The New University Culture

I have taught at Christian colleges and universities for 27 years. I’ve noted in past blogs that there have been bumps along the way and that none of those higher education institutions have been perfect. But I still believe in Christian higher education and am grateful that I’m not subjected to most of the insanity that is in the ascendance on many of our secular campuses.

One of the areas of study that is under attack the most is American history, which is what I happen to teach. I have the liberty to teach that history from a Christian perspective, discerning what was in accordance with Biblical principles and what was not. I have never, at my current institution, been told what to teach or threatened because of the content of my courses.

I shudder to think what might happen to me if I attempted to teach at a state university somewhere:

Welcome to College

I’m afraid I would have to undergo “sensitivity” training. My approach to my courses just wouldn’t fit the new, enlightened perspective:

Can't Take

Some organizations are trying to correct the imbalance by bringing in more conservative speakers to these campuses. All too often, those speakers are now being banned from the campuses. You see, they’re too controversial and might damage the self-esteem of those snowflakes who are huddled in their comfy ideological corner:

Banning the Speakers

And it’s becoming increasingly difficult for students to stay in line with the “correct” ideology because it keeps changing so rapidly. Princeton now wants all faculty, staff, and students to stop using such terrible words as “man.” That’s much too patriarchal for our tastes now.

Gender-Neutral Human

So where are we culturally?

Rhetorical Question

Classes for me don’t begin this year until after Labor Day, so I have a little more time to prepare. The nice thing is that I don’t have to dread my time in the classroom, never knowing when I will be called out for being too male, too white, too heterosexual, and too Christian.

I feel for my colleagues who are attempting to bring truth to students in a different environment. May they stay true to their calling and may God protect them.

Reflections of a Natural Introvert

I’m an introvert. Really, I am. Whenever I inform students of that fact, they have a hard time believing it because I’m animated when I teach and love to interact with humor.

But I am an introvert.

BooksMy natural inclination is to sit in my recliner in my study, surrounded by books, and devote myself to them. Let the world go away. Give me my peace and solitude. That, and a cup of coffee, is a pleasurable way to pass the time.

I’m constantly reading. Here’s what I have going right now on my reading schedule: C. S. Lewis’s The Allegory of Love (slow going for someone who is not well versed in medieval writings); Paradise Lost (taking up a challenge because I’ve never read it and I would like to understand Lewis’s preface to it—another future reading); Jonah Goldberg’s The Tyranny of Clichés (honing my cultural analysis); Os Guinness’s new book, Impossible People (a clarion call for Christians to be thorough Christians in our culture); and another Stephen Lawhead novel (because I just love his writing).

Yes, I’m reading all of those simultaneously. When classes begin again, I’m not going to get quite as much reading done as I am now.

That natural inclination to withdraw and enjoy my own little world comes into conflict with the urge within me, planted by God, I believe, to break out of the cocoon and speak His truth.

That’s why I teach, and that’s why I write this blog. Personally, I would love to avoid all controversies. I would relish leaving politics behind, especially this year when I see no viable option for the presidency.

Yet there is this “calling.” I’ve mentioned the prophet Jeremiah before, the one who cried out to God that he didn’t want to speak anymore because he kept getting bad reactions to his words. I understand.

Take My YokeThis is what God does to (and for) us, though. He pushes us out of that place of comfort. He tells us to take up His cross and be His disciples. He never promised that we would sail through life without burdens to bear.

I know that. Some days I embrace it; other days I utter the Jeremiah complaint.

The Lord allows us to withdraw at times; Jesus did the same in His ministry. But all withdrawals are for one purpose: regaining the strength to continue the calling. Withdrawals, if done properly, are the times we draw on His reservoir of grace so that we will be the most effective witnesses of His truth that we can be.

All of my reading is part of the preparation to be what God wants me to be in that world out there. As long as I keep that perspective, and not make an idol out of those relaxed times of peace, He will be able to use me for His ongoing purposes.

