It’s been a long, strange, explosion-filled ride, but another summer blockbuster season has come to an end. As August draws to a close, we put aside our threequels and superheroes—some for now and some for good (so long, Christian Bale’s Batman; see you in 2015, Avengers). But, happily, there’s no time in the cinematic calendar quite like autumn, when studios start eying Oscar nominations. If summer is a time for Abraham Lincoln to fight vampires, autumn is a time for Abraham Lincoln to give long, dignified speeches.
When I was professor at a theological seminary in the mid-eighties, one of my students was a young man named Mark Gornik. One day we were standing at the copier and he told me that he was about to move into Sandtown, one of the poorest and most dangerous neighborhoods in Baltimore. I remember being quite surprised. When I asked him why, he said simply, “To do justice.”
A few years ago I read Paul Chamberlain’s Talking About Good and Bad Without Getting Ugly, a book that proposes ways that Christians can talk about difficult issues—issues like abortion, homosexual marriage, euthanasia—in a pluralistic society. The final chapter is a case study that features William Wilberforce as an example of a man who used his Christian convictions to bring about widespread cultural change. Wilberforce was a driving force behind the abolition of slavery within the British Empire. The results of his efforts are seen and celebrated in Western society to this day.
There is as much to be said about Sally Koslow’s Slouching Towards Adulthood as there is to be said about the entire cultural “issue” of emerging adults and its derivative platter of opinions. A mother of two adult boys who “have finally moved out,” Koslow speaks candidly and with humor about the parental experience of the adultescent, a term she defines as, “Americans twenty-two to thirty-five caught between adolescence and adulthood in an exploration that seems to go on forever, like the Rolling Stones.” Using her “adultescent” years and then her parenting years as a guide, she demarcates the differences between boomer and, ahem, blogger generations and sets out a very readable and well-researched analysis of what went wrong.
Accepted. Isn’t that a great word? We all feel as if we don’t fit, as if we stick out. Whether it’s the person whose attention you want, or the law firm that doesn’t want you, or the mirror that lies to you, or the date who never called back, or the fraternity that didn’t invite you, or the voice in your head that says nobody cares about you, or the professor who makes you feel stupid, or the loneliness you experience, or the religious people who judged you—deep down, don’t we have a need to be accepted, one that is easily triggered by any sense of rejection?
“Misquotations are often stickier than actual quotes,” Abraham Lincoln once joked. He didn’t really, of course—but he’d be a great spokesperson of the sentiment, given how often his words have been misremembered, miscast, passed down from person to person in a way that little resembles any of his actual statements. (Actually, Mark Twain would be a better candidate for that one. Didn’t he say basically everything?)