Harriet, the Movie (2019)

When we got this movie I thought it was a western with a woman heroine, like most of the movies today, that seek to replace the notion of male leadership with a maternal hegemony. When I saw that it was about Harriet Tubman, I wasn’t sure whether I could endure another suggestion that it is 1962, or worse 1862, in America and all white people are inherently racist and essentially equivalent to slave owners. Nevertheless, it was purportedly based on historic facts and that is usually better than fiction, so I gave it a chance.

I knew about Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, but what I didn’t know was the underlying theme of this movie. The movie is rated 6.5 on IMDB which is lower than I would rate it. The one review they posted was vague in its criticism of lead actors, but I do not believe Hollywood will give a fair rating to any movie that accurately and positively portrays Christian virtue. It is a fact that before and during the Civil War there was a national revival of Christian faith. This movie depicts and credits God’s providence, intervention, and answer to prayer as an integral part of the motivation, success, and purpose behind Harriet Tubman’s heroism, bravery, courage and guiding purpose. 

The black ethnicity has a marvelous history of Christian foundation and faith. Even today, amidst the crime, corruption and violence so often highlighted in the media regarding the so called black community, it is the Church that anchors and sustains virtuous endeavor, hope, and success, in any ethnic category. In my experience, even those who are not devoted in the Christian lifestyle, among my black friends and acquaintances there is an acknowledgment of the foundations of faith, the Bible, Creator God, and Jesus Christ because these truths are rooted in generations of ancestors who experienced and shared the evidence for their faith to the next generations. A personal testimony of God’s faithfulness during difficulties or in the face of injustice is more powerful and enduring than mere words.

When I first read “Uncle Tom’s Cabin”, by Harriet Beecher Stowe, at the recommendation of my pastor, I knew it was about slavery and had tremendous influence upon the Civil War. What I was surprised to discover is that this book is a testimony to the virtue of Christian principles, practice and faith. Rather than Uncle Tom being a symbol of cowardice and subservience, as the world has labeled him; this character is an image of Jesus, whose kingdom was not of this world and whose message and life changed history. No one, even across the deep South, thinks slavery or racism is good; slavery was eliminated in 1865, (via civil war), racism was eliminated in 1964, (via legislation and court precedent). Martin Luther King Jr. was a devout Christian minister who prevailed through the practice of Christian faith and virtue. Perhaps it is time for a renewal of Christian faith and virtue to awaken those who do not understand that the year is 2020.

Gosnell Movie

    

Dr. Kermit Gosnell was an abortionist in Philadelphia whom this movie asserts is the most prolific serial killer in America. This movie is closely based on actual events and the court dialog is from actual court records. You might wonder as I did how an abortionist could be convicted of murder, given that abortion is sanctioned legal killing. This movie answers the question without addressing the legal issue of Roe v. Wade.

An interesting aspect that came out was the protection and bias that government and courts give to the abortion industry. There were no inspections of abortion clinics, but a finger nail salon business is licensed and inspected annually by the Department of Health. Normal and reasonable health procedures that would apply to a woman getting any kind of medical care, does not apply to abortion clinics. The court was biased against the prosecution of this abortionist and sought to keep the case secluded from the public and media.

The movie was well done and interesting without preaching against abortion as a legal issue. Of course, it is a gruesome topic and issue altogether, but the movie did not show any gore or exploitative images. Nevertheless, killing infants in their mothers womb is disturbing and most people find it a horrific evil, albeit legal. Humanist organizations like Planned Parenthood will defend this right and feel less emotion with the death of a human infant than that of a puppy, kitten, or butterfly, but this movie was not about rights.

Gosnell claimed that he was providing a service to women. He claimed he treated every woman as his own daughter, and he would not want his daughter’s life to be ruined by a baby. A baby is not a disease, curse, or poison, but rather a blessing and valuable person. Adoption is a very viable and preferable alternative to killing. Both my wife and I have friends, who were adopted as infants and as adults sought out their birth mothers through the adoption records. In each case, the reunion was joyous, welcomed, and valuable to all concerned. There may be exceptions to this, but it illustrates the value of human life and the reward to those who value and protect it.

This movie is rated 6.7 on IMDB, which I think is a little lower than it should be, but if you like true stories that are interesting and well told you might like it. It may suffer a lower rating simply because abortion is the quintessential divisive issue in America. The majority of American people did not want abortion legalized or for it to become the back alley industry it is today, funded by the government and promoted around the world with our taxes. The Supreme Court violated constitutional restrictions on matters that should be left to the states. Today, many states are taking action to effect the will of the people, some to stop abortions of infants with a heart beat and others to allow the outright killing of babies after birth. There is little room for compromise between life or death, but it is an issue of the utmost importance. I don’t think this movie will change many minds, but it could touch your heart. 

The Sensitivity of the Spirit

This is the title of a book by R. T. Kendall, including, “Learning to Stay in the Flow of God’s Direction.”  The Holy Spirit is my fascination, He captivates and seldom leaves my consideration, perspective, and longing.  I believe the Holy Spirit is active in the congregation of Believers on earth ever since Yeshua ascended to the Father.  It’s not that Yeshua and the Father are not present, but Yeshua said, “…very truly I tell you, it is for your good that I am going away.  Unless I go away, the Advocate will not come to you; but if I go, I will send him to you.  When he comes, he will prove the world to be in the wrong about sin and righteousness and judgment…”. (John 16: 7-9).  The indwelling Spirit, is the fulfillment of prophecy regarding the product of Messiah’s work on the cross.  He brings about a heart of flesh instead of stone, where God’s Word is written.  So, the Believer’s life is through the Spirit because the Spirit and is the testimony of Yeshua.  “Now the Lord is the Spirit, and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is freedom.  And we all, who with unveiled faces contemplate the Lord’s glory, are being transformed into his image with ever-increasing glory, which comes from the Lord, who is the Spirit.” (2 Corinthians 3: 17-18).

In his book Dr. Kendall uses the episode where Yeshua, as a boy, stayed in the Temple while his parents returned home, thinking he was among their group of relatives, as an illustration of our association with the Spirit’s presence.  He returns to this episode all through the book as he describes and measures the sensitivity we must use regarding the Holy Spirit. For example, he describes Mary and Joseph’s departure ahead of Yeshua, as when we get ahead of the Spirit’s leading. The crux of that event in Yeshua’s life was to reveal His devotion and longing to be in God’s presence, (which was in the temple), yet also in submission to His parents authority.  Although it is a valid point that we are to be in step with the Spirit, I found that continual references to this episode strain it too far and left me with the impression that the Holy Spirit is a flitting bird fearful of human contact and tentative in His relationship to us.  Most of the book is an explanation of why we fail to maintain the proper conditions, attitude, thoughts and holiness to warrant the Spirit’s intimate presence.

I don’t argue that my weakness, failings, shortcomings, selfishness, in a word sin, is repulsive to the Holy Spirit, but scripture calls the Spirit our comforter and counselor, a gift and guarantee of our salvation.  I do not believe the supposition of this book; our infrequent recognition of the Spirit’s presence is explained by our consistent shortcomings, ignorance, and unworthiness.  Even if this was not the intended inference, it is the message I hear.  I did read of various accounts of the Spirit’s consolation, overflowing joy and worship, but it rings hollow without conviction or recognition of Spiritual power.  I was expecting a story about the Spirit in relationship, but what I found was twenty ways to avoid offending the Spirit.

Toward the end, he introduces a comparison of doves and pigeons, to contrast the Spirit with a fake imitation contrived by men.  The most irritating device of any writer is mollification.  For example, he states that it is not good to criticize other people’s faith, but then he sets out to do just that.  He uses a common illustration intended to portray spiritual fraud.  He heard of a Charismatic preacher who was coming to town and went to the altar to receive the gifts of tongues, he prayed, “God if this is from you let it come; if not, stop it.”  The preacher prayed for him to receive the gift of tongues, but nothing happened.  The man told him to make a joyful noise to the Lord.  He sat there and replied, “I don’t understand.”  The man told him to speak something… make a sound.  He refused and concluded the preacher and the gift of tongues are a fake manipulation of men.  This is a very small point in this book, but it illustrates a larger issue that seems to pervade, which is, how are we to interact with the Holy Spirit.

