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Issue 11-4

We See What We Want to See

In his book Shakespeare’s Religious Background, Peter Milward takes 12 chapters (and one introduction) to propose with much scholarly evidence that Will Shakespeare was profoundly religious—just the words that make up the body of his dramatic work are evidence aplenty. What is amazing about this proposition is how few Shakespeare scholars have come to the same conclusion!

In addition to the axiom proposed in the last Soulish Food, “You Find What You Look For,” we need to add its sister truth, “We See What We Want to See.” This again is potentially one of the blind spots that leads people to live in some kind of lie or to live out inner schitoma that subtly twists life-view—a scary reality if we begin to face our own inner lies.

The CBS news broadcast 60 Minutes recently reported on a case of clinical research fraud in the segment “Deception at Duke.” Their lead question to tease the viewer was, “Were some cancer patients at Duke University given experimental treatments based on fabricated data?” The conclusion reached through this investigative reporting was that, indeed, more than a hundred desperately ill people invested their last hopes in Duke’s innovation—a supposed cure that purported to discover how to match a patient’s unique DNA pattern (causing unique tumor growth) to the best chemotherapy drug.

Termed by some to be the Holy Grail of cancer research, the results of this supposed breakthrough treatment were published in the most prestigious of medical journals. However, under the scrutiny of other scientists, the work of Dr. Anil Potti was not just a failure—it may end up being one of the biggest medical-research frauds ever.

Under grueling but polite 60 Minutes questioning, Dr. Rob Califf, Duke’s vice chancellor of clinical research and mentor to Dr. Potti, examined why he had not discovered the possible fraud sooner and put a stop to the research process before it became a hugely embarrassing fiasco for the University as well as a tragic path for those cancer patients who entered the trial treatments with the understanding that this was a therapy that promised to change the face of medicine.

In so many words, Dr. Rob Califf explained just why this intervention had not happened, but I, a lowly, non-scientific television viewer, wanted to shout, “It’s because you all saw what you wanted to see!” Scientific controls are established to prevent this sort of fiasco, but the human element being what it is, wanting the fame of breakthrough discovery, wanting the certainty of a waiting Nobel Prize, wanting to discover the “Holy Grail” for cancer cure, just did not allow the primary players the objectivity about the evidence that more hard-nosed scientific investigators did see.

So it is with literary scholars—they often overlook the most obvious evidence. How could Shakespeare, the literary genius of the centuries, possibly be essentially, primarily Christian in his worldview? Not acceptable. Not intellectual. Not the ordinary path of genius. HAH!

David and I watched the growing notoriety of Tim Tebow, the quarterback of the Denver Broncos, who has been so outspoken about his faith in Christ. (Thank God the season has ended, giving this remarkable young man a chance to recover from the glaring spotlight of the broadcast and social media. We pray for him that his faith may be continually strengthened.) So much of the negative reporting on his lack of athletic ability, or about his inadequate quarterbacking capabilities, was based in the bias of unbelief on the part of the sports commentators (i.e., no guy who kneeled on the field—“Tebowing” as it became known around the world—could be a decent athlete, or at least decent enough to lead a football team into the playoff season). We humans see what we want to see; proof in point.

(By the way: A wonderful essay on this whole phenomenon titled “When Tim Tebow loses, does God, too?” was written in USA TODAY by Tom Krattenmaker in the January 16, 2012 issue; a voice of theological and rational reason in this see-what-we-want-to-see world!)

Peter Milward, chapter by chapter, quote by quote, character by character, play by play, builds his premise that Shakespeare was a man of faith. This scholar highlights the Scripture the playwright either quotes or paraphrases. He discovers the current theological writings and issues of the time that the Bard references. “We also find that he (Shakespeare) observes an inner consistency both within his plays as a whole and with the theological tradition of Christianity—parallel to that which we have noticed in his moral viewpoint. This consistency is not necessarily the outcome of original thought or profound speculation. Rather, it may be seen as the expression of a deep personal faith, enriched by the theological inheritance of the Middle Ages, and stimulated by the continuing concern of medieval theologians and Renaissance thinkers for a synthesis between reason and revelation, between the Book of Nature and the Book of Scripture.”

Then Milward takes the whole last chapter of his book to confirm this premise. It is titled "Theology."

I personally consider it a tragedy in ignorance that so few evangelical Christians have any knowledge of Shakespeare or of his profoundly religious worldview. It used to be that every home (even non-practicing Christian homes) had at least three volumes on their shelves—a Bible, a hymnal, and Shakespeare’s complete works. And the times—well, they do change. Now we have multitude of Bibles—most of which we never read. Hymns, once carefully sung for their theological content, particularly the Psalms, have been replaced by praise and worship songs, which often lean into a more experiential expression of faith. And the Compiled Works of Shakespeare—well, many major Ivy League colleges no longer offer the Bard in their class syllabi.

This lack, and the loss of the elevating tone of beautiful words, is certainly part of the whole degeneration of language that our culture is propagating. “F…” this and “f…” that. On and on and on. Gruesome! Hellish! Degrading!

