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In the thirty-fourth episode of the “Saturdays at Seven” conversation series, Todd Ream talks with Anne Snyder, Editor-In-Chief of Comment. Snyder begins by talking about the role she plays as someone residing at borders in a society seemingly engaged in perpetual fragmentation. She notes people such as Dorothy Day who inspired her and how she strives to impart the wisdom afforded by such examples through the leadership she offers Comment. Ream and Snyder then talk about what biographical details may have led to Snyder’s ability to reside at borders including growing up abroad, traveling extensively in Southeast Asia, dinner conversations she shared with her family of origin, and the example her grandfather set as a Bible translator who lived in the Peruvian Amazon. They talk in greater detail about Comment, how topics are selected and framed, and how Snyder hopes such efforts nurture the audience they serve. Ream and Snyder then close their conversation by exploring a recent issue od Comment focused on the Church and Snyder’s impressions of the relationship the Church and the university presently share.

Todd Ream: Welcome to Saturdays at Seven, Christian Scholar’s Review’s conversation series with thought leaders about the academic vocation and the relationship that vocation shares with the Church. My name is Todd Ream. I have the privilege of serving as the publisher for Christian Scholar’s Review and as the host for Saturdays at Seven. I also have the privilege of serving on the faculty and the administration at Indiana Wesleyan University.

Our guest is Anne Snyder, Editor-in-Chief of Comment. Thank you for joining us.

As I thought through what commitments animate your sense of vocation, existing at the borders of any number of social groups seemed to me to emerge with great frequency. When you say existing at the borders, would you open by unpacking what you mean?

Anne Snyder: Sure. Well, it’s great to be here, Todd. Thank you for having me. I love this question. I’m very touched that you’ve observed this. I actually don’t know. Clearly I have said it or written it or something, but I was like, where have I said that exact phrase? Cause I don’t probably always lead with that, but I’m very touched that you’ve perceived this thread.

I feel very known and seen by this. So I you know, I should clarify, I think sometimes when they’re certain, I mean, I’ll just mention a few names that might, not everyone actually in this audience may love, which I’m sympathetic to, but Richard Rohr has a very kind of famous phrase called “Living at the Edge of the Inside.”

The artist, Mako Fujimura, often says he’s a “Border Stalker.” So there’s folks, frankly, those both happen to be people who at least swirl within the broadly broadly canopied Christian world have that, have that notion. In some ways, I think Pope Francis has, has talked, has invoked it but so do many others far outside any kind of theological imagination.

And I think sometimes that the suspicion is that those who speak in terms of bridging worlds cross cultural agility, all of that, that there is sort of a snobbiness to that or a luxury. And I should just say I don’t mean it in that way. I don’t view it as the holy grail this kind of existing at the borders. 

It’s been really important to me actually to work with and know those who don’t cross borders for all sorts of reasons who come and are still rooted in like very thick, you might even say homogenous communities or have spent their whole lives serving one institution or something like that. So I think we need both types and they need to know one another and work together. But I don’t view, I happen to be someone who quote, I guess, exists more at the borders, but I’m not, I don’t think that is a higher way of being. 

That being said, it does seem to be a skill set or a tendency that is a little bit is needed in the moment in this particular moment, or I’ve sort of discovered that and felt grateful for that and what I guess what I largely mean by it is that, your feet should be rooted in some kind of coherent formation or some community. Ideally, often a local one or it expresses itself locally in an incarnate form, but then it is framed by and shaped by generations, if not centuries, of thinking, habits, norms that incur sort of a way of life. 

But so your feet are planted in something, you’re rooted, but that your arms kind of outstretch and your curiosity and your deep listening, you’re, you’re sort of able to hear people’s life experiences, formation, sacred values, the sort of cultural inflection points of how they talk about sort of either transcendent or universal human experiences.

So you know, I think in my case that just winds up manifesting. Part of my role is to play translator between seemingly distinct moral geographies and sometimes obviously we live in a world where there’s very different visions of the good. So when it comes to sort of ultimate moral visions, those can be very different and very opposing. So I’m not saying one can always bridge between those in a way that allows them to sort of somehow wash each other out into some common denominator of agreement. 

