The Meaning of Scooter Libby’s Conviction

Although liberals are doubtless dancing in the streets over the conviction of Scooter Libby, the truth is that our plethora of laws insures that, if those in authority want to put us away, they can do so one way or the other, even when there’s no crime to start with.  Just grind down someone long enough and he or she will be reduced to powder.

I’m not sure what "inalieanable rights" mean under these conditions, but they don’t mean much.

Amazing Grace and the Army of Joshua

The film Amazing Grace–or at least the life of William Wilberforce–highlights something that most people have forgotten: many of the "social justice movements" had their roots in the evangelical Christianity that emerged towards the end of the "Age of Reason," and specifically Wesleyan Methodism.  (The French proved that the "reasonable" didn’t need any help from John Wesley or anybody else to end the Age of Reason.)  Today social justice movements aren’t what they used to be, and a large part of the problem is that the secularists which dominate them now have no objective basis in fact to be interested in social justice, a result that speaks for itself in places like, say, the Anglican Communion.

The film also highlights something else: the United Kingdom managed to abolish slavery with one act of Parliament.  The United States, that "shining city on a hill," put itself through a civil war to get the same result.  Why was this?  Let’s centre our discussion around the two things they had in common.

The first is that evangelical Christians were instrumental in both abolitions.  In the U.S., the "revival" (singular) that burst forth at the beginning of the nineteenth century made abolition a cause célèbre as much as its UK counterpart.  Preachers such as Charles Finney relentlessly kept the evils of slavery in front of their audiences, and the audiences in turn responded.  Evangelicals in those days were unafraid of putting social value into the gospel they preached, as opposed to those after the First World War (which made social value problematic for everyone.)

However, the reaction they got illustrated the key difference between the UK and the US.  Slavery in the British Empire was something that took place away from the mother country, in the colonies, making it a lot easier to accomplish.  In the U.S.–until recently a set of colonies itself–slavery was home-grown, so much so that the end of importing slaves didn’t brake the growth of the institution, as it would have done in a harsher environment such as Brazil.  Making matters worse was that the region which practiced slavery was full of people whose ancestors didn’t come to the New World to do the work, but to be free and let someone else do the work.

The immediate result of this was that the "revival" that swept the Northern states in the first half of the nineteenth century never reached the Southern ones, shifting from places such as Cane Ridge, Kentucky to upstate New York.  The South remained the "Booze Belt;" the "Bible Belt" is a result of what followed, namely the Civil War.

And that leads us to the second similarity: both acts of national righteousness were enforced by the power of the state.  In the case of the British Empire, it was in the normal course of law enforcement.  In the U.S., it took Mr. Lincoln’s Army to get the job done.

In an earlier piece entitled The Army of Joshua, we contended that, in order to make the Ten Commandments the law of the land, it would take an act of military force, as it had done in ancient Israel.  This is a shocking result, but what’s even more shocking is that, for revivalists of yore, the Army of Joshua was in fact the same army that suffers IED’s in Iraq, and that did Clinton’s will in places such as Bosnia and Kossovo.  Half-cocked militia groups won’t get the job done; not even the Confederate army could resist.

But there was a downside to all of this.  Finney expressed the following in advance of the great conflagration:

I believe the time has come–although I am no prophet, I believe it will be found to have come, that the revival in the United States will prevail no further and no faster than the Church takes the right ground on this subject (slavery)…

What is the condition of the nation?  No doubt God is holding the rod of WAR over the heads of this nation.  He is waiting, before he lets loose his judgments, to see whether the Church will do right.  The nation IS under His displeasure, because the Church has acted in such a manner with respect to revivals.  And now suppose war should come, where would be our revivals?  How quickly would war swallow up the revival spirit.  The spirit of war is anything but the spirit of revival.  (Revivals of Religion, pp. 315-6, 321)

What Wilberforce did for the slaves was right and needed to be done.  But the American experience is a cautionary note for all those who make "bringing the nation back to God" their top priority, along with the social causes of abortion, etc.  In Finney’s day the Civil War–which accomplished a major objective of the revival–stopped same revival in its tracks, as Finney predicted it would.  The use of the power of the state to accomplish the will of God had a backwash that we still feel today.

