The Christian Review 2016

Will America Last? — The 2016 Election

Deal W. Hudson
January 11, 2016

It’s tempting to say that the coming presidential election of 2016 is the most important in American history. What gives me pause is the number of times this has been said before, including by myself. But this time, I cannot help but believe it’s true. Why?

150419115856-01-april-isis-video-large-169Terrorism: A storm is gathering in the Middle East that threatens to spread throughout the world, but its perpetrators hate America above all. In a nuclear age, a single person supported by sophisticated, committed network of terrorists can kill millions at a single stroke. ISIS must be eliminated militarily before it can grow any larger. If you need convincing, read the history of Germany of National Socialism in the 30s.

Character: America is losing the unity of its national character. This began when immigrants no longer felt the necessity of being assimilated, starting with the learning of English. It’s one thing for the Hispanic population to reach 106 million by 2015, quite another if the majority of them don’t speak English. Rival languages have, and will, produce divided communities and cultures. Assimilation is not a nasty word demanding obedience, it’s the reasonable request of a nation whose character has attracted immigrants from around the world since its founding. That character must be preserved with care.

lgbt-600x576Family: When attitudes toward LGBTs becomes the moral standard by which we are all judged, something has gone terribly wrong in American culture. Here I distinguish between charitable acceptance of differences, and socially, and legally, enforced approval. Nothing is more fundamental to the well-being of human society than the health of families, created by the marriage of men and women. Of course, many marriages turn into train wrecks, and worse, but that’s no reason to give up on the norm. Just as it’s nonsense for a drunk to give up on sobriety because he can’t live up to it.

Lifespan-Development-Psychology-DSSTLife: America keeps killing its children at a rate of between 700,000 and a million each year, and its citizens are paying for half of those deaths through public funding of Planned Parenthood. America became the most admired country in the world following its decisive entry into both world wars and was handed the torch of freedom from a decayed, battered Europe. America took the lead in rebuilding both Europe and Japan, but at home began building a culture of death to “celebrate” its new affluence and prestige. Since 1973, the year of Roe, America has killed more children than any one of the genocides committed by Hitler, Stalin, or Mao — 57,762,169 dead.

Catholic writer Flannery O'Connor, 1924-64, at the time she published Wise Blood.

Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor (1924-64).

Manners: There’s a mystery in manners, as the Catholic writer Flannery O’Connor often talked about. One aspect of this mystery is the way manners both produce and express 0ur true values — manners bear values into the ordinary, everyday world of social conduct. Today it has become accepted that millionaire film stars will use the coarsest profanity on a public, televised stage while presenting and accepting awards for excellence. They use the privilege of their celebrity to show contempt for their audience, while indulging their egos with the equivalent of teenage flatulence. I can’t imagine Cary Grant, Audrey Hepburn, Ingrid Bergman, Spencer Tracy, Henry Fonda, et al publicly shaming themselves in such a fashion.

hillary-and-obamaFaith: Barack Obama is the first American president to scowl and wag his finger at America’s Christian citizens. Hillary Clinton would become the second. Obama has fought, and shown disdain towards, the orthodox people of faith from his first day in office when he repealed the Mexico City PolicyReligious institutions have had to seek relief in court from the federal laws that would require them sin against their God. Religious beliefs that won’t bend to accommodate the LGBT standard of morality are being fashionably scorned, while law and policy being shaped to bring those beliefs under the enforcement power of the state. Religious liberty is no longer celebrated but looked upon as the unconscionable excuse of a bigoted minority to “embrace diversity.”

The year after the end of WWI, the Irish poet William Butler Yeats wrote “The Second Coming” (1919). In this poem he describes the fracture of Western civilization, its break with the certainties of the past, the values and vision upon which the West was built over 3000 years. The first few lines suffice to explain:

Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939).

William Butler Yeats (1865-1939).

