Into the Grey

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“The Grey”, starring Liam Neeson, is a rare gem from Hollywood, not because it’s particularly good, but because it attempts a definitive answer to the nihilistic despair plaguing my generation. While it includes all the canonical racial diversity and linguistic profanity of modern movies – which disqualifies it from being worth the time of Christians – it, nevertheless, offers a noble attempt to rise above pathological pseudo-profundity. Few Christian preachers realize the need for its message – I know because I’m always looking for apt sermons. With the recent success of “Joker” and its resulting vibrations throughout pop-culture, movies touching on themes of despair, nihilism, and suicide may be the movie-goer’s future for the next few years. Undoubtedly, few of them will be as clever or optimistic as “The Grey”.

We meet Neeson’s character in the upper-wilds of Alaska where he’s considering suicide. He writes a touching note, questioning the reason for his continued existence, then walks into the wilderness, kneels down, and puts the barrel of his rifle into his mouth. Just before pulling the trigger, however, he hears the distant howl of wolves and decides, perhaps owing to their “dogged determinism” (pardon the pun), to continue slugging on with life. Deciding to change his scenery, he boards a plane with others from his remote outpost, and flies back to civilization. Unfortunately, they never make it. The plane crashes, stranding the few survivors in a harsh, frozen, wasteland. What follows is a bitter fight for survival against the elements as well as a pack of man-killing wolves who hunt the survivors, picking them off one by one.

Throughout their struggle the men philosophize about their reasons for living, but, in keeping with their characters, they do it with gritty, blue-collar, simplicity. One man speaks of his little daughter, another jokes of hopes for future sexual conquests, a third brings up faith. Neeson’s character shrugs at these options, choosing instead to cite a poem written by his father, a seemingly nonsensical rhyme about living every day as if it was his last, greatest, battle. This sort of nihilism is especially frustrating to me. Having often thought on these matters, I see it as a disingenuous dodge of the entire question. Why do the fighting in the first place?! That’s the question. Simply shrugging it off isn’t an answer.

Neeson’s character is supposed to show us the inherent dignity in a will-to-power. In an emotionally-impactful scene, the crash survivors are reeling in disarray. A few of them hold to a dying man, trying to comfort him. Neeson, taking charge (owing to his seasoned experience in survival situations), looks at the man and says…”…listen. Listen to me. You’re going to die.” This frank admission shocks the others, though Neeson continues by telling the man that, soon, the pain will cease and he’ll be completely warm again. He forces the dying man to focus on his loved ones and to fill his mind with the loving thoughts of the past while dying – a more dignified way to go than casting around in fear and confusion.

Later, once all seems lost, and Neeson is laying on the ground, sopping wet with frozen water, he looks up to God and, in a prayer common to all Christians struggling in the modern world, cries out in rage and despair: “Help me! I need your help now, not later. Now! Please! Where are you?!?!”

Of course, there is no answer. God doesn’t exist in the universe of “The Grey.” All that exists is nature, red in tooth and claw, and man, simply another animal fighting for survival in a cold, brutal, impersonal, world. The best he can do is inexplicably choose to fight to the last breath.

It is exceedingly difficult for me, as a Christian, to answer this. I can only speak from the heart and offer a few anecdotes about answered prayers that may, to the discouraged nihilist, sound like overly-romanticized coincidences. I can recite a number of true-crime accounts, where innocent Christian girls are kidnapped and, during the horror of their trials, experience small miracles.

(I recall the poor girl, Elizabeth Smart, as a case in point: a beautiful Mormon girl, she was snatched by an utter demoniac, right out of her bed next to her sleeping sister. Spirited away into the woods at knife-point, she was forced to endure unspeakable tortures, including extreme thirst. Almost at the point of death, she cried out to God and, according to her autobiography, awoke early that morning with a cup of water by her sleeping bag, still cool with condensation).

For reasons I cannot begin to comprehend, the lust for life has been bread out of my generation and many are killing themselves. Perhaps its economic, perhaps social, perhaps it’s the government schooling or lack of fervor in the church. It is certainly spiritual. Maybe some combination of all of this? For my own account, I attribute my struggles to post-military depression and the average American diet (a diet that lends towards mental and emotional destruction).

Christian theology has offered little on this and those who raise these questions are often met with derision, insults, or at best, off-handed dismissals. Many Christians are angered when life is questioned. “It’s a gift, you ingrate! How dare you question it?!” Few tracts, sermons, or books are offered directly addressing the topic. Notable, though, are the literary greats in Christendom who have chosen to wrestle with these issues (MacDonald, Lewis, Tolstoy, Dostoevsky, Shakespeare, and so on).

I have, more or less, ascended beyond suicidal depression, but how I’ve done so is a complex process that will influence the theme of my writing for years, maybe a life-time, to come. Love is part of the answer, but simply saying so threatens to paint the entire issue with a Hallmark-style gloss that smacks of disingenuous babble – and there’s enough disingenuous babble out there already.

The Nietzschean approach, championed by Neeson’s character in “The Grey”, however, is no real answer to the problem. I like to think that, had he prayed in earnest, he would have found a cave, stumbled over an old campsite with stacked firewood, or maybe (if God was feeling especially generous), found a few hunters and been taken to safety. As it is, “The Grey” invites us to a romanticized view of a man who decides, without any explanation or rationale, to live. Why his character goes from suicidal depression to passionate zeal for life is left to the viewer to figure out for himself.

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Shotgun vs the Devil Himself

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I’m wrestling with a decision about a new job so, last night, as I sometimes do, I asked God to give me a dream concerning the particulars so I might better know His will. He rarely answers this sort of prayer. It’s been many years since I’ve had a dream I believe came as the result of praying. I know many dogmatists are against the idea all together, but it’s something I’ve done with God ever since I was a child, so I asked for a dream. What I got was as unexpected as it was terrifying…

I appeared at my grandparents’ house. It’s always been a stronghold of my faith, a place where everything is right in the world. This time, something was horribly wrong. Within their bedroom, lurking in the dark, was an entire rogues gallery of Hollywood demon-possession victims, crying out and taunting me. I was joined outside the room by a handful of Christian preachers. We entered with condescension. The heroes had arrived to save the helpless from the wiles of the devil.

The bedroom door slammed behind us. We were trapped. In my dream, I knew the possessed as well as the Christian ministers but later, upon waking, I realized they were archetypes, stand ins, or generalized tropes of one sort or another – all but a distant cousin of mine who, I suppose, represented a lay Christian, whom I was helpless to comfort.

We confronted the demons but were easily cast off. We regrouped by the bed and were forced to spend an entire night in this haunted room, all sharing the bed and hoping our toes didn’t dangle off the end. We were harassed and victimized all night. I remember a looming sense of terror more so than any particulars. In the morning, the door opened and the demon possessed had full run of the house. We stumbled out, defeated and scared. My minister friends ran away. I stayed, however. I was as furious as I was dispirited. How dare they?! This was *my* grandparents’ house!

Some of the possessed became my friends. Their affliction wasn’t as bad as the others in the house. The demons came on them in spurts so for much of the time, they were in their right mind and desperate for aid. We sat on the front porch, discussing my plan – because I did have a plan. I had the resolve to go back into the house and confront them all a final time, in a grand battle. I wrote about the coming fight in my journal, spoke of how these demons cared nothing for the name of Christ (“His name is on every street corner and in the mouth of every two-bit huckster, why ought we care more for it from you than from them?!”), wrote that no exorcism ritual affected them and about how we were mocked and all holy things, blasphemed. And yet, I wrote, I am determined to find a way to beat them. I will not stop!

