“AND TO THE REPUBLIC FOR WHICH IT STOOD . . .”

My Facebook status for the Fourth of July later this week will read thus: “I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stood…”

Why the past tense? The first step to victory is to be honest and clear about what the goal of the mission is. As Americans who care about our country, it is no longer about preserving our form of government, but restoring it. To do this many reforms will be necessary, the most important of which is restoring a cultural climate in which grammatico-historical exegesis makes sense again. In other words, until we care again about what the authors of old documents (from the Bible to the Constitution to the literary classics) were actually trying to communicate, and believe them capable of doing it, the Constitution will mean anything that a 51% majority of the voters or any five Supreme Court justices want it to mean. And as long as that is the case, what Francis Schaeffer called “the outward forms of constitutionality” actually count for nothing.

FoundingFathers
The Founding Fathers at Work

Any tinkering with structures or rules, even any replacing of elected officials, will mean nothing until this deeper cultural reformation is achieved in homes, schools, and churches. And it will be an uphill battle only winnable by God’s intervention in a new Renaissance, Reformation, and Revival that go beyond anything we can engineer ourselves. Whether that comes or not, let us be found faithful. Clarity about what the problem is–rebellion against God’s authority, our Author, and therefore also the authority even of human authors made in His image–is the first step.

Was the Constitution perfect? No. But it did provide a possibility of checks and balances in the separation of powers that was better than any other nation has devised, and which gave us the chance at a republic–as Franklin said, “If you can keep it.” We didn’t. In the republic the Framers envisioned, for example, the HHS Mandate, the courts taking it upon themselves to redefine marriage or create a right to murder one’s own children, congress passing bills no one has read, etc., would have been unthinkable. Now such things are routine. Unelected judges and bureaucrats have power they were never intended to have, and our elected officials are impotent to rein them in, because they do not even understand the monster they have created.

" . . . a republic--if you can keep it."   Ben Franklin
” . . . a republic–if you can keep it.” Ben Franklin

Why didn’t we keep our republic? Because the church did not do its job of evangelism and discipleship. Even when we won converts we did not teach them the biblical world view. We let their minds be formed by the Enemy. We let the culture around us slide into decadence, and as long as our churches were full we didn’t care. Then we were shocked when things turned against us. Even if the Constitution were perfect, it would be no protection in a world in which antirealist philosophy, subjectivist hermeneutics, and relativist ethics rule the educational system, the media, and pop culture. When it is no longer considered self-evident that all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights, then the republic founded on that bedrock cannot survive as the same entity. We should not be surprised that it has not.

This is not ultimately a political problem: it is a cultural problem, and beneath that, a religious problem. When we start making progress there, only then will we see real progress on the political front. Or maybe we will see a new Dark Ages. That would be horrible in many ways, and we should do everything we can to prevent it—but if it comes, the dark just makes the light shine brighter.

Restoration?  We shall see.
Restoration? We shall see.

Donald T. Williams is R. A. Forrest Scholar and Professor of English at Toccoa Falls College. He is the author of nine books, including Stars Through the Clouds: The Collected Poetry of Donald T. Williams, Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy, and Inklings of Reality: Essays toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters, 2nd edition, revised and expanded, all from Lantern Hollow Press. To order, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

InklingsofReality5c

Coming Soon: Encountering Otherworlds, Revised Edition

From “Oh, Deer! A Tiger!”

Gretchen’s cousin Hans was a fourth-year botany student at Grimmsworld University and for his senior project he decided to visit her in the Big, Scary Forest to collect leaf samples.

On the day of his arrival, Gretchen watched from inside her step-mother’s cottage’s window as he stepped off Big Scary Forest Bus #71.  With a bearish growl, the bus drove off into the trees, leaving behind a heavy cloud of exhaust.

Gretchen watched as Hans took stock of his luggage.  He had his suitcase, his knapsack, a small fanny pack, and–most importantly–his leaf book and magnifying glass, both of which he kept in his front shirt pocket.

Gretchen laughed.  He was paler than the underbelly of a fish.  He wore circle-rimmed glasses and a neat bow tie.  He wore a safari hat that in an odd way complemented his comfortable, new hiking shoes.