Perhaps the reader, like myself, read this poem in high school or college decades ago, and were told it reflected the confusion following the senseless slaughter in the trenches of WWI. In other words, just a period piece. Yeats’ words in “The Second Coming” have taken on a prophetic intensity as we near the 100th anniversary of its writing. Indeed, the “widening gyre” has widened to the point that all that I described above has come to pass, all of which are a consequence of a nation losing its “centre” and inviting “anarchy.”

The election of 2016 will have a direct impact on the direction of our nation, the fate of the national character, its families, the defense of innocent life, the people of faith, and our collective protection against ISIS terror. This is why I will do all I can do to ensure the message goes out to those who love America “under God” to vote against another eight years of war on the foundation of our country.

The Day a Red Bird Sang St. Thomas Aquinas

Deal W. Hudson
January 28, 2016

I was coming to the end of my first year as a college professor at Mercer University Atlanta. I was still a Southern Baptist though I had been wrestling with that affiliation since being introduced to St. Augustine at Princeton Theological Seminary.

SKC-1

The Danish theologian and philosopher, Soren Kierkegaard (1813-1855).

One of the greatest Protestant theologians, Soren Kierkegaard, had provided the base motif of my dissertation, a critique of Romanticism. But after dismantling the Romantic pretenses to spirituality, as I thought then, Kierkegaard had not offered me the tools to put my worldview back together. (The target of my dissertation had actually been my own pretensions.) Nothing much was left after seeing through the limitations of aestheticism and ethical earnestness.

What was left of the Romantic in me, however, still yearned to view the totality of things, the truth behind the appearances? This desire comported with my fledgling knowledge of the Catholic faith which had been acquired through the agency of two friends at Emory University where I spent three years getting my Ph.D. Like a Gothic cathedral, the Catholic faith appeared to teach the fundamental connectedness of things. Faith, rather than being a leap into the abyss, could be assisted by reason both before and after conversion.

That spring day I put a chair in the backyard under a bird feeder and went inside to find a suitable for a book to read and relax. I noticed the red spine of a paperback by St. Thomas Aquinas on the top shelf. It contained the Question 2, the Treatise on God, from the Summa Theologiae (Gilby trans.), which I had been assigned to read at Princeton but had failed to do. Feeling pangs of guilt, I took it down and decided to settle my debt with that class on Medieval Theology at Princeton.

It took me a while to realize that St. Thomas always started out stating positions he did not agree with, but once I got a handle on reading the article form I found him easier to read than I had anticipated. Then I got to the section in God’s goodness (ST 1a.2) and, specifically, to the question, “Whether all things are good by the divine goodness?”

I’ll be honest and say that this led me to think about myself and ask whether I was good. The tradition of Christianity I knew best did not have a very positive view of human nature. The propensity to sin — human fallenness — took St. Paul’s notion of carnality, in thinking and behavior, to its extreme. In practical terms that create a negative attitude towards oneself, especially towards one’s sinful practices.

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225-1274).

As I read through St. Thomas’s reply to his own question, I came to the final paragraph, “Everything is therefore called good from the divine goodness, as from the first exemplary effective and final principle of all goodness.” And as I read a red bird started to sing standing on the bird feeder overhead — it seemed as if the words of the Saint and the song of the bird merged into one. That day not only did I discover the source of my own good but I experienced a heaven-sent joy mediated by the beauty of this bird and the song.

What had stunned me was this: the goodness I possessed, and all creation possesses, could not be taken away from me, or destroyed by my own agency, even my sins and vices. It was good, St. Thomas says, added to my being by the Creator. Even the fallen angel, Lucifer, could be said to possessing goodness through he lives eternally separated from God. The connectedness of things was grounded in God’s own goodness which He chose to share with His creation.

Some might smile and think that the moment I describe was imagined, or was the product of young man struggling with his own penchant toward Romanticism, finally merging it with the teaching of a medieval doctor of the Church. I’m not given to mystical experiences, per se, but I’ll never doubt what was given me that day, a moment of sensual beauty and intellectual clarity that led me into the Church and rerouted my life completely.

I couldn’t let my Saint’s day pass without paying him tribute and expressing my gratitude.

Will Pro-Life Catholics Vote for Donald Trump?

