Libri

I read books.

A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future (Os Guinness )

Book Club tonight will discuss this serious treatise on the demise of the American Republic and what Guinness proposes can be done to avert the seemingly inevitable.
Below are my pulled quotes and a few thoughts on the parallel with the American church.

Guinness, Os. A Free People’s Suicide: Sustainable Freedom and the American Future. Downers Grove, IL: IVP Books, 2012.

From the Augustine of Hippo:

Suppose we were to define what it means to be a people not in the usually way, but in a different fashion such as the following: a people is a multitudinous assemblage of rational beings united by concord regarding loved things in common. Then, if we wished to discern the character of any given people, we would have to investigate what it loves…Surely it is a better or worse people as it is united in loving things that are better or worse.  –City of God, quoted in A Free People’s Suicide(front leaf)

 

Freedom is unquestionably what Americans love supremely, and love of freedom is what makes Americans the people they are. Thus the present crisis of sustainable freedom raises questions about the health of the American Republic that must be taken seriously….Freedom is, and will always be, America’s animating principle and chief glory, her most important idea and her greatest strength. But unless sustained, freedom could also prove to be America’s idol, something trusted ultimately that cannot bear ultimate weight. (17)

Three challenges:

1.  Historical:

…Freedom always faces a fundamental historical challenge. Although glorious, free societies are few, far between and fleeting. In the past, the high view of human dignity and independence that free societies require was attained by only two societies with world influence: the Greeks with their view of the logos, or reason within each person, and the Jews with their notion of the call of God to each person. The roman ways owed much to the Greeks, of course, just as contemporary humanists owe everything to the Jewish, Greek and Christian ideas from which they come and on which they depend. (19)

2.  Political:

Free societies must maintain their freedom on two levels: at the level of their nation’s constitution and at the level of their citizens’ convictions…If the structures of liberty are well built, they last as long as they are properly maintained, whereas the spirit of liberty and the habits of the heart must be reinvigorated from generation to generation…(19)

3.  Moral:

…Freedom always faces a fundamental moral challenge. Freedom requires order, and therefore restraint, yet the only restraint that does not contradict freedom is self-restraint, which is the very thing that freedom undermines when it flourishes. Thus the heart of the problem of freedom is the problem of the heart, because free societies are characterized by a restlessness at their core. (20)

The core problem can be expressed like this: Such is our human propensity for self-love—or thinking and acting with the self as center—that the virtue it takes for its citizens to remain free is quite unnatural. (21)

What kind of people do you think you are?

American’s grand promotion of debt-leveraged consumerism has stood Max Weber’s famous thesis about the rise of capitalism on its head. It has scorned the early-American stress on hard work, savings, thrift and delayed gratification, and turned Americans into a nation of perpetual debtors who are now chided even by the Chinese and the Indians for their irresponsibility and “addiction to debt.” (25)

America’s fabled economic dominance has masked the fact of its dire financial indebtedness and therefore of the severe constraints on its real freedom. Few, if any, superpowers in history have been in deeper debt than the United States today….American citizens consuming more than they save and with the government spending more than it earns and promising to spend still more… (29)

The American way, far from the last best hope for the world, is becoming a riot of indulgent freedom that is anything but positive and liberating. ”License they mean when they cry liberty.” John Milton warned. (30)

There is a straightforward reason why the United States is vulnerable to such a crisis of cultural authority. As the world’s first new nation, American is distinctively a nation by intention and ideas. Unlike most other nations, the core beliefs that make up American identify and character do not trail off into the mists of antiquity, and they are not the product of centuries-old habits of the heart. Taking off from their sturdy seventeenth-century beginnings, they arose in a sunburst of brilliant thinking and daring institution-building by a generation whose vision charted the course of America’s meteoric rise to greatness. (31)

 

…Unlike the ancients, who saw time as cyclical, they were shaped by the linear worldview of the Bible and the Enlightenment. Thus, like contemporary Americans, they were optimistic. But unlike most Americans today, their optimism was never at the expense of a holiday from history. (72)

Respect for the great thinkers of the past: The exiled Machiaelli actually changed into his best clothes to enter into his nightly reading conversation with the ancients (73)

We don’t even dress for church or special dates any more with living people!

