The Preferential Option of the Poor

One of the most militant expressions of left-wing Christianity was and is Liberation Theology, that creation of Latin American Roman Catholicism that brought Marx into the Church for so many years.  One of the enduring slogans of that movement was "the preferential option for the poor," which means that the Church acts in such a way that the poor have an advantage in the result.  Although one thinks first of Marx’s dictum in the Critique of the Gotha Programme "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," the truth is that the Gospels are tilted strongly in the direction of the lower reaches of society, to say nothing of James:

“My Brothers, are you really trying to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the worship of rank? Suppose a man should enter your Synagogue, with gold rings and in grand clothes, and suppose a poor man should come in also, in shabby clothes, And you are deferential to the man who is wearing grand clothes, and say–“There is a good seat for you here,” but to the poor man–“You must stand; or sit down there by my footstool,” Is not that to make distinctions among yourselves, and show yourselves prejudiced judges? Listen, my dear Brothers. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the things of this world to be rich through their faith, and to possess the Kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? But you–you insult the poor man! Is not it the rich who oppress you? Is not it they who drag you into law-courts? Is not it they who malign that honorable Name which has been bestowed upon you?” (James 2:1-7)

In listening to the aftermath the recent Anglican Primates Meeting in Tanzania, one hears the "noise of the renegades" (a good Chinese Communist phrase,) i.e., the liberals in the Episcopal Church, whining about the "spirit of inclusiveness" and "discussion of justice and morality" that has been checked by the African and other conservative Global South primates.  For them, inclusion of homosexuals in the hierarchy of the church and same-sex blessings and marriage is an issue on par with racial equality (something many black people in the U.S. find offensive) and the many other causes liberals espouse.

But let’s think about the passage from James.  The Lord’s brother (that’s right, Roman Catholics) makes an assumption: "…suppose a poor man should come in also…"  In the church that James led, that was a regular occurance.  But in the modern Episcoal Church–along with the other Main Line churches–that is an exceptional event in the general scheme of things.  TEC remains a largely white, upscale church, wondering how to fix the problem but seemingly unable to do so.  The poor go elsewhere.  In the meanwhile the homosexuals, an upscale group in their own right, remain a tempting target for TEC, thus all of the moves towards accomodating them.

On the other hand, had Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schiori lifted up her eyes and look around her at the Primates’ meeting, she would have seen prelates whose churches have quite a few poor people–millions of them, in fact.  Many of the divisions that plague the Anglican Communion–to say nothing of Christianity in general–stem from disparities such as this.  In spite of the TEC blunders on, attacking the Global South for their lack of social concern when in fact TEC’s "social concern" is badly misplaced.

It is our core contention that any church whose membership’s average per capita income is above the average for the country it’s in is not really serious about social justice.  Its social justice is mere paternalism whose main purpose is to assuage guilt about its superior economic status, not to really fix the problems in front of it.  Supporting groups of like elevated status like the homosexuals only shows how far removed from real social justice these people have strayed.  This doesn’t only apply to churches; it also works in the secular realm as well.

To put it in terms Liberation Theology people would understand, the church that isn’t the "preferential option of the poor" cannot have the "preferential option for the poor."  Until TEC recognises this simple fact, everything they do along these lines, from their enthusiasm for the Millennium Development Goals to the money-favouring they spread around the Communion–will be a farce.

Political Correctness Resorts to Vigilante Force

It’s bad enough that a federal judge has ordered a Massachusetts child to learn about the homosexual lifestyle to the end that the child will become a "productive citizen."  What really hit me personally was the following:

However, in April 2006 the same school presented the book "King and King," about homosexual romances and marriage, to second-graders and again refused to provide notification.

Parker and other parents followed with the federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging school officials were refusing to follow state law.

Just days later, David Parker’s son, Jacob, was beaten up at Estabrook Elementary, officials said. MassResistance said a group of 8-10 kids surrounded him and took him out of sight of "patrolling aides," then pummeled and beat him.

One of the hardest lessons I found growing up in Palm Beach is that peer pressure has the force of law when the "authorities" either can’t or won’t do anything about it.  Moreover I don’t think that this act of bullying was coincidental either.  I suppose it’s all part of the "socialisation" that public schools (and some private ones as well) are supposed to be so good at doing.  Had Jacob Parker attacked one of his peers, the consequences would have doubtless been frightful.

At the Inlet: July, Part 1 (Romance at the Dean’s Table)

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The Sunday after her presentation to the royal family was Terry’s first time back in the Cathedral since her visit in March.  The Cathedral’s high-church splendour had not dimmed since that time.  Since it was the first Sunday of the month, the Holy Communion was celebrated; Dean Desmond Lewis, better known as “the Canon,” was the celebrant.  The Bishop was in Alemara, making his way to Point Collina to witness the consecration of Raymond des Cieux as the new Catholic Bishop of Verecunda.  The Anglicans in the former Verecundan territories were still sorting out their future; the Bishop was involved in that also.

The service finished, the King and Queen returned to the palace, but the Canon and his wife Priscilla had invited George, Darlene and Terry to the deanery for lunch to welcome Terry.  They also invited the Reverend Julian Lewis, Desmond’s older brother, who was the Organist and Choirmaster, to join in.  Julian was a thin man without the best posture, about 5 centimetres taller than Terry with blue eyes and untidy medium coloured hair with streaks of white interspersed.

Once everyone was at the Deanery, it was Priscilla’s task to seat everyone at table.  Darlene usually liked for Terry to sit with her, but Priscilla got a flash of genius, and seated Terry next to Julian, who was in turn next to his brother at the head of the table.  Opposite of Julian and Terry were George and Darlene; although the latter was momentarily miffed, she too received the same flash of genius.  Priscilla was at the other end with her three children.

Once Desmond returned thanks, the meal began.  George and the Canon always had something to talk about; Priscilla and Darlene interacted with the children, but kept one eye open each to the remaining guests.

“Isn’t your full Christian name Theresa Anne?” Julian asked Terry.

“Why, yes it is…I haven’t been called that in years.  Hardly anyone in Drahla ever knew that.”

“I think it’s a lovely name.”

“Thank you.”

