Tuesday, May 31, 2011

War and memory

From James D. Hornfischer's reflections on interviewing veterans of World War II:
.... About 1.8 million World War II veterans remain alive today. That's less than half the number of 2003. When these voices go silent, those of us who write about the war will lose the benefit of living engagement. We will work as our Civil War colleagues do: from documents and recordings and nothing else. What will be gone when these are the sole primary sources is not the facts themselves but the spark that can bring them to life. Diaries and oral history transcripts can let us know a man's thoughts and deeds. But truth is also revealed through tone, emotion and context—and it can be plumbed responsively in real time to discover what was most important.

For those of us who have never served in uniform, it's easy to see World War II as a grand, sweeping drama, featuring actors large and small driven by a sense of overriding mission, all sins and failings vindicated by victory. Yet for the veterans I meet, the war is often about something else entirely. Any talk of it brings them back to a single, pervasive memory sequence: a moment of impossible decision or helplessness when, through their action or inaction, they believe, a comrade paid the eternal price. They can't talk about the war without reliving their powerlessness to influence its predations, without revealing how it changed them. ....

Those veterans who stand away from the crowd or shun the opportunity to speak are of special interest to me. The distance in their eyes shows that they're still in the grip of what they've seen. While talking to them can be like trying to squeeze water from a stone, if you stay with it you can tap something deeply revealing. "The thing that comes out of it is, if you survive, there's a purpose," Bud Comet told me. "You see why you survived. I feel like maybe God had other purposes for me." There was nothing trite in the manner of his expression. This was the considered conclusion of years, the product of the horror of survival at sea. .... [more]
Today I started to re-read the first volume of Bruce Catton's The Army of the Potomac. In the 1962 preface he remembered Civil War veterans he encountered in his boyhood:
...[O]nce, ages ago, they had been everywhere and had seen everything, and nothing that happened to them thereafter meant anything much. All that was real had taken place when they were young; everything after that had simply been a process of waiting for death, which did not frighten them much—they had seen it inflicted in the worst possible way on boys who had not bargained for it, and they had enough of the old-fashioned religion to believe without any question that when they passed over they would simply be rejoining men and ways of living which they had known long ago.

.... A generation grew up in the shadow of a war which, because of its distance, somehow had lost all resemblance to everyday reality. To a generation which knew the war only by hearsay, it seemed that these aged veterans had been privileged to know the greatest experience a man could have. We saw the Civil War, in other words, through the distorting haze of endless Decoration Day reminiscences; to us it was a romantic business because all we ever got a look at was the legend built up through fifty years of peace.

We do learn as we grow older, and eventually I realized that this picture was somewhat out of focus. War, obviously, is the least romantic of all of man's activities, and it contains elements which the veterans do not describe to children.  ....

Yet, in an odd way, the old veterans did leave one correct impression: the notion that as young men they had been caught up by something ever so much larger than themselves and that the war in which they fought did settle something for us—or, incredibly, started something which we ourselves have got to finish. It was not only the biggest experience in their own lives; it was in a way the biggest experience in our life as a nation, and it deserves all of the study it is getting. ....
A Memorial Day Look at the World War II Generation - WSJ.com, Bruce Catton, Mr. Lincoln's Army, 1962.

Seminaries

William B. Evans, in "On Choosing a Seminary" suggests a taxonomy of seminary types:
.... I have concluded that the ethos of a theological seminary, the soul of a school if you will, can be characterized in terms of its response to three sets of polarities, each of which is to be viewed as involving two poles on a continuum. Bear in mind that no school will match these categories completely. These three sets of polarities, in turn, form an interpretive grid that some of my students seem to have found useful. These three sets of polarities are: (1) the graduate school of theology vs. the school for pastors, (2) catechetical vs. critical, and (3) ecumenical vs. confessional. ....
Later he argues that it is important for pastors to be well versed in the theological tradition they profess:
The current crisis of Christian education today—the fact that many evangelical Christians are unable to articulate even the basics of Christian doctrine—suggests that many churches need a renewed focus on the basics of their traditions. What is needed, first of all at least, is not the critical analysis of the tradition but basic knowledge of the tradition itself. The minister who succeeds in passing his theological heritage and tradition on to the next generation has done a good and increasingly rare thing! .... [more]
On Choosing a Seminary - Reformation21

Monday, May 30, 2011

Memorial Day

Memorial Day, originally called Decoration Day, is a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. Memorial Day was officially proclaimed on 5 May 1868 by General John Logan, national commander of the Grand Army of the Republic, in his General Order No. 11, and was first observed on 30 May 1868, when flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. [From US Memorial Day]


In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
John McCrae 1918

Sunday, May 29, 2011

Those who rest in these honored graves

Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass, "Take Time to Remember" in The Weekly Standard:
.... Memorial Day, once called Decoration Day, is a post-Civil War holiday. It was first instituted by the Grand Army of the Republic on May 30, 1868, “for the purpose of strewing with flowers or otherwise decorating the graves of comrades who died in defense of their country during the late rebellion, and whose bodies now lie in almost every city, village, and hamlet churchyard in the land.” If the Fourth of July renews the memory of the birth of the nation, Decoration Day renewed the memory of those who gave their lives “that that nation might live,” or again in Lincoln’s words, that this nation would have a new birth of freedom.

On Decoration Day, May 30, 1871, at Arlington National Cemetery, it was an ex-slave named Frederick Douglass who delivered the memorial address near the monument to the “Unknown Loyal Dead,” before a gathering that included President Grant, his cabinet, and many other distinguished people. “Dark and sad,” Douglass began, “will be the hour to this nation when it forgets to pay grateful homage to its greatest benefactors.” Giving eloquent expression to that homage, he concluded: “If today we have a country not boiling in the agony of blood, like France, if now we have a united country, no longer cursed by the hell-black system of human bondage...if the star-spangled banner floats only over free American citizens in every quarter of the land, and our country has before it a long and glorious career of justice, liberty, and civilization, we are indebted to the unselfish devotion of the noble army who rest in these honored graves all around us.”

On this occasion and for the rest of his life, Douglass was at pains to keep alive through speech the memory and meaning of the deeds of that noble army of men who gave their lives to preserve the Union. ....

After World War I, Decoration Day was expanded to commemorate the lives of all those who have died in service to our country. Later, the name of the holiday was changed to Memorial Day; later still, it lost its fixed date in the calendar, celebrated instead on the last Monday in May. ....
Take Time to Remember | The Weekly Standard

Saturday, May 28, 2011

Ascension Day: Why stand ye gazing up?

