Category Archives: Religion

Is Christianity Good for the World?

Authors Douglas Wilson (pro) and Christopher Hitchens (con) debate Christianity. Excerpt:

Hitchens: “the ‘Golden Rule’ is much older than any monotheism, and that no human society would have been possible or even thinkable without elementary solidarity (which also allows for self-interest) between its members.”

Wilson: “The Christian faith cannot credit itself for all that ‘Love your neighbor’ stuff, not to mention the Golden Rule, and the reason for this is that such moral precepts have been self-evident to everybody throughout history who wanted to have a stable society.”

I’m doing fine

Today the glories of spring returned, after several days of rain. We needed the rain, and now it’s time for some sunshine. This Global Warming thing is working out pretty well so far, if you ask me. I mowed the lawn tonight. I’m definitely convinced it’s just a tad less goshawful than it was this time last year.

I had an interesting encounter at work today. I shall, needless to say, draw a Moral Lesson from it, for the edification of all.

We have a foreign student at the school who was running up a pretty large library fine. He’d kept some books overdue, and one book he’d lost completely. His fines accumulated as they remained unpaid, and I was worried about it getting out of hand.

I spoke to the instructor in his program one day a while back, and said I thought we’d have to come to some kind of settlement, to get him out from under. But the instructor said no. “We have to teach our students responsibility.” At least that’s what I understood him to say. So I stepped back and allowed the totals to mount up.

Last week the student came in, along with an American friend. He offered me some money (not the whole amount). I told him I could take it and reduce the fine, but that he’d still have to pay off the total. At that point his friend became quite upset, and they left. The friend said he’d come back with cash and pay the whole amount himself, and that this was not demonstrating the love of Christ.

After that I went back to the instructor and told him what had happened. The instructor said we probably needed to make some kind of settlement. I said I wanted to, but I wasn’t allowed to.

“Who told you that?” he asked.

“You did,” I said.

He became very apologetic then. Somewhere we had miscommunicated. I’m not sure how it happened, but he hadn’t meant it the way I took it.

Anyway, it got worked out. I accepted the smaller amount the student himself was able to pay, and it’s all settled. Relief reigns among the stacks.

Today the American friend came in and apologized. I told him I understood completely, and that I’d probably have reacted the same way.

It was a very godly act on his part, but when you get down to it, I did handle it wrong. Instead of simply doing what I was told, I should have questioned a decision I considered unreasonable. If I’d done that, the whole thing would have been worked out weeks ago, and much unpleasantness avoided.

It’s one of my besetting sins, this passivity. It’s the Nuremburg Defense: “I was only obeying orders.” God expects more from us. We’re Christians, not Buddhists. Quietude is not an unalloyed virtue in our moral scheme. God expects us to make a fuss now and then.

Gotta work on that.

Economic crimes and hate crimes

I have sinned. Economically.

The used book store where I’ve been shopping for the last few years was doing fine, as far as I could tell, last January, the last time I was there. Then I lost my renter, things got tight, and I chose to re-read The Lord of the Rings. Then Dave Alpern sent me some books to read (Got to return those. Looking for the right box). So what with one thing and another, I didn’t buy any books for a while.

Today I dropped by the store after work, since I have a renter again and he just gave me his May payment.

They’re closed up. Empty. Dark and bare. Not a flyleaf left behind.

It’s my fault. I, personally, am solely responsible. I have no doubt that the owners lost their home and are now living on the streets, eating out of dumpsters, all for lack of my business.

I’m sorry. So very, very sorry.

Have you heard of HR 1592? It’s a bill now under consideration by the House of Representatives.

Its purpose is to expand Hate Crimes legislation. That’s bad enough, in my opinion, because the very concept of the “hate crime” amounts to punishing people for their thoughts. If a jihadist cuts off my head, I want him prosecuted for killing me, not for killing me for Islam. The motivation should be irrelevant in the eyes of the law.

