Thursday, December 5, 2013
A year ago at this time (the first week in Dec.) my posting was about “God’s Samurai.” That was what Capt. Mitsuo Fuchida, the lead pilot of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, was called after he later became a Christian. This column is more about that same story, but it centers on Jacob DeShazer, a member of the U.S. Army Air Corps on that fateful day of Dec. 7, 1941.
DeShazer, born in Oregon in 1912, enlisted in the Air Corps in 1940 and rose to the rank of sergeant in 1941. He was stationed in Washington at the time of the Pearl Harbor attack, but shortly thereafter he, along with other members of the 17th Bomb Group, volunteered to join a special unit that was formed to attack Japan. They soon acquired the name “Doolittle’s Raiders” after their famous commander, Lt. Col. Jimmy Doolittle.
In April 1942, DeShazer and his fellow crew members were forced to parachute into enemy territory when their B-25 ran out of fuel. He was captured the very next day by Japanese soldiers and consequently spent some 40 months in P.O.W. camps (both in Japan and China)—and 34 of those months in solitary confinement. During his long, painful ordeal as a prisoner, in May 1944 he was able to get a copy of the Bible. Reading it brought about a great change in his way of thinking.
At the end of the war in August 1945, DeShazer was freed and able to go back to the U.S. He soon decided that he wanted to go into missionary work and began to prepare for that ministry at Seattle Pacific College. During this time he wrote a short account of his experiences, calling it “I Was a Prisoner of Japan.” That story was printed as a Christian tract, and more than a million copies were distributed to the Japanese people.
It was a copy of DeShazer’s tract that Timothy Pietsch gave to Capt. Fuchida that eventually led to his becoming a Christian. (As I wrote last year, Pietsch was the son-in-law of C. K. Dozier, founder of Seinan Gakuin, the school complex where I taught in Japan. In May of this year, I heard this story directly from Pietsch’s son Kelsey, who was visiting Seinan Gakuin at the same time I was.)
“From Pearl Harbor to Calvary” (2011) is the title of the English translation of Fuchida’s autobiography. Florence DeShazer wrote the Introduction and refers to her husband as Jake. She concludes: “The autobiography that follows tells the full story of my husband’s dear friend, Mr. Mitsuo Fuchida, a man who, like Jake, was completely transformed by the Lord and preached and lived a message of forgiveness.”
In his book Fuchida tells that after he finished reading DeShazer’s story, he thought, “If a Bible could change his life, it might change mine.” So the next day he bought a Bible and began reading it. And when he read about the crucifixion of Jesus, he realized there was “the source of this miracle of love that can forgive enemies!”
“Forgiving Everything” is the subtitle of the story of DeShazer as told by Ace Collins in his book “Stories Behind Men of Faith” (2009). He is also the subject of a children’s book, written by Janet and Geoff Benge and published with the subtitle “Forgive Your Enemies” (2009).
DeShazer lived to be 95 years old, passing away in March 2008. His long life of loving and forgiving is worth considering well as once again recall the tragic events of 12/7/41.
Saturday, November 30, 2013
Fritzz Eichenberg is a man worth knowing about, so let me tell you a bit about him in case you are not familiar with him. Born in Cologne, Germany, in 1901, Eichenberg became an outstanding illustrator who worked mostly in wood engraving. He died 13 years ago today, on Nov. 30, 1990, in Rhode Island.
Eichenberg’s best-known works are concerned with religion, social justice and nonviolence. Some of those are collected in a nicely-done volume published by Orbis Books in 1992 under the title “Works of Mercy” (WM).
That impressive book includes meditations by Gandhi, Dorothy Day, Thomas Merton and others. Eichenberg’s comments focus on the meaning of Christ’s life—especially his message of peace and his compassion for the poor and downtrodden.
Many of the inspiring wood engravings reproduced in the book appeared at one time in “The Catholic Worker” (about which I wrote here back in May). Eichenberg met Dorothy Day at a Quaker conference in 1949 and was her friend and supporter from that time until her death in 1980.
A public critic of the Nazis after the rise of Adolf Hitler, Eichenberg emigrated to the U.S. in 1933. Following the unexpected death of his wife in 1937, he turned briefly to the practice of Zen Buddhism and then became a Quaker in 1940—and he remained a Quaker until his death 50 years later.
During his long and prolific career as a book illustrator, he especially drew for books with elements of great spiritual and emotional conflict or social satire. He is known especially for his illustrations of works by Dostoyevsky, Tolstoy, and the Brontë sisters.
I recently purchased a used copy of the 1943 edition of “Jane Eyre” by Charlotte Brontë. There are numerous, and compelling, wood cut illustrations by Eichenberg in it, and I am looking forward to reading it before long, partly to enjoy Eichenberg’s pictures along the way.
But it is his religious illustrations that I appreciate most. His “Lord’s Supper” (1953; p. 85 in WM) is one of my favorites. I have seen it on the wall at the Catholic Worker house in Kansas City, and I have read that it hangs on the wall of almost every Catholic Worker house.
Another of my favorites is “Peaceable Kingdom” (1950; p. 99 of WM), based on Isaiah 11:6-8.
With the beginning of Advent begins tomorrow, let us join in praying that the vision of the prophet, captured so appealingly by Eichenberg, might become more and more a reality through the Prince of Peace, whose birth we celebrate in less than a month from now.
If, as is often said, a picture is worth a thousand words, Fritz Eichenberg spoke much, and elegantly, through his lifetime of outstanding works of art. I highly recommend “Works of Mercy” for your consideration.
Monday, November 25, 2013
This article is not about Republicans in general. Rather it is particularly about the Republicans in the U.S. Congress.
The record of these Republican Congresspersons over the last three years has been quite consistent: they have almost unanimously opposed nearly everything the President has proposed.
