The commonality between the picture and the article is the marketing and changing of long-standing faith, in the American way. We should probably be glad that a Disney movie has not yet been made of the Bishop's life, though Disney, admittedly, has made some very enjoyable movies.
Mike S. Adams has been there. In his own words the author "was once one of those bright kids, lost for seventeen angry years because of professors who lured me into their reason-less angst. It almost killed me. But I survived." Eventually Mike emerged from his funk and these days he is a professor of criminology at the University of North Carolina at Wilmington, a nationally syndicated columnist and a highly successful author. The man who once counted himself an angry young "progressive" has undergone a metamorphosis and is now a happy conservative Christian. During his tenure as an educator Mike has seen firsthand the devastating consequences that unchallenged progressive ideas can have on impressionable young minds. As an exercise he decided to write a series of short and very personal letters to a student named Zach. Zach was sort of a composite of so many of the students that he had encountered along the way. Before long his idea morphed into a book. "Letters to a Young Progressive: How to Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting Things You Don't Understand" is a heartfelt appeal to these young people to consider a very different set of ideas. If you know a naïve young person who you believe is being led down the primrose path then offering him/her a copy of this book would be a great way to engage them and perhaps even help to instigate some serious discussion. It is certainly worth a shot! --"How to Avoid Wasting Your Life Protesting things You Don't Understand" sounds good. What does it mean? We remember young protesters on TV, when interviewed about their views were found out to actually have no views. Facts and figures and are said not to matter or inspire--so I have been told repeatedly by professional protesters. --It seems to me lately that a lot of good and bad stuff comes out of North Carolina. As a knowledgeable person told me once, it appears to be a "hotbed'. Or maybe he said, there were a lot of "hotheads" there. I forget. 2. Contrast this with Nelson Mandela, who died yesterday, whose tributes are playing on the radio, as I am typing. Nelson Mandela knew and understood what he was protesting. Mandela wasted twenty some years in prison, not able to protest, and these years were no waste, as it turned out. His lengthy incarceration became a symbol for the unreasonableness of the government and became a moral impossibility to defend. He also was a great rhetorician, giving important speeches that both soothed and raised courage and vision. (Martin Luther did the same thing when he came down from the castle to straighten out the mess in the town. He had the same skills of good brain, big heart and picturesque, memorable language, soothing and inspiring the common people. He also was a scholar and knew his stuff.) Every great leader and progressive must know the place of knowledge, of experience, of listening to the people, including the weak, and develop his skills of head, heart and language. If his "love" only means pure "passion" or energy or even just anger, or aggression, he does not have "love". More is needed. Mandela is greatly praised for his grace and inclusiveness, today. His care for the Aids victims and his efforts to include other races in South African society, as well as modernizing economic models of the reform movement. The truth and reconciliation commission and Archbishop Desmond Tutu also provided a deep, spiritual component of honesty and forgiveness. Today, people are speaking about how these principles need to be applied in our own countries and with our various mixed populations. No doubt, knowledge, and grace and wisdom are needed. Mandela embodied these. The radio keeps exploding in triumphant African song. -- But so much needs to be done, still. Africa has so far to go. There is so much poverty. So much war. So much poor health and societal disfunction. So many orphans. And, yet with all its remaining many difficulties, South Africa is a light. The samples of Mandela speeches we get today are shafts of reasonableness and true love of the people. Now, the opposing view is aired, on my radio. Nelson Mandela was on the US terrorist list until 2005. He endorsed armed struggle. He is not Desmond Tutu and he is not Martin Luther King. He is not the ever smiling Santa Claus we have been seeing on pictures and TV. But he was in politics and had to come up with a mixed program dealing with IMF, and so on. Interesting about the armed struggle. Martin Luther was also not a pacifist, per se. Not that the church was to take up the struggle using arms, (it was a Reformation point, that the church cease doing such things), but the right organization was to fulfill its duties in defending justice in active and even violent means, if necessary. The right organization would never be the church nor involve vigilante action. Insurrection was not to be carried on in the name of the gospel, or for the sake of the gospel. ( Luther himself would always fight with the pen and mouth only. But the legitimate government would play this role of enforcing just rule of law and defense of the country and citizenry. The question of something unjust like an Apartheid government had not really come up. In Medieval society it was the Jews who lived segregated and disenfranchised, however, they also insisted on living together as they needed their own butcher, their own schools, their own language, their own bathing places by the springs, etc.. Not that this justifies what went on.) How to struggle against an unjust government is always an excruciating question. Government must be available and able to enforce the rule of law and defense. We have seen armed struggle and unarmed struggle. Bonhoeffer first studied Ghandi and wanted unarmed struggle, but after a terrific soul-searching got involved with a bomb plot to kill Hitler. How do you get rid of such an evil dictator? How many millions were lost to rid the world of him. The history of mankind seems to be nothing but war. Bonhoeffer, too, was hung, as were scores of dissidents of all ages and stripes. Young Scholl was guillotined.
