- Date: October 15, 2021
- Location: Washington, D.C.
- Tags: #2021 Videos #D.C. #Eugene Rivers #Evening Conversation #Peter Kreeft
Evening Conversation | Beyond Ideology with Peter Kreeft and Eugene Rivers
What is ideology? What do our ideological frameworks help reveal about ourselves, others, and the world around us — and what do they obscure? What are the consequences of an era when seemingly every human issue is viewed through an ideological lens, and if there’s a new aperture we need to create, what should characterize its dimensions?
On October 18th, The Trinity Forum and Comment magazine partnered for the first time in an evening conversation to explore precisely these questions. At the National Press Club in Washington, D.C., Cherie Harder and Anne Snyder moderated a conversation with Dr. Peter Kreeft and Rev. Eugene Rivers to unpack the nature and implications of ideology’s reign in our present culture — both what it’s doing to our intellectual vitality as a society, but perhaps more urgently, what it’s doing to our civic and organizational life across sectors and geography.
Transcript of Beyond Ideology with Peter Kreeft and Eugene Peters
ANNE SNYDER: Good evening. Can you all hear me okay? Yes? I have not spoken in front a real lectern in a long time. So good evening and welcome. It’s actually really good to see an admirable number of you here in person. I think the first such event that the Trinity Forum has hosted since COVID-19 began. So what is that, 18 months, or 20 months ago? And I want to greet all of you here at the National Press Club. Just thank you for braving the traffic and the parking. And I want to greet those of you tuning in virtually from throughout the continent, even a few from Europe tonight. This event is being recorded. And we look forward to sharing it far and wide in the coming days.
So you may be wondering who I am. I want to reassure you that the irreplaceable Cherie Harder did not dye her hair brown over the weekend. [laughter] My name is Anne Snyder. And I am the editor of Comment Magazine, a Journal of Public Theology for the Common Good. This evening marks the beginning of a public partnership between Comment and the Trinity Forum, two organizations which, if organizations could be kindred spirits, would be right up there in the annals of storied friendship. Cherie and I had been dreaming of joining forces for some time.
Most, if not all of you, know that the Trinity Forum brings thinking leaders together with leading thinkers to consider and discuss life’s great questions in the context of faith. Comment, for its part, is a publication that consistently spotlights a diverse array of voices, some from the academy, some from the trenches of everyday action, to bring 2,000 years of Christian social thought to bear on the particular challenges of our time, from prismatic treatments of tribalism, to exploring what rebuilding social trust will require, symposiums devoted to sort of the increasingly contesting narratives of history, to the timeless battle between love and fear in our hearts and relationships and our politics and our increasingly fractured communities of faith.
Both Comment and the Trinity Forum seek to be a helpful compass to all of those committed to reweaving our social fabric and redeeming the public square. We’re not telling people what to think. We’re trying to give people a context within which to think, and then crucially to strengthen and encourage them, you guys, to lead more wisely, serve more generously, and act more courageously, all in the spheres of influence, workplaces, neighborhoods, and kitchen tables, where you find your daily call.
So why aren’t the two organizations coming together now? Well, it can’t be news to any of you that North Americans currently navigate an era rife with division, distressed, powerful moral narratives, attempting to cancel each other out, widespread institutional weakness and insecurity, increasingly at the existential level. Silos defined by group identity and fortified by ideological allegiance have lost the ability to converse with one another. And that glorious middle space where exciting collaborations, neighborly virtue, and pragmatic hope typically have flourished, has faded from public consciousness.
There is also a strange divide twitching between so-called elites and everyone else, a divide that has always been a kind of livewire in this rambunctious, “Power to the people” country, but one that is gaining more poisonous electricity, as the latest fence defining the “us” versus the “them.” We of course saw this chasm split wide open in the 2016 election here in the States, along the lines of social class and race. And we see it even more ideologically sealed now.
The Christian community, of course, has not escaped any of this. And even in the last 10 days, we’ve seen a rather bizarre blame game unleash in the blog, Twitter, and Substack sphere, between those choosing to align themselves with more populist therapies of Christian cultural change, over and against those who find themselves serving from more institutionally elite perches. Instead of appreciating one another’s different levers of influence and seeking to complement and sharpen one another’s distinct norms and strategic challenges, too many Christians are doing what the pagans are doing, revising history and declaring our side God’s side.
Comment and the Trinity Forum are going to attempt a different approach. We’re both tired of the blame game that occurs when a people refuses to think outside the myopic self-justification of its own despair. We’d rather be in the hope and common grace game, and experiment with the structure that pairs top-down power and perch with bottom-up localized agency. Where the Trinity Forum model, civil, dialogue, and deep site of the zeitgeist at a national and increasingly international level, Comment brings a robust, if more decentralized civil society presence. As a magazine, we’ve become known for drawing unusual suspects to our pages, encouraging the wisdom of doers and emerging voices, often from the margins, to sharpen the arguments of established thinkers and influencers.
What could happen if these two modes of social change came together as friends, not as enemies? What might happen if the thousand points of light, often experienced today at the local level, which is Comment’s specialty, could more easily inform the arc of hope at the national level, the Trinity Forum’s specialty? It’s an experiment. And it leads me to today’s conversation between two long-time heroes of mine, who Cherie will introduce, and a brief video we’d like to show you before they begin.
Tonight’s conversation kicks off Comment’s fall issue, which I hope you all have in your hands, titled “Beyond Ideologies.” We designed this issue, my team and I, and sort of felt frustration at how all of us seem to be adding layers of monochromatic ideological color to our lenses on reality today. And we don’t even realize we’re doing it. We don’t realize how blinkered our sight and dulled our intellectual vitality have become as a result of seeing all things through the prison bars of a secular explanation of history.
All of us, wherever we reside on the political spectrum today, seem to be behaving like we have the skills to construct the world according to our preferred theory, forgetting that it is in the contours of the human face that forge the most trustworthy compass. Forgetting that it is in tackling shared projects and cultivating shared loves, often in a bounded geography, that history has progressed, and a civilization has endured one more day.
This fall issue of Comment and this kickoff event with the Trinity Forum tonight were together conceived to encourage our respective audiences, many of whom are contending for common good and common ground in the trenches of ideological suspicion and pressure, to reimagine, with us, a cast of mind that cuts a little closer to the canon of Christian social thought, a canon that has always been ideologically heterodox, personalist, and alive.
Before the formal dialogue begins between two souls and minds who have long been steeped in this canon, we’d like to share a brief collage of perspectives from a small sampling of organizational leaders who, whether they reside in Indianapolis, or San Antonio, Shreveport, Louisiana, or San Francisco, are each dealing with the challenges of our ideological age on the ground in real time. Some of the voices you’re about to hear are people of Christian faith. Some aren’t. But I trust you will catch, through them, a glimpse of the stakes of the question tonight. For it is not just in Washington, D.C. that ideology reigns. Increasingly, it is paralyzing the good faith efforts of those organizations simply trying to make a difference for the good of our communities, our neighbors, on those on society’s margins.
