I have said on more than one occasion that if the America that we were so blessed to have passed to us should die before we can officially pass it on to our children, our epitaph would read “Here lies the greatest country ever conceived, killed by Political Correctness.” Today I’m wondering whether it was the other PC that actually pulled the trigger. No, today I’m convinced that we would never have been foolish enough to silence ourselves with political correctness, if we hadn’t completely lobotomized ourselves with pop culture beforehand!
This past week we lost one of my childhood heroes, Glenn Frey, founder of the Eagles. It was the Eagles’ Greatest Hits that accompanied me on my 1,700-mile trek to the Wyoming mountain top. And the week before that, my generation lost another one of our heroes when David “Ziggy played guitar” Bowie bit the Ziggy star dust. Neither of these losses drew anywhere near the amount of media-soaked coverage and adulation as Michael Jackson’s death did. But I’ve come to a rather profound place of reckoning the world around me, to realize a thing or two about our relationships to these people we’ve never met and hardly knew. Good Sunday Morning Dear Friend!
The Deadly Aim of Pop Culture
In My Life, Lennon was kind of like the North Star. He made more sense to me than my parents and teachers. And he inspired me more than Pastor D Revere had been able to. Showing a teenage boy how to make friends and win girl’s hearts with just a guitar and a few clever words is a pretty slick tool to be sure! It’s really kind of seductive when you stop and think about it. Who in the world can compete with the artist who paints the colors of your own soul, opening your heart to feelings you never knew existed? Ah but I was so much younger then, I’m older than that now. And a hair-bit wiser. What if…
What if, in the forties, we had been inspired by J.R.R. Tolkien and only admired Sinatra? Or in the fifties, if we had been inspired by Hans Urs von Balthasar and only admired Elvis? Or in the sixties, if we had been inspired by Henri de Lubac and only admired John Lennon? Or in the seventies, if we had been inspired by Bede Griffiths and only admired Glenn Frey? Or in the eighties, if we had been inspired by Pope John Paul ll and only admired Michael Jackson? Who would we be today? How would our world be different today? Catholic Heroes of the Twentieth Century, by Henry Karlson (detailed below)
But alas, our world has not been so fortunate. Pop Culture heroes have taken a more central role in our lives than the friends and family we actually know and live with! And the Western brain has stewed instead in a constant thriving cesspool of “multicultural” organisms seeking only to devour the host; paralyzed and dumbstruck by the endless stream of soul-sucking Walking Dead/Breaking Bad/Modern Family marathons, sprinkled amidst the relentless parade of body-pickling/mind-numbing Big Parma pop-ups and infomercials. ALL in the name of distraction! Distraction from what, you might ask…
How about the “God’s Honest Truth”? Can any of us claim with a straight face that the mission of our Pop Culture is to lead us to the “God’s Honest Truth”? Of course not. But I can look you square in the eye and tell you sure as day that the deadly aim of Pop Culture and the diabolical powers that play it like Pan’s flute, is to influence and transform the individual free-thinking mind into the collective group-thinking herd…
Deep down we human beings are social creatures. We seek acceptance from the group. It’s why conformity is so much easier than standing apart from the crowd, even when the crowd makes absolutely no sense. And those who don’t conform and think independently are labeled radicals. Our financial system is a great example of this. ~ “If You Don’t Conform to the Crowd Now, You’re a Radical” , Simon Black on ZH
- It took a patient generational cadence; the steady beat and hypnotic glow of Pop Culture to bring us into line and strip us of our senses. Pop Culture has literally blinded us to The Greatest Persecution of Christians in Modern History! “The 2016 World Watch List documents an unprecedented escalation of violence against Christians, making this past year the most violent and sustained attack on Christian faith in modern history,” Open Doors CEO David Curry said at the rollout of the list. Persecution is “continuing to increase, intensify and spread across the globe,” he said.
- It has blinded us to the spiritual poison we are feeding ourselves with our own technology! “What would it mean if the species were to completely lose the need and/or desire for privacy, solitude, time and focused attention? What if we were the last humans to be bothered by intrusions into our privacy? What would it feel like if our species evolved out of the need for an inner life?”
- Pop Culture has blinded us to the poison we are injecting into the minds of our own children. “She explains that those behind Common Core and the new AP U.S. History framework have attempted to minimize the Constitution and remove Christianity from the core concepts, while they also stress the importance of teaching about Islam. “The dead white guys did not create this country,” Koerber says. “They [presumably conservatives] want to talk about those dead white guys.”
- …which would certainly explain how Pop Culture has blinded these same children to their own loyalties! “In a statement to News 8, the Ansonia Police Department said that; “The allegation is that the male was allegedly making pro-ISIS statements during the Pledge of Allegiance.”
