16th Jan 2013
To Win Our Culture, Catholics Must Start Telling the Stories
by Joshua Mercer
Many Catholics have become concerned, if not despondent, about the continued attacks on life, family and religious liberty in politics today.
It is suggested that too much time and money has been spent trying to win political victories, which have proven elusive so far. After all, this month marks the 40th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the U.S. Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, and the high court could well decide the legal fate of same-sex “marriage” this spring.
Faced with this adversity, some have suggested that Catholics should recede from politics altogether and focus only instead on changing the culture.
But a political surrender would be unwise. Numerous state laws protecting human life were passed in 2011 and are now saving lives. Why would we give that up? And why would we enable the enemies of life and marriage to use the full power and resources of the federal government to subsidize abortion?
No, we shouldn’t quit politics, for it remains an area where we can educate the public, persuade policymakers, and make a difference.
But the time has come for young Catholics to think less about Capitol Hill and more about Hollywood. It’s time for Catholics to enter the arts — to pen the books that move people, to create characters that people love, to write the songs that make the whole world sing.
Think about it. We have national elections every other year, and presidential elections every four years. But we engage with our culture every day. It’s the TV shows we watch, the books we read, the music we hear on the radio.
We can’t allow this entire field of the human experience to be void of Christian insights on love, suffering, redemption, and grace.
The political victories of the gay-rights movement last November, for example, became possible only after a decade-long cultural change in attitudes. Television shows like Modern Family have changed the opinions of many Americans (for the worse, in my mind) by portraying same-sex relationships as perfectly normal and acceptable.
The time has come to start telling our stories. After all, stories are far more compelling at changing hearts and minds than a pile of statistics and facts. Is it any surprise that Jesus used parables to teach us?
One person who’s trying to encourage more artists is Barbara Nicolosi. She started Act One, which is dedicated to helping young Christians learn the craft of writing for movies or television shows.
Dozens of students have graduated from Act One and entered the entertainment industry. Some of their faces you would recognize. This is a vital area where we should encourage our children and grandchildren to consider as a career. How could we be serious about a New Evangelization without giving any thought to vital the work of actors, writers, and artists?
Actually, we should do more than just gently nudge young Catholics to become artists. We should hire them.
In an interview with Lay Witness, Nicolosi noted that the Catholic Church is no longer a “patron of the arts”:
[Playboy magazine founder] Hugh Hefner spent more on the arts in the last month than the Church probably spent in the last year, and maybe even the last decade. He hired hundreds of actors and models and photographers and writers and designers and directors, etc.
And we wonder why people like Hefner have cultural power, and we in the Church have been relegated to cultural irrelevance? Who is the real “leaven in the lump of the world” here? We’ve so lost the value of beauty and art and storytelling in the Church that we don’t deserve the moniker anymore — “patron of the arts.” We’re not.
Not all of us are artists. I can’t carry a tune to save my life. But we can all be patrons of the arts.
Right now, parishes support musicians because our liturgy demands it. But wouldn’t it be nice if young Christians could earn a living sculpting statues for our churches?
And if we start telling compelling stories about the human experience, we have the ability to change our world for the better.
Claes Ryn, professor at Catholic University of America, has stated:
Great power for shaping society lies with those who make us see life through their eyes. Deep within our personalities are the marks left by the imaginative and intellectual masterminds-poets, religious visionaries, painters, composers, and philosophers-the individuals whose intuitions or ideas leave others changed. Directly or indirectly, those individuals create the tenor of an age, for good or ill. They may be long dead, but their visions move the living.
Let’s help the world see life through our eyes.
Joshua Mercer is Director of Communications and co-founder of CatholicVote.org, a grassroots organization that provides a voice in politics for hundreds of thousands of lay Catholics. Previously, he served as Chairman of Students for Life of America and also Washington Correspondent for the National Catholic Register.
The views expressed in this column are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the positions of Catholic Pulse or the Knights of Columbus.