R.R. Reno Comes Out on the Short End of the Gas Attack

It was a vicious counter-attack, to be sure, and had the desired effect:

I regret my foolish and ill-considered remarks about masks and mask wearing on Twitter on Tuesday, May 14. Masks are clearly indicated in many situations. I used over-heated rhetoric and false analogies. It was wrong for me to impugn the intentions and motives of others, for which I apologize.

As a World War I buff, I was honestly gobsmacked by this.  The Germans first used poison gas at Bolimow on the Russians; it didn’t work out very well because it was winter and the gas mostly froze.  The Germans got better with it, as did the Allies, although on Western Front the Allies had the upper hand because the Germans were on the wrong end of the prevailing winds.  Soldiers on both sides had good reason to wear gas masks.

World War I was an especially nasty business, but until armies broke under the strain the men who fought were courageous.  Their courage and devotion to duty in the face of an awful situation inspired J.R.R. Tolkien in his portrayal of the hobbits heading to Mount Doom in the Lord of the Rings.  Reno’s “over the top” comments (another World War I expression) deserved the gas attack they got on Twitter, which led him to can his account.

As an aside: trad Catholics should celebrate these people too, the Catholic soldiers of France, Italy and Austria celebrated Mass under difficult conditions ad orientem.

Yes, You Can Use That Music

That sentiment came to mind when I read this comment on my posting of the Word of God album All of Your People:

I was worship leader in an Antioch CA prayer group and an Assemblies of God mission for 5 years in the ’90’s where I used these songs.  I first heard them at Friday night Healing Masses at Holy Redeemer Center Oakland, CA.

There’s a lot of history packed into this little comment, and some lessons to be learned.

First: yes there were such things as “Healing Masses,” people like Francis McNutt were very much in the forefront of things like this.  Current interest by Pentcostals in liturgical worship and how to integrate the full Gospel into it would do well to take a look at what actually happened.  (This was also very evident at the Steubenville conferences of the early 1980’s as well.)

Second: in all of the discussion of the Charismatic Renewal of the 1960’s and 1970’s, there’s very little attention given to the obvious dumb question: “What were the classical Pentecostal churches doing in response?”  Since they had carried the standard of modern Pentecost since the turn of the last century, it’s reasonable to ask this question.  The answer is simple: it depends…the Assemblies of God churches tended to be more receptive to some kind of involvement in the Renewal.  That paid off when many Catholic Charismatics (and others) realised that the metastable nature of communities and prayer groups was unsustainable, and suddenly Pentecostal and independent Charismatic churches reaped the rewards of new members.  In some cases (like this one) they brought their music with them.

As for the Church of God…well, not so much, there was some hostility to the Renewal, probably because they didn’t go through the ordeal of legalism that was usual in those days.  There were exceptions, the largest of which was Paul Laverne Walker’s Mt. Paran church in Atlanta, but they were exceptional, at least for a long time.  (The Church of God eventually rewarded Paul Walker by making him General Overseer in 1996; his son Mark is the new President of Lee University.)

When I joined the North Cleveland Church of God, it was inconceivable that worship music such as the Word of God would be used.  It went against nearly a century of music tradition in a stylistic way; most in the Church of God preferred a more lively worship style.  That is going by the wayside; that’s one of the complaints I made in this post, what was considered heavenly in the past is no longer, now we are going for a worship style that is slower and more repetitive than was practiced in Ann Arbor!  But now we know it’s possible to use Ann Arbor’s music in a classical Pentecostal church.

I think the lesson from all of this is that church music and worship styles are products of many things, including doctrine and theology, culture, ethnicity, socio-economic and generational preferences.  To simply get up and proclaim that “this is from the throne room, that’s it” isn’t helpful and has led to a great deal of the conflict on this subject.  We need to worship in a way that really does draw us closer to God, and not just because someone says that it should.

Note: my YouTube channel, which is now mostly music from the “Jesus Music” era, has gotten a little boost during this COVID-19 isolation era.  Maybe people are taking my suggestion seriously about checking things out!

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…