But I think more often than we seem to experience certainly today, for a variety of reasons, which you may get into there actually is probably more common ground than we think and it’s sort of just what we’re emphasizing, the words we’re using that make it seem like we’re not at all saying, we’re not at all saying the same thing.

So yeah, I think across a variety of fissures, whether it’s geography, coastal, heartland in the U.S. context, I happen to have grown up overseas so there’s an international component across right and left, across sort of theological vocabulary, across sectors and different ways of knowing, say engineering versus the arts versus law versus professional religion versus business versus Silicon Valley, generational stuff. 

Like I think across all of these, I don’t at all think I’m adept at all of them, but I have sort of a unquenchable appetite to try, to have a frame of reference for how a person’s milieu has shaped the way they talk and think and lean and we can get into why that is, but. That’s sort of a broad initial canvas.

Todd Ream: Thank you. You mentioned Richard Rohr, for example, Mako Fujimura but can you offer some examples of individuals who inspire you in terms of their abilities to exist at borders of any number of social groups? 

Anne Snyder: Sure. I mentioned this woman a lot as a hero of mine, but Dorothy Day, who founded the Catholic, Catholic Worker Movement, obviously no longer living, but she was someone whose own vocation has wound up being a bit of a compass for me in so far as in her case, she was bridging multiple worlds in the set.

She, she, part of this was happened by way of her sort of a dramatic conversion, but she had been part of a very bohemian set of writerly circles for her early 20s in New York City, card carrying communists, this would have been in the 1920s and then through sort of a series of events and then most dramatically through the birth of her daughter, she had this dramatic kind of conversion and a need to worship someone, so she becomes a Catholic but for five years feels very kind of homeless in both worlds.

So the Catholic Church at the time was not particularly, was, I mean, it was as hierarchical if not more so than it is today and didn’t have a lot of obvious attention to the masses, to the poor, which was where her heart was and where she had kind of found an ideological clarion call and interpretation and kind of channel for movement within the Communist Party, and she feels this like crisis of sort of disintegration between her, where she felt, who she felt called to serve and then a new allegiance, namely to a Church that, at the time, didn’t seem to be evidencing much care for the poor. 

And so she winds up kind of actually praying a desperate prayer in the Basilica a little north of me, where I’m sitting right now in DC just asking for a synthesis and winds up going, heading back up to New York City, landing on her doorstep and meeting this man, Peter Morin, who says, I’ve read some of your writing, Dorothy. I think you need to start Houses of Hospitality and start a newspaper alongside them. And this wound up being right around the time of the Great Depression, where there were many, many unemployed and many homeless.

And so she began this both integration of journalism and an embodied life, but also started charting out a way to be like deeply Catholic and in tune with Church teaching on a whole variety of issues, but wrestling also with, what, as she saw it, like the face of Christ in the poor demanded, which led her to become a bit of a peacenik person. And she was very pro-life on abortion, but very these are, I’m using more modern language to describe, which would have been described a little differently back then. But put herself at odds with even those especially during the Second World War, it was very unpopular to be a pacifist.

So she, so she just kind of, she’s someone who, you read about her funeral, she lived this life of pouring out, writing, but she was writing about at the time, kind of class divides that sparked a whole sort of labor movement, interweaving Catholic solidarity. And there’s just when you read about who showed up at her funeral you see like a thousand people gathered and you see like high ranking cardinals with Cesar Chavez and other leftists and you see the huddled and the poor masses along with sort of fancy writers and high profile intellectuals. 

And so there was something about that sort of being all things to all people, to borrow the Apostle Paul’s words, that I think certain saints throughout history, through very messy lives where they’re often lonely and misunderstood they over time through the integrity of who they choose to honor, but then also the institutions that are able to build, wind up kind of stirring a new creative minority that, that is drawing an unlikely group of suspects and kind of allows them to be the champion of the difficult room. In this case, even in death.

So she’s the first one who comes to mind. I’ve known others in my own life, who I could name but wouldn’t be known to listeners who are probably more local figures to me. But yeah, she’s the one I can sort of describe most fully.

