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Peter T Chattaway

Hipster Christianity

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I'm beginning to think we should split the thread into two: One for people speculating about what the book might be, and one for people reading the book and discussing what it says.

Edited by Overstreet

P.S.  I COULD BE WRONG.

 

Takin' 'er easy for all you sinners at lookingcloser.org. Also abiding at Facebook and Twitter.

 

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Well, so long as we're discussing the op-ed pieces that Brett has written, the interviews he's done, and the reviews that have been written of his book, it's all on-topic for this thread.

But, needless to say, the more "accurate" and "useful" comments about the book itself will come from those who have read it, sure. :)


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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I'm beginning to think we should split the thread into two: One for people speculating about what the book might be, and one for people reading the book and discussing what it says.

Well, given the fact that there are more than 100 posts in this thread that were made before the book was published, and that Brett's views on hipster Christianity are there to read in multiple sources, I'm not entirely sure why there would be a need to split the thread. There are many ideas here, and they can't be neatly divided into "those who've read the book" and "those who haven't." At least that's my take on it. But sure, it would be a good idea to read the book.

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sorry for the late reply, have been out of town since yesterday morning.

Accompanying that, though, is a decided theological component that desires to simplify things and do the things that Jesus did. Believe me, I'm aware of the conundrums that can arise given that approach, having been there a generation back with the Jesus Freaks. But I think it's a pretty good idea to do the things that Jesus did, so I cheer them on, and try to get in the game myself, albeit somewhat cautiously at times. But to the extent that there is a political/cultural component there, and there is, it's there because there's a general consensus that the old Evangelical way of doing things has resulted in some unfortunate theology, and gotten in the way of the Kingdom of God. The actions/cultural engagement proceeds from the theology, and not the other way around. Of course, I'm equally sure that the hardline Bushites and Reaganites who are my brothers and sisters would say the exact same thing. I just think they're wrong. :)

Yeah, and this makes a lot of sense to me as well, based on my experience in "emergent" churches (or whatever name applied before the aughts). I certainly can relate to a lot of the sentiment running throughout the kind of church you describe above. However, the whole "recovering Evangelical" is, I think, often a misnomer, simply because of the way in which Emergents--and CH's--often operate the same way as their Evangelical counterparts, using many of the same devices, albeit from the opposite end of the spectrum. I'm very wary of any of the contemporary non-denom movements which cast away Evangelicalism, simply because I don't think they've really escaped Evangelicalism to the extent that they think they have. Part of the problem is that both (all?) of the aforementioned movements operate as little cells disembodied from the whole (which is why it's next to impossible to define "Evangelical" or "Emergent"); both emergent and (non-denominational) evangelical churches claim authority based on their theology, which is often referred on up the chain to inexplicable larger movements of people. In reality there is no actual ecclesiological structure in place other than perception, so each church defines the movement however they want, and in some ways, in consequence, every church is both right and wrong. I think this is why the political aspect often crops up in the conversation about Evangelicalism and Emergence/CH'ism/etc; when terms are defined on the basis of an individual or church, the most obvious elements will be the first to be defined.

I'm confused, are you saying that that "emergent types" haven't left evangelicalism behind because they're defined in part by what they're rejecting, or that they they haven't left evangelicalism behind because they've swapped one political outlook for another?

Both, and neither. I should have put evangelicalism in quotation marks, as it really is defined in very different ways by different groups (see above paragraph). But largely, when "emergent types" talk about being "real" (and I'm using Emergence as interchangeable with CH'ism, perhaps to my peril), I think what they're indicating is they want to escape or transcend the evangelical roots from which many of them come. However, what they actually end up doing is recreating evangelicalism into their own image, using the same devices found within evangelicalism, to create their own model of it. This often crops up as a politically driven model, as the political aspect of evangelicalism is easily the most apparent element of the movement as a whole. However, I think it could easily apply to other elements found within both "evangelicalism" and the "emergent" movement.

I'm beginning to think we should split the thread into two: One for people speculating about what the book might be, and one for people reading the book and discussing what it says.

Well, so long as we're discussing the op-ed pieces that Brett has written, the interviews he's done, and the reviews that have been written of his book, it's all on-topic for this thread.