Recently I read C.S.Lewis' "The Four Loves". There are some really marvelous insights and passages in the treatise. I will begin reviewing it but doing some quoting.
In discussing "Affection" he deals with some potential problems with the emotion. Affection turned into "god" will turn sour on us.
"But secondly, the comment in its own language admits the very thing I am trying to say. Affection produces happiness if--and only if--there is common sense and give and take and 'decency'. In other words, only if something more, and other, than Affection is added. The mere feeling is not enough. You need 'common sense', that is, reason. You need 'give and take'; that is, you need justice, continually stimulating mere Affection when it fades and restraining it when it forgets or would defy the art of love. You need 'decency'. There is no disguising the fact that this means goodness; patience, self-denial, humility, and the continual intervention of a far higher sort of love than Affection, in itself, can ever be. That is the whole point. If we try to live by Affection alone, affection will 'go bad on us'.
How bad, I believe we seldom recognize. Can Mrs fidget really have been quite unaware of the countless frustrations and miseries she inflicted on her family? It passes belief. she knew--of course she knew--that it spoiled your whole evening to know that when you came home you would find her uselessly, accusingly, 'sitting up for you'. She continued all these practices because if she had dropped them she would have been faced with the fact that she was determined not to see; would have known that she was not necessary. That is the first motive. then too, the very laboriousness of her life silenced her secret doubts as to the quality of her love. the more her feet burned and her back ached, the better, for this pain whispered in her ear 'How much I must love them if I do all this!' that is the second motive. but I think there is a lower depth. the unappreciativeness of the others, those terrible, wounding words--anything will 'wound' a Mrs. Fidget--in which they begged her to send the washing out, enabled her to feel ill-used, therefore, to have a continual grievance, to enjoy the pleasures of resentment. If anyone says he does not know those pleasures, he is a liar or a saint. it is true that they are pleasures only to those who hate. But then a love like Mrs fidget's contains a good deal of hatred. It was of erotic love that the Roman poet said, 'I love and hate,' but other kinds of love admit the same mixture. They carry in them the seeds of hatred. If Affection is made the absolute sovereign of a human life the seeds will germinate. Love, having become a god, becomes a demon." (p. 67,68, Harper Collins)
I have had many blessedly warm relationships in my life, but I have experienced one that is like this Affection gone self-centered and complaining. This person recently said: "All the things I have accomplished I have done for the love of my children." True enough, perhaps. But now, no one is good enough. I am tempted toward this also, in getting older, perhaps uglier, perhaps more useless, perhaps ignored, perhaps more easily injured... too much time to think, the devil's workshop. But this time can also be used differently. We need to look up and out. Do whatever useful things and enjoyable things we can find to do, and not expect "Affection" in return. Just do them and leave the rest to God.