GRANT, we beseech thee, Almighty God, that like as we do believe Thy only-begotten Son our Lord Jesus Christ to have ascended into the heavens; so we may also in heart and mind thither ascend, and with him continually dwell, who liveth and reigneth with Thee and the Holy Ghost, one God, world without end. Amen. [Thomas Cranmer]
JESUS said, Behold, I send the promise of my Father upon you: but tarry ye in the city of Jerusalem, until ye be endued with power from on high. And he led them out as far as to Bethany, and he lifted up his hands, and blessed them. And it came to pass, while he blessed them, he was parted from them, and carried up into heaven. And they worshipped him, and returned to Jerusalem with great joy: and were continually in the temple, praising and blessing God.
[John XVI]
Salute the last and everlasting day,
Joy at the uprising of this Sunne, and Sonne,
Yee whose just teares, or tribulation
Have purely washt, or burnt your drossie clay;
Behold the Highest, parting hence away,
Lightens the darke clouds, which hee treads upon,
Nor doth hee by ascending show alone,
But first hee, and hee first enters the way.

[John Donne]

Friday, May 27, 2011

The lone sheriff

An unlikely coalition of liberals and conservatives came together to urge the "humanitarian intervention" in Libya. Peter Berger describes the liberal case for such intervention, exemplified by one Samantha Power, a member of the National Security Council and one of the President's advisers who advocated intervention. The argument is based on a comparatively new doctrine in international law called the responsibility to protect which Berger describes: "States have the duty to protect their citizens. If they are unable or unwilling to do so, other states may have the duty to intervene, in the final instance by military means. Specifically, such intervention is justified in the case of four derelictions: genocide, war crimes, crimes against humanity, and ethnic cleansing. The intervention has to be approved by legitimate authority—which turns out to be (surprise!) the United Nations. Very importantly, sovereignty cannot be used as a shield behind which any atrocity can be perpetrated." Berger then goes on to consider whether the doctrine is credible:
This cannot be the place to go into the legal intricacies of the “responsibility to protect” (I am not competent to do so anyway), let alone to discuss the moral or realist merits of the invasions of Iraq and Libya. But it is within the broad purview of this blog to look into the moral reasoning behind this doctrine. I think it is essentially plausible. The insistence on the exclusive authority of the UN is much less plausible: The UN is not a world government, but a conglomerate of states, some of which are egregious violators of human rights. It seems to me that a “coalition of the willing, if the ”willing” consist of democracies with a respect for human rights, is a more plausible authority. Be this as it may, I would suggest that the moral reasoning here can be described as the “logic of the lone sheriff”.

Let us assume that there is one solitary sheriff responsible for the security of a village. Let us further assume that he fulfils this responsibility quite well. A neighboring village has no sheriff . If a serious crime is about to occur in the neighboring village, our sheriff will feel the right, even the responsibility to cross the boundary between the villages in order to stop the crime. Nothing Quixotic about this. It becomes Quixotic if the sheriff now goes from village to village, even far from home, looking for crimes to stop—even leaving aside the likelihood that, in this case, his own village will become insecure and perhaps go bankrupt.

It seems to me that this metaphor expresses a plausible moral logic. It remains plausible if one extends the logic to an imperial power, such as Britain in the nineteenth century or the United States today. American exceptionalism has been rightly criticized. In terms of this particular issue, America is not exceptional because it is morally superior, but quite simply because its power is exceptional. Whether by design or by happenstance, the United States is the only global sheriff. There is no one else to play this role. Much if not all the world is covered in a grid of Pentagon Commands. There are all these peasants, blissfully unaware that they are denizens of, say, Central Command—unless an American drone hits them, or unless a flotilla of American ships and planes comes to their relief after an earthquake or tsunami. Such power brings with it a “responsibility to protect” that is indeed exceptional. Yet even the United States cannot exercise its power all the time, in every place. If it tries to do so, it will indeed come to resemble Don Quixote. And it will very likely fall off its horse. .... [more]
Samantha and the Lone Sheriff | Religion and Other Curiosities

Thursday, May 26, 2011

But not in church

As Memorial Day approaches Kevin DeYoung wants us to consider seriously whether it should be a part of our worship. He addresses each of the points below. I have quoted only from the last one.
  1. Being a Christian does not remove ethnic and national identities.
  2. Patriotism, like other earthly “prides,” can be a virtue or vice.
  3. Allegiance to God and allegiance to your country are not inherently incompatible.
  4. God’s people are not tied to any one nation.
  5. All this leads to one final point: while patriotism can be good, the church is not a good place for patriotism.
We should pray for service men and women in our congregations. We should pray for the President. We should pray for the just cause to triumph over the evil one. We are not moral relativists. We do not believe just because all people are sinners and all nations are sinful that no person or no nation can be more righteous or more wicked than another. God may be on America’s side in some (not all) her endeavors.

But please think twice before putting on a Star Spangled gala in church this Sunday. I love to hear the national anthem and “God Bless America” and “My Country, Tis of Thee,” but not in church where the nations gather to worship the King of all peoples. I love to see the presentation of colors and salute our veterans, but these would be better at the Memorial Day parade or during a time of remembrance at the cemetery. Earthly worship should reflect the on-going worship in heaven. And while there are many Americans singing glorious songs to Jesus there, they are not singing songs about the glories of America. We must hold to the traditions of the Apostles in our worship, not the traditions of American history. The church should not ask of her people what is not required in Scripture. ....

In some parts of the church, every hint of patriotism makes you a jingoistic idolater. You are allowed to love every country except your own. But in other parts of the church, true religion blends too comfortably into civil religion. You are allowed to worship in our services as long as you love America as much as we do. I don’t claim to have arrived at the golden mean, but I imagine many churches could stand to think more carefully about their theology of God and country. .... [more]
Thinking Theologically About Memorial Day – Kevin DeYoung

Blessed and blasted, depending

Archbishop Dolan of New York [formerly of Milwaukee] notes the varied reactions to pronouncements by the American Catholic bishops on issues of public policy:
.... One side usually blesses us when we preach the virtue of fiscal responsibility, the civil rights of the unborn, the danger of government tampering with the definition of marriage, and the principle of subsidiarity — that is, that the smaller units in our society, such as family, neighborhood, Church, and volunteer organizations, are usually preferable to big government in solving social ills.

Yet this same side then often cringes when we defend workers, speak on behalf of the rights of the undocumented immigrant, and remind government of the moral imperative to protect the poor.

The other side enjoys quoting us when we extol universal health care, question the death penalty, demand that every budget and program be assessed on whether it will help or hurt those in need, encourage international aid, and promote the principle of solidarity, namely, society’s shared duties to one another, especially the poor and struggling . . .

. . . and then these same folks bristle when we defend the rights of parents in education, those of the baby in the womb and grandma on her death bed, insist that America is at her best when people of faith have a respected voice in the public square, defend traditional marriage, and remind government that it has no right to intrude in Church affairs, but does have the obligation to protect the rights of conscience. .... [more]
Subsidiarity and Solidarity « The Gospel in the Digital Age

Pursued




The 39 Steps is basic reading for anyone who enjoys thrillers, preferably first read at about age fourteen. It was written by John Buchan, whose place in the genre was described by Christopher Hitchens thus: "Between Kipling and Fleming stands John Buchan, the father of the modern spy thriller." A new paperback edition has been published in Britain and its cover illustration seemed to me perfect.

Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Looking at rather than through

Via Sean Curnyn, Abraham Joshua Heschel in 1963 on how we approach the Bible:
Into his studies of the Bible the modern scholar brings his total personality, his increased knowledge of the ancient Near East, his power of analysis, his historic sense, his honest commitment to truth—as well as inherent skepticism of biblical claims and tradition. In consequence, we have so much to say about the Bible that we are not prepared to hear what the Bible has to say about us. We are not in love with the Bible; we are in love with our own power of critical acumen, with our theories about the Bible. Intellectual narcissism is a disease to which some of us are not always immune. The sense of the mystery and transcendence of what is at stake in the Bible is lost in the process of analysis. As a result, we have brought about the desanctification of the Bible. [Insecurity of Freedom]
A.J. Heschel on the Bible | The Cinch Review

Chesterton discounted [for a limited time]

This looks like a good deal. "Save 20% on select Ignatius Press books by and about G.K. Chesterton." From that site:
G.K. Chesterton was a prolific writer. The author of many novels, as well as thousands of poems, there were numerous subjects he wrote about. He touched on everything from religion to history to politics. Due to the varying subjects that he wrote about, and the way he approached each subject, Chesterton is known as one of the most stimulating and well-loved writers of the 20th century. To honor this beloved writer on his birthday, May 29, Ignatius Press is offering 20% off select titles by and about him.

Offer ends Tuesday, May 31th, 2011 at 12:00 midnight EST. These prices are available online only through Ignatius.com

Click here for a listing of books. Or visit Chesterton's author page on Ignatius Insight.
I had forgotten that the anniversary of Chesterton's birth fell on the same date as mine. That completely undeserved association pleases me.

Insight Scoop | The Ignatius Press Blog: Save 20% on select Ignatius Press books by and about G. K. Chesterton

Every single relationship

Via Cranach: The Blog of Veith, from an interview with Mollie Hemingway, religion reporter, and a Lutheran:
Many people consider a vocation to be an occupation — or maybe an occupation that's especially satisfying. How does the Lutheran understanding of vocation extend beyond our careers?

Lutherans have a special understanding of vocation. It's not limited to one's job but every single relationship I have, including parent, child, friend, neighbor, parishioner and citizen. It's any position in which I am the instrument through which God works in the world.

So, for instance, God heals us by giving us doctors and nurses. He feeds us by giving us farmers and bakers. He gives us earthly order through our governors and legislators, and he gives us life through our parents. God is providing all these gifts — but we receive them from our neighbors.

Luther wrote that fathers should not complain when they have to rock a baby, change his diaper, or care for the baby's mother, but instead should view each act as a holy blessing. Everything we do in service to others is a holy blessing.
Credo: Mollie Hemingway | Leah Fabel | People | Washington Examiner

Tuesday, May 24, 2011

"Any man who judges by the group is a pea-wit"

Hard upon Memorial Day, I'm watching the Blu-ray edition of Gettysburg [which adds about seventeen minutes to the film and looks significantly better], the film of the best historical novel I've ever read, The Killer Angels, by Michael Shaara. That was the book that enabled me to understand the battle of Gettysburg. In three days there were almost as many American casualties as in nine years of war in Vietnam. I recently walked the battlefield with my friends, Paul and Linda Manuel. It was an extraordinary experience and what it meant to this Union and what it stands for was explained early in the film in an exchange between Joshua Lawrence Chamberlain, commander of the 20th Maine, and his Irish-American sargeant:
Tell me something, Buster... what do you think of Negroes?

Well, if you mean the race...I don't really know. This is not a thing to be ashamed of. The thing is, you cannot judge a race. Any man who judges by the group is a pea-wit. You take men one at a time.

To me, there was never any difference.

— None at all?

— None at all. Of course, I haven't known that many freed men but those I knew in Bangor, Portland...you look in the eye, there was a man. There was a "divine spark," as my mother used to call it. That is all there is to it. Races are men. "What a piece of work is man. How infinite in faculties, in form and moving...how express and admirable. In action, how like an angel."

Well, if he's an angel, all right then...but he damn well must be a killer angel. Colonel, darling, you're a lovely man. I see a great vast difference between us, yet I admire you, lad. You're an idealist, praise be.

The truth is, Colonel there is no "divine spark." There's many a man alive no more of value than a dead dog. Believe me. When you've seen them hang each other the way I have back in the Old Country. Equality?

What I'm fighting for is the right to prove I'm a better man than many of them.

Where have you seen this "divine spark" in operation, Colonel? Where have you noted this magnificent equality? No two things on earth are equal or have an equal chance. Not a leaf, not a tree. There's many a man worse than me and some better but I don't think race or country matters a damn. What matters, Colonel, is justice. Which is why I'm here. I'll be treated as I deserve not as my father deserved. I'm Kilrain, and I damn all gentlemen. There is only one aristocracy and that is right here. And that's why we've got to win this war.
Gettysburg Script - transcript from the screenplay of Gettysburg

Jerks win?

James Taranto notes a study:
"Rude People Can Be Perceived as Powerful," according to a Scientific American headline. The magazine reports on a new study in which subjects read about "a person who, without asking, helped himself to a cup of coffee from another person's pot" and "a bookkeeper [who] consciously ignored a financial error," as well as "scrupulous coffee drinkers and bookkeepers." The subjects reckoned that the bad-behaving ones were "more in-control and leaderlike":
In another test, being publicly rude also seemed to engender a perceived sense of power. A hundred twenty-six subjects watched one of two videos. One of a man sitting in a sidewalk café and acting courteously, the other of the same man stretching his legs out on a chair next to him, tossing his cigarette ashes wherever, and barking orders at the cafe staff. Subjects thought the crude man was more likely to be a decision-maker and get his way than the same man behaving himself.

So next time you think someone is important, remember: They [sic] may simply be a jerk.
And a comment at Scientific American suspects that may explain another behavior pattern:
That might also explain some of the appeal of "bad boys" to certain women, as they're unconsciously perceived as being more socially dominant....
I Timothy 3:1-3 suggests that Christian leaders should exemplifly other qualities:
If anyone aspires to the office of overseer, he desires a noble task. Therefore an overseer must be above reproach, the husband of one wife, sober-minded, self-controlled, respectable, hospitable, able to teach, not a drunkard, not violent but gentle, not quarrelsome.... [ESV]
'Don't You Know Who I Am?' - WSJ.com, Rude People Can Be Perceived as Powerful: Scientific American Podcast

Monday, May 23, 2011

Enthusiastic, joyful, seriousness

Appreciating—enjoying—G.K. Chesterton, but not necessarily the biography of GKC by Ian Ker he is reviewing here, Robert Douglas-Fairhurst:
.... Everything about Chesterton was larger than life: his height, his bulk, and a list of publications long enough to stock a small library. In a career spanning four decades, he produced some 80 books, 200 short stories, 4,000 essays and countless newspaper columns that he dictated while chuckling at his own jokes and jabbing at the air with a knife. A “man of colossal genius”, according to G B Shaw, he sometimes seemed to have several other writers nested inside him like Russian dolls. ....

