While I'm Awake…

Martin E. Marty, the Fairfax M. Cone Distinguished Service Professor Emeritus of the History of Modern Christianity at the Divinity School of The University of Chicago (actually, I’m writing this blog post just so I can type out that title), has had a lot to say. I’ve been listening to my doctoral mentor for a long time, and America (and many parts beyond) has been listening for far longer–at least since the late 1950s when publications of his got him on the national radar as a keen observer of religion and culture. (Yes, that makes him an important commentator in six decades.)

Marty has retired but has not disappeared. And an excellent way to track at least some of his recent musings is through the on-line publication of the Martin Marty Center at the U of C Div School, “Sightings.”

No better introduction to its semi-weekly value (Marty on Mondays; others midweek) is today’s piece interpreting the recent Pew survey of religious (non-)knowledge in the United States. Marty’s fluent writing style might disguise the fact that he manages to list and helpfully comment on virtually every major interpretative line offered in the multitudinous responses to this poll on the Internet. A little good history, as usual with Marty, goes a long, long way to help people calm down about some things and pay more attention to others.

It’s the last paragraph and, indeed, the very last phrase, however, that icily grip the heart. The metaphor is the more arresting–Pascalian, Kierkegaardian–for its homeyness. Lots of right-wing rallies scream, “Wake Up, America!” but Marty’s quiet warning comes as a word of God.

“Sightings” is free. You should subscribe.

0 Responses to “While I'm Awake…”

  1. Andy Rowell

    Thanks for this.

    I also thought University of Connecticut sociologist Bradley Wright’s post: “Is it true? Atheists know more about religion than Christians”
    was good on this.
    http://brewright.blogspot.com/2010/10/is-it-true-atheists-know-more-about.html

    I reviewed Brad’s book “Christians Are Hate-Filled Hypocrites … and Other Lies You’ve Been Told: A Sociologist Shatters Myths From the Secular and Christian Media”
    at Books & Culture recently:
    http://www.booksandculture.com/articles/webexclusives/2010/september/hatefilledhypocrites.html

    • John Stackhouse

      Thanks, Andy. Professor Wright’s post reminds us all of what we badly need to remember about poll data: There are the data themselves and then there are the pollster’s interpretations of the data–and then the journalist’s interpretations of the pollster’s data.

      If the data are bad–as in a pollster asking a bad question or set of questions, as sometimes happens–then everything downstream is bad. But bad stuff can get introduced to the stream at any point, so we had always best be able to get to the sources.

      I recommend Professor Wright’s book–and perhaps also a look at my blog post that links to the article I wrote along the same lines before his book was published.

  2. Spencer Capier

    Oh the glorious concision in that mini essay!

    “The leaders of religious institutions who care—parents, professors, ethicists—and who contend that the expression of faith cannot well be confined to personal experience, individual “contentless spirituality” have their work cut out for them. ” For me as a high school philosophy and critical thinking teacher, that is my life, and life’s work.

    Spencer

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