Be Back Next Week

For those who may check here regularly without the benefit of Facebook prompts, just wanted to let you know I’m taking a break from blogging this week. No, it has nothing to do with my feelings about the GOP convention (although I’m kind of glad I don’t have to comment on it). I’m taking time with family and will return on Monday.

On Political Courage

Here’s a thought. What if, at the Republican convention next week, the powers-that-be allowed a secret ballot to choose the nominee? What if the delegates truly had the freedom to vote according to what they believed best for the party and the country instead of being pressured by their political leaders to fall in line with Donald Trump?

Would that secret ballot vote be different than the public one? If so, what would that say about those delegates? What would it say about their adherence to principle? What would it say about their personal character? Where are the spines? Where is courage when it is needed?

History affords us examples of courage in voting. One comes readily to mind for me. President Andrew Johnson was brought to the Senate for an impeachment trial in 1868. The Republican party at that time, which controlled the Senate, sought to remove him from office over disagreements in policy.

Edmund RossIt would take a two-thirds vote for that removal. Everyone knew the vote would be close, and one Republican senator, Edmund Ross of Kansas, would not commit to voting for removal. No one knew exactly what he might do.

Two days before the first vote, Ross had received a telegram from his home state that read, “Kansas has heard the evidence, and demands the conviction of the President.” It was signed by “D. R. Anthony, and 1,000 others.” Ross responded,

I do not recognize your right to demand that I shall vote either for or against conviction. I have taken an oath to do impartial justice . . . and I trust I shall have the courage and honesty to vote according to the dictates of my judgment and for the highest good of my country.

Not to be outdone, Mr. Anthony and his “1,000 others” retaliated. “Your telegram received. . . . Kansas repudiates you as she does all perjurers and skunks.”

The roll call began. Ross had been warned by fellow Radical Republicans that a “no” vote would end his political career. When his name was called, Ross stood and quietly cast his vote—for acquittal. His vote effectively ended the impeachment proceedings.

Some newspaper editorialists decided that Ross could best be compared to Benedict Arnold, Jefferson Davis, or Judas Iscariot. As predicted, his political career did end swiftly; he lost his reelection bid.

In a letter to his wife one week after his momentous vote, Ross declared,

This storm of passion will soon pass away, and the people, the whole people, will thank and bless me for having saved the country by my single vote from the greatest peril through which it has ever passed, though none but God can ever know the struggle it has cost me.

Where are the Edmund Rosses in the current Republican party? Where is the courage needed to stop the most foolish nomination in the party’s history?

Donald & Hobbes 1

Donald & Hobbes 2

We need to be looking out for the nation instead. It’s time for real principle to come to the forefront.

The Most Dispiriting Presidential Election in My Lifetime

Let me dream, please. In my dream, I see Hillary Clinton so tarnished that the Democrats decide they can’t really offer her up as their nominee. I see a party that finally comes to the realization that a woman who can’t be trusted with official documents should never be president.

Also in my dream, I envision a Republican party that actually looks at the platform it just created and shakes off the spell put on it by the Trump circus, acknowledging that he is no more than a Democrat in Republican clothing. In that dream, the delegates come to their senses and deny him the nomination next week at the convention. They will turn, instead, to someone who really believes in the stated goals of the party.

Now, back to reality.

Donald Trump is doing what he can to head off a delegate revolt by readying his announcement of his VP running mate, supposedly tomorrow. He’s been vetting people, doing things like asking for their tax returns—you know, the very thing Trump himself refuses to release. Of course, if he had his first choice for VP, it would be an unconventional pick:

Vice

In the running, presumably, are Newt Gingrich, Chris Christie, and Mike Pence. Gingrich is smart, but his personal reputation is almost as smarmy as Trump’s. Between them, they would be the first team to “boast” of six marriages, three apiece. Gingrich led the Republicans to victory in the 1990s, then fell from grace and had to resign from Congress. This is a positive choice?

Christie was my next-to-the-last choice during the primaries, second only to Trump. He’s not that different from Trump in personality, and he also wouldn’t be wedded to the platform.

Pence has a solid background as a conservative stalwart and Christian man with principles, but he’s let those principles slip in some startling ways lately, particularly with his rather spineless action in backing off the religious liberty bill in Indiana. Although he endorsed Cruz in the primary, it was a tepid endorsement, again betraying a disturbing trend toward loss of principle. In my view, Pence would be lowering himself to attach himself to Trump. He needs to regain his reputation.

