Now George Will Knows the Barack Obama is “an Ivy League Huey Long”

Took him long enough to figure it out:

In August our ubiquitous president became the nation’s elevator music, always out and about, heard but not really listened to, like audible wallpaper. And now, as Congress returns to resume wrestling with health care reform, we shall see if he continues his August project of proving that the idea of an Ivy League Huey Long is not oxymoronic.

Barack Obama in August became a Huey for today, a rabble rouser with a better tailor, an unrumpled and modulated tribune of downtrodden Americans, telling them that opponents of his reform plan—which actually does not yet exist—are fearmongers employing scare tactics. He also told Americans to be afraid, very afraid of health-insurance providers because they are dishonest (and will remain so until there is a “public option” to make them “honest”). And to be afraid, very afraid of pediatricians who unnecessarily extract children’s tonsils for monetary rather than medical reasons. And to be afraid, very afraid of doctors generally because so many of them are so rapacious that they prefer lopping off limbs of diabetes patients rather than engaging in lifestyle counseling that for “a pittance” could prevent diabetes.

You read that here a long time ago, last October to be exact, during the campaign:

Huey Long, Louisiana’s colourful governor and senator in the 1920’s and 1930’s, used to talk about “sharing the wealth.”  Even Franklin Roosevelt found his redistributionism an embarrassment and even dangerous.  Evidently my comparison of Barack Obama with Juan Peron is closer to reality than I thought.  And Huey Long is a lot closer to home than Juan Peron.

The big problem here is that Americans live far, far better than the really poor masses to whom “the Kingfish” addressed his oratory back in the 1920’s and 1930’s.  Obama has spent too long organising his community and not enough time lifiting his eyes and looking at where Americans are really at, which is why so many have bucked him on health care.

The one thing he could have done to facilitate nationalising health care is to induce a real collapse in the economy and create mass desperation to which a Huey Long could really speak.  His predecessor, whom he blames for just about everything, actually forestalled a total collapse of the financial system.  While the setback that actually took place delivered the election to Obama, the crisis that Rahm Emmanuel so gleefully took advantage of isn’t deep enough to facilitate a cakewalk for the health care system.

Something else to blame George Bush for…in private, at least.

If You’re Going to Take the Land, Take It

Originally posted July 2005.  Since that time we’ve had a war in Gaza, so my optimism about relinquishing that may have been premature.  But the whole system of settlements and how the State of Israel administers the West Bank continues to be a source of difficulty in its own right.

Back in the late 1970’s, I attended for a bit Robert Tilton’s Word of Faith Outreach in Farmers Branch, Texas. Tilton was then one of the most prominent “prosperity gospel” preachers, and he hammered away Sunday after Sunday that his congregation needed to have the “God kind of faith” to become prosperous and powerful, and to ultimately “take the city.” Sitting there listening to this, I thought, “If they’re right (and I had my doubts,) they’ll control this city in short order.” That’s what they were thinking too.

Today of course Tilton is gone from the scene, undone by scandal, and his congregation scattered, probably packing the many charismatic churches in the Dallas-Fort Worth area. With more than a quarter century of “God kind of faith” behind them, they haven’t taken the city either, as a lesbian Dallas County sheriff will attest to. Not even the great (and well respected) T.D. Jakes can make that claim. Many will say that their objective was unrealistic. But why, with all of those Scriptures behind them?

To answer this question we need to turn to a far more important issue, namely that of the State of Israel and its own return to “the land.” One of the greatest doctrinal reversals Christianity has ever experienced has been the attitude of evangelicals towards the Jews. Starting in the early nineteenth century with the likes of J.N. Darby, evangelicals have come to see that the Jews do in fact have a place in present salvation history (as opposed to the idea that the Christian church completely replaced Judaism after Christ’s work on earth) and their actions are key for Christians and Jesus Christ’s second coming. With the Holocaust a fading memory (especially in Europe, where it took place) and anti-Semitism becoming fashionable again, the Jews have found evangelical Christians to be a friend in a world where friends are in short supply. They have also found that their presence in the Holy Land is essential to their survival, an interesting by-product of anti-Semitism.

Part of this friendship is an insistence by many evangelicals that Israel has an absolute right to all of the land which God gave the Jews in the Old Testament. This squares with Orthodox Judaism’s view of the matter. Togther the two lament the loss of settlements being implemented by the Sharon government. Under this is a fear that prophecy will be undone by the act of weak men.

