Christianity and Culture by T.S. Eliot

This collection of essays was written on the eve of World War II, but the question it poses is highly relevant for our time, particularly for people like me: what role, if any, should Christianity play in a modern democracy? In what way is Christianity connected to contemporary culture, and in what ways should it influence that culture? There is far more discussion of culture than Christianity in this book; culture and not Christ is obviously what is dearest to the heart of a poet and literary scholar like Eliot; not once does he ever make reference to Jesus or any of His doctrines. According to Eliot, there are strong cultures and weak cultures. Again, as a poet and scholar, he has rather peculiar notions of what makes a culture strong, as if there is an obvious connection between Shakespeare and nuclear physics. Eliot’s thesis of culture as social capital is basically Matthew Arnold revisited, but it is a thesis worth revisiting, even if history has rather unevenly shown its merit.

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