Clara Clemens
To some degree, it was left to one person to put the icing on the Mark Twain cake... or to destroy it. Clara Clemens was the only child to marry and live to middle age, and the only one to give Mark Twain a grandchild. In 1931 she published her warm and delightful tale of being Mark Twain's daughter, entitled My Father MARK TWAIN, where she shared the enviable childhood she enjoyed. Clara reassured Twain's fans that he was the wonderful man they imagined. The book has been panned by some as the predictable, worshipful gloss of a biased beneficiary. Still, it is well written, and fairly self-deprecating, and I trust it from a gut feeling that she has given a straight-forward, albeit affectionate account. Clara certainly could have have chosen to do otherwise. Children of men like Twain do not always respond with undying adoration. 

 Olivia Clemens sits before her daughter and future son-in-law.

Clara Clemens found the love of her life during her music studies in Europe. She became a decent musician, but married an even better one, a world class pianist with a $4.00 name. Clara married Ossip Gabrilowitch with Sam Clemens's blessing, and began a life of world travels and celebrity with him. When she published her book she was somewhat famous in her own right. It did her no harm to remind her fans that she was the daughter of one of the most famous men in the world. But I think she wanted to reassure her father's fans that he was for real, and that his legacy should be lasting. Allowing us to see inside the Clemens household was a peek into the idyllic American family. I think Clara wanted Americans to know that despite any of our own troubles, including her own, the myth of the nuclear American “fambly” (as Twain liked to spell it) had some basis in fact. Still, something went awry.

I survey this scene as a “born-again” Christian, and consequently I have read a great deal into the conditions and outside pressures on the events in these people's lives, and perhaps even more into the spaces between. Samuel Clemens was a professional skeptic, an agnostic, and because of his powerful influence, his wife was a frustrated, somewhat modernized Quaker. The Clemens home was always being entertained by the most “enlightened” people on earth, where doctrines of religion were bantered about like popular riddles. At any given time, you might find some of Clemens's closest friends, Christian ministers, socializing and reasoning with him or his house guests. You might hear groups singing negro spirituals, favorites of Clemens from his childhood, or some famous ribald humorist bringing down the house at a pool or poker game.

But thanks to his wife Olivia, Christianity was a cultural foundation which gave the Clemens home a moral compass and firm stability. And Sam Clemens loved the Christmas story as an irresistible tradition... a symbol of American graciousness, but he had trouble whenever he thought about it very deeply. Both of them believed in a Supreme Being, but presented a confused spiritual front to their children.

Suzie, the oldest and the acknowledged “genius” and deep thinker, and the most talented artist of the three children, searched for spiritual truth until her youthful investigations at college led her to Mary Baker Eddy and Christian Science. This seemed to be the perfect fit for her diverse family religious associations. The girls were raised to honor the code of “noblesse oblige,” always undertaking worthy causes, such as joining the Society for the Protection of Animals. They learned early from their father, a chronic and proud rule-breaker, to trust their own sense of right and wrong. One of the most irresistible temptations for right-brained folk, who do so much creating and problem solving, is to address the here and the now, on their own, eventually fashioning their own golden calf, and often creating their own god- and in their own image.

But sometimes Sam Clemens, and us for that matter, forget that Mark Twain never existed. He was a creation. His stories and his wisdom were also creations, only given significance by book sales. The man who did not dare put his own name on his earliest writings out of self-preservation, ended up the shadow of the legendary personality he had conjured up. Mark Twain could be as sure as Moses about himself, and his choice of words. Sam Clemens not so much. But at some point Moses and Mark Twain were arch-rivals... as designers of the American Psyche. But there were some big differences between them. One was real, and had a three thousand year head start.

Moses was Moses. He had no pseudonym to hide behind. He had orders directly from the Creator of the Universe. Still, it was Mark Twain, a mere alias, who inspired and justified our slow cultural shift away from the Judeo- Christian God. Mark Twain told of an unforgiving world, where dog ate dog, a veritable indictment of the human race where a few giants of humanity stood above the rest, as he cast doubts about God's direct involvement in our lives, and the veracity of the Bible, especially the Gospels which tell of the life and miracles of Christ.