“We Americans seem to know everything about the last twenty-four hours…but very little of the past sixty centuries or the last sixty years.”  Bill Moyers, quoted in (74)

Montesquieu: “To comprehend modern times well, it is necessary to comprehend ancient times well.”

Churchill: “The longer you can look back, the further you can see forward.” (74)

Ted Hughes (poet) “Decay of libraries is like Alzheimer’s in the nation’s brain.” (75)

Patrick Henry “I have but one lamp by which my feet are guided, and that is the lamp of experience. I know of no way of judging the future but by the past.” (75)

Rousseau “If Sparta and Rome perished, what state can hope to endure forever?” (86)

The United States is in its very early days as a superpower. 230+ yrs. old (87)

Modern people believe that labor-saving technologies and instantaneous communication have brought them closer to conquering time as they have conquered space. According to such thinking, they are increasingly masters of their lives, their world and now even of time itself. Do they not have perpetual health and sustainable life almost within their grasp, both for themselves and for their institutions? (88)

Against such foolish thinking, the plain fact is that progress in science and technology does not mean progress in morality and humanity. (88)

Will time stand still for the United States any more than it idid for Britain, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Rome or Greece?…Will the giant figure of Lincoln in his memorial last longer than the Roman Consuls on whose curule chair he was placed? (89)

CURULE: relating to or being a high-ranking dignitary of ancient Rome entitled to occupy a special chair

: of, relating to, or being a chair or seat reserved for Romans of high rank that resembles a backless stool with curved legs; also : of, relating to, or being a 19th century seat with legs of a similar style

THE TYRANNY OF NOW

The postmodern mind, in contrast to the modern, is obsessed with relativism and fragmentation. In this view, time is neither linear nor cyclical. It is pointillist – like truth and certainties of all kinds, it is pulverized into a thousand scattered points, each unrelated to the others and to the past and future. There is no building on the past to construct the future. There is no building at all.In fact, there is no duration, bond, tie or commitment. There is only the endless succession of the fleeting now and is array of endless choices that open the future. So there are only separate moments, episodes, rather than stories, fragments rather than buiding blocks, shifting kaleidoscopes rather than meaningful narratives….the old is obsolete and the past is a ball and chain. (89)

 

Misunderstanding of the phrase “The Past is Prologue “ carved on National Archives

Often thought to mean” it’s all about us!”  – really means we are standing on the shoulders of what has gone before, and being all the wise for their wisdom (92)

Character of George Washington –

The American Revolution would not go the way of other revolutions. Washington was a victorious over the temptation to Caesarism at Newburgh as he had been over the British at Yorktown. (from I Wish I Had Been There )

GW was “the indispensable man” of the AR, and was so “by force of his character rather than his ideas or his eloquence. ..He was a one-man check and balance on the abuse of power, and decisively so well before the Constitution framed the principle in law.

Montesquieu ”Great men who are moderate are rare & it is always easier to follow one’s impulse than to arrest it…

Lincoln: “Nearly all men can stand adversity, but if you want to test a man, give him power.”

GW shone even brighter when he became president

Even King George III was impressed – when told GW would retire after the war, he said  “If he does that, he will be the greatest man in the world.” (95)

Sustainable freedom depends on the character of the rules and the ruled alike, and on the vital trust between them—both of which are far more than a matter of law. The Constitution…should be supported and sustained by the faith, character and virtue of the entire citizenry… (99)

Leadership without character, business without ethics and science without human values—in short, freedom without virtue will bring the Republic to its knees. (101-102)

Eugene Ormandy, director of the Philadelphia Orchestra “People always ask me where I was born. I was born at the age of twenty-one, when I arrived at the United States.”

Would he visit the town where he was born  (in Poland)? “What for?”

Reminds me of the couple we met at the Holocaust museum  – in 1954, when we arrived in God BLESS America…we finally knew what it was to be safe and free.

