From the Editor

Who speaks for Christianity?

Faithful God-talk is neither left- or right-wing

Marilyn Robinson and Kerry Miller spent an hour recently, on the Minnesota Public Radio program “Talking Volumes,” discussing Robinson’s new work of fiction, “Gilead.” The novel is rooted in her experience growing up in a deeply religious environment, and includes some truly funny moments. There was the time some kids decided it would be a good idea to baptize all the kittens that inhabited the barn. (Needless to say, the furry felines didn’t take kindly to being dressed up in “baptismal garments.”)

When the question-and-answer period came around, Robinson had some pointed comments for the current state of religion in the United States. She had little time for strident, over-confident conservative church folk, who imply by their talk and activity that all the important questions — theological, philosophical, ethical, moral, cultural and biblical — are pretty much settled. She said these “noisy Christians” inhabit a non-existent black-and-white universe.

But Robinson’s attention then turned to “reasonable, thoughtful, nuanced Christians who live in the great mainstream of American life.” She said, “They contribute to the sorry state of church life as we experience it now, because they remain silent in the face of what they know is clearly misguided.”

Why do mainliners, who include a lot of Minnesota Lutherans, fail to speak up and object when conservatives deign to speak for God? Says Robinson, “I think it’s because reasonable people are bewildered and insulted by such audacity. They think that, by speaking up, they’ll be wrongly identified with it.”

That, she said, is tragic, because it concedes the discussion in the religious arena to people who win all the arguments — by default. As a consequence, when the media talk about “Christian” or “religious” sensibilities, they now limit the discussion to extremely conservative, one-sided views.

How to respond? First, be sure you’re centered in Christ (see “Take this job and love it” elsewhere on this Web site). Rediscover what you’ve been taught. Then find your voice, through a group like ISAIAH (see page 1 of the print edition).