"The leader who intends to grow spiritually and intellectually will be reading constantly."

- J. Oswald Sanders
The Reason Lecrae Changed His Tune

Musician Lacrae has taken some heat for switching from writing explicitly Christian songs to writing songs on themes with broader appeal. He has appeared with artists and on shows that have drawn criticism from those who think the right thing to do is stick with people who claim to follow Christ.

But Lacrae says another believer, Andy Crouch, changed his mind a few years ago. Jemar Tisby explains, "Crouch says in his book, Culture Making, 'If culture is to change, it will be because of some new tangible (or audible or visible or olfactory) thing is presented to a wide enough public that it begins to reshape their world.' He proposes that instead of condemning, critiquing, copying, or uncritically consuming culture, something new has to displace the old. It appears Lecrae has been making new music in an attempt to do just that."

The tension point for this idea will be at the place where those who want to change people apply their cultural creations. I'm sure many will continue to create things that won't get anywhere near the people they want to influence, and they will say they are making new culture, but it isn't changing anyone. They're making Halloween candy in hopes of changing Christmas.

Behind the Scenes of "The Princess Bride"

Cary Elwes, whom you may know as Pierre Despereaux from Psyche, has written a book on his experiences making the film The Princess Bride. The book, As You Wish: Inconceivable Tales from the Making of The Princess Bride, is a delightful book for fans and possibly movie buffs, and we have some of the revelations in this article in L.A. Weekly. Here are some of them.

Fox bought the movie rights to the book as soon as it was published in 1973, but it was 1987 when it finally played in theaters. In the meantime, many directors wanted to do it, including Robert Redford. Can you imagine Redford as The Dread Pirate Roberts (if he cast himself in his own film)?

Author William Goldman had seen many of his screenplays produced before The Princess Bride, but he was unprepared for the filming of this one. He freaked out on the first day when they were filming the scene in the fire swamp. "As soon as the gas geyser lit up her dress, Goldman burst out screaming, 'OH, MY GOD! HER DRESS IS ON FIRE! SHE'S ON FIRE!!!' Later, he scolded Reiner: 'You're setting fire to Robin on the first day?! What are you, nuts? It's not like we can replace her!'"

There's a word for that reaction, if I could only think of it.

Jerry Jenkins' Christian Writers Guild Shuts Down

Popular Christian novelist Jerry Jenkins has closed the doors on the Christian Writers Guild. The Guild was founded in the 1960s. Jenkins has owned it since 2001. Christianity Today has some details on why it is shutting down, perhaps due to diverging interests for Jenkins and Dave Sheets, the recently resigned guild president. Sheets is now heading up BeliversMedia, which will offer many and more of the things found in the Christian Writers Guild.

Is a Content Creator Required to Interact with Readers?

Matthew Ingram argues that media companies, particularly content creators like Reuters, should allow their readers to comment on articles. If they don't, they are shutting out potential fan support.

Reuters recently removed its comment section, saying self-policing social networks were already handling lively discussion well so they didn't need to duplicate the effort. Ingram says by doing this, Reuters is handing a large slice of market value to Facebook and Twitter (among other networks) as well as move any arguments over an article onto other venues where Reuters' writers will have to decide how to respond on their own. He explains:

Is moderation a pain, and an expensive proposition? Sure it is. Lots of things that matter to your business are expensive. And if you have an engaged community, they can become your moderators, as successful online communities like Slashdot and Metafilter have shown — which in turn helps strengthen your community. Ending comments means removing any chance that this will ever happen.
A news service probably needs all the love it can get. Does Reuters really want their writers to tweet their defense of contentious reports or take the debate to Medium?

Pixar Is Reviving Disney Animation Studios

Caitlin Roper tells the story. "Once upon a time, around the turn of the century, in the sunny town of Burbank, there was a great old animation company that was no longer great. Its films were various kinds of bad, but they all had some things in common: They didn't resonate with audiences, they didn't introduce unforgettable characters, and they didn't sell tickets or DVDs."

Disney Animation wasn't being run by artists anymore, perhaps not even by people who loved movies, Roper says. They had unremarkable business people picking stories and making movies happen.

