Tag Archives: satire

Creed

We believe in Marxfreudanddarwin
We believe everything is OK
as long as you don’t hurt anyone
to the best of your definition of hurt,
and to the best of your knowledge.

We believe in sex before, during, and
after marriage.
We believe in the therapy of sin.
We believe that adultery is fun.
We believe that sodomy’s OK.
We believe that taboos are taboo.

We believe that everything’s getting better
despite evidence to the contrary.
The evidence must be investigated
And you can prove anything with evidence.

We believe there’s something in horoscopes,
UFO’s, and bent spoons.
Jesus was a good man just like Buddha,
Mohammed, and ourselves.
He was a good moral teacher, though we think
His good morals were bad.

We believe that all religions are basically the same –
at least the one that we read was.
They all believe in love and goodness.
They only differ on matters of creation,
sin, heaven, hell, God, and salvation.

We believe that after death comes the Nothing
Because when you ask the dead what happens
they say nothing.
If death is not the end, if the dead have lied, then it’s
compulsory heaven for all, excepting perhaps
Hitler, Stalin, and Genghis Kahn

We believe in Masters and Johnson
What’s selected is average.
What’s average is normal.
What’s normal is good.

We believe in total disarmament.
We believe there are direct links between warfare and
bloodshed.
Americans should beat their guns into tractors,
and the Russians would be sure to follow.

We believe that man is essentially good.
It’s only his behavior that lets him down.
This is the fault of society.
Society is the fault of conditions.
Conditions are the fault of society.

We believe that each man must find the truth that
is right for him.
Reality will adapt accordingly.
The universe will readjust.
History will alter.
We believe that there is no absolute truth,
excepting the truth that there is no absolute truth.

We believe in the rejection of creeds,
And the flowering of individual thought.

Postscript:
If chance be the Father of all flesh,
disaster is his rainbow in the sky,
and when you hear:

State of Emergency!
Sniper Kills Ten!
Troops on Rampage!
Whites go Looting!
Bomb Blasts School!

It is but the sound of man
worshipping his maker.

– Steve Turner

Book Review: Catch-22

As a reader who tries to roam far and wide on the literary landscape, I’d like to think I know craziness when I see it. And Joseph Heller’s Catch-22 is crazy.

I’ve tried to write a detailed and semi-coherent plot summary. And I’ve failed to write a detailed and semi- coherent plot summary. So I won’t try anymore. Catch-22 is all over the place. Norman Mailer dubbed it “the rock and roll of novels,” and if by that he means that there is little discernible flow or structure to it, then I agree – rock and roll just about says it.

This lack of narrative flow would usually be a turn-off for me, but Catch-22 is an exception. I would even argue that lack of flow is part of what makes the novel as potent and memorable as it is.

They say war is hell, but according to Catch-22, it is also absurdity. Chaotic, vain, bloodletting absurdity. In keeping with this theme, Heller opts for a storytelling approach that is less-than-tidy; that is, in fact, the opposite of tidy. Just like war itself.

The novel is set in World War II-era Italy, and centers around a young bombardier named Yossarian, who happens to be furious because thousands of people he has never met are trying to kill him. His worst enemy, though, is his own army, which keeps increasing the number of missions the men must fly to complete their service. Oh, and there’s a catch… did I mention a catch?

There was only one catch and that was Catch-22, which specified that a concern for one’s own safety in the face of dangers that were real and immediate was the process of a rational mind. Orr was crazy and could be grounded. All he had to do was ask; and as soon as he did, he would no longer be crazy and would have to fly more missions. Orr would be crazy to fly more missions and sane if he didn’t, but if he was sane he had to fly them. If he flew them he was crazy and didn’t have to; but if he didn’t want to he was sane and had to. Yossarian was moved very deeply by the absolute simplicity of this clause in Catch-22 and let out a respectful whistle.

“That’s some catch, that Catch-22,” he observed. (p. 46)

Confused yet? Good. To couch the Catch in less mind-boggling terms: a man is insane if he willingly flies combat missions, but if he makes a formal request to be removed from duty, he is proven sane and therefore required to fly. Saavy?

Catch-22 is a satire, and a funny one at that. But no amount of humor can disguise the fact that it’s also a very grim, cynical, and sad piece of work. Heller doesn’t go for the subtle approach, either – his tool of choice is less the scalpel than the cricket bat, and war is his pinata.