Deal W. Hudson
February 21, 2016

After his impressive victory in the South Carolina primary, the GOP nomination of Donald Trump is very likely.  Marco Rubio may pick up some support from Jeb Bush’s overdue decision to leave the race, but Ted Cruz has established a national network of highly-energized Evangelical activists who are not wavering.

When and if Ben Carson bows out, his support will likely fall to Cruz, thus keeping Rubio from gaining very much of a lead.

Polling among Catholics nationally shows Trump to be the least attractive candidate among the GOP contenders. Trump polls 43% to Cruz 60%  and Rubio’s 65%. The recent testiness between Trump and Pope Francis will probably hurt him with a majority of Catholic voters while building some support among conservative Catholics disillusioned with the new pontiff.

There are several factors to consider regarding both turn-out and voting: 1) Would conservative, pro-life Catholics vote for Trump as a “lesser of two evils” when faced with Hillary Clinton or Bernie Sanders? 2) To what extent are conservative, pro-life Catholics infected by the same sense of tribulation that is fueling the Trump candidacy in the first place?

Anyone who follows pro-life Catholics on social media has seen quite a bit of talk about “not voting” at all if Trump is nominated.  If that threat turns out to be real, in large enough numbers, it will impact both voter turnout and grassroots organizing, both of which the GOP will need to win the White House in November.

But if enough conservative Catholic voters share the national unrest, the “Don’t Tread On Me” spirit of Trump supporters, both turn-out and campaign activism in the GOP might absorb the losses of some pro-life voters.

We’ve already seen serious and respected Catholic and Evangelical pro-life leaders mount a campaign to nominate anyone but Donald Trump. Their efforts in South Carolina may have helped Rubio catch up with Cruz, but far more likely it was the endorsement by Gov. Nikki Haley that moved a few percentage points of the vote.

If this campaign continues into more primary states it may drive the wedge even more deeply between pro-voters, both Catholic and Evangelical, and the presumptive GOP nominee for president, Donald Trump. This is an outcome that should be weighed carefully by those leading the charge against Trump against the outcome of Clinton or Sanders in the White House.

Trump has not claimed to be pro-life in the past, but he claims to be now, and he promises to sign a bill defunding Planned Parenthood. Skepticism towards Trump’s new position on abortion is warranted, and even some scoffing can be understood. Yet, on election day in November  Catholic voters will be faced with two choices.

One candidate will be resolutely pro-abortion and linked arm-and-arm with Planned Parenthood, NARAL, NOW, and EMILY’s List.

The other candidate, if it is Trump, will be someone who has declared himself a recent convert to the pro-life cause. A candidate who, since his change of mind, has continued to defend his position in the face of incredulous questioning from the liberal media and the pro-life community.

A Trump nomination will send the Catholic Left, who have no regard at all for saving the unborn, into a frenzy, calling Trump unfit for Catholic support on the grounds, not of abortion, but because of immigration, particularly his promise to build a wall on the Mexican border.  They will quote Pope Francis saying Trump is not a Christian, which is NOT what he said, and that he is “unChristian” for wanting to build a wall, which is what he did say.

In addition, a majority of US bishops will try to create every obstacle they can to keep the Trump campaign reaching Catholic voters. It will be ugly, a free-for-all among Catholic voters.

There’s no doubt in my mind how I will vote, as a pro-life Catholic.  To hand the White House over to the Democrats for another four, or eight, years will destroy our nation’s character for at least one hundred years.  This would be a disaster from which America might never recover.

Trumping Political Correctness

Deal W. Hudson
March 16, 2016

The sight of the rabble in Chicago forcing Donald Trump to cancel his appearance, coupled with the attack on Trump in Ohio, reveals the boil his candidacy has lanced on the face of America.  The boil has a name, “political correctness,” and millions of Americans eagerly support Trump as the man who doesn’t obey the PC rules as set down by the media and cultural elites.

Political correctness involves many things, but its core is a socially, and sometimes legally, enforced code of conduct and speech regarding primarily race, women, white men, education, sexuality, Islam, multiculturalism, and the Western tradition.

