Archive for the ‘Books’ Category

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Was the Holocaust the Result of Intolerance?

April 25, 2007

As I have been working a lot lately on a paper about the Holocaust, I’ve also been thinking quite a bit about tolerance and discrimination.  Was the Holocaust caused because of discrimination and intolerance on the part of the Germans?  I think that one would have to answer that yes, it was; it is undeniable that most Germans during the World War II era were blatantly anti-Semitic.  It was this anti-Semitism that spurned Hitler and the Germans to attempt to “purify” the Aryan race by removing the Jews from it.  Take a look at this snippet from Daniel Goldhagen’s book, Hitler’s Willing Executioners:

[Germans] had been weaned and fed on existing antisemitic culture, still heavily informed by the traditional Christian conception of Jews. This was now overlaid with a set of new charges — that the Jews […] worked against German national goals, that they were undoing the social order, that they were the source of the dislocation of the changing economy and society, to name but a few.

Now I’m not sure what Goldhagen is referring to as the “traditional Christian conception of Jews” — from my understanding of the Bible, Christians should respect and honor Jews as God’s chosen people.  (I suppose I could do a little research into this “Christian conception” referenced by Goldhagen, but I’ll put that off for another time.)  In today’s culture, however, where tolerance is preached to such an extreme that I actually want to be intolerant, seeing that the Holocaust occurred mainly because of hatred and discrimination against a minority is indeed sobering.

Does that mean that I believe the world is right in preaching unlimited tolerance today?  Absolutely not.  I love the title to Ryan Dobson‘s first book: Be Intolerant: Because Some Things Are Just Stupid.  Yes, I believe tolerance is important to a certain extent and in some situations, but in others it is precisely what needs to be avoided.  Just what are these distinctions and specific situations that dictate whether tolerance is appropriate or not?  Stay tuned to find out 🙂

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Casino Royale: A Movie for Real Guys

February 20, 2007

I rarely go to see a movie more than once at the theater.  I admit, I did see The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe three times, but that was (by far!) an exception.  Casino Royale, however, I saw twice.  True, part of the reason for my watching it twice was because we were on vacation and I didn’t have much to occupy my time, but I still wouldn’t have seen it more than once if I didn’t like it.  No, rather, I wouldn’t have seen it twice if I didn’t like it a lot.  I acknowledge that my liking of the movie may be controversial in conservative circles — I know that PluggedIn certainly didn’t like the movie much, but is that any surprise?  I’m not going to go into an argument trying to justify James Bond’s adultery or fornication, because those are definitely wrong actions that were unfortunately included in the movie.  Rather, I want to explore just why James Bond is such an iconic “macho man.”

Basically, I liked Casino Royale because it shows what real men long for.  As anyone who has watched a James Bond movie knows, it contains two basic elements: action and romance.  (Actually, my best friend, older brother and I modeled a trip we took to Veracruz after James Bond movies, hoping to get both action and romantic adventure.  We weren’t disappointed!)  I think John Eldredge says it best in his great book, Wild at Heart:

There are three desires I find written so deeply into my heart I know now I can no longer disregard them without losing my soul.  They are core to who and what I am and yearn to be.  I gaze into boyhood, I search the pages of literature, I listen carefully to many, many men, and I am convinced these desires are universal, a clue into masculinity itself.  They may be misplaced, forgotten, or misdirected, but in the heart of every man is a desperate desire for a battle to fight, an adventure to live, and a beauty to rescue.

All three of those desires are found played out in the life of one James Bond, 007, the almost-mystical incarnation of masculinity in the cinema.  Truthfully, what man would not love to be a James Bond?  He punishes the bad guys, is always on the most adventurous and dangerous of missions, and has many beauties a beauty to rescue.  Those are the core desires in a man’s heart, and that is why I liked Casino Royale so much: it presented those desires being lived out in James Bond.

