Sitting Ducks on Social Media

I’ve been debating with myself about what to write before our momentous general election next week.  (Debating with oneself is dangerous; one always loses.)  There’s a lot going on, and much of it has been squelched by the media, especially the Hunter Biden influence-peddling story.  My fellow South Floridian Glenn Greenwald is the latest victim of this broad based cover-up.   As they said in Watergate times, the cover-up was worse than the crime…

In any case leading the pack with this are the major social media companies.  Twitter of course locked the New York Post out of their feed entirely because they ran this exposé on the subject.  Facebook has smothered the story, albeit with more subtlety.  It’s hard to imagine a time when our elites have acted in such lockstep with each other, but they have, and really it shouldn’t be surprising.

But let’s get back to social media.  I’ve been doing this website thing for more than twenty years now.  When it all started I was under the impression that the web was a place for an open exchange of views and ideas with wide reach and low overhead.  No where was that more evident than the “blogosphere,” which drove the web in the early years of the millennium.

Having started with static websites, I was admittedly slow in transitioning to that format.  This site led the pack with an interactive format in 2005 and WordPress in 2006.  By then social media–at the time MySpace–was getting started.  I was slow in getting there too, not going on YouTube until 2008 and Twitter and Facebook the following year.  (Linkedin came much later, but that’s really a topic all its own.)  Much of what drove that was to keep up with the goings on in my church; that ended with my job at same going away in 2010.

I’ve been active on social media ever since.  It was especially useful during the years I worked on my PhD and really didn’t have time to do this and my other sites justice.  But there’s always been something about it that has bothered me, and that’s the simple fact that the content you put there really isn’t your own.  Do you hold copyright to it?  What happens when they don’t either like some of your content, all of your content, or just don’t like you any more?  Does everything just go away?  Those considerations and more have held me back from going “full bore” with social media, especially Facebook.

All of these fears have been realized, not necessarily for me but for others.  It’s become evident that, for those of us who really think for ourselves (as opposed to those who think they do,) social media is a risky place, and you need to build some provision into your plan to disseminate your content without it.  This is something churches in particular need to pay attention to; they’ve become addicted to social media during the pandemic, it would be a tragedy if they were cut off without a Plan B.

For me, the first place I bailed on was Facebook, for reasons I explained here.  I’m still on Twitter but taking a low profile these days.  I’m most active on YouTube; the migration of my music pieces has had good results but was a move done mostly out of necessity.

But there are upsides too.  All of my sites save one are in blog format, and they’re doing well.  After something of a dry spell, I’m seeing more interest in following blogs again.  The biggest challenges are the capricious search engines, especially the One That Cannot be Named.  There are alternatives but it is, as it was for Chairman Mao, a long march.

It’s one we need to make.  Twitter’s Jack Dorsey basically told Congress this week that, if people couldn’t get their stuff on Twitter, they could go elsewhere.  We should take him up on that.  We need to stop being poker-playing dogs on social media, because when we are we’re sitting ducks.  How or when we get shot depends upon who wins next Tuesday, but there’s no sense in making it easy for them.

Word of God: Amen Our Hearts Cry

Word of God W/G 7711 (1977)

This is another in a series of albums that the Word of God put out featuring their worship songs and the music group that led them. It has an interesting mix of songs, including some of the community’s own (Psalm 8, Psalm 18,) non-Catholic choruses (Therefore the Redeemed, Our God Reigns) and an ancient Catholic hymn (Holy God, We Praise Thy Name.) It also includes Pauline Mills’ Thou Art Worthy, which is performed by the composer elsewhere on this channel.

I keep getting heat about my opinion of the musical style and performance on these albums, but I really think that, as was the case with other groups, from a creative and performing standpoint, this album is not up to the standard of the earlier ones.

1977 was a turning point year for the Catholic Charismatic Renewal, with the Kansas City conference. It was also a turning point for me in that I considered and declined to join the Community of God’s Delight in Dallas.  I think this may have been the first Word of God album I bought and the others came later.

The songs:

  • Ex. 24:3,7
  • Isaiah 60
  • One Thing I Ask For
  • Hallelujah, Our God Reigns
  • Lift High the Banners of Love
  • Therefore the Redeemed
  • Psalm 18
  • Psalm 8
  • Thou Art Worthy
  • Holy God, We Praise Thy Name
  • Our God Reigns

  • Producer: James J. Cavnar
  • Conductors: Donald E. Fishel, Donna Kelly, Abbie Root
  • Performers: Chorus and Orchestra of the Word of God
  • Orchestral Arrangements: Donald E. Fishel, Donna Kelly, Richard Rhodes, Linda Speck
  • Recording Engineer: Henry J. Root
  • Cover design and photography: Gerry Rauch, John Leidy, Charismatic Renewal Services, Inc.
  • Back Cover Photograph: Jack Taipala

Now They Tell Us About Globalization

Paul Krugman, one of the more obnoxious apostles of globalization, breaks down and admits the obvious:

Now Krugman has come out and admitted, offhandedly, that his own understanding of economics has been seriously deficient as well. In a recent essay titled “What Economists (Including Me) Got Wrong About Globalization,” adapted from a forthcoming book on inequality, Krugman writes that he and other mainstream economists “missed a crucial part of the story” in failing to realize that globalization would lead to “hyperglobalization” and huge economic and social upheaval, particularly of the industrial middle class in America. And many of these working-class communities have been hit hard by Chinese competition, which economists made a “major mistake” in underestimating, Krugman says.

