Thursday, May 26, 2011

Addendum to Living Without Cable and Internet

I have noticed a lot of the traffic to this blog came here because of searches for "Living without cable and Internet."  I apologize somewhat because that was not what it was really about (that is, not a list of ways to do it).  I don't know how someone could live without Internet today because the default position is that anyone who needs something done legally, informationally, medically, etc., can "look it up on the Internet."  We are facing that with my mother now.  She is 83 and has resisted using the 'net, but I think I am going to have to teach her.  My brother, who passed away Sunday, helped her with those kinds of things and she depended on him.

I don't think business, government, etc. have been fair to the elderly, the poor, undereducated, and minorities in going to the default position that you can "find it on the Internet."  The actual statistics on Internet access in this country is far, far short of 100%, and the people who are less likely to have the access are the ones more dependent on governmental services and organizations.  This is not to say that using the Internet is difficult for those of us who "grew up" or were early adopters, but those of us in that group probably have little empathy for those who are starting a square one.  I am of the opinion that there is a certain mindset and way of processing and organizing information in one's head that is needed for using the Internet.  Using it is not like using other reference tools of the past (which is why young people today do not understand how to use traditional reference books, etc.).

Of course, Pres. Obama wants more infrastructure for more access (broadband and all that) which is a legitimate goal, but there is more to it than just putting in wires.  Access to how is needed as well as access to what.

All that said, I don't know what the big attraction to cable TV is.  It takes the vast wasteland concept of '60s and just expands it exponentially to a vast waste-universe.  Yes, there is a lot of good programming, but for every hour of quality there are 23 others of trash, banality, mediocrity, porn, violence, bloviating, pontificating (anyone who has watched Skip Bayless knows whereof I speak) and inanity.  It is an incredible waste of money.  There is so much more to be done in life than watching cable or TV in general--taking a walk, gardening, reading, playing games with friends and family, spiritual enrichment, cleaning the house, volunteering (as if the tornadoes recently don't give us enough opportunity for that).  There are thousands of alternatives to cable TV.  I would challenge anyone to just disconnect it and try it for a month.  You will find how differently you view the world, and when you go back to it, how absolutely worthless TV is.  Everything that is available on TV that you might want to watch is available on the Internet, in books, and in human experience itself anyway.

And don't forget that old stand-by--the public library. 

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

This Says It Better Than I Can

http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2011/05/schwarzenegger_strausskahn_and.html

What's Been Going on

In the last month I have experienced a lot of new things.  On the morning of April 28, I saw what an E4 tornado can do to a town.  On May 13 I saw the fruition of 22 years, my son graduating from college.  I spoke at my first writer's conference (and second) on May 7 and 21. 

The last three days would add to that list.  On Saturday afternoon my mother called to say she was at the hospital with my brother, who had been in terrible pain.  She had called the ambulance.  She had been there longer than she should have without calling me, but in my family we tend to go it alone.  My son and I were there as soon as possible.  The ER doctor called in a surgeon; the news was not good.  My brother would probably not get through the surgery, and if he did, would probably not get through the night.  The surgery was done, he went to ICU, and never was aware again.  At 4:30 or so Sunday morning the ICU called my mother and we were there in 15 minutes.  We watched him die within a half an hour, peacefully, but hooked up to everything I could imagine.

Yesterday we made the funeral arrangements; that was a first for me as well.  Very educational, to say the least.  I can say that to be clinical.  I realized yesterday that it is probably best a grieving loved one has to make all these decisions and keep busy because it helps not to focus on what you are looking at after the burial.  It is harder to die, paperwork wise, than be born.  In my mother's case, she is strong, but she will be living by herself now, but I will ensure someone is there for a while, a long while.  My husband, son, or I will stay there with her.  She has my brother's little dog for company, too. 

My brother and I were close in some ways, but not in others.  We were very different, but that often happens in families.  My family has its quirks, to say the least--we are independent, hornery, stubborn, given to autism, ocd, anxiety, and Aspergers, afflicted with heart disease and "bigness" (a nice word for just plain stout and fat).   But we are family, like most.  We don't not speak to each other.    I am thankful, at least, that I am not teaching right now and have three more weeks off before my summer school session.

Friday, May 20, 2011

Reflecting on Truth and Our Lack Thereof

http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2011/may/7-levelslying.html

This is a good essay on lying and truth.  We lie so much we don't even know it, and when we do, we find easy ways to justify it.  Sometimes we just lie by saying nothing. 

