Dear sister Elspeth's earlier post on this got me to thinking, and now--having just read the book--I've finally got some thoughts to add. The term "Pollyanna" is used, regrettably, to describe someone whose optimism goes beyond all bounds into the territory of self-deception, much like listening to politicians talk about the results of their policies.
However, the book does not venture into such depths of self-deception, but rather presents Pollyanna as a little girl whose troubles are very real, to the point of tears, but who takes Romans 8:28 seriously. She knows that, even as an orphan in the house of an aunt that knows duty but not love, all things truly do work out for good for those who love Him. Should we not be like Pollyanna?
Pollyanna also wonders about many things, like how people can avoid a person they love for decades, and how the Ladies' Aid can care about boys in India, but not about little Jimmy Bean. She realizes--scathingly--that too much of the action in social and church clubs of the time is not about real charity, but rather about looking good.
It's worth noting here that part of the undercurrent is the transition between orthodox Christian theology--what today would be called "fundamentalism", "conservative evangelicalism", or possibly "conservative Lutheranism"--and the liberal theology that characterizes most mainline churches of today. So Rev. Ford is caught, more or less, in the tension between the statements of faith he learned as a child and the higher criticism he learned in seminary and in letters from his bishops.
The end result is a dying, loveless church, and the solution is Pollyanna's reminder to the pastor that Scripture calls us to gladness and rejoicing. It is a worthy reminder to the church of today, where all too often, we have our own standing that can interfere with what should be a Pollyanna-ish application of the Gospel.
Let's rejoice and be glad, for our Father's sake.
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