Monday, March 27, 2017

Christian Counter-Culture

Excellent article at First Things about the Moral Minority, contrasting three books about what Christians should do going forward to answer a decaying culture.  I raised my first two children in something of Dreher's Benedictine Option (related to the Autobiographical Note post), but we moved away from it as they grew older, and it largely vanished with our adopted and then inherited sons, who very much wanted to be connected to the coolest, most normal American culture they could attach to. (They have shown some natural defenses.)

I liked something of each, but a bit at the end about Anthony Esolen (English prof at Providence College) was amusing.
In what is one of the most charming passages of the book, Esolen reflects on a series of Winslow Homer paintings portraying scenes in the everyday lives of children: away from adults, they are immersed in the natural world, and they are together, face to face. “When children come together to play, we see in miniature the very art of culture itself.”
When children came together when I was a child it was usually to argue about the rules of games and beat the crap out of each other. This is similar to the fallacy that Philip Yancey was guilty of (I think in What's So Amazing About Grace) when he put Jean Valjean forward as evidence that people really do go through radical transformation if we radically forgive. Ah, Phil? That's fiction. The author can make the characters do whatever he wants. It doesn't have to have the least relationship to reality. Just plausibility. To some.

Winslow Homer chose what he painted.


Sam L. said...

But, but, but...they SEEM so REAL and true to life (as I imagine it)!

james said...

There don't seem to be very many organizations in between family and state to which we owe much loyalty, or which owe loyalty to us, do there? Your employer--perhaps. Your church--though people skip around pretty freely. Guild? Extended family? Town? State? My alma mater beats the drum pretty regularly, but that's pretty one-sided (please give). For most of us there are few buffers between us and the almighty state.

Kevin said...

Hi AVI. It's been a long time. Very interesting blog.

I think the problem with fictional approaches to reality is not per se that they are fiction but that some fiction uses more discernment than other fiction. I do believe that the best fiction contains elements of truth that are invaluable to human experience. Another problem, of course, occurs when readers try to oversimplify the lessons of a great work of fiction. I'm not sure Les Miserables is great fiction. In some ways, it strikes me as the kind of literature with a simple social justice message that many progressives are so fond of these days. In my book (no pun intended), it certainly wouldn't be great literature if it could all be boiled down to the ability of a human to radically transform himself. In contrast, the power of Hamlet, for example, is in the complexity of the character and the story. There are many truths to consider in Hamlet and no neat little moral to tie them all together.

Thanks for the reference to the article. The books reviewed look like they offer some great food for thought.

Assistant Village Idiot said...

Kevin, I think that's about right. Fiction can distill truth, but it shouldn't be assumed that all fiction is distilled truth.