Saturday, June 15, 2013

Embodied Faith

I am extremely opposed to dualism, or at least the extremes of it that are so prevalent in both the secular and spiritual world.  It's a big subject, but just a few points:
1.  Jesus took on flesh.  That's enough to sanctify the body.
2.  We will get new bodies, not new spirits, at the end.
3.  The body is not the same as "the flesh" in Romans.  The body can be the vehicle of good or bad.

So I was pleased to read this prayer this morning in The Valley of Vision.

I bless thee for the soul thou hast created,
for adorning it, sanctifying it,
though it is fixed in barren soil;
for the body thou has given me,
for preserving its strength and vigor,
for providing sense to enjoy delights,
for the ease and freedom of my limbs,
for hands, eyes, ears that do thy bidding;
for thy royal bounty providng my daily support,
for a full table and overflowing cup,
for appetite, taste, sweetness,
for social joys of relatives and friends,
for ability to serve others,
for a heart that feels sorrows and necessities,
for a mind to care for my felow-men,
for opportunities of spreading happiness around,
for loved ones in the joys of heaven,
for my own expectation of seeing thee clearly.

Friday, June 14, 2013

Why I Like Film Noir

As I have said before, I watch only two things on TV:  Turner Classic Movies, for which I forgive Ted Turner all, and the news.  Oh, occasionally I'll sit and watch Pawn Stars, a car repair reality show, Barrett Jackson car auctions, or even Duck Dynasty (which really is quite funny), if my husband has them on, but that's it. 

On TCM one gets to see all the greats, although there are a couple they have never shown (Laura being one), and I have found that my favorites are film noir.  This might seem strange coming from a middle-aged Southern Baptist lay Bible teacher in redneckville, but I like to surprise people who think they have me figured out from my outward looks and my job as an English teacher.  Why do I like them?  Let me count the ways (no, I won't break out into iambic pentameter; it mystifies me how poets do that!)

1.  They are in black and white.  A film noir in color makes absolutely no sense.  Technicolor overloads my senses.  There are a few exceptions.
2.  They are from the time right before I was born, yet a time I vaguely remember.
3.  They are urban and gritty; no one is really good, everyone has an agenda, ah, just like real life!
4.  The "hero" often dies in the end, shot down.  They are more Greek or Shakespearean tragedy than typical Hollywood drivel where no matter what happens the star lives (except for Armageddon where Bruce Willis gives his life.)  For example, in DOA the hero (we don't really have heroes in film noir, just protagonists) spends the whole movie trying to learn who poisoned him--and he dies from the poison in the end, as he should.  In Johnny Eager, despite his revelation of how he has wronged so many, even those closest to him, he dies, shot down in the street; he doesn't get a last-minute reprieve from the scriptwriter.
5.  The protagonists look like real people.  Did anyone really think Humphrey Bogart was good-looking?
6.  The women play a role.  Sometimes they are decent (but not that decent; otherwise they wouldn't be hanging out with shady characters), sometimes they are pretty evil.  They are usually good looking, but not beautiful in the classic way (Lauren Bacall as an example).  They are definitely sexy and impossible to resist.  These are real roles for women back when most of them were pretty vapid.
7.  The clothes are great.  Love those clothes from the '30s, '40s, and '50s.
8.  The plots are convoluted and you have to watch the films several times to really understand everything that is going on. I could give lots of examples here.
9.  The characters are complex, almost always neither fully good or bad.  They are often guys home from WWII who have given their lives for their countries but now don't know where to fit in (that is a whole theme in film noir). 
10.  Sometimes they are wonderfully cliched, but only because they seem so--they were the originals and we've gotten used to the tropes.
11.  Often the directors and writers tried new techniques.
12.  Dialogue is snappy, funny, and amazingly real considered the production codes.  Now, I will say this;  I've seen enough of those pre-code movies to know that if the code hadn't come along, by 1940s everything would have been pornography.  I think the code made the creators have to be creative, to suggest without showing, which is really more powerful artistically.   Sure, you can argue censorship, but it wasn't the government doing the censorship--it was the industry agreeing for business purposes. 
13.  I'll end here--I think the acting is often the best, not so stylized.  Van Heflin in Johnny Eager is great, for example.  Who can beat Barbara Stanwyck, in anything? 


