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I’ve been on a J.R.R. Tolkien kick recently.  I often read the Lord of the Rings over the holidays; it’s sort of a wintery thing to do.  And once I’ve spent that amount of time in Middle-Earth I don’t want to leave.  I usually end up reading more and more.  I’ll read the Silmarillion and the Hobbit, but for Christmas I hit pay dirt: my wife gave me five Tolkien books.  So I began with relish.

The Eagle and Child pub in Oxford, England

Recently, I was reading Tales from the Perilous Realm, a collection of stories that were published in various places in the 30’s and 40’s, and I came upon an interesting passage.  It is well-known that Tolkien was friends with C.S. Lewis.  They were a part of a group of friends and intellectuals who called themselves the Inklings.  For many years they met weekly at a pub in Oxford called the Eagle and Child, or by those who frequent it regularly, the Bird and Baby.  It’s a pretty cool little place (the food is fantastic and the beer quite good!), and these friends would meet to talk, but also to bring their writing projects and talk about them.  They would workshop and criticize each other’s work.  It truly was a case of iron sharpening iron.

Anyway, I was reading a story called “Leaf by Niggle,” found in the book I’m finishing up.  It’s a very interesting story which was apparently a dream that Tolkien had, and when he woke up, he wrote it all down, then went back and edited it up.  He writes, “It really added a considerable attraction to walking in the country, because, as you walked, new distances opened out; so that you now had double, treble, and quadruple distances, doubly, trebly, and quadruply enchanting.  You could go on and on, and have a whole country in a garden, or in a picture (if you preferred to call it that)” (304).

The thing I find fascinating is that I think that here I have found a place where Tolkien’s ideas overlapped with Lewis’s.  Tolkien wrote this story sometime between 1939 and 1942, and it is just the sort of thing that he would bring to the pub for comments and/or criticism, or just to let his friends read it.  I think that these images of a garden that is bigger inside than outside, and a country inside a painting were things the two talked about, perhaps extensively, because they seem to have worked in to the writings of Tolkien here in “Leaf by Niggle” and into Lewis’s Chronicles of Narnia, written between 1949 and 1954.  In the Voyage of the Dawn Treader, Lucy, Edmund, and Eustace are drawn into Narnia through a picture of a ship.  They are sucked into the painting which grows and becomes larger and larger until they are in another world.  In the Last Battle, the entourage walks west and arrives at the garden on the green hill, surrounded by a hedge.  When they go inside, they find that it is bigger inside than outside, and a conversation ensues to that effect.  They talk about the fact that many things are like that: that the further in one goes, the bigger and more real things are.  They call to one another, “Farther up and further in!” and seek the center of the garden only to find Aslan himself.

I like to imagine Tolkien and Lewis sitting together, sipping their beer, reading papers, and arguing about a point of description or discussing these things in a spirited manner.  I think that that pub with those men is one of the top 5 places I would want to visit if I ever was given a time machine.  Ah, how I love ideas!

Isn’t literature grand?

At the Eagle and Child, tossing back a pint.

 

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Watch the clip first.

I don’t know what is weirder:  1) the fact that Glenn Beck, in the face of a question he could not answer, screamed at a caller and called her a pinhead,  2) the fact that after the fact he watched the video and defended his actions repeatedly, essentially saying that in the face of the kind of stupidity displayed by the caller the only appropriate response is to do exactly what he did, or   3)  the fact that Bill O’Reilly was set up as being the voice of rational response, tempering Beck’s flair and calling him to account.

Beck’s rage-filled refusal to engage in rational discourse is, honestly, not really what disturbs me the most.  I don’t particularly care what Glenn Beck thinks–it doesn’t have a whole lot of meaning to me.  What does disturb me is that millions of people all over the country ardently believe that Glenn Beck can do no wrong and have seemingly given him a blank check; many have taken rank behind him and hail him as a prophetic leader.  Indeed, many people I know and love believe this.  I am disturbed by the celebration of vitriolic reactionism to dialogue, by the co-opting of historical movements based on informed and rational (and sometimes heated) dialogue (Samuel Adams and the objection to taxation without representation) to perpetuate a loose, disconnected, and largely irrational socio-political agenda.