Prophecy cannot be undone by the act of men. The Jews’ claim to the land is Biblical. But we must look at the whole picture, and the best way to do this is to relate this to the first conquest of the land. Before they entered, the Israelites were charged with the following command:


When Jehovah thy God shall bring thee into the land whither thou goest to possess it, and shall cast out many nations from before thee, the Hittites, and the Girgashites, and the Amorites, and the Canaanites, and the Perizzites, and the Hivites, and the Jebusites, seven nations greater and mightier than thou, and when Jehovah thy God shall give them up before thee and thou shalt smite them, then shalt thou utterly destroy them: thou shalt make no covenant with them, nor shew mercy unto them. And thou shalt make no marriages with them: thy daughter thou shalt not give unto his son, nor take his daughter for thy son; for he will turn away thy son from following me, and they will serve other gods, and the anger of Jehovah will be kindled against you, and he will destroy thee quickly. But thus shall ye deal with them: ye shall break down their altars, and shatter their statues, and hew down their Asherahs, and burn their graven images with fire. For a holy people art thou unto Jehovah thy God: Jehovah thy God hath chosen thee to be unto him a people for a possession, above all the peoples that are upon the face of the earth. (Deut. 7:1-6, Darby)

This command is simple: the Jews were to take the land to the exclusion and destruction of everyone else. If their claim to the land is valid, then the method and thoroughness of taking it is also. Unfortunately the original invasion did not fulfil this charge. In some cases the Israelites were tricked by the locals, as was the case with the Gibeonites (Joshua 9.) In others it was complacency. In either case the result was the same:


And Jehovah was with Judah; and he took possession of the hill-country, for he did not dispossess the inhabitants of the valley, because they had chariots of iron. And they gave to Caleb Hebron, as Moses had said; and he dispossessed from thence the three sons of Anak. And the children of Benjamin did not dispossess the Jebusites, the inhabitants of Jerusalem; but the Jebusites dwell with the children of Benjamin in Jerusalem to this day. And the house of Joseph, they also went up against Bethel; and Jehovah was with them. And the house of Joseph sent to search out Bethel; now the name of the city before was Luz. And the guards saw a man come forth out of the city, and said unto him, Shew us, we pray thee, how we may enter into the city, and we will shew thee kindness. And he shewed them how to enter into the city. And they smote the city with the edge of the sword; but they let go the man and all his family. And the man went into the land of the Hittites, and built a city, and called its name Luz, which is its name to this day. And Manasseh did not dispossess Beth-shean and its dependent villages, nor Taanach and its dependent villages, nor the inhabitants of Dor and its dependent villages, nor the inhabitants of Ibleam and its dependent villages, nor the inhabitants of Megiddo and its dependent villages; and the Canaanites would dwell in that land. And it came to pass when Israel became strong, that they made the Canaanites tributary; but they did not utterly dispossess them. And Ephraim did not dispossess the Canaanites that dwelt in Gezer; but the Canaanites dwelt among them in Gezer. Zebulun did not dispossess the inhabitants of Kitron, nor the inhabitants of Nahalol; but the Canaanites dwelt among them, and became tributaries. Asher did not dispossess the inhabitants of Accho, nor the inhabitants of Zidon, nor Ahlab, nor Achzib, nor Helbah, nor Aphik, nor Rehob; and the Asherites dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land; for they did not dispossess them. Naphtali did not dispossess the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh, nor the inhabitants of Beth-anath; and he dwelt among the Canaanites, the inhabitants of the land, but the inhabitants of Beth-shemesh and of Beth-anath became tributaries to them. And the Amorites forced the children of Dan into the hill-country, for they would not suffer them to come down to the valley. And the Amorites would dwell on mount Heres, in Ajalon and in Shaalbim; but the hand of the house of Joseph prevailed, and they became tributaries. And the border of the Amorites was from the ascent of Akrabbim, from the rock, and upwards. (Judges 1:19-36, Darby)

The Israelites suffered the consequences of that failure through the time of the judges and the kings. It is important to note, however, that this failure did not end God’s plan for the Jews or the Gentiles.

Now we turn to the modern State of Israel, as great a miracle in its own right as those the Israelites in their departure from Egypt those many years ago. Their “taking the land” has been as compromised as that of their fathers.

To start with, they were forced to accept the partition of the land forced on them by the U.N.. The partition would have been worse except that the Palestinians decided to attempt to drive the Israelis into the sea. The result of this decision was to increase Israel’s share of the land, one of many similar decisions on the part of the Palestinians.

From there they allowed the “Israeli Arabs” to stay within Israel. This was certainly the humanitarian thing to do, but did not square with the Biblical mandate. But the Bible is a better guide to the Middle East than most realise, as now Islamic radicals are getting traction with voting Israeli Arabs.

