Castro’s Legacy

fidel-castroLast Friday, the sane portion of the world rejoiced at the announcement that Fidel Castro had died. His death doesn’t immediately change anything in the island prison of Cuba; brother Raul is still in charge. Yet there is a psychological lift, at least, knowing that the primary perpetrator of the miseries of the Cuban people finally left the scene of the living.

Castro has his acolytes on the political left who praise him and who mourn his passing. They try to make everyone else believe that when the dictator Batista was ousted, Castro brought relief to an oppressed people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

che-fidelExecutions and harsh imprisonments of his political enemies have been the hallmark of the Cuban experience under the Castro regime. He, along with his chief lieutenant, Che Guevara, murdered approximately 73,000 Cuban citizens; some say the actual number is closer to 100,000.

The US initially supported Castro’s revolution, but then came to realize the mistake. Castro aligned himself with the communist vision and developed tight ties to the USSR. I won’t recount the Cuban Missile Crisis here, but a crisis it certainly was back in 1962. The world was on the edge of nuclear war over it.

Castro admirers point to what they believe is an unblemished record of healthcare and literacy on the island. According to Humberto Fontova, that is a fiction:

For the record: In 1958, that “impoverished Caribbean island” had a higher standard of living than Ireland and Austria, almost double Spain and Japan’s per capita income, more doctors and dentists per capita than Britain, and lower infant mortality than France and Germany – the 13th-lowest in the world, in fact. Today, Cuba’s infant-mortality rate – despite the hemisphere’s highest abortion rate, which skews this figure downward – is 24th from the top.

So, relative to the rest of the world, Cuba’s health care has worsened under Castro, and a nation with a formerly massive influx of European immigrants needs machine guns, water cannons and tiger sharks to keep its people from fleeing, while half-starved Haitians a short 60 miles away turn up their noses at any thought of emigrating to Cuba.

In 1958, 80 percent of Cubans were literate, and Cuba spent the most per capita on public education of any nation in Latin America.

Yet for many, this is a paradise that would be even better if not for the evil US, which, until the Obama administration, placed a trade embargo on Cuba. Yes, it’s all the fault of those nasty capitalists.

President Obama’s statement after Castro’s death said nothing about the suffering he inflicted. Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, outdid even Obama with his eulogy of the totalitarian tyrant.

justin-trudeauTrudeau expressed “deep sorrow” at the world’s loss of a murderous thug. Castro was, in Trudeau’s fawning words, “a legendary revolutionary and orator” who made “significant improvements” to healthcare and education (never mind all those books Cubans weren’t allowed to read). Castro, opined Trudeau, had a “tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people”—except for those he killed, of course—and they, in turn, had “a deep and lasting affection” for their dear leader.

Trudeau’s eulogy was so gag-worthy that a bevy of phony Trudeau eulogies popped up on social media over the weekend. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“Mr. Stalin’s greatest achievement was his eradication of obesity in the Ukraine through innovative agricultural reforms.”

“A quiet loner with a quick wit, Osama Bin Laden inspired tremendous advances in air transportation security methodologies.”

I have my own parting thought on Castro’s demise: “No, Fidel Castro did not go to meet his Maker. He went elsewhere.”

Why I Quote C. S. Lewis

c-s-lewis-with-bookThere are probably some regular (or semi-regular) readers of my blog who wonder why I quote C. S. Lewis so much. One reason is that he has insights that make me think more deeply about what I believe and why. A second is the way he expresses those insights.

Here’s one example, taken from his essay “Is Theism Important?” Think about his perspective here:

When grave persons express their fear that England is relapsing into Paganism, I am tempted to reply, “Would that she were.”

For I do not think it at all likely that we shall ever see Parliament opened by the slaughtering of a garlanded white bull in the House of Lords or Cabinet Ministers leaving sandwiches in Hyde Park as an offering to the Dryads.

If such a state of affairs came about, then the Christian apologist would have something to work on. For a Pagan, as history shows, is a man eminently convertible to Christianity. He is essentially the pre-Christian, or sub-Christian, religious man. The post-Christian man of our day differs from him as much as a divorcée differs from a virgin.

As I contemplate the state of affairs in our contemporary society, I can understand why Lewis would say that. A post-Christian culture closes its eyes, ears, and hearts to the genuine Christian message more adamantly than a culture that at least recognizes there is “something” beyond what we can see, hear, and feel. Our approach to this newer culture has to take paths that get around its biases toward the “old” Gospel message.

Lewis wrote those words in 1952, a year after I was born. Yet even 64 years later, they ring with truth.

That’s why I like to quote C. S. Lewis.

22 November 1963

Today, November 22, is one that most of the world recognizes for one significant event. I recognize it for two, and the latter is of greater consequence.

In the preface of my book, America Discovers C. S. Lewis: His Profound Impact, I write this:

I grew up in Bremen, Indiana, population roughly four thousand, surrounded by corn fields and a significant Amish community, half a world away from Oxford and in an entirely different environment. My parents had never read any of Lewis’s works; there was nothing in my background to lead me in that direction.