The Spirit does not take over people’s mouths, so they become talking robots.  To speak in tongues one must open their mouth and make sounds.  Whether anyone has faith is always a difficult, perhaps impossible, question to discern, but his prayer was not to receive the gift of tongues as described in scripture.  His prayer, “if this thing is from you, let it come, if not, stop it,” expresses a double mind, not a singular request of God’s good gift. (James 1: 6-8).  His response after the prayer was, “I don’t understand.”  In scripture there is very little, if any, about the Holy Spirit that requires rational understanding.  In fact, the expectation of understanding and mental ascent is normally counter and detrimental to the release and work of the Spirit.  Consider Nicodemus who came to Yeshua at night trying to understand being “born again” with his rational thinking.  Yeshua replied, “The wind blows wherever it pleases.  You hear its sound, but you cannot tell where it comes from or where it is going.  So it is with everyone born of the Spirit.” (John 3: 8).  To speak in tongues one must hear and speak, not necessarily understand the heavenly or unknown language.  This of course is offensive to the rational mind that demands to first understand.  After telling this story, he says he knows people with the true gift of tongues and that he probably was not ready, at that time.  I can only assume he is trying to please everyone, nevertheless, the gift of tongues is discussed in considerable detail in scripture.  As Dr. Kendall points out many of the Spirit’s works are imitated by the enemy.

Perhaps the best book I have read on the subject of the Spirit life is, “The Practice of the Presence of God”, by Brother Lawrence, which merely consist of his private letters to a younger friend.  Brother Lawrence was an undistinguished monk who worked in the kitchen at a monastery in the 17th century, but he articulated a first-hand knowledge of the Holy Spirit’s presence along with encouragements, evidence, and wisdom from the Spirit’s presence.  It is the antithesis of this book, but it may be unfair to compare someone so humble with any of todays authors who are so prominently qualified and distinguished.  It reminds me of some teachers who teach it, but can not practice what they teach.  This is not a criticism of all teachers, but there is a noticeable difference between someone with experience and someone who only has knowledge or is simply conveying knowledge rather, than first-hand experience.  I have read several of Dr. Kendall’s books and liked most of them.  I’m certain that he is a fine fellow, honest Christian and well spoken gentleman.  If you like a good sermon, interesting comparisons, teaching on what is not conducive to best spiritual practices, with a minimum of substantive teaching about the Holy Spirit, you may like this book.

The Sovereignty of God

“It would be foolish for us to expect that this work will meet with general approval.  The trend of modern theology – if theology it can be called – is ever toward the Deification of the creature rather than the glorification of the Creator, and the leaven of present-day Rationalism is rapidly permeating the whole of Christendom.  The malevolent effects of Darwinianism are more far reaching than most are aware.  Many of those among our religious leaders who are still regarded as orthodox would, we fear, be found to be very heterodox if they were weighed in the balance of the Sanctuary. Even those who are clear, intellectually, upon other truth, are rarely sound in doctrine.  Few, very few, today, really believe in the complete ruin and total depravity of man.  Those who speak of man’s “free will,” and insist upon his inherent power to either accept or reject the Savior, do but voice their ignorance of the real condition of Adam’s fallen children…and there are fewer still who really believe in the absolute Sovereignty of God. — Introduction, Authur W. Pink, June 1918.

This title and quote is a prophecy (not labeled as such) from one of my favorites books, not because I was entertained, but because it set me right upon scripture.  Every morsel of this book is nourishment to the soul, though it may be at times a difficult chew to take in.  This subject is a worthy pursuit for anyone.  Pink endeavors to reference scripture with every premise and assertion, because he says, “…we desire that the faith of our readers should stand not in the wisdom of men but in the power of God.”  His insight over one hundred years ago is fulfilled with great precision today.  He wasn’t offering it as prophecy, but scripture identifies it as the work of the Spirit. (John 16: 13).

I have just seen a movie and several posts referencing the existence of man’s free will, as though it was necessary to sound theology.  Rather than discuss this conclusion of human rationalism we can see in scripture that God is sovereign, while man is not.  This book explains and defines the Sovereignty of God over creation, in administration, in salvation, in reprobation, in operation, as to human will, human responsibility, and in regard to prayer.

In my estimation it is a very well written book, easy to read and follow, while dealing with very deep and difficult matters in a clear and understandable fashion.  Mr. Pink does not shy away from arguments and scriptures that those who hold to free will rely upon.  He includes a chapter on “Difficulties and Objections” and four appendices to address specific objections in great detail.  As I read I did not feel that there was any strain to make a point or revert to some obscure construct or rationalization of scripture, rather the statements naturally flowed from the scriptures presented – attesting to its validity.

Shortly after my first reading, I asked my pastor whether he believed in predestination or free will and he replied, “both”. It might have been a politically convenient answer, but it left me adrift.  It is often explained that predestination is God’s perspective, while free-will was from man’s perspective.  Until I understood the Sovereignty of God, predestination was a thorny quagmire unfit for conversation.  The solution to understanding these and many more foundations of biblical truth is to secure a proper understanding of God’s Sovereignty and that from scripture.  I no longer wrestle with predestination or free will because the truth is a light of understanding and God’s Sovereignty is easily seen in scripture.

Finally, what I appreciated most about this book is its inherent encouragement.  There is great comfort in knowing that God is sovereign over all, that we are not the master of our own fate, and God is good and loving.  We are responsible, but not for our salvation, it is a free gift of God’s grace.  It is far easier to accept the biblical message with humility and faith upon God’s work rather than trusting to human reasoning, even where that reasoning is constructed with scriptural interpretation.  I highly and heartily recommend this book to you.  Used copies are quite cheap online; I have the fourth edition.  Eat the fish and spit out the bones. (John 16: 12).

Rescuing The Gospel

“Rescuing The Gospel” by Erwin Lutzer is a book about the Reformation.  Lutzer was the senior pastor of Moody Church in Chicago for 36 years until retiring in 2016.  The book focuses on Martin Luther who 500 years ago nailed his 95 theses to the door of the Wittenberg Cathedral in Germany which challenged the false doctrines of the Catholic Church.   Luther, through a reading of the Scriptures which were only available in Latin in Germany and thus not available to the average person, came to believe that salvation was only obtained by faith in Christ through grace.  This was as opposed to the Catholic Church teaching that while faith in Christ was involved one needed to perform a certain level of good works thereafter to complete their salvation.  Also, the Catholic Church had become corrupt selling indulgences to minimize the penalty faced for sins.  Luther translated the New Testament from the original language to German so the common person would be able to read it for themselves.  He contributed to the translation of the Old Testament as well but others helped in completing it.

The book also introduces other principal players in the Reformation both before and after Luther.  It also discussed the warts of each Reformation leader including Luther, although it strained to minimize their impact as the author was clearly a fan of Luther and the others he introduced.  For examples as to warts, late in life Luther turned on the Jews, because they were not coming to Christ in sufficient numbers, and slandered them with anti-Semitic writings that were used later by Hitler to justify his persecution of them.  Luther also continued to support infant baptism although he struggled to reconcile this to his views on faith alone for salvation.  He theorized that perhaps the infant baptism would presage the infant’s salvation by faith as an adult, among other theories he developed.

One interesting section of the book was the discussion of John Calvin who came into prominence toward the end of Luther’s life.  He built on Luther’s work but is particularly known for his advocacy and writings on the doctrine of predestination, a view which Luther also held.  Calvin felt that the fall of humanity into sin was so pervasive and affected people’s minds and wills so much that they couldn’t believe the truths of the gospel unless God were to perform a miracle of regeneration in their hearts.  This was the miracle God performed in the hearts of His elect, those predestination to salvation.  According to Calvin, the elect exercise faith but only because God enables them to believe.  Millions adopted this predestined view of salvation through his teaching and his teachings have great influence in the Church still today.

