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I am a 1967 graduate of The Citadel (Distinguished Military Student, member of the Economic Honor Society, Dean's List), a 1975 graduate of Gordon-Conwell Theological Seminary (M.Div., magna cum laude, member of the Phi Alpha Chi academic honor society); I attended the Free University of Amsterdam and completed my History of Dogma there and then received a full scholarship from the Dutch government to transfer to the sister school in Kampen, Holland. In 1979 I graduated from the Theological Seminary of the Reformed Churches of Holland (Drs. with honors in Ethics). My New Testament minor was completed with Herman Ridderbos. I am also a 2001 Ph.D. graduate of Westminster Theological Seminary (Systematic Theology) in Philly with a dissertation on the "unio mystica" in the theology of Dr. Herman Bavinck (1854-1921). I am a former tank commander, and instructor in the US Army Armor School at Ft. Knox, KY. I have been happily married to my childhood sweetheart and best friend, Sally, for 43 years. We have 6 children, one of whom is with the Lord, and 14 wonderful grandchildren.

Tuesday, February 21, 2006

Anne Lamott: Funnier Than Phyllis Diller But Not As Pretty (IV)

Dead Civilians and Young Soldiers
The eleventh chapter of Lamott’s book was written about a week after the war in Iraq began. She tells us that her days now feel like “midnight on the Serengeti, dangers everywhere…”[1] Well, not quite. Many Americans, myself included, slept a lot better knowing that the greatest military in the world was once again in a foreign land protecting our precious freedoms from fanatical Islamists who flew airplanes loaded with jet fuel into buildings in New York City occupied by unarmed non-combatants. Seldom in the history of the world has there been a bigger act of cowardice.
To Lamott’s mind, after the war started everything felt crazy. Wrong. Have we all forgotten how crazy everything felt on 9/11? I distinctly remember being outside with my wife by our pool. Both of us thought we heard the sound of an airplane in the proximity. We looked at each other for a moment. All planes had been grounded. We were used to hearing planes in the distance, but now the thought of a commercial airliner still being airborne brought a chilling reaction. Have we forgotten? I believe we have.
Ms. Lamott goes on to explain that the day after the war started a number of kindergarteners and first-graders were outside playing at her son’s school when a dozen or so military aircraft flew over. Their teacher, Miss Piggy—Peggy—told the children that they were safe because the planes were headed to the Middle East. That had to be comforting in light of the fact that our military is so bent on killing civilians that if they cannot kill enemy civilians they might just try to nuke our kids. Please! When was the last time you knew a kindergartener or first-grader that was worried about getting blown away by our military? If they possess such a fear it’s because some lame-brain adult has inculcated that fear in them. There is absolutely no reason why any child in America should fear our military. What poppycock!
As usual, there is a particular precocious child mingled in with the rest of the mediocre dolts and this child “began to worry that there might be children in the Middle East, too, but that maybe these pilots didn’t know that.”[2] Somebody missed the pre-flight briefing conducted by Gen. Homer “Bull” Right: “Now, men, our intel isn’t entirely accurate, but the possibility exists that there just might be children in the Middle East. Any questions? No. Okay, that’s all. Good luck.”
Now let me ask you this: If you were a teacher and your students were asking you questions about war at the tender age of five or six, what would commonsense dictate for you to do? Granted, commonsense seems to have evacuated the United States around the end of the nineteenth century, but just pretend that there was a vestige of it still around. Was there any opportunity for Miss Peggy to calm the children by telling them that our pilots do everything possible to avoid hitting any civilian targets—especially children? Miss Peggy, however, has taken advanced courses in liberal religious left-wing political correctness so she did the mad scramble and found a “giant sheet of paper, and the kids drew a huge peace dove on it, flying over children.”[3]
The children were apparently fretting about our pilots going to a country where they “might accidentally bomb children.”[4] Why would they worry about that except that they had attended the pre-flight briefing? What Miss Peggy could have pointed out was that in Iraq and Afghanistan the “bad guys” would have never accidentally bombed children. They would have done it intentionally every time and not cared in the least that they had done it. So much for the theory of moral equivalency.