I admit,  he’s by no means the perfect guy.  As I mentioned earlier, he does a lot of things that are just plain wrong and he suffers the effects of them.  (Bond has a great line about the effect killing has had on his soul, but I have unfortunately been unable to find it at the moment.)  In the end, however, he is a guy who is fighting to save innocent people’s lives and I believe he finally finds true love in this movie.  I’m not going to write any more on that subject, since I have dealt briefly with it in an earlier post and I don’t want to spoil the movie for anyone who hasn’t seen it.  Just remember that James Bond immortalizes the deep desires of men, and that is what makes it a movie for real guys.  I’ll definitely be watching this one again as soon as it comes out on DVD.

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Love’s Inevitable Risk

February 10, 2007

Heartbreak — one of those inevitable disturbances that must happen to everyone as they grow up.  Certainly, it needn’t be heartbreak in a romantic affair: love a dog, and when that dog dies, your heart will break.  Love a gift, a family heirloom, and when you lose that thing you cannot replace, tears will stream down you face (props to Coldplay!).  Actually, I think Coldplay has a lot of wisdom on this subject.  They recognize quite well in their song “What If” that love, by its very nature, is prone to the risk of heartbreak.  Look at what they have to say on the subject (and this is only one verse of the song):

Every step that you take
Could be your biggest mistake.
It could bend or it could break
But that’s the risk that you take.
What if you should decide
That you don’t want me there in your life?
That you don’t want me there by your side?

Coldplay goes on to say that because of this risk, “Let’s take a breath, jump over the side.”  In other words, yes, there is a fundamental risk involved in love, but we can’t let that risk keep us from loving.  I think C. S. Lewis makes this point masterfully in The Four Loves (a book that I haven’t read in its entirety yet, but I will the first chance I get!):

There is no escape along the lines St. Augustine suggests.  Nor along any other lines.  There is no safe investment.  To love at all is to be vulnerable.  Love anything, and your heart will certainly be wrung and possibly be broken.  If you want to make sure of keeping it intact, you must give your heart to no one, not even to an animal.  Wrap it carefully round with hobbies and little luxuries; avoid all entanglements; lock it up safe in the casket or coffin of your selfishness.  But in that casket — safe, dark, motionless, airless — it will change.  It will not be broken; it will become unbreakable, impenetrable, irredeemable.  The alternative to tragedy, or at least to the risk of tragedy, is damnation.  The only place outside Heaven where you can be perfectly safe from all the dangers and perturbations of love is Hell.

 Wow, that is a long quote, but Lewis captures the essence of love’s risk so poetically that I had to include the whole thing.  For clarity and profundity, there’s no one that can beat C. S. Lewis!  Before I close this assimilated post of sundry quotes on this topic, I thought I would make one last reference.  I watched Casino Royale a couple of weeks ago and it quickly became one of my favorite movies (thoughts on it are coming soon, I promise!).  One thing in particular impacted me about the movie.  Here is James Bond, agent 007, the nearly-invincible Mr. Macho himself.  Who can hurt him?  Yet, in this movie, Mr. Bond finally finds true love (I’m sure some would debate this claim, but I think this is what the filmmakers wanted to communicate at the end of the film).  How does Bond describe this new love he has found?

I have no armour left. You’ve stripped it from me. Whatever is left of me – whatever is left of me – whatever I am – I’m yours.

Sounds a lot like vulnerability, doesn’t it?  Love is the loss of one’s armor, the opening of one’s heart; what could be more dangerous than that?  Closing one’s self off from love to avoid pain.  As Coldplay melodiously says, “Let’s take a breath, jump over the side.”  Will it hurt?  Most definitely.  But that’s the way it’s done, and there’s no other alternative but Hell.

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Another C. S. Lewis Movie

February 2, 2007

Anyone who is a fan of the film version of The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe will probably be fully aware that Walden Media and Disney have started work on the next installment to the Narnia series, Prince Caspian.  This is no surprise — the film is set for a 2008 release.  Having said this, a couple of weeks ago I found an interesting website for reading about upcoming movie sequals and one of the headlines they wrote today surprised me quite a bit.

According to IGN.com, Walden has begun work on a film adaptation (set for release next year) of Lewis’ classic book The Screwtape Letters:

C.S. Lewis may be best known for his Chronicles of Narnia series of books, but with the success of the first Narnia film, it seems Hollywood is ready to start adapting the author’s other works as well. First up: a big screen version of Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters.