Monday, June 10, 2013

Poetry from the Puritans

I am deeply drinking from and enjoying The Valley of Vision.  Today's reading is from "God Honoured."

O God,
Praise waiteth for thee,
and to render it is my noblest exercise;
This is thy due from all thy creatures,
for all thy works display thy attributes and fulfill thy designs;
The sea, dry land, winter cold, summer heat
morning light, evening shade are full of thee
and thou givest me them richly to enjoy.

Enjoy is a word we do not study or live.  The enjoyments of life should be simple.  A sunset is better than a Hollywood spectacle; a ripe strawberry better than processed foods; a walk than almost anything.  We do not enjoy because our "wanner" is broken, because our enjoyment calibration is off.

Sunday, June 09, 2013

Kallmann's revisited, part II

I went to GALILEO today (it's the database for the UGA libraries) to see if there was anything on Kallmann's in later life--50 and above.  I haven't found it, and of course most of the articles were far too technical for my eyes.  My knowledge of genetics is not even rudimentary.  So maybe I'm throwing this out:  Does anything know anything about the lives of Kallmann's patients in the second half of life? 

I do not define myself by Kallmann's. 

Thoughts on Baptism

Our church was going to have a baptism service at the lake a few weeks back, but it was pouring rain so the service was moved to the family life center.  We watched video this morning of the 43 people who were baptized, in short snippets of people being "dunked" (a term I have never been comfortable with) over and over.

Of course, these were full immersions, and the pastor wore a t-shirt and basketball shorts, as did most of the baptizees.

It was neat to watch so many people go through this rite, and I realized four things about the typical Baptist version of baptism.

It is total.  These people came up wet from head to foot, cold, sputtering, wiping eyes, dripping.  They needed towels as they came up out of the water and walked over another trail of towels to the bathroom.  No sprinkling here.   The top of the head was not the only wet part.  The participants have said, I am all in. 

It was public and communal.  The whole church watched.  Not just family attended (as at a christening in some churches).  And it was part of the worship service.

It was decisional.  Everyone in that video chose to be baptized.  Yes, some of the children might have been doing it just because they were told to, but at least they were aware it was happening.

Finally, it was humiliating, or at least humbling.  When you come up from being immersed you look like a drowned rat.  Women have their hair messed soaked and it's not exactly becoming.  People make faces.  It's hard not to laugh sometimes at how the baptizees look.

Of course we Baptists are convinced this is the only way to be baptized or to baptize, since the Greek word means "to immerse."    Baptists suffered a lot of persecution in the early years for several reasons, but their insistence on this way of doing the ritual is one of them.  Perhaps all that persecution has made us a little wary and defensive.  I don't think the logistics of this baptism is irrelevant to our self-identity. 

Does God Change?

If someone comes to scripture with a Calvinistic mindset that God’s purposes are eternal, the answer to the question above would be, “No, of course not.”  The Old Testament alludes to places where God repented, relented, or changed his mind.  I think the differences is this.  God’s purpose does not change, nor does his character, but the plan (and how it is executed) is.  It has to be, otherwise prayer is meaningless.  I know we are given all these clich├ęs about “Prayer changes you” and “Prayer is getting your will in line with God’s” but prayer is not necessary for either of those to happen.  Prayer is meant to change the reality, or at least the appearance, of the circumstances.  

It seems to me that we talk about God sometimes, even in church circles, as if he has evolved, or grown and developed.  We think we know more about God than people in the past did (because we have more research, more archaeology, more Bible versions) and we understand how much more open-minded God is now than in the past.  Our fear of God is gone because we think he operates under grace now and is more tolerant than "back then."  People are hypocritical about money in church every week, but that's ok--no more Ananias and Saphiras today!  What used to be relegated to a rock concert where Satan ruled is now part of the Sunday worship--smoke machines, flashing lights, darknesses, deafening music.

Old fogey time, but even if we were to say "Of course God doesn't change" in our heart, our theories-in-use, we think he has gotten a whole lot more hip and cool.

How Transparent Can We Get?



