The Faith of Our Fathers

by James Cardinal Gibbons | The Church is misrepresented in so-called Histories like Foxe’s Book of Martyrs. It is true that he has been successfully refuted by Lingard and Gairdner. But, how many have read the fictitious narratives of Foxe, who have never perused a page of Lingard or Gairdner?

Paperback, 392 pages
Release Date: December 7, 2008 [Ebook 27435] (first published 1876)
Original Title: The Faith of Our Fathers: A Plain Exposition and Vindication of the Church Founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ
Author: James Cardinal Gibbons
Edition Language: English

This great reading is brought to you by the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation. You may download a copy from the Project Gutenberg Literary Archive Foundation. Please don’t forget to make a donation to the project on their website.

The Faith of Our Fathers explains the basic tenets of the Catholic Faith and why we hold them. Delves into the historical background of virtually everything people find hard to understand about our Religion, such as priestly celibacy, sacred images, the Church and the Bible, the primacy of Peter, Communion under one kind, invocation of the Saints, etc. First published in 1876, when there was much anti-Catholic sentiment in the U.S., it sold 1.4 million copies in 40 years and has been reprinted many times and in several languages since.

Faith of our Fathers Catholic hymn, written in 1849 by Frederick William Faber in memory of the Catholic martyrs from the time of the establishment of the Church of England by Henry VIII and Elizabeth. Faber wrote two versions of the hymn: with seven stanzas for Ireland and with four for England (St Catherine).



Five Images Of Christ In The Post-Apostolic Age

by Mike Boling | All in all, I came away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the debate that took place during this period and why biblical Christology is so crucial.

It has been some time since I dug into a good “nerdy” theological style text. Over the past few months, I had tried to give my brain a bit of a break after another breakneck pace of reading last year. The kind folks at IVP Academic sent in my direction a book which at first glance looked like something I might really enjoy and my initial hunch was correct.

The Earliest Christologies: Five Images of Christ in the Post-Apostolic Age by Dr. James Papandrea is a short yet effective journey through five popular concepts of Christology in vogue in the formative years of the church, in particular, the Post-Apostolic Age. Anyone with even a cursory understanding of this period of Church History is aware there were a great many systems of belief being promoted. Some were attempts to work through some rather difficult elements of theology while others were quite frankly a product of heretical doctrines such as Gnosticism.

Our understanding of who Messiah resides at the center of our theology, and is essential to root oneself in a correct Christology. Furthermore, having a historical perspective such as provided by Papandrea in his helpful book will greatly assist in sorting truth from error as well as enabling one to understand where the errant doctrines derived from and why they are incorrect from a biblical perspective.

Discussions on topics such as Christology can often become very dry and mired in a plethora of theological terminology that leaves the reader with a lot of facts but not a clear understanding of the issues at hand. Papandrea avoids such an approach, instead focusing on walking the reader via short yet insightful chapters that outline the five arguably most popular and influential Christologies of the period.

Ultimately, and correct I might add, Papandrea reveals and outlines the Scriptural validity of Logos Christology and how it is firmly rooted in the two natures of the Messiah. Perhaps what I appreciated most was the engagement of the deleterious beliefs found in Gnosticism, an insidious system of belief that continues to rear its ugly head in far too many doctrines some hold to even today. Papandrea does an excellent job of exposing the lies and the theological fallacies of Gnosticism, in particular when it comes to developing a biblical Christology.

I highly recommend this book. The author presents the material in a manner that will be easily understood by those who may not be fully familiar with the theological details of Christology while at the same time providing those who have a bit more insight into this issue with a good deal of excellent information upon which to ruminate upon and study. All in all, I came away with a deeper appreciation and understanding of the debate that took place during this period and why biblical Christology is so crucial.

Mike Boling lives in Belleville, IL, a suburb of St. Louis, MO with his wife Erica, adopted daughter Alissa, two cats Molly and Sweetie Pie and horse Beckham. After spending eight years in the United States Navy as a Yeoman, he has been employed for the past ten years by the National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency (NGA) where he oversees advanced educational programs. Michael holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty University and is currently closing in on completing a Master of Arts in Religion (Biblical Studies) from Liberty Baptist Theological Seminary. He is an avid reader and blogger.



Prevailing Prayers of the Bible and Relentless Faith

by Pastor Kimberly Ray’s | Relentless faith is faith in the Lord that is unshakable, unstoppable, and unmovable.

I remember having the privilege to stand at the Ancient Wailing Wall to pray. Honestly, I sensed an indescribable awe as I witnessed people praying. I observed a fascinating tradition, people placing slips of paper with prayer requests into the crevices of the Wailing Wall. This was an astonishing indication of their passion expressed to God through prayer.

The Lord has given me a wonderful desire to share with the body of Christ the remarkable prayers of the Bible. This book is designed to share scriptural dialogue spoken from individuals recorded in the sacred pages of the Bible.

Relentless Faith
What is relentless faith? It is the kind of faith that resists the desire to concede to current circumstances, but rather this kind of faith chooses to believe the Word of God. The Word of God is the answer to life’s dilemmas. Relentless faith is faith in the Lord that is unshakable, unstoppable, and unmovable. This faith is never dependent upon our own abilities, or ourselves, it is a tenacious determination to emb

Dr. Angie Ray dedicated her life to ministering the Gospel of Jesus Christ and providing assistance to the whole man, reaching humanity – one life at a time. She has served as an Evangelical Speaker and traveled internationally delivering life changing messages that inspire, encourage and empower the body of Christ with tools and strategies to live a consecrated and victorious life.

You can purchase the book from http://www.angierayministries.com/ bookstore.



Chinua Achebe, The Art of Fiction No. 139

by Jerome Brooks | “When I began going to school and learned to read, I encountered stories of other people and other lands. In one of my essays, I remember the kind of things that fascinated me. Weird things, even, about a wizard who lived in Africa and went to China to find a lamp . . . Fascinating to me because they were about things remote, and almost ethereal.”

Chinua Achebe was born in Eastern Nigeria in 1930 and died March 21, 2013 in Boston, Massachusetts, U.S. He went to the local public schools and was among the first students to graduate from the University of Ibadan. After graduation, he worked for the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation as a radio producer and Director of External Broadcasting, and it was during this period that he began his writing career.

He is the author, coauthor, or editor of some seventeen books, among them five novels: Things Fall Apart, 1958; No Longer at Ease, 1960; Arrow of God, 1964; A Man of the People, 1966; and Anthills of the Savannah, 1987. He is the editor of several anthologies, including the essay collections Morning Yet on Creation Day and Hopes and Impediments, and the collection of poetry Beware Soul Brother. He is the editor of the magazine Okike and founding editor of the Heinemann series on African literature, a list that now has more than three hundred titles. He is often called the father of modern African literature. He is the recipient, at last count, of some twenty-five honorary doctorates from universities throughout the world and is currently the Charles P. Stevenson Jr. Professor of English at Bard College.

This interview took place on two very different occasions. The first meeting was before a live audience at the Unterberg Poetry Center of the Ninety-second Street Y on a bitterly cold and rainy January evening; the weather made the sidewalks and roads treacherous. We were all the more surprised at the very large and enthusiastic audience. The theater was almost packed. It was Martin Luther King Jr.’s birthday; Achebe paid gracious tribute to him and then answered questions from the interviewer and audience. The interviewer and Achebe sat on a stage with a table and a bouquet of flowers between them. Achebe was at ease and captured the audience with stories of his childhood and youth.

The second session took place on an early fall day at Achebe’s house on the beautiful grounds where he lives in upstate New York. He answered the door in his wheelchair and graciously ushered his guest through his large, neat living room to his study—a long, narrow room lined with many books on history, religion, and literature. There is a small slightly cluttered desk where he writes.

Achebe favors traditional Nigerian clothes and reminds one more of the priest in Arrow of God than Okonkwo in Things Fall Apart. His appearance is peaceful and his eyes wise. His demeanor is modest, but when he begins to talk about literature and Nigeria, he is transformed. His eyes light up; he is an assured, elegant, and witty storyteller.

The year 1990 marked Achebe’s sixtieth birthday. His colleagues at the University of Nigeria at Nsukka, where he is a professor of English and chairman emeritus of the department, sponsored an international conference entitled Eagle on Iroko in his honor. Participants came from around the world to appraise the significance of his work for African and world literature. The conference opened on the day Nelson Mandela was liberated from prison, and the day was declared a national holiday. There was a festive mood during the weeklong activities of scholarly papers, traditional drama, dancing, and banquets. The iroko is the tallest tree in that part of Africa and the eagle soars to its height.

Scarcely a month later, while on his way to the airport in Lagos to resume a teaching post at Dartmouth, Achebe was severely injured in a car accident. He was flown to a London hospital where he underwent surgery and spent many months in painful recuperation. Although confined to a wheelchair, he has made a remarkable recovery in the past three years and, to the surprise of his family and many friends throughout the world, is beginning to look and sound like his old self.

INTERVIEWER

Would you tell us something about the Achebe family and growing up in an Igbo village, your early education, and whether there was anything there that pointed you that early in the direction of writing?

CHINUA ACHEBE

I think the thing that clearly pointed me there was my interest in stories. Not necessarily writing stories, because at that point, writing stories was not really viable. So you didn’t think of it. But I knew I loved stories, stories told in our home, first by my mother, then by my elder sister—such as the story of the tortoise—whatever scraps of stories I could gather from conversations, just from hanging around, sitting around when my father had visitors. When I began going to school, I loved the stories I read. They were different, but I loved them too. My parents were early converts to Christianity in my part of Nigeria. They were not just converts; my father was an evangelist, a religious teacher. He and my mother traveled for thirty-five years to different parts of Igboland, spreading the gospel. I was the fifth of their six children. By the time I was growing up, my father had retired, and had returned with his family to his ancestral village.

