Christians Will Be Unpopular

From J. Vernon McGee’s Through the Bible, commenting on John 15:18-19:

Notice what will happen if you are a child of God.  The world will hate you.  I believe that a Christian’s popularity can be an indication of how he is representing Christ in the world.  I do not believe a Christian can be popular in the world.  No Christian has any right to be more popular than Jesus was.  Beware of a compromising position in order to be popular.  The world will not love a real child of God.  The world will love you if you are of the world.  You don’t have to act oddly or be super-pious.  The world will hate you if you are a child of God.  This is difficult, especially for young people who want so much to be popular.  Let’s tell our young people what the Lord says.  They are not going to be popular with the world if they are the children of God. (Vol. IV, p. 470)

Although he put this down about four decades ago, this is truer now than then.  The 1970’s was an exciting time to be a Christian, but it wasn’t always an easy one.  Many of the same opposing agendas we see today–to say nothing of the general temptations–are still out there.  Many of the people who blew us off then are in positions of power and influence today.

Unfortunately Evangelical Christianity went through a period of collective amnesia in the 1980’s, that amnesia reinforced by prosperity teaching, which has become very pervasive in the church.  To achieve material prosperity in the degree that its proponents claim–and I take their claims at face value–requires a broad degree of the popularity that Our Lord didn’t promise us.  To tell people unremittingly that they will receive a golden rain from heaven and then hit the wall with the world around them will result in what I like to call a “cognitive dissonance” moment, which is never pleasant.

The other problem is that it’s really harder to go “against the tide” now than then.  The ersatz individualism of the 1960’s has morphed into the well-disguised groupthink we have now.  It’s harder for a young person to buck the trends now than it was when McGee made his commentary.  The church as a community needs to back its young people in that endeavour rather than to always try to rack up numbers with “lowest common denominator” programs.

Does the Obama Administration Think Being Lesbian is Wrong?

That’s exactly what they’re implying in their defence of Elena Kagan:

The White House declared publicly, even before President Obama nominated Elena Kagan, that she is not a lesbian.

“False charges,” White House spokesman Ben LaBolt said after a conservative blogger wrote last month on a CBS News Web site that Kagan would be the “first openly gay justice.” LaBolt’s description of the rumor as “charges” was itself awkward, coming from a pro-gay-rights Democratic administration. His statement almost begged for a Seinfeld-esque not-that-there’s-anything-wrong-with-that qualifier.

Charges?  Isn’t that what criminals get when they connect with the police and prosecutors?  My, we’re defensive…but they’re so desperate, they’re bringing back Anita Dunn (fan of the Great Helmsman, Mao Zedong) to help shepherd her through the confirmation process.

And if you have any doubt whether they’re scraping the bottom of the barrel to prove she isn’t:

As the rumors have persisted, a number of Kagan’s friends have come forward, presumably with White House acquiescence, to attest that she is a heterosexual. One of those sexuality character witnesses was former New York governor Eliot Spitzer, who had to resign when he was caught patronizing prostitutes. “I did not go out with her, but other guys did,” Spitzer wrote in an e-mail to the news organization Politico, recalling his days with Kagan at Princeton.

There’s no doubt Eliot Spitzer would know a heterosexual when he sees one.

The problem is that, when you create a protected group, your identity with that group becomes a matter of public record whether you like it or not.  That’s what happens when we get away from the Enlightenment idea of people as equal and undifferentiated under the law.

Recognising the Inevitable Split in the Anglican/Episcopal World

That great son of the Confederacy (and probable relative to his Ulster Unionist namesake) David Trimble gets it right on this one:

Many of these orthodox may not yet be fully conscious of this change.  It is in some ways subtle, in the tone and frequency of blog posts and other communications among those who have for so long been engaged in this fight.  There is a sense of resignation that TEO is inexorably going to do what it will do to convert itself into a secular, social-justice based organization, using the Bible only insofar as it can be turned to justify their secular goals.  If one is not yet convinced, the upcoming Glasspool consecration should be the nail in the proverbial coffin of belief in the possibility to “reform” TEO back into a Christian organization.

GAFCON has, through Archbishop Kolini, specific actions to be taken within the overall Communion to advance the cause of the orthodox, including probably rejection of the Covenant.  In so doing, is it possible that a line has been drawn in the sand that could lead to the orthodox, particularly the Global South, rendering Canterbury further down the road toward complete irrelevancy?  And, GAFCON’s open embrace of Abp. Bob Duncan, +Mark Lawrence, and others from among the North American orthodox clergy is an obvious step away from Canterbury.

