The World Beyond the Wardrobe

On the day C.S. Lewis died—November 22, 1963—the world was hardly in a position to take notice.  The assassination of an American President, after all, had clearly and shockingly co-opted everything that day, including even the ending of a life unsurpassed for its sheer breath catching lucidity in defense of ordinary Christian belief.  But history, as T.S. Eliot reminds us in Gerontion, is full of “cunning passages, contrived corridors.”  We needn’t be surprised, therefore, a half-century later, to find the world increasingly interested in the life and literary remains of this astonishingly gifted apologist for the Christian religion, the least of whose books, by the way, will have blazed more trails of the spirit than a thousand days spent traipsing along the now largely forgotten byways of the Kennedy New Frontier.

And, really, what survives of JFK once the myth of Camelot is peeled away to reveal the squalid undercoat of a life undistinguished in any way save for its squandered promise?  Memories of the Bay of Pigs debacle?  The grotesquerie of the Berlin Wall built on his watch?  The Kennedy mystique looks pretty tattered and forlorn from this distance.   But the impact of Clive Staples Lewis continues to be felt as, even now, unforeseen ripples are loosed in the wake of his passing, fifty years ago today at age sixty-four.

Lewis often thought of himself, he said, as a “converted pagan living among apostate Puritans.”  What he meant by that, I think, is key to an understanding of his life and character.   That he regarded himself as someone for whom nothing less than finding the Well at the World’s End would ever truly satisfy.   Nothing less, he was sure, could possibly meet the tremendous thirst of the human spirit, the sheer irrepressible thrust of man’s longing for God.  Never mind the forces of encircling secularity, which conspire at almost every turn to deny the truth of the human heart, they mustn’t be allowed to stand in the way of deep, deep desire.   “Man’s mounting spirit,” to use that lovely line taken from “The Caged Skylark” by Gerard Manley Hopkins, while it may only be found “in his bone-house, mean house” of fallen and contingent being, was nevertheless intended from all eternity to soar far beyond the stars.  We are, each of us, destined to commune with the living God himself.

“What more, you may ask, do we want?  Ah” says Lewis, striking the common chord of our humanity, “but we want so much more—something the books on aesthetics take little notice of.  But the poets and the mythologies know all about it. We do not want merely to see beauty, though, God knows, even that is bounty enough.  We want something else which can hardly be put into words—to be united with the beauty we see, to pass into it, to receive it into ourselves, to bathe in it, to become part of it.”

For all that the parched world with its vast, unrelieved and eviscerate soil seeks to dry up the spiritual juices, every finite creature yet remains in the grip of infinite and unquenchable desire.  We are pilgrims, in short, whose fate is to remain in a state of unhappy exile, strangely exercised by memories of a lost Eden, the wistful, half-remembered joys of which we long to recover.  Against this “wild prayer of longing,” the poet W.H. Auden rightly tells us, “legislation is helpless.”

And did Lewis find his way back at last, restored to the courts of the living God, the land where heart and flesh long to be, to recall the words of the Psalmist spoken at his funeral?  That, thankfully, is not our business to know.  Anymore than it is our task to separate the sheep from the goats according to some strict Talmudic reckoning of divine rectitude.  Our job, of which the work of Lewis provides moving and abundant testimony, is to search out as much Beatitude in this world as we humans will bear (learning, as the poet Blake put it, “to bear the beams of love”), all the while awaiting, like the children of Narnia on whom the favor of Aslan rests, the promised glory of the Lord.

Nowhere, it seems to me, are glints of that glory given greater or more sustained concentration than throughout the seven Chronicles of Narnia, a work whose countless felicities only confirm Chesterton’s dictum that fairy tales are really not meant just for children.  They are meant rather for people for whom the capacity to sit in wonder, to marvel and take delight (for no other reason than that the world, to quote Fr. Hopkins once more, “is charged with the grandeur of God / It will flame out like shining from shook foil; / It gathers to a greatness like the ooze of oil / Crushed…”), can hardly be said to exist at all.  People whose horizons are strictly bounded by their work, by structures overwhelmingly secular and sensate, are not likely to notice the numinous, not even were it to appear on nighttime TV.  But the realm of faerie exists primarily for them, to help them recover and renew a sense of vision appropriate to people who have been redeemed.  In such as these, writes Lewis, there is often awakened, “a longing for they know not what.  It stirs and troubles them, to their lifelong enrichment, with the dim sense of something beyond their reach and, far from dulling or emptying the actual world, gives it a new dimension of depth…. This is a special kind of longing.”

Although meant in this sense for adults, the Chronicles are mostly about children, quite ordinary ones in fact, who have been summoned to heroism in a strange land by a Golden Lion, where they meet and do battle with a cunning White Witch who has cast a terrible spell of perpetual winter without Christmas.  How Narnia eventually rids itself of the evil enchantment is the stuff of high fantasy, of which the resolution is finally theological, requiring the sacrifice no less of Aslan, the Innocent Lion, who will give his life for the sake of his friends to atone for the treachery of one of their number.

It is a story strewn, of course, with echoes and evocations of that Other Story, which, to paraphrase a line from the great J.R.R. Tolkein, there never was a tale told that men would rather find was true.  To go to Narnia is to discover once again, under the sign of art, the immense and sundering truth of that Tale, whose telling the men of our time have been for too long deaf and indifferent.

Regis Martin

By

Regis Martin is Professor of Theology and Faculty Associate with the Veritas Center for Ethics in Public Life at the Franciscan University of Steubenville. He earned a licentiate and a doctorate in sacred theology from the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas in Rome. Martin is the author of a number of books, including Still Point: Loss, Longing, and Our Search for God (2012) and The Beggar's Banquet (Emmaus Road). His most recent book, also published by Emmaus Road, is called Witness to Wonder: The World of Catholic Sacrament. He resides in Steubenville, Ohio, with his wife and ten children.

  • Michael F. Lee

    Regis Martin is yet another who simply cannot seem to remember the passing of Lewis without trashing JFK; it must be some strange article of faith among the neo-orthodox Catholic writers.

    • Guest

      The problem is the shallow people worship JFK as some type of god. The man trashed himself.

