‘Letters to a Young Catholic’: George Weigel hits a literary home run

letters-to-a-young-catholic-weigel

George Weigel’s Letters to a Young Catholic is a wonderful book, but oddly enough I must begin this review by griping about the title — it’s something that Catholics of any age should read. In fact, the publisher does not lie by billing the book as “a modern spiritual classic,” which is why I recommend it to anyone who is interested in such issues.

Like many Catholic kids, my parents took me to Mass every Sunday growing up. And, like many Catholic kids, I was not exposed to the writings of G.K. Chesterton, George Weigel or other intellectual heavyweights. What I did have access to were kind adults who lacked the ability to articulate the faith in a way that “clicked” for me. I drifted from the Church as a young man and did not come back until I learned many painful lessons. If I were exposed to a book like this as a teenager then it probably would have saved me a lot of lost time, although I admit to having a largely impenetrable chip on my shoulder in those days. (And yes, I know that some of you would argue that it’s still there!)

Perhaps the most fascinating aspect of Letters to a Young Catholic is that in many ways it doubles as a must-read for those who are wondering why America’s political institutions are crumbling before our eyes. The way in which the author travels the globe, goes back in time, covers essential questions about the Catholic faith that all young people ask, and then ties it into our contemporary political landscape is like watching a gymnast who puts everything out on the floor before the judges — and nails it.

Mr. Weigel writes:

If American popular and high culture could ever agree on a theme song that captured the idea of freedom driving much of contemporary life, it would almost certainly be Frank Sinatra’s “My Way.” I did it my way seems to sum up the widespread notion that freedom is a matter of asserting myself and my will — that freedom is really about choice, not about what we choose and why. Suggest that certain choices are just incompatible with human dignity and with growth in goodness, and you’ll get some very strange looks these days, whether on campus or in the workplace.

Catholicism has a different idea of freedom. In the Catholic idea of freedom, freedom and goodness go together. A great contemporary moral theologian, Father Servais Pinckaers, OP, explained all this. […] Learning to play the piano, he reminded us, is a tedious, even dreary business at first: well do I remember my own distaste for a book of technique-strengthening tortures entitled Scales, Chords, and Arpeggios. But after doing one’s exercises for a while, what originally seemed like a burden comes into clearer focus — learning to do the right thing in the right way is actually liberating. You can play anything you like, even the most difficult pieces. You can make new music on your own. Sure, Father Pinckaers writes, anybody can pound away on a piano. But that’s a rudimentary, savage sort of freedom,” not a truly human freedom. …

I did it my way teaches us an idea of freedom that Father Pinckaers calls “the freedom of indifference.” Doing things “my way,” just because it’s my way, is like banging idiotically on the piano or talking gibberish. The richer, nobler idea of freedom the Catholic Church proposes is what Father Pinckaers calls freedom for excellence — the freedom to do the right thing, in the right way, for the right reasons, as a matter of habit. That’s the truly human way. Because that’s the kind of freedom that satisfies our natural desire for happiness, which itself reflects our desire for God, who is all Good, all the way.  […] What’s all this got to do with democracy? Everything. Freedom untethered from moral truth will eventually become freedom’s worst enemy. — Weigel, George. Letters to a Young Catholic. Basic Books, 2015. 305-306.

A friend of mine texted me on Monday and said she hoped that I would cover the first U.S. presidential debate on the blog. In many ways, the text from Mr. Weigel’s book shown here tells us everything we need to know.

Why is America forced to choose between a woman who should be wearing an orange jumpsuit in a federal prison, and an egomaniac with occasionally orange skin?

Answer: Because America long ago decided it wanted to untether freedom from moral truth.

There really is no way to read Letters to a Young Catholic and not have a crystal clear understanding as to why civil society in the U.S. is unraveling. Our cultural influencers embrace a kind of nihilism “that enjoys itself on the way to oblivion, convinced that all of this — the world, us, relationships, sex, beauty, history — is really just a cosmic joke,” and we are now paying the price.

Mr. Weigel counters that “against the nihilist claim that nothing is really of consequence, Catholicism insists that everything is of consequence, because everything has been redeemed by Christ. And if you believe that, it changes the way you see things. It changes the way everything looks.”

If for no other reason, wayward Catholics should read this book to realize that what they thought was Catholicism growing up was in all likelihood a grossly watered down version of the Faith that denied them knowledge of its true richness and beauty. There are numerous reasons for this, and the author does a masterful job spelling it all out. I found myself thinking, “Finally! Someone who gets it,” and I am sure you will too.