There has always been political division in the country, but perhaps there has never been as much polarity as there is now.
In the Senate, the Democrats became so frustrated last week that they even used the “nuclear option” and changed the rules for approving nominations for executive and judicial positions.
That was not necessarily a good thing. But neither is the ceaseless obstructionism that led to that extreme, and possibly unwise, decision.
In particular, I am raising the question about what are Republican lawmakers thinking in their ongoing, obdurate opposition to positions that the large majority of U.S. citizens, including Republicans, are for.
Consider four such issues: (1) legislation to outlaw hiring/firing discrimination against gays/lesbians, (2) immigration reform, (3) background checks for those who want to purchase guns, and (4) raising the minimum wage.
(1) On Nov. 7, the Senate passed the Employment Non-Discrimination Act (ENDA) by a vote of 64-32. (One of the negative votes was by Republican Senator Blunt of Mo.) But at this point, Rep. Boehner has refused to bring the bill up for a vote in the Republican dominated House.
A recent Gallup poll found that nationwide ENDA is supported by 63% of the citizens nationwide, with only 31% opposing it. Even among Republicans, there were 58% in favor and only 36% in opposition.
(2) Back in June, the Senate passed an immigration bill by a 68-32. (The negative votes were all by Republicans, including Senator Blunt.)
But it has yet to be approved by the House, even though earlier this year a CNN poll showed that 84% of the public (78% of the Republicans) backs a program that would allow undocumented workers to stay in the United States and apply for citizenship if they have been in the country for several years, have a job, and pay back taxes.
(3) The tragic school shootings at Sandy Hook were nearly a year ago. There were outcries across the nation for more stringent gun control. In April the Senate bill to extend background checks received 54 votes—but was killed by a Republican filibuster.
A subsequent Gallup poll then indicated that 65% of Americans thought that Senate bill should have passed; only 29% thought it shouldn’t have.
(4) Back in March, Senator Harkin (D-IA) proposed the Fair Minimum Wage Act of 2013, calling for an increase from the current $7.25 to $10.10. This month after passing ENDA, the Senate began to consider Sen. Harkin’s bill along with other possibilities.
This month, a Gallup poll indicated that U.S. citizens favor raising the minimum wage to at least $9.00 by a margin of 76% to 22% (and 58% to 39% among Republicans). But the Senate has yet to come up with anything that they think will be able to clear an expected Republican filibuster.
So here are four hot issues with overwhelming public support for change but which are opposed by Republicans in Congress—which leads again to my question: What can they be thinking?
And how can they claim to be representing the citizens of the country when they keep opposing what a large majority of the citizens are for?
Of course another pertinent question is this: Why do people keep electing lawmakers who do not vote according to the desires of the majority of the American people?
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
Few Americans fail to remember that November 22, 1963, was the date of the assassination of President Kennedy. And the public media has already widely publicized the upcoming 50th anniversary of that tragic event.
Some Christians will remember that Nov. 22, 1963, was also the day on which C.S. Lewis, the noted British author, passed away. And the cover story of this month’s “Christianity Today” magazine is about Lewis.
Fewer will remember that on that very same day, another noted writer died. That was Aldous Huxley, an Englishman best known as the author of the novel “Brave New World” (1932).
At the time of their deaths, Huxley was 69, Lewis a week shy of his 65th birthday, and Kennedy only 46.
Peter Kreeft has been a professor of philosophy at Boston College since 1965. He is the author of nearly 70 books, one of them being “Between Heaven and Hell: A Dialogue Somewhere beyond Death with John F. Kennedy, C.S. Lewis & Aldous Huxley” (1982; 2nd ed., 2008).
Kreeft (b. 1937) claims that the three most basic worldviews are what he calls Christian theism, Eastern pantheism, and modern Western humanism or secularism. And those three viewpoints were well represented, he thinks, by Lewis, Huxley, and Kennedy. So his book is about the confrontation of ideas springing from those three competing worldviews.
Since Kreeft is a Catholic, who interestingly enough became a convert to Catholicism when he was a student at Calvin College, he pictures the three men who died on 11/22/63 meeting for a lengthy discussion in Purgatory.
(It is a bit puzzling, though, to speak of Purgatory as “between Heaven and Hell,” for according to Catholic doctrine that is a place of purification for those bound for Heaven, not a way station for people headed to Hell.)
In reality, Kreeft may have “fudged” a little: I am not at all sure Kennedy’s Catholic faith was as shallow, nor Huxley’s pantheism as developed, as Kreeft implies. Huxley was probably more of an agnostic, a term coined by his grandfather Thomas Huxley in 1869.
Since he is a (rather conservative) Christian apologist, in his book Kreeft mainly presents “a defense of the central, unique claim of Christianity (that Jesus Christ is God incarnate) against both modern Western secular objections and ancient Eastern religious objections” (p. 139).
In fact, Kreeft’s book primarily uses ideas similar to Lewis’s to rebut the ideas of pantheism attributed to Huxley and the ideas of humanism/secularism attributed to Kennedy. As such, it is a good, and fitting, tribute to Lewis, well worth reading.
|C. S. Lewis (11/29/1898 - 11/22/1963)|
At the time of this 50th anniversary of Lewis’s death, you might also like to take time to listen to some of the only extant recording of his radio addresses in the early 1940s, which became part of his most famous book, “Mere Christianity.” (Here is the link.)
Or, perhaps some of you would like to take two minutes to watch to the video Celebrating 50 Years of C.S. Lewis’s Enduring Legacy.
So now the lingering memories of these three remain: Huxley, Kennedy, and Lewis, but the greatest of these is Lewis, for his influence had, and still has, eternal and not just temporal ramifications.