Tag Archives: Religion

NON-HUMANS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Elephant Whisperer: My Life with the Herd in the African Wild

Written by: Lawrence Anthony, Graham Spence

LAWRENCE ANTHONY (AUTHOR, CONSERVATIIONIST, ENVIRONMENTALIST, EXPLORER, BORN 1950, DIED MARCH 2ND 2012)
GRAHAM SPENCE (CO-AUTHOR, JOURNALIST, EDITOR)

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Narrated by: Simon Vance

Anthropomorphizing non-humans is a slippery slope.  The brain is an amazing organ that compels humans to understand things beyond understanding.  Whether it is belief in a Supreme Being or belief that wild animals think, human brains create stories of belief based on consciousness; i.e. something beyond instinct and conditioning.

LAWRENCE ANTHONY AND A BELOVED ELEPHANT (MR. ANTHONY DIED IN 2012 AT THE AGE OF 61 FROM A HEART ATTACK.)

Lawrence Anthony, a conservationist, notes his experience with a herd of wild elephants.  This herd of elephants will be killed if he is unwilling to accept them at his conservation area in South Africa.  The elephant herd has been found unmanageable by other conservationists.  The problem has been the herd will not stay within a confined conservation area.  The elephants break through whatever barriers are placed in their way.

ELEPHANT CONSERVATION BARRIERS (The elephant herd has been found unmanageable by other conservationists.  The problem has been the herd will not stay within a confined conservation area.  The elephants break through whatever barriers are placed in their way.)
ELEPHANT POACHING ( As is widely reported, native animal species in Africa are becoming extinct.  Partly because of the advance of civilization; i.e. because of native customs, the desire of souvenir hunters. and the greed of ivory and horn hunters.)

Anthony tells a story of Africa that reflects on his perception of reality.  As is widely reported, native animal species in Africa are becoming extinct.  Partly because of the advance of civilization; i.e. because of native customs, the desire of souvenir hunters. and the greed of ivory and horn hunters.  Anthony exposes some of these causes in “The Elephant Whisperer”.  However, Anthony takes a step too far by suggesting wild animals have cognitive recognition; i.e. a near-human understanding of what is happening in their world.

Though Anthony’s perception of animals is askew, his story brings Africa alive.  Anthony’s effort to preserve Africa’s wild life is exemplary.  His methods make sense.  He scrambles to create an electrical barrier around his conservation area that will contain the largest land based animal in the world.  The herd he is given custody of instinctually resists containment even though it offers a haven from human interference with nature.

PAVLOV’S DOG ( Like Pavlov’s dogs, the elephants begin to accept his presence and their sanctuary.  Anthony interprets this instinctual response as a cognitive rather than operantly conditioned response.)

Anthony overcomes that instinctual resistance by making himself and his employees familiar to the herd.  He insists on spending his personal and the staff’s time with the herd so they recognize his and their smell and presence.  Like Pavlov’s dogs, the elephants begin to accept his presence and their sanctuary.  Anthony interprets this instinctual response as a cognitive rather than operantly conditioned response.

TRIBALISM THAT THREATENS AFRICAN UNITY (An irony of Anthony’s conclusion of wild animal consciousness is in his white man’s communication with factions of the South African community. )

An irony of Anthony’s conclusion of wild animal consciousness is in his white man’s communication with factions of the South African community.  Anthony notes his area of South Africa has had no elephants for years.  Elephants have been systematically poached and driven out of South Africa by their instinct for survival.  Many of the natives in his area have never even seen an elephant.  The irony is that Anthony is challenged by African natives for his role in reintroducing elephants to South Africa.  The use of land for conservation interferes with tribal interests in raising cattle and goats.  Others question conservation’s interference in harvesting animals for food and ivory.

To combat the challenge, Anthony pleads his case for conservation that will enrich the natives without farming or harvesting elephants for their meat and ivory.  Anthony uses an interpreter to communicate his message to the natives because he is not fluent in their language.  Anthony chooses an interpreter that bridges the myths of Africa with logical reasoning to convince the natives that he is on their side.

