Archive for February, 2012

The Spirit of the Modern World

Wednesday, February 29th, 2012

Ironically, the spirit of the modern world, the very hopefulness and optimism that so commended Modernity, ultimately caused its violent demise.  It was as if mankind built its Tower of Babel and invited the gods to destroy it.  He did.

Modris Eksteins, in his book The Rites of Spring: The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age argues that First World War was the pivotal moment in modern history and consciousness. Eksteins’ argument is that in our modern world, life and art have blended together and aesthetics have become more important than ever.  In other words, Modernists are not sure what is real and what isn’t. He then points to Germany before the Great War as the nation in which these ideals were the most pronounced as the modernist nation par excellence, which served as a model for our world. For Eksteins, the First World War was a conflict between the old established world order based on reason, logic, and tradition—all Enlightenment ideals–and represented primarily by Great Britain and, to some extent, by France, and, on the other hand, Germany, the representative of the new ideas of the modern world struggling for liberation and emancipation from the old order. While Germany lost the war, many of the ideas and attitudes that characterized German society  eventually won out and are characteristic of the modern consciousness.  In other words, Germany lost the shooting war but won the culture war (Modris Eksteins, Rites of Spring, The Great War and the Birth of the Modern Age , Key Porter Books, Toronto, 1989 discussed in

New York Times journalist Christopher Lehmann-Haupt (March 13, 1989) points out that Eksteins uses the 1913 Russian ballet “The Rites of Spring” as a metaphor for the war. He then proceeds to examine the climate of opinion immediately preceding the war, particularly in Germany. His analysis of the First World War focuses almost exclusively on the attitudes and ideas expressed by common people in the lead-up to the war, as well as throughout the duration of the brutal trench warfare period. Following the war, he focuses on two cultural phenomena which shed insight on the way that the war had changed the world: the reception of Lindbergh as a hero after his transatlantic flight and the success of Erich Maria Remarque’s war book All Quiet on the Western Front.  Finally, he wraps it all up with an analysis of how the ideals and attitudes represented by Germany created the ideologies of Fascism and National Socialism (Nazism).

The Power of Myth

Tuesday, February 28th, 2012

A critic argues, “Ours is a society which no longer firmly believes in anything as certain; it is a society which has lost its confidence in itself as the most advanced civilization in the world. Ours is the age of uncertainty in which all theories and sets of values hold a kernel of truth, but none of them is absolute. The emancipation that Eksteins focuses on is not solely the result of the German spirit that demanded emancipation, but rather the result of our society losing confidence in itself and being forced to accept new (or old) ideas , lifestyles and values as being equally valid with those of the Enlightenment, which constituted the bedrock of society throughout the 19th century. Our obsession with death, movement (or change) and newness can as well be seen as a result of the modern man’s uncertainty and desire to find some answers in an unclear world. Myths are more important than ever because they compensate for the mystique and meaning which has been drained out of the modern people’s lives, who longer know what to believe in.” What are myths and what myths motivate us today?


Answer:  In the last century, the concept of “myth” was developed extensively by a sociologist named Joseph Campbell. Campbell often described mythology as having four functions: to deal with the metaphysical (spiritual) world, to explain the shape of the universe, to validate and to explain the existing social order, to guide individuals through the stages of life.  Campbell believed that if myths are to work in our modern world, they must continually evolve because the older mythologies, untransformed, simply do not address the realities of contemporary life, particularly with regard to the changing cosmological and sociological realities of each new era.   Thus, quite simply, the myths that were promulgated by Modernism—inevitable progress, elitism, faith in science—could not cut the mustard in World War I. Newsflash: the same sort of thing is happening today and that is where you, young people, come in. You need to create a new set of myths, based on the Word of God, that will sustain Americans in the future!


4 AM

Monday, February 27th, 2012

Genesis 32: 27 The man asked him, “What is your name?”
“Jacob,” he answered.
28 Then the man said, “Your name will no longer be Jacob, but Israel, because you have struggled with God and with humans and have overcome.”

Every morning I struggle. I struggle with what could have been. Other friends, in other places, even family members, are awakening in this darkness but their worlds are full of certainty, of jobs, and of pensions. They are tired, as I am, but not conflicted. They are at peace with their repertoire. They may not know the drama in which they play a role, but they know their role, and they play it well.
In these early, disquieting mornings, I know my role, but do not know the play in which I perform. I do not even know my next line. I feel lost.
John Barth, in his novel The Floating Opera compares life to a floating opera. This opera is being performed on a floating barge that is slowly moving up and down the Hudson River. Spectators are standing on the bank looking at the drama unfold. As long as the floating opera is in their sight, they grasp the meaning of the play. They may even join in a chorus or two. Life is unambiguous and consequential and full of beans. But then the barge moves on and the spectators are left in quiet uncertainty.