    • Adam__Baum

      Apparently, pointing out that manufactured imagery of “Camelot” was an elaborate fantasy is “trashing”. Better we have nuns scolding one of my Mother’s cousins for having the audacity to wear a “Nixon” button in 1960.

      We need more “trashing” of pretentious politicians, better contemporaneously than a half century after their demise.

    • hombre111

      Maybe it’s because he was not there, at least as an adult, to witness the impact of his personality on the U.S., and the usual conservative howl whenever a non-conservative is in the White House. And as a conservative, Martin would alsol resent Kenney ending the generations long neo-slavery the South imposed on its black citizens after the Civil War. But then, again, he was also not there to witness the noble struggle of Martin Luther King. But I would not trash JFK for his sexual misdeed. That merely disgusts me. But I would trash him for using lies and misrepresentations to get us into Vietnam to defend a fictional democracy. But oh… many conservatives still think Vietnam was a marvelous crusade.

      • Guest

        How do you know he was “not there”? What is his age? The worship of the Kennedy’s is sad and too common. We are very much a shallow people that like fluff and style more than reflection and examination. The Kennedy nonsense is a fine example of our shallowness.

      • Adam__Baum

        Oh please. I watched two different legacy media stories this past weekend where his commitment to civil rights was said to be timid and tepid, fearful of the Southern Democrats. Apparently, now that the Kennedys no longer have positions where they can exert undue influence on the FCC, the networks feel free to indulge something other than compulsory worship of POTUS 35.

        What’s interesting to me about the compulsory worship of MLK is how contemporary accounts of “black history” gives incredibly inadequate credit to people like Frederick Douglass, Harriet Tubman,
        George Washington Carver and so many others. How many schookids will learn that the term “the real McCoy” came from a man of African descent who invented a locomotive lubricator that was often copied but not really duplicated? We have to have movies like “Red Tails” and “42” to remnd people of the accomplishments of the Tuskegee Airman and Jackie Robinson, and there is almost no mention of other athletes like Woody Strode.

        I suppose it shouldn’t be a shock that you write that The Cuban Missile Crisis was is something conservatives supported with all their might, as if you had the foggiest notion of what conservatives think. Most conservatives think the CMC was mishandled at best. Hint: the sentiments of the fictionialized cinematic account where Jackie tells a young Caroline “your daddy is saving the world” isn’t it.
        One wonders if the Russians had any inside knowledge of Kennedy’s enormous physical or moral frailties and that’s what emboldened them.

        Of course, you would focus on political secular things, rather than how Kennedy cravenly “grabbed the ankles” before the Baptist ministers.

        http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=16920600

        How far we’ve come that fifty years ago, Protestants feared Catholic politicians would follow the pope, today they fear they won’t.

        As a final thought, of course Kennedy was a “flawed” President. They all are, and I’d like to dispense with they idea that they are anything but greedy, grasping, covetous and cunning individuals. That’s the rule, not the exception.

        • Art Deco

          and I’d like to dispense with they idea that they are anything but greedy, grasping, covetous and cunning individuals.

          There has been a secular decay in the quality of elected officials in my lifetime, but tarring all of them is de trop.

          • Adam__Baum

            The “secular decay” you note is largely the result of an observational bias we all face, that is as children, even we we aren’t fed the “George Washington owned up to chopping down the cherry tree” or “Honest Able once walked miles to return a penny” nonsense, it is only when we are adults that we have the capacity to see politicians in office.
            Just limiting one’s survey to just a few Presidents- one finds largely lionized individuals who have plenty of intitutes, schools and buildings dedicate to their momory (FDR, Woodrow Wilson, TR, and Andrew Jackson) to have exhibited a massive lust for power and dubious morality in acquiring, maintaining and executing it.

            • Art Deco

              Not so. There were a great many seedy characters at the state and local level (though some, like Richard Daley, were very decent human beings outside their occupational life).

              1. Federal elected officials were able to make and justify to their electorates difficult decisions. They no longer bother. Compare how the President and Congress handled fiscal policy in the five years after the war to how they failed to handle it during the Reagan years to their appalling behavior now.

              2. Federal elected officials fifty years ago were more impressive human beings. Their domestic lives were generally orderly (John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson being outliers). Many were combat veterans.

              3. The term ‘public service’ was not a punchline. John Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson were manifestations of decadence inasmuch as they were men of low character and had had scarcely any pre-political career. The same could be said (with qualifications) of Richard Nixon and Robert Kennedy as well. But for many of their peers, their life in politics was almost a step down. Herbert Hoover, Alfred Landon, Wendell Willkie, Thomas Dewey, Dwight Eisenhower, Stuart Symington, Barry Goldwater, Jimmy Carter, and (to a lesser degree) Ronald Reagan had all had long careers either demanding or lucrative or both before entering political life. Adlai Stevenson, William Scranton, Margaret Chase Smith, Hubert Humphrey, Eugene McCarthy, George McGovern, and Nelson Rockefeller certainly had a profession – something they could do and spent many years doing before entering politics. Compare them with their counterparts today.

              1. The President (lighter than air)
              2. Mitt Romney (capable and decent at home, opportunistic in politics).
              3. R. Santorum (truncated pre-political career).
              4. N.L. Gingrich (character defects, truncated pre-political career, issues).
              5. Ron Paul (more a publicist than a politician. Conceited goofball).
              6. John McCain (a careerist of sorts, has issues).
              7. M. Huckabee (OK)
              8. Hillary Clinton (bad character, and a terror to work for; skeezy pre-political career).
              9. John Edwards (sociopath – manifest as a lawyer and as a politician).
              10. John Kerry (mediocrity, with some qualifications)
              11. Howard Dean (clownish; substantively more impressive than most if you can get by the silly exhibits).
              12. Wesley Clark (OK)
              13. Alan Keyes (a publicist, not a politician)
              14. George W. Bush (various and sundry modest defects)
              15. Albert Gore (truncated pre-political career, secular characterological decay).
              16. Wm. Bradley (truncated pre-political career. questionable military service record).
              17. Robert Dole (careerist. issues. a terror to work for).
              18. M.S. Forbes (a publicist, not a politician)
              19. Patrick J. Buchanan (a publicist, not a politician).
              20. Ross Perot (capable man. issues)
              21. George H.W. Bush (capable man. opportunist. often clownish).
              22. Tom Harkin (truncated pre-political career. Jackass).
              23. Robert Kerrey (OK)
              24. Paul Tsongas (truncated pre-political career).
              25. E.G. Brown (issues)
              26. Bilge Clinton (truncated pre-political career. sociopath).
              27. Jesse Jackson (a harlequin with character defects).
              28. Richard Gephardt (opportunist. Truncated pre-political career. Tool of interests).
              29. Paul Simon (OK)
              30. Michael Dukakis (OK)
              31. Gary Hart (character defects).
              32. Walter Mondale (truncated pre-political career. tool of interests).

