I recently finished re-reading C.S. Lewis' first book in his Space Trilogy: Out of the Silent Planet.
It's one of those books that even most people who love and have read Lewis before are utterly unfamiliar with. But it's good. REAL good. Like, "get home to find someone has made you freshly-baked chocolate chip cookies" good.
You can read about the plot and overview here, so I won't waste time with too many details about the story. There are big themes in this book. It's a short, easy read, so don't fret my fellow short attention-spanned Millennials!
But, on the other had, don't be fooled: there are some serious, heady, fascinating topics and existential questions broached in this tale.
The main character is Dr. Ransom who specializes in languages and dialects. Through a series of events, he ends up on the planet Mars - called Malachandria by the natives. Again, don't worry if you aren't a science fiction fan: this book remains palatable for men and women of all ages above about 13 years old. The protagonist (Ransom) is pitted against two different types of antagonists who are working together.
The first, Mr. Devine, is a morally-depraved, money-grubbing, soul-less, seemingly irredeemable hedonist. He is driven by prestige and riches and whatever might benefit him and raise his stature in society.
The second, Professor Weston, is for all intents and purposes Ransom's doppelganger. Both have the common thread of being educators and intellectuals, but they part ways on nearly every other core value/idea/ideal. Even in a physical sense they part company: Ransom is tall and slender, Weston shorter and chubby.
One specific encounter in the book was, in my mind, important enough to briefly share with you in order to make a bigger point that applies directly to our lives today.
Eventually the three humans who have traveled to Mars/Malachandria end up in the presence of the "king" of the planet. He is something akin to an angel and the creatures on the planet refer to him as Oyarsa. For the Christian reader - and you by no means must be one to enjoy this compelling narrative - you will quickly pick up on the deeper, spiritual elements of this book!
So the three humans have an audience with the Oyarsa and while Ransom has become "friends" the local population, Devine and Weston - driven by nefarious motivations that are contrary and foreign to the sinless world of Malachandria - aren't the most popular blokes on the block. Using a strategy often employed by agents of the Creator (as well as the members of the Trinity themselves) in the Bible, Oyarsa asks Weston a series of questions regarding his intentions in coming to Mars. It's sort of one of those, "I want you to say out-loud the insanity that is in your heart in hopes that you might be convicted by your own words" strategies.
To the point here: Weston claims that he has mastered space travel and come to Malachandria because of his noble passion for the advancement and progress of mankind. He is a "man of science" who is filled with plenty of confidence regarding his abilities and capacity to learn and advance his species. He is defiant, even in the face of overwhelming and, quite candidly, terrifying spiritual forces that clearly disprove much of his materialistic, naturalistic worldview.
Oyarsa can already see that Devine is a morally-decadent and spiritually-decayed, and even says that if Devine was under his authority he would simply "un-make" him because of what little service he provides to the universe. But with Weston, and sensing the genuineness to his misguided aims, Oyarsa has more compassion. You can tell that this angelic creature would do what he could to aid in any potential internal rehabilitation that may be possible for Weston. Oyarsa tries to get Weston to see how shallow and empty his worldview truly is. (What follows is a rough paraphrasing of a much longer, much more interesting conversation that you'll really enjoy when you read, or re-read, this book):
Oyarsa: "Why do you want to bring the human race to Malachandria? What is your motivation? Is it the bodies of the people of earth that you love?"
Weston: "No, I feel a duty to mankind though"
Oyarsa: "Is it the mind, the heart and soul, of mankind that you love?"
Weston: "Not so much."
Oyarsa: "It seems odd that someone who cares not for the body of humans, nor for their internal make-up, would be so passionate and persistent regarding the advancement of that species..."
What Oyarsa is getting at is this: how can those who espouse secular materialism and the "religion of science" claim to be acting nobly or for the altruistic good of mankind? They have no right to such language. Their worldview is empty and has no culmination other than decomposition in the grave. You couldn't call someone "brave" who was willing to die for other already-dead and accidental cells.