"Disney's movies just seemed to lack ... heart," Roper says. "Take Home on the Range. From its predictable opening song to its by-the-numbers plot about a cow that's lost her home and her friends, the movie was a dusty ride through stock archetypes and one-note sidekicks. In contrast, Pixar's The Incredibles, which came out the same year, immediately introduced audiences to a unique and relatable protagonist as he struggles to attach a microphone to his spandex supersuit.... Mr. Incredible may be a superhero, but he's just like us. That epitomizes Pixar's approach to storytelling. 'The connection you make with your audience is an emotional connection,' Lasseter says. 'The audience can't be told to feel a certain way. They have to discover it themselves.'”

Lessons Learned by Reading Book Inscriptions

In Theodore Dalrymple's essay "Eternal Youth, Eternal Kitsch," we learn of the dangers of inscribing a book to just about anyone. Of course, the reason a book has been discarded and subsequently found in a second-hand shop isn't necessarily singular, so you might dedicate a copy of Love Everlasting to "My Dearest Wife without whom I could not live" and find that you no longer have the space for it in your library (or that the story was pretty awful) and, despite the love note, discard it. I find the book in a second-hand shop, I am not forced to conclude that your love did not last. But there are other lessons. (via Anecdotal Evidence)

One of the lessons it teaches is that one should never inscribe a book intended as a gift with a poem of one’s own, for it is sure to be bad and probably pretentious, ridiculous in the eyes of anyone other than the person one wishes to impress with it. Bad poetry fulfils a social function, of course, for reading bad poetry is an easy way to learn to appreciate good poetry; but still the rule holds that if you feel a compulsion to inscribe a gift with poetry, it is best to quote someone else’s.

Legacies of the Reformation

Two pastors are celebrating the legacy they see in the Reformation. Tony Carter notes that one principle of the Reformers was universal literacy.

"The will of God is first and foremost a written revelation and if we are going to faithfully seek and understand his will we are going to have to be readers of God’s word. Luther’s translation of the Bible into the language of the people was key in making sure the Reformation would continue past his generation."

So for people who are reluctant to read well and have been denied education in the past, the Reformers are their champions. They say, "You are the chosen people of the book. Take up God's Holy Word and read it yourself, because in the Word is abundant life no matter your circumstances."

Louis Love talks about the church of his youth buying new hymnals that came with responsive reading, creeds, and a confession. His pastor began incorporating new, doctrine-based elements into their worship, and Love was surprised to learn this new material was from the New Hampshire Baptist Confession of 1833. They were learning from old ministers who had been discipled in Reformation theology.

"Be not ashamed of your faith," he quotes another pastor. "Remember it is the ancient gospel of the martyrs, confessors, reformers, and saints. Above all, it is the truth of God, against which all the gates of Hell cannot prevail."

Philip Duncanson shares a personal story of his discovery of Reformation history as a high-school boy who had yet to surrender to Christ, despite growing up in a Christian home. "It wasn’t the courage of Martin Luther to stand up against the powerful Catholic Church that fascinated me, although that was good drama. It was the fact that for the first time I realized that the Christian experience that I thought I had known all my life was actually tied to human history. Imagine that, at 15, Christianity was a concept that I had only tied to my generation, and at best, my parent’s generation."

Luther Keeps It Simple

Carl Trueman writes, "If Augustine freed the church from the back-breaking self-martyring piety of Pelagius, Luther freed her from centuries of obfuscating complication. . . Luther saw clearly that the Christian life is actually distinguished not by elaborate complexity but by its beautiful, simple, accessible Christ."

Book Recommendations from Librarians or Algorithms?

"Librarians have been suggesting books to patrons for literally forever, mostly during actual face-to-face conversations," Jessica Leber states. Can math model do it better, and more importantly, do we want it to?

Brooklyn's public library set up a title recommendation service in which their librarians would read your submission and respond with appropriate books. It took a while at first.

"Wait time aside," Leber says, "when I received my own response two weeks later, I had in hand not five, but six well thought out suggestions of literary science fiction novels I might enjoy (as per my request), all from authors I’d never read before. I felt really good about the list--not because I’ve actually read the six books yet, but by simply knowing there was a human being involved in creating it. The titles genuinely all seemed like books I might read, and Emily Heath, the librarian who fulfilled my request, had even placed a card catalogue-linked list in my online library account so I could more easily find and borrow them."

