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  First, here is a link to the audio that I listened to, which is free to download: https://librivox.org/old-time-makers-of-medicine-by-jame...

Friday, November 29, 2019

Preparing a Mission Statement

A mission statement is not a creed. A creed should be subscribed to long before a Christian considers writing a mission statement. It is best to form the statement, not by perusing the Scriptures or textbooks, but by drawing on what is understood thus far, with an intention to reform the statement as growth continues. By drawing on one’s mere understanding of what has been learned through the various exercises of grace, one’s journey and goal will be a personal word between a disciple and God—a declaration to be assessed after the statement has been put into practice and has aged awhile. Categories may be written to prompt thought about what a mission statement should contain. For my part, categories naturally emerged after I had written the statement out. My platform line came about as I reflected on the contents of the New Testament, which I had recently read in short order. The new convert should be praying for a mentor to advise him. The more seasoned saint should be praying for converts to guide. 

This mission statement was written on the recovery side of a severe trial, which trial occurred about ten years after my conversion. Provided that I have grown since then, at least in understanding if not pious conduct, I was happy to notice that the statement did not need to be substantially revised fifteen years after it was first drawn up. I had to change a few words for the sake of precision and clarity; that is all.  


Faith in the resurrected Christ who sacrificed himself to God for the remission of my sins.    


By prayer, instruction, and meditation, to avoid sin and to draw closer to the Father, through Jesus Christ, by the Holy Spirit, in order to know what to do, how to do it, and above all, to know the mind of God.  


To close with, in order to save or disciple, whosoever God may choose to put in my way, by any means possible, being all things to all people, so long as I am not morally polluted and the gospel is not compromised; secondarily, to be a force and influence to prevent sin in others, even if the result is no more positive than to restrain their potential punishment in hell.


To ensure that my business is righteous and my home godly, and to be regularly employed in a particular ministry that is in harmony with my gifts and talents, often meditating on, and being on the lookout for, whatever might be done to glorify God and to enlarge his territory, remembering to take notice of those who are neglected indeed, knowing that responsibility, rewards, and stature in heaven depend on how I conduct myself in this life.  


Being mindful of my future state, thinking and acting justly must be attended with right motives, knowing that spontaneity for God is closer to perfection than mere disciplined action, and that spontaneity through disciplined action is even better, being the action known in revelation as ‘first love’; perseverance in the face of tribulation is the greatest work, and, next to all other works combined, is as everything compared to nothing, being the highest exercise of faith.    

Monday, November 11, 2019

Feminists are like Chihuahuas

Feminists are like Chihuahuas. They make a lot of noise to get attention. They rely on others to compensate for their lack of bite. They are envious. And they are spiteful. I know this because we raised Chihuahuas at home when I was a boy.

This one Chihuahua that we had was called Tina. Tina is a good specimen to select for my comparison of feminists to Chihuahuas because, in spite of her positive attributes, she exemplified all the negative Chihuahua traits to a T. When a morsel of meat was put down for her to eat, she approached it with a dainty step. Then, after taking a sniff, she typically turned up her nose, and walked pathetically away. After this the cat would inevitably make an approach toward the morsel, anxious to eat what Tina did not think fit for consumption. But when the cat got close, Tina would threaten the cat and pretend to want the morsel. Tina would then guard the meat and grudgingly lick it to torment the cat. 

The meaning of the parable is this. The morsel is the kind of man that every woman should want: the delicious red-blooded man. The Chihuahua is the feminist who does not want the man unless another woman wants him. She just wants a man as a delicacy to show off and to make other women jealous. The cat is the virtuous woman who actually wants the man, and for the right reasons. 

This is not all though. When the cat became aggressive enough to make a try at getting the morsel, Tina would rush forward and gobble the morsel up. In like manner, the feminist will make her final move on a good man if she sees that a virtuous woman is about to take him.  

After Tina devoured the morsel, I would have to rescue her from choking by massaging her neck to make the food go down. This is like the feminist who, by getting the good man, bites off more than she can chew, which causes her to choke, whereupon the government steps in to rescue her from her choice. Unlike Tina (the parable breaks down at this point), the feminist spits out the man, who, frequently, is either too used up to attract a good woman, or so put off that he never marries again.           

“It is better to dwell in a corner of the housetop, than with a brawling woman in a wide house” (Proverbs 21.9.) Who is more brawling than a bawling feminist?  

Friday, November 8, 2019

Radical Feminists Contemplate Murdering men on CBC Radio

We Pay the CBC $1.5 Billion Dollars Annually so that Radical Feminists Can Discuss Murdering Men on the Air? 