When I began going to school and learned to read, I encountered stories of other people and other lands. In one of my essays, I remember the kind of things that fascinated me. Weird things, even, about a wizard who lived in Africa and went to China to find a lamp . . . Fascinating to me because they were about things remote, and almost ethereal.

Then I grew older and began to read about adventures in which I didn’t know that I was supposed to be on the side of those savages who were encountered by the good white man. I instinctively took sides with the white people. They were fine! They were excellent. They were intelligent. The others were not . . . they were stupid and ugly. That was the way I was introduced to the danger of not having your own stories. There is that great proverb—that until the lions have their own historians, the history of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. That did not come to me until much later. Once I realized that, I had to be a writer. I had to be that historian. It’s not one man’s job. It’s not one person’s job. But it is something we have to do, so that the story of the hunt will also reflect the agony, the travail—the bravery, even, of the lions.

INTERVIEWER

You were among the first graduates of the great University of Ibadan. What was it like in the early years of that university, and what did you study there? Has it stuck with you in your writing?

ACHEBE

Ibadan was, in retrospect, a great institution. In a way, it revealed the paradox of the colonial situation, because this university college was founded towards the end of British colonial rule in Nigeria. If they did any good things, Ibadan was one of them. It began as a college of London University, because under the British, you don’t rush into doing any of those things like universities just like that. You start off as an appendage of somebody else. You go through a period of tutelage. We were the University College of Ibadan of London. So I took a degree from London University. That was the way it was organized in those days. One of the signs of independence, when it came, was for Ibadan to become a full-fledged university.

I began with science, then English, history, and religion. I found these subjects exciting and very useful. Studying religion was new to me and interesting because it wasn’t only Christian theology; we also studied West African religions. My teacher there, Dr. Parrinder, now an emeritus professor of London University, was a pioneer in the area. He had done extensive research in West Africa, in Dahomey. For the first time, I was able to see the systems—including my own—compared and placed side by side, which was really exciting. I also encountered a professor, James Welch, in that department, an extraordinary man, who had been chaplain to King George VI, chaplain to the BBC, and all kinds of high powered things before he came to us. He was a very eloquent preacher. On one occasion, he said to me, We may not be able to teach you what you need or what you want. We can only teach you what we know. I thought that was wonderful. That was really the best education I had. I didn’t learn anything there that I really needed, except this kind of attitude. I have had to go out on my own. The English department was a very good example of what I mean. The people there would have laughed at the idea that any of us would become a writer. That didn’t really cross their minds. I remember on one occasion a departmental prize was offered. They put up a notice—write a short story over the long vacation for the departmental prize. I’d never written a short story before, but when I got home, I thought, Well, why not. So I wrote one and submitted it. Months passed; then finally one day there was a notice on the board announcing the result. It said that no prize was awarded because no entry was up to the standard. They named me, said that my story deserved mention. Ibadan in those days was not a dance you danced with snuff in one palm. It was a dance you danced with all your body. So when Ibadan said you deserved mention, that was very high praise.

I went to the lecturer who had organized the prize and said, You said my story wasn’t really good enough but it was interesting. Now what was wrong with it? She said, Well, it’s the form. It’s the wrong form. So I said, Ah, can you tell me about this? She said, Yes, but not now. I’m going to play tennis; we’ll talk about it. Remind me later, and I’ll tell you. This went on for a whole term. Every day when I saw her, I’d say, Can we talk about form? She’d say, No, not now. We’ll talk about it later. Then at the very end she saw me and said, You know, I looked at your story again and actually there’s nothing wrong with it. So that was it! That was all I learned from the English department about writing short stories. You really have to go out on your own and do it.

INTERVIEWER

When you finished university, one of the first careers you embarked upon was broadcasting with the Nigerian Broadcasting Corporation.

ACHEBE

I got into it through the intervention of Professor Welch. He had tried to get me a scholarship to Trinity College, Cambridge, and it didn’t work out. So the next thing was the broadcasting department, which was newly started in Nigeria, with a lot of BBC people. So that’s how I got into it. It wasn’t because I was thinking of broadcasting. I really had no idea what I was going to do when I left college. I’m amazed when I think about students today. They know from day one what they are going to be. We didn’t. We just coasted. We just knew that things would work out. Fortunately, things did work out. There were not too many of us. You couldn’t do that today and survive. So I got into broadcasting and then discovered that the section of it where I worked, the spoken word department, the Talks Department, as it’s called, was really congenial. It was just the thing I wanted. You edited scripts. People’s speeches. Then short stories. I really got into editing and commissioning short stories. Things were happening very fast in our newly independent country, and I was soon promoted out of this excitement into management.

INTERVIEWER

The titles of your first two books—Things Fall Apart and No Longer at Ease—are from modern Irish and American poets. Other black writers—I’m thinking particularly of Paule Marshall—borrow from Yeats. I wonder if Yeats and Eliot are among your favorite poets.

ACHEBE

They are. Actually, I wouldn’t make too much of that. I was showing off more than anything else. As I told you, I took a general degree, with English as part of it, and you had to show some evidence of that. But I liked Yeats! That wild Irishman. I really loved his love of language, his flow. His chaotic ideas seemed to me just the right thing for a poet. Passion! He was always on the right side. He may be wrongheaded, but his heart was always on the right side. He wrote beautiful poetry. It had the same kind of magic about it that I mentioned the wizard had for me. I used to make up lines with anything that came into my head, anything that sounded interesting. So Yeats was that kind of person for me. It was only later I discovered his theory of circles or cycles of civilization. I wasn’t thinking of that at all when it came time to find a title. That phrase “things fall apart” seemed to me just right and appropriate.

T. S. Eliot was quite different. I had to study him at Ibadan. He had a kind of priestly erudition—eloquence, but of a different kind. Scholarly to a fault. But I think the poem from which I took the title of No Longer at Ease, the one about the three magi, is one of the great poems in the English language. These people who went and then came back to their countries were “no longer at ease” . . . I think that that is great—the use of simple language, even when things talked about are profound, very moving, very poignant. So that’s really all there is to it. But you’ll notice that after those first two titles I didn’t do it anymore.

INTERVIEWER

I once heard your English publisher, Alan Hill, talk about how you sent the manuscript of Things Fall Apart to him.

ACHEBE

That was a long story. The first part of it was how the manuscript was nearly lost. In 1957 I was given a scholarship to go to London and study for some months at the BBC. I had a draft of Things Fall Apart with me, so I took it along to finish it. When I got to the BBC, one of my friends—there were two of us from Nigeria—said, Why don’t you show this to Mr. Phelps? Gilbert Phelps, one of the instructors of the BBC school, was a novelist. I said, What? No! This went on for some time. Eventually I was pushed to do it and I took the manuscript and handed it to Mr. Phelps. He said, Well . . . all right, the way I would today if anyone brought me a manuscript. He was not really enthusiastic. Why should he be? He took it anyway, very politely. He was the first person, outside of myself, to say, I think this is interesting. In fact, he felt so strongly that one Saturday he was compelled to look for me and tell me. I had traveled out of London; he found out where I was, phoned the hotel, and asked me to call him back. When I was given this message, I was completely floored. I said, Maybe he doesn’t like it. But then why would he call me if he doesn’t like it. So it must be he likes it. Anyway, I was very excited. When I got back to London, he said, This is wonderful. Do you want me to show it to my publishers? I said, Yes, but not yet, because I had decided that the form wasn’t right. Attempting to do a saga of three families, I was covering too much ground in this first draft. So I realized that I needed to do something drastic, really give it more body. So I said to Mr. Phelps, OK, I am very grateful but I’d like to take this back to Nigeria and look at it again. Which is what I did.

When I was in England, I had seen advertisements about typing agencies; I had learned that if you really want to make a good impression, you should have your manuscript well typed. So, foolishly, from Nigeria I parceled my manuscript—handwritten, by the way, and the only copy in the whole world—wrapped it up and posted it to this typing agency that advertised in the Spectator. They wrote back and said, Thank you for your manuscript. We’ll charge thirty-two pounds. That was what they wanted for two copies and which they had to receive before they started. So I sent thirty-two pounds in British postal order to these people and then I heard no more. Weeks passed, and months. I wrote and wrote and wrote. No answer. Not a word. I was getting thinner and thinner and thinner. Finally, I was very lucky. My boss at the broadcasting house was going home to London on leave. A very stubborn Englishwoman. I told her about this. She said, Give me their name and address. When she got to London she went there! She said, What’s this nonsense? They must have been shocked, because I think their notion was that a manuscript sent from Africa—well, there’s really nobody to follow it up. The British don’t normally behave like that. It’s not done, you see. But something from Africa was treated differently. So when this woman, Mrs. Beattie, turned up in their office and said, What’s going on? they were confused. They said, The manuscript was sent but customs returned it. Mrs. Beattie said, Can I see your dispatch book? They had no dispatch book. So she said, Well, send this thing, typed up, back to him in the next week, or otherwise you’ll hear about it. So soon after that, I received the typed manuscript of Things Fall Apart. One copy, not two. No letter at all to say what happened. My publisher, Alan Hill, rather believed that the thing was simply neglected, left in a corner gathering dust. That’s not what happened. These people did not want to return it to me and had no intention of doing so. Anyway, when I got it I sent it back up to Heinemann. They had never seen an African novel. They didn’t know what to do with it. Someone told them, Oh, there’s a professor of economics at London School of Economics and Political Science who just came back from those places. He might be able to advise you. Fortunately, Don Macrae was a very literate professor, a wonderful man. I got to know him later. He wrote what they said was the shortest report they ever had on any novel—seven words: “The best first novel since the war.” So that’s how I got launched.

