An Intro

“In writing my chapters I hope to do more than just talk about people and ideas I disagree with. I really have no desire to make a career being the guy who finds errors in everyone else’s thinking. I don’t apologize for defending the truth both positively and negatively – Paul and Jesus did the same all the time. But my aim is not to create an index of forbidden books and authors who are sick of church or don’t go anymore. My aim is to present to the body of Christ, and to anyone else who cares to listen, a picture of why we should be in the church. Indeed, being part of a church – and learning to love it – is good for your soul, biblically responsible, and pleasing to God.

And I don’t mean the ‘church’ that consists of three guys drinking pumpkin spiced lattes at Starbucks talking about the spirituality of the Violent Femmes and why Sex and the City is really profound. I mean the local church that meets – wherever you want it to meet – but exults in the cross of Christ; sings songs to a holy and loving God; has church officers, good preaching, celebrates the sacraments, exercises discipline; and takes an offering. This is the church that combines freedom and form in corporate worship, has old people and young, artsy types and NASCAR junkies, seekers and stalwarts, and probably has bulletins and by-laws.

The church we love is as flawed and messed up as we are, but she’s Christ’s bride nonetheless. And I might as well have a basement without a house or a head without a body as despise the wife my Savior loves.”

– Kevin DeYoung, Why We Love the Church (p. 19)

Book Review: Orthodoxy

Shortly after G.K. Chesterton published Heretics in 1905, he was issued a challenge which went something like this: “Oh yeah? Well, tell us what you believe, then.”

Several critics for whose intellect I have a warm respect said that it was all very well for me to tell everybody to affirm his cosmic theory, but that I had carefully avoided supporting my precepts with example. “I will begin to worry about my philosophy,” said Mr. Street, “when Mr. Chesterton has given us his.” 

This was (as GKC goes on to say) “an incautious suggestion to make to a person only too ready to write books upon the feeblest provocation.” I like to imagine that when Mr. Street took up Chesterton’s response, he felt rather like a school boy who finds to his dismay that the fat kid he’s been picking on is really a heavyweight boxing champion. It would not be a nice surprise, but getting the air beaten out of him might do the bully some good, provided he takes the drubbing to heart. We can hope Mr. Street did exactly that.

orthodoxy1Orthodoxy is a poetic, precise, and screamingly funny right hook to the skeptical jaw. Ten pages in, the newcomer must inevitably feel that Chesterton is something of a nut; twenty pages will confirm this; thirty will bring about the conviction that we need more nuts like him, for his madness is a healthy madness. Chesterton appears insane to the modern reader precisely because he is saner than the modern reader. It is not he who wears the fool’s cap, but we. The Little Emperors have no clothes, and Chesterton is laughing at us.

Sitting down to write this review, it occurred to me that any sort of lengthy, wise-eyed, or “scholarly” analysis was simply out of the question. Firstly, because my head is still hurting; it’s a wonderful kind of hurting – the kind that settles in your stomach after feasting too long and too well – but something tells me that any serious attempt at moving around would result in a cranial blowout.

And brain matter is notoriously sticky to clean up.

The second reason is simpler and goes like this: one of the the chief joys in reading Orthodoxy is the joy of the unexpected. It’s like stepping onto a rollercoaster for the very first time as a kid: you’re not really sure how the thing works or where it’s going or how it will get there without spilling you and everybody else out onto the ground. Attempts to prepare you beforehand will ultimately fall short. You have to experience it for yourself.

When the ride is over, when you’ve screamed and laughed and maybe even thrown up a little bit, you’ll smile and say: “Can we do it again, please?”

No Swords (or Pruning Hooks) Allowed

This article in TIME by Christina Hoff Sommers is well worth a read:

As school begins in the coming weeks, parents of boys should ask themselves a question: Is my son really welcome? A flurry of incidents last spring suggests that the answer is no. In May, Christopher Marshall, age 7, was suspended from his Virginia school for picking up a pencil and using it to “shoot” a “bad guy” — his friend, who was also suspended. A few months earlier, Josh Welch, also 7, was sent home from his Maryland school for nibbling off the corners of a strawberry Pop-Tart to shape it into a gun. At about the same time, Colorado’s Alex Evans, age 7, was suspended for throwing an imaginary hand grenade at “bad guys” in order to “save the world.”

In all these cases, school officials found the children to be in violation of the school’s zero-tolerance policies for firearms, which is clearly a ludicrous application of the rule. But common sense isn’t the only thing at stake here. In the name of zero tolerance, our schools are becoming hostile environments for young boys.

