Saturday, November 29

Puddings and Preparations

The Yuletide season is upon us--indeed, it officially begins this weekend with the early Advent celebrations of Stirring Day and St. Andrew's Vigil.

Stirring Day or Stir-Up Sunday, as it is sometimes called, is either the first Sunday of Advent or the weekend prior--usually falling on the Sunday after our American Thanksgiving. A holiday borrowed from the Victorians, it provides a wonderful way to make the transition into the Yuletide season. On this day mothers and grandmothers traditionally gather their whole family into the kitchen, assign various chopping, stirring, measuring, and clean-up tasks as they bake the venerable Christmas plum pudding together. Then, with the pudding baked and ageing nicely in a cool, dark spot, they relax with the feeling of satisfaction that although the busy holiday season is soon to be upon them, at least some of the preparation for Christmas Dinner was completed. The Advent preparation had begun.

Numbered among the Apostles, the brother of Simon Peter eventually became the revered patron of both Greece and Scotland where his feast day, November 30, remains a kind of national holiday. Andrew (c. 10-60) may well have been, as tradition asserts, the founder of the church at the site of Constantinople, but he was most assuredly the great reconciler, as Scripture asserts. As a result, his memory is celebrated by a vigil of forgiveness. Services of reconciliation are often followed by a great feast of roasted or smoked beef, the telling of heroic tales, the reciting epic poetry, and the singing of great ballads. It too is the very begging of a month-long Advent preparation for a celebration of the incarnation at Christmas.

Plum Pudding

There is nothing more delightful than the tradition of making a genuine plum pudding for Christmas dinner. But it has to be made nearly a month ahead of time. The ingredients you'll need include:

2 cups of currants, coarsley chopped
2 cups craisins (dried cranberries) or raisins coarsley chopped
half cup blanched almonds, chopped
1 teaspoon grated nutmeg
1 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1 teaspoon allspice
1 cup all purpose flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 pound shortening
1 and one-third cup brown sugar
8 eggs, beaten (yes, you really need 8 eggs)
12 ounces fresh, fine brown bread crumbs

half cup cooking brandy (don't worry, all the alcohol burns off, but the taste is marvelous)
half cup cooking sherry (ditto)
half cup milk

OK. Now, here is how to whip this into a Christmas delight:

In a large bowl, mix the chopped currants, craisins, and almonds with the spices. (You may add chopped candied fruits to taste at this point.) Add the flour, salt, and chopped almonds and mix well. Work in the breadcrumbs, shortening, and brown sugar until thoroughly mixed together.

In a separate bowl, beat the eggs, then add to pudding mixture. Add the brandy, sherry, and milk, stirring until thoroughly mixed. Cover and refrigerate overnight.

In the morning, pour the mixture into one very large or two small well buttered pudding basins, cover with greased wax paper and cloth, and secure cloth with rubber band or twine. Set the basin in a large open roasting pan filled about _ way up the sides of the basin with boiling water. Steam the pudding in this way, adding hot water as necessary, for eight hours.

Remove the wet cloths and cover the pudding with fresh greased paper and cloths, secured with rubber bands or twine. Store in a cool, dark place such as the refrigerator for at least three to four weeks.

Then on Christmas morning, steam the pudding and additional two hours. Unmold and serve with brandy butter. What's brandy butter, you ask? Well, here are the ingredients and intructions:

half cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup confectioner’s sugar
half cup brandy

In a medium bowl, beat the butter until creamy. Gradually beat in the confectioner’s sugar until fluffy. Add the brandy and mix thoroughly. Dribble this concoction on each serving of the Christmas pudding and I guarantee there will be no Scrooges around your table! Yumm!

Chesterton and Christmas Pudding

G.K. Chesterton loved Christmas--including his traditional Christmas plum pudding--with a passion. He had a lot to say about the subject, particularly when humbugs tried to steal away his joy for one reason or another. Thus, he wrote:

"Christmas and health are commonly in some antagonism, and I, for one, am heartily on the side of Christmas. Glancing down a newspaper column I see the following alarming sentence: ‘The Lancet adds a frightful corollary that the only way to eat Christmas pudding with perfect impunity is to eat it alone.’ At first the meaning of this sentence deceived me. I thought it meant that the eater of Christmas pudding must be in a state of sacred isolation like an anchorite at prayer. I thought it meant that the presence of one’s fellow creatures in some way disturbed the subtle nervous and digestive process through which Christmas pudding was beneficent. It sounded rather mad and wicked, certainly; but not madder or more wicked than many other things that I have read in scientific journals. But on rereading the passage, I see that my first impression did the Lancet an injustice. The sentence really means that when one eats a Christmas pudding one should eat nothing but Christmas pudding. ‘It is,’ says the Lancet, ‘a complete meal in itself.’ This is, I should say, a question of natural capacity, not to say of cubic capacity. I know a kind of person who would find one Christmas pudding a complete meal in itself, and even a little over. For my own part, I should say that three or perhaps four, Christmas puddings might be said to constitute a complete meal in themselves. But in any case, this sudden conversion of science to plum pudding is a fine example of the fickleness of the human intellect and the steadiness of the human appetite. Scientific theories change, but the plum pudding remains the same, century after century (I do not mean the individual pudding of course, but the type), a permanent monument of human mysticism and human mirth."

Amen, and amen!

Tuesday, November 25

King's Meadow Update

Several bits of news we thought you might be interested in:

Dr. Grant had his MRI yesterday morning. Results are due today, but it is not likely that surgery will be able to be scheduled until late next week due to the holiday week. He is disappointed because he so desperately wants to get the rehab of his knee underway so that he can resume his training for a marathon he wants to run in April.

For the first time, Dr. Grant got a mention in the nationally syndicated Dear Abby advice column. Surprise, surprise: the subject was Planned Parenthood!

Dr. Grant has been invited to speak to the Christian Officers' Fellowship following the Army-Navy game in Philadelphia on December 6. Do pray that his surgery can be scheduled for the week after the game and not the week before it. Needless to say, he relishes this opportunity to speak to the men and women who serve our nation so well.

An agreement was reached with Cumberland House today to produce new editions of The Patriot's Handbook and The Christian Almanac. The books will probably be scheduled for release this next spring.

