Sunday, May 30, 2021

A Memorial Day Tribute

 I suspect that any man on the front lines of heavy fighting in World War 2 came home somewhat surprised that he had survived. One of the things I admire about my dad and all those who flirted with death is that day after day and night after night they answered the call, strapped themselves in the cockpit or hunkered down in the foxhole and faced the same terrors again. And again. And again. And again.

To all those men and women who have sacrificed so much, whether in WW2 or modern-day anti-terrorist operations--thank you. You have done your part to keep this country free and safe. I can only hope that those of us not in the military do our part as responsible stewards of the gift we've been given, a gift purchased by the blood, sweat, and tears of those who have served. My dad was one of those who served (1942-1966).

During his first tour in 1944, Dad was aboard theYorktown (CV-10) flying with fighter squadron VF-5. During his second tour he was on the light carrier Belleau Wood (CVL-24) flying with VF-30. At this time in his career dad was flying the F6F Gruman Hellcat.

It has been said that war is composed of a recurring cycle of days of boredom followed by moments of sheer terror. I think you'll see that in what follows below. It's an excerpt from my father's wartime diary during part of his second Pacific Tour, from February 1 to February 19, 1945. 

[Note to those not familiar with carrier operations: the LSO is the Landing Signal Officer (you'll encounter this in the February 11th entry). He is a very experienced pilot standing on the carrier who observes aircraft in the landing pattern and "waves them off" if the deck is not clear or if the pilot is not "in the groove" for a safe landing.]


Thursday and Friday, February 1 and 2, 1945, At Sea

Crossed the international date line so the date moved up one day today. We were paid today. Broke out the dice table, 20 of the boys put up $20 apiece and they form the syndicate which operates the board. I paid out all my money so the crap game doesn't worry me any.

Saturday, February 3 - Monday, February 5, 1945, At Sea

All routine days at sea so to save time & space I've combined 3 days on this page. During this period I have written over 20 letters. We refueled the cans on the 3rd. It seems odd to be steaming along through waters that were exceedingly dangerous this time last year. We passed within 50 miles of one Jap held island in the Marshalls. Passed Eniwetok our base by only 60 miles. We went within 200 miles of Truk, still Jap held. On the night of the 5th we had our first real GQ. Radar picked up a bogey which proved to be a cloud formation. During this period I & my team hasn't flown - just stood Cond. II.

Tuesday, February 6, 1945, At Sea

Stood condition II today. Thought we might have some fun this P.M., our ship rec'd a report that a large number of planes were seen taking off from Truk by one of our patrol bombers nothing developed from this however. We had 8 planes up on CAP this PM. My team is next to fly. Gunndaker settled at the ramp and broke his hook off on the ramp, he went into the barriers. Smitty who had just landed and taxied forward of the barriers was still in his plane, Gunners plane smacked into the tail of his. Gunners plane is a washout, Smittys is badly damaged, neither pilot was hurt. We get in Ulithi tomorrow AM. Hope we get some mail.

Wednesday, February 7, 1945, Ulithi Lagoon

Dropped anchor at about 1300. I have witnessed an impressing sight. Never on the face of the earth has such a fleet been assembled at one place as here in this lagoon. As far as you can see for miles around there are hundreds of ships. Ulithi is a typical atoll, very little land just a coral reef around a large lagoon.

The air group did not get mail though the ship did, sure makes me mad. This is about as poor a ship as I've ever seen. I have refrained from mentioning it prior to this because I thought things might change.

Tonight we received a shock, we are going to hit Tokyo Bay on a 2 day strike prior to a landing on Iwo Jima. This will be the first carrier strike on the Jap Homeland. Rather a dubious honor I'd say.

Thursday, February 8, 1945, Ulithi Lagoon

Still no mail. With the knowledge of where we are going this no mail deal is really setting hard on the squadron. Morale is very low. I tried to go to the mail ship myself but was unable to get there. We have no movies, no mail, no shore recreation no sun bathing and no athletics, all this is sure adding up to a unhappy squadron.

