Saturday, October 31, 2009

Revolt of the Masses: Dede Scozzafava Quits in Race for Congress in NY 23

Well, well . . . it is official now that Dede Scozzafava has ceded in the race for the NY 23 Congressional District after the most recent polls show her support sinking like a stone and likely to lead to a decisive 3rd place finish.

Let's review. Dede Scozzafava is a so-called "moderate" Republican. She is pro-high taxes, pro-choice, pro-same sex "marriage" and has worked with ACORN in the past. She is a recipient of an award named for Margaret Sanger from Planned Parenthood. The Republican National Committee and the party establishment backed her candidacy even though it would amount to electing a liberal Democrat under the Republican Party banner. There was even speculation that she would pull a "Spector" and change parties once elected. She would definitely have been a reliable vote for the Pelosi radical liberal agenda.

So Doug Hoffman, an accountant and conservative, jumped into the race under the Conservative Party banner as a third candidate. The Party Establishment, dominated by big business Northeasterners and the liberal media gave him no chance. But his campaign caught fire and got a key early endorsement from Sarah Palin, which proved to be a game changer. The Tea Party grass roots movement was energized and numerous pro-life and pro-family groups jumped in. The poll numbers began to move. All of a sudden, Hoffman went from being a spoiler (which would have been signficant enough) to being a threat to win. Then he started getting endorsements from the likes of Rick Santorum, Rick Perry, Jim DeMint, Tim Pawlentey and others.

In the view of the Washington Post and the New York Times, the grassroots of the party (plus conservatives who are not registered Republicans) rebelled against the establishment. And today, whatever happens on Tuesday, the establishment was humbled. The party establishment, having been humbled, is now going to work to get out the vote for Hoffman on election day.

The significance of this race goes far beyond the borders of the 23rd congressional district of New York State. What is unfolding here is the awaking of the sleeping giant of American conservatism. Barack Obama campaigned as a Clinton moderate, but he has filled his administration with leftist radicals and seems to be unable to control the left-wingers like Pelosi and Reid who are leading the party off the cliff. Probably he agrees with their agenda and wouldn't stop them if he could. Yet one senses his utter helplessness.

For the Newt Gingrich's of the world, who are pre-occupied with partisan politics, whatever is good for the Republican Party is good for America. Real conservatives disagreee. They are committed to principle, governance and policy, not party colors or being the gophers for the big business establishment. It is essential that the Republican Party not be able to take for granted the social conservative and traditional conservative vote, just as it is essential that the Democratic Party not be able to take for granted the Roman Catholic vote.

The Tea Party movement originates from outside Washington and in not under the control of the party establishment. If it targets both liberal Republicans and tacitly endorses conservative Democrats, it can remake congress without the permission of, and without winning control of, either major party. If it can do this, it will certainly determine the Republican nominee in 2012 and may even encourage a pro-Clinton revolt in the Democratic Party. The Obama brand will be dead by 2010.

Remember, the American electorate is made of of a majority of conservatives. Actual adherents of leftist ideology number no more than 20%. Party affiliation is no guide to conservative beliefs. The country has shifted right-ward in the past year; we may be witnessing the birth of a conservative revolution even greater than the Reagan revolution.

UPDATE:
Less than 24 hours after dropping out of the race, Scozzafava announced she is supporting the Democratic candidate, Bill Owens. She is no longer a Rhino (Republican in name only); she is a Democratic Party supporter. She likely would have been a reliable vote for Pelosi's reckless agenda had she been elected and the will of the electorate would have been frustrated. The way this whole race has gone is heartening for anyone who believes in democracy and shows that conservative America is down but not out.

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Penal Substitution and Christus Victor

For years, J. I. Packer has argued with passion and logical perpspicuity for the truth that the doctrine of penal substitution is the heart of the Gospel and the center of the multi-faceted and marvelously complex doctrine of the atonement. See, for example, his classic article: "The Logic of Penal Substitution."

Recently, the doctrine of penal substitution has come under heavy attack from certain Evangelicals (notably Brian McLaren in the US and Steve Chalke in Britain). Liberal Protestants have been attacking it for over a century now, but for those calling themselves Evangelicals to do it is a new development and one which portends significant changes in the years ahead for the Evangelical movement as it grapples with this innovation.

One of the ways Evangelicals have tried to straddle the fence on this issue is to argue that downplaying (or even denying) the logic of penal substitution (and sometimes of substitution of any kind) without losing an objective doctrine of the atonement is to emphasize the doctrine of Christus Victor. But, clearly, not all versions of Christus Victor are actually objective; this doctrine can (and often is) be deployed in a subjective manner that makes it into a kind of example of victory that inspires us to fight all the harder to defeat the powers too.

Justin Taylor, at his blog Between Two Worlds (which is now hosted at the Gospel Coalition site) has written a succinct and lucid explanation of how Christus Victor is related to penal substitution. He points out that Col. 2:14-15 says specifically that Christ triumphed over the principalities and powers by his cross. (Note: an objective Christus Victor doctrine must emphasize the death and not merly the resurrection of Christ.) Taylor quotes John Murray to the effect that redemption from sin cannot be conceived properly except as it comprehends Christ's victory over Satan and the powers. The victory of Christ over sin, death, hell and the Devil has always been an integral part of the orthodox doctrine of the atonement.

But then Taylor asks the excellent question of how exactly this victory is attained and and in what sense is it attained specifically through the cross? He quotes George Smeaton, a 19th century professor of exegetical theology at Edinburgh who provides the answer:
"Sin was (1) the ground of Satan’s dominion, (2) the sphere of his power, and (3) the secret of his strength; and no sooner was the guilt lying on us extinguished, than his throne was undermined, as Jesus Himself said (John 12:31). When the guilt of sin was abolished, Satan’s dominion over God’s people was ended; for the ground of his authority was the law which had been violated, and the guilt which had been incurred. . . .

[A]ll the mistakes have arisen from not perceiving with sufficient clearness how the triumph could be celebrated on His cross. (The Apostles’ Doctrine of the Atonement (Edinburgh, T. & T. Clark, 1870), 307–308; my emphasis and numbering)."

So Christus Victor is based on, and effective only because of, the sin-bearing work of Christ on the cross. Penal substutution is necessary for a doctrine of Christus Victor to have an application to the real world; without it Christus Victor is just pie in the sky or, at most, an inspiring myth designed to encourage us to try a little harder. But trying harder is not what the Gospel is about; the Gospel is the sublime announcement that despite the fact that all our striving is in vain, God in Christ has already accomplished salvation for all who believe. This makes Christus Victor good news.

So J. I. Packer is right; penal substitution is the heart of the Gospel and the heart of the doctrine of the atonement. As the heart, it is not the whole of the organism, but it is the part that pumps the blood to the whole organism thus keeping it alive and healthy. If the Church ceases to preach penal substitution, the whole significance of Christ's work will wither and dry up leaving only moralism, works righteousness and the social gospel in the place where a full-orbed Gospel used to be.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Why Euthanasia? Why Now?

Margaret Sommerville, director of the Centre for Medicine, Ethics and Law at McGill Universityhas an interesting piece in the Ottawa Citizen today on "Why we're debating euthanasia now" with the tag line: "Deep changes in society have created a growing demand for the legalization of euthanasia -- but that doesn't make it right." She begins:

"Why is Canada's Parliament now considering a bill to legalize euthanasia (a term I use here to include assisted suicide), when we have prohibited it for millennia?

Not one of the bottom-line conditions usually linked with calls for legalizing euthanasia -- that a person is terminally ill, wants to die and we can kill them -- is new. These factors have been part of the human condition for as long as humans have existed. And our capacity to relieve pain and suffering has improved remarkably. So, is some other cause the main one?

She proceeds to give a laundry list of reasons why euthanasia is being debated now. First on the list is the obvious one: Enlightenment ideas of autonomy and extreme individualism.

Second, she mentions the loneliness of dying people due to the medicalization of death:
"In our society, death is largely medical event that takes place in a
hospital or other institution and is perceived as occurring in great isolation.
It's been institutionalized, depersonalized and dehumanized. Asking for
euthanasia can be a response to the "intense pre-mortem loneliness" of the dying
person that results."

Third, she mentions the way the mass media hypes isolated stories of individuals demanding death, which creates the illusion that this is what "everybody" wants.

Fourth, she talks about the "death talk" in our society and the fear that it generates:
"Our extensive discussion of euthanasia in the mass media may be our contemporary "death talk." So, instead of being confined to an identifiable location and an hour or so a week, "death talk" has spilled out into our lives in general. This makes maintaining the denial of death more difficult, because it makes the fear of death more present and "real." One way to deal with this fear is to believe we have death under control. The availability of euthanasia could support that belief. Euthanasia moves us from chance to choice concerning death. Although we cannot make death optional, we can create an illusion that it is, by making its timing and the conditions and ways in which it occurs a matter of choice."

I think she is really on to something here. As fewer and fewer people believe in Christianity, the natural fear of death is not dealt with through Christian hope and so people grasp at straws of control. We can at least pretend to believe that we can control what we choose.

Fifth, she mentions the legalism that characterizes our society as a result of a loss of face to face contact with family and friends and the fact that most interactions now occur between strangers. She also discusses the role of legal positivism, which implies the loss of belief in natural and divine law.

