Deal W. Hudson, editor and publisher of Crisis magazine, presenting a lecture entitled “Conversion and Culture” at Christendom College on March 11, began by speaking of his own conversion from being a Southern Baptist minister to being a Roman Catholic.
“One of the reasons I left the Southern Baptist denomination was its unwillingness to embrace history, culture, and works of the mind and the imagination. The Catholic Church does all of this.”
But, in spite of our rich Catholic history, Hudson finds that today many Catholics tend to have a deep suspicion of culture. Few people have probably had as much first-hand experience as he has had of talking to Catholics about cultural issues. Over the past eight years, as the editor of Crisis, a magazine dealing with politics, culture, and the Church, he has had routine disputes with staff, board members, donors, and readers over things like Harry Potter, the place of serious music reviews in a Catholic monthly, and various movie reviews.
In addition, for the past three years, Hudson has worked with George W. Bush on Catholic issues and political outreach. “Now that’s what I call a serious ‘learning curve’ on Catholic attitudes toward culture,” he quipped.
The constant danger for deeply committed Catholics is that they might fall into spiritual impatience, or a kind of sacred discontent that encourages scorning culture, he said. Obviously, the culture should not be placed on a pedestal, as if it were an end in itself. But, like the body itself in relation to the spirit, it is a second thing, but a second thing that God has united with Himself.
“Everyone partly receives and partly creates a culture,” Hudson added. “But everyone has the mind and will to create a culture of their own home, dorm room, family, and personal relationships. Culture is both visible and invisible. The visible is something you can address; the invisible is just a fact of life. Culture is the air we breathe. Pretending you can live culture-free is like a fish pretending to live out of water.”
Oftentimes, many people look for ways to escape the culture. There are notable escape routes employed, not merely by Catholics, but by many who have strong commitments to ideals. But these escape routes are “fundamentally marked by cynicism and bitterness, and belie optimism and genuine hope,” Hudson continued.
“True culture, Catholic culture, belongs to everyone. We need to retrieve the past and present of Catholic culture. Building the culture of life is not simply the defense of unborn life. It is the defense of man and his orientation to God,” he concluded.
Gerard V. Bradley, a professor of law at the University of Notre Dame, will speak on “The Church and State in America Today” on Monday, April 22 to wrap up the 2001-02 Major Speakers Program at Christendom.