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Archive for the ‘General Reflections’ Category

Thought I’d jot down a few of the more obvious ones.  I’ll be adding to it over time.  Please feel free to make suggestions.

1.  Conservatives want to be left alone to work hard, earn a living, and take care of their families and homes.  Liberals don’t believe anyone is able to work hard, earn a living, or take care of their families and homes, so they try to get the government to do it and force it on everyone else.

2.  When a conservative leader makes a mistake, conservatives call him/her out on it.  When a liberal leader makes a mistake, they blame conservatives.

3.  Liberals believe that Jon Stewart and Steven Colbert are funny.

4.  Conservatives believe they know best how to spend their own money.  Liberals believe that the government knows best how to spend conservative’s money.

5. When a conservative leader advocates military action, liberals label him a war monger.  When a liberal leader advocates military action, he’s awarded a peace prize.

6.  Conservatives believe it is evil to kill an innocent baby.  Liberals believe it is evil to stop someone from killing an innocent baby.

7.  Conservatives look for free market solutions to problems.  Liberals believe in bringing in the “best and brightest” to clean up the problems they have made.

 

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The following article by Dr. Anthony Esolen is one of the most important I have read in recent years.  In it, Dr. Esolen captures the essence of the war between Christianity and all that stands against it whether it be atheism, communism, liberalism, feminism, what have you.  He explains the why of the war; why the atheist is so angry that he can demand that Pope Benedict be arrested for crimes against humanity, why the communist can sincerely make contradictory statements, why the feminist can acknowledge that a baby in utero is fully human yet still demand the right to kill it.  This is the war of reason against non-reason, the battle between Ransom and the Un-man in Perelandra, and between St. Anne’s and the N.I.C.E in That Hideous Strength.  This article merits wide reading throughout what remains of Christendom.  It was originally published in the March/April 2013 edition of Touchstone Magazine and is reproduced here by the kind permission of Dr. Esolen.

FAITH AGAINST FAITHWhittaker Chambers, Potemkin Villages & the Ongoing War

by Anthony Esolen

Then felt I like some watcher of the skies
When a new planet swims into his ken;
Or like stout Cortez when with eagle eyes
He star’d at the Pacific—and all his men
Look’d at each other with a wild surmise—
Silent, upon a peak in Darien.
—John Keats, from “On First Looking into Chapman’s Homer”
A FEW DAYS BEFORE I wrote these words, I opened for the first time Whittaker Chambers’s Witness. It is his account of the Alger Hiss espionage case. And, as Chambers says, “all the props of an espionage case are there— foreign agents, household traitors, stolen documents, microfilm, furtive meetings, secret hideaways, phony names, an informer, investigations, trials, official justice,” and, he might have added, assassinations and suicides. But if that were all, he writes to his children, “it would not be worthy my writing about or your reading about.” Instead, it is a book that witnesses against one faith and for another.When stout Cortez with his eagle eyes stared at the Pacific—it was actually Balboa, but Keats’s error gives us the mightier line—he saw something wholly new, like the astronomer who glimpses an unknown planet. To read Chambers, though, is not to read something wholly new. It is to climb a promontory from whose lookout a maze of paths and woods and streams, of ravines and hills, of seeming contradictions in the lie of the land, is seen for what it is. The objects can be placed. Their relations become clear. Things make sense.From that promontory one sees the battlefield of the last hundred years or more laid out, and what had seemed to be unrelated skirmishes now appear as moments in a continuing war, regardless of whether the soldiers in the trenches knew what they were about, or suspected that the fight was for more than one scrap of local land—a law here, a school there. The Hiss-Chambers battle was not, as the press labored to portray it, a grudge match between personal enemies. It was, as Hiss and Chambers knew, a battle of faith.

THE SECOND-OLDEST FAITH
Chambers insists upon this. He will not allow any complacency. Communists “are that part of mankind which has recovered the power to live or die—to bear witness—for its faith.” They are not mad; they are not sociopaths. Communism is not just “the writings of Marx and Lenin, dialectical materialism, the Politburo, the labor theory of value, the theory of the general strike, the Red Army, secret police, labor camps, underground conspiracy, the dictatorship of the proletariat.” It is not parades through Moscow and Paris and Rome. What binds Communists “across the frontiers of nations, across barriers of language and differences of class and education, in defiance of religion, morality, truth, law, honor, the weaknesses of the body and the irresolutions of the mind, even unto death, is a simple conviction: It is necessary to change the world.”

That is the key. With those words, one stands upon the high rock, ready to raise one’s eyes and see. The world is evil; the world sags with the sludge of history and man’s inhumanity; the world must be changed. Thence comes what Chambers calls man’s “second oldest faith.” It is the vision of Man without God: Ye shall be as gods, says the serpent. But because man’s soul yearns for the transcendent God, this second-oldest faith must collapse that soul into what Chambers calls “mind,” the bare faculty of rational deduction. With it, man must reform “the meaningless chaos of nature, by imposing on it his rational will to order, abundance, security, peace.” It is “the vision of materialism.”

The first commandment of this faith is accepted by many who do not know what army they fight for. It is to be found, says Chambers, not in the Communist Manifesto, but “in the first sentence of the physics primer: ‘All of the progress of mankind to date results from the making of careful measurements.’” Soul, meet slide-rule. Wisdom, beauty, and love are dismissed from the room, and man the toolmaker becomes the product of his tools. What do these insights explain? I will examine three sets of phenomena.

