Eric Holder and the Nation of Cowards

The new Attorney General pulled no punches on this one:

In a speech to Justice Department employees marking Black History Month, Holder said the workplace is largely integrated but Americans still self-segregate on the weekends and in their private lives.

“Though this nation has proudly thought of itself as an ethnic melting pot, in things racial we have always been and continue to be, in too many ways, essentially a nation of cowards,” said Holder, nation’s first black attorney general.

Race issues continue to be a topic of political discussion, Holder said, but “we, as average Americans, simply do not talk enough with each other about race.”

Given that he is the appointee of the first black (sort of) President (who was actually elected with a majority vote,) this may seem odd.  But there are some things to note about this.

First, one of the main reasons why we “simply do not talk enough with each other about race” is because we fear that, if we do not toe someone’s politically correct line on the subject at all times, we’ll be labelled bigots.  So silence is easier.

Second, this overlooks the fact that one group of people who has tried to integrate–Pentecostal and Charismatic Christians–get no credit for this.  Why?  Because a) they seriously believe in God and b) they’re considered homophobes!  (The migration of the Anglicans led by the Africans should be seen in the same light.)  It’s always something with the ruling classes in this country!  I think they’re just running Rusty with us, making one new “requirement” up after another.

One way to address this is for those who participate in the backlash campaign against Proposition 8 to quit using the N-word when describing the group of people who voted 70-30 in favour of the ballot initiative.

Three years ago my local church celebrated its centennial.  After the main celebration service I told a friend that we’ll probably celebrate the 125th anniversary in Spanish.  (Looking at my Facebook friends, I’m sure of it.)  Maybe then they’ll get off our backs, if for no other reason than that they don’t have the stomach to take on the teachers trade union and upgrade our foreign language education, so they’ll still only know English.

Maybe We’re Not Americans Any More

To some people at least:

As the Obama administration begins to deploy US troops back to the Iraq or Afghan war zones for their fourth or fifth tours of duty, I remain amazed at the silent complicity of my country. Why have we been so quiet? Is it because the Bush administration was, in fact, successful in sending our military down the path to foreign legion-hood? Is the fate of our troops no longer of much importance to most Americans?

Even the military’s recruitment and demographics are increasingly alien to much of the country. Troops are now regularly recruited in “foreign” places like south central Los Angeles and Appalachia that more affluent Americans wouldn’t be caught dead visiting. In some cases, those new recruits are quite literally “foreign” – non-US citizens allowed to seek a fast-track to citizenship by volunteering for frontline, war-zone duty in the army or marines. And when, in these last years, the military has fallen short of its recruitment goals – less likely today thanks to the ongoing economic meltdown – mercenaries have simply been hired at inflated prices from civilian contractors with names like Triple Canopy or Blackwater redolent of foreign adventures.

With respect to demographics, it’ll take more than the sons of Vice President Joe Biden and Alaska Governor Sarah Palin to redress inequities in burden-sharing. With startlingly few exceptions, America’s sons and daughters dodging bullets remain the progeny of rural America, of immigrant America, of the working and lower middle classes. As long as our so-called best and brightest continue to be absent without leave when it comes to serving among the rank-and-file, count on our foreign adventurism to continue to surge.

Right before the election, I did a piece which once again highlighted the existence of the “two Americas.” If the Knowledge Class (led by the Elitist Snob) is now the “real” America, it will be interesting to find out what happens when the rest of us connect the dots on what this means.

The Chinese Do Propserity Teaching Right

In this recent (16 Feb 2009) episode of the 700 Club, George Thomas reports on how Chinese business people are applying Christian principles to their business.  Evidently the Chinese government is loosening things up enough to make such a story OK to broadcast.

It’s interesting to note, however, that the emphasis on “applying Biblical principles to business” is somewhat different in China than it is here in the U.S.

In the piece, the Chinese put the emphasis on ethical conduct of the business, including paying taxes and running a business in an upright manner.  This is good Chinese fashion; they have always put a strong emphasis on having a moral society, even though the actualisation of that sometimes falls flat (as it does in any society.)

