Conflict #5: Elsie's relatives are racist, classist, and sexist.
1. Racist--this is because of the slavery issue. Many people feel that Elsie Dinsmore should not be read because Finley doesn't address the issue of slaves. Elsie is always kind to them, and rescues many from a cruel whipping, but the fact remains: Elsie still has slaves. That's a choice each family must make; but while slavery was cruel and rightly abolished, many good Christian people didn't step outside of the system, but did their best to work under it. It is a denial of history to avoid books with slavery in them. Slavery existed. Christian people kept slaves. And as the goal of historical fiction is to represent history in a realistic and honest manner, slavery is a true representation of that period in history. Finley does not treat blacks as better than whites; nor is her dialect intended in any way to disparage them. We're entirely too paranoid about this; all people of different skin shades are one race: the human race; but we need to focus on the fact that we are made in the image of God, not try to keep from stepping on each other's toes. When we treat others with the love of Christ, we won't have to throw or receive accusations of the racist card.
Rich and poor have this in common: The LORD is the Maker of them all. ~Proverbs 22:2
The poor you will always have with you, but you will not always have me. ~ Matthew 26:11
God made some to be rich, and some to be poor. He gives one family more money than he gives others. Some he gives riches as a sign of His favor (Solomon) sometimes he asks people to give up their riches so he may bless them (the rich young ruler). Money in itself is not evil, nor are great amounts of riches. It is the love of money that we need to be wary of. I live in an area where medical technology is highly developed, and that is because we have two or three very rich families who are investing back into their communities. I am very grateful that God has given them these riches, and that they are blessing others with them. When we teach children that riches are wrong, they grow up with a sense of entitlement; they are entitled to having everyone at the same income level as they are. But God has never worked that way.
In a sexist, or authoritarianism, society, the men are cruel, stifling leaders superior to women. In an egalitarian society, women are equal to men, and can do anything a man does. There is no difference in their roles. In a complementarian society, men and women are both equal, with different roles. The Elsie series is complementarian. Men have the patriarchal role, and are the leaders of their families. Women have the matriarchal role, to come alongside and help their men. This series is a beautiful and refreshing representation of the right kind of male and female relationships, where the men are not belittled and the women are not physically or emotionally abused. God made man the head of the woman, and Elsie represents that, but its a good and safe thing that God has implemented, for the protection of women, not for their mistreatment.
Conflict #6: Elsie reads like an adult romance novel.
Elsie expresses a great deal of affection towards her father, sometimes in ways that seem very physically driven. Longings to have him touch her or kiss her, or put his arm around her can seem a little off-putting at first. To be quite honest, I never gave them a second thought, but depending on your family standards, and the various safety guards you have to put up for yourself, this may be an issue. Goodness knows how may proposals Elsie receives, and appropriate physical affection is a big part of these books, but there's a lot more of it than most family cultures are used to giving or receiving.
But I think most of you who read classic novels won't have a problem with it.
Conflict #7 Too much Christianity
Be not righteous over much; neither make thyself over wise: why shouldest thou destroy thyself?
It is possible to be so concerned about telling the truth that you can't get a complete sentence out of your mouth, for fear you will tell a lie. I've seen people do it, and I've done it myself. It's possible to be so paranoid about having different convictions than others that you can't minister to them, because you're afraid of losing your friendship. It's possible to hide your sins so much from people that they are discouraged, because they think you have a handle on your Christianity that no one else has. In other words, it is possible to be over-righteous. There is a type of righteousness that is unrighteous: the burdens that we place upon ourselves, forgetting that God never intended us to have them.
After all, no one really believes Elsie when she claims she is a very naughty girl. We raise our eyebrows and laugh, because if we were as good as Elsie we would be very happy indeed. But the question here is whether or not Elsie is too perfect. After all, there is the flip side of the coin. Sometimes we're resentful of genuine righteousness because it confronts our sin, and we don't want to repent.
Is Elsie too perfect? I think it's a mixture of the two. She is a beautiful example of the fruits of the spirit, and such an example is a good and worthy one to read about. But when Elsie makes up her own rules such as reading only Pilgrim's Progress on Sundays, then we tread on slightly less stable ground. It's not wrong to abstain from certain things on the Sabbath, but it is wise to remember that God doesn't forbid anything but Pilgrim's Progress in Scripture. In orthodoxy, Elsie is a good little girl, and worthy to be emulated; in orthopraxy, we don't have to feel guilty if we do things slightly differently than she does.
I think the resentment stems from the fact that we feel we have to imitate Christians around us if we want to be as good as they are. Elsie family doesn't read books with romance in them. Maybe we shouldn't either. The Dinsmore's don't eat candy, because they think it better honors their temples. Maybe we should too. But we have only one Messiah, Jesus Christ. He is the way to salvation, not the orthopraxy of Elsie. God may bring us to the same conviction regarding candy as the Dinsmores, but that conviction needs to come from Him, not from them.
We do not dare to classify or compare ourselves with some who commend themselves. When they measure themselves by themselves and compare themselves with themselves, they are not wise. ~ 2 Corinthians 10:12
As far as the lengthy Scripture quotations, I personally thought the sections of history text were a little tedious, but a story which includes Scripture in a winsome way is very good indeed. Most Victorian authors put in Scripture to scare righteousness into their young readers; but Martha Finley didn't use Scripture to make children obey out of fear.
Conflict # 8: Elsie Cries Too Much
That is all, friends and fellow bibliophiles, for today's look at the Elsie Dinsmore controversies. Next week we'll conclude with part four. If you have any questions or conflicts about this series that you would like to see addressed, please do send them in; I'd love to see them. :)