Lazy Sunday CII: Obituaries, Part II

Another week is dawning, and it’s time to look at the sun setting on some excellent individuals.  2020 was a rough year for many reasons, not least because of the deaths it brought.  Here’s hoping this week’s titans are resting in the arms of Jesus:

  • Rock in Peace, Eddie Van Halen” – If any of these three aren’t resting in the arms of Jesus, it’s probably Eddie Van Halen, though I’m holding out hope he experienced some manner of conversion experience and is playing “Panama” inside the pearly gates.  Eddie was a pioneering guitarist, but he also built on the legacies of past giants, like the violinist Niccolo Paganini (who was so good, it was said he sold his soul to the devil for the privilege; if that’s true, there’s a pretty good band in Hell right now—not that you’d want to go and hear them!)
  • Rest in Peace, Alex Trebek” – Smarmy.  Smug.  Canadian (I think).  Alex Trebek is synonymous with Jeopardy!, and it’s unclear that anyone can fill his shoes.  He brought just the right balance of bedside manner and not giving a damn to his hosting duties, asking guests for their tedious life stories, and occasionally finding them lackluster.  But, boy, he was a good host.  Rest in Peace, Alex.
  • Rest in Peace, Rush Limbaugh” – Speaking of irreplaceable hosts, Rush Limbaugh is one of the first greats to shed off this mortal coil in the great year 2021.  I don’t think anyone can truly replace Rush behind the legendary EIB Golden Mic, but I’m hoping they hire Mark Steyn as a perpetual guest host.  “The Rush Limbaugh Show w/ Mark Steyn” has a nice ring to it.  That’s a Canadian I can get behind.

That’s it for another macabre edition of Lazy Sunday.  Happier retrospectives to come in March.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

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Lazy Sunday CI: Obituaries, Part I

Dedicating two Lazy Sundays to obituaries is a bit grim, but after Rush Limbaugh’s death last week and a solid week of cold, rainy weather, it seemed appropriate.

As I began looking back at posts about deaths, I was surprised to see I had written several obituaries and memorials (enough to split this retrospective into two parts).  2020 was a particularly difficult year, as we all know, and it took some of the greats with it.

Too many.  But, as my blogger and real-life friend Bette Cox noted on my Limbaugh memorial, she doesn’t wish for a peaceful rest, but a joyously busy time in Heaven.  I’m sure Rush has a golden mic up there, broadcasting praises to Christ for all eternity.  Excellent in Broadcasting, indeed.

  • Breaking: Conservative Commentator Charles Krauthammer Dies at 68” – This post was the first (I believe) I wrote about the passing of any public figure on the WordPress version of the blog (other than a blurb about Michael Jackson’s death on the old Blogger site).  Krauthammer was a bit of a squish by today’s standards, and it would be interesting to see how he would have fallen on Trumpism after four years, but he was one of the more creative and intelligent pundits on the airwaves.  I always enjoyed his writing, and his interesting insights into human nature.
  • Rest in Peace, Herman Cain” – The Godfather of Godfather Pizza, and one of my favorite political figures of the twenty-first century, Herman Cain was, in some ways, a prelude to Trump:  fun, humorous, controversial, down-to-earth, and populist.  I loved his “9-9-9” Plan, if for no other reason than it was good marketing (and because of his belief that (to paraphrase) “if 10% is good enough for God, 9% is good enough for the federal government).
  • Remembering Ravi Zacharias” – Since his death, allegations surfaced that Ravi Zacharias was a sexual predator; sadly, after intense investigation (fully and transparently conducted and supported by his ministry, RZIM), it seems these allegations are true.  That’s a terrible coda to an otherwise exemplary career.  Zacharias may have fallen to temptation later in life, but it does nothing to erase his impact on generations of Christians.  He still won thousands of souls for the Lord, and his detailed apologia for Christianity still stand powerfully.  His fall serves as a powerful reminder, as The Didactic Mind put it, to “not base your faith on the words of men.”  It’s also an admonition to finish the race strong.

That’s it for this weekend’s obituaries.  Rather than dwelling on them gloomily, let’s think of them as a celebration of life, both in this world and the next.

Happy Sunday!

—TPP

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Rest in Peace, Rush Limbaugh

Talk-radio legend and the master of the golden mic Rush Limbaugh passed away Wednesday after a fight with lung cancer.

