Friday, August 31, 2012

Eastwood v. Obama

         A friend asked me if I thought Clint Eastwood was being disrespectful of the office of the President and if he (Eastwood) was sinking to the level of leftist tactics.
         In the spirit of the moment, here’s my answer:
         Eastwood’s tactic was deliberately understated.  Think how much worse it would have been if, say, he had Biden there to answer in person, or Obama without a teleprompter.
         Or, put another way, if this administration is afraid of the jibes from an octogenarian actor, how will it handle the ploys and attacks of Putin face-to-face?
         Or, put yet another way, maybe Eastwood should have had George W. Bush in the chair holding an Obama puppet, or an empty Obama suit, since he, not Obama, seems to be responsible for everything that happened in the last four years.
         Sure it's a bit disrespectful, but political humor always is. Compared to Bill Maher, Jon Stewart, etc., it was weak beer.
         And you'll notice that, in fact, Eastwood was not disrespectful of the office at all, but of the occupant.  Indeed, his humor was predicated on respect for the office and on the shocking difference in this case between the office and the office holder, whose meager achievements were notably unworthy of the office he holds and of the chair he occupies.  One expects more, much more, from the person in that high office.  Maybe we’d all be better off if, instead of occupying Wall Street, someone competent would have being occupying 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.
         Eastwood was just employing an old vaudeville tactic with his empty chair.  It's been done exactly this way for many decades.  The tactic is vaudevillian, not leftist.
         It’s in keeping with the comfort Tim Pawlenty offered to Obama the other night:  It’s OK; lots of people fail at their first job.

