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Saturday, November 15


A reader writes to ask if I know of ways to help women in Africa who are currently being helped by abortion-promoting groups like the U.N. Population Fund, and who lose that help when funds are cut off to such agencies. I don't know who does this sort of work, and would be grateful for information from any reader who does.

10:18 PM


Fr. Robert Hart sends this article with his recommendation: the columnist Maggie Gallagher's "Truth or Dare". It begins:

Can we get honest about sex? I know it seems all we do is talk openly and honestly about sex. But while we blather on about it on "Oprah," there is one set of sexual truths we have all rather studiously repressed: gender. For 30 years, elite women have insisted we all talk and act as if we believed in androgyny (or the idea that there are no natural differences between men and women). Which, mind you, is a very different matter than equality (which is the idea that social institutions should do justice to both men and women).

And ends:

The sexual truth is that women (unless they're lesbians) are attracted to men. And masculinity is not like femininity. It is a performance. It has to be won — and it can be lost. How to create a strong sense of masculinity that serves rather than oppresses women is the problem feminists never solved because until now, they dared not even acknowledge that it exists.

Lee Podles said this in his book The Church Impotent and was attacked for it by a lot of people. But now that people like Maggie Gallagher and the women she quotes (from articles in The New York Times Magazine and New York magazine) he should get a more attentive and sympathetic reading.

If nothing else, a world in which the difference between men and women is recognized and enjoyed is a lot more interesting and entertaining world.

10:07 PM


A cheering letter from an Episcopal rector to his parish, which I got from the Episcopal listserve Virtuosity. I have read a lot of hand-wringing letters from Episcopal clergy, but no others in which the clergyman confessed his own part in the current tailspin of the Episcopal Church.

It is especially cheering that he includes among the acts to be repented of his support for the ordination of women. Most of the conservative clergy now so upset at the homosexual bishop gladly — cheerfully, eagerly, energetically — promote the earlier form of sexual disordering, the one that politically and theologically began the process that produced Bishop Gene Robinson of New Hampshire.

I can’t imagine this priest’s future lies in the Episcopal Church. Its powers-that-be will not let him live out this understanding of the Faith and of his vocation as a priest, and understandably so. They know that a man can not serve two masters. They have their religion, and he has Christianity. If he won't serve their religion, he will have to find another master.

I suppose that "They have their religion, and he has Christianity" sounded catty, but I meant it seriously. Anyway, here is Fr. Gregory Tournoux’s letter to his parish, for which I want to say “Bravo.”

An Open Letter and Statement of Faith

To the People of Christ Church, Owosso, Michigan
By the Rev’d Dr. Gregory A. Tournoux, Rector

My Dear Brothers and Sister in Christ;

Christ Church, Owosso, by the Grace of God has become a purpose and principle driven parish (Mt. 28:16-20; Mk. 12:28-34) which implements Natural Church Development (Mk 4:26-28; 1 Cor. 3:5-9; Eph. 4:11-16) by developing leaders who work with ceils of basic Christian Community within the parish family.

Through Grace, the last ten years have seen Christ Church grow from an average attendance of 60 to an average of 225 per Sunday. More than 25 cells have besn birthed within the parish, the annual budget has more than doubled, and two building projects have been completed. The Holy Spirit has indeed favored us and inspired us and, because of this, the parish has indeed borne fruit for the Kingdom.

Over time however, it has become increasingly apparent that the journey of faith experienced so richly by the people of this parish stands in stark contrast to the overall situation within the Diocese of Eastern Michigan and the Episcopal Church as well. In particular, since the General Convention in Minneapolis in August, this contrast has reached such magnitude and such a degree of obviousness that it is no longer possible to deny the impact on our spiritual development, or its inevitable end within the church. Therefore, I have found it necessary to make the following statement of apology, of repentance and of amendment of life to you, my brothers and sisters in Christ.

o For some time, it has been apparent that the institutional life of the Episcopal Church has embraced elements of several classic heresies of the historic Christian faith. These include elements of pantheism, panentheism, process theology and monism. I have recognized these over time but have been in denial as to their implication for our spiritual development. I have been wrong to deny these heretical tendencies, and I repent of that error.

oI have looked the other way as the Episcopal Church tolerated abortion, to include “late term” abortion. I have been wrong to tolerate this, and I repent of that error.

o I have tolerated the Episcopal Church’s acceptance of the ordination of women to the priesthood and episcopate, an acceptance foreign to 2,000 years of historic teaching and still rejected by more than 90 percent of Christianity; aggravated by its being foisted on the church by the disobedience of four retired bishops and subsequently forced on dissenters by a naked display of power by General Convention. The theological case to this policy has not been made by the Episcopal Church; twenty years of experience have not made it more acceptable; and the disobedience in which it was conceived certainly is not the work of the Holy Spirit. I have been wrong to acquiesce in this. and I repent of that error.

o As the Episcopal Church has attempted to cater to numerous special interest groups and aberrant theologies, it has permitted the development of numerous “inclusive” liturgies which deny the Triune nature of God and the faith “once for all delivered to the saints.” I denounce those liturgies and those aberrant theologies. By not speaking out more promptly against them I have unwittingly contributed to them, and I repent of my part in such error.