- But, by far, Pop Culture’s most deadly aim of all was to kill us from within…from the very top! “Now, The Wall Street Journal’s eye-opening piece titled: “U.S. Spy Net on Israel Snares Congress” may shed light on why two branches of the U.S. government have rolled over and accommodated Obama on every front.”
Because the whole (popularly culturalized) world system is arrayed…against the “God’s Honest Truth”!
“‘Our God is a consuming fire,’ and when God comes on to this earth in the effective working of the redemption of Jesus Christ, He brings pain and havoc and disaster (see Matt. 10:34). The first result of the redemption of Jesus Christ in human life is havoc. If any human life can stand before God on its own basis, Calvary is much ado about nothing. If it can be proved that rationalism is the basis of human life, then the New Testament is nonsense; instead of its being a revelation, it is a cunningly devised fable. There is no need for redemption; Jesus Christ is nothing but a martyr, of whom it was true that He was stricken, smitten of God and afflicted. If we can stand before God, apart from Jesus Christ, we have proved that Calvary is not needed. As soon as Jesus Christ comes in, He produces havoc because the whole world system is arrayed against His redemption. It was the world system of His day, and particularly the religious system, that killed the Son of God. (Glory)” ~ Oswald Chambers, “Our Devotion as Disciples”
What if we had been more inspired by these men instead?…
J.R.R. Tolkien (1892 – 1973) is the second on my list. Anyone who knows me knows he is my favorite Inkling, and that I consider him to be a saint (and there has been a movement to get him recognized as such). His works (fiction and non-fiction alike) have been a major influence on how I look at the world. While his major contribution is his literary output, texts which I believe are filled with all kinds of values which are needed for the modern world, we must not neglect the rest of what made Tolkien so special. He was a Catholic; he converted in his youth, when his mother, a single mother, became Catholic (his father had already died). He found in his youth the kind of hardship one must go through to be Catholic; his mother was mistreated by many in his family for her Catholicism, and indeed, he blamed her early death in part because of the family’s lack of concern for her wellbeing because she had become Catholic. He and his brother, Hillary, were given over to the custody of Fr. Francis Morgan when she died, and he helped continue to guide and shape Tolkien’s spiritual development (Fr. Morgan was a resident of the Birmingham Oratory, famous for its association with Cardinal Newman, and it is clear this had an influence on Tolkien and his spiritual development). Throughout his life, Tolkien was a faithful Catholic, despite the hardships he had from it, including a struggle he faced with his immediate family: he required Edith to convert to Catholicism before they got married, but her heart was not in the conversion. At one point in their marriage, she stopped going to church, causing friction in their household; eventually she would reconcile herself to Catholicism, though the heartache this experience caused can be seen in several of Tolkien’s letters when he discusses the problems of marriage (in saying this, it must be pointed out that his love for Edith remained strong; the conflict hurt emotionally, but it did not override his love). Tolkien was known to go to daily mass and eucharistic adoration (and in one of his letters, points out to a kind of vision he had one day, the kind which I am sure helped him in his trials). His son, John Tolkien, must have been deeply affected by his father’s faith, for he was to become a priest. Academically, Tolkien was a philologist; sadly, less people are familiar with his work here, though for one fascinated by Tolkien, this should be a side which is not ignored, because his literary works only make sense in relation to his philology – his literary work, in many ways, ended up becoming philological experiments, the kind of which is difficult to detect unless one is familiar with his wide range of studies. Tolkien was highly critical of the modern world; he questioned the drive for domination which is found with technological progress – power corrupts, not just the person who looks for it, but those around him as well; in his works one can note how tyranny leads to pollution (both spiritual and physical). Yet, despite the problems of modernity, Tolkien, who certainly knew sorrow, nonetheless kept a spirit of joy and playfulness which I find intriguing and important, for if one can follow him in it, I believe it can help lead to a spiritual revolution which will overcome many of the problems we see around us today.
For the third, we come to Hans Urs von Balthasar (1905 – 1988). It’s very hard to describe Balthasar and his contributions; he was a brilliant theologian who was well-read and capable of addressing several areas of thought, bringing them together for the sake of his theology. His desire to restore aesthetics as a theological category, bringing it under the category of Glory, has not yet achieved the kind of success he would have liked, but one can say it is because it has not yet been popularized yet. Balthasar’s genius, however, lay beyond his aesthetics (which is very important); it is his desire to show how ancient theological and philosophical explorations can be used to meet the modern world; he understood we do not have to reject one to appreciate the other. Balthasar saw that every age produces greatness, but also every age has its own dangerous undercurrents which one must not succumb to if one wanted to follow the path of truth. Every age, every culture, has its imbalance, its tendency, which, when revealed, shows why one must not entirely adhere to it, but to be moved beyond it to overcome its mistakes. For the modern world, the terrors are great; Balthasar was not one who thought that world history was a one-way street of positive development; instead, he saw it as the constant struggle between the truth and falsehood, between love and hate, good and evil; the light of truth reveals the dark undercurrents, and that which was once hidden in the shadows, now exposed, lashes out with furry. Utopia is impossible because the good provokes evil, sin, and the more intense the good, the more intense the provocation. Balthasar really presents to us the limits of the human enterprise, and the dangers of self-theosis; and it is this realization which, beyond his aesthetics, is needed today. He believed that we are seeing the accumulation and strengthening of evil around us and we should not be surprised if it strikes out against us, challenging our beliefs, and putting our very lives in danger.
