Thursday, 30 September 2010

Presiding Over a Painful Demise

Michael Cullen's Reputation will Survive Intact

We have been grimly chortling into our cornflakes over the poetic justice of it all. Michael Cullen--one of the most economically destructive politicians ever to slough off the warrants of government--has just been appointed chairman of NZ Post. Now there will be plenty of folk who will once again be wondering at the moral compass of the present government. Michael Cullen, an academic (history) turned politician, has almost single handedly skewered the New Zealand economy.

One will never forget his profligate waste of the citizen's money in a desperate political ploy to ensure re-election, and his self-serving political motivation to throw away our fiscal surplus to make it harder for the National Government. One can still here his chortling in Parliament, saying of the surplus, "I have spent it all". And don't get us started on his repurchase of NZ Rail, which against all commercial and Treasury advice, for sake of socialist ideology, blew off over one billion dollars in overpaying Toll Holdings--which the Aussies gleefully characterised as the "Sale of the Century".

One searches in vain for worse examples of a venal politician being willing to weaken and compromise the interests of a country for sake of personal political point scoring and gain. Public servant Dr Cullen is not. Yet, current Prime Minister John Key--seemingly oblivious to such malfeasance (and there is no other word for it)--has been more than willing to employ Dr Cullen in governance roles over government owned businesses. It's as if Key believes that politicians are all just playing a game. Everything is all a bit of fun, really. No hard feelings. Nothing personal. Destroy a country--who cares. We are all good old boys.

One grimly looks forward to the long shadow and influence of Dr Cullen swanning around continuing to shape and push New Zealand in left wing directions--in much the way another former Labour politician, Sir Geoffrey Palmer has done. New Zealanders vote these guys out, and they just hang around like bad smells, enjoying government perquisites, continuing their destructive ways from other vantage points.

But there is a grimly ironic side to all this. The offical notice of Cullen's appointment to NZ Post contained this sober warning:
State Owned Enterprises Minister Simon Power today announced . . . . (A)t New Zealand Post, Hon Michael Cullen has been appointed chair from November 1 to replace Rt Hon Jim Bolger. . . ."I look forward to working with Dr Cullen to develop NZ Post's strategy to accommodate declining mail volumes and a challenging financial environment."

NZ Post, like all government owned postal services around the world, is in trouble. It is a sunset industry. It is inevitably going to go the way of the dodo bird. It is a horse-and-buggy service. Moreover, NZ Post owns Kiwibank--another socialist initiative--which while Minister of Finance, Dr Cullen championed. Kiwibank is supposed to be the replacement gem in the crown. It will turn out to be a voracious gobbler of capital and in the longer run will weaken NZ Post still further.

It is inevitable that the entire business will be broken up and sold off in the end. We expect that Dr Cullen will have to bear the ignominy of gloomy annual public reporting. NZ Post's failure will reflect back on to him. Warren Buffett once remarked that when a business leader with a superb reputation takes charge of a bad business, it is usually the reputation of the business which survives intact. In this case, we have a leader with an exceedingly bad reputation taking public responsibility for an equally exceedingly bad business. Dr Cullen's reputation will now be irrevocable and irredemiable for posterity.

Wednesday, 29 September 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Dancing ACLU Lawyers 

Political Dualism - Mere Christendom
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, September 28, 2010

One of the problems with using Constantine as a marker is that there is a tendency to anachronism, attributing to him any subsequent malfeasance on the part of Christians in power. But the Constantinian settlement was, by and large, a tolerant one. Lactantius, the early church father who tutored Constantine's children, was an apologist for this kind of toleration, which, in his day, was a toleration of pagans.

But there is a distinction between toleration of the views held by others, and toleration as an absolute desideratum. The former is crucial to every form of civilized society, Constantine let pagans continue to be pagans, and to think like pagans, and he let them continue to serve in the army (for example), but at the same time, Constantine ended the pagan sacrifices -- a momentous step, and foundational to all religious liberty.

This distinction is necessary because at a certain level, the whole society has to decide whether to go this way or that way. For example, democracy does not mean that everybody votes for president, and the winner gets to be president 57% of the time, while the loser only gets to be president on Tuesdays, Thursdays, and Saturdays. It is not like a custody battle. The public sacrifices for the whole society either have to be performed or not. The public square cannot be a pantheon -- for if it is, then the state is god, and that is idolatry. Calling it "secularism" doesn't fix it.

There must be a God over all. That God may tell us not to hassle the people who don't believe in Him, and that is precisely what the triune God does tell us. In this mere Christendom I am talking about (you know, the idyllic one, down the road), Muslims could come from other lands and live peaceably, they could buy and sell, write letters to the editor, own property, have that property protected by the cops, and worship Allah in their hearts and homes. What they could not do is argue that minnarets have the same rights of public expression that church bells do. The public space would belong to Jesus.

Our secular gods promised to do exactly this kind of thing, saying that if we kept this public space "neutral" (as they defined neutral), then all would be allowed to do our own thing on our own time. But this secularism is teetering, and is clearly displaying its hostility to the Christian faith. What I am saying here is that a Christian settlement would do a better job of protecting the true rights of Muslims and secularists, than secularists do in protecting the rights of Christians.

The argument goes this way. If I wanted Muslims to have the right to refuse baptism (which I would certainly want), then I would have to argue that case in the name of Jesus, and from the Bible. Obviously, I think that it can be done. But if I wanted to argue from the premises of secularism that all of us are anything more than meat, bones, and protoplasm, where do I go to make the argument? The implications of a godless universe have worked their way into the structure of our laws, and it is not too long afterwards that the darkness falls. And it won't be the kind of night that you can dance away.

When tolerance becomes a universal virtue, suspended upon its own air hook and nothing else, then you come to think you can't say no to virtually anything -- including those things which will issue a fatwa against your silly views of tolerance. The universally tolerant do say no to one thing, however, and that is to any idea of Christendom. If you mention sharia law, they will talk about the rich cultural diversity that is found in certain parts of Ohio. But if you mention biblical theonomy, as being perhaps more attractive in other parts of Ohio, you will find these folks with heads between their knees, breathing into paper bags, in preparation for writing a hysterial letter to the editor. This is because universal toleration is suicidal. In Proverbs, Wisdom says that all who hate her love death (Prov. 8:36), and they really do.

Our fin de siecle secularism is fully prepared to embrace that which will destroy it pronto, and to shun as a menace that faith which actually invented true toleration.
But I propose a contest. Let's build an altar of stones, an altar of absolute toleration. Let's have ACLU lawyers dance around it until noon, cutting themselves with knives, and hitting themselves on the head with briefcases. Let us build another altar, and ask Elijah to stretch out his hands toward Heaven, and call upon Yahweh. The God that answers with a truly free and tolerant society . . . He is God. Let us serve Him.

Rudders on the Prowl

The Liberal Lion of Auckland Roars

OK, we consider ourselves thoroughly ticked off. We were just stupidly going along with the idea that prisoners ought not to be able to vote. It seemed reasonable. Paul Quinn's private member's Bill to that effect seemed like a sound common sense measure of retributive justice.

Then, suddenly, out of nowhere Brian Rudman the liberal lion of Auckland dumped on us big time. He pilloried us for "inventing new and twisted ways of pulling the wings off prisoners". How loathsome could we get? Clearly we needed to rethink our position.

We breathlessly began to look through Rudman's indictment for coherent arguments against our naive and stupid opinion. First was a really trenchant ad hominen attack on people like us. Rudders pointed out that we were all elitist snobs who could not bring ourselves to think that our votes should rub up alongside the votes of criminals. Good one, Brian. That really hit the spot. Nothing like a bit of good old poisoning of the well to get people away from your opponents and rushing over to the side of the liberal lion. Clearly Rudders must have been paying attention when he was a neophyte in logic classes at his dear old Auckland University.

Sorry about the sarcasm. We are only imitating our opponent. Consider this for instance:
However, if former Treasury analyst Mr Quinn were to venture out of his economic textbooks, he might discover that a democracy based on universal suffrage is the form of governance that has evolved in countries of our kind, and that however much we might roll our eyes at some of the more odious views and actions of those we disagree with, it's proved to be a more resilient, and fairer, system of governance than any other on offer.
Tut. Tut. Now, just to get this right. Universal suffrage democracy is the big deal. Any restriction, any disenfranchisement is a clear and present danger to democracy--the fairest government of them all. We know so; Rudders asks his magic mirror daily, and he tells us so. So, you see, disenfranchising prisoners is the thin end of the wedge: it is blasphemy, blasphemy, he tells us.

Well, Brian old chap, how about fourteen year olds, or three year olds for that matter? No, seriously. Answer the question. We just want to know whether you are willing to countenance any restrictions upon suffrage whatsoever. Is universal suffrage really universal, old boy? And if not, then presumably you will need to go through some ratiocinations to restrict voting to say, maybe, people eighteen and older. And as soon as you do--well, then, we need to urge you to get your head out of your ideological ostrich hole and just for once in your life learn that
a democracy based on universal suffrage is the form of governance that has evolved in countries of our kind, and that however much we might roll our eyes at some of the more odious views and actions of those we disagree with, it's proved to be a more resilient, and fairer, system of governance than any other on offer.
Don't you for a moment suggest, arrogant chap, that you can roll your eyes at the views of a child, as if somehow the political opinion of a child were not as good or sophisticated as your own. Sauce for goose and gander, old boy.

