Monday, January 22, 2018

“Charles Dickens: Faith, Angels and the Poor” by Keith Hooper

One of the few areas of the life of Charles Dickens that’s been explored by most of his biographers is the writer’s faith. Some of the major biographies over the years barely mention it. It was generally known that he was no fan of the established church, but he did occasionally attend Anglican and even a few Baptist services. And he was interested in Unitarianism for a relatively short time.

In 2012, Gary Colledge of Moody Bible Institute published God and Charles Dickens, which made the case, and a good one, for the writer having a rather conventional Christian faith. And in 2017, Keith Hooper published an in-depth study of Dickens’s writings and his various causes to further support that case.

Hooper’s Charles Dickens: Faith, Angels and the Poor is an excellent study of the man, his life, and both his journalism and novels to draw out what the man believed about God, the church, and Christianity. Like Colledge, he makes his case for Dickens having a rather conventional case, even if he did not put much stock in the established church to represent that Christianity.

Hopper considers Dickens’s early life – his family, his upbringing, the constant uprooting created by his father’s work (or lack of it), and his education. He also reviews what opportunities Dickens had to attend church and receive religious instruction, and notes that his faith was more substantive than that of his parents’. He then discusses Dickens’s early writings – like Pickwick Papers, Oliver Twist, Nicholas Nickleby, The Old Curiosity Shop, and his journalism – and notes how keenly aware the author was of Victorian social conditions. Dickens had little use for how far too many churchmen considered the different social classes – as an order ordained by God – and because of it their acceptance of horrid conditions for the poor.

As Hooper points out, the Christian faith for Dickens was the faith as exercised in the service of needy, the poor, the orphaned, and the widowed. It was a faith, as narrated in books like Oliver Twist – that often depended upon “angels,” humans (usually women) who would often sacrifice much to help those in need. The later novels contained less of Dickens’s sense of social justice but it was still incorporated within them. Hooper also tackles one of the largest questions about Dickens – his treatment of his wife and his relationship with the actress Ellen Ternan, which did no justice to his faith.

Keith Hooper
Hooper received a Ph.D. from the University of Exeter for his work on Charles Dickens. He is a speaker. English tutor, writer and frequent lecturer on Victorian literature. He has also published a short story, the first in a related series of stories, entitled Mercerian Nights, Part 1: The Asymmetry of Existence (2016).

Charles Dickens: Faith, Angels and the Poor is an important addition to our understanding of the author, what he wrote, and what he believed.


Top Illustration: Oliver Twist being taught how to pick a pocket.

Sunday, January 21, 2018

The force may be with us

After Ephesians 1:20-23, 3:18-19

The force may be with us
or we think it is, a belief
not quite as powerful as
the reality, And so we ask
what that force is,
a strength, a power,
an authority, a dominion,
a title, a rule, all of that given
but not to us,
the vessels and agents,
not to us but to him.

Photograph by Iliya Raakhovskiy via Unsplash. Used with permission.

Saturday, January 20, 2018

Saturday Good Reads

Open Doors has an annual list of countries where Christians are the most persecuted. For 2018, the list includes some obvious places – Turkey, Iran, Afghanistan, North Korea, and others – and countries that were something of a surprise, like Mexico. There’s an explanation.

Usually, although not always, the “Life and Culture” section of these Good Reads includes something political. Today, it’s a bit different – Bryan Bliss at Image Journal on watching his son deal with defeat after defeat in wrestling. Aaron Earls at the Wardrobe Door, looks at why we prefer our heroes (and our villains) to be dead – they provide a clean slate. Kim Shay at Out of the Ordinary offers advice on what to do when you have an errant child. And Kristin Brown took the ancestry / DNA test with four different companies, and got four very different answers about her family history.

James Tate Hill at LitHub talks about audio books, and whether they count as reading. He discovers they do something different than traditional books.

It’s a 12-minute video, but a short film by Matan Rochlitz tells a moving story of an elderly Israeli woman who survived the Nazis.

British Stuff

Billy Graham, the Queen, and the Nazi King – Dwight Longenecker at the Imaginative Conservative.

Charles Hindley’s Cries of London – Spitalfields Life.



Do Audio Books Count as Reading? – James Tate Hill at LitHub.


Nathaniel Lee Hansen – D.S. Martin at Kingdom Poets.

Crazy Cat Lady – Jared Gilbert at Frivolous Quill.

Selfie – Tim Good at Photography by Tiwago.

Life and Culture

Wrestling – Bryan Bliss at Image Journal.

Dead Heroes Tell No Tales – Aaron Earls at The Wardrobe Door.

They are our children, after all – Kim Shay at Out of the Ordinary.

I have a message for you – Matan Rochlitz

Painting: A Woman Reading by a Window, oil on canvas by Vilhelm Hammershoi (1864-1916).