Saturday, 30 October 2010

That Castle Church Door

Reformation Day

Luther’s 95 Theses: An Interview with Carl Trueman

Justin Taylor

This Sunday is Halloween. But more importantly, it’s Reformation Day—when the church celebrates and commemorates October 31, 1517. It was on this day (a Saturday) that a 33-year-old theology professor at Wittenberg University walked over to the Castle Church in Wittenberg and nailed a paper of 95 theses to the door, hoping to spark an academic discussion about their contents. In God’s providence and unbeknownst to anyone else that day, it would become a key event in igniting the Reformation.

I thought it might be helpful to ask a few questions of Carl Trueman, Professor of Historical Theology and Church History, and Academic Dean, at Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia. Dr. Trueman wrote his dissertation on Luther’s Legacy, teaches on Luther’s life and theology, and is writing the volume on Luther for the Theologians on the Christian Life series, forthcoming from Crossway, edited by Steve Nichols and me.

Had Luther ever done this before—nail a set of theses to the Wittenberg door? If so, did previous attempts have any impact?

I am not sure if he had ever nailed up theses before, but he had certainly proposed sets of such for academic debate, which was all he was really doing on October 31, 1517. In fact, in September of that same year, he had led a debate on scholastic theology where he said far more radical things than were in the Ninety-Five Theses. Ironically, this earlier debate, now often considered the first major public adumbration of his later theology, caused no real stir in the church at all.

What was the point of nailing something to the Wittenberg door? Was this a common practice?

It was simply a convenient public place to advertise a debate, and not an unusual or uncommon practice. In itself, it was no more radical than putting up an announcement on a public notice board.

What precisely is a “thesis” in this context?

A thesis is simply a statement being brought forward for debate.

What was an “indulgence”?

An indulgence was a piece of paper, a certificate, which guaranteed the purchaser (or the person for whom the indulgence was purchased) that a certain amount of time in purgatory would be remitted as a result of the financial transaction.

At this point did Luther have a problem with indulgences per se, or was he merely critiquing the abuse of indulgences?

This is actually quite a complicated question to answer.

First, Luther was definitely critiquing what he believes to be an abuse of indulgences. For him, an indulgence could have a positive function; the problem with those being sold by Johann Tetzel in 1517 is that remission of sin’s penalty has been radically separated from the actual repentance and humility of the individual receiving the same.

Second, it would appear that the Church herself was not clear on where the boundaries were relative to indulgences, and so Luther’s protest actually provoked the Church into having to reflect upon her practices, to establish what was and was not legitimate practice.

Was Luther trying to start a major debate by nailing these to the door?

The matter was certainly one of pressing pastoral concern for him. Tetzel was not actually allowed to sell his indulgences in Electoral Saxony (the territory where Wittenberg was located) because Frederick the Wise, Luther’s later protector, had his own trade in relics. Many of his parishioners, however, were crossing over into the neighboring territory of Ducal Saxony, where Tetzel was plying his trade.

Luther had been concerned about the matter of indulgences for some time. Thus, earlier in 1517, he had preached on the matter and consulted others for their opinions on the issue. By October, he was forced by the pastoral situation to act.

Having said all that, Luther was certainly not intending to split the church at this point or precipitate the Holy Roman Empire and the Papacy into conflict and crisis. He was simply trying to address a deep pastoral concern.

Was Luther a “Protestant” at this point? Was he a “Lutheran”?

No, on both counts. He himself tells us in 1545 that, in 1517, he was a committed Catholic who would have murdered—or at least been willing to see murder committed—in the name of the Pope. There is some typical Luther hyperbole there, but the theology of the Ninety-Five Theses is not particularly radical, and key Lutheran doctrines, such as justification by grace through faith alone, are not yet present. He was an angry Catholic, hoping that, when the Pope heard about Teztel, he would intervene to stop the abuse.

How did that act of nailing these theses to the door ignite the Reformation?

On one level, I am inclined to say “Goodness only knows.” As a pamphlet of popular revolution, it is, with the exception of the occasional rhetorical flourish, a remarkably dull piece of work which requires a reasonably sound knowledge of late medieval Catholic theology and practice even to understand many of its statements. Nevertheless, it seems to have struck a popular chord, being rapidly translated into German and becoming a bestseller within weeks. The easy answer is, therefore, “By the providence of God”; but, as a historian, I always like to try to tie things down to some set of secondary or more material causes.

Certainly, it was used in a way that appealed to popular anti-clericalism, resentment of the Roman curia, and a desire to stop money flowing out of German speaking territories to Rome. Yet, even so, the revolutionary power of such a technical composition is, in retrospect, still quite surprising.

For those today who want to read the 95 Theses, what would you recommend?

The place to start is probably Stephen Nichols’s edition (with an introduction and notes).

Nevertheless, if you really want to understand Luther’s theology, and why it is important, you will need to look beyond the Ninety-Five Theses. Probably the best place to start would be Robert Kolb and Charles P. Arand, The Genius of Luther’s Theology.

For younger readers, we recommend Paul Maier’s excellent book, Martin Luther: A Man Who Changed the World.

Separation of Church and State

Anti-Establishmentarianism and the Klan

We in the British constitutional tradition are used to having an established church. The head of State in the United Kingdom is also the head of the Church of England. However, with the decline in power of the British monarch and the assertion of Parliamentary sovereignty, it has meant little. The headship may be dual, but the head has shrunken inexorably. Moreover, the fortunes of state established churches are not good. Historically, when government establishes a church it is usually a kiss of death. So, the Church of England has withered on the vine.

But in the United Kingdom it is very clear that what exists is the establishment of a particular national church--just one ecclesiastical denomination amongst many. In the United States, the issue has been subject to a breathtaking historical revisionist by the secularists. The secularists claim that the US Constitution forbids any religious establishment in the public sphere: not just of a particular church, but of religion in general. Thus, under secular revisionism, the State must either bestow equal favours upon all religions or none at all. Hence the attacks upon the public celebration of Christian festivals such as Christmas.

A more intelligent and less ideological reading the US Constitution establishes in rapid order that the US Constitution forbids any establishment of a church (not a religion) by the Federal Government. At the time of the signing of the US Constitution most states actually had some form of religious establishment--proving that the Constitution's prescriptions had to do with limiting the Federal Government's power to establish a national church, thereby preventing its overriding the authority of States in the matter.
The American colonies-turned-states viewed religious freedom differently. They offered different answers to questions of establishment of religion, non-preferential support of religions, punishment of blasphemy, Sabbath observance, and other religious matters. . . . Both traditionalists and voluntarists agreed that a religious foundation was critical to the health of the social order.
Hunter Baker, The End of Secularism, p. 82

Aaron Worthing recently republished some additional historical clarifications on the matter of the so-called separation of "church and state".
6. The phrase “Separation of Church and State,” as Philip Hamburger establishes in his classic book on the subject, is not in the language of the first amendment, was not favored by any influential framer at the time of the first amendment, and was not its purpose.

7. The first mainstream figures to favor separation after the first amendment was adopted were Jefferson supporters in the 1800 election, who were trying to silence Northern clergy critical of the immoral Jeffersonian slaveholders in the South.

8. After the Civil War, liberal Republicans proposed a constitutional amendment to add separation of church and state to the US Constitution by amendment, since it was not already there. After that effort failed, influential people began arguing that it was (magically) in the first amendment.

9. In the last part of the 19th century and the first half of the 20th century, nativists (including the KKK) popularized separation as an American constitutional principle, eventually leading to a near consensus supporting some form of separation.

10. Separation was a crucial part of the KKK’s jurisprudential agenda. It was included in the Klansman’s Creed (or was it the Klansman’s Kreed?). Before he joined the Court, Justice Black was head of new members for the largest Klan cell in the South. New members of the KKK had to pledge their allegiance to the “eternal separation of Church and State.” In 1947, Black was the author of Everson, the first Supreme Court case to hold that the first amendment’s establishment clause requires separation of church & state. The suit in Everson was brought by an organization that at various times had ties to the KKK.

11. Until this term, the justices were moving away from the separation metaphor, often failing to mention it except in the titles of cited law review articles, but in the last term of the Court they fell back to using it again

So as Lindgren says more recently, in a tongue-in-cheek fashion, “the KKK got its way.”

[Posted and authored by Aaron Worthing.]

Friday, 29 October 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Timeshare Servants
The Good of Affluence

Written by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, October 27, 2010

As Rodney Stark has shown, one of the great contributions of the first Christendom was the development of free markets. And I would want to maintain that one of the great results of the next Christendom will be the restoration and preservation of them. Free markets are the economic expression of the apostolic teaching that we are to serve one another in love.

