Monday, May 23, 2011


The cynical snickering over the failed denouement of Reverend Harold Camping’s May 21st predicted rapture may be somewhat justified, for—sadly--he joins the ranks of hundreds of other preachers throughout history who thought they knew more than the Messiah they professed to follow.

Ersatz prophets throughout the ages have failed to heed the words of the Christ, who said the secret of his return was hidden even from him, secreted in the Father’s heart. But still the irresistible urge to proclaim The End has afflicted cultists from time immemorial.

One need only think of the founder of the Jehovah Witnesses, Charles Taze Russell, who predicted Christ’s invisible return in 1874 and who predicted a more noticeable appearance would occur in 1914. Russell’s successor, undeterred by the failure of Christ to appear on command, visibly or invisibly, determined the year 1925 was when Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the prophets would return to earth.

But before we break out into maniacal laughter at Reverend Camping’s and others’ notions concerning the Rapture, Second Coming or Apocalypse, perhaps it might be a good idea to take a look at why Camping’s ill-fated predictions aroused such intense interest and ridicule.

First, there is an interest among those on the Left, particularly among left media types, in ratifying their contempt for religion and people of faith by selecting the most absurd examples of Christianity run amok. That way the hard intellectual endeavor of studying faith traditions is neatly avoided while one satisfies one’s penchant for setting up paper tigers which may be shot down with one good cynical laugh. Isolated incidents and fringe doctrines are taken as the sum and substance of the whole of Christianity. Thus any story of a televangelist’s adultery, a priest’s molestation of a child, an out to lunch interpretation of scripture, or a failed prophecy become fodder for an anti-Christian feeding frenzy. There go those embittered people with their religion and guns again. Bunch of crazies, perverts and hypocrites.


Historically, we can see a similar tendency in the treatment of the Jews, who time and again have been saddled with stereotypical and vicious smears of blood libel, among other dangerous absurdities. As late as 1840, Jasper Chasseaud, American vice-consul to Lebanon, wrote:

“A most Barbarous secret for a long time suspected in the Jewish nation…at last came to light in the city of Damascus, that of serving themselves of Christian blood in their unleavened bread…a secret which these 1840 years must have made many unfortunate victims.”

Chasseaud appears actually to have believed the blood libel calumny, extant from medieval times and resurrected in the still popular Protocols of Zion, whose vile attacks against Jews are believed by credulous millions.

The point being, how easy is it to despise and laugh at people who believe and practice such insane and/or dangerous absurdities? Very easy.

But aren’t enlightened secular sophisticates are so much more reasonable and, well, sane. Well, are they? Are leftist secularists immune from attacks of apocalyptic craziness?


One has only to think of the range of End Time, apocalyptic scenarios cooked up by the extreme environmentalists, Gaia worshippers, and Pachamama devotees, along with other crazies who have left the realm of reality and rushed headlong into prophecies based on their ideas of what is infallible; be it “science” (actually pseudo-science) or pantheism. The End by asteroid; The End by violent explosions of the sun; The End by dried up energy sources; The End by global warming; The End by ice age; The End by evaporation of the ozone layer; The End by human predations. Or, even more colorful: The End by mutating viruses; alien invasions, human made robots run amok, or evil, conscienceless human clones rebelling against their creators.


Thus proving the religious impulse is not only ineradicable, but also not confined to overtly religious faith based entities such as Judaism and Christianity.

But there is yet more to the story of Mr. Camping and his ilk. There are at least two more things to consider.

As formerly referred to, paying attention to and trashing Mr. Camping and other earnest but plainly wrong fundamentalist and charismatic Christians whose prophetic instincts have proved erroneous is a way to avoid intellectual and spiritual encounter with the deeper beliefs of a great faith which has its roots in a history some 4,000 years old, and which has played an irreducible role in the shaping and building of Western civilization.

It is a way of avoiding encounter with some of the greatest minds and achievements of Western civilization. It is a cheap way of bypassing the immense and incalculable contributions of Christian thinkers like Augustine, Aquinas, St John of the Cross, Luther, Calvin, Barth, Niebuhr, Bonhoeffer, C.S. Lewis and countless other theologians who have grappled with the spiritual and intellectual problems of their and our own age within the context of Christianity.

