Four Holy Gospels

At the beginning of the summer, I was lucky enough to visit the White Stone Gallery, an art gallery in Manayunk near Philadelphia, for David Chang’s display Manuscripts. Chang combined various coloring techniques with calligraphy to create quiet reflections on snippets of Scripture. You can probably make out a few of the words from the visual at the right ( this piece outlines the fruits of the Spirit), but the picture obviously can’t compare to seeing Chang’s pieces up close.

While at WSG, I also saw my very first original Makato Fujimura painting; I tell

Fujimura’s Charis-Kairos (The Tears of Christ)

 you I don’t think I’ve ever seen such vibrant color! Fujimura uses a technique called Nihonga, an artistic tradition practiced for centuries in Japan that actually is a form of watercolor. Along with the paints themselves, rock pigments,  ground from natural minerals, shells,  and sometimes semiprecious stone,  are crushed into surfaces. Fujimura is also fond of using gold leaf in his paintings.

I’m sure you won’t be able to resist doing a little bit of online digging to find out more about Fujimura, but I wanted to direct you to one of his most exciting projects, the Four Gospels Project. You can access the website here.

In honor of the King James Version Bible’s 400th anniversary in 2011 ( read a Touchstone article commemorating the occasion here), Crossway commissioned Fujimura to illuminate a special leather-bound edition of the four gospels.  The project includes five major pieces and detailed “drop caps” which introduce many of the chapters. The website desribes this innovative project as follows:  “It is this unprecedented marriage of a modern, usually secular art form with ancient scripture that most interests Fujimura, who aims to depict ‘the greater reality that the Bible speaks of… for the pure sake of integrating faith and art in our current pluralistic, multicultural world.'”

Happy summer Salvo readers!


Yefemiya Goes to The Library

(Intern 2 points out the hopefully symbiotic relationship between public libraries and private discernment.)

Yesterday a Facebook Friend of mine posted a story about finding a library book that had undergone a little DIY expurgation. Someone who’d checked out the book previously had taped blank bits of paper over every description of a pretty girl character. The Friend posted one of the covered descriptions in its entirety. It said basically that the girl was slender and graceful, and mentioned the shades of her hair and skin. That was all.

Because this Friend is a homeschool grad who might have been in my church youth group had she not lived in another state, I’m going to go ahead and call her Yefemiya. And while I’ve known a number of Yefemiyas and McHaleys whose mothers or fathers might have censored their library books with blank pieces of paper (and not de-censored them upon return. No one, at least, seems to have been capable of breaking out a black Sharpie for this purpose), this Yefemiya and her parents found it hilarious. And silly.

I find this hilarious and silly, too. In fact, the thought of this story even now makes me break out into huge, heaving breaths of laughter that are the physical equivalent of sobs. In a moment Intern 1, who shares the office, is going to be looking at me strangely.

But there it is. Yefemiya found an innocuous book in the library that was censored by another library patron.

Maybe it is debatable that the taped-over passages in the book were innocuous, but it is not debatable that the book, a public resource, was censored by one person, by an individual.

To be fair, this individual may have simply forgotten to remove the papers before returning the book. But it is not impossible that the individual left them in deliberately for the benefit of other patrons.

It’s not impossible that the papers were left in deliberately, because the attitude behind such an action is very much a present and living thing.

This is the attitude that the public library, a resource operated for the benefit of every single person in the community, should remove from availability any materials an individual deems problematic. And this is not what the library is for.

I am not saying that some materials are not objectively problematic, or that all materials should be of unquestionable access to all patrons. In fact, I am highly in favor of “issue” picture books being given their own shelf, separate and apart from the rest of the children’s section, so that I can set my future children loose to choose books without worrying that they’ll come back with “Lacey’s Uncle Was An Aunt.” But it is not within the library’s proper authority, or sphere, if you will, to remove “Lacey’s Uncle Was An Aunt” from circulation entirely.

This is not what the library is for. The library is there to provide the materials that suit its capacity and the demands of the community as a whole. Staff cannot and do not prevent patrons from using the whole library system to obtain materials that their library does not stock.

The public library exists to freely provide information and resources to the public.

We, as the public, are then free to choose what we take and what we do not take. We are free to be discerning.

We, not the library, are responsible for overseeing what our children are exposed to. We are free to help them be discerning.