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Omar Mateen unleashes terror in Orlando, Twitter mob blames Christians, NRA

Omar Mateen

Omar Mateen of St. Lucie County, Fla., massacred 50 people and wounded 53 others at a gay nightclub in Orlando on Saturday. The St. Lucie County man had pledged allegiance to the Islamic State group and was previously investigated by the FBI. Those are the kind of details that rightly prompt discussions on homeland security and radical Islamic terrorism in objective circles.

On Twitter, however, the online mobs have directed their rage and anger at other targets: Christians and the National Rifle Association. Seriously.

Chase Strangio Orlando terror tweet

Yes, that’s right, a guy who pledged allegiance to ISIS before unleashing a terror attack like those in Paris or Brussels was somehow driven by “the Christian Right” to slaughter gay people — according to the Twitter mob.

Scott Weiner Orlando terror tweet

Scott Wiener, a member of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, wants everyone to know that “Radical Christianity more than holds its own” when compared to the Islamic terrorists throwing gay men off tall buildings in Syria or mowing down innocent civilians around the world.

Islamic State gay execution

Finally, the Orlando-terror Twitter stream was filled with individuals like Deni Rosenberg, who want the world to believe that “good guys” with guns would not have saved countless lives inside Pulse Nightclub — despite the fact that it took a S.W.A.T. team (i.e., good guys with guns), to end the bloody standoff.

Deni Rosenberg Orlando tweet

Every time Islamic radicals kill civilians in western countries, the response by politically-correct activists is to proclaim, “this has nothing to do with Islam” — while simultaneously sliming Christians and gun-owners as the catalyst for terror. Oddly enough, these very same activists wonder why presumptive Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump is popular with millions of Americans.

Pulse Attack CNN screenshot

If Donald Trump is elected the 45th president of the United States, then pollsters should ask about this moment in history. Millions of voters’ decision will be galvanized within the next week, and it is my opinion (as a Giant Meteor of Death supporter) that a cacophony of politically-correct platitudes will push them into Mr. Trump’s camp.

Giant Meteor 2016

Editor’s Note:

Regular readers know that this blog has been nominated for a Hugo Award. This morning I saw a trackback in my WordPress stats to one voter’s critique of my writing. I fell into a “No Award” category based on my “weaker” political fare. An example of my “weaker” efforts was a Dec. 12, 2015, post that warned of “Shariah Police” legally patrolling the streets of Germany — and how Christianity differs from Islam. (I’m not sure how my thoughts on Shariah law have anything to do with The Amazing Spider-Man, but I digress.)

“Ernst’s more political/social commentary posts are much weaker but the guy is saddled with having to defend poorly thought out positions,’ the writer said. “Overall, a bit middling with high variability. There are many better writers out there but as there is a danger of political bias on my part leading me to undervalue the rest of his writing I strongly considered putting him above No Award. However, even the best of his writing just isn’t up to award-worthy.”

Here is my “poorly thought out position” from that post: Shariah Law is dangerous (e.g., it allows for the execution of gay people, domestic terrorism, etc.), and 2 million refugees from the Middle East and North Africa will pose significant security problems for German authorities in the years to come.

Let me ask my Magic 8 Ball if “political bias” was at play with that “No Award” vote.

Answer: “As I see it, yes.”

Why does God seem absent at times? ‘Dark Night of the Soul’ explains

Dark Night of the Soul

The questions “Why does God allow bad things to happen to good people?” and “Why does God sometimes seem absent in my life?”  have repeatedly come up in conversations with my friends over the years. Many times people beat around the bush, but the underlying point is always transparent. A stellar resource on this subject — and quite honestly one of the toughest books I have ever read — is St. John of the Cross’ Dark Night of the Soul.

First, it should be noted that if anyone had a right to question why bad things happen to good people, then it was St. John of the Cross. The Spanish mystic and Catholic saint, born in 1542, was once kidnapped (by monks), thrown in a dark jail cell, and beaten for months until he managed to escape.

A man who could have looked at his circumstances and concluded that God does not exist instead found God within the darkness.

