Our Executioner Awaits

As I continued to follow the news yesterday of the search for the Islamic terrorists in France, I wish I could say I was stunned by revelations of Western cluelessness. Unfortunately, I was not.

Imitating President Obama, we now have a multitude of voices saying that Islamic terrorists are not really Islamic. And a chorus is arising—the same chorus we’ve heard on and off since 9/11—fearful that Americans will now persecute peace-loving Muslims in our midst.

That “boy-cried-wolf” scenario, if it had any validity at all, would have occurred in those days following 9/11, but it never has.

Our mainstream media, fearful of being attacked themselves, pull back from associating this latest atrocity with Islam. They still think there can be peaceful co-existence, if only we play nice.

Whittaker ChambersListening to all this vacuous thinking reminded me of a quote from Whittaker Chambers in his book Witness. Reflecting on his world in 1925—a world unaware of the Communist threat it faced—he penned these words that could equally apply today in our time of peril:

The dying world of 1925 was without faith, hope, character, understanding of its malady or will to overcome it. It was dying but it laughed. And this laughter was not the defiance of a vigor that refuses to know when it is whipped. It was the loss, by the mind of a whole civilization, of the power to distinguish between reality and unreality, because, ultimately, though I did not know it, it had lost the power to distinguish between good and evil.… The dying world had no answer at all to the crisis of the 20th century, and, when it was mentioned, and every moral voice in the Western world was shrilling crisis, it cocked an ear of complacent deafness and smiled a smile of blank senility—throughout history, the smile of those for whom the executioner waits.

Scary words to me. Scary because they ring so true in the 21st century also. What has happened to Western culture? It has lost its Christian underpinnings. Keen analysis is rare due to our rejection of truth. We are dying, but we laugh. We have lost the power to distinguish reality from unreality because we have lost clear concepts of good and evil that come from the Biblical worldview.

Our elites, whether in government, the media, or academia, have no answers. We are in a crisis that they refuse to acknowledge. The few—the Christian few, and others who retain the Christian framework in their thinking—point to the crisis, but complacent deafness and the smile of blank senility is the only response. Our executioner awaits, if we don’t return to our roots.

A political cartoon yesterday sums up our plight:

None So Blind

Happy New Year? Will Government Help or Hurt?

The last two days I’ve looked at the role of Christians and the moral/cultural climate as we peer into 2015. I’ve said that the key to this being a happier year is whether real Christians take their task as salt and light seriously. Then I dissected the trend of the culture morally, showing the immense job we have ahead of us.

Today, let’s consider government’s role, and what it does, either to help reverse current trends or push us further along a wrong path.

Good & EvilUnlike some conservatives/libertarians, I don’t think that government is a necessary evil. Rather, it is established by God to bring order to society. According to Romans 13, it is to be a servant of God to protect those who do good and punish those who do wrong.

I can see why many chafe under civil government when it does the opposite of what it is intended by God to accomplish. I feel the same way. When I survey what our government has done in the past (and being a historian, I’ve done a lot of surveying), I can point to many times when it has deviated from God’s directive. Yet, in America, regardless of the failures, we’ve done better than almost any other nation on the globe, both currently and in the past.

Obama Arrogant LookI regard the ascension of Barack Obama into the presidency as a watershed in American history. His vision to fundamentally transform the country was not just rhetoric. He is the first president who, in the deepest part of his being, doesn’t really like and appreciate the nation he is presiding over. He doesn’t like its history, the way the government was set up in the Constitution, nor the free-market approach to prosperity.

In short, he is the antithesis of everything America was designed to be.

His election was supposed to heal the racial divide, but his words and actions have only widened that divide. He has put the federal government in charge of as much as possible, from student loans to the healthcare system. His outright support for homosexuality and same-sex marriage has encouraged our retreat from Biblical morality, and he is the first president ever to address Planned Parenthood—the foremost provider of abortions—and ask God’s blessing on their efforts.

Obama’s background is a deadly mix of anti-colonial resentment, Marxist ideology, and black liberation theology. All three fuel his drive to remake America in his own image.

During his tenure, we have seen one scandal after another—the IRS, the NSA, the VA, Benghazi, etc. In each case, he has swept the dirt under the rug, and the media has obliged by ignoring the potentially devastating nature of the infractions and the blithe dismissal of solutions.

