George P. Wood, writing for Influence Magazine had a shorter but also positive review: "Disruptive Witness is a timely, relevant work of cultural diagnosis, thought-provoking even if you don’t agree with all of Noble’s prescriptions." On Monday the Influence podcast will release and interview with me about the book.
If you have been interested in reading an excerpt from Disruptive Witness, Facts & Trends magazine has published one.
Evangelical Christians make up some of the president’s most valuable supporters, so when Franklin Graham and the Southern Baptist Convention condemned the administration’s policyof taking children from parents who illegally cross the border, the administration was forced to respond. Attorney General Jeff Sessions gave a lengthy and condescending speech in which he argued, based on his reading of Romans 13, that the policy was justifiable because “orderly and lawful processes are good in themselves and protect the weak and lawful.” ---Continue reading at Buzzfeed
Honored to have Disruptive Witness featured with a starred review at Publisher's Weekly, which, allegedly, means it is an "Exceptional book out this week!" Of course, the book is not out this week. It won't be out until July 17th. But I'm sure the "exceptional" part is still accurate.
The creative department at IVP has done a fantastic job creating some media to help me promote Disruptive Witness. Download them here and share to help get the word out!
Disruptive Witness has (ever so briefly) topped both the list of New Releases on Amazon under Books > Religion & Spirituality > Religious Studies > Sociology and under Books > Christian Books & Bibles > Ministry & Evangelism > Evangelism.
Regrettably, this success did not last, and soon an Amish Romance novel overtook Disruptive Witness.
For most of us, Charles Taylor’s story of secularism, cross-pressures, and the immanent frame will be most helpful in interpreting cultural works. But for a few, there is a more pressing and, I think, exciting application of Taylor’s ideas. Near the end of A Secular Age, he suggests that literature (and I would argue the other arts as well) may offer one of the most poignant, disruptive voices for our times (732).
Taylor’s account of unbelief in the 21st century suggests that it is not typically intellectualobjections that keep people from faith, but the visceral pull of the immanent frame in the background. So we need to offer an alternative “social imaginary,” one that conceives of human fullness in Christ. It may require the creation of a “new language or literary style,” but the Christian artist may depict transcendence from within immanence in a way that speaks to the lived experience of modern people (A Secular Age, 732).
For his model, Taylor cites Flannery O’Connor. Evangelicals’ general admiration for O’Connor may blind us to Taylor’s point here, so I think it’s instructive to look at the particular ways O’Connor works from within the immanent frame to push against closed immanence. Taylor notes how she told stories grounded in the everyday, worldly experience of the immanent frame while providing “a point not visible to the naked eye,” a point that forces a paradigm shift (O’Connor quoted in Taylor, A Secular Age, 732).
One thinks of the grandmother’s epiphany at the end of “A Good Man Is Hard to Find” as an example. She embodies the petty evil of selfishness, perfectly absorbed in her own world and desires. Yet her epiphany at the end of the Misfit’s gun points to a force of transformation from outside herself, a force of grace.
Taylor doesn’t want us to see O’Connor’s use of violence and the grotesque as the only or primary way writers can offer signs of transcendence in an immanently framed world, but she does offer a model. Good contemporary art and literature will convey these cross-pressures. But the Christian artist may tilt toward the plausibility of true transcendence, demonstrating how this “take” on existence deeply satisfies since it doesn’t result in an impoverished vision.
"The idea that a redeemed body might have implications for how we live is hard for us to grasp. We like to keep our spiritual truths and our physical truths neatly separated."
Is evangelical Christian morality still viable in American public life? This is the question lurking in recent debates over religious-liberty issues, from the Supreme Court’s Hobby Lobby decision to the Christian bakers who object to baking cakes for gay weddings. In discussions of these cases, objections to same-sex marriage and contraception are described as a retreat from “secular society.” And in some cases, evangelicals actually have retreated: Since the Boy Scouts of America decided to allow openly gay Scouts to participate, a “Christian” alternative has been created, giving Christian parents a "safe" space where they can send their kids. But these incidences of retreat have actually been rare. Ultimately, the idea that evangelical Christian morality is incompatible with modern life isn’t sustainable.
Persecution has an allure for many evangelicals. In the Bible, Christians are promised by Saint Paul that they will suffer for Christ, if they love Him (Second Timothy 3:12). But especially in contemporary America, it is not clear what shape that suffering will take. Narratives of political, cultural, and theological oppression are popular in evangelical communities, but these are sometimes fiction or deeply exaggerated non-fiction—and only rarely accurate. This is problematic: If evangelicals want to have a persuasive voice in a pluralist society, a voice that can defend Christians from serious persecution, then we must be able to discern accurately when we are truly victims of oppression—and when this victimization is only imagined.
“I am a sinner, who’s probably gonna sin again”
Kendrick Lamar’s breakthrough album, good kid m.A.A.d. city, is a conversion narrative, tracing the moral journey of a young Kendrick through vice, violence, and grace. I don’t mean that the album is just redemptive or that one can interpret it as a conversion narrative if one tries hard enough. It is simply and unapologetically a conversion narrative. The album begins and ends with a recitation of the Sinner’s Prayer in this completely unironic voice. The main character of the concept album listens to the reprimand of an older black woman who tells him that he needs “living water.” Living water isn’t some metaphor for self-confidence or education or the right kind of political activism. She’s talking about the life-and-existence changing baptismal waters of Christ and His finished work on the cross. Interrupting the anger and frustration of a young black man bent on getting revenge for the earlier murder of his friend, her voice represents generations of African Americans living under white supremacy, generational poverty, cycles of violence and hopelessness that have survived because of their faith. She’s an avatar of the black church stepping in where no one else dares to. The protagonist listens, laying down his gun and the promise of vengeance in order to find holy water in Christ. Subverting listeners’ expectations, this 2012, platinum-selling, critically acclaimed rap album is about the power of the gospel to save. That is the kind of artist Kendrick Lamar is.