Most significantly, I am deeply disturbed by the linking of Christianity with the political right.  While I understand that many Christians are conservatives, it is also true that many are not, and creating an identity of one’s political affiliation and one’s theological doctrine and praxis is something that I cannot abide.  I ardently deny that such an identity exists, except in the rhetoric of those who find it convenient to link the two.  I view this approach to politics as a way of using the Christian Church for a political purpose.  It is relegating the person of Christ as a means to accomplish a political end.  It is making the King of Kings a political pawn and having him serve our political agenda, instead of us serving Him and His agenda of the reclamation of the world from sin, death, and dysfunction.

Those who love and honor Jesus Christ must throw down any political idols, whether they might be the Republican party or Barack Obama.  We must put people and people’s institutions in their proper place: subservient to King Jesus.

Why are conservatives and many Christians so afraid?  We do not need to be.

15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.

17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
they are regarded by him as worthless
and less than nothing.

22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

23 He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

24 No sooner are they planted,
no sooner are they sown,
no sooner do they take root in the ground,
than he blows on them and they wither,
and a whirlwind sweeps them away like chaff.

25 “To whom will you compare me?
Or who is my equal?” says the Holy One.

–Isaiah 40

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Shannyn Moore

Shannyn Moore

Shannyn Moore is an Alaskan blogger, and wrote a good post about the Palin/Letterman broohaha. I appreciated her even tone and the lack of ad hominems, colorful crude metaphors, and venom-coated barbs trying to disguise themselves as arguments. Check out her blog post.

I kept wanting to comment to the bloggers who were name-calling on both sides, “Let’s stick to the facts,” but people, like some animals, can work themselves up into a rabid fury and be completely unreasonable and irrational when they’re really really angry. I know, because I can do it with the best of them. This whole ridiculous incident is a great example to study if you want to learn about argumentation (what not to do), tone and its effect on arguments and believability, discretion, grace (or the lack of it), and the unspoken “party-first” mindset of so many liberals and conservatives in America who believe that the party should come first and God after.

Since when did loving your neighbor and doing good to those who hate you include slandering them, lying about them, trying to get them fired, or even trying to kill them? Jesus’ mandate doesn’t have a footnote that says, “unless they’re unfair,” or “unless you’re in an election year.”

We need to remember, America, that God is not a Republican or a Democrat, and Christianity does NOT equal Republicanism. Christ ought to be transcendent to our politics, informing but NEVER equaling, because He IS sovereign over all the world’s politics.

Isaiah 40:

10 See, the Sovereign LORD comes with power,
and his arm rules for him.
See, his reward is with him,
and his recompense accompanies him.

11 He tends his flock like a shepherd:
He gathers the lambs in his arms
and carries them close to his heart;
he gently leads those that have young.

12 Who has measured the waters in the hollow of his hand,
or with the breadth of his hand marked off the heavens?
Who has held the dust of the earth in a basket,
or weighed the mountains on the scales
and the hills in a balance?

13 Who has understood the mind [d] of the LORD,
or instructed him as his counselor?

14 Whom did the LORD consult to enlighten him,
and who taught him the right way?
Who was it that taught him knowledge
or showed him the path of understanding?

15 Surely the nations are like a drop in a bucket;
they are regarded as dust on the scales;
he weighs the islands as though they were fine dust.

16 Lebanon is not sufficient for altar fires,
nor its animals enough for burnt offerings.

17 Before him all the nations are as nothing;
they are regarded by him as worthless
and less than nothing.

18 To whom, then, will you compare God?
What image will you compare him to?

19 As for an idol, a craftsman casts it,
and a goldsmith overlays it with gold
and fashions silver chains for it.

20 A man too poor to present such an offering
selects wood that will not rot.
He looks for a skilled craftsman
to set up an idol that will not topple.

21 Do you not know?
Have you not heard?
Has it not been told you from the beginning?
Have you not understood since the earth was founded?

22 He sits enthroned above the circle of the earth,
and its people are like grasshoppers.
He stretches out the heavens like a canopy,
and spreads them out like a tent to live in.

