All posts by Phil W

Yoduk Story, A Musical from North Korea

If Les Miserables, the book or musical, described the circumstances of modern people somewhere in the world, how would you respond? A defector from North Korea has done just that with a musical called, Yoduk Story. The producers says, “For two and a half hours, this epic based on true eyewitness testimonies depicts the horrors and desperate love still occurring inside Yoduk Political Prisoners Camp, the living hell on earth.”

Meditation on the News from a Pennsylvania Schoolhouse

With the ugly news coming from a Lancaster County, Pennsylvania, schoolhouse, people tend to throw out reserved phrases to describe their view of God’s role in the killing of several little girls and a milkman.

1. The sanctimonious person who believes he knows the mind of God, especially in judgment cases, will say God has reserved a special place in hell for milkman turned gunman who apparently wanted to do something sexual to the school girls before or after shooting them. This person probably speaks with the same motivation John and James spoke when they asked Jesus if he wanted them to call down fire from heaven on the Samaritans who refused them hospitality (Luke 9). What the sanctimonious fail to see is the Lord’s incomprehensible mercy. He forgives evil men on his own terms, which has nothing to do the acts of the men forgiven. In God’s bizarre mercy on mankind, he has saved many evil men from eternal judgment and reserved that special place in hell for relatively decent people because no one can recommend himself to the Lord. The Lord gives his mercy to whomever he wishes.

I admit there is comfort in knowing an murderer will be judged perfectly according to his deeds, but the sanctimonious person sees only his own justice, not his own position under God. If the romantic rouge of Shelly’s poetry right, believing he has sinned too much to receive any eternal mercy, then we are all in trouble. God’s mercy must extend even to horrible criminals like the milkman. And the sanctimonious among us forget just how close to the milkman they are. They give themselves a pass.

2. The sentimental person will say that God wanted those little girls in heaven with him. They were such sweet flowers he had to have them close to him. Somehow that twisted idea is meant to fill the grieving with warmth. If God really thinks this way, he should create his own flowers and give the daughters of Eve long lives of faith and hope.

But the Lord does number our days, and he gives us all only a few of them to trust him before bringing us home or resigning us to exist in isolation forever. Life is a vapor during which he gives all joy and all heartache for drawing us to himself, the source of indescribable peace and genuine strength.

3. That may not comfort the one who readily, understandably, will ask where God was during the murder Monday morning. How could he allow this to happen? I know that some Christians will suggest God isn’t behind this because he does not do evil things. The devil does things like this, so it’s his fault, not God’s. That’s a sorry answer, in my opinion. If God didn’t do it, he could have stopped it, and we return to the original question. Where was the God Almighty, capable of saving the murderer from himself before he executed innocent children?

Right in the middle of it.

In G.K. Chesterton’s The Man Who Was Thursday, an anarchist charges God with judgmental isolationism, sitting on his ivory pillar to condemn the world by his whim and avoid getting his hands dirty. The anarchist says God knows nothing of the daily pain of life or the suffering of his creation. God replies by quoting Jesus. “Are you able to drink the cup that I am to drink?”

Unlike any other god of the world’s religions, the Lord has suffered greatly on our behalf. He entered the world we broke, the one we ruined through our selfishness, and suffered at our hands in order to give us eternal mercy and lasting peace. When the innocent suffer, the Lord suffers with them.

4. Why would God suffer like a weakling instead of stopping the murderer? Why did the milkman see a vision and repent or drop dead on his way to the school? Who cares if he suffered with the children; he should have saved them from it? Why didn’t he?

For the person who feels desperate pain asking these questions, don’t worry that God will be offended. He can handle any question you have. He will not reject you for asking hard questions or speaking from your pain. The problem for us, speaking in human terms, is that God rarely answers these questions specifically. I’m sorry. It seems the Lord responds to these situations almost always by urging you to seek him for comfort and strength.

But since we are removed from the intimate pain in Lancaster County, we can talk about these questions a bit more openly. Why didn’t the Lord do something? There’s an ocean full of evil in the world. At what point do you want the Lord to step in and stop it? Just before it gets too ugly for your taste?

