Culture | Year-in-Review

Culture | Multiculturalist foundations challenged by jihad, Lord of the Rings, Osbournes, and a possible war with Iraq.

Issue: "Year in Review 2002," Dec. 28, 2002

One year after the national trauma of 9/11 and one year into the war against terrorism, has "everything changed" in the culture? Well, no. And yes. American culture tried to get back to normal, but it hasn't really been able to. The culture makers in the entertainment industry, academia, and the media have tried to go back to the tried and untrue, but their efforts often seem disconnected from the new national mood.

The objective realities of war, hate, and sudden death could no longer be dismissed as mere "constructions" of the mind or the culture. The overriding values of personal peace and affluence were shaken by insecurity in the face of terrorism and by the punctured balloon of the stock market.

2002 was a year of cultural disconnect. The same-old ways of thinking no longer worked, but people had trouble thinking in any other way. In the words of a poet, the old is dead, but the new is powerless to be born. And yet, from a Christian point of view, this may be a sign of cultural progress.

Multiculturalism and the jihad

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It was a bad year for multiculturalists, relativists, and people who insist that all religions are equally valid. And yet, they remained true to their assumptions and did not let the facts get in their way.

The current war on terrorism may be the only conflict in American history in which it is considered insensitive and politically incorrect to criticize the ideology of our enemies. No one said that National Socialism was really a tolerant ideology and that the Germans were essentially peaceful people. But today Americans have become so used to the imperative of multiculturalism that it is the critics of Islam who get in trouble.

When Christian leaders like Franklin Graham criticize Islam, not only does he face fatwas-death sentences-passed against him in Muslim courts, he is denounced with secular fatwas by his own countrymen. When Ann Coulter said that the best response to the terrorist attacks was to invade their countries, kill their leaders, and convert them to Christianity, she lost her job as a regular columnist with National Review Online. That's National Review, the conservative journal of record! It was not so much her invade-and-kill suggestions that raised such a hue and cry but rather her belief that Muslims stand in need of the gospel. And yet, just a few months after her near universal vilification, her book Slander!-a funny and well-documented critique of liberal mean-spiritedness-shot up the bestseller lists, becoming one of the year's biggest-selling titles.

The mainstream culture does not know what to do with its Christian heritage. This was the year the Ten Commandments were removed not just from courthouses but from courthouse lawns. It was the year the phrase "under God" in the Pledge of Allegiance was ruled unconstitutional. And yet, this logical next step in the long march toward a purely secularist state was met with an uproar from the masses of Americans, evidence that the academic legal theories had gone too far for what the true American culture-consisting of actual people-would accept.

A major cultural initiative against Christianity was the argument that since all religions are actually the same, the problem with terrorists is that they insist that they have the only true beliefs. Conservative Christians, therefore, are just as dangerous as conservative Muslims.

This libel, repeated endlessly with variations in the media and the cultural elite, ignores the specific content of the different religious beliefs and points to a level of theological illiteracy that is dangerous in a world where, despite the secularists' best efforts, religious issues just refuse to go away. If conservative Muslims are essentially the same as conservative Christians in their strict morality and opposition to modern values, why are Muslim terrorists specifically targeting churches, Christian schools, and Christian hospitals, assassinating missionaries and in their riots looking for Christians to kill?

In 2002, Australia has had its 9/11 with the attacks in Bali, Russia has had its 9/11 with the Moscow theater attack, and Israel has had its 9/11 practically every day. If the attacks continue through the next year, perhaps Americans will finally wake up to the fact that not all religions are equally valid after all.

We want epics

It was also a confusing year for the entertainment industry. According to Wall Street Journal reporter John Lippman, Hollywood insiders did not really expect the film version of J.R.R. Tolkien's Lord of the Rings to be a success. Its $310 million budget, for all three movies, would be hard to make back. "Hollywood insiders joked that the movies would become the most expensive made-for-cable miniseries ever on TNT, the AOL-owned cable channel where, the joke went, the sequels would be dumped if the first one failed."


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