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.

The Case Against Barack Obama: Character

Yesterday I examined Obama’s roots and the worldview he received from others. Just as important in an evaluation of the man is the character he has developed over the years. Each of us is exposed to many influences that help in shaping our character, but it’s always important to recognize that they are influences only—our path is not determined; how we respond to those influences is the key. Therefore, we cannot blame anyone else for whom we have become.

I say that because in Obama’s case it would be easy to blame his father, who didn’t stay with the family. Just as easy to blame would be his mother, who pushed him away from Western values, Christianity in particular. And then there were his grandparents who introduced him to his communist mentor, Frank Marshall Davis. Obama’s formative years were filled with what I would call pernicious influences. I’m sorry he had such an upbringing, but he is still accountable for how he responded to all those influences.

Abandoned by his father, raised by a white mother and grandparents, he can be excused perhaps for feeling out of place and in need of an identity. That’s probably why he created a fantasy image of his natural father. So in one sense he had a deep need for affirmation as a person. Yet, simultaneously, he was really quite the child of privilege. He never lacked for anything materially. He went to a private high school in Hawaii, then on to Columbia and Harvard later. Those are hardly the credentials of someone who is a hardship case. He even became editor of the Harvard Law Review despite no real writing accomplishments of his own. Many have raised the question of just who paid for all this education, but he has not been forthcoming with that information, and his college records have remained sealed.

By his own admission, he was an active drug user in his youth. There’s also no indication he ever had to work hard at any job to help pay for his expenses. All the privileges he received, along with an active imagination about a heroic father, compensated for his loss of identity. He determined to be part of black America even though he lived primarily in a white family and society. This apparently gave his life meaning.

As I noted yesterday, he became a convinced Marxist by the time he went to college, and also latched on to his father’s anti-colonialism, which made him anti-establishment, anti-Western civilization, and even anti-American since it was part of that civilization.

Because everything seemed to be handed to him on the proverbial silver platter, he became self-righteous and arrogant, traits that made it easy for him to slide into the role of political messiah in 2008. He never really discouraged his adoring followers to consider him as simply another flawed human being. After all, as he stated, his election would be the starting point for the lowering of the oceans and the healing of the planet. No lack of self-confidence there. He also proclaimed that we [kind of a royal "we"] were the ones “we” had been waiting for. As if all of history revolved around the coming of the new messiah. The media should have showcased this arrogance, but instead has become his chief enabler, ignoring the fact that the emperor has no clothes and inventing “scandals” for anyone who dares offer a critique of the One.

Since he has been in office, other traits have come to the surface. Even those around him comment that he is aloof. He doesn’t form relationships with anyone outside his own little circle of confidants, all of whom seem to bow to his every whim. He doesn’t even develop solid relationships with congressional Democrats. It’s almost as if they are beneath him and not worth the time. And as for Republicans . . . well, that’s a non-starter. He will talk about compromise, but never do it, and then blame the Republicans for being obstructionists.

Many have commented on his thin skin; he bristles at any hint of disrespect. Often, he is petty, and lets it show publicly. Two examples. First, when he was making overtures to Republicans about budget compromises, he decided to make a speech and invite Paul Ryan to be there. So there was Ryan, sitting in the front row, I believe, and Obama then turned his rhetorical guns on the Ryan plan for getting the nation out of our deficit mess. Ryan, to his credit, took the verbal assault calmly.

But the more famous example was during one of his State of the Union addresses, when he criticized a recent Supreme Court decision as the justices were sitting right in front of him. It was an attempt to humiliate them in the national spotlight. No president has ever used this important address to berate the court while they were honoring him with their presence. The term “mean-spirited” is not too strong for his actions in both of these cases.

