Liberals and Autonomy: The Fornicators’ Dilemma

The Kraalspace has this oft-cited observation about conservatives remaining in the Episcopal Church:

The sterile evil that now controls the Episcopal Church will never willingly allow Christian belief to remain unmolested. Conservatives who think that they can negotiate some sort of truce, or even a ghetto existence within the larger, demon-possessed church, are deluding themselves. As C.S. Lewis wrote, the sort of "agreement" these people come up with consists of saying "Oh, you can believe what you want, as long as you do it alone," and then they mutter under their breath, "and we’ll see to it that you’re NEVER alone." It’s in their nature to try to eradicate every voice that answers their lies with the truth, because they rightly sense that it is the only way that they can survive.

Beyond the clever (if unintended) double-entendre about being "umolested," the sad truth is that this applies on a broader basis as well.  Those that started by promising freedom are too dependent upon state control to relinquish it, even in victory.

But there’s a deeper problem here.  In the field of human sexuality, it’s what I call the "fornicators’ dilemma."  Basically, it runs like this: suppose you have a group of people, all of whom are single and most of whom are sexually active.  But a few aren’t.  Do you think that those who are active will, over time, simply ignore the fact that there are a few abstainers?  Of course not.  They will apply group pressure on the abstainers until the abstainers either cave or drop out of the group.  If the fornicators have access to some kind of external coercive power (an idea I play around with in The Ten Weeks,) there may be no place for the abstainers to hide.

This isn’t unique to sexual activity; it can be found in other realms, such as the drinkers, drug users, etc.  It’s the kind of peer-pressure group dynamic that any teenager (or their parents) can relate to.  Sad to say, we don’t outgrow it, at least not to the extent we think we do.

 

Figuring It Out About the Baby Boomers

A year and a half ago, I wrote the following about my contemporaries:

Now we have a new Congress. Will they be able to deliver for the American people? Part of the problem is that they’re not up there delivering for us, but for the special interest groups that put them there. But another part of the problem is that we’re basically choosing between two parts of the same generation of people. Ever since the early 1980’s, American politics have been dominated by Baby Boomers at the polls. The full effect was delayed by Ronald Reagan and the first George Bush, but ever since the Great Arkie took office in 1993, we have had Boomers in full power. The Boomers like to refer to their parents as "the greatest generation." Their performance in the last quarter century or so has borne that out. The Boomers have three trademarks that make them unsuited to leave anything but a mess as a legacy…

Now Victor Davis Hanson comes to a similar conclusion:

Sociologists have correctly diagnosed the perfect storm that created the “me” generation — sudden postwar affluence, sacrificing parents who did not wish us to suffer as they had in the Great Depression and World War II, and the rise of therapeutic education that encouraged self-indulgence.

Perhaps the greatest trademark of the 1960s cohort was self-congratulation. Baby boomers alone claimed to have brought about changes in civil rights, women’s liberation, and environmental awareness — as if these were not prior concerns of earlier generations.

We apparently created all of our wealth rather than having inherited our roads, schools, and bountiful infrastructure from someone else. And in our self-absorption, no one accepted that our notorious appetites created more problems than our supposed “caring” solved.

Our present problems were not really caused by an unpopular president, a spendthrift Congress, the neocon bogeymen, the greedy Saudis, shifty bankers, or corporate oilmen in black hats and handlebar moustaches — much less the anonymous “they.”

The fault of this age, dear baby boomers, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.

The United Kingdom: You Can’t Be in Two Places at Once When You’re Nowhere At All

The Firesign Theatre’s observation applies to a country which is facing this

If recent reports of trends in religious observance prove to be correct, then in some 30 years the mosque will be able to claim that, religiously speaking, the UK is an Islamic nation, and therefore needs a share in any religious establishment to reflect this. The progress of conservative Islam in the UK has been amazing, and it has come at a time of prolonged decline in church attendance that seems likely to continue.

 …while in the interim promoting this:

The UK’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office has announced that its embassies will now be collaborating with local homosexual activist organisations in other countries to promote acceptance of homosexuality overseas. The goal, officials said, is to join forces with these groups in attempting to force other countries to implement the full homosexualist political agenda of equating homosexuality with natural relations between men and women.

Meg Munn, Parliamentary Under-Secretary of State at the Foreign Office, admitted that the British government would be working to overturn the laws of sovereign states. She said, "Working with human rights activists, international institutions and non-governmental organisations and like minded governments the Foreign Office is targeting states where same sex relations are illegal, to raise our concerns and encourage them to change their laws."

Sounds like what is going on in the UK is this:

Jesus himself, however, was aware of what they were thinking, and said to them: "Any kingdom wholly divided against itself becomes a desolation; and a divided house falls.  (Luke 11:17)

The Judgement of God: Everyone Wants a Piece of the Action

Ministers such as Jerry Falwell and others are always blistered by the left for saying that events such as 9/11 and Katrina are results of the judgement of God on the U.S.

