Daily Archives: September 1, 2010

More on literature

Dr. R. C. Sproul, on his Renewing Your Mind radio show, talked about literature and the Christian today.

I’m not sure how long the audio link will be made available, but it’s worth a listen.

I was struck by what he said about reading. First of all, as Anne of Green Gables might say, it appears that we are kindred spirits when it comes to reading. I, too, have been known to read the back of  a cereal box when nothing better was available. Our girls, too, are avid readers and it’s hard to keep at least one of them in good books. (Youngest is content to read the same favorites multiple times, Eldest is pretty fixed in her taste, while Middlest devours books at a gulp and looks for more.)

His comments about the contents of current popular literature reflect my own thoughts. There’s a lot of dreck out there. (Dreck. A satisfying word that I learned as a teen living in Germany. If you pretend there’s a really bad taste in your mouth, sticking to your tongue, and you’re trying to spit it out while you say the word, well, it sounds just like what it means.)

I was appalled at the literary taste (if you could call it that) of my students in the creative writing class at the Christian co-op, reflected in the type of stories many of them chose to write, and the relish most of them displayed while listening to their fellow students read aloud from their work. And yet… with the literature they’re reading, the stories they’re watching on television, or in the movies, should I be surprised?

When I taught a speech class at the co-op, I challenged my students to commit a scripture passage to memory every week. Not everyone took up the challenge, but at least the class heard the passages recited every week by the ones who did. The first assigned passage was Philippians 4:8, and for me, it was a sort of motto for the class. I ought to have done the same for the writing class.

One of the students felt stultified when he was told he couldn’t write about zombies in the class. (Even though he could write about zombies all he wanted outside of class writing, he really wanted to read his zombie material in class. Perhaps part of the pleasure in the topic is the shock value, seeing its effect on others. What am I saying? Of course, that’s part of the pleasure in any writers’ circle: seeing the effect of your writing on others.)

With so much scope for the imagination, many of the students were stuck in this dark place, with monsters and violence, depression and expressions of teenage angst. A sad side-effect was that there were some wonderful stories that were not shared with the group, because the authors were too shy to share. That probably would have happened no matter what the group dynamic was, but I wonder how much the predominantly dark tone — even with the restrictions we co-teachers put on the class — affected them.

Not sure where I’m going with this — I started writing this after hearing today’s Renewing Your Mind. I could say more about that writing class, and reading choices, and forming the young mind through deliberate choices in what you (and they) choose for information and entertainment. But we’re already behind our time for starting the day, so I’ll just leave it with this final thought. I like the Amplified and NASB versions the best, as they emphasize not just passing thought, but fixing the thoughts, dwelling consciously on something, deliberate choice, even effort made.

Philippians 4:8

KJV: 8Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.

NIV: 8Finally, brothers, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.

NASB: 8Finally, brethren, (A)whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is of good repute, if there is any excellence and if anything worthy of praise, dwell on these things.

AMPLIFIED: 8For the rest, brethren, whatever is true, whatever is worthy of reverence and is honorable and seemly, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely and lovable, whatever is kind and winsome and gracious, if there is any virtue and excellence, if there is anything worthy of praise, think on and weigh and take account of these things [fix your minds on them].