One of the possessed, a woman with red eyes and blood dripping from her nose, stopped by the table where I was writing. She looked down and, thinking she had a chance for sport at my expense, demanded to know what I was writing. I tried to hide it, but she forced it from me. She laughed when she read about my discouragement at their having defeated all our exorcisms. When she got to the part where I expressed my resolve not to quit, however, I saw something change in her eyes. I saw fear.

“You’re afraid, aren’t you?” I asked.

“You *can* be beaten and you know it! You’re afraid I’ll find out how!”

She was staring at me with horror as I was whisked away out of the house and out of the very universe…

I arrived on a college campus in a common room, crowded with drunken, dancing, revelers in hooded, red, robes. This was, I understood, a den of Satan worshipers and I had, inexplicably, been given a place of honor among them. I was escorted by invisible ushers to a back room where there was a large bed and the thumping bass of the music was barely audible. Two young, pretty, girls from the party were brought in. This was a high honor for them and they were (again, without explanation) given me to do with as I pleased. They splayed themselves on the bed and beckoned to me seductively.

I can’t say I wasn’t tempted, what man wouldn’t have been? Something, maybe the sheer grace of God, held me back. Something about their robes. They were explicit Satanists and I was still reeling with fury at the demons in my grandparents’ house. I was mercifully whisked away, once again…

And here, I arrived, in a bright, sunny, non-threatening city park. Thinking back, I suppose it was in the locale of my job-offering. We were standing high on a platform, looking down at the park and surrounding town. There, in the distance, was my (future?) place of business. Behind me, and providing commentary on all that we saw, was Satan himself. Yes, the big L. finally made a personal appearance in one of my dreams. He was dressed in a suit, although relaxed, without a tie, in the sort of metro-hip style popular today. His face was clouded, but he spoke with an even, city accent.

“This isn’t going to work,” he said, gesturing at the place of business in the distance.

I leapt off the platform.

…unfortunately, and as is often the case in dreams, as I leapt, the height became immense and I grabbed a large, metal, I-beam to keep from falling into oblivion. Satan leaned out over the railing, looking down at me.

“Come on, man…what are you doing?!” he reached down, ostensibly to offer me his hand, but I knew he’d grab me if he could. So, with immense terror, I let go and dropped into the blue expanse, with nothing but wispy clouds to slow my fall…

…fortunately, I was able to grab at the I-beam and with a series of grab-drop-grabs, fumbled my way to the ground. Satan was right behind me. He chased me. I was so terrified and Satan was laughing so much at the merriment of it all, I fancied a relationship developing – I fancied that I was allowing this relationship to develop: he, the laughing school marm, and I, the troublesome but lovable kid he was trying to tame. And I was so tired. I thought, “…why not just stop and let him catch me? I’ll fight again another day….”

With the last bit of held-over fury from my earlier experiences, I was able to make one final dodge. One final change-of-angle to evade Satan’s grasping hand, and with that, I was whisked away once more.

This time, I arrived at the actual job-site, with two of the demon-possessed waiting there to meet me. No longer wild and terrifying, they were dressed in business attire, one even holding a clip-board. They were my welcome party and began to explain to me the intricacies of my job. As they spoke, I perceived that what they wanted me to do would be impossible…

“…well, I guess I’ll give it a try anyway.” I told one of them…

…at that point, I woke up.

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Southerner vs the Boot-Lickers

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“O, this life is nobler than attending for a cheque
Richer than doing nothing for a bauble,
Prouder than rustling in unpaid-for silk:
Such gain the cap of him that makes ’em fine,
Yet keeps his book uncross’d: no life to ours.” ~ Cymbeline

“There is a direct connection between a belief in Christ as the Son of God and a hostility to the scientific method as applied to human beings. Because we have stomachs that need food and bodies that need sleep does not mean we are mere products of the natural world that can be played upon by the scientistic, ‘liberty, equality, and fraternity’ crowd. Our greatest need is God, the God who revealed to us that our white skins are part of our spiritual essence, without which we are wanderers in the desert of modernity. Our church men have no faith, because they have attempted to blend scientistic thinking, which is really a type of non-thinking, with the Christian faith.” ~ CWNY

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This is hard to admit, but neither is it something I’m ashamed of: for most of this ill-fated year, I’ve been homeless. Not quite the typical homeless vet, mine is more self-imposed, with an eye towards the Dave Ramsey philosophy of “living like no one else today so we might live like no one else tomorrow”. The Ramsey acolyte must be willing to forego the, frankly, unnecessary things in life (like a house, in my case) in hopes of a more stable financial future. One without debt. But this leads directly to a vicious criticism from those I considered friends. Criticism on account of me being in my thirties and unmarried:

“How can a Christian man who haunts the hallowed circles of pious traditionalists be your age without at least an even-dozen children?! What a pathetic specimen you are!”

Recall Jane Austen’s famous opening: a single man with a fortune must be in want of a wife. The converse – at least for Christian men these days – seems also true: a man without a fortune can’t afford a wife. So there’s one powerful motivation for wealth, always supposing what lies behind a certain gal’s halo proves worth the effort. But more than women stoke this particular fire: there’s the natural and ever present desire for comforts and the avoidance of heavy, meaningless, labor.

I raise these, probably obvious, truths to highlight one of the ways the Devil and his minions control the Dissident Right. I’ll refer to the Devil and his minions as “they”. They have all the power and money right now; and, when they have the money, they set the agenda of conservative conferences. They hire the interns. They pay the bonuses. They turn their knobs, twist their dials, punch their keys, and with scientific precision, create a culture in which a man, to be upwardly-mobile, must reject Christ and bow to the Devil.

I’ve seen this in action many times when I used to attend the largest conservative conferences. Everyone is attempting disingenuous “networking”, hoping to move up the latter. They’ll leave you behind the minute you’re no longer useful to them. A creature made in the divine image of the creator? No! You’re a mere object to be either stepped on or stepped over…and all in the desperate pursuit to be upwardly-mobile in the world created by “they”.

But this puts Christian men in a terrible situation. To make it in the world there must be some way to compromise with the Devil. Some way to soften our position or only promote those of our views which are harmless. In this way, we can have friends, wives, children, and so on. Isn’t that what we’re called to do, as Christian men?

God forbid it.

So, to you, my misguided friends who’ve criticized me on this account, know that whatever your complaints as to my personal life, my one virtue thus far, be it willingly or unwillingly imposed, has been a rejection of the world with all its goods, in favor of a life of poverty. That’s my answer to the terrible “they” situation.

I think a quiet, agrarian life, serves us well, here. I’ve never been happier than when I was working on the farm – shooting cormorants all morning, taking fish samples in the afternoons, using heavy machinery to play in the dirt all day. There’s a southern nobility in this, present to this day in the minds of most blue-collar southerners:

“We might have been better off, or owned a bigger house, if Daddy’d done more giving in, or a little more backing down. But we always had plenty, just a livin’ his advice: whatever you do today, you’ll have to sleep with tonight…”

Man does not live on bread alone. We’ve heard this so many times it’s in danger of becoming trivial, and yet, it’s that other stuff – the stuff we must live on – that’s more profound, and (pardon the pun), is provided by the agrarian life…in spades! That bread of life, that living water, that blood connection to a loving God who does not leave us in our troubles…it’s worth more than anything “they” could give us. It’s worth more than the perverted existence we’re forced to endure at present.

