About Those Midterm Elections

Midterm elections mercifully come to an end tomorrow evening. That means we will be spared from the constant barrage of criminal charges against one’s political opponent. Although I’m no longer surprised by the extremely nasty nature of most political ads, I think they’ve raised the nasty factor a few notches this year.

I don’t needs ads anyway. My voting decisions are not based on ads that I know are designed to mislead. My vote is based on the principles that I believe are necessary for government to function the way God intended.

Despite my personal disappointment that Republicans have chosen the wrong man to be the public face of the party, I continue to believe that voting for Democrats will promote not only a government, but a society, hostile to Biblical principles and the morality that should naturally follow those principles.

The Democrat platform has drifted increasingly toward an affirmation of concepts that are not only opposed to Biblical principles but that have a track record of proven incompetence and failure.

That’s not the man I would follow.

Democrats also need to think through the logic of their positions more carefully.

Marxism is not simply a different point of view. History reveals it to be, in its very nature, a movement toward totalitarianism. You must agree or you will pay the penalty. What should we expect if Democrats don’t do as well as they hoped in these midterms?

Be prepared for a level of incivility and outright violence that will take most people by surprise.

How should Christians respond if this occurs?

Be on the alert. Stand firm in the faith. Be men of courage. Be strong. Do everything in love. I Cor. 16:13-14

Notice how one can be firm, courageous, and strong while simultaneously carrying ourselves in love toward others. That’s the goal. That’s God’s way.

Beginning Chapter One of the Great Story

It’s been a great C. S. Lewis semester for me: teaching my Lewis course at Southeastern University; enjoying the opportunity to teach his Mere Christianity along with my book, America Discovers C. S. Lewis, at my church every Wednesday evening; and having the privilege of sharing about my book at the Wade Center at Wheaton College.

I don’t take any of this for granted, and I appreciate all the doors the Lord has opened in the last four years since He inspired me to research and write about Lewis during the sabbatical I received from Southeastern.

Yesterday in the SEU class, we finished reading and discussing The Last Battle, Lewis’s climax to the Narnia series. I chose this one for the students to read because most had already read or were at least familiar with The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.

Yet there was another reason: the ending of The Last Battle contains one of the most wonderful depictions of the New Earth (even if it is in the fictional world of Narnia) that I have ever encountered. When God wraps up this tragi-comedy that we call “reality,” what will it be like? Lewis gives us a hint.

As all the characters that populated the seven Narnia books (except Susan, sadly) find themselves transported into Life after this life, they are trying to make sense of it all. The Lord Digory explains what has happened:

Listen, Peter. When Aslan said you could never go back to Narnia, he meant the Narnia you were thinking of. But that was not the real Narnia. That had a beginning and an end. It was only a shadow or a copy of the real Narnia which has always been here and always will be here: just as our own world, England and all, is only a shadow or copy of something in Aslan’s real world.

You need not mourn over Narnia, Lucy. All of the old Narnia that mattered, all the dear creatures, have been drawn into the real Narnia through the Door. And of course it is different; as different as a real thing is from a shadow or as waking life is from a dream.

Jewel the Unicorn captured it as well when he realized that he had “come home at last. This is my real country,” he proclaimed. “This is the land I have been looking for all my life, though I never knew it till now.”

There’s a reason why we can see beauty around us on this earth, yet long for more. As Jewel concludes, “The reason why we loved the old Narnia is that is sometimes looked a little like this.” And our tired old earth, regardless of being marred by man’s sin, nevertheless retains hints of the Reality that awaits us.

The final page of The Last Battle offers us a revolution in our thinking about death that is worth quoting in full:

Lucy said, “We’re so afraid of being sent away, Aslan. And you have sent us back into our own world so often.”

“No fear of that,” said Aslan. “Have you not guessed?”

Their hearts leaped and a wild hope rose within them.

“There was a real railway accident,” said Aslan softly. “Your father and mother and all of you are—as you used to call it in the Shadowlands—dead. The term is over: the holidays have begun. The dream is ended: this is the morning.”

And as He spoke He no longer looked to them like a lion; but the things that began to happen after that were so great and beautiful that I cannot write them.

And for us this is the end of all the stories, and we can most truly say that they all lived happily ever after. But for them it was only the beginning of the real story.

All their life in this world and all their adventures in Narnia had only been the cover and the title page: now at last they were beginning Chapter One of the Great Story which no one on earth has read: which goes on forever: in which every chapter is better than the one before.

If that doesn’t send a thrill up your spine, you’re not paying attention to the words. I look forward to getting past the title page and entering into the Great Story that goes on forever, and I am convinced, as Lewis says, that every chapter will be better than the one before.

