Novak (novak) wrote,

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Theological Notebook--The First Part of The Question of God

Well, I have to say that the first part of "The Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud With Dr. Armand Nicholi" was a far better piece of programming than almost anything I've ever seen dealing with a "religious question" on American television. The two writers, held up as the symbolic theist and atheist of the 20th century, had the first half of their lives dramatized as they got up to the points of their conviction, and were then used as conversation-starters or models by Dr. Nicholi, a Harvard Medical School psychiatrist, in conversation with a group of seven educated people of diverse opinion around a table. Predictably, I professionally bristled at a few bad dichotomies that were set up by various conversants (like the inevitable "scientific worldview vs. the religious worldview," as though these were obviously mutually-exclusive), or I winced at poor responses given when I thought I could say something more clear. But overall, I was grateful for the one thing this country has needed perhaps more than any "conclusion" this conversation could come to: the model of a calm, thoughtful and generous conversation between people over fundamental theological questions--or better yet, life questions.

Ever since the Enlightenment, the mood has been increasingly one of not allowing the conversation to proceed publicly, on the Enlightenment's firm belief that banished religion to the junk-pile of fairy-tales. Instead, what we've gotten is the bizarre reality that Massingale and I were talking about today after class: a society where people can be remarkably intelligent--even holders of doctorates--in a variety of fields, but whose ability to think theologically or philosophically is really at a grade school level, while all the while they think that their responses are as advanced as the rest of their thinking.

I don't think that there's anything in human society that compares to this strange reality: that despite having had a culture-wide censorship of a particular subject, people still assume that they are as competent in it as they are in everything else in their lives for which they have had ten to twenty years of education. And certainly the poor state of theological education in this country is as much to blame for that as is the stifling secularist philosophy. I can certainly recall the shock students expressed to me at discovering that I was giving them a college-prep-level Theology class after they'd had 9 years of "A"s in their Catholic religion classes for saying "I love Jesus." Hmmmm. That's a bit of an exaggeration: I can recall a few grade school religion teachers who were doing good, constructive work in South Bend. But just a few.

Anyway, it was a thoughtful program. If you get a chance to watch it or tape it off of your PBS station I highly recommend doing so. Now if only something like that could get on Prime-Time on one of the big television networks....
Tags: lewis, movies/film/tv, secularism/modernity, theological notebook

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