These are our rights and responsibilities as individual library patrons. Or as library non-patrons (it’s a beautiful thing, our liberty to abstain).

The library, not us, makes materials available either remotely or immediately available to everyone. The library is not the gatekeeper.

We can be the gatekeepers for ourselves and those for whom we are responsible. We cannot make the library be the gatekeeper for others. And we cannot be the gatekeeper for others themselves.

It is well within a parent’s right to censor the library book their child borrowed in a way that does not permanently deface or damage the book, which is after all Continue reading

Dignity Lost

This past weekend, some Salvo staff attended a conference hosted by
the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity at Trinity International
University titled “Reclaiming Human Dignity.” I’ve included some of my
thoughts below. But Salvo readers, you really should check out the
speakers from the past weekend ( see links at the bottom of this post) ; they all were powerful speakers with interesting things to say. Who knows ? Maybe if we’re lucky CBHD may even post some videos from this weekend’s conference online.

Freedom, equality, progress, choice, Women’s Health

Open any newspaper or online journal that has even the slightest of
political inclinations and you are guaranteed a conversation involving
some of the above buzz words. “Women’s Health” has been a hot topic in
our country since before President Obama’s HHS mandate; in fact the
articulation of policy specifically relevant to women is something
almost synonymous with the American story – think back to the women’s
suffrage movement and the Civil Rights movement. Thanks to public
discourse in pursuit of equality, women have the vote, access to fair
employment opportunities, compensation for maternity leave – the list
goes on and on.

Some current discussions of Women’s Health (the topic that dominates
campaign slogans and public policy alike) also claim equality as their
ultimate goal; unfortunately as Charmaine Yoest, President of
Americans United For Life, noted in her talk “ Women Alone: Feminism’s
False Promise and the Decline of Dignity,” from this weekend’s
Reclaiming Dignity conference at the Center for Bioethics and Human
Dignity, many 21st century Americans assume that true equality for
women (whether it be in political, marital, or occupational spheres)
can only be upheld through the defense of one freedom : the freedom to
choose – the freedom to have an abortion.

Ms. Yoest wanted to open her talk with a question Dorothy Sayers posed
when asked to speak on the validity of the women’s suffrage movement:
“Are women human?” Sayers meant her question (and book title) as a
witty response to a culture bent on denying women the vote; I suggest
broadening Sayer’s question and using it as a tool for a little
self-examination: Are women and men human? Can we claim humanity when
we are intent upon basing a woman’s value and public usefulness on our
ability to end another human life? Can we claim humanity when we
reduce women to a discussion of their biological functions?

When we continue to insist on the political necessity of a woman’s
right to choose, we not only fail to defend the lives of the unborn,
we deny the dignity of all human life. Insistence on the “freedom” of
choice only continues the commodification of both women and men. By
treating fertility, a natural process involving both men and women, as
a problem to be solved, what else do we do but continue the modern
trend of atomizing the individual?

Both private and public conversations about “Women’s Health,” cannot
be limited to discussions on abortion. Honest discourse about Women’s
Health should include that which is relevant to both sexes – life
itself. One cannot speak of Women’s Health and not speak of education,
unemployment rates, public safety, family structures, faith
communities, and the cost of living. One cannot speak of a real woman
without affirming her position in a local community, in which her
choices and relationships result in very real consequences for her and
for that community. Are our mothers, sisters, and neighbors faceless
abstractions whose sexuality can be separated from their souls and their bodies? Public discourse on “Women’s Health” that focuses only on abortion aims to give women equality; instead it has contributed to a loss of all human

Conference Speakers:

Read Paige Cunningham, Executive Director for the Center for Bioethics and Human Dignity here on Salvo and here in the CBHDs archives.

Check out Charmaine Yoest’s article on Planned Parenthood from the National Review here.

Read this interview with Pia de Selenni on Christian Feminism from the Catholic Education Resource Center

Check out this article from the CBHD archives on infertility from C. Ben Mitchell.


On “The Grace Effect”

Eric Metaxas has a short article about Larry Taunton’s book The Grace Effect. I recommend it to you.

The Grace Effect

Making the Case with Our Lives

Debating the New Atheists, such as the late Christopher Hitchens, can be intellectually stimulating. Hitchens, of course, wrote the awful book “God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything.”

Hitchens’s claim notwithstanding, it’s fairly easy to trace Christianity’s benefits to society throughout the ages: the creation of hospitals, universities, soup kitchens, and orphanages without number, not to mention major contributions to art, literature, and science. Recounting these historical facts never gets old.