Stymied by Congress, he has now decided to operate as a lone wolf—first by executive orders for which he has no authority; lately, by mere executive memos that even fall short of an official order. His word is all that is necessary to make law.

This is, in summary, the beginnings of a tyranny.

The Obama vision was rejected soundly in the 2014 congressional and state elections. As I’ve noted in previous posts, Republicans now control 70 of the 99 state legislative bodies and both houses of the Congress. Based on that, one might expect a genuine attempt at reversal. But will we see it?

Boehner-McConnellAlready, many suspect that Republican leaders, spurred on by the Chamber of Commerce, are in league with the president on the immigration amnesty. Will they do anything at all to counteract it? The next two months will reveal the truth.

Are Republicans truly committed to repealing Obamacare, step by step? Yes, they still have the hurdle of a presidential veto of anything they pass, but will they take a principled stand, at least? Again, we’ll see.

The Supreme Court may do their job for them on that issue: a case is going to be decided that could kill Obamacare for good. There is hope.

There are two opposite things that Christians must never do: we cannot believe that the government is our savior; neither can we withdraw from the political scene and just let things play out. We must have a realistic view of what government can and cannot accomplish, but then we have an obligation to actively work for the good it can accomplish.

Christians & PoliticsIt still comes back to what I said two days ago: the key for a happier New Year lies with those who are devoted followers of Jesus Christ. They are the only ones with the ultimate Truth to share, and they should be the ones who have the wisdom to apply that Truth properly to society.

Will we be wise? I wish I could be more certain of that, but that goal remains at the top of my prayers.

Happy New Year? The Moral/Cultural Divide

In yesterday’s post I focused on the role of the real church—those truly committed to being disciples of Jesus Christ—as the key to a happier 2015. If genuine Christians become the salt and light that Christ said they should be, they can diffuse His truth throughout our society more effectively.

Today, I want to concentrate on what is actually happening in our society. Where are we morally and culturally? The two are connected, of course, and they both are the result of the status of our spiritual well-being.

I want to be balanced. I want to be able to point to improvements in the moral and cultural trends. Unfortunately, they are few.

Unborn ChildAbortion may be trending our way, but the battle is a long way from over. We have made progress in educating the general public about the horror of taking the lives of innocent babies, helped along by the excesses of some abortionists like Kermit Gosnell.

Public opinion polls—for whatever they’re worth—now show a higher percentage of Americans opposed to abortion on demand, and the late-term abortions such as were done by Gosnell have sickened most people.

So let’s rejoice at least a little bit over this trend, but not get carried away. The human death toll of more than 56 million since Roe v. Wade is a blight on our culture and our concept of morality.

France Gay Marriage FairThe year 2014 was the year of “coming out” for the homosexual revolution. For the first time in our history, a sitting president declared homosexual marriage to be good and wholesome.

Christians who don’t acknowledge the lifestyle as an acceptable alternative, because they hold to the Biblical teaching that homosexuality is sinful, are facing increasing pressure to conform. That pressure could soon turn to outright prosecution and/or persecution.

Race divides us more now than anytime since the 1960s, despite [or should I say with the encouragement of] a black president and attorney general. The furor in Ferguson, Missouri, led to an outburst of pure emotion, setting aside the facts of the Michael Brown shooting. Charges of racism have become so pervasive that anyone simply stating the facts of what occurred there will be accused of being a racist.

Ferguson RiotsPointing out that Brown robbed a store before the incident does not make one a racist. Stating the overwhelming forensic evidence and preponderance of eyewitness testimony that showed Brown attacked the police officer and tried to take his gun does not make one a racist. However, seeing everything through a prism of racism might make one at least “racialist.”

Demagoguery by accomplished demagogues like Al Sharpton, leading chants of “What do we want? Dead cops! When do we want them? Now!” only leads to more violence. Two New York City officers just sitting in their car are executed by a man hyped up with this view.

We’re in trouble.

At the root of it all, culturally, is our education system. Ruled by a liberal, progressive, anti-Christian elite, it seeks to undermine all traditional views of morality and culture, along with the faith that undergirds them. American history is ignored or reinterpreted according to the progressive vision, while every modern trend—be it radical feminism, environmentalism, wealth inequality, or whatever—becomes the centerpiece of what we now call “education.”