There were dissenting voices in the 1990’s on this subject, but they were marginalised in the debate.  The problem, however, is more fundamental than that, and I’ll use China to make the point.

My family business’ experience in China, coupled with a lifelong study of the culture, informed us that we were dealing with a civilisation and politico-economic system that is in many ways different from ours.  And I think that most of those who we worked with there likewise understood that.  The problem is that Americans, no matter how much education they have or how high they rise in their own system, tend to assume that everyone else in the world is “just like us,” and Americans who have figured out otherwise don’t rise in the system.  It’s a form of cultural imperialism that blinds people to the reality around them.  In the 1990’s the fashionable assumption was that China would be come a “liberal democracy” like us, but again those of us who knew the truth knew better.  (In reality we are a pseudodemocracy run by pseudosophisticates, but that’s another post…)

The other problem, of course, is that, under all the gaudy rhetoric about retraining, our elites basically don’t care about anyone else in this country except people like themselves.

Which leads us to the next hot topic:

Asked whether the mistakes made by him and other economists helped lead to the rise of Trump, Krugman responded: “We’re still debating this, but as far as I can tell Trump’s trade policy isn’t resonating with many people, even his blue-collar base. So it’s kind of hard to blame trade analysts for the phenomenon.”

It’s impossible to get people who hate Trump to admit that they helped to facilitate his rise, but it’s true.  My Anglican/Episcopal readers will understand the analogy of Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katherine Jefferts-Schori.  Not even the consecration of V. Gene Robinson as bishop in 2003 was enough to inspire a meaningful search for an alternative.  But her “scorched earth” policy regarding the property and dissenting bishops and clergy was a major factor in the formation of the ACNA.

No one likes to admit that they overplayed their hand but, as was the case with the Spanish Civil War, it happens and has consequences.

Overcomplicating Anglican Eucharistic Theology — The Bossuet Project

I’ve been reading with interest the Rev. Ben Jeffries’ Is the Eucharistology of the Anglican Reformation Patristic? As those of you who follow this blog and Positive Infinity know, this is of special interest, as it was to the great Bossuet

Overcomplicating Anglican Eucharistic Theology

Facing the Hard Truth on “Packing the Court”

The present angst of the left on judiciary nominations started with one of their own unwise moves:

The Senate has been on the brink of ending the filibuster twice in the last 15 years. In 2005, Majority Leader Bill Frist, frustrated by a Democratic filibuster of seven federal judicial nominations that had gone on for months, considered changing Senate rules to end the filibuster. In the end, Frist made the decision not to “go nuclear,” concluding that, long term, keeping the filibuster in place was better for the institution of the Senate and, therefore, better for the country.

Eight years later in 2013, it would be Harry Reid and a Democratic majority that would do away with the filibuster for executive branch appointments and judicial nominations, with the exception of the Supreme Court. Despite warnings from the minority that it was a decision they would live to regret, Reid and the Democrats deployed the nuclear option anyway.

Let me be clear: when I say “packing the court” I don’t mean nominating many judges of one idea or another, like Joe Biden does.  I mean it the way FDR and those who came after him understood it, i.e., increasing the number of members of the Supreme Court to make sure that there are enough judges of your idea to make “it” happen, no matter what “it” is.

Technically speaking, it’s not a constitutional issue either way.  The filibuster isn’t enshrined in the Constitution and neither is the number of Supreme Court judges (unlike, say, the number of Senators or Representatives.)  The fact that the legitimacy of our judiciary hangs on procedural/legal issues and not constitutional ones is a weakness of our system.  Personally I don’t think the Founders envisioned the large role the judiciary plays in our system, but when John Marshall unilaterally made the Supreme Court the arbiter of constitutionality, that pretty much settled the issue.  Getting rid of the filibuster for judicial nominees was Harry Reid’s expedient to get his way on them.  It was controversial at the time; even some of his supporters said it would come back to haunt the Democrats.  It has.

