David Brooks, public theologian

Over at Faith & Leadership, UCC minister Tony Robinson argues

Professional theologians have largely lost the ability to address wider audiences. Mimicking those in other academic and specialist sub-cultures, they have developed languages that aren’t accessible or even particularly interesting. Religious leaders have tended to mirror the polarization of the culture at-large, preferring to choose sides in the culture and political wars.

Reinhold Niebuhr played had the ability to reach wider audiences and whose influence reached politicians and government decisionmakers says Robinson. Today he finds Niebuhr’s role played by non-theologians like David Brooks:

This sense of finitude also leads Brooks to chide Americans who expect too much of government. In the aftermath of last December’s attempted terrorist bombing of an airplane, Brooks commented, “In a mature nation, President Obama could go on TV and say, ‘Listen, we’re doing the best we can, but some terrorists are bound to get through.’ But this is apparently a country that must be spoken to in childish ways.”

A second and related theme that regularly pops up is the classic Christian notion that all humans are sinners. We need temper our own claims to absolute virtue and cut others some slack. …

Such an awareness of human fallibility leads to a third theological theme: grace. We’re not completely left to our devices here and we have some reason for hope not grounded in ourselves alone.

Brooks expresses such trust not so much in God but in a basic confidence in a certain American genius. Recently, this has led him to argue for locally based input and solutions to the BP oil spill and not the wisdom of outside experts alone….

Read it all.

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