He Was Right, They Do Flunk Clock

Some British schools are taking analogue clocks out of schools:

Schools are removing analogue clocks from examination halls because teenagers are unable to tell the time, a head teachers’ union has said.

Teachers are now installing digital devices after pupils sitting their GCSE and A-level exams complained that they were struggling to read the correct time on an analogue clock.

In 1971, when I was in prep school, I obtained for my dorm room one of the earliest types of digital clocks, namely one with those “flip cards” which changed to display the time digitally.  A friend looked at the clock and said, “Your little brother will flunk clock.”  He was partially wrong because I was the little (or younger) brother in my family.  But he was right about one thing: when people have digital clocks, they will forget how to read an analogue one.

So many problems can be anticipated if we just have the vision to see the consequences…

Thinking about Mission the Anglican Way

I’m glad to share a new article just published at the blog of The Living Church. I am basically asking why Anglicans have a concrete approach to music, theology, and architecture, but don’t seem to have anything like this when it comes to global mission. Here is the lead: Like most Christians, we Anglicans tend to […]

via “Thinking about Mission the Anglican Way” in *The Living Church* — Duane Alexander Miller’s Blog

The Only Real Alternative to “Two Kingdoms” Theology is Islam

Some people will complain about anything:

Recently some critics of prominent Trump-supporting Dallas Baptist pastor Robert Jeffress have disapprovingly identified him as a supporter of “Two Kingdoms” theology, an historic Protestant belief about the division of duties between spiritual & earthly rule. Jeffress in public pronouncements has stressed that civil government is called to provide public order, not embody the Sermon on the Mount, on issues like immigration.

Two kingdoms theology’s most expansive expression is Augustine’s City of God, written late in the game for another world power, the Roman Empire (well, the western part.)  In those times those in civil authority who “wore the belt” were not allowed to become priests.  The system was so corrupt at that stage that Christianity could not see its way clear to fix it (although it made improvements such as getting slavery to dissipate.)  Rome collapsed, but the Church, in a different way, laid the foundation for a civilisation that was greater than the one that was there.

I honestly don’t think that the howling social justice warriors who profess and call themselves Christians (and I’ve run into them of late) have really thought through what the New Testament commands us to do vs. what the state should do.  The blunt truth is that, like it or not, Christianity has never really set forth a morality for the state, or that the morality of the state should be at unity with that in the church.  The religion that has done that is Islam; that may explain in part the affinity that people on the left feel with IslamEven a secular historian like Ferdinand Lot grasped that truth.  Since most of the focus on refugees have been those from the Middle East, it pays to look and see how things have worked out under the various forms of Islam before we unwittingly advocate those things for ourselves.

Ibiza Isn’t the Only Place Where the Tourists are Hated

In the Balearic Islands, along with other parts of Spain, the locals have had enough:

More than 500 people have taken to the streets to protest against the impact of overtourism in Ibiza – the first rally of its kind on the Balearic island famed for its hedonistic 24-hour lifestyle.

The rally, organised by local pressure group Prou!, took place on Vara de Rey in Ibiza Town last Friday. Protesters decried the privatisation of beaches, party boats, the rise in crime, the increase in rental prices and noise pollution. Some held placards reading “For Sale”.

They’re not the first–back home in South Florida, we hated tourists too.  Instead of dealing with people from the UK, France and Germany, we had to bear the brunt from other strange places, like NY and NJ

We didn’t protest, however: we just worked as hard as we could to relieve them of their money and be rude to them in the process.  What a country!

The Matter of Women Pilots Should Have Been Settled in the 1930’s

The Daily Beast correctly notes the achievement of Southwest pilot Tammy Jo Shults but with the usual caveat:

Just how masterfully Tammie Jo Shults, the pilot of the badly crippled Southwest Airlines Flight 1380, handled the problem of an engine exploding at 30,000 feet is winning admiration from thousands of her fellow pilots—and should finally help to temper the hubris of what has been a notoriously testosterone-charged profession.

That last point was settled a long time ago, as I noted here:

One of the more interesting parts of our story concerns the substantial number of women who flew and took parts in the competitions that Chet coordinated. This is not just a “hindsight” kind of thing; it garnered a good deal of attention at the time as well.