“And you received it when you were baptised at St. Sebastian Church in Point Collina, where you grew up and were confirmed.”

“That’s right.  It’s been a long time.”

“And I also understand that you were twice Honourable Mention in the national elementary piano competitions in Verecunda?”

“I was,” Terry answered.  She found this review of her life a little disorienting, even after her session with the Intelligence Service.  “I’ve hardly played since.”

“What a pity,” Julian said.  “I remember being in university with Cynthia Drouillet.  Didn’t her mother Elaine teach you piano?”

“She certainly did…you know quite a lot, don’t you?  Where’s Cynthia these days?”

“She’s head of the music department at the University of Verecunda—her husband is Liam Gallen.”

“Seamus’ brother…their old foreign minister.  I wonder if Liam’s a Druid like Seamus.”

“I’m not sure, really”

“Well, I’m surprised there’s something you don’t know.”  Terry gave Julian an irritated look.

“There’s one interesting fact about you that’s as plain as your face,” Julian said.

“And what might that be?”

“Your grandmother, Ling Shu-Yi—surely you look a lot like her, with your dark, Oriental features.”

“That seems to be quite the subject here.  Actually, most of us on the Gerland side tend to be dark haired too—I’m not sure what happened to my cousins Patty and Lisa…I guess I’m the darkest of the bunch.”

“‘Dark but lovely,’ as the Song of Songs says,” Julian came back.  “Perhaps you have not had the opportunity to watch your own vineyard in a while.”

Terry looked at Julian intently; for him those dark eyes that held such fascination became windows into the depths of her pain and loneliness.

“‘It is not good that the man should be alone,’” Terry finally responded, labouring to get the words out.  “Not much fun for us either.”  Their conversation turned to other things; Terry found out that her life had a living, walking encyclopaedia in Julian Lewis.  By the end of the meal Priscilla and Darlene realised that their flash of genius was in the process of bearing fruit.

Terry and Darlene met as usual the next morning, but Terry wasn’t in a mood for Bible study just yet.  “There’s something else we need to discuss,” Terry informed her friend.

“What’s that?”

“How did the Reverend Julian Lewis”—

“—he can properly be called Canon, but he usually leaves that for his brother”—

“—how did he find out all of that information about me?  Did the Intelligence Service post all of that stuff they interviewed me about on the street?”

“Well, not exactly,” Darlene answered.  After a pause, she said, “Julian and Norman Cameron are very close.  Norman’s son-in-law, Abel Mason, was Prince Arthur’s adjutant; they were both killed in a border dispute with the Claudians.  His daughter Melissa died in a cholera epidemic right at the start of the war with the Drahlans.  Norman and his wife ended up raising their three children.  Julian was their choirmaster and taught them music at the Cathedral School.  He helped them a lot through it all.  I guess that you must have caught Julian’s eye and he went to Norman and got this information.”

“But why couldn’t he have asked me all this?  Why did he have to sneak around and get it from the Intelligence Service?”  Terry asked, frustrated.

“Maybe that was his clumsy way of wanting to make sure that he should be interested in you.”

“So why is all the risk with me?  I don’t know anything about him.”

“To answer your first question,” Darlene began, “no, he’s never been married before.  Moving to the second one, no, he’s not like your brother, and you can be sure that Norman Cameron or everyone else in this place wouldn’t trust their children to him if he had problems there either.  This is a small place with few secrets—at least for current events.”

“It’s still not right that I be the subject of yet another Serelian intelligence investigation.  That’s not the way to endear someone.”

“Terry,” Darlene replied deliberately, “your heart has been broken over and over again in your lifetime.  His was only broken once but that’s all it took.  He did what he did to try to protect himself from a repeat of the last disaster.”

“Which was?” Terry asked.

“It involved Theresa.”

“Your sister?”

“Yes.”  A pained look came over Darlene’s face.  “Right after he came back from university on the mainland, he fell in love with Theresa.  They met while she was in town.  They dated some and then they became engaged.

“As you know, dating is a dangerous business around here when one of the first families of the realm is involved—even worse with two.  My father didn’t think Julian had enough potential, so he pressured her into breaking the engagement.  Julian was crushed.  He’s never seen anyone since.

“As for Theresa, my father managed to marry him off to one of the Bishop’s favourites within three months.  He would have been Dean if he hadn’t gotten involved in some ‘extracurricular activities,’ as they say in school.  They patched it up, but his big career in the church was finished.  He’s Rector in Denton now.  She’s like you—she only wears long sleeves, but in her case that’s to hide where she slashed her wrists in a suicide attempt.”

Terry was silent for a bit.  Then she said, “What you do think of Julian?”

“You can see the outside for yourself, although the woman’s touch would probably fix some of that…Terry, if it were anybody else, I’d talk a lot about his likes, dislikes, etc.  But I know what you think is important—and now I agree—but I’m new at this, and I don’t want to pass judgment on him or everyone else…but I can’t think of another way to put it.”

“Put what, Darlene?”  Terry asked.  Now her curiosity was aroused.

“I’ve lived here all my life—this place is all I know, pretty much.  I know just about everyone here too, and that includes most all of the clerics in this Church of Serelia of ours.  He’s the only one—Terry, I just can’t put it any other way—that loves God as much as you do, albeit in a different way, because this is a different church from yours.

“When Ronald and Edward were killed, they were committed to the Golden Light out here on Lake Serelia.  My parents and I came into town and were staying at the Inn.  Nobody in this church really likes to conduct the service—it’s really kind of pagan, as we saw with your brother, even though we’ve cleaned it up—but it was imposed by the kings.  The Bishop conducted their funeral service at the Cathedral, but no one—not the Bishop, not the Canon, who had just made Dean, not even Theresa’s husband—would do the actual dockside commitment.  So Julian got stuck with it.  We met at the palace dock just after sunset, he conducted the service, the boat was lit, and I went to pieces just like I did in Verecunda.

“When that was done, we went back to the Inn; my father, mother and I were staying in the same suite your brother used to stay in.  Theresa and her husband disappeared into the Bishop’s Palace—I think she wanted to come but he wouldn’t let her.  We were sitting in our room numb with grief when the door knocked.  It was Julian.  He stayed with us and talked with us to about three in the morning.  Towards the end he gave us a little homily on heaven, on how we would get past the pain of this life and how we would live with God forever. It was the first time I had heard anything on the subject that really made me long for the place.  Then he gathered us together for a really sweet prayer together before left.”

