New From D. G. Hart: Damning Words: The Life And Religious Times Of H. L. Mencken

hart-menckenMy copy arrived yesterday. Looking forward to it. The publisher (Eerdmans) says:

“H. L. Mencken (1880-1956) was a reporter, literary critic, editor, author — and a famous American agnostic. From his role in the Scopes Trial to his advocacy of science and reason in public life, Mencken is generally regarded as one of the fiercest critics of Christianity in his day.

In this biography D. G. Hart presents a provocative, iconoclastic perspective on Mencken’s life. Even as Mencken vividly debunked American religious ideals, says Hart, it was Christianity that largely framed his ideas, career, and fame. Mencken’s relationship to the Christian faith was at once antagonistic and symbiotic.

Using plenty of Mencken’s own words, Damning Words superbly portrays an influential figure in twentieth-century America and, at the same time, casts telling new light on his era.”

In his foreword, Mark Noll writes, “A religious biography of this guy? Come on, Darryl! Eerdmans!

Attentive readers of this book will want to think again. Hart does not pretend that the Baltimore journalist-critic-writer with capacious intellectual curiosity was some kind of a crypto-Christian or saint-out-of-doors. Nor does he think that Mencken contributed directly or positively to strengthening Christian beliefs or practices.

He does, however, make a convincing case that close attention to this flamboyantly anti-religious figure pays significant dividends those who do take the faith seriously.”

It’s available from Amazon, in hardcover, for $19.50.

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  1. So, perhaps Mencken, like Hemingway or Robert Ingersoll (and even Samuel Clemens) was another American literary great who never grew out of his adolescent rebellion?

    Some thing extremely disturbing is that from his diaries, the so-called Sage of Baltimore appears to have been quite an admirer of Adolf Hitler, preferring what the National Socialists were doing in Germany to his own country’s “Booboisie”.

  2. I think it is a good idea to pay attention to the observations of critics of religion. Trey Parker and Matt Stone of South Park fame are modern day critics, be it in a crude way, like Mencken was in his. Their portrayal of Jesus is more a critique of the modern Evangelical Christ than what the Bible portrays and the church has taught historically. For that they should be commended and give us insight as to how the reformed Church with her teachings is the antidote to the wayward path Christians have taken.

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