Key points to consider when contemplating the dark night of the soul include:

  • Man’s nature is both sensual and spiritual.
  • Man is inclined to judge God by Man’s standards instead of Man by God’s standards.
  • Just as looking into the sun forces a man to close his eyes because it is too bright, individuals often cannot grasp that what they perceive as darkness is actually a reaction to incomprehensible light.
  • Just as a small child becomes anxious when its mother seems to have disappeared, humans are confused when God creates the illusion of distance so that they might spiritually grow.
  • Souls cannot approach God without being purged of imperfections. Trials and tribulations serve a greater purpose.

Given all this, St. John says:

“It follows from this that the greater is the darkness wherein the soul journeys and the more completely is it voided of its natural operations, the greater is its security. […] Hence, at the time of this darkness, if the soul considers the matter, it will see very clearly how little its desire and its faculties are being diverted to things that are useless and harmful; and how secure it is from vainglory and pride and presumption, vain and false rejoicing and many other things. It follows clear, then, that by walking in darkness, not only is the soul not lost, but it has even greatly gained since it is here gaining the virtues.” — St. John of the Cross, Dark Night of the Soul.

Astute readers will note that St. John was talking about a spiritual darkness that envelops the soul as it continues on its path towards God, as opposed to physical ailments or obstacles that plague us all. That is true, but the physical and the spiritual overlap. It is often very difficult for an individual to discern which is which, and more so in an age where individuals are conditioned to believe they must be happy at all times or consider themselves broken.

It is incredibly difficult to see the blessings bestowed upon us through mental, physical and spiritual pain, but they are there.

Paradoxically, we must often embrace the darkness to see the light.

Good health, popularity, and financial success may be nice, but much is expected of the individual who has them all. Life’s difficulties are fertile ground for virtue, which is why we must not lament adversity.

If you have questions on the dark night of the soul, feel free to ask below. I’ll do my best to articulate St. John’s message for interested readers.

Schools: ‘A Charlie Brown Christmas’ bad, shahada good

Charlie Brown Christmas

For a glimpse into the politically-correct minds of school administrators in the U.S., one simply needs to consider two stories concurrently unfolding in the news cycle.

In one instance a Kentucky public school district cuts any reference to Christianity during a theatrical version of A Charlie Brown Christmas. In the other, a Virginia school district defends a calligraphy lesson prompting students to write: “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

America 2015: Linus Van Pelt is too dangerous for the minds of elementary school children, but the shahada — the Muslim statement of faith — can be an official assignment given to high school students.

calligraphy VA school

Fox News reported Wednesday:

A Virginia school district is defending a classroom assignment that required students to practice calligraphy by writing the Muslim statement of faith, “There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah.”

Female students at Riverheads High School in Augusta County, Virginia, were also invited to wear Muslim clothing — a story first reported by The Schilling Show. …

“Neither these lessons, nor any other lesson in the world geography course, are an attempt at indoctrination to Islam or any other religion, or a request for students to renounce their own faith or profess any belief,” the district said in a statement provided to Fox News.

Students were also asked to try wearing traditional Islamic attire as “a part of an interactive lesson about the Islamic concept of modest dress.”

The district asserts that the teacher — who knew exactly what she was having students write — was merely asking her class to explore Arabic’s “artistic complexity.”

Meanwhile, Johnson County Schools in Paintsville, Kentucky, are adamant that a rendition of A Charlie Brown Christmas is tantamount to endorsing religion.

WSAZ reported Superintendent Tom Salyer’s statement Wednesday:

Superintendent Tom Salyer said the district received a complaint last week about the play having religious references.

The district then announced it would remove any religious references from all of its Christmas plays. …

Salyer gave WSAZ this statement:

“As superintendent of Johnson County Schools, I recognize the significance of Christmas and the traditions and beliefs associated with this holiday. Over the past few days, there have been several rumors indicating that there would be no Christmas plays this year at our elementary schools. I want to clarify that all programs will go on as scheduled. In accordance with federal law, our programs will follow appropriate regulations. The U.S. Supreme Court and the 6th Circuit are official capacities and during school activities. However, our district is fully committed to promote the spirit of giving and concern for our fellow citizens that help define the Christmas holiday. With core values such as service, integrity, leadership, and commitment, our staff and students will continue to proudly represent our district as recently demonstrated by our many student successes.”

Got that? Schools can have Christmas plays — provided the holiday’s core inspiration, the birth of Christ, is never directly or indirectly addressed.

In the same month that an Islamic terror attack killed 14 and wounded 21 in San Bernardino, California, high school students are asked to practice writing ,“There is no god but Allah. Muhammad is the messenger of Allah,” but a classic Charlie Brown Christmas cartoon is somehow deemed a violation of federal law. Classic.

