Stolen Valor redux

The gutless Christians who have changed born that man no more may die/ born to raise the sons of earth” to born that we no more may die/born to raise us from the earth” could not write a song as beautiful as Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” but in editing the lyrics, they have created the illusion that the beauty of the song is compatible with the genius of the Zeitgeist. In changing the lyrics, they are claiming that popular, stylish ethics are capable of producing works of lasting beauty. They have drawn a false line from real brilliance to fake enlightenment.

Simply put, then, if you don’t like the politics or theology of old songs and stories, write your own. Test the spirits, as St. John says. See whether your theology has any creative power and be content to sing whatever your convictions produce. To edit the lyrics of old hymns is to tacitly admit the creative poverty of your own beliefs. To edit old films so they are consistent with current politics deceives viewers into believing current politics have real staying power, or that contemporary politics can take credit for any number of cultural achievements of the past. The same would be true of a hardware store which opened last year, but proudly displayed the words Since 1932” underneath their logo.

Joshua Gibbs of the CiRCE Institute

December 31, 2019

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