Nibbling at the edges

David Wegener cleverly conveys a loathsome style of writing in his excellent summary of the deterioration of Christianity Today over the years:

Articles: There used to be serious articles on core doctrines of the faith: progressive revelation, inerrancy, the Trinity, original sin, justification, sanctification, the Day of Judgment, hell, etc., all of them written by learned pastors and theologians. Today, we’re taken on a journey as the free lance author recounts her confusion on some topic (like fashion or global warming or endangered species) and how she decided to investigate this topic and went to a conference put on by evangelicals on her topic. She tells us how her plane was delayed and she had trouble checking in to the conference hotel, and missed her first session, but how it was okay, cause she ran into the seminar leader in the restaurant and ate lunch with him and how he was nice and funny and normal even though a great man. Then she details all the difficulties in coming to any firm conclusions on this topic and tells us how nuance and humility are really important and necessary, but we can be sure of this, and then out comes some platitude worthy of a 7th grader in Sunday school.

Beyond the self-absorption and shallowness, there’s an aspect of this style of writing that I see also in the Episcopal church newsletter that still comes to our door (don’t ask). Every page of it is a denial of the faith, but it never really comes right out and says it. That’s not nuanced. Just coming out and saying what you think doesn’t befit an elitist. It’s too… doctrinaire. And so, amid the anecdotes about the foibles of life and descriptions of actions that unite us all, you just look for the clues like Muggeridge used to do in Pravda. To use a fictional example, when someone explains the sterling team effort involved in restoring a city garden, along with all the humorous (i.e. unfunny) things that happened along the way, you’ll be informed that Robert and his life partner Steve participated in the project. Or, amid the heart-rending departure of another congregation that can’t hack your denominational activism any longer, you’ll be gently told that some value unity above others. Or you’ll learn that some see nuance instead of “easy answers.”

It’s the equivalent of a pitcher nibbling around the plate all night. You know he’s trying to get you out, but he’s not going to come right out and challenge you. He’ll save his fastballs for the church courts.

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