Archive for the ‘ The Christian Spirit ’ Category

C. S. Lewis: Impact on Americans (Part 7)

This will be my final installment detailing the results of the Wade Center survey I conducted to find out how C. S. Lewis has influenced Americans of our generation. My previous post dealt with whatever further comments respondents wanted to make. Here are the rest of those for your edification. Perhaps you may identify with the sentiments expressed.

Space TrilogyBeyond the purely intellectual appeal, Lewis and his writings also have impacted the emotions and encouraged Christians in their various struggles. “I am working through some very difficult personal and family issues at this point in my life, and Lewis’s Space Trilogy has Ransom, its protagonist, facing challenges that are shockingly relatable, in spite of their obvious differences in nature,” related another respondent. “I have no Unman to fight off, for example, but the nearly overwhelming burden of evil is clear and present. God has used these books in particular, as well as all of Lewis’s work in general, to improve my life and my understanding of His holy nature.”

One woman was willing to share her personal struggles and how staying in touch with Lewis made a huge difference in her life:

Screwtape Letters 2When I walked away from my Christian faith during my twenties and early thirties, Lewis was one of the few Christian authors I still trusted and could stand to read.

I was grieving, angry, and depressed, and when I reread The Chronicles of Narnia, the hope that shone through them was almost painful. Emotionally, it was as though a frozen and numb part of me began to regain feeling. Some years later, a passage from The Screwtape Letters was instrumental in helping me realize that I’d been angry at the church when, in fact, the church had been my truest friends and best support through very dark days.

Another had the privilege of spending some time at Lewis’s home, the Kilns, and came away humbled by the experience. He and his wife sometimes read Lewis aloud to one another in the evenings. “I’ve never read a story, book, or essay by him I did not enjoy. Even his literary criticism is wonderful!”

One sentence from another respondent speaks of how Lewis has made God more real to him: “I find very moving the endings of Perelandra, Voyage of the Dawn Treader, The Last Battle, and The Great Divorce; where the veil is briefly pulled back and God’s reality shines in.”

Narnia, naturally, has impacted those who were first introduced to Lewis as children. One comment might express how many children have felt after reading those books: “As a kid when was sick I used to pray, ‘God, I don’t care if I die as long as you take me to Narnia.’”

There was one respondent, though, who went into greater detail on how Narnia affected, and continues to affect, her. She had much more to say than what is quoted here, but this selection adequately reflects her views:

Chronicles of NarniaPerhaps the most thrilling liberation of being a child in Narnia is Lewis’s assertion that children can understand complex things. The problem with most children’s TV shows, children’s books, children’s anything is that they work too hard to suit children. Books that oversimplify ideas so children can understand them teach children to think simplistically.

All sorts of ideas from Lewis’s non-fiction work and from classical philosophers appear somewhere in Narnia. I discovered Aristotelian logic from Professor Kirke, Plato’s Theory of Forms in Aslan’s country, and the fallacious nonsense of an ad hoc rescue from Narnian dwarves. I love Narnia not only because I find things to ponder in it, but because it taught me how to ponder.

C. S. Lewis created a complex world, and it taught me to think complex thoughts. I am content in Narnia not because I am comfortable, but because I am uncomfortable. It stretches me—my leadership, my character, and my understanding. It acknowledges not that I am a grown-up, but that I am a person, and therefore capable of maturity regardless of my age.

While that excerpt from a more lengthy comment focused entirely on Narnia, another respondent sought to explore the wider scope of Lewis’s writings:

C. S. Lewis manages to express in many unique and wonderful ways ideas about Christianity that are difficult to describe. Narnia tells of a lion whom you fear, but is good—we should fear God, but love God.

Screwtape shows how devious and unrelenting (even in the face of conversion of the subject) Satan can be in the temptations of a person/Christian. In Mere Christianity, Surprised by Joy, “The Weight of Glory,” etc., Lewis expresses truths about Christianity in practical and meaningful ways that are easy to understand and remember. I love the variety of his writings.

Yet it is not only the writings of C. S. Lewis that have captured the hearts of many; it is also the man himself. As one wrote, “We’ve all heard the question of what single person, living or dead, we would most like to meet. I can name dozens of intriguing figures I would love to meet, but none so much as Lewis.”

