The People That Feel the Shame Finally Speak Up

In France, no less:

At today’s rally, Zohra Bouchiba, a French Muslim, was handing out fliers for a prevention group for youngsters tempted by jihadism. “We should have been out here a long time ago,” she says.

No kidding…in any case, a couple of weeks ago I reposted my piece They Feel the Shame, about Muslims being actually embarrassed at the conduct of their co-religionists.  Well, finally we’re seeing signs that some of them have had enough, and are speaking out.

I don’t think that it’s an accident that France is where this is happening.  It has Europe’s largest Muslim community.  The beheading of French tourist Hervé Gourdel in Algeria has put them on the spot.  You can be sure that the Algerians are tracking this knife-happy crew down; they have little patience with terrorists pulling stunts like this on their soil, as al-Qaeda in the Maghreb found out the hard way when they attacked a gas facility.  So, with cover from the old country, they probably feel more emboldened to articulate what they doubtless feel instinctively but hate to admit in public.

There’s also an ethnic element to this.  France’s Muslim community is largely made up of people drawn from their old colonies, especially Algeria, Tunisia and Morocco.  ISIS (and al-Qaeda as well) are largely Arab centred movements, and many Algerians are not too fond of the Arabs.

Whether their counterparts in Britain and elsewhere (to say nothing of the U.S., where Muslims are really on the hot seat after the Oklahoma beheading) will follow suit remains to be seen.  It makes more sense to follow a religion whose founder told his first followers that he who lives by the sword will die by it, and more Algerians are coming to this realisation than you’d think.

I told one of my commenters that the rise of ISIS is a defining moment for the West, and it looks like it’s one for the West’s Muslim community too.  This is a great opportunity for an establishment bogged down in politically correct multiculturalism to come to reality, perhaps with some help from parts of Islam itself.  Let’s hope they don’t blow it for all of us.

Dedication and Consecration of the Anglican Church of the Redeemer

This evening I attended the dedication and consecration of this ACNA congregation in Chattanooga, Tennessee.  Archbishop Foley Beach presided along with the Rector, the Rev. Brice Ullman.

The “new” building is an old Presbyterian church. The congregation is about ten years old; it is not a parish type of secession that has occupied this blog, but was started by a gathering of Episcopalians justifiably unhappy with the course of their denomination.

The interior of the church, before the service started. The “Anglicanising” and remodelling process was really nice, although would probably sour an SNP fan (they’ve got a lot to be sour about these days.)

Judge Sheridan Randolph prepares to operate the Provisional Belfry.

Although many came first to the nave, it was necessary to move them outside. The concept behind a dedication is that the Archbishop will dedicate things and places which have not been used before, so the congregation will follow the procession in as he dedicates the nave. After that he proceeded to dedicate the other items in the church, including the baptistery, altar, lectern, pulpit, and organ.

Archbishop Beach (in mitre,) the Rector and other clergy prepare to enter the nave and begin the dedication.

The agenda was definitely full; it included the dedication, Confirmation and reception, the reception of clergy from another Anglican church and the Holy Communion.

It’s been a long time since I’ve actually been to an Anglican service of any kind; some thoughts were as follows:

  1. I was surprised at the adult acolytes, both men and women.  This was traditionally the preoccupation of young people. Part of the reason for that is the demographics of the parish; it struck me as “gap graded,” i.e., with older people and young couples but few in the middle.  I think that time will remedy that.
  2. Having been raised in a 1928 BCP church and spent many years as a Roman Catholic in a 1970 NOM liturgy, getting used to yet another translation of the ancient antiphons is something of a chore.
  3. Speaking of prayer-book, I was surprised at the absence of same. They had hymnals and Bibles, but no Prayer Book.  The ACNA is still in transition on this, and the “missalette” concept Roman Catholics use is always an option. (That’s what they basically did for the composite liturgy they celebrated today).
  4. I see that Anglicans still do their psalms antiphonally instead of responsorily.
  5. The sign of peace was the exuberant business that I hoped it would be and wrote about earlier this year.
  6. The music is really eclectic, ranging from Healy Willan’s “Agnus Dei” (which I was raised on at Bethesda) to a decidedly Charismatic rendition of “I Am the Bread of Life” and a couple of contemporary praise and worship choruses. The church actually has two music groups, one folk and the other traditional with a digital organ. Churches struggle with the issue of music style but this parish seems to have struck a very nice balance.
  7. Archbishop Beach strikes me as an honourable man without the affected pomposity that has traditionally plagued so many Anglican divines.  That’s good; the down to earth approach will serve him well on the “Anglican frontier” he now presides over.

