Sunday, February 17, 2013

Engaging the Culture?

After our electoral loss in November, conservatives and others on the loosing side began to do a little introspection." Why won't they love us?" Well, we did pick a rather unlovable guy. No offense to Mitt, but he wasn't likeable enough. "But rationally, Romney and Republicans are a better pick! Sixteen trillion dollar debt! Rising unemployment! Millions permanently leaving the workforce!" Yeah... rational. The electorate is very rational.

But perhaps the loudest cry was, "We have to engage the culture. It's not a political fight, it's a cultural fight."

But what does "engage the culture" mean exactly? And can we "engage" the culture? We can engage individuals and groups of people, but can we engage culture? We can create culture. We can be influenced by culture, or we can seek to influence culture. We can counter, debate, question, ignore, mock, parody, or analyze culture. Mostly what we seem to do is mimic the culture.

We primarily fail at creating culture by telling stories because we've missed the importance of those stories. Actually, we don't tell stories much at all. But when we do, I think we often err on two sides.

On one side, we tend to simplistic morality tales. Too often, we tell over the top, heavy handed stories where you couldn't possible miss the point if you tried. They tend to the precious and the saccharine: Lifetime specials cleaned up for a Christian audience. Christian romances, I'm looking at you. You want an example of good story telling flowing from a biblical worldview? Look at C.S. Lewis and J.R.R. Tolkien. Look at Tolstoy and Dostoevsky. We shy away from complex, troublesome characters, from hard story lines and (sometimes) sad endings. We want everything tied up neatly in a bow. Life is messy and good stories stay true to that reality. (Often, but not always. The Hawk and the Dove is an excellent example of good story. Got more? Leave 'em in the comments. I'm always looking for a good story, be it book, movie, or what have you.)

The other ditch we fall into is the previously mentioned mimicry. We say, “This is what the people like. Let's do this, with a conservative message!” Yeah, let's do a conservative themed Roman Circus. Our lions will only eat bad guys! The medium is the message. You can't put a “good message” on filth and expect people to just take your good message and be unaffected by the filth. If, in fact, our ideas and beliefs are falling into disfavor because we've lost ground culturally, aren't we saying that this culture has produced values and beliefs with which we disagree, that are in fact harmful and destructive? If we've lost ground on ideas of individual liberty, familial responsibility, the importance of the work ethic, or whatever it is that you believe we've lost ground on culturally, why would we want to mimic that culture?

So how do we create culture and impact/counter/engage our culture for good?

The solution is telling good stories, good meaning both virtuous and excellent. To tell good stories, we need know good stories. At the Mom Heart conference I attended this weekend, Sally Clarkson said, “Story is what Jesus used to capture hearts.” The bulk of the bible is stories: the story of God and the smaller stories of men and women of God. My job as a mother is to encourage my children to take up their roles as heroes and heroines in the story of God. Stories, whether in books, songs, plays, movies, television shows, and even video games, are the best way to to transmit knowledge and ideas. Stories are what we remember long after our lessons have faded. We live a story, not a textbook. So if we want to influence our culture, we must be good story tellers.

If we would be story tellers, we need to be immersed in good stories, which means primarily old stories. C.S. Lewis, who wrote about the virtues of stories, also talked about the virtue of reading old books. His argument was that they aren't to be preferred simply because they are old, but because first they've stood the test of time, and second the errors they have are generally not the errors of our time and place. "The classics" are the stories that have withstood the test of time, all the dredges have been filtered out over the years. If what we mostly consume are current stories, we are getting both the excellent and the far more common sludge.

Most of the stories told in our culture aren't those of virtue and heroism, they aren't stories that inspire us to be great. Even those stories that are old stories retold tend away from greatness. At the conference, Sarah Clarkson spoke of a professor who noted where the the Lord of the Rings movies departed from the books. He said there were minor changes to some of the characters so that rather than embracing their destiny of heroism, they only reluctantly assumed the mantle of hero. We are a culture that shies from heroism, of greatness and virtue. Everything is smaller in our stories, and so our culture is diminished and we are smaller.

But I don't want a small culture and I don't want to be diminished. I want to be as big and as bold as God has called me to be, and more importantly, I want that for my children. I tell them stories of great heroes and heroines because I want them to be great heroes and heroines, and I want them to be excited about it. That idea is contrary to the prevalent stories of our culture, small stories, steeped in satire and sarcasm. In his daily e-letter, Jim Geraghty remarked about satire, "it's useful for tearing down, but not building up. And I'm wondering if the cultural challenge before the Right is based more upon the need to build up certain values and ideas and less about tearing down the Left's."

Stories that build up, stories that inspire to greatness and heroics are the key to building the type of culture that is great and heroic. If we want that type of culture, we must tell that type of story. Go be a story teller.

To be continued?

For more of my writing, I blog semi-regularly at Oddlysaid. Follow me, @oddlysaid on twitter.

Gold Mine Attacked in Greece

At least fifty people attacked a gold mine in Greece, on Sunday.

Hellas Gold mine was attacked with gas bombs and flammable liquids.

The fires damaged machinery, vehicles, equipment, buildings, and injured one guard.

Environmentalists are being blamed for the attack, as nothing was taken, just destroyed.

Several protests have previously occurred against the mine, but the government has pushed the project through as it is expected to bring five thousand jobs.

The government also sees it is a very important way to help the economy.

Egypt Moving Towards Banning Alcohol

Egypt has announced that it will no longer be issuing licenses for the sale of alcohol.

Current licenses won't be canceled, but they will not be allowed to be renewed.

It is a clear move to ban alcohol in the country, in conjunction with shariah law.

Opponents are calling it an attack on personal freedoms as well as religious ones.

