My Lewis Weekend

I had the distinct pleasure last Friday evening of speaking to the New York C. S. Lewis Society in Manhattan. This society was the first organization in America established to study the works of Lewis and help promote them, beginning back in 1969.

When I was researching my Lewis book, I had contacted the society for information to help in my research. Not only did I receive that help, I also received an invitation to talk about the book after it was published.

cover-on-ws-pageNow that America Discovers C. S. Lewis: His Profound Impact is a reality, I was delighted to tell them about it at their monthly meeting. My biggest concern (although “concern” might be too strong a description) was whether I could offer them something worthwhile since they are already well-versed in all things Lewis. When I finished speaking, I said I hoped I had given them more than “fluff.” I was gratified by the response in the Q&A that indeed I had not wasted their time with fluff, and that the niche I explore in the book is pretty unique in the Lewis literature.

In particular, I was happy to meet Dr. James Como for the first time, a Lewis scholar who appears prominently in my book. He was the first there to purchase a copy, even before I spoke. I told him I trust I got his life story correct but if, after reading the book, he decided he didn’t like it, to please not tell me. We had a nice laugh over that.

I had another venue for speaking while in the area, a Christian school whose headmaster is a former student of mine. More on that in a moment.

gateway-academy-2My first audience at the school was a tougher one than speaking to the Lewis Society: fourth- through eighth-graders in a chapel.

How does one connect with that range of children? Let’s just say that I made a few adjustments along the way, opened it up for a lot of questions (and they had them), and enjoyed the interaction. The feedback I received was that they really liked talking with me.

One question was rather personal and kind of funny: how much money do you make writing a book like this? My answer was in the form of guidance for their future. I said that if any of them decided to be university professors and write books like mine, don’t expect to become rich. You do it instead simply because you believe God has put it in your heart to do so.

On Saturday, I then spoke to many of the parents of those children, giving them an overview of Lewis’s life and influence. So it was a two-day Lewis extravaganza.

desanctisBack to my host. I want to thank Chris Desanctis, headmaster of Gateway Academy in Staten Island, for giving me the venue to speak there and for being my guide and chauffeur the entire time. In all my 65 years, I had never set foot in Manhattan, so he is the one who made my talk at the Lewis Society possible.

Chris was one of my students back in the 1990s when I taught at Regent University. Although we have stayed in touch, we hadn’t seen each other in 18 years. It was nice to reconnect, and I want to thank him and his wife for putting me up in their home (and for putting up with a guest who rearranged their Saturday).

Those two days “in the city” were great, and I’m thankful for the opportunities I had to share.

About October Surprises

Remember all those predictions about “October surprises” in this presidential election campaign? A lot of things are breaking on both sides this October. But none of them are really surprises.

your-side-of-family

The ones receiving less coverage, for obvious reasons since the media is on her side, are those swirling around Hillary Clinton: mocking Christians; lying to the people (having different private and public views on policy); coordinating with the media; giving favors to big donors to the Clinton Foundation.

The thing is, we all knew this is who she is. No surprises there. She would be a failed presidential candidate if anyone else had been nominated by the Republicans.

As with Hillary, nothing that has come out about Trump lately—his sexual vulgarity, accusations of sexual abuse (according to one count, ten women came forward yesterday with their allegations), his unbelievable (to use a favorite Trump word) thin skin that doesn’t allow any perceived slight to pass without a thundering response of divine Trumpian retribution, his penchant for wanting to destroy the party that nominated him—none of these things should be a surprise to anyone with any common sense. We all (well, those of us who were paying attention) knew this is who he is.

We’re told that all the sexual abuse allegations are cooked up by the Democrats and their media allies. I agree that they have worked together to undermine Trump. Yet are we really supposed to believe that every one of these women is part of a conspiracy to lie about Trump for pay or something?

If you believe that, you have crossed the line and have become a Trumpbot, a person who will accept any and all excuses he offers, a person who now sees a massive conspiracy in everything bad that happens to him, a person who simply won’t face the reality of the Trump who always has been this way.

proud-to-stand

We have two pathological liars running for president. Democrats will continue to look the other way and pretend Hillary hasn’t threatened national security. Trump devotees are so sold out that they will advocate for him even if—as Trump himself so infamously noted—he shoots and kills someone on the street in full view of everyone.

We’re almost at that point.

Hillary covered for Bill Clinton’s sexual harassment. Trump voters are covering for Trump’s. They have become what they hate.