I’m going to need some help with Ms. Lamott’s comment/question: “What are you supposed to do, when what is happening can’t be, and the old rules no longer apply?” If I were in the South I could wrinkle my nose and say, “Say what?” I’m just not quite at Ms. Lamott’s literary level. If something—whatever it is—is happening, then we’re rather forced, coerced to conclude that it can be—since it is de facto happening. Just which “old rules” are we referring to here? In some oblique manner, Ms. Lamott explains what she means by relating her tale about her mom’s Alzheimer’s disease. That’s a tough, tough disease.
In that ethical situation Ms. Lamott seemed rudderless and clueless about what decisions to make. Granted none of those types of decisions are either pleasant or easy, but irrespective of that, decisions—right decisions—still must be made. Anyway, a nurse from the Alzheimer’s Association came along side to help her during this horrid time. Ms. Lamott and her siblings said the following to the nurse: “We don’t know what we’re doing. We don’t know if we should put her in a home, and if so, when. We don’t even know what’s true anymore.”[5]
I get the part about struggling with the timing of precisely when to put mom in a home or whether to keep her at home with hospice care. Those are decisions that must be made in the crucible of life. But it’s a huge stretch from having to make such a decision to being completely at a loss as to what is true and what is false! Mom’s the one with Alzheimer’s not Ms. Lamott—maybe. Ms. Lamott claims to be a Christian. How could it be that a Christian woman, in possession of the Word of God, cannot know what is true?
The nurse must have just been released from the looney bin because her reply was also as stupid as Ms. Lamott’s (et al.) question.[6] Gently—how else could she reply since she had been given a horse tranquilizer before they released her—she responded, “How could you know?”[7] Right. Well, that’s that then. The Lamotts don’t know what’s true anymore and the gentle nurse helpfully explains that there’s no way they could have known. Anyone from the Emergent Church Movement paying attention here? This is your theology.
The nurse didn’t help, however, but a friend of Ms. Lamott’s called to explain “that since the war has begun, she finds herself inside a black hole half the time.”[8] What kind of thinking do you do when fifty percent of your time is spent in a black hole? Well, the fifty percent thing kind of rings constantly in your head. The friend asked, “What if we gave fifty percent of our discretionary budget to the world’s poor and then counted on the moral power of that action to protect us?”[9] Ms. Lamott was enthralled by her friend’s innocence.
Once again, I’d call the friend’s idea stupid—remember: it’s biblical. Allow me to explain. Over the last forty years, the U.S. alone has poured $500 billion into aid for Africa. Giving money to such a country is a waste of time. Don’t get me wrong. I have a plan to give financial aid to needy Africans. Here’s how it would work. The U.S. designates a certain amount for say, Rwanda. The U.N. then goes in with their pretty powder blue berets and distributes the food while the U.S. military stands guard and shoots to kill any and every thug and warlord that attempts to take the food from the poor and needy. Apart from that, throwing money at Africa is simply a silly kiss off to someone’s bleeding heart liberal conscience.
Haven’t we learned yet in this country that throwing money at a problem never solves it? Lyndon Johnson threw (read: wasted) trillions of U.S. taxpayer’s dollars on welfare and what did it get us? What positively did that money accomplish? You would think that spending that much money on a problem would resolve the issue, but it had the exact opposite effect. Liberals just don’t get it.
After some senseless banter back and forth about “meds,” depression, and being furious, Ms. Lamott treats us to the resurrection vision of one of her Sunday schools kids. For Easter, the child drew “a picture of the Easter Bunny outside the tomb: everlasting life, and a basket full of chocolates. Now you’re talking.”[10] ECM people are you listening? Does it matter?
Not only is Ms. Lamott a liberal theologically, but, just in case you haven’t guessed it by now, she’s also far left politically as well. Oakland’s “progressive representative” Barbara Lee, speaks for Ms. Lamott.[11] I’ll bet she does. Ms. Lamott intends to send her a check asking her to pass it on to someone who is nurturing a child in the inner city, “because this nation’s black and Hispanic kids will be the hardest hit by wartime deficit spending.”[12] This is pure emotionalism. When in doubt, throw more money at the problem.