Thanks to Janice Fiamengo at StudioBrule for catching this, and for quoting the man-hater word for word. This is the kind of hatred and incitement to violence that is recruited to guest on the CBC, yes, the CBC that costs taxpayers about 1.5 billion dollars each year. The guest is Mona Eltahawy from the middle-east; the host is Piya Chattopadhyay of East Indian heritage. And this is the Canadian Broadcast Corporation, folks. It exists to import man-hatred, among other evils.

If men spoke like this about women, their medium would be shut down and the men would face charges. 

Women are so oppressed in Canada that they get to talk about murdering men while men are accused of being aggressive just for refusing to sit with their legs together! Women are weaker vessels indeed! They are so weak that they must always be given rights that men don't have. 

One day, hopefully, sins committed at the CBC will be dredged up as an argument to defund it. In any case, the Day of the LORD will not fail to punish hate-filled feminists.

“For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ; that every one may receive the things done in his body, according to that he hath done, whether good or bad” (2 Corinthians 5.10.)

Poppies on a Cross?

Our nation takes time to remember the men who fought and died for our freedom. It is our custom to do so every November 11th. This custom is a gesture of respect for those who deserve to be honored, and it should continue. 

We brethren take time to remember the Savior who suffered and died for our salvation. It is a custom that some churches still observe every Sunday. This custom is in response to a command given by Jesus Christ, and so the custom should continue. 

I’d be confused if I saw a cross on a poppy; and I’m nearly as confused when I see a poppy on a cross. Yes, I can see the analogy of the soldier’s death to that of Christ’s death—his gift of freedom and our freedom in Christ. But what I can’t figure out is why a Christian would put poppies on a cross in an attempt to bring honor to our men of war. 

If you look at the cross, a symbol of Christ’s sacrifice, and you remember men of war rather than the Prince of Peace, or a mixture of the two, I think that takes away from the honor that is due Christ. Especially is this the case when the poppy laden cross stands in the sanctuary, the official place where Jesus Christ is supposed to be honored above, or even to the exclusion of, everyone else. Shall we dishonor the Lord in our attempt to honor military veterans? 

Christ’s first coming had nothing to do with war, and little or nothing to do with democracy or politics. Jesus died for sin in order for sinners to reap an eternity of freedom. But, unlike soldiers, he did not kill anyone or even fight anyone in order to provide this freedom. The symbol of sacrifice that soldiers made should not be applied to the cross, for the cross represents Christ’s sacrifice for sinners, and nothing else. A weaker, or more sensitive, Christian, not to mention an unbeliever, might construe the fusion as equating the death of Christ with the death of sinful men. Commixing these symbols implies that we may elevate the sacrifice of sinful men to the level of sacrifice that Jesus made. At the very least, a cross with poppies on it reminds us of other persons than the One who died on the cross for sin. This fact should be sufficient to discourage the practice of putting poppies on crosses on Remembrance Day. A cross with poppies on it distorts the meaning of the cross. It puts human tradition where it does not belong—on what symbolizes the only satisfactory sacrifice that has ever been made, and that can be made, for sin.

It is debatable whether we should use a cross at all to symbolize the death of Christ. He has given us bread and wine to remember his sacrifice by. But that is a different issue.

Great Preachers Preach Christ Crucified

“For I determined not to know any thing among you, save Jesus Christ, and him crucified” (1 Corinthians 2.2.)

This doctrine is so important that it is stated as making up the whole of evangelical theology. It is a statement that is put into absolute form to emphasize its indispensability. If all the major doctrines are preached, in season and out, with zeal, but the death of Christ is left out, what good will be accomplished? If this verse from Corinthians is true, such preaching will do no good. And if a preacher will not preach the doctrine of Christ crucified, how will it fare with him in the end? Will he not find that Christ never knew him, that the Father never adopted him, and that the Holy Spirit never called him? By leaving this doctrine out of his ministry, he will doom the souls of sinners, along with his own, and he will have hell for his reward.  Many preachers come into Bethlehem, Nazareth, and Jerusalem with their sermons, but they avoid Golgotha, the place of the cross. Angels must have many woes in reserve for ministers who will not preach Christ crucified. There are many more woes to come, no doubt, than the ones that are uttered in the book of Revelation. Is it not reasonable to preach the blood of the new covenant as often as the blood of bulls and goats was spilled under the old dispensation? In every century since the incarnation, ranks of pious men have marched up to the cross in answer to God’s call, to preach new life into souls by preaching the death of Christ; they have done so after the manner of Paul the apostle, whose example has been ratified by God as worthy to follow. The effect of his preaching is the proof of it. Ministers are exhorted to imitate and follow the example of Paul. The apostle asserts that he has preached Christ crucified as if nothing else matters; to follow his example is as reasonable as obeying a command from God.    

