Monday, November 13, 2006

Jean Duchesne on Christian Cultural Renewal

I've already recorded Jean Duchesne's remarks on European Muslim Demographics. He also spoke eloquently about cultural penetration and the paucity of Christian creativity:
The problem for us, if we take for a moment a more realistic view, is not that what we believe is not said, because we [do] say it. The problem is rather why it is not heard. Is it not heard because, I would say, not enough people repeat it. And when I say people, this is absolutely accurate, because everything is not repeated enough. In other words, we do not have enough media power. When I say media, that does not mean television programs. That does not mean shouting[?] in the blogosphere. That means what can we do for other people, and under the cross, to reflect, to reclaim, what we know is the truth and the mystery of Christ. my opinion, the real question is how to make sure that the Christian vision of the world, the Christian ideals, are not only expressed directly, as a matter of personal testimony, but is really present, even if it half-explicit, even if it is downright implicit, in the works of art, the cinema, music, museums, etc. In other words, the culture has changed a lot, and my question is, what are we doing to use that culture?

We know already that our testimonies are both necessary and insufficient, and we also know that our traditional specific media, the Catholic media, are necessary and insufficient. The problem for us is to get out. This is not a question of good will, it is not a question of money, even, it is a question of creativity. And I think that praying for a renewing and the refining of the presence of the Christian mystery in today's culture, taking on the means it currently uses, prayers for that intention are perhaps a priority.

Duchesne's speculation that a lack of repetition might impede the progress of Christian belief reveals that in some sense Christian conversion and aedification is often the result of a habit. If true, the Christian message is being blocked out not only by willful sin, but also the white noise of commerical society, its Hericlitean flux of words, imagery, and ideas. When the phrase "Jesus saves" is outnumbered by phrases like "Jesus was a New Age hippie," "Jesus was a fine teacher," and "Jesus was killed for being a political revolutionary," the static obscures the signal. The falcon cannot hear the falconer.

The iconography en masse of our age induces habits at once hyperactive and superficial. It creates an antipathy towards contemplation and, in spite of the intense regimentation of modern life, renders ordered living most difficult. A habitual consideration of the person of Christ becomes even more arduous than it was in less saturated times.

Duchesne's analysis also suggests plenty of problems in the Evangelical Ghetto and its would-be Catholic imitations(this means you, LifeTeen). Rather than having, for instance, a coffee shop where Christian claims are implicit and taken for granted in the atmosphere, the current trend is to put up a microphone for the born-again yesterday, play subtlety-impaired Christian music, and tarnish the Lord's name by using it in your shop name and logo. Such derivative ventures suggest that the Christian imagination has been usurped by mere imitation.

Call it the mimetic captivity of the church. As Hank Hill noted, "Can't you see you're not making Christianity better, you're just making ________ worse?"

Don't start up a new coffee-shop or a rock band. Invent the next coffee-shop phenomenon or the newest innovative musical style. Create something beautiful for God and, like a good Catholic, baptize it in its infancy. Make secular people(like the megachurch-coveting Daily Kos) look enviously upon your cultural works and institutions. Render secular art the domain of inauthentic knock-off artists. Make certain non-Christians prissily sniff at the Christian subtexts, as some Christians now sniff at subtexts in the secular media even while admiring that media's artistic prowess.

Most of all, forget the Next Big Thing of the Moment. You should be too busy generating good ideas to notice.

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