23 He brings princes to naught
and reduces the rulers of this world to nothing.

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A few days ago I received a forwarded email from a relative of mine. It was an email from an organization that was drawing attention to an editorial article in the Russian tabloid Pravda. This article, written by Stanislav Mishin, was entitled “American Capitalism Gone with a Whimper.” Its point was, frankly, rather alarmist and it was condemning the Obama administration’s policies and goals as Marxist and socialist. The subtext was something like, “America should listen to the Russian people who are, as one, warning the Americans to stop making socialist policy decisions. We’ve been through this and we know best, but the arrogant Americans think they can handle flirting with disaster.” That was the content of the email, but the way this forwarded piece of Russian tabloid writing was framed was more interesting to me. It was sent out by Timothy Plan, a financial institution based in Florida. It also had a note from Art Ally, President of The Timothy Plan. It reads, “Never in a million years would I have dreamed that we would have to go to an article in the Russian newspaper Pravda to get the truth about what is happening in America. It is a little long but well worth the read. Thanks to Don Wildmon, President, American Family Association.”

Then there was an attached note from Don Wildmon, President of the American Family Association. It reads: “For years I have refused to use words such as Marxism, socialism or similar words when describing our current situation. However, it is time to call a spade a spade, regardless of how those who oppose us label us. Rome is burning. The article below was written by Stanislav Mishin, a blogger and columnist for the Russian newspaper Pravda.” All of the above is the context. Now for the expression of my idea. I have been frustrated with the AFA for a while for a few reasons. Before I list them, I want to say that I respect the fact that they say they care about families. Families are good things and definitely worth striving for and even dying for. So I want to make sure that the criticism I have does not diminish the respect that I have for the cause of fortifying families.

That being said, I have two main criticisms of how the AFA has operated, and I say this as an evangelical Christian who is part of a local church and whose goal is to lead my family in a way that honors God. The first criticism is that I have noticed that the AFA sometimes blurs the truth (whether intentionally or unintentionally, I don’t know and can’t determine) or leaves facts out for their readers in order to generate the responses they want for the causes they support. The way they framed this Russian tabloid article is one small example of this. They (and Timothy Plan) framed it as a warning to America from Russia, but this is not the case at all. I wish the AFA would make more ardent attempts to be honest, and to frame issues as honestly, thoroughly, and objectively as possible. If they did this, I believe they would be a lot more successful in enacting real and lasting change. They must also stop working on a political strategy of using fear as their primary tool. It is reactive, which is never as effective as being proactive and creative, and it’s often downright untruthful. If they felt that they even needed to acknowledge this piece of tabloid editorial writing, they could have framed it as what it was: an editorial by a Russian writer. They could then pose the question to their readers, “Is this actually happening in the United States? Are Mishkin’s claims true?” This strategy invites a critical analysis of the ideas in the article, rather than the easier thing to do: a simple endorsement of an oversimplification and rationalism of the political agenda of a Russian writer with an apparently large chip on his shoulder.

The second criticism I have of AFA is even more elemental. I am confused how such an article like Mishkin’s is relevant at all to building stronger families. I believe that the agendas that the AFA chooses to struggle for are ultimately the wrong agendas. The vast majority of notices that I have seen from the AFA are political in nature, telling people of what Congress is doing or not doing, what new evil the courts are perpetrating, or decrying the Federal Communications Commission’s lack of enforcement of current decency laws.

I’m not arguing that there are times when political activism is necessary, but sitting in the middle of a secular culture crying because there are so many secular influences that can tear apart families is simply the wrong strategy. It will only breed frustration from the culture (“Who do they think they are, up on their high horse and condemning us?”), and the answer to keeping families strong is not to change the cultural climate through legislating it. Have we learned nothing from the oft-shameful history of the Church? From Prohibition? Why are we holding our culture to a standard that we, according to our own doctrinal statements, can never fulfill? Why impose a pharisaical rule on people who do not even believe in God? This is not protecting the family. This is declaring war on the culture, and lest anyone believe they are the same, they are divergent and even mutually exclusive.

Sure there may be a legal battle or two here or there, but the AFA should focus on some of the most significant threats to families and marriages, which in my opinion isn’t gay marriage or democratically-sponsored legislation. It is heterosexual divorce and the elements that cause it, like a lack of forgiveness, spousal abuse, and fathers not having the stones to be men and sacrificially care for and love their families. It is wives who care more about their image and their next fling than their kids. These things in heterosexual marriage are what I’d really love to see the AFA focus on. I would like to see them take a much more proactive stance through working with churches and other organizations to help train people how to be good parents. Instead of spending resources trying to get TV shows off the air because you don’t agree with the lifestyle that is portrayed (big shock since we live in a secular culture!), spend the resources training parents how to actually have family time without the TV on—Dads spending time with their kids in the evening—or encouraging parents to read books and learn what they believe and why so they can watch a show they may disagree with—with their children—and then have some good conversations about it with them.

