Proroguing Congress: From Unconstitutional to Funny

Well, that’s the way it is in North Carolina, at least:

“I think we ought to suspend, perhaps, elections for Congress for two years and just tell them we won’t hold it against them, whatever decisions they make, to just let them help this country recover. I really hope that someone can agree with me on that,” Perdue said. “You want people who don’t worry about the next election.”

The comment — which came during a discussion of the economy — perked more than a few ears. It’s unclear whether Perdue, a Democrat, is serious — but her tone was level and she asked others to support her on the idea.  (Read her full remarks below.)

Evidently they read my blog over the mountain:

Barack Obama is, in some ways, in same position as Charles I of England was in 1629: from his view, he would be better off if he could send Congress home for the duration…We are headed to a major “constitutional” crisis.  Coming to an agreement on this only puts it off, but come it will.

But the U.S. Constitution (that pesky document) makes such a move difficult. Article 2, Section 3 states that the President “…in Case of Disagreement between them, with Respect to the Time of Adjournment, he may adjourn them to such Time as he shall think proper…”  So he can only give congress the boot in the case when they can’t agree on a time to adjourn.   As I noted, this was in response to Charles I’s difficulties.  And actually Governor Perdue is calling for something more serious than proroguing: she’s thinking about skipping an election!

We see now that the left’s enamourment with democratic process is wearing thin with their inability to control the results.  We are a step (or several, now we have Peter Orszag’s comment) when someone will get the nerve to act on their convictions.

Joe Biden Reaches Out to the Rabbis

Yes, he does:

Biden told the group of rabbis that he’s had disagreements with President Barack Obama over some of the language that he uses regarding Israel, said Klein, a Democrat who represented Congressional District 22, which includes Palm Beach.

“I will defend, down to my last breath that this administration has one of the strongest relationships in history with the Israeli government and that includes the highest level of military cooperation, intelligence gathering and sharing,” Klein said.

Klein, of course, was defeated by Allen West in the 2010 elections.

The loss of Anthony Weiner’s seat has finally driven home the point that the Obama Administration cannot go on playing both sides of the street re Israel and expect the Jewish vote to be a given.  So he sends Biden to South Florida to try to shore things up.

The general consensus in the upper reaches of our society (and this has been the case in Europe for much longer) is that Israel is an inconvenience that needs to be minimised (and disposed of, if necessary) in order to keep things on an “even keel.”  The sooner the Jewish community figures out they’re in the cross hairs as much as their fellow children of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob in Tel Aviv and Jerusalem, the better.

Obama and the Jobs Bill: It's More Than Just Feeding Lambs

NPR picked up on the origin of Barack Obama’s appeal “if you love me, you got to help me pass this bill.:

But that doesn’t mean there still isn’t the occasional moment reminiscent of a Bible story…Here’s John 21:15, the New International Version, describing a scene between Jesus and his disciples:

When they had finished eating, Jesus said to Simon Peter,”Simon son of John, do you love me more than these?”

“Yes, Lord,” he said, “you know that I love you.”

Jesus said, “Feed my lambs.”

The connection between Obama’s words and Jesus’ in John’s gospel struck me, too, but I had a different verse in mind:

It is he who has my commands and lays them to heart that loves me; and he who loves me will be loved by my Father, and I will love him, and will reveal myself to him.”” John 14:21, TCNT.

And of course we all know the following:

“And Samuel said, Hath the LORD as great delight in burnt offerings and sacrifices, as in obeying the voice of the LORD? Behold, to obey is better than sacrifice, and to hearken than the fat of rams.” 1 Samuel 15:22, KJV.

But let’s don’t forget this:

“Who so opposes himself to every one that is spoken of as a God or as an object of worship, and so exalts himself above them, that he seats himself in the Temple of God, and displays himself as God!” 2 Thessalonians 2:4, TCNT.

I guess that Barack Obama did run for “Dominus et Deus” after all.

Pat Robertson Isn't Correct on Divorce and Alzheimers

Not this time:

Pat Robertson advised a viewer of yesterday’s 700 Club to avoid putting a “guilt trip” on those who want to divorce a spouse with Alzheimer’s. During the show’s advice segment, a viewer asked Robertson how she should address a friend who was dating another woman “because his wife as he knows her is gone.” Robertson said he would not fault anyone for doing this. He then went further by saying it would be understandable to divorce a spouse with the disease.

The promises Christians make when they married are enshrined in the 1662 (and subsequent) Book of Common Prayer:

…to have and to hold from this day forward, for better for worse, for richer for poorer, in sickness and in health, to love and to cherish, till death us do part…

Jesus’ foundation for Christian marriage went back to the Creation, not just to the law of Moses, which is why divorce at will went out, to say nothing of this.  Alzheimer’s is surely a living death (and it’s odd that we can extend life the way we have and still not beat this thing) but it’s still living.

