Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

To Change the World

Magazine article First Things; A Monthly Journal of Religion and Public Life

To Change the World

Article excerpt

To Change the World BY JAMES DAVISON HUNTER OXFORD UNIVERSITY PRESS 368 PAGES, $27.95

In his latest and perhaps most ambitious published work to date, James Davison Hunter makes a major contribution to reflection on Christian faith and culture and provides a study of Christian faith under the very specific historical and cultural conditions of late modernity.

Hunter begins by examining a range of current attempts by Christians to shape the culture, arguing that, regardless of ideological tilt, Christians tend to operate on the assumption that culture is constituted by ideas held by a given majority. As a result, Christians tend to think, naively, that they can change the culture by changing the hearts and minds of ordinary people. Hunter lays out an extensive alternative theory, in which he emphasizes the key significance of overlapping networks of elites as critical for true cultural change.

In the second part of his book, Hunter moves to a more deeply theological study of Christian attempts to change the culture. Hunter argues that politics has become the overarching force for generating change within American society at large, and that Christians have largely followed this trend, thereby losing their sense of public witness. Hunter seems to think that today's dominant religious narratives make it all but impossible for Christians to wield political power in a way that is not motivated by ressentiment over perceived injury by the secular culture.

Yet it would be a mistake to think that Hunter is calling for the withdrawal of Christians from the larger culture. …

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