Aviation was still a new technology in the 1930’s, and attitudes about “roles” weren’t as fixed about flying as they were about other activities. Moreover many of the women who flew came from the upper reaches of society, which put the whole role of women in a different light than elsewhere.

When we think of women’s aviation in those times, we usually think of Amelia Earhart.  But there were many other women who achieved great things in the pilot’s seat: as I noted here, in the lead-up to the May 1934 Langley Day air show in Washington, my grandfather hosted “…a reception at the Willard Hotel in honour of Laura Ingalls, the New Jersey “society girl” who had just (22 April 1934) come from setting a world’s record by flying 15,000 miles from the U.S. to South America and back, which included crossing the Andes Mountains.”

As Camille Paglia noted, the 1920’s and 1930’s were indeed the “favourite period” of feminism, with plenty of lessons for us now.

At Last, the Best Solution for Scooter Libby

It took long enough:

President Donald Trump is poised to pardon Scooter J. Libby, the former chief of staff to Vice President Dick Cheney, according to sources familiar with the president’s thinking.

The president has already signed off on the pardon, which is something he has been considering for several months, sources told ABC News.

This case has always bothered me deeply, as I expressed in 2007:

President Bush’s decision to extend executive clemency to Scooter Libby is a sensible way to resolve what has been one of the most dangerous prosecutions in recent memory.

The job of a prosecutor is to obtain convictions for crimes committed, not to manufacture them and then send people to prison.  The most recent “celebrity” example of the latter is the Duke lacrosse case, and mercifully Mike Nifong is finding out the hard way that this isn’t the way to obtain convictions.

Things like this make the Fifth Amendment a dead letter.  Won’t cooperate?  Obstruction of justice.  Have a slip of memory?  Perjury.

Although executive clemency was a sensible solution, pardoning him is the best.   But George Bush was too anal for a pardon; that same anality got us the quest for “democracy in the Middle East” with even worse consequences.

Today once again we’re in a “moral crusade/throw them in jail” mode.  The last time our country had a nervous breakdown we went through Watergate, and what was best solved through political action ended up being a legal and media circus.  That engendered much of the cynicism of the 1970’s.  I don’t think this current cycle of Trump derangement is going to end any better, even if the left achieves their political and legal goals in the short term.

Rubbish like this makes living in this country a distasteful business, but alas we are too blind to see it.

If You’re Not Doing It for Jesus, You Shouldn’t Be Doing It

Rachael Denhollander, one of Larry Nassar’s sexual abuse victims at Michigan State University, makes it plain:

Bethany Jenkins, vice president of forums at the Veritas Forum, which helped to organize the event, reported that Denhollander was asked about her view of the church responding to the issue of sexual abuse. When asked “how do you trust the church to point to justice and truth in these situations?” Denhollander responded “You don’t. You don’t trust the church, you trust Jesus.”

Some Christians are queasy at this statement.  But if they are real Evangelicals and not the “corporate” kind, they shouldn’t be.  One of the first lessons I learned in the years I worked for the Church of God is that I was doing this for God, not the church and that I, like Denhollander, needed to trust Jesus and not the church.  That held me in good stead all the way until the church abolished my department and my position in 2010–and beyond.

Too many Christians practice churchianity rather than Christianity; they equate the church with God and, when the church lets them down, they bail on God. Forms like Christianity like Roman Catholicism, with their high view of the church, set themselves up for that kind of reaction.  But those of us who do not have that view of the church have absolutely no business making that equivalence.

Although the #MeToo movement has given Denhollander a larger platform for her message, in many ways she’s swimming against the tide, both in and outside Christianity.  But she’s a strong person; we need more like her.

Why the Spanish Civil War is Still Important

The history of the Twentieth Century is one written in blood.  Between two world wars, the procession of genocides from Armenia to Stalin to the Holocaust, China and the Killing Fields, millions seemed to vanish for causes that are better hated than understood.  Is there one conflict that we can look at than encapsulates the century better than others?  Although it’s forgotten outside its home country today, I think it’s fair to say that the Spanish Civil War should top the list.  Just about every ideology that dominated the century was represented there, either by Spanish adherents, foreign ones, or both.  And the combination of the conflict’s intensity and the tendency of the participants to romanticise their own cause and demonise their opponents’ certainly has lessons for our own polarised society today.

