Achor and Friends: Hosanna to the Son of David

Dove 54 (1978)

Achor, the North London group which put together these albums, got some friends together and did yet another one.  The music is very much in the tradition of the previous albums: good, straightforward Christian folk with an emphasis on songs taken directly from the Scriptures.  And the benefits of that (esp. with Scripture memorisation) cannot be underestimated, especially since that practice of the “Jesus Music” era (it appeared on both Protestant and Catholic albums) has sadly gone out of fashion.

The singers:

  • Alice Charles
  • Mavis Ford
  • Sue Martin
  • Claire White
  • Irene Wilkie
  • Ann Woodroffe
  • David Bolton
  • Chris Head
  • Brook Trickett
  • John White
  • Alan Woodroffe

The musicians:

  • Mavis Ford: electric piano, string synthesiser
  • David Bolton: acoustic guitar
  • Mark Ford: drums
  • David Gillard: acoustic & electric guitar; pedal steel guitar
  • Chris Head: acoustic & bass guitar; percussion; electric piano; string synthesiser
  • Frank Jeffrey: electric piano; string synthesiser
  • Paul Mitchell: viola
  • Producer: Chris Head
  • Arrangements by Chris Head & Mavis Ford
  • Engineer: Brook Trickett
  • Recorded at Soundree Studios, Biggin Hill
  • Sleeve Design: Gerry Copas

My thanks to Rob for furnishing this music, and to all the Achor artists for their kind comments and support of my earlier postings.

Download Hosanna to the Son of David

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Another Democrat War in the Making

Back in 1976, when Bob Dole was running for Vice President, during his debate with Walter Mondale he made the following statement:

I figured it up the other day: If we added up the killed and wounded in Democrat wars in this century, it would be about 1.6 million Americans — enough to fill the city of Detroit.

It didn’t do him any good, although it’s debatable it did him any harm either.  He and Gerald Ford, running as Republicans in the wake of Watergate, had a thankless job, although many people came to regret the outcome of that election.

Dole had good standing to make that remark: he was badly wounded in World War II, and Richard Nixon, demonised as he was, had ended the Vietnam War.  Today, however, we have a President, whose snooping has far exceeded anything Richard Nixon did, about to put us in another “Democrat war,” this time in Syria.  The Syrians have supposedly crossed a “red line” with chemical weapons, and American moral outrage always demands someone’s blood somewhere or another.

There’s not much support among the American people for this kind of adventure; in fact, I think it’s safe to say that the stomach of the American people for interventionism is the lowest it has been in my lifetime, and this in our supremely connected world.  But our inept leadership (and that includes Republicans such as John McCain and Lindsey Graham) cannot resist another intervention to confirm our moral superiority when in fact each intervention erodes it.

Problem #1 here is simple: the last decade plus has demonstrated that our entire political caste, divided as it is, is united in its supreme ignorance of the Middle East.  They don’t understand the chronic careerism, the shame-honour dynamic, the power holder/power challenger dynamic, the money favouring.  It’s not that we don’t have those here; indeed they’ve gotten worse in recent times.  It’s just that they are blinded by their inability to understand anyone who is unlike them, all the education and travel notwithstanding.

With George Bush, we had the siren call of “democracy in the Middle East” and that didn’t work out.  With Barack Obama, we have the ideal of a rapprochement with Islam, which is made more meaningful if Islam is the hegemon in the Middle East, and specifically the Muslim Brotherhood and their allies.  That went up in smoke in Egypt, where, as Mohammed el-Baradei put it, you can’t eat Sharia.

You’d think that a man who courted the anti-war crowed the way Barack Obama did would just pull out and stay out.  He allowed his European “allies” to rope him into what was frankly a colonialist attack on Libya, the real intent concealed by the “Arab Spring”.  The blowback from that–the attack on the consulate in Benghazi–still dogs him.  (Personally I think what he is covering up is the fact that those who attacked the consulate were being furnished arms by the US for an attack on Syria, but it makes people angry to think about it).

