Some Thoughts on the Vote re Women Ordained Bishops at the Church of God 2010 General Assembly

With this post I resume with a topic that generated the most heated debate at the Church of God 2010 General Assembly: the admission of women to the rank of Ordained Bishops.  (For my Anglican, Catholic and Orthodox friends, the term “Ordained Bishop” has a different meaning than a diocesan: in addition to including those and above, it includes a large number of our pastors and other ministers.  It is simply the highest rank of minister in our denomination.)

I have openly supported this idea since 2006, although I doubt that this support carried much weight.  Evidently the support of others didn’t either; it was defeated by a large margin in the General Council of ordained bishops, not once but twice during the same General Council.

In the wake of these votes, I’d like to make two comments.  (The entire General Assembly was live streamed, something I hope we see in the Anglican/Episcopal world; hopefully it will be archived at the GA site in the near future.)

  1. Honestly, the speeches on both sides (or at least the ones I heard; I had many duties away from the sessions) may have been the “best shot” of both sides, but I found the overall calibre of the debate wanting.  Those against reminded me of some of the trade union grievance sessions and contract negotiations I went through in my family business.  The proponents were more eloquent, but some of them drifted into the same kind of  “soft” arguments that have gotten their Episcopal counterparts in trouble.  Such are, in a true Pentecostal context, unnecessary.  The Church of God, in common with most Pentecostal denominations, has a long and illustrious history of women in ministry free from the secular context that bedevils most liberal churches and based on a church life led by the Spirit.  If we believe and are convinced that this is God’s intent for the church, we should follow this to its conclusion.
  2. This debate has driven home something I’ve come to realise but have never really wanted to admit: the ministers of the Church of God struggle with a really clear, straightforward debate on the important issues.  That’s a legacy of the aintellectual tradition we have, reinforced by the usual Evangelical fear that putting the Scriptures in a consistent philosophical context would lead to unBiblical results.  That affects even procedural issues, such as the Council voting down quadrennial assemblies because they would reduce the opportunities to vote on our leadership and then turning around and granting Executive Committee members four year terms!  And I’m not sure our institutions of higher learning have really addressed the problem effectively.

I think that, eventually, the Church of God will come around on this issue.  The tragedy of the whole thing, however, is that in the energy of the debate over women ordained bishops, the less than satisfactory role of the laity remains unresolved.  If our view of the role of the laity was in line with the New Testament, this debate would be much simpler, because the opportunity for ministry would be more open to everyone without the complexities of the ministerial ranking system (which, as one opponent of the motion admitted, itself has nothing to do with the New Testament.)  It would be a tragedy that we would end up with men and women ordained bishops in our pulpits and empty pews.

The Class Struggle Comes Back, Part II

There are some on the left (like Kevin Drum at Mother Jones) who are having second thoughts on the American obsession of racial racial equality over class equalisation:

Class/income-based affirmative action has long struck me as an alternative that ought to get more attention than it does…Class-based program programs might, in the end, provide modestly less help for ethnic minorities than current policies — though well-designed ones might not. But they have some advantages too. For one thing, they help poor people. That’s worthwhile all by itself.

I commented a little over a week ago that class equalisation is something that, for a number of reasons, the left’s elitist leadership isn’t well positioned to deal with.  But at least there’s some “out of the box” thinking going on about this problem.  Americans have traditionally let their civil rights struggles be driven by just about anything else than class–race, gender, sexual orientation, you name it.  (The LGBT’s struggle for “equality” would take a serious hit in a class-based equalisation effort, but that’s another post.)

But, in a parenthesis to Drum’s article, James Joyner shows that the left’s new thinking about this has his limits:

But, surely, we don’t want to create new categories, such as “Scotch-Irish Sons of Confederate Veterans,” for special treatment.

Ah, now we’re getting to where the rubber meets the road: the Scots-Irish are at the very core as to why this country has struggled with class-based equalisation.  Their sociological system poses some unique challenges because a class-struggle paradigm is based on workers being exploited, and if there’s one thing that Scots-Irish are masters at getting around, it’s work, which is why exploiting them is a real trick.

P.S. I did read Sen. Webb’s piece that Drum refers to.  It’s an interesting piece with some good observations, but his idea that Southern upper classes set the whites and blacks against each other is absurd.  The War Between the States effectively decapitated Southern society and ruined its upper classes, which put the poor Scots-Irish in the driver’s seat for a century.  In many ways postbellum Southern society was one of the most “bottom-up” driven societies in history, but the blacks bore the brunt of that “egalitarian” result.

Muslim, Christian or Citizen of Your Country First?

Take a look at the interesting graph on the right that appears in Chan Akya’s article on why European countries want to ban the burqa and the US is in no hurry to do so.