Regardless of whom Trump chooses, that person will have one major job: having to defend Trump’s artless statements and actions the rest of the way, often being put in the position of defending the indefensible:

Shovel-Ready Job

Hillary has recently received the coveted Bernie Sanders endorsement, which isn’t going over too well with those fanatical Sanders supporters:

No Establishment

Whichever candidate wins, the inauguration will be a grand joke on us all:

I Do

Nightmare Inaugural

If you follow the latest developments closely, you know that Trump has now said he wouldn’t mind the Republicans losing control of the Senate—he likes the idea of being a free agent.

He’s also initiated a lawsuit against a former campaign senior consultant, Sam Nunberg, for allegedly outing ousted campaign manager Corey Lewandowski for having an affair with campaign spokeswoman Hope Hicks. Nunberg also alleges that Trump set up a fake company for the campaign and misused the funds in that company. Stay tuned for more on that.

This has got to be the most dispiriting presidential election in my lifetime, and that’s saying a lot, considering we’ve suffered under two Obama elections. For the first time, the Republicans are not offering a viable candidate, if indeed Trump escapes the convention intact.

Is this really the best America can offer?

Uncle Sam's Head Bag

Divine intervention is sorely needed. I cannot vote for either of these two people. I have to put my complete trust in God’s mercy.

Why Do I Do This?

This is one of those mornings. I’ve written this blog for the last eight years. Why? What did I hope to accomplish? What have I accomplished?

There are times I simply want to walk away from it and never touch it again. Why bother with being called a racist because I accurately pointed to Michael Brown’s actions before he was shot in Ferguson? Why take the arrows of being considered bigoted because I warn against the homosexual agenda?

And lately, why do I continue to highlight the dangers of a Donald Trump presidency and then get accused of helping Hillary Clinton get elected? All this does is divide people who formerly were united, right?

I’ve always been uncomfortable with confrontations. I would rather write about things we all agree on and never ruffle anyone. But—what would those topics be?

Sometimes I want to give this up and let the world go its own way. My little scribblings in a blog that has a limited audience aren’t going to change anything big, are they?

JeremiahThe problem, though, is that I have a Jeremiah issue. That’s not to say I’m a prophet; God has never told me I have that gift. But I understand at least some of how Jeremiah felt at one point when he said in the 20th chapter of his book,

O Lord, You have deceived me and I was deceived; You have overcome me and prevailed. I have become a laughingstock all day long; everyone mocks me.

For each time I speak, I cry aloud; I proclaim violence and destruction, because for me the word of the Lord has resulted in reproach and derision all day long.

I mean, who wants to feel like that? But he continues,

But if I say, “I will not remember Him or speak anymore in His name, then in my heart it becomes like a burning fire shut up in my bones, and I am weary of holding it in, and I cannot endure it.”

Jeremiah was calling his nation to repentance, yet he knew he probably wouldn’t succeed in that mission. He wanted to stop telling them they were going the wrong way, but the Spirit of God within him wouldn’t allow him to quit.

As I said, I’m no Jeremiah; my voice doesn’t go out to the entire nation; most have no idea who I am, and I don’t mind that at all. But God has called me to speak to whatever limited audience He gives me, and I am supposed to be faithful to that calling.

So, if you disagree with my warnings about our culture, the education crisis, and the political foolishness that abounds, that will just have to be. I will continue to write and say what I believe God has put on my heart.

If possible, though, I would hope your disagreements can be shared in a spirit of humility. My pledge is that I will never treat anyone who disagrees with me in an unchristian manner. I seek to communicate in the spirit advocated by the apostle Paul when he told us we are to speak the truth in love.

I guess I’m going to keep on writing.

The C. S. Lewis Conference: A Report

I had a wonderful weekend at the C. S. Lewis Foundation’s summer conference held at the University of Massachusetts in Amherst. Why was it held there? I’ll get to that.

As I did last fall, I presented a paper at the Academic Roundtable, a time for deeper thinking as a group of academics listened and discussed what each had to offer. The most interesting part of such a roundtable is getting perspectives from different disciplines. I was the only historian in the group; others were professors of theology, philosophy, and architecture.

