Novelist Lars Walker — a friend of this blog and an insightful reviewer of some of my own novels — makes a trenchant comment in the Elizabeth Smart post below. I know it’s trenchant because I was about to make basically the same comment but Lars beat me to it! In the comment, he makes a delightfully concise reference to “the Osteenian view that suffering is always a sign of God’s displeasure.” This, of course, refers to popular preacher Joel Osteen, who has been promoting his new book at the Blaze and other places. He basically preaches that God wants wonderful things for your life and you only have to open yourself to God’s will in order to receive those blessings.
I stumbled on Osteen before he was famous. It was more than ten years ago, when I was wrestling with my own conversion to Christianity. I was struggling deeply with the fear that faith would limit my freedom of thought (it didn’t) and the idea that I might be betraying my Jewish heritage. Late one night, while channel surfing, I came upon one of Osteen’s half hour sermons on some religious channel. I (who generally dislike religious programming) was bowled over by him. He was brilliant at conveying God’s love for his human creation and I found his words very moving and comforting. I remember telling my wife about him over our morning coffee. I was well aware of the intellectual flaw in “the Osteenian view.” If God wants only good things to happen to us, and we have to “activate his blessings,” by our positive prayers and good actions, then indeed, as Lars says, suffering must always be a result of some failure on our part. Still, I found his optimism and generosity of heart compelling.
And there is some Biblical support for his point of view. “A righteous man may have many troubles, but the Lord delivers him from them all,” says the Psalmist, whereas “Evil will slay the wicked.” This attitude dominates both Psalms and Proverbs. But it is offset by Job and Ecclesiastes. The latter tells us: “Here is a pointless thing that happens on earth: A righteous man receives what happens to the wicked, and a wicked man receives what happens to the righteous.” And Jesus, who knew a thing or two, remarked that the sun shines on the evil as well as the good and the rain falls on the just and unjust alike.
Not surprisingly, the Bible is right on both counts. That is, of course, in general, a good life is likely to make you happier than a bad one, and good habits will probably make you healthier and more prosperous than bad ones. No good parent tells his child, “My son, go forth and treat yourself and others like garbage, it’ll be great.” There’s a reason the proverbs say what they say.
Elizabeth Smart is making the rounds, flogging her new book My Story (written with Congressman Chris Stewart). Smart is, of course, the beautiful Mormon girl who in 2002 at 14 years old was abducted for nine months by evil lunatic Brian David Mitchell and his wife. Then, miraculously, she was found and reunited with her family. Today, she’s married and says she “couldn’t be happier.” She does good work fighting human trafficking and speaking to sexual abuse survivors.
I’ve always been kind of fascinated with Smart (I’ll read the book and get back to you on it if it’s any good). Her kidnappers dragged her around the country, chaining her up like an animal and raping her daily. And the two questions everyone always asks her are 1) why didn’t you run/call for help and 2) how come you’re not, like, bats**t crazy?
The first question doesn’t mean much to me. Fourteen-year-old-girl, threatened, brutalized, terrified: in the movies, she’d have run away. Real life, not so much. I think anyone with half an imagination can figure that one out.
But that second question — that haunts me. It really does. Nine months of trauma, raped every day, mentally tortured by these demonic lowlifes with their threats and their sick religious delusions. Hell, I know women who’ve been assaulted once and have never gotten over it. I know people whose whole lives are defined by the cruel things that were done to them. I myself just have to hear Smart’s story and I start having angry fantasies about what I’d like to do to Mitchell (hint: it involves a ball-peen hammer and pliers). So how does she, who actually went through this stuff… how does she live her life without being consumed by rage every day all the time?
Don Jon — a romantic comedy about a bartender with a porn addiction — is not the sort of movie I usually go to. But my wife wanted to see it, and I’m extraordinarily fond of her, so here’s what I thought. Not bad at all really. Well-acted, well-written, with an interesting point to make — although once you understand what the point is (in about 20 minutes) you can pretty well write the rest of the picture yourself. Still, it held me for all 90 minutes and there were some laughs and some genuine feeling — so not bad at all.
The idea is that porn — and romantic comedies and promiscuous sex and even religion — can all become addictive ways of losing yourself in a fantasy in order to avoid connecting with other people, and maybe losing yourself in them. This is all true and very relevant in the connected but weirdly disconnected world we now live in.
