Thursday, July 18, 2019

Monkey trial

.... Almost all of the “conventional wisdom” concerning the Scopes trial is false. Contrary to the impression created by Inherit the Wind and other popular accounts (including the sensational reportage of H.L. Mencken of The Baltimore Sun, one of the leading journalists of his day), the trial was not a fundamentalist inquisition, but an ill-conceived publicity stunt by Dayton businessmen who were trying to attract tourists to the small town—to put Dayton on the map. To generate a test case challenging the statute, the American Civil Liberties Union had offered to defend any teacher charged with violating the Butler Act, gratis. Dayton businessmen recruited Scopes to agree to serve as the defendant, even though he was unsure he had actually taught evolution. Nonetheless, Scopes volunteered to be charged. The trial—for a misdemeanor offense—was staged. Celebrity lawyers were solicited to participate for the sole purpose of increasing public interest in the case. The Baltimore Sun paid part of the defense’s expenses because it knew that the spectacle would sell newspapers, and it did. A lot of them.

If the goal was to generate interest in Dayton, it worked. For eight days, the town was the focus of worldwide attention. During the trial, the population of Dayton swelled from about 1800 to about 5000, with a raucous carnival atmosphere. Yet the trial was cut-and-dried; the jury deliberated only nine minutes before rendering a guilty verdict. Scopes was fined $100. The Tennessee Supreme Court promptly reversed the conviction on a technicality, and the state chose not to retry the case. Tennessee eventually repealed the Butler Act.

The eight-day show trial was a media circus, but little else. It resolved no factual disputes, established no new law, and settled no constitutional issues. It was a purely manufactured controversy—a radio-era precursor to reality TV and cable news. Bizarrely, Bryan died in his sleep (at age 65) five days after the trial ended. Instead of putting Dayton on the map in a positive way, the case left the town in undeserved ignominy.

Many plot features of Inherit the Wind—which was conceived during the Cold War as an anti-McCarthyism allegory—were entirely fabricated. Scopes (Bertram Cates) was not arrested in class and was never jailed; there was no unhinged fundamentalist preacher (Rev. Jeremiah Brown) exhorting the town; the trial was not accompanied by lynch mobs; Scopes/Cates was never burned in effigy and had no conflicted fiancée; and Bryan (Matthew Harrison Brady) was not a deranged buffoon or hysterical fanatic. Whatever one thinks about Bryan’s political or economic views, scholars regard him as one of the most important figures of the Progressive Era, and even as one of the most influential American politicians who never served as president. His portrayal in Inherit the Wind (by Fredric March) as an incompetent windbag is a disgraceful farce. .... (more)

Tuesday, July 16, 2019

As One who speaks with authority

John Stott in Why I Am a Christian, commenting on Matthew 11:25-27:
.... Is it possible for human beings to come to know God, for creatures to know their Creator? And if so, how is it possible for us to do so? Jesus addresses himself to these questions when he says that the Father has ‘hidden these things from the wise and learned, and revealed them to little children’ and that ‘no-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him’. We note at once that the word common to both affirmations is the verb ‘revealed’. The implication is that there can be no knowledge of God without his initiative in revelation.

First, God is revealed only by Jesus Christ. It may be helpful to jump straight to the second statement of verse 27: ‘No-one knows the Father except the Son and those to whom the Son chooses to reveal him.’ That is to say, only Jesus knows God, so only he can make him known. This means, of course, that God is fully and finally revealed in Jesus Christ. It does not deny that there are other and lesser revelations. For example, God is partially revealed in the ordered loveliness of the created universe, in the moral demands of the human conscience and in the unfolding developments of history. But, although creation speaks of God’s glory, conscience of his righteousness, and history of his providence and power, nobody tells us of his love for human beings in their alienation and lostness, or of his plan to rescue us and reconcile us to himself, except Jesus of Nazareth.

This is the claim of Jesus, as we have already seen. And this is why every enquiry into the truth of Christianity must begin with the historic person of Jesus. The most unnerving thing about him is the quiet, unassuming yet confident way in which he advanced his stupendous claims. There was no fanfare of trumpets, no boasting and no ostentation. His manner was altogether unaffected. Yet here he is daring to call ‘the Lord of heaven and earth’ (the creator and sustainer of all things) his Father, and himself the Father’s Son (verse 25), indeed ‘the Son’ in an absolute way; and that all things have been committed to him by his Father (that is, that he is the heir of the universe). And finally he claims that as only he knows the Father, so only the Father knows him; he is an enigma to all others. There therefore exists between them an unparalleled reciprocal relationship. This is Jesus’ multiple claim. It is breathtaking in its sweep. Nobody else has dared to make it, while retaining his moral integrity, sanity and balance. ....

Mindful of mortality

From the instructions "Regarding Christian Death and Burial" in The Book of Common Prayer 2019:
The burial of a Christian is an occasion of both sorrow and joy—our sorrow in the face of death, and our joy in Jesus' promise of the resurrection of the body and the life everlasting. As the burial liturgy proclaims, "life is changed, not ended; and when our mortal body lies in death, there is prepared for us a dwelling place eternal in the heavens."

The Christian burial liturgy looks forward to eternal life rather than backward to past events. It does not primarily focus on the achievements or failures of the deceased; rather, it calls us to proclaim the Good News of Jesus and his triumph over death, even as we celebrate the life and witness of the deceased.

The readings should always be drawn from the Bible, and the prayers and music from the Christian tradition. A wake preceding the service and a reception following the service are appropriate places for personal remembrances. Where possible, the burial liturgy is conducted in a church....

The Book of Common Prayer has always admonished Christians to be mindful of their mortality. It is therefore the duty of all Christians, as faithful stewards, to draw up a Last Will and Testament, making provision for the well-being of their families and not neglecting to leave bequests for the mission of the Church. In addition, it is important while in health to provide direction for one's own funeral arrangements, place of burial, and the Scripture readings and hymns of the burial liturgy, and to make them known to the Priest. (emphasis added)
The Book of Common Prayer 2019

Sunday, July 14, 2019

The good way

Thus saith the LORD, Stand ye in the ways, 
and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way,
and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls.
But they said, We will not walk therein.
Jeremiah 6:16 (KJV)

Friday, July 12, 2019

"Lovers of truth, when they are not heated with political debate."

