The Event of the Season

The Christmas/Advent season is upon us at last, complete with the culture war over replacing a Christian holiday with a secuarlist/pagan one. It’s sad that it has come to that, especially since this isn’t the first time that we have different religions celebrating something at the same time of year.

So let’s really brighten up things by thinking of another season: the Palm Beach social season. This season has its roots in the climate: northerners come to South Florida in the winter to escape the climate and return to their origin when the weather gets hot again in the Florida spring. During this time those who want to be seen spend a lot of time going from one ball (and sometimes a golf benefit) to another.  Between all of these flashy events is daily life, and part of that daily life is going to the grocery store (or sending the help there.)

When my family moved to Palm Beach, there were no chain food stores in town. There were only two private markets: Herbert’s Lafayette and Southampton. Both of these offered a fine (if limited) selection and both delivered (a service my grandmother appreciated,) but both were dreadfully expensive. My mother would use these from the time time but generally preferred to cross the lake and shop in West Palm Beach, where the prices came down from the stratosphere.

It occured to the Publix people that there might be an opportunity here, so they applied for a permit to build a Publix market down the street from St. Edward’s Catholic Church. Needless to say, the Town, in its usual fashion, was appalled at the idea. How can we have such a plebeian establishment like a supermarket in Palm Beach? How tacky will it look? Who who would lower themselves here to go there? And what kind of riff raff would come over to shop here? (After all, Bethesda-by-the-Sea Episcopal Church just successfully booted them off the island by canning the ladies’ rummage sale!)

But Publix didn’t get where it was then or now by taking no for an answer easily, so they persisted. They invented a Spanish style front for the store, and lowered its profile. They promised to both appoint and stock the store to fit the market (they would have been stupid to do otherwise.) Finally the Town permitted this edifice to be built, many secretly expecting it to flop in an elite place like Palm Beach.

It didn’t. Opening in 1971, its first day was, literally, the event of the season. The Shiny Sheet carried pictures of society figures with their butlers and maids crowding the parking lot and coming to fill their limousines with the reasonably priced groceries Publix carried. Even the rich and famous were sick of being ripped off. Ever since Palm Beach has found that "shopping is a pleasure" at Publix. The chain even adopted the Spanish style architecture for the rest of their stores for the next twenty years.

The first lesson from this is that, no matter how much money you have, saving it is important. In a nation which loves to "flash the cash" or worse the credit, this bears repeating. If people in Palm Beach like to save money, you should too.

Second, some of the most important things in life are the most ordinary. Amidst the ritzy charity balls and celebrity events that mark the season in Palm Beach, the opening of a grocery store made an enormous impact.

That’s the way it is with Christmas and the Incarnation. Jesus Christ came in very ordinary circumstances, born of a mother whose family had come down a long way from the time when they were kings of Judah and Israel. After escaping Herod’s attempt to eliminate him as a power challenger, he grew up in Nazareth, than and now not a place associated with the elites of this world. "’Foxes have holes,’ answered Jesus, ‘and wild birds their roosting-places, but the Son of Man has nowhere to lay his head,’" (Matthew 8:20) characterised his life, and after being executed between criminals he was laid to rest in a borrowed tomb.

But the ordinary became the extraordinary when he ended his rest and rose from the dead, making it possible for us to do the same and to have eternal life. Like the opening of the Publix in Palm Beach, the whole history of Jesus Christ–his birth, life, death, resurrection, ascension, and return–is the "event of the season," but in this case the season is human history. We are a part of that history and can be a part of its greatest event by not being ripped off by the Devil and by accepting the free gift of eternal life which only Jesus Christ can give.

If you’re tired of being ripped off in life, click here

Catholic vs. Episcopal Liturgical Changes: The Difference

Dr. Peter Toon’s article on Virtue Online about the difference between the changes wrought by the Catholic and Episcopal churches in the 1960’s and 1970’s is essentially correct but needs some expansion, particularly on the Catholic side of things.

The years preceding Vatican II were interesting ones in Catholic thought because there were two trends going on, both of which were centred in France.

The first was the very liberal trend which Anglicans are all too familiar with. The best known representative of this was Pierre Teilhard de Chardin, whose writings were extensively supressed during his lifetime.