THE POTEMKIN VILLAGE
Walter Duranty, whom Malcolm Muggeridge called the most accomplished liar he’d ever met, won a Pulitzer Prize for writing puff-pieces in the New York Times about Stalin’s collectivization of farms in the Ukraine. No uprisings, no dearth, no starvation, no millions dead. Did he not see them? Perhaps he had been visited by the ghost of Lincoln Steffens, who went to Lenin’s Russia and returned to advise President Wilson: “I have seen the future, and it works.”

The Potemkin Village—the show-village full of brash young men falling in love with their tractors and raising up a great crop of Communist wheat—has become a byword for prettifying propaganda. That won’t do. Those who gull require the gullible, those who long to be gulled; and often they are the same people. Deprived of the Christian hope of eternal life, they must place their hope, sickly and desperate, in some vague future. Does the future work? It must work.

So the Potemkin Village is not just a sham. It is, for its directors, the truth, not as things are, but as things can be, as they are damned well going to be. It is the omelet for which Lenin breaks his eggs. Only if we keep that in mind can we explain the doctrinaire secularist’s imperviousness to facts.

Chairman Mao slaughtered tens of millions of his people, a decade after Chambers wrote that the man was not the agrarian reformer petted by the liberal press. Regardless of the personal failings of Senator McCarthy, there were Soviet agents in the State Department, as there were Soviet agents in the World Council of Churches, and in the BBC. Why should that cause surprise? Stalin was a butcher, yet Frank Marshall Davis, mentor of the young Barack Obama, shilled for him at the Chicago Star, after the purges and after the war. Jane Fonda went to North Vietnam to encourage a band of ruthless villains, while her countrymen rotted in the Hanoi Hilton. Could she not see?

GAZING RAPT AT THE FUTURE
Why would journalists like Mary McCarthy say they were not Communists, but “anti-anti-Communists”? For the same reason some people say they are “personally opposed” to abortion, while working to extend its reach, from the Western nations to all their client territories the world over. They share the same vision, the same longing for a world organized by man, without God. They are gazing at the Potemkin Village, rising in the future.

Alfred Kinsey was a liar and a pervert, who hired pedophiles to perform sex acts on small children. Yet Kinsey made his family into a Potemkin Village. It’s painful to look back upon magazine articles about this supposedly ordinary Midwestern man, with pictures of him and his wife and sons going on a picnic. Why did people trust the fraud? Why did they want to trust him? He was a trailblazer, marking out the path from old taboos to liberation: not to God, but to man as god.

Gay parents are the villagers now. It used to be thought a tragedy if a child had to grow up without a mother or without a father. But now the suffering of such children must be denied. Nay, more: it is wonderful to grow up in that state. Hear the tractors humming! See the bushels full of corn!

Lyndon Johnson declared a War on Poverty, just when a young official in his employ, Daniel Moynihan, was warning that out-of-wedlock births among blacks had crossed into the danger zone and was threatening the very existence of genuine community. For that brief time, Johnson and Moynihan were at cross-purposes. It doesn’t matter what the men were aware of doing. Johnson bowed to the materialist vision; he wished to use the power of a technocratic state to fix a problem viewed in technocratic terms. Moynihan was trying to peer into the human heart. The one looked confidently toward the future. The other worried that something essential from the past was being lost.

It is almost fifty years later, and the War on Poverty might aptly be called the Massacre of the Poor, such is the moral degradation to which the beneficiaries of the welfare state have sunk. Our prisons testify to this.

DESPISING THE PAST
Still the believers in man without God will not see. Their gaze is fixed on the Potemkin Village. Not on the New Jerusalem, against which all human cities must appear a sorry lot, but inhabitable and worthy of love, just as sinners are worthy of love. Jerusalem, our happy home, allows us to live in this world as it is, and if that sometimes means we’re slow to improve things here, at least we cherish our bit of land, our roof and our fig tree. The Potemkin Village is not so forgiving. It demands that we despise what we have inherited, to build the true Potemkin upon the ruins.

Hence, the Potemkin Village is a reproach as well as a promise. Its power, indeed, lies more in the reproach, since it is so chary of delivering on any promise. If we cannot quite be moved to love the hazy future, we can certainly be moved to hate the past. That’s easy, because there is much in the past to decry. It cannot be otherwise; we are sinners, and we suffer the infirmities of our mortal nature. Therefore, hatred of the past becomes a tenet of the creed.

Medieval man must have been benighted—and not all the universities, the vigorous trade, the vibrant orders of religious, the spectacular feats in art and poetry, the prominence of countless women like Catherine of Siena and Matilda of Tuscany, the bustling freedom of town life, the bonds forged by local guilds, the colorful celebrations, not all of that can pierce the carapace of hatred.

Until feminism arrived, women must have been miserable, regardless of the testimony of women themselves. Until the Age of Reason, there must have been only superstition and no scientific advancement. The Church, not Stalin, not Mao, not the enlightened nations of the West in the world wars, must have burned her millions. Every time someone says, “You want to bring us back to the Dark Ages,” we know we are dealing with someone who cannot see the present for the future.

INSTRUMENTAL TRUTH
This vision of the village-to-be helps resolve apparent contradictions among adherents to the faith in Man without God. For things are true or false, or good or bad, instrumentally, as leading or not leading to that consummation devoutly to be wished.

That’s why the Communists could turn on a dime. Trotsky was a hero of the revolution. Trotsky was an enemy of the revolution. Bukharin was the intellectual beacon of Communism. Bukharin was a revisionist dog. Hitler is our friend. No, Roosevelt is our friend. These statements are not contradictory. The only absolute truth is that Man must be without God. All other truths, even the scientific, are tactical.