This January, Dr. and Mrs. Grant will be in Peru to lead a retreat for our Mission to the World missionaries there. Though we decided not to send out a solicitation letter since it follows so quick on the heels of the Iraq trip, several of you have expressed a desire to help with the expenses of this trip. If the Lord has prompted you to help support this trip financially, you can send donations to the King's Meadow office. The cost of the two week mission should be just about $3000. Since King's Meadow is committed to never bury our friends and supporters with requests, your offerings are always profoundly appreciated because we know they are offered freely and generously.

Audio files of the Bible studies that Dr. Grant has been teaching each week here in Franklin are posted to the Micah Mandate website. The site recorded an astonishing 10,000 downloads of the series on Revelation during the month of November alone--according to the statistics from our hosting service! Hard to believe, isn't it? You can help us keep this free service available with your year-end gifts as well.

Thursday, November 20

Worldviews Matter

What a man or woman does or does not believe, is a matter of very little concern for most modern Americans. We like to think that we can separate private from public concerns, character from performance, worldview from responsibility. Alas, such an innovative posture naturally carries a fearful implication. It really means that it does not matter what anyone of us believes so long as we do not take our beliefs seriously. But throughout history, wise men and women have understood that far from being a superfluous and private affair, our inmost faith is the utmost aspect of our outmost lives.

What we do is not just affected by what we think, it is determined by it. What we think--even when we are not fully aware of what it is that we’ve been thinking--shapes our perceptions, our preferences, our prejudices, and our priorities. What we think will determine not only how we interpret what we see, hear, and feel, but how we react to those sensations. Even if we never actually think about what we think, it is at work in us in a dramatic way. In a very real sense, we are what we think.

If we are to have any hope of maintaining a civil society then it will be absolutely essential to recognize this principle: ideas matter; ideas make all the difference; ideas shape the course of human events; ideas have consequences. When we fail to see that very basic reality, we are morally and culturally hamstrung.

More than two decades ago, Francis Schaeffer wrote his landmark bestseller, A Christian Manifesto. In it, the seminal thinker, writer, and reformer asserted that the basic problem with most concerned parents and community leaders in our culture over the last two generations or more was that they had only “seen things in bits and pieces instead of totals.” The result was a kind of hesitant hit-or-miss approach to dealing with the dire dilemmas of our society: “They have very gradually become disturbed over permissiveness, pornography, the public schools, the breakdown of the family, and finally abortion. But they have not seen this as a totality--each thing being a part, a symptom, of a much larger problem.” He said that part of the reason for this was: “They failed to see that all of this has come about due to a shift in worldview--that is, through a fundamental change in the overall way people think a view the world and life as a whole.”

In other words, according to Schaeffer, part of the reason it has been so difficult to solve the grave cultural crises of the day is that we have largely ignored the fact that changes in our society have occurred first and foremost because of changes in our thinking. We’ve not only failed to recognize the fact that ideas have consequences; we’ve failed to recognize the existence of the ideas themselves. We’ve failed to see the central importance of worldview to all that we are and all that we do.

When the subject of worldview comes up, we generally think of arcane philosophy. We think of some kind of ivory tower intellectual gymnastics. We think of thickly obscure tomes, of complex logic puzzles, and of bizarre hypothetical gamesmanship. It is not exactly the sort of subject we associate with the practical nitty-gritty details of life.

In fact however, there is nothing more practical than the subject of worldview. Indeed, it is far more practical than understanding how the stock market works, how laws are passed through congress, or how e-mail messages traverse the internet. It is one of the most down to earth subjects we could ever try to tackle.

The word worldview is actually a rather sloppy English attempt at translating the German word weltanshauung. It literally means a life perspective or a way of seeing. It is simply used to describe the way we look at the world.

You have a worldview. I have a worldview. Everyone does. It is our perspective. It is our frame of reference. It is the means by which we interpret the situations and circumstances around us. It forms our presuppositions--our basic outlook on all the different aspects of our faith, and life, and experience. It is what enables us to process the information that comes to us through our senses.

Alvin Toffler, in his groundbreaking work Future Shock, wrote, “Every person carries in his head a mental model of the world, a subjective representation of external reality.” This mental model is, he says, like a giant filing cabinet. It contains a slot for every item of information coming to us. It organizes our knowledge and gives us a grid from which to think. Our mind is not a blank slate--a tabla rasa as Pelagius, Locke, Voltaire, or Rousseau--argued. It is simply not possible for any of us to be completely open-minded or genuinely objective. “When we think,” economic philosopher E.F. Schumacher asserted, “we can only do so because our mind is already filled with all sorts of ideas with which to think.” These more or less fixed ideas make up our mental model of the world, our frame of reference, our presuppositions--in other words, they make up our worldview.

In his very helpful book, How to Read Slowly, James Sire writes: “A worldview is a map of reality; and like any map, it may fit what is actually there, or it may be grossly misleading. The map is not the world itself of course, only an image of it, more or less accurate in some place, distorted in others. Still, all of us carry around such a map in our mental makeup and we act upon it. All our thinking presupposes it. Most of our experience fits into it.”

A worldview is simply a way of viewing the world. And everyone--without exception--has a worldview, whether they realize it or not. When a writer writes, he does so by the light of and in accord with his worldview. When an painter paints, she does so by the light of and in accord with her worldview. When a singer sings, he does so by the light of and in accord with his worldview. When a legislator legislates, she does so by the light of and in accord with her worldview. When a teacher teaches, does so by the light of and in accord with his worldview. It is not possible to separate what it is we do from how it is we think. We simply cannot escape from our worldview.

The famed Spanish artist Pablo Picasso believed that the modern world in which he lived was a place of randomness, fragmentation, and impersonal force. He was a political ideologue at heart. He espoused a radical sort of moral revolution. His worldview was reflected his art--most notably his large abstract canvasses in the years following the New York Armory show. He created a body of work that evoked randomness, fragmentation, and impersonal force. He lived, painted, and sculpted in a manner consistent with his ideology--so that he helped to usher in a kind of modernist revolution. In essence, his worldview necessitated Cubism.

The great German composer Johann Sebastian Bach believed that the world in which he lived was a place of beauty, goodness, and truth. He was a pious reformer at heart. He espoused a progressive sort of covenantal recovery. His worldview was reflected in his music--most notably in his concertos composed during his tenure as choirmaster in the city of Leipzig. He wrote, played, and performed in a manner consistent with his theology--so that he helped to usher in a kind of baroque reformation. In essence, his worldview necessitated Classicism.