After they overran the West Bank and Gaza in 1967, the Israelis had their best chance to “finish the job,” as we would say. Instead they resorted to a combination of using the Palestinians as labour (setting themselves up for the same situation as they faced with the Gibeonites) and scattering the settlements throughout the West Bank and Gaza. The settlers believed that they were fulfilling the Scriptures, but the government was using them to make it more difficult to force the Israelis to leave, which would strip the country of the security buffer it acquired in the Six Day War. None of this, however, really amounted to “taking the land” as the original Biblical mandate directed.

Now we have the spectacle of the Israelis evicting their own people from their own land which the government had encouraged them to settle in the first place. Many have characterised the Sharon government’s actions as an attempt to appease the Palestinians, but in reality it is a calculated response to two factors. The first is world opinion. The second is the need for the State of Israel to have strong, defensible frontiers. Forcing the IDF to defend scattered, insular settlements is an expensive and militarily trying process. Setting up the fence (which has worked) and getting rid of places such as Gaza (the original land of the Philistines, the original Palestinians) gives the IDF a shot at really keeping terrorists out of places where most of the Jews live.

The one group of people who understand “taking the land” in its original meaning is the Palestinians. Their objective of driving the Israelis into the sea (they would prefer genocide so the Jews wouldn’t come back) and eliminating their presence in the land altogether has been their objective from the start and remains their goal. This does lead to one question to secularlists and liberals: why is it that an opinion that is considered reprehensible if held by Christians and Jews becomes acceptable when it is held by Muslims?

In any case, the result is clear: once the State of Israel decided to abandon the Biblical standard of “taking the land,” compromises such as we are seeing in Gaza and the West Bank are inevitable. These compromises are personally painful to those who are evicted and theologically painful to many Christians and Jews, but they are as unavoidable as those which the Israelites of old made in the wake of their entry into the land those many years ago.

Now we can consider the matter of Christians “taking the city” and “taking the land.” We hear so much in the US about evangelists and pastors who want to “take the city for Jesus.” But no US city has really been taken in this way. Christian involvement in politics has as its objective “taking America back for God.” But the methods used virtually guarantee non-achievement of the stated objective. Like the Israelis–who in a worldly sense have far more going for them as they are Jewish–the Christians state an absolute goal but are headed for compromise.

There are places in the world where the cause of Christ is making great strides and benefiting nations in important ways. But this is being done principally through conversion, education and prayer, one believer at a time. The principal territory in this case is the human soul, and, for the Christian, once God reigns in this territory the land will take care of itself.

So the lessons for Christians and Jews alike is similar: if you’re going to “take the land,” take it, because the alternative is half-measures and compromise. The alternative is to create unrealistic expectations. For the Jews, the land is “the deal,” and they must do what they can. For the Christians, territory comes in another sense, and once we focus on that we will find ourselves with more “land” than we anticipated.

He is Prepared to Sign Anything

One of the most complicated transactions I have ever been involved in was the purchase of the rights for a Russian concrete pile cutter (shown at left.) The patent had around a dozen inventors and two research institutes, spread out from Moscow to Vladivostok. The sheer logistics of getting everyone to agree to this, to say nothing of the financial considerations, made it a daunting task.

After six years of work on it we had actually made quite a lot of progress, but the Deputy Director General of the main research institute was trying to hold out for more money. Since the market for these things is pretty limited, we had to be careful.

At this point the Russian government sponsored a Russian technology exposition in Washington, DC, and the institute was one of the exhibitors. They sent their Director General; we thought it would be a good time to make some progress without the expense of another trip to Russia. So I went to Washington, was met by my translator, and we set out to have a meeting with the Director General.

On the way we stopped by the hotel room which the institute’s people were using as a headquarters. It was a mess; clothing and trash were piled everywhere, vodka bottles being the most prominent. Evidently these people were having quite a time during their trip to America.

We got to the exhibit hall and managed to pull the Director General aside for a meeting on the patent. In preparation for this meeting, I had prepared a “protocol” (we usually call it a “letter of intent” in the U.S.) which outlined what was for us an initial negotiating position. So I presented this and asked the Director General what he was prepared to sign to conclude this agreement.

At that, my translator looked me straight in the eye and said, “He is prepared to sign anything.” Needless to say, I wasn’t prepared for this; I was used to a lot more “horse trading” in negotiations, particularly with people outside the U.S. But sure enough, he was; he signed the protocol. Back in Moscow, his deputy was enraged at this, but there was nothing he could do; the negotiations were completed and we obtained the patent assignment.