I especially appreciated the comparison between porn — in which the women have perfect bodies and do all sorts of stuff that real girls aren’t always willing to do — and romantic comedies, in which men find salvation through apologizing to their girlfriends and subjugating themselves to feminine values. Both are equally one-sided visions of relationships — and the movie illustrates it through the simultaneously luscious and distasteful predator female played excellently by Scarlett Johansson.
The one wrong move in the movie comes at the end, when the film smacks Catholicism. I have nothing against smacking Catholicism now and then — the horrifying portrayal of a pedophile priest in the last episode of Showtime’s Ray Donovan struck me as right on the money. But it’s no fair attacking the church for something it doesn’t actually do. The idea that religion can separate us from reality is true enough — it can. But the portrait of what confession is like and how modern priests react to problems struck me as dated and unrealistic. I’m guessing a guy with a porn addiction could do much worse than going to his local priest.
But other than that, a good show, all in all. Joseph Gordon-Levitt wrote, directed and starred and did them all well.
My YA thriller Crazy Dangerous just went on sale for $3.99 in all ebook formats. This is the one about a preacher’s son who befriends a girl sinking into schizophrenia — then begins to suspect her hallucinations are actually prophecies of an oncoming disaster.
You can also still pre-order Nightmare City, likewise for $3.99 in all ebook formats. It’s the story of a young man who wakes up to find his hometown empty — except for the voices of the dead and strange shadows moving in the fog. That one is published in about a month.
Get em while they’re cheap!
Two articles that complimented one another caught my eye last week. One was in the Wall Street Journal‘s Friday “Houses of Worship” column. Ari N. Schulman pointed out (what many, including C.S. Lewis, have known) that arguing in favor of faith because prayer makes you healthier or happier is a fool’s game.
The faithful may be winning at the game of life, but they’re playing by rules that social scientists have written in essentially post-religious terms. While churches define the highest aims of life as salvation or enlightenment, social science research replaces these with health and wealth, well-being and satisfaction.
Once you accept happiness as an argument for faith, you will ultimately lose the argument entirely, because the result can be arrived at without the supposed cause.
This was driven home by the second column, this one in the New York Times by T.M. Luhrmann, the author of When God Talks Back. Luhrmann tells the story of Sigfried Gold, a man who cured his tobacco and food addictions with prayer while never believing in God at all. He was essentially tricking his brain into a healthier life without buying into the supernatural.
Well, sure, why shouldn’t he? The joy of faith is not proof of God and God is not required to produce the “joy of faith.” Hell, drugs will do that for you — you don’t even have to bother to pretend pray. There is a God, but not because it makes you happy to think so. (If you ever want to read a mind-crunching but wonderfully reasoned article on why proof-talk about God is always nonsensical, check out this brilliant Reason magazine piece by Mark Goldblatt.)
The larger point, of course, is that bad argument weakens the case for truth. Carrying this over to politics, it explains why leftist venues like the New York Times and NPR avoid highlighting conservative intellectuals like Jonah Goldberg, Victor Davis Hanson and Mark Steyn and instead give the conservative cause over to anyone they can find with a thick backcountry accent and a tendency to bloviation. They know they don’t have to win the argument. They just let some under-smart right-winger get it wrong.
The religion-politics parallel is a good one. As it is with faith, so freedom, too, makes people happy. But happiness is not an argument for freedom. Freedom, like faith, is a good in and of itself because the fact is no other human good makes sense without it.
Image courtesy shuttertock / Aprilphoto
Okay, I know I’m not the only person who had this experience. Watched the first season of The Killing. Loved the characters, the actors, the ambience. Got caught up in the story. Reached the last episode. Got so pissed off by the cheat that I vowed never to watch it again and to take the Mireille Enos mask off my inflatable companion… although maybe that’s too much information.
Enough people seemed to feel this way that AMC canceled the show after the second season — then they rethought that decision when Netflix and DirecTV threatened to put it on instead. So they put on a third season. And I thought, “Oh, okay, I’m a gentle, peace-loving, forgiving guy. I can’t hold a grudge forever.”
So I watched the third season. And I loved the characters, the actors, the ambience. Got caught up in the story. Reached the last episode…
You’re kidding me, right?
Let me say up front, there was a lot of good stuff all the way through. Strong writing. Great scenes. And I do think Enos is terrific as the troubled homicide detective. And beautiful, despite everything they do to try to make her look plain. And Joel Kinnaman, who plays her partner, turns in a performance of such depth and charm that he clearly deserves the same success here he had in his native Sweden. And kudos to Peter Sarsgaard for a powerful turn as a guy on death row.
