Jane Haddam’s WordPress weblog

Areas of Contention

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Yesterday, I did something I almost never do.  I accessed the blog page from my home computer.  I access the page I write on from home a lot, but I tend to look at the blog page itself on computers at school.

Imagine my surprise when I saw that the type font was suddenly teeny-tiny small, something it was not when I wrote it and had no reason to expect it would be when I published.

This problem does not seem to occur when I write from school and then publish, although I don’t know why not.

At any rate, I’m trying something new today, and with any luck it will mean no m ore teeny tiny type for AOL users, since I assume this must have something to do with the interaction between the blog site and the AOL browser.

Keep your fingers crossed.

In the meantime, we finally have the snow day we were supposed to have last week.  In a kind of equal and opposite reaction, this time the weather people swore it was going to be no big deal. 

I figure we’ve got three to four inches on the ground already, and it only started snowing for real about noon.  The good news, I suppose, is that the local schools are on winter break this week, so it’s only the colleges that are exploding in panic.

I’ve decided to make a meatloaf, which is something I rather like–okay, my meatloaf may not be what you’re used to–but that I don’t get the time to make very often.  And I’ve done all my correcting, so that I don’t have to worry about it tomorrow.  And I’m halfway through the new book.

The new book is called Atheist Delusions:  The Christian Revolution and Its Fashionable Enemies, and it’s by somebody named David Bentley Hart, and published by Yale University Press.

First, the “revolution” in the title is nothing recent.  Hart is talking about the rise of Christianity at the end of the Roman Empire.

Second, David Bentley Hart is something of a mystery.  I’ve definitely Googled him, but none of the links I came up with tell me, say, what year he was born or what his education has been.  The book only says that he’s published other books.  Wikipedia calles him “an Eastern Orthodox theologian,” which is interesting on a number of levels.

Members of the Eastern Christian Churches don’t generally think of themselves as “Eastern Orthodox.”  They’re Russian or Greek or whatever, at least partially because the relationship between Church and State was closer in the Byzantine Empire than it was in the West, and because as church establishments they operated exclusively in their nation of founding. 

But, on top of that, you don’t find a lot of Greek or Russian theologians named “David Bentley Hart.”  If you see what I mean.

It’s an interesting book, one of the most interesting I’ve come across in a while.  I thought, when it was originally given to me, that it would be yet another counterscreed to the New Atheist screeds I’ve got a whole bookshelf full of.

And it is a counter, if not a screed, in a way.

But what it really takes aim at is the Enlightenment narrative, what I’ve called elsewhere the “atheist narrative.” 

And I thought I was the only one.

At any rate, it’s heavy on the history, and the only thing I regret is the fact that, every once in a while, when Hart is really angry, his writing comes off a little like Clifton Webb doing Mr. Belvedere.

On the other hand, he’s also funny when he writes that way. 

I’m going to go back to reading for another half an hour, and worrying about whee I put the pine nuts. 

Maybe I’ll have this finished by tomorrow, and have something more substantive to say.

In the meantime, until this book, I’d never asked myself what it meant for a person to be “free.”

It’s a more interesting question than you’d think.

Written by janeh

February 16th, 2010 at 3:42 pm

Posted in Uncategorized

One Response to 'Areas of Contention'

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  1. I beg to differ on “Eastern Orthodox.” Although some people identify themselves according to their national church — and apparently Greeks are most likely to do this — lots just call themselves Orthodox or Eastern Orthodox, or sometimes Orthodox Christian. This will probably surprise you, but in the US Orthodoxy has one of, or maybe even the largest, influx of converts. There are plenty of American Orthodox Churches with no “ethnic” component, with the service in English and the priest with a name like Patrick or Henry or James. There were several Evangelical Protestant parishes that converted lock, stock and barrel to Orthodoxy.

    In any case, there is only one Orthodox Church, but many national jurisdictions of it.

    I didn’t get a chance to comment yesterday, but since this is — sort of — related, I’ll take the liberty to do so now. You’re right that the movie is schlock, but… I watched it with my mother. She was the child of Ukrainian immigrants, born next to the Orthodox Church. She never showed that she was embarrassed by their old country, bumpkin ways, but she dedicated most of her life to getting away from them. She had a pretty terrible childhood. Her parents treated her like a slave; they wouldn’t pay for nursing school because “nurses were essentially prostitutes,” and her father left just about everything to the son in the family (women didn’t count for much of anything). I think her parents were abusive as a matter of course. She certainly never sentimentalized them.

    But she laughed like hell at that movie. She adored it. It couldn’t have been anything like her family — or like any real family — but she said it was all “so familiar.” Now I think it was, 70 years after her childhood, what she wished it could have been. It was a loving, embarrassing, super-ethnic version of her narrow-minded, cruel, ethnic family. For her, I think that was the appeal: it was a sanitized version of an American ethnic childhood and youth that was funny and not brutal.


    16 Feb 10 at 5:08 pm

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