By the end of the decade of the 1950s, I could ride a bike and fill my bike’s basket with books from our local public library, a feat I accomplished consistently. Already, before the age of ten, I was a voracious reader. Yet I never borrowed anything in the library by C. S. Lewis. All of his Narnia books had been published by then, but if they were in that library, they never crossed my path, and my affinity for fantasy/science fiction reading surely would have aroused my interest if I had seen them.

Since I knew nothing of Lewis in 1960, I was unaware that his wife, Joy, had died that July. It would have had no meaning in my young life.

When Lewis himself died on 22 November 1963, again I took no notice. But I wasn’t alone—the whole world was startled and anxious over the death of another man that the world deemed more consequential.

lewis-jfk

As the president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was placed in his grave shortly afterward, so was C. S. Lewis. Today, which of those two is of greater significance? I would argue that Lewis has influenced more American lives since his death than has the former president.

God’s judgments about greatness are rarely the same as man’s. On this day, I remember both of these men, but I honor far more the one less acknowledged.

Obama’s Crumbling Legacy

Even though I didn’t want Donald Trump to be president, I didn’t want Hillary Clinton either. So I’m going to have to live with the results of the election. One of the most satisfying aspects of those results is the absolute rejection of nearly everything Barack Obama has tried to do.

Amazing, isn’t it, how he now talks about the need to work together. Must have something to do with the potential loss of his “landmark” legislation inaccurately called the Affordable Care Act.

ready-to-work

“Compromise” has now become a word he’s willing to use. Don’t get too excited, though; his application of the word might not be the same as yours:

compromise

After eight years of working so hard to fundamentally transform America, he’s a little alarmed about all that work being for naught:

obama-legacy

I recall something in the Scriptures about building on sandy foundations. You can look it up.

Democrats, meanwhile, have discovered that they are rudderless, having tied themselves to a cult of personality for so long. What are they to do?

navigate

Frankly, if they remain rudderless, I won’t mind.

One of their biggest cries of anguish stems from the fact that Hillary lost the electoral vote while winning the popular vote. They tried that ploy back in 2000; it won’t get them any further this time around.

Why did Hillary win the popular vote? Is it because she was more popular nationwide, or is it due to an overwhelming popularity in California and New York? There’s a reason why the electoral college is still the better way to choose a president—it doesn’t allow for a few large states to determine the winner. Smaller states still have a proportional say in who the nation really wants.

A Democrat dream would look like this:

without-electoral-collegeExcept for Texas, this method of choosing the president would almost always guarantee a Democrat victory. As usual, the Founders knew better.

Lewis: A Christian Political Party

Historians have different emphases in their study of the past. Mine is the influence of Christian faith on a society and its outworking in government. I am a student of “governing,” not politics per se. While the two cannot be separated, I do think it’s important to keep the distinctions.

cross-flagGovernment is something God wants, if it follows His prescription for how to carry out its responsibilities. Politics is the often messy pathway for figuring out who does the governing, and it is sometimes rather discouraging to see its inner workings.

I’m reminded of C. S. Lewis’s rather pointed comment in the essay “Membership”:

A sick society must think much about politics, as a sick man must think much about his digestion.

To be obsessed with politics may, therefore, be an indication of a low state of society, if Lewis is correct.

Naturally, Christians who want their society to reflect Biblical values will want to get involved in politics to try to turn things in a Christian direction. There’s certainly nothing inconsistent in doing so; in fact, I believe we are called to do so. It has something to do with what Jesus said about being “light” and “salt.”

It’s also natural, at this time in America, for most of us who feel that call to align ourselves with the party that wants to curb abortion, to protect the Biblical concept of marriage, and that seeks, at least in its public pronouncements, to uphold the Christian moral standards overall.

Again, there’s nothing wrong with that. But Lewis has this habit of making us think more carefully on how to proceed. In his day, back during WWII, there was a movement toward setting up a Christian political party. Here’s the caution he offered in another essay titled “Meditation on the Third Commandment”:

c-s-lewis-13From many letters to The Guardian, and from much that is printed elsewhere, we learn of the growing desire for a Christian “party,” a Christian “front,” or a Christian “platform” in politics. Nothing is so earnestly to be wished as a real assault by Christianity on the politics of the world: nothing, at first sight, so fitted to deliver this assault as a Christian party.

I have discovered, though, that even earnest Christians seeking to infuse the faith into politics can disagree over the specific means of doing so. This past election has made that abundantly clear. Lewis continues,

Whatever it calls itself, it will represent, not Christendom, but a part of Christendom. The principle which divides it from its brethren and unites it to its political allies will not be theological.

I found myself this year at odds with those with whom I agree on the essentials of the faith. My concern was the person who was chosen to represent the Christian worldview; I believed he was more of a detriment to that worldview than a promoter of it. It pained me to be divided from many of my brethren over that. The party that was supposed to speak for my Christian views seemed to be rather schizophrenic, in my estimation.