The Timothy Plan is also an organization that I have some questions about. They say that they are offering “A biblical choice when it comes to investing. If you are concerned with the moral issues (abortion, pornography, anti-family entertainment, non-married lifestyles, alcohol, tobacco and gambling) that are destroying children and families you have come to the right place. The Timothy Plan® avoids investing in companies that are involved in practices contrary to Judeo-Christian principles. Our goal is to recapture traditional American values. We are America’s first pro-life, pro-family, biblically-based mutual fund group.”

My biggest question is how can you be FOR something by fundamentally defining yourself by what you DON’T do? TP asks its web page visitors if their personal finances would withstand a moral audit, and offers to do one for free. But the way they are defining moral is frighteningly similar to a political platform. I know this is shocking, but there are OTHER kinds of moral issues that are just as biblical, if not more so, than the ones listed above. When did eradicating tobacco use become a Christian cause? What about the much more important issue of paying workers fair wages? Fair wages is not mentioned in the moral statement of Timothy Plan to my knowledge, but it is very important to God. James writes a damning accusation of labor practices (think minimum wage issue or migrant worker/illegal immigrant labor practices) that went on in the first century: “You have hoarded wealth in the last days. Look! The wages you failed to pay the workmen who mowed your fields are crying out against you. The cries of the harvesters have reached the altars of the Lord Almighty. You have lived on earth in luxury and self-indulgence.” I know this is really going to pain a lot of Christians who pride themselves on what they don’t do (see Jesus’ account of the prayer of the Pharisee in Luke 18), but a lot of Christians simply love to quote CS Lewis, for good reason, and they study his books, use his quotes in sermons, and are quite reverential of him. It might surprise some people that Jack Lewis was a chain-smoker and got together once a week with his friends (in the morning, no less!) to drink beer, have good conversation, and comment on each others’ writing. For those of you whose toes are curling right now at the though of dear old Lewis with a cigarette in one hand and a beer in the other working on a draft of Chronicles of Narnia, perhaps it is time you rethought how you define yourself. Perhaps, Timothy Plan, it is time you explained to your investors what it means to be a Christian investor or a godly investor. It is not as simple as strict avoidance of traditional evils.

Hopefully you see the problem. As soon as we define ourselves as Christian investors by what we don’t do, we not only haven’t said much about ourselves except what we think is beneath us, but we have also painted ourselves into a corner. We haven’t said anything about what we are FOR—what our goals are. All we can do is keep chipping off pieces of our portfolio when we discover that this company did something we didn’t like once, or that company produced a product that some believe supported another religion. Where does this slippery slope stop?

I believe that we ought to be people of integrity, and I think part of having integrity is to think well. If those who are leading these movements refuse to submit their severely flawed rationales and policies to scrutiny, then they very well run the risk of falling into a ditch. We need Christians to be more relevant, not less, and that means that we must open our eyes and be obedient to scripture by living as lights, not expecting that our culture ought to be full of light already.

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One of the big frustrations of my academic career has been my uneasy relationship with critical theory.  We both seem to have always been talking at cross-purposes.   Critical theory says, “X is really important, and we must work toward it.  Y isn’t so much important as X is.”  Meanwhile, I’m thinking to myself, “X isn’t the issue, really.  It has it’s place, but Y is the really important thing that we ought to be talking about.” 

 In general, I understand and can appreciate the endeavor of critical theory, but in particular, I am often stymied by it.  I leave the piece of reading feeling like I was just examined ruthlessly by the doctor.  Exhausted, confused, and stumbling toward the kitchen for a drink of something stiffer than milk to relax my mind, I often find myself asking, “What just happened here?”  Now, the academic community is very good at posturing, and every honest academic I’ve ever met has agreed with this statement, so I keep that in mind as I think to myself, “Am I the only one who didn’t get this?”  Or, “Am I the only one who thinks that that author actually hasn’t said anything at all?”  I don’t feel this way about all critical theory; there are a few pieces of it that I do understand (I think). 