Next argument. Brian sententiously informs us that banning a prisoner from voting is arbitrary.
You cannot blanket ban anyone who crosses the prison door whether it's one day or three years, because it's arbitrary.
Arbitrary is bad. Blanket bans are bad. So they are on three year olds--and as for withholding the vote from a seventeen year old--cravenly arbitrary. "Arbitrary" would be where there is no rational selection in deciding who should have the vote. One would think that disenfranchising prisoners is anything but arbitrary: it is a clearly defined category, and one which self-selects. And it is hardly a blanket ban. It is a very specific and focused ban.

Ah, but who are we mere mortals to question the superior wisdom of the liberal lion of Auckland? We are backwoods rubes, after all. Let's hasten to Brian's next argument: he gets all worked up citing the expert opinions of the priests and priestesses at the temple of human rights.
The Human Rights Commission echoed this, calling "the right to vote in elections, without discrimination, ... one of the most fundamental of human rights and civil liberties." Arguing that people are sent to prison as punishment, not for punishment, the commission said "disenfranchisement has no proven deterrent effect and it can actively undermine the ability of prisoners to engage constructively with the very society to which they will be released when discharged and, thus, their eventual social rehabilitation."
People are "sent to prison as punishment, nor for punishment . . ." That has to be the most scintillating sophistry we have read in decades. Where do these people get this from? Look, just humour an old hayseed for a moment. Going to prison is a punishment, but you don't go there to be punished? Wow. We never saw that one coming? You need to have a university degree to work that one out. Clearly removal of every freedom right in the book, and the suspension of virtually every demand right in the book is intrinsic to incarceration. Is that punishment, or not? Does it involve a suspension and removal of rights, or not? Well, of course it does. Even we dumb rubes who don't have history degrees from the good old Auckland University can see that.

So the real question--and the one you have to argue to carry your case, old boy--is that voting rights need to be placed in a special category as being more important and more fundamental than every other human right which has been suspended and prorogued by virtue of being a prisoner. Now, we know why you don't want to argue that--it would be a very, very difficult argument to mount. If imprisonment means anything, it means a suspension of rights. You can only carry the case if you prove that suffrage rights trump all those other rights which are lost when one is incarcerated.

Now, through the bluster and emoting, Brian does make an effort, in a sort of half-baked way. Again, citing his mentors, the Human Rights Commission, he parrots their idea that
The commission argued that "modern democracies are based on the concept that all people - including prisoners - have rights simply by virtue of their common humanity" and therefore, "to disregard their right to vote becomes a fundamental breach of the social contract".

Dear me. Question begging is not an argument. What is at issue is whether prisoners have a right to vote. A mere assertion that modern democracies are based on the concept of prisoners being able to vote will hardly do. The issue is whether they ought they to be so based on such a concept. Dear Brian, while it may seem compelling to cite the Human Rights Commission it means nothing. You have to actually stand there and make an argument for the position--not just beg the question.

You are dealing with backwoods rubes, after all. We like to think things through--slowly, to be sure. We cannot keep up with your lightning fast brain. Make an argument, Brian. Don't just assert. Until you do we will cling to old fashioned nostrums such as, maintaining the rule of law and social order is foundational to civil society and civil rights.

An incarcerated criminal, by definition, has acted to attack and undermine both civil society and the civil rights of others. A condign punishment is that for an appropriate time the criminal's demand rights, freedom rights, and civil rights be removed by force by the state. The relevant principle of justice is that the one who undermines and attacks civil society and the civil rights of others should suffer withdrawal from the benefits of civil society and have his rights suspended. Justice therefore requires the suspension of voting rights of criminals during the time of their punishment. It is a grave injustice to allow voting rights for incarcerated criminals.

Your move, Brian.

Tuesday, 28 September 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

About as Unique as a Pint of Salt Water 

Political Dualism - Mere Christendom
Written by Douglas Wilson
Monday, September 27, 2010

One of the foundational temptations for us as we consider our forms of social organization is the temptation of thinking that we are unique, and that no one has ever been in the soup we are in. Globalization, the Internet, micro-chips, frankenfood, and wireless hot-spot coffee shops all make it impossible for us to even conceive of a "mere Christendom." To talk that way, I am told, is to exhibit my delusional side.

But our problem is actually as old as it gets. Our deracinated rootlessness is an off-the-rack K-Mart problem. There is nothing new under the sun, the preacher says, but especially not this.

When C.S. Lewis wrote of "men without chests," he did not discover this phenomenon by googling it up on his iPhone. When Yeats wrote that "the center cannot hold," he did not come to this conclusion in a sports bar with fifty television screens going, with the volume turned down on all of them so that we could hear the U2 song that was blaring over the crowd. If he had, it would have been appropriate, but he didn't. Cultural decadence is something that has happened routinely to civilizations for millennia, and it is a sign of our cultural narcissism that we are somehow surprised by it happening to us. The surprise is not sincere, it is not honestly come by. Somebody really ought to read a book.
In cultural terms, a classical period is a time when all the parts of a community's life seem to hang together, mutually reinforce each other, and make intuitive sense. By contrast, a decadent period is marked by dissolution of all the most important unities, a sense that whatever initial force gave impetus and meaningful form to the culture has pretty much spent its power. Decadence is a falling off, a falling apart from a previous unity (Sanders, The Deep Things of God, pp. 109-110).

Gerontology is the study of how people age, and the people who are hyperventilating over our cultural dissolution really need to be informed that there is a body of work on cultural geronology that extends over many centuries, and what we are confronting now is nothing new. And this means that what we need to do is exactly what every other culture that has come apart at the seams has needed to do, and that is to believe in Jesus.

We dress differently than did the Elizabethans, and we publish books differently than did the ancient Jews. We fly through the air, and the Babylonians didn't. We eat better than did our great grandfathers. We can go down our roads a lot faster than Julius Caesar could go down his roads. But this does not change the fact that our hollow men are remarkably like the hollow men of old, and that our forgiven men act remarkably like Abraham did.

Jesus did not tell the Church to disciple the nations until the invention of the microchip, and to troubleshoot some sort of accommodation after that. Jesus did not say to preach the gospel to every creature until they start hooking cameras up to the grid in order to televise everything. He did not tell us to baptize the nations until the rise of the nation/state, that glorious phrase for some that trumps all obedience, and to then retreat to the baptism of individuals, if that. Jesus did not say that all men would be drawn to Him until people with magenta hair dye and multiple piercings started to get gigs on reality television shows. Our problem is not globalization, for pity's sake. Our problem is unbelief, and it is a very boring and ancient form of unbelief. We are about as unique as a pint of salt water a hundred miles off the coast of Hawaii.

So here is an appeal to the hollow men. The reason for that culture-wide internal ache and the resultant bizarre antics on the public stage, is that you don't know God. And the reason your sages, philosophers, wise men, statesmen, and late night jesters can do nothing to make sense of what is happening, but flail instead, is that you don't know Jesus Christ and Him crucified. The reason you point helplessly to the invention of the latest whatsit as the cause of all our troubles is that you are fighting the Holy Spirit's work of convicting us of sin, righteousness, and judgment.

You have not acknowledged that the Lord Jesus was crucified in the public square by the authorities, and it is far too late to be hushed up now. A central part of the difficulty in trying to hide what He did is that He came back from the dead, and not in a corner somewhere, and then He told His disciples to be talkative about what happened. That resurrection, and the proclamations of it, cannot be hushed up either. Jesus is therefore the Lord of heaven and earth, which makes Him Lord over all our cultural corrosions. His Word tells us what to do about them, and it tells us what not to do about them.

So our leaders are not standing at a unique crossroads -- this has happened many times before. The decision they need to make is a simple binary one -- either to believe in Jesus or not. And the fact that large sections of the Church would be panicked if they did is not an illustration of a high water mark in theological development. It simply means that the cultural corrosions of unbelief have not left the Church unaffected.

Rinos and Ninos

Better To Get Our Poison Straight

There is an interesting debate taking place in the right wing blogosphere in the US right now. It concerns one Christine O'Donnell who won the Republican primary to be a US Senate candidate for Delaware. She defeated a Republican career politician who is a Rino (Republican in Name Only).

Now, the Republican Party has always been a broad tent party. The liberal left-wing of the party is indistinguishable from the centre-left of the Democratic Party. There are plenty of Republicans who believe they, being superior human beings, have a divine right to be in government. They are "good folks" as they say in the States. Whatever ideology or political views they hold is irrelevant: because they are "good folks" the fact that they might, say, promote pro-abortion legislation is fine because, well, they are "good folks". And if they hold positions which the majority of their constituents don't, well, that's OK, because they are smarter than the average bear and know better, as self-righteous "good folks" always do.

We have plenty of politicians like this in New Zealand as well. Well call them El Nino's--National in Name Only (National is the ostensibly conservative party. As we have reminded readers many times in the past, some of the biggest expansions of government power in this country have been the love-child of Nino's. In many critical ways, the National Party and successive National Governments have been a curse upon our country.

Christine O'Donnell unexpectedly defeated the Rino candidate in the primary. She is a limited government, Tea Party candidate. She is a Christian. She is not a career politician. The Republican political pros have derided her candidacy and her election. She is so far to the right of the Delaware electorate that she is unelectable, they opine. They may well be right.