INTERVIEWER

Heinemann was also perplexed as to how many copies should be printed . . .

ACHEBE

Oh yes. They printed very, very few. It was a risk. Not something they’d ever done before. They had no idea if anybody would want to read it. It went out of print very quickly. It would have stayed that way if Alan Hill hadn’t decided that he was going to gamble even more and launch a paperback edition of this book. Other publishers thought it was mad, that this was crazy. But that was how the African Writers Series came in to existence. In the end, Alan Hill was made a Commander of the British Empire for bringing into existence a body of literature they said was among the biggest developments in British literature of this century. So it was a very small beginning, but it caught fire.

INTERVIEWER

You have said that you wrote Things Fall Apart as a response to Joyce Cary’s Mr. Johnson.

ACHEBE

I wish I hadn’t said that.

 



Sowers of the Current Chaos

by Paul Kengor | Charles Murr says that Cardinal Gagnon explained to him hundreds of times that the enemies of the Church were not out to totally destroy the Church, because the membership and organization of the Church were far too precious; rather, they wanted to control the Church according to their own vision and scheme (getty images).

For keen insight into some of the malevolent forces at work in the Church right now, an unexpected source is a fascinating book by Father Charles Theodore Murr, titled, The Godmother: Madre Pascalina. Published in May 2017, for the centenary of Fatima, it is one of the most interesting yet underreported Catholic books of recent years.

The impetus was Fr. Murr’s utterly unique relationship with the figure closest to Pope Pius XII: Sister Josephine Lehnert (1894-1983). Mother Pascalina was so close to, so trusted by, and so influential to Pope Pius XII, that wise-guys around the Vatican alternately called her La Popessa and Virgo Potens (Powerful Virgin).

Charles Murr was a young American seminarian in Rome in the 1970s. He had a lifelong special devotion to Pius XII. He knew about the iconic Madre Pascalina. Over dinner one day at Il Scarpone restaurant with his colorful friend Monsignor Mario Marini—a classic boisterous Italian who held an important job at the Vatican Secretariat of State—Charlie learned that the old nun was still alive.

“She’s alive?” he asked with astonishment.

“Very much so,” said Marini, adding: “Not everyone’s as happy about that as you seem to be. No one knows better than La Madre where the bodies are buried.”

As a favor to Charlie, Marini made some moves within the Curia and secured an address and phone number. Charlie picked up a phone and took a chance. The rest is history—this history in this delightful book.

Charlie and Madre Pascalina first met in 1973, quickly becoming close friends. She would become his literal godmother at his ordination, the date of which she suggested: May 13, 1977, Feast Day of Our Lady of Fatima. They met frequently until Charlie was sent to Mexico in 1979. He would see her once more in 1983, only weeks before her death. The things she told him constitute a remarkable heretofore unpublished account of the Church in the twentieth century, from the historical to the theological to the ideological—and perhaps even to the level of diabolical, in some cases. At long last, Charles Murr has shared them.

The GodMotherThe book’s accounts of Pope Pius XII, from the person who knew him best, are striking enough. So are the insights regarding nearly every twentieth-century pope and even would-be popes such as the excellent Cardinal Giuseppe Siri and Cardinal Giuseppe Benelli, who both barely missed the papacy in the late 1970s. There are compelling stories I had never heard before about Padre Pio, about China’s Cardinal Thomas Tien Ken-Sin, and about Cardinal Edouard Gagnon, a dedicated French-Canadian—and future prefect for the Pontifical Commission for the Family—who was greatly frustrated by the failures of Paul VI to react to what Gagnon had documented (at Paul VI’s request) regarding wholesale corruption of the Curia. There are also intriguing inside tales of the rivalry between Fulton Sheen and Cardinal Francis Spellman, and of the perfectly preserved corpse of Pius IX that Madre Pascalina was there to inspect first, many decades after the pontiff passed.

But getting closer to some of the seeds that were laid for the current chaos in the Church, Charles Murr takes a deep dig into the circumstances around Angelo Giuseppe Roncalli and Giovanni Battista Montini, who assumed the papacy as, respectively, John XXIII and Paul VI. The Madre wasn’t a big fan of either, particularly John XXIII, whom she dismissed as un buffone (“a clown”).

It wasn’t always the popes themselves that Pascalina held responsible for certain troubles—it was often the men they surrounded themselves with and naively listened to and were often misled by. Take Pope Paul VI, whose right-hand man in dealing with murderous communists was Cardinal Agostino Casaroli, whose counsel on handling the Soviets and Communist Bloc despots was often downright lousy and counterproductive. Of course, Casaroli and Paul VI and John XXIII were certainly not Marxists, but they thought they could deal with Marxists, that they could negotiate with them, that they could even accommodate them. Like Pope Francis, these two popes were heavily influenced by key advisers (whom they chose themselves) who were leftist-progressives and who gave them bad advice in dealing with enemies of the Church, sometimes internal enemies.

As to Paul VI, we know about the tragic case of Cardinal Mindszenty as an indicator of his embarrassments in trying to satisfy Moscow. Roncalli likewise had his share. For Vatican II, according to Madre Pascalina, the one thing that Pope Pius XII had wanted ahead of time—and yes, she says it was Pius XII who had the initial idea for a council—was an unequivocal condemnation of communism. And yet, that was “the one thing that Roncalli absolutely refused to do.” (This adds new insight to my piece last year on Vatican II’s unpublished condemnations of communism.) This refusal, revealed Madre Pascalina to Charlie, was done as a promise to the Soviet government and the Kremlin-controlled Russian Orthodox Church in the name of ecumenism, and it presaged later such moves by Paul VI.

As for Paul VI, whom many of us admire in key respects, The Godmother surely nailed it when she described him as “not a strong man” who was “always easily manipulated.” He frequently struggled to “see the obvious” and realize just how gravely “the Church had enemies,” even as he came to realize that “the smoke of Satan had entered the Church.”

I personally believe this is very fitting to our situation with our pope today, who I contend is far more naïve than nefarious, duped than duplicitous—but has nonetheless created his own terrible mess by surrounding himself with progressive Church officials who have served him dreadfully.

Indeed, there is so much in this book that is important if not profound to current realities as we watch the crises in the Church unfold, from my home dioceses in Western Pennsylvania to Cardinal McCarrick to the unacceptable happenings at the Vatican under the nose of Pope Francis.

Charles Murr calls attention to some dubious characters, if not outright evildoers, in the latter twentieth-century Church. And that’s where Murr’s eyewitness testimony, based on what he saw in Rome in the 1970s and what Madre Pascalina conveyed to him, is so rich and relevant. What we’re seeing right now are the bitter fruits of the rotten seeds sown by a network of progressives, liberals, and the very “modernist” heresy that Pope Pius X warned about in 1907.

Madre Pascalina told Charlie that Pope Pius XII was convinced, just as St. Pope Pius X was convinced and officially declared, that modernism is “the synthesis of all heresies.” The Madre herself was convinced of this, declaring: “And the disgraziati [wretches] behind modernism were the same disgraziati who, for centuries, had been behind every plot to destroy the Church.” Who were they? She looked heavenward and explained to Charlie: “the Freemasons; the liberals; i progressisti [the progressives] … atheists, Marxists, communists.” Whatever the latest masquerade that “Lucifer goes by today…. I often wonder, what name will he go by tomorrow?”

Well, tomorrow in Madre’s time is now today in ours. Fill in the blank with the latest modernist label. And whatever its manifestation, she remarked, “evil is evil.”

Pius XII, said La Madre, wanted to be briefed at all times about the activities of these groups on their various fronts, particularly i communisti in the universities. He smelled them in the 1950s. And for Pope Pius XII, she said, “the worst” of his enemies were “liberals from inside the Church.”

This brings me to maybe the most ignominious villain in Charles Murr’s book: Cardinal Sebastiano Baggio. Murr reports that it was Baggio who appointed so many of the “progressive” prelates who enabled the wreckage we’ve seen in recent decades. Baggio was Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops from 1973-84, which oversees the selection of new bishops. (Cardinal McCarrick, incidentally, was made an auxiliary bishop in New York in 1977 and then bishop in New Jersey in 1981 before becoming archbishop of Newark in 1986.)

Baggio, Charles Murr contends, was not merely a progressive/modernist but a Freemason. He died in March 1993, living the last decade of his life with (in Murr’s words) “Pope John Paul II watching his every move.” The Polish pontiff put the former “Appointer of Bishops” in charge of printing and distributing Vatican City postage stamps. It was a demotion and slap-down, but the damage was done. The seeds for the bitter harvest were in place.

I asked Murr last week whether he saw the hand of the likes of Baggio in the current crisis. “Unquestionably,” he responded. Murr stressed that Baggio dedicated “much time and very particular attention” to potential “archbishop material,” since it was from such persons that cardinals were created. Baggio spent summer vacations visiting out of the way places in the world; places where he had named the archbishops. He would be their house guest, and when they traveled to Rome on Church business, Baggio made sure they saw him in his prefect’s office in the Congregation for Bishops. Murr said flatly that Baggio deliberated and exclusively created liberal bishops, and that any orthodox bishop or archbishop who managed to be named during those years occurred only due to dramatic efforts by orthodox members of the Roman Curia to convince Pope John Paul II to override Baggio. These exceptions infuriated Baggio.

As Murr today ponders the misdirection that the Catholic Church has often mistakenly taken these past 50 years, he notes that Madre Pascalina foresaw what would go wrong. While there was plenty of blame to go around, including during the “great disintegration” that included not only the Paul VI years but carried over into many of the John Paul II years, “the principal culprit” was Sebastiano Baggio, who “highhandedly appointed the world’s bishops for those extremely crucial, post-Council years…. He made certain that the new breed of bishops was, in a word, liberal.”

