In the letter to the editor I shared with you a few days back–written to reply to a public call by a U.S. Senator to “nuke Mecca” and a local letter calling for even worse–I mentioned that I am annoyed by the often-made accusation that anti-war folk are unAmerican. I suppose the Hebrew prophets themselves were considered in similiar terms, but it still galls me. I love our land, and come from patriotic stock. So when these people start saying that it is unAmerican to be critical of public policy or our elected leaders, I just makes me want to go throw some tea in the harbor. What part of participatory democracy don’t these guys understand?
America does have a fabulous, haunted history, perplexed and perplexing, glorious and important with truly great ideas. Os Guinness routinely reminds me of these marvelous and brillantly birthed concepts, which were so utterly innovative when dreamed up by the Founders. (The recent best-seller by David McCullough, 1776 by the way, is on my summer list; big news in these parts is that he mentions York.)
A very, very moving read about our land that is out by a Hearts & Minds favorite is David Dark’s recent The Gospel According To America: A Meditation on a God-blessed, Christ-haunted Idea (Westminister/John Knox) $14.95 You may know Dark from his exceptional and important Everyday Apocalypse: The Sacred Revealed in Radiohead, The Simpsons, and Other Pop Culture Icons. One of the best in that genre, for sure.
Here is what the publisher website says about this new one:
This book is an effort in moral orientation,” the author begins, “an attempt to make sense of the times, and, if you like, a project in anger management. It is also a call to confession and a primer in American patriotism.” Under a broad pop-culture umbrella, using icons from music, literature, film, the media, and politics, David Dark hopes to provide fodder for lively conversation about what it means to be Christian and American in this “weird moment” in which we live. It is a moment when we are increasingly polarized along political and religious lines, a moment when we are too busy forming our response to listen to the one who is speaking. And yet we claim more than ever to be one nation, under God. What does all this mean? Dark shows us examples from America’s rich cultural history-from the writing of Faulkner and Melville to the music of Bob Dylan and R.E.M. to the social witness of Dorothy Day and Will Campbell-to help us understand how we might become our better selves. The end result, he hopes, will be a better understanding that “there is a reality more important, more lasting, and more infinite than the cultures to which we belong,” the reality of the kingdom of God.
On the back cover, Brian McLaren asks “Is this a young Wendell Berry among us?” Kurt Andersen, host of public radio’s Studio 360 says, “If I prayed, I would pray for all the David Darks—all the smart, funny, thoughtful, quirky, tough-minded, well-read, culturally-engaged Christians in America–to arise and speak up. ” I wonder if Andersen knows about all the Hearts & Minds readers out there?? Maybe if we bought this book, pondered it well, spread around the vision, continue to nuanced and appropriate social engagement of this sort, we could help shape the public face of Christianity in our time. This really is a well-written and thoughtful study. Highly recommended!