Monday, 31 August 2009
As you all know, this last week, Senator Edward Kennedy passed from this life. This drew national attention, and in the media virtually everyone—right, left and middle—paid their respects. Some considered him as the exemplar of what is needed, while others praised him personally while reserving to themselves the right to differ with him "on policy matters." And at his funeral, praises were sung to the triune God of Scripture.
When it comes to speaking beside an open grave, or speaking about those who have departed this life, the pressure to be disingenuous is enormous. To speak honestly on the occasion of someone’s death is taken as the ultimate sign of churlishness. But honesty in these matters is not churlish, if you have an true and hearty desire for all men to find mercy in Jesus Christ. At the same time, grace is what it is, and cannot be redefined by sinful man into anything else. The grace of God in Christ saves us from our sins.
Death does not erase all sin—the only death that does that is the death of Jesus. The fact that we all die is a sign that we are of a race that deserves to die, and this death of the body (even for believers) is because of sin. If we want mercy at the time of death, something needs to have been done about the death we carry around in our hearts.
The life of Senator Kennedy, lived very much in public view, was a life that was badly lived. He was responsible for much public evil, including his responsibility for the continuing carnage of abortion in our land. In the judgment, Edward Kennedy, no longer a senator, will stand before God. When the sky has fled, and the oceans have receded, how can any man stand apart from Christ? How will he?
We are permitted to hope that Sen. Kennedy repented before God at the eleventh hour. We may wish his family well, as we do. But the Scriptures teach us to live our lives with the last day in view, and to do so out loud. The final judgment will not be conducted in private. Paul prayed that Onesiphorus would find mercy in the last day (2 Tim. 1:18). He desired that God would requite Alexander the coppersmith according to his works (2 Tim. 4:14). Leaving everything in the hands of God, where it belongs, we still recognize that public enormities will be met with perfect justice.
The thief on the cross repented at the very last, but as a wise Puritan put it, God gave us one last minute conversion in Scripture so that no one would despair, but only one so that no one would presume.
First posted in Blog and Mablog, 29th August, 2009
And he opened the bottomless pit; and smoke went up out of the pit, like the smoke of a great furnace; and the sun and the air were darkened by the smoke of the pit. And out of the smoke came forth locusts upon the earth; and power was given them, as scorpions of the earth have power.
Revelation 9: 2,3
Years and years ago, when we were too young to know any better, for a period of time we were fixated upon the idea that the world was about to end. Hal Lindsay had just published The Late Great Planet Earth; most of the Christian teachers to whom we were exposed were of a Dispensational persuasion; and “newspaper exegesis” was rife.
For those of you who don't know, “newspaper exegesis” is a time-honoured, but spurious method of biblical interpretation, whereby one reads the latest news of the day, then then uses its content to interpret the Bible. The Six-Day War had just occurred; the Soviet Union was aligned with the Arab states; we were warned that the great battle to end human history, Armageddon was about to be unleashed. All of these geo-political events, we were told, were specifically predicted in the Revelation. It was rubbish, of course. This approach turns the Bible, and the Apocalypse specifically, into little more than a Nostradamus-like fable of spurious predictions.
As time passed, in the gracious providence of the Lord we were led to sit under better, more faithful teachers of Scripture. We gave away dispensational pre-millennialism as an unreliable and error-ridden way of interpreting Scripture. We came to understand that all of Scripture, including the Apocalypse, must be interpreted within the religious, redemptive, historical, literary, and cultural context in which it was written.
This meant that the book of Revelation needed to be interpreted in the context of the greatest techtonic shift in redemptive history—the ending of the Old Covenant, and the superimposition of the New Covenant over the Old. We came to hold the view that Revelation was written to encourage and sustain the Church as she lived through those tumultuous times. Consequently, the focus of much of the book of Revelation was upon the devastation of Israel in general, and Jerusalem in particular, during the Wars of the Jews during AD 66-70.
The relevance of the Apocalypse to the Church thereafter is the same as the rest of Scripture: it contains truths, principles, patterns, instructions, and promises which by which God circumscribes His dealings with His people throughout all generations. In Revelation 9 we are confronted with some of these vital truths. Amidst a chapter which speaks of awful judgment and devastation (as indeed occurred during the Wars of the Jews) we learn some very important truths.
The first of these is that evil destroys itself. It is self-immolating, and self-destructive. The fifth angel sounds its trumpet of woe: an angel of the Lord unlocks hell—and from hell comes forth the locust-scorpions to torment all who do not belong to God's people. An effective, modern literary image is Tolkien's hosts of Isengard, swarming out of the caverns of the earth to destroy men.
When a culture rises up to shake the fist at God, despising Him, using His Name and the Name of His Son for cursing and contemptuous expression, the gates of Hell begin to open. The demons come forth and begin to torment. Evil grips the culture, and its poison is painful. Lawlessness, murder, rapine, anger, tumult, drug addiction, abortion—all these have one feature in common. They all are instances man turning in upon himself and destroying himself and those nearest to him.
But these self-immolating plagues do not affect the Lord's people. As Revelation 9:4 indicates, they are protected—but once again their protection is due to what arises from within. The Covenant community walks in the Spirit and continues to worship, to marry, bear and raise children, instructing them in the fear of the Lord, turning away from the lusts of the flesh, encouraging and supporting each other, and those who seek their help—and so escapes the scorpion-like sting.
But Unbelief, which does not repent of its murders, its sorceries, its immorality, nor its thefts (Revelation 9:21) reaps the fruit of these things—and they are exceedingly bitter and painful. Inevitably, this is what our Unbelieving culture will come to, if it continues to rush headlong down the broad road.
Saturday, 29 August 2009
It seems like it's a season for open letters to the Prime Minister.
We reproduce below a letter from Larry Baldock to the PM on the latter's refusal to countenance a change of the law with respect to child rearing. He, too, makes some excellent points.
One of the most disappointing aspects is the way John Key seems to have morphed from statesman to politician so quickly. He is showing signs of already being captured by the beltway and is rapidly losing touch with ordinary Kiwis. Baldock alludes to some of the indications of this in his letter.
Dear Prime Minister,
As you are aware I have led and organised the recent Citizens Initiated Referendum on the amendment to section 59 of the Crimes Act that has given all New Zealanders a chance to voice their strongly held views on a controversial subject. This was only possible because of the support given by a marvellous group of volunteers who gave their time and resources freely.
An important part of that group, at least in the first months of the campaign, were many of your Caucus members who strongly opposed the Sue Bradford’s bill, and actively collected signatures for the petition to force the referendum.
Given this common history in the referendum, and the very strong result, it would seem reasonable then that I may have been invited by you to discuss some proposals to address the widespread concerns of the majority of this country’s citizens.
In contrast, I have learnt from news reports that, prior to the referendum results being announced you have been involved in discussions with those we discover now only represent just fewer than 12 percent of the Referendum vote, such as Sue Bradford and Deborah Morris-Travers. In fact it seems that advisors from the ‘Yes” vote coalition are literally crawling all over our ‘House of Representatives.’
I shall therefore endeavour to communicate my concerns through this open letter and hope you may grant me an opportunity for personal dialogue as well.
The final results show that 87.4 percent voted ‘No!’ This means more New Zealanders voted ‘No’ in this referendum than voted for the National party in the 2008 elections and that the turnout at 56 percent was higher than for the referendum on MMP in 1992.
Your views about the rights of parents and your disapproval of the way the Helen Clark-led government ignored the majority opposition to the Bradford law are well known and documented. This makes your current position very difficult to understand and impossible to justify or defend.
When you try to reassure concerned parents with your personal promises, it seems, from the outside at least, that you are falling prey to the attitude that your predecessor developed wherein she thought as Prime Minister her opinion mattered more than anyone else’s, and that it was within her power to take care of everyone.
With all due respect John, you will not be Prime Minister forever. If you leave the Bradford law on our statutes any future government will be able to change the police and CYFS policy guidelines by executive decree, without reference to the democratically elected House of Representatives. This would render your short-term proposals aimed at giving comfort to the good parents of New Zealand null and void.
Prime Minister, good parents do not want words of comfort they want legislative change!
Your continued claims that the ‘law is working well’ are not enhancing anyone’s view of your comprehension of what the law was supposed to do, and what it is in fact accomplishing.
As a parliamentarian you will know that the purpose of a bill is summed up in its ‘purpose clause’. It is impossible to properly evaluate whether or not the law as enacted is working well, except by reference to the purpose clause of the Bill itself.
Sue Bradford’s purpose clause was “The purpose of this Act is to amend the principal Act to make better provision for children to live in a safe and secure environment free from violence by abolishing the use of parental force for the purpose of correction”.
Here in clause 4 of her Bill we have the purpose and the means of achieving that purpose, defined very clearly, namely to reduce violence towards children (child abuse) by abolishing the use of parental force for correction!