              • Adam__Baum

                If you read the political thinkers of the past, you realize craven pandering and powerlust have been with us forever.

                What’s changed is “us”. We tolerate much more moral turpitude than we used to, if JFK was as prolific an adulterer as has been speculated, it was clearly covered up. Gary Hart’s campaign of the 1980’s was killed by “Monkey Business”. Wilbur MIlls’ carreer ended with second issue.

                Today, I’m not sure if Obama clubbed a baby seal on live TV, that the hardcore supporters would acknowledge it as a failing.

                • Art Deco

                  I think you are neglecting that there are problems on the supply side and the demand side.

                  • Adam__Baum

                    Not at all, I subscribe to the premise that power tends to corrupt and absolute power tends to corrupt absolutely. After a century and half of centralizing and concentrating power, there’s more power to be had of course, and combined with the general debasement of morality, we now have the current mess.
                    Of course a good deal of it is the unwillingness to care by the vast throngs have been seduced by bread and circuses.

                    • Art Deco

                      After a century and half of centralizing and concentrating power,

                      No. The federal government remained quite circumscribed in its dimensions until 1933. Even during the Roosevelt Administration the dimensions of federal expenditure were contextually far more modest (typically 6.5% of gdp) than they were a generation later.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      Sorry Art, the Baby steps where taken with Lincolns’s first income tax,(culminating 50 years later with Article 16) the ICC and the first Roosevelt. . It took a while until there was an FDR who had the disposition and the convenient crisis to push it. I agree it took off in the 1930’s, but the launch pad was under construction for decades prior.

                    • Art Deco

                      Nope. Regulatory agencies consume little in the way of resources and their federal character merely reflected the increasing scale of economic activity.

        • Guest

          Well said. If the Kennedy brainwashing nonsense is not a perfect example of style over substance than nothing is.

        • hombre111

          As one who was there, I can remember the southern rage against Kennedy and our fear when he went to Texas.

          • Adam__Baum

            And he was killed by a committed leftist. You were so busy judging people you disagreed with, but failed to consider the possibility that it would be one of your own who pulled the trigger.

            Your proximity doesn’t seem to have the slightest effect on producing a mature judgment about any political matter.

            • Art Deco

              A committed leftist who had spent two-thirds of his life elsewhere, had scarecely a trace of a Southern accent, and who had returned there with his Russian wife just a year or so earlier.

            • falstaff77

              “And he was killed by a committed leftist.”

              Heresy! Kennedy was killed by Dallas, Slate and the like still say so today. Kennedy was killed by the angry right, by the, um, what was I saying?

          • Art Deco

            Dallas, Tarrant, Denton, and Collin Counties in Texas were carried by Lyndon Johnson by a large margin in November 1964. Collin County was also carried by John Kennedy in 1960. H8ters!

      • Art Deco

        Many conservatives conveniently ignore the way the South imposed a new
        version of slavery on its black citizens after the Civil War, and
        enforced it with their laws and brutal terror.You have to be my age to
        have witnessed the bloody reaction of the South to Martin Luther King
        and the civil rights movement.

        The Southern Poverty Law Center, not an agency which would low-ball such a metric, lists 38 deaths over a period of 15 years in a region of the country which had over 50 million people living in it. Roughly 8 of the 38 cases they list appear to be common crimes – neither perpetrators nor victims were involved in local political agitation. Some other cases are dubious as well (motives of’ l perpetrators uncertain, or circumstances provide mitigating circumstances – e.g. three people shot by police during a student riot in South Carolina in 1968 and a man killed lying down in front of a bulldozer a la Rachel Corrie).

        That’s not what ‘bloody reaction’ looks like.

        Segregation constituted a ‘new version of slavery’ only to people who are not the least bit conscientious in their use of terminology.

        • hombre111

          Clearly, you were not old enough to witness the Civil Rights Struggle first hand. It was bloody and merciless. Unfortunately for the South, the TV cameras were on hand to show a lot of it. In the north, in my red neck state, it was not safe for a priest to preach from the pulpit about civil rights. Looking back, we remember only what we want to remember.

          • Adam__Baum

            It’s not safe for parishoners listening to you preach, as you clearly regard anyone who disagrees with you with withering contempt, evidenced by your repeatedly have called them “rednecks”, except when they send their green.

            • Benjamin Warren

              Kennedy was tyrannical. He ran a budget deficit while the uppermost tax rate was 70%. St. Thomas Aquinas condemned this sort of thing in the Summa and in De Regno. St. Augustine condemned it, and the natural law condemns it. As for Kennedy’s “personal” foibles, I suggest Paul Johnson’s history of the US. Harold MacMillan said that watching the Kennedys get the White House was like “watching the Borgias take over a respectable north Italian city.” nuff said.

              • Art Deco

                Kennedy was tyrannical.

                Let’s try to stay sane here.

                He ran a budget deficit while the uppermost tax rate was 70%.

                Tax collections will vary according to what’s up in the macroeconomy and you may run a deficit no matter what your marginal rate structure is if the economy is producing below about 80% of capacity. It is true that the habit of the President and Congress approving deficit spending absent one of four serious reasons (banking crisis, prolonged production below capacity, general mobilization, or business recession) began in 1961, but the scale of it during the Kennedy and Johnson Administrations (deficits on the order of 0.8% of gdp) was modest compared to what came after (deficits on the order of 2.6% of gdp)

                • Benjamin Warren

                  No, unfortunately you’re a menace to civil society and you ought to be threatened with excommunication.

