Am I a Calvinist?

A few months back, my parents had a lot of people over for dinner. I attended along with a preacher (and his wife) from the church of Christ. My parents must have complained to the preacher about my having converted to the awful religion of Calvinism because at one point during the conversation the preacher’s wife tried to discreetly engage me in a debate.

“I don’t understand how anyone could believe we don’t have free will”, she said…

I discreetly refused to engage.

Later, I thought of a reply for the dear lady that may work equally well for my readers (and anyone wondering about the issue).

I thought of a popular blood sport: the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). Is it a coincidence that my fascination with the sport surged along with my zealotry for Calvinist dogmatics? Maybe or maybe not. At any rate, we might imagine what it would be like to admire the strategies, stamina, and fighting styles of the various athletes. Perhaps we’ve done some training ourselves and know a thing or two about rear-naked-chokes or fighting in the clinch?

…but isn’t it the wise thing to say that both men who enter the ring have lost at the outset? No matter what happens, the two of them are going home damaged. They’re risking their very lives to fight professionally trained opponents. That seems like a lose / lose scenario no matter how you frame it.

In the same way, if you climb in the ring with a Presbyterian, you’ve already lost.

I say this because, on my view (heavily influenced by my reading of Cambria Will Not Yield), theological doctrines are not the best, or even the primary, markers of a man’s faith. And while a study of church history shows various theologians battling it out in their epistles, it always seemed like they were doing so for some immediate benefit of the church.

Do we allow those who’ve deconverted back into the church? Especially if they “deconverted” under threat of execution by Roman soldiers? Or do we demand they martyr themselves? Practical considerations like this were what kicked off theological disagreement in the early church. Some view of church government and broader ecclesiology had to be formalized. I’m not sure where or how to draw a line between these sorts of pragmatic theological considerations and empty speculation, other than to say the one is done out of love for concrete people and the other is done out of love for people in the abstract?

In any case, the church of Christ has the mantra: “No creed but Christ! No book but the Bible!”

If they held to this consistently they might not feel the need to wade into the ring with Presbyterians, and yet, we get exactly that. Dedicated church of Christ adherents flock to the seminaries to try their hands at writing systematic theologies to rival the Presbyterians.

…doing so seems a lose / lose to me.

So, I suppose you could still call me a “Calvinist”, since, whenever I’m depressed and feel the need to climb into the ring, I generally stick to my Calvinist fighting styles. But dogmatics and systematic theology has fallen in my esteem. My theology and philosophy books are on the bottom shelf or in storage.

Better to look at the world poetically and examine our actual relationship with God, rather than climb in the ring and fight to the death about some esoteric model of human agency. The Bible says God is sovereign and the Bible also says man is free. That’s the end of it. Evaluating the theological models for how to reconcile the two seems pointless in hindsight.

…but I do still have the urge to climb in the ring from time to time. Maybe it’s an old habit? Or maybe it’s just that I think I’m particularly good at the game? Maybe I find it addicting? Maybe when I do climb in the ring, there are people who admire, appreciate, and value my performance? (Outside the ring, I’m a veritable nobody with nothing genuine to contribute). But philosophy and theology are just games at the end of the day, really. At least, as philosophy and theology are practiced by moderns.

I’m still working through this to be honest, and I don’t want to step on any toes. If you find yourself particularly zealous about this or that theological doctrine, I beg your pardon…

…I have better things to do than argue about it with you.

**PS**

This post was motivated by recent discussions I’ve had, including a discussion through email with my friend Joe. I’ve been wanting to write about my UFC analogy for awhile and Joe’s conversation (in particular) helped prompt me to it. The “I have better things to do than argue about it with you” line is *not* directed at Joe – to be clear – it’s aimed at the ether as a way to express my general attitude at the moment. There’s no better way I can spend my time than in conversation with southern gents like Joe.

Ark Encounter…

You believe in a fairy tale, Shotgun!

I guess maybe I do. That’s all the more reason to believe it!

In “High Noon” Gary Cooper doesn’t think highly of the men who abandon him. They have their high-minded ideals and excuses. He never blames them. He just politely shows them the door. In the same way, I’d like to open this review by showing my Evolutionist friends the door. I’ll do it this way:

I’ve always said I don’t mind *that* someone believes the ridiculous techno-fable (I’m talking about “evolution”). I do mind quite a bit about *why* they believe it.

