Wednesday Night Church Online, and One of My Favorite People

My church has decided to go completely online to avoid the crowd issues of COVID-19.  This is our first crack at Wednesday night service online, called “Word at Home.”  It features our Pastor, Mark Williams, and a gathering of men to do music, led by Jeremy Richardson, formerly of the Christian group Avalon.  After that Mark interviews his dad, Bill Williams (that starts at around 26:45,) who like most in his generation has been through some tough times.

Bill Williams is one of my favourite people, for reasons I hope become evident.  He grew up in West Virginia, but spent many years as a pastor in Texas, where Mark was raised.  While there he became a University of Texas fan, but after he retired and moved to Cleveland I leaned very heavily on him to switch to the Aggie faith.  (Texas A&M’s entry into the SEC in 2012 helped.)   I told him one time that if he had been an Aggie fan from the start, his grandson Austin Williams would have been named College Station.

His response: “It’s not too late.”

The Real “Greatest Achievement” of Russia

MSNBC’s Lawrence O’Donnell thinks it was getting Donald Trump in the White House:

“It is Vladimir Putin’s greatest achievement. Decades after America’s victory in the Cold War and collapse of the Soviet Union, the president of the United States is now helping the president of Russia help the president of the United States to get re-elected.”

But that’s not the case, as I noted in my piece based on my last visit to the country:

Socialist states love to trumpet their own successes, real or just propaganda. The collapse of the rouble left just about everyone in the Russian Federation with more than a million roubles (about US$770 in early 1994) of net worth. So I declared to my representative, “Seventy years of socialism, and everyone’s a millionaire!”

His response: “It was their greatest achievement!”

Bernie Sanders (and other socialists) don’t think there should be billionaires, but if they get to have their agenda implemented, everyone will be a millionaire or billionaire (just ask people in Venezuela or Zimbabwe.)

The Faults We Share on Left and Right

Tim Fountain makes an interesting observation along these lines:

And, as is a fault for Americans today on both the left and the right, they conflate the church and government. Whether it be the Trump is our new King Cyrus movement or the Christian Socialists, there is the belief that holding control of government will produce the Spirit filled body of Christ described in 1 Corinthians 12. Voices on the right and the left assert that people can be coerced by a central authority into “building the Kingdom of God on earth.”

I’m glad Tim came out with this; it’s an observation I’ve wanted to make for a long time but haven’t gotten around to doing.  As was the case with, for example, same-sex civil marriage, left and right mindlessly make the same assumption about the grave importance of our government, and then proceed to fight over it.  There’s nothing particularly Christian about putting the government first the way we do, in fact quite the contrary is the reality.  But set that forth in either camp and the stack-blowing that follows is drearily predictable.

And while were on this piece of Tim’s, he makes another observation:

The article spends some time with two young left wing podcasters, one of whom now identifies as a communist Catholic, and the other as a communist Episcopalian.

These two denominations are natural draws for elite leftists, as both are big on hierarchy. Rome’s history with this needs little reiteration, but it is worth noting that the Episcopal Church has imposed and embraced the term recently, hand in hand with historically high numbers of punished dissenters, property seizures, litigation, more power invested in unaccountable “Executive Committees” and the like, and high minded branding with “tolerance and diversity” while actually declining in active participants and becoming more monochromatic by most demographic markers.

This touches on the business of Anglican/Episcopal people employing Critical Theory.  With Roman Catholics the situation is more complicated, but with the Episcopal Church he’s spot on: the more radical the denomination postures, the whiter and more elite its demographics get, as it they aren’t both already.  That’s an important difference between Christians and SJW types.  Christians are first concerned with the salvation of their own souls and the conduct of their own lives.  SJW’s are concerned with their self-righteous beliefs and their imperative to shove them down other people’s throats, using the government as a weapon and oblivious to unintended consequences.  But Our Lord anticipated that too:

Take care not to perform your religious duties in public in order to be seen by others; if you do, your Father who is in Heaven has no reward for you. Therefore, when you do acts of charity, do not have a trumpet blown in front of you, as hypocrites do in the Synagogues and in the streets, that they may be praised by others. There, I tell you, is their reward! But, when you do acts of charity, do not let your left hand know what your right hand is doing, So that your charity may be secret; and your Father, who sees what is in secret, will recompense you. And, when you pray, you are not to behave as hypocrites do. They like to pray standing in the Synagogues and at the corners of the streets, that they may be seen by men. There, I tell you, is their reward! But, when one of you prays, let him go into his own room, shut the door, and pray to his Father who dwells in secret; and his Father, who sees what is secret, will recompense him. (Matthew 6:1-6 TCNT)

The ACNA should take note as it wrestles with the advocates of Critical Theory.  And for those of you who advocate for it…the first thing you should do if your church is too white or has a membership with too high an average AGI: join a church more to your conviction, and then worry the rest of us about our situation.

