Category Archives: Social and Political Pieces

It would be nice if we could ignore the world around us. But we can’t.

The “Favourite Period” for Feminism was also the Favourite Period for Pentecostal Women Ministers

An interesting observation from Camille Paglia on her “favourite period” for feminism:

My favorite period in feminism has always been the 1920s and 1930s, when American women energized by winning the vote gained worldwide prominence for their professional achievements. My early role models, Amelia Earhart and Katharine Hepburn, were fierce individualists and competitors who liked and admired men and who never indulged in the tiresome, snippy rote male-bashing that we constantly hear from today’s feminists.

It was also (not coincidentally) the “golden age” of women ministers in modern Pentecost, a fact which I touched on in my last post.  After 1950, setting women into ministry in Pentecostal churches (in the Church of God at least) went into decline until recent times.

Another thing that experienced a “golden age” in the 1930’s was aviation, where women such as Earhart and Laura Ingalls made their mark.  My grandfather was part of that era and I discuss that–and womens’ achievements there–in more detail here.

What happened?  In short, World War II, which induced many changes into American society that are still not appreciated.  Today we work under a paradigm (or paradigms, some of which are self-contradictory) that really isn’t working for anybody.  A good example of this comes from another observation from Paglia:

The main point here is that we should have had our first woman president way back in the 1990s, but neither Pelosi nor Feinstein, the leading female candidates, chose to run, as even Elizabeth Dole bravely did. There is absolutely no mythical “misogyny” holding back American women from the presidency: for heaven’s sake, the U.S. has had women mayors, senators, and governors for decades now.

We should have had our first women president then, but instead we got that Scots-Irish wonder kid, Bill Clinton.  Had we done so, as head of government she would have been sandwiched between the UK’s Margaret Thatcher and Theresa May, both of whom were or are Tories.  (Even Turkey, Pakistan, Indonesia and Bangladesh, Muslim countries all, have beat us to the punch on this one…)  Something is wrong, but our heated rhetoric confounds our ability to fix it.

Ending a Ban on Communists in Government is an Improvement in Some Places

Like California:

Lawmakers narrowly approved the bill to repeal part of a law enacted during the Red Scare of the 1940s and ’50s when fear that communists were trying to infiltrate and overthrow the U.S. government was rampant. The bill now goes to the Senate.

To tell the truth, a real Communist would be an improvement over the sybaritic post-modern leftists that dominate California politics.  I’ve referred to the place as the “People’s Republic of California,” but in reality it’s in the thrall of its moneyed elites in a way that would make the “capitalist roaders” of yore envious.

One thing that Communists liked to do (at least in the early years of their rule, before they let the economy run down like Brezhnev did) is to do big public works.  California could use some of that now, but its moneyed elites have an allergy for same, and sad to say the few Republicans left there do too.

Another big problem, however, is that there are few real Marxists-Leninists-_____________ around these days.  The right likes to call American leftists Communists, but few are, even those who claim the label.  The closest major figure on the left to being a Communist is Bernie Sanders, but even with his appeal to the Millennials the Democrat party’s establishment “tilted the table” to prevent his nomination.

Our ruling elites wouldn’t be facing the populist upheaval they are if they were more mindful of the needs of their general population.  But they look down on same general population and then expect adulation.  And they wonder why it’s a bumpy ride these days?

Advice to Graduates: Consider the Brusilov Option

It’s that time of year when most people who graduate from anything actually do it.  And graduation brings up more the most important issue: where do I go from here?  Really, if you’ve waited until graduation to answer that question, you’re in serious trouble.  If you’re reading this long before graduation, perhaps it will save you lost income and other dire consequences of an unexamined life.

The Russians are all “the thing” these days.  Everyone seems to be obsessed with them.  Did they throw our election?  Do they get special treatment from our current President?  Is your tax accountant a Russian spy?  (I have a relative who actually experienced that problem.)

For those of you who aren’t paying attention (and my classroom and lab experience tells me that’s me that’s a lot of you) we’re travelling through the hundredth anniversary of World War I, and this year the Russian Revolution.  Rolling all of that into one brings us to the best part of Russia’s war effort in World War I: the Brusilov Offensive and its commander, Aleksei Alekseevich Brusilov.