In my Bible class at church we are listening to tapes of a well known speaker.  This speaker was saying that she asks God all the time “why me?” in the sense of why she was given the ministry she was.

In discussing it with a classmate, I said I think it is because she is so transparent.  She tells everything, and women feel they can relate to that.  In this age of being mad if our privacy is violated but getting online and telling everything, someone who is so honest and open about his/her struggles, needs, defeats, victories is a desirable person.

While I understand the value of transparency, is that necessary for ministry?  Are we prizing this looking at our inner selves through clear glass more than anything?  Transparency is never just about yourself.  If I say I was abused as a child (I wasn’t), am I talking about myself or my parents who allowed it or were clueless to it?  If I tell stories about my husband on this blog, am I invading his privacy?  If I go on about the trials of raising my son (there weren’t any, truly—he was a very easy child to raise), am I reflecting on me or him? 

We want honesty but honesty depends on where you are looking.  And too much honest looking may become dishonest and become an ego-exploration.  At the very least, we should not bring others, such as family members, into our honest revelations until they consent to it.

Thursday, June 06, 2013

Is the pastorate the sine qua non of Christian leadership?

http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/june/our-unhealthy-obsession-with-pastors.html

Food for thought.  I have to admit I am rethinking my views on women in spiritual leadership, and I welcome comments here.

Chattanooga Chatter Recommendations: Thanks!!!

Little self-promotion here.  Yesterday a colleague told me that one of my books was recommended for summer "e-reading" in a local magazine that has a lot of readers.  I am thrilled.  On page 43 of the Chattanooga Chatter, my first novel is listed first!  Of course, I think my second two are better, but maybe people will read them.  All proceeds go to World Vision.  I am not sure how I rated a recommendation there, but I really, really do appreciate it, whoever did that.

Links to Amazon and Barnes and Noble are on this page.   

Tuesday, June 04, 2013

Great blog on why we should read the good stuff

http://www.christianitytoday.com/women/2013/june/read-write-worship.html

A Puritan Looks at "Young Goodman Brown" and "A Good Man is Hard to Find"

How's that for a title?  Thought it might get some hits.  However, this post is dead serious.  Last night I taught, for the first time, this fascinating "tale," which might be called an allegory. I taught it in conjunction with "A Good Man is Hard to Find" by Flannery O'Connor.  Both must be read in light of the Christian world view or metanarrative, that of perfect creation, fall, redemption through Christ, and an eventual return to a perfect creation.  As I told my students, different churches interpret that sequence differently but all hold to the same basic sequence. 

But of course, they are very different stories. "Young Goodman Brown" is set in the Puritan landscape and more specifically in Salem.  This is not just any New England town in the 17th century, but the site of the hysteria and hypocrisy of the witch trials, a time engrained into American consciousness especially through The Crucible and the McCarthy times.  (These are, of course, Hollywood's version of the events, the media's interpretations.  They would portray the witch trials as the single most unjust time in American history, but I could think of a lot more.   Uh, let's start with slavery.)  The point here is not the facts, but the mythology of the witch trials.  Hawthorne was writing 150 years later, but he adopts the language and the religion of the time.  Hawthorne was in post-Puritan New England and drew from the rich Puritan heritage, but he was also post-faith. 

Some might say, "What rich Puritan heritage?" but from an intellectual and spiritual and political viewpoint, it is rich.  Read deTocqueville, for one--he attributes America of 1830 to New England.  Read The Valley of Vision and Jonathan Edwards.  I have often referred to myself as a 20th century Puritan, and here's why:  the Puritans were not as boring as we think they were.  We have them confused with the Victorians.  Yes, they did persecute those who dissented from their teachings, like Anne Hutchinson and Roger Williams, and that is unforgivable from a modern viewpoint.  They were doing to others what had been done to them.  The only defense I can give is that their lives were hard, as were most people's then, and conformity was seen as a way to protect the community.  On the other side, they started Harvard; they were big drinkers; when Jonathan Edwards married, his wife wore green velvet (neat idea).  Puritans were aware of sin, but that doesn’t mean they were the dour people we think they were.  Life was hard for everyone back then, so let’s not conflate how hard their lives were with their doctrines.  They prized education and started many of our institutions and are responsible for much of our governmental ideas.

