Be Careful Before You Encourage Unpatriotism

It never ends: now we have a stink over NFL (and other) players “taking the knee” during the National Anthem.  Our President and just above everybody else is involved.  It’s another way to fill up Twitter with vitriol, as if we don’t have enough.

My attitude towards the traditional respect given towards the National Anthem and the flag come from growing up in the home of a superpatriot.  For him the country was perfect; doing these things was non-negotiable.  You either showed the proper respect for the flag, anthem, and institutions, or you left.  I seriously considered the latter.

The trout in the milk for American loyalty has always been the government.  The concept of the United States is wrapped around the Constitution of 1787.  It wasn’t our first and isn’t really our founding document but until we go through the procedure of replacing it our identity and validity as a nation cannot be separated from it.  Along with the Constitution all the government formed under that document goes with it.  That’s so ingrained in our national consciousness that few really grasp what it really means.

Those on the right reflexively wave the flag without realising that its form, shape, star pattern, etc., are all set by an act of the…government, along with many other things they like (like the military.)  And they don’t realise that, if our government has passed into the hands of those whose intellectual antecedents hated the place, then it’s time to reconsider our whole attitude towards this country and not always retreating to some idealisation.

The left likewise needs a reality check: the power of that government, even though it doesn’t always go their way (especially at times like this) is the chief enabler for their agenda, and has been for a long time.  When their heroes in the NFL “take a knee,” they’re delegitimising the government from which all (well, a lot of them) liberal things come.  Put another way, they’re cutting their own nose off to spite themselves, and that may come back to bite them.

As far as the NFL is concerned…if the NFL dries up and blows away I could care less.  (Given the ratings drops, that isn’t out of the realm of possibility either.)  Then we could turn our attention to other things, and when the time comes say with one voice:

“¡GO-O-O-O-O-OAL!”

Maybe It’s a Good Time to Make Your Speeches Online

Given the hatred the left feels for Trump and that former FBI Director James Comey is a career martyr to the cause, you’d think he’d be welcome on campuses.  But no…

Students at Howard University loudly protested former FBI Director James Comey Friday as he delivered a convocation address.

As Comey, making a rare public appearance since leaving the FBI, began his speech welcoming new students at Howard University, protesters could be heard yelling from the back of the room, raising their fists and shouting. Some of the slogans included “No justice, no peace, “We shall not be moved” and “white supremacy is not a debate.”

Standing before a packed auditorium, Comey stood silently for over 15 minutes as the students yelled, “I love being black” and “Get out James Comey — you’re not our homey.”

Evidently “intersectionality” doesn’t work as well as its enthusiasts say it does.  That’s something conservatives could take better advantage of if they were better led.

Those of you who follow this blog know that I have the habit of making “speeches” on the blog.  I’ve done this for two reasons: I think I have something to say, and I don’t get invited.  The upside to that, however, is that I don’t get disinvited either, the current sport on college campuses.  And getting disinvited isn’t the worst of it: if you don’t get disinvited, you can get the same treatment that James Comey is getting, or worse.

P.S. I’ve posted another “speech” on a companion blog.  The topic isn’t of much interest to regulars here, but I do make some observations on the advance of science and technology and how that gets hindered in our society today.

Why I Just Can’t Get Excited about #DACA

With the major hurricanes done for the moment and a debt crisis averted by Trump’s deal with the Democrats, Congress must turn to the issues in front of it.  Tax reform code is at the top of the list, although I’m not holding my breath.  Behind that is the DACA program, or the “Dreamers,” where young people brought here outside of our immigration legislation have special dispensation to pursue their education here.

Immigration, like infrastructure, is one of those issues where bipartisan agreement (or at least under-the-table collusion) has resulted in inaction.  Business interests would like a labour force with an interest in work, so they pressure the Republicans, and leftists would like an electorate that votes for them, so they pressure the Democrats.  Both of these use the appeal that, if these people are sent back to their ancestral homelands, their dreams will end.  And that’s an easy sell with Americans; we’d all like to think that we’re the only place in the world where dreams and goals in life come true.

But that’s really not the case.

My lack of enthusiasm for this issue is purely personal, and goes back to a time in my life where I was making my own decisions about life aspirations.  That in turn should be set against the backdrop of the time, and that scene wasn’t pretty.

