Of Castles and Unicorns

I recently saw a presentation that reconnected me with a secret world. It wasn’t so much the presentation – which was on England and Scotland – as it was the context and feel. I was reminded of a time past, and it is on this time upon which I’m writing to reflect.

There are a few of us who didn’t just read about Narnia, we were transported there. We remember reading the Lord of the Rings during rainy days; or The Cross and the Switchblade; or This Present Darkness; of Churchill and ten Boom. Our hearts lept and we wondered if we could rise to the challenge of life; of hearing God’s call and chasing it when it was heard. This time is contextualized by a strange type of magic, the kind that is surrounded by danger but is wild, epic and romantic. In that time and space, children and adults alike discussed their journey of faith.

The Vision of Literary Apologetics

Why is apologetics, the defense of the Christian faith, important?

In one sense, Christianity needs no defense. God, who is Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, does not depend for His existence on our belief. However, many people who do not know the living God are separated from Him in part by intellectual obstacles. Removing those obstacles by showing that Christianity indeed makes sense on a rational level is an act of love and care for our neighbor. Defending the faith also builds up a strong foundation for believers. A securely built house has a solid, well-built foundation, so that the vagaries of wind and weather don’t damage it or cause distress to the inhabitants. It’s natural to have questions and doubts - think of the disciples, asking Jesus “increase our faith!” or the man who cries out “Lord, I believe: help my unbelief!” Apologetics helps strengthen the foundations by providing answers to questions and doubts, so that the Christian can grow stronger in his or her faith.

Why Story Matters

Why do stories matter?

Ultimately, because of who we are - made in the image of God. Human beings possess the twin faculties of Reason and Imagination, both God-given, both essential for a right relationship with the world (and for a right understanding of one’s place in the world).

However, something has gone badly wrong in our culture. In a slow process that began with the Enlightenment and has continued to the present day, these faculties of Reason and Imagination have been separated, to the detriment of both.

On the one hand, Reason has been given free rein, and the pursuit of knowledge using our God-given intellect has become scientism and materialism, the idea that only those things that can be empirically measured and logically figured out can be considered “true” or “real.” In the world of science, truth is held to be only that which is measurable and testable. Intangible things like emotions and spiritual truths are decidedly second-class citizens. After all, souls can’t be detected with an MRI, and love can’t be weighed and measured!

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The Red Elephant (Part Two)

What was your Red Elephant?

What first summoned you into concentration, and inspired in you a desire to create, to build, to lose yourself in impassioned work?

Something led you to pursue, say, medical science: the desire to understand a disease; the elaborate name of a virus; the feeling of your hand on the shoulder of an ailing parent. Something summoned you.

What is it about architecture? Editing? Law? Poetry? Beachcombing? Cross-country skiing? Sculpture? Violin repair? Beekeeping?

There is something in this.

Adam sees animals in the garden — look how they crawl, slither, strut, and swagger! — and their wild beauty and variety compels him to make something of the situation. He is driven to name them. He awakens and sees the woman, and he feels an even more particular drive — not merely to observe, but to engage. Jacob has a dream about a ladder that touches heaven. Revelation. Moses walks around a corner on an ordinary mountainside on an ordinary day and suddenly a shrub is blazing without a puff of smoke, and he perceives the presence of God.

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The Red Elephant (Part One)

I don’t remember the other animals. Only the elephant.

Over my mattress and my baby blankets, a mobile slowly revolved, drawing a merry-go-round of animal shapes to a jingling nursery tune. Without a word in my head, without names to call my parents, without any capacity to help myself, I lay there, wide-eyed and drooling, watching for the Red Elephant to float by again. And again.

It was hypnotic, mysterious — this parade of pillowed characters in primary colors, drifting around and and around. And every time the Red Elephant came around, with his jolly smile and his dark shiny eyes, I felt a surge of desire and reached with all of my might to grab for it.

When I was old enough to wrap my fingers around crayons, I went for the reds. I scribbled shapes with jolly smiles and dark, shining eyes. I wanted now to go beyond reaching for and seizing the Idea that had triggered something in me. I wanted to become a part of it. I wanted to ponder it through the vigorous act of imitation. By focusing on particular parts — a body, a nose, an eye — I was familiarizing myself with elements that were Important.

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Five Questions for Jeffrey Overstreet

You're a film reviewer, music critic, contributing editor, columnist, novelist, and you're married to a poet. You'd be a fun guy to talk to at a party or social gathering.  Do you get lots of invitations?

Why anybody would want to invite me over, I have no idea. Does anybody really want an earful about why the Oscars make me want to smash things, and why today's popular music gives me a headache?

But yeah, Anne and I are part of a fantastic community -- here in Seattle, and online -- that is always throwing parties, going to movies, going to concerts, giving recitals, opening art exhibits, reading original work at local bookstores. It's constantly inspiring. 

And yet, we have to say "No" to almost all of these invitations. If we said yes, we'd probably have to give up our lives as writers.

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