The Puritans were extremely conscious not just of sin as an abstract concept but also of personal sin.  They journalled about their spiritual struggles; those journals were burned at their death (we have Edwards' because of the circumstances of his death).  If I am extremely aware of my own struggles against sin, I am eventually going to be so about others, which leads to judgmentalism.  In YGB, the sense of sin as in us (inner sin nature) and all around us, tempting us, is portrayed in a dreamtype scenario.  

 YGB is on a pilgrimage.  He leaves his wife at sunset with a "present evil purpose" of meeting a character who bears resemblance both to his father and grandfather and to Satan (Satan takes on other appearances, especially of light, in Scripture).  This Satanic figure carries a staff that belonged to the Egyptian Magi (sorcerers) in Exodus.  The story is laden with Christian symbolism, and in a sense, as the story progresses deeper into the wilderness, the desert of the forest, the symbolism is turned on its head.  A black cloud of voices goes over his head, moving toward the "communion" of Satanic worship (some call this a witches' coven, but I'll stick with Satanic worship in this analysis).  The cloud parallels that of Hebrew 12, "so great a cloud of witnesses" or maybe the cloud of God's presence in the Old Testament.  The new converts will be baptized there (albeit in the good Presbyterian way, not the Baptist way--that would have been more dramatic but not in line with the Puritans' worship practices) in some substance that is either blood or liquid fire.  The "congregants" sing a hymn with the same tune Brown knows but different, blasphemous words.  Fire is the dominant symbol here, the fire of destruction and judgment and hell, although fire can also be symbolic of purification and "the bush that is not consumed."

 Ah, is it a dream?  Hawthorne says, "Be it so if the reader wishes."  I will not approach it as such, although it could be.  I don't like "And then I woke up" stories, and I think Hawthorne is above that.  Of course, we all have dreams and wake up thinking, "where did that come from?"  The images of the dreams can be so disturbing and violent that they linger with us and we wonder what is going on in our subconscious that we would dream that.  On the other hand, we probably forget most of our dreams anyway, so we probably dream many disturbing things that we don't remember.  Brown's dream is so awful that it sets him on a road to even greater despair.

Having met Satan in the forest, "his present evil purpose," and seeing an old woman who had taught him his catechism traveling on the road to the Satanic meeting, Brown decides not to go further with Satan and sits down.  In paragraph 41 he applauds himself for resisting.  One or two hypocrites he can deal with; he is self-righteous here, at this point not seeing his own sin.  And I think that is the core issue of the story:  is Brown so disturbed by his own sin, his own weakness toward the pull of Satan, or only by the great "exceeding sinfulness of sin" that is revealed to him in everyone else, even his pure and innocent wife?  

After applauding himself, however, the cloud moves over head and the pink ribbons of his wife's bonnet fall before him.  Even she is susceptible.  He flies by foot to the "coven" or "communion" and one wonders to what extent we depend on Hawthorne for these images.  It is a KKK meeting without the racism.  Four trees burn (not sure on that symbol).  The new converts are called forward.  At the end of his experience he calls to Faith to resist, and the "dream" is over.  He has put her above himself; her salvation is more important to him than even his own.  This could be because of the role of women in salvation (is woman the temptress [Eve] or the deliverer/means of delivery [Mary].   If Faith gives in, what hope would there be for Brown?  Or is this symbolic of Christ dying for the church, the masculine giving himself for the feminine?  Before the crucifixion, Christ is portrayed as agonizing over bearing the burden of the world's sin.  Again, the scriptural and theological symbols abound, but I think we should be careful to construct a consistent reading of the symbols. 

When I saw the movie Eyes Wide Shut by Stanley Kubrick, starring Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, I recognized the story as "Young Goodman Brown".  The parallels are startling, although the temptations in EWS are all sexual (the movie is almost pornographic) whereas that is only a part of the temptations in YGB, which is more realistic.  Why are we fixated on sexual temptations in this age?  Why does purity only means sexual purity to most people?  Perhaps we see how powerful sexual temptations are, but they are not all of sin.

