January 31, 2008
The Triumph of Evel?
I was flipping through the February 2008 issue of Christianity Today (which, incidentally, features the first of several guest columns by longtime friend of Strangely Dim, Al Hsu--check it out, yo!) and came across the "Passages" sidebar, which reports on momentous events in the church and the culture. Included among such momentous events are notable deaths, and included in this month's "Passages" were the deaths of theologian T. F. Torrance and thrill-seeker Evel Knievel. And, considering that word count and column space are premiums in periodical publishing, it appears that February 2007 marks the triumph of Evel in Christianity Today.
I suppose you could chalk it up to alphabetical order or chronology (Knievel died two days before Torrance), but beyond the order of the list is the troubling question of word count and thumbnail image. Staring me in the face at the top of the "Passages" sidebar is a picture of a man "known for his death-defying motorcycle stunts," decked out in his collared jumpsuit. Ninety-five words about Las Vegas and a late-in-life conversion to Christianity later, we move on to the unpictured Thomas F. Torrance, whose ninety-four-year life (compared to sixty-nine for Evel) included a stint as grand poobah of the Church of Scotland and whose widespread influence on a generation of theologians (including a few of my colleagues at InterVarsity Press), was summarized in a mere seventy-two words.
I mean no disrespect to Christianity Today. I just find it funny, the death of two icons of their generations notwithstanding. It's long been my contention that "evil [or, in this case, Evel] is definitely sexier than good [in this case, scientific theology]." The "Passages" sidebar reminds me that generally, in the eyes of the general public, pop culture is sexier than the work of the church.
This doesn't have to be the case, however. I mean really, if we grant that all of life is under the lordship of Christ and thus legitimately subject to theological exploration, shouldn't the church have a say as to what's sexy? I refer you to the recent thoughts of our colleague at IVP Academic and fellow blogger, Dan Reid, as he puts thrill-seeking in its proper context over at Addenda & Errata.
When you put it that way, Torrance will always come out on top.