Monday, October 17, 2011

in which the author descends into a completely post-modern world-view...

I recently finished reading A Strange Stirring by Stephanie Coontz, a book which is essentially a “biography” of The Feminine Mystique, the seminal book on housewife dissatisfaction that came out in the 1960s. It was a fascinating read, but what really captured me the most is how so much of what is considered the “traditional” North American family, and what many people (a large number of whom share the same faith tradition as me …) are fighting to preserve, is really quite a recent phenomenon. In fact, Coontz suggests that it’s normal for societies to go through waves of conservatism after times of upheaval – in other words, what’s exceptional about the post-war suburban nuclear family dream is that it lasted for so long. I was struck by the same theme when we read Karen Armstrong’s The Case for God last winter – this time with regard to theology and Biblical interpretation. Armstrong also highlighted how what is often termed “traditional” is actually relatively recent tradition, and we can quite easily look through history to the time before that tradition took root. Which has got me thinking about the importance of knowing our history: it’s so easy to assume that the bounds of one’s own experience encompass the world as it is, because we all live in our own point of view, but stepping out of your own (historical or cultural) place can quickly reveal that there’s a whole world of points of view out there, and you only live in one of them.

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