…how about you?
I am registered and have booked a flight for the Fellowship of Ss. Alban & Sergius conference. Signed, sealed, delivered, money has exchanged hands. I will have my laptop with me, of course, so I will be there reporting on the events as a blogger, I will also be there as a prospective student, and I will also be there as someone with a genuine interest in the subject matter (euphemism for “wide-eyed tourist”). If you can be there, I think you should go too. If you can’t be there, the tip jar still awaits its first contribution — I’d rattle it, but there’s nothing in it to rattle.
Who else is going? I frankly have heard of nobody else who is. I guess I’m not totally surprised, since the Fellowship really is, for all intents and purposes, a group of people with the most specialized of special interests, but I would think that the roster of speakers would have at least generated a bit more attention. Maybe it’s too soon for that. Well, regardless — I’m very much looking forward to the experience. (It is also, not terribly coincidentally, the only trip I’ll really be able to take this summer.)
I’ll note that since registering, I received an e-mail announcing that they would be making available the opportunity to students and seminarians to work at the conference in exchange for the registration fee, and would I be interested? I e-mailed back and said yes, but we’ll see how all of that works out.
I think it’s telling that the two most prolific evangelism programs in evangelicalism both approach their audience with questions that Jesus never used.
“Do you know that God loves you and has a wonderful plan for your life?”
“If you were to die tonight, and God were to asked you, why should I let you into my heaven, what would be your answer?”
[Spencer] points out that Jesus merely proclaimed the Kingdom of Heaven, which had very different connotations than our dangling Heaven on a stick (my terminology).
The comments on Spencer’s post are themselves fascinating — give them a read. I’m also considering printing up a t-shirt that says, “The Orthodox Church: Refraining From Dangling Heaven On A Stick Since 33 A.D.”
Okay, maybe not. But that’s still a great phrase which I’d love to figure out how to use sometime.
Orlet asks whether a movement with as much young talent as conservatism has can really be doomed. Of course it can. Young journalists are one thing, but there’s no young Willmoore Kendall or young James Burnham or young Frank Meyer on the scene. No, I wouldn’t expect a 20-year-old or a 30-year-old to have the gravity of any of those thinkers — but even looking at our 40-year-olds and 50-year-olds, I can’t think of too many who are of much significance as theorists or academics. […]
Part of the problem on the theoretical side is that too many of the best young minds in conservatism have followed Buckley’s example by shunning grad school and embracing journalism or the movement instead.
With that in mind, consider my liberal friend Emily Hindrichs’ opinion:
I have long maintained that the nation in which I live will not have an academic as a president for one simple reason: people fear the educated. They fear the big words and the complex sentence structure and the literary references. Instead, they elevate the mediocre with descriptors such as “down to earth” and “plain-spoken.”
Now take this incident into account. Mostly what I wish to focus on is a response in the comments:
Universities, especially humanities and social science departments, have long since ceased channeling received wisdom and have turned into liberal advocacy organizations. A good deal of what they do either subtly or overtly pushes liberal ideology. […]
One should hold one’s head low and get a technically oriented degree at a university.
If we accept that premise that conservatives have largely ceded academia, the question then becomes, “Why?” (I accept this premise in part, by the way, but not entirely.) Does Emily’s assertion and the comment about the Delaware problem answer the question satisfactorily? Is it that conservatives are anti-intellectual? (Perhaps.) Or afraid of their ideological purity being tainted? (Probably, at least in part.) Is it a utilitarian view of education? (Largely, I think.) Or maybe it’s a marketing issue — getting back to Emily’s point, they’d rather play in Peoria than compete on the academic front. It’s a way of catering to the masses, which ensures their continued ability to eat with the classes.
What is the best way to synthesize this? I don’t know. What I do know is that conservatism only has itself to blame for its intellectual bankruptcy if the only acceptable response is retreat. The alternative is not easy — that being, conservatives have to be superior in their scholarship and not hope that correct ideology will do their work for them — but it’s what needs to be done.
Last year, a question came up in a class about Nestorius — what did he actually teach? I offered what I understood to be the basic summary of the Orthodox understanding, and the liberal skeptic in the class was able to quote Nestorius’ writings chapter and verse, offering a snarky comment to the effect of, “You Orthodox types have cooked up a lot of your own issues with him.”
By contrast, I heard a lecture the same year by a scholar who is Orthodox who teaches at an Ivy League school. This. Person. Knows. Her. Stuff. Top to bottom, in and out, she’s got it cold. Somebody from here who falls under the category of a liberal debunker went up to her afterward and said, in a manner more or less suggesting a rivalry that was friendly and professional but a rivalry nonetheless, said, “There are major problems with your thesis.” At that point it becomes about which bias informs the scholarship — and make no mistake, atheism is a bias, it is not a guarantee of objectivity by any means — but there was no denying that she was right on in terms of the sources, the languages, and everything else.
That’s what we have to do. If conservatives aren’t willing to put in the time and the work, they shouldn’t be surprised when their lunch gets eaten by people who may be on Mars ideologically but have the facts and the sources straight.