According to some Christian outlooks we were made for another world. Perhaps, rather, we were made for this world to recreate, reclaim, redeem, and renew unto God's future
aspiration by the power of His Spirit. - R.E. Slater
Our eschatological ethos is to love. To stand with those who are oppressed. To stand against those who are oppressing. It is that simple. Love is our only calling and Christian Hope. - R.E. Slater
Secularization theory has been massively falsified. We don't live in an age of secularity. We live in an age of explosive, pervasive religiosity... an age of religious pluralism. - Peter L. Berger
Exploring the edge of life and faith in a post-everything world. - Todd Littleton
I don't need another reason to believe, your love is all around for me to see. – anon
Thou art our need; and in giving us more of thyself thou givest us all. - Khalil Gibran, Prayer XXIII
Be careful what you pretend to be. You become what you pretend to be. - Kurt Vonnegut
Religious beliefs, far from being primary, are often shaped and adjusted by our social goals. - Jim Forest
People, even more than things, need to be restored, renewed, revived, reclaimed, and redeemed; never throw out anyone. – anon
Certainly God's love has made fools of us all. - R.E. Slater
An apocalyptic Christian faith doesn't wait for Jesus to come, but for Jesus to become in our midst. - R.E. Slater
Christian belief in God begins with the cross and resurrection of Jesus, not with rational apologetics. - Eberhard Jüngel, Jürgen Moltmann
Our knowledge of God is through the 'I-Thou' encounter, not in finding God at the end of a syllogism or argument. There is a grave danger in any Christian treatment of God as an object. The God of Jesus Christ and Scripture is irreducibly subject and never made as an object, a force, a power, or a principle that can be manipulated. - Emil Brunner
Ehyeh Asher Ehyeh means "I will be that who I have yet to become." - God (Ex 3.14)
Our job is to love others without stopping to inquire whether or not they are worthy. - Thomas Merton
The church is God's world-changing social experiment of bringing unlikes and differents to the Eucharist/Communion table to share life with one another as a new kind of family. When this happens we show to the world what love, justice, peace, reconciliation, and life together is designed by God to be. The church is God's show-and-tell for the world to see how God wants us to live as a blended, global, polypluralistic family united with one will, by one Lord, and baptized by one Spirit. – anon
The cross that is planted at the heart of the history of the world cannot be uprooted. - Jacques Ellul
The Unity in whose loving presence the universe unfolds is inside each person as a call to welcome the stranger, protect animals and the earth, respect the dignity of each person, think new thoughts, and help bring about ecological civilizations. - John Cobb & Farhan A. Shah
If you board the wrong train it is of no use running along the corridors of the train in the other direction. - Dietrich Bonhoeffer
God's justice is restorative rather than punitive; His discipline is merciful rather than punishing; His power is made perfect in weakness; and His grace is sufficient for all. – anon
Our little [biblical] systems have their day; they have their day and cease to be. They are but broken lights of Thee, and Thou, O God art more than they. - Alfred Lord Tennyson
We can’t control God; God is uncontrollable. God can’t control us; God’s love is uncontrolling! - Thomas Jay Oord
Life in perspective but always in process... as we are relational beings in process to one another so life events are in process in relation to each event... as God is to Self, is to world, is to us... like Father, like sons and daughters, like events... life in process yet always in perspective. - R.E. Slater
Christian humanism is the belief that human freedom, individual conscience, and unencumbered rational inquiry are compatible with the practice of Christianity or even intrinsic in its doctrine. It represents a philosophical union of Christian faith and classical humanist principles. - Scott Postma
It is never wise to have a self-appointed religious institution determine a nation's moral code. The opportunities for moral compromise and failure are high; the moral codes and creeds
assuredly racist, discriminatory, or subjectively and religiously defined; and the pronouncement of inhumanitarian political objectives quite predictable. - R.E. Slater

Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why Men Should Read Jane Austen

Occassionally I like to break out of Christian topics and simply look at culturally relevant material like this CT article below. However you may identify with it I think it behooves us to better listen and learn from one another as brothers and sisters in Christ.

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And, how we all should read works like ‘Pride and Prejudice.’
by Gina Dalfonzo
June 20, 2011
Nobel-winning novelist V. S. Naipaul recently started a firestorm with his remarks about female writers in general and Jane Austen in particular. According to the Guardian:
In an interview at the Royal Geographic Society on Tuesday about his career, Naipaul, who has been described as the "greatest living writer of English prose", was asked if he considered any woman writer his literary match. He replied: "I don't think so." Of Austen he said he "couldn't possibly share her sentimental ambitions, her sentimental sense of the world". 
He felt that women writers were "quite different". He said: "I read a piece of writing and within a paragraph or two I know whether it is by a woman or not. I think [it is] unequal to me." 
The author, who was born in Trinidad, said this was because of women's "sentimentality, the narrow view of the world". "And inevitably for a woman, she is not a complete master of a house, so that comes over in her writing too," he said.
Naipaul’s words caused controversy for obvious reasons: They were self-serving, condescending, and, as any of Austen’s millions of devoted readers could attest, wholly untrue. Not only was Austen’s talent equal to that of virtually any other great writer, but she was about as “sentimental” as a surgeon’s scalpel.