The continued abuse and sickening deaths of children since the Bill was passed is proof that it is not achieving that purpose. The awful abuse continues, and Sue Bradford herself readily admits, “My bill was never intended to solve this problem”. (National Radio Dec 2007)
So not only is the law not working, but also that lofty goal has long since been abandoned by its sponsor!
When you claim that no good parents are being criminalised I think you are referring to ‘prosecuted’. [Which is the Yes Vote line as previously blogged - S1] The police records do indicate that the numbers of prosecutions are low at this point for smacking or minor acts of discipline offences, but the truth is that every parent that continues to use a smack for correction is automatically criminalised.
After all, wouldn’t we consider a thief a criminal once they stole possessions that were not their own, regardless of whether they were caught by the police and prosecuted? After being found guilty in court their status would then be changed to that of a convicted criminal.
The number of prosecutions by the police of good parents is therefore not evidence of whether the law is working or not. The law has an effect on every good parent in this country even if a single prosecution has not been laid.
You may not have had to deal with the circumstances created when your child comes home from school to announce that they had been informed that they should report Mummy or Daddy to the teacher if they are smacked, but many have.
Your proposal to solve this dilemma appears to be that parents should wilfully break the law of the country, while disciplining their children for breaking the rules within the family home! This forces many parents into the awful position of a hypocritical ‘do as I say, not do as I do’ type parenting which should not be recommended by anyone, least of all the Prime Minister.
A useful test of the efficacy of the new law might be to determine how many more prosecutions the police are bringing before the courts against real child abusers. This is because supporters of the amendment to Sec 59 constantly claim that the police were hindered from prosecuting real child abusers because the previous Sec 59 defence of reasonable force meant they could easily be acquitted. They claimed that as a result the police were not even bothering to bring charges against these criminals.
This of course was not supported by a proper study of case law over the past 15 years, or the police statistics.
However, if this is the justification for the new law we should have seen a dramatic increase in the number of police prosecutions for crimes against our children, given that any use of force by parents for correction is now prohibited.
Police records and statements by Deputy Commissioner Rob Pope in the last police report on the new law saying that “its business as usual for the police” clearly confirms that the law is not working in that regard.
There is only one way in which it could be claimed the law is working, (though I cannot believe that this is what you mean), and that it is that progress is being made towards the total abolition of the use of parental force for the purpose of correction.
While prosecutions at this stage are low, the latest police report confirms that the police have issued a considerable number of warnings. What is the purpose of those warning Prime Minister? Does not a warning imply that the police have informed the traumatised family members that have just been subject to an investigation that they should not use force for the purpose of correction again, or else prosecution would likely follow. Surely that must be the case.
Because the purpose of the law is to ultimately stop parents from using any force for the purpose of correction!
All your promises and words of comfort are meaningless since the police are to be independent in enforcing the law in New Zealand. We have had enough of the police asking the PM whether they should prosecute or not with ‘paintergate’ and the failure to prosecute Heather Simpson over the illegal spending of taxpayer money in the 2005 elections.
New Zealanders are not stupid and they were not confused about the referendum question. They have understood from the very beginning what Sue Bradford and her supporter’s real intentions were. Surely you are not unaware of her motives, or have you now joined with her and the UN in their plan to run our country?
That plan was made clear in the Green party’s first press release back in 2003 when they announced they had drafted an ‘anti-smacking law’ to “stop parents physically punishing their children in line with UN demands.”
A recent survey confirmed a reduction in the number of parents using smacking for correction, which is not surprising given that it has been a criminal offence for the last two years. Unfortunately, such a decline has not resulted in a less violent society.
I guess this does reveal though, that the law is indeed working, but is that what you and the National party were committed to? Have you really become so aligned with Sue Bradford and the 12 percent minority of the country who view all discipline as violence, that you are pleased with this outcome?
If so, it must be said that your party has made a flip-flop in policy between May and June 2007, without consultation with your supporters, sufficient to make the 1984 Labour government look like angels of democracy!
Given that a recent Colmar Brunton poll showed that 90 percent of National Party voters were going to vote ‘no,’ and that the result from your own electorate was about the same, surely there are many of your loyal voters who would be shocked at the change in your views on parenting?
One of the things that made a positive impression on me, when I discussed with you how you would vote on the Prostitution Law Reform Act back in 2003, was that you said that when you were made aware of your electorates’ opposition to the proposed bill, you felt you were obligated to represent them and vote against the law.
Surely you have not abandoned your principles in just a few short years?
Prime Minister I have no personal interest in becoming your enemy, but I will speak up on behalf of 87.4 percent of Kiwis who voted ‘No’.
Many of these people feel they have lost all hope of being heard by politicians in their own country. As my wife and I criss-crossed the country many times over the 18 months in which we collected signatures to force the referendum, we encountered a great deal of despair and distrust towards parliamentarians. Having been one myself, this saddened me a great deal.
I know that most MPs generally work hard and try to do what they can to make New Zealand a better place.
However, we both know that most Kiwis do not evaluate their MPs on the basis of their daily activities but on events like this, when there is a clear choice to be made between listening to the wishes of the people or following ones own ideas or political agenda.
Given the current political landscape where both the Government and the ‘Queens Loyal Opposition’ MPs in this country are refusing to listen to the voice of the people and stand up for democracy, it is entirely possible that you may be able to disregard this referendum and survive politically for a few more years.
I am absolutely convinced however, that you will do almost irreparable harm to our democracy, and strike a deep wound in the hearts of so many of your countrymen and countrywomen.
I humble urge you to reconsider your current position,
One of the great scandals of modern Athens is the way it systematically ignores the plight of women in Islamic countries. By and large, even the most strident liberal feminists ignore the issue. It is something which is not talked about in the salons and polite circles.
Allah is a false god; a figment of human ingenuity and imagination; a creation of man. Like all idols, Allah ends up being a projection of the Unbelieving mind on to a cosmic screen. The Islamic construct of god is monistic, not trinitarian. The Islamic deity is the sole authority; the first and only important response of all that exists apart from the god is submission.
This means that Islamic societies are always authoritarian in culture and action: the world consists of superiors and inferiors, not equals. Allah requires total submission; amongst humans this necessitates that there be those who enforce the submission of Allah, and those who submit to the enforcers.
Throughout Islamic nations and societies--as required and taught in the Koran--the enforcers are males; the submitters are females. This is not an aberration--something which Islam will "grow out of". It is intrinsic to religion where the idol is conceived of as a monist deity.
Judy Bachrach is a contributing editor for Vanity Fair. In the Summer 2009 edition, she has written a piece entitled Twice Branded: Western Women in Muslim Lands. We encourage everyone to read the article in full.
Below are some excerpts.
Every time I despair of the way women are treated in Muslim countries—and the few syllables Western leaders and op-ed columnists expend on their humiliations, mutilations, harassments, and, yes, murders—I turn to the Web site of Mona Eltahawy. Eltahawy spent her formative years in Egypt and Saudi Arabia:
A couple of years after I stopped visiting, a horrific fire broke out in a school in Mecca, home to the Muslim world’s holiest site. Fifteen girls burned to death because morality police standing outside the school wouldn’t let them out of the burning building. Why? Because they weren’t wearing headscarves and abayas, the black cloaks that girls and women must wear in public in Saudi Arabia.
And here is Eltahawy on a girl’s lot in Egypt:
When I was only four years old and still living in Cairo, a man exposed himself to me as I stood on a balcony at my family’s, and gestured for me to come down. At 15, I was groped as I was performing the rites of the hajj pilgrimage at Mecca, the holiest site for Muslims. Every part of my body was covered except for my face and hands. I’d never been groped before and burst into tears, but I was too ashamed to explain to my family what had happened.
To anyone who, like me, has lived in a Muslim nation, none of this behavior is either singular or surprising. It is the way men in most Islamic nations prefer things to be. We can talk forever about the nature of culture versus faith: how ancient rites and practices like the circumcision of girls (85 percent of all Egyptian girls have endured this procedure), or the tradition of keeping women ignorant and housebound, can corrupt a religion that never intended for these things to happen.
But it is no coincidence that women who must submit to Sharia law find themselves in a very bad place, wherever those women and those places happen to be. . . .
Bet let’s start with Islam as it affects women in their home countries. Last year, in a poll of 2,000 Egyptian men, 62 percent admitted harassing women: an activity most of those interviewed insisted was not really their fault as their advances, however intemperate and offensive to their victims, had after all been provoked by the women themselves.
Nor is this sort of harassment confined to Islamic women in Islamic nations. Western women who find themselves in the Middle East come in for their own fair share of daily insults, owing to their double deficit as women and foreigners. Every step outside the home or hotel is an invitation to a carefully directed barrage of verbal assaults, their components familiar and unvarying: vulgar and offensive remarks, leers and snickers, the occasional shove, all accompanied by grins of triumph. When I lived in Egypt, everyone in Cairo avidly watched the television series Dallas, and as a result became expert on the sexual habits of American women. And not simply expert, but unrepentantly predatory. After all, these were women whose husbands and brothers would not reflexively massacre those who insulted them. . . .
