Russell and Duenes

Archive for April 2017

Malcolm Muggeridge: Deliverance from Happiness

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Only seventeen years into the 21st century, and we are in danger of forgetting the reality of the 20th. We somehow imagine that our technocratic, secular age has ushered in the “broad, sunlit uplands” to which Winston Churchill referred. But believing such a massive lie requires that we wipe the 20th century from our minds, and Muggeridge saw this project in full forward motion, again, decades ago.

As I have written on this blog before, the horrors of the 20th century are assumed to be some kind of anomaly, never to be repeated, in the annals of human history. As Dallas Willard put it, we imagine that the millions upon millions of deaths were the result of certain especially “mad or bad” people, but had nothing to do with the rest of us “decent” folks.

The following is so counter to our collective sentiments as to be, in my guess, regarded by most as virtually insane, the words of a crank and crackpot. Judge for yourself!

“If the kingdom of heaven on earth has dawned for us now, it is necessary to regard this age as exceptionally and increasingly humane, when in point of fact it has evidently been notable for slaughter, cruelty and destruction on a scale rarely, if ever, exceeded in history. We have to offset the Health Service against Hitler’s gas chambers, the Third Programme against the wanton destruction of many of the finest products of our civilization like the city of Dresden, Parks of Culture and Rest against the monstrous annihilations of Stalin, Unesco against the millions of displaced persons (that blood-curdling term, itself an emanation of a lost mind reaching after a lost soul).

We have to persuade ourselves that we are moving toward a condition of peace and enlightenment when, in fact, wealth and skills are being devoted on an inconceivable scale to making weapons capable of blowing us and our world to smithereens, such weapons being in the hands of tenth-rate demagogues like Lyndon Johnson and the hard-faced men, his opposite numbers, in the Kremlin who unaccountably succeed one another in power.”

“Above all, we have to persuade ourselves that we are happy. This is the most difficult and sanity-destroying operation of all…The ever-increasing numbers of the mentally sick (20 million now, reportedly, in America, the happiest land) have cracked under the strain. Happiness in Scandinavia (another happy land, portrayed by Ingmar Bergman) often seems to fall out of the window, Hemingway’s happiness was a bullet he fired into his brain. I gave my happiness an airing on the M1, and it collided with someone else’s, spattering the tarmac with blood. I swallowed my happiness in a little colored pill, I read it in the Reader’s Digest, I saw it on a glossy page. I even ejected it into my girl, but it gave her pain. So she had it cut out. 

Deliverance from happiness would seem to be the greatest need of mankind today, and the Christian churches are an ideal instrument for bringing it about. The New and Old Testaments are full of the hopelessness of looking for anything but tribulation in this world, and the senses stand condemned as gross deceivers which enslave and ruin their addicts.” (From his essay: “Backward, Christian Soldiers”)

Hopefully these thoughts from Muggeridge whet your appetite for his writing. I have found it impossible to find his essays by searching on Google, so it seems one must purchase his books.

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm

Malcolm Muggeridge: Conspicuous Consumption as a Necessary Condition of our Social Survival

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Again, writing decades ago, Muggeridge puts his finger on the great and unquestioned assumption among Western Christians that to have more money means we are, of course, going to “move up” in our material acquisitiveness. Would that more garden-variety pastors would plaigarize Muggeridge in their sermons, rather than the latest “rock star” pastor.

“It is often remarked that we are in desperate need of a new religion to counter the spread of Marxist Communism. Christianity, of course, still exists and functions, with differing degrees of zeal, through a wide variety of Christian churches.

Its weakness, however, in competition with Marxist Communism lies in certain basic propositions of its founder, which, however ingeniously they may be interpreted, run directly counter to prevailing trends.

Thus, for instance, how is it possible to explain away an observation like “Blessed are the poor” when the whole dynamic of our society is in the opposite direction? Imagine a senator seeking re-election on the basis of such a slogan! He would inevitably be ignominiously defeated. No senator, to do that august assembly, the American Senate, justice, would ever make so foolish and elementary a miscalculation.

What the electorate expects, and gets, from its elected representatives are promises of ever more amenities and an ever-expanding standard of life, not panegyrics on the blessedness of poverty.”

“Again, our economists, men held in high repute among us, recommend conspicuous consumption as a necessary condition of our social survival. How can we, at one and the same time, follow their guidance and uphold the principles of the Sermon on the Mount?” (From his essay: “The First Church of Christ Economist”)

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 29, 2017 at 7:19 am

Malcolm Muggeridge: Sex is the Mysticism of Materialism

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Muggeridge wrote the following many decades ago, and yet, it is more penetrating and incisive than most anything being written on the topic today, when things are far more devolved and debauched than in Muggeridge’s day.