In an effort to atone for my willingness to accommodate institutional error in this way, it is my intention to undertake the following:

o To preach the gospel, “in season and out of season”, with special emphasis in support of paleo-orthodoxy and a return to the classical orthodoxy of the undivided Church;

o To uphold more fully, as Lancelot Andrewes declared, the “Two testaments three creeds, four Gospels and the first five centuries of Christian history”, which constitute the consensus of the faithful through the ages.

o To match this return to orthodoxy with an equal determination to live a new paradigm dynamic orthopraxis in my life and the lives of any congregations committed to my charge.

This is my solemn vow.

Gregory A. Tounoux +
Owosso, Michigan
14 November 2003
The Feast of the Consecration of Samuel Seabury, and
of The Bestowal of the American Episcopate

9:40 PM


A follow-up to Fr. Pat's blog on the new movie Master and Commander, which I watched last night with him and his wife: from today's Daily Telegraph, an article by the movie's screenwriter John Collee: "It felt as if Patrick O'Brian's ghost was writing with us".

6:30 PM


A sign of the times: Students at Wheaton College now allowed to dance.

I know someone who attended another Evangelical college, which allowed folk dancing but not "social dancing" on campus. He tied the president of the college in knots by pointing out that "social dancing" was a part of their culture for the racial minorities the college was trying to attract, and then asking if the college's policy wasn't in fact racist. The president did not come up with a coherent answer.

He was, I think, being mischievous but also asking a question with a serious point. It is a question where such groups get their standards for Christian behavior and how they justify them. In this case, the college's standard reflected a certain kind of white, middle-American Christianity, but without admitting it.

6:15 PM


For your "Religion in the modern world" file, here is an article on the movie director David Lynch, who has made some genuinely odd — critics like the word "disturbing" — movies: 'Peace on Earth is my priority'. It appeared in yesterday's Daily Telegraph. According to the article:

His remedy for our troubles is Transcendental Meditation. At a press conference in New York last month, the eccentric 57-year-old film director unveiled an ambitious project to build hundreds of "peace palaces" around the world. Eight thousand like-minded followers of Transcendental Meditation will live, eat and sleep inside the first of these temples permanently, all meditating like crazy. Between them, they will harness the power of a great, global wave of positive consciousness that will usher in a new era of love and harmony. Bingo. That's all there is to it.

"Eight thousand people, going every day. It's world peace. There will be peace in the Middle East. Peace in the whole world. It could happen this year," Lynch explains, almost tripping over the words in his excitement.

"This is like quantum physics and Vedic science. It's, like, ancient and modern. It's based on the most profound law of nature and it will work. It just needs to go permanent, day in and day out, and it's a done deal.''

An inkling of self-doubt suddenly surfaces. "When you think about it, it does sound too good to be true," he concedes with a grin. "But I believe it.''

As described, this meditation has no moral or doctrinal content whatsoever. Which is not necessarily bad — breathing deeply when you're over-excited has no moral content either, but it's useful to do — except that its proponents tend to present it as if it were a religion, that is, as an answer to all your problems. They promise that you can be happy without conversion, without change, without repentance.

If you find this kind of thing interesting (to observe, I assume) you will want to read the rest of the article. Lynch is the director of movies like Blue Velvet, Mulholland Drive, and The Elephant Man, which is a marvelous movie.

6:03 PM


From K. R. Pearce, a doctor, responding to “A politician sees the light” and (I think) “An abortion parallel”:

And not to forget that the nine months in the womb are the only time in a persons life when the State has no jurisdiction (and in Western legal history only since Roe V. Wade). As soon as you are born, you are protected by the State. If the parents do not behave legally in relationship to the child, the State must step in to protect the child. When you reach your majority, you must behave legally or the State is required to step in to protect you and Society. This confirms that the fetus is considered “property” for nine months, and nine months only . . . until a complete Socialist State appears where all human life is “property” . . . of the State.

And not to forget that a fetus (“tissue”) is technically, anatomically, not “part of the mother’s body” during pregnancy. It is only inside but not in any way a part. The mother’s uterine wall is interdigitated with the placenta to increase the surface area so that nutrient chemicals of only certain types and sizes can pass through these membranes.

But if that wall is violated, the baby’s proteins and different DNA will be recognized by the mother as foreign and be destroyed. The fetus is “inside” the mother’s body only as food is in your body — inside the intestines but outside all the tissue barriers.

I believe that many medical schools are not even swearing the Hippocratic or Geneva Oaths at graduation since they are teaching/requiring how to do abortions and some places participating in euthanasia. Honoring you teachers, however, is a good thing . . . swearing an Oath is a violation of the doctor’s “right to choose, and his right to not feel guilty, and his right to privacy, and his right to prosperity . . . .”

For the Oaths:

the Geneva Oath formulated only after seeing the atrocities of a Socialist State . . . how soon we forget (even while typing in Geneva font . . . ).

5:58 PM


Denise and I went to see the opening of Master and Commander last night. David Mills, who is visiting, went with us.

This is a very good “action film,” but those expecting to see a dramatic presentation of O’Brian’s first volume, after which the film is named, may be disappointed. Relatively little of the story line is from that volume.

Some of the material (such as the ship’s name, H.M.S. Surprise) comes from volume three, some from volume four, much from volume 10, and so on. That is to say, this is really a new work, with elements from all over the Aubrey/Maturin saga.

The two characters, Jack and Stephen, are true to O’Brian’s portrayal of them, though Stephen’s complex character is developed much less than in the books. For example, in the movie there is nothing to suggest that Stephen is a Catholic, an Irish revolutionary, a drug addict, a crack pistol shot, and a spy for the British government, though the film does accurately portray him as a physician, a cellist, a linguist, and a researcher of natural history.