We were invited by the organist, who is an old friend of ours and whose husband operated the Provisional Belfry.  They were in the Episcopal Church, and long ago I started to regale them with the strange doings of TEC. Now they are in the ACNA.

I’ve been in the Anglican/Episcopal blogosphere for over a decade now.  If what I’ve done has helped to form, nurture and grow congregations like this, it’s all been worthwhile.

Beguiling the Left, One Charlatan and Crackpot Scheme at a Time

imagesThere was a time with the writings of “Karl and Fred” (Marx and Engels) were prominent on my reading list.  During my growing up years, their followers controlled a third of the world’s population and most of its nuclear weapons.  During my career in the family business I spent a great deal of time in countries which were (in theory at least) built on their idea, or coming off same (you can see this here and here and here.

So this piece from Philip Jenkins about Engels, Lucian and the danger of frauds and charlatans in movements caught my attention.  The Roman satirist Lucian told the tale of one Peregrinus, who had conned (among others) a Christian church, and in doing so gave us an outside view of Roman Empire Christianity in its early years.

Engels, whose relationship with Christianity was more complicated than his professed atheism would admit, actually had a more sympathetic view of the Christian church than Lucian had. Why? Because he had seen the same types of con pulled on the left-wing movements of nineteenth century Europe. He and Marx laboured to keep the “main thing” (i.e., economics and the class struggle) the main thing, but even they fought an uphill battle.  As he ruefully noted:

Today such extreme cases, at least in the large centers, have become impossible; but in remote districts where the movement has won new ground a small Peregrinus of this kind can still count on a temporary limited success. And just as all those who have nothing to look forward to from the official world or have come to the end of their tether with it — opponents of inoculation, supporters of abstemiousness, vegetarians, anti-vivisectionists, nature-healers, free-community preachers whose communities have fallen to pieces, authors of new theories on the origin of the universe, unsuccessful or unfortunate inventors, victims of real or imaginary injustice who are termed “good-for-nothing pettifoggers” by all bureaucracy, honest fools and dishonest swindlers — all throng to the working-class parties in all countries — so it was with the first Christians.

Most all the movements Engels decried in his stay are still, in one form or another, with us, and many with honoured place in the American Left.  I used the “Obama socialism” poster at the start for a little fun, but the truth is that the communists, for all of their cruelty, built great industrial powers, even though their own theory in the end ran them down.  Our left can only run down without building up, and they can’t even fix income inequality while they’re at it.

Comparing Obama and the American Left to communism is unfair. To the communists.

No, They're Not Scientists, Either

And some will admit it:

Many more in the Republican Party love using this line, “I’m not a scientist.” Marco Rubio, John Boehner, and Rick Scott, have all used versions of this line to dismiss climate change science or promote creationism. In 2012, asked how old Earth is, Rubio repeated, “I’m not a scientist,” twice. In May, Boehner said “I’m not qualified to debate the science,” when asked for his views on climate change. Scott’s answer to whether climate change is real and a problem was also, “I’m not a scientist.” That comment earned Scott enough criticism that he agreed to a 30-minute meeting with climate scientists. (In the energy policy he released on Wednesday, Jindal calls global warming “a religion for many on the Left,” which he accuses of lacking a “scientific way of approaching public policy.”)