Thursday, August 30, 2012

Shrinking Texts: Hermeneutics under Freudian Auspices

Tis you that say it, not I.”
John Milton (quoting Electra)
“What could ever be written at all so carefully that it could never be twisted by an angry opponent into some sinister meaning?”
Erasmus (to Jacob Hoogstraten, the Inquisitor)
“If you give me six sentences written by the most innocent of men, I will find something in them with which to hang him.”
Cardinal Richelieu
A good friend of mine, a man who had mentored my dissertation on John Milton, once chided me for dismissing, out of hand, a book of Milton criticism written from a Freudian point of view. This book, as it happens, was written by the mentor of his dissertation on Milton. “You must not,” my friend said, “reject a book without ever having read it.”
That, of course, is perfectly reasonable advice. I accept it enthusiastically and with conviction—as a general principle. This rule, however, has exceptions. By their very nature, some books do not deserve this courtesy. Books that advocate a flat earth, for example, fall into such a category. So also do books of Freudian criticism. The burden of this chapter is to explain why I believe as I do, and in so doing to debunk Freudian hermeneutics by means of the methods and principles of Pilgrim Theology.
Simply put, I reject Freudian hermeneutics because I reject the Freudian conjectures upon which it is based. These conjectures tell us, for example, that dreams “mean,” and that they mean symbolically. Kings and Queens, Freudians say, represent fathers and mothers. Journeys represent death. Small animals represent brothers and sisters. Landscapes, gardens, fruit, and blossoms represent either the female anatomy or various parts of it. Furthermore, when these images appear in art (verbal or representational), the same exegetical and iconological deductions can be made concerning them.
I disagree.
Every schoolboy knows how easy it is to foist sexual overtones onto almost every sentence one hears in normal conversation, asexual though those sentences might actually be. If we put our minds to it, we can transform countless words and notions into sexual innuendo. When a young wit exercises his ingenuity in this way, and is brash enough (or disrespectful enough) to voice his indiscretions publicly, he usually succeeds only in embarrassing those around him and dis- crediting himself. We who hear him know that his perverse projections are merely that — projections. They have no real bearing on the original speaker or on that speaker’s language, character, or mo- tivations. We hear such indiscreet interjections and dismiss them, (if our standards of morality and of social decorum are not too severely offended) as the immaturity of youth. When he is older, we hope, he will put away childish things.
In some portions of academia, however, such indiscreet interjections are called Freudian hermeneutics and are thought to be scholar- ship. Freudian interpreters, after all, like some teenage boys, are experts at creating double entendre — with someone else’s words. This, they tell us, is what the writer really meant, whether he knew it or not. When, for example, John Milton employs latently sexual images, Freudian critics say, it is evidence of Milton’s “predicate thinking,” that distorted form of thinking which confuses two roughly similar objects or actions. Such thinking is said to occur when, for instance, “a tree and a male sex organ are equated in a person’s mind because they both share the same physical characteristic of protruding.”1 Thus, “as we read Paradise Lost, we should remember the serpent as phallic symbol.”2 The fallacy (“phallusy?”) here lies in attributing confusion (i.e., “predicate thinking”) to someone else other than the interpreter. I reject any effort to employ adolescent sexual innuendo as a legiti- mate exegetical device. I do not classify either as literary scholarship or insight the assertion that, because the narrator in Paradise Lost is sometimes portrayed in birdlike images, we “should recall that in dream psychology a bird and flying have sensual significance” and that “flying dreams are erection dreams.”3 I stridently dissent when such interpreters tell us that “we cannot help being struck by the sexual overtones of the metaphor of inspiration”4 employed in Paradise Lost. We can avoid it, and most of us, I dare say, have done so. Sexual and/or pornographic intrusion, after all, is not a hermeneutical requirement or existential necessity.
What Freudian hermeneutics misconstrues is not simply the na- ture of the literature under scrutiny, but also its own unsuitability as an exegetical tool. Freudian criticism is not legitimate exegesis and does not illumine the text at hand any more definitively than school- boy jokes honestly elucidate the character, intention, or meaning of their victims. In the hands of Freudian critics, writers are victims too. That is because Freudian criticism is a mirror, not an eyeglass. It reveals the critic, not the text or the author under examination. Rather than explicating a text, Freudian hermeneutics merely interposes the perverse machinations of the interpreter between the reader and the text and, as a result, genuine understanding is injured, not aided. I re- ject the idea that we understand Milton’s theological epic poem better when we realize the sexual overtones and implications of Satan (the phallic symbol turned toad) whispering disturbing things into Eve’s ear (“a symbol of the womb”5). To say that such “exegesis” is hopelessly over-subtle or that it is wildly speculative is not enough; it is schoolboy perversity and chicanery, unworthy of serious scholarly consideration.
In other words, I do not believe that dreams mean, that they mean symbolically, that their unconscious iconography is either universal or interpretable, that their interpreted meaning ought to be understood as extensively sexual, or that their sexuality is of the sort described by Freud. Nor do I believe that these same symbols, and the iconic significance with which Freudians invest them, are appropriate ways of interpreting art, whether textual or visual. We have only the unconvincing assertions of Freudians that they are. What these interpreters fail to understand is that their theories reflect far more on them than on the text or author under consideration at the moment. Perversity, like beauty, is often in the eye of the beholder.
I reject as the worst sort of hermeneutical fiction any interpretation of Milton’s “Lycidas” (a pastoral elegy dealing with, among other things, the problems of fame, of a corrupt clergy, and of death) that, despite Milton’s conscious aims, identifies the rose (line 45), the hyacinth line 106) or the violet (line 145) as parts of the female anatomy. Nor should anything sexual be made of the fact that water is a dominant and recurring theme in the poem. One could hardly expect something very different from a poem occasioned by a col- lege friend’s death at sea by drowning. Any physical element in which Edward King’s death had occurred would likely find prominent and repeated expression throughout Milton’s monody. If King had died in fire, that element would likely have been employed by Milton in various symbolic and/or ironic ways, none of which necessarily would be indicative of the sexuality of Milton’s infancy. Freudian interpreters, nevertheless, in a plethora of audaciously bizarre articles and mono- graphs, would have told us what the fire images unconsciously signify about Milton and his fear of castration.
What Freudian hermeneutics fails to appreciate sufficiently is that things like flowers and water are common and time honored images in pastoral poetry. As elements of pastoral convention, the nature and use of such things was determined long before Milton ever appropriated them. As a result, insofar as Milton is a conventional pastoral poet (or, in the case of Paradise Lost, a conventional theological epic poet) his poetic/Biblical images come to him largely as given elements. And, he passes them on, frequently, in the same way he received them. As such, these images are less and less indicative of his own psychological history or makeup. They have little, if anything at all, to do with his sexual desires, conscious or otherwise.
Despite its tendency to universalize the iconic significance of images in dreams and in literary texts, Freudian interpretation fails to realize the culturally relative nature of its iconology. That kings and queens represent one’s parents is a hypothesis likely to arise only in times and places near to kings and queens. It may even be true that royalty dreams themselves will arise only in such conditions. If my memory serves (and Freudians, who think they know my mind better than I do, say it does not), I have never dreamed of or written about kings and queens, or even about the President and his wife, for that matter. Their presence and/or absence in my dreams and poetry is of no psychological or sexual significance whatsoever and has no bearing at all upon my relationship to my mother or father. The only small animal I remember dreaming about at the moment is my dog, Zeke. His appearance in my dreams “means” nothing beyond himself. Zeke is Zeke, not my brother, Chris. In the only poem I ever wrote about Zeke, he is himself, nothing more. I reject as the most blatant form of eisegesis any attempt to construe him otherwise. Apart from Freudianism’s bold assertions, where is the proof that kings and queens, roses and violets, or dogs and cats “mean” anything at all, in dreams or in art? Exegesis built upon the hypothesis of unconscious metaphor does not deserve to be called literary criticism. Books that unabashedly advocate it do not deserve to be read.
