It’s Back to the 1960’s and 1970’s for Urban Decay, but Some Have Had Enough

Including this now ex-Washingtonian:

During the last night in my condo in DC, I had to walk my dog an extra lap around the block because a crazy person was outside screaming obscenities. I wasn’t afraid. I just didn’t feel like getting into it with him or having to listen to his story—his “Let me just tell you something,” attempt to get money from me. It was 1 A.M., and I was tired from a night out—but more so, just tired in general. Tired of it all.

“Woke” people are blind to their own elitism, and one way that elitism has manifested itself in “urban renewal,” with the accompanying “gentrification.”  What they didn’t realise is that a great deal of that renewal was buttressed by a police force with the training, weaponry and mandate to enforce the law rigidly.  Now that woke mayors and other officials basically let protestors run wild, that renewal is pretty much history.

With that we’re back to the 1960’s and 1970’s, when high crime was routine in urban centres (how conveniently my fellow boomers forget!) and people didn’t want to go there.  My brother used to say there were certain parts of Houston where the police didn’t go, and we’re back to that too.  A product of that volte-face in American life (we seem to specialise in those too) is that people who have the opportunity to leave will do so.  (My experience “on the bus” tells me that the people who can’t get out aren’t any happier about the crime, irrespective of their race.)  And one pillar of wokeness will be tumbled down.

Another one which is in trouble is higher education, but that’s another post…seems like there’s a Sampson running through our society:

And when their heart was merry, then they said, Call Sampson out of the prison-house, and let him play before us: and they called Sampson out of the prison-house, and he played before them; and they smote him with the palms of their hands, and set him between the pillars. And Sampson said to the young man that held his hand, Suffer me to feel the pillars on which the house rests, and I will stay myself upon them. And the house was full of men and woman, and there were all the chiefs of the Philistines, and on the roof were about three thousand men and woman looking at the sports of Sampson. And Sampson wept before the Lord, and said, O Lord, my lord, remember me, I pray thee, and strengthen me, O God, yet this once, and I will requite one recompense to the Philistines for my two eyes. And Sampson took hold of the two pillars of the house on which the house stood, and leaned on them, and laid hold of one with his right hand, and the other with his left. And Sampson said, Let my wife perish with the Philistines: and he bowed himself mightily; and the house fell upon the princes, and upon all the people that were in it: and the dead whom Sampson slew in his death were more than those whom he slew in his life. (Judges 16:25-30 Brenton)

Dollar Hegemony Will End, But Not Voluntarily

Wishful thinking from Foreign Affairs:

Dollar hegemony isn’t foreordained. For years, analysts have warned that China and other powers might decide to abandon the dollar and diversify their currency reserves for economic or strategic reasons. To date, there is little reason to think that global demand for dollars is drying up. But there is another way the United States could lose its status as issuer of the world’s dominant reserve currency: it could voluntarily abandon dollar hegemony because the domestic economic and political costs have grown too high.

Dollar hegemony is a topic that doesn’t get much press.  It was Henry C.K. Liu of Asia Times Online whose verbose explanations of the topic were my introduction to the concept.  It explains a great deal of why the U.S. has gotten away with much of what it has with its swelling debt and incompetent governance.

Americans aren’t much for renouncing anything, and certainly not something as central to its own centrality in world affairs as dollar hegemony.  But with ballooning debt, unravelling rule of law (that’s what these protests are all about) and the other woes we face these days, it could end unceremoniously when the rest of the world decides, as my old boss in Lay Ministries used to joke, we don’t know what we’ll do without you, but starting Monday morning we’re going to find out.

From Covid to crime: how media hype distorts risk, or the creek water will get you every time

We all rely on the news to give us information about the world. That information lets us make decisions: whether it’s safe to fly to Spain, whether red wine causes cancer, whether we’re likely to lose our job for tweeting something. We use the media to help us understand the risks that surround us. The…

via From Covid to crime: how media hype distorts risk — UnHerd

This reminds me of something my Fluid Mechanics and Heat Transfer professor told his undergraduate classes.  He was a native of Lenoir City, TN, and had a dry sense of humour that frequently went right past his mostly Texan students.  He told the story of the guy in the hills who first drank whiskey with creek water and got drunk, then drank bourbon with creek water and got drunk, then drank moonshine with creek water and got drunk.  The guy’s conclusion: the creek water got him drunk.