Anthony’s pitch is based on human reasoning.  That reasoning contrasts with the instinctual way he approaches his adopted elephant herd.  As a human speaking to other humans, cognition is logically taken for granted.  Humans speaking to non-humans are deluding themselves by believing elephants or other species have equal or superior cognitive abilities.

SOUTH AFRICAN TOURISM (To combat the challenge, Anthony pleads his case for conservation to enrich the natives without seeking to harvest elephants for their meat and ivory.  Anthony uses and interpreter to communicate his message to the natives because he is not fluent in their language.  Anthony chooses an interpreter that bridges the myths of Africa with the logical reasoning to convince the natives that he is on their side.)

Evolution fools us all.  Maybe the future will change some member of the animal kingdom to create a “Planet of the Apes” but a “Planet of the Elephants” seems a step too far.

Nevertheless, “The Elephant Whisperer” is a fascinating glimpse of Africa.  We love our dogs, cats, and other pets.  Anthony, and many humans, believe animals think like humans.  Many think animals communicate among themselves.  However, today, it is evolutionary instinct and conditioning; not cognition, that rules the non-human community.

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SYMBOL OF WOMEN’S RIGHTS

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

I Am Malala: How One Girl Stood Up for Education and Changed the World

Written by: Malala Yousafzai

Narrated by: Archie Panjabi

MALALA YOUSAFZAI (NOBEL PRIZE, SAKHAROVE PRIZE, SIMONE de BEAUVOIR PRIZE, NATIONAL YOUTH PRIZE WINNER)

Malala Yousafzai may be narrowly identified as a symbol of women’s rights. That categorization is certainly earned but one is left wondering what will become of this young woman.

Malala lives the life of an old soul–advocating for equal rights at eleven years old and being nearly murdered at 15.   Malala will be 20 years old this July.

MALALA (SHOT AND HOSPITALIZED)

As most know, Malala is shot in the head by two young Taliban who attacked her school bus in the Swat Valley of Pakistan.  We know they were Taliban because they acknowledged responsibility soon after the attack.  Miraculously, the bullet did not penetrate Malala’s brain but bone fragments from the shock of impact severed a facial nerve and temporarily paralyzed most of her motor functions.  Malala is rushed to a hospital in Pakistan and is saved from immediate danger by a competent Pakistani neurosurgeon.  The world is apprised of the attempted assassination and sends messages of support for Malala’s recovery.  In “I Am Malala”, a listener finds that after-care in Pakistan nearly ends Malala’s chance for survival.

BRITISH COLONIZATION (Somewhat ironically, Great Britain comes to Malala’s aid.  The irony is in the long history of Great Britain’s colonization of Malala’s homeland.)

Somewhat ironically, Great Britain comes to Malala’s aid.  The irony is in the long history of Great Britain’s colonization of Malala’s homeland.  There is historical justification for India/Pakistani’ ambivalence toward the West.  “I Am Malala” touches on that ambivalence.  However, Malala recognizes how important Great Britain’s assistance was in saving her life.

AMERICAN DRONE ATTACKS IN PAKISTAN (NOT ONLY TALIBAN ARE KILLED)

Malala reminds listeners of the lost lives of her countryman from American drone strikes and the invasion of Pakistani air space; including military action to kill Osama bin Laden.

OSAMA BIN LADEN COMPOUND (On the one hand, Malala shows embarrassment over bin Laden’s successful sanctuary in Pakistan; on the other, she implies America should have worked with the Pakistani government to capture the world’s most notorious terrorist. )

On the one hand, Malala shows embarrassment over bin Laden’s successful sanctuary in Pakistan; on the other, she implies America should have worked with the Pakistani government to capture the world’s most notorious terrorist.  There is a whiff of resentment in Malala’s depiction of the West’s treatment of her country but it is ameliorated by her principled stand for education, equal opportunity, and Pakistan’ sovereignty.

SWAT VALLEY IN PAKISTAN

“I Am Malala” shows a young girl with great resilience and ambition.  One is left with the impression that Malala will return to Pakistan.  She will attempt to become a leader in her home country.  The message one gets from her book is that Pakistan is a great and beautiful country that can be a partner with the West as an independent and Islamic nation.  Malala is a politician in waiting.  One hopes for her success.