A pacifist I am not, but I did appreciate reading this book. It gave me a different perspective to consider, and for that, I am always grateful. I even found myself in agreement with some of Heller’s criticisms (which surprised me). Having said that, it seemed to me that in certain respects, Heller is so over-the-top as to be unfair.

In the afterword of Black Hawk Down, Mark Bowden observes that in the three most notable modern literary war novels (Catch-22, Vonnegut’s Slaughterhouse-Five, and Pynchon’s Gravity’s Rainbow), World War II, the great triumph of freedom over totalitarianism,

becomes a sensible enterprise only to malevolent, invisible, powerful interests behind the scenes. Soldiers were meaningless because modern war itself was so terrible and costly that no cause or victory could justify it.

And of course, “when war is madness, soldiers can only be stooges, sadists, victims, or lunatics.” Those four types are, indeed, the only types you’ll find in Catch-22.

But is not this a rather lopsided way of looking at things? Am I really to believe that war is ever and only madness, and that those who fight are ever and only insane? Perhaps it’s just me, but I find it hard to reconcile such a picture with the one in, say, Ambrose’s Band of Brothers.

I’m not denying that there is an element of madness to warfare, because there is. But that’s not the whole story. As Bowden puts it,

Perfectly decent, honorable people are driven to war for very sane reasons. So long as one group of men on this planet would take what they want or impose their will by force, civilized people will organize to defend themselves and defeat them. Another way of saying that is, evil exists. So long as men are both good and evil, inside themselves and in their actions in the world, there will be conflict. And where there are evil forces at work in the world… good men and women will step forward to fight.

Soldiers make mistakes. They get scared. Sometimes they become tragically confused, shoot at the wrong people, and get injured and killed. We may even be driven to question the wisdom of their leaders. But along with these mistakes and questions, we shouldn’t lose sight of “the undeniable nobility of military service.” Attributing all war and all soldiering to insanity (or worse) is unfair at best; brazenly deceitful at worst.

By all means, read Catch-22. It’s a pivotal work, and one which deserves consideration regardless of one’s politics. Just remember there’s another catch, besides the Catch – just remember it’s not the whole story.

Book Review: Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child

One day, God willing, I want to meet Anthony Esolen face-to-face. I want to shake his hand. And I want to thank him for blowing my mind.

Ten Ways to Destroy the Imagination of Your Child is a book I might never have picked up had I not first read The Politically-Incorrect Guide to Western Civilization, also by Esolen (he has a thing for long titles). His contribution to the P.I.G. series was terrific, to say the least, sooooo… I decided to look up more of his work.

Whoa. Didn’t expect me to do that, didya?

I mean, come on: whoever heard of finding a good writer and then reading just one of his books? Might as well eat just one potato chip. Only idiots do that.

Then, lo and behold, what sight did meet mine Elven eyes, but that of Ten Ways residing on my Mother’s shelf. I’m not sure why she never told me it was there; perhaps she forgot, or (what is more likely) she was concealing its whereabouts in hopes of getting to it first. Whatever the reason, I found it, and it was begging to be read. So I obliged.

I will say that the title is potentially misleading: this is not a book exclusively for parents, nor is it a “parenting book” (at least, not in the usual sense). Whether you’re a teacher or a student, whether you’re young or old, with ten kids or none at all, you should read this book. Anyone and everyone can benefit from Esolen’s keen writing and even keener insight. Clear enough? Let’s move on…

Ten Ways is a witty, gritty, and delightfully subversive assault on the Bastions of Modern Educational Theory and Practice. With a satiric flair worthy of Uncle Screwtape himself, Esolen offers his readers a way of “extinguishing the minds (and souls) of our children in ten easy steps.”

I do not claim that it is an exhaustive list. No doubt, many of my readers, blessed with a keener attention to the needs of the child, will have come up with others. But I am sure that a judicious application of even three of four of these methods will suffice to kill the imagination of an Einstein, a Beethoven, a Dante, or a Michaelangelo. Good luck! (p. xiii)

From beginning to end, the author’s pen drips with irony; his sense of humor is biting and bleakly funny. Remember the serrated edge? He wields it like a surgeon, and every cut is deep, precise, and painful. The truth hurts – and Esolen isn’t big on anesthetics.

Of all the endorsements I’ve read of this book, Father Dwight Longnecker’s is by far the most imaginative and (in my opinion) the most accurate: “Esolen rides forth like a noble knight to joust with the dragons of modern thought, the giants of contemporary culture, and the bevy of beasts that inhabit our post-modern wasteland.” I like it, don’t you?

