The Colonies are Actually Good for Something

Any American who has dealt with a British “cousin” (for some of us, at least) has sooner or later detected a note of condesension about those poor rude Americans in the “colonies.” Sometimes this condesension is justified, sometimes not.

It is with some amusement, then, that we discovered that the Church of St. Mary the Virgin in Stevington, Bedforshire (photo below), has a link to our popular 1662 Book of Common Prayer page. This is the first time, to our knowledge, that any entity in the Church of England has done this, although we have had links from American Anglican churches of various kinds for some time.

St. Mary the Virgin Church, Stevington

The reason for this is rather unique. We’re used the the idea that copyrights expire, although pressure from Disney keeps forcing Congress to move the goalposts. The 1662 Book of Common Prayer, however, is published by privilege of the Crown, which is the way books were legally published in European countries before the advent of copyright (and free speech, in many cases.) So the “copyright” of the book is in perpetuity within the United Kingdom. The Church of England is working on posting the 1662 book, but it’s in HTML, which isn’t very convenient for printing out.

1662 Book of Common PrayerSo this Church of England parish is forced to rely on a site outside of the UK–in this case, in the “colonies” (literally in this case, it’s one of the original 13)–to enable their parishoners and others to obtain a free download of this magnificent work. (They probably liked the York Minster photo on the front, too.)

We want to extend our thanks to St. Mary the Virgin parish for linking to our site. In addition to helping make the 1662 prayer book more accessible, it constitutes an admission that we in the “colonies” are really useful to the “old country” after all.

So What are You Going to do About It?

Earlier this year, my wife and I got a call from an old friend who was passing through town. He wanted to meet with us, so we met him at a restaurant. He came with his wife and daughter.

Things were pleasant enough until he decided to do what he liked to do best: spring “the controversial topic” on us. In this case, his topic was that he didn’t like the fact that a minister we supported entered into a “protocol” of common agreement with a group of Roman Catholics. It didn’t matter that he had never read this protocol, nor did he understand that it was not with the Catholic Church directly. It was evil, we were wrong in supporting anyone who did like this, and we should cease and desist at once.

Needless to say, we were not happy with this assault, especially in view of the fact that we were paying for his dinner. He went on in a classically Protestant anti-Catholic vein for some time. I tired of this and finally confronted him with the question: “What are you going to do about it?” i.e., winning Catholics to Christ.

His answer? He was transporting his family to a small island, renting a plot of land (at a below market rate) out on a point where his daughter could pursue her equestrian interests, and minister to the largely Catholic population from there. Needless to say, we were underwhelmed by this idea.

Visitors to this site know that the raw anti-Catholicism exhibited by our friend isn’t what I do. Having actually been there–and I resent being told about Roman Catholicism by those who haven’t–I certainly disagree with many things the Roman Catholic Church teaches and does, especially as it relates to the nature of the church. And I actually have read this “protocol” and have made a response to it. But the whole idea that people cannot be Christians and Catholics at the same time flies in the face of experience, if nothing else. For me, my years as a Roman Catholic were the spiritual experience of a lifetime, and the main reason why I left was because the Church was unwilling to cultivate the seed she had planted in me.

But there is another issue here: the issue of action. My friend had strong beliefs on the subject, and was more than willing to try to make my wife and I feel guilty about what what we were doing. But the key issue is this: since he thinks that Roman Catholics are going to hell, what was he planning to do to prevent it? The obvious answer was to put in motion a plan to win them. And this guy is an effective soul winner when he puts his mind to it. But to make the results of such an effort really count, you need to target a mission field on the one end and to have a place to disciple people you win on the other. And, looking at his proposed plan, he had neither. That’s why we were underwhelmed.

There are a lot of people out there that are full of talk. (Maybe you’re thinking this site is one of them!) This is true in all fields of endeavour. In this case it’s a ministry, but we have seen this in business and certainly in politics. But when the time comes for an effective plan of action, a lot of the big talkers are nowhere to be found. And many of those who do have a plan of action and are getting results are too busy working their plan to make assaults on the rest of us like our friend did.

So when you see someone come along with a lot of great sounding “good bull” (to use an old Aggie expression) just ask them the question: So what are you going to do about it? The answer will separate those who really “have the goods” from those who simply like to hear the sound of their own voice.

Fighting for Jesus: The Church Militant, American Style

Those of you who follow this site on a regular basis probably realise that ABC’s piece on the North Dakota Bible camp is right up our alley as a topic. So we’ll get right to it.

The first question we need to ask is why American evangelicals use military imagery when they rarely–and we mean rarely–advocate actual violence or revolution. The answer to this question is simple: the military is a popular institution with Christians, thus using military imagery resonates with Christian people. This is especially true with men’s ministries, but we see it pretty frequently with youth ministries as well.

Liberals automatically translate this into evangelicals wanting to overthrow the existing system by force. In this respect, the liberals are thinking further down the road; most evangelicals have not thought out the issue that far, and really don’t want to because they are too respectability conscious. (They read the Bible, too.) We have thought this issue out, and know of people who took it that far.