          • Art Deco

            Clearly, you are innumerate.

            Over the period running from 1969 to 1998, some 3,000 people died in political violence in Ulster, a territory which had at that time a population which averaged some 1.6 million. Over the period running from July 1936 to March 1939, about 600,000 people died during the Spanish Civil War, a country which had then 31 million inhabitants. That sirs, is blood. A death toll of 30 over a 15 year period in a territory with 50 million people in it, not so much. While we are at it, the Detroit riots in July 1967 left 42 people dead.

            As for the TV cameras, c’mon. The Chief of Police of Selma, Ala chases after some late middle aged woman with a nightstick and it’s national news and they show the archival footage on PBS every few years. The Commissioner of Public Safety in Birmingham, Ala has some adolescents doused with a fire hose, and it’s national news and all over the photojournalism outlets of the day. You did have a perfectly grisly act of arson in Anniston, Ala in May of 1961 and a riot on the campus of the University of Mississippi in October of 1962, but that was as bad as it got as far as non-fatal violence.

            A sensible person could offer a critique of social relations and culture in the Southern United States ca. 1961. What that critique would not include and could not include would be the notion that political violence was a common-and-garden item in the South of that day. It was not. There had been quite a bit of mob violence in the South during the post-Reconstruction era (most especially in Florida, the Deep South, and East Texas), but that was at its peak ca. 1893 and in almost monotonic decline throughout the 20th century. There was a bloc lynching of six men in Georgia in 1946 and scarcely any thereafter. All of that antedated ML King’s public career.

            The irony of it all is that the project of comprehensively integrating the black population into the common life (or at least allowing a more agreeable state of affairs in a country with parallel cultures) came completely a-cropper. You had the pathologies of the professional-managerial bourgeoisie, the pathologies of the black bourgeoisie, and the pathologies of the black rank and file and all of these pathologies proved mutually re-inforcing. The response of the articulate people in this world was to stick ordinary wage-earners with the bill and the blame.

            New York City achieved some success after 1993 in improving quality of life, but now the feckless electorate therein has turned the government over to a fool who wants to throw it all away (in the name of fairness). These pathologies have not departed the scene.

      • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

        Pray tell, what is it about the Cuban missile crisis that you “hold against Kennedy” ? Was it fascistic of him to deny Fidel a few megatons to go along with his imprisonment of poets and journalists, and summary executions? And what lessons are we to derive from your reference to Vietnam? That the hundreds of thousands of boat people, millions streaming south, as well as the persecuted Catholics, were and are all just more fascists?

        • hombre111

          I sat with countless others in Seattle, numbly waiting to get blown to bits in our first world-wide nuclear war. President Kennedy was willing to take a few dozen million dead in our country, plus several dozen million more in other countries. As the Church has consistently taught, no nuclear war is morally justified, because all that will be left is a desolate world. Over what? The flawed system of capitalism verses the flawed system of socialism. Turns out, now that the history is finally being told, a nuclear war was prevented by a Russian admiral who over-ruled a decision to launch nuclear weapons by the captain of a Russian submarine. As they say, in the game of chicken, it is the sane person who blinks. Kennedy was not prepared to blink.

          As for the imprisonment and execution with people disagreeing with a regime, think of all the dictators the U.S. supported and still supports today. We spoke with a double tongue on these issues.

          As for Vietnam. Read “Fire in the Lake,” and learn about the lies and deception Kennedy used to get us into a disaster that killed millions, and left us discredited ever since. The impact of this ill-begotten war is still being felt today. The CIA took full credit for stirring up the fear that caused Catholics to flee from North Vietnam.

          • Art Deco

            Just to point out, VietNam was in a state of intramural civil war from 1946 to 1954 and again from 1959 to 1975, in addition to the violence done South VietNam by North VietNam. The United States was not the author of that.

            While we are on the subject of Kennedy, the census of American combat troops in VietNam averaged about 13,000 during the period running from November 1961 to February 1965. They were attached to and assisting South VietNamese units in attempting to fend off the Viet Cong.

            What’s interesting about you is that you cannot offer with any degree of precision a description of events occurring during your own lifetime and then invoke your age as granting you authority. All you do is give us a rendering of you emotional reactions to these events (with includes distorting them in their dimensions and significance).

            • Adam__Baum

              “All you do is give us a rendering of you emotional reactions to..”

              Leftist political sentiments are principally emotional reactions.

          • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

            My father was a Vietnam war veteran (as is Dr. Martin, by the way) and your knowledge of that conflict is less than zero. If ever there was a noble cause worth fighting for, it was the political and religious freedom of the Vietnamese people, both of which do not exist at present. I think your numbness in Seattle must have been due to something other than nuclear anxiety.

            • hombre111

              I was a young priest when the war went into overdrive. I watched the conflict unfold and followed it closely, day by day. Kennedy set up a stooge government and called it a democracy worth defending. That illusion didn’t last long. The whole thing was smoke and mirrors and ended up costing the US so many lives and the respect of its own young people. It played a major role in the 60’s and 70’s uproar. As I said, read “Fire in the Lake,” which was one of the best books to analyze the disaster.

              • Art Deco

                South VietNam had an authoritarian administration from 1954 to 1963 superintended by Ngo Dinh Diem. Please note, constitutional government in the Far East was during the period running from 1945 to 1975 quite atypical and the mode only in Japan, the Malay states, and the Philippines (though Burma, South Korea, and Singapore made an attempt at political pluralism for a run of years); the Philippine political order was rancid with corruption and the Malay states have long been run by an impregnable political machine.

                I am sure one could offer a critique of the Diem and his brother, but calling him a ‘stooge’ without noting that the North VietNam government was Russian/Chinese client is less than thorough and transparent. That aside, Mr. Kennedy was not in office in 1954 when Ngo Dinh Diem was installed (consequent to the Geneva Accords).

                In the eventuality, the Kennedy Administration had rather conflictual relations with Diem and eventually engineered a coup which replaced Diem and his brother with a military board. This took place just three weeks before Kennedy was assassinated and South VietNam had a series of incoherent provisional administrations for the next several years.

