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.

T. S. Eliott

T. S. Eliott

The platforms where book reviews are widely read and still have influence are now just a few and they are off limits. The New York Times Book Review always has one or two reviews worthy of our time but their books are often chosen with an eye to promoting this or that political or ideological cause or some publishers big investment. Conservative or Christian titles are treated only if their import makes them necessary and are usually handed over to a reviewer with knives already sharpened. This publication should bear a “Conservatives and Christians Beware” somewhere on the cover. This is not to ignore the quality of the writing and reflection that is found there but to regret its blinders.

The blight of ideology is only a part of the reason that the review has lost much of its importance in shaping the general tastes and attitudes of the contemporary culture. Only in the United Kingdom does the art of reviewing still flourish in the English language, only to be found by the persistent searching of a thirsty soul. The Guardian, the TLS, the Literary Review, and the Spectator continue the tradition of intelligent, informed, and engaging reviewing going back to the early 19th century. In the United States, newspapers like the Washington Post and the New York Times still publish worthwhile reviews, such as those of the renown Jonathan Yardley, but with budgetary trimming in the print media, there are fewer and fewer books receiving serious attention by serious people. The recently created Los Angeles Review of Books, whose editors have recognized the same plight, are making good progress in becoming what the New York Review of Books once was and never will be again.

Film reviewing is in a much healthier state thanks not only to the public clamor for movie recommendations but also to the national prominence provided by Rotten Tomatoes and Metacritic to many fine reviewers. The problem with the bulk of film reviewers is that too few of them show any fairness towards films with a traditional or religious point of views. Only the financial success in the face of the critical damnation of films like “The Passion of the Christ” has tempered their prejudice, but only slightly. The late Roger Ebert, clearly a man of the Left, treated films fairly irrespective of their worldview — a good movie was a good movie whether Ebert shared its meaning or not.

TV reviewing has never risen to the critical mass of book and movies reviews, although culturally speaking they are of tremendous importance. The kind of prominent TV reviews you encounter in major magazines such as People or Entertainment Weekly are never probing, due to length restraints, and often give a pass to mediocrity. We are arguably in another Golden Age of Television, a time when major film directors, such as Stephen Soderbergh, regard television as a more creative medium — TV reviewing needs to catch up, and once again there need to be reviewers without a predisposition to dismiss a show with the glint of genuine religiosity or traditional values.

When it comes to music reviews, there is plenty of vitality in the critical communities that care about the various genres of popular music as well as classical music. Into the pages of this Review, we will invite informed “brooding” on all kinds of music, including, of course, sacred music.

The Christian Review launches with a modest goal — to publish each day reviews that will engage and challenge those who find such input essential both to chew on what they have already experienced or to receive direction on where to look next. The conversation in The Christian Review will take on a life of its own, creating controversies, arguments over the canon, and a continual struggle with the question of just how to bring the Christian intelligence to bear on works of art and the culture as a whole. That, I hope, will be a contribution to both the faith and to the culture itself.

By Deal Hudson

Deal W. Hudson was born November 20, 1949 in Denver, CO, to Emmie and Jack Hudson, both native Texans. Dr. Hudson had an older sister Ruth, and eventually, a younger sister, Elizabeth. Emmie Hudson, Ruth Hudson and Elizabeth Hudson now live in Houston, TX; Jack Hudson passed away some years ago. The late Jack Hudson was a captain for Braniff Airlines in Denver at the time of Dr. Hudson’s birth. Later the family moved to Kansas City when his father joined the Federal Aviation Agency. From Kansas City, the Hudson family moved to Minneapolis, then to Massapequa, NY, and finally to Alexandria, VA, where they first occupied a home overlooking the Potomac River adjacent to the Mount Vernon estate. After a year, the family moved to a home on Tarpon Lane a few houses up the street from the Yacht Haven boat docks. Dr. Hudson attended Mt. Vernon Elementary School from grades 4 to 6 and has a special gratitude for the teaching of Mr. Hoppe who first told him was a ‘smart lad.’ Having moved with his family to Fort Worth, TX in 1960, Dr. Hudson attended William Monnig Junior High and Arlington Heights HS. In high school, Dr. Hudson was captain of the golf team, editor of the literary magazine (Guerdon), and performed the role of Peter in the ‘The Diary of Anne Frank’ during his senior year. Dr. Hudson graduated cum laude with a major in philosophy from the University of Texas-Austin in 1971 where his undergraduate advisor was Prof. John Silber. His teachers at the University of Texas included Prof. Louis Mackey and Prof. Larry Caroline. Dr. Hudson minored in both classics and English literature. Dr. Hudson lived in Atlanta from 1974-1989, where he attended Emory University, receiving a Phd from the Graduate Institute for the LIberal Arts. He also taught philosophy at Mercer University in Atlanta from 1980-89. In 1989 Dr. Hudson and his family left Atlanta when he was hired to teach philosophy at Fordham University in the Bronx. Dr. Hudson taught at Fordham, and also part-time at New York University, from 1989 to 1994. Dr. Hudson first came to Atlanta in after graduation from Princeton Theological Seminary (PTS) with an M.Div. While at PTS, Dr. Hudson managed the Baptist Student Union at Princeton University and became its first director. Dr. Hudson also was licensed at a minister in the Southern Baptist Convention at Madison Baptist Church in Madison, NJ. Dr. Hudson’s primary area of study at PTS was the history of Christian doctrine which he pursued with Dr. Karlfried Froelich. In 1984 Dr. Hudson was received in the Catholic Church by Msgr. Richard Lopez, with the special permission of Archbishop Thomas A. Donnellan, at the chapel of Our Lady of Perpetual Help Cancer Home in Atlanta. Dr. Hudson has been married twenty-five years to Theresa Carver Hudson and they have two children, Hannah Clare, 23, and Cyprian Joseph (Chip), 15, adopted from Romania when he was three years old. The Hudson family has lived in Fairfax, VA for more than fifteen years, after having lived five years in Bronxville, NY and a year in Atlanta, GA, where Theresa and Deal were married.

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