Worth Reading - 4/27

1. In our culture's rapid movement to "de-Christianize," everyone, Christians included, sometimes forgets how deeply Christianity has impacted the culture. One example is how Christianity helped children become recognized as people:

We have forgotten just how deep a cultural revolution Christianity wrought. In fact, we forget about it precisely because of how deep it was: There are many ideas that we simply take for granted as natural and obvious, when in fact they didn’t exist until the arrival of Christianity changed things completely. Take, for instance, the idea of children.

Today, it is simply taken for granted that the innocence and vulnerability of children makes them beings of particular value, and entitled to particular care. We also romanticize children — their beauty, their joy, their liveliness. Our culture encourages us to let ourselves fall prey to our gooey feelings whenever we look at baby pictures. What could be more natural?

In fact, this view of children is a historical oddity. If you disagree, just go back to the view of children that prevailed in Europe’s ancient pagan world.

2. Last week was the 151st anniversary of Max Weber's birth. Here is a post I wrote on the mixed quality of his legacy:

He was born on April 21, 1864, in the Prussian city of Erfurt. He would become a pioneer in sociology and shape many discussions on the relationship between economics and religion for decades after.

Weber’s best known work is The Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of Capitalism, originally published in 1904–05 and updated in 1920.

The book was first translated into English in 1930 and is still so influential in modern sociological discussions that it was the book chosen to represent that discipline in a recent volume, Twelve Great Books That Changed the University and Why Christians Should Care.

Weber essentially created the discipline of sociology as it now stands, which is no small feat, no matter what other concerns may come from his theories.

On the anniversary of Weber’s birth, we can celebrate his efforts in forming the discipline of sociology, but we should read his conclusions with discernment.
Ayn Rand was no fan of C.S. Lewis. She called the famous apologist an “abysmal bastard,” a “monstrosity,” a “cheap, awful, miserable, touchy, social-meta­physical mediocrity,” a “pickpocket of concepts,” and a “God-damn, beaten mystic.” (I suspect Lewis would have particularly relished the last of these.)

These insults and more can be found in her marginal notes on a copy of Lewis’ The Abolition of Man, as printed in Ayn Rand’s Marginalia: Her critical comments on the writings of over 20 authors, edited by Robert Mayhew. Excerpts appear below, with Lewis’ writing (complete with Rand’s highlighting and underlining) on the left and Rand’s notes on the right.

4. 30 tips for improving your academic writing. Maybe it isn't too late for this semester:

Choosing something that you are passionately interested in to research is a great first step on the road to successful academic writing but it can be difficult to keep the momentum going. Deborah Lupton explains how old-fashioned whiteboards and online networking go hand-in-hand, and offers advice for when it is time to just ‘make a start’ or go for a bike ride.

As part of preparing for a workshop on academic publishing for early career academics, I jotted down some ideas and tips to share with the group which I thought I would post here. In the process of writing 12 books and over 110 peer-reviewed journal articles and book chapters over a career which has mostly been part-time because of juggling the demands of motherhood with academic work, I have developed some approaches that seem to work well for me.