Pope Paul VI failed to deal with Baggio. When Charlie’s good friend, Edouard Gagnon, fulfilled Paul VI’s request to provide an in-depth report on what that “smoke of Satan” inside the Church looked like, Gagnon was practically despondent when the old, ailing Papa Montini made clear that he would choose to punt—that is, to pass along Gagnon’s investigation to the next pope.

The next pope would be John Paul I, who attempted to discipline Sebastiano Baggio. How did that go? That night was not a good one. In one of the most dramatic sections of his book, Fr. Charles Murr writes this of John Paul I and Cardinal Baggio: “The last person to see him [John Paul I] alive,” Gagnon told Murr, “was none other than Sebastiano Baggio. He [Baggio] entered the papal apartments after eight o’clock that night; the last person to speak, to scream, at the pope.” Following Cardinal Benelli’s wise counsel, Pope John Paul I had just removed Baggio from the Congregation for Bishops. The new pope died right after that.

Make of that what you will. I can neither add to that nor confirm.

Of course, Cardinal Baggio was not the only person causing mischief and mayhem. It was a team effort by multiple players of bad faith.

Madre Pascalina called out the liberal Archbishop Jean Jadot as a “colossal mistake” to be papal nuncio to the United States. She believed he would (in Murr’s words) “ruin the body of bishops” in America. He held that position from 1973-80 (again overlapping McCarrick’s appointment as bishop). Agreeing with La Madre was Mario Marini, who called Jadot “a mediocrity” whose “right niche” would have been “dog-catcher in some remote Belgian hamlet.”

Still another Church official who seems to have caused serious problems was Cardinal Annibale Bugnini, through his appalling “liturgy reforms.” Murr likewise casts a light on Bugnini.

Madre Pascalina lamented to Charles Murr that hundreds of thousands of religious had left the Church between 1965 and 1975. But still worse, she grimaced, “you should see the liberal tyrants who remain!”

In all, such were the kind of men in the Church who appointed the kind of men in the Church who have disappointed us so often.

Alas, here’s an interesting distinction underscored by Murr: He says that Cardinal Gagnon explained to him hundreds of times that the enemies of the Church were not out to totally destroy the Church, because the membership and organization of the Church were far too precious; rather, they wanted to control the Church according to their own vision and scheme. They wanted to remold and use it. They wanted it to be their Church remade in their image.

Needless to say, this book (and this article) is not a comprehensive accounting of all that has hurt the Roman Catholic Church over recent decades. There were plenty of insidious influences from all sorts of destructive forces. Nonetheless, we should not look past these progressive modernists in the Church. Madre Pascalina saw them coming, and the chaos that would ensue, and Fr. Charles Murr offers this crucial timely reminder of who they were—and are still.

Paul KengorPaul Kengor is Professor of Political Science at Grove City College, executive director of The Center for Vision & Values, and author of many books including The Communist: Frank Marshall Davis, The Untold Story of Barack Obama’s Mentor and Takedown: From Communists to Progressives, How the Left Has Sabotaged Family and Marriage (2015). His new books are A Pope and a President and The Politically Incorrect Guide to Communism (2017).



Passing the Torch: Mentorship in Ministry

by William N. Downie III | If intentional effort to pass the torch of ministry by training up those to follow is not taken by Christians, then in one generation the Church will be ill-equipped to survive at best, and dead at worst (Liberty University Senior Honors Thesis, https://digitalcommons.liberty.edu/honors/335/).

Mentorship is a key function of the Church. If intentional effort to pass the torch of ministry through mentorship is not taken, then in one generation the Church will be dead or crippled. Though much has been written on mentorship, most have approached the topic by matching their methods with biblical teaching rather than starting in the Bible and developing their methods from it. A search for examples of mentorship that exist in the Old and New Testament will synthesize to form methods and principles which biblical characters used. These methods and principles are evaluated and then contextualized for the modern Christian to form a foundation which can be used as a strong basis for the creation of any mentorship program.

The Need

Raising up leaders in the next generation is crucial to the survival of any group, and especially to the Church. If intentional effort to pass the torch of ministry by training up those to follow is not taken by Christians, then in one generation the Church will be ill-equipped to survive at best, and dead at worst. Because of the enormous weight that rests on the matter of mentoring the next generation of Christians, the topic should be seriously considered. Christians have published thousands of books and articles wrestling with the matter of mentorship; however, few are products of exegesis (drawing out a message first from Scripture),1 but rather eisegesis (reading one’s own desired meaning into Scripture).2 Fewer yet are products of a survey of the entirety of Scripture’s teaching on mentorship, but rather a case study of one particular instance. As such, there is a need to add such a collection of research to the field of biblical mentorship.

The Solution

Because of a lack of coverage elsewhere, there is a need to research how to train the next generation of Christians to follow in ministry. Looking for biblical principles from a purely biblical evaluation of various portions of both the Old and New Testaments is the best way to make up this deficit in research. After this, it will be easier to synthesize timeless methods and principles for mentorship and examine how the principles can be used in both a positive and negative sense. If followed, these biblical methods and principles will be able to inform Christians in ministry how to effectively pass the torch of ministry to the next generation of Christian leaders.

Framing the Issue

For almost 2000 years the church of Jesus Christ has existed as a beacon in a dark world leading people to Christ. However, church buildings are not what have made a difference in the world for centuries. People have made the difference; it has been the Church Universal, or all who genuinely have saving faith in Christ. This importance placed on people is consistent with Jesus’ initial commands to the original Church to be salt and light to the world (Matt. 5:13-16 HCSB)3 and to make disciples of all nations (Matt. 28:18-20). While this command is clearly made to the entire Church for all time, the question over how to do this best does not have a clear answer.

Throughout church history, Christians have employed different methods to mentor other believers. Out of a desire to serve God in the most efficient way possible, the question of how to do this best has arisen countless times. As a divinely inspired manual for life, the Bible has of course been consulted for direction in this dispute. Unfortunately, there is no place in the Bible which makes a definitive claim regarding how to train up the next generation of Christians. However, there are examples given of mentors in the Bible from whose success we can learn positive lessons. In addition, there are people who did not do well in mentoring others, from whom we can learn negative lessons.

Clarification

The Bible contains many examples of what people today would consider mentorship. However, the concept of mentorship is a modern American idea. Thus, there is no truly biblical definition of mentorship because that word is not in the ancient Hebrew or Greek vernacular. To make the matter more difficult, when there are instances of people in the Bible who seem to be effective mentors, their mentorship is rarely a primary (or even secondary) focus of the overall biblical narrative. Thus, biblical examples which speak directly to mentorship are almost non-existent, if not entirely so. Because of this, people involved in church ministries often develop a method of mentorship which works for them and then look to the Bible for proof-texts. That eisegetical approach will not be used here. Rather, the purpose is to find examples in Scripture which fit a modern definition of mentorship and then uncover what principles, positive and negative, contribute to the matter of mentorship.

One definition for mentorship is that mentorship is “a relational experience through which one person empowers another by sharing their wisdom and resources.4 A more encompassing definition of mentorship is that mentorship is “an intentional and appropriately reciprocal relationship between two individuals, a younger … and an older, wiser figure who assists the younger person in learning the ways of life.”5 Parks is reserved in who she attributes the title of mentor to, but recognizes that mentors are people who show recognition, support, challenge, inspiration, and accountability to their mentee.6 Thus, different types of relationships can become mentor relationships if properly conducted. This means that subcategories of mentorship exist such as teacher-student relationships, parent-child relationships, friend-friend relationships, coach-athlete relationships, discipleship relationships, etc. To avoid becoming exclusive, the primary focus of this thesis will be mentorship in general, with brief mention of specific areas of mentorship only briefly being mentioned when they arise in the text. However, a more sizable section will be devoted to discussing discipleship in the Gospels because of the ease in ascertaining significant application of discipleship principles for all areas of Christian mentorship. Also, as God incarnate, Jesus is the most worthy mentor from whom we can learn effective techniques.

1Walter A. Elwell and Barry J. Beitzel, Baker Encyclopedia of the Bible (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1988), 55.

2Ibid.

3Unless otherwise noted, all biblical quotations will come from the HCSB translation.

4Tim Elmore, Lifegiving Mentors: A Guide for Investing Your Life in Others (Duluth, GA: Growing Leaders, Inc., 2009), 2.

5Sharon Daloz Parks, Big Questions, Worthy Dreams: Mentoring Emerging Adults in Their Search for Meaning, Purpose, and Faith (San Francisco, CA: Jossey-Bass, 2011), 165.

6Parks, Big Questions, 167.



‘The Happiness Curve’ Proves Life Gets Better After 50

by Jessica Toomer | What mid-life crisis? Author Jonathan Rauch shares the surprising science he uncovered while writing his new book. Most importantly, Rauch wants to shatter the negative stereotype associated with aging. The idea that a person’s life is on the decline once they reach their 40s, that retirement means getting put out to pasture, that happiness can’t be found in a person’s later years, is the worst lie we’ve let ourselves believe according to the writer (images: happinesscurve.com).

When author Jonathan Rauch was in his mid-40s, his outlook on life took a strange turn. Instead of waking up energized, ambitious, and optimistic about the future, Rauch was struggling to find a sense of purpose, a motivating reason to get out of bed every day. What was more puzzling is that Rauch had absolutely no reason to feel this way. He was a celebrated journalist, having just won the highest award given to magazine writers. He was in a loving relationship, he had money in the bank, and he wasn’t facing any monumental tests of faith. No cancer threatened his body, there was no loss to grieve. He was as successful as he could hope to be, more so even. Yet, something was missing.

“I wondered if I’d ever be satisfied,” Rauch tells Guideposts.org. “I wondered if there was something wrong with me.”