It was conservative pundit, the late William F Buckley who espoused the tactical principle that the most electable conservative candidate should always be selected, and thus conservatives should be happy with Rino candidates when they are the only ones who stand a chance in liberal electorates. All this sounds eerily familiar to us in NZ, where we have the exact same debates (on both the right and the left). National's John Key had to move to the centre, we have been told over and over, in order to get elected.

To us, this is a debate between tactics and strategy. Tactics are focused on short-term advantages. Strategy is focused on longer term realities. Christians should always be more focused upon long term strategy than tactics. Whenever Christians get besotted with short term tactical plays they inevitably end up in ungodly compromise because they must make common-cause with Unbelief.

Instead, we would argue this way: the people of Delaware need a choice--a clear choice between the idolatry of soft-despotic statism and the Christian faith. Christine O'Donnell provides that choice. If the people of Delaware reject her and favour the very-left-of-centre Democratic candidate, so be it. They need to experience the consequences of their choice--and they will over time, just as long-liberal-dominated areas of the United States are now (Illinois, New York, California and so forth--states and municipalities that are now structurally bankrupt, and face long inevitable lingering decline).

And if the people as a whole continue to favour soft-despotic statism, then the nation as a whole will decline under the curses of the covenant. Christians, whilst taking no pleasure in it, should not be alarmed at this happening, for the experience of degradation and suffering are the very things that make a people long for God and His gracious rule. Idolatry always degrades man and destroys freedom. This is the way God works. Evil always integrates into a self-destructive void. But, if along the way, we Christians have compromised for sake of short-term political expediency, what then? There will be no light left, there will be no truth, no Gospel, and no hope for our nation. When our people turn to folly, our calling is not to turn with them (to be part of them, to be relevant, to be well thought of, etc.), but our calling is to suffer with them as the consequences of their folly fall upon us all--yet all the while standing apart for God and His truth.

And as for the Buckley principle of political pragmatism, we say this: when we are on the scaffold, it matters not whether he who pulls the trapdoor is black or white, rich or poor, National or Labour, Democrat or Republican. The result is the same.

It remains true that the previous Republican administration in the US (a Rino administration) did more to promote soft-despotic statism and left the country more indebted than ever before. And in our case, it remains true that El Nino administrations in New Zealand have brought the country to inevitable structural decline. The country is now virtually irretrievable: things will now get a whole lot worse before they get better. We don't feel any better because of that. In fact, we are entitled to be angrier because there is an element of betrayal involved. At least with the liberals and the progressives and the overt-secular humanists you get your poison straight.

Our hope remains in God and His omnipotent righteousness, not in man and gaining the Treasury benches. Here is our manifesto:
See, I have taught you statutes and judgments just as the Lord my God commanded me, that you should do thus in the land where you are entering to possess it. So keep and do them, for that is your wisdom and your understanding in the sight of the people who will hear all these statutes and say, 'Surely this great nation is a wise and understanding people.' . . . Only give heed to yourself and keep your soul diligently, lest you forget the things which your eyes have seen, and lest they deprt from your heart all the days of your life; but make them known to your sons and your grandsons. (Deuteronomy 4: 5--9)

Monday, 27 September 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Kuba the Prophet 

Political Dualism - Mere Christendom
Written by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, September 22, 2010

It must be said, with more than a little regret, that many Christians believe that the Day of Judgment is the time at the end of history when God loses all sense of proportion. If we believe what the Bible teaches about Hell, as we should, but don't believe what it teaches about gradations of moral behavior, then this makes God the ultimate Leveler. Stalin, who killed all those people, and Aunt Maude, who liked her elderberry wine a little too much, are both in the bad place, and furthermore, unlike Dante's levels, they are both in the same spot in the bad place. But the binary choice that the Scriptures do present -- salvation or damnation -- does not flatten moral distinctions within those two categories.

Aside from the gaudiness of some of the punishments in the Inferno, Dante's instincts about moral structure were sounder than those of our egalitarian age.

"Judge not according to the appearance, but judge righteous judgment" (John 7:24).

But part of rendering a right judgment is understanding the fact that the winnowing that will occur extends down into particulars. God will not not judge the world in the aggregate. He will not judge by the gross ton. His judgments will involve glasses of cold water that some people gave and other people didn't (Mark 9:41). His judgments will include every idle word that some people spoke and some people didn't (Matt. 12:36). God will render to every man according to his deeds (Rom. 2:6). The apostle Paul also says of false teachers that their "end shall be according to their works" (2 Cor. 11:15). He also asked that Alexander be rewarded "according to his works" (2 Tim. 4:14).

"And if ye call on the Father, who without respect of persons judgeth according to every man’s work, pass the time of your sojourning here in fear" (1 Pet. 1:17).

Now in line with all the Reformation, we hold that the dividing line between the sheep and goats is a line drawn by the electing good pleasure of God, and is not according to works. But once the Lord's infinite wisdom has drawn that line, the punishments and the rewards that are apportioned to the reprobate and the elect respectively most certainly are in line with how we have lived our lives. The scriptural testimony to this reality is abundant.

So how does this figure in with a discussion of mere Christendom? One of the central characteristics of our cultural disease is our societal relativism. This is the end result of what C.S. Lewis called the poison of subjectivism, and it results in the abolition of man.

"Woe unto them that call evil good, and good evil; that put darkness for light, and light for darkness; that put bitter for sweet, and sweet for bitter!" (Is. 5:20).

But this moral inversion is not something that can be achieved in a day. Before you reverse good and evil, you must flatten good and evil, and before you flatten good and evil, you must flatten greater evil and lesser evil and greater good and lesser good. Moral egalitarianism is a rot that proceeds slowly.

Woe unto them that call lesser evil greater evil, and greater evil lesser evil; that put darkness for twilight, and twilight for darkness; that put white for off-white, and off-white for white!

Now when God's representatives speak to the civil ruler, they are speaking prophetically. And when the prophets of God speak, they must represent Him well. If He does not lose a sense of proportion in the Day of Judgment, then His representatives must not "get to preaching" in such a way as to get carried away. And they must not get to denouncing in such a way as to create a moral equivalence between excessive consumerism on display at Radio Shack and Stalin's genocidal technique of artificial famine. They must not flatten the abortion holocaust and extra questioning at the airport for a guy named Muhammad.

Those who draw glib examples of moral equivalence between full-throated pagan societies and raggedy Christian ones are people whose judgments are not to be trusted. Someone once wisely said, about another issue, that if your pastor says that wine in the Bible is actually grape juice, then why should you trust anything he says?

The same principle is operative here. Jesus calls men "fools and blind" over just this principle. They did not know up from down. They did not know whether the gold sanctified the altar or whether the altar sanctified the gold. They could not tell a gnat from a camel. They did not have a sense of proportion. They tithed out of their spice rack and neglected the weightier matters of the law (Matt. 23:23).

This is why so much of the contemporary "prophetic" witness to our civil rulers is such a joke. It not so much dressed in camel hair with a leather belt as it is decked out in a Kuba the Clown outfit. And then it blames the lack of responsiveness on hardness of heart, and walks off saying o tempora! o mores! in a Donald Duck voice.

Bullying Teachers

New Zealand's Failing Government Education System

Karl Du Fresne calls our attention to a school principal, who, it seems has engaged in an extraordinary ad hominem attack upon a colleague who had the temerity publicly to support the introduction of national testing standards.

Now it is a sad indictment upon the profession that the CEO of a New Zealand state school apparently fails to understand that ad hominem is the refuge of intellectually challenged scoundrels. Here is a summary of Du Fresne's account:
I'm surprised more hasn’t been made of the contemptible schoolyard bullying reported last week by TV3 political editor Duncan Garner. Presumably it was overtaken by the much bigger drama unfolding around David Garrett and ACT.

What made this schoolyard bullying unusual was that the perpetrators were grown men – two Northland school principals heavying a female colleague who committed the inexcusable sin of breaking ranks over national standards.

Donna Donnelly, principal of Tikipunga School, Whangarei, is a supporter of national standards. This was clearly intolerable to two fellow principals, Peter Witana and Pat Newman, who sent her intimidating emails.

TV3 News showed a composed, dignified Donnelly asking Witana to apologise. He refused.

An agitated Witana, an executive member of the Principals’ Federation, then turned on an extraordinary performance in front of Garner, gesticulating and speaking directly to the TV3 camera, saying things like “Don’t make me look terrible Duncan” and “Don’t make me dislike you.” He looked so emotionally unstable that Garner could have been excused for feeling slightly threatened himself – just as parents with children under Witana’s care might have been excused for wondering whether he needed to take stress leave.

The next night we learned that Newman, too, had waded into Donnelly, sending her an email in which he said, among other things, that her former colleagues in the Waikato regarded her as “the best export they ever made” [sic].

I couldn’t help wondering at the coincidence that both Witana and Newman are physically big men (overweight, not to put too fine a point on it) with moustaches, a not uncommon mark of the bully.

Interviewed for TV3 News, Newman (whom Kiwiblog's David Farrar reports is seeking the Labour Party nomination for Whangarei) tried to skew the issue, suggesting that principals and boards of trustees were not being allowed to question and criticise education policy.

I’m not aware of anyone trying to deny them that right. The issue here is one of intimidation and harassment of a colleague who dared dissent from the union line.

