God bless us, every one!

I would like to wish all of you readers–conservatives and liberals, Lutherans and non-Lutherans and anti-Lutherans, Christians and other religionists and atheists, moralists and libertarians, Tea Partiers and Occupy Wall Streeters, experts and textperts and choking smokers, and all of the other varied souls who frequent this blog–a merry, merry celebration of the Incarnation of our God and Savior (whether you believe in Him or not)!

Bedlam in Oklahoma and in the BCS

The rivalry in my native Oklahoma between the Sooners of the University of Oklahoma and the Cowboys of Oklahoma State divides parent and child, brother and brother.  It certainly does in my family!  The Sooners have almost always been better, but the intensity of the games is such that the Cowboys occasionally stage an upset.  I have proposed, to torment my brother and parents (OSU alums) that the state legislature pass a bill requiring the lower-ranked of the two teams to forfeit the game between them, so as to protect the state’s chances to pursue a national championship and thus improve our image in the hopes of bringing new jobs to our citizens.  (The prospect of “new jobs” can sell any bill.)

But such a bill would have worked against my cause this time.  Oklahoma, ranked #10, would have had to forfeit to Oklahoma State, ranked #3.   The lesson here is to never support a law that would support your narrow self-interest when it could actually cut two ways.  (A good example would be Newt Gingrich’s proposal for congress to limit the Supreme Court’s jurisdiction over certain bills.  Conservatives might like that idea, until liberals do it.  With that power, congress could have declared Obamacare non-reviewable.)

Some Sooner fans took comfort in the fact that OSU hadn’t beaten them in 8 years.  Surely history is on OU’s side.  But that is an utterly meaningless statistic (one of many in sports, as I’ve learned from reading Moneyball).  Those other teams over the last 8 years are not the same teams playing this year!  OSU has never been this good before!

So sure enough, as I thought would happen, OSU utterly pounded OU with a final score of 44-10.

It pains me to say it, but I salute Oklahoma State for this achievement and for improving their program so dramatically.  And though the traditional terms of the rivalry would call for feelings of revenge, expressed in hoping the worst for the enemy team in the post-season, I will magnanimously wish OSU well.

In fact, I contend that OSU should play Louisiana State University, the #1 ranked team in the nation, for the national championship!  LSU already beat the #2 team, Alabama.   It doesn’t seem reasonable to set up a rematch.  What if Alabama were to win?  They would be crowned champion over a team that beat them.  The two teams would have essentially the same record.  It would be much more interesting to watch LSU play against another contender.

Nevertheless, as I just saw on the BCS selection show on ESPN,  the labyrinthine ways of the BCS ranking system have given Alabama .942 points, with Oklahoma state getting .933.  So  the national championship game will have LSU  playing Alabama.  Again.

 

 

God is Red

On Monday night, the dissident Chinese author Liao Yiwu gave a reading on my campus.  He read a poem, “Massacre,” about the killings of the pro-democracy protesters in Tiananmen Square. For writing that poem, Liao was tortured and imprisoned for four years.  This led to his writing about his fellow prisoners and documentation of more government abuses.  He now lives as an exile from his homeland.  He also read from his latest book, God is Red, which is about the rise of Christianity in China, despite horrendous persecution.

Here is a review of the book by my colleague, David Aikman, a former correspondent with Time Magazine who covered what was going on at Tiananmen Square who is currently a history professor at Patrick Henry College:

Every so often, you come across a narrative of courage under suffering that is so well reported, so restrained and sensitive in its intelligence, that you are momentarily altered by the experience. Alexander Solzhenitsyn’s One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich had that effect upon millions, both Russians and foreigners, in 1962. The publication of Solzhenitsyn’s novels—like Cancer Ward and The First Circle, for which the Russian writer was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature—even contributed to the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991.

It is far too early to guess whether Liao Yiwu’s latest book, God Is Red: The Secret Story of How Christianity Survived and Flourished in Communist China (HarperOne), will have any long-term impact on the author’s homeland. But readers will surely come away inspired by the landmark account of Chinese Christians living under the vicious political campaigns of the Mao era. (No stranger himself to political persecution, Liao was imprisoned during the government’s post-Tiananmen Square crackdown. He described his prison experience in Testimonials, an expanded version of which has just been published in German.)

