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Monthly Archives: August 2010

I’ll be the first to admit I have never read a word of Anne Rice’s books. I’ve never even see Interview With a Vampire- Tom Cruise creeps me out (and I mean HIM, not him playing a vampire).  In fact, straining my brain back a few years, I’m pretty sure the only reason I even know about her at all was in relation the fact that the Interview With a Vampire lady had returned to  ‘Christianity’ (aka Roman Catholicism).

And now once again Ms. Rice has appeared like a blip on my cultural radar screen. More than a blip really. This lady is everywhere- Christian blogs, editorials, milk cartons, bus benches- okay, maybe I’m overstating a little bit, but at the risk of sounding oh-so-rude I’m inclined to agree with Carl Trueman on this one- why is  this such a huge deal?

But apparently it is, and since Mark Driscoll appeared to me in a vision last night and lectured me on cultural engagement, I’ll bite (but only for a moment). William Lobdell, writing in the L.A. Times, was kind enough to let us all know that the Church is dead and everyone need to make like Francis of Assisi- more doing and less talkie-talkie.  Mr. Lobdell uses Rice’s departure- communicated via that hotbed of intellectual and cultural credibility, Facebook- to give a ‘unique’ view of the American religious landscape. (FOOLED! BAMBOOZLED! This post isn’t about Anne Rice at all!) And by unique, I mean quoting Ronald Sider and George Barna.  Because really, at the end of  the day,  if you disagree with their ideas then you disagree with Jesus- or at least their Jesus.

And don’t miss the last line- it’s  a doozy:

A well-informed hunch says American Christians aren’t ready for the kind of reformation that will realign their actions with biblical mandates. And in the meantime, the exodus from the church will continue.

That sounds familiar- all those well-informed hunches about Brett Favre I keep hearing.

To be fair, the article did say one thing I found worthy of chewing on, mostly because I think the principle is right (though he obviously applies it differently):

How to explain the Grand Canyon-sized gap between principles outlined in the Gospels and the behavior of believers? Christians typically, and rather lamely, respond that shortcomings of the followers of Jesus are simply evidence of man’s inherent sinfulness.

But if one adheres to the principle of Occam’s razor — that the simplest explanation is the most likely — there is another, more unsettling conclusion: that many people who call themselves Christian don’t really believe, deep down, in the tenets of their faith. In other words, their actions reveal their true beliefs.

I’m willing to bet the ‘principals outlined in the Gospels’ as described by Lobdell would sound more like Jim Wallis than Jesus. However, I’m also convinced that there is, deep down, a tiny kernel of truth in this (and Anne Rice’s) critique, although it comes more by accident than by them getting the point.

“I once had a patient, a sound atheist, who used to read in the British Museum. One day, as he sat reading, I saw a train of thought in his mind beginning to go the wrong way. The Enemy, of course, was at his elbow in a moment. Before I knew where I was I saw my twenty years’ work beginning to totter. If I had lost my head and begun to attempt a defence by argument I should have been undone. But I was not such a fool. I struck instantly at the part of the man which I had best under my control and suggested that it was just about time he had some lunch. The Enemy presumably made the counter-suggestion (you know how one can never quite overhear What He says to them?) that this was more important than lunch. At least I think that must have been His line for when I said “Quite. In fact much too important to tackle it the end of a morning”, the patient brightened up considerably; and by the time I had added “Much better come back after lunch and go into it with a fresh mind”, he was already half way to the door. Once he was in the street the battle was won. I showed him a newsboy shouting the midday paper, and a No. 73 bus going past, and before he reached the bottom of the steps I had got into him an unalterable conviction that, whatever odd ideas might come into a man’s head when he was shut up alone with his books, a healthy dose of “real life” (by which he meant the bus and the newsboy) was enough to show him that all “that sort of thing” just couldn’t be true. He knew he’d had a narrow escape and in later years was fond of talking about “that inarticulate sense for actuality which is our ultimate safeguard against the aberrations of mere logic”. He is now safe in Our Father’s house.

You begin to see the point? Thanks to processes which we set at work in them centuries ago, they find it all but impossible to believe in the unfamiliar while the familiar is before their eyes. Keep pressing home on him the ordinariness of things. Above all, do not attempt to use science (I mean, the real sciences) as a defence against Christianity. They will positively encourage him to think about realities he can’t touch and see. There have been sad cases among the modern physicists. If he must dabble in science, keep him on economics and sociology; don’t let him get away from that invaluable “real life”. But the best of all is to let him read no science but to give him a grand general idea that he knows it all and that everything he happens to have picked up in casual talk and reading is “the results of modem investigation”. Do remember you are there to fuddle him. From the way some of you young fiends talk, anyone would suppose it was our job to teach!

Your affectionate uncle

The Screwtape Letters, pp 2-4