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.

A Personal Perspective on Evangelical Support for Trump

This is going to be a calmer post than I originally intended. My emotions ran high Saturday night with the results of the South Carolina primary. Make no mistake, I am deeply disturbed by political developments in the Republican party, but I will attempt to offer a reasonable commentary to explain my deep concern.

While Trump’s victory, in itself, is disturbing, it’s the way he won that bothers me more—with the apparent backing of a plurality of evangelicals.

Donald Trump 4According to the exit polls, Trump took about 34% of evangelical voters, while Cruz got around 25% and Rubio slightly fewer. One can always say that at least the combined tally for Cruz and Rubio was greater than Trump’s number, but just the fact that 34% self-identified evangelical Christians would vote for this man defies logic.

Perhaps logic is in short supply. Perhaps real evangelicalism is in short supply also. Perhaps the term “evangelical” has come to have so many different meanings that it is now a worthless word.

To me, an evangelical is a true disciple of Jesus Christ, committed to reflect the righteousness of God in one’s own life. A real disciple of Christ would want to see His ways permeate society, and a real evangelical Christian would never vote for a person whose lifestyle and policy positions were in direct opposition to the Biblical message of salvation and moral behavior.

Yet that is precisely what 34% of evangelical South Carolinians did.

First, let me say that I don’t necessarily accept the notion that all self-identified evangelicals are really Christians. Many are probably “cultural Christians” in the sense that they grew up in the church and still attend but have never had a face-to-face encounter with the Living Christ followed by a genuine heart change and desire to serve Him gladly.

God & GovernmentThen there are those who may be genuine Christians but who either don’t have a good grasp of how Biblical principles apply to government or who are operating out of emotion—angry over the trends they see in the nation and allying with Trump simply because he expresses their anger well.

Voting on emotion, and particularly the emotion of anger, is not the Christian way. We need to stay focused on principles and vote according to which candidates are most consistent with those Biblical principles.

I’ve said the following things previously, but the time is ripe for a reminder. If you vote for Trump, here is the man you are voting for:

  • Donald Trump has publicly stated that he can’t think of anything for which he has had to ask God for forgiveness. That’s because he claims to be a good man. This means he has no understanding of sin in his life and no desire to get rid of it. Neither does he have a clue as to why Christ laid down his life for sinners, since Trump doesn’t consider himself to be one of them.
  • Trump dumped two wives at his own personal whim when another woman appealed more to him.
  • He has boasted of having had sex with many married women. He also calls his sexual dalliances his own personal Vietnam (where he was able to avoid serving) because he dodged his own bullets of sexual transmitted diseases.
  • He built a casino with a strip club. How is that in any way acceptable to a Christian?
  • Up until recently, he was aggressively in favor of abortion, even the partial-birth variety. He says he is now pro-life, yet continues to claim that Planned Parenthood does many good things for women. He even touted his sister, a pro-abortion judge, as a possible candidate for the Supreme Court. That sister, by the way, decided a case that rejected a partial-birth abortion ban.
  • Just last week, he said he endorsed Obama’s healthcare mandate while simultaneously saying he would get rid of Obamacare, as if the mandate has nothing to do with that monstrosity. Does he even know what he’s talking about?
  • His entire campaign has been built equally on vague generalities, personal insults toward other candidates and anyone else who crosses him (e.g., Megyn Kelly), profanity-laced harangues, and phony threats of lawsuits (even a threat against Cruz using a video of Trump in his own words displaying his abortion views).
  • Increasingly, he has become an embarrassment by his over-the-top behavior at debates and rallies. He never really answers criticisms of his positions with reasoned responses. Rather, he starts yelling that the accuser is a liar, constantly interrupting and losing his temper. Is that what we should want in a president?

No one in the Republican field of candidates is more inherently contrary to a Biblical worldview than Donald Trump.

Yet he gets 34% of the evangelical vote.

This is a travesty. Those who claim to be the representatives of Jesus Christ in this woeful world need to match their words with their actions, and one of those actions is to vote according to the Biblical worldview they profess to believe in.

To vote for a man like Donald Trump is to violate one’s confession of Christian faith.

I’ve said it rather bluntly, but I will not back down despite the criticisms that may come for being so blunt. It’s time to be serious about how our faith ought to be expressed in the political realm.

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.

