Copyright © 2005
by the Fellowship of St. James.
All rights reserved.
DeMARCO AND WIKER'S ARCHITECTS . . . .
Publishers do take a risk when they send me books for possible review. There have been some who have been sorry for their generosity. I have resolved, however, to make a good return on it when I can, and this is a good place to do it. From time to time I will put a book note here.
Donald DeMarco's and Benjamin Wiker's Architects of the Culture of Death (Ignatius Press, 2004) was a useful and interesting read. It is comprised of twenty-three biographical vignettes of people who bear more more than the usual burden of responsibility for justifying and promoting the sin and stupidity of the modern world. A complete roster would be in order here, I think: Schopenhauer, Nietzsche, Ayn Rand, Darwin, Francis Galton, Ernst Haeckel, Marx, Comte, Judith Jarvis Thomson, Sartre, de Beauvoir, Elisabeth Badinter, Freud, Wilhelm Reich, Helen Gurley Brown, Margaret Mead, Kinsey, Sanger, Clarence Gamble, Alan Guttmacher, Derek Humphrey, Jack Kevorkian, and Peter Singer.
I suspect most readers are like me in that they have differing levels of familiarity with these people. Some I know well, others in a passing way, still others (Badinter, Thomson, and Gamble) I hadn't heard of at all. All are worth knowing about, and the book invites further study of its subjects, if one has the stomach for it. The authors write with sympathy and restraint, but do not hesitate to show how very bad the personal lives of of many of these people were, who thought themselves qualified to direct the lives and thoughts of others. Still, they don't make the mistake of trying to turn biographies into cautionary tales. Many of the most supremely evil people live nicely and die gently, not participating much in the ruin and misery they leave in their trails, and the authors know it.
RESPECTABILITY OR FRUITFULNESS?
From E. L. Mascall, Theology and History: An Inaugural Lecture. London: Faith Press, 1962, pp. 4-5.
In a modern secularized university the adoption of such an ideal [an objective, "scientific" method] does a great deal to help the theologian to hold up his head among his colleagues. No one, he feels, can suspect his conclusions of being influenced by sectarian bias, alleged access to private or non-rational souces of information, or any belief that he may or may not have in a supernatural order of reality or an ultra-mundane destiny of man.
Whether such an austere detachment is in fact attainable in practice is, I think, highly doubtful, even in those subjects which I have excluded from the scope of theology in the narrower sense. And I am not sure that, when theologians have envisaged their task in just this way, they have always won the respect of their secular colleagues . . . .
My own belief is that . . . objectivity is not to be achieved by pursing it as a deliberate ideal, with frequent glances out of the corner of one's eye for the approbation of the secular scholar, or at any rate that if it is so achieved it will be only at the cost of triviality, irrelevance and dullness.
What is needed rather is an intense conviction of the truth and vitality of the Christian religion, a confidence in the relevance of theology to matters outside the academic sphere, and a combination of humility with intellectual integrity. This last, for the theologian as for other scholars, is primarily a matter of ingrained attitude rather than of self-conscious and anxious striving; it is a habitus, in the traditional sense, a matter of connaturality, of bent. . . . I cannot help thinking that some of our most technically equipped theologians have rendered their work much less fruitful than it might have been by adopting an ideal of scholarship which they erroneously supposed to be that of the natural scientist, that prestige-figure of the modern world.
Thanks to my friend and Touchstone
colleague Dr. William Tighe for sending me the Mascall material in which I found these remarks. I would only say that they seem a bit understated. Professor Mascall would not have been remiss in driving them home with a rhetorical hammer.
A postcript to Jim Kushiner's blog on the new Hitler film:
It's about time. No one who actually reads Hitler's words or looks at his life with the slightest degree of detachment can fail to notice the "humanity" of the man this film evidently portrays. Hitler was a passionate idealist who accurately read the temper of his time and country. He was generally friendly, often mild, and likeable to those who liked and obeyed him. Kind to animals and children, he smiled frequently, exercised personal magnetism that attracted and held great masses of people, including church people, and bore up manfully under chronic physical and psychological pain. He was ethically serious, personally attractive, and politically persuasive.
His intent was to do good, and if his method involved the promulgation of lies in the media, ideological control of the schools, the labor unions, and the churches, placing family life under the supervision of state-approved experts, and the depersonalization and killing of the troublesome and inconvenient, it was based on progressive opinions sincerely held, resting in an optimistic, evolutionary worldview, with the good of everyone who counts as fully human in mind.
What demonizing the man has done is conceal that Hitler was in fact a very typical modern liberal.
CINEMATIC SINNERS & SAINTS:
Here’s an interesting bit on recent cinema from an on-line article from the Wall Street Journal A Hitler of Flesh and Blood by Timothy Ryback, the subhead of which reads: A brilliant new film shows the dictator's human side. It’s about a new 2 1/2-hour feature film that details the final days of Adolf Hitler (“downfall”): It “is etched with an intensity that is as fiercely accurate as it is morally--sometimes aesthetically--discomfiting. The world has never before witnessed a Hitler like this.”
Mr. Ganz's Hitler is not the caricatured "great dictator" of Charlie Chaplin, nor the latter-day raving madman played by Alec Guinness or Anthony Hopkins, nor even the embodiment of Satan held in the public imagination. Instead, Mr. Ganz shows us a Hitler of failed dreams amid a collapsing empire, a man who at turns is delusional, hardhearted, vicious, but also tender, caring, despairing. By his own admission, the actor developed "a form of understanding" for the Nazi leader. "If I only hated Hitler, I could never have comprehended him," he insists.
Not surprisingly, when "Downfall" opened last week in Germany, it packed movie houses across the country and sent tremors across the Continent. "Is Germany Finally Forgiving Hitler?" asked London's Daily Mail, noting that the film depicted Hitler as "a softly spoken dreamer who adored his Alsatian Blondi, was tender towards his secretary and had a penchant for chocolate cake." Even a German newspaper nervously wondered, "Should a monster be portrayed as a human being?" Despite the discomfort, "Downfall" has received critical acclaim on both sides of the Atlantic. The prominent Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung declared the film a "Meisterwerk."
Ryback asks, “Do we need to know this humanized Hitler?”
The answer has to be an unequivocal yes. Casting Hitler merely as a megalomaniacal lunatic or evil incarnate leaches his crimes of their most disturbing aspect--human motivation. By showing us Hitler as a man of broken dreams, seated alone at his writing desk beneath an oval portrait of his hero-king, Friedrich the Great, at lunch with his secretaries, or in a close up with a food stain on his coat, a tear in his eye, or a fleck of saliva on his lip, the film has revealed the man behind the myth, the devil in the detail.
It’s commonplace to say that the portrayal of literary villains is much easier, that the most memorable and most dramatic of film and literary characters are bad (think of Hannibal Lector, and who is the most memorable character from the Wizard of Oz?). Of course in this case the villain is not literary, and it has been sufficient in the past to portray Hitler by his deeds without getting too close to his humanity.
The portrayal of human goodness, especially the unique qualities of a saint, are much harder to portray convincingly it would seem. The most recent film in this genre is Thérèse: The Story of Saint Thérèse of Lisieux (directed by Leonardo Defilippis). It’s a film that I think is best appreciated from inside the Catholic faith, a film that lovingly portrays the brief life of one of the most popular Roman Catholic saints of modern times. Those with a devotion to the saint, devout Catholics and their families, will surely appreciate this film and would benefit from seeing it. It does have some very moving moments.
A 1986 film of the same title directed by Alain Cavalier is quite different in its portrayal of life inside the Carmelite monastery where Therese spent her life from 15 until her death at 24. It’s much more “spartan” and severe. Interestingly, the director of this film is not a Christian, but an agnostic (or atheist?), if I remember correctly.
It's very difficult to get at the mystery of faith and holiness, and the 1986 film succeeds, I think, not in explaining it, but in indicating from a respectful distance, if I can call it that, that there are such things cannot quite be explained, but are real and powerful nonetheless. Not a bad achievement for an agnostic filmmaker.
It has been an uphill struggle for the producers of the newer film to even have it released (it is dated 2002), but it was even harder before the success of Mel Gibson’s Passion. Gibson’s film may encourage the screening of more traditionally religious films in the future, and perhaps the (limited) release of Therese is a direct result of this.