That creek water will get you every time…

Two months since the riots, and still no “National Conversation”

We are now approaching the two-month mark since the riots that erupted across the United States in late May and early June. There is a reasonable argument to be made that these riots were unprecedented in U.S. history — or at the very least, since the 1960s. Yet if one surveyed the national media today, you’d barely even know anything happened. Nor would you likely be aware that those who bore the brunt of the destruction — largely minorities whose sensibilities don’t fit into any neatly-delineated ideological category — are still acutely suffering from the fallout.

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A Lesson From the Middle East About Useless Jobs

Many jobs is our so-called capitalist economy aren’t worth much:

What’s going on? Surprisingly, one of the more convincing explanations comes from an anthropologist who has looked beyond narrow economic reasoning to examine the actual social or psychological functions served by many of the jobs in today’s service and knowledge economy. David Graeber of the London School of Economics argues in a recent book that the prevailing myths about the efficiency of capitalism blind us to the fact that much of economic reality is shaped by jockeying for power and status and serves no economic function at all.

There may be a more reasonable explanation.

This reminds me of something I heard at a political dinner many years ago.  It was during Bush’s Iraq War and a friend and I were talking about the Middle East.  His observation was that the difference between the U.S. and the Middle East was that we earned money to get power and there they got power to get money.

Difference?  Or perhaps we’re adopting the Middle Eastern way, a fear I’ve expressed to my Middle Eastern friends.  I think there are two things driving this, and they (as usual) are interrelated.

The first is the centralisation of power due to both the centralisation of wealth and of political authority with an expanding government.  All the Middle Eastern powers of old, going back to Egypt and Babylon and going to the Ottomans (and neo-Ottomans,) Iran and Saudi Arabia, are autocratic in form, function or both.  With power those at the top can “organise” things to make the wealth flow their way, and we see that in abundance here these days.

The second is the growth of endemic (pandemic?) careerism in our society.  I discussed this phenomenon in my piece When the Sheep Have Anthrax: A Reflection on the Politics of the Middle East and won’t belabour the point.

Given what we’ve seen in the Middle East, I doubt adopting this idea is an improvement for us, and the inefficiencies it builds into the system is one evidence that we’re not moving forward the way we should.

Review – Prolegomena: A Defense of the Scholastic Method by Jordan Cooper — The North American Anglican

Prolegomena: A Defense of the Scholastic Method. By Jordan Cooper. A Contemporary Protestant Scholastic Theology. The Weidner Institute: A Division of Just and Sinner, 2020. 358 pp. $21.60 (paperback) Whether you realize it or not, a heated debate has been taking place in Protestant circles these past few decades, over the usefulness or even compatibility…

via Review – Prolegomena: A Defense of the Scholastic Method by Jordan Cooper — The North American Anglican

Note: This article notes the “heated debate.”  I’ve defended Scholasticism before, but generally in a Roman Catholic context.  But I’ve also seen the heated debate within Protestantism on this topic, especially from one belligerent and rude Barthian blogger from the Portland area.  (What is wrong with this part of the country?  It’s worse than South Florida!)  I still think Scholasticism has merit although it’s best done within a Catholic context.  (Unless, of course, you’re trying to revolutionise mathematics…)

Those Elusive Free Speech Rights

In wandering through some old posts, found this one from 2010, with certainly bears repeating, on free speech:

Americans have always considered their rights–especially the one of free speech–as “inalienable.” And why not: after all, it’s in our fundamental national document, isn’t it? Isn’t that why we make such a big deal of “rights?” Because they’re important and legally enforceable?

Well, in reality the extent to which rights can be defended depends upon the recourse we have when they’re violated. If we live in a country whose economic system is dispersed, our recourse is better because our ability to sustain ourselves through the process is easier. But when wealth and its disbursement is centralised, then our rights are compromised by our economic dependence.

Put in terms more people can understand, we all know we don’t formally give up our constitutional right to free speech in the workplace. But we also know that we have to be careful about what we say–especially if it regards our boss, the company, and to some extent our coworkers–because our employer sends us money every now and then for what we do, and if they’re displeased about our actions, that cash flow can stop. It’s the same with centralised health care: as long as the federal government basically holds all of the cards, they can deprive insurance companies of cash flow and thus exercise some control over what they say.

In a system of state socialism, when government controls the entire economy (in theory at least,) their control over people is nominally absolute, no matter what their constitutions say. People who spoke out could find themselves unemployable in a hurry.

That’s the extreme example, but hopefully you get the idea. The more economic centralisation we have, the more our rights will be in the subjunctive rather than the indicative, where they belong.