Terry was wiping her eyes at this story, unable to say much of anything.

“So now the decision is yours,” Darlene resumed.  “This is a tricky place for two people to fall in love.  Being what you are, and have been, and being what he is, will make people talk.  Strange things may happen.  You need to make your mind clearly whether you’re interested in him or not.  If you do, you need to know that we’re with you and we’ll help you through these shoals any way we can.”

“Ultimately, only God’s will matters,” Terry answered.  “I can’t say at this point what that is for Julian and myself.  But yes, Darlene, I am interested in Julian, and your help means a lot to me right now.”

“Then may God’s will be done,” Darlene replied.

“Let’s get to some Bible study before we attack this paper mound again,” Terry said, lightening up a bit.

More Than Dreams: The Trailer

Positive Infinity is pleased to launch its podcast with the video series More Than Dreams.  It is the story of five people whose search for real meaning in life led them to a direct encounter with God himself.  This week we feature the trailer for the series; in the coming weeks, we will feature the stories themselves.  You can find links to them in the comments below.

Pure Men and Women Too: A Lenten Poem

Pure men, and women too, all of the world unspotted,
That they might reach the heights to holy saints allotted,
That they might fortify the heart against life’s stress,
Composed such prayers as still comfort us and bless.
But none has ever stirred in me such deep emotions
As that the priest recites at Lententide devotions;
The words which mark for us that saddest season rise
Most often to my lips, and in that prayer lies
Support ineffable when I, a sinner, hear it;
“Thou, Lord of all my life, avert Thou from my spirit
Both idle melancholy and ambition’s sting,
That hidden make, and joy in foolish gossiping.
But let me see, O God, my sins, and make confession,
So that my brother be not damned by my transgression,
And quicken Thou in me the breath and being of
Both fortitude and meekness, chastity and love.”

Alexander Sergeivich Pushkin, 1836

The Real Meaning of Affirming Catholicism

In our last three posts on the different parts of Anglicanism, we’ve looked first at Anglo-Catholicism, then Evangelicalism, and after that the Charismatic renewal.  Now we turn our attention to a group of people who seem to have influence well out of proportion to their numbers, or for that matter to the substance of their message.  We’re talking about Affirming Catholics.

And the last point is the tricky part: it’s hard to figure out just what their message is, other than a) we need "unity" and b) we need to do so in a liturgically beautiful manner.  On the Affirming Catholics’ UK site, the "what we think" page is still "in the future," making one wonder about the thinking that’s supposed to be there.  Perhaps it’s like my Muscovite friend said about the Russians: act first, think later.  So we’re left to our own devices to sort this out.

As with any form of liberalism, an individual or group that attempts to affirm everything affirms nothing.  However, there may be a little method to their madness.  One thing that we’ve come to understand in the three studies that we’ve done on various components of Anglicanism is that many of these are the result of ideas being carried to their logical conclusion.  The Reformation is a classic example; it is Augustianian theology, which had loomed large for more than a millennium before Luther, taken to its logical conclusion.  The same can be said with Wesley and sanctification.  Is some of this going on with Affirming Catholicism?

We said that Roman Catholicism’s greatest mistake was to set the Roman Catholic Church up as a formal mediator between man and God.  That means that the church is free to define (or redefine) the terms and conditions of our relationship with God, both for this life and the life to come.  Roman Catholicism has a strong enough continuity to avoid some of the worst abuses of this, but not all of them.  And, if that continuity is broken, all bets are off, as is the case with groups such as the Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Since liberals are the breakers of continuity par excellence, with an idea like Affirming Catholicism they can proceed to redefine just about everything.  One only needs to look at the TEC since the 1960’s to see what this means.  It does explain one important shift in the rhetoric.  Back in the 1960’s liberals in the church tended to speak in strongly secuarlistic terms, such as the wholesale denial of basic Christian doctrine.  Today they talk in religious ones, even appropriating terminology and phrases from groups diametrically opposed to their idea.  The worst example of this are the endless claims that the move towards pansexuality are led by the Holy Spirit.   They swiped the idea that anything could be led by the Holy Spirit from the Pentecostal/Charismatic world.  No self-respecting Pentecostal, for example, would make statements such as this that are contrary to Scripture, even as he or she believes that the Holy Spirit still speaks today.  But, if you can redefine the religion, you can redefine God, or at least think you can.  As the Moody Blues used to say in Days of Future Passed, "But we decide which is right/And which is an illusion?"

Beyond that, a central hallmark of Roman Catholicism is that the church dispenses the grace entrusted to it through the sacraments.  The most prominent expression of that concept is eucharistic theology, where the transubstantiated Body and Blood of Jesus Christ are considered by some to virtually send people to eternal life by themselves.  But the Catholic church can read the New Testament, and knows that those who receive this heavenly food unworthily (for them by not receiving absolution through the sacrament of penance) will achieve an entirely different result from those who take the proper preliminary steps.

But Affirming Catholicism is about getting rid of restrictions such as this.  No where is this more obivious than their idea about baptism.  Their idea about baptism is simple: if it’s done, you’re in.  You have a "place at the table" and are eligible for anything from communion to ordination, irrespective of anything else you do or say.  The only thing you really have to do is to live up to the last clause in the Baptismal Covenant (that "contract on the Episcopalians") to spead peace and justice, and this is most easily done by getting the government to do the work for you through political action.

The only minor detail that Affirming Catholics forget is, once anything goes, a church is completely dispensible.  All that’s left to do is party, and since this was posted on Mardi Gras, that’s probably the most substantive result of Affirming Catholicism.

