Unification News for November 1998

Unpopular Culture

Before we get started, Iíd like to take a moment to acknowledge the Second Generation writers who have begun contributing to these Opinion and Commentary pages. I am confident that, in the future, this section will never lack for quality material.

A culture war is raging across this world, driven primarily by America and its humanist elite. The contended grounds are familiar; this war is well-covered "from the front." Established radio shows like Rush Limbaughís, and new ones like Michael Medvedís, do so daily. Magazines like "Heterodoxy" and "Insight," and books like Thomas Sowellís provide timely information.

From the left spring many incidents that are plainly outrageous, such as the National Endowment for the Artís funding of so-called "performance art." Much of it is so raunchy I could not begin to describe it here. We taxpayers have been footing the bill for the stuff! The Supreme Court has just ruled that we cannot be required to do so.

In this war, everyone has something to answer for. Our own Dr. Hendricks has been pointing out the shortcomings of both the liberal and conservative camps, regarding their entrenched ideologies and the problems that result. The deeper, spiritual roots of the conflict are not widely known, and only the Divine Principle can supply certain key insights.

Earth-shaking issues are involved, so vast and complicated that they can easily become overwhelming. Fortunately there are also finer details, immediate things we can always be on lookout for.

Worldviews

Films and television are not this writerís specialty, and to learn about them I recommend Mr. Medvedís works. Virtually all of the media giants are so liberal and humanistic that it hardly bears mentioning. This includes not just their "entertainment" but also their "news" divisions.

Most magazines are, at least, honest about their editorial persuasions. However, many supposedly neutral publications (in the womenís, seniorís, scientific, health and other fields) have become exclusive forums for the left.

My personal specialty is books, especially works of fiction. My on-line writerís critique group, with their experience and commentaries, have been most helpful in building my knowledge of the subject. (See "Friends On-line," March 1996 UNews.) If you are an avid reader, or know someone who is, this article is especially for you.

Every book reflects the worldview of its author, whether or not heís deliberately trying to project it, and even when he doesnít realize itís happening. This goes beyond style or even opinion, to the basic assumptions which frame each book and all the ideas it contains. In fiction, itís what "drives" the characters and plot.

Generally speaking, each genre has its conventions, which are universally assumed, but seldom admitted, much less described.

Genres

Romance novels, and their soap opera counterparts, are almost exclusively followed by women. Their influence is tremendous, and sometimes controversial. The popular "Bridges of Madison County" won praise from millions of women, but generated unease, and even disgust, from nearly all men.

Why? Because it brought passion into many womenís dull lives. And it made adultery "okay," excusable, because the heroine ultimately chose to stick with her husband. (Who was absent at the time, and thus unknowing.)

Literary and dramatic works are similar. Many feature a troubled Catholic priest, who always manages to break his vow of celibacy. Itís usually women who enjoy reading these finely detailed narrations of the everyday lives of fictional strangers. Some of these tales end up as TV miniseries.

Horror novels, many of which are made into movies, are popular with teenagers. Each strives to produce a larger "adrenaline rush" than the one before. If weíre lucky, thatís all they do. "Freddy Kruger" actor Robert Englund, when asked to describe the value of his films, replied lamely that "censorship would be worse." He forgot to point out that most horror tales do embody a certain shallow morality. To wit: the monster always gets the sneaking, illicit lovers first, and its ultimate conqueror must be sacrificially virtuous, at least on some level.

Westerns are a uniquely American genre, though Sergio Leone and other foreigners have done them justice. They are perhaps the most "principled" genre, and most embody a simple, straightforward morality. The good folks are "struck first," they suffer a while, and then rise up against the encroaching evil. In the end, the bad guys die from "well deserved" bullets. (Correct me if Iím wrong, but as I recall, every single episode of "Bonanza" ended that way.)

Mystery and thriller novels are primarily male-oriented, though a growing number of women are getting into the action. They are a relatively harmless form of escapism, peopled with odious and dashing characters that most of us will probably never meet-much less become. They are characterized by explosive action, explicit sex, and death by many means. It is de regueur that the villain is finally caught, and/or the world is saved from disaster.