Halfway to the cottage door, the student spotted a leaf.  He set down his luggage, picked up the leaf, studied it with his magnifying glass, and then pressed it into his book.

For a moment, Gretchen wavered between running outside and waiting for Hans to knock.  But she couldn’t help herself.  The cottage door flew open and she ran out, her brown hair trailing behind her.  She threw her arms around Hans and shouted, “You’re here!  You’re here!”

Hans dropped his magnifying glass and hugged her back.  “Greetings, Cousin!  It’s good to see you!”

Gretchen pulled stray hairs out of her mouth and as she set them back behind her neck, she said, “You’re tall!”

“I suppose I am!  It’s been a time since I left for school after the family reunion.”

At the reunion several years ago, Gretchen had been eleven–six years younger than Hans.  That had all been before Gretchen and her father had moved into the Big, Scary Forest.  Since then, her father had married Aggy, bringing her and her daughter Ethel into the family.  Then he had died fourteen months ago leaving Gretchen alone with those two.

Hans smiled at her. “How have you been, Cousin?  Have you been brushing your teeth?”

“Of course, I have!  Have you been getting good grades?”

“Well…”

“Hans!”

“Of course I have–indubitably.  Where should I put my things?”

“I’ll show you your room.”

Gretchen grabbed the suitcase and led Hans into the cottage.  Inside they found Ethel and Aggy sitting in the living room.  When they saw Hans, Aggy sprang up and gave Hans a singularly motherly hug.

“Gretchen’s told me so much about you.  I’m Agatha but you can call me Aggy.  It’s so good to finally meet you.  How was your trip?”  The woman had dark hair and a marble-sized wart on the right side of her nose.  She was about fifteen pounds over “comfortably plump” and wore pointed shoes.

Gretchen hurried further into the house and set Hans’s suitcase in his room and then came back.

When she returned, she heard Agatha say, “Oh, Ethel, get up, girl, and come meet your step-cousin, Hans.”

Ethel did so, television remote still in her right hand.  She stood by her mother and said to Hans’s shoes, “Nice to meet you, Step-Cousin Hans.”  She was miserably thin and had no wart, but her hair was blacker than her mother’s.

“It’s a delight to meet you too, Ethel.”

“Her friends call her Ethy.  You can call her Ethy too,” Aggy said smiling.

Ethel rolled her eyes, turned around, and went back to her couch.  She turned the volume up on the TV.

Gretchen interrupted, “Come on, Hans.  I’ll show you your room.”

“I’ll come too,” said Aggy.  “Come on Ethy.  You come too.  You can show Hans our humble home.”

As Ethel sighed and pulled herself up from the couch, Gretchen led them on to Hans’s room.  Agatha and Ethel crowded in to help him order his things. . . .

 

 

Finally, Agatha asked him if he needed a few minutes to finish unpacking by himself and before he could answer, she ordered both the other two girls out and she herself left.

 

As they left, Hans called after them, “Thank you for your beneficent help.  I shall finish here and rejoin you presently.”

 

As the three females were leaving, Hans barely heard Aggy say to Gretchen, “Girl!  Does he always speak like that?”

 

“Sometimes worse, Mrs. Aggy,” Gretchen murmured.

 

“I see…”

 

While Gretchen began preparing dinner, Aggy kept talking to Hans in the living room and asking him questions.  “You know, Ethy wants to go to Grimmsworld University too.  She’s very smart.  I’m thinking she’d do best in nuclear physics.  What do you think?”

 

“It’s a good program,” Hans said.  “Though I don’t quite have the patience for that sort of thing myself.  My GPA would take ‘a-tomble’ if I tried that major.”

 

Gretchen noticed what Hans had done and smiled at Hans, but Agatha continued talking and Ethel continued being silent.

 

“So how were you able to afford it, Hans?  You see, that’s my worry mainly.  I know my dear is quite intelligent enough to learn on that level.  She started reading when she was five, you know.  But I just don’t know how we’ll afford it.  I suppose there are scholarships and things like that but it’s always so difficult to find them.  And I’m sure they’re made to favor richer families.  Could you give her some tips on essay writing?  Maybe show her some scholarships she could win?”

 

“I received several scholarships myself and I’ve been working as a research assistant for approximately six months now.”  Hans unzipped his fanny pack revealing insulin and a blood sugar monitor.  He listened as he checked his blood sugar.