What is the Meaning of Christ Crucified?

Martyn Lloyd-Jones (1899-1981) ‘asked for this [verse] to be carved on his tombstone.’ He has this to say about it: “Think of it like this. Why did the Son of God ever come into this world? Why did he leave the courts of glory? Why was he born as a little babe? Why did he take unto him human nature? There is only one answer. He came because man could not save himself…‘The Son of man is come to seek and to save that which was lost’ (Luke 19:10.) And when I look at that cross and see him dying there, what he tells me is this: you have nothing whereof to boast. The cross tells me that I am a complete failure, and that I am such a failure that he had to come from heaven, not merely to teach and preach in this world, but to die on that cross. Nothing else could save us.”

Martin Luther (1483-1546) was so haunted by the devil for his doctrine and life that he threw his inkpot at him on one occasion. About this doctrine, he says, “The atonement is the chief, the most exalted, article of the Christian doctrine. Faith alone apprehends it as the highest good, the greatest blessing, of our salvation, and recognizes that we cannot, by our works or our sufferings, do or merit anything in atoning for sin.” ('Atonement' means a satisfactory reparation for wrongs committed, which is done for sinful man by Christ to reconcile him to God: the blood of Christ as the covering for sin being the only satisfaction thereto, the only satisfaction to reconcile sinners to God, Editor.)

Jonathan Edwards (1703-1758) was a man, who, ‘by the concurrent voice of all who have perused his writings, is assigned one of the first, if not the very first place, amongst the masters of human reason.’ About Christ crucified, he says, “The death of Christ did not only make atonement, but also merited eternal life; and hence we may see how by the blood of Christ we are not only redeemed from sin, but redeemed unto God…This precious blood is as much the main price by which heaven is purchased, as it is the main price by which we are redeemed from hell…He spilled his blood to satisfy, and by reason of the infinite dignity of his person, his sufferings were looked upon as of infinite value, and equivalent to the eternal sufferings of a finite creature. And he spilled his blood out of respect to the honour of God’s majesty, and in submission to his authority, who had commanded him so to do.” (The words 'redeem' and 'purchase' mean the same thing: 'to buy back,' Editor.)

Robert Murray M’Cheyne (1813-1843) had this for a prayer about his ministry: “I fear the love of applause, or effect…May God keep me from preaching myself, instead of Christ crucified.” His prayer was answered, and he preached, “Here is a being hanging between earth and heaven—forsaken by his God—without a smile—without a drop of comfort—the agonies of hell going over him; and yet he loves the God that has forsaken him. He does not cry out, Cruel, cruel Father!—no, but with all the vehemence of affection, cries out, ‘My God, my God.’ Dear, dear souls, is this your surety? Do you take him as obeying for you? Ah! then, you are complete in him.”


William Grimshaw (b. 1708) drew walkers from ten to twenty miles away each Sunday to hear him preach. He confessed to God, “My sins have reached unto heaven, and mine iniquities have been lifted up unto the skies. My base corruptions and lusts have numberless ways wrought to bring forth fruit unto death, and if thou wert extreme to mark what I have done amiss, I could never abide it…I am convinced of my sin and folly…I am…sensible of my vileness and unworthiness, but yet sensible that I am thy pardoned, justified, and regenerated child in the spirit and the blood of my dear and precious Saviour, Jesus Christ, by clear experience.”

John Hooper (1495-1555) was burned by the Roman Catholic Church for his beliefs, being ‘three quarters of an hour or more in the fire’ before he expired. He confessed, “I do believe and confess that Christ’s condemnation is mine absolution; that His crucifying is my deliverance; His descending into hell is mine ascending into heaven; His death is my life; His blood is my cleansing, and purging, by whom only I am washed, purified, and cleansed from all my sins: so that I neither receive, neither believe any other purgatory, either in this world or in the other, whereby I may be purged, but only the blood of Jesus Christ, by which all are purged and made clean for ever.” (All are purged of sin that renounce it and turn to the Saviour for the cleansing, Editor.)

Daniel Rowlands (1713-1790) caused ‘smiles and tears running down the face of all’ by his preaching. He confessed, “Except your consciences be cleansed by the blood of Christ, you must all perish in the eternal fires.”

William Romaine (1714-1795), ‘at the age of eighty-one, was evidently preaching at least three days in every week!’ He confessed, “There is but one central point, in which we must all meet—Jesus Christ and him crucified.” (Which reply he made shortly before his death, Editor.)


