All posts by Dr. Claire Bordelon

Pope Francis’ Weight of Glory and Motu Propio

the_weight_of_glory_by_fullofeyes-d4yttzg

By Claire Bordelon

I’m the culture writer. I want to write about books, movies, music, and have the digital equivalent of a Finer Things Club. But Pope Francis’ issuance of two moltu propio has put a hold on that, since it invites a perhaps more authentic look at the role of Mother Church in our daily experience of the world.

As I said in my last post, it is quite easy to distance oneself from the world, but it is also easy to become so bound to her, bogged down in daily life, and even fearful of an in-depth examination of one’s life that we drown out what is often the only authentic voice speaking in our hearts. Pope Francis’ reformations of the Church’s process for granting annulments will no doubt be examined by far greater minds than my own, but it does resonate with the part of me that loves talking about culture because of what it points toward. Those pieces of art and experiences of human talent that resonate within us do so not because of the greatness they have in and of themselves, but because they echo some desire deep inside of us that perhaps we have not even noticed ourselves. As C.S. Lewis writes in The Weight of Glory:

The books or the music in which we thought the beauty was located will betray us if we trust to them; it was not in them, it only came through them, and what came through them was longing. These things—the beauty, the memory of our own past—are good images of what we really desire; but if they are mistaken for the thing itself they turn into dumb idols, breaking the hearts of their worshipers. For they are not the thing itself; they are only the scent of a flower we have not found, the echo of a tune we have not heard, news from a country we have never yet visited.

The most beautiful things are the truest; they know the deepest desires of our hearts and feed them with the only sustenance that will satiate us.

Pope Francis’ comments on this revised system are beautiful in that they speak to the desire for clear judgment and authentic mercy, two attributes often absent from what was before a lengthy and uncertain annulment process. In streamlining this process, Pope Francis has not only strengthened the Church’s stance on sacramental marriage, but also reaffirmed that sense in the human heart that the world today would so quickly diminish or deny completely: that we are made for truth, and in truth we find our happiness. The beacon of marriage and all that the Church does to protect this sacred vision of Christ’s divine love speaks to the Church’s great insight into the human heart, speaking words of truth and wisdom even to those who have forgotten how to hear Her.

In the Holy Father’s own words:

The Church, showing itself to the faithful as a generous mother, in a matter so closely linked to the salvation of souls manifests the gratuitous love of Christ by which we were saved.

Into the Darkness: Catholic Culture in a Troubled World

By Claire Bordelon

I made the mistake the other night of tuning into the VMAs. After watching for about 12.5 seconds, I changed the channel, but was still disturbed. What has happened to our culture? This thought has crossed my mind many times, but has really stayed with me over the past few days. It’s also a question posed by many amid the decline of spiritually and intellectually engaged communities. We no longer have the luxury of existing in a world where Christian sensibilities operate in harmony with the cultural landscape of our communities. It’s tempting to respond to this rift by clinging to the Church, and surely this must be a part of our response. However, devoting oneself to the Church doesn’t mean completely disengaging with culture.

There is a trend among some to preserve their faith by rebuking every aspect of the world, putting as much distance as possible between themselves and the threatening culture they so fear. However, this extreme separation adopts a sense of fatalism that is more threatening to the Spiritual vision than anything Miley Cyrus has ever done. If the world is continually in decline, with no hope of conversion or change, we may as well just wait around, absenting ourselves from the public sphere as much as possible until Christ comes to destroy everything.

Continue reading Into the Darkness: Catholic Culture in a Troubled World

O Antiphons Day 3: O Radix Jesse (A Day Late)

O-Radix-Jesse-1

By Claire Bordelon

When meeting someone for the first time, it’s fairly common practice for Louisianians to ask, “who’s your mama?” In fact, there’s a pretty successful line of cookbooks centered on that very theme, for those of you who are interested. What then proceeds is usually a litany of last names, hometowns, and a catalogue of marriages and births that have taken place, to which someone inevitably responds that yes, they see the family resemblance: “you have your mama’s eyes,” or “that’s the [insert family name] nose, right there.”

