Madam Secretary and Conversations in an Age of Mass Media

I have been pondering how artists may help to shape political and moral conversations in an age of mass media. About a week ago I watched “Madam Secretary” in awe and amazement.

The episode centered on separating children from their parents when detaining asylum seekers who, for whatever reason, are deemed to have entered the United States illegally. Interestingly, the forces pushing such a policy in the TV show were states’ rights supporters ranged against the leaders of the federal government who considered such a “deterrent” as inherently immoral and inconsistent with American values. My amazement came from hearing the same arguments I have used in preaching on the topic coming from the mouths of the fictional Secretary of State and President while the opposing arguments were almost word-for-word from those who have objected to my preaching. The cliffhanger conclusion of the episode with the arrest of the Secretary of State after revealing the caged condition of the children to reporters, who were arrested in turn, makes me hope that the next episode will reveal some way beyond our present impasse. But even if it doesn’t, I salute Barbara Hall and the writers and actors in this episode for treating the topic with such intelligence.

Admittedly the purpose of liturgical arts, like that of liturgy itself, is the worship of God and the sanctification of the faithful. And yet I instinctually feel that liturgical arts may and perhaps must also engage the world in which God is worshiped and in which the faithful live out their lives on the way to eternity. How might the songs we write and sing, the prayers we shape and the preaching we engage in advance the vision of the Reign of God without demonizing those who have not/cannot/will not share that vision? How can the liturgical ministry we serve lead to conversion of hearts and minds? How can we from a liturgical perspective shape political and moral conversations in an age of mass media?

One comment

  1. If the purpose of the liturgical arts is the worship of God, then the preaching seeks to give us ways to understand God. If the preaching does it’s work right, then it will cross into the lines of one’s own treatment of God’s people.

    The way you quiet down those homiletic voices is to claim “you are being too political” and cease to listen. If it is a common experience of the faithful that subjects will be addressed that need to be addressed because they speak to how one understands God then songs and art that challenge one to think deeper will find their home in the heart of the faithful. Separating a family in the midst of an immigration crisis probably has some political overtones.

    If we sing that the Lord hears the cry of the poor, just whom do we think those guys are that the Lord is hearing? What do they look like, what do they sound like and where do they live. If Mary proclaims that the rich will be sent away empty and the proud will be scattered, just who are those people and does the Gospel have anything to say about them? Yup, this is gonna get political. Some hear the Beatitudes and are filled with deep hope, others hear the same words and get nervous. Thanks Fr. Joncas.

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