You Didn’t Have to Call Him a Faggot, Ann

Ann Coulter’s characterisation of John Edwards as a "faggot" was unnecessary.  If she really wanted to insult him, she could have pointed out that he didn’t go to an Ivy League school, as we did earlier this yearThis is what she did with Harriet Miers two years ago.

Calling people "faggots" was an old favourite insult back in prep school days–and not necessarily to people who were thought homosexual either.   It’s one of those that had to be dealt with in the writing of The Ten Weeks.  (This Coral Gables blogger was up to pretty much the same thing.  Maybe it’s a South Florida trait.)

Better Late Than Never, Michael Medved

We like Michael Medved’s piece on Why Liberals Hate The Ten Commandments.  He hits a lot of the kinds of points we make on this site in one swipe.  But he could have said something about God as a competitor of the liberal, as we did back in 2001.  Evidently his liberal friends (he went to Yale with Hillary Clinton) don’t think of Marx very often; he could have thrown in Marx’s quote about theft as well.

The Preferential Option of the Poor

One of the most militant expressions of left-wing Christianity was and is Liberation Theology, that creation of Latin American Roman Catholicism that brought Marx into the Church for so many years.  One of the enduring slogans of that movement was "the preferential option for the poor," which means that the Church acts in such a way that the poor have an advantage in the result.  Although one thinks first of Marx’s dictum in the Critique of the Gotha Programme "from each according to his ability, to each according to his need," the truth is that the Gospels are tilted strongly in the direction of the lower reaches of society, to say nothing of James:

“My Brothers, are you really trying to combine faith in Jesus Christ, our glorified Lord, with the worship of rank? Suppose a man should enter your Synagogue, with gold rings and in grand clothes, and suppose a poor man should come in also, in shabby clothes, And you are deferential to the man who is wearing grand clothes, and say–“There is a good seat for you here,” but to the poor man–“You must stand; or sit down there by my footstool,” Is not that to make distinctions among yourselves, and show yourselves prejudiced judges? Listen, my dear Brothers. Has not God chosen those who are poor in the things of this world to be rich through their faith, and to possess the Kingdom which he has promised to those who love him? But you–you insult the poor man! Is not it the rich who oppress you? Is not it they who drag you into law-courts? Is not it they who malign that honorable Name which has been bestowed upon you?” (James 2:1-7)

In listening to the aftermath the recent Anglican Primates Meeting in Tanzania, one hears the "noise of the renegades" (a good Chinese Communist phrase,) i.e., the liberals in the Episcopal Church, whining about the "spirit of inclusiveness" and "discussion of justice and morality" that has been checked by the African and other conservative Global South primates.  For them, inclusion of homosexuals in the hierarchy of the church and same-sex blessings and marriage is an issue on par with racial equality (something many black people in the U.S. find offensive) and the many other causes liberals espouse.

But let’s think about the passage from James.  The Lord’s brother (that’s right, Roman Catholics) makes an assumption: "…suppose a poor man should come in also…"  In the church that James led, that was a regular occurance.  But in the modern Episcoal Church–along with the other Main Line churches–that is an exceptional event in the general scheme of things.  TEC remains a largely white, upscale church, wondering how to fix the problem but seemingly unable to do so.  The poor go elsewhere.  In the meanwhile the homosexuals, an upscale group in their own right, remain a tempting target for TEC, thus all of the moves towards accomodating them.

On the other hand, had Presiding Bishop Jefferts-Schiori lifted up her eyes and look around her at the Primates’ meeting, she would have seen prelates whose churches have quite a few poor people–millions of them, in fact.  Many of the divisions that plague the Anglican Communion–to say nothing of Christianity in general–stem from disparities such as this.  In spite of the TEC blunders on, attacking the Global South for their lack of social concern when in fact TEC’s "social concern" is badly misplaced.