Birthright Citizenship & Executive Orders

President Trump has thrown the political world into a tizzy. In itself, that’s nothing new; he seems to delight in doing so rather regularly. The latest instance is his suggestion that he can end birthright citizenship by issuing an executive order.

I’ll come back to that assertion shortly, but first, let’s look at the issue itself.

The idea that anyone having a child born in the United States automatically makes that child an American citizen has been judged constitutional by our federal courts. The controversy now centers on illegals giving birth. Are those children American citizens if their parents entered the country in opposition to the country’s laws?

All of this stems from the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. How about some historical context here?

The 13th, 14th, and 15th amendments were all added to the Constitution at the conclusion of the Civil War, and all were concerned with slavery and the condition of former slaves. The 13th abolished slavery; the 15th gave former slaves the right to vote. The 13th never caused controversy after the fact; the 15th suffered from attempts to limit that right to vote, but those attempts were eventually banned.

It’s the 14th’s statement about citizenship that is the focus of our current debate. The actual language of the amendment is this:

All persons born or naturalized in the United States and subject to the jurisdiction thereof, are citizens of the United States and of the State wherein they reside.

The first thing to consider is that it was written in the context of ensuring that former slaves were not excluded from citizenship. It was the antidote to the infamous decision in the Dred Scott case in 1857, a decision that upended previous American experience by saying that no black person is or ever was a citizen of the United States. That was at odds with the many free blacks who always considered themselves citizens and had even voted in elections.

That was the main reason for the 14th Amendment: to correct that false belief promulgated by the Dred Scott decision. That is the historical context.

Another part of the historical context is to consider the words uttered on the Senate floor by the author of the amendment, Sen. Jacob Howard, who, in 1866, clarified what was intended by the citizenship clause. Howard stated,

This will not, of course, include persons born in the United States who are foreigners, aliens, who belong to the families of ambassadors or foreign ministers accredited to the Government of the United States, but will include every other class of persons.

According to Howard, citizenship does not apply to foreigners/aliens and those who are representatives of other countries residing in America as ambassadors, etc. In my reading of the statement, I see a distinction between that particular class of foreign representatives and the general connotation of foreigners and aliens. Wouldn’t an illegal alien fit into that latter category?

I realize there can be differing interpretations. That’s why I wouldn’t mind having this debate be open and free, and even submitted to the courts for further clarification.

Now, on to the president’s assertion that he can do his own personal clarification on the issue.

He cannot.

No executive order from any president can undo a constitutional amendment and/or the courts’ decisions based on that amendment. If Trump were to try to undo this precedent merely by the wave of the magic wand of Executive Order, he would not accomplish his purpose—it would immediately be challenged and go directly to the courts.

His goal in making this pronouncement appears to be purely political, an attempt to rally the base as the midterm elections draw near. While that may be understandable politically, it is nonsense constitutionally.

Here’s where I must challenge my conservative colleagues: if you decried how Obama misused executive orders (and I was one of the decriers), you must be consistent and apply that reasoning to Trump’s proposed use of this particular executive order.

If you excuse what Trump proposes as legitimate, you have tossed away your integrity and have decided that constitutional principle no longer matters as long as a president you support resides at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.

On the substance of this birthright issue, I agree that the original intent of the 14th Amendment has been skewed. However, the old cliché remains true: two wrongs do not create a right.

I’m actually glad that the nation might be led into a debate on whether children born to illegals have the privilege of citizenship, but that debate needs to go forward in the constitutionally prescribed manner, not by a phony application of a presidential executive order.

Socialism: A Principle-Based Critique

Conservatives speak out against socialism, and I am glad they do. Often, though, the critique is too much on the surface. I wish more conservatives would base their critique on solid Biblical principles.

While I agree that socialism simply is unworkable and has never shown any indication, in any nation, of being the engine that brings prosperity, my critique is more fundamental.

Defining socialism is important. The definition that I think is most appropriate is when the government controls all the means of production and distribution of goods. That can be by outright nationalization of all industries or by regulating them in such a manner that they, in practice, are no longer truly private—the ostensible owners can’t really make the decisions they wish because the government has intervened and interfered on every level.

Where does my critique begin? It starts with the belief that God has created each individual in His image, which includes the abilities to reason and to make decisions in life.

The second principle is that God seeks to lead us into maturity by teaching us how to govern our own lives—under His laws and guidance. He wants us to grow up and be able to know, without someone always standing over us, what those right decisions are.

Third, if that principle of self-government is correct, the natural extension is that we are to make our own economic decisions also. If government makes all those decisions for us, we never learn how to be accountable in that arena. We can never graduate from God’s School of Accountability if the government takes over our lives.

