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by Mark Gauvreau Judge

The Gospel of Kurt Elling

Don't just complain about "the culture"—find the good stuff.

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A few months ago, Joseph Bottom, the editor of First Things, wrote that, even as an orthodox Catholic, he could not stomach one more essay, article, book review, or even conversation about the culture war. He was just plain done with it. I can see what he means, but only up to a point. The sad fact is that the culture war has largely become about condemning the bad rather than celebrating the good. When I saw Elling at the Strathmore Center that St. Patrick's Day, it wasn't a sellout. The KC Jazz Club at the Kennedy Center only holds a couple hundred chairs, and while the place was mostly full there were empty seats in front of me. Christians and others who want a healthier culture can complain about Madonna (which I advocate doing loudly and often), but if they leave it at that their efforts will be self–defeating. They must also make an effort to enrich themselves with art and elevate genuine talent.

Buy Kurt Elling's records. Ask that Starbucks sell Live in Chicago. Wonder why the gatekeepers of our popular culture never feature him on late–night talk shows. You may even ask why conservative magazines, in a permanent kvetch about the popular culture, don't seem interested in him. And if Elling comes to your town and it's between him and a Law & Order rerun, pick Elling.

Mark Gauvreau Judge is the author most recently of God and Man at Georgetown Prep: How I Became a Catholic Despite 20 Years of Catholic Schooling (Crossroad).

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