Mar 31, 2012


This afternoon, I sat at my parent's kitchen table working on notes for an upcoming paper I'm writing on Salman Rushdie, Christianity, and the Magic Real (which also may end up being the paper's title). As I was reading through Rushdie's collection of essays, released in 1991, I found myself lost in my literary thoughts.

Rushdie's essay, "In God We Trust," paints religion as a dream; first as a creation of a reality that suits us better than the reality we experience (which tends towards Plato's Cave and the Philosopher King), and ends with a discussion of the dangers of religion. As a Christian, I find Rushdie's views to be incredibly interesting, frightening, and a product of the actions of fundamentalism in a postmodern world.

Context: Salman Rusdie, for those of you who have not paid substantial amounts of attention to literary world news, is a writer who was educated in England with ethnic roots in the Muslim world. His experiences with religion have shaped his writing most profoundly. Rushdie's book, 'Satanic Verses' was read by the Muslim world as a parody of Mohammad, and thus, in 1989, a fatwa (or death sentence) was issued by the Islamic world. Rushdie was forced to go into hiding, since Islamic fatwas are recognized by the greater Muslim community, and so he took refuge in England. For the next 8 years, the UN worked to end this death warrant, and in 1997, the fatwa was finally lifted.

But Rushdie still lives in danger. For those practising radical Islam, a fatwa is a lifetime decree, and so still hold this death warrant over his head.

A religion has done this. For Rushdie, his writings are a reflection of his experiences. And that makes them even more difficult to contend with. I adhere to the Christian faith, meaning I find my identity within the greater narrative that God has written. My history has been created, and I don't belong to the socio-political ideology of 'make my own history' that drives Western consumerism and cosmology. My religion is one that leans toward the mysticism of love and goodness that modernism rendered untrue.

I do believe that my meta-narrative has given me a distinct purpose. This, I'm beginning to realize, is where I feel most awakened and inspired. I find myself thinking back to moments in elementary and high school when I would write instead of producing math equations, or grappling with the writings of John Barth at age 17, while normal teenagers played basketball, or planned weekend parties. These were the moments when I felt a profound vitality in my soul. That vitality is what causes me to interact with the philosophical implications of writings, evaluate popular culture, and critique social movements like Invisible Children's Kony 2o12 (to cite something recent). I'm an academic. I'm a writer. It's a calling that has been placed in my soul by the God I serve.

My literary thoughts love conversing with the critics, writers, and thinkers of my time. I love being a part of the academic sphere studying postmodernism as we live it. Perhaps some way, I'll be able to be of some use. And above all things, may I strive to do it all in the name of God, no matter what dangers that may lead to.

Word of the Day: Concord

Quote of the Day: "When you're shopping on Madison Avenue, you don't want to skimp on the swank." Seinfeld

Mar 28, 2012

Redeemer Spoof video

This video makes me laugh. As a note: the girl at the mailboxes is one of my dormmates.

Word of the Day: Virado [latin, means manly woman, and was typically used to describe women who were spiritual warriors]

Quote of the Day: "I want to make cake."

Mar 18, 2012

Real men

...Watch Phantom of the Opera

Word of the Day: Sunshine

Quote of the Day: "You know, when you do physical activity, you actually need to move." Amanda

Mar 17, 2012

That sunny Saturday

And all I did was study, research, and make myself rice. 

Word of the Day: Epistemological

Quote of the Day: "Some of the most dangerous immorality in texts today has nothing to do with sex or profanity. It lies in the acceptance of materialism, encouragement of egotism, and the glorification of violence." Roger Lundin and Susan Gallagher, Literature Through the Eyes of Faith, 141. 

Mar 11, 2012

The Monsters and the Critics

"Fantasy is a natural human activity. It certainly does not destroy or even insult Reason; and it does not either blunt the appetite for, nor obscure the perception of, scientific verity. On the contrary. The keener and the clearer is the reason, the better the fantasy will it make. If men were ever in a state in which they did not want to know or could not perceive truth (facts or evidence), then Fantasy would languish until they were cured. If they were ever to get into that state (it would not seem at all impossible), Fantasy will perish, and become Morbid Delusion.
For creative Fantasy is founded upon the hard recognition that things are so in the world as it appears under the sun; on a recognition of fact, but not a slavery to it. So upon logic was founded the nonsense that displays itself in the tales and rhymes of Lewis Carroll. If men really could not distinguish between frogs and men, fairy stories about frog-kings would not have arisen. 
Fantasy can, of course, be carried to excess. It can be ill done. It can be put to evil uses. It may even delude the minds out of which it came. But of what human thing in this fallen world is that not true? Men have conceived not only of elves (which, it is important to note here, Tolkien references as being the same as part of Faerie. In fact, the words apparently are derivatives of the same Latin base), but they have imagined gods, and worshipped them, even worshipped those most deformed by their authors' own evil. But they have made false gods out of other materials: their notions, their banners, their monies; even their sciences and their social and economic theories have demanded human sacrifice. Abusus non tollit usum. Fantasy remains a human right: we make in out measure and in our derivative mode, because we are made: and not only made, but made in the image and likeness of a Maker."

JRR Tolkien, On Faerie Stories

I'm beginning to realize that determining the "Christian post-modern" (if it could indeed exist) may be worth my academic time. I might finally have found a graduate school thesis. It is, for that matter, something which could be turned into a doctoral work. 