Limbaugh—who fans affectionately called Rush (or “El Rushbo”)—pioneered the conservative talk-radio format.  After the lifting of the FCC’s Fairness Doctrine in 1987, radio and television no longer were required to present both or all sides of an issue being debated.  That made it possible for entire programs to be dedicated to commentary tilted towards one political worldview or another.

Into that new media environment stepped Rush.  He was the first of many to seize upon the idea of delivering withering attacks on the Left and Democrats through the format of a three-hour radio program.

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Happy 250th Birthday, Beethoven!

Today marks the 250th birthday of Ludwig van Beethoven, one of the greatest composers of all time.  Beethoven’s name is usually mentioned in a triumvirate of major composers, the musical holy trinity that also includes Bach and Mozart. (curiously, composers I’ve never written about in their own right on this blog).

Beethoven was a key figure in the transition from the Classical period—the time of Mozart, Haydn, et. al.—and the Romantic period, which saw the emergence of composers like Chopin and Saint-Saëns.  Classical music is renowned for its preciseness, its almost mathematical symmetry.  Romantic music, on the other hand, is less predictable, more flowing and emotive.  It was Beethoven who expanded classical music’s possibilities—for example, stretching symphonic form to unforeseen lengths (his symphonies are, on average, much longer than those of Mozart and Haydn, and Beethoven wrote substantially fewer of them)—and introduced new extremes of mood and dynamics into music.

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Pearl Harbor Remembrance Day 2020

When writing this morning’s post about “Away in a Manger,” I completely neglected to mention or recognize the anniversary of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor on 7 December 1941.  That attack—premised on the ludicrous idea that attacking America would cow our nation into re-opening trade exports to Japan’s thirsty navy—brought the United States into the Second World War, with Adolf Hitler foolishly declaring war on the United States three days after the Japanese attack.  The attack also resulted in 2403 American deaths, both military and civilian, as well as the destruction of a huge chunk of America’s Pacific Fleet.

The world is a very different place than it was in 1941.  In scanning Pearl Harbor headlines, one Business Insider headline seemed indicative of our fear of death:  that daily deaths last week were higher than the number of deaths on the “date which will live in infamy.”  Never mind that the nation’s population is substantially larger and more elderly (and, dare I say, less healthy) than it was in 1941.  The Virus is a quasi-mystical force to be feared, so we huddle alone in our homes and avoid contact (ironically engaging in the very Japanese activity of mask-wearing).

By contrast, the response from Americans in 1941 was valorous.  Hundreds of thousands of young men volunteered.  My own paternal grandfather, who was only sixteen at the time, enlisted.  He did so by purchasing a huge Bible, and then filled out the family genealogy by antedating his birth by two years.  He then took the Bible and kicked it around in the dust of the road to give it the appearance of age, and presented the Bible and its doctored genealogy to the recruiting office.  Pretty soon he making air supply runs for Uncle Sam.

What would happen now if the ChiComs the West Coast (actually, that might save the Republic…)?  I have a hard time believing soy boys would be rushing to enlist.  After all, they’ve been indoctrinated into believing our nation is a wicked tool of imperialism.  They’d probably welcome our new Chinese overlords.

But perhaps the Spirit of ’41 is still strong in America.  I like to think it is, at least here in the South.

Regardless, let us never forget the men who gave their lives that day, and throughout the war.  They defeated great evil, and made America great.

God Bless.

—TPP

Wayback Wednesday: Memorable Monday: Veterans’ Day 2018, Commemoration of the Great War, and Poppies

While preparing a separate post on hymns (which I will likely post Friday), it occurred to me that today is Veterans’ Day in the United States, the observance formerly known as Armistice Day.  I’ve never thrown back to past posts on a Wednesday before, but it seemed fitting to recognize our fallen heroes on the day.

Last year I looked back at a Veterans’ Day post from 2018.  The post itself was originally delivered as remarks to the Florence County (SC) Republican Party, and was the most affecting of my old “Historical Moments” I’ve ever delivered.

It’s hard to believe that the centennial observance of the Great War has already passed, yet we’re still dealing with the fallout from that terrible war just over a century later.  The more I’m learning about the great Baroque, classical, and Romantic composers of Europe, the more the senseless loss and nihilistic destruction of that conflict weighs on me—and that the shimmering, confident civilization that fostered those composers also destroyed itself.

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SubscribeStar Saturday: 9-11

Today’s post is a SubscribeStar Saturday exclusive.  To read the full post, subscribe to my SubscribeStar page for $1 a month or more.  For a full rundown of everything your subscription gets, click here.

