The so-called “culture wars” have led those on opposing sides to believe that there is no common ground. So, Conservative Christians, for example, and Secular Liberals live in two totally different worlds and have totally different values. There is real truth in such statements, of course, and we should minimize our differences. Yet at the same time we really do live in the same world and often do want the same things (though we don’t always agree on how to get them). Alan Noble understands the tension between our differences and similarities and sees culture as our common ground. His willingness to interact critically with our common culture is building bridges between communities.
Alan is in a unique place as a cultural commentator. He is too conservative for liberals, and accused of being too liberal for many conservatives. He is conservative: a devoted follower of Christ, an active church member in the PCA, and a professor at an Evangelical college. But Alan has been willing, for years now, to critique his own community – much to the chagrin of others. He has spoken out against the conflation of American patriotism and Christianity, particularly targeting the poor historical work of certain Evangelical celebrities. He has protested, through his writings, the fear-mongering of the Religious Right, and exposed the roots of racism within many corners of Conservatism. He has pushed back against our tendency to be condescending and dismissive towards others, Christian sentimentalism, and more recently the practices of President Donald Trump. He is not afraid to critique and to challenge believers to think carefully.
This has not earned many “brownie points” with some in the Christian community, but it has endeared him to others outside. Alan is Co-Founder and Editor-in-Chief of Christ and Pop Culture, a website and e-zine. CAPC has become home to many online fans of various stripes, interests, and beliefs. Conservatives, progressives, and even atheists enjoy the website and its challenging content. Always written from within an Orthodox perspective the various contributors that Alan has compiled nonetheless write with fresh insight. They don’t keep to the “party line,” nor do they shy away from fair criticism of their own Evangelical house. Alan has been the lead example on that.
Alan’s is an extremely important voice for us to listen to. Much like Francis Schaeffer had, Alan is pointing to blind spots, pitfalls, and dangers in the Evangelical road. He sees serious issues that not only tempt Christians towards confusion and sin, but which keep non-Christians from hearing us. He is not afraid to offend non-Christians or progressives, and he has written critiques of the far left as well. Yet, he knows that it is enough to let the gospel be offensive, not to add our own offensiveness to that message. If we ignore his voice and the legitimate critiques he offers, we will continue to expand the distance between the Christian community and those we should be reaching.
The truth is that we do share a culture with those around us. We even often want the same things, and it is that shared desire and shared culture which presents us an opportunity to bridge distances and have real dialogue. It’s not that the disagreements aren’t real, nor legitimate. Rather, it’s that our common culture allows us to disagree in intelligent ways, in ways that allow for real dialogue not just shouting at one another. Alan see’s that and is striving to use our common culture as a means to meet, dialogue, and even to win some opponents over. Christians, above all peoples, ought to seek to love those whom we disagree with, and culture can be a means to doing just that.
I am immensely grateful for Alan. I confess I write as a friend as well as a fan. Alan has been a great encourager and kind brother. But I appreciate his writing and voice particularly because it challenges me. It sometimes even upsets me, but it is good for me. I am better for having read, listened, and wrestled with Alan’s words. I am thankful to God for this brilliant scholar, thoughtful commentator, and godly thinker. I commend to you Alan Noble as a bridge builder.