Although most Protestants wouldn’t make the analogy, this kind of pronouncement reminds me of the casuistry and the morale accomodante of the reverends pères Jesuites that Blaise Pascal so hilariously attacked in his Provincial Letters.  The Jesuits were attempting to meet the mores of their time (such as allowing people to kill for their honour in a duel) and thus make the faith more “relevant” to their times.  But it didn’t work than and it won’t work now.

Will it, Episcopalians?

As an aside, I read the Provincial Letters in the late 1980’s.  That, and the whole business of how the Jesuits, the Crown and ultimately the Church colluded in the suppression of the Jansenists, put paid to any desire to return to Roman Catholicism.

Even Those at the Top Know We Have a Poverty Problem

Well, in Palm Beach, at least:

Wander along Worth Avenue, Rodeo Drive or Fifth Avenue and you’d be hard-pressed to even think America has a soaring poverty rate. But it does.

Whether high-enders want to acknowledge it or not our poverty rate has been climbing for the past few years, according to the Census Bureau. Figures just published show that in 2010 the poverty rate hit 15.1 percent. That’s the highest rate since 1993 and up from 14.3 percent a year earlier (2009). Since 2007, the rate has moved from 12.5 percent to the most recent 2010 figures.

That 2010 rate of 15.1 percentage means 46.2 million people are living in poverty and represents the largest number of people since the rate began being published 52 years ago.

And the reason?

If I were a blaming person and wanted to point my figure at only one group to blame our growing poverty rate and stagnant wage levels on, I’d have to begin with corporate America. Typically guys and gals at the upper-middle and top levels haven’t had to deal with stagnant wages.

I’ll throw in something else for consideration:  all of the left whines about the Tea Party.  But the corporate types, by and large, don’t make up the Tea Party.  Small business people do, as do working stiffs.  It is in reality a revolution without the collectivistic vanguardism (how about that to hurl at the academic deconstructors) the left likes to see.

I’ll be the first one to admit that much of my worldview was heavily influenced by my years in Palm Beach.  But getting out to see “how the other half lives” (especially in my years in the Church of God) has been an eye-opener.  It’s one I wish some of my fellow elitist snobs could experience, our country would be a better place.

A Gator Fan Comes Back From the Dead

About three years ago, I featured a video from my church about the healing of Meredith Vining Parker, one of the most amazing miracles I have ever known about, certainly relating to someone my wife and I know very well.

Now it’s featured on the 700 Club:

One side note: Meredith and her sisters are three of the most die-hard Florida Gator fans I have ever known (or fans of any team for that matter.)  I always kid Meredith that, after her own return from death, the Gators won the National Championship in football.

Or is it just amusing…Tim Tebow isn’t the only miracle connected with the University of Florida.  God is good.  This testimony is awesome.

Month of Sundays: Worth

This is what the LORD says: Don’t let wise people brag about their wisdom. Don’t let strong people brag about their strength. Don’t let rich people brag about their riches. If they want to brag, they should brag that they understand and know me. They should brag that I, the LORD, act out of love, righteousness, and justice on the earth. This kind of bragging pleases me, declares the LORD. (Jeremiah 9:23-24)

College preparatory schools rise and fall on the strength of where their graduates attend university. That’s especially important for those just starting, or with no endowment to carry them through. In the case of the school I went to, both were the case. So they were very pleased when a good number in my class were admitted to Ivy League schools such as Harvard, Brown, and Cornell.

Somehow I didn’t get the memo on this. For a variety of reasons, I went elsewhere. When this got out, I found myself in trouble with faculty and classmate alike. That trouble went right up to the day we graduated.

Many years later, I went to a class reunion, and shared this with our class valedictorian, a very intelligent mental heath practitioner who is also Jewish. She was appalled at this; she expressed the sentiment that it’s not what school you went to, it’s the kind of person you are.

Today we have a governing establishment that is loaded to the gunwales with graduates from the “right” schools. But they were unable to prevent the crash of 2008. Our country and our world are well endowed with people of “proper” credentials, who have lots of power and money. But the moral level of our society should tell us that what we’re short of is people of integrity. That’s where real worth lies, and that’s where the real poverty is.

True knowledge of God will lead to real integrity and personal worth. Those who know God will want to imitate him in acting “out of love, righteousness, and justice.” If your walk with God isn’t leading you there, you may be going in the wrong direction. But he is ready and willing to set you on the right path.