The fundamental problem on a Federal level is that our legislature either cannot pass proper legislation or, when it can, cannot write it properly.  The ACA is a classic example of this.  Sprawling and complicated, the Supreme Court up until now has had to fix its deficiencies.  A country with long established entitlement programs such as Social Security and Medicare should be able to make something like this stick, but it’s been a struggle.  (The authors and administrators also engaged in overreach, something that triggered things like the Spanish Civil War.)  If our legislature would be more strategic in its vision and detail-oriented in its drafting, our courts wouldn’t have as much to do.  But it’s not, and we have the mess we have.

Amy Coney Barrett and the Lessons of the Ukrainians

In the midst of everything else that’s going on, next Monday (Lord willing) we’ll start confirmation hearings for Amy Coney Barrett to be the newest justice on the Supreme Court.  In light of the fact that she was and is in a Catholic Charismatic covenant community, I’ve tried to shed some light on what that really means and not be taken off on rabbit trails by our uninformed media.

I didn’t turn down membership in such a community because of what they believed.  I turned it down because I didn’t think their authoritarian structure was, well, a propos.  That separates me from those who somewhere along the way “discovered” what their idea really was.  Part of that idea is certainly wrapped up in the way they looked at the world around them.  To varying degrees, covenant communities were a preparation for a time when Christianity would be very unpopular and even persecuted in our culture.  That time looked imminent in the 1970’s, in the wake of the nervous breakdown we experienced. I really thought that such times were coming.  But I had my doubts as to whether the communities that were forming in the Catholic Charismatic community were an answer to this problem, and those doubts were confirmed in something that happened in the next decade.

In 1988 my church facilitated the resettlement of twenty-four Ukrainian Pentecostal refugees.  For someone who had been regaled with stories of the persecuted church, to have real contact with these people was a chance-in-a-lifetime experience.  The fact that I had made my own first trip to the USSR the previous spring only added to the anticipation.  We struggled with the language barrier but we did learn quite a bit about their life under communism.

The first is that the USSR was as hard on Christians as everyone said it was.  That varied with the generation.  Many of the older people had done hard time in Siberia.  One had been sent to an “orphanage” because her parents had been shipped to Siberia and couldn’t raise their child.  The younger ones had it better; under Brezhnev, things lightened up.  The biggest problem was that you couldn’t go on to higher education unless you were in the Young Pioneers, which meant that you had to be a communist, in outward form at least.  This was unacceptable to them, although they had relatives who had backslid along the way.

The second is that their churches did have organization but it was informal in that there were no paid clergy.  (Some of the reason for that is here.)  They were house churches, organized around the families that came.  (There were more formal Evangelical churches with buildings, my wife and I visited one two years later.)  Their leadership tended to be strong (it still is in Slavic churches over here) but more than just the pastor was allowed to speak during their meetings, something I also saw in covenant communities (I think the latter kept a tighter rein on what got said.)

The third is that they had no problem participating in the underground economy (or «marché noir» as my African contacts called it.)  Although it’s easy to understand why one would disrespect a government which was trying to eradicate your religion, the Ukrainians lacked the punctilious obsession American Christians have with abiding by every law and regulation the government comes up with.  (Within the church they were capable of serious legalism, something people in the Church of God could relate to.)

The fourth is that they were a lot of fun.  They had a good sense of humour and knew how to enjoy life.  If I had to make the greatest contrast between them and covenant community people, it was that, I always felt that the latter were too serious.  Beyond that, covenant communities were a synthetic response to coming persecution; what the Ukrainians experienced was real.

Lastly, the Ukrainians had the advantage of not having to deal with an “over church” like the covenant communities did with the RCC.  They were a real, autocephalous (to use the fancy ecclesiastical term) group.  That complicated relationship came back to haunt the covenant community movement; I am surprised the People of Praise have stuck it out as long as they have.

For me, having experienced both of these groups, the reason why it’s important to put Amy Coney Barrett on SCOTUS is to avoid (or at least try to avoid) getting ourselves into the same situation that our Ukrainian Pentecostal friends found themselves in and from which they’ve tried to escape.  But the irony that we’ve nominated someone who is a product of a community that was formed, in part, to weather the storms of the “laid, high or drunk” crowd is one of those ironies that makes us say “you just can’t make this stuff up.”

Against the Liturgical Optimists — North American Anglican

Within American Christianity, and especially within American evangelicalism, we have seen a rise of interest in liturgy. Taking a quick look at InterVarsity Press’s site, one finds recent titles such as The Liturgy of Creation, Liturgy of the Ordinary, and The Liturgy of Politics. At Conciliar Post, Wesley Walker has compiled a list of articles such as “#OccupyWallStreet: A Liturgy” and “The Quiet Liturgy of Fred Rogers.” These are just a few examples; the word ‘liturgy’ is everywhere, often in unexpected places…

Those of us in the Anglican tradition, with our emphasis on common prayer and right liturgy, could be encouraged by this renewed emphasis on things liturgical — but, I believe, there are reasons we should be skeptical of the liturgical turn.

