Learning from Monsters How NOT to Think.

I love finding out about an author or resource that leads to the discovery of other treasures. And so, I came across an old Interview with Gary Saul Morson and was really interested in what he has learned from years of studying and teaching Russian literature. You can listen to that interview here. 

I started going down the rabbit hole of some of his interviews and articles and came across this one called Leninthink. 

You don’t have to have read Lenin to be influenced by him. This article by an expert in Russian literature and history lays out some important things for us to consider in our age of polarization and political pragmatism.  You do NOT want to think and live like Lenin.

This is a longer and rigorous essay. But it is worth reading, probably twice. It is full of original source quotes and historical context. The point is to learn from history so we do not repeat it. 

Among the most interesting elements that I found most relevant for us:

Considering life a zero sum game. Every transaction is either an act of oppression or being oppressed.

That the slightest disagreement from the party line is absolute betrayal. There is no middle ground.

Rejection of any morality or limits against the power of the party/state. They are above accountability. Viewing morality as nothing more than an expression of class (we might say race/sex/gender) struggle.

Promising to maintain the civil rights of the people as long as they do not do anything we disagree with. e.g. You have freedom of speech as long as you don’t say anything we do not like.

Arriving at conclusions on issues, opinions, and incidents without the need for facts or evidence. Having a conclusion beforehand. Insisting you don’t need to understand an opposing view before you denounce it.

Radically changing facts about history or even the position of the party while refusing to acknowledge that any change has taken place.

People eagerly confessing to crimes they have not committed to support the party.

Denouncing family members and friends as an expression of party loyalty.

Justifying any means to advance the cause, even those considered immoral, and that you would condemn others for using. 

When Friendly Fire is Revealing

I have been shocked by the amount of slander against Christians in the last few days that is coming from other professed Christians. The decision of the Supreme Court to overturn Roe V. Wade has brought a torrent of invective from politically progressive believers. The accusations range from the mean spirited to the fantastical. If you are a Christian and attempting to support abortion, especially in Jesus name, you should know that this is contrary to the beliefs of almost all Christians throughout history, from the very beginning until recently. It is contrary to every stream of Christian tradition in the church. Roman Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant believers have all, practically universally, written and spoken against it. The ethical foundation of this is the fundamental virtue of the Christian faith: Love. We are to love our neighbors, and that includes infants, before and after they are born. If you are supporting abortion, you are embracing an ethical stance that is completely foreign to Christianity throughout the ages. 

The article below summarizes the content of a larger book by scholar Michael J Gorman. One of the interesting points he makes is that early Christians rumored to be doing bad things. “We are accused of observing a holy rite in which we kill a little child and then eat it.” The apologist Tertullian (160-240) wrote in response to these accusations and he explains that Christians are forbidden from such conduct.  “In our case, murder being once for all forbidden, we may not destroy even the fetus in the womb, while as yet the human being derives blood from other parts of the body for its sustenance. To hinder a birth is merely a speedier man-killing; nor does it matter whether you take away a life that is born, or destroy one that is coming to the birth….”

Read more here

Abortion and Forgiveness

Today is likely a painful day for many with regard to abortion. The Supreme Court released its decision to overturn the precedent of Roe vs. Wade in the Dobbs case. The conversation around the supreme court decision is a reminder to the conscience about what abortion actually is.  I have multiple friends and family members that have had abortions. Some have had multiple abortions. There are many men and women in our church that have had or participated in an abortion.  Most of them regret it deeply. Most of them wish they had made a different decision and wonder about the life that was extinguished. Many of them now have feelings that are similar to those that have experienced a miscarriage, except they know that the life was ended by a choice they made. And most of them went along with abortion because they believed the lie that friends or parents or the culture was telling them. But they have come to know it was a lie. And it was a 2 sided lie.  They believed the presence of a child would destroy their own life and happiness, and they believed that having an abortion would fix their problems.  