It is a way of trashing the Christian art, architecture and music which has informed and elevated the mind, heart and soul of countless millions: Chartres, Notre Dame; Giotto, Cimabue, Van Eyck, Rembrandt, El Greco; Handel, Bach, Mozart, Beethoven, Mendelssohn, Brahms, Dvorak, Stravinsky—just a partial list.

But most critically, the sarcastic and cynical focus on Mr. Camping’s failed prophecies is a way to avoid the historic claims and person of Jesus Christ, whose example and work have transformed millions of followers whose depth of faith and loyalty increases over the years.

And while Christ himself exhibited humility by refusing to predict the day and hour of his return, he did speak of an Apocalypse, of a time when all wrongs will be addressed, all false prophets proved wrong, and all that is right, all that is good, true and perfect re-established.

And last but not least, he spoke of time when scoffing and ridicule will fall away, every cynical and mocking tongue is silenced and every knee bowed in acknowledgment that he is Lord.

That is what his disciples said. That is what his disciples recorded. That is what millions—now billions-- believe, based on Christ’s life, his testimony and his sacrifice.

Last, though even Christians are unaccustomed to the idea of a God who laughs in derision at the follies and foibles of the human race, such a God is depicted in Psalm 2, a poem of David, the King of ancient Israel.

Cynics may scoff and people may imagine all kinds of vain things, probably including false prophecies. Jokesters may imagine themselves both funnier and more knowledgeable than God himself, but “He that sits in the heavens shall laugh: the Lord shall have them in derision.”

And He has the last laugh.


Thursday, May 19, 2011

A Tale of Two Sex Scandals

For a while, it was the best of times for both men.

One was fat, fair skinned and balding, sitting on the throne of the IMF and heir apparent to the French presidency. The other was tanned, handsome and tall and sat in the governor’s chair in Sacramento.

One was from a country imbued with the idealized image of the sophisticated seductor, a moneyed heir of the Enlightenment and the ideals of the Revolution of 1789—the essence of all that is French, with the brutal sexuality of the Marquis de Sade providing a titillating dash of perversity.

The other, born to a poor family in post WWII Austria, immigrated to the United States and later married into Kennedy royalty after having achieved his American dream of a body building and movie career, culminating in a Mr. Olympia winning streak and the cult classic Terminator series. He eventually muscled his way into a starring role in California’s governor’s mansion.

By now all know the strangely simultaneous stories of their worst of times. Dominique Strauss-Kahn is accused of the brutal sexual assault of a hotel maid; while Arnold Schwarzenegger has admitted fathering a love child with a household staff member some ten years ago.

Two sad tales. Two sad endings.

What happened to bring matters to such a pass?

Both Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger apparently became victims of the modern idea that one’s sex life is separable from one’s professional life; that indiscriminate mating doesn’t interfere with effective and moral governing or the management of the global economy; that one can be a smooth (or rough) operator in the bedroom—any bedroom with any given person--while still being a clear headed, dispassionate and moral arbiter, be it in the boardroom or the chambers of governance.

But the Golden Rule, which summarizes the moral bases of all fidelity, personal and societal, cannot be compartmentalized so easily. Any attempt to do so results in a schizophrenic division of morality similar to that of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. As the fictionalized good doctor and now the real life Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger, along with countless others, have found to their sorrow, the lack of moral probity in one sphere leaks steadily and remorselessly into all other spheres of life, perhaps even most especially when it concerns sexuality. Sexual corruption seeps into and stains the soul, radically altering the whole person, proving that no one is ultimately free of the consequences of unrestrained sensuality.