29 Jacob said, “Please tell me your name.” But he replied, “Why do you ask my name?” Then he blessed him there.

The barge returns again and leaves again and so forth.
To me, the barge is absent at 4:30 A.M. I am not sure what the story is. I don’t know what my place is in the drama unfolding. By 10AM I am regaining some élan. By 2PM I am completely confident; the play is right before me. By 10 PM I am asleep . . . but again, at 4:30 A. M., the struggle begins again.

30 So Jacob called the place Peniel,[g] saying, “It is because I saw God face to face, and yet my life was spared.”
But it is 4:30 A. M. again. “James,” in Hebrew, is “Jacob,” “the deceiver,” “the one who struggles.” It is my Peniel. It is where I meet God face to face. It is a time when, again, I decide, “Whom will you serve today? If God is God serve Him! If Baal is God, serve him! (1 Kings 18:21)
4:30 AM lying next to my gray haired campaigner, is my Peniel, my time of struggle, but it is also my Mt. Carmel. Each day I go up to Mt. Carmel to challenge the gods of this age. With my pen, with my prayers, I dare the cacophonic sirens of this discordant land to challenge my God to a duel.
Mt. Moriah each morning and I meet again a God who loves me so, so much, but who has no hyperbole in His portfolio, who literally demands everything from me. Whether I see all the drama unfolding before me on the river or not, whether I fully understand what the outcome will be, God demands, in great love, in only the way a Savior can, that I give Him my all, my everything again. Especially at 4:30 AM.
It is 6:30 AM and my sugar plum, whose transcendent beautiful will soon belong to Clinique and Origin, but whose raw courage and fortitude is mine, and mine alone, for this new day, for this moment, for this new Genesis.
I see the wrinkles, the circles under her eyes, but I will not insult the ambiance, the chronicle, the time that I know put them there by pretending they are not. No there is no histrionics in my Karen and I will have none either. Not right now. Not for this moment when we kiss and bask in the dawn again. She is more beautiful than Cleopatra, more exotic Bathsheba, for surely Mark Antony and Solomon would feel cheated if they could have known my exquisite life companion.

31 The sun rose above him as he passed Peniel,[h] and he was limping because of his hip. 32 Therefore to this day the Israelites do not eat the tendon attached to the socket of the hip, because the socket of Jacob’s hip was touched near the tendon.

“Hi, honey. What is for breakfast?”

Jacob, the One Who Struggles

Sunday, February 26th, 2012

Genesis 32: 22 That night Jacob got up and took his two wives, his two female servants and his eleven sons and crossed the ford of the Jabbok. 23 After he had sent them across the stream, he sent over all his possessions. 24 So Jacob was left alone, and a man wrestled with him till daybreak. 25 When the man saw that he could not overpower him, he touched the socket of Jacob’s hip so that his hip was wrenched as he wrestled with the man. 26 Then the man said, “Let me go, for it is daybreak.”
But Jacob replied, “I will not let you go unless you bless me.”

Almost every morning around 4:30 AM I wake up. I have tried everything I know to stay asleep until dawn at least. Tylenol PM, even some things that are stronger, but nothing works. Like clockwork, at 4:30 AM I wake up.
I look over at my wife hoping that she is awake. But she never is. The soft, flannel sheet grace her beautiful freckled shoulders cashiering into my dark world the late moon light luminosity glimmering and dancing through our upstairs bedroom window. For 35 years I have awakened next to this woman and it still takes my breath away. “As winter strips the leaves from around us, so that we may see the distant regions they formerly concealed, so old age takes away our enjoyments only to enlarge the prospect of the coming eternity.” (Jean Paul)
The silence is surreal and disorienting. This is the silence of a winter country mountain farm. There is no hint of a sound.
Nonetheless, my heart is almost always nearly breaking and I there are screams in my soul that I cannot drown out.
I wistfully reach out and gently touch her shoulder. I dare now wake her up. God knows she works so hard. Loves me so much. Cares for me. I know I am a high maintenance husband. She needs all the sleep she can get. Especially that deep sleep that I know longer enjoy, that sleep between 2-6 AM, that deep nocturnal slumber that serendipitously visits so very rarely to my soul.
In high school I remember my high school teacher, Mr. Watson, asking, “If a tree falls in the forest, and no one hears it, is it sound?” The trees were falling in my forest and the sounds were deafening but I wondered if anyone was around to hear it. And if no one heard my trees fall, was it really sound?
The darkness spoke only silence to my soul. The shadows of trees moving in the wind were my only companions this early morning.
This is, I assure you, the darkest time of every day. The time when night is almost over but daylight has not come.
When I was a boy my dad would take us into the Devil Den swamps near Montrose, Arkansas, to ambush unwary green headed Mallard Ducks at daybreak. Like trolling mine sweepers, dragging our red ball hip books along through antediluvian mud, we would push through down tree limbs, avoiding jutting cypress knees. The swamp had the sweet smell of death. It was rumored that there was an old escaped slave den nearby, a place where runaway slaves would run and hide from cruel slave owners. More than once I thought I saw their shiny black bodies run from tree to tree through the swamp. It was so dark. It was even too dark to look at our compasses that probed into the frenzied quagmire that surrounding us and would have at least told us where North was if we could see it. But we could not.
“Mallard ducks were worth it, “ I kept telling myself, although truly, I never liked eating wild ducks. The meat was too rich and dark and perilous for this southern boy who liked anodyne, fried chicken, and domestication, cornbread.
It was so dark in the Devil’s Den. And on those mornings, most mornings now, when I awaken at 4:30 AM, alone in the silence, I remember the Den. The only light we enjoyed was the North Star on the tail of the Big Dipper full of radiant repartee and iridescent chatter.