Thursday, November 7, 2019

Great Preachers Preach Justification by Faith

“Therefore we conclude that a man is justified by faith without the deeds of the law” (Romans 3.28.)

Justification by Faith

This is the doctrine that was reemphasized during the Reformation; indeed, it was one of the fundamental causes of it. The doctrine took hold of a lowly Catholic monk by the name of Martin Luther (1483-1546), to the horror of the pope and to the unsettlement of popery. It is a principle in every revival; it is the grand tenet of Paul the apostle in his weighty letter to ‘all that be in Rome.’ Justification is as necessary for the salvation of a soul as the blood of atonement, the resurrection of Christ, and the regeneration of man. To be justified is to be declared righteous, through faith in Jesus Christ, whose righteousness it is that we need to our account. A sinner is not forgiven who is not justified. Without being forgiven of sin there is no peace with God and no inheriting his kingdom. Without being justified, we must bear our own guilt, and hell must be our destiny. Great preachers preach justification by faith. I will ‘improve’ the doctrine, as they used to say, by the use of some of my best books.     

Why Not Justified by Works?

Stephen Charnock (1628-1680) authored what may be the most reverent book since the Bible was composed, The Existence and Attributes of God. It was said that his ‘rhetoric was masculine and vigorous, such as became a pulpit.’ About justification by works, he says, “As though a small service could make him [God] wink at our sins, and lay aside the glory of his nature; when alas! the best duties in the most gracious persons in this life, are but as the steams of a spiced dung-hill, a composition of myrrh and froth, since there are swarms of corruption in their nature, and secret sins that they need a cleansing from.” Justification must be by faith. 

What is Faith?

C. H. Spurgeon (1834-1892) ‘preached Christ to every class of hearer and Christ as the only need of every heart.’ He gives a concise definition of faith: “I pray you to remember that genuine faith that saves the soul has for its main element—trust—absolute rest of the whole soul—on the Lord Jesus Christ to save me.”

John Wesley’s (1703-1791) design was ‘to deliver to others the naked truth of the gospel.’ Here is his definition of faith: “The faith I want is a sure trust and confidence in God that through the merits of Christ my sins are forgiven, and I reconciled to the favour of God.”

How Does Faith Justify?

Thomas Vincent (1634-1678) has been ‘long remembered for his fearless preaching amidst the dying multitudes of London in the Great Plague of 1665.’ About justifying faith, he says, “Faith doth not justify as a work in us, but as an instrument which applieth the perfect righteousness of Christ without us [outside of us, in the heavenly court of God], whereby we are justified.” (Our justification springs from the obedience and death of Jesus Christ—from that sacrifice his righteousness transfers to us in a declaration: when we believe on Jesus for the remission of our sins. To be declared righteous by God, that is to be justified; the righteousness of Jesus is our justification, Editor.)

Whosoever has this Faith, how much is he Justified?

William Perkins (1558-1602) had an ‘enormous impact on generations of preachers of the gospel.’ He was one of the earliest puritans. About the sufficiency of justification by faith, he says, “Indeed, he is so justified by Christ that he is no longer a sinner in God’s presence or in his reckoning.” (Though on earth, until the kingdom comes, his behavior is imperfect, and his sanctification incomplete, Editor.)

How is Justification by Faith Obtained?

William Perkins: “1. By denying and rejecting your own righteousness, which is done by repentance. 2. By claiming and clinging to Christ’s righteousness, which is done by faith.” (Faith and repentance imply each other—they are always together, Editor.)

What if I Want Faith, Confidence, or Trust, or to Believe, but Cannot?

William Perkins: “The will to believe is itself faith (Psa. 145.19; Rev. 21.6.)” (That is, a real anxious will, not a half-hearted wish, Editor.)

Thomas Manton (1620-1677) was ‘endowed with an extraordinary knowledge in the Scriptures.’ About a sinner’s ability to believe, he says, “The grace God gives to men, to convert them, it is not a power to be converted, repent, and believe, if they will; no, but he gives repentance, he gives faith, and works so as the effect shall succeed: he works efficaciously and determinately, so as to oppose all the resistance of the will, and accomplish his work.” (Therefore look up God’s promises and plead for them, and depend on him to do his work in you, Editor.)

How Does Faith Face Death?

Samuel Ward (1577-1639) was ‘that famous divine and the glory of Ipswich [in England].’ About facing death, he says, “It is possible for Pharaoh, with much ado, to stand out the storms of hail, the swarm of flies and lice; but, when once the cry of death is in the houses, then is there no way but yielding; his enchanters and mountebanks could abide the cry of frogs and other such vermin, but this basilisk affrights them. Only faith takes it by the tail, handles it, and turns it into a harmless wand; yea, into a rod budding with glory and immortality.”

