Culture: February 2004 Archives

Washed Up?

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I have to like this, even though their music isn't my cup of tea. A group calling themselves the Poppyfields released a song now at number 28 in the pop charts. The video shows a band made up of a bunch of teenagers. It turns out they weren't the people who played any of the instruments or sang. Milli Vanilli again? Not quite. The group was actually The Alarm, a U2-sounding group from the 80s. This was a deliberate stunt to show that a group who wouldn't have a chance running on their own name with a video of older men could do just fine if people thought it was a bunch of young punks. Apparently they were right. Now if only Kansas would find a group of young hoodlums to do their next video...

Thanks to Josh Claybourn for the link.

Mel Gibson on past sin

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Someone I know emailed the following about Monday night's Mel Gibson interview:

I was especially -may I say blessed?- to see him treat his BC days
with fitting shame and humility. No reason to wallow in the filth
that was his life, and it was right of him to keep it totally
private. One thing that never fails to irritate me is hearing
someone give his testimony and proceed to brag about what he used to
do. I want to respond, "If Jesus really saved you from all that,
then why look back on it with nostalgia???" Mel had it right.

Good observation. I hadn't picked up on that aspect of his comments, but I agree.

Andrew Sullivan, continuing his in-depth coverage of liberal dominance of academia, dug out this letter from September 2002:

In seeking faculty, universities look for people who can analyze and discuss matters of some complexity, who are unafraid to challenge the wisdom of simple solutions, and who have a sense of social responsibility toward those who cannot buy influence. Such people tend to be put off by a political party dominated by those who believe dogmatically in the infallibility of the marketplace as a solution to all economic problems, or else in the infallibility of scripture as a guide to morality.

In short, universities want people of some depth, subtlety and intelligence. People like that usually vote for the Democrats. So what?

Lawrence Evans

The writer is professor emeritus of physics at Duke University.

Why do I get the feeling this guy hasn't met any sincere Christians or any Republicans who are Republicans on the issues rather than out of party loyalty?

Gibson interview preview

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ABC has posted bits of the interview with Mel Gibson that they're showing tonight about The Passion of the Christ. Some tidbits:

Gibson insists on Primetime he is no anti-Semite, and that anti-Semitism is "un-Christian" and a sin that "goes against the tenets of my faith." When asked who killed Jesus, Gibson says, "The big answer is, we all did. I'll be the first in the culpability stakes here."

"Critics who have a problem with me don't really have a problem with me in this film," Gibson says. "They have a problem with the four Gospels. That's where their problem is."

"Do I believe that there were concentration camps where defenseless and innocent Jews died cruelly under the Nazi regime? Of course I do; absolutely," he says. "It was an atrocity of monumental proportion." Asked if the Holocaust represented a "particular kind of evil," he tells Sawyer it did, but adds, "Why do you need me to tell you? It's like, it's obvious. They're killed because of who and what they are. Is that not evil enough?"

Jesus Christ "was beaten for our iniquities," Gibson says. "He was wounded for our transgressions and by his wounds we are healed. That's the point of the film. It's not about pointing the fingers."

Liberal Academia

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I'm finally getting around to saying something about this Duke fiasco about the much higher percentage of faculty who were politically liberal compared with the number who were conservative.

Kieran's post at Crooked Timber has a significant amount of discussion on this, only a small fraction of which is very balanced, though lots of good points come up scattered throughout the straw man reconstructions of conservative positions. Slightly more balance (with a much smaller volume to wade through) appears in the discussion of Donald Sensing's post at One Hand Clapping, but it might tilt in the other direction more than I'd like.

