The Case for Civility

Today I have an essay at The Gospel Coalition, laying out why I believe civility is essential to meaningful community.

Here’s an excerpt:

While my father was pastoring his second church, he experienced a slow but profound transformation in his personal philosophy of ministry. This transformation made him attempt to lead the church in particular areas of change and growth. Some of these changes were welcomed, but many were resisted. These were hard seasons for Dad. There were times when I felt he was lying down, not insisting on what he knew was right and biblical, and allowing certain people too much freedom to criticize and oppose him.

My dad understood something that I didn’t: the thicker and deeper the community, the more important and more difficult meaningful change becomes. The dominant spirit of much public activism is like me, at 17 years old, wondering why my dad didn’t just name and shame those in the church who were consistently standing in the way of what I thought was obviously correct. Human nature in its immaturity assumes that all good change must happen quickly, and that those who stand in its way can be bulldozed for the sake of the cause. What such revolutionaries desire is a more perfect reality; what they get in destroying norms of civil discourse—such as listening, making good-faith arguments, and finding wisdom in others—is a broken, dysfunctional public square.

I hope you’ll read the whole thing.

Liberalism’s Heretics and Our Gospel Opportunity

A new essay from me.

I have a new, lengthy essay at The Gospel Coalition today. It may be of interest to readers to who have followed my posts here about Jordan Peterson and the “realignment” of political and cultural struggles. This essay was several months in the making and I hope it makes a positive contribution to an important topic.

Here’s an excerpt:

The religious tone of this new progressive spirit should not surprise us. Augustine wrote that the human heart is restless for God, Bob Dylan sang that “You gotta serve somebody,” and David Foster Wallace observed, “Everybody worships.” It’s not a question of whether we will believe in a transcendent something or Someone, it’s a question of what that something or Someone will be. In an era in which many are comfortable relegating questions of religion to the sphere of “opinion” and “Whatever works for you,” the secular religion of politics reveals our innate need to discover the truth and impress that truth onto others. Secular progressives identify this truth as intersectionality, but Christians believe the ultimate truth is the gospel.

Read the rest here.

Hitchens at the Horns of the Altar

Today at Mere Orthodoxy I have a review of the new book The Faith of Christopher Hitchens: The Restless Soul of the World’s Most Notorious Atheist. It’s by Larry Taunton, a Christian and an academic who became close with Hitchens in the last few years of his life.

Part intellectual biography, part spiritual memoir, part “road trip,” Taunton’s book is a pleasure. Here’s an excerpt from my review:

September 11 may not have been have been Hitchens’s Damascus Road moment, but it did much to disarm his innate hostility to those outside his ideological family tree. By pivoting to the right on terror, Hitchens was forced to doubt the categorical identity politics that so often dominate American discourse. This doubt—this shaken faith in the inherited doctrines of the Left—created the space into which Christian friendship, and Taunton himself, entered….

…What Taunton accomplishes here is marvelous, equally for what it is not as much as it what it is. It is not the melodrama of an unbeliever humbled to submission by either his reading or his inner demons. Neither is Taunton’s work a shrine to the value of apologetics. Rather, The Faith of Christopher Hitchens is that most difficult, and most valuable, of memoirs: A record of virtue and of vice, of faith and faithlessness.

You can read the whole review at Mere Orthodoxy.