I think Christopher and Alberto make excellent point in their posts. First, Christopher is right in that the common denominator of our humanity is really the longing for the truth and for Christ. In this sense, I don't think Oprah's attempt to form a new age religious movement is a deliberate attempt to mislead people. Rather, it's probably a genuine search for a meaning in life that is beyond the superficialness of the Hollywood world. Yet, in that Christoper is referring to the deepest part of our common denominator, I would make distinguish this "highest common denominator" from the "lowest common denominator"referred to in Alberto's post.
Alberto makes a great point in saying that the enjoyment of superficial things is not necessarily a bad thing. If anything, it can bring us together. I agree with this on many fronts. For myself, because I enjoy all the major sports, I find it much easier to talk to guys. If I meet a completely random guy, I can strike up a conversation about a game or a team and we can get along. Similarly, someone told me about the philosophy about talking about the weather. No matter how different you are from someone, no matter how little it appears you have in common, you are both share the weather outside and that's not a bad starting point for conversation.
In that sense, I don't know if lowest common denominator is the right term for what I'm trying to describe, so maybe you all can help me find another term. What I'm referring to is the "it's not polite to talk about politics or religion at the dinner table" kindof attitude. It's a not talking about the things that matter most because it raises tension, people don't budge in their beliefs, and we don't move forward as a society. It's not bad to talk about the weather or superficial things like sports, TomKat, or Shakira. But if that is all you are talking about, if as a society we can't or won't talk about the things that matter most in a meaningful way, what does that mean for our intellectual and political life?
I do think the superficialness has something to do with the sloth of materialism, but I also think it's related to a relativism that's manifested in a politically correct pluralism. If I have a friend who is an atheist, our religious conversations would focus on whether or not there is a God. We couldn't reach the truth about the Eucharist without the foundational piece of agreeing there is a God. Apply that to multiple perspectives on the meaning of life, and given that our media likes to challenge and question the very foundational things that we consider a basic part of our humanity and the natural law, and it's easy to see why it's so hard for popular culture to dive with any depth into truth.
As a result of not diving into truth, the media tries to be "neutral." However, I don't think there is such a thing as an unbiased, neutral media. In merely picking what they choose to be news and what they choose not to report, what they choose to make the headline and what they don't, they are making decisions on what's important by a set of values. I think our contemporary media uses Enlightenment values, underlying in relativism. But that's not being neutral.
Media should report things with an understanding of the good, the true, and the beautiful. Can such a media be a successful mainstream outlet in modern America? What would it like? Is this part of the key to saving Western Civilization?