Weston constantly betrays his true callousness throughout the story: for example, before kidnapping Ransom for the journey to Mars, he is ready to kidnap a mentally-handicapped boy as a "sacrifice" to the creatures of Malachandria. (Note: having a scientist be so reckless with the life of a handicapped/disabled child character in this instance was very intentional...)
Even during this scene in front of Oyarsa's royal court, Weston - who is under the impression that the natives mean them harm - is trying to give away his two human companions as bartering chips. He says on more than one occasion that anyone who thinks that human "progress" is not worth the lives of hundreds, if not thousands, of individuals - well, then such a person is an idiot and contemptible.
Why do I bring any of this up? The worship of science, and the acceptance of the secular academic world's insistence that faith/religion have no legs to stand on in their arena of expertise, is dangerous and devoid of any true meaning.
It offers no morality or comfort or explanation of the "why?" question that matters more than any other.
C.S. Lewis wasn't anti-science. In fact, his views on various things like evolution would more than likely be in conflict with many of my fellow Evangelicals. There's a time and place for that debate, but the point here is simply that the modern world is full of people who want to reject God and because of the advancements in science and technology those people feel like they have the intellectual/rhetorical cover to remove the undeniable accountability even a vague understanding of "Creator" saddles mankind with.
Abortion. Euthanasia. Genetic engineering. Cloning. We know what is already here, and we can reasonably guess what the very near future holds. If your understanding of life does not begin with "In the beginning, God created..." everything is up for grabs. And, if we're being intellectually honest, requires an admission on the part of anyone holding such a view that life has no real meaning other than hedonism (to one degree or another).
How can you look someone in the eye and say both "You're a randomly gathered collection of protoplasm, there's nothing special/unique about your existence and nothing happens when you die" and at the same time "I am fueled to do research because I believe in the advancement of the meaningless progeny of strangers I'll never meet, nor care about"?
Loving your neighbor only matters if you know, acknowledge and love Him. Weston's desire to help the human race "progress" was genuine - as Oyarsa concluded - but it was genuinely wrong.
Please get yourself a copy of this book, or if you've already read it and have any other thoughts leave us a Comment below!
(Note: Me and my friend Whitney just started reading the second book in the Space Trilogy: Perelandra. We'll be sporadically Tweeting and posting things on Facebook about the story and its themes as we go through it. If, like me, you've already read it...grab your copy and go through it again. It's always more fun with others who you can bounce ideas off of!)
By: R.J. Moeller
When Perez Hilton is the voice of reason - be worried, America.
In the flamboyant wake of the profanity-laced tirade delivered by sex columnist and gay rights advocate Dan Savage to a group of high school students at a conference on journalism - the perfect place for a sex advice columnist, no? - the gay celebrity blogger Hilton offered this Rodney King-like appeal to all the haters out there:
Savage later called the walk-out "pansy-a**ed" which, from someone who helms an anti-bullying campaign, is obviously a very negative thing to say ….
Can't we just be good and kind to each other? Isn't faith in love and honesty and kindness all any of us really need?
The "walk-out" (who was chewed-out) that Perez is referring to was a young girl who apparently, upon hearing her Christian faith maligned by some angry "journalist," decided she would probably be able to still make a go at a career in journalism without enduring more verbal abuse from a man who convinced President Barack Obama to cut an "anti verbal abuse" commercial for his "It Gets Better" campaign. That young girl was the first of many 15 and 16 year old students who at their very young ages were practicing the very same non-violent, non-abusive protest Dan Savage claims to love so much (and claims is absent among young people today).
No one fought Savage. No one stuffed him in a locker. No swirlies were administered. But not even peaceful, non-violent advocacy floats in the ocean of rage swelling inside a man like Dan Savage should said peaceful, non-violent advocacy happen to contradict his rigorously dogmatic worldview.