Volokh makes the obvious point that the Conservative Party Mill was talking about (read the first link -- I'm not going to explain everything!) was pretty far from conservatism today, which is probably more like the liberalism of Mill's day. It certainly wasn't about conservatism in general as a time-spanning tendency. All this ignores the point that even if stupid people tend to be conservative, that says nothing about whether smart people tend to be liberal, which is the implication Brandon seems to be drawing from Mill's quote. In fact, Instapundit lists some date from 1994-2002 voters that shows that Republican voters tend to have slightly more education than Democrats and tended to score better on vocabulary and analogy testing. He quotes Jim Lindgren:

"If one breaks down the data by party affiliation and political orientation, the most highly educated group is conservative Republicans, who also score highest on the vocabulary and analogical reasoning tests. Liberal Democrats score only insignificantly lower than conservative Republicans. The least educated subgroups are moderate and conservative Democrats, who also score at the bottom (or very near the bottom) on vocabulary and analogy tests."

Other worthwhile thoughts I've seen include that many people in this discussion confuse correlation with causation (the data may reflect more on what type of people would be interested in academic jobs vs. those that prefer other fields, regardless of how intelligent they are). There's also the possibility of liberal in-breeding in academia (one of the Duke professors interviewed thought the function of Duke University was to "rid conservative students of their hypocrisies".

I do have a couple things to say to Kieran's post at Crooked Timber. He says:

Christ and Culture

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Mark Roberts has a very insightful post series: Cultural Impact or Cultural Irrelevance: A Christian Dilemma. I'm not sure he's said anything I haven't seen or thought before (except his particular focus on seeing some of what I've seen elsewhere in Philippians, the details of which I was unaware of in the passages he cites), but he seems to me to have a rare combination of maturity, balance, forthrightness, and understanding of the culture around us. It's nice to see it all encapsulated in a short place. Highlights:

"Most of the people who shape our culture, especially those who produce television shows, movies, Broadyway [sic] plays, rock music, and MTV videos, live in a moral universe that's far different from the moral universe of Christianity. Their perceptions of right and wrong differ vastly from the perceptions held by most Christians. This isn't a gripe. It's simply a fact."

"Those in the Christ against Culture camp recognize that culture opposes basic Christian values. Therefore they tend to withdraw from the world, either trying their best to ignore it (the Amish option) or taking pot shots at the world from a safe moral distance. Separation from the fallen world is, at any rate, central to Christian living."

"The Christ of Culture folk are much more accepting of culture. Opposing the theological conservatism of the Christ against Culture camp, they espouse a liberal theology that allows culture to determine the shape of Christian living. So, if the culture blesses sex outside of marriage, then Christians shouldn't attack this viewpoint, but rather reinterpret it in a Christian way. We should encourage fornicators to have mature, loving, just relationships, not to abandon their fornication."

"Ironically, both choices end up with a similar result: we give up our ability to impact the culture for good. Yet trying to live somewhere in the middle, to engage in a critical dialogue between Christ and culture, is tricky, not to mention messy."

Delight in sin

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Andrew Sullivan has a new Sunday Times column arguing that the latest Jackson family scandals have evidenced a deep fact about American culture -- it has two dysfunctional sides that need each other, the religious right and the liberal media. He mislabels this multiple personality disorder as schizophrenia, which really means "disruption of mental functions, not multiple personalities". In this case the effect is as we've seen:

"The religious right, fresh from outrage that gay couples might commit to one another in matrimony, made the usual loud noises. The Internet lit up; all the usual Hollywood gossip shows had clip after fuzzed up clip to reveal the horror of it all. And on and on. In the last resort, everyone wins. Ratings increase, careers blip upward, political groups have a new tool for fundraising, and hacks get something other than John Kerry's Botox to write about."

He says that American culture wars are in many ways a sham. "America worships freedom of expression but it also gets in high dudgeon about sexuality. It values and rewards celebrity above all things, and yet also condemns "misbehaving" celebrities as a curse on the nation's virtue. It favors miscreants with huge publicity, fame and therefore money. And yet it harbors genuine and lasting horror at the debasement of the culture all of this represents." He thinks the real America is the mix of all this. Each side would be nothing without the other. "Indeed, each side creates and sustains the other."

What should we make of all this?



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