Yesterday I launched Five Dollar Friday, a series of 2020 election series posts for $5 a month and higher subscribers.  Just another perk for my subscribers.

Nineteen years ago yesterday, Al-Qaeda terrorists hijacked four passenger airliners, crashing them into the World Trade Center’s Twin Towers, the Pentagon, and—thanks to the bravery of Americans aboard Flight 93—a field in Pennsylvania.  2977 Americans lost their lives that day, with another 25,000 injured in the aftermath.

I was a junior in high school when the attacks occurred.  My classmates and I first heard about it during trigonometry class with our ancient math teacher, one of those public school double-dippers who was pulling a pension but still teaching (to her credit, she was a good math teacher).  The psychology teacher from across the hall—a large, red-faced woman—burst into the room, blubbering, “They’ve attacked the Pentagon!”

To my shame, the class erupted in laughter.  We weren’t laughing because we thought it was good news—like those Muslims partying on rooftops and those public school kids in New York cheering at the destruction.  We laughed because it was so absurd (it didn’t help that a very rotund, hysterical woman shouted it hysterically).  America, attacked?  Who would do something so foolish?  It was so beyond our comprehension, we couldn’t believe it.

As the day wore on, we realized pretty quickly that something terrible had happened.  I don’t remember if we watched news footage during the day, but we were not sent home early.  Indeed, we had marching band practice that afternoon.  But there were real fears:  would terrorists attempt an attack on the Savannah River Site, where we used to process tritium for nuclear weapons?

My dad was in Pennsylvania at the time at a work conference.  Of course, Flight 93 went down in Pennsylvania, and all air travel was shut down (my German teacher commented on how it was probably the first time since the rise of commercial aviation that no aircraft were in the skies).  Fortunately, he was safe, and road the rails back to South Carolina.  My grandparents were out in the Southwest, and rented a Toyota Camry to drive cross-country (they went on to purchase the vehicle).

In the coming days, we came to find out it was the work of radical Islamic terrorists.  I recall a conversation with friends in which I suggested we ban any travel and immigration from any countries with a majority Muslim population until we got this terrorism threat worked out.  It wasn’t long after that President Bush started in with the “Islam is a religion of peace” nonsense, but there was a brief, albeit very mild, nativist flare-up (when the French refused to join us in the Iraq War, restaurants changed French fries to “freedom fries” on their menus).

It felt like our Pearl Harbor.

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Memorable Monday III: Memorial Day 2019

It’s Memorial Day 2020!  We’re still in The Age of The Virus, but even Blue Staters in Maryland are hitting the beaches.  People have had enough of sitting around in fear.  It’s summertime, baby!

It’s fitting that the day when Americans remember those who gave their lives for our freedom, we’re going out in droves to enjoy it.  I don’t wish The Virus on anyone, and prudence is warranted, but it’s time to get on with our lives.

I’m spending time with family, then am going to take in some of our great State on a leisurely drive home.  There’s not much time for fresh material, so today I’m looking back to last year’s Memorial Day tribute.

Here is 2019’s “Memorial Day 2019“:

It’s Memorial Day here in the United States, which marks the unofficial start of summer.  More importantly, Memorial Day is a federal holiday set aside to remember veterans who have fallen in combat.  The United States observes two other days dedicated to veterans:  Armed Services Day, which honors those men and women currently serving in the armed services; and Veterans’ Day, which honors all American servicemen and women, living, dead, retired, active, etc.

We often hear encomiums this time of year about the numbers of men and women who have died to preserve our freedoms.  These tributes are, of course, true (and, one hopes, heartfelt), and are worth reiterating.

I end every year of my American history courses urging my students to remember how precious their patrimony is, and that liberty is a fragile thing that must be preserved.  I, too, mention the “men and women who gave their lives so that we might be free.”  I then follow that up with noting that, while they hear that sentiment expressed often, they now know (having completed a year of American history) how true it is.

Nevertheless, it’s easy to forget the magnitude of that sacrifice.  In an age where wars are so distant and remote they barely register for us anymore (remember:  we’re still fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan), it’s easy to take our soldiers for granted.  It’s easier, still, to forget the sheer number of combat deaths—750,000 in the American Civil War alone.

To that end, I’ve elected to spare you any further pontificating, and present instead this Wikipedia entry on “United States military casualties of war,” which breaks down the numbers succinctly.  Yet even dry statistics and bar charts speak volumes.

God Bless America!