So, away with that which tempts; let us feast on the withering corpse of modernity instead, until nothing is left but fertile ground on which we might rebuild a society where *we* set the dials of upward mobility.

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Commentary: “The Great Debate: Burke, Paine, and the Birth of Right and Left” by Yuval Levin

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Preface

Levin introduces himself as a “policy wonk” on the conservative side who took a detour from D.C. to pursue a PhD in political philosophy. He gives a few words for the importance of ideas in discovering the origins of America’s left / right divide. He seems like a genuine enough conservative (read: a liberal who falls on the conservative side of contemporary liberalism); yet, for my part, I’ve long rejected the notion that “ideas have consequences.” With all pardon and respect to Richard Weaver, Ideas *are* the consequences! By that, I mean: a spirit moves through a people, changing their hearts, after which, ideas bubble forth to support the new mood.

Introduction

Levin engages in a short argument for why Burke and Paine ought to be compared and contrasted as the leading voices of mutually incompatible philosophies within the liberal tradition – begging the pardon of Burke, who, it’s noted, was tired of the comparison, even in his own day. Shocking to me that Burke is included in “liberalism” and yet, Levin never expounds on this, he merely takes his categorizing for granted. I’m not sure what “liberalism” is if it’s to include Burke, but I haven’t thought much on the necessary and sufficient conditions of “liberalism”. I’ll think on that more as I read, keeping an eye on any attempts from Levin to clarify the theme. He opens this introduction with an iconic meeting of the two men, with Paine expecting to find a compatriot in Burke owing to Burke’s nominal support of the American Revolution. “Paine left being disavowed of that notion, however”, Levin says…

One: Two Lives in the Arena

Here, we’re given a brief biography of the two men, hoping thereby to gain a better understanding of their contemporary political contexts. We begin with Burke and what I like most about Levin’s presentation is that he clearly highlights, through a discussion of Burke’s first political tract, what I call the “spirit of lawlessness” and how Burke fought it strongly from the start. One Lord Bolingbroke attempted to vindicate “natural” beliefs over artificial and false beliefs, which weren’t in some way derived from nature. Burke offered a satire attempting to reduce this idea to absurdity. Struck me how, essentially, we “conservatives” today are engaged in the same battle against the same spirit of lawlessness – only where a fairly innocuous (comparatively) “deism” was in view for Burke, in our day, the battle lines have progressed to attacking male / female categories and we no longer have the luxury of reducing the enemy to absurdity (since he’s already accepted the most absurd positions). Our parents accepted race mixing, my generation accepted sexual degeneracy, our children are accepting the abolition of sex, their children will be leaving their humanity behind all together (or, at least, engaging in some Satanic technological farce to that end)…God help us. With Burke, we’re in a desperate fight against the spirit of lawlessness…

Paine, not surprisingly, is presented as the exact opposite of this thinking – we might say: the champion of lawlessness, although this isn’t to paint him as some sort of anarchist. He’s “lawless” in the way of all Satanists: seeking a leveling of all that came before and the creation of a new, “scientific” regime. An interesting note from this chapter, Levin expounds on how the debate between Burke and Paine gained international attention in the English-speaking world and provides some commentary on how the American “founders” received it. He suggests Quincy Adams favored the Burkean position while Thomas Jefferson favored Paine’s. In fact, Levin talks about how enthused Jefferson was when Paine told him of the French Revolutionaries’ plan to divide France into a series of 80 or so districts – scientifically parceled out – as a way to undermine the old, oppressive social order and start with new “locales” and new neighborhood relations. Wonder how the Abbeville Institute fellows, then, can so highly revere Jefferson as a champion of Southern Agrarianism, when he supports the most awful destruction of community?

Two: Nature and History

I wont say much about this chapter, nor, perhaps, for the remaining ones since Levin dives deep into the philosophical differences of Burke and Paine. In my view, philosophy (as I mentioned above) is the outcome of one’s spirit or “heart” position. It’s the attempt to express and defend the ethics of a spirit. Once the opposing spirits are recognized – as Levin did well in the first chapter – all the following discourse is mere bluster, in my opinion.

Nevertheless, Levin contrasts Paine’s view of a foundational “starting-point” in political philosophy, with Burke’s. Paine, in a sophomoric extension of Locke’s philosophy, talks about a hypothetical (and completely nonsensical) idea of the “state of nature” where all men are “born equal”, etc. Where as Burke rejects this – and for good reason. In my own decade-long study of analytic philosophy, I’ve seen the same sort of contrast arise again and again across different domains of philosophic discourse. Take Wittgenstein’s discussion of language games as an example: an arrow ” ——–> ” may, in our language game, be said to be pointing to the right, and yet, maybe an African native with no experience of European conceptual norms, could easily see the arrow-head as the “base”, with the line sprouting to the left as an indication of “left”. So the linguistic “context” governs the interpretation and enables communication. If we extend Locke’s view of the Tabula Rasa to the human condition in a political sense (as Paine attempts) we have the same issue (as Burke raised, although not in the context of modern philosophy) – it would be impossible to establish a social order rising out of this hypothetical “state of nature” since the rules and “context” (so to speak) would be missing and thus, like the African native and the European speaker, there’d never be an ability to bridge the conceptual gaps to determine the meaning of the arrow (or to create laws, language, etc). Something transcendent is needed, although, it’s unclear from Levin’s narrative if Burke made that positive assertion, or if he kept to the critical theme, preferring to attack the irrationality of Paine’s view.

Three: Justice and Order

We’re treated to further differences between the two men in matters of philosophical minutiae, this time with respect to their ideas of justice and order. I am so burnt out on philosophy I can’t summon the effort to even summarize this chapter. I’ll only say that, as this is my first real introduction to Paine, I’m constantly surprised at how blatant his liberalism is. He’s the perfect stand-in for the liberalism of our own day; it’s hard to see how anyone in our awful modern world is doing anything other than fulfilling Paine’s philosophy. He prattles on about “rights” but he doesn’t want rights. He wants unbounded, unrestrained, freedom – that is: lawlessness. That these two men existed when and how they did, clearly owes to providence. Paine, a burnt out husk of flesh with the Devil’s hand animating every move of mouth and waggling of tongue, and Burke, a man possessed by a spirit, maybe, but by a holy and terrible one. Let Burke’s “Reflections” be our ouija board and any meddling with it, end in our being possessed by the same spirit.

Four: Choice and Obligation

More expansion on the philosophical differences between the two men. I don’t fault Levin for this since it’s the entire premise of the book. Worse for me for reading it, I guess. He does highlight something interesting in this chapter, though, and that is both men’s nominal acceptance of capitalism, although, as with the American Revolution, their positions only seem the same at a surface level. Ironically, the evil supporter of tyranny, Burke, ended up supporting the dignity and liberty-within-proper-constraint of the common man, noting that the intricacies of every day commerce are so infinitely complex that no pretentious set of governors could control it – while Paine, the champion of freedom, ended up supporting something very like the sort of state-sponsored economic tyranny we see today, by arguing for government welfare programs and the like.

There’s been much debate, back and forth, in the dissident right, about the nature of free-markets as opposed to government interventions. Reading Burke’s view of this has greatly helped solidify my own position. I don’t think Burke ought to be called a “capitalist” (as we think of it today) since his is very different from what we’d recognize by the term. Our “capitalism” today is hand-in-hand with the rationalist machine-building of Paine and finds its expression within some state-machine, build by enlightened minds. Burke’s on the other hand, was simply an extension of dignity and liberty to the citizen inherent in his broader political philosophy. “Capitalism” outside the bounded society of Burke, is another expression of the lawlessness of Paine and the Devil.

