Saturday, July 19, 2008

Christianity Today Magazine: It's Not There

Among the best films I've viewed in 2007 was writer/director Todd Haynes's film I'm Not There, an artistic portrayal of the life and songs inspired by singer Bob Dylan. The uniqueness of the film lies in the fact Bob Dylan was not in the film at all . . . save a for a few moments of concert footage while the final credits rolled by. Actors Christian Bale, Cate Blanchett, Marcus Carl Franklin, Richard Gere, Heath Ledger and Ben Whishaw are all Bob Dylan.

When I perused the latest issue of Christianity Today (which I have subscribed to since the late 1970s). I couldn't help but think this historic evangelical magazine has developed to a point where most of the articles are played by actors but none of the subject matter engages the real issues facing Christianity in the present time.

The lead article "God Is Not Dead Yet" is a mock of the 1960's version of Time Magazine that pronounced on the cover, "God is Dead."  The current piece discusses the dog-eared issue of the proof of God's existence from the perspective of the latest crop of religious philosophers. Another article reports on the interest of young and old people flocking to new apologetic arguments for the evangelical faith. Dovetailing with the need for new creative ways to tell the "old story" of the ever powerful gospel of Jesus Christ, is an interview with Andy Crouch. Another article by CT editor was entitled: Second Coming: Ecology. I'm actually glad evangelicals are thinking about the environment and not being pessimistic about our world that "is coming to an end anyway."

Rusty Leonard, a financial manager, wrote an article on how to change how you give to the Lord and invest. An article by Franklin Graham was most appreciated since he wrote about the Christian outreach to China's Christian community after the Sichuan earthquake.

So where's the beef, Mr. Lapides? Why do say that when you read Christianity Today magazine, "It's Not There?" Why? Because CT has been writing about the same subjects over and over for 20 years. Raising money. Apologetics. Philosophy of religion issues the average believer in Jesus does not follow or care about.

What's my proof? Once a year CT publishes a list of what they believe are the best Christian books of the year. The books cover the gamut of many spiritual topics. They are usually weighty, scholarly books save for the fiction category. 

I did an experiment one year and checked out a few local Christian bookstores in Los Angeles and asked for the books on the list. Perhaps I  found 10% of the books on sale in these Christian bookstores. I did not try Barnes and Noble or Borders, but I probably would have had better luck finding these Christian books (awarded by CT as the best of the year) in a secular book store.

What's going n? Who's out of touch? Perhaps it's me . . . or Christian bookstores . . . or could it be CT? Are we writing theological books that Christians don't care about? 

This all came to a head when Barack Obama's pastor Rev. Jeremiah Wright started his rampage, using his Chicago pulpit to bash America. Using a pulpit where the Word of God is to be exalted and honored . . . and instead Rev. Wright twisted his calling of God to bring condemnation on a country where both blacks and whites have fought to preserve our freedoms. 

Here's an alleged man of man who even honored with a lifetime achievement award the noted antisemitic Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Obama sat in the pews, read the newsletter giving honor to the Black Muslim hatemonger and did nothing.

Regarding CT, "It was not there." "Christianity" was not there, nor were it's leaders-black or white-save for Eugene Rivers who called Rev. Wright "a tragedy". Yes, the Rev. Wright issue may be over, but the irrelevancy and the cowardly behavior of CT is not over by any stretch of the imagination. All the winsome apologetics in the world can never make up for its silence when a minister of the gospel of Jesus Christ was on the news night after night because he stood for hate.

True apologetics should have stood up and condemned this man a a false representative of the gospel. And yes, I listened to several of his sermon in toto and some were worse than the media snippets and sound bytes we all heard.  And where is CT . . . ? It's Not There? We're worried about the newest religious/theological arguments for the existence of God.

If CT stood up and condemned the racist hatred for Americans and white people that came from Rev. Jeremiah Wright that many have been the best argument for the existence of God CT could ever put forth. People don't come to believe in the existence of God by reading philosophy of religion books  . . . people come to God when they hear the voice of the prophets condemn false "prophets" who use their God given talents to speak evil and disparage a country where the freedom to preach the good news of Christ is still celebrated.

CT . . . .? It's not there?  Yes, I chose but one issue to harp on. It was an issue I wrote to the editors about and even the leadership of PreachingToday (which sells Rev. Wright's sermons), but I was ignored. It looked like CT ignored Rev. Wright and the great black evangelical leaders of this country found no voice in the pages of Christianity Today.

I wonder who this magazine really represents? The average Christian who speaks to the secular community about Rev. Wright . . .  or is CT a reflection of an irrelevant  evangelical scholasticism and elitist Christian intelligentsia that has looked at its reflection in the pool of narcissism for way too long?

CT . . .? It's Not There . . .



PB Sumner said...

Louis: I appreciated your critique of CT. Their cowardice to critique the real villans within the Body of Messiah is a sign of bowing the knee at Mammon's altar (they need Xn advertising $s to stay afloat) and of worship inside the Temple of the great Liberal deity, His-Her Whateverness (they want to be thought of as relevant to the high priests of pop culture). Their silence about the Irreverent Jeremiah Wright is like their silence about Benny the Hinn and his 40 Thieves and all the other false profiteer$ and pseudo-Xns who are fleecing the fold. The lack of courage to speak truth signifies unbelief, apostacy, that spirit of the "Human of Lawlessness" (2 Thess 2:3). Stay on target. -- Paul Sumner (BAF, 1988-91)

Louis Lapides said...

Thanks Paul. It's a blessing to hear from you. I loved your critique and added comments. You've always been a wonderful blessing as a brother in the Lord. God bless you!

PB Sumner said...

It's good to hear back from you, Louis. I appreciate your "brotherly" word. Didn't know if my previous presence left an imprint or not. (You did on me and Miryam.) It's clear that you're in a time of major changes. Not so easy after being in one "life" for many years. I hope you become settled by still waters soon. Your public writing here (tho not exactly "stilling") is evidence of a refocusing on matters that others need to hear about from your perspective. I look forward to further comments. If I were in the area, I'd invite you to lunch; perhaps another year. Best wishes. An old haver, Paul Sumner