I mention this particular quirk of Louisiana because it stands so clearly aligned with today’s O Antiphon, O Radix Jesse, which focuses on this same notion of familial relation, Christ’s lineage, and our own inheritance as a community of faithful:

O Root of Jesse, who standest as the ensign of the people, before whom kings shall not open their lips; to whom the Gentiles shall pray: come and deliver us, tarry now no more.

The reference to Isaiah’s prophecy that “A shoot shall come out from the stock of Jesse, and a branch shall grow out of his roots” (11:1) draws our minds back to our own rootedness in Christ. But what family resemblance can we, the often wayward adopted sons and daughters, hope to share with Christ and his lineage? As unlikely as it may seem, that is precisely what constitutes much of our spiritual journeys toward or away from God. This is an especially important meditation to make at this moment in the Liturgical Year; as we await Christ, we are called to reflect upon the ways that our spiritual countenances resemble (or fail to resemble) Christ’s. Faith, hope, and charity are the components of our family tree, those traces of an ancestral face made present again through our devotion to Christ.

The good news is that just as having your mama’s eyes is likely to get you invited over for dinner, our spiritual resemblance to Christ initiates us into an even more perfect and joyful Heavenly Banquet. I just hope there’s gumbo.

The Freedom to Be Sinners, the Freedom to Become Saints

pic_related_011314_SM_Governing-the-Interior

By Claire Bordelon

I had a friend once who, having been turned down by a guy she was interested in dating, blithely said, “Well, if he doesn’t like me, we obviously don’t have much in common, because I love myself!”

I thought of that friend as I was reading this week’s chapter of Fr. Philippe’s Interior Freedom (check out last week’s post if you missed it) entitled “Accepting Ourselves.” There are three main points that Fr. Philippe makes in this section, all of which I suppose were working in my friend at that particular moment:

  1. God is realistic.
    Let’s face it – my life is not exactly glamorous. I’m a high school teacher living in South Louisiana studying literature and currently trying to resist the temptation to finish off the family-sized pack of Reese’s I told myself I’d bought for my students. Yes, I have grand visions of a life spent in spiritual progress and positive relationships and monumental moments, but, in reality, this is what I’ve got. God isn’t waiting to touch my life until I’ve retreated to the top of a mountain somewhere to contemplate His greater vision for my future – he does it in between fourth and fifth period when I’m running to the bathroom after chugging four cups of coffee and trying to avoid running over freshmen. He’s down here in the dirt with me because, well, the dirt is where I live. God knows my sin and is unafraid of it.

    The great secret of all spiritual fruitfulness and growth is learning to let God act.

    Accepting my own weaknesses is doing just that – letting God act on my sinful, small little life, and trusting that greatness will come of it.

  2. Accepting ourselves requires viewing ourselves through God’s perspective.  I suspect that the reason my friend had such high self-esteem was a result of her wonderful family and the fact that she was frequently surrounded by people who loved her. She was able to see herself the way that those who loved her most saw her; however, those looks, though tender and authentic, are nothing when compared to the divine vision of Christ, who sees us most realistically and loves us most ardently. The great gift of prayer, then, is to be offered a perspective of ourselves that is abundantly true, but also abundantly loving.
  1. We have the freedom to be sinners, the freedom to become saints.  An outgrowth of #2, seeing ourselves as God sees us, is that we become free (isn’t that what this whole project is about?). Our sins do not scandalize God; instead, this true vision gives us the freedom to be who we are – poor, low, confused, hopeful, bright, etc. Of course, this does not equate with the irresponsibility of sinning without fear of the consequences, but now, we are not crushed under the weight of our own mistakes, but free to acknowledge them and move forward, confident in God’s ability to work wonders within us, lowly sinners though we are. Such an attitude creates a feeling of relaxed acceptance of who we are that is commensurate with an intense, driving desire toward holiness.I’ll end this section with a beautiful quote from Fr. Philippe himself:

    One of the most  essential conditions for God’s grace to act in our lives is saying yes to what we are and to the situations in which we find ourselves.

