Since the election, I try to no longer read the news or listen to it. As the nation descends into barbarism, I don’t want to waste my time tracking it. With social media, you see enough of the really “big” stories to be kept abreast of things anyway. Add to this the almost universal testimony of wise men from the past that following the news is an utter waste of time, time that can be better devoted to other pursuits. In that vein, I am trying to become more acquainted with ancient wisdom and to read more substantively.
I have also completely stopped reading the New York Times, which I used to visit daily. I don’t want my clicks to give one red cent to that propaganda rag. The less I read the news, the more foolish the entire world looks from a distance. It’s very liberating.
I am also slowly trying to move away from pop culture and music and develop a better taste for classical music. This is difficult, not because I dislike classical music, but because 90% of what I listen to is pop music. I haven’t licked this yet, and may not, but my desire is certainly to purge myself of all the insanity and garbage that passes for our modern culture. Hopefully I can continue making these changes until when I die, I have no idea what is going on in the world, but have a great deal more of an idea what happened in the past.
Peter Hitchens has a characteristically great post on Advent here. In it, he talks about his attitude towards the weather in England – an attitude that I share. He says:
Being a northern person who greatly prefers a frosty morning to a sunny afternoon, who loves to see storms beating on the coast and trees shaken by the wind, I enjoy this time of year, which seems to me to be full of promise and immensely exhilarating.There is something about the long light of the low sun (when it appears) which is particularly thrilling, and the rapid dusk of the short afternoons intensifies the pleasure of homecoming from a long walk in the crisp, open air.
I think Hitchens echoes C.S. Lewis’ celebrated take on northernness:
I was uplifted into huge regions of northern sky. I desired with almost sickening intensity something never to be described (except that it is cold, spacious, severe, pale and remote) and then… found myself at the very same moment already falling out of that desire and wishing I were back in it.
This is a wonderful description that rings true to me, having grown up in the north myself. That feeling of vast spaces covered in snow, of the Northern Lights singing overhead, of fires burning to keep off the cold, that is something I treasure and miss. Tolkien also felt this way, and he wrote:
I have always with me: the sensibility to linguistic pattern which affects me emotionally like colour or music; and the passionate love of growing things; and the deep response to legends (for lack of a better word) that have what I would call the North-western temper and temperature. In any case if you want to write a tale of this sort you must consult your roots, and a man of the North-west of the Old World will set his heart and the action of his tale in an imaginary world of that air, and that situation: with the Shoreless Sea of his innumerable ancestors to the West, and the endless lands (out of which enemies mostly come) to the East. Though, in addition, his heart may remember, even if he has been cut off from all oral tradition, the rumour all along the coasts of the Men out of the Sea. – Letter to W.H. Auden, 7 June 1955
My Mom died about a year and a half ago, today was her birthday. I have quite a few letters from her from over the years, and so I looked through some of them just now, and thought I would pass along a couple of her thoughts to me. In this case, they are from 1995:
I believe that as you make plans, God is directing your steps. He delights in our coming to Him and asking for His help and guidance. In fact God says in Job 36:13 that the godless do not cry for help. The same thought is in Hosea 7:7 “none of them calls on Me.” It pleases the Lord when we call upon Him, & it brings peace to us…
What an exciting God we serve! Do wish I had known Him as a young person and dedicated my life to Him then. I am thankful that He brought me to Himself when He did, and did not leave me in darkness…if we could catch a glimpse of eternity how excited we would be to be all the Lord wants us to be, and not be focused on our little world in this “time” and space.
I forgot to post my list of books read for the past year, so here it is:
The New Charismatics, Richard Quebedeaux
The Autobiography of Benvenuto Cellini
The Life of Dr. Donne, Izaak Walton
The Life of George Herbert, Izaak Walton
John Calvin and Roman Catholics, Randall Zachman
Defending Constantine, Peter Leithart
Faithful Reason, John Haldane
Conquest, Hugh Thomas
Rabbit Redux, John Updike
The Decline and Fall of the British Empire, Piers Brendon
Deep Comedy, Peter Leithart
From Silence to Song, Peter Leithart
The Foundations of Social Order, R.J. Rushdoony
A Fury for God, Malise Ruthven
The Reformation, Diarmaid Mucculloch
Steve Jobs, Walter Isaacson
Count to a Trillion, John C. Wright
Predestination, Policy and Polemic, Peter White
The Sociology of the Church, James B. Jordan
Not as many as I would have hoped for, but of course I start scores more and will finish them later. Also, I read far too many articles and junk.