At the Inlet: June, Part 3 (A new job brings the end of dignity)

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Serelia’s palace compound was at the very northern tip of the peninsula on which Serelia town and Serelia Beach were situated; it took up about the same amount of space as a regular eighteen-hole golf course with club house and other amenities.  The living quarters for the royal family and the personal staff were situated at the northern corner of the compound, where the inlet (on the northwest side) and the palace beach (on the northeast side) met.  The Sea Garden, which faced the beach, essentially connected the living quarters to the palace proper with throne rooms, studies and reception and banqueting halls with a colonnade that ran behind the Garden.  Further down the beach were the living quarters for the Cathedral staff, an uninspiring three-storey concrete block building whose apartments facing the ocean gave a spectacular view.  Behind the apartments was the Cathedral itself.

On the lake side of the compound, the dock was just below the western corner of the compound.  At the south corner of the compound was the maintenance shed.  Between the two were some of the recreational facilities of the compound.  Between the maintenance shed and the main gate was the Bishop’s Palace, which meant that, when he was in the Cathedral, the bishop only needed to walk out of his front door, across the main road into the palace, and through another small gate to be at the Cathedral.  The entire palace compound was well kept and beautifully landscaped, a contrast with the slovenly look of the rest of the surrounding towns.  Just beyond the wall next to the Bishop’s Palace were the main ministries of state, such as the Chancellor’s office, the Foreign Ministry, the other ministries and of course Serelia’s intelligence and police services.

Terry’s quarters were actually in the royal living quarters, but on the inland side away from the apartments of the royal family.  She was to find out later that the apartment she lived in had actually been George’s before his brothers’ deaths made him Crown Prince; it was unoccupied until recently and the Queen supervised a hasty redecoration before Terry’s arrival.  It was almost as roomy as the house she had in Barlin, with a ceiling nearly 3m high, but the windows were somewhat small.

She didn’t have much time to settle in, though; the Serelians were more thorough planners than she expected.  After years in a laid back bureaucracy such as the Drahlans had, she was forced to hit the ground running the next day to meet with their requirements.

Her first stop was for a physical by the Royal Physician, who not only treated the royal family but had a patient list of all of the palace and cathedral staff and some people attached to some of the other ministries as well.  The office staff was overawed by her height of 182 centimetres, especially combined with her relatively diminutive weight.

“I am amazed that the King would retain a woman that the entire royal family is forced to look up to,” the doctor commented.

“That’s what the elevated throne is for,” Terry shot back.  The doctor also noted that the hunting knife she carried would not be permitted in the palace.

What she didn’t fully realise was that much of the basic information was being passed along to the Royal Serelian Constabulary, which was adding off of this information to her dossier.

When finished, Kyle escorted her to the building that housed both the Constabulary and the Royal Serelian Intelligence Service.  She was first fingerprinted and photographed; she mused to herself that this would have been her first act in Verecunda had her brother gotten his way.  She was then interviewed by Kyle’s superior, a portly man in his early 60’s named Norman Cameron, who turned out to be a Deputy Director and head of the Service.  Cameron’s modus operandi proved to be deceptively relaxed; all through their interview, people from both the Intelligence Service and Constabulary would drop by, be introduced to her, and in turn ask their own questions, especially if they were veterans of the recent war.  All the while Cameron went through every part of her life, from her birth and childhood in Verecunda through her years at the Avalon Retreat and then in Drahla.  He left no stone unturned; where she lived, her political and religious activities, her brief marriage and family, even her years into drugs and prostitution.  She struggled through much of it, almost tearfully from time to time; her mental state was not helped by the Serelians’ preference for very strong coffee.  The interview went on through lunch (which they brought in) and into a good part of the afternoon.  One point of the Serelians’ interest concerned her family history.

“Your grandmother was Chinese?” Cameron asked.

“She’s still living, the last I heard,” Terry said.  “Yes, she is.  My father’s father is from the mainland.  He brought her back from China, and my father was also born on the mainland.  When his father died, my grandmother moved to Verecunda to live near my father, who had moved there to start his business.  When he died she moved back to the mainland.”

“Do you speak Chinese?”

“A few phrases, perhaps…not really.”

“Have you ever been to China?”

“No, I haven’t.”

“Have you ever worked for either the People’s Republic or the Republic of China on Taiwan?”

“No—why do you keep asking me about this?”

He paused for a second.  “Until around the time of the cease-fire, we would not permit anyone with any non-white background to settle here or become a subject without a Royal waiver.  It’s a holdover from the collapse of Beran.  The fact that you have this in your background is still something of a novelty to us.”

“I hope,” Terry stated, “that the recent experience of your Prince and Princess on the other end of the Island would enlighten you on this subject.”

“I have no doubt that it will,” Cameron replied.  “We are finding that common values are more important than a common race.  But we are slow to change.  Perhaps you can help us with this.”  They went on with other topics; Cameron spent much of the last part of the session talking about her brother.  When he was done, he asked, “Do you have any questions for me?”

“Other than the basic facts,” Terry answered, “you haven’t really gotten into my religious beliefs.  Since you haven’t missed anything else, why not?”

“The ecclesiastical constable—there’s only one—is on holiday in Drago right at the moment,” Cameron explained.  “I’m sure he’ll want to spend time with you when he gets back.  I understand, though, that the King and Prince plan to take the matter up directly with the Bishop.”  With that the interview was mercifully complete; Cameron thanked her for her patience.  As she left his office, one of his secretaries presented her with a provisional drivers licence, photograph, data and all, for her signature.  “We have it on very good authority that you’re quite good at driving, Miss Marlowe,” Cameron observed, standing behind her.

“Very good authority, indeed,” Terry answered, cracking the first smile all day.

Her last appointment was another doctor’s visit, this time the gynaecologist.  She braced herself for yet another invasive procedure but she was in for a pleasant surprise: the doctor was also Darlene’s.  He was originally from Verecunda, and his father had been both her mother’s doctor and had actually delivered Terry when she was born.  Since it was the end of the day, he had some time after the examination to discuss other subjects.

“This has been a difficult day for me—I almost feel violated,” Terry sighed.

“You visited the Intelligence Service?” the doctor queried.

“Yes.”