Another expressed the identical sentiment, but in a different way, when she shared this hope: “I long to go with others on a walking tour in heaven with Jack (as he used to do with Warnie and others) and have a good lengthy chat with this man who for years now has seemed like a good, dear friend.”

I hope this series has been both spiritually and intellectually stimulating. And might I add: please, if you think of it, pray that my book-length manuscript on Lewis’s impact on Americans will find its publisher. Thank you.

Cruz, Rubio, & the Christian Spirit

This shouldn’t be happening. The two Republican candidates with a shot at the presidential nomination, and who are closest in beliefs and concerns for America’s future, are at odds when they ought to be supporting one another.

Cruz-Rubio

That photo shows a more congenial time. It is no more. Earlier this month, I wrote a blog beseeching these two brothers in Christ to treat one another in the proper spirit. There is now a breach that may not be healed, and it hurts to watch it unfold.

I have friends on both sides in this campaign. I’m partial to Cruz myself, but Rubio is my senator; I enthusiastically voted for him and rejoiced to see slimy politician Charlie Crist go down in defeat when Rubio stunned the political world with his victory. In the current contest, I could vote for either with greater confidence than for anyone else still in the race.

That’s why this rupture in relationship is so disappointing.

It started in Iowa with the accusation that Cruz deliberately and falsely spread the word that Ben Carson had decided to end his campaign. Well, we know someone in the Cruz organization did send out that message, but Cruz has steadfastly denied knowing about it ahead of time or approving it.

Cruz has apologized for that twice publicly, as well as in a face-to-face meeting with Carson. Yet Carson still is unreconciled to what happened and Rubio then picked up his theme by also accusing Cruz of having stolen votes.

It came to a head in the last debate when Rubio, following up Donald Trump’s lead, declared that Cruz was a liar, although the point Cruz was making in that debate about Rubio’s stance on illegal immigration was a fair point.

Rick TylerYesterday, it all boiled over when Rick Tyler, Cruz’s campaign spokesman, tweeted out false information about what Rubio said to Cruz’s father and another Cruz supporter. The false tweet had Rubio denigrating the Bible. I knew at once that couldn’t be true, and the real information showing he instead had praised the Bible finally came out.

Tyler apologized, but that wasn’t sufficient. Cruz dismissed him from the campaign—and rightly so. I now wonder if Tyler might not have been the one responsible for the Carson flap in Iowa. I know nothing about him personally, but I had been less than impressed with his manner in interviews, and even before this last blowup, I was wondering why he had been chosen to be the public face for the Cruz campaign.

I do believe Cruz has not adequately reined in some of his supporters. Hopefully, this action will rectify some of that. I also think Cruz tried too hard to create a distinction between his record and Rubio’s, particularly on the issue of pro-life. I have no doubts about Rubio’s strong pro-life stance.

Yet I truly don’t believe Cruz personally was behind what the Rubio people are stressing as “dirty tricks.” Neither do I believe that the Rubio camp can say it has completely clean hands, especially when Rubio and his spokesmen continue to denigrate Cruz’s character.

Frankly, I was stunned by the Rubio spokesman’s response to the firing of Tyler. I thought they would see this as a step by Cruz to get things under control. Instead, we get this:

Rick is a really good spokesman who had the unenviable task of working for a candidate willing to do or say anything to get elected. There is a culture in the Cruz campaign, from top to bottom, that no lie is too big and no trick too dirty. Rick did the right thing by apologizing to Marco. It’s high time for Ted Cruz to do the right thing and stop the lies.

What stunned me was that the perpetrator of the false information, Tyler, was praised in this response, while Cruz was berated as dirty and a liar. This reads like something right out of the Trump playbook.

While I am not pleased with some of the tactics I’ve witnessed from the Cruz team, I’ve not seen anything that deserves treatment as particularly “dirty” as compared to other campaigns. Whenever I’ve watched Cruz in his public manner, I have not seen a man who is full of hubris like Trump or nursing personal hurts in the way Rubio seems to be doing.

I’m more disappointed at the moment with Rubio, yet I deplore the lack of Christian spirit that has manifested itself on both sides at times. This breach needs to be healed. The future of the nation is at stake. Continuing in this unchristian way will only open the door for a Trump or Clinton presidency.