And that leads us to Syria.  There is no good outcome here.  Assad stays, the Sunni majority suffers.  Assad goes, the Christian, Alawi and Druze minorities suffer, along probably with the Shi’a Muslims.  It’s a slaughterhouse any way you slice it.  There’s no moral high ground here.  Our government is attempting to find it in the use of chemical weapons.  But who used them?  Where is the evidence?  Was this a set-up?  Are our people in Washington too stupid to know if it is?

As for a Christian response, beyond our usual prayers and succour for the victims of this mess (and both are in progress), it’s yet another good time to encourage an exit of the followers of Christ from the military.  I’ve discussed this recently and won’t belabour the point, but the truth is that our military has been made into a mercenary tool of our feckless elites, not the general defenders of our liberty.  They ought to revert to the name “Department of War”; it’s a more honest title these days.  I know that many have sacrificed, but we must face present reality before it consumes us.

Justin Welby’s “Drunk Man” Needs to Sober Up. So Does Justin Welby.

It may come as a surprise to some of my Anglican friends, but I actually made one attempt to formally return to the Episcopal Church.  That took place about thirty-five years ago.  I attended and moved my membership to a small Episcopal church.  One Sunday the selection from the Psalter was Psalm 69, which includes the following:

Those who sit at the gate gossip about me, and drunkards make up songs about me. (Psalms 69:12 GW)

In the homily, the rector thought the idea of drunkards making songs about someone was silly.  Having come from a family where alcoholism was frequent and dislike of my spiritual inclinations equally frequent, I knew otherwise, although putting their sentiments to music was beyond their talent set.  (They preferred letters and sharp-tongued speech).  This and other strange unrealities about the rector and his church led me to seek pastures elsewhere.

Today the newly minted Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, sits atop of what he thinks is a “drunk man”:

“I sometimes worry that as Anglicans we are drifting back in that direction,” he said. “Not consciously, of course, but in an unconscious way that is more dangerous. Like a drunk man walking near the edge of a cliff, we trip and totter and slip and wander, ever nearer to the edge of the precipice.

“It is a dangerous place, a narrow path we walk as Anglicans at present.

“On one side is the steep fall into an absence of any core beliefs, a chasm where we lose touch with God, and thus we rely only on ourselves and our own message. On the other side there is a vast fall into a ravine of intolerance and cruel exclusion. It is for those who claim all truth, and exclude any who question.”

Jokes aside about Anglicans and drinking going together, like my last rector Welby needs a reality check on several levels.

Let’s start with his dichotomy.  As a businessperson Welby is well familiar with people who self-reliance is a religion to them.  But that’s not what generally goes on at the “reappraiser” side these days; what the church is really competing with is reliance on the State as opposed to God.  That reliance is expressed in several ways, from the vastness of the dole to the proliferation of thought control expressed as anti-discrimination legislation.  It’s the latter that’s got the CoE in such a pickle these days about same-sex civil marriage.

On the other side are those “many small churches” which supposedly embody the narrow-minded thinking Welby decries.  That may have some traction in the CoE itself (and then again maybe not; conservative churches have always done better on both sides of the Atlantic, which is why TEC is so zealous in fighting for the property) but looking at the Anglican Communion as a whole it’s ridiculous.  Both the numbers and the poverty of the membership–and if you can’t endure the idea of being in a church with the poor, you can’t really make a fuss about helping them–are with the very conservative churches.

Welby’s response to date has been what any good businessman would do: he’s trying to induce the two sides to cut a deal, not only with each other but with the state which is breathing down his neck.  Rowan Williams tried to gum the two sides into doing the same thing, although to his credit Williams didn’t seem to have as much zeal to please his masters in Whitehall as Welby does.  But that too won’t work.

What you’ve got here are two sides whose differences are irreconcilable.  On the one hand the Christian sexual ethic is a part of the package, whether anyone likes it or not.  Trying to edge it with “beauty pageant Christianity” the way Evangelicals have tried to do will only make the situation worse.  Also trying to paper over things by extolling the virtues of committed relationships won’t help either, as Deborah Pitt attempted to explain to Welby’s predecessor.  Both of these have helped as much as anything to deepen the mess that Western Christianity is in these days.

On the other hand you have the LGBT people, whose well-financed take-no-prisoners strategy has made a successful end run around human rights enshrined in the Anglophone world at least for centuries, and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.  They’re the ones with the least incentive to cut a deal, and they know it.