The infamous political economist Karl Marx believed that the world in which he lived was a place of injustice, inequality, and He was a disgruntled rebel at heart. He espoused an angry sort dialectical materialism. His worldview was reflected in his policies--most notably in his strident manifestoes written just prior to the outbreak of innumerable Socialist revolutions. He plotted, schemed, and brooded in a manner consistent with his dogmas--so that he helped to usher in a kind of twentieth century insurgency. In essence, his worldview necessitated Communism.

The prolific English architect Christopher Wren believed that the world in which he lived was a place of order, simplicity, and theological profundity. He was an awestruck naturalist at heart. He espoused a candid sort of practical spirituality. His worldview was reflected in his architecture--most notably in the parish churches he designed following the Great Fire of London. He created, planned, and built in a manner consistent with his principles--so that he helped to usher in a kind of Georgian renaissance. In essence, his worldview necessitated Traditionalism.

Look at the work of writers as diverse as Jane Austen and Walter Scott, Mark Twain and James Joyce, or Tom Clancy and Stephen King and you will discover the same thing: writers write out of a particular perspective of life, out of their own peculiar worldview. Ideas have consequences. Good ideas have good consequences. Bad ideas have bad consequences. And inconsistent ideas have inconsistent consequences.

Ideas and behaviors will often have unintended consequences, undesired consequences, or second and third order consequences. Follow a particular line of thought by adhering to a particular form of behavior for any length of time and there will be a string of consequences. There will be a kind of worldview domino effect. One consequence will lead to another and another and another and another.

This is worldview thinking at its most practical level. Let your mind dwell on forbidden fantasies and before long your thought life will be marked by unfaithfulness. That inevitably creates restlessness and discontent. That may lead directly to adultery. That may in turn result in separation or even divorce. The ripple effect of consequences may not end there: children are affected. Neighbors and friends are affected. On and on and on it goes. Worldviews matter. Ideas have consequences.

This is what Apostle Paul was pointing out as early as the first century when he wrote to the Roman Christians to warn them of the slippery slope we all inevitably venture down when we excuse aberrant behavior. Sin begets more sin, deeper sin, more perverse sin.

This is precisely why the Founding Fathers made certain to ground their work toward building a great society of freedom and liberty on the unambiguous ideas of the Christian worldview. Throughout history that worldview had prompted the world’s most remarkable flowering of art, music, literature, architecture, prosperity, and progress. For all its many failings, no other civilization had known the kind of justice, equality, independence, affluence, charity, development, compassion, beauty, advancement, mobility, and maturity as Christendom had. The American pioneers wanted to perpetuate--and perhaps even enhance--that legacy for the sake of their children, their children’s children, and for all the succeeding generations that would come afterward. They were careful to avoid the errors of pagan worldviews which had, throughout the history of the world, continually unleashed the horrors of brutality, tyranny, misery, and injustice.

G.K. Chesterton once quipped that “America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed.” Other nations find their identity and cohesion in ethnicity, or geography, or partisan ideology, or cultural tradition. But America was founded on certain ideas—ideas about freedom, about human dignity, and about social responsibility. It was this profound peculiarity that most struck Alexis de Tocqueville during his famous visit to this land at the beginning of the nineteenth century. He called it “American exceptionalism.”

Alas, that exceptionalism is disappearing at an alarming rate--and where it remains, it is under fierce attack. Having rejected the Christian worldview of art, music, literature, law, and science, we will no longer be able to harvest the fruit of Christian ideas and ideals. Instead, we will be forced to live with the consequences of Pagan ideas and ideals. And that is not a pretty sight--it never has been and it never will be. We shall soon see, like never before, that worldviews really do matter.

Wednesday, November 19

Auto Accident

This past weekend, Dr. and Mrs. Grant were involved in a multiple car accident. Thankfully, no one was seriously injured--although Dr. Grant's truck will be in the shop for some time and it appears he will require surgery on his right knee. He won't be running for a while! Mrs. Grant is fine. Do pray for the young man who caused the accident and for one of the young women in another car whose vehicle was totaled. God's grace has never been more evident.

Sunday, November 16

Operation Christmas Child

Operation Christmas Child, the world's largest children's Christmas project, run by Franklin Graham’s Samaritan’s Purse, has come under a vitriolic attack in the UK. According to an article in The Guardian, one of England’s largest circulation daily newspapers, the project has a “toxic agenda” and is little more than a cover for “evangelicals who like to giftwrap Islamophobia.” I guess that's what mercy and evangelism have been reduced to in the world of left-leaning prognostication.

In fact, Operation Christmas Child is a remarkably successful ministry of compassion that brings Christmas joy and Gospel hope, packed in gift-filled shoeboxes, to impoverished children around the world. Over the past 10 years, more than 24 million shoeboxes have been delivered in famine-racked, disease-ravaged, war-torn regions across the globe. While I was in Iraq recently, I was delighted to see boxes from the project in isolated communities altogether cut off from other forms of aid or communication.

Our family, our school, and our church have all participated in either this project or the Prison Fellowship Angel Tree project over the whole course of the last decade and we will do so again. I trust you will too. It'll drive the Gospelphobic Lefties utterly bonkers--but far more importantly, it will continue to shine a very bright light into the depths of a very smothering darkness. This is the very sort of thing we were made for--despite all the outraged protestations of this poor fallen world.

Blog Slogging

My regular gleanings in blogdom:

My dear friend, Bruce Green, is not only brilliant, erudite, and visionary, he is also the dean of the new Liberty University School of Law. His blog is not to be missed.

What if G.K. Chesterton actually had a blog? Thankfully, we don’t have to wonder what that might actually be like any longer.

The writers at World magazine now have a collective blog, edited and selected by Marvin Olasky. They offer some very telling behind-the-scens insights into the headlines.

David Mills began the collective blog idea for Touchstone magazine--and it remains one of the best on the web. This is a great resource from a “Journal of Mere Christianity.”

Peter Leithart is finally blogging and his Biblical and literary ruminations are as brilliant as you might expect them to be. I'm hooked.

Likewise, you’ll not want to miss John Barach’s sundry theological insights and ecclesiastical musings.

Jeff Meyers always tips me off to the best SF reading and the most helpful liturgical resources.

The always irreverent, often hilarious David Horowitz has a fascinating blog at his Frontpage magazine site.

The Center for Cultural Leadership posts by Andrew Sandlin are invariably worth reading and pondering.

There are few writers as eloquent--and even fewer journalists as relevant--as Joe Sobran. His site is a marvel.