Resurrection does indeed follow the cross and swallows up the sorrow in astonished surprise and joy, but, as David Bentley Hart has argued, the light of the resurrection intensifies the pain of death by destroying the comforting illusions of ancient resignation…resurrection “opens up another, still deeper kind of pain: it requires of faith something even more terrible than submission before the violence of being and acceptance of fate,” thus throwing the believer “out upon the turbid seas of boundless hope and boundless hunger.” …though the resurrection opens up possibilities that could not even be imagined by ancient man, it also promises the fulfillment of those possibilities. If it provokes unimagined hunger, it also gives hope for unimagined satisfaction. Through its moment of cross and death, the story remains ultimately comic, finally and decisively comic, wildly and insanely comic.”
Mom was right, the future is always glorious for the Christian. “Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.”
I try to like summer, but it is difficult to do it. It is only June 2nd and the grass is already burning up and dying. My allergies are going insane whenever I walk outside due to grass. My eyes burn and I have to pop a pill. The air conditioner runs most of the day and the only relief seems to be when a tornado-carrying storm sweeps through. My lawnmowers don’t work so I cut the entire yard with a weed eater that sends grass into every pore of my body.
I went to the pool and it was full of America at its worst. Loud music over the PA system because we have to have a soundtrack wherever we go. Women wearing absurd swimsuits that they have no business donning. Loud talkers trying to be noticed so that they can enter into a conversation with you. Young girls lip synching to the loud songs that they should not be listening to in the first place, but in our dark age, parents don’t care. Insanely hot concrete underfoot and the only relief is to (a) get in the pool full of screaming kids or (b) get under an umbrella, but they are all taken by the loud talkers.
The only good way to experience the summer in my opinion is at night or on the oceanfront. I do not have the means to do either of those things, so I suffer through it.
I’ve been an ardent WordPress fan for several years now, but I think Blogger is closing the gap in terms of looks and functions these days. I just looked at (and posted on) my long dormant blog over there. I can’t see switching back to it entirely, but you never know.
For my Scripture reading last year I read Deuteronomy over and over. This year I am attempting to dig into the Wisdom books. I have been reminded that the road to Christian maturity is one of meditation on God’s Word, a constant approach and re-approach to the same texts, seeing them through the lens of Jesus and His Church.
I don’t have the discipline right now to follow a lectionary style of reading every day and I don’t want to launch out on another read the entire Bible project. So in these overly busy years I want to try and focus in on something that I can benefit from by repetition. I also want to feel some freedom about where I read, because I tend to feel very rigid about starting in one place and proceeding on until the end, not hopping around. I am trying to break away from the feeling that I should constantly be reading the lectionary or doing Genesis to Revelation on a cycle.
Part of the problem with my Scripture reading is that I find myself addicted to reading news and social media throughout the day every day. I need to drive a stake through those habits so that I can spend more time reading quality material and less on passing fancies. Lent might be a good time to try and change those habits.
The controversy of the week in the Christian blogosphere regards Rob Bell and his apparent leap into universalism – (not surprising to me given the Wheaton and Fuller pedigree). I had never heard of Bell until last week, maybe because I don’t much care about celebrity preachers in general. What has been interesting to me is watching the reaction of people that I follow to Bell’s position, from the “left” and “right” theologically. But this post isn’t really about Bell or the reaction to him as much as it is about my own experience with the doctrine (and reality) of hell.
I had a period of apostasy that lasted for about eight years. During the last year of that time I was consistently worried about the possibility of death and an endless eternity in hell. This fear was part of what God used to bring me back to Him. For some folks, the gracious message of love and forgiveness, new life and cleansing, is what draws them back to the faith or to Christ for the first time. For me, the fear of hell was very real and very terrifying. It spurred me on more than the idea that I could be forgiven, which I always took as a given.
Removing the concept of hell from our lexicon is removing an effective means of spurring people to salvation. It is also a gigantic and terrifying lie. If hell is a reality – and if we take the Scripture seriously it most certainly is – then we may be condemning people to that very place if we backhandedly assure them that they need not worry overmuch about the possibility of spending eternity there, because in the end everyone is saved and “love wins.” That is something I would not want to stand before God and explain on the Last Day.