President Clinton was a slobbering cad whom no decent person in past generations would have been proud to call his friend. He was accused of rape. No one doubts that he committed what feminists have, for their tactical purposes, called rape: the seduction of a woman by a powerful man, the chasm in power obliterating the validity of her consent. Yet they did not condemn the president. They defended him; they celebrated him; they were eager to play the underling, to keep abortion safe and legal, and to do whatever else is essential to the construction of Feminist Potemkin.

NO CONTRADICTION INVOLVED
Some people viewed their defense of Clinton as hypocrisy. It was not. It was something better and worse. It was the expression of a devout faith. It was the expression of an evil faith. Chambers recalls when he was trying to come to terms with evil, not as bad tactics, but as a violation of the human soul. Why was it just as evil to kill the tsar as it was to kill two million peasants? It could only be so if it was a crime against the soul, “the soul of the murderer as well as the murdered.”

But if God is ruled out, why complain about the Stalinist purge? “By the logic of history it was expedient, and in its directness merciful.” No contradiction is involved: “How long are you going to keep on killing people?” Lady Astor would ask Stalin brightly. “As long as it is necessary,” he answered and asked in turn, “How many people were killed in the First World War? You killed that many people for nothing,” he added, “and you blame us for killing a handful for the most promising social experiment in history?” In terms of the modern mind, which excludes from its reasoning the supposedly undemonstrable fact of God, Stalin’s question was unanswerable.

Elizabeth Cady Stanton, an early feminist and despiser of Christian marriage, decried abortion as a crime of men against women. Feminists now decry restrictions on abortion as crimes of men against women. They say Mrs. Stanton would agree with them. I fear they are probably right. For Mrs. Stanton’s focus was never on the humanity of the child. It was on the power relations between men and women. The feminists, too, do not wish to acknowledge the humanity of the child; it is a casualty in the greater war.

Some, however, will acknowledge that the child is human, and defend killing it anyway. This would seem to be the most egregious exercise of a difference in power imaginable. Yet remember Stalin’s words. Why should he balk at the killing of some few human beings, for the greatest social experiment in history? Why should the feminist balk at the killing of some small human beings, for that same experiment—not an economic experiment, but a “theological” experiment, the building up of the city of Man without God?

Someone may ask, “How could Alger Hiss, working for so many years with Presidents Roosevelt and Truman and Secretary of State Acheson, and representing American interests at the founding of the United Nations, be working against America all that time? How could a man endure the contradiction without being torn in two?” But there was no contradiction. “Oceania has always been at war with Eurasia,” say the reports from the Party in Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four, and Winston Smith must train his mind to think so, in the teeth of the facts.

TRUTH AS PERSUASION
When Whittaker Chambers decided to break with Communism, he could not do so without attempting to persuade his friend, Alger Hiss, to come with him. It was a dire chance he was taking. He knew that Communist agents would seek to kill him. To let Hiss in on the decision was also risky. But Chambers felt he owed it to him.

So at dinner at the Hiss house one night he recited the crimes of the Communists, “the Soviet Government’s deliberate murder by mass starvation of millions of peasants in the Ukraine and the Kuban; the deliberate betrayal of the German working class to Hitler by the Communist Party’s refusal to co-operate with the Social Democrats against the Nazis; the ugly fact that the German Communist Party had voted in the Reichstag with the Nazis against the Social Democrats,” and so forth, culminating in the purge wherein Stalin had massacred “thousands of the best men and minds in the Communist Party on lying charges.”

What did Hiss reply? He ventured a few objections, then finally cried, “What you have been saying is just mental masturbation!”

Those are the words of a man who has ceased to think of truth as truth. Such a man indeed can be an American patriot, loyal to the America-that-is-to-be, while breaking American law, betraying American interests, and subjecting American soldiers to fire from weapons made according to stolen American designs. In the same way, a Jesuit may be loyal to the pope-that-is-to-be, while ambushing the pope at every pass; or a leftist nun may be loyal to the Church-that-is-to-be while helping to destroy the Church that is; or a progressive Protestant may be devoted to a Christ of his imagination, a manmade Christ for a man-made paradise, while nailing Jesus to the tree. There is no contradiction.

Nor is there any penalty for playing fast and loose with the truth. Russians used to jest that there was no truth (pravda) in the News (Izvestia), and there was no news (izvestia) in the Truth (Pravda). But there was, if we take a cue from the Russian word pravda, whose inner meaning is “that which has been shown,” that is, proved. It is the old sophistical turn from truth as naming what is, to truth as persuasion. What is “true” is what one can persuade the masses to believe.

TRUTH TURNED UPSIDE DOWN
The lie disappears, consumed in the flame of devotion to the truth-that-is-to-be. Consider the Alan Guttmacher Institute, foremost in the fight to liberalize abortion laws in the United States in the 1960s and 1970s. The statistics given out in the abortion debates during those decades are now widely known to have been fabricated; members of the institute have admitted that. Why, then, does the Guttmacher Institute still exist?

After the collapse of the Soviet Union, files were made public that proved that there were Soviet agents everywhere who helped to turn the course of history—consider what the world might be like if China had not been betrayed into the hands of the Maoist “reformers.” Why have there been no apologies from the authors of the lie that not Stalin, not Khruschchev, not Molotov, not Mao, but Joseph McCarthy was the great villain of the postwar era?

We know that Alfred Kinsey was a criminal. Why does his institute still exist? Why did Hollywood recently make a movie in his honor?

There is no lie but opposition to the progressive vision. The world is turned upside down. God—for men like Hiss, Duranty, Kinsey, and Stalin—is the father of lies.