So the question becomes, what do we do about this thorny thicket of “shoulds” and untouchable holy grails? Could we create a different kind of aperture to understand history, to understand the times in which we live? And if so, what could be that aperture’s dimensions?
CHERIE HARDER: So thank you, Anne, and thank you all of those at Comment for that video that you have just seen. As Anne mentioned, this is actually the launch of a partnership between Trinity Forum and Comment Magazine. We’re so excited that you are here for that. And we’re so excited about getting to partner with some longtime friends at Comment. Many of you might be aware, Anne is a Senior Fellow of the Trinity Forum. I’m actually a Senior Fellow of Comment. The two just made a lot of sense. So we have joined forces to get to work together on a number of both evening conversations and online conversations that will take place over the next year. So thank you for being here for the start of this.
I’ll also note—I think Anne had mentioned this as well—that this is the first evening conversation that Trinity Forum has hosted since the pandemic struck. So thank you to each of you for being here tonight. [applause] It’s just really a delight to get to see many faces that we haven’t seen for almost two years. So thank you for making the trek out, and many, many happy returns.
Oh, I know that many people couldn’t make it tonight. We’ve had sort of strict conditions, as well as attendance limits on who could be here. But we will be live streaming tonight. And I want to thank all of those who are joining us by live stream. If you have friends who wanted to be here tonight but couldn’t make it, you can let them know we’re live streaming right now on Facebook. We’ll also have a video of this. We’ll put it up on our website and on YouTube right away. And of course, pictures from our awesome photographer Clay will also be up on Facebook. And you can tag those and send it to your friends tonight.
I’d like to give a special shout out to our founder, Os Guinness who has joined us tonight. So Os, thank you for being here. [applause] And also want to thank the New Pluralist Collaborative, whose grant and support has helped make this evening possible.
For those of you who are not familiar with the Trinity Forum, we work to provide a space and resources for the discussion of life’s greatest questions in the context of faith. And we do this by providing readings and publications which draw upon classic works of literature, that explore those enduring questions of life, and connect the timeless wisdom of the humanities with timely issues, as well as sponsoring programs to connect leading thinkers with thinking leaders in engaging those questions. And coming to better know the author of the answers.
That’s what we’re doing tonight. And there’s plenty of evidence to suggest that the way we increasingly grapple with those big questions of life, either as individuals or as a society, is largely through the framework of ideology. Systems of thought or affiliation, which favor the political, of the relational, questions of division over questions of connection, the abstract over the particular, the utopian over the messy reality of embodied community, and rigid demarcation over the imaginative.
And while ideology can certainly serve a purpose, the results of over-reliance upon it are increasingly evident all around us. Our identities have increasingly become more political and more ideological, even as our politics has grown more apocalyptic, and our ideologies more incoherent. Ideological affiliations have actually superseded and even crowded out what were regarded as the deeper sources of identity, faith, family, neighborhood, and relationships. Such that now, with surprising accuracy, it has seemed to infect and reflect our thinking to the point where one can now safely predict on the basis of one’s views on immigration, their views of Ivermectin.
So how can we think more wisely about discerning truth and reality? How can we encourage frameworks that aim to connect, rather than simply divide? Or are we, in the words of—the eloquent words of my friend and partner, Anne Snyder, are we inevitably situated in a stream of assumptions that essentially locks us further into ideological straitjackets? Or can we figure out a healthier, more humane path?
Tonight we will have the pleasure of hearing from and talking to two thinkers who have wrestled with such questions from very different vantage points. A prolific and active philosopher, as well as a thoughtful and heterodox activist. And both have done so with incredible intellectual rigor, consistent eloquence, and personal and academic courage.
Dr. Peter Kreeft is a philosopher, the professor at Boston College and King’s College, and one of the most respected and prolific thinkers and writers of our time. As we were walking over here, I was trying to do a little bit of a fact check. And I was like, “Dr. Kreeft, is it true you’ve actually written 95 different books?” thinking that must be an error. He was like, “Oh, of course not. I’ve written 105.” [laughter] The author of 105 different books, far too many to mention, but includes Christianity for Modern Pagans, Three Philosophies of Life, Summa of the Summa, If Einstein Had Been a Surfer, The Philosophy of Jesus, and Doors in the Walls of the World.
Joining him tonight is the Reverend Eugene Rivers, III. Gene Rivers is a minister, activist, and nonprofit leader, who is the founder and the director of the Seymour Institute for Black Church and Policy Studies, a widely published writer and community activist, who has advised both Bush administrations and the Clinton administration on their faith-based initiatives, as well as being a one-time Philadelphia gang member, who later went on to study at Harvard, has been the subject of a Newsweek cover, and has served as a commentator at virtually all of the major media outlets.
Both Peter and Eugene will offer brief opening reflections on our topic this evening, after which they will engage with me and Anne in a moderated conversation, followed by questions from the audience. Peter and Eugene, welcome.
So Dr. Kreeft, we’ll start with you.
PETER KREEFT: Okay. Since I consider myself a disciple of Socrates, I like to begin with defining terms, because I find it helpful to have some idea of what I’m talking about. An ideology is a manmade set of subjective values about politics. Christianity is a God-revealed set of objective truths about the nature of God and the nature of man. What’s the relation between the two? What does Christianity say about politics?
It’s very easy to answer the question, what does Islam say about politics? Because there’s a lot of politics in the Qur’an. It’s very easy to say what Old Testament Israel says about politics, because God revealed a lot of political details. The New Testament doesn’t give you much advice about who to vote for. It does tell you a lot of social morality. It tells you principles that don’t seem to fit into either of our true currently popular ideologies. And it gives you a very, very basic principle when Christ was asked a very specific question, “Should we pay taxes to the tyrant Caesar or not?”
Rarely does Jesus answer a true/false question by checking one of the boxes. And this time, and this time he did. But first He said, “Show me a coin.” They showed Him a coin. He said, “Whose head is that dirty head? Whose coin is that dirty coin?” “Caesar’s.” “Oh, well, then, give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar and give to God what belongs to God.”
How do you apply that principle, which I think we all agree to, now, today? Let me take this single most important and controversial specific issue facing our society, namely the legalized murder of two-thirds of a million of our children every year. Elizabeth Hanscom was a philosopher at Oxford. And her daughter was hauled into court for protesting too close to an abortion clinic. And she wanted to be her own lawyer, her own advocate. She was only 15 years old. And the judge lectured her, said, “You’re a Christian, aren’t you?” “Yes.” “Well, then, you believe what your Lord and Master said, ‘Give to Caesar what belongs to Caesar.’” And her reply was, “The bodies of our own children do not belong to Caesar.”
So what does Christ say about our current social and political decadence? Both the left and the right say we’re in, in the words of George Bush, “deep doo-doo.” That is decadence. What does it look like to win the culture war, look different from the perspective of the different ideologies? But we all want to win it. And we all want to save western civilization. So from a Christian point of view, what’s the most important and first thing we must do, in order to save western culture or western civilization, assuming that culture is simply the soul of the civilization, and civilization is simply the body of a culture?