Wealth is the ability to summon the labor of another, and to enjoy the fruit of that labor. Back in the olden time, the opulent could do this by owning a bunch of slaves, or servants with no options, which meant that one man's wealth meant another man's lack of it. In such settings, wealth and poverty really were a zero sum game -- if one person got a larger piece of pie, then somebody else got a smaller piece.

But in a system of free markets, God has given us the gift of being timeshare servants, and the privilege of being timeshare bosses. A young woman can save up her tips waiting tables, and go out with her friends to another restaurant and be waited on. We can do this because of division of labor. One guy makes roast beef sandwiches for 8 hours a day, and I can rent his service for 45 seconds of that time. Again, back in another time, getting a roast beef sandwich would have taken half the day. "In 1900, the average American spent $76 of every $100 on food, clothing and shelter. Today he spends $37" (The Rational Optimist, p. 34).

Many whiners spend a lot of time complaining about this state of affairs for some reason, and unfortunately many Christians have accepted the idea that we should express our ingratitude with a similar attitude, but in the name of Jesus. They like to use the words sustainable and Jesus in the same sentences. But Jesus Himself pointed out how easy it was for us to miss the need to give thanks (Luke 17:17-18). All political and economic wisdom must begin with true gratitude.

Noisome Rot in the State of Denmark

It's OK. We're the Good Guys

We have long noticed that the political left wing seems prone to corruption--by which we mean the abuse of office and power to further their own ends. Now, don't get us wrong here. We do not mean to imply that the right are, therefore, more holy or ethical. Power does tend to corrupt, after all. Every long-tenured official or politician is tempted to believe in their own entitlement to rule. Most political corruption sprouts in precisely that kind of manure.

But the left seems particularly prone to it. We believe this is due to certain principles deeply embedded in left-wing ideology. Firstly, there is the axiom that lack of  material wealth (aka money) is the root of all social sins, and, indeed all human action. Lack of money results in social problems (crime, poverty, ignorance, for example), whilst plenty of money solves all social problems. Consequently, for the Left it is always about money and access to it.

Consequently, when left-wing political causes and parties are failing at the polls, the culprit immediately identified at hand is a lack of money.
"If we had more donors, or our party were better capitalised, we would have been able to spend more on our campaigns. Ergo, good things would have resulted--namely, folk would have voted for us." When right of centre political parties do well, the Left explains to themselves by arguing that the Right is favoured by "Big Money"; therefore, they paid for their polling success. They bought their way into office.

Thus, the Left always assumes that political power grows out of the trunk of a money tree. If they are to gain political power, they must buy it; if they are to maintain power, they must use their power to ensure that they have more money than their opponents to spend. In the Leftist world-view, then, money is the key to acquiring and maintaining power.

Secondly, the Left believes that the Right's use of money is evil, whereas the Left's is righteous. The Right conspires with Big Business and Big Money to favour the captains of industry and the wealthy, so that the wealthy get more wealthy, whereas the Left believe they look after the little guy. Thus, the Left believes that although it uses money to acquire and maintain power, it uses it righteously because it, in turn, disseminates money and wealth to the underclasses. The Right wing then is always corrupted by Big Money, whereas the Left see themselves as being uncorrupted and pure when it comes to filthy lucre.

These two principles combine together to make the Left susceptible to persistent and abidingly corrupt practices. They are far more likely to engage in corrupt electoral processes, illegal voting rorts, stacking the ballot boxes, intimidating behaviour at polling booths, vote buying and so forth because the righteous end of taking care of the "little guy" justifies cutting corners on electoral law. Moreover, the Left tends to add another justification to this kind of corrupt practice: we need to do these things because the deck is so stacked against the Left. The Right has all the money, so we need to "level up" the electoral playing field with sharp practice.

Once in power, the Left will have no compunction in aligning Big Business with its own monetary appetites. Big Business, for its part, will always gravitate to the centre of power. It cares not whether the Right or the Left is in the seat of government. It will want to do business with either. Big Business hates competition. Government rules and regulations are a sure fire way to get the playing field tilted in one's favour. Sidling up to government to protect one's own interest and, hopefully, ensuring that competitors are spiked at the same breath is a time-honoured strategy, albeit utterly and abidingly corrupt.

Big Business and Left-wing governments tend to get on really well. The Left is ambitious to get access to its financial resources and is far more prepared to trade favours. Big Business finds it can "do business" with the Left relatively easily. The Left justifies cosying up to Big Business by arguing that this is what their political opponents do; and, securing financial favours from Big Business is critical to maintain the Left's hold on the seat of government; and, the natural constituency of the Left are the underclasses which do not have money, so the Left political establishment need to get it from somewhere; and, finally, it is only the Left which will take care of the underclasses, giving them the money they need to solve their problems and bring them to a better and higher state of being.

Here are a couple of examples. Firstly, the recent sweetheart deal between the Bank of America and the Democratic Party, as exposed by Pajamas Media.
Shortly after Labor Day, as polls continued to sink, the Democratic National Committee (DNC) realized it needed a cash infusion for the upcoming midterm elections. Its chairman, former Virginia Governor Tim Kaine, turned to the Bank of America to secure a $15 million revolving credit line. Then, in the middle of this month, the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee (DCCC) got another loan from BofA for an additional $17 million.

What was their collateral? It turns out, not much. The DNC claims their collateral was an intangible piece of property — its donor mailing list. The DCCC only cites unnamed “assets.” Neither party organization possesses real estate even close to cover the $32 million. The DNC’s headquarters is owned by another entity. Even it was put up as collateral, its market value was last estimated at only $13.7 million.

Were the Bank of America deals legitimate, arms-length transactions, or were they cozy sweetheart deals in which nothing was really put up to secure a $32 million loan?

And if it was the latter, could it be considered an illegal campaign contribution from the largest bank holding company in America?

There also is troubling evidence that two days before closing on the loan transaction, the DNC changed its own privacy provisions to allow the selling or sharing of private donor data. BofA has been a longtime friend of Democrats. In the 2008 election cycle, BofA gave its largest single campaign contribution to then-Senator Barack Obama. According to Bloomberg News, BofA’s new CEO, Brian Moynihan, is considered Obama’s top political ally on Wall Street.

Bank of America gives money to Obama's campaign; the Obama administration ensures that BofA gets a huge taxpayer bailout in the credit crisis; the BofA then extends credit to the Democratic Party on what appears to be more a political contribution than a business deal.
The history between BofA and Democrats goes back years. One highly publicized political scandal linked the bank and Democrats to the subprime mortgage giant Countrywide Financial, which BofA acquired more than two years ago. Countrywide CEO Angelo Mozilo gave preferential below market mortgages to leading Democrats like Connecticut Senator Chris Dodd, the chairman of the Senate Banking Committee. After the disclosure of the mortgage favors, both Dodd and Senator Kent Conrad (D-SD) decided not to run for re-election.

Dodd and other Washington Democrats belonged to a group of VIP loan recipients known in company documents and emails as “FOAs” — Friends of Angelo, a reference to Angelo Mozilo.

“This (type of loan) isn’t something that’s generally offered to the general public, but it looks like it is something of a sweetheart deal,” observes Boehm about the new BofA credit line to the DNC. “Usually when you see this it is banks with a relationship with candidates and we see that all over the place. We saw that with Countrywide,” he told Pajamas Media.

And, then there is the case of Representative Barney Frank, who has been actively involved in the regulation of banks, now exposed as taking political donations from those same banks, according to the Boston Herald.
U.S. Rep. Barney Frank, in an intensifying clash with GOP upstart Sean Bielat, has pledged not to take campaign cash from lenders that got federal bailouts — yet has raked in more than $40,000 from bank execs and special interests connected to the staggering government loans, a Herald review found.

Frank vowed in February 2009 that he wouldn’t accept campaign donations from banks that received money under the $700 billion Troubled Asset Relief Program (TARP) or political action committees tied to such institutions.

But Frank has hauled in thousands from top execs at Bank of America, Citizens Bank, Wainwright Bank, JP Morgan Chase and other institutions that received billions in TARP money.

Just yesterday, Frank made new campaign finance disclosures showing he received $17,000 from top executives of Bank of America — including $2,000 from CEO Brian Moynihan. B of A received $45 billion in bailout money. In all, Frank has hauled in at least $27,000 since 2009 from bank execs — and $13,000 from PACs — connected to banks that received TARP funding ....

