Monday, December 22, 2008

Should Christians Fight? Some Thoughts

As a veteran (who’s opposed to our aggressive foreign policy and the often illegal use of our military) and also an ardent reader of the peaceableness writings of Wendell Berry , I‘ve often asked the question: should Christians fight? In searching for the answer I discovered that the responsibilities deduced from the sixth commandment require us to preserve, when we are able, our life and the lives of others. I find helpful the following: Question 107 of the Heidelberg Catechism asks: “But is it enough that we do not kill any man in the manner above mentioned?” Answer: “No; for when God forbids envy, hatred and anger, he commands us to love our neighbour as ourselves; to show patience, peace, meekness, mercy, and all kindness towards him, and prevent his hurt as much as in us lies; and that we do good even unto our enemies.” In the answer to question 105 read: “Wherefore the magistrate is armed with the sword, to prevent murder.” The following books have also been very helpful to me on this subject: The Commentary of the Heidelberg Catechism, by Zacharias Ursinus, commentary on questions 103-107, on the 5th and 6th commandments; The Institutes of the Christian Religion , by John Calvin, Book 4, Chapter 20:10-12, On Civil Government; Politica , by Johannes Althusius, who writes often on defensive and just war (especially in chapter XVI:1-17) and expounds the political and social duties contained in the second table of the Decalogue (especially in chapter XXI:22-29); The Marrow of Theology, by William Ames, Book II, Chapter XVIII, Humanity Toward Our Neighbor; Systematic Theology, by Robert L. Dabney, Lecture XXXIII, 5th and 6th Commandment; Systematic Theology, by Charles Hodge, Part III, Chapter XIX: 10, The Sixth Commandment.

(A discussion post on the group: Calvinism: The Group That Chooses You.)

White Christmas

We found a little reindeer wandering the beach. Apparently, Santa decided to let her go (we are in a recession, after all) because she keeps ripping open the presents and eating the paper. Oh, and she won't let any of the other reindeer get a good night's sleep . . .

Here she's thinking, hmm--could this be potentially embarassing when I'm a teenager?

Thursday, December 18, 2008

Politics in a Post-Literate Society

"Forget Red vs. Blue -- It's the Educated vs. People Easily Fooled by Propaganda"
By Chris Hedges

In our post-literate world, because ideas are inaccessible, there is a need
for constant stimulus. News, political debate, theater, art and books are
judged not on the power of their ideas but on their ability to entertain.
Cultural products that force us to examine ourselves and our society are
condemned as elitist and impenetrable.

. . . It feels good not to think. Full article here.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

End of semester reflections

As a horrible, horrible semester draws to its close I thought I would make a list of good things that happened to remind myself of why I still teach.

-After submitting a paper in which she expressed her distaste for freeganism, a student decided to investigate for herself and went dumpster diving with a friend. They had great fun and found a perfectly good file cabinet, a set of John Deere tools, and a large bag of unmoldy bagels, among other things. The student enthusiastically showed a video of her adventures to the class.

-For the first time, I taught the story “The Ones Who Walk away from Omelas” by Ursula K. LeGuin. We had a meaningful discussion about America’s “non-negotiable” lifestyle and a former Wal-Mart employee suggested we stage a protest. This was even before the Black Friday trampling tragedy. An article about the story is forthcoming.

-Amidst much groaning and grumbling, I forced students to act out scenes from Henrik Ibsen’s play A Doll’s House. Duplicating the scene in which Nora dances a frenetic tarantella for her domineering husband, a middle aged mechanic/Army vet (male) rolled up his pants to show some leg and proceeded to sachet around the classroom shaking my daughter’s toy tambourine. Uproarious laughter ensued. Ah, for the good old Shakespearean days when men played the female leads . . .

-A student cited Ron Paul as a source in a research paper without any prompting, coaxing, or threats from me.

-I taught three Flannery O’Connor stories--as always, some “get” her and some don’t. Flannery (we’re on a first-name basis) always manages to make me laugh, not take myself so seriously, and reminds me that so much of human machination is hogwash. A wise person on the Internet once said that reading Flannery is like waiting at a railroad crossing catching glimpses between train cars of the scenery beyond--you can’t quite make it out, but you know it’s something wonderful and mysterious. Although it wasn’t this semester, one of my finest Hallmark-shed-a-single-tear moments of past ends-of-semesters occurred when a student who was wise beyond her years simply said, “Thanks for the Flannery.” If I meet Flannery in heaven, I doubt I’ll be able to say much except “Thanks for the stories.”

Friday, December 5, 2008

Girls' day out at the beach

Here MiMi is at St. Andrew's State Park over Thanksgiving weekend. We went with Granny and Auntie. She especially liked sitting and standing on the jetty rocks and raking her fingers in the sand. She wasn't quite sure what to think of the waves (can you say, "sensory overload"?). It was slightly cold, but we caught it just before the rain. I had forgotten how pretty it is out there.

Thursday, December 4, 2008

Rod Dreher on Wendell Berry

"Crunchy Con" Rod Dreher talks about why Berry is more relevant than ever:

The root of our collective crisis is as old as humanity itself: We've been
overcome by a colossal sense of pride, which entails the Luciferian belief that
we can be as gods. "The problem with us is not only prodigal extravagance," [Berry]
writes. "but also an assumed limitlessness. We have obscured the issue by
refusing to see that limitlessness is a godly trait."

In the months and years to come, we all will have to learn the meaning
of limits. Wendell Berry is no dour scold who preaches a joyless austerity. To
the contrary, he tells us that what we truly seek in life is not comfort, but
meaning – and that you don't have to live a life of rigorous asceticism to find
it. Rather, we only need to order our lives around the ancient idea that
happiness depends on virtue – virtue lived in community. We can only be
fulfilled by living within the bounds prescribed by our nature, and in fidelity
not to our selfish desires but to the greater good of our families, friends and

Full article here.