Here's the clip in question:
Before I respond to some of Mr. Savage's impassioned claims, let me give you one other sampling of the kind of rhetoric old Danny Boy (an Irish "Catholic" from Chicago) employs in his public appearances:
(Warning! Not meant for children...or really for any humans of any age, for that matter)
Classy, no? Sure am glad that we searched high-and-low to find the most qualified adult in the country to head-up an anti-bullying campaign! Or was this one of those jobs that straight Americans simply will not do, President Obama?
Either way, I'd bet the free-range farm that the Dan Savage I know will have junior high bullies hammering their victims into plowshares before you can say, "I wish all Republicans were F-ing dead!"
As a quick aside, the obvious absurdity of the entire "anti-bullying" agenda is that no one is "pro-bullying."
Well...except that one guy named - let's just call him D.S. - who recently found a group of malleable, self-conscious high schoolers and unleashed all the pent-up aggression he has harbored toward his religious, conservative parents on them. That's one guy who seems to love bullying. The rest of us are still normal people who would love to have open and honest debate about our values (and our votes on things like state-wide propositions meant to decide the legal definition of marriage being upheld).
But I digress.
"People often point out that they can't help it, they can't help the anti-gay bullying because it says right there in Leviticus, it says right there in timothy, it says right there in Romans...that being gay is wrong."
Hmmm. You know, I think Mr. Savage is on to something here. I don't know what your public school experience was like, but if I had a nickel for every time one of my utterly non-religious teenage classmates cited Mosaic Law directly after calling another classmate "fag" or "queer", I'd be able to afford a copy of this other, presumably limited-release, version of the Bible that Dan Savage has read in which it tells God's people to "go forth and humiliate all the nations of homos you will encounter."
If I paused here and used the stuff (common sense) I don't have any longer because the media, Hollywood, and my public school teachers taught me this other totally hip stuff (nonsense), I might be inclined to think that the whole "anti-bullying" campaign is really just cultural cover for a more insidious indoctrination (which in turn is masking the massive payback middle-aged gay men want against their own tormentors back in junior high and high school).
Naahhh, that can't be it. Someone with a heart of gold (and the purified tongue of Isaiah) like Dan Savage is definitely just looking out for the kids!
"We can learn to ignore the bull-sh%$ in the Bible about gay people. The same way...the same way we have learned to ignore the bull-sh%$ about shellfish, about slavery, about dinner, about farming, about menstruation, about virginity, about masturbation...we ignore bull-sh%$ in the Bible about all sorts of things."
You would need a team of writers, working round-the-clock for a year, to fully explain all the ways in which what Dan Savage said here is poppycock. So let me just point out a few things our generation's Ghandi didn't quite put in their proper context. (Note: "context" is a word we religious, free market conservatives use as code when we want to be racist or homophobic and talk about intolerant things such as facts.)
First off, there are plenty of people who still adhere to OT law regarding things like shellfish consumption. You can direct further questions about why they do, what they do, to the Jews who do. But Savage was raised Catholic and saves his most vile public hatred for Christians. That is who he is really talking to here.
So what's a practicing evangelical or Catholic to do when faced with such seemingly insurmountable verbal assaults? How can we ever hope to climb out from the mountain of Leftist, secular logic we're apparently buried under?
I suppose reading the Bible - the entire Bible - would be my first suggestion.
Christians don't adhere to the strict OT laws because they were handed down for a specific group of people, living at a specific time, and living on a specific piece of land. The new covenant in Christ frees all Believers from being "slaves to the law." This, like many of the best and most interesting things in life, has a counter-balance: Christ's reminder that he didn't come to remove the law, but to fulfill it. God still has something to say about morality and human interactions on this earth. But now we worship our Creator and Savior in spirit and in truth, not through top-down cultural and societal guidelines or the sacrifices of animals for a sin atonement.
I'm not ignoring Scripture's command to avoid shrimp, but I will continue to ignore biblically illiterate "journalists" who use such infantile arguments only because they know enough to know that millions of self-described Christian sadly do not know what I just explained. (That one's on us, fellow Believers!)
