Robert E. Fitch has a review in the New York Times, late January, of John Gardner’s book Self Renewal. I hope that by the time these comments of mine get into print I have found a way to get to that book. Fitch says that the impact of the book is downright converting. The book is not on religion, I judge, except insofar as religion has all kinds of things to do with the renovation of society.

There is this statement, for example: “Once it was the skeptic, the critic of the status quo who had to make a great effort. Today the skeptic is the status quo. The one who must make the effort is the man who seeks to create a new moral order” (italics mine). This says something that has needed saying. I never knew before quite how to express my suspicion of the hardened conformity of non-conformity in our day; my suspicion of the condition of the heart of a man who is endlessly skeptical, whose negative, sometimes called “radical” approach can so easily be sophomoric. All kinds of people know all kinds of things that are wrong; anybody can break an egg, but who will put Humpty Dumpty together again?

The best-known verse in Scripture is John 3:16. One of the least known is John 3:17: “It was not to judge the world that God sent his Son into the world, but that through him the world might be saved.” The world is already under judgment. The plot of the Bible is that something went wrong very early in the game and that the problem even for God Almighty is how to get the wrong righted. It took a Cross, and it will never take less.

Preachers have a wonderful habit of viewing our world with alarm, of looking off into the far corner of the sanctuary and trying to look burdened, telling us that they have read Camus and Tennessee ...

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