The Elusive Search for Equality

The recent Supreme Court decision of Meredith v. Jefferson County Public Schools looks to reverse a long history of decisions about the role of race in allocating public school students to achieve equality of education.  The fact that there are people on both sides of the racial divide who agree with this decision is  important and should not be dismissed out of hand.

The idea of integrating schools to improve the possibilities for black children was a good one.  The pattern has been repeated in other places and is being applied to causes that don’t have anything to do with racial or economic disparities.  But, as is the case with many campaigns, the unintended consequences have negated many of the promised benefits.  The two I will mention apply primarily to Southern schools and states, but probably can be applied elsewhere.

The first is the issue of community.  One of the unspoken goals of desegregation was to break the cohesion of the white population, which was perceived as perpetuating the apartheid that existed.  But the black community was eroded to a greater extent by sending their children out of the neighbourhood schools.  The ability of black people to stick together, buttressed by institutions such as the black church, has been a key to survival in a frequently hostile environment.  Taking that key away has led to problems.

The second is that achieving equality only papered over the fact that the public schools in general left and leave a lot to be desired of.  The previously white schools that the black children were bussed to were only marginally less inferior than the ones they left.  It never occurred to anyone that the best road to equality is the road to excellence.  Had the resources spent on desegregation been properly spent on upgrading the schools in general, everyone would have benefited.

With this decision, the best option for equality is that those who seek it must use the political power they have wisely.  They need to hold the school district accountable for their own neighbourhood schools.  This is actually doable.  For example, in the superintendent search I was involved in last year, I saw the two black school board members (out of nine total) hold out against an "establishment" candidate in favour their own preference (and mine) who ended up becoming Superintendent.  School boards need to stop being the rubber stamp of any "establishment" or the trade union for that matter and properly represent the people’s interests.  (If they can sway a superintendent vote, they can do anything.)

Then–and only then–will we have real equality.

A Tale of Two Iraqs

While doing research on other matters, I stumbled upon the following map, which dates just before World War I:

On the left, where one would expect it, is “Irak [sic] Arabi,” between the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers.  But, if you look to the left, south of Teheran, you will see “Irak Ajemi” right in the centre of modern Iran.  In the middle is Arabistan, the Arab region of Iran the British have been trying to destabilise.  So what gives?  Even in those times, the two Iraqs were parts of different nations, Arabi under the Ottoman Turks and Ajemi in Persia.  The one thing the two places have in common are the holy Shi’ite cities in or around them: Arabi has Najaf, Samarra and Karbela (Karbala) and Ajemi Kum (Qom.)

The purpose of showing this map is to illustrate the basic truth about modern Iraq: it is an artificial creation, one concocted by the British after World War I.  With the Sunni and Shi’ite Arabs, the Kurds, the Assyrians and all of the other groups, real nationhood as understood in the West is, to misuse a good Muslim term, a mirage.  Only when a strong man is in charge is Iraq able to really hold together.  That’s why the Iraqi government has found itself unable to get a grip on things: its people think in terms of tribe and sect first, nation far down the list.

Until our people in Washington themselves get a grip on this, the efforts of our valiant troops in Iraq will not have, to put it mildly, found their highest and best use.

What They Really Don’t Like is the Chastity. Don’t Like the Free Speech Either.

The sad case of British teenager Lydia Playfoot’s fight to wear a chastity ring at her school is just one more sign that secularists are taking aim primarily at Christianity.  In this case, they are going for the issue that is most important to them: chastity vs. unrestricted sexual activity.

Start by stating the obvious: why do school authorities care what ring Lydia wears?  Women and men wear all kinds of jewellery.  Would someone be required to take a wedding ring off?  What about a Masonic ring?

Getting past that, there is no doubt that the most uniformly disliked part of Christianity amongst secular people is proper, Biblical sexual morality.  This has been a running gripe since the Enlightenment, never mind that many Christians frankly don’t always live up to God’s standard.

