Timothy Noah at The New Republic laments the use of the term “Christian” to refer exclusively to conservative, evangelical Protestants (and the cultural products that cater to them):
Every morning I wake up to National Public Radio’s “Morning Edition,” and this morning my first stirrings of consciousness concerned the new movie October Baby, about a young womanwho finds out that she was adopted after her birth mother underwent a failed abortion. Ten percent of the film’s profits will be donated to an anti-abortion charity. NPR’s piece about October Baby (audio, text), described it as one of several “Christian” films that Hollywood studios have started churning out. Jon Erwin, who co-directed the film with his brother Andrew, told NPR that he was “raised in the South in a Christian home and family,” and that the values of many contemporary Hollywood films felt alien to him. Quoting The Hollywood Reporter‘s Paul Bond, NPR observed that “Hollywood doesn’t like to leave money on the table,” and noted that Fox and Sony have set up subsidiaries to serve the niche “Christian” market.
As I lay in bed struggling to wake up I thought: Christian? Christians aren’t some twee boutique demographic. Christians represent the majority. About 78 percent of Americans self-identify as Christian, according to the Pew Forum on Religion and Public Life. What NPR and Fox and Sony mean when they say “Christian” is “Christian right” or “Christian conservatives,” terms that adherents don’t like because they think they’re pejorative. “Fundamentalist” and “evangelical” are imperfect substitutes because a) the two categories, though they overlap a lot, aren’t precisely the same; and b) some of these folks consider themselves political liberals. (The worldly Cold War liberal Reinhold Niebuhr called himself an evangelical Protestant.) What conservative Christians really like to be called is “Christians.” Hence “Christian rock” and “Christian college” and now “Christian film.” This strikes me as terribly presumptuous. Bruce Springsteen was raised Catholic but he doesn’t perform anything these folks would accept as Christian rock. Wesleyan was founded by Methodists and named after John Wesley but evangelicals would never call it a Christian university. “Christian” has become a euphemism for “acceptable to the type of Christian (in most instances Protestant) who frowns on homosexuality and wishes Saul Alinsky had minded his own business.”
When you consider Christianity’s foundational position in Western art and culture, it’s somewhat ironic that “Christian” used in this sense is an almost-infallible indicator of sub-par schlock that’s not worth your time.
If you really want complete freedom of choice, complete openness of information, where nobody is spying on you, no one is selling your presence to advertisers, the only place to find it is a library, where they keep books.
–Author Philip Pullman, “declaring war” against library closures in the UK
(Via Alan Jacobs)
–John Cohn at The New Republic on the end of “compassionate conservatism.”
–Should life be more like a game?
– The rise of white identity politics in DC?
–From Book Forum, a collection of links on how we treat animals. (I guess that makes this a meta-link?)
–How Pearl Jam went from being the biggest rock band in the world to a niche act.
–The Thomas Paine-John Adams debate about economic equality in the early American republic.
–I’m not sure the Ramones were the best candidate for an AV Club “Gateways to Geekery” feature. What band could be easier to get into? Just start listening with the first album–it pretty much establishes the template for everything else.
–Joe Klein is shrill.
Christmas has been getting flak from all sides this year. Conservative Christians think it’s too secular or “multiculturalized”; secularists think it’s too religious, or they make what they seem to think is the devastating point that Jesus was probably not actually born on December 25th; “radical” Christians think Christmas is too sentimental or commercialized; liturgical nit-pickers complain that Christmas has eclipsed Advent; and no one–at least no one in the commentariat–seems to be actually enjoying it.
Which is why you should read Marvin’s post. (Actually, the accompanying graphic alone is worth the visit.)
I meant to link to this piece from Orion magazine earlier (via Russell I think). It’s all about cultivating an environmentalism that can appeal to working class people (specifically white ones in this case), not just by appealing to their interests, but by understanding and sympathizing with their culture.
It’s no secret that much of the explicit appeal of American-style conservatism to working class voters has been made by bashing the “liberal elites” who disdain working class culture and values. And it works because in a lot of cases it’s true. I know that I embraced conservatism to some extent because being a kid from a working-class background I found several of the upper-class liberals I encountered in grad school to be insufferable snobs. (I still find this to be the case sometimes, however much my “conservatism” has mutated since then.)
Tammy Faye, one of the symbols of the corruption of American televangelism lost her battle with cancer.
A few months ago my wife and I watched the documentary The Eyes of Tammy Faye. I have to say that I came away from that much more sympathetically disposed to her. Obviously the kind of fundraising she and her husband engaged in was inherently dubious, but it really did seem that to a great extent she got caught up in events beyond her knowledge and control. And the machinations of Jerry Falwell in taking over their network come across as extremely cynical.
I also was impressed with what seemed as far as I could tell to be a very deep and genuine Christian faith. And her outreach to gays and lesbians in contravention of all the norms of that community was genuinely touching and seemed to be rooted in sincere Christian love. For all her troubles she certainly seems to have touched a lot of people’s lives in a good way. R.I.P.