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MORALITY & REDEMPTION

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

QB VII

Written by: Leon Uris

Narrated by: John Lee

LEON URIS (1924-2003, AMERICAN AUTHOR)

In 1970, “QB VII” is acclaimed as a page turning best seller.  It is the story of a libel trial against an author for naming a knighted Lord as a Nazi collaborator.  Among other things, it is a parable about morality and redemption.  The books fame is enhanced by a mini-series aired on ABC in 1974.  The author, Leon Uris, had been sued for a similar libel accusation in his first best seller, “Exodus” (see Dering v. Uris).  The title, “QB VII”, is an allusion to Queens Bench VII.

HANNOVER-AHLEM JEWISH CONCENTRATION CAMP WWII

The story is about the trial of a Polish surgeon who runs a surgical department in a Polish concentration camp in 1943.  The story begins after the war with Dr. Adam Kelno being held in a British prison while Poland is requesting extradition of Kelno for medical experimentation and abuse of concentration camp prisoners.

Inmates of a German concentration camp in Sachsenhausen, near Berlin, stand in line during attendance check, on December 19, 1938. (AP Photo)

Kelno’s  principal accuser is Dr. Mark Tessler, a Jewish prisoner and fellow surgeon in the prison camp.  Tessler testifies that Dr. Kelno victimized concentration camp prisoners, particularly Jewish prisoners that are experimented on at the direction of SS leaders.  Kelno argues that Tessler is a liar.  No corroborating evidence (neither witnesses or records) is found to support Tessler’s accusations.

Uris prepares the reader/listener for the ending of the story by having one of the British interrogators suggest Dr. Kelno is hiding something.  However, after two years of imprisonment, the English courts deny Poland’s extradition request, and the doctor is released.

BORNEO SARAWAK NATIVE

Kelno fears for his life because of Poland’s aggressive extradition attempt, and Tessler’s damning testimony.  Kelno secretively flees with his family to Borneo to begin a practice treating local natives and colonial British overseers.  The natives resist his help because of their belief in witch doctor’ traditions of health care and medical treatment.  Over time, Dr. Kelno and his wife gain the confidence and appreciation of the natives.  Kelno reputation rises in the colonial medical administration of the region.

BRITISH COLONIALISM IN NORTHER BORNEO

Kelno’s stature grows to the point of being knighted by England for selfless service in the colony.  Kelno raises a son with his wife who becomes a favorite of local natives.  As Kelno’s reputation rises, he eventually returns to England to begin a practice in a small community near London.

Uris then introduces a new character, an unorthodox Jewish author who is a young successful writer and becomes a sought-after playwright for the movies.  However, this writer longs to return to writing and become a noted author of Jewish history.  After milking the movie industry with a work of pulp fiction, Abraham Cady dedicates time to researching and writing what becomes an acclaimed best seller titled “The Holocaust”.  This event sets the table for a libel case because it reveals Kelno’s role in a Polish concentration camp.  What makes Uris’s story revelatory is the complexity of guilt and redemption for unpunished crimes, and the tenuous nature of morality.

Half of Uris’s story builds Dr. Kelno into a legend.  Kelno provides selfless duty to his patients and the medical profession after the war.  He seeks no fame, none of the accouterments of wealth, raises one son and inspires his son’s best friend to become a doctor for the natives of Borneo; while later settling into a life of obscurity in a small English community.  In contrast, Abraham Cady uses his youth to perfect his writing skill, join the military as a WWII pilot, and marry a nurse who cares for him after a disastrous plane crash.  After recovery, Cady chooses to live the life of a profligate, cheating on his wife, and prostituting his skill as a playwright.

However, the writer in Cady reaches a point of self-awareness that compels him to author something important.  This point leads to the publication of “The Holocaust”.  From Cady’s research, the accusatory testimony of Dr. Mark Tessler is found and the book references Dr. Kelno and his role as the Polish concentration camp’s medical director.  Dr. Kelno’s son’s best friend convinces Kelno that he should sue for libel.  Kelno had been found not guilty of any misdeeds when Poland tried to extradite him from England after the war.  It seems he had been unfairly imprisoned for two years, investigated, and found innocent because of lack of corroborating evidence.