A Word of Warning

Augustus Toplady (1740-1778) produced writings that “contain ‘thoughts that breathe and words that burn.’” He warned, “Perhaps you have in reality some secret reserves in favour of that very self-righteousness which you profess to renounce, and are thinking that Christ’s merits alone will not save you unless you add something or other to make it effectual. Oh, be not so deceived! God will not thus be mocked, nor will Christ thus be insulted with impunity.”

A Word of Assurance

John Berridge (1716-1793) ‘would often preach twelve times, and ride a hundred miles in a week.’ About assurance, he says, “Remember also that salvation does not depend on the strength of faith, but the reality of it. In the gospels, Jesus often rebukes weak faith, but never rejects it. Weak faith brings but little comfort, yet is as much entitled to salvation as strong.”


Tuesday, November 5, 2019

A Closer Look at Joan Didion


Having read six of Joan Didion’s essays in an anthology, four of which I admired, I picked up an early edition of Slouching Towards Bethlehem from a second hand book store. That was over twenty years ago when, on second thought, I threw the copy away without reading it because the title of the book offended my sensitive faith. “How could anyone slouch towards Bethlehem?” I thought at the time, “where the Saviour of the world was born!” Christians ought always to be that sensitive, even if it means missing out. I don’t remember if I noticed that the title was borrowed from a poem by Yeats. But knowing that it came from there would not have lessened the offense.   

The essays in the book are from 1961-1968. The edition that I have this time is from 2008. It will be thrown out as well, only this time I will have read the contents first. Nothing of value would have been missed had I never read this book. Many offensive words and nasty allusions had been avoided (pp. 31, 50, 88, 89, 91, 97, 156), and at least one instance of the Lord’s name taken in vain (p. 224.) What a picky critic am I! Yes, though not picky enough; the main reason for doing this review is to point out that what is hailed as great prose is not only less than great by a great margin, but foul, foolish, and profane. 

After reading each essay, I wrote down my immediate point-form thoughts. I will begin with that. ‘Some Dreamers of the Golden Dream’—: About a woman who murders her husband; more eloquent than average, though with some failed attempts; paints the landscape well; finishes well; either the story is uninteresting, or uninterestingly told, perhaps both. ‘John Wayne: A Love Song’—: About a dialogue including John Wayne; you can hear it well; well written; would be hard to get right; pretty uninteresting. ‘Where the Kissing Never Stops’—: Stupid title has nothing to do with the essay; about Joan Baez and the leftist life of neurotic indolence. ‘Comrade Laski’—: About an obscure Communist in the USA; revealing of how radical Didion is. ‘7000 Romaine, Los Angeles 38’—: Loosely about Howard Hughes; boring, vague stuff. ‘California Dreaming’—: About a think-tank Center where bad ideas are peddled in exchange for lavish payments. ‘Marrying Absurd’—: About dodging the draft by getting married in Las Vegas. ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’—: About hippies in San Francisco and the stupid things they say while high; no one seems to work, including Didion, who is among them; worthless all the way. ‘On Keeping a Notebook’—: About justifying writing things down in a notebook, which things appear trivial or absurd later; she’s kind of neurotic; she is an habitual observer, though, wondering about people she sees year after year as she goes through the motions of life: the ones she sees but does not know, that is; I do that too; the essay is sparse. ‘On Self-Respect’—: Ambiguous observations on self-respect, which virtue is poorly understood. ‘I Can’t Get that Monster out of my Mind’—: About film production in Hollywood; some okay observations. ‘On Morality’—: A poor essay on how no one has moral authority. ‘On Going Home’—: Quite well considered from a woman in her thirties; nicely nostalgic and thoughtful vis-à-vis going home after some years of being an adult on one’s own. ‘Notes from a Native Daughter’—: About the Sacramento Valley; uninteresting all the way. ‘Letter from Paradise’—: About recent history in Hawaii, circa WW2; some well placed words; very boring. ‘Rock of Ages’—: Not bad; about Alcatraz being an okay island to live on after its closure. ‘The Seacoast of Despair’—: Pretentious anti-industry essay; vague. ‘Guaymas, Sonora’—: A lame essay about a trip that Didion took to Mexico. ‘Los Angeles Notebook’—: Loosely about Santa Ana winds; disconnected piece; could have been written by someone in an asylum. ‘Goodbye to All That’—: Still seems excellent; nostalgic about youth; she reveals more, I think, than she intends.