On October 1 Therese will be playing select theatres around the country (in Chicago it will play on 3 screens) and the producers hope to have it on more screens after that. The film has a website,
and the cities it will be playing include: Chicago; South Barrington; Columbia, MD; Los Angeles (Alhambra); Denver (Longmont); Dallas; Detroit (Sterling Heights); Houston; Las Vegas; Los Angeles; New Jersey (Burlington); New York, NY; Brooklyn; Orange County (Brea); Philadelphia, Conshohocken, PA; Portland; St. Louis; Creve Coeur; Sacramento; San Antonio; Live Oak, TX; San Diego; and Seattle (Bellevue)
Other memorable films that I have seen about the lives of saints include Monsieur Vincent (De Paul) and Dreyer’s silent (and mesmerizing) Joan of Arc.
The highly-rated Russian film by Andrei Tarkovsky, “Andrei Rublev,” is about the saint, but is not an accurate portrayal of the saint’s life so much as a contrast of the brutal times in which he lived with the struggle man faces in ascending to spiritual life and the quest for beauty. It’s an amazing film to have been made under the eye of Soviet cinematic censorship. The original version (the best) is over 3 hours long, but is not likely to please those who prefer a more straightforward narrative style of movie-making.
STILL MORE ON ORTHODOX CONFUSION:
Father Johannes Jacobse, of "Orthodoxy Today" sends the following comments respecting our earlier postings about Dr. Peter C. Boutneff's essay, "Reflections on how to vote: Orthodox Christians and the Presidential Election," published on both Beliefnet and the web page of The Orthodox Church in America.
I hope tolerance will be shown for my remarking on the relief I feel that Dr. Boutineff's intellectual and moral confusion is being so ably addressed:
Dr. Bouteneff throws all the vegetables into the pot, boils it for five hours, and then decides all vegetables are the same because all he created was mush.
The fact is that there is a world of difference between candidates and parties.
Take Terry Schiavo for example. This week the Florida Supreme Court decided she should die. Would the result be the same if the Justices held to an ethic that values life? Florida judges are elected. Informed votes matter.
The Bush administration is very active on the human rights front in areas like Sudan, rolling back the pro-abortion politics of the left in international affairs, to name others. If the Clinton administration is the example, a Democratic win would roll back these initiatives.
People of good will can disagree about many issues. Christians can be Democrats or Republicans. But to posit, as Dr. Bouteneff does, that no real differences exist between parties in the great cultural questions of the day is naive.
And no, it is not a choice between the “worst of two evils.” Politics, society, culture, can be a messy business (human affairs generally are), but to call this business “evil” provides a convenient excuse for not engaging the many important matters that need the engagement of thoughtful and clear headed people more than ever.
There is a kind of moral equivalence in Dr. Bouteneff’s piece but it’s construed by his idea of how social discourse functions, rather than by any concrete engagement with the issues themselves. It’s the old relativist shibboleth albeit with an ecclesiastical spin: "absolute good trumps relative good; since perfection can’t be reached, there is no real use in trying to make things better."
Dr. Bouteneff leaves unsaid his assumptions that define such things as what human rights policy should be, the abortion policies of prominent Orthodox politicians, the failure of the Great Society, among a whole host of very crucial questions. No political party has the lock on these questions for the simple reason that politics follows culture, not vice-versa. To reduce these grave cultural questions to a political mush however, only muddles the debate at a time we need moral clarity.
Permit me, please, one other comment rendered in all charity:
Moral clarity would seem especially to be required on theological faculties charged with training the future clergy of the Orthodox Church, such as St. Vladimir's Theological Seminary. The Orthodox Church in this country will not be able to deal with the serious moral and pastoral problems facing our culture, I submit, if Professor Boutineff's essay serves as the current measure of its moral clarity.
MORE ON THE CONFUSION OF THE ORTHODOX:
Two days ago James Kushiner included in this place his own criticism of the essay of Dr. Peter C. Bouteneff, “How Should Orthodox Christians Vote?" which was posted on Beliefnet. Boutneff's very confused and confusing essay, we regret to say, has now been posted on the web page of The Orthodox Church in America. In response to it, other Orthodox Christians are weighing in. Yesterday Dr. Jonathan Chaves, professor of Chinese at The George Washington University, sent around to some friends the following sage comment, which he has given us permission to post here:
My take would be this: This essay is yet another example of the false "angelism" that afflicts so many of our contemporary intellectuals: "you can't pin me down, I'm above the polarities of the moment." But there is no "above;" at this point in history, the ideas that activate conservatives, certainly the traditionalist conservatives, are grounded ultimately in the great Christian heritage; contemporary liberalism is equally grounded in the Enlightenment and its essentially anti-Christian conception of human nature. A believing Christian today will have a very tough time accommodating to the current liberal doctrines, and will find that to do so will eventually necessitate relinquishing one Christian teaching after another.
Janice Crouse has written an article for the Beverly Lahaye Institute on "Ending Modern-Day Slavery: Some Solutions to Sex Trafficking"
Trafficking is modern-day slavery. The United Nations Protocol to Prevent, Suppress and Punish Trafficking in Persons Especially Women and Children, defines it as: "The recruitment, transportation, transfer, harboring or receipt of persons, by means of threat or use of force or other forms, of coercion, of abduction, of frauds, of deception, of the abuse of power or of a position of vulnerability or of the giving or receiving of payments or benefits to achieve the consent of a person having control over another person, for the purpose of exploitation."
Sex traffickers lure victims from their poverty-stricken homes with the promise of good jobs, but then force them into slave labor or prostitution. Others are sold by their parents or spouses looking for compensation. Once transported to the destination country, the victims are imprisoned, beaten, raped and convinced they have nowhere to flee. Their passports are confiscated; usually, they don't speak the language and have no idea where they are located.
The United Nations estimates that human trafficking is a $9.5 billion industry, which is among the top three revenue sources for organized crime….
In 2003, I was an official United States delegate to the United Nations Commission on the Status of Women, where the major issue confronting that worldwide body was the increase in sexual trafficking of women and girls. There representatives from around the world confronted the fact that millions of women and children are forced into sex slavery by evil criminals who make billions of dollars every year by using human beings as slaves. Sex trafficking is worldwide in scope with nearly a million people - mostly women and children - kidnapped, coerced, cajoled, trapped, seduced into taking a chance with a stranger and going from a poor nation to a more developed one. The victims think that they will work as a waitress, model, actress, nanny or in some other respectable occupation. They end up being prostitutes - beaten and abused repeatedly until they are totally brainwashed and subservient.
Current estimates say that between 14,500 and 17,500 people are trafficked into the United States annually. Up to 600,000 to 800,000 people are transported internationally and forced to work as slaves, and an estimated 2-4 million men, women and children are trafficked within countries. The majority of these victims are women and children. Women compose 80 percent of the victims and 50 percent are children; 70 percent of these women and children are used for sexual exploitation.
The slavery takes other forms as well. I saw an ABC Nightline story earlier this week about young orphans brought back by a missionary from Zambia who toured the U.S. as an African boys choir, collecting money for relief work in Zambia and for the boys’ future education. No money went to Zambia; the boys received no money. They were stuck in the U.S., not knowing the language, forced at times to sing or not be fed. They sometimes sang as many as five times a day, and their boss took up a collection at each venue.
In many such cases foreigners also fear to go to the police because they assume (and sometimes have been told by their “employers”) that the police here are just like the police in the countries from which they have come to the US for refuge: they will beat you, maybe kill you.
There was a happy ending for at least one of the choir boys, who was adopted by a Christian family who blew the whistle on the culprit, whose estate was eventually ordered to pay nearly a million dollars, but the money had disappeared, and the culprit died shortly thereafter. Back to the happy ending: the young Zambian is flourishing as a senior in high school in Texas and has a strong faith despite his trials.
I have followed the sex-trafficking story from time to time and seen heart-wrenching video footage taken by secret cameras in various countries. Janice Crouse is doing a service in helping bring this to our attention.
