The Class Dilemma of the Edwards Campaign

The news report put out by the Carolina Week staff (video below) and the attempt by John Edwards’ campaign to get it pulled shows the dilemma that every candidate that runs on the left has in dealing with the “contradictions” (as Mao Dun would put it) in advancing their cause.

Conventional wisdom would have us believe that people who “mobilise the masses” should come from the masses.  John Edwards comes closer than anyone else in the Democrat race (the front runners, at least) in doing that.  Many important people on the left don’t, and certainly the resources that fuel them don’t.  But conventional wisdom would also have us believe that those who who come to help the dispossessed should share the condition of the dispossessed (or at least put a campaign headquarters with them.)  But neither is the case here.  Edwards’ headquarters is in reasonably nice Chapel Hill, and he himself, to use an old expression, “lives large.”

I’ve discussed this issue before here.  More recently Greg Cruey, an Edwards supporter, has challenged me on my dislike for Hillary Clinton.  What we’re dealing with is a long-running problem on the left that transcends anyone currently running for office.

It’s almost like an observer effect with political application.  In that aspect of physics, if we attempt to measure a physical phenomenon, the act of measurement itself may well influence the results we obtain.  As some on the video observed, you can’t get elected President if you’re poor.  But if you obtain the resources to run for President, your own new-found self-interest and that of those who financed you will distort the results you deliver once you’re in office.  The centralisation that results from the redistribution of income and the provision of social services also centralises the wealth and power in the hands of those who furnish the services.  At this point the attempt to improve the lot of the poor becomes a patronage scheme.

Although the state can facilitate some improvements, in the end the best improvements should be left to God:

But Jesus called the ten to him, and said: “Those who are regarded as ruling among the Gentiles lord it over them, as you know, and their great men oppress them. But among you it is not so. No, whoever wants to become great among you must be your servant, And whoever wants to take the first place among you must be the servant of all; For even the Son of Man came, not be served, but to serve, and to give his life as a ransom for many.” (Mark 10:42-45).

He Won’t Need a Translator. But a Few Subtitles Might Help.

There’s no doubt that Miami Dolphins’ player Channing Crowder is relieved that he won’t need a translator when he’s in London.  But he may not be out of the woods with the language barrier just yet.

On some American news channels, when a British speaker of English is being interviewed, we’ll sometimes see subtitles just to make sure the Yanks get the point.  The Brits know how to reciprocate, too: on a recent BBC4 series on radical Islam inside British mosques, they featured an American imam (as if the ones from the Middle East weren’t dangerous enough) and they subtitled his speech, although those of us on this side of the pond wish they had subtitled some of the others.

Maybe Crowder should stay in Miami after all…where the animals are tame and the people run wild.

Terror watch list swells to more than 755,000

The terror watch list has expanded to include more than 755,000 names.

Almost six years ago I wrote Levelling the Playing Field, and proposed the following hypothetical government action in the wake of 9/11:

Enacted restrictions on who could fly, empowering the government to "prequalify" travellers on the commercial air system.  In a country as large as the U.S., this would be tantamount to an internal passport system such as existed in the Soviet Union.

Looks like we’re well on our way to that.  But at least we’re six years out.  Let me reiterate my other two "hypotheticals:"

Sent the Congress home for an indefinite period, saying that it was too dangerous for them to stay in Washington with all of these terrorists about.  Since their emergency home in West Virginia is now a tourist attraction, their options would have been limited.

Launched a broad based legal assault on evangelical Christian organisations.  Since any Christian organisation worth its salt believes that God is above and beyond any government (as Muslims do also), and since the media have spent so much airtime lumping all "fundamentalists" together, a well oiled propaganda machine (such as the Clinton administration had) could have easily made a "threat to national security" line plausible to many.

I do not think that Clinton II would hesitate to do either one if the opportunity arose.  One of the things that Hillary tries to convey is that she’s tough enough to deal with threats to our national security. There’s no doubt about that.  The problem is in defining what those threats are and who’s making them.

Why I Cannot Vote for Hillary, and Other Matters

Greg Cruey has come back with some interesting points in his response to "Keeping Liberals Entertained."  But let me start with his last one, namely voting for Hillary Clinton.

One of the enduring problems with the current occupant of the White House is that he will not change his idea when events demonstrate that it is wrong.  The most important case of this is his quest for democracy in the Middle East, which is the greatest mirage since the original one.  A realistic reading of the Bible would confirm this.  If he would abandon it, he would solve his problems in Iraq–which are political, not military–in short order.  But he will not.