This is in opposition to how the application of Biblical principles to business comes through in the U.S.  Too often the emphasis is on first ploughing the revenues into ministry, which is admirable but which a) isn’t the first priority and b) comes across as a “bribing God” proposition.  That may explain why Christian business people find themsevles in more trouble than they should.

In addition to cultural emphases, the Chinese may not put giving on the top of the list for another reason: they don’t have the kinds of churches, ministries and charities in their system that are able to freely receive and disburse revenues, something I discussed a few weeks ago in my piece Losing the Church Property, or Why the Romanians Don’t Tithe. Beyond that, the Chinese have an enormous corruption problem, a result of a society emerging from years of absolute socialism.  So transparent dealing is both exceptional and at a premium.

I am sure that we in the U.S. will soon discover the price of a corrupt society (I think that process has already started, but I digress.)  In the meanwhile we could take some lessons from the Chinese on what’s really important in prosperity God’s way.

The Collect for Sexagesima

From the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:

O LORD God, who seest that we put not our trust in any thing that we do; Mercifully grant that by thy power we may be defended against all adversity; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

That says a lot.  It’s only by God’s mercy and love–and the power that comes from him–that we have a chance in this life, and the life to come.  It was what Paul found out at his “highest” moment:

“I must boast! It is unprofitable; but I will pass to visions and revelations given by the Lord. I know a man in union with Christ, who, fourteen years ago–whether in the body or out of the body I do not know; God knows–was caught up (this man of whom I am speaking) to the third Heaven. And I know that this man–whether in the body or separated from the body I do not know; God knows– Was caught up into Paradise, and heard unspeakable things of which no human being may tell. About such a man I will boast, but about myself I will not boast except as regards my weaknesses. Yet if I choose to boast, I shall not be a fool; for I shall be speaking no more than the truth. But I refrain, lest any one should credit me with more than he can see in me or hear from me, and because of the marvelous character of the revelations. It was for this reason, and to prevent my thinking too highly of myself, that a thorn was sent to pierce my flesh–an instrument of Satan to discipline me–so that I should not think too highly of myself. About this I three times entreated the Lord, praying that it might leave me. But his reply has been–‘My help is enough for you; for my strength attains its perfection in the midst of weakness.’ Most gladly, then, will I boast all the more of my weaknesses, so that the strength of the Christ may overshadow me. That is why I delight in weakness, ill-treatment, hardship, persecution, and difficulties, when borne for Christ. For, when I am weak, then it is that I am strong!” 2 Corinthians 12:1-10, Positive Infinity New Testament.

Book Review: The Archivist

Support independent publishing: buy this book on Lulu.Many of you who visit this site do so because of the 1960′s and 1970′s music that’s offered either for download or (in the case where the artist has made it possible to purchase his or her music again, such as this one) for sale.  Before the internet, however, the only way to experience the “Jesus Music” of this era was to dig through second hand shops and garage and estate sales for used vinyl (or cassettes and 8-tracks, if you were really desperate.)  For those of us who thought we lived through the era and had the benefit of Christian radio, we thought we knew what was out there.

The Archivist, by Ken Scott, disabuses us of that last concept.  Originally published in 1996 and printed in quantities worthy of many of the albums it reviews, the Fourth Edition turns to publishing on demand (a technique many of the artists would do well to emulate) to catalogue and review 3,200 different albums of Christian music from the era 1965-1980.  It has become the reference of choice for those of us who are passionate about the Christian music of the era, and has formed the basis for music blogs such as The Ancient Star Song and Heavenly Grooves (not to mention the site one-way.org.)

The term “Christian music” needs a little clarification relative to this book.  As Scott himself puts it, the “emphasis is on rock, folkrock, folk, progressive, hard rock, country rock, jazzrock, blues, psychedelic, garage, beat, r&b, funk and some of the more adventurous pop.”  What he’s documenting was not only a major step forward in style for Christian music, but also some of the most aggressively evangelistic music that Christianity produced in the last century.   Although the genesis of Scott’s work was to be a collector’s guide, it ends up being a kind of history of an era when, in the wake of the social changes of the 1960′s, Christianity rose to the occasion and altered the spiritual direction of a nation–and the world–for many years to come.