Whenever we comment upon the teaching profession in New Zealand, we always need to distinguish between those dedicated people who work extraordinarily long hours, doing a superb job, often in difficult conditions, in the face of desperate odds, on the one hand, and the educational establishment which consists of teacher and principal unions, the Ministry of Education bureaucracy, and those who staff the various teacher training academies. It is the latter establishment complex which is the true enemy of quality education in New Zealand.

There is another enemy of quality education: the government itself. "Government education" is an oxymoron. It is not the function of civil government to educate; it is a duty and task way beyond its competence, as is becoming more and more evident with each passing decade.

The foolish idiocy of our current situation where government education has become an illicit state function effectively controlled now by teacher unions--which is to say the government education system exists primarily to serve the interests of the union cadres and their more militant members--can be highlighted by a comparison with other professions. Take for example the legal profession.

Arguably the legal profession is as vital and as important to the functioning of civil society and its future as is the teaching profession. One some counts, more so. Yet we do not have a socialised legal profession. Consequently, we do not have a lawyers union either. If the state is not needed to ensure the provision of universal and "free" legal services, why is the state needed to ensure educational services? Yet we do have a high level of legal professionalism, a strong self-governing law society, excellent educational and legal training institutions, and universal legal services throughout the country. Would that the professional ethics of the Law Society applied to the privileged educational complex!

If society can organise itself to ensure a universal, high quality legal profession, why not the teaching profession? If non-socialised legal services can be produced and sustained by the private sector, why not schools and schooling? To ask the question is to expose the current socialised educational system to ridicule. Education, like legal services, is completely beyond the competence of civil government to provide: state controlled education systems have one trajectory, and one trajectory only--downward.

New Zealand's "universal, free, secular" education system is the product of Fabian socialist idiocy, which insinuated itself into our political and social culture in the late eighteen hundreds. It is another example of "socialism without doctrines", or pragmatic socialism which has dominated and damaged our country now for over a century. We, as a nation, desperately need to break its shackles and free ourselves.

But freedom is something which comes first of all from the heart of a man. New Zealanders are, as a whole, far too docile and servile to engage in shackle breaking. We are enslaved in heart. If a politician were to arise announcing "Yes you can!", outside the mosh pit, when the ardour and excitement had cooled, the antiphonal response would be "No, we can't". A people enslaved in heart to the government will always look first to the government before they look to themselves. Only widespread repentance and a returning to the Lord Jesus Christ will break that shackle of the heart--which is the real servility resides, after all.

So, the government education system will remain entrenched. Educational standards in New Zealand will continue to decline, truancy will rise, illiteracy rates--already bad--will worsen, but the teacher unions and the educational establishment will ensure that fresh billions and billions of taxpayers money will be spent upon a self-righteous, pompous, protected and arrogant educational elite. For such, to bully others is part of the "natural order". They are always right.

Saturday, 25 September 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

The Liberal Trope Armory 

Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Perhaps you are familiar with the distinction between a politician and a statesmen, that distinction being that the politician is still living, and the statesman is now dead. And, as the fellow said, what this generation needs is more statesmen!

What I am about to say should not be taken as reflecting any kind of personal knowledge of Christine O'Donnell. This will likely change soon -- major media outlets are now working through her sock drawer -- but I am not saying anything about her just now, either for or against. What I want to do is simply point out a central weapon in the liberal trope armory, which is this: a conservative candidate who, for any reason, looks promising and/or especially threatening, will be dismissed as an amiable and/or attractive idiot, especially when compared (at a disadvantage) to the last person they did this to.

I pointed this out when Sarah Palin was getting the treatment, falling far short, as it was being said, of the stature of Ronald Reagan. But some of us were there when Reagan was the amiable dunce, and the whole thing rang hollow. We remember when Reagan wasn't Reaganesque.

The fact that this is done doesn't make it false, of course. A blind squirrel finds a nut every once in a while. There are amiable dunces, and lots of them get elected. Lots of them on our side get elected. The point is that this is a weapon that is used whether it is true or not. This is said, not on the basis of careful analysis, but rather because some media advisor thinks that if this plate of spaghetti is thrown against the wall, that noodle might stick.

But normally you have to let a respectable amount of time pass before trying this tactic. To work most effectively, you have to let decades go by, not "some months." I am writing this because just the other day I heard someone saying that Christine O'Donnell was "no Sarah Palin." Heh.

Your Spittle is Showing


Readers of Contra Celsum will well know that we are not members of the Roman Catholic denomination. But we acknowledge a unity with Roman Catholicism grounded upon the great catholic (that is, universal) creeds and confessions. We respect the current Pope, Benedict because he evidently and clearly takes these fundamental Christian beliefs very seriously indeed.

There is much that eventually will need to be debated between the Reformed and Roman Catholicism. As opportunities arise, within the bounds of cordiality, these debates and discussions will no doubt occur. We are glad the sword enforced sectarianism within Western Christendom of former centuries has passed away. We hope it never returns.

The outpouring of venom in some circles in the United Kingdom during the visit of Benedict has been something to see. Clearly there is an animus at work here that goes far beyond disputes and arguments over doctrines and beliefs. Frank Furedi--apparently not a Christian-- in one of his latest posts, analyzes the vituperative opposition.
Crusade against the pope: an Inquisition-in-Reverse

The campaigners against the pope’s visit have more in common with the fanatical Inquisitors of old than with Enlightened liberal humanists.

Frank Furedi

The current display of anti-papal prejudice is not only conformist. Worse than that, it is the kind of conformism that is usually seen amongst children who, under peer pressure, compete to see who can come up with the meanest phrase to castigate the playground scapegoat.

Consider the infantile exchange between anti-papal zealots who were recently asked what they would say to the pope if they met him. ‘Go home to your tinpot Mussolini-concocted principality, and don’t come back’, said the Grand Inquisitor of the new atheist sandbox, Richard Dawkins, who refers to the pope as ‘Mr Ratzinger’ and describes him as the ‘head of the world’s second most evil religion’. Not to be outdone, the journalist Johann Hari imagines that he is a policeman and declares to a pretend pope: ‘I am placing you under arrest for conspiracy to pervert the course of justice, and for your central role in the systematic cover-up of the rape of children across five continents.’ Francis Wheen would also like to don a policeman’s helmet: ‘You’re nicked’ is what he would say to the pope. Such role-playing is an endearing aspect of childhood; but when grown-ups behave like aggressive four-year-olds, publicly fantasising about throwing spiteful insults at another person, they are simply adopting the immature mannerisms of attention-seeking toddlers.

If all the extravagant accusations thrown at Benedict are true, then it seems he bears responsibility for virtually every evil afflicting the modern world. When he is not busy covering up the deeds of child molesters, he is sabotaging the work of embryonic-stem-cell researchers. He is apparently totalitarian, a manipulative homophobe, an enemy of women.

The promotion material for Peter Tatchell’s tendentious TV programme – titled The Trouble with the Pope and shown on Channel 4 on Monday – informs us that the pope is ‘manipulating and distorting’ the image of Cardinal Newman to ‘serve his own autocratic, homophobic leadership’ (the pope is in Britain primarily to beatify Newman). According to Tatchell’s programme, Benedict’s teachings are also directly responsible for large numbers of unwanted children. The press release tells us that Tatchell heard ‘from a poor Filipino family, headed by Wilma and Ramon, whose following of papal teaching against birth control has resulted in them having more children than they can care for adequately’. Oh, and Benedict also refuses to take a stand against the legacy of Nazism. ‘I am shocked that he has embraced Catholics accused of being soft on Nazism’, says Tatchell. Getting carried away with his melodrama, Tatchell warns: ‘This is a pope to fear.’

Tatchell has indicted the pope on the grounds that he is out of touch with British public opinion, is doctrinaire and believes in traditional conservative values. Consequently, the world would be a better place without him. Back in the seventeenth century, a French Catholic political theorist expressed a similar form of bigoted intolerance by stating: ‘I have the right to persecute you because I am right and you are wrong.’ That is more or less the message of the contemporary anti-pope crusade. The principal hallmark of today’s new breed of secular moraliser is unabashed intolerance, and a demand that everyone conform to their zero-tolerance values.

Now, Furedi self-consciously represents that strand of Enlightenment thought which eulogized tolerance. And in this matter he is intellectually sloppy. Those Enlightenment rationalists who argue for tolerance have generally been unwilling to acknowledge that tolerance is not an absolute virtue and it therefore requires limits, qualifications, and restraints. Freedom of speech, after all, which is a derivation of toleration, does not extend to shouting "Fire!" in the crowded theatre.

Moreover, Furedi should understand that the gross intolerance displayed by some against the Pope is a just-so end-game of making tolerance an absolute. An absolutizing of any ideological principle or belief by man results in tyranny. The fact that absolutised toleration becomes profoundly intolerant, whilst ironic, is deja-vu. But at this point in the discussion, Professor Furedi would be confronted with his Unbelief and rejection of the Triune God. God alone can reveal absolute principles without them becoming tyrannical in the sphere of the creature. But we digress.
Historically, religious intolerance was focused on denouncing deviant theological beliefs – for example the heresy of Pelagianism or Tritheism. Of course we still have this form of traditional intolerance today, but we now also have to contend with its younger cousin: intolerance towards religion. Increasingly, religion is indicted for taking its own doctrines too seriously – that is, for being a religion. Today’s opportunistic atheists even take it upon themselves to get stuck into the theological controversies of religions that they actually despise. So critics who claim to hate the pope go out of their way to reassure ordinary, genuine Catholics that they are only targeting Catholic leaders who force their traditional dogma on the church. Emulating the cavalier manner in which Western politicians explain to their Muslim constituents what true Islam means, anti-papal crusaders tell ordinary Catholics that they are on the same side and should all join in the battle against the forces of evil.