That’s the way it was in Cairo—and still is. Local women are of such negligible importance that they can be viewed as prey. On the other hand, foreign women are in a wholly different category: wild and yet easy, so menacing and just plain available they are invariably treated as prey. The foreigner without a murderous uncle by her side or a veil over her face is a communal dish. . . .
In other words—and here is a telling paradox of life in much of the Islamic world—whatever devout Muslims are religiously prohibited from doing to women (and there are plenty of strictures listed in the Koran: a man must lower his gaze in the presence of a woman, for instance, and also guard her chastity) is in practice resolutely ignored, all the more so when it comes to foreigners.
Why bother to observe prohibitions on a group so manifestly inferior? Eltahawy complains bitterly that the donning of the hijab, which she as an observant Muslim used to do, actually procures no real measure of safety for the wearer. “I was groped so many times that whenever I passed a group of men, I’d place my bag between me and them,” she writes. But not wearing the hijab or a veil in Egypt is the sure sign of a foreigner—a word that has become synonymous with “slut.” . . . .
You don’t have to watch a rerun of Not Without My Daughter, the harrowing story of Betty Mahmoody, who accompanied her Iranian-born husband back to his native country for what she was assured would be a two-week visit, to understand the possible consequences of such a venture. Mahmoody’s eighteen months of virtual house arrest under the vigilant gaze of her doctor husband and his relatives, her escape with her daughter on foot and on horseback are known to us only because her flight was successful. Had it not been, her account would have likely been buried with the rest of her.
Consider the case of Monica Stowers, an American who married a young Saudi she met at the University of Dallas, and with whom she had two children in Texas. In 1983, the young family packed up and moved to Riyadh. There Stowers discovered her husband had another wife he had forgotten to mention. After announcing her decision to return to the U.S. with her small children, she came in for another surprise: Saudi courts gave custody of the children to the father (Stowers was Christian). She went home alone.
Undeterred, in 1990 she returned to Saudi Arabia, gathered her children, and brought them to the U.S. Embassy. At which point, as The Wall Street Journal reported well over a decade later, embassy Marines were summoned to expel the family from the premises. The Saudi authorities had an even more effective solution: they arrested Stowers. She left the country. But at 12 years old, her daughter was still languishing in Saudi Arabia, married off to a cousin. . . .
It is, of course, the women who don’t get to fly home to New York—or indeed leave any airport without their husbands’ consent—who truly deserve international attention. And yet these are the very women our Western politicians, media outlets, and academicians barely acknowledge because, as I was constantly advised by European and American diplomats in both Egypt and also the Sudan when I visited, “We have no right to pass judgment on the customs and mores of other countries.”
Here are just a few of those customs and mores: in Turkey, a nation often cited as “moderate,” wife beating is so common that 69 percent of all female health workers polled (and almost 85 percent of all male health workers) said that violence against women was in certain instances excusable. In April, a new epidemiological study in the European Journal of Public Health revealed that one out of every five homicides in Pakistan is the result of a so-called honor killing. And in Mauritania, the age-old practice of force-feeding young girls—a life-threatening process that is intended to make them round and therefore “marriageable”—has seen a renaissance. Girls as young as five are herded into “fattening farms.” Those who resist are tortured.
It was only when our steadfast ally Afghan President Hamid Karzai signed legislation legalizing the rape of his country’s wives by their husbands that a powerful Western leader actually expressed a view on the subject. “I think this law is abhorrent,” President Barack Obama acknowledged when queried at a press conference in Strasbourg, France. Yet, our president had to be asked about the rape-facilitation law before daring to venture an opinion. Nor is he alone in his bashfulness. All over the world, Western leaders have proven uncommonly demure on the subject of women in Islamic countries. . . .
Accounting for exactly why it is that Islamic countries (or even countries like India, with large Islamic populations) are those that demonstrate the most antipathy toward their female citizens is no straightforward task. On the one hand, Bernard Lewis is correct when he writes that “Islam as a religion and as a culture should not be blamed for the tribal customs of some of the peoples who adopted it.” On the other, the Koran is fairly specific about the value of a woman. An Islamic man may accumulate up to four of her kind in marriage—and may divorce any or all of these wives swiftly and without offering a syllable of justification. In court a woman’s testimony is worth exactly half of that of a man. In matters of inheritance among siblings, the Koran insists that “the male [must get] twice the share of the female.” And finally—although of all the passages this is the one that provokes the most controversy—there are many Muslims who conclude that the Koran permits a man to beat his wife.
“Well, that’s Verse 4:34, and it can be interpreted different ways,” Hussein Rashid, a professor of religion and political Islam at Hofstra University, demurs. “The verb that is used for hit or beat can also mean ‘to break off’ or divorce someone.” This judicious interpretation of the most incendiary Koranic passage provokes laughter when I repeat it to the Somali-born firebrand Ayaan Hirsi Ali. Allah, she observes, “is absolutely brilliant except when He is speaking about the rights of women—then Allah gets all muddled up, doesn’t really mean what He says, and becomes a very confused God.” In fact, Hirsi Ali continues, “that the husband has the right to beat his wife is in the Koran. That a woman has to dress a certain way is in the Koran, that she must stay in the house is also there. And on it goes.”
And everywhere it goes. Sharia travels without a wrinkle on its burqa. It is no small irony these days that those fortunate countries where women have fought, passionately and at great cost, for equal rights—Germany, France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, for instance—have become home to certain Muslim immigrants who continue to violate the rights of women, abetted frequently by both the silence of the authorities and an abashed press. Why this silence? One of the least savory consequences of a colonial past is guilt: an insidious remorse that transmutes itself into a persistent reluctance to criticize publicly those who have now themselves taken on the role of oppressor—even against those who happen to oppress, openly and without shame, within the borders of liberal nations. “You hear people talking about the need to ‘respect’ other cultures. You want me to respect this awful behavior?” Eltahawy says. . . .
What Judy Bachrach is failing to grasp is the theology of Islamic idolatry. The Scriptures tell us that man becomes like the gods he worships. Those who worship a monistic, authoritarian god end up being enforcers and subduers. The subjugation of women in Islam testifies to the essence of the idolatry itself.
Friday, 28 August 2009
So, a friend informs me, (a certain) Brian McLaren is observing Ramadan this year. I was minding my own business, see, and my friend sent me this link. Check it out your own self here. He sent me the link, I am convinced, to see if I would go off like a bottle rocket, all the while trying to stay out of sin.
No, I do not go off like a bottle rocket. I sit here, solemn and thoughtful, stroking my beard. Hmmm, I muse to myself, thinking down the same lines that Cicero did when he o temporaed o moraed about ancient Roman monkeyshines. What shall the harvest be? I then turn to go back to whatever it was I was doing.
But then I ask myself, am I being selfish? Do I not have peculiar gifts in the arena of fisking? Was I not born for just such occasions? With a sigh, I put aside my casual evening, and go out to my shop to find the nine-pound sledge.
It is not as though McLaren just announced this, leaving us to figure out why. He 'splains it himself.
Ramadan is the Muslim holy month of fasting for spiritual renewal and purification. It commemorates the month during which Muslims believe Mohammed received the Quran through divine revelation, and it calls Muslims to self-control, sacrificial generosity and solidarity with the poor, diligent reading of the Quran, and intensified prayer.
And all God's people say ohhhh, their voices trailing off at the end. Then their faces bunch up that funny way that faces have. And then a cluster of hands go up, and the looks on some faces indicate that this might turn into a town hall meeting or something.
This year, I, along with a few Christian friends . . . will be joining Muslim friends in the fast which begins August 21. We are not doing so in order to become Muslims: we are deeply committed Christians. But as Christians, we want to come close to our Muslim neighbors and to share this important part of life with them.
That is, deeply committed Christians who believe that what matters is the deeply committed part, and not the object of the commitment. For, as we have just learned, being deeply committed to a diligent reading of false Scriptures, and intensified prayer to a false god, and sacrificial generosity as a means of ginning up some works righteousness around here, is something that deeply committed Christians can "come close" in order to "share." Sharing, that is, in the experience of getting all the fundamentals wrong.
It is as though deeply committed adherents of the notion that the square of the hypotenuse was equal to the sum of the square of the other two sides decided to "come close" to those who thought that it wasn't even close to the sum of the square of the other two sides. But what the heck. What matters is being deeply committed to drawing what you think are triangles on a piece of paper. Is that not what really matters? We have pencils and papers in common. Come on, people. Don't you want to end wars?