 

“But do you know of any scholarships that would suit Ethy here?”
Gretchen listened with horror as the talk continued.  She saw that Agatha was doing something to the already prepared pot of spaghetti sauce and she was worried for her cousin.  But she could say nothing at that point.  Agatha would get very angry if she interfered.

Simple family drama? I’m a frayed knot! Find out what’s really going on in Lantern Hollow Press’s short story anthology, Encountering Otherworlds and the Coming of Age, arriving to online bookshelves July 15. Read stories of children entering worlds of imagination–and find out if they can make it out alive! We cannot wait to share these wonderful tales, written by our very own Lantern Hollow Press staff. Mark you calendar today!

PRO-LIFE: A QUALITY-OF-LIFE CASE

Lantern Hollow Press is about producing literature that reflects a biblical world view.  One aspect of that world view is that values human life as something sacred and deserving protection from the law, including in the womb.  I’d like to try a bit of a different spin on that aspect of Christian thinking today.

Christian Pro-Lifers usually reject out of hand “quality-of-life” arguments about abortion, insisting that only a sanctity-of-life understanding gives us a fully valid basis for making such judgments. They are right to do so for many reasons. But I think that even the quality-of-life argument for abortion fails, fails miserably, and can be shown to fail miserably.

Pro-Choice arguments trying to spin abortion as a charitable act often focus on the various trials and hardships in life that a foetus unfortunate enough to be “unwanted” or handicapped is going to be spared. That seems reasonable until you apply it to some actual test cases. Let’s take a seriously handicapped individual who actually lived, Helen Keller. Did she think her life of such a quality as to be not worth living? It doesn’t seem so. Let’s try again. Does Stephen Hawking think his life of such a quality as to be not worth living? Would he, in other words, prefer non-existence to being bound to a wheelchair and having to talk through a computer? Clearly not; if he did prefer non-existence (assuming that is his concept of what death would be), he could surely arrange to have it.

 

Stephen Hawking
Stephen Hawking

 

O.K., let’s try a different kind of case. I have known a few Down Syndrome victims (a condition whose detection often now leads to elective abortion), and I certainly consider them unfortunate. But not one of them wanted to die. Not one of them, once able to make the choice, would have chosen non-existence over the quality of the life he or she enjoyed. (Never mind the consequences of such a choice for an eternal soul—we are limiting ourselves here to considerations about the quality of the present life only, for the sake of argument.) Maybe some people in these situations would so choose; but it only takes one who would not to raise serious ethical questions about the quality-of-life case for abortion.

What is that ethical dilemma? Well, here’s the next question: Would any of these people appreciate it if you unilaterally made the decision whether their lives were worth living for them without consulting them? Especially if you decided in the negative and proceeded to enact that decision! What would you be guilty of if you did so? Hmmmm.

 

Helen Keller
Helen Keller

 

Another question: What difference does it make if you make that preemptive decision about the value of someone else’s life before he or she can be consulted on the matter? Would this timing make that person’s murder (what else can we call it?) less heinous, or more? That’s a hard question. Here’s an easier one: Would you want to be deprived of the choice to determine for yourself whether your own life was worth living? That’s just the Golden Rule, right? If you would not, how can you justify depriving someone else of the same . . . er . . . right to choose?

One might point out that once we have added the Golden Rule it is no longer a purely quality-of-life ethic. Something other than considerations of quality, the principle of “Do as you would be done by,” is now determining our choices. Exactly. A pure quality-of-life ethic would not really be an ethic at all. And therefore nobody has one. Little deontological bits of what Lewis called the Tao (like the Golden Rule) are always snuck in. The Golden Rule is, after all, pretty hard to argue against.

The Source of the Golden Rule, the Moral Law, and the Sanctity of Life
The Source of the Golden Rule, the Moral Law, and the Sanctity of Life

There are then many problems with a quality-of-life ethic, and I am not advocating one. But it is worth pointing out: Even when one is trying really hard to operate on a quality-of-life basis, once we add so simple and universally accepted a moral principle as The Golden Rule to our consideration of the facts, abortion is still very difficult to distinguish from murder and impossible to justify.

