369 Lee, Grant & Twain

        At a time when obtuse mobs pull down or vandalize historic statues and politicians placate the vandals by removing public monuments, serious scholars continue studying great men, illustrating their value in understanding ourselves and our nation.  They realize, as William Faulkner said:  “The past is never dead.  It’s not even past.”  In Clouds of Glory:  The Life and Legend of Robert E. Lee (New York:  Harper, c. 2012; Kindle), Michael Korda provides a well-written, admiring account of the general.  As a young man Korda took part in the Hungarian Revolution of 1956, then graduated from Oxford University and now writes histories.  He begins his book not with details of Lee’s early life but with his role in suppressing John Brown’s attack on Harper’s Ferry in 1859—an incendiary incident helping provoke the Civil War.  Brown was revered by Northern abolitionists because of his guerrilla activities in “bleeding” Kansas and helping slaves escape to Canada.  Dispatched to quash the insurrection, Lee and a small army detachment did so, treating the captured survivors “with kindliness and consideration,” but overseeing Brown’s hanging.  Present with him were a number of soldiers who would serve with him during the Civil War—most notably J.E.B. Stuart and Thomas J. “Stonewall” Jackson.  Considering the event Herman Melville “described Brown prophetically as the ‘meteor of the war’” and his phrase rang true, for it would “be only seventeen months between John Brown’s execution and the firing on Fort Sumter that brought about the war.”  

       As a veteran U.S. Army officer, Robert E. Lee had served in various parts of the nation.  “He was a cosmopolitan, who felt as much at home in New York as he did anywhere in the South; he was opposed to secession; he did not think that preserving slavery was a goal worth fighting for; and his loyalty to his country was intense, sincere, and deeply felt.  He was careful, amid the vociferous enthusiasm for secession in Texas once Lincoln was elected, to keep his opinions to himself, but in one instance, when asked ‘whether a man’s first allegiance was due his state or the nation,’ he ‘spoke out, and unequivocally.  He had been taught to believe, and he did believe, he said, that his first obligations were due Virginia’” (#520).  A singular commitment to one’s state was not at all unusual in those days.  Lee’s first ancestor had settled in Virginia in 1639, two of his descendants signed the Declaration of Independence; two others would be-come generals and one, Zachary Taylor, would become a president.  To John Adams, when the American Revolution began, the Lees had “more men of merit . . . than any other family.”  They were all loyal Americans, but above all they were Virginians!  

       During the War for Independence, Robert E. Lee’s father, “Light Horse” Harry, became a celebrated military officer.  Like his father, “Robert was tall, physically strong, a born horseman and soldier, and so courageous that even his own soldiers often begged him to get back out of range, in vain of course.  He had his father’s gift for the sudden and unexpected flank attack that would throw the enemy off balance, and also his father’s ability to inspire loyalty—and in Robert’s case, virtual worship—in his men.”  But neither man worked well with politicians.  The father was “voluble, imprudent, fond of gossip, hot-tempered, and quick to attack anybody who offended or disagreed with him.”   But the son “kept the firmest possible rein on his temper,” disliked confronting or arguing with others.  “These characteristics, normally thought of as virtues, ultimately became Robert E. Lee’s Achilles’ heel, the one weak point in his otherwise admirable personality, and a dangerous flaw for a commander, perhaps even a flaw that would, in the end, prove fatal for the Confederacy.  Some of the most mistaken military decisions in the short history of the Confederacy can be attributed to Lee’s reluctance to confront a subordinate and have it out with him on the spot, face-to-face” (pp. 30-31).

       Lee’s mother, wanting her son to eschew her husband’s example, sought to instill in Robert a strong Christian faith.  “For this task she was extraordinarily well suited; her few surviving letters reveal formidable theological knowledge, as well as a precise sense of right and wrong and a deep spiritual belief.  ‘Self-denial, self-control, and the strictest economy in all financial matters were part of the code of honor she taught [him] from infancy,’ and in his later years Robert E. Lee frequently said that he ‘owed everything’ to his mother.”  Though an Anglican, “Ann Carter Lee was in many ways a child of the Second Great Awakening that swept through America in the early nineteenth century, creating sometimes startling new religious denominations and laying greater emphasis on the need to be saved and on personal piety rather than simply attending traditional religious services.  Her beliefs were what we would now call evangelical, and she had the strength of mind and purpose to impress them on her son Robert for life—indeed the most striking thing about his letters is his lifelong, simple, unshakable belief in the need to accept God’s will uncomplainingly, and his deep faith.  ‘It is all in God’s hands’ is a phrase he used often, not in a spirit of fatalism, but in one of confidence.  The intensity of Lee’s religious convictions was one of the elements that would make him a formidable warrior, and also one of the reasons why he remains so widely respected not just in the South, but in the North as well—not only as a hero, but as a kind of secular saint and martyr” (pp. 35-36).

       Korda takes the reader through Lee’s education, military service in Mexico, and work in various army posts (usually devoted to supervising engineering projects).  In most ways it was a rather prosaic career, with little possibility of attaining distinction until he captured the attention of Winfield Scott, who found him a fine field officer during the Mexican War.  As “Scott’s protégé, prized particularly for his uncanny eye for terrain,” Lee helped win the war and was made a “brevet lieutenant colonel.  No other officer in the Mexican War received such universal praise, or won such widespread admiration” (p. 255).  Indeed, General Scott declared Lee “’the very best soldier that I ever saw in the field’” (p. 266).  Following the war Lee returned to working in army posts (including an assignment dealing with Comanche raiders on the Texas frontier), serving a stint as superintendent of West Point, and caring for his family (seven children), struggling with finances, serving as executor for his father-in-law’s estate, and wondering if he’d made the right vocational choice.  

       But everything changed when Abraham Lincoln was elected President and southern states began seceding.  Though Lee personally opposed slavery he also opposed abolitionism.  Generally abstaining from politics, he was something of a Whig.  As the war began President Lincoln made Lee a colonel and ultimately offered him the rank of a “major general in command of the largest army in American history” (p. 391).   But when Virginia seceded Lee felt obliged to serve his beloved state and soon headed the Confederate military forces therein.  “Lee amazed everyone by his energy and professional skill, putting together in a matter of weeks an army of 40,000 troops” (p. 410).  He led them in various battles in Virginia, Maryland and Pennsylvania, ultimately surrendering to Federal forces led by Ulysses S. Grant in 1865.  Korda describes and analyzes the various battles, though he is less concerned with military details than with the person, General Lee, who always “set his men an example of resilience, confidence, and devotion to duty” (p. 1054).  

       Following the war, Lee enjoyed what Korda calls an “apotheosis.”  Rarely has a man come “not only to embody but to glorify a defeated cause.”  Amazingly, Lee  became “a national, not just a southern hero,” with a U.S. Navy submarine named for him, a postage stamp carrying his picture, a U.S. Army tank named after him, and President Gerald Ford posthumously restored his citizenship in 1975.  “It is hard to think of any other general who had fought against his own country being so completely reintegrated into national life, or becoming so universally admired even by those who have little or no sympathy toward the cause for which he fought” (p. 1141).  Rather than accept more prestigious and remunerative positions Lee became the president of Washington College, a tiny school with almost no students in Lexington, Virginia.  Under his guidance, the college flourished, and its new president sought to provide Southerners an example for adjusting to post-war realities.  To Henry Ward Beecher, a prominent New York minister, “Lee ‘was entitled to all honor,’ and praised him for devoting himself ‘to the sacred cause of education’” (p. 1170).  

       Korda’s portrait of Lee is consistently positive, if not quite as admiring as Douglas Southall Freeman’s famed four-volume biography.  He does show that a Hungarian emigrant, rather free from the many biases of native-born Americans, can carefully study and find worth celebrating the life of Robert E. Lee.

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       Notably more critical of the general, Allen C. Guelzo’s Robert E. Lee:  A Life (New York:  Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group; Kindle Edition. Vintage Books, c. 2021) seeks to appreciate Lee’s strengths without glossing over his faults.  To the author Lee remains very much a “mystery” inasmuch as he was both upright and errant.  Everyone who met Lee, “no matter what the circumstances of the meeting—ever seemed to fail to be impressed by the man.  His dignity, his manners, his composure, all seemed to create a peculiar sense of awe in the minds of observers” (p. 18).  And yet he fought for a  rebellious confederacy committed to preserving slavery.  A Princeton professor who has published a number of historical works, Guelzo’s stance is nicely summed up by Lee himself after the Civil War when he wrote a letter, saying:  “My experience of men has neither disposed me to think worse of them or indisposed me to serve them; nor in spite of failures, which I lament, of errors which I now see and acknowledge; or of the present aspect of affairs; do I despair of the future.  The truth is this:  The march of Providence is so slow, and our desires so impatient; the work of progress is so immense and our means of aiding it so feeble; the life of humanity is so long, that of the individual so brief, that we often see only the ebb of the advancing wave and are thus discouraged.  It is history that teaches us to hope” (p. 13).

      As is expected of a scholarly biographer, Guelzo digs into Lee’s ancestry, family, education, and career.  Though he doesn’t consider Lee a first-rate intellectual, he was certainly a well-tutored youngster, reading Caesar, Sallust, Virgil, Cicero, Horace, and Tacitus in Latin, plus Xenophon and Homer in Greek.  Most importantly, since he sought admission to West Point, he mastered arithmetic, algebra, and geometry.  After doing well at the academy he joined the Corps of Engineers—“a small cadre of brainy technicians who prided themselves on their superiority to lesser graduates who ended up in” other branches of the army (p. 69).  His academic work was exemplary, but it was “his almost unbearable gentility” that most impressed his classmates.  Lee was, Joseph E. Johnston remembered “full of sympathy and kindness, genial and fond of gay conversation, and even of fun, that made him the most agreeable of companions” (p. 73).  When he returned to West Point to serve as superintendent in the 1850s, he similarly impressed cadets as “‘the personification of dignity, justice, and kindness . . . the ideal of a commanding officer’” (p. 201).  

       Following the Compromise of 1850, slavery became a smoldering issue.  Lee favored neither slavery nor its abolition, saying:  “‘In this enlightened age, there are few, I believe, but what will acknowledge, that slavery as an institution, is a moral & political evil in any country’” (p. 227).  Yet he apparently saw no way to actually end it.  As southern states began severing their ties with the Union, many observers wondered if he would retain his position as an officer in the federal army.  He had served with distinction in the Mexican War and enjoyed the favor of General Winfield Scott, who  “did not hesitate to endorse him in the most dramatic terms:  ‘If I were on my death-bed tomorrow, and the President of the United States should tell me that a great battle was to be fought for the liberty or slavery of the country, and asked my judgment as to the ability of a commander, I would say with my dying breath, Let it be Robert E. Lee’” (p. 211).  

       President Lincoln apparently considered giving Lee command of the Union army and might have done so if Virginia had not joined the Confederacy.  He could not “draw his sword” against native State and devoted himself to serving her.  Thus he made “a decision in which he irrevocably, finally, publicly turned his back on his service, his flag, and, ultimately, his country.  All of this was done for the sake of a political regime whose acknowledged purpose was the preservation of a system of chattel slavery that he knew to be an evil and for which he felt little affection and whose constitutional basis he dismissed as a fiction” (p. 306).  In time he became the commanding general of the Army of Northern Virginia and for four years fought to win the war.  Guelzo carefully describes the various battles and evaluates Lee’s effectiveness as a strategist, noting that Lee’s triumphs were often due to his opponents’ failures and he relied too much on his subordinate generals to implement his general orders.  He did, however, inspire his men to fight courageously and merits commendation for his leadership during the war.  “Only Grant emerged in the war with military gifts on a par with Lee,” and there is a rightful “glory for Lee in that achievement” (p. 655).

      Lincoln, Lee and Grant all deeply desired peace and reconciliation.   (An interesting illustration of this was the fact that Ulysses Grant’s widow ultimately became good friends with Varina Davis, the widow of former Confederate president Jefferson Davis!).  Ulysses S. Grant believed the officers and men who had received parole at Appomattox should not be prosecuted, asserting:  “‘I should have resigned the command of the army rather than have carried out any order directing me to arrest Lee or any of his commanders who obeyed the laws’” (p. 567).  When Lincoln was slain Lee considered it “‘not only a crime against our Christian civilization’ but ‘a terrible blow to the vanquished.’”  And he praised Grant, whose treatment of Southern soldiers was “‘without parallel in the history of the civilized world’” (p. 574).  Though granted a parole when he surrendered at Appomattox—and though President Lincoln, in his last cabinet meeting had spoken “very kindly” of him—some Northerners wanted Lee to be indicted and imprisoned.  The he was, in fact indicted by a prosecutor, he was never brought to trial or imprisoned.  

     When he died, Lee was mourned throughout the South and rather admired in many sections of the North.  Thus Philadelphia’s Evening Telegraph declared that “‘the passionate feelings engendered by the conflict have so far died away that there is a general disposition to dwell upon his personal virtues rather than to follow him to the grave with denunciations’” (p. 630).  At the end of his presentation Guelzo—admiring the man but perplexed by his service for the Confederacy—concludes:  “Mercy—or at least a nolle prosequi—may, perhaps, be the most appropriate conclusion to the crime—and the glory—of Robert E. Lee after all” (p. 662).  His footnotes and bibliography show Guelzo’s  diligence in thoroughly researching his subject, and his portrait of Lee merits serious consideration.  

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       Mark Perry wrote a fascinating account in Grant and Twain:  The Story of a Friendship that Changed America (New York:  Random House Publishing Group, c. 2004; Kindle Edition).  Following his presidency Ulysses S. Grant settled in New York and engaged in various business ventures.  Thing the advice of a man he trusted, he invested in (and lent his name to) an endeavor that failed in 1884.  Rather than file for bankruptcy, “Grant vowed that he would repay every penny of the debt he owed and pledged that before his death, he would find a way to provide for his wife and children” (p. 20).  Then Mark Twain—a “Grant intoxicated man”—determined to help out by encouraging him to write his life story.  The two men met, and in 15 months “Ulysses S. ‘Sam’ Grant and Mark Twain—Samuel Clemens—became the best of friends.  Seemingly so different and yet with so much in common, Grant and Twain would, in that short time, transform the world of American writing.  For as Grant was struggling to write the story of his life, he was helped in his final battle by a man who had just completed the story of his.  Within that single fifteen-month period—perhaps the most creative in American literary history—Grant would not only write his Personal Memoirs, Twain would reach the peak of his career with the publication of Adventures of Huckleberry Finn. Those two books, perhaps the finest work of American nonfiction ever written and the greatest of all American novels, defined their legacy.  In the end, the struggle of both men—Grant’s struggle to retrieve his fortune and Twain’s to make his—was not about wars or books or even money.  Over a period of fifteen months, Grant and Twain wrote the story of their country and ours.” (p. 23).  

       After sketching biographies of the two men Perry describes their interactions.   Robert Underwood Johnson, hoping to make the Century Publishing Company successful, had earlier talked with Grant about writing an article covering some aspect of the Civil War.  Grant had been uninterested, but now he told Johnson he needed money and might do some writing.  Johnson said his magazine would publish whatever he wrote and “suggested that Grant write four articles, one each on the Battle of Shiloh, the Vicksburg Campaign, the Battle of the Wilderness, and the surrender of Lee.  Johnson said the magazine would pay him $500 for each article.  It was an extraordinary sum for the time.  Grant agreed to this arrangement” (p. 82).  He would be the first Civil War commander to write a memoir, and when he submitted his first article it was obvious he had a gift for writing, for he could recall “small incidents that gave color to the larger theme—and he had a prodigious memory.  At times his prose was almost electrifying” (p. 84).  A century later the literary critic Edmund Wilson said:  “‘The thick pair of volumes of the Personal Memoirs used to stand, like a solid attestation of the victory of the Union forces, on the shelves of every pro-Union home.”  Indeed:  “‘It may well be the most powerful military memoir in print, vying with Julius Caesar’s commentaries as (in Wilson’s words) ‘the most remarkable work of its kind’” (p. 278).  

      In 1884 Grant discovered he had throat cancer with little hope of recovery.  His physician prescribed pain killers but sometimes refused “to treat his patient, hoping that it would more quickly bring about his death, thereby putting an end to his suffering” (p. 95).  Facing his demise, financially broke “and now mortally ill, he viewed the publication of his memoirs not only as a fitting coda for his life, but as the sole means at his disposal to retrieve his reputation and leave his family financially secure” (p. 97).   At the same time Twain was a celebrated writer and humorist but had yet to write truly fine fiction.  Off and on, over the years, he had worked in a manuscript that would become Huckleberry Finn, but it was not yet finished.  In it he explored the nation’s “original sin” and its devastating impact on the South.  He sensed, deep within, “that the central and singular fact that had shaped his time and shaped him was the question of slavery—that ‘bald, grotesque and unwarrantable usurpation’ of human freedom that ‘stupefied humanity.’  And at the heart of slavery was the question of race, of racism—which is what made slavery possible’” (p. 261).  And as Twain devoted himself to the story he “realized that Huck Finn might be the one book for which he would always be remembered” (p. 147).  

       Encouraged by Twain’s promise to help him publish the manuscript, Grant worked hard.  Some weeks he was “particularly prolific, writing upward of ten thousand words on some days, while spending others editing and correcting what had already been written.  Twain, who saw Grant nearly every day during this period, was stunned by Grant’s abilities.  ‘It kills me these days to write half of that,” he commented” (p. 197).  He was also struck by the general’s “gentleness, goodness, sweetness.’”  Volume one his  Personal Memoirs of U. S. Grant was published on December 10, 1885, and within two months “Twain presented Julia Grant with a check for $200,000.  To that time it was the largest royalty payment ever made in U.S. publishing history” (p. 277).  Ultimately she received nearly $450,000 and Twain’s publishing firm turned a nice profit in the process.  Millions of people rejoiced when reading Grant’s autobiography, and the final words of Grant’s Memoirs came to symbolize the lesson of a war that divided a nation and cost six hundred thousand lives. ‘Let us have peace,’ Grant wrote.  They were the last words of his book” (p. 277).  Amen!

368 Today’s Totalitarians

         During the past century dystopian novels have highlighted fears regarding the personal and societal impact of what Jacques Ellul termed “the technological society.”  Running from Aldus Huxley’s Brave New World through C.S. Lewis’s That Hideous Strength to George Orwell’s Animal Farm and 1984, these fictions force us to face the unintended consequences of mechanistic thinking that makes machines which may ultimately destroy us.  What would be most harmful, these writers suggest, is the development of a technological totalitarianism that reduces human beings to cogs in an impersonal social machine, making a man little more than what Walker Percy called a “poor lonesome ghost locked in its own machinery.”  These thinkers discerned “the hard pull of the technological revolution moving us along at lightning speed toward a digital slavery,” echoing the thought of Emile Durkheim, who thought the industrial revolution was upending society  and burdening it with anomie—the debilitating feeling of aloneness even while surrounded by masses of people.  Aware of their power over lonely people, totalitarians forever try to abolish those “little platoons” Edmund Burke celebrated—the families and churches and local organizations that most easily resist tyranny.  

     No scholar invested more attention to this threat than Hannah Arendt, who wrote a two volume treatise—The Origins of Totalitarianism and Imperialism: Part Two of The Origins of Totalitarianism.  Soon after WWII ended she declared:  “We no longer hope for an eventual restoration of the old world order with all its traditions, or for the reintegration of the masses of five continents who have been thrown into a chaos produced by the violence of wars and revolutions and the growing decay of all that has still been spared.  Under the most diverse conditions and disparate circumstances, we watch the development of the same phenomena—homelessness on an unprecedented scale, rootlessness to an unprecedented depth.” When men are “isolated against each other” they easily fall prey to tyrannical governments.  Still more:  “It is as though mankind had divided itself between those who believe in human omnipotence (who think that everything is possible if one knows how to organize the masses for it) and those for whom powerlessness has become the major experience of their lives.”  Thus the subjects for totalitarianism are homeless, rootless people split between folks who aspire to omnipotence manipulating those who crave subservience. 

       Some 70 years later, younger writers have sought to update and make current Arendt’s analysis.  Probing the implications of today’s homeless, rootless masses, Stella Morabito (a former CIA analyst and current Federalist contributor) has written The Weaponization of Loneliness:  How Tyrants Stoke Our Fear of Isolation to Silence, Divide, and Conquer (New York:  Bombardier Books, c. 2022; Kindle Edition).   As a young scholar she studied the history of the Soviet Union and detected “patterns of weaponized isolation” that enabled “totalitarian forces” to destroy private life and set up a surveillance state” that makes everyone dependent upon the state (p. 10).  Leaving the academic world in to rear her children, she sensed similar developments in America, evident in the wide-spread support for abortion, euthanasia, “political correctness, identity politics, family breakdown, K–12 reforms, radical environmentalism, campus speech codes, and woke-creep in religious institutions, in the military, and in corporate America.  I watched the growth of gender ideology, including nascent propaganda on ‘transgender kids,’ which I detected in my local public library in the mid-1990s.”  Orchestrating these developments, the media began censoring dissidents, reviling anyone disagreeing with the dominant message, labeling dissenters “bigots.”  As she read and thought about such things, she “finally concluded that there is a machinery at work—a machinery of loneliness.  Tyrants operate that machinery—wittingly or not—in order to disarm those they wish to control” (p. 11).  In response, she urges us to “aggressively defend the private sphere of life because that is the only safe haven for developing the power of human connection.  Only then can we start defending ourselves against attempts to isolate us, especially from those we love and those who love us” (p. 12).

       Symptoms of a creeping authoritarianism have been evident worldwide since the 1968 upheavals.  Had we rightly understood the outcries over racism and sexism, had we subsequently known the implications of multiculturalism and identity politics, had we detected the growing hostility to free speech and religion, we’d not be surprised by the current situation.  We should have seen how government-decreed lockdowns due to the COVID-19 virus fully revealed totalitarian impulses gaining traction around the globe.  Incessant propaganda, mainly promulgated through TV and social media, “stoked fear of random death from the virus,” and polarizations followed.  “After elites in government, media, and Big Tech demonized anyone not in line with the mandates, many people responded by disowning friends and family members who weren’t with the program.  In fact, the COVID-19 mandates blatantly enforced our isolation from one another, often in the most intimate and brutal ways.”  Social distancing, masks, lockdowns, vaccine mandates, “censorship of several reputable medical experts who offered different opinions on treatment—a cascade of decrees thoroughly altered our customary behaviors.  These social controls not only meant people could no longer attend church but “patients in hospitals were not allowed any visitors at all.  Brutally separated from loved ones, many were left to die alone” (p. 18).  

