A View from the Hammock
Washington is abuzz regarding a recent New York Times Magazine article entitled "Saint Hillary." The profile on the First Lady apparently grew out of a speech she gave in April at the University of Texas in Austin. Mrs. Clinton's remarks have sparked another discussion of values and religion in the public square, albeit the attention received has mostly been limited to the pundits of the editorial pages and CNN.
In the address, Mrs. Clinton decried what she called "the sleeping sickness of the soul." "Somehow economic growth and prosperity, political democracy and freedom are not enough," she said. "We lack at some core level meaning in our individual lives and meaning collectively, that sense that our lives are part of some greater effort, that we are connected to one another." She went on to examine the "alienation, despair and hopelessness" of bureaucracy, and the "spiritual vacuum" of a nation undergoing a "crisis of meaning."
The Times reporter argues that she is seeking a new Reformation: "Driven by the increasingly common view that something is terribly awry with modern life, Mrs. Clinton is searching not only for programmatic answers but for The Answer. Something in the Meaning of It All line, something that would inform everything" in our national social agenda. What's the point? you ask. Simply this—whatever one may think of the current American political climate, such discourse gives us a marvelous opportunity to grapple with ultimate issues of meaning and destiny in a national conversation.
Because political speech not only mirrors but breeds the reigning assumptions of our culture, we are, as it were, frequently afforded a view of "the emperor with-no clothes." Yet while these maxims are readily on display, the hidden contradictions of these assumptions are not so easy to distinguish.
It thus becomes our responsibility to listen and to engage in this conversation with discernment, to be "wise as serpents and innocent as doves." And such discourse prompts us to pray for the people in Washington and elsewhere who shape this conversation and to pray especially for revival in our churches, that God's Word may be preached and may nurture our character.
For further reflection I offer a list of summer reading books—for those of you who are still able to find time to stretch out in a hammock with book and iced tea in hand!
On Religion in the Public Square
Democracy in America by Alexis de Toqueville (newly issued in paperback by Vintage Publishing)
The American Hour: A Time of~ Reckoning and the Once and Future Role of Faith by Os Guinness (The Free Press)
No God But God: Breaking With the Idols of Our Age edited by Os Guinness and John Seal (Moody Press)
Culture Wars: The Struggle to Define America by James Division Hunter (Basic Books)
The Naked Public Square: Religion and Democracy in America by Richard John Neuhaus (Eerdmans)
First Things, a monthly journal published by The Institute on Religion and Public Life (subscription information 1-800-875-2997)
On Prayer and Revival
On Revival by Jonathan Edwards (Banner of Truth)
The Power of Prayer: The New York Revival of 1858 by Samuel Prime (Banner of Truth)-