–TPP

Remembering Ravi Zacharias

On Tuesday this week—19 May 2020—the great Christian apologist and evangelist Ravi Zacharias went Home to Christ.  The obituary on his ministry’s website details the story of his radical conversion to Christianity in a hospital bed in India, where he heard the Gospel while recovering from a suicide attempt, and then on through his remarkable ministry.

Ravi Zacharias brought intellectual heft to Evangelical Protestantism; even his radio program was called Let My People Think.  Zacharias recognized that emotional appeals alone would not always win people to Christ; there had to be compelling reasons for what made Christianity True, not just one religion among many.  The knee-jerk response among Evangelicals (one I have been guilty of many times) is not the bold, intellectual defense of the faith, but denunciations of other faiths in a sort of Truth-by-elimination, something Zacharias warned against in an address in 1983.  From the obituary:

In front of 3,800 evangelists from 133 countries, Zacharias opened with the line, “My message is a very difficult one….” He went on to tell them that religions, 20th-century cultures and philosophies had formed “vast chasms between the message of Christ and the mind of man.” Even more difficult was his message, which received a mid-talk ovation, about his fear that, “in certain strands of evangelicalism, we sometimes think it is necessary to so humiliate someone of a different worldview that we think unless we destroy everything he holds valuable, we cannot preach to him the gospel of Christ…what I am saying is this, when you are trying to reach someone, please be sensitive to what he holds valuable.”

Zacharias profoundly shaped my own walk with Christ.  I am very thankful for my Pentecostal upbringing, which bathed me from the time I was a child in God’s Word.  But Southern Pentecostalism in the 1990s tended to be extremely emotive—I would say, at times, even performative.  The emphasis of the (often agonizingly) long church services of my youth were more about creating an atmosphere of worship—at worst, attempts to tempt the Holy Spirit to move, at best sincere responses to the Moving of the Holy Spirit—than about digging into the hard Truths of the Gospels.

At least, that sometimes seemed the case to my thirteen-year old self, who often wondered what my problem was when I wasn’t getting caught up in everything the way the rest of the congregation was.  But then one of my aunts—probably my Aunt Marilyn, though it could have been my Aunt Cheryl, the best one-eyed piano player in Aiken County—introduced us to Ravi Zacharias in Sunday School.  We did a study using the youth version of Zacharias’s Jesus Among Other Gods, a masterpiece of Christian apologia.

Suddenly, here was a man who debated Ivy League philosophers—and got the better of them!  For a bookish teenager who didn’t always respond to the emotive side of faith, Zacharias was a powerful role model.  Here was a man who thought critically about faith, and who used his intellect to defend ours.  The fact that he came to Christ out of a totally alien culture and religion further demonstrated the power of the Holy Spirit to reach anyone.

I should note that, while the church services were often heavy on emotion, our Sunday School classes were where the deep digging occurred; we didn’t just shut off our brains.  Southern Pentecostalism—probably as a result of its strong Scotch-Irish roots—is inherently skeptical of all worldly claims.  The default position towards the world’s wisdom is critically analytic.  There’s also a scrappy outsider mentality, which, at its best, serves to embolden our tenacity, even if it makes us wary of potential faith allies.  In other words, it wasn’t all just pew-hopping and thirty-minute altar calls:  that plucky skepticism of worldliness is one of the best qualities of my religious upbringing.

But I digress.  Zacharias drew others to a deeper understanding of their faith in Christ.  White House Press Secretary Kayleigh McEnany—talk about a spunky Scotch-Irish fighter!—gave a tearful interview to CBN News in which she detailed Zacharias’s influence:

When asked where the tears were coming from, she explained further. It goes back to her days developing her faith at Oxford University in England of all places.

“To have someone from an academic place, as an apologist could equip you with those arguments where you didn’t have to check your brain at the door when you became a Christian where there is the intellectual foundation for everything we believe,” McEnany explained. “There’s prophecy. There’s the human cell. There’s the amazing creation of the human body and all of its complexity and the planet, the universe.”

“And he put a philosophical and academic rationale for the heart that I had for Christ, but gave me the ability to go to Oxford, where there are renowned atheist scholars who try to say there’s no intellectual undergirding for Christianity,” she continued. “Ravi Zacharias, who happened to have an office at Oxford was the person who provided the counter to that, the intelligence behind why we believe what we believe.”

Amen.  Ravi Zacharias’s influence will reverberate through the lives he won for Christ, and his bold, intellectual defense of Christianity will continue to win souls.

Rest in Peace.