Ever wonder where fellow Patrol readers come from? A few miscellaneous geographical lists we picked out of our 2009 statistics:
1. United States
3. United Kingdom
Top World Cities
1. New York, NY
2. London, UK
3. Washington, DC
4. San Francisco, CA
5. Los Angeles, CA
Top U.S. States
2. New York
Check out my op-ed piece for the “Houses of Worship” column in the Wall Street Journal today. It’s in the paper but it’s also available for free online.
Here’s an excerpt:
This feeling of intellectual distance from grass-roots Christianity is not new. It’s been almost 30 years since Charles Malik, a former president of the United Nations General Assembly and a devout Christian, gave a speech at Wheaton College called “The Two Tasks.” To the audience assembled for the dedication of Wheaton’s Billy Graham Center, he said: “The greatest danger besetting American evangelical Christianity is the danger of anti-intellectualism.” This idea was picked up by historian Mark A. Noll 14 years later in his 1994 book “The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind.” The “scandal” of the title, he said, was “that there is not much of an evangelical mind,” despite what he sees as a biblical mandate to better understand creation. Mr. Noll asserts that this lack is reinforced by the historical experience of evangelicals in America, whose churches and ministries have gained more adherents at the cost of fostering anti-intellectualism and bad theology.
Give it a read if you have a moment and feel free to comment either here, or over at the WSJ site.
Oral Roberts (1918-2009)
Last night, I went with some friends to The New School for a panel on “Evangelicalism and the Contemporary Intellectual,” co-hosted by the literary journal n+1 and Eugene Lang College. Panelists included Malcolm Gladwell, James Wood, Christine Smallwood, and Caleb Crain (who moderated, mostly).
Of course, off the bat, one sees that there are no presently-evangelical intellectuals on that panel. (They’re all ex-evangelicals, to one degree or another.) As it turned out, this may have been a wise choice. The panelists spoke about their backgrounds and how their evangelical upbringing contributes to their work today as intellectuals, and then took questions from the audience. I suspect that had a known evangelical intellectual been on the panel – a philosopher, a minister, whatever – the Q&A session may have devolved into ad hominem attacks. It stayed mostly respectful, as these are non-evangelicals who nonetheless do not believe that evangelicalism is the worst thing to appear in America.
After the jump, what each had to say about their former evangelicalism and it’s larger implications.
"What is needed is neither the overweening rationalist atheism of a Dawkins nor the rarified religious belief of an Eagleton, but a theologically engaged atheism that resembles disappointed belief. Such atheism, only a semitone from faith, would be, like musical dissonance, the more acute for its proximity. It could give a brother's account of belief, rather than treat it as some unwanted impoverished relative. It would be unafraid to credit the immense allure of religious tradition, but at the same time it would be ready to argue that the abstract God of the philosophers is no more probably than the idolatrous God of the fundamentalists, makes no better sense of the fallen world and is certainly no more likable or worthy our worshipful respect — alas."
James Wood, "God in the Quad," The New Yorker, Aug 31, 2009.
"I do not have clear answers to current questions. I have questions, and, as a matter of fact, I think a man is better known by his questions than his answers. To make known one's questions is, no doubt, to come out in the open oneself. I am not in the market for ready-made and wholesale answers so easily volunteered by the public and I question nothing so much as the viability of public and popular answers, including some of those which claim to be most progressive."
Thomas Merton, Conjectures of a Guilty Bystander
Since we made our name ripping music that makes God sound like a florid sex partner or a flashing JumboTron, we have a pretty big soft spot for people still out there waging the righteous but pointless battle against the inanity of Christian music. That no one should expect any theological dept or spiritual seriousness out of what now passes for "church music" became a fossilized fact long before we started writing in 2006. But now, Anglican bishop Nick Baines suggests we look back even further to say, 1885, when some obviously-childless dude in Philadelphia composed "Away in a Manger."
In Why Wish You A Merry Christmas: What Matters (And What Doesn't) in the Festive Season, Baines powerfully echoes the doctrine of The CCM Patrol: Christmas carols are too hazy, childish, soft-edged and have way too many Victorian references to Jesus being the likes of "tender and mild." Kind of like when we said all those evangelical worship lyrics sound like the nauseating love scenes in romance novels and lead to the inevitable conclusion that God either is a pussy or has one.
More quotes from Baines explaining himself after the jump.
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