From the beginning of the war, Russia’s war effort was dogged by difficulties.  Some of these were due to the nature of the country: large, poorly connected by roads and railways, its soldiers recruited from an illiterate peasantry, its industrial base small and underdeveloped.  Others were due to the uninspiring leadership from its Tsar, Nicholas II, his family and hangers-on, not the least of which was Rasputin.  The result of this was, by the end of 1915, the Germans and Austrians had taken Poland and Russia had no good prospect for improvement.

Enter Brusilov.  Taking command in 1916, he prepared for a major offensive primarily against the Austrians, which he perceived to be the weaker opponent.  Discarding putting everything into one type of military operation (a persistent fault of World War I command) he organised a multifaceted operation including infantry, artillery and cavalry assault (this last was sometimes beneficial in the East, not in the West.)  It was well organised and supplied (neither a given with Russian operations) and he kept the secrecy of the preparations to a higher than usual level.

The last worked: the Austrians were not ready when his armies began their assault on 4 June 1916.  Over the next two months the Russians advanced anywhere from 25-50 miles along an approximately 300 mile front.  Although the Russians were not able to follow up on their success, his offensive forced the Germans to take the pressure from the French and Italians, and his offensive pretty much broke the Austrians as a major ally for the Germans.

The benefits to Russia of their victory have long been debated, especially since their revolution took place the following year.  But one Russian was obviously impressed with the results: Lenin.  Brusilov was never a Bolshevik or Communist, but Lenin recruited Brusilov to serve in the Red Army as an advisor and trainer.  And Lenin did win the Russian Civil War.

So why is all of this relevant for you?  The question you need to ask yourself is simple: are your abilities and skill set of such a calibre that your enemy would value you enough to retain your services?  Or, if things changed significantly like they did for Russia in 1917, would you be able to survive the change?  Russians were faced with the same choice when the Soviet Union collapsed in 1991, and watching them take the challenge changed the way I looked at many things.  Is your degree or skill set dependent on things going on the way they are?  Most of you are products of an educational system whose main goal is to make you fit for the existing system.  What happens when that system changes radically or goes away?  The fear of that result is what’s driving the assault on free speech we see on campuses today.

And then there are those immigrant people.  They came to this country to seek success in a different system.  Could you do the same by leaving this country for another one?  What foreign language skills do you have?  Are your skills marketable outside of this bubble?  Do you even understand the metric system of weights and measurements?  Why is it that everyone has to move here?  These are questions no one is asking these days, but we’ve seen many “unexpected” things in our lifetime, why not some more?

Christians, who are way too heavily invested in these United States, need to think about this as we debate Rod Dreher’s “Benedict Option.”  That will never work unless we in turn adopt the “Brusilov Option” of being able to survive and thrive in a hostile world.   Failure to do so will make any “Benedict Option” economically unviable.  (Remember that Benedict’s motto was “To Work is to Pray.”)  We live in a trashy and slovenly culture; unless we can seriously rise above it, we are toast.

Unfortunately for many of you the die is cast with your major, although strange major/career combinations are not unknown.  For those of you reading this who have a better head start, you should think about it.  We have a society which likes big talk about “pursuing your dream” and “changing the world.”  But if the world changes and you’re not ready for it, you’ll wish you had considered the “Brusilov Option” when you had the chance.

Harvard’s Music Curriculum Changes: Another Attempt to Sidetrack the Asians?

Harvard tries to shake things up in its music curriculum:

University curricular reform doesn’t typical ignite fiery internet controversy. But last month, when The Harvard Crimson reported on the adoption of a new undergraduate curriculum at Harvard, the classical music corner of the internet—composers, performers, theorists, musicologists – briefly erupted in intense discussion. The college’s elimination of typical core requirements for concentrators (Harvard’s word for “majors”), including its introductory theory courses, caused some commentators to voice concern about the decline of traditional analytical skills; others instead pointed out that older curricular models often exclude non-Western musics and limit diversity.