The human element is part of what David Swartz misses in bookless libraries. When everything is digital and can only be found through search requests, you may be able to find what you're looking for but not be able to stumble across the extra information you need. (via Prufrock)

The State of Theology in America

Wittenberg

The wonderfully Reformed Ligonier Ministries issued a survey through LifeWay Research to identify what points of doctrine Americans believe. As you would imagine, Americans are all over the theological map, but what statements do they believe reflect reality? Will there be people in heaven who have never heard of Jesus Christ? Forty-one percent believe so. Is even the smallest sin worthy of damnation? Only fifty-one percent of self-professed evangelical protestants believe that's true and only ten percent of all respondents agree strongly. Is God unconcerned with my day-to-day decisions? Twenty percent say he is unconcerned. And pertinent to the central question of the Reformation, must someone contribute his own effort to his personal salvation? Seventy-one percent of surveyed Americans agree, fifty-four percent being evangelical protestants.

Dr. R. C. Sproul believes our country is sliding into a new dark ages of spiritual life, and this survey doesn't change his mind. Get all the details on their website, including a great infographic.

Notice the section on worshipping alone. That's one of those points of application that reveal our theological assumptions. Do we need worship the Lord together? Is our salvation essentially individualistic? Does a local church have any spiritual authority over us? Americans appear to have lost an understanding of the purpose of a local church.

For the Life of the World: Letters to the Exiles



I'm familiar with three of the people you see in this trailer, and I'm confident in the quality of their work. On that basis I'm sure this is worthy watching with a small group. It asks what our salvation is for and offers compelling answers.

Joshua Rogers, writing for Focus on the Family, says, "I suppose the most remarkable thing was how the series helped me fall in love with the Gospel in a way that I hadn't since that awesome spaceship-themed Vacation Bible School at Calvary Baptist Church when I was in fifth grade." He means that in the best way possible and gets the director to answer some questions on his objectives.

Andy Crouch says, "It is designed to help the church reclaim our true calling: to live out our salvation, in the words its title borrows from the Orthodox writer Alexander Schmemann, “for the life of the world.” ...Schmemann’s breathtaking sacramental view of ordinary life is here, as are Kuyper’s distinctive spheres" (subscription required).

Learn more about For the Life of the World here.

Would That They Were Actually Pagan?

C. S. Lewis wrote, "When grave persons express their fear that England is relapsing into Paganism, I am tempted to reply, `Would that she were.’" Because pagans have been shown to be convertible to Christianity, but post-Christians have shown more resistance. Pagans appeal to gods who cannot hear them and suffer for it. Post-Christians still benefit from the God they rejected and believe they have earned all they receive. Lewis wished we could find our spiritual poverty again so that we would see the riches to be found in Christ Jesus.

Today Englishman Bob Davey has taken up saving an abandoned church in Norfolk from local pagans. After cleaning up the church, he worked over the graveyard. "But even after he had driven the Devil from the door, still his acolytes returned. On every Witches’ Sabbath – special dates in the Pagan calendar – Mr Davey spent the night camped out in the church, on guard duty." It can get ugly.

Meanwhile, "The Church of England is trying to recruit pagans and spiritual believers as part of a drive to retain congregation numbers."

Announcing a New Spurgeon Center

This just in. Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary has begun to build a center to house it's a extensive collection of documents from the great preacher Charles H. Spurgeon and offer space for lectures and study. They're calling it the Charles Spurgeon Center for Biblical Preaching.

November Is National Novel Writing Month

Men's LacrosseEveryone has a novel in them, they say. And those works of art or escapism should be published for everyone to read. Apparently, millions and millions of books are being published in the US every year. A small percentage of those books are novels (or fiction novels, as some call them). A very small percentage of the novels published over the last three or four years have depicted the world in chaos as Harry Potter and his friends discover they have been left behind in a uniquely British rapture.

A little under 200,000 people profess to be writers in the US. The rest are too ashamed to admit it. The latter are mostly the ones who participate in library-sponsored parties for NaNoWriMo writers, where anyone can gather with other strangers for a few hours to scribble or type at the first of at least 50,000 words. They will be hear great advice, like this from Chris Baty:

  • Jot down the names of your characters to stop a Mike becoming Matt or Mick as you write.
  • Eat peppermints: a Nasa-funded study showed the peppermint plant increased alertness by 30 per cent.
  • Go outdoors with a newspaper, a pen and a notebook. Close your eyes. When you open them spot ‘Your Person’ and write down everything about them. Close your eyes. Open your paper on a random page and let your finger choose a spot. Open your eyes. The thing you’re pointing to has a link to the person you just collected. Work it into your next chapter.