Lutzer concludes the book with a discussion of whether or not the reformation is , today.  There is a great push among  certain church leaders to attempt to reconcile Protestant and Catholic doctrines and unite them once more.  Lutzer discusses how Catholic doctrines are still unreconcilable with Reformed Protestant doctrine and we should be wary of these reunification efforts.

This book is a companion to the tour of Reformation sites in Germany that Pastor Lutzer leads every year or two.  The book is an excellent broad overview of the Reformation but someone who wants a detailed study of the Reformation should look elsewhere.  I thoroughly enjoyed the book as it gave me an excellent overview of a subject that I did not know much about but as a Christian needed to know.  I highly recommend it.

A Matter of Faith

This 2014 movie is about evolution versus creationism, a topic which few in the secular mainstream would find interesting, but Christians might.  As a “Christian” film it does not have the flash, pomp, and professionalism that fifty million dollars can buy.  Harry Anderson plays a biology professor at a state University who religiously promotes evolution in his classes.  A Christian freshman is confronted with evolution taught as incontrovertible fact while her parents fear that her faith is being destroyed.  Thus, a debate between these two opposing theories for the origin of life ensues.

It is rated 3.7 on IMDB which shocked me as I have seen many 6.5 movies that were much worse than this movie.  Harry Anderson’s acting was outstanding.  The plot did include some worn out stereotypical scenes about college as a faith destroying experience, yet, it had some pleasant surprises as well.  Some reviews criticized the writer for thinking anyone who believes in evolution might be persuaded by this film.  I don’t think that was the intent, rather it was to present evolution as requiring faith just as creationism does.  Christian reviews gave this movie high marks because it was a movie aimed for that audience.

In secular society and the anti-christian media evolution won the debate decades ago.  It is taught even in grade school as fact, scientifically proven, and distinct from any other suggestion about the origin of life.  The Humanists who achieved this undisputed championship of heavyweight ideas, did so with tremendous fervor, subtlety and passion, but it didn’t hurt that the US Federal government was in their corner.  Of course, they are not going to be convinced by anything that their faith in “science” is flawed.  Almost all scientific discovery is put through tremendous critique by other scientists in order to satisfy its truth.  This process has weeded out many false discoveries and exposed errors.  Evolution has been criticized by Christians, but its promotors have rallied groups of scientists to defend it rather than perform the normal verification processes.  I have friends who are recognized and respected scientists who speak of the bias and blind acceptance that has been attributed by the scientific community to evolution.  It is the sacred cow of the academic scientific community and they defend their faith vehemently.

The important debate is between Christians who hold to a literal interpretation of Genesis with a young earth position and those who interpret Genesis less literally, yet true, equally admitting God as Creator, but granting a much older earth. Were Believers able to unite under a banner of Creator God, Evolution theory might be exposed by true science as the fraud it actually is, being contrary to the physical laws of nature, having fraudulent links between species, the hoax of primordial soups sufficiency, lacking mathematically sound time frames of permutation, unexplained rationale of observed design complexity, and a myriad of other deficiencies that render Evolution as a very unsound, largely disproved theory.  Is it more important to rid the secular educational system of the lie of evolution or continue to demand that faith in our Creator be taught as well?  Some consider it demeaning to consider Christian faith a mere alternative with secular humanistic evolution.  Finally, recent verification of the Big Bang theory has pointed to the necessity of an initiator/Creator, which standing alone undermines evolution as an origin of life.

This brings us to the other glaring issue that is misrepresented in this movie – the normal secular College experience will destroy a Christians tender faith.  The quote, “Bad company corrupts good morals” is true, but Believers have far more to offer the inquisitive collegiate than the world.  Moreover, God watches over those who belong to Him and He that is within us is greater than he who is in the world.  Believers are the salt of the earth and release saving power as they go. Scriptures do not recommend close relationships with unbelievers (2 Cor. 6: 14), but that does not mean we are to hide in fear or avoid acquaintance with our fellow man.  God is well able to strengthen faith during the college experience.  In fact through recent years college campus organizations like Campus Crusade of Christ, YWAM, and many others have strengthened collegiate young tremendously.  In real life God is Sovereign and triumphant over the world’s corruption and deceit.  Believers have every reason to be bold and trust in God’s lovingkindness and saving assurance.

The Lord of the Rings

When I was 16 years old a friend encouraged me to read a book he had just finished “The Lord of the Rings” by J.R.R. Tolkien.  He described it as being about Hobbits, Wizards, Elves, Dwarves, Dragons and Fiery Mountains and the like.  I had always loved to read but had no use for fiction at the time, preferring histories and biographies and other nonfiction reading.  I had little interest in a book such as this.  I promised to take his paperback copy and give it a look, intending only to briefly look through the first chapter and return.  However, after reading the first chapter I was taken in and absolutely loved this monumental work of fiction.

The book is about a quest to destroy the ultimate One Ring of power which was created but lost by the evil Sauron. The quest was undertaken by a lowly Hobbit, a race not seen before in literature, invented by Tolkien.  They are about half the size of men, referred to as “Halflings, and with feet of leathery soles covered in hair such that they do not need shoes.  The story focuses on the Hobbit Frodo Baggins and his friend Sam Gamgee’s quest to take the ring back to the Cracks of Doom (a mountain), where it was created, and destroy the ring that had come to Frodo by accident.  Along the way he is aided by Gandalf, a wizard; Aaragorn, the rightful King of Gondor who has been banished to the wilderness; and five other members comprising the “Fellowship of the Ring”, the title of the first of three volumes of the book.  The story ranges throughout Middle-Earth with lands, people and places which Tolkien beautifully creates for the reader.  It is an epic story of friendship, love and heroism.

The book is a marvel to read.  Tolkien took 14 years to write it, being a perfectionist, and made every attempt to make the story accurate and consistent which is difficult to do when you are creating the story yourself.  Tolkien, an Oxford Don, was a distinguished linguist and Oxford scholar of dead languages with strong ideas about the importance of myth and story and a deep appreciation of nature.  The book has strong Christian imagery and Tolkien was a strong Christian himself, being one of the best friends of C.S. Lewis.  First published in 1954, it is still in print having become a classic of fiction.

Perhaps the chief virtue of the book is that it depicts wonderful characters; some with deep virtues and others with deep flaws, good vs evil.  None of the vague, distorted, undefined characters we see in literature or the movies today who appear neither good or bad, if these authors/creators even acknowledge any difference between the two.  The book is filled with characters such as Hobbits who are willing to sacrifice their life to save Middle-Earth from another dark age, a King living in the wilderness who protects people who neither know or appreciate his selfless work while waiting until the proper time to assert his right to his kingship, and a wizard who refuses to take the One Ring even though he had the power to wield it to defeat Sauron because he knew it would corrupt him in the end.  This is opposed to such characters as Sauron and Saruman who was a wizard that became a traitor and joined in league with Sauron.

I still much prefer nonfiction reading today and yet I list “The Lord of the Rings” as my favorite book of all time.  Since reading this book I have acquired a greater appreciation for fiction that can sometimes illustrate principles and thoughts in a better way than nonfiction can.  I also have come to simply love a good story.  This book is all of those things, it is a great read.  I highly encourage anyone to enter this wonderful world and enjoy Tolkien’s masterpiece.

The Bookshop (2017)

This movie stars Emily Mortimer, Bill Nighy, and Patricia Clarkson.  It is set in 1959, in a quaint seaside location near London and is a story about a persons dream and courage in the face of adversity.  Bill Nighy is one of my favorite actors and doesn’t disappoint in this film.  It is rather slow compared with all the action films we see today in America, but it has two elements I think are necessary for any good film, an interesting scenic setting and a good story with an ending that makes sense.  With these two factors well done a film has a good chance of being worth ones time to watch.  IMDB rates it 6.5 which I think is a little low, but probably due to the slowness with which the film develops.  However, the book upon which it is based has a slow unfolding purpose that is part of its genre.

