The Inner Ring

The Inner Ring October 15, 2018

• “In short, the vision in Matthew 25 is one where people are welcomed for themselves and not as a proxy for receiving Christ. That revelation comes later, as a shock. And one wonders if the ordering in the parable is what makes all the difference.”

• “Pointing out that the club is maggot-infested garbage is the quickest way to get yourself kicked out of the club,” Atrios writes, in a post that isn’t likely to be well-received by white evangelical readers or by Very Serious People (not that either of those groups are likely to be reading Atrios, but still).

Perhaps the same idea would receive a warmer welcome if it were coming from C.S. Lewis:

My main purpose in this address is simply to convince you that this desire is one of the great permanent mainsprings of human action. It is one of the factors which go to make up the world as we know it — this whole pell-mell of struggle, competition, confusion, graft, disappointment and advertisement, and if it is one of the permanent mainsprings then you may be quite sure of this. Unless you take measures to prevent it, this desire is going to be one of the chief motives of your life, from the first day on which you enter your profession until the day when you are too old to care. That will be the natural thing — the life that will come to you of its own accord. Any other kind of life, if you lead it, will be the result of conscious and continuous effort. If you do nothing about it, if you drift with the stream, you will in fact be an “inner ringer.” I don’t say you’ll be a successful one; that’s as may be. But whether by pining and moping outside Rings that you can never enter, or by passing triumphantly further and further in — one way or the other you will be that kind of man.

I have already made it fairly clear that I think it better for you not to be that kind of man.

(via Robert Farley)

“I think it better for you not to be that kind of man.”

• An “inner ringer” would’ve chosen a different tone then the nice balancing act Emily McFarlan Miller pulls off here: “Biblical wax museum rewards seekers of kitsch and true conviction.”

I’m less concerned with the aesthetics of this roadside-attraction “ministry” than I am with its theology (White Jesus ain’t Jesus), and I want to critique that theology itself without bruising the bent reed of the Very Nice People who put in long hours to pull off this show.

Miller’s piece manages to respect these folks and to allow them their dignity, while also acknowledging that, well, just look. The tone of the piece is captured in a quote from Case Western professor Timothy Beal, who wrote a book on this kind of roadside folk-religion: “Even if it’s kind of corny- and kitschy-seeming from a distance, you’re aware of being a guest and that this person is not only hosting you in this space, but they’re kind of letting you into their own personal religious experience and lives.”

• Lewis’ critique of the corrosive, derailing effects of “inner-ringerism” also illustrates why all the “declarations,” and “statements,” and manifestos that white evangelicals are perpetually churning out never wind up meaning anything to anyone who was not a dignitary signatory. That’s why I agree with John Fea’s delicate observation about having “a hard time keeping track of all these religious ‘declarations.'”

Fea was responding to “The Chicago Invitation” — released 45 years after the original “Chicago Declaration of Evangelical Social Concern.” Or, if you like, released on the 25th anniversary of “Chicago Declaration II,” which was produced on the 20th anniversary of the first one. (I typed that second one.)

It’s a fine statement, written and endorsed by some fine folks. And I think the shift from “declaring” to “inviting” is maybe a step in a positive direction. But I’m still not convinced this kind of thing matters much outside the room where it’s drafted and signatory-ified.

The first Chicago Declaration was a significant, important first step. Celebrating the 45th anniversary of a first step maybe raises the question of why we haven’t been able to mark any anniversaries of a second or third step.

• In an attempt to clean up the Moody Meltdown (see here and here), the Chicago-based fundy Bible school has appointed a new president. I know nothing about the guy except that he is a pastor who also hosted a Christian radio program called “Straight Talk.”

It says a lot about someone that they would voluntarily host a radio program called “Straight Talk.” It tells you a great deal about that person’s self-awareness, about their epistemology, and about how pleasant or unpleasant it might be to find oneself seated next to them at a dinner party.


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