Exhibits X, Y, and Z in the Ongoing War on Masculinity. ‘Cause boys are just so freaking violent. If you see one behaving, y’know, the way boys normally do (wrestling, sword-fighting, playing army, etc.) be sure to call 911. We’ll send a squad car and a straightjacket right away.

What was it Lewis wrote in that magnificent little volume The Abolition of Man? “In a sort of ghastly simplicity we remove the organ and demand the function. We make men without chests and expect of them virtue and enterprise. We laugh at honour and are shocked to find traitors in our midst. We castrate and bid the geldings be fruitful.”

Even this scathing indictment is too generous for us. We remove the organ because we hate the function. We make men without chests because we’re scared of what they might do if they had them. We laugh at honor because we know that honor is an antiquated notion best left to the Victorians. We castrate because the last thing we want is fruitfulness.

In Future Men, Wilson argues that “men who follow Jesus Christ, the dragon-slayer, must themselves become lesser dragon-slayers. And that is why it is absolutely essential for boys to play with wooden swords and plastic guns. Boys have a deep need to have something to defend, something to represent in battle. And to beat the spears into pruning hooks prematurely, before the war is over, will leave you fighting the dragon with a pruning hook.”

Let us have our way, and pruning hooks will be banned, too.

Chic Che

W-T20To be honest, I’ve never paid much attention to the Che icon. Whenever I saw it plastered on this t-shirt or that hoodie, I thought of it as a silly (if relatively benign) fad; one that would eventually work its way out of our collective system, no harm done. This was, of course, the opinion of a guy who knew little about Che Guevara and even less about his philosophy. I’m trying to remedy that now. History books to the rescue and all that.

In chapter five of his book Liberal Fascism, Jonah Goldberg gave me this to think about:

That Che Guevara has become a chic branding tool is a disgusting indictment of both American consumer culture and the know-nothing liberalism that constitutes the filthy residue of the 1960s New Left. Ubiquitous Che shirts top the list of mass-marketed revolutionary swag available for sale at the nearest bob chic retailer – including a popular line of children’s wear. Here’s the text for one ad promoting this stuff: “Featured in Time magazine’s holiday web shopping guide, ‘Viva la revolution!’ Now even the smallest rebel can express himself in these awesome baby onesies. This classic Che Guevara icon is also available on a long-sleeve tee in kids’ sizes… Long live the rebel in all of us… there’s no cooler iconic image than Che!”

The Argentine henchman of the Cuban revolution was a murderer and a goon. He penned classically fascist apothegms in his journals: “hatred as an element of struggle; unbending hatred for the enemy, which pushes a human being beyond his natural limitations, making him into an effective, violent, selective and cold-blooded killing machine.” Guevara was a better writer, but the same muse helped to produce Mein Kempf. Guevara reveled in executing prisoners. While fomenting revolutions in Guatemala, he wrote home to his mother, “It was all a lot of fun, what with the bombs, speeches and other distractions to break the monotony I was living in.” His motto was “If in doubt, kill him,” and he killed a great many. The Cuban-American writer Humberto Fontova described Guevara as “a combination of Beria and Himmler.” Guevara certainly killed more dissidents and lovers of democracy than Mussolini ever did, and Mussolini’s Italy was undoubtedly more free than any society Guevara the “freedom fighter” was seeking. Would you put a Mussolini onesie on your baby? Would you let your daughter drink from a Himmler sippy cup?

Well, when you put it like that…

17 Joys Only Book Lovers Will Understand

Some friends referred me to the BuzzFeed article 17 Problems Only Book Lovers Will Understand. It’s hilarious, not to mention accurate, and if you haven’t read it yet, go read it now. In response, I offer this list of 17 Joys Only Book Lovers Will Understand. You know who you are. (Let the page sit for 5-10 seconds so the gifs – and the humor – can load properly.)

1. When a package full of books arrives on your doorstep.


2. When someone respects your reading habits enough to shut up.


3. When the movie version of a book gets everything right.


4. When you finish a challenging book and just sit there feeling accomplished.


5. When you meet someone who reads as much as you do.


6. When you forget to eat or sleep because a book is so good.


7. When you get to exchange book recommendations with a friend.


8. When a book you love wins accolades and awards.


9. When you manage to get a signed copy.


10. When the story ends in a way you never saw coming.


11. When you walk into a bookstore.


12. When you lend someone a book and get it back in perfect condition.


13. Or get it back with a few extra volumes thrown in.


14. When your favorite character does something awesome.


15. When a book makes you laugh (or cry) hysterically in public and everyone thinks you’re crazy and you don’t give a darn because the book is so amazing.


16. When everyone gets your obscure literary reference.


17. When someone says you read too much and then adds, “Keep it up.”