It is our core contention that any church whose membership’s average per capita income is above the average for the country it’s in is not really serious about social justice.  Its social justice is mere paternalism whose main purpose is to assuage guilt about its superior economic status, not to really fix the problems in front of it.  Supporting groups of like elevated status like the homosexuals only shows how far removed from real social justice these people have strayed.  This doesn’t only apply to churches; it also works in the secular realm as well.

To put it in terms Liberation Theology people would understand, the church that isn’t the "preferential option of the poor" cannot have the "preferential option for the poor."  Until TEC recognises this simple fact, everything they do along these lines, from their enthusiasm for the Millennium Development Goals to the money-favouring they spread around the Communion–will be a farce.

Political Correctness Resorts to Vigilante Force

It’s bad enough that a federal judge has ordered a Massachusetts child to learn about the homosexual lifestyle to the end that the child will become a "productive citizen."  What really hit me personally was the following:

However, in April 2006 the same school presented the book "King and King," about homosexual romances and marriage, to second-graders and again refused to provide notification.

Parker and other parents followed with the federal civil rights lawsuit, alleging school officials were refusing to follow state law.

Just days later, David Parker’s son, Jacob, was beaten up at Estabrook Elementary, officials said. MassResistance said a group of 8-10 kids surrounded him and took him out of sight of "patrolling aides," then pummeled and beat him.

One of the hardest lessons I found growing up in Palm Beach is that peer pressure has the force of law when the "authorities" either can’t or won’t do anything about it.  Moreover I don’t think that this act of bullying was coincidental either.  I suppose it’s all part of the "socialisation" that public schools (and some private ones as well) are supposed to be so good at doing.  Had Jacob Parker attacked one of his peers, the consequences would have doubtless been frightful.

Waiting for the Cops to Show Up

The drama that is taking place this week behind closed doors in Tanzania has created a real guessing game in the Anglican Communion.  While we wait for the results–assuming there are meaningful results–let’s think for a moment about an obvious question: how has liberal “Christianity” held on as long as it has?

Everyone knows that liberal churches are going in reverse in terms of membership and revenue.  They have been for a long time; the Episcopal church is, believe it or not, doing better than most.  Nevertheless it surprises me that people continue to go to churches which really don’t believe much and which either are universalist–in which case what one does in this life is irrelevant to what follows–or don’t have a vision for an afterlife.

Perhpaps the problem is me.   Coming from a long line of people for whom meaningful religion was entirely dispensable, I cannot grasp the whole idea of going to church whose people are little different from the world around them, or whose beliefs are basically the same as the culture.  The “smells and bells” are nice but, honestly, a good stiff cup of joe at home on Sunday morning is preferable to a church filled with upper class people listening to a boring sermon whose content they could get from listening to NPR (NPR does a better job of holding your attention, too.)

In any event, liberal church does have appeal to some, but those who are turning from smells and bells to joe are more than those going the opposite way.  Moreover study after study shows that conservatives are more faithful to support a church financially than their liberal counterparts (which means that TEC would be better off making cash deals for property rather than taking departing congregations to court.)

The Episcopalians have elected a Presiding Bishop who is more up-front about her polticised, left-wing version of “Christianity” (if that word can be applied to what she believes) than any of her predecessors.  She’s prepared to fight for everything she can.  But what’s there to fight for?  And how can she win with declining membership, whether from apathy and revulsion?

One of the great legacies of Marxism is the concept of “historical determinism,” i.e., the idea that history is going the way of the theory that’s being propounded.  Although few American liberals are Marxists (they would be better off if they were,) they still revel in the idea that the world is going their way and that their opponents cannot win.  To some extent that is what motivates TEC liberals.  They still think that their way is the way of the future, and that their opponents will disappear, even though time after time they, like Engels sheepishly admitted, have been proven wrong.