Well I think the first answer is stop idolizing it. Stop making the salvation of western civilization your summum bonum, your final end, in religion and means to it. Religion is not a means to politics. Jesus Christ is not running for President. In fact, He ran away from attempts to make Him king. He is the Lord, he’s not the President. He’s the author, and therefore the authority, and the beginning, and also the end, the goal, the ultimate good of everything.
So how do we get outside of the straitjacket of ideology? How do we get beyond ideology? Perhaps a better image than the one of the straitjacket, which is quite useful and accurate, is the Biblical one. It’s an idolatry. An idol is anything worshiped as God that is not God. And the two most popular idols, at least in Washington, D.C., are two animals. One’s a donkey and one’s an elephant. [laughter] Too many Christians are tempted to look at their love of the lamb as a means to their love of a donkey or their love of the elephant. Let’s get our animals straight.
What’s the source of this ideology? To cure a disease, you have to know its cause. You have to diagnose it. And the usual answer to that question is, well, we’re kind of stupid. Human weakness, you know, the flesh, fallen minds as well as bodies, and a fallen world. Yeah. There’s the world, and there’s the flesh. But I think the source that is the most important and the most ultimate, and the one we think of the least, is the third source of evil, the devil.
And I think it’s Biblical. Ephesians 6 verse 12 tells us that, “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against principalities and powers, against the rulers of this present darkness, against spiritual wickedness in high places.” In other words, not just a political war, it’s a spiritual war. Here are seven very simple principles of spiritual warfare.
First, know you are at war. Read that verse. Second, know your enemy. Again, read that verse. Our enemies are not either political party. Our enemies are not the ACLU, or Planned Parenthood. Our enemies are not even Satanists. Our enemies are Satan. Third, in order not to lose a war, avoid civil wars in your ranks. The most efficient way for any Army to win is divide and conquer. Fourth, as C.S. Lewis reminds us at the beginning of his classic Screwtape Letters, the devil is equally pleased by two errors about him, to overestimate him, and to underestimate him, two very useful ways of losing a war.
Fifth, obey your commanding officer. I just finished a book that just came out recently called The World’s Greatest Philosopher. And I believe the world’s greatest philosopher is Mary. Because her philosophy is summarized in the very last words she gives to all of us, which covers just about everything. What she said to the waiters at the wedding feast at Cana. “Do whatever He tells you.”
Sixth principle, use the right weapons, His weapons. What are His weapons? The two absolutely absolute absolutes. The two things that God’s very essence consists of, truth and agape love. And the seventh is not only to do everything He tells you, but also to believe everything He tells you. And one of the things He tells us is an infallible prophecy, because He’s infallible, about who will win this war in the end.
And once again, the Bible uses a very concrete image for this. And it’s an image of two animals. At the end of the Bible, you have the Book of Revelation, the Apocalypse. And the heavyweight championship of the universe is being fought between two animals. One of them is called Arnion. And the other is called Therion, two Greek words. Arnion means “lamb.” But since they had a lot of lambs them, it was their main meat, they had a lot of different words for “lamb.” And this means “Wee little lamb, cute little lamb, harmless, innocent, little lambkin.” The Greeks also had a great imagination. And they had a lot of words for monsters. And this one, Therion, was the greatest of all, dragon. It flew. It spit fire. It ate you. So now, in this corner, Arnion. In that corner, Therion. Who is going to win? Oh, it’s a fixed fight. The dragon doesn’t stand a chance. Because the lamb has a secret weapon, his blood. The dragon doesn’t understand that.
Here is Donald Williams’ summary of that fight in the Book of Revelation, from Touchstone Magazine. Some people find the Book of Revelation hard to interpret, because they’re asking it the wrong questions. Jesus said, no one knows the day and the hour of his return, not even the angels or the Son, but only the Father. It’s not a need-to-know basis. And you don’t need to know. So stop trying. What do Christians need to know? That we are going to win, so dramatically, so finally, so devastatingly, that the enemy will never be able to mount a comeback. And that that win will last for all eternity.
Meanwhile, the worst thing the enemy can do to us is simply to kill us, which is to put us under the throne in a white robe. So let’s straighten our backbones and be faithful witnesses, no matter how dark things look in the present. For John, that present was the Roman persecution. For us, it is the apparent loss of the culture war. It doesn’t matter. The message is the same. Be faithful.
Well, what about the principalities and powers then? God tells us. Colossians 2:15, “He disarmed the principalities and powers.” More concretely, I Corinthians 15 tells us, when Paul says, “Oh death, where is thy sting? Oh grave, where is thy victory? The sting of death is sin. And the strength of sin is the law. But thanks be to God who giveth us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.” Explore that image. Death is now a bee without a sting, because Christ has saved us from its sting, which is sin.
And therefore, Paul says in Romans 8, “I am persuaded that neither death nor life nor angels nor principalities nor powers will be able to separate us from the love of God, which is in Christ Jesus our Lord.”
Today, I think the apostle to the gentiles would add, “Demon-inspired ideologies that idolize insanities, like you can be whatever you want to be, even they cannot separate us from the love of God.” What happens when light meets darkness, when you bring a match into a dark room? What happens when life meets death at the point when the soul leaves the body? What happens when love confronts hate? Christ happens. That’s our answer.
CHERIE HARDER: Reverend Rivers.
EUGENE RIVERS: First, I want to thank the Trinity Forum for convening this notoriously adult conversation. We are in short supply of spiritual, intellectual, and political adults, first point. Secondly, I have to give a shout out to my brother Os Guinness, who does not remember this because he’s a younger man. [laughter] I met him at Harvard University. He was speaking at the Business School. And there were an assortment of white evangelical, kind of intervarsity-ish groups. And they had brought Dr. Guinness, who was a heavy hitter. And I was– The Dust of Death, right, was the hot publishing intellectual event in the evangelical universe, right. And it was an extraordinary book. He and I would have had some differences on his interpretation of France [00:33:26]. But barring that, it was a perfect exercise, right, and was very stimulating.
My Rabbi here, Peter Kreeft, has outlined some fascinating ideas and frameworks. I am a black Pentecostal preacher. So normally, it takes me 15 minutes to clear my throat. [laughter] But since I’m a Pentecostal, I believe in miracles. [laughter] Consequently, I will flirt with brevity, in the course of articulating my reflections on the subject.
And I can’t stress enough how important what you’ve done here—and I want to touch on that, as I address these questions around the current state of the culture ideologically. As a son, a spiritual son of Martin Luther King, and Abraham Heschel, and others, my definition of ideology in politics must be by definition more nuanced. If I read the Exodus story, there’s politics from the beginning to the end, right. Not in any limited parochial sectarian way. So politics, like ideology, these are very expansive concepts. So there is a very narrow, parochial, not terribly intelligent, inflexible definition of ideology. And then, there are much deeper and subtle articulations of ideological mischief in politics.
