|Let them read Barth!|
These theoristocrats (a term that isn't entirely new, though the usage I'm putting it to may be) are invariably decent, much studied, perceptive sorts. They rightly appreciate that 'truth' is a nuanced concept, and that one person's truth may not be another's. They also tend to dialogue among their peers rather than bothering over-much with the common herd. Indeed, many eschew entirely the 'popular' contributions to their field even when those attempting this feat are as qualified as themselves. 'Popular' is a term of disdain.
And hey, all power to them. But I have a problem when these privileged few summarily discount the experiences of those not so fortunate.
The 'common herd' obviously make up the overwhelming majority of Christian believers. So those ex-fundamentalists or ex-evangelicals are not reacting to a straw man or a caricature of Christian faith, as is often implied. They're reacting to what is increasingly the most common, most virulent form. And reacting is not only their right, it's their responsibility.
If you doubt that, kindly take a hike - down to your local Christian book store. Browse the shelves looking for titles by Bultmann, Tillich or even (shudder) Barth. Good luck with that. What you will find is 'prophecy', creationism, below-the-belt moralism, biblicism and lashings of prosperity-gospel merchandise.
Or tune in, if you dare, to a Christian radio station or TV channel. Chances are you'll find the anti-intellectualism setting ratcheted up all the way to 'lethal'.
This is a world the ivory-towered theoristocrats seem in denial about. They're highly reasonable individuals, all too often willing to smile down benignly, paternalistically, on the eccentricities of the hoi polloi. Occasionally one of these Titans might suggest "let them read Barth," which is about as useful as Marie Antoinette's apocryphal advice to "let them eat cake."
(Not that I'm recommending anyone should read Barth. God forbid! Stay well clear of that one.)
I appreciate the need for rigorous scholarship, and that a lot of academic writing in this field (as any other) will of necessity be couched in terms not entirely accessible to those outside the discipline. That's life. The problem arises when there is no concomitant responsibility to communicate effectively in plain English (or German, French or Swahili for that matter) to the stakeholders who underwrite the whole enterprise; the people who - knowing no better - go out and buy books and downloads by Franklin Graham, Creflo Dollar, David Jeremiah and Joyce Meyer.
So when those who have survived the abusive, intellectual ghettoes speak out, they deserve much more than snootiness in return. They certainly don't need to hear a chorus of "let them read Barth." Bugger Barth!
Back to those Christian book stores and broadcasters plying sub-standard goods. The real question is, what are the theoristocrats doing about it? What? All too often the only response seems to be a softly whispered apologetic (in both senses) disclaimer.
And that's not good enough.
If those at the top table were doing their job rather than enjoying their sinecures there would be less need for the ex-fundamentalist voice to be heard. Until that occurs (sometime the other side of the Second Coming I expect) that voice will - and must - continue to be raised.