Notice I said conduct and speech because in a politically correct culture people find themselves thinking one thing and both doing and saying another. The experience of this duplicity leads to confusion, uncertainty, anger, and a sense of isolation. Woe to the high school students who openly object to the “normalcy” of homosexual acts or same-sex marriage. Or ask publicly why, for example, the British Romantic poets — Byron, Wordsworth, Shelley, and Keats — are left out of the curriculum in order to read the literature of “indigenous peoples,” Mexican immigrants, cross-dressers, or slave narratives.

 U.S. Secret Service agents detain a man after a disturbance at a Trump rally in Dayton, Ohio.

U.S. Secret Service agents detained a man after a disturbance at a Trump rally in Dayton, Ohio.

The ultimate aim of political correctness is mind control, the force-feeding of ideas about morality, history, and politics down the throats of people who fear being called out for non-conformity, or even worse, being held back in their careers for not fitting into the PC mold.

The politically correct, for example, would have enjoyed the 2016 Oscars with its “black lives matter” chorus of complaints, and agree with what the “snubbed” cinematographer Bradford Young said about the film industry:

“Here’s the deal: Most of us in the film community, across the board, work with people who we know, who we consider friends and family. If you use that as a barometer to look at the film world, it just shows you how segregated, xenophobic, sexist, racist and backward we are as Americans in terms of how we deal with one another. . . .”

Really? Then how did this country elect Barack Obama twice, and overwhelmingly so in the 2012 election?

The politically correct would also have applauded when the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences suddenly decided to review the diversity of its membership. The president of the Academy who, in fact, is African-American, Cheryl Boone Issacs, remarked:

“While we celebrate their extraordinary achievements, I am both heartbroken and frustrated about the lack of inclusion. This is a difficult but important conversation, and it’s time for big changes. . . . ”

I would guess that the preponderance of the 5,783 voting members of the Academy are predominately self-identified liberals and Democrats. Yet, dozens of African-American actors and directors, Spike Lee, in particular, openly accused Academy members of voting along racial lines. Yes, there were some voices raised in protest, such as Charlotte Rampling, but very few.  Almost all bit their tongues, in spite of the racist accusations, and actually applauded as they were receiving tongue-lashings from Chris Rock and Ricky Gervais.

I cite this example at length because it represents one of the latest and most outrageous examples of how political correctness brings even the very powerful to their knees. An accusation that should have been summarily dismissed as ridiculous was treated as truthful in the national headlines for several weeks before and after the Oscars.

Trump, I am sure, has his politically correct side, however, both his manner and bluntness represent an outspokenness, a willingness to say what’s on his mind, rather than revert to the duplicity of pleasing the elites. It’s not merely Trump’s positions on immigration, trade, Islam, or the defunding of Planned Parenthood that churn the pot, rather it’s his unruffled confrontation with the media, critics, fellow candidates, pundits, and protesters that raises their temperature to boiling.

The fact that Donald Trump is getting more airtime on TV and radio, and coverage in the print and digital media, than any other human being in the world, all the while unapologetically speaking his mind, is bound to create a cultural firefight. It’s not unreasonable to fear for Trump’s safety and that of his family.

You may not like much, or any, of what Trump says, but his plainspokenness (yes, it’s a word) harkens back to a trait Americans have always respected and held dear until the jackboots of political correctness took over the culture.

PS. Just as I finished writing this column, I learned that Ted Cruz partly placed the blame on Donald Trump for the riot in Chicago. I am stunned that he would express such a misjudgment. And I voted for him in the Virginia Primary.

The Son Is Risen!

Deal W. Hudson
March 27, 2016

Two of George Herbert’s poems appropriate to this day: “Easter” and “I Got Me, Flowers,” both published in The Temple: Sacred Poems and Private Ejaculations (1633).  Herbert, born in Wales, was an Anglican priest. Five of his poems, including the two below, were set to music by Ralph Vaughn Williams as “Five Mystical Songs” between 1906 and 1911. They are among the most beautiful in the sacred music repertoire. Here they are both powerfully performed by baritone Thomas Allen at the 2004 Last Night of the Proms.