Scott, faithful to his collectors roots, is a detailed chronicler of his albums.  He writes in a easy to read style, and his objective is primarily to describe rather than to grade (although many of the albums he reviews deserve to be panned.)  He’s dealing with a broad spectrum of music, and that breadth includes style, artistic merit, musicianship, recording quality, graphic design (for the cover,) and theology.  That last point is important, because, in addition to including some music that is very much on the edge of Biblical Christianity, he includes one genre that is frequently very Biblical but gets overlooked by outsiders: the treasure of Roman Catholic music, itself the result of tumultuous change induced by the Second Vatican Council.

The Archivist is packaged in “one of those generic covers” (a swat at his otherwise excellent review of the School Sisters of Notre Dame) and is densely packed with text in a two-column format.  But this book is an achievement, the product of years of diligence and a love for the genre that is only now being appreciated by a wider audience.  The Archivist is the definitive work on the subject it treats, and for those of us who are interested, it is indispensible.

A Semi-Anglican Blog Moves On Up, and Some Thoughts on the Bishop of London and Redundancy

Peter Ould’s piece on Anglican Blogs – How do they stack up – Part the Second is an interesting comparison of the Alexa ranking of various Anglican blogs.  There’s no surprise that Stand Firm in Faith is the first and Titus One Nine and VirtueOnline are in the top five.  The conservative blogs and news sites certainly dominate, as is the case with U.S. talk radio (which is why the liberals are hankering to bring back the Fairness Doctrine.)

So I thought I’d check things out and see where this site came in.  Much to my surprise, it came in with a traffic rank of 2,100,706.  That’s not a world beater, but according to Ould it’s higher than George Conger, The Ugley Vicar, Brad Drell and–PTL–Integrity USA.

I think the reason why this is so is because of the broad nature of the site, dealing with not only the Anglican world but with Roman Catholicism, social and political matters, and of course things of interest in the Evangelical world.  But don’t underestimate the Anglican component.  As I’ve said before, the one event that really took the stats of this site to a new level was my 2004 posting of the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.  The rest is, as they say, history.

This is also gratifying because I was just removed from the featured feeds of MissionalCOG.  Although I certainly got visitors from there, fortunately it’s not even in the top 10 sources of traffic for this site.  (For COG people, it’s also interesting to note that this site’s Alexa rating is higher than even Actscelerate.)

I want to take this opportunity to thank my Anglican, Roman Catholic and Orthodox visitors for visiting and hope I’ve been a blessing to them through the years.

While on the subject of Anglicans, the I cannot let pass the following:

Redundancy could be a blessing in disguise for City workers who have fallen victim to the credit crunch, the Bishop of London said yesterday.

The Right Rev Richard Chartres, speaking in advance of a debate at the Church of England’s General Synod on the financial crisis, said that it was difficult to know whether to sympathise more with those who had lost their jobs, or those who were left carrying even greater loads with higher targets and fewer colleagues.

Redundancy (to use the delightful English term for being laid off) may be good for the soul, but it’s bad for the wallet.  And that can lead to family breakups (if you’ve had the bad taste to marry an opportunist) and other serious consequences.  On the other hand, it can force people to rethink their priorities (especially spiritual ones, which have eternal consequences) and, in some cases, lead to new and better careers and sources of income.

I’m also inclined to think that, in both CoE and TEC, there are too many bishops relative to the number of both parishes and communicants in their dioceses.  This leads me to think that some redundancies in this field are called for, too.  Perhaps this in turn would lead some prelates to rethink their priorities, and that would be good for the Anglican world and the rest of us, too.

