Friday, April 22, 2011

Carolyn Custis James: Stolen Identity and True Grit

Mrs. Frank James (oops, don't call her that, she uses that as an illustration!) uses women's stolen identity as a theme in her book, Half The Church as well as in blog posts.  I was getting irritated enough to write a response.  And then I realized that I already had:

James is consistently guilty of "identity theft" herself.  Being so fond of her ezer-warrior women who do extraordinary things, she finds them everywhere.  Even in places where they do not exist.  Her review of the film, True Grit, is a case in point.  After reading her take on the movie and having heard quite a bit about it, I went to see it for myself last year.  I walked out of the theatre wondering if we had even seen the same film.

When James holds up young Mattie Ross (the film's heroine) as an ezer she denies the character's identity.  Mattie Ross is a daughter, first and foremost.  And in the end, the goal of avenging her father's death is achieved not by any design or true grit she displays, but by happenstance.   Most importantly, just when she achieves her goal of avenging her father's death, her moment of victory is not savored.  There is no time.  You see, she has forgotten about the pit.  Even in the depth of the pit she thinks she can still rescue herself when, instead, she awakens the sleeping snakes.  She is bitten and it looks as if her moment of victory may turn into a moment of ultimate defeat.

 But she is rescued by Rooster Cogburn who carries her, at the last, in his strong arms.  The entire film is underscored in many ways, not by Mattie's grit but by a theme which you may not recognize until the end.  It is not the true grit of young Mattie Ross which underscores the story, it is the grace of God:

What a fellowship, what a joy divine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
What a blessedness, what a peace is mine,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

Leaning, leaning, safe and secure from all alarms;
Leaning, leaning, leaning on the everlasting arms.

Oh, how sweet to walk in this pilgrim way,
Leaning on the everlasting arms;
Oh, how bright the path grows from day to day,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

What have I to dread, what have I to fear,
Leaning on the everlasting arms?
I have blessed peace with my Lord so near,
Leaning on the everlasting arms.

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