That’s my reflection for today. I thank God for the time to reflect. It steels me for whatever lies ahead.

A Squandered Opportunity

There has never been a more eminently beatable candidate than Hillary Clinton. Yet she is now poised to win the presidency despite her manifold lies, despicable character, disastrous tenure as secretary of state, and no real record of accomplishments.

The latest is that the FBI has now “found” another 15,000 e-mails that ran through her private server. We will be told what is in some of those by mid-October, according to the report I read.

One has to wonder if FBI director Comey may now be forced to reopen the investigation for the purpose of an indictment after all. Of course, with the Obama administration still in charge, that is probably a fantasy.

Hillary has also made herself scarce when it comes to answering questions from the press, having not held a press conference for something like 200 days. What other candidate would be allowed to get away with that?

Next Question

Questions have been raised about her health, stemming from a possible concussion a few years ago. Some of that may be pure speculation, but there are legitimate concerns about whether she is really up to handling any responsibility, let alone the presidency.

Hillary's Health

Polls show that a significant number of Americans don’t really trust her and believe she lies about almost everything.

And yet she is on the verge of occupying the Oval Office.

This was supposed to be the year when we could put the Clintons behind us forever. This was the year Republicans were practically salivating over, after two disastrous Obama terms. This was the year when widespread revulsion over what has transpired over the past eight years would give Republicans the chance to fulfill their promises.

Then this happened.

Eminently Beatable

I’ve been accused by some of “Trump-bashing.” The reality is the Republican voters and the establishment have joined together to bash themselves with a Trump candidacy, thereby losing the greatest opportunity ever presented to them.

They said they wanted a candidate who tells it like it is. They blindly followed someone who fed their anger and fears. They stopped thinking and just let their emotions take over. This is the result.

Tells It Like It Is

Set aside, for the moment, all the ideological reasons why Trump is a bad nominee. Don’t think about, for now, his character (equal in despicability to Hillary’s). Just look at how he’s conducting this campaign.

Trump promised to spend a billion dollars of his own money on the campaign. He has thus far contributed $50 million. Why not more? Why has he not fulfilled that promise? Could it be because he’s something like $650 million in debt, far more than what people thought? Is he really telling us like it is?

In his most recent campaign disclosure, we find that Trump spent nothing on ads in June. The total raised in July is only one-third of what Romney raised that month in 2012.

Of the $18 million spent in July, $8 million went to a web-design firm for fundraising, which is a little disproportional.

The campaign spent $500,000 on hats.

The campaign spent $2.5 million on private air travel, which is six times more than what it spent on staff, state organization, and ground game in the states.

Conservative commentator Steve Deace points out the following instances of incompetence:

What would we say if trailing consistently in polls, Hillary Clinton decided to hold rallies in unlosable blue states like California and Massachusetts with less than 80 days to go before the election? Because that’s essentially what Trump is doing by campaigning in Texas and Mississippi this week.

Trump lacks organization in Hamilton County, which may be the most pivotal county in must-win Ohio. Last week, Trump opened a second field office in must-win Florida, where Hillary Clinton already had 14 field offices. Trump’s organization lags behind Hillary’s in Virginia, which no Republican has won the presidency without since before Reconstruction.

Earlier this summer GOP leaders in Pennsylvania, which is crucial to any hopes Trump has of winning the White House, said there was “almost no sign” of a Trump organization there.

This is virtually a no-hope candidacy.

I’ll restate it: Hillary Clinton is the most eminently beatable candidate in recent history. Republicans have squandered their best hope. What remains is the issue of whether the party can pull itself together again after this fiasco.

Trump’s Non-Apology

Donald Trump has taken a rather unique approach to campaigning throughout his run for the presidency. He has been a no-holds-barred barroom brawler (the closest analogy I can find) who uses insults and innuendoes continuously. What has disturbed Republicans the most is that, even after officially getting the nomination, he has made Republicans his target as often, or more often, than Hillary Clinton.