I have a few observations about this:

  • It’s ironic that France, where a larger proportion of Muslims consider themselves a citizen of France (or Europe?) first than in the neighbouring countries, was the first to ban the burqa.  That’s due to France’s long tradition of dirigisme (a hangover of the ancien régime) and some of the factors Akya mentioned in this piece: stronger position of women in European politics, stronger secularistic idea, etc.
  • There’s no surprise in the attitudes of Muslims in Middle Eastern countries, or Nigeria.  The graph is striking in the exception that Indonesia is.
  • It’s interesting how Christians in the US are far stronger in identifying themselves as Christians over Americans, even with the high level of patriotism we have in the US.  That’s helped by the fact that, leftist sneers about the religious right notwithstanding, Christians in the US viscerally understand that their faith is not fundamentally a political philosophy, and that there’s more to life than politics.
  • It will be especially interesting for my Anglican readers to note Nigeria’s “Christian first” majority.
  • I think that European Christians fervour for state vs. faith is due mostly to the notional nature of much of European Christianity, even in the face of the ease one has in being a secularist.
  • One missing graph is the attitude of American Muslims, which I think would have tracked their Christian counterparts.

I don’t think that France’s ban on the burqa is a human rights move.  If that were the case, the ban wouldn’t be under consideration.  I think it’s the beginning of a major pushback of European (and Australian, under the new PM) secularism against a real religious threat to their idea.  It’s what I would call a “Ministry of Culture” kind of solution: use the government to impose what the leaders think is the nation’s culture by the coercive powers of the state (I had some fun with this idea here.)   How well it will work will depend on the vigour they pursue it with and what kind of reaction they get out of the Islamic world (both within and without their countries.)

One thing Americans have had the luxury of is the whole “God and Country” concept.  It’s even embodied in the Army chaplains’ motto.  As secuarlists advance here and “God or Country” becomes a more common choice, it will be interesting to see how that plays out.  On a practical level, the success in weaning Americans off of their reliance on God will depend, as it has in Europe, on the state’s ability to provide a secular source of temporal sustenance.  Given the wobbly state of our national finances, that’s not a given; the godless aren’t as brilliant as they think they are.

The Democrats Don't Need the Climate Bill to Achieve Their Objectives

There will be a lot of wailing and gnashing of teeth over this one:

Conceding they can’t find enough votes for the measure, Senate Democrats on Thursday abandoned efforts to put together a comprehensive energy bill that would seek to limit greenhouse gas emissions, delivering a potentially fatal blow to a proposal Democrats have long touted and President Obama campaigned on.

Instead, Democrats will push for a more limited bill that would seek to increase liability costs that oil companies would pay following spills such as the one in the Gulf of Mexico and would create additional incentives for the development of natural gas vehicles and provide rebates to people who buy products that reduce home energy use. They did not release details of the proposal, but Senate Democrats said they expected to find GOP support and pass it in the next two weeks.

They shouldn’t bother with any of it.

The simple truth is that the key to reduce carbon dioxide emissions is to reduce Americans’ standard of living (smaller housing, smaller cars, fewer kilometres driven, less consumption, etc.)  It’s that simple.  It’s disingenuous for liberals to tell you otherwise.

Fortunately for them (if not for us,) all of this is being achieved with the current regime’s tax and economic policies: the ineffectual stimulus, the sluggish economy, rising taxes, health care reform, and the new proliferation of regulatory restrictions on business (including but not limited to the EPA’s classification of carbon monoxide as a regulatable pollutant) guarantee that meaningful economic growth is a mirage and will be for some time to come.  That will cut down on energy consumption.

A simpler strategy for Barack Obama would have been to trash the economy and let the rest take care of itself, instead of putting his Democrat majority in harm’s way with another controversial legislative package.  It will also solve the immigration impasse too, as a country which can’t meaningfully create jobs won’t be a magnet for people sneaking across the border (barring complete collapse in Mexico.)

It’s just amazing how simple things become when we look at them objectively.  Now if Obama could get past national insolvency and the loss of Congress, he would be in great shape.

