The Galli Report: 08.20.21
A new reform journal launched. God's Demise. Sex, salvation, and young adult fiction. And starlings by the thousands!
What Do We Need Most Right Now?
This week, a new Protestant/Evangelical journal, American Reformer, has been launched—a bold move these days. Do we need yet another Protestant journal to analyze and reform our culture? I’ll let GR readers decide for themselves after reading the editor’s note, as well as a short essay on “Why We Need American Reformer” by Aaron Renn, whose insights I’ve linked to approvingly in this newsletter.
From the former, we read this:
This is where the uniqueness of American Reformer lies. We will provide an intellectually rigorous approach to the cultural challenges of our day, rooted in the rich tradition of Protestant social and political thought. We especially seek to help Evangelical Christians confidently and forthrightly defend truth (derived from Scripture and natural law) in the face of widespread cultural capitulation, addressing topics and perspectives ignored or dismissed by mainstream (and often increasingly progressive) Evangelical publications (on topics such as race, sexuality, the family, and politics).
From the latter, this:
As the world becomes more explicitly hostile to Christianity and its beliefs, it’s critically important that we create ministry strategies that reflect today’s unprecedented realities. Every Christian must ask himself what it means to live in today’s negative world. American Reformer will be seeking to help provide answers, both through superior diagnostics about the realities of our new world, and by the development of a distinctly Protestant approach to living in it.
As readers of the GR might imagine, I find the insights of Catholic social thought not only impressive but also more than enough to get my head around. For the ambitious Protestants who want to make a dent in a culture “explicitly hostile to Christianity and its beliefs,” I wish them well.
I do wonder, however, if such a journal is getting to the heart of the matter. I think Christoph Friedrich Blumhardt put it well in a sermon “Is God Still Dead?” One cogent passage:
Nietzsche experienced more truth in his wrought-up nerves [claiming that God is dead] than all the boring Christians, who don’t have a serious thought left for God! God is of no real importance, even for people with religion, because religion has become more important than God. Though people get into tremendous arguments about religious questions, all the time God is dead. And it is perfectly all right with them if he is dead, because then they can do what they like. That is another trait of our times, people want to be able to do whatever pops into their heads or feels good at the moment.
Substitute “social questions” for “religious questions” in the passage above as these days many Christians are more passionate about society than religion. To rephrase: “God is of no real importance, even for Christians passionate about politics, because political analysis and action have become more important than God.”
I say this in shame, because while I’m not passionate about politics, I am passionate about writing and art, which I confess often become more important to me than God, even though I say that I engage in them on behalf of God!
For all practical purposes, today God is dead, even among Christians. I may give him my attention for ½ hour in the morning, but it’s not unusual hardly give him a thought the other 15 ½ waking hours. Blumhardt again:
And it’s actually true—God is dead! Of course he isn’t really dead, but in the lives of people he is dead. Nobody gets very excited if you say “God”; that is one of the most boring things in the world. When a rabbit jumps up in a field, everybody calls out, “A rabbit!” and shows a certain interest. But for most people God is irrelevant. He is dead.
To be fair to American Reformer, not every Christian journal or enterprise has to traffic in ultimates. There are plenty of penultimate matters—like politics, marriage, sports, art, etc.—that deserve attention. But at this stage in my life, I’m looking more and more for efforts that remind me that God is not dead, and that belief in God is not passé? Russ Douthat made a stab at that in a recent New York Times essay, “A Guide to Finding Faith.” (If you’ve used up your five free reads for the month, make a note to read it next month.)
…the world in 2021, no less than the world in 1521 or 321, presents considerable evidence of an originating intelligence presiding over a law-bound world well made for our minds to understand, and at the same time a panoply of spiritual forces that seem to intervene unpredictably in our existence….
… if you are standing uncertainly on the threshold of whatever faith tradition you feel closest to, you don’t have to heed the inner voice insisting that it’s necessarily more reasonable and sensible and modern to take a step backward. You can recognize instead that reality is probably not as materialism describes it, and take up the obligation of a serious human being preparing for life and death alike — to move forward, to step through.
But, as Blumhardt noted, today God is not as interesting as the sudden appearance of a rabbit. Another wise person said there is nothing greater than to love God with all of one’s heart, soul, mind, and strength—the assumption being that this God is infinitely more interesting in himself than any of our god-impaired passions.
Other Articles of Interest
—“Unmarried Sex Is Worse than You Think”
—“Christianity Can’t Save the World (Yet)”
Starlings Are Stars
I didn’t watch all 8 minutes of “Thousands of Birds Swarming Over a Field in Cornwall UK - Starling Murmuration”—just enough to be amazed. And to remind me of the Creator who thought starlings a pretty cool idea.
Grace and peace,
Thanks, Mark. I look forward to receiving GR. Re, "American Reformer" -- I wish that we had more writing, speaking, proclamation, etc., with the theme "people in our society are suffering, and here are some ideas/stories that will help move them from suffering to flourishing," versus seeing society as "explicitly hostile to Christianity and its beliefs ... today’s negative world." To your point about Blumhardt -- if people don't experience God as Someone who can help them move from suffering to flourishing, if they don't hear stories about people for whom this has been true, then the God of love and compassion IS dead to them. One example: I often see more "real religion" among people in Twelve Step recovery (of various kinds) than among typical evangelical Christians. Again, thanks for this today.