This election seems to be a neverending sewer.

almost-there

Why do I focus a lot on Trump when Hillary is as big a threat to the republic? I’ve focused on her for years. What bothers me so much this year is the degeneration of the Christian witness by those who follow Trump, almost without reservation.

Take Jerry Falwell Jr., for instance.

In a CNN interview last night, he stated that he would vote for Trump even if Trump had a record of sexual assaults. This, coming from the president of Liberty University, one of the most visible evangelical Christian universities in the country, destroys the Christian witness.

Significantly, students at Liberty have formed a group called Liberty United Against Trump to tell the world they have a big disagreement with their president. The group has issued a public statement that begins this way:

In the months since Jerry Falwell Jr. endorsed him, Donald Trump has been inexorably associated with Liberty University. We are Liberty students who are disappointed with President Falwell’s endorsement and are tired of being associated with one of the worst presidential candidates in American history. Donald Trump does not represent our values and we want nothing to do with him.

The statement continues,

Associating any politician with Christianity is damaging to the Gospel of Jesus Christ. But Donald Trump is not just any politician. He has made his name by maligning others and bragging about his sins. Not only is Donald Trump a bad candidate for president, he is actively promoting the very things that we as Christians ought to oppose.

The final paragraph states,

We are not proclaiming our opposition to Donald Trump out of bitterness, but out of a desire to regain the integrity of our school. While our president Jerry Falwell Jr. tours the country championing the log in his eye, we want the world to know how many students oppose him. We don’t want to champion Donald Trump; we want only to be champions for Christ.

I am heartened by this statement. I applaud those students who are putting Christ first. I hope Mr. Falwell heeds their concerns and walks back his Trump endorsement. Repentance is always welcomed and received.

Meanwhile, for all the other Christians who are still on the Trump Train, I implore you to take another look at what you are supporting. Neither Donald Trump nor Hillary Clinton deserves to be placed in an office of trust because both are untrustworthy.

Don’t sully your Christian witness. Like those Liberty students, please be champions for Christ, not for a corrupt politician.

One Excuse I Forgot

In yesterday’s post, I attempted to catalogue the main excuses and rationalizations I’ve been reading and hearing to absolve Donald Trump of his many sins. This morning, I realized I omitted one very prominent excuse. Let me make amends for that.

The video was from 2005–it’s old news, he’s changed

Probably the only people who can believe that whopper are those who haven’t watched Trump in action for the last year and a half. Changed? Really?

Well, he apologized for what he said in the video. Did you pay attention to that “apology”? It was the typical sorry-I-got-caught non-apology that has become the hallmark of politicians of both parties. What I saw was a defiant Trump trying to deflect from his own sins by pointing to the sins of others and promising to highlight the sins of the Clintons.

King David sinned horribly and God continued to use him, we’re told. Yes, David did sin horribly: adultery compounded by placing the woman’s husband in the line of fire in a battle, thus ensuring his death.

David, though, was then confronted by the prophet Nathan who pointed the finger of accusation at him for his sins. Scripture then records that David repented from the heart. Consequences from his sins followed, but he didn’t blame anyone else nor God. He understood that consequences follow our sins.

david-nathan

He then put his repentance into a psalm that has come down to us as #51:

Have mercy on me, O God, according to your unfailing love;
according to your great compassion blot out my transgressions.
Wash away all my iniquity and cleanse me from my sin.

For I know my transgressions, and my sin is always before me.
Against you, you only, have I sinned and done what is evil in your sight; so you are right in your verdict and justified when you judge.

Is that really the attitude we currently see in Donald Trump?

David continued,

Create in me a pure heart, O God, and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.

Does Trump truly have a desire for a pure heart? Who are you to judge his heart, I can already hear some saying. It’s out of the heart that a man’s actions spring. I’m looking at his actions, which are a showcase into the heart.

God uses sinful people to do His will, we’re told. If He has to, sure. But do you vote for a blatantly unrepentant person for that reason? If so, keep in mind that admonition also applies to the other side. Hillary Clinton is a blatantly unrepentant person as well. Maybe God wants to use her.

Faced with two blatantly unrepentant persons who have no heart for the moral standards in God’s Word, I will vote for neither and trust God either to judge the nation for its sins or to show mercy, which we hardly deserve because we are a people steeped in our own rebellion against Him.

There are consequences for our collective sins as well.

Enough with the Excuses & Rationalizations

I’ll begin with a few comments about the debate last night, but I will then move on to what I consider to be a more important subject.