The Digital Age Underscores the Need for Grace

As the New York Times observes, in the digital world it’s the end of forgetting, and in the midst of this Jeffrey Rosen draws from the Jewish world:

In addition to exposing less for the Web to forget, it might be helpful for us to explore new ways of living in a world that is slow to forgive. It’s sobering, now that we live in a world misleadingly called a “global village,” to think about privacy in actual, small villages long ago. In the villages described in the Babylonian Talmud, for example, any kind of gossip or tale-bearing about other people — oral or written, true or false, friendly or mean — was considered a terrible sin because small communities have long memories and every word spoken about other people was thought to ascend to the heavenly cloud. (The digital cloud has made this metaphor literal.) But the Talmudic villages were, in fact, far more humane and forgiving than our brutal global village, where much of the content on the Internet would meet the Talmudic definition of gossip: although the Talmudic sages believed that God reads our thoughts and records them in the book of life, they also believed that God erases the book for those who atone for their sins by asking forgiveness of those they have wronged. In the Talmud, people have an obligation not to remind others of their past misdeeds, on the assumption they may have atoned and grown spiritually from their mistakes. “If a man was a repentant [sinner],” the Talmud says, “one must not say to him, ‘Remember your former deeds.’ ”

Unlike God, however, the digital cloud rarely wipes our slates clean, and the keepers of the cloud today are sometimes less forgiving than their all-powerful divine predecessor. In an interview with Charlie Rose on PBS, Eric Schmidt, the C.E.O. of Google, said that “the next generation is infinitely more social online” — and less private — “as evidenced by their Facebook pictures,” which “will be around when they’re running for president years from now.” Schmidt added: “As long as the answer is that I chose to make a mess of myself with this picture, then it’s fine. The issue is when somebody else does it.” If people chose to expose themselves for 15 minutes of fame, Schmidt says, “that’s their choice, and they have to live with it.”

I think it’s fair to say that God will be around long after our digital cloud is gone.  But much of the problem here is that we are trying to force people into a perfect construct, something that human beings are simply not built for.  And that problem is going to get worse as we not only compete with each other for jobs and advancement but also with digital intelligence.

Christians know but don’t always understand that we are saved by grace, which we define as God’s unmerited favour.  The imperfections screamed out in cyberspace–be they by ourselves or others–underscore “unmerited.”  The reason why Jesus Christ came to give us eternal life by his work and not ours is because we could not meet God’s standard of perfection, and the problems people face by stuff getting out on the Internet only underscores our need for grace from God, who has by his own Son furnished the means to obtain it.

The Chattanooga Times-Free Press Endorses Art Rhodes for Congress

A welcome endorsement in a race (TN-3) where the perception has gone with the big mouths:

Candidate Art Rhodes, of Cleveland, the CEO of a pension plan with $250 million in assets, also wants to control “runaway spending,” but he has a far better sense of how to grapple with the issue and how it has developed. He served for 10 years as chief of staff for U.S. Rep. Mike Parker, R-Miss., until he left Washington in 1998. He expresses disappointment in both parties, but he at least is honest enough to acknowledge what he calls “the utter failure” of fiscal discipline by George W. Bush and Republicans in Mr. Bush’s second term.

His breakdown of the current $3.8 trillion federal budget suggests that mandatory spending (mainly on entitlements and debt service) will rise from the current 60 percent of the budget, to 80 percent in 10 years, and 100 percent in 20 years. But given the uncertainty of ordinary investment returns, he does not advocate privatizing Social Security. He has more informed views than any other Republican candidate in the race on everything from financial reform to excessive partisanship to the IRS tax code.

Mr. Rhodes is clearly conservative, but he articulates a rational reason for every position he takes. He also recognizes the need to find more consensus about what the country needs, rather than the political parties.

He wisely says that the problem with most people in Congress is that they think it’s “the best job they ever had, so they’ll do anything to keep it.” For himself, he says, “it would be the highest honor, but not the best job I’ve ever had.” His goal would be to do something good to deserve the honor. That’s the sort of sensible approach that makes him the best candidate in the Republican field.

He is the only candidate with real, live Washington experience.  Although many will consider that a disadvantage, those who do not understand Washington’s ways will ultimately be rolled by them, as we have found out the hard way time and time again.

Note to Damian Thompson: Lay Off the Old Album Covers

He couldn’t resist the dig for the artwork being used for the Pope’s upcoming visit to the UK:

I swear, the Catholic Church in this country is incapable of designing anything that doesn’t feature Pentecostal flames that look as if they’ve been copied from a 30-year-old album cover. I’m sure the Holy Father will be too polite to wince visibly when he sees those banners – but, seriously, you don’t have to be infallible to work out that the Bishops of England and Wales (and Scotland, too, alas) have no aesthetic judgement whatsoever.

Those are fighting words for those of us who are fans of the “Jesus Music” era.  If you want to see the original covers and hear the music for yourself, visit The Ancient Star Song or Heavenly Grooves (and, yes, they feature music from both the RCC, the UK or both.)  I’ll admit some are better than others (music and covers,) but perhaps there’s a fan of one or both of these sites in the RCC’s UK bureaucracy, who just happened to think, “That cover would be perfect…”

Next step would be to download and play some of the music in the street while His Holiness is there, but that’s a stretch…

It's Back to the Old Dirt Road

It’s amazing, but some places are allowing their paved roads to revert to gravel ones:

Paved roads, historical emblems of American achievement, are being torn up across rural America and replaced with gravel or other rough surfaces as counties struggle with tight budgets and dwindling state and federal revenue. State money for local roads was cut in many places amid budget shortfalls.