On top of all this comes word that the skipper and the executive officer will not get to participate in the Tokyo strike due to the fact that they know too much to run the risk of falling into Jap hands. This is also bad because the squadron feels like this will be a suicide raid, secretly I'm afraid it is.

Friday, February 9, 1945, Ulithi Lagoon

I spent all PM attempting to run down squadron mail with no success, there has been a foul up somewhere. It will be a long time now before we get mail.

Air Group and ship morale is very low, that's bad before a raid but it is strictly the ships fault. This is going to be a hell of a tour of duty unless changes are made.

We were briefed today on rescue facilities tough raid coming up. Sure would like to hear from my little girl. The letters we mail here won't be [mailed ?] for three weeks so it will be a long time before my little girl and the folks hear from me.

Saturday, February 10, 1945, At Sea

Hoisted the hook about 1030. I might mention that I am once again in Task Force 58 we are in group one under my old captain Jocko Clark. This is a large task force.

We did not get our mail this A.M. so we have the long prospects of no mail. Ship had gunnery practice in the P.M. Landed our 2 replacement aircraft aboard around noon. Briefing every day on Tokyo Bay area. Have a full schedule tomorrow I have 2 flights.

Sunday, February 11, 1945, At Sea

This is the darkest day I've ever had in my life. Young and Wescott were killed this AM on our first flight. We took off around 0700 on a strike against a spar towed by a CV. Young went in right after take off before he had rendezvoused. According to Lee who was right behind him he started his left turn and settled right into the sea, his plane blew up. Evidently he was working on something in the cockpit and just flew in. Wescott who was a spare was launched in his place. The hop went off OK and was 3 hrs & 1/4 long. I landed first, Curry got a waveoff, then Lee came aboard followed by Wescott, for some unknown reason, the deck crew held Wescott aft of the barriers and due to carelessness the L.S.O. gave Curry a cut with Wescott still aft of the barriers. Curry's hook pulled out on no. 5 wire and he crashed on top of Wescott. Wescotts death was merciful, the planes caught on fire immediately and Curry was very fortunate to get out unhurt.

Wescott's body was not saved as the planes burned for 15 minutes and finally had to be pushed over the side still burning. It was not Curry's fault at all nor was it Wescott's fault, it was the L.S.O. fault for giving Curry a cut, the LSO was busted down. Even if Curry's hook hadn't of broken he would have still crashed into Wescott.

Naturally Curry was all broken up and the Doc gave him some knock out pills and put him to bed. Team 9 was scheduled to fly again in the P.M. So with two substitutes Lee and I flew again, Lee didn't want to fly nor did I but I believe it was best we did.

This is the termination of team 9. We no longer have enough pilots for nine teams. The skipper since he does not have combat experience nor do none of his team has asked me to lead his 2nd section. Since I've lost my team, I don't care where or if I fly, I wouldn't have been prouder of my boys than if they were aces.

Monday, February 12, 1945, At Sea

I can't realize Wescott and Young are gone. Curry is coming around OK. We have convinced him that it wasn't his fault. I have some awfully tough letters to write soon.

I flew a scouting CAP this PM with the skipper. I find that I have the first strike against Japan with him, we are assigned to 27,000 ft against air opposition if there are no air borne aircraft we have 4 important fields to strafe. I guess the skipper convinced them that he should be allowed to go in over Japan. Lee & Curry fly tomorrow.

D-6, Tuesday, February 13, 1945, At Sea

I didn't fly today. Curry did however, and I'm glad because I was afraid he was going to be nervous. The Task Groups refueled today. The weather is getting cool.

D-5, Wednesday, February 14, 1945, At Sea

Flew a 3 ½ CAP over the Logistic support group. No Bogies. Spent most of the day being briefed. We hit Japan on D-3 day, day after tomorrow, good night!

