Biases, Old and New
Every one of us is a mixed bag, even popular Christian authors. I appreciate most of the writings of C. S. Lewis, for example, though I am sad that he didn’t seem to get some important things figured out, evolution, in particular. So, do we throw him out completely?
This is my personal conclusion about that: Lewis exalted Jesus Christ and trusted Him completely. He devoted his life to sharing the gospel. He convinced atheists of the truth of Jesus. He deepened the faith of Christians. He helped Christians turn away from judging the “big” sins of others and start looking at the awful personal flaws we try to explain away.
I read Lewis with my mind and heart “cocked” to hear the occasional error and with my mind and heart “cocked” to hear a wealth of truth.
Right now I am listening to God in the Dock, a collection of Lewis’ essays and letters. When I read Lewis’ non-fiction books, I am astounded at how well he described exactly what is going on today, even though he died more than five decades ago on November 22, 1963, the same day as President John F. Kennedy.
I suspect that the reason Lewis’ writings describe the America of today so well is that the spiritual and cultural decline we see here now began in England and other parts of Western Europe a few decades earlier.
One quote from God in the Dock that I believe describes our own age well is this one:
Along with the power to forgive, we have lost the power to condemn.
Our culture today hesitates (or outright refuses) to condemn sins that God clearly condemned in the Bible. Sometimes it seems that the only thing our culture condemns as wrong is merely saying that something is wrong.
This unwillingness either to forgive or to condemn is evident in our culture. Take historical figures, for example. As I have written about before, people today condemn people who were once seen as heroes. It is as if we cannot forgive our forebears’ blind spots, though we want people to forgive ours.
The American Library Association recently renamed the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal as the Children’s Literature Legacy Award. On a recent Sunday I had a precious conversation with a friend about my mom’s age, in which she told me how much she loved Laura as a girl.
The next Sunday my friend brought me a clipping of an opinion editorial from an edition of the Wall Street Journal that she had received in between the two Sundays. The editorial condemned the board of the American Library Association for its 12-0 decision to change the name of the award. The title of the article was “‘Little House’ Has Been Condemned: A library association erases Laura Ingalls Wilder from history.”
My friend handed the article to me just before our worship time began. My heart was heavy. I felt genuine grief.
The American Library Association initiated the Laura Ingalls Wilder Medal in 1954. The first winner was Laura herself. The association changed the name of the award because of a tiny handful of statements that reveal prejudice. I hate those statements, too, but I am grateful for the 99.99% of Laura’s writings that teach faith in God, love for our fellow man, perseverance under difficulties, and deep family love and joy. If our children take to heart the good lessons in 99.99% of Laura’s writings, those lessons will likely lead them to reject prejudice.
I know that when I read the Little House books aloud to our children, I lamented a few all-too-human traits, while I drank in the lessons I learned from Ma about how to be a mother. Laura’s books don’t teach children to hate anyone. They teach them the opposite.
Can we not forgive Laura? Are her barely-mentioned biases worse than biases against Christians and righteousness today? Must we not forgive Laura and the people who make anti-Christian statements, too?
Jesus once told some Pharisees:
But if you had known what this means,
‘I desire compassion, and not a sacrifice,’
you would not have condemned the innocent.
As Laura and her Ma should have had compassion on all people, the American Library Association should have compassion on Laura who has blessed and instructed millions of people around the world. Consider these words of Jesus.
Do not judge so that you will not be judged.
For in the way you judge,
you will be judged;
And by your standard of measure,
it will be measured to you.
Why do you look at the speck that is in your brother’s eye,
but do not notice the log that is in your own eye?
Or how can you say to your brother,
‘Let me take the speck out of your eye,’
and behold, the log is in your own eye?
You hypocrite, first take the log out of your own eye,
and then you will see clearly
to take the speck out of your brother’s eye.