I was thinking back 100 years ago, while at Harvard, one of the giants was a professor—you young people, you write this down—Daniel Bell. Daniel Bell, Henry Ford Professor of the Social Sciences at Harvard, who, in 1960, authored an extraordinary book, The End of Ideology. Powerful book. Now, much of his left misunderstood the text, and then Bell had a point of saying, “Well, if you had just sort of parenthetically decided to read the book, you would understand that, in point of fact, I was not asserting the end of ideology. In fact, it was the reverse,” that there was going to be, within the context—the book was written in 1960—There is going to be a proliferation of ideological movements that surface, you know, in the context of the Cold War. Because you had the great power contest between the United States and the Soviet Union and their respective teams.
Then, Bell argued that there would be this proliferation of ideological movements, because some of you—most of you are probably not old enough to remember this, right—there were whole series of national liberation movements. And there were subsets of the Warsaw Pact. And so there was a lot of ideological activity. And so Bell actually is trying to introduce his reading public in the United States to the importance of studying and developing a more nuanced understanding of what ideology meant, because not only was ideology a secular instrumentality, there were the religious versions of ideology. There was the crude, reductionist, materialism, the liberation theology, which was politics, small p, based on some reductionist, materialist epistemology, right. So you had that kind of ideological movement going on.
And the thing I’d like to say, and here again, I want all you all to pray, so I said, “Lord, keep the miracle of my brevity in view,” right. We are at a period in history where—and I want to go to one of your very powerful points. The Ephesians 6 chapter, for the Pentecostal, that’s one of our—that’s one of our chapters, right. Principalities and powers, we do that, right. So we’re praying, you know, about the principalities and powers. We’re praying, you know. And wickedness in high places.
Well, I’ll tell you what’s very interesting about that passage. Paul is a much more sophisticated thinker than people give him credit for being. Because Paul, in talking about the principalities and powers, also is alluding to the idea of principalities and powers in the cosmos. There are political institutions that exist, that are saturated with demonic forces. And so Paul puts an emphasis on this. And he moves back and forth throughout the New Testament, in Romans, talking about principalities and powers, and acknowledging the implicit and explicit ideological dimensions which are spiritual.
I got something for you all. You see, the present context with the emergence of white supremacy—and that’s what it is, you all. You all ain’t got to go nervous. I’m not gonna go “black” on you, right. No. White supremacy, right, white supremacy must be understood politically as a spiritual force. My brother here talked about idolatry. You see, idolatry involves, in many instances, politically and culturally, the elevation of the created above the creator. At that point, we experience the nature of evil institutionalized.
And this is a very, very important point here, because the entire discussion around what’s going on in the United States, right, with January 6th, which we are terrified to even look at. Say amen, you all.
EUGENE RIVERS: You all know, we don’t want to mess with that, because you don’t want to step on a third rail. And so everybody prances around it. And one of the unfortunate things about that is that the church had an opportunity to be a prophetic witness. Somebody needs to say amen.
EUGENE RIVERS: And, as a result, when God had provided an opportunity for the church to actually come together, we punted on this kairos moment, where crisis and opportunity intersect. And we fumbled the ball. Now, your discussion this evening is absolutely fantastic. It’s a perfect place to begin. Because the only people, Rabbi, that can initiate a dialogue that has any possibility of not descending into complete madness, is the people of Jesus Christ, who make a commitment—watch this—to the truth.
EUGENE RIVERS: The Book says, “I am the way, the truth, and the life, right. No man comes to the Father but by me.” We must have a spiritual, moral, and personal commitment to speaking truth in love. Right now we’ve got a tough situation. It’s real ugly. January 6th said, because we had to dance around everything, everything. But it was an attempted insurrection. That’s what it was. Now I’m just going to tell the truth.
Now let me just say this, just to be clear, right, because somebody might confuse Rivers of being a Democrat, because he said that. That’s how stupid the culture is. [laughter] I am a pro-life Christian, full stop. Pro-life, hardcore. Committed to the Gospel, and committed to the revolutionary politics of Jesus. I’m going to come back to this political thing, right. Because see, Jesus says—this is fascinating, and I’m not going to—I’m bringing this thing in on the ideology stuff. Jesus says, you know, in that fourth chapter of Luke, he walks up in the Synagogue, right, walks up, this little boy, walks in the Synagogue. Opens up to the 61st Chapter of Isaiah. “The Spirit of the Lord has anointed me.” Now this is deep. This is his inaugural address, Rabbi, right. This is his inaugural address where he’s announcing what his political agenda is. And here again, we’ve got to be more subtle and sophisticated.
See, there’s politics, at some kind of ignorant, you know, pseudo bipartisan level, and then there’s politics at a meta-political and philosophic level. And so we have to have a much more nuanced understanding of (a) politics, and (b) ideology. You see, this is important, because the Christians, we now have an opportunity to be salt and light. Again, I am so proud of the Trinity Forum and the work that you do. And I was amazed. I was somewhere, and they had one of those gorgeous little pamphlets that you folks produce, right. And what was actually quite astonishing, right. I said, “Lord, there is hope. There is hope, still, yet exists.”
They had produced a pamphlet with a speech from Nelson Mandela and Martin Luther King. I said, “Oh, Jesus, Lord have mercy,” right. I thought this was a hardcore Republican shop. [laughter] So when I saw that, I said, “Oh Jesus,” prayed, “Lord, bless them, Lord. Help them, Jesus,” right. And what was striking to me was the understanding—and God bless you, Father Guinness, right, because, I mean, you gave birth to this thing, right.
Now what was astonishing was that, in simply—in that simple gesture of making yourself open to dialogue and discussion, you know, it wasn’t as though everybody was going to agree with what Mandela said, right. Or Martin Luther King, for that matter. But there was an openness, right, and a humility. So that when we engage in a larger public discourse, you know, we engage with a certain—one, I could go to your thing—agape love. And we wrestle with the fact—And this is, you know, the Seymour Institute is praying about convening a seminar and conference on the churches and the threat of white supremacy and domestic terrorism, from the theological vantage point. So I’m not doing left politics. I’m saying, if I read the Scriptures, in terms of principalities and powers, the only way to conceptualize the demonic is to understand that, through the lens of faith, and a Biblical world view, that affirms the reality of the demonic.
See what happened on the 6th was pretty evil. I mean, you’ve got to be—you know, you ain’t got to be a political scientist, right, to sort of put together. That was pretty over the top. And what was significant, and I’m connecting this to the ideology, we must engage in a much more radical reading of the Bible. We have kind of a safe, take no risks [00:45:52] Jesus and hermeneutical method. So that we don’t get too close to anything that might shake things up. I mean it’s interesting, right, because Exodus—Exodus was a rough book.
And what’s fascinating is that one of the best essays dealing with ideology is Michael Walzer’s book, political philosopher Michael Walzer, called Exodus and Revolution. He’s a bad boy. And what he does, is he says, “Look. Politics is much more nuanced and complex than people understand it to be, because there’s just this generally simple-minded, narrow, you know, view.” I’m bringing it in right now.
