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I'm glad to get mentioned by Ram Cnaan on p. 26 of the latest issue, in Agnieszka Tennant's interview with Ram ["Counting (Helping) Hands," January/ February]. However, let it be known that I am definitely not at Duke University. I am at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. This is especially important now that basketball season has begun. Thanks.

Christian Smith Department of Sociology University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, N.C

When Disrespect is Respectful

Darryl Hart ["The Groves of Academe:

When Disrespect is Respectful," January/ February] fails to realize that scholars committed to, say, Marxist or feminist beliefs and agendas often make exclusive claims on par with those of any religion. In this way they are in fact quasi-religious themselves and are not terribly inclined to include other religious points of view that appear hostile to their own. There is no real religious neutrality in liberal, democratic, pluralistic societies or institutions, but Christians are free to wade into the give-and-take in order to battle for a voice in a system that praises the ideals of equality, freedom, and tolerance even while they are never—and never can be— realized perfectly.

Hart also seems not to understand that it is the taint of the Republican Party and • contemporary "conservatism" on evangelicals that raises hackles among many academics, not Christianity. You can hold to any religious tradition in the academy as long as your politics suits Sixties liberals. There might still be some uneasiness among those with more anti-religious strains of Enlightenment thought, but generally speaking there is great tolerance for sufficiently "liberal" Christians.

This is the case because there is no perceived threat from Christianity in the academy except insofar as it is expressed through fundamentalist and evangelical political efforts that are thought of as crude, exclusionistic, bigoted, moralistic,. illiberal tools of the Republican Party. A few rather unbalanced secular academics. may truly fear the supposed power of the Religious Right; many hate its members as they imagine them to be; all see it as moronic.

I don't think these prejudices are without warrant. Evangelicals should expect

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in academic circles unless absolutely nee-' essary. I wonder too if recent affirmations of Christian scholarship have more to do with academic politics than the claims of Christ. This is where some attention to the motives behind the Religious Right and Christian scholarship might be instructive.

Politics aside, my point simply was to show that Christianity is far more threatening than many believing academics acknowledge. Mr. Knauss' comparison of Christianity with Marxism and feminism adds ironic support. These ideologies do

 

not rely upon the supernatural. They may appear to be as dogmatic, but their truth does not rest on a holy book or the operation of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, Christianity is more than an ideology, and I doubt if comparing it to Marxism or feminism does Christianity justice. To ask non-Christians to respect something as "foolish" as Christianity is to ask a lot.

Too Many Bibles?

As director of product development for an organization that has been devoted to Bible ministry in the United States for nearly 200 years, I was particularly interested in the letter ofW. Ward Gasque ["Too Many Bibles?," November/December 2002]. There seems to be plenty of evidence to back up Gasques observations, and they are troubling indeed. What is often missing from such laments is a deeper exploration of possible reasons for the decline of Bible knowledge in the American church.

In addition to the usual suspects in this case (the decline in reading generally, the turn to topical sermons in our churches, etc.) I believe there are other causes that . are rooted in the evangelical church's

n of certain cultural pat-First, as Wheaton Col-y Burge has noted ["The yer Read," CHRISTIANITY 99], evangelicals have rated with a peculiar '. We are extractionists. ime of Charles Hodge •d to think of the Bible similar to the scientists im which we can pull ded. Theological facts key and the stories that discarded as curious but This significantly mod-is a serious disservice to

the Bible God actually gave us. If evangelicals were to adopt a narrative approach to Scripture, it would not just be following some academic fad; it would bring us to a truer and more faithful understanding of God's revelation.

Second, while as evangelicals we like to think of ourselves as People of the Book, in practice we seem to be interest- . ed in the Bible only if we can see immediately what it has to do with us. We are taught to think in terms of instant, personal application of isolated bits of Bible texts. We are not interested in passages that don't seem to speak to our immediate situations. We have no time to bother

with learning about those for whom the Scriptures were originally given. We have no notion of the power of latency, of simply taking in the Bible for its own sake, and trusting that in time it will have plenty to say to us.

Gasque is right that more translations and new niche Bibles will not do much to address the underlying problem. There is little hope that Bible publishers captive to market forces can realistically confront this situation. Many of the study notes in our Bibles these days simply reinforce the idolatries of our time and actually show an amazing disrespect for the intended meaning and original context of the Scriptures.

The graphic design of these Bibles tells reader that the important material is the ancillary notes, not the biblical text.

. It is time for American evangelicals f regain a high view of Scripture in actua. practice, to relearn the ancient art of ex{ riencing the Bible as a story rather than God's Big Collection of Rules, Facts, an Principles, and, most important of all, to hear anew the call to lose one's life in order to find it—and then ask the questii what this might have to do with our Bib] reading.

Glenn Paa International Bible Soci Colorado Springs, Co

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