A. Patrick, author of "Essays on Modernity and the Permanent Things" (www.TowerPressBooks.com)
Two Approaches To Culture: Evangelistic & Diagnostic | Carl E. Olson | CWR Editorial
New books by Fr. Robert Barron and Dr. James A. Patrick are exceptional guides to the confused and confounding dominant culture
“The best is the betting of one's very life on behalf of Christ, the good, the self-denying and the dangerous.” — Dr. James A. Patrick
"The authentically Christian spiritual itinerary never ends with something as bland as 'self-discovery.' Rather, it ends with the splendid privilege of participating in God's own work in bringing grace into the world." — Fr. Robert Barron
[Robert] Graves really is writing about our own age, not of some remote future: of life in today's United States .... He is saying that culture arises from the cult; and that when belief in the cult has been wretchedly enfeebled, the culture will decay swiftly. The material order rests upon the spiritual order.” — Russell Kirk, “Civilization Without Religion?”
A friend, having recently read Fr. Robert Barron's review of Kenneth Branagh's movie, “Cinderella”, sent me this quote from Cardinal John Henry Newman:
“With Christians, a poetical view of things is a duty. We are bid to color all things with hues of faith, to see a divine meaning in every event.”
It's an apt description of a Christian cultural critic, and Fr. Barron is an especially fine commentator on culture, whether it be “high”, “low”, or “pop” culture. His new book Seeds of the Word: Finding God in the Culture (Word on Fire, 2015) is a collection of over 80 of his essays about movies (“Imago Dei: God in Film”), literature (“Take and Read: God in Books”), politics (“City On a Hill”), and culture at large (“Rays of Truth”). It is an exceptional example of an accomplished academic—Fr. Barron is a skilled theologian and the Rector/President of Mundelein Seminary in Chicago—engaging with the good, bad, beautiful, and ugly found throughout American culture.
It's important to point out that Fr. Barron, who I've had the pleasure of working for on two catechetical series (“Catholicism” and “Priest Prophet King”), is fundamentally motivated by a love for God, truth, and souls. In an homage written a week ago for the late Cardinal Francis George, Fr. Barron highlights the missionary vision and heart of the late Archbishop of Chicago. He notes that Cardinal George was not satisfied with Catholics taking a “counter-cultural” stance only, as “this can suggest a simple animosity, whereas the successful evangelist must love the culture he is endeavoring to address":
But he saw a deeper problem as well, namely, that, strictly speaking, it is impossible to be thoroughly counter-cultural, since such an attitude would set one, finally, against oneself. It would be a bit like a fish adamantly insisting that he swims athwart the ocean. Therefore, the one who would proclaim the Gospel in the contemporary American setting must appreciate that the American culture is sown liberally with semina verbi (seeds of the Word).
This approach, as he explains in his book, is an adaptation of the patristic method of seeking out “seeds of the Word”—“hints and echoes of the Gospel that can be found, often in distorted form, in the high and low contemporary culture.”