Does a person who writes fiction lie?  No, because he/she presents it as fiction.  Even so, one can lie, in writing fiction, by not doing it well, by not writing honestly about the human experience, by "messing" with the reader, and for a Christian, misrepresenting God (which I contend The Shack does, as I've written about elsewhere on this blog.)

I am coming up on 600 blog posts over the last five years.  My goodness. 

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Novel Writing 101.2 - New forms of publishing

The following is a transcript of a talk I'm giving this weekend on epublishing.  Hence the talky nature of it.  Not typical of my writing.


Now, about the self-publishing, epublishing.  We all think we are good writers, or we wouldn’t be doing this.  But publishing is a business.  Yes, we think, “they just publish people they think they will make money on.”  Of course they do.  And if they reject your novel or book, they just, in their opinion, don’t think they will make money on you and/or it doesn’t fit in the kind of thing they want to publish right now.  It may or may not have anything to do with the quality of your writing and story.   I have read plenty of traditionally published books that were just not good.  I rarely read light fiction or genre fiction, no matter who the author is.  Now, if you want to write light, funny Southern fiction, that’s great.  There’s a market for it.  If you want to write mysteries, erotica/romance (big in epublishing), cowboy stories, that’s fine, it’s just not what I am into.  I want to write literary fiction, which to some people means no plot, but that’s not what it means to me.  To me it just means it’s not genre fiction and there are serious themes and it’s character driven.

However, let’s just be honest and admit that a lot of stuff that is self-published is awful, too.  It may be awful because it is self-indulgent, too writer-based than reader-based (the writer is writing to make a point about himself/herself, to justify some aspect of his/her life, to rewrite the Civil War, to not-so-discretely talk about his/her own sexual prowess and conquests) and there is nothing there for a reader to benefit from or enjoy or grow from.  I am traditional enough to say that if I spend years writing a book (which of course many self-published people don’t spend that kind of time) and expect readers to buy it and spend hours or days of their lives reading it, that it should have something in it that the reader walks away with.  I resent a book when I have spent days reading it (I’m not a fast reader) and say “so what was that about.” 

Another fault of self-publishing is that no critical editor has gone through it to check for:  
 factual errors or historical inaccuracies (although I’ve seen that in traditionally published fiction, and since I write about historical contexts, I am really picky about that);
poor style (sentences of ridiculous length, illogical sentences where the character is doing three things at a time or there’s a dangling modifier);
inconsistencies;
point of view problems. 
You can of course pay people to do this at the self- and e-publishing houses, but they want your money and are going to “respect your writing,” so how much of that actually gets done is another issue. 

I have a master’s degree in writing, so I consider myself qualified to critically read and edit my own work before submitting it to a publisher—but that is not enough for a manuscript before it goes public.  I do administrative work at the college and I don’t even send out a campus email before I have one of my English colleagues read it.  I am not saying someone has to have a graduate degree in English before writing.  Many great writers did not or do not.  In fact, an English degree might get in the way of writing:  You can feel that the “canon” is so awesome and fearsome that no one has the right to even try to get into it.  And perhaps there is something just a bit arrogant about trying to write a novel in the first place. 

What I am saying is that if you don’t have intensive academic background in the English language, it pays to humble yourself and have (or pay) someone you trust, who understands what you’re trying to do with the writing but also who will be honest with you, to go paragraph by paragraph, sentence by sentence through your novel or memoir or whatever before you revise and then send to a publisher.  Publishers today do not want to do what they did fifty years ago with Harper Lee (I have to wonder what her first draft was like!).  They do not have the resources.

My son asked me the other day how long it takes to write a novel.  Ten years, I said, or a week.  It all depends.  But usually the reader can tell.  Writing is hard work.  Very hard.  I can get write a chapter, or two, or three, very easily if I’m in the zone; I would rather clean the toilets than revise it if I am not in the zone.  And then some of us have demanding lives.  I can only write if I consciously eschew TV and movies and am on breaks from school.  During most of the school year I am just exhausted at the end of the day. 

These are my thoughts.  I am happiest when I am writing.  I do not like all the other stuff (marketing-related), but if you are going to write today, you have to start liking that, too.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Just thinking about . . .