That last episode though. Woof. Bad. Really bad. Contrived, unbelievable. It’s one thing when the killer is “the last person you’d suspect,” but another when it’s the last person you’d suspect because he/she just wouldn’t have done it! Also, it’s truly annoying when one of the very few believable female cops on television suddenly starts acting like a ditzy girl in a sitcom, all flustered and irrational and governed by emotion, not like a cop at all, just so the writers can maneuver her into a suspenseful position. Plus if you’re going to steal the end of a movie, try not to make it one of the most famous ends of a movie ever. The whole final episode felt like they’d written it in a hurry, not knowing the resolution until the last minute.
Look, it’s a season-long mystery. We’re watching to find out whodunnit. Great characters, great setting — all well and good — but you gotta deliver on that last show! I’m writing to AMC to ask that they return thirteen hours of my life. Not at the end either. I want them when I’m 27. It’s only fair. The Killing is killing me.
Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture
As Instapundit Glenn Reynolds might say: asking the important questions!
The reason it comes up: a really interesting post from Erick Erickson at RedState.com. I like RedState and admire Erickson. He’s smart, fearless and he writes well. And I greatly enjoyed the July 30 essay titled “For Jesus. The World Against Me,” in which he rightly took liberal Christian Rachel Held Evans to task for stereotyping more conservative Christians as anti-science or too patriotic. Erickson writes:
I don’t know a Christian who is anti-science. Christians haven’t suddenly declared science anti-God, but the left has declared God and Christians anti-science. I don’t know a church that has declared allegiance to a political party or a single nation. But I know the left parodies evangelicals that way. In fact, through Rachel Held Evans’ entire list, what she is admitting is that she has embraced the secular left’s parody of evangelical churches to proclaim her own style and mode of worship and faith superior. She’s embraced the loud voices of a few and conflated them to the quiet voices of the many in the evangelical community committed to saving souls.
Just because the left and media attack evangelical churches for these things does not make them so. From Archbishop Chaput in the Catholic Church to Mark Driscoll to Franklin Graham to John Piper to Timothy Keller to Rich Warren to Andy Stanley to Lois Giglio to Al Mohler to my own preacher — they all preach Jesus. They don’t preach America because they’re just passing through it on the way to real life. But they do preach the Jesus who is, not the Jesus the world wishes for.
Great stuff, all true. And Erickson’s main point is also true: being “for Jesus” sometimes means standing against what the world deems good and wise, even when the world is ever-so-sure it’s right.
But then Erickson gives an example:
Christians stand for Jesus. When demanded by the world to look at a dude in a leather g-string, rainbow afro wig, and fairy wings glued to his back dancing down the street claiming he’s got pride and accept it as just another form of normal, well, yeah, we’re for Jesus so we’re against that. Rachel Held Evans, Rob Bell, Donald Miller, and the like want to accommodate that. Jesus wouldn’t. We shouldn’t.
I was pleased the other day to receive a copy of Rick Johnson’s new book in the mail: A Man in the Making: Strategies to Help Your Son Succeed in Life. I was also honored to find myself quoted in the book’s frontispiece — especially honored since my quote was there with two others, one from Socrates and one from John Wayne. Now I’ll go toe to toe with Socrates any day, but Wayne? That’s pretty impressive company. I’ve never had the pleasure of meeting Rick, but I emailed him to say I was so flattered that I was going to spend the next few days wearing a toga and a cowboy hat. Until, you know, the wife started to complain.
Rick is the founder of Better Dads, a program to teach fathering skills and advocate for more and stronger fathers in the home. He’s written a number of books, and travels through North America lecturing on manhood and its positive effects on the home. It’s an urgent subject, and a difficult one.
Manhood is a very tough thing to talk about because an essential part of manhood is not talking about it — but not talking about it leaves the field open to the rabid leftist feminists who all but monopolize the field of psychology. These often well-meaning clownettes take it as given that masculinity is a Bad Thing. Despite the massive amount of information showing the damaging effects on children of not having a strong father in the home, they continue to both preach and practice against the beneficent power of manhood and against the urgency of fatherhood. A man who sought individual or couples counseling from one of these Knucklehead Girls would, I believe, find them quite insidious and damaging.
Guys like Rick provide a needed voice of opposition — a needed voice for men. Rick’s point of view is a Christian one — something with which you may or may not disagree — but his main point about the desperate necessity of good, strong fathering is indisputable.