Trump has never let up on his criticisms of those within the Republican party who oppose his candidacy, or who simply can’t bring themselves to hop on his bandwagon. He never seems to forget anything he considers a personal slight and directs his fire accordingly.

The hiring of a new “team” to conduct the rest of the campaign is supposed to signal a new direction:

Donzilla

However, the new head man, Steve Bannon, who runs the Breitbart site, is known to be someone with a personality much like Trump’s, so is this really going to make much of a difference?

Some observers, especially those who desperately want Trump to change his tone, think they see the ever-elusive pivot taking place. After all, in a speech last week, Trump apologized for his past comments. He’s a new man!

Well, let’s look at what Trump actually said:

Sometimes, in the heat of debate, and speaking on a multitude of issues, you don’t choose the right words or you say the wrong thing. I have done that, and believe it or not I regret it.

I do regret it particularly where it may have caused personal pain.

Examine those words carefully. First, he puts his insulting comments in the context of “the heat of debate,” thereby providing an excuse for saying what he did. Then he simply says he chose the wrong words, as if those words don’t flow from a heart that gave birth to them. The emphasis is on the external, not the internal, but it’s the internal—the heart—out of which the mouth speaks. You can check that out; Jesus said it.

He uses the word “regret,” but again notice the context. He says, “believe it or not” with respect to his having regrets. Having regret over anything is not the real Donald Trump. It’s not the way he has lived his life. The wording indicates that.

We’re supposed to believe now that he has suddenly changed?

Then he goes on to say he particularly regrets saying the wrong thing “where it may have caused personal pain.” May have? Is there any doubt?

He ridiculed one political rival by saying her face is ugly. He called another one a child molester. He took on his strongest rival by insinuating he had hidden numerous adulterous affairs (through that organ of national probity, The National Inquirer, while openly boasting about his own numerous adulteries), by lambasting that same rival’s wife, and by linking the rival’s father to the JFK assassination. Now he has the temerity to say he “may” have caused personal pain?

He didn’t use the word “if,” but it’s the same thing. You know, that old “apology” of “if” I have offended you? That doesn’t really admit to anything. It puts the onus instead on the person who was offended. Oh, that bothered you? So sorry.

You also might notice that he didn’t give any examples of using the wrong words. He didn’t publicly express wrongdoing for anything in particular. It was all rather vague, intended to cover a multitude of sins without having to acknowledge any specifically.

This was not a real apology. The problem is that many fall for it as if it’s the real thing.

In that same speech, Trump went on to say, “I will never lie to you.” So he’s now going to begin telling the truth? He also said that his real problem is that he can be “too honest.” Yes, now there’s a real fault.

That’s similar to someone being interviewed for a job, and when asked what faults one might have, the fallback is always something like “well, I probably work too hard.”

This is all so phony. Trump is Trump, and unless there is a genuine conversion based on Biblical truth, we will not see any change.

Trump Unfiltered

Without a true change of heart, he will continue to be his own worst enemy:

Let Trump

Real sorrow for one’s words and actions is grounded on an understanding of repentance. The apostle Paul had written to the Corinthian church about some of the sins they had allowed. They responded properly to his admonition. When he wrote his second letter to them, he put it this way:

I now rejoice, not that you were made sorrowful, but that you were made sorrowful to the point of repentance; for you were made sorrowful according to the will of God, so that you might not suffer loss in anything through us.

For the sorrow that is according to the will of God produces a repentance without regret, leading to salvation, but the sorrow of the world produces death.

Judas Iscariot was sorrowful over what he did in his betrayal of Jesus. Peter was sorrowful over his own betrayal of Jesus. Judas committed suicide; Peter repented. Only the second example is true Godly sorrow.

If I see genuine repentance in Donald Trump, I will take back everything I have written in this post today. But until then, I stand by this analysis.

A Baptized Imagination

Chad WalshThe first book to analyze C. S. Lewis and his popularity was written by an American, Chad Walsh, an English professor at Beloit College in Wisconsin. It came out in 1949 with the title C. S. Lewis: Apostle to the Skeptics.