“Never, it is safe to say, in the history of the world has a country been as sex-ridden as America is today. And the rest of us, all eagerly emulating the American Way of Life, are going the same way. Sex has become the religion of the most civilized portions of the earth. The orgasm has replaced the Cross as the focus of longing and the image of fulfillment; the old pagan admonition, Do What Thou Wilt, has superseded the Pauline teaching that, since spirit and flesh lust contrary to one another, Ye Cannot Do the Things That Ye Would Do. In the beginning was the Flesh, and the Flesh became Word. Sex is the mysticism of materialism. We are to die in the spirit to be reborn in the flesh, rather than the other way around. Instead of the cult of the Virgin Mary we have the cult of the sex symbol – the busts, the thighs, the buttocks of a Jean Harlow, a Marilyn Monroe, a Carroll Baker displayed in glossy photographs, on cinema and television screens, to be feasted upon by countless hungry eyes, the physical tension thereby set up being subsequently relieved in autoeroticism or in squirmings and couplings with an available partner. Eyes which launched not a thousand ships, but a vast sea of seminal fluid; mistresses not of kings and great ones, but of the Common Man, who clasps them to him and enjoys their wanton favors in his secret dreams.”

“Even the most ardent advocates of the sexual revolution are inclined to feel that it is not working out quite as it should. Instead of sex-happy citizens of all ages blissfully coupling, psychiatrists and sexologists are besieged by patients eager to pour out their sexual woes. Orgasms have been too little and too late; despite bodies duly sealed and pasteurized, and recommended positions duly taken, the promised delight has failed to materialize. Happiness pursued in accordance with the book has proved elusive. Something must be wrong.” (From his essay, “Down with Sex”)

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 28, 2017 at 6:57 pm

Malcolm Muggeridge: One Huge Psychiatric Ward

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I can’t remember when I first heard the name of Malcolm Muggeridge, the great British journalist and essayist, but I had not really read anything by him until recently. And now finding him has been as finding gold. I’ve dipped into several books, but the book I would recommend securing for oneself is Things Past, which is an anthology of Muggeridge’s essays over the decades of his adult life.

His literary power and philosophical depth draw the reader in at once. I hardly know with which essay to begin in directing you to start in with this exquisite talent. It is as though trying to advise one where to begin filling one’s plate when confronted with a massive banquet table. Here is but a small sample to whet your appetite, more of which I am happy to provide in subsequent posts. Speaking of the modern West, Muggeridge quips:

For as we abolish the ills and pains of the flesh we multiply those of the mind, so that by the time mankind are finally delivered from disease and decay – all pasteurized, their genes counted and rearranged, fitted with new replaceable plastic organs, able to eat, fornicate, and perform other physical functions innocuously and hygienically as and when desired – they will all be mad, and the world one huge psychiatric ward. (“What I Believe,” 1966).

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 28, 2017 at 6:30 pm

I Delight to Do Your Will, O God

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“I delight to do you will, O my God; your law is within my heart.” (Ps. 40:8)

“Behold, you delight in truth in the inward being.” (Ps. 51:6)

“For the eyes of the LORD roam throughout the earth to show Himself strong for those whose hearts are completely His. (2 Chron. 16:9)

“This people honors me with their lips, but their hearts are far from me.” (Matt. 15:8)

“He is not a Jew who is one outwardly . . . but he is a Jew who is one inwardly.” (Rom. 2:28-29)

One of the biggest things I am working on with my sons these days is their hearts. They break the rules of our house not because they are ignorant of them, or forgetful, or incapable of obeying them; but rather, because in their hearts they don’t delight in the rules. When they are caught in their violation, they are not contrite and repentant, they are inwardly (and outwardly) defiant and upset that they got caught, for they would have liked to have gone on doing their own thing. They do not delight in truth in their inward beings.

So it is with us in our sins. I explained to my oldest son that God has no interest in us honoring Him with our mouths, but having hearts that are far from Him. Rather, we should desire to be brought to the place where we can say, like the Psalmist, “I delight to do your will, O God.” Dallas Willard said we had to have our “wanters” fixed, that is, the “want to” of our hearts needs to be altered, so that we look forward with longing to practicing God’s commands, and not merely for outward show or conformity. This is the central thing with us.

King David was “a man after God’s own heart.” I want to be that man also. I pray that my sons would become those men, for such men are righteous men; and as Reb Saunders said in The Chosen, “the world needs a righteous man.”

-D

Written by Michael Duenes

April 28, 2017 at 3:57 am

Posted in Duenes, Psalms