Introduction

1 Wassily Kandinsky, Concerning the Spiritual in Art, trans. M.T. Sadler (New York: Dover, 1977). In this essay, Kandinsky describes the artist as "prophet," "priest," and "king," a classic set of titles popularized by John Calvin who used them to describe the various roles played by Jesus. Playing a similar chord at roughly the same time, Paul Klee wrote in his journal:

"Everything Faustian is alien to me____In my work I do not belong to the species but am a cosmic point of reference. My earthly eye is too far sighted and sees through and beyond the most beautiful things." The Diaries ofPaul Klee 1898-1918, ed. Felix Klee (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1964), 344f.

2 Mark Stevens, "The Artist Assumes the Pedestal," Salmagundi 3 (Summer 1996), 111.

3 This is a concept that evolved in Calvinist thinking about the functions of culture, best exemplified in the Dutch theologian, Abraham Kuyper. See his Lectures on Calvinism (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1931), and in the work of Max Stackhouse, see esp. his Creeds, Society, and Human Rights: A Study in Three Cultures (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1984), and God and Globalization: Religion and the Powers of the Common Life (Harrisburg, PA: Trinity Press International, 2000). This is also the basic argument of Michael Walzer's Spheres of Justice: A Defense of Pluralism and Equality (New York: Basic Books, 1983).

4 For an excellent cultural history of the lawn in America, see Virginia Scott Jenkins, The Lawn: A History of an American Obsession (Washington, DC: Smithsonian Institution Press, 1994).

5 Eugene McCarraher, Christian Critics: Religion and the Impasse of Modern Social Thought (Ithaca, NY: Cornell University Press, 2000), 6.

6 Richard Mouw, Consulting the Faithful: What Christian Intellectuals Can Learn from Popular Religion (Grand Rapids, MI: Wm. B. Eerdmans, 1994), 52f. This brings to mind a comment by Chuck Palahniuk, author of such novels as FightClub, Choke, and Lullaby, who is recognized by many as one of the more discerning voices of Generation X: "I'm dealing with my own issues on the page - issues of property, mortality, commitment, sex, violence. The books are all about finding some sort of resolution to these issues. I want my characters to really overuse their coping mechanisms to the point where they break down within 300 pages." New York Times Magazine (September 29, 2002), 21.

7 Mouw, Consulting the Faithful, 84.

8 I will be using the term "media-world" to describe the same phenomenon other cultural theorists have described under the rubric of "social imaginaire," which, according to Arjun Appadurai entails "a constructed landscape of collective aspirations... mediated through the complex prism of modern media." See his Modernity at Large: Cultural Dimensions of Globalization (Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1996).

9 Simon Frith, Performing Rites: On the Value of Popular Music (Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1996), 276.

10 Gaudium et Spes, "Pastoral Constitution on the Church in the Modern World" (1965), in Vatican Council II: The Conciliar and Post Conciliar Documents, ed. Austin Flannery (Northport, NY: Costello Publishing Company, 1975), para. 4.

11 Robert Bellah, The Broken Covenant (New York: Seabury Press, 1975), 159.

12 Rob Walker, "The Marketing of No Marketing," New York Times Magazine (June 22, 2003), 42f. See also, No Logo: No Space, No Choice, No Jobs, by Naomi Klein (New York: Picador, 2002).

13 See, for example, Graham Murdock, "The Re-Enchantment of the World: Religion and the Transformations of Modernity," in Rethinking Media, Religion, and Culture, eds. Stuart M. Hoover and Knut Lundby (Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage Publications, 1997), 85-101.

14 FightClub, directed by David Fincher (New Regency Productions, 2000).

15 See David Brooks, Bobos in Paradise (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2000).

16 Jackson Lears is particularly incisive on this point: "[E]ach generation of cultural radicals seems doomed to repeat the mistakes of its predecessors. Throughout the twentieth century, Americans have heard the same attacks on 'repression' as the central problem of their society, the same demands for 'personal growth' as a remedy for all psychic and cultural ills. The Greenwich Village intellectuals of the pre-World War II era, the expatriate artists of the twenties, the therapeutic ideologues of the thirties and forties - none have realized the hidden affinities between their liberationist ideology and the dominant culture of consumer capitalism____This failure of imagination occurred most recently among some of the cultural radicals of the 1960's, whose 'revolution' was rapidly transformed into a consumer bonanza of stereos, designer jeans, and sex aids." No Place of Grace: Antimodernism and the Transformation of American Culture 1880-1920 (New York: Pantheon Books, 1981), 306. McCarraher, a student of Lears, is also good on this, and develops the notion of "commodity spirituality." See his Christian Critics.

17 Signs, directed by M. Night Shyamalan (Blinding Edge Pictures, 2002).

18 H.R. Niebuhr, Faith on Earth: An Inquiry into the Structure of Human Faith (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1989), 80.

19 On this last point, i.e., the acceleration of irony, see Andrew Delbanco, The Death of Satan: How Americans Have Lost the Sense of Evil (New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1995).

20 Niebuhr, Faith on Earth, 67.

25 William James, The Varieties of Religious Experience (New York: Modern Library, 1936, 1994), 96.

28 Describing a similar phenomenon, Paul Ricoeur has given us the term "second naivete." See his The Symbolism of Evil, trans. Emerson Buchanan (Boston: Beacon Press, 1967).

29 Niebuhr, Faith on Earth, 78.

30 American Beauty, directed by Sam Mendes (Universal Studios, 1999).

31 Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Wenders (Road Movies FilmProduktion GMBH, 1987).

32 Dogma, directed by Kevin Smith (View Askew Productions, 1999).

33 Paul Ricoeur, "Religion, Atheism, and Faith," in The Conflict of Interpretations (Evanston, IL: Northwestern University Press, 1974), 448.

Was this article helpful?

0 0

Post a comment