Lewis saw the problem:

It [the party representing Christian faith] will have no authority to speak for Christianity; it will have no more power than the political skill of its members gives it to control the behaviour of its unbelieving allies.

But there will be a real, and most disastrous, novelty. It will be not simply a part of Christendom, but a part claiming to be the whole. By the mere act of calling itself the Christian Party it implicitly accuses all Christians who do not join it of apostasy and betrayal.

It will be exposed, in an aggravated degree, to that temptation which the Devil spares none of us at any time—the temptation of claiming for our favourite opinions that kind and degree of certainty and authority which really belongs only to our Faith.

There is one great difference, of course, between the politics of Lewis’s day and ours. No political party back in the 1940s was advocating abortion or same-sex marriage. Lewis was referring more to differences of opinion on more mundane policy positions.

Yet his caution remains, and rightly so. We must always be careful not to put politics on a pedestal. We must disengage ourselves from the temptation to make it an idol.

And we must never allow politics to come between believers who will spend eternity together.

The Ultimate Safe Space

In the wake of Donald Trump’s victory, some really sad and silly things have been happening. Now, keep in mind that I was as solid a critic of Trump as anyone might want to find. I’m still distressed that he has become the titular head of a party (Republican) and a movement (conservative) with which I always have been aligned.

Yet I accept election results that are not fraudulent and work with those results as best I can.

Not so on the Democrat/Fantasyland side of the political spectrum.

First, we’ve had all those protests that have exceeded legitimate protesting since they are undoubtedly coordinated and funded by individuals such as George Soros. The goal? Create chaos and make people regret the election results.

Some of those protesting actually believe their actions will overturn the election; they are wrong. Others have no real idea why they are protesting; they just like getting paid for acting out their pent-up anger.

trump-protests

Colleges are particularly susceptible to this fantasyland because their students are being taught by the radicals of yesteryear. “Safe spaces,” crying times, and suspension of classes and exams are all the rage.

Democrat politicians like Sen. Barbara Boxer want to do away with the electoral college system for electing a president. I won’t go into all the reasons right now why that’s a foolish idea. For her, it’s just a political expediency because she’s upset Hillary lost.

By the way, 3/4 of the states would have to approve an amendment to do away with our manner of choosing the president. That’s not going to happen.

Now we have others advocating that we get rid of states. We’re all just one big happy country, they say, and the existence of states gets in the way. We all pretty much think and act alike, we’re told.

We do? Fantasyland emerges again.

To all the protesters who manifest their displeasure, let me remind you that the only reason you can do what you do is that there is still a semblance of the concept of rule of law and protection of minority viewpoints. The instrument for your protection is the Constitution you seem to disdain. If you were thinking clearly, you would recognize it for what it is:

ultimate-safe-space

Principled Conservatism

I teach a course on Ronald Reagan and modern American conservatism. I begin the course with definitions of those terms.

Conservatism: a predisposition to maintain existing institutions and practices.

American: a particular brand of conservatism unique to American institutions and practices.

Modern: the distinct development of a conservative philosophy since WWII.

I then explain the three strands of thought that have been weaved together to create modern American conservatism:

  • Economic individualism: limited government; free enterprise; the inviolability of property
  • Social traditionalism: primary concern for the spiritual and moral values of society
  • Anti-communism: even with the fall of the USSR, the communist mentality continues to dominate; a collectivist philosophy remains strong in our politics

While there are some differences in the emphases these three strands of thought bring to the coalition, there are enough similarities that a coherent modern American conservatism has been able to have an impact on our society. Common beliefs can be summarized in this way:

  • There are absolute moral standards
  • The individual is more important than the state
  • Suspicion of centralized government power

biblical-worldviewMy Christian faith is foundational to everything I believe. I discovered, as I learned about modern American conservatism, that this brand of conservatism accurately reflected the truths of my faith. As a result, I’ve attempted to mesh my Christianity with political conservatism.

The connection has worked well. The absolute moral standards of Christianity are essential for our society. The Biblical principle that we are all made in the image of God is consistent with the conservative belief that the individual is more important than the state/government. Centralized government power has often been used to tear down Christian faith and influence people into accepting the government as their provider, thereby setting up a false god, making the state into an idol.

These bedrock concepts are what I have always hoped would guide Christians, in particular, in their decisions when voting and advocating public policies. In this recent election, I’ve had my hopes shaken somewhat. I’m concerned about how grounded we are in principle. Are we allowing emotion to guide us now? Are we perhaps thinking that the state can create the type of society we want?

Where is our faith? In God or in politics?

I want us to be a principled people. I hope we won’t awake one day to discover we have placed our faith where it does not belong.

My pledge: I will pray for this nation, as God instructs me to do. I will pray for its political leaders even when I disagree with them, both in their personal morality and in their public policy.

Yet I know, in my heart, that the only real hope is a diffusion of a vibrant Christian faith throughout our society. Government is not our savior; it will always disappoint in some way.

We have only one Savior.