From the Catholic Family & Human Rights Institute (www.c-fam.org) today:
Executives Earn High Pay at International Planned Parenthood Federation
Financial documents reveal that the International Planned Parenthood Federation (IPPF) pays many of its executives hundreds of thousands of dollars, even though IPPF Director-General Steven Sinding has claimed that IPPF's loss of funding from the United States has damaged the organization and even cost women in the developing world their lives.
For instance, the President of the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, Gloria Feldt, earned $460,277 in 2003. George Stokes, the organization‚ Chief Operating Officer, earned $204,846. The Medical Director of Planned Parenthood of New York City, Michael Momtaz, was paid $310,064, plus $72,617 in benefits, in 2002. The Regional Director of IPPF/Western Hemisphere Region (IPPF/WHR), Carmen Barroso, earned $197,000, plus over $20,000 in benefits, in 2003.
I especially like that $72,617 in benefits. I know plenty of people would sign up for a job with that figure as the salary. Though certainly not for that job, most certainly not, if you can call it a job.
SKEPTIC'S GOLDEN RULE
I did enjoy watching the Question of God: C.S. Lewis and Sigmund Freud, last night on PBS. I was particularly interested in the comments of skeptic Michael Shermer, who was invited to speak at our 2001 conference on Intelligent Design, as a critic, of course.
While the panel discussed what is the basis of morality if there is a God or no God, Shermer, the atheist, said that he found doing unto others as you have them do unto you was very important. Indeed, the Golden Rule is where evolution has brought us. (There are those who argue from an evolutionary basis for virtues such as altruism, for example, arguments I haven't found very convincing.)
Evolution brought us the Golden Rule? Well, we know Who brought us the Golden Rule, so is Michael Shermer saying that Jesus was sort of the moral pinnacle of evolution?
I also fail to see how one can avoid at some point admitting that there must be something more than pure material causes at work in the world if something like the Golden Rule must be the basis for human society. But if anyone can do it, perhaps, perhaps, Michael Shermer can.
But on the other hand, if an atheist can see that Christ gave us the standard, perhaps he isn't far from seeing that in a very real sense it's because He himself is the Standard, the Second Adam by which the first Adam (and the rest of us) are measured. He isn't far from seeing this, I mean, if he doesn't avoid looking more closely at the Person of Christ, as did C. S. Lewis.
If the Man who taught the highest truth, the purest of maral teachings, was at the same time a liar about his identity as the Son of God, I think we have a problem. The whole of Christianity hinges not on its various ethical teachings but on the Person of Christ. There is no other such claim made in all the world that I know of, that God Himself became Man and lived among us.
What I would like a skeptic such as Michael Shermer do is answer this question: assume God did come among us: What do you think that would look like? And further, assume that Jesus was God in the flesh among us: what would the testimony and historical record look like, if not the New Testament documents themselves?
Back to the show itself, it was interesting to see the contrast between Freud's defiant facing of death (and essentially committing suicide by lethal injection near the end of a long illness) and Lewis's facing the death of his wife Joy, and eventually his own, as a Christian, though not without doubts and struggles.
I also thought the comparison of Freud and Lewis on the question of agape, self-giving love, was a powerful argument in favor of Christianity over the materialistic atheism of Freud.
Also given the problems of Darwinism and a material explanation for all there is, I think it takes more faith to be a skeptic than a believer.
Bill, a friend whose last name is omitted for his protection, teaches at one of the extension campuses of a major American university. (I would be surprised if the class described here could be taught at the main campus.) The following, with her permission, is excerpted from a letter his wife sent me today. Here is a martyr in the classical sense of the term, and here also we see a liberal scattering of the seed of the Church.
Bill teaches a class with an ultra left wing liberal (nice person, tho). They teach opposite viewpoints in this one class -- a cool idea for a class!
So yesterday, they each got to speak about their opposite views -- to the kids -- on a book by a feminist atheist, the theme of which is that it is evil how CONSERVATIVE OR CHRISTIAN WHITE MALES in America ENJOY PRIVILEGES that others do not enjoy.
Bill's colleague went first and said, it's all true. People like Bill have all these privileges, and so forth.
So when Bill went -- this is amazing!!!! He MAY have made her actually CHANGE her viewpoint by what he said! (thats whats cool about her -- she really will listen to the other side.) Here's how he did it!
He said to the kids: It may be true that white males have some privileges. I'm not saying they never do. But let me list off to you some of the PRIVILEGES THAT LIBERALS LIVE WITH EVERY DAY, PRIVILEGES THAT I DO NOT GET TO ENJOY BECAUSE I AM NOT A LIBERAL.
If I were a liberal, I would be able to sit in a group of my University peers and feel confident that everyone around me agreed with me on all major issues. I do not have that privilege.
If I were a liberal, I would not have to sit at a table in a University meeting and have another University person openly say to me, "The person you're voting for for President should be taken out and shot." [This was actually said that to him when he was the only non-Kerry person at the table.]
Finally he said:
If I were a liberal, and I were eating lunch at a University which proclaims its tolerance of all viewpoints and its embracing of diversity -- I could do whatever I wanted before I ate and I would not be LAUGHED AT openly. But when I, as a Christian, prayed before my meal, and crossed myself openly at a table full of tolerant diversity-embracing liberals, I WAS LAUGHED AT. LAUGHED AT OUT LOUD. If I were a liberal atheist, I would enjoy the privilege of not having people LAUGH AT ME for my beliefs. But I am not a liberal and I am not an atheist, and I do not enjoy the privileges of those groups. So when you talk about what privileges white Christian conservative males might enjoy, balance it please, with the privileges that we do not get to experience.
Bill's colleague was stunned. And she was REALLY moved, as if she had never really thought about this before.This really happened.
You know. Bill might be quiet sometimes. But here he is PRAYING AND CROSSING HIMSELF at a table full of LIBERAL ATHEISTS. And they're laughing at him. And he keeps doing it. And then he busts this out in a room full of people. He is a hero. A real hero.
I will add here is that it would be nice to know just where conservative, white, Christian males, who are behaving as Christians, enjoy privileges that others do not. Perhaps in certain well-concealed bunkers in the Deep South. But in the universities? the public schools? the culture of the major corporations? the media? with the country club set? the entertainment world? the typical American church or religious school? the "beautiful people:"? the unions? the libraries? the Eastern or Pacific seaboards? the large cities? We have known all these places as hotbeds of active and unredressed hostility.
The notion that we enjoy special privileges in this country is a myth promulgated to cover an increasingly intense persecution, fueled by precisely the same sentiment that would have the President, who is one of us, taken out and shot. When people who think like this are able to gain control of environments where they have the chance to harm us without risk to themselves, they do so. We know it firsthand, the public ridicule Bill faces for praying for his meal in a faculty dining room at State U. being small but poignant example.
The reason for it all, at the most fundamental level? The "white, conservative, Christian male" is a description, using current terminology, of the One who reminded us that the servant would not fare better than his Master. The liberals, and a good many conservatives, too, hate us for the same reason the Nazis hated the Jews: because they hate the Christ that we (by no fault or merit of our own) symbolize, and whom they have never been successful at making over into their own image.
BACK, EVERY NOW AND THEN, TO THE FRONT BURNER . . .
I recently received a letter from a man who is wondering what all the fuss is about over the TNIV--Today's New International Version. "The TNIV," he observes, "doesn't seem to 'neuter' anything as is claimed by a lot of critics -- it translates passages that were originally intended to include both men and women as such." Well, yes, the "as such" is just the problem. We need to say something about this every now and then to clear up the fog, for there is still a great deal of it about.
We cannot over-emphasize that at the base of the disagreement over translation is a philosophical/theological one that has to do with whether the male is the iconic principal, the "defining" member of the human race, in a way the woman, who is in this regard secondary and subordinate, cannot be. Egalitarians believe there are no significant differences between the sexes in this regard, and read this conviction back into their Bibles, so that, for example, where "blessed is the man" appears--referring, as it clearly does, to both men and women--there is no reason for them give weight to the masculine grammatical form by which the term is conveyed--there is no reason not to translate it with gender-neutral terminology like "blessed are those." And this, indeed, is what is customarily done in the TNIV and similar versions.