 

Donald T. Williams is R. A. Forrest Scholar and Professor of English at Toccoa Falls College. He is the author of nine books, including Stars Through the Clouds: The Collected Poetry of Donald T. Williams, Reflections from Plato’s Cave: Essays in Evangelical Philosophy, and Inklings of Reality: Essays toward a Christian Philosophy of Letters, 2nd edition, revised and expanded, all from Lantern Hollow Press. To order, go to https://lanternhollow.wordpress.com/store/.

InklingsofReality5c

Coming Soon: Encountering Otherworlds, Revised Edition

From “The Red Cap”

A bright red St. Louis Cardinals baseball cap glowed in the light of the morning sun as James rummaged through cardboard boxes to find a clean t-shirt, pair of jeans, and socks. His dad had bought the cap for him on the family’s last trip to Busch Stadium before the big move to North Carolina a week ago. After James got dressed, he smoothed his blonde hair and fitted the hat on his head. It made his ears stick out, but he wore it all the same.

He walked downstairs and faced the towers of cardboard boxes and plastic bins that cluttered the living room.

“Dad!” James called. His mother’s head popped over a stack of boxes labeled OFFICE.

“Good morning, love,” she said.

“Hi, Mom.” James looked around. “Where’s Dad?”

“At work.”

Again?” James groaned. “It’s Saturday. He’s worked every day since we’ve moved, and he promised he would take me to the park today to get some extra practice in before school starts on Monday.”

His mother’s eyebrows rose. “James, Dad did not make that promise. All he said was ‘We’ll see.’ We’ve told you several times his new job would make him work on the weekends sometimes. Why don’t you go outside? The front yard’s plenty big. Take your ball and bat and practice your swinging.”

“It would be better if Dad was here,” James muttered.

“James!” his mother’s voice was rising. “I’m sorry your father has to work today and can’t take you to the park. Things are not going to be like they were in St. Louis. Now, please, go outside or you can help me unpack. Your choice.”

They glared at each other for a moment. “Fine,” James huffed. He put on his sneakers and jacket and opened the front door, not bothering to take his ball and bat.

He shoved his hands in his pockets and stalked across the yard toward the oak tree next to the gravel driveway. The branches spread across the driveway, creating a canopy that barely reached the woods on the other side. The moss swayed in the cool breeze, and acorns crunched under James’s feet as he approached the tree. He slumped down at the base and tossed his hat on the ground in front of him. He picked up several acorns and lobbed them across the driveway into the trees on the other side. The acorns smacked the leaves of the low-hanging branches.

Through a gap in the branches, something moved. “Dumb squirrels,” James mumbled. He hurled a single acorn into the branches. They shuddered, and two human eyes stared back at him.

James blinked, startled. Then, the wind howled and whirled dirt, moss, and twigs around him. It lifted the red hat and carried it toward the woods. James reached for it, but the wind picked up and he had to shield his face with his arms. The wind and debris whipped around him for a few seconds, then stopped. James lifted his head to see his hat disappear into the woods beyond the driveway.  The eyes in the tree had vanished.

He sprang up and dashed toward the spot where his hat had disappeared. He crashed through the branches and stood facing the forest. The trees grew thick and tall, and James could barely see the forest beyond or the sky above. He walked through the dense woods, the twigs and leaves snapping and crunching beneath him. As he continued to walk, the forest began to change. The trees resembled wrinkly faces, which scowled at James, and he had to maneuver his way around their low bony branches. The sound of his footsteps seemed to echo among the thick, gnarled trees. He walked for several minutes until he came to space amongst the trees where a fallen elm lay. As James scanned the elm tree, he saw his hat emerge from the other side of the trunk—and so did the thing holding it.

James stepped back and gasped. A small man with a gruesome face surrounded by a thick mane of dark crimson hair stood and flexed his sturdy, hunched back. He wore a dirty, tattered traveling cloak, jerkin, and breeches, and held a walking staff with a pewter point at the end. It stared at James with unblinking blood-shot eyes. . . .

Creepy! What the heck is this thing that has stolen James’s hat? Discover the secret July 15! Lantern Hollow Press is releasing a revised edition of its short story anthology, Encountering Otherworlds and the Coming of Age. Read stories of children entering worlds of imagination–and find out if they can make it out alive! We cannot wait to share these wonderful tales, written by our very own Lantern Hollow Press staff. Mark you calendar today!

