Eponine and Irony, part 2

This is the second half of a post which begins here:

Tolstoy and Hugo did not leave much place for God in their survey of human history. Tolstoy acknowledged a god who gives standards of goodness to guide people, but other than that, both writers pretty much focused on human endeavor apart from spiritual powers. The contemporary Illuminati is much the same. As many setbacks as they have survived, they still view themselves as benevolent powers steering humanity by their own efforts. For a glimpse of how they view themselves, one might read the Foundation novels by Isaac Asimov. The Illuminati greatly resembles Asimov’s Foundation.

A Christian can suggest that the Illuminati are dupes of the devil, doing his work without realizing what they are about. Seen through spiritual eyes, that is (of course) true, and the outcome of that battle is not in doubt. But the Illuminati say that they have no illusions about spiritual powers—which means, of course, that they have blinded themselves to the spiritual world.

The Illuminati hopes to convince the world that all religions are the same, that no religion holds any genuine hope for an end to evil and suffering, and that religions should violently compete with one another and seek to destroy one another. Their attack on Christianity is two-fold. One arm has converted most traditional denominational structures into political entities that focus on worldly struggles for justice. These so-called churches reject any idea of doctrine; they redefine family values to undermine the traditional family, and they further the Illuminati’s goal of eliminating individuals for the sake of humanity as a whole. The other arm of the same attack has established megachurches: organizations that claim to uphold traditional doctrines and traditional values, but that teach little doctrine, turn their backs on historic expressions of Christian faith and its expression, and again eliminate individuals for the sake of humanity as a whole.

The Great Depression and the two World Wars helped to build a modern world in which the Illuminati could flourish. Fear was rampart; trust in the government as “the only organization big enough to handle our problems” was unprecedented. Public schools taught children how to view the world. True, children in the 1950s were still given heroes such as Christopher Columbus, George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, Thomas Edison, and Henry Ford; but the podiums of their statues were already being undermined so their greatness would collapse in a generation or two. More and more, history was described as movements among people; heroes and geniuses were devalued. The Illuminati did not arrange to kill President Kennedy. He was suiting their plans admirably. But his assassination made President Johnson fearful enough to dance to their every command. The Illuminati promoted conspiracy theories for two reasons: to cause the few people aware of their existence to fear them more, and to cause the average population to scoff more at the idea that they exist. Every American leader who seemed capable of greatness was undermined: Nixon with Watergate, Reagan with Iran/contra-gate, Clinton with his own personal faults and weaknesses, and so on. (Presidents before their time survived far greater scandals without losing power, as have kings and emperors in most of the world for most of history.) The Illuminati effectively used the Cold War and its balance of fear for their own purposes. They did not expect the Berlin Wall, the Iron Curtain, or the Soviet Union to crumble; but, when they did crumble, other international crises could be found to fill the gap. Moving into the twenty-first century, the Illuminati did not expect any threat to disturb their system.

The Illuminati did not expect Donald Trump. He stepped from their own world, an entertainer who understands scripts and deep-laid plans. Although morally he is no better than the worst of the Illuminati, he emerged as a defender of the traditional family and traditional Christianity. Trump personally had nothing to do with the fall of Weinstein and Epstein; if anything, he was too closely connected with both men and their organizations. His personal popularity and the evident success of his economic and political plans stymied opposition from his political opponents, who were battling to overturn his presidency through scandal and impeachment even before he took the oath of office.

The Illuminati also did not expect COVID-19. They have used fear of other diseases—AIDS, Ebola, and Zika—to promote their causes in recent years, but the timing of the current epidemic generates “the perfect storm.” Blending fearful discussions of the pandemic, racial differences and confrontations, and the upcoming election, the Illuminati are able to transfer fear (and other strong emotions) from one issue to another. They are able to sustain ongoing fear, dread, and hopelessness in the general population. They are able to call attention to ongoing differences in society, promoting unrest with potential for a class war.

Moreover, the Illuminati have been inching to change education—elementary, secondary, and higher levels—wanting it to take place through online courses rather than in classrooms. Online sources of information and interpretation are far easier for the Illuminati to control. The current pandemic has sped society toward the latest revolution in education. First children were taken from their families and put into schools; now they are taken out of schools and put in front of computer screens. So long as a few decision makers can control information on the Internet, they will continue their effort to shape society, guiding mass movements that share the Illuminati’s reverence for science, education, and equity of all people while sharing also the Illuminati’s rejection of individualism, traditional Christianity, and the traditional family.

Their timing is not flawless. They may not be able to continue stoking fear for three more months (between now and the election). They may have already peaked generating support for a party-chosen bland candidate in preference to a people-chosen heroic candidate. As the weeks pass, voters might become increasingly aware of the plot that is working to shape and change the national direction. In November, the powers of the Illuminati may suffer a stinging rejection from those citizens they have tried to herd into their pens. Like Tolstoy and Hugo, today’s Illuminati may underestimate the ability of individuals to think for themselves and to overcome the current of mass movements. History is not in the hands of the faceless elite; history belongs to all of us. And, in the end, history is in the Lord’s hands and must serve his plans. J.

Scandal and offense

The English word “scandal” comes from a Greek word which sounds about the same. The original meaning of the Greek word scandal was a stone that causes people to stumble. Such a scandal might be a raised threshold in a doorway, a rock embedded in a dirt path, or a loose step on a stairway.

Some scandals were deliberate. Stairs in castles were uneven, but the people who lived in those castles were familiar with the tall steps, the short steps, and the loose steps. If they were fleeing a pursuer, they could confidently travel the irregular stairs, but the newcomer would be overthrown by the scandal.

