Against Evangelical Hipsters

In the Summer 2009 issue of The City there is a superb piece of writing that diagnoses a creature that I come across quite a bit online and sometimes in the flesh up in D.C. – the evangelical hipster.  John Mark Reynolds wrote the piece, where he diagnoses the persona of these individuals:

Secularists should stop worrying about a theocracy: Anderson finds young Evangelicals to be like young Mark Studdock in the C.S. Lewis novel That Hideous Strength—more spaniel than pit bull in their desire to charm rather than snub those that despise them. In fact, Anderson’s article essentially accuses young Evangelicals of being just like the characters Mark and Jane Studdock. Like Mark, young Evangelicals desire admission to the “inner ring” of the culture more than any other temptation. Like Jane, they are lightly educated, but take their thoughts very seriously. Unlike Mark and Jane, young American Evangelicals are given Blue Like Jazz rather than Taliesin through Logres.

Although I have often seen this, I’ve never quite put my finger on it like Mr. Reynolds does. The admission to the inner ring of the culture is THE temptation for me and many folks who have moved beyond Left Behind and Christian bookstores and think they have it all together. To me, the solution is to take a stand and appear to be a (gasp) fundamentalist on some issues. I realized some years ago that one thing which makes men like Tolkien great is that he had beliefs and he stood for them. We can easily quibble with his obscurantist stands on motor cars, roads and airplanes, but he had reasons for believing and he believed! He was not a perpetually vacillating ninny who never arrived at a position and did not stand up for the Creeds and culture which gave him birth.

I see the solution to this drift in the hermeneutic approach of James Jordan and Peter Leithart, the post-Reconstructionist conversation, the Creeds and Liturgy of the Anglican Church, and a saturation of Bible study. But many who see through Christian “positive hits” radio and local church anti-intellectualism yo-yo to the far opposite side, embracing Obama, horrible sexual ethics, a flawed Bible and no church authority. Reynolds continues:

Evangelical youth are being corrupted and Evangelical scholars and leaders are at least partly to blame. Why? The church and the Evangelical academy have, by and large and for various reasons, rejected Christendom and left Evangelical youth to create their own inadequate pseudo-culture on the fly.

Amen to this! We’ve had para-church pablum and bad doctrine on parade for 50-100 years now. The Reformed and Lutherans have held there own in terms of intellectualism, but most of the rest of the church is out to sea and doesn’t know how to think critically. Reynolds describes those who get tired of this shallowness only to embrace leftist shallowness of a different kind. Any jibe at Bush gets a laugh. Limbaugh is a buffoon. Republicans are idiots. I concur with most of this thought, but from an even way further right position, not a liberal, ill-thought out hatred of culture and mores. Still, Reynolds words strike home with me.

The attack on patriotism is a part of this assault on Christendom. “Christendom” in the mythology of the academy is about power and politics. Patriotism is a simple trick to get the rubes to turn over power to politicians. Evidently the solution to this problem is to either to abandon politics altogether or to “speak prophetically to power,” though generally only to Republican power. Of course, Christian intellectualists ignore the ties of prophets like Nathan or Isaiah to the royal house of David since this would spoil their pristine idea of the non-partisan Biblical prophet.

And Reynolds says patriotism can equate to the holy grail concept that I have espoused: community.

Of course, disdain for patriotism contradicts another value of intellectualists: the love of authentic community. Isn’t “a strong love for your folks” just another way of describing patriotism? The solution in many Christian colleges has been to allow everyone in the world to love and take pride in their people group except for Americans.