Our discussion of ideology must be conducted at a higher conceptual level. It must be much more sophisticated. I want to bring this back around to Brother Guinness. You see, 100 years ago, I began reading a man named Francis Shaffer. And Francis Shaffer was important, not because he got everything right. Francis Shaffer was important because he was one of the first evangelical Christians to try to engage modernity. No one else was doing that. I’m a protégé of Carl F.H. Henry. That’s real crazy, right. Carl F.H. Henry, James Boyce, these are scholars that adopted me, which is how I ended up at Harvard.
And my point is, that we must build on the traditions, and engage in a deeper reading, with a more robust hermeneutic, that understands the subtleties, you see. Because right now, we’re basically talking to ourselves. Say amen, you all. You all know that, right?
EUGENE RIVERS: We’re the insular deal, very Christian, you know, you know, comfortably and politely white. But not engaging in the kind of dialogue, and providing the leadership that you have the capacity. Because you’re the up market’s smarter wing, your squad. For that reason, you must provide the moral and intellectual leadership by engaging in a much deeper, radically Biblical way. And when that happens, when we commit ourselves to the love of God and the truth, having the courage to say tough things—Martin Luther King read the Bible. And he had a radically Biblical understanding of the text, so that there was love, agape love, a commitment to serve the poor, and to model the gospel.
When we decide that we will have the courage to follow Jesus in that way, God will be glorified. And God will then heal the land. Amen.
EUGENE RIVERS: That was a miracle, you all. [laughter]
CHERIE HARDER: Thank you Gene, and thank you Peter. There’s certainly a lot to unpack there. Anne and I probably have a ton of questions. So we’ll probably fire a lot at you fairly rapidly. And then we’ll move, probably, in the next 10 or 15 minutes, or so, for questions from the audience.
So one of the first things that kind of occurs to me, just in listening to both of you, you talked about ideology, and politics, and theology. And certainly, one of the things we have seen is exactly what the founders most feared, which is the kind of affective polarization, or essentially angry antagonism that far supersedes the actual—you know, any actual intellectual disagreement. That makes it very difficult for people to transcend that and seek the common good, as opposed to very narrow victory.
But we’ve often tended to associate that with sort of deep-rooted philosophical convictional clashes. But there’s actually a fair amount of evidence to suggest that the way people choose their allegiances or choose their ideology is often less intellectual or philosophical, that it is really aesthetic. It’s, you see something that appeals to you. And you want to affiliate with that group. And often, that desire to belong to something, it winds up being what shapes our policy preferences as opposed to vice-versa.
So I wanted to ask you both about how that sense of identity or affiliation drives some of our ideological tribalism. And yeah, we’ll start with you, Eugene.
EUGENE RIVERS: There is a political scientist, John J. DiLulio. He was the architect of the Faith-Based Initiative for Bush. And we were having a conversation, this was like 15-20 years ago. And he says to me, he says, “Look. Everybody’s looking at blacks in the cities, and worry about the violence thing.” He says, “What you guys are doing is peanuts.” He says, “There’s a level of alienation and anger among working class urban whites, you know, fly-over America, who feel that they have been left behind. They’re poor, working class, sub-working class, you know, white males. And they’re very angry. And, the bicoastal elite, right, you know, the pretty people, have ignored them.” And DiLulio says, “There’s going to be an explosion.” Quick point, right to your question.
There was a political philosopher named Richard Brody. He died. Big guy at Princeton. Got around. He wrote a book Finding America, or Toward America. And he had one section where he says, “Look. At a certain point, something is going to crack among the poorest working class whites. Their anger, their frustration, their humiliation, their own economic deprivation. And it’s going to crack. It’s going to crack. And this has to do with the collective existential crisis of very poor people who feel that they’ve been looked down upon by everybody. It’s less ideology than pain, disappointment and frustration, that the American dream, right, has abandoned me.”
Real quick on this thing. And as he shared that, and he says, “I turn on television, and I look at these black dudes that barely graduated from high school, making $20 million dollars a year, dumping the ball, right. And while that kid, that’s a basketball player, that’s not his fault, I understood sort of the existential crisis and the pain and the absence of self-respect of that guy.” And what happens on the sixth had been building for years. It wasn’t a partisan deal. And we have to, at some point, intellectually, so that—to your question, put pain on the table. There’s sort of an aesthetic. Put pain, put humiliation, put genuine anger and frustration. Because the promises that were made to me, Joe Six-Pack, have been a lie, because the fix is in. And the bankers and the bundlers benefited at our expense.
CHERIE HARDER: All right.
PETER KREEFT: When you say aesthetic, the first thing I think of is the human face, rather than an economic system. People often ask me whether I’m a Democrat or a Republican. And I say, “Well, I used to classify myself as a liberal Democrat. Now I classify myself as sort of a conservative Republican. But I haven’t changed my mind on a single issue. They just changed the labels.” [laughter]
And when I saw Harry Truman, I liked him, even though he was a Democrat. And when I saw Richard Nixon, I didn’t like him, even though he was a Republican. My parents always voted Republican. And when Ronald Reagan was President, I said, “Now, there’s a smart man. And the media doesn’t like him. They say he’s stupid and sleepy. But I don’t think he is.” And he basically helped us win the Cold War. And then I see Donald Trump, and it makes me ashamed to be a Republican.
So I think the human trustability and personality of a candidate is what counts enormously, especially in visual media. Until Barack Obama, I think every President that won won because he had better hair. [laughter]
EUGENE RIVERS: Obama had better teeth. [laughter]
PETER KREEFT: If Jesus was running for President, I think He’d win, although He’d probably incite civil war among those who really were terrified of Him, the ones who were inspired by the war room below. So I think that integrity and trustability and honesty and consistency and predictability and identity with all people, especially ordinary people, are much more important than political affiliation, ideology, or programs.
CHERIE HARDER: Just to follow up on that, and kind of take it in a different direction, as you mentioned, Gene, it’s often the elites who are the most deeply dug in, in terms of their ideological categories through which to view the world. And one of the things we’ve been talking about is essentially how do you get out of that rut? How do you basically see through different glasses? But our categories really do shape our view of the world, such that putting on a new lens is, itself, an act of reformation. What does it take to get there, to essentially enter into that process of reformation that we so desperately need? And I’ll start with you this time, Dr. Kreeft.
PETER KREEFT: Humility. Augustine asked to name the four cardinal virtues, responded humility, humility, humility, and humility. If pride is the devils’ sin, humility is Jesus’ answer. And humility of mind means, my goodness. I might be wrong. Some of you might be old enough to remember the old sitcom Happy Days, where Fonzi, who is very, very cool, had to apologize to Ralph Malph, who is a, you know, just the opposite of cool. And he made a mistake in advising Ralph to join the Marines. It was ruining Ralph’s life.
So Robby convinces Fonzi that he’s got to go and tell Ralph that he was wrong. And Fonzi’s like, “I can’t do that. It’s not cool.” And he’s persuaded to do it. So he approaches Ralph. “Ralph, you know, that time I advised you to join the Marines?” “Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah, Fonzi. You were so right.” Of course he wasn’t, and Ralph’s miserable. “You know, Ralph, I was—I was—I was—I was wrrr—- I can’t say that word! It’s so uncool.” That’s what we’ve got to do. [laughter] We’re fallible. [simultaneous conversation]
EUGENE RIVERS: — Erasers in the ends of our pencils.
