Wednesday, June 26, 2019

Hope

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:
FOR SLEEP
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.

IN THE MORNING
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. Britannica.com 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

Holmes

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.

Amen.

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

Crusoe

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 Control...is 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

Indebted

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

Re-posted:

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

Marooned

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.