If they genuinely believe a loving read of Scripture demands a long-age interpretation, then fine. I wont hold that against them. They can follow C.S. Lewis and all the others down that path. Though, like Lewis, I hope they spend their entire lives throwing everything they have against the demons of modernity.

If, however…and this is the big “if” … if they believe it because they’re naive enough to think the “facts” force us to read Scripture in a certain way; or, if they bow knee to lab-coat-wearing pagans in academia, tremble at their mighty intellects, and desperately twist the words of our God to fit some petty modernist trapping, then they can go right to the devil along with all the people washed away in Noah’s flood.

I made the trip up to Cincinnati to see Ken Ham’s life-sized Noah’s Ark.

I’ve visited the Creation Museum numerous times but never saw the Ark until today. It was massive. Built as close to the Biblical specs as possible. It’s hidden by thickets of trees until you round a bend and see it there, hovering over the landscape. A structure that size today is a sight to see; I can’t imagine what the ancients must have thought.

Inside, we see hypothetical reconstructions of animal pens. Uniform clay pots by the hundreds line the cages – each cage about large enough for a rabbit. That’s one of the themes of the exhibit. Skeptics often ask how Noah could have gotten all those animals in the ark, but Ham’n’Crew have convincingly shown how plausible the idea may have been. Each row of cages was built with slats so the animal waste would drop to the bottom, caught in wagons and easily emptied. One exhibit showed a possible feeding system. It had a large hollow “moth box” in the center, with lots of larvae. Clay pots lined the outside of the moth-box, connected to it by clay tubes. The tiny reptiles inside would feed on whatever moths (from the box) happened into their pot. It’s a nifty, if only hypothetical, set up.

The larger animals, themselves only babies and no larger than most dogs, had larger pens. Inside we saw dinosaur replicas next to bear replicas. There was an entire cage full of hundreds of bats. The sign explained that because scientists haven’t narrowed down a single “kind” ancestor for bats yet, the exhibit thought it best to assume (for the time being) that many original bat types were on board.

The upper levels held the crew quarters as well as many walk-through exhibits displaying tiny replicas of Babel, the Garden of Eden, and the like, with accompanying descriptions of the stories and explanatory bits about how to explain away common skeptical objections.

More of a theme-park than a museum, it was a fascinating walk-through.

Unfortunately, Ham’n’Crew went heavy on speculation. They named each of the women on board and gave them back-stories. The black-African wife of Ham, for example, was (predictably) the medic of the group, having learned all the sophisticated ways of healing from her African tribe. This grated against my nerves as it seemed to be taking massive liberties with our Creation mythos. Part of the glory of the whole thing is its mystery.

This theme was continued with an entire room devoted to “Ark Myths”. Ham thought it was relevant to purchase a copy of every Noah’s Ark book aimed at children. He displayed them all and showed how each was in error. Error, here, just means: these ark books didn’t illustrate the events with the systematic, scientific, accuracy of Ham’s chosen Flood models. But is it really so important to teach children these models? After all, scientific models change all the time and never have more than a base-level plausibility for us. To say otherwise – especially to do so at the expense of cherished children’s literature – smacks of Evangelical zealotry.

I lost all wonder of the place when I strolled into the room dedicated to refuting “racism” and “white supremacy”, especially that kind practiced by the evil Southern white people. I was encouraged when a lady next to me sniffed her nose and walked stiffly out of that part of the exhibit. I was on her heals.

Ironically, they had a large display of the 1870’s Timeline by Sebastian C. Adams which artfully details the history of man from Adam to modern day. I noticed a blurb Adams slipped in – and Ham must have missed. In a fine-print segment of the chart describing the European peoples, Adams suggests that God has specially blessed the descendants of Japheth because European races are superior both physically and intellectually to all the other peoples of Earth.

…I was going to point it out to the guide standing close at hand, but decided I’d rather let it stay, unnoticed and unacknowledged, so some other European with a beating heart might be equally encouraged by it…

Overall a good experience. Maybe the best thing about it was the crowd. All white, all Christian (excepting a few jews). Surprisingly, it wasn’t just retired people either. There were large groups of families, presumably homeschoolers. As the day progressed bus-load after bus-load of them showed up.

In murky chatrooms all across the web, frothing-at-the-mouth unbelievers like suggesting that “no one” believes in Young Earth Creation anymore. “It’s died out, and rightly so!”

