|Even editors of small journals are tempted to ape the media hype that clamors for
attention in a distracted time. After all, if you believe that you had read it all before
-- maybe even in Cross Currents -- would you turn to the following pages?
Nevertheless, the claim that we have something new to offer is inevitably modest; our
writers measure what they say against the long history of religious traditions as well as
the vast academic scholarship on their subjects.
Even so, the conversation between Edith Wyschogrod and John D. Caputo on "Postmodernism and the Desire for God" has several claims on your attention. An exchange conducted by E-mail, it was facilitated by contemporary technology; more importantly, it offers fresh insights on what some may know of only as a fashionable, and perhaps threatening, intellectual mode. Best of all, it is a reminder of what dialogue can be when participants genuinely respect each other, avoid academic gamesmanship, and strive to discover constructive possibilities in many-sided new theories.
I would like to think that readers will recognize such an approach as a Cross Currents habit: taking part in the age's intellectual free-for-all without conforming to its assumptions; giving a hearing to previously unheard voices as one would welcome a stranger seeking hospitality.
The articles of Anna L. Peterson, Manuel A. Vasquez, and Jean-Pierre Bastian apply this stance to the religious world of Latin America, criticizing the Vatican's emphasis on centralization and efforts to restore Christendom, while noting both promise and danger in the spectacular growth of Protestantism. In conjunction with Tavivat Puntarigvivat's call for Buddhist reform in Thailand, they reveal a need for a social ethics that would be both religiously grounded and attentive to today's economic and political realities.
Louis Dupré's "reflections at the end of a millennium" face up to the difficulty of faith in a situation when "Western culture as a whole has become secular in a way that it has never been before." His observations do not yield to total pessimism, however, but force him to conclude that "the cultivation of an interior life is. . . . a necessity for today's Christians." Thomas Idinopulos reviews the ways in which religion is studied in the academy and reminds overconfident scholars that what they can teach about "religion" is limited. Both echo in different ways the reminders of Wyschogrod and Caputo at the outset: lived religion is not an academic subject; the way new ideas affect us and our culture will principally depend on the depth of our desire for God.
Change and continuity also affect Cross Currents directly. The retirement of Nancy Malone in 1997 broke up the editorial troika of its ARIL years, and the Summer issue was the last under Bill Birmingham's direction. Nancy and I agree that Bill was the best editor in the journal's forty-eight-year history: he took on a hundred details while making them all seem effortless; he helped authors bring out the latent power of their sometimes obscure first drafts; and he always had time to share a story. With reluctance we assent to his retiring to conserve his energies for full-time teaching, but we refuse to part with him as a friend.
Fortunately, new editor Kenneth Arnold shared in the preparation of this issue, and we are already working together on the Winter issue -- my last such labor, since I too will retire October 1. Former director of Rutgers University Press, with additional editorial experience at The Johns Hopkins University and Temple University Presses, Ken's presence will inevitably mean a search for new subjects, new and younger authors, and a wider readership. A deacon in the Episcopal Church, he is also a published poet and playwright, so our concern for effective communication should find increased vitality. There is every reason for readers to welcome this change in Cross Currents and to look forward to creative indications of continuity with its past.