We live in an age where people are said to be deceived by all kinds of “isms”: moral relativism, secular humanism, post-modernism, and the like. But having been in the real world for too long, I like to look at things a little differently. The problem with people today is that, after years of excessively rapid upward social mobility, blistering technological change, and relentless manipulation by those who own and operate the society, they are, like our Director General, prepared to sign anything, to go along with anything so long as their lives go on as they have, no matter what the long term cost is to themselves.

“For a time will come when people will not tolerate sound teaching. They will follow their own wishes, and, in their itching for novelty, procure themselves a crowd of teachers. They will turn a deaf ear to the Truth, and give their attention to legends instead.” (2 Tim 4:3-4) This is where we’re at, with the disintegrating families, eroding human rights, and the growing consumer debt which is turning a society of owners into a society of renters, at the whim of those who control the financial destiny of the nation. Christianity, which takes a definite stand on many issues, is looked on with hostility as a menace to the stability of this house of cards, proclaiming as it does an ultimate authority beyond the state.

But there’s always a payoff of some kind in the end. Our Russian inventors and institutes were paid off in U.S. dollars, a valuable commodity in Russia in those days. Those who sign with the rulers of this world have another payoff altogether: “The wages of Sin are Death, but the gift of God is Immortal Life, through union with Christ Jesus, our Lord.” (Romans 6:23) It’s your choice. Are you prepared to sign anything?

The Episcopal Church Cuts Their Budget, Too. Well, Most of It.

Working for a church which is undergoing budgetary contraction, I cannot be triumphalistic about this, even though the agenda is frequently distasteful:

Recently, the church’s Office of Government Relations (OGR) announced that Washington, D.C.-based Episcopal lobbyist Maureen Shea will retire at the end of the month. Similarly, New York-based Director of Advocacy Rev. Canon Brian Grieves will retire in October. The two roles had been set to be combined into a single position, but now the search for that position has been completely suspended.

It’s tempting to celebrate the cutting of resources for the OGR. It is a group that has, in the name of Episcopalians, promoted unrestricted abortion-on-demand, backed a litany of pro-homosexuality and anti-family legislation, and enthusiastically supported high taxes and big government.

That being acknowledged, the OGR has also been an advocate for combating human trafficking. It supported the creation of the Commission on International Religious Freedom when the National Council of Churches vocally opposed it. Importantly, OGR staff worked on behalf of persecuted Anglicans in the Sudan long before Darfur entered the vocabulary of Hollywood celebrities. Shea herself joined with Honduras Bishop Lloyd Allen in authoring General Convention’s balanced resolution on the political crisis in that Central American nation.

Setting aside TEC’s non-starter of an “evangelism” agenda, what’s bothersome to reappraiser and reasserter alike is the fact that TEC continues to set aside US$4,000,000 for litigation costs in an attempt to hold on to property.  If you’re going to cut a budget, it makes sense that everything is on the table and that no effort can lay claim to “unlimited” resources.

I’ve commented about this but there’s one more point I’d like to make: the Presiding Bishop’s obsession with litigation as a way of “holding the church together” reflects a childlike faith in the innate goodness of the law.  Her idea–and it’s one thats endemic in American culture–is that, if you win a lawsuit, you’re proven “beautiful and good,” to use the Greek term (that was applied, BTW, to the kinds of activities that are now the enforced core of TEC’s life.)

But anyone who has been involved in litigation knows that it’s a long, expensive and brutal process that whose frequent end result is only to prove who has the deepest pockets and can stick the process out.  That’s not moral vindication.  What TEC will end up with is no cash, empty churches and no strategy or program to fill them up again.  And that’s not victory.

Half a Million Roubles. Is it Enough?

In early 1994 I went to Russia for the purpose of visiting a factory in Bryansk, which is located at the meeting point of Russia, Belarus and Ukraine. This was not a factory producing high tech military hardware, but something more prosaic but important for our modern world: diesel pile driving equipment, used in the construction of roads, bridges and buildings.

Below: a YouTube video of the inside of this plant.

Soviet diesel pile drivers on display. Did our intelligence services mistake these for a new missile technology?

These were the days when the Russian Mafia reigned supreme, so we had to be careful. The plan was for me and my representative to cross Moscow via car and metro to the Moscow Kievskaya train station, board for a six hour “overnight” train trip to Bryansk, spend the day there, and return as we came to Moscow. Except for our plans for avoiding the criminal element, this wasn’t a very difficult trip.

So we made our preparations. No US cash, no credit cards. I even switched my wedding band to my right hand. We were planning on travelling light, but we had to have some spending money. So, as we prepare to leave, my representative whips out a wad of Russian cash and asks me, “Half a million roubles. Is it enough?”