First, it was satisfying to see Hillary Clinton on the defensive, which is where she should always be. I also didn’t mind seeing women in the audience who have accused Bill Clinton of unwanted sexual advances—rape, in one instance—as well as one who was raped by a man whom Hillary defended in court and got him acquitted in spite of the fact he was guilty. She’s on tape, laughing about that afterward.

trump-clinton-debate-2

Trump’s debate performance was better than his disaster (his favorite word last night) the first time around, but that’s not saying much because the expectations bar is already set so low. The best I can say is that he didn’t spontaneously combust (although I sensed he was on the verge of doing so a number of times).

His performance will embolden his most devoted backers, but I doubt he won over the kinds of voters he will need to win this election. He categorically stated he never pushed himself on women or sexually abused them. I predict that declaration will boomerang on him very soon. In fact, there are already accounts out there that show it’s a bald-faced lie.

Enough on the debate itself.

What has really occupied my thoughts over this weekend is the way evangelicals have come to Trump’s defense after witnessing the indefensible. I’m appalled, frankly, by the excuses and rationalizations being put forward on his behalf. Certain ones come to the forefront, and I would like to address them.

Bad actions vs. bad words

pick-your-poisonThere’s a meme floating around Facebook that gives a list of all the bad things the Clintons have done compared to what Trump has done. On the Clinton side of the ledger, there are many bad actions noted. I have no problem with that; they are all true. On the Trump side, it says only “said mean things.”

The goal, of course, is to contrast a well-documented list of Clinton behavior (as I said, all true) with Trump’s words. “See,” we’re told, “he hasn’t done anything; he only steps out of bounds sometimes with the way he says things.”

Anyone who thinks Trump hasn’t done evil, vile things in his life is living in a dream world. His life is just as much an open book as the Clintons and just as seamy. His business dealings are shady at best, he treats people as commodities for his own advancement, others suffer from his malfeasance—not paying contractors, closing down failing business ventures, conning people with phony enterprises like Trump University (coming to a courtroom near us all very soon), etc.

His comments in the video released last week are not just words. They were bragging comments about how he actually has treated women and how he views them overall. As Trump might say in one of his tweets: BAD. SAD. NOT GOOD.

Those comments also reveal what should have been obvious to everyone by now: he thinks of himself as a privileged individual—a “star”—who can do whatever he wants.

This is what you want in a president? He has gone far beyond “just words.”

All men talk like that

Baloney. Next.

The Clintons are worse

I might agree. I might not. It’s beside the point. Bad is bad. Corrupt is corrupt. It exists on both sides. Whenever anyone tries to excuse bad behavior on one side by pointing to the other, it’s merely a deflection and a desire to change the focus.

No matter what the Clintons have done, Trump must answer for what he has done. Pointing out all the Clintons’ sins (and there are so many one can easily lose count) doesn’t change one bit what Trump has done and the essence of his character.

Trump defenders who use this ploy are unwilling to face the facts about him. They hope that by highlighting the evil on the other side that the rest of us will erase from our minds the evil on the Trump side. That’s not going to happen with me; his evil is just as prominent.

Trump used those women abused by the Clintons to try to show how great he is because he is on those women’s side. Go back in history. At the time those accusations against Bill Clinton were made public, what was his response? Trump, at that time, ridiculed the women and defended the sexual abuser. Now he wants us to believe he is the staunch protector of the weak? Get serious. This is all political show.

Let him who is without sin cast the first stone/judge not lest you be judged

phariseesUsing scriptures like these to try to shame those of us who are attempting to shed light on Trump’s character is unjust. First, it is a none-too-subtle accusation of Pharisaism. It puts us in the crowd of Pharisees who wanted to stone the woman caught in adultery. Apparently, we are harboring our own sins and have no right to point out Trump’s.

That, in itself, is offensive. It implies that anyone who ever expresses concern about sinfulness has no standing to say anything because of one’s own sins. We’re not allowed to warn others about the sins of a man who wants to lead a nation?

By the way, what did Jesus say to that woman caught in adultery after everyone else left? He made it clear she had sinned indeed and warned her: go and sin no more.

judging-othersAs for not judging, go to Matthew 7 where that passage is found. Read it carefully. It’s not a prohibition on passing judgment; rather, it’s a prohibition on judging if you haven’t taken care of your own sins first. Take the log out of your own eye, but then it is fine to take the splinter out of another’s. Judgment does happen, all the time, as it should. We are to be a discerning people. This is merely a warning against hypocrisy when you do judge.

