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Entries in Reading (42)

Friday
Mar022012

The Self Centered Life

That is the theme for this month's issue of TableTalk magazine.  There are some good articles in it.  I read through quite a few of them last night during the commercials while I watched the Montreal Canadiens stomp on the Minnesota Wild.

One of the first articles is by Harry L. Reeder, and it is called "Cultural Narcissism and a Titanic Lesson."  He begins the article by discussing the contradiction in presentation between James Cameron's movie Titanic and what really happened.  You remember that scene where the poor people from steerage were kept from getting to the life boats?  Never happened.  From what Reeder's article said, the survivors of Titanic were a large cross-section of many socioeconomic backgrounds.  The life boats contained mostly women and children from all backgrounds.  The men on that ship put the women and children first. Reeder says that the rationale for the actions of those who allowed others to get off the boat first was a manifestation of the Christian virtue of self-sacrifice.  Titanic sunk in 1912, an time vastly different from ours.  While there has always been self-centeredness in the world, there was a day when it was a virtue to be self-sacrificing.

Reeder extends this to a discussion of how different the culture is today and how that affects the church:

The contemporary culture flounders in a sea of narcissism, yet the contemporary church is likewise floundering the the exaltation of self and the supremacy of personal idolatry.  Many churches (and, therefore, their members) long ago abaondoned the gospel call "not [to] be conformed to this world but [to] be transformed by the renewal of your mind" (Rom. 12:1-2).  The church no longer shapes the world because it is being shaped by the world.  Today's church cannot suppress, much less transform, the disastrous effects of narcissism in the culture because narcissism in the culture is unsuppressed and flourishing within its own ministerial borders.  The evidences of self-absorption within the church are undeniable and on the verge of going viral.

I'm sure we can all see evidences of this.  One area I notice is in worship music, especially the kind that young people like.  For three years in our youth group, I supervised the youth worship leaders as they slected the music and got ready for each week's meeting.  This involved using The Sacred Power Point.  I saw a lot of the lyrics, and yes, the pronoun "I" was very evident.  Of course, that pronoun is featured in the Psalms, so it's not like there is no precedent for singing in that manner.  The big difference of course, is that the Psalms always lead back to God, whereas many of the worship songs do not.

There is a felt need among younger generations to have worship music that speaks to their generation.  People want worship done according to something that speaks to their generation (and that goes for many generations, not just people under 25 years of age).  Years ago, Oldsmobile ran a campagin under the principle that Oldsmobile was making a car that was "not your father's Oldsmobile." This was directed to younger people.  I get the feeling that young people purposely seek a faith that is not their "father's faith."  It's about what appeals to them instead of what is sound biblical practice.  They're not alone, either.  There are some 30-somethings out there with similar thinking.

I see this in women's ministry.  We want to have ministry done to suit exactly how we are as women, totally forgetting that before God there is no male or female.  Of course there is nothing wrong with having women's ministry done with things that are just enjoyable to women, but there is a tendency to approach everything with the thought "How does this affect me as a woman?"  I can't help but think that is evidence of narcissim coming through.  We really can't avoid it.  We are by nature narcissists.  The task before us as Christians is to draw upon the Holy Spirit and fight it.  Reeder ends his article with this:

The narcissism of the world can be suppressed and even transformed, but it must first be confronted in us as we, who are saved by grace, say no to the world's deceitful call ot self-worship and yes to Christ's liberating call of self-denial.  This is a liberation that will allow us to make muc of Christ, who did much to save us.

Wednesday
Jul202011

One benefit of a Kindle

I've been reading (on my Kindle) Alan Jacobs' book The Pleasures of Reading in an Age of Distraction.  He mentions the use of the Kindle.  I'm sorry that I didn't buy the book in paper.  It really is inconvenient to look for underlined passages with a Kindle; there are too many little buttons to push to get there.  I don't think a senior citizen would like this device; an iPad with a Kindle app would probably work better for eyes that are aging.  Anyway.

Jacobs mentions something that I arrived at myself, and that is where lies the strength of the Kindle.  And, no, it's not the ability to "connect" with other readers; at least that's not the the strength I see.  Jacobs tells a story about how he found his concentration for reading waning.  He was at a bookstore with many heavy, expensive volumes, and he thought he might try an e-reader instead.  He found that as he used one, he was less prone to skipping around the book (because it's too inconvenient) or to the end (also inconvenient).  The inability to do that caused him to focus on the text before him.  His conclusion was this:

"When I got an e-reader I immediately read the kind of book it's best suited for, that is, narrative driven fiction.  Had I started reading David Hume's Enquiry Concerning Human Understanding I might never have persisted with the device."

This was my experience as well.  When I originally got my Kindle, I got it because there were two volumes I wanted right away, and one of them was never going to be available in print.  I read both, and they were shorter works.  However, when I started reading Tim Challies' The Next Story, I found it much more difficult.  Flipping back and forth, annotating and all that fun stuff just is not the same without a pen and paper.  I have yet to finish the book.  However, one afternoon after watching the tail end of a sappy movie, I looked to see if the sappy movie may have come from a (better) book.  It did, and I read the book from beginning to end in a day and a half.  It really is less distracting when you can't move around in a work of fiction.  Because I am sleep deprived this past few weeks, I find reading heavier works very hard, and I wanted some mind candy.  I had a free chapter from John Grisham's latest novel The Confession, so I read it and then bought the whole thing.  I'm really enjoying it.  When I read Jacobs' comment the other day about his observation regarding e-readers, I was nodding my head.

It occurred to me this morning that this could actually be good for reading long passages of Scripture, especially the narrative portions in the Old Testament.  No, I don't think a Kindle would be good for studying the Bible -- unless, of course, that's all you have, and then you make the best of it.  Bible study requires too much flipping back and forth to use a Kindle.  But, it you're just reading the bible to read it as one would read any other work of literature, a Kindle can keep one focused.  In the meantime, though, a non-fiction book where you want to interact with various locations at one time is still better read the good old fashioned way.

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