What I liked was it’s portrayal of courage.  We seldom hear much about courage in our society and in truth it has fallen out of favor with the politically correct crowd.  Bruce Jenner was called courageous for being mentally ill.  To be courageous one must have a purpose and conviction.  A crowd can not exhibit courage, certainly not a mob, since they are not standing for something, but rather are seeking to forcefully obtain it through intimidation and militancy.  Courage is the essence of this movie which I liked and the story is quite plausible.  I thought the acting was good and particularly the children who were involved in the story.  It is unusual to have children involved in a story about adults where they are not simply part of a family.

I have always been fascinated with courage.  The movie Patton was about courage and destiny and it is one of my favorites.  In my career it was necessary, I concluded, to confront powerful entities represented by highly successful influential attorneys.  It took courage of sorts and I often found myself encouraging and seeking to persuade others to join me in a right cause.  At least once a year I would think to myself, “This may be the end, I may encounter someone who will have me removed for the work I’m doing.”  Was it courage or that I was simply willing to loose my position, rather than look the other way and sanction what I knew to be wrong.  We had a meeting in Washington with some of the highest agency executives in the nation.  I met privately impromptu with the Division head in order to secure his support, but I could see his main concerns were political, although he knew our position was right.  I considered this cowardice at the time, but who was I to judge this man.  We lost our issue in a farcical parody of justice, but courage is often best illustrated in loss.

If your expectations are not too high and you can appreciate a simple movie about ordinary people and real life concerns, you might like this film.  If you want to be dazzled look elsewhere.

Crockett’s Own Story

Recorded history may be more awash with opinion than fact.  Of course, movies and TV shows are designed to exaggerate and embellish stories for entertainment purposes, but an honest man’s own account will bear up against the cross examination of opinion.  I found “A Narrative of the Life of David Crockett” to be an interesting and well told story.  It is written in the language of the common back- woodsman in 1835 and doesn’t contain any contrived accents as used so prolifically by Mark Twain.  I believe a twelve year old would enjoy it as much as an adult.  It’s not a complete history which would include Mr. Crockett’s  travels to Texas and heroic demise at the Alamo, but it reveals his character and convictions as no third party could.

When I first began my inquiry into Mr. Crockett’s life, I had one predominate thought, “Was he a man of character and faith?”  These are private matters that are deep within a man, but of the utmost importance.  Not every hero is so bold as Sargent Alvin York, who shared his faith openly and with great conviction.  Still, the nation was young and the second great revival was at its peak, but the western frontier of Tennessee was still a vast wilderness occupied sparsely by settlers in western expansion.  Moreover, Crockett’s life was hard, beginning in early childhood, such that he had very little schooling where Biblical history and Judeo-Christian principles were introduced.  However, more than once he states that he trusted himself to “Providence”, which reveals some grounding in faith.  Also, he expresses a well formed concept of duty, responsibility, and mercy toward others.  He explains this as being the product of humble beginnings and it shaped his life through both struggles and good fortune which he attributed to God’s mercy.

His narrative articulates a consistent profession of the virtue of honesty and uprightness.  For example, his grandparents were massacred by Indians, whom he later fought in war, but also befriended on occasion and supported politically, to the detriment of his political career and reputation.  His favorite quote which he wished to be remembered was, “Be sure you’re right, then go ahead.”  His political instincts were outstanding, but he embarked on politics in reply to a practical joke.  He preferred to conduct his own enterprises, including subsistence in the backcountry, but circumstances beyond his control turned him back to government service more than once.  He was careful in his campaigning, but exercised great courage  to promote the public interest rather than his own or others political ambitions.  This is a demonstration of character that is near and dear to my heart and my own personal experience.

After reading his story, I saw a man who endured adversity without becoming a victim or filled with bitterness.  Here was a man who stood for conviction, virtue, and duty, but accepted others as they were.  He is an example of a politician that is desperately needed today, sincere and courageous in the face of schemes and contrivance against the will of the people. To the extent that the saying is true, “Actions speak louder than words”, Mr. Crockett’s life sounds a clear call to embrace humility and commit to honesty.

David Crockett

David Crockett wrote a narrative biography of his life in 1835.  Unable to abtain a ready copy of it, I picked up, “Davy Crockett, the Man, the Legend, the Legacy”, by Michael Lofaro.  This book is a book report on all the books, movies, TV shows, and periodicals written about the man.  That alone is enough to put it down, but I found the language also bizarre for such a topic.  “Walter Blairsville early on enumerated six separate identities for this Krishna of the American folk panthoen, and threw up his hands over the task of distinguishing between the ‘real’ and the “Legendary parts.”  He goes on and on about what others wrote about Crockett as though there really was any debate about fiction and myth.  The Davy Crockett Almanac was full of exaggerated or embellished  stories and escapades about life in the wilderness frontier.  Is this so surprising, given the public’s continuing interest in adventure?  Yes, David Crockett was a talker who told stories about his life in the backcountry.  To this day, people who hunt, fish and hike in the backcountry occasionally embellish their own outings

He came from very humble beginnings, his family was so poor he was hired out as a child to work off his fathers debt.  He was in the Creek Indian wars with Andrew Jackson’s army.  Later, as a politician, military and community leader David Crockett developed an ability to capture people’s interest.  He became an effective campaigner and won several elections, eventually serving three terms in the U.S. House of Representatives.  He disagreed with Andrew Jackson’s positions on squatters rights and Indian resettlement.  As a consequence, he fell out of favor with Jackson and the entire Tennessee delegation.

One of many interesting quotes from Davy Crockett is, “Make sure you’re right, then go ahead.”  Crockett did not put his political career and personal interest above his sincere beliefs of right and wrong.  He had been dirt poor himself and knew the plight of the poor.  When his political career ended, he went to Texas in search of higher ideals and died in the Mexican war at the Alamo.  Historians seem to take great pleasure in pointing out that Davy Crockett was not killed in battle, as portrayed in movies and TV, but was captured and executed by Santa Anna.  Real life is not always the stuff of fictionalized movies, but people like to admire public figures, particularly when they are associated with societal themes like “manifest destiny” which was very popular during that time.  This was pointed out in the book along with references to James Fennimore Cooper’s popular fictional tales of Indians and longhunters.

There were many excerpts of various stories from the Davy Crockett Almanacs and statements attributed to him.  The tales, movies, plays and TV shows with their fictionalized hyperbole do not diminish the real man who had faults like everyone, but remains an important example of leadership, independence, rugged individualism, and a pursuit of right over politics.  Whether a soldier is captured or killed in battle is not necessarily something within their control, therefore, what bearing it has on his heroism eludes me.  Moreover, I find no interest in various writer’s views of publicity or fictionalized videos aimed at generating a profit for the producer.  The fact that David Crockett became a celebrity and legendary character after his death does not require exhaustive analysis into each portrayal dreamed up to garner a profit off the public’s fascination for backwoods adventure.  The awarded success in 1992 of the movie, “Last of the Mohicans”, suggests the public still has a thirst for the early American wilderness adventure.

Tales of Davy Crockett’s entanglement with “critters” has some plausible basis.  It was interesting to see that elk were once native to Tennessee and bear extended even into its western regions. About fifteen years ago the Tennessee Wildlife Resources Agency reintroduced elk into the state and they are thriving.  Most recently, cougar have returned on their own volition, being observed in the central region of Tennessee.  Bear are migrating westwards once again as the mountainous east becomes over-populated with them. Sightings of black bear have been noted as far west as Cookeville, which is ninety miles east of Nashville.  Finally, alligators have been seen in the Mississippi river near Memphis.  This book is among the worst I have ever read and left me with very little information I cared about or that even directly related to David Crockett.  However, it encourages me that I can write a book some day and I’m still interested in Davy Crockett, American Indian tribes, and the early frontier.