The journalist in him hungered for answers. He read books, studies, and journals on the effects of aging, looking into the reasons for mid-life malaise and that dreaded of all clichés, the mid-life crisis. It was in his research he stumbled across something surprising, a new way scientists and professionals in the fields of economics, medicine, psychology and so forth were beginning to view aging. It was called “the happiness curve,” a U-shaped model for charting the trajectory of a person’s relative happiness during their lifetime. It changed the game for Rauch.

“We all imagine we’re supposed to be at the peak of our achievement and glory and happiness at midlife and if we’re not it’s a midlife crisis and there’s something the matter with us,” Rauch explains. “So, surprise number one is: that’s totally backwards. The middle of life is a time of transition and vulnerability and, for many people, difficulty.”

Instead of reaching our peak in midlife, the happiness curve shows the exact opposite. Most people begin their lives relatively happy. When you’re in your 20s and 30s, you’re in a time of ambition, a period where you’re fighting to achieve your goals, to start a family, to begin a successful career. It’s a time of opportunity. Once a person reaches their late 40s and early 50s, instead of happiness peaking as we’ve all assumed, the happiness curve shows that the average person will go through a low-point in their life. It’s a dip in the curve, one that can last years but marks a crucial transition period in a person’s life.

For Rauch and those like him – professionally successful people who aren’t facing overwhelming struggle or tragedy during their 40s and 50s – this dip is usually caused by, well, nothing.

“That’s really true, if you’re someone like me and you’re looking around for the problem in your life to blame it on,” Rauch explains. “There is no problem in your life to blame it on. There’s no science behind that and why that would happen to people.”

Still, the data shows it does happen and often. Rauch worked with revered economists like David Blanchflower and Andrew Oswald who study the patterns of human behaviors as part of their work. He also talked to psychologists, neuroscientists, and everyday people experiencing this phenomenon of “the happiness curve.” While his research proved that a midlife dip occurs rather frequently, what alarmed him most was the ideas of why and how a person should handle feeling depressed during that period of transition.

“The problem with the midlife crisis joke is that it’s not completely wrong, but it’s terribly misleading because most people don’t have a crisis at all. They have a gradual, slow sense of dissatisfaction,” Rauch says. “If it gets mishandled it can become a crisis but for most people, they just soldier through it, often in isolation.”

It’s how Rauch dealt with his own midlife slump. Ashamed that he wasn’t happier with his success, feeling ungrateful for all the blessings in his life, Rauch shut down. He didn’t feel comfortable talking about why he was feeling so low because he know he had no rational reason to feel that way.

“People are ashamed or embarrassed, or they hold it in,” Rauch explains. “They think there’s something wrong with them, they think they’re ingrates. That adds to their unhappiness and it becomes a downward spiral. I keep reminding people, just because this happens to first world people doesn’t make it any less of a problem for the people who are stuck in it.”

As Rauch explains, the happiness curve is just the effect of the ticking clock on a person’s life, and that’s not based off privilege.

Because the author experienced midlife malaise himself, and because he met so many people like him who were suffering through the same doldrums of life, Rauch decided to write a book, The Happiness Curve, to explain what happens to people as they age and how others can avoid the emotional and mental pitfalls of time.

The first thing Rauch wants people in their 40s and 50s, who feel pessimistic about the future and unsatisfied with their past, to know is that they’re not alone.

“Understand there’s nothing wrong with you,” Rauch says. “A second thing is don’t let yourself get ashamed or isolated if you can help it. Lots of people go through this, it’s totally natural. It’s normal, it’s not fun but it’s healthy. So, find people you can reach out to, whether its counselors or coaches or friends.”

Another thing to keep in mind as you reach that crucial period of midlife: Impulsiveness is not your friend.

“It’s really hard to know in midlife, if what you’re feeling is a result of time, the effect of aging, or if it’s the effect of other things,” Rauch explains. “I thought there must be something wrong with my career even though technically there was nothing wrong with my career, and I was tempted to just walk in one day and quit, which would’ve been a bad idea. Because of that uncertainty, not what’s going on, we don’t have clear visibility. So sure, change your life, but do it in a rational, calculated, instrumental way that builds on your strengths and your social capital. Don’t do it in a disruptive or impulsive way.”

Most importantly, Rauch wants to shatter the negative stereotype associated with aging. The idea that a person’s life is on the decline once they reach their 40s, that retirement means getting put out to pasture, that happiness can’t be found in a person’s later years, is the worst lie we’ve let ourselves believe according to the writer.

“What’s going on is a value transition,” Rauch says. “It takes a number of years to get through it. But when you do, you’re in a better place because your values have shifted away from ambitions and the social competition treadmill and towards social connection, cooperation, love, friendship — much better sources of happiness.”

It’s why the happiness curve is U-shaped. Once a person gets through the low point of their midlife, happiness increases to surprisingly high levels, a direct result of that value transition when people learn to place things like relationships, family, friendships, and community ahead of more self-centered desires.

“Adult development continues right to the last decades of life and in a very positive way,” Rauch says. “So, busting that negative stereotype of old age will help people in midlife understand how much they have to look forward to.”



Origin Story: A Big History of Everything

2018 – David Christian – Science & Nature. “I have long been a fan of David Christian. In Origin Story, he elegantly weaves evidence and insights from many scientific and historical disciplines into a single, accessible historical narrative.” –Bill Gates.

Buy From Microsoft Store or Amazon

A captivating history of the universe — from before the dawn of time through the far reaches of the distant future.Most historians study the smallest slivers of time, emphasizing specific dates, individuals, and documents. But what would it look like to study the whole of history, from the big bang through the present day — and even into the remote future? How would looking at the full span of time change the way we perceive the universe, the earth, and our very existence?These were the questions David Christian set out to answer when he created the field of “Big History,” the most exciting new approach to understanding where we have been, where we are, and where we are going. In Origin Story, Christian takes readers on a wild ride through the entire 13.8 billion years we’ve come to know as “history.” By focusing on defining events (thresholds), major trends, and profound questions about our origins, Christian exposes the hidden threads that tie everything together — from the creation of the planet to the advent of agriculture, nuclear war, and beyond.With stunning insights into the origin of the universe, the beginning of life, the emergence of humans, and what the future might bring, Origin Story boldly re-frames our place in the cosmos.



The Suicide of the West: A Tale of Two Miracles

by John Horvat II | It is time to return to the one true God from whom will come not a haphazard Miracle but many miracles provoked by the prayers of the faithful and his provident action.  (images: William M. Briggs)

There is no God in this book.” Thus reads the provocative first sentence of Jonah Goldberg’s latest release, The Suicide of the West: How the Rebirth of Tribalism, Populism, Nationalism, and Identity Politics is Destroying American Democracy.

This declaration is perhaps an unintended summary of the book about the crisis in the West. From it, we might conclude that there are two ways by which we reached the present crisis.

The first is with God and is found in Genesis. God made the heavens, earth and man who sinned. History has since been a series of triumphs and defeats until we reached the sorry state of mankind today.

The second is without God, which involves, in Mr. Goldberg’s own words, human “animals who evolved from other animals who in turn evolved from ever more embarrassing animals and before that from a humiliating sea of ooze, slime, meats, and vegetables in the primordial stew.” We pulled ourselves out of this self-created muck and stumbled upon a liberal order that has given us both a prosperous society and the present moral disaster we now face.

Both ways require a miracle and faith.

The first involves a lesser miracle and the second requires a greater faith.

The Exhaustion of the Liberal Narrative
Mr. Goldberg has taken the more difficult path by defending the haphazard road to prosperous decadence. In fact, the book is a chronicle of what the author calls “the Miracle” that occurred around 1700. It was “a profound and unprecedented transformation in the way humans thought about the world and their place in it,” represented by the liberal ideas of the Enlightenment.

The Suicide of the WestThe Enlightenment narrative does not exclude the positive influence of religion on behavior, but it does preclude the active presence of God in public life. If one accepts this perspective, the author’s naturalistic explanation of our plight is reasonable. His book is like many others of this kind that now describe where we went wrong among the liberal path. He then reduces the problem to that classical clash within modernity, the “eternal battle” in which “almost every political argument boils down to Locke versus Rousseau.”

Thus, the solution consists of returning to the Lockean ideas of the Enlightenment that gave rise to the Miracle. And that is the problem with the book. Such an abstract solution appears unconvincing in light of the advanced state of decay that he documents. Despite Mr. Goldberg’s passion for the Miracle, his text shows that many do not share his enthusiasm or gratitude for it. It supposedly took us 230,000 years to stumble upon the Miracle; it seems too much to ask that we might re-stumble upon a quick fix during the next election cycle.

As authors like Patrick Deneen testify, the liberal Miracle is exhausted.

The Clash of the Two Miracles
The failure of the Miracle without God necessarily leads to the Miracle with him. This is yet another unintended consequence of the book. By clearly laying out the tenets of Enlightenment thought, those of us who do not subscribe to the Lockean (or Rousseauan) perspectives of our modernity see more clearly the real clash between the two Miracles initially mentioned. The author inadvertently points in the direction of solutions outside the modernist box.

Indeed, this clash of the two Miracles has always festered in the background of modernity. The failure of liberalism reignites the debate by forcing us to question our modernity and re-examine the radically different view of man proposed by the Church. Mr. Goldberg helps us by admitting that much of the liberal order’s foundational social capital came from Christian civilization. The book helps us see areas where liberalism and the Christian order differ. Three of these are a vision of man, society and Providence.

A Vision of Man
Mr. Goldberg’s liberal vision of man is quite severe. He writes that “The natural state of mankind is grinding poverty punctuated by horrific violence terminating with an early death.” We are naturally barbarians motivated by unrestraint and self-interest. This barbarism is hardwired into our DNA as the result of millions of years of evolution.

