Archives For C.S. Lewis

screwtape

1. Screwtape in the 21st century
Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia’s recent interview with New York magazine turned a lot of heads, not least because he mentioned he believes the devil actually exists. While sharing some further thoughts on evil, he referenced The Screwtape Letters by C.S. Lewis, prompting Casey N. Cep (@cncep) to write for the New Yorker on the question of Screwtape’s continuing intrigue 70 years after publication:

For believers, the letters are theology in reverse, teaching the love of God through the wiles of the Devil, but for all readers, regardless of belief, the letters frame human experience as a familiar sequence of trials, from how you take your tea and what parties you attend to the sort of person you choose for a partner and the sort of politics you espouse. As Justice Scalia said when he invoked “The Screwtape Letters,” “That’s a great book. It really is, just as a study of human nature.” The novel remains wildly popular because whether or not you agree with Lewis and Scalia that the Devil is real, the evils promoted by Screwtape—greed, gluttony, pride, envy, and violence—most certainly are.

2. Philanthropy’s original sin
Does the presence of one virtue cancel out the absence of others? William A. Schambra writes in The New Atlantis:

Philanthropy has many wonderful qualities — and never tires of proclaiming them, for one quality it sorely lacks is humility. It regularly thumps itself on the back, for instance, for devoting some $300 billion a year to good causes. And though philanthropic spending on social causes is dwarfed by that of the government, foundations proudly claim that dollar for dollar their spending is in fact more effective than the government’s. While government tends to stick with the safe and the routine, philanthropy regularly and energetically seeks out the next new thing; it claims it is at the cutting edge of social change, being innovative, scientific, and progressive. Philanthropy, as legendary Ford Foundation program officer Paul Ylvisaker once claimed, is society’s “passing gear.”

3. Forgiveness and criminal justice
Jeremy Chen (@germy224) makes the case in this Shared Justice editorial that the way our prison system is run should be a matter of public concern:

The  statistics are grim. As of 2009, the U.S. had the highest incarceration rate in the world (0.743 percent). Two-thirds of former prisoners repeat offenses within three years of confinement, and more than half are re-incarcerated in the same time. In light of these bleak realities, the ideas of restorative justice might seem to herald a promising – even Christ-like – solution for change. But can such an idealistic ethic work for public justice? Is forgiveness something that governments can do, and if so, is it even desirous for them to do so? In other words, can restorative justice ideas begin to inform the way public justice is done, especially in the context of the government’s criminal justice work?

4. The limits of hospitality
Andi Ashworth, whose husband produces hauntingly beautiful music, has a knack for a different sort of creativity, in the form of hospitality. Her book, Real Love for Real Life: The Art and Work of Caring, by the way, comes highly recommended by someone who does hospitality as well as anyone I know. But Ashworth says she has learned that sustaining a lifestyle of hospitality for the long haul requires setting boundaries:

Hospitality, simply put, is a lifestyle of sharing. It’s big enough to extend across a lifetime, and small enough to elevate a simple cup of tea and conversation into something important. The needs we come across, including our own, will guide us. Whether sharing a meal, an afternoon, or a bed for the night, there’s a time for everything. A time to offer and a time to rest, a time for family and a time for strangers, a time to refresh others and a time to be refreshed.

5. I Am Mountain

[Image: The Screwtape Letters wallpaper via screwtape.com]

hymns-cxvi

1. Hymns jubilee
In celebration of seven years of music-making (specifically, “making hymns accessible and known again”), Page CXVI is giving away its entire catalog of 74 songs throughout the month of March. It’s great stuff.

2. C.S. Lewis on prayer
Scot McKnight shared a rare clip from one of C.S. Lewis’s radio addresses, speaking about prayer. I can’t say I imagined Clive’s voice sounding quite like this.

3. Earning a voice
Ever wonder what it would be like to eavesdrop on a conversation between brilliant philosophers like James K.A. Smith and Nicholas Wolterstorff? Okay, unless you’re a nerd, maybe you haven’t. But in the latest edition of Comment, they discuss how the field of philosophy has changed in recent decades, and how Christians have earned a voice in academia. It’s really interesting:

What happened in my field of philosophy was that positivism collapsed… The big programs in contemporary philosophy had all been gatekeepers: the positivists were saying that one can’t even talk about God, the ordinary language people were worrying whether language is being used improperly when we talk about God, and so forth. The collapse of the big gatekeeper programs meant that there was nobody around anymore who was saying, not with any plausibility, anyway, that it’s impossible to make judgments about God, impossible to talk about God, etc. All of those programs collapsed. They did not collapse because of what they said about the impossibility of religious/theological language; they collapsed for other reasons. What this collapse meant was that religious/theological discourse was now open.

4. Bono at TED
Last fall the U2 frontman made some waves at a tech conference when he admitted his “humbling” discovery that business and entrepreneurship have a crucial role to play in poverty alleviation. “The strongest and loudest voice with moral punch [in Africa] at the moment,” he said, “is a nerd.” He’s now taken his “factivist” tour to TED2013. The video hasn’t been posted yet, apparently, but here’s a snippet from the TED blog:

Bono’s passion: countering what Nelson Mandela refers to as “that most awful offense to humanity, extreme poverty.” His weapon of choice? Facts. “Forget the rock opera, forget the bombast, my usual tricks,” he says. “The only thing singing today will be the facts. I have truly embraced my inner nerd. Exit the rock star.” He removes his trademark sunglasses. “Enter the evidence-based activist.” He puts his glasses back on upside down. Bono is now a “factivist.” And he has the infographic-filled slides to prove it.