Easter.

Rise heart; thy Lord has risen. Sing his praise
Without delays,
Who takes thee by the hand, that thou likewise
With him mayst rise:
That, as his death calcined1 thee to dust,
His life may make thee gold, and much more, just.

Awake, my lute, and struggle for thy part
With all thy art.
The crosse taught all wood to resound his name,
Who bore the same.
His stretched sinews taught all strings, what key
Is best to celebrate this most high day.

Consort both heart and lute, and twist a song
Pleasant and long:
Or, since all music is but three parts2 vied
And multiplied,
O let thy blessed Spirit bear a part,
And make up our defects with his sweet art.

I Got Me, Flowers.

I got me flowers to straw thy way;
I got me boughs off many a tree:
But thou wast up by break of day,
And brought’st thy sweets along with thee.

The Sunne arising in the East,
Though he give light, & th’ East perfume;
If they should offer to contest
With thy arising, they presume.

Can there be any day but this,
Though many sunnes to shine endeavour?
We count three hundred, but we misse:
There is but one, and that one ever.

Just Who Is “Us”?

Deal W. Hudson
April 15, 2016

Last week, I spoke to a group of pro-life leaders about the 2016 election.  I made the following remarks with the hope that the Trump and Cruz factions can eventually “kiss and make up.”

***

I’m going to address the question, “Who Is Us?”

In recent weeks criticism has been leveled at Trump for not being “one of us.” (I have deliberately left out a link to this criticism.)

I’ve used this phrase, but never publicly. Never as a public argument.

Now that I’ve seen it used this way, I am deleting it from my vocabulary.

Why?

Because I started asking myself just “who is ‘us?’” And, am I part of the “us” who speak this way about others not being “one of ‘us?’”

So I started making a list of questions about who could or should be called “one of ‘us.’”

Such as:

A woman who’s had an abortion?

A man who’s encouraged a woman to have an abortion?

A person who claims to be pro-life yet can’t talk about it coherently?

A person who accepts the ‘three exceptions”?

A person who claims to be pro-life but contracepts and defends it?

Persons with test tube babies?

Women with frozen eggs?

Adulterers?

Catholics divorced and remarried?

The rude, crude, and unattractive?

Male chauvinist pigs?

Anyone who’s been picked up drunk by the police?

Anyone who’s ever been to a strip club?

Or owned a strip club?

Those who watch porn?

The porn-addicted?

Pedophile priests?

Homosexual priests?

Unchaste homosexual priests?

Unchaste heterosexual priests?

Now, I want to pose a question about all of the above:

Are they “one of ‘us’” as long as they are not outed and their “offense” made public?

If out, do they cease being “one of ‘us?’”

If not out, do we think they are “one of ‘us’” but aren’t really?

If not out, do they think they are “one of ‘us’” but aren’t really?

Or do we wait for a prominent Catholic leader to tell us who is “one of ‘us?’”

Another way of answering the question is this:

The “us,” it seems, is who we are FOR.

And the not “one of ‘us’” is who we are AGAINST.

What if “us” accounts for only 20 or 30 % of voters? (Probably far less.)

What if the “us” makes political coalitions impossible? Winning impossible?

What if the “us” turns off even those who sympathize with “us?”

What if it being an “us” makes “us” look like “whited sepulchers?” (Matthew 23.27)

One final question:

If we were all stripped naked and standing before God, would anyone qualify to be “one of ‘us?’”

Because then all will be revealed, all will be outed. The hairs on our heads will be counted (in my case that won’t take long!).

I believe, and I think you will agree, that God has a different conception of “us,” and who belongs to Him.

It’s not based upon our sins, or whether they were made public while on earth, or our erroneous beliefs — He opens His arms to all who have learned to love Him.

By repentance and receiving forgiveness.

By growing through the trials and errors of life.

By learning from the just judgment of others and undergoing a continual conversion of the heart toward Him.

William Blake, Pilgrim Progress, c. 1824

William Blake, Pilgrims Progress, c. 1824.