Unless restrained, he claims society will naturally degenerate into tribal loyalties, nationalism, and absolutism, with disastrous consequences to modern democracy. The Enlightenment’s unnatural and abstract structures served to rein in these natural bad habits and bring about the Miracle.

On the contrary, the Church teaches that man is made in the image and likeness of God (imago dei). As Saint Augustine states, we are created for God, and our hearts are restless until they rest in him. We are naturally attracted to the good, true, and beautiful that speak to us of God. By Original Sin, we tend toward evil also with disastrous consequences. By grace, we are drawn to God to overcome evil.

In one perspective, the attraction to sin is natural and virtue unnatural. In the other, the attraction to virtue is both natural and supernatural, and sin is unnatural and irrational. Each perspective requires a different culture to express itself.

Man’s Intensely Social Nature
The second point of contrast involves the intensely social nature of man.

Again Mr. Goldberg’s perspective is severe. The Lockean outlook is individualistic and lives in tension with social instincts that favor intense loyalties. While the author acknowledges the role of the family and mediating institutions, the Miracle changed the way people thought about these relationships creating a framework in which institutions served to help make “each man a master of himself,” as each pursued happiness in a self-centered universe.

Without unifying principles, he claims that self-interest leads men to fragment into tribal associations that degenerate into power structures such as classes, identity groups, populist movements and intense national loyalties. From our distant primate ancestors onward, he says the evolutionary struggle to survive created these coalitions that hardwired into men an us vs. them logic that can be seen today in polarized and Trumpian America.

The Christian idea of community sees natural associations differently. Because of Original Sin, we depend on communities to supply our deficiencies and thus reach the perfection of our essentially and intensely social nature. The more intense the association, the better we can develop ourselves. United in Christian charity and a strong moral order, we naturally build associations and relationships to help us in the quest for sanctification. So important is community that any seclusion from the fullness of community life is seen as a personal loss.

The Role of God in Society
The final point of contrast highlights the sticky matter of God that was so callously excluded from the book in its opening sentence.

In all fairness to Mr. Goldberg, it must be said that he is not an atheist. He also does not deny the role of God in history. In the final chapter, he even acknowledges the great and unique role of the Christian God in helping to bring about the Miracle by defending universal human dignity. However, he believes the idea of God worked because it made man accountable for his actions. “The notion that God is watching you even when others are not is probably the most powerful civilizing force in all of human history.”

While we may believe that God watches our every move, he is not allowed to act upon his observations. The Enlightenment notion of God is that of the exiled watchmaker who set the world in motion and left it and humanity to itself. Religion is a mere framework for how people approach the world and establish their priorities and desires. Thus, the author observes that “We created the Miracle of modernity all on our own, and if we lose it, that will be our fault too.”

A Providential God
The Christian perspective is that of God as a provident, personal, and benevolent Creator. He intervenes in history. His Divine Providence guides and directs all creatures to their proper end. Ever mindful of man’s free will, God requires the intelligent cooperation of his creatures in carrying out his designs. He gives us his grace and supernatural gifts to aid in this cooperation.

That same Providence that directs the course of the affairs of each man with purpose and benevolence also directs and provides for the affairs of families, societies, and nations. This working with the action of Divine Providence makes up that fascinating narrative, which we call history.

Return to God
As modernity breaks down, it becomes increasingly more difficult to explain what is happening using its terms and methods. It becomes convoluted since nothing seems to work. The Miracle has not brought happiness or a material paradise on earth. Fallen are the gods of the modern pantheon—individualism, materialism, technology and so many others.

It is time to return to the one true God from whom will come not a haphazard Miracle but many miracles provoked by the prayers of the faithful and his provident action.

John Horvat II is the Vice President of the American Society for the Defense of Tradition, Family and Property and the author of the recent book Return to Order.



The Radical Christian Faith of Frederick Douglass

by D. H. Dilbeck | The great abolitionist spoke words of rebuke—and hope—to a slaveholding society. (image: iStock)

As Frederick Douglass looked out on the boisterous crowd that had gathered to celebrate America’s independence, he thought of Psalm 137.

By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept
when we remembered Zion.
There on the poplars
we hung our harps,
for there our captors asked us for songs,
our tormentors demanded songs of joy;
they said, “Sing us one of the songs of Zion!”
How can we sing the songs of the Lord
while in a foreign land? (v. 1–4)

The Rochester Ladies’ Anti-Slavery Society had invited Douglass to deliver the keynote address for their Fourth of July celebrations in 1852. Fourteen summers earlier, Douglass had escaped from slavery. Now, at only 34, he was America’s most famous abolitionist orator.

Douglass usually felt a certain anger and sadness on the Fourth of July. That day, as he stood behind the speaker’s lectern, he felt like an Israelite in exile called upon to sing for his Babylonian captors.

The crowd wanted him to venerate the Founding Fathers and celebrate their heroic deeds. At the start of his speech, Douglass seemed happy to oblige. But those who listened closely might have shifted uneasily in their seats if they noticed how Douglass used the word your. He spoke of your independence, your freedom, your nation, your fathers. The Founders succeeded in creating a new nation, Douglass said, “and today you reap the fruits of their success.”

To the slave, Douglass told his white audience, “your celebration is a sham; your boasted liberty, an unholy license; your national greatness, swelling vanity; your sounds of rejoicing are empty and heartless; your shouts of liberty and equality, hollow mock; your prayers and hymns, your sermons and thanksgivings, with all your religious parade and solemnity, are to him mere bombast, fraud, deception, impiety, and hypocrisy—a thin veil to cover up crimes which would disgrace a nation of savages.”

He reserved his harshest judgment for the nation’s churches. Nearly every white Christian either defended slaveholding or refused to speak against it. Douglass ridiculed their pretensions to righteousness with a warning from Isaiah: “And when ye spread forth your hands, I will hide mine eyes from you: yea, when ye make many prayers, I will not hear: your hands are full of blood” (1:15, KJV).

Forgotten Prophet

February marks the 200th anniversary of the birth of Frederick Douglass. Born a slave on the Eastern Shore of Maryland, Douglass fled to freedom in 1838 and became a champion of liberty and equality.

In his 77 years, Douglass delivered thousands of speeches. He published three autobiographies. He founded and edited newspapers. He attended the first great women’s rights convention, in Seneca Falls, New York, in 1848. He met with President Abraham Lincoln to lobby for emancipation. He championed the cause of African American civil and political equality after the Civil War. He lived to see the tragic onset of Jim Crow and fought the oppressive system of racial segregation, disenfranchisement, and violence until he died in 1895 (a year before the notorious Supreme Court decision Plessy v. Ferguson, which upheld segregation under the “separate but equal” doctrine).

Yet there’s a side of Douglass that’s not often remembered or celebrated: his radical Christian faith. Douglass was a kind of prophet crying in the wilderness of Christian slaveholding America. It’s no coincidence that in the most famous speech of his life—“What to the Slave is the Fourth of July?”—Douglass quoted the prophet Isaiah at length. He aspired to speak to America as biblical prophets once spoke to their people: with words of warning and rebuke, grace and hope.

Old Testament scholar Walter Brueggemann has written that ancient Hebrew prophets “nurture, nourish, and evoke a consciousness and perception alternative to the consciousness and perception of the dominant culture.” They offer “an alternative perception of reality,” one that allows people to “see their own history in the light of God’s freedom and his will for justice.”

Douglass tried to do the same thing in his long struggle against bondage. Slavery, as an elaborate system of racial oppression, offered a flawed “perception of reality,” a poisonous account of who we are as human beings and how we ought to live together. Douglass spent a lifetime pleading with white Christians, as members of the dominant culture, to acknowledge how thoroughly slavery had distorted their view of reality and kept them from loving as Christ loves.

He had no illusions about the possibility of eradicating all evil and fully realizing the kingdom of God on earth. But, in hopeful anticipation of a world without slavery, the prophetic Douglass implored his fellow Christians to hew to the narrow path of doing justice, loving mercy, and walking humbly with God.

‘Not Color, but Crime’

The crucible of Douglass’s prophetic Christian faith was his childhood suffering as a slave. Before his escape at age 20, Douglass witnessed and endured great cruelty, especially at the hands of Christian masters.

Young Douglass spent most of his earliest childhood days on the sprawling plantation of the Lloyd family, one of Maryland’s wealthiest slaveholders. There, Douglass first saw the grotesque violence and depravity that accompanied slavery: brutal whippings, cold-blooded murder, the daily trials of physical and psychological abuse.

Early one morning, Douglass woke to the desperate cries of his aunt Hester. A 15-year-old girl of striking beauty, Hester had been courted by Ned Roberts, a Lloyd family slave. Aaron Anthony, the slavemaster, commanded Hester to stop visiting Ned, but she continued, which incited Anthony’s rage. When Douglass peered out of his bedroom, a closet in the Anthony kitchen, he saw Hester stripped to the waist, her wrists bound together and fastened to the ceiling above her head. Anthony cursed Hester as he methodically delivered blow after blow with his three-foot-long cowskin whip. Blood flowed down her back as she pleaded for mercy. Douglass watched in terrified silence as Anthony delivered 30 or 40 lashes, before untying Hester and letting her body fall bloody and exposed on the kitchen floor.

How is a child, no more than six or seven, supposed to make sense of such violence? Douglass was a bright boy, so he soon asked the hardest questions: Why am I a slave? Why must slaves like Hester endure such pain, even unto death? Where is God? Why is he silent in our suffering?

Douglass suspected that the answers he heard from white southern Christians could not be right. How could God, in perfect wisdom and goodness, have made black people to be slaves and white people to be masters? Perhaps, he thought, it “was not color, but crime, not God, but man” that created slavery.

