Worth Reading - 5/7

To borrow a phrase from Dean Acheson, we have lost an empire and have yet to find a role. The loss of status is sudden and deep, a shock no doubt to the naive who did not realize that, hey, the world does not like being told that man/woman/trans (delete where applicable) is not the measure of all things. The churchmen, the academics, the Presidents of Christian liberal arts colleges who thought their status would always give them a place at the cultural table are discovering to their horror that those who perhaps simply rolled their eyes at belief in the Resurrection are somewhat less indulgent when it comes to dissent over identity politics. In a public square dominated by emotive polarization of opinion, policed by the pitchfork wielding mobs of pop culture, and increasingly refereed by the law courts rather than the ballot box, places at the table are by invitation only. And guess what? Christians are no longer on the guest list.

So what is to be done? I would suggest simply this: That the Church is to continue to confess her faith and to do so faithfully. This is not a call for cultural capitulation, for the Church’s act of confession has always had a twofold aspect. First, it is catechetical and connected to the discipling of those within her bounds. Second, it is polemical because her very insistence on the truth of Christianity and of the kingship of Christ necessarily involves public repudiation of all other pretenders to the throne. Those who are deeply grounded in their Christian identity by their churches on a Sunday will think more clearly about how to respond to the challenges they face Monday to Saturday.

2. Literature is a part of the human sub-creation, which can often point toward the Creator (albeit imperfectly):

As a young boy, I loved to read. I would spend hours at the library roaming the shelves, selecting a stack of books to read for the coming week. I became intimately familiar with Asimov, Tolkien, Lewis, Heinlein, Bruce Coville, Lloyd Alexander, and dozens of others who fit somewhere within the sci-fi/fantasy genre. I eventually migrated upstairs from the children’s section to the adult fiction wing of the library, and discovered dozens of new authors who shaped my reading tastes. Though my mother was excited I loved to read, she despaired at getting me to read serious material. “Twaddle” was her word for the kinds of reading I enjoyed. She had little love for Oz, Fantastica, Asgard, or Professor Xavier’s Home; fictional reading was good as long as it was something worthwhile. None of the stories I loved fit the bill.

Over the years, I have come to appreciate the love my mother instilled in me for reading, thinking, and debating. When she challenged my reading choices, it always made me pause and seek to justify why this was “a good book!” In hindsight, many of the books I read were terrible: the prose was inane, the plots simple, the characters flat. And yet, they peopled my childhood with excitement, stories, and worlds beyond measure. My mother and I still disagree on the value of many fantasy authors; catching her reading the latest Dresden Files book might be a sign of the Apocalypse. Some years ago, I ran across a poem in which J. R. R. articulates a great defense for all forms of literature both high and low.

Mythopoeia encapsulates Tolkien’s doctrine of sub-creation which he works out in longer form in his essay, “On Fairy Stories.” Tolkien wrote this poem after an all-night argument with C. S. Lewis in which Lewis claimed myths were worthless, because they were lies “even if breathed through silver.” Challenged by his friend, Tolkien wrote his defense in rhyme and meter.
It was 1963, and 16-year-old Bruce McAllister was sick of symbol-hunting in English class. Rather than quarrel with his teacher, he went straight to the source: McAllister mailed a crude, four-question survey to 150 novelists, asking if they intentionally planted symbolism in their work. Seventy-five authors responded. Here’s what 12 of them had to say.

4. Kirsten Powers on how the violent reaction to dissenting opinions is killing exchange of idea on campuses:

Christina Hoff Sommers has been speaking on college campuses for two decades challenging students to embrace what she calls “equity feminism” over “gender feminism.” In her view, the former is focused on legal equality between men and women, the latter on disempowering women by portraying them as perpetual victims of the patriarchy.

This heretical view now requires campus security.

Prior to a mid-April lecture at Georgetown University, the American Enterprise Institute scholar was deemed a “rape apologist” by campus feminists for challenging statistics that she says overstate the rate of rape on campus. “The postings were so frantic that Georgetown sent undercover security into the audience,” Sommers told me.