Not much has been posted here for a few days. I’ve been absorbed in writing to my nephew serving a four year prison term. We talked very little during his childhood and early adulthood. He lived hundreds of miles away on the other side of the mountains, and when we did visit he was often gone. What conversations we had tended toward the usual teenage two and three word answers to an uncle asking inane questions such as “how are things going?”, complicated by the many events in his life on the wrong side of the law in the company of his preferred friends who lived there.
Now he’s in prison and we frequently correspond the old fashioned way, by letter sent through the postal service. In the closed environment of his cell, the entire world of literature, history, philosophy, theology and politics has become open for exploration. Odd, isn’t it? And that’s what our conversations are about. His five page letters full of questions and observations from the books he is now reading are answered by my five page letters providing some answers, asking more questions, trying to remember the books that were read so many years ago, and suggesting ways of learning the art of critical thinking.
I posted one yesterday. In it I responded to the issues he raised in his last letter and covered: reasons for a college education; reasons for skills training; the art of reading newspapers; reflecting on foundational assumptions about beliefs and basic standards of verification; why Anglicans are not much interested in the so called prophecies of the Philadelphia Church of God; the importance of the prophets in orthodox Christian thinking; what we mean by incarnational ministry; reflections on admirable political figures in American history; the seductive power of Washington; why it is important to study history in general and American history in particular; a brief touch on the Articles of Confederation, Federalist papers and the Constitution to be followed up on later; and finally a brief review of the history of Islam, the crusades, growth of the Ottoman Empire, WWI and its aftermath, and why the Taliban don’t really care about any of that.
Covering all of that in five or six pages is a bit sketchy to say the least, but it’s part of an ongoing conversation, and it doesn’t seem appropriate to dive too deep with a young man just beginning to learn how to learn. We’ve got time. Four years to be precise. In the meantime, I may try to write one or two other posts before taking a month long sabbatical.