The Fingerprint of God

If this being is omnipotent, then every occurrence, including every human action, every human thought, every human feeling and aspiration is also His work; how is it possible to think of holding men responsible for their deeds and thoughts before such an almighty Being?  In giving out punishment and rewards he would to a certain extent be passing judgment on Himself.  How can this be combined with the goodness and righteousness ascribed to Him. –Albert Einstein.

Scientists (and atheists and agnostics) who refuse to accept the abundant evidence which establishes there is a Creator, do so because they falsely judge God Himself, rather than refute the evidence.  They continue to devise more and more bizarre loopholes to escape these findings, but these are always refuted by observations, facts and measurement.  Hugh Ross’ book titled as above, lays out a history of cosmology, the study of the origin and development of the universe, beginning with the Chinese and Mesopotamian’s some six thousand years ago through today.  He also compares theological based conclusions with those of Scientists.  Both have been very wrong regarding their cosmology, but stubborn to concede the truth.  He points out that the scientists have proved the more stubborn of the two.

For the longest time it was thought the universe was eternal and fixed.  This spawned evolution theory based on spontaneous generation through random chance.  As evidence of Scientist’s stubbornness evolution still floats around even though it is statistically impossible.  However, the evidence for a big bang event and a still expanding universe refutes a static eternal theory and establishes a fixed beginning of the universe.  Based on all estimates, there is not adequate time from this beginning to allow mathematically, random chance events to all perfectly happen in required sequence to generate all things we now see.  This beginning corroborates the existence of an outside creator/initiator.  Many other theories and undefined factors have been proposed to negate the inevitable conclusion of God, but they do not hold true. Einstein invented his “cosmological constant” to preserve a static universe.  In 1931, following Hubble’s publication on the law of red shifts, he discarded his constant conceding that its introduction was “the greatest mistake of his life.”

This book is a remarkable primer for anyone who questions the veracity of scientific cosmology.  It also addresses the apparent conflicts between the Genesis accounts in the Bible and scientific evidence, and the seeming paradox that obstructs so many, like Einstein, who could not find God just on his terms.  The Bible states, “The wrath of God is being revealed from heaven against all the godlessness and wickedness of people, who suppress the truth by their wickedness, since what may be known about God is plain to them, because God has made it plain to them.  For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualitieshis eternal power and divine naturehave been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that people are without excuse.” (Romans 1: 18-20).  Even without today’s scientific discoveries about the universe, God has revealed His existence.  How gracious God is to give us through science such insight and further proof of His Creative work.

Alone in the Wilderness

 

This is the title of a documentary film about Dick Proenneke, a man who left civilization for the Alaskan wilderness. This movie is a quintessential male statement of challenge, endeavor and quest. The film was compiled from self-made films and the personal diary of one man’s search for peace and freedom found in the art of a disciplined life of solitude. He asks himself, “What was I capable of?” “Could I truly enjoy my own company for an entire year?” “And was I equal to everything this wild land could throw at me?” After directly stating his purpose with a concise bluntness that expects the hearers acknowledgment, he jumps into a detailed account, explanation, video log, and description of the construction of his cabin, made solely by himself, only with hand tools, and using all but a few naturally available materials. This is art in its most masculine and basic form, set in the beautiful pristine Alaskan wilderness.

Let me pause and apologize to all women and others who may object to the terms and perspective I’ve chosen to describe this unique record of one man’s dream, fulfilled. I find a connection, affirmation, and interest in this film while my wife is bored with its tedium, subject, and structure. The stark contrast in our perspectives can best be explained by our biological distinctions. What better explanation could there be, even though it’s politically incorrect, which for me further validates the truth. Moreover, it does so without degrading the feminine virtue or even contrasting gender differences, it is “substance” that makes this possible. For women with men, consider this a Cinderella tale or “chick flick” for men, or see it as the original HDTV fixer upper.

The cabin construction project progresses as Mr. Proenneke’s satisfaction builds toward completion. Perhaps a secret to his success is the wisdom he demonstrates by taking periodic breaks from the cabin project to canoe across the tranquil lake or climb the peaks just for fun and their outstanding panoramic views. We learn that he does have a connection to society through a small plane that infrequently visits with critical supplies. He plants a small garden in mid-summer and records his observations of many native animal species.

Throughout this film we see a respect for nature, wildlife, and the unspoiled wilderness, but it’s different from the militant environmentalists who condemn mankind’s existence and presence in the wilderness. The lake can share an occasional fish for one man’s dinner and a bighorn sheep can be harvested by a man, as well as, predators or death from severe elements. At one point he finds a freshly killed moose carcus killed by wolves for no reason other than sport, wherein he salvages some of the meat. The seasons are observed and depicted in wonderful distinction, including winters harshness at minus fifty degrees. Overall we see tremendous strength, skill, patience and delight in natural creation by a simple humble man who has no pretense, political motivations, agenda or judgment. He began this adventure in 1963, at age 51 and returned to society in 1998, at age 82, when the winters became too great a chore.

This film touches the hunter-gatherer that still resides in the heart of man, as well as, a man’s yearning to meet and overcome challenges. Clearly, such a lifestyle is just for a few, yet, in our modern technological urban society this film awakens the call of the wild and the best of our masculine characteristics. It’s an honest and inspirational message to those who value such things, that too often are the object of contempt, ridicule, and slander by the arrogant judgmental fascists in the Media. When all is stripped away, but that which survival demands, what remains is substance; a man in relation with natures beauty and his Creator.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor

I just watched a movie of this title about Fred Rogers, the creator of the long running children’s PBS TV series, “Mr. Rogers Neighborhood”.  I wasn’t interested at first because I thought I knew all about him and his show.  However, IMDB rates it 8.5 and I discovered a fascinating tale of a man with an inspirational commitment to the welfare of children and the child that resides in each of us.  It weaves a story about Fred Rogers, early children’s TV, PBS, and Mr. Rogers Neighborhood from real footage of Mr. Rogers talking about his beliefs and goals, commentary of his wife and two grown children, testimony before a U.S. Senate committee, and numerous clips and commentary of the actors, friends and staff from the TV series.

This is far more than just a story, it captures the depth of feeling and love that was the heart of Fred Rogers.  He thought the greatest thing was to value each unique child and help them know they are worthy of love and that it was evil to make them feel otherwise.  He was a Presbyterian minister and had a gift of understanding and communicating with children.  In the early years of PBS, a Senate committee had been organized to evaluate whether government funding should be extended, the Chairman was disgruntled with all the witnesses and their written statements.  The actual filmed interchange between Senator Pastore and Mr. Rogers is so sincere, virtuous and compelling that after just a few minutes the Senate Chairman turns and declares, “you just got your $20 million of funding.”  There is also very interesting footage of Mr. Rogers with Koko, a tamed gorilla that had been taught to communicate through sign language.

Mr. Rogers was able to reach the nation with a message of God’s love as taught in the Bible.  Each person is a unique creation of God and thereby worthy of His unconditional love.  Mr. Rogers put it in language children could understand, “I like you just the way you are.”  It is incredulous that many people objected and took offense to his encouragement of children, suggesting that he had created an entitlement generation, but that was a distortion of what he said and it’s clear meaning.

I believe you will be touched by this movie as you will see the virtue of children and those who are humble enough to love them in ways they can best receive it.  It was a compelling reminder to me of Yeshua’s words, “Therefore, whoever takes the lowly position of this child is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven.  And whoever welcomes one such child in my name welcomes me.  If anyone causes one of these little onesthose who believe in meto stumble, it would be better for them to have a large millstone hung around their neck and to be drowned in the depths of the sea.” (Matthew 18: 4-6).

 

Hero of the Heartland

Hero of the Heartland by Robert Martin is a biography of evangelist Billy Sunday.  Sunday was a fundamentalist evangelist whose sermons concentrated on personal salvation and individual morality.  He was the most influential revivalist in the United States between 1896 and 1935.  He had a theatrical aspect to his sermons.  Those who attended his sermons expected to be entertained and were rarely disappointed.  A former professional baseball player he would use slides, leaps, catches, and other baseball antics in the pulpit.  He was a master of crowd psychology and understood the power of a good story not only to entertain but to persuade.