“This is a strange country in many ways,” the doctor observed.  “In Verecunda, people wanted privacy, but they bared all any chance they got.  Here, everybody knows everything, but it’s a modest, conservative type of place.  What you went through with the police, though, is a product of the war.  The Crown was blindsided by King Henry’s declaration of independence.  They decided that wouldn’t happen again.  That’s especially true with you—everyone you talked with either fought in the war, had relatives who did, and everyone lost someone they knew or loved, like you.  When the palace announced you were coming, there was a lot of grumbling in the bureaucracy.  That’s probably why they allowed them to grill you the way they did.  But the worst is over—if they decide you’re okay, they’ll stick with you.  This is still very much a place of ‘the rule of men’ as opposed to ‘the rule of law,’ they just want to know who you are and whether they can trust you.”

“You left Verecunda, didn’t you?”

“Had too—my father wouldn’t submit to their nationalised health system, so they used the legal system to break him financially.  Broke me too—we were in practice together.  He tried moving to Collina but they caught up with him.  I went further.  It took a lot of getting used to, but we love it here. We’re the only ob-gyn practice this side of Alemara—we get a lot of patients from Drahla and Claudia, too.  My son came back here after medical school to go into practice with me.  Only hitch to that was that we had to get special permission from the King to bring his wife here.”

“Why?”

“She’s from India—they went into shock when they saw how dark she is.  When she first started teaching at the Cathedral School, some of her kids made fun of her colour—until the principal paddled the ringleaders.  After that they thought she was beautiful.  One thing about this place—if they invest someone with authority, they expect respect, no matter who they are.  Now she’s principal at St. Matthew’s School.  I’m not sure, but I think most of the grandchildren will come back here too.”

They talked for some time afterwards, but the workday was ending and it was time to go home.  Terry returned to the palace to dine with the staff; the Serelians weren’t much on salary, but their benefits were better.  After that she returned to her room and collapsed.

There was no rest for the weary; she was off again early the next morning, this time to the Chancellor’s office.  She was ushered in to Devin’s office, which was spacious and well appointed.  As she entered, she noted the requisite picture of the King behind his desk, but also one or two of the royal family; some in the photos were gone now.  But she was in for more than pictures; George was there along with Devin.

“We royals are supposed to be ‘out of the loop’ in this process until it’s done, but I wouldn’t miss this part for the world.”

Devin stood behind his desk, Terry in front and George to the side.  “It is normal,” Devin began, “for someone who is about to become a subject to take an oath of loyalty and fealty.  However, in your case, the transfer of fealty document that His Majesty executed is technically sufficient.  To be complete, though, we ask that you sign a declaration that you are in agreement with the terms and conditions of the transfer document.”  He handed her a sheet of paper, which she read for a minute.

“This is fine,” she said.  She laid it down on the desk and signed it.  Devin went ahead and witnessed the document, but to her surprise George witnessed it also.

Devin stood straight behind his desk, looked at Terry, and said, “You are now fully a subject of the King of Sererlia.  May God grant you long life and happiness in the realm of the King.”

“Welcome home, Terry,” George said, lightly hugging her.  She thought she caught sight of a tear in both Devin’s and George’s eyes.

“Is this process complete?” Terry asked.

“Well…not quite,” George said.  “There are some more people who want to spend some time with you.”

“Popularity is hard to handle around here,” Terry sighed.

The first person was Foreign Minister Paul Serlin, who was glad to see her again.  But he had a more specific purpose in mind.

“Our ambassador in Verecunda has noted that your name is listed in the proceedings for land restoration in both Collina and Uranus, as an heiress of Lucian Gerland.  President Dell personally came to him about your case in Collina just yesterday, when he got wind you were coming here.  Since you will be very involved with your duties here, would you like for us to handle some of the paperwork and appearances for you?”

Terry was caught off guard by this request.  It had been a long time since she had thought of the matter.  She considered things a minute, then said, “That would be very kind, although I would like to make the final decisions and the really important appearances.”

“That will be fine,” Paul said.  “We’ll put together the necessary paperwork to facilitate this.”  He paused, and then said, “You may be interested to note that we had a cross-border family reunion in May—we’re trying to sort some of our family divisions out.  We even had a reconciliation service at our church in Fort Morris.”

“I heard about that,” Terry said.  “Max never intended to cause the split that took place.”

“Life has so many unintended consequences, doesn’t it?” Paul asked philosophically.  He then took her to the Central Bank to set up her bank account.  The Bank was in a little confusion as they were changing the official currency from Verecundan to Alemaran.  They also brought up the issue of the proceeds from her house sale; Terry was getting used to everyone knowing her business before she did.

The last stop was the Ministry of Defence.  They wanted to talk with her about the war.  Terry was a little nervous about this part, but she found out that there wasn’t much the Serelians didn’t know about the Drahlan’s war effort.  The questioning was neither as intense nor as personal as with the Intelligence Service, but everyone in the office wanted to speak with her, and their hospitality was excellent.

With her ordeal of process over with, she returned to the palace, where some of the staff went through some of the ‘ins and outs’ of the palace itself.  When the evening was done, she collapsed more swiftly from exhaustion than she had the night before.
The next day, after breakfast she was escorted to the Crown Prince’s study.  It was on the top floor of the living quarters; it overlooked the palace grounds and looked out towards the lake and West Serelia.  She entered the room and her eyes first fell on Darlene, who rose to embrace her.

“Sorry for the ordeal we’ve put you through,” Darlene said.  “It seems that your ideal of Christian trust in government has slipped out of our grasp.”

“Maybe we can do something about that,” Terry said.  “But this is a dangerous world we live in—I guess it’s necessary.”

“Why don’t we stop and pray before we start our work?” Darlene asked.  “You always seemed to like that.”  They sat down and prayed for a long time about each other, the royal family, Serelia, Drahla and the whole Island, and other things.  After they finished Terry took her anointing oil and anointed all of the doors and windows of the study, praying that God’s Spirit would fill the place and them too in all that they did there and anywhere else.

With that done, Terry nervously eyed the extensive stacks of paper that surrounded them, but Darlene had some serious Bible questions, so they went to these.  That took up most of the day, after which Darlene started with a brief overview of the chartering process.  When the day was done, Darlene invited Terry to dinner with the royal family for a more proper welcome.

