On Remembrance Day, We Carry the Torch They Threw, and Keep the Faith

That’s what they call it in Britain. It’s Memorial Day here but the spirit is the same.

On both sides of the Atlantic we have come to associate the red poppie with remembrance of our war dead because of some words by Canadian Colonel John McCrae.

McCrae had  served as a gunner in the Boer War in South Africa and later been a Professor of Medicine at McGill University of Canada. After the outbreak of World War I, Colonel McCrae went to France as a medical Officer with the First Canadian Contingent.

There Colonel McCrae, in charge of a small first-aid post near the second battle of Ypres in 1915, took a pencil and wrote a poem on a page torn from his notebook. Ninety-five years later, most of us can recite at least a portion of the words he wrote:

In Flanders’ fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row
That mark our place, and in the sky
The larks still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead, short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow.
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders’ fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe,
To you from failing hands we throw
The Torch: be yours to hold it high!
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders’ fields.

Someone, perhaps McCrae himself, anonymously sent his verses to the English magazine, Punch, which published them under the title, “In Flanders’ Fields.” The poem was taken to heart by countless American families who eventually had loved ones buried in one of those rows of crosses at Flanders.

A young American woman named Moira Michael was deeply moved by McCrae’s poem and wrote an American reply. She called it “We Shall Keep the Faith”:

Oh! You who sleep in Flanders’ fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew,
We caught the torch you threw,
And holding high we kept
The faith with those who died.
We cherish too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valour led.

It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a lustre to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders’ fields.

And now the torch and poppy red
Wear in honour of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught
We’ve learned the lesson that ye taught
In Flanders’ fields.

Colonel McCrae died while on active duty in 1918. The night before he passed away he is said to have told his doctor: “Tell them this. If ye break the faith with us who die, we shall not sleep.

I can’t presume to speak for other places. But I know here in Texas we will not break the faith with those who died.

God bless, keep and comfort you Gold Star families.


American, Pentecostalism, and the War on Terror

There’s a fascinating essay by Walter Russell Mead at the online version of “The American Interest titled: “Pentecost Power.” An excerpt:

Christianity is not only the world’s largest and fastest-growing faith.  Christianity is also the world’s most pro-American faith.  Not all Christians like American values and American ideas; from Pope Pius IX to Dietrich Bonhoeffer modern European religious history is filled with Christian thinkers and writers who have been almost as horrified and appalled by American-style capitalism and society as Sayyid Qutb.  Yet during the Cold War and again today in the struggle against the Force That Must Not Be Named overwhelming numbers of Christians worldwide, and especially in the developing countries, instinctively sided with the United States and saw us as the good guys.

(h/t Instapundit)

The truth is, if every American could instantly be made utterly intellectually honest and fully informed of the relevant facts, everyone would be rooting for the advance of evangelical Christianity around the world.

There is ovewhelming evidence it is the world’s best hope for progress, peace, and prosperity. Actually, it is its only such hope.

Here’s an older piece I’ve pointed to in the past from an intellectually honest atheist who agrees with me.

Second and Final Word About LOST

The folks over at CollegeHumor.com (warning, that site is filled with, well . . . college humor) have put together a nice little compilation of some of the questions left unanswered by the writers of LOST. Note that I said “some” of the unanswered questions. There are scores of others.

I find it amusing that defenders of the show’s writers typically say, “Sure, the writers left a few loose ends untied, but . . .  blah blah. blah.” Right. Watch this:

I had actually been looking forward to buying the complete series on DVD and then re-watching each episode. I had expected to have the gratifying experience you get in re-watching an M. Night Shyamalan film and noticing all the clues and pointers that were sewn into the well crafted story.

But I now realize that in the case of LOST, re-watching the series would just be a maddening exercise in frustration as each episode waved numerous red herrings in my face that I now know are just that–meaningless details that shouted with significance and mysteries that would remain unreconciled precisely because they were irreconcilable.

As I said below, LOST is the perfect postmodern story because it contains characters that got to make up their own rules and create their own “truth” written by people who were making up their own rules.


The LOST Art of PostModern Storytelling


I had planned a long, pedantic post about what annoyed me about the series finale of LOST. But it’s late and I’m tired and I’ve been writing all day and it’s just a stupid television show.

Let me just say for the record that I’m not confused about the ending of LOST. (Many commenters on the message boards seem to assume that if you had problems with the finale it’s because you don’t “get it.”) Trust me, I’m crystal clear about what we are supposed to understand about what happened to the Lostaways. And that’s the problem.

My beef is with the ethics of the story telling done by the writers–who are clearly brilliant and talented, by the way. But there is a difference between talent and integrity. (paging Tiger Woods)

In pre-Postmodern times, there was an unwritten pact between storytellers and the readers/hearers of their stories. The pact was simple and threefold.

(1) The teller would be clear about what kind of story they were telling. (2) He would be faithful to genre in the telling. (3) Any prominent details or themes presented in the story would ultimately prove to be meaningful.

The writers of LOST eventually violated that pact on all three counts.

What kind of story were we being told? Science fiction? Fantasy? Supernatural thriller? Apocalyptic religious drama? Yes to all. Was the underlying theme thread good vs. evil? Game theory? Philosophy? Particle Physics? Alice in Wonderland? The Wizard of Oz? The Chronicles of Narnia? Star Wars? Jacob and Esau? Yin and Yang? Yes to all and much more. Take from the smorgasbord of iconography whatever appeals to you.

Re: the 3rd part of that pact . . . The previous five seasons of LOST were filled with details and themes which proved in the end to be little more than red herrings designed to keep ratings bolstered by teasing, tantalizing and bewildering us.