One of the things they’re trying to do is this:

And our old curriculum was saying to those students, “You cannot major in music because your parents did not give you 12 years of this kind of education that we implicitly require.” Although it says nowhere on our website that that is required, that’s essentially what we’re requiring. We’ve gotten rid of this whole notion of this implicit – and it is, ultimately, a class-based implicit requirement. And students come with a variety of backgrounds and musical interests. For example, a highly skilled singer-songwriter can become a music concentrator.

Music at the university level is an interesting proposition.  It’s true that music academics commonly expect that the major has been doing this all of his or her life, which is a leisurely approach to being an academic.  (Everyone else struggles with products of a school system which doesn’t bring students to a high enough level, so we’re a little envious.)  And it’s true that “classical” music (and that term really isn’t used properly) dominates most university curricula, although there are  excellent jazz programs.

The bottom line is that music academics, whether they want to admit it or not, realise that the musical world they’re preparing their students for is not the same as we see in the, say, pop culture.  Here in Tennessee that’s especially obvious with the dominance of the country (and Christian) music industry in Nashville.

It’s easy to say that this is the problem Harvard is trying to fix.  Or is it?  Harvard and the other Ivy League schools, their reputation for excellence notwithstanding, have a long history of “levelling the playing field” when overachievers arrive.  This goes back to their treatment of the Jews a century ago, when they discovered the “well-rounded” person and reduced their Jewish admissions.  They’ve done basically the same thing with the Asians, which is why the Asians are suing.

Anyone who has been around music education knows that the Asians are very much dominant in competitions, just as they are in the STEM fields.  They are the primary recipients of the twelve (and more) year music education before they arrive (homeschoolers are another group that turn up in this bunch.)  Harvard’s changes strike me as an attempt to change the rules and “defend” the system against people who diligently followed it, all in the name of addressing a “class-based” problem.

The husband of a past president of the Tennessee Music Teachers Association expressed to me the sentiment that what music academia really needs is an audience.  Much of the system is a “closed loop,” which has made it a prime target for university budget cutting.  Starting with the audience would go a much longer way to addressing the “industry’s” problems than tinkering with the curriculum.

Erdogan: Touching the Sultan’s Garment is Still a Big Deal

In the wake his victory, Turkey’s President Recep Erdogan does something distinctly Ottoman:

As he stood before the tomb of Selim I, Erdogan gazed upon the caliph’s caftan and gently touched it. Would the garment become his, and more importantly, would he inherit the powers of the conquering Turkish caliph?

This custom, which finds application in the New Testament, has a long heritage in Turkey, as I explained two years ago:

The Ottomans put fair stock in touching or kissing this hem.  When Sultan Abdul Hamid II was enthroned in 1876, he went in procession to the Eyub Mosque (the Friday procession of the Sultan and his retinue to the mosque for prayers was one of the highlights of the week for residents of Constantinople).  Once the dervishes had girded him with the sabre–the Turks were and are a military people–the Sultan took three steps towards his Grand Vizier (prime minister) who kissed the hem of his garment in the name of the people.  This gesture was done even under duress; in 1808, when Sultan Selim III was murdered and Mahmud II ended up as Sultan, his soon to be Grand Vizier Bairactar kissed the hem of the new Sultan’s robe.  (Bairactar didn’t last long; he was murdered by the Janissaries, but ultimately they came to the same end).

The Ottoman emperor was also the Caliph, the head of the Islamic faithful. I think it’s fair to say that Erdogan has always had the caliphate in view, now he is one step closer. In addition to putting him at odds with Christian states like Russia (Western Europe has long since decamped from this status, as has the United States,) it also puts him at odds with Isis, which believes the Caliph must be an Arab.  It also puts him at odds with the Iranians, who are outside of Islam in the Sunni idea.

This mess isn’t going away any time soon…but watch: Erdogan’s next move along these lines is to unfurl the banner named Barack…

Xi and Trump “Getting to Know” Meeting a Good Idea

The Chinese present an interesting take on the upcoming meeting at Mar-a-Lago:

Susan Thornton, acting assistant secretary of state for East Asian and Pacific affairs, said this was a chance for the two leaders to get to know one another.