Buttressing their idea is the thought that their philosophy will be reflected in the actions of the government.  The congressional election of 2006 has only given them additional hope. If we consider trends such as the emergence of hate crimes legislation, the use of child protection laws to take away children from real Christian parents, the application of the tax code to silence and destroy churches and other Christian institutions that don’t suit the fancy of those in power, all of these give the ultimate hope to the liberals at 815: that their opponents will not only be deprived of the church property they worship in, but also their freedom by the state.

To put it bluntly, Katherine Jefferts-Schiori may be figuring that all she has to do is to hang tough long enough for the cops to show up and haul her opponents away.  (Andrew Hutchinson in Canada is closer to that than she is.)

But this game hangs on two thin threads.

The first is that the system that she’s relying on can deliver.  In addition to the alternating course of politics, even if the liberals can “finish the job” and hold on to power for a long time, their inability to resolve Dzerzhinskii’s Dilemma virtually guarantee the weakness of such a state, and weak states don’t last.

The second is that the state doesn’t figure out that they don’t need a liberal church any more than anyone else does.  The Bible directly addresses this for the last times:

“And the angel said to me–‘The waters that you saw, where the Harlot is seated, are throngs of people and men of all nations and languages. The ten horns that you saw, and the Beast–they will hate the Harlot, and cause her to become deserted and strip her bare; they will eat her very flesh and utterly consume her with fire. For God has put it into their minds to carry out his purpose, in carrying out their common purpose and surrendering their kingdoms to the Beast, until God’s decrees shall be executed.” (Revelation 17:15-17)

The Harlot, of course, is the false “church” (religion would be a better term) of the last times.  The Beast–the Antichrist, the leader of the one-world government–will destroy the Harlot when he finds her dispensable.  That’s something that even Jefferts-Schiori should think of when she campaigns for the UN’s Millennium Development Goals.

So the left, while claiming to be “mainstream” and “Main Line” is in fact playing a dangerous game.  Today they wait for the cops to show up to take us, but then they will be waiting for the cops to come and take them away as well.

Rudy Giuliani and the Dilemma of Christian Conservatives

It’s no real surpise that Rudy Giuliani is running for President.  The surprise comes in how well he does in polls of Republicans.  The apparent attempt of the party’s higher echelons to "crown" John McCain early and avoid a hard primary/caucus season is not going as well as planned.  What your opinion of this depends upon what kind of outcome in this coming election you’re looking for.

For Christian conservatives, the 2008 Presidential election looks to be an unpleasant business.  Neither of the two social conservatives in the race (Brownback and Huckabee) look to be able to get sufficient traction–and a lot of that traction means money–to move forward into the primary moment (and this time, we mean moment.)  None of the "front-runners" really catches fire: McCain has ben erratic in just about every way, Romney is LDS (and erratic in his own way,) and Giuliani, in some ways conservative, is a social liberal in many others.  What’s a Christian conservative to do?

The answer to that depends upon what how one see the best approach for Christians to take in our society.  There are, in reality, two possible options.

The first is what we call the "level playing field" option.  We touched on this in our 2001 piece entitled, appropriately enough, Levelling the Playing Field.  In this the primary duty of the state is to create a fair enviroment by which people can both practice their religion as they see God directing them and share it openly with otheres.  In many ways this is what has been attempted by our current constitution, although our system does presuppose the existence of a God who is able to endow his creatures with inalieanable rights.

The greatest threat to this has been and is the expansion of the role of the state.  The state has its own interests, values and desires from its people; Christianity, with its primary focus on God as the ultimate authority, is in many ways a threat to those interests, values and desires.  As long as the state is relatively small and Christians do their usual loyal service to the state, things are fine.  When the state expands and anti-Christian groups use that expansion to further their own agenda, we have the problems present today.

