The Un-Christening of the Western World

c-s-lewis-15When C. S. Lewis moved from Oxford University to Cambridge University after nearly three decades at Oxford, it was a major event. Oxford never really appreciated what it had in Lewis, whereas Cambridge created a special Chair designed for him.

His inaugural lecture at Cambridge was a major event as well. In it, he outlined how Europe had become post-Christian, which was a fairly accurate description of Oxford. Lewis noted that nearly everyone thought the switch from pre-Christian to Christian was irreversible. Not so, he explained:

cambridge-inaugural-lectureThe un-christening of Europe in our time is not quite complete; neither was her christening in the Dark Ages. But roughly speaking we may say that whereas all history was for our ancestors divided into two periods, the pre-Christian and the Christian, and two only, for us it falls into three—the pre-Christian, the Christian, and what may reasonably be called the post-Christian.

This surely must make a momentous difference. . . . It appears to me that the second change is even more radical than the first.

Christians and Pagans had much more in common with each other than either has with a post-Christian. The gap between those who worship different gods is not so wide as that between those who worship and those who do not.

It was in that same lecture that he famously referred to himself as a dinosaur, and that since not many dinosaurs existed anymore, the world should learn from them while they are still around.

Joy Gresham, who would of course become his wife a couple of years later, was present at the lecture. She had a rather whimsical reaction to it, writing in a letter, “How that man loves being in a minority, even a lost-cause minority! Athanasius contra mundum, or Don Quixote against the windmills. . . . I sometimes wonder what he would do if Christianity really did triumph everywhere; I suppose he would have to invent a new heresy.”

Yet, as I survey the Western world sixty years after that inaugural lecture, I have to say that Lewis, as usual, was delivering truth.

Pelosi, Trump, & Reagan–Oh My!

Democrats are in disarray. They need assurance that they are on track for the future. Their leaders are in the business of reassuring them that what happened in the 2010 and 2014 congressional elections and the 2016 presidential election are all anomalies. Don’t worry, they’re told, the leadership knows what it’s doing.

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As if to prove to themselves that’s the case, Democrats in the House have given Nancy Pelosi another victory–she’s been chosen as their leader again, despite all those electoral disasters.

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Some in the party find that incomprehensible; they need to find some excuse for how it happened.

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Meanwhile, congratulations on her victory come from one unexpected source:

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Yes, Republicans are on a roll, and Donald Trump has a new approach that no other president has ever tried:

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I have mixed feelings about that approach. While I love having the media shut out on occasion, the constant tweet flow from the president-elect doesn’t come across as presidential to me. It would be much better, of course, if he were more restrained in his comments, but that’s probably not in the offing.

For instance, tweeting that flag burners should be punished either with prison time or loss of citizenship runs counter to the First Amendment. Now, he can get away with saying such things simply because the majority of Americans (myself included) deplore that action. It’s insulting to the nation that gives everyone the opportunity to express disagreement. Destroying the flag is an act of ingratitude, and it is supremely juvenile.

Yet it’s a political winner for Trump. Our anger over the brazen act “trumps” concern for the First Amendment.

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But anytime we minimize the First Amendment, we are treading on dangerous ground.

Trump also is congratulating himself over keeping Carrier in Indiana rather than having the company move some of its activity to Mexico.  Again, this is a mixed bag. One can be glad those jobs were saved, yet how is this different from the crony capitalism that Trump supporters supposedly deplore? Giving one company a break that other companies in the same field don’t get is the ultimate in having the government choose winners and losers.

Trump is now embarking upon what he calls a “Thank You Tour,” holding rallies ostensibly to thank his supporters. I listened to part of his first rally. I’m sorry, but to me it sounds more like a “Trump Ego Tour.”

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Oh, no, there you go, Snyder, just Trump-bashing again. No, that’s not my aim. As I’ve said, I will give him credit when it is due, and I do hope for the best. I’m pleased with a number of his cabinet appointments. I’ll write about those sometime next week, I presume, once a secretary of state is chosen.

But I’m looking for something else in him—humility. You see, I’m old enough to remember Ronald Reagan, the president who never took credit for anything, but always thanked God for blessings and praised the innovative nature of the American people. He gave credit to both God and the people for the economic revival in his day, not to himself. Trump is always bragging about the credit he deserves. That’s not the Reagan spirit that I seek.

I have a paperweight I purchased at the Reagan Library with one of my favorite Reagan quotes engraved upon it. It reads as follows:

There is no limit to what a man can do or where he can go if he doesn’t mind who gets the credit.