Todd Ream: Great. Thank you. What about institutions or organizations? Are there any that embody this space, incorporate these practices that inspire you? 

Anne Snyder: I mean, to some degree Comment is, is trying to do this. It’s been a very interesting adventure for me running a magazine and the form that a magazine is, which of course is limited, technically speaking, to words on a page and in our case, also the arts. 

How do you sort of take that somewhat quote, flattened form of communication in these arguments, debates, narrative? How can that somehow stretch between the wisdom of practitioners and the expertise of the academy as one example? Or certain kinds of concerns that have been historic to where Western Civ likes to focus on and some of the ways that interweaves with kind of a Judeo-Christian tradition and theological emphases and sometimes seemingly like ideological emphases coming more from the majority world.

How as a magazine can you be a place that is bridging all these worlds and somehow speaking to all of them at the common human pain point of the era? So I would like to say we’re trying to do that, but it has been a, the jury’s still out on whether we’re doing it effectively. I would probably say we’re still failing in that regard. 

But that is I’m, I’m attempting to try to make all that we do somehow speak to people who are existing in the centers of power on the margins, different ways of knowing to honor that in our pages. We’re trying.

Other groups, there’s actually, this is again in the Christian world, but there’s a beautiful institution in New York City I’ve just gotten to know in the last couple of years called City Seminary, which is kind of reimagining theological education in the 21st century. And it’s based physically right there in Harlem. 

And if you go into its library, it sort of celebrates the most beautiful 2000 years of an ecumenical canon. It reminds me a bit, if you know anything that Plough Books publishes, they do these beautiful anthologies for Lent and other seasons of the Christian calendar that take from you know, you’ve got Abraham Joshua Heschel and Augustine and Albert Schweitzer and Paul Tillich.

And you kind of like have this discerned melange of people that, like people who aren’t commonly in the same quote unquote room in terms of where people’s theological, ideological allegiances and City Seminary has that kind of a canon, both domestically and internationally, like a theological library that feels truly global and historic.

And yet, their form of education, they typically work with, I think, sort of early to mid career pastors I think just from New York City, although I can’t quite remember, they may draw from elsewhere beyond the City. But it is a very sort of applied, holistic, kind of praxis-oriented, neighborhood-oriented synthesis of this like global Christian canon of the best sort of orthodoxy, but somehow applied to real blocks, real smells, real challenges on this, on the city streets.

There’s something about them. When I went there, I felt deeply at home, like here was a whole, very rooted institution that is nonetheless attracting border stalkers. And then I mean, there’s a few other institutions I could name, but honestly, where I’m seeing it the most is in kind of common good, often sacred sector fueled collective impact efforts that are urgently trying to solve a very real problem.

So in Chicago, there’s a group called Together Chicago, which is a constellation of faith leaders and police officers and business leaders and sort of neighborhood community shepherds who have this backbone organization that is trying to resolve or address kind of pretty severe upticks in gun violence over the last 8 to 10 years in Chicago.

And when I sort of see this multiracial, cross social class group of people that have ritualized a way of keeping tabs on and like drawing relationships between these different neighborhood wards and different sort of institutional public parties, whether it’s municipal government or police or nonprofits or whatever to serve this concrete problem that— not everyone there would necessarily call themselves a border stalker, but you see the diversity of gifts and service of like a common purpose. And it moves with great joy. 

And there’s others like that I could mention. They almost all seem to sort of get stood up in response to a crisis. I think about long term recovery groups that are built in the advent of a terrible wildfire that’s destroyed whole communities. 

So it’s interesting how certain forms of very material crisis that wind up catching the attention of those who might not immediately feel affected by the crisis, but see it start to creep into their space. Suddenly a whole new imagination is cast for people who are, again, rooted in very particular local ways, coming together to find and be able to translate to one another to find sort of, and cultivate a common vision for their place. 

Todd Ream: I’m going to transition into asking you a couple questions, biographical questions. You mentioned growing up overseas and if you could say are there things about your own upbringing for example, that fostered this commitment on your part? 

