The Taser's Edge

Tuesday Reading Roundup 10: Madeleine L’Engle Edition

1. A Wrinkle in Time by Madeleine L’Engle–Already read it way back when.  Read it again, and it is fabulous.  Far better than Philip Pullman’s Golden Compass/His Dark Materials series.  I think I’m going to have some kids just so I can read it with/to them.  I have mixed feelings about the fact that it seems unfilmable (despite the existence of at least one cinematic attempt).  Disappointed, because more people would get to know L’Engle’s creation.  Kind of glad, though, because I can pretend it’s my little secret, despite the fact that it won the Newbery Medal, sold millions of copies, and is read in classrooms across America.  Also, check out this 3-d image of a 5-d tesseract (those of you in the know know):

2. A Wind in the Door by Madeleine L’Engle–So I’m hooked and also already read this one, too.  Three cheers for kything and farondalae!  But I have to wonder at the lack of tesseraction.

3. A Swiftly Tilting Planet by Madeleine L’Engle–Third in the series, it is in my sights this week.  For some reason, while the first two books are shelved in the children’s section at Durham Downtown Library, this one is in the Young Adult section.  I assume it must have frank, sexual discussion or a teenage angst-filled Charles Wallace.  (Holden Caulfield plus telepathy: a deadly cocktail.)  Maybe after I read all the Madeleine L’Engle that exists, I’ll return to Lloyd Alexander’s Prydain as well.

4. Great Lent by Alexander Schmemann–I think you’ve heard of it by now.  I couldn’t swear to having read a single page last week.

5. Batman: The Dark Knight Returns by Frank MillerIn my three years as a graduate student at Duke, I have only requested that Duke buy two books.  (You know Duke has some serious money, since this is an option, despite the fact that most books people want are at least available through Inter-Library Loan.)  And the two books are…<drum pum pum pum roll>…this one and Batman: The Killing Joke by Alan Moore, the two comics most responsible for the Heath Ledger version of the Joker in The Dark Knight.  At least I know that a collections librarian is one person on this earth who has no room to judge me for my nerdiness.  Then there’s the fact that I only thought about requesting that Duke buy it after my friend Dave successfully requested that Duke buy the second half of the third season of Entourage (which, I will admit, is a darn good show by that point in its run).

6. Helping People Forgive by David W. Augsburger–Haven’t started it yet, but the title sounds descriptive.  The readings for Acolatse’s Marriage and Family class are amazing this week.  Christian healing and forgiveness, non-violent communication of anger, getting the local church to start talking/dealing with sexual abuse.  Terrific articles.

7. Random stuff from Kant, specifically his discussion of virtue.

Truly I’m back from Spring Break.  And truly I am checked out even more than ever.  Addicted to graphic novels, children’s novels, and computer games from my childhood.  My friend Samara told me today that we have 5 weeks of classes left.  Let’s see, on my schedule that makes…15 days of classes left.  Not going to help me stay involved.  I just need to divert my energy toward constructivity around the house instead of toward my ancient English civilization (which is now building railroads in 400AD, while destroying the Aztec and American civilizations simultaneously).

And then there’s my Application for Holy Orders.  It’s less fun than it sounds.

Tasty, Tasty Stanley-flavored Kool-Aid

When I filled out the application for Duke Divinity and got to the question asking if there was an particular faculty member I was looking forward to studying with, like every other potential student, I wrote in “Stanley Hauerwas.”  Sure, there are some Richard Hays fans out there, some J. Kameron Carter fans, and a handful of others (speaking personally now as a devoted fan of Tammy Williams and J. Warren Smith), but Hauerwas is Duke in a lot of ways for a lot of people.  Of course, when I wrote his name in, I had only recently heard of him and had not read a word of his, other than some obnoxious, albeit true, comment (I characterize it as such because my initial read of him is that he likes to be provocative and, yes, obnoxious, not because I don’t respect him) he made to Time when they named him America’s Best Theologian in 2001: “Best is not a theological category.”

At Duke, it is impossible to escape from his ideas.  They are in the water (or Kool-Aid, I suppose, depending on your perspective).  And the rough-hewn and not quite accurate version is that the Enlightenment caused everything wrong with the church and the world.

Unlike many Duke students, I was not one who had to have Hauerwas before leaving.  But then his class (Happiness, Virtue and the Life of Friendship) looked great and fit into my schedule well, so I signed up.  Two-hundred sixty one pages to read for the first class period, but it’s not so bad now.

All this to say that postliberalism is a thing that Duke does and perhaps is, but what is it?  Postliberalism is an amorphous term which seems to mean whatever people need it to mean in the moment, sometimes used almost as a synonym for postmodernism, but very definitely a reaction and critique to Christian (and particularly Protestant) theological liberalism.  And I say liberalism in a technical sense, referring to the Enlightenment version of Christianity whose archetypal figure is (inasmuch as such things can be said to start with one man) Friedrich Schleiermacher.

Returning to the rough-hewn and inaccurate version of these ideas that seems to flow out of Duke’s air ducts, Germany (where Schleiermacher is from) seems to be the sources of all the problems of the modern age, both in 19th century German biblical scholars’ total reduction of Biblical criticism to a “science” (historical-critical methods) and a reduction of Christianity to something reasonable (thank you, Immanuel Kant).  Please note that I truly mean “rough-hewn and inaccurate” before getting upset about this history, and realize that it is a caricature (although only slightly, to be honest).

I still have some questions about this whole thing, but I feel like I’m getting a better grasp of what “this whole thing” actually is this semester, and in more helpful ways than before.  Namely, I’m taking a class with Hauerwas, reading some of his stuff, reading Alasdair MacIntyre, reading Samuel Wells, reading John Howard Yoder (several important folks).

This post started as something else and became this because I realized I couldn’t write the post I wanted without some basic introduction.  That explanation will hopefully make sense when the next post is finished.