Truth through Literature

Nothing has the capacity that great literature has for revealing the depth of the human condition--both its promise and its depravity.  For decades, students in literature classes have been analyzing characterization, symbol, irony, and theme and honing their academic writing skills.  Even law schools love English majors because of their experience in analysis, logic, and argument.  But the most extraordinary thing about literature is its ability to hold a mirror up to self.   Introspection is losing fashion in an increasingly secular society where there is always someone or something else to blame for why the world isn't working.  It takes a willing audience to plumb the depths of the human heart, and that is how my English classes bless me daily.  I just finished reading a play with tenth graders who were positively taken with the playwright's post-WWII observations about human nature.  They quickly concluded that, indeed, it seems that there is nothing new under the sun (Ecclesiastes 1:9).  This is the beauty of teaching literature in a school like SRCS.  I can challenge students.  Christian education is transformative education because the Gospel transforms.  Beyond mastering the mere literary elements of the play and writing about them, my students are learning to recognize sin and redemption in literary characters and in their own lives.  They are learning to see that there but for the grace of God, go I.   I ask them, "How many of you in here have used guilt and fear to manipulate your parents or your friends just like this character is making a power grab in her family?"  Every hand in the room goes up.  Including mine.  When we discuss the playwright's characters who brought disaster and downfall to each other with empty flattery, inflated praise, and near-idolatry at the expense of reality and truth, I see their eyes widen.  They raise their hands, eager--yet sobered--to tell me that today, young people are suffering from the same empty love, where they are being told that they are good at everything only to enter college and be devastatingly crushed by the realization that they are not, in fact, good at everything.  They are passionately connecting the truths found in literature to the world in which they are living.  I get to teach in a place where students identify which characters are loving self and which characters are loving others.   I get to teach in a place where students contrast Steinbeck's frightening definition of loyalty to God's sacrificial definition of loyalty.   I get to teach in a place where I can ask students, "Will you read this piece of literature with the expectation that the Holy Spirit will move you and transform you?"  Only at a place like SRCS could I ask that, and only at a place like SRCS would students tell me yes.