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Conflict between the material and the spiritual?

cr_Marley's_Ghost_John_Leech.jpg

Marley's Ghost, dragging a chain of money boxes, confronts his old friend Scrooge. Illustration by John Leech, a member of the Punch Brotherhood, 1843.

Andrew Lambirth writes about John Leech, a friend of Dickens and an illustrator of his books, in this charming and inspiring Spectator essay. The material and spiritual worlds seem to be in conflict today - perhaps as great a conflict as they have ever been in. But neither Christianity nor Dickens support that conflict (nor do we) and consequently I was taken with this graph in Lambirth's piece:

Scrooge is the embodiment of accountability: his behaviour can alter society for better or for worse, and the book’s conclusion is so heartening because his personal redemption means the improvement of the condition of others. The material is not opposed to the spiritual in the book, only the wrong attitude to material things is shown to be harmful. When matter and spirit work together, the outcome is seen to be joyful. In part Dickens’s tale of a redeemed miser is effective because he himself understood so clearly the power of money, being a self-made man from an impoverished background.

The material is not opposed to the spiritual. . .only the wrong attitude to material things is shown to be harmful. When matter and spirit work together, the outcome is seen to be joyful.

That, I think, is profoundly right.

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