The second was a trend back towards a stronger Biblical/Patristic emphasis. The Biblical trend was exemplified by the École Biblique de Jerusalem, headed up by Roland de Vaux. It was given a serious boost by the 1943 encyclical Divino Afflante Spiritu, which encouraged Bilbical studies and allowed Catholic Biblical translations to be done from the original Greek, Aramaic and Hebrew rather than strictly the Latin. The Patristic emphasis was the work of scholars such as Jean Danielou and Henri de Lubac.

A driving force behind the latter case was to construct a more “authentic” Catholicism from Roman Empire Christianity, peeling away many of the trappings that the Church had accumulated, especially in the Counter-Reformation. In this respect the idea was the same as Thomas Cramner’s, something that many traditional Catholics didn’t miss.

In the wake of Vatican II, the process that resulted in the Novus Ordo Missae in 1970 was the result of extensive studies of liturgies in use in Roman times from Hippolytus forward, both Eastern and Western. One reason why they ended up with four canons is to reflect the diversity of liturgical practice of the Patristic era (another was to break monotony in liturgical use, the same idea as the A/B/C reading cycle.) An excellent reference on this is Cipriano Vagaggini’s book The Canon of the Mass and Liturgical Reform (Staten Island: Alba House, 1967.)

The implementation of these reforms is something that has never sat well with very traditional Catholics. In addition to the vernacular problem–something Anglicans find mystifying–the “new” Mass, along with the whole Vatican II paradigm, gives more emphasis to the “horizontal” relationship of the faith community, as opposed to the focus on the “vertical” relationship between man and God that was the hallmark of pre-Vatican II Catholicism.

Having said all of that, we get to Toon’s point about the difference between the two liturgical reforms.

In a way, both of these reforms can be seen as a race between the two trends noted above: the liberal trend and the Biblical/Patristic trend. In the Catholic case, the leftward lurch of much of the church after Vatican II hadn’t gone far enough for the first trend to really make an impact on the new liturgy; that trend had to content itself with “after the fact” alterations in translation. (We noted elsewhere that this process could have gone another way under different circumstances.)

In the Episcopal case, the second trend was accomplished in prayer books such as the 1662 and 1928 ones, and the thinking of the upper reaches of the church had embraced the first trend enough to end up with the 1979 “prayer book.”

Traditional Catholics would argue from the above that Episcopal history is proof that, once you revert to a more Biblical/Patristic emphasis and deny the value of subsequent tradition, you will end up with liberalism. In saying this they are thinking of the concept of church in purely Catholic terms. As we set forth a long time ago, the whole Catholic concept of the church is one of the church as a formal mediator between man and God, thus giving it the right to dictate the terms and conditions of that relationship. Once you break the continuity of the institution, either literally or through a major change in theology, those terms and conditions are subject to change.

This is in fact that “affirming Catholics” and other liberal types in the Episcopal church would have us to believe; since they have changed the church, our approach to God (or gods) must be different. But in both Catholic and Protestant contexts there is a better way.

In the Catholic context, the church has had a strong enough intellectual tradition to recognise that the tradition they have now is built on what they had before. For Protestants, the emphasis on the primacy of Scripture forces us to avoid things that contradict the teachings of the Word of God in either form (book or Saviour.) In both cases there is a recognition that there is a point at which what one believes can put one (either an individual or a church) outside of the boundaries of Christianity.

And the Episcopal Church certainly has exceeded that boundary.

The Holy Father Looks for the Best

Back in 2004, we wrote an article entitled Think Before You Convert. In it we went through the pros and cons of Anglicanism vs. Roman Catholicism. We also said the following:

One thing that gets kicked around in Anglican circles is the idea of an “Anglican Rite” within Roman Catholicism. From a Roman Catholic viewpoint, this doesn’t make a lot of sense, and if I were in their shoes, I wouldn’t pursue it for the following reasons:

  • The Maronite and Byzantine Rites came from Eastern Churches with independent apostolic succession. Anglicanism, like the Confederacy, seceded from Roman Catholicism. That’s why they don’t really accept the apostolic succession of Anglican orders. (what that has to do with apostolic succession is hard to understand.)
  • The Episcopal Church has shown a real talent in shedding membership. Why go to the trouble of setting up another rite when you can just wait and pick up the pieces on your own terms?
  • The existence of a married clergy in any “Anglican Rite” would create serious problems with the rest of the church.