I must say I laughed quite loud when I read that.  A movie of The Screwtape Letters?  Of all things!  Lewis wrote many other novels besides The Chronicles of Narnia that would be much easier to adapt into a movie than a collection of letters written by an old, uncle devil to his nephew.  They screenwriters of this movie are going to have to invent a storyline for the movie, I’m afraid.  We shall have to see what the finished result is.  At least the fact that Walden Media is behind the effort gives me confidence that they will make a decent and faithful adaptation of the book.  After Prince Caspian and The Screwtape Letters, though, they really must make a movie of Till We Have Faces.  Now that would be a movie worth seeing!

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The Brutalization of Man Is Complete

January 10, 2007

Since the teaching of evolution and naturalism in today’s world reduces man to little more than an ultra-intelligent, furless ape, I have often wondered how long it would be before man was represented with his fellow “brother apes” in the zoo.  Well, it appears that this last stronghold of human dignity has finally been crossed, as noted in this rather humorous story from Reuters:

An Australian zoo has put a group of humans on display to raise awareness about primate conservation — with the proviso that they don’t get up to any monkey business.

Over a month, the humans will be locked in an unused orang-utan cage at Adelaide zoo, braving the searing heat and snacking on bananas. They will be monitored by a psychologist who hopes to use the findings to improve conditions for real apes in captivity.

I found reading this story rather ironic, since I just read the condemnation that Alexis de Tocqueville heaps upon materialists in Democracy in America:

[Materialists,] when they believe they have sufficiently established that they are only brutes, they show themselves as proud as if they had demonstrated they were gods.

Tocqueville goes on to assert how religion is necessary in democratic societies, if for no other reason, to simply remind men of their immortal souls and their basic human dignity.  It appears that the secularism that has been taking over the world has removed religion from men’s minds and, consequently, has made men forget that we actually do have immortal souls.  It would appear that Tocqueville was right after all: without religion in democracies, human dignity is lost.

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A Great and Terrible Quote

January 9, 2007

Over Christmas vacation, I took a break from the rather difficult books I’ve been reading lately (Locke, Hobbes, and Edwards are not easy pleasure reading material!) and decided to read something for sheer pleasure (I know, naughty, naughty me).  I decided on a book that I had read in my younger days, when I still had time to read exciting novels for hours every day.  The book I selected is Margaret Lovett’s The Great and Terrible Quest.  I  remembered reading this book several years ago and liking it immensely; thus, to satisfy my weary mind with some good fiction, I reread this book during vacation.

First of all, I was not disappointed at all by rereading this book.  I know that sometimes, when we remember something as beautiful and sublime (hmm, Edmund Burke would consider describing something with those two words contradictory, considering what he wrote on beauty and sublimity) when we are young, we are disappointed when we return to it after years have passed.  The wonder and magic that was there in childhood commonly abandons the work once we have left infancy.  That was not the case with this book, however.  If you want to read an entertaining, exciting, and even humorous account of a knight in the Middle Ages, you should read this book.

Without going into the plot or giving a complete review of the book, I just wanted to note one very interesting quote that struck me as I read it.  A young boy is talking to a wise, old woman about his despicable, hateful grandfather and how anyone could turn out as he did.  The old woman replies that the old man is embittered by the hurt his daughter — whom he dearly loved — caused him.  The little boy cannot comprehend this statement at all, and the woman replies by saying,

Ah, you’m too young to know the hate that love flouted can turn to.

I’m not making any arcane statements here, but I did find that quote extremely interesting and profound.  Yes, silly human beings that we are; what we think is love can easily turn to hate if we’re not careful to forgive and forget.  In the words of Coldplay (which has very quickly joined the ranks of my five favorite musical groups),

Oh, what good is it to live
With nothing left to give?
Forget, but not forgive
Not loving all you see?
(From “Swallowed in the Sea“)

Anyway, just a couple of random thoughts that I’ve had lately.  I felt like I should post, since it probably looks like I’ve abandoned this blog.  I’m going to write some thoughts on movies we watched during vacation, including Lady in the Water, V for Vendetta, and Casino Royale.  That’ll be coming soon!  Until then, find a copy of The Great and Terrible Quest and enjoy a great little book!