You know, something as occurred to me recently.  Whenever we criticize a politician on one side of the spectrum for a character flaw, a sin, a black spot on his/her record, especially morally, the response from the other side is "Yeah, but what about . . . "  This hardly seems like an argument.

Novel Writing 101


What I’ve learned from my first novel.

Do not give books away hoping people will read them.  People do not read books you give them, unless they are super close friends, or they think the book has them in it, or they’ll read anything, or you dedicated it to them (I’m not sure that even works.)

Of 100 people who know you wrote a book, maybe 2 or 3 will buy it.  Even fewer will put a review on Amazon.

Don’t go to Amazon everyday to check the site and the rankings, etc.  That way lies madness.

Even three years after I published the novel, people are saying, “I didn’t know you wrote a novel.”  We don’t listen well, do we?

People will assume your first novel is autobiographical, or they will think certain characters are they themselves, or someone else.  They will be wrong, and it will be funny.  A friend had her daughter read it, and the teenager kept saying, “This is just like you, Mom,” even thought the character was not her.

Be prepared to toot your own horn--extensively.  You have to be almost obnoxious about it.  I thought if I just said, “I wrote a novel.” People would be all “oh, my gosh, I have to get it.”  They often said they would, but didn’t. You have to self-promote over and over, even if it’s a trad publisher nowadays.  Go to conferences, set up book signings.  I recently attended a talk by Susan Gregg Gilmore who spoke about going all over the country, to remote book signings and library meetings.  That was an eye-opener for me.  I finally had an epiphany.  When my next two get published, finally, I will be the most in-your-face self-promoter there ever was. 

Cult of celebrity?

I like to put links to interesting articles.  Here is one from hermeneutics blog:

http://blog.christianitytoday.com/women/2011/05/the_real_outrage_of_lady_gaga.html

I have never understood the cult of celebrity, why normal people are so dragged into personalities:  Oprah, Madonna, Lady Gaga, Beth Moore, and then male preachers, the Osteens, etc.  Is it a meaninglessness we see in our own lives, poor "self-esteem," boredom, too much time on our hands (I know of a soup kitchen you can work at)?  Do we just watch them, fascinated that someone can live a life so self-promoting, so in a fishbowl, or do we really admire them, want to be them, fantasize about a similar lifestyle?  Is it just the money, the servants (not doing my own laundry and yard work!), or the adulation we want?

Now, some would be angered at me that Beth Moore is in the preceding paragraph, and I don't put her in the same category morally or theologically with Oprah or Lady Gaga, of course.  She is a fine Christian woman whom I respect greatly.  I put her in that list because of the looks of adoration I see on the faces of her audiences, and because she incorporates some of the same techniques as Oprah:  self-confession, self-esteem emphasis, marketing.

Celebrities are celebrities because we celebrate them.  Marketing does not create celebrities; our willingness to follow them does.  The fault is in us, not in the "stars" to paraphrase Julius Caesar.  Why are we so needful of these people?  Why can we not find satisfaction outside of the cult of celebrity?  Why do I think I need Beth Moore to explain Scripture to me, when I can study it myself? (this from a woman who wants to write a book on Bible study herself, and is attending a writer's conference this weekend to promote her book!).

I can't help but quote Edwin Arlington Robinson's poem "Richard Cory" here:
WHENEVER Richard Cory went down town,
  We people on the pavement looked at him:
He was a gentleman from sole to crown,
  Clean favored, and imperially slim.
  
And he was always quietly arrayed,
  And he was always human when he talked;
But still he fluttered pulses when he said,
  "Good-morning," and he glittered when he walked.
  
And he was rich—yes, richer than a king,
  And admirably schooled in every grace:
In fine, we thought that he was everything
  To make us wish that we were in his place.
  
So on we worked, and waited for the light,
  And went without the meat, and cursed the bread;
And Richard Cory, one calm summer night,
  Went home and put a bullet through his head.


The difference of course, is that today all the Richard Corys are mediated through a camera of some sort, which makes a huge difference in what we see.

I also can't help but mention in this context that politicians are no longer persons whom we elect to help us self-govern.  They are celebrities, and ones of very poor character so often.  Reference the former governor of California.  At least Mike Huckabee decided to stay a celebrity and not confuse it with statesmanship.  Not sure our current president gets that.

