Bethany: A Summary

It’s Veterans’ Day as I write this, and I want to thank all the military veterans I know for their service to our country. I’ve gotten side-tracked with transcribing Bethany’s journals. I’m all set up to do it, it’s just that life is busy. But I want to keep posting things here.

So my plan is to post snippets of things I’ve already written (but haven’t yet published).

Here’s some of what I’ve written (so far – subject to editing) describing the project in a Preface:

“Goddammit!” she said, and I heard a hand slapping hard on the typewriter. Maybe it was or wasn’t the proverbial sound of “one hand clapping”, but this act of anger against an inanimate object showed just how quickly she could and often did swell with anger, in just a flash.

I didn’t even know that anyone was sitting there. As I turned to see what was happening, I couldn’t have known that in the moments following her exclamation there, my life would be changed forever. It was a life-changing event in the most dramatic possible way.

I was a good Catholic boy at the time, having just spent several years seriously considering the Roman Catholic priesthood as a vocation. And it was clear from her language that she was, well, not a nice girl. Yet I was lonely, and she was beautiful. I found I needed something she had, and she seemed to need something that I could offer, and so we moved forward very quickly along those lines. There was no planning at all. And it wasn’t long afterward that I married the girl who had introduced herself to me with that amazing curse.

This is a book about our marriage, but it is particularly about my wife, Bethany, because she was a hero. Or at least, she became a hero in the sense that any Soldier who dies for his or her country is a hero. She did not die in uniform, but served with distinction at a time of war, and she died at age 54 from the complications that followed an active-duty deployment to Iraq in 2003, just after the Marines invaded, just after Saddam fled and that country descended into chaos, while she was 41 years old.

She had served as a medic with a weapons intelligence unit that was part of the second wave of American military into Iraq in April 2003, following the initial invasion by the Marines. Her commanding officer told me that the unit was the 19th unit overall into that country.

She overcame tremendous obstacles all of her life, and she did it largely while being cheerful and looking to God in Christ for hope. Not that she didn’t experience tremendous headwinds. She was able to overcome despite the almost inhuman obstacles that she faced.

She had been sexually abused as a child. She was a young runaway and a high school drop-out, and she got into all the different kinds of trouble that a teenage runaway can get into. The effects of her abuse lasted a lifetime, and they were passed on in various ways to others in her life, most especially our children. And she always felt hamstrung by her lack of education.

Maybe she looked for ways of being heroic as a countermeasure to the weakness and helplessness she felt because of these things. She was an overcomer of the purest and most noble kind, and many of her struggles will come up in this book, through both my observations and more importantly, from her journals.

She served two tours in the US Army: she was in West Germany in the early 1980s as a single young woman, and later, after the events of 9/11/2001, as a Reservist (we thought), as a mother of five (later six). She was activated (via an “involuntary transfer”) for a time and went to Iraq. She struggled with leukemia, we think as a result of chemical exposures she received there, and she died far too early.

So it’s a book about her lifetime, but it is also a book about Christian marriage. A particular Christian marriage to be sure.

It’s a husband writing about his wife, and so in the nature of things, I’ll spend some time telling you who I am too. I was her husband for 28 years. As a writer, I understand my need to remain in the background, but I was both the context for and now the narrator of her life story.

She kept a lot of journals, however, and wrote a lot of letters, and she will contribute her own thoughts liberally here, so you’ll get a good first-hand account from her throughout.

In our day, people “identify” themselves by their sexuality. Since she and I were married, and we fought to remain married, it is also story about a Biblical vision of Christian marriage as an image of the love, the joys, and the redemptive qualities of God for humans. It is about the pain of separation and the hope of glory.

Christian marriage is counter-cultural in our day. There is a prevalent understanding of marriage among conservative Christians, especially among Reformed Christians, who primarily see themselves as descendants of the Protestant Reformation. That’s where I locate myself on the scale of things.Jesus said of marriage, “Have you not read that he who created them from the beginning made them male and female, and said, ‘Therefore a man shall leave his father and his mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh’? So they are no longer two but one flesh. What therefore God has joined together, let not man separate” (Matthew 19:5-7).


Christianity and Western Culture vs the “Fact-Check” Cowards

It seems to me that the whole “fact check” industry is just a front for “I’m afraid to face ideas that run counter to my own thinking”. Fact checkers seem to be simple ideologues who all quote from the same ideological sources. It’s a big echo chamber. And it’s cowardly.

That’s precisely the opposite of why universities (for example) rose up in the first place. Universities were hotbeds of ideas in the middle ages.

I don’t remember the exact citation, but I was surprised to hear that Carl Trueman suggested (around the turn of the year 2000) that the most important “event” in the previous 1000 years was NOT the Reformation – rather, it was what he referred to as “the rise of the universities” in the middle ages.

It was here that all learning and systems of learning came together. It was here that the chain of events began that led to genuine understanding in virtually every field of knowledge.  

… early and high medieval scholasticism is marked by synthetic and systematic thought in all disciplines, the creation of general syllabuses including everything a student needed to know, organized in coherent form.

The goal of pedagogy [teaching] was now to train professional, full-time scholars with a substantive and methodological grasp of entire fields of knowledge, enabling them to push back frontiers [i.e., learn new things] and to defend their own positions against rival views.

