Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., a great American who “challenged the prevailing quacks…“
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A dear friend recently directed my attention to this article:
After NPR’s Embarrassment It’s Clear: We Need More Christians in Media.
I’ll get to the gist of the article in a moment, but first I’d like to note a reader comment. It came below the article’s text and said, “We need more serious Christians – not Trump-humping evangelicals – in media.” Which led to this response, by Patriotmom: “The serious Christians I know would not call someone a ‘Trump-humping evangelical.'”
Which is probably true.
“Patriotmom” probably doesn’t associate with anyone in her inner circle who would “call someone a Trump-humping evangelical.” But that doesn’t really answer the question: Could any serious or “true” Christian use the phrase “Trump-humping evangelical?”
For myself, I must confess – I do not deny, but confess – that I was very taken by the term “Trump-humping.” As a writer, “Trump-humping” strikes me as a great example of the literary device of assonance. (I.e., the “repetition of similar vowel sounds within a word, sentence, or phrase.”) Simply put, “Trump humping” rolls trippingly off the tongue.
And according to the Bible, I do qualify as a serious or “true” Christian. That’s according to Romans 10:9: “If you confess with your mouth that Jesus is Lord and believe in your heart that God raised him from the dead, you will be saved.” And I have said and believed…
(See also 1 Corinthians 12:3: “No one can say, ‘Jesus is Lord,’ except by the Holy Spirit.”)
So anyway – and to cut to the chase – here’s the conclusion of NPR’s Embarrassment:
What is needed more than anything in the world of mass media today is a substantial influx of new reporters, journalists, and anchors who can speak intelligently about Christianity…
I couldn’t agree more. But more important, we need good Christians who can conduct spirited debate on the fundamentals of the faith – but without using the “roast in hell” card.
That’s also a Bible concept, based in large part on Ezekiel 3:16-19 (characterized as “Ezekiel’s Task as Watchman“):
[T]he word of the Lord came to me: “Son of man, I have made you a watchman for the people of Israel… When I say to a wicked person, ‘You will surely die,’ and you do not warn them or speak out to dissuade them from their evil ways in order to save their life, that wicked person will die for their sin, and I will hold you accountable for their blood. But if you do warn the wicked person and they do not turn from their wickedness or from their evil ways, they will die for their sin; but you will have saved yourself.
Which led to the original title of this post: “Good Christians SHOULD argue with each other.” (That in turn is based on the very-American concept of the adversary system – a basic tenet of our legal system – as the best way of arriving at “the truth.”) And the reason that good Christians should be able to argue with each other – without resorting to the “you’re going to roast in hell” card – is based on Deuteronomy 19:16-19:
If a malicious witness takes the stand to accuse someone of a crime, the two people involved in the dispute must stand in the presence of the LORD before the priests and the judges who are in office at the time. The judges must make a thorough investigation, and if the witness proves to be a liar, giving false testimony against a fellow Israelite, then do to the false witness as that witness intended to do to the other party.
In other words, if I think – or say, perhaps with relish – that someone I don’t like is going to “roast in hell” and he’s not, then I’ve put myself in danger of roasting in hell. (Per Deuteronomy 19:16-19.) Of course I don’t particularly care if a “Trump-humping evangelical” roasts in hell for eternity. But it’s my duty – and my CYA – to warn him of the danger. (Per Ezekiel 3:16-19.)
Thus this blog-post.
But getting back to reporters “who can speak intelligently about Christianity:” I’ve noted before – in offerings including The Scribe – that about “12 years after I started practicing law, I went back to school and got a Master’s Degree in Journalism.” And for that degree program I had to do a course project, the functional equivalent of a Master’s thesis.
The title of my 2003 Course Project? “A Reporter’s Guide to Religion.”
But I doubt if it’s the kind of “reporter’s guide” that Patriotmom has in mind. For one thing, it started out quoting H. L. Mencken, saying a reporter’s job is “to comfort the afflicted and afflict the comfortable.” That sentiment – I wrote – was mirrored by Russell Baker “in a 1999 speech at Harvard.” Which – as it turns out – is also the job of a good Christian, “according to the likes of theologian Reinhold Niebuhr (1861-1918) and Baptist minister Walter Rauschenbusch.”
Which in turn is based on James 4:6: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.”
Put another way, it might be best to paraphrase another quote from Mencken and say that the job of both reporters and Christians is to “challenge the prevailing quacks.”
(See also “From Yahweh to Yahoo,” a post discussing the 2008 book by
I hope to write more about these topics – and more about my “Reporter’s Guide to Religion” – in future posts. But for now it’s enough to say that, it seems to me anyway:
Trump-humping evangelicals are the “prevailing quacks” these days…
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The upper image is courtesy of Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr. – Wikipedia. The caption: “1978 postage stamp issued by the U.S. Post Office to commemorate Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr.” The image was also featured in the January 2018 post, “From Yahweh to Yahoo” – and the Great Dissenter.”
Re: Trippingly off the tongue. See eNotes Shakespeare Quotes, which indicates that the phrase – from Hamlet Act 3, scene 2, 1–4 – was originally “trippingly on the tongue.” See also Wordnik: rolls-trippingly-off-the-tongue, about words that are just “fun to say.”
For a critical view of the adversary system as a search for truth, see Adversarial Inquisitions: Rethinking the Search for the Truth. (NYLS Law Review.)
The Ezekiel – Wikipedia image caption: “Russian icon of the Prophet Ezekiel holding a scroll with his prophecy and pointing to the ‘closed gate’ (18th century, Iconostasis of Kizhi monastery, Russia).”
For more on the Mencken-Baker thought, Google “comfort the afflicted afflict the comfortable.”
Re: “Patriotism.” See Patriotism is the last refuge of a scoundrel: Samuel Johnson, and also (False) Patriotism Is the Last Refuge of a Scoundrel.
The lower image is courtesy of The Atlantic Magazine (April, 2018) How Evangelicals Lost Their Way – And Got Hooked on Donald Trump. For another take, see Frances FitzGerald on how evangelicals lost their way, and/or How Christianity Lost Its Voice in Today’s Media Driven World.