Anne Snyder: I was born in the States, in the Boston area, but then spent my childhood in Hong Kong and then Australia, and then got to travel a lot throughout Southeast Asia during those years. And that was a time when stability was granted through like a very tight knit nuclear family. 

And my parents both happened to be like highly independent people, who were nonetheless trying to lead and shape us to lead a considered life in all these sort of different cultural contexts. And we would literally have a dinner table conversation, what feels by memory like every night that was premised upon the belief, the family belief, that all people are products of their culture.

So that was just kind of like, I wouldn’t have been articulate about this at age six, but all of our conversations by memory were kind of that curious, analytical, oh, isn’t that funny? That person like in their context, this is what they believe to be ultimately true. But so there was just kind of a, I would say sometimes, frankly, it might’ve been toned by critique inside the family analysis of the world. 

But also the great part of it was just a curiosity with like premised upon we all see through a glass darkly and sometimes the color, the color of the lens is the surrounding sociological context. So I think just like growing up in a family that had that rubric was that’ll just put a real stamp on how you prismatically view the world.

My grandfather was a Bible translator and so worked as a linguist in Peru, South America, for many decades. And I think his, who he was, in his character, the way sort of he embodied and showed love, but to all sorts of people of all stations in life and watching that as a kid and then how that informed my mother and how she passed that on and, but then her own third, her own third culture kindness, having grown up in the Amazon, that was all, that’s just, I sort of took a second nature, all those dynamics. 

And then I personally really came to faith in an aggressively secular kind of prep school context school called Andover in Massachusetts. And that was a very beautiful experience and very, very isolating to suddenly find myself believing something a little wild and miraculous and 2000 years old in a highly progressive, enlightened, quote unquote, intellectual and cultural environment. 

So I think that and figuring out how to negotiate friendships and the pursuit of inquiry and knowledge and rational thought while also starting to nurture things like prayer and a supernatural set of beliefs sort of the power of the the living God and all that was, learning how to do that at a fairly young age when I had very few companions helping me figure that out was did something I think.

And then to, to go from that context to Wheaton College in Illinois, that transition suddenly I was very much not alone but you’re also going from New England to the Midwest. So those are just a few kinds of early on that I was just given like an unusually wide set of exposures culturally, in terms of how we know and what we know, what sort of the limits of knowledge are and where trust in mystery needs to begin.

And all of that, thankfully, was infused by a lot of examples of kind of love and respect for the infinite dignity of every person. So that just kind of gave me a natural, I think, receptivity to see ultimately, especially once I came to faith, to really see, kind of the face of God in every person. 

And to allow what categories I would begin to understand for, oh, a certain Midwestern— not to overly put a final sentence on people, but, oh, a certain kind of Germanic Midwesterner has this kind of airtight logic sometimes. Or, this person raised in a more Japanese environment is probably not going to be the first one to raise their hand in a class. 

You know, like just this, the thousands of subtleties that we inherit culturally, I was just delighted by that fluency— not fluency, but literacy. And it enabled, I think it just always enabled me to see the world with a bit of a wink, a delight, but hopefully also just some tools to connect and honor people’s particularity. And not have, not really ever have full understanding, but at least have the initial runway to get to know them.

Todd Ream: In what ways are your books, The Fabric of Character: A Wise Giver’s Guide to Supporting Social and Moral Renewal and then more recently, Breaking Ground: Charting Our Future in a Pandemic Year, in what ways are they reflective of this commitment? 

Anne Snyder: Well, The Fabric of Character, I was asked to do that project or to undertake that inquiry, which was a request from a group of foundations and business leaders, kind of across the broad middle ideologically, some center left folks and center right, who are just increasingly worried that we were losing as a country in the U.S., a strong cultural appetite for, and even familiarity with, quote, morally formative institutions. So the shorthand of this is like, where are the Boy Scouts and why isn’t that so that’s, that’s sort of the caricatured way of putting it. 

I think, to borrow even that frame, I was asked to embark on this because I had done a lot of writing at that point on sort of how are 21st century institutions accommodating an ever more pluralist society and the people they welcome into their folds, namely, especially educational institutions. 

