Tag Archives: The Casual Vacancy

Owl Post 10-29-12

 

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What Am I Doing When I Vote?

I’m glad that TGC is coordinating a series of blogs about some “first principles” to consider when thinking about politics (e.g., BakerSmethurstForster). While I fully agree (and have often said from the pulpit) that the kingdom of God does not depend on elections and will not be ushered in by politicians, I believe Christian involvement in politics, or at least some understanding of the parties, the candidates, and the issues, is absolutely critical. Because we have all seen unthinking allegiance to a certain candidate or party, we can be overly reticent to talk about politics at all, let alone put forward a reasoned view on the political process. But political abdication and utter silence is not the right corrective to political idolatry, nor does it further the common good when Christians disengage for fear of being labeled with this wing or that.

J. K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy:

This is a book that does what Hamlet told the players they should do: hold the mirror up to nature. And nature isn’t pretty. Actually that needs to be qualified. Nature, as in the world in which we live, is beautiful. Stunning, really, and Rowling sings the beauty of the cool morning, the night sky, the hilltop view of the quaint township.

Tracing the Logic of Liberalism:

In the American context the labels liberal and conservative are used in an ahistorical way—more as terms of opprobrium than as accurate designations for what people actually believe about political life. Liberals and conservatives alike differ less on fundamental principles than on who can better claim custody over the same principles—the principles of, well, liberalism.

You Believe in Karma:

“Good people get good stuff. Bad people get bad stuff.” Or as the Beatles sang with their last gasp on Abbey Road, “In the end, the love you take is equal to the love you make.”

Now I love John, Paul, George and Ringo, but I take issue with them here, and I know I am in the minority. After all, the world runs on retribution. “This for that” comes as naturally to us as breathing. Moralists interpret misfortune as the karmic result of misbehavior. This for that. “You failed to obey God, so He gave your child an illness.” Such rule-based economies of punishment and reward may be the default mode of the fallen human heart, but that doesn’t make them any less brutal!

THE BOOKSTORE BRAIN:

If you could create a bookstore, what would you put in it? What would you exclude? Would you specialize in any particular genre? Would your organizing principle be quantity or quality, or would you devise a way to have both?

Porn-Free Church: Sex, God, and the Gospel: Free Book

A life-with-porn versus a life-without-porn is a poor choice. If you set it up in these terms then you won’t produce lasting change. We need to set it up (as it truly is) as a choice between life-with-porn versus life-with-God. We need to show how God always offers more than porn.

The New iPad Has New Competition … Which It Will Destroy:

You may have heard that Apple dropped some science on us this morning, with the announcement of a boatload of new desktops, notebooks, and tablets. Under normal circumstances, we’d be focused entirely on the new iPad Mini, the new offering Apple has crafted to bust its way into the 7-inch tablet space. And if you take a gander at our front page, you’ll see that we’re giving the little guy more than its fair share of love. But there’s more news out there: the new, fourth generation iPad was also announced today, a full-size tablet some in the press have taken to calling the “iPad Maxi.”

Did Apple Really Just Screw Over iPad Owners?

Earlier this week, Apple held an event during which they announced several new and updated products, including a smaller iPadthinner and sleeker iMacs, and a new high-end laptop. Needless to say, these announcements got plenty of people excited, including yours truly, as the months — and even years — of anticipation, rumors, and analysis come to a head and revealed a slew of lovely new products.

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The Casual Vacancy – A review

The Casual Vacancy is the new adult novel by famed Harry Potter author, J.K Rowling. This novel is a departure from her previous work in every way except for one and that is the subject of death. This is worth reading, it is a book for these times.

The book starts of with the death of a council member in a small English town and what unravels is a dark and twisted version of It’s A Wonderful Life; if that film had been written by Ian McEwan. This is the dark mirror of Harry’s world. There is no real good or evil; it is all selfishness and egocentricity. Barry’s death has left a black hole in this community.

They’re completely deluded, Tessa thought, looking that the other three, who were poring over some graph that Parminder had extracted from Kay’s notes. They think they’ll reverse sixty years of anger and resentment with a few sheets of statistics. None of them was Barry. He had been the living example of what they proposed in theory: the advancement, through education, from poverty to affluence, from powerlessness and dependency to valuable contributor to society. Did they not see what hopeless advocates they were, compared to the man who had died? (From The Casual Vacancy)

Rowling weaves a story of a town as interconnected as any Austen novel but with considerably more morose secrets below the surface of every character. There is a complete disconnectedness that each of the characters has for one another. They see the person not as real human being but as something to be consumed; they see only what they can get out of someone. People use people like a commodity to be manipulated for personal gain and then discarded when they are no longer needed. The bleak landscape of humanity on display is a testament to Rowling’s keen eye for the plight of 21st century, 1st world people; a world of epic Darwinian proportions. Gone are the days when people were seen as special and to be honored. The human race has been reduced to the state of a mere intelligent animal. And as such, we treat each other with the same disdain that the animal kingdom has for it’s members. We are driven by the instinct to look out for no one but ourselves and as such, society has begun to crumble under the immense weight of debilitating self-interest.