But this bill expands the definition of Hate Crime in such a way that, in conjunction with Title 18 of the U.S. code, merely expressing religious opposition to homosexuality would be a prosecutable offense, in the case that some moron should draw the wrong conclusion and go out and commit a “hate crime.” Understand that? A pastor who simply repeats what the Bible says on the subject could be prosecuted and imprisoned, based on the reaction of one of his listeners.

Hat tip: Vision America.

This is what happened to the Revolution, kids. I always knew the hippies were lying when they talked about free speech. When they said “free speech,” they meant their own freedom from other people’s speech. When Paul McCartney sang, “Power to the people, right on!” he meant “Power to the people who are right on.” That is, people who agreed with him.

I don’t think a nation can survive without some kind of shared value system. It’s not enough to share a few symbolics, if the symbolics mean entirely different things to different groups. In America today, we can’t even agree on what the definition of “is” is. We’re so far apart we don’t even understand each other’s words.

I see a train wreck down the line. I wrote about this stuff in Wolf Time.

Right again, blast it.

If already depressed, skip this post

Reader Aitchmark forwarded me this link to a perceptive column Tony Blankley wrote for the Washington Times. I agree with him that it nails the precise conceptual difference between the Left and the Right on the war (no doubt there are people who oppose the war for better reasons, but I think the view Blankley analyzes probably motivates the Democrats in power).

…the great divide is between those, such as me, who believe that the rise of radical Islam poses an existential threat to Western Civilization; and those who believe it is a nuisance, if episodically a very dangerous nuisance.

Those who believe in nothing higher than “personal spirituality,” I think, are incapable (without some kind of psychic “whack upside the head”) of understanding that there are people out there who really believe in things outside themselves. To them, Christians must be either incredibly stupid or they’re running a confidence game when they speak of doctrines and absolute moral truths. And Muslims… well, they’re inscrutable. But in their hearts they must be just like us. If they do… regrettable things, they must have been driven crazy by some evil force. Like Republicans.

I’d like to say that good Christian fiction—not preachy CBA fiction that preaches to the choir, but gutsy, smart, well-crafted Christian books like Andrew Klavan’s Damnation Alley, are one way to open people’s minds and fight back against the darkness. And books like that can’t hurt. Maybe I’ll find a publisher myself again someday.

But I think good Christian movies and TV would probably have more impact. Unfortunately, though some progress has been made recently, that’s still a major challenge and I suspect progress, if it happens, will occur slowly.

The bottom line is, I wonder if the remnant of Christendom can be saved. I wonder if the West has declined too far. Perhaps we’re entering a new period of worldwide tribulation. Maybe that’s God’s plan for the Last Days.

It’s all in His hands, of course. Our brothers and sisters have suffered persecution throughout history, and they still suffer today. There’s no reason we should think of ourselves as exempt. In fact, we are instructed to rejoice in it.

Out of uniform

In my list of Thinking Bloggers last night, I didn’t include Roy Jacobsen of Dispatches From Outland and Writing, Clear and Simple. This omission was not due to any waning in my enjoyment of his work, but due simply to the fact that he almost never posts anymore.

Just a hint, to nobody in particular.

I sat down at the computer tonight, and suddenly realized I hadn’t planned anything to blog about.

So I resorted to the scribbled post-it notes I collect in my pocket planner. There I found this thought, which is apropos of nothing in particular:

“If God answered all prayers in the same way, it would make Him appear to be an object, a device we can manipulate. But beyond that, it would make us objects as well. Uniformity is dehumanizing.”

One of the convictions that grows on me with every passing year is my revulsion against uniformity, when applied to humans. Uniformity is great in science and industry—understanding the laws of nature makes scientific progress possible, and the standardization of parts made valuable (and not so valuable) things available to more people than our ancestors could have dreamed of.

But the great enterprise of the modern Left has been to make people uniform. For all their talk about diversity and personal self-esteem, their definition of justice is equality, not of opportunity but of results. They believe (sincerely) that this will enrich human life, but in practice it reduces people to interchangeable ciphers. Why did Stalin have no problem murdering millions of people, merely because they were inconvenient to his plans? Because they were just numbers to him, just units. There were plenty more where they come from. I do not say that those who work for equal distribution of wealth are all like Stalin. But Stalins inevitably rise to the top when they acquire power. I think we see this in the increasing hostility to the very existence of humanity seen in sectors of the ecological and animal rights movements.