Two ingredients, in particular, make God Is Red such a powerful account of Chinese Christians’ perseverance. First, Liao acknowledges that he is not himself a Christian, so he cannot be accused of trying to persuade anyone of anything religious. And second, the quality of his reporting is simply excellent.

The drama of the reporting derives from the fact that much of it takes place in remote areas of the Sichuan and Yunnan provinces. The characters Liao focuses on are men and women of extraordinary saintliness: the indefatigably beneficent Dr. Sun, for example, a man who turned down prosperous positions in China’s cities because he wanted to help the poor and outcast in China’s remote rural areas; the elderly nun persistently appealing for the Communists to return confiscated church property.

Some of the narratives are historically fascinating. There is the story of the martyrdom of Wang Zhisheng, an ethnic Miao executed by the Communists in 1973 and commemorated today by a statue in London’s Westminster Abbey. Almost as fascinating is the detailed story of the suffering of Yuan Xiangchen (Allen Yuan). A patriarch of China’s house churches, Yuan spent two decades in labor camps (as did his friend, the legendary Chinese evangelist Wang Mingdao) for refusing to join the Three-Self Patriotic Movement, the state-controlled church. Yuan died in 2005, but I can still remember visiting his house, which served as a house church, in the center of Beijing in the 1990s.

Like all good reporters, Liao lets his characters speak for themselves, without adding superfluous commentary. From hip-hop youngsters in Chengdu to seasoned old saints in Yunnan come varied stories of how each one became a Christian. From the same people come powerful recollections of the pitiless and evil tyranny of Communism as it struggled to dominate all of life in China. If you want to read one book that sums up the glory of the Christian witness under persecution and the tragic 20th-century story of China’s Christians, read God Is Red. Brilliant and immensely moving, it will, if anything can, inject new backbone into your own Christian life.

via Profiling Christians Who Have Suffered Under Chinese Communism | Christianity Today | A Magazine of Evangelical Conviction.

Some memorable lines from Liao, who spoke through an interpreter:  “To survive under a dictatorship, you have to lie.”  When asked about contemporary China, he said that Americans are so concerned with making profits that they are neglecting their traditional values of standing up for freedom and human rights.  He said that his father always told him that if you are confronted by a wolf in the mountains, be sure to look it straight in the eye.  If you don’t, if you look away, the wolf will tear out your throat and drink your blood.  He thinks we are avoiding looking China in the eye.

I think it was good for our students to be in the presence of someone who had been tortured for his political beliefs.  I think it was good for them to hear about Christians who were killed for their faith.

When I came to the event, an elderly Chinese gentleman came to the door about the same time I did.  I opened the outer for him, but then he insisted on opening the inner door for me.  We smiled and I welcomed him to our campus.  It turns out, it was Dr. Sun, one of the book’s heroes, a saintly physician who led Liao into his exploration of the Chinese church.  I don’t know his story, if he too was driven out of China, but I want to find out.  It was remarkable that he showed up for the reading.

Seeing people like Liao and Dr. Sun in the flesh turns abstractions such as freedom, persecution, and martyrdom into powerful, tangible realities.

Buy the book here.

The Big 6-0

On Saturday I pass from middle-aged to aged.  I will turn 60.   I will go to the movies and order not an “adult” but a “senior” ticket, saving  $2.50.  I will be able to get cheap coffee at McDonald’s.  Please, no commiserations.  Don’t tell me, “you are only as young as you feel.”  I feel about, oh, 60.   And I don’t want to hear Bob Dylan’s blessing, “May you be forever young.”  (Bob, you know I’m a fan, but that sentiment is unworthy of you, especially since you have become way older than I am.)   Being young is not intrinsically better than being old.  Quite the contrary.   I claim Leviticus 19:32:  ”  32 “You shall stand up before the gray head and honor the face of an old man, and you shall fear your God: I am the LORD.”  Rise up, you young whippersnappers, and honor my face!  Also Proverbs 16:31:  “Gray hair is a crown of glory; it is gained in a righteous life.”  I don’t know about the last half of that sentence as it applies to me.  If sanctification is a linear progression, I should be farther along than I am, but I think it really comes from conflict, trial, and the continual pattern of repentance and finding Christ’s forgiveness, and I’ve certainly done that a lot.  So I am embracing my senior citizenship.  Plus, I am now embracing all of those old age poems by Yeats:

An aged man is but a paltry thing,
A tattered coat upon a stick, unless
Soul clap its hand and sing, and louder sing
For every tatter in its mortal dress.  (“Sailing to Byzantium”)

Manliness: A Contest

One of my former students, Nathan Martin, had worked with Reagan culture czar Bill Bennett on his sequel to The Book of Virtues, a collection of classic and contemporary readings entitled  The Book of Man: Readings on the Path to Manhood.