PETER KREEFT: So the proposal is to be uncool.
EUGENE RIVERS: By that—wait a minute. Then we’re already there. [laughter]
PETER KREEFT: No, in the opposite direction.
EUGENE RIVERS: Oh, okay. Okay. [laughter] On this question?
CHERIE HARDER: Mm-hmm.
EUGENE RIVERS: If history’s sort of any less—Right now, the world is waiting for God’s people to step up. Our reputation is so bad, I mean bad, with plausible reason, right. This is a kairos moment, where, if we’ll humble ourselves and pray, turn from our wicked ways, that’s—right, if we’ll do that, God, you know, hear from Heaven, and heal the land. But, there must be a period of abject humility. We have religious institutions that we invest more faith in than we do God. So we play the religion game, or the church game, or the denominational game.
As a result, young people—There were some Pew studies that were just recently done. We were talking about them at a [00:59:26] meeting. And young people said, “Listen. Our thing is not what you believe. Our thing is that you don’t believe nothing. What you’re supposed to believe, you don’t believe.” We need an insurgent intellectual movement to win the young. And all my work, my focus is on the future. Those are the only people—Look. I’m interested in communicating with the 20 to 30 year old people, with an eye to 2050.
If you don’t play long game, you’re not in the game. It’s all a long game. And there has to be—and I see the nucleus of that here—There has to be an insurgent intellectual movement. One example, King. And this is beautiful. If you had gone to the American Political Science Review in 1950, and gone to the stacks, and read through them, right, American Journal of Sociology, looking for Montgomery, 1955—I want you to watch this. This is deep—No one in 1950 thought religion had anything to do with anything. If you read partisan review, commentary, all of the intelligencia of that period, they had dismissed—You know, Billy Graham, that was some trailer park stuff. He was a good looking dude with the fancy hair. But—right?
The Christians were not credible. That’s the—I’m making intellectual analytic point. We weren’t credible. When King surfaces, the country was completely shocked. No one saw that coming. None of the prognosticators saw it coming. I would say the same thing now. The country’s in the middle of a crisis. There is a kairos opportunity for the people of faith to bring something to the game which is fresh, exciting, and courageous. Part of the reason the kids don’t have nothing to do with us, the Christian thing is pretty much a pretty cowardly operation.
PETER KREEFT: That’s what Solzhenitsyn said in his Harvard commencement address. “You people are boring.”
EUGENE RIVERS: That’s right.
PETER KREEFT: “You don’t have courage.”
EUGENE RIVERS: No, no—Now I’ll tell you what’s interesting. Solzhenitsyn was channeling King.
PETER KREEFT: Yep.
EUGENE RIVERS: King had said that 20 years earlier, right. And so there’s this great strategic opportunity. Yeah.
PETER KREEFT: Well, there’s no reason anybody can’t be the next Martin Luther King.
EUGENE RIVERS: Right. But they need the Peter Kreefts to give them the wisdom. [laughter] No, no, no. This is very, very important now. Because part of our difficulty is that our institutions no longer are morally credible to our young. In fact, in fact, the L’Abri[?] movement was God raising something up, because the churches had become obsolete wine skins. Jesus says, “You don’t put new wine into an old wine skin.” An obsolete paradigm, if you will, right. We’d have—We need new paradigms, such as this, that are intensifying. Because outside, similar forums, it doesn’t look good.
PETER KREEFT: And the reason that has to be uncool is that the closer you get to Christ, the closer you get the splinters from His cross.
EUGENE RIVERS: Right. That’s right. Amen.
PETER KREEFT: You’re going to tick people off. If you don’t, you’re not doing His work.
EUGENE RIVERS: Amen. I’ve got one interesting sidebar to your point. One of the most fascinating things that’s happened in the last couple of—I was just talking with some friends. You all are too Christian to watch Netflix, right? [laughter] I know you’re all super Christian people. You’re all good Christian white people, right, right.
You’re too Christian to watch one of the most prophetic voices—it is astonishing, you all—that has surfaced. And he’s profane—is David Chappell. David Chappell has blown up the transgender left. He has blown it up. He’s got two things that you good Christian people wouldn’t watch, because you know, you all are too saved to do that, right. But for those of us who want to think periodically, not too much, but think periodically, and are willing to have our dogmas challenged, Dave Chappell did these two segments on transgender politics. It is the most brilliant thing that has been done by anybody on transgender sexuality. And he called them out. He called out the crazy feminists.
And my point is, you know, if God doesn’t—if God’s people don’t praise Him, the rocks will cry out. Well, this rock cried out, blew everybody away. Those of you—don’t tell your Christian friends, right—When you go home, put it on your thing. Don’t let nobody see it, right. [laughter] And get exposed to some—amazingly intellectually sophisticated stuff.
CHERIE HARDER: Anne, do you have any further questions before we turn to audience? Audience questions it is. Well, there’s a lot to ask about here. For those of you who have not been to a Trinity Forum event before, you know that we have three general guidelines that we ask all of our attendees to abide by, in terms of the question time. We simply ask that questions be brief, questions be civil, and all the questions be in the form of a question. [laughter]
EUGENE RIVERS: It’s a question.
CHERIE HARDER: Please wait for the mic to actually get to you before speaking, just so everyone who’s joined us by live stream can hear. So questions from the audience. John Gardner, maybe you can stand up to make it easier for people to see you.
EUGENE RIVERS: My classmate.
__: One of the things we’ve seen in this pandemic is that too many Christians who, as you said, ought to believe in the truth above all, can’t even accept scientific truth.
EUGENE RIVERS: Come on, doc.
__: What do we do about it?
EUGENE RIVERS: Yeah.
CHERIE HARDER: Who wants to tackle that?
EUGENE RIVERS: You go first, Rabbi.
PETER KREEFT: Ask the psychologist. [laughter]
EUGENE RIVERS: You go first, Rabbi.
PETER KREEFT: I’m an absent-minded philosophy professor, not a psychologist.
EUGENE RIVERS: But it’s an intellectual question. It’s more than psychological. No, no. The question that he raised, there’s a psychological piece to it.
PETER KREEFT: Okay, we’ll do that.
EUGENE RIVERS: Then there’s a deeper intellectual cultural deal. Because the flat earth fundamentalists, young earth thing, right, has retarded—I mean, and here again, this goes back to our institutions failing. We don’t have institutions in the evangelical whatever, where people can engage. The Seymour Institute’s been doing a thing here in D.C., towards a post-secular science. And what we’re looking at is, how do we develop a theistically based, robust, conception of science, which moves beyond the inflexible dogmas, you see? And, to your point, we have to cultivate an intellectual culture. This is the beginning. There must be—You know, I’m going to take the L’Abri thing. There need to be intellectual boot camps that play D1 ball. And you take the best and the brightest. And you say, “Okay, we’ll take you to the woodshed. We’re going to read some Thomas Cole. You’re going to do that. You’re going to read some Thomas Cole. You’re going to read some Hillary Putnam. You’re going to see read some, read some, read some,” right. And we get our young people trained.