No, This Is Not Moral Equivalence

Nicholas ThalasinosNicholas Thalasinos was one of the victims in the terrorist attack in San Bernardino last week. He was one of Syed Farook’s co-workers. Thalasinos was a Messianic Jew—a Jew who had come to recognize Jesus Christ as the Jewish Messiah—and who was deeply concerned about the threat of radical Islam.

Reports indicate that Thalasinos and Farook had argued over whether Islam is a religion of peace, with Thalasinos challenging Farook’s assertion that it is. Apparently, Farook sought to prove he was correct by peacefully murdering fourteen of his co-workers, of whom Thalasinos was probably a chief target.

The mainstream media wants to hide as much as possible the fact that what is occurring here is a jihad against Christianity. Both Christians and Jews have reason to be wary of Islam. For Thalasinos, the threat was doubled because he was both. He paid for his outspoken faith with his life. His reward is that he is now with the Lord.

A New York Daily News columnist, Linda Stasi, wrote an opinion piece a couple of days ago that has garnered a lot of attention. Stasi wrote that Thalasinos was not an innocent victim but the equivalent to Farook on the Christian side. Why? She wrote,

Make no mistake, as disgusting and deservedly dead as the hate-filled fanatical Muslim killers were, Thalasinos was also a hate-filled bigot. . . .

Thalasinos was an anti-government, anti-Islam, pro-NRA, rabidly anti-Planned Parenthood kinda guy, who posted that it would be “Freaking Awesome” if hateful Ann Coulter was named head of Homeland Security.

And for those views, he must die?

Do you see what she has done here? She has cultivated a time-dishonored technique called “moral equivalence.” Leftists used to do this with the Cold War, declaring that yes, the Soviet Union wasn’t wonderful, but that the US was just as bad. The goal was to diminish the evil in the former and concoct evils in the latter.

Stasi has done precisely this. Because Thalasinos fervently believed in his Christian faith and it led him to be in favor of the Second Amendment and become vocally and “rabidly” pro-life, he was just as bad as Farook.

Her “journalism” is the worst kind. Unfortunately, it is gaining ground. The mainstream media continues to search for ways to exonerate the real terrorists and blame others for supposedly making them radicalized. They have staked out their own territory around every Islamic act of terrorism:

Political Correctness Line

There are those, even in the Christian community, who want to deny there is a culture war going on. Some will even blame people like me who comment on what we see happening. It’s a special type of spiritual blindness, and if not halted, will only aid and abet future atrocities.

There is no moral equivalence here. One side speaks out for life and religious liberty; the other uses guns and terror to make its points. We need to see the difference clearly and continue to stand against both the terrorists and those who, by design or unwittingly, make apologies for them.

A Toxic Campus Environment

This new outbreak of campus unrest is more than slightly reminiscent of the turbulent period between 1964-1973, which coincided with the Vietnam War. Along with the war protests, however, we also experienced a major shift in culture. Traditional morality based on Christian faith was largely jettisoned on campuses, and in the intervening years, hostility to Biblical faith and morality has only increased.

While the ostensible rationale for the current unrest is racial, what we are seeing is a bandwagon effect as the old stale tirade against the establishment raises its ugly head once again.

What’s ironic, of course, is that the establishment in the universities is predominantly allied with the leftist agenda. Apparently, they are not being leftist enough.

The demand for free speech that supposedly was the basis for the earlier protests has been turned on its head. Now it’s free speech for me, not for thee.

Free Speech

Some fragile students are offended by almost anything with which they disagree. Everyone must come around to their point of view . . . or else. And if you deny this is happening . . .

Denier

College is also supposed to be a place where one receives a “higher” education. In some departments that has become laughable, and for certain students, it’s not even a goal:

Shocking Sports Story

And where education presumably is occurring, one has to be aware of what that education is comprised:

Imperialist Religious Fanatics

Many have commented that this generation of college students is perhaps the most coddled, immature, and crybabyish (new word?) in our history. For me, it’s always comforting to resort to one of my favorite sources of wisdom:

Perspective

Proper perspective is essential. The current generation, adrift in a sea of moral relativism, quasi-Marxism, and a sense of entitlement, is oblivious to real history, to any foundational understanding of how government under our Constitution is supposed to operate, and to the Source of all our liberties and social responsibilities.

“The Witness and the President” Makes Its Appearance

Witness & President DrawingTen years ago, I had the vision for a book on Whittaker Chambers and Ronald Reagan. I wanted to compare/contrast the pessimism of the former with the optimism of the latter. I also wanted to know just how much Chambers influenced Reagan.