HATRED OF MAN & NATURE
When Milton’s Satan stands on the verge of the physical universe, he beholds a glorious light, but it does not bring him joy:
O Thou that with surpassing glory crowned Lookst from thy sole dominions like the god Of this new world; at whose sight all the stars Hide their diminished heads; to thee I call, But with no friendly voice, and add thy name, O Sun, to tell thee how I hate thy beams, That bring to my remembrance from what state I fell, how glorious far above thy sphere, Till pride and worse ambition threw me down, Warring in heaven against heaven’s matchless King.

If man is made in the image of God, then hatred of God implies hatred of man, and hatred of the natural world over which man has been given dominion. Milton understood those implications. Satan enters Eden, a vast tract of land lush with trees and meadows, grottoes and vines hanging heavy with fruit, and he recognizes its beauty, but he hates it all the more for that: he “saw undelighted all delight.”

It’s no coincidence, I think, that when Chambers broke with the Communists he found a secret haven in a Maryland farm, which he and his family worked for many years. Not as an agrarian technician, but as a man immersed in the goodness of the natural world. They used machines, but only as absolutely needed, seeking “that life that [would] give [them] the greatest simplicity, freedom, fruitful work, closest to the earth and peaceful, slow-moving animals.” It was something the reporters in the Hiss case could not understand.

Here we needn’t turn to the drab miseries of the Soviet Union and its rape of the land for the great cause. We could look at the drab miseries of life in the urban West—their emblem the N.I.C.E. of Lewis’s That Hideous Strength, stocked with animals for vivisection, and aimed at producing the first trans-human being, the next evolutionary step that would leave mere humanity behind like so much mud.

If at times the believers in Man without God invoke the natural world, it is not for its own sake—this must be made clear—but for its opposition to theomorphic man. It’s not so much that we love asters and antelopes, but that we hate him; and our contempt justifies our treating him as no different from the sheep we clone; all things are instrumental in building up the longed-for city. Chambers understood the principle, and expresses it in the words of Henri de Lubac, from The Drama of Atheistic Humanism: “Man cannot organize the world for himself without God; without God man can only organize the world against man.”

ENCOURAGING THE UNNATURAL
We see this humanistic misanthropy in our treatment of children—those we permit to be born. If we made a list of ten things we know about the nature of children, and then devised an institution to thwart them, it would resemble the modern school—impersonal, factory-like, distant from home, detached from the oversight of parents, an engine of all-pervading indoor ennui. All this is by design.

It is natural for children to learn from their parents. We don’t want that; we want parents to learn from their children, that is to say, from their children’s teachers— from the controlling institutions that produce and direct those teachers. We don’t want boys to behave like boys and girls like girls. We hate football, unless girls want to play it. The public school in my small hometown required that boys take cooking and sewing classes and that girls take shop. They didn’t care what the boys or the girls actually wanted to do; again, their nature is something to thwart. It is a gravitational pull to overcome.

We know that homosexual activity among men is unsanitary and dangerous. Yet we encourage it, because it is not natural, even while we attempt to interfere with things perfectly innocent and natural—the lunches that mothers provide for their children, for instance. This isn’t just perverse. It makes perfect sense. The natural is a drag on the technocrat, like the softness of pinewood, or the brittleness of tin. The unnatural, by contrast, lays claim to superiority because it is chosen by man, the result of techne; dogs can mate by nature, but a man has to learn how to delve into sodomy. Hence the push to replace human procreation—note the nature-scorning term “breeders,” which homosexuals use to belittle ordinary husbands and wives—with the shockingly ugly “reproductive technology,” celebrated as an improvement upon nature. Hence, too, the hideous self-mutilations of transsexual people, lopping here, pumping there.

All the natural associations of free people are suspect: families, villages, towns, parishes, guilds, shops, clubs. They must be circumscribed, starved, crushed, or brought under the direction of a technocratic elite. The devotees of the vision of Man without God must control the schools, and thus they must control the villages and towns, and circumscribe the authority of parishes and churches. The political must devour the cultural, because the latter is the more natural and less susceptible to technocratic management. So the American Constitution becomes a decree of martial law against non-political associations, like the Rotary Club or the Boy Scouts. France has banished the natural and human terms “mother” and “father” from legal documents, replacing them with the technocratic terms “parent 1” and “parent 2,” in deference to unnatural sexual arrangements.

HATRED OF GOD
And God? What else can explain the hatred of God? The atheist Richard Dawkins, his face red with demonic ardor, cries out in the desert for the arrest of a learned gentleman, Pope Benedict, on charges of Crimes Against Humanity—because the pope loves the Africans whom Dawkins despises; because the pope does not want to inject into their societies the poison of Western licentiousness.

The devil has his ascetics, and Dawkins is one. The devil also has his inebriates, like Christopher Hitchens, who called Mother Teresa “Hell’s Angel.” This is no delusion, but the predictable expression of a fervent and evil faith. For the soul that hates God, the fiery love of Paradise is unendurable, and hell is a refuge, and our own.

And the devil has his artists. They aren’t accomplished, these days, but when an Andres Serrano immerses a crucifix in urine, we see all the hatreds at once: blasphemy, inhumanity, and the unnatural.

THE SAME WAR, EXTENDED
It has always been the same war, Chambers says, but now our technology extends it to a vast scale. Let Christians be wary, then.