BRITISH COURT (The suit is drawn.  The case goes to the Queen’s Bench VII for trial.)

The suit is drawn.  Cady insists his research is accurate and refuses to retract his findings.  The case goes to the Queen’s Bench VII for trial.  This is thirty or more years after the war.  Cady is defended by one of the best lawyers in England with payment for services made by an English aristocrat (one of Cady’s lovers), and an obscurely identified Jewish interest group.

PENANCE (Doctors Without Borders)

The trial reveals Dr. Kelno’s guilt.  The complexity of the guilt is in Kelno’s penance by being a better person after the war.  It does not absolve his quilt but it makes him something less than a monster.  One is confronted with what he/she would do in a similar circumstance of war.  Would you say no to a supervisor that tells you to castrate someone if you believed you would be killed?  Stanley Milgram’s experiments show that normal human beings can be driven to kill other human beings for no other reason than their acceptance of someone else’s authority.

Kelno may have been an anti-Semite.  Poland is noted for anti-Semitism just as America is noted for Black discrimination.  Is Kelno less human because of his acculturation?  In a perfect world, yes, but who lives in a perfect world?  Kelno is despicable.  The Ku Klux Klan is despicable.  However, when any person is classified as something other than human, classifiers condemn themselves to inhumanity.

DISCRIMINATION (When any person is classified as something other than human, classifiers condemn themselves to inhumanity.)

There are so many questions raised by Uris’s story. How brave are you? Would you risk your life to save someone else’s life? Would you kill someone if you were told by the government it is your duty to kill another? Is their redemption in good works? A judge can sit in a chair and think what his/her answer should be, but any human in a circumstance of life or death can only answer the question with his/her action in the now. There are few winners in Uris’s story. There are many losers.

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APE IN THE CITY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Thus Spoke Zarathustra

Written by: Friedrich Nietzsche

Narrated by: Alex Jennings with Jon Cartwright

The famous literary announcement that “God is Dead” releases the ape in the city.  “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” argues that human beings have moved away from God; particularly a Christian God.    Friedrich Nietzsche is saying that without God and the church, a new morality must–needs to be designed by man.   The ape is the ruler that thinks he/she knows better than his/her citizens.  In the 21st century, humanity has generally moved away from organized religion.

————————————-CHANGE IN RELIGIOUS BELIEFS———————————-
NAZISM AND CHRISTIANITY (FAITH’S COOPTATION BY HITLER)

To Nietzsche, humankind’s quest is to evolve beyond populism; beyond reliance on majority opinion and theological teaching, and toward a belief in the ability of individuals to rationally order the world. However, Nietzsche’s idea of liberating what he believes to be the potential of mankind, historically leads to the ape in the city; i.e. leaders like Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin who slaughtered millions during and after WWII.

One should not be comforted by belief that it is only WWII’s ape creations.  Nietzsche’s idea in “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” strikes at the heart of all known forms of government and organized religion.  Whether democratic, fascist, communist, Catholic, Islamic, Judaic or any other major government or religion—each makes and enforces plans for others.  As is shown in all histories, when plans are made for others, they inherently discriminate against individuals because of either race, color, or creed. All known forms of government and religion create apes in the city because of what Nietzsche identifies as “a will to power”.   

Nietzsche’s philosophy is grounded in individualism.  Every human being has a “will to power”.  The exercise of that power is to evolve, in Nietzsche’s mind, to create a society that is ruled from the bottom up rather than from a higher-power down.

AYN RAND (1905-1982)

Nietzsche became a seer for anarchist philosophers that carry the idea of socialist anarchy to the same extreme that capitalist ideologues like Ayn Rand carry the idea of “self-interest”.

DESCENT OF MAN (Nietzsche believes the weak will parish and only the strong-willed will survive.)