…well, not so fast…

Shotgun vs. My Fair Lady

The weather has turned and spring is upon us. My readers know what that means. Shotgun’s mind turns towards the fairer sex. Thoughts of romance blossom in the mind of this grizzled old bachelor who, despite his being grizzled and old, retains the naive ideals of his hopelessly romantic youth…

Most of my life I spend in a state of cynicism about women accompanied by a quiet drone of unfairness at the way life has turned out in that respect. The old stories never have maidens breaking the heart of heroes, at least, not the ones I’ve read. It’s the type of blow that wounds a man’s entire outlook. I went from a passionate youth, excited about the world, to an apathetic man who finds old joys full of present bitterness.

But the old romantic in me comes inching out with the pollen…

Accordingly, I watched “My Fair Lady” last night. I’ve grown a lot in sentiment and wisdom since last seeing it. I was so surprised at my new, and mostly negative, opinions of the movie that I thought a quick review was warranted.

Maybe I’ve become more puritanical in sentiment, but the first thing that struck me about the film was its flagrant use of profanity. Most of you know the plot but for those who don’t, it involves an unfeeling philologist who takes in a common street woman with the goal of training her in the art of sophisticated speech in order to pass her off as nobility. It’s a fascinating idea, of course. This theme has been copied many times since, with one well-off person taking some unfortunate under their wing, giving them intensive training in class propriety, then releasing them into a different caste. Love blooms along the way and the benefactor always learns something about the importance of valuing persons rather than class trappings.

But My Fair Lady goes a step further by criticizing the “patriarchy”. Cold, unfeeling, Henry Higgins is the perfect stand in caricature to represent males and Liza Doolittle is the “strong” woman who emancipates herself from his influences. Unfortunately (from the view of the feminists), she returns to him in the end after, presumably, falling in love. The long-suffering feminist willingly submits herself to the buffoonish oaf of a husband, albeit for noble reasons…

I’d like to think any Edwardian Christian man would have loved the woman first. Afterwards, he’d try liberating her from the low-culture slavery she was born into. Something like this is happening in our sanctification, after all. If Christ be not our loving King then our suffering is meaningless in the end.

The movie was made in a time when openly supporting a feminist theme would have been terribly unpopular and yet, the producers – ever Satan’s foot-soldiers – had to spin it for their master somehow. What results is a “lukewarm” mess that falls flat both for the feminists as well as for Christians.

The only real lesson of note from the film is that we ought to be careful when dealing with women. Dance with them and they’re liable to fall in love. And if that happens, it’s our fault and we ought to be man enough to accept it for the honor it is, rather than despising it and running away…

Dueling Passions

Awhile back I was at a bluegrass jam and we were playing that famous Scruggs song “Groundspeed”. When it was the banjo’s turn for a lead, I did some fancy little melodic riff. Afterwards, one of the guitar players got into it with me. “That ain’t the way Earl done it!” he said.

Alright, now, after searching my soul, I can’t say for sure what I did was inspiration of the moment or if it was some childish attempt at showboating. True, it was improvised and I hadn’t planned it. I’d thought the Spirit was moving me. But it’s hard to distinguish inner motives. I didn’t think much on it, I just did it. On the other hand, the rigid traditionalist was right in one respect. There’s a truism among musicians, you “play what you practice” and, for some reason or other, I’d been practicing those fancy “progressive” scales.

My readers ought to know me better than to think I have any patience for “progressive” anything. My trad friend didn’t know that about me, though. For obvious reasons, I can’t broadcast this blog or its contents. I have to be real careful how I approach racial topics with people. I usually don’t just come out and tell people how much I hate the modern world. You’d think bluegrass players – artists who make a practice of keeping the old culture alive – would know going in the type of people they’re playing with. Unfortunately, the opposite seems the case these days.

What’s worse, this same guy, so rigid in his defense of traditional forms and modes, would turn around and spew grand liberal catechisms about the sacred negro and the horrors of southern slavery. You get this a lot in “hipstergrass” circles, where they (sometimes) stick to rigid traditional aesthetics while filling them with the spirit of the new age. When did bluegrass become the genre of open-borders, the plight of the much-maligned jews, or the need for alchemizing southern culture into the brave new world of illumination?

I made a mistake in our debate by suggesting I didn’t think highly of Scruggs style. That wasn’t strictly true. Scruggs popularized the three finger picking that was popular in his region (he likely got the gist from Snuffy Jenkins). He’s given us invaluable tools for banjo playing. But there’s no question the Flatt and Scruggs era was the beginning of our peoples being commercialized into oblivion.