The surprisingly controversial Bishop of Durham, N.T. Wright, has a site that is not really a blog but that is sufficiently prolific and retro to qualify here.

With incredibly insightful essays from great writers like Rich Lusk and Mark Horne, the Theologia site is well worth regular visits.

I find the Highlands Study Center blog of R.C. Sproul, Jr. provocative, refreshing, and insightful. It's a spiritual kick in the pants.

Remy Wilkins is one of my favorite young writers. I am particularly partial to his bow ties but his poetry is worth a look too.

Saturday, November 15

Gourd and Te Deum

As our family prepares for the holiday season, we always start looking around for new music. There is nothing quite like majestic, glorious, provocative music to settle our hearts and focus our minds on the things that matter most when the clamoring of this poor fallen world invariably tugs us toward the things that matter least. Two of the best places we’ve found to gather that new music are the Gourd and the Te Deum online stores.

Gourd is an artists cooperative featuring works that are “a little bit classical, a little bit folk, and altogether acoustic.” Some of our favorite works over the last few years have come from the Gourd label--Celtic, Medieval, Contemporary, Traditional Appalachian, all their music is fabulous. We’ve bought almost every title they have ever released through the years and we have never been disappointed. Never. Not once.

Te Deum is a wonderful new addition to the extraordinary portfolio of sites from the folks who brought us the Discerning Reader books site and the Antithesis theology site. All are worthy of your attention. But the wide stylistic range and the excellent selections of classical, contemporary, and independent artists featured here make Te Deum perhaps the most valuable resource of all. Highly recommended.

Friday, November 14

A Little Perspective

In the larger scheme of things, the "Global Rich List" is a bracing stewardship reminder. It ought to help us keep things in a little better perspective, don't you think?

Thursday, November 13

Mac or PC?

In the first MTV “Rock the Vote” forum, Bill Clinton was asked “Boxers or briefs?” This time around, the hot question for the assembled Dems was “PC or Mac?” For the record, Carol Moseley Braun indicated that she uses a PC, while her son prefers his Mac. Howard Dean is a PC user; Rev. Al Sharpton uses a Mac; Rep. Dennis Kucinich has a PC; Sen. Joseph Lieberman said that he uses "hand-held wireless Blackberry." Of course, each of the hopefuls was trumped by Al Gore, who sits on the board of Apple and is an avid Mac user, and by Dubya, who is a much more balanced and bipartisan gadget guru with both platforms represented in his panoply of presidential tech tools. Fascinating, huh? Alas, it turns out that the whole exercise in tech cleverness was actually staged by a CNN reporter--to somehow add "spice" to the political debate since mere policy is apparently "not sexy enough." Ah, how the substance of political discourse continues to amaze and inspire.

Theater of the Absurd

Oh, now this is good. New York City school administrators, in barring Nativity Scenes while allowing Jewish Menorahs and Islamic Crescents, have argued that the birth of Christ was not an “accurate representation of an historical event.” Amazingly, there are still more than a few folks--even Christian folks--who actually hold out hope for government education to the extent that they have yielded up their children to its sundry machinations. I'm beginning to think that the former absurdity is less grotesque than the latter.

Monday, November 10

When Religion Is Malignant

Throughout history, nothing has been more destructive than the misapplication of mankind’s highest aspirations. Indeed, religion can be toxic, dangerous, and virulent. Religion can be malignant.

The fact that the modern witches brew of secular ideologues, revolutionaries, Marxist, communists, Fascists, terrorists, Mercantilists, and nationalists have slaughtered more innocent people during the last century than all the religious conflicts of all time combined, hardly gets religion off the hook. The sometimes horrific record of the pious and the ill effect of their piety on those around them is inexcusable--even in the face of the even more frequent horrific record of the impious and the ill effect of their impiety.

We expect more of the religious. And well we should. This is one case where a double standard may well be warranted.

According to Edwin Arlington Robinson, “The world is a kind of spiritual kindergarten where millions of bewildered infants are trying to spell God with the wrong blocks. Indeed, all too often it seems that our spiritual aspirations--what was intended to be the demonstration of all that is good and right and trued in us--lead us to absurd prejudice, hatred, and cruelty.

How can we explain the specter of the Ku Klux Klan preaching enmity in the name of Christ, opponents of Civil Rights bombing black churches in the name of white churches? How can we explain the ethic violence of the Islamic Hutu against the Christian Tutsi? How can we explain Neo-Nazis stirring up prejudice and fear in the name of Christian civilization? How can we explain the Thirty Years War, the Hundred Years War, or the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre? How can we explain the purge of Bloody Mary or the Inquisition of Queen Isabella? How can we explain the violence in Northern Ireland? Or the ongoing bitterness along the Rhineland? How can you explain it when something so right as faith in God suddenly becomes something so wrong as terrorism?

Tens of thousands of Americans watched on television with a sense of surreal horror, the two towers of the World Trade Center collapsed into flaming steel, rubble, and dust, and vanished from the skyline of lower Manhattan. Again and again we asked the question, “how is it possible that someone could do such a horrible thing in the name of religion, in the name of faith, in the name of God?”

Likewise, we were shocked by scenes of spontaneous celebrations erupting on the streets of Riyadh, Beirut, Cairo, Tripoli, Baghdad, Islamabad, Jakarta, Tehran, Ankara, Jericho, Khartoum, and East Jerusalem as news of the terrorist attacks reached around the globe. Commentators, experts, clerics, and statesmen went out of their way to assure us that Islam was peaceful, that the terrorists did not represent the faith of Muhammad, and that all true Muslims were as horrified as everyone else at the attack. But it was hard to ignore the fact that we were seeing taxi drivers, shop owners, students, soldiers, teachers, clerics, professionals, and laborers dance in the streets, hand out candy to passersby, shout gleefully, fire weapons in the air, and sing jubilant songs of victory.

How is it possible that people would rejoice is such a murderous attack? How is it possible that people would celebrate such a terrible tragedy? How is it that they would take glee in such an awful calamity? And how is it that they would justify their feelings with their religion?

Suicide bombers in Baghdad, Jerusalem, Kabul, Tel Aviv, and Java remind us on an almost daily basis that something terrible and horrific can and does come from that which is supposed to be most noble, most admirable in men and nations: their faith. It is indeed, a bizarre paradox.