Now it looks like the Roman Catholic Church is shifting from a purely defensive strategy to a more offensive one by starting a programme to actively recruit Anglicans who are unhappy with the way the Communion is going.

Given the high level of Anglo-Catholicism out there, this is a sensible strategy for the Catholic Church. In addition to liberals and women in ministry at home, many of the conservative protagonists in the Communion outside North America and Europe have a decidedly Protestant bent to them, especially the Africans. Picking up Anglicans in the U.S. has one more advantage: they tend to be at the top of the socio-economic ladder, which would be a boost for the offering.

But our warning remains: think before you convert!

Women in Ministry: They Have Always Stood for Inspection

As sort of a follow up to our earlier posting on this subject, we relate the story of a military chaplain who has served with distinction in Afghanistan and Iraq. His wife felt the call to the chaplaincy, so she, with four children, enrolled in seminary and began preparations to be the first husband and wife military chaplaincy team in the denomination. (Seminary education is a requirement for military chaplains; this is not always the case with civilian agencies and organisations.)

One thing I have found with military people is that they sometimes go “over the top” (a good World War I term) in adapting themselves to the military lifestyle, to the point where it’s hard to know when on duty stops and off duty starts. This is a condition that Navy people are especially vulnerable to, but one finds it in every branch of service.

At a return reception for her husband, I asked her half in jest whether the children, with both parents in uniform, would have to stand for inspection.

Her response: “The children have always stood for inspection.”

With such a situation at home, those under her pastoral care who are running from God won’t stand a chance.

After Jesus had entered Capernaum, a Captain in the Roman army came up to him, entreating his help. “Sir,” he said, “my manservant is lying ill at my house with a stroke of paralysis, and is suffering terribly.” “I will come and cure him,” answered Jesus. “Sir,” the Captain went on, “I am unworthy to receive you under my roof; but only speak, and my manservant will be cured. For I myself am a man under the orders of others, with soldiers under me; and, if I say to one of them ‘Go,’ he goes, and to another ‘Come,’ he comes, and to my slave ‘Do this,’ he does it.” Jesus was surprised to hear this, and said to those who were following him: “Never I tell you, in any Israelite have I met with such faith as this! (Matthew 8:5-10, Positive Infinity New Testament)

The Volte-Face of the Left on the Draft

Although it’s been proposed before, we still find it hard to believe that a Democrat like Charles Rangel is actually proposing to reinstate the draft.

Perhaps however it’s a poison pill: Rangel himself stated the following:

There’s no question in my mind that this president and this administration would never have invaded Iraq, especially on the flimsy evidence that was presented to the Congress, if indeed we had a draft and members of Congress and the administration thought that their kids from their communities would be placed in harm’s way.

The Vietnam-era draft is what basically launched the modern American left.  That more than anything mobilised student protest movements.  Unfortunately, the left has had difficulty getting traction with the current conflict, and the fact that the army is all-volunteer is one major reason why.  This has forced some on the left into the absurd situation of wanting to reinstate the draft so to make wars unpopular.

These are politics at their most cynical.  Although one would think that the party of the 60’s radicals would run from Selective Service the way many of them did the first time, in our silly situation anything is possible.

Women in Ministry: A Popular Feature

In the course of developing materials and articles for this website, one that we added some time ago that has become a favourite of many of you has been our “Women in Ministry” article which we feature on our Island Chronicles page. There are actually two of them there: one more in favour, from the Assemblies of God, and the other more opposed, from the Anglican Mission in America. The first one is the one that has generated far more traffic.

We first noticed this from the Canadian blog Pursuing God but others have picked up on this as well. It seems that there is a need for encouragement in this regard, and frankly we’re glad to do this.