        The gods are deaf to hot and peevish vows;
        They are polluted offerings, more abhorr’d
        Than spotted livers in the sacrifice.
                —Cassandra, Troilus and Cressida

Then this uttered by Antony in Julius Caesar:

        When we in our viciousness grow hard,--
        O misery on’t!—the wise gods seel our eyes;
        In our own filth drop our clear judgments; make us
        Adore our errors; laugh at’s while we strut
        To our confusion. (III.xiii)

Karen Mains’ paraphrase: We see what we want to see.

David and I invite you to accompany us to the Shakespeare Festival in Stratford, Canada (about a 9-hour drive from Chicago). We have made this trip up (and back, yes!) for the last 38 years. It is the finest repertory theatre company in North America, with a mix of Broadway musicals, grand-staged and small-staged theatre offerings, a chance to dialog with the actors, feed the swans on the River Avon, attend four operating theatres, participate in planned breakfast-table discussions, and enjoy the privilege of listening to the rich language, not to mention an unremittingly brilliant view of the world that is decidedly Christian (according to both scholar Peter Milward and common everyday folk like David and Karen Mains). Follow this link to the brochure on the Stratford Festival, dates and costs and how to register.

“I commend my soul into the hands of God my Creator, hoping and assuredly believing through the only merits of Jesus Christ my Saviour to be made partaker of life everlasting, and my body to the earth whereof it is made.”
            ―from the will of Shakespeare to which his signature is attached

Karen Mains


A Little Help With Some Travel Funds Please!

David and I and Carla Boelkens are planning to take another Global Bag Project working trip to Africa from April 21–28. The Mainses’ travel will be covered by Medical Ambassadors International since we will be filming a special project for them the week-and-a-half before the Global Bag Project leg of the trip. However, we need monies to cover Carla’s airfare (about $1800) plus land expenses for the three of us for the 7-10 days we will be working with our Kenyan Director Mary Ogalo, and the women who sew the bags. We are developing new bag products, making visits to the tourism industry, finalizing plans for the voluntourism trip in October, and scouring the resale markets of Nairobi for cheap clothes the women can transform into renovated items to sell. (These markets are the dumping-grounds for products that do not sell in secondhand shops in the States and in Europe!)

    Gifts totaling $1000 will help us enormously toward making our goal.
    Checks can be made out to Global Bag Project and mailed to Box 30,
    Wheaton, IL 60187.

Women's Cycle of Life Introductory Training

During Karen’s work as a Director on the Board for Medical Ambassadors International (“Healing the World Christ’s Way”), she has become a champion for one of their programs, which educates women around the world about the essentials related to women’s health.

As former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan said, “It is impossible to realize our goals while discriminating against half the human race. As study after study has taught us, there is no tool for development more effective than the empowerment of women.”

The teaching methodology used in Women’s Cycle of Life is learner-centered (as opposed to teacher-centered), participatory (in that it pushes back the learning responsibility on the student), and the goal is to train women students to train other women. In Ethiopia, some 40 women were trained over a five-day period, and within three months they had trained over 1680 women.

Seamlessly integrated with Scripture, this methodology results not only in healthier women (and their families) but results naturally in conversions and church-planting or church-building.

If you are involved in missions, or interested in public health training of any kind in the States, or if you just want to be involved in an educational program that is helping women help themselves worldwide, Karen Mains will be holding two introductory two-hour Women’s Cycle of Life events on March 3, one at 10:00 a.m. (at which we will serve outrageously delicious muffins) and one at 2:00 p.m. (at which we will serve more outrageously delicious muffins). If you are interested, please contact Karen at for an address and to give us a head count (we only have room for 8-10 participants at each session).

Two more introductory Women’s Cycle of Life sessions will be held April 1 (same muffins!).

Karen's Blogs for This Week

Link is Titles for this week are: “Three Journals Hidden Away,” “When the Chef Cuts His Finger,” “It Really Is He,” “Picking Up the Threads of a Writer’s Life,” and “Between the Onion and the Parsley.”


The Soulish Food e-mails are being posted biweekly on the Hungry Souls Web site. Newcomers can look that over and decide if they want to register on the Web site to receive the biweekly newsletter. You might want to recommend this to friends also. They can go to

Karen Mains

Karen Mains

“I personally consider it a tragedy in ignorance that so few evangelical Christians have any knowledge of Shakespeare or of his profoundly religious worldview.”

William Shakespeare

by William Shakespeare

Shakespeare’s wrote a total of 154 sonnets, dealing with themes such as the passage of time, love, beauty and mortality. They were first formally published in 1609 by publisher Thomas Thorpe, in a book titled SHAKE-SPEARES SONNETS: Never before imprinted. Around that time, however, the sonnet form was not in vogue as it had been, and for some 200 years there was little interest in Shakespeare’s sonnets. This changed in the Romanticism era of the 19th century, however, and his sonnets have remained famous ever since.

Go ahead. Read that old copy lying around somewhere. Read one a day (one a week, or one a month). Read them slowly. Try to understand what they are saying.

Copyright 2006-2012 Mainstay Ministries. All rights reserved.

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