    Next week, Part 4: Accepting Suffering

Let the Free Man Through or, Hope for a Consenting Heart

pic_related_011314_SM_Governing-the-Interior

Check here for the first entry in this series.

This week, I’m taking the first chapter of Interior Freedom (“The Search for Freedom”). For those of you following along at home, that’s pages 9-31.

Over my years of teaching, I’ve become something of an uncompromising tyrant a conscientious objector to the notion of Sparknotes. So let’s keep the fact that I’m about to give you the Sparknotes version of one of the most perspective-altering texts I’ve read in a long time, maybe ever, just between us. It’s a necessary evil, unfortunately, since my first draft of this post was 2,000 words and Fr. Matt suggested I revise. To avoid such an epic, I’ve decided to focus on a few particular moments of insight from the chapter and devote my reflections to those.

The first and most fundamental moment of clarity that Fr. Philippe offers is the relationship between freedom and happiness. While the relationship seems to be clear (“I am the happiest when I have the most options before me, when I am the least limited, when I am the most free”), Philippe inserts a significant causal component here:

The kind of love that is the result of constraint, or self-interest, or the mere satisfaction of a need, does not deserve the name love…there is true love, and therefore happiness, only between people who freely yield possession of the self in order to give themselves to another…Freedom gives value to love, and love is the precondition of happiness.

This seems like a simple point, but the elegance of the nearly mathematical treatment of the road to happiness via love sustains the more abstract points yet to be made. Which brings me to my next moment of revelation:

You were within me, and I was outside myself, and sought you outside myself!

That moment of spiritual brilliance is courtesy of St. Augustine and relays Fr. Philippe’s argument that the greatest and truest freedom exists not in the number of paint colors you might select or the job opportunities you have before you, but in the quiet yet monumental choice that happens everyday within the human heart – the choice to  love or to fear.

With this in mind, Fr. Philippe ends his first chapter with an account of the three possible attitudes one may adopt in the face of perceived lack of freedom: rebellion, resignation, and consent. Of the first two, I will only say that they are gradations of the same sterile response to imposition (though Philippe does note the appropriate use of rebellion and resignation, respectively). It is in this last moment that I am most interested. The notion of consent implies the ideal response to limitations and restrictions upon ourselves. Compared to resignation (an essentially passive response) consent at once establishes the significance of the one who gives consent, while at the same time, the consenter embraces his own limitations with the joyfulness of Christian hope. The difference between resignation and consent is important here: it’s the difference between being carried away to your undesired path, fearful of the dark way ahead, and walking there of your own accord, embracing with hope the potential for a good end.

This. Changes. Everything.

The personality faults you’ve labored under and resented within your own heart? The resigned suffer under the weight of their inadequacy; the consenting moves forward in spite of their failings, knowing that God can move beyond deficiencies to make something beautiful. The financial burdens that daily overwhelm you? The resigned are lost within their fear; the consenting are able to trust in the providence of God with the confident abandonment of the saints. Our freedom is restored to us in the moment we make the free decision to choose that which we would not have chosen. And, in that way,

The act of consent, therefore, contains faith in God, confidence toward him, and hence also love, since trusting someone is already a way of loving him. For wherever faith, hope, or love are, openness to God’s grace, acceptance of grace, and, sooner or later, the positive effects of grace are necessarily present. Where grace is accepted, it is never in vain, but always extraordinarily fruitful.

As an aside, a friend offered this clip from Of Gods and Men which illustrates Fr. Philippe’s point nicely.

Next week, a real doozie: “Chapter 2: Accepting Ourselves.” Challenge accepted.

