28 Jun 2007
Lewis on the old
If one has to choose between reading the new books and reading the old, one must choose the old: not because they are necessarily better but because they contain precisely those truths of which our own age is neglectful. The standard of permanent Christianity must be kept clear in our minds and it is against that standard that we must test all contemporary thought. In fact, we must at all costs not move with the times. -C.S. Lewis, from “Christian Apologetics”
21 Jun 2007
Is that really all there is?
Today is a sad day. Today I learned that Big Chuck is calling it quits.
Older Clevelanders remember Ghoulardi; I remember the Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show. In the 1970s, every Friday night after the late news came two goofy hosts showing a movie interspersed with classic “Certain Ethnic” skits and an unforgettable laugh track. The movies were great: Universal monster films one week, or perhaps Sherlock Holmes, Charlie Chan, or a bad (in a good way) sci-fi flick. The end of the show was a freewheeling pile of (clean!) jokes and goofy sounds, with Peggy Lee crooning it to a close. The old clips are still funny.
This was appointment TV for an adolescent. It was cheap and unendingly clever. It was a blast. After Bob Wells left to enter Christian broadcasting, it was never quite the same, although “Little John” Rinaldi was a worthy and longtime replacement.
The Hoolihan and Big Chuck Show is my fondest TV memory. It was and always will be my favorite show, and Big Chuck will always be my favorite TV personality.
Godspeed, big guy!
19 Jun 2007
Bill Mouser with a fine post on religious madhouses. He explains:
Now, what’s wonderful about religious madhouses is this: they usually appear utterly normal. All the psychic (or, theological) horrors are well hidden behind the visible veneer of civility, piety, and bible-babble. Stained glass, well-polished and padded pews, tasteful colors and the soft rustle of choir robes or clerical vestments render it all so, well, staid.
Yes, the gentle slopes, soft underfoot, without sudden turnings. It’s all quite familiar to those of us who’ve spent many Sundays in mainline church pews.
16 Jun 2007
The narrow gate of corporate Diversity
Anyone who works in corporate America is aware of diversity programs. They ban discrimination on the basis of gender, creed, religion, and of course, “sexual orientation.”
Should we harass homosexuals? Of course not. But companies that sound the Diversity bell always — always, in my experience — end up moving eventually from toleration to affirmation. Today’s progressive policy change leads to tomorrow’s sponsorship of agenda-driven speakers and events.
Furthermore, “Diversity” turns out to to be, like an Orwellian ministry, the opposite of what it claims. The stuff about creed and religion remains in these policies as a historical artifict. There’s respect only for a toothless creed and religion, not the kind that would actually draw persecution. Religion is swell as a private matter — a “lift in your shoe” as the quite unfunny comedian George Carlin used to call it — but proclaim a creed that homosexual behavior is sin against a holy God and you’ll be about as welcome at a diversity event as a styrofoam cup.
The road is wide that leads to destruction, but corporate Diversity is a narrow gate and a veiled threat. Any premise is fine as long as you reach the approved conclusions.
10 Jun 2007
Watching what you eat
I normally listen to sports talk when mowing. Last week I decided to change things up and switch to FM. An old Boston song called Let Me Take You Home Tonight was playing on one station. It’s probably been 15 years since I’ve heard it. The passage of time lends new perspective to music, and folks, Let Me Take You Home Tonight is really vile:
Let me take you home tonight
Mamma now it’s all right
Let me take you home tonight
I’ll show you sweet delight
And then this fine bridge:
I don’t wanna make excuses
I don’t wanna lie
I just got to get loose
with you tonight
So the kicker is, this catchy, dumb song goes through my head for the next two days. Like a leaky faucet. Drip, drip, drip.
They say that the Arian heresy spread throughout Christendom via ditties. I can believe it.
05 Jun 2007
My co-workers: no ordinary people
Laborare est orare – To labor is to pray – said the monks. I must confess that job enjoyment is something that has for most of my life escaped me. At work, I am prone to one of two attitudes. Most of the time, I’m wrapped up in intense labor, tapping on my keyboard, furiously IM’ing with co-workers, reading technical requirements, and forgetting about God all the day. Other times, I am slothful and ready for the weekend to start on Tuesday. Busy or not, my fellow workers often seem to me a hassle.
And so I’ve begun putting Bible verses on my bulletin board as ongoing reminders. The first thing I put up was this wonderful application from one of the greatest “sermons” ever given. C.S. Lewis delivered The Weight of Glory in a lovely Oxford church on June 8, 1941 (if you are ever in London, take a train to Oxford and visit St. Mary’s). Lewis wrote so many marvelous things, but with its glorious ruminations on heaven, I think it was his most exalted meditation.