Sunday was born to a Father, who died in the Civil War when he was a boy, and a mostly indifferent Mother, who put him in an orphanage as she was unable to support him otherwise.  At 21 Sunday began a reasonably successful eight year professional baseball career but after his conversion begin working for the YMCA.  After a couple of years he became an advance man and assistant to well-known evangelist Wilber Chapman.  He learned much about the construction and delivery of sermons as well as the organization and administration of revivals.  Chapman abruptly decided to take over the pastorate of a church in 1895 after which Sunday began receiving invitations himself to conduct revivals in several small Midwestern towns.  These events convinced Sunday that God had ordained him as an evangelist and he held revivals in these small towns for about a decade.  As his popularity increased he went on to preach to millions of people in most of the nation’s largest cities until his death in 1935.

Much like Billy Graham to come, Sunday ran his revivals with business efficiency and worked with local church leaders to heavily promote his revivals and ensure large crowds attended.  Also, like Graham, he faced criticism from the “Social Gospel” crowd who felt that it was more important to concentrate on addressing society’s ills than on saving individual souls.  While both Graham and Sunday acknowledged the importance of social and economic milieu in helping men and women live better lives, they both also believed the social ills originated in flawed human nature and could only be ultimately cured by individual salvation and the resultant changed lives.

Sunday’s popularity declined after 1918 due to his aging and detonating health causing his sermons to be less flamboyant and polished and the nation’s cultural center of gravity shifting toward modernity and away from the traditional Midwestern christian conservatism that Sunday espoused.  Further, his two sons wayward living and subsequent suicide of one of his sons weighed him down and affected his reputation and ministry.

This short book is one of the relatively few biographies currently available on Billy Sunday.  It is not particularly well-written as it bounces back and forth and repeats frequently however it is a good overview of one of the great Christian evangelists of the 20th century.

 

For Cause and Country

For Cause and Country, written by Eric Jacobson, is one of the very best books on the Civil War Battle of Franklin, TN.   It is an excellent read for those interested in the Civil War in general or the Battle of Franklin.  It is a thoroughly-researched book and gives an excellent battle narrative including incorporating eyewitness accounts from both sides.

This battle fought in November 1864, only about four months before General Lee’s surrender, was one of the last major actions in the Civil War.  Confederate General John Bell Hood led his Army of the Tennessee in a desperate invasion of Tennessee after he had just been soundly defeated in Georgia by Sherman’s army and lost the pivotal city of Atlanta.  Lee, holed up in Richmond with a far inferior army, could only hold off Union General Grant for a time and had no potential for offensive action.  Hood hoped to draw Sherman back into Tennessee for a decisive battle and remove his threat from the Deep South.  However, Sherman simply sent a portion of his troops to Middle Tennessee to join with other troops already there under General Thomas which together heavily outnumbered Hood.  Sherman took the rest of his troops on the famous “March to the Sea” which effectively destroyed much of what was left of the infrastructure of the South.

Hood’s Tennessee invasion started off well and he just missed trapping and destroying a part of Thomas’ army in Spring Hill, a few miles from Franklin.  A very upset Hood moved on to Franklin where the same Union troops that escaped at Spring Hill were waiting in a strongly fortified position.  Hood, determined to not let the Union troops get away again, made an unwise, very costly, desperate charge directly into the fortified line and the Confederate troops were slaughtered with heavy losses.  The Confederate troops performed with amazing courage but were sacrificed.  Despite the victory, the Union army retreated over night to rejoin the main body of troops in Nashville, which were its orders.  Hood moved on to invest Nashville with what was left of his army but, a couple of weeks later, the Union army attacked and decisively defeated the Confederate army.  The Army of Tennessee was largely destroyed and with Lee surrendering his Army of Northern Virginia shortly thereafter the war was brought to an end.

Today, the battlefield is a relatively quiet place which I often walk and contemplate the courage and sacrifice of both sides.  A national battlefield park, although purposed, was never approved by Congress.  Most of the land was bought up by residential or commercial interests over the years and except for two spots is was thought the battlefield could never be reclaimed.  The two preserved spots were the Carnton Mansion, where the wounded and dead were brought and where blood from the soldiers is still evident on the floors, and the Carter House and a small plot of ground around it were a part of the battle was fought.  However, just in the last decade or two the “Battle of Franklin Trust” was formed to try to reclaim as much of the battlefield as possible.  Led currently by Eric Jacobson, the author of this book, it has done an amazing job of purchasing battlefield land including several homes and businesses at very high costs.  This is possible as Franklin happens to be located in one of the wealthiest counties in the country and there are many people who care for and are invested in the battlefield.  The Trust even formed a partnership with the State of Tennessee who, at an appointed time after more land is purchased and a new visitor’s center is constructed, is going to take over the maintenance of the new Carter Hill Battlefield Park.  It contains a Confederate graveyard where most of the confederates that died in the battle are buried, just outside Carnton Mansion.   I would encourage anyone interested to visit if you are in the area as it is a very important historical preservation to honor both sides that fought in the battle.

 

 

 

 

Stan and Ollie

I recently went to see the movie, Stan and Ollie.  It was about the last years of the legendary comedy team, Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy.  They were one of the top box office draws from the 1920’s to mid 1940’s after which their popularity went into decline.  The film focuses on a last-gasp music hall tour of England in 1953, after a number of years of only sporadic work.  Oliver Hardy, now in his early 60’s, was in poor health with heart problems and he had trouble doing some of their standard slapstick routines due to his bad knees and being very overweight.  The tour started slowly with poor crowds, as they had been out of the public eye for a number of years, but after they started doing promotional events the tour became a big hit playing to large crowds at the top venues in England.  However, due to Oliver’s poor health this ended up being the last performances of Laurel and Hardy.

The movie focuses on Stan and Oliver’s close relationship and their love of performing their comedy routines, whether it was to a large audience or one women while checking into a motel.  They were constantly practicing new skits developed by Stan with Oliver’s input.  This is what they were created to do and they were great at it.  They had hoped their tour of England would lead to a new movie but it was learned during the tour that the funding could not be raised.  However, they continued to develop and practice gags for the movie although they knew it was never going to be made.  At one point, Stan turned to Ollie and asked why they kept practicing when they both knew the movie would not be made.  Oliver replied, “what else would we do?”

This is a great movie with a compelling story and I highly recommend it.  The acting was suburb with John C. Reilly playing Oliver and Steve Coogan as Stan along with a great supporting cast.

Oliver’s health continued to deteriorate and he died only four years after the tour in 1957.  Although Stan continued to get offers to perform he refused to do so without his long-time partner and spent the last eights years of his life continuing to write Laurel and Hardy material.

Little Girl Blue

I have long been a fan of Karen Carpenter’s singing.  She has one of the most beautiful voices I have ever heard and I loved many of her songs.  The book “Little Girl Blue” by Randy Schmidt is probably the best biography of Karen Carpenter, the lead singer of the Carpenters.  The book is based on exclusive interviews with her innermost circle of girlfriends and nearly 100 others who knew her well.  Karen went from modest Connecticut beginnings to become part of one of the top-selling American musical act of the 1970s.  The book reveals Karen’s heartbreaking struggles with her controlling mother, brother who she adored, and unaffectionate husband who likely married her only for her money.  Other than for her singing she is best known for her struggles with anorexia nervosa, the eating disorder that would take her life in 1983 at the age of 32.

The Carpenters were a sister and brother singing team.  Karen had arguably one of the best, most pure singing voices in history.  Richard played keyboards, multitracked their voices into an electronic choral blur and arranged with an obsessive ear for perfection.    Together they sold over 100,000,000 records worldwide to date.  Along the way they won three Grammy Awards, had three #1 hits, five RIAA-certified platinum albums, and thirteen RIAA-certified gold singles.