But also all forms of sort of civil society institutions, how are they handling this pace of change, more knowledge of the complexity of reality and not just diverse populations, ethnically and racially, but it’s probably more profoundly morally? And how can you stay morally coherent and welcome this diversity and pluralism? 

So I had been doing a lot of writing on that and this group of philanthropists came my way and said we think you might be the right one to be sympathetic and sort of astute in evaluating, hearing how different contexts think about things like virtue and character and that on the one hand, this is not something that is relative and yet there are different cultural ways in which character gets expressed, and it’s different, can be different also between men and women. And, the way the right and the left talk about character can sound very, very different. 

I think from the beginning, me being assigned to go on a large listening tour for a couple of years, and try to hear how people across social class, ideology, culture, et cetera, thought about character formation. That was just kind of built in from the get go. 

And I hope the book, which I wound up writing, really, is about individual character and hopefully coming up with a, not loose, but a textured, like not a one sentence definition of what we even mean when we say the word character. It’s really wound up being a book about what makes for a healthy institution or community and how we are invariably enmeshed within relationships just as sort of a human, human design. 

I chose to do narratives and case studies to kind of cut through at the time what I was experiencing as bizarre ideological polarization on something as seemingly benign as character people on the left didn’t want to use that word. They thought it was an imposition of sort of waspy colonial values. And then people on the right didn’t really, they wanted to just often talk about character as if it was a sort of self-made willpower, pull yourself up by your bootstraps, not acknowledging the cultural, the communal conditions, etc. 

So it was an attempt to thread a needle and show by example that the practice is often ahead of the theory. The theory around moral formation often gets mired in what I find to be very tedious debates, like pitting, say, social emotional learning against Aristotelian ethics. 

The way I cut through a lot of this is through narrative these days which, in some ways, I hope doesn’t last forever because I also believe in strong arguments, but it just seems in a moment right now, if you can tell a story that paints a picture that people from a wide degree of backgrounds can somehow recognize some underlying universal principles of the good that are beautiful, that sort of woo you, that are, that like touch something universal about how we were created, then it’s it feels like a success so yeah, that was the fabric of character. 

Todd Ream: Yeah, no, I was just going to ask if you have any other thoughts on that. I was going to shift and ask you about Comment then and how you weave some of these ideas into that. 

The last four issues, for example, were defined by themes of violence, the Church, gender, social change. In fact, actually, social change, I think, was that there were two issues committed to that. So it’s the last five issues. But can you offer some insights in terms of how you and your colleagues identify those themes? And then how you go about framing them, given the size of them? 

Anne Snyder: I keep sort of apologizing to my team. I know this topic is such a Pacific Ocean, that’s my term for way too big but I keep picking them, so and some of that again is to try to find something that is in the zeitgeist. It’s like it’s just in the soil of our particular part of the world in this particular time.

I mean I am not at all, at all, at all comparing myself to any Pope but I do think encyclicals can do that well, like they have their finger on the pulse of some spirit of the age. And so Comment, that’s sort of how I view a little of my responsibility is trying to pick something that, I mean, I view a lot of what we do at our best is converting people’s, like a very anxious people right now into a people that is able to yearn again.

And converting anxiety into yearning, so it’s like where are the pain points that seem to be breaking down people’s ability to communicate to family members, colleagues, friends, or neighbors? You know, we don’t necessarily, we have done one or two issues that are a little bit more quote culture war. We did one on gender last year.

I thought violence would be a little more culture work cause I did want to address guns in the U.S. But generally speaking, I don’t go after the famously polarizing topics but I try to go after the areas where it feels like they’re very layered and they operate sometimes in material reality, like violence obviously goes all the way down to mass shootings and guns and so on. 

But in my view, there is a bit of, however loose, there is a connection to a broader atmosphere where it feels like we’re all walking around, increasingly sensitive to who or what is threatening us, like threat has become a bit of a maybe unacknowledged protagonist in our imagination so… 

In general, I try to, and I don’t know if this is always the right approach, but I, I try to go where the pain is like our next issue is going to be on home and feeling like at least a lot of our readers, I think, come to Comment looking for a new place of belonging that feels like at least honors one’s roots, whether roots of faith or certain kind of just moral gentleness and yet moral fluency around so many different kind of responsibilities in our day-to-day life, but people come to us feeling like their base communities are fractured. 