The entry at Anecdotal Evidence this morning included a quotation from Barton Swaim's 2010 review of a collection of Samuel Johnson's writings. From that review in the now unfortunately defunct Weekly Standard:
...Johnson was more concerned with morality than with politics; he cared about individual rather than societal reform, and so could never be the father, or even the uncle, of any variety of political conservatism.

...Johnson’s is a moral and intellectual, not a political, conservatism, but it is no less relevant for that. If there is any truth to Michael Oakeshott’s claim that conservatism is a disposition rather than a creed, that disposition was given its fullest and most memorable expression in the works of Samuel Johnson: preeminently in his essays from The Rambler, The Idler, and The Adventurer, and in his short philosophical novel, Rasselas; but also in his literary criticism and other occasional writings. ....

Johnson was not, as those who’ve read only Boswell have often concluded, a reactionary. He thought of himself as a Tory, but that label did not mean for him a hidebound attitude toward all things modern. He certainly had a perverse streak (as, surely, all conservatives must have if they wish to preserve their sanity), and he enjoyed making outrageous and abusive remarks in conversation. But Johnson’s views were in chief respects more forward-looking and Whiggish than otherwise. In the essays reprinted in this volume, he inveighs against punishing debtors with prison sentences, men who take advantage of vulnerable women, the ill-treatment of children by fathers, and of Indians by the North American settlers. ....

...[H]is refusal to countenance any belief that oversimplified the human experience, and his dim view of man’s benevolence—made him skeptical of the claims of politics. The mental vulgarity of politics robs men of good cheer, and gives them the moral license to say things they know to be untrue. In Idler 10, Johnson discusses two of his friends. “They are both men of integrity,” he says, “where no factious interest is to be promoted; and both lovers of truth, when they are not heated with political debate.”

Politics usurps the mind, and tempts its participants to exaggerate the importance of government policies beyond all rational bounds. .... (much more)

Thursday, July 11, 2019


Michael Dirda in The Washington Post: "Johnston McCulley dreamed up Zorro 100 years ago":
1940 film version
...[O]n Aug. 9, 1919 — All-Story Weekly published the opening installment of a serial entitled “The Curse of Capistrano.” Set in a highly idealized Southern California during the early 19th century, when Spanish grandees ruled vast estates and Franciscan missions brought Christianity to the indigenous population, the novel introduced a new adventure hero, the masked avenger of the downtrodden and oppressed, the daring and debonair swordsman Zorro. .... In the late 1950s, Zorro grew especially popular because of a Disney television series featuring handsome Guy Williams as the daredevil highwayman. Even now, I can remember the thrilling words of the show’s musical opening:
Out of the night
When the full moon is bright
Comes a horseman
Known as Zorro!
When Johnston McCulley published “The Curse of Capistrano,” he clearly didn’t expect to write more stories about its protagonist. At the end of the novel, he reveals — what any reader will have guessed much earlier — that the languid aesthete Don Diego Vega is actually Zorro. What’s more, McCulley obviously copied this central plot device (as well as Zorro’s league of noble caballeros) from Baroness Orczy’s “The Scarlet Pimpernel.” In that thrilling swashbuckler, the foppish, slightly dim Sir Percy Blakeney is secretly the intrepid Scarlet Pimpernel, whose guerrilla actions help save the innocent from the guillotine during the French Revolution’s Reign of Terror. ....

Given that it’s midsummer, you might consider putting aside those emotionally wrenching novels you don’t really want to read or those dispiriting analyses of our national politics. They can wait until September. Now is the time to ride with Zorro.
The Curse of Capistrano

And this...

Monday, July 8, 2019

Prayer books

My copy of The Book of Common Prayer 2019 arrived in the mail this morning. I value this sort of thing primarily for the prayers although I also very much like some of the specific orders of worship, especially because they keep the focus of worship where it ought to be — on God. I've accumulated several versions of the Book of Common Prayer. The 1559 version was used in the time of Elizabeth I. The 1928 Episcopal book is valued by American traditionalists. The new 2019 revision was prepared for the Anglican Church in North America, a denomination that split from today's Episcopalians over issues regarding the authority of Scripture. Here, in the second row, are some of the other collections that I have used when preparing to lead worship.

The middle book in the top row is the Episcopal Book of Common Prayer containing the 1928 revision. It was given to me by a fellow teacher who had once studied for the Episcopal priesthood. The Presbyterian collection from 1906 includes a lot of prayers from various traditions and also prayers for home/family worship. The final book, The Worship Sourcebook (2004), is published by Christian Reformed affiliated houses and is a really good resource.

Sunday, July 7, 2019


One of the most important books that informed my understanding of conservatism was The Conservative Intellectual Movement in America Since 1945 by George Nash. City Journal has an interesting article about  "George H. Nash: Conservatism’s Historian." Nash has recently published a new book, Reappraising the Right, in which he observes that:
By the 1990s...the movement had come to resemble a hand, with each digit representing a different branch of the broad conservative coalition. Here is how he describes the conservative movement:
[Conservatism] is a coalition of five distinct parts: 1) libertarians apprehensive of the threat of overweening government and the welfare state to individual liberty and free-market capitalism; 2) “traditionalist” conservatives, appalled by the weakening of the ethical norms and institutional foundations of American society at the hands of secular, relativistic liberalism; 3) anti-communist cold warriors, convinced that America was increasingly imperiled by an evil empire seeking the conquest of the world; 4) neoconservatives—disillusioned men and women of the left who had been “mugged by reality” and were gravitating toward the conservative camp; and 5) the Religious Right, traumatized by the moral wreckage unleashed upon America by the courts and by the culture wars of the 1960s and 1970s.
Fusionism was an attempt, led by Frank Meyer of National Review, to reconcile the first two branches. It succeeded, at least insofar as it managed to establish a basic conservative consensus that combined a defense of Judeo-Christian values, support for capitalism, and—something all conservatives could agree on—anti-Communism. Nash’s own brand of fusionism accepts capitalism and the individual liberty on which it is based: “Liberty,” he avers, “is a vital component of what conservatives need to defend.” But liberty is not enough, and traditionalism complements libertarianism in answering a question that Nash finds central: “What kind of life should you lead once you are given freedom?” By emphasizing the importance of religious customs and the pursuit of personal virtue, traditionalists captured Nash’s sympathies.
That was the kind of conservatism that I believed in. That is the kind of conservative I still am. But, "Nash argues that Trump has shattered the fusionist consensus within conservatism. On every front, Nash claims, Trump has challenged or subverted the conservative orthodoxy. ...." I used to feel at home in what I thought of as the "Conservative Movement." I haven't felt that way since the upheaval in 2016. If you're interested in these kinds of questions you may find this interesting.