No doubt Barney and the Democratic establishment are telling themselves, "Hey, but it's OK. We are the good guys. Because we look after the 'little guy' we are morally superior and are incorruptible. The glorious end for which we fight surely justifies any tawdry means we need to employ along the way to maintain our positions of power."

The Left makes a pretty good showing as the Great Harlot.

Thursday, 28 October 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Seven Reason Why "The Deep Things of God" Is an Important Book

Money, Love, Desire - Violence and the Trinity
Written by Douglas Wilson
Sunday, October 24, 2010

This evening a group of men from Christ Church are meeting at our home to discuss our reading of The Deep Things of God, by Fred Sanders. A month or so ago, when I started reading this book, I wrote to a friend at Crossway to thank him for publishing such an important book. Here are seven reasons why I think it is important.

1. Sanders knows the principle of clearing away debris in order to build on the old foundations. When he sees superficialities in evangelicalism, and he does, he does not leap to the easy but misguided conclusion, He shows that evangelicals have wandered away from their Trinitarian roots, not that they have no Trinitarian roots.

"When evangelicals are being true to the underlying realities that brought the movement into being, they are the advocates of a particularly intense variety of Trinitarian knowledge and experience. When they are not self-forgetful, they know that participation in the life of the triune God is 'the distinctive teaching of Evangelical Christianity'" (p. 21).

2. Sanders clearly understands the distinction between embodied Trinitarian practice and high level Trinitarian theory. The whole point of the book is to argue for both, but he plainly sees that if you had to choose one or the other, it would be better to come in repentance to the Father through the Spirit in the name of Jesus than to know what perichoretic means.

"Most evangelical Christians don't need to talked into the Trinitarian theory; they need to be show that they are immersed in Trinitarian reality" (p. 34).

3. Moreover, Sanders understands the right order of theology.Theology is good at explaining things, but surely there should be something present first that calls for explanation?

"Reality comes first, and understanding follows it" (p. 27).

4. Sanders shows a wholesome loyalty to the evangelical wing of the Christian Church, without falling into petty forms of sectarianism.

"The doctrine of the Trinity is no place for small-mindedness" (p. 23).

5. Sanders makes the same point that Piper does in his fine book God is the Gospel. The point is not to arrange your thoughts in orthodox patterns, like so many dead butterflies pinned to the poster board. The point is to come to the experienced knowledge of God. The point is to experience Christ.

"The gospel is Trinitarian, and the Trinity is the gospel" (p. 10).

6. Sanders is very clear that to be a biblicist is to be someone who functions, necessarily, within the shape of the gospel, which is Trinitarian in shape. This is not high theology instead of Scripture, but is rather heavy doses of Bible.

"There is one place in Scripture where the sheer greatness of the gospel is most profusely described" the blessing with which Paul opens the epistle to the Ephesians" (p. 99).

7. Sanders knows that negotiating the balance between objective truth "out there," and subjective truth "in here" is quite tricky.

"That makes Trinitarianism the natural home for the doctrine of assurance" (p. 190).

I commend this book highly. Just one criticism in conclusion. With the knowledge that within the limits of a 239 page book, it is not possible to say everything, especially on a subject like this one, the only criticism I would offer is that I wish there had been more about the issues surrounding the filioque clause in the Nicean Creed.

Still, an important book. There are more than seven reasons why, but since I am done typing, to discover the other reasons you will have to read it yourself.

Not So Fast . . .

Warner's Law of Privilege

Even those of us with the merest smidgen of compassion find ourselves metaphorically weeping over John Minto's angst. Poor guy. (For our non-Kiwi readers, Minto is what we call here in NZ a "veteran activist" which means that he has spent all his life protesting publicly for any cause as long as it is on the radical fringe of the left-wing.)

Reflecting on the imbroglio over The Hobbit soon-to-be-made movies, Mr Minto confesses to being embarrassed by his country--not the first time, we are certain, and not the last, to be sure. But embarrassment nevertheless. He has been quoted as saying:
I can't remember another time I've felt so embarrassed to be a New Zealander. Crowds of people fawning before Warner Brothers. Solidarity to these people means siding unreservedly with big business against workers. They seem to be unaware that Jackson and Taylor stand to make much more money from these movies than all the New Zealand actors and technicians put together.

If this dispute damages the New Zealand film industry or the careers of the actors who have been s*at on from a great height then Jackson and Taylor must carry the lion's share of the blame. If we could export these two across the ditch in exchange for just a bit of Australia's bolshy union attitude we could begin clawing back some of the 40 per cent wage advantage they have on us.

Of course Mints is afflicted with acute cognitive dissonance, even at the best of times. Never let the facts get in the way of an extreme ideological position, we always say. So, here. Mints, in yet another of those "moments", has conveniently overlooked that the fawning crowds, allegedly siding with Big Business, were actually film workers and actors. No doubt traitors all, in John's hoodwinked eyes.

Like most people in this country, we are pleased that The Hobbit movies are going to be made in NZ. We are not pleased with the process. But, the end justifies the means, right? Actually, if we would actually take our heads out of the sand for a moment what it lights up on a big screen is something which we have yet to face. A genuine Balrog. Movies are a globalised business. New Zealand has some tenuous competitive advantages (experience, technology, highly skilled labour force, Matamata, and, arguably, a global movie making brand of sorts. And Peter Jackson. Let's not forget him). But in the end, money counted. And not just any kind of money. Government money--which is to say, our own property.

Although New Zealand (in the film sector) is a high-tech, globally competitive business, once gummint was overlaid with its high taxation charges, we could not compete with low-tax jurisdictions elsewhere in the world. We were beaten. We were blown off the park. So, Warner Brothers would only agree to do the movies here if the gummint lowered its fixed, dead-weight taxation costs.

If not, Warner would have packed everything up and moved to, say, Ireland or Czechoslovakia. Movies are a fungible business. They can be made anywhere in the world, after all. Skilled labour is mobile. Intellectual property is extremely mobile. We know Peter Jackson operates in a global village. He has a private jet, non?

But what we have seen played out in microcosm in the movie business is true for every New Zealand business. Talk about building up clusters of high tech excellence in New Zealand is myopic. It is as ideologically blinkered in its own way as Mints himself. The fact is we cannot compete globally. Our workers are overpaid for what they are able to produce. Our dead-weight of gummint rules, regulations, and taxes (all to sustain the "great" but increasingly ephemeral Kiwi lifestyle) makes the real cost of doing business in and with New Zealand Inc. far, far too high.

Class war mongers, like Mints, rail against "Big Business" and the huge influence of the evil galactic Warner Brothers Empire. And they have a point. The fact is that Warner is big enough; The Hobbit project is so big it hits the national screen, if you would excuse the pun, and focuses the attention of the gummint. Warner is big enough to force negotiations with our Prime Minister. And once again we are left in the invidious position of the gummint picking winners and bestowing privilege on those deemed worthy.

But the fact remains that the Warner Brothers "clause" would be grabbed by every business and every employer in this country, if they were big enough to have negotiating traction. So, our call is this: we have no objections to Warner's deal. We have vociferous objections to it being a Warner's only privilege. The same terms, deals, conditions must apply to all. If not, the gummint will have acted unjustly. It will have extended the bribe, on behalf of us all. But if the deal were extended to all business, it would be neither unjust nor a bribe. It would be a just case of the nation meeting the global marketplace--as it must, to survive economically.

A similar point could be made with respect to a special change in the labour laws to be done for Warner Bros--carving out the movie industry as requiring an urgent piece of legislation to be rushed through Parliament in one day--a concession--or, more accurately, a reform that justice requires for all employees and employers.

But now the film sector is going to have its rights of contract restored. Great. How about the rest of the independent workers in this country who prefer to operate under contract law than employee laws? Unless the government moves with celerity to address this now-glaring anomaly, the unintended consequences of Warner's Law will be very high indeed, not the least of which will be even more cynicism towards the rule of law itself.

Do we see a pattern emerging here? The Prime Minister running the country as if it were a business, and that issues of justice are inconsequential? But The Deal, ah yes, The Deal is everything.

Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Civilised Middle Kingdom?

Wretched, Shameful, and Beneath Contempt

Yahoo News carries a report of a forced abortion in China (the tip of the iceberg, we expect). The Chinese government is stands indicted of being a man-flesh eating demon from the ancient world, rather than the civilized Middle Kingdom.