So home, while it seems like a topic that should be all nice and cuddly and Joanna Gaines, is we’ve just put that issue to bed. We’ve discovered it’s full of a lot of searching and kind of unreconciled pain and alienation out there. 

So that’s, and then I would just say timing. The theme has to be fertile enough for a wide array of perspectives to have a say in, or to at least interest a wide array of contributors. And yet we, especially when we do pick kind of hotter cultural topics, we’ve learned our strength is kind of coming in at the end of the, sort of the long tail of it.

Like it’s been simmering in the public discourse. It’s been disturbing school boards. It’s been causing librarians to march on a, on a state capitol. It’s, it’s like, it’s what parents are all talking about. What, what has sort of been in the public discourse for a while? 

And then when can, when might we come in and with the with the light of 2000 years of Christian social thought, sometimes in dialogues with others outside our own tradition or outside that very rich tradition, lend some fresh oxygen to what starts to feel like a very frozen and confining, if not imprisoning frame in our current like moment of democratic fragility. So, probably the most important thing is getting the timing right on the theme. 

Todd Ream: I want to ask about one of those particular issues, in particular the Winter 2023 issue, which was the Church and the way the title was framed: Church, Where Are You? And part of how you talked about that in your editorial was that the Church has become anemic at the wrong time. Would you please identify the qualities of the Church’s anemic state as you observe them? 

Anne Snyder: Well, I can do my best. I mean, I am a congregant and a parishioner, who does not have the burden of being a pastor or a priest, so whatever I’m about to say, I just, I feel like any of these institutional leaders across various sectors, but the Church with particular kind of virulence, I think right now is on the receiving end of so much criticism. So I don’t want to pile on. 

But I would just say the first thing that comes to mind, which may surprise people is, I’m just going to be very blunt. I am honestly so discouraged, if not shocked by at least wherever I go. And I feel like I travel a bit, so I go to a lot of different churches all over the place. Something has happened to our preaching, at least in the U.S., that I find like, whether it’s Christianity 101 that is just relayed over and over and over again, a kind of orientation only towards the individual salvation. 

Increasingly, at least in Protestant services, although of course in a different way in Catholic services as well, like so little seeming like inhabiting of the world that the Bible creates, like just smattering of verses and then enjoying hearing one set I feel like what I hear a lot in, it’s like, say in certain kinds of maybe more urban churches, I hear sermons that spend like 40 minutes synthesizing Charles Taylor. And then there’s like one minute of the actual verse at stake, and I’m like, I don’t need to hear more Charles Taylor cultural analysis from the pastor like you’re not, there’s, it’s like I’d rather go to a university for that.

So on the one hand, I’m glad Charles, of course, but I’m glad pastors are reading Charles Taylor. But there’s something going on in our preaching that is not creating an alternative world for people. So it just, and some of that is also, it’s competing in a world deluged with content, deluged with noise. There’s so much fear, I think, on the part of many pastors to not touch politics and yet of course, we all know churches are, some churches, are very much thinking of themselves more as political organs. So that’s just kind of a confused and for me extremely discouraging realm I could I could get almost angry with how frustrated I am by the poverty of most preaching today 

Then I would say it’s our fault. It’s parishioners like me. We are very distracted, overwhelmed, low-bandwidth, wounded, increasingly non-committal people, which COVID only accelerated all those trends. So our own willingness to serve churches and be part of their renaissance is compromised and I don’t exactly know how you resolve that problem.

But I blame our own kind of the church as one of a million things. And I think a lot of us, especially post-COVID are asking, and this is a legitimate question. We can talk about this, but it’s plaguing the university as well. Like what is the Church for? Surely it has to be more than just a club for itself. And surely it has to be more than just survival and self preservation. 

