Rev. Ian Mitchell: What a Difference Thirty Years Make

One of the more interesting albums I posted (or more accurately reposted) is Ian Mitchell’s American Folk Song Mass.  At the time he was living in Chicago.  Listening to the album, it doesn’t take a genius to figure out which side of the political spectrum Mitchell was coming from.  But I’ve always taken an open view of that subject when considering albums of the Jesus Music era, which should be obvious to anyone who’s looked through them.

Evidently he headed for the coast, for this appeared (appropriately) in the 31 October 1985 issue of the Los Angeles Times:

A preliminary injunction forbidding the Rev. Ian Mitchell to perform any functions as rector of St. Athanasius Episcopal Church in Echo Park after Nov. 20 was issued by Superior Court Judge John L. Cole, who said he will appoint a retired jurist to try to mediate. But lawyers for both sides said an out-of-court settlement is very unlikely. Episcopal Bishop Robert Rusak had asked for the order, on the ground that Mitchell’s election as rector of the city’s oldest Protestant congregation was illegal, since the priest’s license to preach and celebrate Mass had been revoked. Mitchell’s supporters responded that he was being forced out because he attracted Latinos and homosexuals as new members of the congregation. In recent months, the issue has so divided the parish that rival Sunday services have been held in the main sanctuary and parish hall.

Today of course Mitchell would be a hero in his diocese (especially considering the bishop) and everyone else would be getting the boot.  But that’s emblematic of the changes in the Anglican/Episcopal world, and (as the album attests to) those changes started long before the current flap detonated in 2003.

But both situations have litigation in common.

Academic Freedom: Nice While It Lasted

But the Ivy Leaguers are hard at work to change that:

Yet the liberal obsession with “academic freedom” seems a bit misplaced to me. After all, no one ever has “full freedom” in research and publication. Which research proposals receive funding and what papers are accepted for publication are always contingent on political priorities. The words used to articulate a research question can have implications for its outcome. No academic question is ever “free” from political realities. If our university community opposes racism, sexism, and heterosexism, why should we put up with research that counters our goals simply in the name of “academic freedom”?

Allan Bloom predicted that the American mind would close if the trends he documented continued.  Well, make that past tense: it has.

Underneath all the left-wing post-1960′s blather in this article, it’s really shocking how corporatist our elites, both in power and up and coming, have become.  That’s the result of two things:

  1. Being raised not knowing what real freedom is, but always under some necessity to perform; and
  2. Having to always worry where the next grant comes from.  Eliminating “politically incorrect” research slims down the pool of researchers competing with you, and that makes getting money from the trough easier.

I doubt that Ms. Korn would see it that way.  But that’s the hard reality of the situation.

And since she’s invoked an early 1970′s incident of research she finds morally unacceptable, let’s remember that the hippie radicals, who howled about the idea of intelligence as being hereditary and racial in nature, also tried to blow up the computer in the Courant Institute because they didn’t like what it was doing.  So no one is safe in this environment.

One more thing: Korn stated that Harvard opposes “heterosexism”.  Does this mean that homosex will be mandatory for all in the future?  Don’t laugh: with the bunch we have in power now, today’s absurdity is tomorrow’s reality.

The Big Differences Between Pope Francis and the Prosperity Charismatics

The greeting video that Pope Francis sent to Kenneth Copeland’s conference has created a stir.  There are the usual Protestant vs. Catholic kinds of issues being brought up, and of course the obvious one: why a Pope who has pushed Catholic social teaching back to the forefront–to the discomfort of American conservatives–would even give a group whose Christian life is tied to their income the time of day, let alone a greeting video.

The Pope, however, has a better handle on what’s really going on outside of Roman Catholicism than many Protestant leaders do.  He realises that prosperity teaching, love it or hate it, has a lot of appeal to people who don’t have a lot and either haven’t figured out how to do it the old “American Protestant work ethic” way or don’t live in societies where the way upwards is very transparent.  So such a greeting makes more sense than it would seem.

Prosperity teaching has turned Christianity on its head; any dialogue it might have with Roman Catholicism cannot be cast in the usual stereotypes.  Getting beyond the ecclesiological and doctrinal problems, the biggest differences between Roman Catholicism and Prosperity Charismatic Christianity can be summed up very simply: they’re polar opposites in their attitude towards human suffering and “the money”.

