The magazine formerly known as “Gentlemen’s Quarterly” just ran one of those fluffy “list” articles that magazine people compile when they don’t have anything important to write about but need to fill column space. This article was entitled, “21 Books You Don’t Have to Read (and 21 books you should read instead).” Guess what number 12 was?
The editors of GQ opine that,
The Holy Bible is rated very highly by all the people who supposedly live by it but who in actuality have not read it. Those who have read it know there are some good parts, but overall it is certainly not the finest thing that man has ever produced. It is repetitive, self-contradictory, sententious, foolish, and even at times ill-intentioned.
By the way, "sententious" means given to excessive moralizing, or moralizing in a pompous or affected manner. I had to look that one up. And having read both the Bible and the GQ article, I’d say it is the editors of GQ who are sententious (and foolish and ill-intentioned).
You might reasonably ask: “Who cares what GQ says about the Bible?” After all, that particular magazine was never intended to be read by straight men; arguably, like Playboy, it was never intended to be read at all so much as gazed at lustfully. The fact that the editors of GQ named kneeler-in-chief Colin Kaepernick their 2017 “Citizen of the Year” tells you all you need to know about them and their louche values.
And yet . . . GQ is a “mainstream” publication, and such journals never used to engage in this sort of polemic against the Bible. Not because GQ and its editors were ever sympathetic to Christianity, but because mainstream publications just did not do things like this. Out of respect, out of fear, out of a desire to avoid controversy or giving needless offense, for whatever reason it just wasn’t done.
Going back to the founding, mainstream American figures did not attack the Bible. Thomas Jefferson, who was not orthodox and who famously mutilated a Bible by cutting out with a razorblade all the passages he deemed supernatural mumbo jumbo, said of what was left of his Bible, “There will be found remaining the most sublime and benevolent code of morals which has ever been offered to man.” For Thomas Jefferson it was “the most sublime and benevolent code of morals,” but perhaps Jefferson was not in as good a position as the editors of GQ to recognize sententiousness.
Abraham Lincoln, another great president of a skeptical bent, once wrote,
“that I am not a member of any Christian Church is true; but I have never denied the truth of the Scriptures [with which Lincoln, unlike the editors of GQ, was intimately familiar]; and I have never spoken with intentional disrespect of religion in general, or of any denomination of Christians in particular. . . . I do not think I could myself be brought to support a man for office whom I knew to be an open enemy of, and scoffer at, religion. Leaving the higher matter of eternal consequences between him and his Maker, I still do not think any man has the right thus to insult the feelings . . . of the community in which he may live.”
That last sentence may hold the key to understanding the editors of GQ. Nothing they’ve written about the Bible would "insult the feelings of the community in which they live." The people they deal with every day, the people they went to university with, the people they associate with in business, their entire social set would all agree with them that the Bible is eminently skippable. That’s the current state of American culture. According to the editors of GQ and everyone who matters to them and to whom they matter, you can toss the Bible and instead read Agota Kristof's The Notebook (don’t ask, I have no idea).
Christians still have some political power. Not what they had 50 years ago, much less 100 years ago, but enough that Donald Trump recognized that he had to woo and win the evangelical Christian vote to have any chance of raining on Hillary Clinton’s victory parade. Hence Doug Batchelor’s trip to New York.
But Christians have zero cultural power. As far as the cultural elites in government, the news media, academia and education at all levels, entertainment, publishing, Broadway, Hollywood, Madison Avenue, Wall Street, big business (Facebook, Google) big sports, and the professions are concerned, Christianity might as well not even exist. Christianity and Christians are entirely shut out of the institutions that make American culture.
Politics is downstream of culture. Politics is the art of the possible, and what is politically possible is ultimately determined by culture. Elected representatives are poll-driven; they respond to public opinion, but few ever dare to try to shape it. Public opinion is shaped by the culture. Bill Clinton signed the Defense of Marriage Act, but a generation of Hollywood’s pro-gay carpet bombing (with shows like “Will and Grace”) transformed the culture and made it politically possible for Hillary Clinton and Barack Obama to come out in favor of same sex marriage.
So, as Wesley Kime put it, “it’s the culture, stupid.” The culture matters. GQ’s dissing of the Bible is important as a cultural road sign. It tells us where American culture is in the year 2018, and it is not in a good place.