You have a quotation standing above your blog, from a 1930s film critic, that says: “Theaters are the new Church of the Masses — where people sit huddled in the dark listening to people in the light tell them what it is to be human.” What does that quotation mean to you?
It means that the Church has lost its distinctive voice of authority in the contemporary moment. That quotation was written in the 1930s, but it’s even more true today. The Church, which had been the primary teaching voice in human history, has lost its voice of authority. It’s just another competing voice out there now — and to tell you the truth, because the Church has shunned using the modern media, it’s not even a very compelling voice.
So if you’re not going into a Church, you’re not hearing the Church’s voice. But the Church used to be an authority that would stand up in the culture and say to you, “This is what virtue is. This is what meaning is. This is what the point of your life is. This is good and this is bad.”
Where do people find those things now? They listen to television and the movies. They go to the media, and the media will tell them what the point of their life is. I don’t know that that’s a good thing. It’s not a bad thing in every case. There are some people writing who seek very responsibly and seriously to help people discern what matters in life. I know a lot of them in Hollywood. But for many other people, their whole preoccupation in making movies and television is to keep people distracted for 22 minutes, 47 minutes, or 2 hours. For those people, there’s no interest at all in doing good, or no concern with doing harm.
Dostoevsky said that man, in the end, will be saved by beauty — or nothing. In other words, the last voice of authority will be the Beautiful. The Beautiful is the last voice that will be compelling for people. So the question is, if we have become a society that no longer produces the Beautiful, and we’re no longer in an agrarian society so people no longer have regular access to natural beauty, then there will in fact be no compelling voice of authority. When there is no ultimate voice of authority in the world, then everyone is his own authority. Then you have moral and cultural anarchy.