Many will say, "Just get it written." They may insist, "The story must get out of you." But let these stats depress you. And while you're thinking over your plans for next month's exercise, ask yourself whether your story is worth pursuing.

"Nine times out of ten, your idea is really quite mediocre and has been done before, actually a number of times and in a number of different ways," Laurie Scheer states, but you haven't read those stories. You're just invested in your own. What still lies before you is the biggest challenge for all writers today: whether you want to write or to have written.

Go ahead and write 50,000 words next month, and if you love it enough to keep at it, then keep writing. Words are awesome. If you don't love it, maybe you can organize that library party into a community lacrosse team.

Storytelling & Christian Habits

Mike Cosper, pastor of worship and arts at Sojourn Community Church in Louisville, Kentucky, has a new book on the stories we tell and our longing for truth. Here are some quotes of his ideas carried in Christianity Today.

"When people, against their better judgment, find themselves hooked on a show, we can trace the line back to find the hook in their imagination."

"Our most perfect creations—our efforts at playing God— always stumble into the inherent problem of human weakness, creation’s unpredictability, and the impending threat of evil."

"If we believe the Bible to be true, we must admit that there is more to this world than we perceive. Powers and persons that we can’t see or comprehend are at work, but somehow we intuit them. That intuition works itself out in our imaginations, and we tell stories that try to explain what we feel and comfort us from fear of the shadows."

One of his chapters is entitled "Honey Boo Boo and the Weight of Glory." That's probably worth the price of the book alone.

Marilynne Robinson's Humble America

Aaron Belz offers this snapshot of Marilynne Robinson's America, that land where the least of us can become great by the Lord's grace:

As unpopular as it is, the Calvinist/Puritan doctrine of total depravity shares ground with the philosophes’ and founding fathers’ view of humans. Read Candide, a violent satire full of rape, bestiality, and murder designed to supplant European aristocratic classism with individualism and equality. Though Voltaire loathed organized religion and outright rejected Calvinism, he depicted the human race in a Pauline way, each misguided soul awaiting a humble revelation of its own worth. And remember that it was Thomas Hobbes, also a philosophe, who famously described human life as "solitary, poor, nasty, brutish and short."
(via Prufrock)

Needing a History to Properly Enjoy

Patrick Kurp says he couldn't have read Max Beerbohm at a young age, because he requires a personal depth or history to draw upon while reading. He notes, "In another small masterpiece from And Even Now, 'The Golden Drugget,' Beerbohm describes a rather drab, undistinguished inn near his home in Rapallo, overlooking the Gulf of Genoa, in Italy:

“By moonlight, too, it is negligible. Stars are rather unbecoming to it. But on a thoroughly dark night, when it is manifest as nothing but a strip of yellow light cast across the road from an ever-open door, great always is its magic for me. Is? I mean was. But then, I mean also will be. And so I cleave to the present tense--the nostalgic present, as grammarians might call it.”

How Lovecraft Has Influenced Too Many People

Does Lovecraft still matter? A new annotated volume argues in favor of this old horror writer. Lovecraft, who died five months before his 47th birthday, also “shrewdly created an American pantheon of horror,” Klinger said of the hardcore New Englander. “He was the first writer of supernatural literature to understand the psychological consequences of the generations of Puritanism and the warping of the human psyche that resulted.”

I always get a chuckle out of accusations that Puritans twisted our civilization. Where would America or the world be without the Puritans of England and its New World colonies? Nowhere. They would be unrecognizable to us, if we could see such an alternate history.

Speaking of Alt-history, Lars' Death's Doors is tons of fun. You should read it. For real. (via Prufrock)

Writing Courses Are Ruining Literature

A judge for the Noble Prize for Literature said professional writers suck and are dragging everyone down with them. Judge Horace Engdahl remarked, “Previously, writers would work as taxi drivers, clerks, secretaries and waiters to make a living. Samuel Beckett and many others lived like this. It was hard - but they fed themselves, from a literary perspective.”