Orthodox Christianity, on the other hand, believes the man to have a priority over the woman--not in worth of course, but in rank--and that this not only taught clearly in both Testaments, but reflected in their grammar, as well as in the grammar of the traditional English the egalitarians are attempting to change. If this is so, there is a theology and anthropology reflected by the grammar of "blessed is the man"and other such phrases that is obscured by gender-neutral translation. It is therefore better to allow the original gender markings to remain, since it is in fact impossible to refer to "men and women equally" as egalitarians believe it is. For wherever men appear as men and women appear with them as women, the relationship of pure sexual equality in which they believe in cannot pertain. And this theology and anthropology are certainly obscured when a translation consistently, in the name of the changing habits of modern English, changes masculine gender forms to neuter ones, as the TNIV does. The term "man" or other grammatical forms referring to both sexes under the aegis of the masculine, is offensive to egalitarians because it implies an elevation of the male over the female which they will not recognize.
The argument, made in the name of realism by a number of Evangelicals, that English is changing, so reason demands Bible translations must be altered to reflect changing usage, refuses to face head-on the essential question of whether these changes are being forced upon the culture by an anti-Christian ideology to put forward its views, and if so, what should be done about it by Christians. This position reminds me very much of the Christians who were willing to give the Hitler salute because the changing culture demanded it and they didn't really intend anything unorthodox by it. The question for both is, what do these changes stand for, and what is the Christian response? In our view, the grammatical changes in the TNIV reflect egalitarian ideology, which is not Christian, and is, indeed, the principal heresy the Church has been called upon to deal with and reject in this age.
One might wish to have a close look at http://www.cbmw.org/resources/tniv/#inaccuracies If I have any difficulties with what I find here, it is that the notations tend to concentrate on grammar in such a way as to detract somewhat from the fact that these purported inaccuracies are judged be be so ultimately because of a theological disagreement. If egalitarian theology is right, the egalitarian translations are by and large accurate.
At Touchstone we rarely use the word "complementarian" because it seems to steer a bit shy of the rock of offense, which we believe needs to be clearly identified lest it be missed in all the fog thrown up by egalitarians: Christianity is a patriarchal faith which teaches that the Image of God is perfectly and completely expressed in a male human being--indeed, that maleness is the very sign of sexual inclusiveness. If one believes that in, by, through, and for Christ, none of whose characteristics, including his sex, are superfluous to his being, everything was made, everything subsists, and everything will be consummated, and understands the implications of this belief, he will reject egalitarianism and its grammar.
ABUSIVE ABUSE HUNTERS:
A story to make your blood boil: Who Was Abused? from Sunday’s New York Times Magazine by Maggie Jones. (The site requires registration, and I think offers the articles for free for only five days.)
She covers the effects of zealous policemen, social workers, and prosecutors who found sex abuse where it didn’t exist, by bullying children into testifying that it did. And they hurt, she writes, not only the people wrongly convicted but the children themselves.
She writes about a case of about twenty years ago and I remember, as that particular wave of sex abuse hysteria swept across the country, the great cry — I’m sure it appeared in various forms in the New York Times — “Believe the children,” as if to doubt them was itself abusive. Experts assured the public that children did not lie about these things, no matter how fabulous the stories they told.
Now, as the average parent could have told the experts then, everyone — except the people who led the hysteria — admits that children can be convinced to tell the wildest stories, if brainwashed by someone intent on hearing them tell the wildest stories. The only responsible answer to “Believe the children!” was “Not after he’s been in the hands of those people.”
I remember reading about one such investigation — I think the investigation of the poor young woman in New Jersey who was jailed for an amazing amount of time after children told truly bizarre stories about her, all untrue — in which the investigators asked children to touch on a doll to the places an adult had touched them, and simply kept badgering the child to touch the doll till he or she touched the right place, at which point they put away the doll and recorded the “evidence.” This was presented in court as definitive evidence of abuse.
What many of these people did, as recorded in this story and many others, was itself child sexual abuse, if verbal and not physical. But none of them will ever go to jail where they belong. The prosecutors can’t be sued for damages or charged with crimes for what would have been, had anyone else done it, criminal behavior. The police and social workers are similarly shielded. (And not unreasonably, because they couldn’t do their jobs if they had to worry about being prosecuted for it.)
Instead, these social workers and policemen and prosecutors gained the applause of the crowd and in some cases advances in their careers from which they still benefit. One should not underestimate the power of self-interest in these things. A district attorney running for reelection does not gain any votes by telling people he doesn’t have enough evidence to prosecute, especially in the middle of a public hysteria, but he does gain them by sending alleged child abusers to jail, even if they were innocent.
Sexual abusers are wicked and also hard to catch, granted. One can understand why someone would work overzealously to find abusers and protect children from them. However, hysteria is . . . hysteria. It is not a wise and rational response to the problem. It ruins innocent peoples’ lives and in fact exposes children to more danger because the wrong people are being pursued. And, as I said, it is in itself a form of abuse for the poor children who are psychologically abused into giving false evidence.
Ironically, I think, many of the people who promoted the hysteria — the earnest “Believe the children!” journalists and activists and social workers and academics — have no trouble describing the Salem witch trials or the McCarthyite pursuit of Soviet agents (who, as a matter of fact, existed) as an hysteria and shaking their heads in wonder that people would ever go to such extremes. But then those episodes can be blamed on Christianity and conservatism.
FROM THE INBOX 22 SEPTEMBER 2004:
A few items for today, most from the two reliable sources, two from the Wall Street Journal and four from the Daily Telegraph.
— The first from today’s Wall Street Journal is the historian Robert Conquest’s Gulag Art on the paintings of the late Nikolai Getman. It includes the needed warning:
Mr. Getman's death comes soon after that of Czeslaw Milosz, with whom I had warm, though not close, relations. He too, though stressing that his own experiences in Communist Poland were not at the Kolyma level, was very concerned that the Westerners he encountered should understand, should really understand, the extreme negativity of the Communist phenomenon. The implication was that the Western vision was still blurred. Mr. Getman has added what one would hope to be a final touch to our understanding.
— I remarked on the absurd Kofi Annan in Monday’s “From the Inbox”
and find a similar article in today’s Wall Street Journal
titled What’s Illegal?
by Claudia Rossett, which is subtitled “Kofi Annan helped Saddam Hussein steal food from babies.” She begins by describing his mastery of bureaucratic language (a form of lying).
He is a smart man, adept enough that even in his BBC moment of condemning the U.S. (perhaps mindful that the U.S. is the U.N.'s chief financial backer) he took the trouble to blur responsibility for his own words, amending his use of "I" to the royal "we." Said Mr. Annan: "From our point of view, from the charter point of view, it was illegal."
It's unclear exactly whose collective view Mr. Annan thinks he was authorized to express, or under what terms in the U.N. charter he casts himself on some occasions as the hapless servant of the Security Council, and at other times, such as this, as the outspoken chief judge of world law.
She then goes on at some length to explain the charge made in the subtitle to the article, which I won’t try to summarize, but commend to your attention.
— From today’s Daily Telegraph
, India and her heavenly bodies
, an amusing story of a famous European astrologer’s trip to India.
— Also from the DT
, Booker judges condemn 'rubbish' entries
. I don’t suppose many of you care that much for English literary prizes (and this is the biggest), but I thought it interesting for its illustration of the kind of novel that gets shortlisted for such a prize: stories of serious dysfunction. I quoted one of the prize's judges speaking on this point in the August 24th "From the Inbox"
(scroll through the item to find the entry).
— And a third from the same newspaper: It is not evil to want lower taxes. Got it?
by Janet Daley. She begins by pointing out that in modern British society the willingness to pay more taxes is taken as a sign of virtuousness and the desire to pay less a sign of moral degeneration. (The situation is not that different here, especially among the major media and mainstream religious leaders.) Then she describes a poll that found out what people really wanted to do with their money:
For this poll did not offer the standard choice: "Would you be willing to pay more tax or are you a self-centred pig?" What it did instead was offer a range of ethically acceptable and plausible options. People were asked what they would prefer to do if they had £200 to give to a good cause.