We expressed our own opinon on this last summer. The whole issue of women in ministry is challenging to everyone. It challenges women to get past a purely feminist/modernist view of why they should be in ministry, i.e., simply because they have the right to. It challenges the church–and men–to become serious about servant ministry, that a minister comes to serve others as Jesus came to humble himself on our behalf. Ultimately it challenges the whole idea that a minister–or priest, or church–is there as a formal intermediary between people and God, a subject we deal with elsewhere as well.

It is interesting that a work of fiction has had this kind of by-product. But our journey continues and we’re glad you’ve stopped by and taken a look.

The Army of Joshua

We have a friend at church who always goes about wearing a shirt–golf, button-down, you name it–silk-screened with the Ten Commandments on the back. (We really think he needs to embroider his better shirts.) He isn’t a marginal type of fellow, really; he is a successful businessman and his family is very prominent and successful in our church. But his idea is that, until America “comes back to God,” he will wear the Ten Commandments. (He’s also trying to sell the shirts as well.)

One of the things that liberals used to teach in schools is to think rationally. Part of rational thinking is in defining terms properly. What do we mean when we post the Ten Commandments in public places, let alone on the backs of our shirts? What is our real objective? How we respond to such things depends on the real answer to such questions.

We have our own idea as to why it’s good to post the Ten Commandments. For everybody else, the answer depends on how you look at it.

For the Freemason, the Ten Commandments, like any other religious artifact, is strictly symbolic of some higher truth. That’s one reason why our country has taken such a casual attitude towards the display of religious items in a secular state. Many in leadership in the U.S. have traditionally been Masons, and in the Lodge the Bible, along with the Qu’ran or whatever other holy book or artifact they might like to put there, are pure symbols of the “religion beyond religions” that Masonry claims (and then obscures its claim) they have, a religion which in itself may be purely symbolic. So setting up the Ten Commandments on public property isn’t a big deal.

For the liberal, the Ten Commandments represent a patriarchic, homophobic and theistic way that they are trying to rid the country of. Moreover like the Islamicist, liberals see setting up such things as a power challenge to them, to be eradicated at the earliest possible opportunity. One evening I expressed a similar opinion to a Christian, a Ten Commandments activist, and his reply was, “It’s (control) the issue for them.” But it’s ultimately the control issue for everybody, at least in a secular sense.

For the Christian, things have been a little more fuzzy.

Most Christians say that they want to see the U.S. come back to God, but most are not adept enough (a good Masonic term) at politics to understand the road one must take to get at that conclusion. They feel that things have been better for Christians in the past, that the society in general more perfectly reflected their values, and they long for a return to such a state. At one time Christians were content with the force of shared values in a country without an established church, but the growth of government and the agressive attack of the liberals have dislodged a great deal of that content, and we have seen a decidedly theonomic bent in Christian thinking coming to the surface in this decade.

So what does the Bible say about this? Last year we wrote a piece entitled If You’re Going to Take the Land Take It, where we contrasted the decidedly mild idea of “taking the land” current amongst Christians and modern Israelis with the brutal, complete destruction of the enemy that that ancient Israelis were commanded to do and that modern jihadis are attempting today. Although the Ten Commandments are an important document for our conduct–if nothing else, even Karl Marx admits that capitalism started with “Thou shalt not steal”–the fact is that the Commandments are simply the cornerstone of the entire Jewish law enumerated in the rest of Exodus, continued in Leviticus, completed in Numbers, and reiterated in Deuteronomy. Once this law giving was complete, the command was given to take the land, and that conquest was a military one.

This leads us to but one conclusion: if you want to impose the law of Moses, you’ll need the army of Joshua, and that army isn’t a spiritual one either.

Liberals will immediately jump on this and say that Christians are a threat to the state. (Caught in Dzerzhinskii’s Dilemma, their response may not be as definite as their rhetoric.) But before we let liberals jump off the cliff on this one (maybe we should let them jump off the cliff!) we need to make two statements on why a violent solution to this problem is unacceptable.