Now that Breaking Bad is over, I have to watch other shows. Last I tried a Woody Allen biography, on Netflix. The first hour was fairly interesting, detailing early life, Brooklyn before car traffic, the cinemas, the first marriage... but it sort of drooped off after that with the analysis of every show he made and the virtues of every star involved. But this struck me: when he was five years old, he realized that everyone has to die. This realization put a damper on everything for him at the time, or maybe always. -- What is any pleasure? -- You are going to die. -- How can you enjoy anything? -- You are going to die.
It makes me wonder when in life I first felt similarly severely chastened by a fact or a thought. I am sure that I was older than five when first something seemed extremely poignant to me. I think it was when my cat died, speaking of death. Maybe this connects. She had eaten some rat poison in the neighbors yard and was bleeding, dying ever so slowly. My father soon dispatched her, in the basement, saving us all the misery. But what I could not forget was that even though the cat was suffering, she would still purr when we stroked her. She could lay dying and still purr. It seemed astounding to me.
We loved the cat, and it was also, in her feline way, attached to us. My hand was still an instrument of comfort and petting. All my life I have wanted grace in suffering. As in the Paul Gerhardt songs, we submit to God's leading and gracious will. We will not curse God, like Job's wife suggested to him. Though he slay me, I will trust him. This is a gift. I will not be able to do it on my own. I have always wanted a "good" death, as they say.
When our son died, my husband said: this is the kind of day we have been going to church for all this time. Someone said that this was about the best reply to tragedy that they have ever heard. Indeed, it was a good reply. We can enjoy life and still be ready to die, Woody.
One was very rational laying out the SLED acronym. The fetus is fully human. It only differs from the rest of humanity in "S", size, "L", Level of Development, "E", environment, and "D", dependency. -- If you would not kill just any toddler, you can't just kill any pre-born.
The unborn is your neighbor whom you must defend.
The other man told his own story of abortion. And of another death, that put him into court for three years. He told me of this only afterward, when we talked in the hallway. He sounded like a very good pastor. I was very glad to meet him.
I am a little weepy after all that. Our losses have us so much in their grip. Death lays his icy hand on our lives and crushes our little hearts under his power. And the guilt, the resignation, the depression, the denial, the unexpected shocks and flashbacks, the hollowness, they all gnaw relentlessly at our courage and hope.
He is a pastor and a pastor's pastor, initiating various programs. But he is not a Lutheran. I told him about the age-old practice of confession and absolution, about rejoicing continually in your baptism. He said that men don't share. I said, why not? Because, they just don't. I said, why not. I said Christian men confess their sins to one another. They have father confessors. They make a practice of it. We are not superchristians. The love of God makes me positively giddy. Satan can have all his crap and keep it.
The last several years have represented a complete collapse of my old world. That is how it seemed and felt. The world of the last thirty years or so. The world of new marriage and family, of business, management, staffing, music lessons, living in the country, being with young folk, having everyone drive out to get their teeth fixed and then coming over for coffee or dinner. It all stopped at once. And Stefan died. All of it at once. And the dog died, too. I wasn't going to mention that. There were not many who walked with me through this valley of the shadow of death. Not many, AT ALL.
New things start.
New people enter your life, as you branch out again.
You try yourself at different things.
A slow spring. A slow resurrection.
Stops and starts, like an endless April.
Not everything works.
Somethings don't work at all, anymore.
I was thinking about how in the new situations, it turned out that it was Christian people who provided the encouragement, the respect, the care, the basic human decency and respect I needed. But not only. There are others. Christians have a better sense of community than many others. There is a desire to include where often you meet only exclusion. There were also some very bad people. And some who like to confuse, and I don't know if they are good or bad. They do it on purpose.
They think it is a useful game. -- It does not feel like it to me. Intellectually, it could be rationalized, maybe, but emotionally, I can't rationalize it. It is supposed to be humanistic but it does not seem human or humane.
When I think back over my life and decide which have been the most wonderful people to be with, I have to say, hands-down, it was the fellow peer-counselors at the Pregnancy Crisis Center. They stand out for listening, for praying, for holding your hand and being Christ to you. They heard serious stories and they gave serious ear and they prayed with you about your concerns--here and now, and out loud. They shed serious tears with those who were despairing. They shared the word and they offered help. They have been my favorite people, ever.