Sixth, she points out that materialism and consumerism end up getting applied even to human beings themselves. In a "throw away" society, even people are disposable.

Seventh, she says that the loss of a sense of mystery leads to a loss of hope: "We convert mysteries into problems in order to deal with them and reduce our anxiety in doing so."

Eighth, she points to the loss of the sense of what it means to be human and the loss of an ability to articulate a difference between animals and people.

Nineth, she mentions the false opposition of religion to science and the use of science to reduce the confidence of the average person in religion. This leads to a passivity - almost a kind of fatalism - in the face of new and dehumanizing technologies.

Tenth, she talks about competing worldviews. She writes:
"Though immensely important in itself, the debate over euthanasia might be a surrogate for yet another, even deeper, one. Which of two irreconcilable worldviews will form the basis of our societal and cultural paradigm?

According to one worldview, we are highly complex, biological machines, whose most valuable features are our rational, logical, cognitive functions. This worldview is in itself a mechanistic approach to human life. Its proponents support euthanasia as being, in appropriate circumstances, a logical and rational response to problems at the end of life.

The other worldview (which for some people is expressed through religion, but can be, and possibly is for most people, held independently of religion, at least in a traditional or institutional sense) is that human life consists of more than its biological component, wondrous as that is. It involves a mystery of which we have a sense through intuitions, especially moral ones. It sees death as part of the mystery of life, which means that to respect life, we must respect death. Although we might be under no obligation to prolong the lives of dying people, we do have an obligation not to shorten their lives deliberately."

Overall, this is a good article, from which several conclusions can, I think, be drawn.

1. Although she never uses the term, her article is a good description of the culture of death. It shows how the death wish is deeply woven into the fabric of our society, rather than being an aberation.

2. If she is even half right, the propsects for stopping the legalization of euthanasia are slim. The culture of death keeps marching along and the only way it can be stopped is if it is replaced by a new culture of life stemming from the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

3. The fact that the illusion of choice is fundamental to modern liberalism and that it leads to death is made plain by this article. We need to pray for the conversion of Canada to Christian faith because the alternative is frightening and dehumanizing.

The Social Gospel versus the Biblical Gospel

Over at City of God, Dan is puzzled by the fact that Mars Hill Church expects social reforms like men becoming more responsible for their wives and children as a result of establishing a new church in a new community and preaching the gospel of personal sin and salvation through the cross. He writes:
"I was watching a video done by Mark Driscoll’s ever-expanding Mars Hill in which one of MH’s pastors, A.J. Hamilton discusses leaving Seattle for the campus that Mars Hill is setting up in Albuquerque, New Mexico.

What struck me in this video was that Hamilton was asked about what he’d like to see MH accomplish in Albuquerque and he responded by talking about fatherless children and men who leave women. MH’s goal would be to “raise up Godly men” so that they could take care of women and children."

Dan then writes: "Is not the concern of Mars Hill over encouraging men to take care of the children and single mothers of their communities a form of social gospel?"

I would say to Dan and to all who may be wondering how the biblical gospel of sin and salvation relates to social improvements that "No, the concern of Mars Hill in this case is not a form of the social gospel."

The biblical gospel is not the social gospel, but the preaching of the biblical gospel does result in social improvements as individuals are converted and lives are transformed. The point here is that conversion and transformation are possible through the biblical gospel, but are not possible through the preaching of the social gospel. Only where there is a deliberate focus on Jesus Christ crucified, risen and ascended is there any possibility of actual transformation of life. Where repentence is not preached, there is, unsurprisingly, no repentence. Where forgiveness is not preached there is no life of grateful response. Where the power of the Holy Spirit is not preached, there is no transformation.

The social gospel locates the problem (sin) in social structures rather than in human hearts and it proclaims that political and economic changes will result in social improvements. Instead of depending on the work of the Holy Spirit, it proposes that we expect change to come from government regulation and funding. There is no need for repentence of sin, forgiveness on the basis of the shed blood of Christ on the cross or faith in Christ as the basis of salvation. In the social gospel, the world gets better through law, not through gospel. Hence, the social gospel is misnamed: it is not really gospel, but law. And the preaching of law apart from transforming grace is never good news. It is the worst possible news in the world: it is moralism and it is only welcomed by Pharisees. Brian McLaren's "New Kind of Christian" is really an old-fashioned Pharisee with his consciousness raised and a new set of legalisms (aka "issues").

The biblical gospel results in transformed lives, repentence from sin, faith in Christ and a new way of life. The biblical gospel really is good news because it does not call on people to buckle down and try harder to do the right thing out of altruism. The biblical gospel says that God has done something stupendous for us that we could never have done for ourselves and that what God has done makes a new life in the Spirit a real possibility for those who believe.

The biblical gospel has resulted in social improvement throughout the history of the Church. From the impact of the Wesley's revival preaching on 18th century England to the "redemption and lift" phenomenon studied by sociologists in Latin American Pentecostalism where conversion results in sobriety, family stability and growing material prosperity, to the luminous tradition of medical and agricultural missions carried out by 19th centuries committed to preaching the biblical gospel and to helping people practically, the biblical has always had spectacular results in the area of social improvement.

The common charge that the preaching of the biblical gospel is "pie in the sky" is simply re-cycled Marxist propaganda. By "pie in the sky" Marx actually means, not that the biblical gospel does not feed the poor, cloth the naked and take care of widows and orphans (for it manifestly has done those things for 20 centuries), but rather he means that it delays the revolution Marx so desperately seeks. It delays revolution because the biblical gospel does not teach people to put all their hope in the Party as the vanguard of the revolution, its emphasis on sin disabuses people of Marxian utopianism, and its emphasis on sin and salvation teaches people to put their hope in God, not guns.

The biblical gospel, when preached with conviction and believed by the masses, transforms society in a way that socialism can only pretend to do. The problem with the biblical gospel is not that it is not "social" enough, but that it is not believed, preached and embraced. But when the biblical gospel is not embraced, the social gospel is a poor substitute because it has only the form of religion but denies the power thereof.

Maureen Dowd: How Can Anyone Defend this Woman?

I can't believe I'm getting comments defending M. Dowd on this thread. I just re-read the column in the NYT. It is really slimy; I was too far easy on her in my original post.

She basically insinuates, without coming right out and saying so, that Pope Benedict XVI is a Nazi sympathizer. What a pathetic, evil, little gossip and character assassin she is.

Look: there are only two possibilities. She either (1) knows better, because the true facts about Benedict's anti-Nazi family and how he was forced to "join" the Hitler Youth in order to stay in school but never actually attended a meeting etc. etc. are well known, in which case she is a mendacious and perfidious twerp, or (2) she does not know the facts, in which case she is far too ignorant to be writing for an actual newspaper. I think she knows exactly what she is doing and it stinks.

People on the left get all upset when right-wing kooks say that Obama is a Muslim and rightly so. That is nonsense. But to let Dowd get away with this and still get upset about birthers and so on just undermines your credibility. You appeal to fairness but you really practice cheap partisanship.

Paul's instruction to women to keep silent in the church makes no sense - until you read what a woman like Maureen Dowd has to say. If you assume he was talking about people like her, it begins to appear much more understandable.

Robert Benne on the Fall of the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America

Respected Lutheran theologian writes on how his denomination, the Evangelical Lutheran Church in America, became the first confessional Protestant denomination to abandon the Great Tradition of Christian orthodoxy for the heresy of liberal Protestantism. Elements of his analysis are very illuminating.

First, Benne explains how the social gospel has replaced the biblical gospel in the ECLA:
"There is nothing but the social gospel," shouted a voting member at the assembly. But that is certainly not Lutheran doctrine. The various programs of social change taken to heart by the church are human works in God's left-hand reign, having to do with the Law, not the gospel. Rather, the real gospel is clear: the grace of God in Jesus Christ is offered to repentant sinners condemned by the Law and then called to amendment of life by the Spirit. Liberating efforts in the realm of social and political change are possibly effects of the gospel, but certainly not the gospel itself.

But the ELCA has accepted the social gospel as its working theology, even though its constitution has a marvelous statement of the classic gospel. The liberating movements fueled by militant feminism, multiculturalism, anti-racism, anti-heterosexism, anti-imperialism, and now ecologism have been moved to the center while the classic gospel and its missional imperatives have been pushed to the periphery."

It is interesting to note that in the first great defection from Evangelicalism during the Fundamentalist-Modernist Conterversy of the late 19th and early 20th centuries, the pattern was established in which at first the social gospel was declared to be equal in importance with the classical gospel and then, in a generation or two, the classic gospel began to be downplayed. Then the point is reached where the classical gospel is denied altogether. In the words of the delegate quoted above, "There is nothing but the social gospel." Katherine Jefferts Schori said pretty much the same thing at the Episcopal Church USA General Convention in July when she said that the gospel of personal salvation was a heresy.