Welby’s strategy (such as it is) is a loser.  If anyone needs to “sober up” here, it’s Welby.  He needs to either do it God’s way or become the pliant servant of a secularly minded state bought and paid for by well-moneyed and powerful interests.  If he chooses the latter, though, he may need some asbestos underwear on the other side.

If not, he can continue in Psalm 69:

May my prayer come to you at an acceptable time, O LORD. O God, out of the greatness of your mercy, answer me with the truth of your salvation. (Psalms 69:13 GW)

The Filioque and the “Field Hands”

Last year this blog featured Frederick Gere and Milton Williams’ The Winds of God, which was one of the earliest Episcopal “folk Masses” produced.  Attempting to break out of the traditional Episcopal mould of music, the folk Mass featured several types of music.  One of them was the Nicene Creed, where choir director Milton Williams sang it antiphonally with the choir responding.

Antiphonal music isn’t a novelty in the Anglican world, but the style is.  Rather than drawing from the English tradition, Williams turned to an African-American style.  It had its roots in slavery and agricultural work; the rhythmic music helped to ease the hard tedium of working in the fields in the hot South.  It appears in compositions such as Scott Joplin’s Treemonisha (which I highly recommend you see if you get the chance).

The “field hands” Williams had to work with were the youth of St. Paul’s Episcopal Church in Burlingame, CA.  Although the result is quite charming, I’m sure that Williams got a good laugh at the business of having a largely white, middle class choir singing in a style which had been (and probably still was at the time) sung by poor black people picking cotton.

And, of course, the Nicene Creed sung included the “filoque” clause, which has created such a headache these days in the Anglican-Episcopal world.

It’s been a long time since this was recorded, but some more contemporary observations are in order.

The first is a question: how many of these fine Episcopal youth “stayed on the plantation” after the convulsions of the 1960’s and 1970’s turned into the church’s first major shedding of membership?

The second is that, during the second shedding of membership, the orthodox African provinces came and helped give cover to the “Anglican Revolt”.  The Africans also found out that some of the “field hands” they took on weren’t as amenable to oversight as expected, which only shows that some people are better at dishing it out than taking it.

Rowan Williams’ Dismissial of Western Christians’ Persecution is Premature

The man who couldn’t stay ahead of the realities of the Anglican Communion is a little behind the curve on this one too:

Lord Williams said religious believers should be wary of complaining about their treatment in the Western world, with those claiming they are “persecuted” making him “very uneasy”.

He added the level of “not being taken very seriously” or “being made fun of” in Britain and the United States is not comparable to the “murderous hostility” faced by others in different parts of the world.

Williams, like many on both sides of the debate, is evidently working under the assumption that things will stay the way they are in the West about human rights.  That’s simply not a given:

  1. The whole state of human rights in the West is undergoing profound changes that few understand, although the recent revelations about the NSA (and its counterparts in the UK are busy, too) should put everyone on notice about this.  The centralisation of wealth and the fear of terror have eroded rights in ways that many simply choose to ignore, but that doesn’t mean the problem isn’t real.
  2. Real Christianity is something that those in the upper reaches have never had much use for, and could more easily ignore if it weren’t for those pesky things called elections.  Thinking about the upper reaches, same have generally had two policies on the subject: they either manage the religion (and the Church of England is the management par excellence, which explains a lot of what the Anglican Communion has been about) or end it, as the third century Roman Empire tried to do.
  3. The ability of the modern state and its pliant media to use social pressure to bully people should never be underestimated.  I noticed that Sojo thinks Williams is right; they should objectively consider the experience of their own Jim Wallis with the LGBT community, the current vanguard of our elites.

When pushed, Williams himself will admit that the current government isn’t helping matters:

“Their fears may be exaggerated because few in the UK are actually persecuted, but the Prime Minister has done more than any other recent political leader to feed these anxieties,” he said…

He added “many Christians” doubted the sincerity of Mr Cameron’s pledge to support their rights, with a recent poll showing two-thirds believed they are now part of a “persecuted minority”

Well they should doubt Cameron’s sincerity, or that of his counterparts on this side of the Atlantic.  For someone not given to bold statement, Lord Williams should think twice before criticising those who are more prescient than he.