That’s why I believe that limited government and a free market are the ideals. That’s why I believe that capitalism is the source of genuine prosperity.

Can capitalism go wrong? Every human endeavor dependent on sinful men can go wrong. But it can go very right as well. Socialism, meanwhile, is inherently wrong because it violates all those principles I just described.

I said socialism hasn’t worked anywhere. I can give the former USSR and its satellite states as a prime example: 70-plus years of abject failure.

Nations like Sweden, which are often used as shining examples of socialism, have never outlawed private ownership of businesses; the government has simply tried to use the prosperity that stems from those businesses to finance a welfare state. if you haven’t noticed, there is now trouble in that nation trying to maintain its high level of social welfare. As Margaret Thatcher so famously stated (and I paraphrase)—socialism always runs out of other people’s money.

Venezuela is the latest tragic example, where people are searching garbage cans for food, and where hordes of its citizens are now voting with their feet, leaving their native land—a land that was once the richest in all of South America. The late Hugo Chavez, the dictator who began this disaster, was the instigator of this move away from reason, and let’s be honest: it was also a play for complete control over his people and maximum power for himself.

He didn’t live long enough to witness the full fruit of his warped ideology, but his people have lived with the consequences ever since.

Young Americans seem rather taken with socialism. I believe it’s because they don’t really have an understanding of it. They seem to think it’s some newfangled theory that no one has ever tried. Take Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, the new darling of the socialist agenda in the Democrat party. She actually seems unaware of the many failures. She somehow thinks we can pay for everything she wants to make “free.” She is woefully educated.

Her rapt audience is a sad combination of the ideologically blind and the gullible, both of whom are devoid of solid principles:

Democrats are counting on those young voters in the upcoming midterm elections. For some reason, they seem to want to remake America in the image of Venezuela.

Maybe this is the argument they need to make to convince people to vote for the socialist agenda:

Meanwhile, we need to speak out on these principles: man is made in the image of God; God expects us to grow up and mature, making our decisions based on His truth; we are to learn accountability by making our own economic decisions.

And the system that these principles all lead to is capitalism.

May those principles be re-established.

From Atheism to Christianity: Lewis’s Winding Path

C. S. Lewis’s winding path from atheism to Christian faith is a fascinating journey. We can take that journey with him in Surprised by Joy, his step-by-step account of how God led this proud young intellectual to the point of surrender—to becoming, in his own words, “the most dejected and reluctant convert in all England.”

Lewis, the avidly voracious reader, found, at a certain point in his life, all of his books beginning to turn against him. They kept leading him to Christ. “I must have been blind as a bat,” he wrote, “not to have seen, long before, the ludicrous contradiction between my theory of life and my actual experiences as a reader.”

He then offered a litany of those experiences:

George MacDonald had done more to me than any other writer; of course it was a pity he had that bee in his bonnet about Christianity. He was good in spite of it.

Chesterton had more sense than all the other moderns put together; bating, of course, his Christianity. Johnson was one of the few authors whom I felt I could trust utterly; curiously enough, he had the same kink. Spencer and Milton by a strange coincidence had it too.

The ancient authors like Plato, Aeschylus, and Virgil, Lewis complained, were the kind he could best admire, and they were the ones who were the most religious, even if not Christian. He knew, as a modern intellectual, he was supposed to like others better, but found them wanting:

Those writers who did not suffer from religion and with whom in theory my sympathy ought to have been complete—Shaw and Wells and Mill and Gibbon and Voltaire—all seemed a little thin; what as boys we called “tinny.” . . . There seemed to be no depth in them. They were too simple. The roughness and density of life did not appear in their books.

It was at this point in his life that Lewis became so uncomfortable with God’s infringement on his proud self that he began to refer to the Deity as “My Adversary.” Lewis famously noted that “a young Atheist cannot guard his faith too carefully. Dangers lie in wait for him on every side.”

A self-examination led him to a most depressing realization. What he found inside himself was appalling: “a zoo of lusts, a bedlam of ambitions, a nursery of fears, a harem of fondled hatreds. My name was legion.”

Out of all of Lewis’s poignant comments in Surprised by Joy, this one stands out to me:

People who are naturally religious find difficulty in understanding the horror of such a revelation. Amiable agnostics will talk cheerfully about “man’s search for God.” To me, as I then was, they might as well have talked about the mouse’s search for the cat [emphasis mine].

