Wednesday, September 27, 2006

FAULTY MEMORIES

Next month husband John and I will be teaching a course in Italy to American college students (semeste abroad). It is a fascinating course: Memoirs: Reading and Writing the Stories of Our Lives. The students will be reading selections from dozens of memoirs, including St. Augustine, John Bunyan, Carrie Nation, Frederick Douglas, C.S. Lewis, Anne Morrow Lindbergh, Maya Angelou, Anne Lamott, Donald Miller and many more.

The best book I've found on memoirs and memoir writing is Maureen Murdock: "Unreliable Truth: On Memoir and Memory."

By her title, she is stating very clearly that memory is faulty. We all know that, but it's good to read her own case and see her examples.

Here is a short quote from her first chapter that relates to a story of her own skewed memories:

"Memory is rarely whole or factually correct. If the image of the events we have participated in does not match the image of the self we have carefully constructed, then we rarely remember the facts of the event at all. What we remember is a reconstruction of image and feeling that suits our needs and purposes."

So, then how can our students write memoirs that are factually correct? Documents, documents, documents. Are there letters, journals, emails, etc. that help in the reconstruction of a life. I have found documents to be a critical factor in the retelling of a recent period of my own life. Apart from such documents, we must be ever aware that our memories are often very skewed-----and always very subjective. (There's no other way memories can be!)

That doesn't mean that, without documents, we shouldn't write our memoirs. It simply means that we must be very conscious of our subjectivity.

Friday, September 15, 2006

TIME Magazine: "Does God Want You to be Rich?"

"Most unnerving for Osteen's [Joel, megachurch minister of Lakewood in Houston] critics is the suspicion that they are fighting not just one idiocyncratic misreading of the gospel but something more daunting: the latest lurch in Protestantism's ongoing descent into full-blown American materialism. After the eclipse of Calvinist Puritanism, whose respect for money was counterbalanced by a horror of worldliness, much of Protestantism quietly adopted the idea that 'you don't have to give up the American Dream. You just see it as a sign of God's blessing,' says Edith Blumhofer, director of Wheaton College's Center for the Study of American Evangelicals. Indeed, a last-gasp resistance to this embrace of wealth and comfort can be observed in the current evangelical brawl over whether comfortable megachurches (like Osteen's and Warren's) with pumped-up day-care centers and high-tech amenities represent a slide from glorifying an all-powerful God to asking what custom color you would prefer he paint your pews. 'The tragedy is that Christianity has become a yes-man for the culture,' says Boston University's Prothero." (Sept. 18, 2006, pp. 55-56)

This is a great cover-story in TIME, well worth reading. John read it to me this morning. It focuses on megachurches, an interest of mine, especially in my book "Left Behind in a Megachurch World." See Ruth Tucker's Books at www.ruthtucker.net.