Finally, in reference to the above link to CT, it's interesting to me that we have lost the connection between "outrage" and "outrageous."  Lady Gaga is outrageous, but we just use that to mean she wears bizarre clothes and likes to shock with her lyrics.  As the link shows, she should cause us "outrage," anger and disdain by her exploitation of herself and her sexuality and her proclaiming of anti-God and anti-faith messages.  I do not follow her, and have only seen her a few times on television (which caused a quick channel change), so I really can't comment intelligently on her beyond that.

































































Monday, May 16, 2011

Speaking Engagement

I will be speaking (for a little bit) at the Chatanooga Writers Guild Spring Workshop on May 21 at John A. Patten Recreation Center in Tiftonia.  Aspiring writers may want to attend this; it looks like a good line-up.  Here is the website:  http://www.chattanoogawritersguild.com/0/

I May Not Have the Right to Do This, But

Someone who I plan to meet in a few days wrote me this email.  It made me happy.

I finished your book, Traveling Through, tonight and loved it.  I was hooked from beginning to end in a real fast read.  And I'll be there to recommend it . . .  I hope you can come and present  at a . . . 

The only Christian books I've read have been preachy, but your book showed a powerful silent side of Christianity that is not often explored, and that was inside the characters.

I easily identified with Carlie,  her struggles for independence and the right to have a mind of her own as well as her commitment to doing the right thing.  She is the universal 70's woman. As the book ended I wanted to know more about Josiah, Emily and Jeff. At the same time I wonder about Carlie's birth mother.  In any sequel will there be any hint of who she was or what her life was like?

Book Review #385

That title is silly, but I just picked a number randomly to distinguish it from previous book reviews.  Last night I finished The Improper Life of Bezellia Grove.  I read this book because it was the second one of Susan Gregg Gilmore.  I had read her first one, Looking for Salvation at the Dairy Queen, which is about the town I live in, Ringgold, Georgia (well, I have a note below on that one).  I liked the first one; also, I met Susan a couple of weeks ago and liked her, too.  She is now living in Chattanooga, again.  Finally, I wanted to support another writer, especially one who comes to my college or with whom I appear on a panel.

I liked the book very much; I read it in a day or so, really, which is a good sign.  She creates a believable world and believable characters.  This is not light stuff (which I am not a fan of); it's serious writing.  I have to say it didn't go in the direction I expected it to, but why read a book that doesn't surprise you?  "My" direction may have been inappropriate, anyway, to the characters.  I recommend the book, which is available of course on Amazon, etc. 

However, she prefers people buy it from independent booksellers, which I understand.  Amazon drives a hard bargain, as we have seen in the recent negotiations with the state of Tennessee.  I have to fall on the side of the state; I am not sure why online retailers should get a pass on state taxes, but on the other hand Tennessee's sales taxes are too high and I almost never go across the border to buy anything for that reason.

Susan's book also inspired me to get busy with my own next five or six novels.  I have more ideas and characters busting out of my head than I know what to do with.

As a side note, in Catoosa County there are only two post offices.  One is Ft. Oglethorpe, and the other is Ringgold.  If you do not live in the Ft. O city limits, you live in Ringgold, even if you don't live in the city limits of Ringgold.  So locals will often say, "do you live in Rango or in the county?"  This explains why most of the people who live in Ringgold were in no way affected by the tornado, although the little town itself looks like a bomb site.  We drove my son through it for the first time yesterday; actually it was the first time for my husband, too.  The high school is in much worse shape than we thought, which was hard for my son, I think.

In The Name

All my Christian life I have heard the phrase, "Do all in the name of the Lord Jesus Christ," which is quoting Colossians 3:17.  And I let it sweep over me, as if it were a cliche that was tossed around by well-meaning but non-thinking people, and as if I were so smart I didn't need advice like that, and as if it were not Scripture.  But this week I got to thinking about it.

What does it mean?  First, to do something under his authority.  That assumes we are not the authority deciding whether something is within the realm of his authority, but we are listening to him.  Too often we make ourselves the arbiters of whether something is under his authority instead of just placing ourselves there and waiting for clear direction. 

Second, it means intentionality.  How much of my life has been habitual, instinctive, intuitive, haphazard, seat-of-the-pants, let's just go with it, and not intentional.  Intentional doesn't necessarily mean planned, but it does mean conscious, aware, and with a clear goal in mind.  Often a decision is made quickly, but that doesn't mean the decision is without a guiding star, a mission. 

Third, it means asking for his blessing on it.  Can we ask Jesus to bless everything we do? 