Chinese woman forced to abort 8-month-old fetus
By ALEXA OLESEN, Associated Press Writer Alexa Olesen, Associated Press Writer Thu Oct 21, 6:45 am ET

BEIJING – A pregnant woman in south China was detained, beaten and forced to have an abortion just a month before her due date because the baby would have violated the country's one-child limit, her husband said Thursday.

Construction worker Luo Yanquan said his wife was taken kicking and screaming from their home by more than a dozen people on Oct. 10 and detained in a clinic for three days by family planning officials, then taken to a hospital and injected with a drug that killed her baby.

Family planning officials told the couple they weren't allowed to have the child because they already have a 9-year-old daughter, Luo said.

For the last 30 years, China has limited most urban couples to just one child in a bid to curb population growth and conserve its limited resources. China has the world's largest population, with more than 1.3 billion people. Couples that flout the rules face hefty fines, seizure of their property and loss of their jobs.

The case is an extreme example of the coercive measures Chinese officials sometimes use to comply with the strict family planning regulations. Though illegal, police and judicial authorities often look the other way when forced abortion cases are reported and the heavily censored state media shy away from such news.

But in recent years, victims have begun to speak out about their ordeals with the help of the Internet and text messaging. Aiding them are social campaigners and lawyers who have documented cases of forced late-term abortions. Similar abuses have been reported in Hebei and Shandong provinces and in the Guangxi region.

An official with the Siming district family planning commission, which oversees Luo's neighborhood, confirmed there was a record of Luo's wife, Xiao Aiying, undergoing an abortion recently but said the procedure was voluntary and that she was about six months instead of eight months pregnant at the time. Like many Chinese bureaucrats, he refused to give his name.

China bans forced abortions, but doesn't prohibit or clearly define late-term abortion.

The Siming official said Xiao's husband had approved the abortion, a claim Luo denied.

"I never signed anything. No one in our family did," he said by telephone from Xiamen. "I called the police but they said family planning issues weren't their responsibility. I want to sue, but lawyers I've asked here say they can't help me and the media won't report on our case."

Luo set up a blog last week to let people know what had happened to his wife, and satellite broadcaster Al-Jazeera posted a report about the couple's case on its website Wednesday.

Photos on the blog show a pained-looking, and clearly pregnant, Xiao sitting on a hospital bed after the injection but before the baby was stillborn 40 hours later. Other images show a large purple bruise on her arm and scratches on her leg, which Luo said were caused when family planning officials hit and kicked her as she struggled to get away.

Ordinary Chinese reacted with anger and disgust to Luo's online account, posting comments that called the family planning officials cruel and inhuman.

Xiao delivered the dead baby on Oct. 14 but remains hospitalized and may require emergency surgery to remove pieces of placenta still in her uterus, Luo said. The couple, both 36, were not informed of the sex of the aborted baby, Luo said.

A man who answered the phone at the obstetrics ward of the Siming No. 1 Hospital confirmed that Xiao was still a patient there. He refused to provide more details or give his name.

Telephone calls to the press office of the National Population and Family Planning Commission in Beijing rang unanswered Thursday.

Welcome to Your Future

Secular Multi-Culturalism Will Always Drive Christianity Underground

Multi-culturalism sounds like a neat idea. Reasonable people appreciate its implicit tolerance, acceptance, welcoming facade. Respecting, celebrating, and appreciating differences seems like a refined human attitude. And this is great--up to a point.

But if we live in a fallen world, where evil is intrinsic to life itself, indiscriminate multi-culturalism would rapidly becomes an oppressive disaster. We do, and it is. It destroys society itself--for there is nothing around which society can cohere. In the end the only force which can keep society from disintegrating when multi-culturalism is the regnant value is the oppression of the state.

Christians live under the rule of zero-tolerance of evil--within one's own heart and life first and foremost, but also in one's family and community and society. But Christians also live under the rule of the utter impotence of laws and regulation to remove evil. Therefore, Christianity alone holds a zero tolerance towards evil, on the one hand, and a belief in a very limited state and coercive power, on the other. Rules and regulations do not the righteous make. Christ alone can deliver mankind from evil, for He alone died for sin and to sin and rose again to newness of life totally lived for God (Romans 6: 1--11). When individuals and families are baptized into Christ, they are baptized into His death to sin and His life to God. For Christians rules and regulations are always servants of Christ and not His master.

Christians therefore live under the obligation of maximal lawkeeping (we speak of the law of Christ), but Christians also recognize the inability of non-Christians to reverence, let alone keep, Christ's law. This means that Christians, on one level, tolerate an awful lot of evil in society, whilst at the same time they earnestly direct the attention to society-at-large to Christ alone as the One who can deliver from sin's corruption and grasp.

Secular multi-culturalism, however, does not recognize evil within cultures. Therefore it sets itself up to tolerate every culture and defend its equal place and expression in society. Every culture has equal bragging rights. Every culture is to be affirmed. The one thing that will absolutely not be tolerated is any form of discrimination or criticism of a culture or cultural practice. So, Islam practises polygamy and the forced marriage of children. The multi-culturalist says, "That's cute". Islam practises honour killings. Multi-culturalism says, "How interesting". The West kills off its unborn children. The multi-culturalism intones, "I believe in a woman's right to choose".

The Christian, however, not only must discriminate between evil and righteous cultural practises whether in Timbuktoo or Topeko, but is obligated to mould the culture of his own life around the commands of Christ. And this affects everything. Everything. Even down to how he eats and drinks (I Corinthians 10:31). It affects how he lives and with whom he will live. It affects how he worships and with whom he will worship.

Multi-culturalism, however, insists that you will either accept and tolerate all, or you will be punished. This is to say that multi-culturalism will tolerate only a certain kind of Christian religion--one that would dethrone the Christ and replace multi-culturalism as His overlord. This situation is a ground-hog day repetition of Roman multi-culturalism. Everything was tolerated so long as Caesar was recognized as the over-lord.

Here is a classic example of secular humanism's multi-culturalism at work. It illustrates how it will always turn upon and oppress the Christian faith and Christians. The next step will be active persecution, if it is allowed to continue.
Michigan Woman Faces Civil Rights Complaint for Seeking a Christian Roommate

Published October 22, 2010

A civil rights complaint has been filed against a woman in Grand Rapids, Mich., who posted an advertisement at her church last July seeking a Christian roommate.

The ad "expresses an illegal preference for a Christian roommate, thus excluding people of other faiths,” according to the complaint filed by the Fair Housing Center of West Michigan.

"It's a violation to make, print or publish a discriminatory statement," Executive Director Nancy Haynes told Fox News. "There are no exemptions to that." Haynes said the unnamed 31-year-old woman’s case was turned over to the Michigan Department of Civil Rights. Depending on the outcome of the case, she said, the woman could face several hundreds of dollars in fines and “fair housing training so it doesn’t happen again.”

Harold Core, director of public affairs with the Michigan Department of Civil Rights, told the Grand Rapids Press that the Fair Housing Act prevents people from publishing an advertisement stating their preference of religion, race or handicap with respect to the sale or rental of a dwelling. "It's really difficult to say at this point what could potentially happen," he told the newspaper, noting that there are exemptions in the law for gender when there is a shared living space.

But Joel Oster, an attorney with the Alliance Defense Fund, which is representing the woman free of charge, describes the case as "outrageous. Clearly this woman has a right to pick and choose who she wants to live with," he said.  "Christians shouldn't live in fear of being punished by the government for being Christians. It is completely absurd to try to penalize a single Christian woman for privately seeking a Christian roommate at church -- an obviously legal and constitutionally protected activity."

Haynes said the person who filed the initial complaint saw the ad on the church bulletin board and contacted the local fair housing organization. The ad included the words, "Christian roommate wanted," along with the woman's contact information. Had the ad not included the word "Christian," Haynes said, it would not have been illegal. "If you read it and you were not Christian, would you not feel welcome to rent there?" Haynes asked.

Oster said he hopes the case will eventually be dropped and that he's sent a letter to the state asking the authorities to dismiss the case as groundless. "The First Amendment guarantees us Freedom of Religion," he said. "And we have the right to live with someone of the same faith. The Michigan Department of Civil Rights is denying her rights by pursuing this complaint."