Just as Jesus, a devout Jew, overcame religious prejudice and learned from a Syrophonecian woman and was inspired by her faith two thousand years ago (Matthew 15:21 ff, Mark 7:24 ff), we seek to learn from our Muslim sisters and brothers today.
In other words, we learn from a woman who came to Jesus the lesson of why coming to Jesus is totally not necessary.
Muslims observe Ramadan in the same basic way world-wide: they fast from food, water, sex, etc., from dawn to dusk. We Christians who are joining in the fast will share these four common commitments . . .
The dot dot dot at the end of the quote means that it gets even riper.
We, as Christians, humbly seek to join Muslims in this observance of Ramadan as a God-honoring expression of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness. Each of us will have at least one Muslim friend who will serve as our partner in the fast. These friends welcome us in the same spirit of peace, fellowship, and neighborliness.
In exchange, each one of these Muslim friends will come over to our houses this Easter for our traditional Easter ham, the kind with the brown sugar glaze . . . oh, they won't come? Curious. Why not? Something about believing their religion . . .
We will seek to avoid being disrespectful or unfaithful to our own faith tradition in our desire to be respectful to the faith tradition of our friends. For example, since the Bible teaches us the importance of fasting and being generous to the poor, we can participate as Christians in fidelity to the Bible as our Muslim friends do so in fidelity to the Quran.
Tashlan! That's it! Tashlan! Fidelity to whatever is what matters, and so therefore fidelity to infidelity is cleansed and okay. Shift okayed it himself.
Among the core values of Ramadan are self control, expressing kindness, and resolving conflicts. For this reason, if we are criticized or misunderstood by Christians, Muslims, or others for this endeavor, we will avoid defending ourselves or engaging in arguments. Instead, we will seek to explain ourselves humbly, simply, and briefly when necessary, connecting with empathy to the needs and feelings of others as we express our own.
Core values. Core values are what you find in a mission statement for a community college in a medium sized city in the Midwest. Religions don't have core values, at least not the religions with a God. Moses didn't come down off the mountain with a set of core values. Or a mission statement, for that matter. And when he saw what the people were doing, he didn't connect with much empathy to the needs and feelings of those in the Golden Calf mosh pit.
But avoiding defending themselves is a good idea, actually. This kind of thing is why we have words like indefensible. Instead of defending or arguing, they will explain themselves humbly. Why does he keep telling us how humble he is? There are two reasons. First, he has confounded humility with the oozing of sentimentalist treacle out his pores, and secondly, he thinks we haven't noticed the treacle, which is why he points it out. But we have noticed, and so he can stop now.
Our main purpose for participating will be our own spiritual growth, health, learning, and maturity, but we also hope that our experience will inspire others to pray and work for peace and the common good, together with people of other faith traditions.
This is the kind of thing you expect to hear from contestants in a Miss America contest, when asked what they hope to do for mankind after they don't have to vamp around in a swimsuit anymore. The answer, as I understand it, is supposed to involve world peace somehow. And "working" for it.
May God bless all people, and teach us to love God and love one another, and so fulfill our calling as human beings.
We have here twenty-three consecutive words without a single positive, verified error. That's pretty good, considering.
I'll share my personal story about deciding to join in the fast in the next few days, and I'll also share regular updates and reflections here on this blog (brianmclaren.net) leading up to, during, and after Ramadan.
Ah, "my personal story." Personal stories trump everything. I hope it involves core values. And maybe a dragon. That always makes stories better. But then the dragon would eat the core values, and we would then need a knight to come. And when the knight came, he could put down his spear and shield, and ask the dragon if he could "come close" and "share" in the experience of eating the core values. And the dragon said, "Why not?" and winked at the camera.
First published in Blog and Mablog, 25th August, 2009
Yesterday the Government announced $10 million has been earmarked for a new Government campaign to support families.
The Minister of Social Development, Paula Bennett made the announcement at a hastily called news conference in the Beehive. Flanked by the Prime Minister, John Key and Anne Tolley, Minister of Education, Bennett announced that money had been found within the multi-billion budget for Social Development to fund the new campaign. It will not mean any net increase in government expenditure, she assured the assembled reporters.
John Key said this was an important component in the Government's policies to see New Zealand on the road to economic recovery. "We simply will not get sustainable economic growth unless we have strong, stable and sustainable families. There is an abundance of evidence that strong two-parent families inter-generationally linked are the bedrock for economic and productivity growth," he said.
Bennett said that the publicity campaign would feature well known public personalities, drawn from the media, sport, and the community. They would each use the rubric "It's OK." When asked what would be "OK," Minister Bennett elaborated: "the point is that we want to assure families generally, and parents in particular that it's OK to break the law. We don't want them living in fear and intimidation."
The campaign will feature public figures like Sir Anand Satyanand, the Governor General and Police Commissioner, Howard Broad assuring families, "It's OK to break the law." Parents will be informed by trusted and respected figures that they can smack their children for purposes of correction and discipline, and that the law was never meant to be kept.
When Mr Key was asked whether this was a "flip flop" and that actually the current law was not working well, he apologised and excused himself. "I really have to go," he said. "I have another appointment. I am due to appear with Dave Letterman as his comic relief for the evening."
The Prime Minister said he was humbled at this wonderful opportunity to put New Zealand on the map.
Thursday, 27 August 2009
In June of this year, Mark Steyn wrote a review of Soft Despotism, Democracy's Drift: Montesquieu, Rousseau, Tocqueville, and the Modern Prospect by Paul Anthony Rahe. The complete review was published in the The New Criterion, and can be read here.
We reproduce several stimulating paragraphs to entice you to read the complete piece.
Welcome to the twenty-first century.
“It does not tyrannize, it gets in the way.” The all-pervasive micro-regulatory state “enervates,” but nicely, gradually, so after a while you don’t even notice. And in exchange for liberty it offers security: the “right” to health care; the “right” to housing; the “right” to a job—although who needs that once you’ve got all the others? The proposed European Constitution extends the laundry list: the constitutional right to clean water and environmental protection. Every right you could ever want, except the right to be free from undue intrusions by the state.
M. Giscard d’Estaing, the former French president and chairman of the European constitutional convention, told me at the time that he had bought a copy of the U.S. Constitution at a bookstore in Washington and carried it around with him in his pocket. Try doing that with his Euro-constitution, and you’ll be walking with a limp after ten minutes and calling for a sedan chair after twenty: As Professor Rahe notes, it’s 450 pages long. And, when your “constitution” is that big, imagine how swollen the attendant bureaucracy and regulation is. The author points out that, in France, “80 per cent of the legislation passed by the National Assembly in Paris originates in Brussels”—that is, at the European Union’s civil service. Who drafts it? Who approves it? Who do you call to complain? Who do you run against and in what election? And where do you go to escape it? Not to the next town, not to the next county, not to the next country.
As Tocqueville wrote: “There was a time in Europe in which the law, as well as the consent of the people, clothed kings with a power almost without limits. But almost never did it happen that they made use of it.” His Majesty was an absolute tyrant—in theory. But in practice he was in his palace hundreds of miles away. A pantalooned emissary might come prancing into your dooryard once every half-decade and give you a hard time, but for the most part you got on with your life relatively undisturbed. “The details of social life and of individual existence ordinarily escaped his control,” wrote Tocqueville. But what would happen if administrative capability were to evolve to make it possible “to subject all of his subjects to the details of a uniform set of regulations”?
That moment has now arrived. And administrative despotism turns out to be very popular: Why, we need more standardized rules, from coast to coast—and on to the next coast. After all, if Europe can harmonize every trivial imposition on the citizen, why can’t the world?
Would it even be possible to hold the American revolution today? The Boston Tea Party? Imagine if George III had been able to sit in his palace across the ocean, look at the security-camera footage, press a button, and freeze the bank accounts of everyone there. Oh, well, we won’t be needing another revolt, will we?
But the consequence of funding the metastasization of government through the confiscation of the fruits of the citizen’s labor is the remorseless shrivelling of liberty.
“Screw the state” is not a Tocquevillian formulation, but he would have certainly agreed with the latter sentiment. When something goes wrong, a European demands to know what the government’s going to do about it. An American does it himself. Or he used to—in the Jacksonian America a farsighted Frenchman understood so well.
“Human dignity,” writes Professor Rahe, “is bound up with taking responsibility for conducting one’s own affairs.” When the state annexes that responsibility, the citizenry are indeed mere sheep to the government shepherd. Paul Rahe concludes his brisk and trenchant examination of republican “staying power” with specific proposals to reclaim state and local power from Washington, and with a choice: “We can be what once we were, or we can settle for a gradual, gentle descent into servitude.” I wish I were more sanguine about how that vote would go.
Contra Celsum is gratified to be able to announce it has bestowed an S-Award on some anonymous and unknown students from St Paul's College, Auckland.
This is an unusual award. We do not know the names of the recipients--only that they are 16 or 17 year old college students from St Paul's College.