In Michigan, at least 38 of the 83 counties have converted some asphalt roads to gravel in recent years. Last year, South Dakota turned at least 100 miles of asphalt road surfaces to gravel. Counties in Alabama and Pennsylvania have begun downgrading asphalt roads to cheaper chip-and-seal road, also known as “poor man’s pavement.” Some counties in Ohio are simply letting roads erode to gravel.

Growing up, my mother would take us to see her parents in central Arkansas.  After her father retired from the railroad (yes, leftists, he was a union man) they moved out to a house on a lake.  When we first started going there, once we left the main highway (which ran towards Hot Springs, where Bill Clinton grew up) we were on gravel roads until we got to the house.  The progress we saw was the progressive extension of the paved road until it reached their house.

Now we see the reverse taking place.  It’s hard on the windscreen and paint, but perhaps a new generation will get the experience of bouncing down a gravel road, going slowly to avoid kicking up the rocks.  (My mother used to navigate it in her 1958 Cadillac, but the experience just wasn’t the same…)  Don’t forget to roll the windows down for the entire experience: it saves on fuel and CO2 emissions, too.

Donald Trump Doesn't Want to be a Part of Flyover Country

And he’ll sue to stop it, too:

Donald Trump is going after the county over its operation of Palm Beach International Airport and any expansion of the airport, which is located less than 3 miles west of the Mar-a-Lago Club.

The suit also names airport director Bruce Pelly.

The 68-page document, filed Monday, claims jets flying directly over Trump’s private club create undue and unnecessary noise at the historic mansion. It also maintains jet emissions damage the exterior of the former home of Marjorie Merriweather Post.

Trump, through his attorney James Beasley Jr., is asking the court for a permanent injunction against what he describes as a “public nuisance.”

He is seeking several remedies, including a ban on flights over or near Mar-a-Lago now and in the future.

Now how many of you who live near an airport could sue single-handedly and get anywhere?

Poor White People and Élite Universities: Beating the Dog in the Water

This from, of all places, the New York Times, and Ross Douthat:

Last year, two Princeton sociologists, Thomas Espenshade and Alexandria Walton Radford, published a book-length study of admissions and affirmative action at eight highly selective colleges and universities. Unsurprisingly, they found that the admissions process seemed to favor black and Hispanic applicants, while whites and Asians needed higher grades and SAT scores to get in. But what was striking, as Russell K. Nieli pointed out last week on the conservative Web site Minding the Campus, was which whites were most disadvantaged by the process: the downscale, the rural and the working-class.

This was particularly pronounced among the private colleges in the study. For minority applicants, the lower a family’s socioeconomic position, the more likely the student was to be admitted. For whites, though, it was the reverse. An upper-middle-class white applicant was three times more likely to be admitted than a lower-class white with similar qualifications…

This provides statistical confirmation for what alumni of highly selective universities already know. The most underrepresented groups on elite campuses often aren’t racial minorities; they’re working-class whites (and white Christians in particular) from conservative states and regions. Inevitably, the same underrepresentation persists in the elite professional ranks these campuses feed into: in law and philanthropy, finance and academia, the media and the arts.

This breeds paranoia, among elite and non-elites alike. Among the white working class, increasingly the most reliable Republican constituency, alienation from the American meritocracy fuels the kind of racially tinged conspiracy theories that Beck and others have exploited — that Barack Obama is a foreign-born Marxist hand-picked by a shadowy liberal cabal, that a Wall Street-Washington axis wants to flood the country with third world immigrants, and so forth.

It’s no secret that the road out of provincial ignominy runs through select universities.  To bar people from these places, intentionally or otherwise, in a society where people can see how the other half lives as easily as can be done in ours, is to invite resentment and blowback.  IMHO, it’s taken too long for the Evangelical community to figure this out.  But figure it out they have.

The left can continue to demonise and marginalise these people all they want, but ultimately to hold power they have only two choices.  The first is to cut a deal, and part of that deal would be to reshuffle the admissions process.  (A better deal would be to cut out this “Ivy League or Bust” régime we have in this country, but I digress…)  The second is to mercilessly beat this group down, whether in the court of public opinion or by the long arm of the law (“beat the dog in the water,” as V.I. Lenin used to say.)

The weakness with the second plan is that lower middle class white people, under-represented in the élite universities, are overrepresented in two places which make the difference at crunch time: law enforcement and the military.  That’s why the left continues to live in fear and disgorge the rhetoric they do to go with it.  (It also explains the fanatical effort to do away with DADT.)

HT to Live the Trinity.