.... A true democrat, he was interested in everything and brought the same infectious enthusiasm to lampposts or the colour grey that he did to more obviously ambitious essays such as “The Plan for a New Universe”.

His most famous fictional creation took this principle even further, because the skill of his detective Father Brown lies in noticing what everyone else had missed, but everything Chesterton wrote was based on the same “ecstasy of the ordinary”. He described the world with all the wonder of Adam naming the creatures in Eden. .... [more]
G K Chesterton: A Biography by Ian Ker: review - Telegraph

In whom do you place your faith?

Anthony Sacramone thinks many of us put altogether too much confidence in "superstar" preachers.
If your pastor, preacher, teacher, elder, priest were to walk into an open manhole tomorrow, only to be replaced by some less-winsome personality, would you leave your church? If so, leave now.

Better yet: if your pastor, preacher, teacher, elder, priest were to be led out in handcuffs tomorrow, or discovered to have run off to Acapulco with the 16-year-old daughter of the youth minister, would you consider leaving the Church, full stop? If so, leave now.

Evangelical churches seem to be particularly susceptible to superstar preachers, because of the emphasis on preaching. We want to hear a new, fresh take on the old wooden Cross. We need some spiritual Red Bull to keep our enthusiasm up, but too often we wind up with just the bull. ....

So the next time you hear that your guy (or, in some cases, gal) will not be leading worship on a particular Sunday, ask yourself if your heart sinks a little, and whether you even reconsider showing up for services until he/she makes his/her return. If so, ask yourself why — and in whom you have been putting your faith. .... [more]
Promises, Promises » First Thoughts | A First Things Blog

Frodo's wound

The editor of a new book, The Ring and the Cross: Christianity and The Lord of the Rings, Dr. Paul E. Kerry, is asked about his favorite moment in LOTR:
In Book I, in the chapter "A Knife in the Dark", Frodo is seriously wounded by one of the Black Riders. After his time in the House of Elrond his grievous injury seems to be healed. Yet, much later, after (the) defeat of Sauron and when Frodo appears to be settled into some kind of domestic tranquility, he tells Sam, twice, that he is "wounded" and that this is the kind of wound that would never heal. Soon thereafter, of course, he leaves for the Grey Havens, stating a truth that Tolkien would have known all too well after experiencing the two World Wars.

Those who sacrifice to save us and preserve our lives and ways of life, whether they be soldiers, sailors, submariners, or airmen, or those our parents, teachers, religious leaders, and so forth, often cannot fully enjoy that which they (give) so much to preserve. It may come as a surprise to those readers, perhaps readers whose experience in life thus far has taught them that everything is recoverable, all can be made anew, that we can spring back in perfect health from any setback, that there are wounds from which we on our own cannot fully recover.
Tolkien's Faith | An Interview with Paul E. Kerry, editor of "The Ring and the Cross: Christianity and The Lord of the Rings" | by Sean McGuire | Ignatius Insight | May 23, 2011

Sunday, May 22, 2011

That would be the beginning

This day pray for the disappointed, that they do not lose their faith. Jared Wilson:
From our dinner table conversation tonight.
Dad: (seeing Mom looking at the clock) Are you seeing if the rapture happened? I think it's past 6 p.m.
Mom: No.
Grace, 7: What's the rapture?
Macy, 9: The rapture isn't happening today.
Grace: What's the rapture?
Macy: It's when Jesus comes back.
Grace: Oh. Yeah, I don't think that's happening today.
Mom: Would you be ready if Jesus did come back today?
Grace: That would be like the end of the world.
Mom: No, that would be the beginning of it!
I love my ladies.
The reporter assigned by the New Republic doesn't like how we are reacting to the disappointment:
.... [T]he more I looked into the story, the more it began to turn my stomach to think of spending my Saturday evening in someone’s living room, waiting for that gotcha moment when they realized it was all a lie—leaving me to file a story the next day, poking fun at their gullibility. I decided I couldn’t do it.

Yet the media coverage has continued, and now to me, the schadenfreude has turned sinister. Based on the high traffic the articles are garnering, it would seem as if many of us are intrigued voyeurs, gleeful in knowing the exact day when these people will experience their life’s greatest disappointment. We feel superior, knowing that even though they told us we were heading for death and destruction, now, they get theirs. ....

.... There’s a cruelty underlying our desire to laugh at this story—a desire to see people humiliated and to revel in our own superiority and rationality—even though the people in question are pretty tragic characters, who either have serious problems themselves or perhaps are being taken advantage of, or both.

Sure, it’s an interesting story when a fringe group decides the world is ending tomorrow. But it’s also a small story. Come Sunday morning, as news articles flood in about the disillusioned end-timers, and those articles instantly become some of the most popular on the web—as they surely will—we might want to ask ourselves not what is wrong with this sad group of apocalyptic believers, but rather what is wrong with a society that takes such pleasure in their dysfunction.
The Gospel-Driven Church: That's What's Up, The Media's Shameful Obsession With The Rapture | The New Republic

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Easter V: Doers and not hearers only

O LORD, from whom all good things do come; Grant to us thy humble servants, that by Thy holy inspiration we may think those things that are good, and by Thy merciful guiding may perform the same; through our Lord Jesus Christ. Amen.
[Thomas Cranmer]
BE ye doers of the word, and not hearers only, deceiving your own selves. For if any be a hearer of the word, and not a doer, he is like unto a man beholding his natural face in a glass: for he beholdeth himself, and goeth his way, and straightway forgetteth what manner of man he was. But whoso looketh into the perfect law of liberty, and continueth therein, he being not a forgetful hearer, but a doer of the work, this man shall be blessed in his deed. If any man among you seem to be religious, and bridleth not his tongue, but deceiveth his own heart, this man's religion is vain. Pure religion and undefiled before God and the Father is this, To visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep himself unspotted from the world. [James 1]
O LORD, in whose hands are life and death, by whose power I am sustained, and by whose mercy I am spared, look down upon me with pity. Forgive me, that I have this day neglected the duty which Thou hast assigned to it, and suffered the hours, of which I must give account, to pass away without any endeavour to accomplish Thy will, or to promote my own salvation. Make me to remember, O God, that every day is Thy gift, and ought to be used according to Thy command. Grant me, therefore, so to repent of my negligence, that I may obtain mercy from Thee, and pass the time which Thou shalt yet allow me, in diligent performance of Thy commands, through Jesus Christ. Amen.
[Samuel Johnson]

Friday, May 20, 2011

When He comes

Regarding what Our Lord says in Matthew 24:37-44, Jared Wilson concludes that "It Is Good to be Left Behind":
.... In the interest of full disclosure, I’ll be up front and confess that I am not a pre-tribulationist. Without getting too much into the various views of eschatology, I will say that when I read this passage, I don’t see it as being a good thing to be taken away.