Modern Freudians are not the first of Milton’s readers to invent sexual overtones for Milton’s words or to imagine a perverse sexuality behind them. The anonymous author of A Modest Confutation (1642) thought he detected such things in Milton’s Animadversions, where he found mention of “old cloaks, false beards, night-walkers, and salt lotion.”6 From these, the author concluded that Milton “haunts play- houses and bordellos; for if he did not, how could he speak of such gear?”7 Milton met such scurrilous libels with denial, indignation, and (best of all) refutation. He brought “his inmost thoughts to the front” so that, if his “name and outward demeanor” were not sufficient to defend him in the eyes of the reader, then perhaps “the discovery of [his] inmost thoughts” would be.8 When Milton himself examined his “inmost thoughts,” he found very different things there than do the Freudians. Nourished, as he was, on Dante’s praise of Beatrice, on Petrarch’s praise of Laura, on Spenser’s allegory on “Chastitie,” and on the Bible’s warnings against licentious thoughts and actions,9 Milton said that he learned “the love and steadfast observation of that virtue which abhors the society of bordellos.”10 More significantly for our point, Milton also said that from such books he learned the practice of “sublime and pure thoughts, without transgression,” mental sublimities which kept him above “low descents of mind.”11 Yet, even after he had carefully laid out his “inmost thoughts” to the reader, and even after he had set forth the details of the growth of his mind for all to see, Milton knew that some people would persist in their perverse and unjustified interpretation of his life and words, people who, like Freudian critics, were “good at dismembring and slitting sentences.”12 He also knew that the scope of invention for anyone who read his works in that fashion was nearly unlimited. “By such handicraft as this,” Milton asked, “what might he not traduce?”13
Freudianism is a mirage in the sphere of literary criticism be- cause it is a mirage in the sphere of human existence and knowledge. It is like that inspiring, but illusory, optical phenomenon of the des- ert. It has its own peculiar fascination and allure, but it is devoid of almost all objective reference. Freudianism is a deflection of the light of truth, a deflection that gives rise to images of things that do not exist. Its findings, if such they can be called, are merely chimerical. They have no objective or verifiable basis in reality. They are scientifically suspect. I agree with those who say that, when they are subjected to the close scrutiny of empirical testing, Freud’s theories have failed miserably.14
Freudianism is but one more modern and perverse academic mysticism. It is one more intellectual deviation by which substantial and objective scholarship is woefully bedeviled. It might be that Freudians see what I cannot. It might also be that they see what is not there. That is because psychoanalysis pretends to psychic awareness. It confidently claims to be able to organize and to interpret the mysterious and the irretrievable.
But I am unconvinced. I deny that ids, egos, and superegos exist, either as discreet entities in themselves or as mechanisms or processes in the mind. Ids, egos, and superegos have no independent existence in the human being under analysis. We seem not to have noticed that Freud invented the id, the ego, and the superego; he did not discover them. These “things” are merely a part of the interpretive grid of the Freudian critic, not a part of the author that critic imagines he under- stands through the author’s text. Nor do these “things” relate to one another in the way Freudians hypothesize. The existence of, and inter- action between, ids, egos, and superegos are a psychologist’s fiction. It is much the same as the old faculty psychology of the Middle Ages, which posited emotion, intellect, and will as separate faculties within us. The faculty psychologists had fallen into the functional fallacy. They reasoned that because I emote, think, desire, and do, that I have an emotion, an intellect, and a will. But I do not possess, as separate entities within me, these three faculties. Nor do they relate to one an- other in the ways imaged by Thomas Aquinas, John Duns Scotus, or William of Occam. We know better, now that Locke has undeceived us. But, having escaped that misconception, we have fallen into an- other: Freud’s fabrications concerning our inner composition and function have led us back into the Middle Ages. Sadly, some modern scholars do not know enough to perceive the gaffe. They welcome it.
Some Freudians try to explain the admittedly elusive character of these inner phantoms by telling us that “the names, id, ego and super- ego, actually signify nothing in themselves. They are merely a short- hand way of designating different processes, functions, mechanisms, and dynamisms within the total personality.”15 In addition to sounding like an expedient adopted at the last moment to protect a cherished but endangered theory, this explanation is manifestly absurd. It speaks as if “processes, functions, mechanisms, and dynamisms” were “nothing in themselves.” This is mere verbal sleight of hand. Despite this Freudian’s convoluted language, a process is a thing. To process is an action. An action is a thing. But, we are told, “processes, functions, mechanisms and dynamisms,” when referred to by the words “id,” “ego,” and “superego,” are “nothing in themselves.” If the Freudians had said simply that ids, egos, and superegos are nothing, we all could have agreed. But they did not. Freudian criticism is not known for stating the obvious and then stopping.
Put another way, I deny that Freudian criticism is methodologically sound. After all, it is not real authors we are psychoanalyzing but, rather, ancient bits of yellowing paper, or else modern editions of them. When a psychoanalytic critic poses questions to a text, it is not the author who responds. “Comus,” for example, is not written in answer to questions posed to Milton about the Oedipal pressures churning within him. If such questions were posed to Milton, and if he desired to answer them at all, we have no reason to think that he would point to “Comus” in response. In the end, it is the Freudian critic himself, not the author under examination, who both poses the question and answers it. And, when he answers it, he answers it in the way a schoolboy invents an off-color joke, by foisting unintentional sexual overtones upon someone else’s words. Furthermore, because these sexual overtones cannot be ascribed to the author’s conscious intention itself, they are relegated to his unconscious mind, as if such things actually existed and were accessible to us through texts, and as if the concept of an unconscious mind was not, in some sense, a contradiction in terms.
I am not saying that a text cannot answer questions toward which it was not specifically addressed. Such “answers,” when they are to be found, are to be identified or extracted with the greatest possible care, always bearing in mind that, though we might wish it other- wise, many things from the past are not easily retrievable through texts, if at all. In a theological poem like Paradise Lost, a poem that is intended to “justify the ways of God to man” (I, 26), the poet’s theology is both present and largely accessible. His unconscious psycho- logical motivations and his psychic history (especially as interpreted by Freudian critics) are neither. Paradise Lost, after all, is not about Milton. Neither does it concern his alleged constituent psychological “functions” — id, ego, and superego. I begin to think that those who find such things in theological poetry have become so skilled at reading between and behind the lines of a text that they have lost the ability to read the lines themselves.
Because of its method, I deny that Freudian criticism is actually criticism. If criticism is, as my dictionary says, “the art of judging or evaluating with knowledge and propriety the beauties and faults of a work of art or literature,” then Freudianism, I repeat, is not criticism. Studies that abuse literary texts by making them a means to the solution of other, non-literary, problems are not genuine literary criticism. Their pursuit may, indeed, proceed via literature, but it is not legitimately a literary pursuit. True literary criticism must make literature its focus, not merely the vehicle of the critic’s own private agenda or interests.
Some Freudian interpreters try to maintain their claim to legitimacy by insisting that their “discoveries” bear upon our understand- ing of the text because they bear upon our understanding of the author. They proceed, they say, from text to author to text. Perhaps they do. But I deny that what they find at either end of their return trip is truth. Forays into extraliterary a do not always lead us back into the perimeter. In fact, they often end in foreign ports. Freudian criticism, despite the claims of some of its practitioners, is just such a foray. While a critic needs (and should welcome) all the help he can get from other disciplines, the critic must be sure that what is received actually constitutes hermeneutical assistance and not hindrance. Not every hand is a helping hand.