In other words, A Pilgrim’s Progress.

That’s the only way I can make Christian sense of being part of an “us”: As a pilgrim among pilgrims who “for now we see through a glass, darkly; but then face to face.” (1 Cor 13.12)

PS. Since this speech, Pope Francis issued his post-synodal apostolic exhortation Amoris Laetitia. As I read it, I recognized the Holy Father was addressing the similar theme of how Catholics relate themselves to those who have committed or remain in, “objective” sin.

I Am About to Snap!

Deal W. Hudson
April 25, 2016

I am 66 years old, and I am about to snap.  Do you even need to ask, “Why?” As I watch our nation engrossed in a debate over the morality of bathroom selection, I cannot recognize the place where I was born, raised, lived my life.

I feel that I’m living in a foreign land, though I haven’t reached the point of weeping (Psalm 137), possibly because I am too angry.  But if the “stages of grief” hold true, it won’t be long before I acquiesce to depression and tears. But I will refuse the final stage, acceptance, and will choose to snap instead.

What form will my snapping take?  One well-known model is the character Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, from the film “Network” (1976). His rampage still resonates in our cultural memory, “I’m as mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore. . . .”

The continued relevance of Paddy Chayefsky’s screenplay  is uncanny:

A mad prophet is not my style, though watching the elegant Peter Finch devolve into a rain-coated Jeremiah (Jeremiah 33.10-16) has proven, to me anyway, unforgettable.

Another model, perhaps not so therapeutic, is the character, Bill Foster, played by Michael Douglas in “Falling Down” (1993), who “has passed the point of no return. . . .” (The screenplay was written by Ebbe Roe Smith.)

My form of snapping would not be violent, though I understand the rage of man barred from seeing his daughter on her birthday. Mine would be triggered by an overloaded sensibility under constant assault by our corrupt culture, where the standard of morality has been reduced to an individual’s view of whether biological males, who consider themselves female, can use the ladies bathroom.

I recently had a discussion with a gentleman from North Carolina who considered my support for the “bathroom bill” tantamount to racism. My response was laughter, simple laughter.  This was spontaneous, not pre-meditated.  The absurdity of defending gender-specific bathrooms just started me giggling, then came full-throated laughter.

Nietzsche’s Zarathustra spoke of the laughter that kills, but my daughter was closer to what the playwright Christopher Fry had in mind in “This Lady’s Not for Burning” (1948).

The main character Thomas Mendip is asked why he said, “For God’s sake, shall we laugh?”

He answers,

“For the reason of laughter, since laughter is surely
The surest touch of genius in creation.
Would you have thought of it, I ask you,
If you had been making man, stuffing him full
Of such hopping greeds and passions that he has
To blow himself to pieces as often as he
Conveniently can manage it… would it also
Have occurred to you to make him burst himself
With such a phenomenon as cachinnation?
That same laughter, madam, is an irrelevancy
Which almost amounts to a revelation.”

As Fry wrote in his widely anthologized essay on comedy, “Comedy is an escape, not from truth but from despair; a narrow escape into faith.” Comic overcoming, as opposed to Nietzsche’s laughter that kills, requires the kind of faith that transforms tragic circumstances.

When the Jews found themselves tragically ensconced in the “foreign land” of Babylon, they hung their lyres on willow trees. When they were asked by the captors to sing the songs of Zion, they answered, “How can we sing the Lord’s song in a foreign land?” (Psalm 137.4).

Perhaps my impulse to snap is another form of hanging up my lyre, refusing to sing the Lord’s song?  Or perhaps I will snap through the “narrow escape into faith” and find myself laughing and singing on the other side? If laughter can be an “irrelevancy/ Which almost amounts to revelation,” then, I say, bring it on!

Perhaps my laughter in the face of being called a racist was an act of faith. Why try to defend the absurd? Why try reasoning with unreason? It’s like trying to convince Dostoevsky’s Underground Man that 2 + 2 does not equal 5!

Perhaps I have already snapped and didn’t recognize it in the sound of my laughter.