Before you demur, let me explain:

Notice Jesus compares his coming to the flood coming in Noah’s day. Just as then, people were minding their own business, eating and drinking, going about their daily life, unprepared and unaware of the imminent danger. Suddenly, God came and wiped them away. In the same way, Jesus says, he is coming and people who are not prepared for the invasion of the physical kingdom will be minding their own business and will be taken away. I believe this means they are taken away to judgment. Can we agree that a thief coming into your house is not a good thing? ....
And a blogger named Marcia Morrissey reminds us that:
Each day the Lord gives us is a gift, and an opportunity to live it the best we can. I don't know when the Lord will return—maybe soon, but only God knows. The thing I do know for sure is that each day is a day closer to the Lord's return for me personally, and I want to be ready....
The Gospel-Driven Church: It Is Good to be Left Behind, Everyday Rapture

Evangelicals and Aquinas

From an interview with Gregg Allison, Baptist professor and author of Historical Theology: An Introduction to Christian Doctrine:
Do you really think evangelicals can and should be as familiar with Thomas Aquinas as they are with Mark Driscoll, as you write in the preface?

I bet Mark Driscoll would agree with me! He is a staunch proponent of sound doctrine and is attempting to articulate and defend it with a particular method well-suited for his contemporary audience and with a missional focus. .... Thomas Aquinas was a staunch proponent of sound doctrine—notice how often he quoted Augustine and other early church theologians—who attempted to articulate and defend it with a particular (Aristotelian) method well-suited for his medieval audience and with a missional focus. Just look at his masterpiece—Summa Theologica, or summary of theology. And don’t overlook his Summa contra Gentiles, a manual for missionaries working among Jews and Muslims, providing support for the Christian faith.

Evangelicals can learn much from Aquinas: his careful reasoning, his appeal to Scripture, his attempt to use philosophy for the benefit of theology, his interaction with historical theology, his championing of sound doctrine, his contextualization of the faith, and much more. Why would we intentionally ignore such help as we seek to do much of the same in our contemporary society? Read Aquinas. Read Driscoll (or at least listen to his podcasts). We will progress further as result of both. ....
Driscoll, Aquinas, and the Need for Historical Theology – The Gospel Coalition Blog

Thursday, May 19, 2011

"It depends where you look..."

For some reason there has been much recent criticism of David Barton's version of American history. It deserves criticism — but he has been around for a long time and his oversimplifications are no more egregious than those of many of his critics. When actual history is being done about the role of Christianity in this Republic, the truth becomes more complex than either the "Christian America" or "wall of separation" types admit. At Patheos, an interview with John Fea: "The Founders, Faith, and the American Nation." From Greg Garrett's introduction to the interview:
Was American Founded as a Christian Nation? It's one of the questions ricocheting around our national discourse, and it has strong proponents of both "no" and "yes." Those who argue that we should do X because we are a Christian nation are assuming an answer. Those who argue that we have no responsibility to do X—or must not do X—because we are not a Christian nation are likewise assuming an answer.

But as Professor John Fea explores American history in his fine new book Was America Founded As a Christian Nation?, his intent is to complicate this dualist debate by doing his job as a historian. ....

History as a discipline is much richer and more powerful than we see when each side cherry-picks the facts or quotes it needs, and Professor Fea reminds us that the question framed by his book's title does not have a simple answer, no matter what you may have heard. And that history shouldn't be so easily reduced; that's not what history is for. ....
A couple of questions and answers from the interview:
Greg: In researching, writing, and, now, talking about your book, what historical misconceptions or factual errors have you encountered in the contemporary debate about faith and our founding that most surprised or alarmed you?

John: To be honest, I came into this project with the perception that it would be easy to show that the Founding Fathers were not out to create a Christian nation. But then I read the state constitutions written between 1776 and 1780. Almost all of them had very strong Christian qualifications for office-holders. For example, in the state of Pennsylvania civil rights were afforded to anyone who, among other things, upheld the divine inspiration of the Old and New Testaments. This led me to wonder how we define nationhood in the 1780s—the time between the Declaration of Independence and the Constitution. It is clear that during this period political power was invested in the states (under the Articles of Confederation), and most of these states (Virginia was a big exception to this rule that cannot be ignored) had Christian religious establishments or Christian qualifications for office-holding. Did the founders want to create a Christian nation? It depends where you look and how you define your terms. ...

Greg: Given the complexity you mention that always pervades history, which of the founders would you say approximate contemporary understandings of Christianity? And what founders are sometimes called Christian but don't seem to express orthodox beliefs—or perhaps orthodox Christian practices?

John: Most of the major Founding Fathers were not orthodox. John Adams was a Unitarian who rejected the Trinity. Thomas Jefferson rejected the resurrection. Benjamin Franklin did not believe in the deity of Christ. George Washington is a tough one to nail down. He was probably an orthodox Christian, but did not spend much time reflecting on matters pertaining to religion and theology.

But there is a larger issue here. It is illogical to assume that the personal religious beliefs of a founder automatically translate into his understanding on the role of religion in government. Recently Peter Lillback wrote a 1000+ page book defending the idea that George Washington was not a deist. Fair enough. I agree with him that Washington was not a deist. But I am not convinced that Washington's personal faith meant that he wanted to create a Christian nation. .... [more]
The Founders, Faith, and the American Nation: An Interview with John Fea

Wednesday, May 18, 2011

"Even Thor has grown richer through acquaintance with Jesus"

Lars Walker, who knows something about Norse culture and myth, likes the new film, Thor, but doubts that any of the old Viking believers would recognize these "gods":
.... What particularly intrigues me is the way the Odin of the comic books and of the movie differs from the original Odin we encounter in the sagas, eddas, and scaldic poetry of the Viking Age. The differences, I think, are instructive.

To anyone schooled in Norse mythology, the Odin of the movie is almost unrecognizable, except for his long beard, lack of one eye, and possession of Sleipnir, the eight-legged horse (which provides an extremely cool special effects moment). Anthony Hopkins' Odin is wise and good, full of benevolence and cherishing a horror of war. ....