Should Have Worn a Hijab and a Confederate Flag

Failure to do so resulted in this:

Jay McDowell, an economics teacher, bought one of those shirts and wore it in class that day. McDowell then showed his students a video about a gay teenager who committed suicide, and devoted the rest of the class period to discussion.

Daniel entered McDowell’s classroom for the sixth period that day. McDowell noticed that one of the girls in class was wearing a belt buckle with the Confederate flag. He ordered her to take it off, because it offended him. Daniel then asked the obvious question. Why should it be all right for so many students and teachers to wear the purple T-shirts, but not all right for the girl to wear the belt buckle?…

McDowell then, predictably, told Glowacki that the Confederate flag was a symbol of hateful things, like “the slashing and hanging of [African Americans].” It was discriminatory against blacks. Glowacki responded that the purple T-shirts were discriminatory against Catholics. This prompted a heated exchange. The young man is no theologian, and the teacher no moral philosopher. McDowell says that he told Glowacki that it was all right if his religion said that homosexual behavior was wrong, but that Glowacki could not say that in class. He also says, missing the illogic and the aggressiveness of his statement, that he told Glowacki that to say “I don’t accept gays” is like saying “I don’t accept blacks.” When Glowacki replied, “I don’t accept gays,” McDowell threw him out and began disciplinary action against him.

Howell, MI, where this took place, is north-west of Detroit, whose main claim to fame these days is going broke.  Wonder if teachers such as McDowell would have been so aggressive in, say, Dearborn, not so far away, where he would have faced a class with many Muslims and women wearing hijabs?  Or hijabs and Confederate belt buckles?  (I’ve never seen a Muslim wearing both, but there’s a first time for everything, especially in the South).

I commented on this trend back in 2007 in my piece What It Takes to Experience Discrimination.  I also noted liberals’ tendency to back off from/play games with Islam in my 2010 piece Strange Bedfellows: Liberals and Muslims.

The Provincial Boors Get Their Comeuppance

Or more properly the (Alexander) Boot:

What comes naturally to most Americans is ‘the pursuit of happiness’ stipulated in their founding document – not the pursuit of beauty or, God forbid, the truth. This has produced the happiest society in the West, and also the least Western. There’s a price to pay for secularism, and in America’s case the most prominent rubric on the bill is aesthetic.

Few Americans stop to think why just about everything man-made in their country is ugly, and even when such a thought crosses their minds they do not gasp with horror. Real life isn’t about beauty.

This vehement (but not unique) rant brings the following thoughts:

  1. His post got a lot more glasses raised on this side of the Atlantic than one might think, and not just from the Canadians.  Europhilia is more strongly rooted in the message people get here in an élite upbringing than many realise.  That ethic is buttressed by a simple fact: European countries (and now the EU itself) have strong centripetal tendencies, something any élite would like to see in its own country.
  2. Attempts to Europeanise this country via public policy (like this one) will not take root and flourish in the way some would like to think they will.  The U.S. has been successful being itself; attempting to make it in another continent’s image and likeness runs the real risk of failure.
  3. Much has been made of Americans being “better travelled”, but as Boot’s illustration shows, a lot of that money was flushed down the toilet from the standpoint of “broadening”.  It’s easier for people to travel physically than it is from the standpoint of learning something you didn’t know before.

Global Citizen. Really?

It’s the goal of @pbenedictii, the new Headmaster of my old Episcopal prep school, St. Andrew’s in Boca Raton:

Q. What would you say is your priority?

A. We have to prepare our students to be global citizens and will change the curriculum to understand that citizenship.

Meanwhile across town we have the blog of Charles Rubin, tax attorney and expert on international tax matters.  Following his blog, and other information tidbits on the subject that creep onto the internet, it becomes clear that our country has no intentions of making it easy for its citizens to relocate themselves, make a living in another place, and move the fruits of their labour to that place if they so wish.  That comes through our restrictive tax laws, our chauvinistic treatment of dual citizenship, and the plethora of legal and regulatory restrictions unique to this country which tend both to exclude others and give those therein an “inside track” for success that is really not transferable elsewhere (although those born and raised here are notorious for “blowing their lead” in this regard).