The notion that blacks and Hispanics will be the hardest hit begs the question: Why? If the parents are there taking care of their children, why would they be any harder hit than say a poor white family? A poor Asian family? A poor family from India? Does Ms. Lamott mean that useless government programs might be cut? Does she mean that the U.S. taxpayer might—just might—not have to squander ever-increasing taxes ripped from his or her paycheck?
Finally, we meander with Ms. Lamott to the concept of prayer. She tells us that she’s “going to pray for our president to believe that all people deserve to be fed, and to try to make that a reality.”[13] Is that the same as saying being fed by someone else is my right? Does she mean that if an able bodied person—male or female—refuses to work, destroys themselves on illegal drugs, or enters this country illegally that the American taxpayer has an obligation to hand over their hard-earned money to feed them? I don’t think so.
Pray that is not well-intentioned is self-serving. In saying that she intends to prayer for President Bush, Lamott is using a ruse to jump to a vicious statement. She says that she understands that “Bush is family” and that she’s supposed to love him, but she thinks of him as “a Klansman” or “Osama bin Laden.”[14] Right. There’s no difference between George Bush and Osama bin Laden; between Bush and the KKK. You know, I’m really glad that Lamott said that and I’m equally glad that she said it in the way she said it. I submit to you that this is precisely what is wrong with liberal politics and liberal theology. What Lamott wrote is unconscionable.
It’s one thing to disagree with Mr. Bush. You’re allowed to do that. It’s a free country. But to put him in the same category as the KKK, the Taliban, or Osama bin Laden is off the charts. Of course, Ms. Lamott’s brand of theology allows her to do anything she wants. That’s why she can shack up and still call herself a Christian. Her theology contains on-liners from Woody Allen, that paragon of virtue who said “that someday the lion shall lie down with the lamb, but the lamb is not going to get any sleep.”[15]
I don’t suppose that it ever crossed Ms. Lamott’s mind that such a ridiculous statement strikes at the heart of God’s plan of salvation. No matter. All we’re concerned with are cutesy little statements by Woody Allen. But there’s more to this great theology. Ms. Lamott transports us to the children’s sermon in Pastor Veronica’s liberal Presbyterian church. During that sermon, the pastor-person “asked the kids to close their eyes for a moment—to give themselves a time-out—and they asked them what they had heard. They heard birds, and radios, dogs barking, cars, and one boy said, ‘I hear water at the edge of things.’”[16] Obviously, he was the precocious, smart child prodigy in the service.
The last time I heard “water on the edge of things” our handicapped daughter had forgotten to turn off the water and the tub overflowed. No wonder more and more people are coming to their senses and realizing how trite, senseless, and moralistic most children’s sermons are. But even the worst of the moralistic children’s sermons can compare with the unmitigated B.S. of Ms. Lamott’s theology.
In closing—what a relief!—she gives us this grandiose theological insight. She informs us that she’s going “to notice the light of the earth, the sun and the moon and the stars” as well as “the lights of our candles as we march” and then hits us with this piece of profundity: “If the present is really all we have, then the present last forever. And that, today, will be the benediction.”[17] There are almost as many errors as there are words in those two sentences, but for Ms. Lamott, this is it; this is as good as it gets. Moreover the “present,” which is an element of time is promoted to eternity. So if we follow Ms. Lamott’s thinking—which is a formidable task—the eternal present on earth will be the benediction.That means—among a host of other things—that this life, here and now, is as good as it gets. But you know, biblically she might be on to something. As I read Scripture it becomes clear to me that for the non-believer this actually is as good as it gets. For the believer, however, this is as bad as it gets.
[1] Anne Lamott, Plan B: Further Thoughts on Faith, (NY: Riverhead Books, 2005), p. 137.
[2] Ibid., 138.
[3] Ibid.
[4] Ibid.
[5] Ibid., 139. Italics mine.
[6] Lest you think I’m being crass and cruel by using the word “stupid,” I’d point out that the ESV uses this as a valid translation twelve times.
[7] Lamott, Plan B, 139.
[8] Ibid.
[9] Ibid., 139-140.
[10] Ibid., 140.
[11] Ibid., 142.
[12] Ibid.
[13] Ibid.
[14] Ibid., 144.
[15] Ibid.
[16] Ibid., 144-145.
[17] Ibid., 145.


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