From the North American Anglican

How to Get Episcopalians Fired Up About Hand Sanitizer

Traditionally, it’s been hard to get Episcopalians fired up about much of anything.  The whole point of the religion was to leave the enthusiasm for “them” and have a nice, proper religion where we worshipped “Gawd” on Sunday according to the Prayer Book.

The culture wars, starting in the 1960’s, changed all of that.  Some Episcopalians got fired up when V.G. Robinson was made a bishop.  Others (like KJS, although she’s a ringer from the RCC) got fired up when the first group tried to leave with property.

Now we’re facing COVID-19.  One of the infallible nostrums for this disease is the use of hand sanitizer, most of which contain alcohol.  This alone should generate enthusiasm amongst clergy and laity alike; as my second year Latin teacher (a fine Episcopal minister) noted in class, when four Whiskeypalians get together, there’s always a fifth.

And that leads me to my point; when your Episcopalian friend or relative (or those who are in the ACNA, REC or one of the “Continuing” churches) balks at the use of hand sanitizer, instead of, say, telling them that it has 70% alcohol, just tell them it’s 140 proof.  They’ll slather it on with gusto after that.

I must confess that, after my upbringing, when told about the alcohol content, I made the mental conversion to proof.  There are more things than liturgy and “smells and bells” which are “continuing” in the Anglican/Episcopal world, and I guess this is one of them.  (This is another.)

The Slow Suicide of American Science–ACSH

I’ve always been bullish about American scientific and technological supremacy, not in some starry-eyed, jingoistic way, but due to the simple reality that the United States remains the world’s research and development engine.

This is true for at least four reasons, which I detailed previously: (1) Superior higher education; (2) A cultural attitude that encourages innovation; (3) Substantial funding and financial incentives; and (4) A legal framework that protects intellectual property and tolerates failure through efficient bankruptcy laws. There’s a fifth, fuzzier reason, namely that smart and talented people have long gravitated toward the U.S.

The Slow Suicide of American Science–ACSH

In the Old Days, They Always Wanted to Wreck the Computer

As was the case at Stamford in 1971:

H. Bruce Franklin was the center of attention at Stanford University’s White Plaza one winter day in 1971. The steely-eyed, raven-haired associate English professor delivered a fiery speech during a campus rally. Stray dogs ran laps around the crossed legs of student revolutionaries as Franklin spit his ire toward an unlikely target: the campus computer center. As he and other activists had recently learned, the facility was helping the U.S. Navy develop a program named Gamut-H, which would be used for an amphibious invasion in North Vietnam.

The time for token acts of protest was over, Franklin declared, urging protestors to do real damage to the institutions of imperialism and citing the building as a “good target.” Soon after Professor Franklin’s speech, more than a hundred students scaled the fence of the center, broke open the back door, climbed to the roof to hoist flags in support of the Vietnamese National Liberation Front, and occupied the building. Their actions resulted in a daylong revolutionary melee. Riot police stormed the campus, the teenage son of a history professor was shot, and Franklin became the first tenured professor to ever be fired from Stanford.

This wasn’t the only incident of its kind in the day: the year before, the mathematician Peter Lax saved the computer at New York University from a similar attack.  At the time I wrote the piece on that attack (2012) I made the following observations:

The fact is that the left, very much in the driver’s seat in this country these days, is largely the follow-up to the 1960’s radical agenda.  One should think of the 2008 election; the Democratic primary was a battle between a 60’s radical who was actually there (Hillary Clinton) and one who absorbed the philosophy of its leading light (Barack Obama/Bill Ayers).  Two years before the incident at New York University, Mary Hopkin recorded the Russian song “Those Were the Days” which included the following prophetic lyrics:

Oh my friend we’re older but no wiser
For in our hearts the dreams are still the same

That’s pretty much where the American left is at.  Their dreams, Luddite to the core, have never changed, and they are certainly “older but no wiser”.  They can wrap themselves in their “scientific” flag all they want, but their vision of life would take us back to a more primitive stage of living if fully implemented (assuming we survived the shock).  That’s why, for example, they would never dare consider nuclear power to reduce greenhouse gases, even though Greenpeace’s founder has seen daylight on the issue.

Today we’re pretty much on steroids with all of this.  The Antifa and BLM people who terrorize our cities are the successors of those 1960’s and 1970’s radicals, complete with the children of the privileged at the ramparts.  This time, however, they have more support from those who own and operate this society, although they will pull the plug if they think their own privilege is being threatened.

The more serious question is this: it wasn’t a given that this country, weakened then as now by these kinds of movements, avoided loss to the Soviets.  So what’s going to stop a country, weakened again by its own guilty elites, from being rolled by the Chinese?