“We want them to establish a good working relationship, so they can, in times of opportunity and crisis, reach out to one another and have a good rapport,” she said.

She described having the meeting in Florida as a good chance for the two leaders, in a more informal atmosphere and relaxed setting, to discuss serious and important issues and to try to kick off a good relationship at the outset of the Trump administration.

That’s not a bad idea, one which I presented over a decade ago vis-a-vis the Iranians:

A more productive approach would be to have a meeting in a venue where concrete results weren’t expected. In an American context, this means a golf course. Let’s say that Bush invites Ahmadinejad to Medina G&CC near Chicago. Since the clubhouse looks like a mosque, Ahmadinejad would think he was winning up front, which would make him overconfident, a besetting weakness of him. But on a golf course the two could size each other up face to face, watching as each other deals with the ups and downs of the game and each other. Then Bush could figure out how he might like to proceed based on what he saw himself rather than something stupid his advisers might come up with.

In addition to the usual problem of Americans impatient for tangible results, Americans additionally don’t understand the importance of building trust before those results surface.  We’ll see if Donald Trump breaks the mould on this.

He needs to: with the stakes as high as they are because of North Korea, he’s going to need all the patience and savvy he can muster.  It bothers me, however, that we’re sliding back into a line of moralistic bluster.  With everyone complaining about Rex Tillerson’s low profile (a typical oilfield method) and others doing big talk, the American propensity for posturing could easily lead to nuclear war.  (Just like the Senate…)

Obsession with “Principles” Spreads Across the Aisle

It’s not just the Republicans any more, as is obvious in the current Democrat plans to filibuster Neil Gorsuch:

“Not only is the base there, but the politics of the moment demand it. Democrats are looking for members to take a stand,” said Democratic strategist Jim Manley, a former top aide to Harry Reid, who altered the filibuster rules in 2013 to approve then-President Obama’s stalled executive appointees. “To the extent there is any peril, it would be struggling to find a way to vote for the guy.”

Those of us who have spent years listening to movement conservatives (and religious ones) have heard “taking a stand” until we’re sick of it, especially when the results never improved.  Now the Democrats are going the principled, obstructionist route, which is the mirror image of the Freedom Caucus’ torpedoing of Ryan’s health care bill.  (That failure is a real gift to the GOP, although it will take time for that to become obvious.)

You can’t win by “standing” on anything, principles or otherwise.  You have to go on offence.  Movement conservatives were great at taking stands, but ultimately the Republican electorate got tired of waiting for results and nominated Donald Trump.  For the Democrats to come up with an unconventional candidate will require forcing same on their risk-adverse (dare I say anal) elites, and that’s easier said than done.

The EU Drives Swedes to Drink

Literally, it has gone up significantly since joining the undemocratic, Procrustean experiment:

“Sweden’s alcohol policy is more liberal than 25 years ago, and consumption is 20-25 per cent higher than before we joined the EU.”

And this, mind you, with all the tee-totaling Muslim immigrants…

I saw this in action because Finland also has serious alcohol restrictions.  In 1988, during my first visit to what was then Leningrad (now St. Petersburg) there were many drunk Finns wandering around the place.  “They come to drink,” my representative told me, because of the enormous price differential between Finland and the then-Soviet Union.

I’ve attempted to show (with hostile reaction) that the Scots-Irish church’s hard push for total abstinence comes from that group’s penchant for binge drinking.  Obviously the Swedes, opposite of the Scots-Irish in many ways, take the same view, in a secular framework.  But with all the boozers across the Baltic, it’s a hard “red line” to draw.

The increased alcohol consumption may also be an explanation for the Swedes’ liberal policies towards Middle Eastern immigrants…but I digress.

The Perils of Repealing the Johnson Amendment

One of Donald Trump’s promises to the Evangelical community–and one which he’s gotten much enthusiasm about in return–is his promise to repeal the so-called “Johnson Amendment,” the provision in the tax code which prohibits 503(c)3 tax-exempt organisations–and that includes churches–from explicitly endorsing candidates for public office.  I say “explicitly” because churches on both sides of the political–and racial–spectrum have been implicitly doing this for a long time.  And the polarisation of our society has only made this easier.

