Wednesday, April 13, 2005

That "Christ and Culture" Thing

Thomas Bushnell is none too happy with Richard Kew's thesis on denial. He specifically focuses on the issue of "culture" in his condemnation.

I see in this an error of reification. There's a sociological tendency to talk about Culture as a coherent organism, but this image is false, and the way that people talk about it indicates the falsehood.

At the moment it's easier to talk about this by looking at the liberal side, using everyone's favorite test case: homosexual men. What does the culture say about this? Well, obviously it's going to depend on who you ask. Once the Leviticus-quoters on the one hand and the homosexual lobby on the other are removed from the picture, I suspect that there remains a very large party which has a gut aversion, and a somewhat smaller but still large party which may or may not disapprove but has a "live and let live" attitude.

Looking at the Episcopal Church, it's hard not to miss the connection between the homosexual lobby and the church administration. (For instance, Louie Crew holds an Executive Council seat.) Widening out a bit further, it's pretty clear that they travel within a subculture in which subscription to the righteousness of homosexuality is a unquestioned and indeed unquestionable presupposition. Does this drive theology? In my opinion, it does.

Bushnell's implicit identification of church theological conservatives with American political conservatives is very much more problematic. Within the Episcopal Church itself that identification is mostly false. They simply don't travel within the same subculture. Indeed, one of the most obvious elements of the condemnation of fundamentalists is the streak of sheer snobbery that runs through it, a snobbery that accurately reflects class differences between the two subcultures. All of this shows up all over the internet. Good upper middle class people "affirm" male homosexuality; bad middle-middles (including especially social-climbing businesspeople who dare to think that their money means something) are "homophobes" (and there's clearly a condescending class difference manifest in that faux clinicalism).

When I look at Louie Crew, I see a person of some privilege, and I see someone who presumes to direct the course of the "culture". (As a matter of record: he taught at the same private boarding school that I attended.) What I'm hearing, very loudly, is the complaint that the "culture" refuses to follow where they lead. Its very much the complaint of an establishment that is in denial about its right to lead.

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