Later when his wife was stricken with serious heart disease, and forbidden to even see him, it became obvious what a heartbreak it had been to live under his shadow, and try to lovingly, patiently reason with such an irresistible force. He begged that if she lived, he would never more question her faith. But the damage was done.

True Clemens “prayed,” and thanked “God” for his wife and the other beauties of nature, but he doubted anyone really knew the complexities or details about a personal, Creator God, IF he existed.
Then when his daughter died unexpectedly, he immediately fell back into the psychological comforts of  her ascending to a better place, a painless place where he wanted to be himself... a place he would never want to deny her of.  Mark Twain may have been an agnostic, but Samuel Clemens was a closet Christian, who believed fervently in the afterlife, (who but God could establish such a place?) and greatly enjoyed playing the devils advocate. It had always been a great attention getter. Still, agnosticism offers no comfort or closure when eternal things matter.

Samuel Clemens was a product of the pervasive disillusionment that settled in America as the adrenaline subsided and Americans did the horrifying math after the Civil War. Rather than accept their own role in this great collective travesty, they blamed God, or mostly just abandoned Him.  In their post-war concept of God, a good and loving God could not have, would not have let such a horrible thing happen. Amazingly, these same folks were sure before the war that "God was on their side."  

Later as “Mark Twain” studied French history in order to write Recollections of Joan of Arc, he had to have realized that the perplexities and injustices of Man have been legion, for Millennia, and for him, further ruled out the possibilities of an active God in our human scenario. The more recent, tragic Napoleonic Wars, and then the Franco-Prussian War only added fresh stones to the burial pyramid over the tomb of Christian Faith. All this greed and violence seemed to prove that God was asleep or dead. Nobody seemed to want to blame man for man's godlessness.

Still, Twain's book about St. Joan was as sweet and pious as if he were writing about his own daughter. Mark Twain always projected skepticism, about leaders, government, organized religion, the human race... it was the lifelong theme of his writing personna. But underneath he wanted to believe in Joan... For him, she may have been the last evidence of a Godly person, and even he did not want to destroy her legacy. Like many of us, Samuel Clemens rode the fence, afraid to commit to a doctrine of God, but more afraid to completely abandon it. 

So, for Twain and the Twainists, the Jesus of the New Testament was out of the question. Christian Science seemed more reasonable to some, as it absorbed the tenants of Christianity without its seemingly absurd contradictions to modern science, which was assumed at the time to be on the cusp of unraveling all the mysteries of creation. (THAT never happened )  But strangely, Mark Twain would have none of it. After his daughter Suzie, a new convert died in her youth, he applied his healthy Mid-western skepticism to Eddy's assumptions, burying Christian Science with Christianity. Thou shalt have no other god but me.

Yes, I believe that Mark Twain had become Sam Clemens's god. After all, everyone worshiped him... all over the world.

It is taught in Christian legend that Satan, the so-called devil, was once a high angel in Heaven called Lucifer, in fact the highest angel next to God. Everything was harmonious up there until he decided to lead a rebellion of angels against the Creator and usurp His authority. Lucifer's pride led to arrogance and his arrogance led to narcissism and it all led to self-worship and the delusion of his omnipotence. It also led to the spiritual warfare which has divided the Universe ever since. We are on this earth to settle the question...

We humans will settle the great question, and prove God's love. And we prove it by living, and making the choice for immortality... or not. A loving God did  not create us to be happy on this earth, but to prepare us for the life to come... if we will have it. And some of us require more preparation than others. They are the heathens, the athiests, the agnostics... the hold outs. Christians are merely the ones who know they are toast and recognize what a great deal God offers through Christ.  And an offer I might add, which the angels in the legend never got. God just put them in Heaven and then judged them when they were bad. No warnings, no trials, no Sunday School, no Joel Osteen.

AND IRONICALLY, or more probably PROVIDENTIALLY, the legend suggests that some important issues were raised when God, doing his role as Master Justice of the Peace, cast Lucifer and his allies down out of heaven... below... to Hell, wherever that is. Christians today mostly agree that “hell” is the absence of God. C. S. Lewis proposed that since God was not bound by the rules of physics as we understand them, all of the inhabitants of hell might be shrunk down to the size of a sewing thimble.