I firmly believe Obama is a classic narcissist. He lives to please himself and won’t take any responsibility for anything that goes wrong. The economy? Nearly four years after George Bush has left the office, Obama continues to blame him for the current problems. And his penchant for not paying sufficient attention to his day job—president of the most powerful nation on earth—is becoming painful to watch. He spends an inordinate amount of time playing golf, attending fundraisers, and partying with celebrities. But he seems to get away with it since we are a nation apparently hooked on the celebrity culture. It seems to be hard to get his attention lately:

The most baffling aspect of all this, to me, is that polls show people find him likeable. Reagan was likeable, as even his detractors admitted; Obama is not. He’s the epitome of the anti-Reagan. His arrogance, aloofness, and narcissism are deadly in a leader. And where is he leading us? That will be the subject of the next two posts.

The Case Against Barack Obama: Theology/Worldview

Most political analysts refuse to enter the field of theology and worldview. They prefer instead to just look at the externals of a person’s policies. Yet all externals proceed from what is internal. The questions need to be asked: What does a person believe to be ultimate reality? What principles guide his thinking? How are those ideas then translated into policy? For Obama, as with anyone, we must begin at the beginning.

Both of Obama’s parents were decidedly on the Left with respect to culture and politics. Obama’s mother, Ann Dunham, was an American anthropologist. His father, Barack Obama Sr., was a Kenyan who resented and fought against British rule in his native country. That resentment pushed him into being a revolutionary.

Dunham and Obama met at the University of Hawaii and got married in 1961, with the younger Barack already on the way. Barack Sr. neglected to tell her he had a wife and children back in Kenya. After graduation, she stayed in Hawaii while he took off to Harvard for graduate studies. They were divorced in 1964.

The only time he saw his son after that was in 1971 when he visited Hawaii. So the son never really knew his father, yet for some reason, he practically idolized him. This romanticized version of dad helped lead him toward the anti-colonial views his dad held dear.

His mother then married Lolo Soetoro, an Indonesian also studying at the University of Hawaii. They moved to Indonesia. Although that marriage officially lasted until 1980, it was strained as Dunham became more enamored of Indonesian culture and Soetoro was drawn more and more into Western culture. Whereas Barack Sr. was an atheist at the time of his marriage to Dunham, his family had been Muslim. Soetoro also was Muslim. That has led to speculation by some that Obama is a closet Muslim as well. There’s no real evidence for that. He’s actually more of an anti-colonialist who sympathizes with Muslims because he perceives them as being an oppressed people by the West.

Soetoro’s Western leanings became the impetus for the young Obama to be sent back to Hawaii to live with his maternal grandparents, Stanley and Madelyn Dunham. They were also radical in their worldview and wanted to ensure that Obama was properly trained in that perspective. One can see that Ann Dunham obviously followed in her own parents’ footsteps ideologically.

In order to fulfill that mission, Stanley Dunham turned to Frank Marshall Davis to serve as a mentor for Obama. Davis was a committed communist who had joined the Communist Party early in World War II. He also was the founding editor-in-chief of the Chicago Star, a communist newspaper. In Davis’s columns for the Star, he wrote against Wall Street, profit-based companies, tax cuts, and anyone he considered wealthy. He also pushed for universal, government-sponsored healthcare and major public works projects. According to Grove City College professor Paul Kengor, who has recently authored a biography of Davis, Dunham introduced Obama to Davis in 1970, and until Obama left for college, he was his primary influence. As a result, when Obama entered Occidental College, he was a full-fledged Marxist. That insight, says Kengor, comes from Dr. John Drew, an acquaintance of Obama’s during that period of his life, and a Marxist himself at that time. Kengor comments of Drew,

He’s totally credible, no axe to grind, no story to sell. Drew contacted me because he knew I was researching Davis. Drew sees himself as the “missing link” between Obama’s time with Frank Marshall Davis and with later radicals like Bill Ayers and the Rev. Jeremiah Wright. . . . Drew told me about Obama’s belief in what Drew described as the “Frank Marshall Davis fantasy of revolution.” Drew, who was a more realistic, chastened Marxist, was stunned at Obama’s unwavering belief in the imminence of a Marxist revolution in the United States.