Both Cruz and Rubio need to go forward with a new spirit. I pray they will reach out to one another and find the place in their hearts where God wants them to be—for their sakes and for the sake of the country.

A spirit of humility, a willingness to forgive, and a commitment to speak truth only—that is the remedy.

C. S. Lewis: Impact on Americans (Part 6)

For the past five Saturdays I’ve shared results of my survey with the Wade Center on how C. S. Lewis’s life and writings have influenced Americans of our current generation. The earlier questions were quite specific, but at the end of the survey, I gave an opportunity for the respondents to add anything else they thought worthy of sharing. Here are some of those reflections.

C. S. Lewis 13A number of respondents credit Lewis with halting their slide into unbelief while in college. “Lewis sustained me through years of doubting my faith in college,” wrote one. “I’m not exaggerating to say that Lewis re-evangelized me when I might have otherwise abandoned my childhood faith.” “Lewis, along with Francis Schaeffer,” opined another, “helped me to remain orthodox while most of my college friends have fallen by the wayside.”

Still another remembered,

When I was an arrogant college student who believed only weak and/or stupid people believed in Christ, Lewis showed me beyond question that faith could make sense even to an intellectual. He awakened my spiritual imagination with his fiction and persuaded my reason with his nonfiction. He also gave me a grounding in traditional Christianity that facilitated my later conversion to Orthodoxy.

PuddleglumA respondent who is currently working through a doctoral degree had this to say about how Lewis provides help: “Lewis is frequently on the tip of my tongue—his characters remain alive in my heart as friends and relatives—his lessons often spring to mind. As a doctoral student in theology, I often find connections to Puddleglum or Eustace at the heart of theological arguments.”

And those who have moved on into their careers, such as this respondent, can also point to Lewis as an inspiration: “I have always appreciated Lewis’s clear, precise, and elegant writing style. As an academic researcher, I have tried to emulate his style in my professional writing.”

Another provided a more in-depth scrutiny of how Lewis dealt with the intellect:

Mere Christianity Quote #4Lewis’s works exemplify what I consider a Holy Spirit baptized intellect. Knowledge on holy fire. His ability to frame the issues in a succinct way and then address them with such extremely critical thinking skills provides a wonderful exemplar for Christians all over the world on how to not only be people of faith, but also engage our intellect (verbal and writing skills) to provide a “defense for the hope that is within us.”

His work, Mere Christianity, remains one of my favorite recommendations for intellectual unbelievers who are serious about weighing through claims of Christian faith. I believe many will either embrace Christ for the first time or reinforce their beliefs in Him through its reading.

“Since my study of C.S. Lewis, I have not been able to talk about anything else,” enthused one respondent. “It is as though I am on fire after having been asleep.”

I have more excellent testimonies to share; I’ll save the rest for next Saturday.

Antonin Scalia: A Tribute

Every time famous people die, cartoonists depict them entering into heaven. I’m usually put off by those cartoons because of the underlying assumption that heaven is everyone’s destination after death, which is categorically untrue.

I’ve made exceptions in the past: Ronald Reagan and Margaret Thatcher come to mind. I loved what cartoonists did with their entrance into heaven because of my assurance that they had a genuine faith.

I feel the same with the passing of Antonin Scalia, a faithful follower of Jesus Christ. From all I’ve heard, his faith was the cornerstone of his life, and that is what informed his views as a Supreme Court justice. Therefore, I have no problem seeing the two connected in a cartoon such as this:

We the People

Scalia was famous for his dissenting opinions, so I thought this was appropriately humorous:

Dissent

Back here on earth, there is now a battle for when to replace him.

Oral Arguments

I have no problem with President Obama putting forward a nominee. I also have no problem with the Senate saying “no” to that nominee. The president can propose all he wants, but the final word belongs to the Senate. It is under no obligation to accept another of his radical appointments. In fact, placing another of Obama’s people on the Court would undermine the legacy of Antonin Scalia. May the Republicans stand firm against that.

I am grateful for faithful Christians who have carried out their civic responsibilities with integrity. That’s why I will always be grateful for the contribution Justice Scalia made to our nation, which is supposed to be a nation under God and operating by the rule of law.