 

 

 

 

Jacques Philippe and the Little Despot: A Book Club of Sorts

pic_related_011314_SM_Governing-the-Interior

By Claire Bordelon

From our first experience with the word “no,” there is something significant in that declaration of personal freedom; it becomes entwined with our perceptions of the boundaries of others’ influence over ourselves and our daily lives. It is true that we desire freedom. We are, we are told, sovereigns (some of us, to be fair, are more like little despots) of our own kingdoms: independent, immutable and, of course, completely free.

Through the recommendation of a friend, I recently began reading Jacques Philippe’s Interior Freedom, which, among other things, has called me to a reevaluation of my understanding of that word “freedom” (pause for “you keep using that word…” reference here). What is it about this concept of freedom that has become the repository not only of all our hopes, dreams, futures, and escapes, but also our excuses, justifications, and rebellions?

I get it. I really do. To be free is so deeply rooted in the human heart that the desire alone rarely goes through any examination; of course I desire to be free, what’s the problem with that? The problem is, I am not free. I am burdened by things outside of my control. I am forced into situations through no choice of my own and my resistance to them offers no relief and leaves me instead in spiritual tumult. Even when I resist successfully, the fear of those moments that restrict me and bind me to something I’d rather be free of lingers. So I must admit, then, that I’m not free. I am limited. And further, I will never be free according to my current definition of the word. How, then, do I reconcile my deeply-rooted desire for freedom with the apparent impossibility of ever achieving it? Interior Freedom begins to offer an answer:

To achieve true interior freedom we must train ourselves to accept, peacefully and willingly, plenty of things that seem to contradict our freedom. This means consenting to our personal limitations, our weaknesses, our powerlessness, this or that situation that life imposes on us, and so on. We find it difficult to do this, because we feel a natural revulsion for situations we cannot control. But the fact is that the situations that really make us grow are precisely those we do not control.

The idea is a challenging one, to be sure, and one that requires an intense commitment to daily examination and a reevaluation of things that I’ve held onto for, well, my whole life. And so, over the next few weeks, I’ll be offering a book study of sorts. I’ll read a section of Interior Freedom and, after reflection, offer my thoughts on what I’ve read. As an aside, Fr. Jacques Philippe will be visiting Lafayette this spring and preaching the Lenten mission at Our Lady of Wisdom Church and Catholic Student Center on the University of Louisiana at Lafayette’s campus (Geaux Cajuns!), which will hopefully result in more of these book studies in the future.

I invite you to read along with me and offer your own impressions on the readings in the comments section below.

I’ll start with the first section (“Freedom and Acceptance”) next week.  For a preview of the book, or to read more, check out Fr. Jacques Philippe’s Website.

 

An Ambassador in Chains: The Danger of the Impostor Syndrome

impostor

Because so much of my life is centered around writing (I’m an English teacher, graduate student, blogger, etc.), it’s hard to ignore the different responses I have to my different writing milieus.

Writing with my students is easy; let’s face it – they just don’t know any better and there is something liberating about being in front of twenty people who generally believe you are the authority on whatever you’re talking about. We often conduct workshops in class in which we critique each other’s writing and offer suggestions for improvement. My writing is always featured heavily within the students’ as well and the sessions are usually enjoyable and often accompanied by food (which, to be honest, is probably the real source of their joy).

Writing as a graduate student is a little trickier. There’s a different voice, tone, purpose, strategy – the entire endgame is different. Confidence becomes an issue in graduate studies in a different way than it does in my life as a teacher. Am I even remotely close to a “right” idea? Have I researched enough? Have I read enough? Am I going to pass unnoticed through the boundary line of intellectual approval without being found out? It’s this fear of “being found out” that has plagued me through most of my academic career. Come to find out, many others feel the same way and it’s such a big deal that there’s even a Wikipedia page devoted to the “Impostor Syndrome” and the Chronicle of Higher Education featured a piece on the subject just last year. The implications of the Impostor Syndrome are, for me, not very far-reaching, at least in my academic experience, but I bring the issue to light to talk about another way in which the Impostor Syndrome does take hold in a far more dangerous way.