Roger Simon, screenplay writer and CEO of Pajamas Media, writes about his affair with a married woman, describing the lies and subterfuge involved as ultimately emotionally unendurable as well as corrupting of character:

“I won’t get into the sad details, but some time ago I had an affair with a married French woman — I was single then — that went on for a couple of years.
I’m not proud of it in the least. It was stupid, immoral (yes, that) and eventually sheer emotional Hell. Besides hurting other people, most of them innocent, it drastically affected my work in a negative way and made me a liar on frequent occasions. In sum, I was despicable, weak, selfish and destructive of myself and others to do it.
But I did learn something about the French. Pace Edith Piaf and Yves Montand, there is nothing chic or hip about their adultery. After all the shared Gauloise and baiser volĂ©, it’s just cheating. People don’t respect each other. People don’t trust each other. Indeed, they begin to hate each other. Life is wretched. It’s like a game of ritual self-and-other torture played out by a significant sector of their society — particularly in the elite classes — into oblivion.”

C.S. Lewis, the great twentieth century thinker whose works are still read by millions, wrote about the results of continual surrender to sexual desire and the deleterious consequences in his small book Christian Behavior:

“In the first place our warped natures, the devils who tempt us, and all the contemporary propaganda for lust, combine to make us feel that the desires we are resisting are so ‘natural,’ so ‘healthy,’ and so reasonable that it is almost perverse and abnormal to resist them… [But] surrender to all our desires obviously leads to impotence, disease, jealousies, lies, concealment, and everything that is the reverse of health, good humor, and frankness. For any happiness, even in this world, quite a lot of restraint is going to be necessary…Every sane and civilized man must have some set of principles by which he chooses to reject some of his desires and to permit others.”

Lewis follows in the Christian and classical Greek philosophical traditions which see all desires, including sexual desire, as requiring moderation and containment if a person is to retain balance and attain the maturity necessary for a good life and good leadership. Adolescent lack of restraint of desires winds up either diminishing or completely destroying both the person and society.

Sadly, too often we get a glimpse of how unrestrained sexuality destroys a person. Sometimes we get to see the insanity which is the dead end result of promiscuous sexual “freedom.” Sometimes, alas, there is a close up view of a person who for decades has chosen not to reject any of his sexual desires.

Away from the sexual propaganda of Hollywood, the seduction of air brushed porn queens, the photo shopped fantasies of Playboy and Hustler, we find an example of a man driven for over half a century by sexual excess in the ancient, wrinkled and pathetic Hugh Hefner, an American heir of de Sade’s championship of the unrestrained libido.

Hefner, the self-promoted architect of the sexual revolution, has dealt out and reveled in lies about uninhibited sensuality all his life, profiting handsomely from its relentless promotion. Would any sane and civilized person seriously contemplate the prospect of someone like Mr. Hefner leading a country—in fact, would anyone seriously think such a person fit to lead anything? And, not incidentally, who among us does not also feel a profound pity for and sorrow over the clone-like, pneumatically enhanced Barbie doll wannabes clinging to the old Viagra-driven lecher’s arm? Is theirs the sort of life that produces the great leaders our country so desperately longs for?

The answer, of course, is “No.”

For all the ravages of the sexual revolution Mr. Hefner claims as his gift to the Western world, and for all the victims of the de Sade and Hefner sexual “freedoms,” for all their own personal failings, most Americans still cherish the ideal of fidelity--fidelity to one’s spouse and children; fidelity to one’s church; fidelity to one’s nation. They believe it is important to trust, to believe--to know the persons to whom we entrust governance and leadership possess and practice the virtue of fidelity.

There is an expectation, even a moral necessity, that powerful leaders of states and international organizations exhibit uprightness and personal sacrifice in all areas of life, especially in view of the perilous and demanding times in which we live. It is important for us to know our elected representatives and the leaders of international organizations as powerful as the International Monetary Fund will be faithful in the managing of monies; faithful in crafting law; faithful in dispensing justice.

In sum, instead of the relentless promotion of emotion over reason and restraint, always a characteristic of the Left, there must be a concerted effort to demolish the philosophies of de Sade and his ilk and more promotion of the ideals that led Sidney Carton, hero of A Tale of Two Cities, away from his life of alcoholism and debauchery to supreme love and sacrifice; more of the attitude that it is a far, far better thing to exercise sobriety, restraint and consideration.

But such a renewal of spirit requires a turning away from unrestrained sensuality to a renewed allegiance to God and the Golden Rule, the bases of fidelity to humanity and the heart of civilized society.