Europe is moving toward “cosmopolitan, global vision and the United States pressing toward its own vision of ‘hegemonic liberalism’.

hegemonic = ascendancy or domination of one power or state within a league, confederation, etc, or of one social class over others

Europe relapsing into “irresponsible, near-utopian pacifism, while sheltering under the shield of American arms. (132)

But Europe has tradition that holds it together, whereas America is vulnerable to a crisis of cultural authority because it is a nation by intention and by ideas and it relies so deeply on them. (133)

Postmodernism: The founders, not heroic pioneers of freedom with a tragic blind spot, but dead, white, European, male slave owners whose hypocrisy vitiates their claims about freedom. (140)  Nietzsche (1880’s) – advocates do not believe in truth or objective moral standards, of any kind. Instead, all that was once considered objectively rue or right and good is now seen as a cover for power, or some interest or agenda. Everything is therefore relative and socially construction; nothing is what it appears to be; and the outcome is a giant game of suspicion, skepticism, or cynicism (141).

No great country or civilization will endure if its intellectual leaders and opinion shapers are at odds with what made the country or civilization what it is, particularly in such a wholesale way. (141)

 

Ayn Rand: Man’s destiny is to be a self-made soul.” (155)

Secular view of freedom “blends easily into the scientific revolution” – but ignores the  fact  the modern scientific revolution came out of a Christian matrix and was pioneered almost entirely by devout Christians such as Copernicus, Johannes Kepler, Rober Boyle and Isaac Newton

 

Problems of the current day:

Hubris – seeing ourselves as the rest of the world sees us (personal application in Guatemala? – taking care to respect those we go to serve, and not have a know it all attitude??)

Most Americans are dangerously UNAWARe of what is going on in the rest of the world (183) – HOW TO SOLVE THIS PROBLEM – news media not helpful!

Guinness’ solutions:

  1. Teach a true liberal education, including a return to”citizenship”
  2. Reinstitute vigorous public square discussions
  3. Checks and balances in all spheres
  4. Restore the integrity and credibility of faith and ethics

The role of the CHURCH? #’s 1 and 4  can be addressed in a big way – and may make a dfference in the culture. But if NOT, it will still make a difference in the CHURCH!

Parallels in the modern church

  1. Individualism
  2. refusal to consider the good of the group over the individual
  3. lack of self-control and self-limiting on freedom (license)
  4. lack of strong foundation for truth, rather than “my truth”
  5. hubris in dealing with other believers, churches, and ethnos (Guatemala, missions in general)
  6. Ignorance of the past and of Biblical history – how has God worked in the past? What can we expect Him to do in the future?
  7. consumerism – what am I getting out of this??
  8. lack of connection with tradition – the new and improved trumps the “old and obsolete”
  • neophiliacs – lover of all things new, easily bored and desirous of constant change

My big take away from this book is – “How should we then live?” – to steal a famous quote from Francis Schaeffer…as strangers and aliens – our country is the Kingdom of God. We should work to be salt and light in the culture without despairing of its imperfection or even its downfall. THIS IS NOT OUR HOME!

I Peter 2: 9-20

9But you are A CHOSEN RACEA royal PRIESTHOODA HOLY NATIONA PEOPLE FOR God’sOWN POSSESSION, so that you may proclaim the excellencies of Him who has called you out of darkness into His marvelous light;10for you once were NOT A PEOPLE, but now you are THE PEOPLE OF GOD; you had NOT RECEIVED MERCY, but now you have RECEIVED MERCY.

    11Beloved, I urge you as aliens and strangers to abstain from fleshly lusts which wage war against the soul.12Keep your behavior excellent among the Gentiles, so that in the thing in which they slander you as evildoers, they may because of your good deeds, as they observe them, glorify God in the day of visitation.

    13Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human institution, whether to a king as the one in authority,14or to governors as sent by him for the punishment of evildoers and the praise of those who do right.15For such is the will of God that by doing right you may silence the ignorance of foolish men.16Act as free men, and do not use your freedom as a covering for evil, but use it as bondslaves of God.17Honor all people, love the brotherhood, fear God, honor the king.

18Servants, be submissive to your masters with all respect, not only to those who are good and gentle, but also to those who are unreasonable.19For this finds favor, if for the sake of conscience toward God a person bears up under sorrows when suffering unjustly.20For what credit is there if, when you sin and are harshly treated, you endure it with patience? But if when you do what is right and suffer for it you patiently endure it, this finds favor with God.

