CURMUDGEONLY GUIDE TO CULTURAL AWARENESS
Douglas Groothuis, somewhat updated, April 6, 2012
CURMUDGEONLY GUIDE TO CULTURAL AWARENESS
Curmudgeons are picky about media. They don’t just turn things on and let them run. They develop opinions on what is trustworthy, thoughtful, and worth attending to. In our overly mediated culture, we need to develop some discernment over the media we use and how we use them (lest they use us). This is nothing like a treatise on that subject, although one day I hope to write one. This essay simply lists some of my media sources and some brief commentary. I do not discuss books because I have written long annotated bibliographies on that subject. Books are my primary access to knowledge. Please read that sentence again.
In the last few years, I have been listening to more “talk radio,” but only when I’m in the car driving somewhere. The most balanced, congenial, and intelligent host is probably Dennis Prager, who is a conservative Jew and an adult convert to political conservatism. Michael Medved is also quite sharp, but a bit more acerbic than Prager. He, too, is a conservative Jew and, like Prager, is very friendly toward evangelicals. Some may write off Michael Savage as an extremist because of his anger and hyperbolic statements. Nevertheless, he is very witty and often courageous in the views he holds. He is not afraid to name evil for what it is (especially regarding the Islamic sources of terrorism) and is a theist of some sort. Sean Hannity strikes me as more of an ideologue than a thinker, although I often agree with him. Nevertheless, he is not very stimulating intellectually. Rush Limbaugh is a bit bombastic, but very intelligent and knowledgeable about politics.
3. Newspapers: I check The New York Times on line and buy the Sunday paper once in a great while. I also often read The Wall Street Journal on line, or whatever I can not without being a paid subscriber.
4. Magazines: Christianity Today has declined recently in content (too trendy) and form (it is too image-dominated), but is still the main organ of evangelicalism. Books and Culture attempts to be the evangelical equivalent of the New York Times Book Review. The results are mixed, but there is some very thoughtful writing. My wife and I find that US News and World Report beats Time and Newsweek for content, although we have not subscribed for a few years. I also regularly check (but do not subscribe to) Harpers and The Atlantic Monthly for important cultural trends. The Chronicle of Higher Education is a key organ for college professors and administrators. First Things is a very thoughtful journal, which treats matters of religion and culture. The writers are usually orthodox Jews, Evangelicals, and Roman Catholics. The New York Times Review of Books is an important source on current books, but not as scholarly as The Times Literary Supplement. The Christian Research Journal is the best source for following and evaluating counterfeit religious movements and basic apologetics. Lapham Quarterly is a very erudite journal, with each issue dedicated to a particular them. It takes classic excerpts on the topic from history and adds a few new entries. The editor’s introduction is often worth the price of the journal, despite his irreligion and leftist political views.
5. Movies: I have seen very few recently—meaning the last 20 years—because they are either: (1) too stupid, (2) too sensual or (3) too violent—or all three or any two of the three. My favorite movies are: “Babbette’s Feast” (Danish, with subtitles) “Citizen Kane” (Orson Wells classic) and “It’s a Wonderful Life” (James Stewart classic). I also thought that “Expelled” (starring Ben Stein) was an excellent expose on the unprincipled attacks on those who teach Intelligent Design.
6. Recorded interviews: Mars Hill Audio, hosted by Ken Myers (author of All God’s Children and Blue Suede Shoes): www.marshillaudio.org. Myers interviews many thoughtful intellectuals and artists in a bi-monthly recording (CD or download).