My paper was on the distinction that we must make between liberty of conscience, which is a Biblically based concept, and pluralism, which is the more humanistic viewpoint—a viewpoint that attempts to push the Biblical worldview out of the public square. It seemed to be well received.

Plenary sessions were offered by excellent speakers. One of the most interesting to me was Malcolm Guite, a minister, theologian, professor, and poet at Cambridge University. He was a captivating speaker, is a songwriter and performer (he gave us some samples), and his poetry is the type that I actually love, which is saying something because I’m not naturally attracted to poetry.

Malcolm Guite

With his full beard, long hair, and short stature, he reminds me of a hobbit. That’s a compliment, by the way.

At a special faculty luncheon, Dr. Mary Poplin of the Claremont Graduate School spoke, and her personal testimony was both striking and stirring. She was a strident radical feminist and atheist (toying with Buddhism along the way) before God gave her a dream of standing before Jesus. That, along with other miraculous occurrences, led her to faith at the age of 41. Shortly after, she went to India to work with Mother Teresa.

Mary Poplin 1

Dr. Poplin also spoke at the final plenary session, outlining the four distinct worldviews that are in conflict. I was struck by how her presentation was very similar to what I do in the classroom, even starting with Colossians 2:8, one of my favorite scriptures:

See to it that no one takes you captive through hollow and deceptive philosophy, which depends on human tradition and the basic principles of this world rather than on Christ.

Green Pastures-Outside 2I raised the question earlier as to why this conference was taking place in Massachusetts. The site was only about half an hour from a house that the Foundation has purchased and is planning to use as a study center. So one of the highlights of the conference was an excursion to that home in the town of Northfield.

Currently, a massive renovation of the home is taking place, with the goal of its being a place where students can come and discuss issues of faith and the Christian answer.

The Foundation already owns Lewis’s home, The Kilns, in Oxford, which it uses as a study center; the goal is to make this a place that can be used in the same way.

One of the dreams of the Foundation is to also establish a C. S. Lewis College in the town. It would be focused on the study of the Great Books and intensive discussion/argumentation (that latter word used in the best sense).

Green Pastures 1

A bonus on this trip was that just down the street is the birthplace of famous 19th-century evangelist Dwight L. Moody, which we also were able to tour.

Moody Birthplace-Outside

Included in the home was an excellent museum.

Moody Birthplace-Museum

I took a shuttle to and from the airport. While the shuttle was waiting for another person to pick up at Amherst College, I noticed a statue that I had wanted to see, so I was able to jump out and take a picture of it.

Amherst College started in the early 19th century as an institution to train ministers. One of its key founders was Noah Webster, who, as some of you know, was the subject of my doctoral dissertation (and the book that was published as a result of that). The college acknowledges Webster’s role.

Webster Statue-Amherst College

I have to admit to being disappointed somewhat by the statue. First, it barely resembles Webster; second, it seems to have been neglected. But there is a scripture on it, 2 Timothy 1:12, for anyone who might take the time to read it:

For I know whom I have believed and I am convinced that He is able to guard what I have entrusted to Him until that day.

Amherst College no longer exists for its original purpose, but a testimony remains for those with eyes to see and ears to hear.

Many thanks for the hard work and dedication of those who planned and carried out this conference. The Holy Spirit was evident in every aspect of it. A spirit of love and genuine fellowship prevailed.

My Prayer for Republicans

Things have not been going very well for Donald Trump ever since he became the presumptive nominee. Starting with his railings against the “Mexican” judge in the civil suit regarding his so-called Trump University, through the Star of David controversy, his berating of Republican senators who are skeptical of his nomination, and his plummeting poll numbers, it’s understandable why there is a growing movement to stop the Republican party from committing suicide at the convention next week.

Make Trump Great Again

You would think Trump would have learned a few lessons along the way on how to get along with people, but that’s not his character. He can be quite charming in person, we’re told, but there’s little evidence of that charm in his public dealings. Narcissists can get along with people if they believe that will work to their advantage, but if rebuffed, they fall back into their self-centered pattern and denigrate anyone who is perceived not to be completely on “their” team.

Giddyup Loser

During the primaries, Trump continually lashed out at the other candidates for taking money from “special interests” and loudly proclaimed he was self-funding. That claim has been pretty well debunked by now as a lot of the money he spent went into his own enterprises, to be reimbursed later.