Brown has seen the depth of sin, and even worse; he has seen the depth of hypocrisy.  It might be that hypocrisy, hiding one's sin, is much worse than just sinning.  Luther said to "sin boldly," meaning, of course, not to be hypocritical and namby-pamby about it.  If you are going to be a sinner, be honest about it.  Everything in the story is exaggerated and juxtaposed and therefore dreamlike.  It's unlikely the whole town would be blatant hypocrites and no one would be truly faithful, but the corporate sin of Salem is being called into question also.  

Brown is never the same.  Like Adam and Eve, he has fallen--he has come to know good and evil, he is like God but this is knowledge he should not have.  He is in despair and fear the rest of his life.  He never recovers.  

Hawthorne does not write of grace, but let grace not be a silky covering to make us unaware of sin, blind to it.  Where sin abounded, grace abounded more.  And thus we come to O'Connor.  I will post below my class notes on her story; they are more in the line of questions. I do suggest that these be taught together; they both are about "a good man" theologically, and they draw the distinction between the 20th century Christian realism of a Roman Catholic (living in a Protestant world) and a post-Puritan.



Flannery O’Connor is one writer where you have to take her as a whole body of work, not just one story. Grace and redemption, because we are totally depraved.  She was Roman Catholic living in the South.  Said that the Catholics put their crazy people in monasteries and convents but the Protestants let their crazy people loose.  She did not think that good people went to heaven or were redeemed—only those who accepted grace, and only bad people could do that.  Her stories are “Southern Gothic” in that respect and seem very weird and violent.  Much like Faulkner’s but with Christ in the background, which didn’t apply to Faulkner at all.

O'Connor saw all of her fiction, certainly including this story, as realistic, demandingly unsentimental, but ultimately hopeful. Her inspiration as a writer came from a deeply felt faith in Roman Catholicism, which she claimed informed all of her stories. She wrote, "The stories are hard but they are hard because there is nothing harder or less sentimental than Christian realism" (source: The Habit of Being, p. 90). A recurrent theme throughout her writings was the action of divine grace in the horribly imperfect, often revolting, generally funny world of human beings, a theme very much present in "A Good Man is Hard to Find." This story affords perhaps the best place to start in exploring the work of this rather eccentric, certainly unique literary voice.  (not original with me)

O’Connor’s story title:  A good man is hard to find—Roman 3:  Also, the rich young ruler said to Christ, “Good teacher” and Jesus response was “There is none good, but God.”  So she is presenting a radically different world view in the 20th century.  Goodness does not come from background or behavior or reputation, but transformative grace.

Do you think O’Connor likes her characters?  Are they round or flat?  Dynamic or static?  Are they foils for the writer’s overall purpose?  Is the Misfit more sympathetic than the grandma?  Are we supposed to find the characters funny, or responsible for their outcomes?  What does the grandmother do that makes her unflattering?

Where does she describe the characters unflatteringly?
Why are the children so smartmouthed?  Is this a realistic portrayal of a famly? 
O’Connor made a big point of observing, but does she observe everything?  Does she only observe the trivial and smallness in the people?  The grandmother is so foolish, and so selfish, not wanting the children to be saved.
The trees were full of silver white sunlight and the meanest of them sparkled.  What is the meaning of mean?

The phrase “I know you are a good man” comes up from the grandmother, who is deluded about sin and evil, twice.  P. 37 and to the misfit 88, 90, 98.  Why would she say this? 

What is good?  What is evil?  Is transformation possible? 

How important is the setting of the south, even Ga, to this story? 

The misfit repeats a theological argument from Lewis.  However, he excuses his lack of faith.  He does not accept his own responsibility for evil he does, therefore he can’t accept grace.

Before he is going to kill her, she reaches out to touch him, to show him grace.  Or is she hallucinating?  Does the misfit accept grace?  How does he end?  If she has been transformed, an epiphany, it won’t matter because she’s about to die.

Is this a dark comedy, like Fargo?  Comedy in the traditional sense means things come out well.  And nothing does here.  Cynical?

Is the story effective?  Why or why not?  Do you believe you would understand the story without the background about her?
 