Terry’s life fell into a predictable routine more rapidly than she realised.  After her early morning prayers and devotion, she dined with the palace staff, then headed over to the maintenance shed for a brief Bible study and prayer time with a mixture of household and maintenance staff.  Most of those who came were members of Tim Mallen’s church, but as the summer progressed and turned into fall others would join in as well.  Then she came back to the study for her day with Darlene, starting off with Darlene’s Bible questions, then ploughing through the long stacks of charter petitions, both initial and amendment ones, taking their dinner and breaks for exercise or whatever they had in mind.

Terry was amazed at how, with the Serelians’ efficiency in other areas, how they had no standard procedures at all for processing charters, not even a consistent fee schedule.  Darlene explained that the King had always kept the process in the palace; it was an important instrument in the control of his realm.  Nevertheless they worked towards normalising the process, if only for their own sanity.

Teaching Darlene about the Bible also proved a challenge.  Terry had been teaching and preaching from the Word since her days in the Avalon Retreat but Darlene broke the mould as a student.  To begin with, after her return she went into it totally unaided, but soon got some help from her time during the hunt with Princesses Andrea and Julia.  Coming back to court and going into her pregnancy, things got disorganised again, so Terry’s first task was to focus her back on some basics.

This yielded mixed results, because Darlene’s interests went to two parts of the Word: the Gospels and the historical books.  The Gospels allowed Terry to show Darlene basic Christian principles, some of which Darlene knew and some of which she didn’t. As for the historical books, Terry had always found it an uphill battle to teach about these to most people.  In Darlene’s case, they were of special interest because of Darlene’s ancestry and current position.  Darlene would regale Terry with stories of old Beran and her ancestors’ deeds along with more recent ones, which allowed Terry to relate those to the Bible.  In the process of this they found they shared one perspective in common: that good things don’t happen because one simply follows a moral or doctrinal method but because people who love God and are led by Him go out and make it happen for His glory.

Once the day was done, Terry’s normal procedure was to dine with the palace staff again.  Unless she had something pressing, it wasn’t long before she retired, as she found herself exhausted by that time.

Waiting for the Cops to Show Up

The drama that is taking place this week behind closed doors in Tanzania has created a real guessing game in the Anglican Communion.  While we wait for the results–assuming there are meaningful results–let’s think for a moment about an obvious question: how has liberal “Christianity” held on as long as it has?

Everyone knows that liberal churches are going in reverse in terms of membership and revenue.  They have been for a long time; the Episcopal church is, believe it or not, doing better than most.  Nevertheless it surprises me that people continue to go to churches which really don’t believe much and which either are universalist–in which case what one does in this life is irrelevant to what follows–or don’t have a vision for an afterlife.

Perhpaps the problem is me.   Coming from a long line of people for whom meaningful religion was entirely dispensable, I cannot grasp the whole idea of going to church whose people are little different from the world around them, or whose beliefs are basically the same as the culture.  The “smells and bells” are nice but, honestly, a good stiff cup of joe at home on Sunday morning is preferable to a church filled with upper class people listening to a boring sermon whose content they could get from listening to NPR (NPR does a better job of holding your attention, too.)

In any event, liberal church does have appeal to some, but those who are turning from smells and bells to joe are more than those going the opposite way.  Moreover study after study shows that conservatives are more faithful to support a church financially than their liberal counterparts (which means that TEC would be better off making cash deals for property rather than taking departing congregations to court.)

The Episcopalians have elected a Presiding Bishop who is more up-front about her polticised, left-wing version of “Christianity” (if that word can be applied to what she believes) than any of her predecessors.  She’s prepared to fight for everything she can.  But what’s there to fight for?  And how can she win with declining membership, whether from apathy and revulsion?

One of the great legacies of Marxism is the concept of “historical determinism,” i.e., the idea that history is going the way of the theory that’s being propounded.  Although few American liberals are Marxists (they would be better off if they were,) they still revel in the idea that the world is going their way and that their opponents cannot win.  To some extent that is what motivates TEC liberals.  They still think that their way is the way of the future, and that their opponents will disappear, even though time after time they, like Engels sheepishly admitted, have been proven wrong.

Buttressing their idea is the thought that their philosophy will be reflected in the actions of the government.  The congressional election of 2006 has only given them additional hope. If we consider trends such as the emergence of hate crimes legislation, the use of child protection laws to take away children from real Christian parents, the application of the tax code to silence and destroy churches and other Christian institutions that don’t suit the fancy of those in power, all of these give the ultimate hope to the liberals at 815: that their opponents will not only be deprived of the church property they worship in, but also their freedom by the state.

To put it bluntly, Katherine Jefferts-Schiori may be figuring that all she has to do is to hang tough long enough for the cops to show up and haul her opponents away.  (Andrew Hutchinson in Canada is closer to that than she is.)

But this game hangs on two thin threads.

The first is that the system that she’s relying on can deliver.  In addition to the alternating course of politics, even if the liberals can “finish the job” and hold on to power for a long time, their inability to resolve Dzerzhinskii’s Dilemma virtually guarantee the weakness of such a state, and weak states don’t last.

The second is that the state doesn’t figure out that they don’t need a liberal church any more than anyone else does.  The Bible directly addresses this for the last times:

“And the angel said to me–‘The waters that you saw, where the Harlot is seated, are throngs of people and men of all nations and languages. The ten horns that you saw, and the Beast–they will hate the Harlot, and cause her to become deserted and strip her bare; they will eat her very flesh and utterly consume her with fire. For God has put it into their minds to carry out his purpose, in carrying out their common purpose and surrendering their kingdoms to the Beast, until God’s decrees shall be executed.” (Revelation 17:15-17)

The Harlot, of course, is the false “church” (religion would be a better term) of the last times.  The Beast–the Antichrist, the leader of the one-world government–will destroy the Harlot when he finds her dispensable.  That’s something that even Jefferts-Schiori should think of when she campaigns for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

So the left, while claiming to be “mainstream” and “Main Line” is in fact playing a dangerous game.  Today they wait for the cops to show up to take us, but then they will be waiting for the cops to come and take them away as well.

Charismatic Anglicans: The Missing Link

When many people hear of the Charismatic Renewal, they roll their eyes and pray that the conversation goes another way.  It is amazing that a movement that had such a wide impact in its day is not only forgotten but gleefully so.  There are a few holdouts out there–the Charismatic Episcopal Church is the main reminder, but there are pockets in the AMiA and even the TEC if one looks hard (and fast at the rate things are going) enough.