The emphasis in this movie is on action. It skips the rich subplots and character development that makes O’Brien’s novels such an adventure to read.

One review of this film concentrates virtually all the film’s action in the single storm scene. The reviewer remarks: “What ‘Master and Commander’ reveals is that real men want to test their strength against the elements.”

Evidently they showed a different version of Master and Commander down where this reviewer lives, because the version I saw was emphatically a war film, violent and blood, unapologetic and undisguised. Master and Commander is an unabashed commentary of the military dimensions of geopolitics.

The film’s initial frame places the action in the year 1805 and directs our attention to Napoleon, whose feared invasion of England was anticipated at any time. Aubrey describes his ship as an extension of England itself. He and his men have not sailed around South America to test their manhood against the elements of nature; they have gone down there for the purpose of killing Frenchmen and limiting Napoleon’s ability to make war against England. This is stated repeatedly in the film’s dialogue.

To be sure, there is one storm scene in the movie, one scene of intense cold, and about ten minutes of rainless heat. True, in that one storm scene, a man overboard does perish. But the major action scenes in this film are the battle scenes, with cannon balls ripping into the ships and men, swords and pistols drawing blood in great profusion. Certainly this is a “guy film,” as the aforementioned reviewer indicates. It is a guy film, however, because it is a film about fighting. This is what the guys in the film are doing. The pursuit of fighting is why these men have gone to sea.

And, as Aubrey tells his crew, they are fighting the French so the guillotine will not be erected in Piccadilly. That is to say, the English are battling to preserve their freedom, a word that appears several times in the film’s dialogue. This is a film about going to war, because it is a film about states that defend themselves and their interests against other states. The English are fighting off the coast of Brazil, Aubrey tells his men, so that they won’t have to fight in England.

This film’s relevance to current events in world history, particularly to the global concerns of English-speaking peoples (at least those in the United States, Britain, and Australia) is implied across a very large screen. I cannot imagine how someone could possibly miss it.

This movie is highly recommended.

4:09 PM

Thursday, November 13


Our book Creed and Culture was reviewed in the latest (Winter 2003) issue of The University Bookman. (The magazine does not seem to have a website.) The reviewer, James E. Person, Jr., describes the book as

a rich sampling of some of the best essays to appear within that fine periodical during the first ten, precarious years of its existence.

It is a book that

reflects the richness of a well-written periodical which is a pleasure to read and a source of invaluable insight to the modern Christian seeking to better honor God and in faith defend the permanent things while living in today’s world.

One of the editors whose articles appear in the book he describes as writing prose "positively reminiscent of C. S. Lewis" and another he describes as "remarkably learned." Person is a remarkably perceptive reviewer.

The magazine’s editor, in his introduction to the issue, refers to Touchstone as one of the "tenders of the flame" and -- including us with T. S. Eliot’s Crierion -- a "high-quality publication." Bless him.

I probably shouldn’t say this, but I tend to agree with the reviewer’s judgment. It is a good book. You can order the book here.

1:45 PM


In response to Tuesday's story "Out one of you goes" about the Evangelical Theological Society's struggle with "Open Theism," a reader writes:

Regarding your surprise at learning that the ETS doctrinal statement has only two basic affirmations, Biblical inerrancy and Trinitarianism:  I am basing this on memory only, and I have no supporting evidence at hand, but I'm fairly certain that originally the ETS doctrinal statement consisted of only the first of those two.

I suspect they added the Trinity when they woke up one day and realized that they would have to admit Mormons, Jehovah's Witnesses, etc.

And now the Society is finding that the two bare articles don't protect them from other errors. This is what happens when one tries to reinvent the wheel, which had been developed over time to answer such questions as they now face. As I said, I thought they would at least have started with the Nicene Creed and related documents like the Chalcedonian definition.

I'll have to look at the wording of the statement again, but I think a Catholic or an Orthodox believer could sign it, which I suspect the Society wouldn't want any more than they want Open Theists. They obviously believe Evangelicalism to be a thoroughly Protestant thing, but I don't think their statement has any decisively or clearly Protestant content which would prevent believing Catholics and Orthodox from signing it.

10:58 AM


A response to yesterday's story about Sen. Zell Miller of Georgia (two blogs down) from Fr. Robert Hart. He is an Anglican priest and a frequent contributor to Touchstone -- in fact he has articles appearing in the View department of the December and the January/February issues. Here is his insightful response:

One more parallel exists between Roe vs. Wade and Dred Scott vs. Sandford. When the freed slave, Dred Scott,  was uprooted from his new home in Ohio, and forced back into the service of his deceased master's widow, he became her property under the law. This was despite his having inherited freedom under Mr. Sandford's will. He was now the property of one woman who alone ruled his destiny.

"Abortion rights" are also property rights. The unborn child is, for all purposes, owned by one woman who alone rules the destiny of her human property. So, my question to "pro-choice" folks, the "liberals" who favor Roe vs. Wade, is (murder being a matter of small importance) "Why have you set back the clock on the issue of slavery?"

10:55 AM


A response to the responses to Patrick Reardon's "Not all quiet on the eastern front" from Matthew Nelson. (Links to the article and the responses can be found in yesterday's "The OPF Responds"). Mr. Nelson writes:

After following the Blog's link to Mr. Forrest's response to Fr. Patrick Reardon's recent Touchstone article on just-war theory in the Orthodox tradition, I am simply astounded.