This election cycle, some Republicans are finally using their heads to defang their opponents.  One such extraction that has many upset is the proposal to make birth control pills over the counter, which would certainly widen their availability. It would also delegitimise their being paid for by the state (what about that government sponsored aspirin?) and that upsets those for whom that subsidy has been a fixation.

In this case, the Republicans are using one of the sorrier aspects of American politics to sidetrack an equally unscientific media:  Americans, by and large, have an allergy of electing people with scientific backgrounds to higher office.  That is embodied in the concept that a Harvard law school product can become the “scientific” President.

Same “scientific” President had a comeback, though:

“…I’m not a doctor either, but if a bunch of doctors tell me that tobacco can cause lung cancer then I”ll say, ‘OK! It’s not that hard. I’m not a scientist, but I read the science.”

Last I heard, he still sneaks a cigarette now and then.

The Relationship Between Faith and Works

From St. Thomas Aquinas, Summa Theolgiae, Suppl., 89, 7:

 The judgment as regards the sentencing to punishment for sin concerns all the wicked, whereas the judgment as regards the discussion of merits concerns only believers. Because in unbelievers the foundation of faith is lacking, without which all subsequent works are deprived of the perfection of a right intention, so that in them there is no admixture of good and evil works or merits requiring discussion. But believers in whom the foundation of faith remains, have at least a praiseworthy act of faith, which though it is not meritorious without charity, yet is in itself directed to merit, and consequently they will be subjected to the discussion of merits. Consequently, believers who were at least counted as citizens of the City of God will be judged as citizens, and sentence of death will not be passed on them without a discussion of their merits; whereas unbelievers will be condemned as foes, who are wont among men to be exterminated without their merits being discussed.

Roman Catholic teaching has been characterised as “works salvation” but this shows that isn’t the case.  Faith–and love (charity)–are necessary prerequisites for whatever we do to amount to anything.

The problem with the medieval construct was that the Church–and to some extent Aquinas–got bogged down in the business of merits. Had they de-emphasised this, they would have avoided the business of indulgences, which in turn detonated the Reformation.

"Get Out of My Way!" Some Things Never Change

When Joseph was put in charge of Egypt by Pharaoh, the following happened:

He had him ride in the chariot of the second-in-command. Men ran ahead of him and shouted, “Make way!” Pharaoh put Joseph in charge of Egypt.  (Genesis 41:43 GW)

This reminds me of the Canadian journalist John Fraser’s account of the departure of the Chinese author Mao Dun after an interview that fell flat:

As I went out to my car, he (Mao Dun) was escorted with suitable fanfare to his waiting Red Flag limousine. The vast and sinister automobiles the Communist state makes available for its leaders are far larger than any equivalent vehicle a “feudal comprador capitalist exploiter” could have had in Shanghai during the thirties. Mao Dun got in and closed the door of the roomy back-seat passenger section. His chauffeur wheeled out of the entranceway with the blast of the car horn. The driver, as is usual in Peking, never stopped to see if there were any oncoming bicycle traffic: the horn blast was sufficient to alert the masses that greatness was descending upon them. Mao Dun set bolt upright in the back seat, holding his cane in front of him. One could just make out his image when a shaft of sun shone through the heavily curtained windows. As I followed him along the street for about half a mile, the limousine belched out loud honks while humble cyclists and pedestrians hurried to get out of the way.

They Still Feel the Shame

On this, the thirteenth commemoration of 9/11, it’s probably worthwhile to remind everyone that many Muslims are basically ashamed of the way their co-religionists are doing with ISIS, 9/11, etc. From my 2005/2010 post on the subject:

It was a unique experience for my wife and I to attend the Arab Worldwide Evangelical Ministers Association (AWEMA) meeting at The Cove (Billy Graham’s conference centre) in April 2003. It was the first time we had an opportunity to get to know Christian ministers from the Arab world…

One question that was obvious was, “Is it different to minister to Muslims after 9/11?” There were divergent answers to this too. One Sudanese pastor from Florida, though, was ebullient. His church was having success in this regard. How? It was easier to minister to these people after 9/11. Why? “They feel the shame,” he replied. Many Muslims ware embarrassed by their colleagues running airplanes into buildings, killing Muslims and everyone else whom Allah had willed to be in the way at the time. They were having second thoughts.