According to reports in the media, the students stopped a vicious attack upon a city bus driver yesterday.
The reported facts are these: a belligerent man got on a bus and began to accost other passengers with foul language and racist remarks. The driver of the bus, Ian Magee, 50 year old grandfather of nine, stopped the bus and ordered the belligerent to decamp. The offending passenger grabbed Mr Magee, dragged him outside the bus, and began to assault him, hitting him six to eight times.
The St Paul's College students got out of the bus and came to the driver's aid, defending him from the assailant, who later ran off. Other students called the police and an ambulance. (The assailant was subsequently arrested and is facing charges of assault.)
We believe strongly in the importance of citizen policing--of taking responsibility for the care of our neighbours and doing what we can to see criminals apprehended. We believe that the deliberate gelding of citizens in the fight against crime is a short sighted and destructive policy. We believe citizen policing should be encouraged at every level of society and throughout communities.
Therefore, we wish to acknowledge the responsible and competent civil actions of these unknown students from St Paul's College. It was a job well done. Thank you for the example set.
St Paul's College Students: S-Award, Class I, for performing a citizen's duty in a manner that was Smart, Sound and Salutary.
Wednesday, 26 August 2009
In the national liberal chatter over what could possibly have gotten into the American people over this health care business, the talk eventually turned, as you may have guessed, to race. The narrative is that Americans have not yet made their peace with the fact that Obama is black. This causes that kind of deep and untraceable angst that makes you go to a town hall to yell at your white congressman. So the race thing has been trotted out for a few weeks now, and then I was informed just this morning that I was being accused -- on the world wide web, no less -- of racism because of my posts about Obama. Can you imagine?
So let us get right to a protestation of my innocence. Let us clear the air. Let us correct the record. Let us get this real straight. For every stupid thing that Obama is doing and defending, I bet I could find ten Anglos urging policies every bit as clueless. Obama is not an economic illiterate because he is black, for heaven's sake. He is an economic illiterate because he doesn't know the first thing about economics. Give him a break, people. He went to that bastion of economic illiteracy, Harvard. His head was stuffed full of nonsense by Brahmin white people.
Racism, forsooth! Bigotry, bah! Did not Dr. King lift us all up to inspired heights when he told us that the day was coming when we would no longer judge a man by the color of his skin, but rather by the emptiness of his head?
First posted in Blog and Mablog, August 21st, 2009
Lindsay Mitchell, in expressing her anger over the wilful obtuseness of the Prime Minister in his rejecting a Section 59 law change, reminds us that this peculiar and notorious piece of law will add to a growing list of laws which are already ignored by the agencies of State.
The list includes:
Cannabis use. You can even light up in the grounds of parliament and get ignored.
Truancy. Kids stay home and get ignored because frankly it is a relief not to have them disrupting other children.
Censorship law. Kids are prohibited from buying, borrowing or playing Xbox and Playstation games that wouldn't exist if it wasn't for the market the same kids provide.
Benefit Fraud. Thou shalt not shack up and claim a benefit. The habit is now so pervasive most people have forgotten it is against the law.
Under-age sex. Oh, let's not even go there.
What are we to make of this wilful ignoring of the law by state authorities?
In this particular charade we are confronted by the view of law that inevitably emerges in Unbelief. As our society moves from its historical Christian roots to the enthronement of man as god, the place and function of law and justice starts to skew in a radically different direction.
Modern Unbelief seizes upon law as a redemptive tool. It looks to the law to remove sins and societal problems, prevent diseases, and make the community "righteous". As this happens we see the garb of society's new god emerging. For it always behoves a god to make things right. And gods, being powerful, can make things right by a word of command. As our community separates itself from the true God and "replaces" Him with man as the measure of all things, it is inevitable that society will begin to function as if it had the prerogatives and power of deity.
It is natural, therefore, that modern society would look to the promulgation of laws--the pronouncing of verbal, then codified commands--to rid the world of evils. This shift may be subtle at first, but it represents a sea change, with far reaching, deleterious consequences. The law moves from the administration of justice against evil within society to an administration of preventing evil in the first place. The law begins to function as a tool of redemption--which is to say, the law begins to fail miserably. It simply cannot bear the idolatrous expectations placed upon it. The outcome: the law is allowed to be openly disregarded, as grim reality sets in.
But Unbelief changes the role and function of law in another way. Unbelief has no way to distinguish between that which is evil and that which should be proscribed by law. After all, sins do not necessarily constitute crimes; although the reverse is not true. All crimes should by definition be sins (although as we shall see below, that too is rapidly changing). So, Unbelief inevitably drives to conflate sins and crimes: all shortcomings, all imperfections, all peccadilloes are potential crimes--and can be declared so at the stroke of a pen.
Because short comings and imperfections exist everywhere in human society, the law code within Unbelieving societies expands both rapidly and inexorably to codify almost every sphere of human activity and culture. It comes to regulate and codify what is taught in schools, what foods may be eaten, holidays, work hours, safety practices, how children are to be raised, making of phone calls while driving, the speed at which a car may be driven, regular inspections of vehicles to ensure roadworthiness, etc: the list is endless and grows relentlessly every year. The law code and its accompanying regulations becomes so vast it is impossible to know, let alone administer.
In Unbelieving society, ignorance of the law is inescapable: no-one can keep up with it. The code is so vast and all-embracing that it cannot be policed or applied consistently. So a de facto tolerance of lawbreaking and a turning of blind eyes is inevitable. The application of the law reduces to the whim of the authorities. It has to. The law increasingly becomes an ass, unless the authorities of the day on a whim decide that it is not, an begin to focus on one particular section or part of the code for a time. De facto lawbreaking by the vast majority of citizens becomes a normal way of life. The whole community in an Unbelieving society secretly believes the law is an ass; it is merely a matter of what one can get away with.
The final stage is the law as propaganda. Here Unbelieving societies move to the stage of seeing the law as a mechanism of political education or a tool for "getting a message across." The inconsequential matter of justice has long since left the room. The application of the law is not the issue. It is the law as "teaching point" that is central. Increasingly in Unbelieving societies the law becomes a tool to "send people a message".
Thus, in the child smacking debate, it matters not at all as to whether the law on smacking is applied or not. It "sends a message" to parents about family violence and that message is definitely more important than the medium of the law. The upshot is that the law is disrespected, trashed, and cynically used and abused.
In the end, Unbelief runs full cycle over the law. Enthroning man over God, the law is cut off from its Christian roots. Unbelief instead makes law a messianic and redemptive tool, but, of course, it cannot sustain that weight. So, Unbelieving societies end up trashing and cynically ignoring the law at their whim and convenience. This pervasively appears in both the highest and lowest ranks in society--as we have just had displayed. The Government is now telling us it will turn a "blind eye" over parents smacking their children for purposes of correction and discipline--despite the law defining it as a criminal act.
This, we are gravely told, is the law working as intended. No. This is Unbelief working its wilful self-destruction upon its own. "Those who hate God's wisdom," says the Scripture, "love death".
Tuesday, 25 August 2009
Since the Prime Minister has decided that Section 59 of the Crimes Act will not be amended; and,
Since the Act stipulates that any parent who disciplines their children by smacking them is committing a criminal offence; and,
Since, the Prime Minister has indicated that the agents of state (Police, CYFS) will be directed to ignore the law . . .
We declare publicly that in our family we follow a policy of using smacking as a method of discipline of our children; we do it systematically and regularly and in a disciplined fashion; and we use it on those occasions when our children engage wilfully in repeated acts of disobedience, dishonesty, or disrespect.
If the law says we are committing a crime, albeit one which will not be prosecuted, then the law in this instance is an ass. We will continue to raise our children in a way which loves and respects them far too much to allow them to get away with wilful wrongdoing.
So, in this matter we are repeatedly committing a criminal act--and proud of it.
First posted in Blog and Mablog, 19th August, 2009.
As I continue to labor manfully away with my machete in the jungles of foodism, a former student has written me a thoughtful set of questions that I thought would be good to address here.
First, he agrees that idols need to be rejected, period.
So I agree with the necessity in honoring God as God and giving Him thanks in everything whether that be cooking a five course meal centered around the organic, free range chicken that was slaughtered just two days ago, and sold to me fresh by the man who killed it, or eating a delicious polish dog with deli mustard and a Sprite while browsing the cheap movies and books at Costco.But having granted the problems of foodism, his question moves on to whether there is "an aesthetic/cultural element that should inform our food purchasing decisions."
Put another way, Should we as Christians, in the establishment of a new culture, a Christ-centered one, be proactive in finding ways that circumvent the current paradigm of highly industrialized and highly processed foods?He grants that there is no sin per se in eating a Big-Mac, etc. but wonders if there was "simple Christian wisdom in the pre-modern way of doing things."