I was boggled by the question. Not even family trips with my mother to the Ritz-Carlton cost half a million. But here the currency had collapsed with communism; the exchange rate was about 1300 roubles to the US dollar. So we were only talking about US$385, which was a reasonable sum considering that much of our travel (especially by train) was subsidised by the government.

Some of you reading this live in a place where the currency is parcelled out with many zeroes. But it’s interesting to note that, to my knowledge, no currency started out that way. If we look at major currencies today, we see that all of them are either “substantial” in their value (dollar, euro, pound) or were at one time (yen, and of course the rouble itself.) But there is a greater lesson here.

If Islamicism has done one thing, it has put monotheism on the front page of the news, whether the secularists like it or not. (And they usually don’t.)  This is something, of course, that Islam has in common with Christianity and Judaism. But there are still many who believe that there is more than one god, in fact that there are many gods. The most important representative of this is Hinduism, where literally millions of gods are resident and demand worship of some kind.

But then there are those religions who take things a step further: they posit that it is possible for people to become gods. This was the first proposition that the serpent placed in front of Eve:


Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, “Did God really say, ‘You must not eat from any tree in the garden’?” The woman said to the serpent, “We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, ‘You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'””You will not surely die,” the serpent said to the woman. “For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.” (Gen 3:1-5, from New International Version)

Becoming (or in some cases being) divine is a cornerstone of New Age religion; however, since everything is relative in this movement, it is sometimes hard to know what method will work. (At least the serpent presented a definite technique, albeit false.)

A religion with a more concrete game plan in this regard is Mormonism. This is odd in one respect, since the Book of Mormon itself is consistently monotheistic:


And Amulek said unto him: Yea, if it be according to the Spirit of the Lord, which is in me; for I shall say nothing which is contrary to the Spirit of the Lord. And Zeezrom said unto him: Behold, here are six onties of silver, and all these will I give thee if thou wilt deny the existence of a Supreme Being. Now Amulek said: O thou child of hell, why tempt ye me? Knowest thou that the righteous yieldeth to no such temptations? Believest thou that there is no God? I say unto you, Nay, thou knowest that there is a God, but thou lovest that lucre more than him. And now thou hast lied before God unto me. Thou saidst unto me–Behold these six onties, which are of great worth, I will give unto thee–when thou hadst it in thy heart to retain them from me; and it was only thy desire that I should deny the true and living God, that thou mightest have cause to destroy me. And now behold, for this great evil thou shalt have thy reward. And Zeezrom said unto him: Thou sayest there is a true and living God? And Amulek said: Yea, there is a true and living God. Now Zeezrom said: Is there more than one God? And he answered, No. (Alma 11:22-29)

As was the case with many things, Joseph Smith found a new revelation after he received the “fullness of the everlasting Gospel” (Doctrine and Covenants, 20:9 and 27:5, referring to the Book of Mormon.) In his “King Follett Discourse” (a funeral oration,) Joseph Smith stated that “In the beginning, the head of the Gods called a council of the Gods; and they came together and concocted a plan to create the world and people in it,” and moreover “Here then is eternal life–to know the only wise and true God, and you have got to learn how to be Gods yourselves.” (Journal of Discourses, VI, 1-11) This began the concept that is enshrined in Lorenzo Snow’s mantra, “As man is, God once was; as God is, man may become.”

This is the promise of Mormonism; to make men gods. Their missionaries use this as an incentive, and portray this as superior to Christians’ promise of eternal life with the one true God. The problem is this: once you’ve made millions of men gods, what does it mean? How significant is that, even if you give them authority to rule, as Mormonism does?

A good illustration of this is the current situation in the United States Senate. Senate Majority Leader and Mormon Harry Reid, resplendent in his Temple underwear, wanted to get his and President Obama’s agenda through the Senate, if for no other reason than to show who’s boss. So why did someone who is waiting for deity have so much difficulty pulling this off? Because there are one hundred senators, and many of them didn’t agree with him! And one of these was none other than Temple Mormon Orrin Hatch! How can someone expect to rule with millions of other gods around when he couldn’t even rule over one hundred senators, and in many cases over all of those in his own party? Or his own religion?

This is the central problem with any system of belief that affirms the existence of more than one God; the more “gods” there are, the less meaningful the whole idea of deity becomes. Like the roubles we took to Bryansk, there may be many of them, but they’re not worth very much. Both Russian roubles and Mormon gods are the product of the same process: too many of each were “created” for the intended purpose. Religions such as New Age and Mormonism attempt to exalt humanity by debasing divinity, but they end up debasing both. As with currencies, we are better off with one God who is worth it all than many which are, individually and frequently as a group, worth very little. The promise of divinity doesn’t look all that good when seen in this light; it is a mirage that vanishes as we approach it.