They soaked in Parisian culture too, which I assume is important to the world of letters. Honestly I can't tell if Engdahl is making a great point or a silly one. On the surface of it, he seems to be the voice of the establishment complaining that the establishment is cannibalizing itself.

Observer critic Robert McCrum said: “Engdahl’s bracing remarks reflect quite a lot of informal comment within some senior parts of the literary community, especially those grey cadres that are anti-American. At face value, these comments are an odd mixture of grumpy old man and Nordic romantic. I’m not sure that the author’s garret is the guarantor of excellence.”

Teaser for Brad Bird's "Tomorowland"

Things Turn Out Best For Those Who Make the Best Out of the Way Things Turn Out

Balancing FunThis has made my day. In one of the books I edited this summer, the author attributed this quote to Coach John Wooden, "Things turn out best for the people who make the best of the way things turn out." I searched for verification that Coach Wooden said it or came up with it himself, but could only find it widely attributed to him without citation. I found it attributed to Art Linkletter too, also without citation.

If I said known Wooden (1910-2010) was as old as Linkletter (1912-2010), I might have let it go, but I thought Linkletter was much older and consequently in a better position to have said something like this before the coach. So I kept looking, and finding nothing, asked The Quote Investigator to help. With his workload, I didn't expect an answer right away, but in today's email, I received word that he had posted his report:

(Great thanks to TygerBurning and Phil Wade whose inquiries led QI to formulate this question and perform this exploration. Wade pointed to the 1979 citation and noted that Linkletter credited Wooden.)

Your desire to explore the genuine provenance of quotations is admirable. I appreciate your visiting and asking about an interesting saying.

Best wishes,
Garson O'Toole
When I wrote to QI, I told him I had found the quote attributed to Wooden without citation in Yes, You Can by Linkletter, so that ruled out one name, but that's as much as I could discover. Seeing the final QI report, I don't believe I could have found the answer.
In May 1965 an instance of this aphorism using the word “folks” was published in a newspaper column in Ada, Oklahoma together with miscellaneous sayings. No attribution was provided:

Things turn out best for folks who make the best of the way things turn out.

... In the following years, close variants of the adage were published in numerous newspapers. No individual was credited with the remark, and QI believes the statement should be labeled anonymous.
So chalk this one up to folk wisdom, friends.

From Tolkien's Masterpiece, the Danger of Words

Adam Roberts notes about The Lord of the Rings, "The repeated theme is the danger of words; their slipperiness but also the ease with which they can move us directly into the malign world of the text. One ring to bind us all. Books are bound, too."

George: "No Longer Tolerable"

Robert George believes we are at a tipping point with many opinion-makers. “Christians, and those rejecting the me-generation liberal dogma of ‘if it feels good do it,’ are no longer tolerable by the intellectual and cultural elite,” he says. The individualism of modern liberalism has become like a national religion for these elite, so our views on personhood, community, God, and everything else are heretical at best. They are in a position to punish us for holding these views, as George explains in two videos.

Professor, Critic D.G. Myers Has Passed Away

Micah Mattix says D.G. Myers was one of our best critics. Last Friday, Myers died of the cancer he endured for the past few years. Patrick Kurp is organizing a Festschrift for him to be hosted by Gregory Wolfe. Terry Teachout described him in an essay only a few days ago.

Kurp has written a few posts on Myers. Here he remembers a story of a dying man by Henry James. Here he passes on information from the family.

In a talk Myers' gave at Congregation Torat Emet on July 17. 2014, he said:

Several years ago terminal cancer called to me and I answered Hineni, “Here I am.” The religious language may seem blasphemous, as if I were claim­ing to be a prophet, but that’s not what I mean at all. What I mean is Hashem places you in your circumstances, and even the most ordinary of persons can discover his unique role in life, his calling—he can help to complete creation—if he recognizes and accepts where he has been placed.

Possibly an Overreaction to Banning Books?

simple thingsAlan Noble says that Springs Charter School story may be an overreaction. In fact, the school says, "We can and do provide educational books with religious perspectives, including Corrie ten Boom’s The Hiding Place."

The school statement continues: "However, like every other public school in the State of California, we cannot legally maintain religious textbooks on our warehouse shelves for distribution to our families. Donated items are made available to our families at no cost. Any and all donated items are not incorporated onto the shelves of our Curriculum Warehouse. The only materials we maintain on the shelves of our Curriculum Warehouse are items we have purchased ourselves in accordance with the laws of our State."