       These dicta (always veiled in mantras of “public health”) remind us of C.S. Lewis’s judgment:  “Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies.”  Morabito devotes considerable attention to failed utopian endeavors, including Oliver Cromwell’s Puritan Commonwealth with its “godly citizens,” Robespierre’s “republic of virtue,” Stalin’s “dictatorship of the proletariat,” Hitler’s “Third Reich,” and Mao’s “cultural revolution.”  All were celebrated as wonderful ideals!  But they quickly ushered in reigns of terror.  So too legions of busybodies recently had a field day issuing warnings and orders designed to corral COVID-19.  Following the well-weathered authoritarian script they aimed “to remold human beings into purely collectivist creatures that serve the utopian model” (p. 36).   Atomized folks easily fall prey to utopian fantasies when they “feel alienated and yearn for a perfect society of peace and justice, particularly during times of economic and social upheaval” (p. 27).   Utopians envision a perfect community wherein our fondest desires are satisfied and our loneliness dissipates as we’re absorbed into a community.  Rejecting reality, utopians choose to live in an imaginary world (free from poverty, disease, sin, etc.) that simply cannot be.  To do so a small corps of revolutionary elites (be they fascists or communists) mobilize mobs and violently impose their agenda. 

       All these utopian movements cultivated a religious fervor shrouded with appeals to “sciences” such as eugenics or historical materialism.  “Fake science,” says Morabito, “is always the result of nonstop propaganda coupled with censorship of alternative views” and was fully on “constant display” during the COVID-19 panic.  A powerful coalition of Big Media and Big Tech “easily de-platformed any physician who had a different opinion about COVID-19 treatments or the origins of the virus.”  Under the banner of “science says” we were told to repudiate any “views that didn’t align with narratives on other topics such as global warming, abortion, or gender dysphoria in children.  The push to enforce critical race theory got the same treatment of heavy propaganda and censorship” (p. 63).  As always the ruling elites “seek to invade and destroy the private sphere of life.  All weaponize the human fear of ostracism—and our hardwired need for connection with others—to coerce conformity and compliance” (p. 72).

      One effective way to coerce conformity is to mobilize mobs.  Rudderless civilizations lend themselves to takeovers by the masses, and manipulating them “in order to seize power is integral to all totalitarian schemes” (p. 98).  Morabito lists six factors fueling mobs:  a “malady,” e.g. systemic racism; a “cure,” e.g. joining a group championing equity; an “enemy,” e.g. white racists; an “ideology,” e.g. social justice;  a “sense of urgency,” e.g. the catastrophic culmination of global warming; and a “monopoly on narrative,” e.g. silencing dissident speakers on university campuses (p.112).  A decade ago few of us imagined one’s sex could be anything other than what was “assigned at birth.”  Amazingly, “practically overnight,” we were told to support the notion that a man could simply “identify” as a woman and are treated thusly—an “idea was institutionalized into a mob mindset via media control by those pushing the agenda” (p. 121).

       In a series of enlightening chapters Morabito examines the re-segregation of blacks under the guise of “identity politics,” the “estrangement of women” under the banner of  “political correctness,” the radicalization of youngsters leading to mob behavior, and the resulting dehumanization of whites in America.  Breaking people into ever-smaller groups—highly evident in “intersectionality” rhetoric—illustrates the truth of Carl Jung’s comment:  “The mass state has no intention of promoting mutual understanding and the relationship of man to man; it strives, rather for atomization, for the psychic isolation of the individual.”  In a chapter titled “Cloning Lonely Puppets: The Subversion of Education” (a piece every parent should read) the author shows how the schools have contributed to our current malaise.  In 1901 an influential progressive sociologist, Edward A. Ross, wrote Social Control urging Americans “‘to replace community, family and church with propaganda, education, and mass media . . . the State shakes loose from the Church, reaches out to School. . . .  People are only little plastic lumps of human dough’” (p. 205).  Such views were soon embraced by John Dewey, who believed schools should train citizens for a socialistic society.  Subsequent educators would promote social engineering through government schools which were, in the wake of the ‘60s revolutions, infiltrated by the likes of Bill Ayers—the former Weatherman, friend of Barack Obama, and current professor of education—seeking to substitute identity politics and political correctness for  classical, content-based subjects. 

       What’s true for the schools is equally true for government, the military, medical and legal organizations, the judiciary, the media, et al.  Utopian revolutionaries forever try to isolate the individual and break up subsidiary institutions such as the family and church.  Marx and Engels, in The Communist Manifesto, urged the abolition of the family and burial of religion.  “As Robert Nisbet noted, ‘The State becomes powerful not by virtue of what it takes from the individual but by virtue of what it takes from the spiritual and social associations which compete with it for men’s devotions’” (p. 234). 

       So what’s to be done?  Morabito says we must begin in a very small but utterly momentous manner:  daring to speak freely.  Decades ago Jacques Ellul, in his masterful work Propaganda, said:  “Propaganda ends where simple dialogue begins.”  People of faith must “live out” their faith and endure possible ridicule.  “Strong communities of faith have a bigger impact than most realize.  If you’re part of one, invest in it and guard it vigilantly” (p. 261).  Forge strong families and make good friends.  “It’s up to us to shed as much light as possible on the methods of the madness in the machinery of loneliness.  We can save ourselves in the process, making the world a more civil and less lonely place” (p. 267). 

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       In The Psychology of Totalitarianism (White River Junction, VT:  Chelsea Green Publishing, c. 2022; Kindle Edition), Mattias Desmet, a young Belgian psychologist,  draws on insights from Hannah Arendt to analyze “the emergence of a new totalitarianism, no longer led by flamboyant ‘mob leaders’ such as Joseph Stalin or Adolf Hitler but by dull bureaucrats and technocrats” (p. 9).  Under certain conditions, masses of people behave as if hypnotized, losing both rationality and ethical surety.   We’re immersed in the current “Grand Narrative of Western Civilization” that reduces reality to material entities and processes.  In his doctoral dissertation Desmet had examined flaws in scientific publications.  “Sloppiness, errors, biased conclusions, and even outright fraud had become so prevalent in scientific research that a staggeringly high percentage of research papers [including medical resarch]—up to 85 percent in some fields—reached radically wrong conclusions.”  No less than 85 percent of medical studies come to questionable conclusions due to errors, sloppiness, and fraud.  Scientific papers were written by scholars who actually thought they were doing first-rate research without understanding how their work “was not bringing them closer to the facts but instead was creating a fictitious new reality.”  Much the same may be said about legions of scientists’ response to the coronavirus crisis:  “a maze of errors, sloppiness, and forced conclusions, in which researchers unconsciously confirm their ideological principles” (p. 163).   It all fit Arendt’s diagnosis:  “The undercurrent of totalitarianism consists of blind belief in a kind of statistical-numerical ‘scientific fiction’ that shows ‘radical contempt for facts.’”  (pp. 10-11).  Folks no longer able to recognize the difference between true and false, right and wrong, easily become totalitarian. 

      This became all to real amidst the COVID-19 panic.  Almost overnight nearly every country followed China’s response and placed “huge populations of people under de facto house arrest, a situation for which the term ‘lockdown’ was devised.”  Elected leaders stepped aside and granted bureaucratic “experts” the power to dictate what we could or could not do.  “Expert virologists were called upon as George Orwell’s pigs—the smartest animals on the farm—to replace the unreliable politicians.”  Such experts, however, soon proved anything but infallible.  “In their statistics and graphs, they made mistakes that even ‘ordinary’ people would not easily make.”  They arrogantly promised they could control the virus but failed.  Masks, social distancing, hand washing, shutting down churches while opening up marijuana dispensaries—all irrational, failing endeavors!   “And just like Orwell’s pigs, they sometimes changed the rules overnight, inconspicuously.”  They were going to “flatten the curve,” then “crush” it (pp. 12-13), and finally failed to admit their many abject failures..  

       Their experts’ failures should not have surprised us, however, says Desmet.  A bit of historical study reveals:  “The coronavirus crisis did not come out of the blue.  It fits into a series of increasingly desperate and self-destructive societal responses to objects of fear:  terrorists, global warming, coronavirus.  Whenever a new object of fear arises in society, there is only one response and one defense in our current way of thinking:  increased control” (p. 15).  With increased control comes a creeping totalitarianism which  “is the logical consequence of mechanistic thinking and the delusional belief in the omnipotence of human rationality.  As such, totalitarianism is the defining feature of the Enlightenment tradition” (p. 15).  And this is the central thesis of the book.  We cannot escape totalitarianism without discarding the hyper-rationalism of the Enlightenment that reigns in virtually every aspect of the modern world.  We don’t need better technologies.  We need a better philosophy, “a new view of man and the world, to find a new foundation for our identity, to formulate new principles for living together with others, and to reappraise a timely human capacity—speaking the truth” (p. 17).

       In the wake of great scientific work in the 17th century, a growing corps of true believers reduced “science” to a mechanistic ideology rather than a humble search for truth.  This world has neither meaning nor purpose and disdains all religious perspectives.  All out hopes reside in a humanistic paradise.  As Arendt said:  “Science [has become] an idol that will magically cure the evils of existence and transform the nature of man.”  To  Desmet:  “With the coronavirus crisis, this utopian goal seemed very close at hand.  For this reason, the coronavirus crisis is a case study par excellence in subjecting the trust in measurements and numbers to critical analysis” (p. 63).  This mechanistic ideology has been tried and manifestly failed.  Relying solely on experts and their numbers proved deadly.  During the coronavirus panic we were inundated by graphs and tables, numbers of cases and deaths.  The endless repetition of these data prompted us to accept extraordinary restrictions.  Dissenters were “stigmatized by a veritable Ministry of Truth, crowded with ‘fact-checkers’; freedom of speech is curtailed by censorship and self-censorship; people’s right to self- determination is infringed upon by imposed vaccination, which imposes almost unthinkable social exclusion and segregation upon society” (p. 82).  But these allegedly objective data varied significantly in different hands!  Yet the “dominant ideology,” working through a compliant media, crafted a “fictitious reality” fully accepted by the masses.  “Whether it concerns the origin of the virus (bat or laboratory), the efficacy of hydroxychloroquine, the (side) effects of vaccines, the usefulness of face masks, the validity of the PCR test, transmissability among schoolchildren, or the effectiveness of the Swedish approach, scientific studies lead to the most conflicting conclusions” (p. 78).  

       Moving toward his conclusion, Desmet says we now see that:  “The mechanistic ideology has put more and more individuals into a state of social isolation, unsettled by a lack of meaning, free-floating anxiety and uneasiness, as well as latent frustration and aggression. These conditions led to large-scale and long-lasting mass formation, and this mass formation in turn led to the emergence of totalitarian state systems. Therefore, mass formation and totalitarianism are in fact symptoms of the mechanistic ideology.” (p. 179).    To escape its tentacles we must recover a more ancient understanding of Reality, acknowledging there is much in the universe that we can never understand scientifically.  There is, of course, the material world empirical scientists endlessly examine.  But as Heisenberg and other 20th century physicists discovered, “matter” cannot be understood as hard little bits of stuff randomly streaming about.  While we study and manipulate it we cannot fully understand what it actually is! 

       Yet there is also an immaterial reality, deeper than matter, what Desmet routinely calls the “Other.”  He twice cites the great physicist Max Planck’s statement:  “‘As a man who has devoted his whole life to the most clearheaded science, to the study of matter, I can tell you as a result of my research about the atoms this much:  There is no matter as such!  All matter originates and exists only by virtue of a force which brings the particles of an atom to vibration and holds this most minute solar system of the atom together.…  We must assume behind this force the existence of a conscious and intelligent Mind.  This Mind is the matrix of all matter.  Both religion and science require a belief in God.  For believers, God is in the beginning, and for physicists He is at the end of all considerations.  To the former He is the foundation, to the latter, the crown of the edifice of every generalized world view.  That God existed before there were human beings on Earth, that He holds the entire world, believers and non-believers, in His omnipotent hand for eternity, and that He will remain enthroned on a level inaccessible to human comprehension long after the Earth and everything that is on it has gone to ruins; those who profess this faith and who, inspired by it, in veneration and complete confidence, feel secure from the dangers of life under protection of the Almighty, only those may number themselves among the truly religious’” (pp. 217-218).

       Though Desmet, like Planck, is anything but an orthodox Christian, he realizes we need much more than the aging, inadequate Enlightenment-style commitment to rationalism.  The multiple problems we face cannot be solved by better machines, faster computers, or better bureaucrats.  “The real task facing us as individuals and as a society is to construct a new view of man and the world, to find a new foundation for our identity, to formulate new principles for living together with others, and to reappraise a timely human capacity—speaking the truth” (p. 17).  Reiner Fuellmich, a German attorney who help found Berlin’s Corona Investigative Committee, says:  “Mattias Desmet is the world’s expert on the phenomenon of mass formation . . . . If you want to understand why and how the coronavirus pandemic response unfolded the way it did at a societal level and—even more importantly—how to prevent such a travesty from happening again, The Psychology of Totalitarianism is essential reading. Desmet shows us how to reclaim our humanity in an increasingly dehumanized and mechanized world.”  Reclaiming our humanity, however, will require more than the psychological insights of Mattias Desmet!  Only when his “Other” is beheld as the “Holy One” will we truly do so.


           “The world is filled with the grandeur of God,” wrote Gerard Stanley Hopkins.  “It will flame out, like shining from shook foil; / It gathers to a greatness, like the ooze of oil Crushed. / Why do men then now not reck his rod?”  That theme pervades Ann Gauger’s edited collection, God’s Grandeur:  The Catholic Case for Intelligent Design (Manchester, NH:  Sophia Institute Press; Kindle Edition, c. 2023).  Admittedly, declaring the grandeur of God as evident in creation runs counter to the current academy’s climate of opinion, which reduces reality to particles of some sort randomly moving about in space.  “Sweet is sweet,” said Democritus long before Christ:  “bitter is bitter, hot is hot, cold is cold, color is color; but in truth, there is nothing in Nature but atoms and the void.”  So too a contemporary physicist, David Greene, declares in The End of Time, that “you and I are nothing but constellations of particles whose behavior is fully governed by physical laws.”  All that happens anywhere at anytime is merely particles moving about.   Following the Big Bang that spewed particles into space, everything in “cosmic history has been dictated by the nonnegotiable and insensate laws of physics, which determine the structure and function of everything that exists. . . .  We are no more than playthings knocked to and fro by the dispassionate rules of the cosmos” (p. 147).  “Atomists such as Democritus thought “Ultimate reality isn’t intelligent.  What fundamentally exists are atoms and empty space in which the atoms collide.”  For them,  highly organized beings like ourselves self-organize by accident” (p. 221)

       Thus Logan Paul Gage notes that two narratives have joisted for thousands of years.  The world and its grandeur result from either “accidental events or intelligent foresight.”   Differing from materialistic monists such as Democratus, Socrates thought Ultimate Reality is more mind than matter and set forth “an explicit design argument” subject to divine providence.  Entering into this ancient debate, today’s exponents of “intelligent design” are embracing Socrates and refuting Democritus.  They do so, Brian Miller says, because 20th century scientists came to believe the universe began in a moment—a Big Bang—which reaffirms the claim of Genesis that “in the beginning God created the heavens and the earth” (Gen. 1:1). Amazingly, evidence began piling up suggesting the universe seems “fine tuned” for human life on planet earth.  It looked as if only a Divine Mind could have miraculously created our wonderful world.  

       Micheal Behe, a microbiologist who’s written Darwin’s Black Box and other significant works, notes that:  “For all of recorded history until modern times, practically everyone — educated or not, devout or not — attributed the elegance of the world in general and life in particular to a designing mind, which many identified as God” (p. 63).  Then in 1859 came Darwin’s magnum opus, On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life, “which sought to explain how the elegance and functionality of life might arise from a mindless process” (p. 64).  But we now know far more about cells and bacteria than Darwin did, and modern biology, Behe believes, shows “that at the foundational molecular level of life, Darwin’s mechanism of random mutation and natural selection works chiefly by squandering genetic information for short-term gain.”  What’s needed, he thinks, is a recovery of “the same reasoning as Anaxagoras and Galen did in ancient times, and as the English clergyman William Paley used right before Darwin’s age,” attributing the intricate designs everywhere evident to an omniscient Designer.

       A distinguished paleontologist, Günter Bechly, chairs the Center for Biocomplexity and Natural Teleology in Austria, has written over 160 scientific publications and discovered 180 new species.  His essay, “The Fossil Record,” asserts that:  “In His providential wisdom God allowed for the process of fossilization to give us a window into the past and let us reconstruct all its wonders” (p. 91).  Unexpectedly, within a brief time:  “Complex cellular life popped into existence right when conditions first allowed for life, as if it was planted there by a Creator” (p. 95).  Suddenly “unique life forms appeared out of nowhere, without any intermediate precursors in the preceding geological layers,” and “20 of the 33 known animal phyla appear suddenly, without any precursors in the fossil record” (p. 96).  Equally impressive, there occurred what “mainstream paleoanthropologists” call “the big bang of the genus Homo.”   Abruptly, about 40,000 years ago, there appeared beings with a “globular braincase and a chin.  Might this event correlate with the origin of real humans as the image-bearers of God?  It certainly looks like a possibility” (p. 100).

       In one of the essays written by philosophers, Benjamin Wicker finds “The Intelligibility of Nature as Proof for God’s Existence,” suggesting the simple existence of oxygen points to a Creator.  For millions of years plants and animals survived because of oxygen, but “no one prior to Lavoisier knew that oxygen existed, let alone that its existence could be demonstrated” (p. 185).  It was there but no one knew it!  We had to learn, through exhaustive research and thought, that it was and what it was.  Most importantly:  “The more we know about oxygen, and everything else, the more intelligible nature becomes to us.  Since the advancement of science exists, then we can rule out both chance as the cause of nature and a God who did not condescend to make nature intelligible to us.  Therefore, there is an intelligent cause of nature’s order, and this cause, for whatever reason, created nature to be known by us.  The intelligibility of nature therefore proves God’s existence, and this is seen, in the very clearest way, in the demonstration that oxygen exists” (p. 191).  

       Another fine philosopher, J. Budziszewski, in “The Natural Moral Law,” says that even as we feel without thinking the power of gravity we also “have a dim awareness of the natural law even if we know nothing about the philosophy of natural law.”  He believes “the reality of the natural law gives good reason to believe in the reality of God — even apart from revelation, which imparts additional data, such as the plan of salvation” (p. 228).  Citing the “law of gravity,” scientists “describe how things actually do happen in the world.  Ethicists, citing precepts “such as the Golden Rule — describe how things ought to happen in the world, and serve as standards for the conduct of beings capable of grasping them.  But how things ought to happen is just as truly a structure of reality as how they do happen, and just as truly knowable by the use of our natural intellect” (p. 232).  We cannot help knowing it’s right to treat others rightly!  Our conscience demands it.  We have “an interior witness to a standard that we do not make up, which directs us and by which we are judged, and which we cannot change to suit ourselves” (p. 233).  

       A corps of theologians add their insights to God’s Grandeur.  John Bergsma contends that:  “The consistent teaching of Scripture is that God created the world intelligently (in “wisdom,”(Heb ḥokhmāh, Gk. sophia, Ps. 104:24), that the design in nature is obvious to human observation (Rom. 1:18–21), and that said design constitutes evidence for God’s existence, attributes, and activity (Rom. 1:20; Ps. 19:1–4) (p. 262).  God spoke into being all that is.  Speech conveys “necessarily information, and in presenting the Creation of the cosmos by acts of divine speech, the ancient author communicates that the physical world was created by being ‘in-formed’ by information whose source was God” (p. 263).  He gave form to the cosmos and filled it with wondrous beings.  As is evident in Psalm 104:  “The grass is for the livestock, the plants are for man to cultivate; likewise, the wine, oil, and bread are to ‘gladden the heart,’ ‘make [the] face shine,’ and ‘strengthen [the] heart.’  The Psalmist is approaching a “Privileged Planet” or “Rare Earth” perspective by recognizing that the terrestrial habitat is remarkably suited to supply the needs of a wide diversity of life forms, but especially to nourish and delight man (v. 15)” (p. 272).

       In the book’s conclusion, Anthony Esolen celebrates “A Living and Symphonic Order,” seeing the universe not as “a machine but a symphony; not a formula but an epic poem; not a goose-step of determinism, chaotic in its unmeaning, but the play of a dance, cosmic in its measures of indeterminacy and in the glorious liberty of its sign-bearer and sign-maker, man.”  A machine combines lifeless things but:  “A living thing is a whole in which the whole is present in every part, as every part makes sense as a part only in intimate relation to the whole” (p. 387).  Reductionistic materialists see the cosmos as “a bundle of equations and some primal particles,” but in so doing they “murder to dissect” and fail to behold the grandeur of it all.  Reading these essays helps us rejoice in its reality.  

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       The great Latin poet Vergil once declared:  “The moon’s bright globe, the sun and stars are nurtured / By a spirit in them.  Mind infuses each part / And animates the universe’s whole mass.”  Thinkers ancient and modern have rejoiced at the grandeur of God, as Melissa Cain Travis shows in Science and the Mind of the Maker: What the Conversation Between Faith and Science Reveals about God (Eugene, OR:  Harvest House Publishers, c. 2018; Kindle Edition).  She endeavors to build a case “for the Maker Thesis in three ways:  (1) by using modern scientific evidence to support philosophical arguments for the existence of a Maker,  (2) by explaining some of the many features of our universe and planetary home that had to converge for the investigation of nature to be possible, and (3) by demonstrating the necessity of a rational Mind and ensouled creatures to account for the effective practice of the natural sciences” (#299).  