Friday, July 5, 2019


C.S. Lewis on faith:
Now Faith, in the sense in which I am here using the word, is the art of holding on to things your reason has once accepted, in spite of your changing moods. For moods will change, whatever view your reason takes. I know that by experience. Now that I am a Christian I do have moods in which the whole thing looks very improbable: but when I was an atheist I had moods in which Christianity looked terribly probable. This rebellion of your moods against your real self is going to come anyway. That is why Faith is such a necessary virtue: unless you teach your moods ‘where they get off’, you can never be either a sound Christian or even a sound atheist, but just a creature dithering to and fro, with its beliefs really dependent on the weather and the state of its digestion. Consequently one must train the habit of Faith.

C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity, Chapter 11 "Faith" (1952)

Thursday, July 4, 2019

Born on the 4th of July

In 1926 on the day after his birthday and the one-hundred-and-fiftieth birthday of the United States Calvin Coolidge delivered a speech in Philadelphia:
.... It was not because it was proposed to establish a new nation, but because it was proposed to establish a nation on new principles, that July 4, 1776, has come to be regarded as one of the greatest days in history. Great ideas do not burst upon the world unannounced. They are reached by a gradual development over a length of time usually proportionate to their importance. This is especially true of the principles laid down in the Declaration of Independence. Three very definite propositions were set out in its preamble regarding the nature of mankind and therefore of government. These were the doctrine that all men are created equal, that they are endowed with certain inalienable rights, and that therefore the source of the just powers of government must be derived from the consent of the governed. ....

.... A spring will cease to flow if its source be dried up; a tree will wither if its roots be destroyed. In its main features the Declaration of Independence is a great spiritual document. It is a declaration not of material but of spiritual conceptions. Equality, liberty, popular sovereignty, the rights of man — these are not elements which we can see and touch. They are ideals. They have their source and their roots in the religious convictions. They belong to the unseen world. Unless the faith of the American people in these religious convictions is to endure, the principles of our Declaration will perish. We can not continue to enjoy the result if we neglect and abandon the cause. ....

Independence Day

Tuesday, July 2, 2019

"The pleasure of hating"

At the Wall Street Journal yesterday, one explanation of our current predicament:
.... We Americans are becoming ever better at vilifying people who disagree with us. This taste for hate seems perverse, an intentional pursuit of displeasure. Hate disturbs one’s inner peace, as does being hated.

But the compensatory pleasures of hatred—in particular its enhancement of self-esteem—are underrated. Hatred is self-congratulatory. It involves expressing superiority to its objects, and patting yourself on the back for not being them.

The pleasure of hating is also the quickest and most effective method of bringing people together. When you declare your opponents to be obviously evil and stupid, you are congratulating not only yourself but the people who agree with you for being intelligent and good. Any expressions of disagreement in your vicinity, on the other hand, threaten your sense of the purity of your own motives and the indubitable truth of your opinions. Such things menace your self-regard, and hence the meaning of your life.

Meanwhile your opponents are off in their “bubble,” “silo” or “ghetto” congratulating themselves and one another by their vilification of you and your ilk. This makes everyone feel good, but also makes any sort of political dialogue across the line impossible, not to mention dangerous.

For a couple of generations, educators have taken as obvious that their purpose is to enhance young people’s self-esteem, and that extreme self-esteem is tantamount to redemption. A couple of generations of Americans who grew up in those schools learned that having their self-esteem damaged is tantamount to being violently victimized. ....

Sunday, June 30, 2019

Miserable offenders

Again from The Book of Common Prayer 2019, Confession. "Miserable offenders" is gone.
The Officiant says to the People

Dearly beloved, the Scriptures teach us to acknowledge our many sins and offenses, not concealing them from our heavenly Father, but confessing them with humble and obedient hearts that we may obtain forgiveness by his infinite goodness and mercy. We ought at all times humbly to acknowledge our sins before Almighty God, but especially when we come together in his presence to give thanks for the great benefits we have received at his hands, to declare his most worthy praise, to hear his holy Word, and to ask, for ourselves and on behalf of others, those things which are necessary for our life and our salvation. Therefore, draw near with me to the throne of heavenly grace.

or this

Let us humbly confess our sins to Almighty God.

Silence is kept. All kneeling, the Officiant and People say

1928 Episcopal Book of Common Prayer
Almighty and most merciful Father, we have erred and strayed from your ways like lost sheep.
We have followed too much the devices and desires of our own hearts.
We have offended against your holy laws.
We have left undone those things which we ought to have done, and we have done those things which we ought not to have done; and apart from your grace, there is no health in us.
O Lord, have mercy upon us.
Spare all those who confess their faults.
Restore all those who are penitent, according to your promises declared to all people in Christ Jesus our Lord.

And grant, O most merciful Father, for his sake, that we may now live a godly, righteous, and sober life, to the glory of your holy Name. Amen.

The Priest alone stands and says

Almighty God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, desires not the death of sinners, but that they may turn from their wickedness and live. He has empowered and commanded his ministers to pronounce to his people, being penitent, the absolution and remission of their sins. He pardons and absolves all who truly repent and genuinely believe his holy Gospel. For this reason, we beseech him to grant us true repentance and his Holy Spirit, that our present deeds may please him, the rest of our lives may be pure and holy, and that at the last we may come to his eternal joy; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Friday, June 28, 2019

A few prayers

For the Unrepentant
Merciful God, you desire not the death of sinners, but rather that they should turn to you and live; and through your only Son you have revealed yourself as the God who pardons iniquity. Have mercy on the unrepentant and those who do not believe [especially _____]. Awaken in them, by your Word and Holy Spirit, a deep sense of their sinfulness and peril. Take from them all ignorance, hardness of heart, and contempt of your Word. Grant them to know and feel that there is no other Name under heaven given among men by which they must be saved, but only the Name of the Lord Jesus Christ. And so bring them home and number them among your children, that they may be yours for ever; through Jesus Christ our Lord, who lives and reigns with you and the Holy Spirit, one God, world without end. Amen

To Please God Rather Than Men                                                    Thomas à Kempis
Our God, in whom we trust: Strengthen us not to regard overmuch who is for us or who is against us, but to see to it that we be with you in everything we do. Amen.