The results of this shift from gospel (the good news of sin and salvation through Christ) to law (the social agenda of works derived from left wing secularism) are as follows:
"The policies issuing from these liberationist themes are non-negotiable in the ELCA, which is compelling evidence that they are at the center. No one can dislodge the ELCA's commitment to purge all masculine language about God from
its speech and worship, to demur on the biblically normative status of the nuclear family, to refuse to put limits on abortion in its internal policies or to advocate publicly for pro-life policies, to press for left-wing public domestic and foreign policy, to replace evangelism abroad with dialog, to commit to "full inclusion" of gays and lesbians at the expense of church unity, and to buy in fully to the movement against global warming. Though it is dogmatic on these issues, it is confused about something as important as the assessment of homosexual conduct. Yet, it acts anyway because of the pressure exerted by those who want to liberate church and society from heterosexism."

The combination of rigid dogmatism and clueless permissiveness on various issues is indicative of a mind that has lost its grip on reality and is wandering aimlessly without any sense of tradition. Benne's insights into the process by which this happened in the ECLA are stiking:

"The ELCA has a particular history that has compounded these problems. The mid-1980s planning stage of the ELCA was dramatically affected by a group of radicals who pressed liberationist (feminist, black, multiculturalist, gay) legislative initiatives right into the center of the ELCA structures.

Among them was a quota system that skews every committee, council, task force, synod assembly, and national assembly toward the "progressive" side. (There are quotas for representing specific groups in all the organized activity
of the church. Sixty percent must be lay, 50 percent must be women, 10 percent must be people of color or whose language is other than English. The losers, of course, are white male pastors; our Virginia delegation to the assembly, for example, had only one male pastor among its eight elected members.)

Further, the prescribed structure distanced the 65 bishops from the decision-making of the church. The bishops have only influence, not power. (Aware of their divisiveness, the bishops voted 44-14 to require a two thirds majority for the enactment of the Sexuality Task Force's policy recommendations, but were ignored
by both the church council and the Assembly.) Theologians were given no formal,
ongoing, corporate role in setting the direction of the ELCA. They, too, were kept at a distance and actually viewed as one more competing interest group.

The radicals so decisive in the defining moments of the ELCA intended
to smash the authority of the influential theologians and bishops
who had informally kept both the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America on course. The radicals wanted many voices and perspectives, especially
those of the "marginalized," put forward in the ongoing deliberations of the
ELCA. They were so successful that now, after 20 years, there is no
authoritative biblical or theological guidance in the church. There are only
many voices. The 2009 Assembly legitimated those many voices by adapting a
"bound-conscience" principle, according to which anyone claiming a
sincerely-held conviction about any doctrine must be respected. The truth of the
Bible has been reduced to sincerely-held opinion."


This decision on homosexuality has as its background several decades of determined work by radical activists determined to de-theologize the church and impose a secular, leftist agenda on the church. The theologians and bishops called to defend the faith of the church were marginalized and then out-voted.

It is interesting to note the importance Benne assigns to the quota system that skewed every board, task force or other representative body in favor of the progressives. That makes sense and it would appear that any denomination that wishes to remain orthodox must find a way to avoid such skewing of representative bodies in the liberal direction.

I wonder if this is the real reason why denominations that have embraced the ordination of women, in the name of the secular ideology of power that undergirds feiminism, have all found themselves drifting inexorably in a liberal direction. I wonder if this means that churches have basic choice to make: either reject women's ordination or face an inevitable left-ward drift. Someone should do some empirical investigation of this question. Is is possible that feminism is the great enabler of liberal drift?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Maureen Dowd: the Glen Beck of the New York Times

Maureen Dowd makes Glen Beck look sober, moderate and thoughtful by comparison. In this column she displays monumental ignorance, takes cheap shots at the pope that would not be out of place in a Chick Publications tract, speculates about "right-wing" Anglicans coming into the Church as part of some sort of plot instead of an ecumenical initiative and then tops it all off by suggesting that the Church hates women and wants American nuns to go back into the cloister.

Charles Lewis has written a calm and reasonable piece in the National Post that puts Dowd's apocalyptic rantings in perspective and answers some of her base accusations arising out of anti-Catholic prejudice and hate. He concludes as follows:
"By all means, Ms. Dowd, be angry if you feel that is warranted. But somehow
your readers deserve something more than Dan Brown paranoia hiding behind the
name of a prestigious newspaper."

Memo to M. Dowd: When someone associates you with Dan Brown, that is not a compliment.

Where in the world does the New York Times dig up such people to write opinion columns? Whys is someone as ignorant of the subject of religion allowed to spout off on theological and ecumenical issues she does not understand? Why is it OK to reduce the complexities of life to a straight-forward Feminst/Marxist, good versus evil, innocent female dominated by angry patriarchialist analysis where everything, especially theology, is merely a function of feminist ideology? And if that is OK, how is Glenn Beck worse, except that his views are the opposite of the liberal establishment? And, finally, is it any wonder the New York Times is sinking below the waves?

The newspaper of record sets new records for narrow-minded, ideological-motivated, fatually innaccurate drivel.

UPDATE:
Father Z. gives Dowd's hit-piece the fisking it deserves here.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Fr. Rutler Responds to the Papal Provision for Anglicans Wishing to Convert to Rome

Reaction to yesterday's ecumenical bombshell from the Vatican continues to trickle in. The Catholic News Agency get a juicy comment from Fr. George Rutler a priest in New York City and a convert from Anglicanism. It is blunt and thought-provoking and begins as follows:

"It is a dramatic slap-down of liberal Anglicanism and a total repudiation of the ordination of women, homosexual marriage and the general neglect of doctrine in Anglicanism. Indeed, it is a final rejection of Anglicanism. It basically interprets Anglicanism as a spiritual patrimony based on ethnic tradition rather than substantial doctrine and makes clear that it is not a historic "church" but rather an "ecclesial community” that strayed and now is invited to return to communion with the Pope as Successor of Peter.

The Vatican was careful to schedule simultaneously with the Vatican announcement, a press conference of the Catholic Archbishop of Westminster and the deeply humiliated Anglican Archbishop of Canterbury to enable the Anglicans to save some face by saying that this recognizes the spiritual patrimony of Anglicanism and that ecumenical dialogue goes ahead. That is like George Washington at Yorktown saying that he recognizes the cultural contributions of Britain and hopes diplomatic relations flourish. The Apostolic Constitution is not a retraction of ecumenical desires, but rather is the fulfillment of ecumenical aspirations, albeit not the way most Anglican leaders had envisioned it."

Read it all here.


The ecumenical fall-out from this will continue for decades and perhaps centuries. The central point that many commentators are making is that the Pope would never have done this if any hope remained for a mutual recognition of orders between Rome and the Anglican Communion. This means that the schismatic acts of the Anglican Communion, especially in the past decade, have finally convinced Pope Benedict XVI that no hope remains of the Roman Catholic Church ever recognizing Anglican Communion as a Church in the way that Rome will (and, in fact, already does) recognize the Churches of Eastern Orthodoxy. By Rome absorbing the anglo-catholic elements of the Anglican Communion, it is true that the Communion will be further weakened. But what difference does that make if the Communion is already in the process of fragmenting anyway?

What is next? The re-integration of the SSPX process continues at the typically glacial Roman pace and the prospect of inter-communion with the Churches of Eastern Orthodoxy continues to be a very real one. Liberal Protestantism has pretty much fallen off the ecumenical radar and we should expect further defections from liberal Protestant denominations by orthodox believers and eventually some mergers between dying liberal denominations. (The ECLA and TEC look like they were made for each other and may be able to survive together for one extra generation by selling off real estate confiscated from the orthodox.) Evangelicals will eventually become the main ecumenical dialogue partners of the Roman Catholic Church, although reunion at this point seems too far off to see.

Canada Drops to 19th Place in World Rankings of Press Freedom

The Canadian Press reports today that a French watchdog group "Reporters Without Borders" ranked Canada 19th this year, down from 13th the year before, in a list of the countries with the most freedom of the press in the world. As Ezra Levant points out on his blog, this is a disgrace for a country with an 800 year tradtion of freedom of speech. We now rank behind countries recently (less than 20 years ago) set free from Soviet totalitarianism such as Estonia, Latvia and Lithuania. Former World War II Axis powers Germany and Japan are now higher than us. Good for them, but why are we not #1? See the whole list here.

Levant points out that many of the questions asked in the survey of journalists focus on areas that have been violated by the Canadian Human Rights Commission during recent years. He documents how the CHRC violates 9 out of the issues covered in the 40 questions and opines that he is surprised that our ranking has not fallen further. I'm sure that if Parliament continues to ignore the out-of-control censors at the HRC's, we will fall futher in years to come.

When liberals become fascists, they are more dangerous than normal fascists because they think they are still liberal and therefore commit their crimes with a clear consscience and a smug sense of moral superiority.

Tuesday, October 20, 2009

Jim Wallis is Pro-choice, Sort of, Probably, Maybe . . .

For some time now Jim Wallis has been speaking out of both sides of his mouth on the abortion issue. He seems to want credit for being pro-life while not actually being in favor of legal protection for the unborn. This is the so-called "abortion reduction strategy," which amounts to this: (1) elect the Democratic Party and the most liberal president in American history, (2) expand the welfare state as fast as possible, (3) sneak abortion coverage into government-funded health care plans, (4) export abortion to the Third World by funding organizations that do abortions there and (5) place no restrictions of any kind on abortion. If that is what "abortion redution" looks like; I'd hate to see a real pro-abortion program.