In 1826, Douglass was sent to Baltimore to live with Hugh and Sophia Auld. Late one Sunday night, he woke to the sound of Sophia, a devout Methodist, reading from the first chapter of the Book of Job. Douglass heard about a man who feared God and eschewed evil yet still lost everything—his livestock, servants, and children. Half-awake under a table on the Auld floor, Douglass decided he had to know more about this man Job—how he could say, despite his suffering, “blessed be the name of the Lord.”

Sophia began to teach Douglass the alphabet, but Hugh forbade the lessons. So Douglass secretly taught himself, laboring over well-worn and well-hidden copies of Webster’s spelling book and Methodist hymnals. By the time he was 13 or 14, he could capably read and write. Soon after, he formally converted to Christianity, shepherded by free black Methodists. Within the African Methodist Episcopal Church, Douglass first learned that there might be more to the call of Christ than the proslavery gospel he had heard his entire life.

Salvation, though, came slowly. For several weeks, tortured by the knowledge of his sin, Douglass remained “a poor, broken-hearted mourner, traveling through the darkness and misery of doubts and fear.” But once he cast all his cares upon God, Douglass wrote, he found faith in Christ as “Redeemer, Friend, and Savior.”

Not long after, in March 1833, Hugh Auld unexpectedly sent Douglass back to the Eastern Shore. For the next three years, Douglass labored for the first time as a field hand, physically and spiritually exhausting work. During this time, he saw just how completely slaveholders distorted the Christian faith to justify their violence and oppression. His most outwardly religious masters were the most depraved in their cruelty.

On Sabbath mornings, Douglass often stood on the banks of the Chesapeake Bay and gazed upon the white sails of vessels that traveled the globe untrammeled. The sight tormented him. One Sabbath, in his misery, with no audience but God, he cried out a psalm of lament: “O, why was I born a man, of whom to make a brute! The glad ship is gone; she hides in the dim distance. I am left in the hottest hell of unending slavery. O God, save me! God, deliver me! Let me be free! Is there any God? Why am I a slave?”

In his brokenness, comfort slowly came. Douglass’s sorrow that morning transformed into hope for deliverance. He felt God’s presence and resolved on the banks to do his part to win his freedom: “I will run away. . . . God helping me, I will. It cannot be that I shall live and die a slave.”

Douglass took few possessions on his long journey to freedom. He left behind his chains, but not his prophetic Christian faith that first took root in slavery. At the foundation of that faith rested certain assurances: that God suffers with the oppressed and will not tolerate injustice forever; that slaveholders perverted the Christian faith in their religious justifications of oppression; that Christ, in bidding all to come and die, offers a new way to live, radically different from the world’s hatred and violence.

‘The Christianity of Christ’

Douglass would settle in New Bedford, Massachusetts, hoping only to earn a fair wage as a caulker. But he soon gravitated toward the abolitionist movement. He avidly read William Lloyd Garrison’s Liberator, the nation’s leading antislavery newspaper, which “took its place with me next to the Bible,” Douglass wrote, because of its bold condemnation of “hypocrisy and wickedness in high places.”

In 1841, Douglass became a paid lecturer of the Massachusetts Anti-Slavery Society. The society’s president offered Douglass the job after hearing him make an impromptu speech at an abolitionist rally. Douglass would now make a living traveling through the North, telling the story of his life and denouncing slavery and its defenders. His task was to convince Americans to see the antislavery cause as a great moral necessity. To that end, he repeated a chastening refrain: “Between the Christianity of this land, and the Christianity of Christ, I recognize the widest possible difference.”

Douglass delivered this message to greatest effect in his first autobiography, the iconic Narrative of the Life of Frederick Douglass, an American Slave. Published in 1845, the book was an instant hit, selling 30,000 copies within five years. Douglass’s Narrative is one of the great texts of the black prophetic Christian tradition, full of scorn for religious hypocrisy and oppression but also full of hope that Americans might still commit themselves to the path of true righteousness.

In the famous “Appendix,” Douglass condemned the “corrupt, slaveholding, women-whipping, cradle-plundering, partial and hypocritical Christianity” everywhere present in America. As Douglass knew from direct experience, the cruelest slaveholders were also often the most ardent churchgoers. “The man who wields the blood-clotted cowskin during the week fills the pulpit on Sunday,” Douglass scoffed, “and claims to be a minister of the meek and lowly Jesus.”

But the tragedy went deeper than the fact that individual slaveholders professed Christianity while failing to live up to Christ’s commands. Every believer shared that failure. Far worse was how, at an institutional level, slavery and the Christian church—in the North and South—remained inextricably connected. “The slave auctioneer’s bell and the church-going bell chime in with each other, and the bitter cries of the heart-broken slave are drowned in the religious shouts of his pious master,” Douglass lamented. The slaveholder fills church coffers with gold, and, in turn, the pastor “covers his infernal business with the garb of Christianity.”

Douglass then quoted from Matthew 23, where Jesus Christ calls the scribes and Pharisees “whited sepulchers, which indeed appear beautiful outward, but are within full of dead men’s bones, and of all uncleanness” (v. 27, KJV). Douglass insisted that Christ’s words held true for “the overwhelming mass of professed Christians in America.” Slaveholders and their apologists “attend with Pharisaical strictness to the outward forms of religion, and at the same time neglect the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.” They had utterly abandoned the true Christianity of Christ and invited the wrath of a just and avenging God.

Hope of Redemption

Douglass rejoiced in 1865 when the Union triumphed in the Civil War and the nation ratified the Thirteenth Amendment, abolishing slavery forever. But he did not believe his prophetic work had ended. At the end of his life, equality under the law remained an aspiration, not a reality. African Americans and women were denied the right to vote. The ghost of slavery lived on in oppressive economic arrangements like sharecropping. Jim Crow carved rigid lines of racial segregation in the public square. White mobs lynched at least 200 black men each year in the 1890s.

He had good reason, then, in 1889, to mourn how the “malignant prejudice of race” still “poisoned the fountains of justice, and defiled the altars of religion” in America. Yet Douglass also rejoiced in the continued possibility of redemption. A new way of seeing the world, and living in it, still remained—one that rested, Douglass said, on a “broad foundation laid by the Bible itself, that God has made of one blood all nations of men to dwell on all the face of the earth.”

In these unsettled times, it’s only natural to want to summon Douglass from the grave—to have him speak directly to the particular problems that still fester at the intersection of race and religion in American life.

That desire reminds me of a story about a great 20th-century American historian, Don Fehrenbacher. As the story goes, he once was lecturing in Boston during the mounting crisis over forced busing to integrate public schools. After his talk, a man asked, “What would Abraham Lincoln say about busing?” Fehrenbacher replied: “I think he would probably say, ‘What’s a bus?’ ”

Douglass’s America is not our America. A chasm of historical change separates us, much of it nearly unimaginable when Douglass died. And yet, we’re still heirs of the history Douglass faced and forged. The “malignant prejudice of race” lives on, a mockery of our common Creator and the likeness of the God we share.

If he could stand before us today, I doubt Douglass would presume to offer simple solutions to our racial dilemmas. But I suspect he would remind us of the promise made in Isaiah: “Cease to do evil; learn to do well; seek judgment, relieve the oppressed, judge the fatherless, plead for the widow. Come now, and let us reason together, saith the Lord: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow” (1:16–18, KJV).

D. H. Dilbeck is a historian living in New Haven, Connecticut. This article is adapted from his book, Frederick Douglass: America’s Prophet (The University of North Carolina Press).



African Christianity: Its Public Role

by Paul Gifford 1998. African Christianity: Its Public Role. Bloomington: Indiana University Press. A sophisticated political and social analysis of the various Christian groups is allied to a most original, consistent exploration of their different theological positions and thinking…. An interesting, important critical assessment of the extent to which the churches are playing a major role in the emergence of a civil society…. Gifford’s overall analysis and his four case studies are so fresh and so important that… they cry out for immediate publication.” —Richard Gray

In the 1970s and the 1990s, British Africanist scholars produced two groups of outstanding studies on Christianity in Africa funded by the Leverhulme Trust. Two works by Adrian Hastings (1979a, 1979b) and one by Edward Fashole-Luke et al. (1978) were in the first series. This volume as well as another by Gifford (1995) comprises the second set. Although they are the result of intellectual collaboration, each volume stands on its own. The 1970s, works situated Christianity in newly-independent sub-Saharan Africa. For many Africanists, they were the first introduction to the transition [End Page 228] of Christian churches moving from mission status to local leadership and autonomy, and above all, to the vibrant New Religious Movements (NRMs) or Independent Churches.

Gifford (1995) looked at the role of Christian churches in the democratization of sub-Saharan Africa. The present study has two goals: to analyze the interrelation of Christian church bodies in Africa, using the methodology of political economy, and to explore the public role of Christianity in Africa. After two chapters that describe changes in the African context from the 1970s to the present, the bulk of this book is devoted to four case histories: Ghana, Uganda, Zambia, and Cameroon. Each in its own way is fascinating.

The introductory chapter deftly sketches social and political pat-terns that have developed since independence. In each of the case studies this is repeated in detail, covering the present situations of Protestants, Catholics, and NRMs. Showing the network of elites, including clergy, who benefit from and contribute to patrimonial systems, Gifford outlines the ambiguity of the Christian churches. On one hand they are participants in clientism and are similar to the other institutions of the elite rul-ing system. This is illustrated by the examples that pepper the case studies: the anointing ceremony in Lusaka’s Anglican cathedral when Frederick Chiluba became president of Zambia in 1991 (p. 197); the episcopal praise of Idi Amin as “our redeemer and the light of God.” (p. 118); the close relations between Christian churches and President Paul Biya of Came-roon that opened the north to Christian evangelization.