 

 

 

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Overdue Books

So I have not reviewed any books lately, but I HAVE been reading!

Since my last post:

Mere Christianity (again) by C.S. Lewis – my go-to argument for why I am a Christian, even on days when my doubts overwhelm me like the tide. How can Jesus be anything but God? And why do we always default to “that’s not fair” if there is no standard outside ourselves to which we refer? Even die-hard atheists have a hard time coping with that one. Yay for Jack Lewis.

No. 1 Ladies Detective Agency – Alexander McCall Smith – fun, easy read about a clever woman in Botswana who sets up her own business and solves everyday mysteries using common sense. First in a series,  of which I intend to read more.

Clifton Chronicles 1 & 2: Only Time will Tell and Sins of the Father  by Jeffrey Archer – I loved these! Can’t wait for the third book to come out so I can find out who gets the money and who gets the girl…Set in the early part of the 20th Century in England, you’ve got your boarding schools, your class system, your labor law problems, and a good bunch of back stories that all weave together in surprising ways. Fast reading but surprising well developed story and characters. Recommended.

Standing Under the Rainbow by Fannie Flagg – this starts out lighthearted and fun but turns pretty melancholy toward the end. The characters are endearing, but I found myself getting a little depressed as the hero grows from his happy boyhood as the son of a homemaker/radio announcer and ends up old and sad! I think this one connected too many memories of my own small town life to be a favorite.

To be continued…

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Those Who Save Us (Jenna Blum)

Reopening book club in November with this offering:

This is an extremely well-crafted but disturbing first novel by Jenna Blum. It features a beautiful Aryan German girl who finds herself in a terrible moral dilemma: should she die at the hands of the blood-thirsty Nazis or do whatever it takes to save the life of herself and her half-Jewish daughter? Truly, what is a mother to do?

Anna’s own father is a part of the Fascist regime, and she only escapes his wrath because he is too shamed to confront her and leaves town when she turns up pregnant with a Jewish child. Taken in by the baker, Anna and her daughter Trudie find purpose in helping to smuggle food and messages to the prisoners next door at Buchenwald, the adjacent Nazi concentration camp. Anna hopes she is helping her baby’s father as she assists in this small way, but when they are discovered, she is confronted with a grave choice.

Blum provides graphic detail of the horrors Anna suffers at the hands of a Nazi officer, and it makes for very hard reading. Much of the story is developed as the daughter Trudy (no explanation for the spelling change) begins to research her own history while teaching at an American university.

Painful, poignant, powerful. Strong caution for graphic sexual violence and imagery. Recommended if you can handle it.

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Unaccustomed Earth (Jhumpa Lampiri)

Did not love this short story collection about several different Indian families, although I did feel that I gained understanding of the culture by reading it. Everyone seemed hopeless and unhappy, and I don’t really like short stories because there is just not time to develop the story line and characters. Just when I start getting interested, it’s over. Well-written and believable, but just not my cup of tea.

Never had the book club on this one, but no big loss for me.

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The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo ( Steig Larsson)

Suspend your literary taste and just read this one for the plot. That was my reading strategy on this morbid thriller that started as a missing person investigation and turned unexpectedly dark about halfway through the book. This was not a book I would have chosen had I known the content, yet I found myself unable to put it down once I had started; I had to know how it would resolve!

I was particularly interested in the strange woman-child, Salander. I felt genuinely sad for her twisted little life. On p. 589 she is described  this way:
“She had no faith in herself. Blomkvist lived in a world populated by people with respectable jobs, people with orderly lives, and lots of grown-up points. His friends did things, went on TV, and shaped the headlines. What do you need me for? Salander’s greatest fear, which was so huge and so black that is was of phobic proportions, was that people would laugh at her feelings. And all of a sudden all her carefully constructed self-confidence seemed to crumble.

That’s when she made up her mind. It took her several hours to mobilise the necessary courage, but she had to see him and tell him how she felt. Anything else would be unbearable. ”

I won’t spoil it for those of you that haven’t read that far  yet, but suffice it to say it does NOT go well for her when she makes herself vulnerable to Blomkvist. I felt so sorry for her!!