Five Misconceptions About the SAT

Saturday, February 25th, 2012



1. The SAT is unimportant; Colleges only look at GPA and transcripts.


Nothing could be farther from the truth.  In this age of unequal public and private high schools, the SAT is the great equalizing factor. It is the penultimate and most preferred college admission credential.


2. The PSAT is a good indicator of SAT performance.


According to CollegeBoard, There is absolutely no data to support this statement.  On the contrary, students usually do much better on the SAT than they do in the PSAT.


3. The PSAT is necessary for college scholarships.


This is absolutely untrue!  Colleges could care less about PSAT.  They are only interested in SAT scores.  The PSAT is only important if it leads to a National Merit Scholarship.


4. I don’t need to prepare.  All I need to do is take a few tests and my score will go up.


There is no correlation between frequency of taking this aptitude/IQ test and increased scores.  Students score + or – 8 points every time that they take it.


5. The writing portion of the SAT is unimportant.  College do not use it.


Most colleges do examine the SAT Writing score; 100% prefer it.  Colleges compare the Writing Exam essay to the college application essay that most students submit.  My SAT Preparation book provides a free College Admission Section.


What is the Difference Between the SAT & ACT?

Friday, February 24th, 2012

Here is some special information about preparing for the ACT and SAT:


Mathematics — Students are tested on mathematical concepts and practices endemic to 11th grade goals. The test is designed to check for mathematical reasoning and basic computational skills, so no complex formulas or elaborate computations will be included in the exam. Calculators are allowed, although there are restrictions.

For a long time, the SAT was by far the most popular college entrance exam in the United States. Even though a high percentage of high school students who hope to go on to a university still rely on the SAT to show their academic prowess, the ACT has gained a lot of ground over the years. The ACT is divided into four individual subject examinations, each one covering a separate subject area. The material includes:


Reading — Students are tested on direct reading comprehension and inference based on the material presented. Similar to the English exam, the test consists of several different literary genre passages from multiple disciplines, which are followed by several questions on the passage. Since reading skills such as determining the main idea and understanding causal relationships are being tested, rote fact checking is not included in the exam.


Writing — The writing test, which is an optional test on the ACT (but not on the SAT), measures skill in planning and writing a short essay.  Colleges compare the ACT essay with student college admission essays. If there are marked differences, the ACT essay can hurt student admission chances. On the other hand, if the ACT essay is better than the college admission essay, then students have a much better chance to be admitted and receive a scholarship at aforementioned colleges.


English — Students are tested on grammar rules and rhetorical skills. Rhetoric requires students to discern the writing strategy of a passage. The exam consists of several literary passages, which are followed by several questions on the passage or selected parts.


Science — Students are tested on critical thinking and problem-solving skills. Students should have had courses in biology, earth sciences, and the physical sciences by the 11th grade. The test consists of several data sets presented as data representation (graphs, charts, etc.) and research expressions of conflicting hypotheses, which are followed by several questions after each set. Calculators are not allowed during the science exam.


More than ever before America is hungry for new, talented leaders. The ACT and the SAT are gates that must be opened for students to enter that path.  Can you imagine what America will look like with 1 to 2 million new, sprit-filled, evangelical leaders? CHEL is committed to making that happen!




What is the Difference Between the SAT and ACT?