Keith Pavlischek, writing at First Things, analyzes where Wallis is coming from and the conclusion is pretty obvious. Wallis supports health care whether abortion is part of the deal or not because expanding government in health care is the priority. Here is where he gets to the heart of the issue:
"In addition, I told Wallis as bluntly as I could, that as far as I could tell his position and that of Sojourners was indistinguishable from the old Mario Cuomo position of being “personally opposed” to abortion while wanting to keep the procedure legal. I suggested that neither he nor Sojourners could honestly be labeled pro-life because, for that term to mean anything, it has to involve advocacy for the legal protection of the unborn. Wallis was equally frank in response. He simply rejected my suggestion that the “legal protection of the unborn” had anything to do with being pro-life. Both of us left that conversation with a clear understanding that Wallis was, quite simply,
pro-choice on abortion."

If there are any Jim Wallis supporters out there, feel free to mount an argument that Wallis is misquoted by Pavlischek, if you believe he was misquoted, but we need evidence to refute Pavlischek. I've read Wallis' books and editorials and listened to him speak and what Pavlischek says about Wallis' position rings true for me.

If Wallis really said and believes that "legal protection of the unborn" is not necessary to a pro-life position, then he is simply trying to re-define the term "pro-life" for his own political convenience. I and all the other pro-life people out there understand that being "pro-life" means being in favor of laws prohibiting infanticide, euthanasia and abortion. Unless Wallis is willing to stand with us on that fundamental point, he has to wear the label "pro-choice."

Ecumenical Bombshell: Anglicans Invited Into Reunion with Rome

Yesterday's announcement from the Vatican in Rome, along with a press conference held by Archbishop Rowan Williams of the fragmenting Anglican Communion and Archbishop Vincent Nichols of the Roman Catholic Church, was a bombshell. The announcement today was the biggest event in ecumenical relations since the formation of the World Council of Churches and the Second Vatican Council. Although it was denied in an attempt to save face, the fact is that Rome has given up on ecumenical reunion with the Anglican Communion as a whole, which has chosen to become a liberal Protestant denomination and give up its catholic identity. The decision of the Church of England to procede with female bishops probably sealed the deal.

Basically, what happened was that the Pope responded to pleas from traditional Anglo-Catholics for a legal structure by which they could convert to Rome as a group and retain something of their liturgy and ethos while coming into full communion with Rome. The structure announced is modeled on the non-territorial military chaplain dioceses and allows the former Anglicans to have an Ordinary (either a bishop or senior priest) appointed to oversee them by Rome from among their own ranks. They also get to have married priests, but not bishops and their own seminaries. The Roman Catholic Church stands to benefit from the beauty and theology of the Book of Common Prayer even as its riches are tossed aside by liberal Anglicans.

Here is Archbishop Williams' letter to his bishops and the joint statement issued by Archbishop Nichols and Archbishop Wiliams at their press conference.

The Times of London has been sputtering in rage since yesterday - calling it "poaching" and whining about the Catholic Church stealing away its dwindling flock - even to the point of having incindery headlines like this one. (They must have hired Ian Paisely to write their headlines; nevertheless the article itself is not bad.) The Times' approach is to blame the Pope, blame the traditionalists, blame the orthodox, blame the Africans, blame everybody except the liberals who have caused the whole mess in the first place. This kind of response, however, is undignified and embarrassing for liberals because it refuses to face up to the fact that the Church which has resisted liberalism - the Roman Catholic - stands firm and is growing in spite of secular hostility, while the Church which has embraced liberalism in a futile effort to find approval from the enemies of the Faith - the Anglican - is disintegrating before our very eyes. It is time for Christians everywhere to read the signs of the times and discern the truth about how to survive and be effective in our mission in a secular, post-Christendom world. Compromise leads to death.
Last summer the Church of England voted to ordain female bishops, in violation of Christian tradition and the consciences of up to 2000 of its 14,000 clergy. It basically said to it Anglo-Catholic wing: "You can like it or lump it. Secular ideas of human rights and women's liberation are more important than church tradition." The Anglo-Catholics were being asked to participate in something their theology (along with that of the Roman Catholics and Eastern Orthodox, many Evangelicals and the majority of Chrisitans worldwide) forbids.

So the Anglo-Catholics cried out to Rome for help and Rome now has responded generously and graciously. The first group to enter will likely be the Traditional Anglican Communion, a group of some 400,000 conservative Anglicans from around the world. But up to between 1,000 and 2,000 clergy of the Church of England, including bishops and some whole dioceses, could end up swimming the Tiber as well. The consquences for the Church of England legally, theologically and otherwise are immense.

The Church of England could wind up polarized between a liberal majority and an Evangelical minority. The Roman Catholic Church could overtake it as the largest Christian church in England in terms of attendance. The Church of England could go the way of the Episcopal Church in the US with all manner of heresies and immorality coming to dominate its life and the splits that result could well lead to disestablishment. The Fellowship of Confessing Anglicans is already getting started in the UK and Ireland. (See ths letter from the GAFCON primates to the new group.)

The attitude of the liberals who blame Rome for this mess is laughable. Here they are abusing their flock, abandoning tradition, departing from biblical doctrine, and conforming to the secular world - and they blame Rome. Well they should remember what we were taught in seminary about "sheep stealing" and that is that healthy, well-fed, happy sheep seldom allow themselves to be stolen. It is always easier to blame others, but it is time for liberals to take a second look at themselves and, if possible, try to re-discover the faith of their fathers.

Birth Control is Not Green; Nor is it a Solution to the Problems of the World

The Green Movement, aka the Environmentalist Movement, has been infiltrated and taken over to a large extent by Communists and their fellow-travellers and apologists, who have seen their dreams of world revolution dashed by the triumph of freedom in Eastern Europe and the USSR. They have siezed on the Global Warming issue as one that is closely related to the anti-pollution movement that has been gaining ground in the West over the past two or three generations.

Being in favor of caring for creation, recycling and cleaning up (and preventing) air and water pollution is something all people of good, including most Evangelical Christians, support. But the Global Warming issue has been siezed on by the Green Leftists as a way of drumming up support for their anti-Capitalist, anti-growth, anti-people agenda. The methods are fear-mongering and propoganda; more on that in a moment.

Their game is given away by two facts. First, you note that the politically correct now speak of "climate change" rather than "global warming." Why? Well, the fact is that the earth has been cooling, not warming, since 1998. Even the BBC, for crying out loud, is now questioning the myth of global warming by asking questions about this "inconvenient truth." So the name of the problem is changed to "climate change," which pretty much makes its claims unfalsifiable. When something is not falsifiable, as Richard Dawkins keeps reminding us, it is not science.

Second, predictions of the population explosion leading to the apocalypse have been around since Thomas Malthus published his gloomy musings on how starvation is imminent since humans always breed faster than the food supply could possibly grow. Paul Erlich's 1970 The Population Bomb predicted widespread famine in the 70s and 80s of the Twentieth century and its predictions were so wrong that if he had been an ancient Israelite prophet they would have had to stone him since his prophecies were false. So when you read the heavy-handed anti-child, anti-human Green Movement gurus predicting the apocalypse any year now if we don't severely cut population, you should be properly skeptical.

With the upcoming "climate change" talks in Copenhagan, it is to be expected that we will see as spate of anti-people propoganda. A recent editorial in the Washington Times gives a summary:
"From the London School of Economics and Optimum Population Trust (OPT), a
British think tank, comes a paper that explains that birth control is a very
inexpensive way to combat climate change. For every $7 spent on birth control,
one metric ton of CO2 emissions could be cut, the OPT study says. If all
unintended births worldwide could be prevented for 40 years, 34 billion tons of
carbon dioxide could be prevented. Hence the headline, "Fewer Emitters, Lower
Emissions, Less Cost."

Another report, from the Center for Environment and Population in New
Canaan, Conn., argues that population issues (i.e., family planning) must be
included in any plan to save the environment. Population and climate change are
"inextricably linked," says the report titled "U.S. Population, Energy &
Climate Change."

Finally, a study from two Oregon State University professors, published in the journal Global Environmental Change, showed how the descendants of each person swamp Earth with their emissions, and it's better to have one child than two."

Now, this propoganda is designed to do three things: (1) make you support abortion and birth control programs in the West, (2) make you support the export of the Western promiscuity ethic and the contraceptive mentality to the Third World and (3) deceive you into thinking that further reducing world population is good for you.

The fact is that 59 countries already have falling populations and that world population is already going to level out by 2050 at around 9 billion, which is not too many people for the planet to support. The big problem is going to be the failure to maintain the population and the resulting economic disaster as the population ages, economic growth slows and violence becomes a more and more plausible scenario as groups fight over their share of a shrinking economic pie. (See my previous post on demographer Philip Longman's book, The Empty Cradle.)

It is time to oppose the Green Movement and to de-legitimize its dangerous and harmful ideology. It will cause much pain, suffering and hurt if it is allowed to dominate public policy and implement the Malthusian mistake on a world scale.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Fire. Them. All.: The Only Civilized Response

McLean's Online reports that a new poll shows that 70% of Quebec specialists favor legalized euthanasia. (On the plus side, 20% say they would refuse to do it if it were illegal.)

There has been much hand-wringing over this news as it it were something about which nobody could do anything. After all, they are doctors! Well, I have a solution: Fire. Them. All.