This is why home-schooling looks increasingly attractive to young parents with each passing year.

German court: ‘Shariah police’ patrols are wunderbar

Germany-Shariah-Police

Imagine, if you will, a situation where the “Jesus police” were arrested in 2014 for harassing citizens as they went into bars and casinos.

Imagine, if you will, a situation where that German court ruled one year later that the “Jesus police” — adorned with bright orange vests that specifically saying “Jesus police — were granted permission to continue their “patrols.”

Would U.S. media cover it? Of course it would, which makes its silence on the very-real “Shariah police” ruling in Germany this week stand out even more.

BBC reported Thursday:

A German court has ruled that Islamists who patrolled a city’s streets as “Sharia police” did not break the law and will not be prosecuted. …

The group of Salafists – ultra-conservative Islamists – included Sven Lau, a preacher whose passport was seized this year after he visited Syria and a photo surfaced, showing him posing on a tank, with a Kalashnikov rifle slung around his neck.

He is suspected of trying to recruit Muslims to join jihadists fighting in Syria or Iraq and has spent some time in prison previously. He said he had gone to war-torn Syria in 2013 on a humanitarian mission.

Media will occasionally report on “no-go” zones in France. Similar debates have been made about parts of London. These “debates” are odd since it is quite obvious to objective observers that mass migration is radically transforming Europe.

The nonprofit organization Gatestone Institute reported in January:

  • A 120-page research paper entitled “No-Go Zones in the French Republic: Myth or Reality?” documented dozens of French neighborhoods “where police and gendarmerie cannot enforce the Republican order or even enter without risking confrontation, projectiles, or even fatal shootings.”
  • In October 2011, a 2,200-page report, “Banlieue de la République” (Suburbs of the Republic) found that Seine-Saint-Denis and other Parisian suburbs are becoming “separate Islamic societies” cut off from the French state and where Islamic Sharia law is rapidly displacing French civil law.
  • The report also showed how the problem is being exacerbated by radical Muslim preachers who are promoting the social marginalization of Muslim immigrants in order to create a parallel Muslim society in France that is ruled by Sharia law.
  • The television presenter asks: “What if we went to the suburbs?” Obertone replies: “I do not recommend this. Not even we French dare go there anymore. But nobody talks about this in public, of course. Nor do those who claim, ‘long live multiculturalism,’ and ‘Paris is wonderful!’ dare enter the suburbs.”

People wonder why Donald Trump’s call to temporarily ban Muslim immigration resonates with primary voters, but they never put that support within its proper context: The “Average Joe” can see what is happening in Europe — and he sees what empowered “Shariah police” in Syria and Iraq have done — and then the president of the United States literally says terror in the name of Islam has nothing to do with Islam.

The police are the enforcers of the law. The threat of physical violence for non-compliance always looms when they are present, which is why unauthorized “police” forces are so frightening.

Non-religious activists like to say things like “all religions are the same,” but that is not true. All religions are not the same.

There are no serious Christian terrorist networks around the globe, and there are certainly not communities where groups of men go out dressed as the “Jesus police” to harass people.

Christians are called to be witnesses. They will attest to the glory and power of Christ, but they are not naturally disposed to violence.

They would much rather “turn the other cheek.”

They would much rather “render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s.”

They celebrate life — because Christ defeated death.

Fire and brimstone speeches given by certain preachers speak of God’s coming judgment — not some human responsibility to carry it out for Him.

Christian beliefs are worlds apart from “police” forces and suicide bombers and tens-of-millions of Shariah Law advocates — who would rather have people “behave” at the point of a gun than allow them to use the free will God has given them.

Who is the better person — the man who is free to do evil but chooses good, or the man who only “behaves” because he lives in a physical, mental, and spiritual police state?

Germany will have absorbed nearly 2 million refugees from the Middle East and North Africa by the end of next year. It doesn’t take a genius to realize there will be more “Shariah” problems in the decades to come.

Dan Slott uses terror attack to mock Christians, play partisan politics

The terror attack in San Bernardino, California, on Wednesday killed at least 14 and wounded 17. As Syed Rizwan Farook and his accomplices attempted to evade police, Marvel writer Dan Slott thought it would be the ideal moment to mock Christians who turn to God in times of tragedy. For good measure he told jokes to foreign citizens at America’s expense.

Dan Slott California shooting

Here is a closer look at the re-tweet.

