‘Where Are the Mainline Funnies?’

A friend of mine, a state university professor, recently suggested that the impact of our evangelical movement in recent years caught the liberal theological/ecclesiastical establishment by surprise. The reason: they had persuaded themselves that there were no bright men and women of evangelical persuasion.

Snake handlers, anti-intellectuals, King James Bible devotees, Sinclair Lewis creatures, mindless ranters, yes. Theologians, educators, top people in the arts, professions, business, government, communications, no.

Then suddenly bright evangelicals flooded the American scene.

Now a new tack seems to be developing. We may be bright, but we have an edge on the “funnies.” No less an authority than church historian Martin Marty assures us of this.

According to Marty, writing in Christian Century, there are no “mainline funnies,” only conservative (i.e., evangelical) ones.

I think he really means liberal mainliners, since he singles out a Southern Baptist and some conservative Episcopalians as laughable. (Tee-hee, chuckling, thighslapping, roaring laughable, to use Marty’s words.)

Hey, Marty—Anita Bryant is a “funny” and Malcolm Boyd isn’t? The Denver bishops are “funnies” but the House of Bishops who let James Pike destroy himself and devastate the church weren’t?

Marty quotes Arthur Koestler (in Janus, Random House): “We laugh because our emotions have a greater inertia and persistence than our reasoning processes.”

And it’s hard for bright people, even, to answer ridicule.


A Soothing Breeze

After reading the interview with Dr. Kantzer (April 7) I suspected that a fresh wind was blowing at CHRISTIANITY TODAY. After reading the article on evangelicals (“Evangelicals and the Inerrancy Question,” ...

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