Noble asks, "Did the Superintendent make this clear in the letter she sent to PJI? That much is not clear, since PJI didn’t actually post her letter online." But the Super does appear to be a practicing catholic, not a opponent of faith.

Lazere: Colleges Should Be Full of Leftists

If the government-sponsored drought doesn't drive people out of California, the education system should. One California English professor (that's a professor of California English, not just one who lives in the state) argues in his book that students should be exposed to liberalism in college. Johnathan Marks reviews Donald Lazere's Why Higher Education Should Have a Leftist Bias.

Stephens College Students (MSA)

Here's the idea: "Neither mainstream liberals nor mainstream conservatives question the 'unmarked norm' of capitalism, and consequently students don’t question it either. 'Isn’t there something to be said,' then, 'for … preserving in the human imagination … socialist ideals,' and 'mightn’t college liberal arts teachers … be indulged in this role, like the monks who preserved the manuscripts of classical humanists?'"

Marks goes on to destroy Lazere's arguments with facts, which I won't repeat here. "Lazere’s great narrowing of the aim of higher education encompasses more than his wish that it occupy itself with preserving the thought of the left. Because Lazere thinks that not only 'unmarked norms' but also the deliberate efforts of a 'conservative attack machine' have prejudiced students against the left, exposing that machine becomes an important aim of 'general education.'" (via Prufrock)

The Hiding Place Should Be Read in Public Schools

Joel Miller explains "What banning this book says about the future of our society," talking about the Springs Charter Schools removing Christian books from their circulation. That book is Corrie ten Boom's The Hiding Place.

Rod Dreher describes a bit of how it changed him. "Reading The Hiding Place as a kid dramatically affected me. The moral heroism of the ten Booms sensitized me to the effects of anti-Semitism, and taught me what Christians must do if ever we are in a situation where persecuted people rely on us for protection."

Miller writes, "Given this Christian impulse to identify with the oppressed and save those in danger, to remove The Hiding Place from library shelves betrays a sort of societal self-defeat, and similar examples multiply as our culture fumbles toward a more rigorously enforced secularity. We’re like the cannibal committing suicide one nibble at a time." (via Prufrock)

Good Reading: The Thanatos Syndrome

"In the wonderful world of Walker Percy, old fashioned Southern gentility saunters in seersucker into sub human behavior and sips bourbon while planning a congenial genocide.

Their shabby chic sophistication makes the nefarious activities of the characters in The Thanatos Syndrome even more chilling."

Truth triumphs over sentimentality in this story. Dwight Longenecker explores it for us.

Test Your English Vocabulary

Now this is a vocabulary test.

An independent American-Brazilian research project is "measuring vocabulary sizes according to age and education, and particularly to compare native learning rates with foreign language classroom learning rates." They ask you to check all the words you can define, not just ones you think you've seen before. I got a respectable score, but yours will probably be better. Feel free to let us know. If you know what vibrissae and uxoricide are without me telling you, you'll do great on this test.

So What If School Library Dumps Christian Books?

Burning BooksRiver Springs Charter Schools in California is reportedly removing all Christian books from its library shelves.

The Pacific Justice Institute (PJI), a legal defense organization, has been circulating the accusation that this network of California charter schools is culling its stock of Christian material, notably The Hiding Place by Corrie ten Boom.

The school says it receives state funds and so cannot allow "sectarian materials on our state-authorized lending shelves." On their Facebook page, the school states, "No, we are not banning Christian novels at all. We are not allowed to provide sectarian textbooks however, so this is where the confusion comes in. So it's yes to novels, no to textbooks as a public school."

But attorneys with PJI say the Supreme Court has a "long-established precedent that strongly disapproves of school libraries removing books based on opposition to their content or message."

Now I fully understand that "sectarian" could be defined in wild and nonsensical ways. I mean, this is California. But I have a hard time understanding how a library is supposed to operate if it can't remove books over content issues. How did the books get in the library to begin with? If they had a volume of a decade of Playboy issues, would librarians be able to remove it based on the content?

I'm told Board of Education, Island Trees Union Free School District No. 26 v. Pico is in play here. Read the rest of this entry . . .

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