My question is this: why did anyone think it would turn out differently?

In the years since I’ve been a part of the Anglican/Episcopal blogosphere, I’ve worked under the following assumptions:

  • The Episcopal Church is irredeemably revisionist, and that’s putting it politely.  It’s been that way since the days of wine and James Pike and the local resistance movements haven’t changed the general character of the church.  A “new deal” for North American Anglicans is needed, with or without the previously occupied property.
  • The Church of England, for reasons political and otherwise, cannot be counted on to buttress the orthodox, irrespective of its Evangelical and Anglo-Catholic constituencies.
  • The best hope for a serious orthodox Anglicanism in the world is, literally, out of Africa.  This is also good for everyone else, because it fulfils the promise of a multicultural body of believers (not sceptics) that is embodied in the New Testament from Acts 2 onward.  I know it’s inspired me to look at my own church in a different light.
  • The Anglican Covenant is not only a non-starter in a group of churches which is so divergent in belief; it’s a conduit for all kinds of First World mischief to be propagated through money favouring.

It’s sad if understandable to read of blog post after blog post of people who have some kind of hope that an infusion of ecclesiastical authority coming from somewhere (Canterbury is the usual object of affection) will make things “all better.”  But we all know that the gap between the promise of hope and change vs. the reality can be very dramatic.

The good news is that Anglicanism, thanks to the dedication of many, the medium of the Internet, and the blessings of God, has done things I wouldn’t have thought were possible, had I not seen them for myself.  It’s time to celebrate what’s good and move forward with the mission that Our Lord left us and not worry so much about how we might have liked for things to come out.

Orthodox Jews on the Dole in a Big Way

In Israel, at least:

But Ben-David said the government has relied too heavily on a quick fix. With heavy lobbying from ultra-Orthodox parties that often prove crucial in forming government coalitions, Israel has increased welfare payments fivefold since 1970, while the standard of living has doubled, he said.

Nearly a decade ago, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who was then finance minister, won praise for slashing welfare payments, including monthly per-child allowances. But last year Netanyahu, in a nod to his right-wing coalition partners, agreed to nearly double some child allowances.

Reasons differ for the non-employment of Arabs and ultra-Orthodox Jews.

Over the last 30 years, the percentage of working ultra-Orthodox men has decreased because of government programs that subsidize their religious study, experts say.

Such programs are now facing a backlash from Israel’s secular and non-Orthodox citizens. A radio talk-show host recently described ultra-Orthodox Jews as “parasites.” Tel Aviv’s mayor said the fast-growing ultra-Orthodox community was “endangering” the economic strength of the “silent majority.”

But defenders of the ultra-Orthodox credit them with preserving Israel’s Jewish identity, saying that without the high birth rates of ultra-Orthodox families, Israel could see an Arab majority in future generations.

The Evangelicals should try this in the US, if they really want to bring their left-wing opponents to heel in a hurry.  OTOH, the threat of millions of “religious right fanatics” going on the dole en masse just might make the left think twice before expanding the welfare state.

It’s not good for Israel (the Israeli Arabs are in the same boat, for a different reason) but the possibility for mischief vis-à-vis our secularist masters is endless.

Elena Kagan's Most Principled–and Idiotic–Position

Yet Peter Beinart at the Daily Beast wants her to apologise for it:

The day after the story appeared, I received an email from a prominent Democratic lawyer offering me the same kind of assistance that the Obama administration seems to have provided the Times. In a previous Beast column, I had criticized Kagan’s action as dean, arguing that barring recruiters from Harvard Law School because the military discriminates against gays was as counterproductive as banning ROTC from Harvard during Vietnam. That comparison, my correspondent insisted, “rests on a fundamental category mistake…what happened at Harvard Law School [during Kagan’s tenure] was not anything like the anti-military policies of the ‘70s that were directed at the military because they were the military.”

Conservatives will criticise Kagan for wanting to ban ROTC recruiters from Harvard.  But Kagan did what any self-respecting liberal should do, if the immediate reason was wrong.

Back in the days of the Vietnam War, real, McGovern liberalism was synonymous with an anti-war stance.  Trying to parse the difference between not liking the military and not liking the Vietnam War was, in the context of the time, irrelevant.  All war became immoral, as did those who waged it.  It was that simple.  That’s the heritage of 60’s liberalism, and until the 60’s liberals and their disciples repudiate it once and for all, they should stand by it.