Short of that, liberals also translate this training into political action. They are on safer ground here. Their idea that evangelical training for young people is “bad for society” is based on the fact that people so trained won’t vote–either with their ballots or their lives–the way liberals would like them to. This is pushing the liberals’ panic button harder than anything else. We can’t see how a true, pluralistic, representative democracy will survive this kind of “management of opinion.”

Finally, as we noted elsewhere, liberals cannot bring themselves to understand the difference between dying for a faith and killing for one. They think that they are synonymous, although any jihadi could explain the difference if they bothered to listen.

The fact is that secular liberalism cannot survive in any other environment than a vacuum. But vacuums tend to fill up, and the left is faced with a stark choice: either they can come to some kind of accomodation with evangelical Christianity, or they can beat that into the ground and then get wiped out by the Islamicists. Or somebody else.

The Pope and Islam: We’ve Already Said Our Peace

We haven’t made much comment on the Pope’s recent remarks about Islam because we have said many things our own way, such as:

Be Seeing You, Part II

Last year we noted that the British system of tracking cars everywhere they went reminded us of their own 1960’s television show, The Prisoner. It’s only getting worse in the old country: now we have street cameras that shout at people who do things not to the authorities’ taste. In some ways it’s more personalised than the public address system used in The Village. (Rather reminds one of the way the chess pieces were moved around in the episode, “Checkmate.”) The only thing left to do is to install the cameras in people’s homes and to be able to dispatch Rover when things don’t go according to plan.  Be seeing you!

For here we do not have an enduring city: a 9/11 remembrance

slide58.jpg
Final slide of the 9/11 tribute by the Church of God Chaplains Commission, presented at the 2002 General Assembly Honours Banquet. For the entire slide show, click here. The same site also features an eyewitness account of the Pentagon attack.

No, Bishop Lipscomb, We Are Not Going to Shut Up

The recent call by Bishop John Lipscomb, Episcopal Bishop of Southwest Florida (a neighbour for the diocese I grew up in,) for a “40 day fast” from blogs will fall on deaf ears here at Positive Infinity.

We don’t claim to be high on the list of Anglican/Episcopal blogs. We do carry Virtue Online’s news feed. And recently, when we expressed the opinion that the Diocese of South Carolina was not acting in its best interests by suing All Saints at Pawley’s Island, we were attacked by “moderate” Episcopalian from California. So we are a problem to somebody.

Perhaps the most incendiary thing we do here is to carry the 1662 and 1928 Books of Common Prayer for download, which make the 1979 one look bad.

So we will continue, working under the assumption that the truth is more important than aesthetic considerations or some kind of imposed unity. After all, “And you find out the Truth, and the Truth will set you free.” (John 8:32, Positive Infinity New Testament) No one will find out anything as long as those who speak the truth are silent.

9/11: Learning Little, Forgetting Nothing

Last year, I documented some of my encounters with a Sudanese friend of mine who was a Sunni Muslim imam. We went back and forth on a wide variety of subjects in our conversation. One day, we reserved a graduate study room in the university library and covered the waterfront on a wide variety of topics of interest: the Sunni/Shi’a divide, how a group of Muslims simply got together at a university and picked him to be their imam, the basic weakness of the whole Muslim fundamentalists approach, and many other things. I was and still am enriched by the experience.

What I didn’t realise at the was that, based on that experience and others, I knew more about the real nature of Islam and the Middle East than many in our government whose duty was to understand these things. Put another way, my Sudanese friend was indirectly laying out the whole “war on terror” in front of me, along with the help of other Muslims I encountered over the years, including those in the Fulham Road theatre in London.

As Americans, we live in a country with two distinct ideas on how to deal with problems such as radical Islamicism.

The first is that we must understand our enemy if we are to engage him, and engaging him means that, if we “understand” him, we will be nice to each other and everything will be better. This is the approach of the left. With most enemies, this leads to defeat, because they interpret your actions (rightfully) as a sign of weakness and will move against you accordingly.

The second is that, if we understand our enemy, we will become sympathetic to him and it will weaken us, so we must always do it “our way” and defeat him. This is the approach of the right. This can lead to victory but it will be costly.

What no one who has a voice in the public arena seems to grasp is that, to defeat an enemy, one must first understand him, so as to exploit his weaknesses while working from our strengths. Doing this will help facilitate the greatest victory at the least cost. It will also avoid making unnecessary enemies in the process.

As we commemorate the fifth anniversary of 11 September 2001, we need to realise that we are dealing with a “war of civilisations.” But we are also dealing with two sides with deep divisions within themselves. On the Islamic side, we have the Sunni/Shi’a business, the complexities induced by vicious power holder/power challenger politics, and many other factors. On the American side, we have a country that went into 9/11 deeply divided over whether it would be a Judeo-Christian or secularist country. Both sets of divisions have survived that event. The only people who seem to know where they’re at are the Europeans, and that’s in a downward spiral, induced by secuarlism and a collapsing birthrate which has turned their civilisation into an open grave.