The link between Davis and later radicals. When Obama moved to Chicago, he came under the sway of Jeremiah Wright, so much so that he was a member of his church for twenty years. Wright performed the wedding between Barack and Michelle. Most people are aware of Wright’s most famous/infamous quotes, particularly his call for God to damn America. But most people don’t realize that Wright, bolstered by his radical black liberation theology, also claims that Jesus was black, that Israel is a terrorist state, and that the U.S. government created the HIV virus to carry out genocide against minorities. His “church” also supports terrorist organizations such as Hamas. Obama, during the 2008 campaign, distanced himself from Wright, straining belief by saying he had never heard Wright make those kinds of statements. After twenty years at the church? How credible can that be?

Wright had a mentor as well, a theologian by the name of James Hal Cone, who is considered the godfather of black liberation theology. He’s also Distinguished Professor of Systematic Theology at Union Theological Seminary. So what does this distinguished theologian believe? Here are a few choice quotes:

  • Black hatred is the black man’s strong aversion to white society. . . . But the charge of black racism cannot be reconciled with the facts. While it is true that blacks do hate whites, black hatred is not racism.
  • All white men are responsible for white oppression.
  • Theologically, Malcolm X was not far wrong when he called the white man “the devil.” The white structure of this American society, personified in every racist, must be at least part of what the New Testament meant by the demonic forces.
  • We cannot solve ethical questions of the twentieth century by looking at what Jesus did in the first. Our choices are not the same as his. Being Christians does not mean following “in his steps.”
  • The black theologian must reject any conception of God which stifles black self-determination by picturing God as a God of all peoples. . . . There is no use for a God who loves white oppressors the same as oppressed blacks. . . . What we need is the divine love as expressed in black power, which is the power of blacks to destroy their oppressors, here and now, by any means at their disposal. Unless God is participating in this holy activity, we must reject God’s love.

So much for reaching out to those who disagree. So much for the nature of God as seeking to lead all men out of sin and into righteousness. For Cone and Wright—and by implication, Obama—Jesus is little more than the first human revolutionary. He is all about liberation from worldly oppressors, not liberating all men from sin.

A Chicago Sun-Times columnist, Cathleen Falsani, interviewed Obama about his faith in 2004. Here’s some of what he said:

I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, that we are connected as a people. . . . The difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and proselytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that if people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior, they’re going to hell.

The columnist commented, “Obama doesn’t believe he, or anyone else, will go to hell. But he’s not sure he’ll be going to heaven either.”

So what is Barack Obama’s worldview? He’s a devoted anti-colonialist with strong Marxist underpinnings who has adopted a false Christianity based on black liberation theology. This worldview is dangerous for the future of the United States. It’s not just theoretical with him; he is committed to carrying it out. This is the first, and most foundational, of all reasons to vote him out of office.

How to Make an Award Meaningless . . . or Worse

The Presidential Medal of Freedom is the highest civilian award given to American citizens. It should be reserved for those who have embodied the quest for genuine liberty, and who have warned against threats to that liberty. That’s why President Reagan gave one of these medals, posthumously, to Whittaker Chambers, a man who put his personal reputation, his career, and possibly even his life, on the line when he revealed what he knew about the underground communist network within the U.S. government. That’s what this medal is supposed to signify.

President Obama has made a mockery of this award. Yes, I realize that the president has the prerogative to award this to whomever he wishes, and political beliefs are going to influence those choices, but sometimes a line is crossed. Let me talk about three of this year’s recipients.

Very few people have ever heard of Dolores Huerta, but conservative commentators lit up the internet yesterday with information about Huerta the president cleverly chose not to share. Here are some highlights:

  • Honorary Chairman of the Democratic Socialists of America, the largest socialist organization in the U.S. and the principal U.S. affiliate of The Socialist International
  • Professed Marxist
  • Believes the War on Terror is really a war on immigrants
  • Board member for the following radical groups: Feminist Majority, Latinas for Choice, the Center for Voting and Democracy, and Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting [the name sounds good, but it's another Media Matters-type organization]
  • In 2006, she said, “Our theme will be: Republicans hate Latinos”

Giving a medal of freedom/liberty to an avowed Marxist is the ultimate in oxymorons. The two couldn’t be more opposed. Yet what this reveals is that the president himself holds the same views. Otherwise, he wouldn’t be honoring her.