The two most popular choices were: give it directly to a person or family in need (31 per cent chose this), and, give it to a local charity or church working for needy people (another 31 per cent). Among the list of possible beneficiaries was "a local authority to spend on fighting poverty" and "central government to spend on fighting poverty". The local authority got one per cent support, and central government got none.
— The last article from the DT
: It was a life of constant wrestling
, a review by Charlotte Moore of a new biography of Florence Nightingale.
It's a pity [Gillian] Gill chooses to describe Nightingale as a "living oxymoron", but she's right to see contradiction as central to her achievement. A recluse with hundreds of friends, the lynchpin of a family whose members she refused to see for years at a time, an invalid who never stopped working, a deeply pious woman with a robust, pragmatic attitude towards prostitution and VD, a tyrant who was adored by her subordinates, a celebrity who hated fame — Nightingale was all of these. She combined high moral seriousness with a powerful sense of humour; she was a passionate woman, devoted to children, who renounced love and marriage. By example, she created more opportunities for women than any of her contemporaries, but took no interest in the nascent feminist movement and did not support women's suffrage.
The core contradiction was in her upbringing. Nightingale, says Gill, was "more confident in her intellectual ability than almost any other woman in England". Her father educated her to a high level and imbued her with a social and political conscience, but saw her future as wholly confined within the domestic sphere.
The biographer asserts that Nightingale’s personal struggles were sexual in origin, and the reviewer properly objects. Judging only from this review, Gill’s argument seems to be an example of something that happens when a certain sort of modern writer (learned or industrious but secular) engages the past: he may accumulate a vast number of facts and make any number of shrewd judgments, but he nevertheless interprets the past as if it had happened to himself or his friends.
— The Evangelical leader Tim Bayly asks Was the original NIV anti-Roman Catholic?
, which follows up an ealier posting, No, Virginia, the Bible is not politically correct
, a discussion of the new "inclusive" version of the NIV, or the “Neutered International Version” as a correspondent puts it. According to Bayly, the old NIV mistranslated at least one passage to remove the evidence of infant baptism.
Bayly takes up a similar subject in Gender-neutral Bibles and “the brethren”
. Other items of possible interest to readers of Bayly’s blog
give interesting quotes from Kierkegaard’s Attack Upon Christendom
and from Marx, reflect on Christian stores opening on Sunday, and the like.
— Bayly's weblog is offered on the website for World
magazine, the Evangelical equivalent of Time
, and readers may also be interested in World magazine’s blogsite
, which is written by Marvin Olasky, Gene Edward Veith, and other of their editors.
— And finally, a very intersting article from the latest issue of The Weekly Standard
: Stephen Schwartz on Rewriting the Koran
. He argues that
The Wahhabi Koran is notable in that, while Muslims believe that their sacred text was dictated by God and cannot be altered, the Saudi English version adds to the original so as to change its sense in a radical direction.
See the article for details.
CLOSING THE PRINCIPALS:
A reader responds to yesterday’s Closing the Public Schools:
My mother has been an elementary school teacher (in Arizona) for 25+ years, and from her experience with multiple principals, I can tell you that the principal has more self-interest in keeping the district happy than either teachers or parents.
For example, my mother's principal recently axed a math program that had shown remarkable improvement in students' math scores. My mother's school is 75% Title 1 kids, which means they get free breakfasts and lunches because their families are too poor to provide them on their own. Normally, Title 1 kids perform far below average on standardized tests, but this math program produced real results that exceeded both the school's overall average and even went well beyond the district-wide average — the majority of the district being in a much wealthier part of town. The stated reason for discontinuing this excellent program was that it was different from what the rest of the district was doing.
While there are certainly teachers who wholeheartedly embrace a liberal paradigm, there are many teachers who have just gotten disillusioned after trying to fight a system that values their input even less than that of the parents. Its not really a parent-teacher divide; its a parent-district administrator chasm.
Everyone’s weighing in on how to weight to give various moral issues when considering how to vote in the upcoming elections. Not to be left out, the Eastern Orthodox, or at least one of them, Dr. Peter C. Bouteneff, has addressed the subject, and his article is posted on Beliefnet as “How Should Orthodox Christians Vote?
Since I am Orthodox, I was very interested to see how I am being instructed. It turns not, not very well at all. And this comes from a teacher of dogmatic theology, patristics, and spirituality at St. Vladimir's Orthodox Theological Seminary in New York. Since the seminary trains Orthodox pastors, what he wrote is of concern to me. He begins
Some Orthodox I know believe that the only way an Orthodox Christian could possibly vote is Republican/Conservative. Others whom I know have exactly the opposite impression. Where do we find ourselves in the political landscape today? There may not be a single answer for all Orthodox Christians, but we can at least clarify the questions.
After some discussion of church and state, and voting (which is approved), Dr. Bouteneff turns to “How to Vote?”
The terms "liberal" and "conservative" have only a limited use. Orthodox Christians should not let themselves be pigeonholed into either category, either within Orthodoxy, with regard to the wider Christian landscape, or politically. Our province is not conservatism or liberalism, but truth. [fair enough, JMK]
b. Republican and Democrat
This still leaves the question of how we are to position ourselves politically. And here we are placed in a serious bind for two reasons. One is that there are some questions for which Orthodox Christians are so far unable to identify a single right answer. For example, we have been divided as to how to approach the war on Iraq, and both sides have offered sound theological arguments. We do not often take two sides of the same fence, but the living character of our Church does allow it to happen.
This is true enough, as well. The difficulty comes because “the parties today each advocate unacceptable positions alongside admirable ones.” Such as?
Considering the sanctity of life and the dignity of the human person, it is not at all clear which party has a better platform.
Really? A pro-abortion party platform versus a pro-life, anti-abortion platform—there’s no clarity here? He explains:
We must consider their positions not only on abortion, but also on capital punishment, war, and human rights. We need to look at each party's position on education and the environment. Each party must be examined in terms of how wealth is distributed, especially in terms of what effects will be felt by the nation's poor. We need to examine the candidates' views on ethical and bioethical issues such as stem-cell research, euthanasia, HIV/AIDS, and same-sex marriage.
Neither party has a monopoly on life and family values: both parties are inconsistent in both areas.
The voting Orthodox Christian today is effectively stuck being either a "Reluctant Republican" or a "Reluctant Democrat." We are, as is often the case, left with a choice between the lesser of two evils. This doesn't take us off the hook, for we must choose. We have a compass to guide us in our choice and that compass is our understanding of Christ's Gospel and how it is lived in the world.
Once again, as with the National Council of Churches and others who would guide our voting, the matter is muddied up by throwing every conceivable issue into the mix, in which case, since no one candidate scores 100% on each issue, we are free to choose either one. Abortion and homosexual marriage apparently are on par with the environment and how wealth is distributed!
Also, the choice he lays out is false: I do not become a “reluctant Republican” or Democrat. I maintain my independence, while voting for the candidate who supports the matters of utmost concern to Christians in touch with their long moral tradition.
We do have a compass, and it is the Scripture and tradition of the church, which place priority on the nature of marriage and protection of the fruit of the marital union above other legitimate concerns of civil society. If you can't get those two things right, the rest is dressing up the Titanic. And on marriage and the sanctity of human life, there is a clear difference between the parties. I can only wonder what motivates people who either obscure the differences or can't see them, and help obscure them for others.
CLOSING THE PUBLIC SCHOOLS:
From last week’s Wall Street Journal, an article on the public schools, No Class, which is subtitled “Why are ‘public’ schools closed to the public?”. As the writer puts it rather nicely:
public schools view parents less as partners than as ATMs.
He goes on to give Arizona as a model of a place where competition has made the schools much more open to parents. While competition may have its problems as well, which group of consumers will most have the children’s true best interest at heart and know better what that is? The parents or the teachers and administrators?
The answer, I think, is obvious. The teaching establishment has tried to obscure this answer by increasing its claims to expertise, their claims to know what is really good for children because they have the training that parents do not have. This is probably true to some extent, but mainly on the merely technical matters, like how to teach a difficult subject (calculus, say), and even then I would not grant any particular claim to expertise without examination. Just look at how many new ways of teaching math these supposed experts have gone through in the last three or four decades, each offered at the
way to do it, an advance on the past, etc.
