Friday, April 13, 2007


A quick excursion into modern pop culture and a bit of my politically conservative side to show! Hopefully, you'll see the connection to my thoughts about the Church.

I am sure everyone has heard the recent dust up among the chattering class here in America about the horrendous comments made by Don Imus on his daily morning show. No justification at all for comments that are made about innocent young women who had achieved some wonderful goals in their college basketball career! None, whatsoever.

Having said that, let me also add that at the very same time no one who has any familiarity with Don Imus and the shtick this guy has done for the past 30 years on his daily radio program should even remotely act surprised by his acerbic language.

Whether Imus should or shouldn't have been fired from his job really isn't the issue. A company has a right to terminate an employee for cause. There can be a discussion about whether the punishment fits the crime or not and that is a fine conversation, but I believe there are bigger issues here.

First, the culture has coarsened to the breaking point. While Imus' words were hurtful and crass, much worse is heard every day by young men and women on any hip hop radio station in America. But beyond the morally bankrupt hip hop culture, modern day society has continued to forfeit its sense of propriety on every level. That being the case, both the Left and the Right in this country are all too tempted by the shallow and hollow notion that a government law would fix this moral decay. It won't. It never has. It never will.

There is only one answer to moral decay and that is a vibrant witness by the Church. Period. Full stop. End of discussion. While some legislation may enshrine the intentions of a community, the heart of man will never be healed by statute. It is the leavening influence of the Church that heals a society. Hence, a weak witness by the Church precipitates a decline in culture.

Second, the culture has become too childish and feminized. I know this can be seen as incendiary language, and part of me wishes to go even further, but there has been a trend in this country over the last several decades that has enshrined "feelings" as the ultimate test of right and wrong. Where is the robust ability to maturely engage in frank and forthright talk with one another that doesn't devolve into someone accusing another of "hate speech" when all that has happened is a disagreement?

This is not to denigrate the positive influence of the feminine to soften and mediate the sometimes crude behavior of the masculine. But when the pendulum swings too far one way we get a culture so sensitized against having their "feelings hurt" that we weaken the soul of people to stand in the sometimes harsh reality of truth. Hence, they mistake truth for hate. This is a recipe for social disaster.

It also leads to the very childish behavior we see in modern young people. This perpetual emotional kindergarten never allows our young people to develop the mature skills and abilities of rhetoric and discerning thought. Life is reduced to what makes me "feel good" and that is also a recipe for social disaster. Even though the point of higher education was meant to give our young people these skills, the intellectual apartheid that exists in modern American institutions of higher learning trend toward indoctrination rather than critical thought.

Finally, our society is always a vast experiment. Can freedom really sustain itself without falling into the traps of either the dictatorship of the Left or Right? I believe we stand as a society at one of those defining moments in our history. Being confronted by the specter of radicalized Islam without and the weak and elitist socialism of the powerful within, we average Americans, and more importantly, we people of Faith, are confronted with the challenge to actually live out our faith in such a way that preserves righteousness and dignity and freedom. We will loose all of these if we remain silent and passive.


Anonymous said...

You seem to say that the only two options for fixing the coarsening of culture (I agree it's gotten coarser while solutions have gotten weaker -- more "feminine," using your word) are either governmental or religious intervention. This limits severely possible reactions to what you wrote as childish behavior in modern young people. I tend to call this a sort of perpetual adolescence (particularly fitting when you watch what celebrities do -- inasmuch as young people emulate celebrity culture, I don't want to get into right now). If you see higher learning trending toward indoctrination rather than critical thought, how easy for me to ask back to you: will a "vibrant witness by the Church" trend toward indoctrination or critical thought?

I posit that the biggest problem with "young people" is a lack of parenting. Every time I hear of some new after-school homework program paid for by the state, I wonder where the parents are. You could easily tell me that if I'm wondering about parents, the next step is to wonder what influences the parents are under and if those were from the Church, surely they'd be at home with their children doing homework... but I don't think it's that easy. The church should be a good influence, of course, but the way parishioners metabolize the teachings of the church can't be controlled. Some only go to be seen, for instance, so the "critical thought" you must think comes with participation in church, in this instance, is only vacant indoctrination. And no good to the kids, really, either. Maybe you meant something more potent with the choice of "vibrant," as if to say "not by rote."

As for the crimes involving "hate speech," the laws which protect certain classes of people are there with good intention. It's simply social order, but still on this side of legislating who you have to get along with/ not make fun of. I think we agree with the notion that any debate/ argument which falls into personal attacks (no matter how mild) has already finished. "Hate speech" usually has to involve a kind of physical act in order to trigger more severe sentencing of that act. The problem is (as I see it, anyway) I can convict you of leaving your victim in a coma and THEN I can basically convict you of calling him a really horrible name which refers to his race, religion or percieved sexual orientation while you acted to put him in a coma. I happen to think we've got a problem in there with double jeopardy but I haven't read enough on this to state that with any force.

"Can freedom really sustain itself..." Sure. America is a pendulum and it can be maddening for sure. There are more problems than radicalized Islam outside our borders and there is little threat of "elitist socialism" taking over inside the borders. Not enough money in it for the top 1%. As for the louder majority, if anyone hates what Walter Reed's after-care had disintegrated to, well... congratulations, you don't like socialized medicine.

Barnabas Powell said...


Well, I would suggest that better parenting IS part of a vibrant witness of the Church.

Far from indoctrination, I envision a vibrant witness of the Church entailing mature Christian behavior over a simple intellectual or cerebral theological declaration.

Orthodoxy declares that a theologian is one who prays, so doing the faith is much more than simply thinking about it.

In my opinion there is simply no alternative robust enough to affect cultural redemption outside of the lived-out theology of the Orthodox Christian faith.