Though Mr. Forrest is entitled to defend the Orthodox Peace Fellowship against Fr. Reardon's criticisms, he is not entitled to twist language beyond recognition.  And this is exactly what he does.  Mr. Forrest fudges yet again on the meaning of the word "murder," and contends that the view that all war is always wrong is not in fact pacifism.  Pray tell, what is it then?

Fr. Reardon's article, which I believe demonstrated beyond peradventure that pacifism is not a tenent of Orthodoxy Christianity, has offended Mr. Forrest's peace-loving sensibilites.  But, unfortunately, Mr. Forrest's attempt at rebuttal relies entirely on linguistic sophistry, not reasoned argument.

As such, further discourse with Mr. Forrest and the OPF would be pointless.  Though rejecting the pacifism moniker, Mr. Forrest will continue to beleive and proclaim that pacifism is a tenant of the Orthodoxy Faith regardless of the overwhemling evidence to the contrary. 

In the meantime, while always beseeching the Lord "for the peace of the whole world," orthodox Orthodox, who may or may not be opposed to the War in Iraq, will also pray for the victory of believing kings over barbarians and will also continue to hymn the Mother of God Incarnate as the "Queen of All the Battle Trophies Won."

10:49 AM

Wednesday, November 12


A very cheering article from the (Southern) Baptist Press service. A story titled "Senator's change of heart" reports that

Democrat Sen. Zell Miller sees parallels between Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that legalized abortion, and Dred Scott v. Sandford, the decision that said slaves had no rights.

Miller hasn't always felt that way. He was once pro-choice.

He began to change his position when his great-grandchildren were born in the 1990s.

"New science and technology can now show the heart of the unborn baby beating in the mother's womb. I saw it on the front page of Newsweek, no less. I remember my grandson, only twenty, carrying a sonogram around to show off his yet unborn, but so alive daughter. It gave new meaning to the old Roberta Flack song 'The First Time Ever I Saw Your Face.'

"I know it is wrong to take these lives. For me it is no longer a political issue but a moral one, as it should have been from the beginning. I hope someday Roe v. Wade will be reversed."

The senator "sees one striking parallel" between Roe v. Wade and the Dred Scott decision:

"The elite, arrogant plantation owner believed his own self-interest to be more important than the slaves' self-interest," Miller writes. "A woman who favors abortion believes her self-interest comes before the unborn's self-interest. In each case, the judgment is a moral one, made deliberately. What could be more arrogant than to believe one has the right to designate a life not worth living?"

He also notes the inconsistency of those

who are for abortion but against the death penalty. "It seems strange they shed tears for someone who has been found guilty of having committee heinous crimes, but cannot find equal compassion for an innocent infant who has hurt no one," he writes.

This story has some relevance to last April's issue on The Godless Party.

9:43 PM


A reader, Kirk Botula, responds to Sunday's blog, "Loosey-goosey vs. Logical":

Your reader's comments on the lost capacity for logical thought bring to mind one of the major thrusts of the Classical Christian movement in education. Inspired by the Dorothy Sayers essay "The Lost Tools of Learning," many Christian schools and homeschoolers are rediscovering the medieval Trivium.

In this model children go through a Grammar stage that corresponds to elementary school and focuses on the grammar of English, Mathematics and History. The middle school years bring on the Dialect or Logic stage in which student are taught formal and informal logic as an explicit subject area. Finally, in what corresponds to high school the students move into the Rhetoric stage where they learn not only to reason but to articulate arguements persuasively.

I personally believe that rational thought has a grammar and technology that has been largely lost, not unlike the grammar of painting that has been lost since the advent of the modern movement in visual arts. Today art students can receive their MFA at Yale and still not actually be able to execute their craft at the level of a rank amateur in the days of the 19th Century Academy. Similarly, an (appropriate) rejection of rationalism has led our culture to (inappropriately) reject the tools of reason.

This, of course, leaves us particularly vulnerable to advertising and propaganda. It leads to people who are comfortable holding simultaneously incompatible views and leaves reasonable arguement without any capacity to move people or change lives.

Their training in rhetoric would explain why so many average soldiers in the Civil War wrote those moving letters Ken Burns kept quoting in his documentary, and their lack of training in this art why so many professors -- including one professor of rhetoric I can think of -- write those unreadable . . . things you find in many academic and business journals.

9:34 PM


That got your attention. Here is something you may find of interest: "The Sexual Clash of Civilizations", today's weblog by the Southern Baptist theologian (and, I am happy to say, friend of the magazine) Albert Mohler.

He begins with a summary of Samuel Huntington's thesis about the "clash of civilizations" and then reports on an interesting article from the journal Foreign Policy titled "The True Clash of Civilizations," in which the authors argue that:

"Although nearly the entire world pays lip service to democracy, there is still no global consensus on the self-expression values--such as social tolerance, gender equality, freedom of speech, and interpersonal trust--that are crucial to democracy.  Today, these divergent values constitute the real clash between Muslim societies and the West." . . .
According to the data from the WVS [World Values Survey] reports, culture determines values.  But, where Huntington pointed to a worldwide clash over political values, Inglehart and Norris argue that "the real fault line between the West and Islam . . . concerns gender equality and sexual liberalization."  Or, as these researchers assert, "the values separating the two cultures have more to do with eros than demos."

9:28 PM


The Orthodox Peace Fellowship has posted some responses to Patrick Henry Reardon's "Not so quiet on the eastern front" from the November issue. They can be found here.