In the Evening                                                                                   John Henry Newman
O Lord, support us all the day long through this trouble-filled life, until the shadows lengthen, and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in your mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.

For Daily Growth                                                                               Richard of Chichester
Thanks be to thee, my Lord Jesus Christ, for all the pains and insults thou hast borne for me, and all the benefits thou hast given me. O most merciful Redeemer, Friend, and Brother: Grant that I may see thee more clearly, love thee more dearly, and follow thee more nearly, day by day. Amen.

For Joy at the End of Life                                                                   Miles Coverdale
Lord Jesus, be mindful of your promise. Think of us, your servants, and when we shall depart, speak to our spirits these loving words: “Today you shall be with me in joy.” O Lord Jesus Christ, remember us, your servants who trust in you, when our tongues cannot speak, when the sight of our eyes fails, and when our ears are stopped. Let our spirits always rejoice in you and be joyful about our salvation, which you, through your death, have purchased for us. Amen.

For the Coming of God’s Kingdom
Hasten, O Father, the coming of your kingdom; and grant that we your servants, who now live by faith, may with joy behold your Son at his coming in glorious majesty; even Jesus Christ, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

Wednesday, June 26, 2019


Bilbo Baggins in The Fellowship of the Ring:

I sit beside the fire and think
of all that I have seen,
of meadow-flowers and butterflies
in summers that have been;
For still there are so many things
that I have never seen:
in every wood in every spring
there is a different green.
Of yellow leaves and gossamer
in autumns that there were,
with morning mist and silver sun
and wind upon my hair.
I sit beside the fire and think
of people long ago,
and people who will see a world
that I shall never know.
I sit beside the fire and think
of how the world will be
when winter comes without a spring
that I shall ever see.
But all the while I sit and think
of times there were before,
I listen for returning feet
and voices at the door.

And this, late in Lord of the Rings:
There, peeping among the cloud-wrack above a dark tor high up in the mountains, Sam saw a white star twinkle for a while. The beauty of it smote his heart, as he looked up out of the forsaken land, and hope returned to him. For like a shaft, clear and cold, the thought pierced him that in the end the Shadow was only a small and passing thing: there was a light and high beauty for ever beyond its reach. His song in the Tower had been defiance rather than hope; for then he was thinking of himself. Now, for a moment, his own fate, and even his master’s, ceased to trouble him. He crawled back into the brambles and laid himself by Frodo’s side, and putting away all fear he cast himself into a deep untroubled sleep.

Tuesday, June 25, 2019

"I know not what it will bring forth"

The Anglican Church in North America (ACNA) has published The Book of Common Prayer 2019. I've ordered it, but have not yet received a copy. It can be downloaded as a pdf here. I've been browsing a bit and in a section titled "prayers for use by a sick person" I found these which a person not sick could just as well pray:
O heavenly Father, you give your children sleep for the refreshing of soul and body: Grant me this gift, I pray; keep me in that perfect peace which you have promised to those whose minds are fixed on you; and give me such a sense of your presence, that in the hours of silence I may enjoy the blessed assurance of your love; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is another day, O Lord. I know not what it will bring forth, but make me ready, Lord, for whatever it may be. If I am to stand up, help me to stand bravely. If I am to sit still, help me to sit quietly. If I am to lie low, help me to do it patiently. And if I am to do nothing, help me to do it gallantly. Make these words more than words, and give me the Spirit of Jesus. Amen.
The illustration is of the pew edition. Except for the Psalter most of the scripture quotations are from the ESV. I particularly like their choice of the Jerusalem cross on the cover. It is a favorite of mine and also of my pastor.

Some things don't change very much

Selected quotations from The Road to Wigan Pier (1937) by George Orwell, himself a Socialist:
  • In addition to this there is the horrible — the really disquieting — prevalence of cranks wherever Socialists are gathered together. One sometimes gets the impression that the mere words "Socialism" and "Communism" draw towards them with magnetic force every fruit-juice drinker, nudist, sandal-wearer, sex-maniac, Quaker, "Nature Cure" quack, pacifist, and feminist in England.
  • The truth is that, to many people calling themselves Socialists, revolution does not mean a movement of the masses with which they hope to associate themselves; it means a set of reforms which 'we', the clever ones, are going to impose upon 'them', the Lower Orders. On the other hand, it would be a mistake to regard the book-trained Socialist as a bloodless creature entirely incapable of emotion. Though seldom giving much evidence of affection for the exploited, he is perfectly capable of displaying hatred—a sort of queer, theoretical, in vacuo hatred—against the exploiters.
  • Sometimes when I listen to these people talking, and still more when I read their books, I get the impression that, to them, the whole Socialist movement is no more than a kind of exciting heresy-hunt — a leaping to and fro of frenzied witch-doctors to the beat of tom-toms and the tune of "Fee fi, fo, fum, I smell the blood of a right-wing deviationist!"
  • It would help enormously, for instance, if the smell of crankishness which still clings to the Socialist movement could be dispelled. If only the sandals and the pistachio-coloured shirts could be put in a pile and burnt, and every vegetarian, teetotaller, and creeping Jesus sent home to Welwyn Garden City to do his yoga exercises quietly! But that, I am afraid, is not going to happen.

Monday, June 24, 2019

The Hound

From The Complete Paget Portfolio: Every Sherlock Holmes Illustration by Sidney Paget, Paget's original illustration for The Hound (of the Baskervilles):

Sidney Paget

In the mail this morning: The Complete Paget Portfolio: Every Sherlock Holmes Illustration by Sidney Paget Reproduced Directly from The Strand Magazine Including the Original Artwork. When commenting on this book before I indicated that it seemed rather expensive. I take that back having seen the quality of the reproductions and understanding how much effort it took to produce that quality. This particular illustration was for "The Resident Patient," and next to it in the book is Paget's original work. Only a few of those have survived. All of the illustrations include the original Strand caption and, often, comment by Nicholas Utechin, the author of this collection.

Saturday, June 22, 2019

"There is but one living and true God...."

I've just been re-reading the "Thirty-Nine Articles" of the Church of England from 1571, when Elizabeth I was Queen. describes how they came to be:
Thirty-nine Articles, the doctrinal statement of the Church of England. With the Book of Common Prayer, they present the liturgy and doctrine of that church. The Thirty-nine Articles developed from the Forty-two Articles, written by Archbishop Thomas Cranmer in 1553 “for the avoiding of controversy in opinions.” These had been partly derived from the Thirteen Articles of 1538, designed as the basis of an agreement between Henry VIII and the German Lutheran princes, which had been influenced by the Lutheran Augsburg Confession (1530).