That's right: the whole 70% should have their licences revoked and shown the door. Let them drive taxi or sell cars and, in their spare time, let them meditate on their sins. Maybe at some point in the future, some will change their views and apply for re-instatement. Maybe they will be judged to be sufficiently reformed as to be acceptable. Of course, there are logistical considerations. It would have to be done in stages over a period of years as new doctors were trained and recruited to replace them. And, it could very well be that as the first few firings occurred, the majority of the rest just might have second thoughts and re-discover their enthusiasm for the Hippocratic Oath. Well and good. Repentence is always better than judgment, from a Christian viewpoint. But make no mistake, this is the sort of thing that needs to be discussed in terms of repentence.

This kind of immoralism stikes at the heart of the doctor-patient relationship and undermines the very practice of medicine itself. Society should not tolerate this cancer. For doctors to be willing to become agents of the state and kill their patients makes them not doctors any longer, but executioners and lackeys of the totalitarian thugs. There is no room for nuance or hair-splitting on this fundamental point of principle. What is wrong with our society is that there has been no public expression of moral outrage - no demonstrations in front of doctor's offices, no complaints to the medical asssociations, no calling for heads on a platter. This is not a debate over the color of the carpeting; this is literally a matter of life and death, good and evil, civilization versus barbarism.

The problem with us is that we think every issue has two sides. While that is true of the vast majority of issues, only a decadent society could apply that to killing the weak, the helpless and the vulnerable. There is only one position compatible with being a doctor in a civilized society and that has been embedded in the Hippocratic Oath and reinforced by Judeo-Christian morality for 2500 years. If doctors want to go to war with the moral foundations of our society, then society should respond by carrying defensive war to them and treating them as the enemy. There is no room for barbarians in the operating rooms of our nation. Fire. Them. All. Now.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Opposing the Republican Party for the Right Reason

A farily large number of Evangelicals have become disillusioned with the Republican Party in the US over the past number of years. They have come to oppose the policies of George W. Bush, and especially the ill-fated decision to invade Iraq in 2003. But sometimes one gets the impression that they really oppose Bush and the Republicans because they are welfare-state building, economic liberals who find the war to be a handy stick with which to beat their political opponents and build support for the Democratic Party.

They are opposed to the Religious Right, not so much because of its stand on abortion or marriage, but because of the support of the Religious Right on issues such as limited government, the rule of law and fiscal conservatism - all of which stand in the way of the high-tax, big government solutions to all the problems of the world agenda about which they really care. Continuous expansion of the nanny state with fighting poverty as the excuse is their real preoccupation. To the extent their opposition to the war in Iraq is genuine, the most important reason for opposing it is that it funnels resources away from welfare state entitlement programs. Jim Wallis, Tony Campolo and Brian McLaren are examples of such Evangelicals.

A different group of Evangelicals has become disillusioned by the Republican Party for very different reasons. They are true conservatives and they view the George W. Bush Republicans as sell-outs for not governing as real conservatives. Bush has increased the debt, created new unfunded entitlement programs, allowed the size of the federal government to spiral out of control and failed to veto pork barrell spending earmarks on bills.

Richard Viguerie's book Conservatives Betrayed: How George W. Bush and Other Big Government Republicans Hijacked the Conservative Cause was published in 2006 so I'm a bit behind the curve in calling attention to it now. But it is fascinating to read this book in 2009 and see how its thesis is being vindicated by events. He argues that the problem with the Republican Party is not that it is too conservative, but that it is not conservative enough. This is the second way to oppose the Republican Party and it is the route most Evangelicals will take, as opposed to the contention of Wallis and co. that the problem is that the Republican Party is too conservative.

Viguerie contends that conservativism is a movement separate from the Republican Party and has never been co-extensive with the GOP. He says that at best, it has temporarily seized control of the party, but the big business establishment of the party, which has historically controlled the Republican Party, has always looked down its nose at the social conservatives and traditional conservatives who are simultaneously embarassing and necessary to the party establishment. Viguerie calls for the conservative movement to think of itself as a movement first and as Republican only strategically. He wants conservatism to be a third force, not a third party, and to exert influence on the Democratic Party as well as the Republican Party.

Viguerie is a traditional conservative, not a neo-conservative or a libertarian. He identifies with the social conservatives and the populist conservative movement, not the imperialistic hawks or big business wing of the Republican Party. He is against judicial activism and a strict constructionist in legal theory. He is prolife and a fiscal conservative. He believes in the Tenth Ammendment and opposes the bloated federal government and its excessive taxation. Naturally, he is a big fan of Ronald Reagan and is looking for another leader like him - a true conservative instead of the blue blood conservative imposters like the Bush clan.

Viguerie takes some positions that might surprise those who believe that all conservatives think alike or march in lockstep behind some demagogue. He supports the Afghanistan war as a proper response to 9/11, but he is opposed to the Iraq War. He also opposes capital punishment in his chapter on "Building a Culture of Life." He was personally responsible for the direct mail revolution that allowed an appeal to the grass roots over the heads of the party bosses and professional politicians.

Viguerie is steamed about the fact that Bush has simultaneously betrayed conservatism by governing like a liberal and at the same time embarrassed conservatism by his stupid policies in Iraq. Conservatives are thus blamed for the policies of a man who is not even a real conservative.

Now, just a word about how the book is prescient.

First, he notes that the election of Jimmy Carter in 1976 paved the way for the election of a true conservative in 1980 and the similarities between then and now are errie. Obama is discrediting liberalism in the eyes of independents and seniors - two categories of voters who often determine the outcome of elections - and this will pave the way for the election of someone who is as unlike Obama as possible.

Second, he notes that the growth of big government has never stopped throughout the 20th century, but it has been slowed considerably under the conditions of divided government. The 2010 mid-term elections may deliver one or both branches of congress to the Republicans and may well set the stage for the derailing of the radical agenda so fervently promoted by the Democratic Left.

Third, the rise of the Tea Party movement, which appears to have no central, Republican Party approved leadership, is an example of exactly the kind of third force, conservative, grass-roots movement Viguerie's book called for. If you look at the current election in the 23rd Congressional district of New York, called to replace John McHugh, who was appointed to the Obama adminsitration as Army Secretary, the Republican Party establishment has nominated an ACORN-friendly, big labor backing, tax and spend radical named Dede Scozzafava. She is a recipient of the Margaret Sanger award and an ardent pro-choicer. Now, Doug Hoffman, a Conservative Party candidate has entered the race and for the first time the Democrat candidate has pulled into the lead in a tight three-way race. Hoffman may actually have an outside shot at winning, but if he does not he almost certainly will cause Scozzafava to be defeated. If the Republican Party continues to ignore conservative it will do so at its peril. Think of this as a preview of November 2010.

Viguerie's book is encouraging and well-worth reading. He opposes the Republican Party for the right reason: because it is not conservative enough.

Friday, October 16, 2009

The Last Moan of Western Civilization

It is 2009 and don't worry the sexual revolution is not about the increase of barbarianism and a degeneration into orgies and perversions. It is just a little adjustment in sexual mores, a loosening up of an overly-puritanical code of repression and the linking of sex to love instead of the institution of marriage. Yeah, right.

Canada's national newspaper, The Globe and Mail, has a story today about the latest problem students in university dorms have: having to choose between watching or leaving while your roommate has sex with his or her boy/girlfriend (er, hookup for tonight). Miss Manners has not defined proper etiquette in such cases. You apparently are supposed to leave the room and sleep on a couch in the TV lounge (this is being "sexiled"). Or you could stay and watch if you like (maybe make popcorn and applaud at the end), especially if you can't afford cable and the Playboy channel. Committing fornication is now considered not only morally permissible; it is now considered OK to do it in the presence of other people. (If you thought there were no more steps to take in the sexual revolution, don't be silly; there are always more steps to take.)

University officials seem to have no idea what to do about it or if anything needs to be done. They have set up the playground for the kiddies to indulge their every hormonal desire and, if you get sexiled today, they assume you will be sexiling your roommate next week anyway. So what is the big deal?

Indeed, what is the big deal about sex anyway? It is now considered to be just another bodily function. All that stuff about romance, love and intimacy is just passe. The hook-up culture dominant on university campuses considers sex to be nothing more than taking a drink of water because humans are just hunks of meat with hormones. What is the big deal? It looks like Western civilization is destined to end not with a bang or a wimper, but with a moan.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

A Wolf in Bishop's Clothing: Too Bad He Wasn't a Famous Playboy Director

Sorry for the light blogging: it has been a hectic week with class preparation, various details of administration and marking. But the term is going really well, especially the "Marriage in Theological Perspective" class. More on that later.

Michael Coren has a good article in The National Post on the reaction to the arrest of Bishop Raymond Lahey of Nova Scotia. The contrast in tone between the media and entertainment industry reaction to the arrest of Roman Polanski and Lahey is too obvious to miss and too culturally significant to ignore. It is a rock that needs to be turned over and examined even if what it tells us about our society is vile and depressing. Anti-Catholicism is no better than anti-Semitism, just more acceptable in certain circles.