The Odin of the Vikings was most of all an extremely powerful magician, a wizard—not the nice kind of wizard like Gandalf, though he was one of Tolkien's inspirations for the character, but the old kind of wizard—treacherous and murderous, with lies on his lips and blood under his fingernails. He delighted in war for two reasons—one in order to feed the wolves and ravens that were his familiars, secondly in order to fill his hall, Valhalla, with heroes who would stand with him at Ragnarok, the last great battle. To this end he raised heroes up and then brutally betrayed them. He was also, according to the eddas, a sexual predator and a known deviate.

The difference between these two Odins, I think, is suggestive of important—and generally unrecognized—elements in western culture. The script writers have confused Odin with the Yahweh of the Jews and Christians. It doesn't even occur to them that a high god could be anything but kind and peace-loving, since we all have so thoroughly internalized Christian suppositions that even people who reject the Christian religion—and I assume that a large proportion of the people who made this movie do—can't conceive of a religion founded on darkness and brute force and the domination of the weak by the strong.

In an odd plot element (I'll try not to spoil it) Thor submits to a Christ-like humiliation for the sake of others. This is something that would have never been said of him in the old religion, except as a joke. Even Thor has grown richer through acquaintance with Jesus. .... [more]
Brandywine Books: Movie review: Thor

CSL and the Aeneid

C.S. Lewis was very good at a great many things, but it might have been better if some of his unpublished work remained so. Sarah Ruden on C.S. Lewis as Translator
If the attitude of Lewis and his brother had prevailed, we would have no trace of a great writer's efforts to render the great Roman epic in English. In a somewhat similar way, the intervention of Vergil's friends saved the original, half-finished Aeneid from the flames to which its author, on his deathbed, was keen to send it.

But in Lewis' case the intervention is not as easy to praise. .... [more]
And he wasn't terribly good at original poetry either.

C. S. Lewis as Translator | Books and Culture

An easily digested slurry?

[This was originally posted several days ago and then lost when Blogger went down - Blogger just now restored it]

Adam Palmer offers a decidedly qualified defense of Rob Bell's Love Wins which is really a criticism of the evangelical reaction to the book:
.... Full disclosure: I don’t really care for Rob Bell, or at least for the media image he conveys. I don’t care for his writing style; I don’t care for his over-earnest speaking delivery; I don’t care for the way he portrays himself as an iconoclast, intentionally stirring the pot of controversy. I really don’t care for the way he charges admission when he tours, so you can buy a ticket to hear him preach.

Which puts me in the uncomfortable position of defending Rob Bell.

Granted, Rob Bell brought this on himself by writing the book he wrote. That’s his deal. He is rabbinical in his approach, asking questions, then answering those questions with other questions. It’s a thought-provoking approach, to be sure, though he inevitably smarms it up with an “ain’t I a stinker?” smirk peering through the hip fonts and sentence fragments.

That said, there’s nothing revolutionary in Love Wins that I hadn’t read before. Imagine putting N.T. Wright’s Surprised by Hope, C.S. Lewis’s The Great Divorce, and part three of Robert Farrar Capon’s Between Noon and Three into a blender and running it on high until it becomes an easily digestible slurry. But instead of drinking the whole thing, just skim the surface. That’s Love Wins. ....

Bell asks questions that he doesn’t answer, hems and haws, plays a bit of a shell game with Greek translations, but the overall message of the book is this: don’t base your faith on pocketing a “Get Out of Hell Free” card and instead join the redemptive work God is doing in the world right now.

So why does the Christian subculture refuse to let Rob Bell make this point to Christians? Why are they shying away from this particular controversial figure while prominently displaying material from authors that non-evangelical Christians find controversial?.... [more]
iMonk Review Of Love Wins | internetmonk.com

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Asking the tough questions

When church numbers are declining Kevin DeYoung suggests that the reason is probably more basic than the worship style:
.... I’m not against changing worship styles. There may be good reasons to do so in some circumstances. But I doubt very much that’s usually the real problem. Instead of assuming that young people will flock to our churches if we drop the organ and plug in the guitar (and we have both at our church), declining denominations and shrinking churches should ask deeper, harder questions:
  • Is the gospel faithful preached?
  • Is the Bible taught with clarity and passion?
  • Are the sermons manifestly rooted in a text of Scripture?
  • Do the elders/pastors and deacons meet the qualifications for church office laid out in the New Testament?
  • Are the sacraments faithfully administered and protected?
  • Is church discipline practiced?
  • Do the elders exercise personal care over the flock?
  • Are there good relationships among the staff and other leaders?
  • Is the worship service put together thoughtfully and carried out with undistracting excellence (as much as possible). ....
There are scores of other questions you could ask. These are only a sample. It may be after facing these questions that a church decides to change a few programs or alter a few songs. But until a congregation asks these tough questions, the quick fixes will not fix much of anything. Don’t assume the style is the thing. Check your substance first.
It’s Probably Not the Worship Style – Kevin DeYoung

Monday, May 16, 2011

Fail

Why do so many who are active in their church youth group leave the faith soon after? Drew Dyck at Leadership Journal:
.... I recall my conversation with one young man who described his journey from evangelical to atheist. He had nothing but vitriol for the Christian beliefs of his childhood, but when I asked him about youth group, his voice lifted. "Oh, youth group was a blast! My youth pastor was a great guy."

I was confused. I asked Josh Riebock, a former youth pastor and author of mY Generation, to solve the riddle: if these young people had such a good time in youth group, why did they ditch their faith shortly after heading to college?

His response was simple. "Let's face it," he said. "There are a lot more fun things to do at college than eat pizza."

Good point.

If our strategy is to win young people's allegiance to church by offering better entertainment than the world, then we've picked a losing battle. Entertainment might get kids to church in their teens, but it certainly won't keep them there through their twenties. .... [more]
The Red Bull Gospel | LeadershipJournal.net

Saturday, May 14, 2011

Parenting

I'm not a parent and the chances that I could ever be one are about zero. That makes me somewhat reluctant to offer advice to those who are. But I was a child once and I was a teacher of young people for thirty-five years, and I've known several thousand kids, so I do have opinions about parenting — and this paragraph seems right to me. Via Kevin DeYoung [who got it from Collin Hansen], a quotation from David Brooks's The Social Animal about "good enough" parenting:
If there is one thing developmental psychologists have learned over the years, it is that parents don’t have to be brilliant psychologists to succeed. They don’t have to be supremely gifted teachers. Most of the stuff parents do with flashcards and special drills and tutorials to hone their kids into perfect achievement machines don’t have any effect at all. Instead, parents just have to be good enough. They have to provide their kids with stable and predictable rhythms. They need to be able to fall in tune with their kids’ needs, combining warmth and discipline. They need to establish the secure emotional bonds that kids can fall back upon in the face of stress. They need to be there to provide living examples of how to cope with the problems of the world so that their children can develop unconscious models in their heads. (60-61)
The elements of "good enough" parenting:
  • Creating stable and predictable rhythms and routines
  • Meeting needs with both love and appropriate discipline
  • Providing a secure refuge from which to venture out
  • Being examples of good behavior
One of the hymn paraphrases of the 23rd Psalm ends with these words:

There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come,
No more a stranger, nor a guest;
But like a child at home.