Continue reading An Ambassador in Chains: The Danger of the Impostor Syndrome

Are All Good Books Catholic Books?

Melk_-_Abbey_-_Library

By Claire Bordelon

I recently came across an intriguing book titled All Good Books are Catholic Books released by Cornell Press in 2013. A survey of the Catholic Church’s attitude toward the social, cultural, economic, and political developments of the twentieth-century, it makes some claims I’m not sure I agree with but are nonetheless thought-provoking. To that end, I began thinking about the books that feed spiritually, artistically, and every way in between. Below is the list of books that came to mind first – while they’re not necessarily based in Catholic theology (though some are), they certainly feed the Catholic soul. 

Consider this my Summer Reading List:

  1. Brideshead Revisited – Evelyn Waugh
    Published in 1945, Waugh’s Bideshead Revisited explores the personalities and stories of a flawed but intriguing Roman Catholic aristocratic family. Dealing with divine grace and its effects on various members of the story, Brideshead presents a colorful, varied, and rich discussion of the rejection and acceptance of faith and the movement between those two poles.
  2. The Woman of the Pharisees  – Francois Mauriac
    The Woman of the Pharisees–one of Mauriac’s most accomplished novels–is a penetrating evocation of the moral and religious values of a Bordeaux community. In Brigitte, we see how the ideals of love and companionship are stifled in the presence of a self-righteous woman whose austere religious principals lead her to interfere–disasterously–in the lives of others. One by one the unwitting victims fall prey to the bleakness of her “perfection.” A conscientious schoolteacher, a saintly priest, her husband and stepdaughter and an innocent schoolboy are all confronted with tragedy and upheaval. But the author’s extraordinary gift for psychological insight goes on to show how redeeeming features inevitably surface from disaster. The unfolding drama is seen through the discerning eye of a young Louis–Brigitte’s stepson–whose point of view is skillfully blended into the mature and understanding adult he later becomes.
  3. Leaper: The Misadventures of a Not-Necessairly-Super Hero – Geoffrey Wood
    A fun and fast read, Leaper chronicles the reluctant hero, James, who suddenly discovers (or maybe imagines?) hitherto unknown superpowers. What kind of good can James do with his abilities? What is “good”? Humorous and poignant, Geoffrey Wood asks these questions and more in his unexpected and vastly entertaining  debut novel.
  4. The Complete Father Brown Stories – G.K. Chesterton
    Fans of Agatha Christie, rejoice! The Father Brown mysteries combine a bit of Hercule Poirot’s “little grey cells” with Chesterton’s eye for detail and rich prose in the quiet, witty, and genial character of Father Brown.
  5. The End of the Affair – Graham Greene
    A moving recounting of the affair and aftermath between Sarah Miles and narrator Maurice Bendrix, The End of the Affair is as unexpected as it is painfully beautiful. The intimacy of the narrative voice paired with the enigmatic movement of the plot follow Bendrix as he chronicles his journey from obsessive love to hatred for Sarah, her husband Henry, and finally to the God whom he is forced to recognize, even amid his darkness and confusion.As a side note, the last forty pages are some of the most heart-wrenching and beautifully written passages I’ve read in a long time.
  6. The Moviegoer – Walker Percy
    The Moviegoer is Binx Bolling, a young New Orleans stockbroker who surveys the world with the detached gaze of a Bourbon Street dandy even as he yearns for a spiritual redemption he cannot bring himself to believe in. On the eve of his thirtieth birthday, he occupies himself dallying with his secretaries and going to movies, which provide him with the “treasurable moments” absent from his real life. But one fateful Mardi Gras, Binx embarks on a hare-brained quest that outrages his family, endangers his fragile cousin Kate, and sends him reeling through the chaos of New Orleans’ French Quarter. Wry and wrenching, rich in irony and romance, The Moviegoer is a genuine American classic and must-read.