D-4, Thursday, February 15, 1945, At Sea

Flew a 3 ½ hr. CAP with the skipper got a vector bogey which turned out to be a PB4Y-2 [??]. One other Group CAP splashed a Betty. Tomorrow is the big day, I'm in a VF sweep against Tokyo Bay area at 1055 big day ahead!

Tokyo Raid, D-3, Friday, February 16, 1945, At Sea

To tired to write much. 0-0 weather so strike wasn't very successful, very cold snowing in fact. The 4 of us shot down a Dinah the credit will probably go to the skipper & his wing man but we all had a hand in it. All of our boys returned safely. Will add more tomorrow am too tired to write now.

I couldn't believe it, there I was flying around in a lazy orbit off the coast of Japan gazing at the snow shrouded Fuji San [??], its the most beautiful mt. I've ever seen. I tallyhoed a Dinah and a Emily we got the Dinah but the skipper dropped the ball and let someone else beat us to the Emily. Because of extremely bad weather we did not attack the fields we were supposed to but were ordered to cover the rendezvous point while the other groups carried home the attack. Oscar kept popping down through the clouds but would not stay down long enough for us to engage them. Score for the squadron today was one dinah, 1 grace, 1 frank, and 1 oscar. Evenson was high with two. Extremely bad weather kept the task force from attack but also kept our planes from delivering a good punch.

Tokyo Raid, D-2, Saturday, February 17, 1945, At Sea

Same story, extremely bad weather kept the raids from being extensive. I flew a scouting CAP with Reber on my wing. Part of the time we were on instruments, never could we go above 500 ft. Snowed and rained all 3 ½ hr of the hop.

Aygher and Clark got in some good licks on a air strip 80 miles down the coast from Tokyo Bay, they met no opposition and succeeded in burning up numerous planes on the ground. All hands returned safely.

Retirement, D-1, Sunday, February 18, 1945, At Sea

Proceeding South today for our refueling rendezvous [off ] of Iwo Shima tomorrow. Weather some better. Flew a 3 hr. antisnooper patrol with Jake as a wingman. The Boys have got a good one on me, I requested permission to strafe a rock, yep old Eagle eye Cobb slipped up. While in my sector I noticed something on the surface of the water some 60 miles from the Task Group. I called the ship and they said they had no surface contacts in that area and for me to go and investigate. About 10 miles from the object I decided it was a Sampan under sail and requested permission to attack, almost immediately I realized it was nothing but a rock and shamefully informed the base as such. The ship had me turn on emerg. IFF and orbit it so they could get a fix on it and chart it. Can you imagine a lone rock in the middle of the ocean with no other land in sight? Dahms [??] shot down a Nick today.


Monday, February 19, 1945, At Sea

We refueled today while the Marines were landing on Iwo Jima. The baby flat tops furnished the air support. We may participate in it tomorrow.

Wonder of wonders we got mail today though not much. I heard from Helen and the Folks though so I am happy. Flew a CAP this PM, no excitement.


Thanks for serving, Dad--you were a great example. Love you. Miss you.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

Book Review: Dangerous calling by Paul Tripp

Some writers make a living off cheap shots. It’s pretty easy to create a patina of profundity by manipulating guilt in your readers. It’s been done all too often in Christian circles, especially in books dealing with the modern church or modern ministry. That is not what Paul Tripp does in his terribly convicting book, Dangerous Calling, as he takes the reader on a tour of the lethal dangers associated with the ministry.

None of the hazards he explores come from the outside—they all come from within the minister himself. Pride, anger, hypocrisy, the danger of celebrity, the danger of personal isolation, thinking one has “arrived,” thinking that theological knowledge equals spiritual maturity, are just some of the minefields and pitfalls Tripp covers. It’s a wake-up call, whether you’ve been in ministry for forty years, or have just entered the ministry.

Tripp’s warnings are all the more powerful as he makes it clear that he himself has failed multiple times in multiple ways. He bares his soul—and his sins—to the reader. I think the book gains in two ways from Tripp’s painful self-disclosures. First it encourages those of us who struggle with transparency to become transparent ourselves, knowing that we are safe and forgiven in the grace of Christ. Second, when I see what Tripp struggles with, I know he knows what he is talking about. It’s not pastoral practice according to the ivory tower; it’s blood-and-guts practical.