  

Addendum to Imaginary Friendship

One of the things about blogging is that it means more thought goes into the posts than those on Facebook or Twitter (I just don't get Twitter, though).  However, one can still post before totally thinking, or post something that comes across very negative.  The post on Imaginary Friendship might have seemed that way, but I want to add this addendum.

Christians may be afraid to be real and authentic because we live in this in-between world of grace and justice.  We mistake justice for judgment or judgmentalism.  On one side, I think we wonder how much honesty we can take from someone else before we get "discerning" and "prophetic" or "encouraging" or "admonishing." If someone says, "I feel sometimes like God doesn't exist, or doesn't love me, or isn't fair,etc." I have to be honest, my first response is to not take part in this lack of faith, to step away from it, not to go towards it.  I don't want, in my nature, to look in any way that I am complicit in this statement.  And why?  Fear?  of what?  That it will rub off on me?  That I'll be judged for listening to such a conversation?  So I jump to a defense of God (as if He needs it), "No, no, you mustn't feel that way, you are not looking at the Word, etc. etc."  I should know by now that emotions do not succumb to reasonable arguments when we are in the thick of them.  We need something else. 

This is not to say the person should be allowed to wallow in these negative feelings that are coming out as honest expressions (or sometimes, as whiny calls for help).  But when someone else is that honest, how do we respond?  do we want to be friends with such a person?  Are we drawn to them or pushed away?  Do we encourage dishonesty in our so-called friends, our companions in the faith, by expecting them to filter so much that it seems like hypocrisy?  Are we afraid of authenticity and honesty? 

Christians may also be poor friends because of pure selfishness.  Friendship has a high standard in Scripture.  No greater love hath a man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.  This may be a guy-girl difference, but I have a really hard time imagining laying down my life for my friends.  Probably because I can't imagine a situation where it would be required.  Family members, yes, but if Christianity is anything it is "supra-family."  The old expression "blood is thicker than water" probably is saying "Family is stronger than baptism."  But that is not a Christian teaching.  Now, I am not being asked to sacrifice my life for anyone.  But I am being asked to sacrifice time and effort for them, which is part of life.

Selfishness translates into:  what can I get out of this friendship?  Cost benefit analysis.  And that is not friendship.

Link to Writing and the Brain

I am fascinated by brain research, especially when it comes to learning and communication.  This link is about how writing and storytelling helps the brain.  

http://dailyinfographic.com/how-does-writing-affect-your-brain-infographic

I lead a writers group where all of us are at least "middle-aged." I think the writing is a way for older people to achieve many goals:  it keeps their minds  and brains fresh and plastic.  It allows them to write something for their children.  Being in the group is a social event (I really fear that as we get older we get more isolated).  It encourages us to read more (not a problem for me, but I think it is for others).   When I have the time, if ever, I would like to do more research on the relationship of writing to brain health.

Monday, June 03, 2013

Imaginary Friendship

Have we let modern life bar us from friendship?  And are Christians the worst at it?

I have been thinking about this since yesterday morning.  My SS class decided to watch a Beth Moore series this summer (it's easier on the teachers to take a break in the summer).  It's John the Beloved Disciple.  I have written about Beth Moore elsewhere, and nothing in this post should be taken as criticism of her or her ministry.  She has been given, and carries, a wonderful ministry that most of us could not.  She leans on the emotional side a bit too much for me, but she is a student of the word.  So, with that out of the way, let me get to the point.

She was talking about how a woman who listens to her videos wrote and said that Beth was her best friend even though they had never met.  And Beth had some gracious things to say about that.  However, I looked at my other classmates and said, "I understand what she is saying, but that is really sad to me."  I got some agreement, although uncomfortable.

Why would someone think that a person who is really just a media personality, a celebrity, is their friend? what would lead them to that kind of delusion?  Has she been rejected by so many people because of appearance, or personality, or disability, or mental illness?  Is she extremely introverted and not able to get out in public?  Has her experience with the church been that Jesus is a friend but no one else is interested in friendship, at least not with someone like her?  And has she not read Prov. 18:24, "He who has friends must show himself friendly"? 

