The Life And Death Of The Death Of God
It was a recipe for the easiest headline ever: "Death of God Guy Dies." John T. Elson, who passed away on Sept. 7, was a journalist best known for penning the story behind Time magazine’s wildly controversial cover in April 1966, which asked, in bold red letters over a black backdrop, "Is God Dead?" The issue became one of the best selling in the magazine's history and sent American religion spiraling into an identity crisis.
Maybe now, goes the obvious punch line, Elson can tell us the answer.
His article represented the zenith of what may be the last theological craze in history, the mortal gasp of a time when academic theology still qualified as headline-worthy. It announced the "death of God" movement, a group of rambunctious young professors who made it their business to turn Nietzsche's proclamation of the deity's demise from frightful blasphemy into the basis of a new kind of faith. They had media savvy that today's theologians have long forgotten, save for the megachurch superstars; one of them, William Hamilton, even had his own TV show on CBS. He considered all the hype and brash rhetoric part of the movement's necessary "journalistic phase," which would shake the foundations of the culture, clearing the way for their subtler ideas to transform it.
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