When we ask where God is when horrible things happen, we fail to see that the horrible things occur within a large context. It’s easy for you and me to talk about evil in the world at large and charge God with the task of doing something about it, but if he answered us by meddling with the seeds of evil in our lives, we would complain, wouldn’t we? This milkman didn’t wake up in the bed of evil and act on new impulses. He acted on the wickedness he nurtured within his heart for years. When do you think the Lord should have stepped in and arrested him?

The person who prefers to trust himself rather than the Lord has difficulty understanding that the Lord stepped in to arrest death and evil and bring eternal life when he was born in Bethlehem as an infant. He lived in his creation, taught, suffered greatly, died, and rose from the grave in order to save milkmen, congressmen, and angry students from the evil within them. That’s when mankind was offered peace and good will, but we reject it because we’re more comfortable living with ourselves than with our creator. Why he doesn’t force it on us for our own good I have no idea.

Reuters Uses the Word “Terrorist”

An interesting language point from Opinion Journal:

[In a Reuters story]:

An Iranian woman now living in a homeless shelter in Manhattan, was once a leader in a terrorist group based in Iraq trying to overthrow the Tehran government, federal authorities said in court documents on Monday.

A what group? Isn’t one man’s terrorist another’s freedom fighter? Where are the scare quotes?

Oh wait, she was trying to overthrow the Iranian government, not just wantonly murdering civilians. That’s very different.

Bravo, Mr. Taranto.

If English Is Good Enough for Me . . .

Forgive me for not blogging on this last week. In the Nashville, Tennessee area, some residents don’t want non-English books in their library. “At a meeting of the Marshall County Memorial Library board, an eighth grade social studies teacher said if one penny has been spent on Spanish language books, it’s too much,” reports WKRN-TV. Since this little flair up, the library has received many offers for funding.

This reminds me of a complaint the six-year-old Calvin had about studying foreign languages in school. If I remember correctly, he said, “If English is good enough for me, it’s good enough for the rest of the world!”

13th Tale: A Deeply Moving Novel

Frank Wilson has a glowing review of Diane Setterfield’s The Thirteenth Tale, which is #5 on USA Today’s best-selling list though I didn’t see it on the American Booksellers Association list. Mr. Wilson writes, “One thing is certain: Those who buy and read this complex, compelling and, in the end, deeply moving novel are unlikely to feel they’ve been shortchanged.”

The publisher praises independent booksellers for The Thirteenth Tale‘s success, saying it reminds readers “of the kinds of books, such as Jane Eyre, that they read as a child.”

Congratulations to Anne, the PalmTree Pundit

Congratulations for Anne, the PalmTree Pundit, for winning our second blog contest. Her winning post begins: “This summer I had grand plans to get way ahead of my children in reading for Omnibus I, our literature, theology, and history curriculum. I even took part in a summer reading challenge, envisioning myself day after day on the beach, reading the Great Books plus some breezier writing, and recovering from homeschool burnout. As usual, my plans weren’t God’s plans. Yes, I did read many books, but most of them weren’t on my reading list.”

That bit about the beach comes from the fact that she lives in a coastal state. Hawaii is a coastal state, isn’t it?

Thank you for everyone who participated.

German Opera Cancelled Due to Outrage Forecast

Roger Kimball explains:

About the only thing less pleasing than having to sit through Hans Neuenfels’s production of Mozart’s 1781 opera “Idomeneo” is the news that Berlin’s Deutsche Oper, citing an “incalculable” security risk from enraged Muslims, has decided to cancel its scheduled showing of the piece.

. . .

Mr. Neuenfels’s version is Modern German–i.e., gratuitously offensive. It is more Neuenfels than Mozart. Instead of appearing as the harbinger of peace, Idomeneo ends the opera parading the severed heads of Poseidon, Jesus, Buddha and the Prophet Muhammad. How do you spell “anachronistic balderdash”?

. . .

There is a certain irony in all this. Our avant-gardist artistic establishment preens itself on being “transgressive,” “challenging,” “provocative,” etc. But it prefers to exercise its anti-bourgeois animus within the coddled purlieus of bourgeois security. It has discovered that there is a big difference between exhibiting photographs of Christ on the cross in a bottle of urine or Madonna having herself “crucified” on her current concert tour and poking fun at Muhammad.