I would reject out of hand their claims to special expertise in other areas involving moral judgments, which means not only the euphemistically named “health” classes, a cover for education in sexual liberalism, but in “social studies,” English, and the rest of the humanities. If they are such experts, why do more or more students write badly, if they can write at all?
And this is not even to address the problem of the worldviews they promote in "social studies" and English particuarly. Not least a form of secularism in which every subject is treated as if God did not exist, which teaches even Christian children that God does not exist.
It is important to remember that teachers and administrators are consumers of the educational product, and that in a system without competition they create almost all the demand to which the system has to respond. They’re the buyers. They’re the ones whose money the system wants.
The principal has more self-interest in keeping the teachers happy than he has in serving the parents: the parents don’t have much choice, and besides they can be stonewalled, but he sees the teachers every single day and they will pursue their interests with a distressing (to him) single-mindedness. The teachers have more self-interest in making their own work easier and satisfying the principal and their peers than they do in responding to the parents.
That is not to say that many public schools teachers aren’t dedicated and try their best (sorry for the double negative), but that the system is rigged against the parents’ getting what they want for their children. Parents have little buying power in the usual system. You can talk about “parent-teacher cooperation” all you want, but political realities trump good intentions.
The only answer to this problem, the only answer that will “empower” parents, to use that great cliché, is to design the system to give them a lot more buying power so that the principals and teachers have to serve them to get paid. This means giving parents the choice to take their children and the money that goes with their children, elsewhere.
SORRY FOR THE "E":
Yesterday I mentioned that Kevin Offner and Juli Loesch Wiley have been added to the program for our conference in October, Praying and Staying Together. Juli's husband Don has just written me to point out that her first name is spelled "Juli," not "Julie." My apologies.
In addition to the article she wrote for us, The Delightful Secrets of Sex, you can find some of Juli's writing at the Caelum et Terra site.
Do come to the conference if you can. It will great fun, and edifying and useful too.
SORRY FOR THE "E":
Yesterday I mentioned that Kevin Offner and Juli Loesch Wiley have been added to the program for our conference in October, Praying and Staying Together. Juli's husband Don has just written me to point out that her first name is spelled "Juli," not "Julie." My apologies.
In addition to the article she wrote for us, The Delightful Secrets of Sex, you can find some of Juli's writing at the Caelum et Terra site.
Do come to the conference if you can. It will great fun, and edifying and useful too.
FROM THE INBOX 21 SEPTEMBER 2004:
Only four items for today.
— Today’s International Herald Tribune offers a nice example of anti-Americanism in practice in The crisis in Darfur: This wolf is real, and nobody's listening by Salih Booker, the executive director of Africa Action, “the oldest Africa advocacy organization in the United States.” He begins by arguing that America lied to the U.N. about Iraq and then reports that some members of the U.N.’s security council opposed the resolution to impose sanctions on Sudan for its genocidal treatment of Darfur,
in part because of the economic and political interests of its 15 member states, especially the five permanent members.
China is the single largest investor in Sudan's oil industry; Russia has significant arms deals with Khartoum, and both countries want to avoid scrutiny of their own internal wars against various ethnic communities. Pakistan and Algeria have either ideological or political interests in helping the government in Sudan. All four abstained.
In other words, we have here four governments who for their own reasons, none respectable, do not want to punish Sudan for killing vast numbers of its citizens. But then Mr. Booker declares:
Once upon a time, Washington could have exercised its clout as the most powerful nation in the world and handily won over the support of these recalcitrant members. But now, the country that cried wolf has lost the moral authority it needs to rally its global neighbors to real action against genocide in Darfur.
My mouth dropped open too. China and Russia, two countries with notoriously amoral foreign policies, who pursue their self-interest at every turn, and Pakistan and Algeria, two countries devotedly sympathetic to other Islamic regimes, no matter how appalling they are, would agree with the United States if only we hadn’t made false claims about Iraq.
It’s our fault. Not China's, Russia's, Pakistan's, or Algeria's, that they opposed the resolution and wound up abstaining. Oh, right.
— And now for something much, much, much, infinitely, more sensible: Mark Steyn declaring It's dangerous to get rid of men in tights
. He is referring to a proposal to “modernize” the security at the Houses of Parliament.
What does it say when you go to a busy working legislative body and see a guy wandering round in knee-breeches and buckled shoes? To me, it says that you're part of an ancient continuous constitutional tradition tested by centuries rather than merely being the subject of whatever modish fancies Blair's spinmeisters have picked up at some rebranding workshop. . . .
Blessed are those societies whose institutions endure long enough to become "anachronistic". It's one of the things that differentiates Britain from the Continent, where your average Mediterranean constitution dates all the way back to the 1970s. And it speaks volumes about the warped perspective of the Blairites that our customs' longevity should now be their principal offence.
— In the “sins of the fathers” category: Playboy's paintings 'financed by blood money'
about the art collection owned by the grandson of a Nazi industrialist and bought with grandfather’s money. I found most interesting, and disturbing, the fact that the father used slave labor in his factories and got only seven years at Nuremberg, and served only three of those.
— Here is what seems to me review of Joyce Carol Oates’ latest novel, offering a judicious view of her writing in general: 'The Falls': Force of Nature
by Terrence Rafferty from The New York Times Book Review
Her method, that is to say, has always been to overwhelm, to awe, to wear her readers down with the relentless pounding of her sensibility. . . .
One of the consequences, probably unintended, of her slapdash narrative approach and her hectic, rushed prose is that she's unable to disguise the wild fluctuations of her interest in the stories she tells. When Oates is fully engaged, you feel her excitement; and when she's bored, as she obviously is with the fate of the younger Burnabys, you feel that too. There's nothing coy about the fiction of Joyce Carol Oates: she just keeps coming at you with that breathless voice, book after book after book, daring the reader to find her ridiculous, embarrassing, annoyingly insistent.
I have tried to read her short stories and books, since she’s a major American writer (I mean in public status, not necessarily quality of work), but they’re all the same story. You can count on some sexual peculiarity if not perversion — and in this one a young minister kills himself the day after his wedding because he’s homosexual and his new wife likes sex too much — and a host of generally p.c. ideas about sex, the family, social class, life in America, etc. It's chick lit for semi-intellectuals.
CATHOLIC VOTES & SEAMLESS GARMENTS
Someone sent me a notice about this conference, which I would have liked to have attended, so I am happy to have received even this brief report on it from CULTURE & COSMOS (September 21, 2004; Volume 2, Number 7):
…Ave Maria School of Law sponsored a gathering of scholars Thursday [9/16] to address questions surrounding Catholic politicians and abortion at the National Press Club in Washington DC. With well over 300 in attendance, Father Richard John Neuhaus, the publisher and editor of First Things, made a pointed statement on the priority of abortion. "Is it permitted to vote for someone like a Kerry? Rome and the Bishops have been abundantly clear that abortion is not one of many issues. This is singular and it does have priority. . . . Any well instructed Catholic has had it repeatedly, insistently, persuasively, winsomely, lovingly put on his or her conscience that we have a moral obligation to positively protect innocent human life."
Princeton University professor Robert P. George, also speaking at the conference, offered an in-depth critique of attempts by Catholic politicians like former New York Governor Mario Cuomo to justify their pro-abortion position. George stressed that promoting the pro-life position is not an imposition of one's religion because it is a position derived from natural law. "The Church teaches that the right to life is a fundamental norm of justice and human rights that can be understood even apart from divine revelation and Church authority."
Copyright, 2004 --- Culture of Life Foundation. Permission granted for unlimited use. Credit required.
Culture of Life Foundation/1413 K Street, NW, Suite 1000
Washington DC 20005/Phone: (202) 289-2500/ E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
I am reminded of the "seamless garment" argument that was put forward back in, I think, the 80s, and repeated often since then. Seamless issues of life, meaning that "life issues" all flow into one another without any sense of lines or breaks between them--capital punishment, war, abortion, health care, arms control, and so on--there's no hierarchy as a basis for giving one priority other the rest.
But even a seamless garment has a hierarchy. There's a place through which you put your head, and then perhaps, arms, feet etc. It fits on the human body a certain way. But the sort of seamless garment it turned into for some has been more of a blanket without borders that you can wear any old way you want to, as long you wrapped it around yourself somehow. But even a poncho has a head.