Why I Struggle Writing About 9/11

This coming Sunday, of course, is the tenth anniversary of al-Qaeda’s attack on the World Trade Centre and the Pentagon.  Most of the blogosphere (to say nothing of the press, mainstream and otherwise) will fill up a great deal of space dealing with the subject.  When approaching the date, I figured I’d join in the chorus (?).

Unfortunately I find myself unable to do so, not at least as definitively as one would like.

Like most Americans, I was deeply shaken by the attacks, and went into something of a funk for several months thereafter.  (That funk was doubtless driven also by the fact that my mother had died the previous December.)  But it was two things subsequent to that that have only driven the whole event further into my consciousness.

The first was my work as the webmaster for the Church of God Chaplains Commission.  Its director at the time, Dr. Robert Crick, commissioned me to do a Powerpoint presentation with music for their Honours Banquet at the 2002 Church of God General Assembly.  Chaplains–military, police and the like–are right there with the first responders, and I had access to some very immediate material.  Some of that is grisly, especially the photos of the burning towers with people hanging out the windows, some hurtling to their deaths below.  (One Church of God chaplain was in the Pentagon when the plane hit there.)  I left out the worst for the presentation, but watching the photos with the raw memory not even a year past brought tears to much of the audience at the banquet.  I thought of putting up some of that material but I could not bring myself to depict people who came into the WTC on a beautiful day and suddenly found themselves with the clock of life running out so quickly.  Maybe I am too soft-hearted for this line of work.  (The subsequent military operations brought hundreds of photos from the field, which became a part of more similar presentations.)

The second was the discovery that I not only had relatives in the greater New York area, but one who was on Manhattan when the planes struck.  New York remains the target par excellence for Islamic careerists of all stripes; the thought of that continuing threat to people I really care about isn’t very settling.  Especially before 9/11, for many in the South and South-west New York was the place where investments/savings went into and the bad salsa came out of.   (For South Floridians, it’s the traditional source of most people who live there, and that has interesting aspects of its own.)

In the wake of 9/11 there was created a new sense of unity in this country.  That unity was all too fleeting, indeed.  A great deal of web space has been devoted to whether our response was appropriate or not, but the question remains: what would have been better, especially with Afghanistan?  In a broad sense, 9/11 and the subsequent events reveal two major strategic blunders on the part of both sides.

Osama bin Laden, schooled in the ways of the Middle East, was convinced that such an attack would bring out the power challengers (Al Gore?) in a divided country, who would at least wound the country to the point where it would pull its military presence out of Saudi Arabia, bin Laden’s immediate objective.  But just the opposite happened: the country unified, driving bin Laden into hiding for a decade until he was finally taken out earlier this year.

George W. Bush, schooled in the simplistic civics of the United States, thought of democracy in the Middle East inspired/imposed by the U.S. military.  That led to our unsatisfactory result in both Iraq and Afghanistan, to say nothing of the trashing of his own political party (until his opponents stumbled in the recession.)

The irony of all of this, ten years out, is that the objectives of both may actually come to pass.

The “Arab Spring” has shown that popular forces can make a difference in the Middle East.  Translating that into a stable, rule of law representative government is going to be a long, difficult process, and the most probable short-term road for the Middle East is the same one the Iranians did (Islamicism.)  It will not be a pretty process and it won’t go in the straight line that our self-conceited punditry might like it to.  The experience of the French and the Russians should teach us that people without a democratic tradition cannot turn themselves into “standard issue” Western style democracies overnight.  For Americans, where the long term is after lunch, that’s a hard pill to swallow.

In our own case, we are a country where too many of our citizens have become existential threats to others, in most cases in a mutual way.  In the Old West, when the two wasn’t big enough for two men, there was a gunfight, and one or both got shot.  Driven by our lacklustre economy, sooner or later–and I think sooner–something is going to snap in this country, and we will have a complete mess on our hands.

The core problem with 9/11 is that, bin Laden’s death notwithstanding, there is so little closure to the problems, domestic and foreign, that faced us then and in its aftermath.  At this point we best remember those who perished and pray for those who remain.  There’s not much else that most of us can do.

The Perils of Any "Renewal Movement" Staying in an Established Church

John Richarson, the Ugley Vicar, has his doubts about the course of Anglican Evangelicalism after the “Keele” commitment to stay within in the Church of England:

When I was a young trainee clergyman (just six years on from Keele), the phrase going round was that we were ‘in it to win it’. In other words, our commitment to the Church of England was on the basis that we expected to change it — we expected it to become more evangelical. But more than that, we wanted it to be not just ‘the best boat to fish from’ but a better boat doing more fishing.

