Friday, November 21, 2014

This Icon of Shane Claiborne Will Bless You

Shane Claiborne, author of The Irresistible Revolution, is a big deal in New Monasticism, a movement which was itself a big deal during the aughts. As with many radical Christian movements, much was good and much was dumb. I come not to cast aspersions, but to laugh. New Monasticism will be familiar to people who read up on their theology back when people used the word "emergent" all the time. It is a movement that uses phrases like "the abandoned places of empire". They value social relevance, but also look to the old ways.

Now that we are primed, let us enjoy this image I came across on the internet. Here is an ad featuring Shane Claiborne promoting some new thing he's doing. It's about tradition, because it's about practices. But it's also hip and cool, as the do-rag denotes. So that fine, that's pretty norms for this sort of thing.


But dig what I dig about this photo. Look at his right hand. Is he simply caught in mid-gesture as he expounds on the central practices of the Christian faith? Or is he mimicking the Christ Pantocrator of iconography, re-co-opting the gesture medieval Christians co-opted to indicate that Jesus was teaching?

Or does it instead look like so many other contemporary Christian movements, awkwardly caught between tradition and dynamism, craving both but having neither? Does it just look contrived?

I guess I did come to cast aspersions.

Links I Loved This Week, November 21 2014

1. Could Jesus Have Sinned? by R. C. Sproul Jr.

2. The section of Paradise Lost that Nick Cave got the phrase "red right hand" from. The section of Horace's Odes from which Milton translated "rubente dextera" as "red right hand". The song Red Right Hand by Nick Cave. The Sickbed of Cuchulainn by The Pogues.

3. A 1965 paper from The Evangelical Quarterly on the Christian message of Miguel de Unamuno. He is one to examine when considering resistance to a wicked Christian state.
This Spanish Christ who has never lived, black as the mantle of the earth, lies horizontal and stretchlld out like a . plain, without soul and without hope, with closed eyes facing heaven...The Christ of my land is only earth, earth, earth, earth. 
4. Douglas Wilson objects to Christian ministers abstracting marriage from the state.

Thursday, November 20, 2014

Homeschoolers Don't Work As Hard


According to the Homeschool Legal Defense Association, a woman in Virginia lost her child support payments because her child's homeschooling was not recognized by the state
Patricia was complying with the law; she was qualified to homeschool and had notified the local school district of her intent to educate her teen daughter at home. 
As a single parent she was entitled by law to child support pursuant to a custody agreement until her children completed high school. However, just days after her daughter’s 18th birthday, the agency responsible for collecting and distributing the support payments from Patricia’s former spouse informed her that child support would no longer be collected simply because her daughter, Katelyn, now 18, was not in school. 
She was told that this was happening because “West Virginia does not recognize homeschooling as a secondary education.” 
When Patricia contacted the agency to gather more information and to attempt to resolve the matter, she was told by one staff member that “We know homeschool kids don’t work as hard as kids in regular school.”
So although Patricia was obeying the law by registering her child's education (which shouldn't be a law in the first case, but I digress), as soon as her daughter reached majority child support ceased because the other condition for support wasn't being met: that of being validly educated.
I'm sure this is a slam-dunk case for the HSLDA, and you can read the rest of their post if you'd like to know more about it. But I'd like to concern myself with what Patricia was reportedly told to justify what was done to her: "We know that homeschool kids don't work as hard as kids in regular school."
Oh man. What a revealing comment.
There are two twelve-year-old girls on my block who I see getting on the bus before 7 a.m. as I leave for work. Then I see them being dropped off by a school bus at 6:30 p.m. every evening. They are gone from home, under the care of our kindly government, for nearly twelve hours.
I worked at a scholastic institution populated by public school kids for several months, and I was struck by how clearly these kids outperformed the homeschool kids I was familiar with in one particular area: I couldn't believe how seamlessly these kids got into line. I mean, their queueing skills were sans pareil. And if you think queueing isn't a big deal, think again. It's the stuff of sociology.
"Homeschool kids don't work as hard as kids in regular school." Let's grant that in order to get to what is actually meant.
Homeschool kids don't work as much as kids in regular school. That's true. Obviously there are exceptions, with spelling bee winners and elite athletes and twelve-year-old college students being perfect examples. But yeah, homeschool kids don't work as much. Mostly because they're not working dumb. 
Work smarter, not harder, as the saying goes.
The goal of the American school system seems to be, not to educate, but to train people to be part of a system. To be productive members of society. And productive members of society can be stupid and ignorant, as long as they know how to get in line and learn how to sit still for twelve hours even when there's little worth or utility in doing so.
If working hard is simply logging hours, government school kids have us beat. From school morning and afternoon to two hours of homework at the end of the day, these guys know how to sit through it.
But if working is what the dictionary says it is, i.e. to bring to pass, to effect, to produce a desired effect or result, to succeed, then homeschoolers work better. And sometimes harder.
The person who said those words to Patricia doesn't know what work is. He or she thinks that work is obedience. That work is doing what other people tell you to do for as long as people tell you to do it for, and just because. What to expect from people who were trained (I can't say educated) by the state? 
Men who are educated, who have been taught to think and to act, can be lords. But men who spend fourteen years learning only to obey must become slaves and functionaries.
O you homeschoolers, let me encourage you with these words: the next time your kids don't start school until just before lunch time, or the next time your kids finish school before morning snack, rejoice in the effectiveness of your civil disobedience. Your children do not belong to the government and its lines.

C. S. Lewis on Religion & Science

There is nothing new under the sun, and atheists are wickedly adorale.

Reading Marilynne Robinson

Great post at Christianity Today's adorably named Her.Meneutics on novelist Marilynne Robinson: The Calvinist on the Bestseller List. She's great. You should go read the article.

Given the dramatic and oft-noted rise of the religious "nones," Marilynne Robinson's sterling reputation and popularity as a novelist and essayist—not merely among Christians, but among critics and readers of every faith and no faith—is something of a surprise. Robinson's rigorous intellect is wedded to a profound appreciation of the human soul; her creative vision takes shape in relation to her Christian faith.

"I have read and loved a lot of literature about religion and religious experience – Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Flannery O’Connor, the Bible," Mark O'Connell writes in The New Yorker, "but it’s only with Robinson that I have actually felt what it must be like to live with a sense of the divine."

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