Kagan did so by trying to keep the ROTC off of campus, and that’s consistent with past principle.  But the immediate reason she did so was because of the “don’t ask, don’t tell” policy of the military towards homosexuals.  But this raises another question: why should a group of people who claim moral superiority want to be in an institution like the military?  Some of us remember the time when “good people” didn’t join the military, not voluntarily at least.  Some of us also remember that “good people” shacked up, which made some scratch our heads when same sex civil marriage became a cause.

Beinart’s angst over this situation is simple: it caused the military to shift to a decidedly “red state” institution.  The problem with that is also simple: now that we have a left-wing régime in power, a right-wing military is a potential obstacle to control, especially when our government starts having serious financial problems.  That’s one reason why Barack Obama wanted a different security force.  He’s like the leader of a banana republic; he’s got to check periodically and make sure the military’s on his side (which is one reason why, IMHO, he didn’t pull the plug in Afghanistan the way he should have.)

Come to think of it, with our current debt, he is the leader of a banana republic…

FWIW, I’ll note that Kagan is an Ivy Leaguer, the necessary prerequisite in these United States for avoiding a life of provincial ignominy.

War at the Opera: Opening of Richard Wagner's Tannhäuser in Paris

“Classical” music is widely perceived to be boring, but one composer that succeeded in changing that (if we ignore the sheer length of his operas) was Richard Wagner.  Controversial in life and death, he changed the face of Western music in ways that few have, even (in some ways) paving the way for cinematic music of the following century.

With initial success in Germany, Wagner brought his opera Tannhäuser to Paris, which opened 13 March 1861.  The style was completely new to the Parisians.  Things didn’t go smoothly, as described by Adolphe Jullien in his book Richard Wagner: His Life and Works:

The first tableau, although it was written quite in Wagner’s latest style, passed without opposition, but when after the change of scene, the strains of the little shepherd were heard, playing upon his pipe, the first murmur of discontent arose.  Wagner, who sat in the director’s box, as yet quite innocent of the meaning of this demonstration, leaned forward in order to command a better view of the audience-room, and remarked to his collaborator who sat beside him: “It is the arrival of the emperor (Napoleon III).”  Alas no! It was the first sign of rebellion from the leaders of the opposition.

In the entr’acte a bright idea for amusing themselves crossed the minds of these individuals; most of the subscribers, members of the Jockey-Club or of the Cercle Impérial, went out and bought up all of the hunting-whistles they could find in a certain gunsmith’s shop in the passage de l’Opera, and the disturbance recommenced with the second act, increasing to the very end of the performance, save during the march with the chorus, when the whistlers had to subside.  It must be said that in this uproar, the chevaliers of the corps de ballet had been sustained by the personal enemies of the master (Wagner)–he always excelled in creating them–while the impartial spectators, indignant at such pre-conceived hostility, and at such as scandalous outrage, joined their bravos, often very warm ones, to those of Wagner’s friends.

For an instant it seemed as if the victory would remain to the defenders; but the finale to the second act, encumbered with harps and troubadours, brought irrevocable defeat; of the third, nothing could be distinguished, and the recitative of the pilgrimage to Rome, in particular, the real climax to the whole work, was drowned from beginning to end in furious yells.  The interpreters, however, did not give way before these hostile demonstrations, and at least two distinguished people in the room bravely defended the author: Mme. won Metternich, who seemed to wish to be revenged upon Solferino; and the emperor, who on several occasions gave the signal for applause.

Obama Shouldn't Bemoan the Diversions of the Technological World

He did anyway, in his address to Hampton University:

US President Barack Obama lamented Sunday that in the iPad and Xbox era, information had become a diversion that was imposing new strains on democracy, in his latest critique of modern media.

Obama, who often chides journalists and cable news outlets for obsessing with political horse race coverage rather than serious issues, told a class of graduating university students that education was the key to progress.

“You’re coming of age in a 24/7 media environment that bombards us with all kinds of content and exposes us to all kinds of arguments, some of which don’t always rank all that high on the truth meter,” Obama said at Hampton University, Virginia.

“With iPods and iPads and Xboxes and PlayStations, — none of which I know how to work — information becomes a distraction, a diversion, a form of entertainment, rather than a tool of empowerment, rather than the means of emancipation,” Obama said.

He bemoaned the fact that “some of the craziest claims can quickly claim traction,” in the clamor of certain blogs and talk radio outlets.

“All of this is not only putting new pressures on you, it is putting new pressures on our country and on our democracy.”

This is disingenuous.

First, no politician in American history has used these “new media” better than Barack Obama.  And the diversional aspects of the technology make it easier to advance your own agenda while people are interacting with their electronic devices.