But Haynes said officials plan on pursuing the matter. "We want to make sure it doesn't happen again," she said.
Hat Tip: Andrei at NZ Conservative

Tuesday, 26 October 2010

The Death of the "European Model"

Peter Schweizer Proclaims a Death

France is ablaze with violent protests, Greece is broke, and the British government is going to lay off half a million workers. Missed from the headlines is the biggest casualty in all of this: the death of the “European model.” For at least two generations now, ”progressives” and liberals in the U.S. have looked at Europe with fluttering hearts and envy, convinced that if we could only see things clearly we would abandon the American model and become MORE LIKE THEM. The German social safety net, the Scandinavian sense of tolerance, and the French commitment to long paid holidays. How great our lives would be if we just did it their way.

Fortunately the common sense of the American people led them to resist most of these socialistic overtures. The pure and clean American idea “you can’t get somethin’ for nothin’” saved the day. And now we see the results. Europe is in chaos, struggling to step back from the abyss. In Germany, the Chancellor has rightfully declared that multiculturalism has failed. The government is rightfully moving away from big government and toward austerity. (How far the unions will let them go is another story.) In Great Britain, there are massive layoffs which will probably be a down payment on further reform.

France is burning. America is not. The European model is officially dead. (Breitbart: Pig Peace)

We believe these rumours of the demise of the "European model" are greatly exaggerated. We see in Europe no changing of deities, no repentance of the current regnant humanist and Enlightenment idolatries. Rather, we see a slight rebalancing to right the ship for a brief time, before it is full-steam-ahead into the maelstrom once again. The same indictment stands against the US and the West in general. We are all sailing "right behind".

PM Mid-Term Report Card, Part VI

Stirring the Wasp's Nest

This post is the final in our mid-term report card series on New Zealand's current Prime Minister, John Key. His marks have ranged from A to D: in some things, Key does exceedingly well; in others, he has failed the country badly.

A general theme in our criticisms has been Key's superficiality: he appears not to understand what it at stake in so many issues. He is cheerily optimistic to the point of naivety.  Another possibility is that these broader and deeper issues--particularly those involving constitutional matters--are just not that important to him. Yet, this begs the question: what, then, is important to our PM? Clearly personal ambition and protecting his own patch is not high on his agenda. He appears the most selfless political leader we have seen in a long time--possibly in our collective lifetime.

We suspect that the really important issues for John Key turn around wealth and material prosperity. He appears driven above all else by an ambition to see New Zealand realise its economic potential, grow the economy, and see living standards for all rise. This is Key's version of heaven. He would appear to want his own rags-to-riches redemption be the experience of the nation as a whole. Once again, his instincts as he approaches this challenge appear to be reasonably sound. He knows that the engines of economic prosperity rest not with the government. He does not believe in a command and control economy. He understands that business and labour making free decisions about the allocation of their own resources is the engine of economic growth. He is not stricken with the politics of guilt and pity. These are all positives.

But even here he appears singularly superficial---even simplistic. Take education, for example. Key announced that the single most important component of his "plan" to raise living standards in New Zealand was to revitalise the state education system in New Zealand. His salient initiative to achieve this was the introduction of national standards in reading, writing, and arithmetic ("math" to our American readers). He stated explicitly that this would be the single most important initiative of his administration.

Two years on this initiative lies mired in the mud of the Somme. Key has appeared oblivious to the power structures controlling the state education system. He has naively assumed that all that was required was the introduction of national testing standards, and, hey presto, all would be well. He has appeared both simplistic and naive, not understanding that education is inevitably grounded in religious beliefs and philosophical commitments that touch the fundaments of our culture and belief systems. For over one hundred years secular humanists have shaped, moulded, informed, conditioned, and sculpted the current state education system. Simply putting national standards over the top will not work--they will be spat out faster than a two-year old's pacifier.

Key has shown no apparent understanding of the need to break apart the power structures and the dominant ideologies within the current government education system. He appears ignorant of the need to wage the campaign on ideological grounds. He believes (ostensibly) in the power of the free market as the most efficient allocator of resources known to mankind, but for some reason puts education in a separate category and thinks that the state organs (government departments, education academics, and teacher unions) can allocate resources effectively. He has naively assumed that the state education edifice would deal effectively and efficiently with national standards. All he has succeeded in doing is putting a stick in the wasps' nest, making the little beasties in the government education complex very angry indeed.

Given that this was his self-professed most significant and important initiative to lift New Zealand's economic performance, on his own terms Key must be judged a failure. We expect the national standards "reform" will go the way of all such failed initiatives in the government education system. It will be rejected as soon as the next Labour government comes to power. In this matter, we believe Key has been breathtakingly naive.

We are told that John Key has repeatedly lectured his caucus colleagues about the danger of distraction. Focus on the real issues--which, are, rising living standards for New Zealanders, has been his counsel. If the government succeeds in achieving that then it will enjoy longevity. This materialistic reductionism is nauseating. Life is far more than an abundance of possessions. Seeing one's children make progress, become well educated, for example, normally gives parents a sense of fulfilment and wholeness well beyond the state of their bank balance.

On balance, we believe that John Key is shaping up to be a pretty pedestrian premier. His positive accomplishments will be few and limited. New Zealand will continue to smother itself in its soft-despotic blanket. Gummint will continue to be our big daddy and our cuddling mother. He will continue to predict that "things will come right"--which is rapidly becoming our own Kiwi variant of the cargo cult. His real contribution will be a negative one: that is, the quantum of new damage he will do will be limited. And that, we suppose, is a small accomplishment--but an accomplishment nonetheless--and for which we can be thankful.

For Christians and the churches the huge positive of John Key is that he will leave us alone, unlike his predecessor, Helen Clark whose Unbelief was militant and who aspired to remake the Church into her own socialist, soft-despotic image. When a church was ignorant enough to preach taxation-theft and redistribution, Clark bestowed her "kindness". When a church dared to criticise her statism, even indirectly, they were mocked and ridiculed and legislated against. Let's never forget her government's vitriol and heavy-handed machinations against a handful of Exclusive Brethren citizens.

In John Key and his government we have a very different regime. For that we lift our voices in thanksgiving to our gracious, all governing God. But, we have work to do in His Kingdom, so we had best be about it. Let us continue to look to God, not man for the coming of His Kingdom.

Monday, 25 October 2010

Peace in Our Time?

Not Likely, It Would Appear

The drive for peace at all costs can prove to be a dangerous illusion. British Prime Minister, Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of the Nazis is a case in point. Before people start glibly talking about peace or longing for its transpiration, it behoves everyone to have a realistic view of what those involved in conflict (or the threat thereof) really think.

Above all else we must reject as hopelessly naive, idealistic, and arrogant the idea that "other people think as we do". The assumptions that people actually want peace and that given a chance they would support cessation of conflict can be utterly wrong and very dangerous.

In the seemingly perpetual conflict between Israel and Palestine the question of whether both protagonists desire peace and a peaceful outcome is moot. Recently some research was undertaken by the Foundation for Defense of Democracies ("FDD") on social media content in Palestine, according to a news report.
"FDD undertook this project with the assumption that online social networks provide important political insights–particularly in the Palestinian online environment–because they grant their users anonymity and freedom of expression,” the authors write.
One finding of the review of expressions of anonymous opinions found on social media sites was the continuing divide between Fatah and Hamas.
Once that was done, Schanzer said, it was time to find the trends. One of the first such trends they noticed, he said, was that “the Palestinian position on violence has absolutely not changed,” especially with regard to Hamas-affiliated authors or discussions taking place on Hamas Web sites, which still encourage violence against Israel.

The representations of Fatah, on the other hand, would not surprise many. “This is a faction that is in utter disarray,” Schanzer said. Additionally, Hamas and Fatah loyalists “sniped at each other incessantly.” There was not much support for rapprochement between the two parties, though Hamas members found a lot of common ground with the more radical Salafist Palestinians. The Salafist Palestinians are relatively low in number but maintain a “persistent, tenacious presence online.”

Secondly, there was a passive acceptance of Iran's influence in Palestinian territories; it was not regarded as nefarious.
On Iran, the trends were just as troubling. There was a noticeable absence of criticism of Iran, which Schanzer said is dangerous because it means Iran is finding at least passive acceptance and generating minimal anger for its meddling among the Palestinian factions. (Or at least not enough anger for Palestinians to “bite the hand that feeds.”)

Thirdly, the social website chatter showed next to no support for genuine political reform. There appears to be little interest in peace.
Discouraging signs could be found in talk of the political reformers as well. “The reform factions are simply not popular,” Schanzer said. He added that there is “not a lot of interest, not a lot of excitement” about peace, but “a lot of suspicion” toward working with the U.S. and Israel.