Should our desires for wholeness and beauty and gratitude toward both our Maker and His creation (i.e. toward one another) drive us away from these highly complicated, government dictated food systems? Should we not, in the main, be pursuing the type of food cultures (sans idolatry) found in the farmers markets, with their chickens that are treated like chickens, and the cattle given food they were created to eat, and vegetables grown in a way that is consistant with the way God created things to grow, (i.e. sunlight and water)?These are all great questions, and I think they reveal precisely why Christians find the new food movement attractive in so many ways. In short, how could someone like Chesterton and not like farmers' markets?
I agree we should be "proactive in finding ways that circumvent the current paradigm." But I would argue that the foodist reaction to industrial farming is part of the current paradigm, part of what must be rejected. This reaction (that is part of the paradigm) is found not just in the idolatrous value they place on their practices, but also in the practices themselves.
I don't go into a debate between an industrial farmer and an organic farmer with the assumption that the organic farmer is right with regard to the substance of the dispute, though he may be unduly attached to that right. His attachments may have clouded his judgment, and not just his values. The same thing goes for the industrial farmer. I don't assume him to be in the right either.
In other words, I don't think we can just adopt the standards of the organic movement, while (non-idolatrously) keeping those standards in an appropriate place in the hierarchy of values. Idols do more than rearrange standards; they also generate standards. Thus I should always ask, "Is this right?" and not just "Is this too important?"
For example, "all natural" is now a term of praise, but it is a phrase that brings a set of standards along with it. Are those standards correct? Where did they come from? Why is natural good? Who says? Who is the keeper of the "natural" measuring stick, and how much did he pay for it? Is the government involved? And is natural an accurate claim, even assuming the standard to be correct? In other words, suppose all natural is swell -- printing all natural on the label doesn't make anything happen, other than clinching a sale to the gullible.
In the fifties, "enriched" was a term of praise. The manufacturer was promising you that they did not just bake the loaf of bread and put it a bag -- oh, no. They wanted to assure you that they, in a very scientific and modern way, had added a bunch of stuff. "Oh, goody," your great grandma thought. "They enriched it." And she took it home to feed to her chicks, who have somehow managed to live to the age of seventy-five anyway. But before we shake our heads over her gullibility, we have to realize that we are behaving no differently. Marching thoughtlessly counterclockwise doesn't have a whole lot over marching thoughtlessly, clockwise.
If an industrial farmer is spraying a pesticide that is a mix of three kinds of cynanide, and that stuff is still all over our food by the time it gets to my family's table, I should know more about this than that he is a deacon in his community church, and that his heart is in the right place. That's as may be, but the cynanide is in the wrong place. Flip it around -- the same thing goes for the organic farmer. I don't know that what he thinks is good for me is in fact good for me, and I need to do more than determine whether his methods are too important to him. I also need to know if his methods are any good.
Now here is the next thing. Once those questions are answered, and we have weeded out the all natural poseurs gooning around in their truck patches, we find that some organic farmers really do know their stuff, and their organic methods really are good, and they really do result in a superior product -- I get to eat something fresh and healthy, something that didn't spend three months on a truck.
But -- and this is a point I have made before -- that superior product is a luxury that wealthy people get to enjoy. I think they should enjoy it, and I don't have any beef against wealthy people enjoying superior food. I do have a beef against wealthy people pretending they are not wealthy, pretending their luxuries aren't luxuries. I do have a beef against upper middle class National Public Radio listeners strolling down to farmers' markets as though they were earthy peasants in touch with the rhythms of the earth. Why are they in touch with the rhythms of the earth? Well, because they are wealthy enough to pay three times more for corn on the cob than a guy who lives in a trailer on the edge of town, works at the sawmill, and buys his corn on the cob at Sam's Club, the Philistine!
I live in the Palouse, and I love it here. This is what it looked like a few months ago -- but it is all gold now that it is harvest. While some of my good friends are out there driving their monster industrial machines through the harvest (as they are doing right this minute), they will harvest enough in a brief time to feed a small Third World country through the winter. As they do, I can't think of anything to complain about. It may not result in a highest quality baggette ever, but it is better than starving.
Assume you can get one loaf of bread off of one square foot of land, which, estimating conservatively, an American farmer can now do. An acre of ground will get you 43,560 loaves. A six hundred acre farm (a small farm in these parts), will get you 26 million loaves of bread, with another 136,000 loaves thrown in for good measure. I have a hard time thinking of this with any response other than gratitude.
In sum, the Christ-centered aesthetic argument is a good one, as far as it goes. But we need to keep it in its place and recognize it for what it is -- a God-given luxury, and a true creational good. But like all creational goods, it frequently finds itself in tension with other creational goods. Quality of food is of course a good. But in a world where starvation exists, so is quantity.
Monday, 24 August 2009
Dear Prime Minister
Madeleine at MandM has written you and the National Party caucus an open letter today on the issue of the anti-smacking legislation. It is an excellent letter, and we urge you to consider it carefully.
To her voice, we would like to add our own. You have evinced many attributes since becoming Prime Minister which have won the respect, if not admiration of the majority of New Zealanders. Not the least has been your determination to "keep your word" with the citizens of this country.
During the election you made certain promises and gave particular undertakings. To your credit you have shown yourself to be one who considers himself to be bound by his word. This is not something which we see very often in public life, particularly amongst politicians. We cannot thank you enough for this. It reflects the qualities and attributes of what it means to be a true statesman--for it respects and honours the Realm itself, the very essence of what it means to be a nation.
Let it be said that we would far rather have you as a statesman than as a "popular and competent Prime Minister", as your predecessor liked to style herself. The latter can lead to actions deleterious and destructive to the Realm, as indeed we saw come to pass. We increasingly sensed in her particular case that it was all about "Me, myself, and I-and the nation be damned."
So, we understand why you have been firm over the anti-smacking law. You promised to the people that you would support a change of the law if ordinary and responsible New Zealand parents were being indicted by its application. But if not, you would leave it alone. You are continuing to hold this view because you want to maintain your word with the people of this country.
But now you face a greater test over your commitment to being a statesman rather than a politician. For we would urge you to consider this: there is no worth or merit in keeping your word with the electorate when the undertakings you gave were wrong in the first place. For the reality is that if you persist in this course you weaken the state and undermine the Realm.
Despite the confusion and equivocal wording of Section 59 of the Crimes Act (a sufficient reason in itself for amending the law) a reasonable person is entitled to conclude on good grounds that the law of our land makes smacking a child for the purposes of correction a criminal act. If you attempt to deflect or neutralise this by promulgating policies which direct the police and state agencies to administer the law as if it did not say what it actually says, the Realm is damaged and weakened. In other words, if as government you direct the agencies of state to interpret the law so as to turn a "blind eye" to smacking for purposes of correction and discipline, despite what the law actually says, you are suspending the rule of law.
Yes, we are aware that the action would be pragmatic. It would "get the result" you have always said you wanted. For a time. But consider at what cost. We would learn from this that the government believes the application of the law should be a matter of police and state agency discretion; that it is a legitimate role for the Executive intentionally to misinterpret and misdirect the law; and that the law is an egregious "wax nose" to be twisted at will with the change of political winds. Your stated position regrettably undermines the respect for the rule of law and of Parliament itself. It, therefore, is a position inimical to the Realm itself.
Mr Key, you have already reneged on promises you have to the people at the last election. Because of the present winter of economic and fiscal straits, you cancelled the tax cuts promised the people. You explained that exigencies and circumstances had changed. You met the situation head on and took the decision you believed to be in the best interests of the Realm. We may disagree, but we respect your stand and the principled way the decision was taken.
This is even more serious. Your promise was wrong from the start. It was disrespectful to the law, to Parliament, to the Realm. You were wrong. You made a mistake--albeit a well-meaning one. There is absolutely no merit in continuing with this. A true statesman would acknowledge the error and would change the law to say exactly what you wish it would say--you and the vast majority of citizens in this country.
We call on you, Mr Key, to continue as you have begun. We urge you in the matter of Section 59 to be first and foremost a statesman of the Realm, not a politician. Show your respect for the law by changing it, properly and formally. Egregious attempts to massage or "frame" the law for the agencies of state would be something a politician, not a statesman would do.
For we walk by faith, not by sight.The Unbelieving world interprets faith to be no more nor less than wishful thinking. The dominant world-view or religious system in our day is “scientific” materialism. This espouses the belief that the only reality which exists is that which can be known through the investigation by the five human senses. If it cannot be seen, touched, smelled, heard, or tasted directly, or if it cannot be deduced from what those senses perceive, it probably does not exist. Any suggestion that something exists besides matter is nothing more than speculation—and, therefore, wishful thinking.
II Corinthians 5:7
This means that the dominant religion of our day, which requires that all things be subject to the reifying senses of man, is at the same time a religion with persistent overtones of scepticism, agnosticism, and atheism.