That can be true of Donald Trump also. For the sake of the nation, I pray he will begin to understand that truth.

Willful Ignorance: Never a Safe Space

Nice to know that neither Obama nor Biden will make an appearance at Castro’s memorial. I don’t think that’s because they wouldn’t like to do so, but the backlash just might be greater than they wish to handle.

Most people, outside of the press, aren’t exactly in mourning that the dictator is dead. Some have very good reasons not to feel particularly sad about it.

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The Castro legacy is not hard to discover:

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As I said in a previous post, I don’t believe Castro went to meet His maker. Rather, he went to meet his lifelong mentor:

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Meanwhile, on American university campuses throughout the nation, ignorance about communist atrocities in history continues apace:

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We’ve allowed those hallowed halls of higher education to become state nurseries:

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Willful ignorance is never a safe space.

Election Fallout Continues

Bill Clinton and Gary Johnson at the Presidential Election ForumThe Green Party candidate, Jill Stein, has figured out a way to get more “green.” Raising funds for election recounts in Wisconsin, Michigan, and Pennsylvania has given her more publicity than anything she did during the campaign. Since there’s no possible way a recount gives her the presidency, and because she doesn’t really care that much about Hillary Clinton, her reasons for pushing this, many people believe, are purely monetary.

She will say, of course, that the goal is election integrity, but the chance of reversing the vote total in any of those states is infinitesimally small. I’ll go with the money and publicity angle.

The Clintons’ fortunes have definitely taken a downturn with the election result. I wonder what all those donors to the Clinton Foundation are thinking now?

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The lucrative speaking business for the Clintons may take a hit. Does anyone think Hillary is going to pull in six-figure fees now?

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Even though Trump has said he won’t pursue prosecution of Hillary (thereby breaking a promise to his followers and fidelity to the rule of law), the FBI’s investigation into the Clinton Foundation continues. Will justice ever be done?

The Democrat party overall is in disarray. That doesn’t bother me. Only one person seems to have landed on his feet, though undeservedly:

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Obama’s policies (and arrogance) combined with Hillary’s corruption (and arrogance) have led to this electoral disaster. They have no one to blame but themselves.

Meanwhile, Trump is in the process of choosing his cabinet and other key advisors. A number of his nominees are very good; a few are questionable. I’m still of the opinion that putting Mike Pence in charge of running the country is the best option:

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Whenever Trump does something right, I will back him. Whenever he goes off the rails, I will point that out. My goal is to be scrupulously fair to him. I won’t be a critic just for the sake of criticism, but neither will I promote him when he violates the oath of office.

Once all of his key nominations have been made public, I’ll provide an assessment of those individuals.

It’s not just a cliché to say that I am praying for the best for our country.

Castro’s Legacy

fidel-castroLast Friday, the sane portion of the world rejoiced at the announcement that Fidel Castro had died. His death doesn’t immediately change anything in the island prison of Cuba; brother Raul is still in charge. Yet there is a psychological lift, at least, knowing that the primary perpetrator of the miseries of the Cuban people finally left the scene of the living.

Castro has his acolytes on the political left who praise him and who mourn his passing. They try to make everyone else believe that when the dictator Batista was ousted, Castro brought relief to an oppressed people. Nothing could be further from the truth.

che-fidelExecutions and harsh imprisonments of his political enemies have been the hallmark of the Cuban experience under the Castro regime. He, along with his chief lieutenant, Che Guevara, murdered approximately 73,000 Cuban citizens; some say the actual number is closer to 100,000.

The US initially supported Castro’s revolution, but then came to realize the mistake. Castro aligned himself with the communist vision and developed tight ties to the USSR. I won’t recount the Cuban Missile Crisis here, but a crisis it certainly was back in 1962. The world was on the edge of nuclear war over it.

Castro admirers point to what they believe is an unblemished record of healthcare and literacy on the island. According to Humberto Fontova, that is a fiction:

For the record: In 1958, that “impoverished Caribbean island” had a higher standard of living than Ireland and Austria, almost double Spain and Japan’s per capita income, more doctors and dentists per capita than Britain, and lower infant mortality than France and Germany – the 13th-lowest in the world, in fact. Today, Cuba’s infant-mortality rate – despite the hemisphere’s highest abortion rate, which skews this figure downward – is 24th from the top.

