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Assignment #1

  01/13/14 , by Dissidens, Categories: Uncategorized


I have been watching closely, and apparently Evangelicals did not receive the Gift of Silence for Christmas.

And this might be my fault.

There are several reasons Santa may not have honored my request as I’d hoped he would.  It’s possible I was not a good boy in A.D. 2013—it’s a remote possibility, but I list it as at least a theoretical one. It’s possible Santa does not grant wishes he receives only 7 days before Christmas, and that would make the ongoing Evangelical nuisance partly my responsibility, and for that I apologize. It’s possible there is no Santa at all and my request, though reasonable, could not be granted.

But I couldn’t help notice that Evangelicals are still talking nonsense.

Trevin Wax tells us he “grew up in a fundamentalist environment”, but that seems highly unlikely. (I mean really! why do some writers put such outrageous claims in their lead sentence? Is this their idea of a hook?) As I read what he writes, I suspect Trevin hasn’t grown up at all. He may well have found himself at one time or another in a Fundamentalist environment, but I think it implausible he matured there.

Trevin says he was baptized in a church which taught that not attending a movie theater was a bulwark against worldliness. Perhaps that’s true, but I suspect this is a caricature. St. Augustine opposed the theater as did Tertullian and Blaise Pascal, and I’m reasonably sure none of those guys was a Fundamentalist. Many other church fathers often spoke against the theater and many of them wore their hair over their ears and they wore great, unpruned beards, so we know they could not have been Fundamentalists.

(Also makes one wonder which church Trevin was actually baptized into.)

Here again we see the Fundamentalist’s contribution to church history. All sorts of churchmen opposed the theater, women preachers, playing games of chance, divorce…but all it takes for Evangelicals to excuse themselves from the measured judgment of earlier saints is to attribute unwanted proscriptions to Fundamentalists.

But I do suggest you read Dr. Wax’s incredibly unthoughtful post and jot down a few notes for your reflection the next time you take the train into the big city or while you’re out walking your poodle. (I think your time would also be well spent in reading the comments below Dr. Wax’s mental spasm: that way you will get a sense not only of the writer’s confusion but the readers’ subsequent goose chase.)

What light does this piece—and its reaction—shed on “cultural engagement”?



8 comments

Comment from: Brad Kelly [Member]  

Oh I think it is very helpful. Now we know that there is a line! I think it is incumbent upon Hollywood now to start making movies with one less sex scene and F-bomb until we can find out exactly where that line is.

But there is a line!

01/15/14 @ 04:39
Comment from: Dissidens [Member]  

There aren’t many people whose giftedness in line-drawing is more suspect than Evangelicals. So I have pursued some clarification on this point with Mr. Wax himself.

I think it is fair to say I am living in a constant state of high suspense.

Mr. Wax:

I am trying to make just a tiny bit of sense out of what you wrote in Evangelicals and Hollywood Muck.

You seem to recognize that a pursuit of holiness is essential to the Christian life, but you also claim to believe that “our pursuit of holiness must be the mark against which our pursuit of cultural engagement is measured”.

Swell.

If it is possible for you to do so, please try to make this a rational discussion by defining what you mean by “cultural engagement”. Specifically, what is your definition of the word culture? You certainly are free to go dumpster-diving in Hollywood if that is what is in your heart to do, but please don’t pretend to instruct us by hiding behind empty, trendy phrases. If it helps to focus your mind, please consider a hypothetical Amish man doing “cultural engagement” in Sodom; and with that image in your mind, please define culture and cultural engagement for me.


Gratefully,

01/15/14 @ 07:53
Comment from: the_divine_passive [Member]  

Evangelicalism just got engaged to the culture?!

I had every reason to think they’d been married for a long time.

01/17/14 @ 09:15
Comment from: Dissidens [Member]  

divine passive:

Yes, that is a very telling confusion, and that’s why I demand a definition from these people.

The Civil War depleted the supplies of beef in the South. Texas Longhorn host a disease-carrying tick which kills other local species, so Missouri prohibited driving Texas beef over their state line. Cattle in Texas went for $4 a head but could be sold in New York for $50 a head, so an awful lot of ranchers thought that in the short run, until they could breed a ten-headed cow, selling one-headed cows to Northerners showed greater promise of success. Thus you had the famous Chisholm Trail.

Ft. Worth was a major stop on the Trail and many cowboys saw Ft. Worth as their last chance for a good time before crossing the Indian territories of Oklahoma. Ft. Worth was your last chance to enjoy girls and adult beverages, and you could play cards (for a little money just to make it interesting) in what was called Hell’s Half Acre.

J. Frank Norris learned that local merchants were getting rich in Hell’s Half Acre and he used his pulpit to name those bad men who profited when bad things happened to good people.

I think it is fair to say that J. Frank was engaging his culture. I think the Crusaders were engaging their culture. I think the Inquisition was an attempt to engage culture. Evangelicals think that watching smut is engaging culture. Trevin Wax thinks there should be a limit to the amount of smut we require to engage culture.

I think now is not too late to start talking some sense about culture and how one engages it. It might be too late for Trevin and Gospel Coalition readers, but maybe not too late for our kids.

01/17/14 @ 11:08
Comment from: the_divine_passive [Member]  

Funny: someone at the Gospel Corporation cited one of Augustine’s rhapsodies from the Confessions for the herd. I made a comment that I’d be interested in hearing some searching analysis of Book Three, Chapter II. My comment failed to make it past moderation. It was an honest request!

http://thegospelcoalition.org/blogs/justintaylor/2014/02/01/if-this-quote-doesnt-convince-you-to-read-augustine-perhaps-nothing-will/?comments#comments#comment-151700

02/01/14 @ 14:55
Comment from: Dissidens [Member]  

Interesting.

It looks like your query surfaced just today, noonish. Can’t wait to see the response.

02/01/14 @ 17:33
Comment from: sasquatch_blanco [Member]  

Dissidens,

I would very much like to read your definition of culture.

02/01/14 @ 18:06
Comment from: Dissidens [Member]  

There are several definitions of the word, all of them acceptable when used properly. I made some distinction for our readers here.

Given the context of your question, the relevant definition I think you are looking for is this:

A culture consists of all those activities and artifacts which are organized by the ‘common pursuit of true judgment,’ as T. S. Eliot once put it. And true judgment involves the search for meaning through the reflective encounter with things made, composed, and written, with such an end in view. Some of those things will be works of art, addressed to the aesthetic interest; others will be discursive works of history or philosophy, addressed to the interest in ideas. Both kinds of work explore the meaning of the world and the life of society. And the purpose of both is to stimulate the judgments through which we understand each other and ourselves.

02/01/14 @ 20:04

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