Perhaps Freudian interpreters do not take sufficient account of the fact that every intellectual discipline is fraught with ambiguity. As a result of this ambiguity, every discipline entails a number of schools of thought and each of those schools of thought, in turn, is colored by various shades of disagreement concerning interpretation and/or implementation. As an interdisciplinary study, Freudian criticism is doubly tenuous. On the one hand, it is racked by tensions and conflicts in psychology in general and in Freudianism in particular.16 On the other hand, it also is buffeted by the warfare within literary criticism. I, for one, believe that Freudian criticism fails on both sides of its double life. It is bad science and it is bad criticism; bad science because of its natural inability to subject its conclusions to scientific verification (It is, we are told, a “postdictive science,” not a “predictive” one.17) and bad criticism because it mistakenly thinks that not only is a writer accessible to us in his text, but so also is his subconscious.
My belief that Freudian criticism is an interdisciplinary failure should not be taken to mean that I oppose interdisciplinary re- search in general or “extrinsic” criticism in particular. In fact, I am very much in favor of them. I do not oppose Freudian criticism be- cause it takes things into account other than the text; rather, I oppose Freudian criticism because what it takes into account is Freudianism. External frames of reference are not necessarily faulty; Freudian ones are. Freudian hermeneutics respects no boundaries. It exhibits no caution. It posits forces, factors, and functions in things that may not even be things. As usually practiced, Freudian criticism has usurped the subject matter. In becoming psychographers, Freudian critics often have become less than literary critics. Despite claims to the contrary, Freudian criticism’s primary pursuit is not the explication of the text at hand. Its objective is almost always one well beyond the text, even well beyond the author’s intention or even his conscious- ness. Those who write 300 page monographs on the “psychogenesis of Paradise Lost”18 are doing a great deal that lies beyond the pale of literary criticism. Not surprisingly then, Freudianism’s grotesque fabrications do not enhance our understanding of our language’s great theological works of verbal art. Freudianism has not succeeded in deepening our understanding and appreciation of Paradise Lost, for example, because Freudianism has shown itself incapable of detecting either beauty or sanctity. It detects only the earthquake of sexuality and its aftershocks. Sanctity, despite the title of one Miltonist’s book, is not a complex.19 Nor, despite the same book, are complexes sacred.
Put another way, Freudian criticism often misconstrues theological art because it misunderstands the origin or generation of art. Art, to Freudianism, is traced to fantasies: to wish fulfillment and day dreams.20 Such a causal connection, however, is utterly insupportable and is the merest of conjectures. As George Watson has explained concerning Freudianism’s wildly speculative theories of literary causation and generation, Freud
“compares the human mind, where ‘it is the rule rather than the exception for the past to be preserved’, to the city of Rome as it might appear if most of its ancient monuments had not vanished, with pagan temples standing among medieval and Renaissance build- ings and modern thoroughfares. In history itself, the past may die and leave no trace. But in the individual mind, in the Freudian view, memories are stored and stand ready for use. Looked at from the angle of the literary historian, such a view seems like an ecstasy of Victorian historical enthusiasm. The most biographical critic before Freud — Sainte-Beuve, for instance — would not have ventured so far as to suppose that remote infantile experience, and even pre-natal experience, could be formative in what ultimately appears as a work of literature. He would have been content, more modestly, with the outward facts about the schooling, reading and acquaintanceship of the poet whose por- trait he drew. The Freudian critic would intensify these biographical elements to the point of seeing the poem as minute evidence of the past of the poet; not of one past only, or the experience immediately preceding the act of creation, but of a whole succession of states of mind stretching back into childhood and causally interconnected.”21
Obviously, human beings are interested in, and motivated by, much more than sex. I imagine that a great deal of theological poetry, perhaps nearly all poetry, has a source other than infantile sexual- ity and its alleged repercussions. Only a schoolboy’s fascination with things genital allows us to posit sexual causation for art in such a facile manner. I say, along with C. S. Lewis, that “poetry is not a substitute for sexual satisfaction, nor sexual satisfaction for poetry.”22 I reject as perverse supposition the assertion that the motive for poetic creation lies beneath the consciousness and is linked to internal sexual turmoil, especially for Milton, whose poetic craft is conscious, deliberate, meticulous, precise, decorous, purposeful, and highly intellectual. The unarticulated methodological arrogance of such Freudian suppositions is staggering. Though Milton himself says that his poetry was motivated by a love for God, for country, and for freedom, and that it was intended to promote all three, the Freudian critic, who must imagine himself clearly aware of the many complicated factors within Milton that escaped even Milton’s own notice, can see not only what the poet repressed, but why he has done so and what exactly was its artistic and theological residue. The Freudian critic believes he can identify and explain, with precision and confidence, what prompted a certain blind Englishman to write a theological epic poem more than 300 years ago. Milton’s plain affirmations to the contrary not- withstanding, we are told “that the Oedipus complex is the generative center of his character and his art.”23 And, as if that staggering insight were not enough, we are assured that “this could be predicated of all authors who are not psychotic.”24 Perhaps I am hopelessly skeptical, but I hesitate to say things about all writers of nearly any category, especially something that pertains to their character and their art.
But this is one of those places where Freudian criticism breaks down so noticeably. It allows the Freudian critic to assert what the author denies and to deny what the author affirms. It entitles the critic to operate as if he knows Milton’s motives and character better than Milton did. It is arguable, of course, that such a critic does not know Milton at all. The poet himself might prove to be very different from all the Freudian (or non-Freudian) speculations about his long-dead psyche and its hidden “processes, functions, mechanisms, and dynamisms.” Unlikely as it is that Milton will return to dispel such myths (or that many Freudian critics would recognize him if he did) the fearless psychoanalyzing of writers who have been in their graves for centuries will continue unrestrained.
Perhaps it is its unrestrained nature that renders so much Freudian interpretation fiction and not fact. In that system of literary analysis, after all, the wall dividing those two realms is virtually nonexistent. Even if ids, egos, and superegos existed, Lewis Carroll’s Alice does not possess them. She does not even possess a she. She does not exist. That minor consideration, however, has not prevented critics from psychoanalyzing her, or Hamlet, or Captain Ahab. But, though it is frequently attempted, one cannot profitably psychoanalyze the non- existent. That the Electra complex has no real connection to the psychic development of a fictional character like Alice, a character who has no psyche to develop, has not kept Freudian hermeneutics out of Wonderland. Freudian hermeneutics seems to specialize in fictional characters, characters like the Milton that it imagines stands behinds his theological poems, spewing forth a stream of unconsciously sexual and/or pornographic metaphors. Perhaps one of the reasons Freudian criticism proceeds as confidently with fictional characters as it does with historical persons is because Freudian criticism is not rooted in verifiable reality. In its hands, historical persons are fictional. After all, we have only the psychoanalytic critic’s (not unbiased) word that such a Milton ever existed. Or, to paraphrase I. A. Richards, despite what psychoanalytic critics might assert, the imagined mental processes of a writer are not a very profitable field for investigation because they are too happy a hunting ground for unbridled speculation.25