In our text, Paul contrasts faith and sight. He lives by faith and not by his senses. “Ah hah”, says the Unbeliever, “this is what I am talking about. Faith belongs to that which is beyond the senses—it is concerned with the unknowable, the speculative, and the unreal.” The modern Unbeliever insists that the only reasonable course is to do the exact reverse of what Paul does: man must walk by sight (and the other direct and derived senses) alone. Faith is for children. The Unbeliever of our age consistently places the Christian faith in the same category as believing in garden fairies or Santa Claus. To “partake” you have to engage in a willing suspension of disbelief.
The Believer comes from a different mental “planet”. The Believer knows that nothing in this world makes any sense at all (if you would pardon the pun), including the data received via the senses, without presupposing the God revealed in the Scriptures. Therefore far from being wishful thinking or speculation, faith in God is the only ground which gives sensory perception any meaning. The fact that Unbelievers do find the senses give meaningful information evidences the Living God; the fact that Unbelievers still deny His existence tells us much about their sinful rebellion and culpability and nothing commendable about their particular religious speculations.
So when Paul says that we Christians walk by faith and not by sight he is not telling us to deny the veracity of our senses; rather he is reminding us that our human experiences are reflective of what is going on, but not determinative. In particular, Paul in this passage is discussing aging and approaching death—which is both very real and extremely tangible. Every day of aches and pains is a day of groaning, a vivid reminder of mortality.
But the tangible is the effect, not the cause. The cause, at the end of the day, is the decree and command of the Living God concerning all things. Because God is the Creator of all things out of nothing, what my senses and experience tell me is going on is a very low order type of knowledge. It is real, but unreliable. It is true, but not definitive. It is actual, but tentative.
The Believer knows that in the end experiential reality will conform to the decrees and directions of the Living God, not the reverse. Believing God—that is, believing that what He has said will indubitably and infallibly come to pass—is the highest order of knowledge and truth, because it is determinative of everything else.
Therefore, Christians walk by faith and not by sight. Far from meaning that Christians live in vain hope, wishful thinking, and empty speculations, the opposite could not be more true. When Paul says he walks by faith not by sight, he means that he is living according to that which is infallibly definite, certain,and true, rather than by that which is ephemeral, uncertain, weak, and transitory.
Believers live according to the way the world is coming to be, not according to the way that is now is. They mould their lives around the promises and declarations of God, not around the finite and feeble information of current human experience. Abraham lived his life according to what the Lord promised him was going to happen. He conformed and shaped his present existential experience of ephemeral and temporary reality to that coming certainty. He knew that God's Word was more certain than anything in existence. He knew that even if he were to sacrifice Isaac at the express command of God, Isaac would yet be raised up again and restored to him, for God had promised that his heirs would be numbered through Isaac. This is why Abraham is the father of all Believers. When we also walk by faith and not by sight, we are walking after Abraham, in his steps.
To walk by faith is to believer that existential and sensory reality will finally be completely conformed to the declarations and promises of God. It will be as God has said it will be. Anything else is the height of folly and madness.
Saturday, 22 August 2009
A sociopath is someone who is interested only in his own concerns or desires, without care or thought to the effects of their views or actions upon others. It would appear that the ranks of the greenist hardcore are replete with sociopaths.
This is not to say that a card carrying greenist sociopath does not have logic on his side. The argument is cogent (if you are gullible enough to accept the premises): the entire planet is about to be destroyed. Human activity, specifically economic activity, is causing this threat. To prevent the destruction of the planet, the cause needs to be destroyed or removed--which is to say economic activity needs to stop or be vastly reduced. The fact that this will likely result in the suffering and death of billions of people is an irrelevance, insofar as it is necessary collateral damage if the planet is to survive.
A suppressed premise is that if the planet is destroyed, all human beings will die. An implication is that it is better to have several billion die than the entire race. It is a simple matter of calculus of suffering. People have to die to save the planet. Too bad. It's all for the good.
No doubt some of our readers will think us extreme to aver that the greenist movement harbours sociopaths. Well, then, let greenists speak for themselves. Paul Kingsnorth was published in The Guardian recently.
The writing is on the wall for industrial society, and no amount of ethical shopping or determined protesting is going to change that now. Take a civilisation built on the myth of human exceptionalism and a deeply embedded cultural attitude to "nature"; add a blind belief in technological and material progress; then fuel the whole thing with a power source that is discovered to be disastrously destructive only after we have used it to inflate our numbers and appetites beyond the point of no return. What do you get? We are starting to find out.George Monbiot, the regular greenist columnist for The Guardian, responds wishing that the coming collapse were not inevitable, but fearing that it is. But, hoping against hope, we must fight on, he says.
We need to get real. Climate change is teetering on the point of no return while our leaders bang the drum for more growth. The economic system we rely upon cannot be tamed without collapsing, for it relies upon that growth to function. And who wants it tamed anyway? Most people in the rich world won't be giving up their cars or holidays without a fight. . . .
The challenge is not how to shore up a crumbling empire with wave machines and global summits, but to start thinking about how we are going to live through its fall, and what we can learn from its collapse.
No, retorts Kingsnorth, the collapse is inevitable and it will bring a dire world:
We face what John Michael Greer, in his book of the same name, calls a "long descent": a series of ongoing crises brought about by the factors I talked of in my first letter that will bring an end to the all-consuming culture we have imposed upon the Earth. I'm sure "some good will come" from this, for that culture is a weapon of planetary mass destruction.Monbiot calls the changes on this bleak apocalyptic view.
Our civilisation will not survive in anything like its present form, but we can at least aim for a managed retreat to a saner world. Your alternative – to hold on to nurse for fear of finding something worse – is in any case a century too late. When empires begin to fall, they build their own momentum.
If I have understood you correctly, you are proposing to do nothing to prevent the likely collapse of industrial civilisation. You believe that instead of trying to replace fossil fuels with other energy sources, we should let the system slide. You go on to say that we should not fear this outcome.What is startling is not only that this discussion could actually be taking place but that it would be published in a national newspaper as a serious rather than farcical discourse. Kingsnorth says that economic growth has to collapse and agrees that billions will die. He has become, however, a survivalist and is now focused upon what he must do to survive the calamity. Monbiot agrees that this is the most likely outcome, but thinks it is better to struggle on to do "something".
How many people do you believe the world could support without either fossil fuels or an equivalent investment in alternative energy? How many would survive without modern industrial civilisation? Two billion? One billion? Under your vision several billion perish. And you tell me we have nothing to fear. . . .
You would purge the planet of industrial civilisation, at the cost of billions of lives, only to discover that you have not invoked "a saner world" but just another phase of destruction.
So, within the greenist frame we have the realist (Kingsnorth, arguing collapse is inevitable, billions will have to perish, let's try to be survivors), and the wishful thinker (Monbiot, arguing that such devastation is the most likely outcome, but let's keep hoping not). Both agree that economic growth as we know it has to stop, and that likely billions will die as a result. Monbiot hopes that he can help prevent some deaths; Kingsnorth hopes that he can survive amidst death.
Greenism is a macabre religion. One can hear the echoes of Caiaphas: it is expedient that one should die rather than the nation. But for some in greenism, Caiaphas has a new garb: it is expedient that the nation should die for the enlightened few.
The president has clearly been knocked back on his heels over this whole health care fiasco. It is looking more and more like he will get a bill with "health care" written on it somewhere, so he can have a face-saving talking point, but he is decreasingly likely to get anything close to what he wants.
As Jon Stewart of the Daily Show put it, your plan is in trouble if you have to begin your defense of it by saying, "No, we will not be killing your grandparents." And then, yesterday Obama left me flummoxed when he said that UPS and FedEx are doing great, while the Post Office is the one that is struggling. Well, struggling is one way to put it -- seven billion in the red annually.
And this leaves Obama out in full public view, standing by the chalkboard with chalk in hand, having told the teacher repeatedly that he could draw a round square for us. And having come to the point, it looks like he wants to take a few questions first.
He has said that the health plan he signs would have to be "deficit neutral." Okay, that's the square. He also is saying that private medical insurance doesn't have to worry about competition because the health care plan he would sign will lose buckets of money, just like the Post Office and Medicaid. That's the circle. Okay. We are all ready. Draw it now.
The government health plan will either be effective and efficient, or it won't be. If it is, then it will put private companies out of business. If it is not, then it won't be deficit neutral.
But wait . . . there's more. There is more than one way to put a private company out of business. What Obama is leaving out of this, and what those who support him are leaving out of this, is the fact that when government competes, government cheats. The government never enters private markets with a "may the best man win" attitude. The government takes its own continued involvement as a necessary given, and if competition for them gets a little too hot, then a bill will start making its way through Congress, making that competition illegal.
If you doubt what I say, just run a little thought experiment. What would happen if UPS and FedEx were allowed to deliver mail of all kinds? How long would the Post Office last? In other words, competing head to head has to illegal when the government "competes."