It’s really a matter of origins.  Roman Catholicism came into a world where the attitude was, as cripsly expressed by Tacitus, that “the gods care little for our well-being, but greatly for our chastisement.”  Combined with the miserable world that came out of Rome’s fall, Stoicism and the example of Our Lord on the Cross, we had a religion that regarded suffering not only as an part of life but laudable as a spiritual discipline.

Prosperity teaching, however, came out of a world where wealth creation seemed like magic.  Taking the example of Our Lord’s resurrection and naïvely uninformed about how the civilisation they lived in actually accomplished all it did, prosperity teachers and their followers live in a world where suffering, far being from a virtue, is generally regarded as the judgement of God on an individual, and prosperity as the sign of blessing.

The situation with “the money” is equally divergent.  Roman Catholicism has traditionally regarded money and business with suspicion, its own accrual of wealth notwithstanding.  That is reflected in Francis’ “revival” of Catholic social teaching.  Its priests and religious take vows of poverty along with chastity and obedience.  The “contemplative life” is traditionally considered the highest Christian state on this side of eternity, and that life is one of poverty.

For prosperity charismatics, “the money” is like winning to Vince Lombardi: it’s not everything, it’s the only thing.  People used to be shocked at Robert Tilton’s “corrupt” practices, but face it: all he talked about was the money, what did you expect?  “The money”, present of future, is what validates the prosperity charismatic, and to say that they’re obsessed with the money is only an understatement because we cannot find an English word to express the reality.  That’s spilled over into just about every corner of Full Gospel Christianity.  After years of following the Anglican/Episcopal split over homosexuality and belief, to turn to my denomination and find it tearing itself apart over how much went to its centre spoke powerfully to priorities.

And this demonstrates another truth: where the money goes is an important issue.  When I became a Roman Catholic, I was warned that I would have to pay to receive forgiveness of sins or just about everything else.  In practice I found little of that.  My years in a Pentecostal church, however, have been a different story.  It’s hard to imagine a spirituality which has wrapped itself around giving more than this one.  The sentiment that people who don’t pay tithes are going to hell isn’t as uncommon as one would like.  In the face of what gets broadcast about the need and blessings of giving, Tetzel looks like a rank amateur.

So how to bridge these gaps?  What Francis is probably banking on is that, sooner or later, prosperity teaching is going to hit the wall.  This is for two reasons,

The first is that prosperity teaching doesn’t really account for situations–and everyone has them–when God doesn’t do either according to our expectations or those that are drilled into us from the pulpits or television.  When I was growing up, liberals would bawl over how they didn’t believe in God any more because he didn’t do what they expected him to do (remember Gilbert O’Sullivan)?  The New Atheists have taken this up with a vengeance: how can there be a God when so many bad things happen?  (I deal with this in more depth here).  Prosperity teaching plays right into this and, in many ways, atheists and prosperity charismatics are working from the same assumptions, only coming to different conclusions.

The second is that the ability for prosperity charismatics to accumulate wealth has always depended upon an economic system that permits it to the extent that ours has.  That’s in jeopardy for two reasons.  The first is the growing inequality and class stratification of our society.  Prosperity Charismatic Christianity is the preferential option of the poor par excellence; when they find that they have a bulletproof glass ceiling above them, they may change their attitude towards the aspirational spirituality they have adopted.  Moreover in the West the heavy hand of the state is tilting against any form of Christianity.  That is at the heart over the current fracas over bakers and florists refusing same-sex civil marriages; making economic activity of any kind a matter of conscience, and forcing people to make decisions that will cost them economically, goes straight against prosperity teaching in a way that few other things do.

On the other hand, prosperity charismatics, triumphalistic by nature, may figure that God is on their side and the Pope and the Church under him will come their way.  But given current realities and the durability of Roman Catholicism, I wouldn’t put money on the prosperity teachers.  They’d probably take it anyway.

Robert Munday’s Doing It Over Again, and a Note on Systematic Theology

Former Nashotah House Dean Robert Munday’s “If I had to do it over again…” is an excellent response to a sorry episode.  I know it’s hard for someone who has put his life into a work which others delight in unravelling to watch that take place.

Some comments on what he had to say:

To be more precise, Episcopal seminary education has concentrated on preparing men and women for a career in the Episcopal Church (note my choice of words) but has been utterly incapable of equipping them for biblically-faithful, Gospel-centered, Spirit-empowered ministry.

That may end up being the epitaph of American Protestant and Evangelical Christianity.  If there’s one thing that bothered me more than anything else in church work, it is the obsessive careerism of so many in the ministry.  That in part is because it’s full of Boomers, but that’s not the only reason.  Jesus Christ came, in part, to offer a radical alternative to the careerism of the Middle East, past and present, and for us to replicate that in church is unfaithful to Our Lord.