The Forty-two Articles were eliminated when Mary I became queen (1553) and restored Roman Catholicism. After Elizabeth I became queen (1558), a new statement of doctrine was needed. In 1563 the Canterbury Convocation (the periodic assembly of clergy of the province of Canterbury) drastically revised the Forty-two Articles, and additional changes were made at Elizabeth’s request. A final revision by convocation in 1571 produced the Thirty-nine Articles, which were approved by both convocation and Parliament, though Elizabeth had wanted to issue them under her own authority. Only the clergy had to subscribe to them.

In form they deal briefly with the doctrines accepted by Roman Catholics and Protestants alike and more fully with points of controversy. The articles on the sacraments reflect a Calvinist tone, while other parts intimate Lutheran or Catholic positions. They are often studiously ambiguous, however, because the Elizabethan government wished to make the national church as inclusive of different viewpoints as possible. ....
They provide insight into the theological controversies of the time and I found myself agreeing most of the time with exceptions regarding polity and a few other points of doctrine (I am a Baptist). Here they are:

Thursday, June 20, 2019

“He who marries the spirit of the age will soon find himself a widower.”

If this guy is right "contemporary" worship isn't contemporary anymore.
...[O]nly 27 percent of millennials attend religious services weekly (boomers claim a rate of 38 percent; their parents, 51 percent).

One of the reasons they don’t go to church seems to be a disaffection with one of the most popular worship styles going now—a style much embraced by their parents and, especially, by their grandparents, the baby boomers.

That style is contemporary worship, as in praise bands and rock musicians, generic auditoriums with fixed theater seating or big boxy rooms with stackable church chairs and worship screens. This worship style is frequently found shallow and trendy, caught up in innovation and cultural conformity. The theology attached to it is often found wanting for the same reasons—it lacks spiritual gravitas, it is grounded in what is new and culturally relevant. ....

Is it too much to suggest that the old ways of doing “church” are the better ways? That a worship style that has prospered for many centuries has something theologically substantial, something religiously solid, to offer a generation that finds itself floundering among the flotsam and jetsam of religious ephemera and trendiness? ....

.... A Barna survey from 2014 found that millennials were favorably disposed to traditional sanctuaries. Of four options presented to persons aged 18 to 29, a plurality (44 percent) chose a traditional worship space, as opposed to the semicircular megachurch mode or a more straightforward theater-seating mode. Seventy percent preferred an unambiguous Christian chancel arrangement, largely traditional with an altar and a cross/crucifix on the back wall. Commented the researchers on the chancel setting: “These patterns illustrate most Millennials’ overall preference for a straightforward, overtly Christian style of imagery—as long as it doesn’t look too institutional or corporate. Not only do such settings physically direct one’s attention to the divine, they also provide a rich context of church history as the backdrop for worship.” ....

We as humans need ceremony. We are comforted by ritual. Every worship service of every ilk is built on form, on repeated acts. From the glitziest arena church to the little brown church in the dale, a worship service is constructed after a pattern that is repeated, sometimes identically, week in and week out. Everybody does liturgy. Why not return to a ritual that’s been around the spiritual block, that’s been tested by generations of fellow believers, that’s been known and authenticated as an effective transmitter of saving faith, that connects you to generations of Christians, to your grandparents and their grandparents and believers back to Martin Luther and maybe even Thomas Aquinas? You’re going to do liturgy anyway. Why not make it the real thing? (more)

Wednesday, June 19, 2019


Just ordered. Sidney Paget was another great illustrator. A purchase place was hard to find online and the book is rather expensive but I'm very much looking forward to browsing through it. Michael Dirda in The Washington Post on this book:
Edited by the eminent English Sherlockian Nicholas Utechin, The Complete Paget Portfolio (Gasogene) showcases — in the words of its subtitle — “Every Sherlock Holmes Illustration by Sidney Paget Reproduced Directly from The Strand Magazine, Including the Surviving Original Artwork.”

These early depictions of Holmes are nearly as iconic as Dr. Watson’s accounts of his investigations. The lean face, aquiline nose, piercing eyes — all are here from the beginning. Sidney Paget reportedly modeled the detective after his brother Walter and a photograph of the latter, reproduced here, makes that a near certainty. As it happens, both Pagets were artists — I own an edition of “Robinson Crusoe” beautifully illustrated by Walter Paget — and Sidney apparently got the Holmes commission through a mix-up: The Strand initially wanted Walter to do the art.

If you were to ask members of any Sherlockian sodality — perhaps the Six Napoleons of Baltimore or Ellicott City, Md.’s Watson’s Tin Box — odds are the second-most popular choice would be the double-portrait, from “Silver Blaze,” in which Holmes, sporting a deerstalker and Inverness cape, talks with a bowler-hatted Watson in a roomy railway car. The winner, though, would be Paget’s depiction of the climactic moment, in “The Final Problem,” when Holmes grapples with Professor James Moriarty on a mountain path high above the swirling waters of the Reichenbach Falls.

Saturday, June 8, 2019

A different Tolkien

Upon discovering that one of the mystery authors who set their plots in Oxford was a grandson of JRR Tolkien I decided to read at least one of his books. The first in a series of three came this morning. From its flyleaf:
When a famed Oxford historian is found dead in his study one night, all the evidence points to his son, Stephen. About to be disinherited from the family fortune, Stephen has returned home after a long estrangement—and it happens to be the night his father is shot to death. When his fingerprints are found on the murder weapon, Stephen's guilt seems undeniable. But there were five other people in the manor house at the time, and as their stories slowly emerge—along with the revelation that the deceased man was involved in a deadly hunt for a priceless relic in Northern France at the end of World War II—the case begins to unravel.

Everyone has a motive, and no one is telling the truth.

Unwilling to sit by and watch the biased judge condemn Stephen to death, an aging police inspector decides to travel from England to France to find out what really happened in that small French village in 1945—and what artifact could be so valuable it would be worth killing for. ....
From two reviews of the book:
A deft combination of Agatha Christie manor-house whodunit, Erle Stanley Gardner courtroom drama, and Dan Brown thriller, The Inheritance is nonetheless unique to its creator. And Tolkien, with this compelling read, proves himself worthy—and then some—of his literary pedigree. Richmond Times-Dispatch

Display[s] a narrative skill that the author of The Lord of the Rings would surely have recognized and admired. The Philadelphia Inquirer
I think I'll take the book outside and find out whether it holds my attention.

