In the 70s, when I came into consciousness - in the 80s, when I came of age - and in the '90s when I played out my adolescence - we had something called "static." It was the space between radio stations, the poorly-received television signal, the hum of the record player at the end of an album, and the hiss of a bad phone. This was an Analog culture, where shortcuts could be taken, songs could kinda be heard when driving under bridges, and mix tapes had to made in real time.
Those days are rapidly disappearing, replaced by today's Digital culture, which is clear, clean and unforgiving. With XM Radio, you either get a signal or you get nothing. Either your iPod works or it doesn't. Cable TV is on, and there's no getting the porn channel by placing the dial in-between stations. Your cell phone, even your internet signal is binary: you get service or you DON'T, there is no in-between.
I mention this odd change in American culture because it goes some way to explain yesterday's blog, which was not meant to call into question the sanity of Christians, but managed to do so anyway. I find many aspects of the digital culture to be cruel, and religion/politics is beginning to behave with the lack of nuance that only comes from a binary culture.
It's true, I have a problem with Christians. I'd like to think it was fostered early on with my disenchantment with early Mormonhood, but in all truth, I thought Christians - and Muslims, etc. - and agnostics like myself could live in harmony until recently.
But the last ten years has been devastating to any American trying to keep religion out of our governing system, and the digital, binary way of doing things has led to a codification, a settling in of the way things are. In short, it seems like Christianity is becoming a permanent, unmovable force in our lives, and like the Borg, resistance is seemingly futile.
Do I really need to give examples? That parts of Delaware are now being forced to teach Intelligent Design? That the Supreme Court is going to be stacked with conservatives until I'm in my 70s? That the judiciary is becoming downright scary? The goalposts of what is "normal" have been moved so far to the right that true progressives can no longer find the stadium, let alone play.
I think many Christians, even those who are large of heart, have either forgotten or have no concept what it is like to be losing the culture wars as badly as liberals are. Perhaps a few die-hards recall a time in the early 70s when everyone seemed to give up on God and attend key parties, but the culture has swung so far back that those of us wishing to keep religion out of our lives have to constantly explain ourselves.
This blog is my little space, a vent for frustration, and as I always say, a constant treasure trove of reasons I'll never win elected office. There is nobody else fighting my battles for me: the Democrats are so pusillanimous as to be embarrassing, the press corps have given Bush a total pass, and Americans seem willing to put up with anything as long as they don't have to pay too much for gas. It's sickening, and it makes me furious.
So I suppose I take it out on Christians occasionally, many of whom are my friends (and, of course, extended family). I don't want to hurt anyone's feelings in the particular, but right now, there seems to be no hope for those of us who just want our kids to grow up without Jesus being shoved down their gullets. Hillary will get stomped in '08, Katharine Harris will be elected to the Senate, and I'll have to spend an hour a day debriefing all the New Testament out of Lucy when she gets home from school.
And so, to my Christian friends whom I love dearly, try to put yourself in my shoes. Imagine every single belief you hold dear being throttled by the government. Imagine losing every debate, watching every tenet swirl down the drain, imagine feeling like you're one of about twenty native speakers left and they're all dying.
It doesn't matter how open-minded you are, how your church is different, how your God is kinder than the one I imagine. As much as I respect you, I find your beliefs to be impossible to fathom, yet according to most Americans, I'm the one who's crazy, and in a digital culture, there's no nuance: it looks like I'm going to stay that way.
Posted by Ian Williams at June 7, 2005 9:23 PM
"I think many Christians, even those who are large of heart, have either forgotten or have no concept what it is like to be losing the culture wars as badly as liberals are."
I found this statement to be poignant, and I felt sympathy for you while reading it. Christians like myself also feel that they're countercultural in today's society (I prefer not to think of cultural viewpoint differences as "culture wars"). I will try to put myself in your position. Please try to put yourself in mine, as well.
Imagine attending a prominent liberal arts college in the Northeast as a moderate Catholic woman, a person of faith whose guiding principal is to live as a compassionate person. Imagine facing criticisms of one's faith on a constant basis from both students and professors, and being placed in the position of having to defend one's faith and face ridicule, or simply keeping one's mouth shut and feeling attacked.
Imagine being open minded enough to date someone of another religion, only to have your serious boyfriend tell you "You're too smart to stay Catholic" (the first of many people to make the same statement).
Imagine attending a meeting for an organization ostensibly designed to foster positive feelings between gay and straight students, only to hear a lecture about the evils of the "religious right."
Imagine, then, graduating and attending a Catholic-founded graduate school; you see fliers for a meeting for the Catholic student group, and you and the person who put up the fliers are the only two people who attend.
Imagine living in Manhattan and dating within the general population of twenty and thirtysomethings. Try finding mates who share your religion and beliefs without resorting to the extraordinarily limited pool of individuals who frequent your church's group for young professionals. One eventually learns that one is fortunate simply to encounter attractive members of the opposite sex who are not openly hostile to one's beliefs. One also learns to put up with statements from close friends, people one loves, about the stupidity of believing in transubstantiation or resurrection; one learns to take a deep breath and forgive, because that, after all, is what we do as Catholics.
Consider, also, the fact that many Christians dislike divorce and believe that it is better to have children within marriage than outside it, and then pick up virtually any entertainment or women's magazine, or turn on any major-network, prime-time sitcom, and see how long it takes you to cite numerous examples of divorce and childbearing outside of marriage. I say this not in judgment of such behavior--true Christianity frowns on judging others--but by way of example that the Christian way of doing things is not exactly pervading the popular culture.
I think we all have a lot to learn by putting ourselves in one another's shoes.
Deb--Thanks for your response. I just wanted to clarify a few points that you raised.
I, too, attended college in upstate New York.
I have mixed feelings about Howard Stern, but have occasionally listened to him (including during a drawing class at my public high school), and certainly support his right to be on the air, and your right to listen to him, and my own right to listen to him. While we're on the subject, I don't see the big deal about Janet Jackson's breast, either. As you so well put it, entertainment can be turned off or tuned out (and many conservative Christian families have no television in their homes).
I think that the so-called "Family" organizations have gotten considerable press because their views are so provocative (e.g., Tinky-Winky as a gay metaphor). Do they really speak for the majority of Christians, or the majority of Americans, for that matter? I haven't seen any statistics. Please illuminate me, if you have. These groups certainly don't speak for me.
Your last paragraph is difficult to respond to. I would "be ok" if the majority of Americans were Jewish and were openly practicing their beliefs; how do you quantify "pervading the country"? I'm not quite sure what analogy you're drawing with the hypothetical scenario of laws against working on the Sabbath. I would have no problem with the Old Testament, New Testament, Koran, or other religious texts being taught in schools as literature, or as a study of comparative religion, much the way these texts are taught in non-religious colleges and universities, and much the way unproven scientific theories are taught as early as the elementary school level as, well, unproven scientific theories. I do not, of course, think it is appropriate to teach theology or religious beliefs in the public schools, but that is very different than what I have just described. Children are taught things that I don't agree with every day; my own children will be no exception. I will not be angry or want to "protect" them from this information; I will view it as an opportunity to explain my own beliefs to them, and why my beliefs differ from what they have been taught. My bigger fear, frankly, is that my children will be persecuted and ridiculed for their beliefs in school, as I so often was.
I welcome and appreciate your comments, but, please, please let it be known that I don't watch The Hallmark Channel or "Seventh Heaven." Such is the stereotyping that Christians in this society have to bear.