But of course, these secular moralisers are not really interested in the intricacies of theological disputes; they merely want to exploit them. Their mission is to call into question the moral integrity of their opponents, by depicting them as a malevolent force that violates the elementary norms of contemporary society. This is not theological criticism – instead the Catholic Church is denounced for the alleged threat that it poses to morality and health. So celibacy is attacked because it is deemed so unnatural that it makes priests suffer profound psychological distress, leading them to countenance suicide or paedophilia. The pope’s criticism of contraception is denounced because it encourages unprotected sex, leading to the spread of AIDS. In other words, Catholicism represents a health problem; it leads to the moral pollution of the innocent.
This, of course, is a variation of the "religion is evil" meme currently run by "new atheists". As always happens, when evil is absolutized and then tagged to a particular individual or institution (as the very incarnation of evil) the spittle flies. But worse, no invective or--eventually--action is deemed too extreme or inappropriate. First the demonisation; then the progrom.
Intolerance has always been fuelled by an irrational and visceral sense of existential disgust, leading to moral disorientation. In line with this, consider the words of the former agony aunt Claire Rayner, as she attempts to describe her feelings for the pope. ‘In all my years as a campaigner I have never felt such animus against any individual as I do against this creature’, she says, stripping this personification of evil of any human qualities. It is not really surprising that she casually concludes ‘that the only thing to do is to get rid of him’. The phrase ‘get rid of him’ is not a slip of the tongue, either – from the standpoint of a seemingly hi-tech but actually medieval moral crusade against the pope, getting rid of ‘evil’ is its own justification.

It is almost as if the current anti-pope crusade represents an unconscious mimicking of the Catholic Church’s Inquisition. Inquisitors are not interested in rational argument or a free debate. And the vitriolic invective hurled at the ‘second most evil religion’, as Richard Dawkins describes Catholicism, is similar to the passions of the old fanatical Inquisitors. Like the Spanish Inquisition, anti-religious fanatics are constantly on the lookout for secret conspiracies and plots. Johann Hari condemns the pope for orchestrating an ‘international conspiracy of silence’ in relation to clerical child abuse. And apparently that is only ‘one of Ratzinger’s crimes’. He is also responsible for the spread of AIDS in Africa because he says that wearing a condom is a sin.
Furedi goes on to argue that there is a long tradition within Western Europe and within the Roman Catholic church "of fighting against papal authority in the interests of freedom and liberty." He cites the Conciliar Movement as an example. He says, "(T)he conciliar movement’s ‘principle of consent of the governed’ inspired future generations of thinkers to develop and push forward ideas about liberty."

In actual fact, the spittle-flecked declaimers of the Pope, represent the very evils which they claim are intrinsic to Roman Catholicism itself:
It is important to note the fundamental difference between the progressive demand for the institutionalisation of consent and the infantile gestures made by today’s anti-pope crusaders, who are actually demanding conformism. It is perfectly legitimate to criticise church doctrine on a variety of social and moral issues; no institution or individual should claim immunity from questioning and criticism. But adopting the ideology of ‘evil’ to dehumanise an individual and to pathologise his religion represents a form of Inquisition-in-Reverse.
Exactly. But we also note, in concluding, that the extremely perverse reaction provides a perfect underscore to the Pope's identity of a godless militant secularism as the great threat of our day.

Friday, 24 September 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

The Complete Totalitarian Hellhole

Mere Christendom
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, September 21, 2010

As I have argued many times, the danger for Christians on the right is that of nationalistic idolatry. Christians are told to keep themselves from idols because not doing so is a real possibility (1 Jn. 5:21). There are real attractions in Americolatry for many conservative evangelical believers, and for them I would simply repeat the ancient words of the apostle Paul, when he said, "Knock it off."

The problem with Glen Beck's big Mall rally was not that evangelicals were in danger of going over to Beck's Mormonism, but rather that they were all displaying the shared territory of a shared secondary religion, that of Americolatry.

But, having said this, we still have to keep our sense of balance. When Constantine was converted, there were Christians who exhibited more than a little Eusebian exuberance, saying glowing things that ought not to have been said about any mortal man. At the same time, they were saying them in a time when the really serious idolatry had been dealt its death blow. History reveals that they were a bit too giddy, but by and large it was Christians like that who had brought down pagan Rome.

The statists who support Obama, and the statists who are disillusioned with him because he has not pressed for the complete totalitarian hellhole, are serious idolaters. The household gods of the American right that get a pinch of salt every now and again are a real irritation, a real compromise in the church, and every worthy preacher ought to direct sermonic haymakers at such compromises at every appropriate opportunity. Stop it.

At the same time, that worthy preacher must distinguish serious statism from this lump-in-your-throat nationalism. He must distinguish the superstition of the grandmother who leaves out saucers of milk for the kitchen fairies, and the priest with bloody robes who demands your firstborn for Molech. Just as the true faith has its spice-rack tithing and its weightier matters, so also do those who worship idols.

Spurgeon Speaks, Part II

Effective Prayer

Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. —Job 23: 3,4

The second part of prayer is FILLING THE MOUTH WITH ARGUMENTS—

We mean by this, not filling the mouth with words nor good phrases, nor pretty expressions, but filling the mouth with arguments that are the knocks of the rapper by which the gate is opened.

Why are arguments to be used at all? is the first enquiry; the reply being, Certainly not because God is slow to give, not because we can change the divine purpose, not because God needeth to be informed of any circumstance with regard to ourselves or of anything in connection with the mercy asked: the arguments to be used are for our own benefit, not for his.

He requires for us to plead with him, and to bring forth our strong reasons, as Isaiah saith, because this will show that we feel the value of the mercy. When a man searches for arguments for a thing it is because he attaches importance to that which he is seeking. Again, our use of arguments teaches us the ground upon which we obtain the blessing. If a man should come with the argument of his own merit, he would never succeed; the successful argument is always founded upon grace, and hence the soul so pleading is made to understand intensely that it is by grace and by grace alone that a sinner obtaineth anything of the Lord.

Besides, the use of arguments is intended to stir up our fervency. The man who uses one argument with God will get more force in using the next, and will use the next with still greater power, and the next with more force still. The best prayers I have ever heard in our prayer meetings have been those which have been fullest of argument. Sometimes my soul has been fairly melted down when I have listened to brethren who have come before God feeling the mercy to be really needed, and that they must have it, for they first pleaded with God to give it for this reason, and then for a second, and then for a third, and then for a fourth and a fifth, until they have awakened the fervency of the entire assembly.

My brethren, there is no need for prayer at all as far as God is concerned, but what a need there is for it on our own account! If we were not constrained to pray, I question whether we could even live as Christians. If God's mercies came to us unasked, they would not be half so useful as they now are, when they have to be sought for; for now we get a double blessing, a blessing in the obtaining, and a blessing in the seeking.

The very act of prayer is a blessing. To pray is as it were to bathe one's-self in a cool purling stream, and so to escape from the heats of earth's summer sun. To pray is to mount on eagle's wings above the clouds and get into the clear heaven where God dwelleth. To pray is to enter the treasure-house of God and to enrich one's-self out of an inexhaustible storehouse. To pray is to grasp heaven in one's arms, to embrace the Deity within one's soul, and to feel one's body made a temple of the Holy Ghost. Apart from the answer prayer is in itself a benediction. To pray, my brethren, is to cast off your burdens, it is to tear away your rags, it is to shake off your diseases, it is to be filled with spiritual vigour, it is to reach the highest point of Christian health. God give us to be much in the holy art of arguing with God in prayer.

The most interesting part of our subject remains; it is a very rapid summary and catalogue of a few of the arguments which have been used with great success with God. I cannot give you a full list; that would require a treatise such as Master John Owen might produce.

It is well in prayer to plead with Jehovah his attributes. Abraham did so when he laid hold upon God's justice. Sodom was to be pleaded for, and Abraham begins, "Peradventure there be fifty righteous within the city: wilt thou also destroy and not spare the place for the fifty righteous that are therein? that be far from thee to do after this manner, to slay the righteous with the wicked: and that the righteous should be as the wicked, that be far from thee: Shall not the Judge of all the earth do right?" Here the wrestling begins. It was a powerful argument by which the patriarch grasped the Lord's left hand, and arrested it just when the thunderbolt was about to fall. But there came a reply to it. It was intimated to him that this would not spare the city, and you notice how the good man, when sorely pressed, retreated by inches; and at last, when he could no longer lay hold upon justice, grasped God's right hand of mercy, and that gave him a wondrous hold when he asked that if there were but ten righteous there the city might be spared.

So you and I may take hold at any time upon the justice, the mercy, the faithfulness, the wisdom, the long-suffering, the tenderness of God, and we shall find every attribute of the Most High to be, as it were, a great battering-ram, with which we may open the gates of heaven.