Some would suggest that the solution to this enigma is the eradication of all religion. Indeed, some ardent atheists make a religion out of hating religion. Thomas L. Friedman, for instance, writing in the New York Times, asserted that “the real war” we face today is against religion, which believes it must be applied in life. “We have to understand what this war is about. We're not fighting to eradicate terrorism. Terrorism is just a tool. We're fighting to defeat an ideology: religious totalitarianism.”

And just what is this “religious totalitarianism” Friedman is so concerned about? It is “a view of the world that my faith must reign supreme and can be affirmed and held passionately only if all others are negated.” In other words, religious totalitarians are those who believe that their religion is true. And according to Friedman, such notions are inherently dangerous. True religious freedom then is being able to worship the God of our choice so long as we don’t really believe that our faith actually means anything in an absolute and objective sense.

Comparing any and all belief in revealed truth to Nazism, Friedman went on to argue that every social institution, not just the military, must be enlisted to eradicate the belief that anyone's religion is actually true: “But unlike Nazism, religious totalitarianism can't be fought by armies alone. It has to be fought in schools, mosques, churches and synagogues, and can be defeated only with the help of imams, rabbis and priests.”

Thus, according to this renowned commentator writing in the world's most influential newspaper, religion must be relegated to the level of preference. It must never be allowed to rise to the level of principle. If religion behaves itself by being essentially irrelevant then it will not have to be banned. But in order to so tame and train religious passion all religious people must join the state, the schools, and the courts in seeking to destroy the notion that their religion is actually true.

Such secularist fundamentalism is becoming more and more prominent. Recently a number of web sites have debuted targeting prominent conservative Christian leaders and their organizations as examples of “hate.” One site anarchist site lists such organizations as Focus on the Family, the Christian Coalition, Promise Keepers, the Family Research Council, and Coral Ridge Ministries. The groups are compared to Afghanistan's fundamentalist Taliban movement and readers are offered “practical advice for the free person who wants to stop religious hate groups from running your life.” The site also invites interested parties to “join us as we kick some dirt into their graves, burying their hideous fascism once and for all.” A homosexual activist site has created a “die soon” list that includes such leaders as James Dobson, Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, D. James Kennedy, and Don Wildmon. It promises to transfer each name to the “good riddance” list as soon as the men “kick the bucket.” Yet another site asserts that any organizations that uphold traditional Christian sexual ethics are guilty of being “extremists and hate-mongers” that are “intent on stoning gays” and “reinstituting slavery.”

According to sociologist James Blanchard, “The fervor of Atheism is no less religious than the piety of Evangelical Christianity. The real danger of religion is not the belief in ultimate things; it is the impulse to power. It is the determination to exert force. It is the imposition of values against the will of others. Any religion can be guilty of such dangerous behavior--but no religion is as frequently guilty as that religion which pretends not to be religious.” Indeed, as John Koster demonstrated in The Atheist Syndrome and Paul Johnson showed in The Intellectuals, religion is at its most dangerous stage when it either fails to live up to its won high ideals or it attempts to force those ideals upon the unwilling masses through coercion.

In this poor fallen world, that which is best about us, in us, and for us quickly becomes that which is worst about us, in us, and for us. That is precisely why religion can be dangerous. That is precisely why the religious people of the world so desperately need the Gospel--which is the message Jesus brought to the fiercely religious Pharisees (and all of the rest of us fiercely religious Pharisee-wanna-bes).

Saturday, November 8

Limping to the Finish

Early on this beautiful, brisk Saturday morning the Wounded Knee Running Team trailed in the dust of the fleet footed Franklin Classical Cross Country Team, competing at the Run Through History 5K. The hilly course and cold temperatures just about killed us old folks--or at least, this old folk! Nevertheless, we all finished, raised a little money for our schools in Iraq, and had a great time running through the beautiful grounds of the Battle of Franklin Park beneath Winstead Hill. Despite the fact that I have yet to learn how to adequately train for hilly courses, I was actually able to lower my personal best time for a 5K by nearly two minutes. Up next for us: the Habitrot 5 and 10K. It is a benefit for our local chapter of Habitat for Humanity--to be run early on Thanksgiving morning. Once again, we'll be using the opportunity to raise awareness and funds for the Classical School of the Medes. Interested in pledging? Want to offer a little encouragement to our faithful plodders? Just contact us at the King's Meadow office and we'll let you know how--and why! Now, I must go and ice these knees!

Friday, November 7

Wounded Knee Exploits

Tomorrow morning, bright and early, both the Franklin Classical School Cross Country Team and the Wounded Knee Running Team will brave the brisk temperatures and the achy knees to participate in the Franklin Run though History 5K. With a course winding through the historic battlefield between Winstead Hill and Carter House, the run will provide the teams with an opportunity to highlight our fundraising efforts for the Classical School of the Medes. Pray for us as we tell the story of this amazing opportunity--and as we limp toward the finish line in the cold weather!

CSM Broadcast

The local Nashville CBS affiliate has produced a wonderful half-hour special on the relationship between Franklin Classical School, Servant Group International, and the Classical School of the Medes. It can be seen five times over the weekend on Channel 5 and on Cable Channel 50. I am currently negotiating with the station to secure DVD copies of the program so that supporters outside the Middle Tennessee viewing area can have an opportunity to see it as well. Pray that the broadcast will raise awareness and create wider support for our efforts to rebuild Iraq one child at a time.

Yet Another Forgotten Classic

According to Hilaire Belloc, “Every man ought to read Rasselas, and every wise man will read it a half a dozen times in his life. Indeed, a man would do well to read it once a year at least, for never was wisdom better put, or more enduringly.” Though generally not included in the canon of the "Great books," it should be. Belloc is right, Rasselas is an enduring masterpiece that should be read again and again and again.

Samuel Johnson, the author of Rasselas, was one of the most important English writers of the eighteenth century. He ranks right up with William Shakespeare and G.K. Chesterton as among the most quoted prose stylists in the English language. Indeed, it has long been traditional to refer to the second half of the eighteenth century as the "Age of Johnson."

Interestingly though, he is usually remembered not so much as a writer but as a conversationalist and as a personality--mostly due to the brilliant account of his life written by his friend, companion, and ne’er-do-well, James Boswell, in 1791. For a long time, thanks largely to a glowing critical review by Thomas Macaulay in 1831, Boswell’s biography actually eclipsed Johnson’s own writings. In fact, many of the most memorable lines in the quotation dictionaries and anthologies come not from his works but from his biographer’s recollection of his conversation. Boswell was able to put Johnson in that very small literary club--whose members include authors like Socrates, Wilde, and Proust--whose most famous works were written by someone else.