                There were competitive elections held in South VietNam in 1966 and 1967, but Kennedy was deceased at that time.

                Yes we did notice your memory is rather…haphazard.

                • hombre111

                  Way to tell a great story. Too bad it is baloney. The war started when the U.S. and the West betrayed (again) an ally. They talked Ho Chi Min and his anti-French geurrillas into

                  • Art Deco

                    You are both ignorant of the subject matter and arrogant to boot. We cannot fix that.

                    • hombre111

                      Read my response, below. I have other things to do. A deanery meeting in an hour, and I have to get into my priest suit.

                    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                      Don’t forget the floppy shoes. The children would be disappointed.

                    • hombre111

                      They would say, “He wears sandals! Just like Jesus!”

                    • Adam__Baum

                      I guess the suit doesn’t make the man, afterall. Be sure to tell redneck jokes before the formalities

                    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                      It is amazing, isn’t it? One can actually imagine, all too well, what his poor parishioners must endure. We’ve all been through so many years of this baloney!

                    • Art Deco

                      We usually just get pap sermons, Oregon Catholic Press, mobs of eucharistic ministers, alter girls, and the cantrix diva with her hand in the air. The world according to Gar Alperovitz we usually miss out on.

                    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                      Well, I have very good Mass options at the moment, but I would not hesitate to attend a Mass at an SSPX chapel if the need arose. At any rate, I am finished with the Nervous disOrder “mass.”

                    • hombre111

                      Turned out to be a Thanksgiving dinner and a great time was had by all. Wonderful jokes and lots of mutual support. Most of these guys are a lot more conservative than I am, but we respect each other.

                  • Adam__Baum

                    “Too bad it is baloney. ”
                    Spoken by a man with as much expertise on the subject as Oscar Meyer.

              • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                Why would I read a book by yet another expert, who no doubt “followed the war closely, day by day” from someplace like Seattle? I spent 21 years in the military, have known countless war veterans, and have met a great many Vietnamese living in the US. I don’t recall anybody claiming that South Vietnam was a “democracy” in our sense of the word, but whatever it was, it was certainly worth defending, and its superiority to communism was ratified by the millions of refugees who streamed south throughout the war. Don’t you find it in the least interesting that nobody ever fled to North Vietnam, and nobody seeks refuge in Vietnam today? Your vision of the world is hopelessly ideological. Talk about smoke and mirrors!

                • hombre111

                  Ahh, I thought so. You lived within the military culture. When your only tool is a hammer, everything looks like a nail.
                  Today, tourists can travel freely to Vietnam, which calls itself communist but has welcomed the free market system. The domino theory, which was the main justification for the war, proved a bust. And so, what was all the killing about? It destroyed the lives of so many American young men. The Vietnamese, who died or were maimed by the millions, are amazingly forgiving. Can’t say so for right wing Americans. We lost that war because we did not have the moral high ground. The South Vietnamese were unable to get up the energy to really defend their joke of a country, and so it collapsed. But that is another story, based on the stories of young men I knew who fought in the war.

                  • Art Deco

                    Pity about the 7 digit death toll in Cambodia. Oh well.

                    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                      Oh, don’t you know that was Nixon’s fault? Yes, the bombing of NVA supply depos drove the Khmer Rouge out of their normally rational minds, and they decided on slaughter of their own people as the best response.

                  • Art Deco

                    It does not seem to occur to you that political violence was commonplace in VietNam before March of 1965 and after January of 1973 and had quite a number of perpetrators during the interval in between.

                    Glad to hear the ‘Domino theory’ was nonsense. I will let King Savang Vatthana know, and Long Boret as well.

                  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                    Tourists? Dennis Rodman tours North Korea, so it must be a worker’s paradise, eh? I certainly hope you are in a retirement home somewhere, reliving the glorious accomplishments of Vatican II.

                    • hombre111

                      No, I am doing my part to help out in the middle of the priesthood shortage, and rejoicing in Pope Francis, the first Vatican II pope, who must be giving the faithful readers of Crisis heartburn.

                    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                      I would say he is the “most” Vatican 2 pope, but certainly not the first. With his costumed Disney character masses in Buenos Aires, he almost out Vatican-2ed John-Paul the Great. But the man doesn’t give me heartburn. He is easy enough to ignore.

                    • hombre111

                      Ahhh. “He is easy enough to ignore.” The new Cafeteria Catholic makes his debut.

                    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                      That is as ignorant as it is risible. You know perfectly well what I am talking about. It is the buffoonery of this pope that we are free to ignore. If the pope believes that a beach ball and a soccer jersey are sacred objects to be placed on an altar, I am not obligated to emulate him.

                    • Art Deco

                      He did what?????

                    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                      Yes, on the return from his visit to Argentina (when he uttered not a word about abortion or gay “marriage” while several Latin countries were legalizing both) Francis placed these objects on the high altar at St. Mary Major. Google “St. Mary Major beachball” for numerous pics and videos. A truly Vatican II moment!

                    • hombre111

                      Thanks, Doc. Did you check the salad bar? And you have a choice between the roast beef and the chicken.

                    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

                      Hombre, please bit off another piece of sacred payote. You are starting to drift into consciousness.

                  • Guest

                    You think priests are “free” there now?

                • Art Deco

                  Frances FitzGerald was not an ‘expert’. She was a magazine journalist who has written mostly for leftoid outlets like the New York Review of Books. Her general worldview is conventional and recognizable in a certain subculture. You might call it ‘Cambridge bourgeois’. She actually spent not quite two years in VietNam over the period running from 1966 to 1973. She did not have any academic background in any aspect of that on which she was reporting. And no, her retrospective accounts reveal she was blithely unconcerned with the consequences of a Communist victory and nothing that happened after 1975 caused her to reconsider.

              • Adam__Baum

                “and I was pro-war, anti-commie.”
                And now, the exact opposite.

          • Art Deco

            As for the imprisonment and execution with people disagreeing with a
            regime, think of all the dictators the U.S. supported and still supports
            today. We spoke with a double tongue on these issues.

