A fantastic series by Bell.
If we redescribe the world well enough, will we begin to change our behaviors?
Quotes and commentary on good reads.
The point is that the industry that labels things as Christian and sells them to you has far more to do with marketing then Christianity. They are marketing to the mixed bag of values that has created the Evangelical Christian subculture. It’s a mix of some historically Christian values, some American values, and a whole lot of cultural boundary markers that set “us” apart from “them.” This sort of system makes us feel safe and right, and it makes some of its gatekeepers very wealthy and powerful.
I’ve been reading Apostles of Reason: The Crisis of Authority in American Evangelicalism by Molly Worthen. I’m only 20% of the way through it thus far, but it’s been a great read on the history of Evangelicalism with a focus on the various (conflicting) authorities the (thus far) early Evangelicals tried to honor and how they coped, remixed, and reacted to those various authorities.
Evangelicals are idealists, yes. They are also pragmatists. They talk so much of the “Christian worldview” because they believe in it–but also because it is a powerful rhetorical strategy. It curtails debate, justifies hardline politics, and discourages sympathetic voters from entertaining thoughts of moderation or compromise….
The anti-intellectual inclinations in evangelical culture stem not from wholehearted and confident obedience to scripture, or the assurance that God will eventually corral all nonbelievers, but from deep disagreements over what the Bible means, a sincere desire to uphold standards of modern reason alongside God’s word–and the defensive reflexes that outsiders’ skepticism provokes. The cult of the Christian worldview is one symptom of the effort by many evangelical leaders to fold competing sources of authority into one, to merge inference with assumptions. The evangelicals who adopt this soft presuppositionalism hope that it might prove to be a viable political currency, one that can buy cultural capital where proof texts and personal testimony fail.
These habits of mind have crippled evangelicals in their pursuit of what secular thinkers take to be the aims of intellectual life: the tasks of discovering new knowledge, creating original and provocative art, and puzzling out the path toward a more human civilization. When the neo-evangelicals set out to resuscitate the evangelical mind seventy years ago they shared these goals, but they also harbored another set of ambitions. The purpose of Christianity Today or the Evangelical Theological Society was not to unite conservative Protestants and earn secular intellectuals’ respect for the sake of unity and respect alone. Cultural influence was a means to an end: the ultimate end of converting the world–in heart, mind, and action–to Christ.
THAT gives voice, vocabulary, and explicitness to what I’ve seen, felt, thought, experienced wrestled with, etc. the last 20 years of my life.
At the same time, however, the naked notion of a Christian Worldview doesn’t seem implicitly problematic. I have a worldview, a metanarrative that orients and infuses my world with meaning, as well as provides me with a set of “givens” with which I live, move, and find my being.
And this is a good thing, an inescapable thing.
Everything, everyone, operates within metanarratives. Our metanarrative is our coherence.
As a person who teaches world religions at the college level, a discussion of metanarratives and their giving of the givens, their coherence, and the problem of judging the merits of one metanarrative from inside a different metanarrative is one of the most helpful tools I have in teaching students how to understand and respect the other without demanding they us or us becoming them.
And thus I wrestled with the end of Worthen’s work.
BUT, I don’t think that Worthen is using Worldview the same way that I, as a post-conservative post-evangelical anti-realist linguistic pragmatist uses the word.
Instead, Worthen is using “Christian Worldview” as a set of gatekeepers in Christian thought and inquiry, chief among which is Inerrancy.
Instead of chasing after “truth” for truth’s sake, Christians have to operate within a bounded set of questions and answers. If they find a question or an answer that is out of those bounds, a problem occurs.
Somehow, someway, the public transcript must be sanitized, must be cleansed, or the whole fabric threatens to unravel.
So, the questions, the answers, or the person must be expunged.
And that is what I think Worthen is talking about when she talks about the “Christian Worldview”.
And that is why our inquiry, the intellectual air we breathe, is so malformed, so toxic, so backwards, so… small.
And that is one of the reasons why I’m leaving Evangelicalism, at least for a time, to see what the air is like within other Christian camps.
According the The Oatmeal “this guy” was Bartolomé de las Casas, a 16th-century Spanish missionary perhaps best known for denouncing the Spanish treatment of American Indians and his call for the end of the Indian slave trade. Las Casas is also known for advocating the use of African slave labor to replace the lost work of the Indians. Like all historical figures, las Casas is a problematic character.
Recognizing this fact means acknowledging that the conquest and subsequent colonization of the Western Hemisphere were not a series of acts committed by bad people; they were, and are, indicative of a worldview of empire, ownership, and globalization that led to the destruction of many ways of life. It’s quite hard to find a figure who wasn’t somehow complicit.
As the sources of dignity and meaning of adulthood of their parents’ and grandparents’ generations—the daily toil of the shop floor, the making of a home and family—slip through their fingers, the young men and women I spoke with are working hard to remake dignity and meaning out of emotional self-management and willful psychic transformation.
— Silva, Jennifer M., Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, loc. 237-239. Kindle Edition
Rather than turn to politics to address the obstacles standing in the way of a secure adult life, the majority of the men and women I interviewed crafted deeply personal coming of age stories, grounding their adult identities in recovering from their painful pasts—whether addictions, childhood abuse, family trauma, or abandonment—and forging an emancipated, transformed, and adult self (see Illouz 2007, 2008; Smith et al. 2011).
— Silva, Jennifer M., Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, loc. 234-237. Kindle Edition
Adulthood is being dramatically reimagined along lines of work, family, relationships, intimacy, gender, trust, and dignity.
— Silva, Jennifer M., Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, loc. 207-208. Kindle Edition
In emphasizing the sense of entitlement and freedom available to today’s middle-class young adults, much of the existing literature obscures the absence of choice that defines coming of age for working-class youth like Brandon and Diana.
— Silva, Jennifer M., Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, loc. 194-196. Kindle Edition
my generation is slowly losing the stability hard-won by their grandparents and parents.
— Silva, Jennifer M., Coming Up Short: Working-Class Adulthood in an Age of Uncertainty, loc. 44-44. Kindle Edition
No longer are humanistic scholars content with a historicizing of science, morality and art that shuns the ways in which sciences, moralities and the arts are inextricably linked to structures of domination and subordination.
— Cornel West, The Cornel West Reader, loc. 2160-2161. Kindle Edition