Can’t Imagine It’s Enforced

Blasphemy in Massachusetts: Chapter 272, Section 36. “Whoever wilfully blasphemes the holy name of God by denying, cursing,” etc.

And if you raise a ruckus in church, section 38 will send you jail too, so watch it.

After posting this yesterday, I asked myself if anyone would want this kind of thing to be enforced. We won’t improve our neighbor’s character by forcing them to keep select vices, like blasphemy, to themselves. Disrupting a worship service is another matter, which I don’t think automatically falls under free speech protections. It is proper for a society to protect places from unruly citizens, so if it were a crime to heckle a minister in my state, I wouldn’t mind. Not that I would press charges on it either.

But common vulgarity or blasphemy as is restricted in Section 36 above shouldn’t be unlawful. Neither should stating that homosexuality is perversion.

Mr. Dawntreader with G.K. Chesterton

Dawntreader is taking notes on Chesterton’s thoughtful essays in Orthodoxy:

Evolution is a good example of that modern intelligence which, if it destroys anything, destroys itself. Evolution is either an innocent scientific description of how certain earthly things came about; or, if it is anything more than this, it is an attack upon thought itself. If evolution destroys anything, it does not destroy religion but rationalism.”

In short, thinking is meaningless if it’s all just chemical processes given to us by random survival instincts.

Tourism by the book

Today’s post isn’t about Norway exactly. It’s about Norway and other places too.

I’ve traveled overseas several times, and I’ve always gone to Norway. Other countries I’ve visited have either been on the way or on the way back from Norway.

It’s not that there’s no other country I’d like to see. It’s just that my traveling money is limited (often nonexistent), and I have to prioritize.

But I must admit the list of countries I really want to see is fairly short.

Denmark, because it’s another ancestral country, and I haven’t been there yet.

The British Isles, because of all the books and movies and literature.

Israel, because of the Bible.

And… hmm. I wouldn’t turn down a free trip to a few other countries, but I won’t feel cheated at the end of my life if the list above covers my life’s tourism.

I’ve often wondered about my complete lack of interest in the exotic. I hear people saying, “Oh, I want to visit China and Indonesia and Brazil and all those far-off, unfamiliar places.”

And I don’t see it. Why, I wonder, am I only interested in my own culture and heritage, and nobody else’s?

The obvious answer, in our time, is that I must be a racist, but I think there’s more to it.

My interest in travel, I’ve realized, is almost entirely connected to my reading. I want to see the places where the stories happened. That’s why I couldn’t appreciate my one canoe trip to the North Woods with my brothers. There wasn’t any beloved story associated with it. (Also paddling and portaging is a lot of work,)

Visiting the American West, on the other hand, is something I want to do. Lots of stories there, historic and fictional.

My interest in seeing a place is directly proportional to the stories I’ve read that come from there. That’s why I’d like to see England, but France and Germany leave me cold (I know The Three Musketeers is French, but, as C. S. Lewis pointed out, it’s not a story in which the landscape plays much of a role).

I’m not saying this is the right way to look at travel, or that my approach is better in any way than yours.

I’m just saying that’s how it is with me.

And what am I blogging for, except to explain myself in exasperating detail?

Will the Real Jesus of Nazareth Step Forward?

Jared is blogging about Jesus again.

Lest we think “Jesus in our own image” is a sin solely owned by so-called “liberal” academics and historians, we should at least acknowledge the Western Church of the modern world is frequently just as guilty. Just because our Jesus looks different doesn’t mean He’s the historical Jesus.

It was G.K. Chesterton who, in his defense of Christian orthodoxy, said, “I did not make it. It is making me.” Can we say that of Jesus? Can we say the Jesus we believe in, rest in, trust in is the Jesus who is making us? Or is He the one we’d prefer, the one who’s most like us, who’s safer and nicer, who reflects all of our personal or political values and idiosyncrasies? Is Jesus making us, or is he the Jesus of our own making?

My Norway box is full today

Lots of Norwegian stuff going on (for the six of us who look for that sort of thing).

Most prominently, the Norwegian Nobel Committee just announced they’ve nominated Al Gore for the Peace Prize.

Because of all the wars he’s stopped, I guess. Maybe world leaders watching An Inconvenient Truth fell asleep, and the shooting stopped while they snored.

Or something.

Yesterday a Norwegian cruise ship managed to run aground in Antarctica. This is extremely embarrassing for sailors from a maritime country. I note that the name of the captain is not listed. Because of that I choose to believe that the captain is probably a Portuguese. Or a Greek.