Inside this world, Rowling navigates the issues of class, gender and race. She may be accused of being heavy-handed in this, but whenever an author presses on the pressure points of society in the way she does, it is going to cause supreme discomfort in the reader. Humans dislike being told they are wrong and literature has always been at the forefront of fighting social injustice; To Kill a Mockingbird is a prime example of this. The challenge laid down in this book is how to overcome the problems set forth. The short answer; look not to ourselves but to the whole. The end of the book makes plainly clear it takes a community to foster true life. It takes each person putting the needs of others above themselves and having compassion. It is only in taking responsibility for the care of each other and seeing one anther with the value that is inherent in every person that society can flourish. This brings to mind a thought from one of The United States’ founding documents,

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness”

Social justice is a subject that is immensely important and how we view each other is at the heart of this. Rowling has pointed out our weaknesses and truthfully there is only one answer that will fully satisfy. If we are created by a personal God and made in his image and not just random chance, then there is a duty we each have to honor and value each other. Tim Keller puts it this way,

….”So God created man in his own image.” What does being an “image” mean?  It conveys the idea of being a work of art or of great craftsmanship. Human beings are not accident, but creations.Without a belief in creation, we are force to face the implication that ultimately there is no good reason to treat human beings as having dignity….The Bible teaches that the sacredness of God has in some ways been imparted to humanity, so that every human life is sacred and every human being has dignity.  When God put his image upon us, we became beings of infinite, inestimable value….Regardless of their record or character, all human beings have an irreducible glory and significance to them, because God loves them, indeed, he “loves all that he has made” (Psalm 145:9, 17). He loves even those who turn away from him (Ezekiel 33:11; John 3:16). This bestows worth on them. (From Generous Justice: How God’s Grace Makes Us Just)

Owl Post 9-27-12

Links for Reviews and News for J.K. Rowling’s new book, The Casual Vacancy:

J.K. Rowling’s The Casual Vacancy: We’ve Read It, Here’s What We Thought:

It’s not really possible to open The Casual Vacancy without a lot of expectations both high and low at the same time crashing around in your brain and distorting your vision. I don’t know if it’s possible or even desirable to avoid them. I know I had a lot of, let’s call them feelings when I opened the book (which happened on Saturday morning; don’t ask; I work for the military-industrial-entertainment complex, let’s just leave it at that). I have spent many, many hours reading Rowling’s work. I am a known Harry Potter fan.

J.K. Rowling’s debut novel for adults is a hard story that’s worth a read:

If you’re looking for what makes J.K. Rowling magical — emotion, heart — you will.

“The Casual Vacancy” is the first novel written for adults from Rowling, the successful-beyond-belief author behind the “Harry Potter” series about the young boy who discovers he’s a wizard.

Poverty Informs J.K. Rowling’s New Novel For Adults:

J.K. Rowling has a new novel. She’s moved away from Harry Potter, the boy wizard whose stories prompted millions of kids to obsess over books big enough to serve as doorstops. Having concluded that series, she’s written a novel for grown-ups called The Casual Vacancy, a story of troubled teenagers and their even more troubled parents.

Why I Refuse to Vote for Barack Obama:

Tell certain liberals and progressives that you can’t bring yourself to vote for a candidate who opposes gay rights, or who doesn’t believe in Darwinian evolution, and they’ll nod along. Say that you’d never vote for a politician caught using the ‘n’-word, even if you agreed with him on more policy issues than his opponent, and the vast majority of left-leaning Americans would understand. But these same people cannot conceive of how anyone can discern Mitt Romney’s flaws, which I’ve chronicled in the course of the campaign, and still not vote for Obama.

The Days I Need the Gospel Least:

Preach the gospel to yourself! Preach the gospel to yourself every day! I think we are all growing accustomed to being told that Christians need to center their lives upon the gospel and that one of the keys to doing this is to be continually reminded of what is true by preaching the gospel to ourselves every day. I’ve been hearing this for years now and to varying degrees have been practicing it. However, just last week I had a bit of a breakthrough in my thinking about it. (Though this is a breakthrough for me, it is may well be one of those things you have understood for years.)

Former Saviors Now Stumble:

At first glance, you might think they’ve done a fine job… look at an illustration by John Buscema realized in the form of James Purefoy, or a vintage Frank Frazetta drawing fleshed out by Taylor Kitsch. On a surface level, it might look like Solomon Kane and John Carter have been translated from their literary origins to the wonder of 21st century movie-making, characters created a little over or under a century ago finding new life in cinema. Problem is, whether you enjoyed, abhorred, or found yourself indifferent to the cinematic versions, these icons have nevertheless been significantly, and intentionally, tarnished.

A Free People’s Suicide:

Os Guinness has performed an act of social ecology. With A Free People’s Suicide, he questions whether the American way of life is sustainable. But when we talk about sustainability in this sense, the question is not whether America will keep its air clean, its water pure, or its forests lush. Guinness is interested in a deeper and more urgent question: Will American freedom continue to thrive, or will it unravel as a result of its abuses?