Most observers generally agree that the Charismatic movement in the Episcopal Church began with the Rev. Dennis Bennett’s experience of the Holy Spirit while he was rector of St. Mark’s Church in Van Nuys, California, in 1960.  The next thirty years saw a remarkable spiritual renewal that included leaders such as the Rev. Terry Fullam, from St. Paul’s Church, Darien, Connecticut, and a list of other leaders and parishes that is much too long to list here.

Alongside that Charismatic renewal, Evangelicals in the Episcopal Church, which had long been a small and beleaguered minority, began to find new life and strength, and a sense of their own identity.  They were aided in their self-discovery by Evangelicals from the UK, Australia, and elsewhere.  There were organizations dedicated to promoting renewal in the Episcopal Church, but there were numerous, seemingly spontaneous examples of spiritual renewal popping up all over the Church as well.  Several entire dioceses began to take on the character of the renewal movement.  Those who had been touched by the Charismatic renewal and the Evangelical resurgence came to grips with the realization that no existing Episcopal seminary was capable of training biblically faithful, Spirit-filled clergy to serve and lead parishes.  This realization led to the founding of Trinity Episcopal School for Ministry.

Reformed people hate to admit it, but the Anglican Revolt would have never taken place without the Charismatic Renewal (with all of its faults) providing the fuel and the people motivated by that fuel.

The opposition to my remaining as Dean was driven ostensibly by Bishop Ed Salmon’s contention that I was getting Nashotah House in trouble by being too closely allied with those who were outside of TEC.  The reason I use the word “ostensible” is that it should have been apparent to all concerned (and should be doubly apparent in retrospect) that Bishop Salmon was using his position as Chairman of the Nashotah House Board of Trustees to undermine my position as Dean and President and to take the job for himself.

Is Bishop Salmon insane?  Or is he one of these Episcopalians who, irrespective of how loony or heterodox the church becomes, stick with it until their last breath?  I’ve always been amazed at the institutional loyalty that TEC is capable of instilling in people, particularly since it traditionally discourages any time of enthusiasm as in bad taste.  But we see here two things going: the obsessive “company man” being a thoroughgoing careerist to boot.

You can have orthodoxy or you can have the Episcopal Church, but you can’t have both.

It’s just too bad it took so long for so many to realise this, but not everyone gets to grow up Episcopalian “where the animals are tame and the people run wild”.  Maybe that’s why it clicked for the senior Henry Louttit so early.

And for something completely different:

During my years at Trinity, I happened to meet the professor who was then teaching Systematic Theology at Nashotah House (around 1994).  We were discussing which textbooks we used for teaching theology, and he remarked that he used John Macquarrie’s Principles of Systematic Theology.  I gulped, and explained that, at Trinity, we treated Macquarrie in a separate course on Contemporary Theology where we did apologetics against him.  (I should add that this theology professor left Nashotah House before I began as Dean, and I had the opportunity to select his successor, who is thoroughly orthodox.)

Let’s face facts: after St. Thomas Aquinas, there is no systematic theology.  Period.

Bishop Salmon Plays Colonel Nicholson. Again.

He’s really stepped in it this time:

An invitation by Dean Edward Salmon to Katharine Jefferts Schori to be the guest preacher at Nashotah House’s historic seminary chapel has resulted in at least two resignations from that seminary’s board. A memo from Bishop Jack Iker of the Diocese of Ft. Worth (confirmed by his staff) says he has resigned in protest as a trustee from the Nashotah House Board where he has served for the past 21 years. Bishop William Wantland (Diocese of Eau Claire, ret.) who presently serves as Assisting Bishop of the Episcopal Diocese of Fort Worth has also distanced himself from the Nashotah action.

This action was taken in protest of the Dean’s invitation to the Presiding Bishop of TEC to be a guest preacher in the seminary’s chapel. Citing the lawsuits initiated by her against this Diocese, Bishop Iker notified the Board that he “could not be associated with an institution that honours her.” Similarly, Bishop Wantland sent notification that he “will not take part in any functions at Nashotah” nor will he continue “to give financial support to the House as long as the present administration remains.” He is an honorary member of the Board (without vote) and a life member of the Alumni Association.”