The first is that our Founder, Jesus Christ, made it unacceptable to take this course of action. This is what separates Christianity from Islam and, in reality, Judaism as well. Jesus Christ came to change the human heart at a time when Judaism was looking for a political solution to their problem. This is why most Christians’ thinking is “fuzzy” on this issue. Christianity–and evangelical Christianity in particular–has not gone far enough down the road of becoming a form of Monarchic Judaism to shake the memory of a Founder who forstalled his disciples’ questions about the re-establishment of the Jewish state and ultimately allowed himself to be nailed to a cross by the collusion of the secular and religious authorities of the day. Perhaps, in this regard, the thinking of American Christians is more Biblical than some of its leadership.

The second is that revolutions in the modern world inevitably start out to free people and end up enslaving them. The dreary succession of Marxist revolutions tops the list, but in every case revolutions turn tyrannical because their tightly organised vanguards become dictactorial. This is a central fact that the milita movement never got a hold of; it is why we cannot support it.

So where does this leave us? It depends which side of the issue you’re on.

Liberals need to realise that they’re dependent upon Christians and other conservatives to keep them out of the clutches of the jihadis. Liberals have a great deal more to lose than Christians with the triumph of radial Islam. As we noted before, people won’t die for the right to party, and that’s just about all that liberalism has to die for. Demoralising large portions of the population can also lead to the same result that the Roman Empire experienced when Islam made its early meteoric rise, i.e., the sour mood of the people as a result of the endless demands of Late Roman bureaucracy led to the welcoming of the Muslim conquerors. And the first ones were, in many ways, more enlightened than the group we’ve got today. (Roman Britain went through the same kind of “throw the bums out” mood, ultimately with disastrous results.)

Christians, more than anything else, need to grasp the simple fact that their exaltation of the state as an instrument of righteousness (which the New Testament doesn’t really support) only throws the focus of the church into an arena it was not created to operate in. Moreover doing this only legitimises the coercive activity of the state, which plays straight into the hands of liberals. Christians need to understand that, while we wait in joyful hope for the coming of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ, the number one objective of the church is to make disciples. Any political activity needs to be geared to preserving the freedom of the church to do just that. Recent events have shown that the church’s mission has social value; if Christian people are properly oriented to live as Jesus Christ intends for them to, both the social and eternal missions of the church will be fulfilled and the world will know that God has sent us.

And, as Bossuet used to say, if the world knows that God has sent us, the world will be converted, which is the liberals’ worst nightmare.

We have reached the point where both sides have some hard choices to make. To be frank, knowing that triumphalistic Boomers dominate the leadership of both sides in the U.S., I am not optimistic that there will be a happy result for either side. But since this is a Christian blog, my message to my fellow believers is clear: Christians are going to have to decide that they are either real Christians or just latter day members of the tribe of Judah with an inside track to eternity. If they choose the latter, it would be a tragedy, because they will figure out sooner or later that the only road to theonomy is trod by the army of Joshua.

The Real Defence of Marriage

One of the more interesting outcomes of the 2006 election was the approval in all states but one of amendments defining marriage as the union of one man and one woman. It was interesting because it ostensibly bucked the leftward lurch of the rest of the election. (It also didn’t do much to prevent that either!) Those who propose such amendments define them as the “defence of marriage.” An act of that name was passed by Congress (now more than ever the opposite of progress) and signed into law by none other than President Bill Clinton in 1996. But courts in such places as Massachusetts and New Jersey have made electoral exercises such as these a necessity. The judiciary is the elites’ supermajority these days, and the loss of influence via judicial appointments at the Federal level is the greatest tragedy of this election. But, to be truthful, marriage has been under attack for a long time. Gay marriage is just one more step in a long term campaign to weaken civil marriage. Up until now we have the following attacks:

  • Allowing conjugal relations outside of marriage. According to the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, conjugal relations are one reason for marrying. By allowing these relations outside of marriage, two things are accomplished. The first is that it enables people to skip marriage if they want to have sex. The second is that we have to backtrack and define some sexual relations as unlawful and some as not, which is why we have the mess with relations between young people and adults that we do. Once you breach the boundary of marriage, any boundary you set–and that includes sodomy–is strictly artificial and a function of the taste of the moment. We discussed this earlier in the context of the Mark Foley fiasco.
  • “No-fault” divorce. This was hailed as a great legal step forward when it was legalised, but easy exit marriage debased the institution in an enormous way. It was supposed to be liberating for everyone, but women have taken the hardest blow from it; it’s just too easy for a guy to skip out on his obligations. At this point the only meaningful impediments to divorce are the financial obligations imposed at dissolution such as alimony (which doesn’t exist everywhere,) child custody/support and the division of property.
  • Requiring equal status for illegitimate children. This is one of those things that looks great on paper but has some unintended consequences. It may not be fair to those who came into this world under a cloud not of their own making, but doing this simply opens the door for people to have children without a spouse (and more often than not without the means to raise them properly.) We have added injury to insult in this matter by wasting precious courtroom time on parental rights for those who didn’t bother to get married but suddenly want all of the rights of fatherhood or motherhood of a child they had little interest in before.