Growing up I was presented with two options about what this country was all about.  In one corner was my father, who was a super-patriot.  In his mind our country could do no wrong and it was not permitted to question anything it did.  That may seem odd in a country that fancies itself on freedom, but professing freedom while taking it away is more common than you might think.

On the other end were the hippy-dippy people who professed to seek a deeper meaning in life but in the end could only find it in getting laid, high or drunk.  This didn’t strike me at the time as particularly American, but in a way it is.  There’s been a strong streak in the country that we came here to run the woods free and act the way we wanted to, and that was part of the ooze that bubbled to the surface in the 1960’s.  There was also the “hick moving to town” theme; growing up in Palm Beach left me with no sympathy for this.  History taught me that a country this sybaritic wasn’t going to make it, and I wasn’t too keen on sticking around for the end.

The disaster of Watergate ripped our political system apart; that only created despair.  It became obvious to me that only foreign intervention would fix this broken culture, which lead to this.  But with the atheistic Soviet Union being the most likely option, the reality of that wasn’t too appetising.  Maybe, I said to myself, what I need to do is get out of here.

The opportunity to do just that presented itself in the spring of 1976 at the Offshore Technology Conference, when I stopped by the booth of Motherwell Bridge, a Scottish engineering and construction firm.  I talking to one of their representatives, mentioned that I was graduating that year and would be looking for a job.  He expressed an interest in speaking to me about a position with them.  I told him I’d be in the UK two months from then, and would call him then.

That was all well and good, so when I got to the UK and Scotland was in the plans, I rung him up.  Unfortunately I butted into that European habit of going on holiday during the summer; he was gone to sunnier climes and I was out of a job interview.  (The UK was experiencing a major drought that year; he really didn’t have to go anywhere for sunny weather.)

I could have gone to a “Plan B” to emigrate in the fall by strategically choosing my job interviews.  But by then I had lived in Texas three years and both seen and experienced a part of this country that was truly good and highly productive.  So the man who started to emigrate ended up with a security clearance at Texas Instruments.

It’s always tempting to play “what if” with a situation like this; certainly life would have been different on the other side of the pond.  One of my commenters pointed out that average income in the UK is considerably below that of the US.  But that meant nothing to me at the time; I took a “pay cut” to work for TI as opposed to working in the oil industry (which, after a bit, I ended up doing .)  One thing it would have done is, if I tired of Old Blighty, becoming an expat is easier for just about anyone than it is for an American, thanks to our possessive tax legislation.

The good part of this country–which surfaces in things such as the response to Hurricane Harvey–has been under relentless attack from a wide array of groups with elite support, including the New Urbanists, the various “diversity” groups, and indeed the “Blue state” mentality.  That it has survived as well as it has is amazing, a testament to the viability of the lifestyle itself as much as the tenacity of its practicioners.  But the outcome is still in the balance.

As far as DACA is concerned, I hope that Congress can come to a resolution on this.  It’s always good to attract people who will actually work and make things happen.  But we need to be real about this: if more dreams could be fulfilled in places like Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras, we’d be better off as a country.  We would have more stable southern neighbours and an additional market for our goods and services.  And that’s not as far-fetched as it might seem: at this stage it’s easier to start a small business in Mexico than in the US, thanks to our ridiculous legal and regulatory system.

Americans on both sides of the divide love to gush forth rhetoric about how this is the only place where people’s dreams can be fulfilled.  The country would be better off, however, if, instead of mellifluous rhetoric, we’d spend as much effort making this country inviting for dreamers as we do talking about it.

If You Can Lead Sheep, You’re Ready for Politics

I could not pass up this gem from Philo Judaeus, in his Life of a Man Occupied with Affairs of State, or on Joseph, I:

Now, this man (Joseph) began from the time he was seventeen years of age to be occupied with the consideration of the business of a shepherd, which corresponds to political business.  On which account I think it is that the race of poets has been accustomed to call kings the shepherds of the people; for he who is skilful in the business of a shepherd will probably be also a most excellent king, having derived instruction in those matters which are deserving of inferior attention here to superintend a flock of those most excellent of all animals, namely, of men. And just as attention to matters of hunting is indispensable to the man who is about to conduct a war or to govern an army, so in the same banner those who hope to have the government of a city will find the business of a shepherd very closely connected with them, since that is as it were a sort of prelude to any kind of government.