With everything going on in the news these days — I mean, didn’t Jennifer Aniston recently get a haircut or something? — this seems like a goofy thing to get annoyed about, but I have to confess it got to me. I saw this originally on Big Hollywood: Tom Cruise’s ex-wife Katie Holmes was walking with her 7-year-old daughter Suri and they were surrounded by paparazzi. And Suri both rightly and kind of cutely was telling these photog thugs to get out of her way and one of them — a grown man — started calling the child names! Another more human photographer tries to remonstrate with this lowlife — but the guy insists he’s in the right! Watch the video — I’m not making this up. The pap doubles down, explaining that no, the 7-year-old actually deserves to be catcalled and by golly he’s just the he-man to do the job! So help me, I’ll retire to Bedlam.
Hey, no one can accuse this blog of being soft on celebrities, but I’ve never subscribed to this idea that just because someone desires to win renown he therefore sacrifices every ounce of his privacy. I know we can’t really restrict the actions of photographers without compromising our First Amendment rights, but is it too much to ask we be allowed to tie them up in canvas sacks and toss them into the Hudson River? Or maybe with Eric Holder re-examining Stand Your Ground laws (for some reason), we might look into extending the meaning of self-defense to include confrontations between the rich and famous and these annoying lens-termites. We could even make special categories for those particularly afflicted. For instance, whereas someone like Tom Hanks — not usually hunted by swarms of paps — could only open fire on one when actually being hounded, someone like Angelina Jolie would be allowed to break into a photographer’s home, creep into his bedroom and smother him in his sleep without facing any legal consequences.
All right, I said it was silly. But really, how far do you have to sink before you start screaming insults at children? Yuck-o.
I’m off to New York for the International Thriller Writers ThrillerFest. My Young Adult novel If We Survive is nominated for best YA Thriller of the year. I won’t have time to post while I’m gone, so I’ll leave behind some mini-reviews:
Side Effects — watch this. It’s good. Steven Soderbergh returns to his semi-mockumentary Contagion mode to deliver what we only slowly realize is a thriller in the classic vein. The picture is wonderfully acted, most especially by Jude Law, who delivers a subtly flawless performance as a subtly flawed man. Law has been getting better and better and he’s just terrific in this. Rooney Mara, Channing Tatum and Catherine Zeta-Jones fill out a fine cast.
The story tells of a shrink (Law), who prescribes an anti-depressant for a troubled patient only to find it has some very dangerous side effects — to tell more would be to give the game away. But Law’s character is so well drawn that we’re not sure whether he’s the hero or the villain or something in between until a wonderfully low key moment in which his integrity is tested. In keeping with Soderbergh’s style, the moment passes virtually without comment. You have to be paying attention to realize what Law did and what it means about him. So pay attention.
But the whole picture’s like that. Quiet, intense, smart. And it happens to deal with a subject that’s a real pet peeve of mine: the over-prescription of anti-depressants. The way these things work: doctors discover that depression involves a certain action in the brain and that, in a small number of people, this action happens more or less without cause. That is, it’s an illness. They cure that illness with a drug then, slowly, begin expanding the drug’s use until it’s prescribed to just about anyone who’s every felt sad for twenty minutes in a row. It’s a disgusting and abusive practice and has reduced a large segment of the psychiatric profession to the level of street drug dealers. Again, I’m not saying the drugs have no appropriate uses; I’m saying they’re way, way, way overused.
The movie captures some of the machinations behind that, but most importantly, it tells a good story about interesting people. A very solid thriller. Really worth a look.
I’m off to New York for the International Thriller Writers ThrillerFest. My Young Adult novel If We Survive is nominated for best YA Thriller of the year. I won’t have time to post while I’m gone, so I’ll leave behind some mini-reviews:
World War Z – This is one of those films that gets reviewed as much for its budget (somewhere north of $200 million) as for its qualities, but basically it’s an enjoyable and suspenseful summer blockbuster type thing. I have a couple of friends who loved it, a couple who hated it — I just thought it was good enough. As I’m sure everyone knows, the world is taken over by zombies and Brad Pitt has to try to save it. He does a good job playing a likable and admirable hero, though his backstory is absurd. (He was a war crimes investigator for the U.N. so I guess he’s expert in arriving too late, taking bribes and then doing nothing.) I liked the fact that, for a zombie film, the disgust level is really, really low. Not a lot of splattering and brains and, strange to say, you don’t miss them at all. Also liked the fact that Mireille Enos of The Killing is in it. Man, they must work hard on that TV show to make her look so drab. She’s stunningly beautiful and appealing.