Hear, O Israel: The LORD our God, the LORD is one. Love the LORD your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength. These commandments that I give you today are to be upon your hearts. Impress them on your children. Talk about them when you sit at home and when you walk along the road, when you lie down and when you get up. Tie them as symbols on your hands and bind them on your foreheads. Write them on the door frames of your houses and on your gates. (Deut 6:4-9 from New International Version)

Socialist states love to trumpet their own successes, real or just propaganda. The collapse of the rouble left just about everyone in the Russian Federation with more than a million roubles (about US$770 in early 1994) of net worth. So I declared to my representative, “Seventy years of socialism, and everyone’s a millionaire!”

His response: “It was their greatest achievement!”

The American Work Ethic Heads South

Steven Malanga is certainly right about this change in our culture:

The breakup of this 300-year-old consensus on the work ethic began with the cultural protests of the 1960s, which questioned and discarded many traditional American virtues. The roots of this breakup lay in what Daniel Bell described in The Cultural Contradictions of Capitalism as the rejection of traditional bourgeois qualities by late-nineteenth-century European artists and intellectuals who sought “to substitute for religion or morality an aesthetic justification of life.” By the 1960s, that modernist tendency had evolved into a credo of self-fulfillment in which “nothing is forbidden, all is to be explored,” Bell wrote. Out went the Protestant ethic’s prudence, thrift, temperance, self-discipline, and deferral of gratification.

Weakened along with all these virtues that made up the American work ethic was Americans’ belief in the value of work itself. Along with “turning on” and “tuning in,” the sixties protesters also “dropped out.” As the editor of the 1973 American Work Ethic noted, “affluence, hedonism and radicalism” were turning many Americans away from work and the pursuit of career advancement, resulting in a sharp slowdown in U.S. productivity from 1965 through 1970. So great a transformation of values was occurring that, as George Bloom of MIT’s Sloan School of Management wrote in a 1971 essay on America’s declining work ethic, “It is unfortunate but true that ‘progress’ is becoming a bad word in virtually all sectors of society.”

But earlier in the article he noted this:

The work ethic also distinguished the northern colonies from the southern, and later helped the North win the Civil War. Many southern settlers came in search not of religious freedom but only of economic opportunity. Instead of founding villages or towns with a common civic life, southern settlers developed isolated, widely separated plantations. They cultivated a few staple crops using slave labor, instead of developing a diversified economy. They created a society where a relatively few plantation owners acted like an aristocracy. Rather than viewing all honest work as honorable, they developed what historian C. Vann Woodward calls the “Southern ethic,” which saw some work as fit only for slaves. In the end, these attitudes proved the South’s greatest vulnerability, as the North, shaped by the work ethic, brought to bear its industrial might against the narrow economy of the South, built precariously on tobacco and slave labor and a Cavalier rather than a Puritan ethic.

There’s a connection between the two.

It’s interesting to note that the 1960’s and 1970’s were the era of the ascendency of the “Sun Belt,” that great Chamber of Commerce euphemism for the Old Confederacy.  Those who came south found out several interesting things.

  • The most “Protestant” section of the country didn’t have the “Protestant work ethic” to go with it.
  • The most “American” and patriotic (in some ways) part of the country didn’t have an American work ethic to go with it either.
  • The escapist culture of the 1970’s and the post-bellum escapism of the South went together hand and glove.
  • The strict surface of Southern culture–eroded by the legal changes shoved down its throat by the liberal judicial system–was there to counteract a libertine backroom, which manifests itself in a high divorce rate and other social woes.

One thing I don’t agree with Malanga on is his idea that southern settlers didn’t come in search of religious freedom.  That’s not true; religious dissenters were very strong amongst the Scotch-Irish, and contributed to the disestablishment of the Anglican church (the Southern way of separating church and state) after the Revolutionary War.  The Scotch-Irish, burned by the enclosures back home, were also very strong on personal property rights.  The work ethic of Americans has been connected with both, but in the context of Scotch-Irish culture the intention of both was to increase personal autonomy and thus lessen the need to work.

The Scotch-Irish were the strongest (if unintentional) exponents of distributism, that darling “three acres and a cow” (Southerners would think in terms of “40 acres and a mule”) philosophy that Hillaire Belloc and G.K. Chesterton were so enamoured by.  Their disciple, J.R.R. Tolkien, would embody this in the Shire, and it’s not an accident that he drew on the experiences of an Oxford friend from Kentucky for The Lord of the Rings.  But alas the biggest enemy of this is the Scotch-Irish (and now American) addiction to credit, something that Tolkien wisely left out of the Shire.  (Sauron should have set up a bank…)

In any case, the influence of the Scotch-Irish in eroding the “Protestant work ethic” in the U.S.–especially on the Right–cannot be underestimated.

