Why a Christian Review?

Deal W. Hudson

December 17, 2014

The aim of practical criticism as embodied in the book review, the movie review, or the music review is pedagogic, and must be so without apology. When well-written, informed, and insightful, reviews instruct all of us in how to better understand what we have read, seen, or heard, or point us in the direction of what it would profit us to read, see, or hear. Sensible people welcome that instruction. The most thoughtful cannot sustain their thoughtfulness without it.

The review space is where the audience for art meets for discussion and argument. It’s the agora without Socrates but with Coleridge, so to speak, who was the father of practical criticism as we know it, which he described as, “intense brooding on a work to grasp its essential quality, and illustrating this by careful and subtle reference to details.”

There were several generations in this country, as well as in England, when many notable reviewers where either Christians or still held a respectful regard for the faith that undergirds our civilization: Among them were, T. S. Eliot, W. H. Auden, Cleanth Brooks, Allen Tate, Caroline Gordon, John Crowe Ransom, Robert Penn Warren who though a non-believer found in Christianity, “the deepest and widest metaphor for life.” Warren’s kind of appreciation was common in the literary community, even the academy, into the 1960s
Those days are long gone, and gone with a ferocity that even those who lived through the change, such as I, did not foresee.

Take almost any major source of book reviews, such as the once-reveredNYRB, and the still highly regarded New York Times Magazine, to the Times Literary Supplement and the London Review of Books, the intellectual fusion of politicization and postmodernism over the past 50 years has made them actively hostile to any conservative or Christian voice, unless of course the author is a liberal Christian who cares more about gay marriage than God or a conservative who has been mugged by the elites of his integrity.

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