I took flak for my adverse opinion of Salmon’s performance in the All Saints Pawley’s Island fiasco.  In my defence I noted the following:

Salmon reminds me of Colonel Nicholson in The Bridge on the River Kwai.  Nicholson insists on building a top-flight bridge, irrespective of the fact that it is for the enemy, and resists its destruction.  Nicholson does this because it is the “proper” thing to do, and shows that he and his men are superior to their captors.  But the end result is that the enemy has a bridge.

The enemy has another bridge, thanks to Bishop Salmon once again doing the “proper” thing.  Fortunately this time some of his colleagues have shown that experience is a hard teacher and that they plan to learn from it.

Head and Heart Knowedge: Doing What They Said Couldn’t Be Done

Dale Coulter’s moving piece on adoption, image and God’s love (including extensive reference to St. Thomas Aquinas) brought back a more prosaic incident that happened to me while working in the family business.

About thirty years ago, between trips to China, I had to make a trip to Holland for an offshore hammer repair.  With me were my two field service people.  One of them was a country boy from Alabama.  As we took the motorway from Amsterdam to Rotterdam and looked out on the Dutch countryside, he made the comment “The old cowboys said that couldn’t be done.”

“What’s that?” I asked.

“Grazing sheep and cows together,” he replied.  Sure enough, out in the pastures the two species were contentedly eating grass.  Those familiar with the American West know that shepherds and cattle people came to blows because the sheep graze closer to the ground than cattle do, eating supper past the cows’ capabilities.  The Dutch, without the luxury of vast expanses of land (and much of theirs reclaimed the hard way) figured out how to get both to coexist.

In many ways Coulter’s piece is like that: it’s a moving piece about his own experiences with his adoptive parents and biological children.  Such is generally a call for pure sentimentality, but Coulter interweaves St. Thomas Aquinas’ theology of the love and will of God and his leitmotif of beginnings, causes, and ends to make a very nice tour de force, if one that’s at first surprising.

The surprise comes for those of us who have hung around Evangelical and Pentecostal Christianity for a long time.  Ever since I’ve been involved in this type of Christianity, I’ve always heard another leitmotif in one form or another: the vast gulf between “head knowledge” and “heart knowledge,” that gulf as unbridgeable as the one between the rich man and Lazarus and for the same basic reason.  The message was simple: you get one, you chuck the other; you go with the heart, you go to heaven; you go with the head, you go to the other place.  That wasn’t restricted to Evangelical circles either: once I got past my first Catholic parish, it was even difficult to get anyone fired up about Aquinas at the parish level, although some of that came from the left.

That idea was primarily developed for two reasons: to cater to a population whose formal education was frequently lacking, and to steer them clear of the kinds of open-ended speculations that are popular in the general culture.  Up to a point it’s succeeded, but much of the current crisis that Evangelicalism is going through can be traced back to this dichotomy.  (For the Mars Hill types: I take this on from a Biblical standpoint here.)

I come from a profession that requires a great deal of deep reasoned thought to solve its problems, but the goal is to figure out what’s going on and come up with a solution.  The basic problem with American Evangelicalism’s aversion to an intellectual approach to theology or anything else is that, as long as things are going the way they have, life is good.  When the ground shifts, however, forethought is lacking and we’re forced into a reactive mode where we’re always playing defence.  The Pentecostal response is to restore the prophetic to the church, but our response to prophecy depends on our earlier conditioning.  If we’re not conditioned to really look ahead, the “prophetic” we receive will only be the pathetic.  (For a completely different view of prophecy from the one we’re used to, this from Moses Maimonides will be of interest.)

That lack of skill with the “art of thinking,” as those venerable Jansenists Arnauld and Nicole would say, touches many practical issues, some of which have graced this blog over the years:

  • How can a group of serial ecclesiastical rebels claim legitimate authority?  And how can they claim authority and still deny that they have magisterium, i.e. the ability to interpret the Scriptures authoritatively?
  • Why should churches whose ecclesiology speak of strictly a gathering of saints–up to baptising only adults–expect themselves to be at the head of the culture?  (How they did that in the American South is another one of those “cows and sheep” situations, but then again the American South is one of those places where everything is different.)
  • How can people protest “redefining marriage” and then keep on insisting that the state continue to be involved in it?  If the state is involved in it, then it can and will redefine it as it did with “no-fault” divorce and now with same-sex civil marriage.
  • Why do we insist that we interpret the Bible literally and then turn around and insist that the Eucharist is totally symbolic?
  • Did we really expect that we could get secular power without the moral hazard that goes with it?  And did we really expect that we could “bring America back to God” through the electoral process when neither Old nor New Testament support such an idea?
  • Do we really expect to continue on without persecution and a cost for discipleship when Our Lord promised otherwise?