0620janeausten_L.jpgAs my friend Lori Smith writes in her book A Walk with Jane Austen, “Biographers sometimes wrestle with Austen’s complex character—the good Christian girl with the biting wit, with the ability to see and desire to expose the laughable and ludicrous. . . . She had a capacity for devotion as well as an ability to wryly, if at times harshly, engage the world around her.”

But Naipaul’s words will blow over before long, as publicity stunts tend to do. What should be troubling us is that his attitude seems to be deeply embedded in our culture. I’ve known quite a few men—educated, well-read men—who either dismiss Austen as “chick lit” or simply never bother to give her a thought. (I’ve even heard one man say that [Austen] didn’t know what she was talking about because she never married.) There are men who still read and enjoy her, but their number seems to be diminishing.

One reason for this, I’m afraid, is the way that many of us women read (and watch) Austen these days—drooling over the romances while passing over the satire and ignoring the fact that, as Lori puts it, “the triumph of [Austen's] books . . . is not only that the relationships come together but the kind of people who are allowed to come together—two people with characters that have been hammered out a bit, with faults that have been recognized and corrected.” In other words, the books are not just about love triumphant, but about the formation of good character and good values.

We Austen readers miss so much when we ignore the religious and moral bedrock of these novels. Sometimes we “use” the books rather than truly reading them (as C. S. Lewis expressed it in his insightful work An Experiment in Criticism), getting only romantic gratification out of them instead of thoughtfully taking in all that they have to offer. I’m not saying we shouldn’t enjoy the romance, but when we enjoy only that, we create an impression that that’s all these books are good for—and that’s an impression that’s hardly appealing to the average male reader.

0620jane-austen-addict.jpgAnother reason is that we as a society seem so determined to segregate children by gender as soon as they begin to read. It’s not that we do it out of bad motives; it’s more a matter of wanting to make sure that both girls and boys will love to read. The way to do that, most of us believe, is to offer books that appeal to them on the basis of gender—just as pop culture offers them movies and shows and games on that same basis. Have boys read only boyish books, the theory goes, and they’ll want to read more and more. Except that it doesn’t seem to be working out that way.

When we at BreakPoint started covering books for teens and tweens, we heard from several parents begging for some good reading options for their sons. Yet the libraries and bookstores are full of books about boys and their pursuits. Why, then, do parents have such a hard time finding material?

Maybe the answer lies in what we’ve taught them to enjoy. Everyone has different tastes, of course, but I wonder if we adults have had more input into children’s tastes than we realize. In fact, I wonder if our gender-based ideas have created something of a vicious circle: The more we promote books that we think boys will like—always exciting, not too difficult, with as many boys and as few girls as possible—the more we help to narrow their minds and ensure that they’ll never try anything else. And in the process, we’re exhausting the amount of literary resources available to them.

This problem doesn’t just involve gender, of course; it’s also about what Lewis called “chronological snobbery,” which is far more rampant in our time than in his. It leads too many parents to dismiss shelves full of classics that appealed to children in earlier generations, in endless pursuit of the modern and relevant. We send them the message that classic literature is too hard, too boring, too far removed from their lives—is it any wonder they believe it? And this doesn’t apply just to Jane Austen, or even just to female authors. Try running a blog about Charles Dickens, and finding yourself constantly explaining to people that (1) yes, Dickens is worth reading, (2) no, he was not “paid by the word,” and (3) no, they do not deserve to be pitied for the rest of their lives because a teacher “forced” them to read him.

I realize I’m asking for a lot here. These days, teaching children, regardless of gender, to enjoy all sorts of literature from all sorts of authors is generally held to be far too difficult and not worth the effort. I’m not saying it would be easy, but I am saying it would be very much worth the effort. Aside from the obvious benefits to their intellect, vocabulary, and faith—for many of those great writers incorporated a Christian worldview into their work—it would broaden their horizons and teach them that it might just be possible to learn something from people who are different from them.

V.S. Naipaul might not approve, but I’ll bet Jane Austen would.

Gina Dalfonzo is editor of and Dickensblog. She wrote "The Good Christian Girl: A Fable" and "God Loves a Good Romance" for CT online, and Guarding Your Marriage without Dissing Women,” “Bill Maher Slurs Sarah Palin, NOW Responds,” “The Social Network’s Women Problem,” "Facebook Envy on Valentine's Day," "What Are Wedding Vows For, Anyway?" "Why Sex Ruins TV Romances," and "Don't Think Pink" for Her.meneutics. Her book, “‘Bring Her Down’: How the American Media Tried to Destroy Sarah Palin,” is now available on Amazon.

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