But, needless to say, the more "accurate" and "useful" comments about the book itself will come from those who have read it, sure. :)

Just a thought, but isn't this thread about Hipster Christianity in general? The first post included Brett McCracken's book as one element among several in regard to HC.

Edited by Joel C

Listen to my tunes by visiting my website, or come say hello on Facebook and Twitter

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I'm beginning to think we should split the thread into two: One for people speculating about what the book might be, and one for people reading the book and discussing what it says.

Yep - as mentioned on the previous page, I'm reading it now, so... a book discussion thread might be a good idea, imo.

Give me a few minutes to find the posts from those who have read, or are reading the book. I'll create a new thread.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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ACK. Whatever you do, don't chop up the existing discussion. Just let a new one grow.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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ACK. Whatever you do, don't chop up the existing discussion. Just let a new one grow.

Having just tried to create a new dedicated thread from among those here who have read the book, I agree with your warning ... but it's too late. The damage is done. I'll try to go undo it, but if things turn out uglier, forgive me. THIS is a big reason why I'm reluctant to break off new threads from existing ones. I have to figure out WHO'S actually read the book -- did M. Leary read it? Holy Moly? Or are they just engaging the reviews of those who have, and responding to McCraken's WSJ piece? What a mess.


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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As noted elsewhere, I've tried to restore this thread to the way it was before I "helped" spur further discussion.

Now if I could just figure out what to do with that "Fiction for Men" thread... :)


"What matters are movies, not awards; experiences, not celebrations; the subjective power of individual critical points of view, not the declamatory compromises of consensus." - Richard Brody, "Godard's Surprise Win Is a Victory for Independent Cinema," The New Yorker

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Hmmm. This reminds me of one of the reviews which said (IIRC) that Brett had basically ignored the evangelical kids who have switched to older, more traditional denominations. It sounds like Brett hasn't written a book on "kids who leave the evangelical subculture" but, rather, he has written a book on a subset of those kids (the "many of them" to whom you refer) who, on closer inspection, are probably still very much a part of the evangelical subculture, even if they are on the fringes of it. But now I wonder if his book even necessarily has to be about KIDS. Are there no "hipster" adults, middle-aged types, etc.?

I think many of these people have come out of the evangelical culture, but I think it would be a stretch to say that they're still a part of the evangelical culture. Unless you're aware of a particular segment of evangelicalism that values liturgy, fixed-hour prayer, and the dreaded liberal "social justice."

Hipster culture is, almost by definition, youth culture, and as such it is highly image conscious. I suppose it would be theoretically possible to be a middle-aged (or older) hipster, but the results would skew toward the ludicrous fairly quickly. On the other hand, the tastes of hipsters and normal, sedate middle-aged adults who buy their clothes at Kohl's can overlap to the extent that both groups can value what is good and worthwhile culturally, and because the middle-aged folks haven't figured out that they're supposed to stop caring about, oh, books or music or film, when they reach a certain age. I hope Brett makes this distinction. It's a worthwhile distinction to keep in mind.

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what they actually end up doing is recreating evangelicalism into their own image, using the same devices found within evangelicalism, to create their own model of it. This often crops up as a politically driven model, as the political aspect of evangelicalism is easily the most apparent element of the movement as a whole. However, I think it could easily apply to other elements found within both "evangelicalism" and the "emergent" movement.

I think this can be sometimes true. But there are a lot of different traditions within Christianity with long historical interests in progressive politics, and post-evangelicals who have the benefit of this historical consciousness often draw on these other Christian traditions--sometimes jumping on board completely. This is where that whole "reinventing the wheel" comes into play. If more post-evangelical/emergent/whatever folks sat down and read Gustavo Guiterrez I bet it would blow their minds.

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I think this can be sometimes true. But there are a lot of different traditions within Christianity with long historical interests in progressive politics, and post-evangelicals who have the benefit of this historical consciousness often draw on these other Christian traditions--sometimes jumping on board completely. This is where that whole "reinventing the wheel" comes into play. If more post-evangelical/emergent/whatever folks sat down and read Gustavo Guiterrez I bet it would blow their minds.