Insofar as these views are in any way representative--and the research is not yet deep and wide enough to be confident--they do not bode well for any peace process. It behoves the protagonists of that process (US, Europe) to be very clear and realistic about the beliefs, agendas, and aspirations of the parties--and not be guilty of gratuitous assumptions to the effect that "these folk" would think just like us, if they were given half a chance. We fear that this may well be the case.

The Necromancer is Back in Mirkwood

The Hobbit Appears to be Gone

It appears that an Australian union clique has almost singlehandedly (it has had some help from Helen Kelly of the CTU in New Zealand) destroyed New Zealand's film industry. It seems that The Hobbit will be lost to New Zealand and will now be made offshore. But this is not a one-off--New Zealand has now been branded as a risky place to make films.

A press release by Peter Jackson says it all.
"WELLINGTON – Thursday, 21 October 2010

The lifting of the blacklist on The Hobbit does nothing to help the films stay in New Zealand. The damage inflicted on our film industry by NZ Equity/MEAA is long since done.
Next week Warners are coming down to NZ to make arrangements to move the production off-shore. It appears we now cannot make films in our own country - even when substantial financing is available.

The spectacle of NZ Actors’ Equity suddenly cancelling their Wellington meeting, because film workers wanted to express to them their concern at losing The Hobbit, exemplifies the pure gutlessness of this small, self-centred group. They don’t appear to care about the repurcussions (sic) of their actions on others, nor are they prepared to take responsibility for decisions made in their name. NZ Equity constantly refer to ‘good faith’ discussions but they have never acted in good faith towards our film.

Four weeks ago NZ Equity (the local actors' union), represented by the Australian trade union, the MEAA, urged several international actor's unions to gang up on our production in an attempt to bully us into illegal collective bargaining. MEAA's representative, Simon Whipp, admitted in a recent interview with the Hollywood Reporter, that it was his intention to use The Hobbit as a way to 'unionise other productions' in the New Zealand film industry - presumably whether we want it or not. This unilateral decision, made by an off shore union, we assume with Equity's blessing, is the reason why our film industry is now in dire jeopardy.

NZ Equity's unjustified industrial action against The Hobbit has undermined Warner Bro’s confidence in New Zealand as a stable employment environment, and they are now, quite rightly, very concerned about the security of their $500m investment. Unfortunately lifting the blacklist does nothing to help the situation. This will be the start of a domino effect, as word of NZ's unstable employment environment, registers with film investors and studios, world-wide.

Nobody denies Equity's right to represent their group of actors, but incredibly, this industrial action was taken without consultation with their own membership. These clumsy, heavy-handed tactics have put at risk the livelihoods of thousands of workers and jeopardized a potential investment of a billion plus dollars into the NZ economy.Seemingly overnight, NZ Actors’ Equity shredded the reputation of a burgeoning industry, which has been over forty years in the making.

Remarks on television by Helen Kelly of the CTU, demonstrated a total lack of understanding of the film industry. Nothing she had to say about The Hobbit and film financing was remotely factual. Why she has suddenly become the NZ Equity spokesperson is unclear, it appears to be a case of the blind being lead by the even-more-blind.

We will continue the fight to keep the film in NZ, but ultimately this decision belongs to Warner Bro’s. We are however, hugely heartened by the incredible show of support from Wellington actors, technicians and crew. It is a reflection of the terrific pride NZ film workers have in their industry and their very real fear of losing their jobs. " (Hat Tip: Keeping Stock)

Unions would rather destroy every shred of commercial success than relinquish their madcap and destructive marxist class warfare. The Hobbit, and all the thousands of New Zealand working people that would have benefited from it being produced here are just so much cannon fodder. Kelly has shown herself not just to be incompetent, but ignorant of how commerce works in the world. She is so insular it is frightening.

We could not help laughing cynically as her feeble attempt at blameshifting: the reason we are losing The Hobbit, she suggested, was that Warners had found plenty of other jurisdictions where the level of government support was far higher than our own. And therein lies a tale. If only the government would use more tax payers' money subsidising the film, we could have retained it--implied Kelly. In other words, Actors Equity blackmail should be easily offset by government largesse to Warners, with our money. Sub-text: the gummint is to blame.

The tale turns cautionary when we consider that film has been a state subsidised, government picked winner from the get-go. The original idealistic idea was that the government would "seed" the industry; it would build itself into a centre of global excellence, then it would go from strength to strength without state support. Kelly and her ilk want it permanently on the taxpayer teat. They need it there so that the class warfare warriors can continue their fight. The caution in the tale is this: industries that require state subsidisation to get off the ground will never be allowed to stand on their own feet. There will always be too many greedy envious snouts in the trough.

One wonders how long working people will allow themselves to be sacrificed as cannon fodder in unionist ante-diluvian class warfare.

Saturday, 23 October 2010

Mad Political Correctness

Is There Any Other Kind?

National Public Radio ("NPR") in the US is similar to national radio stations in New Zealand. Both are funded by the taxpayer's money. Both are media organs that reflect their masters and have a consistent left-wing bias.

Juan Williams has worked as a commentator on NPR for over a decade. His sympathies lie with the prevailing bias operating in NPR, but he strives for objectivity and fairness. Every so often he gets splenetic about things a more objective look would eschew. But due to his gravitas and objectivity he has had a standing spot on Fox News as a commentator on various panels and cable news shows.

He recently was on a show hosted by Bill O'Reilly, and said some things that resulted in NPR firing him. Here is his account, which, given his professionalism, is believable.
Wednesday afternoon I got a message on my cell phone from Ellen Weiss who’s the head of news at NPR asking me to call. When I called back she said, “What did you say? What did you mean to say?” And I said, “I said what I meant to say.” Which is that it’s an honest experience that when I’m in an airport and I see people who are in Muslim garb, who identify themselves first and foremost as Muslims, I do a double take. I have a moment of anxiety or fear given what happened on 9/11. That’s just the reality. And she went on to say, “Well, that crosses the line.” And I said, “What line is that?” And she went on to somehow suggest that I had made a bigoted statement. And I said, “It’s not a bigoted statement.” I, in fact, in the course of this conversation with Bill O’Reilly, said that we have, as Americans, an obligation to be careful to protect the constitutional rights of everyone in the country and to make sure we don’t have any outbreak of bigotry. But that there’s a reality. You cannot ignore what happened on 9/11 and you cannot ignore the connection to Islamic radicalism. And you can’t ignore the fact of what has been recently said in court with regard to this as the first drop of blood in a Muslim war in America. And then she said, “You know, this has been decided up the chain.” I said, “You mean, I don’t even get the chance to come in and we do this eyeball-to-eyeball, person-to-person, have a conversation? I’ve been there for more than ten years. We don’t have that chance to have a conversation about this?” And she said, “There’s nothing you can say that will change my mind. This has been decided above me and we’re terminating your contract.”

Enough said. The question is what possible principled rationale could there be for taxpayers to fund a news media infected with such ideological cant. Come to think of it, what possible rationale could there be for the government to own, fund, and operate any media whatsoever? The one possible exception may be in a state of war when a government owned and operated media organ might be used for propaganda purposes to undermine enemies of the state.

Maybe that is the point. Maybe that is why governments continue to fund National Radio in New Zealand and NRP in the States. Maybe they reason that there are internal enemies of the state and they are anyone and anything with a political orientation not their own. And any political stance which seeks to shrink the power and size of government is regarded as an internal enemy.

From the perspective of fearing the emerging Leviathan, state funded media are a very, very bad idea. The Williams debacle is but a harbinger of the foetid rot within the body politic, and the public health danger it represents.

In the meantime, weep not for Juan Williams. No doubt he will be viewed as a martyr, and most media organisations will want to have a chat. His professionalism and his credibility and his reputation will have only grown through this incident.

On Another Planet

Dem Bones Are Rising

Professor of Maori Studies at Auckland University is on another universe. If anyone disbelieves the existence of parallel universes, we cite Professor Margaret Mutu and rest our case. (Now we must issue a caveat before going further. Our comments are based upon a report in the NZ Herald, entitled Mount Revealed as Cemetery. It is probably gratuitously generous to assume that the NZ Herald has got the facts and story straight, but we will proceed on that basis.)

Some photographic evidence of pre-European Maori bones from burials on Mount Maunganui beach has come to light. Professor Mutu argues that the soon-to-be-voted upon "beach bill" will mean that Maori can restrict beach access at Mount Maunganui and on numerous other parts of the coastline accordingly.
Auckland University head of Maori Studies Margaret Mutu said wherever bodies were buried, the Government's proposed replacement for the controversial Foreshore and Seabed Act lets presiding iwi restrict access. "It makes that beach tapu because you don't want people there digging them up accidentally. Where it's known, it will be," Dr Mutu said.