The squalid sniggering comedy on television is not a part of the culture, which we must enter. It is an assault against culture, and must be vanquished. The next tool for separating sex from children and children from their parents is not a neutral gimcrack whose use might be moral or immoral depending on the circumstances. It is a machine gun pointed at the family. The conforming of church life to the ways of a secular concert—not a band playing on a village green, or a choir of neighbors singing hymns handed down from of old, nothing so natural and human—is not a sign of health, but of capitulation. A cancer is not a prosthesis. It does not replace, but devours.

May God have mercy upon us, as he did upon Whittaker Chambers, and give us strength to bear witness to the simple, sweet truths of human life, those things that lead men, if not to the sanctuary of the Church, at least to the porch.

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Recently, Roger Ebert posted an article about the death penalty in America on his blog.  It appears to have been inspired in part by two things: Into the Abyss, the new documentary by Werner Herzog about death row and the death penalty, and an article in the British Guardian about the racial disparity of death row.  The name of Mr. Ebert’s post is “Nobody has the right to take another life”, and it is no surprise that the general attitude of the article toward the death penalty is negative.

There are many who oppose the death penalty, and I generally agree that no one has a right to take another life.  But is that really the question at hand?  Is it not more a question of duty, justice, and obligation?

On November 16th, 2011, Guadalupe Esparza was executed in Huntsville by lethal injection.  He was convicted for the abduction, rape and murder of a 7-year-old girl.  DNA evidence from both Garza and the child conclusively identified Garza as the perpetrator.  Garza had a long history of violent attacks, including attempted murder, but had been paroled repeatedly to alleviate overcrowding.  The last time he was paroled was 1996.  The girl was murdered in 1999.

Guadalupe Esparza did not have the right to kidnap, rape, and murder that little girl.  Her rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were forever extinguished by his actions.  Once his guilt was firmly established beyond a shadow of a doubt, there was no longer a question of his rights.  The government had an obligation to see that justice was satisfied by punishing Esparza.  In spite of how some may feel, there are crimes that are so terrible that the only appropriate punishment is execution.  But let’s set aside the death penalty for a moment and examine the question from a different perspective.

Would Mr. Ebert agree with assisted suicide?  Dr. Kervorkian “assisted” others by administering lethal injections to them.  If no one has a right to administer a lethal injection for the purpose of  executing a criminal, did Dr. Kervorkian have a right to administer a lethal injection for the purpose of assisting Thomas Youk’s suicide?

Does Mr. Ebert agree that physicians have a right to kill an unborn baby? In his blog, he states that he believes a woman has a right to choose abortion.  But isn’t a woman’s right to choose to abort and kill her child the same as a right to take another life?  No one could be more innocent than an unborn baby, yet the abortion procedure is far more gruesome and painful to a baby than a lethal injection to a criminal.  If Mr. Ebert objects to the execution of a proven, violent criminal, how can he support a woman’s right to dismember or burn a baby to death in her womb?

At the beginning of his post, Mr. Ebert cites the article from the British Guardian which states that there is a disparity between the number of African-Americans and whites on death row.  Mr. Ebert, whose wife is African-American, has repeatedly shown an understandable sensitivity toward racial issues in America.  But he seems to be overlooking one of the most important racial disparities.  The number one cause of death among African-Americans is abortion.  1/3 of all abortions in America are performed on African-American women.  Stated another way, the number of African-American children killed by abortion is three times that of white children.  Three out of every five African-American women abort their children.  Around 50% of all African-American babies are killed by abortion every day.  To the best of my knowledge, he has never posted an article to his blog that focuses on that particular disparity.  If he is truly concerned with racial parity, why has he never spoken out on the genocide of African-American babies?

I admire Roger Ebert and enjoy his movie reviews.  I have learned much from him and I don’t know that there is a better film critic writing today.  He is intelligent and articulate, his writing style is lucid and engaging, and his knowledge of film is encyclopedic.  Few things would give me more pleasure than taking classes from him on film-making and criticism.  But when it comes to social issues, his liberalism frequently gets in the way of rational thought.  The position he holds on the death penalty is inconsistent with his position on abortion.  The two cannot be reconciled.

By now, my own position should be perfectly clear.  Punish the guilty, protect the innocent.

PS:  Mr. Esparza’s case is not unique among Texas death row inmates.  All are guilty of similarly violent crimes and have had multiple opportunities to prove their innocence through the appeals process.
PPS:  The abortion statistics come from blackgenocide.org
PPPS:  Duane Buck was convicted on the evidence of eyewitnesses and has never denied his guilt.

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A Compromising Position

There has been a lot of talk in the media this year about compromise on Capitol Hill.  The cries of “Republicans should compromise!”  “Democrats should compromise!”  “We all need to compromise so that we can get something done!” ring out from every corner.  There are two observations I think should be made about the call to compromise.

First, compromise in and of itself is not a virtue.  One can compromise on a number of issues, but any virtue from the compromise comes from the moral dimension of the issue itself, not from the compromise.  Compromise can be morally neutral, but only if the issue is morally neutral.  If my wife and I are debating where to spend vacation time or go to dinner, I don’t mind compromising to please her.  I enjoy making her happy, so to compromise pleases both of us.  But there is no moral dimension to the questions of where to go or what to do on such occasions.

This leads immediately to the second observation, that to compromise with evil is to do evil.  If two people disagree over an issue that is morally wrong, abortion, for example, the person who opposes abortion compromises their moral character if they compromise with the person who favors abortion.  They move away from that which is good in the direction of that which is evil.

Any discussion of compromise must, therefore, be framed within the larger of discussion of right and wrong.  We must not compromise simply for the sake of compromising or simply to get something done.  If something can truly be said to be wrong, no one should compromise in that direction, ever.

