Can Fairy Tales Do More than the Holy Spirit?

As much as I live and breathe and have my being in conservative circles in the United States, I cannot understand how conservatives who are Christians can write so cheerfully about virtue and what it takes to cultivate it:

Mere instruction in morality is not sufficient to nurture the virtues. It might even backfire, especially when the presentation is heavily exhortative and the pupil’s will is coerced. Instead, a compelling vision of the goodness of goodness itself needs to be presented in a way that is attractive and stirs the imagination. A good moral education addresses both the cognitive and affective dimensions of human nature. Stories are an irreplaceable medium of this kind of moral education. This is the education of character.

The Greek word for character literally means an impression. Moral character is an impression stamped upon the self. Character is defined by its orientation, consistency, and constancy. Today we often equate freedom with morality and goodness. But this is naïve because freedom is transcendent and the precondition of choice itself. Depending upon his character, an individual will be drawn toward either goodness or wickedness. Moral and immoral behavior is freedom enacted either for good or for ill.

The great fairy tales and children’s fantasy stories attractively depict character and virtue. In these stories, the virtues glimmer as if in a looking glass, and wickedness and deception are unmasked of their pretensions to goodness and truth. These stories make us face the unvarnished truth about ourselves while compelling us to consider what kind of people we want to be.

Calvinists have a problem with this, obviously, since they put the T in Total Depravity. But shouldn’t any Christian who considers himself Augustinian or any theist who believes in the fall (recorded in the not so fair tale of Genesis)? Can’t we at least, if you’re not going to talk about effectual calling, reserve some space for baptism and the sacraments more generally?

Or, are we supposed to conclude that a kid reared on Beauty and the Beast has as much a shot at virtue as the one who’s baptized? If that’s the case, then why is cult so much the bedrock of culture?

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One thought on “Can Fairy Tales Do More than the Holy Spirit?

  1. Justification in the public (nonspiritual) world one day will no longer be about capital formation or cutting taxes for the rich but motivted by the illusion that people need you to be their senator. Identity politics is about identity jobs

    Ben Sasse—Meaningful work (Defined as work in which people think that they’re needed. “Not, ‘Do I make a lot of money?’ but ‘When I go to work, are there actually people in the world who need what I do?”

    Here are the associated virtues:

    “do what you love”
    “love your work”
    “people need what I do”
    I could be making way more elsewhere but I am good”
    “love working”

    Keynes–”When the accumulation of wealth is no longer of high social importance, there will be great changes in the code of morals. We shall be able to rid ourselves of many of the pseudo-moral principles which have hag-ridden us for two hundred years, by which we have exalted some of the most distasteful of human qualities into the position of the highest virtues. We shall be able to afford to dare to assess the money-motive at its true value. The love of money as a possession will be recognized for what it is, a somewhat disgusting morbidity, one of those semi-criminal, semi-pathological propensities…I see us free, therefore, to return to some of the most sure and certain principles of traditional virtue-that avarice is a vice, that the exaction of usury is a misdemeanor, and the love of money is detestable, that those walk most truly in the paths of sane wisdom who take least thought for the morrow. We shall once more value ends above means and prefer the good to the useful. ”
    Economic Possibilities for Our Grandchildren

    https://www.theamericanconservative.com/dreher/ben-sasse-on-the-world-to-come/

    Like

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