Notes on Christianity
and Ideas

Issue 22
December 2004

Myodicy homepage

Published by Theodore Plantinga

In this issue ....

Does a Christian witness in the social arena leave you looking like a fool? Charles Fiske thought so. Click here to read "Unwilling Fools: Reflections on Charles Fiske."

Will the USA manage to plant democracy in Iraq? In some ways, Iraq may turn out to be like Quebec. Click here to read "Leading a Horse to the Voting Booth."

Have you ever envied university professors who hold endowed chairs? Perhaps you, too, can benefit from an endowment fund. Click here to read "Well Endowed."

Can a political leader like President George W. Bush be both an overt Christian and a man of war? Click here to read "Praise the Lord and Pass the Ammunition."


Don't take the term literally. I don't plan to turn pages for you. What I mean to do in this space is comment on materials in the world of the printed page -- brief book notes, observations about periodicals, and perhaps a comment on an event.

The landlord will die ... or his dog .... There's wisdom in proverbs -- or at least a philosophy of life. Behind this proverb about a landlord and his dog lies an apocryphal story that sheds considerable light on why things happen as they do -- or sometimes fail to happen, in Israel, that land over which we so often wring our hands in despair.

Richard Ben Cramer tells us all about it in a book entitled ominously How Israel Lost: The Four Questions (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2004). I would call the book delightful if only its tale were not so sad. At the very least it is a pleasure to read and is certainly a different take on the challenge Israel faces in these difficult days of Ariel Sharon as Prime Minister. The book will leave you both laughing and crying. It's written by an American who calls himself a "ham-on-rye" Jew (see p. 171), and so a little irreverence must be expected. Highly recommended. And if you must know what the landlord and his dog have to do with peace and public order in Israel but cannot possibly find time to read the whole book (only 277 pages of text), start reading at page 156.

An exhausting business. I did a bit of wrestling while I was in college, and what I mainly remember is that it was utterly exhausting. Gordon Ritchie, Simon Riesman and various other Canadians engaged in a protracted wrestling match at their country's behest when they contended with the American counterparts to work out the Free Trade Agreement of the late 1980s, which has done so much to change the economic and political landscape of Canada. Ritchie waited almost ten years and then proceeded to write a very engaging book about his experiences and about trade issues in general, entitled Westling with the Elephant (Toronto: Macfarlane Walter & Ross, 1997).

For people like me who tend to personalize issues in politics, the book is a refreshing change of pace, reminding us of the importance of economic and trade issues, and also of their complexity. Ritchie makes it clear that in such negotiations, the Americans work from a position of strength and seem to grind their opposition down, almost as though they are in the grip of a fervent desire to win just for the sake of winning, leading them to extract yet another concession when it seemed the deal had been made, and then another, and so on. When I recall how quickly I used to get winded when I wrestled, I realized I would not make a good negotiator.

I am far from an expert in business and economics, and there are a great many things I do not understand. And so I was left wondering how the complicated trade arrangements that emerged from the efforts of Ritchie and his associates qualify as "free trade." That it represents "freer" trade I can certainly see. Could it be that this term does not really apply to the trading relationship that now exists between the USA and Canada? Is free trade in the strong sense of the term truly possible between countries that insist on retaining full sovereignty? Ritchie does not address this question. Nevertheless, his book is recommended reading for Canadians who wonder where their country is headed.

A brain injury narrative. During the most agonizing time of my life, when my wife Mary was struggling with a severe brain injury induced by oxygen deprivation, June Callwood was writing a book on another such case, a famous one, famous largely because the brain-injured person was a celebrity. The book was published by McClelland & Stewart of Toronto in 2000 and was entitled The Man Who Lost Himself: The Terry Evanshen Story. Many Canadians will recognize the name in the title: Terry Evanshen possessed one of the surest pairs of hands of any receiver in the Canadian Football League, and he was still widely known around the country in 1988 when he suffered his oxygen-deprivation brain injury at the age of 44.

The book is fascinating: I will make no attempt to sum it up. As I read the painful, intimate story, I was moved to identify with Evanshen's long-suffering wife Lorraine, who certainly needed to "bare her soul" to make the book possible. I wondered whether I could ever do such a thing and count on being understood. Probably not. Mary's brain injury was more severe: the measure of recovery granted to Terry Evanshen eluded her. The Evanshens have also come in for a fair amount of criticism: people wanted to be sympathetic, but did not always understand what Evanshen and his wife were going through.

Books like Callwood's are badly needed but hard to write. Once my wife's prognosis (or lack thereof) was established, doctors and medical professionals seemed to lose scientific interest in her case. Perhaps it must fall to amateurs like Callwood to bridge the gap between the neurological professionals and an uncomprehending public. My chief professional discussion partner during Mary's years of agony was not a neurologist but a psychiatrist!

Callwood's book is highly recommended. I don't know how Terry Evanshen and his wife have fared since the end of the tale as told in the book Callwood, but my heart has certainly been touched by their story. I salute them for their willingness to share it, and I commend June Callwood for telling it so well.

General information

This electronic journal is my way of keeping in touch with friends, colleagues, former students, and so forth. It does not have a regular publication schedule. Feel free to download it and pass it around. You may even wish to send me a comment; I do not guarantee a response to each communication. If you wish to repost anything in this journal, please let me know. If you care to print something in paper form, this can also be arranged, provided that I retain the copyright so that I will remain free in my use of the material. Please regard the materials in Myodicy as copyrighted by me, except in the case of articles written by someone else. What is written in Myodicy should not be regarded as reflecting any official position or policy of Redeemer University College.

Theodore Plantinga
E-mail: [email protected]

To read Myodicy:
Please pass on this address, or include a link to it in something you have posted yourself.