Probably the best single volume work on the subject in English is Hugh Thomas’ The Spanish Civil War.  He later acted as an adviser to Margaret Thatcher.  Most of what follows is derived from this work.

The existence of Spanish Latin America, from the Rio Bravo del Norte to the Tierra del Fuego–and beyond–is a testament to Spain as a world power for three centuries.  Napoleon’s invasion, with the loss of most of the American colonies, put it into more than a century of instability, ranging from absolute monarchy to constitutional monarchy to succession disputes (the Carlists) to the dictatorship of Primo de Rivera and finally to the Spanish Republic, which was established in 1931.

Through all of this, like France and Italy, Spain was a country with a wide variety of political parties, a system which tended towards fragmentation.  On the left were the Socialists, Anarchists, Communists (whose role increased as the war progressed) and other parties supporting the Republic.  On the right were Catholic parties (CEDA,) Monarchists and Carlists, Falangists and Agrarians.  There were some parties in the centre.  Complicating the scene (then and now) were the regional parties, primarily the Catalan and Basque parties, which themselves had an ideological range.  The one thing that Spanish parties had in common was a intensity of commitment to their cause that was extremely bore-sighted, first figuratively and soon literally in the war.

Most Americans will be surprised that Anarchism was a serious political movement, associating it as a fringe terrorist group involved with the assassination of President William McKinley.  In Spain it certainly was serious; the idea that we didn’t have to have a government had traction.  As Thomas explains:

To these a great new truth seem to have been proclaimed.  The State, being based upon ideas of obedience and authority, was morally evil.  In its place, there should be self-governing bodies–municipalities, professions, or other societies–which would make voluntary pacts with each other.  Criminals would be punished by the censure of public opinion.

The last point indicates that they were waiting for the advent of social media…the Anarchists on the one hand and the Socialists and Communists on the other had a great deal of bad blood between them going back to Marx and Bakunin, and this conflict bedeviled the Republic’s war effort when crunch time came.

With a Republic came a constitution, and at this point the Republican-Socialist majority made a strategic error: they decided to make the document a political one, embodying their own idea rather than creating a document acceptable to a broad range of Spaniards.  No where was that more evident than in its anticlerical clauses regarding the Catholic Church: religious education was ended, the Jesuits were banished, no more payment of salaries to priests (which were compensation for the seizure of the Church’s lands in the last century,) etc.   Overplaying one’s hand is a hallmark of religious conflicts; that was certainly the case in France, but in Spain the shoe was on the other foot.  One tireless advocate of these measures–even in face of opposition in his own coalition–was Prime Minister Manuel Azaña, who would play such a large role in the coming civil war.

Some of Azaña’s confidence that he would succeed in his quest–a quest whose genesis came from his own bad experiences in the Catholic educational system–came from the desultory way in which Spaniards related to the Church.  In 1931 only about a third of Spaniards were practicing Catholics, this in the home country of the Inquisition.  But under that low level, Spaniards wrapped their identity as such with the Church, and same Church was an instrument of social justice in many instances.  In their hard-line anti-clerical policies Azaña and his allies made unnecessary enemies which would come back to haunt them on the battlefield.

The next four years were times of conflict and instability that rivalled France’s Fourth Republic (to say nothing of postwar Italy.)  The elections of February 1936 brought a strong majority to the Republican Popular Front.  The right felt it had been cornered.  In July, part of the military rose at two ends of the Republic: in Spanish Morocco and the Canary Islands, under Francisco Franco, and in the North, under Emilio Mola.  The Spanish Civil War had begun.

From a military standpoint, as was the case with its American counterpart, the war was the steady advance of one side (in this case the Nationalists, eventually under Franco) and the steady retreat of the other (the Republicans, with Azaña as its president at the start.  As also with that war, the details in between were complicated, and only a cursory summary can be done here.

The basic reason why the Nationalists won the Spanish Civil War was that their military organisation was superior and coherent.  The Nationalists had a real army; in the early stages, the Republicans had a collection of political militias.  Only as the war progressed did Soviet and Communist influence help to weld the Republican military together, and by then it was too late.  This was also reflected politically; the Anarchists, Socialists, Communists, Catalan and Basque nationalists and other made for a fragmented scene that consistently undermined the Republic’s attempts at a united front.  They spent a great deal of energy fighting each other, and this contributed to the Republic’s defeat.  That result is always the great “Antifa” fear, one that dominates their thinking to this day.