Just Remember What Country We’re Really From, and The “Wag the Dog” War That Didn’t Work

Chuck Colson is trying to making things complicated for Evangelicals:

So do we retreat into our sanctuaries? Political columnist Cal Thomas, among others, says we should forget the idea of changing culture through politics and just be the church: help the poor, visit those in prison, and so on. To that I say an emphatic “No!” Rather, we should learn from Scripture how God taught the Jews in Babylonian exile to behave: “Build houses and live in them; plant gardens and eat their produce. Take wives and have sons and daughters … multiply there, and do not decrease. But seek the welfare of the city … and pray to the Lord on its behalf, for in its welfare you will find your welfare” (Jer. 29:5-7, ESV).

That means we are to be good citizens, praying for and obeying the state. In doing so, we may impact our leaders powerfully, just as Daniel influenced King Nebuchadnezzar when he was appointed to serve him.

And as God commanded the Israelites, we must also build up and disciple our families at a time when most of the West is in a destructive demographic decline. Close friends of mine, Jack and Rhodora Donahue, consciously decided to raise and disciple a Christian family. Their 13 children have given them 83 grandchildren and growing numbers of great-grandchildren. Not one is weak in the faith; several are priests and almost all others work in lay ministries. The Donahues quip that they have invaded occupied territory, Satan’s domain, with their own brood. Would that every Christian parent approach child rearing that way.

I say “make complicated” because I don’t think that most Americans–and that includes Colson–really grasp the true meaning of what the New Testament says regarding our relationship to the state.  It’s a subject I discussed over three years ago in Church and State: A Slightly Different View.   Since that time we have developed what is effectively a one-party state, with no relief in sight.

But there’s the opportunity: we need to realise that, while the God we serve is permanent, our state is transient.  We may be, in human terms, in a purely reactive mode inside the U.S., but we are moving forward elsewhere.  We need to be Christians first and devote our time and resources to the advancement of God’s kingdom rather than trying to rebuild what we’ve lost.  Unlike the bridge over the River Kwai, we don’t need to be building up our enemies any more than we have to.  Unfortunately, in this country too much of our view of who we are and our relationship with God is tied up in our national identity.  Since we are dealing with people who want to separate the two, give them what they ask for and see how they like it.

While on the subject of states, the State of Israel seems to be going in the opposite direction to the U.S., since Benjamin Netanyahu has the upper hand to form a government.  That having taken place, it seems appropriate to bring up something else the U.S. media has overlooked: the fact that, in many ways, the invasion of Gaza was instigated by Ehud Barak and Tzipi Livni to show they were strong on security and blunt Netanyahu’s Likud Party.  It’s obvious that this didn’t quite work according to plan.

It’s obvious that, when you have an opponent that likes to shoot rockets into your towns and cities, you have to make some kind of response.  But Hamas has been doing this for a long time.  And people who consider dividing Jerusalem and other major concessions don’t seem to be the optimal people to start “tough guy” (or girl in this case) wars.  It’s a similar situation Bill Clinton faced with the Kossovo War; he started it, like the movie Wag the Dog, to deflect attention from his problems with Monica Lewinsky.  It worked: he survived impeachment.

“Wag the Dog wars” stink.  It’s that simple, irrespective of the nobility or necessity of the cause.  Starting a war for political gain is basically asking people to fight and die for your political party, or you personally as a politician.

But there’s a silver lining to this cloud.  It’s noteworthy that the biggest advance in Israel-Arab peace–the Camp David agreement between Israel and Egypt–was done by Menachem Begin, the crusty veteran of the creation of the State of Israel who headed up Likud.  So perhaps it’s time to stop “wagging the dog” and start working from a position of resolve.

Just Think of the Reception If the Republicans Had Been in Control

An old high school classmate pointed me to this, at the Huffington Post of all places:

Administration officials were greeted with sarcasm and laughter Monday night when they briefed lawmakers and congressional staff on Treasury Secretary Tim Geithner’s new financial-sector bailout project, according to people who were in the room.

The laughter was at its height when Obama officials explained that the White House planned to guarantee a wide swath of toxic assets — which they referred to as “legacy assets” — but wouldn’t be asking Congress for money. Rep. Brad Sherman (D-CA), a bailout opponent in the fall, asked the officials to give Congress the total dollar figure for which they were on the hook. The officials said that they couldn’t provide a number, a response met by chuckling that was bipartisan, but tilted toward the GOP side. By guaranteeing the assets, Geithner hopes he can persuade the private sector to purchase a portion of them.