Speaking for myself, I think combining his basic style with melodic runs frees up the banjo for expressing all the glory of our people’s history and culture on the instrument. We can mix in a Celtic flare or, with the added freedom from single-string patterns, some of the depths of popular classical themes.

This attack on Scruggs set him off and further divided us. I was able to save our friendship in the end and, I hope, got at my message of “spirit” over “letter of the law”…but last time I saw him, he was still giving me a cold shoulder.

He actually thinks he’s the great defender of Southern culture against that progressive scoundrel Shotgun, when, from my view, the opposite is the case.

I’d rather hear saxophones than banjos, if the sax player has a genuine love for old Europe and the Spirit that once motivated our people…

Spirit, over the dead letter of the law, people!

Clash of the Buffoons …

~ Inside her there was a struggle. Was it nostalgia? A way of life now forgot? A clarion call of soul, resounding through her still-beating heart, voicing itself in the depths? A spirit long encased in darkness of ill-use and bound in chains by a world with no patience for the light? She couldn’t say. Maybe she thought of her father? His grave face. His slight frown at her chosen life afflicted her more than all the apologetic tomes of mighty-brained Christian intellects. An echo, ever faint, of the Christ-child and a space of divine wisdom where a child, raised rightly, shall not depart from it? ~

Reporter: Stop!

At this outburst, the entire assembly of Buffoons cease and turn towards her. The alchemist producer at her side freezes in terror.

Alchemist Producer: You’ve done it now, idiot!

Grand Cyclops Buffoon: Who let a woman in this sacred assembly? Come on now! Who?! Bring her forward!

The Buffoons, still recovering from their shock at Shotgun’s crimes and his subsequent confession, move slowly to apprehend the interlopers. They handle the producer roughly but are generally kind to the woman. They bring them, subdued and bound, to the front of the assembly.

GCB: Tell me truthfully my dear, who are you and why are you intruding on our ceremony?

Reporter: I…I…

GCB: She cannot speak, gentleman!

Reporter: Well, I’m a reporter and we’re doing a story on these proceedings…

This admission is met with a gasp of outrage from the assembled buffoons who recognize the camera and other tools of production wizardry accompanying the interlopers. These offenses are quickly confiscated and destroyed.

Alchemist Producer: My tech!

GCB: …be thankful it wasn’t your head, alien! Now (turning to the woman), under normal conditions we don’t allow women to speak at our assemblies but given that you’re a reporter – generally thought to be an enemy – I’m sure I speak for all of us when I say I’m curious about why you’d speak as you have.

Reporter: I…I…

GCF: I had just called for anyone, even an angel from Heaven, to speak in defense of that creature on yon log. Does anyone know why we ought not lynch this Shotgun here and now?

Murmurs from the assembled buffoons.

A Wise Buffoon in the Crowd: Hear me, hear me, buffoons!

The murmurs cease, giving way to wise buffoonery…

Wise Buffoon: We, all of us, believes in the divine hand. And our lord has beens knowns to sends angels, like yon girl there, in just suches times as this.

Everyone turns to consider the woman who blushes at being considered in this light…

Wise Buffoon: I say it makes no matters how shes cames heres this evening. We all hates reporters of her ilks but something made that woman speaks up. And our Lord most often speaks to us through the murmurings of our hearts. Lets us lets her haves her say!

After a short pause, hesitant sounds of agreement are heard from the crowd.

GCB: …makes sense, my good Buffoon. Ya’ll approve of our brother’s motion?

Aye’s heard from a clear majority of the buffoons.

GCB: …well, then, woman. Have your say. But I warn you. We’ve got no truck with the ramblings of female intellects around here. Nor much from the male intellects either. Speak from your heart, or not at all. And spare us a monologue, my dear. We’ve got the Lord’s business to be about and gots little time for nonsense.

This was accompanied by shouts of “hear, hear!” from the crowd…

Reporter: …well, I …if you please, sirs,… I mean, that just is to say: this man Shotgun (she indicates the ruggedly handsome, well-chiseled figure on the stump)…well, he, maybe only briefly, made me see my feminism in a new light. And, well, given how righteous our cause of feminism is…

Wise Buffoon: …given how dastardly…

GCB: …given how degenerate…

Buffoon from the Crowd: …given how destitute…

Reporter: …yes, given how, er, strongly encased I was in the thought, it seems Shotgun, in helping me see it, for only briefly, as you all must see it…well, seems to me that’s an achievement worthy of any buffoon. Oughtn’t that grand feat of poetry be considered in some respects in his defense?