Daily News California shooting

Ask yourself what kind of sick person would use requests for prayers during a terror attack and cops’ pursuit of the suspects  to take political pot-shots? What kind of man would retweet satirical “God” Twitter accounts as terror victims riddled with bullet holes were bleeding out?

Objective observers know Mr. Slott was playing politics during a terror attack because his earlier tweets indeed asked for “thoughts and prayers.”

Dan Slott San Bernardino

Dan Slott can tweet “thoughts and prayers” for terror victims, but if someone he politically disagrees with does the same thing — again, as people are dying — they are Christian “cowards” issuing “empty platitudes.”

Dan Slott bashes America

To add insult to injury, The Amazing Spider-Man scribe decided to honor the recently-deceased and injured by telling jokes at America’s expense.

“Non-Americans, you’re all looking at us and shaking your head in disbelief, aren’t you?” he wrote. No one thought to ask him which “non-Americans” he was addressing.

  • Perhaps Dan was talking to Saudi Arabian Spider-Man fans (the nation Farook travelled to shortly before his massacre), but only the men because women aren’t allowed to leave the home without related escorts. And not Saudi Arabian Christians, because they officially don’t exist — it isn’t allowed.
  • Perhaps Dan was talking to French Spider-Man fans, but not those who died in its recent terror attack perpetrated by the Islamic State group, because dead people can’t enjoy Peter Parker’s adventures.
  • Perhaps Dan was talking to Syrian Spider-Man fans, but not in ISIS-controlled areas because reading Marvel (i.e., infidel) Comics would literally be grounds for chopping one’s head off.
  • Perhaps Dan was talking about Qatar, where San Bernardino terror suspect Bin Ardogan was from.

Puruse Mr. Slott’s twitter feed from Wednesday, Dec. 2, 2015, and you will see many tweets about gun control. What you will not see after it was announced that Syed Rizwan Farook was responsible for a day of terror is anything about radical Islam.

In Dan Slott’s world, a correlation between access to guns and gun-crime is worthy of loud denunciations of the NRA and Republican politicians who pray during terror attacks — but a correlation between Islam and Islamic terrorism is an opportunity to listen to crickets.

Congratulations Dan Slott: You’re the type of guy who uses an unfolding tragedy as an opportunity to mock men praying to God.  One day you’ll get to stand before your Creator and explain yourself. Until then, I will pray for you.

Exit Question: How pathetic is it that Nick Spencer equates a recluse who lived in a shack all by himself somewhere in Colorado — a man estranged from his friends and family and described by them as “weird” and “unpredictable” — to countless radical Islamic terror networks with tens-of-millions of sympathizers around the globe?

Nick Spencer shooting tweet

‘Lucifer’ targeted by One Million Moms; Satan laughs as giant false idol of technology ignored

Fox showA nonprofit organization is targeting the upcoming Fox show “Lucifer.” The usual suspects in the media responded by mocking the faith-based organization, and guys like me just thought “God bless America! Everyone gets to say their peace and we generally do a good job of not coming to blows in the process.” However, I can’t help but wonder why organizations like One Million Moms focus on a single digital brick in the false idol that is technology. Few people seem to be paying attention to the bigger picture.

The One Million Moms website describes its petition as follows:

The series will focus on Lucifer portrayed as a good guy, “who is bored and unhappy as the Lord of Hell.” He resigns his throne, abandons his kingdom and retires to Los Angeles, where he gets his kicks helping the LAPD punish criminals.

At the same time, God’s emissary, the angel Amenadiel, has been sent to Los Angeles to convince Lucifer to return to the underworld.

Previews of the pilot episode depict graphic acts of violence, a nightclub featuring scantily-clad women and a demon.

How many of those moms obsess over their Facebook feeds? How many of those mom’s have their eyes fixated on cell phones throughout the day? How many of their kids spend hours with their eyes glued on glowing boxes that stream video games, movies, and One Million Moms-approved television shows? The answer in each case is probably “too many.”

Fox’s “Lucifer” is a single show that will actually prompt children to start Googling questions about Christianity, demons, angels, God, Jesus and an assortment of other faith-based subjects. Perhaps I’m wrong, but my guess is that the devil probably doesn’t want young children using Fox television shows as a springboard to an introduction with Jesus Christ. Does God not possess the power to turn any evil into a greater good? Of course he does.

It seems much more likely that the bigger threat to the spiritual well-being of our culture is the cumulative effect of technology that a.) seemingly satisfies every need, b.) encourages narcissism so as to essentially render humility obsolete, and c.) cultivates pride and envy.