Debate with other interpretations, articulated by proponents both living and dead, was expected to take place as a normal condition of intellectual labor.

In all fields, the expression of a range of competing views within the boundaries of acceptable teaching was seen as a natural outgrowth of scholarship and was regarded as invigorating and healthy, not threatening.

From Marcia L. Colish, “Medieval Foundations of the Western Intellectual Tradition: 400–1400”, New Haven and London: Yale University Press, ©1997 [Reprinted 1998], p. 265.

It is this systematization of every discipline (including theology, philosophy, and natural sciences) that led to the Protestant Reformation and also to the development and implementation of the scientific method.

Rodney Stark writes:

As the distinguished historian Edward Grant noted, “Within Western Christianity in the late Middle Ages … almost all professional theologians were also natural philosophers. The structure of medieval university education also made it likely that most theologians had early in their careers actually taught natural philosophy.”

… in the West, Grant explained, “natural philosophy could attract talented individuals who believed that they were free to present their opinions publicly on a host of problems that formed the basis of the discipline.”

It would be difficult to exaggerate the importance of the bond between theology and natural philosophy for the rise of Western civilization. As a result of this bond, the pursuit of knowledge about the natural world became central to the medieval university curriculum and led, ultimately, to the rise of Western science.

Stark, Rodney. How the West Won: The Neglected Story of the Triumph of Modernity (p. 183). Intercollegiate Studies Institute (ORD). Kindle Edition.

Not all cultures are alike. Western culture and civilization became what it is because Christianity enabled westerners to have the freedom to explore unknown avenues and to learn what those avenues could teach.

The “fact check” industry wants to shut off other roads. This doesn’t preclude the fact that some people will follow Marx or Q, but these also need to be subjected to questioning by “rival views”.

Above all, we need the kind of openness and honesty that a strong Christian faith will foster. The entire universe is God’s universe. “Fact-checking” as it is practiced today is simply a road back to the dark ages.

Take care of your health!

Taking care of your health means more than just avoiding Covid! I recently turned 60, and my ABMarketing Leads business associate Michael just turned 53. He had a check-up, and he said on Facebook,

“Here is what a 30lb weight gain for this 53yo, during Covid, has caused: 1) blood pressure high enough requiring meds 2) cholesterol high enough requiring meds 3) pre-diabetes 4) likely sleep apnea 5) lack of energy and a few other downers resulting from 14 abnormal lab results. Point being: this surprise hit me like a ton of bricks SO get your check-ups! I will be fine as I drop the weight, eat better, and do more cardio to get back to where I was pre-30lbs. Then push for prime fitness.”

This is the down side of the lockdowns. Even with winter coming, get out and walk! Lift weights if you can, and eat right. Building muscle mass, especially as you are older, is critical. Belly fat = sewage collection for your body. Get rid of it!

The difference between Intelligent Design and Creationism

“The truth is that [Intelligent Design] (ID) and creationism have always differed fundamentally in their methods and starting assumptions. Creationism starts with a commitment to a particular understanding of the biblical text of Genesis and aims to reconcile scientific data with that understanding. [Intelligent Design], on the other hand, starts with a. Commitment to the essential principles of science and shows how those principles ultimately compel us to attribute life to a purposeful inventor—an intelligent designer. [Intelligent Design] authors settle for this vague description not because they want to smuggle God into science but because the jump from “intelligent designer” to “God” requires something beyond the essential principles of science.”

Douglas Axe, “Undeniable: How Biology Confirms Our Intuition That Life Is Designed”, New York, NY: HarperOne (HarperCollins) ©2016, p. 48.

Just testing

I’ve downloaded the WordPress app for iPad. I have it for my iPhone, but it’s pretty clunky. I’m just testing it out right now. I know I haven’t kept up with the WordPress interface(s) — I’m more accustomed to the old way of things — but I want to see how things are working at the moment, just in case I want to do anything with it. Thanks for checking in here!

A quiet rainy Saturday

Top to bottom: John, Dani, Sissy, Nate.

I had four kids in the house today. It was a quiet rainy Saturday, and after doing the weekly food shopping, I took a nap, then I made my famous lemon pepper chicken. It’s one of the few things I cook that everyone seems to love.

Several of us had some really good and deep talks about what’s going on in our lives. To be sure, there are some things that we’d all change, but one of the things we are most happy about is how close we are as a family. We’ve all been through so much together (and on our own). The die is cast: we know we’re all in it together.

Later tonight we’re all going to see the new Justice League movie. It’ll be a letdown. All of my kids are already superheroes.

The only game in town

I’m at the airport for a 5:00 am flight. The sign says “Breakfast served 4:30-10:30”, but the guy here is open and crankin’ them out at least 3:45. He’s the only one open, and he’s “suggestive selling” too. He’s the only game in town, and he’s probably the guy who consistently makes and exceeds his numbers. Love the attitude!

15 My mouth will tell of your righteous acts, of your deeds of salvation all the day, for their number is past my knowledge.

16 With the mighty deeds of the Lord GOD I will come; I will remind them of your righteousness, yours alone.
17 O God, from my youth you have taught me, and I still proclaim your wondrous deeds.
18 So even to old age and gray hairs, O God, do not forsake me, until I proclaim your might to another generation, your power to all those to come.
19 Your righteousness, O God, reaches the high heavens. You who have done great things, O God, who is like you?