Friday, December 9, 2011

Outline from "Theology on Tap" talk

Most people, we'll call them "amateurs", write a detailed outline before they give a talk.  I find this preposterous.  If you try to write it before, how do you know what good stuff is gonna be in the talk?!  No, the truly initiated know that it's best to give the talk, let some time pass, and then come back and write down what the heck it apparently all turned out to really be about.  Or, at least that's what me and my procrastination do.  

Bluster aside, the one good thing about doing this is it lets you figure out what you didn't remember to cover/get to in the talk.  I suppose it also lets people decide if there's any good reason to listen to your crap.

So here's an Outline with some of the didn't-get-theres in [square brackets].  I'll post again afterward with the other topics I think should be discussed regarding these authors.  Then I'll spend the next 7 to 250 days developing those ideas here.  Hey, if you got a blog, you may as well feel like it matters to do something with it!

Faith, Fantasy, & Modern Literature

I. Intro
  A. Going be disagreements
     1. I'm putting my own intellect & prudence in
     2. gotta make own decisions
  B. 2 Unrelated books
     1. examples of literature forming heart & mind
  C. Church Fathers commend Iliad, Odyssey, etc.

II. G.K. Chesterton
  A. fairy tales tell you about self, your home, and your enemy
  B. "Let them be born in wonder!"
      [why the Elves look to the stars]
  C. The Ethics of Elfland 
     1. re-appreciate the wonder of the world
  D. Catharsis - get it out the right way
  E. Josef Pieper's Leisure: the Basis of Culture
     1. Love and Death can break us out of the work-a-day world
     [hmm... Potter is about death; Twilight is about love.]
  F. Bad main characters
     1. "if the characters are not wicked, the book is" -GKC
     2. the good guys aren't *good characters* unless they change

III. J.R.R. Tolkien
  A. Utterly devout Catholic 
  B. Wrote Lord of the Rings so he could play at language & myth
     1. his "throwaway" story is considered 20th century's greatest
     2. in category with Homer, Dante, Shakespeare
  C. Not a "Christian author" strictly
     1. writes from that worldview, but not an allegory

IV. C.S. Lewis 
  A. Converts C.S. Lewis to myth and to Christianity
     1. explains Incarnation using the idea of self-expression in myth
     2. Christ is Father's true myth -- writing in our "human lexicon"
     [misspoke I think: LotR = change-in-time; Space Trilogy = change-in-place]
  B. Chronicles of Narnia are much more blatant & allegorical than LotR 
     1. 1st book=Gospel; 6th=Genesis; others are chapters out of Mere Christianity or Screwtape Letters
  C. Tolkien can trust himself a few more step farther from the Gospel
     1. #1 difference b/tw Cath. & Prot. is "How much do you trust man?"
     2. Annunciation, intercession, free will, a Magisterium, prayer, Inspiration?
  D. Christ-figures.  Aslan is definite.
     1. Tolkien?  No.  Gandalf~prophetic.  Aragorn~kingly.  Frodo~sacrificial

V. Major Objections to Potter & Twilight
  A. Sorcery, witchcraft, divination
  B. Emotional chastity
  C. Blending of the real world and the "secondary worlds"
  D. Vampires, etc. are "evil by nature"
  E. Immortal creatures throw off Christian story
     1. interestingly, so do the Elves in LotR
     [never got back around to that]