       Travis begins by noting that Pythagoras, 500 years before Christ, sensed in mathematics overtures of an immaterial, orderly world.  He influenced Plato, who “agreed that number is related to the organization of the visible cosmos” but developed a theory of visible “forms” imperfectly copying  eternal, immaterial, transcendent “Forms” (#391).  His views, eloquently set forth in the Timaeus, deeply shaped centuries of subsequent thinkers who believed “that the beauty, regularities, and intelligibility of nature are explained by a benevolent craftsman who brought order out of formlessness and purposively framed the universe according to the eternal, mathematical Forms.”  In “Timaeus, Plato draws a connection between the rationality of nature and the powers of the human mind” (#398), and from Plato and Aristotle, through Athanasius and Augustine and Aquinas, the best ancient and medieval thinkers crafted a natural philosophy celebrating God as the Creator of all that is, visible and invisible.  

       This natural philosophy gained scientific precision and detail in the hands of thinkers such as Nicholas Copernicus and Johannes Kepler, whose laws of planetary motion “transformed the field of astronomy into a sophisticated theoretical science.  He was convinced that the universe operated according to laws put in place by its Maker, much like a clock is subject to a clockmaker” (#1001).  He believed God created in a rational, mathematical way, and that man has been given a mind akin to God’s enabling him to understand it.  He famously said:  “‘To God there are, in the whole material world, material laws, figures and relations of special excellency and of the most appropriate order . . .  Those laws are within the grasp of the human mind; God wanted us to recognize them by creating us after his own image so that we could share in his own thoughts’” (#1024).  Indeed, he “called the universe ‘our bright Temple of God’ and described astronomers as ‘priests of the highest God in regard to the book of nature’” (# 1043).  

      Subsequent centuries featured scientific masters such as Sir Isaac Newton, who “believed that one of the important goals of natural philosophy was to formulate convincing arguments for the existence of God” (#1121), and Sir Robert Boyle, who “was a man of passionate Christian faith, and his desire to further illuminate the mechanical philosophy of nature was partly due to his deep conviction that the regularities and harmony of the material world reflected the omniscience and foresight of the Creator, who had made an orderly world intelligible to mankind. Like Kepler, Boyle saw his work as a theological vocation and described natural philosophers as priests who deciphered truths about the natural world—the temple of God.  He wrote that “if the world be a temple, man sure must be the priest, ordained (by being qualified) to celebrate divine service not only in it, but for it” (#1152).  

       In the 19th century this deeply religious perspective was challenged by Charles Darwin and his supporters, who said a mindless cosmos forever evolves through chance and necessity.  But today that purely materialistic view appears less and less persuasive, and eminent physicists and cosmologists are increasingly open to the “God Hypothesis.”  A century ago Max Planck showed that “classical physics” fail to explain how sub-atomic particles behave.  “As a result, the field of quantum mechanics was born.  Planck regarded science and faith as compatible and complementary enterprises.  He was particularly fascinated by the congruence between the mathematical, law-governed structure of the material world and human rationality; he saw this correspondence as indicative of a designing Mind” (#2251).  Convinced there was no necessary conflict between science and religion, he ultimately declared “On to God!”  Yes indeed!  “On to God!”

       Working out the implications of quantum mechanics has occupied some of the finest minds of the past century—Einstein, Eddington, Heisenberg, et al.  They work within a truly strange world, filled with unexpected and highly mathematical realities.  Many of them now espouse varieties of “substance dualism,”  believing that along with the material world there is an equally real mental (or spiritual) world.  There is a non-material mind as well as a biological brain; there is a non-material Mind as well as a physical world.  Some scientists sound much like St Athanasius who, in the fourth century, declared:  “Like a musician who has tuned his lyre, and by the artistic blending of low and high and medium tones produces a single melody, so the Wisdom of God, holding the universe like a lyre, adapting things heavenly to things earthly, and earthly things to heavenly, harmonizes them all, and leading them by His will, makes one world and one world order in beauty and harmony” (#3214). 

       Melissa Travis has written a readable, coherent account supporting her “Maker Thesis,” finding in Kepler the notion that the cosmos is orderly, following laws that are understandable to us inasmuch as we are rational beings capable of actually thinking God’s thoughts.  Kepler’s “unapologetically Christian philosophy of nature—that it is rationally ordered in a manner compatible with the mind of man, a creature made in God’s image—harmonized exceptionally well with both early Christian teaching on natural revelation and Pythagorean-Platonic thought about the intelligible structure of the cosmos” (#1033).  To recover the robust faith of Kepler and do so in the light of contemporary science is Travis’s laudable goal.  

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       For several decades Hugh Ross has led an apologetics ministry—“Reasons to Believe”—and published a number of fine treatises proclaiming the compatibility of contemporary science and biblical thought.  In Designed to the Core (Covine, CA:  Reasons To Believe Press, c. 2022; Kindle Edition), Ross details evidence from astronomy showing how a “fine-tuned” universe makes life on earth possible.  As Michael Strauss, a professor physics at the University of Oklahoma says, Ross takes us “on an unprecedented journey to explore the necessary requirements for a planet to support complex life.  His truly comprehensive approach to the subject examines every aspect of Earth’s life-friendly environment, from the cosmic supercluster that we inhabit to our location in the Milky Way to our unusual solar system and even deep inside Earth’s core. The sheer number and scope of the needed parameters is mind-boggling and unambiguously answers the question of whether Earth is unique in its capability of supporting complex life.  The only question left for the reader to ponder is how such a fortunate planet could have come into existence at all. Many of us who have pondered that question will agree with Dr. Ross, that such exquisite design requires an intelligent and powerful Designer” (pp. 3-4).   

       Successive chapters in the book move from the vastest dimensions of the universe to planet earth—all showing how improbable it all is.  No random concoctions of matter-in-motion could possibly have arranged the cosmos!  “An abundance of evidence now indicates that if the cosmic mass, size, age, inflation, elements, and ratio of elemental abundances weren’t structured exactly as they are, no one would be here to learn of them or to ponder how they came to be” (p. 20).  In fact:  “No planet like Earth and no physical life would be possible if the universe were not precisely as massive as it is” (p. 22).  The increasingly evident “fine-tuning is multifaceted and every facet crucial to the outcome, then the fine-tuning source must be more than a mindless, impersonal force or process” (p. 16).  Determined to present the best current conclusions of astronomers, Ross goes into deep detail, presenting data (and mathematical equations) much beyond my pay grade!  All I can say is that if one knows a great deal about physics and astronomy he will be able to truly digest the book’s contents.  

       For me, breezing through many pages filled with complexities I could not fathom, it was rewarding simply to know that a man such as Ross really understands the subject and makes his conclusions clear in summary sections.  “Those who pay attention to the scientific literature,” he says, “can attest to the progress of research.  Daily, new data accumulates, more than any one researcher in the investigative quest can keep track of or digest.  The challenge I faced in writing this book was determining which of the compelling anthropocentric design evidences to include and which to let go, for brevity’s sake.  Design, to use the word so commonly seen in the literature, increasingly appears ubiquitous.  There appears to be no end to the evidence of fine-tuning and design coming from scientific discovery.  Yet, design was evident even a few thousand years ago, as recorded in ancient writings about a man named Job, who commented on the long list of evidences drawn from observation of nature’s realm. . . . Job rightly discerned a Designer behind all the evidence in the natural realm.  Considering all the scientific exploration humans have done over the past four thousand years, we’ve gained deeper glimpses of the Fine Tuner’s works, though only glimpses, with infinitely more to see and understand” (p. 283).  Better still, “the One whose planning, power, and fine-tuned precision made our human existence possible” has also provided a Way for us to know him in Christ.      

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       While he was serving as prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, Joseph Cardinal Ratzinger gave six lectures in a German monastery, translated into English as The Divine Project: Reflections on Creation and the Church (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, c. 2022; Kindle Edition).  They give us important insight into the future Pope Benedict XVI’s wide-ranging theological interests, especially regarding creation.  He began by noting the importance of rightly interpreting Scripture.  Throughout the ancient and medieval eras it was assumed “that the only way for someone to understand each individual text of Scripture is always to understand it as part of Scripture in its totality; and not like the totality of a textbook, either, but as a dynamic totality” (p. 21).  As the Hebrew Scriptures were written, God came to be understood as a unique, “only one” God “who had all lands and all peoples at his command.  This was because he himself had created the heavens and the earth, because they were his own” (p. 24).  Jews came to believe “that God alone, the eternal Reason who is eternal Love, created the world, and that it rests in his hands” (p. 26).  Ultimately there developed in Israel what’s called “wisdom literature,” which is, Ratzinger says, “the final bridge on a long road, one that leads to the message of Jesus Christ, to the New Covenant.  And only there do we find the ultimate, definitive creation account in Scripture, the one that provides Christians with the standard for interpreting every other creation text.  This ultimate and definitive biblical creation account opens with the key verses: ‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. . . . All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made’ (Jn 1:1, 3).”  The Logos, Reason, the Divine Mind indwelling creation enables us to say what Aristotle said 400 years before Christ, “against those who claimed that everything came into being by chance,” that a Divine Mind designed all that is in wisdom-wrought ways. 

366 The “Rainbow Reich” and “A Theology of Love”

       However I might wish to avoid it, I must deal with the LGBTQ+ agenda.  This became clear to me while reading Mary Eberstadt’s Adam and Eve After the Pill, Revisited, when she noted that while secularism gravely challenges the Church the “most insidious threat” is self-censorship.  “There is understandable temptation among Christians to capitulate preemptively to this new faith [secularism], for all kinds of reasons:  saving face, not being ‘judgy’, preventing the ostracism of one’s children.  Even so, Christians need to know that the sex-fixated dogmas of this new faith require purposeful engagement, not accommodation” (p. 55).  I see this when a public school teacher who attends our small community church in the mountains of Colorado recently resigned her position because she refuses to abide by the state’s mandate that all schools promote gay rights and endorse same-sex activities.  I note that a theological professor in England was suspended at Cliff College (a Methodist-affiliated school) for daring speak out against homosexuals demanding the church accommodate them.  I have watched the Woodlands Methodist Church—a dynamic megachurch—recently join World Methodism after severing ties with the United Methodist Church because it endorsed gay rights.  And Hungary enacted a law against providing information to minors that promotes homosexuality and gender reassignment only to face a European Commission determined to overturn the law in the European Union’s Court of Justice.  To R.R. Reno, writing in the June/July issue of First Things, such incidents reveal the power of what he calls the “Rainbow Reich, a progressive project of social transformation that has access to tremendous economic, institutional, and political power” (p. 67).  

       In light of this, I must appraise Thomas and Alexa Oord’s recently published Why the Church of the Nazarene Should Be Fully LGBTQ+ Affirming (NP:  SacraSage Press, c. 2023; Kindle Edition.)  Doing so saddens me because some of the essays are written by former colleagues and friends of mine, tempting me to self-censor.  But I must not!  The book contains 90 essays, divided into three section:  folks (“queer voices,” predominantly women) identifying as homosexuals asking for denominational support; “allies” (relatives, friends, pastors) who support the LGBTQ+ agenda; and “scholars” explaining why they think the church should change its position on human sexuality.  The “queer voices” tell essentially the same story—reared in Nazarene homes and churches, devoutly seeking to follow Christ, discovering their homosexual hungers, lamenting the church’s failure to rightly support them, and pleading for a significant change in the Manual’s statement regarding sexuality while often explaining why they think the Bible has been misinterpreted as condemning same-sex relationships.  Their “allies” mainly plead for compassion and love, understanding how homosexuals suffer at the hands of hardline moralists, and endorsing their agenda.  The “scholars” set forth various reasons for changing the church’s condemnation of homosexual activities.  Virtually all the contributors to this book invoke personal experience as authoritative.  Rather than reason or tradition or scripture serving as the ultimate guide, one should follow his own feelings regarding right and wrong and find ways to justify them.  Importantly:  none of the contributors deal with the Natural Law tradition and its definitive condemnation of same-sex activities.  

       To oversimplify:  the queers insist their love is righteous because they feel it’s so; the allies demand that love for homosexuals requires us to endorse same-sex relationships; and the scholars insist that God is essentially love and surely endorses all loving behaviors.  The contributors all assume homosexual desires are genetically-based—they claim that no one “chooses” his sexual orientation but rather discovers he or she was pre-programmed at birth.  Yet this assumption—like efforts to explain away biblical texts clearly condemning gay sex—is simply untrue!  Multiple efforts to find a “gay gene” have failed and scholars remain unsure how to rightly explain why some persons have same-sex desires.  In fact:  no one is born gay.  Gay persons, according to a recent scientific study, have a “perfectly normal genome,”  and the American Psychological Association simply says:  “There is no consensus among scientists about the exact reasons that an individual develops a heterosexual, bisexual, gay or lesbian orientation.  Although much research has examined the possible genetic, hormonal, developmental, social and cultural influences on sexual orientation, no findings have emerged that permit scientists to conclude that sexual orientation is determined by any particular factor or factors.” 

       Rather than trying to specifically address the Oords’ book’s arguments (which are nicely handled by Kevin DeYoung in What Does the Bible Really Teach about Homosexuality and Robert A.J. Gagnon’s The Bible and Homosexual Practice), I want to understand why the book would be written.  After all, the Church of the Nazarene has traditionally been a conservative church with a strong, very traditional ethical component.  Yet in Why the Church of the Nazarene Should Be Fully LGBTQ+ Affirming we find rather  prominent Nazarenes setting forth what must be regarded as a form of “situation ethics.”  What are the real philosophical roots of this collection of essays?  What about Nazarene history and theology might explain them?  While wondering about all this I noted the frequent references to Mildred Bangs Wynkoop’s A Theology of Love—a book that significantly impacted the Church of the Nazarene decades ago.  Perhaps the move to get LGBTQ+ accepted by the church is an unanticipated consequence of embracing Wynkoop’s views.  Tom Oord is devoted to Wynkoop’s theology (as well as process philosophy) and has written extensively on Love.  Perhaps there is a link between her “theology of love” and support for the gay agenda.  In fact, her book’s title is misleading, for it is basically a celebration of the “experience of love,” and she focuses almost exclusively on us rather than God.  Had she written a solid “theology,” as did H. Orton Wiley, Wynkoop might have treated one of the truly basic concerns of good theologians—the simplicity of God—which rightly takes love as an attribute of God, not His actual essence.  Reducing God to love—even making Love God—may explain some Nazarenes’ support for the gay agenda.

       Years ago I detected a curious, though not exact, correspondence between the “situation ethics” of the Episcopalian theologian Joseph Fletcher and the “holiness” ethos of Mildred Bangs Wynkoop.  He proposed to delineate a “new morality” for Christians whereas she wanted to design a new approach to the Wesleyan doctrine of “entire sanctification.”  Dismissing “systematic theology” as a hothouse for legalism, Fletcher claimed his approach was “more Biblical and verb-thinking than Greek and noun-thinking” (p. 52).  Wynkoop said her theology is fundamentally biblical and rooted in the Hebrew, rather than the Greek, understanding of human nature.  Both thinkers, importantly, stressed the existential, relational aspects of the Christian life.  Though often different, their views coincide at significant points inasmuch as both find in agapeic love the key to Christian behavior.  Fletcher’s book, Situation Ethics, was published in 1966; Wynkoop’s A Theology of Love was published in 1972.  Wynkoop never cites Fletcher, but many of her assertions significantly resemble his, and it seems reasonable to assume they both drank deeply of the broadly “existential” currents of their era, appropriating some of Paul Tillich’s thought.  

       Fletcher began his work by declaring that he had no “system.”  Instead, he proposed a “method” whereby one may act in accord with love.  Still more:  he suspected that “any ethical system is unchristian or at least sub-Christian” (p. 12).  Unlike philosophical ethics, or the Natural Law, that seek to be rigorously systematic, “Christian” ethics should be “contextual” or “situational.”  Conventional rules, or commandments, such as promise keeping, may be helpful in making decisions, but each decision must be unique and tailored to the needs of the persons considered. “Situation ethics,” he says, “aims at a contextual appropriateness—not the ‘good’ or the ‘right’ but the fitting” (p. 27-28).  “This is the temper of situation ethics.  It is empirical, fact-minded, data conscious, inquiry.  It is antimoralistic as well as antilegalistic, for it is sensitive to variety and complexity” (p. 29).  Wynkoop, similarly, insisted that Wesleyan theology be “biblical,” not “systematic” or “propositional.”  One should read and apply biblical insights without worrying about the logic of one’s position.  Whereas Fletcher discarded all “systems” as non-Christian, Wynkoop more subtly minimized rational categories, preferring to maximize the role of the will, for faith, she said, is not intellectual assent to certain prepositional truths.  To “believe,” she explained, never means to “accept” certain “truths.”  Obedience and love, not believing that certain things are eternally “true,” constitutes “faith” (pp. 241-242).  To Wynkoop, the heart (meaning the will), not the head (reason), is the locus of human personality, and with the heart (not the head) one loves.  

Fletcher and Wynkoop both positioned themselves mid-way between the extremes of legalism and antinomianism.  Fletcher rejected any form of legalism; there simply are no absolute ethical norms. Wynkoop rejected the “absolute” nature of the 19th century  American holiness theology (with its recurrent and troubling “moralism”) espoused by the Church of the Nazarene from its inception.  Fletcher further insisted that his “situationism” not be equated with antinomianism, since for him there is a singularly “absolute” dimension to the agapeic love that must motivate Christian behavior.  Wynkoop too wanted to avoid antinomianism, stoutly insisting that agapeic love establishes the very highest of all possible standards.  To both thinkers, however, there is nothing clearly good or bad, right or wrong, since love alone (variously applied to specific cases or relationships) justifies acts.  Trying to avoid the antinomian label, Fletcher argued that “principles” rather than laws should inform Christian behavior.  To him, “principles or maxims or general rules are illuminators.  But they are not directors” (p. 31).   To Wynkoop, likewise, “relationships” rather than commandments evoke the loving behavior pleasing to God.  In her words:  “Christian morality is the person-to-person rapport, the relationship of harmony and love and mutual will which requires moral integrity to enter and to maintain.  One wills to will God’s will, which puts the self creatively within the context of true morality” (p. 178).  

        With admirable clarity Fletcher enunciated four presuppositions basic to his ethics.  The first is Pragmatism.  Whatever works is both true and good!  To decide what to do we must first determine its practicality.  “To be correct or right a thing—a thought or an action—must work” (p. 42).  Wynkoop employed the hermeneutic of John Wesley, who was, she says, a thoroughly “practical” rather than “theoretical” theologian.  Evaluating the doctrine of holiness as espoused by eminent Nazarene theologians such as H. Orton Wiley, Wynkoop argued that they had proclaimed a theory that had proved impractical and thus false.  “Our problem,” then, she said, “is a credibility gap.  Of all the credibility gaps in contemporary life, none is more real and serious than that which exists between Christian, particularly Wesleyan, doctrine and everyday human life.  The absolute of holiness theology may satisfy the mind but the imperfection of the human self seems to deny all that the perfection of Christian doctrine affirms” (p. 39).  Neither biblical exegesis nor philosophical logic proves decisive, for the ultimate truth test, the conclusive experiential judgment, is practical.  Fletcher’s second presupposition is Relativism.  Love, like the speed of light, is absolute, and everything else is relative to it.  We must always love, but the ways we do so are up to us.  The end is as constant as the North Star; the means are as varied as the navigational strategies of ancient seafarers and modern space voyagers.  Shifting to relativism frees folks from codes and casuistry, from cast iron imperatives, “from prescribed conduct and legalistic morality” (p. 45).  With equal fervor, Wynkoop made everything relative to agapeic love.  Indeed, she insisted that good theology is “relational,” not propositional, for “holiness has to do with persons in relationship” (p. 25).  Might thereby endorse LGBTQ+?

Fletcher’s third presupposition is Positivism.  Contrary to the Natural Law tradition—best evident in the work of Thomas Aquinas—theological positivism is voluntaristic rather than rationalistic.  One’s will, not one’s mind, dominates his personality and behavior.  “Any moral or value judgment in ethics,” Fletcher says, “is a decision—not a conclusion” (p. 47).  Reason, as a handmaid of the will, measures facts and makes inferences but cannot establish “values.”  So we must will to act in accord with agapeic love.  Historically insightful, Fletcher links this position to Medieval nominalism.  Nominalists like William Ockham (and later Martin Luther), insist what we call “good” is simply a label we attach to things, not anything intrinsic to their being.  Any particular “‘good’ is nominal, i.e., it is what it is only because God regards it as good.  Though she didn’t join the philosophical debate, Wynkoop certainly shared  the nominalist-voluntarist agenda.  Inasmuch as she aligned herself with “process theology,” with its continually developing “reality,” she could not but endorse it.  She clearly rejected the “substance concept of reality” basic to Plato, Augustine, Aristotle and Aquinas.  Thus there is no substantial “sin” to be cleansed, and no metaphysical “soul” to need cleansing.  What we call sin and salvation are names we use to describe ever-evolving relationships.  Enlisting Wesley as her guide, Wynkoop also insisted that one’s heart should lead his head, that intent rather than content is preeminent.  We are, by nature, more agapeic than sapiental.   Following our inner impetus to love, she says, is the mark of salvation.  Indeed, rightly loving secures our salvation.

Fletcher’s fourth presupposition is Personalism.  “Situation ethics puts people at the center of concern, not things” (p. 50).  Legalists are fixated on “what” we ought to do whereas Personalists ask “who” questions.  No thing—no act—is intrinsically good or bad.  How things affect persons is the only concern.  Relying on Martin Buber, Fletcher said:  “An I is an I in relationship with a You; a you is a You, capable of being an I, in relation to a Me” (p. 50).  Wynkoop concurs, openly drawing on Buber and insisting on the importance of “‘personness’ rather than ‘thingness’” (p. 71).  Still more:  “To know God, to ‘be saved,’ is to love Him—and love is the most personal thing in the world” (p. 90).  Holiness, she said, is never a “state” of some sort.  Rather it is a “moment-by-moment impartation of the life of Christ to the human heart” (p. 86).  While we are rightly related to God we are holy; if we sever that relationship we become sinful.  What changes is the quality of our relationship.  Sin is, for Wynkoop, a deranged or derailed relationship, not some inner quality of being.  There is nothing set in us—all is determined by the quality of our “relationship” with others, including God.  “Love is the most personal word in human language,” she says, “certainly the most personal aspect of human relations” (p. 87).  And it is “the centering, organizing principle which gives direction to life.  It is everything the person is and does to find personal fulfillment.   It is the dynamic of the personality.  It is perhaps the only truly free thing about man” (p. 87).  

