Thu, April 29, 2004

Dickens from an Orthodox Perspective

In looking around for an article about women and orthodoxy (more on that in the future) I ran across Russian Pickwickians: Dickens from an Orthodox Vantage (PDF reader needed). Judging from the size of his Dickens collection, I suspect Dr. Bacchus will enjoy it. The article discusses reading Dickens to children, how Dickens presents salvation and Christian happiness, and finding real life people like Dickens characters.

As a father, I’ve been humbled and touched by the church’s prayers for protecting the holy innocence of children, so this quote particularly struck me:

You don’t often see the innocence of young souls, which is still apparent in many Russian girls (and boys). There is a depth of untainted purity here, particularly in the Orthodox.. Young people in the West can be shy and perhaps even modest, but this is completely different. It is so deep and striking when you first see it. You think to yourself, “There really are girls like that, straight out of Dickens.”

There is a lack of innocence “in the air” in the West that affects even young children. Television and an undiscerning adherence to popular standards simply destroy it. There are many sincere Christians who lead moral lives, but you don’t often see the deep unselfish purity of the Lizzie Hexams, the Agnes’s, the Sonia Marmeladovas. Dickens knew girls like that, which is why he wrote so successfully about them. The critics say they don’t exist because we don’t see them anymore.

I see it daily in church in Russia, but not so often in Europe or America. I’ve seen such pure-heartedness among the Amish in America, and, sometimes in young Ethiopian immigrants, rarely in Greece, but otherwise, only here.

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