  7. Everything that Rises Must Converge – Flannery O’Connor
    Short stories make the perfect interlude for a rainy summer afternoon, and if you’re going to read them, you may as well start at the top. Everything that Rises Must Converge exemplifies O’Connor’s understanding of the beautiful and the grotesque, and once you’ve read a few of her stories, you’ll recognize her voice anywhere.
  8. Till We Have Faces: A Myth Retold – C.S. Lewis
    Lewis’ last novel retells the story of Cupid and Psyche through the eyes of Psyche’s sister, Orual. Persuading her sister to look upon the forbidden face of Cupid, Orual is left to plunge into a deep and illuminative contemplation of suffering and the human soul. The book is a creative vision of Lewis’ own philosophy and imagination – if you’ve read and admired other works by Lewis (especially Surprised by Joy), this is a must-read.
  9. The Chronicles of Narnia -C.S. Lewis
    The world-building powers of Lewis are at their finest in Chronicles of Narnia, which chronicle the world of Narnia from its first moments through its self-defining moments and troubles. Fantasy enthusiasts should be ashamed if they’ve not yet ventured into Narnia.
  10. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization – Thomas E. Woods, Jr.
    For a break from fiction and a history lesson, take a look at this survey by Thomas Woods, which outlines the integral and defining role the Catholic Church has played in the development of Western Civilization.
  11. Space Trilogy – C.S. Lewis
    This is another must-read for fantasy and sci-fi fans. Lewis’ trilogy follows  Dr. Ransom, a Cambridge academic who is abducted and taken to the planet Malacandra and the various adventures and discoveries he makes not only about this new world, but also his own “Silent Planent.” Tinged with Lewis’ philosophical touches and brilliant manipulation of language and world-building, Space Trilogy will appeal to any looking for a different and engaging side to the Lewis they loved from Narnia.
  12. Cold Mountain – Charles Frazier
    Inman is a disillousioned Confederate soldier who has failed to die after being seriously wounded during the last days of the Civil War. Longing to be reunited with his beloved, Ada, Inman embarks on an odyssey through the ruined South he once new. This is a Hero’s Journey story for the Civil War buff, and represents a beautiful addition to the American canon.
  13.  The Man Who Was Thursday – G.K. Chesterton
    In a fantasy London, police hero Gregory Syme cannot reveal fellow poet Lucian Gregory is an anarchist. Elected undercover into the Central European Council of anarchists, Syme must avoid discovery and save the world from bombings by anarchists named after the days of the week.  Buckle up for a different Chesterton than the one you thought you knew – The Man Who Was Thursday requires and then rewards immersion into this fantastic and hyper-realistic world.
  14. My Life with the Saints – James Martin
    If you’re not usually keen on the lives of the Saints, Martin’s episodic narrative of his various encounters with the saints offers a spiritual memoir that reminds the sleepy Catholic of his friendship with the saints and the rich and vibrant lives we can share with them.
  15. Left to Tell – Immaculee Ilibagiza
    I read this book in one sitting. Equal parts horrified and inspired, I couldn’t stop myself from turning page after page of Immaculee Ilibagiza’s harrowing story of the 91 days she spent hiding in a bathroom during the Rwandan Genocide in 1994.
  16. The Road – Cormac McCarthy
    If you’re looking for a light, inspiring read, this is not it. The Road follows a father-son pair through a post-apocalyptic America in which a pistol, a cart of scavenged food, and each other are the only defense they have against not only the barren landscape but also the lawless bands that stalk the deserted roads. The stark language mirrors the setting and offers an excellent introduction to readers looking for a taste of some excellent dystopian fiction.
  17. The  Diary of a Country Priest – George Bernanos
    In this classic Catholic novel, Bernanos movingly recounts the life of a young French country priest who grows to understand his provincial parish while learning spiritual humility himself.