There is no intention here of defending the creep, Raymond Lahey. It is good that he was caught and it is good that the Church is rid of him. I hope any cronies he may have had are quivering in fear of exposure right now and I hope their worst fears come true. But my point has to do with the double standard: one for Christian leaders and another for playboy directors. Is it really the case that all you have to do is blatantly brag about your vice and your crimes and that makes everything A-OK - even "rape"?

Monday, October 12, 2009

Is is Time for Home Schooling?

An article in The Globe and Mail today is entitled: "The Battle Over Boo Radley: Should Parents be Allowed to Decide What Their Kids Read in School?" It is difficult to believe that so many wrong assumptions could be packed into one title. The idea of posing this as a question could only occur to a person with strong totalitarian tendencies and the concept of parents to be "allowed" or not to do something that is within their natural rights is equally odius. The concept that schools belong to the state and that the state and/or the schools should have authority over families is also a mark of totalitarianism - a concept not to be wondered at in a Nazi or Communist ideologue, but completely inappropriate in a supposedly "liberal" newspaper. It shows that liberalism ceased being liberal long ago in this country.

One of the marks of decadent Western society's descent into the quicksands of moral relativism and tyrannical collectivism is the attempt by the omnipresent, nanny state to usurp the natural rights of parents to raise and educate their children according to the beliefs and norms of their own family.

The modern state fancies itself as having the authority to educate all children according to the beliefs and norms of the elitist class of society and as delegating as much or as little of this authority to a child's natural parents as it deems wise at any given moment in history. This usurpation of parental authority is facilitated and legitimated by the take-over of education by the state in the 20th century through its seemingly high-minded decision to fund education out of general taxation. This funding decision has led to a bloated and elitist educational bureaucracy in which "progressive" ideas of political correctness become a secular religion substituting for the former Judeo-Christian religious foundations of the schools taken over by big government and big teachers unions. These two institutions are the vehicles through which one religion is ousted and a new one imposed on the population and the rights of parents (and children) are trampled in the process.

The purpose of the article appears to be to call into question the status quo under the guise of a "news article." It acknowledges that:

"No work of literature is mandatory at Toronto's public schools: Parents can simply ask the principal to excuse their children from reading any book. And no one knows which books are substituted or how often because no one keeps a tally."
This is exactly as it should be; if parents are going to be gracious enough to delegate part of their responsibility for educating their children to public schools, which the parents pay the bills for through their taxes, then the schools should not get puffed up with childish self-importance and start lording it over their masters - the parents. But the author apparently does not agree:

"Line Pinard has received just two complaints in her six years as high-school principal. The first complaint, near the beginning of her tenure at Malvern Collegiate Institute, was about Russell Banks's Rule of the Bone . It was settled quietly when the parent agreed that the child could read W. O. Mitchell's Who Has Seen the Wind instead.

The second complaint put her under the microscope when reports emerged that
the school and the board were considering a ban on To Kill a Mockingbird , by
Harper Lee. (Those who jumped to conclusions could perhaps be forgiven – the
Pulitzer-Prize-winning classic was removed from the curriculum at a high school
in Brampton, Ont., just months ago.) In fact, a parent had merely raised a
complaint with Ms. Pinard about the book's language, and had suggested The Book
of Negroes
by Lawrence Hill as a suitable alternative for the Grade 10
curriculum."
The patronizing statement in parenthesis in that paragraph is a subtle dig at conservative parents implying that they are more likely than not to be racists. S0-called Liberals, who act in racist ways unreflectively typically like to accuse conservatives of racism with or without evidence.

Then we are told how difficult it is for the lumbering dinosaur-like, bureaucratic, top-heavy public schools system to be sensitive to Christian or consdervative parents (though it usually reacts with lightening speed to feminist or Muslim complaints).
“You can't imagine the hours I've spent on this,” Ms. Pinard said. This week school trustees will be asked to debate the policy anew. “I think that we're setting a precedent where we're allowing some parents to micromanage a public system that's supposed to be delivering a common curriculum,” said trustee Josh Matlow, who plans to appeal the policy at a board meeting on Wednesday.

“My concern here is that I think we're being very politically correct,” Mr. Matlow said. “… It's a very interesting discussion: What is the line between intolerance and acceptance, and then the line where we are not supporting our basic values as a progressive society.”
Notice that he thinks the whole ethical issue can be reduced to political correctness, which is simply another name for the currently fashionable prejudices and beliefs of the elite in power. Note that "our basic values as a progressive society" is the substitute for what would have been termed "our Judeo-Christian moral and religious heritage" just a couple of generations ago. The difference is not that ethical and religious values are not being used to determine policy; it is just that moral relativism and secular liberalism have replace the Judeo-Christian heritage. In other words, a narrow and destructive creed has replaced the broad-minded and constructive worldview that built the society the new creed is busy deconstructing.

The article does provide one quote from a person on the traditional side and, wonder of wonders it comes not from a lower-class, uneducated clergyman, (which is what one would expect from this sort of propaganda piece) but from an actual educator:
"But parents and students should question the literature they're asked to read, and their right to object deserves to be protected, said Dianne Fenner, program co-ordinator of English and literacy for the Toronto board."
Imagine that; parents and students should question authority figures! Most of the former hippies running public education are so busy questioning traditional morality that they forget that they are now the authority figures; they now run "the system." And they need to be questioned.

Near the end of the article is a totally asinine quote from a spokeswoman for the Greater Toronto Catholic Parent Network, who articulates her philosophy of what should be included in the school curriculum (remembering, of course, that only a tiny sliver of the total number of books in the world can possibly find a place in the curriculum). She says:
Murielle Boudreau, co-chair of the Greater Toronto Catholic Parent Network, said that exposing children to controversial books gives parents an opportunity to discuss important issues at home.

“If it's out there, in my opinion it's better to expose the child and explain whatever it is, rather than not to expose them,” she said. “… If you really have objections you should do home schooling.”
"If it's out there" - well that is a fine criterion, very sage, nuanced and principled. (One hopes this was an isolated quote lifted out of its context. If so, my criticism should be understood as being directed at the use made of this quote in this article.) So every cranky racist, every vicious misogyist, every hate-filled holocaust denier who ever published a book deserves to have it placed on the school curriculum. That is not what she said? Read her quote again: "if it's out there . . . " What shallow drivel. Children - especially younger ones - do not "need" to be exposed to everything; in fact they need to be exposed to the right material while their moral character is in the initial stages of formation.

The whole purpose of a curriculum is to facilitate adult decisions about discriminating between the perennially relevant and the ephemerally fadish. The whole Western canon is a centuries long debate between the greatest thinkers about the issues that never cease to be crucial for every generation. That is what should go into the school curriculum. Dirty talk is a juvenille fad of 20th century literary realism; nothing essential would be lost if students read nothing more recent than the 19th century. However, I would advocate having students read literature from the ancient Greeks and Romans up to the 19th century and then at the end have them read something by Nietzsche and one "modern" novel with bad language and a nihilistic worldview. That should help them combat the silly modern prejudice that society is "progressing" and that contemporary is automatically better than ancient.

The last sentence in the article about home schooling seems to be a taunt: you are too stupid to do what the experts do, so shut up. But I suggest that more and more parents are taking it as a challenge and choosing into the home schooling alternative and that is the ultimate challenge to excessive and arbitrary authority.

Saturday, October 10, 2009

It's Time to Ban Use of the Words "Constantinian" and "Christendom"

I would like to propose a ban on the use of the words "Christendom" and "Constantinian" for the foreseeable future, since they are so generally mis-used and abused.

The word "Christendom" had a generally positive or at least neutral connotation up until the last few years. Now "Christendom" has a uniformly bad connotation in most theological discourse. When I spoke of a "Post-Christendom" approach to Christ and Culture in the title of my 2005 book, I retained something of the double sense of gain and loss that inheres in the decline of Christendom. My point was not so much that we are better off now that we are in the post-Christendom period, as it was that we need to recognize that we are in a post-Christendom period.

The problem with not recognizing that fact is that, whereas participating in the cultural establishment used to be a way of engaging in Christian action, now participating in the cultural establishment is to engage in post-Christian pagan action. So there needs to be a lot more intentionality about how we relate to the majority culture around us. We need to develop minority sensitivities and learn from the Jews how to survive in a generally hostile environment rather than lumbering along lazily assuming that we are the minority. The spectacle of the liberal Protestant denominations having adapted themselves to the polite paganism of the upper middle classes in Europe and North America and still quaintly thinking of themselves as Christian is a ridiculous one that we should try to avoid for many reasons, the least of which is so that we do not make fools of ourselves.

Christendom was a period of Western culture that peaked in the 13th century in which a serious attempt was made to create a Christian culture on earth. To dismiss it all as insincere or a complete failure is a form of Philistinism that is insupportable and irresponsible. Our ancestors were far from perfect, as was the culture they built, but the attempt was sincere and the results, compared to the moral and spiritual wasteland of the 20th century, were impressive. To say that we live in a post-Christendom period indicates both gains and losses that probably can never be finally tallied up.

"Constantinianism" is a term, which was invented by John Howard Yoder and which has been corrupted and debased in just a single generation by those who claim to follow his thought. For Yoder, the term refers to an eschatological heresy in which the future kingdom of God, which lies on the other side of the Parousia, is captured and dragged backward into our own plane of history and becomes a human political project instead of a Divine gift. Constantine became the symbol, for Yoder, of the attempt to build the Kingdom of God on earth here and now in our own human strength. The result of such activity is a violent regime that uses Christianity as its legitimating ideology.