And now many continue to feel regret, even while abortion extremists want to celebrate or shout the virtues of abortion, they know deep down they cannot celebrate it. They have seen preemies in the NICU. They have seen and rejoiced over the photos of ultrasounds. They know what was growing inside them. When faced with this guilt, the natural impulse is to search for some kind of excuse. We want a reason, we want to convince ourselves that our decision was justified. But the real path to healing is not in rationalizations or excuses. The best way to heal is to embrace and admit the evil of abortion, to become angry at the lies that led us to abortion and renounce them.  We are invited to realize the power of forgiveness and love that are offered through Jesus Christ.  His life is the opposite of abortion. In Jesus, we have radical self sacrifice for the sake of others. Abortion says “this is my body, you must die for my life.” But Jesus says of his own flesh and blood, “this is my body which I sacrifice for you.”

The forgiveness that comes through Jesus is beyond description. It is full and free, and is exemplified in his prayer to forgive the very people that crucified him on the cross. It is available to all those that confess their sins and turn to Jesus for mercy.  Here are some of the great expressions of grace that attempt to convince our guilty hearts of the magnitude of his forgiveness:

Psalm 103:10-11 “He does not deal with us according to our sins, nor repay us according to our iniquities. For as high as the heavens are above the earth, so great is his steadfast love toward those who fear him; as far as the east is from the west, so far does he remove our transgressions from us.”

Micah 7:19 “He will again have compassion on us; he will tread our iniquities underfoot. You will cast all our sins into the depths of the sea.”

Psalm 51 “Wash me thoroughly from my iniquity, and cleanse me from my sin!… Purge me with hyssop, and I shall be clean; wash me, and I shall be whiter than snow.”

Isa 1:18 ““Come now, let us reason together, says the Lord: though your sins are like scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they are red like crimson, they shall become like wool…”

I John 1:9-10 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness. If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.”

The curse of entitlement

Entitlement is a curse that guarantees not only unhappiness, but a path to seeing ourselves as victims and the animosity that inevitably grows from it. As proud creatures, it is one of the easiest things in the world to convince us that we are victims of a conspiracy to rob us of the happiness that we believe others have stolen from us.

A Lot of Evangelical “Singles” aren’t Single

This is a great interview about a concerning (understatement) topic. A must- listen, especially if you are a pastor or a parent. David Ayers is a sociologist coming out with a book called “Sex and the Single Evangelical.” Listen to the interview with Carl Trueman here. A few highlights that they develop.

  • Sexual confusion and sin is now the norm among evangelical singles. Ayers discusses the data behind this claim. This is not typical ranting about the “younger generation.” Something has changed. And this is true in churches that are theologically orthodox.
  • It is not just that the sin is hidden, it is often an open practice based on faulty ideas.
  • Many in the church have failed to set forth a compelling vision for the beauty of what the Bible teaches about sex/marriage/gender.
  • Because this is now endemic, many pastors are tempted to avoid the topic because to take a stand on this will me constant conflict.

Slow Motion Suicide in San Francisco

This may be one of the most important news articles to read this week. What makes this powerful as an expose, is that it comes from an author that is politically liberal, and one that argues for the decriminalization of drugs.  There is much I do not agree with. What is valuable is to see the full flower of a demonic political ideology that is literally killing people. 

“Over the past two years, more than 1,360 people have died from drug overdoses in San Francisco. That is more than double the number who have died from Covid…

…The people in charge of homelessness and addiction want to bully people into giving up public streets and parks. They want to take your tax money and let your suffering neighbors die gentle, stoned deaths while they watch and call it justice. They think the mothers who want to get their sons out of the jaws of death are suspect. (It’s conservative to want your kid to live, don’t you know?) The city would like a little privacy please. Fentanyl use is an intimate moment between our officials and our addicts…

…The result is that the city is spending roughly $100,000 per year per homeless person, or over $1 billion annually, to maintain a large, unemployed, and very sick addict population in San Francisco’s public squares at the cost of human life and the loss of peace, walkability and livability—the very qualities that have long attracted so many to San Francisco…

Read the whole article hear

John Newton on Monasticism, Mission, and the Desert Fathers

I stumbled across a book of daily readings from John Newton and it has been great. He was an Anglican Pastor in the 18th Century. He is most famous for his hymns and testimony of being saved from a life of sin that included being the captain of a slave ship. Some consider him to be the premier English writer on pastoral subjects. He has such a simple and tender way of expressing deep truths. I came across this excerpt this morning on the topic of being avoiding conformity to the world, and he rightly talks about the false approach to this.