Its nonfactual nature accounts for some of Freudian criticism’s apparent profundity, a “profundity” which arises from its ability to see what is not there. Readers of Freudian criticism, for example, some- times come away from a Freudian work surprised at all they missed when they read the Faerie Queene or the Pentateuch,26 especially when compared to all the Freudian critic claims to see. But, seeing is the one thing Freudian criticism does not do — unless one classifies exegetical hallucination as vision. Though they tell us that the iconic significance of flowers and puppy dogs is unknown or unrecognized in the writer’s own consciousness and that it lies buried deep within the recesses of his psyche, though they tell us the psyche operates by means of the mysterious transference of hidden “psychic energies” (whatever they are) between the inscrutable “processes, functions, mechanisms, and dynamisms” we label id, ego, and superego, despite all this shadowy ambiguity — or perhaps because of it — Freudian literary analysis often fails to exercise anything remotely resembling skepticism or modesty concerning its hypotheses. (Evidence for this is the fact that Freudians often label their ideas “conclusions,” not “hypotheses.”) It apparently matters little that the verification of Freudian theories concerning literary cause and effect, if it exists at all, lies well beyond (or below) what many cautious and reasonable scholars would allow as either relevant or analyzable data. In this light, one may be permitted to speculate that the Freudian critic’s own imagination (as it feeds upon a number of perverse schoolboy speculations concern- ing literary meaning and origin) has been doing duty in place of a close, responsible, treatment of the text itself, as understood against its historical and literary background.
Freudian hermeneutics proceeds by hooking up a sexual and/or pornographic view of psychic reality to a religious text like Paradise Lost, a poem that draws upon the long standing conventions of epic genre and upon the content of the Bible and its traditional interpretation. It then tries to interpret that poem in light of the view of psychic history it posits for the author, a history based both upon its hypothetical id, ego, and superego paradigm and upon its assumptions concerning the iconic significance of unconscious metaphor. This imagined psychic history, in turn, is brought back into play not only in conjunction with the poem’s unconscious meaning, but also as an explanation for the poem’s very existence. In other words, the hypothetical psychic background that Freudians deduce from the text is used as a hermeneutical aid for the text from which it was derived. It proceeds by transforming its highly suspect hermeneutic for dreams into a hermeneutic for verbal art. This truncated and misshapen method brings us, exegetically, exactly nowhere. Understanding an epic poem from a Freudian slant is not to be identified with under- standing an epic poem.
All this is not to say that suffering people have never been aided through psychoanalysis. They certainly have. But their improvement is not justification for Freudianism as an exegetical device. In fact, their improvement is hardly justification for Freudianism as therapy. These instances of therapeutic success do not offset the instances (and they are legion) where not only no healing occurred, but actual damage was inflicted. Some studies have shown, in fact, that Freudian therapy’s healing powers are hardly better than no therapy at all.27 I would expect as much from any therapy not rooted in reality.
Finally, if I may be permitted to turn the tables for one paragraph and to psychoanalyze the psychoanalysts, I speculate that Freudian criticism is itself a wish fulfillment. Perhaps Freudian critics want to make this fallen world understandable when it often is not. Perhaps they want to make the world simpler by imposing upon it their own narrow system of causes and effects. But they cannot and they have not. And, they don’t know they’ve failed.
That, at any rate, is why I no longer believe I ought to read every book about John Milton. Some simply do not repay the time and effort required to study them seriously. The time I waste on such books is time I could have invested studying genuinely useful books about Milton, books by Masson, Hanford, French, Kelley, Verity, and Lewalski, to name but a few. In short, I have reconfirmed for myself what Milton had earlier discovered about useless books: “if the compendious recital of what [one man misthought] was so tedious and unprofitable, then surely to sit out the whole extent of their tattle in a dozen volumes would be a loss of time irrecoverable.”28
Should you wonder why I stop here, having merely exposed one method of how not to read, but not having explained how reading should be done, I reply that I need not bother. Such a demonstration has already been produced — twice.29
End Notes
1 Calvin S. Hall, A Primer of Freudian Psychology (New York: New American Library: A Mentor Book, 1954, 1979), p. 40.
2 John T. Shawcross, With Mortal Voice: The Creation of “Paradise Lost” (Lexington: The University Press of Kentucky, 1982), p. 178 n. 3.
3 Ibid., p. 18.134
4  Ibid., p. 20.
5  Ibid., p. 179 n. 9.
6  John Milton, The Complete Prose Works of John Milton, 8 vols., Don M. Wolfe, General Editor (New Haven: Yale: 1953-82), 1: 886. The words to which Milton refers come from the preface of A Modest Confutation.
7  Ibid., p. 886.
8  Ibid., pp. 888-889.
9  Ibid., pp. 890-892.
10  Ibid., p. 891.
11  Ibid., p. 890.
12  Ibid., p. 894.
13  Ibid.
14  One of the most devastating critiques to date of Freudianism’s failures is Hans J. Eysenck, The Decline and Fall of the Freudian Empire (Washington: Scott-Townsend Publishers),1985/1990. See also Hans Eysenck and Glenn Wilson, The Experimental Studies of Freudian Theories (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1974); Thomas Szasz, The Myth of Psychotherapy (New York: Doubleday, 1978); David E. Stannard, Shrinking History: On Freud & the Failure of Psychohistory (New York: Oxford University Press, 1980), Andrew Salter, The Case against Psychoanalysis (New York: Henry Holt, 1954), and Richard Webster, Why Freud was Wrong: Sin, Science and Psychoanalysis (London: Fontana, 1995).
15 Hall, pp. 34, 35.
16 Oddly, some Freudian critics will use the variegated nature of current Freudian studies as a defense against my strictures. In conversations with me, they often say that my negative judgments do not take into account the fact that Freudianism is a spectrum, not a monolithic entity. But that defense will not do. It serves only to underscore my contention that most Freudian conclusions are neither demonstrable nor convincing, even to other Freudians. The anarchy within Freudian studies has been recognized by many scholars. For example, Jacques Barzun, Clio and the Doctors: Psycho-history, Quanto- history & History (Chicago: University of Chicago, 1974), p. 71, observes: “The theorists of psycho-history invoke Freud and speak of psychoanalysis or of dynamic psychiatry as if those names covered unified teachings. Yet a slight acquaintance with the literature is enough to show that radical conflicts exist.”
17.Hall, p. 53, 135
18 William Kerrigan, The Sacred Complex: On the Psychogenesis of “Paradise Lost” (Cambridge: Harvard, 1983).
19 Ibid. According to Allan Bloom, The Closing of the American Mind (New York: Simon and Schuster, 1987), p. 193: “Freud’s psychoanalytic theory . . . wants to found itself on biology and at the same time to account for spiritual phenomena,” and it does so “to the detriment of both.”
20 Sigmund Freud, Introductory Lectures on Psycho-Analysis, trans. Joan Riviere (London: Heron Books, n.d.), Lecture 23, p. 306.
21 George Watson, The Study of Literature (London: Allen Lane, 1969), pp. 157-158. Elsewhere (p. 18) in the same text, Watson makes another pertinent observation concerning the modern criticism of Paradise Lost: “. . . Milton, if he could know that interest in his epics is no longer primarily theological, would be contemptuous in the last degree.”
22 C. S. Lewis, Selected Literary Essays, ed. Walter Hooper (Cambridge at the University Press, 1969), p. 295. As T. S. Eliot taught us, “nothing in this world or the next is a substitute for anything else; and if you find you must do with- out something, such as religious faith or philosophic belief, then you must do without it,” quoted in F. W. Bateson, Essays in Critical Dissent (London: Longman Group Ltd., 1972), p. 194.
23 Kerrigan, p. 6.
24 Ibid., emphasis added.
25 I. A. Richards, Principles of Literary Criticism (San Diego: Harcourt, Brace, Jovanovich, 1925), p. 29.
26 For an example of a psychoanalytic interpretation of the Pentateuch, see Sigmund Freud, Moses and Monotheism (New York: Random House, 1939). 27 From among the many scholars and studies that support this conclusion, see, for example, the two articles by Thomas Oden: “A Populist’s View of Psychotherapeutic Deprofessionalization,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology 14 (1974): 3-18; and “Consumer Interests in Therapeutic Outcome Studies: A Reply to Herron,” Journal of Humanistic Psychology 15 (1975): 74-84.
28 Milton, p. 944.
29 I believe one does best by combining the insights of C. S. Lewis, An Experiment in Criticism (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1961); and E. D. Hirsch, Jr., Validity in Interpretation (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1967).