5. Folksongs & Ballads

[Image: pagecxvi.com]

1. Why American Evangelicals love the British
Molly Worthen has an interesting post at the new Religion & Politics blog (tagline: “fit for polite company”) about people like us and why we’re so hung up on guys like C.S. Lewis, J.R.R. Tolkien, and John Stott. We Americans apparently have an intellectual inferiority complex, for one thing. Whether you buy all her arguments or not, it’s a good read. Here’s a bit of what she has to say about Stott:

John Stott represented British evangelical moderation at its very best. He spent much of his career advocating dialogue among evangelicals, Catholics, liberals and charismatic Christians. He recognized early on that the center of gravity in global Christianity had shifted to the developing world, and worked to break down the ethnocentric mindset of evangelicals in Europe and North America and convince them that preaching the Word and fighting for social justice were two sides of the same coin… Just as Tolkien and Lewis baptized the world of myth, magic and fantasy for evangelicals whose churches had long proscribed such things as demonic, John Stott helped evangelicals recover a capacity for compassion and civil conversation that was lost in the fog of the culture wars.

2. Doxology and desire
Sandra McCracken makes amazing music and she also happens to write beautiful essays, like this one at Art House America:

So with each passing day, I am becoming more attuned to the particular DNA I have from each of my parents — biology and theology — pushing me forward on the journey of conservation. I might be unqualified, but everybody has to start somewhere. Rather than burying my head in the sand like I am inclined to do, I have to lean into my discomfort. I’d rather deepen my longing, not assuage it. And I look to the great hope that all things will one day be restored and renewed. I want to honor and care for God’s creation not because of a marketing team pulling on my checkbook, but because of a doxological pull that tugs on my conscience.

3. Pastors and their people
I’ve decided I want to read everything Rich Mouw has written. I first read this and then this and, most recently, this. In a recent essay at Faith & Leadership, hosted by Duke Divinity School, he writes about the gap between the worlds in which pastors and their congregants live. He describes a conversation with a successful businessman who lamented the fact that his pastor didn’t understand the challenges he faced day to day:

I have thought much about that conversation. If I were that man’s pastor, what could I do to speak more directly to his felt needs as a businessperson? One thing I would not do is to preach detailed sermons about economics. My lunch partner made it clear that he was not asking for that kind of thing, and I agree with him. What this person was asking for was more sensitivity to the kinds of complexities he faces on a daily basis — a reasonable expectation. And his pastor could respond to this need in helpful ways without becoming an expert on corporate finance.

4. Kristof and Hybels have a chat
Last Sunday, New York Times columnist Nicholas Kristof was interviewed by Bill Hybels at Willow Creek Church about oppression against women and opportunities to right those wrongs. It’s a fascinating conversation, and the 40 minute video is (for the moment, at least) here. If you’re interested, here also is my review of Kristof’s book on the subject.

5. Wisdom & Wonder mindmap
Fellow Kuyper nerds will be interested to see this amazing mindmap by Steve Bishop of the first four chapters of Wisdom & Wonder: Common Grace in Science & Art. It all makes sense now.

6. Tom covers Bob
Some of you may have seen this already, but during a stop in Nashville this week, N.T. Wright picked up a guitar and played a Bob Dylan song, citing its “wonderful biblical imagery” and its solid eschatology. What a treat (though, admittedly, this might just be evidence of my own Anglophilia).

Repaso is intended as a thought-provoking compilation of news and commentary from the past week related to the intersections of faith, development, justice and peace. As always, I welcome your thoughts on any of the links and ideas in this roundup!

[Photo credit: a man lights his pipe and enjoys a pint at the Eagle and Child, where The Inklings met to plot goodness - via amazon.com]

On reading well

February 7, 2011 — 5 Comments

On Friday I blogged about my top ten books for 2010, a list that included books I enjoyed for a variety of reasons: some impacted me deeply at a spiritual or theological level, some expanded my horizons, some were beautiful or tragic articulations of universal themes, and some exposed a bit of what’s wrong with the world.

All of us who read certainly have all sorts of reasons for doing so, whether we’re conscious of them or not. When you first begin to use your free time to read, as I did during college, setting a goal for a certain number to read in a given year — 5, 12, 20, 50 — seems a bit overwhelming. But if you’re like me, you quickly discover that reading is a deeply beneficial practice in ways you might not even be able to articulate, and it’s not long before you realize that the more you read, the more you want to read, and perhaps, the longer your “short list” becomes.

When this happens, it’s not a bad idea to give some thought to what you’re going to read and what you’re going to skip. C.S. Lewis once advised that it’s wise, after reading a new book, not to pick up another until you read an old one. This way we keep from simply imbibing the spirit of the age without challenging the blindspots each of us inevitably have. For the same reason, I think it’s wise to read books by authors different from you, ethnically, nationally, religiously, politically, etc. So, in terms of personal application, I try to be conscious of not just reading a bunch of new books by Christian white guys.

I’ve more or less done so in years past, but this year I’m trying to be a bit more intentional with my reading choices. For starters, I plan to read at least one book from every continent in the world (plus Central America and the Middle East) as well as at least one by an adherent of every major world religion. I’m aiming for at least 25% of my books to be written by dead people, and for 40% to be written by women or non-white males.

Like the author of Ecclesiastes, I think there’s a time and a place for everything. There’s a time to read to be entertained, and a time to read to be challenged. A time to read how-tos, and a time to ask the whys. A time to study great men and women, and a time to learn from the mistakes of their terrible counterparts. A time to read spiritually and introspectively, and a time to consider how one’s knowledge might serve others. You get the idea. I suppose this plan is an effort to figure out the balance.

Do you have thoughts on reading well? Have you ever developed a plan to read with intentionality? Which categories am I missing?