The essay that the collection is named after is not about Bethlehem. But it is, inadvertently perhaps, about slouching. It is an essay about lazy hippies in San Francisco and the ‘hip’ things they say, like, “God died last year and was obited by the press” (p. 104.) It’s about how slouches live, Didion not excluded. “Almost everybody I meet in San Francisco,” she admits, “has to go to court at some point in the middle future” (p. 89.) It’s about the indolence of waiting for something to happen: “Something. Anything” (p. 98.) It’s about pretentious leftists eating what’s ‘macrobiotic’ (pp. 87, 112) and doing ‘blackface’ around ‘Negroes’ (pp. 125, 126.) It’s about aimless teenagers like Jeff who have left home because life at home was so oppressive. “For example I had chores,” he says. “If I didn’t finish ironing my shirts for the week I couldn’t go out for the weekend. It was weird. Wow” (p. 91.) It’s about the idea of a ‘guaranteed annual wage’ (p. 100), which is now, decades later, being called the ‘living wage.’ The lesson here is that bad ideas live on in new forms in the hope that one day they will be imposed. It’s about a five year old being given ‘acid and peyote’ (pp. 127, 128.) How can an author write about something like that without condemning it? How can she be a silent witness to a child that age being high? There is no indication that she called for help, even though she brags about having had, at the time, ‘an unofficial taboo contact with the San Francisco Police Department’ whom she sometimes met on the sly, she would have us believe, as an informer would do (p. 115.) The essay is also about, thankfully, people being ‘unconscious instruments of values they would strenuously reject on a conscious level’ (p. 113.) I say ‘thankfully’ because that is a good observation. The best example I can think of to corroborate the observation is the unconscious acceptance of abortion turning to conscious revulsion and repudiation once it is understood what abortion involves. This frequently happens, as Lila Rose’s anti-abortion movement has demonstrated. I give the example to make up for Didion’s lack of supply. As poor as this essay is, it is the only one in which can be found a moral analysis. Though she does it in a loose, flaccid way, Didion points to the loss of family connection as the cause of haphazard living among the youth (p. 123.) Her solution for purposelessness, though, is ‘mastery of language.’ Thinking for oneself may depend somewhat on mastery of language, like she says. But what good will language and thinking do without a moral base of beliefs? She was on gin and Dexedrine while writing this essay. Dexedrine may be a cognitive enhancer. But Dexedrine needs more knowledge to work with than what a thirty-something Didion has got. ‘Slouching Towards Bethlehem’ is one of the most boring essays in the collection and one of the most barren that I have ever read; ten out of the twenty are no better; ‘all of them were hard to do’ and ‘papered with false starts’ (p. xiii.) Out of twenty essays, only two are worth reading. The rest are not worth the ink that it took to pen them. And that judgmental sentence is better prose than what 99% of the book contains.

When there is no moral base from which to reason, an author—or any person for that matter—is apt to mess up a good moral point. It is true, for example, that self-respect is not about gaining approval from others; and that a self-respectful person will sacrifice, if need be, his reputation (p. 143.) It is also true that self-respect springs from accepting responsibility (p. 145.) But is it self-respectful to not seek ‘absolution’ from the party that is hurt after adultery has been chosen? (Ibid.) That moral philosophy is poor indeed which calls this kind of behavior self-respectful! Joan Didion is seldom opinionated. When she does opine, she is usually off the mark because she has no declination for her compass. Her thoughts are not oriented to a biblical worldview, which worldview rightly preaches that the good you would have people do for you is the good that you should do for your neighbor. If you do evil to your neighbor instead of good, therefore, you do not love yourself as you should, for you are, by such behavior, inviting the same evil upon yourself. The deduction, then, is to ask forgiveness from the party that you have wronged. This would be more self-respectful than to remain haughtily inconsiderate. There are two possible reasons why Didion seldom judges anything. She does not want to seem traditional and moral, and certainly not Christian; and she does not want to draw ire from the irrationally judgmental left. She seems okay with anything, condemns nothing, and is careful (though not careful enough) to come short of prescribing something.             