May God grant us another Scalia, so badly needed on the Court at this time.

American Original

Will Scalia’s Legacy Be Honored?

News of the death of Supreme Court justice Antonin Scalia stunned the political world over the weekend. Scalia, a stalwart defender of the Constitution, will be sorely missed, especially in this era of constitutional ignorance and/or apathy. His firm conviction that one must look to the Founders’ words and their original meaning kept the Court from straying more often than it did.

Nominated to the Court by Ronald Reagan and confirmed by the Senate unanimously, Scalia was considered a legal giant, a towering intellectual who knew how to skewer foolish and unconstitutional Court rulings with a biting wit in his many dissents.

Meeting with Scalia

When Reagan nominated Scalia, he said this of him:

Reagan Quote-Scalia

His death was a graduation for him personally, as he was an outspoken Christian believer. He is far happier right now than all of us he left behind.

Yet his death, at this time, opens a political debate that has ramifications for the future of this nation. President Obama would love to place another justice on the Court who reflects his personal philosophy of progressivism, which ignores constitutional limitations on the federal government.

To be clear: he has the right to nominate. To be just as clear: the Senate has the right to reject any nominee he puts forward. Will the Republican majority in the Senate show some backbone this time and not allow another progressive on the Court? They are showing signs of a growing spine. We will see.

Scalia’s death was announced just a few hours before the Republican presidential debate in South Carolina. At the beginning of the debate, all joined in a respectful moment of silence.

Unfortunately, with Donald Trump on the stage (who was the only one not even to close his eyes during that moment of silence), the air of respect soon vanished.

I won’t go into a blow-by-blow description of what took place at the debate, except to say it would have been a genuine debate without the circus atmosphere created by Trump.

February 2016 SC DebateHis favorite word of the night was “liar,” aimed constantly at Jeb Bush and Ted Cruz, and mostly in response to their accurate accounting of his liberal beliefs and attitude of personal insults. Trump interrupted continually, attempting to disallow other candidates from completing their sentences. As I watched, even I, as someone who has always considered Trump to be a rude, crude joke of a candidate, could hardly believe how low he sank in this debate.

In all the commentary afterwards, very few have voiced what I saw, but Stephen Hayes came closest when he referred to Trump as unhinged. He was, quite often, out of control emotionally. Any other person running for this nomination who acted like that would be considered poison politically, yet Trump and his supporters somehow consider his manner justified.

He was the most unpresidential man on the stage. Yet he leads the polls.

Even fewer commented on what else I saw: the calmness of Ted Cruz while Trump berated him as the greatest liar he had ever known. Frankly, I was impressed that Cruz could keep his cool throughout the tirade. In my opinion, that’s the kind of character trait I want in a president.

I will admit to being discouraged that a narcissist who, under normal circumstances, would be dismissed as a serious candidate, is on the cusp of becoming the Republican nominee for president.

What’s wrong with this electorate?

I’m reminded of a passage of Scripture that I hope doesn’t truly describe where we are as a nation—a passage that deals with what it will be like as the Second Coming approaches. We’re told by the Apostle Paul in the little book of 2 Thessalonians what will transpire with the ascendance of the Antichrist, who will deceive people “because they did not receive the love of the truth so as to be saved.” He continues,

For this reason God will send upon them a deluding influence so that they will believe what is false, in order that they all may be judged who did not believe the truth, but took pleasure in wickedness.

Is that where we are now? I don’t know. I sincerely hope not. But there certainly is a lot of deception taking place and a lot of voters who seem to want to be deceived.

Will Antonin Scalia’s legacy of faithfulness to God and to the rule of law be honored this political season, or will we instead take another step into spiritual chaos and darkness?

Do Not Fret . . . Trust in the Lord

In this daily blog, I attempt to offer what I hope are insights into our culture and society overall. I often comment on politics, government, education, and the media. The developments all around us can be depressing, if we let them overwhelm us.

On a personal level, I have other potential issues that can lead to discouragement as well. I’m not at liberty to share what those might be. Suffice to say there is a strong temptation to give in to despair at times, even though I know God is with me always. The weakness of our humanity sometimes leads us to doubt the promise He has given that if we love Him, He will take all things, even the evil intended against us, and work it for our good.