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

Condi Rice's Speech before the RNC

Prepared Remarks at Republican Convention

Good evening. Distinguished delegates, fellow Republicans, fellow Americans.

We gather here at a time of significance and challenge. This young century has been a difficult one. I will never forget the bright September day, standing at my desk in the White House, when my young assistant said that a plane had hit the World Trade Center – and then a second one – and a third, the Pentagon. And then the news of a fourth, driven into the ground by brave citizens that died so that many others would live. From that day on our sense of vulnerability and our understanding of security would be altered forever. Then in 2008 the global financial and economic crisis stunned us and still reverberates as unemployment, economic uncertainty and failed policies cast a pall over the American recovery so desperately needed at home and abroad.

And we have seen once again that the desire for freedom is universal – as men and women in the Middle East demand it. Yet, the promise of the Arab Spring is engulfed in uncertainty; internal strife and hostile neighbors are challenging the fragile democracy in Iraq; dictators in Iran and Syria butcher their own people and threaten the security of the region; China and Russia prevent a response; and all wonder, “Where does America stand?”

Indeed that is the question of the moment- “Where does America stand?” When our friends and our foes, alike, do not know the answer to that question – clearly and unambiguously -- the world is a chaotic and dangerous place. The U.S. has since the end of World War II had an answer – we stand for free peoples and free markets, we are willing to support and defend them – we will sustain a balance of power that favors freedom.

To be sure, the burdens of leadership have been heavy. I, like you, know the sacrifices that Americans have made – yes including the ultimate sacrifice of many of our bravest. Yet our armed forces remain the sure foundation of liberty. We are fortunate to have men and women who volunteer – they volunteer to defend us on the front lines of freedom. And we owe them our eternal gratitude.

I know too that it has not always been easy – though it has been rewarding – to speak up for those who would otherwise be without a voice – the religious dissident in China; the democracy advocate in Venezuela; the political prisoner in Iran.

It has been hard to muster the resources to support fledgling democracies– or to help the world’s most desperate - the AIDs orphan in Uganda, the refugee fleeing Zimbabwe, the young woman who has been trafficked into the sex trade in Southeast Asia; the world’s poorest in Haiti. Yet this assistance – together with the compassionate works of private charities – people of conscience and people of faith - has shown the soul of our country.

And I know too that there is weariness – a sense that we have carried these burdens long enough. But if we are not inspired to lead again, one of two things will happen – no one will lead and that will foster chaos --- or others who do not share our values will fill the vacuum. My fellow Americans, we do not have a choice. We cannot be reluctant to lead – and one cannot lead from behind.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan understand this reality -- that our leadership abroad and our well being at home are inextricably linked. They know what needs to be done. Our friends and allies must be able to trust us. From Israel to Poland to the Philippines to Colombia and across the world -- they must know that we are reliable and consistent and determined. And our adversaries must have no reason to doubt our resolve -- because peace really does come through strength. Our military capability and technological advantage will be safe in Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan’s hands.

We must work for an open global economy and pursue free and fair trade – to grow our exports and our influence abroad. In the last years, the United States has ratified three trade agreements, all negotiated in the Bush Administration. If you are concerned about China’s rise – consider this fact – China has signed 15 Free Trade Agreements and is negotiating 20 more. Sadly we are abandoning the playing field of free trade – and it will come back to haunt us.

We must not allow the chance to attain energy independence to slip from our grasp. We have a great gift of oil and gas reserves here in North America that must be and can be developed while protecting our environment. And we have the ingenuity in the private sector to tap alternative sources of energy.

And most importantly, Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild the foundation of American strength – our economy – stimulating private sector led growth and small business entrepreneurship. When the world looks at us today they see an American government that cannot live within its means. They see a government that continues to borrow money, mortgaging the future of generations to come. The world knows that when a nation loses control of its finances, it eventually loses control of its destiny. That is not the America that has inspired others to follow our lead.

After all, when the world looks to America, they look to us because we are the most successful political and economic experiment in human history. That is the true basis of “American Exceptionalism.” The essence of America – that which really unites us -- is not ethnicity, or nationality or religion – it is an idea -- and what an idea it is: That you can come from humble circumstances and do great things. That it doesn’t matter where you came from but where you are going.

Ours has never been a narrative of grievance and entitlement. We have not believed that I am doing poorly because you are doing well. We have not been envious of one another and jealous of each other’s success. Ours has been a belief in opportunity and a constant battle – long and hard -- to extend the benefits of the American dream to all – without regard to circumstances of birth.

But the American ideal is indeed endangered today. There is no country, no not even a rising China, that can do more harm to us than we can do to ourselves if we fail to accomplish the tasks before us here at home.

More than at any other time in history –the ability to mobilize the creativity and ambition of human beings forms the foundation of greatness. We have always done that better than any country in the world. People have come here from all over because they believed in our creed – of opportunity and limitless horizons. They have come from the world’s most impoverished nations to make five dollars not fifty cents– and they have come from the world’s advanced societies – as engineers and scientists -- to help fuel the knowledge based revolution in the Silicon Valley of California; the research triangle of North Carolina; in Austin, Texas; along Route 128 in Massachusetts – and across our country.

We must continue to welcome the world’s most ambitious people to be a part of us. In that way we stay perpetually young and optimistic and determined. We need immigration laws that protect our borders; meet our economic needs; and yet show that we are a compassionate people.

We have been successful too because Americans have known that one’s status at birth was not a permanent station in life. You might not be able to control your circumstances but you could control your response to your circumstances. And your greatest ally in doing so was a quality education.

Let me ask you, though, today, when I can look at your zip code and can tell whether you are going to get a good education – can I really say that it doesn’t matter where you came from – it matters where you are going. The crisis in K-12 education is a grave threat to who we are.

My mom was a teacher – I have the greatest respect for the profession – we need great teachers – not poor or mediocre ones. We need to have high standards for our students – self-esteem comes from achievement not from lax standards and false praise. And we need to give parents greater choice – particularly poor parents whose kids – most often minorities -- are trapped in failing neighborhood schools. This is the civil rights struggle of our day.

If we do anything less, we will condemn generations to joblessness, hopelessness and dependence on the government dole. To do anything less is to endanger our global economic competitiveness. To do anything less is to tear apart the fabric of who we are and cement a turn toward grievance and entitlement.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan will rebuild us at home and inspire us to lead abroad. They will provide an answer to the question, “Where does America stand?” The challenge is real and these are tough times. But America has met and overcome difficult circumstances before. Whenever you find yourself doubting us – just think of all the times that we have made the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect.

America’s victorious revolutionary founding – against the greatest military power of the time; a Civil War – hundreds of thousands dead in a brutal conflict – but emerging a stronger union; a second founding – as impatient patriots fought to overcome the birth defect of slavery and the scourge of segregation; a long struggle against communism – that ended with the death of the Soviet Union and the emergence of Europe, whole free and at peace; the will to make difficult decisions, heart-wrenching choices in the aftermath of 9/11 that secured us and prevented the follow-on attacks that seemed preordained at the time.

And on a personal note– a little girl grows up in Jim Crow Birmingham – the most segregated big city in America - her parents can’t take her to a movie theater or a restaurant – but they make her believe that even though she can’t have a hamburger at the Woolworth’s lunch counter – she can be President of the United States and she becomes the Secretary of State. Yes, America has a way of making the impossible seem inevitable in retrospect. But of course it has never been inevitable – it has taken leadership, courage and an unwavering faith in our values.

Mitt Romney and Paul Ryan have the experience and the integrity and the vision to lead us – they know who we are, what we want to be and what we offer the world.