Walsh had Lewis to thank for his own conversion. “In my case there was no childhood faith,” Walsh wrote in an account of how he eventually found the Christian path. “If I ever believed in God as a small child, no memory of the time remains with me. I regarded myself as an atheist from the moment I learned to read—and, indeed, pamphlet editions of Ingersoll, et cetera, were part of my earliest reading.”

At the University of Virginia, Walsh, as a student, found himself free of the dominant Christianity of his small hometown of Marion, Virginia, and flourished as a convinced atheist—at least until world circumstances forced him to think more seriously.

The rise of Hitler in Germany, and the growing awareness of the actions of that regime, forced him to confront the problem of evil in the world. Walsh’s companions in atheism and/or agnosticism, when challenged by Walsh to come up with a response to what Hitler was doing, would provide excuses, albeit excuses that were actually consistent with their worldview.

Walsh recounts, “They agreed with me that the world was a senseless jungle. Very well, they reasoned, if the world is a jungle, it’s absurd to speak of right and wrong. Everything is relative. Hitler thinks he’s doing right to invade Poland and murder the Jews. Very well, it is right for him. It’s all in the way you look at it.” That response shook him. He knew he had to come to grips with the reality of evil.

Coming to grips with evil also meant coming to grips with the whole idea of right and wrong and where the concepts originated. That led him to finally consider not only the existence of God but what his response to this God might entail. In this transition period of his life, Walsh came across some of Lewis’s writings. One, in particular, changed his life forever.

PerelandraIt was in either 1944 or 1945, he recalls, on a short vacation to Vermont, that a friend enthusiastically lent him a book she had just finished reading; she just knew he would love it. That book was Perelandra, the second in Lewis’s Space Trilogy in which the protagonist, Elwin Ransom, is transported to Venus to save an innocent world from falling into sin.

Walsh was transported as well: “I quickly consumed it from cover to cover. I was struck first of all by the sheer beauty of the book. It transported me into a kind of Elysian Fields—or better yet, an unspoiled Eden, inhabited by the innocent and unfallen.”

A second revelation was that, even though he had always been a science fiction fan, he had never read any science fiction like this, where it could be used as a “vehicle of great philosophic and psychological myth.” The third revelation, though, was the greatest of all:

Finally, and most importantly, in Perelandra I found my imagination being baptized. At the time I was slowly thinking, feeling, and fumbling my way towards the Christian faith and had reached the point where I was more than half convinced that it was true. This conviction, however, was a thing more of the mind than of the imagination and heart.

In Perelandra I got the taste and smell of Christian truth. My senses as well as my soul were baptized. It was as though an intellectual abstraction or speculation had become flesh and dwelt in its solid bodily glory among us.

As Walsh looked back on this event years later, he came to the realization that the way he found Lewis was quite typical. A person reads something by Lewis, becomes so enthused that he/she lends the book to a friend, who in turn catches that enthusiasm and passes it on to others.

For Walsh, “The result was that I began buying everything else by him that was available in America and also passed along word of the discovery to other friends. It was as though I had discovered a new ingredient in my intellectual, emotional, and spiritual diet that I had unconsciously desired but had not previously found. I think many others, coming on Lewis for the first time, felt the same way.”

As you might guess, the above is excerpted from my new book, America Discovers C. S. Lewis, which will be available in a few short weeks.

A Sense of Humor in a Serious Time

The reason I like to use political cartoons in my blog is that a sense of humor is essential in life, even when circumstances might seem to dictate that we should be serious all the time. Those who read my blog regularly know that I am quite serious about my Christian faith and that I am concerned for the culture and the governing of our society.

Sometimes, though, these forays into humor help us see the ridiculous side of humanity and solidify the conviction that we need the firm anchors of truth and integrity, those very attributes that God intended for any society to function properly.