         Strangely enough, for one who dislikes “propositional” thought, Fletcher tightly structures his book and moves most logically from presuppositions to propositions, setting forth six.  These include “The First Proposition:  ‘Only one “thing” is intrinsically good; namely love:  nothing else at all’” (p. 57).  There is no “objective” truth—the aligning of one’s mind with the reality of what is.  So “only love is objectively valid, only love is universal” (p. 64).  Wynkoop too thinks only love is truly good.  The very “thesis” of her “book is that love is the dynamic of Wesleyanism” (p. 20).  Rather than developing logically, like a staircase ascending upward from truth to truth, Wesley’s theology, Wynkoop says, “is like a great rotunda with archway entrances all around it.  No matter which one is entered, it always leads to the central Hall of Love, where, looking upward toward the dome one gazes into the endless, inviting sky.  There is no ceiling to love” (p. 16).  God is love, and all else about Him reduces to this.  Consequently, there’s “The Second Proposition:  ‘The ruling norm of Christian decision is love:  nothing else’” (p. 69).   Just as Jesus disregarded Sabbath observance, so His followers should feel free to disregard the Torah.  We must never equate love with law and think obeying it is a kind of love.  Situation ethics calls one to follow the precepts of the law only when they seem loving; conversely, one ought cheerfully break them when they seem loveless.  Working through the Decalogue, Fletcher explained why none of the 10 Commandments invaiably apply.  Neither Nature nor Scripture provides sufficient guidance for moral decisions and acts.  To Wynkoop, “Moral Integrity Is the Goal of Redemption” and the true Christian ever prays:  “’Lord, what wilt Thou have me to do?’” (p. 181).  Life is a succession of moments wherein one chooses what to do and thereby (empowered by the imparted grace of Christ) crafts his character.  Only loving responses to a loving God really matter.  She celebrated the “personal” and the “relational,” but not once did she refer to the Decalogue or the Law as authoritative sources for moral standards.  Inasmuch as  the “natural law” is “impersonal,” she rejects its authority, and:  “No Christian, is ever asked to surrender to the law, to the Church, to a creed, or to persons” (p. 179).  Each of us has (thanks to prevenient grace) an inner sense of  “ought,” knowing we are designed for fellowship with kindred creatures and needing to maximize healthy relationships with them.  Following one’s own inner sense of ought could easily lead one to affirm LGBTQ+ ties.  

In his “The Fifth Proposition:  “Only the end justifies the means; nothing else,”  Fletcher says:    “Love could justify anything” (p. 126).  Here he sides with Lenin, who said:  “’If the end does not justify the means, then in the name of sanity and justice, what does?’”  (p. 121).   No act, such as theft or fornication, is in itself wrong.  Fletcher’s mentor “William James liked to say that truth does not exist ante rem, before or apart from facts as lived, but in rebus—in the lived event itself.  And so with the good!” (p. 133).  Though not aligned with Fletcher’s “new morality,” Wynkoop consistently applied his fifth proposition—the end justifies the means—to her ethics, invoking Wesley to declare that “‘Love is the end of all the commandments of God.  Love is the end, the sole end, of every dispensation of God, from the beginning of the world to the consummation of all things’” (p. 222).   Moment-by-moment loving obedience—finding the truth not in some spiritual state but in rebus—makes one holy.  Next, Fletcher sets forth his “Sixth Proposition:  ‘Love’s decisions are made situationally, not prescriptively” (p. 134).  Though many of us prefer to know what we should always do before we’re faced with crisis decisions, Fletcher insisted that every situation demands a differently nuanced response.  Jesus, he argued, was no legalist, and we should follow his example.  There are no blueprints, no game plans, no prescriptions.  There is only a vast area of options wherein we try to do loving things.  Obstetricians, for instance, need not respirate every newborn baby—those “monstrously deformed” (p. 138) should be allowed to die.  Significantly, for Fletcher:“Whether any form of sex (hetero, homo, or auto) is good or evil depends on whether love is fully served” (p. 139).  Adultery may very well be absolutely right for some folks some times.  “Any form of sex” may be loving.  To Fletcher homosexual activities may be as loving as heterosexual, conjugal unions.  They’re equally good.  

       Wynkoop, of course, would never for a moment have supported such a position.  But in her efforts to free holiness from legalism she helped prepare the way for Nazarenes following her thought to champion the positions set forth in Why the Church of the Nazarene Should Be Fully LGBTQ+ Affirming.  Ideas have consequences.  When Evelyn Waugh entered the Catholic Church in 1930, he explained his decision:  “In the present phase of European history, the essential issue is no longer between Catholicism, on one side, and Protestantism, on the other, but between Christianity and chaos.”  Much of the cultural chaos in our world, seeping into the churches, results from the sexual revolution that has upended many traditional standards.  Significant cadres in that revolution have been homosexuals pleading first for toleration and then, once empowered, seeking to impose their views on their world.  Once strong churches—United Methodist, Presbyterian USA, Episcopal—have been hollowed out in large part because of militant homosexuals’ demands to not only worship with but to assume positions of authority within these denominations.  Whether or not Nazarenes follow such churches remains to be seen, but if the Oords and their fellow travelers succeed the prospect is assured.

365 “No Ordinary Men”

       One of the haunting questions following World War II was this:  why did so many “good” Germans stand quietly aside while Adolf Hitler gained power and unleashed much evil.  Addressing that question, Fritz Stern and Elizabeth Sefton wrote No Ordinary Men:  Dietrich Bonhoeffer and Hans von Dohnanyi, Resisters Against Hitler in Church and State (New York:  New York Review Books, c. 2013; Kindle Edition).  Given the rapidity with which Hitler seized and consolidated power, granting the orchestrated terror within his regime, it is quite remarkable that some brave souls dared resist him.  These included “two admirable men who from the start of the Third Reich did their utmost, each in his own way, to oppose Nazi outrages, and who then conspired to overthrow the tyrant” p. 1).  For doing so, Hans von Dohnanyi, a lawyer, and his brother-in-law Dietrich Bonhoeffer, a pastor, ultimately died as martyrs in 1945.   

       Dietrich’s father, Dr. Karl Bonhoeffer, headed the neurology and psychiatry unit at Berlin’s principal hospital, occupying “the pinnacle of the German psychiatric profession” (p. 7).  He and his wife, Paula, had eight children (whom she home-schooled) and they enjoyed the privileged life of Germany’s elite.  Nominally Lutheran, they didn’t attend church, though Paula taught the children Bible stories, and the family “observed devout customs:  grace before meals, evening prayers before bedtime, large family celebrations at Christmas and Easter with Bible readings and hymns presided over by the agnostic father” (p. 19).  Somewhat surprisingly young Dietrich was drawn to theology, studying at the University of Berlin where Adolf von Harnack and Ernst Troeltsch had taught.  Their liberal theology, however, did not appeal to Bonhoeffer, who found the more bracing Neo-Orthodoxy of Karl Barth more satisfying.  He “was enthralled by Barth’s interpretation of the Gospels, and by his great theme:  that above all Christians must heed, in their hearts, the ‘unbelievable, incredible, and certainly disturbing testimony that God himself said and did something; something entirely new, outside the correlation of all human words and things’” (p. 23).  

       Both Barth and Bonhoeffer opposed Hitler as soon as he came to power.  Barth took refuge in Switzerland while Bonhoeffer worked within the German Evangelical Church, helping lead the “Confessing Church” that sought to “keep the church Christian.”  He thought that very soon “‘we shall have to decide between National Socialism and Christianity’” (p. 50).  His brother-in-law, Hans von Dohnanyi, was one of several prominent lawyers within the Bonhoeffer clan, and he sought (working within the Ministry of Justice) to uphold traditional legal standards while keeping records of their abuse by Nazi functionaries.  In the late 1930s he began working with some senior army officers, including General Ludwig Beck, chief of the general staff, and Hans Oster, who served as deputy to the chief of Germany’s military intelligence, Admiral Wilhelm Canaris.  They crafted plans and imagined plots to remove Hitler, but none succeeded.  Though not directly involved in these conspiracies, Bonhoeffer sought to set forth a moral perspective on their situation, writing a Christmas essay for his family that “was an unsparing assessment of Germans and their conduct over the previous decade—when, as he wrote, ‘the huge masquerade of evil has thrown all ethical concepts into confusion,’” when “Germans who knew all too well the need for obedience ‘did not reckon with the fact that [it] could be misused in the service of evil’” (p. 100).  Though formerly an avowed pacifist, Bonhoeffer changed his mind as he wondered how to actually stop the dictator.  

       Ultimately, one of the plots to kill Hitler came to light, and a series of arrests in 1943 brought into custody Hans von Dobnanyi and Dietrich Bonhoeffer, along with Hans Oster and Wilhelm Canaris.  Imprisoned, they were constantly interrogated, pressured to reveal fellow conspirators.  Bonhefffer found strength by maintaining “his physical health and spiritual vigor by following a strict daily regimen—rising before dawn, reading and memorizing Scripture, meditating, exercising” (p. 110).  Dobnanyi “increasingly turned to the Bible; his earlier and perhaps unarticulated faith became more conscious, and it fortified him in moments of despair” (p. 114).  Finally, one of the military officers’ plots nearly succeeded.  Colonel Claus von Stauffenberg’s bomb exploded within a few yards of Hitler without killing him, and a savage retaliation ensued.  Everyone remotely connected with the conspiracy was hunted down and 6000 people were executed.  Bonhoeffer and Dobnanyi were guilty by association and would be killed, along with Canaris and Oster,  shortly before WWII ended in 1945.  

       “Though the world knows of Bonhoeffer in detail and hardly at all of Dohnanyi, they deserve to be remembered together.  The Third Reich had no greater, more courageous, and more admirable enemies than they” (p. 142).

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       Decades ago Herbert Molloy Mason published To Kill Hitler:  Plots on the Führer’s Life (London:  Michael Joseph Limited, c. 1979; reprinted in 2018 by Lume Book).  As soon as Hitler divulged his plans for world conquest a few German commanders turned against him, determined to kill him if necessary and restore the nation to its rightful condition.  “The conspirators, always few in number, never flagged in their determination to rid Germany of the scourge of National Socialism, and many of them paid with their lives for their daring.”  They were men “‘who brought themselves through difficult conflicts of conscience to the realization that legal methods could have no effect against the National Socialist terror.  The path taken by these men was long and thorny.  Their story deserves the appreciation of posterity because their actions had been barred not only by traditions of German soldierdom, which were hundreds of years old, but also by the professional ethics of all soldiers of the world.’  Here, then, is the story of those men who tried to kill the devil” (p. 10).

       Opposition to Hitler emerged early in Germany.  For example, in 1936 Mayor Carl Friedrich Goerdeler, refused to follow a Nazi order to remove a statue of Felix Mendelssohn (a famous Jewish composer) from Leipzig’s main square.  “‘When that statue goes,’ he said, ‘then so will I’” (p. 51).  “Goerdeler loathed the street-gang aspects of the Nazi party” and “refused point-blank Hitler’s personal invitation to join the Party.”  He had “soured on Nazi methods, publicly declaring, ‘The Party will be shattered on the rock of moral law that makes human society possible’” (p. 50).  He began a “one-man crusade” to remove Hitler and frequently talked with Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, the head of Germany’s counterintelligence organization (the Abwehr).  The admiral “stood less than five feet four with his shoes on.  His size and reticent manner belied his determination and personal courage.  In Canaris Goerdeler found a kindred spirit” (p. 53).  Canaris considered the Nazis little more than gangsters and worked subtly in several anti-Hitler plots.  These Germans knew that Hitler was determined to create a Third Reich controlling all of northern and easternEurope.  He was willing launch a war to do so, horrifying  senior military officers at its prospects.  Initially they thought they might enlist support for their resistance abroad.  For example, General Ludwig Beck, chief of the general staff, sent a message to the British Foreign Office, saying:  “‘Bring me certain proof that England will fight if Czechoslovakia is attacked and I will make an end of this régime’” (p. 59).  But his offer was disregarded as the British sought to appease Hitler.  Thus Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain met Hitler in Munich inn 1938 and complied with his demands regarding Czechoslovakia, an agreement that deeply depressed Germans scheming to eliminate Hitler.  As Hitler later said, “‘I saw my enemies at Munich, and they are little worms’” (p. 88).  Little worms, lacking backbones, caved in.

      When war erupted in 1939 and Russia later invaded, a series of futile plots (both civilian and military) were launched to kill Hitler.  Mason carefully details a number of them and one cannot but admire the courage with which the plotters risked death in order to rescue their country.  Lieutenant Colonel Count Claus Philipp Maria Schenk von Stauffenberg, was one of them.  He had been seriously wounded while fighting in North Africa, losing an eye and the use of one arm.  “A staunch Catholic, Stauffenberg reached the conclusion that his life had been spared to fulfil a mission of critical importance to mankind:  destiny had chosen him as the prime mover in Hitler’s overthrow by assassination, while Germany’s frontiers were still unviolated, while there was still time to salvage the vestiges of honour rightfully belonging to a once-great Fatherland” (p. 167).  Early on he’d hoped Hitler would be good for Germany but quickly became disillusioned, concluding that Hitler and his entourage were “rotten and degenerate” psychopaths.  

       Working with sympathetic fellow officers Stauffenberg became a proponent of the Valkyrie plan, which included not only assassinating Hitler but reorganizing Germany thereafter.  He recruited some 100 officers and planned to personally detonate a bomb near the Der Fuhrer when an opportunity came.  Given his standing within the officer corps he occasionally took part in meetings with Hitler.  In July 1944 the perfect opportunity came, and Stauffenberg left the bomb in a briefcase near Hitler in the Wolfs Lair (one of Hitler’s command posts in Poland).  Flying back to Berlin after hearing the explosion Stauffenberg thought the deed was done and took steps to seize control of the nation.  But somehow Hitler survived the attack with only superficial wounds and unleashed the full power of his security forces to round up and destroy the conspirators.  Within 12 hours Stauffenberg and Beck and others were shot.  Anyone remotely connected with the conspirators was arrested, tried, and executed.  Germany’s most acclaimed military hero, Field Marshall Erwin Rommel (the “desert fox”), committed suicide when offered that option, though he had nothing to do with the plot.  While Germany’s forces were retreating everywhere Hitler would exert enormous energy and resources to finding and punishing anyone who dared oppose him—some as late as April, 1945, literally days before the Allies occupied Germany.  

       To Kill Hitler presents, in a highly readable fashion, an important a aspect of Hitler’s Third Reich.  It’s clear that it was difficult to oppose the Nazis, and it took unusual courage to plot to defeat them.  No doubt too many Germans remained quiet and submissive.  No doubt much harm would have been avoided had only more courageous men risked their all to do what was right.  But few of us are, in the end, as brave as we ought to be.  The fact that a few Germans rose to the challenge merits our commendation.  

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       Eddie Jaku was certainly no “ordinary man”—as is evident in his autobiography,  The Happiest Man on Earth:  The Beautiful Life of an Auschwitz Survivor (New York:  HarperCollins, c. 2021; Kindle Edition), written after he reached the century mark in life.  Born in 1920, reared in Leipzig, one of the world’s great centers of culture, nurtured by a successful Jewish family, he considered himself primarily German and only incidentally Jewish.  But when the Nazis came to power everything changed for the worse, and he had “to stare evil in the face.”  He couldn’t fathom how “surreal and horrible” it was.  “I could not understand what had happened.  I still don’t understand it, not really.  I don’t think I ever will.  We were a nation that prized the rule of law above all else, a nation where people did not litter because of the inconvenience it caused to have messy streets.  You could be fined 200 marks for throwing a cigarette butt out your car window.  And now it was acceptable and encouraged for people to beat us” (p. 33).   He saw “the very worst in mankind, the horrors of the death camps, the Nazi efforts to exterminate my life, and the lives of all my people.  What he soon learned was that when the Nazis took control the typical German, though not usually evil “was weak and easily manipulated” (p. 97).  

       Jaku would be arrested and sent to several concentration camps, even escaping from Buchenwald and unsuccessfully trying to reach friendly territory, finding “much kindness from strangers” in small French villages.  Ultimately he would be rearrested and sent to Auschwitz, where “a man in a clean white lab coat stood above the mud, surrounded by SS.  This was Dr Josef Mengele, the Angel of Death, one of the worst murderers who has ever lived, one of the most evil men in the history of mankind.  As the newly arrived prisoners went by, he indicated whether they should walk to the left or the right” (p. 67).  One group went to the gas chambers; the other would be forced to labor making war materials for the Nazis.  “The high-ranking Nazis behind the Final Solution called the slave labour Vernichtung durch Arbeit.  Extermination through labour” (p. 90).  Fortunately young Jaku was mechanically gifted and had received an outstanding education in mechanical engineering.  So when sent to concentration camps he survived because the Nazis needed his skills.  His father had been right to stress education and work.  They saved his life.  He also determined to live as a “civilized” man, refusing to do evil because he was suffering it.  So he “never hurt another prisoner, I never stole another man’s bread, and I did all I could to help my fellow man. You see, your food is not enough. There is no medicine for your morals.  If your morals are gone, you go” (p. 101).

       Jaku survived the war—the only one of more than a hundred of his relatives to do so.  He then met, fell in love with, and married a lovely Jewish woman and soon sired children.  Becoming a father changed him forever!  “When I held my eldest son, Michael, in my arms for the first time, it was a miracle.  In that one moment, my heart was healed and my happiness returned in abundance.  From that day on, I realized I was the luckiest man on Earth.  I made the promise that from that day until the end of my life, I would be happy, polite, helpful and kind.  I would smile.  From that moment, I became a better person.  This was the best medicine I could have, my beautiful wife and my child” (p. 154).  Having a family literally “saved” him.  Wanting to escape Europe, Jake and his family emigrated to Australia, where he started a succession of successful businesses and in time became a well-known spokesmen for Holocaust survivors.  His adopted homeland became a “heaven” for him “down under.”  

       After living 100 years, he claimed to be the “happiest man on Earth.  Through all of my years I have learned this:  life can be beautiful if you make it beautiful.”  His story “is a sad one in parts, with great darkness and great sorrow.  But it is a happy story in the end because happiness is something we can choose” (p. 4).  Ultimately:  “Here are the lines I try to live by, and which I like to include when I speak publicly:  May you always have lots of love to share, / Lots of good health to spare, / And lots of good friends who care” (p. 176).  This is a simply-told, deeply inspiring account, so different from many reflections set forth by other Holocaust survivors.  For that reason it is so valuable.  Rather than remaining angry following his suffering, he concluded that:  “Kindness is the greatest wealth of all.  Small acts of kindness last longer than a lifetime.  This lesson, that kindness and generosity and faith in your fellow man are more important than money, is the first and greatest lesson my father ever taught me.  And in this way he will always be with us, and always live forever” (p. 175).  

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       For decades I’ve resolved to read Hannah Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem:  A Report on the Banality of Evil (New York:  Penguin Classics, c. 1964; Kindle Edition) and finally did so.  Controversial when first published, it remains so today, for America’s Jewish establishment effectively excommunicated her!  Her fiercest critics were Jews who thought she too readily blamed Jewish leaders for cooperating with the Nazis, though she insisted she simply tried to tell the truth about Eichmann and the Holocaust.  She refused to ignore the role of “Jewish Sonderkommandos (special units)” who killed Jews in order to save their own lives; she held the Jewish Councils and Elders responsible for helping round up and dispatch other Jews so they themselves could survive.  Throughout Europe Jewish leaders, “almost without exception, cooperated in one way or another, for one reason or another, with the Nazis.  The whole truth was that if the Jewish people had really been unorganized and leaderless, there would have been chaos and plenty of misery but the total number of victims would hardly have been between four and a half and six million people” (p. 173).  Stating what to her was an inescapable truth cost Arendt dearly within the Jewish intelligentsia, who considered her a traitor.  

       Witnessing Eichmann on trial, she considered him and his ilk not “demonic monsters” but ordinary bureaucrats following orders, mindlessly seeking promotions and power, more “morons” than brutes.  Psychiatrists examining Eichmann found him  “normal” rather than psychopathic!  He was, to put it mildly, boring.  He and too many Germans lost their “conscience” and Eichmann’s was eased, he said, by the fact that no one actually opposed killing Jews when it became possible.  While on trial in Jerusalem he found it difficult to speak coherently without resorting to bureaucratic clichés—“‘Officialese [Amtssprache],’” he said, “‘is my only language’” (p. 84).  As Arendt listened to him she concluded that “his inability to speak was closely connected with an inability to think, namely, to think from the standpoint of somebody else” (p. 84).  To her he appeared almost a “clown.”  He was born to and reared by a typical middle-class Germany family.  His schooling was a bit erratic and he seemed disinterested in serious academic work.  He attended a vocational school and falsely claimed later in life to be a “construction engineer.”  His parents enrolled him in the Young Men’s Christian Association, and he later joined the German youth movement, the Wandervogel.”  An inveterate “joiner” of organizations, he joined the Nazi Party without knowing much about it.  He never studied its platform, never read Hitler’s Main Kampf, and just seemed to want to be part of something exciting.  Religiously, he claimed to be “a Gottglaubiger, the Nazi term for those who had broken with Christianity, and he refused to take his oath on the Bible,” claiming an affiliation with “a higher Bearer of Meaning,” aligned with the “movement of the universe.” 

       Eichmann used his party ties to secure several governmental positions, ultimately working within the bureaucracy dealing with Jewish issues.  At first the National Socialists supported the Zionist movement, encouraging Jews to voluntarily leave Germany.  Eichmann did some reading and talked with some Jewish leaders and before long claimed  to be an “expert” in dealing with them.  Moving up in the ranks of officials and helping wealthy Jews get passports and visas with which to settle in Palestine or other friendly nations, Eichmann always claimed to have good relations with them.  While he worked in Vienna in the late 1930s, some 45,000 Jews “legally” left the country, cleansing Austria of them before the “final solution” was implemented.  As Reinhard Heydrich (the main architect of the Jewish policies), conferring with Herman Goring on the morning of the Kristallnacht, explained,   “‘Through the Jewish community, we extracted a certain amount of money from the rich Jews who wanted to emigrate.  By paying this amount, and an additional sum in foreign currency, they made it possible for poor Jews to leave.  The problem was not to make the rich Jews leave, but to get rid of the Jewish mob’” (p. 79).  Only after WWII began did “the Nazi regime became openly totalitarian and openly criminal” (p. 106).  But the first gas chambers were built within months of the war’s inception,  and Hitler’s true intent became clear:  the “final solution” meant killing all Jews.  Eichmann was tasked with arranging the transportation for Jews sent to various camps in Europe.  “He never actually attended a mass execution by shooting, he never actually watched the gassing process, or the selection of those fit for work” (p. 132).  He probably lacked the brutal temperament necessary for the actual work of killing people.  Nevertheless he played a significant role in their deaths, organizing mass deportations designed to “make the Reich judenrein [free of Jews]” as quickly as possible.

