Fantastical Truth

Fantastical Truth

178. Should We Weaponize Fantastical Stories To ‘Own the Libs’?

September 05, 2023

We hear a lot about “evangelical bubbles,” even on this podcast.[1. Photo by Juliana Romão on Unsplash] People say that Christians ought not live in their insular spaces, but make better stories that help reflect our world. Some encourage believers to plant oases of imagination to serve the common good. Others seem to put their own “oases” onto armored platforms to roll around the territory, firing paintballs. Are these our only choices: influencing mainstream culture versus more aggressive work to “own the libs”? Today, we shall explore pros, cons, and legit Christian-alternative stories that help relieve all our “culture wars.”

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Episode sponsors
  1. Enclave Publishing: The Eternity Gate by Katherine Briggs
  2. The Pop Culture Parent by Ted Turnau, E. Stephen Burnett, and Dr. Jared Moore
  3. The Lorehaven Guild

Concession stand
  • This is almost a very quickly developed sequel to episode 176.
  • This is something many of our listeners will have thought about.
  • And in our last episode 177, Marian Jacobs set this up by the end.
  • For those hoping to “engage the culture,” you can’t ignore “culture war.”
  • And for those hoping to move past real conflicts, you also can’t ignore it.
  • Some people have other conflicts going on. They can’t handle this “war.”
  • In that case, it helps to know whether/how to support those who can.

Quotes and notes

1. Culture War: “stories are too good for the enemy”
  • James Davison Hunter coined the phrase “culture wars” in a 1992 book.
  • Here’s the back cover from Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America:

A riveting account of how Christian fundamentalists, Orthodox Jews, and conservative Catholics have joined forces in a battle against their progressive counterparts for control of American secular culture.

  • That sounds about right. But these “wars” are bigger than just the U. S.
  • They affect all of our imaginations and the kinds of books that we see.
  • Some of Christian-made fantasy goes bad thanks to “the culture wars.”
  • Authors may see their story as a tool in the fight, rather than a story first.
  • Now we’re also seeing cultural conservatives say, “hey, we need fiction.”
  • The late Rush Limbaugh “wrote” time-travel history fantasy with his wife.
  • Newer publishers are selling virtue-oriented children’s picture books.
  • The Daily Wire is filming even now in Hungary for The Pendragon Cycle.
  • We’ve had some of these folks on here before, and heard questions.
  • What are these pundit types doing, trying to make popular culture?
  • Aren’t they just stuffing books and shows into cannons to fire at folks?
  • On one hand, branding may be difficult, given audience expectations.
  • In most battlefields, too many will use any thing just to “own the libs.”
  • Often this isn’t even about real victory, but mere good “vibes” of victory.
  • Some of this stuff is indeed propaganda, shiny-looking, but not helpful.
  • Other stuff looks really good, coming from a sincere love for storytelling.
  • I use our five-questions set to find the graces/idols in “culture war” too.
  • Soldiers have always tactically “retreated” to stories and humanity’s best.
  • Remember that without serious war, we wouldn’t have Tolkien and Lewis.
  • Some “culture warriors” can also make their way to this old tradition.

2. Culture Pacifism: “stuff creative flowers into rifles”
  • Many of our listeners may find this view attractive. They are tired of war.
  • Either they’ve been in “culture wars” or are simply sick of hearing them.
  • Sticking with the metaphor, PTSD is real; this is a much milder version.
  • Or maybe folks just recognize that “all fighting, all the time” isn’t healthy.
  • So in reaction, some Christians embrace this kind of culture pacifism.
  • E.g. Art and stories and imagination are the key to renewing humanity.
  • “Because walls and weapons wound people, let’s do away with them all.”
  • “In fact, any criticism (even gracious and firm) will hurt people, so avoid.”
  • “We know that ‘the world is watching,’ so let’s be on our best behavior.”
  • But what does “the world” mean? Particular groups? Victims or enemies?
  • Enemies often have real tragic backstories, yet they’re still our enemies.
  • Jesus never said “you have no enemies.” He said, “love your enemies.”
  • Love means saying “no” to an enemy. Many view this as an act of war.
  • Stories and imagination won’t hurt sinfully dead hearts. Only Christ can.
  • And we must admit that some “culture war” is necessary (Romans 13).
  • Governments should reward good and punish evil, as God’s servant.
  • In any culture (especially a republic), citizens act as part of government.
  • But we must also see the good here. “Culture war” folks must discern.
  • We’re not always fighting a cultural oppressor. Sometimes we must talk.
  • Every legitimate war has pauses, retreats, alliances, diplomacy, treaties.
  • Don’t start a war you aren’t prepared to win—without a plan for peace.

3. Culture engagement: know your rank and mission
  • We may not (and should not be?) full-time “soldiers” in these conflicts.
  • Let’s not oppose the “culture wars.” Some things should be fought over.
  • But it does matter if we see all of life centered around endless fighting.
  • Christians may debate actual war, but all believe in defending the good.
  • On the other hand, every fantastic creator comments on these “wars.”
  • Even those who oppose “the culture wars” are enjoining the conflict.
  • Logically, nothing-but-”war” turns you into a self-destroying mercenary.
  • Logically, nothing-but-”peace” can turn you into a cowardly enabler.
  • In either case, we’re not always warriors! We’re saints with many callings.
  • That’s why we suggest: Christian fan, know your rank and mission.
  • Know what “hat” you wear. Practice discernment. Who’s your opponent?
  • Don’t serve coffee to a combatant. And don’t scream at “man of peace.”
  • And as story fans, we believe fiction has purpose beyond mere fighting.
  • This calls for wisdom. Yeah, some are called to be the firebrand pundits.
  • Most are called to simple faithfulness to church, family, jobs, friends.
  • Imaginative works are, as Turnau said, an oasis to connect with others.

Mission update

Next on Fantastical Truth

“Whoa. Dudes, that was such an edgy movie. The star of the show drinks so much. I wish I could be like him.” “Wow, bro, and that book was amazing. And that hero, he’s a ‘Real’ Man. I can tell because he drove fast cars. Also he had eleventeen girlfriends and even more visible abs. He shot people with guns without asking nicely for anything, and also he’s a lone free ranger.” That’s a “Real” Man, according to many stories, fantastical and otherwise. But how can great stories expose the idols of the “Real” Man versus the good man we should strive to know, or become, following the best God-Man, Jesus Christ? Inspired by Nancy R. Pearcey’s new book The Toxic War on Masculinity, we’ll stand tall and take a square-jawed look at this controversy.