Born in Litchfield in 1709, the son of a failed bookseller, Johnson struggled throughout his early life against the ravages of poverty. Though he demonstrated a precocious mind and a prodigious literary talent, he was unable to complete his education at Oxford, and instead began his lifelong labors as a hack freelance writer in London for a series of newspapers, magazines, journals, and book publishers. From the books in his father’s shop he had found comfort and instruction, preparing him for his role as the century’s greatest man of letters. He had received an excellent introduction to classical literature at the Lichfield and Stourbridge Grammar Schools. The combination of his education and his privation enabled him to become phenomenally prolific and adept at virtually every genre--from criticism, translation, poetry, and biography to sermons, parliamentary reports, political polemics, and dramatic stage plays. Though his work was recognized as brilliant, he was never quite able to climb out of the miry penury that seemed to bog him down throughout most of his life.

At last, when he was nearly fifty, he received a commission to produce a dictionary. Over the course of the next seven years, he single-handedly took on the great task of comprehensively documenting English usage--which when completed, set the standard for etymology forever afterward. The work was indeed, stunning. Each word in the dictoionary was not only carefully and succinctly defined, but illustrated from the classics, popular contemporary culture, or the vast body of poetic literature.

Eventually, the dictionary would earn Dr. Johnson a royal allowance which enabled him to pay off the bill collectors and to live with a modicum of ease. But while he undertook the task, he was only barely able to keep the wolf from the door. It was during this difficult transitional season of his life that he wrote Rasselas--and when he first met James Boswell, a noble Scottish sluggard, reprobate, and spendthrift who had already spent half a lifetime squandering his father’s considerable estate on the pleasures of the flesh. Johnson was a pious, thoughtful, bookish, and venerable elder statesman. They made for quite a pair.

As a scholar, but as an impoverished scholar, Johnson always depended on public libraries for his reading. He was never able to accumulate a working library of his own when he was young, and by the time he was old, he was too set in his ways to begin new habits of study.

Fortunately for him--and for literary posterity--London then had the greatest public library in the world. It was then known as the King’s Library--though soon after, it would become a part of the British Museum and form the heart of the great British Library.

The Museum had been founded about the time Johnson arrived in London. At the time it had only three departments. From the Department of Natural and Artificial Productions developed in due course all the antiquities departments of the British Museum. The Department of the Sciences eventually became the Natural History Museum. At first, both of these remained rather meager in resources until well into the nineteenth century. But the Department of Manuscripts and of Printed Books--contained in the King’s Library collections--were the most important parts of the original British Museum, and they grew eventually into the greatest library in Britain--perhaps in all the world.

The foundation collection of the library was that of Sir Hans Sloane. This comprised about 40,000 volumes of rare classical works covering the whole range of human achievement. To it was added the Royal collection, begun in the time of Henry VII and inherited by George II from his predecessors on the throne.

It was modeled on the ancient library of Alexandria. Numbered among the seven wonders of the ancient world, that library achieved an almost mythic stature in the study of classics from the time of the early Renaissance. The apocryphal burning of the Library during Julius Caesar's occupation of the city was often described as the greatest calamity of the ancient world, wherein the most complete collection of all Greek and Near Eastern literature was lost in one great conflagration. In reality, the library and its community of scholars not only flourished during the Hellenistic era of the Ptolemies, but continued to survive throughout the period of the Roman and Byzantine empires. It was not until the capitulation of the Christians of North Africa to the terrible Moslem Ji’had at the end of the eighth century that the library was destroyed. The great aspiration of King George III was to somehow recover that legendary Alexandrian glory.

By the time Johnson began using the library regularly, the inlaid interleaved copies of the vast catalogue extended to twenty-three volumes. He was thus able to read the greatest books of all time. He imbibed deeply from Aristophanes, Aristotle, Bunyan,, Caxton, Cervantes, Chaucer, Cicero, Dante, Dryden, Homer, Horatius Flaccus, Luther, Milton, Ptolemaeus, and Shakespeare as well as from the more contemporaneous Addison, Collins, Hughes, Pope, Parnell, Prior, Savage, and Watts.

By the time he had begun compiling his dictionary, Johnson was nearly incapacitated with gout, corpulence, and arthritis. By all accounts he was built for the stationary rather than the mobile anyway--overweight and slovenly, asthmatic and awkward. First impressions of him always surprised people. He was big-boned, six feet tall, stout, and stooped. Over a crop of wiry, frizzy hair he wore varying, ill-fitting wigs in unfetching shades of gray. His short-sightedness led to his reading so close to lamps and candles that the wigs frequently bore scorch marks. Today such a man might be held far afield of the priceless books contained in the British Library. But in his own time, he had a remarkable degree of access.

His astonishing acquaintance with the whole range of classical letters is evident in both his dictionary and his prose works. It is what makes his work so compelling, even to this day. But such bibliophilia would have been altogether impossible were it not for the blessing of the public library where he read and studied and worked.

Perhaps the greatest influence of that wide ranging experience in the library though, may be seen in his remarkable morality tale, Rasselas. It was written in 1759, before the success of his dictionary wrenched him out of dire poverty. He dashed it out during the evenings of a single week in order to raise the necessary funds to pay for his mother’s funeral. In some ways, it was a book that could have only been composed under the duress or grief and privation. But, its message had also been developing throughout his long experience of reading, writing, and researching. Indeed, it served as a kind of summation of all that he had come to stand for as a thinker, critic, and esteemed member of the Tory literati.

The central thesis of the story is simply that happiness in this poor fallen world may not be found in our circumstances--and thus it was a stern rebuke to the brazen materialism of modernity. The tale begins in the bosom of a paradise. From there it wanders through a vast landscape of privilege and prosperity. The characters discover that having everything, being protected from every worldly woe, and blithely enjoying all the things that most men can only yearn for is hardly a prescription for contentment.

The story of Rasselas has been described by some critics as “a string of apophthegms in vacuo.” In other words, it has been accused of being little more than a loosely structured narrative contrived to showcase a series of observations about human nature--where the characters are stiff symbols, plot lines are mere excuses for the sundry discourses, and long philosophical discussions are imposed upon the dialog with little concern for literary integrity. In some respects, this observation may be true--but it hardly detracts from the brilliance of the work. Johnson was quite cognizant of the structural purposes of the work. It was never intended to be a romance or a thriller. It is a novel of ideas.

