While Detroit burns, it’s heady times in the Big Apple (even though the editors at New Yorker and New York Review of Books haven’t received the press release):
A good friend of mine, Greg Thornbury, says we need to learn how to change culture from the CENTER of culture—not just from the margins. And where do we find the center of culture? Places like Hollywood and New York City, where I live.
Greg, to my great delight, was recently appointed president of The King’s College, an evangelical school located in the heart of New York City. It’s a small college—just 500 or so students—but its new president may be onto something big.
And King’s is important to the spread and influence of Christianity. Why? Because, as Thornbury explains, “Movements do not typically progress beyond or rise above the defining academic institutions of their cause.” And “the most important and strategic [colleges] in this country are located in or near major urban centers. But for some reason, Christian higher education does not seem to have gotten this message.”
Many Christian schools are, instead, tucked away in small towns away from centers of influence—that’s not a criticism, just an observation.
Thornbury echoes the teaching of sociologist James Davison Hunter, who writes that real cultural change won’t happen without strong links between networks of top-drawer intellectuals and leaders. Astonishingly, in the last decade or so, these links have begun to form among evangelicals right here in New York City—a place not exactly known for being a hotbed of evangelical fervor. Greg calls the formation of these links “a remarkable and unprecedented renaissance of Christian life and thought.”
As an example, we see Tim Keller’s hugely popular Redeemer Church—the kind of evangelical church that nobody thought could flourish in the Big Apple. It’s attended by many of the city’s movers and shakers; and then there’s Socrates in the City, a forum for busy professionals to help them examine life’s big questions, founded by yours truly.
Greg also reminds us of the importance of Christians in the arts. “At the level of high culture,” Greg notes, “the people that shape the ideas that wind up becoming a worldview are people in the arts, [as well as] people in the university.” It may surprise you to learn that New York has its share of Christian artists—there’s my friend Mako Fujimura, and my friend, the writer Sally Lloyd-Jones. There’s also Carolyn Copeland, producer of the off-Broadway hit “Freud’s Last Session,” and who is now working on a Broadway show about John Newton, the former slave-trader and author of “Amazing Grace.” Oh yes, she’s also a friend!
Even if (BIG I BIG F) it were true, this is unbecoming. But who will intervene when the New Yorkers are so high on themselves?