A "good enough" home seems like just about all anyone could want.

Good Enough – Kevin DeYoung, My Shepherd Will Supply My Need

"Watch therefore, for ye know neither the day nor the hour..."

Responding to the no doubt well-intentioned idiot who is predicting the exact "day and hour" [one week from today], Phil at Brandywine Books asks the really important question:
If the Lord told your church community that he would take you out of the world and destroy everything on two specific dates (say within a few years), what would your reasonable response be? Would it not be to love others as you love yourself and to love our Lord with all of your heart, mind, and soul? Seriously, how would a defined date for the end of the age change your lifestyle? If you would make dramatic changes, then what's stopping you from doing it today, perhaps that old lie that you have several years left to get it right before you die? [emphasis added]
The first comment adds
I have always thought that if I'm prepared to be hit by a truck on the freeway tomorrow, an event with a significant probability, then I'm also prepared for the event about which no man knows the day or the hour.
Brandywine Books

Easter IV: Where true joys are found

O ALMIGHTY God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto Thy people, that they may love the thing which Thou commandest, and desire that which Thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [Thomas Cranmer]
EVERY good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning. Of his own will begat he us with the word of truth, that we should be a kind of firstfruits of his creatures. Wherefore, my beloved brethren, let every man be swift to hear, slow to speak, slow to wrath: for the wrath of man worketh not the righteousness of God. Wherefore lay apart all filthiness and superfluity of naughtiness, and receive with meekness the engrafted word, which is able to save your souls. [James 1]

Be Thou my wisdom, and Thou my true word;
I ever with Thee and Thou with me, Lord;
Thou my great Father, I Thy true son;
Thou in me dwelling, and I with Thee one.

[Be Thou My Vision, 1538.]

Friday, May 13, 2011

"Strength Through Discipline"

One of the difficult aspects of teaching middle class, mid-America high school students about movements like fascism and communism was making real how such ideologies could appeal to ordinary people — much less how such people could become implicated in the crimes associated with the resulting regimes. I recall using a film titled The Wave in the '80's. It was based on a classroom experiment that proved altogether too effective. This article, "Experiment in Fascism at an American High School," describes the real events on which that film was based and about which a new documentary has been produced:
One day in 1967, a Palo Alto high school student asks his history teacher how the German people could have missed the signs of the ongoing genocide being perpetrated by the Nazis. This innocent question ignites an idea, and teacher Ron Jones launches a classroom “simulation,” or experiment, to illustrate how good Germans — how anyone — could fall prey to totalitarian thinking. ....

Jones reorganized his classroom that week into a simulation of a prototypical fascist youth group. He enforced physical discipline and uniformity in the students’ posture and speech per his first-day dictum, “Strength Through Discipline.” He meant it to end there, he now avers, but students were eager for more. He added more simplistic, effective sloganeering on the following days: strength through community, through action, through unity and finally through pride. Strength through Community meant, for instance, that students were to share grades. Top students helped the lower students. ....

On day 5, when he finally exposed the movement as a lesson meant to teach the students that they were no better or worse than the Germans, the young students fell apart in a fog of betrayal and emotional panic. .... [more]
Experiment in Fascism at an American High School: The Lesson Plan @ The Newport Beach Film Festival » LFM: Libertas Film Magazine

Corliss Fitz Randolph

Corliss Fitz Randolph
Current Seventh Day Baptist Historian, Nick Kersten's announcement of the Seventh Day Baptist Historical Society's annual membership meeting this weekend came with this picture of Corliss Fitz Randolph [1863-1954], the founder of the society, a president of the General Conference, trustee of Alfred University, author of, among other things, Seventh Day Baptists in West Virginia [1905], and editor of, and contributor to, Seventh Day Baptists in Europe and America [1910]. It seems entirely appropriate that one who contributed so much to the preservation of denominational history should be remembered by those who continue his work.

Mr. Fitz Randolph was largely responsible for collecting many of the materials now residing in the archives and museum of the society. Plainfield, New Jersey, was the location of the society's first museum [now in Janesville, Wisconsin] and Corliss Fitz Randolph it's curator. I recall my father telling of coming over from his home in NYC to work with Mr. Fitz Randolph in the museum. I received the impression that he could be rather garrulous. But it isn't unusual for those who have accumulated a great deal of information interesting to themselves to assume that it will be equally interesting to others.

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

How to get into Heaven before you die

Dallas Willard interviewed:

When it is better to be undecided

C Michael Patton gives us "The Creation-Evolution Debate in a Nutshell", describing the positions "Young Earth Creationism" through "Gap Theory Creationism," "Time-Relative Creationism," "Old Earth Creationism" to "Theistic Evolution" and "Intelligent Design." In each case he summarizes and explains — quite fairly I think — and includes a short list of well-known Christian personalities who have held each view. He closes:
I believe that one can be a legitimate Christian and hold to any one of these views. While I lean in the direction of some sort of Time-Relative creation, I only do this because my main contention is that it is very unwise to be dogmatic. Though I used to be favorable to it, I now reject methodological naturalism, believing it leads to preset conclusions that end up being awkward, unnecessary, and very unscientific. Therefore, though I rejected it at one time, I have come to accept ID as a responsible approach to these matters.

In the end, I believe that the best anyone can do is lean in one direction or another. Being overly dogmatic about these issues expresses, in my opinion, more ignorance than knowledge. Each position has many apparent difficulties and many virtues.

While I believe this is an issue we should continue to discuss with excitement and hope, this is not an issue, in my opinion, that should fracture Christian fellowship.
The Creation-Evolution Debate in a Nutshell | Parchment and Pen

"By hiding between the covers of a book"

Via Alan Jacobs, E.B. White on why a library is a good place:
A library is many things. It's a place to go, to get in out of the rain. It's a place to go if you want to sit and think. But particularly it is a place where books live, and where you can get in touch with other people, and other thoughts, through books. .... Books hold most of the secrets of the world, most of the thoughts that men and women have had. And when you are reading a book, you and the author are alone together — just the two of you. A library is a good place to go when you feel unhappy, for there, in a book, you may find encouragement and comfort. A library is a good place to go when you feel bewildered or undecided, for there, in a book, you may have your question answered. Books are good company, in sad times and happy times, for books are people — people who have managed to stay alive by hiding between the covers of a book.
Many other letters in addition to White's here sent by well-known authors in 1971 upon the occasion of the opening of a library in Troy, Michigan.