Speaking of sympathy, none for that sick psychopathic killer. How does an author think this stuff up?? And this book won’t do anything to promote Swedish tourism! Usually when I read a book set in a foreign locale, it makes me yearn to visit there. Nothing about this country appealed to me, honestly.

Finally, I was struck through the novel with the stark absence of any spiritual life with any character in the book.

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The Screwtape Letters (C.S. Lewis)

In The Screwtape Letters, C.S. Lewis makes some very serious spiritual points with satire.  Wormwood, a demon-in-training, profits from the sage advice of his “affectionate Uncle Screwtape,” whose years of experience in sidelining or derailing true believers gives the serious reader pause. Yikes! I think I have fallen prey to most all of these satanic ploys.

1. “Do what you will, there is going to be some benevolence, as well as malice, in your patient’s soul. The great thing is to direct the malice toward his immediate neighbors whom he meets every day, and to thrust his benevolence out to the remotest circumference, to people he does not know.  The malice thus becomes wholly real and the benevolence largely imaginary.”

This quote puts me in mind of The Help, by Kathryn Stockett. Too prejudiced to use the same bathroom as their colored maids, but taking up an offering for the African orphans.

2. “The attitude which you want to guard against is that in which temporal affairs are treated primarily as material for obedience. Once you have made the World an end, and faith a means, you have almost won your man, and it makes very little difference what kind of worldly end he is pursuing. Provided that meetings, pamphlets, policies, movements, causes, and crusades, matter more to him than prayers and sacraments and charity, he is ours–and the more ‘religious’ (on those terms) the more securely ours.”

3.” …it may surprise you to learn that in His efforts to get permanent possession of a soul, He relies on the troughs even more than on the peaks; some of his special favourites have gone through longer and deeper troughs than anyone else. The reason is this. To us a human is primarily food; our aim is the absorption of its will into ours, the increase of our own area of selfhood at its expense. But the obedience which the Enemy demands of men is quite a different thing.  One must face the fact that all the talk about His love for men, and His service being perfect freedom, is not (as one would gladly believe) mere propaganda, but an appalling truth…we want cattle who can finally become food; He wants servants who can finally become sons. (italics added)

You must have wondered why the Enemy does not make more use of His power to be sensibly present to human souls in any degree He chooses and at any moment. But you now see the Irresistible and the Indisputable are the two weapons which the very nature of His scheme forbids Him to use. Merely to override a human will (as His felt presence in any but the faintest and most mitigated degree would certainly do) would be for Him useless. He cannot ravish. He can only woo. ”

3. “Our cause is never more in danger, Wormwood, than when a human, no longer desiring, but still intending, to do our Enemy’s will, looks round upon a universe from which every trace of Him seems to have vanished, and askes why he has been forsaken, and still obeys.”

4. “All mortals tend to turn into the thing that they are pretending to be.”

5. “I divide the causes of human laughter into Joy, Fun, the Joke Proper, and Flippancy…But flippancy is the best of all…If prolonged, the habit of Flippancy builds up around a man the finest armour-plating against the Enemy that I know…It is a thousand miles from Joy: it deadens instead of sharpening, the intellect; and it excites no affections between those who practise it.”

6. “Murder is no better than cards if cards can do the trick. Indeed the safest road to Hell is the gradual one–the gentle slope, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings, without milestones, without signposts.”

7.” …active habits are strengthened by repetition but passive ones are weakened. The more often he feels without acting, the less he will be able ever to act, and in the long run, the less he will be able to feel.”

8. “His whole effort, therefore, will be to get the man’s mind off the subject of his own value altogether. He would rather the man thought himself a great architect or a great poet and then forgot about it, than that he should spend much time and pains trying to think himself a bad one… The Enemy will try to render real…the doctrine that they did not create themselves, that their talents were given them, and that they might as well be proud of the colour of their hair.”