VR: Where You Can Punch A Shark In the Face

Virtual Reality Explosion: Soon You Too Can Punch A Shark in the Face

 

A few stories come up here and there in the general news media about advances in virtual reality technology, but if you haven’t been paying attention to more specialized tech sources, you probably don’t know about the apparent explosion of new VR ventures currently happening. The recent E3 (Entertainment Electronics Expo) showcased a very strong showing of several gaming companies’ attempts to enter into the new field, and while you may not be interested in video games, this industry has a specific interest in pushing the envelope for VR technology which will soon be adopted in nearly every other industry.

Virtual Reality: A Science Fiction Fantasy?

Oculus Rift DKIIWe’ve been trying to figure out how to make virtual reality a real thing ever since it was a fake thing in science fiction. The idea of simulating the real world through mechanical or otherwise synthetic means is by no means a new concept: flight simulators, driving simulators, and immersive artistic experiences have been around long before the computer, relying on a mix of mechanical and electronic means. One famous example, usually considered the first comprehensive VR machine, was Morton Heilig’s Sensorama, built in 1962.

In fact, there were plenty of past attempts at kick-starting the virtual reality industry predicted by science fiction for years. Famously, Nintendo created a whole console devoted to the idea, but numerous flaws caused it failed utterly, spoiling the video game industry on the idea for decades.

I9 has a great article outlining several failed virtual reality technologies, including those mentioned above.

So why is this such a big deal now? Well, for the first time, the technology is not only viable and effective, but hyped beyond all reason.

The Oculus Rift: The Standard-Bearer of a New Generation of VR

About a year ago, a small engineering firm put up a Kickstarter campaign to build their new VR Head Mounted Display, dubbed the Oculus Rift. I’ve highlighted this one before, but since my last coverage, the company has not only met record-smashing success selling development prototypes alone, but they’ve been acquired by Facebook. People are still a little confused about why exactly the social media titan would want a VR headset, but apparently they want to create the largest virtual reality network in history, planning for 1 Billion simultaneous users. So basically, any anime, game, movie, or tv show you’ve ever seen with a massive VR game world is basically coming, thanks to the big FB.

Needless to say, people are really getting excited about this thing. The Holodeck? Seems to be right around the corner. Speaking of Star Trek, George Takei even got in on the fun during his Youtube segment  Takei’s Take, where he played an Oculus Rift game where you punch a shark in the face (skip to 2:46 for the actual Oculus Rift demo. Spoilers: he didn’t do very well):

It’s pretty hard to imagine what using one of these devices is really like, but there are plenty of people raving about them. Here are some impressions people have gotten from trying the Oculus Rift out at E3:

Not surprisingly, lots of people are jumping on this bandwagon right-quick:

Sony Project Morpheus

Looking to be a major contender, Sony’s really trying to beat Microsoft to the punch and to be the first game console maker with a first-party VR headset. Anyone with a Playstation 4 will be able to hook up a Morpheus and play virtual reality games, which really will pull VR into the mainstream market.

Cmoar Mobile MR Viewer , Vrizzmo

Several companies are catching on to the fact that many people already tote around a small, HD screen with motion sensors and computing power: smartphones! Cmoar is a specialized unit with interchangeable lenses which will let users swap out for different uses, including games, movies, and even Augmented Reality with the front-mounted camera. Vrizzmo, another unit made by De Jet Works, takes a simpler, cheaper route by giving you one set of adjustable lenses to slide your phone into.

These are just a few examples, and there are sure to be many more coming. The future of VR seems to actually be here.

Don’t Want to Wait? Build Your Own!

RoadtoVR.com has been my go-to for VR news of late, but one set of articles I keep coming back to (without yet doing anything with them) are their Do-it-Yourself guides for building your own VR head mounted display for roughly $20. That’s right! You don’t have to wait for consumer models to come to a store near you. With a little elbow-grease and surprisingly little technical know-how, you can make your own lens and phone assembly like those phone-based unites described above. I want to do this for myself (once I get a decent phone, that is!), but until then I’ll be watching the news for more details about the coming VR revolution!