It has been suggested that Lucifer was the first to make the accusation, that a good and loving God would not deliberately put his beautiful creations, in this case himself and his angels, in a fiery pit, forever. Surely an all-powerful God, a God of Love, would never make such a judgment. This was the seeming injustice. After all, God is so much more intelligent and powerful than we are. We, as Christianity constantly reminds us, are weak, flesh and bone mortals. A real God of LOVE and mercy would never...

Otherwise, according to Mark Twain, and some members of my own family, the God of the Bible was unloving, unjust, unmerciful... and downright UNFAIR! These were the bitter conclusions of many Americans and Europeans in Twain's time.

So in the Beginning... before the beginning of the Earth, this question of a loving God was in the forefront. It is nothing new that you have thought of, or that troubles those who are in God's camp. Christian writer-evangelists like Hal Lindsay have spent many volumes trying to address this “Age-old” question. How could a loving God allow such bad things to happen to innocents? 

It's funny, had not God given us Free Will,  and an earth to test our spirits, we would have been about as complex as the toad chirping outside of my bedroom window. You would not be the independent, free thinking, creative you. But since he did, and did not force himself on you, many call him heartless, cruel and unworthy. So he must be untrue. Because we do not like how he set up our human trials. 

Job, perhaps the oldest book in the Old Testament,  had a lot to add to that... if you are having trouble with this question... Jews and Christians have been kicking around this question since God allowed Joseph to be sold into slavery by his own brothers, only to be thrown into an Egyptian prison for years, for a crime he did not commit. You need to read that story as well... how God used the tragedies which beset Joseph to show how he works out the demons in our spirit... and always redirects evil to turn out good, and bless His people.

It requires a lot of trust to accept this... But those that do get to share eternity with the Mastermind of this whole soul-shaping, immortality scheme. Those who do not have to come up with the impossible to offset this paradigm, including explaining away Creation, faith, answered prayers, and reforming two thousand years of Judeo-Christian values. To do this they must be intolerant, and declare war on the Judeo-Christian paradigm.That is where our country is today.

It is the underlying ambition of most non-believers to disprove God; to create a more fair paradigm than the one described in the Bible. Surely modern man, with his superior science, can do better than “all are sinners and sinners go to hell.” Surely we can create our own sense of justice, of right and wrong, of appropriate actions and consequences. But try as we may, the more man struggles with justice the farther away it seems to be.

There can never be enough laws, never enough lawyers, never enough prisons, (or few enough!) never peace on earth. There is always a Napoleon or a Hitler or a terrorist who is determined to superimpose his own paradigm over ours. Mark Twain was right in that regard, THERE IS NO HOPE FOR THE HUMAN RACE! Man has tried valiantly to make a better world, and has made incredible strides in agriculture, medicine and technology, but has also succeeded in more efficient forms of genocide and injustice, negating the progress. And that is why Christians still believe that man is basically a sinner and in need of a savior. And God has provided one.

Whether it is actually true, the story of Lucifer has survived to warn us of the dangers of self-love, which led to rebellion against God and ultimately isolation from Him. Self- love does not have to be a bad thing... Jesus taught that we must love others as WE LOVE OURSELVES. Self-love is assumed as long as it is not self-importance or self-worship. Jesus assumed that we would all have the kind of self-love that we might better describe as self-respect... a healthy self-image based on our right relationship with God. We are not to hate or loathe ourselves. That would lead to self-abuse and even self-destruction. That would not do God or us any good. The self- flagellating religions have inspired the most stagnant and non-creative societies on the planet. That is what makes the Cross so unique and wonderful. HE did it for us. How fair is that?

Christians can love themselves because they believe that when God looks upon their hearts, he does not see their sinfulness but the Christ who covers it, who was punished for it. And God loves His Son, that “Lamb of God” who took away our sins. He sees Christ in us and is thus reconciled with us, and we look inside and see Christ as well, and are reconciled to God. But if it is so simple, why did Lucifer or Mark Twain stumble at this?

That is the question. Why? Why buck the free gift of God's grace and forgiveness? Why take chances with eternal consequences? It is a choice that each of us has to make. There must be a million reasons why anyone would reject the saving power of the cross, and to choose instead to try to find God some other way. Most of them are born in arrogance and self-sufficiency. A study of the ministry of Jesus has important clues.