But in his new book, “The Grace Effect: How the Power of One Life Can Reverse the Corruption of Unbelief,” my friend Larry Taunton shows us that the best arguments against secular atheism and for Christianity are not made in the ivory tower; they’re made at street level in every day life. Larry calls it the “grace effect.”

The “grace effect,” he explains, is what happens when the values and worldview of the Christian faith seep down into the roots of a culture, eventually bearing fruit that refreshes us all, even those individuals who choose not to believe.

. . .

For further reading, the current issue of Salvo includes an interview with Eric Metaxas by Marcia Segelstein, and it’s not currently available online but Terrell Clemmons has also reviewed Taunton’s book for this issue. If you’re interested in the story of Hitchens and Taunton, I found an interesting article on that too a while back and blogged about it.

You should probably subscribe to Salvo today. I’ll even give you a deal!

Timid Parents & the New Anger They’re Facing

Now up online in its entirety at the Salvo website:

No Fault Kids
Timid Parents & the New Anger They’re Facing
by Marcia Segelstein

Is there anything new under the sun when it comes to teenagers? For generations, adults have complained about adolescents, bemoaning “kids these days” and “the younger generation.” The hormones running through the current crop of teenagers are the same ones that have caused turmoil through the ages. Yet to many parents and those who work closely with teens, something feels very different. Stories abound of wildly outrageous behavior from children at younger and younger ages, not only within their peer group, but in interactions with parents and other adults.

Child psychologist and author Ron Taffel writes about this in his book, Childhood Unbound:

The debate over whether anything is truly different . . . has ended for me. From my twenty-five years as a counselor to children, teens, and their parents, as well as from over a thousand talks in schools, churches, synagogues, and community agencies around the country, I am convinced that not only are kids’ lives qualitatively different today from those of earlier eras, but that parents today are uniquely different, and therefore the parent-child relationship has fundamentally changed as well.

read the rest. . .

It’s Gotta Be the Shoes

It’s probably wrong of me to think that Tom’s shoes are annoying. I know that for each pair bought they give a pair to someone in need, and that’s a good thing. Maybe my dislike comes from the fact that they’re kind of trendy, especially in my neighborhood, and also they look like elf slipper socks. Stuff White People Like has a funny little write-up about them.

The other famous Tom for white people is the one who created TOMS Shoes. Every time you buy a pair of these canvas shoes they donate a pair to a child in need in the third world. Of course, instead of buying a pair of shoes, a white person could just donate the money they were going to use on shoes to the TOMS charity and let two people in the third world get new shoes. But that’s not a realistic possibility, not with summer right around the corner.

Salvo contributing editor Hunter Baker has a good (and less flippant) post about them too. I recommend it to you.

This concern for those who are less well-off or who live at a disadvantage to ourselves is, of course, nothing new.  Certainly, the desire to aid the poor, the widow, and the orphan is a core element of the Judeo-Christian tradition.  In my own generation (and really a generation or two before me), Francis Schaeffer criticized Americans (comfortable Christians included) for their addiction to “personal peace and affluence” and their “noncompassionate use of wealth.”

The buying practices I have mentioned are aimed at curbing the tendency of well-off westerners to consume too casually and perhaps too enthusiastically.  There is an attempt to encourage thoughtfulness about the way one acquires consumer items.  Buy the shoe that results in a pair being delivered to a poor person in Africa at the same time.  Purchase the goods that have been produced in a more humane fashion than the ones that belch forth from a sweatshop.  Good ideas.

However, I would suggest another consideration in the way we consume.  Instead of merely thinking more carefully about things like the production ethics of things we purchase, maybe we should reconsider our list of things we buy.  At any given time, we may have items such as tablet computer, smartphone, new car, bigger flatscreen television, new pair of shoes that accomodates each toe separately, new earphones, new trendy jacket, etc. on our list of wants.  What if we reconceived our list to include such things as helping someone pay for their car to be repaired, paying money into a scholarship fund for needy families at a local private school or college, giving a Target or Walmart gift card to a young single mother whom you know is having trouble with her bills, assisting a family with the costs of an adoption, and giving a used car to someone who could really use it instead of trading the car in?  The list could be as long as one’s imagination, but the point is really to be sensitive to the opportunities as they occur.