And I've come to realize that I revere J.R.R. Tolkien's work. He, C.S. Lewis, and J.K. Rowling stand quite distinct as writers of the Christian post-modern: reuniting meta-narrative with reality, as it were. Part of me wishes nothing more than to simply have a desk in the corner of a pub where I can write a great story (and drink great beer). I think, deep down, I always knew I would become a hobbit-esque academic storyteller. 

And that is how I feel about that. It's the academic in me finally admitting it needs to come out and stay out. 

Word of the Day: Panoply [1) Complete or impressive collection of things. 2) Splendid display. 3) Complete set of arms or suit of armour. Orig. 16th. C. = complete protection for spiritual warfare.]

Quote of the Day: "The Gospels contain a fairy-story, or a story of a larger kind which embraces the essence of all fairy stories." Tolkien

Mar 4, 2012

The Unlikely Disciple - A review

Several weeks ago a friend suggested I read "The Unlikely Disciple." I was uncertain about adding another book to my workload/reading list, but I'm glad I took her advice.

This is the true story of the teenager who did a semester at Liberty University in Lynchburg, Virginia. 

Now, for a little bit of background, before I jump into my own thoughts about the text. Kevin Roose was a sophmore at Browns University. That's right, Browns. As you find out in the first chapter, instead of doing a semester abroad like many of his friends, he chose to do a semester at Liberty, for journalistic interest's sake. 

It has taken me a few weeks to process this book. Roose paints a gracious and revealing picture of life at this fundamentalist baptist university, including his accounts of evangelism, creationism, 'The Liberty Way,' and much more. I was struck by the similarities - and the differences - between Liberty and Redeemer. 

I'm two months away from finishing my degree at Redeemer. Redeemer is a Christian liberal arts university located in Ancaster (Hamilton), Ontario, Canada. Redeemer, like Liberty, offers degrees in many academic spheres and teaches from a Christian worldview. Redeemer offers courses in apologetics, hermeneutics, and the academic study of scripture. It has faculty and staff who are devoted to both faith and scholarship. Its students joke about it being a safe haven, a Christian Bubble if you will, shielding its students from the scary outside world. But I'm afraid that is where the similarities end.

See, Redeemer was founded as a Reformed (prominently Calvinist) -based post secondary institution. It has never been affiliated with the mega-church movement, a 'mega-church' pastor, and its students certainly don't look to the president as the most influential man in the country. While Redeemer has a Code of Conduct, it encourages trust, and acknowledges that it cannot police the behaviour of its students. After all, part of being a Christian is being challenged to live differently, not simply doing so because the university you attend will make you pay fines if you break their laws (example, demerit points and a $25.00 fine if you are caught watching or in possession of an R rated film). 

While Redeemer does not have a student population of 25 000 (no, just a mere 900 students), or offer a weekly televised evangelical church service (I can hardly see the Reformed Protestants I know participating in this sort of phenomenon), or insist that all its faculty hold a '6-day creationist' view of how the world came to be, it does exist, and it is also developing some strong, intellectually apt leaders. 

Liberty has always been an enigma to me. Working at Muskoka Bible Centre last summer, a retreat/camping/conference centre born out of the same Christian tradition as Liberty, I have had some experiences with Liberty students - both within my work-sphere, and as guests on the grounds. One thing that I have never forgotten is as follows.

The first week of the summer season is what MBCers have affectionately dubbed "Liberty Week." It is an informal way of saying that the chapel is overrun with Liberty paraphernilia - speakers, worship band, and the booth with the bright red t-shirts. Following one of the chapel services, I decided to meander towards the Liberty booth, just to look at the University brochure and see the sorts of programs they offered, to compare it to Redeemer. 

Within about 30 seconds I had a Liberty student engaging me in conversation about my life story, my faith, my ambitions, and my education. I guess it was pretty obvious I was a college-aged person. Besides the fact that she seemed thoroughly unamused by the fact that I was a student at Redeemer (her expression actually shifted into a depressed sort of wail as she uttered, "oh, you go to Redeeeemer"), she began to inquire about the status of my faith. Explaining to her that I had been baptized as a child - as is the practise of my tradition - and done profession of faith in front of my church at age 18, she seemed agitated. 
"So, you mean you aren't a born again Christian?" she asked me. 
"Well, what do you mean by that?" I asked her.
"You know, born again, have you rededicated your life to Christ? Have you been re-baptized?"

Last time I checked, baptism only needed to happen once, so I said no.
"Oh," she said, looking downcast. "Do you think you're a Christian, then?"
Again, I asked her what she meant.
"Well, you should be born again if you're a true Christian. Do you know Jesus?"

I can't really remember what happened next, but I do remember walking away from that conversation a little confused. Since when does being a true Christian mean being a 'born again Christian'? Since when does the Sacrament of Baptism need to be performed more than once on a believer? Why did I feel a little put-off by this eager young girl (whose major I later-on found out to be religon) who clearly just thought I needed to be evangelized?

All good questions, and after reading Roose's book, I may have had a few of them answered. I also learned a lot about Liberty. It occurred to me while I read that some people must see Redeemer in this same way, and that is a sobering thought. 

Do take the time to read this book. You'll laugh, you'll be angry, but most of all, it will drive you to re-evaluate why you believe what you believe. And who knows, you might even find answers.

Word of the Day: Noise

Quote of the Day: "Maybe our stars are unanimously tired..." Jon Foreman, Switchfoot