I've lately met people who claim such universal love for mankind that they hate all religions, even though people are all religious one way or another.
On the other hand, logic only does so much good.
Since in the Holy Scriptures Christ is called a mystery upon which all heretics dash their heads, we admonish all Christians not to arrogantly indulge their reason in crafty investigations about such mysteries. With the beloved apostles, they should simply believe. They should close the eyes of their reason and bring their understanding into captivity to the obedience of Christ, and rejoice without ceasing in the fact that our flesh and blood is placed so high at the right hand of God's majesty and almighty power. In this way we will certainly find constant consolation in every difficulty and remain well guarded against deadly error.
I have absolutely no idea why such stuff interest me. Or irks me. (What is the difference?) I should focus on important writers not these who have themselves lost in the maze.
2. On the coffee table still sits the William Zinsser "On Writing Well. The classic guide to writing non-fiction". It is very enjoyable and I love the examples he provides. They illustrate his points and also some of the non-fiction of life. Hopefully, it has ever so slightly improved the writing on this blog. I have attempted to cut out superfluous and extraneous words and thoughts.
But I am only on page 195. Here I want to quote him because he makes the same point that Chesterton made a few posts back: a critic should be someone who loves the subject matter. It also connects to the last post: someone who hates everything and denounces everything quickly becomes a bore.
"Yet I suggest several conditions that apply to both good reviewing and good criticism. One is that critics should like--or better still, love--the medium they are reviewing. If you think movies are dumb, don't write about them. The reader deserves a movie buff who will bring along a reservoir of knowledge, passion and prejudice. It's not necessary for the critic to like every film; criticism is only one person's opinion. But he should go to every movie wanting to like it. If he is more often disappointed than pleased, it's because the film has failed to live up to its best possibilities. This is far different from the critic who prides himself on hating everything. He becomes tiresome faster than you can say 'Kafkaesque.' "
"The modern man in revolt has become practically useless for all purposes of revolt. By rebelling against everything he has lost his right to rebel against anything.” - G.K. Chesterton
Rebelling. I have something of a rebel in me. We all do. It's good and it's bad. Let that be the given. What is useful rebelling? When you speak up for those who can't speak and are being victimized. When someone tramples on your own human rights. When someone should be and could be doing better. All of it implies some sort of standard, that we know what is right and wrong and what is better. Then there is the rebelling against doing yourself what you know you ought to do, or do better. This is not good rebelling or a not knowing a standard. But are there any who don't have a standard written in their hearts? The "natural law". We are so constituted that we adulterate it for our own benefit and justification. Somewhere in our hearts we generally know that we are doing this -- and we rebel against this knowledge, the best we can. Sometimes is is not easy to do. We end up talking it over with friends, who confirm us in our wrong understanding. Or we end up talking with friends who tell us the truth. -- What about this picture: what about rebelling for the sake of rebelling? And what did Chesterton mean? I know about Chesterton. There were Communists, Eugenists, Fabian Society... everyone trying to break down the fabric of existing society, of marriage as the bedrock, or the church as a meaningful, living community with standards of faith and practice. We see, now, where their rebellions have led. We can't get around the standards. There is only useful rebellion with standards, with law, with a law to keep. And there is only a useless rebellion with our not caring to keep this law. (The Law: Friend or Enemy?) Here is some useful protesting. Indians living in England are protesting the fact that even in Great Britain the caste system persists and discrimination based on being "untouchables" pursues them, in a society which is basically more fair and just than Hindu society. I am glad someone is saying something about that. The fact that millions of people are subjugated based simply on the caste system, is something we are too silent about. http://www.cbc.ca/news/world/british-indians-seek-legal-protection-from-caste-system-1.2224275
MARTIN LUTHER ON PSALM 6:5 (from The Seven Penitential Psalms)
5. "For in death there is no remembrance of Thee." That is, the dead do not praise Thee and do not extol Thy mercy; only the living do this, as we read in Ps. 115:17–18:5 “The dead do not praise the Lord, nor do any that go down into silence; but we will bless the Lord from this time forth and forevermore.” Therefore here the psalmist speaks not only of temporal death but also of spiritual death, when the soul is dead. For sin is the death of the soul, and pain is its hell. Both are felt by one who lies in this distress, namely, in sin and in punishment for sin. Therefore he says: “Do not let me remain in death and hell; but according to Thy mercy graciously raise me up, deliver me from hell, and console me.” Thus this verse makes us understand that this tribulation is a door and entrance into eternal sin and punishment, that is, into death and hell, as King Hezekiah says: “I have said in great terror: I must enter the gates of hell in the midst of my days, that is, when I thought I was in the best years of my life” (Is. 38:10).