The basic problem here is that the Ivy-League educated Boomer noblesse de robe doesn’t know what it’s doing.  Compounding the problem is that the ruling party, with a basically socialistic outlook, is trying to perpetuate the appearance (at least) of upward social mobility, because it knows that this is what Americans expect.  Unlike the 1930′s, the current electorate has no patience.  So they are unable to tell the truth, i.e., that a debt-laden economy will take time to work through, and that adding more debt will only, in the long run, compound the problem.

Such a reception, however, does remind me of an old South Louisiana story that I’ve told before, from a political speech:

Ladies and Gentlemen:
At the outset permit me to thank you for your warm reception.
I cannot say that it is unexpected because Terrebonne has always been generous with me in the distribution of her favors.
Some of the happiest days of my boyhood were spent among you and many of my warmest and dearest friends are in this Parish.
Terrebonne has always extended me a WARM reception.
When as a young man I courted the favors of the fair sex, other young men who were courting the same girls saw to it that I received a WARM reception.
When I sought political preference, my opponents here extended me a WARM reception.
And when in the course of human events, I shall shuffle off this mortal coil, it is my earnest hope that my reception in the world to come will not be as WARM as it has always been in the Parish of Terrebone.

Pope Benedict Finds Jettisoning Replacement Theology Harder Than It Looks

Spengler’s article on this subject is especially cogent:

Like many Jewish prayers, Tevye’s prayer to be un-chosen also has become popular among some Catholics. The Catholic Church holds itself to be Israel, the People of God descended from Abraham in the Spirit. But many Catholics, including some in leading positions in the Roman Curia, think it an affront to the sensibilities of other cultures to insist on the unique role of the Church. At the other extreme , misnamed traditionalists do not think that the mustard-seed of faith is sufficient, and that the Church cannot fulfill its function without returning to the bygone days of state religion. Pope Benedict XVI, like his predecessor John Paul II, has fought manfully against these prospective deserters within his ranks. The tawdry burlesque over the case of the paranoid Jew-hater and Holocaust denier Richard Williamson is a sad gauge of his degree of success.

But there’s one more aspect to this complex drama that must be considered: the relationship of replacement theology to the Catholic Church’s concept of itself.

Replacement theology is the idea that the Christian Church–in this case the Catholic Church–is the total replacement of Israel in God’s plan.  That idea was buttressed by the destruction of the Temple in Jerusalem in 70 AD, and is a common theme amongst the Church Fathers, even though we have passages such as Romans 9 and 11.  At the same time the church developed the idea of an earthly priesthood, which neatly took the place of the priesthood that formerly ministered in the Temple in Jerusalem.

Thus the “replacement” was not only covenantal, but sacerdotal as well.  The whole concept of an earthly, specialised priesthood (as opposed to the priesthood of all believers and the unique high priesthood of Jesus Christ) is in part dependent up on same priesthood being a replacement of its Jewish counterpart.

Now it’s admirable that Benedict XVI wants to get away from replacement theology.  But he does so at the peril of undermining the Catholic Church’s claims on its own behalf.  His rehabilitation of all of the bishops of the St. Pius X was a calculated risk to uphold the Church’s concept of its own role, because such bishops and people certainly have a high view of that role.  But in doing so he bolsters the replacement theology he’s trying to get past.

Benedict is, IMHO, trying to square the theological circle on this one.  If it took Protestantism three centuries to seriously tackle the issue, what can Roman Catholicism expect?

Bank Aid? Let’s Bring Back Bono!

The title of the story is the solution:

White House Now Plans Limited Bank Aid Package

The Obama administration has decided on a new package of aid measures for the financial services industry, including a bad bank component, and is expected to announce it next Monday, according to a source familiar with the planning.

Since this problem supposedly has its roots in the 1980′s, it needs a 1980′s style solution.  “Bank Aid” would make a great concert!