And why do you look at the straw in your brother’s eye, while you pay no attention at all to the beam in yours? How will you say to your brother ‘Let me take out the straw from your eye,’ when all the time there is a beam in your own? Hypocrite! Take out the beam from your own eye first, and then you will see clearly how to take out the straw from your brother’s. (Matthew 7:3-5 TCNT)

 

They Used to Say Same Thing About the Anglican/Episcopal Blogosphere, Too

The Catholic Archbishop of Dublin unloads on his own church’s social media movement/blogosphere:

Catholic keyboard warriors who “spend all day attacking and responding” on social media in the belief that they are “defending the integrity of Church teaching” have been sharply criticised by Archbishop Diarmuid Martin of Dublin.

For those of us who have been at this in the Anglican/Episcopal world, this sure sounds familiar.  Before social media there was the blogosphere, with people such as Kendall Harmon, David Virtue, Standfirm (Greg Griffith/Matt Kennedy/Sarah Hey,) Alan Haley and so many others, including of course Mary “BabyBlue” Ailes, now of blessed memory.  Since social media many of these have migrated there, but it’s been rough: Matt Kennedy got kicked off of Twitter by Jessica Yaniv, who just lost the waxing case.  And I’m seeing a mini-resurgence in the blogosphere, given the uncertainties in social media.

We on the conservative side (and we outnumbered the liberals by a healthy margin) were criticised as divisive, hateful, mean, bigoted, homophobic…you get the idea.  And we’re seeing the same thing said about Catholic social media/sites, which have got the Archbishop’s dander up.

But the real fear among the RCC’s own “reapprisers” (to use Kendall Harmon’s term) is that all of this intensely offensive stuff actually works.  We wouldn’t have the ACNA, warts and all, if it weren’t for the internet and those who inhabited it.  We wouldn’t probably have GAFCON either.  In the 1970’s opponents of the changes taking place in the Episcopal Church were marginalized before they could get off the ground; Continuing Anglicanism was hardly a blip on 815’s radar screen, and the Charismatic Renewal ended up filling Pentecostal and Charismatic churches outside of the Anglican world.

With the Catholic Church’s more centralized structure, and the obsession of the Trads with the authority of Peter’s see, seeing a path to progress is more difficult.  But one never knows.  The Anglican Revolt was the great story of American Christianity in the last decade; who knows what might come this time.  Perhaps the Amazonian idols won’t be the only things thrown into the Tiber.

The “unEnglish and Unmanly” Part of (now) St. John Henry Newman

With the canonisation of Anglicanism’s most famous convert to Roman Catholicism, there’s been a dust-up about Newman’s sexual orientation, especially by the dreadful James Martin, SJ (whose own mendacity about his own celibacy helped get him into the Society of Jesus.)

A long time ago this site posted an academic paper by David Hilliard about homosexuality and Anglo-Catholicism.  It is, IMHO, one of the most interesting monographs written on Anglicanism in general and this topic in particular.  Some of his own take on the subject, long before the stink surrounding the canonisation, is here:

This homoerotic motivation was strongly hinted at in the 1890s by James Rigg, a Wesleyan historian of the Oxford Movement, who made much of the “characteristically feminine” mind and temperament of Newman and the lack of virility of most of his disciples. The idea was developed and popularised by Geoffrey Faber in his classic Oxford Apostles (1933). His portrait of Newman as a sublimated homosexual (though the word itself was not used) has since been a source of embarrassment to those biographers and theologians who seek to present him as a “Saint for Our Time.”

Faber’s argument was brilliant but open to attack. Meriol Trevor, in her two-volume biography of Newman, undermined some of his illustrations, as when she pointed out, for example, that Wilfred Ward had given no source for the often-quoted statement that Newman lay all night on Ambrose St. John’s bed after the death of his inseparable friend, and that in view of other known events of that night the incident could hardly have occurred. Of the intensity of their relationship, however, there can be no doubt. On his death in 1890 Newman was buried at his own wish in the same grave as St. John.