VI. J.K. Rowling
  A. "A profound, 2,000 page reflection on mystery of death"
    1. written in her grieving her mother's death at age 50
  B. "The best pre-evangelization for today's world"
    1. Church Fathers saw Homer as preparing for the Gospel
    2. people today push away the Gospel when see it coming
    3. not a Christian message; a human message to prepare for Christ's
  C. Death
    1. death confounds all human beings if they're honest
    2. if we skip that, we can't appreciate what being "Victor of Death" means
    3. her meditations on death mature because Harry matures
  D. Spells and real witchcraft
    1. I'm calling Matthew Arnold's bluff -- show me specifically what's New Age/Wicca
    2. more like technology or natural abilities -- Michael Jordan; Stephen Hawking
    3. these are morally neutral like all skills & technologies 
    [Rowling chuckles at the traditional things: cauldrons are chemistry lab equipment; brooms are skateboards, etc.]
  E. The "Deeper Magics"
     1. what this is: Where no spell or technē magic is cast
     2. these are utterly clear as being morally good or bad, and condemned if bad
     3. otherwise, magic is morally neutral
         a. treat neutrals as all things: look at the object, motive, circumstances
  F. Divination, sorcery, witchcraft
    1. legit fear: GKC on demons can deliver, but demand payment 
    2. but in Potter, magic is never done by request, conjure, dealing, or converse
    3. the "Divination class" is a literal joke of the book  -- it never works
    4. I'm more worried about John Q., Million Dollar Baby, and 7 Pounds
    5. The emotional manipulation of girl in 7 Pounds overwhelms Twilight's flaws
    6. Hogwarts doesn't "teach magic" per se, it teaches responsibility of it
  G. Plenty of New Age tagging along to Tolkien 
    1. we know better, but others saw Earth-worship
    2. I worry about the subtle, "personal" magics
    3. I trust Tolkien, but would otherwise fear most Gandalf in Moria
  H. Do kids want these powers?  Heck yeah!
    1. but you get over it like failed Jedi in 1985
    2. Potter has a clearer sense of "you're no wizard" kid
    3. **discussion of Devil as father of lies
    4. but I also fear a kid thinking to ask Devil for things when prayer "fails"
    5. actually these sell well because the rules of magic are self-consistent
    [I think Philip Pullman would have to cheat or "show his hand" if breaks Natural Law]
  I. Kids lie and cheat
    1. GKC's 2 points
    [Merry and Pippin]
    2.**One great moral error by a good character...but it didn't work!
    [last chapter's called "The Flaw in the Plan".  Spoiler: the flaw wasn't the bad guys'!]
  J. Did Cardinal Ratzinger condemn Harry Potter?
    1.  No.

VII. Stephenie Meyer
  A. Stephen King and others bust on as bad literature
    1. realize: she's not making worlds like Tolkien, Lewis, Rowling
    2. she's looking to tell a love story  (remember, "Love & Death"?)
  B. "Vampires are evil by nature"
    1. no, vampires are fake
    2. fake Chesterton quote: fear real evil; go along with fictional evil creations 
    3. yes, we can know a nature for non-exisiting things, like unicorns & vampires
    4. so, does Dracula have free will?
    5. if no, then he's dangerous, but not morally evil.  if yes, then vampires can be good
    [the importance and difficult of writing believable bad guys and their struggles]
  C. Natural Law seen in Twilight
    1. nature of the victim, not of the predator, determines the morality of the using
  D. Metaphor of blood lust for just plain lust 
    1. few pieces of media show the right way to deal with lust like these
    2. Theology of the Body for Teens analogy of Eskimo wolf self-destruction
  E. Books deal with question of "what can I do with my broken, fallen disposition?"
    1. lost gem is Midnight Sun, the web-only book from Edward's POV
    2. 1st chapter is perfect depiction of (male) lust.  maybe women's too
  F. Does require caution, but that could be great teaching tool
    1. you can't assume that because chaste Edward stays in Bella's room your BF can!
    2. A few vamps don't kill ppl; Cullens are safest; only Edward could ever snuggle 
    3. translation: you boyfriend isn't 1-in-a-million Edward; he's loving-but-weak Jasper
  G. 2 Great quotes to end with
    1. Honeymoon quote: "how do you do this without commitment?!"
    2. "Love for Edward alone grows to fit him and the baby instantly" quote
    3. Scott Hahn and Raniero Cantalamessa have similar quotes, but no teen reads them.


  1. Molly Davenport in LincolnJanuary 31, 2012 at 8:52 AM

    Fr., is there an audio of this talk? I'm really bummed I missed it!

  2. Yes, Molly, there is in fact!

  3. Actually try it without that period in there at the end.

  4. Molly,

    If that doesn't work, just go the November 28 posting on this blog and follow those steps.

  5. Molly Davenport in LincolnJanuary 31, 2012 at 3:10 PM

    Thanks Fr.!!!