"The legislation allows it, that wahi tapu must be protected." No one should be fossicking around a beach where bodies had been buried - just like any other cemetery, she said. "This is actually very, very common all around the coast. We bury our dead in sand dunes as a defence mechanism."

So, let's get this straight. Maori historically buried their dead in the sand on the beaches of New Zealand. It makes sense really--since grave digging in the sand would have been relatively easy. Under current Maori cultural revisionism, this makes the beach a sacred site. This, says Mutu, means that the "beach bill" will come into play, since it allowed for Maori to protect such sacred sites. Ergo, Maori will be empowered to restrict public beach access in many places in New Zealand.

Now enter Tauranga MP, Simon Bridges who has actually read the "beach bill".
The National Party's Tauranga MP, Simon Bridges, said he was very clear that public access at the Mount would remain open. It would be "utterly unreasonable" to restrict New Zealanders from the Mount, and local iwi recognised that, Mr Bridges said.

"I'm sure there are cases where wahi tapu is reasonably and legally found to exist, but the fact of the matter is the Mount gets tens of thousands of people walking over the stretches of beach where the bones have been said to be found, and it will be utterly unreasonable to expect Kiwis to stop doing that."

"Local iwi are being exceptionally reasonable about bones of pre-European Maori that have been found, and they recognise that the Mount is for all New Zealanders." Moreover, access could only be restricted where iwi were granted customary title, and they would not meet a requirement to show exclusive use of the beach since 1840. "It's quite clear that it has been enjoyed by all kinds of Kiwis," Mr Bridges said.
Maori, under the "beach bill" would have the right to preserve their "sacred" beach spots if they were granted customary title over that particular piece of land. And the burden of proof is high.
Under the proposed legislation, the Marine and Coastal Areas Bill, iwi will have the ability to prohibit or restrict access to wahi tapu areas. But this is only if they are granted customary title over the coastline, which requires exclusive use since 1840. This is unlikely for a public beach - much less a popular one like the Mount. (Emphasis, ours.)

Professor Mutu is numbered amongst the co-sovereigntists, asserting that Maori must be regarded as co-rulers of New Zealand with the Crown. The "beach bill" for them is a start. It does not go anywhere near where they want to go. And they will not rest until they get it. They are prepared to play a long game. The subtle sub-text of Mutu's argument is that sacred burial grounds trump customary title; Maori bones in the sand give a more weighty title than uninterrupted customary usage.

The end game for these radical revisionists is control of the country. They will keep manufacturing spurious claims and rights until they get there, or until they are confronted and refuted. We suspect that the vast majority of welfare-dependant Maori secretly and inwardly cheer them on. They see it as the mother of all payouts and a path to the true restoration of their mana. They are fools indeed.

The unmitigated sadness is that they are inflicting upon themselves and their children still more generations of welfare dependency and slavery. It is so pervasive that nowadays many Maori have to emigrate to escape its debilitating miasma. Professor Mutu and her ilk are false prophets and unwittingly act to destroy their own people--as Sir Apirana Ngata so presciently foretold seventy years ago.

Friday, 22 October 2010

Is Moderate Islam Real?

People very much want to believe that Islam is an intrinsically moderate religion. The jihad bombers can then be painted as extremists. One can leave Islam in place, tolerate it within the public sphere, whilst excising the extremists. Possible, or naive? Here is Andrew C. McCarthy's take on the question, as published in National Review Online.

Who Says Islam Is Totalitarian?
Not long ago, Bernard Lewis sounded almost like Geert Wilders.
October 19, 2010

 Who says Islam is a totalitarian doctrine? Well, Geert Wilders does, of course. As the editors point out in Monday’s superb National Review Online editorial, the Dutch parliamentarian has even had the temerity to compare Islam with Nazism. Strong stuff indeed, and for speaking it, Wilders has earned the disdain not just of the usual Muslim Brotherhood satellite organizations but even of many on the political right.

Though they support free-speech rights, and thus grudgingly concede that Wilders should be permitted to say such things, they want you to understand they find his sentiments deplorable. Taking the politically correct view, they assure you that Islam is not a problem at all — it’s just those bad extremists and Islamists who have, as the Bush-era refrain went, “hijacked one of the world’s great religions.”

Emblematic is the estimable Charles Krauthammer, who has described Wilders’s views as “extreme, radical, and wrong.” Dr. K.’s complaint, expressed on Fox News back in March (and published on the Corner), was that Wilders conflates “Islam and Islamism.” The latter, Krauthammer insists, is “an ideology of a small minority which holds that the essence of Islam is jihad, conquest, forcing people into accepting a certain very narrow interpretation [of Islam].”

As I take a backseat to no one in my admiration of Dr. K., I wonder what he’d make of Bernard Lewis’s take on this subject. Professor Lewis is the distinguished scholar widely and aptly admired, including by Wilders’s detractors, as the West’s preeminent authority on Islam. At Pajamas Media, Andrew Bostom has unearthed a 1954 International Affairs essay in which Professor Lewis quite matter-of-factly compared Islam with Communism. The essay, in fact, was called, “Communism and Islam.”

In it, Lewis considered “the very nature of Islamic society, tradition, and thought,” and concluded that its principal defining characteristic is the “authoritarianism, perhaps we may even say the totalitarianism, of the Islamic political tradition.” Expanding on this, he wrote:

There are no parliaments or representative assemblies of any kind, no councils or communes, no chambers of nobility or estates, no municipalities in the history of Islam; nothing but the sovereign power, to which the subject owed complete and unwavering obedience as a religious duty imposed by the Holy Law. . . . For the last thousand years, the political thinking of Islam has been dominated by such maxims as “tyranny is better than anarchy,” and “whose power is established, obedience to him is incumbent.”

But what about the conceit that undergirds current American foreign policy, the notion that Islam and Western democracy are perfectly compatible? Lewis dismissed the idea as so much elite wishful thinking:

Many attempts have been made to show that Islam and democracy are identical — attempts usually based on a misunderstanding of Islam or democracy or both. This sort of argument expresses a need of the uprooted Muslim intellectual who is no longer satisfied with or capable of understanding traditional Islamic values, and who tries to justify, or rather, restate, his inherited faith in terms of the fashionable ideology of the day. It is an example of the romantic and apologetic presentation of Islam that is a recognized phase in the reaction of Muslim thought to the impact of the West.

Clearly, the ensuing half-century has found Western intellectuals — regardless of political bent — joining romantic forces with their uprooted Muslim counterparts. Thus the accusation by Dr. Krauthammer, to take a prominent but by no means singular example, that Wilders fails to perceive the distinction — I’d call it a hoped-for distinction — between Islam and Islamism. Yet this accusation itself conflates Islam with Muslims, as well as Islamists with violent jihadists. This confusion leads Krauthammer to surmise both (a) that only a small minority of Muslims believe jihad is “the essence of Islam,” and (b) that because most Muslims in the West are not terrorists, it should be “obvious” that they are not Islamists.

This is wrong on several levels. First, as Robert Spencer explains, “Jihad . . . is a key element of the Islamic faith according to every single Islamic authority on the planet.” To deny that it is the “essence of Islam” — which is how the prophet Mohammed regarded it — is to deny a basic fact. And though, as Spencer acknowledges, jihad is subject to varying interpretations, Lewis is clear on the preponderant construction. As he has recounted several times, most recently in The Middle East: A Brief History of the Last 2,000 Years, “The overwhelming majority of early authorities . . . citing relevant passages in the Qur’an and in the tradition, discuss jihad in military terms.” This jibes, to quote Ibn Warraq, with “the celebrated Dictionary of Islam,” which describes jihad as an “incumbent religious duty,” and defines it as “a religious war with those who are unbelievers in the mission of Muhammad.”

Spencer echoes Lewis when he elaborates that “all the mainstream sects and schools of Islamic jurisprudence teach as a matter of faith that Islam is intrinsically political and that Muslims must wage war against unbelievers and subjugate them under the rule of Islamic law.” The fact that most Muslims do not engage in violent jihad, whether out of practicality, indifference, or what have you, does not change what Islamic doctrine says. Nor does it mean these Muslims are “rejecting” that mandate. They are ignoring it.