Another mighty piece of ordinance in the battle of prayer is God's promise. When Jacob was on the other side of the brook Jabbok, and his brother Esau was coming with armed men, he pleaded with God not to suffer Esau to destroy the mother and the children, and as a master reason he pleaded, "And thou saidst, surely I will do thee good." Oh the force of that plea! He was holding God to his word: "Thou saidst." The attribute is a splendid horn of the altar to lay hold upon; but the promise, which has in it the attribute and something more, is yet a mightier holdfast. "Thou saidst." Remember how David put it. After Nathan had spoken the promise, David said at the close of his prayer, "Do as thou hast said." That is a legitimate argument with every honest man, and has he said, and shall he not do it? "Let God be true, and every man a liar." Shall not he be true? Shall he not keep his word? Shall not every word that cometh out of his lips stand fast and be fulfilled?

Solomon, at the opening of the temple, used this same mighty plea. He pleads with God to remember the word which he had spoken to his father David, and to bless that place. When a man gives a promissory note his honour is engaged. He signs his hand, and he must discharge it when the due time comes, or else he loses credit. It shall never be said that God dishonours his bills. The credit of the Most High never was impeached, and never shall be. He is punctual to the moment; he never is before his time, but he never is behind it.

You shall search this Book through, and you shall compare it with the experience of God's people, and the two tally from the first to the last, and many a hoary patriarch has said with Joshua in his old age, "Not one good thing hath failed of all that the Lord God hath promised: all hath come to pass." My brother, if you have a divine promise, you need not plead it with an "if" in it; you may plead with a certainty. If for the mercy which you are now asking, you have God's solemnly pledged word, there will scarce be any room for the caution about submission to his will. You know his will: that will is in the promise; plead it. Do not give him rest until he fulfil it. He meant to fulfil it, or else he would not have given it. God does not give his words merely to quiet our noise, and to keep us hopeful for awhile, with the intention of putting us off at last; but when he speaks, he speaks because he means to act.

A third argument to be used is that employed by Moses, the great name of God. How mightily did he argue with God on one occasion upon this ground! "What wilt thou do for thy great name? The Egyptians will say, "Because the Lord could not bring them into the land, therefore he slew them in the wilderness." There are some occasions when the name of God is very closely tied up with the history of his people. Sometimes in reliance upon a divine promise, a believer will be led to take a certain course of action. Now, if the Lord should not be as good as his promise, not only is the believer deceived, but the wicked world looking on would say, "Aha! aha! Where is your God?"

Take the case of our respected brother, Mr. Mueller, of Bristol. These many years he has declared that God hears prayer, and firm in that conviction, he has gone on to build house after house for the maintenance of orphans. Now, I can very well conceive that, if he were driven to a point of want of means for the maintenance of those thousand or two thousand children, he might very well use the plea, "What wilt thou do for thy great name?" And you, in some severe trouble, when you have fairly received the promise, may say, "Lord, thou hast said, 'In six troubles I will be with thee, and in seven I will not forsake thee.' I have told my friends and neighbours that I put my trust in thee, and if thou do not deliver me now, where is thy name? Arise, O God, and do this thing, lest thy honour be cast into the dust."

Coupled with this, we may employ the further argument of the hard things said by the revilers. It was well done of Hezekiah, when he took Rabshakeh's letter and spread it before the Lord. Will that help him? It is full of blasphemy, will that help him? "Where are the gods of Arphad and Sepharvaim? Where are the gods of the cities which I have overthrown? Let not Hezekiah deceive you, saying that Jehovah will deliver you." Does that have any effect? Oh! yes, it was a blessed thing that Rabshakeh wrote that letter, for it provoked the Lord to help his people.

Sometimes the child of God can rejoice when he sees his enemies get thoroughly out of temper and take to reviling. "Now," he says, "they have reviled the Lord himself; not me alone have they assailed, but the Most High himself. Now it is no longer the poor insignificant Hezekiah with his little band of soldiers, but it is Jehovah, the King of angels, who has come to fight against Rabshakeh. Now what wilt thou do, O boastful soldier of proud Sennacherib? Shalt not thou be utterly destroyed, since Jehovah himself has come into the fray?" . . . .

So also may we plead the sorrows of his people. This is frequently done. Jeremiah is the great master of this art. He says, "Her Nazarites were purer than snow, they were whiter than milk, they were more ruddy in body than rubies, their polishing was of sapphire: their visage is blacker than a coal." "The precious sons of Zion, comparable to fine gold, how are they esteemed as earthen pitchers, the work of the hands of the potter!" He talks of all their griefs and straitnesses in the siege. He calls upon the Lord to look upon his suffering Zion; and ere long his plaintive cries are heard. Nothing so eloquent with the father as his child's cry; yes, there is one thing more mighty still, and that is a moan,—when the child is so sick that it is past crying, and lies moaning with that kind of moan which indicates extreme suffering and intense weakness. Who can resist that moan? Ah! and when God's Israel shall be brought very low so that they can scarcely cry but only their moans are heard, then comes the Lord's time of deliverance, and he is sure to show that he loveth his people. Dear friends, whenever you also are brought into the same condition you may plead your moanings, and when you see a church brought very low you may use her griefs as an argument why God should return and save the remnant of his people.

Brethren, it is good to plead with God the past. Ah, you experienced people of God, you know how to do this. Here is David's specimen of it: "Thou hast been my help. Leave me not, neither forsake me." He pleads God's mercy to him from his youth up. He speaks of being cast upon his God from his very birth, and then he pleads, "Now also, when I am old and greyheaded, O God, forsake me not." Moses also, speaking with God, says, "Thou didst bring this people up out of Egypt." As if he would say, "Do not leave thy work unfinished; thou hast begun to build, complete it. Thou hast fought the first battle; Lord, end the campaign! Go on till thou gettest a complete victory."

How often have we cried in our trouble, "Lord, thou didst deliver me in such and such a sharp trial, when it seemed as if no help were near; thou hast never forsaken me yet. I have set up my Ebenezer in thy name. If thou hadst intended to leave me why hast thou showed me such things? Hast thou brought thy servant to this place to put him to shame?" Brethren, we have to deal with an unchanging God, who will do in the future what he has done in the past, because he never turns from his purpose, and cannot be thwarted in his design; the past thus becomes a very mighty means of winning blessings from him.

We may even use our own unworthiness as an argument with God. "Out of the eater comes forth meat, and out of the strong comes forth sweetness." David in one place pleads thus: "Lord, have mercy upon mine iniquity, for it is great." That is a very singular mode of reasoning; but being interpreted it means, "Lord, why shouldest thou go about doing little things? Thou art a great God, and here is a great sinner. Here is a fitness in me for the display of thy grace. The greatness of my sin makes me a platform for the greatness of thy mercy. Let the greatness of thy love be seen in me."

Moses seems to have the same on his mind when he asks God to show his great power in sparing his sinful people. The power with which God restrains himself is great indeed. O brothers and sisters, there is such a thing as creeping down at the foot of the throne, crouching low and crying, "O God, break me not—I am a bruised reed. Oh! tread not on my little life, it is now but as the smoking flax. Wilt thou hunt me? Wilt thou come out, as David said, 'after a dead dog, after a flea?' Wilt thou pursue me as a leaf that is blown in the tempest? Wilt thou watch me, as Job saith, 'as though I were a vast sea, or a great whale?' Nay, but because I am so little, and because the greatness of thy mercy can be shown in one so insignificant and yet so vile, therefore, O God, have mercy upon me."

There was once an occasion when the very Godhead of Jehovah made a triumphant plea for the prophet Elijah. On that august occasion, when he had bidden his adversaries see whether their god could answer them by fire, you can little guess the excitement there must have been that day in the prophet's mind. With what stern sarcasm did he say, "Cry aloud: for he is a god; either he is talking, or he is pursuing, or he is in a journey, or peradventure he sleepeth, and must be awakened." And as they cut themselves with knives, and leaped upon the altar, oh the scorn with which that man of God must have looked down upon their impotent exertions, and their earnest but useless cries!

But think of how his heart must have palpitated, if it had not been for the strength of his faith, when he repaired the altar of God that was broken down, and laid the wood in order, and killed the bullock. Hear him cry, "Pour water on it. You shall not suspect me of concealing fire; pour water on the victim." When they had done so, he bids them, "Do it a second time"; and they did it a second time; and then he says, "Do it a third time." And when it was all covered with water, soaked and saturated through, then he stands up and cries to God, "O God, let it be known that thou only art God."

Here everything was put to the test. Jehovah's own existence was now put, as it were, at stake, before the eyes of men by this bold prophet. But how well the prophet was heard! Down came the fire and devoured not only the sacrifice, but even the wood, and the stones, and even the very water that was in the trenches, for Jehovah God had answered his servant's prayer. We sometimes may do the same, and say unto him, "Oh, by thy Deity, by thine existence, if indeed thou be God, now show thyself for the help of thy people!"

Lastly, the grand Christian argument is the sufferings, the death, the merit, the intercession of Christ Jesus. Brethren, I am afraid we do not understand what it is that we have at our command when we are allowed to plead with God for Christ's sake. I met with this thought the other day: it was somewhat new to me, but I believe it ought not to have been. When we ask God to hear us, pleading Christ's name, we usually mean, "O Lord, thy dear Son deserves this of thee; do this unto me because of what he merits."

But if we knew it we might go in the city, "Sir, call at my office, and use my name, and say that they are to give you such a thing." I should go in and use your name, and I should obtain my request as a matter of right and a matter of necessity. This is virtually what Jesus Christ says to us. "If you need anything of God, all that the Father has belongs to me; go and use my name." Suppose you should give a man your cheque-book signed with your own name and left blank, to be filled up as he chose; that would be very nearly what Jesus has done in these words, "If ye ask anything in my name, I will give it you."