GCB: …no one here doubts Shotgun’s past accomplishments, my dear, but he’s thrown it all away for his e-reader and his philosophizing. He knew better. That he was a champion of buffoonery makes his crime all the more serious. I’m sorry my dear, but he’s got to be strung up on yon tree.

Alchemist Reporter: …and, and…what about me?! Keep the girl! She’s clearly one of you! But let me go!

GCB: …you coward. I was of a mind to let you off with a thorough beating, but you just tried to throw that beautiful lady under a bus to save yourself. Now you’re getting strung up next to Shotgun!

At this, the alchemist producer screams in terror and struggles so violently he shakes free of the buffoons. He gains a few paces and begins cracking his knuckles in systematic ways, breaking loose some hidden technology implanted in his skin. Before the eyes of the assembly his body begins to shift and morph. Wires and circuit boards materialize, encasing his arms, spreading over his legs, and mechanical parts emerge from his shoulder blades…

Alchemist Producer: I hate you! I hate you all! You’ll all die now! I’ve activated my transhumanist biological enhancements…

His voice slowly goes from a toady human to sounding like a robot. Anti-gravity propulsion on his legs and back light up lifting him off the ground. Ballistic missiles fold out from his shoulders and he fires randomly into the crowd. The buffoons scatter. Shotgun dives from his place on the stump and covers the Reporter with his body, protecting her from the blast.

Alchemist Producer: Bow to the might of my technology!

He knocks surrounding buffoons out of his way, throwing them in all directions. He walks toward the Reporter. The Grand Cyclops Buffoon steps in the way.

GCB: You will not touch her, you devil!

The alchemist producer grabs him by the neck, lifts him up, shakes him, then tosses him, ragged, to the side. Then he approaches the Reporter.

Alchemist Producer: You! You’ve always hated and ignored me! You’ve brushed aside my advances! But I’m clearly the best man for you and now you’re going to be mine, whether you want to be or not! I’ll reprogram you so you’re never tempted towards this buffoonery again!

She screams…

But as the thing reaches for her, Shotgun plows into him.

Shotgun: I defy you in the name of Christ!

They fall into a cloud of flying robot limbs, dust, and farm-boy biceps. Shotgun, using an oak branch, slams the thing repeatedly in its facsimile head. The thing falls back, with sparks and robotic jitters. Still, its robot enhancements give it strength and it grabs Shotgun by the arms, lifts him up, and tosses him to the side. Then, with the buffoons helpless and reeling, it grabs the Reporter and rockets off into oblivion.

Those buffoons still standing, gather around Shotgun and the Grand Cyclops Buffoon, who’d fallen close to each other. The GCB had been dealt a fatal blow and was gasping his last…

GCB, looking at Shotgun: …go…go, re..rescue her, son…earn …earn your redemption…

With those last words, spoken before the assembly…he passed.

Shotgun gets up, dusts himself off, and looks to the horizon. His look was terrible. No one doubted he meant to control-alt-delete that thing and wouldn’t rest until he’d done so…

Tears of the Son…

“But we, the European people, have in our history, in our racial memory, something of infinite value: our people once knew the Savior — we once shared our tears with and gave our hearts to Him who saves.” CWNY

A few posts back I tried to characterize the divine attitude towards creation as one of a raucous and divine joy; that Aslan is caught up in a victory parade, lording His triumph over the fallen creatures of the dark. Since writing that, I’ve had blow after blow of tragedy, in form of the death or extreme illness of loved ones. Now a friend calling with news of a father rushing to the emergency room, next, a beloved uncle on death’s door.

A few days after writing of the raucous joy of Aslan, my own father came to visit. We put our heads together for a few home repair projects. While working, I noticed how frail he’d become. He wasn’t able to do what he used to do; walking down basement stairs seemed a challenge. It hurt me deeply to see this. I’m not sure I’m ready to confront his finitude.

At the end of this parade of bad news, Mr. Cambria posted on his blog about divine tears and the tragedy of life. Christ weeps for our plight. This was a double-gut punch for me as I hold his project in highest esteem and felt I had erred in characterizing God and the divine sublime.