Now he has done a complete 180, demanding that the GOP get out there and find donors for him. From accounts I’ve read, he is rather inattentive to this himself and expects others to do that job for him.

Self-Fund Me

Perhaps he can get some advice from another candidate who knows how to raise funds—someone who has been the recipient of a lot of Trump money in the past:

Last Million

GOP operatives are also beside themselves when they look at the lack of organization in the Trump camp. Everything seems to be in disarray. Here’s where that narcissism comes into play again:

Trusted Circle

Why doesn’t he at least find some of those great graduates of Trump University to help out?

Trump U Grads

One of my favorite comic strips of all time was Peanuts. Those classic strips are still run daily on the GoComics site. Lately, they have been showcasing some political campaigning strips. They seem so relevant today.

Campaign Strategy

That’s kind of where some Republicans seem to be right now. They don’t really want to vote for Trump but feel like the alternative—Hillary—is so bad they are down to the last person on earth in this election season.

We even have some Trump supporters telling those of us who cannot vote for him that we are ensuring a Hillary victory. Sarah Palin, for instance, has called people like me a traitor. Yes, she used that very word. Mike Huckabee is scolding us and demanding that we get on board with Trump. Ben Carson is a full apologist for him, even though he sometimes has to admit there’s very little “there” there.

I’m no traitor. I won’t be scolded into doing something that goes against what I believe in. I’m sincerely hoping that Republicans will do the right thing next week:

Wide-Open Convention

That is my prayer.

Lewis & the Public Square (Part 4)

CSL FoundationHere’s the final excerpt from my paper (which I presented yesterday) at the C. S. Lewis Foundation’s summer conference. Lewis argues for standing on absolute truth in our interactions with the society around us. He also notes that we are to be faithful regardless of whether we are ultimately successful in our efforts to keep a society from self-destruction.

Lewis’s prescription for direct political involvement was the practical side of his approach, but it wasn’t pure pragmatism. All attempts to influence the public square had to be based on God’s absolute moral requirements.

In response to the hypothetical question as to whether some kind of permanent moral standard would stand in the way of progress, Lewis replied that without such a standard, no one would be able to measure progress. “If good is a fixed point,” he argued, “it is at least possible that we should get nearer and nearer to it; but if the terminus is as mobile as the train, how can the train progress towards it? Our ideas of the good may change, but they cannot change either for the better or the worse if there is no absolute and immutable good to which they can approximate or from which they can recede.” Absolute moral standards for society are society’s only hope, he concluded.

TruthUnless we return to the crude and nursery-like belief in objective values, we perish. . . . If we believed in the absolute reality of elementary moral platitudes, we should value those who solicit our votes by other standards than have recently been in fashion.

While we believe that good is something to be invented, we demand of our rulers such qualities as “vision,” “dynamism,” “creativity,” and the like. If we returned to the objective view we should demand qualities much rarer, and much more beneficial—virtue, knowledge, diligence, and skill.

“Vision” is for sale, or claims to be for sale, everywhere. But give me a man who will do a day’s work for a day’s pay, who will refuse bribes, who will not make up his facts, and who has learned his job.

Just how optimistic was Lewis that Christians taking up the challenge of the public square would make any real difference? In an address given at his own Magdalen College during World War II, Lewis dealt with the question of the futility of human endeavor. He wanted to make it abundantly clear that we, as Christians, do our duty, regardless of the success or failure of our efforts.

“I am not for one moment trying to suggest that this long-term futility provides any ground for diminishing our efforts to make human life, while it lasts, less painful and less unfair than it has been up to date,” he insisted.

FaithfulnessThen drawing on an illustration, he continued, “The fact that the ship is sinking is no reason for allowing her to be a floating hell while she still floats. Indeed, there is a certain fine irony in the idea of keeping the ship very punctiliously in good order up to the very moment at which she goes down.” If we are living in a world that is sinking, we nevertheless have an obligation to make it less of a hell than it would be without our influence.

He concluded, “If the universe is shameless and idiotic, that is no reason why we should imitate it. Well brought up people have always regarded the tumbril and the scaffold as places for one’s best clothes and best manners.”

As long as a public square exists and Christians are not banned from it, the responsibility to speak out for truth remains. If the Christian worldview and the morality that naturally emanates from it is rejected by the society at large, Christians must remain faithful to God’s command to be His voice, even if the world attempts to drown out that voice.