I link to Laura’s blog “An Affair With Reason” a lot, because she is very bold about her Christian convictions and uses reason and evidence when defending her views. She has started a new series where she talks about the conversations she has, where she is able to bring up Christian topics. This time, she had a conversation with a 13-year-old boy about his lack of interest in books.
It was 9:15am and we were about to begin another grueling CrossFit workout. Nolan, a homeschooled eighth-grader and the youngest member of our morning workout crew, was moaning at the prospect of exerting so much energy on so little sleep.
“I was up so late! I just don’t know if I can do this,” he agonized.
I replied jokingly, “Were you up late doing some extra reading just for the sake of becoming a more excellent and informed person?”
He smiled. “I hate reading! Reading is the worst. I don’t think I’ve read a book since sixth grade.”
Knowing the critical impact that great books can make in a person’s life, I pushed back a little. “Well maybe you just haven’t found the right books yet.”
He replied, “Why do I have to read, anyway?”
And with this question I saw a teachable moment. After all, he needs to know the answer to that if he is to make the most of the knowledge and wisdom that are available to him through great books. Many activities compete for the attention of young people. If they don’t understand why something like reading is important, they aren’t likely to prioritize it, and when they are forced to read, they may look for shortcuts and complete their assignments with mediocrity rather than gaining the full benefits available to them. Without understanding the purpose or benefits of reading, they are likely to discontinue as soon as they no longer feel the threats of a teacher, parents, or a bad grade hanging over them.
“Well,” I said, “there’s the fact that reading great books can shape your values and priorities so that you’re better equipped to make good decisions that lead to thriving for you and those around you. Reading the right books will make you a better man, a better leader, a better husband, and a better citizen. You aren’t going to learn those things from the culture. Today’s movies, music, and tv shows will weaken you until you have nothing of value to offer a woman or a neighbor or your community. Our modern forms of entertainment are written with an agenda to spread values that are contrary to God’s values and contrary to the way He created reality. If you succumb to that garbage, you may be popular with your peers, but you won’t be successful in any sort of meaningful or ultimate way. You have to counter the constant lies with truth and goodness.
“Plus,” I added, “great books not only educate and inform; they also inspire and motivate us toward worthy goals. They point us toward all that is good, excellent, noble and praiseworthy.” (I had just read Philippians chapter 4 a few days earlier.)
“Daaang,” he said, in his yet-unrefined 13-year-old vocabulary. “Fine. What should I read?”
She goes on from there to explain why she is going to take up the task of recommending books to Nolan, and why it’s important to do so in the current culture. If you’re a man, and you’re feeling undervalued in this society, you’ll be very encouraged by what she had to say. She started out by looking ahead to what Nolan could grow into. Then she talks about how men are being treated today in a society that doesn’t value them. She talks about the kind of man she’d like Nolan to be. She’s very optimistic about the difference that Christianity would make to Nolan’s character and effectiveness.
What would I recommend to Nolan?
Lately, one my female friends has been investigating where I get my character traits from. It turns out that lots comes from the Bible. I was just reading Ephesians 4 for my Bible study, and I noticed how in verse 28 it talks about making sure that you work in order to have something to share. I made that same point in the podcast that I did on BLM with Tim Stratton of Free Thinking Ministries. I got my view of education and career from Ephesians 4. Many of my character traits and views came from reading the Bible at the right time in my life. So I recommend that boys read the Bible, and put it into practice. Start with Phillipians.
My female friend also found out that a lot of my views go back to classical literature and classical movies. When I was young, I was very disappointed with my parents. They seemed to have no plan for me. They made demands, but just to get good grades and to make money. They didn’t have any character goals for me. And most importantly, they didn’t lift a finger from day to day to help me to achieve anything – success, character, wisdom, etc. So I had to parent myself. And I did that by reading classical books and watching classical movies. I listed a bunch of them in my About WK page. For example, I taught myself to look past a woman’s looks to her character by reading “Great Expectations” by Charles Dickens.
I was influenced by classical literature, military biography, military history, military strategy, and evidential apologetics. So, here are my recommendations for a 13-year-old boy would be: “The Hobbit”, “Rifleman Dodd”, “The Screwtape Letters”, “Mere Christianity”, “The Problem of Pain”, “A Man for All Seasons”. I also noticed that people love this new book “Great Battles for Boys: WW2 Europe” – there’s a whole series of them. I also like classic TV shoes like “The Rifleman”, “Gunsmoke” and “Rawhide”.
Laura’s series on conversations
This is not the first time I’ve linked to Laura’s blog. I also did here for her post about apologetics and here for her post about talking to Muslims and here where she introduced her new series on conversations. What I like about her is that she has a mature view of the Christian life that I really respect. When I read her writing, I can tell that she is not involved in Christianity to feel good or to be liked. Her approach to being persuasive relies on reason and evidence.