If I had a good name at the bottom of the cheque, I should be sure that I should get it cashed when I went to the banker with it; so when you have got Christ's name, to whom the very justice of God hath become a debtor, and whose merits have claims with the Most High, when you have Christ's name there is no need to speak with fear and trembling and bated breath. Oh, waver not and let not faith stagger! When thou pleadest the name of Christ thou pleadest that which shakes the gates of hell, and which the hosts of heaven obey, and God himself feels the sacred power of that divine plea.

Brethren, you would do better if you sometimes thought more in your prayers of Christ's griefs and groans. Bring before the Lord his wounds, tell the Lord of his cries, make the groans of Jesus cry again from Gethsemane, and his blood speak again from that frozen Calvary.

Speak out and tell the Lord that with such griefs, and cries, and groans to plead, thou canst not take a denial: such arguments as these will speed you.

(Originally titled "Order & Argument in Prayer", Taken from Metropolitan Tabernacle Pulpit, Vol. 12, No. 700 " Charles Haddon (C.H.) Spurgeon (June 19, 1834 – January 31, 1892) was a British Particular Baptist preacher who remains highly influential among Christians of different denominations, among whom he is still known as the "Prince of Preachers". . . . (H)e was a strong figure in the Reformed Baptist tradition, defending the Church in agreement with the 1689 London Baptist Confession of Faith understanding, against liberalism and pragmatic theological tendencies even in his day." [Wikipedia])

Thursday, 23 September 2010

All That Incest

Feminist Mass Hysteria

In what we believe to be one of the most disturbing books written in New Zealand in the past fifty years, Lynley Hood in her A City Possessed, begins with an overview of the historical phenomenon of mass hysteria. The Salem Witch Trials are an example. The Christchurch Creche Case is another--and there are many, many more recorded historical instances.

Many of the child-abuse cases of the eighties and nineties were based upon "recovered memory". Most of the abuse cases depended either upon female or young-child testimony. Salon Magazine recently carried an interview with an evidently still disturbed woman who once claimed that she was abused by her father, but has now acknowledged that she lied. The piece is entitled, "My Lie: Why I falsely accused my father". It is an important read.
More than 20 years ago, Meredith Maran falsely accused her father of molestation. That she came to believe such a thing was possible reveals what can happen when personal turmoil meets a powerful social movement. In her book "My Lie: A True Story of False Memory" (the introduction of which is excerpted on Salon), Maran recounts the 1980s feminist-inspired campaign to expose molestation, which hit feverish levels in 1988 with the book 'The Courage to Heal." As an early reporter on the story, Maran observed family therapy sessions, interviewed molesters and steeped herself in cases where abuse clearly took place. Meanwhile, she divorced her husband and fell in love with a woman who was also an incest survivor. Maran began having nightmares about her own molestation and soon what had been a contentious relationship with her father turned into accusations of unspeakable crimes. Eventually, she came to realize the truth. She was the person who had done wrong.
Her case is a tragedy--one of many. It is a scintillating case study of how suggestion and a pervasive culture-of-belief can produce psychological "evidences" and "symptoms" in the lives of those controlled by emotions and passions, unchecked with sceptical, intellectual rigour.
For a reader new to your story, and perhaps even the recovered memory craze of the 1980s, can you explain briefly what happened to you?
During the 1980s and 1990s, tens of thousands of Americans -- most of them middle-class, 30-something women in big cities, like me -- became convinced that they'd repressed memories of childhood sexual abuse, and then, decades later, recovered those memories in therapy.

In the years leading up to that mass panic, I was working as a feminist journalist, writing exposés of child sexual abuse, trying to convince the world that incest was more than a one-in-a-million occurrence. In the process, I convinced myself that my father had molested me. After five years of incest nightmares and incest workshops and incest therapy, I accused my father, estranging myself and my sons from him for the next eight years.

In the early 1990s the culture flipped, and so did I. Across the country, falsely accused fathers were suing their daughters' incest therapists. Falsely accused molesters were being freed from jail -- and I realized that my accusation was false. I was one of the lucky ones. My father was still alive, and he forgave me. . . .

It's a little embarrassing for a person who's always been thought of as a critical thinker. There's a lot about writing this book and putting it out there that's embarrassing. It's not exactly the most flattering portrait. I think if it were a novel my editor would have rejected it, because the protagonist wasn't sympathetic enough. It really shocked me, I must say, to see how much influence the external had on the internal. That the most intimate emotions and relationships can be so affected by the dominant paradigm.
Precisely. Meredith Maran is still emotionally disturbed--at least by our count. Observe her description of her hearing her father's voice on the phone after many years:
There were no legal implications in your case, and you never directly confronted your father. Would it have sped the process toward realizing the truth had you talked to him directly?

I was pretty terrified by my father. People ask, "What did your father say when you confronted him?" Well, I never confronted him. I withdrew from him, and I spent years sort of patching together this story and lining up the evidence.

Including a regular set of dreams that pointed to being molested. I wonder if you ascribe any meaning to those dreams now?

I felt a little stupid when I started interviewing the neuroscientists about how I could be dreaming something if it never happened. One of the doctors basically said, duh, a dream is a dream. It's not reality. It's not like something had to happen in actuality for you to dream about it, as those of us who like to dream about flying during dry sexual periods have experienced. But when I dreamed over and over about my father's hands, and all around me people were losing their heads and blaming it on incest, I said, oh, see, I'm dreaming about my father's hands. Obviously he molested me. It was just a few links that were a little extreme.

On the other end of the story, was there a moment when you could say, I have decided it did not happen?

That too went on for years, just like the process of deciding that he had. But when I stopped believing, it was a little more dramatic, during the breakup with my incest survivor lover. Over time, I had been less and less able to believe her stories, which progressed from incest with a slightly older relative to satanic ritual abuse, to the extent where I thought she was becoming defined as an incest survivor. I knew I couldn't say I don't believe her without examining my own beliefs just because her story is crazier. To my family, my story is pretty crazy too. When she left me, that was the break I needed to realize it was not true.

There is this amazing scene in the book when your father calls after you've sent him a birthday card for the first time in years and you recall that you sort of floated to the ceiling and could look down at yourself. And you hear your therapist say floating to the ceiling is what little girls do when they're molested. Can you tell me a little bit more about what happened to you that day?

That was a really good example of mind control, of brainwashing, that I had been so steeped in the symptomatology of incest survivors. How do you know it's true and what happens to little girls when they've been molested? All that stuff had gone into my head. That is a symptom of mass hysteria. I was actually transposing what I had heard from these little girls into my own psyche. When I heard my father's voice, I just went there.

Because the writing is so direct in that passage, I have to ask, what really happened?

Well, you know that feeling when you hear a voice you didn't expect to hear, that means a lot to you, and you feel weak-kneed? It was more like that. It was such an intense experience coming over my body.

Sadly, also, she is still trying to justify the "movement". It did good she claims. Think of how sensitive society now is to the abuse of children. The interview finishes with a chilling recitation of how deeply she remains enthralled to utilitarian ethics: incarcerating innocent victims is justified because a greater social good resulted.
In the middle of the book, while you are still deeply in the mind-set of being molested, there's a notion you agree with that if one innocent man goes to prison, but it stops a hundred molesters, it's worth it. Do you still agree with that notion?

I'm fairly close to a man still in prison, and really believe he is innocent. I know how he's suffered. I know he's 80 years old and in ill health. He's spent 20 years in prison, for no reason. If every elementary school child is now taught how to protect themselves from sexual abuse -- and even more to the point, some father or preschool teacher who feels the urge to molest a child will be inhibited from doing so because they think there are guys still in jail for doing that -- but innocent people are in prison, do I have to make that choice? It is a Sophie's choice kind of thing. Would I allow an innocent man to sit in prison if it meant keeping children safe?

So would you make that choice?

I think so.>

Such a sad child of our wretched times!

Spurgeon Speaks, Part I

Effective Prayer

Oh that I knew where I might find him! that I might come even to his seat! I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments. —Job 23: 3,4

It appears that Job's end, in desiring the presence of God, was that he might pray to him. He had prayed, but he wanted to pray as in God's presence. He desired to plead as before one whom he knew would hear and help him. He longed to state his own case before the seat of the impartial judge, before the very face of the all-wise God; he would appeal from the lower courts, where his friends judged unrighteous judgment, to the Court of King's Bench—the High Court of heaven—here, saith he, "I would order my cause before him, and fill my mouth with arguments."

In this latter verse Job teaches us how he meant to plead and intercede with God. He does, as it were, reveal the secrets of his closet, and unveils the art of prayer. We are here admitted into the guild of supplants; we are shown the art and mystery of pleading; we have here taught to us the blessed handicraft and science of prayer, and if we can be bound apprentice to Job this morning, for the next hour, and can have a lesson from Job's Master, we may acquire no little skill in interceding with God. There are two things here set forth as necessary in prayer—ordering of our cause, and filling our mouth with arguments. We shall speak of those two things, and then if we have rightly learned the lesson, a blessed result will follow.


There is a vulgar notion that prayer is a very easy thing, a kind of common business that may be done anyhow, without care or effort. Some think that you have only to reach a book down and get through a certain number of very excellent words, and you have prayed and may put the book up again; others suppose that to use a book is superstitious, and that you ought rather to repeat extemporaneous sentences, sentences which come to your mind with a rush, like a herd of swine or a pack of hounds, and that when you have uttered them with some little attention to what you have said, you have prayed.