Five: Reason and Prescription

From my old Van Tillian perspective, this is the best chapter so far and ought to have been included sooner in the line-up. We’re treated to a down and dirty overview of both men’s competing theories of knowledge, with Paine being the champion of a naive view of “reason” and Burke, the champion of a theory I find difficult to label as it has few appropriate representatives in contemporary epistemology. We might call it “pragmatism”, but a very different sort from the naive-realist pragmatism of Dewey et al. Perhaps a “romantic pragmatism”, as, according to Levin’s analysis, Burke wishes to evaluate our human experience through the lens of the “heart” (so to speak), where time-honored prejudices and sentiment aid in properly arranging the raw-data particulars given us by our eyes and ears. Paine’s view won out politically and in the mind of the populace, at least until the 1950’s (when naive Enlightenment optimism was destroyed by world wars as well as the looming postmodern criticism in academia) – we might say that, at least in analytic philosophy, then, Burke’s view has won out in the end, albeit a grotesque version of it. See Wolterstorff’s essay “Are Concept Users Worldmakers” for an overview of the idea that we evaluate empirical data through the lens of a prior conceptual framework.

That Paine seriously believed “facts speak for themselves” grates on the nerves of modern philosophers, who know better. That entire nations can be governed in this way is laughable today. It’s for this reason Paine rejected the idea of political parties. If all men are equally able to reason then all men ought to, equally, arrive at the same “correct” principles of government – and yet, history has proven this for a farce. Burke, on the other hand, championed political factions and parties, although, with the benefit of hindsight, we can see that parties and factions are only a benefit when all involved share the same Christian worldview. No doubt Burke, as should we, would have rejected the idea of being party to a faction of mouth-frothing Jacobins.

More interesting, in this chapter, is a discussion of why each man supported the American revolution (though Burke never referred to it as a revolution). Their difference in opinion on this seems to play into differing views of America’s founding that resonate even today. Paine saw the revolution as fueled by the spirit of his Enlightenment rationalism, though he saw the resulting government and constitution as getting away from the purity of the ideals expressed in the Declaration of Independence. Burke, to the contrary, saw the Revolution as an attempt by Englishmen to reclaim their traditional rights as English citizens under the crown – a continuation of the English “constitution”. I’ve heard this same repeated by numerous scholars who suggest America’s founding was a sort of “conservative” revolt against an unjust tyrant of a king, and that the original Americans did not seek separation until they had no other choice.

The reality may be a mix of the two ideas and it will be hard to determine which is the more accurate. Best to say America was founded on a double-minded spirit – with some animated by Enlightenment zealotry and others animated by a desire to stay true to their English heritage and traditions. It would be interesting to do a more in-depth study on the point, perhaps reading letters from the average Revolutionary soldier, to get a feel for which of the two spirits more animated his desire to fight. It seems true, however, that while the radical Enlightenment liberals (like Jefferson) were able to feed their spirit into the writing of the Declaration of Independence, the more Burkean-in-spirit were able to gain an upper hand in the writing of the actual constitution, which turns out to be, almost, a secularized attempt to set up the sort of system inherited from England, only with a president instead of king, senators instead of lords, etc.

Nevertheless, it’s hard to side with the Evangelicals (as I once did) on whether America is a “Christian nation”. If it ever was, it was only in spite of the animating spirit of the Enlightenment.

Six: Revolution and Reform

In this chapter, we finally see the emergence of the contemporary “left / right” divide. Burke was wise enough to realize the old party divisions in England, the Whigs and Tories, were no longer relevant, and that the new distinction was between those who wished to conserve political order, and those who wished to overthrow it entirely in favor of something new (a party he referred to as “jacobin”). While Levin doesn’t say so here, his categorizing of Burke as a liberal may be owing to Burke’s status as a Whig. And yet, given his view of Burke as the decided enemy of enlightenment rationalism and revolutionary fervor, it’s hard to see how some overarching “liberalism” could be applied to both he and Paine.

One of those historical ironies that I believe point to God’s hand in history: Paine was thrown into prison by the very French revolutionaries he spoke so highly of. The beast devoured its master. The revolution revolted against the revolutionary! Also, a glimpse of Burke’s foresight in all of this: he clearly predicts the anarchy of the revolution would result in a state with no other recourse than to violence, consequently trouncing on all the “rights of man” which will have been quickly forgotten. Additionally, some strong-man tyrant would arise – as, a few years later, was exactly the case with Napoleon.

Seven: Generations and the Living

A short chapter explaining the differences between Burke and Paine regarding inheritance and the importance of generations. Paine, predictably, disregards all future generations in favor of the present. Levin doesn’t draw this out, but we can clearly see the roots of modern abortion practices here. Burke, on the other hand, sees our present task as maintaining and building for future generations as if the unborn are our wards.

It’s hard to imagine how someone could be so cold and calloused as Paine. He either had hidden motives or was so besotted with his own intellect, he couldn’t realize his being used as a puppet for Satan. These principles he thought so highly of were, in the end, little more than pretense to justify the destruction of Christian order, itself. Now that Paine’s view has won out, we have quickly seen, in our day, a return to a morbid type of Burkean conservatism, only one where Satan has been enthroned and established over and against Christ.

I’ll add a worrisome note here: I can imagine arguing for Burke in today’s climate, say in Alt. Right circles, and being met with the charge of inconsistency. How could Burke, they might ask, champion his form of conservatism as a protestant? Isn’t he part of a religious tradition that was born out of the very spirit of rebelliousness championed by Paine? I suppose Burke would have answered in the same way for his church as he did for the American colonists and for his own countrymen (who deposed Charles I)…it was meant to be a continuation and preservation rather than a rebellion. Nevertheless, it’s hard to overlook the way the ancestors of these conservative actors – Americans, English, etc. – have fully accepted the revolutionary spirit of Paine. Makes me wonder, again, at the march of history. Where did this Satanic spirit come from all of a sudden?

The Bible seems to say the spirit of Christ would reign for a thousand years, after which time, Satan will be let off his leash to attack the world. While it may not be popular among the Reformed, even the Reformed racialists (Kinists) most of whom are Postmillennial in their eschatology and believe we have many thousands of years left to live before the looked-for return of Christ, I can’t read the history of the west without seeing it any other way than that Satan has been unleashed.

If mine is one of the last generations, then, I’m all the more willing to thumb my nose at the Devil’s many works and plead mortal defiance in the face of, what seems like, an unstoppable force. His time is coming, and soon…

Conclusion

Levin has no major surprises for us in the conclusion. He frames a few contemporary policy debates in terms of the Burke / Paine conflict to draw out the thesis of his book. He claims contemporaries have gone astray, with conservatives in America being far more individualistic than Burke would have appreciated and liberals being too statist for Paine. He also notes that, ironically, Conservatives today, in their battle to undo the massive welfare state, sound, at times, like Paine, while liberals tend to cite Burke as a way to fend off radical change (here, Levin cites President Obama who actually calls himself a Burkean – I’d love to find that context. Blasphemy!)