 One of the responses that I know the reader may immediately have is that of, “Oh, sure.  The white middle-class male American isn’t a fan of critical theory’s agenda; it’s just another example of hegemonic structures resisting change.”  I know this response well because it has been leveled at me many times.  But surely, this reasoning is being remarkably assumptive?  My objection (or frustration, really, since I don’t object to most of what critical theory is trying to do), is that critical theory is built on certain assumptions that I do not automatically grant.  The most significant of these humanistic assumptions is that problems that we find in our social systems can be fixed by collective and unrelenting human effort.  Humanism and critical theory assumes that the solutions to the problems can be fixed by collective human action.  This is an assumption that I do not hold, and this is the fundamental schism between critical theory and me.  I can agree with a lot (though not all) of the observations of the problems that CT expands on, and I can even agree with some of the solutions, but the ultimate political agenda of modern cultural studies and critical theory is one that I believe is ultimately lacking.  It is missing a very important component because it starts in a different place.  Humanism and modern CT starts with humanity and the problems of humanity, but my philosophy of approach is to begin with theology proper, because if we are indeed created, then WHY we exist and WHAT we are made for (what did our creator make us for) is of primary importance; indeed, all things become secondary.  My philosophical and ethical and political views spring out of a paradigm that does not begin where I see most modern critical theory beginning, and it is this difference of alignment that I believe is responsible for the phenomenon of me feeling like CT and I are talking on two different planes that do not intersect. 

 It is for this reason that while I understand some CT, some of it I do not, but almost all of it I view as practically academic and if political, possessing little long-term staying power in terms of its potency to fix the problems of the human race.  In essence, I believe that the answers to the deep problems of human dysfunction in failed social systems, inequality, bias, and hatred cannot be ultimately solved by human effort and mobilization, but by Someone greater than ourselves.  It is there that I start my philosophical and academic investigations, for it is There that I believe the Answer lies.

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By now, half the world has heard of Susan Boyle.  If you have not, stop now and watch the video of her auditioning for the show Britain’s Got Talent:

When I watched this video, it brought me to tears, which doesn’t normally happen on the rare occasion that i watch Britain’s Got Talent.  But this woman was so homely, so unassuming, so quaint,  and so unlike anyone auditioning for a world-wide broadcasted show that I immediately began to criticize her, like everyone in the audience and all 3 of the judges.  

Our culture is a sick one because it is made up of sick people.  We love to criticize.  We love to find fault, and exploit weakness.  The shows on which Simon Cowell adjudicates are just visual symbols of that part of our culture’s heart.  I think that’s why they’re so popular–we get to hear someone say what so many are thinking about a terrible performer.  We get to see the cruelty enacted, and we get to see someone utterly destroyed in front of millions of people.  The popularity of the shows is dependent on this kind of unbridled reckless speech, and the very thing that proves it is that Simon Cowell, the most reckless speaker of the bunch, is who makes ratings go up.  He’s on the judges panel of all the shows, and the producers know that if he weren’t, the show would not make nearly as much money.  He and his barbed tongue are the draw.  The people performing are just window-dressing.  

As I sat there expecting (and hoping) for this dear woman to get up and embarrass herself on television, what actually happened was that her stunning performance highlighted what was going on inside me.  I wanted her to fail, even though I had just finished reading some scripture last week that read, “Do not rejoice when your enemy falls, and do not let your heart be glad when he stumbles.”  (Proverbs 24:17).  This moment was a revealing one for so many people because it showed the ugliness in our hearts.  It showed that mine was enthusiastically wanting someone, not even my enemy, to fall utterly, and for no other reason than to amuse me.  

What?

Simply to amuse me?  Is my heart really that hardened?  This hard heart of mine has been shown to me before, but the problem with being shown a hard heart is that usually nobody else knows.  We don’t have to deal with it because nobody’s watching.  But God sees our hearts.  He not only sees what is, but what could be there.

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I’m a student at Claremont Graduate University, and in a course I’m taking this term there was a lecture and discussion on a social reformer and activist named John Commons, who did some really great things in America.  While reading some of the blog posts, I became interested in some tension that developed when it was discovered that some of John Commons’ writings and beliefs later had an influence on inspiring the eugenics movement.  The eugenics movement was a patently racist movement that believed in the possibility of improving humanity by keeping people with undesirable qualities from reproducing and encouraging reproduction among people with desirable qualities.  In this way, the evolution of humanity could be guided and self-directed.