7:52 AM

Tuesday, November 11


In the early 1850's John Macaffery, a bricklayer from Kenosha, Wisconsin, where I work as a librarian, murdered his wife Bridget by holding her head down in a cistern until she drowned. He was sentenced to death and hanged, becoming the only Wisconsonite to be capitally punished, for the opponents of the penalty in the Wisconsin legislature used the occasion to shame the electorate into repealing the statute.

There is a regular cult of locals for whom Macaffery has become an icon of the righteousness of victimhood, a misunderstood and unfairly maligned man who was virtually forced by a shrewish wife to kill her. They are constantly doing Macaffery research in the library and writing letters to the paper about what a horrible miscarriage of justice the judicial murder of "poor John Macaffery" was. Last year they erected a small monument at his gravesite and drank toasts to his memory with Irish whiskey.

This does not appear to be an uncommon phenomenon, and when one can explain the darkness of the human heart from which it arises, one can also explain the movement in Russia to canonize Ivan IV.

8:13 PM


For a report on the controversy over "Open Theism" among Evangelical theologians, see "ETS Leadership Issues Recommendations on Kicking Out Open Theists" from Christianity Today. I was heartened to see a group of theologians taking a theological challenge seriously, weighing the evidence, and being willing to expel someone they believed had gone too far.

The story included the to me surprising paragraph:

The only requirement for membership in the ETS [the Evangelical Theological Society] is the ability to subscribe to the doctrinal statement, "The Bible alone, and the Bible in its entirety, is the Word of God written and is therefore inerrant in the autographs. God is a Trinity, Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, each an uncreated person, one in essence, equal in power and glory." Thus the belief in open theism itself is not explicitly forbidden. Anyone who wanted to challenge open theists' membership had to frame it as a violation either of inerrancy or trinitarianism.

I may be missing something, but this seems to be a fairly thin statement for as theologically serious as group as the ETS — as they may have discovered having had to face the challenge of "Open Theists" in their membership. It includes rather less theological content than the Nicene Creed, though it adds a sentence about Scripture itself. I would have thought an organization like the ETS would have used something more extensive and specific.

The ETS meets in two weeks. The meeting includes dozens of sessions in which the members give short papers in their field. I noticed with some bemusement the title and contents of one of the sessions. Note that "Other religions" in the title and then note the subject of the second paper.

OPEN SESSION: Jesus and Other Religions

Moderator: Michael A. Grisanti, The Master’s Seminary
3:15 - 3:55 pm

John Warwick Montgomery, Trinity College &
Theological Seminary (Indiana)
The Muslim Jesus in Light of Evidentialist and
Presuppositionalist Apologetics
4:00 - 4:40 pm

Steve Strauss, SIMUSA
The Jesus of the Oriental Orthodox Churches
4:45 - 5:25 pm

Abidan Paul Shah, Southeastern Baptist Seminary
The Doctrine of the Trinity in Its Interface with Islam:
The Impact of Early Christological Heresies on the
Development of Islam

7:24 PM


In an editorial published last week, ”The Evolution of Textbooks”, the editors of the Dallas Morning News argued, surprisingly, for the inclusion of anti-darwinian material in Texas school textbooks.

When dissenting scientists produce reliable data challenging prevailing orthodoxy on scientific terms, then respectful attention should be paid, no matter whom it pleases or discomfits. Students need reasonably complete and accurate information. They don't need to be protected from dissenting scientific opinion.

The editorial includes this useful quote:

Harvard geneticist Richard Lewontin wrote in 1997 that scientists "have a prior commitment to naturalism [and] we are forced by our a priori adherence to material causes to create an apparatus of investigation and a set of concepts that produce material explanations."

Mr. Lewontin continued: "Moreover, that materialism is absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door." You see the problem. According to this creed, scientists are obliged to discount data that might gladden the heart of a vicar. The layperson can be forgiven for wondering if religious and materialist absolutists are two sides of the same coin.

Click here for the Discovery Institute’s story on the textbook controversy. The editorial describes the Institute as “a nonsectarian Seattle think tank that's the most prominent opponent of Darwinian orthodoxy.”

7:14 PM


A reader writes in response to today’s"English Tolerance" (two blogs down). The subject line of the e-mail read “possible charity-deficiency alert.”

From the standpoint of (especially EU) law & rhetoric, David Mills' description of a looming trajectory may be accurate. Social and legal persecution could speedily arrive around the corner à la Matthew 24:8, a persecution that will be regarded by the generally good-willed and flat of foot as unfortunate but necessary, like an over-committed young woman killing her unwanted fetus because of the necessities of life in modern society.

So, in terms of prudence, what is possible? I think of Jesus, ever giving his accusers no handles; tempted in the wilderness, depending on "it is written . . .". I would like to have heard the Bishop say something like "Christians have found by the grace of God for two thousand years that our most painful and destructive obsessions and habits can change, often with help from others. I too believe this."

It's part of doofus-clergy arrogance, to think that unreflective dribbling from the mouth in these times can serve much of anything other than as an object lesson. In a situation like this, neither The Press nor The Policeman is My Friend. With such signs of the culture wars crossing another threshhold of urgency, a little more serpent-wisdom in the ranks and among the officers of the children of light — defining and staying on message as per Luke 16:8 — might well be the order of the day.

7:13 PM


Jim Forest of the Orthodox Peace Fellowship sent me the link to an article in yesterday’s Washington Post announcing that Russians Laud Ivan the Not So Terrible:. The subhead read “Loose Coalition Presses Orthodox Church to Canonize the Notorious Czar.” Jim commented:

One of the countless victims of Tsar Ivan's wrath was St. Philip of Moscow, head of the Russian Orthodox Church, strangled at the tsar's command. Metropolitan Philip had dared to speak out in public against Ivan's cruelties.

