Well Worth Reading

The Saint posted this article yesterday, and I am still pondering through the ideas. He put forth a very clear picture of what real Christianity is up against in America (or anywhere in Western society, really), and he did it from a perspective I don't often hear.

Here's a sample:

"Liberal democracy allows you a great deal of freedom to practice your religion according to the dictates of your conscience, but, in the end, you must do so alone. You can have a family and a church, but they must remain collections of autonomous individuals. The right of an individual to practice his religion has seldom been under question, but the right of a family or church to educate its children, to define acceptable moral behavior for its members and choose its clergy often seems to be only grudgingly granted."

In a world where individual satisfaction is valued over morality and virtue, where suffering of any sort is considered the single greatest evil, and where the passions of youth are glorified and gratified in utter disregard of the wisdom of the aged: this is a radical concept.

I doubt even a large part of Christianity would be willing to agree fully with the ideas in this article.

Anyway, the post comes highly recommended from this direction! Enjoy the reading.


It was Good Enough for Aretha…

While goofing off on my computer the other day, I ran across this article by Martha Brockenbrough. As it referred to movie princesses, I could hardly resist reading it… there’s still a lot of little girl in me :-D

Normally Martha Brockenbrough’s work makes me laugh, and I got some chuckles out of this piece. So I won’t criticize it thoroughly, although it’s clear she’s either never seen The Princess Diaries (first or second) all the way through or she’s mixed it up with another storyline.

But, while the probably-innocent-but-rather-drastic misinterpretation of one of my favorite movies annoyed me mildly, the question that has haunted me ever since is one that, if spoken too loudly, could easily draw a fair share of feminist ire. I’m not normally fond of being intentionally and overtly controversial, but this one just bugs me.

Here’s the question: What’s so bad about a girl wanting to be rescued?

The obvious answer given, of course, is that a woman should be capable of taking care of herself and confidently in control of her own destiny. The problem is that reality limits the practicability of such things.

No, I’m not advocating ignorance, stupidity or inanity for women. I happen to like being sensible and educated. Part of any decent education for girls, however, is an understanding of vulnerability: feminine, as well as human, vulnerability. Every daughter should be taught keen character judgment and an eye for what sort of man is worth investing herself in, as well as which girls make good friends. She should also learn of the danger of going certain places alone; that it’s a good idea for a girl to keep her head up, her eyes open and a can of mace at close command when walking from house to car in the dark, and that it’s even better in certain situations for her to have a man walking with her.

That, however, just begins the issue of feminine vulnerability. Women are, and always have been, susceptible to attack in ways men are either not or are less so. Not simply physically, but emotionally as well: with the strength of a fine-tuned sensitivity to feeling comes the dangers of too-natural tendencies toward overdependency or tolerance of abuse.

The feminists and I agree that abuse and chronic neediness should not exist. But the feminists go wrong in propagating the idea that a woman can become whole by entirely throwing off the ‘shackles’ of patriarchy. While a woman can (and should be able to) live unshattered without the presence of husband or father or brother in some immediate form of protective role, women who choose this or do it too well usually lose something of the feminine softness and sensitivity that portrays grace to the world.

Centrally, that softness has nothing to do with the stereotypical doormat-submission or wilting-flower mentality, nor any reference to the clichéd comparison between the tree-climbing tomboy and the parlor-dweller. It is, however, an indispensable part of woman’s beauty. And real possession of that female grace depends on a girl’s acceptance of her own vulnerability.

With few exceptions, the single women I’ve known either hold out the hope for a man to come through for them (with varying degrees of realistic expectations) or bitch with the other gals about how men have let them down.

The idea that a girl should kick down every door in her path and save herself by herself is standard Hollywood idealism nowadays, marketed generally to girls old enough to have tasted some bitterness in relating to men. While most women want to show off some toughness and independence—along with stunning beauty—the whole girl-to-her-own-lonely-rescue ideal just doesn’t fit fully with the girl heart, and it doesn’t replace what a girl loses in refusing to accept the strength of masculinity that offers her protection.

Like it or not, a woman’s heart contains the desire to be fought for and rescued by a man. And without that, a woman is—quite simply—missing out.

“…Unknit that threatening unkind brow,
And dart not scornful glances from those eyes
To wound thy lord, thy king, thy governor!
It blots thy beauty as frosts do bite the meads…”

–Shakespeare, Taming of the Shrew


Ramblings of the Week

Today, having forgotten some of the blogging-inspiration that hit me often during the week but never near available time, I asked my sister Beth what I should blog about. She reeled off quite a list, including experiencing writer's block, the coming of spring, my favorite-song-of-the-week, and her own sense of losing her mind due to the impending arrival of finals week. "Or you could write," she said, "about how you've always wanted to get onto a rowing team, and how you didn't know how to get onto a rowing team because you couldn't swim." I had opened my mouth to protest that I actually do have some rudimentary swimming ability when she added "And by you, I mean me."

She can swim as well as I can. And rowing could be fun. You get to be in a boat, much like raft guiding (which I have done) but you don't have to worry about what moving water does when it hits rocks, submerged train cars and low-head dams. Not being much of a thrill-seeker, I like the sound of that.