Such thinking exists because he is a product of his generation, and his generation is one that careens between absolutism and profligacy with no middle ground.  We started out with the profligate Bill Clinton, then moved to the absolutist George Bush.

In Hillary Clinton–for all of her efforts to "soften" her image–we have another absolutist whose reign will be a mirror image of George Bush’s.  This has been pointed out by liberals more than conservatives, which is why candidacies such as Barack Obama and John Edwards have any traction.  Combined with a decidedly Leninist "ends justifies the means" streak, you have a recipe for disaster.

And that is why I cannot vote for Hillary Clinton.  (Of course, there’s always the matter of Socks…)

As far as Cruey’s favourite, John Edwards, is concerned, I think that he is an anachronism.

Let me respond to a couple of other points.

As a Baptist who spent 10 years on the mission field in Asia and the Pacific, I think Christians in America exacerbate their problems with American culture – and then often whine about it.

Since both Cruey and I have a common obsession–China (here are links to his site on the subject and mine)–let me use the Chinese as an example.

The basic problem that American evangelicals face relative to their government is that, although their government is in theory less authoritarian than others, it has a higher level of credibility with the people than its counterparts just about everywhere else in the world.  Thus, if the government is allowed to carry the message that people who believe in God and are serious about it are morons and those who take the contrary view are "beautiful and good," chances are it will get more traction here than elsewhere.  That’s why evangelicals are forced to be legally and politically active.  Compounding the problem is the fact that American evangelicals’ view of themselves is more securely "hog-tied" (since we both live in "Appalachia," I can get away with using that term) to their view of the country.

Turning to the Chinese, the Communist Party’s 17th National Congress has just concluded.  But, as Kent Ewing of Asia Times Online points out:

Now that the Politburo standing committee has been set, the nation can finally tear off the straitjacket of pomp and protocol that it has been wrapped in for the past seven days and go back to being the most exciting country in the world.

Indeed, perhaps the most important lesson of this congress is the increasing disconnect that it has shown between the deliberate dullness and scripted predictability of the country’s politicians and the sometimes alarming dynamism of its economic and social life. This is a nation crowding in on the first tier of world powers, yet its politicians continue to bumble along as if they are lost in a time warp.

It’s noteworthy that the Chinese are experiencing one of the greatest economic advances and the greatest Christian revival ever known right under the nose of an institution based on Marxist-Leninist thinking!  Although it’s true that same institution has allowed some of this (the economic advance, at least,) it’s hard to imagine things getting so far on either front here under the same conditions considering our worship of the "rule of law."  (Or is it rule of lawyers?  Didn’t Mitt Romney say that he would consult the attorneys before attacking Iran?)  The Chinese have no higher regard for their government than they had when Wu Ching-Tzu wrote The Scholars.  If evangelicals here adopted the same kind of attitude that their Chinese counterparts did, the culture war would end.

But then they would be criticised for not "fitting in" and "participating" in our society.  It is enough to make a civics teacher cry.  But I am one of those people who think that students would learn more about statescraft from Tacitus, Thucydides, Sun Tzu and Lo Kuan-Chung than most civics classes.

And that leads to the Cruey’s next point:

And I firmly believe that God is not a Republican (or a Democrat).

That’s not the issue either.  As I noted earlier this month:

We need to quit wondering which candidate will bring us closer to a "righteous nation" and starting thinking about which candidate is the least likely to put us in jail.

The problem with the U.S. is that it has gone on so long and been so successful that we have deluded ourselves and those who are coming after us that "it can’t happen here."  History teaches that it not only can happen here, but sooner or later it will happen here.  It is only a matter of when and whether we (irrespective of who "we" happen to be) are prepared to deal with the consequences.

Another Baptismal Certificate

Last December, I posted the reverse of an Episcopal baptismal certificate from the time of the Civil War.  I got some interest in this on Kendall Harmon’s website, and so I’m doing it again, this time with the reverse of a certificate printed in 1924, and used in the Washington, DC area.

It starts with the promises of God in baptism, then proceeds to what the baptised promised, ending up with notes to the sponsors and an exhortation to proceed to Confirmation.

It is noteworthy that this certificate makes a more explicit connection between the rite of baptism and the status of the baptised as a full Christian than the earlier document.  It is also more explicit than the earlier one in identifying the baptised as a child.  Both aim the baptised towards Confirmation and subsequent admission to the Holy Communion.

The actual baptism this document certified was a private baptism, done in the home in the presence of family.  This practice has seriously gone out of fashion in the intervening years, although I was baptised privately (in church) in the mid-1960’s.

Finally, this document is mercifully innocent of the "Contract on the Episcopalians" endured by the baptised of that church today.