These are just a few of the “fun” issues that we must face.  Some ability to think would be helpful here.  To some extent we’re in the same situation Islam is in: we’ve woken up to a world not of our making where the only response we know is to come out swinging.  And I think, as a sometime Thomist, that this is unworthy of our calling as Christians.

What we need to do is what Arnauld and Nicole did: to teach the art of thinking, especially to those in our leadership.  The start for that would be to upend our current idea of “systematic theology:” we need, like Aquinas, to start with God and carry on from there.  Beyond that we need to reaffirm that what we know translates into what we do and how we live, and to be ready to make the dissemination of that knowledge a centrepiece of our program.  From there we need to take a more realistic view of the world, which is still fallen the last I checked.

To go on the way we have isn’t going to work, and that alone should be incentive enough to get head and heart knowledge to graze together as they are supposed to.

What Do You Expect? This is the Global North!

I guess a blog which at least claims to be in the Anglican/Episcopal blogosphere should have something to say in the wake of all the “fun” going on around Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby.  That includes his sycophantic press release re Episcopal Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts-Schori’s upcoming honourary doctorate at Oxford and his address to the General Synod re women’s ordination to the episcopate.

I’ve written on this before so there’s really nothing new to say, only recapitulation.  But perhaps an analogy would be helpful.

Off and on, I spent a good deal of time in the 1980′s and early 1990′s doing business with “communist” countries, the quotes especially appropriate to China.  But I also spent a great deal of time with the Russians as well.  In some ways my exposure to the latter was more “broadening”.  To watch a superpower collapse at close range isn’t something one gets to do very often, and it transformed the way I saw such things happen, along with chucking a lot of other Western conventional wisdom.

In any case my first direct contact with the then Soviet Union was at their trade mission in Washington.  It was right around the corner from the Hilton hotel where Ronald Reagan was shot shortly after his inauguration in 1981.  I met our representative there and we made the short walk over.  While we were in transit we talked about the latest scandal re Soviet spying in Washington, to which he exclaimed, “What do you expect?  This is Russia!”  Previous and subsequent history proved his point: the Russians, Soviets or not, spend a great deal of time and effort gathering intelligence.  And of course the Russians are not alone.

To a great extent my reaction to Justin Welby and his blather is the same: “What do you expect? This is the Global North!”  The simple truth is that the post-Christian mentality that characterises the “West” or “North” has permeated just about every “public” institution in the society.  The Church of England, even more than its Episcopal counterpart, is a public institution, created by an Act of Parliament and with official status.  To expect something other than it being the servant of the state–and we all know how the current government in Whitehall is oriented–is asking too much.

The North American expectation that an Archbishop of Canterbury would come on a white horse and sweep the TEC out with an iron broom was unrealistic.  I think that’s finally sinking in.  Sadly unrealistic expectations are an American speciality these days. There’s nothing that deflates a Boomer more than having his or her unrealistic expectations definitively smashed.  But that’s where we’re at on this and many other issues.

Welby tries to come back and tries to characterise his opponents as parts of “closed systems”.  But that analogy needs to be taken in perspective.  Linear systems, for example, are closed on two simple operations: addition and scalar multiplication.  But they’re used to simulate just about everything in the universe, and that includes non-linear systems too.  If anyone is in a closed system–or more precisely a closed circle–it’s Welby and his ilk, who live in a world that largely exists to solve the problems they have created.

Coming back to facing reality, as Peter Ould sagely points out, Welby’s biggest problem now is that those back in the “closed” system have decided that Welby is not only wrong but also unnecessary:

The fact that the Americans thrown out of TEC for simply wanting to believe and preach what the rest of the Communion did have united past their differences (womens’ ordination anyone?) to decry this piece of blind sycophancy is deeply worrying, but it’s not half as disturbing as the utter silence from Uganda, Kenya, Nigeria and others. The danger comes for the Archbishop not when his fellow Primates respond to his letters with ones of their own, but when they decide that they have finished with appeasing (as they see it) a traitor to the cause and there is no more hope in dialogue.

Going back to the Russians, when Constantinople fell in 1453, they developed the “Third Rome” idea: the first was apostate, the second was in the hands of the Muslims, the third was in Moscow, and the fourth would not be.  While the Russians may have quit counting too soon, the idea is there: Rome was portable, and so is Canterbury.  Welby may sniff at the idea of Nairobi or Entebbe taking the place of his own headquarters, but then again no one thought much of Moscow five hundred years ago.

