Some interesting thoughts on contextualization.
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Two links on the Harry Potter books.
First, an interview with Jerram Barrs (author of the book Echoes of Eden: Reflections on Christianity, Literature, and the Arts).
Second, an old review on the series with a lovely title: Harry Potter is Dreadful and Vulgar (and it’s mostly positive!).
I thought these two articles were interesting conversations on the quest for purity (and for solidarity) on the left side of the evangelical blogosphere that mirror problems that are often highlighted in the more conservative world.
First, there is a fascinating essay on purity in progressive Christianity. Particularly the near requirement of rigid orthodoxy and the toll that takes psychologically on some, at least. Here’s an early paragraph that sets the tone:
The one thing I want to draw attention to his how a purity mentality ran through the leftist and radical groups Aurora worked with. Interestingly, this purity mentality was oriented around a set of “sacred beliefs”–an “orthodoxy.” This is exactly what you see among evangelical Christians. More, this orthodoxy is used to separate “the good guys” from “the bad guys.” Beliefs create warrants for social exclusion, expulsion and scapegoating.
And it happens in every group, I fear.
And here’s a specific example. How individuals and groups deal with allegations of abuse. And particularly related to the controversy about Tony Jones. The specifics of the charges are less my concern than the “circle the wagons” mentality I’ve experienced along the way. Again, I think it’s a sociological phenomenon – we try to protect our “tribe.” We just need to be aware of the tendency.
There was an interesting controversy at the Reformation 21 site about ECT. I think it sheds some interesting light on more fundamental mindsets and attitudes (and even some tensions within the Reformed movement). Here are a few links:
Here’s the now gone link (the article that got pulled; you get a Not Found message): Evangelicals and Catholics Together Twenty Years Later.
And then the fallout:
A Concurrence (to pulling the article; at least in spirit – it actually preceded the pull)
Interesting stuff. There’s more if you’re interested.
Reading transforms us. Now science shows us that is true. Here’s part of it:
Those who read a story or essay that they judged to be artistic changed their personality scores significantly more than did those who judged what they read to be less artistic.
Ross Douthat suggests that for all our interest in new ideas (and the transformations that may create), it may be some older ideas that provide answers to some of our most pressing issues. Especially religious ideas.
I think this is a very perceptive piece on why students don’t believe there are moral facts. They’ve been taught that facts are measurable and everything else is just opinion. That’s really muddled thinking. The essay explains why. This doesn’t of course mean all moral facts are easy to discern or that we should just accept what we have been taught. We can question proposed facts, but not their existence. Christians (and most religious people) do have some strong reason to believe in moral facts because we have a source of moral authority to guide our thinking, even if there are ongoing disagreements on precisely what those moral facts are.
And just to prove how common such muddled thinking is, here’s a response entitled Why Schools Should Undermine Moral Teachings. It’s hard to know where to start, but the simplest place is to simply note that the response doesn’t really respond to the point – in fact, it seems to provide it. The author doesn’t say whether there are moral facts or not, but seems to imply moral beliefs are all opinions. The original article, I should note, said nothing about whether schools should question moral teachings, but instead focused on their rejection of the existence of moral facts. She doesn’t seem to understand what a fact is (it is something that is true – whether it is believed or not, not something that is believed by some, many, or all people). Note for example this part of her response:
The statement among all these examples hardest to relegate to the “opinion” category, “all men are created equal,” is anything but fact (moral or otherwise) in much of the world and arguably in our own country. It’s a powerful opinion, one that, like Tinker Bell, requires our most fervent belief to keep it aloft. It’s also an opinion that, again and again, has required us to set aside beliefs once held so true as to be considered self-evident. It’s an opinion — a value — that has itself evolved.
Note what has happened. She doesn’t question the criteria for determining whether something is a moral fact. That is sometimes a hard a difficult thing if you don’t accept religious authority or some other external standard. She just assumes if not everyone agrees it must be an opinion.
One other note. She assumes that by creating this free-wheeling, “everything is opinion” world “we all end up on the right side of history.” Right side according to whom and by what standard? The right side is just an opinion, isn’t it? History is filled with plenty of morally reprehensible things, but if those are only opinion, I guess it doesn’t matter if we go back to slavery, genocide, and more. As long as enough people hold those opinions strongly.
This is an interesting post. A powerful piece about what it means to be a Christian I think. And I’m sad that she fears what Christians might say about her. I hope she’s wrong in that fear.
Ross Douthat shares some thoughts about Obama’s theological trajectory. His last point, that Niebuhrian analysis tinged by partisanship is unhelpful is very important. Here’s the concluding paragraph:
Obama was never going to have Ike’s authority, but he could still profit from his example. The deep problem with his Niebuhrian style isn’t that it’s too disenchanted or insufficiently pro-American. It’s that too often it offers “self”-criticism in which the president’s own party and worldview slip away untouched.