Text Patterns: a library is a good place to go

Monday, May 9, 2011

Worship is something we do

Many of those of us who have engaged in the "worship wars" have entirely missed the real issue. The real issue isn't about what style of worship we enjoy most or what we think may be attractive to others but whether it is, in fact, worship. Worship is about God and the fundamental issue is whether what we do in worship directs our thoughts toward Him. This from an interview Skye Jethani conducted with Chuck Swindoll:
Jethani: So the issue is not innovation or tradition, but why we're using a particular method or technology.

Swindoll: Exactly. I have been to church services, and you have too, where the only people who knew the songs were the band. I'm not edified. I'm just watching a show.

And they're not interested in teaching me the songs either. They just sing louder to make up for the fact that no one else is singing. Loud doesn't help. Why do they do that? Do you want me to be impressed with how loud you are singing, how accomplished you are? I'm not. I'm not here to be impressed with you. I'm here to fall back in love with Christ.

Innovation doesn't have to be loud or a gimmick. How about silence? Most people get no silence in their world. Imagine three or four minutes of silence. No music. No background distractions.

...[B]e innovative. I'm not against screens, or new songs, or innovation. I just don't like the gimmicks. I want to know when worship is over that that leader's sole purpose was to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ. He's not important to himself, and I'm not.

Here's what troubles me: I don't know why leaders younger than me aren't saying this. .... Why aren't they raising questions and showing some concern for where the church is heading with its focus on media and headcount and passive spectating? I know one church that has 17 people on their media staff and only 12 on the pastoral staff.

When a church is spending more of its budget on media than shepherding, something is out of whack. We have gotten things twisted around. My book is simply saying come back, folks. I'm not against innovation. But we need more wisdom. [more]
A summary of the fourth chapter of Swindoll's book, The Church Awakening: An Urgent Call for Renewal, "examines how worship should be something we do, not fight about."

Chuck Swindoll: We're Creating Spectators Not Worshipers | Out of Ur | Conversations for Ministry Leaders

Best. Conspiracy. Ever

Via Joe Carter, some Lutheran humor:

Sunday, May 8, 2011

Never forget

The GULAG was the Soviet network of slave labor camps and exile communities created by Lenin, expanded by Stalin, elements of which continued until the demise of the USSR. Here is a website that documents one aspect and period of its history — the experience of those "resettled" from eastern Europe to Siberia during the years of the Second World War and its immediate aftermath.
From 1939 to 1953, nearly one million people were deported to the Gulag from the European territories annexed by the USSR at the start of the Second World War and those that came under Soviet influence after the War: some to work camps but most as forced settlers in villages in Siberia and Central Asia.

An international team of researchers has collected 160 statements from former deportees, photographs of their lives, documents from private and public archives and films. .... [the site]
Related: Hollywood discovers the GULAG, Millions of dead, Lenin's great achievement

Homepage | Mémoires européennes DU GOULAG

Saturday, May 7, 2011

Easter III: Daily endeavor

ALMIGHTY God, who hast given Thine only Son to be unto us both a sacrifice for sin, and also an ensample of godly life; Give us grace that we may always most thankfully receive that His inestimable benefit, and also daily endeavour ourselves to follow the blessed steps of His most holy life; through the same Thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen. [Thomas Cranmer]

THIS is thankworthy, if a man for conscience toward God endure grief, suffering wrongfully. For what glory is it, if, when ye be buffeted for your faults, ye shall take it patiently? but if, when ye do well, and suffer for it, ye take it patiently, this is acceptable with God. For even hereunto were ye called: because Christ also suffered for us, leaving us an example, that ye should follow his steps: who did no sin, neither was guile found in his mouth: who, when he was reviled, reviled not again; when he suffered, he threatened not; but committed himself to him that judgeth righteously: who his own self bare our sins in his own body on the tree, that we, being dead to sins, should live unto righteousness: by whose stripes ye were healed. For ye were as sheep going astray; but are now returned unto the Shepherd and Bishop of your souls. [I Peter 2]


God be in my head, and in my understanding;
God be in mine eyes, and in my looking;
God be in my mouth, and in my speaking;
God be in my heart, and in my thinking;
God be at mine end, and at my departing.

[Sar­um Prim­er, 1538.]

Friday, May 6, 2011

Pooh is male....

"Study Suggests That Winnie the Pooh Isn't Gender Equal."  Pooh is male — but is he masculine?
A comprehensive study of traditional children’s book characters has determined that Pooh Corner may be rife with gender inequality.

Dr. Janice McCabe, a sociologist at Florida State University, examined nearly 6,000 children’s books between 1900 and 2000 and determined the stories have a definitive gender bias and a disproportionate representation of genders.

“We found that males are represented more frequently than females in the titles and the central characters in the book,” McCabe told Fox News Radio.

Fifty seven percent of the children’s stories featured male characters, 31 percent featured female characters and the remainder had animal characters of unknown gender identity, according to the study. .... [more]
Study Suggests That Winnie the Pooh Isn't Gender Equal, But Does it Matter? - FoxNews.com

Prester John

Lars Walker provides an appropriately qualified appreciation of John Buchan's Prester John [1910].

Another Buchan lover [she places him between Tolkien and Chesterton as her "second favorite"] notes that "famous John Buchan fans include CS Lewis, HP Lovecraft, Ian Fleming (natch), Mary Stewart, ND Wilson, Alfred Hitchcock, JFK, and Graham Greene."

I've enjoyed all of Buchan's thrillers, including Prester John, but, as Walker writes, "Buchan’s Prester John is a Great Story, Marred by Racial Attitudes":
John Buchan was one of the inventors of the modern thriller novel.... His most famous work is The 39 Steps, adapted out of all recognition by Alfred Hitchcock, but he wrote other excellent novels. I’m particularly fond of the Richard Hannay books.

Prester John is not part of that series. It will never be widely popular again because, fine as it is purely as a story, it strongly promotes attitudes toward race which are (rightly) offensive to the modern mind.

The hero of the book is David Crawfurd (sic)....

The action gets intense, particularly because David is the rashest of young men, consistently running into danger instead of away from it (sometimes straining the reader’s credulity). But Buchan knew the trick of keeping his characters going fast enough to divert the reader from improbabilities in the plot. The climax in a secret mountain cave is fully worthy of H. Rider Haggard.

The problem...is the racial attitudes. .... I’m no booster of the present age as opposed to the 19th Century generally, but on this subject we’re right and they were wrong.
This is the difference between white and black [David says], the gift of responsibility, the power of being in a little way a king; and so long as we know this and practise it, we will rule not in Africa alone but wherever there are dark men who live only for the day and their own bellies.
Digressions like that fatally mar what is otherwise a well-written and exciting old-fashioned adventure story. Adults who can discriminate will enjoy it. Children should be kept away from it. [more]
The illustration is from an ex-library copy I have and is probably the one to which Walker refers in his review.