the Godbag Christofascist stereotype? Hint: it’s kind of ambiguous. The goal, as some frame it, is to be “in the world, but not of it.” In my Maslow framework, that means we are striving to edify the mind, and drive actualization. Is alluding to the flesh, instead of mortifying it, a tremendous problem?
Contrast the effort here in the blog to Progress, which has burned our secular culture like firewood for political power. Secular actualization should line up somewhere around liberty. The secular mind is educated in the public schools. Both stand thrashed. Progress is about reducing a free people to a herd. And some people engaged in the work of Progress lay claim to Christianity. Talk about hoodwinked.
Moving toward a conclusion, what do Christians do? Here I’m going to break the Maslow pretense and have he temerity to link a few places in the New Testament.
First, patience. Moses had to write off two generations in Sinai before the Israelites were ready. We have, at the high end, a bunch of deadbeat Boomers who’d beggar any number of generations in the name of me, me, me, and I. At the low end, the non-approach to societal continuity has stunted the growth of the Millennials. I’m not of the notion that, once raised in moochery, the human mind is incapable of growth. But we need to admit that the yield of mature, liberty-loving Americans from this bunch is going to be low.
Second, principles. We can vary all over the place in style, but the basic substance of our mission to nourish minds and drive actualization cannot be distracted by shiny things, “Beware lest any man spoil you through philosophy and vain deceit, after the tradition of men, after the rudiments of the world, and not after Christ” holds true now as ever. Because that’s very clearly been the case in this country since the Godless Commies arrived and started going after our Precious Bodily Fluids.
Third, panache. While being patient and adhering to principle, have some panache. As you are equipped. When inclined. Taking frequent breaks from engagement with the foe. That whole armor of God you put on wasn’t for just the parade, folks! In real life (where it matters) but also online, engage the culture. If your Twitter profile says ‘Christian’, you’re going to get some blowback. Return some cheerful, loving fire, in good taste. One of my favorite tacks is mocking the idolatrous view of government given to us as Progress.
My contention, to answer the mail on Jerry’s original question is: be yourselves. Let the sudden, surprising precipitation of results from the solution be a love note from God. Miracles are ferociously tricky to plan. Yet to the patient, who’ve abided in what’s good, and diligently sought to double their issue of talents, good things just seem to happen. The pagans call it ‘luck’.
Update: linked by That Mr. G Guy