PETER KREEFT: But how do you get them to listen to the data?
EUGENE RIVERS: Oh, listen. I’ll tell you what. I’m a parent. I’ve got a group of black Harvard students that we work with, right. And we sit them down. And they’re open. No, no. See we have this idea that everybody’s hostile to us. No. Part of the problem is, we’re incompetent and lame. [laughter] You know, you all just need to own this. I don’t know if this comes as a surprise to you all. Look. The world – you know, you’re, “Oh my God, he didn’t say that.” Yeah I did. No. We’re not playing Division 1 ball. We show what PeeWee Herman – sending PeeWee Herman to the final four. And we think that we’re credible.
I didn’t mean to offend you all. I’ll stop. [laughter]
CHERIE HARDER: See right over here. If you could stand up, just so it’s easier for our volunteer to come to the mic.
__: Thank you all for coming. Dr. Rivers, my question for you is, we’ve seen the past year, the black church basically save the Democratic party from insanity, between Joe Biden—supporting Joe Biden and Eric Adams in the recent mayoral election. So I’m curious how you think, on the one hand, we can introduce more of the wider American church the insights of the black church, and how it can strengthen the black church, given the fact that we’re also seeing the rise of none and disengagement among young African-American millennials as well as white millennials?
EUGENE RIVERS: Right, excellent question. The short answer, I think—and we can talk about this later. The black church has to engage, because we have the same problem you all got. Our young people are not dealing with us for the most part, because we have intellectually morally failed. I’ve got a bomb for all you all. The Black Lives Matter movement, the only reason it exists is because the black church dropped the ball. The black churches should have engaged the violence stuff. They did not. When Trayyvon Martin was murdered—he was, right—the black church should have been the first people out to shoot.
Much of the work that I’ve done has revolved around violence prevention stuff. And in the City of Boston, we hit the streets and met with the drug dealers. And the Faith-Based Initiative was actually based on the model in Boston, where the black clergy were on the streets, at night, meeting at crack houses with drug dealers, and doing Jesus evangelism. Basically, playing out of Jesus’ playbook.
Right now, the black church has to be challenged. It is astonishing. This Dave Chappell thing, Dave Chappell has said what the black church has said, with his old cussing self, right. So you good Christians, shhh, don’t tell the – [laughter] So the black church has to undergo the same kind of challenge that you all got. We’re both in the same boat, just different neighborhoods. We’ve got to engage the culture. And I’d like to talk to you later about that. I mean there are some things that we’re working on nationally on that very question.
CHERIE HARDER: Right here, front row. If you could stand up.
__: Thank you. I have a question to both of you gentlemen. You mentioned about the culture war. I think when you mentioned about the 1960 Graham Bell—I mean the Daniel Bell, sorry, Graham Bell—the Daniel Bell important work, I think at the same time, in Europe, Antonio Gramsci was talking about very important things, that I think we somehow not only forgotten, but we take it for granted. All of the thing what he mentioned was the problem that we have nowadays with, to win the Marxist ideology, you need to change the language. You need to criticize the society. And all the things now it is taking place. I would be very grateful if you would briefly comment. Because I consider myself as a professor, and correct the student, you have a better teacher, of course, as a Plato, Aristotle. But I had Kolakowski[?] when I was in Poland.
EUGENE RIVERS: Kolakowski?
__: Professor Kolakowski was very good.
EUGENE RIVERS: Yeah, Leszek Kolakowski, yes.
__: The thing that he was talking about, at that time, we felt that it was definite with the three main cause[?] of Marxism, one a thousand pages. And now we are rediscovering, you know, distorted, in a very primitive way, Marxist ideology align.
PETER KREEFT: Gramsci was a prophet. He said, “Communism will never win in the ballot box or the battlefield. It will win in the classroom. One of the greatest Christians of the 20th century, I think, was Charles Malik, President of Lebanon, one of the authors of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. He wrote a book called Christ in the University. Pointed out that the university is the most powerful institution in the world. Everybody goes through it who has any power at all. And most academics think, if they’re Christians, “Well, what does our university think about Christ?” He says, “That’s not the main question. The main question is, what does Christ think about your university?” Let’s ask the right questions. And let’s do Mary’s wisdom, “Do whatever He tells you.”
EUGENE RIVERS: On your point, number one, Leszek Kolakowski, a Catholic philosopher, the most sophisticated volumes, it’s like 1,000 pages, Main Currents of Marxism, Leszek Kolakowski, absolutely—Anybody that’s interested in being serious, brilliant philosophic and theological critiques of all of them. Frankfort School, Lukash, everybody. First point. Secondly, on Gramsci, one of the amazing things, you know, sometimes the right wingers are like a broken cloud. They’re right twice a day. [laughter]
It was amazing. Rush Limbaugh would be on his radio, talking about Antonio Gramsci, right. Antonio Gramsci was an Italian Marxist during the interwar [?] period. Had an enormously theoretically sophisticated theory of culture. And that was his big thing, that you’ve got to confront the issue of culture. And he was right. To this day. And so we can talk later. Kolakowski, everybody, you know, glance at it, do Cliff Notes, something. Very, very important person. And on the question of culture, Antonio Gramsci, who actually—I’ll tell you one person that used him—Cornell West, my buddy Cornell West, was a—understood the importance of Gramsci for looking at culture in general and black culture in particular.
EUGENE RIVERS: Amen. Amen.
CHERIE HARDER: I see a question right there. If you could stand up, so it’s easier to see you. There we are.
__: What are some practices, especially young people can undertake, to avoid the temptation to see the world through an ideological lens, maybe intellectual practices, spiritual, weekly, yearly?
CHERIE HARDER: Great question. Dr. Kreeft.
PETER KREEFT: I think you used the wrong word. “Practices” presume attitudes. So let me substitute the word “attitudes” for “practices.” Assuming that you’re talking about Christian young people. Obviously, one of the practices is prayer. But the attitude that most of us bring to prayer is that we’re going to lecture God on what we need. I think we have to change that attitude. I think we have to be humble, open, vulnerable, and say, “I’m a stupid jackass. Tell me what to do.” [laughter] And He’ll respect that, because He used that kind of beast to ride into Jerusalem to do his most important work. And we’re that kind of beast, so we can be used, too. That was pretty clever. That was good. [laughter] That was good.
CHERIE HARDER: We have time for one more question. I see a hand in the back there. If you could stand.
__: You talked about the need to infuse cultural interventions from a spiritual aspect, right, to win the battle or the war against the nonspiritual aspects in, you know, bringing the young people or the next generation onboard, right, in terms of activation, is the way I think of it. How do you activate the people, right, spiritually? So the question is specific to young people, or that generation, specifically, is very much apt to technology interventions, social, and all those. So how do you take the technology interviews—and I’ve been attending these conversations around AI lately—and tie it somehow to our playbook on spirituality, if that makes sense?
