Wednesday, March 25, 2009

what conservatism is not good at and what Patrol magazine is good at

I have been trying to stay away from anything that smacks of politics, but I cannot help it. Hopefully this post will find resonance on both sides of the fence...

The wonderful Patrol magazine has brought up some of the weaknesses of conservative Christian approaches to culture and art lately. Below are a couple of links. What blows me away about Patrol magazine is that it is essentially a pop culture magazine written by a bunch of Christian college kids and grads from a college affiliated with a very conservative Christian group, Campus Crusade for Christ (who were important to my college spiritual journey). If this magazine had been around, or I had found more conservative Christian kids like these I may have had a different journey. I moved a bit to the left in most areas because of my views of culture, which were not mainstream Christian (however, they are mainstream at Patrol).

By not having mainstream Christian views of culture as something bad that needed to be transformed I stood out like a sore thumb, even in high school (while a Southern Baptist, I never fit in and never drank the kool aid, choosing to stick with the sugar cookies offered). So, I moved out of the ghetto culturally which pushed me to align myself with those a bit more left in their views. This also pushed me (along with my views on race, justice and the environment) to the left politically (albeit with a core libertarian DNA). This is also why I am not dismissive of cultural conservatism... it is my home and I left with no malice, no animosity and no burned bridges. I still love those guys and consider them family (and love it when I find myself in agreement with them).

So, I moved left because of my love of culture (music, film, art, literature) because I felt I had no home on the right. What I have noticed is, with the advent of the Internet age, enlightened Conservatives with a love of culture finding each other and making their voices heard, even those from Christian backgrounds. It is a new conservatism I hope wins out in the end. It will be very good for the country and world. I wish them luck and will cheer from the sidelines. I just wish I had found them as a teen or college student.

Anyway, Patrol magazine is the magazine I would have written for, had they accepted me, 15 years ago had it existed (or I could have started it- yeah, right).

So, here are some of the critiques of the way Christians and conservatives handle culture, by some in the camp (found the link through Patrol).

First of all, from the defunct Conservatism's Slate-light Culture 11 comes this critique by Joe Carter, the editor, formerly of Evangelical Outpost:

Conservatism works best when it focuses on culture rather than on government. Indeed, when it comes to government, conservatives are quite clueless. Unlike libertarians, liberals, socialists, Marxists, and other advocates of utopian political philosophies, conservatism has no idea how to build a healthy social and political structure. We do know, however, how to recognize a sick one. Just as physicians define bodily health as the absence of sickness, conservatives view the absence of sickness as the primary gauge of the health of the culture and body politic. Our political and cultural objectives, therefore, are similar to that of medical doctors – preventing and eliminating sickness.

I totally agree except for one detail. I think Conservatism, especially in its Christian form is not particularly well suited or good at the creation of the art which makes up much of a particular cultural language. It is, Carter states, very good at critique of culture (and I find myself in agreement much of the time when it stands up and says "stop."). This does not mean it cannot create better forms of cultural language than it can government (which it cannot do because it stands against it). However, it much be careful not to repeat its past mistake of substituting propaganda for art.

Read the rest of the article about self censorship here.

Here are some examples of good cultural critique of Christian and conservative approaches to culture, especially art.

what killed Culture 11

Conservative safe zones

why Christian film making usually does not work (hint- it is propaganda masquerading as art. not art with a strong spiritual bent)

Check out Patrol, and follow them on twitter. Let me know if you like them.


update: Read this great piece on Conservative journalism and the sad demise of Culture 11, one that attempted to fill the void (there is lots of conservative punditry and opinion, but very little good conservative journalism. Why, they are good at pointing out why they are right, but poor at telling stories). Culture 11 was pretty good conservative journalism with moments of brilliance. Alas, it failed.

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