We’ve spent a lot of time on this site discussing shame/honour. It’s especially important in the Middle East and to Muslims in general. The whole Israeli-Palestinian problem is driven by it. Most Arabs are shamed that the Jews took the land, so they’ve spent the last sixty years trying to restore their honour by getting the land back. The same problem inspired al-Qaeda with American troops being stationed in Saudi Arabia after the first Gulf War. They were shamed in the #1 Muslim country being “occupied” by American troops, so they had to restore their honour. Same problem in Iraq. And on and on it goes…

Every now and then, any group of people finds itself more embarrassed by its own people than outsiders. In the West, we’re used to the idea of “self-policing.” With Muslims, it’s not necessarily the same; most have too much pride to admit that their own people are dragging them down. Occasionally one will hear a dissenting voice, as was the case with the al-Arabiya commentator after the Beslan massacre. But generally speaking Muslims, like old-line Southerners, would rather not “hang their dirty laundry out in public.”

But shame they do feel, whether at 9/11 or at the recent London bombings. Many of them aren’t proud that their co-religionists are blowing themselves and everyone around them up for any reason. They doubtless feel more shame than the London hotel operators who jacked up the prices for travellers stranded after the tube was shut down. And there may be other things at work here too.

Years ago, my Sudanese imam friend used to tell me that, while back in Sudan, he would tell his extremist Muslim colleagues, “The Christians are smarter than you. When they come, they come with hospitals, food, schools, etc. All you come with is a bunch of rules and mosques.” After the 26 December 2004 tsunami, many Christian NGO’s got involved in the relief effort with other Western governments. As a result, the image of the West improved while that of al-Qaeda didn’t, which is interesting considering that the hardest hit place–Aceh province in Indonesia–is the only province in the country to have adopted Shar’ia law.

If we as Christians plan to interact effectively with Muslims, we need to realise that many of them don’t feel any better about attacks like 9/11 or 7/7 than we do. We also need to do what our Saviour told us to do and leave the mushy self-doubt of false tolerance to others. We need to reach out as our Lord Jesus would have done to those who “feel the shame.”

Latter Rain Christian Coffeehouse

Instead of an album from the “Jesus Music” era, this entry is a little different: a live recording of the Latter Rain Christian Coffeehouse in Garland Texas in July, 1977.  Located in downtown Garland, the Latter Rain was active through most of that year.

As opposed to the other coffeehouse recording I offer here, I’ve decided to  present the entire recording in one track.  That will give you a better flavour of what it was like to be in a Christian coffeehouse like this one.  It’s probably too much to say that it was “typical” (and that’s not a really informative term either) but here it is, with teaching as well.  As was also the case with this, the recording was room ambient and not off of the board, which means that the room reverberation is there, although my equipment had improved in the two years that separated the sessions.

The tape recorder used to record the Latter Rain: a Tandberg TCD-310, with factory microphones.

The Latter Rain’s musicians were skilful, tending to a more folksy style somewhat reminiscent of this but with a more distinctively Texas influence.

The Latter Rain Christian Coffeehouse:

  • Archie and Cindy Lowe
  • Todd and Terri Groo
  • Mike and Luba Goolsby
  • Tim and Margaret LaPrade

The songs are a mix of original compositions and covers; some of them are:

  • This is the Day (Psalm 118)
  • There Was Jesus
  • These Are the Last Days
  • I’ve Got the Lord on My Side
  • Weeds
  • Over There
  • Since I Met Jesus
  • Selah
  • Ballad of Luke Warm
  • The Second Coming Sunset

The subsequent history of the Latter Rain, and of Archie and Sindy Lowe, can be seen in this post.