The second is the "Christian nation" option.  In this Christians seek acknowledgment that we are a Christian nation, have been from the beginning, and need to continue to be if we are to be a successful nation.  Those Christian roots need to see their way into our legal system and national life in every way possible.  Christian conservative thought has gravitated in this direction largely because liberals have used the state to their advantage.  Christians figure that, if liberals can do it for evil, why can’t Christians do it for good?

There are several ways to answer that question.  From our perspective, the biggest problem is that Christian conservatives do not have a viable game plan to establish a really explicitly Christian nation on the North American continent.  To start with they are not willing to put together the state church necessary to implement the uniformity of belief necessary in such a situation (just think about uniting all of the conservative denominations and you will see what we mean.)  Many of them are unwilling to accept the hard realities of nationhood in a world where power challengers abound and the power to respond effectively to all of them is limited (the neocons are, if anything, worse in this regard.)  And last but not least theonomic Christians are not willing (mercifully) to even admit the need of the army of Joshua to achieve their objectives.  Liberals have this idea that theocracy is around the corner, but evangelical Christianity in the U.S. is better suited to help ordinary people live their lives successfully than to implement their plan on a nationwide basis.

Enter Rudy Giuliani.  Although he was for many years a U.S. Attorney, his best known position was that of Mayor of New York.  This is not an easy job; New York is a place with a plethora of obstructionist interest groups accompanied by lawyers who love to sue.  Guiliani, with the memory of the 1970’s behind him (the city basically went broke and the crime went wild) realised that New York, financial capital though it was, would not prosper without some significant improvement in the quality of life.  So he began by concentrating on the petty crime: panhandlers, squeegee operators, etc.  His idea was that, if you could clean up the petty crime, the major things like murder and armed robbery would be a lot simpler.  His strategy worked; all of these crimes declined under and the city became a place people really wanted to come to again.

11 September 2001 was Rudy’s defining moment, the place where he showed himself to be a leader.  In that moment he became America’s Mayor.  The city that preferred to go in many directions went in one.  The subsequent course of the "war on terror" showed that the first response was the best thought out, even though it was implemented "on the fly."  There were certainly mistakes and unhappy people in its wake, but one expects this, especially in a place as hard to pull together as New York.

Giuliani’s specialty is the one thing government needs to be good at: public order and security.  We can talk all we want about "righteousness" in government, but a government that can’t properly defend the country or deal with internal threats to public order isn’t much of a government.  The present administration has at least been able to quell domestic terrorist attacks, even though they have sqandered too many resources on adventures like Iraq and overlooked other kinds of threats to public order like Katrina.  The left, mired in Dzerzhinskii’s Dilemma, are at a serious disadvantage in these matters, even though they will use the power of the state to knock down rivals like evangelical Christians.

Given all of this, Christians are a tight place.  Our game plan the last thirty years or so hasn’t moved our agenda forward.  Our elites are still as liberal and unpatriotic as ever, perhaps more so today, and still find it too easy to project their values downward on our schools and other institutions.  Our attempts to "hold it in the road" on Christian sexual and family values such as the exclusivity of sex within marriage and the permanence of marriage have had uninspiring results.  Abortion on demand is still legal after all of the marches, all of the prayers and all of the elections.  Last but not least years of prosperity teaching have lifted some out of poverty but have not moved evanglical Christians significantly upward as a group in society.  To put it another way, we not only cannot "take the city," we struggle to hold things together in our own churches.

Perhaps the time has come to re-emphasise the "level playing field" option, where we focus on preserving our freedoms to both operate the church autonomously and share our faith with others.  What good does it do to bring children into the world to have them taken away by a left-wing state (or a jihadi one) and have their eternal destiny spoiled?  How much value would a "righteous" state be if it could not intelligently defend itself or advance its interests properly (this is the central problem we have in Iraq.)  And how meaningful is Christianity when it is imposed by the force of law in a theonomic situation?  (To see how this plays out, just look at Europe.)

