C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent

A CS Lewis Scholar recently found an unknown vinyl record of a CS Lewis radio broadcast for sale on eBay. The record has several of his lectures that were broadcast to Iceland. The British invaded Iceland during WWII to prevent the Nazi’s from gaining the upper hand in the North Atlantic. Lewis’ role was to try to further the peace between the British and the people of Iceland via literature. A fascinating episode of history.

“How Lewis came to be recruited and by whom remains a secret. The records of the Secret Intelligence Service, known popularly as MI6, remain closed. Perhaps one of his former pupils at Oxford recommended him for his mission. It was an unusual mission for which few people were suited. J. R. R. Tolkien had the knowledge base for the job, even beyond that of Lewis, but Tolkien lacked other skills that Lewis possessed. Perhaps someone had heard Lewis lecture on his favorite subject in one of the two great lecture halls in the Examination Schools building of Oxford University. At a time when Oxford fellows were notorious for the poor quality of their public lectures, Lewis packed the hall with an audience of students who were not required to attend lectures. In the 1930s, Lewis was the best show in town. Somehow Lewis had developed the skill to speak to an audience and hold them in rapt attention, in spite of his academic training rather than because of it.”

Source: C.S. Lewis Was a Secret Government Agent | Christianity Today

Music as Cultural Warfare: How the Nazi’s Co-opted the Orchestra to Serve Their Political Ends.

Art always bows to some greater ideology. There is no such thing as neutral art. It always conveys a message. Most often it is a servant of the strongest principles within a culture. This brief article reviews research to show how the Nazi propaganda machine slowly took over the Berlin orchestra to reinforce ideas of German National Socialism.  The author is clear that the foundations for this were laid many years before. Yet hearing about the actual events is both fascinating and chilling.

This process started with understanding the power of music as a cultural force. Then Goebbels “annexed” the  Berlin orchestra in the same way that Germany annexed land during the war.  But it started when members of the orchestra were willing to sell their autonomy and their souls for more money and other cultural benefits. After that, they were owned by the Nazis.

This kind of research is delightful stuff for history nerds like me. And the great question of history is always, “what does this mean for us today?” I think at present most people are associating fascism with Trump in the US. But to be honest, when I read this, I thought much more about the music and entertainment business in America as supporting the Left. In our country, one of the great weaknesses of the conservative movement has been second rate art. But within Hollywood there is a group-think that preaches leftist (rather than liberal) ideas.  Think I am exaggerating? Just listen to the speeches at the Oscar’s.  Add to this the recent censorship that is happening on University Campuses in the name of having “safe spaces” in the name of avoiding hate speech, and you can see that the Left has a much tighter grip on these cultural expressions.

In any case we need to be aware that culture-makers are trying to recruit us (and at times enslave us) for their view of the world. This is an inescapable reality for good or bad. Dictators who want to hijack culture will always move toward this source of power and it is in the best interest of free people to be aware of the greater agenda. I think the ideal situation is a culture of arts that is both free and reinforces important virtues.

Some tidbits from the article:

 

“The alchemy of the transformation began with a gradual relinquishment of autonomy, especially stark in Berlin. The Berlin Philharmonic, nationalized into a state-owned company in January 1934 under Joseph Goebbels’ Ministry of Propaganda, began to perform in the old Philharmonie on Bernburger Straße under an immense swastika. It was now expected to render service to “the German cause.” (Even Goebbels did not speak of “Nazi music” but of “German music.”) Goebbels, who began to call it “my orchestra,” increased its subsidies and its musicians’ salaries and personally signed letters of exemption from military service for its members. Goebbels also lavishly funded a movie about the orchestra (released in late 1944), which Trümpi calls “the most expensive advertising campaign ever undertaken on behalf of the Berlin Philharmonic.”

And again,

“After the Anschluss (annexation) of Austria in March 1938, things were even worse in Vienna, which liked to think of itself as the “music city” par excellence. Trümpi, the first historian granted full access to the Vienna Philharmonic archives, reports that a blacklist compiled in 1938 named 11 Jewish orchestra members, and ten more who were married to Jewish women. After the Anschluss, an annexation as much cultural as territorial, all were either forced into retirement or dismissed. Seven of them would be murdered in the Holocaust. Close to half of the philharmonic’s remaining musicians joined the Nazi Party.”