"The Bible is a radically pro-slavery document. Slave owners waved Bibles over their heads during the Civil War, and justified it."
Other people who "waved Bibles over their heads" (leading up to) and during the Civil War: Christians in the North - you know, that more than half of the country that didn't allow slavery - who pioneered the abolitionist movement and even did nefarious things like start their own political party when the Whigs wouldn't take a strong enough stand against slavery.
Christianity has a standard to point people to, to hold itself to. We can call each other to account, even when some are using the name of Christ to do wicked and terrible things.
Secular-progressive ideology has Vanity Fair columns, New York Times editorials, the agenda of teachers unions, lawyers who believe South Africa has a better Bill of Rights, and Al Gore power-point presentations to guide them through the murky waters of human existence.
In Dan Savage's world, how do we know when something is wrong? Or evil? How do we know bullying is wrong? What can we use for a moral standard? Whatever Barack Obama reads from his teleprompter? Whatever Congress - the collection of people who currently have a lower approval rating than Hugo Chavez among American voters - enacts into law?
Should we rest our hops on whichever Public Service Announcement on YouTube gets the most amount of views? Or whichever hate speech campaign advertisement gets the most amount of popular actors or NBA players to read off a cue card in it?
Or how about this: If we're all here by accident, if a book like the Bible and a Creator like the God described in its pages are nothing more than the ramblings of Michelle Bachmann's close-mined ideological ancestors, then where do we turn for a source of moral standards?
Natural selection? Christians are always mocked for disagreeing that "Nothing x No One = Everything" when it comes to the universe's existence, but let's take the Darwinist at his word and assume natural selection and survival of the fittest. How does the promotion of homosexual activity square itself with creatures who are in desperate need to procreate and advance the species if it hopes to avoid extinction? How does one explain patently obvious facts like that evolution saw fit to make sure that male and female body parts "match up"?
These are fair questions to ask, in my opinion. If I'm a sucker, bigot, and moron for believing what I believe about God, Scripture, and the proper relations between the sexes, Dan Savage has a few things I'd like cleared up about his "moral (but don't ask me where I got it) high-ground" position on the subjects he raised in his diatribe.
"The Bible got slavery wrong."
To paraphrase the great G.K. Chesterton: The problem was never, will never, be Scripture - we are the problem. I am the problem. Sin is the problem. Divorce wasn't "God getting it wrong" as Jesus pointed out in Matthew 19. Such things are finite "solutions" (or realities) to a deeper, eternal problem inherent in all of us.
God is sinless, His Word is flawless, and we are fallen. It is precisely because people like Dan Savage (and myself before coming to faith in Christ) refuse to acknowledge and confess such immutable, undeniable facts that they are so desperate to defend their way of life and attack ours.
And it's not all about homosexuality with us conservative Christians. Honest, it's not! Sin is sin is sin. Sure, the "gay issue" gets a lot of play in the press, but so much of that (if you'll care to notice) is coming from the angry pro-gay side who seems to have a chip on their collective shoulder because - in my opinion - they resent someone, anyone, out there not signing-off on their lifestyle. They are hoppin' mad that we aren't applauding them for their advocacy efforts to indoctrinate future generations with what we consider to be radical views on human sexuality and relationships.
Incidentally, you know that on-going (and painfully tiresome) "joke" that smug liberal commentators on everything from Saturday Night Live to CNN regurgitate that presumes any religious American openly against gay marriage must harbor and suppress wild homosexual urges? Yeah, so if never shutting up in your condemnations of something you disagree with means you really like that other thing, does this mean people like Dan Savage and Rachel Maddow secretly long to meet a member of the opposite sex on a vacation to Jamaica, whereupon they impulsively wed that member of the opposite sex and end up like Frank Lambert and Carol Foster in the acclaimed 90's television series Step by Step?
