I guess extra reading time might be called one of the “perks” of having the flu…but seeing as though it’s like reading a book while burning in he…I mean, in a really bad place, “perks” seems a bit out of place. Regardless, between fits of unstoppable chills alternating with miserable sweats, coughing, hacking, eye rubbing, nose blowing, et al., I managed to work in a reading of Al Mohler’s first book, Culture Shift.
I was pleasantly surprised. I’ll admit that the description of Mohler on the back cover was a little, um, well, just check it out:
“Dr. R. Albert Mohler, Jr., is president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, the flagship school of the Southern Baptist Convention and one of the largest and most influential seminaries in the world…”
I don’t know. There’s something so Southern Baptist about that, isn’t there? Like I said, I had the flu, so maybe one of my four prescription drugs was to blame for me rolling my eyes a bit at this. (I’m not even going to mention the description of Mohler as “one of today’s leading Christian thinkers and spokespers” printed above that….really, I’m not.)
Anyway, as I said, I really liked this book a lot. Mohler is an astute observer of culture and I walked away from this book with a heightened measure of respect of the man. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve never disliked Mohler. In fact, I appreciate him very much. I guess I’ve been suspicious of the whole “cultural warrior” label and have been trying to figure out whether or not Mohler’s a theologian or William Bennett. I guess ever since it was discovered that Bob Reccord hired a firm to try to get him (Bob Reccord) on Larry King, I’m suspicious of any Baptist leaders who do go on Larry King.
But then that’s a bit unfair of me and I should not paint with such a broad brush. Al Mohler isn’t Bob Reccord. He has the right and the obligation to speak to culture from a Christian vantage point as we all do. And I must say he has done so very effectively in this book (and on Larry King as well).
Mohler discusses theodicy, race, the notion of a secular state, abortion, public schools, the atom bomb, the wimpification of our children, the ethics of torture, and a host of other topics in this helpful little book. He does so with a great deal of balance and care and wisdom. I will say that I even enjoyed reading this book, despite having the flu.
I think I agreed with most of what Mohler says here. I was somewhat unconvinced by some portions of his discussion of the atom bomb, even as I found the overall tone of this essay to be helpful. (Rationalizing Hiroshima and Nagasaki has become very, very difficult for me over the last few years.) And I appreciated his call for the parents of children in public schools to have “an exit strategy” while he yet held back from calling for an outright exodus. (This surprised me actually.)
I was particularly moved by his final chapter on race. He showed a measure of transparency and honesty here that touched me because I resonate with it. I suspect that many of us who grew up in a predominantly “white world” in the midst of the racially divided South are still having to come to terms with our own culpability in the racial tensions surrounding us. This was an essay that would not have been written by a Southern Baptist 100 years ago, and I applaud Mohler for including this piece in the book.
Get this book…whether you have the flu or not.
And finally, I leave with this: will Mohler write a single-author theological monograph during his tenure as President of SBTS? I tie no value judgments to this question, I’m just curious.