The false idol of technology, which seemingly caters to every want and desire, gives birth to the false idol of self (or should we say “selfie”?). The devil doesn’t want individuals thinking about his nature because it is almost impossible to do so without thinking about the nature of Christ. The devil does not want a man to know he is being tempted because knowledge of temptation presents the opportunity to display virtue.

One Million Moms may have their hearts in the right place, but their heads should be more focused the spiritual Trojan Horse before them. The Red Hot Chili Peppers (a band that probably isn’t on One Million Moms’ playlist) had much better advice in 2002 when they sang “Throw away your television.”

Bono channels G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis to affirm his faith in Christ

Bono on JesusIt’s not often that a giant rock star gives an interview where he unflinchingly affirms his belief in Christ. That is exactly what U2’s Bono did during a March 2014 interview that is making the rounds again just in time for Easter. However, what is perhaps most interesting is how Bono appears to be well-versed in the writings of G.K. Chesterton and C.S. Lewis.

Here is what Bono said in his interview with RTE One’s Gay Byrne, which comes across at times like an FBI interrogation or a courtroom cross examination:

Bono: I think it’s a defining question for Christian. Who was Christ? I don’t think you’re let off easily by saying a great thinker or great philosopher because, actually, he went around saying he was the Messiah. That’s why he was crucified. He was crucified because he said he was the Son of God. So, he either, in my view, was the Son of God — or he was nuts. Forget rock-and-roll messianic complexes. This is, like, I mean Charlie Manson-type delirium. And I find it hard to accept that all the millions and millions of lives, half the Earth, for 2,000 years have been touched, have felt their lives touched and inspired by some nutter. I don’t believe it.

Byrne: So therefore it follows that you believe he was divine?

Bono: Yes.

Byrne: And therefore it follows that you believe that he rose physically from the dead?

Bono: Yes. I have no problem with miracles. I’m living around them. I am one.

Byrne: So when you pray, then you pray to Jesus?

Bono: Yes.

Byrne: The risen Jesus?

Bono: Yes.

Byrne: And you believe he made promises that will come true.

Bono: Yes. I do.

Friendly note to Bono: Your observation is actually more awe-inspiring than you originally thought because billions — not just millions — have been touched by the words of Christ. Regardless, here is what G.K. Chesterton said when “The Everlasting Man” was published in 1925:

“If Christ was simply a human character, he really was a highly complex and contradictory human character. For he combined exactly the two things that lie at the two extremes of human variation. He was exactly what the man with a delusion never is; he was wise; he was a good judge. What he said was always unexpected; but it was always unexpectedly magnanimous and often unexpectedly moderate.

Take a thing like the point of the parable of the tares and the wheat. It has the quality that united sanity and subtlety. It has not the simplicity of a madman. It has not even the simplicity of a fanatic. It might be uttered by a philosopher a hundred years old, at the end of a century of Utopias. Nothing could be less like this quality of seeing beyond and all round obvious things, than the condition of an egomaniac with the one sensitive spot in his brain. I really do not see how these two characters could be convincingly combined, except in the astonishing way in which the creed combines them.” — G.K. Chesterton.

Here is what C.S. Lewis said when “Mere Christianity” was published in 1952:

“Yet (and this is the strange, significant thing) even His enemies, when they read the Gospels, do not usually get the impression of silliness and conceit. Still less do unprejudiced readers. Christ says that He is “humble and meek” and we believe Him; not noticing that, if He were merely a man, humility and meekness are the very last characteristics we could attribute to some of His sayings.

I am trying here to prevent anyone saying the really foolish thing that people often say about Him: ‘I’m ready to accept Jesus as a great moral teacher, but I don’t accept His claim to be God.’ That is the one thing we must not say. A man who was merely a man and said the sort of things Jesus said would not be a great moral teacher. He would either be a lunatic — on the level of a man who says he is a poached egg — or else he would be the Devil of Hell. You must make your choice. Either this man was, and is the Son of God: or else a madman or something worse. You can shut Him up for a fool, you can spit at Him and kill Him as a demon; or you can fall at His feet and call Him Lord and God. But let us not come with any patronizing nonsense about His being a great human teacher. He has not left that open to us. He did not intend to.” — C.S. Lewis.

Chesterton and Lewis beautifully articulate the case before us: either Christ was who he said he was, or he was insane. But, as they both keenly observe, even his biggest detractors generally regard him as a profound thinker and a beacon of light whose example we should all follow.

