Wednesday, October 30, 2013

C. M. Sturges: Woe To The Little Boys

     Some of you know about John Taylor Gatto, the highly regarded, highly experienced, highly qualified educator who is also very outspoken about what is deeply wrong in the American educational system today. Mr. Gatto did not write the link that is referenced below, but he is quoted prominently — I think his opinions are very much worth paying attention to.

     The further discussion by the writer of the post -- C. M. Sturges -- includes, but is not limited to, the use of Ritalin to control the behavior of school boys.

     The link was recommended by a reader.  I urge that it be carefully read by fathers, educators, and church leaders (and anyone else). It's title, “Woe To The Little Boys,” is more truth than hype.  Our young boys in America are in a very bad situation, and I for one don't see a workable way out for many of them.

Tuesday, October 22, 2013

Christians, Drug Use, And Death

     A few years ago, I attended the funeral of a friend who died in a single-car accident.   The accident took place in the middle of the night -- about 3 a.m. -- on a quiet highway in the country.  His vehicle was traveling at a high rate of speed, he missed the tight turn, he hit the trees.  He survived for an hour or two.

     He was familiar with the road; he had driven it his entire life, and he was long since retired.  His beloved wife of over forty years had died a couple of years earlier.  He was known to be grieving her loss.  He was, himself, seriously ill.  Suicide, perhaps?

     Perhaps.  Perhaps not.  Because of his own illness, he was on several strong medications -- doctor's prescriptions, doctor's orders -- that were, among other things, "mood altering."  Who could blame the doctor for what he thought was in the patient's best interests?  Perhaps those prescriptions were the very best that "modern research" can provide.  At least, they were government-approved.

     The man had complained to his children, a few days before, that the medicines, or their interactions, were affecting his mind, his judgment.  He had been having strange thoughts, and he didn't like that.  He wasn't sure that he ought to be taking them.  But he was the kind of old fellow who "follows doctors' orders," after all.

     And then, suddenly, he was gone.  Thankfully, no one else was injured in the accident.  He received a Christian burial, as of course he should.

     This is not meant to be a blame game:  I am entirely unwilling to assign any blame to anyone, in this case.  Doctors certainly know more about serious illnesses than I do, and face hard questions in difficult cases.

     But I would like to raise a question about other cases, where "blaming" is already quite intense, not only in the mainstream media, but in the conversations I hear among Christian people.  I have observed that both groups, the media people and the Christian people, are famously sure that they have all the answers, not only for themselves, but also for the rest of "society."  They have answers regarding drug use, and death, that include lawsuits, prison terms, public condemnations, and anticipations of the Final Judgment.  (I said, "they," as if I were speaking of others than myself -- I readily grant that I am a member of both groups.  I have been a practicing Christian, and a practicing writer and speaker, for the greater part of my life; so I might as well have said, "we.")

     What do we think, then, when we find out that young men who break into schools, theaters, and army bases -- and kill dozens of people -- are on strong (prescription) medications -- medications that have, and are sometimes intended to have, known, severe mood-altering effects?

     What, when on the other hand, we impose felony-class prison sentences on people for mild drug use, in which no real crime has been committed?

     What, when we treat drug use and drug addictions as crimes in and of themselves, rather than as obligating us, as caring people -- let alone Christians who are under a strict command to heal the sick, forgive sins, and practice charity in all cases -- to act in ways that ameliorate tragedies and avoid the perpetuation of injustices, rather than making matters worse, and casting burdens, punishments, and sanctions upon relatively ordinary, relatively harmless people and their families?

     But I think that I am speaking into the wind.  A strong wind that is blowing in the opposite direction.



Sunday, October 20, 2013

Devin Brown: A Life Observed

A book review

     Devin Brown, a professor of English at Asbury University, has just published (2013) A Life Observed:  A Spiritual Biography Of C. S. Lewis.  He was in town last month, along with Lewis' stepson, Douglas Gresham (now in his late sixties), to talk about the famous Christian writer, and his life, and the new book.  I went to the presentation, enjoyed listening to both Brown and Gresham, and bought the book.  It is good.

     The book lives up to its title, and exceeded my expectations:  it is, indeed, a spiritual biography, weaving Lewis's life experiences, the development of his personality, his long and indirect journey to faith, his imaginative and spiritual insights, his friendships, and his feelings, from his birth in Ireland in 1898 to his death in England in 1963.  I have read several other biographies, or commentaries, on the life of Lewis, and they have been pretty good; but I would rate Dr. Brown's recent book as the best.

     I am one of many thousands of Christians who have been decisively influenced by C. S. Lewis.  I remember discovering him when I was about nineteen.  I picked up two of his books on the same day: Screwtape Letters, and Miracles.  It was Miracles that did it for me; it was as if Lewis had awakened my mind; and from then on I would see things differently, and think differently.  In the years following, I read just about everything that Lewis had written; and I would venture to say that there have been very few years since then that I have not re-read one or two of his books.  Like anything by G. K. Chesterton, J. R. R. Tolkien, Charles Williams, Wendell Berry, and a handful of others, they can always be counted upon to be a benefit and blessing to the mind.

     Brown's biography of Lewis avoids the temptation to be a hagiography, and it avoids the opposite temptation to "reassess" Lewis or "reinterpret" him.  It is simply a well-written history of his life and the development of his thinking.  Here is a paragraph where he quotes Austin Farrer, speaking at Lewis' funeral:

     "Farrer commented that, as a writer, Lewis had a unique way of integrating his thoughts, emotions, and imagination -- not compartmentalizing them -- and that it was this 'feeling intellect' and 'intellectual imagination' that gave power to the many works Lewis had left behind.   'There lived in his writings,' Farrer told those who had come to honor their friend,  teacher, and colleague, 'a Christian universe which could be both thought and felt, in which he was at home, and in which he made his reader at home.' "

     At the book-signing, I said to Douglas Gresham that I hoped that one day I would get to read his biography.  He immediately replied that I could: it is called Lenten Lands, and he wrote it many years ago.  I was able to get hold of a copy, and enjoyed it, too.  His focus is on his childhood and teenage years in the Lewis household, but he goes on to talk about his own later life, travels, marriage, and family.  His stories are interesting, insightful, and well told.

     In times like our own, when George Orwell's prophetic warnings about our society's nature are especially and immediately troubling, remembering C. S. Lewis is a good thing.


Friday, October 4, 2013

One Cheer For Post Modernism

     I am going to raise one cheer -- only one -- for Post Modernism.  And it is for this reason: it is replacing Modernism.  Modernism?

     Modernism.  It is a mindset that has dominated the West for most of the past two centuries.  In natural philosophy, it became Scientism.  In moral philosophy, Relativism.  In economics, Consumerism.  In religion, Unbelief.  In psychology, soulless Behaviorism.  In domestic politics, Bureaucracy.  In world affairs, Globalism.  In art, the Absurd.

     It is the offspring of the unholy trinity of Mammonism, Mechanism, and Moloch. It demands our tribute.  It claims to be our Source and our Reason for Being.  It compels our worship of its idols of  iron, clay, and stubble.  Why defend Modernism, on any grounds?

     If it were a ship, it would be the Titanic.  If it were a computer, it would be HAL.  If it were a continent, it would be Atlantis.  If it were a book, it would be 1984.

     I could go on.  In fact, I will go on.  But not with modernism, insofar as I can help it.

     The Post-Moderns may, or may not, have found Truth.  They may not even be looking for it.   But I'll agree with them about this much:  Modernism is a Big Lie.  And that's a pretty big truth right there.

     So for that, I give them one cheer.  A big one.