Perhaps the most hilarious part of the entire book – Levin talks about how both Paine and Burke were afraid they’d be dug up after their deaths and their bodies defiled. Burke feared the English jacobins and Paine feared the conservatives. It was Paine, however, who had the real fears, only not from the conservatives. Turns out, about 10 years after his death, a rabid Enlightenment zealot, dug up Paine’s corpse and hauled it to England, intending to construct a shrine around it. The government remembered Paine and did not allow the shrine. The entire venture was the laugh of the town, and worse, Paine’s body was lost during the shuffle. I laughed for 20 min., imagining Paine’s body accidentally falling off a boat (if that is, indeed, what happened. No one really knows). So much for the man who cared not for the dead…

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Christ or the Race?

But abide the change of time,
Quake in the present winter’s state,
and wish That warmer days would come. ~ Cymbeline

I thought I’d do a review of Fraser’s “Gunpowder Plot” in celebration of November 5th. I didn’t realize how closely her narrative would reflect recent drama in the “dissident right” community.

E Michael Jones, a well-known Roman Catholic commentator, popular in Alt. Right circles for his candid discussion of jews and race-friendly political views, recently tweeted that, were it not for Roman Catholicism, Europe would look very much life Africa. This infuriates the government-school neo-darwinists who control the tone and talking-points of the Alt. Right. Surely, the thinking goes, the white race has inherent, perhaps genetic, traits that make us superior to the African savages? Jones’ tweet, in their mind, represents general trends in the liberal populace, towards “civic nationalism” and a naivete concerning race.

Roman Catholics have, apparently, a long held loyalty to their bureaucratic institution over and against their nation. Consider Guy Fawkes as a case-in-point. He ventured to Catholic Spain in an attempt to generate an invasion of his native England on behalf of the persecuted Catholics there. He chose his faith over his nation. And yet, in Fawkes’ view, perhaps an invasion of Catholics would overpower the “heretical” English government?

In the same way, I’ve heard many in the Alt. Right suggest they would support an invasion from some savior nation, perhaps Russia, if it meant an overthrow of the unarguably horrible liberal establishment. It seems, in objective analysis, the objection to this sort of “idea over nation” centers around the content of the idea, then, instead of any pious loyalty to race.

I’m no longer sure what to call myself. There are no ready labels. I’ve sometimes used the label “Christian Romantic”, and yet, many people see that and emphasize the “romantic”, associating me with utter degenerates like Byron, Keats, and Shelly…so, maybe that’s not a good label for practical reasons. In any case, where does a “Christian Romantic” stand in this conflict? Is it to be loyalty to an idea or loyalty to a people?

It’s easier to choose a side in the 1600’s conflict. The Roman Catholics were loyal to a worldly, bureaucratic institution, where as the protestants were loyal to a rational dogmatic scheme. Both are very wrong, in my view.

My conviction, all the stronger with age and sober reflection, is that the majority of our problems, as a race, cannot be solved by politics, perhaps cannot be solved by human action whatever. What’s needed is a third “Great Awakening”, where the Holy Spirit sweeps through the white populace, re-awakening old-European sensibilities, in which case, we can re-build Christendom in all its glory.

…we can pray for this awakening, because we know God has raised the dead and has promised to do it again. We can, those of us endowed with the Spirit, act as small conduits, reflecting our light, with laser focus, out from our bushels, and into the world around us.

Many candles can turn into a wildfire that will light the European countryside…

In practical terms, I’m calling for a white, Christian, renaissance in the arts, where “the arts” is more than just official artistic channels, but where our everyday lives become works of art, devoted to our Heavenly sovereign.

“The power of the Holy Spirit is the only power strong enough to overcome the “mystery of lawlessness” at work in the world today. In its strength Christians in the past faced and overcame the pagan civilization of the Roman Empire and pagan savagery of their barbarian conquerors.” ~ Christopher Dawson

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Commentary: The Gunpowder Plot

Antoniafraser-GunpowderPlot

~ Remember, remember, the 5th of November,
The gunpowder treason and plot.
I see no reason, the gunpowder treason,
Ought ever be forgot. ~

Author’s Note

Out of the gate, Fraser hits hard with her feminist bias. She wants the world of academia to know a “strong” woman is taking on the men in her chosen field. Her staunch Britishness, however, sands the corners of an otherwise harsh dogmatist – or maybe I’m just desensitized? In any case, her feminist agenda takes a backseat to her obvious zeal for the topic. She surveys a few major positions concerning the gunpowder plot: some scholars believe there was an actual plot while others do not. She, predictably, suggests there’s a middle ground and hopes to show that, while there may have been a plot, it was very different from what the majority of pro-plot historians may think. She claims to have an eye for contemporary issues of “terrorism” and hopes to apply the lessons of her topic to complex moral issues surrounding possible justifications. When are Christians obligated to violently oppose the state? Ought they ever?

Prologue: Bountiful Beginnings

In all pop-history of this sort, the author strives to make the tale into some sort of narrative – a task unusually difficult for the gunpowder plot, given how complex it was, how many actors, and how far removed from the present. Still, I’m impressed with Fraser’s story-telling. While some knowledge of English history is assumed (that there is strife between Protestants and Catholics, for example), the major characters are introduced as if for the first time. The two principle of which being: Queen Elizabeth, who we meet on her death-bed, and King James from Scotland, who assumes the throne after the death of Elizabeth. Despite her obvious modernist biases, Fraser manages to paint a romantic gloss around both Elizabeth and King James, even while citing the obligatory criticisms of both.

Part I: Before the Fruit Was Ripe

I: Whose Head for the Crown?

Here, we’re invited to step back a few decades to examine the controversies surrounding Elizabeth’s successor. While there were many viable candidates, only two contenders emerged, one being James 6th of Scotland, and Isabella Clara Eugenia, achduke of the Spanish Netherlands. The persecuted English Catholics greatly favored Isabella since she was openly Catholic, but were also interested in James, whose mother had been Mary Queen of Scots. History favored James and Fraser paints him as a complicated statesman, trying to play both sides in the religious disputes. She also claims he was a good family man who loved his wife and yet was, somehow, also a homosexual? She simply asserts the claim without any proof. Moderns are so eager to believe in the sexual degeneracy of historical figures, little argument is needed.

II: The Honest Papists

The entirety of chapter II outlines the outrages and tyranny against the Roman Catholics living in England at the beginning of James’ reign. It was effectively illegal to be a Catholic at this time. Rosary beads and crosses were outlawed. Going to mass was a felony. Catholics had their property stolen or confiscated and many were tortured to death. Fraser paints this picture while only casually noting the danger to the English nation posed by Catholic Spain and a meddling pope (who declared Elizabeth a bastard and illegitimate before she was even born). So while the narrative does inspire sympathy and outrage on behalf of the Catholics, I’m not sure they didn’t, at least to some degree, warrant it…although, I’ll add, that the women in this narrative who chose prison rather than forced attendance to Calvinist sermons, have to be saints far as I’m concerned.

