Sunday, January 13, 2013

Thoughts for Sunday: Dorothy L. Sayers and faith style

"Can you hop on your hind legs?" asked the furry rabbit.
That was a dreadful question, for the Velveteen Rabbit had no hind legs at all! The back of him was made all in one piece, like a pincushion. He sat still in the bracken, and hoped that the other rabbits wouldn't notice.
"I don't want to!" he said again.
But the wild rabbits have very sharp eyes. And this one stretched out his neck and looked.
"He hasn't got any hind legs!" he called out. "Fancy a rabbit without any hind legs!" And he began to laugh.
"I have!" cried the little Rabbit. "I have got hind legs! I am sitting on them!"
"Then stretch them out and show me, like this!" said the wild rabbit. And he began to whirl round and dance, till the little Rabbit got quite dizzy.
"I don't like dancing," he said. "I'd rather sit still!"

At a recent homeschool group meeting, our guest speaker, an educational therapist, suggested that the current emphasis on teaching to children's learning styles misses the mark somewhat.  That is, if a child is labelled as a primarily visual learner, that may both stem from and block the fact that he has (treatable) weaknesses in auditory processing.  Of course everyone has unique strengths; but ignoring a weakness or overcompensating in other areas doesn't solve a longterm learning problem.

I just finished reading A Careless Rage for Life, a biography of Dorothy L. Sayers by David Coomes.  Coomes includes a  letter that Sayers wrote, late in her life, in response to criticism of her "faith style." The letter is not so much apologetic as simply honest: this is the way my faith works, said Sayers, and it's not exactly like yours; God understands that I'm wired to process things through thought and reasoning, through belief in the church creeds, through words.  Some are evangelists, some are teachers, and some (extremely few) can write The Mind of the Maker and translate Dante.

Miss Sayers, though she took seventeen pages to explain it, was obviously aware of her own limitations, but felt she had come to a faith in God that worked for her, and she wasn't about to let that faith be belittled. I'm good with that. I enjoy discussion of books or educational philosophy, say, more than I do certain types of more overtly religious talk.

However...I have known Christians who so emphasized the intellectual side of their faith that they seemed to use it to avoid personal issues, or even to excuse questionable moral choices.   I was once told that I had no business judging someone for making a blatantly Matthew 5:28 remark, because I Hadn't Studied Ethics.

Dorothy L. Sayers wasn't perfect either, but I think we can give her some leeway as a person of exceptional abilities and an outsized personality. To put it bluntly, most of us aren't Dorothy L. Sayers, and our relationships with God and people are going to be more normal-sized. Like the therapist's suggestion, however, it does make me wonder if some of our "faith style" preferences can sometimes mask anxieties or empty or hurt places that we're not ready to expose. Like the rabbit's legs...

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