Now neither of these modes of prayer were adopted by ancient saints. They appear to have thought a great deal more seriously of prayer than many do now-a-days. It seems to have been a mighty business with them, a long-practised exercise, in which some of them attained great eminence, and were thereby singularly blest. They reaped great harvests in the field of prayer, and found the mercy seat to be a mine of untold treasures.

The ancient saints were wont, with Job, to order their cause before God; that is to say, as a petitioner coming into Court does not come there without thought to state his case on the spur of the moment, but enters into the audience chamber with his suit well prepared, having moreover learned how he ought to behave himself in the presence of the great One to whom he is appealing. It is well to approach the seat of the King of kings as much as possible with pre-meditation and preparation, knowing what we are about, where we are standing, and what it is which we desire to obtain.

In times of peril and distress we may fly to God just as we are, as the dove enters the cleft of the rock, even though her plumes are ruffled; but in ordinary times we should not come with an unprepared spirit, even as a child comes not to his father in the morning till he has washed his face.

See yonder priest; he has a sacrifice to offer, but he does not rush into the court of the priests and hack at the bullock with the first pole-axe upon which he can lay his hand, but when he rises he washes his feet at the brazen laver, he puts on his garments, and adorns himself with his priestly vestments; then he comes to the altar with his victim properly divided according to the law, and is careful to do according to the command, even to such a simple matter as the placing of the fat, and the liver, and the kidneys, and he taketh the blood in a bowl and poureth it in an appropriate place at the foot of the altar, not throwing it just as may occur to him, and kindles the fire not with common flame, but with the sacred fire from off the altar.

Now this ritual is all superseded, but the truth which it taught remains the same; our spiritual sacrifices should be offered with holy carefulness. God forbid that our prayer should be a mere leaping out of one's bed and kneeling down, and saying anything that comes first to hand; on the contrary, may we wait upon the Lord with holy fear and sacred awe. See how David prayed when God had blessed him—he went in before the Lord. Understand that; he did not stand outside at a distance, but he went in before the Lord and he sat down—for sitting is not a bad posture for prayer, let who will speak against it—and sitting down quietly and calmly before the Lord he then began to pray, but not until first he had thought over the divine goodness, and so attained to the spirit of prayer. Then by the assistance of the Holy Ghost did he open his mouth. Oh that we oftener sought the Lord in this style!

Abraham may serve us as a pattern; he rose up early—here was his willingness; he went three days journey—here was his zeal; he left his servants at the foot of the hill—here was his privacy; he carried the wood and the fire with him—here was his preparation; and lastly, he built the altar and laid the wood in order, and then took the knife—here was the devout carefulness of his worship. David puts it, "In the morning will I direct my prayer unto thee, and will look up"; which I have frequently explained to you to mean that he marshalled his thoughts like men of war, or that he aimed his prayers like arrows.

He did not take the arrow and put it on the bowstring and shoot, and shoot, and shoot anywhere; but after he had taken out the chosen shaft, and fitted it to the string, he took deliberate aim. He looked—looked well—at the white of the target; kept his eye fixed on it, directing his prayer, and then drew his bow with all his strength and let the arrow fly; and then, when the shaft had left his hand, what does he say? "I will look up." He looked up to see where the arrow went, to see what effect it had; for he expected an answer to his prayers, and was not as many who scarcely think of their prayers after they have uttered them. David knew that he had an engagement before him which required all his mental powers; he marshalled up his faculties and went about the work in a workmanlike manner, as one who believed in it and meant to succeed. We should plough carefully and pray carefully. The better the work the more attention it deserves.

To be anxious in the shop and thoughtless in the closet is little less than blasphemy, for it is an insinuation that anything will do for God, but the world must have our best.

If any ask what order should be observed in prayer, I am not about to give you a scheme such as many have drawn out, in which adoration, confession, petition, intercession, and ascription are arranged in succession. I am not persuaded that any such order is of divine authority. It is to no mere mechanical order I have been referring, for our prayers will be equally acceptable, and possibly equally proper, in any form; for there are specimens of prayers, in all shapes, in the Old and New Testament.

The true spiritual order of prayer seems to me to consist in something more than mere arrangement. It is most fitting for us first to feel that we are now doing something that is real; that we are about to address ourselves to God, whom we cannot see, but who is really present; whom we can neither touch nor hear, nor by our senses can apprehend, but who, nevertheless, is as truly with us as though we were speaking to a friend of flesh and blood like ourselves. Feeling the reality of God's presence, our mind will be led by divine grace into an humble state; we shall feel like Abraham, when he said, "I have taken upon myself to speak unto God, I that am but dust and ashes."

Consequently we shall not deliver ourselves of our prayer as boys repeating their lessons, as a mere matter of rote, much less shall we speak as if we were rabbis instructing our pupils, or as I have heard some do, with the coarseness of a highway-man stopping a person on the road and demanding his purse of him; but we shall be humble yet bold petitioners, humbly importuning mercy through the Saviour's blood.

We shall not have the reserve of a slave but the loving reverence of a child, yet not an impudent, impertinent child, but a teachable obedient child, honouring his Father, and therefore asking earnestly, but with deferential submission to his Father's will. When I feel that I am in the presence of God, and take my rightful position in that presence, the next thing I shall want to recognize will be that I have no right to what I am seeking, and cannot expect to obtain it except as a gift of grace, and I must recollect that God limits the channel through which he will give me merry—he will give it to me through his dear Son. Let me put myself then under the patronage of the great Redeemer. Let me feel that now it is no longer I that speak but Christ that speaketh with me, and that while I plead, I plead his wounds, his life, his death, his blood, himself. This is truly getting into order.

The next thing is to consider what I am to ask for? It is most proper in prayer, to aim at great distinctness of supplication. There is much reason to complain of some public prayers, that those who offer them do not really ask God for anything. I must acknowledge I fear to having so prayed myself, and certainly to having heard many prayers of the kind in which I did not feel that anything was sought for from God—a great deal of very excellent doctrinal and experimental matter uttered, but little real petitioning, and that little in a nebulous kind of state, chaotic and unformed.

But it seems to me that prayer should be distinct, the asking for something definitely and distinctly because the mind has realized its distinct need of such a thing, and therefore must plead for it. It is well not to beat round the bush in prayer, but to come directly to the point. I like that prayer of Abraham's, "Oh that Ishmael might live before thee!" There is the name and the person prayed for, and the blessing desired, all put in a few words,—"Ishmael might live before thee!" Many persons would have used a roundabout expression of this kind, "Oh that our beloved offspring might be regarded with the favour which thou bearest to those who," etc. Say "Ishmael," if you mean "Ishmael"; put it in plain words before the Lord.

Some people cannot even pray for the minister without using such circular descriptives that you might think it were the parish beadle, or somebody whom it did not do to mention to particularly. Why not be distinct, and say what we mean as well as mean what we say? Ordering our cause would bring us to greater distinctness of mind. It is not necessary, my dear brethren, in the closet to ask for every supposable good thing, it is not necessary to rehearse the catalogue of every want that you may have had, can have, or shall have. Ask for what you now need, and, as a rule, keep to present need; ask for your daily bread—what you want now—ask for that. Ask for it plainly, as before God, who does not regard your fine expressions, and to whom your eloquence and oratory will be less than nothing and vanity Thou art before the Lord; let thy words be few, but let thy heart be fervent.

You have not quite completed the ordering when you have asked for what you want through Jesus Christ. There should be a looking round the blessing in which you desire, to see whether it is assuredly a fitting thing to ask; for some prayers would never be offered if men did but think. A little reflection would show to us that some things which we desire were better let alone. We may, moreover, have a motive at the bottom of our desire which is not Christ-like, a selfish motive, which forgets God's glory and caters only for our own case and comfort.

Now although we may ask for things which are for our profit, yet still we must never let our profit interfere in any way with the glory of God. There must be mingled with acceptable prayer the holy salt of submission to the divine will. I like Luther's saying, "Lord, I will have my will of thee at this time." "What!" say you, "Like such an expression as that?" I do, because of the next clause, which was, "I will have my will, for I know that my will is thy will." That is well spoken, Luther; but without the last words it would have been wicked presumption. When we are sure that what we ask for is for God's glory, then, if we have power in prayer, we may say, "I will not let thee go except thou bless me": we may come to close dealings with God, and like Jacob with the angel we may even put it to the wrestle and seek to give the angel the fall sooner than be sent away without the benediction. But we must be quite clear, before we come to such terms as those, that what we are seeking is really for the Master's honour.

Put these three things together, the deep spirituality which recognises prayer as being real conversation with the invisible God—much distinctness which is the reality of prayer, asking for what we know we want—and withal much fervency, believing the thing to be necessary, and therefore resolving to obtain it if it can be had by prayer, and above all these complete submission, leaving it still with the Master's will;—commingle all these, and you have a clear idea of what it is to order your cause before the Lord.

Still prayer itself is an art which only the Holy Ghost can teach us. He is the giver of all prayer. Pray for prayer—pray till you can pray; pray to be helped to pray, and give not up praying because thou canst not pray, for it is when thou thinkest thou canst not pray that thou art most praying; and sometimes when thou hast no sort of comfort in thy supplications, it is then that thy heart all broken and cast down is really wrestling and truly prevailing with the Most High.