Fourth, it means by his power.  The ability to do whatever it is we are doing coming from him is a criterion for "in his name."  And just like #1 and #3, we have to be conscious of what we are doing being in his realm.

Fifth, it means representative of him, reflecting his character. 

I think this defines Christian ethics.  The "what would Jesus do" craze was too simplistic, but it was on the right track.  We are in a position to do more than Jesus did on earth because there are more of us and we have longer lives and different opportunities, but "in his name" means clear and informed choice based on a goal, under his authority, in his power, reflective of him, and something we can without doubt ask him to bless.

Sunday, May 15, 2011

Confession

OK, I  will admit it, although some will immediately stop reading this blog as soon as they read this.  But, normally, I vote Republican.  Not because I am in love with Republican politicians.  I'm not, but because I am closer to Republican ideals (little and big r) than those of the Democratic party (not even sure what those ideals are, except a vague kind of inclusivity.)

So I have to say I am disappointed that Mike Huckabee has decided not to run for president, although I hardly blame him.  The office of the president has "evolved" to such a point, largely by the efforts of certain bigger than life presidential characters (Roosevelts I and II, Wilson, Johnson, and Reagan) that only a megalomaniac would consider running for it and could survive the ridiculous media scrutiny and lies.  No one half way normal, no one with any moral center or ethical boundaries, could do it.  Huckabee is too good a man.  He also is too easy a target for the evil media.  But he would be a good president.

So Republicans are stuck with Romney, Bachman, Gingrich, Pawlenty, Paul, Caine, Johnson, Trump.  Hummmmmm.   I don't think Palin will go through with it, thankfully.  They say Mitch Daniels is a possibility.


I have a new suggestion.  Ted Nugent.  What the hey. 

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Madame Bovary

I will be the first to admit that there are major gaps in my education, especially in terms of literature and specifically in terms of non-American literature.  I try to correct that by a reading regimen that includes one fiction for every two nonfiction books I read (those mostly for academic purposes).  I have a huge pile I am working on, but my most recent fiction read was Madame Bovary, or at least an English translation by Francis Steegmuller.  I had heard this was the seminal novel, so it was time.  I firmly believe only people who read great writing are permitted to write (although that is an unpopular view). 

It is a great novel; whether it is the greatest ever written I don't know.  I thought The Brothers Karamazov was more profound and Dickens more encompassing.    What makes a great novel (or movie, or symphony, etc.) is that one can experience it many times and find something new in it each time, and yet the first time one is struck by its depth and quality.  Ironically, all the how-to books about writing fiction are often negelcted, or even disobeyed outright, by these works of literature.  For example, we are told to make sure our protagonist, even if a "sinner," is likeable; I really didn't like Emma Bovary, and I'm not sure what there is to like about her.  But she is well drawn, yet I thought "when is this woman going to wise up?  when is she going to appreciate what she has and stop whoring around?"

There are many ways to approach a novel in terms of criticism, and I don't go in for the modern schools.  I was trained by New Critics, so if it's not on the page, it's not to be considered (a simplification, but I'll go with it).  I see the key contrast here not between Emma Bovary and her husband, or her mother-in-law, or the good women of the town, but between her and Homais the pharmacist.  Homais pursues what he wants to make him happy, but never is; he is even more ruthless, and uncaring, and devious, than Emma.  Emma is selfish and hurts her husband and child in the pursuit of some kind of fantasy romance that she believes will make her happy; Homais is willing to have a disabled person committed to keep up his reputation.  Emma sins for herself only; Homais sins to get approval of others for himself.  "The devil himself doesn't have a greater following than the pharmacist." 

John Gardner says to create a dream, a believable dream in fiction; Flaubert has done this with his realism.  I would have had no trouble believing these people existed; my only stretch was her husband was that dumb about her adulteries.

To blog or not to blog

This Saturday afternoon I am sitting in my bedroom.  Outside a neighbor is cutting grass and sunlight is sparkling off the elm tree in my front yard.  My little dog is curled in my lap, making it difficult for me to type.  But my husband gave him a half an antihistamine pill to see if it helped his itching, and the dog is very sleepy, as I always am after an antihistamine.  The dog doesn't even respond to his name.