Stop Fed EdIn fact, it’s nothing more than indoctrination in the guise of teaching children “how” to think, not “what” to think. Regardless of the rhetoric, they are being taught what to think, and it’s destroying us.

Whenever we try to reform education, we instead set up a nationwide system like Common Core that, while sounding good, only hastens our downfall.

Real education reform would expand the opportunities for private educational choices and, step by step, reduce the near-monopoly of the government’s control over what we ought to learn and who is allowed to teach.

Clearly, we are a nation adrift from our spiritual base, and it is reflected in what we deem to be moral nowadays. Our culture retains only a thin veneer of Biblical memories. We are poised to become more divided than ever.

I wish I could offer a more positive perspective today, but I have to be honest. This is what I see.

Our federal government is not the source of all our woes; they come from our abandonment of Christian truth. The government, though, does play an essential role in promoting that abandonment. That will be my subject tomorrow.

Happy New Year? Real Christians Are the Key

Everyone always says “Happy New Year!” Is that what we really expect, or do we look ahead with more anxiety than anticipation? Is there much to be happy about in our world?

JeremiahIn this blog, I’ve tried hard to stay upbeat even while pointing out the follies, misfortunes, and outright sins in our society. I’ve never desired to be a Jeremiah. Maybe that’s because I don’t like suffering. No one wanted to hear his words; at one point, he was thrown in a well to die. I’m not fond of wells and other pits. Not everyone gets rescued as he did.

It’s a delicate balance to maintain, pointing out the problems while remaining upbeat. There are too many who spend all their time denouncing everything. They become boring after a while. Yet there is a lot to denounce. How can we do so in the right spirit?

When I look at the world and attempt to make sense of what’s happening, I look first to the church. How is its spiritual health? What impact is it having on day-to-day life? Is it being faithful to the Message delivered to the saints?

It’s always important to keep in mind that there are two “churches” out there: one that is visible and outward, and the other that is within the visible and outward manifestation. The true church is comprised of genuine believers who may worship in many types of outward church buildings and/or denominations.

Do I have to say this? I will anyway. The true church is only a minority within the number of those who show up for a worship service on any given Sunday. The old cliché never goes out of date: going to church doesn’t make anyone a Christian any more than entering a garage makes one a car.

What the world calls “the church” is slipping away from its Biblical moorings. It has watered down Biblical authority and allowed the tenor of the times to dictate what it believes to be true. Some have even gone the entire way and have claimed that truth itself is elusive, rather relative, and unattainable.

We can never look to that external church for real leadership; we must look instead to those who labor within it who have remained faithful to the Gospel—individual salvation only through Christ and societal reform only via the salvation message.

On balance, we have both good and bad occurring simultaneously within what is normally seen as Christendom. That’s to be expected. Jesus made it clear there would be tares [weeds] growing alongside the wheat. He also said it would remain that way throughout time, until God the Father decides that our time is up.

In former decades, America saw itself as a Christian nation, at least in the sense that we honored Christian faith publicly. Those days are nearly gone. Yet, although that may cause us grief, there is an up side to it. The lines are more clearly drawn now; we cannot just rely on a civic religion that gives lip service to Christianity. We are now forced to make a choice—what do we really believe?

Atheists have lately become more emboldened. They are using the courts and putting pressure on the society to toss religious beliefs aside. The society has accepted behaviors that we never thought would become normalized.

What will the genuine church do in response to these challenges in 2015? Will that church stand tall and strong? Will it hold to Biblical truth in spite of the pressures to conform to new societal standards? Will it speak the truth in love and accept whatever persecution may come from that stance?

Salt & LightI keep coming back to this point regularly in my blog: Jesus called us to be salt and light. Salt preserves. There is much in our society that has been based on Biblical truth; it needs to be preserved. We have a responsibility to try to maintain our Biblical roots. Light shows others the way, the proper path to follow. They need this light because they are walking in darkness. If we don’t shine the light, they will remain in their sins.

Love God above all else and love our neighbors as ourselves. Those are the two greatest commandments. But we don’t love either God or our neighbors if we don’t tell the truth about sin, judgment, and how to restore a right relationship with the One who gave us life in the first place.

Will it be a happy new year? Or at least happier? The church of devoted followers of Jesus Christ is the key; we are His hands, feet, and mouth. Will we be faithful this year?