On the other hand, religious values urge Christian leaders to take stances on justice, corruption, and the plight of the poor. The churches’ activist role often has tragic consequences, such as the murders of Anglican Archbishop Janani Luwum at Idi Amin’s behest, of the Jesuit intellectual Engelbert Mveng of Cameroon, and of Catholic Archbishop Elias Mutale of Zambia—all after strong protests against government misuse of power.

Where Gifford’s book is at its strongest is in the analysis of the internal politics of the individual churches—their decision-making processes, organization, finances, and relationships. Ethnic tensions and strains between expatriate missionaries and local clergy are particularly well outlined, with an objectivity that is refreshing in comparison with much of the religious literature emanating from Africa today. One can only admire Gifford’s thorough and systematic analysis, based on both his familiarity with existing scholarship and his careful field work. His treatment of corruption, tribalism, and financial irresponsibility within the Christian churches is balanced and frank, but never demeaning.

Table of Contents
Preface
Abbreviations
1. The Context: Africa Now
2. African Churches: Their Global Context
3. Ghana
4. Uganda
5. Zambia
6. Cameroon
7. Conclusion
Select Bibliography
Index

Paul Gifford is Lecturer in African Christianity at the School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London. His previous books include Christianity and Politics in Doe’s Liberia and The Christian Churches and the Democratisation of Africa.



Tyler Perry Discusses His Book ‘Higher is Waiting’

I’d written a book, a collection of inspirational insights and lessons. Now I just needed the right title for it. Then a friend wanted to talk. He was feeling pretty down about his life, and I urged him to see all the good things God had in store for him: love, compassion, peace of mind. If only he’d step up and reach up. “Higher is waiting,” I said. That was it, both my advice and the title of the book (YouTube).



Sheltered Through The Storm Book Launch/Signing

Redemption Press / 2017 / Paperback

In Stock
CBD Stock No: WW141730

As storms of persecution, betrayals, and attacks face believers worldwide, many are filled with fear and wonder if God has abandoned His people. Michael Jolayemi says the Church must be courageous, and reach out to help a frightened world. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only effective weapon against terrorism and social injustice. He challenges the Church to live holy in a perverted world that seeks to destroy its godly heritage, and return to its total dependence on the basic truths of the Word of God.Open Doors, a ministry serving persecuted Christians worldwide, says, “Each month, 322 Christians are killed for their faith, 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed, and 772 forms of violence are committed against Christians (such as beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests and forced marriages).” As the world groans in turmoil and pains, with palpable fear enveloping the entire globe, the most troubled people, under severe attacks from the evil world are the Christians and the Jews. The Pew Research Center says over 75 percent of the world’s population live in areas with severe religious restrictions (and many are Christians). The Church faces many challenges today which include:

  • Unprecedented attacks from without and within
  • Radical Islamic terrorism spreading fear
  • A deterioration of morality and Judeo-Christian values
  • A lack of dependence on the absolute truth of God’s Word.

Sheltered Through the Storm: The Travails and Ultimate Triumph of the Church

Sheltered Through the Storm: The Travails and Ultimate Triumph of the ChurchSheltered Through the Storm: The Travails and Ultimate Triumph of the Church

 



Sheltered Through the Storm: The Travails and Ultimate Triumph of the Church

Redemption Press / 2017 / Paperback

In Stock
CBD Stock No: WW141730

Contents

The Islamic State Europe and America
 
Its Time to Know What and Why You Believe
 
A Godly Response from the Church
 
Authors Note
 
Endnotes
 
Copyright

As storms of persecution, betrayals, and attacks face believers worldwide, many are filled with fear and wonder if God has abandoned His people. Michael Jolayemi says the Church must be courageous, and reach out to help a frightened world. The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only effective weapon against terrorism and social injustice. He challenges the Church to live holy in a perverted world that seeks to destroy its godly heritage, and return to its total dependence on the basic truths of the Word of God.

Open Doors, a ministry serving persecuted Christians worldwide, says, “Each month, 322 Christians are killed for their faith, 214 churches and Christian properties are destroyed, and 772 forms of violence are committed against Christians (such as beatings, abductions, rapes, arrests and forced marriages).” As the world groans in turmoil and pains, with palpable fear enveloping the entire globe, the most troubled people, under severe attacks from the evil world are the Christians and the Jews. The Pew Research Center says over 75 percent of the world’s population live in areas with severe religious restrictions (and many are Christians). The Church faces many challenges today which include:

  • Unprecedented attacks from without and within
  • Radical Islamic terrorism spreading fear
  • A deterioration of morality and Judeo-Christian values
  • A lack of dependence on the absolute truth of God’s Word.

Fear is a by-product of the storms of persecution, betrayals, and difficulties facing believers worldwide. The author of Sheltered Through the Storm: The Travails and Ultimate Triumph of the Church, seeks to combat that fear with faith. “A fear-stricken church cannot help a scared world. We will never convince the world there is peace at the cross if we continue to exhibit the same fears as those who make no profession of Christianity.”

In the face of radical Islamic terrorism, persecution, and the deterioration of morality and Judeo-Christian values, Michael Jolayemi says the church must be courageous in reaching out to help a frightened world. “The gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ is the only effective weapon against terrorism and social injustice.” He challenges the church to live holy in a perverted world that seeks to destroy its godly heritage. Above all, the message of Sheltered Through the Storm is for the Church to return to its total dependence on the basic truths of the Word of God, and trust in the eventual triumph of good over evil.

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Sheltered Through the Storm: The Travails and Ultimate Triumph of the Church

Sheltered Through the Storm: The Travails and Ultimate Triumph of the Church

Sheltered Through the Storm: The Travails and Ultimate Triumph of the Church



Teaching Kids to Love Reading

Randall Beach | Reading is an opening to selfhood but also to citizenship

David Denby (pictured above) could see what Jessica Zelenski was up against. Zelenski, a 10th-grade teacher at New Haven’s Hillhouse High School, stood in front of 24 students from one of the city’s poorest neighborhoods and tried to get them excited about the pleasure of reading a novel.

“Books smell like old people,” sneered one of the students.

“He bellowed it,” Zelenski says with a smile as she recalls that moment. It was one of the many challenging encounters she has dealt with during her 15 years at Hillhouse.

Denby, who had been sitting in the classroom observing that scene for a book he was researching, says he was too stunned to react. He just quietly wrote down what the kid had said.

Two years later, Denby’s book is with us — Lit Up: One Reporter. Three Schools. Twenty-Four Books that Can Change Lives.

Denby, a staff writer at The New Yorker, came to The Study at Yale to talk about his experiences at those three schools for WSHU Public Radio’s Join the Conversation series.

Denby told the large audience, a roomful of readers, that Zelenski, one of the heroes of his book, was in the crowd. “She’s a dynamo teacher,” he said. Denby dedicated the book to Zelenski and the four other teachers he observed.

The two schools he chose besides Hillhouse were on the opposite side of the spectrum: the Beacon School on Manhattan’s upper West Side and Mamaroneck High School in Westchester County, New York.

Here was the central question Denby set out to answer in his book, as he notes during an interview with me before his talk: “How do you turn teenagers on to literature?”

Denby puts it another way: “How do you forge the link to pleasure and need, which makes somebody a reader?”

Denby, who is 72 and grew up loving to read, is alarmed at the prospect teenagers will “disappear into their screens.”

“Kids are reading more words,” he notes. “But a lot of what they read online and on their smartphones is fragmentary. It’s pieces.”

Denby was a movie critic for 45 years. “I love movies. I love being engulfed by the images. But I love more the moment when you sit and read and you pull back from that constant stimulation in our over-stimulated society. With a novel you go inward as you read — inward and outward.”

The “outward” part is as important as the “inward,” Denby believes. “Reading is an opening to selfhood but also to citizenship. It’s how you become a three-dimensional person. I think it’s essential to our civilization. The absence of it would be catastrophic. But I think we’re seeing it already.”

Denby alludes to the Republican presidential battlefield. “I think we’re seeing politically right now the product of an educational system that’s in a lot of trouble, including the ability to think creatively. If more Americans had read Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, they wouldn’t take Donald Trump seriously because they would know about the Duke and the King, two con artists who make promises.”

Denby says Zelenski achieved breakthroughs in her class because she overcame students’ initial resistance to reading Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbird by linking the Alabama characters of the 1930s to their own lives and struggles in New Haven.

“At the beginning of the school year the kids at Hillhouse wouldn’t read,” Denby says. “By the end of the year they were reading Vonnegut and Hemingway.”

When I met Zelenski, a 42-year-old white woman from Wallingford, it was clear how she connects with and engages her students, the large percentage of them African-American or Hispanic. She is indeed a “dynamo.”

Like Denby, Zelenski says, “I’ve been a voracious reader, always.”

In the “Afterword” section of Denby’s book, he returned to Hillhouse in the spring of 2015 to check on Zelenski and the students. She had recently won a teaching award, but he described her as tired and angry, dealing with the school’s controversial structural changes as well as the daily challenges in her classroom.

On that day, Denby asked her if she would ever consider leaving Hillhouse to take a teaching job at an upper-middle-class Connecticut town. She stared at him and replied, “No, never upper-middle-class. Working class only.” Those are the kids she loves.

Zelenski tells me when I raise the subject of moving on, “I’ve been here 15 years. I’m too invested in the community. I don’t want to go anywhere else.”

As to my question of whether she feels optimistic about the future of teenagers being engaged by literature, she says, “I always feel optimistic. That’s how I go in and do what I do. Teenagers don’t change. Once I can trick them into reading something fantastic, I know they’ll follow me anywhere.”

Randall Beach is the longtime columnist for the New Haven Register, where his column appears Fridays and Sundays. He enjoys his New Haven neighborhood, running through the city’s streets and parks and hanging out in its coffee shops. At home he plays his many 1960s and ’70s rock ‘n’ roll albums and CDs.