Saturday, September 08, 2018

On Reading Chesterton

Because I want to be an expert on detective fiction, I am reading the greats. Right now I'm entranced by Father Brown stories by G.K. Chesterton.

Folks who think they know Chesterton/Father Brown (or Doyle/Holmes) from watching TV depictions of them are mistaken. You really have to read the originals.

Father Brown stories are wonderful. It's hard to stop. However, I've run across something odd. Chesterton takes pot shots at Presbyterians.

Snide remarks about why pagan Scots turned to another form of quasi-paganism like Calvinism. Puritan put-downs. Here's an example from "The Hammer of God."

Look at that blacksmith, for instance,” went on Father Brown calmly; “a good man, but not a Christian — hard, imperious, unforgiving. Well, his Scotch religion was made up by men who prayed on hills and high crags, and learnt to look down on the world more than to look up at heaven. Humility is the mother of giants. One sees great things from the valley; only small things from the peak.”

I wondered what that was up, so did some research. Here's a good essay.

The essence of Chesterton's view seem to me to be:
1. He converted to Catholicism, and cognitive dissonance theory says he would be its strongest defender.
2. He (and other Catholics) conflate all Protestants.
3. He (and other Catholics) say the church came first and then the Bible, so we can't put Scripture before the Bible; the church created the Bible. Well, lots of problems there. Most of the Bible was written before the church even showed up (the Old Testament). The church of the first two centuries was not the church of Roman Catholicism, either. No pope, no veneration of saints, no celibacy required.
4. The "sins" of the Catholic church are very hard for Protestants to swallow. Sure, we have plenty of our own, but it's easy, especially now, to see the systemic and theological problems in Catholicism. Chesterton claimed that Protestants do not believe their own doctrine. I think we might say that Catholics believe theirs too much.
5. Finally, despite enjoying his writing, I have found some of his theological and apologetic writing too clever by half. Witty, very British, lots of paradoxes that get me thinking but also finding them unnecessary. I admit to being too prosaic.

For such a worm as I

Some will recognize that title as the original words of a hymn by Charles Wesley. "Would he devote that sacred head for such a worm as I?"

The words were changed to wretch over time. Still, both show a self-loathing that the recognition of our sinfulness might bring out.

Contrast with a song I heard on the radio the other day that asserted, "Because you saw I was worthy, you saved me."

How about no?

It seems hard for us to walk circumspectly between the two extremes of being a vile worm before God (because humankind is in the imago dei) and that we are redeemed because of our potential, because God saw something in us individually worth redeeming.

Like most things in life, getting that right is a life-long battle. I tell my communication students they will study and improve their communication all their lives. Likewise, we will be tempted to swing between these two extremes all our lives. Yes, we will feel like garbage, which we aren't. Or we will feel superior yet undervalued (which we might be in the employment sense but not in reality). Both are rooted in what Donald Miller calls our self addiction.

Saturday, September 01, 2018

The Mystery of the Butterfly

Yesterday afternoon my husband and I went shooting at a range far back in Murray County (since shooting ranges have to be away from populations). It was hot, which probably kept others away. We were there well over two hours and alone the whole time.

Except for the mosquitoes, gnats, flies, and oh, my, the butterflies. Beautiful indigo and purple butterflies with splashes of gold.

Try as I might, they eluded me, No matter how quietly I approached, they flew away as soon as my outstretched hand was within a few inches.  And why shouldn't they? What do I need with a butterfly?

So I watched, surprised that the gunshots did not seem to chase them away. I observed one intently and my husband shot, unexpectedly (I wear strong ear protection). The butterfly flinched or shuddered, but did not fly away. Yet it did when I tried to cut it in my hand.

A textbook I used to use for Humanities talked about the modern theory of the butterfly effect, that states that if a butterfly flutters its wings in Northwest Georgia it will affect the weather in Tokyo. I always thought that was sheer nonsense. How much more would a man shooting target practice? Yet the spirit of the theory is that my actions affect others, something we can never gauge and that I think would drive us insane if we took to heart. I read an article online recently that measured how much the daily Google searches affected energy use globally. So, do we stop doing research?

For those who balk at shooting guns, in the more rural Southeast owning guns is not seen as a determinant of violence. I like the shooting, although yesterday I didn't do much; my husband was more interested in tinkering with the technology, so I was the lovely assistant. But when I do shoot, it's fun and I'm fairly accurate. I confess to basic ignorance about types of guns so some research (using power thereby) wouldn't hurt. 

Wednesday, August 29, 2018

Tuesday, August 28, 2018

Sunday, August 26, 2018

Two deaths

People often say deaths come in threes, an odd comment, but they tend to mean deaths close to them or deaths of famous people.

In the last 24 hours Senator John McCain passed away, as expected (although perhaps sooner), and Neil Simon.  Either another is coming, or Aretha Franklin is in that mythical three.

Meghan McCain's tweet/tribute to her dad is heart-wrenching. Donald Trump is disgraced this weekend, rightly so, for his shameful dismissal of Senator McCain. Maybe the Republican party will regain its integrity after contemplating the difference between the two. I sort of hope they all turn on Trump once Brett Cavanaugh gets confirmed, since the only justification for Trump I can see is getting two non-liberal SCOTUS judges. Until then, I'm not calling myself a Republican.

Neil Simon wrote a lot of comedies that were good, some that were corny. My main thought about him is that his plays were really expensive to put on in colleges (due to royalties) and he would police that no lines were cut. Most of the time lines needed to be cut because they were dirty or dumb. 

Saturday, August 25, 2018

Time To Brag about Exploring Public Speaking

The third edition of Exploring Public Speaking, the free and very good college basic public speaking textbook, is international. We are on every continent except Antarctica. I received an email this morning from a professor in Palestine who is using it!

I have taught public speaking for 40 years, and my colleagues who contributed also have great experience. 

Here is the link:

On Reading Chesterton

Because I want to be an expert on detective fiction, I am reading the greats. Right now I'm entranced by Father Brown stories by G.K. Ch...