When the Government Denies You Serving Sunday Brunch

In Palm Beach, where else:

Harvey Oyer, attorney for Del Frisco’s Grille: Royal Poinciana Plaza restaurant originally wanted to serve Saturday lunch and Sunday brunch. Council approved Saturday lunch service, asked restaurant to meet conditions to open: No live music, approved operating hours, priority reservation system for residents, no happy hour, refuse stored indoors, employee parking in northwest corner of plaza property, be town-serving, offer valet parking. And asked Del Frisco’s to come back in February to consider request for Sunday brunch service…

Council votes to deny appeal, request for special exception to serve weekend lunch and brunch.

And remember, this is the town that induced the tearing down of a house for putting up bullet proof glass to protect himself against a golf course.

In addition to the obvious, one of the ongoing debates in Palm Beach these days is the redevelopment of the Royal Poinciana Plaza, which is basically a mixed use shopping complex.  At one time WPTV (Channel 5) was at the entrance to the Plaza, but in recent years it has fallen on hard times.  It was where we used to go to Abercrombie and Fitch before they went “big time”.

A major reason it has struggled to get going again is stuff like this.

The Best Selling Aggie Author: A Controversial Christian

It’s Forrest Mims:

Forrest M. Mims III ’66, “the Country Scientist,” has written more than 60 books, mostly technical tomes on electronics, some in various editions and in two or more languages. His total sales exceed 7 million copies. He is probably best known for his hand-lettered and illustrated Getting Started in Electronics, published by Radio Shack in 1983, which has sold more than 1.3 million copies and is still in print. He is working on a new memoir.

For those with relatively long memories, a quarter of a century ago Mims was at the heart of a controversy with Scientific American.  They were impressed enough with his material for him to start a column in that prestigious publication but disliked his stance against evolution enough to pull it.

There was never any argument as to the quality of his work or the content of his articles.  But that never stands in the way when The Subject comes up.

For more on this subject on this blog, click here and here.

America in Blue Suede Shoes: Obama vs. the Work Ethic

Our strange government is at it again:

It began when the head of the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office reported that the interplay of taxes and subsidies in the law “creates a disincentive for people to work.” The report predicted the mix would lead to fewer hours worked, costing the equivalent of nearly 2.5 million jobs.

In response, President Obama’s spokesman pleaded guilty — with pride and pleasure.

“Opportunity created by affordable, quality health insurance allows families in America to make a decision about how they will work, or if they will work,” Jay Carney said. Harry Reid and Nancy Pelosi applauded the law for freeing people from “job-lock.”

Traditionally in this country the idea is that people come here, work hard and get ahead.  (One group didn’t come here for that reason, as we saw recently.)  Also traditional in this country is health care coverage tied to work.  There’s no doubt that many continue to work to keep their coverage.  Both of these are going out the window.  One end result wrought by Obamacare is that people have the option of leaving the work force and continuing to have health coverage, presumably by lowering their income to the point where they go on Medicaid.

This is another hippie dream come true for this administration.  That hippie dream is best expressed, IMHO, by Kevin Ayers’ “Stranger in Blue Suede Shoes”:

That was the message of the 1960′s: we worked too hard.  We forgot about it in the 1980′s, but it’s back with a vengeance.

Darwinian as it may sound (yes, I’ll use that term) running down the American work ethic is going to have some unpleasant consequences.  The most serious of those are our inability to either keep up our standard of living (another hippie dream was to pitch that too) or to pay our debts, public and private.  Failure to do so, as many have found out the hard way during this economic downturn, will put the country in a “death cycle”, as too few productive people will be unable to carry the load.  Having that kind of conflict in a society is destabilising as well.

The usual response to this criticism is to point to Europe.  They have generous welfare systems and yet their people work, don’t they?  That’s the crux of the tug of war going on between the efficient Germans and everyone else to the south.  I’d remind Americans that the two greatest “mediterranean seas” are the original one that separates the EU from Africa and the Middle East and the Gulf of Mexico that separates the US from Latin America.  What’s happening around one can easily be repeated around the other if the circumstances are right (and we’re already seeing that by the expansion of the disability system).

As much as we’d all like life to be sweeter, hippie dreams have a way of crashing after the party’s over and the bongs are gone, and that’s where we’re headed.

Sailing the Last Voyage with Newton and Pascal