The article refers to this as his “alleged involvement.” In the article’s summary, Ivan was “a blood-soaked tyrant who murdered his son, created the country's first secret police force and personally took part in its massacres.” It also mentions his “reported childhood predilection for throwing animals off roofs or gruesome grown-up practices such as ordering up tortures to duplicate biblical accounts of the sufferings of hell.”

One of the main supporters has a twice-weekly show on the state-owned radio station. According to the article, the cause is

embraced by a loose coalition of dissident priests, extreme nationalist newspapers and politicians, monarchists and an increasing number of regular Orthodox believers, according to religion experts.

"We don't think this is ridiculous," said Sergei Chapnin, editor of the official Russian Orthodox newspaper, the Church Herald. "We consider it to be a serious problem for the church. There is a group that is leading this propaganda and thousands of people are under their sway. It threatens the unity of the church."

Indeed, what makes this Ivan the Terrible revisionism most notable is how hard the church hierarchy is fighting it. Alexy [Patriarch Alexy, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church] took the unusual step of blasting the idea of sainthood for Ivan, calling it "madness" for the church to equate "murderers and martyrs, lechers and saints."

The rest of the article, which I recommend, traces the growth of this movement and suggests reasons for its popularity. Some of Ivan’s supporters also want Rasputin and Stalin canonized as well.

11:37 AM


A perhaps revealing story from England. After the Bishop of Chester, Peter Forster, told the local newspaper that homosexual people could change, the county’s chief constable announced that the police were investigating him. Forster had said,

"Some people who are primarily homosexual can reorientate themselves. I would encourage them to consider that as an option, but I would not set myself up as a medical specialist on the subject—that's in the area of psychiatric health. We want to help them, but I don't offer it as a panacea. I am about giving honor to marriage."

In Police chief criticises bishop, chief constable Peter Fahy is quoted as saying:

"I think all public leaders need to make sure that comments they make are balanced by that need for all of us to be giving clear leadership on this issue and to make sure that vulnerable groups are protected and that people have an awareness of the needs and the backgrounds of all these various groups.

"He has got his own personal view and I'm sure his comments are based on very strong personal religious conviction.

"But I do think we need to remind ourselves how this translates.

"The whole issue of diversity comes down to individual members of minority communities often being targeted, feeling under-protected and being victims of crime because of their sexual orientation, their colour or their religious beliefs.

"I think in a civilised society that is totally unacceptable."

This is the way the suppression of traditional Christianity will begin in the West — in places like England and Canada has already begun. It will begin with the declaration that while Christian faith has its place, and Christians are perfectly sincere in believing what they do, some of its teachings are actually dangerous to people. And because they are dangerous, they must be suppressed for the protection of those people and the maintenance of public order. These ideas are, as the chief constable put it, uncivilized.

It will be said, at first, that this is not an attack on Christianity but simply a necessity of life in a pluralistic society. Christians will be blamed for being insensitive to the society in which they live. They will be accused of not having moved with the times. The suppression, in other words, will be thought their own fault.

Yet the same people who want to suppress Christian speech will do nothing to suppress anti-Christian speech. That they will defend, with great piousness and prophetic spirit, as a legitimate exercise of free speech. They will censor Christians while as a general policy denouncing censorship.

I am fairly sure the issue on which this argument will continue to be made is that of homosexuality, for at least two reasons. For one thing, the homosexual movement — not “community” — has a great deal of political power, an amount beyond their numbers. They have more time and disposable income than the rest of us and a passion for securing public approval. And for another, as I’ve written before, homosexuality helps entrench the sexual revolution (if it’s okay, unnatural as it is, anything anyone else wants to do must be okay as well), so that others will support it with nearly as much self-interest as the homosexual people themselves.

And if you wait, I think in just a few years you will see in Europe any declaration of the uniqueness of our Lord denounced in the same way. It distinguishes one group from another and therefore will be said to make the second group feel vulnerable and threatened. A distorted view of Christian history will be used against Christians today. The chief constable’s inclusion of religious beliefs suggests that he is already thinking of this.

For links the story, see Christianity Today’s weblog.

11:36 AM


I am grateful for Fr. Ronald’s friendship and his example. (See the next blog.) I am also grateful for his support for the work of the magazine.

At the banquet of the meeting of the Fellowship of Catholic Scholars a few weeks ago, at which he received the Founder’s Award (he had been the organization’s first president), he said that there were two magazines everyone should read, First Things and Touchstone. He paused, and then he said, “I like to say that Touchstone is First Things in English.” I enjoyed this.

11:30 AM


I didn’t post anything yesterday, as I was away much of the day at the funeral of my friend Fr. Ronald Lawler. He was a member of the Capuchin branch of the Franciscans (the monkeys were so named because their fur reminded people of the Capuchin’s habits), who died at the age of 77 after a long battle with cancer.

The funeral mass was celebrated by the Bishop of Pittsburgh. The Archbishop of Boston, who gave the homily, and the Archbishop of Denver were both there, as they had been Fr. Ronald’s students. At the interment at the cemetery, all his Franciscan brothers gathered round the grave and sang a hymn, repeating it in several languages, praying for a holy death of their own.

The funeral was unexpectedly peaceful. I think everyone who had known Fr. Ronald knew that he was a man who had run the race and run it well. He was the sort of godly man whose company made you want to become more holy yourself. (As opposed to making you feel guilty for being such a wretch.) It's rare that a life rounds out so well.

