The musical The Book of Mormon portrays two naïve Mormon missionaries in Uganda proclaiming that “in 1978, God changed his mind about black people.” The joke isn’t mere whimsy; the LDS Church is widely perceived as racist. The irony is that had the church followed its initial trajectory, by now it likely would have become the most racially integrated and progressive church in America.
After Cloven Tongues of Fire is a collection of historian David Hollinger’s writings on 20th-century American Protestantism. Hollinger is interested both in pinpointing ecumenical Protestant influence on the United States and in tracking signs of its decline.
Perhaps the best entry point into The Scandal of Having Something to Say is the word postliberal in the subtitle, which requires that we consider the term liberal, to which this perspective is “post.” The term liberal most comprehensively relates to Enlightenment rationality, which posits an autonomous self which can arrive at a one-dimensional certitude.
Early in his career Billy Graham was invited to preach at Union Theological Seminary in New York. Aware that he was speaking to critical liberals, Graham declared, “I’ve got it right here in the Bible.” Douglas John Hall was a student at Union then, and the budding theologian heard Graham speak. Hall thought to himself, “that Book that you think you’ve got would not even make such a claim for itself. . . . That Book at every point utters a polemic against the entire human project of possession . . . and (this above all!) the possession of Truth, with a capital T” (Hall, Waiting for Gospel, Cascade).