Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Top 100 Public Intellectuals in the World

On Sunday I ran across Foreign Policy magazine's list of the Top 100 Public Intellectuals in the world. Like a end of year Top Movie or Album list, it makes for fun, yet ultimately useless reading- hopefully like this blog.

However, something struck me about the list. I could think of many that were great inclusions and found some noticeable snubs. Of course this list includes Chomsky, Rushdie, Habermas, Eco, Bernard Lewis and Vaclev Havel, along with newer favorites like Jared Diamond, Malcolm Gladwell, Jeffrey Sachs, Steven Levitt and Samantha Power. It even has Al Gore, Thomas Friedman, Paul Krugman and my personal favorite, Fareed Zakaria.

Some of the snubs include Henry Louis Gates Jr, Cornel West, Stanley Fish, Condi Rice (Petraeus is on the list), Wendell Berry, Douglas Rushkoff and Robert Coles. I am sure you would find others.

However, I noticed only 4 religious leaders among the 100, with only the Pope as the lone Christian representative meeting this criteria:
Although the men and women on this list are some of the world’s most sophisticated thinkers, the criteria to make the list could not be more simple. Candidates must be living and still active in public life. They must have shown distinction in their particular field as well as an ability to influence wider debate, often far beyond the borders of their own country.
Dropping off the list, probably due to this lack of public exposure is Hans Kung. I thought to myself, why so few religious leaders? Why 3 Muslims and 1 Christian? Why 2 atheist polemicists and no Christian apologists? Why no Buddhist or Hindus? Is this bias? Is this ignorance? With matters of faith important to the world and guiding many of the issues of the day, I cannot imagine why they are not included.

If this article had been 25 or 50 years ago, surely there would be higher representation. C.S. Lewis, The Neibuhr Brothers, Karl Barth, Carl Henry, Ellul, Schaeffer or Tony Campolo would be included on the list (and these are just a few of the no brainers). Have Christian lost their voice as public intellectuals? Should there be more Christians on the list? If so, who?

Who fits the criteria above, besides the Pope? I would think Stanley Hauerwas, N. T. Wright, Rowan Williams or Richard Neuhaus should be part of the list. Their reach is beyond their faith community. I would even consider Richard Land, Albert Mohler and Brian McLaren due to their media access (not Jim Wallis- he is an activist, not an intellectual).

I am sure I am forgetting obvious ones.

you can vote for your favorites on the website (Chomsky won last time).

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