The deal a story teller makes with a hearer is that if, for example, in Act 1, I present a character who seems to be using four different names.  (e.g., Edgar Halliwax, Marvin Candle, Mark Wickmund, Pierre Chang) then at a some point in my story I will reveal why that is so and what it has to do with the story I’m telling. It must matter, otherwise I, the storyteller, wouldn’t have gone to all the trouble of coming up with four different names for this character.

Unless, of course, I’m just screwing with you. There are hundreds of examples of this in LOST.

The other thing I find irksome about the finale in particular–besides the fact that the writers finally revealed their religious worldview assumptions as Buddhist/Taoist–is that it chose sentiment over logic.

The 2.5 hour episode did a brilliant job of yanking the heart strings of all of us who were emotionally invested in the characters. And the series did a masterful job of getting us to make that investment. But the “Purgatory” of the flash sideways really just served as a contrivance for allowing all our separated couples to have their tender “awakening” moments.

Most fans loved this finale precisely because it provided one “feel good” moment after another, even if the overall premise made no sense to the integrity of the story.

Thus the finale was a celebration of sentiment. A triumph of love over logic. Feeling over facts.

Which I guess in a postmodern culture makes the LOST finale, pretty much perfect.

Well what do you know, I had a long, pedantic post in me after all. Good night. The Christian Shephard is leading me into the light now. And I must close my eye.

Why I'm Supporting "Everybody Draw Mohammad Day"

First things first. Here is a visual depiction of the “prophet” Mohammad:


I have just flouted Islamic law.

I obviously didn’t draw the image above but today’s protest is about challenging the threats and intimidation (and in some cases violence) being directed at those who violate the Islamic sharia ban on artistic depictions of Mohammad.

It is a 1699 woodcut by a French artist named Pirideaux and I felt it was an appropriate one. Here we see the founder of the Islamic faith with sword in hand, and with one foot triumphantly planted on the world and the other crushing a cross and the Ten Commandments–respective symbols of the Jewish and Christian faiths.

Indeed wherever the Islamic faith is dominant Christians and Jews suffer oppression and literally dying by “the sword” is still alive and well in places like Saudi Arabia, Indonesia, Nigeria, Iraq, Iran and Afghanistan.

A number of prominent conservatives and Christians have expressed reservations or opposition to the “Draw Mohammad Day” initiative. For example, conservative blogger Ann Althouse explains why she thinks it “is not a good idea” here and here.

Much of this opposition seems to be based upon the “Golden Rule’ principle. That is, we don’t like it when people mock or defame Jesus, (which occurs in the American entertainment/art/media world roughly 10,000 times each day) therefore we shouldn’t do it to others.

That’s a legitimate argument and I respect those who find it valid and applicable here. I am not among them. Here’s why.

Muslim are offended not just by mocking or profane depictions of Mohammad. The argument is that all depictions are a violation of their religious tenets and that all people of all faiths everywhere must abide by them or face violent punishments.

As Mark Steyn wrote today:

I’m bored with death threats. And, as far as I’m concerned, if that’s your opening conversational gambit, then any obligation on my part to “cultural sensitivity” and “mutual respect” is over. The only way to stop this madness destroying our liberties is (as Ayaan Hirsi Ali puts it) to spread the risk. Everybody Draws Mohammed Day does just that.

Steyn also reminds us that the Danish political cartoons that sparked riots and killing several years ago were very benign. The truly outrageous cartoons were fabrications by Scandinavian Muslim clerics who needed something more incendiary with which to inflame the anger of the Islamic masses.

Over at BigGovernment.com Nick Gillespie explained his support this way:

There comes a point in any society’s existence where it must ultimately, to paraphrase Martin Luther (who himself was more than happy to see opponents put to death), dig in its heels and say here we stand, we will do no other.

I believe this broad-based cultural effort actually sends an important message to three distinct groups of people.

1. It says to Muslim leaders that efforts at getting compliance with Sharia through threats and intimidation may have been effective in Europe, especially the U.K., but they are counterproductive here. The more you threaten and shriek, the more you are going to see of this kind of thing.

2. It sends a message to capitulaters and the white flag wavers and the wobbly within our culture to buck up and grow a backbone. (Yes you Comedy Central.)  Like Canada to our north, we have plenty of folks who have such a low opinion of Western Civilization and have so fully bought into the premise that the United States is the only evil presence in the world that they will gladly endorse anybody’s cultural grievance–especially those coming from imams. To those who want to resist creeping sharia but aren’t sure they’ll be supported, its message is, “hold the line.”

3. Finally, it serves as a reminder to those in our culture who are always crying and bellyaching because they think Christians are trying to suppress artistic freedom because we lamely complain about some performance artist getting tax payer money to wipe himself with pages from the Bible or some other such foolishness.

Since the creators of South Park are at the center of the current controversy, it is instructive to know that Parker and Stone got their big break because of a cartoon short that depicted a violent fight between Jesus and Santa Clause. In the 13 years South Park has been on the air, Jesus has been portrayed in mocking or ridiculous ways scores of times. But not once have the producers at Comedy Central felt compelled to pull one of those episodes because they feared for the safety of their personnel.

Christians complain. They write sternly worded letters to the editor. If they get really inflamed, they organize a pointless boycott which actually brings coveted publicity and rebel street cred to whatever it is they are boycotting.

The controversy, fear and trepidation over “Everybody Draw Mohammad Day” serves to make those who try to portray Christians as intolerant zealots only look more absurd.