Heh, no doubt. And he's a Dominican!

On that note, I think you're right in saying that historical consciousness is a key factor in the transformative process happening currently. Personally I tend to think that people who are historically conscious will tend to, as you said, eventually embrace a historical institution, or will already be part of one; however, for those that don't, a higher awareness of those traditions within Christianity will certainly lead to a stronger outcome than those who base their understanding predominately off of the last century or so of church history, which is often the case in evangelicalism and post-evangelicalism.

Edited by Joel C

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Andy Whitman wrote:

: Unless you're aware of a particular segment of evangelicalism that values liturgy, fixed-hour prayer, and the dreaded liberal "social justice."

It isn't too hard to come up with evangelicals who value liturgy and/or "social justice". Don't know about fixed-hour prayer, but anyhoo.

But like I say, this particular segment of evangelicalism would probably be on the FRINGE of evangelicalism, at least within North America -- similar to post-evangelicalism, which, as some of its leaders have noted, is not EX-evangelicalism. In its own way, post-evangelicalism is still very evangelical. I'm sure the same could be said about "emergent" churches etc.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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did M. Leary read it? Holy Moly? Or are they just engaging the reviews of those who have, and responding to McCraken's WSJ piece? What a mess.

I have read most of it. I guess I have just enjoyed the way this conversation has embraced both the book and its responses in one fell swoop. Thinking more in terms of tradition history helps conversations avoid ad hominem riff-raff, which is always nice. Part of my problem with this book does involve its actual writing, and I wish it had an editor with a greater vision about what such a book could look like in terms of filling a necessary gap in reportage on the experience of what Webber already defined as the "younger evangelicals" a long time ago. (Fred Clark's blog is a good example of what this kind of writing can look like if given room to breathe even if Clark writes as one outside the fold.) But it ends up really becoming a devotional on "He must increase, cool must decrease."

Frankly, I couldn't have said it better than PTC via the Chewie reference, which is one of the best pull quotes in A&F history. The blend of relevance, obscurity, total recall, and pop culture genius in that brief critique is astounding.

Edited by M. Leary

"...the vivid crossing of borders between film and theology may save the film from the banality of cinema and festival business, and it may also save the church from the deep sleep of the habitual and the always known."

(Hans Werner Dannowski)

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I'm blushing, now.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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OK, maybe this belongs in a/the Brian McLaren thread, but I caught a three question "interview" at www.standfirminfaith.com (conservative dissident Anglican website) in which he dodges the question of orthodoxy by ticking off particular crises that attract social justice types and then saying in so many words, you are asking about atonement? I bring this up only because emergence is all over this thread. And as Joel has so constantly brought out, not only is evangelical greasely defined, but so is hipsterism and emergence. As one who is on the particular side of the political divide, but has had his fill of "the evangelical right", I've never known such folk to be equivocal at all about traditional evangelical points of doctrine. As one who is outside of emergence and pomo, I ask, what could be said of this? From an historical perspective, equivocation/denial of traditional conservative doctrine was precisely how we got "emergent" fundies some 90 to 100 years ago ( the fundies of today are a different animal, same species, so to speak). Is this a freak thing, or The Wars all over again down the road?

Edited by Rich Kennedy

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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I got the vimeo address here to spare you the abuse at Standfirm in the comments section. I forgot who asks Brian the questions. Scot McKnight asks three questions. I believe the one that stunned me was the second one. The whole piece is not quite 19 minutes.

EDIT: Nope. Couldn't succeed with the link above. At Standfirm, if you scroll down to the third video feed (about one third of the way down the homepage list) you can access it. Click on the "vimeo" logo, or click on the "Incredible shrinking Brian McLaren" title below the video.

Edited by Rich Kennedy

"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Sorry about assuming he was emergent. His books seem to be marketed that way. I find him somewhat unreadable. So, you are saying that a common element of such theology today is casual dismissal of orthodox theology because social needs trump orthodoxy?


"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Sorry about assuming he was emergent. His books seem to be marketed that way. I find him somewhat unreadable. So, you are saying that a common element of such theology today is casual dismissal of orthodox theology because social needs trump orthodoxy?