What’s next?  Will the state then force Christian youth who hold out to become sexually active?  Oh, I’m sorry, that’s just fiction…

On this site of the Atlantic, while loosening up on sexual activity school authorities will have one more way to muzzle free speech, now that SCOTUS has ruled in favour of the school in the "Bong Hits 4 Jesus" case (more properly known as Morse v. Frederick).

Last year, when I was on a search committee for a county school superintendent, one of the questions I asked every candidate ran as follows:

U.S. Supreme Court decisions such as Tinker v. Des Moines Independent School District and Westside Community Schools v. Mergens have affirmed the basic First Amendment rights of public school students, including religious expression rights such as Bible clubs, student-lead prayers and other student expressions of religious belief. What has been your policy regarding these in the schools you have administered, and how have you handled conflicts in this regard?

This decision is a setback for both of those cases.  If we continue to discourage free speech and encourage free love, our society will not last (no matter how silly the speech is.)  Period.

When Blind Legalism Pays Off

John Ashcroft’s resistance to the wiretapping program put forth by the White House is a classically Pentecostal way of approaching a problem: strictly by the book, no matter how unhappy it makes people.

Pentecostal churches are best known for exuberant worship, but are have been traditional centres for very strict legalism.  Ashcroft’s Assemblies of God are no exception.   That frequently carries over in secular behaviour.  Liberals, more congenial to a more politicised role from the AG, interpreted his strict adherence to the law as right-wing extremism. Had they grasped this aspect of his religious background, they might have thought differently.

We’ve seen this before.  Back in the 1980’s, Ronald Reagan’s Western Regional Commissioner for the INS, Harold Ezell (another Assemblies of God worthy,) drove immigration advocates nuts with his strict enforcement of the existing law.  But, after the Immigration Reform and Control Act was passed in 1986, he turned around and started a campaign to identify and process those illegal immigrants whom had been granted amnesty.  This in turn drove conservatives nuts.  Why did he do it?  Because it was the law, and he was sworn (or hopefully affirmed in his case) to uphold it.  His testimony in 1996 on illegal immigration is worthy of note.

We talk a lot about the "rule of law."  The problem is actually finding people who will actually do it.  But in our day these people are too few and far between.  God has a great sense of humour to have those who come from churches with the least humanly structured worship take the most structured approach when church service is done.

The More We Do, the Worse It Gets

A little while back, the following was noted in the piece The Trouble with Americans Negotiating:

Basically, Americans look at negotiating with Iran, Syria or anyone else the same way they do business deals: the negotiators go in, they apply whatever skills they have at “doing the deal,” but they get the deal done. Failing to do so results in the perception that the negotiations were a failure, and thus the negotiators are failures. This is a tag no American can stand to be stuck with.

Evidently that kind of compulsive proactivity is at work in both Washington (and sadly Jerusalem) these days with their reaction over the takeover of the Gaza Strip by Hamas.  Israel is talking about a military strike.  Washington is resuming pouring tax money into Fatah.  And both are trumpeting the possibilities for peace once again.

All of this is silly.  What has happened is that the Palestinians themselves have killed the two-state solution.  This wasn’t supposed to happen; the main opponents of that were supposed to be all of those Zionists out there.  But, since many in both capitals have staked their reputations upon such a solution, they keep working against reality to make it happen.

Although Hamas is certainly formidable, Israel has more formidable opponents to watch (like Hezbollah.)  Washington’s funding of Fatah will probably damage the latter’s reputation in the Middle East, which will only help Hamas.  The best bet of the U.S. and Israel is to sit tight and allow things to continue until the Arab world tires of it.  And that’s unlikely.  In the meanwhile, the more we do, the worse it gets.