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It happened almost twenty years ago.  I was on Christmas break from grad school and had taken a few days off from work to visit my family.  It had been a difficult semester and I was very tired from all the effort poured into papers, finals, recitals, concerts and juries (I was a music major).  I went home to rest, relax, recover and enjoy the company of my parents and brothers; to find peace, quiet, and a sense of the Holy as one of the most sacred events in history was remembered.  What I found was frenetic activity.

The days were spent making multiple trips to the grocery store to pick up something that someone forgot for one dish or another, the nights were spent at the mall buying presents.  Tempers were short and tension was high from the efforts to forge from this confusion a Norman Rockwell Christmas celebration.  A couple of days of that and I was more tired than when I arrived.

On Christmas Eve, everyone was preparing for yet another trip to the mall.  I was almost ready to join them when I realized that, so far, I had not found anything that I had come looking for.  There was no quiet, no rest, no peace in our dealings with each other and the world around us.  There was nothing Holy about our activity, no joy in our exertion, nothing that resembled the solemn exuberance that should accompany the celebration of the birth of Christ our Lord.  There was only an acquiescence to the demands of a commercialized, secularized holiday.  I decided that if I did not already have something, I did not need it, be it a gift or an extra pint of whipping cream for the pie. There was nothing that could justify another shopping expedition.

I stopped what I was doing, picked up a book, went to the living room, pulled a chair up to the fire and began reading.  Mom, Dad and my brothers started for the door and announced that they were going to the mall.  I looked up and said, “Have fun!  I’ll see you when you get back.”  It was almost funny when they stopped, nearly tripping over one another.  They looked at each other, looked back at me, and somebody said, slower, louder, and annunciating more precisely, as if addressing someone who was a little slow or hard of hearing, “We’re going to the mall…let’s go.”  I said, again, “Have a good time.  I’ll see you when you get back.”  You could see their collective train of thought derailing as the fact that I would not join them sank in.

I’m not sure what I was expecting, but what happened next took me completely by surprise.  All of them grew angry.  It was unthinkable that I might want to do something other than go to the mall with them on Christmas Eve.  They made one more attempt to convince me to join them, appealing to family unity on Christmas Eve and even implying that I was behaving selfishly.  I continued to decline, as sweetly and gently as I could.  They were still angry when they left.

While they were gone, I spent the time reading and thinking about what had happened.  I was a little saddened by their anger, being, as it was, directed against a decision to do something that was a little closer to what Christmas was really about.  Yes, there is room at Christmas for the hustle and bustle of parties and dinners, gifts to be bought, given and received.  That must be balanced, however, by time reserved for prayer and contemplation of the birth of Christ, the central event of history that marks the beginning of the great work that culminated in the crucifixion, death and resurrection.  The commercial must not be given precedence over the sacred, but that is precisely what has happened.  It was this that had affected my family, and me, for a long time.  I resolved to find better, more meaningful ways to celebrate the nativity.

They were still a little mad when they came home.  It was late, there was little discussion of any kind, and there was no discussion of what had happened.  The event was swept under the rug as something minor and distasteful.  I spent the rest of that visit celebrating deliberately, getting the rest I needed and slowly, indirectly reconciling and pouring oil on the waters.

In the years since, I have continued to explain myself to them, and, for the most part, they have come to understand.  To a certain extent, they have moved in the same direction.  I now have a family of my own, and our Christmas celebrations are joyful events, punctuated by moments of silly cheerfulness and quiet reflection.  We never go to a mall after Thanksgiving, limiting our Black Friday activity to reading about it after the fact.

Merry Christmas!

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Timeline of Apostasy

The Episcopal Church of America is a mess.  Their official stance on many core doctrines of Christianity is unorthodox, to say the least.  The presiding bishop denies that Christ is the only ways to salvation.  People of completely different and contradictory religions are ordained as priests and even bishops.  Scripture is not seen as normative.  Sexual perversions of all sorts are permitted in the church.  There is no emphasis on salvation, sanctification, or personal holiness.  It is a mere statement of fact that the government of The Episcopal Church is apostate.

How did this happen?  How did the church that was once home to such stalwart defenders of the faith as William Tyndale, Hugh Latimer, Nicholas Ridley, and Thomas Cranmer, men who died for the purity of the church, come to this state?  It did not happen overnight, nor even with the election of Schori as the presiding bishop.  The apostasy of The Episcopal Church began quite some time ago, but the first major event in the timeline of the current crisis occurred about fifty years ago when a bishop by the name of James Pike stated that the doctrine of the Holy Trinity is “outdated, incomprehensible and nonessential.”[1]  It was the opening of floodgate of blasphemous statements and heretical teachings.  What follows is a timeline of major events that have punctuated the apostasy of The Episcopal Church since Archbishop Pike’s blasphemous statement.

1960 – Bishop James Pike denies the doctrine of the Holy Trinity

1961 – Bishop Pike refers to the virgin birth of Jesus as “a primitive myth”.[2]

1963 – Bishop John Robinson denies the doctrine of the incarnation, stating “The whole scheme of a supernatural being coming down from heaven to ‘save’ mankind from sin…is frankly incredible to man ‘come of age’”.[3]

1967 – Heresy charges were brought against Bishop Pike.  The Episcopal Church adopted a resolution stating that heresy was “outdated”.