Both views of the world are coming from an absurdist idealist’s perspective.  Both ignore the truth of human nature.  The difference is that Nietzsche believes humanity will evolve beyond history’s apes in the city.  He believes the weak will parish and only the strong-willed will survive.  Nietzsche ends “Thus Spoke Zarathustra” with a poem that professes his greatest love is for future generations and his belief that the “will to power” will evolve into an empathetic care for all humankind.

——SYRIAN CHILD OF WAR (OMRAN DAQNEESH)———

Evidence for empathetic care for humankind seems scarce considering the world’s current leaders.  Humankind remains driven by money, power, and prestige and those in the driver’s seat rule in what they perceive is their best interest; i.e. still built from the top down; not from the bottom up.

BASHAR al-ASSAD (SYRIA, PRESIDENT)

Nietzsche may be right; i.e. growth of human care for others may be a matter of time and human evolution.  Maybe, our greatest love should be for future generations.  However, considering how society treats youth throughout most of the world today, love seems wanting.

INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

There is little historical proof that bottom up power structures create either social, economic, or political harmony; let alone unity over extended periods of time.  Even familial relationships continue to break down in modern post-industrial societies.  Families have been the first and oldest form of social organization.  But, the exigencies of modern living  require both parents to work, divorce to proliferate, wars to kill, and children to be left behind.

Human nature seems immutable.  If “will to power” is an individual characteristic, historically, it lends itself more to hierarchical than egalitarian societies.

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THE CONSOLATION OF PHILOSOPHY

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Consolation of Philosophy 

Written by: Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius

Narrated by: David Rintoul

BOETHIUS (480 A.D.- 524 A.D., ROMAN SENATOR,CONSUL,PHILOSOPHER)

This translation of “The Consolation of Philosophy” impresses all who listen to it because of the beauty of Boethius’s writing and Rintoul’s narration.  Though one may either agree or disagree with Boethius’s religious philosophy, the juxtaposition of his poetry with chapters of Socratic dialog are a pleasure to hear.

THEODORIC THE GREAT (454-526, BORN IN CROATIA)

Boethius is born into a rich aristocratic Roman family and achieves high office and continued wealth, even when Rome is conquered by an Ostrogothic King, Theodoric the Great. In the beginning of Theodoric’s reign, Boethius is a court favorite but in 524 AD, he is arrested and imprisoned for (according to Boethius’s writings) defending the poor and powerless from the new Roman Ostrogothic government.  During Boethius’s imprisonment, just before his execution, he writes and completes “The Consolation of Philosophy”.

One may think of Boethius’s book from two perspectives.  One, “The Consolation of Philosophy” is a treatise to justify God.  Two, “The Consolation of Philosophy” is a rationalization for mistreatment by others; i.e. “others” defined as both God and mammon.

GOD AND MAMMON

Boethius is visited by a vision of the “Lady of Philosophy” in his cell.  The “Lady” has been Boethius’s companion since childhood.  She sees Boethius shedding tears over his plight and asks why he laments his station in life after having so dutifully followed in the steps of the great philosophers of antiquity.  As the “Lady” recounts Plato’s and Aristotle’s teachings, she berates Boethius for his lamentation over loss of wealth, power, and prestige.  In a Socratic dialog, the “Lady” recounts the folly of those who covet worldly ephemera when “happiness” is the goal of human life.  Boethius begins to recollect the teachings of Plato and Aristotle that explain wealth, power, and prestige are fleeting values in life and never the source of happiness because of the constant fear of loss and the insatiable lust for more.

THE LADY OF PHILOSOPHY COUNSELING BOETHIUS

The “Lady” reminds Boethius of the omniscience of God.  He knows all, sees all, and loves all.  Both good and evil are part of earthly life and it is only those who choose moderation in all things good that will find earthly happiness.

Boethius creates a Socratic dialog between himself and the “Lady” to question how God allows evil to exist, and whether man can have free will when God is omniscient and knows each human being follows a known path in life.  Boethius asks “…is there not chance in every person’s life that leads them in one direction or another?”