By the way, aren’t those who are telling us not to judge Trump judging us? If you take your own words seriously, you should stop telling me to stop judging Trump.

We’re not electing a pastor-in-chief

Agreed. But does that mean instead that we elect an unrepentant serial abuser of women, a man who spins conspiracy theories for his own political benefit, who insults anyone who stands in his way, who lies blatantly about anything and everything, and who considers himself a privileged person who can get whatever he wants?

Seriously?

The saddest part of this past weekend for me is that the stoutest defenders of Donald Trump have seem to come from his cadre of evangelical supporters. I agree with what Dr. Russell Moore said:

The damage done to the gospel this year, by so-called evangelicals, will take longer to recover from than the ’80s TV evangelist scandals.

I also agree with Rich Lowry at National Review:

Someday they will wonder how a man representing the worst excesses of the entertainment world and our elite culture became not just the Republican nominee, but the candidate of the religious right.

It’s well beyond time for Christians to untangle themselves from Donald Trump. Damage to the Christian witness has been considerable, but through repentance and a renewed commitment to righteousness, perhaps some of that can be reversed.

Enough with the excuses and rationalizations.

Lewis, Politics, & a Dire Warning

In my study of C. S. Lewis while preparing my new book about his influence on Americans, I was constantly confronted with the opposite of what I had been told about him with regard to his views on politics and government. Lewis didn’t like the subject, I was told. Yet he mentioned it rather frequently in his letters to Americans.

Then, as I re-read a lot of his essays, I again was surprised by how often he commented on the principles of good government and how often he critiqued what he witnessed taking place in his own government.

on-politics-and-natural-lawSo I included many of his comments on government in my book. Now I’m delighted to find there is another new Lewis book that emphasizes that insight. I’m in the process of reading it, but I already like its thesis. C. S. Lewis on Politics and the Natural Law is one that some of you might like to purchase (after first getting America Discovers C. S. Lewis, of course).

In light of our current presidential election and what I consider the awful choices placed before us, I think it is instructive to turn to some of Lewis’s commentary on good government.

For instance, in his excellent essay, “The Poison of Subjectivism,” he ends with these thoughts about voting, which I believe have a direct application to our present situation:

Unless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish. If we do, we may live, and such a return might have one minor advantage. If we believed in the absolute reality of elementary moral platitudes, we should value those who solicit our votes by other standards than have recently been in fashion.

While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as “vision,” “dynamism,” “creativity,” and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial–virtue, knowledge, diligence, and skill.

“Vision” is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day’s work for a day’s pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job.

What are we looking for in our candidates today? Far too few seek virtue and honesty in those we put forward to lead.

Another of his essays—one of my favorites—“Is Progress Possible? Willing Slaves of the Welfare State,” takes aim directly at our desire to have the state take care of us. He ends that essay with this dire warning:

What assurance have we that our masters will or can keep the promise which induced us to sell ourselves? Let us not be deceived by phrases about “Man taking charge of his own destiny.” All that can really happen is that some men will take charge of the destiny of the others.

They will be simply men; none perfect; some greedy, cruel, and dishonest. The more completely we are planned the more powerful they will be. Have we discovered some new reason why, this time, power should not corrupt as it has done before?

And what of those who are already corrupt and are now seeking to be our masters? Sober thoughts as we go through this election season.

Defining Social Justice

Good words and phrases sometimes get hijacked. I think “social justice” is one of those. Justice is synonymous with righteousness; the concept comes straight from the heart of God. Justice in social relations, justice in society at large, should be what we all aim for.

What, though, qualifies as justice in a society? Here are my ideas.

image-of-godFirst, social justice should mean we recognize the inherent image of God in each person and treat one another accordingly. It should begin with the most vulnerable and innocent—the pre-born. True social justice will do all that is possible to protect our future generation by abolishing abortion.

Second, social justice will recognize the commonality of mankind as one race. Lately, it has become unacceptable in some circles to say there is only one race: human. Yet, as we’re told in Scripture via the apostle Paul,

He [God] made from one man every nation of mankind to live on all the face of the earth.

That should wipe out animosity toward one another based on ethnic differences. We all descended from one human father and mother. God likes variety.

marriageThird, social justice will want to encourage a loving environment in which to raise children. That means support for the one man-one woman arrangement called marriage as established by God. It’s right on its face, but beyond that, studies show that children raised in a stable traditional family will feel more loved and will have a better future.