You grieve for the loss of man like that, but it isn’t the paralyzing grief of a final loss. Funerals remind you of what difference the Christian hope makes. The beloved dead have not disappeared into nothingness, as the secular man believes. They don’t live only in their children or their books or the memory of their friends, which will last a generation or two at most, except for the greatest of artists or political figures.

They live in Christ, as we all do, and the separation will not last all that long. The secular man must spend what he has in this life because (he thinks) the only return he will get for it he will get in this life. Love does not last beyond death. The Christian knows that whatever he invests in this life he will get returned to him in the next. Whom he loves now, he will love much more deeply then. He will come into his inheritance, which will include an infinitely deeper friendship with friends like Fr. Ronald.

One still grieves, of course, because the loss is a real loss. The liturgical revisers who wanted funerals to be “celebrations” were fools. Death is still death. But for the Christian, as the liturgy proclaims, death wounds but does not kill. Death has been conquered by death. The wound will be healed.

May the soul of Fr. Ronald Lawler, and the souls of all the faithful departed, rest in peace.

11:29 AM

Sunday, November 9


An interesting and entertaining article by Mark Steyn in the English magazine The Spectator: "Europeans are worse than cockroaches". He describes, accurately as far as I can tell, the difference between America and Europe on Iraq, and at least one of the reasons Europe takes the positions it does.

9:28 PM


A reader sent in a link to this report of the troubles of the pro-life group at Harvard, from the Harvard Crimson: "Marred Display Inflames Free Speech Debate". The group has seen its posters and other displays continually torn down or defaced. For example:

Two replica flags bearing swastikas were also placed in the [pro-life] display this past week to disparage the pro-life movement’s treatment of women, according to HRL members.

The reason is perhaps not far to seek:

Abigail L. Fee ’05, president of Harvard Students for Choice, said the group had made no efforts to alter the HRL display, and that she has actively instructed members against vandalism.

But some students have said that individuals have a right to act against displays they find offensive.

“I just feel that someone needs to reply,” said one first-year who did want to be identified. “Because to just leave it there is just sort of cowardly and unfair . . . and someone should stand up and respond to that."

It's cowardly, said the student who did not want to be identified. Who "feels."

Anyway, bravo to the Harvard Right to Life group.

9:23 PM


From regular reader Fr. Robert Hart, a priest of a “continuing” Anglican Church and brother of our contributing editor Fr. Addison Hart. He is responding to Thursday's "Pullman on Rowling and Tolkien":

When Phillip Pullman said that the only interesting character in The Lord of the Rings is Gollum, because of his "psychological depth", it did not surprise me. I have met people who remind me of Gollum, because their madness is strongly linked to having been overcome by evil. I see Gollum in drug addicts and in violent Paranoid Schizophrenics, people I have met by working with (literally) thousands of patients in hospitals.

Gollum represents psychosis brought on by slavery to evil, and in real life such people are boring, quite boring and very shallow. Complicated? Subjects of meaningful study to the honest psychiatrist? yes, but in terms of their personality no more interesting, deep or engaging than a cancer.

How very fascinating that Mr. Pullman cannot appreciate the depth and mystery of Gandolf, the courage and character of the heroes who are brace and strong, or brave and weak such as the admirable little hobbits. But, he appreciates the depth of bores. We can make no better comment about what makes his work so "bent" (as used in C. S. Lewis' Space Trilogy) than he makes himself in this telling observation.

He later wrote a p.s. to this:

When I refer to Gollum as a bore, I do not mean that he is a boring character; his place in the story and the colorful writing of Tolkien prevent that. But, he would be quite boring to know and to talk to. The extent of his "psychological depth" is a psychotic fixation on one thing and one thing only; it is "depth" that is skin deep.

All of the real life Gollums I have met produce many riddles, but they are all fixated and consequently boring. The tragedy is that Pullman thinks this is a character of "psychological depth", and even more so that he fails to appreciate the virtuous depth of any character who is good and heroic.

Fr. Hart has an article appearing in the View sections of both the December issue (going to the printer shortly) and the January/February issue. I think you will find both articles moving and convicting.

6:33 PM


A regular reader, who I think is an Episcopalian, writes:

As you know, I have followed the Touchstone blog, occasionally offering comments. This time I just needed to express myself on a generally related topic.

Do you know anything about the Myers Briggs type index? The “F” (feeling) types and the “T” (thinking) types seem to divide fairly accurately into loosey-goosey liberal and relatively logical conservative orientations. I suspect the following may be a paradigmatic example of T on F, and so may the ECUSA mess.

Today I had a very friendly business lunch with the charming new rector of a big metropolitan Episcopal Church. We circled around the GenCon2003 problems, never really addressing them, though it’s clear he’s for this “new revelation” and considers Frank Griswold a “truly spiritual man.”

The non-ordinary aspect of this is the following. He talked about the Creeds, how Anglicanism is inclusively creedal, not exclusorily confessional. Everything I asked him about that — e.g. what is the range of belief-disbelief of the Creedal contents that Anglicanism properly encompasses before becoming something else?—he answered by telling me that’s the wrong question to ask, that Anglicans don’t engage in definition of these things. This sally and parry was repeated on a number of related topics.