I would suggest that my readers download and digest the entire paper; it’s worth the time.  Hilliard points out something else that people like Martin (and probably Francis himself) conveniently ignore:

Until the late nineteenth century homosexuality was socially defined in terms of certain forbidden sexual acts, such as “buggery” or “sodomy.  Homosexual behaviour was regarded as a product of male lust, potential in anyone unless it was severely condemned and punished. In England homosexuality had been covered by the criminal law since 1533 when the state took over the responsibility for dealing with the offence from the ecclesiastical courts. The last executions for buggery took place in the 1830s, but it was not until 1861 that the death penalty was abolished. In the 1880s and 1890s—at the same time that the word homosexuality entered the English language, largely through the work of Havelock Ellis—social attitudes towards homosexuality underwent a major change. From being defined in terms of sinful behaviour, homosexuality came to be regarded as a characteristic of a particular type of person. Because homosexuality was seen as a condition, homosexuals were therefore a species, which it became the object of the social sciences to explore and explain. The principal vehicles of this redefinition were legal and medical. Homosexual behaviour became subject to increased legal penalties, notably by the Labouchère Amendment of the Criminal Law Amendment Act of 1885. which extended the law to cover all male homosexual acts, whether committed in public or private. This in turn led to a series of sensational scandals, culminating in the three trials of Oscar Wilde in 1895. The harsher legal sanctions were accompanied over a longer period by an important change in the
conceptualisation of homosexuality: the emergence of the idea that homosexuality was a disease or sickness which required treatment. The various reasons for this change in definition are beyond the scope of this essay. The result, however, was that the late nineteenth century saw homosexuality acquire new labelling, in the context of a social climate that was more hostile than before.  The tightening of the law and the widespread acceptance by opinion-makers of the “medical model” of homosexuality produced conditions within which men with homosexual feelings began to develop a conscious collective identity.

This transformation is why we have an LGBT “community” today, and that it’s a part of a person’s identity.

The Problem of God, Evil, Cancer and My Nurse — The Evangelical Calvinist

It is just over nine years ago now that I was laid up in my hospital bed at OHSU in Portland, OR; I was being treated for an incurable, rare, and highly aggressive cancer known as Desmoplastic Small Round Cell Tumor sarcoma (DSRCT). The prognosis of this particular cancer is almost always imminent death (within […]

I’ve discussed the theodicy issue–which I think may be the most urgent issue American Christianity faces–in pieces such as If I Started the way @BartCampolo Did, I Wouldn’t Believe in God Either and Painting Ourselves into a Corner at “The Shack”.  But to use his own dire adversity as an opportunity to share his faith is very moving.

via The Problem of God, Evil, Cancer and My Nurse — The Evangelical Calvinist

A Lesson from Herodotus About the Perils of Invading Iran

There’s a lot of talk these days about why we should or shouldn’t invade Iran, but I would submit this cautionary note, from all places my devotional book Month of Sundays:

King Cyrus was on top of the world. From mountainous Persia he ruled a vast empire; he was secure enough to allow the Jews to return to their homeland. In doing so he was God’s instrument, doing his will.

But Cyrus had other choices to make, too. A man named Artembares had an idea: that the Persians abandon their mountainous homeland and settle in a richer part of their new empire, probably what is now Iraq. Cyrus told them that Artembares and his friends could do what they wanted, but that he wasn’t going anywhere: “’Soft countries,’ he said, ‘breed soft men. It is not the property of any one soil to produce fine fruits and good soldiers too.’ The Persians had to admit that this was true and that Cyrus was wiser than they; so they left him, and chose rather to live in a rugged land and rule than to cultivate rich plains and be subject to others.” (Herodotus, The Histories)

The Jews returned to their land and began to rebuild their temple. Cyrus’ descendants would rule from their rugged land for another two hundred years. And Cyrus’ decision still works: one reason why the U.S. attacked Iraq and not Iran (Persia) was because of the rugged terrain from whence Cyrus came.

We always want the “easy way” out, and our lives to always be smooth sailing. But rugged terrain—physically and in life—can build character and endurance in a way that nothing else can. Jesus Christ won us freedom on an old rugged cross: don’t throw it away for easy street!

Iran’s mountainous terrain has always been a barrier to it being conquered.  Not an insurmountable one, to be sure, as Alexander the Great, the Islamic conquerors (which engender a great deal of resentment amongst many Iranians) or Tamerlane showed.  But it’s a major problem, especially with the broad-front nature of modern warfare.