While charting my course for this review, my notes began to crowd around the pattern that emerged: the subversive philosophy that we call cultural Marxism. Because of the content, and especially since ‘almost all of the pieces here were written for magazines’ (p. xii), I agree with the people who called Joan Didion a ‘media poisoner’ back in the day (p. 114.) What is cultural Marxism? Cultural Marxism is the philosophy of Marx in a sophisticated, experimental form. It is practiced by those who are always accusing others of being ‘fascists’ (p. 77), and it is what has given rise to Antifa, one of the domestic terrorist groups of our day. Cultural Marxism includes the idea that we ‘deserve better and better’ (p. 76); that is, without working for it. Cultural Marxism is when Joan Baez rears a weird school of ‘Nonviolence’ for Berkeley-type protesters, driving property values down (pp. 42-45, 48.) Joan Baez was, like Greta Thunberg is now, a ‘pawn of the protest movement’ (p. 47.) That is what cultural Marxists do. They pick someone who has talent or who can draw sympathy, and they agitate through her in order to quash liberty and destabilize capitalism. Like Baez says about herself, and like it is for Greta Thunberg, they have it ‘pretty easy’ (p. 58.) They are made comfortable by a capitalist system; but for the sake of Communism they work to destroy it. Even a small ‘shotgun-shell manufacturing business’ is unacceptable (p. 50.) Cultural Marxists are offended by ‘American flags’ (p. 59); with Didion, they sit under ‘the hammer-and-sickle flag and the portraits of Marx, Engels, Mao Tse-tung, Lenin, and Stalin’ to discuss revolution (p. 62.) And note that Mao, the deadliest one in the list, is in ‘the favored center position’ (Ibid.) Joan Didion would likely say that hers was a journalistic role, and she would get a pass even if she refused to disavow the radical association. But what happens when Faith Goldy goes on podcast radio merely to interview men who lean white? She is shunned even by most conservatives. Faith Goldy is not a supremacist of any kind, while Joan Didion sits comfortably with a man who wants revolution by violence in order to establish Maoism in the USA! “Michael Laski…believes with Mao that political power grows out of the barrel of a gun, a point he insists upon with blazing and self-defeating candor,” she writes (p. 62.) This means that Laski likes the idea of revolution by violence, and wants it to be the way. What does Didion say to that? “As it happens I am comfortable with the Michael Laskis of the world, with those who live outside rather than in, those in whom the sense of dread is so acute that they turn to extreme and doomed commitments…Michael Laski…did not feel as close to me as I did to him” (pp. 62, 63.) My ellipses do not, I assure you, alter the true sense. Do her words not express true love for the Communist cause? Might there not be a latent desire here, even, for a repeat, if necessary to bring Communism about, of the Maoist nightmare that killed tens of millions of people? She ought to be challenged to do some disavowing. To be comfortable with an avowed Communist is to be comfortable with Communism, is it not? Joan Didion was, I believe, and probably still is, a hard-line Communist, as all cultural Marxists are. Cultural Marxism is just progress toward the iron fisted ideal. She writes in a detached way; but she is not merely an objective observer. Her journalism may be distant and cold; but it is often cozy with the worst aspects of what she reports on. I am judging her as a woman in her thirties, for it was then that she wrote what’s inside this book. But has she ever recanted what she sits comfortable with in these essays? There are many ‘conversations with’ Joan Didion on YouTube. How friendly and informal! She deserves to be interviewed by someone who will ask her some tough questions before she dies. How hard is it to read her book, mark it up, have it ready, and then quote her own words to her before saying, “You were at ease with revolutionary Communists in your thirties. Are you still attracted to them?” Or how about, “Do you disavow the Bolshevik-style revolution that you seem to have endorsed in your essay on Comrade Laski?” Why should it be okay for one person to sit with, and express admiration for, a Communist if it is not okay for the next person to interview a Neo-Nazi? Has Communism not been the avenue to more horror than its socialist cousin? 

I do not believe that cultural Marxists are necessarily aiming for a dreamy kind of Communism. They would settle for something less—something like the Communism of China or even North Korea. They like power and control more than liberty and comfort. They would rather control in slight discomfort than be perfectly comfortable but have no one to control. They always believe that they themselves will be members of the controlling elite. They think this way because they are gullible enough to believe they are the favored persons that their friends assure them they are.      

On the back cover blurb we read that these essays embody ‘the essential portrait of America—particularly California—in the sixties.’ Unless this portrait is how hippie culture merged with cultural Marxism—which connection hit me like the proverbial thunderbolt—the portrait is faint. There are signs of the times in these essays; but few of them are noteworthy. In 1967 ‘the market was steady and the G.N.P. high’ (p. 84.) ‘The Shadow’ is obviously a reference to a radio drama of that day (p. 68.) It was still customary to use the male pronoun when speaking generically (p. xiii.) A ‘traditional straight wedding’ (p. 112) was not in distinction from a gay one. Blacks were called ‘Negroes’ (p. 126.) Natives were called ‘Indians’ (p. 146.) It was not unusual to cinch underwear with safety pins (p. 144.) Surfboarding was relatively new to California, the pastime having come from Hawaii (p. 189.) And, as Didion shockingly found out, some people still considered it indecent to wear a bikini to the market (pp. 222, 223.)

