I got back late the night before last from the Christian Book Expo in Dallas, where I was participating on a panel that included Christopher Hitchens. Christopher was in fine fettle, and the panel discussion was vigorous — that event
should be up on the web at some point. I will point you there as soon as I have a location. The discussion was moderated by Stan Guthrie of Christianity Today, and CT was involved in the sponsorship of the whole event. In a similar vein, CT sponsored the initial online debate between Christopher and me, the one that turned into the book Is Christianity Good for the World? The folks associated with CT in Dallas were most gracious to me, and so I remain greatly in their debt.
Then I arrived back in town to be greeted with the April issue of CT, which contains a seven-page profile of me, and which, I have to say, I read with interest. I thought that on the whole it was a very fair-minded piece, and so my thanks to CT for that, and to the writer, Molly Worthen.
I noticed a few minor factual errors, and there were a few places where I would have set the angle of the profile a little bit differently. The first category is fully understandable and so also, come to think of it, is the second.
One of the minor errors was that my CT debate with Christopher Hitchens was published by Canon Press, not American Vision, under the title Is Christianity Good for the World?. Another small book God Is was published by American Vision, and that was my chapter-by-chapter review of Hitchens’ book. The two titles are both responses to Hitchens and they are very easy to confuse.
The other mistake is hardly worth mentioning, but the “Topless and Proud” joke was not done by an unnamed ministerial candidates with the help of a student at Kinkos. It was done by an unnamed elder with the help of a ministerial candidate who worked at Kinkos. Like I said, hardly worth mentioning.
What about the second category, where I would have put things differently? On something like this, I am not writing, but rather am being written about — so it should not be surprising that in a few places, I would have exercised my editorial judgment with a different emphasis. Let me mention just three.
First, various critics are quoted throughout the piece. With the exception of my brother Evan, where those critics “were coming from” was left unmentioned. Given the nature of controversy, a bit more info would have been helpful for the reader. Second, the plagiarism stinkeroo was mentioned in passing, but I think it would have been better to explain something like that completely or leave it entirely alone. More info on that can be found here. And the entire section of “Moscow Diversity Cleansing” in my archives is useful for those who have an interest in that kind of thing. And third, it was said that I have adopted a “good natured, if sometimes pedantic, exposition of classical arguments in favor of Christianity.” I would have preferred, instead of “sometimes pedantic,” a phrase like “brilliant and insightful.” But you can’t have everything.
But these comments of mine are just for the record, and don’t even rise to the level of a complaint. Overall, I thought the piece was quite fair. This is striking, and a real credit to CT. I have been very critical of CT over the years, a fact noted in the article. I have spoken before of evangelicalism’s “axis of treacle” — “Wheaton College, Thomas Kinkade, Jerry B. Jenkins, and this magazine.” Despite that kind of criticism from me, CT did a good job with this article. If anyone had told me fifteen years ago that I would get respectful treatment like this from CT and something significantly less than that from World magazine, I would have said the idea was laughable. But, here we are. All in Girard, man!