Lewis: Honest Workmanship & God’s Glory

Combing through the letters of C. S. Lewis as research for a book I want to write has uncovered some real gems. Whenever I get one of these, I like to share it. In 1954, Lewis wrote to an American woman named Cynthia Donnelly, who apparently had asked what was necessary to be a good Christian writer. His response clearly points to the concept that everything we do, whether overtly Christian or not, is part of the calling God has given us. There is no strict separation between sacred and secular if we are fulfilling God’s purposes:

C. S. Lewis 8I think you have a mistaken idea of a Christian writer’s duty. We must use the talent we have, not the talents we haven’t. We must not of course write anything that will flatter lust, pride or ambition. But we needn’t write patently moral or theological work. Indeed, work whose Christianity is latent may do quite as much good and may reach some whom the more obvious religious work would scare away.

The first business of a story is to be a GOOD STORY. When Our Lord made a wheel in the carpenter shop, depend upon it it was first and foremost a GOOD WHEEL. Don’t try to “bring in” specifically Christian bits: if God wants you to serve him in that way (He may not: there are different vocations) you will find it coming in of its own accord. If not, well—a good story which will give innocent pleasure is a good thing, just like cooking a good nourishing meal. (You don’t put little texts in your family soup, I’ll be bound.)

By the way, none of my stories began with a Christian message. I always start from a mental picture—the floating islands, a faun with an umbrella in a snowy wood, an “injured” human head. Of course my non-fiction works are different. But they succeed because I’m a professional teacher and explanation happens to be one of the things I’ve learned to do.

But the great thing is to cultivate one’s own garden, to do well the job which one’s own natural capacities point out (after first doing well whatever the “duties of one’s station” impose). Any honest workmanship (whether making stories, shoes, or rabbit hutches) can be done to the glory of God.

His words are not for writers only, but have application for everyone, no matter the profession.

King Philip’s War & History’s Most Basic Truth

The New England colonies of Plymouth and Massachusetts Bay suffered through a terrible war with the natives in 1675-1676. It is called King Philip’s War and, percentage-wise, a higher portion of the population died in that war than in any other American war since; not even the Civil War or WWII suffered as high a casualty rate.

What caused it? Who is to blame?

We must take a balanced look at it. When we do, we see that there is some blame on both sides, but at the root of it was greed, envy, and, well .  . . everything that the Bible says is the root of all wars.

As the first generation of settlers died off, the second generation, both English and native, allowed the relationship to sour. There were two basic reasons for it: land and religion/culture.

King PhilipThe land issue was obvious. As more settlers arrived, they purchased land from the natives. Philip himself was more than happy to do so, valuing what he received in return more than the land. That didn’t stop him, though, from becoming resentful over time as his kingdom shrank. If that sounds illogical, so be it.

In my last post about the Puritans, I talked about the natives who were converted to Christianity, and how they set themselves up as a separate culture, reassessing their tribal ways. This became a sore point with the natives who didn’t convert.

One particular convert, named Sassamon, had even gone to Harvard. At one point, he returned to the tribe to be one of Philip’s advisers, but was accused of taking advantage of Philip for his own gain. I’m not sure how accurate the accusation was; the documentation I’ve seen is somewhat flimsy. Sassamon, though, left Philip and returned to his English friends.

One day, Sassamon was found dead in a pond. Evidence indicated foul play, and testimony placed other key advisers to Philip in the vicinity at the time of the murder. A trial took place that included Indians on the jury. Some say the trial was unfair; others disagree. Regardless, the accused were found guilty and executed. That, ostensibly, ignited the war.

King Philip's War-Indian AttackYet the spark was only the pretense for a war that Philip wanted anyway, and for which he had been preparing. He and his allies began massacring settlers who lived in the frontier areas. The English authorities responded with equal force. The whole thing became quite bloody and brutal.

A major mistake on the part of the colonists was to lump in the Christian natives with the others. They rounded them all up and put them on an island, where they suffered tremendous deprivation. This was uncalled for—and some of the colonists spoke out against this treatment—but fear and stereotypes prevailed.

The irony is that the downfall of Philip and his allies was due largely to the actions of some of those same Christian natives who were being mistreated. They spied for the colonists, brought significant intelligence about their enemies’ movements, and even served with the colonists bravely in some of the battles.

