RE-BLOG: “Winnie-The-Antichrist: Christian Books and the Satanic Imagination” by Otter
The following article first appeared on Riparian Church, a now-defunct blog owned by my good friend Otter, whom I first met on the Sonlight Curriculum forum boards.
A couple of nights ago, at a homeschool meeting, I got talking with a friend and somehow the conversation got onto children’s literature. I was reminded of a blogpost made by Otter and a guest blogger known as Susan R. Knowing that his blog is no longer active, I emailed him and he very kindly forwarded me both his and Susan R’s posts and gave me permission to put them on my blog.
Winnie-The-Antichrist: Christian Books and the Satanic Imagination
TUESDAY, NOVEMBER 30, 2010 AT 7:00AM | BY OTTER
Someone asked me a year ago at the old Sonlight Forums about good Christian books.
Requests for book recommendations always take me off guard.
I read a lot. But books are like old memories. You look back on them and know they served a purpose at the moment and changed you in important ways.
And they have a habit of cropping up just when you need them. Your best bet is to walk into a book shop with your heart open and see what comes to you. Hard to get more Christian than that. Unless Christianity is more than what you read, but I digress.
Still, for what it’s worth, my halting reply to the question, “What are some good Christian books?” was necessarily more about what I was thinking at the time:
Books that don’t simplify human experience or the complexity of human choices. They needn’t be boring: but they must not leave us with the feeling that we are some jam-covered grinning god.
A.A. Milne’s Winnie-the-Pooh books, for instance, are very serious: The Hundred Acre Wood is a place ringed around with sadness, loneliness, the anxiety of living, the uncertain self, the impressionistic nature of childhood.
Then too, Calvin and Hobbes is a very serious comic strip. It’s “light,” not “lite.” It has things to say about childhood, about the world “as it is” and what about it that’s deeply unsatisfying to childhood, and above all things to say about adults and the trades they’ve made. Disney’s plundering of them is not remotely serious, and is a huge measure of how much we hate our children as human beings, however much we may love them as offspring. In Disney’s hands, Pooh is a winsome lovable greed-machine without the true redeeming innocence of self-discovery. There’s all the difference in the world between being a bear of little brain and being downright stupid.
Just a few books I’ve been thinking about, chosen at random from a burlap sack:
Brideshead Revisited is a profoundly Christian book: it’s about homosexuality and adultery and alcoholism, and about the difference between holiness and behaving well. If it makes you feel smug about never having committed adultery, you haven’t understood it.
Michael Malone’s Handling Sin is a very funny, very serious book that demands to know the answer to the question, “If love is the greatest commandment, isn’t the greatest sin not to love? And don’t all the little things we judge each other for pale in comparison with that easy, pretendedly-virtuous neglect?” I guess that’s two questions.
Happiness is not your birthright, American Child. Pooh would teach you this, if you’d stop looking at Disney’s damned Anti-Pooh with his big yellow smile and incessant, cloying, lying glee.
You [the friend who asked about Christian books] mentioned Bede’s history… I’d say Pelikan’s is more serious, even more “Christian” than Bede’s.
Gerhardt Wehr’s biography of Jung is almost a religious experience (at least for the first and last quarters or so of the book…. there’s a long boring middle section).
A writer I’d rather admire than read, Flannery O’Connor, understands grace very well: life’s a meaningless carnival, then you get gored by a bull and die.
Shusaku Endo’s Silence and Deep River are early and late novels (respectively) that ask what the real reach of God is towards humankind and what the reach of humankind towards God is worth. They can be troubling to somebody who needs Christianity to be “exclusive,” a truth among lies instead of a truth among truths.
G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday is a chilling, haunting allegory for… well, for…. I’ll get back to you on that.
Not sure why those all sit in my mind, but that’s what I’m thinking of as I wonder how to recommend books, like recommending the best breaths to take.
All of them are serious, in my view, and treat life as something terribly, painfully important, not some prelude to the sweet by and by.
There is nothing more true or more Christian, Pooh Bear, than that you are really alone. That love is an accident or grace, and that the wonder and confusion that the world presents to you is the sound of your soul stirring. Anyone who says differently is selling something. And the price they charge you is your belief that the world might after all be worth living in. Milne wrote you rightly, because when the last pot of honey is gone, you still sit lonely and bewildered as a child in your innocence. I’m sorry Walt Disney ever even read your truths and splashed them in day-glo fantasies that robbed you of all your truth, beauty, and Christian heart.