But the book is not a negative downer. Each chapter contains reminders of the love and grace of Christ for broken sinners like us, and practical steps and suggestions for accountability, transparency, and a renewal of our love for Christ and passion for ministry.

Read this book. It might save both your marriage and your ministry. Five stars. Highly recommended.

Tuesday, January 19, 2021

Book Review: The Last Stand of the Tin Can Sailors, by Hornfischer

In October of 1944, the Japanese threw the remainder of their naval power into an attempt to destroy MacArthur’s invasion of the Philippines, particularly the landing on Leyte. In a three-pronged desperate operation called Sho-1, employing powerful naval task forces under the command of admirals Nishimura, Kurita, Shima, and Ozawa, the Japanese sought to stall the American island-hopping advance. While Ozawa martialed Japan’s remaining fleet carriers in hopes of drawing Halsey’s Third Fleet north, away from its position blocking the San Bernadino Strait, the other three Japanese forces would advance on Leyte in a pincer movement from north and south.

When Halsey took the bait and left his assigned station to chase north after Ozawa, the only thing standing between the massively powerful Japanese fleet and the Leyte landings was Taffy 3 (Task Unit 77.4.3) consisting of 6 light carriers, three destroyers and four destroyer-escorts, under the command of Admiral Sprague.

Hornfischer’s fascinating book details the heroic stand of Taffy 3, which faced the largest battleship in the world whose 18” guns had a range of 20 miles, plus three more battleships armed with 14” guns, six heavy cruisers with 8” rifles, two light cruisers, and eleven destroyers. The 5” guns on Taffy 3’s small force had a range of only about 7 miles, and their shells were insufficient to put even a dent in the armored sides of the Japanese battleships and heavy cruisers. And yet Taffy 3 slowed the Japanese onslaught, and eventually caused Admiral Kurita to lose his nerve and withdraw.

The author does a superb job of introducing the reader to the human combatants, from cook to admiral, primarily on the American side. The book is full of riveting first-person accounts of the fear and courage of the men of Taffy 3, sailors and airmen, as they faced the devastating punishment of an opponent that overmatched them in every category except courage.

Hornfischer points out it was a battle of firsts and lasts: first time in history that an aircraft carrier was sunk by a surface fleet, and the last time this sort of surface melee involving battleships ever happened. His writing is superb: you can feel the spray and the concussion from the Japanese shells as they straddle the ships of Taffy 3.

If you enjoy military history, this is a must read. Five stars, highly recommended.

Saturday, January 2, 2021

Book Review of Ruth Batstone's Moving On: Beyond Forgive and Forget

Ruth Batstone’s writing style is warm and engaging—this book will be very helpful in teaching and encouraging victims to deal biblically with their trauma, particularly when it comes to forgiving the perpetrator. The author does a powerful job of connecting with those who have suffered greatly at the hands of an abuser. Her empathy and understanding of the emotional damage such suffering produces is compelling as she gently nudges the reader toward the imperative to forgive.

Batstone constantly leads the reader back to the Gospel as the landmark and source of forgiveness. She repeatedly reminds us that the grounds on which we are commanded to forgive others is God’s forgiveness of our own sins through the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross. Moving On is fully Christ-centered and is an excellent tool for presenting the Gospel to a counselee who’s not yet professed faith in Christ but who has suffered at the hands of others.

The strengths of the book include the writer’s sharing of her own suffering. Her personal experience provides Batstone with a deep-level understanding of the complex emotions swirling in the heart of a victim. Each chapter ends with questions for reflection, making the book a great homework tool for biblical counselors. She also does a good job covering the various peripheral topics surrounding the issue of forgiveness, such as anger, desire for revenge, the danger of not forgiving, and the relationship of forgiveness to worship.