So is it?

My own answer would be ‘no’. It is not a worse boat, but it is not a better boat. More importantly, there is no greater commitment to actual fishing now than there was then. Yes, we have ‘Fresh Expressions’ — but doesn’t that say that the old expressions are a bit stale? And we have ‘Back to Church Sunday’, but then we fill our churches at Christmas anyway.

In bringing this subject up Richardson is tackling one of the most difficult issues that a church with a long history faces: is it possible to “renew” the system from within?

Evangelicals, in the Church of England or elsewhere, don’t usually consider themselves a “renewal” movement.  The word Evangelical denotes something they do–evangelise–rather than something they are.  Bring evangelism into the church, they say, and the church will grow.

But Christianity is a religion where doing and being cannot be so easily separated.  A church committed to evangelising the world around it must first be inwardly renewed.  To do otherwise turns church into a numbers game, and American Evangelicalism always wrestles with this danger.  Evangelicals must face the fact that, to get a church focused outwardly it is necessary to change the inward nature of the church, and that’s where the tricky part comes in.

When one considers “established” churches–and by that I’m referring to both those established by law (the CoE) and those with long history in the society (“Main Line” churches, and the RCC for that matter)–one realises early that the general style of mind in these churches is that the church is more of a cultural phenomenon rather than the called out followers of Jesus Christ.  Much of the resistance one experiences comes from getting the church to see itself in a different light.  To do so requires either those in authority in the church change their idea or are set out of the way.  That’s not an easy task.  Generally speaking those who engage a church to effect the change either are worn down by institutional inertia or simply leave for more receptive places.  The classic example of this is Methodism.  John Wesley never intended for his movement to leave the Church of England, but by the time of his death that’s exactly what his followers were doing.

Modern Pentecost didn’t take as long as Methodism to find its way to the door of existing denominations, but within the same century there were those who were attempting to do what classical Pentecostals said could not be done: experience the Christianity of Acts in established churches.  The result was, to say the least, an uneven experience, not without some successes (the Anglican Revolt in the U.S. is one of them, indirectly at least) but one which benefited classical Pentecostal and independent Charismatic churches more than just about anyone else with those who ended up voting with their feet.

So what’s missing from renewing a church from within?  The biggest missing human element is unqualified support of the leadership.   Without that any movement from within is doomed from the start.  And I’m not aware of a church with that kind of support from the top for any kind of renewal movement.  Liberals seem to have more success in changing churches from the top, but the change isn’t for the better in any respect.  The rest of us just have to move on and start over again, able to work with new institutions but always being accused of adding to the institutional fragmentation of Christianity.

I admire the Evangelicals in the Church of England for trying to bring new life into their church.  But they’ve committed themselves to the steepest uphill climb Christianity has to offer.

They Don't Call Them "Main Line" Churches for Nothing

It’s got the liberal Episcopal blog The Lead scratching its head:

There was news last month that contrary to most people’s expectation, the more educated an American is, the more likely that person is to attend church regularly. So why are the mainstream churches in the U.S. losing membership across the board? Apparently it’s because the working class Americans are less and less likely to be found in congregations.

I find it amusing that Episcopalians are bothered by this.  This is the church, mind you, that built its post-World War II growth on making it the place for those at or moving to the top to be on Sunday morning.  Now I know that they in no small measure wrecked this in the 1970’s when their underpaid clergy (underpaid relative to their congregations’ per capita income) made social justice (their own?) a big issue, making those who just arrived (in every sense of the word, including the Palm Beach one) wonder why they joined up.  But it was their idea that, if they made social justice their centrepiece, those who were the intended recipients of all of this justice would come to the church that brought it.

It hasn’t happened that way; in fact, we’re now seeing the opposite.  The receding tide of Christianity in the U.S. is largely a “Main Line” phenomenon; for all of the publicity of “ex-fundies” (who usually go on to be fundies about something else) it’s the Main Line churches who have suffered the largest losses.  And many of those losses are with working class people.

Having spent over a quarter century in a church which specialises in working class people of all ethnicities–and half of that in its employ–I can tell you that, to be successful “across the lake” (another Palm Beach analogy) it takes an entirely different approach, because you’re dealing with people who look at life in an entirely different way.  As the U.S. becomes more and more a stratified society by class, that kind of outreach becomes more difficult, especially when it’s time for “those people” to take their place in the leadership of the church.  As The Lead and others in the “Main Line” (in the Philadelphia sense) church world wonder “what the Church needs to do better to be able reach them,” they would do well to pitch trendy social theories and get into the daily reality–a reality far better depicted in the Scriptures than any progressive theory–of those who have less in this world.