 

What I find most interesting is not, to be totally honest, John Commons. I’m not even really all that shocked that he held racist ideas.  Many learned people did then, and many learned people today hold views that are patently racist while at the same time holding ideas that are significantly progressive toward social justice.  What interests me most is how people (readers) like us take and assimilate, through texts and images, ideas of a person to construct an image of that person and his ideas in our imaginations.  I’m guessing that we struggle through a common process when we hear of John Commons being related to the eugenics movement and believing “white races” are better suited to democracy than “tropical races.”  I, for one, immediately feel that there are two images of John Commons that somehow cannot both be true, and I notice that I have a feeling that the respect that I felt for him before I knew of his racism ought to be diminished and replaced with only criticism for his folly of racist ideology. 

 

This is the process that goes on inside my own head, but I’m pretty sure that it happens with most of us, with a lot of things, all the time, every day, in big and small ways.  I’m particularly interested in the pull that happens inside us toward division into a simple bifurcation—to fully lean to one side or the other—admiration or scorn, good or bad, truth or lies, tolerance or racism.  Since with Commons, all the information we have is from traditional texts—books, papers, etc. (and I suppose from oral texts or lectures about those traditional texts), we must undertake a complex negotiation of these texts we read with the text that has been constructed in our heads—our idea of John Commons and what his ideas mean.

 

In my own personal life, I’ve had many people who I have known as very good people, but at some point I discover that they have done something very evil—I’ve had a friend who committed murder and one who committed child molestation.  Both of those acts were horrific, but as my understanding of them was processed throughout their trials and sentencing, my conception of them did indeed change, but it did not affect everything I knew of them.  My friend who committed murder, for example (I’ll call her Becca), many times showed kindness to people and once brought me a plate of brownies just because I had never had that kind and she wanted to do something kind for me.  I had to reconcile in my head that this kind of decent act (decent in the strictest sense) could somehow co-exist in her in some way with motivations that would lead Becca to commit murder. 

 

I’m still learning this lesson and, no doubt, will be learning it deeper and deeper for the rest of my life, and I find them helpful as I wrestle with a challenge that is far less personal and emotional: trying to reconcile two different texts (John Commons A and John Commons B) into a third hybrid: John Commons C.  How does this happen? 

 

Here are two possible models: 

1) we take the old and new conceptions, which are very different from each other, and put them together, and one colors the other through completely, causing us to lose our trust in Commons’ progressive actions and view him as a fraud of social activism or at least as an ethically stunted person whose judgment cannot be trusted at all.  This is just like mixing food coloring and water: the water changes all through and one cannot then ever really “uncolor” the water. 

2) we take these two conceptions and simply let them both sit and occupy the same space—that is, the same label of John Commons in our head, and admit to the possibility that there may be contradictions—that there may be logical or ethical tensions in the different ideas, but we allow them to mix nonetheless.  This is much more like mixing two colors of pebbles into a big jar.  They are not the same, but nonetheless there they sit in the jar, and we must be willing to allow that there are two different colors in the jar at the same time, even if it offends our sense of aesthetics.  Knowing that there are these two disparate and quite contrary texts at work in my own conception of Commons is a burr in my mind; it would be much easier to understand him and compartmentalize him if I could simply say he was this or that all the way through—but it is not quite that easy.  People usually do not make it so.  But when I’m tired and want everything to be right with the world, and just want to have a hero to admire, I sure wish it were easier!

 

The whole thing pivots around being willing to allow unresolved tension to exist in the spaces in our minds—tension between one idea of someone and another.  We always have tension in our conceptions of people, and usually we simply resolve this tension by forming a new conception by somehow negotiating the two conflicting ideas in our head.  They struggle and bits of each are cut away, and bits of each are left standing.  As a result, some new conception emerges that is different. We do this all the time with all kinds of things, big as well as small, profound and superficial.  We may not know how to resolve the tensions we find, and it can be the hardest thing in the world to choose to not undergo the process of resolving those tensions, because sometimes there is no way for us to accurately resolve them.  We must sometimes choose to see both conflicting things and simply let them be—to trust that the process of resolving a good act with a murder may be beyond our capacity.  Most importantly, we are told by the Savior, “Judge not, and you will not be judged.”  I think he was talking about this exact thing.

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