SPINOZA’S VIEW

Boethius implies these questions are answered to his satisfaction.  He accepts God’s omniscience.  Every listener will have their own opinion after completing Boethius’s story.  To some, the answers are the machinations of a man who rationalizes his bereft state; to others, the answers are a guide to life in this world.

What ever you believe, “The Consolation of Philosophy” is a literary work of art.

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RELIGIOUS RATIONALISM

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

Bonhoeffer: Pastor, Martyr, Prophet, Spy: A Righteous Gentile vs. the Third Reichbonhoeffer

Written by: Eric Metaxas

Narrated by: Malcolm Hillgartner

ERIC METAXAS (AMERICAN AUTHOR, SPEAKER, RADIO HOST)
ERIC METAXAS (AMERICAN AUTHOR, SPEAKER, RADIO HOST)

Religious rationalism seems an oxymoron but Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s life story implies otherwise.  In Eric Metaxas’ detailed history of Bonhoeffer’s adult life, one becomes acquainted with a pastor who abjures organized religions that choose self-preservation over biblical commandments.  The complicity of the Roman Catholic Church in fascism and Nazism in WWII is well documented in Gerald Posner’s “God’s Bankers”.  God's Bankers

Bonhoeffer (who is raised as a Christian) covertly and overtly protests Jewish discrimination by the German Nazis while living in Berlin in the late 1920s, early 1930s; until his death in 1945.  In contrast to many Christians’ support of Hitler’s genocidal Jewish plans, Bonhoeffer openly challenges Nazi German policy.

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER (1906-1945, , LUTHERAN PASTOR, THEOLOGIAN, ANTI-NAZI DISSIDENT.)
DIETRICH BONHOEFFER (1906-1945, , LUTHERAN PASTOR, THEOLOGIAN, ANTI-NAZI DISSIDENT.)

Bonhoeffer is born into a wealthy aristocratic family in Breslau.  He is the son of a successful neurologist, Karl Bonhoeffer.  His mother is a teacher and granddaughter of a Protestant theologian.  In contrast to his father’s science background, Dietrich is drawn to the church.  Though religion is Dietrich’s calling, he never abandons belief in the value and importance of rational thought.

Because of Bonhoeffer’ wealth and aristocratic position, Dietrich acquires an advanced German education and travels the world.  He earns the equivalent of bachelor’s and master’s degrees and goes on to receive a Doctor of Theology from Berlin University in 1927.  In concert with family wealth and pursuit of education, Bonhoeffer travels to Italy, England, and America.  On many occasions, Dietrich could have abandoned Germany during Hitler’s rise to power, but he chooses to return again and again to the heart of Nazism’s ascension.

DIETRICH BONHOEFFER IN 1939
DIETRICH BONHOEFFER IN 1939

In returning to Germany in 1931, Bonhoeffer becomes a spokesman for religious leaders who reject Hitler’s antisemitism and discrimination.  Just before Hitler becomes Chancellor in 1933, Bonhoeffer gives a radio speech attacking Hitler by warning the public not to be seduced by a leadership cult.  Metaxas notes Bonhoeffer calls Hitler a mis-leader, a seducer.  Bonhoeffer publicly rejects Jewish persecution, while Hitler moves to co-opt Catholic and Christian Churches by appointing pro-Nazi leaders to their synods.  A schism develops in the German religious community with Bonhoeffer on one side and the Nazis on the other.  Effectively, the Nazis become the dominant religious force in Germany; i.e. Christianity is co opted during Hitler’s reign.

NAZISM AND CHRISTIANITY (FAITH'S COOPTATION BY HITLER)
NAZISM AND CHRISTIANITY (FAITH’S COOPTATION BY HITLER)

As Bonhoeffer’s religious beliefs grow, his rationalist view of life demands action based on his interpretation of the Bible.  Bonhoeffer recognizes Jesus Christ is a Jew and that intolerance of fellow human beings is a mortal sin.  The author suggests Bonhoeffer becomes a spy for Hitler’s opposition and a covert participant in an assassination plot against the Fuhrer.  Participation in an assassination plot makes one question Bonhoeffer’s faith.