And this is, I think pastors say when I’m making the joke about Charles Taylor synthesis so many summaries of that kind of cultural analysis of late modernity that I hear in too many sermons, I think that’s an attempt to be culturally engaged and sort of a runway to potentially clarify a vision for public action, but I think because the U.S., in particular, and this is very specific to the U.S., I do not experience this in Canada, I don’t experience this in the U.K., I don’t experience this certainly in Latin America or parts of Africa or Asia, we become so suffuse in like purely political theology. 

Some of it is good, but just there’s not like a broader public theology. There’s something going on where if there is a public, if there, if there are public implications for the Gospel lived in a people it tends towards the political either like aggressively towards it or trying to avoid the political and there’s like shockingly little vision from institutional churches for kind of the whole of our common life, our democratic life, our local civic life in a city so so that and maybe that’s you know, maybe the sermons not the place for that, but other aspects of Church life can can address that.

I think there’s just an inwardness. There is a self-doubt that I feel there is in so many places. I just feel that it’s like programmatic noise. There’s like no Holy Spirit transformational in-breaking life. 

And of course there are exceptions. I have been part of an exception once. But more often than not, I find the exception of the Church I long to see working itself out in, again, these kind of like faith-based local coalitions of people that are a band on mission, either trying to solve a problem. The people themselves are rooted in all kinds of local churches that are mediocrely nourishing, not, not where they actually find the life that is really life and thy kingdom come.

They’re finding it in self-sacrificing barrier crossing action in a place. Um, and that may be heretical to say, and I know that’s not the Church, that’s more the Kingdom, but it’s worth noting that that’s where I think many, many people who are just beautiful Christians that are on a lifelong path of growth are finding, finding people, finding Christian peoplehood.

Todd Ream: As our time is just about to come to a close, I want to follow up by, you mentioned the university. And in what ways can the university and the Church, especially Church-related university here partner together in combating this anemia? 

Anne Snyder: Oh dear. I don’t have all the answers, Todd. This is just a random idea. This is a little more concrete, but I would welcome, I would welcome a gathering of the people who have been for the last number of years in sort of important but arguably sector, sector really insular conversations like religious professionals who are pastors who are like, or who are denominational leaders or bishops or whatever, the sort of church folks who have been maybe having not so much strategic conversations about the Church, but deeply spiritually discerning where’s the Church, where’s the future of the Church in the 21st century?

If those folks and then those who are really worried about the university for, of course, reasons of the demographic cliff, enrollment issues, and then in, in, in Christian higher education’s case. Yeah, I just think there’s just a sense of real discouragement. Where, where is this going? Are we still going to exist in 5 to 10 years? 

If those folks could get together for three days, like 10 from here, 12 from here, and 12 from here, and have a telos question, each of them, what is the Church for, what is education, what is the university for I know those are timeless questions. But I think it’s worth visiting them in light of kind of what I would argue are some pretty powerful dehumanizing trend lines, whether driven by technology or politics, a whole variety of things, institutional decline, but just to come together. 

And I would be very interested in, in seeing that telos question really wrestled with and it may sound very pie in the sky, but I think answering the why question and clarifying it once again with a slight inflection towards 21st century anxiety, and pain and alienation, that would go a long— I would be very interested in seeing the overlaps in the answers to that why question, what is this for, purpose question, missiological question and I think out of that would come sort of complimentary collaborations. 

Todd Ream: Thank you. Our guest is Anne Snyder, Editor-in-Chief of Comment. Thank you for sharing your insights and wisdom with us. Thank you for joining us for Saturdays at Seven, Christian Scholar’s Review’s conversation series with thought leaders about the academic vocation and the relationship that vocation shares with the Church. We invite you to join us again next week for Saturdays at Seven.

Todd C. Ream

Indiana Wesleyan University
Todd C. Ream is Honors Professor of Humanities and Executive Director of Faculty Research and Scholarship at Indiana Wesleyan University, Senior Fellow for Public Engagement for the Council for Christian Colleges and Universities, Senior Fellow for Programming for the Lumen Research Institute, and Publisher for Christian Scholar’s Review.  He is the author and editor of numerous books including (with Jerry Pattengale) The Anxious Middle: Planning for the Future of the Christian College (Baylor University Press, September 15, 2023).