Rasselas is filled with all the epistemological, eschatological, and belletristic speculations one might expect from a man who spent every waking moment in the company of the great classics of Western Christendom pondering the etymology of words and the difficulties of life in the modern world. The work is erudite, provocative, wide-ranging, and deeply satisfying. It simultaneously affords readers a perspective of the roots of antiquity while critiquing the impulse to modernity--and all from a distinctly Christian worldview. It realizes in a single narrative quest the essential questions of both the Western philosophical tradition and the English literary tradition.

At the same time, it is a great story. It is a page-turning read. That is quite a feat.

Thursday, November 6

Not of this World

By almost any modern definition, Jan Comenius (1592-1670) was anything but a success. Though Herman Bavink called him “the greatest figure of the second generation of reformers” he is practically forgotten today. Though Andrew Bonar said he was “the truest heir of Hus, the chief inspiration of Chalmers, and the first model for Carey,” he is rarely mentioned alongside such men. Though J. Hudson Taylor said he was “the single greatest innovator of missions, education, and literature during the Protestant Reformation,” his is hardly remembered. And though Abraham Kuyper said that he was “the father of modern Christian education,” his vision of substantive and systematic discipleship is only infrequently practiced.

He was astonishingly diverse in both his interests and his endeavors. Comenius helped to shape the educational systems of Holland, Sweden, Prussia, Scotland and Puritan New England. He launched missionary outreaches to Jews and Turks, Gypsies and Eastern Orthodox, Catholics and Liberals. He initiated projects to create a comprehensive Christian encyclopedia, a translation of the Scriptures into the Turkish language. He wrote and published a veritable library of books of inspiration, educational theory, cultural criticism, history, practical devotion, exposition, and theology. He was asked to lead both King’s College in Cambridge and Harvard College in America. He served the Swedish king as a chaplain. He developed innovative plans for a Christian university program. And he was able to do all this despite suffering a series of personal tragedies and living most of his life in uncertain exile. As his contemporary Cotton Mather argued, he was a man of “extraordinary accomplishments amidst inordinate adversity.” It is a marvel then that he is not remembered as such.

Jan Comenius was born in eastern Moravia, the heir of a rich Czech Protestant legacy that traced its roots to the reforming work of Jan Milic (1313-1374), Jan Hus (1371-1415), and Jerome of Prague (1365-1416). He was catechized and educated in the rich Reformed tradition of the day by godly parents. Alas, the first of many tragedies struck his happy home when Comenius was just twelve. Both of his parents died in a virulent outbreak of the plague. Nevertheless, shortly afterward he went to Heidelberg to study theology. In 1616, having completed his studies, he returned home to teach in the little parish school where he had once been a student. Less than eighteen months later, he was ordained into the Hussite Reformed church and served a small congregation in Falnek—where he married his childhood sweetheart and began his family.

The second great tragedy of his life struck just two years later. The first decisive battle of the Thirty Years War was fought at White Mountain, near Prague. The Hapsburg Catholics overwhelmed the Protestant Czech forces and a fierce new persecution was imposed on the Reformed community throughout the land. Comenius, like most of the other pastors, was forced into hiding. The next month, another outbreak of the plague took the lives of his beloved wife and their two young children.

It was just the beginning of a life marked by suffering, sadness, and exile.

Shortly thereafter, Comenius led a large contingent of displaced Protestant refugees across the mountains into southern Poland in order to begin to rebuild their lives, their families, and their churches. It was then that Comenius began writing such classics as The Labyrinth of this World (a beautiful allegory of the Christian life written more than half a century before Bunyan’s Pilgrim’s Progress) and Man of Sorrows (a classic meditation on the substitutionary work of Christ on the cross). He also began to travel to other Protestant lands to advocate the cause of his Moravian brethren, uprooted from their homeland, impoverished, and harried.

The genius of Comenius was soon recognized—not only by the grateful community of Reformed exiles huddled together in the mountain villages of southern Poland, but also by the wider church. In the years that followed, he entertained invitations to teach and live in the cities of London, Boston, Stockholm, Paris, Amsterdam, Wittenberg, and Geneva. He was called on to devise universal Christian curricula, to reform educational systems, to administer colleges, to oversee theological projects, and to supervise publishing efforts. He corresponded with the infamous Cardinal Richelieu as well as with the philosopher Rene Descartes, Cotton Mather, Oliver Cromwell, Charles X of Sweden, and the industrialist Louis de Geer. He was among the most influential and sought after men of his day.

But the pastoral responsibility for his little, beleaguered flock always remained his first and foremost concern. He attempted to utilize every opportunity, every contact for their sake. Meanwhile, despite the insecurity of living in exile on very limited resources, his vast vision for missionary outreach and educational reform was never dimmed. Always the optimist, he continued to devise new plans, to hammer out new strategies, and to formulate new projects.

In 1656, after a lifetime of hardship and opportunities deferred, tragedy struck Comenius again. Polish troops burned and looted the Moravian villages harrying the survivors across the border. They had lost everything. Again.

Comenius and the other refugees were scattered across Europe, on estates throughout the German and Dutch provinces. There, they would live out their remaining days as strangers in yet another strange land.

Comenius, energetic as always, set his hand to a host of new projects. Though he had lost a dozen unpublished manuscripts, his printing press, and all of his worldly goods, he was unshaken in his confidence in the Gospel to change the course of both men and nations. He had set his ultimate hope on the day that Christ would make manifest His New Heavens and Earth. But he was also steadfast in the certainty that a deposit of that future glory would be made in the tired domains of the old heavens and earth. To his dying day he lived in accordance with that notion, planning for the evangelization of the Muslims and Gypsies, undertaking the first complete translation of the Bible into the Turkish language, and refining his vision for a “Pansophic College.”

When he died at the age of seventy-eight, he left behind a glorious legacy, not of this world, that would inspire the likes of Whitefield, Wesley, Zinzendorf, Chalmers, and Kuyper as well as providing a powerful reminder that success in the Kingdom rarely looks like success in the world.

Tuesday, November 4

Lectio Divina

Recently, in a lecture about current trends in commercial architecture, the patriarch of the modernist International School, Philip Johnson asserted, “These days the only things that are really new are those things that are really old.” What is true of architecture and fashion (Have you been as astonished as I have been by the return of seventies t-shirts, shoe styles, and jeans? I mean, really?) is equally true of almost everything else in life and culture. “There is nothing new under the sun,” Solomon opined.

