Monday, October 3, 2011

Self-Recognition, Glenn Bateman's Summary of Sociology

For my write-up today of Stephen King’s The Stand: The Complete and Uncut Edition, I’ll talk about two passages:

1. On page 380, Larry’s female companion on his journey, Rita, has just died, and Larry feels a great deal of relief at that. He thinks back to how he tried to take care of her and avoid getting mad at her regardless of what she did. For example, Larry kept his cool when Rita held a can of peas over the fire without ventilating the top, even though that could have caused the can to explode, resulting in “flying hooks of tin shrapnel” blinding them. As Larry looks at his relief at Rita’s death, the following goes through his mind: “‘I ain’t no nice guy,’ he said guy, and having said it, he felt better. It became easier to tell the truth, and truth-telling was the most important thing.”

Larry probably felt better because he no longer had to justify himself and his character to anyone. Up to this point, people called Larry a taker, and Larry tried to prove them wrong—primarily to himself. Now, he doesn’t feel that he has anything to prove to anyone. Yeah, he’s flawed, but that’s how he is, and (to his credit) he did try to be patient with Rita while he was alive.

I read this after I had read more of Tim Keller’s The Prodigal God for my church’s Bible study group. Tim Keller was talking about how our recognition of our own flaws is a necessary step to salvation. But, in my opinion, there is some difference between what Christianity says about being conscious of one’s own flaws, and what Larry was doing. Christianity says that we should look at our own flaws, feel guilty, and conclude that we deserve to go to hell because of them, which is why we need Jesus Christ to save us. Larry, however, did not feel shame at his self-centered relief at Rita’s death. But does that eliminate any potential for the development of his character in a positive direction? Some have suggested that self-acceptance can be a path to becoming better.

2. Page 387 has the following, which are the thoughts of Glenn Bateman:

“That is the curse of the human race. Sociability. What Christ should have said was ‘Yea, verily, whenever two or three of you are gathered together, some other guy is going to get the living shit knocked out of him.’ Shall I tell you what sociology teaches us about the human race? I’ll give it to you in a nutshell. Show me a man or woman alone and I’ll show you a saint. Give me two and they’ll fall in love. Give me three and they’ll invent the charming thing we call ‘society.’ Give me four and they’ll build a pyramid. Give me five and they’ll make one an outcast. Give me six and they’ll reinvent prejudice. Give me seven and in seven years they’ll reinvent warfare. Man may have been made in the image of God, but human society was made in the image of His opposite number…”

This passage was refreshing to me because of how so many things I have read and heard (especially from evangelical Christianity, but also elsewhere in society) are really down on people being loners. Perhaps they have a point, but maybe Glenn Bateman is also right that the formation of groups is not exactly hot, either—that groups lead to cliquishness, power-plays, prejudice, etc., things to which we may be less prone on our own. There is a sense in which groups make sense, for people can as a collective accomplish good that may not be possible if everyone were out solely for himself or herself, for taking care of the “we” can take care of the “me”. But groups can come at a price. And Glenn perhaps did not feel that he needed a group to survive: he had his garden, his home, etc.

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