When I worked at Church of Lay Ministries, our last bookkeeper lived on a farm and, as part of that, tended sheep.  The whole concept of a real shepherd working in a Christian organisation was more fun than a human being ought to have, and I made the most of it.  Her response was that sheep are pretty dumb, and comparing people to sheep (a common theme in the New Testament) isn’t very complimentary to people.

Given the current state of American politics, Philo’s words resonate, and one would wish that more American politicians had spent their early years watching over the flocks by night than haunting the halls of ivy.

Philo’s idea also puts this passage in a new light:

And Samuel did all that the Lord told him; and he came to Bethlehem: and the elders of the city were amazed at meeting him, and said, Dost thou come peaceably, thou Seer? And he said, Peaceably: I am come to sacrifice to the Lord. Sanctify yourselves, and rejoice with me this day: and he sanctified Jesse and his sons, and he called them to the sacrifice. And it came to pass when they came in, that he saw Eliab, and said, Surely the Lord’s anointed is before him. But the Lord said to Samuel, Look not on his appearance, nor on his stature, for I have rejected him; for God sees not as man looks; for man looks at the outward appearance, but God looks at the heart. And Jesse called Aminadab, and he passed before Samuel: and he said, Neither has God chosen this one. And Jesse caused Sama to pass by: and he said, Neither has God chosen this one. And Jesse caused his seven sons to pass before Samuel: and Samuel said, the Lord has not chosen these. And Samuel said to Jesse, Hast thou no more sons? And Jesse said, There is yet a little one; behold, he tends the flock. And Samuel said to Jesse, Send and fetch him for we may not sit down till he comes. And he sent and fetched him: and he was ruddy, with beauty of eyes, and very goodly to behold. And the Lord said to Samuel, Arise, and anoint David, for he is good. And Samuel took the horn of oil, and anointed him in the midst of his brethren: and the Spirit of the Lord came upon David from that day forward: and Samuel arose, and departed to Armathaim.  (1Samuel 16:4-13 LXX)

God’s choice of David really was based on merit!

What I Learned About Approaching God From the 1928 Book of Common Prayer

I’ve not done much posting re the Anglican Communion these days.  That’s because, to be honest, it’s not an improving story.  Predictably the Church of England is going the way of its Episcopal counterpart, having learned nothing from their experience.  The orthodox Anglicans have appointed a former tank commander to lead the charge; they’re going to need one, and they don’t need to proliferate purple shirts the way they have done in North America either.

On the other side of the Atlantic, Field Marshal von Rosenberg’s panzers have scored a breakthrough in the land of Dylann Roof by getting back much of the property of the Diocese of South Carolina.  In some ways it’s an unexpected result, but in some ways not.  Although it’s hard to prove, in an era where the elites’ main goal in life is to get laid, high or drunk (and to restrict the rest of the population to the same goals) it’s hard to avoid the conclusion that there’s a great deal of judicial table-tilting going on.

In any case I want to focus on something more important: how do we approach God?  And more specifically, how do you explain this to a kid?  My education, in part, came from the 1928 Book of Common Prayer, which was in use at the time at Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church.  It’s an example of “Lex Orandi, Lex Credendi, Lex Vivendi:” the law of prayer is the law of belief and the law of living.  It’s one reason (beyond “we’ve always done it this way”) why the prayer book wars of the 1970’s were so bitterly fought.

Important note: for those who don’t like the 1928 Book because you think it’s got too much of an Anglo-Catholic drift, the part I plan to discuss is nearly identical, with one important difference, to that in the 1662 Book of Common Prayer.  The section in question comes from the Holy Communion.

After the offering (which was taken up at Bethesda in seriously large silver trays) we pray for the whole state of Christ’s church, needed more now than then.  After this (and here the 1928 Book skips the lengthy Exhortation,)  the following is said:

¶ Then shall the Priest say to those who come to receive the Holy Communion,

YE who do truly and earnestly repent you of your sins, and are in love and charity with your neighbours, and intend to lead a new life, following the commandments of God, and walking from henceforth in his holy ways; Draw near with faith, and take this holy Sacrament to your comfort; and make your humble confession to Almighty God, devoutly kneeling.

¶ Then shall this General Confession be made, by the Priest and all those who are minded to receive the Holy Communion, humbly kneeling.