Psalm 37This morning, feeling on the cusp of being overwhelmed, I simply had to lay it all out before the Lord and seek His guidance and protection. As I did, He brought a certain passage to mind; I had to look it up to find it specifically. It was from Psalm 37. I would like to share some of the highlights of that psalm and pray it will be an encouragement to you today also.

It begins with a dash of reality:

Do not fret because of evildoers, be not envious toward wrongdoers. For they will wither quickly like the grass and fade like the green herb.

Then comes the loving command:

Trust in the Lord and do good; dwell in the land and cultivate faithfulness. Delight yourself in the Lord and He will give you the desires of your heart.

As if that weren’t enough, the encouragement and the promise continue:

Commit your way to the Lord, trust also in Him, and He will do it. He will bring forth your righteousness as the light and your judgment as the noonday.

Throughout the rest of the psalm, the refrain repeats, each time reminding us of our responsibility to trust and of His overarching care and love for us:

Rest in the Lord and wait patiently for Him. . . . Yet a little while and the wicked man will be no more. . . . But the humble will inherit the land and will delight themselves in abundant prosperity. . . .

The steps of a man are established by the Lord, and He delights in his way. When he falls, he will not be hurled headlong,  because the Lord is the One who holds his hand.

God’s character comes out clearly when the psalm says,

For the Lord loves justice and does not forsake His godly ones.

Love StoryThen I felt directed to a familiar passage in the book of Philippians, one that we all need to be reminded of daily:

Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication with thanksgiving let your requests be made known to God. And the peace of God, which surpasses all comprehension, will guard your hearts and your minds in Christ Jesus.

I intend to follow these Scriptural admonitions today. The older I get, the more I understand just how hollow and deceptive are all the world’s enticements, and the more I realize that there is no purpose in life without Him. He is all, and in Him we live and move and have our being.

May you be encouraged by these few thoughts given directly from the Word Himself.

Cruz, Rubio, & the Christian Witness to the World

The Iowa caucuses are today. Finally, after months of poll after poll, there will be an official poll, an actual vote to test the strength of the candidates, in one state at least. The results will lead to the withdrawal of some from the race—or should. The frontrunners will move on to New Hampshire and beyond.

My blog today, though, is less political than it is a cry from the heart to two of those candidates in particular. I have narrowed my choice down to either Ted Cruz or Marco Rubio. I see strengths in both; I see flaws. One flaw is common to both and is causing some distress in my heart.

Cruz-Rubio

You see, both Cruz and Rubio are up front with their Christian faith. Cruz announced his candidacy at Liberty University and has run his campaign partly on the message that Christians need to come together and support him for the sake of good government based on a Biblical understanding of life and a commitment to constitutionalism.

Rubio has also been quite open about his Christianity. He says it is the bedrock or cornerstone of who he is and what he does in office. A video of his answer to an atheist has been making the rounds and has impressed many. He has ties both to Catholicism and to interdenominational Protestantism.

So here are those two self-professed Christian believers publicly vying for the same office—and also publicly tearing one another down as either a liar or the second coming of Barack Obama.

That’s what is causing me the distress.

I understand their deep desire to hold the office of the presidency and return the nation to some semblance of reality after two Obama terms. I get it that they both believe God wants them to do this job. Right now, I could vote for either of them.

Yet they, by attacking each other on a more personal level than a straightforward debate on policy, are violating, in my view, their highest calling. They are besmirching what should be their greatest aim, something far more significant than the presidency: their Christian witness to the world.

Yes, do debate, and debate vigorously. Point out what you think are flaws in the other’s plans and approach to governing. Tell us why your proposals are the better ones and why you think you will be the best leader for a nation in peril.

But in doing so, please don’t descend into the pit. Respect one another as brothers in Christ. Treat one another as you would like to be treated.

If all the world sees is a grudge match between two who name the name of Christ, we all lose.

May the better man win, but may that win be the result of a heart filled with love and a commitment to show forth how a Christian conducts himself in public.

That’s all I have to say today. I will pray for both Ted Cruz and Marco Rubio to be the Christian examples they need to be.