The most interesting thing to me (and this is a little bit of a spoiler, though not much) is that the last third takes place in an enclosed facility and mostly features three actors walking down dark hallways, carrying hand weapons… essentially a sequence that could have been on a cable TV show. So where did all those millions go, I wonder? But hey, it’s as suspenseful as the rest of it, so it shows you don’t need all that much dough to get things right.
My biggest criticism: there’s not really much of a human story. The hero is a good, resourceful guy in the beginning and he remains a good, resourceful guy. No one changes, no one learns anything, and there’s not much point. Life’s like that sometimes, but it doesn’t cost nine bucks to get in.
All in all: worth seeing for mindless, brain-eating fun. Based on the novel by Max Brooks, which I’ve heard is quite good.
There are some films in which style triumphs over content. Stoker is a film in which style overpowers content, hurls it to the ground then chokes the life out of it. Directed by Park Chan-wook, the South Korean who did the entertaining Vengeance trilogy (Sympathy for Mr. Vengeance, Oldboy, and Sympathy for Lady Vengeance), Stoker is so full of mysterious symbols, portentous glances, and cinematic and literary references that when you find out what it’s all about, you think, “That’s it??? That’s what all the fuss is for?”
A girl’s father dies. A mysterious uncle shows up (named Uncle Charlie, so everyone who’s seen Hitchcock’s Shadow of a Doubt knows what we’re dealing with). The girl, her mother and Uncle Charlie begin to form a romantic triangle. So far, so good. But then we find out the underlying secret. We’ve seen it before. And the theme, involving nature and nurture and freedom and inheritance and so on, has been done much better and deeper on Dexter.
Well, it’s not boring, just thin. And all the acting’s good — Mia Wasikowska, Nicole Kidman and Matthew Goode. And if the style is too much, at least it really is stylish. The whole picture looks like an Edward Gorey sketch. All in all, I’d say you might enjoy the pretty pictures, but don’t expect too much from the story itself.
Oh, this is really sad. Vince Flynn, the talented bestselling author of international thriller novels, has died of prostate cancer at only 47. Flynn wrote the wildly popular novels about the CIA assassin Mitch Rapp. His books were not only cool, exciting and patriotic, they were also really well written. Rapp was a terrific tough guy character who brought rough justice to the world’s bad guys… and if you’ve ever wondered why it’s taking so long for him to appear in a Hollywood movie, it may be because Flynn knew who the world’s bad guys are, and a lot of people in the movie business don’t. Anyway, I never got to meet the man but the too-soon loss of an expert practitioner is something everyone in the business feels. God’s strength to his family. Rest in peace, Vince Flynn – you were one of the really good ones.
The Beholden State: California’s Lost Promise and How to Recapture It is now officially published and available at Amazon and Barnes & Noble and all the rest. This is a collection of writings on California’s troubles from my friends at the Manhattan Institute’s City Journal and includes excellent essays by the great Victor Davis Hanson, Steven Malanga, Joel Kotkin, Heather Mac Donald and others. Among those others is me, (or I), with my essay on the movies, “The Lost Art of War.”
But while I’m delighted to be included in the book, the thing I really love about City Journal is that the writers and thinkers there are not concerned with party politics, but only with what works. They’ll support Democrats or Republicans, as long as they come up with real solutions to problems — and solutions that don’t compromise American principles of freedom. Also, they’re really good writers and thinkers.
Take a look at the book — and take a look at the journal itself too. Both provide unique takes on issues that are too often obscured by emotion and rhetoric.
image courtesy shutterstock / Nicku
This PJTV discussion between me and Bill Whittle seems to have inspired a bit of online debate — plus some hate mail for me! What’s interesting is how many people heard me say that no, a conservative couldn’t be an atheist. As opposed to what I did say, which was yes, he could. Easy to get those two confused. And to those who asked whether I’ve ever read Ayn Rand, the answer is also yes, virtually all her major works and many of her minor ones as well. I find her economic ideas — most of which can be found in Frederic Bastiat — very sound. Her moral and aesthetic ideas are absurd. Even the people who believe in them don’t really believe in them.
Anyway, here’s the vid. Decide for yourself. All hate mail should be addressed to Bill. I mean, just look at him!