I am glad that certain memes are catching on -- death panels, evil, and so forth -- because all this stuff really is evil. I say that because soft totalitarianism is evil -- as I have said before, it is nothing so simplistic as Nazi goons. It is a strange amalgam of Huxley and Orwell, and if this upsets you, just go to your private health care provider, and get your prescription soma dosages upped. It is probably covered.
First posted in Blog and Mablog, 12th August, 2009
Something really troubling is starting to emerge about President Obama. His campaign for the bill to socialise health care in the United States is showing him up either to be ignorant or untruthful.
Firstly, there is the matter of whether the proposed bill(s) providing unlimited federal funding for abortions, and the forced payment for those federal funds for abortions through insurance premiums.
Obama has already gone on record some time ago stating that he intended that federal funding of abortions was an intrinsic part of the package. Now, however, he has come out saying that the allegation that his health care bill would mean federal funding of abortions was "untrue" and a "fabrication". So, which Obama is telling the truth?
Douglas Johnson, legislative director for the National Right to Life Committee (NRLC), responded to the President's claim that it was untrue:This appears to be very disingenous on the part of Obama. He denies federal funding for abortions as an untruth, yet there is de facto federal funding through another mechanism--compulsory loading into federal health insurance premiums. Either he knows this, and is lying; or, he is ignorant.
Emboldened by the recently demonstrated superficiality of some organs of the news media, President Obama today brazenly misrepresented the abortion-related component of the health care legislation that his congressional allies and staff have crafted.
As amended by the House Energy and Commerce Committee on July 30 (the Capps-Waxman Amendment), the bill backed by the White House (H.R. 3200) explicitly authorizes the government plan to cover all elective abortions. Obama apparently seeks to hide behind a technical distinction between tax funds and government-collected premiums. But these are merely two types of public funds, collected and spent by government agencies. The Obama-backed legislation makes it explicitly clear that no citizen would be allowed to enroll in the government plan unless he or she is willing to give the federal agency an extra amount calculated to cover the cost of all elective abortions — this would not be optional. The abortionists would bill the federal government and would be paid by the federal government. These are public funds, and this is government funding of abortion.
In 2007 Obama explicitly pledged to Planned Parenthood that the public plan will cover abortions. Some journalists have reported that Obama "backed off" of this commitment in an interview with Katie Couric of CBS News, broadcast July 21, but Obama actually carefully avoided stating his intentions — instead, he simply made an artful observation that "we also have a tradition of, in this town, historically, of not financing abortions as part of government funded health care."
It is true that there is such a tradition — which Obama has always opposed, and which the Obama-backed bill would shatter. (Emphasis, ours)
Bloomberg reporter, Caroline Baum has nailed him appearing to use precisely the same modus operandi.
Impromptu Obamanomics is getting scarier by the day. For all the president’s touted intelligence, his un-teleprompted comments reveal a basic misunderstanding of capitalist principles.If Obama gets exposed as a liar to the American public over legislation he will have committed the unpardonable sin. It is possible he will end up being the most disappointing and unpopular president within living memory.
For example, asked at the Portsmouth town hall how private insurance companies can compete with the government, the president said the following:
“If the private insurance companies are providing a good bargain, and if the public option has to be self-sustaining -- meaning taxpayers aren’t subsidizing it, but it has to run on charging premiums and providing good services and a good network of doctors, just like any other private insurer would do -- then I think private insurers should be able to compete.”
Self-sustaining? The public option? What has Obama been doing during those daily 40-minute economic briefings coordinated by uber-economic-adviser, Larry Summers?
Government programs aren’t self-sustaining by definition. They’re subsidized by the taxpayer. If they were self-financed, we’d be off the hook.
Llewellyn Rockwell Jr., chairman of the Ludwig von Mises Institute in Auburn, Alabama, and editor of LewRockwell.com, put it this way in an Aug. 13 commentary on Mises.org:
“The only reason for a government service is precisely to provide financial support for an operation that is otherwise unsustainable, or else there would be no point in the government’s involvement at all.” . . .
Everyone makes a mistake or flubs a line when asked questions on the spot, including the president of the United States. We can overlook run-on sentences, subject and verb tense disagreement, even a memory lapse when it comes to facts and figures.
The proliferation of Obama’s gaffes and non sequiturs on health care has exceeded the allowable limit. He has failed repeatedly to explain how the government will provide more (health care) for less (money). He has failed to explain why increased demand for medical services without a concomitant increase in supply won’t lead to rationing by government bureaucrats as opposed to the market. And he has failed to explain why a Medicare-like model is desirable when Medicare itself is going broke.
The public is left with one of two unsettling conclusions: Either the president doesn’t understand the health-insurance reform plans working their way through Congress, or he understands both the plans and the implications and is being untruthful about the impact.
Neither option is good; ignorance is clearly preferable to the alternative.
Ah, well. No doubt he can patch it all up by telling us it was a "teaching moment" and inviting America to have a beer with him in the Rose Garden.
Friday, 21 August 2009
Occasionally the coquette lets her slip show. The outgoing leader of Greenpeace has just admitted lying, after being pressed by Stephen Sackur on the BBC “Hardtalk” programme. Yes, he has acknowledging that Greenpeace lied when it warned that arctic ice would disappear by 2030.
But it was all in a good cause. The end justifies the means, after all. Didn't your mother teach you that? Gerd Leipold, retiring head of Greenpeace said it was perfectly acceptable to "emotionalize" issues to sway public opinion.
Now what we have long alleged has been admitted to, we find it necessary to gloss everything that comes out from Greenpeace. Since lying to emotionalize is OK (you only apologise when you get caught out) we need to read between every Greenpeace line.
For example, what is the real truth contained in a press release put out yesterday by Greenpeace in New Zealand. Here is the official Greenpeace version:
UN head of climate slams NZ emission target
Thursday, 20 August 2009, 11:07 am
Press Release: Greenpeace New Zealand
UN head of climate slams NZ emission reduction target
New Zealand’s highly conditional emissions reduction target of 10-20 per cent has been strongly criticised by the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , Dr Rajendra Pachauri.
In comments to the Press Newspaper today, Dr. Pachauri said a stronger commitment was required from New Zealand if the world was to have any chance of averting runaway climate change.
“We clearly need a much higher level of ambition” Pachauri told the Press newspaper from India.
When the NZ Government tabled its weak conditional target range on 10th August it stated that “In setting the target the Government has balanced economic opportunities with environmental responsibilities.”
Dr Pachauri also slammed the “fallacy” that rich countries had to choose between the environment and the economy. “There are plenty of examples around the world, which are growing in fact, where countries are going on the path to green growth – developing sectors of the economy which will be far more robust in the future than continuing with business as usual. The political context needs to be changed.”
Greenpeace Climate Campaigner Simon Boxer, said this showed how out of step the New Zealand Government was on the latest climate science, which clearly requires 40% reductions on 1990 levels for developed countries such as New Zealand.
“The Government has tried to spin its target as ambitious but the reality is that New Zealand’s current target makes us a laggard on the world stage.”
Greenpeace is calling for 40% by 2020, in line with the latest climate science.
But here is the unofficial, between the lines, non-emotionalised, truthful version:
UN head of climate praises NZ emission target
Thursday, 20 August 2009, 11:07 am
Press Release: Greenpeace New Zealand
UN head of climate praises NZ emission reduction target
New Zealand’s highly conditional emissions reduction target of 10-20 per cent has been strongly endorsed by the head of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) , Dr Rajendra Pachauri.
In comments to the Press Newspaper today, Dr. Pachauri said a stronger commitment was not required from New Zealand if the world was to have any chance of averting runaway climate change. New Zealand was attempting to show pragmatic realism.
"We particularly appreciate the highly conditional nature of the target," Pachauri told the Press Newspaper today. "It shows that New Zealand is being flexible, pragmatic, and realistic."
“While it is true that some countries clearly need a much higher level of ambition” Pachauri told the Press newspaper from India, "New Zealand has set the pace. In fact, I wonder whether they are being far too ambitious."
Dr Pachauri also slammed the “fallacy” that poor countries had to choose between the environment and the economy. “There is no choice at all. Countries have to do all they can to ensure that their people have access to key energy resources to ensure they can lift themselves out of poverty. The political context which criticises such countries needs to be changed.”
Greenpeace Climate Campaigner Simon Boxer, said this showed how in step the New Zealand Government was on the latest climate science, which appeared to show the need 40% reductions on 1990 levels for developed countries such as New Zealand.
“But we know that the 40% target is just emotionalizing the issue. We want to scare the people in the street and get a few headlines. But no-one seriously believes it, least of all us.”
Greenpeace is calling for 40% by 2020, in line with the latest climate science, which is deliberately "mispeaking" on the issue in an effort to gain attention.