Turns out, evangelicals really aren’t disliked as much as we tell ourselves after all:

In the 2010 book American Grace, political scientists Robert D. Putnam and David E. Campbell presented the Faith Matters weather report, which was generally sunny and mild. Jews, Catholics, and mainline Protestants received the highest thermometer scores from non-members (i.e., from non-Jews, non-Catholics, and non—mainline Protestants respectively), coming in at 58 to 59 points. Muslims, Buddhists, and Mormons received the coldest ratings, at 44, 46, and 47 points. Evangelical Protestants came in at the middle, at 52 points, just above the nonreligious, who were at 51 points. (The Faith Matters survey also found that evangelical Protestants rate their own group at a “colder” level than do members of any other religion. Somehow we’ve become the low self-esteem religious tradition.)

Mark Galli’s beautiful reflection on John Stott’s importance to evangelicalism is necessary reading for any evangelical:

I sit in a unique position in our subculture. I hear about more crazy stunts by our leaders than you care to imagine in your darkest nightmare. I hear the silliest things said in the name of our Lord. I can’t believe the number of shallow evangelical books that come across my desk. I daily shake my head at the narrow-mindedness, hypocrisy, and pride I see in our movement.

But when we at the office discover that some group is ministering to the poor in a garbage dump in Cairo, or rescuing girls from sexual slavery in Thailand, or sharing the gospel with Muslims in a country where conversion is a capital crime, or languishing in a prison for simply practicing their faith under a totalitarian regime, well, we usually discover that they are either Catholics or evangelicals.

Stott’s passing provided an opportunity for me to reflect on the one time I met the fellow who friends called “Uncle John.”  It was in St. Aldate’s Church in Oxford and we both happened to be visiting on the same day.  He sat behind me, sang beautifully, and offered a firm handshake with a brilliant twinkle in his eye as we passed the peace to each other.  We said nothing more, but I will never forget it.

In other news, Douthat explains the polarization of today’s political arena:

The dream of realignment has become the enemy of such compromises. It inspires politicians to claim sweeping mandates from highly contingent victories: think of Dick Cheney insisting on another round of deficit-financed tax cuts in 2003 because “we won the midterm elections” and “this is our due,” or the near-identical rebukes that President Obama delivered to Eric Cantor (“Elections have consequences — and Eric, I won”) and to John McCain (“the election’s over”) during the debates over the stimulus and health care.

The losers, meanwhile, wax intransigent, while hoping for a realignment of their own. After all, why cut a deal today if tomorrow you might overthrow your rivals permanently? Better to just say “no” flat out, as the Bush-era Democrats did with Social Security reform and the Republicans did with health care, and hope that the next election will deliver you the once-in-a-generation victory.

James Wood reflects on secularism’s prospects and limits:

Sometimes one feels that the center might be a little too serene. The emphasis on “joy” and “fullness” inevitably asks secularism to provide what Bruce Robbins calls an improvement story—to bring the good news about the consolations of secularism. Yet Lily Briscoe’s (or Terrence Malick’s, or my philosopher friend’s) tormented metaphysical questions remain, and cannot be answered by secularism any more effectively than by religion.

Joseph Sunde defends the Beckham’s fourth baby:

Upon hearing such statements, one begins to understand why progressives so often resort to the vocabulary of “consumerism” to frame their arguments against capitalism. Through this narrow view, humans simply take,taketake; there’s no makemakemake, and thus, transforming free enterprise into a mere battle over “consumption” is only reasonable. It adequately debases the human person to fit the basic moral vision.

Finally, there’s some excellent writing in this defense of book reviews that includes this reminder:

I was once having dinner with an international group, and an American was complaining about the price of books in France. “Yes,” said a Frenchman. “We have this silly theory in France that our authors should be able to eat.” We don’t know what the future of publishing is, but we know that the future for every writer requires food. And we know that one way to help writers eat is to encourage people to buy good books.

Is it too presumptuous to add a hint?

Posted by Matthew Lee Anderson

Matthew Lee Anderson is the Founder and Lead Writer of Mere Orthodoxy. He is the author of Earthen Vessels: Why Our Bodies Matter to our Faith and The End of Our Exploring: A Book about Questioning and the Confidence of Faith. Follow him on Twitter or on Facebook.