For those of you who enjoy — or think you might enjoy — or think you know someone who thinks he or she might enjoy — my young adult adventure novels: most of them are on sale at the Kindle store for the next few days for $2.99. All the books in the Homelanders series — The Last Thing I Remember, The Long Way Home, The Truth of the Matter and The Final Hour — plus If We Survive, one of this years International Thriller Writer nominees for best YA thriller — can be scored at that price through June 23rd.
They are very cool action-packed books and will make a man of you, unless you’re a girl, in which case you will remain a girl. The Homelanders books follow patriotic tough guy Charlie West, who goes to sleep in his own bed one night only to wake up strapped to a chair being tortured by terrorists. If We Survive is about four young people who go down to Central America on a charitable mission — and then get trapped behind enemy lines during a Communist revolution.
Each for $2.99 apiece! Pretty good. Even I may buy a couple.
Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture
An excellent article by John Stonestreet at Breakpoint led me to an excellent article by Philip G. Ryken at The Gospel Coalition. Ryken asked Christian artists how the church discouraged them and they gave him some very precise and, I thought, accurate answers. Here’s Stonestreet’s summary:
First, they said, treat the arts as window dressing for the truth rather than the window into reality it’s intended to be. Second, embrace bad art just because it’s “Christian.” Third, value artists only for their artistic gifts, but not for the other contributions they can make as thinkers and servants with a unique perspective. Fourth, demand that artists only give answers in their work, but never raise questions. Fifth, never pay artists for their work—take advantage of them in ways we would never do with plumbers or accountants. And finally, only validate art that has a direct salvation application.
These complaints seemed to be highlighted and exemplified by a well-intentioned but, to my mind, utterly wrong-headed essay by David Gibson of the Religion News Service entitled, “Can A Christian Watch Game of Thrones?” (which happens to be my favorite show at the moment):
Is there anything morally redeeming about “Game of Thrones”? Does the hit HBO series even have a moral vision…? The appeal of the series seems bound up in the senseless violence and amoral machinations – not to mention the free-wheeling sex – that the writers use to dramatize this brutish world of shifting alliances and dalliances.
I call this wrong-headed not for its description of the show, but for its inherent concept of Christians as delicate flowers who have to be protected from a vision of life as it is. Gibson says GOT may be “depicting how the world would look if Christ had never been born – or what it could look like if Christianity disappeared tomorrow.” But that’s just silly. Does he mean now that Christ has shown up, people live long and prosper in honesty and evil never thrives? Is he demanding to be lied to about the nature of this world?
The very power of Game of Thrones derives from the fact that the author of the source novels, George R. R. Martin (an atheist, I believe), treats his characters as harshly and heartlessly as the real world treats the rest of us. If Christians can’t look at that without losing their faith, they better not watch the news either, or look out their windows, or leave their rooms.
How can men speak honestly about relationships and fatherhood? Easy — don’t include women in the conversation. That way, laughable irrelevancies like fairness, equality, communication, and sharing housework can be left behind and you can get down to discussing what really matters and what really works.
That’s why I’ll be participating in a panel at “BOND’s Annual Conference on Fatherhood and Men,” which is open to all men 13 and older. BOND — “Rebuilding the family by rebuilding the man.” — is the organization run by the courageous preacher and frequent “Hannity” guest Jesse Lee Peterson. I once wrote of him in a City Journal profile:
Peterson decries the transformation of the civil rights movement from a principled appeal to the American creed to a politicized shakedown of guilt-ridden whites. He condemns the government subsidies of single motherhood that have helped set loose a plague of black illegitimacy and its attendant plagues of generational poverty and crime. And he bemoans the black culture of dependency on government support that even welfare workers privately call “welfare psychosis.”
But Peterson is no metropolitan academic. Despite his quiet demeanor and delivery, his message is charged with that old-time religion. Where [Shelby] Steele views the last 40 years of civil rights activism as a complex and poisonous blend of white guilt, black opportunism, and government incompetence and corruption, Peterson sees an intentional power grab by an anti-American Left, a self-interested attempt to destroy the nation by destroying manhood and marriage, part of the ongoing and eternal struggle between the forces of Good and Evil. “You cannot control a moral people,” he tells me. “You have to keep them immoral in order to control them.”
Hit the poster for more information on the conference. And look here for the rest of my profile of this brave and important man.