But another tragedy was waiting – a few days ago I got word a beloved pastor from my youth passed away. This man loomed large over my early intellectual life. And while my brief (though passionate) flirtation with Calvinism hurt him as much as my parents, he never consigned me to the flames. Whenever I struggle with the so-called “problem of evil” I would always think of him. He was an up and coming rockstar of a preacher in the church of Christ denomination, having made a name for himself in the fields of old-testament scholarship. But tragically, on the way home from a local revival meeting, he was hit by a truck. For the rest of his life, he was crippled and wheelchair bound. His bodily functions had to be facilitated artificially and he became a burden for his young wife, who, to this day, stands boldly by him. I’m not sure they make women like that anymore.

He pulled me aside once, back when I was caught up in dreams of being a Navy SEAL. He said: “Scott, I really think your calling is to be a preacher.” I was young and stupid and shrugged him off. My calling was to be a warrior and attain glory in the eyes of all my hometown. But as that dream fizzled and (reluctantly) entered the world of Christian scholarship (the way a heroin user reluctantly uses needles), he always supported me, even if only from a distance. Even though it hurt him, he gave me materials on the philosophical topics I was studying – hurt him because he knew it was leading me away from the simple, Gospel, poetry of church of Christ theology.

I am humbled and humiliated at the thought of all my angry prayers. All my complaints about petty setbacks, failures, and wasted years. My preacher friend – never calling himself a “pastor” (in keeping with church of Christ tradition), he always referred to himself as a simple “evangelist” – he never complained publicly. He would have seen it as unmanly and an open violation of the Faith. I, with my petty complaints, could at least pace while praying and use the bathroom on my own. If he ever complained or struggled with his lot in life, it was in the private confines of his inner-chambers where only his wife and God could hear.

He prayed with me a few days before I left for the military.

I got the news of his passing while in a fast-food drive through. The girl at the window asked me what was wrong. I couldn’t talk. I held in my sorrow until I was home, but I prayed the tears of Christ…

Life isn’t supposed to be this way. We weren’t meant to suffer under this terrible burden. Moreover, I can’t believe (as I once did) that all this was our destiny. We didn’t have to sin. That we did – that Adam fell – had to have been a tragic blow for Christ, even more so than for us.

…but the deep magic has to be fulfilled…

Christ have mercy on us…

~ Buffoonery In Crisis ~

Scene: We open on a misty wood in the Southern twilight lands. The sun is almost down. Through the space of leaves we see a line of torches winding their way to a clearing. Masked men walk with solemn steps (and faces) to the center. They approach from every direction, like mournful satyrs clad in taboo white robes. But there’s no dancing tonight. A serious matter is at hand. In the center of the clearing, increasingly lit by the rising moon, squats the toad-like silhouette of an ancient, oak, stump. On it, bound by the wrists, stands a downcast man. His shoulders hunched, staring at the Earth, we see his chest rise and fall in a sigh of hopelessness. A sinner in the hands of an angry god…

His accusers approach and take their places.

Let us leave him to his miseries and look back the way we came. Toward the deepening shadows of the treeline two figures emerge, unnoticed. In a flash of moonlight we see one is a young woman. She’s followed by a bumbling, effeminate man. By his tripping progress we can tell he’s not used to wilderness. A city boy, no doubt. He’s holding a high-dollar video camera. The girl holds up her hand to stop the party; she produces a microphone and motions for her partner to roll film…

Reporter (barely speaking above a whisper): At great danger to our persons, we have followed the extremists to the heart of their ceremonial grounds. We’ve received many reports that a ritual is to be performed tonight although we still have no indication of what it might be…

Alchemist Producer: No, no, no! You’re being too polite to them.

Reporter: But I made sure to include the part about them being extremists…

Alchemist Producer: I know, I know. But you need more. We have to call them buffoons. In. Every. Line! They’re always buffoons! Now, try again!

(He places the camera back on his shoulder and resumes filming)

Reporter: …we’ve received many reports that malicious acts of antiquated buffoonery are to be performed this evening…

Alchemist Producer: That’s better, but you’re still not selling me, babe. Our audience might almost think you have no hatred for these buffoons!

Reporter: … oh, please don’t accuse me of that. You know all it takes is a rumor to put me in hot water at the station.

Alchemist Producer: Make it convincing, then!