I was reminded today about something I read last week from the Wall Street Journal on-line, a posting about the flap over CBS News and Dan Rather’s phony documents:
Today's New York Times has an update on the scandal over Dan Rather's use of fraudulent documents in last week's hit piece on President Bush. [I]t has what may be the greatest headline ever: "Memos on Bush Are Fake but Accurate, Typist Says."
Fake but accurate! If this is the New York Times' new standard of journalism, does it apply to all stories, or only the ones that seek to make President Bush look bad?
I was reminded of this, I say, by something I read on the way to work today in Nancy Pearcey’s Total Truth: Liberating Christianity from its Cultural Captivity.
After listing several of the “icons of evolution” that have been shown to be fake, such as the peppered moths that were glued to trees and photographed and the faked embryo drawings of Haeckel, she writes:
How have Darwinists responded to the debunking of their icons? Astonishingly, most have closed ranks to defend the use of falsified stories. For example, Bassett Macguire, a biology professor at the University of Texas, admits that the moths were staged, the embryos exaggerated. But, he told a reporter, the examples don’t really matter so much as the concepts they teach. The icons represent flawed but nevertheless historic moments in science, he said, and the concepts they illustrate remain valid.
This certainly shatters the idealized image of scientists as noble seekers after truth. Instead they are coming across as propagandists ready to imply useful lies.
I think that some of our liberal theologians fall into the same category as CBS News and the propagandist Darwinists on this point. They seem to be saying, in essence, that the apostolic writings of the Church, including the Gospels, contain useful lies about the miracles and the death and resurrection of Jesus. They “admit” the stories are “false,” not literally true, but they understand that the “truths” behind the stories are still accurate. To which orthodox Christians, along with St. Paul, say, no thanks. It’s all true, or it’s otherwise pointless.
Here is a Lutheran publication some of you may want to know about, which I found while looking for something else (the biography of someone whose article I am editing): For the Life of the World. Among the offerings is a short reflection titled
The Bauty of Holiness by Peter J. Scaer, the writer whose biography I was looking up.
Up whose biography I was looking. Looking up whose biography I was. Up looking whose biography I was. Whatever.
TWO MORE REASONS TO COME:
We have two more reasons for you to come to Praying & Staying Together, this year's Touchstone conference. Kevin Offner and Julie Loesch Wiley will be among the people participating in the panel discussions.
Kevin, a contributing editor, works for InterVarsity Fellowship among graduate students in Washington, D.C., while working on a doctorate at Catholic University. His last aritcle for us — he has one in the hopper now — was Neanderthals Aren't Cool. Julie, a writer and home-schooling mother, is the author of The Delightful Secrets of Sex (January/Feburary 2004). Kevin is a Presbyterian, Julie a Catholic.
As things stand now, they will be speaking on dating and courtship and similar matters. Both are very lively and entertaining speakers. Kevin can perhaps be induced to tell his story of working at a drive-through egg dealer. (I didn't make that up.)
FROM THE INBOX 20 SEPTEMBER 2004:
A few somewhat random items for today.
— An article to make your blood boil: Barbarians at the Digital Gate by Timothy L. O’Brien and Saul Hansell from yesterday’s New York Times. They discuss a company called Claria, which justifies its putting software you don’t want on your computer by claiming they’re doing you a service.
Claria’s investors and executives say the company has been unfairly grouped with shadier operators and that its goal as never to spy on computer users or to gather personal information surreptitiously. Instead, they say, the aim is to offer useful ads tailored to consumers’ real interests and needs, derived from careful monitoring of their Web use.
See? They’re doing you a favor
— James Redden writes in response to the note on the Archbishop of Canterbury in Friday's "From the Inbox"
Archbishop Rowan Williams had this to say about the existence of evil in the world:
“When you see the debth of energy that people can put into such evil, then . . . there is a flicker, there is a doubt. It would be inhuman, I think, not to react in that way.”
Excuse me, but has the good A of C ever read Romans 3:23: “For all have sinned and fallen short of the glory of God” ? How about Matthew 15:19 : “For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies” (This is a red letter verse, by the way, which means that these words come from Christ himself)?
I admit, I have my flickers of doubt from time to time, but the existence of evil has never been the reason behind any of them. On the contrary, the existence of evil in the world — along with death — only confirms my faith in God. It confirms my need for a savior. May I suggest that Rowan’s flicker of doubt comes not from the existence of evil, but from his lack of belief in his need for a savior?
I think he may be somewhat unfair to Mr. Williams. I’m sure he believes in his need for a savior. What he does not seem to believe in is the clarity and certainty of the revelation that tells us of the Father who sent us his son to be our savior, who need not be doubted no matter how wickedly men act.
— Our contributing editor Robert Hart writes in response to the item on Ellen Barkin in the same item:
A friend sends the story of actress Ellen Barkin’s choice. Ms. Barkin said at a press conference for the new movie Palindromes that
”I am the mother of a 12-year-old girl and I can tell you unequivocally that if my daughter was pregnant, I would take her kicking and screaming to have an abortion.”
I have done some sidewalk counselling outside of abortion "clinics"- though not as much as I probably should have done. But, I have seen enough to be certain that "a woman's right to choose" is one of the most dishonest phrases in human history. It was obvious to me that almost every woman or girl who was headed into the abortion mill was either being dragged in by family, or by a boyfriend.
There was no evidence of "choice" or even of free will in the overwhelming majority of cases. To attempt to speak to them always meant getting past their self appointed dominator/ body guard. If anyone was advocating a free choice, it was those of us who were trying to give them information on why they may want to let their babies live; but usually the people who were protecting their own interests in having an inconvenient baby killed managed to prevail in dominating and manipulating the pregnant woman.
— For Many in Missouri, Picking a President Is More a Matter of Values Than Policy
. It gives the Times’
view of such things, but may be of interest.
— Down But Not Out
by Rabbi Nathan Lopes Cardozo, who explains why the Torah reading on the second day of Rosh Hoshana (the sacrifice of Isaac) does not end with God’s praise for Abraham (Genesis 22:18) or Abraham’s returning home (22:19) but continues with what happened after he got home (22:20-24). The event, he writes,
should have caused the world to shake on its foundations. It should have caused all those who heard about it to better their ways and start a new chapter, but nothing of this actually happened. Once back home, Abraham was not asked by his neighbors about this episode or how it affected his personality or what there was to be learned from such a shattering experience.
Instead, he was confronted with a world which was immune to religious experiences and had nothing to say other than that another few children were born, a world of religious irrelevance in which nothing else counted but the day to day family affairs. One of the greatest moments in man's history was as such completely trivialized into a spiritual nothingness.
— In Africa's siren call is impossible to resist
from the International Herald Tribune
, Ken Wiwa reflects on the desire of African émigrés to return to Africa. Referring to Ngugi wa Thiong'o, a Kenyan writer who’d returned from 22 years of self-imposed exile and was robbed and wife sexually assaulted, he writes,
Ngugi's devotion to his own language, Gikuyu, speaks to the nostalgia for home — the need to locate the authentic self and free it from foreign influences; it is this lingering need to reconnect with an identity untainted by the complications of a foreign culture that often compels Africans to return. After all, this is what Ngugi said when he and his wife had taken refuge in New York after the attack: "Kenya is my country. and I will come over and over again."
We return even though we know that going home is a journey fraught with complications: the sepia tint of nostalgia is pitched against the dark memories of one's exit, which was often under traumatic circumstances; the euphoric thoughts of homecoming will be punctuated by the guilt of having to face those you might have left behind or neglected. Going home is like re-entry from a parallel universe, an experience that can leave you feeling disorientated and alienated: a native stranger.
— In today’s Wall Street Journal
, its editors explain Why the U.N. has no moral standing
. They are responding to Kofi Annan’s statement that the invastion of Iraq was “illegal,” which means not approved by the U.N., a standard of legality no one in the world actually recognizes for themselves.
I’ve been slightly bewildered by the complacency with which religious leaders of all sorts endorse the U.N., and I have to suspect that they prefer the warm feeling that they get from talking about peace and good will, supposedly created by the U.N., to actually dealing with the realities of national power in a fallen world.