  18. Letters to a Young Catholic – George Weigel
    Another non-fiction interlude in this list, Letters to a Young Catholic is George Weigel’s tour of the Catholic World and helps us understand how Catholicism fosters what Flannery O’Connor called “the habit of being.” Taking the reader by the hand, Weigel embarks on a journey to Catholic landmarks as diverse as Chartres Cathedral and St. Mary’s Church in Greenville, South Carolina. Not just for the young!
  19. The Poems of Gerard Manly Hopkins – G.M. Hopkins
    G.M. Hopkins is an excellent introduction for those disinclined to like poetry. Accessible and meditative, take these to prayer, read one in the morning, or read them all in one fell swoop. You won’t regret it.
  20. Death Comes for the Archbishop – Willa Cather
     In 1851 Father Jean Marie Latour comes as the Apostolic Vicar to New Mexico. What he finds is a vast territory of red hills and tortuous arroyos, American by law but Mexican and Indian in custom and belief. Latour spreads his faith in the only way he knows–gently, although he must contend with an unforgiving landscape, derelict and sometimes openly rebellious priests, and his own loneliness. One of these events Cather gives us an indelible vision of life unfolding in a place where time itself seems suspended.
  21. East of Eden – John Steinbeck
    I tried to limit myself to a single Steinbeck on this list, so I picked my favorite. Grapes of Wrath is always the popular choice, but forgive me, East of Eden is, as they say, where it’s at.Set in the rich farmland of California’s Salinas Valley, this sprawling and often brutal novel follows the intertwined destinies of two families—the Trasks and the Hamiltons—whose generations helplessly reenact the fall of Adam and Eve and the poisonous rivalry of Cain and Abel. Here Steinbeck created some of his most memorable characters and explored his most enduring themes: the mystery of identity; the inexplicability of love; and the murderous consequences of love’s absence
  22. The Lord of the Rings – J.R.R. Tolkien
    I told my students once that if they hadn’t read this book, they were only living a half-life. They disagreed, but I still stand firm. Tolkien’s Middle-Earth is both incomprehensibly sophisticated and completely engaging. Chronicling the journey of the One Ring via the Ringbearer, Frodo, Tolkien’s story is best advertised in the words of the writer himself:”The Lord of the Rings is of course a fundamentally religious and Catholic work. Unconsciously so at first, but consciously in the revision. That is why I have not put in, or have cut out, practically all references to anything like “religion”, to cults or practices, in the Imaginary world. For the religious element is absorbed into the story and the symbolism.”
  23. The Hobbit – J.R.R. Tolkien
    Ditto above.
  24. Wise Blood – Flannery O’Connor
    It is a story of Hazel Motes, a twenty-two-year-old caught in an unending struggle against his innate, desperate faith. He falls under the spell of a “blind” street preacher named Asa Hawks and his degenerate fifteen-year-old daughter, Lily Sabbath. In an ironic, malicious gesture of his own non-faith, and to prove himself a greater cynic than Hawkes, Hazel Motes founds The Church of God Without Christ, but is still thwarted in his efforts to lose God. He meets Enoch Emery, a young man with “wise blood,” who leads him to a mummified holy child, and whose crazy maneuvers are a manifestation of Hazel’s existential struggles. This tale of redemption, retribution, false prophets, blindness, blindings, and wisdoms gives us one of the most riveting characters in twentieth-century American fiction.
  25. Suite Francaise – Irene Nemirovsky
    Beginning in Paris on the eve of the Nazi occupation in 1940. Suite Française tells the remarkable story of men and women thrown together in circumstances beyond their control. As Parisians flee the city, human folly surfaces in every imaginable way: a wealthy mother searches for sweets in a town without food; a couple is terrified at the thought of losing their jobs, even as their world begins to fall apart. Moving on to a provincial village now occupied by German soldiers, the locals must learn to coexist with the enemy—in their town, their homes, even in their hearts.

