Monday, February 11, 2019

Celestial Expectations

Good Monday evening.

It took me a good long while to get my act together today. After Trey left the house to take the kids to school this morning I sat down with what initially seemed to be a short list of things I needed to take care of online. With my laptop in my lap & my coffee in my hand, I sat down intending to address a few menial tasks & then finish writing a blog I began yesterday. 

After checking on some things pertaining to Reagan's medicines & supplies I attempted to write a handful of book reviews I've been meaning to write & share online. When I went to post the first of these reviews I was rebuffed by Amazon. I was not, & still am not, allowed to review anything on Amazon. It allowed me to give a starred review, but I can't leave a text review because apparently Amazon believes I've violated their community guidelines. As if. I would not even care about this except that I try to leave text reviews for books I thoroughly enjoy, particularly if I know or really love the author, because I know how much Amazon uses text reviews to decide which books to suggest to people. They have this whole algorithm that relies on text reviews, & eventually, with enough reviews, Amazon starts essentially advertising a book for free.

Anyway, long story long, I spent way too much time trying to address the issue of why I cannot review things I buy on Amazon. I finally gave up, having made no progress with the blog, because I needed to head to town to do exciting stuff like buy more dog food & get the oil changed in my car. 

Anyway, I hope your Monday has been relaxing & calm. If you're curious, two of the books I attempted to review on Amazon are Lying Beneath the Oaks by Kristin Wright & Becoming Mrs. Lewis by Patti Callahan. 

I am still able to review books on Goodreads, & here's the review I left for Lying Beneath the Oaks:

Ms. Wright's debut is a delightful read from start to finish. I am a fan of the marriage trope in romance novels when it's written well. Molly & Cooper's accidental marriage hooks the reader from the start. The newlyweds retreat to Cooper's hometown in the South Carolina low country to sort through the mess they've made, but more surprises await them. As they discover more about each other, Molly is also unearthing dark Middleton family secrets that threaten not only her growing relationship with Cooper but her life. This one is a nice mix of romance and mystery with an exquisite South Carolina backdrop.

Kristin Wright is an author I've followed for several years on Twitter, & her journey to publication has been a long one. She is funny, personable, & loves Mr. Darcy, so we've shared some memes & some good times online. I was eager to read her debut which features two leads, Molly Todd & Cooper Middleton, who get a little bit drunk & marry in Vegas & then fly to Cooper's hometown in South Carolina to presumably get an annulment . . . but, guess what? Sparks fly & they're not sure they want an annulment. Meanwhile, Molly (who of course has a few secrets of her own about which she's not immediately forthcoming) begins to suspect Cooper's father is not the man Cooper thinks he is. There's a nice little romance & a dash of mystery in this book. I read it quickly, & I loved it. 

The other book I was planning to review on Amazon is one I've mentioned to you before, Becoming Mrs. Lewis. Y'all. I have some things to say. I've thrown this title around for the last few weeks without saying much of substance about this book. Today I will share the substance for which I know you yearn. 

There have been some thoughts on the tip of my tongue, hovering at the edge of my mind, for several weeks now, but a few things clicked this past week, & now I think I can find the words that have previously eluded me. My mom gave me Becoming Mrs. Lewis for my birthday last year. I shared the title with the book club ladies, & we decided it would be added to our 2019 reading list. We've read The Screwtape Letters & Mere Christianity, & so why not read this historical fiction about the American woman who was initially a pen pal of Lewis's & then later became his wife? It was our January book. 

I ultimately enjoyed the book, but it was disconcerting at times, & I finally figured out why. To cut to the point, the book humanizes Lewis; it paints him in a light in which I'd never considered him. As I read, I realized that while I've always known he was a man, a mere mortal who taught & wrote beautifully, a man who married later in his life, enjoyed a brief four-year marriage before cancer claimed his wife, which prompted him to write A Grief Observed, all of this was just intellectual stuff to me, just knowledge to file away. I knew the details of his biography, but I had never given much thought to Lewis as a husband or a stepfather. As it turns out it's a tricky thing to get to know a Christian apologetics author you've always revered via the eyes of a woman who fell in love with him. 

I had to ask myself why I was so bothered by the picture this book paints of Lewis as a man with typical emotions, flaws, desires, etc.? The obvious answer is that it bothered me, & bothers me still somewhat, because I have so elevated him in my mind. If asked to describe him, I'd say Lewis was an intellectual giant with a gift for understanding human nature in all its complexity, a man with an extraordinary ability to communicate both simple & complex truths via the written word. I would have never described Lewis as a man who smoked too much, hung out in pubs drinking, & carried on what was no doubt an emotional affair with a married woman before marrying her himself.

The truth is that Joy Davidman's husband was an abusive alcoholic who repeatedly cheated on his wife. Davidman divorced him eventually, & even then Lewis proceeded with an abundance of caution in his relationship with Davidman. Still, the book is eye-opening, certainly thought-provoking, at least for me. 

On a note I hope to demonstrate is semi-related to all of the above, my dad's been teaching the adult class at church on Sunday mornings since the beginning of December. I suppose he is not done teaching me things. I don't want to oversell my dad, but in him I see some of the things I admire about Lewis. 

Yesterday morning in class my dad discussed the role of Christians as temporary citizens of another country such as America. He said, "We (Christians) have been called to save not America, but Americans." 