Keeping Liberals Entertained

Greg Cruey of the Universities Weblog referred to my piece on the litigation between the University of California and Christian schools as "entertaining."

I’m glad to be of service.  Liberals are a hard bunch to entertain.  Especially these days, since, if they succeed in defeating the domestic Christian Right, they still have to beat the Islamisicts to survive.  And then there are those pesky Third World Christians, like the Episcopalians are having so much trouble with…

He does make one statement that deserves a response:

I guess disagreeing with Bob Jones University (that institution publishes many of the textbooks used by ACSI schools) makes you a Communist…

Let me assure him that I know more about Communism (and have had more contact with Communists) than most people on campus these days.  And Marxism has some advantages over American liberalism, as the latter is currently practised.  Perhaps referring to California as a "People’s Republic" is generous.  Besides, doesn’t your "Governator" have the perfect look for an old time Communist propaganda poster?


Tian an Men Square, Beijing. In the front is the Monument to the People’s Heroes. Behind it is Chairman Mao Zedong’s Memorial Hall.

Sacramento could use an edifice or two like these.

Making Up Our Minds on What We Believe

In his piece Why Does Turkey Hate America? (an interesting subject in itself,) "Spengler" puts the central issue of Christianity (and Islam, for that matter) as succinctly as one could want:

I have never believed that such a thing as "moderate Islam" exists, any more than I believe that "moderate Christianity" exists. Either Jesus Christ died to take away the sins of the world, or he did not; if one believes that Jesus was just another preacher with a knack for parables, one quickly will be an ex-Christian. Either God dictated a final revelation to Mohammed which invalidates the corrupted scriptures of Jews and Christians, and the sign of the crescent should rise above the whole world, or he did not.

Oh, that so many in the Episcopal Church (and other liberal churches) could be so clear…too bad the Qur’an isn’t on the subject of the corruption of the previous scriptures!

The Two Hard Questions About Evangelicals Moving Up

D. Michael Lindsay’s book Faith in the Halls of Power documents the rise of evangelicals in American society.  That’s an interesting subject, one that I dealt with some in Taming the Rowdies.  But I think there are two hard questions that need to be answered before people on both sides get too excited about this.

How much impact are evangelicals really having on the course of society?  It depends on what the stated goals are.

If you’re a theonomist (or closet theonomist, many people are in reality but won’t admit it) we’re nowhere near achieving "bringing America back to God," as I keep repeating on this site.  We only need to look at our culture–to say nothing about our legal system–to see this.

If you’re comparing us to, say, Europe, we’re doing quite well, but it’s more of a maintenance task with some of the same long-term problems that European have faced in the past.

But what does that have to do with evangelicals in the elite?  Evangelical leaders have said two things for years:

  1. If we could only get our people into places of power and influence, we could redirect the culture.
  2. We can get into those places because of the superiority of our world view and lifestyle.

The fact that evangelicals, in the face of persistent trashing by our elite directed media, have gotten as far as they have is testament that the latter is true.  The former is problematic, because anyone moving up has to meet the demands placed on him or her by the system.  In many cases those demands end up effectively overwhelming the ability of the evangelical to really impact the society.  That’s the dilemma that impaled the Republicans in Congress: the demands of keeping themselves in office to effect the desired changes forced them to resort to patronage driven spending and other decidedly unconservative things, which defeated the whole purpose of them being there in the first place.

But let’s turn the issue around and look at it from a careerist standpoint.  If I am a young man or woman planning a career and want to choose a religion or life philosophy that would advance me the furthest, would I choose Evangelical Christianity?

There’s nothing that will advance a religion in society faster than to become the darling of careerists, as Constantine proved in the Roman Empire.  But along with that is the danger that the religion will be corrupted along the way, as Constantine and his successors also showed.  In my opinion, though, Evangelical Christianity will never have a chance at becoming the influential force in the upper reaches of our society it wants to be until a critical mass of people can answer this in the affirmative.

There’s no evidence that we’ve arrived at that critical mass.  And, if secular "religious tests" really take root in our society, that critical mass will not come together.  But there are two "wild card" variables that may alter that.

  1. A general systemic crisis (like the decline of dollar hegemony) would expose the weakness of the secularist house of cards.  To some extent this is what happened in the 1970’s, but not on an elite level (Jimmy Carter notwithstanding.)  But Evangelicals need to have their own "house in order" to take full advantage of this.
  2. Evangelicals need to play their two MO advantages more forcefully: dealing with transparency and integrity (while avoiding triumphalism and Napoleon Hill thinking) and living a lifestyle that is not self-destructive, thus not cutting their own careers short.