The Spanish Civil War became a proxy war for the various powers in Europe, themselves preparing for the much greater war that was coming.  It wasn’t a straightforward or uniform process.  Starting with the Nationalists, the one power that was “all in” for Franco was Italy, who contributed more support than just about anyone else.  Much of this support left something to be desired of; Franco, for example, wished that he could sent the Italian ground troops back, finding them as useless as Hitler shortly did.  Hitler and the Germans used the Condor Legion as a military experiment for their equipment and strategy, which they put to use in Poland and France.  Their support of the Nationalists was not entirely enthusiastic; at one point Hitler wished that the Republicans would win to crush the Catholic Church, for him a desired result.

The Republic’s foreign aid was, if anything, more desultory than the Nationalists.  The power that corresponded to Italy for the Republic was the Soviet Union, although their aid was sidetracked from time to time by events at home, namely Stalin’s purges and then the pact with Germany.  They also used that aid to forward the Communist’s status in the Republic, usually at the expense of the Anarchists.  As far as Britain and France were concerned, the 1930’s were the “decade of indecision.”  As one right-wing French paper observed, how was France (then under Leon Blum) supposed to help the Spanish Republic if they couldn’t keep the Germans from reoccupying the Rhineland?  Ultimately these two lead the Non-Intervention movement, which included Germany and Italy, and this amounted to having two foxes guard two chicken coops.  In any case their lack of support for the Republic was one cause of its defeat.

But the Spanish Civil War was the golden age of “volunteers,” from all over Europe and the US.  Not even World War II excited intellectuals and writers from these places like this conflict did, and many of them fought–and died–for the Republic.  The International Brigades were the stuff of legend, a phenomenon recently replicated in Syria (which is a good recent analogy for the brutality of the Spanish conflict, at the opposite end of the Mediterranean.)

Mentioning brutality brings up the subject of the atrocities, and there were plenty.  Most people think of Guernica, whose bombing was a complete waste in every sense of the word.  (Guernica is the sacred city of the Basques, with its tree, the way the Basques look at it echoes something out of J.R.R. Tolkien.)  The majority of the brutality, however, was more direct and personal.  The rule on both sides was to shoot first, no questions later.  The difference between the two sides was the context of the brutality.  The Republicans kicked off things with a massacre of Catholic religious and the destruction of churches.  Later the Communists would import techniques of torture and execution from the Soviet Union.   In executing most of the pre-war right-wing leadership, the Republicans did Franco a favour by clearing the field of most of his potential political rivals when the war was done.  The Nationalists did their dirty work, as with the fighting, in a more methodical manner.  The brutality of each side sickened their respective intellectuals, which is more than one could say for their foreign counterparts.

Although the Nationalists became the champions of Catholic religion in Spain, that process was not instantaneous.  Franco was indifferent to the faith (his wife, however, was not.)  The Falange was largely secular; the existence of a secular right was certainly a reality in those days and is becoming one again with the alt-right movement.  The use of Catholicism to bind the Nationalists together was a process encouraged by the conflict, another by-product of the Republic’s overreach in that regard.

Franco’s ultimate victory–just before the outbreak of World War II–was followed by his neutrality.  For all of his faults, Franco had no territorial ambitions beyond Spain and its existing colonies (Morocco had furnished him some of his toughest fighters) and was a profoundly cautious man.  Hitler tried to get him to join the Axis, but his was one of the few people who stiffed Hitler and got away with it.

After Franco’s death, Spain finally got a constitutional monarchy with a Republican political bent.  Franco got what the Romans called damnatio memoriae, he cannot be mentioned.   For the most part the social issues that helped push Spain leftward have been resolved in the modern welfare state, with the good and bad that goes with that.  But issues such as Basque and Catalan separatism–and of course the perennial issue of the Catholic Church–still remind us that the issues for which 600,000 people died are still very much with it.

And not just for Spain either.  It is hard to convey the relevance of the Spanish Civil War in a piece this short.  The polarisation, the heated rhetoric, the refusal for anyone to see the broader picture–all of these things are very much with us, and if we do not take some lessons from Spain’s experience–the most riveting single story of the Twentieth Century–than we risk having our own nation go down the same road.