Reporter (sighing and refocusing for a final try): …now we’re going to attempt to get closer to the extremists to see what sort of buffoonery they’re about to perform.

(As they get closer, the reporter gets a better look at the man on the stump.)

Reporter: Woah! Stop! I think I know that man!

Alchemist Producer: You what?

Reporter: I think that’s Shotgun, author of Shotgun Barrel Straight!

Alchemist Producer: You can’t be serious? That insignificant WordPress blog?! How can you tell?!

Reporter (blushing): …oh, well…I mean..well, he’s hard to forget…

Alchemist Producer: Wait, wait, wait! Isn’t he the guy who bought you lunch last year? The one who talked about the evils of feminism for an hour? You said the only reason you didn’t leave in disgust was because you found his screed mildly amusing…

Reporter: Hush! I want to hear what they’re saying! Make sure you get this on camera!

(They inch closer).

Main Accuser: Shotgun, author of Shotgun Barrel Straight! You stand before us accused of the worst crime ever committed in the history of the Society of Antiquated Buffoons.

(murmurs are heard from the masked crowd. Their torches bob up and down in agitation).

Main Accuser: It has come to our knowledge that, on this day, the year of our Lord two-thousand and twenty one, you knowingly, willingly, and of a sound mind … (he pauses for dramatic effect)… entered a Best Buy department store.

(More gasps from the crowd. Someone in the back yells: “no!”)

Main Accuser: …quiet! Quiet! Oh, it’s true. And hear me, fellow Buffoons…

(he turns his attention back to Shotgun)

Main Accuser: Not only did you enter this accursed place. You spent money! And not just any money. No! Money given you by a corrupt state in the name of an asinine “stimulus” ploy (which, as all good Buffoons know is simply a ruse to rob us of yet more of our liberties)…!

(each accusation is accompanied by more expressions of shock and grief from the crowd).

Main Accuser (continuing): And what did you purchase?! An..an…

(he chokes up, on the verge of tears)

…an e-reader.

(a masked Buffoon in the middle of the crowd passes out at this revelation. those around him are too shocked to give him aid).

Main Accuser (now, actually in tears): And…wh…wh…(sniff) …what were you planning to read on this e-reader?

(Shotgun cannot answer and only looks down in shame, unable to meet anyone’s eyes…)

Main Accuser (in a harsh, mournful whisper, rolling the word out syllable by syllable): …phil-o-so-phy books. Oh, Shotgun. Shotgun. Why? Why???

(the clearing is silent. shock of the accusation has overcome all natural outbursts. even the crickets have ceased chirping).

Main Accuser: How do you plead?

Shotgun (up with a strapping display of manly fortitude): …I am guilty, good sir. Alas. All you’ve said is true and may God have mercy…

Problem of Evil…in Narnia?

There’s a scene in Lion the Witch and the Wardrobe when Aslan, with Susan and Lucy on his back, hops the castle walls and begins breathing on the courtyard statues to break their spell. As he’s doing his work, Lucy and Susan are dropped off to the side and temporarily forgotten. The creatures free from their curse begin bounding around Aslan with reckless joy. Aslan, himself, is fully alive with the passion of the game. The girls become concerned. All those wild animals bounding and dancing around them, they might be crushed. But instead of halting the game for the sake of the girls’ comfort, Aslan bounds on through the Narnian epic.

We might say Aslan was ignoring their prayers. But I think Lewis had the right of it (as usual): Christ wants to play with us and wants us to play with Him. It’s hard to describe other than to say He’s caught up into an eternal bliss and desperately wants us to take part in it with Him. And yes, there are solemn times; there are moments of great pain and sorrow, but it’s all in service to the great sublime.

We see this theme again towards the end of Prince Caspian, when Lucy delivers one of my favorite lines from all of Narnia. In reference to Bacchus, who had come at Aslan’s call, she says something like: “I don’t much like the look of him. I wouldn’t want to meet him without Aslan around.”…which is just to say that drunken revelry and senseless celebration, outside the bounds of Christian love, is a dangerous thing. Really, it’s a mockery of the Lion’s Bliss (as I’ve been referring to it). Aslan marches through Narnia, freeing the good Telmarines and punishing the evil ones. But it’s all a merry, raucous, celebration. A victory dance, or maybe a living act of poetry.