We are waiting for our son to return from college.  He graduated yesterday; I brought home most of his belongings and he wanted to spend one more night there celebrating with friends.  We are proud of him.  He stuck to the plan, finished in four years with no debt and a solid gpa from a rigorous college.  The ceremony was very nice, but outside and two-and-a-half hours long, resulting in a pretty wretched sunburn on my arms.  I'll have to wear long sleeves for a while, since I'm two toned. 

I feel that I am entering a new phase of my life.  I no longer have his school bill hanging over me, which means I don't have to teach overloads.  I can spend the time doing more pleasant and useful things, especially writing. 

Is blogging a legitimate form of writing?  I suppose so, although I have little understanding of who reads it, and the traffic has been pretty low lately despite lots of posts.  But I am getting excited about other writing projects and other publishing possibilties.  I have two novels under contract but my publishers are not communicating with me right now, which is discouraging.

I would appreciate some input from readers on this subject. 

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

My Towns in Ruins

On Wednesday, April 27, 2011, Ringgold, GA, my little Southern town, like many other little Southern towns that day, met the reality of a E-4 tornado.  Because the core of the town is very close to Interstate 75 about ten miles south of Chattanooga, the damage is very visible to all on their way to or from Atlanta or Florida.  But what is visible from the interstate is nothing compared to what is about a mile deeper into town.  I just saw it all for the first time yesterday, and I am speechless, wordless.  Sure, I could use all "d" words--destruction, demolished, disaster, devastation--but those have all been used.  I have never lived anywhere that experienced that kind of natural disaster, and any times I visited sites such as this, it was well past the time.  I saw Katrina areas three years later; I saw Cayman Islands a year after Ivan.  Not the same.

Houses and business in piles, with circles of orange spray paint on the wall that is left, some kind of cryptic message that the house has been checked for corpses and was found, or not, free of them.

My son's schools, where he spent seven years of his life, unusable for a long, long time.

The tiny branch of the Catoosa county library, where my son used to go after school until we could pick him up, and where he became friends with the kind librarians, and was amused by the younger children who lived in the area and hung out there after school; the library that had been converted into a state-of-the-art art facility and named after a beloved superintendent.  Even though it was brick, it is now just a pile that represents many good memories.

The former phone company building, now DFACS offices, beyond repair, it looks like.  Perhaps not, but hard to imagine it being a place for help again.

A little restaurant that was immortalized in a novel--caved in.

An African American church, not beyond repair, but symbolic of what folks are dealing with.

Many businesses and homes that sustained the loss of a roof, covered in blue tarps.  A grocery store and car dealer with signs letting us know, "We're in Business."  Even if that is profit-driven, it lifts the spirits a bit.

Twisted poles and awnings on gas stations that may not be opened again.  Fast food places with plywood windows.  Several hotels that looked as if a giant stepped on them. 

And one of my favorite places to go, Sew-Bee-It quilt store on Highway 151.  It's a back wall now.  I can't imagine where all those luscious fabrics and quilts went.  I think that hit me the worst because I didn't know about it, and it was not just a store, but a place of community and learning.

Beyond that, what bothers me the most is the lack of trees.  Beautiful oaks sheltered the town.  Now it truly feels like the land has been violated.  It doesn't feel like a town in Southern Appalachia, but one by the beach or the desert.  The creek that runs through town is full of fallen trees.  Other trees just fell over; others landed in parts unknown, others had tops removed.

However, it is pointless to mourn the loss of trees and buildings when so many people died, when children found family members under rubble, when a girl was thrown into a tree far away, when kin found legs or arms separated from their loved ones.

All one can do it take periods of mourning, and try to provide help.  I hope to do so; I have things people can use.  I have money; I have a little time.  None of that means a great deal in all that is lost, but it means something.  Please help the Salvation Army, Red Cross, and Southern Baptist Disaster Relief.
 

Saturday, May 07, 2011

Viewpoints on death of bin Laden


The day after bin Laden’s “capture” (I mistakenly called it that in class, and a student corrected me—yes, I said, they captured his dead body) a debate, or more hissy fight, broke out on Facebook between what I call the realist and the overspiritualists.   One side, in my view, was honest about their feelings—a mass murderer is dead and justice has been done.  The other side felt guilty about their feelings and felt the need to hide and find proof texts for that need:  The Lord takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked.  I am a Christian before I am an American.  I cannot celebrate that a soul is in hell.  I cannot rejoice over the death of anyone, even my enemy (quoting Dr. King.)