Community of the Cross: Outpouring

Outpouring (Community Of The Cross) 1979

When I was first introduced to “Jesus Music” in the 1970’s, one of the first frustrations I encountered is that too much of it sounded alike. (The fact that some of it had a C&W sound didn’t help either!) It took some time but I found that there was some genuinely creative stuff going on.

It’s too bad that this album was one of those things I missed. But this production by the Community of the Cross in Danbury, CT, is like nothing else from the era. To start with, it is from the Northeast, which was unusual. Beyond that, the reach for artistry–which is evident at several points in the album–was sorely lacking in the genre. Perhaps this last was pushed by the fact that this album (from a compositional standoint) is very much the “Italian Hour” for Jesus Music. This group (especially in “Never Be Alone Again”) leads contemporary Christian music into realms that Protestant WASPS/Celtic worthies were (and are) reluctant to take it to.

This album was a ground breaker in many ways. Outpouring performed and made two more albums until they disbanded in 2000.  (One of them is here.)

Outpouring, left to right: Joe Torre, Gary Falin, Fran Novelli, Chris Barrett, Jim Albano. Jeff Schachinger performed sax on “Prophets of Fortune.” Click here for the back liner notes.

The songs:

  1. I’ve Got a Song to Sing*
  2. Take me Home Again
  3. Prophets of Fortune
  4. Never be Alone Again*
  5. Lifeline
  6. Straight and Narrow Highway
  7. No More Time to Run

All songs by Jim Albano except those marked * which are by Jim Albano and Fran Novelli.

Produced by Cliff Natoli and Outpouring.

Recorded at Jbana Sound Productions, Newtown, CT. Engineered by Jack Hanna. Photos by Glenn Johnson, graphics by Bob Colucci.

Note: many of the ministries that were beind the music offered on this site are no longer in existence. That’s not the case with this one; the Community of the Cross is still active in Danbury, CT. They operate the Community Coffeehouse, which features many Christian musicians (perhaps the next Outpouring?) Thanks to Chris Barrett for keeping me up to date on this.

Letter from Maj. Henry Winslow, aide-de-camp to Confederate Gen. Leonidas Polk, Shortly After Polk’s Death

Marietta, June 19th


Dear Son = On yesterday all day we had heavy fighting on the left. Walker’s (Maj Genl William Henry Talbot Walker, KIA Atlanta July 22, ’64)) division suffered a good deal the 53 & 54 Geo had a good many killed wounded but none from Fort Valley. Mrs Mims had a grandson named (Piney)? who lost an arm, I found him in the hospital and took the best care I could of him until he was sent off last night – he said he had not eaten a mouthful for 24 hours – I gave him coffee bread & butter & (….)? all of which he was glad to get. The Committees are doing much good. Dr Evereth (?) spent the night with us and went to the front this morning.

We are (3)? miles form our advance lines. Any hour may bring forth a general engagement or it may not take place for sometime my own opinions are unchanged as to the army falling back to the Chattahoochie for if Sherman presses Johnson until he sees a decided advantage will drop back gradually. I was up until 12 last night finding the wounded and sick and carrying them on stretchers to the cars to be sent off to Atlanta – it is a sad sight to see the mutilation of our poor fellows in the rear of our quarters in what is called the dead house for all considered mortally wounded are brought here. I helped to bring them in this morning and was told 10 or 12 died last night – some shot through the head with their brains running out, some thru the bowels and some thru the lungs and other parts it is horrible to see. We have had rain for the last 36 hours constantly and every thing is wet & drenched and consequently much sickness. Our Committees are doing much good as well as others and really is an important aid to the army and men is reduced to (….)? systems and all the Counties assisted a vast deal more of benefit would be derived from it. Many apple (cutrins)? are made when if, for four which it cannot relieve as only the sick wounded can be cared for, but it is hard to refuse a soldier wet and worn down

from the battlefield asking for food and saying he has had nothing for hours. I find the hard floor a very solid resting place but am doing much good and that (….)? the hardship. You will communicate to some member of the committee at home, the news I write to inform rest, and tell them that their contributions are a source of great comfort to all and that do not how soon some of family may receive the articles they send. I do not think there is any need for them to send cabbage and (….)? of any kind. Squashes – Potatoes – turnips – Beets – Vinegar – Whiskey – Wine – Light bread – Butter – molasses – Cakes & Biscuits – Hams are all good. By keeping the different vegetables separate and pack all while cold they will keep better and if the hams are wrapped up each separate even in paper it is better – all our boxes except six in use have been sent back & I hope have reached Fort Valley, 12 ock m – I have just seen Dr (Mathers)?son, from the front he is not hurt.