As far as I know, Norwegians don’t actually sail ships anymore. They just own them.

Alternatively, I blame Socialism.

It’s kind of handy, being a Norway-phile. When they do something good, I’ll tell you it’s because Norwegians are great.

When they do something embarrassing, I blame Socialism.

[By the way, Brother Baal got in a good one at our Christmas feast. We were eating lefse, a wonderful Norwegian bread-thing made of potatoes (at least most of the time in this country), kind of like a soft tortilla. Most people eat it with sugar, either brown or white. Brown is the tradition with us.

I noted (for the umpteenth time) that I like mine with strawberry jam. “And,” I pointed out, “I once got lefse with strawberry jam in Norway!”

“That’s because of Socialism,” said Baal.


On a somber note, Cousin Andreas is dead.

Cousin Andreas was a descendent of my great-grandfather’s sister, who took over the family farm with her husband. He lived in the house where my great-grandfather was born. He worked, if I remember correctly, as a heavy equipment operator (it’s even harder to make a living as a small farmer over there than it is here).

He had been, at one time, a world class competitive marksman.

He was also totally deaf, as is his widow. They met at a deaf school in Trondheim.

My most vivid memory of him comes from the visit he and his wife paid to America several years ago. It was the first time any Norwegian relative from that side of the family ever came over to the land of Indians and gangsters.

It fell to me, as the only Norwegian speaker in the family under 70, to be their tour guide. You won’t be surprised to know that I was pretty stressed over how I would shepherd a pair of deaf people around, relying on their lip-reading skills in Norwegian.

It proved in the event to be a delightful experience. Andreas and his wife were old travelers. They traveled all over the world, and refused to let the fact that they couldn’t hear in countries where they didn’t know the language slow them down. They charged enthusiastically into every situation, relying on the kindness of strangers, and if something went badly they didn’t beat themselves up over it.

In other words, they were the opposite of me. And that’s always bracing.

A special memory is from when we visited Brother Moloch and his family in Iowa. The first evening, Moloch’s wife (who is a splendid person) came into the living room with The Youngest Niece. They pulled chairs up directly in front of the sofa, facing Andreas and his wife. They raised their hands and began to communicate.

It was like a comedy episode. It was like a game of charades. It was a hoot. We were all laughing ourselves silly before we were done. The communication was bumpy, but extremely effective.

I hope to go back to Norway this summer, but I won’t get to see Cousin Andreas again.

I’m sad about that.

Well, that’s settled now

Thanks to Jared at the Thinklings for linking to yesterday’s post, and for flattering me. I can always use to be flattered.

Today was a little milder than yesterday, but it’ll clamp down on Friday. The predicted high temperature for Saturday is about 1° F. The good news is that I’ve found an excuse to wiggle out of the open-air ski event with the Viking Age Society. It’s my weekend on the church set-up team (we meet in a gymnasium, as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before). And the scheduled time conflicts with the race.

The Lord’s Church always takes first place with me.

Especially when the alternative is freezing my Asgard off.

I had a blinding flash of insight today.

And we all know what that means.

It means I’ve probably overlooked something.

Nevertheless I shall present it for your comments, criticisms and incredulity.

My thesis: There is a substantial element of racism and chauvinism in the doctrine of Multiculturalism.

This is confusing, because I believe that one cause of Multiculturalism is a loss of faith in our own culture and traditions.

But looked at from another angle, I see an element of cultural arrogance too (not surprising in a philosophy so avidly embraced in France).

Here’s my question: Why would a nation assume that bringing in a massive population of foreigners would not radically alter its own treasured traditions and liberties?

It seems to me the only explanations are either cultural arrogance or plain racism.

To attempt the Multicultural experiment, a country has to figure that the new immigrants are either…

a) so culturally impoverished that they will gladly cast aside their own traditions in order to embrace those of their new home (“There are only two kinds of people in the world; us and those who wish to be us”), or…

b) so stupid that they will soak up their new environment like sponges, without any will to resist (“They’re just little brown people, after all. They’re really like children”).

A culture of thought at once filled with self-hatred and contemptuous of others sounds like a contradiction, but we see it constantly in individuals. The greatest bigots are often the most insecure and self-loathing people.

That’s my theory, what it is. And it’s mine.