Read the whole thing. You may want to open a dictionary in another window.

The solution here, of course, is a renewal of the art world so that productions like this will never leave the producers’ minds. Nothing is above criticism, but can we return to life, beauty, and community in our artwork? Can we leave behind the tired idea that artists’ must always challenge what they preceive to be the ideas held in the public mind?

Kathleen Antrim Investigates Senator George Allen

Columnist Kathleen Antrim is coming forward with information in her yet-to-be-released book on Virginia Senator George Allen, currently titled, Actions Speak Louder than Words. Her publicist, Kristen Schremp of KAS Publicity, reports Antrim has had “unlimited access to the Senator, his wife, children, family, close friends, staff and colleagues for the past 17 months.”

In short, the recent charges of Sen. Allen’s racism are ridiculous. For more on this, watch for Kathleen Antrim’s next book.

Contest Reminder: Three Books at Stake

Hey! Did y’all forget about the current contest? See this post for details on how to win all three of Lars’ fantasy/sci-fi/historical interest/well-written/fun/inspiring novels. You too can have all of them in time for the Halloween gift-giving season. If you have written a post in response to our contest using our trackback URL and you don’t see your post’s URL in the comment thread of the announcement post, feel free to leave a comment with the URL to make sure we know about your post. Anything blogged in September loosely or tightly regarding your summer reading will qualify.

Let me know if you need more time to put something together. Perhaps we can extend the contest through the first week in October.

Renewing Our Thinking

From a short article last week, Joseph Stowell passes on this story:

Os Guinness tells a great story about a Russian factory worker in the days when Khrushchev was the prime minister. Because of the enormous economic strain in those days, employees would steal tools and just about anything else they could get their hands on. To stop the thefts, a KGB officer was placed at every factory gate where each worker was carefully searched for contraband. Petrov, a long-time laborer, pushed a wheelbarrow loaded with two large sacks of sawdust out the factory doors every day. Each day the guard searched through the sacks of sawdust but consistently found nothing. Weeks into this routine the frustrated guard finally said, “Hey, Petrov, I promise not to tell anybody. I can’t get what’s going on here. I don’t know why you need all this sawdust. What are you stealing?” Petrov grinned and whispered, “Wheelbarrows.”

Read the rest Joe’s article called “Brain Drain.”

We Really Don’t Ban Books in the States

Sherry of Semicolon has a good post on Banned Books Week, which echoes my thoughts on the subject. She starts with some facts on what’s banned in other countries and then states that we don’t ban books in America.

I attended library school and heard librarians say, with a straight face, that when they chose to not purchase Nancy Drew books or comic books, the process was called “selection,” but when parents or citizens tried to voice their opinions about what should or should not be purchased by the libraries that they support with their taxes, it was “censorship.” Librarians were an elite group of educated professionals who knew how to “select ” library materials; others were yokels who were out to keep information out of the hands of the people, book-banners. . . . The only difference is that the librarians are assumed to have good motives, to provide as many materials as possible to the lbrary’s patrons, and the public citizens are assumed to have bad motives, to keep materials out of the hands of others.

Contest: Summer Reading Blogging

Well, I’ve been covered up with non-blog activities or time-consumers for a while, and now I’ll be away for the rest of the week. So Lars will continue to hold the floor to write as he will. My only suggestion is that we don’t pick a fight with BHT boys. Some of them are honorable.

The second blog contest is now underway. At stake, a full set of Lars Walker’s novels. None of the translations, just the novels listed on the right. To enter, write on your blog about your summer reading. It’s the end of summer, so you may have been planning a post on this already. Here’s more motivation as well as an opportunity for networking, cross-linking, or whatever the right Internet word.

To Wynn a Fule Set of Lars’ Novels

Blog about your summer reading and trackback to this post or leave a comment with your post URL. Eligible entries are all those blogged in September 2006. Because I don’t care to judge the merits of your post, the winner will be randomly selected, but the good posts or those which interest me or Lars may be given attention in other posts. An interesting post will not increase your chances of winning, but it will gain you more attention. I’ll announce the winner of all three of Lars’ novels on Monday, October 2, after the winner has been contacted.