Friday, June 7, 2019

Is civility a Christian virtue?

I think the question [of whether civility is a Christian virtue] hinges on whether “civility” is a useful shorthand proxy for a series of traits that certainly are Christian virtues: patience, forbearance, kindness, generosity, turning the other cheek, blessing those who spitefully use you, etc.
And it should incorporate those things.

Wednesday, June 5, 2019

Thy will be done

The entire prayer delivered by FDR on D-Day, June 6, 1944:
My Fellow Americans:

Last night, when I spoke with you about the fall of Rome, I knew at that moment that troops of the United States and our Allies were crossing the Channel in another and greater operation. It has come to pass with success thus far.

And so, in this poignant hour, I ask you to join with me in prayer:

Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men's souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice.

Many people have urged that I call the nation into a single day of special prayer. But because the road is long and the desire is great, I ask that our people devote themselves in a continuance of prayer. As we rise to each new day, and again when each day is spent, let words of prayer be on our lips, invoking Thy help to our efforts.

Give us strength, too — strength in our daily tasks, to redouble the contributions we make in the physical and the material support of our armed forces.

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keeness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


Tuesday, June 4, 2019

A peculiar people

The Epistle to Diognetus is a second-century letter, a brief work of Christian apologetics. In the fifth section of the letter, the author talks about what sets Christians apart from other peoples in the Roman world. Christians are peculiar, he admits that. To be sure, they live with everyone else, and in many ways they live like everyone else: they work in the same kinds of jobs, they wear the same kinds of clothes.

But they are also different in significant ways: they are sexually chaste, they don’t kill unwanted children, they are generous and committed to sharing both within their churches and with people outside those churches; and, above all, they refuse to worship the Roman gods. For these differences they are hated, and hated the more the kinder they are.

And there’s one more thing that sets the Christians apart: when they are attacked, when they are persecuted, they don’t reply in kind. Others say to the Christians, “You are my enemy”; Christians say to the others, “You are my neighbor.”

Were they wrong to live this way? ....

Monday, June 3, 2019

Gervase Fen

At CrimeReads, "The Many Mysteries of Oxford," about authors who used that city and/or its University as settings for detective stories. Among the authors are Colin Dexter (Inspector Morse), Dorothy L. Sayers (Wimsey), "Simon Tolkien (Trinity College, Oxford), a barrister and grandson of JRR Tolkien"(!) and Edmund Crispin. Years ago I read and enjoyed all of the Crispins. From the blog post:
Edmund Crispin was the pseudonym of Robert Bruce Montgomery (St. John’s College, Oxford) who wrote nine detective novels and two collections of short stories featuring the slightly eccentric Oxford don Gervase Fen, Professor of English at (the fictional) St. Christopher’s College (which bears more than a passing resemblance to St John’s). The books are complex whodunits, often with locked room mysteries, and break the usual convention of the fourth wall [by having] Gervase Fen often directly addressing the reader. The best known of Crispin’s Oxford novels is The Moving Toyshop (1946) where a visiting poet (based on Crispin’s own Oxford contemporary at St. John’s, the English poet Philip Larkin) discovers a dead body in a toyshop before being knocked out and waking up the next morning to find the body gone and the toyshop now a greengrocers. It does have a lot of insider Oxford jokes but years of undergraduate study there is not required to enjoy the novel, which PD James (herself Oxford born) described as one of her top five crime novels. (the brackets indicate a modification of the original text)
There is an Inklings reference in one of the Crispin mysteries. From Chapter Four of Swan Song:
'Oh, for a beakerful of the cold north,' said Fen, gulping at his Burton. 'Impossible murders, for the present, must wait their turn.'

They were sitting before a blazing and hospitable fire in the small front parlour of the 'Bird and Baby'. Mudge had parted from them, with notable reluctance, at the door, in order to pursue his duties in less congenial circumstances; and Adam, Elizabeth, Sir Richard Freeman, and Fen were now toasting themselves to a comfortable glow. Outside, it was still attempting to snow, but with only partial success. ....

'There goes C.S. Lewis,' said Fen suddenly. 'It must be Tuesday.'

'It is Tuesday.' Sir Richard struck a match and puffed doggedly at his pipe. ....
The "Bird and Baby" is, of course, the pub named The Eagle and Child where the Inklings regularly met on Tuesdays in the 1930s and '40s.

Thursday, May 30, 2019


Michael Dirda on a three hundred year old classic:
.... Robinson Crusoe, though, remains something truly special: It belongs in that small category of classics — others are The Odyssey and Don Quixote — that we feel we’ve read even if we haven’t. Retellings for children and illustrations, like those by N.C. Wyeth, have made its key scenes universally recognizable. Stranded on a desert island, Crusoe strips his wrecked ship of everything useful, builds a fortified cave-retreat, acquires goats and a pet parrot, plants barley and corn, learns to fashion clothes out of animal skins. The most dramatic moment of all occurs without preamble or fanfare:
It happened one Day about Noon going towards my Boat, I was exceedingly surpriz’d with the Print of a Man’s naked Foot on the Shore, which was very plain to be seen in the Sand; I stood like one Thunder-struck, or as I had seen an Apparition; I listen’d, I look’d round me, I could hear nothing, nor see any Thing; I went up to a rising Ground to look farther; I went up the Shore and down the Shore, but it was all one, I could see no other Impression but that one.
Much later, Crusoe discovers an orgiastic cannibal feast and helps rescue a captive to whom he gives the name Friday. Later still, mutineers land on the island, but Crusoe and Friday, through force of arms and subterfuge, restore command to the ship’s rightful captain. Many editions of the novel then close with these abrupt words:
In this vessel, after a long voyage, I arrived in England this 11th of June, in the year 1687, having been thirty and five years absent.
.... As many scholars have noted, Defoe’s castaway isn’t a back-to-nature primitivist, but rather an enterprising capitalist, eager to transform raw nature into useful goods while keeping careful inventories of what he owns, makes and reaps. He regularly likens himself to a king, has Friday call him “Master,” and later assumes the title of governor.