Jesus called himself a scandal. Those who did not know him or recognize him tripped over him. Jesus came to rescue sinners, but he also caused the downfall of many in Israel who were not prepared to see Jesus as the Messiah, the world’s Savior, the Son of God, or the King of an eternal kingdom.

Jesus said, “Blessed are those who are not scandalized by me.” Most English translations use the word “offended” to translate the scandal that Jesus identified. Since many people today are easily offended by even the smallest of things, the blessing Jesus spoke is easily misunderstood. Jesus was not concerned that he or his teachings might offend someone. His concern was that people would refuse to recognize him and would therefore be overthrown by him.

The world would be better if people were not so easily offended. On the other hand, the world would also be better if people took more trouble not to offend one another. When everything is offensive, then nothing really matters any more. But common courtesy requires us to strive not to create problems for our neighbors.

If person A says or does something that offends person B, person A might not to be blame. Person A might not realize that person B found those words or actions offensive. Person B has an obligation to tell person A about the offense. Of course this should be done calmly, gently, and lovingly. Once that has happened, person A has a responsibility not to repeat the offense. Purposely and repeatedly doing something that annoys another person is rude; in some cases, it could be considered harassment.

I know two very funny jokes that I never tell except to people I know well. Both of them could be offensive to some people. The humor in both jokes depends upon similar sounding words (important/impotent in one, supplies/surprise in the other). In each joke, the person who misunderstands the word is part of an ethnic minority which would pronounce one word to sound like the other. People unfamiliar with my sense of humor might come to the conclusion that I am mocking minorities, portraying them as stupid, rather than simply reveling in the play of words that sound the same but have very different meanings.

To some people I might seem oversensitive, too concerned about the feelings of other people. But courtesy matters to me; I prefer not to offend people needlessly. On the other hand, I am not shy about the scandal of Jesus Christ and the cross. Should anyone choose to be offended because I speak of Christ and the hope I have in him, they will have to address their complaint to him and not to me. My courtesy does not include participating in the overthrow of a life because I failed to tell them about the scandal that exists. J.

 

Ten more situation comedies

I wrote this pair of posts some weeks ago, but I was reluctant to publish them because of one show on the list. The reputation of Bill Cosby has taken a strong hit this summer, with many women accusing him of reprehensible behavior. On the one hand, an American is presumed innocent until proven guilty. On the other hand, I feared that just by mentioning his show, I might be considered approving (or at least caring) of the things he is accused of doing. Finally I decided to include his show on the list, not as any endorsement of sinful behavior, but because the man and his stories have entertained generations of Americans, regardless of what we may continue to learn about his personal life.

With that qualification, my list continues.

Happy Days (1974-1984): I was tempted to leave this show off the list so I could include Welcome Back, Kotter, or maybe even ALF. Happy Days, though, was the most popular show of its time, reveling in nostalgia for the 1950s in the middle and end of the 1970s. When I was in high school, I saw it every week. Opie Taylor from Mayberry was now Richie Cunningham—the actor, Ron Howard, went on to be a successful director.

When Things Were Rotten (1975): Another sparkling Mel Brooks creation, this show was canceled after only thirteen episodes. I didn’t miss a single one, and I wish more had been made. The story of Robin Hood is skillfully and comically played. Mel Brooks would later make a feature film of the same theme: Robin Hood: Men in Tights.

One Day at a Time (1975-1984): A single mother is raising two teen-aged daughters, and I thought all three of them were beautiful. Though the focus of the show was usually on the mother, both the daughters were central to the story in most episodes.

WKRP (1978-1982): Another terrific show with a cast of characters supporting one another, this time at a radio station in Cincinnati. Everyone probably had his or her favorite character, but mine was newsman Les Nessman. Among other foibles, Les always had a bandage on some part of his body—a different location every week.

Mork and Mindy (1978-1982): Robin Williams played Mork, a visitor from outer space trying to understand life among humans on Earth. Robin Williams was at his best in this show, that gave him enough script to sustain a plot and enough freedom for his extemporaneous comedy.

Family Ties (1982-1989): One of the shows that would establish NBC’s Must-See TV on Thursday nights, the premise of Family Ties was that liberals from the 1960s are trying to raise a family in the 1980s. Their oldest son Alex, played by Michael J. Fox, has the conservative values of the Reagan era, while Mallory is a material girl. The younger children are not as memorable, I find.

Cheers (1982-1993): Another part of Must-See TV, and in my opinion the best of the group. Ted Danson is Sam Malone, a retired baseball player who owns a bar in Boston; Shelley Long is Dianne, a graduate student who takes a job working in the bar. As in many other sit-coms, the supporting cast added greatly to the show, particularly barflies Norm and Cliff. While I have always wanted to be the informed and reasonable voice of Spock, I have always feared that I am really Cliff Claybourne.

Newhart (1982-1990): The best comedy of this time period not on NBC, Bob Newhart now owns an inn in Vermont. Bob is even more ordinary, and the characters surrounding him are even more eccentric. Who can forget, “This is my brother Darryl, and this is my other brother Darryl”? After a splendid run, the show ended in 1990 with the best farewell show ever.

Bill Cosby (1984-1992): Bill Cosby is an incredibly talented storyteller. In this show, which became the anchor of Must-See TV, Cosby’s stories are expanded into a story of an American family which happens to be black, but the humor is not racial humor; it simply is family humor.

Night Court (1984-1992): The last and weakest comedy member of Must-See TV (which also included the drama Hill Street Blues), the judge and his assistants in a night court must handle a running series of odd people moving through the court. Maybe I should have dropped this show in favor of Welcome Back, Kotter, but I did watch it every week while waiting for Hill Street Blues to start.

J.