Another searing critique applies to those who utilize Orthodox and Catholic critiques of Protestants, but only as a tactical way of blasting their own communities, not at the cost of believing all that claptrap about sex taught by Rome or the East:

The group Anderson describes are more horrified by the strong, traditional Protestants than by Catholic or Orthodox beliefs, but this is no real sign of an ecumenical spirit. Too often the Evangelical young adult merely uses Catholic and Orthodox thinkers to tear down those parts of Evangelicalism they do not like while ignoring those parts that that challenge their assumptions. They are cafeteria ecumenicists. Roman Catholic teaching on birth control and sexuality are not quoted or applauded, though nothing is a greater challenge to the norms of Evangelical sub-culture. Evangelical intellectualists tend to ignore those writings by John Paul the Great or the brilliant Benedict XVI that attack post-modern or pop culture views of sexuality or scholarship. John Paul certainly spoke truth to power and helped liberate millions from murderous tyranny, but the tyranny was a leftist one and Evangelical parents admired him, so he is not the kind of Catholic they admire.

The whole article should really be read and digested. I see too much of this love of approval in myself and I am determined to root it out.

The Reformers on Islam

At the time of the Reformation the Ottoman Empire was the leading Islamic power in the world. The Caliph or leader of Islam was the Turkish Emperor and to refer to the “Turks” was to refer to Muslims in general. It is interesting to read the opinions of Luther and Calvin on the Turks and what should be done about their threat. Luther observed that the Turks had no cause to invade the lands of others and saw them as God’s chastisement on a degenerate Christendom:

In the first place, the Turk certainly has no right or command to begin war and to attack lands that are not his. Therefore his war is nothing but an outrage and robbery with which God is punishing the world, as he often does through wicked scoundrels, and sometimes through godly people. The Turk does not fight from necessity or to protect his land in peace, as the right kind of ruler does; but, like a pirate or highwayman, he seeks to rob and ravage other lands which do and have done nothing to him. He is God’s rod and the devil’s servant [Isa. 10:5]; there is no doubt about that. (Martin Luther: On War Against the Turk.)

Calvin agrees that the Turks are being used to punish a wicked and superstitious people:

Accordingly, when the Turk now rises up haughtily against us, because he has already vanquished so great a multitude of Christians, we need not be alarmed on that account, as if the power of God were diminished, and as if he had not strength to deliver us. But we ought to consider in how many ways the inhabitants of Greece and of Asia provoked his anger, by the prevalence of every kind of base and shocking licentiousness in those countries, and by the dreadful superstitions and wickedness which abounded. On this account very severe chastisement was needed for restraining the crimes of those who made a false profession of the name of God. Hence came the prosperity of the Turk, and hence was it followed by a shockingly ruinous condition throughout the whole of the east. Yet we see him insolently raising his crest, laughing at our religion, and applauding his own in a strange manner; but still more does he applaud himself, and “sacrifice to his net,” (Habakkuk 1:16,) as we have already said of other infidels.

We ought, therefore, to direct our minds towards the judgments of God, that we may not think that the Turk acquired such extensive dominion by his own strength. But the Lord allowed him greater freedom, for the purpose of punishing the ungodliness and wickedness of men, and will at length restrain his insolence at the proper time. Now, although prosperity is a token of the blessing of God, yet we must not begin with it if we wish to form right views of God himself, as Mahometans and Papists infer from the victories which they have gained, that God is in some respects subject to their control. But when we have known the true God, blessings are added in the proper order to testify his grace and power. (Commentaries: Isaiah 36.20)

Calvin also decried the attitude of those who thought that the threat from the Turks would never reach them:

…the Jews thought that there was no danger nigh them from nations so remote, as though we were to speak of the Turks at this day, “Oh! they have to fight with other nations: let those who are near them contend with the Turks, for we may live three or four ages in quietness.” We see such indifference prevailing in the present day. Hence the Prophet, in order to deprive the Jews of this vain confidence, says that this nation was near at hand, though coming from remote quarters. (Commentaries: Jeremiah 5:15)

Luther believed that the best weapon against Islamic expansionism was for Christians to repent and get right with God. He believed the gospel should be embraced more fervently. He taught that the Emperor should take up the war against the Turks and that if called upon by the Emperor, the Christian should join in the fight. Reading his On War Against the Turk can be instructive for how Christians should respond to the jihadi threat in our time.