Many people think Jesus preached equality of wealth. They are wrong. He preached equality of contentment, a very different thing

On suffering

Phil mentioned several of my favorite blogs in his Thinking Blogger nominations. I might add Gene Edward Veith’s personal blog at World Magazine, The Recliner Commentaries, and S. T. Karnick.

Whew. I came home tonight and found my renter here, unloading another carload of personal stuff. If I hadn’t seen him tonight, I had a tentative plan to start nosing through his personal possessions in the hope of finding a phone number I could call to check on him. Apparently he’s just making a graduated move.

Another glorious day in my favorite season of the year. Not as warm as yesterday, only a click above sixty, but very nice for my evening walk. It would have been perfect if it weren’t for the subject matter on the radio…

Not that Hugh Hewitt isn’t handling it like a champ. He’s hanging up on the second-guessers and finger-pointers. He’s concentrating on talking about the victims, and about how people can help the survivors. Very classy. Hewitt at his best.

He brought David Allen White on to talk about suffering, and White touched on a thought that has intrigued me for some time. He read from Colossians 1:24:

“Now I rejoice in what was suffered for you, and I fill up in my flesh what is still lacking in regard to Christ’s afflictions, for the sake of his body, which is the church.” (NIV)

“How can anything be lacking in Christ’s sufferings?” we ask. Here’s what the passage says to me. I don’t insist on it, and I’m open to correction.

But it looks to me as if this means that Christ’s suffering is still going on. I don’t mean His suffering for our sins. I believe that’s finished, complete. But He also is the Head of His Body, the Church. When we, the parts of the Body, suffer, the Head suffers. In that sense His sufferings will not end until the coming of the Kingdom. Therefore none of us who are in Christ suffer alone.

I remember reading long ago about a female martyr (I forget who) who was warned by her judge of the terrible sufferings she faced. She replied, in so many words, “I am one with my Lord, and it will not be me who suffers. It will be Him suffering for me.”

I don’t know if I’d have the courage to make such a statement of faith, but I like the sound of it.

“Real as Possible” Scenario

Here’s a story I can’t pass up. Christian gunmen shot up a New Jersey school and took a few hostages in retaliation for one of their daughters being expelled for public prayer. At least, that’s how the terrorism simulation played out in a New Jersey high school last month. Don’t want to rile up folks over Muslim militants. No, sir. Christians, “who don’t believe in separation of church and state,” are a hair-trigger away from all out war. It’s a wonder they don’t preach on street corners while shooting down various people groups to which Revs. Sharpton and Jackson have referred in the past (audio link).

In related news, The European Union wants to avoid using words which link terrorism with Islam. Words such as “Jihad,” “Islamist” and “fundamentalist” are disfavored now.

Setting Lewis straight

This post will probably be completely incoherent, as I’m working under a time deadline. I have a Viking Age Society meeting tonight.

Actually, I have plenty of time to write this, but you never know what will happen. I might get an attack of writer’s block and have to leave without posting. I might have a sudden toilet explosion and have to spend the evening with a plunger and towels.

Worry as globally as possible, that’s my motto. Because disasters are always so much more bearable if you’ve worried yourself sick about them in advance.

Also I’m not entirely sure I haven’t posted on this subject before. But if I did it was a long time ago, and who remembers? That’s the upside of writing ephemera.

Anyway, thinking along the lines of my post last night, I thought I’d mention one point on which I differ (I think) with C.S. Lewis.

(That sound you hear is everyone who knows me intaking breath. [Taking in breath? Performing an intake of breath? Clumsy. Clumsy whichever way you go. Replace it or let it stand? Let it stand. I’m in a hurry here.]) I’m well known to be one of those Christian English majors who have trouble telling the works of CSL apart from canonical scripture.