III: Diversity of Opinions

In this chapter, Fraser looks at the diversity of opinions concerning Roman Catholics, held by King James. She claims his ambiguous promises to protect the Catholics play an important role in the gunpowder plot. We’re also told of divisions within the persecuted Catholic factions during this time, namely between the hardcore Jesuits, and the compromising modernists. We’re also introduced to a number of young Catholics who had a knack for sword fighting. Fraser compares their generation to the baby-boomers who came of age in the 60’s. A similar revolutionary spirit swept those born in the 1580’s, only, unlike the hippies, these young Roman Catholics were violent in their inclinations. Their parents, having seen the nation ruled by a Roman Catholic were prone to wait out the persecution and pray for something better; their children were prone to revolution. Also, we’ve yet to have a formal introduction to Guy Fawkes, but he’s been mentioned numerous times and again in this chapter, as a military man of some fame. I’m looking forward to meeting him in the narrative. Also, I can’t help but make comparisons between the plight of the Catholics then, and the plight of the “Dissident Right” today in America…

Part II: The Horse of St George

IV: A King and his Cubs
V: Spanish Charity
VI: Catesby as Phaeton

In chapter 4, Fraser raises an interesting aspect of monarchy I’d never considered: should the monarch be assassinated, he would be immediately followed by his son. This becomes problematic for the Gunpowder conspirators as James, unlike Elizabeth before him, had many children. In chapter 5, we’re finally introduced to Guy Fawkes and given some account of his birth and travels abroad. He strongly favors the Catholic cause and travels to Spain to intercede on their behalf, earning the name Guido, by which Fraser refers to him throughout the rest of the book. She emphasizes, again, how improper it is for history to remember Fawkes as the prime name attached to the plot since he was ever a sort of “outsider” (having little relation to the conspirators, the majority of whom were related either by blood or through marriage). She even hints that Fawkes may be something of a fall guy in history, though he obviously has earned his place in the legend. In chapter 6, she introduces us formally to Catesby who she pinpoints as the main leader and spiritual instigator of the entire plot. It’s Catesby, if anyone, who can be said to be the organizer and originator.

Part III: That Furious and Fiery Course

VII: So Sharp a Remedy
VIII: Pernicious Gunpowder
IX: There is a Risk
X: Dark and Doubtful Letter

In chapter 7, we finally see the shadowy beginnings of the actual plot, with five original conspirators, including Guy Fawkes and Catesby. They meet, celebrate the mass, take communion, and swear an oath of secrecy concerning their desire to destroy both parliament and the King. This, after (in their mind) all peaceful solutions to cessation of hostilities against English Catholics had been exhausted. Fraser produces some of her most thoughtful commentary in this chapter, discussing the role of terrorism, especially its history (as a concept, if not in name) in Christian writings. In all the theoretical justifications for toppling tyrants, she fails to mention the American Revolution which, in its very founding document, suggests a nobility in casting off tyrannical rulers – although she may have avoided that comparison as it’s controversial. Legally separating from a power, then defending against reprisal, is different than violently overthrowing an existing state, after all. Additionally, the conspirators wrestled with the unavoidable fact that many fellow Catholics and Catholic sympathizers in government would likely also be killed. Is such violence justified? For these Christian men to have thought so indicates a profound sense of injustice. Additionally, Fraser is careful to note (and repeatedly) that while the conspirators rightly fall into modern definitions of “terrorists”, the state, itself, cannot escape similar charges, since its use of force and heinous reprisals can similarly be accused of “terror”.

In chapter 8, she expounds on the conspirators’ plans and how they go about setting up for the event. There’s also an interesting discussion of William Shakespeare at this point, noting that the playwright moved in similar circles as the conspirators (his mother being a Catholic) and likely knew many of the same people. She suggests Macbeth, written soon after the foiled gunpowder plot, wrestles with the event and the themes raised by the aftermath.

In this section, we’re also introduced to a man whom I believe is the real hero of the entire affair, and that is a small Catholic orbiter nicknamed Little John – a four-foot-tall architect who excelled in created hidden, secret nooks, to hide both Catholic religious items as well as dissident priests. I’m told there are biographies of the man. I hope to find them. He, in my view, represents the best of resistance against an erring state.

Unfortunately, one of the band of conspirators sends an anonymous letter, warning one of his favorites not to attend parliament. This would-be victim turns the letter over to the authorities, thus alerting them to the existence of the plot and setting off a chain of investigations that would end in catastrophe and tragedy. Fraser speculates that it was the would-be victim, himself, who attained knowledge of the plot from spiraling rumors and sought to exonerate himself by playing the role of a hero and exposing it all. The mystery of who wrote the letter, though, remains debated to this day.

Part IV: Discovery – By God or the Devil

XI: Mr Fawkes is Taken
XII: The Gentler Tortures
XIII: Fire and Brimstone
XIV: These Wretches

This is a fast-paced section, describing the downfall and utter ruin of the conspirators, beginning with the unfortunate Guy Fawkes, who was captured “prowling around” the parliament. King James personally gave the order to torture Fawkes and Fraiser takes the opportunity to intimately describe the popular tortures of the day. There were the gentler tortures which gradually applied, built up to the harshest ones, culminating in the “rack”, where a man is slowly pulled in half. Fawkes was broken and gave up the rest of the conspirators, all of whom were eventually either killed or arrested and executed in horrible ways. There was a desperate race to avoid capture while trying to rouse the Catholic underclass to open rebellion, however, even the Catholics despised the conspirators and refused to help them. The surviving members, including the ring-leader Catesby, were cornered in a house where they took their last stand. Five or maybe eight men bravely stood against a party of 200. Catesby died in the fight.

Part V: The Shadow of Death

XV: The Heart of a Traitor
XVI: The Jesuits’ Treason
XVII: Farewells
XVIII: Satan’s Policy?

In this section, the final end of the conspirators is described, including a very touching account of their final execution. Maybe a testimony to my own romantic imagination, but I was brought to tears when one of the conspirators, being dragged behind a horse on his way to the gallows, passed by a window where his grieving wife waited. They shouted a last, defiant, goodbye to each other, the wife crying that she commended her husband back into the arms of the God who had given him to her.

An extremely moving account, in final analysis, as these men bravely took to the gallows, barely able to stand on their own from the tortures, and gave final, defiant, gasps against the injustice carried out against them and their fellow Catholics. All died without recanting their faith, even though a few of the conspirators did express regret at their chosen course of action and asked for mercy for their families. One of the brave men even chose to toss himself off the gallows without waiting for the executioner, whether to die on his own terms, or to try and die quickly at the gallows instead of facing the mauling block afterwards, we can’t be sure. Maybe a bit of both. The men were to be quickly hung then cut down before they lost consciousness – cut down, then drawn and quartered while they were still alive. One, upon having his heart cut out and held up to the crowd as an example of a “traitor’s heart”, managed, with his last grasp, to cry: “liar!” to the awe of the crowd.

The worst part was the torture and execution of minor-players or sympathizers surrounding the conspirators, including the heroic Little John (mentioned above). The poor man was literally tortured to death – manacled until his stomach ripped open. The torturers pinned him back together with a steel plate in order to prolong his “questioning” but being an invalid already, John was unable to survive. He was officially declared a martyr in the 1970’s. We’re also told of the capture and “questioning” of the brave Lady Vaux who Fraiser paints as the archetype of brave Catholic women of the time. While she survives the ordeal, she’s constantly persecuted for the rest of her life, refusing, however, to recant. She never yields to her evil time. While Fraiser seems biased in her favor, it’s hard not to recognize Godly heroism in Lady Vaux.

Shotgun’s Conclusions

Despite her obligatory left-leaning bias, I enjoyed Fraiser’s book. I don’t think sober-minded hindsight ought to favor one religious faction over the other, although the obvious inclination is to choose one to root for. There’s an obvious sympathy towards the Catholics, although many of my protestant friends lean radically in the opposite direction. For one example, R.J. Rushdoony’s friend, Otto Scott, wrote a biography on James the I, outright calling him a fool – this position filtering down into the ranks of the Kinists, is still popular today.

Fraiser ends with a discussion of terrorism, noting that Nelson Mandela, a convicted terrorist, is, nevertheless, seen as a hero today because he was victorious and his cause is almost universally seen as just. Terrible example from my point of view, and yet, I do wonder why God would let Mandela succeed while damning the pious Catholics to a hundred or more years of continued persecution?