It is for that reason that I have been happy--and only mildly surprised--to see the prominent return of old Medieval spiritual disciplines like Lectio Divina. In books like Take and Read Eugene Peterson (Eerdman’s) and Habits of the Mind by James Sire (IVP) the richness of this approach to spirituality is highlighted and illustrated. And in the new release from the NavPress THINK line of books, Read, Think, Pray, Live by Tony Jones, Lectio Divina takes center stage. All written for the tired and cynical modern American Christian!

Explaining the four primary steps of the discipline--Lectio, Meditatio, Oratio, Contemplatio--Jones in particular provides modern readers with a positively ancient approach to engaging faith, integrating the arts, enlivening the mind, stimulating growth, and provoking maturity. And he does it in the brisk and relevant language that is the hallmark of all the THINK books. Indeed, what is remarkable about this book about a meditative, substantive, and provocative spiritual vision from the long ago and far away is that it is intended for young believers--for the blogging, hip-hopping, knit cap slouching, snow boarding, youth grouping, espresso sipping, iPodding, and low-rising teen generation.

Concluding with clear examples of how to use Lectio Divina in small groups, churches, and youth groups as well as specific exercises from the Scriptures, Jones teachers his readers a whole new and altogether old approach to Bible reading, study, and devotion. His directions are clear and concise. His illustrations are relevant and cogent. And his applications--demonstrating an obvious grasp of great literature, the classic arts, music, and how these sundry things may be integrated into a rich and mature spiritual life--are wide-ranging and convincing.

I am convinced that this is just the sort of bracing dose of reality that the modern Evangelical church needs just now. Get Read, Think, Pray, Live. Let Jones guide you toward a deeper, more profound approach to Bible study--even if you've not thought about bell bottoms since 1974 and are loathe to even imagine tying on a beaded macrame choker or paying three bucks for a cup of coffee with more chocolate syrup than java. I am praying that this really old thing does indeed become the next new thing.

Jars of Clay

The new CD by Jars of Clay is due to hit the stores in a few days. These pioneers of provocative, theologically sound, and melodic contemporary music have done some of their best work in years--maybe their best ever. This mostly-acoustic project is as wonderful as you might expect--but it also offers long-time fans some real production surprises. Who We Are Instead picks up where the acoustic set during their last tour left off. It is rather paradoxical: poignant and powerful, contemplative and celebrative, traditional and progressive, mellow and upbeat, poetic and didactic. There are more than a few memorable cuts on this one--and even a cover of an old America tune. With just a hint of T-Bone's O Brother Where Art Thou, a shot of Memphis Blues, a smidgen of Beatles, a tad of HEM, a nod at REM, a wink at Coupland, some Lyle-like Southern Gospel, and a healthy dose of familiar Jars creativity, this is a real musical rarity: maturity with grace, street cred with substance. If you have appreciated Jars as much as I have through the years, I think you'll absolutely have to have this CD in your collection--and you'll probably want to make plans to give away lots of copies for Christmas.

Saturday, November 1

Mike Yaconelli

On October 24, Mike Yaconelli announced to a Youth Specialties convention in Charlotte, “If I died right this minute, I would be able to say, ‘God, what a ride! What a ride!’” Less than a week later, he was ushered into the Father’s presence following a fatal car accident near his home in northern California. I have little doubt that he was able to proffer that line--and afterward, laughed.

The popular Christian author, speaker, and youth ministry leader was the founder of Youth Specialties, one of the most innovative ministries of the last fifty years. Through his books, articles, journals, magazines, and his passionate preaching and speaking, he ministered to untold thousands all over the world.

In his most recent book, Messy Spirituality, Mike wrote, "I just want to be remembered as a person who loved God, who served others more than he served himself, who was trying to grow in maturity and stability. I want to have more victories than defeats, yet here I am, almost 60, and I fail on a regular basis.”

He once confessed, “I would be nervous about what people would say at my funeral. I would be happy if they said things like 'He was a nice guy' or 'He was occasionally decent' or 'Mike wasn't as bad as a lot of people.' Unfortunately, eulogies are delivered by people who know the deceased. I know what the consensus would be. 'Mike was a mess.'" In short, Mike was a humble servant who understood himself and the marvelous character of grace. He communicated that grace at every turn. Indeed, whether he was right or wrong or even when he was, as he used to say, “just Mike,” he was first and foremost, a trophy of grace. He will be missed.

Partners in Crime

Planned Parenthood Federation of America, the American Civil Liberties Union, and the National Abortion Federation have joined together as partners in crime once again. The three organizations have long been allied in their assaults on life and liberty in this land and around the world. Now, they have united their efforts in order to defend one of the most grisly forms of child-killing ever devised. Filing lawsuits in federal court jurisdictions in three states, the groups are hoping to block the Partial Birth Abortion Ban Act as unconstitutional.

At a news conference Friday in San Francisco, these enemies of all that is right and good and true argued that they were seeking "an injunction against enforcement of the act and a declaration that it is unconstitutional" as well as “a temporary restraining order and a preliminary injunction to prevent the act from taking effect.”

After a decade-long torturous legislative and judicial process, Congress passed the federal ban October 20 and it has been sent to President Bush who is expected to sign the measure into law this coming Wednesday. But, mere legalities and such trivial affairs as the rule of law and the democratic process have never mattered to such ideological zealots as Planned Parenthood, the ACLU, and the NAF. It appears that for them, the only thing that really matters is that their culture of death be allowed to so dominate an already barren societal landscape. Really. No hyperbole.

So, how should we then live? What should our response be? I do believe it might well be an apt moment for men and women, churches and communities of good conscience to pray through Psalm 83.

All Saints Day

In the earliest years of the church, so many martyrs died for their faith, Christians set aside special days to honor them. For example, when in 607 Emperor Phocas presented the beautiful Roman Pantheon to the church. Pope Boniface IV quickly removed the statues of Jupiter and the pagan gods and consecrated the Pantheon to all the martyrs who had suffered during the Roman persecution in the first three hundred years after Christ--that great cloud of witnesses to the Christian faith. He then called on Christians everywhere to set aside May 1 as a kind of Memorial Day in their honor. Gradually, the commemoration gained stature as a high holy day on the early church calendar. In 832 the festival was moved to November 1 by Pope Gregory IV as a counter to the continuing intrustions of the pagan Samhain celebrations. Of course, it was not long before the conception of the two very different calendar days were comingled--thus, the rather confusing and syncretistic origins of our current All Hallow's Eve or Halloween.