by Alan Jacobs
In 2006, Books & Culture, along with our sister magazines Christianity Today and Leadership Journal, is posing a single provocative question to an array of creative and influential thinkers: How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good? It is the opening question of the Christian Vision Project, a three-year exploration of next steps in the church's relationship to culture, its role in global mission, and its proclamation of the gospel.
One of the many benefits of this project is the chance to highlight a few individuals who exemplify evangelical Christianity at its best, at a time when mainstream media, abetted by our own foibles and follies to be sure, frequently highlight our vast and variegated movement at its worst. These voices may not shout the loudest, but they often have a great deal indeed to say, not just to fellow believers but to the wider culture.
Happily, Alan Jacobs' voice, familiar to readers of our pages, is being heard more widely recently, thanks to the publication of The Narnian: The Life and Imagination of C. S. Lewis. A frequent contributor to the Boston Globe, First Things, The Weekly Standard, the Mars Hill audio series, and other outlets, Alan is an eminently readable writer because he is above all a reader, discerning in his choice of texts and unfailingly careful with his subjects, engaging them with what he has called, in his book A Theology of Reading, "the hermeneutics of love." As Booklist put it in their review of his collection Shaming the Devil, Alan is "the most personable of critics." Here it is evangelicalism itself that benefits from his personable critique.
Implicit in the question I have been asked to consider" How can followers of Christ be a counterculture for the common good?"is a judgment: that we followers of Christ are not now such a counterculture. It's a sound judgment, I think, and it seems to call for a particular kind of discourse: what that great scholar of early American culture, Perry ...