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A Hole God Does Not Fill

December 19, 2006

When Christians are faced with the pain and aching in the world, I think it is safe to say that they usually blame it all on mankind’s fall into sin.  Indeed, had Adam resisted the temptation to eat the forbidden fruit (Gen. 3:6), there would be no suffering and hurt in this world, would there?  We would all live in a peaceful utopia, just as Adam did before he made his fateful mistake.  I must agree with the general conclusion that pain and sin are results of the fall and the entire world would be much better off if Adam had resisted the hideously beautiful fruit.  Before sinning, Adam had a perfect relationship with God.  There was no pride, hatred, lust, greed, envy — in short, no sin to separate God from His greatest creation.  In fact, the Bible seems to imply that Adam would walk throughout the garden with God during the “cool of the day” (Gen. 3:8).  Adam probably had the closest relationship a man could ever have with God; while Moses may have been the man closest to God after the fall, a post-fall relationship could not compare to the completely perfect relationship Adam had with God before the fall occurred.  And yet, even in this utopia and perfect relationship with God, all was not well.

The Genesis account is filled with God’s proclaiming His creation good, from the Seas and the Earth (Gen. 1:10) to the trees and plants of the field (1:12).  The crowning moment of creation, however, happened when God created man in His own image and then proclaimed His entire work “very good” (Gen. 1:31).  One can only imagine what it must have been like to be Adam, “born” into a perfect world with God as His Parent, walking with Him as one walks with fellow humans.  What more could one ask for?  God, in His wisdom, saw that all was not good.  Moses puts it this way:

And the Lord God said, “It is not good that man should be alone; I will make him a helper comparable to him” (NKJV, Gen. 2:18).

Despite his perfect relationship with God and the wonderful world he lived in, Adam could not be complete until God made a helper suitable for him.  There was a “hole” inside Adam that even his perfect relationship with God did not fill.  When we’re feeling lonely or rejected, we’ve all heard the consolation from fellow believers that “only God can fill your heart.”  There’s truth in that statement — one will never find complete satisfaction in even the most wonderful love (a lesson powerfully illustrated in Sheldon Vanauken’s amazing book A Severe Mercy).  It is unreasonable, though, to tell people that God will fulfill their longing for another person to love and cherish; God, in His perfect relationship with the first man, recognized that Adam needed another human to love.  Granted, I’m sure God could (and sometimes does — see 1 Cor. 7:37) take away that desire, but He never fulfills it Himself, for another human was meant do to that.  I like how John Locke put it in his Second Treatise of Government:

God having made man such a creature, that in his own judgment, it was not good for him to be alone, put him under strong obligations of necessity, convenience, and inclination to drive him into society, as well as fitted him with understanding and language to continue and enjoy it.  The first society was between a man and wife…

Now, I realize that what I’m saying here could be misinterpreted to an extreme.  I’m not saying that we should first of all seek love — the Apostle Paul warns for him who is “loosed from a wife” to not seek one (1 Cor. 7:27).  In addition to this, God promises that if we seek first His kingdom, the rest will be added unto us (Matt. 6:33) and that the desires of our hearts can be found only be delighting first in Him (Ps. 37:4).  A tragic and horrifying (if somewhat extreme) example of what results when we seek love above God can be read in this recent story at the LA Times.  (Read the story at your own risk — it can get both sexually and violently graphic.) 

In the end, I’m not advocating the idea that we should seek love above God; that is making and idol of a good thing and will only lead to heartache and problems, as illustrated in the LA Times story above.  Still, it is untrue that God will “fill the hole in our hearts” for romantic love when He is the one who put it there in the first place.  We must seek Him first, certainly, but we must not expect Him to fulfill something He never intended to.  All we can do is trust that, if that emptiness is inside us, He will one day bring the only one who can truly fill it.