Where capitalism flourishes, can the Protestant ethic be far behind? Crusoe’s near-death from fever leads to spiritual awakening and repentance. He recognizes disobedience to his father as his Original Sin, learns to trust in Providence and totes up his blessings on a balance sheet. .... (more, probably behind a pay wall)

Tuesday, May 28, 2019

Abortion and eugenics

Justice Clarence Thomas today (pdf), responding to the Court's decision not to consider an appeals court ruling overturning an Indiana abortion law (I have removed references):
I write separately to address the other aspect of Indiana law at issue here—the "Sex Selective and Disability Abortion Ban." This statute makes it illegal for an abortion provider to perform an abortion in Indiana when the provider knows that the mother is seeking the abortion solely because of the child's race, sex, diagnosis of Down syndrome, disability, or related characteristics. (excluding "lethal fetal anomal[ies]" from the definition of disability). The law requires that the mother be advised of this restriction and given information about financial assistance and adoption alternatives, but it imposes liability only on the provider. Each of the immutable characteristics protected by this law can be known relatively early in a pregnancy, and the law prevents them from becoming the sole criterion for deciding whether the child will live or die. Put differently, this law and other laws like it promote a State's compelling interest in preventing abortion from becoming a tool of modern-day eugenics.

The use of abortion to achieve eugenic goals is not merely hypothetical. The foundations for legalizing abortion in America were laid during the early 20th-century birth-control movement. That movement developed alongside the American eugenics movement. And significantly, Planned Parenthood founder Margaret Sanger recognized the eugenic potential of her cause. She emphasized and embraced the notion that birth control "opens the way to the eugenist." Sanger, "Birth Control and Racial Betterment." As a means of reducing the "ever increasing, unceasingly spawning class of human beings who never should have been born at all," Sanger argued that "Birth really the greatest and most truly eugenic method" of "human generation." In her view, birth control had been "accepted by the most clear thinking and far seeing of the Eugenists themselves as the most constructive and necessary of the means to racial health."

It is true that Sanger was not referring to abortion when she made these statements, at least not directly. She recognized a moral difference between "contraceptives" and other, more "extreme" ways for "women to limit their families," such as "the horrors of abortion and infanticide." But Sanger's arguments about the eugenic value of birth control in securing "the elimination of the unfit," apply with even greater force to abortion, making it significantly more effective as a tool of eugenics. Whereas Sanger believed that birth control could prevent "unfit" people from reproducing, abortion can prevent them from being born in the first place. Many eugenicists therefore supported legalizing abortion, and abortion advocates—including future Planned Parenthood President Alan Guttmacher endorsed the use of abortion for eugenic reasons. Technological advances have only heightened the eugenic potential for abortion, as abortion can now be used to eliminate children with unwanted characteristics, such as a particular sex or disability.

Given the potential for abortion to become a tool of eugenic manipulation, the Court will soon need to confront the constitutionality of laws like Indiana's. But because further percolation may assist our review of this issue of first impression, I join the Court in declining to take up the issue now. (more, pdf)

Monday, May 27, 2019


Why do we have a Memorial Day? Re-posted:

Amy A. Kass and Leon R. Kass in "Take Time to Remember":
.... 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" originally in The Weekly Standard

A Memorial Day Poem

 Henry Wadsworth Longfellow in 1882:

Decoration Day
Sleep, comrades, sleep and rest
On this Field of the Grounded Arms,       
Where foes no more molest,
Nor sentry's shot alarms!
All is repose and peace,
Untrampled lies the sod;
The shouts of battle cease,
It is the Truce of God!
Ye have slept on the ground before,
And started to your feet
At the cannon's sudden roar,
Or the drum's redoubling beat.
Rest, comrades, rest and sleep!
The thoughts of men shall be
As sentinels to keep
Your rest from danger free.
But in this camp of Death
No sound your slumber breaks;
Here is no fevered breath,
No wound that bleeds and aches.
Your silent tents of green
We deck with fragrant flowers
Yours has the suffering been,
The memory shall be ours.

A Memorial Day Poem by Longfellow, From The Atlantic, June 1882 - The Atlantic

Memorial Day


Walter Russel Mead on Memorial Day, 2013:
The famous poem by the Canadian John McCrae commemorates the dead from the terrible trench warfare battles of World War One, but it is worth remembering today, as Americans...are putting their lives on the line in another country where poppies bloom.
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.
What makes this poem so memorable, I think, is that it doesn’t just see the soldiers as victims. Their lives are more than a tragic waste; we have not done our duty by them if we simply bewail their deaths and move on.

These soldiers were there for a reason; like the Americans who fought for the Union in our Civil War, they were fighting for a cause that was bigger than they were, that was worthy of the sacrifice they made. Those who die for freedom, or to protect their homes and families from invaders and aggression cannot be pitied and dismissed as victims. They must be honored and respected as warriors, as men whose service ennobled them and calls forth an answering sense of dedication among the living. ....

Pity and compassion can be noble emotions, but wallowing in these feelings is not what Memorial Day should be about. Our duty to the fallen is not just one of remembrance, or of caring for the wounded or those the warriors left behind. We also owe a debt of emulation: to continue to fight and if necessary to die for the great causes of our time. To fight an ideology of hatred that masks itself as religion is a noble and a generous thing to do; those who give their lives in the fight against this great evil are not victims. They are heroes, and they deserve to be remembered as such. ....

Saturday, May 25, 2019


Re-posted from 2007.

Do you remember a story like this? A young man, raised in a godly household, decides to leave home and father and seek adventure. He goes to sea where he is shipwrecked and then rescued. He falls among thieves and is imprisoned. He escapes; is enslaved; freed, he goes to a far land where he finds success as a planter. At sea, he is once again shipwrecked near an island, and, the ship’s crew having deserted during the storm, he is alone… This is the story of Robinson Crusoe written by Daniel Defoe and published in 1719. It was one of the first novels, presented as a travel book because many Christians then thought reading fiction was a waste of time.

Once on the island with only the supplies he had been able to salvage from the wrecked ship, Crusoe begins to make a new life. He is alone and entirely dependent on himself. When he falls ill there is no one to nurse him. He does however have a Bible, which he reads. He begins to see in his calamities the work of Providence. He repents and cries out “Lord, be my help!”

Increasingly, he seeks to bow before the will of God. “I acquiesced in the Dispositions of Providence, which I began now to own, and to believe, ord’d everything for the best.” Then, later: “I began sensibly to feel how much more happy this life was, with all its miserable Circumstances, than the wicked, cursed, abominable Life I led all the past Part of my days.”