Truth and integrity have been in shorter supply than usual during this election season. On the one hand, we have a candidate who wants us to believe she has been nothing but truthful in her dealings: Benghazi, e-mails, a “charitable” foundation. The public, overall, doesn’t believe in her integrity. She just doesn’t have what it takes to pull it off:

Endearing Lies

Yet every time you would think she will be called on her multiple lies, you can count on the other candidate to steal the media thunder with his own special brand of outrageous statements and lies:

Right On Time

In the spirit of the Olympics, one cartoonist has suggested a new addition to the games:

Whopper Competition

“I didn’t use my private server for confidential e-mails” vs. “Ted Cruz’s father was with Lee Harvey Oswald.” Which would win? Close call.

The cartoonists have lately concentrated quite a bit on the awful options presented to the voters this time around. Here are a couple samples:

Hate Their Choice

Another Choice

Both candidates are despised by more than half the population. It has pretty much come down to this:

Campaign Buttons

Perhaps one of Trump’s ideas for immigration needs to be applied to the political parties next time:

Extreme Vetting

I’m all for that suggestion. The problem, though, is that the primary voters made these choice. How do we vet them better? On the Republican side, at least, how about only allowing registered Republicans to vote?

Naw, that would be too common-sensical.

Man’s Anger & God’s Righteousness

James 1:20—For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.

That Scripture came to mind this morning as I reflect on the state of our nation and the political developments in recent years.

Proverbs 29Anger over sin is not a sin in itself, but whenever anger becomes the driving force for what one does, we go off the rails spiritually.

There are legitimate reasons for anger:

  • Over 57 million babies aborted since the Roe v. Wade decision in 1973;
  • The ongoing destruction of Biblical morality in the area of sexual relations and marriage;
  • The assault on religious liberty, particularly for conservative Christians;
  • The trend toward the government as the solution for all problems;
  • The arrogance and increasing corruption of political leaders;
  • The overthrowing of the rule of law in general.

Those are the ones that come readily to mind, but there are others.

How has the Christian community responded? Some have taken a bold stand against this cultural and political devolution; others have caved to the spirit of the age and have tailored their “Christianity” to fit the new trends.

Politically, starting in 2009, a movement arose—and many in the movement were Christians—that sought to reverse some of these trends. Anger helped begin that movement, but it also was focused on a return to basics, both spiritually and constitutionally.

DSC00018For that reason, I was pleased to participate in it. It was given a name: the Tea Party. I have spoken to a number of such groups since their inception, and have done my best to help this movement stay on track by pointing to the principles we need to follow.

What I’m about to say is not an indictment of the movement as a whole because I know enough sincere, honest people who are part of it. However, what I’ve witnessed over time is a tendency to allow anger over what is occurring in the nation to overwhelm the more positive aspects of the movement.

Whenever we let anger dictate our responses, we lose. When we drift away from concentrating on the positive message of restoration and humility before God, seeking His mercy, we lose.

Instead, we latch onto a charismatic figure who only fans the flames of the anger we naturally feel. We overlook his character, his past, and even the things he says that are completely inconsistent with what we claim are our principles.

In the heat of our anger, we lose our souls.

I am just sad this morning. I am now a political outsider. I often feel like one of those lonely voices in the wilderness. It’s not a comfortable place to be.

Yet I am willing to be what God has called me to be. I am willing to continue to speak and write what I believe to be true. And because I also believe that God is a God of mercy as well as discipline and judgment, I continue to hope for the best.

LamentationsIn the face of God’s judgment over His people Israel in the Old Testament, the prophet Jeremiah stated this in the book of Lamentations:

This I recall to my mind; therefore I have hope. The Lord’s lovingkindnesses indeed never cease, for His compassions never fail. They are new every morning.

Great is Your faithfulness. “The Lord is my portion,” says my soul. “Therefore I have hope in Him.”

That’s the only safe place for our hope to reside: in Him. There is no political savior. We will survive the results of this coming election only because there is hope in Him.

Lay aside the anger as your primary motivation. Look to Him instead.

James 1:20—For the anger of man does not achieve the righteousness of God.