The Jazzed-Up-Zombie Drug and Its Side Affects

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Everybody I know is hissing and spitting, carping and griping at one another.

I got out of the dentist’s office today (broke a tooth) and found a snotty text from a family member on my iPhone. Instead of shrugging it off, or, as the Scriptures suggest, giving a soft answer, I called them up and was snotty back.

It’s as if every person I’ve talked to in the past couple of days has been like an angry wasp looking for someone to sting, and now I’m catching the angry wasp flu myself.

Is it something in the drinking water? Or is it coming from our televisions?

Are we suffering from a societal case of the over-stimulated heebie-jeebies?

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We have had to put up with a lot of vicarious trauma in the past year, ranging from wealthy, gun-toting post-adolescent males who murder everybody they encounter, to killer weather and a President and Supreme Court who have decided that overturning the family structure on which our entire civilization is built is the neatest idea since Tom Sawyer convinced Becky Thatcher to go spelunking. The fact that the rest of us can see that these folks have no better road map than Tom did doesn’t seem to matter.

And, of course, there’s the economy. The stinking, stewing, going nowhere economy. Our “leaders” lie about the economy, just like they do most else. They’ve cooked the books on the statistics until those statistics are disconnected from the reality of the American people, and — dare I say it? — the economy they are supposed to report. Everyone ignores and will not admit that the reason we don’t have any jobs is that we exported them, along with our industrial base. A country that can’t manufacture it’s own goods is a vulnerable nation.

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Then, there’s the little matter of the government putting all of us — and I mean all of us — under surveillance to keep us “safe.” And our missing-in-action press can’t be bothered to ask who’s going to keep us “safe” from the government. Meanwhile the folks in Washington are scratching around, trying to find another war to get us into. It’s as if they fear peace; which, I think, they perhaps do. After all, where are the profits for the corporate war machine going to come from if we run out of wars?

Then, there’s Zimmerman and other nonsensical and utterly trashy means of controlling the populace. Watching cable news doesn’t inform you. It shuts your brain off by focusing it on trash, kind of like giving you a drug of some sort that puts you to sleep and makes you crazy, both at once — a jazzed-up-zombie drug that’s mainlined into our brains via the endless blab and no news on the cable news.

To top if off, the Pope resigned.

Now, don’t get me wrong. I am all in for Pope Francis.

But Popes aren’t supposed to resign. Popes are supposed to hang in there until the Lord calls them home. But the Pope resigned.

Is this why everybody is in such a lovely, lovely mood?

Have we reached a sort of midsummer trough because we are momentarily between disasters, and we’re sliding into disaster withdrawal? Has the media succeeded in hypering its audience into such a frenzy that even a few days of ordinary time have become unbearable?

I dunno.

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All I know is that everybody I encounter is double grouchy and seems to have a chip on their shoulders. They are weird and ticked off and they don’t know why. But as soon as some little something comes along that focuses their weird tickedoffness, they ram the snotty little comment maker we all have in the reptilian basements of our brains into gear and they are off.

Unfortunately for me, I hang with people who tend to be extraordinarily gifted at the verbal arts. That means that when the snotty commenter takes them over, they can come out with some really poisonous stuff. You can bleed for days from one of their barbs.

But even for them, with all their skills and extraordinary ability to make things seem to add up even when they don’t, the story doesn’t track. The rage outpaces the annoyance, and the arguments tend to negate the reasons they give for why they’re angry.

There’s something going on here. I don’t know what it is.

But I’m tired of it.

Book Review: Polemic Trying to be a Satire

The join in the conversation about Operation Screwtape, The Art of Spiritual Warfare, or to find a link to buy a copy, go here

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To be honest, I stopped reading Operation Screwtape about 20 pages or so before the end because I just found it too tedious to go on. That action (or in-action) highlights one of my two major criticisms of the book. It’s not interesting.

I’ll get to the other criticism in a minute, but I want to focus first on the not very interesting part. 

Operation Screwtape, by best-selling author Andrew Farley, is a frank imitation of the fictional technique C.S. Lewis used in his classic, The Screwtape Letters. The Screwtape Letters is a work of fiction in which a veteran demon named Screwtape attempts to instruct his protégée, Wormwood, in the methods needed to lead a new Christian away from the faith. It is illustrative satire at its best.

I wouldn’t compare Lewis’ book to this one except that the author invites such comparison by his choice of names and that one of the reviewers who made it to the book jacket says, “Operation Screwtape channels the creativity and wit of C. S. Lewis.”

That, in my humble opinion, is not true. Operation Screwtape has none of the creativity and wit of The Screwtape Letters. For starters, it does not have a story line. It does not have characters, unless you assume that anything that is written in the first person has a “character.” 

The Screwtape Letters is satire. Operation Screwtape, on the other hand, is polemic that claims to be satire. The target of this polemic is, as nearly as I can tell, organized Christianity. That’s fine, if you want to write it. There’s plenty of meat there. But it takes more than ironic expressions to make a good satire. 

The other problem I have with the book is what I think is it’s viewpoint. The viewpoint is clothed in the ironic way it’s expressed, so I have to more or less derive it. But it appears to me that the author is pushing his own brand of Christianity, which is divorced from the 2,000 year tradition of the institutional church. Again, I have no problems with him holding this viewpoint. I just don’t share it. 

My feeling is that Operation Screwtape has some good and valid points mixed in with an individualistic Christian teaching that, in at least some ways, flies in the face of what has been constant Christian teaching for 2,000 years. I am aware that many sincere Christians share the author’s beliefs. However, I can not recommend the book for anyone who doesn’t.

If you are not one of the “I love Jesus but hate the Church” crowd, there’s little here that would make it worthwhile to plow through this book. If the book was an interesting read, I could recommend it on that basis. For instance, Mark Twain’s Letters from the Earth uses the same device to attack Christianity. But it’s such a good read, that I wouldn’t hesitate to recommend it on its literary merits. If, on the other hand, Operation Screwtape advanced new ideas, or even old ideas with a new twist, it would be easy to recommend the book based on that. 

But I found it tedious to read and basically more of the same old stuff I’ve seen on many blogs and in essays and magazine columns. 

My advice is to get a copy of The Screwtape Letters and read it if you want satire of this sort. Or you might read Letters from the Earth and The Screwtape Letters back to back and compare them with one another. That would be fun. 

This book is not. 


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