EUGENE RIVERS: I love that. For those of you who are interested, the current edition of the New Yorker Review of Books has a piece by Sue Halpern. It’s on the future of AI. Be afraid. Be afraid. To your question, sir, what I’m doing is I’m getting together with young people. And I say, “All right, all right, characters.” I’ll take three or four of these young people. They’re college students or young adults. And I say, “Now, you’re going to walk the old man through the future of the universe.” Because, you know, technologically—In fact, a guy said to me, he said, “Listen, Rivers, you understand that if you’re not in the digital universe, you don’t exist. You’re not even a citizen.” I said, “Oh! Oh!” He says, “No, dude, you got to understand. The Twitter, all of that, that’s reality now. If you’re not in that game, you don’t exist, old man.” And so I said, “Okay, got that.”
And so I get together—To your point, I get together. And five days ago, a young woman, 22 years old, she walked me through—She said, “Now Pastor, you’ve got to be on every one of these platforms. If you’re not on these platforms, you don’t exist.” Because, you know, Cornell West wrote a letter, when he left Harvard a couple of weeks ago, there were like 150,000 hits. And my point is not even so much the subject, but the fact that, if we’re not in that world now, if we’re not planning 30 years out to get in that game, we’re not in the game. We don’t—We will literally not exist.
So we’ve got to redefine our entire relationship to all of the technology, and the Christians get on—We have to get on top of AI, because right up the street is trans-humanism. And those boys are coming hard. And we’re not paying attention. And, in fact, one of the greatest things—I see your brain flying already, right. We’ve got to do—The Christian church must deal with artificial intelligence and trans-humanism, right. 2030, 2050.
PETER KREEFT: You know what they’re working in Silicon Valley?
EUGENE RIVERS: Something crazy. [laughter]
PETER KREEFT: Artificial immortality by genetic engineering.
EUGENE RIVERS: Absolutely. That’s the trans-human thing.
PETER KREEFT: If that happens, Christ is going to come again.
EUGENE RIVERS: Yeah.
PETER KREEFT: As C.S. Lewis says in Mere Christianity, “We’re like eggs at present. And you can’t just go on being a good egg forever. You have to hatch or go bad.”
EUGENE RIVERS: Right. But see, the key point—this is—we’re in, in this, is that the Christians now have to get on the floor. We’ve been in the stands, complaining about—you know, just whining about stuff, right. Well, get in the game and make something happen. This trans-humanism thing, Susan Halpern, The Future of Artificial Intelligence. And this is the best forum, because you’re located perfectly, to take us to the next level.
PETER KREEFT: Talk about an idol. I asked my students to put away their screens for 24 hours and write an essay on how the world changed, they can’t do it.
EUGENE RIVERS: That’s right.
PETER KREEFT: They simply cannot do it. It’s an addiction.
EUGENE RIVERS: That’s right.
CHERIE HARDER: Dr. Kreeft, Reverend Rivers, thank you for a very wide-ranging conversation. [applause] So before we go, there are several things to let you know. We’re also going to do something a little bit different tonight that we always do with our online conversations. We’re going to ask each of our speakers, at the very end, to give a final word, by which we mean one sentence or less, a final thought from each of them.
EUGENE RIVERS: A miracle.
CHERIE HARDER: But before that happens, each of you should have had a gift on your chair, a gift of Comment Magazine. And Anne, I was hoping you might tell people a little bit about what is in store for them with Comment.
ANNE SNYDER: Yeah. And just thank you both, again, so very much. It’s really an honor to launch this partnership with you here. So we have a brand new look of a magazine in your seats. And for all of you watching virtually, please subscribe. This complements a new website that just launched, I think, an hour ago, or two hours ago, that’s now at www.comment.org. So please enjoy all of that. We have some new offerings there, not just the essays in our magazine and other online content, but an amazing new hub called The Welcome Table, which will be coming up soon, by Greg Thompson, which may be a name familiar to some of you. And he’s captaining, basically, a really interesting set of writings and collection of writers around the history of race in this country and theology through the prism of food and the table. So it should be like a real interesting intersection. And ultimately, hospitality is sort of a disarming thing for our various culture wars.
And it’s many elements. But I just mostly want to thank some of my team that’s here. The borders have been closed for the duration of the pandemic. And as you know, Comment is published by Cardus, which is this amazing think tank that I’ve been deeply grateful to be cradled inside of, and a bunch of those colleagues are here tonight. So I just want to acknowledge Michael Van Pelt and Ray Pennings, the publisher of Comment, Kathryn de Ruijter, the amazing art director, Matt Crummy, our marketing director, Lee Harper, Stephen Lazarus, who’s helping me with the future of breaking ground, and Jeff Reimer our associate editor, and Heidi Deddens, who couldn’t be with us, but our managing editor. So thank all of you for being here, and for all that you do.
CHERIE HARDER: And I will also just add, there should also be, on each person’s seat, an invitation to join the Trinity Forum Society. We would love for you to avail yourself of that invitation. The Trinity Forum Society is the Membership Society which helps make the mission of the Trinity Forum realized, and the programs of the Trinity Forum possible. In addition to joining that society, there are many benefits, which include a subscription to our quarterly Trinity Forum Readings, where you can get reading such as the ones Gene Rivers mentioned, with Martin Luther King, Jr.’s “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” Nelson Mandela, Dostoevsky, which Peter Kreeft mentioned, and including The Wager by Pascal, with introduction by our very own Dr. Kreeft.
In addition, it will mean an automatic invitation to many of our online, as well as in-person programs, where we have tackled such topics as trans-humanism and many other subjects as well. As a particular benefit of joining, you will pass by the exit sign, there should be a table there where you can join. You’ll get a free reading of your choice. And if you have any questions about that, if my colleagues could just stand up and wave their hands, Callie I see you back there, they would be happy to answer any further questions about that.
Finally, as we start to wrap up, it’s always appropriate to end with thanks and gratitude. And programs like this always require the efforts of many people. So we’d like to thank our partners at Comment, led by the extraordinary Anne Snyder, the New Pluralist Collaborative, which has helped make this possible, our brilliant photographer, Clay Blackmore, who’s here this evening, our volunteers, including Grace Trumbo, Caleb Curie, our intern emeriti group of Ann Shearer, Talli Valentine, and Mikhail Good, who have come back. Also volunteer Darien Olsen, my terrific colleagues, Nicky Sheffield, office manager Callie Walker, as well as our interns, Anna Coulter and Madison Hampton.
Finally, thank you to each of you. As promised, we will end with a final word from both of our speakers. One sentence or less. So we’ll start with you, Dr. Kreeft.
PETER KREEFT: Throughout the history of the world, there has always been one force that is stronger than ideology or politics or anything else. And even in today’s ever-changing world, that force will convert the world. And that is interpersonal love, the love of God in Christ.
CHERIE HARDER: Thank you, Dr. Kreeft. And Reverend Rivers.
EUGENE RIVERS: Amen. [laughter]
CHERIE HARDER: Amen.
CHERIE HARDER: Thank you, Dr. Kreeft. Thank you, Reverend Rivers. Thank you, Anne, and thank you to each of you for joining us. Good night.