Many things ensue: He finds Friday, whom he educates; they rescue Friday’s father and a Spaniard from cannibals; they fight off pirates; and eventually he finds his way back to tell his story.

It’s a great adventure but if you decide to read the book today you may find that the references to faith have been removed – some editors seem to think they are a distraction.

One of the prints hanging on my walls is “Marooned” by the American painter and illustrator Howard Pyle. The marooned sailor in the painting is alone like Crusoe, but with much less hope of physical survival. He has been left on a sandbar waiting for the tide to rise. I chose it because I like Howard Pyle, but also because it is a good representation of those times in life when we feel abandoned, alone, and despairing….

Many theologians have thought Despair the worst of sins. It is the opposite of Hope. When we lose hope we refuse to believe that God will keep His promises. We have lost our confidence in Him.

In fact we are never “marooned.” We are never alone and without hope. When we begin to feel like that, it is important to remember what we know to be true.
[W]e rejoice in our sufferings, knowing that suffering produces endurance... If the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead dwells in you, he who raised Christ Jesus from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit who dwells in you. ... And we know that for those who love God all things work together for good, for those who are called according to his purpose. ... For I am sure that neither death nor life, nor angels nor rulers, nor things present nor things to come, nor powers, nor height nor depth, nor anything else in all creation, will be able to separate us from the love of God in Christ Jesus our Lord.
Romans 5:3; 8:11, 28, 38-39 (ESV)
Note: I have the uncomfortable feeling that some of the material above may have come from another source. If so, I would like to give credit and would be grateful to anyone who could provide a reference.

Another great illustrator

Howard Chandler Christy. These are all WWI era propaganda posters.

Friday, May 24, 2019

"Not dark yet, but it's getting there"

On Bob Dylan's 78th birthday Power Line posts "Not dark yet" so I went looking for the song.

Shadows are falling and I been here all day
It's too hot to sleep and time is running away
Feel like my soul has turned into steel
I've still got the scars that the sun didn't heal
Well I been to London and I been to gay Paree
I followed the river and I got to the sea
I've been down to the bottom of a whirlpool of lies
I ain't lookin' for nothin' in anyone's eyes
There's not even room enough to be anywhere
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there
Well my sense of humanity is going down the drain
Behind every beautiful thing, there's been some kind of pain
Sometimes my burden is more than I can bear
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there
I was born here and I'll die here, against my will
I know it looks like I'm movin' but I'm standin' still
She wrote me a letter and she wrote it so kind
She put down in writin' what was in her mind
I just don't see why I should even care
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there
Every nerve in my body is so naked and numb
I can't even remember what it was I came here to get away from
Don't even hear the murmur of a prayer
It's not dark yet, but it's getting there

More at Power Line: "Not dark yet, cont’d", with various well-known performers doing covers of Dylan songs.


In his essay "On Fairy Stories" (pdf) Tolkien writes "Why should a man be scorned if, finding himself in prison, he tries to get out and go home? Or if, when he cannot do so, he thinks and talks about other topics than jailers and prison-walls?” Escaping can be a good thing. Bradley J. Birzer attributes his return to faith to Tolkien and Dungeons and Dragons:
...I discovered a role-playing game that allowed me to spend as many hours as I so desired in Tolkienian-inspired worlds, Dungeons and Dragons. Surviving a very violent domestic situation during the late 1970s and early 1980s, I can state with no hyperbole that my ability to enter in and out of Tolkienian realms at will quite definitely saved my life. I remember the bizarre motherly whisperings at the time that Dungeon and Dragons might open a child to Satanism and the dark occult. I can only laugh at such comments, especially in hindsight. For me, Dungeons and Dragons (as based on Tolkien’s mythology) not only sheltered my then pre-teenage collapsing faith from collapsing entirely, but it also allowed me sanity by giving me an escape from household terrors that so dominated those years. During my daily walks to and from Liberty Junior High, I often contemplated suicide, trying to decide not if, but when. Honestly, it sometimes seemed the only way to escape my stepfather. Tolkien’s characters and stories, as played in Dungeons and Dragons, strangely (or Providentially?) intruded, pushing aside the darkest thoughts and depressions. Fantastic worlds provided the healthier and healthiest escape in those sombre days. When my friends and I played Dungeons and Dragons, we challenged and conquered evil in all its manifestations, domestic and foreign. We had only one God, and that God was good, true, and beautiful. If some kids fell in the occult because of Dungeons and Dragons, I am truly sorry. In my case, though, it prevented the greatest darkness of all and helped me realize the precious value of life. While I might not be able to stave off the evil in my home, I could rescue others from abuse, even if only in my imagined kingdoms and fantastic republics. ....
He mentions two books I have but had not looked at recently.
Of those books about Tolkien, but not written or edited by members of the Tolkien Estate, I loved the works by David Day, especially his Tolkien Bestiary, featuring some of the best painted renderings of Middle-earth I have yet to overcome. My current students have the distorted images of Tolkien’s world by Peter Jackson stuck in their heads. For me, my images come from the paintings commissioned by Mr. Day. Just as important to me was cartographic treasure, Barbara Strachey’s The Journeys of Frodo.
A Tolkien Bestiary is beautifully illustrated but is also an encyclopedia of Middle Earth. A typical entry:
FIRE-DRAKES Of all the creatures bred by Morgoth the Dark Enemy in all the Ages of his power the evil reptiles that were called Dragons were feared most. There were many breeds of these beings; the most deadly were those that vomited leaping flames from their foul bellies. These were called Fire-drakes, and among them were numbered the mightiest of Dragons. Glaurung, Father of Dragons, was first of the Uruloki Fire-drakes, and he had many offspring. The evil work of these Dragons on the kingdoms of Elves, Men and Dwarves in the First Age of Sun was terrible.

In the last days of that Age, when most of the Earth-bound brood of Glaurung had been put to death in the War of Wrath, the winged Fire-drakes appeared out of Angband. They are said to have been among the greatest terrors of the World, and Ancalagon the Black, who was of this breed, was said to have been the mighest Dragon of all times.

In later Ages, the histories of Middle-earth all tell of one last winged Fire-drake that was almost as fearsome as Ancalagon. This was the Dragon of Erebor, which drove the Dwarves of Durins Line from the kingdom under the Mountain. He was called Smaug the Golden, and in the year 2941 of the Third Age he was killed by Bard the Bowman of Dale.