There are a few matters that weaken the volume. One of the book’s strengths is also its weakness: Batstone deals mostly with the subjective aspects of forgiveness; there are a few glaring holes when it comes to her treatment of the objective, transactional nature of forgiveness. The best example of this is her failure to deal with the little word “if” in Luke 17:3. Jesus says very clearly, “if he repents, forgive him.” Batstone, on the other hand, claims boldly that “forgiveness is not contingent on another’s repentance” (p. 96). She presents forgiveness as a unilateral, one-sided transaction. I don’t recall her dealing with Psalm 86:5, in which God is said to be “ready to forgive, and abundant in loving kindness to all who call upon You” (NASB). This is the posture a believer is to take with someone who refuses to repent: the heart attitude is that of forgiveness, but without actually making the transaction of forgiveness. This is more than a semantic difference when it comes to restoring relationships broken by sin: restoration is always a two-way interaction. Batstone’s unilateral idea of forgiveness unintentionally weakens that interactive dynamic.

Another weakness is apparent in her treatment of the notion of “forgiving oneself.” Again, she deals with the subjective, emotional matters and never touches on the fact that our sins are not primarily against ourselves to begin with, but against the Lawgiver. We are not the lawgiver, and therefore there is no need to “forgive ourselves” (texts such as 1 Corinthians 6:18 really speak to self-damage we wreak, not to moral transgression against our own law thereby requiring “self-forgiveness”). While she does a excellent job of exploring what issues might be rattling around in the heart of someone who “just can’t forgive themselves,” she does not deal plainly with the fact that sin is against God, not ourselves.

I recommend this book highly, but I would suggest Jay Adam’s From Forgiven to Forgiving as a companion text to anchor the subject in a more thoroughly biblical frame work. Four stars.

Saturday, December 26, 2020

The Workout Video

I asked for an easy, brief workout video for Christmas—something I could do in maybe 15 minutes a day without raising a sweat. I figured that, given those two requirements, Doris wouldn’t be able to find any that qualified. It was a safe request that would be impossible to fulfill. I could virtue-signal my “desire” to get in shape, without worrying about actually having to follow through with it.

My sweet wife took me seriously. Except for the “15 minute” and “without raising a sweat” parts. Those provisos she seemed to ignore. So, she actually did give me a workout video for Christmas. Ho ho ho. They say that the best gifts have layers of meaning behind them. Not sure I want to do the excavation on this one. After attempting the first round today, I’m wondering if it has something to do with my life insurance.

I should have known I was in trouble when the DVD jacket said this guy was a former Combat Controller who trains US Special Forces operators. Unfortunately the DVD didn’t come with a bell so I could ring out.

The fellow leading the workout is bald. That, by the way, is the only thing we have in common. This guy out-atlases Charles Atlas. His sculpted shoulders are the size of my cheeks, and I’m not talking about the ones on either side of my nose. He is also completely without mercy.

The DVD comes with a seven-minute warm-up video. By the time that was over, I was completely gassed. The next segment was just an evaluation workout, to see whether I should go into the level 1 beginner track, or advance to level 2 or beyond. Let’s just say I failed the evaluation video with flying colors—not only do I not qualify for level 1, I couldn’t even complete the evaluation workout. Perhaps for the next month or so, I should just do the warm-up and cool-down videos, and skip everything in between.

All the literature associated with this program trumpets the fact that you don’t need a gym or any weight equipment. His exercises simply use your own body weight. I figure if I can get my total body weight down to maybe 30 pounds, I’ll be able to do the workouts.

It’s called the 90 day challenge. I’m gonna be challenged to complete the basic evaluation workout in 90 days. Next Christmas I’m asking for Crunch Munch.

Thursday, December 10, 2020

Review of Stephen Ambrose' The Victors

When I began reading The Victors and realized that it was compiled from many of Stephen Ambrose’s other books on World War II, I was disappointed. I thought I’d be reading the literary equivalent of ‘refried beans.’

It was a needless concern.