Eventually, the colonial authorities came around and recognized the essential difference between hostile natives and those who had become Christians. The bad treatment ended, and so did Philip’s life, at the hands of a native allied with the colonists.

What should we learn from this episode? There are many lessons, of course, but the one I want to leave you with today is the Biblical truth that the only real division among people in this world is between Light and Darkness. We may divide ourselves in other, more artificial, ways, but the real division is between those who have given their lives to the Savior and those who continue to reject that Savior.

All of history revolves around that basic truth.

Lewis: Surprised by Joy [Davidman]

Out of My BoneI’ve been reading the letters of Joy Davidman, who, before her untimely death from cancer at the age of 45, was, for the last few years of her life, the wife of C. S. Lewis.

If you’ve ever seen the movie Shadowlands, you’ve seen an attempt by Hollywood to portray the relationship between the two, but it falls far short of reality. There are historical inaccuracies—even for the sake of artistic license, one must not stray too far—and C. S. Lewis himself is hardly recognizable; false perceptions abound, particularly of his presumed Oxford ivory-tower existence and his shaken faith at the end when Joy dies. Joy’s strength of character comes through in the film, but very little of her own vibrant Christianity.

Born into a Jewish household in New York City, with an atheist father and mother, Joy followed in their train, declaring at a young age that she was an atheist also. Her materialism led her into the Communist party, where she served as an editor and book and film critic on the New Masses, the party’s weekly magazine. She was an accomplished writer who had won a prize for a collection of her poems, and had some success also as a novelist. But it was all in service to the Communist party.

She became critical of the party over time. Her mind couldn’t rest in the platitudes, so she finally read Marx and Lenin seriously. She was appalled by the illogical nature of their arguments and the massive misinformation upon which they based them. Even prior to her disillusionment, she had begun reading outside the approved party list of books; C. S. Lewis was one of the authors she chanced upon.

In a letter to Chad Walsh, an English professor who had written the first book about C. S. Lewis, she explained how he impacted her:

We more than share your feeling for Lewis; with us it was not the last step but the first that came from reading his books, for we were raised atheists and took the truth of atheism for granted, and like most Marxists were so busy acting that we never stopped to think. If I hadn’t picked up The Great Divorce one day—brr, I suppose I’d still be running madly around with leaflets, showing as much intelligent purpose as a headless chicken.

Joy Davidman 1Joy began writing letters to Lewis, and he liked them, drawn to her intellect and wit. In another letter to Walsh, she details how they had been arguing certain points in those letters, and how he had answered her. It’s an insight into her mental capacity and willingness to be corrected:

Just got a letter from Lewis in the mail. I think I told you I’d raised an argument or two on some points? Lord, he knocked my props out from under me unerringly; one shot to a pigeon. I haven’t a scrap of my case left. And, what’s more, I’ve seldom enjoyed anything more. Being disposed of so neatly by a master of debate, all fair and square—it seems to be one of the great pleasures of life, though I’d never have suspected it in my arrogant youth. I suppose it’s unfair tricks of argument that leave wounds. But after the sort of thing that Lewis does, what I feel is a craftsman’s joy at the sight of a superior performance.

Her own faith grew exponentially through her contact with Lewis, and she saw increasingly that one had to accept Jesus Christ on His terms, not create Him in one’s own image. As she related to another correspondent,

In many of them [the correspondent’s poems] you are explaining and sympathizing with Jesus, rather than accepting him—you are, indeed, not following Jesus but trying to get him to follow you; using him as an agency of your own special revolutionary theory.

I did this myself in the early days of my conversion; explained away what I didn’t like in the Gospel, valued Jesus not as the gateway to my own salvation, but as a means which I could use to support my own ideas—until it dawned on me that unless Jesus was God he was nothing, just another man with a handful of random ideas, and that all I valued such a man for was the accidental support his ideas gave my own position.

You see, I was still being my own God!

Although I’ve known and read about Joy Davidman Lewis for many years, this is the first time I’ve delved into her thought. Before, she was primarily just C. S. Lewis’s wife for a few short years, and that was why she was interesting to me. Now, I have a different perspective. She is interesting in her own right, and she has much to offer us through her writings. There is a reason why a confirmed bachelor like C. S. Lewis would abandon that lifestyle in his later years; he found a mind and heart that resonated with his.