1967 – Canon Hugh Montifore stated; “Jesus might have been a homosexual.”[4]

1974 – Three retired bishops, Daniel Corrigan, Robert L. DeWitt, and Edward R. Welles II, illegally ordained eleven women as priests.  No Biblical rationale was offered to support their actions.  Bishop Corrigan stated that he knew of “nothing in the constitution and canons which forbids the ordination of women to the priesthood.”[5]

1975 – Retired Bishop George W. Barrett illegally ordained four more women as priests, saying he “could no longer abide that injustice toward half of our population.”[6]

1976 – The General Convention approved the ordination of women as priests and bishops.

1976 – Bishop John Spong was consecrated as bishop of the diocese of Newark in spite of the fact that he denied many core Christian doctrines.[7]

1977 – Bishop Paul Moore ordained a non-celibate lesbian as a priest.  Moore was gay.

1979 – General Convention upholds a Biblically correct understanding of human sexuality.[8]  Twenty bishops responded with a “statement of conscience” in which they stated that they “cannot accept these recommendations or implement them in our Dioceses.”

1980 – Bishop Desmond Tutu of South Africa suggested that Jesus was illegitimate.[9]

1982 – Bishop Spong condemned missionary work, as it was rooted in a time when “the world was neatly divided into Christians, Jews and pagans.”  Thus, missionary activity was fuled by “insensitivity and ignorance.”[10]

1984 – Anglican Bishop David Jenkins called the resurrection of Christ “a conjuring trick with bones.”[11]

1987 – A panel of bishops dismissed heresy charges against Bishop Spong.

1989 – Another panel of bishops dismissed heresy charges against Bishop Spong.

1989 – Bishop John Spong publicly ordained the first non-celibate, openly-partnered, homosexual.

1990 – Bishop Righter ordained non-celibate homosexual man as deacon.

1991 – Bishop Ronald Haines ordains a non-celibate homosexual man as priest.

1991 – Bishop Spong claims that Paul was probably homosexual, full of shame and self-loathing.[12]

1991 – During the General Convention, the house of bishops rejects efforts to discipline Bishops Righter and Haines for the ordinations they performed.

1993 – Presiding Bishop Edmund Browning helped fund the re-imagining conference, which approved, among other things:

  1. Worship of the goddess Sophia who was to be “blessed, thanked and praised”
  2. The use of Cali, Quani, and Enna, three pagan goddesses, in the liturgy in place of the Holy Trinity
  3. The use of fertility rites in the liturgy
  4. A declaration that denied the necessity of the atonement

1994 – The number of missionaries was reduced by 2/3.

1995 – With regard to the ecclesiastical trial of Bishop Walter Righter, William Rankin, Dean of the Episcopal Divinity School in Cambridge said “Heresy implies orthodoxy, and we have no such thing in the Episcopal Church.”[13]

1995 – Goddess worship was encouraged for college students.

1996 – Bishop Spong denied the existence of objective truth and stated that the Biblical God is not operative (see footnote 7).

Carolyn Irish was ordained as bishop without being baptized.

1998 – Bishop Spong was appointed to the theology committee.

The Lambeth Conference upheld Biblical sexuality.

2003 – Gene Robinson, a non-celibate, openly homosexual man, was ordained bishop.

Bishop Charles Bennison denied the perfect obedience of Jesus stating “Jesus acknowledged his own sin.”[14]

2008 – In March, the House of Bishops deposed Bishop David Schofield for aligning with the orthodox Anglican Province of the Southern Cone

2008 – The House of Bishops, in an 88-35 vote, deposed Bishop Robert Duncan for aligning with the orthodox Anglican Province of the Southern Cone

2009 – The Presiding Bishop of the Episcopal Church, Katherine Jefferts Schori, denies the doctrine of individual salvation.[15]

2011 – The EC launched an investigation of Bishop Lawrence of the diocese of South Carolina for opposing the ordination of homosexuals

This list is far from exhaustive; it merely highlights some of the worst so far.  The full number of heretical teachings and blasphemous statements and acts in the Episcopal Church over the last fifty years could easily go on for many pages.

For every single act above, The Episcopal Church had an opportunity to take a stand for orthodoxy, the purity of the Church and the holiness of God’s name.  At every stage, church discipline could have been exercised and the men and women responsible disciplined or excommunicated.  Why did that not happen?  Why did the Anglican Church in general, and the Episcopal Church in specific allow these people to go undisciplined?

At least part of the answer lies in the fact that the majority of the bishops in Great Britain, Canada and America have abandoned the doctrine of absolute truth.  In 1953, English Archbishop William Temple wrote There is no such thing as revealed truth. There are truths of revelation, that is to say, propositions which express the result of correct thinking concerning revelation; but they are not themselves directly revealed.”[16]  The importance of this statement cannot be underestimated.  Archbishop Temple was saying that God did not reveal truth to man in propositional fashion, that is to say, in meaningful statements that can be communicated in plain language.  If what Archbishop Temple said is true, God has not revealed Himself to man in the form of propositional truth, thus the Bible cannot be said to be true in any meaningful, normative sense.  We cannot look to it to learn how we may be saved.  It cannot tell us about God’s love for us.  It cannot tell us how to live a life that is pleasing to Him.  It cannot tell us what is right or wrong, or if such things as right or wrong exist.  It cannot even tell us that there is a transcendent but personal God who exists outside of space and time.

Without the objective truth, propositionally stated in the Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments of the Holy Bible, the Episcopal Church has no reason to condone or condemn any statement or act from within its body.  There is no basis for church discipline, lovingly applied.  The church becomes whatever the majority of bishops decide it should be, and they can approve whatever behavior feels “right” to them.  They can ordain witches as bishops without a qualm of conscience.  They can claim that Buddhism and Christianity are equally true.  The apostasy of the Episcopal Church has manifested itself in a variety of symptoms, including all those listed above and more, but its root cause is an abandonment of the absolute, objective truth of the Bible.  Until the Episcopal Church returns to an orthodox understanding of Scripture, there will be no reversing the tide of apostasy.

