From the Pub: Tolkien’s Easter Egg
“Noon?” said Sam, trying to calculate. “Noon of what day?”
‘The Fourteenth of the New Year,’ said Gandalf; ‘or if you like, the eighth day of April in the Shire reckoning. But in Gondor the New Year will always now begin upon the twenty-fifth of March when Sauron fell, and when you were brought out of the fire to the King. He has tended you, and now he awaits you. You shall eat and drink with him. When you are ready I will lead you to him.’
-JRR TOLKIEN, “THE RETURN OF THE KING”
“No one any longer celebrates the twenty-fifth of March, and Tolkien’s point is accordingly missed, as I think he intended. He inserted it only as a kind of signature, a personal mark of piety. However, as he knew perfectly well, in old English tradition, 25th March is the date of the crucifixion, of the first Good Friday. As Good Friday is celebrated on a different day each year, Easter being a mobile date defined by the phases of the moon, the connection has been lost, except for one thing. In Gondor the New Year will always begin on the 25th of March… One might note that in the Calendar of dates which Tolkien so carefully wrote out in Appendix B, December 25th is the day on which the fellowship sets out from Rivendell. The main action of the Lord of the Rings takes place, then, in the mythic space between Christmas, Christ’s birth, and the crucifixion, Christ’s death.” – TOM SHIPPEY, ‘TOLKIEN: AUTHOR OF THE CENTURY”
Kindle Deal of the Week: Dead White Guys: A Father, His Daughter, and the Great Books of the Western World.
I knew you’d like this – $1.99.
Preaching: The Necessity of Preaching.
I don’t centralize preaching the way other reformed folk do…but this article gave me pause, which makes it worth at least a mention.
I imagine I’ll be picking this book up (this is a review) and quoting it to those who stereotype evangelicals as being overly political and naive. It’s very useful, especially coming from a secular source who’s willing to engage and understand, not just lob false grenades.
Theology: God Died on the Cross.
Depending on what you mean.
A Glimpse of Truth: Is It Really That Bad? Christianity, Secularism, and the Apocalypse.
An apocalyptic review, to boot. I love the way Jake Meador exegetes our cultural narratives (Breaking Bad, Her, Daredevil, etc) through the lens of the current conversation about Christians and culture.
Books and Lit: 10 Words to Win You the Game of Scrabble.
Since that’s really the point of reading literature, anyway. I’m off to grab some za.
Writing: Kurt Vonnegut’s Best Writing Advice.
It was a tossup this week. But this – this is so, so epic. Well researched, easy to understand, hilarious, and true to the core.
Christians and Culture: The Daily: The Climate Change Battle Through One Coal Miner’s Eyes
The NY Times started a new, daily, 20 minute podcast two months ago. I’ve listened to every. single. episode. Is it biased? Yes, like everything. But not in the arrogant, elitist fashion of the the NY Times editorials, nor in the deceitfully oversimplified and frankly dishonest “fair and balanced” approach at FOX. What makes it truly balanced and fair is Barbaro’s sheer honesty about his bias, and his willingness to question himself. The thing listens like a daily Radio Lab of the world – it’s erudite, warm, informative, dynamic, riveting, and provocative all in one.
I implore you to give it a chance – start with the episode above, which I can almost guarantee will win a prize for journalism this year. I imagine I’ll sit on my porch 50 years from now saying, “I’ve listened to every single episode, youngsters, and it started in 2017!”
Micro Book Review: The Benedict Option.
I disagree with those who say Dreher is calling us to disengage with culture. He’s providing an alternative way to engage.
I disagree with those who say Dreher is racist…sort of (see below).
I disagree with those who say Dreher is obsessed with sexuality – that IS the conversation.
I disagree with those who critiqued Dreher for not writing the dreary, meddlesome scholarly text they would have. It’s only their slip showing.
I disagree with those who complain about Dreher offering “nothing new” and it all being a marketing ploy. Well? What’s the critique? What are you doing, exactly? He’s translating the gospel, which is what I believe we are all trying to do here?
I disagree with those who say Dreher is anti-evangelism. You didn’t read the book.
I disagree with those who hone in on the flood analogy at the expense of everything else – it’s a clever metaphor. You can’t make a stool stand on two legs. It’s not called “The Flood Option” for a reason. Plus read the ending, as he twists the metaphor to dispel those petty objections.
Second: I don’t see this book lasting long.
The reason? Dreher gives too many answers. I like the way Dreher has thought through his own cultural context. But he does us a disservice by prescribing his answers to our situations. At the risk of sounding the shallow evangelical, I think this is straight up legalism, NOT because of the prescriptions themselves. Liturgy, good. Discipline, good. Rules of life, good. But it becomes problematic as a prescription for everyone. That’s legalism – making my situation, preferences, personality and culture a mandate for everyone else. It’s becoming a law unto myself. And that’s where Dreher’s prescriptions cross the line.
Don’t get me wrong: I don’t have much critique for Dreher’s specific decisions. They all sound fine. But if he’s going to prescribe it to the rest of us, he leaves himself wide open to the fair critique of ethnocentrism – our most blatant cultural display of legalism. It’s not that Dreher is anti-black (or Asian, or Hispanic), it’s just that he’s exclusively white (or should I say Greek Orthodox First Century Hellenistic white?). It’s not racist for being hostile, but for being monolithic – it’s for Dreher’s cultural choices, and against everyone else’s. Again – that’s legalism.
So, the book is a good conversation starter. But the alarmism tires me (as it doesn’t align with the New Testament’s vision of the kingdom, for one), and while I have no problems with Dreher’s own application of God’s law, I wish he would have provided tools for the rest of us, rather than culturally limited answers. Instead he did the math on his own small patch of geography, then told us we’re wrong to dress warm in Michigan because Baton Rouge is sweltering.
If we’re going to respond dynamically to the complexity of culture, an “option” won’t do. We need discernment in exploring all our options, because God in His grace has given us different situations, each which will require a different spin than Dreher’s.
But let me end on a positive: I think the people who read this book need it the least. Everyone who’s disinclined should be made to choke it down, because Dreher’s most valuable contribution is his level-headed filter for cultural norms – smartphones, public schools, politics – he runs the gamut. Most evangelicals are drifting brainlessly along, awash in the sea of secularism, and those are the folks that need to hear Dreher’s rightly critical voice.
I’m only sorry his invitation is from one extreme to the another.
3 out of 5 stars.