            Define ‘support’? Unless you think ordinary diplomatic and trade relations with scores of foreign governments is sinister or unless you fancy we ought to be running clandestine services (or sending in the Marines) ‘gainst scores of foreign governments, the complaint makes no sense.

            It was, however, a quite banal complaint during the late Cold War period, commonly offered by folk who also fancied we should roll over for Soviet Russia and who were forever prating about ‘intervention’. The contradiction never hit them. It is pretty amusing we get this line from you after your mash notes to Ho Chih Minh.

            As for today, who you got in mind? You cannot be referring to the residual communist countries; we have no influence over them. Military regimes, traditional autocracies, and post-communist autocracies are to be found today in Tropical Africa, the Arab World, Central Asia, and a few other loci like Burma. The political order in Africa is quite variegated, but equatorial Africa is deeply troubled six ways to Sunday and short of some sort of decades long MacArthur regency, I cannot figure what you expect occidental governments to do about it. Other than Kyrgyzstan, Central Asia has no history of constitutional government and their principal foreign patron (Russia) has no interest in promoting that. As for the Arab world, that may be (culturally speaking) the world’s thinnest soil for constitutional development. The worst government’s there (e.g. the Ba’athist regimes in Syria and Iraq) were long antagonists of the United States. Most of the Arab monarchies are authoritarian, but these monarchies are organic developments and given the history of the last 30 years there is little reason to believe that a successor regime would improve upon them.

            • hombre111

              Two examples: Saudi Arabia, which has been our favored ally in the Mideast. Real religious persecution for Christians there. And now Egypt, with its billion dollars in foreign aid, which has become a place of misery for Coptic Christians.

              • Art Deco

                We have no treaty of alliance with Saudi Arabia. We have an embassy and consulates in Saudi Arabia, there is trade between Saudi Arabia and the United States. Occasionally, we sell their military equipment. They buy on the international market because they do not have much of a domestic aerospace industry. From 1990 to 2002 we had a modest garrison stationed there to protect the country from Iraq. The number of troops in that garrison averaged about 6,000.

                The Saudi monarchy is antique. It dates from the early 19th century in the Nejd and was an organic development of tribal politics in that area. The Nejd and the Hijaz are two parts of the world which were never dependencies of any European power. That legal codes in Saudi Arabia are severe is a function of the mores of the society in which they subsist. There are (last I checked) about 14 capital sentences carried out in Saudi Arabia in a representative year. In a country which has shy of 300 homicides per year, this does not constitute promiscuous use of that penalty. The country is authoritarian, but it always was. What are you expecting the U.S. government to do (and why does Ho Chih Minh have your indulgence and not King Fahd?)

                Again, the history of political developments in the Arab world over six decades give one pause that there is any improvement to the Saudi monarchy waiting in the wings. The deposed monarchs of Egypt and Iraq and Iran were all replaced with fascist governments which have caused oceans of misery.

                As for Egypt, did you miss the sequence of events over the last three years? Constitutional government is not sustainable in Egypt. Full stop. Some societies are like that, for periods short and long.

          • Glenn M. Ricketts

            No offense Father, but isn’t all of this just a little more complicated than two equally flawed social systems?
            As for supporting dictators, doesn’t international relations often force us to swallow some bitter pills? Do you think it was wrong, for example, to join an alliance with the USSR and its murderous leader Stalin during WW II?

            • Glenn M. RIcketts

              Sorry everyone, I didn’t look carefully enough, and thought that my first posting didn’t post.

          • Glenn M. RIcketts

            Father, no offense meant, but wasn’t the Cold War – and the Cuban missile episode – a little more complicated than a senseless rivalry between equivalently flawed social systems?
            As for supporting or tolerating certain dictators, doesn’t international relations frequently force us to swallow some pretty bitter medicine? You wouldn’t argue that we were wrong to form an alliance during WW II with the USSR and its mass-murdering dictator Stalin, would you?

            • hombre111

              mmm I was about ten when the Cold War started. As a red-blooded American, I was against the godless communists. But as generations went by and trillions were wasted plus millions of lives lost in surrogate wars in the Third World, I began to see that it was about who was #1. We are. We won. And now??? We have to find new enemies to justify spending more on weapons than the next thirteen nations put together, eleven of whom are our allies. This Sunday, we will read about beating swords into plowshares. 2700 years have gone by and Isaiah’s vision remains unfulfilled. I have become convinced that the world cannot end until that prophecy finally comes true. We might have a few millennia to go.

              • Glenn M. Ricketts

                Thanks Father, and I hope you had a good Thanksgiving holiday.

                But that doesn’t really address my question, does it? Anyway, isn’t most of our national wealth derived from automobiles, T-shirts and cd’s – consumer goods, that is – rather than weapons? Remember that most of the military budget has nothing to do with tanks, ships or bombs -the all-volunteer army costs a lot more, since the troops have to be trained, clothed, housed, fed and pensioned. The old “military-industrial complex” argument has always been superficially attractive – see for example the Nye committee hearings back in the middle 1930s, investigating why the US got into WW I – but it doesn’t bear up under closer scrutiny.

                As for the Cold War, I’ll still go with George F. Kennan’s 1947 assessment: the USSR, then at the height of its Stalinist phase, was and ideological and geopolitical phenomenon that was inherently hostile, and we could not expect easy or normal relations with such a country until it evolved into something else. Recall that, as Kennan proffered this advice, the US had disarmed with incredible speed and withdrawn from Europe almost immediately after the end of WW II. Stalin could hardly have been threatened by that, so why was he so increasingly hostile? As philosopher and Social Democrat John Dewey had warned just prior to the Teheran conference in 1943, FDR should bargain hard with Stalin then, since he still needed us to help defeat Hitler. After that, we’d find him much more difficult to deal with, and would get very little from him. He was right then, and so was Kennan in 1947. It was the Soviet system and its ideological features that mad the Cold War inevitable, not an American need for enemies.

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  • John O’Neill

    Lewis, Tolkien, Chesterton, Belloc, Waugh ,Muggeridge, et al. ; so many deeply spiritual literary giants that Catholic England produced in the twentieth century. One speculates on the dearth of good Catholic writers from the American culture of the same era. Great article and most inspiring.