There is nothing inherently wrong with paying attention to the goings on in our nation or other nations. There are situations about which Christians should speak out & situations & people for whom we should pray. 

But, some of us, among whom I am chief, need to always remind ourselves that we'll all stand before God one day as individuals, not as Americans or members of one political party (or C.S. Lewis devotees), so the charge before us is not to change America or to change Louisiana or to change Monroe. The charge before us is to win people for Christ. In so doing, we may well change our little temporary corner of the world on earth, but the goal is not to reform institutions or governments here on earth, for they will all perish anyway.

A handful of you have asked me questions about a 5-4 ruling the Supremes issued last week regarding a Louisiana law requiring abortion providers to have admitting privileges at a local hospital. This requirement doesn't seem overly burdensome or ridiculous to me, but the Supremes struck it. Perhaps of more interest than the actual ruling in this case is how the votes fell. John Roberts sided with the majority that struck the law, while Kavanaugh did not. What to make of all this?

First, John Roberts is a moral coward. Write that down. Remember it. I don't foresee that fact changing. I don't think John Roberts is an abortion fan. I don't think he's a left-leaning guy. I do think his chief concern is that he presides over a court that doesn't in any way greatly rock the boat. He doesn't want to be seen—nor does he want his court to be seen—as eager to meddle. This is just my opinion. Roberts cares what the Washington elite think of him & what they say about him. He does not, to quote the late Scalia, ". . . have the courage to suffer the contempt of the sophisticated world."

On the (possibly) positive side, Justice Kavanaugh sided with Alito, Gorsuch, & Thomas. Theirs were the four votes in favor of allowing the Louisiana law to stand. These men do not deem the law requiring an abortion provider to have hospital admitting privileges as unnecessarily burdensome. Honestly were I a woman having an abortion, I would want to be in or near a hospital, & I would want the doctor performing the procedure to be able to admit me quickly if necessary. Things can go terribly wrong.

Anyway, I say this is positive because it suggests Kavanugh, a man who very recently suffered the contempt of the sophisticated world if you recall, might be willing to chip away at Roe. There are plenty of media folks angry with Kavanaugh over the vote he cast last week, though admittedly their anger isn't always indicative of anything significant other than their ability to completely overreact. Given the ages of Justices Breyer & Ginsburg (both of whom sided with the majority in this case), it is possible that within a few years John Roberts' vote may not be the fifth (& tie-breaking vote) in matters of this nature. Stay tuned.

Here's the thing, a thing that sort of crystalized in my mind yesterday. Men will always disappoint in some way, even the ones you lionize . . . even C.S. Lewis, even possibly my beloved Neil Gorsuch, even my dad, a man I could not love or admire or respect more. Placing your faith in men, be they phenomenal writers, your own parent, or the most perfect Supreme Court justice you could possibly imagine, will inevitably lead to some disappointment.

The world, our nation, this state of Louisiana, needs Christ & Christ alone. This must be the mindset of Christians. The people around us who don't know Christ don't need the works of C.S. Lewis shoved in their hands by someone who hasn't first handed them a Bible & showed them Christ's love via their daily life; they don't need the Supreme Court to overturn Roe. What does it matter if the Supreme Court overturns Roe if a man loses his soul? What does it matter if a man has memorized Mere Christianity if he loses his soul?

Do I adore Mere Christianity? Yes, yes I do. Do I pray I live to see Roe overturned, to see this nation soften its heart toward the unborn? Yes, I pray for that every day. You know how culture changes? Culture changes not by the passage of new laws, but by the gradual changing of hearts. I cannot control what John Roberts does. I can soften my own heart, & I can try to soften the hearts of those around me.

Imagine a United States in which abortion is legal everywhere at any stage of pregnancy, yet to consider abortion is unthinkable because Christians are everywhere, on every street corner, proclaiming the value of life, teaching of Christ's love for every unique individual whom He purposefully knit together, opening their arms & homes & wallets to women & children. Imagine that. If we change hearts, the laws may follow, but ultimately the laws would be irrelevant. Law has its limits, which is one of the major lessons of the Old Testament.

I worry that we (that I!) focus too much time & too much energy on things on the periphery of Christ & Christianity to the detriment of simply shining a light on Christ, of allowing Him to shine through me. We can't filter our Christianity through C.S. Lewis or Supreme Court rulings or elections. It's not going bring anyone to Christ, & it may well turn some away.

I am covered in the blood of Christ, not in the words of C.S Lewis, not in the edicts of the most excellent Justice Neil Gorsuch, not in the teachings of my wonderful father. Jesus is enough. Jesus is more than enough. Consider that to which you cling. Is it a political party, or the hope of a certain political or judicial victory? Is it a relative without whose faith your own would crumble?

Turning to other people for strength & guidance, be they personal acquaintances or a British author who has been dead since the sixties, is not inherently a bad thing, but when you cross the metaphorical bridge at the end of your life, C.S. Lewis won't be holding your hand. Your parents won't be holding your hand. Those who rallied alongside you for more humane, moral laws won't be holding your hand. That's why the song goes, Jesus, hold my hand.

I will of course update you on my feud with Amazon. I hope you all have a wonderful week. Thank you as always for reading & sharing your thoughts with me, be it online or in person. If I didn't enjoy the dialogue I would not talk so much myself.


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