The personal lessons drawn from thrillers are misleading. Their characters, heroes and villains alike, seduce their way across the world, but end up dying from anything but AIDS or other actual consequences. The only time they die in a hospital is when an assassin sneaks in!

Interestingly, these novelís written depictions of intense sex draw hardly any comment, much less criticism. Righteous indignation is usually reserved for the sex in still or motion pictures. Only the very worst books draw fire, like Luis J. Rodriguezís young adult novel "Always Running," with its graphic, street-talking sex scenes. (Itís recommended reading at many Public Schools.) Or Bret Ellisís revolting book "American Psycho," which is about to be made into a movie, starring the much-imitated teen idol Leonardo DiCaprio.

Historical fiction is sometimes mistaken for romance, but it is a separate genre. These tales are set in "actual" past settings, and often include real figures, sometimes retelling their life stories. Many have been made into award-winning films. The better authors conduct meticulous research to ensure accuracy.

With complex and tangled situations that reflect its true-life basis, this genre can carry all sorts of messages. These are inevitably Ďcoloredí by our modern perceptions. For example, not too many years ago, most adults sported a mouthful of rotten teeth. How many actors would appear like that today, even if itís just makeup?

A step beyond historical fiction, we find Classical literature. These tales are themselves historical, dating back as far as three thousand years. The Bible, and the Homeric tales of the Trojan War, are the foundations of all western literature. The Trojan legends have influenced virtually everything written since, from Irish Celtic folk tales to Imperial Roman school books to Shakespeareís plays.

These all-too-accurate depictions of humanity, of our bravery and our foibles, have lasted through the ages. They truly range from the sublime to the ridiculous. Dismissing them as the irrelevant work of "dead white males," as most Universities now do, is a sure way of condemning ones self to bitter -not blissful- ignorance.

Last but not least, we come to my favorite genre: Science Fiction, and its cousin Fantasy. Opposite the classics, these works have been called "the history of the future." They range as far as the worldís most imaginative writers can take them, embracing all of time and space, and beyond them to "alternate timelines" and "parallel universes." H. G. Wells, Jules Verne and several others were eerily prescient in their depictions of the future-the very technological world we live in today.

Overall, F&SF people are remarkably broad minded. With vividly depicted aliens as their "best buddies," any variety of human seems familiar in comparison!

Unfortunately, most F&SF authors "side with science" in its trumped-up contention with traditional religion. Their tales often marginalize or even ridicule religious characters. In many of their imagined worlds, people have managed to "outgrow" their (supposed) "stuffy Victorian heritage."

There are very special exceptions. Fantasy luminaries C. S. Lewis and J. R. R. Tolkien were both devout Christians, and that faith, even though unnamed, shines in their works. Their "moral torch" was taken up by several F&SF writers: Madeleine L'Engle and Zenna Henderson, and today by Elizabeth Moon, Stephen Lawhead and a handful of others. (I received direct confirmation of this from one such author.)

Popularity

True Father says that the Fall, and Godís redemption, are now being played out openly on the world stage. Inevitably, this is affecting the popular culture. The best and the worst are both increasing. In the end, the Principle must emerge as a "final stage." But how?

Japan is often swept by "super fads" of fashion and trendy behavior. Nearly all are trivial; most are forgotten in a few years.

However, such a fad, if based on the Principle, would not be so temporary or meaningless. The same thing could apply, to a greater or lesser extent, in every nation and culture.

We Unificationists have before us a tremendous project: injecting the Principle into the popular culture. Our film makers have tried. Our musicians continue to develop their talent. Our writers, dancers, athletes and others are making great strides.

Currently, in the popular culture, monotheism and morality are rare-and the Principle itself is essentially nonexistent. So far, not one single commercially published novel has any such content.

History tells us that this will not always be the case. Christianity took 400 years to conquer Rome; after only 40 we have a much better foundation. Things will move even faster in the years to come.

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