I am indebted to Jen Lowe, Archie and Sindy’s daughter, for encouraging me to get this posted.  It’s one of those things I have wanted to do for a long time but just haven’t gotten to it until now.

More Music

Victoria Osteen's Moment, or "What Are We Doing Here Anyway?"

It’s another week along the Southwest Freeway in Houston as Victoria Osteen has embroiled herself in a controversy over remarks about why we worship God.  The usual people say the usual things, and the usual fracas ensues, just as it has over much of what her husband Joel says.

I think we’d be better off, rather than attacking her for the falsity of her statement, looking at the truth content of what she said.  That truth content speaks as much for the current state of American evangelicalism and Full Gospel Christianity as it does for her own idea.

To start with, strictly speaking God really doesn’t need our worship.  In fact, he really doesn’t need us.  God’s self-sufficiency is at the core of the Judeo-Christian concept of God.  Consider that oft-quoted verse, John 3:16: God didn’t have to save us, or even help us, but out of love he did.  Evangelicals frequently undermine that with a mentality of “If we don’t do ___________, the world will end” (or conversely “If we don’t do ____________, the world will not end” in our creeping postmillenialism.)  We may be under necessity; God is not.

Second, there is always this contingent in Christianity who can’t stand the idea of someone being happy.  I’ve discussed this in the context of the sign of peace at Mass, Islam and that obsessively happy Frenchman, Bossuet.  Mohler tells us that happiness cannot bear the weight of the Gospel, but the Gospel can bear the weight of happiness.  We must find our happiness in God, and neither Mohler nor the Osteens have got it right on that.

Having said that, it’s certainly correct to accuse her of a weak idea of God-centred worship.  But let’s ask ourselves a question as we prepare for our next trip to church as clergy or laity: what are we supposed to be doing on Sunday morning?  We call them “worship services” but a little digging will tell us that things are more complicated than that.

The first problem is our definition of “worship,” and things are most complicated with liturgical churches.  We use the term “liturgical worship” but the plus of liturgy is that we do a variety of things during one gathering.  We have the “liturgy of the Word” which is more instructional than worshipful in nature, and the same can be applied to the homily.  We have penitential times.  The Eucharist itself is a form of worship but it’s also God ministering to us through the real presence of his Son.  So, if properly structured and executed, the liturgy is a tour de force of us meeting God.

Dumping the traditional liturgical structure as the Reformed–and many other–churches do only cuts back on the worshipful aspects of the service.  By putting the sermon at the centre of both the service and the pulpit of the church itself, it shifted more of the emphasis to education, instruction and edification. In the hands of the competent, it worked; in the hands of the inept and the heterodox, it didn’t.  That may be why Protestantism put so much effort into the splendid hymnody that’s slipping away: it’s the main act of worship in many Protestant services.

Modern Pentecost put worship front and centre into the services.  By shifting the emphasis to an experience with God himself, and de-emphasising the content of the sermon, we have the possibility of a wall-to-wall worship.  (And, in fact, while attending this, we actually did that for an hour one Sunday night.) Many traditional Pentecostals will remember “no preaching” services fondly; a few churches still experience that.

Unfortunately praise and worship these days, obsession though it is with many pastors and worship leaders, has become more of a production, with a radio-type of model for a new chorus a week, to be learned by a confused congregation.  Too much of what we see in churches draws too much of its inspiration from the entertainment industry.  What Victoria Osteen says about worship may not sit well with many Christians, but it’s very much the reality in many churches these days.

Mohler also attacks prosperity teaching.  While it’s deserved, I think he needs to stop and think that the Southern Baptist Convention worked harder than most to put together a proper, respectable and popular religion, which is prosperity teaching in another form.

Instead of launching a knee-jerk attack on Victoria Osteen, Christians should stop and, during their own worship services, consider this question: “What are we really doing here?”  If it’s too much like she describes, it’s time to do something about it.