Monday, February 20, 2006At his Reformissionary site, Steve McCoy points to this morning's piece by Dr. Al Mohler concerning a pro-choice outburst by Christian author Anne Lamott. You can read Mohler's piece here. Also read Amy Welborn's take on the subject. It was Wellborn that first drew my attention to this issue. I should mention that Amy Welborn is a fine whose blog is a must for all things Catholic. I suspect it will become an invaluable resource once the DaVinci Code hits theatres.
At any rate, we've been discussing Dr. Mohler's comments on Steve's site. I think Lamott is important to consider for a few reasons. First, she is a telented writer. Second, she is a popular writer with something of a large following. Stop in the local Barnes and Noble and you'll find her books on display in the religion section, recieving the attention that might not be given to the works of A.W. Pink. Third, confessional writing of the sort she does is becoming increasingly popular in evangelical circles. Think of Don Miller and Lauren Winner.
I like confessional writing. I would love to be able to do some of my own work in that vein at some point in my life. And yet there must be a caution within this genre. Just like public testimonies in church, confessional writing is subjective. It may refer to Scripture, but ultimately it is the recounting of one person's experience. It can be a tremendous help in our walk with Christ, but it is no replacement for Scripture, first and foremost, and, second, for the deeper truths of the Word that are found in theological study.
In Mohler's piece, he offers a level of discernment towards Lamott. He cites a Christianity Today piece that says this about Lamott:
"Yet, deeper within her than her loud liberalism is a reality that has won her many evangelical readers: a zany ardor for Jesus. Lamott's fascination with all things Jesusy (a term she might as well have copyrighted) must be the reason why she is a mixed bag of hilariously antagonistic affections."
I commented at Reformissionary that Mohler may very well be troubled by more than Lamott's radical liberalism. (See the links below for more information on that - she is more than your garden variety working-class Democrat) It seems that Mohler is troubled by the idea that no one cares about her liberalism. I know I am. And what I mean by that is not that I wouldn't welcome her and befriend her. I would. I regard her as a believer in Christ. I respect her talents. Evaluating the beliefs of a public literary figure like Lamott is not the same as picking apart the stranger on the bus or the newcomer at church. Showing a certain degree of criticism for ideas and opinions that are offered up for public consumption is not, by definition, unfair and un-Christlike.
I reject the idea that we can endorse anything that claims the name of Christ. Can we offer it a seat at the table? Most certainly. But that is not the same thing as sending the product/writer/artist/preacher/program back into the world with our blessings. To sound emergent for a moment, I would love to dialogue with Lamott and her comrades (ha!), but I can't give them a full thumbs up. She is not privately voting for Ralph Nader. She is an active, proud leftist. It's one thing to vote for John Kerry; it's another to speak glowingly of Barbara Lee. And though some would suggest that Christians can vote for whomever they like, I tend to think the Lord is bothered by unapologetic support of the right to terminate a pregnancy. Anne Lamott may not be, but Mohler is not wrong to suggest that she is stepping outside the bounds of Christian tradition in so doing. I would again suggest that while God may not have a favorite political party, there are essentially two streams of political thought in this country and whatever its shortcomings, one is far more in line with the traditional ethics of orthodox christianity. The other finds a nice home in the traditions of the Enlightenment and existentialism. Such legacies cannot be denied.
For more on Lamott's ideas see the following:
Anne's interview with Powells.com
Her archive at Salon.com
In the Powell's interview above, Anne speaks of donating to Congresswoman Barbara Lee. Ms. Lee gave this speech at an anti-war rally in San Francisco in the Spring of 2003. The march was organized by the International Action Center. The IAC was founded by Ramsey Clark, the former U.S. attorney general now doing a little pro bono legal work for Saddam Hussein. (Clark also worked on behalf of that political prisoner, Slobodan Milosevic, but who's keeping count?) The IAC is also the sponsor of the leftist group ANSWER, which stands for Act Now to Stop War and End Racism. The IAC is part of the World Workers Party, a Stalinist organizaiton that is more than a little supportive of the regimes (not the citizens, mind you) of Cuba, Iran and North Korea. Nice, isn't it? I've said time and again that I find Dobson to be grating, Falwell midguided and Robertson embarassing, but I don't recall any of them working with this sort of crowd. Here's the Wikipedia skinny on the WWP. This is the splinter group that formed from the WWP.
Here's a good piece on the IAC and WWP from FrontPage Magazine. National Review also ran several articles on this topic. See here and here. Note in that FrontPage piece that one of the groups the IAC brought together to support ANSWER has strong ties to Hamas.
See here for my concerns about leftism in evangelical circles, particularly among artists and writers. My comments originally concerned Derek Webb, but I do not limit them to him alone. The anti-war organizations are of particular concern for me, and I would mention Webb's support for Sojourners and Miller's endorsement of Cornel West (scroll down), the Princeton professor who recently visited Venezuela in support of dictator and Castro buddy Hugo Chavez.
Again, these folks are still my brothers and sisters in Christ. I would welcome them into my church without reservation. Indeed, I would welcome them into my home. I would not, however, agree with their views on these important matters. Likewise I will not be silent with the support of earnest believers leaves them with a public platform by which they can advance such views. We are all sinners, all of us fallen short of God's glory. I confess my own failings and note that I am not the final arbiter of truth in this world. Yet these disagreements deserve scrutiny for they affect serious issues in our world. We can disagree, to be sure, but the consequences might well force us to reconsider.