Think of how many great men and women there were throughout all history, whose names are forgotten within weeks, months, or at most a few decades after they’ve passed away. Then consider Jesus, who for over 2,000 years has captivated the world and changed billions of lives — even those who don’t believe his claims. Like G.K. Chesterton, C.S. Lewis, a modern Irish rock star named Bono, and billions of other individuals throughout the course of history, I firmly believe he was exactly who he claimed to be.

‘The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics’: Pay a small price for the work of an intellectual giant

CS LewisFor years I only knew C.S. Lewis as the guy who was good for some really witty quotes and the author of “The Chronicles of Narnia.” I knew he was a Christian, and I knew he was friends with J.R.R. Tolkien. When I started writing a book roughly a year ago I told myself that I should really read his work to augment my knowledge of the Christian faith, yet I still procrastinated. Finally, after his name came up in the comments section of this blog, I vowed to get up to speed on C.S. Lewis — and I’m glad I did. “The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics” may be $34.99, but it’s worth every penny.

Here is what readers get for their money: Mere Christianity, The Screwtape Letters, The Great Divorce, The Problem of Pain, Miracles, A Grief Observed and The Abolition of Man. Another way of putting it: 730 pages of philosophical and creative works written by an intellectual giant. Even those who disagree with the man, if they are honest, will concede that he was powerhouse.

C.S. Lewis writes in “Miracles”:

“Let us suppose a race of people whose peculiar mental limitation compels them to regard a painting as something made up of little colored dots which have been put together like a mosaic. Studying the brushwork of a great painting, through their magnifying glasses, they discover more and more complicated relations between the dots, and sort these relations out, with great toil, into certain regularities. Their labor will not be in vain. These regularities will in fact ‘work’; they will cover most of the facts.

But if they go on to conclude that any departure from them would be unworthy of the painter, and an arbitrary breaking of his own rules, they will be far astray. For the regularities they have observed never were the rule the painter was following. What they painfully reconstruct from a million dots, arranged in an agonizing complexity, he really produced with a single lightening-quick turn of the wrist, his eye meanwhile taking in the canvas as a whole and his mind obeying laws of composition which the observers, counting their dots, have not yet come within sight of, and perhaps never will,” (Miracles, 387).

The beauty of Lewis’ work is that it’s smart, but it’s personable. A man without a high school education and a Rhodes Scholar can both appreciate the product. Lewis’ insights are sharp, but he never talks down to his audience. Just as the U.S. Declaration of Independence artfully articulates the rights given to all men by their Creator — in ways anyone can understand — Lewis makes the case for God in ways that individuals of varying degrees of mental acuity can comprehend.

“What can you ever really know of other people’s souls — of their of their temptations, their opportunities, their struggles? One soul in the whole creation you do know: and it is the only one whose fate is placed in your hands. If there is a God, you are, in a sense, alone with Him. You can not put Him off with speculations about your next door neighbors or memories of what you have read in books. What will all the chatter and hearsay count (will you even be able to remember it?) when the anesthetic fog which we call ‘nature’ or ‘the real world’ fades away and the Presence in which you have always stood becomes palpable, immediate, unavoidable?” (Mere Christianity, 170).

One of the most interesting aspects of Lewis’ life is the fact that for many years he was an atheist. In many ways, his early atheism actually benefited Christianity because it is obvious that he thought long and hard about the existence of God. Those doubts are revisited in his journal entries pertaining to the death of his wife; the result is thought-provoking and hauntingly beautiful. Lewis says of dealing with his wife’s passing due to cancer: “You never know how much you really believe anything until its truth or falsehood becomes a matter of life and death to you.” He is correct. His faith comes out in tact, but the journal entries from “A Grief Observed” leaves readers shaken because the truth can be jarring.

I highly recommend “The Complete C.S. Lewis Signature Classics” for agnostics, atheists, Christians and non-Christians everywhere.

Break free of the Matrix: The 1-year challenge to see the world in a different light

Matrix pills

We are in our very own kind of Matrix. We’ve been conditioned to want more, more, more of any number of material goods, and then when we don’t have as much as the next guy we’re told we should be angry. We should be jealous. We should be envious. You need the newest technology and the newest clothes. You need to eat out multiple times a week, and if you’re married with children then the both of you need to work because there are so many things that you need to purchase now, now, now.