The ability to do this is, IMHO, a reasonable prerequisite for “global citizenship”, an iffy concept from a purely legal standpoint.  If we look at things as they are from that standpoint, what we have is a global citizenship with some very restrictive internal passports, a concept familiar to those in place like the old Soviet Union.

My suggestion to the new Headmaster would be to have Mr. Rubin out to explain some of these aspects to the “global citizens” being developed.  Since one of the goals of a school like St. Andrew’s is to prepare people for success, a good overview of the government’s response to that success would be in order.  Who knows, perhaps a St. Andrew’s graduate could help do something about it.

Genteel Episcopalianism is Indeed Gone: A Family View

@markdtooley documents it well:

Former U.S. Senator Harry Byrd, Jr. was buried on Saturday in Winchester Virginia after a brief funeral at Christ Episcopal Church, with which the Byrd dynasty was long associated. Presiding at the funeral was his former colleague retired U.S. Senator John Danforth, an ordained Episcopal clergyman who also presided at President Reagan’s funeral.

The last time I was in Christ Episcopal Church was for my uncle’s funeral in 1989.  He was related to the Byrds via marriage; Harry Flood Byrd Jr. was a pallbearer at his funeral.  Sen. Byrd was there when my aunt and uncle married in 1940, an event announced by another institution in turmoil these days, the Washington Post.

Being Anglican or Episcopal was almost synonymous with being in Virginia’s upper reaches from Jamestown onward.  My uncle’s heritage was of long standing in that.  My aunt’s came via her New Orleans mother, who brought the religion of Cranmer and Laud to the iron works people.  (One thing my aunt never adopted from her husband was his family’s Democrat politics; she was a Republican when she married him and one when she buried him).

For all of its defects–and it did have some–the kind of Episcopalianism (to use Tooley’s odd-sounding word) that was practised by the Byrds and my aunt and uncle–and to a lesser degree by my parents–was a good civic religion which inculcated a sense of fairness and equity into those who led our society.  Its doom came when our society decided that this kind of belief and conduct structure was too bourgeois and philistine for its taste.  Subsequent events have shown that the replacement has not been an improvement.

The worst part of it is that a great deal of the destruction of the old Episcopal ethic came at the hands of Episcopalians themselves, and specifically the left-wing ministers who have come to control the church.  But I went on one rant about that already, involving the Diocese of Virginia, and one was enough.

The old Episcopal Church and people like the Byrds and my aunt and uncle who inhabited it is largely gone, and those of us who want to make it in this life and the life to come must make other arrangements.

On Councils, FiFNA, Icons and Intercession

One of the more recent kerfuffles in the Anglican world surrounds the recently adopted statement of belief by FiFNA (Forward in Faith North America for those who aren’t nourished on the Anglican alphabet soup), the Anglo-Catholic organisation.  The point of controversy is #8, which affirms that the (first) Seven Ecumenical Councils are in fact “ecumenical and catholic”, i.e. universally applicable.

The resulting problem concerns the last of these councils, Nicea II, which upheld the veneration of icons in the wake of the Iconoclast Controversy (one which, admittedly, had some inspiration from advancing Islam).  For those of a more Reformed or Protestant bent in Anglicanism, the veneration of icons or images is anathema.

I can remember an Episcopal Church which had reservations about using a crucifix as opposed to a plain cross, something which I had some fun with at the end of this.  But the issue has many alley ways, and this piece hopes to explore at least some of them.

Let’s start with the business of conciliar authority.  One of the aims of Anglo-Catholicism is to improve union with other churches which share the apostolic succession (and that, for some Reformed types, is controversial in itself).  The ecumenical councils would seem to be a good place to start.  But the stopping point varies even among these.  The non-Chalcedonian churches such as the Copts, now in the crosshairs of the Muslim Brotherhood, would stop earlier than that.  (We won’t even discuss the Nestorians…)  OTOH the Roman Catholics claimed to have run up the number of ecumenical councils to 21, including controversial Vatican II.  So, in some ways, the stopping point is arbitrary, and the attempt for unity and continuity isn’t as meaningful as Anglo-Catholics would like to think.