Although I recognized some passages from Citizen Soldiers, D-Day, and Pegasus Bridge, the book read as a fresh telling of the momentous stream of actions that comprise the Allied victory in the Eastern Theater of Operations. Ambrose begins with D-Day and continues the account to the signing of surrender on May 7, 1945 in Reims. Most of the account details the actions of the Americans and the Brits, with less about the Canadians, even less about the French, and practically nothing about the Soviets.

Effusive in his praise of Eisenhower but equally unafraid to critique and criticize, Ambrose gives the reader a clear picture of what Ike had to deal with as he led a multinational coalition of competing egos, competing national and strategic priorities, and competing deficits in the character or competence of the general officers serving under him. Marshall, Montgomery, Bradley, and Patton occupy the lion’s share of attention when Ambrose writes of the generals, although accounts of many other general officers are included in the pages.

Most importantly, Ambrose exercises one of his great strengths as a writer and historian: he brings the reader down to the squad level of combat, with the privates, sergeants, and lieutenants. Through numerous interviews with the men who were actually there, the author puts the reader in the soggy foxholes with the soldiers as they battle the Germans plus rain, snow, mud, hunger, cold, trench foot, dysentery, and extreme sleep deprivation.

The book includes some good photographs, but only one master map. I would have enjoyed more maps, especially when the author invested several pages detailing specific battles. Here and there Ambrose embeds passages explaining tactics, weapons, policies, or even the politics hidden behind strategic decisions—these digressions were always fascinating.

Ambrose’s respect for the common soldier crafted from the common citizen is on display in The Victors. He concludes the book with a retrospective tribute to the enlisted men without whom no victory would have been possible. It is well deserved.

I walk away from The Victors marveling at the near superhuman endurance of the teens and twenty-year olds who not only survived the extreme conditions, but beat back the powerful German army. Will there ever again be such a generation? May God grant that there will never be the need. Five stars, highly recommended.

Tuesday, December 1, 2020

More than an adventure story

Imagine what would happen if an extremely contagious and deadly disease (genetically-engineered smallpox) was released in the atmosphere over four major cities in a criminal act of biological warfare? Suppose there was no known cure. What would the world look like eighty years later?

This is the world of Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix. The year is 2120, and the global population has fallen south of eight million souls, a population inadequate for manufacturing, mining, refining, power generation, or even government. The scattered remnants of humanity have divided into two groups: on the one hand, tiny communities trying to scratch out a living using rudimentary agriculture, and on the other, vicious lawless gangs that survive by raiding the communities. Both scavenge abandoned, decaying cities looking for what few material goods have survived eighty years of rot, neglect and exposure to the elements. The future looks more like the distant past—there’s nothing sci-fi about it.

A young man—Jacen Chester—decides it is time to try to replant civilization. He meets a mysterious stranger, an older man named Hakim. Hakim begins to mentor Jacen, teaching him how to survive in a world of violence and anarchy. The two men could not be more different, however. They must first learn how to survive their own sharp disagreements.

Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix is much more than a fast-paced action-adventure novel. Amid the gunfire and fighting are serious philosophical discussions about God, faith, forgiveness, the source of morality, secularism and more. The story could be characterized as a “parable of forgiveness disguised as a shoot-em-up.”

The tale does contain heart-stopping violence but not any obscenity or skin scenes. Readers ranging in age from early teens to senior citizens have found it to be gripping and hard to put down. The premise of the tale along with the characters, the plot line, the action, and the arguments around the campfire combine to make this novel far more than the average mass-market paperback.

If you’re looking for a great read with a little more meat in it, Outlander Chronicles: Phoenix should be on your list. A sequel has also been released, Outlander Chronicles: Pegasus.

Both books are available from Amazon in print or Kindle formats, or from the Doorway Press store, from Bread of Life bookstore in Greenville, or from your favorite brick-and-mortar bookstore through the Ingram catalog. You can see all my books at

Friday, November 20, 2020

The Christian and Marijuana

[Disclaimer: this post is NOT intended to disparage the medically helpful use of non-THC cannabinoid products, nor the careful and temporary use of medically-indicated antidepressant or anti-anxiety drugs prescribed by a physician.]