“It is not necessary, perhaps it is not lawful, wholly to renounce the society of the world. A mistake of this kind took place in the early ages of Christianity, and men (at first, perhaps, with a sincere desire of serving God without distraction) withdrew into deserts and uninhabited places, and wasted their lives at a distance from their fellow-creatures. But unless we could flee from ourselves likewise, this would afford us no advantage; so long as we carry our own wicked hearts with us, we shall be exposed to temptation, go where we will. Besides, this would be thwarting the end of our vocation. Christians are to be the salt and the lights of the world, conspicuous as cities set upon a hill; they are commanded to “let their light shine before men, that they, beholding their good works, may glorify their Father who is in heaven.” This injudicious deviation from the paths of nature and providence, gave occasion at length to the vilest abominations; and men who withdrew from the world, under pretense of retirement, became the more wicked and abandoned as they lived more out of public view and observation.

“Nor are we at liberty, much less are we enjoined, to renounce the duties of relative life, so as to become careless in the discharge of them. Allowances should, indeed, be made for the distresses of people newly awakened, or under the power of temptation, which may for a time so much engross their thoughts as greatly to indispose them for their bounded duty. But, in general, the proper evidence of true Christians is, not merely that they can talk about Divine things, but that, by the grace of God, they live and act agreeable to the rules of his word, in the state in which his providence has placed them, whether as masters or servants, husbands or wives, parents or children; bearing rule, or yielding obedience, as in his sight. Diligence and fidelity in the management of temporal concernments, though observable in the practice of many worldly men, may be maintained without a sinful conformity to the world.”

You can read the rest here. He goes on to talk about asceticism ( “A man may almost starve his body to feed his pride…”) and several other important topics. He summarizes that we must not conform to the spirit of the world, the maxims of the world, and the amusements of the world. As is so often the case, hearing someone talk about this while situated several centuries away is helpful.

Disordered Desires

One of the most important realizations about humanity in general, and about ourselves is that many of our desires are not only bad, they are bad for us. We love to hear gossip, to avoid taking a costly stand for the truth, to see the misfortune of those we resent. Like children we consume to the point of immoderation, and our own sickness. The list of examples is as long as there are people.  The voices of our culture want us believe that the path to true happiness  is unrestrained indulgence.  Sadly, our longings are so disordered that these are the lies we want to believe.

First Comes Love, Then Comes Sterilization

This article is from Bari Weiss’ substack My thoughts on the article below.

It is an important snap shot of our current cultural moment. It is sad to me and feels a little hopeless.  This article is NOT really about children. It is about a belief system. This is what happens when you trust secularism to describe and fix your problems. It doesn’t work. The result is an existential hopelessness that leads us to throw up our hands and bury ourselves in meaningless pleasures. This conversation is not actually about children.  It is about an attempt to redefine what it means to be human.

A couple of things come to mind:

The world is really good at evangelism and discipleship. We have a generation that has completely adopted the dogma that has been given to them. And they can repeat the words and phrases handed to them like good disciples.    There is deep irony in all of this. We have a generation sincerely convinced they are victims even though we live in one of the most prosperous and egalitarian moments in history.  There is a cultural and political machine that feeds our victim complex.  And we love it. It makes us feel important.

Historically we mock and despise members of religious cults.  How can they continue to trust the leaders that make so many false predictions? That  gullibility is alive in a generation that gives unfailing trust to the prophets of the climate apocalypse. And that in spite of decades of false predictions.  It is truly impressive. The space ship has not arrived, yet has not weakened their credibility.  “Ideas have consequences, and some ideas have victims.”  Clearly, this apocalyptic vision has consequences. 

For me, I believe the situation is far worse and yet far more hopeful. Why? Because I don’t believe that humans can be the problem and the solution at the same time. Humans are certainly at the heart of the problem, but the answer is outside of our resources or wisdom. My hope is in a king that loves and redeems difficult and demanding humans, even miserable children and self-absorbed adults. He died and rose from the dead and is bringing an everlasting kingdom.

Repenting of Sin Against the Greatest Commandment

“We have not loved thee as we ought, nor cared that we are loved by thee”-Thomas Pollock 

These are a few searching words from a great hymn of repentance. It  sounds strange to our modern conception of sin to think that we need to repent of not loving God as we ought.  But if loving God is the greatest commandment, then failure to love him has to be one of the greatest sins.