Once you believe that you need to buy what they’re selling, you are being controlled. Once you believe that the redistribution of wealth by government bureaucrats is necessary, you are being controlled. The only thing that matters is your soul. All the material goods in the world mean nothing, because one day you will die and you won’t be able to take them with you. Given that, it stands to reason that during the course of your life the primary focus should be to figure out what will make you happy at the deepest of levels, and then finding a way to do it. If there is one legitimate gripe about “the system” it is that these days it is geared towards keeping you from attaining higher levels of consciousness. There is great power inside you — incredible power — but over the course of generations we have been surreptitiously led to believe it wasn’t there until the mechanisms that detect it atrophied. You have the muscle — you just need to use it.

The world’s elite would rather have you playing XBox and looking at pictures of animals on the Internet than looking into “God” or “Source” or “Enlightenment,” because when you do that everything melts away (perhaps literally, but that’s a discussion for another time). The sickest thing may be that the elite even enlisted many of your friends and family to do their dirty work for them. Is it possible to convince a prisoner to lust over his own chains? Yes.

Someone who looks within and then turns that eye back on the material world can see the charade, and so you’ve been trained to play with the anger and hate and resentment that resides on some level in all of us like a kitten with string.

There are many ways to break free from the mind-forged manacles we’ve willingly fastened in place. Without much effort, you can find many inspirational figures online who are willing to discuss this journey. I happen to believe that real change only comes from looking inward, so here now is my challenge to you:

For one year — every day — actively look for ways to give of yourself. If there’s a man on the street corner asking for change, give it to him. If you think he’s scamming people, give him some money or food anyway. If you have an opportunity to give someone a genuine compliment, do it. Call up (or text if you must) an old friend and remind them of something nice they once did for you years ago; tell them you still think about it and are thankful for what they did. Make someone feel good. Be the light in your office environment or at school or in your immediate family. There are any number of ways you can give of yourself or perform a kind gesture. The key is to make a conscious decision every day to take advantage of — or create — such opportunities.

As you do this on a daily basis, changes will begin to occur within you. Your new thought processes and actions will start to affect other areas of your life. You might even notice a change in your basic biology (e.g., more energy).  Material things you once cared about will matter less. Relationships that had withered from neglect or animosity will spring forth with new life. Your mood and your entire disposition will shift. All of this will occur because kindness is a stimulant, and unlike anger and vindictiveness there are no unwanted side effects.

During the course of the challenge, all I ask of you if you aren’t a religious person that you at least entertain the possibility that Jesus was who He claimed to be. Then, since all humans are capable of empathy, I want you to find a quiet room and put yourself into the body of someone who is infinitely loved. Try and feel it. Try and wrap your mind around what it would mean. My guess is that it will overwhelm you because the human mind can not contain something so powerful. Tears will well up in your eyes because you will realize just how flawed you are, and that no matter how much you give it could never match the love and mercy Christ has for you.

But those tears will not particularly be tears of sadness because that person is you and He does love you. Infinitely. God (or “Source”) wants you to be happy. He wants you to realize your true nature. He wants your life to be filled with joy and abundance, and the kindness and love you’ve shown over the course of “the challenge” will have put you on the path to attaining all of those things.

Once such a realization happens it will start a positive feedback loop, in which your desire to exude light feeds an appreciation for the life you’ve been given, and that new found appreciation for life in turn cultivates a better you. Your spirit will quite literally be vibrating at a higher frequency, and you will never want to return to what you once were.

The thing is, there is absolutely nothing wrong with wanting a nice car and a nice home and the amenities of modern life for you, your wife and kids. The problem comes in when people feel as though they need it. Why do certain celebrities fill airport hangers with cars? Why do famous athletes buy houses like they’re trading cards? Why do politicians have countless versions of the best suits and ties and shoes? They buy more and more “things” as some sort of status symbol — as something to give their lives meaning — and they can never have enough because what is really important is to fill up your insides with spiritual riches.

This challenge is not meant to convert you to Christianity. I wrote this because whether or not you believe in Christ by the end of it, I firmly believe you will see the world in a different light. You will have awakened something inside you that was always there, but calcified by hate, anger, envy and jealousy by pundits who constantly want you pitted against your fellow man. We are all individuals who were sent here for a reason, but we are all one. Once you realize that, you will no longer fall for political stagecraft or feel the “need” to buy your favorite product.

I wish you well on your journey, because I know you’ll come through it in flying colors.

Best,

Doug