       However one evaluates her stance, Arendt’s Eichmann in Jerusalem remains a valuable record of a gifted philosopher’s views on a prominent Nazi and the genocide he promoted.  She sought to plumb the depths of Eichmann’s mind and discern therein “the totality of the moral collapse the Nazis caused in respectable European society.”  Primarily this happened because folks failed to think!  They refused to see how things truly were.  They all too frequently followed “orders” and almost deified the State, allowing it to determine what was right and wrong.  This was “the banality of evil” on display in Jerusalem.

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364 Government Lies

        “If people let government decide which food they eat and medicines they take,” Thomas Jefferson said, “their bodies will soon be in as sorry a state as are the souls of those who live under tyranny.”  We should have remembered such cautionary words when watching Dr. Robert Redfield testify before a congressional committee, for the ex-director of the Center for Disease Control blamed Anthony Fauci and the federal government for the deaths of millions of people.  Redfield says Fauci-funded gain-of-function research in the Wuhan China laboratory doubtlessly spawned the deadly COVID-19 virus and believes Fauci and associates covered up the lab-leak evidence.  A lengthening list of governmental agencies now declare  the virus was in fact leaked from the Wuhan lab—so what some of us long suspected appears conclusively confirmed.  We also know, due to a recent Cochrane review, that masking did little to slow the spread of COVID-19.  Producing one of the most authoritative scientific publications, the Cochrane Collaboration draws together an international network of researchers who summarize the results of randomized, controlled trials, providing a highly trustworthy source of information regarding health care.  The review on masks says:  “Wearing masks in the community probably makes little or no difference to the outcome of laboratory-confirmed influenza/SARS-CoV-2 compared to not wearing masks.”   

       As such evidence rolls in, Robert Malone’s Lies My Gov’t Told Me:  And the Better Future Coming (New York:  Skyhorse Publishing Co., c. 2022; Kindle Edition) proves perceptive.  Introducing himself, he says:  “I am an internationally recognized scientist/physician, and the original inventor of mRNA and DNA vaccination . . . as well as mRNA- and DNA-based gene therapy.  I am also an inventor or early adopter of multiple nonviral DNA and RNA/mRNA platform delivery technologies.  I hold numerous fundamental domestic and foreign patents in the fields of gene delivery, delivery formulations, and vaccines.  I have been working in the fields of advanced clinical development and vaccinology for almost forty years.   . . . .  In short, I have spent much of my career working on vaccine development.  I have also had extensive experience in drug repurposing for infectious disease outbreaks” (pp. 41-42).  Having spent much of his life working as a researcher within or for governmental agencies, Malone says he had “never really allowed myself to confront the possibility that we might not be the good guys.”  Then came COVID!  Years earlier he’d helped develop mRNA and DNA vaccines and therapies and understood their problematic natures.  So when pharmaceutical companies began using them to produce and distribute vaccines he spoke out, urging caution careful extensive testing before any wide-spread use.  

       For this Malone was quickly attacked by powerful media (the New York Times and Washington Post) and discovered that his confidence in the First Amendment’s guarantee of freedom of speech was not everywhere shared.  Additionally, few journalists can “comprehend the complexities and ambiguities inherent in scientific discussions and so repeatedly fall back on” simplistic memos issued by governmental or non-profit organizations’ spokesmen (p. 275).  Still more, “the Biden administration, through the CDC, made direct payments to nearly all major corporate media outlets while deploying a $1 billion taxpayer-funded outreach campaign designed to push only positive coverage about COVID-19 vaccines and to censor any negative coverage” (p. 278).  Thus the media spoon-fed us state-funded propaganda! 

       To resist the propaganda Malone directs us to heed Michael Crichton, who noted how easily we detect errors in the news when we personally understand the subject.  So, for example, I easily dismiss much said about American Indians and their history because I know the subject quite well.  But since I know little about quantum physics or rugby I readily believe whatever journalists say about such things.  Thus Crichton insisted we must think critically about everything.  When reading about something you know well, he say, you often “see the journalist has absolutely no understanding of either the facts or the issues.  Often, the article is so wrong it actually presents the story backward—reversing cause and effect.  I call these the ‘wet streets cause rain’ stories.  Paper’s full of them.  In any case, you read with exasperation or amusement the multiple errors in a story, and then turn the page to national or international affairs and read as if the rest of the newspaper was somehow more accurate . . . than the baloney you just read.  You turn the page and forget what you know’” (p. 545). 

       Early in January 2020 one of Malone’s friends in Wuhan told him about the COVID-19 outbreak in China.  Malone and his wife began researching, trying to find therapeutic remedies for folks infected with the virus.  Within a few weeks they had written and self-published the first edition of Novel Coronavirus: A Guide for Preparation and Protection, urging the immediate use of therapeutic drugs such as chloroquine, which had been proven (in 2005) to be effective in treating SARS coronaviruses.  After a month Amazon censored the book!  “And at that moment,” he says, “we knew that something very dark was happening, something we had never seen before.  Little did we realize that this was just a very early example of what was to become a large movement over the next two years, a global movement involving collusion between government, corporatized legacy media, social media, big technology, big finance, and nongovernmental organizations to completely control and shape all information and thought concerning the public health response to the novel coronavirus” (p. 26).  

       He laments that there were“multidrug, multistage lifesaving treatments that could have saved so many lives that have been lost, treatments that are used every day in hospitals around the country for related conditions as well as for COVID” (p. 42).  There was, for example, “an inexpensive lifesaving solution both before and during the pandemic . . .  The inconvenient truth is that even at the beginning of the COVID-19 crisis, a very simple, inexpensive, and effective treatment was available that could have saved the majority of lives lost.  All that the WHO and national public health bureaucracies (including the US HHS) had to do was to recommend and support people taking sufficient Vitamin D3” (p. 228).  Vitamin D3, researchers discovered, is effective “as an immune system-boosting prophylactic treatment for influenza and other respiratory RNA viruses” (p. 228).  When Anthony Fauci was informed of Vitamin D3’s potential, he disregarded the evidence.  “Therefore, NIAID had no interest in pursuing Vitamin D3 as a prophylactic for respiratory diseases, such as influenza;” consequently, “over fifteen years ago, Dr. Fauci had already set the policies that informed the US government’s present response to the COVID crisis” (p. 231).  His obsession with vaccines meant that “cheap alternatives” were routinely rejected.  “The data for the use of Vitamin D3 are extremely strong; there are now even randomized clinical trials supporting its use for the treatment of COVID, as well as many retrospective clinical trials showing its efficacy” (p. 231).  (I personally have taken Vitamin D3 for many years and wonder if it helped me escape contracting COVID).

          Though Malone himself wrote much of Lies My Gov’t Told Me, he enlisted some of his colleagues to write chapters needing their expertise.  So Gavin de Becker, the author of The Gift of Fear and “considered the leading security specialist in the United States” analyzed the sheer fear that spread throughout the country as COVID-19 infected millions of people.  Some fears are, of course, legitimate and helpful.  Others, however—usually “worst case scenarios” that never materialize—cause much harm.  Throughout his long career Anthony Fauci has tried to panic the public with dire warnings:  ‘HIV/AIDS in 1983, West Nile Virus in 2001/2, SARS in 2003, bird flu in 2005, swine flu in 2009, dengue in 2012, MERS in 2014, Ebola in 2014/16, Zika in 2015/16, and COVID-19 in 2020.  Early on, as was evident in his dealing with AIDS, he “perfected his method of ad-fear-tising, using remote, unlikely, far-fetched, and improbable possibilities to frighten people.  He terrified tens of millions into wrongly believing they were at personal risk of getting AIDS when they were not” (p. 50).  Though there was little evidence that AIDS could be contracted by casual contacts, millions of us believed it could because of Fauci’s declarations.  So too there was never any evidence that anyone other than the elderly and folks with co-morbidities were at significant risk of dying of COVID-19. So all the businesses shut-down, all the school closures, all the frantic pronouncements on the evening news, were due to a panic rather than a pandemic!  

     Dr. Pierre Kory, MD, MPA, a specialist in pulmonary diseases, internal medicine, and critical-care, worked as the chief of the critical care service and medical director of the Trauma and Life Support Center at the University of Wisconsin.  Noted for his commitment to patients, Kory twice testified to the US Senate providing evidence supporting the use of early treatments for COVID-19.   Identifying himself as one of the “maverick doctors” who used therapeutic remedies, he cited the “example of Uttar Pradesh, one of India’s largest states with a population two-thirds the size of the US.  With a careful door-to-door surveillance strategy in combination with a prevention and early treatment regime using Ivermectin, Uttar Pradesh effectively eliminated COVID-19 from their state of 241 million people” (p. 98).  Then there’s the Brazilian city of Itajai, which “offered Ivermectin preventively to the entire city’s population” and found that its “users had a 70 percent lower mortality rate, and a 67 percent lower hospitalization rate, while the citywide COVID mortality fell from 6.8 percent to 1.8 percent during the program” (p. 99).  Ironically, poor nations  fared significantly better than wealthy countries such as the USA, which had one of the highest mortality rates per capita in the world.  Ironically, you were at greater risk of dying of COVID-19 in a Western hospital than in an underdeveloped place such as Haiti or Uganda.    

      Among the many chapters detailing scientific data one finds some philosophically-probing essays, including “science or scientism,” wherein Malone endorses Everett Piper’s charge that Anthony Fauci is “America’s high priest of scientism.”  Fauci, Malone says, “has been dishonest with the American people throughout the COVID crisis and has repeatedly substituted opinion for science-based factual information, directly contributing to one of the greatest losses of life, freedom, and livelihood in the history of mankind. This is an embodiment of the true essence and nature of scientism” (p. 171).  Following his lead, politicians and bureaucrats imposed “lockdowns, masking, and social distancing policies [that] were all based not on science, but on the opinions of the people at the top of the administration—policies not to be questioned by scientists or laypeople.” (p. 172).  Still more:  there is an unquestioned utilitarianism—“one of the most powerful and persuasive approaches to normative ethics in the history of philosophy”—underlying modern medicine.  Globalist organizations such as the World Economic Forum, led by the likes of Bill Gates, “call for a drastic reduction in global human population, often referred to as the depopulation agenda” (p. 321).  Citing “the greatest good for the greatest number,” they want to control if not reduce the human population.  Public Health courses in prestigious universities are blatantly utilitarian, quite unlike the traditional “disciplines of medicine and clinical research, which are grounded in the principles of the Hippocratic oath and beneficence as applied to the individual patient” (p. 323).  Malone urges us to return to a Christian-shaped, Hippocratic medical care system that primarily focuses on persons and their needs rather than broader “public health” concerns.  

       In sum:  Malone endorses the positions set forth in the “Great Barrington Declaration,” signed by 18,000 eminent scholars, which said that “we should have focused our risk mitigation efforts on the elderly, and that the US should not have vaccinated healthy, normal children (who do not die of COVID) with an experimental vaccine” (p. 42).  Or, shall we say, we should have followed the Swedes!

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       In Overcoming the COVID Darkness: How Two Doctors Successfully Treated 7000 Patients (c. 2022; Kindle Edition), Brian Tyson, M.D. and George C. Fareed, M.D. tell a very personal story of coping with COVID in California’s Imperial Valley.  A Harvard graduate who taught at both Harvard and UCLA medical schools, Dr. Fareed chose to follow the example of his father—a medical missionary who worked with Dr. Albert Schweitzer—and give his life to practicing medicine in a rural, low-income setting in Brawley, CA.  For his work he was named Rural Physician of the Year in 2015 by the California Medical Association.  Dr. Tyson is Fareed’s friend and colleague who owns and operates All Valley Urgent Care in El Centro, California.  As the book’s subtitle indicates, the two doctors “treated over 7000 patients with COVID-19—and saved everyone of them.  Not a single death occurred while using early treatment” (p. 12).  They did so by quickly using repurposed drugs—mixing together hydroxychloroquine, zinc, and antibiotics (now commonly known as the HCQ cocktail) that resulted in “nothing short of a miracle.”  Yet their success meant nothing to the World Health Organization or National Institutes of Health, which “attempted to stop us from effectively treating patients, as well as suppress the information we knew the public needed to hear” (p. 16).

       Fortunately, they worked in an area where they could initially follow their own insights without restraint from hospitals or bureaucrats.  They listened to NIAID spokesmen (Anthony Fauci and Deborah Birx) but found their pronouncements demonstrably at odds with what they personally knew.  They were also encouraged by “a very well-written article in the American Journal of Epidemiology by Dr. Harvey Risch from Yale University,” which supported early treatment with hydroxychloroquine.   Nevertheless— and much to their amazement—“powerful forces were mobilizing, and they were prepared to do everything in their power to suppress the success we were having with our patients” (p. 35).  “Despite the success of the HCQ treatment protocol, and despite the 100% success rate for our patients who were treated early, the unthinkable happened:  the NIH, FDA, WHO, and CDC knowingly blocked effective early treatment for a virus enhanced in a lab to infect and kill humans.  The reason?  To sell a vaccine that turned out to be significantly ineffective in blocking new infections by variants and gain control of the populace” (p. 37).

       Despite opposition Fareed and Tyson persevered.  They worked on refining the “cocktail” and pleaded with anyone who would listen to heed their endeavors.  They made videos setting forth their “rationale for early treatment of COVID-19 illness.  But the videos were censored and labeled as ‘misinformation’ by YouTube, Facebook, and Twitter, all without declaring what content of the presentations was allegedly not true” (p. 68).  In the fall of 2020, Senator Ron Johnson called for a Senate hearing on the Early Treatment of COVID-19 and invited Dr. Fareed to testify before the Homeland Security Committee.  The hearing was sparsely attended and not nationally televised.  Senate Democrats and their media henchmen particularly praised another witness, Dr. Ashish Jha, Dean of the School of Public Health at Brown University, who claimed HCQ had little efficacy and actually posed a risk for COVID-19 patients.  “This false characterization by so-called ‘experts’ such as Dr. Jha, who have not even treated a COVID-19 patient, has likely discouraged countless high-risk patients from seeking outcome-altering early treatment” (p. 66).  Jha even accused Fareed et al. of being “snake oil salesmen”! 

       Unintimidated, in September 2020 Fareed and Tyson set forth a national plan for COVID-19.  They urged caring for the vulnerable (elderly and chronically ill persons) without closing down schools, churches, and businesses.  When diagnoses so indicate, treating infected patients with HCQ and ivermectin within five days would almost always save them.  “Form a massive education program to emphasize early diagnosis and treatment, independent of test results,” and train primary care providers to quickly respond.  Their “plan would have reduced deaths through early treatment, protected the elderly initially by isolating them and later with vaccination, allowed businesses and schools to remain open, and society to go back to normal.  Unfortunately, our plan was not followed; our nation under the leadership of Dr. Fauci adopted a strategy of ‘hiding’ from the virus until the vaccine was available.  Then, when the vaccine failed to stop the spread, we hid again, relying on masks and social distancing while rejecting the one answer to ending the pandemic:  early diagnosis and treatment” (p. 97).  Tragically, “our country embraced an approach driven by fear and not by science, and the results have been catastrophic with almost 800,000 dead (as of December 2021) and the economy in a tailspin” (p. 98).  None of this need have happened!  If only we had looked at the evidence rather than listened to the “experts!” 

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        Yet another account of successfully treating COVID-19 patients—The Courage to Face COVID-19:  Preventing Hospitalization and Death While Battling the Bio-Pharmaceutical Complex (Counterplay Books, c. 2022; Kindle Edition), by John Leake and Peter A. McCullough—merits reading.  A noted journalist, Michael Capuzzo, says “McCullough is a hero for our time and for all times.  When the world collapsed from the COVID-19 pandemic, he led ‘the 500 doctors who saved the world’ and saved millions of people with his global research and at the bedside with his own hands.  When government health agencies and big pharma failed to do their job and lied about repurposed drugs that could end the pandemic, he did their job and called them out.  When reporters and editors failed to do their job and launched the largest propaganda campaign in history to cover up the lies, he did their job and told the truth about the lives lost and vast human suffering.  Instead of giving him a Nobel Prize they all tried to destroy him.  If you can read, you must read this powerful book he wrote with author John Leake, one of the few journalists with the talent and courage to tell the truth about the pandemic” (p. 306).

       An inquisitive reporter, John Leake doubted many public pronouncements as COVID-19 spread around the world.  He’d majored in history and philosophy as an undergraduate and he had long been interested in the history of medicine, which shows how orthodoxy in medicine is often deadly and group-think frequently fails to find the truth.  ​A quick review of the literature on anti-viral therapies showed him that some had effectively dealt with influenza viruses, especially when taken as early as possible, so Anthony Fauci’s “sheltering in place” seemed to him a sadly inadequate response to COVID-19!  He then learned that a noted physician, living near him, was providing an alternative approach to Fauci’s dicta.  Dr. Peter McCullough, the Vice Chief of Internal Medicine at Baylor University Medical Center, was urging early treatment of the disease, and he’d found that it could be quickly, effectively treated!  After interviewing the doctor Leake determined to write this book.  

       A board certified internist and cardiologist, McCullough was also a Professor of Medicine at Texas A&M University, President of the Cardiorenal Society of America, and Editor-in-Chief or Senior Associate editor of three major academic journals.  He’d published over 600 peer reviewed academic medical papers.  Learning that Chinese researchers were getting good results using hydroxychloroquine and that Indian medical councils were urging medical workers to take it as a prophylaxis, McCullough determined to test it. ​

“Among researchers all over the world, hydroxychloroquine was known as one of the most useful drugs ever formulated” (p. 37) and so it seemed when he treated COVID patients.  His success was confirmed by multiple studies in South Korea, India, and France.  But when President Trump suggested hydroxychloroquine might be effective Anthony Fauci rebuked him, saying the evidence for the therapeutic was purely “anecdotal” and needed “a controlled clinical trial” before approval.  Fauci also dismissed the efficacy of Ivermectin—sometimes called a “wonder drug” for its use for various illnesses.  Since it is also used by veterinarians it was derided as an animal drug!  In time “research teams and independent doctors all over the world studied ivermectin for the treatment of COVID-19,” finding it effective.  It too, however, failed to get Fauci’s stamp of approval.  Wait patiently for a vaccine!  We did and millions (worldwide) died!  Sadly enough, the doctors who knew the most were ignored and we witnessed a disaster haplessly handled by highly-paid “public health” bureaucrats.

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363 Race Resolutions

         Wendell Berry is mainly acclaimed for his environmental writings, urging a very Amish kind of labor-intensive, organic agriculture.  Over the years I’ve read many of his 50+ books and consider them akin to works of monastic spirituality—models of an exemplary way to live but unfortunately impractical for ordinary folks.  Berry has also authored two books pondering the significance of race in American history and culture.  The first book, The Hidden Wound (Berkely, CA:  Catapult; Kindle Edition), was written in the Stanford University library during the Christmas holiday of 1968-1969 amidst the “civil rights agitation” evident in various meetings on campus, mainly featuring blacks berating whites—“sometimes addressing them by obscene epithets,” to which “the whites cheered and applauded.  Speakers and hearers seemed to be in perfect agreement that the whites were absolutely guilty of racism, and that the blacks were absolutely innocent of it.  They were thus absolutely divided by their agreement” (p. 110).  

       Deeply rooted in the soil and history of his native Kentucky, personally knowing and working closely with blacks on his family farm, Berry knew the simplistic “racist” rhetoric of the ‘60s was false and could never resolve the deep divide—the “hidden wound”—troubling this nation.  He was both educated and wise enough to know how unhinged rhetoric preceded and help cause the Civil War.  So decided to reflect on his memories and think about race without indulging in either pious outrage or affected innocence.  He took seriously the advice of Confucius’ The Great Digest:  “wanting good government in their own states, they first established order in their own families; wanting order in the home, they first disciplined themselves; desiring self-discipline, they rectified their own hearts; and wanting to rectify their hearts, they sought precise verbal definitions of their inarticulate thoughts (the tones given off by the heart).”  Berry noted that if he only attended to the sufferings of slaves their descendants he would have felt bad for them and thus “highly of myself.”  But he also knows that though “white people have suffered less obviously from racism than black people, they have nevertheless suffered greatly” (p. 4).  He also knew that while suffering discrimination many blacks lived lives of nobility and joy.   

       This became evident as he remembered the stories he heard as a boy, for there were still many children of both slaves and slave owners living in northern Kentucky.  As an adult Berry now considered “the casualness of this hereditary knowledge of hereditary evil” and it shocked him when he realized its actuality and acknowledged his “complicity in history and in the events of your own life” (p. 6).  He thought about the stories, both oral and written, of Bart Jenkins, a slave-seller, that praised him for his heroics in the Confederate army.  Berry reflected on the stories of slave owners kindly treating their slaves but realized that “if there was any kindness in slavery it was dependent on the docility of the slaves; any slave who was unwilling to be a slave broke through the myth of paternalism and benevolence, and brought down on himself the violence inherent in the system” (p. 6).  He weighed “the moral predicament of the master who sat in church with his slaves, thus attesting his belief in the immortality of the souls of people whose bodies he owned and used” (p. 16).  

       But Berry also remembered the black people, particularly Nick and Aunt Georgie, to whom he devotes many pages of the book, who “figured large in my experience.”  Working with and listening to them, “it was inevitable that we should come to like and even to love some of those black people” (p. 21).  They were not in the least “objects of pity, but rather as friends and teachers, ancestors you could say, the forebears of certain essential strains in my thinking” (p. 64).  Though they called themselves and were called by whites “colored people,” he always thought about Nick and Aunt Georgie, not that they were “colored.  Certainly there was race prejudice, black-white relations were rooted in very particular, and often very affectionate, bonds.  