Jesus had little trouble convincing the poor, or the sick or the uneducated. His biggest beef was with the rich and powerful, the most educated. Rich people want to believe that they are special, blessed for some special purpose, if only to have a great life, and are above others, and especially above God's laws. Jesus had a very poor prediction for most rich people, whose wealth, and what they did with it, will someday be their condemnation.

This Biblical truth has led to near persecution of the rich in this country today. Americans believe that it is perfectly fair to tax individuals with outrageous and discriminatory tariffs simply because they are wealthy. They are probably going to hell anyway, even according to Jesus. This adversarial relationship which rich people are often born into does little to soften their attitudes. The state and the church are set on demonizing and milking them. The unions are set to obstruct them. Their employees are set to get even with them, often by cheating with their time-cards or outright stealing. Johnny Cash sang a famous song making a hero out of a car part thief in Detroit. Commercials make light of the common American sentiment to “stick it to the man.” 

"But Sir, YOU are the man!" 

So it might be understandable if wealthy publishers, politicians, entertainers, etc. don't give a hoot about Jesus. But Jesus's bigger public relations impasse was with the educated men who dominated religion and the courts. They willfully ignored any scriptures which might have vindicated him, while willfully breaking their own cherished laws to wipe him out. They truly hated him, and had no tolerance for the threat he represented to their turf. They constantly set intellectual traps for him, playing games with words and riddles out of doctrines. This has always been the idle pastime of the elites of society. 

The Pharisees assumed, “Surely, if there was a “son of God” he would be educated in the prestigious religious centers” like them. But God also has a sense of irony, if not humor. They trusted in their own wisdom, rooted in self-preservation and cultural narcissism, and killed Jesus out of ignorance, jealousy and fear. Educated folk today react to Jesus much the same and for the same reasons.

The rich and the highest educated are a minority who control our society, and are as protective of their fragile domains as ever. They have seen the mob violence of the French Revolution and in Ferguson, Missouri, and know that they can never afford to let the masses become a powerful force. They must maintain their control by any means. The best means is by brainwashing. The Internet is their latest and most effective tool.

But there is no room for this kind of oligarchy in Christianity, and therefore they will forever be at odds with it. Universities will always propose any other theory of the origins of the Universe, no matter how improvable, than the fact of a God-created solar system. The wealthy will always create their own value systems and their own ethics to accommodate their lifestyles. That is why the rich young ruler walked away from Jesus, sadly. He had asked what must he do... and Jesus told him the one thing he did not want to hear... to sell all of his possessions and follow Him. Without complete submission to Christ, that was impossible.

When the rich and powerful run into this uncompromising wall of Jesus, they understandably decide to create their own religion. Or they just indulge themselves in self-worship. And when you are smart and handsome and wealthy, you might even believe you are worthy...

It is sad but true, as Jesus explained, that blessed are the poor, and the meek, perhaps because they have nothing to lose, by letting God control their lives. And they have everything to gain.

The Lucifers and Mark Twains of the world live under the delusion that they are special, even anointed, and have some special access to God, or at least their concept of Him. All through the Bible, characters old and young, great and small, yielded to the temptation to assume they have advanced beyond simple mortal existence. The most obvious was Solomon, who went from the throne of Israel to the most disillusioned, gluttonous infamy in short order. He is famous for announcing “all is vanity.”

Solomon decided that Life was meaningless, because he had built his life on meaningless values like sex and escapism. Self indulgence. Had he a servant's heart like his father's, he might have, would have had a totally different legacy. How quickly the rich and powerful judge the world and themselves according to their own measuring stick. That is why new religions can't replace the Golden Oldie. “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you... (Jesus) ” If you were hungry, or cold, or helpless, would you not want someone's mercy? Then be merciful. Be generous to those less fortunate. Share your wealth. Liquidate if you must to keep it from owning your soul. Misused wealth always leads to rationalization and insolence. In other words, far from God. That is right next to the absence of God.

BUT if we can find an intellectual trick to spin on, preferably an excuse provided by scholars, we can reject the whole Christian paradigm and make up our own... one more convenient to our times, our lifestyle, our needs, our preferences...