Source: The Baton and the Jackboot

Another Dark Chapter In The History of Free Sex

captain-cook-entertained-by-the-natives-of-tahiti

The section below is from the book, “The Age of Wonder” which is an award winning volume that chronicles the connection between scientific discovery and the ideals of the Romantic Age. In the first Chapter the author writes about the history of Captain Cook’s voyage of discovery. Here he gives ample attention to the time Cook and his crew spent in Tahiti.

I am posting a lengthy section below, and it is worth reading all 4 paragraphs. This narrative is largely taken from the diary of James Banks who documented their experience. As I read this I was struck with more than a bit of Deja Vu. There is something familiar operating here.  What they witnessed in Tahiti fits the appetites of our generation for a mythical paradise of free and open sex.  But, he also narrated the suffering that grows from this kind of selfishness. What am I talking about? Infanticide and more. It is tempting to view native cultures as pure and innocent, uncorrupted by the ideas of western culture. However, the truth is different.  Every society has it’s own virtues and vices. Attempts to  portray any one culture or age as a eutopia usually exaggerate the virtues and ignore the vices.

This snapshot from history is not unique. It has been repeated many times in cultures ancient and modern.  The American generation that started the sexual revolution forgot to study history.  So now we are stuck in the painful double loop of both repeating and failing to learn from the sins of the past.  In spite of our most prurient longings there is no such thing as sex without consequences.

Here are a few things I took away from this passage:

  • This level of sexual debauchery often starts early. Young girls were taught to engage in lewd dances before they reached puberty.
  • There is no sexual sin without grave consequences to others.  We seem to believe that as long as we do not transgress the one sexual absolute of consent that everything will be just fine. But the way we wield the weapon of sex leaves deep wounds. Every culture that lives this way ends up damaging the weak and vulnerable, even if they once offered their consent. The rest of the account describe the horrible consequences of the plague of sexually transmitted diseases among the natives and sailors.
  • There is always a double standard in the world of free sex. In Tahiti men were allowed to get away with adultery while a woman would be beaten for it.  Part of this is because of that natural strength advantage that men have. The other is the fact that in reproduction the woman’s body is designed to carry the child. This is the way we are and it has implications, even in our sin. And the answer to this double standard is NOT that women should be able to be just as bad as men.
  • Banks spoke with several couples that had previously murdered 2 or 3 children and THEY EXPERIENCED NO REGRET. This is the long term effect of cultural sin. The fact that some people can commit horrible acts without empathy doesn’t make those acts virtuous. Just because some cultures engage in certain practices doesn’t mean they ought to.
  • The decision to kill an infant was driven by the men. When a man wanted free sex but was unwilling to take responsibility for the child, then that child would be killed, even against the wishes of the woman. The way that men manage their strength and leadership is often a driver in this kind of depravity.
  • The status of motherhood was despised. Once a woman had born a child, she was viewed with some degree of contempt.  High views of motherhood  are not compatible with a free-sex culture.

“The idea of sexual innocence proved more complicated for a European to accept: ‘All privacy is banished even from those actions which the decency of Europeans keep most secret: this no doubt is the reason why both sexes express the most indecent ideas in conversation without the least emotion; in this their language is very copious and they delight in such conversation beyond any other. Chastity indeed is but little valued especially among the middling people; if a wife is found guilty of a breach of it her only punishment is a beating from her husband. Notwithstanding this some of the Eares or chiefs are I believe perfectly virtuous.’

“What later came to be regarded as the most scandalous of all Tahitian customs, the young women’s seductive courtship dance, or ‘timorodee’, Banks describes with calm detachment and a certain amused appreciation: ‘Besides this they dance, especially the young girls whenever they can collect 8 or 10 together, singing most indecent words using most indecent actions and setting their mouths askew in a most extraordinary manner, in the practise of which they are brought up from their earlyest childhood. In doing this they keep time to a surprizing nicety, I might almost say as true as any dancers I have seen in Europe, tho their time is certainly much more simple. This excercise is however left off as soon as they arrive at Years of maturity. For as soon as ever they have formed a connection with a man they are expected to leave of Dancing Timorodee-as it is called.’

“The only Tahitian practice that Banks found totally alien and repulsive was that of infanticide, which was used with regularity and without compunction as a form of birth control by couples who were not yet ready to support children. Banks could scarcely believe this, until he questioned several couples who freely admitted to destroying two or three children, showing not the slightest apparent guilt or regret. This was a different kind of innocence, one far harder to accept. Banks pursued the question, and found that the custom originated in the formation of communal groups in which sexual favours were freely exchanged between different partners: ‘They are called Arreoy and have meetings among themselves where the men amuse themselves with wrestling &c. and the women with dancing the indecent dances before mentioned, in the course of which they give full liberty to their desires.’