Longfellow: Wholehearted Support

The members of Brandywine Books wholeheartedly support Henry Wadsworth Longfellow. As Frank Wilson notes, he’s famous again and rightly so. From the Smithsonian:

Yet in the light of his 200th birthday this month, Longfellow is looking fresh once again. A Library of America edition of his selected writings, published in 2000, has gone through four printings, with close to 37,000 copies in print. To celebrate his bicentennial, the U.S. Postal Service has issued a commemorative stamp—the second to bear his likeness; Herman Melville is the only writer similarly honored. Longfellow was not a “stuffy Victorian,” says Christoph Irmscher, curator of a bicentennial exhibit of rare books and other artifacts at Harvard University’s Houghton Library. Rather, he was a highly motivated writer who “worked hard to professionalize the business of literature and to earn his status as America’s first—and most successful to date—celebrity poet.” In his ambition, in his approach to fame and in his connection with his audience, Longfellow can seem, even now, quite contemporary.

I think I’ve related this story before, but I’ll do it again. In an interview with Mars Hill Audio Journal, poet Dana Gioia said he had concealed his poetry writing from his co-workers until a certain bit of publicity made it impossible. Once the people he worked with knew he was a poet, some of them started quoting poetry to him as they walked into his office. Gioia said they frequently quoted lines from Longfellow poems, probably learned in school. Despite academic contempt, Longfellow has been, perhaps always, an American favorite.

On C. S. Lewis: Hooper vindicated?

The serious cold has returned to God’s Country. The high today was a notch over 10°F. I’ve seen worse cold. Far worse. But this is definitely, inarguably frigid.

On Saturday it’ll be even colder. And the Viking Age Society is scheduled to help with a city cross-country skiing event that day, manning bonfires and passing out (warm) refreshments.

I’m trying to figure out a way to weasel out of it.

There’s news on the C. S. Lewis front.
I wrote, over on the old blog site, about the late Lewis scholar Kathryn Lindskoog’s accusations, repeated and embellished through several books, that Lewis’ secretary and literary executor, Walter Hooper, had forged documents, notably the unfinished novel The Dark Tower, and fraudulently published them as Lewis’ work.

I never put much stock in those charges, and it appears my instincts were right. The current issue of Christianity Today features an article called “Shedding Light On the Dark Tower” (not online, but here’s a discussion thread from the Into the Wardrobe site); by Harry Lee Poe. Poe describes a 2003 article in the Yale Review by scholar Alastair Fowler, a student of Lewis’. Fowler clearly recalls Lewis showing him some of his unfinished work, and he says he particularly remembers seeing The Dark Tower, with its disturbing scene about the man with the “stinger” in his head.

It would appear that Lindskoog was motivated to make her charges, in part, by the fact that the Dark Tower fragment just isn’t very good. She couldn’t accept that her hero might have produced something so inferior.

If that’s so, it’s evidence that she didn’t understand the creative process very well. Rare is the fiction writer who can produce saleable material on the first draft, and most who can aren’t the best in their genres. I often tell people, “The first thing is just to get your story down on paper. Don’t worry about the fact that it’s dreck. It’s supposed to be dreck. That’s what first drafts are for. Once the dreck is down in black and white, you can put your artistic mind to work, cutting, shaping, polishing and rearranging stuff.”

You can argue that a poor first draft by Lewis should never have been published at all (good luck with that!). But to complain that an early draft is substandard compared with his published work—that’s just starry-eyed.

Crossing Ann

As I set about my morning ablutions, I looked at the bathroom shelf and wondered, “Where did that fluffy blue wash cloth come from, the one that’s draping the deodorant and the extra bar of soap?”

On closer examination, I discovered it to be not a cloth, but a blanket of foam. My economy size can of shaving gel had spontaneously discharged, popping its cap and cascading blue froth all over the shelf.

I’ve been trying to decide all day whether this was a big deal. It was a large can, and I’d hoped to make it last a year or two. I use shaving cream very slowly, since I wear a beard and only scrape my neck and upper cheeks. So this can represented a lot of mileage lost.

On the other hand I bought it at Sam’s with two other cans of equal size, and I’ve got the other two left. I’ve occasionally wondered whether these might be the last of their kind I ever need to get. So I’ve still got a lot of the stuff remaining.

I’ll let you know what I decide in twenty years or so.

I got this link from Earthlink (link defunct). It’s a Google Map utility that lets you find out the answer to that eternal question, “If I dug a hole from here straight through the earth, where would I come out on the other side?” Sadly, it’s not China, as I was always told, in my case. I come up in the Indian Ocean, somewhere west of Australia.