It explores the traits and virtues of manhood, some arguably lost in our feminized and gender-neutral age, using stories, poems, and reflections from authors ranging from Homer and Shakespeare to Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan.  (Luther even makes an appearance!)  The book is divided into chapters  dealing with Man at War; Man at Work; Man in Sports, Play, & Leisure; Man in the Polis; Man with Woman and Children; Man in Prayer and Reflection.

The Acknowledgements credit not only Nathan but also a slew of other Patrick Henry College products:  Christopher Beach, Olivia Linde, Brian Dutze, Shane Ayers, and David Carver.  That’s virtually the whole research team, drawing on their background in the Great Books, their perceptive thinking about these issues,  and their writing and editing skills.  So I’m very proud of them.

Nathan is also a fan of this blog (you might also recognize some of those other names as occasional commenters) and of the discussions that we have here.   He sent me two copies of the book, one for me and one to give away on my blog.

So I will celebrate my birthday Hobbit style:  Instead of getting a present, I will give a present.  Well, actually I’m not giving it; Nathan is.  And it won’t really be a gift.  Unlike God, I am making you earn it.   I’d like to start one of our famous discussions.  And the person deemed to have made the best comment will receive the free book.  (I haven’t quite determined how this will be decided yet.  Maybe it will be obvious.  Maybe we’ll vote on it.)  The comments, for the purposes of the contest, will be closed at midnight Eastern time on Sunday.

So here is the topic for discussion:  What is “manliness” in your thinking and in your experience?

I’d like to hear from women (what are the masculine traits that you look for in a man?) and men (when did you have to “act like a man,” and what did that entail?), and from people in various stages of life (boys, youth, husbands, fathers, and old guys like I have now become).

By the way, if you don’t want to hold out for a free book, you can buy one by clicking the links.

 

Black Cherokees

I grew up in northeast Oklahoma: Cherokee country.  Many of my African-American friends growing up were also members of the Cherokee tribe.  The “Five Civilized Tribes,” which include the Cherokees, assimilated quite a bit into the white man’s ways–which is why the white men called them “civilized”–and that included, since they mostly lived down south, owning slaves.  On the Trail of Tears, they took their slaves with them to Oklahoma.  After the Civil War, in which conflict most of the Cherokees sided with their fellow slave holders in the Confederacy, the slaves, of course, were freed.  In 1866, the tribe signed a treaty that included the provision that all of the Freedmen, the ex-slaves and their descendants, would be granted full membership in the Cherokee tribe.  I always thought that was a noble gesture, accepting the former slaves as equals.  And the Cherokees in the past have not been particularly insistent on “Indian blood,” since tribal rules also allows for white Cherokees, who are as little as 1/16 Native American.

But now the Cherokees have voted to kick the Freedmen out of the tribe.  That was a few years ago, but now the tribal court has ruled on the matter, saying the black Cherokees can be kicked off the tribal rolls, which also means that they will be cut out of the health care and other benefits the federal government gives to Native Americans.  A federal court, though, has stepped in, forbidding the racial discrimination and insisting that the 1866 treaty is still valid.   So now the tribe is up in arms (not literally, not like the old days), insisting that a nation has the right to determine who its citizens can be.  (I suspect that another dynamic here is a bitter election for tribal chief.  A recent vote was nearly a tie, and it was contested to the point that a new election is in the works.  I suspect that disenfranchising a block of voters might be to one of the candidates’ advantage, though I don’t know who.  And there may well be other issues.  I’m pretty much out of touch these days.  I’d be glad to hear from any Cherokees of any color who might be reading this.  Feel free to correct me.)

Cherokee Indians: We are free to oust blacks – US news – Life – msnbc.com.


CLOSE | X

HIDE | X