I despise them.
I despise them.
I will cut to the chase: this post is on the engagement of a Christian with what passes for art in contemporary culture.
Much ink has been spilled, or pixels arranged, over the Harry Potter books, to begin with. I admit that I read all of them, and enjoyed them, although progressively less as the series continued to develop. By the end, it was merely a matter of reading to “find out what happens.” Throughout their publication, aside from the general worldwide mania, the scores of translations, the betting on plot developments, the development into motion pictures, and all manner of merchandising, there have been consistent voices among Christians, either praising the books for their Christian subtext, or denouncing them for their superficial secularism and making witchcraft “cool” to kids. Both approaches were quite misguided, I believe.
To begin with the pro-Potter Christian perspective, one can only say that the efforts seemed rather desparate. Though Ms Rowling may be a Christian–quite the progressive one, it seems–her books are certainly not Christian. No one really argues with that. It is in the manner of certain thematic or narrative devices that the pro-Potter Christians center their praise for the books. Yet, I will be blunt. The appropriation of Christian themes of sacrifice and redemption, very, very real things to a Christian, are appropriated by an author as devices to be utilized in a plot narrative in an entirely fictional world. This in itself is a cheapening, a gutter-slumming of the great work of God for the world, which appropriates rather blatantly those themes. Yet there is a greater wretchedness at work in this.
What happens when your children no longer are able to recognize that sacrifice, redemption, and selfless love belong outside the pages of fiction? When they open their Bibles, and read of the work of God throughout the ages in history, real work in the lives of many real people of real nations, will they not be subconsciously reading fiction? “Train up a child in the way he should go: and when he is old, he will not depart from it.” It works both ways, you know, that training. If you train up your child to think that redemption is a fictional plot device, well, then, there you go–time to be fitted for a necktie in the pattern “millstone.” In that sense, the anti-Potter side wasn’t attentive enough, as it only decried the superficial inanities, while leaving the misappropriations of salvation history alone.
Now we are confronted with the motion picture serialization of Philip Pullman’s His Dark Materials series of books, a motion picture which appears to be beautifully well-done, with some very well-known actors and fantastic special effects. This is a man who bears a visceral hatred for Christianity, and kills God in the third of his books. Granted, so as to ensure the movie will be viewed by more than Pullman’s fellow-travellers on the militant atheistic road, the name of the big, bad organization is changed from “The Church” to “The Magisterium.” Hollywood, clueless as ever in matters of fact, thought that would make things more palatable to the American public, ignorant (or are they?) of the fact that “magisterium” is the name given to the hierarchy of the Roman Catholic Church. They are completely within their rights to boycott. As would Jews be had they chosen “Rabbinate” or Muslims had they chosen “Ummah.” Of course, Roman Catholics calling for a boycott of the movie have earned the label “nitwits” from Pullman for their efforts. How progressive of him! How concerned for the welfare of the world, roughly 1/3 of which is Christian, and the vast majority of those Roman Catholic!
WIth these books, and this move, the mask is off. Hatred for God, for Christ, for the Christian Way, live with a burning passion in the author’s heart. There is no good that can come from any Christian poisoning their heart and mind with such things. Oh, you may think you’re immune to the dangers, and can discuss the misappropriation of Christian themes with the kids after they’ve seen the flying witches and the talking bears. But you fail in your Christian responsibility as a citizen of the Kingdom of God by allowing yourself and your children to partake of the ideas of and simultaneously enrich and encourage an antichrist, which this Pullman creature self-admittedly is.
Yes, yes, many will say, “Well, that’s a bit over the top. It’s just a book, just a movie.” No. It’s a symptom. It’s a symptom of a culture’s abandonment of its Christian roots, bit by bit, piece by piece, book by book, movie by movie, “art”work by “art”work. It is apostasy by half-turns and half-steps, a shy shuffle off the narrow and difficult Way onto the wide and well-paved road leading not to the Kingdom of God, but…elsewhere. “It’s easier walking, you know, and look how beautiful it is. Really well done. Everyone’s doing it…walking on this road…reading this book…seeing this movie.”
These things are not just whited sepulchres filled with putrefaction, but beatifully painted many-colored sepulchres, using the highest quality artistic talent the world has ever seen, and filled not just with putrefaction, but annihilation. And so the world slips inch by inch into an ever more chic darkness, with the cold and clear hatred and satisfaction of the prince thereof as its only company.
Come, our Lord, come!
So, just over a week ago, I bought a copy volume 1, part 1 of the Cambridge Ancient History, mostly for the explanation of the chronology used in all the volumes. I got it used, in near fine condition, for $90, which is quite a deal considering that a new copy is around $150-170 (£110 on the Cambridge University Press site). (Did you know that the CAH volumes used to be printed with gilt top edges? Very nice!) Anyhow, flipping through the book, I found the original invoice, addressed to the former owner, from Blackwell’s. As they said in those days, “Far out!”
The order was placed 16 May 1969, and sent 8 February 1971. The price? £6,8/- (that’s Ancient English for “six pounds, eight shillings”) with the converted amount of $15.36. I nearly choked, I was so shocked. I still am! Gah! In the nearly 35 years since that invoice, these volumes, made more cheaply still(there ain’t no gold on new volumes from Cambridge University Press!), are more than ten times more expensive. It’s absolutely outrageous. What, ho, in another thirty-five? The $1,500 third edition volume 1 part 1, comprising only 14 pages, and that of mostly publishing credits, because it’ll be written by a minimalist who rejects chronology as “too reliant upon the Text as Authority”? I can hardly wait….