Another recipient was former Supreme Court Justice John Paul Stevens. Now, what could be wrong with honoring a man who served on the highest bench in the land? That would only make sense, right? Superficially, yes. But the philosophy Stevens brought to the Court was of the farthest-Left variety. He even gave an opinion on a partial-birth abortion case that said to deny a woman the “right” to have her unborn child put to death while being birthed would be to deny her “liberty” to make such a decision. Stevens said nothing about the right of the unborn child to have liberty. The unborn child didn’t matter at all to him. His concept of liberty is radical licentiousness. Licentiousness is a rather long word; let me simplify it: sin. So now we have a Presidential Medal of Freedom winner who won’t even protect the life of an unborn child at the very point of birth. This is tragic . . . and laughable, if one can truly laugh at the plight of innocent children.

I’m not aware of the list of recipients over the past years, but I’m sure Stevens is not the only pro-abortionist who has been so honored. It’s just that in this case, his decisions have made their mark on an entire nation. His influence was not indirect, but direct. He is one of the reasons we still fight the fight against partial-birth abortion. Giving him a medal of freedom is hypocritical at the least; an abomination might be a better term.

Another recipient was singer-songwriter Bob Dylan. This one is almost comical to me. Weirdly, as befits his persona, Dylan showed up to receive his award wearing sunglasses. Well, you know, those White House lights are pretty bright. One may be tempted to ask just what Dylan has done to deserve this award, and to be placed on the same pedestal as Whittaker Chambers. I’m certainly asking.

I grew up in the sixties. I remember Dylan and his songs quite well. The songs were all of the protest variety. Some are catchy, even though the sentiments expressed are classic left-wing. I can understand why people may enjoy some of his songs. It’s more of a stretch to imagine anyone enjoying his voice—nasal, whiny, strange.

Let’s be honest: Obama gave Dylan this award because he likes the protest movements of the 1960s and sees Dylan as a symbol of the counterculture. Obama still lives in the spirit of the 1960s; that’s where he is most at home philosophically. It reminds him of his own Marxist tutors and the influence of radical activists like Saul Alinsky.

One commentator jokingly suggested the real reason Obama thought Dylan deserved the award can be seen in light of his own autobiography, which reveals our president as a regular pot-smoker in his youth. Perhaps, the commentator noted, he really liked one of Dylan’s songs better than the rest: “Everybody Must Get Stoned.”

Sad.

If you want to know what kind of president we have—what his underlying beliefs are, and how he wants to transform this nation—all you have to do is look at his choices for the Presidential Medal of Freedom. His choices diminish the meaning of that award, even as his presidency demeans the office itself.

The Real 99%

Cartoonist Michael Ramirez has been highlighting some really stark comparisons in his political cartoons lately. The other day I shared his view on modern society’s upside down perception of heroes and villains. He’s back today with another poignant contrast:

I’m kind of fed up with this “we’re the 99%” baloney, which casts millionaires and billionaires as the other 1% who are ruining the world. In actuality, anyone making just above $300,000 per year is part of that 1%, which means that it’s not made up primarily of the super rich. To me, $300,000 is super rich, but compared to the Warren Buffetts and Bill Gateses of the world, it’s just a very good salary. What’s really going on with the Occupy Wall Street movement is simple Marxism, dressed up in different clothes. The goal is to overturn American society as it exists today.

Well, there are things I would like to see overturned, but not capitalism or the significance of private property. Property and liberty go hand in hand. Our Founders knew they were inseparable. If individuals don’t own property, who will? Answer: the government.

It’s time to see these occupiers for what they are and respond accordingly. Breaking up the unsanitary tent city in New York was a good start. What will that achieve? Fewer murders, rapes, thefts, and harassment of honest business people. I don’t normally think much of NYC’s mayor Bloomberg, but in this case, he finally did what was necessary.