      Thus Berry was conflicted by this mixture of guilt and gratitude.  He struggled to balance his memories of the blacks he personally knew with the reality of racism in America.  For him, he said, it “was fated to be the continuing crisis of my life, the crisis of racial awareness—the sense of being doomed by my history to be, if not always a racist, then a man always limited by the inheritance of racism, condemned to be always conscious of the necessity not to be a racist, to be always dealing deliberately with the reflexes of racism that are embedded in my mind as deeply at least as the language I speak” (p. 49).  Yet he believed both blacks and whites want to get along, to find ways to “tear away the centuries of hypocrisy and lies, and enfranchise our best hopes” (p. 92).  Can it happen?  Perhaps, though deep divisions persist.  

       Reflecting on four episodes in great literary works—Homer’s Odyssey, Mark Twain’s Huckleberry Finn, Leo Tolstoy’s Anna Karenina and War and Peace—Berry appropriated their wisdom.  “Men are whole,” it seems, “not only insofar as they make common cause with each other, but also insofar as they make common cause with their native earth, which is to say with the creation as a whole, which is to say with the creator.  And perhaps most important of all, these four encounters testify that the real healings and renewals in human life occur in individual lives, not in the process of adjusting or changing their abstractions or their institutions” (p. 104).  Characters were not touched by political movements but experienced deeply spiritual “metamorphoses” that changed their hearts.  “No matter what laws or governments say, men can only know and come to care for one another by meeting face to face, arduously, and by the willing loss of comfort.  I believe that the experience of all honest men stands, like these books, against the political fantasy that deep human problems can be satisfactorily solved by legislation” (p. 104).

       Indulging in a fanciful, romantic vision of tribal peoples on this continent, Berry suggested that indigenous Americans—Indians—might help us understand how we need to mend our ways.  He explored this theme in The Unsettling of America:  Culture and Agriculture nearly 50 years ago.  “That we failed to learn from them how to live in this land is a stupidity—a racial stupidity—that will corrode the heart of our society until the day comes, if it ever does, when we do turn back to learn from them.  Inheriting the cultural growth of thousands of years, they had a responsible sense of living within the creation—which is to say that they had, among much else, an ecological morality—and a complex awareness of the life of their land which we have hardly begun to have.  They had a cultural and spiritual whole-ness of which the white and black races have so far had only the divided halves” (p. 107).  As a historian who has read and reflected and written on the influence of Indians on America, I must simply say Berry’s views contain some truths and many falsehoods.  When writing about blacks and whites in the South he’s an insider; when writing about Indians he’s manifestly an outsider.

       Recently evaluating The Hidden Wound, Berry remains persuaded that you cannot separate “the freedom and prosperity of the people” from “the health of the land.  “I wrote the book because it seemed to me that the psychic wound of racism had resulted inevitably in wounds in the land, the country itself.  I believed then, and I believe more strongly now, that the root of our racial problem in America is not racism.  The root is in our inordinate desire to be superior—not to some inferior or subject people, though this desire leads to the subjection of people—but to our condition.  We wish to rise above the sweat and bother of taking care of anything—of ourselves, of each other, or of our country” (p. 112).  We think of ourselves as free, but it’s only a freedom “to do as we please.”  The finer form of freedom, what’s needed to resolve the racial divide, is the freedom “to take care of ourselves and of each other” (p. 129).  In fact, we need not more laws and forced integration.  We need a moral and spiritual renewal to makes us a better people. 

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       Five decades after writing on racism in The Hidden Wound, Wendell Berry revisited the subject in The Need to Be Whole:  Patriotism and the History of Prejudice (Shoemaker & Company, c. 2022; Kindle Edition).  The book is more a collection of essays than a systematic treatise, and as always he wants us to see holistically, understanding how whites as well as blacks have suffered as a result of racism, for as Plato realized long ago the person suffering a wrong is harmed physically whereas the person doing the wrong harms his soul.  To Berry:  “People of some experience and some self-knowledge know that the contest between right and wrong is perennial in the soul of every human, and that right and wrong cannot be geographically divided” (p. 88).   He rejects the notion that blacks and whites are radically dissimilar, for that would eliminate the possibility of coming together, understanding and working with one another.  We ought never “think with concern of black Americans without eventually thinking also of white Americans, with whom the black Americans share somewhat the same identity, as for example consumers in a consumptive economy, and more than somewhat the same fate—just as it would certainly be wrong to think at any length about white Americans without thinking also of black Americans” (p. 274).  “In fact, much that’s gone wrong during the past half-century has been suffered by both races, for in the deepest sense what’s been lost is authentic communities wherein love and forgiveness, families and churches, may be found.  The prejudice that most concerns him is not racial prejudice, but the ‘prejudice against community life itself’ ” (p. 13).  

       As a pacifist Christian, seeking to follow “the teachings of Jesus and of Martin Luther King Jr.” Berry wants to stop the violence of all kinds and to live at peace with all creation.  Dr. King “was not thinking of white people as ‘the enemy,’ even though he and his people had to confront the enmity of many white people.  It was clear to me that he saw the freedom he sought for black people as a freedom needed also by white people, and I agreed.  No freedom could belong securely to any part of the people that did not securely belong to all of them.  Dr. King’s movement in this way escaped the specialization that usually afflicts movements. He said, ‘Justice is love correcting that which revolts against love.’  This is a version of love uncommonly serious, deliberately a religious, a Christian, version, readily allied to Jefferson’s inspired glimpse of human rights as a divine endowment, as opposed to a gift from the state.  This love is not much subject to control or limitation by humans.  It was love’s impulse, its self-moving, toward wholeness that moved King from concern for black people to concern for poor people to concern at last for all people, their land and culture.  So I have understood him” (p. 47). Berry thinks “there is a law of love operating in this world.  If you see the world’s goodness and beauty, and if you love your own place in it (no deed required), then your love itself will be one of your life’s great rewards.  That is the law that rules the ‘sticker,’ the settler, the actual patriot.  The opposite law is that of greed, which sees the goodness and beauty of the world as wealth and power.  It says:  Take what you want.  No individual person is purely a settler or an exploiter, but perhaps every person must submit to the rule of one law or the other” (p. 51).

      Berry’s “a rural American, a writer who by birth and choice is a country person,” and sees things “from ground-level.”  He judges “things above the ground by their effect or influence on the ground” and considers “the good care of the land as the highest human obligation, and the good care of the human community as the second highest.”  Aldo Leopold’s classic essay “The Land Ethic,” has been a lode star for Berry, and Leopold said “The land ethic simply enlarges the boundaries of the community to include soils, waters, plants, and animals, or collectively, the land.”  Reading that, Berry’s “thoughts of the land and the community became one thought.”  Rather than conquer others we need to live harmoniously with them, but from “the point of view of the land-community” America is declining because we’ve failed to care for the land. “The country is in decline because the people are not properly using it and caring for it.  The people are in decline for the same reason.”  To Berry “both the land and the people are unhealthy” and we need to restore them to health.  Berry thinks urban liberals who dominate discussion of race relations fail to see how “our race problem is intertangled with our land and land use problem, our farm and forest problem, our water and waterways problem, our food problem, our air problem, our health problem.”  Though they talk much and prescribe endless solutions, their focus on equity and diversity and inclusiveness never considers the “land community” so crucial to a people’s well-being.   “They don’t know or think about or talk about the rural problems that are the causes or the results of urban problems.  This makes a great silence into which this book tries to speak” (p. 26).  

       He also tries to speak to persons rather than institutions.  Prejudice cannot be eliminated by edict.  Laws desegregating public places have limited worth.  Says Berry:  “To understand the limits of the public means of opposing prejudice is to understand as well how limited must be the effectiveness of public protest.  I have taken part in quite a few public protests myself, as I have said.  But these events seem now to be too much regarded as ‘all we can do.’  Too many of us appear to have decided that all our problems can or should be solved by the government.  And so the protesters, like nests of baby birds, look upward and cry out for sustenance from on high.  But the government as it now stands is an unlikely mother bird, for it is mainly a flock of caged layers.  We certainly do need to protest, but not to the neglect of the small local tasks and projects that, with the help only of ourselves, can make things a little better.  John Ruskin said that ‘all effectual advancement towards . . . true felicity of the human race must be by individual, not public effort.’  And before Ruskin, William Blake had written: ‘He who would do good to another must do it in minute particulars; “General Good” is the plea of the scoundrel, hypocrite & flatterer’” (pp. 264-265).

      Though not a historian, Berry thinks much about the past and its abiding presence, aware that we cannot escape it even when ignorant of it.  He’s particularly concerned with the local history shaping his region, a twenty-mile square section of northern Kentucky.  Both sides of his family lived in and around Port Royal, Kentucky, for more than 200 years.  Thus he gives attention to his home’s state song—“My Old Kentucky Home”—and thinks it has, despite allusions to slavery, enduring worth.  Though Kentucky never joined the Confederacy, many Kentuckians fought for the South and the state suffered considerably during the war, in part because federal troops occupied the state and ruled tyrannically.  For instance, a fourth of its horses and a third of its mules were stolen, largely by Union soldiers, severely harming the farmers needing them to survive.  The “soldiers and marauders” also destroyed fences, barns, and houses.  Staying neutral during the war hardly preserved the state’s residents’ well-being.  

      Berry also writes wisely about Robert E. Lee and the many monuments memorializing him, seeking to rightly appreciate the man despite his leadership in a war to preserve slavery.  We need to remember Lee fought for Virginia, for what Allen Tate said was a “local community which he could not abstract into fragments.”  Berry notes that Lee’s “significance for my purpose in this book is that he embodied and suffered, as did no other prominent person of his time, the division between nation and country, nationalism and patriotism, that some of us in rural America are feeling at present” (p. 199).  Evaluating an attack on a Lee statue, Berry found “nothing admirable or reassuring in a photograph of comparatively well-fed college boys kicking the pulled-down statue of a Confederate soldier.  Why should we not remember the compassion and generosity of General Grant toward just such soldiers at Appomattox?” (p. 188).  Following their meeting, Grant and his soldiers raised their hats to Lee as he rode away, and Lee never allowed “anybody in his hearing to speak unkindly of Grant” (p. 232). 

         Importantly, Confederate generals “were not all alike.  After the war, some of them acted in good faith to heal the wound that afflicted—and still afflicts—this nation” (p. 184).  Think for a moment about Stonewall Jackson, Lee’s best general.  How do you treat a man “who thought slavery immoral, and who never owned a slave, a man ferocious and devout?  And what of General P. G. T. Beauregard, who after the war led a biracial political movement in Louisiana?” (p. 210).  After the war, Lee sought to be a peace maker, writing:  “‘We shall have to be patient, and suffer for a while at least; and all controversy, I think, will only serve to prolong angry and bitter feeling’” (p. 184).  There was a grace and forgiveness in Lee sorely lacking in many of today’s militants.

Unlike Lee and Grant, “People who hate all Confederates, it seems to me, are oversimplifying themselves in order to do so.  They seem to be war propagandists looking for a war, relishing the division of people into abstract or stereotypic categories of Good and Evil, placing themselves among the Good—the Good, as ever in such divisions, being divested of imagination, sympathy, compassion, mercy, forgiveness, and thus another version of evil” (p. 235).

      Those tearing down monuments to Southern soldiers see them as “symbols of slavery and racism,” utterly obscuring “a passage of our history that in actuality is hard to understand and, for those with some understanding of it, hard to bear.  And this simplifying and obscuring symbolism seems to have enabled, in some of the liberal writing about this issue, an implicit sequence of equations:  Confederate soldier = only a defender of slavery = only a racist = only a white supremacist = purely a Nazi or neo-Nazi.  And so the verdict of the monument controversy so far is the startling consensus that Robert E. Lee was no more than both sides agree that he was:  a Nazi or a proto-Nazi, eligible to be hated by everybody except Nazis.  The problem, and it belongs to all of us, is that the story of Robert E. Lee, not the statue but the actual man, is a story inextricably involving love, love of several kinds, all inextricably involving grief.  He is one of the great tragic figures of our history, who embodied and suffered in his personal life our national tragedy.  As such, he deserves our study and thought.  I don’t think we can understand our Civil War and our history since without a competent understanding of the character and the life of Robert E. Lee” (p. 190).  Anti-monument zealots operate under “the exceedingly perilous delusion of human perfectability:  If we who are perfect, or nearly so, could demolish present evils or present reminders of past evils, then all of us would be perfect” (p. 186).  Their determination to pursue “a policy of perpetual, presumably eternal, unforgiveness against many thousands of dead people, the ‘modern-day critics’ have got to be people who are morally perfect” (p. 198).  Which, of course, they manifestly are not.

        The Need to Be Made Whole continually prods us to broaden the scope of our concerns, for “we need to pay some attention to unprominent prejudices that are merely habits of ordinary life:  prejudices, I mean, against farmers, country people, people of small towns, white southerners, white people, white men, men, Kentuckians, Kansans, manual workers, poor people, people who have not attended college” (p. 266).  Hillary Clinton, PBS personalities, and New York Times pundits hardly hesitate when discounting the worth of Rural Americans.   Such prejudices are as onerous and perverse in their own ways as race prejudice, for they eat away at the actual communities we need.  Lauding racial “diversity” the nation’s elites “still freely insult farmers,” who “may now be the most threatened minority among us.  It is wrong to rank prejudices as good or bad.  All prejudices are of a kind and are allied. They thrive on ignorance, and they belong to human nature” (p. 267).   To the extent prejudices percolate through ignorance, learning to know actual persons is the only way to defuse them.  “It is love that leads us toward particular knowledge, and it helps us to learn what we need to know.  It leads us toward vocation, the work we truly want to do, are born to do, and therefore must learn to do well” (p. 268).  What we need is “the hardworking familial and neighborly love that commits itself and hangs on like a hair in a biscuit.  This is love that can be enacted, whether or not it is felt. The solutions that this love advocates come from knowing what is right, not for the future, but now and always.  Its solutions propose everybody’s good, not spoils to the victors, not victory” (p. 268).

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          The recent death of Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI merits attending to his life and works.  In the long history of the papacy, few popes have been distinguished theologians.  Leo I (the Great) and Gregory I (the Great) and Leo XIII certainly qualify as first-rate thinkers, as does Benedict’s predecessor, John-Paul II.  But Benedict must be ranked among a handful of the finest.  Indeed, George Cardinal Pell said:  “Pope Benedict is probably the best theologian among all the popes and he should become a Doctor of the Church.”  Joseph Pearce, in Benedict XVI: Defender of the Faith (Gastonia, North Carolina:  TAN Books, c. 2021; Kindle Edition), recently wrote a highly appreciative and informative biography.  He feels much T. S. Eliot said when considering Dante—“I feel that anything I can say about such a subject is trivial.  As  feel so completely inferior in his presence—there seems really nothing to do but to point to him and be silent.”  But Pearce refused to be silent and gave us a good gift with this biography, which is more an apology than a “critical” appraisal.  “It is an apologia:  a spirited and heartfelt defense of Pope Benedict’s words and works, a tribute to his life and legacy, an homage to his sanity and sanctity.  It is a vigorous defense of a rigorous and vigorous defender of the Faith.  For this, at least, I make no apology because no apology is necessary” (p. 19).

       Born in 1927 in southern Germany, Joseph Ratzinger was reared by a father “who with unfailing clairvoyance saw that a victory of Hitler’s would not be a victory for Germany but rather a victory of the Antichrist” and instilled in him a deep faith in a Kingdom transcending earthly powers.  Schooled in a gymnasium, he thoroughly mastered Latin and Greek, a linguistic foundation for his later mastery of theology.  He began such studies just in time, for Hitler’s National Socialist regime soon required students to study science and modern languages rather than the classics, replacing religious instruction with Nazi ideology (an anti-Christian neopaganism).  Early in life he decided to enter the priesthood and flourished in his studies, delving into a broad spectrum of philosophy and literature as well as theology.  

       Rapidly gaining renown in academic circles, he served as a theological consultant at the Second Vatican Council, which began meeting in 1962.  Some considered him rather “progressive,” but ultimately he would devote much effort to showing how the council sought to preserve the deepest traditions of the Church.  This was evident when, in 1968, he published Introduction to Christianity, the work that would gain him acclaim “as a theologian of the first order.  The clarity and beauty of the book earned him the reputation of being the ‘Mozart of theology’ and it also won him many significant and important admirers” (p. 36).  In 1977 he was named Archbishop of Munich and soon made a cardinal.  His was “what can only be described as a meteoric rise to prominence within the Church” (p. 44). In 1981 John Paul II brought him to Rome to serve as the Prefect of the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, “making him—de facto if not de jure—the most powerful man in the Church after the Pope himself” (p. 44).  Says Pearce:  “the charismatic Pole had made the brilliant Bavarian his right-hand man, the two men forming a dynamic duo, defending doctrine, restoring tradition, and forcing the modernist ascendancy into retreat” (p. 45).  

       Both Ratzinger and John Paul II sought to rightly interpret Vatican II in light of its written documents—not in the modernists’ alleged “spirit” of the council.  “‘The Council,’ explained Ratzinger, ‘wanted to mark the transition from a protective to a missionary attitude.  Many forget that for the Council the counter-concept to ‘conservative’ is not ‘progressive’ but ‘missionary’” (p. 64).  He insisted that both John XXIII and Paul VI wanted to preserve the traditional doctrines of the Church, and neither the popes nor the fathers at the council envisioned the “progressive” reforms implemented thereafter.  What was needed in the Church, Ratzinger believed, was not structural alterations or liturgical innovations but more holiness.  Nor did he endorse any of the many Marxist-based “liberation” theologies of those days, including “women’s lib.”  Ironically, “those who were allegedly ‘liberated’ suffer the hellish consequences of their own ‘liberation’:  ‘It is precisely woman who most harshly suffers the consequences of the confusion, of the superficiality of a culture that is the fruit of masculine attitudes of mind, masculine ideologies, which deceive woman, uproot her in the depths of her being, while claiming that in reality they want to liberate her.’  It is indeed ironic that the feminist movement has its roots in the masculine musings of Marx and has succeeded only in making women ‘equal’ to men as wage-slaves to capitalism, or, as G. K. Chesterton so whimsically put it: “Twenty million young women rose to their feet with the cry, ‘We will not be dictated to!’ and immediately proceeded to become stenographers!”’” (p. 76). 

       Perhaps Ratzinger’s “primary concern” according to his brother, Georg, was restoring the liturgy—most evident in his strong support of the Latin Mass.  Reformers who championed vernacular liturgies did so “in clear contravention of the specific teaching of the Council in Sacrosanctum Concilium, which stated unequivocally that ‘the Latin language . . . is to be preserved’ in the liturgy and that ‘care must be taken to ensure that the faithful may … be able to say or sing in Latin those parts of the Ordinary of the Mass which pertain to them.’” (p. 84).  Modernizers also called for priests to face the people rather than joining them in facing the altar.  “Instead of the priest and the people being united in praise, facing the same way, the priest now faced the people and became the central focus of the liturgical ‘performance.’  He was now the star of the show with the sanctuary being transformed into the stage on which he performed” (p. 88).  Such innovations—designed to appeal to the modern mind—“had transformed the majesty and mystery of the liturgy into what Ratzinger described as ‘a do-it-yourself patchwork’ which had ‘trivialized it, adapting it to our mediocrity’” (p. 85).  Properly done, however, celebrating the mass makes Christ really present to His people, most notably in the Eucharist whereby He enters in and transforms the faithful.  To this end Benedict exercised his influence.  

       Shortly before his election as Pope in 2005, Benedict told the assembled College of Cardinals:  “‘Today, having a clear faith based on the Creed of the Church is often labeled as fundamentalism.  Whereas relativism, that is, letting oneself be “tossed here and there, carried about by every wind of doctrine,” seems the only attitude that can cope with modern times.  We are building a dictatorship of relativism that does not recognize anything as definitive and whose ultimate goal consists solely of one’s own ego and desires’” (p. 97).  To resist this dictatorship Benedict would devote much of his papal work, insisting the Christian faith balances faith and reason.  This was evident when he spoke at the University of Regensburg, differentiating between the Muslims’ Allah who is ultimately irrational and the Christian insistence on a reasoning, rational God.  He set forth “a brilliant synthesis of fides et ratio,” insisting that God is the Logos, “the very Reason that makes reality rational.  This understanding of God is what unites Christian theology with Greek philosophy, a unity of faith and reason that was the catalyst of Western Civilization” (p. 108). 

       In this short and insightful biography, Pearce explains some of Benedict’s encyclicals and lauds his efforts to proclaim the Gospel.  Summing up his work, he says:  “The paradox of the papacy is that a good pope needs to be as wily as the world without being worldly.  He must be worldly-wise without falling for the foolishness that the world mistakes for wisdom.  He has to have lived in the world and to have witnessed its wantonness without succumbing to worldliness or wantonness himself.  In this sense, Benedict XVI was a very great pope indeed, one of the greatest in the long and venerable history of the papacy.  Under his sagacious patronage and guidance, first as the indomitable Ratzinger and then as the incomparable Benedict, he fought tirelessly and largely successfully against the forces of the zeitgeist within and without the Church.  Within the Church, he fought against the spirit of the world in his war against modernism and its worship of the spirit of the age.  He restored the splendor of truth in his defense of orthodoxy and the splendor of the liturgy in his restoration of tradition.  He fought the wickedness of the world in his unremitting and uncompromising battle against the dictatorship of relativism and its culture of death.  In short and in sum, and as the conclusion (in both senses of the word) of this brief and inadequate tribute to a great pope, we can safely assume that Benedict will be remembered as one of the most resolute defenders of the Faith in the Church’s long and tempestuous history” (p. 160).