Second, he’d be better off ignoring what isn’t to his taste than make his press secretary waste press conference time discussing it, as he did here.  OTOH, making Gibbs play “whack a mole” diverts attention from what Obama is really doing…

Third, a nation where everyone is on the dole to some degree and privacy is eviscerated by the technology he bemoans won’t be a real “democracy” much longer anyway.  That is, in reality, what saved Labour in the UK from a total trashing in this last general election.  Too many people are dependent upon the government to risk losing anything from it, especially when the providers have been in power for 13 years.  Obama figures that, if he can rack up eight years of dependency, they’ll never boot the Democrats.

But national bankruptcy just might boot many people from their “safe” positions…

Our Government's Real Intentions: Obama Dodges Breaking Up Big Banks, and the Continuing Threat to 401(k)'s and 403(b)'s

The first, from Mother Jones:

Late on Thursday night, an effort to rein in the mega-banks that brought the American economy to the brink of disaster died on the Senate floor.  Sens. Ted Kaufman (D-Del.) and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) had offered an amendment that would have broken up the biggest banks and forced them to scale back the amount of money they borrow to amplify their bets in the financial markets (a reform known as leverage limits). Experts said the Kaufman-Brown amendment, which failed by a vote of 60-33, would have helped safeguard the economy against another crisis. So why did the Obama administration, which has urged Congress to overhaul the financial system, distance itself from—and even oppose—this measure?

It makes sense that, if one is worried about “too big to fail,” the easiest solution is to keep banks from getting too big!  Breaking up monopolies is a well-honoured technique in this country; Teddy Roosevelt made his reputation in part on “trust busting.”  But our current régime is too much in the pocket of large financial institutions–and too enamoured with centralisation as the answer–to do something that sensible.  And I’m not sure the Republicans, who still think that breaking up large entities is a slap at upward social mobility, have connected the dots on this either.

The second, from the House Republicans (HT to a relative):

As members of the Republican Savings Solutions Group, we write today to express our strong opposition to any proposal to eliminate or federalize private-sector defined contribution pension plans, such as 401(k)s, or impose burdensome new requirements upon the businesses, large and small, who choose to offer these plans to their employees.

The whole idea of centralising the retirement system in the US–with the transitional taxable events as the existing 401(k) and 403(b) holders stampede for the exits–is another irresistible temptation for our centralising élites.

Why is Right-Wing Campaign Food Better Than Left-Wing Campaign Food?

Ben Macintyre at the Times wants to know, and so do we:

On the Cameron plane in Scotland: prosciutto, mozzarella and peach salad, followed by rare roast lamb on a bed of lentils, with chocolate mousse for dessert. On the Brown bus, in Scotland: a bottle of Irn-Bru and a curly sandwich. George W. Bush served barbecued ribs to the press, whereas Al Gore provided, at most, a packet of M&M’s. Campaigning with Jacques Chirac was a sort of rolling banquet, with every stop involving a minimum of three courses. Lionel Jospin’s campaign served dry brie baguettes. Why is right-wing campaign food consistently better than left-wing campaign food?

If the left can’t deliver something basic as decent grub on their own, what makes you think they can run your country?

American Exceptionalism Thrives in the Obama Administration: It Refuses Foreign Help on BP Oil Spill

Which says they’re too proud for their own good:

When State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley refused to tell reporters which countries have offered assistance to help respond to the BP oil spill, the State Department press corps was flabbergasted.

“As a policy matter, we’re not going to identify those offers of assistance until we are able to see, you know, what we need, assess the ongoing situation. And as we accept those offers of assistance, we will inform you,” Crowley said.

Reporters pointed out that the Bush administration identified assistance offers after the Katrina disaster, so what is this, a new policy? They pressed Crowley, but he refused to budge.

Then they mentioned Iran’s offer of assistance, through its National Iranian Drilling Company. Crowley said there was no Iranian offer of assistance, at least in any official capacity. The reporters kept on it, asking why it was taking so long to figure out what was needed in the first place? That’s the Coast Guard’s decision, Crowley explained.

Late Wednesday evening, the State Department emailed reporters identifying the 13 entities that had offered the U.S. oil spill assistance. They were the governments of Canada, Croatia, France, Germany, Ireland, Mexico, the Netherlands, Norway, Romania, Republic of Korea, Spain, Sweden, the United Kingdom, and the United Nations.

This is ridiculous.  Forty years ago, the Gulf had something of a monopoly on offshore technology, but no more.

I’m surprised that the Brazilians haven’t been contacted; they’ve been leaders in deep water technology for a long time.

If you were hoping for a breakout from American exceptionalism and provincialism with this administration, think again.