Henri de Lubac (1896 – 1991). Cardinal Henri de Lubac is one of the more influential Catholic theologians of the 20th century. His contributions included a rejection of the individualism which had come into the Catholic Church as well as a redirection of Thomism based upon his re-reading of Aquinas and his work with Augustine. He was to look at and examine some of the underpinnings of modern society, showing its relationship to secular atheism; for this reason, he points out why Catholics should not entirely accept the culture at large. Indeed, he saw the progression to secular atheism necessary based upon poor philosophical and theological foundations found during the late scholastic era (the idea of pure nature). But, on the other hand, he did not reject the advances of the modern age, and he was a significant defender of Teilhard de Chardin (he did not agree with all that Teilhard wrote, but he was able to see a Catholic root behind Teilhard’s writings). During World War II, he was actively involved with the French Resistance. He always provided a strong voice against anti-Semitism. His work with patristics led him to co-establish the Sources Chrétiennes series of texts, a collection of critical editions of patristic writers with French translations. While he was elevated to the position of cardinal in 1983, he was first given the chance in 1969 but he declined because he did not want to be a bishop; when he eventually was made a cardinal, he was given a dispensation so that he did not have to become a bishop: he was given the rank of Cardinal Deacon. His work, Catholicism, was his first major theological work and one which was to have critical acclaim, both in his time and after (I was able to see a copy of it in the library of J.R.R. Tolkien), and remains a major influence in my own theological discourse. His examination of the question of “pure nature” found in many of his writings, such as in his Surnaturel, continues to help me in my own work when I deal with the issues of Gnosticism.
Bede Griffiths (1906 – 1993). Dom. Bede Griffiths is an interesting figure; he studied literature under C.S. Lewis, and was to become a life-long friend of Lewis. The two of them were both non-Christian and converted to the Christian faith around the same time. Bede and a group of his friends once tried to live an experimental life, living as if they were in a pre-modern society, and they tried to make do without nay modern luxuries. During that time, Bede became interested in Catholicism, and was to convert and eventually become a Benedictine monk in 1932. He was ordained to the priesthood in 1940. He was to find his monastic life rather easy in comparison to how he had lived before, which is a rare thing to hear about by anyone becoming a Cistercian. In the 1950s he decided to become a missionary and joined in with an inculturated mission established in India (the mission was started by Abbe Jules Monchanin and Henri le Saux; the way they conducted themselves was in part following the suggestion of Henri de Lubac to engage theology and philosophy through mysticism and to preach Catholicism in a way which would engage Indian traditions). The mission took its inculturated way of life seriously, and followed the standards set up by Robert de Nobili many centuries earlier. Bede would take it, and make it his own, expanding upon it: he actively engaged Hindu and Buddhist texts and thinkers, sometimes writing commentaries on them. He was interested in show how they could relate and even enhance Catholic thought. Despite some debates between the two (Bede tried to convert Lewis), he remained friends with his mentor until Lewis’ death; indeed, one can see how Bede’s life was an active engagement of one of the ideals they held in common: that pagan, pre-christian societies had deep religious roots which could be brought up when brought in contact with Christianity. Indeed, they believed one could always find hints of the Gospel in them, showing that there was a kind of preparation for the Gospel to be found in the religions of the world. Indeed, this meant pagan societies were superior to post-christian ones (Lewis, after saying it might be important to reconvert the world to paganism before it could truly be Christian again, compared the difference between the two kinds of societies with a virgin and a widow, one waiting in expectation, the other having lost what they once hoped for). His work with the mysticism of the East allowed Bede to explore contemporary science, such as quantum physics, and to try to merge Eastern Mysticism, Scientific Progress, and Christianity together in a unique work, A New Vision of Reality. While one can question Bede’s conclusions, one can appreciate the foundations he laid for further, more theologically trained thinkers to follow his steps, and deal with the questions he set up. His way was very popular instead of academic – with the strengths and weaknesses associated with work. It is those weaknesses which sometimes led him to simplistic conclusions that smacked of syncretism. But one can look at his work, and his own personal holiness, and appreciate what he has done while remaining critical of it. There is much one can learn from him; but as with all trailblazers, one of the things to learn is where not to go, where attempted paths failed. He is a hero for me because he tried to do the kind of work which I think is necessary for the Christian of today, the kind which I try to do in my own work (however different the methodologies and studies I have from him).