Comment below with book suggestions – what are your must-reads?

 

[Insert “Let Them Eat Cake” Joke Here]

The past few days have seen another Christian v. Christian throwdown online, this time over Arizona’s proposed bill that would allow members of the service industry to refuse service to same-sex couples on the basis of moral and religious objections.

The real fun began when Kristen Powers compared the bill to homosexual Jim Crow laws. And the internet exploded.

To help you make sense of and develop your own views on the tenuous balance between many states’ changing stance on marriage laws and the rights of individuals to follow their religious or moral conscience, we’ve gathered together a few logical, reasonable commentaries that deal with a variety of sides to the issue.  Peruse at your leisure, but there is one quote by Michael F. Bird that seems especially pertinent:

Christians live in the market place and think in the public square, we cannot retreat because we are surrounded by non-Christian culture, so there is literally nowhere to go. Our escape route is cut off, there is no cavalry coming to save us, there are no wagons to circle. So its time to set up shop, get busy as tinkers, tailors, and candle stick makers or  get on as journalists, academics, and pastors in the place where God has put us!

Proceeding alphabetically, chronologically, or geographically, Elizabeth Scalia’s consideration that Powers’ Jim Crow comparison is “a rhetorical bridge too far” is a good starting point.

Since much of this issue revolves around the ever disintegrating meaning of the word “tolerance,” Edward Morrissey discusses the growing intolerance of toleration.

For a good, general read on some of the the issues that have arisen from this argument, check out Tod Worner’s “‘Living Within the Truth’: Vaclav Havel and ‘The Power of the Powerless.'”

Is money doing the talking here? Rebecca Hamilton looks at the economics behind the issue. 

Michael Bird reminds us how to be a Christian in (but not of) our world.

Denny Burk provides some excellent commentary on the rather disappointing ways that the current argument has been conducted, especially between Christians.

Read, think, pray, decide.

According to NBC, My Parents Are Cool and Alternative

My parents just moved into the alt crowd, and, in typical “alternative” fashion, they don’t care at all.

The days the traditional husband+wife+2.5 children equation are over, it seems. In a recent article on David Wise, the freestyle skiing gold-medalist, NBC’s Skyler Wilder marvels over the twenty-three-year-old’s maturity, and the surprisingly “adult” lifestyle he leads in his day-to-day life in Reno, Nevada.

While it’s clear that Wilder’s piece is meant to be complimentary (she notes that Wise “likely has the most stable life” of all his competitors), the characterization of Wise’s lifestyle as something “other,” a novel innovation on the normal twenty-something experience of partying, egocentrism, and general waywardness is surprising.

Why is Wise’s lifestyle so “alternative?” Is it because he has a child in his early twenties? A wife? Perhaps it’s because he’s an active participant in the parenting of two-year-old Nayeli. It seems that Wilder finds the whole package curious, especially the fact that Wise “also attends church regularly and says he could see himself becoming a pastor a little later down the road.” Wilder follows this fact with the quip: “not exactly the picture you had in mind while watching him nail two double corks wearing baggy pants.”

We get it – the “me” generation has not been characterized as the poster child(ren?) of responsibility, maturity, and all that goes along with being in the family way. But Wilder’s attitude belies a more fundamental perspective on that (my) generation that seems at once dismissive and, perhaps unintentionally, condescending.

As David T. Koyzis notes, this inclination to view Wise’s professional persona as contradictory to the image of an actively-engaged father (or any father at all, really) is missing the point. A well-balanced life that embraces the challenges (shall we call them crosses?) of each role is what we are called to, and Wise should be praised for his apparent ability to fulfill that calling. However, to call that ability an act of embracing an “alternative lifestyle?” I am not convinced.