Engaging in Culture the Right Way


Engaging in Culture the Right Way
By Eric Metaxas
Christian Post Guest Columnist
January 9, 2013|8:35 am

This is why conservative Christians need to be wary of engaging in cultural efforts just to push a message. As Wainer reminds us, “Jon Stewart knows comedy in his bones; he happens to be liberal . . . but he mainly wants to make people laugh. When conservatives start telling stories to express their ideology, they have missed the motive that will sustain them through the years of … setbacks common to anyone in the entertainment industry.” And audiences will know the difference-and stay away.

Christians produced great art and culture for centuries, and we can do it again. But there are no shortcuts. The church needs to teach its members a strong and consistent Christian worldview, and then support and encourage those with artistic gifts to pursue their calling.

Please, come to BreakPoint.org and read Alex Wainer’s article, “Creating a Conservative Counterculture: Harder than it sounds.”

Re-shaping the culture is a noble goal. But our first goal should be to be so soaked in the Christian faith and worldview that the stories we tell-and the lives we live-will naturally speak of the beauty, and goodness and love of Christ.

I wish Metaxas had taken this thoughtful piece a little further. One (or maybe two) major reason Lewis’s Narnia and Tolkien’s Middle Earth are successful is that the author’s Christian values are woven into the worlds they created as locations for their stories. The reason so many of Hollyweird’s preachy epics - “anti-war”, anti-business, anti-Christian, etc., isn’t just that their messages have been rejected, but that the movies were lectures rather than stories. Even a preachment like All Quiet On The Western Front works because the author, Remarque, tells a story well and creates characters who are people readers will care about and/or relate to. Story-crafting is work; hectoring lectures are easier.


Good points, Pete.

I think, in following the progression of your links, the salient point remains that for a more traditional culture to be enjoyed on the same levels of popularity as the current (pop) culture is, there has to be an understanding of what that culture is and what it represents. And to understand that, one must understand the differences between conservatism and liberalism. Liberalism has one principle advantage and that is its appeal to the young, and their thirst for change, rebellion, and reactionary impulses to the culture of their parents. Conservatism has the advantage of parenting, though parenting has increasingly become divorced from conservatism. That may be the crux of the issue. And that leads us to the far too little known Russell Kirk and his tenets of conservatism, which one may note are first cultural and only then political, and they are based upon the Burkean view of conservatism in contradistinction to the prevailing libertarian views of conservatism.

Kirk defines them quite ably and while I’ll only list his ten principles in outline form, the link below fleshes them out a bit more, if only enough to whet the appetite for further research.

First, the conservative believes that there exists an enduring moral order. That order is made for man, and man is made for it: human nature is a constant, and moral truths are permanent.

Second, the conservative adheres to custom, convention, and continuity.

Third, conservatives believe in what may be called the principle of prescription. Conservatives sense that modern people are dwarfs on the shoulders of giants, able to see farther than their ancestors only because of the great stature of those who have preceded us in time.

Fourth, conservatives are guided by their principle of prudence. Burke agrees with Plato that in the statesman, prudence is chief among virtues. Any public measure ought to be judged by its probable long-run consequences, not merely by temporary advantage or popularity.

Fifth, conservatives pay attention to the principle of variety. They feel affection for the proliferating intricacy of long-established social institutions and modes of life, as distinguished from the narrowing uniformity and deadening egalitarianism of radical systems.

Sixth, conservatives are chastened by their principle of imperfectability. Human nature suffers irremediably from certain grave faults, the conservatives know. Man being imperfect, no perfect social order ever can be created.

Seventh, conservatives are persuaded that freedom and property are closely linked.

Eighth, conservatives uphold voluntary community, quite as they oppose involuntary collectivism.

Ninth, the conservative perceives the need for prudent restraints upon power and upon human passions.

Tenth, the thinking conservative understands that permanence and change must be recognized and reconciled in a vigorous society.

The full article here: http://www.imaginativeconservative.org/p/by-russell-kirk-being-neither-religion.html#.UN7c17agpXt

Any effective efforts will have to arise from a set of principles and practices among professing conservatives that begin with culture, not politics. Moving beyond knee-jerk reactions and bumper-sticker slogans means rediscovering the philosophical sources of conservatism. A good place to start would be a look at the tenets of classic conservatism as articulated by Russell Kirk. These 12 Principles, studied and meditated upon, might bring some necessary soul-searching as to what we mean by conservatism. It’s more than a political platform: It’s an attitude of mind, a way at looking at everything. It includes the nourishment that faith brings to the way we conduct our affairs, both locally and on a broader scale. It is out of these deep currents that conservatism must express any cultural efforts.
http://www.breakpoint.org/features-columns/articles/entry/12/21128 (note; the author misstates 12 Principles)

Most people come to conservatism organically. If children are not exposed to the competing orthodoxies to common pop culture, they will be well into adulthood before, if ever, they are. We have a choice as to what culture we expose, even irradiate, our children within, and not choosing is to make just as much a choice as actively choosing, for the waters of popular culture are wide, if not deep. For our sins, we tend to raise what we ourselves are. If we feel no compunction to raise our children within a certain canon of thought, we’ll accept the results of the culture produced, and the political consequences inherent in politics following culture.

The author is correct on “engaging in cultural efforts just to push a message”. If the correct culture is presented, the message tags along, organically. Lewis’ Narnia series is indeed a good example of that. More importantly, the series has never gone out of print. Tolkein is as popular as ever. Turn on the television and the movies you’ll see run over and over again, by people in the business of making a buck off them, involve some type of moral story. Presumably, those network execs know what gets watched. One may quibble about the messages in, say, The Shawshank Redemption, but it’s less far less a prison escape movie than one long morality play. The quality of the fare may vary, but there appears no less thirst for books and movies with a strong moral component, and those that have it seem to endure.


An interesting list. It’s interesting that the, “Yeah, but’s,” I had with the second and third form (i.e. are counter-balanced by) the fifth and sixth. The first and sixth seem strongly rooted in Christianity (and possibly Judaism), even if Christ (and Moses) is not mentioned. The ninth is at the crux of the ongoing tension between many conservatives (who may insufficiently distrust government power) and libertarians (who may insufficiently distrust human nature when left to itself). Re the tenth, this is the real-world balance most conservatives recognize and that many liberals don’t/won’t acknowledge as part of conservatism.