It is our opinion that the Charismatic Renewal was the great missed opportunity of North American Christianity in the twentieth century.  Had it succeeded, it could have stopped liberalism dead in its tracks and brought the disparate Christian groups and "traditions" (we hate that word but don’t know a good alternative to it) together in a more positive way than the sappy "ecumenical movement" could or can do.

But it didn’t do these things.  It did a lot to fuel an exodus out of the "Main Line" (the capitalisation is deliberate) and Roman Catholic churches into many places–in some cases classical Pentecostal churches, but more frequently conservative Evangelical churches and even more independent Charismatic churches.  It left these churches in the control of others: the Main Line churches in the hands of the liberals, the Roman Catholic church in the hands of John Paul II.

How did this result take place?  One problem was the lack of support from the hierarchy of their respective churches.  Their idea of renewing the church from within was ground to powder from above.  But another part of the problem was a lack of effective leadership, as we discuss elsewhere. Many of the leaders of the Renewal were inexperienced and basically not up to the job.

The one group of people with the experienced leadership that could have helped were the classical Pentecostals, but they (with a few exceptions) did not do so.  Part of the problem was a turf battle; after years of carrying the standard of the baptism in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues, they looked askance at those who not only had found it without them but weren’t planning to join their churches after receiving it.

But another, more serious problem, was doctrinal.  Pentecostals had a very definite sequence of events in mind for the believer.  You first got saved, then you were sanctified (whether this was an event or a process was a matter of dispute) and then baptised in the Holy Spirit with the evidence of speaking in tongues.  Charismatics were unwilling to accept the Pentecostals’ rigid idea of holiness, leading one very prominent Pentecostal preacher to tell his denomination that there could be only one standard of holiness, not one in the North, one in the South, etc.  (We deal with what this could mean in At the Inlet.)  Moreover many Charismatics, although speaking in tongues, could not bring themselves to rigidly link tongues with the baptism in the Holy Spirit.

The Charismatics’ "open-ended" approach to tongues has led to much of the silliness that surrounds the subject today.  Many consider the whole thing as a "tradition" or a "spirituality" on par with meditation or whatever happends to be trendy at the moment.  They ignore the central role of Holy Spirit baptism had at the founding of the church or throughout the book of Acts.

Beyond that, however, the Charismatics’ greatest mistake surrounding the baptism in the Holy Spirit–the "missing link," if you please–is their overlooking of the importance of sanctification preceding the baptism.  Coming out of the Holiness-Wesleyan stream, Pentecostal pioneers knew that personal holiness had to be in place before the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  The alternative is chaos, which is pretty much what we had in the 1960’s and 1970’s.  Pentecostals’ concept of holiness in rigidly legalistic terms has come in for justified criticism–to which many Pentecostals have responded by chucking the whole holiness business altogther–but the idea is correct.

And this leads us to the centre of our contention: as shocking as it will sound to some, the whole modern Pentecostal-Charismatic movement is the end game of the English Reformation from a purely doctrinal standpoint, if not an institutional or liturgical one.  This deserves an explanation, and with God’s help we’ll give one.

Reformed theology made inheriting eternal life a simple matter: you had faith in God (an act which God caused,) your name was written in the Lamb’s Book of Life, and that was it.  There was no need for penance or the church, but there was no need for spiritual growth or having to do anything, good, bad or indifferent.  The logical end to this is a butt-sitting religion where people can pompously proclaim they’re going to heaven without any further action on their part.  Mercifully many members of Reformed churches have not "connected the dots" in this way, and they are a blessing to themselves, the people around them and to God himself.

But, when things get across the Channel, there’s Article XVI.  The whole idea that people can fall way ("backslide," to use the traditional terminology) implies movement.  If people can move back in their relationship with God, they can move forward.  This turns the Christian life from a static to a dynamic business.  It puts movement into one’s relationship with God.  It also puts movement into one’s life to serve God and to do the work that he left us here to do.  The "fuel" behind this, from Jewel to Wesley, is sanctification, personal holiness that enables the believer to “… lay aside everything that hinders us, and the sin that clings about us, and run with patient endurance the race that lies before us…” (Hebrews 12:1b)  Sanctification as the work of the Holy Spirit means that God interacts in a positive with us after we are reborn in him.

And this leads us to the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  It is more than a tradition; it is rooted in the early church from the day it started.  But, as explained in LifeBuilders Essentials, it is not a principally emotional experience either.  It is the "fuel" to empower the believer to share one’s faith with others in whatever way that God has directed an individual to do so.  Once again the idea is the same: progress for the individual in one’s walk with God, and progress for the church as it seeks to fulfil it’s God-given mission.  This is why, after barely a century on the earth, so many Christians consider themselves to be Pentecostal or Charismatic, and show the gifts and manifestations that go with that.  But in the process many were saved through the exercise of the same power, so the movement that is seen to be demonstrative is also evangelistic.

So where does this leave Anglicans?  Like the Charismatic Renewal, Anglicanism is one of those great missed opportunities in Christianity.  As we explained in Taming the Rowdies, the Church of England started off with everything: state support, Protestant doctrine (with the seeds of fixing the Reformation) and a rich liturgical worship.  Unfortunately the whole thing got caught up in both the doctrinal tug-of-war between Reformed and Catholic and in the socio-economic conflicts of seventeenth-century England.  The result was that the truly comprehensive, scriptural Anglicanism of Elizabeth I died with Laud and Charles I.  Ever since too much of Anglicanism has felt duty-bound to present a "nice" religion that didn’t offend people or create controversy, and in North America that meant one whose primary appeal was to the upper reaches of society.

But that wasn’t the original idea.  And there’s no reason why Anglicans can’t be the leaders in the sweep towards the new Pentecost that they, in one way, initiated.  There’s no reason why liturgical worship cannot be Spirit-led (it has been done.)  And there’s no reason why the religion whose foundational doctrinal statement implies the important of forward movement cannot emphasise personal holiness instead of losing itself in aesthetics or social niceties.

But one major obstacle to the last point is the emergence of the business of "Affirming Catholicism," and it is to this we will turn next.