So what’s really different, in another religious context, about what Sharon Stone said about the Chinese earthquake being the result of "bad karma" for how the Chinese do things in Tibet?

Keeping the U.S. Military out of Politics

There was a time when letters like this were unnecessary, but no more:

The highest-ranking U.S. military officer has written an unusual open letter to all those in uniform, warning them to stay out of politics as the United States approaches a presidential election in which the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan will be a central, and certainly divisive, issue.

"The U.S. military must remain apolitical at all times," wrote Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. "It is and must always be a neutral instrument of the state, no matter which party holds sway."

Like an other portion of our government, the military has its specific interests.  It knows that those can be hurt by change in administration and public opinion.  The tumult over Vietnam was evidence of that, although the anti-war people never quite got the control at the top they wanted before the war ended.

The big difference between that era and this one is the fact that we have a volunteer military now, which improves its esprit de corps considerably.  If I were in the military and I saw a candidate like Barack Obama with the left-wing anti-war fanatics behind him, I’d worry to.  And his Democrat opponent is a product of the last wave of anti-military sentiment.

Back in the 1990’s there were many in the "militia movement" who had an idea that they could break our system from the bottom.  But if our system is to be broken, its most likely thorough an "inside job," and the military would be a central player in such a scenario.  People have the idea that this cannot happen in the interconnected world we live in, but it’s a lot easier to pull the plug on all that then most people realise.

Dangerous times…

 

The Best Reason Hillary Clinton Won’t Be Barack Obama’s VP

This just keeps coming up in her talk:

TIME: Can you envision a point at which–if the race stays this close–Democratic Party elders would step in and say, "This is now hurting the party and whoever will be the nominee in the fall"?

CLINTON: No, I really can’t. I think people have short memories. Primary contests used to last a lot longer. We all remember the great tragedy of Bobby Kennedy being assassinated in June in L.A. My husband didn’t wrap up the nomination in 1992 until June. Having a primary contest go through June is nothing particularly unusual.

And this was in March.  She repeated it today.

But the spectre of Obama’s assasination has been kicking around at least since January, as I reported in this post.  Quoting again the Times’ Lord Rees-Mogg;

I find myself worried by the figures with whom Mr Obama is compared. Martin Luther King obviously, John F. Kennedy, but also Abraham Lincoln and even Mahatma Gandhi. All four were charismatic figures who claimed to lead their nations in a new and idealistic way. What they also had in common is that they were assassinated. Such men attract the hatred of those who fear and resent their influence. When General Colin Powell was offered the Republican nomination in 1996, his wife persuaded him to reject it, on the grounds that he would be exposed to the assassination threat. Mrs Powell may have been right. The role of the first black president of the United States will be a dangerous one.

Positive Infinity and Baidu

The Internet is a place where unanticipated things happen all the time.   An example of this coming to the blog you’re reading is the growing traffic from places like baidu.com, the Chinese search engine.

There isn’t much in Chinese on this site, although China has been an interest of mine for the last quarter century.  But one of the more rewarding things I’ve done is to act as "digital disc jockey" for the mostly forgotten "Jesus Music" that’s posted here and in places such as The Ancient Star Song, Heavenly Grooves, and even the occasional secular site such as Time Has Told Me.  The podcast has resulted in some needed publicity for this great music, a reminder that Christianity has been both evangelistic and countercultural before and is certainly capable of both again.

But this "old" music also makes its way into search engines such as baidu.com, which ferrets out mp3 files of all kinds.  Think about it: the Jesus Music of the 1960’s and 1970’s making its way into the iPods and other mp3 players on the streets of Shanghai and Beijing.  Who knows, strains of Steubenville’s Emmanuel may be echoing in the many nooks, crannies and churches of the Middle Kingdom.

In the midst of all the discouraging things going on these days, it’s great to see happenings such as this.

The Greatest Threat to Same Sex Civil Marriage–and Civil Marriage in General

Froma Harrop hits on something that this blog has "danced around" for some time, but can’t be avoided:

But there is a marriage debate we ought to have — or to put it more accurately, a non-marriage debate. Over half of American households are now headed by single people. They include young singles and confirmed bachelors, the widowed and the divorced. Some are gay. Most are straight. Except for an occasional nod to elderly widows, single people and their concerns are nearly invisible in the presidential campaigns…

The troubling aspect of the push for gay marriage is the part that perpetuates the notion of marriage as a goody bag for sundry government and corporate benefits. A gay advocate asks, “Why can’t I leave my $4 million estate to my partner tax-free, as Jane and Joe Jones next door can do?” Valid question, but then one asks, “What about Widow Smith and her sister, who have lived together for decades? Shouldn’t tax law favor their estates as well?”