I had read Chambers’s masterful autobiography, Witness, back in the mid-1980s. It affected me deeply. I also was very appreciative of the principles that guided Reagan in his life and administration, an appreciation that grew over time as the nation floundered under successors who weren’t as solidly grounded—and some of whom, like Bill Clinton, who never deserved the office in the first place and who destroyed the respect and esteem we should hold for the presidency.

I read everything else Chambers wrote—his journalistic essays and his posthumous work, Cold Friday. I researched diligently the papers of Reagan’s presidency at his library, combing through all his speeches, and read as many as I could of the myriad books about him that kept appearing.

It all came together, and now the result is The Witness and the President: Whittaker Chambers, Ronald Reagan, and the Future of Freedom. The book is now available through Amazon at this URL.

Am I relieved that this has now come to fruition? Absolutely. But this is more than merely the satisfaction of getting the book published; this is part of my effort to help our citizens understand basic Biblical principles upon which our society must be based.

Chambers left the Communist Underground and found the Christian faith. He gave witness to the need for Western civilization to return to the faith. Reagan, unlike Chambers, had a Christian upbringing. Whatever straying he may have done during his lifetime, he came back to that same solid foundation of faith that Chambers found.

These two men have a message for our generation. This book tells their stories and, I trust, will challenge you to think about the principles we must never lose.

I hope you will get a copy, read it carefully (it tells a good story, too), and ponder its message.

Recognizing “The Agenda”

The Agenda marches on. What agenda, you ask? The attempt to paint a portrait of evangelical Christians as the narrow-minded bigots of the world and the obstacles to “progress,” as defined by the new Progressive Movement.

We see this in many facets, but let me point out two in particular today.

One prong of The Agenda is to say that we are agents of propaganda against Muslims. It’s Christian bigotry, some say, when we warn of the Islamic threat to what once was a society based on a Biblical worldview.

This gets tied in to concerns about the border and illegal immigration, where we can also conveniently be called “anti-immigrant” and racist.

Yet the concerns are real. This latest wave of sympathy for refugees from Syria is a case in point. I would welcome all the persecuted Christians from that region. I would even welcome Muslim families fleeing the radicals. But is that what we will be receiving? Reports from European nations accepting these refugees tell us something different.

Refugee Trojan Horse

I, and other evangelicals like me, make a distinction between individuals and stereotypes. Every individual, Muslim or otherwise, is a potential child of God. We have no qualms opening our hearts to those who are in genuine need and who might be able to see the errors of the way in which they have been raised. We reach out to offer the good news of the Gospel to anyone with ears to hear.

Another prominent prong of The Agenda is to portray Christians as “homophobes.” Let’s be clear—I do fear a society that accepts homosexuality as mainstream because that destroys the family structure as established by God, thereby ultimately destroying that society in the end.

However, I would gladly welcome anyone struggling with that particular sin to sit down and talk about God’s absolutes and the freedom He offers through the Cross. I don’t hate anyone caught in that sin, but I do believe it is essential to recognize it as sin; that’s the first step in being set free.

What I do object to is The Agenda, which is to use every avenue in our culture to normalize homosexuality and to depict anyone opposed to it as hardhearted and evil.

It has become nearly mandatory for television programs to include a homosexual story line to accompany the main theme. The latest instance for me came in the latest episode of an otherwise fine Masterpiece Theater WWII drama called Home Fires. It is a superb story of how one English village had to deal with the problems of the war. Yet in the middle of the plot, we now see a lesbian relationship.

Home Fires

The character on the right is the new schoolteacher in the village who has gone there to escape the bigotry of those who fired her for her lesbian relationship with the character on the left. The one on the left has now followed her to the village and we were subjected to a full and lingering mouth-to-mouth kiss. We are to understand that they are not allowed to express their love openly because of the stilted morality that continues to dominate England in this “backward” time.

So what I object to is The Agenda. It is very real, and the eventual goal is not only to drown out the voice of Christian morality but to prosecute those who continue to be so “bigoted.”

If you don’t think that’s the goal, you are not paying attention.

The irony for those on the “progressive” side, of course, is that if they have their way, and we become Islamicized, all homosexuals will be put to death. Christians only want to help them out of their sin, not kill them.

So what do we do? We continue to proclaim truth and reach out to all who are open to that truth. Will we ever reclaim the entire society? No one can guarantee that, but I do know that the Lord has called us to be faithful, and if we are, there is no telling what He may be able to do through us.