(Cue the snickering laughter that will never come from the SNL crowd after Seth Myers never tells a joke like that on "Weekend Update.")
Alright, so I could go on for hours critiquing what Dan Savage spewed on stage at this "journalism" convention, but here feels like a good place to call it quits (for now). Let me say that I don't hate this man. I don't care who he decides to smooch behind the doors of his eco-friendly abode. But he and his loud-mouthed ilk have brought the discussion to our doorsteps and involved things like tax dollars, public policy, and the education of our young people. He's the one who compared evangelicals' stance on gay marriage to Sharia Law. He's the one who misrepresented and maligned the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
You can't spit in my soup and tell me I have to eat it too. Especially not when your openly stated goal is to teach my kids to spit in my soup as well.
If Dan is serious about engaging in a meaningful and productive dialogue on these theological and historical issues he raised, I would encourage him to set up a series of public conversations with thoughtful men on "my side" like Pastor John Piper or Pastor Mark Driscoll. If he genuinely wants a spirited debate, go talk to adults who have studied the text and religion in question for a lifetime.
But calling little kids who had the guts to quietly stand up (and walk out) for their beliefs "pansies" - a term inferring that they were acting in an effeminate manner - is beyond cowardly.
However, and I close with this, I fear that Mr. Savage's views, and the unwavering way in which he presented them in this video clip above, are representative of a moral and cultural tide that has already swept over American society and even infiltrated the Church. If Christians can't defend what we claim to believe, if we lack the conviction and courage to do and proclaim what is right regardless of what is popular, then Dan Savage will be seen decades from now as a prophet.
Jeremiah. Isaiah. Nehemiah. Boys, on behalf of my generation, I apologize in advance.
President Reagan sums up how I feel about the Christmas season in this brief national address he delivered in 1981:
For more on the TRUE meaning of Christmas, here's Pastor John Piper:
God bless you, your family, and the United States of America!
Just up today over AEI's Two Cents blog is my most recent column in the on-going "Why I'm a Christian and fan of the free market" series I started earlier this spring. This week I delve into the I Samuel 8 account of the Israelites demanding that they be given a king to rule over them. Mankind seems to have a deep-rooted desire to be lorded over, and as often as they can, they give their freedoms away for a song (or the promise of security).
Call me biased, but it's a really interesting piece, and you can read the entire thing right here.
After a rousing Easter service and traditional meal with my family (albeit at Chilis because my mom was under the weather and couldn't cook and my tweenage sisters love queso dip), I was perusing Easter Sunday news headlines and came across this Yahoo News story out of Vatican City.
Pope Benedict XVI marked the holiest night of the year for Christians by stressing that humanity isn't a random product of evolution.
Benedict emphasized the Biblical account of creation in his Easter Vigil homily Saturday, saying it was wrong to think at some point "in some tiny corner of the cosmos there evolved randomly some species of living being capable of reasoning and of trying to find rationality within creation, or to bring rationality into it."
"If man were merely a random product of evolution in some place on the margins of the universe, then his life would make no sense or might even be a chance of nature," he said. "But no, reason is there at the beginning: creative, divine reason."
While I am not Catholic, I would wholeheartedly agree and endorse these comments should they have come from any faith tradition. Pope Benedict is a wise, godly man, and clearly articulated my general worldview (which you can read more about in my Mere Conservatism: Theology essay). I believe that his message to the world on Easter is one that resonates with millions of Americans. If we could put aside all our pre-conceived notions of what it means to be a Christian - notions that often spring from negative experiences we may have had with those who, rightly or wrongly, call themselves "Christian" - I believe that most of us would acknowledge a faith in a loving, personal, Creator God.
Today and Christmas are two of the only times each year that many attend a religious service. Even non-believers like to gather together for Easter. All the secularization of the holiday aside (pictured right), people know that today is a special day. A day to be with family. A day to go to church.
If God is worth paying attention to on "high holy days," perhaps He has something to offer the other 363.
Happy Easter and God bless!