21 December 2010

Let's All Hate the Duggers (a.k.a. I lied about this blog only being for book reviews)

A while back a good friend of mine sent this link to me. http://blog.beliefnet.com/stuffchristianculturelikes/2010/01/duggar-family.html (please note: If you think you are said good friend, understand that you are still my good friend, but I need to use you to make a point) Now, I don't know why he did this. My guess is he found it humorous or he thinks I'm cute when I'm angry. But that day I began to think (after I got over my initial rage against this woman who apparently thinks she has a right to judge other believers and how God-dishonoring that is) about the small-family culture I am living in.

Growing up I was the second oldest of eight (one is with the Lord), and I actually never considered us to be a large family. I thought we were about adequate and felt sorry for some of the other children who didn't have as many "friends," as I did. I probably didn't actually think seriously about the "outrageous size" of my family until I went to college. I can't say I didn't run into attitudes I didn't like about children, but I also remained unapologetic and usually my friends would give up trying to convert me to the realization that my father and mother were actually crazy.

As I get to know more people I have had two conversations that have seriously concerned me. One was with the friend who sent the link above. His basic argument was that people who want a lot of children are basically interpreting the bible wrong, especially the command to "Be fruitful and multiply." Apparently he believes the command was given to the human race as a whole and not to each individual couple. I actually don't know how this works out practically. I mean, if every individual couple isn't being fruitful, how is the entire human race going to achieve that goal? Anyway the other conversation was with another male friend who was outlining quite candidly his future. He and his girlfriend were going to marry as soon as she finished her degree at Covenant. Then they would work and travel for a while, and at about 36 for him, and 35 for her they would have their first child. He didn't want to have a child too early, as it was liable to cramp his lifestyle.

There was just something deep in my heart on both occasions that said, "This is wrong." Something that I couldn't put into words. Well, little did I know that there was someone already putting it into words. Last week I received an article from a friend more sympathetic to my own thoughts. It was called "Meaningful Intercourse: The Rise and Fall of Sexual Constitution of Western Civilization" by Allan Carlson published in the journal Touchstone in January/February of 2009.

Allan Carlson's basic argument is that the small-family culture we see not only among unbelievers but in the church as well, is basically the result of a new rise in Gnostic thinking. He traces the line of thought from the libertine Gnostics to the "anything goes" sexual lives of the unbelieving (and unfortunately sometimes the believing), and the more conservative Gnostic beliefs to the anti-baby attitudes that influence things like abortion, the prevalence of birth control, and the push for the legalization of homosexual marriage.

I don't want to give too much away because I think it should be read by anyone and everyone. It was one of the most powerfully and professionally argued papers I have read. I actually ended up forwarding it to my friend who hates the Duggars, and even he couldn't find much fault with the way the topic was handled.

Anyway, it ended with this call to arms that nearly caused me to stand and applaud, despite the fact that I was at work on a lunch break, "In a flourishing civilization, both the elites and a great majority of the common people accept and internalize-without question-an array of assumptions, codes of conduct, and moral guides; any skeptical minority must acquiesce, or face sanctions. However, renewing a civilization, or building a new one as the church Fathers did, is far more difficult, for it requires choice-a voluntary surrender of individual freedom and immediate pleasure in favor of certain ideals-and it also requires acts of courage that run against the currents of the age....Are twenty-first century Christians ready for these tasks?"

20 December 2010

One More for the Year?

Book: The Last Child

Author: John Hart

Basic Plot: Boy separated from his twin sister by an assumed kidnapping is on a mission to find said sister and is basically taking care of his mother and her drug addiction in an attempt to hold his family together after his father has allegedly left them.

I'll be honest. This was a "Silver Falls Library Book Club" book, and like the others I didn't think I'd like it. I basically attend this book club to have intelligent conversation with older women about literature, not because I necessarily agree with their taste.
But this book blew me away completely. I don't think my book club comrades saw all that I saw in the book, but for me this was a story about a boy finding his way back to faith. There were some theological problems, but I felt they were minor in comparison to the powerful view of God put forward. It seems that in this day and age God in literature is either a vindictive tyrant whose minions are hypocritical scumbags looking for people to victimize (See my post on The Drowning Tree) or God is a slightly more powerful Oprah Winfrey (The Shack; which I still haven't written about). Somehow this book was closer to the all powerful but personal God I worship.
Also, I'd hate to leave out that this was just a very good story. It was well told and kept you interested every step of the way. The characters were people you felt sympathy for. They were realistic and were dealing with loss, tragedy, love, and faith in very real ways. It was set in a small town, and the reader has the experience of entering into the small town and being able to connect with the happenings there. I don't want to say a lot about it because I don't want to ruin the ending for anyone. Let's just say there are many (good and bad) surprises in the end.
The gritty themes of murder and child molestation are a major part of the story. They are shown for the evil they are and are not gratuitously indulged in, but they are there. So, for younger people or just more sensitive people I would say be careful or don't read it at all. But the themes of familial love, friendship, and faith in a powerful God who answers prayers are also there and I think it was definitely worth it.

Reading Recommendation: 1st John. Do I really need to say anything more? It's the word of God. But actually I was reading this morning, and thinking about how wonderful God is to give me words to assure me of my standing before Him. Sometimes in my fallen state, it's exactly what I need to hear.

Quote of the Day: "The opposite of love is not hate. It's indifference" ~ Helen Fisher

10 May 2010

Blog Picture Found Here! Click Me!

Book: The Crying Tree

Author: Naseem Rakha

Basic Plot: Woman finds consolation after the murder of her son by forgiving son's killer and beginning a life changing correspondance with him.

Actual Purpose of Book: Attempting to solve everything that is wrong with the world from the death penalty to homophobia

I wasn't impressed. Overall I thought the author sounded preachy, obnoxious, and sincerely liberal. The prose itself was decent but fairly gritty and a bit jarring on the senses.
You couldn't connect with any of the characters except a very very minor one who I felt got the short end of the stick. It was at best a well-worded narrative style tirade against the death penalty, with short pit-stops at child abuse, homophobia, racism, feminism, southern baptist pastors, and natural disasters.
Another one to skip in my opinion. I'm going to have to read something good here soon, so I can quit complaining.

P.S. The picture on the home page of my blog is provided by my very talented friend David Wright. You can find this picture and others like it at his Flickr account. There is a link in the title to this post.