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       Joseph Ratzinger set forth a brief overview of his first 50 years in Milestones:  Memoirs 1927-1977 (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, 1998).  Born and reared in Bavaria by devout parents, he enjoyed a blessed childhood.  He attended the gymnasium in Traunstein, where he thoroughly mastered  Latin and Greek, a linguistic foundation for his later mastery of theology.  Entering adolescence, he decided to become a priest.  In 1943, as Hitler’s war effort began crumbling, all boarding school students (Ratzinger included) were required to serve in a civil defense force.  When he became eligible for military service, he was spared active duty but had to work in a labor camp (which he fled as the war was ending) and thus support the regime.  When the war ended, Ratzinger resumed his seminary education at Freising.  Despite the lack of virtually everything material, the students joined together and zestfully studied for the priesthood, delving into a broad spectrum of philosophy and literature as well as theology.  From Freising, Ratzinger went to Munich to study at the university.  Here he encountered outstanding scholars and relished the challenge of new ideas and diverse perspectives.  He also dug deeply into biblical studies and the thought of St. Augustine.  “When I look back on the exciting years of my theological studies,” he recalls, “I can only be amazed at everything that is affirmed nowadays concerning the ‘preconciliar’ Church” (p. 57).  Rather than being a tradition-bound static era, it was a time of ferment and radical questioning.  

His intellectual brilliance fully evident, Ratzinger was encouraged to pursue the doctorate and did so while serving as an assistant pastor in Munich.  He worked hard in youth ministry, received his degree, and then began teaching in the seminary in Freising.  Subsequently he moved to Bonn, where he as awarded the chair in fundamental theology.  Soon thereafter (moving quickly up the academic ladder) he was invited to Munster, then Tubingen and Regensberg.  In the midst of his moves, he was fully involved in the theological discussions of the ‘50s and ‘60s—including the efforts of some to reduce Revelation to the historical-critical method of biblical exegesis.  While at Tubingen, he saw existentialism literally collapse, to be replaced by the pervasive Marxism that continues to shape European universities.  His encounters with Karl Rahner ultimately led him to note that “despite our agreement in many desires and conclusions, Rahner and I lived on two different theological planets” (p. 128).  Scripture and the Fathers, not Kant and the Modernists were his beacons of truth.  

Fully expecting to remain in academia for a lifetime, Ratzinter was, quite unexpectedly, appointed archbishop of Munich and Freising in 1977.  He chose, as his Episcopal motto, a “phrase from the Third Letter of John, ‘Co-worker of the Truth’” (p. 153).  To fulfill that calling, he sought to anchor his diocese to the eternal Rock of Christ.  Committing one’s all to “the side of God,” of course, never guarantees worldly success, even in the Church.  But it does give stability to one’s decisions.  And it explains why Pope John Paul II soon called on Ratzinger to take control of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. 

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       Following his resignation as pope, a journalist, Peter Seewald, initiated and recorded interviews with him in Benedict XVI, Pope; Last Testament (London:  Bloomsbury Publishing, c. 2016; Kindle Edition).  Over the decades Seewald had interviewed Joseph Ratzinger and had been impressed by his “courage to go against the grain with his old-fashioned thinking.  And strangely, these findings were not only shocking, they also seemed to be right.  The much-maligned ‘Panzerkardinal’’ possessed “a new intelligence for recognizing and articulating the mysteries of the faith.  His speciality was the ability to unravel complicated issues, to see straight through mere superficialities” (p. xx).  For him theology is a prayerful pondering of God’s Word, listening to Him rather than constructing personal positions.  “‘God Himself is the place beyond all places.  If you look into the world, you do not see heaven, but you see traces of God everywhere.  In the structure of matter, in all the rationality of reality.  Even where you see human beings, you find traces of God.  You see vices, but you also see goodness, love. These are the places where God is there’” (p. 238).

         His hunger for God distanced him from the the progressive, this-worldly churchmen claiming to represent Vatican II.  Benedict understood that:  “‘The real problem at this moment of our history is that God is disappearing from the human horizon,’” and man is sliding into a nihilistic darkness.  What we need is God, not social reforms, and to find God we must open our hearts to His Revelation in Christ and the Christian tradition.  The grave problem in today’s Church is not simply the catastrophic loss of members but the loss of faith so evident in “the lukewarmness in prayer and worship, the neglect of mission.  For him, true reform is a question of inner awakening, of setting hearts on fire.  The top priority is to proclaim what we can know and believe with certainty about Christ” (p. xiv).  Benedict endeavored, he said, “‘above all else to show what faith means in the contemporary world, and further, to highlight the centrality of faith in God, and give people the courage to have faith, courage to live concretely in the world with faith’” (p. 4).  Of all the Church Fathers, St Augustine proved primary in Benedict’s development.  They both found that ‘“God is so great that we never finish our searching.  He is always new.  With God there is perpetual, unending encounter, with new discoveries and new joy’” (p. 12).  To know Him, to worship Him, to serve Him, is the real work of theology. 

       Extended passages in The Last Testament deal with Benedict’s memories of his earlier years and give insight into his family, his scholarly works, his evaluations of his contemporary theologians, and his positions in the Church.  But the thing that stands out in this book is his deep desire to be a “co-worker with the truth” proclaiming the Good News that God is Love.  

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In 1996 Peter Seewald interviewed Joseph Ratzinger and published their conversations in Salt of the Earth:  Christianity and the Catholic Church at the End of the Millennium (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, c. 1996).  Seevold provided a very personal introduction, indicating that he had, as a youngster, rejected the Faith, so he interviewed Ratzinger with some genuine personal concerns regarding himself as well as his subject.  He noted that Ratzinger was always interested in philosophy, theology, doctrine, and ethics.  He granted that knowing theology doesn’t make one a better person, but when rightly studied and appropriated it matters eternally—both for an individual and the Church.  Though more celebrated “problems” may capture newspaper headlines, the real crisis in the Church was theological—for above all she’s entrusted with declaring what one ought to believe.  To Ratzinger, “To the substance of the faith belongs the fact that we look upon Christ as the living, incarnate Son of God made man; that because of him we believe in God, the triune God, the Creator of heaven and earth; that we believe that this god bends so far down, can become so small, that he is concerned about man and has created history with man, a history whose vessel, whose privileged place of expression, is the Church” (p. 19). 

Typical of a journalist, Seewald also asked Ratzinger probing questions.  The future pope acknowledged that he is something of a Platonist and is openly devoted to St. Augustine.  He also cited a turning point, for him personally, came when Marxists gained power, especially in the universities, in the late ‘60s.  He instantly knew that “Christians” trying to mix Marx with Jesus—flying the flag of  “progressivism”—would lose their integrity as Christians.  Since that time, “progressives” within the Catholic Church have sought to change her sexual standards, to install female priests, to make the Church something akin to themselves rather than Christ.  Obviously, Ratzinger noted, “not all who call themselves Christians really are Christians” (p. 220).  Real Christians seek to live out the Christ-like life divinely imparted to them.  They’re not intent on changing the world!   Indeed, as the 20th century demonstrates, “everything depends on man’s not doing everything of which he is capable—for he is capable of destroying himself and the world—but on knowing that what ‘should’ be done and what ‘may’ be done are the standard against which to measure what ‘can’ be done” (p. 230).  To give us direction we need spiritual renewal, not political revolution.  We need saints, not power-hungry protesters.  “What we really need,” says Ratzinger, echoing his words in The Ratzinger Report, “are people who are inwardly seized by Christianity, who experience it as joy and hope, who have thus become lovers.  And these we call saints” (p. 26).  

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Yet another set of published interviews by Peter Seewald, God and the World:  A Conversation with Peter Seewald (San Francisco:  Ignatius Press, c. 2000), enriches our understanding of Pope Benedict XVI.  By this time Seewald had returned to the Faith and his questions are both informed and sympathetic.  Setting the stage in his preface, hinting at his own journey back to faith, Seewald wondered what to make of the fact that:  “Within a short period of time, something like a spiritual nuclear attack had befallen large sections of society, a sort of Big Bang of Christian culture that was our foundation” (p. 13).  To which Ratzinger, “one of the Church’s great wise men . . . patiently recounted the gospel to me, the belief of Christendom from the beginning of the world to its end, then, day by day, something of the mystery that holds the world together from within became more tangible.  And fundamentally it is perhaps quite simple.  ‘Creation,’ said the scholar, ‘bears within itself an order.  We can work, out from this the ideas of God—and even the right way for us to live’” (pp. 14-15).  Faith and love, rightly amalgamated, provide us that way.  

Consequently, the Faith, rooted in the Truth of Revelation, cannot be compromised.  “I always recall the saying of Tertullian,” Ratzinger says, “that Christ never said ‘I am the custom’, but ‘I am the truth’” (p. 35).  Thus the task of the Church, in the words of Romano Guardini, is to “‘steadily hold out to man the final verities, the ultimate image of perfection, the most fundamental principles of value, and must not permit herself to be confused by any passion, by any alteration of sentiment, by any trick of self-seeking’” (p. 65).  To the cardinal:  “Christianity makes its appearance with the claim to tell us something about God and the world and ourselves—something that is true and that, in the crisis of an age in which we have a great mass of communications about truth in natural science, but with respect to the questions essential for man we are sidelined into subjectivism, what we need above all is to seek anew for truth, with a new courage to recognize truth.  In that way, this saying handed down from our origins, which I have chosen as my motto, defines something of the function of a priest and theologian, to wit, that he should, in all humility, and knowing his own fallibility, seek to be a co-worker of the truth” (p. 263).  

Seeing the truth—discerning the Logos in creation—enables one to share Sir Isaac Newton’s conviction that:  “The wonderful arrangement and harmony of the universe can only have come into being in accordance with the plans of an omniscient and all-powerful Being.  That is, and remains, my most important finding” (p. 47).  The clear mathematical structure of the cosmos reveals its Logos.  Equally rational, one discerns moral truths that are as objective and inflexible as mathematical formulae.  The Ten Commandments, explained by Ratzinger as “commandments of love” (p. 180), are always and everywhere valid because they tell us the truth about God and ourselves.  Thus it follows, he says, that:  “Setting moral standards is in fact the most prominent work of mercy” (p. 317).  

Since Seewald guided Ratzinger through the major themes of the catechism, God in the World is a rather handy, informal primer for the Catholic faith.  Combined with The Ratzinger Report and Salt of the Earth, it provides valuable insight into the personality and theology of the late pontiff.  

361 Fearfully and Wonderfully Made

            In one of the great pro-life biblical declarations, David said:  “For you formed my inward parts; / You covered me in my mother’s womb.  /  I will praise you for I am fearfully and wonderfully made;  / Marvelous are Your works,  / And that my soul knows very well” (Ps 139:13-14).  So too Shakespeare’s Hamlet exclaimed, using eight successive exclamation points:  “What a piece of work is man!  how noble in reason!  /  how infinite in faculty!  in form and moving how / express and admirable!  in action how like an angel!  / in apprehension how like a god!  the beauty of the world!  / the paragon of animals!” (Hamlet, 2.2.295-300).   This we know:  as the centuries pass our understanding of human anatomy becomes increasingly complex—indeed bordering on the miraculous—and we ought in humility daily kneel down and give praise for the wonders of our bodies.  We also must, in humility, acknowledge that we have just begun to begin to understand our physical frame.

        Our body’s majesty of is amply described in Your Designed Body (Seattle:  Discovery Institute, c. 2022; Kindle Edition), by Steve Laufmann (a systems engineer) and Howard Glicksman (a medical doctor).  The two bring to the discussion complementary perspectives—a physician’s precise description of what’s known and an engineer’s insight into the mechanics and beauty of architectural designs.  They combine the expertise needed to make their presentation authoritative and the real-world experience to write clearly for general readers.  Though they primarily describe what’s now known—urging readers to understand and (with Socrates of old) “follow the evidence”— they also insist that what’s known cannot be really understood without appreciating its design.  Countering much promulgated by modern biologists who champion evolutionary naturalism, with its hostility to any presence of mind in the physical world, they insist there is a “basic question” that must be confronted:  “Could the apparent design in living systems have happened by accident, or did it require an actual designer? Could any series of unguided errors, over any period of time, achieve the wonders of the human body?” (p. 22).  

       There are purely material causes operative throughout the universe.  They are basic to physics and chemistry and by necessity do exactly the same things repeatedly.  They are suitably studied by experimental science.  But they are “incapable of intent or foresight, which limits their creative powers” (p. 23).   Intelligent causes, on the other hand, “act with intention—they perform actions and build artifacts to achieve intended goals and purposes.  Intelligent agents visualize an outcome, plan how to achieve it, and execute that plan to make the vision reality.  They make specific choices to achieve the desired outcome, guiding the construction, assembly, and activation of the end product.  Intelligent agents generate information and give it meaning. They design systems that harness the laws of nature to perform tasks that nature could never otherwise do—to channel the material forces of nature to achieve specific goals.  Intelligent agents are able, using forethought and the hard work of design, to build large and coherent systems of systems” (p. 24).  Importantly:  “Intelligent causes mainly work from contingency (non-necessary causes) and are not generally repeatable, so they yield much better to inferential science” such as history and archeology (p. 26).  When studying a living human body, inferential science offers robust way to fully understand it, for life cannot be reduced to material entities.  There’s a mysterious organizing dimension within all that lives, what ancient thinkers called the soul.   

      A great chasm separates living from non-living beings.  “As biologist Michael Denton so keenly points out, ‘Between a living cell and the most highly ordered non-biological system . . . there is a chasm as vast and absolute as it is possible to conceive’” (p. 34). Still more:  living beings never come from non-living beings.  It’s never been seen and simply could not happen. What we see, in the 30 trillion cells (the tiniest parts of our bodies), are incredibly complex living organisms.  As the authors describe how a cell functions one is left almost speechless, awed by the wonder of what takes place within it.  We might well be impressed by the wonders of modern technology, evident in cell phones and computer-driven automobiles.  But a tiny cell far surpasses any human engineering feat, for it is alive!  And:  “To be alive, each cell must perform thousands of complicated tasks, with both functional and process coherence” (p. 53).  It must orchestrate a bewildering variety of systems, involving millions of parts, properly sequenced and coordinated.  Then, amazingly, the cell needs to reproduce itself, making new cells to carry on the body’s life. 

       Studying an individual cell and its interactions with all the other cells of the body cannot but amaze!  There are the internal data, informing the cell, making it what it is and facilitating its workings.  But they are also members of a body of trillions of other cells, an orchestra of parts working together.  Information and orchestration—two remarkably different but necessarily interlocked dimensions to the human organism!  There is “orchestration, wherein the cells get instructions from a controller external to the cell; and choreography, wherein each cell determines its own course of action, based on its perception of the situation around it, combined with its internal programming.  If it’s orchestration, where do the instructions come from?  What systems track the development process and decide when and where to send out these instructions?  If it’s choreography, how do cells perceive the situation around them?  What possibilities and differences can they distinguish, and how do they turn these into actions? Most complex systems use a combination of these approaches.  How the body does this is not (yet) known.  But we can apply engineering knowledge to understand what must be there for the specifications and instructions to work, even if we have little idea where these things might be, or how they’re encoded” (p. 341).

       Every tiny cell is itself a marvel, but it also works in even more marvelous ways with all the rest of the body’s 30 trillion cells!  “When a system has all the right parts, in all the right places, made of the right materials, with the right specifications, doing their respective functions, at all the right times, to achieve an overall, system-level function that none of the parts can do on its own, you have what is known as a coherent system.  Coherence, in this sense, is a functional requirement for all non-trivial systems.  Moreover, in life the systems are never standalone—there are always interdependencies between and among the various component systems and parts.  The human body is composed of coherent, interdependent systems” (p. 61).  There are eleven distinct systems simultaneously working to keep us alive:  respiratory, gastrointestinal, renal/urinary, cardiovascular, integegumentary, skeletal, motor, nervous, immune/lymphatic, endocrine, reproductive systems.  

“Each of these is a specialized subsystem in the body.  The body needs all of them, organized properly, and coordinated to remarkably fine tolerances. In turn, each of these subsystems is a complete system, itself composed of many specialized subsystems and parts, organized in specific ways, and precisely coordinated” (p. 63). Consider our respiratory system.  All 30 trillion cells in our body constantly need oxygen (O2), the fuel that enables them to live.  Then they must expel resultant carbon dioxide (CO2), which would destroy them.  So how does the body know how much O2 to deliver and how much CO2 to shed?  It does so through elaborate control signaling systems that govern our breathing and heart pumping processes. When we exercise we breathe more quickly and our heart beats more rapidly, sending precisely the needed oxygen to our muscle cells and efficiently discarding the waste.  Scientists have meticulously observed and described these life-sustaining processes.  But they cannot begin to explain precisely how they could have originated, nor can they tell us why they work so effectively.  When they claim “evolution” did it, they are indulging in  “imaginative storytelling” accompanied by “a lot of hand-waving around the details” (p. 103).  

       Enabling the respiratory system to function, the cardiovascular system is equally necessary and complex.  “All the tissues and organs of your body need exactly enough blood flow to meet their energy needs no matter what you’re doing.  This is a profoundly difficult engineering problem.  Different parts of the body have different needs for different activities. Blood must be directed in exactly the needed quantities, to exactly the right places, at exactly the needed times. And the flows must adapt just as quickly as the body and its organs require” (p. 113).  The “system works a bit like a pipe organ, in which a single pump generates air pressure and the many pipes each have a valve.  When the organist presses combinations of keys on the keyboard, the valves at specific pipes are opened (some more, some less) to achieve the correct timbre, and music happens” (p. 118).  

     Yet another mysterious aspect of our bodies is their heat-regulating capacity.  To survive, we need to maintain a core temperature between 97° and 99°F.  Whether we’re in scorching heat of Death Valley or the freezing temperatures atop Mt. Whitney, we simply must maintain the right temperature.  Fortunately, our body’s  “thermoregulation” governs our metabolism and adjusts to the intensity of our exercise.   Playing a crucial role in this is the hypothalamus, which serves “as the body’s thermostat to keep your core temperature near its target range of 97° to 99°F” p. 168).  It’s informed by thermoreceptors embedded in our skin—many thousands of sensors demanding proper adjustments be made.  Simultaneous, internal thermoreceptors keep track of our cells’ temperature, our “core” condition.   

     We contact and understand the world outside us through the five physical senses.  As Laufmann and Glicksman delve into our seeing and hearing skills the wonders of creation  loom ever larger.   In the 18th century Sir Isaac Newton memorably exclaimed:  “How came the bodies of animals to be contrived with so much art, and for what ends were their several parts?  Was the eye contrived without skill in opticks?”  Good question!  A century later than it still stumped Charles Darwin, and today’s engineers remain mystified by the complexity of the eye, something beyond their ability to manufacture.  (I well remember hearing Francis Crick, co-discoverer of DNA, who was studying the eye, admit in the 1990s that he could only begin to fathom its intricate workings!). Opthamologists describe much about it, but “no one really understands exactly how it works” (p. 194).  “That vision is possible at all is startling.  Vision requires more solutions to more difficult problems than perhaps any other system in the body.  It combines perfectly tuned biochemistry with solutions to complicated engineering problems involving general physics, optics, and electrical engineering, all at a level of nanotechnical sophistication that makes even the best human engineers drool.  Our vision requires perfectly tuned physical structures with orchestrated motion, transparent tissues and fluids (in all the right places and in none of the wrong ones), unique supply chain solutions, constant delivery of energy to energy-hungry cells, layers of complex control systems, high information signaling systems, and information processing and image assembly on a scale we’ve barely begun to understand.  And all this happens with no perceptible delay and no conscious effort, so you can focus on what you’re seeing rather than how you’re seeing.  Vison is both a wonder and an enigma” (p. 197).

       As a systems engineer, Laufmann appreciates complex systems, such as the Apollo rockets and iPhones.   They fuse together an enormous number of parts, working together in multiple systems.  The parts must be shaped just right and the systems must work together smoothly.  Thousands of engineers are needed to make them.  Such things never just “emerge” in some spontaneous event.  Once they’re in place and functioning, they retain their carefully planned programs.  Changes in either parts or systems lead to breakdowns, not improvements.  “If we look across the body’s design hierarchy, there is coherence at each level and interdependencies all over the place, both within each level and among the levels.  All these things occur with a precision and complexity that dwarf any systems human engineers can comprehend, much less design and implement” (p. 354).  Equally important:  “When we look at the whole of the body, which of the systems, or the subsystems, or the sub-subsystems, or any of the underlying information, could be taken away before the body fails?  If it can’t function without hundreds and hundreds of key subsystems and parts, how could it have come to exist a little bit at a time?  In short, the body has chicken-and-egg problems top to bottom.  Indeed, most of the problems the body must solve are chicken-and-egg problems” (p. 358).  

       At work in, and deeply embedded in the body is something even more mysterious than the body.  There’s a self-conscious “me” who’s aware of both the world apart from me and inner world transcending purely physical things.   We are a mind, a rational soul that is metaphysically real.  Neuroscientists know that “while perception, movement, memory, and emotion are mainly caused physically, by brain matter, the human capacity for higher reason, abstract thought, and free will are not.  Thus, though there is clearly a relationship between the two, the mind is distinct from the brain.  We don’t need to plumb the depths of the mind’s mysteries to realize this:  the mind, however it may be connected to our brain and body, isn’t reducible to matter. Your self-ness, while overlaid on your body, is in some essential way more than your body, and independent of it.  Is it possible the entire point of your body is to make the ‘YOU’ possible, and to give it a home?  This may be among the most important questions a person can grapple with, yet it seems far from the minds of most materialists” (p. 382).

       Dealing honestly with the mounting evidence concerning human nature, “the more evident becomes the astonishing engineering ingenuity involved, and the harder it becomes to explain its origin.  It’s hard to make a new, coherently engineered system (at least one that works).  And it’s hard to make a major change to a coherent system without breaking it. Together, these realities present a doubly formidable hurdle for any proposed causal explanation.  Mix in the fact that there’s a person living inside the system, and you’ve got a trifecta of causal problems to solve—you only win if you get them all right.  Anyone who expects you to buy their origins story must account for all these things.  The quality of their explanation should be compelling.  Or at least intriguing.  Or at least plausible. No hand-waving allowed.  And no wishful thinking” (p. 383).