  • The first article is essentially a short part of Christians are Hate Filled Hypocrites and other Lies You’ve been told. Very good book and readable, even for people that are not statisticians. There is a basic theme in it that Christians often don’t worry about the truth as much as they worry about being right. So we often share bad statistics that support our argument. I recommend it.

    I am not sure children are the best place to discuss consumerism. But I am not really in favor of either part of that discussion. Sunde has some very good points. But you cannot claim to be about sustaining the environment without actually doing the work to sustain. That is where the US Evangelical church in particular seems to fall down. This isn’t the case outside the US from my reading and small experience. NT Wright has frequently be criticized because he includes environmental concerns as part of his theology. But John Stott in his last book had a whole chapter about the importance of caring for the environment as part of our Christian mission.

    • Caring for the environment is indeed part of our Christian mission, but I would argue it goes well beyond “sustaining.” Humans are a/the key part of that, particularly Christians.

      • I agree humans are THE response. But the number of people is not the primary driver of the response. The number is just about types of response. The issue is more about what we do than the number of people we have. Categorizing people as consumers detract from their more appropriate category of ‘image of God’. I am for appropriate birth control and family planning, but not for purposes of maintaining some particular number of people on the planet.

    • Matthew Lee Anderson

      Adam, I agree that Hypocrites is a good book. But I think this one is actually from Upside, which I take to be the compendium to *Hypocrites,* focusing more on whether people actually like evangelicals and less on whether evangelicalism is as problematic as everyone says.

      • Hmm. Don’t like missing out that there was a different book. Thanks!

        • Matthew Lee Anderson

          Heh. And I don’t like saying “compendium” when I meant “companion.” #fail

          matt

  • It’s more difficult to engage people in the so-called culture wars without the siege mentality that a healthy sense of persecution encourages. (I’m speaking of the US but there are many other places where religious persecution is more real than imagined.) This is one of the coping strategies identified by Tajfel, mobilizing to raise the status of the group, used by group members who view their own group unfavorably.

    I enjoyed the article on secularism and it acknowledges the limits of religious belief as well as secularism. One quibble is that the author refers to questions about the meaning and purpose of life and the universe as theological questions. They would be better characterized as fundamental, essential, or ultimate questions.

    And those to which none of us have a fully satisfactory answer.

    • Matthew Lee Anderson

      “And those to which none of us have a fully satisfactory answer.”

      Well, that’s just the question, isn’t it? : )

      • So you would admit (only to yourself, not expecting a reply here) that your answer is unsatisfactory in some way to you as a thinking person? I found the theological answer to the ultimate questions so unsatisfactory that I had to let go of it, however reluctantly.

        Or is it my contention about the unsatisfactoriness of all our answers that is questionable?

        • Matthew Lee Anderson

          The latter. I find the theological answers quite satisfying, honestly. Perhaps more importantly, I find them to be true.

          • That’s what I figured. I could understand how a religious believer might find the theological answer unconvincing at times (as when lying awake anxiously turning over the ultimate questions in one’s mind) but honestly believe that theirs is the truest answer.

          • Matthew Lee Anderson

            Yes, that’s a very good description of the peculiar dynamics of faith seeking understanding.

  • Matthew M

    I like Catholics, REAL Orthodox, and Mormons much better than most Evangelicals and I have no use at all for FUNDAMENTALISTS!
    As to your blog “MERE ORTHODOXY”, it may be ‘mere’ but hardly ‘Orthodox’ and perhaps not even ‘orthodox’. You don’t state what you are so I doubt you are Roman Catholic or Traditional Anglican and in my opinion have no right to rip off G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.
    Harsh, I know.
    I did just order your book from AMAZON. Hey, it looks interesting, what can I say.

    • Matthew Lee Anderson

      Ah, well, I hope you’ll someday learn to forgive me for my willingness to learn from people outside my immediate ecclesial affiliation and historical tradition. I never knew it was worthy of such censure!

      Thanks for reading and buying the book. I hope you enjoy it.

      Best,

      Matt