That is why this is a moment – an election – of consequence. Because it just has to be – that the most compassionate and freest country on the face of the earth – will continue to be the most powerful!

May God Bless You – and May God continue to bless this extraordinary, exceptional country – the United States of America.

Libertarians, Politcal Defeat, and the Loss of Common Sense

         Lew Rockwell is a noted libertarian.  As you might guess, his guy in this election was Ron Paul.  Paul lost, big time.  In response to that loss, Rockwell has now decided that the RNC is led by a “criminal syndicate,” the answer to which, he asserts, is “secession and independence.”
         No, it is not.  Not even close.
         First, there's no "criminal syndicate” at the convention in Tampa, period.  The libertarian candidate lost.  That’s it.  My guy (Gingrich) lost too.  I’m not happy about it, but I’m not walking and I’m not slandering the winner.  Demonizing the winner and his team mates, on the one hand, and marginalizing themselves, on the other, just means that the freedom-loving libertarians will keep losing.
         Second, the greatest failure of libertarians is that they do not know how to get their hands on the levers of power, much less how to keep them there.  They would do themselves and their important movement a great favor by learning how to win.  But “secession and independence” is not how it’s done.  Why? -- because you don't win from the margins.  You don't win by means of self-imposed exile or by burning your political bridges behind you.  That’s how to sign a long-term contract with defeat.
         Libertarians know very well how to lose elections in America.  They’ve been doing a remarkable job of it for decades.  They need now to change their trajectory.  Secession and independence will not change it.  Secession is for fools.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

New Study Rejects Global Warming (from Noel Sheppard)

This from Noel Sheppard:

In the past several weeks as much of the nation suffered under a massive heatwave, global warming-obsessed media depicted the high temperatures as evidence of Nobel laureate Al Gore's favorite money-making scam.

A new study published in the journal Nature Sunday completely debunks all previous claims that temperatures in recent decades are in any way historic demonstrating instead that things were much hotter on this planet during Roman times:

"New evidence based on maximum latewood density data from northern Scandinavia, indicates that this cooling trend was stronger (−0.31°C per 1,000years, ±0.03°C) than previously reported, and demonstrate that this signature is missing in published tree-ring proxy records. The long-term trend now revealed in maximum latewood density data is in line with coupled general circulation models indicating albedo-driven feedback mechanisms and substantial summer cooling over the past two millennia in northern boreal and Arctic latitudes. These findings, together with the missing orbital signature in published dendrochronological records, suggest that large-scale near-surface air-temperature reconstructions relying on tree-ring data may underestimate pre-instrumental temperatures including warmth during Medieval and Roman times."

The website of Johannes Gutenberg University Mainz published a more reader-friendly explanation of the study Monday:

Professor Dr. Jan Esper's group at the Institute of Geography at JGU used tree-ring density measurements from sub-fossil pine trees originating from Finnish Lapland to produce a reconstruction reaching back to 138 BC. In so doing, the researchers have been able for the first time to precisely demonstrate that the long-term trend over the past two millennia has been towards climatic cooling. "We found that previous estimates of historical temperatures during the Roman era and the Middle Ages were too low," says Esper. "Such findings are also significant with regard to climate policy, as they will influence the way today's climate changes are seen in context of historical warm periods."

For the first time, researchers have now been able to use the data derived from tree-rings to precisely calculate a much longer-term cooling trend that has been playing out over the past 2,000 years. Their findings demonstrate that this trend involves a cooling of -0.3°C per millennium due to gradual changes to the position of the sun and an increase in the distance between the Earth and the sun.

"This figure we calculated may not seem particularly significant," says Esper. "However, it is also not negligible when compared to global warming, which up to now has been less than 1°C. Our results suggest that the large-scale climate reconstruction shown by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) likely underestimate this long-term cooling trend over the past few millennia."

The UK Register observed Tuesday:
Americans sweltering in the recent record-breaking heatwave may not believe it - but it seems that our ancestors suffered through much hotter summers in times gone by, several of them within the last 2,000 years.

A new study measuring temperatures over the past two millennia has concluded that in fact the temperatures seen in the last decade are far from being the hottest in history.
This thoroughly debunks the claim that temperatures on the planet today are in any way historic or unprecedented.

The Register continued:
In the IPCC view, the planet was cooler during Roman times and the medieval warm spell. Overall the temperature is headed up - perhaps wildly up, according to the famous/infamous "hockey stick" graph.

The new study indicates that that's quite wrong, with the current warming less serious than the Romans and others since have seen - and the overall trend actually down by a noticeable 0.3°C per millennium, which the scientists believe is probably down to gradual long-term shifts in the position of the Sun and the Earth's path around it. 

Just as many climate realists have been saying for years.

The only question remaining is whether America's global warming-obsessed media will pay any attention to this new information.

Wednesday, August 22, 2012

Barth on Discipleship

         “The call to discipleship is the particular form of summons by which Jesus discloses and reveals himself to individuals in order to claim and sanctify them as his own.  As it encounters them in this summons, grace has the form of command.  The grace that comes to them requires that they do something, i,e., follow Jesus.  He commands them as those who already belong to him.  This is why there can be no legitimate opposition to it.  This is why those who are called cannot think of laying down conditions on which they are prepared to obey his command.  Disobedience to the command of Jesus to “Follow me,” as in the case of the rich young ruler in Mark 10: 17-18 and parallels, is a phenomenon that is absolutely terrifying.  A limited readiness is no readiness at all.”

Karl Barth, A Call to Discipleship

(For the sake of clarity and  continuity, in the selection above I have conflated sentences from across 4 pages into one quotation.)