       We can either embrace “a theory of billions of innovative accidents” or a theory of  “biological design.”  As David Gelernter, an eminent Yale professor says:  “This is one of the most important intellectual issues of modern times, and every thinking person has the right and duty to judge for himself.”  Thinking billions of accidents could make anything as complex as the body involves “trying to explain such things through fantastical storytelling, mental gymnastics, and bizarre leaps of logic (and always short on concrete engineering details) as they force-fit all manner of traits into some imaginative survival or reproductive advantage.”  Invoking the “‘survival of the fittest’” smacks of circularity.”  Survivors survive!  So what?  Such tautologies are not explanations!  Nor is “selecting” the same as “generating,” and “no amount of selecting can, by itself, generate a coherent system.”  Nor can “natural selection” select anything!  “Selecting is an act of intention, and nature lacks the wherewithal to intend.  Selection implies agency, but the theory allows no room for agency.” (pp. 397-398).  Indeed Darwin, later in life, admitted that “natural preservation” would have been a better term. 

        The authors of Your Designed Body urge readers to consider the evidence for a new framework, a better worldview, that applies “systems engineering thinking to living organisms—a framework that takes an outlook at least as old as Plato and updates it from a modern systems perspective” (p. 414).  This means understanding that “the history of life is the unfolding interplay of four major causal factors”—Intentional Acts; Internal Adaptation; Design Properties; and Degradation” (pp. 415-416).  As we look at the human body we see all four causes interacting in wondrous ways.  “There are hundreds of systems and subsystems in the human body for which there is neither a known nor even a theorized gradual evolutionary pathway to generating function—no adaptive continuum along which life is viable and reproducing at every step.  Without this, no gradual approach can ever fashion the individual systems in the human body, much less orchestrate the irreducibly complex ensemble of systems essential to our existence” (p. 467).  An engineer cannot but see an intelligent designer-engineer” at work. 

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       For 40 years the Australian biologist Michael Denton has been making the case for “intelligent design.”  In The Miracle of Man:  The Fine Tuning of Nature for Human Existence (Seattle:  Discovery Institute, c. 2022; Kindle Edition), he looks not at human beings per se but at the fundamental elements the universe provides for their well being.  “The human person as revealed by modern science is no contingent assemblage of elements, an irrelevant afterthought of cosmic evolution,” he says.  “Rather, our destiny was inscribed in the light of stars and the properties of atoms since the beginning.  Now we know that all nature sings the song of man.  Our seeming exile from nature is over.  We now know what the medieval scholars only believed, that the underlying rationality of nature is indeed ‘manifest in human flesh.’  And with this revelation the… delusion of humankind’s irrelevance on the cosmic stage has been revoked.” (p. 202)  He discerns “an act of extraordinary prescience” that “built into nature from the beginning a suite of properties finely calibrated for beings of our physiological and anatomical design and for our ability to follow the path of technological enlightenment from the Stone Age to the present” (p. 30).

       After devoting many chapters to describing how water and oxygen and fire and various chemical elements simply must precisely as they are for man to be what he is, Denton concludes:  “My argument is not merely that nature is fit for us (which it must be, of course), but that nature is uniquely fit for intelligent, technologically capable organisms very much like us, that we occupy a very special, even privileged, place in the order of things.  That is the central claim of this book.  And it is a claim which, as I have shown, is supported by a mountain of scientific evidence.  Humans are clearly no contingent cosmic afterthought. The exquisitely fine-tuned ensembles of environmental fitness described here, each enabling a vital aspect of our physiological design, amount to nothing less than a primal blueprint for our being written into the fabric of reality since the moment of creation, providing compelling evidence that we do indeed, after all, occupy a central place in the great cosmic drama of being.  This is the miracle of man.  We are not positioned in the spatial center of the universe as was believed before Copernicus, but what we have found over the past two centuries confirms the deep intuition of the medieval Christian scholars who believed that ‘“in the cognition of nature in all her depths, man finds himself’” (pp. 209-210).

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       In Does the Atom Have a Designer? (eThermal, LLC, c. 2013/2016;Kindle Edition), Lakhi N. Goenka argues that even the tiniest material entities contain traces of design.  An atom “is not a passive billiard ball.  It is a complex system of interacting particles called the Atom (which can perhaps be more appropriately referred to as The Atomic System).”  Within the atom, we find subatomic particles—quarks, gluons, and leptons—interacting in wondrous ways.  They are more constellations of energy than hard entities!  Within “fractions of a second after the Big Bang” they were operating in accord with laws, but precisely what “energy” is still eludes us. Equally mysterious are realities such as gravity and “dark matter” which we observe but cannot fully understand.  We observe photons and use them in technologies such as TV, but they mysteriously travel at the speed of light and have zero mass!  They seem like bits of matter but are somehow non-material!  In 1951, Albert Einstein noted “the unfathomable nature of the photon,” confessing he had no answer to its nature, saying:  “Nowadays every rascal thinks he knows the answer, but he is simply deluding himself.”  Would we all had the humility to simply pause in the presence of Mystery!

360 Deep Church Rising

         A century ago Christian churches in Europe were—despite the ravages of WWI— reasonably strong.  Now they are little more than empty sanctuaries with poorly-attended services and posturing prelates.  Across the “pond,” half-a-century ago, American churches were thriving; both Catholic and Protestant services, seminaries, and schools were doing well.  With Billy Graham and Fulton J. Sheen serving as spokesmen, churches in the 1950s promised to soar and succeed in coming decades.  But during the past two decades things in America have changed.  Indices of various sorts portend a European-style collapse in the 21st century.  Only 64% of Americans now identify as Christians; only 47% belong to a religious congrgation; one-third of Gen-Z claim to be atheists.  

       Consequently, serious thinkers have appraised the situation and proffered significant suggestions.  In Deep Church Rising:  The Third Schism and the Recovery of Christian Orthodoxy Eugene Oregon:  Cascade Books, c. 2014; Kindle Edition), Andrew G. Walker and Robin A. Parry call for the recovery of an historical orthodoxy equipped to effectively address modernity, following Lesslie Newbigin, who “was dismayed at the way in which so many churches had thrown in the towel to modernity” (#65).  Prophetically, in 1952, C. S. Lewis wrote:  “To a layman, it seems obvious that what unites the Evangelical and the Anglo-Catholic against the “Liberal” or “Modernist” is something very clear and momentous, namely, the fact that both are thoroughgoing supernaturalists, who believe in the Creation, the Fall, the Incarnation, the Resurrection, the Second Coming, and the . . . Last Things.  This unites them not only with one another, but also with the Christian religion as understood ubique et ab omnibus [lit. everywhere and by all].  The point of view from which this agreement seems less important than their divisions . . . is to me unintelligible.  Perhaps the trouble is that as supernaturalists, whether ‘Low’ or ‘High’ Church, thus taken together, they lack a name.  May I suggest ‘Deep Church’; or, if that fails in humility, Baxter’s ‘mere Christians.’”  

       Following Lewis’s lead, a series of meetings of concerned Anglicans, evangelicals and charismatics, met and acknowledged that what Lewis feared has in fact become a “Third Schism.”  Unlike the divisions between Eastern Orthodoxy and Roman Catholicism in 1057 A.D., or between Protestants and Catholics in 1517 A.D., the current schism severs virtually all Christian communities and “undermines the very basis of Christian faith in its denial of the Trinity, incarnation, and the resurrection, and in its treating Scripture as an object of scientific inquiry rather than as a sacred text” (#72).  It is the most ominous development in the history of the Church.  It began in the medieval era when Duns Scotus subtly undermined the traditional understanding of God’s transcendence.  Then William of Occam helped shape the nominalism which became dominant in the following centuries.  In time the “scientific revolution” eliminated Mind from the cosmos.  Responding to the resulting world he faced at the dawn of the 19th century, Friedrich Schleiermacher, “the father of modern theology,” made personal experience the key to faith, and his “influence on Protestant theology has been colossal, and is directly linked with sophisticated and ingenious interpretations of Scripture” (p. 32).  Consequently, theological truth became “person-relative”—autonomous individuals shape their very own “truths”—and nicely-designed to insure personal comforts.  “My truth” trumps “your truth” and has little concern for the “wisdom of the ancients” or for historical Christians creeds or confessions.   

      To Walker and Parry it’s clear that “Christianity is now on sale in multiform shapes and sizes.”  Shop around and surely you can find a version compatible with your inclinations.  While acknowledging how this was probably inevitable in a consumer culture, they insist “that the Christian gospel has a central core of truth that has an objective character about it.  Christian faith is not like a lump of clay that we can reshape however we see fit” (p. 4).  We obviously must deal with modernity and we cannot mindlessly repeat historic creeds.  We must retrieve what’s eternally true and recontextualize it, presenting “a fresh improvisation of the faith that is both deeply rooted in Scripture and tradition but also alive to the worlds we now inhabit” (p. 43).  There are “living traditions” anchored in the “Deep Church” (deep in both history and Gospel truth) that “can survive the wound of the third schism and navigate the rapids of modernity and postmodernity” through “anamnesis, by remembering, by recovering deep church” (p. 44).

       Such recovery involves what C. S. Lewis called a regress, embracing “the Latin sense of regressus—of returning or going back to a former place” (p. 49).   This means fusing “right belief, right worship, and right living.  All three are of the essence of faith in Jesus, of knowing God” (p. 66).  They can be distinguished but not separated—they are all of “faith.”  Right belief (orthodoxia) nourishes itself in what the early Christians called the gospel (evangerlion), which “was a story about what the God of Israel had done for Israel and for the world in Jesus, the Son of God.”  The New Testamernt tells the “story of Jesus—in whom YHWH was uniquely manifest—crucified, buried, raised from the dead, and ascended into heaven. That was the very heart of the Jesus movement and it has remained such to this very day” (p. 69).  What was believed about Jesus was condensed into the Nicene Creed in 325 A.D.—the creed clearly “affirmed by Orthodox, Catholic, and mainstream Protestant churches to this day.  It was the line in the sand that the churches drew in their attempt to defend the gospel story.  Our contention is that it remains such today” (p. 77).  This Creed the leaders of the Third Schism have denied, contributing to the collapse of the churches.

       Right worship accompanies right doctrine.  In our consumer culture entertainment flourishes, driven by man’s innate human hunger for beauty, one of the great “transcendentals.”  Art and music appeal to what’s deepest in us—though the ways they do so vary dramatically.  Some art is subjective, pragmatic, self-indulging, requiring little thought or discipline because it mainly appeals to our senses and is, consequently, superficial.  Thus young people instinctively flock to rock concerts rather than classical symphonies.  Trying to attract them, many churches have embraced entertainment as the answer to outreach.  “And making worship entertaining does draw crowds—it works.  At least, it works if we think that big numbers of people feeling good for a while is the goal.  But do we have a congregation or an audience?  Do we have worship or a performance?  Are we forming disciples or keeping our customers happy?  Are we honoring God or pleasing ourselves?” (p. 98).  So the Deep Church must always ask whether our worship is shaped by the gospel or by pop culture.  Right worship is “offered to the Father, through the Son, in the Spirit.  If it is, then it brings ‘right glory’ because Christ’s worship does” (p. 99).  It focuses on God and Christ, not on ourselves.  Still more:  to worship well Christians need cross-shaped sanctuaries—not fan-shaped entertainment centers—reminding us of Calvary.

       Right practice (orthopraxia) primarily engages us in doing well, being ethical persons.  Long gone is the natural law ethos of traditional Christianity.  Replacing it is an ethical emotivism that normalizes feelings.  If it feels good do it!  To which the Deep Church needs to recover a gospel ethic, a Christian way of living fully evident throughout 20 centuries.  Questions as diverse as abortion and compassion for the poor, property rights and just war, have been fully discussed in the past and give clarity for moral behavior today.  We simply need to “regress”—to recover the way of virtuous behavior.  

       Deep Church rightly identifies the “third schism” impairing the contemporary Church.  It sets forth convincing reasons to explain it.  And some, if not all, of its injunctions might very well help serious Christians work to preach the gospel and do the work of the Kingdom.

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       James P. Shea is the president of the University of Mary in Bismarck, North Dakota—one of a score or so recently-established, deeply traditional Catholic colleges determined to chart different courses from those taken by prestigious “Catholic” universities such as Boston College and Notre Dame.  Shea recently published From Christendom to Apostolic Mission: Pastoral Strategies for an Apostolic Age (Bismarck:  University of Mary Press, c. 2020), a short and very insightful analysis of current conditions and helpful proposals to equip the Church for coming challenges.  In brief, he says Christian churches in the West have, for more than a thousand years, relied on a rich culture within which they could rather easily proclaim the faith and disciple believers.  In my childhood, for example, the public schools openly supported Christianity and assisted students to follow their faith and adhere to biblical ethics.  That world is fast fading away and will probably never return.   Fulton Sheen saw it coming and in 1974 and said:  “We are at the end of Christendom.  Not of Christianity, not of the Church, but of Christendom” (p. 4).

     This means, Shea says, that:  “We are dealing with the first culture in history that was once deeply Christian but that by a slow and thorough process has been consciously ridding itself of its Christian basis.”  Growing numbers of people have turned away from the Faith.  “We are therefore not attempting to make converts from pagans; we are attempting to bring back to the Church those knowingly or unknowingly in the grasp of apostasy, a different and more difficult challenge.  C. S. Lewis once described this difference as that between a man wooing a young maiden and a man winning a cynical divorcée back to her previous marriage. The situation is made yet more complex in that many who have abandoned Christianity and have embraced an entirely different understanding of the world still call themselves Christians” (p. 7).  Apostasy is primarily intellectual—a matter of changing beliefs, denying the reality of God and then rationalizing such things as adultery and sodomy, infanticide and theft.  

       Giving up on reestablishing Christendom would enable us to recover what Shea labels the “apostolic mission.”  The Early Church, working within a pagan culture, reached people with the Gospel.  A small group of believers, facing much hostility, found ways to build and sustain the church.  “They had great confidence in their Lord, in their message, and in the creativity and fertility of the Church.  They knew that their task was to be used by the Holy Spirit to grow the Church, and they knew the graced means by which it was to grow.  And grow it did” (p. 29).  What they did we too must do, embracing an evangelistic task best understood as presenting “the Gospel in such a way that the minds of its hearers can be given the opportunity to be transformed, converted from one way of looking at the world to a different way” (p. 48).  Preaching in an apostolic manner must be theological rather than ethical, aiming at a transformation of the mind (“a conversion of mind to a sacramental vision of the world”), before prescribing righteous behavior.  

       In a remarkably succinct statement regarding our situation, Shea says:   “We receive from Christ both the times in which we are to live and the grace to engage our world as it is” (p. 24).  Consequently we rightly believe that:  “The Holy Spirit is at work in every age, ours included.  If it is true, as we are assured by Saint Paul, that grace is more present the more that evil abounds (cf. Rom 5), we might expect an especially abundant action of the Holy Spirit in our own time.  Our task is to understand the age we have been given, to trace out how the Holy Spirit is working in it, and to seize the adventure of cooperating with him.  May we be given the wisdom and the courage to rise to the challenge of the new apostolic age that is coming upon us and to prove faithful stewards in our generation of the saving message and liberating life given us by Jesus Christ” (p. 65).

       This wise, readable, reassuring treatise provides one of the most balanced and valuable analyses I’ve read dealing with the Church confronting our troubled world.

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      Eric Metaxas first came to my attention when I read his wonderful biography—Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy.  Invoking his knowledge of Bonhoeffer, Metaxis recently published Letter to the American Church (Washington, D.C.:  Salem Books, c. 2022;  Kindle Edition), thinking “the American Church is at an impossibly—and almost unbearably—important inflection point. The parallels to where the German Church was in the 1930s are unavoidable and grim” (p. ix).  The same forces of evil are alive and well, and the American Church needs to combat them.  They “have an atheistic Marxist ideology in common,” and operate under the banners of Critical Race Theory, “radical transgender and pro-abortion ideologies,” and wage “war with the ideas of family and marriage.”  Demonic ideologies have “infiltrated our own culture in such a way that they touch everything, and part of what makes them so wicked is that they smilingly pretend to share the biblical values that champion the underdog against the oppressor” (p. xii).

       German Christians remained remarkably silent when the Nazis took charge of their country.  American Christians, Metaxas asserts, are doing the same, failing to defend the unborn, ignoring persecuted believers, saying nothing about “the deadly perniciousness of Marxist atheist philosophy,” or “criticizing the great evil of Communist countries like China.”  “How dare we be silent about such things?” (p. 5).  We do so, in part, because in 1954 Senator Lyndon Johnson “introduced an amendment to the U.S. tax code prohibiting churches—and any other nonprofit organizations—from taking a public stand on political candidates” (p. 8).  Subsequently, pastors have felt muzzled—unable to denounce  evil lest their churches be taxed.  They also failed to speak out because many of them felt a compulsion to be constantly kind and easily aligned with our deeply therapeutic, entertainment-craving culture.  All too often they resemble corporate leaders “who have become especially cowardly and seem willing to say and do whatever someone advises them is necessary to avoid trouble and keep them from being ‘cancelled’” (p. 10).

       Pastoral cowardice was on display, Metaxas thinks, during the recent Covid pandemic.   Bureaucrats, governors and mayors cavalierly branded churches “non-essential” while allowing marijuana dispensaries and strip clubs to remain open!  Getting supplies at Costco was fine, but finding spiritual nourishment in church was forbidden!  Rather than do their homework and defy the despots, church leaders (with remarkably few exceptions) quietly submitted to the mandates and endorsed useless practices such as “social distancing” and masking up!  “This was a deeply disgraceful moment for the American Church” (p. 12).  Caving into the Covid frenzy promoted by the likes of Anthony Fauci and Joe Biden was certainly less noxious than acquiescing to Hitler, but the same kind of cowardice was on display.  

       On Reformation Sunday in 1932, a few months before Hitler took over, Dietrich Bonhoeffer preached a prophetic sermon.  At the age of 26 he wanted to awaken Lutherans to the threat posed by those who recruited Luther to support the kind of nationalism embodied in the Nazis.  Many hearers thought it a “jeremiad” exaggerating problems in their country.  Few heeded its warnings, for they failed to discern the signs of the times, wanting to stay safe and hope Hitler would prove innocuous.  Within a year the German Church would divide into the pro-Nazi Deutsche Christen and the Confessing Church, led by Bonhoeffer, Martin Niemöller and Karl Barth, who in 1934 drafted the Barmen Declaration.  Of 18,000 Lutheran pastors, only 3,000 dared support the declaration; 3,000 openly supported the Deutsche Kristen.  But 12,000—a huge majority of pastors—took no position!  They waited cautiously, hoping to avoid trouble.  Some even displayed the swastika—rather like some American churches recently putting up “rainbow banners or BLM flags.”  Given the “silence and compliance” of these 12,000, the Nazis soon began arresting dissident pastors.  Within years, as WWII began, the Holocaust erupted.

       It all happened, Metaxas things, because German Christians failed to speak out against evil.  And he fears todays American Christians are equally cowardly.  Comforted by the “cheap grace” Bonhoeffer condemned, they fail to be true disciples of Jesus, speaking the truth in love.  Our world is not Bonhoeffer’s, but we should ponder some of the issues we face in the light of his life.  Take, for example, “the cultural Marxism that talks about systemic racism, or the transgender madness that says the Bible’s view of human beings and sexuality is completely false.”  We don’t live in a country that imprisons dissidents, but its ruling class certainly champions “the ideology of atheist Marxism” which is manifestly anti-Christian, and serious Christians are increasingly silenced and punished by corporations, universities, and governments.  So we must continually ask:  “What would God have us do?”  

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       Douglas Groothuis teaches philosophy at Denver Seminary and recently published Fire in the Streets: How You Can Confidently Respond to Incendiary Cultural Topics (Grand Rapids:  Zondervan Publishing House, c. 2022).  Reminding readers of the scores of cities set ablaze by rioters in the summer of 2020 following George Floyd’s death, Groothuis says:  “This fire in the streets stemmed from the fire in the minds of many about race, class, and gender.  This fire is strange fire, not holy fire.  While many are rightly concerned about racial justice, economic opportunity, and the fair treatment of LGBTQ people, the leading philosophy behind these protests is CRT [Critical Race Theory]” (p. xix).  An offshoot of Marxism, CRT is currently taught in hundreds of schools, mandated by the military, and endorsed by countless churches.  

       As neo-Marxists, devotees of CRT embrace doctrinaire positions, including atheism, class struggle, revolutionary strategies and utopian aspirations.  To understand it one needs to study Herbert Marcuse, whose student Angela Davis now serves as a “mentor to  a mentor to Black Lives Matter leaders” (p. 12).  Marcuse was frequently invoked by the radicals of the ‘60s, when he “expanded the base for social revolution to include not only oppressed workers (an economic factor), but also those considered to be sexual or social deviants no matter what their economic class (a cultural factor), and those in minority groups (a racial factor).  Thus, he called for homosexuals, lesbians, bisexuals, and those in other nontraditional sexual categories to join the revolution against the capitalist-traditional-family status quo” (p. 12).  Marcuse endorsed “polymorphous” sexuality and encouraged the counterculture “with its motto of ‘sex, drugs, and rock and roll’” and simple slogans such as “Make love, not war.”

       As the radicals of the ‘60s successfully marched through America’s institutions, “the fires of revolution” were banked “in the minds of academics and activists.”  Given the opportunity in the summer of 2020 these ideological fires took shape in actual fires throughout America’s cities.  “A turning point was the presidency of Barack Obama who, while he presented himself as a moderate, was in reality an advocate of CRT and black liberation theology as taught in his church by his pastor, Jeremiah Wright” (p. 19).   He was significantly helped by William Ayers and Bernardine Dohrn, who were part of a band of ‘bomb-throwing Marxists’ called the Weather Underground, that terrorized America” (p. 20).  Within a few years Obama’s Democrat Party turned radically leftward and openly supported socialistic notions and promoted class struggle, especially between whites and “people of color.”  Seeing American history through the lenses of the oppressed, leftists determined to bring into being a new nation—to “fundamentally change” the nation as Obama envisioned.  

       Following thoughtful chapters analyzing both the roots of CRT and its current implications, Groothuis sets forth what he thinks are the best ways for Christians to address it.   We must fight fire with fire!  Countering the fires in the streets we need to respond with the fire of the Holy Spirit.  Responding to the fires of hate we need to stoke the fires of love.  Countering the messianic pretensions of so many politicians we need to proclaim the Lordship of Jesus Christ.  We should also insist:   “(1) Objective truth is knowable through reason and evidence, (2) individuals have moral value and human rights as opposed to making group identities based on gender and race definitive, and (3) insuring and protecting free speech is better than silencing people” (p. 153). 

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