Over the course of two-hundred forty pages, Esolen demonstrates how imagination is being strangled at nearly every turn: in the rearing of children almost entirely indoors; in the scorning of the true, the heroic, and the patriotic; in the reduction of love to mere narcissism and sex; in the leveling of the distinctions between men and women; in the way we preoccupy children with the shallow and the unreal; and in our stalwart, stone-hearted denial of the transcendent.

I like to imagine a blaring sign over a gigantic shopping mall, with these messages alternating every five seconds, forever and ever:

WELCOME TO THE MALL OF THE WORLD
ABANDON ALL HOPE YOU WHO ENTER HERE

And not only hope, but community life, personal independence, common sense, virtue, and money.

For the great threat of the imagination, roused to life like Lazarus from the grave by the faintly heard voice of God, is that it makes a man a man, not a consumer, nor a clotpoll to be counted off in some mass survey. The praise of God is inscribed upon the heart of man, says Saint Augustine, “man who bears within himself his mortality, who bears about within himself testimony to his sin and testimony that you resist the proud.” Yet even so man longs to praise and cannot truly be himself unless he praises God, for as Augustine says in Confessions, “you rouse him to take joy in praising you, for you have made us for yourself, and our heart is restless until is rests in you.” If we have love of God, the saints all testify, what do we need from anything else? And if we do not have that love, not all the creature comforts and tricksy gadgetry and rubbings and itchings of appetite can fill up the tiniest corner of the chasm that remains. Yet we will try to fill the chasm anyway. That is what shopping malls are for. (p. 230)

I wanted to include the entire quote, except that it’s much too long to share here. Which brings me to the one complaint I have about this book: it’s too bloody quotable. Writing down all the magnificent passages that caught my eye proved impossible, since there were passages like that on just about every page. Highlighting? Forget it. The entire book would be yellow by the time you’re done. It’s too rich, too well-written. The unconvinced would do well to think of it this way: Esolen’s book is like a three-course meal, in an age when most people are content with dishing up McPamphlets. Get the picture?

Obviously, I loved this book. I think you will, too. On the other hand…

Egalitarians will hate this book for its affirmation of biblical manhood and womanhood. Proponents of government-run “education” will hate this book for its savaging of the public school system. Multiculti fanboys will hate this book for its support of patriotism and love of country. And liberal statists will hate this book for the same reasons they hate anything Judeo-Christian and conservative – because it’s radical, reasonable, and right.

If you are any one of the above, I would almost advise you to skip Esolen’s writing entirely. But I can’t. Because of all the people who need this book, you need it most of all.

Motivated By Love

“Over against such inconsistent objections, we want to love. We love one another, and we seek to live this way. But does not the Bible say that we are to love our enemies and pray for those who persecute us? Yes, it does, and yes, we do. But love is defined by God and not by Hallmark cards.

Thus far, I have only spoken about those who labor with me in this ministry. But because the tone of my writing is a big part of why objections are raised, let me end this short book on a more personal (and serious) note. The argumentation has already been laid out. But there is an autobiographical element in this that should explain to everyone who has ever wondered about the tone of my writing – where does that edge come from? What got under his skin?

If you think I have faults, you are certainly right, and I can assure you that it is probably far worse than you think. But shoplifting is not one of them, and neither is nastiness. I am a sinner, but happily my critics at a distance have collectively decided to leave all my real problems alone.

The motivation for all that they do criticize is love. Love that refuses to defend that which is loved is not biblical love at all. Such a sentiment is actually self-absorbtion. Love that shuns a fight is an oxymoron, and so I turn the charge around. The modern evangelical world says peace, peace, but there is no peace. Neither is there love.

I love the right worship of our triune God, the God and Father of the Lord Jesus Christ, and the Holy Spirit of both. I love the Church, despite the make-up she is currently using. I love the Scriptures, and the message of free grace it brings to a race steeped in idolatrous folly. I love my wife, children, and grandchildren. Though I haven’t seen them, I love my great-grandchildren and want my descendants to have a place to live in this world where they can worship God with more than three chords. I love my parents, brothers, sister, cousins, nieces, and nephews. God has given us a heritage that I intend to love fiercely until I die. I love the Reformed faith – both its glorious past and yet more glorious future.

