Many Christians remain on the defensive in response to the culture around them, pointing out dangers and condemning anything that makes us uncomfortable. We find warning and condemnation to be a valid position, but not a valid default position. In order to demonstrate an alternative, we thought we’d demonstrate what it’s like to give popular culture the benefit of the doubt.All this week, the writers at Christ and Pop Culture will be playing the role of evangelist for some of the things we’re most excited about this year.
We’re not exactly recommending these things. Christians have different weaknesses and convictions, not to mention the unfinished or unrevealed nature of the concepts, releases, and artifacts we’re discussing. Nonetheless, this week we humbly present to you, the reader, a list of trends, films, television shows, albums, games, and books that we think you should give a chance.
You probably do not spend much of your time interacting with the political world. After all, while politics provides the larger framework for our societal structure, the vast majority of your activities are well within the legal boundaries as defined by government. And really, how could minor alterations on immigration policy be nearly so exciting as the prospect of a considerably more interactive video game?
The thing is, government has more to do with culture than you realize. It is the sphere in which we, as citizens, try to move forward together. It defines how the organizations that provide your pop culture entertainment can and cannot act. Often, it expands or limits your opportunities and challenges.
So, here are my top 3 political issues to watch for in 2009.
President Obama: Pragmatist or Idealist?
2008 was defined by arguments about who would make a better president. There will be none of that this year, but arguments will continue. Is Obama a President who does what is best, or what is most satisfying to his party?
One of the most accurate charges against President Bush was that he sacrificed the best solutions for the sake of building his party base. So far, Obama has seemed to carry out his promise of pragmatic governance, appointing (relative) moderates and disagreeing with his own party leaders on how to handle various aspects of the Bush legacy. At the same time, he has not yet begun to take on major issues in relation to abortion, including the possibility of the FOCA or appointment of Supreme Court Justices. Whether he turns out to be a pragmatic administrator or a raving ideologue (or a little of both!) will be a key question to be answered this year.
The Soul of the Republican Party
Were we in a parliamentary system, Republicans would clearly be a coalition rather than a unified party. Key groups include social conservatives, hawkish neo-cons, the business and financial community, Ron Paul libertarians (whoops, sorry The Dane), and odd combinations of the above. In a post-Bush world, these groups have a lot to work out.
For instance, Sarah Palin is clearly attempting to vindicate herself in preparation for future leadership of the party. However, she will be challenged by people with very different values and approaches: Tim Pawlenty, Ron Paul, Bobby Jindal, and spokesmen like Rush Limbaugh or Newt Gingrich. In fact, right now the party would not even be able to agree on ideological leaders, much less political leaders. The shape of this debate, and its resulting leaders and party platform, will likely define the party for the next 12-16 years. Pay attention!
What Have You Done For Me… Locally?
The economic challenges (which are probably THE issue in 2009, though I wouldn’t call them political) will affect us in many ways. But I think one of the most interesting and exciting changes it will bring is massive focus and improvement on building healthy local communities.
There are two reasons for this. First, people are staying home. Because they cannot afford to travel, they will spend more time doing things locally- local restaurants, local theaters, local attractions. As a result, businesses will find that rather than focus on a few key locations, there is an incentive to spread out to less dense communities.
So, we should begin to see increasingly creative and interesting businesses moving into less centralized locations, making individual communities more interesting.
Second, local governments are running out of money fast. To improve the value of their tax base, they need to attract healthy businesses and rich(er) residents. In that interest they will be both quicker and wiser (because they will focus on proven best-solutions rather than personal preferences) in upgrading their communities.
After all, let’s say you are making decent money and are choosing between two suburbs. If the homes and safety levels are about the same, what might tip you in one direction is the quality of the downtown. In the past local governments could afford to ignore this minor competitive advantage, but no longer.
I believe you will also see increasing creativity in non-physical products for local communities. A good example is Kalamazoo, Michigan. There, local businesses have come together to guarantee free college for any students who stay in Kalamazoo for a certain number of years, graduate, and attend a state college. They do this knowing that the more middle-class families they attract, the better their business will be overall.
Will the economic tough times actually be a massive boon for the enjoyment of your local community? Time will tell, but I’m looking forward to finding out.
Dishonorable Mention: Let’s just say it honestly. Democrats controlling the White House, the Senate, the House of Representatives, and most of the governorships? Friends, your taxes are about to go up.
Whatever happens, it will be an exciting new era in politics.