Just as the hand-picked “prophets of old” like Moses or David or Solomon failed their mission and found infamy instead of victory, the rich and powerful still do, and kick against the goads, as one very educated man did while persecuting Christians. God had to strike self-righteous Saul the pharisee down on the road, and stop him in his tracks, even blind him temporarily to get his attention. With some redirection, he became Paul who wrote much of the New Testament. But God cannot do that every time. Each of us has the free moral agency to choose God or reject Him; Run from God or seek Him. Know God or make up one we like better. But we are not wise, no matter how much we may wish differently. We often choose what is appealing rather than what is true and eternal.

Clara Clemens was understandably confused about religion, but her mother, once an avid host for the underground railroad, had planted strong values of service and altruism. 

Once while in Australia, Clara came upon a dying sheep. The poor thing was prostrate on the hot, dry ground, writhing, panting, barely able to breathe. Clara's love of animals and training told her immediately that the animal should not be allowed to suffer. She ran to the nearest store in the small town to obtain the substance necessary to euthanize the suffering sheep. Just a teenager, she pulled coins out of her own purse and bought a vial of ether.

On the way back she ran into the owner of the sheep, and explained her intentions. The owner was amazed that he had overlooked such an emergency. With bold conviction, Clara led the sheep owner to his animal and offered her vial as the remedy. And that was when the shepherd broke out in laughter. Clara meant well, but she would have killed a perfectly healthy animal. She could have been prosecuted for killing a man's livestock. She had wasted her money for a vial of deadly ether that had no purpose, passionately inspired when she made some ignorant assumptions. All of this happened or almost happened because she had decided to usurp the authority of the shepherd.

The shepherd good-naturedly showed her how the sheep had merely fallen down, and was so overloaded with wool she couldn't stand back up, no matter how much she wiggled. As soon as he lifted her to her feet, she scampered off.

This was a life-lesson for Clara Clemens and for all of us. Sometimes we do not know the Shepherd, the BIG SHEPHERD, or we do and we still do not trust his timing or judgment, and we make our own judgments based on what we know or what we think we know. We might act totally out of a good heart, noble intentions, but never the less we could kill the innocent in the process, and become adversaries of the Shepherd as well. Jesus taught that HE was the Shepherd, and we were like sheep and needed a shepherd. When we fail to see a shepherd, and presume to become THE shepherd, we are already trespassing and headed for disaster. Just like Clara, just because we fail to see anyone around in charge, does not mean that the Shepherd is not watching our every step. We often act out of impatience, which easily becomes impudence, as we act independently.

It is the delusion of the strong that they do not need a shepherd. The richer and more powerful you are, the more likely you are to become your own master, even your own god.

Clara was not a shepherd. She was actually a sheep in need of a shepherd. Her tiny bit of knowledge led her to assume she had solutions to problems that did not even exist. She read the whole situation wrongly and much like her father, made herself the judge, jury and executioner. Thank goodness she ran into the shepherd, who protected his sheep from the well- intentioned but misguided young woman. He knew that all the sheep needed was a lift, not a knock in the head. He was wise and able to take care of his charge.

The shepherd does not need help from us. He only asks for our cooperation.

But assuming the role of a mere sheep is not very glamorous. The rich and powerful despise this kind of symbolism and the suggestion of weakness. They are quick to make themselves the shepherd, whatever that may entail. That is often the evil trail chosen by the right-brained vanguards of culture who can easily imagine the steps to power and preeminence. Society would do well to take note. The stubborn flame of creativity and ambition and competition is a gift from God and yet the first element to Lucifer's hell of self-worship and self-destruction. Here is a fork in the road for every person, how they will choose to nurture and utilize the flame.

One fork leads to becoming a light in the darkness, used to glorify God in this spiritual battlefield. There is a Shepherd to lead the way.

The other is a flickering flame that ultimately terminates in a dead-end trail and darkness. And you are completely on your own. And then the flame goes out.

A gentle, good and loving God has provided you with a choice. Obviously, he wants to have fellowship with you forever, but He will not force it on you.

May our stubborn flames burn brightly, and lead us to Truth and Perfection...

And may we meet someday in Eternity with no more want or need of them.

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