‘I Choose to Believe in God, But I Have Serious Doubts and I Refuse to Be Pinned Down’ – Stephen King
Stephen King is the Stephen King of horror writers. When he’s on his game, he really is so good at what he does there’s no one to compare him to but himself! Recently, what Christopher Hitchens used to disdainfully call “God-botherers” (ie. believers like myself) were interested to hear King give an interview to NPR in which he said he leaned toward faith in the creator, though he vacillated and was inconsistent.
I choose to believe it. … I mean, there’s no downside to that. If you say, “Well, OK, I don’t believe in God. There’s no evidence of God,” then you’re missing the stars in the sky and you’re missing the sunrises and sunsets and you’re missing the fact that bees pollinate all these crops and keep us alive and the way that everything seems to work together. Everything is sort of built in a way that to me suggests intelligent design. But, at the same time, there’s a lot of things in life where you say to yourself, “Well, if this is God’s plan, it’s very peculiar,” and you have to wonder about that guy’s personality — the big guy’s personality. And the thing is — I may have told you last time that I believe in God — what I’m saying now is I choose to believe in God, but I have serious doubts and I refuse to be pinned down to something that I said 10 or 12 years ago. I’m totally inconsistent.
But if you really want to see King exploring the idea of faith and the nature of God, the novel to read is Desperation — maybe because it was written in the mid 1990s during one of King’s periods of deeper faith. Anyway, if you’re a horror fan at all, it’s an insanely gripping read. The first 300 pages or so are almost unbelievably compelling. Then the narrative drive lags a bit, but mostly because King starts to use his story to explore God’s presence in the midst of horrifying events and to talk about what it might mean. It never gets boring and there’s one five or ten page chapter in the book’s second half that’s as scary as anything King — or anyone — has ever written. (It’s about a woman locked in a pitch black room. Terse, controlled, brilliant horror. The man is truly a master of the art.)
By the end, you really do get a sort of theology, which is delivered in a way that’s both humble and touching. I understand there’s a companion novel as well — The Regulators — by King’s alter ego, Richard Bachman. I haven’t read that one, but this one is dynamite. And don’t settle for the movie — it’s only so-so.
And yes, yes, I know King’s a liberal and against the Second Amendment. He’s still a great horror writer. What can I tell you? Talent is blind!
Here’s one of my favorite political jokes in honor of my wedding anniversary:
Barack Obama, John Boehner and Harry Reid are traveling on Air Force One when the jet crashes and they are all killed. Barack Obama is immediately whisked off to a plain of eternal fire. Demons tear at him with pitchforks; hellhounds rip his flesh; flames engulf him. And a mighty voice from on high thunders: “BARACK OBAMA! THIS IS YOUR DOOM!”
John Boehner finds himself in an endless waste of ice. Ice devils scratch at him; hailstones pound him; freezing cold lashes his body. And a mighty voice from on high thunders: “JOHN BOEHNER! THIS IS YOUR DOOM!”
Harry Reid opens his eyes and finds himself in a spacious penthouse apartment in the clouds. The furnishings are lavish. Beautiful music plays on an amazing sound system. A crystal of single malt scotch is waiting for him on the stand near his plush armchair. The door opens and in walks Kate Upton in the sheerest possible negligee. And as the gorgeous super model moves slowly toward him, a mighty voice from on high thunders: “KATE UPTON…!”
I have been married 33 years. During that time, my wife and I have had one argument and a million laughs. Without sentimentality or exaggeration, I can honestly say it has been a romance out of a fairy tale. For me, it has been a gift from God and a taste of paradise.
For my wife? Well, I can only hope she doesn’t feel like Kate Upton in the joke!
Cross-posted from Klavan on the Culture
It’s odd. Finding God in middle age brought more joy and peace into my life than I ever thought to expect, and yet listening to people talk about religion and reading modern writers on the subject often leaves me cold, alienated. I don’t care how brilliantly they refute the atheists. I don’t care whom they think God wants me to sleep with, or how they believe I should say my prayers. When they tell me I cannot call myself a Christian unless I condemn what they condemn and despise whom they despise, it makes me faintly nauseous. And though I’ve read many sentences that begin “If you only knew your Bible, you would see…” I’ve never reached the end of any of them.
What good religious discourse does — what good religious writing does — what they do for me, at least — is reorient my spirit toward its lodestar, which is Christ. For some reason, this is less likely to be achieved through flashy logic and pompous denunciations than through humble seeking and painfully honest self-examination. Go figure.