They see it as but one more blatant imposition of Muslim beliefs, on the whole country.

Hezbollah Advances in Syria

Hezbollah soldiers on parade
Hezbollah soldiers, out of Lebanon, attacked Syrian rebel positions, on Sunday.

Syrian helicopters and militia supported the Hezbollah advance against three villages held by the Free Syrian Army.

Rebel forces have held onto the towns, for now.

The fighting shows the international level of the Syrian civil war, where both sides are backed by international groups.

Just last week a commander of Iran's Revolutionary Guard was killed in Syria, where he had been aiding the national forces.

Over seventy thousand people have been killed in the twenty-three month long conflict.

Correa Wins Reelection in Ecuador

Rafael Correa is winning his reelection bid in Ecuador.

Polls are about to close and he is currently up by thirty-five percentage points.

Correa became the first President in decades to finish a whole term, and is credited with bringing political stability to the country.

The people see him as a great leader who's socialist policies have brought about improvements in roads, education, healthcare.

However, he is seen as weak on crime and some are unhappy with the major increase in taxes that he has brought.

Internationally, he is seen as the future head of the leftist bloc in Latin America, once Hugo Chavez no longer holds power.

7 Foreign Workers Kidnapped in Nigeria

Gunmen attacked the Nigerian town of Jama'are, early Sunday morning.

They attacked the police station, jail, and an international construction firm.

At the construction firm they killed a guard and kidnapped seven foreign workers.

The workers were from Greece, Italy, Lebanon, and the UK.

No one has claimed the attack, but Ansaru, the local Al Qaeda group, is being blamed for it.

In past Ansaru kidnappings none of the victims have survived.

4 Arrested in Libya for Sharing Christianity

Four foreigners have been arrested in Libya on the charge of distributing Bibles and proChristianity pamphlets.

The four people are from Egypt, South Africa, South Korea, and the US.

They supposedly contacted a printer to make pamphlets explaining Christianity.

Spreading Christianity is illegal in Libya, which has a special division of the defense ministry that looks for people trying to spread religions that aren't Islam.

Preventative Security has the legal ability to kill anyone they catch spreading another religion.

Security officers held off of executing the four based on their being foreigners.

A trial is expected to begin next week, with death being a possible sentence.

Bangladesh Takes First Step on Banning Jamaat

Thousands celebrated in the streets of Dhaka after Parliament passed a law allowing for prosecution of Jamaat-e-Islami, on Sunday.

The leaders of Jamaat, the country's leading Islamic political party, are accused of committing war crimes in the war of independence in 1971.

Members of the group are accused of various murders and acts of terrorism, since then.

Parliament's new law allows for the leaders to be tried for the crimes they are accused of.

It also is the first step necessary in banning the party and making it illegal.

Over the last week, clashes between supporters, opponents of the party, and police have left thirteen dead.

Anastasiades Takes Big Lead in First Cyprus Election

Nico Anastasiades is all but set to be the next President of Cyprus.

In Sunday's election, he took 45.4% of the vote, with the next highest at 26.9%.

That no one won a majority requires a a runoff vote between the top contenders.

Anastasiades is expected to easily win the runoff, which will take place next week.

He is a pro bailout candidate and would keep the country in the EU, unlike his opponent.

Baghdad Struck by Series of Bombings

A series of car bombings struck Baghdad, on Sunday.

At least seven, as many as twelve, bombs went off, in various Shia parts of the city.

Six more bombs were defused by security forces.

Twenty-one people were confirmed killed, with over one hundred more injured.

Officials are blaming Al Qaeda for the attacks

BMW Recalling 600,000 Vehicles

BMW has announced a recall of six hundred thousand vehicles in the US and Canada.

Five hundred seventy thousand are being recalled because a battery connector can fail which would cause the engine to stall.

The recall includes 2007-2011 3 Series convertibles, coupes, sedans, and wagons; 2008-2012 1 Series convertibles and coupes; and 2009-2011 Z4s.

One accident occurred because of the problem, but no injuries.

Another thirty thousand are being recalled due to an oil leak that can affect the power braking.

2007-2010 X5s are included in the recall.

No accidents or injuries were reported due to the problem, mechanics noticed the issue.

Consumers with questions can call BMW at 800-525-7417.

Missing From Colorado: Nestor Trujillo, 72

Seventy-two year old Nestor Trujillo is missing from Platteville, Colorado.

He was last seen Saturday morning.

Concerns are high as he has Alzheimer's.

Nestor is described as five foot ten, one hundred and thirty pounds, with brown eyes, and grey hair.

Trujillo may be traveling in a white 2000 Chevrolet Camaro with Colorado license 680YPJ.

Anyone with information should call the Greeley-Weld Dispatch Center at 970-350-9600.

Missing From Connecticut: Anthony Sego, 50

Fifty year old Anthony Sego is missing from Meriden, Connecticut.

He was last seen Friday morning.

Concerns are high as he is without his necessary daily medication.

Anthony is described as five foot eight, two hundred and fifty pounds, bald, with blue eyes, and a tattoo of a dog and skull on his left shoulder.

His vehicle is a grey Dodge Dakota pickup truck with Connecticut license 66CY04. 

Anyone with information should call the Meriden Police Department at 203-630-6215.

Missing From Kentucky: Katherine Bush, 22

Twenty-two year old Katherine Bush is missing from Louisville, Kentucky.

She was last seen on Monday.

Katherine is described as five foot five, one hundred and twenty-five pounds, with brown hair, and green eyes.

Her vehicle is a gold late 1990s Buick LeSabre, with window tint bubbling on the rear windows.

Anyone with information should call Sarah King with the Oldham County Police at 502-222-0111.

The Oldham County Police reported her as safe, on February 20.