Because I got so much out of James K. A. Smith’s books on life as worship (Desiring the Kingdom and Imagining the Kingdom), I was interested to read Smith’s book The Devil Reads Derrida and Other Essays on the University, the Church, Politics, and the Arts. In the book, Smith points out that Christian intellectuals tend to focus their efforts in academia, leaving the church and the broader society to the slim (and almost always theologically off) pickings of Christian and secular pop culture. He calls Christian intellectuals to speak to the church (as well as to academia and the culture as a whole), serving as public intellectuals rather than just academics.
Smith goes on to do just that. In a series of smart and readable essays, Smith takes on cultural blindspots that afflict Christians and non-Christians alike. He challenges our cultural mindset on things like partisan politics (of either party), patriotism, movies, pop literature (Christian and secular), poverty, neighborhoods, consumerism and ambition, and many others.
By definition a cultural mindset is something you aren’t even aware is there, and most Westerners probably don’t think twice about these things. Smith does an excellent job of identifying situations and then applying Biblical theology to them in a way that is at once philosophically rigorous and understandable.
I really enjoyed The Devil Reads Derrida and would recommend it, especially if you’re interested in culture, government, academia, or the arts. And even if you aren’t particularly an avid fan of those topics, if you’re a thoughtful Christian you would still benefit from this book–you might be surprised at how many of these mindsets creep into the way we do life.
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