ALMIGHTY God, Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, Maker of all things, Judge of all men; We acknowledge and bewail our manifold sins and wickedness, Which we, from time to time, most grievously have committed, By thought, word, and deed, Against thy Divine Majesty, Provoking most justly thy wrath and indignation against us. We do earnestly repent, And are heartily sorry for these our misdoings; The remembrance of them is grievous unto us; The burden of them is intolerable. Have mercy upon us, Have mercy upon us, most merciful Father; For thy Son our Lord Jesus Christ’s sake, Forgive us all that is past; And grant that we may ever hereafter Serve and please thee In newness of life, To the honour and glory of thy Name; Through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

¶ Then shall the Priest (the Bishop if he be present) stand up, and turning to the People, say,

ALMIGHTY God, our heavenly Father, who of his great mercy hath promised forgiveness of sins to all those who with hearty repentance and true faith turn unto him; Have mercy upon you; pardon and deliver you from all your sins; confirm and strengthen you in all goodness; and bring you to everlasting life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

I think it’s fair to say that any celebration of the Lord’s Supper–whether it features Bill Clinton’s Eucharistic Theology or not–should have a point where those who are about to partake repent of their sins.  I’ve seen ones that don’t and it’s not pretty.  The reason for that comes from 1 Corinthians 11 and I won’t go into detail about it here.

The text above, however, makes several assumptions:

  • We are sinners.   For me, that wasn’t a hard concept to grasp as a kid.
  • Repenting of them is a good thing, and possible.
  • Once we repent, we live a “new life.”  That’s contrary to what’s usually taught in Evangelical churches, i.e., that the only point in this journey when you get a new life is when you’re initially saved.  What it means is that, as Christians, we sin, but we repent of them and come back into a relationship with God.
  • We need to confess our sins to God.  As an aside, I myself must confess that I had too much fun with the General Confession while writing The Ten Weeks.
  • Pardon comes after repentance.  The last prayer exposes one of the many ambiguities of Anglicanism: does the priest have the power to forgive sins?  The answer is, frankly, equivocal, but as a kid I came from a family with a decidedly anti-clerical streak, so I didn’t leave the granting of forgiveness to our priest, but sought it from God himself.

¶ Then shall the Priest say,

Hear what comfortable words our Saviour Christ saith unto all who truly turn to him.

COME unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.  St. Matt. xi. 28.
So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  St. John iii. 16.

    Hear also what Saint Paul saith.
This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  1 Tim. i. 15.

    Hear also what Saint John saith.
If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the Propitiation for our sins.  1 St. John ii. 1, 2.

Now comes the good part: the Scriptural backup to all this.

COME unto me, all ye that travail and are heavy laden, and I will refresh you.  St. Matt. xi. 28.

Growing up in an environment which was a Protestant version of Our Lady of Perpetual Responsibility, this was a relief.  “Come to me, all you who toil and are burdened, and I will give you rest! Take my yoke upon you, and learn from me, for I am gentle and lowly-minded, and ‘you shall find rest for your souls’; For my yoke is easy, and my burden is light.” (Mat 11:28-30 TCNT)  I always found God’s demands far easier to fulfil than man’s, not only because God was more consistent, but because he gives the strength to carry them out.

So God loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, to the end that all that believe in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.  St. John iii. 16.

This well-known scripture needs little comment.

This is a true saying, and worthy of all men to be received, That Christ Jesus came into the world to save sinners.  1 Tim. i. 15.

See earlier comments.

If any man sin, we have an Advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous; and he is the Propitiation for our sins.  1 St. John ii. 1, 2.

Now things get interesting. I’d be the first one to admit that “propitiation” is a mouthful for a kid, but coming from a family where a large vocabulary was inculcated and used, it wasn’t as extraordinary as one might think.  The simple definition of the word “is an action meant to regain someone’s favour or make up for something you did wrong.”  We see here that, not only did Jesus Christ do this for us, but also that he anticipated that we would get into trouble and provides the means to get out of it.

The whole concept presented here is one where the coming to God is one where it is anticipated that, along the way, we will fall into sin, but that if we turn with repentance back to God he will forgive us and restore us.  It’s entirely separate from the pompous, butt-sitting concept we get from Reformed and Baptist alike that, once we’re in the elect (Reformed) or force our way in (Baptist) we’re done.  And it’s also separate from the more secular “one false move and it’s the abyss” idea that we see all too often in our society.  (That’s something that bothered me in my academic pursuits as a student; one course go wrong and the sequence was finished or thoroughly screwed up.)

These words are indeed of comfort, then and now.