The below is a message, the last I sent, in reply to a nameless someone posted on an unspecified email list, which I have since left. The names have been changed, with reference to a seemingly appropriate nautical theme, to protect the not-so-innocent. Those who saw the original exchange will know the participants and context. I find it appropriate, for the record, to post it here, as after nearly a day it has not appeared on that list. I will not have anyone think that I did not reply, implying that I am somehow in agreement with the codswallop to which I was responding. My most recent responses are in italics. Here it is:
Dear [Captain Ahab],
You wrote, cryptically, in response to something I wrote:
>>No, iI lay out a bait, and you snapped.
So, you think I am someone who needs to be caught at something? That’s very interesting, but hardly germane.
>> The present discussion mostly on [list B] on the
>> birth of Jesus is a good example of this. Quoting
>> Barr for the 117 time, it is simply not worth wasting
>> time here.
> Good example of what, of nonsense? This is really a
> bogus discussion.
You wrote that, not me. And yes, that one is a “bogus discussion.” I’ve no interest in it and deleted all of it.
I did, however, write this:
>> Many people in all our countries said roughly the
>> same thing regarding Hitler’s rhetoric up until 1939:
>> “It is simply not worth wasting time here.” That was
>> smart. Words are actually important, not only in that
>> they express an individual’s thoughts, but that they
>> might have an effect on the thoughts of others as you
>> must certainly know from your many years of instruction.
>> And if you’re not willing to use your words properly in
>> defense of your own perspective, that perspective deserves
>> to be forgotten. Not speaking to them, and then
>> complaining that they don’t listen to you is not an
>> admirable practice, as it leads to no interaction
>> whatsoever, precisely the place you’re finding yourself.
Which you (and [Pip]) misunderstood, and you wrote this:
> What are you suggesting? I hope not what you wrote.
> Because then the tone will be a total different. Linking
> up with the Albright’s students’ students — 3rd
> generation is never nice — accusing minimalists of
> anti-zionism (not a great deal here in Europe these days),
> anti western culture (and that from an American! Rensburg),
> anti-semitism (and here we meet in court). I think you
> should start to think before you write.
I thought and wrote quite well. Is it my complex sentences? Something in my syntax? I see no reason or even possibility for misunderstanding. I wrote nothing which either you or [Pip] accuse me of. My point, as WRITTEN, is that ignoring to correct the rhetoric of an opponent, especially when one finds such rhetoric (or the opponent, for that matter) below contempt, can have consequences in that such unrefuted rhetoric will lead to its more widespread acceptance. And THAT can lead to consequences outside of the realm of words. If you, Professor, don’t want your field taken over by the very people to whom you refuse to respond, then you will be effaced from that field entirely due to your refusal to apply your ability to correct a situation that you see as wrong. It will be precisely through your lack of attempting to correct them that will lead to your work being ignored. I trust this is explicit enough an exegesis of my text.
(And although it is entirely irrelevant except to your misconstrual of my point, my family includes members who fought on both sides of both world wars, and suffered from the atheist Bolsheviks/Soviets for many, many years after both of them.)
>>> It is fun to discuss why conservative minds are so
>>> busy in defending every corner of the Bible, to study
>>> the mental set-up of such people, because that is a
>>> study of the religious mind.
>> So rather than analyze the text you analyze what you
>> think is the mind behind the author of the text? And
>> this passes for biblical studies in your Centre?
> Gedt to the point and don’t rabble.
My point is precisely this entirely inappropriate language. Dismissing my questions as “<b>abble” is a perfect example of what I object to.
>> Such would properly belong in an anthropology or
>> sociology or psychology department, or in some program
>> combining the three. Regardless, there is no proper
>> psychoanalysis that can be performed on a text. That’s
>> blatant quackery.
> Oh you will be surprised, I promise when the next
> generation is taking over.
Oh, I entirely doubt it. The trends are rather prosaically obvious.
>> Probably the largest problem that you display,
>> [Captain Ahab], is in lumping everyone who doesn’t agree
>> with you, or at least those who lean toward a more
>> “maximalist” position, into the “evangelical” camp.
> Can you be more or less evangelical, say 99%, say 69 %
> or ??? If you start sliding down the razorb lade of critical
> scholarship, why do you stop in the middle?
Certainly. How about 0%? You consistently equate “evangelical” with “conservative” with “maximalist” apparently based on a thirty year old study by Barr. I have on various other occasions on this list pointed out that the contemporary equation of these terms as synonyms is mistaken. It is a simple matter of semiotics. Those who are signified by these labels are not always the same people. Certainly there are maximalist conservative evangelicals, including some on this list. There are also conservative maximalists, perhaps the pairing that best applies to me. There also exist, no doubt, conservative minimalists and evangelical minimalists, and all the other combinations. But one does not connote or require the other.
I do not write to you or to this list with any rancour. I don’t see what your problem with me is, nor why you seem to find it appropriate to label me, in particular, as something which I am not. It is something that I would never consider doing to you or to anyone else. To each his own, I suppose.