We talk about engaging or changing the culture. Carl R. Trueman says that this is beside the point: We have no culture. All we have is an anti-culture. And it is presided over by an “Unholy Trinity”: The entertainment industry, big business, and our legal institutions.
From Carl R. Trueman, The Rise of the Anti-Culture | First Things:
Is the culture war over? Or, to use less martial language, is Christian cultural engagement at an end? At the risk of depriving a rapidly shrinking handful of old-school Republicans and countless trendy Christian blog pundits of their reason to exist, I believe the answer is yes. It is over. For to engage a culture there must first be a culture to engage. And, as the ever-incisive Anthony Esolen has pointed out on numerous occasions we no longer have a culture. What we really have is an anti-culture.
Of course, for those saps who use the word ‘culture’ but really mean ‘pop culture’ and therefore assume that a posturing Lady Gaga or the ‘artistic contributions’ of some slack-jawed twenty-something with ill-fitting trousers, a pair of over-priced sneakers, and a recording contract qualify as examples of such, then yes, we do still have culture of a sort. But if we define it as the elaborate structures and materials built in to the very fabric of society for the refinement and transmission of its beliefs and its forms of life from generation to generation, connecting past, present, and future, then we really have none. None at all. From elite critical theory in the lecture theaters of the Ivy Leagues to the rampant epidemic of pornography on so many computer screens, we live in world that seeks to detach and isolate the present from any accountability to past or future. Ours is the era ofthe sempiternal orgiast, the true hero of our time.
Some may push back against this. We are a democracy, after all, and do our democratic institutions not form something of a cultural core for our world? No. Not any more. The mere existence of a cultural artifact from a previous era does not imply that it is itself significant for the present culture in which it occurs. Thus democracy still exists—we thankfully still live in a democracy—but it is clear that we no longer have a democratic culture. The collaborative interplay of the Unholy Trinity of the entertainment industry, big business, and legal institutions has ensured that the most important decisions of our day, those which set the moral boundaries or our civilization, those Rieffian interdicts which frame our forms of life, are no longer significantly shaped by our democratic institutions. They are controlled by others, not by the people. Our democratic culture is dead.
Look at what happened in Indiana or at what is being pressed in North Carolina. The will of the Boss aspires to carry more weight than the will of the people. Compared to the sovereign decrees of the Unholy Trinity, the calls for a grass roots boycott of Target look desperately insipid, and even the Presidential election seems like a farcical sideshow. And notice what all this indicates about the myriad mediating structures of our world. Schools, libraries, churches, sports clubs, the Boy Scouts etc. all sit under the shadow of increasingly intrusive and prescriptive legislation driven by the imperious demands of the present. Such groups do not really participate in creating culture anymore. They have merely to conform with what the Unholy Trinity decrees in its infinite wisdom or face inevitable and merciless annihilation.
Be sure also to read the Anthony Esolen article he links to.