Is Giuliani someone who would make the playing field level again?  These are questions that we need to ask him and any other candidate for President.  To dismiss him out of hand is a serious mistake.  While considering Giuliani and the other candidates, the time has come for Christians to look at what they are doing in the political arena, set some realistic and worthwhile objectives, work more diligently to strengthen our own churches, and realise that the state has definite limits in what it can and should do.  To miss the last point–which too many Christians are doing these days–only validates our statist opponents, and that’s the last thing we need to do.

Just for Procreation: It Wasn’t Our Idea to Start With

We cannot resist saying something about Washington state’s "Defence of Marriage Alliance" and their petition to require hetrosexual couples to have children within three years after marriage or be subject to annulment.

To start with, we never based our opposition to gay marriage solely on the ability of heterosexual couples to procreate.  Our idea of what marriage is for is best expressed by the 1662 Book of Common Prayer:

First, It was ordained for the procreation of children, to be brought up in the fear and nurture of the Lord, and to the praise of his holy Name.
Secondly, It was ordained for a remedy against sin, and to avoid fornication; that such persons as have not the gift of continency might marry, and keep themselves undefiled members of Christ’s body.
Thirdly, It was ordained for the mutual society, help, and comfort, that the one ought to have of the other, both in prosperity and adversity.

Second, we have always contended that gay marriage represents a betrayal of basic liberal view of sexuality, thus it represents a sellout on the part of the homosexual community.

Third, we do not believe that marriage is primarily an act of the state, but an institution of God.  That being the case, we would rather see it taken out of the state’s hands (one way or the other) rather than seeing the state redefine it for the convenience of an upscale minority or anyone else for that matter.

They Didn’t Like Cole Porter’s Jazz and Negroes Either

The recent story about the woes that Christliche Gemeinde Köln has had with the German government brings up a lot deeper memories than just of a Christian church under persecution of a godless government (although this certainly is a problem here.)

It is worth noting that modernity–the thing that comes before post-modernity everybody talks about today–was born in Germany in the years between unification and the First World War.  It pushed Christianity out of the way not so much by attacking it but making it look irrelevant to the excitement of the changing times.  In the end the destabilising effect that it had on Germany resulted in two world wars.  It also resulted in many of the characteristics of our culture today, especially the culture of death.

Part of that modernity is primitivism.  Inscribed above the Reichstag (where the German Bundestag meets today after reunification) is the phrase, "DEM DEUTSCHEN VOLKE"–the German People.  That ineffable quantity–with all of the implications of racial purity and a heroic past–fuelled the Germans through those world wars, especially the second one.  Now one can argue that the modern Pentecostal/Charismatic movement is God’s answer to primitivism.  While "civilised" Christianity got rolled in places such as Germany, France and the UK, full gospel Christianity has swept the world, as TEC is finding out the hard way.

Having invoked primitivistic imagery in places like Nurenberg, the Germans are doubtless sensitive to the possibilities of primitivism.  But they first need to cut the knee-jerk reactions like this and take a more sensible look at things.

To start with, it’s one thing to exercise exuberance in a church setting and quite another on the battlefield.  It’s the same problem we have with people who equate "fundamentalist" Christianity with Islam.  There’s a difference between being prepared to die for what one believes in and to kill for it.  Germany today, like all of Europe, needs some fuel of some kind to present a counter to Islamicists, but beating down people like in this church isn’t going to do it.

But beyond this is pride of authorship.  Europeans may blush at their own forays into primitivism but importing them from the U.S. is beyond the pale.  It’s the same as it was in the 1920’s, after World War I had shattered European civilisation, probably beyond repair.  Sergei Diaghilev, who created the Ballets Russes with their own modern primitivism, shuddered at the thought of "Cole Porter because of his jazz and his Negroes…It’s dreadful."  We strongly suspect that, if the pastor of this church wasn’t American, they wouldn’t be in the kind of trouble they are.

The Germans need to realise that those who dance in church didn’t either start a world war or bring down the World Trade Centre.  But they just might derail those that did.