“He also found that the Arreoy, and the custom of infanticide, owed their existence ‘chiefly to the men’. ‘A Woman howsoever fond she may be of the name of Arreoy, and the liberty attending it before she conceives, generally desires much to forfeit that title for the preservation of her child.’ But in this decision he thought that the women had not the smallest influence. ‘If she cannot find a man who will own it, she must of course destroy it; and if she can, with him alone it lies whether or not it shall be preserv’d.’ In that case both the man and the woman forfeited their place in the Arreoy, and the sexual freedoms associated with it. Moreover, the woman became known by the term ‘Whannownow’, or bearer of children. This was, as Banks indignantly exclaimed, ‘a title as disgracefull among these people, as it ought to be honourable in every good and well governed society.”

Holmes, Richard. The Age of Wonder: How the Romantic Generation Discovered the Beauty and Terror of Science. Print. p. 37

Ancient Trees: Woman Spends 14 Years Photographing World’s Oldest Trees

An amazing photo essay all about old trees. Makes me want to buy her book Ancient Trees: Portraits of Time

Beth Moon, a photographer based in San Francisco, has been searching for the world’s oldest trees for the past 14 years. She has traveled all around the globe to capture the most magnificent trees that grow in remote locations and look as old as the world itself.

Source: Ancient Trees: Woman Spends 14 Years Photographing World’s Oldest Trees | Bored Panda

Prisoners To Our Own Appetites. Now THAT Is A Story

Jail cell

This is an amazing account from Mark Buchanan. It is a strange story that illustrates how we are often prisoners to our own appetites.

“Thomas Costain, in his book The Three Edwards, relates a historical episode from the fourteenth century. Two brothers, Raynald and Edward, fought bitterly. Edward mounted war against Raynald, captured him alive, and imprisoned him in Nieuwkerk Castle.

“But it was no ordinary prison cell. The room was reasonably comfortable. And there was no lock on the door—not a bolt, not a padlock, not a crossbeam. Raynald was free to come or go at will. In fact, it was better than that: Edward promised Raynald full restoration of all rights and titles on a single condition: that he walk out of that room.

“Only Raynald couldn’t. The door was slightly narrower than a typical door. And Raynald was enormously fat. He was swaddled in it. He could not, with all his squeezing and heaving, get himself outside his cell. He might more easily have passed a camel through a needle.

“So in order to walk free and reclaim all he’d lost, he had only to do one thing: lose weight. That would have come easily to most prisoners, with their rations of bread and water.

“It did not come easy to Raynald. Edward had disguised a great cruelty as an act of generosity. Every day, Edward had Raynald served with the richest, sauciest foods, savory and sweet, and ample ale and wine to boot. Raynald ate and ate and grew larger and larger. He spent ten years trapped in an unlocked cell, freed only after Edward’s death. His health was so ruined, he died soon himself.”

Buchanan’s book “The Rest Of God” is delightful and full of great content and excellent writing. It explores something that is oddly missing from many discussions of the Sabbath, the issue of rest.

Buchanan, Mark (2007-03-11). The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (pp. 165-166). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Real Men Cry, At Least In Epic Stories and Older Generations. A Brief Literary and Cultural History of Public Male Crying.

Here is a fascinating article on an unexpected subject: Men crying in public. Sandra Newman writes about the literary and cultural history of masculine weeping. She makes a good case that our current western practice of restraint is not the norm throughout history. The Greeks, the Bible, Christian history, English literature, and even Japanese literature is full of mass, public, unrestrained, and unapologetic weeping by manly men.

Based on research men today cry far less in public than women do. And the author tries to challenge the idea that this is a result of genetic differences. She does this based on her journey through history and literature. But I am not convinced. Even if men in other cultures and eras cried more than they do now, that doesn’t necessarily mean that public crying is biologically a gender neutral affair. She has made a good case that modern men do not cry as often as the men of other cultures. But that is not the same as saying men and women are identical. In fact, if anything is a cultural anomaly it is our attempt to prove biological equality between the sexes.

She suggests that the change in our view of crying can be tied to 2 things: First, we moved from an agrictultural economy into the industrial revolution. Second, we moved from living in small villages with close relationships to big cities where we lived with strangers. In I opinion, these ideas have merit.