    • jhmdeuce

      “Lewis, Tolkien, Chesterton, Belloc, Waugh ,Muggeridge, et al. ; so many deeply spiritual literary giants that Catholic England produced in the twentieth century.”
      All Catholics save Lewis. Sorry, Anglican isn’t even close.

  • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

    I too am currently writing an essay about the events of Nov. 22, 1963, and for my money, JFK was not even the most important person killed by Oswald on that dreadful day. Listen to what J. D. Tippit’s son said about the slain Dallas police officer in an interview last year:

    “Now 63, Allan remembers his father’s face and love, ‘the things we did together and how he liked being with us. He was a man you absorbed good values from: You don’t steal. You don’t lie. You don’t cheat. And I learned about God. He would talk about the Bible, read verses,’ said Allan. … ‘I was fortunate to have had him as long as I did.’”

  • Michael Newhouse

    I find it sad that so many “conservative Catholics” are so eager to buy into the gossip about Kennedy’s infidelities (that’s all it is; there’s no evidence; it’s pure smear by insinuation…and not that insinuation has been accepted as fact).
    I fear it is nothing more than partisanship infecting the Church. Kennedy was a Democrat (hock and spit) and related to that uber-Democrat Ted Kennedy…so we must hate him and revile him and believe any negative libel against him.
    But we should remember that Jack was a Democrat back when almost all Catholics were Democrat (southerners too), just as today most are Republican. The Democratic Party protected Catholic workers in the north. And Kennedy was a serious and church-going Catholic, devoted to his wife and children and faith and principles. There don’t seem to be any such politicians now on either side of the aisle.
    We would do well to have his like again.

    • Guest

      Are you serious?

    • Adam__Baum

      I find it sad that so many liberal “Catholics” are so eager to refute the possibility of Kennedy’s infidelities (there’s no chance to have absolute proof, but it there’s enough evidence (“fiddle” and “faddle”. Mimi Alford, et al) to consider it as possible, if not likely.

      I fear it is nothing more than partisanship infecting the Church. Kennedy was a Democrat (hock and spit) and differed somewhat from that uber-Democrat Ted Kennedy…so we must love him and revere him and believe any positive spin about him.

      But we should remember that Jack was a Democrat back when almost all Catholics were Democrat (southerners too), just as today most are Republican.

      The Democratic Party organized Catholic workers in the north. And Kennedy portrayed a serious and church-going Catholic, devoted to his wife and children and faith and principles. There don’t seem to be any such politicians now on his side of the aisle.

      Would we do well to have his like again?

      • Michael Newhouse

        I am not liberal. And it’s entirely possible that Kennedy was unfaithful. But I refuse to listen to gossip and give it credence. That’s charity.
        I do no lionize Jack. Nor do I demonize him. He was a man of his times, good and bad. Again, we should be charitable in our dealings with all, especially the dead.
        Your 1957 quote only shows that he understood the basics of wage supply-and-demand…and admitted the reality. Rather than calling up “down” and creating fictions…as most politicians today do.
        Republicans hardly have a claim to family and fidelity nowadays. (F)Lying to South America to see your mistress…and then refusing to resign? I’m tired of our so-called “leaders” and their rampant hypocrisies. Let’s not make it worse by trying to paper over them or pretend that one side is better than the other.
        Christ expects more from us.
        http://www.thedailybeast.com/articles/2010/03/30/which-party-has-more-sex-scandals.html

        • Guest

          No gossip, but fact. Facts are stubborn things.

          • Michael Newhouse

            There has been no corroborated facts about his alleged infidelities. No DNA. No journals or letters. Not even strong circumstantial witnesses. It is all hearsay and gossip. As Christians, we must reject such slander and refuse to listen to it. It is a grave sin against charity.

            • Guest

              You have first hand accounts of people who were there. Still alive today. Your standard is one that would make almost everything from history “gossip”.

              Do you think we landed on the moon? Or, is that a conspiracy?

              • Michael Newhouse

                No so. If you look at their allegations fairly, it’s all hearsay and gossip. Others attest that he had no affairs. In light of such inconclusion, we must err toward charity.

                • Art Deco

                  By the way, Mimi Alford (a.k.a. Mimi Fahnestock) was identified 11 years ago by the historian Robert Dallek. She offered many years later her personal account of how that went down. Literally. The President’s bedding of the 19 year old Miss Alford included pimping her to his aide David Powers.

                  • Guest

                    And that is but one example. There is no need to defend the obvious. To deny the truth is nothing but ideology.

                • Guest

                  If you look at the evidence fairly no one who is intellectually honest would claim it is “gossip”.

            • Art Deco

              Sorry chum. There are reams of biographical literature as well as Judith Exner’s congressional testimony.

            • Adam__Baum

              You do not know what hearsay is.

              Mimi Alford has made several charges, inter alia, that JFK deflowered her on his wife’s bed, that he “lent” her to Dave Powers and watched, and had her regularly brought to the Whitehouse to engage in an ongoing extramarital affair.

              You might take the position that you need corroborating evidence to believe such charges, but it is not “hearsay”, since it is a first party account.

              • Art Deco

                There was an account (referenced by Paul Hollander in his writings) of a conversation between Lillian Hellman and someone else in her social circle in which he made reference to the hundreds of thousand of dead bodies in Soviet Russia during the Great Purge a decade or so earlier. Her reply was, “Prove it”.

                • Adam__Baum

                  Which is why she was a featured character in Paul Johnson’s book “intellectuals”. As we all know, a death is a tragedy, a million deaths are a statistic (and open to denial).

              • Michael Newhouse

                True. She’s making a claim, but it hasn’t been corroborated by any other parties. Given the outlandishness of some of her claims, I find her suspect.

                • Adam__Baum

                  Outlandishness is not discretable, but you are in the Cult of Camelot and you will find nothing persuasive.

                • Art Deco

                  She’s making a claim, but it hasn’t been corroborated by any other parties.

                  There was enough documentary and testimonial evidence that Robert Dallek was able to identify her a decade before her published account appeared.

        • Adam__Baum

          So, now the gossip is “entirely possible”.