Thursday, February 23rd, 2012

CHEL is dedicated to helping students prepare for the next calling in their lives; specifically the ACT and SAT.

When I was growing up, the ACT was a second rate exam which only Midwest and southern colleges accepted.  Not so anymore.  Most if not colleges accept it.

The ACT test assesses high school students’ general educational development and their ability to complete college-level work.  It does this by assessing students’ performance in high school and, therefore, it is more a measure of college readiness than it is a prediction of college performance.

The converse is true for the SAT.  The SAT is a critical thinking, skill based test.  It is very much like the IQ test.

The ACT is an achievement verses IQ aptitude test. An achievement test is based upon a corpus of information. The multiple-choice tests cover four skill areas: English, mathematics, reading, and science. If students are competent in these areas, if they know enough information related to these disciplines, and can apply this information to cognitive challenges,

In that sense, the ACT is of the same genre as an Iowa Basic or Stanford Achievement test.

The SAT,  as I said, is an IQ type test. It is not based upon epistemology; it is based upon critical thinking. In other words, the SAT measures students’  ability to problem solve. The ACT measures students’ knowledge acquisition. Therefore, the SAT preparation ideally needs a commitment of one to three years.

Students cannot raise their IQ scores nor improve critical thinking skills overnight, or even in two months. But students can raise ACT scores in 50 days.

The single best preparation event for the SAT & the ACT is active reading of challenging literary works. Students should read about one book per week.  I have included a free college prep reading list.

What Is It?

Like the SAT, the ACT is a standardized test. With the exception of the optional writing section, all of the questions are multiple choice. There are 215 questions in all, and the exam takes about three hours to complete. The questions focus on four core academic subject areas: math, English, reading, and science, and scores range between 1 and 36.

What does the ACT measure?

ACT questions focus upon academic knowledge that high school and therefore an unfair assessment tool.

How Are ACT Scores used by Colleges?

Exactly how students’ ACT scores will be used by a college varies from school to school. In some schools, a student’s ACT score, along with their GPA, is the chief criteria upon which acceptance decisions are made. At other schools, ACT scores play only a minor role in determining acceptance, and applicants’ GPA, class rank, and cultural backgrounds may be viewed as more important.

A Metaphysical Challenge II

Wednesday, February 22nd, 2012

A complicating incident occurred, however, that changed everything.

In March, 1971, I made a personal commitment to Jesus Christ.   I invited Him into my life.  Cornered, and then conquered by Galatians 2:20, “I have been crucified with Christ and I no longer live, but Christ lives in me. The life I now live in the body, I live by faith in the Son of God, who loved me and gave himself for me.”  I could no longer deny, could not escape, the fact that God loved me so much that He sent his only Begotten Son (John 3:16) and, as if He had not done enough, He died for my sins on the Cross at Calvary.  This was an incorporeal, metaphysical reality I could not escape!  Yes, I was captured by the love of God!

No, I had a problem.  On one had, I had schemed to do all sorts of “wicked” things on Prom Night.  It was expected.  It was necessary. It was my corporeal reality.  Now, I had to consider an agenda, a world, which I could not see, but had more influence on me than the world I could see!

I was experienced, for the first time, a worldview battle. A worldview is a way that we relate to, and responds from a philosophical position that we embrace as our own.  Worldview is a framework that ties everything together, that allows us to understand society, the world, and our place in it.

A worldview helps us make the critical decisions, which will shape our future.  A worldview colors all our decisions and all our artistic creations.  In the first Star Wars movie (1977), for instance, Luke Skywalker clearly values a Judeo-Christian code of ethics.  That does not mean that he is a believing Christian–indeed he is not–but he does uphold and fight for a moral world.   Darth Vader, on the other hand, represents chaos and amoral behavior.  He does whatever it takes to advance the Emperor’s agenda, regardless of whom he hurts or what rule he breaks. You see, there are basically two worldview roots, two “worlds” from which we draw our decisions and realities. One originated with Aristotle who argues that the empirical world is primary.  Thus, if one wants to advance knowledge one has to learn more about the world.  Another root originated with Plato (and later with the Apostle Paul) who argues that the unseen world is primary. In Plato’s case, that meant that if one wishes to understand the world he studies the gods.  In our case, we agree with Plato to the extent that we believe that God–who cannot be seen, measured–is in fact more real than the world.

Now, in my newfound freedom in Christ, I was faced with a metaphysical dilemma: Do I make decisions according to an abstract reality, like the Word of God? Or do I succumb to societal standards? Who/what will be my primary worldview?  Prom Night, in bold relief, caused me to make a choice. This choice is the choice all people must make in their lives. I went to the Prom (still hate those things!) but did nothing that would dishonor our Lord.