As the recreational and medical use of marijuana is legalized across America, I am concerned that believers are justifying the use of pot because “it is no longer illegal.” Though it remains a controlled substance on federal lists, the feds don’t seem to be on a crusade against states where marijuana use is now legal at the state level.

Between the general cultural lessening of the stigma regarding drug use/abuse, and the change in its legal status, some professing Christians believe that the use of psycho-active substances such as marijuana is a legitimate lifestyle choice. The most common justification I hear is, “it helps me relax,” or “it helps me deal with stress.”

There are, in my opinion, many good reasons Christians should abstain from all psycho-active substances unless specifically prescribed by a physician. There’s a medical case against it (especially regarding teens and marijuana, in terms of the impairment of brain development), there’s a psychological case against it (loss of motivation and ambition, and the development of psychological dependency), and there’s certainly a social case against it (marijuana is a gateway drug and is demonstrably associated with irresponsible behavior). Great caution should be exercised even when a physician does prescribe a drug—the over-prescription of psycho-active drugs is a recognized problem in the typical American practice of medicine.

There is also a likely Scriptural case against such drug use at the lexical level. The Greek term φάρμακον (pharmakon, from which we get the English terms pharmacy and pharmaceuticals), and its related words, is translated with the English term sorcery or sorcerer in Galatians 5:20, Revelation 9:21, 18:23, 21:8, and 22:15. The Dictionary of New Testament Theology indicates this word group was typically associated with the use of substances involved in the practice of magic: medicines, herbs, potions, and poisons. The New Testament consistently associates the word with negative and prohibited practices. Galatians 5:20 includes sorcery in the list of the “deeds of the flesh,” saying that “those who practice such things will not inherit the kingdom of God” (5:21).

Modern users of marijuana may not be consciously engaging in classical “magic” practices in their use of the drug, but that neglects to consider the general shift away from superstitions in our post-enlightenment culture. For example, moderns don’t necessarily believe in animistic gods as supernatural beings—but we still practice idolatry by worshiping something other than God (sex, money, etc.). The worship no longer takes on the appearance of the cultic practices of the pre-modern era, but it is worship all the same and therefore idolatry all the same. By the same token, moderns using marijuana are not consciously practicing magic, but they are pursuing the benefits, the highs, the alteration of consciousness that ancient magic practices promised, and as such there is virtually no distinction between modern and ancient usage of drugs.

But none of those arguments are the strongest arguments against the use of marijuana by believers. When a believer uses the drug for the euphoria of the high it is no different from drunkenness, which is roundly condemned by Scripture. When a believer uses the drug to relax or escape the pressures of stress and difficulty, he is endorsing the assumption that stresses, difficulties, and trials are bad, are a moral evil, and therefore should be eliminated or avoided.

But that’s not how the Scripture treats stresses, trials, and troubles. Instead, the Bible presents these dynamics as tools in the hands of God that make us more like Christ. Peter says the trials work the “proof of our faith, being more precious than gold,” and ultimately are found to “result in praise and glory and honor at the revelation of Jesus Christ” (1 Peter 1:7). Somehow I don’t think that dealing with trials by toking on a joint produces the same glory, honor, and praise toward Jesus Christ.

Peter also says that God’s divine power has granted us “everything pertaining to life and godliness through the knowledge of Him who called us by His own glory and excellence” (2 Peter 1:3). I don’t think he meant that God’s power plus pot accomplishes the glory of Christ. If we need marijuana to cope with life, then we are obviously demonstrating to the world that God’s divine power is frankly inadequate.

Paul says that he boasts in weakness, distresses, difficulties for Christ’s sake, because in his weakness Christ’s power is perfected in him (2 Corinthians 12:9-10). I don’t think Paul dealt with his troubles with Christ plus pot.