Christians don’t generally think of marriage in legal contract terms.  But, as long as they conflate civil marriage and Holy Matrimony, they really need to face this issue more squarely.  Sooner or later single people are going to start agitating for either the abolition of civil marriage or the state abandoning marriage in favour of civil unions between any two people.  And, if you look at things from a purely logical and legal standpoint, there’s no reason not to.

Let’s take the issue of the estate tax exemption for property transfer between spouses at death.  As I noted before, this has only been enshrined in U.S. law since the late 1940’s.  There’s nothing stopping Congress from revoking this.  On the flip side, where in the Bible does it say that this goes with marriage?  Personally, I don’t even think that estate taxes are Biblical!

Turning the issue around to something more Christians can relate to, how many people do you know who shack up to prevent a government benefit from being cut off if they’re married?

The state, with its widening, tangled web of rules and regulations, has made a mess of civil marriage, and adding same sex civil marriage only promises to make things worse.  Someone needs to "cut the Gordian Knot" on this issue.  If we don’t, someone else will.

The Bedouins Found the Dead Sea Scrolls. Now to Return the Favour…

…an Israeli medical centre extends its healing skills to a Bedouin woman who was bitten by a very poisonous snake:

Within minutes, an IDF (Israel Defense Forces) ambulance arrived with a driver and paramedic (both armed and in IDF uniform) and assisted the rapidly deteriorating Nadia into the vehicle together with her mother. They sped north through the Jordan Valley and by the time they reached the Israeli city of Beit Shean, Nadia was vomiting blood and losing consciousness. It is important to note that there were no delays whatsoever at the Israeli security checkpoints along the valley route and the ambulance with the two Palestinian women inside was rushed through. After another half hour the ambulance arrived to our ER and Nadia was then totally unconscious with severe internal and external bleeding.

Among the deadly effects of this snake’s envenomation is hemostatic failure or a breakdown of the bodies coagulation mechanism. The young Arab woman was treated with antivenom and admitted for hospitalization. The adult ICU (Intensive Care Unit) was full to capacity so the woman was rushed to our Pediatric ICU where she was still being treated when I walked in to interview her today, May 21st. Her mother, Watfa was by her side and a young Muslim woman whose infant daughter was being treated less than two meters away acted as my interpreter.

After introducing myself, I asked Watfa, ‘‘Were you afraid of traveling in an IDF vehicle with armed soldiers?’‘

Before she answered, she had Nadia call her Uncle who gave them permission to speak freely with me. It was clear that they would not have done so without their male relative’s approval. ‘‘Not for one second,’‘ she answered with her index finger in the air to make her point. ‘‘Those men, including the Jewish farmers, came to help save my daughter and I only felt gratitude and never any fear.’‘

Then the obvious question:

‘If I publicly tell your story, are you afraid that the Palestinian Authority will harm you or your daughter?’ I asked, knowing how most Palestinians refuse to speak openly of their life-saving experiences at Jewish hands.

Watfa looked to me and the others nearby and answered, ‘‘You saved my daughter’s life. I am not afraid of the Palestinian Authority. All people need to know the truth.’‘

The really interesting question is this: if the PA gets control of the West Bank, will people like Nadia have access to the same level of care?  Think about all of the Jewish doctors and hospitals here in the U.S.  Would we want to be without them?  I wouldn’t.

My experience with Muslims also tells me that they are more expressive of gratitude than many others.  Take a look at the testimonials here.

Getting Saved in America

This week’s podcast is Getting Saved in America, a faculty address by Dr. Bill J. Leonard, at the time professor at Southern Baptist Theological Seminary.  He delivered it on 4 May 1983.

I’m posting this as a sort of follow up to a recent discussion on faith and works that I became involved in.  Dr. Leonard’s address was the first place where I heard the Southern Baptist conundrum on salvation and perseverance put so baldly, i.e., a combination of Arminian election and Calvinistic perseverance.  Much to my surprise (but probably not Dr. Leonard’s,) this juxtaposition is enshrined the Baptist Faith and Message Statement of 2000.

Dr. Leonard’s career after this address reflects the tumult that the Southern Baptist Convention has gone through in the subsequent quarter century.  Leaving the SBTS a few years later, he is now dean and professor of church history at Wake Forest University Divinity School, Winston-Salem, NC.  Needless to say this has entailed a leftward drift, and readers of this blog know my opinion of leftward drifts.

It’s interesting to note, however, that much of the difficulty that Dr. Leonard discusses in his address on getting saved in America could be mitigated if the Calvinistic perseverance be jettisoned.  Doing that puts more emphasis on events subsequent to salvation, such as sanctification, discipleship and spiritual growth–to say nothing of the baptism in the Holy Spirit.  In this context the event itself can be seen as the beginning of the Christian walk, not the end of the spiritual journey, as Baptist theology tends to characterise it.

It seems that the occupational hazard of denizens of theological seminaries is to follow up reasonable analysis with overly subtle and not always sensible (to say nothing of frequently incorrect) solutions.  But his sweep of American Christian history is definitely worth the time to listen to.