Obviously, I am in sympathy with the first group.   I feel the second group misses the overriding message of scriptures.  That governmental authorities exist to punish evildoers.  That justice is more important than their oversensitive feelings.  That this “execution” might mean the saving of many in the future (did they really think someone like Osama would turn around, or that Al-Quaeda wasn’t planning to attack any more targets?)  Yes, there is a verse that says God takes no pleasure in the death of the wicked, but there are plenty others that says God is glorified in justice.  And as Obama pointed out, bin Laden killed or was responsible for many Muslim deaths, so this is not about Islam.  Those Navy SEALS have done us all an immeasurable favor.

Now there is all kind of soil for criticism from the news media.  The SEALS shouldn’t have used Geronimo as a code name.  Did the SEALS give him a chance to surrender? Etc.  Both of these topics involves debates that could probably go on forever, and I respect the person, but not his/her position, who says we should not rejoice over bin Laden’s death.  What should we be?  Rejoice does not mean dancing in the streets; it may just mean thanking our service personnel for what they did, thanking God for protecting them while they did it, and thanking both that we have one less mass murderer stalking the earth.

I asked my son what he thought, and what his peers were saying, and this was his articulate (his mother thought) and probably more even response:

There are two groups right now. The first is the overtly joyful that he has been killed. Others are taking a self-righteous path of saying that killing an evil man is wrong and should not be rejoiced. I feel that both views are not completely coherent with Christ.

I have the personal view that it is good he has been killed, but I am not rejoicing in the death of a human because we should not rejoice in death of an enemy or any other human (Proverbs 24:17), but I am reminded of Romans 13 speaking about authority and its provision to exact justice on evil in which his death his justified.

In a nutshell, I am saddened that we live in a world where we must exact justice on a man by killing him, but I rejoice that justice has been served and a murderous tyrant will no longer hold power or fear over his fellow man.
 

Thursday, May 05, 2011

Mother Nature

Back in the ‘60s there was a commercial for margarine, I forget the brand, that said, “It’s not nice to fool Mother Nature.”  I feel like nowadays we are being told that we are not fooling but abusing Mother Nature, and that she is fighting back.  The first response on the news about the tornado outbreak was, “Is this due to global warming?”  Thankfully, the metereologist I heard address this question said it was not answerable.  So Mother Nature used to be a funny character in a commercial; not she is real and a feminist and a mean one at that.

Nature is not a mother—a mother is kind.  What do we see in nature that is kind?  Do people really think that nature has only started striking back with floods and droughts and storms in the last thirty years (so typical of this generation—it thinks it’s the first to experience anything, like menopause and old age!).    Nature is further not a mother in that mothers are personal, and nature, the natural world, is impersonal. 

Thoughts on a Scandal (of the Evangelical Mind, that is)


This is a great book, written by an accomplished academic but accessible to anyone who is concerned about thinking, education, and the faith.  His famous first line:  The scandal of the evangelical mind is that there is no mind” is often quoted.  The problem is that evangelicals are not excelling in academia and related area; the cause is that we have not life of the mind; the root is the doctrines of dispensationalism and to a lesser extent, creationism,  and that evangelicalism sold out to the American system in the early days of our republic. 

Now, saying this is a great book does not mean I buy it hook, line, and sinker, to use that old cliché shamelessly.  I do share his concern (in Noll’s case, it really is much deeper, almost a hatred) for dispensationalism and premillenialism.   I do agree that evangelicalism is too tied into American exceptionalism, and I have studied this connection quite a bit; however, I don’t know if that causes the anti-intellectualism.  I think some of that is more related to social class issues than we want to admit, and to the inherent activism of evangelical Christianity.  We aren't , and have never been, comtemplatives.  We are not Jesuits.  And I don’t know what the alternative is to a general (as opposed to six-day, literalist) belief in the creation account.  If that is a slide into accepting evolution just because it is the prevailing view, it is disturbing. 

At times I felt as if Noll was a little more concerned for our reputations than the reproach that we are going to have to go through.  On the other hand, I work in an academic environment and understand a lot of his feelings.  Academics are often exceedingly prideful people, and also very competitive.  There is no appeasing them if they decide, a priori, that they are smarter than a Christian just because they are not Christians.  Tomorrow perhaps I will post a quote by Henri Nouwen on this matter. 

Netflix

Netflix has changed its design and now gives you a percentage match, I suppose based on what you have watched before.  Here are some interes...