I’ll stand with those who believe in Christian foundations, fiscal responsibility, and constitutional government. They are the hope for the future.

The Latest Manifestation of the Sinfulness of Man

There are so many disturbing aspects of the “occupy” movement that it’s difficult to catalog them all. At its root is the desire to get something for nothing, a malady born out of an entitlement mentality that we have nurtured in our society. Where will it end?

That mentality is central to the greatest heresy of the twentieth century, one that ultimately led to the deaths of more than thirty million in the Soviet Union, even more in China, and also in smaller nations such as Cambodia, North Korea, and Cuba. We’re now seeing it at work in Venezuela. It doesn’t always begin as a full-blown radicalism, but it eventually descends to that low level.

I like to teach history because I believe we can see what went wrong in the past and avoid repeating those mistakes. At least, that is my hope. There certainly are enough object lessons from which we can gain wisdom.

The problem, of course, is that most of us are not wise. We too often reject sound knowledge and understanding. The result is to walk in darkness. Why is this? My authority for understanding why this is the case states it this way:

This is the judgment, that the Light has come into the world, and men loved the darkness rather than the Light, for their deeds were evil. For everyone who does evil hates the Light, and does not come to the Light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.

We have no one to blame but ourselves. We seek scapegoats. We want to believe that “others” cause all our problems, yet the biggest problem is what we see in the mirror. The “occupy” movement is simply the latest manifestation of the sinfulness of man.

Obama vs. Ryan

Congressman Paul Ryan of Wisconsin has gone where few congressmen have dared to tread—into the thicket of budget/entitlement reform. Ryan has proposed a bold plan for revamping the way Congress handles its financial responsibilities; he calls it “The Path to Prosperity.” In it, he tackles most of the weighty problems of our massive debt and tries to show a way out of it without raising taxes. His path leads to energizing American entrepreneurship and significantly reducing the debt over the next decade. I haven’t read it yet, but I have absorbed sufficient commentary on it to know that even if I don’t agree with every part of his proposal, I can commend him for sparking what could be an extremely profitable debate. His venture into this controversial arena should be applauded.

That’s not what happened yesterday, however. President Obama gave his big speech on the debt crisis and basically trashed Ryan’s blueprint for recovery. He demagogued on the issue [is that a surprise?] by calling the plan an abandonment of the elderly, the poor, and the infirm—especially sick children—leaving them to “fend for themselves.” He then outlined his “plan” for relieving the nation of its staggering debt [five trillion of which has been added on his watch] by—are you ready for this innovative approach?—raising taxes on the “rich.”

What we were then treated to was a classic “us vs. them” stemwinder that blamed everything on the rich and pointed to the solution: taking more from them. It was as close to a Marxist, envy-laden speech as a person can get without officially declaring oneself a Marxist. For those who doubt Obama’s basic worldview, read this speech and receive an education.

Obama’s hubris was even more astounding in that he invited Ryan to be present in the audience to hear him trash the very plan Ryan has initiated. Ryan was stunned. He had expected an olive branch and was excited to be invited. That obviously didn’t happen. Afterwards, Ryan had a few choice words for the president:

What we got was a speech that was excessively partisan, dramatically inaccurate, and hopelessly inadequate to addressing our country’s pressing fiscal challenges. What we heard today was not fiscal leadership from our commander-in-chief. What we heard today was a political broadside from our campaigner-in-chief. … This is very sad and very unfortunate. Rather than building bridges, he’s poisoning wells. … Exploiting people’s emotions of fear, envy, and anxiety is not hope; it’s not change. It’s partisanship. We don’t need partisanship. We don’t need demagoguery. We need solutions.

As I read how Obama treated Ryan, I was reminded of one of his State of the Union addresses in which he berated the Supreme Court—while the members of that Court were sitting right in front of him. Hubris.

But what else have we come to expect from this president? He will let others take on the heavy responsibilities, then try to take credit for himself.

He’s extremely adept at playing the game:

The only problem is—this is not a game.