The impression with which I departed is that he, though well-educated and energetic, simply has a temperament that is so uninclined to linear thought that he is incapable of accurately making, following, and critiqueing arguments. And that his corresponding strategy is to outlaw the asking of questions oriented to logic, and characterize those who do as ‘frightened,’ unreceptive to God’s new thing in this time, prootexting, etc. His discussion was all convenient allegories (the church’s allowance of remarriage after divorce is allegiance to Resurrection . . . .) He comes to life and fluent speech only when the topic is anecdotal and full of cheerful feelings.

The shocking part of this is that there was no bad faith in his approach, just a visible incompatibility with/ inability to engage real thought and therefore any definitions, much less dogma. He was interested primarily in the quivering nature of his anecdotal experience, and evidently felt that this glorious hoard of experience was fatally threatened by an approach that draws any boundaries whatever by defining terms. He turned visibly pale at the word “normative,” as in the difference between welcoming sinners and making sins normative.

As I say, this is a nice and good and kind and articulate man.

Have we in this era corrupted thought itself? Or is there some sort of spiral that has cultivated the weak of mind as clergyfolk? My own bias is that the unquestioned hierarchial orthodox created an emotional desert in their distance from the faithful, neglected cultivating in themselves the fruit of the spirit, became corrupted by their power and self-regard, and thus abandoned the sheep to the rickety and vulnerable folds of the “nice.”

But that’s just one woman’s view. . . .

Well, I had to tell someone. . .

6:30 PM


In today’s New York Times, Max Frankel points out the problem with television movies that distort history. In “Seeing Is Always Believing”, he argues that

Because it delivers so much fact-based news, genuine information and documentary imagery, television asks to be believed whenever it presents real people with real names in supposedly real circumstances. Was that not the ultimate meaning of the quiz-show scandals of the 1950’s? Those fake dramas, too, were the products of the networks’ entertainment divisions.

But their producers learned through bitter humiliation that the moment they presented real people with real names they had assumed an obligation to truth. Charles Van Doren, it turned out, was not as smart as he pretended to be on a program called “Twenty-One” and his sweaty search for answers in an isolation booth was a lie — highly entertaining, to be sure, but an intolerable lie nonetheless.

Television thrives by presenting an alternating stream of fact and fiction and therefore bears a special responsibility to distinguish between the two. Yet it seems determined to do just the opposite, to blend fact and fiction into an indistinguishable froth.

. . . To persuade people of the plausibility of an untruth is not only to lie, but to lie effectively. No claim of art or higher truth can justify such forgery.

This seems to me to be obvious, but it apparently isn’t obvious to the sort of people who commission and make “docudramas,” though it seems that the one on Reagan was even worse than usual. (I didn’t follow the issue and don’t even know the details beyond the ones given in Frankel’s article.)

You wonder what they’re thinking: they use real, famous people because they know viewers will watch stories about real, famous people, and then they feel justified in making up almost anything they please about the real, famous people. They justify this — lying is what it is — by saying that they are simply serving “art” or satisfying “the needs of the drama,” because changing the facts makes for a better story. But if they were really concerned with presenting that particular story, they could present it just as well through fictional characters.

But then fewer people would watch it. In other words, the creators of such things trade on the promise of reality to tell lies. This is bad.

I don’t think any writer is free from the temptation to do this. Few true stories work quite as well as you’d like. The subject may have thought of the devastating witticism three days later, for example, or the comic troubles descend upon two different people. Most evidence doesn’t exactly prove your thesis. When most of the facts support your generalization one or two undermine it completely.

The writer, who lives to write a good story, wants to write it even when he knows it’s not exactly true. Thus a writer must work hard to tell the truth. Taking care to get the facts right is the best way to make sure we see the truth and not what we want to see.

I must admit that as much as I enjoy and admire Malcolm Muggeridge, his attitude to the facts strikes me as just a bit too cavalier. His biographer Ian Hunter told me that Muggeridge would say to him, “The truth, not facts, my boy!” He meant, mostly, that simply accumulating facts will not lead you to the truth, and may indeed lead you away from it, and this is a lesson we ought to remember, but he himself tended to tell the “truth” by massaging the facts. (Richard Ingrams deals with this in his biography of Muggeridge.)

Fortunately, I think that Muggeridge’s revisions serve the truth, if not the truth of the subject he’s addressing. He is sometimes, I think, over-critical of the politicians he writes about, but what he says about power and the corruption its exercise brings to such men is exactly right, and too rarely said. If he is unfair to some and his portrait of them less well-rounded than it should have been — Churchill for one, I think — he has in his distorted portrait said something we all know to be true of ourselves as well as of the powerful.

With that qualification, Muggeridge was a prophetic writer, now unfortunately and unwisely neglected. We’ll have three articles about him in the December issue, one by his first biographer Ian Hunter, this year being the centenary of his birth.

6:29 PM


Daniel P. Crandall writes in response to yesterday's "Hollywood's Limits", about the non-promotion of a movie about faithful Catholics:

I think you, and Mr. Bettinelli, are mistaken regarding the reasons why 'One Man's Hero' received limited release. First of all, put aside the issue of whether or not the Mexican-American War was just. Look at the outline of the story. A man's devotion to his faith leads him to take up arms in a war against his own country. Sounds like the story of a certain Marin County resident, does it not?

I think the decision to limit the release of this particular movie may have been a wise one. Perhaps some folks in Hollywood didn't think it would be a good idea to release a movie that has clear parallels to today's war against the terrorists, which finds some Muslims in America, and in other Western nations, so devoted to their faith that they are led to take up arms against those who would free other Muslims living under tyranny.

6:28 PM

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