I doubt that Joan Didion realizes, even after five decades of dissemination, what these essays reveal. Not only are they a primer on cultural Marxism, they are a self-revelation of Joan Didion. Miss Baez, she says, is better looking ‘than her photographs suggest, since the camera seems to emphasize an Indian cast to her features’ (p. 44.) The ‘New Left’ (p. 62) would have to call her a racist for that comment. “Men paid for Newport,” she says, “and granted to women the privilege of living in it” (p. 211.) The New Left would have to call her a misogynist. She wrote the word ‘fag’ in her book (p. 223.) The New Left would have to call her homophobic and would have to ban her book. It was by virtue of getting married that she acquired furniture and a rescue from despair (pp. 232, 237.) The New Left should not be impressed by such a reliance on patriarchy. So Joan Didion had her needs met by a man, without whom she might have been swallowed up by destitution and depression in New York City. “I would sit in the apartment on Seventy-fifth Street paralyzed until my husband would call from his office and say gently that I did not have to get dinner” (p. 237.) That is not the woman we see on the cover of this book though! No, on the cover of this book is the picture of a self-made woman with trendy sunglasses on—a bold woman looking forward with a clenched jaw—a strong woman who must have needed no man to save her from anything! Maybe her depression in New York City had something to do with the base people that she had for friends. “It seemed that the last time he had gone to a party where he had been promised ‘new faces,’ there had been fifteen people in the room, and he had already slept with five of the women and owed money to all but two of the men. I laughed with him….” (p. 228.)       

William Smart, as the editor of Eight Modern Essayists, calls Didion’s style economical and elliptical. This is his way of finding something good to say about a style that is dull and disjointed. She has better than average moments, however. ‘Because I had been tired too long and quarrelsome too much and too often frightened’ (p. 187) is a smashing start for a sentence. Her repeated allusion to Robert Frost’s most famous poem is suitably applied to her life (pp. 230, 233.) Sailors on their way to war being ‘no longer in Des Moines and not yet in Danang’ (p. 195) is a poignant way of saying it. When one of her essays animates the reader—at least this reader—it is not so much in how she says something as in what she says. This is why I enjoyed ‘On Going Home’ and ‘Goodbye to All That’ both times I read them, over twenty years apart. Both essays are insightful and nostalgic from the perspective of a decade into adulthood. They are about the realization that youth and time do not stand still after all. “You see I was in a curious position in New York: it never occurred to me that I was living a real life there. In my imagination I was always there for just another few months….” (p. 230.) That’s life in one’s twenties. The novelty that I appreciated concerns vocabulary. These are the words that the essays introduced me to: sotto voce (under the breath), bonhomie, bouvardia, curlicue, anomie, atavistic, factitious, arriviste, ineluctably, and plash (pp. 21, 75, 82, 110, 154, 160, 162, 203, 211.) 

On the final page of one of the essays, I wrote: Obviously the essays that I liked years ago must have been selected from a lot of trash; there is no good reason for most of these essays to have been written. She admits, at least, that they ‘took more time than perhaps they were worth’ (p. xiii.) There is a very good reason, though, which I did not at first perceive, for reading and reviewing this book. That reason is to highlight who Joan Didion is and what cultural Marxism is. Because she and her writings are celebrated, their maleficent character should be exposed as much as they are espoused. It may be that Joan Didion has written essays to rival the few good ones of hers that I have read. But I will not, I’m pretty sure, be looking for them. 

How do essays of this character and merit go from being in magazines to being in a book? For whatever reason—probably a legal one—it is confessed in the Acknowledgments that much renaming has occurred since the essays appeared in magazines. Is it not likely that renaming some of the articles is a tactic to get readers to buy what they’ve already read? Why, for example, would an essay called ‘Just Folks at a School for Non-Violence’ be changed to ‘Where the Kissing Never Stops’? The original title tells us what to expect; the new one not only has nothing to do with what’s inside, but gives the reader no idea that he might have already read the piece. If an essay is not presented with its original title, should we not suspect that the reason might be a monetary one? If an admirer of Joan Didion looks over the contents page, is he not more likely to buy the book upon seeing that six of the essays must be new ones? If this bit of speculation is not wholly on the mark, neither is the speculation idle. Based on having read little more of Joan Didion than these twenty essays, I boldly surmise that had Didion remained ‘paralyzed by the conviction that writing was an irrelevant act’ (p. xi), the world of literature, as well as the readers of it, would not have suffered much from the omission.