So we both go into this remembrance like the Bourbon kings of France: having learned little, but forgotten nothing. Barring the return of the Messiah, we have three possible results: the “West” can win, the Islamicists can win, or both can destroy each other and those from the rest of the world can come in and pick up the pieces. As a Christian, the best news is that people have actually followed Christ’s command to take the gospel to the ends of the earth and that people will live and love as God intended them to long after the bastions of the faith of times past have taken their leave. Will this happen? It is up to us.

The Bourbons, the Democrats, and the ABC 9/11 Series

Without a doubt one of the most hilarious pieces of literature ever written is Blaise Pascal’s Provincial Letters. Written in the 1650’s, it consisted of a purported series of letters written by a Parisian to his friend in the provinces. At that time the Jesuits (with the help of the French monarchy) were attempted to suppress the Jansenists, those purveyors of serious Christianity. Pascal, coming off a dramatic conversion experience and sympathetic to the Jansenists, took an unusual tack. Instead of directly attacking the propositions of the Jesuits about their “probable opinions” (which moved in the direction of situational ethics,) he set up (for several letters at least) a Jesuit who baldly explained the content of their doctrines based on their own authorities. He clearly showed the nature of their ideas, such as how it was permissible to kill in a duel to defend one’s honour, it was okay to arrive at Mass as long as you beat the elevation of the Host, etc.

For anyone who is familiar with traditional Roman Catholicism, the work is an absolute howl. In explaining with clarity their doctrines, the “Jesuit” ends up making fun of them, just as Ned Lamont’s supporters trash their own cause in the way they attack Joe Lieberman.

But let’s look at things from another view: this was seventeenth century France, there was an absolute monarchy, books had to be printed “with the privilege of the King,” etc. Pascal wrote these anonymously; it took the public (who laughed with him) and the Jesuits (who were incensed) some time before they realised who had written it. The work put the Jesuits’ “morality” into public ridicule, but it was only a temporary reprieve: the Jesuits managed to eventually grind the Jansenists into the ground with the help of the state.

In this “modern” world of ours, we’re supposed to be past this kind of thing. But now we have the spectable of Congressional Democrats threatening to “review” ABC’s broadcast “privilege” unless it alters or pulls altogether its upcoming (hopefully) series on 9/11. This is especially amazing when we consider that ABC is certainly part of the “mainstream” media that the Democrats rely on so heavily to get their point across.

The problem with representative democracy in the United States is that it has gone on so long that we take it for granted. But, given our heavy-handed legal system, it wouldn’t take much for meaningful freedom of expression to dissappear. Naked pressure such as this is a more obvious example of this than most.

And there’s one more lesson the left needs to learn from the French. The suppression of Janesnism weakened the state of Christianity in France, opening the way for the French Revolution. The Bourbons made a pact with the devil when they joined with the Jesuits, and the devil got his balloon payment in 1789. (Remember, Rolling Stones fans?)
Weakening the security apparatus and then supressing the truth about your actions will only lead to the same kind of thing. None of the meaningful enemies of the U.S. will suffer the left to continue if they win. If the Democrats succeed in pulling this off, they will continue they suffer the same fate of Louis XVI at the hands of people who don’t mind doing it on the Internet.

Let’s hope this can be headed off, or, as the little rondeau at the start of the Provincial Letters: Retirez-vous, péchés!

Ayatollah al-Sistani: Getting out of Muslim Politics is Easier Said Than Done

Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s decision to get out of politics reminds us of the closing poem from the Chinese author Wu Ching-Tzu’s novel The Scholars:

For love of the Chinhuai River, in the old days I left home;
I wandered up and down behind Plum Root Forge,
And strolled about in Apricot Blossom Village;
Like a phoenix that rest on a plane
Or a cricket that chirps in the yard,
I used to compete with the scholars of the day;
But now I have cast off my official robes
As cicadas shed their skin;
I wash my feet in the limpid stream,
And in idle moments fill my cup with wine,
And call in a few new friends to drink with me.
A hundred years are soon gone, so why despair?
Yet immortal fame is not easy to attain!
Writing of men I knew in the Yangtse Valley
Has made me sick at heart.
In days to come,
I shall stay by my medicine stove and Buddhist sutras,
And practice religion alone.

Sistani has evidently decided to leave Shi’ite politics to the likes of Muqtada al-Sadr.

Retreat such as this makes sense in a religion such as Buddhism, where the whole idea is to escape desire and reach Nirvana. Some forms of Christianity encourage this kind of thing. But in Islam, especially with Sufism in retreat and Islamicism (Wahabbi and otherwise) taking over, we find the idea of a prominent Muslim leader retreating from politics an oxymoron, irrespective of his own desires in the matter.

Although most Americans dislike the idea of Muqtada taking over, and his theocracy would be a disaster for everyone else in Iraq outside of Shi’a Islam, putting him in the driver’s seat would give mullah and lay politician in Tehran a serious case of heartburn.

Quotation from Wu Ching-Tzu, The Scholars. Translated by Yang Hsien-Yi and Gladys Yang. New York: Grosset and Dunlap.