"In hell who will give Thee thanks?" Therefore I have said, “for Thy mercy’s sake!” Hell, where Thy mercy does not dwell, does not praise Thee; it really desecrates and blasphemes Thy justice and truth. This is by far the noblest thought which the saints have in their crosses and by which they are also sustained. Otherwise they are in every way like the damned, as we read later in the last of these psalms: “Hide not Thy face from me, lest I be like those who go down to the pit” (Ps. 143:7). The difference is this, that the saints retain a good will toward God, and that they are more concerned about losing God’s gracious will, praise, and honor than about being damned. For he does not say: “In hell there is no joy and pleasure” but rather: “There is no praise and honor.” Therefore here he inserts the thought that God is well disposed toward no one in hell, and if he goes to hell, he, like the condemned, would be in God’s disfavor. This would be more unwelcome and painful to him than the pain itself. Therefore we read in the Song of Solomon that the love of God is as strong as death and as firm as hell, because it remains even in deathly and hellish pain (8:6). Thus God says through Isaiah: “I will bridle you with My love, that you do not perish” (48:9). That is: “I will grant you a sincerely favorable disposition toward Me in the midst of your suffering, and this will restrain you and keep you. Without this all others perish in their trials.” Again, in Ps. 18:3: “I call upon the Lord, who is worthy to be praised, and I am saved from my enemies.” We must overcome afflictions, death, and hell. However, they will not be overcome by running away or by impatience, but with favor, good will, and love continuing toward God in their presence. These are sharp words for the old Adam, especially if he is still fresh and green; but that does not matter.
Luther's Works, AE, vol. 14, Selected Psalms III, p. 144. Copyright 1958 by Concordia Publishing House. I have always found it so, that in my afflictions my fervor and love of God have grown. This is how one is "bridled with his love". Sing a Paul Gerhardt song and keep going.
I've been busy... and can't even seem to get any reading done. This is the book I'm trying to work on:
(See also Concordia Publishing House.)
It hasn't grabbed me overly much, yet, as far as I've got; I feel, here and there, that things have been brought in that don't completely pertain or are analogous. At some point, maybe, we'll quote a bit.
Mostly, I've been living off the "Words of Jesus" app on my cell-phone. It is a change to not stuff your mind with a lot of reading and just go with Jesus' words plain and simple. A little can go so far.
Today, there was a quote from the Gospel of John, where Jesus says that the Helper will come and help them remember all the things that he said.
First I thought, hm, the skeptics will say that: yes, yes, of course, John's is the last gospel and this is how he claims that what he writes is true. The Holy Spirit told him.
But in real life this happens. We remember the right thing at the right time. It seems to come out of nowhere. Or we had a relationship with someone, a relationship that had its ups and downs, but afterward you can only remember the nuggets. All the dross has been washed away, but that what is pure gold remains and it is lodged somewhere in you, living, growing, giving without loss, shining more brightly with time, becoming more valuable all the time. This is how the Holy Spirit works. He is there. He is alive. He comforts and he brings things to mind. Just so, Jesus words are never lost. They remembered them, they talked about them, the preached about them, they wrote them down.
As they said with astonishment, he does not teach like their scribes but as one who has authority. Who can forget?--Unforgettable.