The book covers her early beginnings, rise to the top of the singing world after signing with A&M records and subsequent try at a solo career not long before her death.  As expected the book deals extensively with her eating disorder and makes certain conclusions of what might have been the underlying cause of starving herself to death.  However, these conclusions, while interesting, should be taken with a grain of salt, as we can never know for sure what lay behind this disease.

The Carpenters music was never considered cool, being considered too soft and vanilla by many critics.  However, the public bought their music in record numbers which is the greatest testament to the quality and viability of their recordings.  I highly recommend this book as a celebration of Karen Carpenter and the gift of music she gave to us.

Joy

Most people have probably heard of C. S. Lewis, the famous Christian apologist writer.  The book “Joy” by Abigail Santamaria is an excellent biography of Joy Davidman, C. S. Lewis’s wife.  Based on some extraordinary new documents as well as extensive research by the author it brings a full portrait of Davidman for the first time as well as insights into C. S. Lewis himself.  A poet and radical atheistic Communist in her early years, she eventually converted to Christianity in the years before meeting Lewis, partly from reading some of his books.  She began corresponding with Lewis and fell in love with him through the letters.  At the time, Davidman was married to William Gresham and had two sons by him although their marriage was troubled due to her husband’s alcoholism and infidelities and emotional problems.

She subsequently set sail for England to meet Lewis in 1952.  A rapid friendship developed between them and Lewis became a great admirer of her intellect.  Davidman returned home in 1953 having received a letter from Gresham that he and her cousin were having an affair and that he wanted a divorce.  Davidman intended to try to save the marriage, but she agreed to a divorce after a violent encounter with Gresham.  The divorce became final in 1954 at which time Davidman returned to England with her sons.  She continued her friendship with Lewis and even influenced several of the books he wrote around this time.

In 1956, Davidman’s visitor’s visa was not renewed requiring that she return to America although she much desired to live permanently in England.  Lewis agreed to enter into a civil marriage with her to allow her to stay in England although the couple continued to live separately and not as husband and wife.  Later in the year, Davidman was diagnosed with incurable bone cancer.  It was at this time that Lewis recognized that he had fallen in love with her.  In March 1957 the doctors gave her only a short time to live due to the aggressive nature of her cancer.  Lewis and Davidman had a Christian marriage performed in the hospital room and became truly husband and wife although it appeared it would only be for a short time.  However, Father Peter Bide, who had a recognized spiritual gift of healing, came to pray over Davidman for healing.  To the amazement of the doctors her cancer almost immediately went into remission and she was in reasonable good health for the next three years which allowed her and Lewis to enjoy a short span of blissful happiness in each other’s love.  The cancer eventually returned and took her life in 1960 but Lewis’s life had been forever changed.  A bachelor into his 50’s God had allowed him to experience romantic love for the first time.

I highly recommend this book for a view of a very intelligent women, a writer herself, who could go head to head with Lewis intellectually, which was no small feat.  She was very brash and sometimes difficult, the opposite of C. S. Lewis in so many ways, but was the love of his life.

The Creator and the Cosmos

This book by Hugh Ross, Ph.d. is well written and interesting.  It discusses astrophysics in a way that is understandable even though it goes into considerable depth.  Dr. Ross is a believer and a cosmologist and theoretician.  This was the third edition which included many recent updates. The Big Bang theory and recent discoveries related to it have transformed thinking on the origin of the universe and the existence of a Creator.  Those who are opposed to God in any concept are scrambling to craft new arguments against the Big Bang theory.  This book explains evidence for and defense of the Big Bang theory based on existing observations, measurements, rationale of general relativity, and the laws of thermonuclear dynamics.

The first three chapters outline the nature of the issue and current scientific conclusions.  Chapters four through eight are a little technical, but that must be accepted with such a complex subject.  However, the last chapters are outstanding.  Dr. Ross does not approach the origin of the universe from a theological or philosophical perspective, but from a scientific one.  Yet, as a Believer, he is able to illustrate how the biblical account of creation describes what astrophysics actually observes and how a hot Big Bang creation event points to a Creator God.  For example, the Bible says God, “stretched out the Heavens” and science proves the universe is expanding at an increasing rate.

The last chapters are devoted to explaining how today’s unfolding scientific research tends to support the existence of the God of the Bible.  Not only is evolution, random chance, and quantum theory debunked by tested laws of physics, evidence and observation, but new scientific measurements indicate that the level of intelligent design goes beyond what we see on earth, even to the limits of the universe.  In Dr. Ross’ words, unless the entire universe is just as it is, life on earth would not be possible.  Even distant galaxies, giant red stars, quasars, supernovae, and black holes, must all be exactly as they are in order for there to be life on earth.  This is explained in great detail.

He addresses other famous astrophysicists like Einstein, Hubble, Hawkins, Bohr, Sagan, and many I have never heard of explaining the gist of their discoveries, theories, laws of physics, and positions, then describes flaws in their arguments against a beginning of time, the observed universe, and a Creator as described in the Bible.

True science bears witness to God’s glory in creation.  Anyone interested in a reliable analysis of the many theories of creation will like this book.  If you sincerely question whether there is a God behind the universe, read this book.  If you have taken up an offense against God and/or Christians, no book other than the Bible can help you, as it is contains a supernatural message that transcends time and space.  Be at peace, God’s lovingkindness is everlasting, even though time is not.

Sea of Darkness

41Q4T-Ug9zL._SX331_BO1,204,203,200_On a cold night in February 1864 George Dixon, captain of the CSS Hunley, and his crew of seven attacked and sunk the Federal blockading ship Housatonic in Charleston harbor becoming the first submarine ever to sink a ship.  The Hunley never returned to shore after the sinking and was presumed lost at sea.  The book, Sea of Darkness, written by Brian Hicks, tells the intriguing story.  The narrative bounces back and forth between the events leading up to the fateful night of the sinking and the events leading to the subsequent finding of the sunken Hunley in 1995, over 130 years later.

The book describes all of the persons involved in the development of The Hunley including its namesake Horace Hunley, who provided the financing, and James McClintock and William Alexander who primarily designed the submarine.  The Hunley was designed for a crew of eight, seven to turn the hand-cranked propeller and one to steer and direct the boat.  Each end of the submarine was equipped with ballast tanks that could be flooded by valves or pumped dry by hand pumps to lower or raise the submarine.  The armament included a torpedo attached to the bow by a 22 foot wooden spar and designed to explode on contact.  Although an amazing invention for its time, it was still a relatively primitive design and dangerous to operate.  In fact, several crewmen died in test runs, including Hunley himself.

Over the next 130 years several attempts were make to locate The Hunley.  It was believed the Hunley must have sunk coming back from the attack somewhere between the blockading ships and the shore or was destroyed itself from the blast so search efforts concentrated between the blockading ships and shoreline.  However, it was discovered by Diver Ralph Wilbanks, while leading a dive team led by novelist Clive Cussler, 100 yards away and on the seaward side of the Housatonic.  In other words, the submarine went further out to sea after the attack rather than immediately attempting to return to shore.  The submarine was buried under several feet of silt, which had both concealed and protected the vessel for more than a hundred years.  When later raised it was in excellent condition for its age and currently resides in The Friends of The Hunley Museum in Charleston, SC where it can be visited today.

The cause of the sinking is still not known.  There was no sign of panic among the crew who were still in their seats.  Also, there was no attempt by the crew to raise the submarine to the surface.  The book explores several possibilities and the investigation is still ongoing but we may never know for sure.

I would highly recommend this book for persons interested in Civil War history or submarines or even in interesting inventions and how they came about.  While examining remains of George Dixon on the submarine a shiny object was discovered close to him.  It turned out to be a $20 gold piece given to Dixon by his sweetheart.  He had carried it as a good luck charm and it had previously saved his life at the Battle of Shiloh when he was hit in the leg but the bullet was blunted by the gold piece.  You can still see the dented gold piece today in the museum in Charleston.