          If you think I’m going to defend Mark Sanford, you are crazy. I don’t trust POLITICIANS (of any party).

          My 1957 quote shows he was using the minimum wage to prevent companies from moving from the high cost high tax states to other places. It was pure politics, it had nothing to do with principles.

          The ugly reality of the Kennedys is that they coveted power, just as the Bushes, the Gores and all the other political families do.

          • Michael Newhouse

            All gossip is possible. It’s also possible that Kennedy was really a woman dressed as a man. But I’m not going to listen to such rubbish.
            There is a principle at stake: to prevent companies from exploiting cheap labor.
            I don’t know that the Kennedys “coveted power”. That’s a moral judgment of their collective souls that would be wrong for me to presume.

            • Guest

              Frankly, your position is childish. There is no evidence Kennedy was a woman. None. There is much evidence he was morally incorrect. We do not judge his soul, but we ought to judge his character as that is central to any position of power and authority.

              • Michael Newhouse

                Intentionally so. I was using a silly example to illustrate.
                I don’t see the evidence. I see confirmation bias. People who want to believe bad things about him will find the evidence they want.
                No, as Christians we aren’t to judge people…we can’t get around that by splicing character from soul. That’s just finding a loophole to judge.
                I have yet to hear credible evidence of his philandering or ‘moral depravity.’ Innocent until proven guilty.

                • Adam__Baum

                  But you judge Alford as a liar. Inncent until proven guilty is a courtoom disposition and we aren’t in a courtroom. Are you expecting Perry Mason or Matlock to come in with a semen stained dress?

                  • Art Deco

                    Again, Mimi Alford was not an attention seeker. Kennedy’s dealings with her were uncovered by Robert Dallek when he was researching one of his books. It was only years after her name appeared in the papers that she offered her account.

                    That Kennedy was sharing a squeeze with Sam Giancana, boss of the Chicago Outfit, has been known since 1975 and attested to in Congressional testimony.

                  • Michael Newhouse

                    I don’t judge Alford. I don’t even know her.
                    Again, to believe anyone’s stories about someone else and to use them to judge that person’s character is a form of gossip and is a sin against charity.
                    We are so inundated with intimate details that we have completely lost all sense of decorum or any sense of the sinfulness of gossip.
                    We aren’t in a courtroom and it’s not our job to convict anyone.

                    • Adam__Baum

                      You called her claims “outlandish”. That’s a judgment. If it’s not our job to convict, it’s not your job to defend.

                      You already exposed yourself when you called her claims “hearsay” and “gossip”.

                • Guest

                  You do not want to be convinced regardless of the facts or the truth. The problem is not proof but your unwillingness to see reality.

            • Adam__Baum

              There is a principle at stake: to prevent companies from exploiting cheap labor.

              No it’s not. Preventing the movement of companies from places of high labor costs to places of low labor costs prevents the resolution of wage rate disparities.

              Are you for creation of public policy that tends to create and increase inequality or just as poorly informed about labor economics as courtroom procedure?

    • Art Deco

      chuckles.

    • Art Deco

      I would refer you to Thomas Reeves A Question of Character, but I tend to doubt you are educable on this question.

      • Michael Newhouse

        Insulting me reveals your character.

        • Art Deco

          Since you are in the business of denying well attested facts about John Kennedy’s habits and dispositions (for whatever reasons you have), you should not expect to be treated as anything but a harmless crank.

          • Michael Newhouse

            To treat anyone with such contempt…even if they ARE wrong…is a grave sin against charity. I admire your obvious intelligence, but it does not give you license to be prideful. Beware.

            • Art Deco

              Poor little diddums.

            • Adam__Baum

              Did it occur to you conservative Catholics might find your inclusion of quotation marks about those two words and you rassertion that suspicion of Kennedy’s morality was mere calumnous “partisanship” to be contempt, a “grave sin against charity” and bearing false witness against your neighbor?

              I am reminded of my late grandmother’s saying about tossing stones from glass houses.

              • Michael Newhouse

                The quotation marks were used to denote a particular label that many use. I have no problem with people being suspect about Kennedy’s morality – my problem is with them judging him so harshly based on gossip. Why are so many “conservative Catholics” so hateful toward our only Catholic president? I imagine that they place their allegiance to party over the call to charity (or to loyalty to a fellow Catholic). That is the definition of partisanship. I insulted no one, judged no one…only made fair, reasoned objections. With no contempt or sneering or name-calling [see Art Deco’s remark below] or lack of charity. If anyone finds that contemptuous, well…they can claim to do so, but that doesn’t make it so.

                • Art Deco

                  Why are so many “conservative Catholics” so hateful toward our only Catholic president?

                  Hateful? No, we are just alienated from a man with a grotesque case of satyriasis who hailed from a family noted for competitiveness, ambition and lack of scruple.

                  That you pig-headedly refuse to acknowledge what has been a matter of public record for 38 years is your problem.

                  • Guest

                    I guess when one refuses to accept reality you think others are “hateful”. Too common and too disturbing.

            • Guest

              When I liberal starts talking about sin you know you have their back against a wall.

              • Michael Newhouse

                I’m not a liberal. But thank you for trying to label me so you can hate me.

                • Guest

                  Truth is hate to those who hate truth. The throwing around the word hate is too common among the shallow class.

      • Guest

        I think you may be correct.

    • John O’Neill

      I look to the son of God as my blueprint for life. In Revelation He is called the “Lord of Lords, King of Kings”; next to that title the man who wears the mantel of the presidency of the American World State is a mere pipsqueak.

    • Dr. Timothy J. Williams

      “Kennedy was a serious and church-going Catholic.” So, apparently, is Rembert Weakland. Which proves exactly nothing,

      • Art Deco

        Rose Kennedy was a serious and Church-going Catholic, as were the Shrivers. You might find someone squirreled away in the rest of the clan who was, but generally no.

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  • daisy

    C.S. Lewis was a Protestant. His relationship with Mrs. Moore was suspect and his marriage counts as adultery. I loved Lion Witch and Wardrobe but let’s not overdo it with Lewis. As for JFK, well it is generally known that except for the last three months of his marriage he conducted himself like a bull at a dairy farm.

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