But Lewis says in several places (I’d look it up, but like I said I’m sweating under a deadline here. High R-factor in those deadlines) that Jesus Christ introduced no new ethical ideas. And this is a good thing, in his view (and in mine) because good and evil are universal, and have been recognized, in generally recognizable forms, throughout all cultures throughout all history.

But I think Christ did introduce one fresh, unprecedented teaching. One teaching that no one had presented before. And that was personal humility in relation to one’s neighbor.

Other religions have taught humility before God. But Christ (correct me if I’m wrong) was the first to say, “You should treat your neighbor as if you were his servant. You should do nothing to defend your personal honor.”

Remember, you read it here first.

Unless you didn’t.

Hey, I’m done! In plenty of time, too!

Now I can worry about something else. Computer crash. Traffic accident on the way to the meeting tonight. I’ll come up with something.

But the God I Know

Rusty Kelley is blogging on Jesus, “dear tiny infant baby Jesus, with golden fleece diapers…” No, he’s not being sacreligious. He concludes, “I must admit that I so easily fall into the trap of wanting a God that I can mold and shape according to my desires, and to the desires of those around me, yet when I step back and meditate on the God that I know, I praise Him for being much more than I could ever imagine or desire Him to be.”

They Called Him Rabbi is hosting a festival of ideas on the greatest man in world history, Jesus Christ. “What’s He Doing Here? Jesus in Jewish Culture” is the theme for this New York festival of writers, critics, and scholars to be held at the end of April at The Center for Jewish History.

Some of the lectures and discussions are described as “Was [Marc] Chagall a Jew for Jesus? Yes and no” and “Why have the Jews never accepted a messiah? Why is the history of messianism in Judaism a history of false messianism? Some unorthodox views of the Jewish idea of redemption.”

Enemy of God by Bernard Cornwell

Enemy of God is the book I feared I’d encounter when I originally hesitated to read Bernard Cornwell’s “Warlord Chronicles” series about King Arthur. As I mentioned in my review of the previous book, The Winter King, there is evidence in the (scanty) historical record that the original Arthur made enemies in the British church. I feared that Christianity would be made to look bad.

And that’s what happened in this volume.

Oh, Cornwell covers himself. He has a couple positively presented Christian characters, notably the warrior Galahad, but that reads to me like the standard “Some of my best friends are Jewish” denial of anti-Semitism. In this book, the Christians are the bad guys. Even worse guys than the Saxon conquerors Arthur is fighting. Arthur is tolerant of religion but doesn’t believe in much of anything himself, except his honor, and Cornwell seems to see this as the best way to live.

Arthur (not a king but a warlord, and protector of the not-yet-grown king, Mordred) made himself the most powerful man in Britain at the end of The Winter King. He wants to solidify the peace through a marriage between Princess Ceinwyn, Princess of the kingdom of Powys, and Lancelot, whom he has made king of another British kingdom. But the narrator, Derfel, spoils this plan by running off with the princess. Later Derfel gets involved in helping the druid Merlin search for the cauldron of Clyddno Eiddyn, obviously meant as the inspiration for the quest of the Holy Grail. The story of Tristan and Iseult is also incorporated (in the most horrifying version you’ll ever read).

But the real struggle in this story is with Christianity. The Christians of Britain, whipped up by the oily Bishop Sansum and his missionaries, are working themselves into a passion to convert all Britain by force before the magical year of 500 A.D., when they expect Christ to return. They are being cynically manipulated by King Lancelot, whom they adopt as their leader despite the fact that his faith is questionable. This mob enthusiasm threatens Arthur’s peace and the very existence of what remains of unconquered Britain.

Except for the exceptions referred to above, all the Christians in the book are either stupid or evil, and virtually all the priests are assumed to be either sexual predators or pederasts. Derfel and Arthur look at the Christians as an alien group that has settled in Britain, grown in numbers insidiously, and now threatens to impose its laws on everyone. Perhaps Cornwell has the Muslim presence in today’s Britain in the back of his mind.

It bothered me, but I finished it. I’ve started the third book now, and that one is less offensive.

For the rest, good story, interesting characters, exciting action. A Cornwell novel.