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Virtue in Literature (1) – Introduction

As you returning students and parents know, each week I try to send a message related to one of our key distinctives (Gospel-Centered, Classical, Collaborative, and Joyful Discovery). My hope in doing this is to edify you, even if only to small degree. I want to give you ideas to think about and things to discuss in the hope that it will deepen your understanding in some way, shape, or form: from discipling our children to the value of Classical Education to a better understanding of a particular classical work.

I want to add two quick caveats about my weekly messages:

First, I am not a pastor and I am not trying to fill that role. When I share my ideas, please don’t consider them authoritative pronouncements! They are my thoughts and I share them in the hope that they can be helpful.

Second, we live in a world wherein people routinely make accusations and have arguments over what is not said. This has not been happening at Charis, but it is common enough in our society that it is worth addressing for a moment.

I am certain, especially for those of us on Facebook or Twitter, that we have either been a part of or witnessed an exchange like this:

Man 1: These waffles sure are delicious!

Man 2: Why do you hate pancakes?!?!?

This “reading between the lines” and assuming the worst based on silence is slanderous and wrong and a cheap way of engaging in arguments. But it is all too common. In response to this we either get a long-winded explanation, unnecessarily combative language, or a refusal to say anything of value.

The three reactions go something like this:

1) I like waffles, but their adverse impact on the environment is not lost on me. Yes, I realize that the eggs used to make them are not be from free-range chickens, that the flour was not locally sourced, that fossil fuels were consumed in transporting them to me, and the factory workers that packaged them were not unionized.

2) Patriots eat waffles and only waffles. Freedom hating terrorists/communists/(and worst of all) the French eat pancakes.

3) In recognition of the top two reactions, a lot of people that do not want to be unnecessarily provocative (which is good and right) and who also don’t want to be attacked for things they didn’t say (which is understandable) end up saying nothing at all. I believe this often is an abnegation of leadership.

In these messages I want to share insights without perpetually talking about what I am not saying. I recognize that there are nuances and complexities beyond what I can convey in my weekly messages and I never intend to be unnecessarily provocative. I am *generally* very deliberate in what I say (minus the regular typo), but there are times when I fail to communicate clearly. My request to you all is: please don’t make assumptions based on what I am not saying! If something rubs you the wrong way, and it seems like something I have said (as opposed to left unsaid) please reach out to me.

I’d like to kick this year off with a series entitled “Virtue in Literature”. My hope in this series is to briefly explain one of the books our children read and then highlight one of the virtues that it contains. I have two goals in this:

First, I want to model, albeit very briefly, our approach to literature. Stories are not a collection of facts to be recounted for an exam, they are living and breathing and they are full of ideas and pictures of goodness, truth, and beauty that should impact both how we think and the way we act.

Second, I want to encourage you all to read (or reread) these books yourselves! You are sending you children here because you think the education they are receiving is valuable; I want to encourage you all to partake in that education yourselves. 

Over the next eleven weeks I will write about eleven different books that we teach here at Charis. Here is a brief outline of this series:

Hope: The Odyssey (7th Grade)

Love: A Tale of Two Cities (9th Grade)

Faith: The Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe (2nd Grade)

Fortitude: Carry on Mr. Bowditch (5th Grade)

Justice: “Antigone” (10th Grade)

Loyalty: Red Scarf Girl (9th Grade)

Magnanimity: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn (12th Grade)

Courage: Beowulf (8th Grade)

Mercy: The Hiding Place (9th Grade)

Temperance: Little House in the Big Woods (1st Grade)

Duty: Aeneid (10th Grade)

I hope you find this series edifying.