Single-parent situations, especially for single mothers, engender instability and increase the number of children who will live in poverty. Those children also will be more likely to follow the same pattern in their lives. That’s not social justice.

Fourth, social justice is achieved more often through a vibrant free-market, private-enterprise system that allows people to advance according to their merit, removing stumbling blocks for success that are often placed in their way by the government. If we really want to help people out of poverty, we will support this kind of economic liberty.

churchill-private-enterprise-quote

Think of our racial divisions at the moment and the poverty that is endemic in inner-city neighborhoods. What else do we find there? High abortion rates; 70% of children living in single-parent homes; government “help” that only creates greater dependence and makes people think they have no options in the free-market, private-enterprise system that works all around them.

ferguson-riotsThose factors are then magnified by inflammatory rhetoric that increases bitterness toward those who are successful and disdain for a society that has offered the greatest advantages the world has ever seen.

This is where the Christian faith steps in to point us all in the right direction. Those who are embittered need to understand that sin is sin, no matter how justified one might feel in that bitterness. Repentance from bitterness and racial rage is imperative.

Those who have material success also must understand that the Christian mandate is to reach out to those who are in need and use the prosperity God has granted to help others. It’s that personal connection—showing the love of Christ to those who think God’s love is missing—that leads them to the Truth.

As with the phrase “there is only one race—human,” so the comment “all lives matter” has come under attack. Supposedly, to use that phrase marks one as racist. Yet I see the opposite in Scripture.

I think of the most well-known verse, in which Jesus states,

For God so loved the world, that He gave His only begotten Son, that whoever believes in Him shall not perish, but have eternal life.

There’s also this reminder in 2 Peter, which states that the Lord is patient toward us, “not wishing for any to perish but for all to come to repentance.”

Both of those verses make clear to me that all lives matter to God.

lives-matter

There’s also this in the book of Colossians, in which the apostle Paul writes of a spiritual renewal through Christ “in which there is no distinction between Greek and Jew, circumcised and uncircumcised, barbarian, Scythian, slave and freeman, but Christ is all, and in all.”

Ethnic distinctions mean nothing to God when it comes to relationship with Him. They should mean nothing to us as well with respect to our relationships with one another.

This passage from the book of Ephesians should be our guide:

Let all bitterness and wrath and anger and clamor and slander be put away from you, along with all malice. Be kind to one another, tender-hearted, forgiving each other, just as God in Christ also has forgiven you.

If we do that, social justice will be achieved.

The Adult on the GOP Ticket

Last night’s VP debate was very instructive, or at least it should be if anyone is listening to the lessons offered there. Mike Pence made a great case for himself being the presidential candidate and Tim Kaine did a fantastic impression of Donald Trump with his constant interruptions and overall boorishness.

vp-debate-2016

While thinking about how I would summarize what I saw, I read Erick Erickson’s wrap-up and discovered that he has already hit all the high points of what would be my summary. For instance, he begins by saying,

Mike Pence won the debate. The only people who dispute this are aggressive partisans. He won, in part, by coming across as the reasonable adult in the room with a calm demeanor and in part by pretending Donald Trump did not exist.

Pence had a tough job going in: trying to defend Trump’s outrageousness and lack of character. He did the best he could by ignoring the attacks Kaine made on the top of the ticket. In his pre-political life, Pence was a talk-show host and his comfortable manner in the public eye showed through clearly. In some ways, he reminded me of Ronald Reagan and his ability to communicate both ideas and warmth.

Erickson continued,

Mike Pence showed his command of issues, his ability to deflect criticism, and his likability. He defended conservative values in ways Donald Trump never could. He was an outstanding, articulate spokesman for life issues. He finally denounced a Russia that his running mate praises.

He then offered this interesting solution to the GOP’s problem and a prediction:

If the GOP could reverse the ticket, they should. Trump, no doubt, is going to passively aggressively attack Pence because Pence outclassed Trump in every way.

He ends his commentary with this bit of reality:

The only major hangup for 2016 is that when the pollster calls tomorrow, he is not going to ask about Kaine and Pence. He is going to ask about Clinton and Trump and that is still a proposition Donald Trump cannot win.

Throughout this campaign, many voters have had this reaction:

better-candidates

Well, at least one of the four fits the description of a better candidate. Too bad he’s not running for president.

How’s this for a hope? Pray for a Trump win, to be followed immediately by a Trump impeachment and removal from office, thereby putting Pence in the White House for at least the next four years.

Sounds like a wonderful dream-come-true to me.