Rudy Giuliani and the Dilemma of Christian Conservatives

It’s no real surpise that Rudy Giuliani is running for President.  The surprise comes in how well he does in polls of Republicans.  The apparent attempt of the party’s higher echelons to "crown" John McCain early and avoid a hard primary/caucus season is not going as well as planned.  What your opinion of this depends upon what kind of outcome in this coming election you’re looking for.

For Christian conservatives, the 2008 Presidential election looks to be an unpleasant business.  Neither of the two social conservatives in the race (Brownback and Huckabee) look to be able to get sufficient traction–and a lot of that traction means money–to move forward into the primary moment (and this time, we mean moment.)  None of the "front-runners" really catches fire: McCain has ben erratic in just about every way, Romney is LDS (and erratic in his own way,) and Giuliani, in some ways conservative, is a social liberal in many others.  What’s a Christian conservative to do?

The answer to that depends upon what how one see the best approach for Christians to take in our society.  There are, in reality, two possible options.

The first is what we call the "level playing field" option.  We touched on this in our 2001 piece entitled, appropriately enough, Levelling the Playing Field.  In this the primary duty of the state is to create a fair enviroment by which people can both practice their religion as they see God directing them and share it openly with otheres.  In many ways this is what has been attempted by our current constitution, although our system does presuppose the existence of a God who is able to endow his creatures with inalieanable rights.

The greatest threat to this has been and is the expansion of the role of the state.  The state has its own interests, values and desires from its people; Christianity, with its primary focus on God as the ultimate authority, is in many ways a threat to those interests, values and desires.  As long as the state is relatively small and Christians do their usual loyal service to the state, things are fine.  When the state expands and anti-Christian groups use that expansion to further their own agenda, we have the problems present today.

The second is the "Christian nation" option.  In this Christians seek acknowledgment that we are a Christian nation, have been from the beginning, and need to continue to be if we are to be a successful nation.  Those Christian roots need to see their way into our legal system and national life in every way possible.  Christian conservative thought has gravitated in this direction largely because liberals have used the state to their advantage.  Christians figure that, if liberals can do it for evil, why can’t Christians do it for good?

There are several ways to answer that question.  From our perspective, the biggest problem is that Christian conservatives do not have a viable game plan to establish a really explicitly Christian nation on the North American continent.  To start with they are not willing to put together the state church necessary to implement the uniformity of belief necessary in such a situation (just think about uniting all of the conservative denominations and you will see what we mean.)  Many of them are unwilling to accept the hard realities of nationhood in a world where power challengers abound and the power to respond effectively to all of them is limited (the neocons are, if anything, worse in this regard.)  And last but not least theonomic Christians are not willing (mercifully) to even admit the need of the army of Joshua to achieve their objectives.  Liberals have this idea that theocracy is around the corner, but evangelical Christianity in the U.S. is better suited to help ordinary people live their lives successfully than to implement their plan on a nationwide basis.

Enter Rudy Giuliani.  Although he was for many years a U.S. Attorney, his best known position was that of Mayor of New York.  This is not an easy job; New York is a place with a plethora of obstructionist interest groups accompanied by lawyers who love to sue.  Guiliani, with the memory of the 1970’s behind him (the city basically went broke and the crime went wild) realised that New York, financial capital though it was, would not prosper without some significant improvement in the quality of life.  So he began by concentrating on the petty crime: panhandlers, squeegee operators, etc.  His idea was that, if you could clean up the petty crime, the major things like murder and armed robbery would be a lot simpler.  His strategy worked; all of these crimes declined under and the city became a place people really wanted to come to again.

11 September 2001 was Rudy’s defining moment, the place where he showed himself to be a leader.  In that moment he became America’s Mayor.  The city that preferred to go in many directions went in one.  The subsequent course of the "war on terror" showed that the first response was the best thought out, even though it was implemented "on the fly."  There were certainly mistakes and unhappy people in its wake, but one expects this, especially in a place as hard to pull together as New York.

Giuliani’s specialty is the one thing government needs to be good at: public order and security.  We can talk all we want about "righteousness" in government, but a government that can’t properly defend the country or deal with internal threats to public order isn’t much of a government.  The present administration has at least been able to quell domestic terrorist attacks, even though they have sqandered too many resources on adventures like Iraq and overlooked other kinds of threats to public order like Katrina.  The left, mired in Dzerzhinskii’s Dilemma, are at a serious disadvantage in these matters, even though they will use the power of the state to knock down rivals like evangelical Christians.

Given all of this, Christians are a tight place.  Our game plan the last thirty years or so hasn’t moved our agenda forward.  Our elites are still as liberal and unpatriotic as ever, perhaps more so today, and still find it too easy to project their values downward on our schools and other institutions.  Our attempts to "hold it in the road" on Christian sexual and family values such as the exclusivity of sex within marriage and the permanence of marriage have had uninspiring results.  Abortion on demand is still legal after all of the marches, all of the prayers and all of the elections.  Last but not least years of prosperity teaching have lifted some out of poverty but have not moved evanglical Christians significantly upward as a group in society.  To put it another way, we not only cannot "take the city," we struggle to hold things together in our own churches.

Perhaps the time has come to re-emphasise the "level playing field" option, where we focus on preserving our freedoms to both operate the church autonomously and share our faith with others.  What good does it do to bring children into the world to have them taken away by a left-wing state (or a jihadi one) and have their eternal destiny spoiled?  How much value would a "righteous" state be if it could not intelligently defend itself or advance its interests properly (this is the central problem we have in Iraq.)  And how meaningful is Christianity when it is imposed by the force of law in a theonomic situation?  (To see how this plays out, just look at Europe.)

Is Giuliani someone who would make the playing field level again?  These are questions that we need to ask him and any other candidate for President.  To dismiss him out of hand is a serious mistake.  While considering Giuliani and the other candidates, the time has come for Christians to look at what they are doing in the political arena, set some realistic and worthwhile objectives, work more diligently to strengthen our own churches, and realise that the state has definite limits in what it can and should do.  To miss the last point–which too many Christians are doing these days–only validates our statist opponents, and that’s the last thing we need to do.