All his life, Lewis had been on this relentless search for an undefined sense of “joy.” He thought if only he could recapture those fleeting moments of joy he had experienced off and on, he could find the meaning in life. Yet he finally came to the understanding that those experiences were not the reality, “for all the images and sensations, if idolatrously mistaken for Joy itself, soon honestly confessed themselves inadequate.”

All said, in the last resort, “It is not I. I am only a reminder. Look! Look! What do I remind you of?”

Lewis concludes his autobiography with the perspective that those moments of Joy are merely signposts telling us where the right road lies. They are not the destination; rather, they point us to the destination: “We would be at Jerusalem.”

I’m thankful that God is the Great Interferer in our lives. I’m grateful that He continues to beat down our defenses and make the proud humble. For only the humble will see Him.

But He gives us more grace. This is why it says: “God opposes the proud, but gives grace to the humble.” James 4:6

When Society Becomes Unhinged

Reason goes astray when it separates from God and His ways. Emotions then rule and give rise to the most insensible, upside-down comments. Some events, such as the recent Kavanaugh hearings, bring out the worst in those who have given themselves over to a depraved mind and a seared conscience.

Even though there was no real evidence brought against Kavanaugh, but only the uncorroborated words of one woman (accusations from two other women were so bizarre they don’t deserve mentioning), we were told we must always believe whatever a woman says.

As if women never lie? As if women can’t have ulterior motives inspired by their worldview and what they want to see in politics? Women are human, too, you know. And sin abounds.

We also saw in this latest episode that bullying has become a cornerstone of their tactics. Disagree with them, and you will pay the price.

I’m 67. I’ve witnessed a lot of cultural change over the years. In my view, most of it has been negative and fueled by a rejection of the basic Biblical framework of thinking that used to guide our society.

Can you imagine how something as magnificent as the first moon landing would go over today?

If you really want to know how unhinged so many have become, think about how the next Supreme Court nomination will go. What if it’s a woman being nominated the next time? Will she be believed if she is a conservative? What about if she’s not only a conservative but a bold proponent of the Christian faith? What will see then?

At all times, God calls His people to be strong, courageous, and faithful, but especially in times like these. That strength, though, doesn’t lie in acting like those who oppose us; it rests instead on humility and dependence on Him. We must be genuine witnesses of His truth by the character we display.

America Discovers Lewis at the Wade Center

Last night I spoke at the Marion E. Wade Center at Wheaton College. Topic: my book, America Discovers C. S. Lewis: His Profound Impact. The Wheaton campus was quite active last night, what with a Michael W. Smith concert and approximately six other events. Parking was at a premium, I was told, which made some of my audience a little late in arriving. Overall, though, there were about forty very interested people who wanted to know more about one of their favorite authors—that would be Lewis, of course, not me.

I offered a short history of how my interest in Lewis began and how I felt the Lord was guiding me into a niche in Lewis studies that had not yet been fully explored—his relationships with Americans and how Americans have received his writings.

From Chad Walsh (who wrote the first book on Lewis and became his close friend), to Joy Davidman Gresham (Lewis’s American wife), to Walter Hooper (the American who served briefly as Lewis’s helper/secretary and then became the executor of the Lewis literary estate), to Clyde Kilby (the Wheaton professor who had the vision to begin collecting not only all of Lewis’s papers and writings, but then extended that collection to six other famous British authors), it was a joy to share their stories.

Yet those are the ones people are most likely to know about anyway, so I was able to broaden the field of knowledge about other, lesser-known Lewis acquaintances and/or regular correspondents, and how his interaction with them provided spiritual guidance over many years.

Finally, I shared some (not as much as I wanted because I was running out of time) of the responses I got from a survey I sent out during the research for the book. How did you first come into contact with Lewis’s writings? Which ones have impacted you the most? What personal testimonies can you share? Those were some of the questions I asked in that survey, and the responses ranged from very interesting to poignant. I was not surprised that Lewis has truly made a “profound impact.”

I always love being at the Wade Center. Today and tomorrow I will do more research. My new interest in is Dorothy Sayers (one of those famous British authors that the Wade collected information on), her relationship with Lewis and how her Christian writings have had their respective impact.

Many thanks to David and Crystal Downing, the new co-directors of the Wade, for having me come to speak. They are Lewis scholars, and have been for many more years than I. Their appreciation of my first foray into Lewis scholarship has been an encouragement to me personally.

On Sunday, I’ll be speaking at a local church, one where I’ve spoken before. I’ve been asked to provide a solid overview of why Lewis has been one of the Lord’s most effective spokesmen. It will be a joy to do so.

On Monday, it will be back to my students, whom I love, and all that grading, with which I don’t have quite the same loving relationship. God’s calling isn’t all glory, you know.