Young G W Hollingshaw (?) very slightly wounded also young Mims, not sufficiently severe to cause them to leave the lines – Murray also slightly wounded at the (….)(…)? as the others by spent balls – young Mathers(?)

Was supplied with such articles as he required – he has been sick but will return to his company tomorrow. Nine others from F.V. are injured. Our folks had better send up at least 3 on their next relief & at that time I will return if not driven off. While I have been writing a perfect storm of rain is falling and a fair prospect of continuing all day. At the same time we hear very heavy cannon (going up)? on the left, it is quite sharp and I think an extensive engagement is going on – if any thing turns up interesting I will put it down tonight. Do not write unless it is important except by some (. . . . . . . .) I send by private hand to Macon.

Love to the children & yourself

H Winslow

6 PM Rain Rain & heavy skirmishing on right center & left. Iverson’s Cavalry (BG Alfred Iverson of Wheeler’s Cavalry Corps) said to have been forced back on the left by a heavy force of infantry & cavalry. The result of all the fighting not known, further than our forces as gradually falling back on all our lines entrenching as they fall back.

Tell the people to make (cheese)? bisquits thin that (…)? Put much lard in them

A Time for Everything

One of the centrepieces of the spiritual life of the Texas A&M Newman Association was its “New Cor” retreats, held once every semester. These were usually held at the Fort Parker State Park near Mexia, Texas. Although the park wasn’t that far from the campus, to make transportation easier the Association would secure a school bus to take most of the people there and back again. The usual procedure to get a driver was to pick one of the students, who would obtain his chauffeur’s license the Friday afternoon we were supposed to leave. Armed with this license, the bus would be loaded up and the participants and staff taken for a weekend of spiritual transformation. (And they wonder why there are Aggie jokes…)

My response to this? I took my own car. So did some others.

Sunday afternoon came, the retreat ended and everyone returned to College Station in like manner as they came. I was driving my car back, following a friend of mine who had a girl with him from the University of Texas who had bravely joined us for the weekend. He was weaving all over the road, wandering from the shoulders to the centreline. Fortunately the traffic was light and the road was wide in usual Texas style. We got back to the student centre, but my curiosity was aroused.

“Why were you wandering all over the road?” I demanded.

He looked at me and replied, “It’s very hard to drive and read the Bible at the same time.” Turns out he was sharing the Word with this girl, so he had to thumb through its pages and try to drive all the while. Evidently the combination of God’s authoritative revelation and his driving did the trick; she did get saved. (She also ended up marrying an Aggie, but that’s another story…)

There are a lot of things about this story that are sure to astonish. One of them is that it took place in the context of Roman Catholicism. The truth is, though, that the Catholic church has always had a concern for the eternal destiny of its adherents. The problem is how to do it; the church, in common with many other Christian institutions, has placed excessive confidence that the “system” (both sacramental and educational) would lead people to a knowledge of God that would in turn lead to eternal life. There is nothing inherently “non-Catholic” in the concept that, somewhere along the way, an individual needs to make a conscious decision whether he or she has a real relationship with God and whether his or her life is either oriented towards God or is pointed in another direction.

Beyond this, my friend’s driving is a reminder to everyone that our life is measured out in a finite way, and that it can be cut short long before we expect it to. “Listen to me, you who say ‘To-day or to-morrow we will go to such and such a town, spend a year there, and trade, and make money,’ And yet you do not know what your life will be like to-morrow! For you are but a mist appearing for a little while and then disappearing.” (James 4:13-14) The general increase of life expectancy on the earth only masks its transience. But events such as 11 September 2001 and the 2004 Sumatran tsunami only underscore the fact that it can be taken away from us very rapidly.

“And as it is appointed unto men once to die, but after this the judgment: So Christ was once offered to bear the sins of many; and unto them that look for him shall he appear the second time without sin unto salvation.” (Hebrews 9:27-28) Everyone needs to answer the question: where am I going after this life is over? Like the journey to and from Fort Parker, the road to eternity has a definite course. So how are you getting there?

New Testament references from the Positive Infinity New Testament. (Note: subsequent to this tale, I came to work for a ministry that specialises in personal evangelism. This ministry requires that people memorise the important Scripture references before sharing the Gospel.)