There was a bit of a flap today about the TV program “Crossing Jordan” dissing Ann Coulter last night. I happened to watch that episode, since “Crossing Jordan” is one of the small number of shows I haven’t turned off forever yet, due to left-wing political content (though I’m pretty sure it won’t be long now). In the scene under discussion, two characters, a man and a woman, were stranded inside a store (I think it was a store) during a riot in Boston. The woman, a new character, has already established herself as hostile and prickly. The man said to her, “Are you suffering from A.C.S.? Ann Coulter Syndrome, where the person draws power from their enemies’ rage?”

I saw (and heard) a blogger and a talk show host complain today that this was an inappropriate personal attack.

Although I’m crazy about Ann Coulter, I couldn’t get very upset about it. It’s perfectly in line with Ann’s preferred tone of discourse, and I suspect she’s rather pleased about the plug.

In fact, I’m sure she’s drawing power from it right now.

By the way, Ann, if you’re reading this—give me a call. Can’t find your number on my Rolodex.

The episode of “Crossing Jordan,” by the way, was an exercise in Hollywood predictability. A black child was killed by police, and the medical examiners testified that it appeared that the boy had fired at the cops first. Rioting broke out all over the city, and it fell to Jordan, the feisty, beautiful M.E., to discover the Truth that we all knew was coming—that the child was innocent, and the police had falsified evidence. There was a great opportunity here to actually do something original and avoid a cliché, but I expected conventional wisdom and I wasn’t disappointed.

Introducing Shakespeare

Mental Multivitamin has an interesting post on Shakespeare: Yes, again! My older girls may be old enough for this now. A year ago, I took them to the Chattanooga Ballet’s Nutcracker with a group of school children. They were bored before the end of it.

What will bore them is a challenge for me to discern. They have fully enjoyed The Sound of Music and, I think, My Fair Lady, but have been bored with others which I can’t remember at the moment. They even watched Kiss Me, Kate and sang “Brush up your Shakespeare” several times afterward. I should teach that one, so they can impress their friend’s parents.

But I don’t know about Shakespearean plays. I suppose if I choose the right one, they will enjoy it. I wish I could take them to the cowboy version of Two Gentlemen of Verona that I saw in college. That was great fun.

Adventures in faith, by a non-adventurer

It’s been weeks (or days at least) since I’ve promoted Andrew Klavan. In this LA Times piece today he analyzes Hollywood’s problem with portraying the War on Terror, and as usual he’s dead on. H/T to Dave Lull for the link.

High drama at my house last night—not the kind that would make a John Woo movie, or even an Edward Albee drama, but the internal kind.

I paid my bills, and there was an insurance bill in there I’d been worrying about. Sure enough, when all was done and I looked at my checkbook balance, a metaphorical hand, cold as a pump handle in February, took hold of my heart. The balance was about the size of the check for a large party at a nice restaurant (not that I ever eat at nice restaurants).

I’ll get paid in a few days, so it wasn’t the end of the world, barring emergencies. But it scared me badly. I’m not a gambler, and I find myself in a game of economic Russian Roulette these days.

Many Christians don’t worry about such things, or claim they don’t. “Jesus promised us our daily bread,” they say. “He’ll always provide for our physical needs.”

I don’t read the Bible that way. Lots of better Christians than me have lost homes, family members and their very lives without Jesus doing anything about it. I think the error comes from mistaking Jesus’ point. I don’t believe He meant to say that we were guaranteed some kind of miraculous minimum wage. I think He meant that we have to orient our spirits to understand that all we really need is Him, and if He chooses to deny us any “necessity,” it’s because it’s not really a necessity. Only He is a necessity.

Which isn’t to deny that God generally provides most of us our daily bread. I know the stories about George Mueller. It’s just that sometimes He doesn’t provide physical needs, and it’s always His choice, for His purposes. We can’t manipulate Him, and we’ve got no right to complain if the decision isn’t one we like.

In other words, God has the right to take my house, and I have to live with that. Rejoice in it, even.

Then, just before bedtime, I picked up the mail I’d gotten that day, and forgotten to open. There was a reimbursement check from my health insurance flex account. I’d pretty much forgotten it was coming. It didn’t entirely solve my problem, but it certainly increased my comfort level.

Frankly that spooked me as much as the low balance had.

A Few Bookish Interviews

Yesterday’s Prime Time America ran spots on some interesting subjects: on history with Meic Pearse, author of a book called Age of Reason, (31:00) on fiction with editor Andy McGuire and author Tracy Groot on fiction (46:30), and Leslie Montgomery on her book The Faith of Condoleeza Rice (1:10:30).

Here’s a link to the audio of Prime Time America. It’s the whole show. You can fast-foward to these segments using the times above.

Book Reviews, Creative Culture