Notwithstanding the fact that I spread joy wherever go, I was surprised to pick up a copy of CityPaper last evening and find myself quoted by the editors of that publication on page 4, in their round-up of responses to their recent articles. Regular readers know that I have been behind the idea of transferring the present headquarters of the Federal Trade Commission to the National Gallery for some time now, and may recall a couple of weeks ago when I wrote a piece in response to CityPaper’s mockery of Congressman John Mica’s spearheading of this effort. I did not send the blog piece to the editors of CityPaper, so somehow it must have found its way to their desk, perhaps via Twitter.
In any case, since I normally do not read CityPaper unless, as in the case of both the article on Congressman Mica and their publication of part of my blog post, I happen to find myself killing time somewhere with access to no other reading material, it was pure serendipity that I picked up this week’s edition while awaiting friends. CityPaper certainly did not contact me to let me know they were running some of my comments, but of course that is not unusual if you publish a blog post or an open letter. It was more eye-rolling to see that they misspelled “Courtier” as “Courier” which, given I can only assume they wanted their regular readers to track me down and leave me nasty comments, rather proves my point about the quality of their publication.
That being said, I do give CityPaper credit for running something less-than-complimentary about their work. This is something of a rare quality these days among traditional media outlets. While I do not presume that their attitude toward the National Gallery project has changed as a result of what I wrote, the fact that clearly something of what I said hit a nerve with someone on their editorial board is a good thing. And it allows us to consider how vital it is to engage, debate, and challenge the culture in which we live. Catholics certainly need to do so more often than some of us are, but those of us who have interests in areas of broader interest in this country, such as the arts, ought to be challenging the present culture whenever we can.
Last evening for example, at the “Theology On Tap” event sponsored here in D.C. by the Archdiocese of Washington, my friend Thomas Peters of American Papist spoke at length on a number of issues facing those of us who grew up during the Papacy of Blessed John Paul II, as well as reasons why we should be hopeful about the future. In particular, I was struck by his observations about our duty to call the media on the carpet when it is reporting incorrect information about the Catholic Church. Fortunately, as he noted, the news media world of our parents and grandparents, with only three nightly television news broadcasts to choose from, is long gone. That reality was eventually supplanted by the advent of 24-hour news networks, and these to some extent have diminished in importance with the explosion of the possibilities of the internet for getting information out to the public.
Thomas was very clear in stating that not everyone can, or should, be writing their own commentary in a blog. However he did stress the importance of Catholics not passively standing by when the Church, its teachings, or institutions are maligned in the media by those who either do not understand what they are talking about, or are deliberately setting out to injure the Church. He pointed out that under the older systems of media, people did not question what was being reported to them, whereas now, the mainstream media realizes that they no longer fully in control of their medium.
The points raised at last evening’s talk go beyond Catholicism, of course, to a broader set of points regarding Western Culture irrespective of one’s creed. One of the reasons it is often frustrating for me to write about topics such as art and architecture for example, is because so many of my peers simply know little or nothing about these subjects, having bought into the lie fostered by leftist academics and their collaborators in public institutions and the media that if you dare to disagree with them, you are some sort of secular heretic. Calling a spade a spade does not make you friends, of course, but it is sometimes necessary to ensure that truth gets a hearing.
The survival of the Church as the JPII generation begins to take over is part of the larger question of what will happen to the West when we are left in charge. This morning a friend asked, in a grumbling sort of way, about what kind of state Western Civilization will be in a century from now. The answer to that question is: it will be as vibrant as we, ourselves, choose to make it. And one of the ways to make sure that there is a vibrancy left for future generations is for us to publicly challenge the media when it does something wrong, through whatever means we have at our disposal – for the sake of truth, yes, but also for the sake of preserving the integrity of the culture.
You yourself may not be able to write a good letter to the editor, for example, but you can, with your own good, common sense, identify and support those who can do these things, and do them well. That is just as important for the effort to fight for the future of the West, for otherwise those of us who do raise a fuss are not going to be able to have a real impact on combating the culture of death that got us into the mess we are in now on all levels of society, from church to state, lectern to easel. As our parents finally head into their retirement years, it becomes our choice whether the present crop of young adults will remain the intellectually lazy, wishy-washy layabouts that – let’s face it – many of our peers were raised to be. My hope is that we will finally decide to take control of the direction of our own future.