9. The humans live in time but our Enemy destines them to eternity. He therefore, I believe, wants them to attend chiefly to two things, to eternity itself, and to that point of time which they call the Present. For the Present is the point at which time touches eternity…Our business is to get them away from the eternal, and from the Present. ..It is far better to make them live in the future. Thoughts about the future inflames hope and fear. ..Gratitude  looks to the past and love to the present; fear, avarice, lust, and ambition look ahead…We want a whole race perpetually in pursuit of the rainbow’s end, never honest, or kind, nor happy now, but always using as mere fuel wherewith to heap the altar of the future every real gift which is offered them in the Present.”

10. “The sense of ownership in general is always to be encouraged. the humans are always putting up claims to ownership which sound equally funny in Heaven and in Hell and we must keep them doing so. Much of the modern resistance to chastity comes from men’s belief that they “own” their bodies.

Psalm 115: 3 Our God is in the heavens;
he does all that he pleases.

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The Year of Living Biblically: One Man’s Humble Quest to Follow the Bible as Literally as Possible (A.J. Jacobs)

In this compelling sequel to The Know-It-All, A. J. Jacobs has written a witty, but surprisingly convicting memoir about living Biblically, something many Christians know little about. Jacobs spends eight months in the Old Testament, and four months in the New, combing through the direct commands and trying to follow them as closely as possible. He disregards the ridicule of many of his friends and co-workers, as he researches and obeys. How many Christians have done that?

Jacobs shows remarkable open-mindedness as he visits various representative groups, including Orthodox Jews, the Amish, Jerry Falwell, and the Creation Scientists at the Tennessee museum and research center. But while he travels close to the edge of actual conversion, he reverts to his own ability to reason things out and concludes his book without a satisfying (to me) stake in the ground.

Memorable passages include:

In the Amish country:

“Amos talks slowly and carefully, like he only has a few dozen sentences allotted for the weekend, and he doesn’t want to waste them at the start. I read later in the Amish book Rules of a Godly Life that you should “let your words be thoughtful, few and true.” By adopting minimalism, Amos has mastered those speech laws I’m struggling with.”

On his ironic view of relativism:

“…one of my motivations for this experiment is my recent entrance into fatherhood. I’m constantly worried about my son’s ethical education. I don’t want him to swim in this muddy soup of moral relativism. I don’t trust it. I have such a worldview, and though I have yet to commit a major felony, it seems dangerous…So I want to instill some rock-solid, absolute morals in my son. Would it be so bad if he lived by the Ten Commandments? Not at all. But how do I get him there?”

On the irony of Judaism being influenced by Martin Luther:

On this journey, I plan to be mindful of the oral law. But I’m not going to follow it exclusively. I feel I have to try to puzzle out for myself what the Bible means, even if I take some wrong turns.

All this makes me realize: In a sense, my project is steeped in Judaism, since I’m spending a lot of time on the Hebrew Scriptures. But in some ways, it’s actually more influenced by the Protestant idea that you can interpret the Bible yourself, without mediation. Sola scriptura, as it’s called.

On Jonah’s relevance to serving at the soup kitchen:

I ask myself the question God asked Jonah “Do you do well to be angry?” I ask it out loud to myself. No, I don’t, I answer. So I got elbowed by a strangely competitive soup kitchen volunteer. The world will not end.

I should remember the modern-day Ninevehs where thousands of lives are in danger–the crowd of homeless out the door at Holy Apostles, for instance, or pretty much anywhere in East Africa.

There is such a thing as biblically acceptable anger–righteous indignation…the key is to pump up  your righteous anger and mute your petty resentment.

Interesting interpretation on stoning:

[I met Yossi] through an Orthodox outreach group. [According to Yossi] we don’t stone people today because you need a biblical theocracy to enforce the stoning…no such society exists today. But even in ancient times, stoning wasn’t barbaric.

“First of all, you didn’t just heave stones…The idea was to minimize the suffering. What we call ‘stoning’ was actually pushing the person off the cliff so they would die immediately upon impact. The Talmud actually has specifications on how high the cliff must be. Also, the person getting executed was given strong drink to dull the pain.”

Hmmm…I had never heard of this interpreation of stoning. Jacobs suspects some whitewashing, and so do I.

On humanism and the irony of atheism:

I feel tempted all the time–not so much by a cult to Baal, but by the lure of secular humanism. To face my demons, I decide to go deep into the heart of unbelief: the weekly New York City Atheists meeting at a midtown Greek restaurant.

