Wednesday, September 5, 2007

D. James Kennedy will be missed

Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson got most of the attention, but D. James Kennedy was one of the most influential figures in the re-engagement of conservative Christians with American politics and culture.

Kennedy was firm in his beliefs and consistent in his worldview. He brought a level of dignity in the way he spoke and acted that was rooted in his old-school Scottish Presbyterianism. But he also had a gift for somehow translating that Calvinist Protestantism -- both in its peculiar genius and its flaws -- into the world of the 20th century -- megachurches, television, and all.

Its naturalness came largely through the fact that that particular religious tradition was never afraid to engage the world around it, and never was one to beat the drums for a retreat behind obscurantism or ignorance. But to a growing religious right fueled by very different and more emotional kinds of Christian belief, Kennedy was an anomaly who often caused those unfamiliar with the tradition from which he sprang to look quizzically -- even as they listened and were convinced.

The AP article points out his opposition to specific things like abortion and homosexuality -- hardly revolutionary positions within the Christian tradition. What the article doesn't capture in such listings is the extent to which Kennedy quietly taught many of his generation not what to think -- but how to think within the Christian tradition as Kennedy had received it.

It has been many years since even religiously interested Americans have listened to him speak. Like a good general, he more or less faded away in recent years. But the news of his death will doubtless awaken memories in many, and leave a little empty spot, knowing that we won't likely see another quite like him.


1 comment:

Opa said...

People should read this.