CHEL chooses God.  We choose His Word.  We will be motivated by His standards, and His precepts.  In next issue I will give more details about the CHEL vision and I know you will be impressed!  Stay tuned . .

A Metaphysical Challenge I

Tuesday, February 21st, 2012

In the spring of 1971, during my last year in high school, I was confronted with a metaphysical dilemma that summarizes the paradox facing all human beings . . .

Allegedly I was a Vanderbilt bound smart aleck but, secretly, I desperately wanted to go to the University of Arkansas, like my girl friend, Martha Lynn, and marry when I was 17 ½ .  This was the apex of the southern Arkansas pantheon—being a Razorback and attending school with one’s sweet heart. Prom night reminded me, again, that while Rick Sammons could be a Boll Weevil and my brother—another borderline nerd—could be a Rambling Wreck from Georgia Tech, I was burdened with being a “Vanderbilt Commodore.”


The fact is, I perennially suffered from high school prom phobia.  Besides the fact that I abhorred dancing, I also dreaded the obligatory rituals that surrounded Prom night. On prom night, it was expected that one was to stay out all night and do wicked things with one’s girl friend/ boy friend or something like that.  My friend Ray and I had successfully avoided the life scaring scorn surrounding prom avoidance by escaping to his hunting camp, a modest metal building across the levee.  But my buddy was smitten this year and had his own girl friend.  Likewise, this year, as I mentioned, I had a girl friend too.

It is no easy thing to be a nerd heading to Vanderbilt University, and possibly Harvard Graduate School.  This cooled any ardor I could muster and my social status stock was at an all time low.  I mean, my reputation was at rock bottom.  In the unforgiving southern Arkansas social realm, I was somewhere north of a leper and south of a northerner.  My fate promised another year of social isolation.

Thus, my girl friend and my already tarnished reputation demanded that this year I was to stay out all night. I just had to.

It was no easy task.  I have always enjoyed going to sleep around 9 PM CST so the notion of staying up all night seemed impossible.

There was some precedence. For fiscal reasons mostly, and because, honestly, there was a definite enervated nightlife in southern Arkansas, we would spend hours “parking” with our girl friends.  It worked like this: the couple would find some obscure corn field, or my personal favorite, a road next to the Mississippi River, and would sit and talk and allegedly would do other things—although I never did.  No, really, ask Martha Lynn—or, perhaps, given my handicap—Vanderbilt and Harvard notwithstanding—you really do believe me!

Modernism: To Be Lord of the New Made Earth

Monday, February 20th, 2012

Modernism, in its broadest definition, is cultural tendencies originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.  The world, including America, had rapidly changed from an agrarian to an urban society in one short generation.

Modernism fervently believed in science and technology.  It was an optimistic vision of the future. It was also a revolt against the conservative values of limitation and pragmatism.  The trademark of modernism was its rejection of tradition. Modernism rejected the lingering certainty of Enlightenment epistemology and also rejected the existence of a compassionate, all-powerful Creator God in favor of human progress. The first casualty of this Quixotic thinking was Judeo-Christian morality.

Modernism was universal in its rejection of everything conventional.  Literature, art, architecture, literature, religious faith, social organization and daily life were all targets of this surprisingly arrogant movement.  Perhaps no social movement has been so confident in its moral ambiguity, as modernism was.

The poet Ezra Pound‘s 1934 injunction to “Make it new!” was paradigmatic of the movement’s approach towards the obsolete. And Pound is a good example of the paradoxes inherent in modernism.  On one hand, Pound embraced a new understanding of human liberty and free expression while embracing nascent totalitarianism and anti-Semitism.  Pound, like so many modernists, felt he could separate his ethics from his world view.  This delusion would have disastrous consequences. Adolf Eichmann had a similar view in Nazi Germany and designed and implemented the Holocaust.

The modernist movement, at the beginning of the 20th century, marked the first time that the term “avant-garde“, with which the movement was labeled until the word “modernism” prevailed, was used for the arts. Surrealism was the “the avant-garde of modernism”.


Discussion Question


Art historian Clement Greenberg  states, “The essence of modernism lies, as I see it, in the use of characteristic methods of a discipline to criticize the discipline itself, not in order to subvert it but in order to entrench it more firmly in its area of competence. The philosopher Immanuel Kant used logic to establish the limits of logic, and while he withdrew much from its old jurisdiction, logic was left all the more secure in what there remained to it.”  Modernism, in its attempt to attack everything traditional, created an autocratic liberalism.