Wednesday, May 23, 2012

When I Was a Child ... Quotes Part 1

p.14-15 “The notion that religion is intrinsically a crude explanatory strategy that should be dispelled and supplanted by science is based on a highly selective or tendentious reading of the literatures of religion. In some cases it is certainly fair to conclude that it is based on no reading of them at all. Be that as it may, the effect of this idea, which is very broadly assumed to be true, is again to reinforce the notion that science and religion are struggling for possession of a single piece of turf, and science holds the high ground and gets to choose the weapons. In fact there is no moment in which, no perspective from which, science can regard human life and say that there is a beautiful, terrible mystery in it all, a great pathos. Art, music, and religion tell us that. … [I]t is true in the tentative, suggestive, ambivalent, self-contradictory style of the testimony of a hundred thousand witnesses, who might, if taken all together, agree on no more than the shared sense that something of great moment has happened, is happening, will happen, here and among us.”

p.69 “Like old Israel, the United States is often said to be legalistic. And for some reason this is taken to be a criticism and to identify a failing. It might be better thought of as an acknowledgment of the human propensity to sin or error, in tension with an active solicitude for human vulnerability to the effects of sin and error, the two embraced by an unusual awareness, as self-created and intentional societies, of a calling to be “good” societies.”

p.72 “Cranky old Leviticus gave us – gave Christ – not only ‘Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself’ but also the rather forgotten ‘Thou shalt love the stranger as thyself,’ two verses that appear to be merged in the Parable of the Good Samaritan. Still, startlingly gentle laws like these fall under the general condemnation of Old Testament severity, and Calvin’s refinements with them.

“The tendency to hold certain practices in ancient Israel up to idealized modern Western norms is pervasive in much that passes for scholarship, though a glance at the treatment of the great class of debtors now being evicted from their homes in America and elsewhere should make it clear that, from the point of view of graciousness or severity, an honest comparison is not always in our favor.”

p.89 “It may be mere historical conditioning, but when I see a man or a woman alone, he or she looks mysterious to me, which is only to say that for a moment I see another human being clearly.”

p.91 “It appears to me that the Homestead Act was designed to consolidate the North’s victory in the Civil War by establishing an economy of smallholder farming, of the kind that prevailed in the North, as opposed to plantation farming on the Southern model. English agriculture was very close to the kind practiced in the South, with the exception that the gangs on English farm laborers, though so poor they were usually called ‘wretches,’ were not technically slaves or chattel. … Lincoln contained, more or less, the virtual slavery that followed actual slavery.” [Shades of GK Chesterton’s point about workers being like slaves and Walker Percy’s point that the South is very English in nature]

p.95 “We are culturally predisposed to sheltering criticism from criticism; we have enshrined the iconoclast. … The intention behind these books seems to be only the one that is usual just now, to discredit in the course of laying blame. This is the purpose and method of much contemporary scholarship.”

p.104 [Regarding the conquest of the Canaanites] “Abraham is told in a dream that possession of the promised land will be delayed an astonishing four hundred years until, in effect, the Amorites (that is, the Canaanites) have lost their right to it. We Anglo-European invaders do not know yet if we will have four hundred years in this land.”

p.105-6 “If each member of the community obeys the commandments, then all members will receive the assurance that they will not be murdered, that their households will not be robbed or disrupted, that they will not be slandered, that their children will not abuse or abandon them. The relation of law to prophecy, of prohibition to liberation, is very clear.”

p.123 “The fact is that the hardest of the laws [of Moses], those comprehended in the phrase ‘open wide thy hand,’ and never even noticed to be resented.”

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