Also interesting is the idea that crying serves an important social purpose. When we cry, especially in public, it is good for us as a release and it is a call for help to those around us.  If this is true, then failing to cry would not be good for us.

The Bible does say, “Those who sow in tears will reap in joyful shouting.” Psalm 126:5

She writes,

“However, human beings weren’t designed to swallow their emotions, and there’s reason to believe that suppressing tears can be hazardous to your wellbeing. Research in the 1980s by Margaret Crepeau, then Professor of Nursing at Marquette University in Milwaukee, found a relationship between a person’s rate of stress-related illnesses and inadequate crying. Weeping is also, somewhat counter-intuitively, correlated with happiness. Vingerhoets, a professor of psychology at Tilburg University in the Netherlands, has found that in countries where people cry the most, they also report the highest levels of satisfaction. Finally, crying is an important tool for understanding one’s own feelings. A 2012 study of patients with Sjögren’s syndrome – whose sufferers are incapable of producing tears – found they had significantly more difficulty identifying their emotions than a control group.

“You might also suffer if you simply hide your tears from others, as men are now expected to do. As we’ve seen, crying can be social behaviour, designed to elicit care from people around you. While this might be inappropriate in the context of a performance review, it could be an essential way of alerting friends and family – and even colleagues – that you need support. Taboos against male expressiveness mean that men are far less likely than women to get help when they’re suffering from depression. This, in turn, is correlated with higher suicide rates; men are three to four times as likely to commit suicide as women. Male depression is also more likely to express itself in alcoholism and drug addiction, which have their own high death toll. Think of stoical Scandinavia, whose nations rank high for productivity – but also lead the world in rates of alcoholism and suicide.”

Source: Is there anything wrong with men who cry? – Sandra Newman – Aeon

A New Kind Of War: JFK’s Prophetic Remarks at West Point in 1962

JFK at West Point 1962, forwhattheygave.com

These are some of the remarks that JFK made in 1962 to the graduating class at West Point.  The context was the fight against communism that was raging in Asia. I found this quote in the book “Legend” by Eric Blehm, which tells the story of Roy Benavidez, winner of the Congressional Medal of Honor. JFK’s words were written in the front of the training manual for the Green Berets.

He points to the fact that America was facing a different kind of war. One with different opponents, different objectives, and different requirements. His remarks were true enough then and he may not have known how much they would describe the evolution of war against extremist forces in the next 50 years.

“This is another type of war, new in its intensity, ancient in its origin–war by guerrillas, subversives, insurgents, assassins, war by ambush instead of by combat; by infiltration, instead of aggression, seeking victory by eroding and exhausting the enemy instead of engaging him. It is a form of warfare uniquely adapted to what has been strangely called “wars of liberation,” to undermine the efforts of new and poor countries to maintain the freedom that they have finally achieved. It preys on economic unrest and ethnic conflicts. It requires in those situations where we must counter it, and these are the kinds of challenges that will be before us in the next decade if freedom is to be saved, a whole new kind of strategy, a wholly different kind of force, and therefore a new and wholly different kind of military training.”

Source: John F. Kennedy: Remarks at West Point to the Graduating Class of the U.S. Military Academy.

When Did Leaders In The West Know About the Holocaust?

This article chronicles the investigation of an important question from history.  Exactly when did the leaders outside Germany have reliable knowledge that the Nazi’s intended, and indeed were in the process of exterminating the Jews?  It obviously contains the kind of details that you would have to include to do reliable detective work of this nature. The answer is this: it seems that a lot of people knew an awful lot, and did nothing.

What strikes me is that this contains an example of what it means to be “on the wrong side of history.”  That term has been bandied around a lot recently.  In the case of the Shoa, there are examples of many leaders, politicians, journalists, and relief workers who knew what was going on, but they did nothing. They failed to speak up. They failed even to acknowledge that this evil was taking place. They failed to take even simple, low-risk actions to save lives.  History is not looking kindly on them, to say nothing of God’s perspective.

“After the war the ICRC [International Committee of The Red Cross] came under much criticism for its unwillingness to make public, however cautiously, the known facts about the murder of the Jews… Eventually, more than fifty years after the event, the ICRC through the head of its archive (not the president of the International Red Cross) admitted that the activities of the organization (or rather their absence) had been less than honorable.” (emphasis mine)

Are there any modern examples of atrocities happening beneath the indifferent eyes of the watchers?  Are there situations where politicians and leaders refuse to acknowledge that bad things are even happening? Where they refuse to speak up, or even watch the videos? Where they refuse to take action to save lives? Where news agencies refuse to cover solid stories of millions of dollars made in exchange for innocent lives?