All of these things have weakened civil marriage as an institution. Today marriage is perceived as a burden by many, which is one reason why we see so much shacking up these days. Take the issue of children. It’s almost easier under our topsy-turvy legal system for a guy to have a child out of wedlock and then to assert parental rights than to marry someone only to lose them in a divorce. Anyone who gives some thought to an attempt to undo the weakening changes above will realise that such an effort is probably beaten from the start. Even most Christians would probably balk at such a campaign. That being the case, the current “defence of marriage” effort isn’t so much an effort to preserve marriage as a “last stand” effort to keep it from being wiped out.

So what is to be done? There are two things that Christian churches can do to address this situation. The first is to require Christian married couples to take a serious look at what they are doing when they get married. Pre-marital counselling is common in evangelical churches but its application is uneven. Christian churches also need to think seriously about what they tell couples after they are married. One thing that would help is for “marriage experts” to stop panderning to modernist self-actualisation expectations and to encourage couples to adopt realistic expectations of life in general and marriage in particular.

The second is to start making a distinction between Christian marriage and marriage in general. This exposes a key weakness in evangelical churches: they are too dependent upon the state to define what constitutes marriage. This is one reason why they are forced to fight the battles they do. For example, Christians may not be doing themselves a favour by opposing civil unions (in general.) If the state simply went to civil unions entirely, the churches could concentrate on building up relationships that really reflected the relationship between Christ and his church rather than had proper legal status, because the two would have a clear distinction.

Christians have forgotten that, when God himself married the first couple in the garden, he did not need to good offices of the state to formalise the relationship. The family predates the state, and Christian churches’ unthinking assent to civil marriage as the definition of this central divine institution is an abrogation of the purpose the church was put here to accomplish in the first place. Although Christians have been remarkably successful in “defending marriage,” the unacceptable divorce rate for Christians and the possibility that left-wing elitists will use their disproportionate influence in society to advance their idea should be a continuing warning that simply defending things the way they are may not insure their perpetuation in the future.

Why Bob Corker Won the Tennessee Senate Race

Probably the brightest spot for the Republicans of the 2006 election was Bob Corker’s victory for Tennessee’s Senate race. Being very familiar with this race and knowing many Republican candidates, officeholders and operatives, this is why I think that Bob Corker won this race:

  • Tennessee is a very conservative state. It is ironic that Tennessee, which contributes a disproportionate number of people to the war in Iraq, turns around and votes as the most “pro-war” state.
  • It is not a classically “Christian Coalition” state where the “religious right” did their usual “taking a stand” (and the party over.) Conservative Christian people are woven into the Republican establishment rather than forcibly grafted in, which is why the party came back together the way it did after two classically Christian candidates (Van Hilleary and Ed Bryant) lost in the primary. (This loss was avoidable; if one of them could have put his ego aside and dropped out, they would not have split the vote and money.)
  • Corker’s general election campaign started out as a fiasco, with poor ads and an unfocused effort. Corker had the wisdom to dump his campaign people and get people in who knew what they were doing and let them run his campaign properly. His ads improved along with everything else, including his poll numbers. His ability to change course for victory needs to be noted in the White House.
  • Corker did hammer at Ford’s voting record. The image that this campaign was strictly a series of negative personal attacks doesn’t tell the whole story. Corker had the advantage in that he could run against an opponent with ten years of votes in the House (when he bothered to show up, which he frequently didn’t) while Corker had been in executive positions, both in government and business. Ford’s voting record was atypically liberal for the state and Corker made the most of that.
  • Ford’s attempts to portray himself as an “ordinary Tennessean” couldn’t withstand the hammering of a competitive campaign. As Bob Novak hilariously pointed out, every time Ford mentioned the Lord he lost 1,000 votes. That’s part of Ford’s record problem. We took issue with that ourselves during the campaign.
  • Ford’s greatest gaffe was what I call the “parking lot debate” on 20 October when he crashed a Corker press conference in Memphis. That did not sit well with people here, especially independents. It was the beginning of his downward slide to defeat.