Beth is right about spring coming, and it makes me happy. The early-blooming pink and white trees, which people tell me are cherry trees, are blossoming extravagantly right now. Other signs of returning warmth have appeared as well. The Saint and I took a walk up into the forest today, and I found leaf-buds poking their way out of the end of branches. A robin hopped along the side of the path and watched us, too. Robins mean spring generally, although the Saint says they never really go away around here. I like that about Washington.

Beth is also right about me and writer's block. One song has me stuck now, trying to arrange my ideas; other emotions have so far totally refused to submit to the form of words and melody. I'll corner them yet.

As for a favorite song of the week, I'll just say that after ten years of reigning as my favorite female vocalist, LeAnn Rimes has to make some room at the top for Hayley Westenra. Hayley deserves congratulations for being the first artist to make me buy two CDs at once. I particularly love the "Prayer" off of Odyssey and... well, most of the Pure CD. When she got around to singing "Heaven" on Pure, I have to admit it brought tears to my eyes. Right there at my desk at work.

Speaking of music, we sang Amazing Grace in church today. Five verses. Though twenty-nine years of being a Baptist had taught me to belt out four verses with my eyes closed, I hadn't heard this one since childhood:

The Lord has promised good to me,
His word my hope secures
He will my shield and portion be
As long as life endures.

I liked it. And I liked singing it with the Saint, on our knees. Or maybe we'd just stood up out of kneeling... anyway, it was good.

As to whether anyone can lose their mind, over finals or anything else, and still find the wit to make me laugh out loud... I leave it to yourselves to determine.


Another Good Chesterton Quote

...not from Orthodoxy this time, although there's about half a chapter of that I'd like to put in here, if only I had the time and space...

I came across this, rather randomly, in a book by John Stott the other day, and liked it too much not to share it.

"You say grace before meals.
All right.
But I say grace before the play and the opera,
And grace before the concert and pantomime,
And grace before I open a book,
And grace before sketching, painting,
Swimming, fencing, boxing, walking, playing, dancing;
And grace before I dip the pen in the ink."

Quoted in Dudley Barker, G. K. Chesterton, A Biography (Constable, 1973), p. 65, from unpublished notebook jottings.

Stott, J. (1996; 2007). The Message of 1 Timothy and Titus (115). Inter-Varsity Press.

Of course, Chesterton, a Catholic, said grace before meals too... just in case anybody wondered :-)


This Week 3/4/07

Numerous times this week I have found myself thinking "Oh, I should post that..." Posting, however, or even catching up with the internet, has not made it from the "want to do" list to the "have to do" list (about half of which has not been done, either.) Here, though, are the things I have thought of posting, in chronological order:

Tuesday: A pound of butter fell out of my freezer and landed on my foot. As to why that amused me enough to want to tell everybody, however, I have no idea.

Thursday: My inner child and I are in close touch. I can tell, because this, which I found in the Old Testament Pseudepigrapha*, makes me snicker:

[Ben Bag-Bag said: Turn it, and turn it again, for the whole is in it, and the whole of thee is in it; and from it swerve not, for there is to thee no greater good than it.]
26 [Ben He-He said: According to the toil is the pay.]"

Pseudepigrapha of the Old Testament. 2004 (R. H. Charles, Ed.) (2:710). Logos Research Systems, Inc.

* pseud•epig•ra•phon noun plural pseud•epig•ra•pha 2. any of various pseudonymous or anonymous Jewish religious writings of the period 200 b.c. to 200 a.d.; especially : one of such writings (as the Psalms of Solomon) not included in any canon of biblical Scripture — usually used in plural
Merriam-Webster, I. (1996, c1993). Merriam-Webster's collegiate dictionary. Includes index. (10th ed.). Springfield, Mass., U.S.A.: Merriam-Webster.

Friday: Spent an hour in silent prayer at one of the most beautiful old churches in town. The importance of beauty in church design is a topic for another post; about this evening, however, I will simply say that on my knees before Christ I felt more strongly than I have in three years like I stood on solid rock in my faith. Feeling (by itself), of course, while it guarantees neither reality nor future perseverance, does matter and does help. God forbid that I underrate the power of a sense of confidence in Him when, since the close of 2003, faith has too often been a matter of desperate and almost hopeless clinging. Friday night I felt like that lackluster determination had finally been reinforced by the brilliancy of sincere and unclouded hope and trust. All I can say is Thank God.

Saturday: Beth and I watched Stranger than Fiction, and I couldn't tell you how long it's been since I saw a new romantic comedy that good. Maybe not since Return to Me. Be forewarned, ye who would watch: there's about thirty seconds of time dedicated to achieving its PG-13 rating. Get past that and you've got a great story: artistically and mentally interesting, hilarious, and poignant--I don't often catch myself caring so deeply about what happens to a character. You'll love Harold Crick too; you don't have to be a Will Ferrell fan to do so.

Sunday: Celebrated the birthday, though a few days late, of one of the greatest and humblest men on earth; a man who has lived and worked quietly, selflessly, faithfully for God and his family through the course of many years; a pastor at heart, a fireman and EMT, a wealth of skill towards house and home, body and soul--my father. Happy Birthday, Dad.