Ignoring facts is what you do when you want to keep your blood money and maintain plausible deniability.  Investigating the facts and responding courageously is what you do when you care more about doing the right thing than about keeping your job.  I wonder what history will say about our modern-day indifference?

Source: When and How Did Authentic Information About the Shoah First Become Known? – Tablet Magazine

Your Anxiety Is Ruining Your Furniture

old chair

A fascinating anecdote from Mark Buchanan about stress and anxiety:

“Anxiety and stress are our number one killers. I heard recently a story about Meyer Friedman, the psychologist who devised the Type A/ Type B personality profiles— where Type B is placid and limber, taking life as it comes, and Type A is two-fisted and bristling, taking life by the horns. Friedman’s initial insight that led to his personality theory came after a discussion with a chair upholsterer. The upholsterer said that most of his business came from replacing the upholstery on the chairs in cardiologists’ offices, the chairs wore first, and quickly, on the front edge. Apparently, heart patients are so impatient that, even while listening to their doctor’s life-threatening diagnosis or lifesaving prescription, they sit taut and restless, poised to flee, chafing at the delay. At the edge of their seats. The very reason their hearts are sick is written in that threadbare upholstery.”

Buchanan, Mark (2007-03-11). The Rest of God: Restoring Your Soul by Restoring Sabbath (pp. 109-110). Thomas Nelson. Kindle Edition.

Why Does It Take So Long to Say We Are Sorry?

Why does it take so long to say that we are sorry? To acknowledge wrong doing and ask for pardon? Why do whole societies refused to acknowledge their past injustices and thereby turn them into present evils? Why do onlookers stand by, becoming complicit by their silence and inaction? Why are we more afraid of the loss of money, influence, and political good will than we are for the cancer of cowardice that grows inside when we stand by in silence?

Armenian Memorial

I just attended an important event at the Armenian Genocide memorial at Fresno State.  It was very moving to me. My eyes were filled with tears. I am sad to say that before moving to Fresno in 2009 I hadn’t even heard of this event. But many Armenian friends have shared the history and even personal accounts from their families.  Oddly enough, I had tears in part because of the great injustice, but they were also tears of joy because an evangelical Turkish pastor had come to continue a process of reconciliation and healing. Even though others would not acknowledge the genocide, he was there to acknowledge, apologize, and seek reconciliation among brothers in Christ. It was a beautiful event. It was a miracle a century in the making.

This year is the 100th anniversary of this great evil, and still the government of Turkey and many others refuse to acknowledge that it even happened, let alone to apologize.  My own president and government have refused to make a simple statement using that “G” word.  And it is strange because the U.S. Doesn’t even need to apologize as the perpetrators of what happened in 1915. We don’t need to acknowledge that WE did it.  We just need to acknowledge that someone else did a great crime. But so far, we won’t. But I am hopeful that this will change.

Armenians_marched_by_Turkish_soldiers,_1915
Armenians marched by Turkish soldiers in 1915

 

When we refuse to call evil exactly what it is, we give it power.  Others may be emboldened to repeat similar acts with a sense of impunity. It was only 24 years after the great outbreak of the genocide in 1915 that Hitler acknowledged it, but in a sinister way. He said, “who, after all speaks today of the annihilation of the Armenians.”  He was posturing for the annihilation of the Jews, and he viewed this as the trial run.  The worldwide silence on this issue, the failure of other nations to intervene or even “remember” what happened while the events were still fresh in memory had implications. It inspired Hitler. It made him feel that he could not only repeat these acts, but that he could get away with it. He interpreted the silence and concluded hat this group of people were so despised that the world would be better off for their destruction. Such are the depraved justifications of mad men.

But why would it take so long for a nation like ours, one so entangled in its own quest for social justice, to even call this event what it is?

There are many answers, but none of them will can bear the weight of our silence.  What does matter is that now we have become part of the problem, we have refused to leave the great stream of indifference that flows through history.  Even while we pat ourselves on the back for our moral progress.  Now, even though we weren’t the perpetrators we need to apologize for failing to act, and failing to offer the simple gesture of words. We must ask forgiveness for our unwillingness to pay the price for speaking the truth. And we must acknowledge that it took us far too long to do it.