I know a fair amount of atheists, seeing as I live in a relatively godless town. But…an atheist club felt oxymoronic, like an apathy parade. But against all odds, it exists. The gathering of the godless takes place in a back room with a long table. A big blue atheism banner hangs from the ceiling, right next to the Christmas decorations of cardboard silver angels, an irony several of the atheists point out.

I meet my neighbors. One is a compact woman with graying hair and a Darwin cap. How was she converted to atheism? “I grew up with a Methodist aunt who was basically a Victorian…I couldn’t say the word leg. I had to say limb. I once said the word constipation and got smacked. The hypocrisy was too much for me.”

Ken says his road to atheism began when as a kid, he figured out there could be no Santa Claus. “It was just not feasible to deliver all those presents. This was before Fed-Ex…I started to ask myself, what else are they telling me that not’s true?”

The religious lobby does not have to worry about the atheist lobby quite yet. It’s hard to be passionate about a lack of belief.

On speaking Biblically:

[It] requires a far more radical change than raising my diction a few notches. It requires a total switch in the content of my conversation: no lying, no complaining, no gossiping…In other words, about 70 percent of all conversations in New York.

On the Sabbath:

The doorknobs in our apartment fall off on an alarmingly regular basis…For the first ten minutes I try to escape…I’m trapped…By noon, something odd happens…perhaps for the first time I pray in true peace and silence–without glancing at the clock…This is what the Sabbath should feel like. A pause. Not just a minute pause, but a major pause. Not just a lowering of the volume, but a muting. As the famous rabbi Abraham Joshua Herschel put it, the Sabbath is a sanctuary in time.

[When Julie finally returns home after four hours and opens the door] it’s kind of a shame.

There are multiple other examples of Jacobs’ wit and insight which I found challenging and memorable. In summary, this book impacted me more spiritually than a lot of things I have read by Christians…he is so earnest, and honest. Highly recommended.

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Wuthering Heights

I am realizing as I look at my copy of WH, that some of the quotes I marked are also noted in the front of the book…Perhaps I could have saved some time and just read the end flap. ha

Anyway, I liked the quote in Ch. XIV, where Heathcliff says to Isabella, ” I was a fool to fancy for a moment that she valued Edgar Linton’s attachment more than mine. If he loved with all the powers of his puny being, he couldn’t love as much in eighty years as I could in a day. And Catherine has a heart as deep as I have: the sea could be as readily contained in that horse trough as her whole affection could be monopolised by him. Tush! He is scarcely a degree dearer to her than her dog, or her horse. It is not in him to be loved like me: how can she love in him what he has not?”
I am wondering with you what exactlyl his worldview tells him that LOVE is, and how he fancies that he is so great at it.
Have you seen a movie of this book? I remember one with Timothy Dalton that came out when I was in high school, and I remember liking it. But I can’t imagine why I would have! Maybe I need to watch again. I just think that if Heathcliff is portrayed as he is in the book, he is one scary boyfriend.

Another of my favorite rants is Heathcliff describing his relationship with Isabella, where he declares that it was a “positive labour of Hercules” to make her hate him, because she continues to function under the “delusion…of me as a hero of romance.” I particularly like his use of the word “perspicacity.”

Not my favorite, by a long shot, but still…I am proud to put it on my list of books I have read.

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Cotillion (Georgette Heyer)

Definitely not my favorite of the book club selections thus far, but a fairly entertaining jaunt into the silly world of high society in Victorian England. Think Pride and Prejudice meets The Office.

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The Time Traveler’s Wife (Audrey Niffenegger)

“But don’t you think, [Clare persists,] that it’s better to be extremely happy for a short while, even if you lose it, than to be just okay for your whole life?”

Clare has known Henry since she was a child, and has grown to love him through their sporadically regular visits in the meadow near her childhood home. She is always waiting for Henry to return, and the moments and memories they create together sustain her in the waiting times, as Henry time-travels forward and backward. This is a poignant story of love and loss, with the overriding message that love is worth the pain of losing.

It is interesting to note that Henry does not travel far geographically or chronologically.

More complex than I expected; overall a good story.

Caution: Language and sexual references. Not for children!

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