In my opinion this is the greatest argument against the use of marijuana. The stresses, trials, troubles of life are designed to produce the image of Christ in our character. When we can only deal with those things by getting high, we are confessing that what Jesus has done for us is insufficient to deal with “real life.”

Is the inadequacy of Christ really the message you want to proclaim?

Sunday, November 15, 2020

Book Review: Cynical Theories: How Activist Scholarship Made Everything about Race, Gender, and Identity—and Why This Harms Everybody

Pluckrose and Lindsay dismantle Critical Theory in an intellectually rigorous way. It's frankly refreshing. The
book begins with an examination of the historical development and foundational ideas of postmodernism. They contrast it with classical liberalism. Although Critical Theory is rooted in postmodern ideas, postmodernism became little more than a faddish philosophical plaything because it ultimately deconstructed itself. If all knowledge is subjective and socially constructed and all truth claims are oppressive, well, that applies to postmodernism, too.

What rose in its place Pluckrose and Lindsay identify as "applied postmodernism." The main distinction is that applied postmodernism arbitrarily considered claims of oppression to be objectively real, while continuing to view most other claims of knowledge as mere social constructions. Applied postmodernism makes up the foundation of all variations of Critical Theory.

Most of the remainder of the book, chapter by chapter, examines the following branches of Theory: Postcolonial Theory, Queer Theory, Critical Race Theory and intersectionality, Feminism and Gender Studies, and Disability and Fat studies.

The book concludes with a close look at Social Justice scholarship and Social Justice in its real-world application.

Though it is a much overused cliche, Pluckrose and Lindsay demonstrate that the emperor of Social Justice and Social Justice "scholarship" indeed has no clothes. In fact, the authors demonstrate how Social Justice themes and emphases frequently hurt the very identity groups they are seeking to help.

The book is heavily documented with primary sources, and engages Theory's various scholars by the use of their own words and writings (perhaps 25% of the length of the book is composed of the extensive documentation and end notes). If one is researching Theory, I imagine this book is a virtual catalog of the most important sources.

In my opinion, Cynical Theories is a hugely important contribution towards rolling back the progressive tidal wave of intellectual irrationality that has taken control of virtually all aspects of modern culture. Five stars: highly recommended.

Monday, November 9, 2020

You may find these hard to put down...

Want a break from the bad news, the political news, the Covid news, and the riots-in-Portland news?

Would you like an exciting Cold-War story about conflict with the Soviet Union at the height of America’s military strength? Want to read an intriguing espionage tale? Want to read a great action/adventure tale that does not contain any gratuitous sex or obscene language?

Let me recommend the Falcon Series. It’s an exciting tale (four novels) about an American F-16 pilot who gets shot down and captured by the Soviets in what amounts to a high-tech kidnapping. He finds himself incarcerated in a Soviet interrogation camp. He knows he has two options: escape, or torture followed by death.

The Falcon Series is set in the Cold War tensions between the United States and the Soviet Union. The research behind the Series gives it a ring of authenticity often missing in the military and espionage genres. Fast paced, unpredictable action will keep you engaged from wheels-up to the final scenes.
 Kirkus Reviews said of Falcon Down: “Cobb has clearly done his research on
multiple counts and, like Tom Clancy or Dale Brown, masterly intertwines military technology and behavior into a tightly plotted narrative in which every development follows logically and smoothly from what came before. This deft touch extends to the characters: . . . This first installment chronicling the adventures of Maj. Jacob Kelly turns out to be an undisputed success.

I measure my success as a writer by whether or not I can make you miss your bed-time. According to a number of readers, the Falcon Series has been very successful by that metric. The books are available in both Kindle and print format. The book links below take you to Amazon--however, there are bundle prices in the Doorway Press store that will save you up to $16 for the complete set (print format).

Book 1: Falcon Down 
Book 2: Falcon Rising 
Book 3: Falcon Strike 

And one last thing: if you read any of the Falcon Series, and you enjoyed it, leave a rating or review (preferably) on Amazon or Goodreads, or other reading sites. And tell a friend! Thanks!