This is not just happening in the Episcopal Church, but in the Presbyterian, Lutheran and Methodist Churches.  Not surprisingly, the more politically correct and “inclusive” these churches become, the more people leave them.  The Episcopal Church alone has lost 16% of its membership over the last ten years.  Churches that tow the PC line have nothing to offer to the world that it cannot find in itself.  Why bother going?  It is only orthodox Christianity that offers meaningful answers, and as the liberal mainline denominations have lost members, the orthodox denominations have gained them.

So what are orthodox Anglican laymen and women in America to do (or Presbyterians, Methodists, or Lutherans, for that matter)?  We cannot of ourselves force a diocese to leave the Episcopal Church for another province, or I’m sure many would already have done so.  The most obvious and important thing is to pray for God to lovingly, but firmly correct those in error and bring them into the Church.  But, to paraphrase High King Peter from Prince Caspian, God will act in His own time, not ours.  In the meantime, He would like us to do what we can, and there is a lot we can do.  First, we need to educate ourselves on the issues and become familiar with what Scripture says about them.  Having done that, we can write to the rectors of our parishes and the bishops of our dioceses.  We can nominate and elect conservative rectors, curates and vestry members.  We can send orthodox Christians to our conferences.  We can call, send emails, blog and tweet the truth to the world around us.  A good friend of mine put it this way; we should pray as though we could not work, and we should work as though we could not pray.

There’s much more that could be said on the apostasy of the Church and what we can do about it, but that’s about enough for one blog post.  Until the next one, let’s get busy praying and then get to work.


[1] Bishop James Pike, The Christian Century, Dec 21, 1960

[2] Bishop James Pike, Redbook, 8-1961

[3] Bishop John Robinson, Honest to God, 1963

[4] Canon Hugh Montifore, Christianity Today, 8-1967

[5] Bishop Daniel Corrigan, The Ordination of Women: Pro and Con, pp. 56-68

[6] Elaine Woo, Los Angeles Times, December 5, 2000

[7] Bishop Spong is the author what he refers to as the “Twelve Theses” which lay the foundation for a new reformation.  These theses are:

  1. Theism, as a way of defining God, is dead. So most theological God-talk is today meaningless. A new way to speak of God must be found.
  2. Since God can no longer be conceived in theistic terms, it becomes nonsensical to seek to understand Jesus as the incarnation of the theistic deity. So the Christology of the ages is bankrupt.
  3. The Biblical story of the perfect and finished creation from which human beings fell into sin is pre-Darwinian mythology and post-Darwinian nonsense.
  4. The virgin birth, understood as literal biology, makes Christ’s divinity, as traditionally understood, impossible.
  5. The miracle stories of the New Testament can no longer be interpreted in a post-Newtonian world as supernatural events performed by an incarnate deity.
  6. The view of the cross as the sacrifice for the sins of the world is a barbarian idea based on primitive concepts of God and must be dismissed.
  7. Resurrection is an action of God. Jesus was raised into the meaning of God. It therefore cannot be a physical resuscitation occurring inside human history.
  8. The story of the Ascension assumed a three-tiered universe and is therefore not capable of being translated into the concepts of a post-Copernican space age.
  9. There is no external, objective, revealed standard written in scripture or on tablets of stone that will govern our ethical behavior for all time.
  10. Prayer cannot be a request made to a theistic deity to act in human history in a particular way.
  11. The hope for life after death must be separated forever from the behavior control mentality of reward and punishment. The Church must abandon, therefore, its reliance on guilt as a motivator of behavior.
  12. All human beings bear God’s image and must be respected for what each person is. Therefore, no external description of one’s being, whether based on race, ethnicity, gender or sexual orientation, can properly be used as the basis for either rejection or discrimination.

[8] “It is not appropriate for this Church to ordain a practicing homosexual or any person who is engaged in heterosexual relations outside marriage.” From the 1979 General Convention resolution A053.

[9] “It may be that Jesus was an illegitimate son.” Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Cape Times, 10-24-1980.

[10] Evangelism When Certainty is an Illusion, John Shelby Spong, Christian Century, January 6-13, 1982, p. 11.  Bishop Spong goes on to say “To be honest in our day is to embrace relativity as a virtue and to recognize that absolutism is a vice — any kind of absolutism, whether it be ecclesiastical, papal, biblical or the absolutism of sacred tradition. Embracing relativity will end for all time the religious imperialism that has far too often been a mark of evangelistic and missionary endeavors.”

[11] St. Louis Post Dispatch, 10-28-84.  During an interview, Bishop Jenkins also stated “To believe in a Christian way, you don’t necessarily have to have a belief that Jesus was born from literally a virgin mother, nor a precise belief that the risen Jesus had a literally physical body.”

[12] Bishop John Shelby Spong, Rescuing the Bible from Fundamentalism, pp. 116-117.

[13] Witness Magazine, December 1995, p. 36

[14] Bishop Charles Bennison, The Challenge of Easter, The Pennsylvania Episcopalian, Vol. 14, No. 4, April 2003

[15] The overarching connection in all of these crises has to do with the great Western heresy – that we can be saved as individuals, that any of use alone can be in right relationship with God.

[16] Archbishop William Temple, Nature, Man and God, p 317.

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The Proletariat

In our state we have a phrase to describe the violence of the rising proletariat: Target Practice.

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