Second, the authority of any of the councils is an iffy proposition in the formative stages of Anglicanism, up to and including the 39 Articles.  Basically a religion Reformed (well, mostly) in doctrine but “catholic” in liturgy and ecclesiastical structure, councils such as Nicea I were helpful but only so insofar as they affirmed what was in the Scriptures.  Since the Scriptures didn’t explicitly endorse the veneration of icons much less asking the dead to intercede for us (to say nothing of that pesky Second Commandment, about as unpopular in some circles as the Second Amendment), most Protestant churches, even ones which are not strictly speaking Reformed, reject these practices.

Under these circumstances, getting to the heart of the matter can be difficult.  Usually the central issue is worship or veneration, but for those of us doing the praying the heart of the matter is intercession, and that’s the way I plan to approach this problem.

The concept of asking someone else to pray for your needs–or something that’s on your heart that may or may not directly affect you–is well supported in the Scriptures.  The intercessor par excellence is Jesus Christ, who as both God and man is able to take requests effectively from the latter to the former:

Again, new Levitical priests are continually being appointed, because death prevents their remaining in office; but Jesus remains for all time, and therefore the priesthood that he holds is never liable to pass to another. And that is why he is able to save perfectly those who come to God through him, living for ever, as he does, to intercede of their behalf. This was the High Priest that we needed–holy, innocent, spotless, withdrawn from sinners, exalted above the highest Heaven, one who has no need to offer sacrifices daily as those High Priests have, first for their own sins, and then for those of the People. For this he did once and for all, when he offered himself as the sacrifice. (Hebrews 7:23-27 TCNT)

As time moved on and Christians moved on to eternity, the idea sprouted that those who had lived especially exemplary (saintly) lives here had special favour with God, and that favour (along with their souls) did not expire when they did.  So, if we asked them to intercede on our behalf, it would be effective.

But why did Christians feel the need to do this, with Jesus Christ at the right hand of God?  The core force driving this trend was the nature of the Roman Empire itself.  The whole Roman system was patronage driven, and as the Empire wore on the role of government expanded even as its stability receded.  In a system like this, the key asset is access–access to those in power who can affect our lives, even to the point of ending them.

Coupled with this was the increasing remoteness of those at the top. The Roman Empire, without modern telecommunications of any kind and sprawled from Arabia to Scotland, was never a “flat” society (and our own society isn’t as flat as we’d like to think either).  As time went on and the security of the system deteriorated, the emperors became more remote, and the Middle Eastern tendency to deify them in their lifetime became standard practice.  With a remote leadership, the need to “know somebody who knows somebody who knows somebody” to get what you need became even more important.

This kind of thinking permeated the Church as well.  Jesus Christ became more and more remote, a trend accelerated by the theological controversies that followed Christianity’s legalisation.  Those who were perceived to have access to him–Mary, the departed saints–took a larger role.  Coupled with a society which had up to then worshipped pagan gods and idols, and the incentives for icons and their veneration was complete.  And, seen in a context of intercession, the thing was entirely sensible.

Part of the goal (if that strong of a word can be applied) of the Reformation was to “cut out the middle man” (and woman) and restore the direct access we have to Jesus Christ, since “Our High Priest is not one unable to sympathize with our weaknesses, but one who has in every way been tempted, exactly as we have been, but without sinning. Therefore, let us draw near boldly to the Throne of Love, to find pity and love for the hour of need.” (Hebrews 4:15-16 TCNT)

The basic problem with any system that encourages the veneration of icons and statues and asking intercession from those which they represent is that it distracts us from Jesus Christ, who is our perfect intercessor.  It also discourages us from asking intercession from those who are still with us on the earth, which is an injustice to them because we pray not only to get results but to build our relationship with God, and the saints in heaven need neither.  One of the reason modern Pentecost has been as successful as it has is that its saints on earth have had the reputation of getting prayers answered, something that would have been forfeited if it had encouraged asking the saints in heaven to intercede.

And as for Anglo-Catholicism?  It needs to recognise that its idea is not really compatible with Anglicanism as originally formulated.  It needs to either merge into Roman Catholicism (something the Ordinariate has simplified) or recognise itself as another branch of the Apostolic tree, a tree which is these days very leafy.