Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Moving Beyond Statler and Waldorf

Couldn't resist a mental break after accidentally deleting two pages worth of notes from research in the James R. Crumley Archives at LTSS library. Up in the periodical section, the teaser from the cover of an old Christianity Today caught my eye: "Boycotting Outrage." Intrigued, I turned to this much-needed article by Christopher Hays of Fuller Seminary (son of Duke Divinity Dean Richard Hays), "Answering Fools," in which he exhorts Christians to abandon their "posture of perpetual outrage" against secular culture's many and various transgressions of the faith's sacred truths. Such backlash not only serves to promulgate the sales of the works of offending authors - it also, claims Hays, betrays a lack of faith that "the truth of their message does not really need defending, because all will become apparent in time."

Hays offers a illustrative thought experiment:

Imagine if every Christian leader who has invited to comment on the next Dan Brown book simply said, "why are you calling me about this? You know his books are fictional, they're boring to anyone informed, and they're kind of poorly written." No facts, no offense taken - no story.

Would that more of us could simply take up Hays' call to the patience "stillness of faith," for "it is a failure of faith of the first order to lash out on her behalf, as if she needed defending; it only reflects the narrowness of our own experience." I'm not sure I'm ready to completely let go of David Bentley Hart's brilliant pillorying of the new atheism in Atheist Delusions, but I do think Hays is onto something prophetic here, a message that could stand to be heard by those of us whose seminary training in academic warfare formed us to be more like Statler and Waldorf, assailing from a safe distance with darts of irony and hipster cynicism our enlightened critiques of anything still readable by anyone with less than a doctorate rather than engaging with openness hard truths that might force us to change - or letting be those trivialities whose sole purpose is to serve as the tempter's stumbling block on our journey towards charity and peaceableness.

Though of course, if we were all to do that, we'd lose out on such delicious lines as Hays' closing shot. Referring to Philip Pullman's dismay that more people are mad about Harry Potter than his endless reiterations of his kids-kill-God drama, Hays notes

Oh, and Pullman's book? It's slowly falling down the Amazon rankings. May it languish on shelves like Betamax copies of Waterworld.

As long as he doesn't diss the Postman too, than I'm all in. As peaceably as can be.

Sigh. Back to the archives...

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