I'm not Ryan, but I'll jump in here.

McLaren is certainly a well known Emergent "thinker," but, as Ryan noted earlier, Emergent is a big tent, and it takes in a broad spectrum of theological views; some of which are heterodox, if not heretical, and some that are quite orthodox. So the "common element" part of the statement above is not true, and the "casual" adjective is, at best, an editorial simplification. Personally, I think McLaren carries his point too far, and that there must be a doctrinal/orthodoxy component to Emergent thinking if the word "Christian" is to have any meaning. But I'm sympathetic to some of his views. A better way to approach this, in my opinion, is to say that Emergent thinking wants to hold to core Christian beliefs while rejecting all the doctrinal/denominational infighting that characterizes so much of the contemporary Church. But some of us are not willing to toss out the early Church councils, either.

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I got the vimeo address here to spare you the abuse at Standfirm in the comments section. I forgot who asks Brian the questions. Scot McKnight asks three questions. I believe the one that stunned me was the second one. The whole piece is not quite 19 minutes.

EDIT: Nope. Couldn't succeed with the link above. At Standfirm, if you scroll down to the third video feed (about one third of the way down the homepage list) you can access it. Click on the "vimeo" logo, or click on the "Incredible shrinking Brian McLaren" title below the video.

Okay. Well, I watched it.

What McLaren says is not so shocking to me, but I've followed McLaren a bit. You ask, "Is this a freak thing, or The Wars all over again down the road?" From what I've experienced, I'm going to suggest that what he presents isn't just a "freak thing," though his voice isn't necessarily the voice of the "emergents" (the "emergents" are certainly a difficult group to pin down).

But he is as much of a proponent of it as anyone else. Not meant as a personal attack, but I kind of find it silly to say that he isn't necessarily the voice of the "emergents". Emergence is so broad and varied that any number of people could be called the voice of "emergence", and he as much as anyone else.

What McLaren says isn't really shocking to me either, but that has more to do with the fact that I find him so enigmatic and obscure that he could be hiding fantastic heresy within the bounds of conversation, and you'd never know it. He is to me a prime example of the Emergent narrative, in that he typifies for me the way in which Emergent types say a whole lot, without anchoring on any particular idea. I've always found Emergence more about the idea of an ideal, rather than the ideal itself.


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Yes. There seems to be a resistance to definition.

Which really pisses me off when I encounter it. How do you know what you are discussing if there is not at least some implied agreement on definition? What distinguishes, say, a fellowship with, let's say McLarenish ideals (or ideas of ideals, whatever) and a para-church organisation or ngo? Is god language sincere or window dressing?


"During the contest trial, the Coleman team presented evidence of a further 6500 absentees that it felt deserved to be included under the process that had produced the prior 933 [submitted by Franken, rk]. The three judges finally defined what constituted a 'legal' absentee ballot. Countable ballots, for instance, had to contain the signature of the voter, complete registration information, and proper witness credentials.

But the panel only applied the standards going forward, severely reducing the universe of additional basentees the Coleman team could hope to have included. In the end, the three judges allowed about 350 additional absentees to be counted. The panel also did nothing about the hundreds, possibly thousands, of absentees that have already been legally included, yet are now 'illegal' according to the panel's own ex-post definition."

The Wall Street Journal editorial, April 18, 2009 concerning the Franken Coleman decision in the Minnesota U.S. Senate race of 2008.

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Yes. There seems to be a resistance to definition.

Which really pisses me off when I encounter it. How do you know what you are discussing if there is not at least some implied agreement on definition? What distinguishes, say, a fellowship with, let's say McLarenish ideals (or ideas of ideals, whatever) and a para-church organisation or ngo? Is god language sincere or window dressing?

To say that there is disagreement about doctrinal issues does not imply that there isn't substantial agreement among Emergents in many other areas. In particular, the Emergent Church is a critique of the Modernist Protestant Church, in both its evangelical and mainline manifestations. So here's what we're discussing:

1) Captivity to Enlightenment Rationalism

Essentially, this is the belief that the church has been imprisoned by rationalist philosophies that remove revelation from the way we know truth. In this view, the mainline social gospel and fundamentalist traditions are simply two sides of the same coin, and both are based on modern individualism, rationalism, and pragmatism that are antithetical to Christianity.