China’s Historic Houston Consulate Gets the Boot, Goes Up in Flames —

In the midst of the souring relationship between the two countries: Beijing vowed to retaliate after it said that the United States ordered its Houston consulate to be closed within 72 hours, calling it an “outrageous and unjustified move,” marking a serious escalation in the quickly deteriorating relationship between the U.S. and China… The announcement […]

via China’s Historic Houston Consulate Gets the Boot, Goes Up in Flames —

What the woke movement shares with communism — UnHerd

“In the summer of 1921 luck broke my way in the shape of the great Russian famine which then threatened to cost about 30,000,000 lives, and probably did cost 5,000,000 or 6,000,000 including deaths from disease.”1 For Walter Duranty, who as the Pulitzer Prize-winning foreign correspondent for the New York Times led the cover-up of the…

via What the woke movement shares with communism — UnHerd

The Sad Case of COVID and the Westmore Church of God

The reality of COVID 19–instead of just a dreary recitation of statistics–came home when an outbreak took place at the Westmore Church of God in Cleveland, TN.  Things haven’t gotten any better, with the passing of two of its members.  All of this led to this message from its pastor, Kelvin Page:


We are members at another Church of God in Cleveland, North Cleveland.  Westmore was formed in the late 1960’s when several members of our own church left to start it. The two churches are in many ways sister churches; members from one visit the other for special occasions, and not infrequently the two trade members.  We’ve been on road trips with their senior group, including the Billy Graham museum outside of Charlotte, NC.

The sanctuary that Westmore used for many years was nice but the property was very vertical; not only was expanding it difficult but it was a nightmare for handicapped people.  They had planned for many years to move (with commendable financial planning to go with it;) however, their move coincided with the full impact of COVID in March.  After years of work their new facility was idle.

Like most of the larger churches in the area, Westmore went in with an ongoing online outreach, which proved handy when things shut down.  Going through drive-in services through April, at the end of May they resumed in-person services while formally opening their new facilities.  It should be noted that resumption of in-person services varied among the Churches of God in the area, and that includes how things like how social distancing was handled.

Westmore had several large events in June.  We went to a couple of these, wearing masks, practicing social distancing.  The last one was an event organised by the Church of God state office (diocese, if you please) on 22 June.  Westmore had made provision for a remote room where those of us who wanted to be especially careful could go and spread out away from the sanctuary proper.  We opted for that, and were led up there by one of the young people of the church.  We got up there to find ourselves in a large room with a big screen tv to watch the service, large couch in front of it…and by ourselves.  We had the best seats in the house.

They were best all around; our diligence paid off, we avoided COVID, but many of those in the sanctuary for this and other meetings didn’t fare so well.  The disease is no respecter of persons: it got Cleveland’s mayor, many of our church’s officials (the “Vatican” for the Church of God is in Cleveland) and of course many of the members.  The fallout is ongoing and it has affected many people near and dear to us.  Our own church has shut down again, going back purely online.

It’s worth stopping and asking the question Evangelicals hate more than any other: why?  It’s hard to get to the bottom of things in a country which is having a nervous breakdown, the second in my lifetime.  But at least for the benefit of my Anglican and Catholic readers, who have supported this blog with visits, I think some kind of explanation is necessary.  There are two things going on here.

The first is the sacramental nature of Pentecostal/Charismatic worship.  I don’t know of any other word to describe it.  Catholics grieve at being barred from the Body of Our Lord Jesus Christ in the Eucharist, but for Pentecostals worship in churches like Westmore is a sacramental event.  It’s the special place where God’s real presence comes and dwells.  It’s not an understatement that our ministers are obsessed with our worship, and I have long lost count of the sermons on how important worship is, how we need to come together to it, and do it properly.  “Properly” can be tricky with the music wars; advocates of two styles of music and worship are as adverse to each other as TLM and Novus Ordo types.  But coupled with the convivial nature of Pentecostal churches (certainly more so than their Anglican and Catholic counterparts) Kelvin Page’s appeal to get back together again had a powerful appeal.

The second is our “no fear” culture.  I’ve talked about the theodicy issue before and won’t belabour the point, but our culture has pushed for a long time that life should be perfect and without adversity.  The church has responded with things like prosperity teaching, we like to think of ourselves as invincible.  It’s the same mentality that drives people to crowd bars.  (Bars and churches are really both houses of worship, just to different deities.)  We’ve been conditioned to believe that it won’t happen to us.

If 2020 has taught us anything, it’s that “it” can and will happen to us.  We’re at the beginning of a bumpy ride for our country, and for Christian churches in particular.  Beyond this present plague churches are going to have to prepare themselves for a different environment.  Many of our brothers and sisters overseas have experienced this for a long time (as this missionary to the Middle East attested) and now “it” has come for us.

If they can endure to the end, why can’t we?