Worth Reading - 11/18

1. A fun article about book curses. Because books used to be so expensive, people used to wish some pretty dire consequences on those that might steal or mutilate them.

In the Middle Ages, creating a book could take years. A scribe would bend over his copy table, illuminated only by natural light—candles were too big a risk to the books—and spend hours each day forming letters, by hand, careful never to make an error. To be a copyist, wrote one scribe, was painful: “It extinguishes the light from the eyes, it bends the back, it crushes the viscera and the ribs, it brings forth pain to the kidneys, and weariness to the whole body.”
Given the extreme effort that went into creating books, scribes and book owners had a real incentive to protect their work. They used the only power they had: words. At the beginning or the end of books, scribes and book owners would write dramatic curses threatening thieves with pain and suffering if they were to steal or damage these treasures.
They did not hesitate to use the worst punishments they knew—excommunication from the church and horrible, painful death. Steal a book, and you might be cleft by a demon sword, forced to sacrifice your hands, have your eyes gouged out, or end in the “fires of hell and brimstone.”

2. While some try to push religion entirely out of the public square, insisting that religious reasoning has no place in politics, Elizabeth Stoker Brunig went to the Yale Political Union to argue exactly the opposite. It is a speech that is certainly worth reading.

That religion has no place in government is both a positive and normative statement, by which I mean it can be read both ways: as either a statement of fact, that there simply is no place for religion in government; or as a statement with moral intention, that there ought to be no place for religion in government.
These two readings are related but not the same. They are related both because whether something is so is no argument for its being so, and because, things that are nonetheless often carry moral inertia, and justify themselves by their being. So it’s worthwhile to consider the two propositions apart.

3. Bethany Jenkins has written a spectacular piece on conforming to Scripture and not the wisdom of the world. The most important thing a Christian woman (or any Christian) can do is cling to God's truth and not allow it to be divorced from emotional intelligence.

But there is no peace in self-affirmation, since we’re not reliable sources. We’re fickle, vacillating daily between accusing and affirming ourselves. Our hearts are deceptive, seeking ways to embrace our selfish desires. Like Eve, we crave the words of the serpent: “Make yourself happy. Don’t worry about what anyone says. Do it your own way.”
We need someone—someone outside of us, someone who isn’t fickle or deceptive—to tell us who we are, what we need, and that we’re okay. In short, we need God. He is the only one who tells us that we’re far more broken than we think, but far more loved than we can imagine. His stamp of approval is the most affirming, since it is the most accurate.

4. There has been a pretty significant reaction since the Presidential election against identity politics. While there is danger that the reaction will go to far, this analysis presents a fair critique of the problem on the political and social left and why it left so many out of touch with the people on the right and in the middle.

But the fixation on diversity in our schools and in the press has produced a generation of liberals and progressives narcissistically unaware of conditions outside their self-defined groups, and indifferent to the task of reaching out to Americans in every walk of life. At a very young age our children are being encouraged to talk about their individual identities, even before they have them. By the time they reach college many assume that diversity discourse exhausts political discourse, and have shockingly little to say about such perennial questions as class, war, the economy and the common good. In large part this is because of high school history curriculums, which anachronistically project the identity politics of today back onto the past, creating a distorted picture of the major forces and individuals that shaped our country. (The achievements of women’s rights movements, for instance, were real and important, but you cannot understand them if you do not first understand the founding fathers’ achievement in establishing a system of government based on the guarantee of rights.)

5. One of the toughest issues to discuss graciously as Christians is the issue of the morality of transgenderism. Here is a podcast with a qualified sexologist and later an interview with someone who identifies as transwoman while affirming her status as Christian. Even if you disagree with the analysis at the end of the day, this is a sensitive and honest conversation about an important topic.