The way the term is used in much contemporary theological discourse is as a handy way of attacking all forms of conservatism by those with a left-wing bias. Christendom has left the West with a rich legacy of laws that protect human life, uphold human dignity, and limit the libido dominandi. Modern progressivism has systematically attacked and undermined these laws one by one in order to remove restrictions on the will to power that are perceived in modernity as oppressive because they prevent the self-creation of individuals through the exercise of will. Whenever anyone dares to defend laws against, say abortion or adultery, or laws that mandate one day of rest in seven or which place limits on technological manipulation of human life, they are hit with the label of "Constantinian." To be Constantinian is to refuse to be caught up in the fanatical, blind faith that change must inevitably equal progress since man is inherently good and we have such good intentions.

It seems that in much theological discussion today, "Constantinian" simply means "conservative" and "Christendom" simply means a barrier to progress. To be anti-Constantinian and anti-Christendom has come to mean simply being "progressive." The use of these buzz words allows one to apporpriate the Enlightenment-inspired faith of modernity without appearing to be simply modernist. But my point to those who use these words is: why not just be honest and call yourselves what you are, that is, modernist progressives?

Friday, October 9, 2009

Now What if Obama Actually Accomplishes Something Significant?

When my son told me the Obama had won the Nobel Peace Prize, I thought: "Poor kid, the victim of another internet scam." But come to find out the scam is being perpetrated by the five members of the Nobel Prize Committee. It is hard to react to something this crazy except with sarcasm and the internet has been buzzing with sarcasm from commentators on both the left and the right. The National Post has a nice collection of comments from The Economist to Slate to Time. My favorite is from Foreign Policy:
"Thank God for Yasir Arafat because by winning a share of the Nobel Peace Prize
in 1994, he at least assures that no one can say that U.S. President Barack
Obama is the most ludicrous choice in the history of an award that has a pretty
dubious history."

The Times of London Online is not exactly a right-wing rag, but it is pretty blunt:

"The award of this year’s Nobel peace prize to President Obama will be met with widespread incredulity, consternation in many capitals and probably deep embarrassment by the President himself.

Rarely has an award had such an obvious political and partisan intent. It
was clearly seen by the Norwegian Nobel committee as a way of expressing
European gratitude for an end to the Bush Administration, approval for the
election of America’s first black president and hope that Washington will honour
its promise to re-engage with the world.

Instead, the prize risks looking preposterous in its claims, patronising in its intentions and demeaning in its attempt to build up a man who has barely begun his period in office, let alone achieved any tangible outcome for peace.

The pretext for the prize was Mr Obama’s decision to “strengthen international diplomacy and co-operation between peoples”. Many people will point out that, while the President has indeed promised to “reset” relations with Russia and offer a fresh start to relations with the Muslim world, there is little so far to show for his fine words."


Nominations for this year's prize closed 12 days after Obama was sworn in. So this would appear to be the first time anyone has been nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize just for getting elected - let alone the first time anyone has won just for making nice speeches about peace and hope.

What I want to know is: "Now that Obama has won the Noble Peace Prize for accomplishing nothing whatsoever (other than making leftist Europeans feel that America is finally coming round to their superior way of thinking), what will they do if he does, at some point in the future, actually accomplish something of significance?"

Will they resurrect some of the titles of the ancient Roman Emperors in the late period when their divinity was being asserted for him? Will they institute an Obama-cult in which all the intellectuals of Europe and all the technocrats of the European Union will gather on a newly-declared public holiday to burn incense to his image, while recordings of his speeches are played on all TV networks in lieu of regular programing? Will they attempt to crown him Emperor of the World?

I don't know if enough thought has gone into this or not.

Will the Democrats Ram Through a Health Care Bill That Uses Federal Funds to Fund Abortion?

Some of us have suspected very strongly for months that has been the intent all along. That the Freedom of Choice Act dropped off the legislative radar with nary a peep of protest from the pro-abortion lobby groups like Emily's List, Planned Parenthood, and NOW is a suspicious fact that makes one think that there must be plan to achieve the same goals by other means. The fact that over a dozen pro-life ammendments designed to make H.R. 3200 abortion neutral have been voted down in various committees leads one to think that Obama is being disingenuous to insist that "his" health care plan (whatever that is - he has never put forward a bill or endorsed a specific bill) won't allow public funds to pay for abortion.

The Roman Catholic Bishops are getting restless: Here is a recent story in which they warn that they will vigorously oppose any bill that fails to meet their three top criteria:
"The U.S. Catholic bishops sent an open letter to Congress today, stating
that they will “vigorously oppose” the health care bills unless they prevent
taxpayer funds from paying for abortion, make care affordable for everyone and
ensure that immigrants have access to the health system.

Cardinal Justin Rigali, Bishop William Murphy and Bishop John Wester
penned the letter on behalf of all the U.S. bishops to "express our
disappointment that progress has not been made on the three priority criteria
for health care reform that we have conveyed previously to Congress.""

The really fascinating thing about this statement is that they are saying that currently proposed legislation does not address any of their three top priorities! The current legislation would still leave tens of millions without health insurance. So even if the abortion issue were cleared up (which it is not), they still would have to oppose it. It is a mystery to me and a wonder that, after all this hassle and fighting, the bill being proposed still does not cover everyone.

The White House continues to repeat the now-refuted old chestnut that the Hyde Ammendment somehow applies to H.R. 3200 when it does not.
"White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs is erroneously claiming that the
Hyde Amendment which restricts federal funding for abortions will apply to
federal health care reform legislation, the National Right to Life Committee has
charged.

At a Wednesday press briefing at the White House, Cybercast News
Service reporter Fred Lucas asked Gibbs whether a letter from the U.S.
Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) was right to say that health care reform
proposals have not met the president’s promise to bar the use of federal funds
for abortion.

“Well, I don't want to get me in trouble at church, but I would mention
there's a law that precludes the use of federal funds for abortion that isn't
going to be changed in these health care bills,” Gibbs responded."

Memo to Gibbs: You are in trouble at church; the only question is whether you are going to get out of trouble or not.

On his blog "God and Country" Dan Gilgoff interviews Rep. Bart Stupak, the democratic congressman leading the fight to get abortion funding out of health care legislation and Stupak clears up the fog. Stupak is talking about a recent phone conversation he had with President Obama.
Q. "How does the president feel about your stance that no government subsidized health insurance plan should include abortion coverage?

A. I brought up the fact that when he spoke to the nation on September 9 he said, "Let me verify one more rumor, that there will be no public funding for abortion." And so I asked him to clarify that because it's sort of the opposite of H.R. 3200 [the House healthcare bill]. And he indicated to me that yes, he understands that and when he talked about that line [in his speech] he said "my plan." But the president has not put forth a plan, so it wasn't really clear.

And so my question was, was he just reading H.R. 3200 and was he not briefed on the Capps Amendment [on abortion coverage], and he said, "No, no, I know the Capps Amendment."

Q. Does the president believe that the Capps Amendment prohibits federally-funded abortions, as pro-choice advocates claim, or that that prohibition is a disingenuous accounting trick, as antiabortion advocates claim?

A. The president did not get into the argument whether the Capps Amendment covers abortions or not. He never went there. He just said, "We have enough other arguments going on with the bill, let's work this one out."

Q. So what do you see as the path to resolving the abortion debate—to "working this out"— in the Democratic Caucus?

A. Unfortunately, I don't see a clear resolution right now. Maybe some language can be drafted that I haven't seen yet that will accommodate everybody. But I'm going to go back to what the president said: no public funding for abortions. And that's the Hyde Amendment [the longstanding ban on federally funded abortions]. So let's have the Hyde Amendment. I'm prepared to go to the Rules Committee and offer the Hyde Amendment. I'm not too sure I'll get very far because no right-to-life amendments have been made to order all year."

The following series of questions and answers from the same interview makes Robert Gibbs' evasive answers look like deliberate deception.

Q. "The pro-choice community argues that the Capps Amendment applies the
spirit of the Hyde Amendment to the House healthcare bill by barring federally
funded abortions in almost all instances.

A. The Capps Amendment says at least one plan [participating in a federal
health insurance exchange] must provide abortion coverage and must have
one that doesn't have it. For the first time ever, federal policy is saying that
abortion is a covered service. That's completely opposite of Hyde. Second, if
I'm in the public plan, I have to give one dollar per month [to abortion
coverage]. I'm a man, and I can't get an abortion, but I have to pay for it.
Those are two major differences from Hyde.

Q. What about the Capps Amendment language stipulating that federal funds
must be segregated from individual premiums in funding abortion coverage?

A. All that is just a mirage. On the D.C. appropriations bill, we used to
have the Dornan language, which said you cannot use federal dollars to pay for
[abortions] in D.C. We gave them operating funds, and what we said in Dornan is you had to segregate it.

[The Democratic leadership] will not give us that language anymore. They denied
us that. So if they were really committed to this firewall, as the pro-choice
people say, then why not put in the Dornan language we've had for the last 15 or
16 years? They have denied us every right-to-life amendment. There's just a
lack of trust there. We don't believe it. How does the saying go? Fool me once,
shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me. I won't get fooled twice.