Monday, August 20, 2012

Philosophy in Peril

It seems to me that the best philosophers begin (or ought to begin) with two basic principles, one from Socrates, one from Aristotle:  Know yourself, and ask the right preliminary questions.
If philosophers actually followed these two rules, they would realize that these two principles meld into one.  If those philosophers asked whether or not they were capable of pursuing knowledge of God, and if they knew themselves well enough to understand the radically debilitating effects of sin on the human mind and heart, they would see that knowledge of God is beyond their reach.  They would know that they do not know and cannot know.  They would see that, even if the world outside us were a perfect revelation of God, our understanding of that revelation would inevitably be twisted, truncated and self-glorifying, and that in our narcissistic frenzy we would turn nature from a window for seeing God into a mirror that reflects only our own sinful selves and our own wicked doing.   They’d realize what they do not realize now:  Apart from revelation and a radical regeneration of our very selves, we are hopelessly adrift in a sea of divinely omnipotent fact with no compass, no North Star, and no rudder.  We sail in ever-decreasing circles that spin tighter and tighter in upon ourselves.  If they really knew themselves, and if they asked the right preliminary questions, they would realize the abject foolishness of considering themselves and their thoughts the measure of Heaven and earth.  But in their current condition, this knowledge is beyond them.  They do not know, and they do not know that they do not know.  They are blind to their blindness. 
In other words, the problem with combining philosophy and God begins with the philosophers.  That problem can be fixed or transcended only by God.
I have yet to mention Satan, a supernatural deceiver posing as an angel of light against whom, apart from Christ, we have no defense.  He is an enemy intent upon driving us from the Bible, not to it, and driving us from Christ, not to Him.  He is an enemy who remembers what was done to him by the Bible in the hands of the One Who inspired it (Matt. 4: 1-11).  He is an enemy determined to convince us of what we are already too willing to believe, namely that we are able to get to God without God, as if we did not need Christ to know God, and as if we were gods ourselves.  Philosophers believe the Liar and his lies precisely because they do not acknowledge him and his works.
Remember:  You are most likely to become an unwitting agent of the enemy you neither recognize nor admit -- and philosophy does not recognize or admit the Devil and his doings.  His self-appointed task is to blind the minds of unbelievers (2 Cor. 4: 4), Aristotle included.  At that task he is an unquestioned expert.  Against him we are no challenge.  Satan fights unremittingly against eternal life, which is knowing God and His Son (John 17: 3).  Never forget that philosophy is ill-equipped to resist Satan.  It has not the tools necessary for the task because those tools have been removed from philosophy's armory at the outset:  Philosophy permits no Bible in its work and no word from Christ.  Philosophy has yet to come to grips with demonology and its own undefended exposure to relentless and colossal evil, against which only the blood of Christ prevails. 

Thursday, August 16, 2012

Christian Colleges and the Liberal Arts

You must never think that the liberal arts are abstract and impractical.   They are not.  They are the weapons of our war, the war in which we all are involved, though sometimes on opposite sides, the war between God and Satan, good and evil, true and false.  The stakes could not be higher or the outcome more important.  To deprive us of the liberal arts is, as Luther observed, one of Satan’s chief intentions.   Few objectives serve his purpose more effectively.
The nature and content of an excellent liberal arts education is not altered by the mere turning of a decade, or even of a century.  Decades from now, the great books will still be the great books, even if the fools of that day, like the fools of our own, think otherwise.  That which made the great books great -- the great ideas -- will remain great as well.  The mere passing of time does not alter that fact at all; rather, it underscores it.  Students then, as do students now, will still need to raise and to answer the perennial questions:  What is a good life, and what good is life?  What is a good death, and what good is death?  What is a good love, and what good is love?  What is a human being?
         To answer such questions, students will still need to master the words and ideas of Jesus, Plato, Aristotle, Paul, Augustine, Aquinas, Dante, Shakespeare, Milton, and Burke among many, many others.  That this very partial list of sages happens to contain no blacks and no women is inconsequential because truth is neither gender-based nor race-based.  Truth is what it is, regardless of what we might think about it, and regardless of who does the thinking.  What makes the great books and the perennial questions valuable is not that they come from (or do not come from) dead, white, European males, but that they illumine the human condition.  Those books and ideas help us understand more about what it means to be fallen creatures in a fallen world.  That condition is universal and does not change.  That condition is not dependent upon race or gender; nor is its solution.
         A Christian college, therefore, needs diligently to resist the temptation to follow the spirit of the age, if for no other reason than that to go with the age is to go where all ages go -- into the impenetrable oblivion of the irretrievable past, as the inimitable Vance Havner used to say.  But if one goes with God, one discovers that God is the Eternal Contemporary.  When all our tomorrows arrive, we shall discover that He has been there before us.  For that reason, we must never substitute relevance for revelation.  If something is revelation, it is relevant.   But being relevant does not mean something is revelation.  That lesson is one no Christian liberal arts college can ever afford to forget, though I could name many that have.  We must never entrust the education of our children, or of our children’s children, to those who neglect our cultural ancestors, especially if they determine that those ancestors have not a suitable gender, race, ethnicity, or sexual preference.  Neither the Christian church, in general, nor a Christian college, in particular, can truly prosper under the intellectual leadership of administrators and scholars who neglect the copious and enlightened patrimony of the West.  Multiculturalism is no academic virtue, not if it means diluting the rich inheritance of the past with the empty leftisms of the present.  In that light, Christian colleges must resist the lure of trendiness, a temptation that normally entails the proliferation of politically correct programs and policies, which almost always come at the expense of the permanent things we can ill afford to lose.  Like it or not, students come to college without the knowledge, discipline or wisdom needed to select a suitable array of courses.  They must be channeled into taking what they need, not spinelessly coddled.  If you spare them this relentless pressure, you help prevent them from getting an education.  If in your false mercy you spare them high, difficult and broadly ranging curricular requirements, education is dead. 
         Put differently, knowledge and wisdom are not properly subject to politics.  When things outside the academy control the academy, that is the death of learning, even if those things are part of a political agenda you prefer.  As result, and to its great peril, the American academy is now in danger of forgetting that fact.  Christian liberal arts colleges ought not to offer women’s studies programs, black studies programs, or gay and lesbian studies programs any more than they ought to offer male studies programs, white studies programs, or heterosexual studies programs, things we all rightly see as highly inappropriate, even abhorrent.  Not only ought colleges not offer such white, male, heterosexual programs, we face today an array of such ideologically blinded zealots who actually insist that such twisted offerings are what we do offer, as if they couldn't tell the difference between courses about being male and courses about being human.
         You must never consent to go through life unaware of the best that's been said, done, thought, or written.

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Thomas Babington Macaulay on personal politics

“The confidence of the English people is to be obtained, not by a sycophancy, which degrades alike those who pay and those who receive it, but by rectitude and plain dealing . . . If ever there was a time when public men were in an especial measure bound to speak the truth, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, this is the time . . . It is not necessary to my happiness that I should sit in Parliament.  It is necessary that I should possess, in Parliament or out of Parliament, the consciousness of having done the right thing.”

Thomas Babington Macaulay

Tuesday, August 14, 2012

The mess he Inherited, the mess he left

       You hear Democrats talk repeatedly about the mess Obama inherited. But you never hear them talk about the enormously greater mess he will leave for the next president: (1) trillions of dollars more in debt, (2) far greater levels of poverty, (3) significantly higher levels of unemployment, (4) massively larger numbers of folks on food stamps and welfare, (4) higher gas and food prices, (5) a constrictive environment for investment, (6) more porous borders, (7) a war on marriage and traditional morality, and (8) a diminished military facing even greater budgetary diminishment in an ever-more dangerous world, including a nuclear Iran.
       Long as it is, this list is incomplete.