First Man

firstman-mainstagemobile-5b1aa4a8adb93-1I recently went and saw the movie, First Man, and was pleasantly surprised.  I enjoyed it very much and it kept me entertained throughout with its suspenseful action and interesting story.  The movie is more of a biopic of Neil Armstrong, the first man to walk on the moon, then a primer on the Space program’s race with Russia to the moon, although that is included.   Ryan Gosling did an excellent job of portraying the serious, somewhat introverted man and the enormous courage it took to be an astronaut in those days.  Calculations that could be done by computers today had to be done by hand in some cases, even while the capsule was flying in space.

The focus is squarely on Neil Armstrong in the movie and all he had to go through to be the first man to walk on the moon.  There are numerous shots of his rigorous training and his sorrow when several friends tied in accidents related to the mission.  His family life is also portrayed well with Claire Foy doing a wonderful job as his wife.  They had a daughter die at age two of cancer several years before the moon flight and this significantly affected them, especially Neil.  Further, the anguish of the wife following the space flights and her fear for her husband is well portrayed.

In the end, Neil became the first man to walk on the moon and the scene where he did so is very dramatic and awe-inspiring to watch.  Neil was a very humble man and, not brought out in the movie, in later years did few interviews, moved to a rural area and became a teacher at a small school, and never looked for any credit for his great achievements.

One note on the controversy of the movie producers not showing the iconic moment when Neil placed the American flag on the moon which has caused some to boycott the movie, I would not let this keep someone from seeing the movie.  While the producers may well have not wanted to glorify the American achievement based on some statements they made that it was not necessary to show this due to it being an achievement for humankind, the American flag is actually shown on the moon although not being placed by Neil.  More importantly, in this age where everyone seems to be offended by every little thing, I believe it is important to not let small perceived offenses cause one to boycott movies and other events which can, as in this case, cause one to miss a really good movie.

The Man Who Planted Trees

TheManWhoPlantedtrees_v2-394x220This short story by Jean Giono, about one shepherd’s long and successful single-handed effort to re-forest a desolate valley in the foothills of the Alps in France, and accompanying short animated film is one of my all-time favorites.  It is narrated by Christopher Plummer who is outstanding.  The story is written in words with an efficiency that leaves space for emotion and wonder.  The character development is deep and woven into the narrative as a pattern of beauty.  This is a story of providence and unconditional generosity.  The man and the trees comprise a history worth sharing.

This thirty minute film is highly awarded.  It has a rating of 8.6 on IMDB which puts it the class of great films like Saving Private Ryan, It’s a Wonderful Life, and Casablanca.  The artistry at first may seem lacking, but as the story unfolds it serves the tale and captures well the depth of feeling that builds as no other could.  It never fails to move me with its depiction of humility, simplicity, and accomplishment.

Inside The Third Reich

Obersalzberg, Albert Speer, Adolf HitlerWhen I was in the seventh grade, around 1972, my English teacher handed out a book club flyer to encourage us to do some extra reading outside the normal reading assignments.  I was already an enthusiastic reader of books, mainly on history subjects, but rarely found any subject matter I liked in these book flyers.  However, this time I saw a new book that had just been published called, Inside The Third Reich, by Albert Speer.  I decided to order it and was engrossed in it from the start.  In fact, it is still one of the best books I have read and one of the few that I still keep a hard copy (as there is no electronic copy available).

Speer was Hitler’s favorite architect and was commissioned by Hitler to rebuild Berlin in megalomaniacal style.  Every building planned was extremely oversized and grandiose, meant to show the power and prestige of Germany after the planned conquering of Europe.  The planned Grand Dome, insisted on by Hitler, would have seated 180,000 people indoors, but was not practical.  Speer speculated that during the winter, the breathing and perspiration of more than 100,000 people inside such a large closed space might result in clouds forming and rain indoors.  Further the soft soil of the Berlin area would have had trouble supporting it.  Only a small amount of the Berlin rebuilding was actually begun before the war when it had to be stopped.  A Reich Chancellery was built but destroyed during and after the war.  Germany’s defeat in World War II insured Hitler’s plans would never be fulfilled.  As Hitler was a frustrated artist/architect himself, he grew close to Speer for a time as they would regularly review models of the new Germania (the name for the rebuilt Berlin) even up to the last few weeks of the war as the Allies closed in on Hitler’s bunker.  Speer said if Hitler had a friend, he would have been it.

During the war, after Hitler’s first armaments minister was killed in an air crash and with his building projects suspended, Speer was appointed to be the armaments minister.  He displayed a remarkable ability and greatly increased armaments production even in the midst of Allied bombing destroying much of Germany’s infrastructure.  Speer always had a natural ability at organizing people and projects.  He became very powerful and for a time was considered Hitler’s likely successor.  Later in the war, Speer lost some favor with Hitler as he tried to tell him some hard truths about Germany’s faltering war economy and other persons close to Hitler conspired against him.

At the war’s end, Speer was tried as one of the major Nazi war criminals at Nuremberg and given a 20 year sentence.  The sentence was mostly for using slave labor in his armaments work who were treated very badly with many dying of starvation and disease.  Speer used a clever defense at trial (also presented in the book) where he asserts that while he knew nothing of the Holocaust there was enough circumstantial evidence around him that he should have asked more questions and discovered it and therefore considered himself guilty of the crimes.  His recognition of guilt went a long way in sparing him the death penalty which most of the principal Nazi defendants received.  Released from prison in 1967, he published this book and later died in 1981 of natural causes.  After his death information came to light that he was lying, or in denial, and had known of the killing of the Jews although he did not directly participate.

This book was a fascinating read showing how Speer’s ambition could cause him to look the other way at much evil to gain prominence and power.  The book is also interesting in showing one of the best available portraits of Hitler, who could at times be kind, considerate, inspiring and engaging while at the same time committing great evil against the Jews and others.  Today, the only practical thing that is left in Berlin of all of the grandiose building projects of Hitler and Speer are some streetlights.  The book is a great illustration of Thomas Kempis famous saying that “man proposes but God disposes.”

 

A Torch Kept Lit

41fthmwbZxL._AC_US436_QL65_This is an excellent book I recently read of eulogies written by the late William F. Buckley.  Buckley was the founder of “National Review”, a conservative journal and host of “Firing Line” from 1966-1999 on PBS.  He also wrote many best-selling books and a syndicated column for many years and was known for his eloquent prose.  Although he never held office, he was friends with Presidents and many other powerful people, and was considered one of the founders of the modern conservative movement.

This book contained his best eulogies, as compiled by James Rosen – a correspondent for Fox News, of some of the most famous persons in the 20th Century, many of which Buckley knew well.  Buckley understood the fortifying effect that death can have upon those who survive and bear witness.  He thought that we are all inheritors of what he liked to call The Patrimony, the corpus of objective truths, earthly and celestial, established by humankind over the millennia and handed down by our elders, the first among which is: People die, God endures.

There are more than 50 eulogies in all, “a far-ranging survey of the famous and obscure, the heroic and villainous, the charmed and doomed”, according to the introduction.  The eulogies are divided into; Presidents, Family, Arts and Letters, Generals, Spies, and Statesmen, Friends, and Nemeses.

This was one of the best books I have read lately and gave an insightful perspective, as only Buckley can, into a cross-section of  interesting and influential persons of the last several decades.  I highly recommend this book.

 

The 5:17 to Paris

636535407591818133-PAR-08898rWe watched an outstanding movie entitled “The 5:17 to Paris.”  You might recall the three young Americans who thwarted a terrorist massacre on a train in France.  This is their story and even includes the actual men portraying themselves.  Movies based on true events seem to be those we enjoy most – the saying, “truth is stranger than fiction”, proves true.  Amazingly, this story includes much more than the action, suspense, and heroism you would expect. In the real world people like you and I have imperfections and failings that cause us to be unfit for Hollywood, but Clint Eastwood, who made

Continue reading