The Charismatic Nature of Anglicanism

In the midst of everything else going on here, I received an interesting comment on my piece Charismatic Anglicans: The Missing Link:

I used to be a Lutheran who was sort of involved with the charismatic movement before coming to Canada. I became very discouraged with my church. I recently joined an Anglican Church in Vancouver. I asked the priest if there were any charismatics Anglicans. He did not know.I would love to find such a fellowship of Anglicans and a priest who is aware of the gifts of the spirit. The Anglican Church believes in casting out demons, healing, anointing of oil, and the laying on of hands, that is pretty charismatic to me. The Anglican Church has a richness that the Lutheran Church does not have. The Anglican Church by it’s historical practice is charismatic. It is liturgical,and sacramental. It has the gifts, use them, teach them, practice them for the enrichment of the believers, to do battle in a world that is filled with the demons of unbelief, power, addiction, corruption and war. We long to see Christ. We long for the presence of the Holy Spirit, for it is our peace and comfort. We are called by our baptism to good into all the world to preach., to share good news to a hurting world. We don’t need to preach about the law. For God sake we live feeling condemned. Preach the Good News of Love in Jesus Christ. Love builds life.

Please is there a fellowship of Charismatic Anglicans. We have the spiritual gifts, let’s not be afraid of who we are in our baptism and faith in the Lord Jesus. Greater things than these shall you do in the days of the Spirit. Lutherans and Anglicans are so close together why is there not a fellowship of spirit led Christians. We have the sacraments of grace. Let’s hear what the Spirit is saying to the Church.

Couldn’t have said it better myself.  But there’s more.  In looking at the classically Anglican Books of Common Prayer (like the 1662 version) one is struck by the mention of many of the things he’s listed.  Beyond that, in these books there is a God who makes promises and delivers on them, a cornerstone of Full Gospel theology.  That impacts the whole discussion on the 1979 prayer books "baptismal covenant," what I call the contract on the Episcopalians.  There all the performance in on one side, i.e., ours.

Hopefully our friend will find what he’s looking for, although he’s in Michael Ingham’s home turf.  If you can help, just put a comment below.

Clarifying Positions (Maybe)

I have a few answers of my own to Liam’s response to my last piece on the subject of gay marriage and adoption.

I have, thus far, understood Don to be advocating that homosexuals be excluded from marriages recognized by the state (i.e., civil marriages.) If that is not the case, then my efforts have been misguided.

Perhaps.  Starting with the piece that started this ball rolling, I have always hoped that someone would come up with a more creative solution to this problem.  For example, if the state simply went to civil unions entirely, the Christian churches could concentrate on building up relationships that really reflected the relationship between Christ and his church rather than had proper legal status, because the two would have a clear distinction.  Everyone else could pursue their own agendas for marriage and the family.

But that hasn’t happened. Gay marriage is what has been demanded.  In Canada, homosexual groups opposed the idea that civil marriage be abolished altogether.  Here and in the UK they’ve also opposed extending civil unions to heterosexual couples (as is the case in France.)

The result was commented on by Jeff Gannon of the Washington Blade:

Gay leaders demonized opponents of same-sex marriage as hateful bigots and homophobes, completely ignoring the religious and social motivations behind the opposition. The reality is that marriage as the union of one man and one woman is our most basic social institution and deeply rooted in our culture.

Even though during the last few thousands of years marriage has had some variations that departed from strict monogamy, same-sex combinations have never been one of them. Gay marriage represents such a fundamental change that few can grasp it, let alone support it.

Instead of waging efforts to change hearts and minds, gay movement leaders have tried to bludgeon opponents and pursued a strategy where a very small minority would impose its will on a vast majority though judicial fiat.

But back to Liam:

I have little patience for those who wish to be part of a private club for no reason other than that they have been told that the club does not want them.

Where were you when Augusta National needed you?  In case this news hasn’t filtered out your way, this country club (where the Masters golf tournament is played) has fought a long campaign to force it to admit women members.  But seriously, Liam has hit upon an important issue: freedom of association.  Liam’s desires notwithstanding, there is a substantial movement that would break freedom of association in the name of "fairness" and "anti-discrimination."  That’s what drove the litigation in NJ about the Boy Scouts.

We can float solutions like getting the state out of the marriage business, or allowing people to continue to exercise their First Amendment rights in freedom of religion and association.  But such ideas will probably sink in the storm of our political and social dynamic.

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