And if this serious note makes some readers uncomfortable – though every word of it is true – I also love Pinot Noir, Mozart, Creedence Clearwater Revival, oatmeal stout, Brown Cow ice cream, mowing a field, playing softball, listening to blues, reading with my wife, playing the guitar, P.G. Wodehouse, clouds on the mountain, anapestic poetry, and making fun of uncircumcised Philistines.”

~ Douglas Wilson, A Serrated Edge (pp. 118-120)

Book Review: A Serrated Edge

I’ve always appreciated satire. For me, it is and always will be the supreme form of humor – not only do we get the laughs, but we get the point, too. And it usually hurts.

Much as I love satire, however, I’m also well aware that it gets the Frown of Pious Disapproval in many Christian circles. Slip up, and you’re bound to get your metaphorical knuckles rapped. “Sarcasm? Pointed humor? Sharp discourse? Surely these things are contrary to biblical Christianity.”

Surely… not.

Enter Douglas Wilson and his book, A Serrated Edge. My copy arrived in the mail last week, and after reading it, I wanted to stand up and cheer. It’s just that good. If you’re unconvinced that satire can (and should) be used by Christians, read this book. You will be convinced. If you’re tired of all the metaphorical knuckle-rapping, and wish to arm yourself with a scriptural defense of satire, read this book. You will be armed.

And of course, if you’re just looking for good writing, saturated in Bible and peppered with wit, you won’t be disappointed either. This book has all three.

Over the course of 120 pages, we’re treated to a “brief defense of biblical satire and Trinitarian skylarking.” Brief it may be, but not for lack of substance. Wilson makes his case and he makes it well: satire is a kind of preaching. It is pervasive in Scripture. And it handles the follies and sinfulness of man with less than perfect tenderness.

Contrary to popular evangelical opinion, there are times when giving offense is the proper (i.e. biblical) response to controversy. Christ himself demonstrated this when confronting the ecclesiastical obstinacy and pride of the scribes and Pharisees – calling someone a white-washed sepulcher isn’t exactly the way to make friends.

All things considered, we can see that Christ’s use of satire in controversy hardly qualifies  Him as the original verbal pacifist. Quite the reverse. If there is anyone in Scripture who uses the form of expression as the most normal thing in the world, it is the Lord. (p. 46)

We also find satire in the Old Testament. The book of Amos is thoroughly satiric in tone. Proverbs, Job, and Isaiah dish up some humdingers, too. Elijah mocks the prophets of Baal mercilessly in 1 Kings 18 – and in the original Hebrew, his taunts are even more pointed: “Perhaps your god is off in the bathroom. His prophets are all gathered in the hallway with an anxious look on their faces. Bang on the door louder. He’s been in there a long time.” (p. 53)

Clearly then, to say that satire is not found in scripture is indicative of extreme ignorance, incredible obstinacy, or a severe case of HSRS (Highly Selective Reading Syndrome).

Incredibly, however, the naysayers still exist, and their objections are Legion. The latter can generally be divided into two categories: first, that satire is unkind, and therefore unbiblical; and two, that it is counterproductive and alienating. In the Preface, Wilson writes,

Our response to these objections could be summarized in a two-fold fashion, reading from left to right as Oh yeah? and Nuh uh. But this requires further development. (p. 9)

And develop it he does.

Readers familiar with Wilson’s writing will not be surprised to hear that A Serrated Edge is a funny book. Very funny. It’s an argument, yes, but a jolly humorous one: Wilson isn’t one to let a good joke (or jibe) go, and his joie de vivre is largely what makes the book so enjoyably engaging. I can’t help but think that he wrote the entire thing with a wink in his eye and a grin on his lips.

Of course, when all is said and done, we’re still left with the question of why satire is such an issue for Christians in the first place:

We have noted that the Bible contains much satire. And while it is possible to overstate this point, our dangers generally lie in the other direction – the direction of assuming that we have biblical warrant for that which is sweety-nice. In other words, the real dilemma should confront those who would undertake a biblical defense of writing like the author of the Elsie Dinsmore series. While there are things in the Bible that might even resemble Swift’s Modest Proposal, there is nothing that remotely resembles nineteenth century sentimentality. So why is it that those who write such things never have to give a biblical defense of what they are doing? And why do I have to write this book defending a scriptural approach, and those who write books with titles like When Throbs the Heart never have to explain themselves at all? (p. 47)

Why, indeed.