I feel it could be a mix of all four.  My experience in the church is that people can be extremely cliquish and only superficially interested in others.  They want to be around the cool people, as if they hadn't grown past high school.

Friendship is not a contest, not a way to validate ourselves as cool and influential.  While we will not click with everyone, I strongly believe we are doing a really crappy job of establishing friendships and being the friend our faith calls us to be.  No one should have to consider a video Bible teacher their best friend. 

Sunday, June 02, 2013

Anger, Suffering, and Discipline

I have come to the conclusion that we are a very angry society.  We are impatient--does the impatience come from anger or the anger from impatience?  We are selfish, almost narcissistic (the very fact I am blogging my opinions, and have Facebook pages, shows how much I want the world to know about me).  Does the anger come from the selfishness, or the selfishness from the anger?  We are depressed, which is often said to be anger turned inward.  We see unspeakable crimes reported on the news, and we move on after shaking our heads.  I watched Capote last night and am musing over the fact that his greatest book is over the murder of a family of four, and these kinds of things happen weekly if not more so today (although more likely to be domestic violence today rather than violence by strangers, but that is no consolation and only proves how angry we are as a society). 

Where does the anger come from?  To say bitterness seems glib, but I don't know where else.  And where does bitterness come from?  I believe that it comes from believing one deserves more than one has received.  Why we believe we deserve so much, well, that I don't know.  Perhaps the media has convinced us of a new norm we didn't know about before. 

Our anger is destroying us because our expectations are so unrealistic.   Not only do we expect more; more is expected of us.  Even though the life of a college professor seems cushy, I think back over the last 30 years and how much more is expected of us than back in the '80s.  Technology, diversity of students, assessment and evaluation and accountability, and knowledge explosion about our fields and teaching and learning.  I like to learn so these things do not bother me but I understand how overwhelming they are for others.

Suffering is inevitable in life; it is our "meaning making" about suffering that matters.  My Franklin Planner quote for the day is something about humor being tragedy with its pants torn.  I think that is stupid.  Tragedy is not a flip side of humor.  When an event is truly tragic, it is tragic and there is no humor in it, and the propensity to try to find it shows a childish impatience with the need and responsibility to grieve.  We are a people who don't want to grieve, who fear grief and loss and try to fill up the holes as quickly as possible.  We need the oldtimey period of mourning of a year, not because we should wear black for twelve months but so that we can get back to respecting loss and death.

Some Christians seem to adopt the Nietzschian quote:  That which does not kill us makes us stronger.  How ungodly.  We will not become stronger through suffering; we will become more dependent, I hope.

Capote

We have a station around here called "This."  It's not just in this area, but it is available without cable (we found out when our cable was down after the tornado two years ago).  I think "This" is a bizarre name for a channel, but "This" often shows interesting movies. Unfortunately, it shows ten minutes of movies and then ten minutes of commercials for lawyers who will help clients with Social Security disability and suing medical companies.

Last night, about midnight, Capote came on.  I became fascinated and watched almost all of it, despite the ridiculous commercials (after 2:00 a.m. I had had enough).  What an excellent movie, and how strange that Hollywood made two movies on the same subject within a year of each other.  I am not motivated to watch the other because Capote was so good. 

I have not read In Cold Blood but feel motivated to now.  Capote is portrayed fully human, sometimes sympathetically, sometimes not, and sometimes as nothing but a user.  He helps the killers from Holcomb, Kansas, get better legal counsel to stay alive, but why?  To use them for research for his book.  He is vain and of course annoyingly effeminate.  There's effeminate and then there's effeminate.  I vaguely remember seeing Capote on TV when I was a child.  He would show up on Dick Cavett, a little man with a high pitched voice wearing an ascot or scarf and a hat inside.  Dill grown up and allowed to be what he was.  It is in those moments when we remember he is Harper Lee's Dill that he is sympathetic.

So one finishes the movie wondering about the ethics of using killers for one's own career purposes.   The killers are human beings, after all, despite their crimes.  Do criminals have a right to be treated as humans?  Yes, and only if we see them as fully human is it right to punish them, because only when people are fully human are they responsible.

Peace

This is my life group lesson for the week.  Recently I’ve had some physical problems that required physical therap...