Important note to Anglicans: Corker is an Episcopalian.  But his former Rector actually appeared in Harold Ford campaign ads.  Nothing like gratitude.  The Episcopal Church is leaving you!  Maybe it’s time for the AmiA, Bob…

Leaving Our Fixed Positions

Election 2006 is finally over with. Sort of. There will be extended battles of many kinds; some in the courts of law and some in the courts of public opinion as people spin the results of the election.

As we noted in a previous post, our main concern is and always has been the legal status of Christianity–and Christian behaviour–in our country. We are not blind to the relationship between that and may other important issues–economic freedom, property rights, a straightforward rule of law, etc.. But we know all too well that the composition of the government–and in that respect it took a decided turn for the worse–can seriously affect people’s ability to choose their eternity unhindered by adverse pressure from the state.

But let’s look at another question: how did we get into this mess? The overriding issue is one that Christians don’t support with the enthusiasm that our opponents think we do, but it’s one that’s ended up hitting us hard: the Iraq war. There are many Vietnam-era excuses as to why this isn’t going well, such as the “quagmire” business, but the basic problem as far as we are concerned is that our President has taken a fixed, unrealistic position on this issue that doesn’t advance our long-term national security: his unbending insistence that we work and fight towards democracy in Iraq.

The Middle East hasn’t known democracy from the start; any realistic reading of the Bible will confirm that. But beyond that we have a President whose idea is that a fixed position is the way to victory. A lot of Christians look at world affairs–and life–in the same way. But a fixed position is like the Maginot Line in World War II: it only invites the enemy to go around it, as the Germans did the original and the jihadis are trying to do now.

There are only two really fixed things out there. The first is that heaven is our ultimate objective. The second is that Jesus Christ is the way to get there. Beyond that we have been given flexibility in how to acheive that objective for ourselves and facilitate it fo others, something Charles Finney pointed out a century and a half ago.

We need to ask ourselves some hard questions. What good does it do to spend so much effort defending life when we produce it only to turn it over to the world and the state to direct? Or put another way, if we cannot or will not evangelise people, is it better that they not be born? (There’s a New Testament answer to this, but we’ll leave it up to you to find it.) Is our desire to acheive success in our society part of the solution or part of the problem? Or are we supporting a system that will, in the long run, work against us?

We need to take a more realistic view out of what we can expect from the state. Part of our problem is that there are too many expectionations–from all sides–of what the state can do. Attempts to politicise Katrina have had varying degrees of success, but there’s no doubt that Katrina was the state’s lowest moment, and that low moment was a bi-partisan low moment. We can expect more like it. On the other hand, it was the church’s greatest one.

We as American Christians need to look at things from the standpoint of being Christians more than being Americans, and to not confuse the two. Although we need to recognise that what we do and what we are has social value, we must also recognise that social value isn’t the determining issue–it’s eternal value.

At this point in American history, the state has the power to drive Christianity underground. A church that is caught up in equating Christian life to secular success is very vulnerable to attack. Elections such as this only put such a kulturkampf closer to reality. But the party hung on what we call Dzerzhinskii’s Dilemma will soon find itself pressed by more deadly enemies than evangelical Christianity so, like the persecution spawned by Diocletian and his colleagues, the time of troubles may be shorter than somewhat.

Christians need to stop being afraid of innovation and do so serious “outside the box” thinking on how the church will progress in a hostile culture. Like the Republicans, we need to stop focusing on deals with only short-term gain and start looking at what really counts. Only then will we not only outlast our enemies, but what the Watchtower calls their “system of things” too.

Sailing the Last Voyage with Newton and Pascal

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