Q. The pro-choice community says that, as many women move from
employer-based plans to those participating in the health insurance exchange,
which you'd bar from offering abortion coverage, they'll lose a benefit that
most currently have.

A. They don't lose the right, they've just lost the right to use my tax
dollars to pay for abortion. They still have that right, and there are millions
of women who are on Medicaid, Medicare, the federal employees' health benefit
package—which does not provide abortion services—who go and get an abortion.
They have to use their own money, that's all. That's current law."


All this intricate "what does the technical language mean" type of debate is difficult for the general public to follow. And one suspects that there is design at work is this.

But what is difficult to square here is Obama's clear promise of no federal funding for abortion and a strong conscience clause for health care professionals and the refusal of Congress to insert the necessary ammendments for that promise to be kept. Are we supposed to believe that Obama will veto this bill when it lands on his desk? Will he twist arms at the last moment to get the necessary language inserted? Or will the Democrats play good cop -bad cop until the opposition is worn down and the bill slips through by the slimmest of magins? Or is Obama just so incredibly weak that he prevent his own party from embarassing him by making a liar out of him?

If the Democrats ram through federally-funded abortion under the guise of "health care reform" they will reveal themselves to be cynical, deceptive proponents of the culture of death, rather than "common-good" minded reformers.

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Liberal Colonialism

It seems to be a meme with liberals that they consistently and brazenly accuse conservatives of doing exactly what they (liberals) themselves are guilty of doing. I have noticed this over and over again and I'm going to start calling attention to it on a regular basis on this blog.

Example #1 comes from the Catholic News Service quoting a Roman Catholic Archbishop from South Africa on the topic of "liberal colonialism."

"Archbishop Joseph Tlhagale of Johannesburg, South Africa said this morning at
the Synod for Africa that the continent faces a "second wave of colonization"
from "liberalism, secularism and from lobbyists who squat at the United
Nations."

The South African archbishop began his five-minute intervention by noting that moral values are "embedded in the diverse African cultures," and that, "alongside the Gospel values, are threatened by the new global ethic."

This ethic, he said, "aggressively seeks to persuade African governments and communities to accept new and different meanings of concepts of family, marriage and human sexuality." He also added that "the cultures of Africa are under heavy strain from liberalism, secularism and from lobbyists who squat at the United Nations."

Archbishop Tlhagale described the situation as "a second wave of colonization both subtle and ruthless at the same time."
He is right. The UN and European Union have been trying to impose a liberal Western worldview and ethics on Africa for years. The Islamic World, the Vatican and the US have formed a coalition that has slowed their advance, but now with a liberal administration in Washington joining with the UN - EU axis, the Third World is at the mercy of Western imperialism. We must pray for the return of a conservative administration in the US and for courage and strength for African Christians as they stand up to the pressure to conform to the pansexualist agenda and Western moral relativism.

Remember, there is nothing truely "liberal" about modern liberalism.

Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Government and Blogs Don't Mix

According to respected pollster, Rasumssen Reports, a recent poll found that 11% of Americans favored government regulation of blogsites. Its scarry that its that high. And 23% were not sure. The Obama administration has been sniffing around this issue for a while now wishing it could intrude on yet another area of life and "help" people avoid wrong thoughts. The same poll also reveals that:
"The Federal Trade Commission this week released new guidelines requiring bloggers to disclose any gifts or payments they get from companies for reviewing their products, and Americans are more comfortable with that kind of regulation. Forty-five percent (45%) think such a requirement is a good idea, but 32% oppose it. Twenty-three percent (23%) are undecided."

Good grief! How about if Obama just would keep his campaign promise not to appoint lobbyists to all sorts of posts in his adminstration? Would not that do more for democracy than getting into the regulation of the Internet? This is just the thin edge of the wedge.

Conservative and liberal bloggers have been a thorn in the side of statist types of all political stipes and that is all to the good. The government can jolly well keep its grubby hands off our little speck of independence. Blogs have been putting pressure on the mainstream media for not covering stories because of political bias and they have made it more difficult for spin doctors to manage the message to the masses. If they keep this up they will make themselves utterly indispensible to the democratic process.

How about a "Keep the Grubby Hands of Our Political Elites Off Cyberspace" ammendment to the Constitution? For heavens sake, if they feel the urge to censor something and just can't help themselves let them take on the multi-billion dollar porn industry and leave us political and religious bloggers in peace. Maybe we should form the NBA: "The National Blog Association" modelled on the National Rifle Association. Charleton Heston, where are you when you are really needed?

Honestly, it makes you feel like moving to Texas, buying a gun, finding an independent church and becoming a libertarian. I still can't believe 11% of Americans think this is a good idea. Hurmph.

Today's Lecture at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School

I gave a lecture today entitled "Augustine and the Secular in Christendom and Modernity" at the Scripture and Ministry Lecture Series sponsored by the Carl F. H. Henry Center for Theological Reflection at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School. The lecture was live blogged and you can see the notes here.

Wayne Johnson, Doug Sweeney, Geoff Fulkerson and Owen Strachan have been extremely gracious hosts and have made my stay a real pleasure. It has been interesting to see the work of the Henry Center first hand and I'm particularly impressed by the work they are doing to bring together the church and academy and encourage theological reflection by working pastors.

I surprised a lot of people there by taking a much more conservative line than they expected on the basis of my last book. But readers of this blog wouldn't have been surprised by most of what I had to say. I do find St. Augustine extremely helpful to current debates and the reaction I received reinforced my sense that his thought can help us cr'itique modernity in a much deeper and profound way than we often do. We did have some debate about whether my basically Marxist definition of social justice was the only one or the right one. A few people said "I like the phrase "social justice" but I don't mean that by it." There was some good dialogue and some serious thinking going on. Sounds like what the academy should be like to me.

And yes, I did say that I almost titled the talk "How I Lost My Faith . . . in Social Justice." At far as I know, no heart attacks occurred during that part of the presentation.

Monday, October 5, 2009

Is Socialism Dead in Europe?

A very misleading story appeared in The New York Times on Sept. 28, 2009. With a headline: "Europe's Socialists Suffering Even in Downturn" it began melodramatically: "A spectre is haunting Europe, the spectre of socialism's slow collapse." Of course, if it were really true that socialism were dying in Europe, the more appropriate headline would have been: "The spectre of socialism that has haunted Europe for over a century is slowing fading away." But that would not be accurate, as we shall see.

The article goes on to say:
"Even in the midst of one of the greatest challenges to capitalism in 75
years, involving a breakdown of the financial system due to “irrational
exuberance,” greed and the weakness of regulatory systems, European Socialist parties and their left-wing cousins have not found a compelling response, let alone taken advantage of the right’s failures.

German voters clobbered the Social Democratic Party on Sunday, giving
it only 23 percent of the vote, its worst performance since World War II.

Voters also punished left-leaning candidates in the summer’s European
Parliament
elections and trounced French Socialists in 2007. Where the
left holds power, as in Spain and Britain, it is under attack. Where it is out,
as in France, Italy and now Germany, it is divided and listless."

So socialism is dead, kaput, without influence and unmourned. Well, not quite. The article goes on to point out, quite rightly, that:
"Europe’s center-right parties have embraced many ideas of the left:
generous welfare benefits, nationalized health care, sharp restrictions on
carbon emissions, the ceding of some sovereignty to the European Union. But they have won votes by promising to deliver more efficiently than the left, while working to lower taxes, improve financial regulation, and grapple with aging populations.

Europe’s conservatives, says Michel Winock, a historian at the Paris Institut d’√Čtudes Politiques, “have adapted themselves to modernity.” When Nicolas Sarkozy of France and Germany’s Angela Merkel condemn the excesses of the “Anglo-Saxon model” of capitalism while praising the protective power of the state, they are using Socialist ideas that have become mainstream, he said."

So socialism is dying as a revolutionary movement because it has gone mainstream. When the mainstream is socialist, a socialist revolution makes no sense. Socialist tweaking makes more sense.

Socialist ideas are now accepted accross the political spectrum by all the parties that can legitimately expect to gain power. The so-called center-right has won by becoming itself a kind of leftist option - abeit one with a certain mild rhetorical sympathy for some aspects of capitalism. Chiefly, business enterprises are valued as cash cows for the high-tax, welfare state that is now the mainstream European model.

What it now means to be "right-wing" in Europe today is to put oneself forward as a more efficient manager of the welfare state. Rolling back the welfare state, increasing individual liberty, setting business free to create wealth - these are derided as "the excesses of the Anglo-Saxon model of capitalism." No wonder Britain's true conservatives want out of the European Union.

We need to understand that this is the way liberals in the US and Canada are also attempting to re-set the terms of political debate. Only versions of socialism or the ever-expanding welfare state are allowed as viable options for discussion. Conservative ideas are ostracized as beyond the pale - as "right-wing extremism" or "regressive."

Europe may be deluded enough to think that it has reached the "end of history" but it is more likely that with its decline into demographic suicide, its decreasingly democratic form of government by technocrats and its increasingly unaffordable welfare state system, it has simply reached the end of the line.

Well, all empires have to fall sometime; it has been a good run. No, socialism isn't dead, but Europe itself is getting close to terminal.