feeling. . . . Popular culture,nlike the meat offered to idols inn1 Corinthians 10, is a part ofnthe created order, part of thenearth’s that is the Lord’s, andnthus something capable ofnbringing innocent pleasure tonbelievers. But not everythingnthat is permissible isnconstructive. That is the mainntheme of this book.nUnlike so many voluble Christiansntoday, Myers does not regard it as anChristian duty to create a holy communitynon earth. “Not even the people ofnGod in our epoch of redemptive historynare called to create a holy culture,nbecause Christians are called to go outninto every culture with the Gospel. Wenare a people, to be sure, but ournpeoplehood is spiritual. Culturally, wenare Jew and Gentile, Greek .and Roman,nEuropean and African.” Yet,n”while our culture may not be holy, itnshould not be inhuman. This is thenperspective we must bring to bear onnall aspects of culture, especially onnpopular culture, which not only presentsnsome unique challenges tonpersonal piety, but which increasinglynposes threats to our humanity.”nPopular culture is never to be confusednwith folk art. It is not, as Myersnobserves, simply a new diversion, butnrather a culture of diversion. “Popularnculture was not simply influenced by,nbut was created by the same forces thatnresulted in modernity.” While “Modernitynhas not excluded God from thenuniverse . . . [it] has simply made itnmore difficult to maintain a consciousnessnof God’s presence in a culture thatnincreasingly ignores Him.”nPopular culture celebrates noveltynand the present, provides instant gratificationnand the warm silk-lined blanketnof the familiar, abhors (and is largelynignorant of) transcendence, is associativenrather than evocative in technique,nand is the creation of formula, not ofninspiration. This last characteristicnguarantees that it is an impersonalnculture, for which impersonality is substitutednthe personality of the “artist.”nStill, “When I say I ‘like’ Bach, andnyou say you ‘like’ Bon Jovi, are wenreally using the same verb?” For whatninterested Bach — and appreciativenhearers of his music — was art; whilenwhat is of central concern to Bon Jovinand their anthropophagous fans is “thenenergy that drives the self” and that isnassociated in contemporary societynwith fast cars, cocaine parties, cities,nand the reinvention of the self as thencenter of the universe. Television andnrock ‘n’ roll are not just the dominantnforces pushing contemporary popularnculture. They are also “the essence ofnthe spirit of our age.”nC.S. Lewis wrote that, “The ideallynbad book is the one of which a goodnreading is impossible.” Popularn”literature” — a/k/a “reading material”—nis comprised of books that approach,nto a greater or lesser degree,nthat negative perfection, just as popularn”art” is comprised of paintings andnstatuary of which a good viewing isnimpossible, popular “music” of whichna good hearing is impossible, andnBroadway “drama” of which a goodnperformance is impossible and an intelligentnobservance intolerable. In then60’s occurred the eclipse of high culturenby popular culture, as — in HiltonnKramer’s description — “the boundarynseparating art and fashion wasnbreached . . . [and with it] the dividingnline between high art and popularnculture. ” Among the effects of thisncalamity have been, in KennethnMyers’ opinion, a loss of culturalnmemory and a growing disinterest innboth the past and the future. As andirect result of it too, the claims ofnChristian dogma have come to appearnmore absurd than ever before — a conditionnwith which the churches havenattempted to cope by co-opting thenmedium of popular culture in thenpropagation of the Christian message.nWith foreseeable effect, of course:n”Our God is too small because ournculture is too small.”nAnd by the way: if the Word appearsnto be so much a discouraging onentoday, that may be in part because ofnthe low estate to which the printednword has fallen. Although televisionnoften seems destined universally tonreplace the word with the image as thenbasic unit of communication, wordsnnevertheless have properties essentialnto higher human thought that merenimages cannot provide. An image isnwhat the social scientists call “valueneutral”;nwhile no image is capable ofnconveying so seemingly simple an ideanas the idea of being — of the great InAM, for example.nnn”I don’t think,” Mr. Myers concludes,n”total abstinence from TV” —nor, one gathers, from popular culturengenerally — “is necessary or wise. “n(Oh dear.) Unlike many or most membersnof the late Moral Majority, hencannot believe that “much would benimproved if, all other things beingnequal. Christians could somehow takenover all of the instruments of popularnculture, even if they were very talentednand orthodox Christians.” Selfexposurento what Dwight McDonaldncalled “masscult” is thus permissible tonChristians, so long as they recognize itnfor what it is and do not prostratenthemselves before its idols.nPermissible, then: but is it constructive?nNot really, except to the extentnthat it preserves them from a monkishnand elitist existence. Man is a spirit andna Promethean being whose highestnneeds and abilities are scarcely honorednand served by popular culture, fornwhose creators he exists finally as nonmore than a creature of which a goodnreading is impossible.nChilton Williamson, Jr. is seniorneditor for books at Chronicles.nThree Voices Fromnthe Southnby George CorenNew and Selected Stories,n1959-1989nby Charles Edward EatonnNew York, London, and Toronto:nCornwall Books; 355 pp., $18.95nBy Land, By Sea: Storiesnby William HoffmannBaton Rouge: Louisiana StatenUniversity Press; 184 pp., $16.95nThe Women Who Walk: Storiesnby Nancy Huddleston PackernBaton Rouge: Louisiana StatenUniversity Press; 184 pp., $17.95nNeariy sixty years ago John PealenBishop published a remarkablenessay in the Virginia Quarterly Reviewnentitled “The South and Tradition.” Innit he ruminated on the Old South — itsnglories and failings — and said that thenSouth had a civilization because likenMAY 1990/43n