The bolded part of this quote from Weight of Glory, along with associated verses from 2 Corinthians 4, now adorns my bulletin board. It admonishes me to treat my co-workers as image-bearers. Perhaps it will bless you, reader, as it has me, time and again:
It may be possible for each to think too much of his own potential glory hereafter; it is hardly possible for him to think too often or too deeply about that of his neighbour. The load, or weight, or burden of my neightbor’s glory should be laid daily on my back, a load so heavy that only humility can carry it, and the backs of the proud will be broken. It is a serious thing to live in a society of possible gods and goddesses, to remember that the dullest and most uninteresting person you talk to may one day be a creature which, if you saw it now, you would be strongly tempted to worship, or else a horror and a corruptions such as you now meet, if at all, only in nightmares. All day long we are, in some degree, helping each other to one or other of these destinations. It is in the light of these overwhelming possibilities, it is with the awe and the circumspection proper to them, that we should conduct all our dealings with one another, all friendshsips, all loves, all play, all politics. There are no ordinary people. You have never talked to a mere mortal. Nations, cultures, arts, civilizations — these are mortal, and their life is to ours as the life of a gnat. But it is immortals whom we joke with, work with, marry, snub, and exploit — immortal horrors or everlasting splendours. This does not mean that we are to be perpetually solemn. We must play. But our merriment must be of the kind (and it is, in fact, the merriest kind) which exists between people who have, from the outset, taken each other seriously — no flippancy, no superiority, no presumption. And our charity must be a real and costly love, with deep feeling for the sins in spite of which we love the sinner — no mere tolerance or indulgence which parodies love as flippancy parodies merriment. Next to the Blessed Sacrament itself, your neighbour is the holiest object presented to your senses.
01 Jun 2007
The Centrist fraud
A Presbyterian pastor once told me that he wanted a church that welcomed Democrats. I’ve often recalled and mused on that comment. I should’ve asked him: what exactly does that mean in practice? Will he avoid using of the church pulpit to electioneer and instead focus on law and Gospel? Excellent! Or would he downplay God’s wrath against sins that many in our current culture are aggressively telling us are not sins? Perhaps he could attract Democrats by housing NARAL in his church basement, like a Columbus PCUSA church used to do. That’d attract the Democratic base.
Somehow there’s a conceit that being bipartisan is a good thing, that only those who are so are “open-minded.” “Moderate” is equated with “moderation,” as if conservatives cannot soberly evaluate things. In the last 20 years as a Christian, my views have changed on many topics, theological and political. My views on topics from environmentalism, the Fed, the Iraq War, social security, and public education aren’t Republican talking points (and Democrats would hate them more). Does such “open-mindedness” count, or only “open-mindedness” where one drifts leftward?
One thing hasn’t changed: my view of the modern Democratic party. It’s as rotten to the core as it was 20 years ago. The hardcore secularists and feminists who hate Christianity, the people at the forefront of excusing those who will not inherit the kingdom of heaven (1 Cor 6:9)… These folks know where their friends are. That is not to say that Tweedledee’s immorality makes Tweedledum a good boy; the Republican party believes good things that it doesn’t practice and it believes bad things that it does practice. The point is that members of a party built on blatantly unscriptural views aren’t folks we should be trying to attract unless we mean to eventually call them to repentance. (By the way, if Calvin were alive today, would he be pumped about the “hope” offered by the Obama campaign?)
Michael Horton once noted that people cry for balance whenever they do not want to take the time to think through their own position. That doesn’t stop them from “claiming moral superiority for having the grace, moderation and sophisticated detachment to stand above and outside the debate.” He’s right.
And what a phony sophistication it is. When I want to read people who’ve thought deeply about politics, I don’t read some dithering, non-partisan “religious leader” (an old congressman once told my dad that the only thing in the middle of the road is dead skunks). Moderates have this obnoxious idea that they think open and subtle thoughts — shades of gray! — while conservatives are ossified. My experience is the exact opposite: political moderates think shallow, dull, politicized thoughts without considering their implications. It’s the conservatives who have the quirky, vibrant minds that inform political thought. I don’t mean the Sean Hannity’s of the world, but the folks who aren’t on the airwaves: Howard Phillips, the reconstructionists, the folks over at mises.org (some of whom appear to be Christian), etc. You’ll gain sharper political insight from Malcolm Muggeridge, Samuel Johnson, Joe Sobran, and Solzhenitsyn than any “moderate” I can think of. And you’ll get big doses of withering wit while you’re at it.