Metaxas implies Bonhoeffer’s faith is consistent with biblical teaching.  Unquestionably, Bonhoeffer’s history is one of self-sacrifice but overt conspiracy to murder seems beyond Bible-based instruction.  After the failed assassination attempt on Hitler, Bonhoeffer and many other real and alleged German conspirators are arrested, tortured, and murdered.  Bonhoeffer is tried and sentenced to death.  He is sent to a concentration camp, moved several times, mis-identified once, and finally murdered on April 8, 1945.

What makes this history interesting is the consequence to one’s life when he/she has great faith in the Bible.  On the one hand, Biblical interpretation gives one strength to endure the worst that can happen in life; on the other, Bible interpretation allows one to rationalize murder of another human being.  Bonhoeffer is shown to be a pastor of faith, a martyr to a cause, a prophet of a future, and a spy willing to participate in a murder.

A cynic might suggest that Hitler’s assassination plot is vindicated by history as much as by religious faith.  Without question, Bonhoeffer is on the right side of history but reason based on Bible interpretation also leads, and has led many Christians astray.

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AN AGRICULTURAL AGE

Audio-book Review
By Chet Yarbrough

(Blog:awalkingdelight)
Website: chetyarbrough.com

The Death of Ivan Ilyichthe-death-of-ivan-ilyich

Written by: Leo Tolstoy

Narrated by: Simon Prebble

LEO TOLSTOY (1828-1910)
LEO TOLSTOY (1828-1910)

In “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”, Tolstoy reflects on life’s meaning.  Though Tolstoy dies in 1910, his 1886 story is a coda for life in the 19th century.  Much of the circumstances of life changes in the 20th century and continues to evolve in the 21st.

agricultural-ageTolstoy lived in an agricultural age where human relationship is defined by who you have helped, and been helped by, in life.  Though 19th century Russia is a highly stratified society of the rich and poor, people personally depend on each other; more than in the 20th and 21st centuries.

CARTOON OF PRE-LENNINST RUSSIAN BUREAUCRACY
CARTOON OF PRE-LENNINST RUSSIAN BUREAUCRACY

Government bureaucracy existed then as now, but actions of government were based more on relationships of people than direction of action.  Familial and neighbor’ relationship became less important than bureaucratic relationship.  Tolstoy’s story deals with pre-industrial bureaucracy that broadens human relations but perversely pulls society apart.  With the rise of industrialization, bureaucracies become more about political action than relationship.

CZARIST GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY
CZARIST GOVERNMENT BUREAUCRACY

Ivan Ilyich is a respected pre-industrial bureaucrat that has become ill.  He is dying.  Some of the first thoughts of his colleagues is what it means to them when he dies.  Will I be promoted to his position?  Will I get a salary increase?  Will I be more highly respected?  To a family or friend, the death of a relative is personal; to a bureaucracy, death is an opportunity.

—————————DEATH IS NO LONGER PERSONAL—————————–

In his illness, Ilyich is racked by pain.  One of his colleagues chooses to comfort him in his last weeks of life.  In those few weeks, Ilyich realizes human relationship is what makes life worth living, and that acceptance of death is simply a step toward eternity; i.e. a belief in a fundamental verity.  His fundamental verity is God and the kingdom of heaven.

TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTION
TECHNOLOGICAL REVOLUTION
INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION
INDUSTRIAL REVOLUTION

What “The Death of Ivan Ilyich” reminds a listener of is how human relationship is being drastically altered by industrialization and technology.  Industrialization diminishes family closeness by moving society from the family farm to the town, to the city, and to the megalopolis.

NEW YORK CITY
NEW YORK CITY
WORLD WIDE WEB
WORLD WIDE WEB

Technology moves society to web-based association that is even further removed from human relationship. In the 21st century, society is more interconnected, but ironically more disconnected than ever before.

Does life have more, or less meaning today?  To Ilyich there is the help of his bureaucratic colleague, acceptance of death, and belief in God and heaven.  To today’s “me-generation” there is what?

There is an implied warning in “The Death of Ivan Ilyich”.  The implication is that we are failing to care about others or an eternal verity.  In that failure, there is a threat to humankind.

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