It’s also helped the country develop a singular civilization, one that has had a greater impact (especially via its diaspora) than most Americans are aware of.  Iran, like Russia and China, has an educational system which emphasizes the sciences, and even with the brain drain they’ve experienced, they’re still a technological powerhouse.  Invading Iran isn’t something to be taken lightly; I hope American emotionalism doesn’t get the best of us.

Revivalistic Christianity Requires a Christian Society? Not Quite.

Albert Mohler makes an interesting point:

Third, looking specifically at the baptism numbers, the decline is both remarkable and lamentable. The most obvious insight is that we do not care as much about reaching lost people as we once did. That would be the observation that should cause Southern Baptists greatest concern. We will consider that question below. The second observation that would quickly come is that our methods of evangelism are not as effective as they once were. Honestly, that argument is beyond refute. Southern Baptist growth was largely driven by revivalism and its programs. We should not be surprised that revivalism is most effective in a context of Christian cultural dominance.

I think he’s half right.

Finally admitting that the future of the Southern Baptists–to say nothing of American Christianity in general–won’t be forwarded by a revivalistic model is something that’s gone down hard for many, and not just Baptists either.  Pentecostals and Charismatics keep looking for that great revival to “win American back for God,” but it’s a Pickett’s Charge approach that will get Pickett’s Charge results.

But to say that revivalistic Christianity is facilitated by “Christian cultural dominance” leads to a chicken and egg problem.  Which comes first: the revival or Christian cultural dominance?  I think that American history, from the days of Finney (who brought eighteenth century religious torpor to a grinding halt) to the SBC’s own efforts to convert the Booze Belt to the Bible Belt, would put the revival first.

What revivalistic Christianity does require is an open society where the Gospel can be set forth in an open forum to “poker playing dog” kinds of people, and get an open response.  The openness is fast fading, driven by such things as restrictions by social media, the “shaming and doxxing” culture of Christianity’s enemies, and the heavy hand of the state.  Coming up with a “Plan B” to something that’s worked for two centuries is what’s flummoxed Evangelical leaders, Baptists and otherwise.

Fortunately we have the examples of places like Iran and China to show us that you don’t need an open society to have the growth of the church.  Getting that message through to our leadership is another story altogether.

But there’s one problem Mohler neglected altogether: the ethnic makeup of the SBC.  Being as white as it is, it’s just in the crosshairs for the assault we’re seeing on the church, demographic and otherwise.  (The Episcopal Church, for those of you tempted to crow, is even whiter.)  What we need to do more than anything else is get out of the way and let those whose numbers swell our ranks to take the lead.

Ah, but that’s the really tricky part…

Soils in Construction (Sixth Edition) Now Available — vulcanhammer.net

It’s here a last: Soils in Construction, the Sixth Edition, now available from Waveland Press. Many of you (and especially those who are familiar with the companion site vulcanhammer.info) are aware that I’ve spent much of my career in geotechnical engineering and deep foundations dealing with contractors. As such I am both sympathetic with their […]

via Soils in Construction (Sixth Edition) Now Available — vulcanhammer.net

YouTube Closes in on the Cover Artists

ICYMI, I’ve migrated the music that’s been on this site to YouTube.  That took some time and effort but I think it’s worth it.  The central reason for that is that it gives the artists (and their record companies) the opportunity to earn some revenue off of the music, even though most of them are either unable or unwilling to put the music back into distribution.  As many of you know, this site specialises in the “Jesus Music” era of the 1960’s and 1970’s.

In the process of doing this, some of the albums were claimed by their copyright holders, usually the record companies or their agents, successors or assigns (how’s that for a little legalese!)  And that’s fine; I didn’t go on YouTube to make money, and the channel (thanks to the recent change in YouTube rules) isn’t eligible for monetization because it doesn’t draw enough traffic.  I’m glad to see that we’ve got a workable mechanism (not perfect but workable) to link the copyright holders with their music.

Most of the claims made during the process were for albums released by secular labels (which did happen in the Jesus Music era) where the album came from.  There are a few for Christian labels, but they’re the exception, not the rule.  But virtually all of the claims came for original artists.

This week I’ve seen a rash of claims for “covers,” i.e., songs not performed by the original artists.  This is something new.  It indicates to me that the algorithm for determining which songs are which has stepped up.  With the new regulations coming from Europe, that’s going to be a survival mechanism.  This tells me that YouTube has stepped up its game on this.

Fortunately in all cases they just claim revenue and let the album stay up.  I suppose that, for music this old and frequently obscure, they’re glad to have any exposure for it, especially when someone else goes to the trouble of putting it out there.  As of now this situation is IMHO a happy one for everyone, and I hope it stays that way.