I’m betting at least some readers of this site were there; after all, he speaks of his fellow watchers as “all folks with Front Porch Republic sympathies.” I wish I could have joined him; it sounds like the conversation was a good one. Rod shares with his readers some thoughts from someone who was there Sunday night:
Every adult in the house last night was a serious Christian who engages with modernity with some degree of circumspection and critical distance. All in that group are at subtly different points on the spectrum with respect to computers, films, tv, cell-phones, diet, schooling, money and all the good life stuff, but everyone there is cognizant that such matters matter. Everyone is reflective and conscientious in making choices about these things. So I find it curious to have watched the Super Bowl together, and have really enjoyed it. You can’t get much more plugged-in to mainstream Americana than that. To discuss The Who, to use the hypercommercial NFL as a vector for expressing localist loyalties (bearing in mind not only Rod’s affection for the Saints, but my animus towards the Colts), to watch the iPhones come out…it was really funny. Whoever wondered aloud “what is Alasdair MacIntyre doing at this moment” pretty much nailed it, as far as I’m concerned. How do lads who enjoy Alasdair MacIntyre, Wendell Berry, Patrick Deneen, et. al., also find themselves pausing for E*Trade ads?
Rod responds to this by speaking the language of compromise:
Ultimately, I don’t think there’s any practical way we can undo the historical, cultural and economic situation we’re thrown into. Emphasis on practical: if one wanted to be like the Amish, that option is always there. But there’s got to be a defensible middle ground between complete refusal (the Amish option) and complete, uncritical acceptance….We could come up with a long list of ways aspects of modernity make it easier to live anti-modern lives. The only people who have no internal conflict over all this are those who have completely refused it (the Amish and their fellow travelers), and those who have completely embraced it. I submit that there are a lot of us in the uneasy middle, who have to do the best we can trying to negotiate modernity with our guilty consciences, balancing ourselves between not letting an awareness of the difficulty of our position prevent us from saying No when No needs saying, but also allowing that difficulty to keep us humble about making sweeping judgments of the compromises others make.
I can’t disagree with a word that Rod says here. I think he is absolutely right to identify all of us (that is, all of us who, for reasons of religion or philosophy or just common sense, have become sensitive to how modern life threatens the ethos of limits which makes our places worth living in) as somewhere on the continuum between the Benedict Option and full-blown liberationism. But I also must confess that I get somewhat frustrated, at times, with the language of compromise, because it seems to me that if you are, in fact, acknowledging a degree of compromise with modern life, well then, that must mean you’re….willing to work with modern life. And when applied to the political realm, to the questions of the social order and the public good, that means looking for workable, compromise solutions. But is that what most of us as FPR readers–is that what most of the folks at Rod’s Super Bowl gathering–actually do? Or is it more often the case that, when it comes to matters of personal taste and business, we recognize (perhaps because it is our own ox being gored in such situations?) the need for a humble, balanced approach to negotiating modern life, but when it comes to politics, we feel impelled to refuse compromise, to not try to make things work, but rather (perhaps gleefully?) anticipate it all collapsing around our ears?
I’m not sure I have a real point here; just some questions which Rod’s comments brought out of me. I’d sure to love to hear Rod himself, or at least some of those who watched the Saints’ comeback on Sunday along with him, share their thoughts on the matter.