I’m starting to see this as Lewis (and George MacDonald before him) saw it. The Lion’s Bliss is all in all and encompasses all our loved ones, our place, our lands, our history, it’s all one and the same. And when our prayers aren’t answered, it’s because we’re not joining in on the fun. We’re sitting on the sidelines, spiritually-speaking, instead of joining in the dance.

I’d hate to have this reduced to a form of bland stoicism, because it’s far from that; but Lewis reminds us often throughout the Narnia Chronicles that we are to go on the adventure we’re given.

…and since we’ve been *given* one of the worst times in history, then our adventure – our part of the raucous Lion’s Bliss – ought to prove legendary in hindsight.

Go to the Badgers!

“Do you believe all those old stories?” asked Trumpkin.
“I tell you, we don’t change, we beasts,” said Trufflehunter. “We don’t forget. I believe in the High King Peter and the rest that reigned at Cair Paravel, as firmly as I believe in Aslan himself!”
~ Prince Caspian

I made it 18 days before I ended my water fast. I’m getting better and I hope the next one I try I’ll be able to do at least 30 before stopping. While I feel great, physically, my spiritual life didn’t improve by leaps as I’d hoped. I imagined myself spending days at a time up on the mountain, asking for signs and guidance (or simply just spending time with God). But the mountain was covered in snow and I was weak. I wasn’t able to draw near as I’d have liked.

Still, I manged to re-read Lewis’ Chronicles of Narnia and, after all I’ve been through since the last time I read them, experienced something very like a revival of my spirits. Moreover, about half way through the fast, my rationalist fever broke and I was able to pack up all my philosophy books. It seemed sacrilegious to have them around while trying to draw near to God. It’s humorous the way God uses fairy tales.

After nearly fifteen years of reading Cambria Will Not Yield, I’m ashamed of having fallen back into the rationalist trap. My only defense is that outside a narrow community of enthusiasts (who value what I’m able to do with philosophy), I’m fairly worthless, even in pretense, to the Kingdom. Especially now when great generals are needed. (I’ve often had to learn the lesson Bree the horse learns in “Horse and His Boy”, that is: if one starts by realizing he’s ordinary – not special or bound for greatness – one can begin to be a decent horse, or human). But I think being an unremarkable, ordinary, antique European is a miraculous thing to be given our circumstances. Let it be a lesson to all of us: ordinary we may be, but when the time comes and we’re thrust to the center of some adventure to help rescue what’s left of Christendom, we can take up the mantle of the last European knight. Let the history books record our deeds on *that* day!

I wish we had Susan’s magic horn but that’s the difference between here and Narnia. The only magic we have here is what’s already lurking around the long-forsaken passages of burnt-out Christian hearts…

Secession in our Hearts

~ His credit, not his crime, was non-compliance with a wicked time… ~

Fear of death makes us petty and easily controlled. We cling to our hours the way a beggar clings to the loose change tossed into his hat. But how might the beggar live if he were convinced he were wealthy? He might give more and be willing to do without for the sake of others. Herein is the human condition: we’re terrified of the great enemy and create a life-time hoax. An ironclad shell of righteousness, while inside, clutching our hours, we rot. Death is the great moment when the shell falls away and the crab-like soul emerges, launching itself into the empty cosmos of the unknown. Flying into oblivion…unless, we trust our savior who tells us we do have an eternity. Death has been defeated. On the other side, for the faithful, is warmth, comfort, love, and life everlasting.

Ok, so enough with the grand thoughts…

Hard to keep this type of stuff in mind when you’re doing difficult things. Best, then, to just actually be a Christian and love Christ because if you’re faking it, you’re not going to have the inner-drive that comes from eternal hope. You’re not going to stay home and help grandma instead of running out on the town with the rest of the boys (you don’t want to miss some excitement…life is short! You only live once!) You wont consider how objectively petty and selfish that mindset is.

I’m saying all this to say: we exist for others, to better their lives. Which is terribly difficult for me to feel at the moment. Why? My country has lost its mind. Literally. The demon-possessed is out of his wits and controlled by other persons. I live in a country of demoniacs.

I’ve stopped watching the news all together. I heard rumors there was some sort of inauguration? Is that right? Fact is, that’s all happening to a distant and irrelevant people. May as well tell me about elections in Hong Kong or Thailand. I no longer feel any connection to the average person I see walking around the grocery store. I’m so completely disconnected from them in sentiment and outlook as to make me an alien. These people deserve God’s punishment and judgment. I’m not sorry for feeling that way.

Maybe I’ve seceded too far?