Step one: reject politics in favor of culture. Step two: ????

Step three: Beauty saves the world!

I find this perennial article frustrating because it accurately identifies a problem but it’s written as if it’s also identified a solution. It’s super easy to say, “Turn from culture-war to culture-creation!” and stop there. So let’s take this article as the opening move, and go on to make three further points.

1. One reason some of the examples in the article don’t seem to point to any practical action is that there are major barriers to culture-creation on the scale this guy is talking about. “We should have faithful, orthodox Catholic characters on TV who get the depth of the gay characters on Modern Family,” is not a useful thing to say to the readers of First Things. I mean what am I to do with that? I think there are places we can start, see point #3, but your readers can’t change the culture when they’re not the gatekeepers in the area you’re talking about. The solution is not to just accept the status quo but to look for different pathways and talk about those instead.

2. The author lists very few examples of people doing what he wants. The fourth commenter (Miguel) makes a much stronger effort. I would read a whole article that was just an expanded version of that list!

Tell us about artists and writers we may have overlooked. Here, have some praise for Kathy Shaidle, Tim Powers, and various musicians. Tell us about Kickstarter projects we could help. I was a Riot Grrrl and I totally believe that if you don’t like the news you should make your own, but… at least give us “This is a chord/This is another chord/Now start a band”! (Or do this!)

3. Are there structures already in place which could bring greater beauty to Christian culture in this country? One obvious place is college chaplaincies. The Catholic chaplaincy at Yale holds occasional art shows. Why not poster Thomas a Kempis’s hymn to Christ crucified around campus? Why not do a Tallis flash mob? We think of college chaplaincies as places where you do Bible study, make sandwiches for the homeless, go to Mass, and many other terrific things, but we don’t typically think of these as places where you encounter beauty, especially in contexts other than the liturgy.

These are just a few thoughts, a few places to begin. Now it’s your turn to add more!

[this post was lightly edited so I whined less!]

About Eve Tushnet

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