The Native Tourist
reformed/biblical observations on Christianity and culture

Friday, August 05, 2005
More Thoughts on Blue
Read another chapter in Blue Like Jazz last night. The chapter on love where Miller extolls the virtues of the hippies he lived with near Sisters, Ore. but found conservative Christians harsh and judgemental. While agree with his basic assessment of conservatives, I think that he is naive about the hippies. No doubt they were kind and excepting to him, but Miller makes the same mistake that Gaugin and Margaret Meade made about the natives in Tahiti and Samoa. They need to look deaper.

The subtitle of BLJ reveals the heart of Miller's project (and I think captures much of the heart of the "emergent" movement):

"Nonreligious Thoughts on Christian Spirituality".

What does Miller mean by "nonreligious"? How one defines this term is key.
Are the experiences and anecdotes Miller so lucidly narrates really non-religious? They may stand outside the church. They may stand outside the mainstream. He reurns again and again to his time with the atheistic, nonreligious students at Reed College in Portland who he sees as uniquely virtuous. But he fails to see how entirely religious the academic community at Reed is. Reed is one of the most religious campuses in the world! (If you don't think this is so try stepping on one of their ideological idols and see what happens.)

I think that Miller slips into the old-fashioned dualism which has plagued historical evangelicalism and which Miller desires to overcome.

One of the glories of the Reformed theology is that it refuses into buy the secular/sacred dualism. We see that all of life is religious. Neo-Calvinist philosopher Roy Clauser puts it this way:

...one religious belief or another controls theory making in such a way that the contents of the theories differ depending on the contents of the religious belief they presuppose. In fact, so extensive is this religious influence that virtually all the major disagreements between competing theories in the sciences and in philosophy can ultimately be traced back to differences in their religious presuppositions.

This means that theories about math and physics, sociology and economics, art and ethics, politics and law can never be religiously neutral. They are all regulated by some religious belief. The effects of religious beliefs therefore extend far beyond providing the hope for life after death or influencing moral values and judgments. By controlling theory making, they produce important differences in the interpretation of issues that range over the whole of life .