To take the latter seriously, one must make distinctions among nations, must take sides, and more difficult, must take risks, because nothing in these matters is ever sure. It is infinitely easier and safer to talk in windy and universal ways about “peace” and insist on everyone obeying processes that rarely lead to any specific action, than to endorse one nation’s actions against another.
Religious leaders tend to speak of the U.N. as if it were different from any other human institution — some of them, in fact, speak of it more idealistically than they speak of the Church. One doesn’t have to know much about reality to know that it will have its own institutional interests to serve and that its members will use it for their own purposes, which means that it will not come close to achieving all the ideals with which idealists invest it, and its propagandists encourage. One of its greatest institutional interests is that the most powerful nations will take it seriously and submit themselves to its judgment.
I have no idea if Kofi Annan is naturally as ridiculous as his statements reveal him or if the job itself makes the holder ridiculous, or both (people prone to such things rise to the top of institutions that want them). But it is always painful to hear him speak on any issue because everything he says expresses the same alternative vision of reality (to put it politely).
— Mark Steyn deals with this problem in All the good things they never tell you about today's Iraq
As the Australian Prime Minister John Howard (not to be confused with Michael Howard, ever) observed, the problem with the UN is that it's "paralysed", and that paralysis favours the bad guys, whether in Iraq or Iran, where perpetual International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) monitoring seems to be barely a hindrance to the full-steam-ahead nuclear programme.
In Sudan, the civilised world is (so far) doing everything to conform with the UN charter, which means waiting till everyone's been killed and then issuing a strong statement expressing grave concern.
This would be funnier were it not in fact literally true.
— Godspy offers Blade Runner: What It Means to Be Human
by John W. Whitehead. Whitehead picks up on a story from CNN
reporting that sixty scientists polled found Blade Runner
the best science fiction movie ever. It reported that:
2001: A Space Odyssey" came in a close second, followed by George Lucas' "Star Wars" and "Star Wars Episode V -- The Empire Strikes Back."
The list also includes "Alien," the original "Solaris" (1972), "The Terminator," "Terminator 2: Judgment Day," "The Day the Earth Stood Still," "War of the Worlds," "The Matrix" and "Close Encounters of the Third Kind."
I would be interested in readers’ votes for the best science fiction movies. Please send them to me by clicking the link at the top of the column to the left.
THE "TEMPERANCE" BOOK:
My late father collected hymnals. While going through his library I came upon a Temperance Movement songbook published in 1900 anomalously entitled Prohibition Songs. Edited by Charles M. and J. H. Fillmore, it begins with “Bible Readings for Reform Meetings” under several heads, including “The Christian and the Liquor Traffic” (“Abhor that which is evil, cling to that which is good”; “What fellowship has righteousness with iniquity? and what concord hath Christ with Belial?” Indeed. Or, one may add, with Irish (Catholic) politicians?
I know a good old preacher, he’s a staunch Republican,
He argues that his party is the only one that can
Do anything or ever has done aught for temperance,
He makes the facts and figures pile up high in its defense.
But he votes with Jimmy Doolan, Paddy Ryan, Teddy Flynn,
All saloonists, and his ballot counts and helps these men to win; With
brewry and distillr’y men,his vote is just the same,
And means perpetual hell on earth and everlasting shame.
And then, there are rich and the haunting verses of Prohibition, sung to the tune of Come to Jesus:
Prohibition, Prohibition, Prohibition is right.
Prohibition, Prohibition, Prohibition is right.
It is asking, it is asking, it is asking your vote . . .
Nothing better, nothing better, nothing better is known . . .
It will triumph, it will triumph, it will triumph some day. . . .
And so it did, at least for a while, but with scant help from the Germans, less politically inclined, perhaps, than the aforementioned Irish, but similarly greedy and bibulous:
Mine name vas Yakob Schneider, Von lager peer unt cider,
Mit my saloon I git reech soon, Don’t you vergit dot neider;
Sumtime, I know, dot viskey, It makes der poys so frisky,
Ven dey gets tight dey shoots unt vight, Dot makes der peesness risky. O,
Yakob Schneider, O, Yakob Schneider,
You’re getting very fat unt reech, From lager peer unt cider;
O Yakob Schneider, O, Yakob Schneider,
You’re getting very fat unt reech, From lager peer unt cider.
Von Deutchland I koom ofer, A poor unt itle loafer,
But now I’m reech unt fat, you see, Shust like a pig in clofer;
Ven fools pegin dere trinkin, Dey does not den been tinken’,
Der tollars fill my money till, So quick as you vas vinkin.
O Yakob Schneider . . . etc.
On the other side of the shining line is the “ ‘Publican Niggah”—a man, unlike the Republican preacher above, with a conscience:I’se a ‘Publican niggah, yes I is, An’ I votes dat ticket eb’ry time;But de Mastah, he say, I am his, An’ my ‘legiance in de heb’nly clime.
So I votes fo’ de man, if he’s all right, An’ takes no likker at de bar;
But ef fo’ de whisky sid he’ll fight, Den I draws de line right dar. Yah! Yah!
And finally, on a graver note:
Who is on the Lord’s side, who? Who is on the Lord’s side, are you?Not if it is your business to sell, liquor that fits the drinker for hell.
E’en though the State permission may grant, ‘Tis a satanic--a vile covenant.
Not if you drink the poisonous cup, E’en but a small, occasional sup.
While you yourself may be very strong, You may lead weaker ones into the wrong. Not
unless you uphold with your might, All that is good and noble and right.
Not unless you oppose all you can, Ev’rything evil and hurtful to man.
The Lord is holy just and true, And such alone his will can do. . . .
There is much more of the same in this smelly little book. Although I was born more than fifty years after its publication, I was born to the culture it helped to create. It is a religious culture in which the mere ingestion of alcoholic drink was considered a sin, and in which the preachers shamelessly argued “from the Greek” that Jesus didn’t make or drink real wine.
Of course, as C. S. Lewis noted, what is being taught here with such intensity and devotion isn’t Christianity; it’s Islam, for “alcoholic drink” isn’t simply permitted by our faith, it’s at the center of our worship of God, whose Son took a cup of wine, said of it, “this is the New Covenant in my blood,” and told us all to drink of it.
Beyond the all the obvious foolishness here, however—the foolishness of denying the goodness of a divine gift because it is abused by foolish men, thus heaping folly upon folly--is a cautionary tale for every Christian of every generation. American Protestants of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries have not been the only ones susceptible to mistaking the pious and strongly held opinions of men for the precepts of God, and defining the Communion accordingly.
My own comment is that we can be saved from making mistakes like the one we see here— abandoning the temperance to which everyone has been called for legal prescription of abstinence--by paying careful and honest attention to the scriptures we claim to believe. No honest exegete can extract from the Bible teetotalism as the Christian standard and norm. What, indeed, is the substantive difference between the accusations found in these execrable ditties and those of the people who indicted the Lord for being a winebibber who consorted with sinners?
To make such mistakes one must first enter and submit to a delusionary system, a system (and we have many of them) that pays him, either a salary or in the coin of self-righteouness, to accept a lie. If scripture is indeed profitable for doctrine, for reproof, for correction, and instruction righteousness, then it is exactly what we need—what we have been given—to correct errors like this, and so to relieve the Church of the burdens upon life, worship, and fellowship they create.
As I have experienced it, “diversity training” is intended to force those who submit to it to accept not simply incidental human differences, but beliefs and activities the Christian Church has always condemned, particularly homosexuality. If one does not accept these beliefs and activities, he is identified within the group as narrow, bigoted, and cruel, his refusal to honor them as hatred of the people who engage in them. Not many can stand up to the groupthink tactics—almost always forced as a condition of employment, or of maintaining good standing with the employer--used to break down, silence, or convert those who hold traditional values.
The Church includes of all sorts and conditions of men by cleansing them of their sins and making them Christians. Diversity training, in a satanic inversion, accepts all sorts and conditions of men except Christians (for no Christian can accept its premises), confirming them in approval of sin as the condition of its unity. As the Black Mass is to the Lord’s Supper, so is the diversity enjoined in these sessions to the variegated unity of the Church.