Sed Contra: Letter to Warren

Deal W. Hudson
March 1, 1997

Dear Warren:

Your letter telling me of your decision not to renew your subscription to aims raises several important issues I want to address. I am doing this publicly, with your permission, because you probably represent other Crisis readers who wonder why, as you put it, we spend “all that intellectual energy blasting away at the encroaching barbarians….”

You specifically mention our articles critical of Al Gore, Bill Moyers, the Jesus Seminar, environmental education, and my own column, “Duped by Civility.” I only hope that all our readers take our magazine as seriously as you do! But I would like to explain why we are critical of “nice guys with good intentions” like Gore and Moyers and of the current use of ideas like “civility.”

It was promising that someone with Moyers’s media clout picked the Book of Genesis as a topic of conversation for a national television audience. Yet even the New York Times found fault with the sophomoric free-association that was substituted for informed comment in the PBS series.

As a result, Moyers has added to our confusion about Genesis. In addition, he has inadvertently undermined the good advice of Mortimer Adler’s How to Read a Book. Moyers is an admirer of Adler but his Genesis series could hardly be held to the standard of an Adler Great Books Seminar.

I told you once that Moyers’s televised conversations with Adler on the contribute existence of God helped lead me toward Catholicism. But both his Genesis series and his Jungian conversations with Joseph Campbell demonstrate a basic misunderstanding, perhaps intentional, about the nature of religious belief. Moyers now refuses to consider religiosity from inside a tradition. Consequently, Moyers cannot do justice to any of the world’s major religions.

A similar problem is found in Gore’s Christian environmentalism. We can defend the environment against over-development and pollution without marrying God to Mother Earth. Indeed, the stronger our awareness of God as Creator, the stronger should be our motivation to be good stewards of his creation. Just as religious belief is not strengthened by ignoring established traditions, there is no need to divinize the planet in order to protect it.

If Crisis draws attention to the downside of psychologized spirituality and pantheistic eco-theology, it’s because we believe there will be a cost to pay for their influence.

I think you missed my point regarding the warning against the recent calls to civility. All of us should acquire true civility. But this does not require that we stop speaking the truth about evil. Many of those shouting the loudest about civility is really insisting that everyone recognizes the equal legitimacy of their moral perspectives. They won’t settle for mere toleration.

The same strategy is being used in public schools where, under the guise of “respecting” homosexuals, our children are being taught to regard homosexual acts as morally equivalent to heterosexual acts. If we try to remove the disguise from this “respect” agenda, we are not rejecting real respect, but exposing a deception.

You also think Crisis should have a greater sense of inclusiveness and open-heartedness rather than always attacking the “infidel.” Yet, it is impossible for Crisis to fulfill its mission of addressing the crisis both in the culture and in the Church without “discerning the spirits.”

Your suggestion, however, makes me wonder, just what it means for a magazine to have an “open heart.” Surely you are right in suggesting I should closely monitor the tone and tenor of the magazine. We live in a therapeutic age; to hurt someone’s feelings is the cardinal sin, so shaping our tone is a constant struggle: Do we deliberately ruffle feathers to make our point, or do we carefully maintain our good relations with the opposition and risk being ignored?

Crisis, after all, is a magazine; it is journalism, not diplomacy. Our first job is to issue a wake-up call, then to inform and empower our readers. What bothers me most about your letter is our failure to persuade you. Only by persuading our readers can we actually contribute to evangelizing and redeeming our culture.

What would it take to persuade you that the barbarians are inside the gate? Perhaps &rums should make you laugh more often. Nietzsche once said that “laughter kills” more surely than any intellectual argument. If I can’t get you to see the danger, perhaps I can make you laugh with me at the foolishness. After all, Warren, there is a razor-thin line between comedy and tragedy, and faith is the difference.

Editor’s note: Subsequent to this letter, and after a friendly phone call and the offer of a golf game, Warren decided to renew his subscription after all.

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