A question I’m often left with after reading history: where is God in all of it? If He is, in any sense, a “shepherd”, shouldn’t we see His fingerprints all over the course of history? Why does it seem nonsensical? Here, perhaps, Fraiser offers the best observations of the entire book as, she notes a handful of historical ironies surrounding the Gunpowder plot. One example – Charles I used some of Little John’s Catholic hiding spots to hide from his rebellious subjects. They were meant to hide from Elizabeth or King James, and ended up hiding royalty in the end.

How much more romantic if the conspirators, led by a pious Guy Fawkes, had donned masks and set up a vigilante network, taking vengeance when necessary, or re-confiscating unjustly confiscated wealth, engaging in the clandestine smuggling of priests, or so on? Rather, they chose a destructive form of indiscriminate, mass-slaughter that would have killed many of their own sympathizers as well as the virulent anti-Catholics. I don’t think the spirit of a nation, if trending strongly in one direction, can ever be changed violently or through force of any kind. It must be done in small steps – a battle of spirit vs. spirit. Let that be a lesson to any would-be terrorist – but also let it be a lesson to tyrannical states…

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Spiritual Guerrilla Warfare

FrancisMarion-mountain-battle

~ I may never march in the infantry,
ride in the cavalry,
shoot the artillery,
Oh, I may never fly o’r the enemy…~

What is the purpose now, of my blogging, besides needlessly and accidentally upsetting friends or taking risky stands on mountains better left undefended? I began as a Christian apologist, in the rationalist school, in need of a place to archive my longer apologetic articles. Once I gave up rationalism, I needed a place to vent my frustrations. Now that venting is no longer productive, I’m left with two options: 1. I could produce something beautiful, as if I’m a prisoner locked in a cell with unusually fine acoustics and surrounded by my fellow spiritual soldiers. We’re fed daily, given a bit of sunshine, and are allowed to harmonize in the evenings before bed. Or, 2…I could launch into another, more meaningful, project. I’ll try both. Christian art can be beautiful and also have purpose.

I have some field experience in spiritual warfare, both of the “regular” infantry type as well as the more unconventional guerrilla warfare variety. That latter, just as in real warfare, is better suited to the serious Christian now, as we’re in an utterly depraved society with increasingly fewer allies and institutional support. I should add: we haven’t had institutional support in decades, but we have had the luxury of neutral institutions in which we were able to flourish in small ways. We’re almost out of neutral ground now, however. Satan is coming after us with a vengeance and we need to hide, camouflage, attack supply lines (in a metaphorical sense), and most importantly: perfect the art of spiritual ambush.

I had three minor skirmishes this weekend, involving three young ladies. I’ll recount my adventures as, more-or-less, ideal attempts at guerrilla warfare of the spiritual variety; not because I see myself as an exemplar here, but because as I engaged in these conversations I had a self-conscious notion of what I was attempting.

First, however, I need to clarify a point I made a few blog-posts back, in the Phantastes pt. 2…

I have not now, nor have I ever, promoted a phony sort of name-it-claim-it prosperity view of prayer and Christianity. I’m not the best writer and I’m clumsy on my best days, so I apologize to everyone for making it seem as if that’s what I was promoting. I liken these name-it-claim-it preachers to the deceitful marketers in the health industry who are always promoting this or that protein pill or magic supplement that will give you six-pack abs in two weeks, or allow you to build massive “gains” in a month…they’re not only liars, they suck away legitimate motivation from guys trying to get in better shape. They, as well as their counter-parts in the Christian religion, ought to be thrown out on their ears.

What I had in mind – and stated very clumsily – is more of a philosophy in the new “Brazilian Jiu Jitsu” martial art. When you’re down on the ground with an immovable force on top of you, the philosophy goes: you always have some move you can make. There’s always some twist, turn, or strategy you can employ. As long as you’re alive and conscious, you can keep working to win the fight. I see this as analogous to not only the Christian life, but to prayer more specifically. I’ve developed this view recently, through hard and desperate struggling – but I strongly believe that as long as we’re alive, breathing, and conscious (in both mind and in faith), we can make small moves, no matter how difficult or seemingly-hopeless our position. Small moves, each of which, if performed with the ardor of a Christian heart, will be blessed by God almighty. And if we do this over time, we will, inch by inch, move towards something wonderful in our lives.

We have no need to fear the might of Satan since our lord will never leave us helpless. I shouldn’t have used the “millionaire” example, although, I do believe that if you’re a guy with financial gifts and want to go to war with the modern world through finance, God will bless your work. In the same way, prayer and small moves, combined with faith, will always be blessed by the Lord. I have to believe this or else I have to give in completely to despair. And I will *not* give in to despair. I’d rather believe, wrongly, that Christ hears and answers our prayers, than believe He leaves us helpless in Satan’s power.

This is an important weapon in the arsenal of the Christian guerrilla fighter, especially if we love our “targets.”

The first little girl I encountered this weekend might be around ten years old. She loves to sing and was fascinated with my banjo playing. Unfortunately, in her zeal for music, she kept wanting to sing a load of Mestizo “hip-hop” and other Mexican songs. “I’m learning Spanish!” she told me, proudly, and exclaimed that she had “friends” (implying a cadre of mestizo girls who, hand-in-hand with the girl’s government school teachers, are instilling in her a hatred of her own people). Am I a good enough musician to rescue this girl, or at least plant seeds that God might use to bring her out of the fog and light her heart on fire?

The second, a conservative Christian friend and I were at a party this weekend and we found ourselves in conversation with two young ladies, in their early twenties, both of whom were embroiled in the University of NC college system. One was a biology major and the other, an English major. Both claimed to be feminists and both heralded “trans” ideology, one even telling me I was “stuck in a thought-box because I believed in binary categories instead of the more liberating trans ideology that touts multiple genders.” My friend and I were able to engage in a guerrilla-styled spiritual “ambush” and, in a friendly, disarming, way, helped the girls realize the weakness of the worldview in which they were being indoctrinated. It’s not hard to get them to become self-conscious of their worldview – the system undermines itself on that note with all its talk of postmodernism and “different perspectives.” They accept that naturally enough, so they didn’t argue when we got them to be more self-conscious about their own “perspective.” But then we were able to contrast this perspective with an old European, Christian, one. We brought them into conflict with their wanna-be Christianity and their new-religious indoctrination.

I consider it a victory as, at the end of our conversation, I was able to get the English major to consider loving the medieval literature she was learning about for what it is, in itself, without trying to read all her professor’s “feminist” agenda into each story. She expressed her frustration with this attempt to force feminist dogma into every medieval narrative.

I pray for all three of these young girls; moreover, this weekend’s partial victories gave me the idea of how I might be more direct in this type of apologetic action. We ought to start with those we love in our lives; try to reclaim them from Satan one by one. That’s the real culture-war, and like Pat Buchanan said all those years ago: we’ll take back our people “block by block” if we have to. If we love them, we owe it to them to try.

Personally, I think I’ll look to these strategies for bringing a potential wife out of the Satanic milieu. Assuming the Lord has a woman in mind for me, she’s likely mired in the thick of the new religion of liberalism and will have to be nurtured and rescued out of it (always assuming she hasn’t been weened out of it by Christian parents, but let’s be honest, finding one like that is like hoping to win the lottery).