It’s for that reason that I think the real impact of this will not be as widespread as people think.  Whether it is beneficial is another story.  One thing that this country has been “about” is that freedom is something to be used responsibly.  If and when this restriction comes out of the tax code, our ministers will have some serious choices to make.  Based on my experience with our ministers, this may not work out as anticipated.

Most ministers of the Gospel are called, trained and set forth to lead their congregations or, to use Our Lord’s pastoral analogy, feed the sheep.  The interests of the sheep are for the most part local: raising a family, doing the work to make a living, and being a part of their community.  The gifts and skills of the ministers, which admittedly vary, are geared towards that kind of life pursuit.  That’s especially true with Evangelical churches, with their focus on the salvation experience and (hopefully) the later spiritual growth.

To properly operate politically, however, requires a broader view of life.  That’s where the problem comes in.  Most of our ministers, by training and temperament, are unprepared to properly address the broader issues facing our society, and thus are unprepared to properly inform their congregations about how best to respond to those challenges.  As a result of this there are two mistakes our ministers make in addressing political issues that can significantly impact their congregations.

On the left, we have those who basically “flip” the message of the Gospel, putting the broader social issues ahead of the personal ones.  That’s a major reason left-wing churches are in decline: they’re political all right, but they don’t address people’s life issues in a meaningful way.

On the right, we have various forms of “prosperity teaching.”  At the core of prosperity teaching are two underlying assumptions.  The first is that Christianity is the “way up” in this world, and second that moving up is the principal goal of life.  Today we principally associate prosperity teaching with the likes of Paula White, who prayed at President Trump’s inauguration.  But we’ve had this before.  In the 1950’s and 1960’s the Episcopal Church experienced tremendous growth, basically by telling people that they had the nicest religion and that people could move up by becoming a part of it.  The taste of the two results is quite divergent, but the ultimate goal is the same.

The danger of the left-wing mistake is obvious: declining churches.  The danger of the right is the same as Harry Reid’s doing away with the super-majority filibuster for nominees: if the political wind reverses, you’ve given yourself the shaft.  In both cases the reality of the Gospel is obscured by our desires of the moment.

I think that political activity needs to be the province of the laity.  And I’ve heard Christian politicians show a stronger grasp on what the Gospel is all about than ministers about political issues.  To put our ministers in the “driver’s seat” of political activity is to cede yet another function of the laity, reducing the latter to passive consumers of the church’s product.  And we have enough of that unBiblical kind of thing going on as it is.

As I said at the start, freedom is something that needs to be used wisely.  If you get it, be careful: you may end up losing it all if you blow it.

Facing Our Past Folly in Iran

It’s next to impossible to get anyone in this country to face up to it, but Zero Hedge has done it:

As for Iran, the CIA admits that the U.S. overthrew the moderate, suit-and-tie-wearing, Democratically-elected prime minister of Iran in 1953. He was overthrown because he had nationalized Iran’s oil, which had previously been controlled by BP and other Western oil companies. As part of that action, the CIA admits that it hired Iranians to pose as Communists and stage bombings in Iran in order to turn the country against its prime minister. If the U.S. hadn’t overthrown the moderate Iranian government, the fundamentalist Mullahs would have never taken over.

They’re referring, of course, to Mohammad Mosaddegh, who was overthrown in 1953 by the CIA, egged on by the Brits.  He had nationalised BP as he felt (with good reason) that Iran wasn’t getting its fair share of oil revenues.  You get into a discussion with an Iranian about their history, and sooner or later his name will come up.

And for me, of course, my family business could have sold equipment to an Iranian oil company, just as it did with Aramco, National Petroleum of the UAE, PDVSA, CNOOC, ENAP, Petrobras…and I could have gotten to know then in Tehran and not they having to come to me.

Zero Hedge’s article on the subject of the ban deserves a full reading about all the other countries that were included–and those who weren’t.