So, relative to the rest of the world, Cuba’s health care has worsened under Castro, and a nation with a formerly massive influx of European immigrants needs machine guns, water cannons and tiger sharks to keep its people from fleeing, while half-starved Haitians a short 60 miles away turn up their noses at any thought of emigrating to Cuba.

In 1958, 80 percent of Cubans were literate, and Cuba spent the most per capita on public education of any nation in Latin America.

Yet for many, this is a paradise that would be even better if not for the evil US, which, until the Obama administration, placed a trade embargo on Cuba. Yes, it’s all the fault of those nasty capitalists.

President Obama’s statement after Castro’s death said nothing about the suffering he inflicted. Canada’s prime minister, Justin Trudeau, outdid even Obama with his eulogy of the totalitarian tyrant.

justin-trudeauTrudeau expressed “deep sorrow” at the world’s loss of a murderous thug. Castro was, in Trudeau’s fawning words, “a legendary revolutionary and orator” who made “significant improvements” to healthcare and education (never mind all those books Cubans weren’t allowed to read). Castro, opined Trudeau, had a “tremendous dedication and love for the Cuban people”—except for those he killed, of course—and they, in turn, had “a deep and lasting affection” for their dear leader.

Trudeau’s eulogy was so gag-worthy that a bevy of phony Trudeau eulogies popped up on social media over the weekend. Here are a couple of my favorites:

“Mr. Stalin’s greatest achievement was his eradication of obesity in the Ukraine through innovative agricultural reforms.”

“A quiet loner with a quick wit, Osama Bin Laden inspired tremendous advances in air transportation security methodologies.”

I have my own parting thought on Castro’s demise: “No, Fidel Castro did not go to meet his Maker. He went elsewhere.”

Why I Quote C. S. Lewis

c-s-lewis-with-bookThere are probably some regular (or semi-regular) readers of my blog who wonder why I quote C. S. Lewis so much. One reason is that he has insights that make me think more deeply about what I believe and why. A second is the way he expresses those insights.

Here’s one example, taken from his essay “Is Theism Important?” Think about his perspective here:

When grave persons express their fear that England is relapsing into Paganism, I am tempted to reply, “Would that she were.”

For I do not think it at all likely that we shall ever see Parliament opened by the slaughtering of a garlanded white bull in the House of Lords or Cabinet Ministers leaving sandwiches in Hyde Park as an offering to the Dryads.

If such a state of affairs came about, then the Christian apologist would have something to work on. For a Pagan, as history shows, is a man eminently convertible to Christianity. He is essentially the pre-Christian, or sub-Christian, religious man. The post-Christian man of our day differs from him as much as a divorcée differs from a virgin.

As I contemplate the state of affairs in our contemporary society, I can understand why Lewis would say that. A post-Christian culture closes its eyes, ears, and hearts to the genuine Christian message more adamantly than a culture that at least recognizes there is “something” beyond what we can see, hear, and feel. Our approach to this newer culture has to take paths that get around its biases toward the “old” Gospel message.

Lewis wrote those words in 1952, a year after I was born. Yet even 64 years later, they ring with truth.

That’s why I like to quote C. S. Lewis.

22 November 1963

Today, November 22, is one that most of the world recognizes for one significant event. I recognize it for two, and the latter is of greater consequence.

In the preface of my book, America Discovers C. S. Lewis: His Profound Impact, I write this:

I grew up in Bremen, Indiana, population roughly four thousand, surrounded by corn fields and a significant Amish community, half a world away from Oxford and in an entirely different environment. My parents had never read any of Lewis’s works; there was nothing in my background to lead me in that direction.

By the end of the decade of the 1950s, I could ride a bike and fill my bike’s basket with books from our local public library, a feat I accomplished consistently. Already, before the age of ten, I was a voracious reader. Yet I never borrowed anything in the library by C. S. Lewis. All of his Narnia books had been published by then, but if they were in that library, they never crossed my path, and my affinity for fantasy/science fiction reading surely would have aroused my interest if I had seen them.

Since I knew nothing of Lewis in 1960, I was unaware that his wife, Joy, had died that July. It would have had no meaning in my young life.

When Lewis himself died on 22 November 1963, again I took no notice. But I wasn’t alone—the whole world was startled and anxious over the death of another man that the world deemed more consequential.

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As the president of the United States, John F. Kennedy, was placed in his grave shortly afterward, so was C. S. Lewis. Today, which of those two is of greater significance? I would argue that Lewis has influenced more American lives since his death than has the former president.

God’s judgments about greatness are rarely the same as man’s. On this day, I remember both of these men, but I honor far more the one less acknowledged.