Liberal-minded observers tend to praise the smashing of taboos and the anything-goes extremism of pop culture. Conservatives tend to tut-tut about declining standards and moral relativism. What is missing from the landscape of cultural criticism is a sustained and thoughtful discussion about what popular culture has to teach us about ourselves—our values, our interests, and our hopes for the future—and the ways in which we might reclaim some space in popular culture for a discussion of things such as virtue and character. Popular culture tackles the full spectrum of human experience: birth, death, love, marriage, hatred, failure, and redemption. Although commentary on popular culture often focuses on the multitude of settings where virtue and character are absent, might it also be possible to create cultural settings that could encourage things such as thrift, compassion, and self-reliance?
PANIC SELLS: “Prudent Young People Can Still Live the Dream.”
The Post seems to be spinning this as one of those tragically diminishing American middle class stories: the country is falling apart, upward mobility is a myth, we are all going to be living on cat food and the millennial generation will be living in its parents’ garage until the parents lose their house in a foreclosure.
Oh — and there’s a social injustice angle: minorities and single women have a harder time staying in the middle class as American life gets inexorably worse. Uneducated people and drug addicts are also prone to slipping through the cracks and falling out of the middle class.
But turn that around and what do you get? A fairly simple recipe for staying in the middle class: Go to college, get married, stay married, steer clear of hard drugs.
Do those simple things and the odds are on your side. The keys to a financially successful life seem to be family, education, sobriety. Seems boring and obvious, doesn’t it? But it also suggests that American life isn’t quite as bad as the press wants to paint it.
HACK REPORTING: “Is Israeli archaeological site biblical kingdom of David?” That headline motivated me to watch CNN’s “Faces of Faith” segment below. But the segment itself was profoundly disappointing, from the moment the anchor described David’s kingdom as “legendary” to the hostile questioning of an Israeli archaeologist (whose look of exasperation at the reporter is priceless). Indeed, the headline is misleading. It makes the story sound like it’s about a city David ruled from, when the story itself simply talks about a city from that time period. About the only thing the story got right was pointing out that Israeli archaeology is a political football.
ETHICS & ABORTION: “Rawls’ Veil and Solomon’s Intuition Pump.”
What could [John] Rawls say to Solomon? What argument could he make that would save both his theory and a loved one?
The answer, of course, is that he cannot. Rawls own writings show that he was not able to hold position consistently. Rather than applying his own veil of ignorance to the question of abortion, Rawls added additional criteria that he believed must be considered: the due respect for human life, the ordered reproduction of the political society, and the equality of women as citizens with equal rights.
By adding these qualifications, Rawls undermined—indeed negated—his own theory of justice. If women are allowed the “right” to abortion, then they have an unnatural advantage, based on “the contingency of social circumstances,” over the unborn child. These women were allowed to be born, while the unborn child is not. There are, in the parlance of Rawls, given an unfair advantage in the initial status quo.
“Each person possesses an inviolability founded on justice that even the welfare of society as a whole cannot override,” said Rawls, “For this reason, justice . . . does not allow that the sacrifices imposed on a few are outweighed by the larger sum of advantages enjoyed by many.” Rawls was pro-abortion, which means that he really didn’t believe his own claims. No matter how he or his disciples try to split the baby, you can’t have both justice and abortion.
SERIOUSLY?!? “Flogging: The Best Hope for Our Broken Prison System?” The reviewer is skeptical of In Defense of Flogging, but he acknowledges that our system of incarceration is inhumane and needs massive reform.
GOD & COUNTRY: “9/11 and the paradox of Christian patriotism in America.”
Ten years after 9/11, the space for a constrained and critical Christian patriotism that is neither idolatrous nor contemptuous of the country of one’s earthly citizenship appears smaller than ever. But it is where we need to stake our claim under the lordship of Christ. The dangers of nationalist idolatry are clear; but so are the dangers of abdicating Christian civic responsibility.
9/11 & RELIGION: “Progressive clergy join controversy over excluding clergy at 9/11 event.” By criticizing conservative clergy, of course.
ALL THE VICTIMS? “Take a Walk on 9/11.” Bart Campolo states the goal of a 9/11 walk this way:
The goal of these walks is simple: to help people honor all the victims of 9/11 by walking and talking kindly with neighbors and strangers, in celebration of our common humanity and in defiance of fear, misunderstanding, and hatred [emphasis added].
The words “all the victims of 9/11” made me wonder who Campolo was talking about, so I went to 911Walks.org, which said:
Honor the countless victims of 9/11 and its aftermath with a simple act of hope and courage: Walk and talk kindly with neighbors and strangers, in celebration of our common humanity and in defiance of fear, misunderstanding and hatred [emphasis added].
Who are “all the victims” of “9/11 and its aftermath”? Does a 9/11 Walk commit the walker (implicitly) to a criticism of America’s military response to 9/11? And does it make sense to turn a national holiday into a de facto day of repentance, somewhat like using July 4th to commiserate with the British?
THE FEAR OF THE LORD: “God Scares Me.”
How do I know if I fear God?
I will love my neighbour to show my love of God. This love will make afraid of being cruel to His image in the people around me. I will treat the office workers as if they were Jesus to me.
I will read Scriptures with my whole heart and mind. I will honour Scriptures by asking them my best question and waiting to hear answers. When the truth is revealed to me, my love of Truth will motivate eager obedience to the new insights.
I will love God so much that the thought of missing His goodness, truth, and beauty will fill me with dread. I will pray for His grace and mercy at all times, because love takes nothing for granted.
WHAT THE KIDS ARE THINKING: “Gay Marriage Divides Evangelicals Along Generation Gap.”
WHAT IF PASTORS THREW AN ADVICE PARTY AND NOBODY CAME? “Catholics tuning out bishops’ voting guidelines.”
FROM MY MAGAZINE: “In the Splendor of His Holiness: Practical Guide for Public Worship” by Steve Phifer.