~ Deo Vindice ~

 

 

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The Boomer Question

A friend recently posted a NYTimes article discussing the generational hostility between “Boomers” and “Zoomers”, the baby-boomers and the so called “generation z” (those born in the 90’s and 00’s). The article is predictably biased, making it sound like enlightened teenagers are angry at old white conservatives. One of the experts interviewed for the article, however, admits the animosity transcends political lines. It’s left, right, up, down, etc. Everyone seems to dump on the baby-boomer generation

The article has me reconsidering my old intuitions about them:

I’ve struggled with my own animosity towards the boomer generation and have, in the past, carelessly gone alone with the generational bashing. Some of it is in good fun, but the accusations arise from deep resentment and anger. I had this realization the other day, though: all the things I thought I disliked about the boomer generation are not unique to the boomer generation. These tragic habits-of-thought-and-act are common among all ages.

This will sound naive and silly, but I have a serious view of spiritual warfare. If a demon is cast out of a body and the body doesn’t clean itself up, seven others, even more wicked than the first, are likely to tramp their way in. That’s what happening in my view.

…our entire world is becoming increasingly demon-possessed. Every generation more so than the one before it. Every bad trait from the one, passed to and amplified in the next. All the boomer’s state-worship and reflexive herd-mind proclivities – passed on and amplified in generation z.

Only those controlled by a very different Spirit can escape the generational herd-mind; I’m very serious about that. I’m not just being flippant. Let those with the gift of discerning spirits look around “feelingly” and feel it for themselves…

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A White Boy and the Phantastes, Pt II

5 john bell. 1894. i saw the strangest figure. phantastes. macdonald. artn

I’m often hard on the baby boomers and yet it’s terribly difficult to escape one’s generational quirks. Even the best of the boomers have been shaped by circumstances particular to their formidable decades. Likewise, while I consider myself an eccentric and an entirely atypical millennial, I, nevertheless, struggle with all the themes that define the millennial generation: hopelessness, despair, lack of meaning, and so on. I hope I’ve overcome these issues and might now, in the aftermath, have something of value to offer my fellows:

It’s been a number of years since I read George MacDonald’s Phantastes. The first time I was sick with the fever of Calvinist scholasticism and thought MacDonald was far too unorthodox. It’s a measure of my growth (or descent into Hell, however you might see it) that now, after having read it again recently, I’ve found MacDonald far too Calvinist. He ought to be an aid, right? Ought to help a Christian man see the world as if God were an author of fairy-tales. If nothing else, that’s what Phantastes is supposed to teach.

But I’ve found almost the opposite in life: the more we try to force a fairy-tale of MacDonald’s sort, the more modernist of an author God has to be. Conversely, the more sporadic and random we allow life to be, the more of an author of fairy-tales God becomes.

MacDonald has a strong view of God’s foreordination. This, almost fatalistic, view is littered throughout his works but especially in Phantastes. Well and good. If we have the sort of faith MacDonald advocates, we wholly submit ourselves to God and trust Him to weave our lives into a narrative that pleases Him – and yet, MacDonald lived and wrote in the mid 1800’s, surrounded by a Christian culture and people. He had the luxury of casually writing off evil as the will of God. We’re children being taken to the doctor and given a painful shot, but it’s all for our good in the end. I don’t accuse MacDonald of being flippant. He lost multiple children to sickness. It’s no easy task to lose a child and write it off to the providence of a good and loving God.

…and yet, could MacDonald, even with his imagination, dream of the horrifying and disgusting world we live in today? Where women and children are routinely abused, with scientific precision, and the most innocent of our folk are violated in their own homes? A world where our elders die alone, surrounded by strangers, likely being abused by God knows what African devils? Where children are more likely to die of murder in the womb rather than miscarriage? Where little boys are being transformed, by court order, into little girls?

I cannot, no matter how hard I’ve tried (especially in the throes of my Calvinitis) believe this evil is from God. And should anyone believe it, how to deal with it? Calvinists may swagger around and brag about how we’re supposed to oppose evil, even if God has ordained for it to be in our paths, but isn’t that like a kid who fights the doctor to avoid the shot? Wouldn’t God send in the orderlies to hold us down and force our medicine? Maybe, in some way, (on this view), whites deserve torture murders?

While I’ve defended this very position, I’ve never believed it. I could write many blog posts about this, but what of the converse? What of the “free will” position? How can a good and loving God allow all this evil?

At my most cynical, when my faith was at its weakest, I’d find myself overcome with anger at God for allowing all this – and not just to a generic, faceless, world, but to me in my life, particularly. You can try to ignore the evil, but it’s there, creeping around the labyrinth of everyday life, stalking the innocent: all is good and sunny one day, but then you get a call from a debt collector who makes threats and insults you for not being able to make a large pile of money magically appear so you can pay back the IRS, who overpaid you and now wants its share with interest. Then, someone being careless with their cellphone, slams into your car and speeds off. Then you have medical bills. Then you accidentally turn on the news and see a dozen other horrors and injustices. Then some minority scoffs at you on the train and mocks your dying civilization, while some tranny demands you stop “man-spreading” and taking up space…and so on and on and on until, wham! A snapping point is reached.

For many millennials, this has meant suicide. Better to die by your own hand than engage in a meaningless struggle on a plantation that utterly despises you. For a small number of millennials, this has meant some sort of indiscriminate, mass slaughter. Indeed, you can feel the labyrinth beast in every direction, reflected in every face – it’s in the fabric of society itself.

This feeling has lead to the massive success of the recent “Joker” movie, which touches on all these same themes. The main character is systematically abused and oppressed until he snaps and begins killing all those who’ve, in any way, mistreated him. It’s a sick, generational, fantasy, and there is no God in the world of Joker.

So, where is God in our world, then? I’ve felt this massive anger. God doesn’t seem to help with bills or injustice. And He doesn’t seem to care about happiness in our lives. And, ahhh, but that’s where I had it wrong. I was praying, asking for lottery wins or other miraculous changes in circumstance…but why ought God to give us Heaven now? We’re here, suffering our punishment for the fall. And Christ, having paid our dues, has made it so our suffering only has to last a short while.

But moreover, we need not unduly suffer, even now. The key was finding out what, exactly, God is willing to do for us here and now, and what He’s not willing to do for us. He’s not willing to give us Heaven immediately. He will – and I swear to my millennial readers this is true – He will aid us in our work here on Earth.

Want to be a millionaire? Hatch a plan, take little steps, and pray for success at every juncture, and God absolutely will bless your journey. Really, I believe, there’s absolutely nothing at all God will deny us, His children, if only we take small steps, work towards it ourselves, and stay in communication with Him during the process. The creeping beast of the labyrinth is alive and he’s stalking us, but there’s no need, with the aid of God, to fear him when he strikes.

In this way, we are honored above and beyond my wildest imaginations: honored as co-heirs with Christ, and fellow vice-regents of all creation. God doesn’t want us to be puppets, He wants us to be His sons…

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Prelude to the Art of a Christian Life

I saw a guy wearing a certain type of flannel shirt today and it made me love him, I hope, the way God loves him. It struck me how helpless he was, having to dip into the inane capitalist milieu. How pathetic we all are. Seeing a child wearing her little clothes is all the more heart-wrenching and I don’t know why. I can’t really explain it. Maybe I’ve found the key for seeing past walls to the spirit inside?

I’ve been trying to see people this way lately. As they really are. Trying to see them for what they are, without all the confused, bravado-n-bluster of Hollywood-addled modernity.

I also think plums are hilarious…

What is all this random nonsense, Shotgun?!

Well, with a little training, you can see the fingerprints of God…

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