It’s not really obvious, but the message is becoming more and more subtle. There are a number of Christian writers who believe they love The Church more than people who disagree with them. Who are their dissenters? They are the eggheads, the geeks, people so busy having their face planted in a 600 page book, they probably aren’t going to be able to hold a conversation with your everyday layperson. Academic language is too complicated. Theology is too difficult for THEM to understand. Philosophy? Critical Theory? Ain’t nobody got time for that!
In a speech given in Washington, D.C., Cornel West discussed the idea of “the organic intellectual,” or a public figure who linked the life of the mind to social change, with his example being Rev. Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I believe this approach to knowledge is really quite different from the progressive anti-intellectualism that I see online and irl. Ideas are things to be consumed, become transformed into trends, sold on t-shirts, parodied on YouTube, and most importantly, ideas are things to be mentioned in books as authors sell them. Knowledge becomes power in so far as it is power over others. In stark contrast, the organic intellectual is committed to wisdom, putting ideas into practice, and reflecting on that praxis time, and again. Wisdom is also an intelligence that is shared, never to be privatized by a small class of wannabe celebrities.
One probable case contrary to progressive anti-intellectualism took place during the time after I had finished my Masters thesis. No one in my family or circle of friends really bothered to ask me what my research was about. Months later after everything was said and done, and I had started attending worship at a local congregation after a year or so of working on staff at another church, I became re-acquainted with a few of the elderly members of the church. Every Sunday, I would make sure to say hi and have small chat with Ms. Polly, and the more we talked, the more I learned we had in common. It turns out, she had experience in theological education, and so did some of her children as well. When I told her what my degree was in, and that I had to do a thesis, Ms. Polly asked me what was my thesis on, and I explained my topic to her. It was the first time outside an academic setting that someone had cared to ask me about my research interests. It’s something that I’ll never forget, and I haven’t forgotten. Later on that year when members of the church were called upon to volunteer to repave Ms. Polly’s driveway, I was one of the first people to sign up. All because we had bonded over theological discussions. At church.
The real question should be: do these Christian writers who “love” the Church more than the “intellectuals” really love the Church? If you love someone, would not you want to share with them the best wisdom that others have to offer? If you love average person in the pew, then why would you presume that they wouldn’t be interested in the life of the mind?
Just thinking out loud here.