At any rate, here’s a lovely little book of really good religious writing: Strange Gods, by Elizabeth Scalia, who is also known by her blogging name The Anchoress. For reasons I’ll explain, it is an excellent corrective to our ferocious historical moment.
I was first led to the Anchoress by — who else? — Instapundit, (Him By Whom All Good Things are Linked!). I was taken with the gracefulness of her prose and the graciousness of her outlook and often found them an antidote to the fever of political confrontation. It’s not that she doesn’t have her opinions, she just usually manages to remain open-hearted toward her opposition while expressing them. No common thing these days and no mean trick either.
In Strange Gods, subtitled “Unmasking the Idols in Everyday Life,” she examines a few of the infinite ways in which she and all the rest of us break the first commandment. She speaks personally and movingly about how an excess of attention to ego, ideas, ideology, coolness, sex — even the films made from Jane Austen novels! — can position these false idols between ourselves and the source of all goodness.
Why do people allow their relationship with God to become disoriented? Sadly, the problem usually starts with love. The human heart craves attention and love — love is the common longing of our lives. We may search for a career, or wealth, or status, but the desire to be loved and valued is usually at the root of our strivings…. Sometimes, discouraged or impatient in our search, we chase illusions…
Haunting Melissa — the first-ever app movie — produced by Neal Edelstein and with a script by me — got a nice launch last week. The ghost story that pushes itself to your mobile i-device got coverage from ABC, Fox, Bloomberg and CNN, among dozens of other places. It was named Best App of the Day by the Best App of the Day namers. And has been climbing rapidly up the bestseller lists.
It’s a free download. Make sure to turn on the push notifications and to use a headset. And let me know what you think.
Crossposted from Klavan on the Culture
[There are updates at the end of this post.]
Well, look, when the left-wing media lands a punch, you got to take it, fair and square. Turns out one of the few open conservative activists in Hollywood has been hiding a past life as a Holocaust denier. He once recanted, but it was fake. He’s still mealy-mouthed on the subject. This is from the Guardian, a socialist newspaper in the UK:
To those who knew him, or thought they knew him, he was a cerebral, fun-loving gadfly who hosted boozy gatherings for Hollywood’s political conservatives. David Stein brought right-wing congressmen, celebrities, writers and entertainment industry figures together for shindigs, closed to outsiders, where they could scorn liberals and proclaim their true beliefs.
Over the past five years Stein’s organisation, Republican Party Animals, drew hundreds to regular events in and around Los Angeles, making him a darling of conservative blogs and talkshows. That he made respected documentaries on the Holocaust added intellectual cachet and Jewish support to Stein’s cocktail of politics, irreverence and rock and roll.
There was just one problem. Stein was not who he claimed. His real name can be revealed for the first time publicly – a close circle of confidants only found out the truth recently – as David Cole. And under that name he was once a reviled Holocaust revisionist who questioned the existence of Nazi gas chambers. He changed identities in January 1998.
Yuck-o. And bad for the cause of freedom too, because you know full well the media will try to tar us all with it. That’s how it works. Oliver Stone makes a documentary rationalizing a Soviet Union that slaughtered gazillions in the name of oppression; Sean Penn kisses the backsides of tyrants like Castro and Chavez — hey, no problem. They still work and win praise — and certainly no one tries to pin their foolishness on run-of-the-mill Hollywood Democrats, nor should they. But one creepoid on the right, and we’ll soon start to hear, “Well, that’s what they’re all like, deep down.” See if we don’t.
I’ll be traveling over Easter and don’t think I’ll have time to blog, so I’ll leave a few mini-reviews to unroll day by day for your holiday viewing pleasure — or not.
— Oh, man, I so wanted to like this. Liam Neeson killing evil Muslims to get his kidnapped wife back? It worked once, why not again? Plus the critics hated it while the public ate it up, so I was all ready to side with the public. But, really, no. The characters are terribly written, the action is poorly choreographed. Poor Neeson looks like he needs to be rescued more than his family. There’s one scene where he’s in a Mexican standoff — evil Muslims have him and his wife at gunpoint; he’s holding a gun on them — and, so help me, he pauses to make a phone call! I was hoping he was calling his agent: “Get me out of here!” No such luck. A few days after I saw this, I was on the elliptical and Taken 1 came on TV. I was struck again by its taut structure, its expert suspense. Take my advice: watch the first one twice and forget 2.