Hospitable Prophet & Elitist Highbrow

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I recently received an email from a new friend who essentially passed on two questions from one of his friends that were triggered by my interview in Relevant online.

The questions I hear are as follows:

1) Is Dick Staub hospitable or a prophet?
2) Is D.S. a highbrow elitist?

Here is the email exchange and my responses follow:


[FRIEND BEGINS BY QUOTING THE FOLLOWING FROM DS… We just launched The Kindlings Muse which we describe as an intelligent, imaginative, hospitable exploration of ideas that matter in contemporary life.”

“… My next book, coming out in January, is titled The Culturally Savvy Christian: A Manifesto for Deepening Faith & Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite. I can’t imagine anyone in faith or culture speaking to me after its release!”

FRIEND THEN QUESTIONS WHO DS IS: Apparently hospitality of ideas only goes so far. You are either are prophet or you aren’t. This guy needs to decide which one he is.

He sounds like someone who thinks that if only we were all spiritual high brows, the world would be transformed. I think he needs to learn to see redemptive power in the middle and lowbrow. In the middle and low, we are a community. We think and feel things together. Maybe this is even a BETTER place for us to speak of the Kingdom of God than in the high brow. Maybe Jesus came to give the gospel back to the masses.

At least these are the things I’d ask Disk Staub if he and i were hanging out somewhere where we could really talk.]

DICK RESPONDS: Regarding the following.

1) Is Dick Staub hospitable or a prophet?

This is a fascinating question and one my wife and I have been discussing lately. Stylistically my entire broadcasting career has been based on building bridges between people who don’t talk with each other. I love the story of John Adams and Thomas Jefferson, who, while forging their fledgling democracy, found their disagreements so severe that they broke off what was once a close friendship. After years of silence, a mutual friend persuaded them to write to each other. Adams’s letter began with these touching words: “You and I ought not to die before we have explained ourselves to each other.” In today’s argument culture I’ve always desired to get people talking with each other instead of about each other.

My new book (release date March 2007), “The Culturally Savvy Christian A Manifesto for Deepening Faith and Enriching Popular Culture in an Age of Christianity-Lite” is not a strident book, but it does represent my conclusions after watching and listening to faith and culture for 40+ years. The tone is still conciliatory towards people in faith and culture but the truth as I see it is unpleasant for both religious and irreligious alike. My basic argument can be summarized in the follwoing three points.

One. American popular culture is extremely influential, but is ultimately superficial (diversionary, mindless, celebrity oriented), spiritually delusional (moralistic, therapeutic, deism) and soulless (sustained not by art, craft and ideas, but by the mad pursuit of profit, propped up by marketing and technology).

Two. American Christianity has devolved into its own superficiality (mindless, diversionary, celebrity propped up by marketing and technology)

Three. The only hope for a renaissance of faith and culture is a spiritual renewal that restores God’s image in us (with it’s spiritual, intellectual, creative, moral and relational dimensions) so we might take our place as cultural enrichers who: counter culture like aliens and exiles, communicate in culture like ambassadors and create culture like artists.

I didn’t set out to write a “manifesto,” but in an age where few people stand up and say, “the emperor has no clothes,” I guess this book feels prophetic. This same phenomenon was evident when I spoke out about the artistic deficiencies of “Facing the Giants.” Many Christians were distressed that I raised concern about this “family friendly, well intentioned effort by a local church.” My point all along was that it might make money, but that as film goes, it would be an artistic embarrassment. The 92% negative rating by film critics like those at Rotten Tomato is what I feared would happen and it did.

2) Is D.S. a highbrow elitist?

This is also an interesting question and in the past I have written specifically about the loss of middlebrow culture. In that piece I referred to C.S. Lewis as a thinker and writer who is today thought of as an elite intellectual type, but who in his own day was criticized for reaching out to the middlebrow. “This (middlebrow) is actually the population to whom Lewis wrote and he was criticized by his academic peers for doing so. They found his work pedestrian and popularized. Lewis believed unless you could convert an idea into the vernacular you either didn’t understand it or didn’t believe it! The fact that Americans today sometimes think of Lewis’ writing as “difficult to understand,” or too intellectual, is a commentary on us not Lewis. It appears the vernacular of a few years ago is the highbrow of today. It is a reminder that we are lacking a middlebrow population, a position that it seems to me should be occupied by everyday Christians who seek to love the Lord their God with their mind.”

My point is that we are created in God’s image with innate spiritual, intellectual, creative capacities and both culture and the faith community are at a low point in the pursuit and development of these qualities. I think that makes me seem like a highbrow-elitist. In reality all it makes me is someone who believes to be reunited with God means to become fully human, and to be fully human means to develop my God given capacities for reflecting the image of God in my life.

Finally one question the writer did not ask:

What is Dick Staub’s name? My name is Dick Staub, not “this guy” or Disk Staub! And I would love to hang out and talk about this stuff (and do in Seattle every Monday night at 7PM at “The Kindlings Muse” at Hales Ales Brewery and Pub.

Yours for the pursuit of God in the company of friends, Dick Staub.

PS. And remember, “these are the best of times and the worst of times, but they are the only times we have.” (For Now).

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    Posted in Staublog in October 17, 2006 by | No Comments »

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