2) A narrow view of salvation

Emergents believe that the church has focused too much on justification and not enough on sanctification. There has been an over-emphasis on becoming a Christian and not enough on living like a Christian.

3) Belief before belonging

This is a criticism of the traditional practice of requiring people to have right doctrine before they are accepted into the body of the church. Doctrine is the gatekeeper for community.

4) Uncontextualized Worship

Worship has been too far removed from the culture of the people who are worshiping and instead preserves a culture of a different day and age that is increasingly irrelevant.

5) Ineffective Preaching

The pastor as the fount of all knowledge has reduced spiritual formation to head knowledge, and has removed people from lending their voices and their experiences to the proclamation of the gospel.

6) Weak Ecclesiology

Traditional top-down church structures and inflexible methodologies have affected the Church's missional effectiveness.

7) Tribalism

The traditional church has shied away from its responsibility to engage the world and to truly bring the Gospel to the world. This disengagement with culture has resulted in the church being known more for what it is against than what it is for.

Feel free to discuss. Or not. But this isn't nearly as nebulous as some of the posters here are making out.

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Andy Whitman wrote:

: 3) Belief before belonging

: This is a criticism of the traditional practice of requiring people to have right doctrine before they are accepted into the body of the church. Doctrine is the gatekeeper for community.

Um, how is this a problem? Especially if Emergents are going to criticize the modernist church for having dispositions that are "antithetical to Christianity"? Don't you have to have, y'know, some sort of Christian doctrine on your side if you are going to make that sort of critique?

Before someone signs up for baptism, shouldn't they have a sense of what they're signing up for? Isn't this what catechism is all about?

: 4) Uncontextualized Worship

: Worship has been too far removed from the culture of the people who are worshiping and instead preserves a culture of a different day and age that is increasingly irrelevant.

And so we come back to the question of "relevance" and whether the church needs to be "cool", a la the hipsters.

: 6) Weak Ecclesiology

: Traditional top-down church structures and inflexible methodologies have affected the Church's missional effectiveness.

It's almost amusing to think that the Emergents would criticize anyone else for having a "weak ecclesiology". Especially if they don't think church membership (or membership in their movement, which may or may not be the same thing) has certain basic requirements, like having the right doctrine.


"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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Heh. She writes:

I did take his
“are you a Christian hipster?”
quiz, which of course told me I was a hipster. From what I could tell anyone who isn’t fundamentalist or Amish and has a pulse in the 21st century would be labeled “hipster” according to the quiz – including McCracken himself who seems far cooler than I will ever be.

And so of course I had to take the quiz too ... and it turns out that I also am a hipster, who despite some traditional leanings would be quite comfortable in a nondenom church.


“I write because I don’t know what I think until I read what I say.” — Flannery O'Connor

Writing at the new Decent Films | Follow me on Twitter and Facebook

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e2c wrote:

: I'm planning to post some thoughts on Brett's book over in the Literature and Writing forum ... hope some of you will join me there.

Wait a minute... THIS thread isn't in the 'Literature & Creative Writing' forum? Huh. I mean, the thread IS about the book itself, as per its subtitle.

Did I actually start this thread in the 'Faith Matters' forum or did someone move it here? I can't remember.

On second thought, the 'Literature & Creative Writing' forum is for, well, literature and creative writing -- that's why we generally don't discuss books on politics there -- and I'm not sure that a non-fiction book on faith matters, such as this one, qualifies.

: I don't think "summaries and reviews and articles and blog posts" = read the book. It's like writing a review of a CD based on the tear sheet that the publicist enclosed.

True. But "extended excerpts" might be analogous to, say, a batch of singles from the CD. You obviously couldn't review the entire CD, of course, but you would still have something to talk about.

Edited by Peter T Chattaway

"Sympathy must precede belligerence. First I must understand the other, as it were, from the inside; then I can critique it from the outside. So many people skip right to the latter." -- Steven D. Greydanus
Now blogging at Patheos.com. I can also still be found at Facebook, Twitter and Flickr. See also my film journal.

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