Moreover, as I’ve noted on several occasions, the point of jihad is to spread sharia, the Islamic legal system whose installation is the necessary precondition to creating an Islamic society. That need not be done by violent means. In fact, the Muslim Brotherhood, the world’s most influential Islamist organization, maintains that America and Europe will be “conquered” not by violence but by dawa­ – the proselytism of Islam by non-violent (or, more accurate, pre-violent) means, such as infiltration of our institutions. Spencer calls this phenomenon “stealth jihad.”

Consequently, one can be an Islamist without engaging in violent jihad, which is precisely the case with the vast majority of Islamists. The fact that they are not terrorists does not mean — as we wish it would mean — that they are not extremists. While they abstain from the use of force (particularly against other Muslims), staggering majorities of Muslims throughout the world favor the implementation and strict application of sharia. Andrew Bostom’s essay demonstrates this, citing polling done in 2009 by World Public Opinion in conjunction with the University of Maryland.

Back in 1954, Lewis recalled “the political history of Islam” as “one of almost unrelieved autocracy” that was “authoritarian, often arbitrary, [and] sometimes tyrannical.” Besides this, the most interesting part of his essay is its focus on “certain uncomfortable resemblances” between “the Ulama of Islam” and “the Communist Party.” Though “very different” in some ways, the two, he stated, “profess a totalitarian doctrine, with complete and final answers to all questions on heaven and earth.”

Those answers, of course, are worlds apart in their particulars. Nonetheless, Lewis saw them as strikingly similar in

their finality and completeness, and in the contrast they offer with the eternal questioning of Western man. Both groups offer to their members and followers the agreeable sensation of belonging to a community of believers, who are always right, as against an outer world of unbelievers, who are always wrong. Both offer an exhilarating feeling of mission, of purpose, of being engaged in a collective adventure to accelerate the historically inevitable victory of the true faith over the infidel evil-doers. The traditional Islamic division of the world into the House of Islam and the House of War, two necessarily opposed groups, of which the first has the collective obligation of perpetual struggle against the second, also has obvious parallels in the Communist view of world affairs. There again, the content of belief is utterly different, but the aggressive fanaticism of the believer is the same. The humorist who summed up the Communist creed as “There is no God and Karl Marx is his Prophet” was laying his finger on a real affinity. The call to a Communist Jihad, a Holy War for the faith — a new faith, but against the self-same Western Christian enemy — might well strike a responsive note.

In light of this scholarly comparison of Islam to Soviet totalitarianism, is it really so outrageous for Geert Wilders to compare Islam to Nazi totalitarianism? One needn’t agree with the analogy — and, agree or not, one needn’t think it a useful analogy — in order to understand why someone who is not intimidated by political correctness might employ it.

In thinking about how to argue the depth of terrorist depravity to the jury while prosecuting a 1995 terrorism trial, I must confess it crossed my mind that jihad literally means “struggle,” the same word found in the title of Hitler’s manifesto, Mein Kampf (“My Struggle”). I quickly dismissed any thought of mentioning this as too explosive — nothing provokes a mistrial motion faster than a prosecutor’s comparison of defendants to Nazis, and when your evidence is damning, it’s always better to let it, rather than your rhetoric, do the talking. But I certainly didn’t think the point was beyond the pale. As noted by Daniel Pipes (who does not agree with Wilders’s analogy), no less a figure than Winston Churchill described Mein Kampf as “the new Koran of faith and war: turgid, verbose, shapeless, but pregnant with its message.”

In the middle of the 20th century, before suffocating political correctness took hold, it was not all that controversial to say such things. Note that in 1954, Bernard Lewis obviously felt no need to resort to such devices as “Islamism” — a device I adopt myself in The Grand Jihad — to conform to today’s obligatory but unproved assumption that there exists a moderate, tolerant Islam, scripturally based and doctrinally distinguishable from the Islam of the “extremists.”

In those bygone days, the term “Islamist” was usually used to identify a scholar of Islam — akin to a Sinologist or an Arabist. There was another usage, dating back to the 1920s. It was the one coined by Muslim Brotherhood founder Hassan al-Banna to denote a person who urged Islam as a complete way of life and favored installation of the sharia system. For Banna, there was no difference between Islam and Islamism.

That, by the way, is not only the Brotherhood’s view. It is the adamant opinion of Recep Tayyip Erdogan, the Islamist prime minister of Turkey who continues to be regarded by the U.S. government as a great moderate, just as he was during the Bush administration. “Very ugly” was his take on the term “moderate Islam” in a 2007 interview. As Erdogan fumed at the time, “It is offensive and an insult to our religion. There is no moderate or immoderate Islam. Islam is Islam, and that’s it.”

Islam is Islam. That is Erdogan’s position, it seems to have been the position of Bernard Lewis a half century ago, and it is Geert Wilders’s position today. Not that Muslims are bad, but that Islam is a dangerous ideology. Wilders summed up his views in a 2009 interview with Jeff Jacoby (also quoted in Andrew Bostom’s piece):

I have nothing against the people. I don’t hate Muslims. But Islam is a totalitarian ideology. It rules every aspect of life — economics, family law, whatever. It has religious symbols, it has a God, it has a book — but it’s not a religion. It can be compared with totalitarian ideologies like Communism or fascism. There is no country where Islam is dominant where you have a real democracy, a real separation between church and state.

These claims are materially indistinguishable from points Professor Lewis made in 1954 — other than, perhaps, Wilders’s assertion that Islam “is not a religion,” although by that, I take him to mean Islam is not merely a religion or a set of spiritual principles but a comprehensive system controlling all of life.

From those premises, Wilders concluded that “Islam is totally contrary to our values.” That is a bracing conclusion. I think the problem people have with Wilders is that he is bracing. He says out loud what they fear is the case, or what they refuse to examine for fear of discovering that it is the case. That makes him inconvenient. It doesn’t make him wrong.

– Andrew C. McCarthy, a senior fellow at the National Review Institute, is the author, most recently, of The Grand Jihad: How Islam and the Left Sabotage America.

PM Report Card, Part V

Plastic Integrity

New Zealand's Prime Minister, John Key has made integrity--or keeping his word with the electorate--a salient principle of his tenure. This has been a commendable change--and it makes him stand out from other politicians. "Honest John" is a sobriquet not unfitting for our current Prime Minister. He has attempted to make his administration a "no surprises" regime. Of course, this commitment was provoked by his political opponents, who, when campaigning against him, constantly attacked his integrity, overtly stating that he was not to be trusted, and that once in office he would pull out a devastating hidden agenda which would wreak terrible damage to all.

There would be few now who would doubt that Key appears to be National initiated bending coalition agreements.

Such integrity would, in time, go a long way to restoring the mana of our highest politicians, were he to start a trend and set a standard which others were committed to emulate. It would also mean that the people would eventually pay a whole lot more attention to electioneering commitments, reducing the general cynicism with which our elected politicians are curently regarded.

Key's electoral integrity represents a remarkable change for which he deserves the strongest commendation.

But electoral commitments blindly kept can be a terrible albatross around the neck. Rash vows which subsequently damage the country, ought to be repented of--publicly and humbly--rather than proceeding with them stubbornly. Key has shown that he is prepared to do that up to a point. For example, National campaigned on a policy of significant and progressive tax cuts. But economic circumstances changed drastically, and quickly. When the full weight of recession hit, and government deficits began to yaw, threatening the nation as a whole, Key cancelled the tax cuts--and explained why. Excellent, mature leadership. As Keynes so acerbically asked, "when the facts conflict with my opinion, I change my opinion. What do you do, sir?"

But on other matters, Key has stubbornly stuck to his "word" despite damage being wrought. His refusal to countenance a simple, clarifying change in the Crimes Act, to ensure that responsible parents are neither investigated nor prosecuted for disciplining their children using reasonable force, despite it subsequently becoming clear that the overwhelming majority (80 percent, plus) of parents wanted the law changed, is reprehensible and irresponsible. (We have already commented on the unconstitutional device employed by Key in his defence--the matter of "instructing" the police not to apply the law--as dangerous and reprehensible and wrong.)

And then there is the matter of the Emissions Trading Scheme. In this instance, Key's stubbornness has locked him into errant foolishness--and that, despite commitments made earlier. Key had stated on numerous occasions that he did not support New Zealand being a "leader" in climate change "mitigation". During his tenure, the global warming edifice has crumbled. The official government climate research bureau, NIWA has been exposed as fabricators of the data and acting in a very sloppy, unscientific manner. The so called UN fabricated "global consensus" has collapsed. The IPCC has finally been exposed as a politicised, unscientific propaganda organ. The US and Australia have backed off establishing emissions trading schemes and the global recession has led to voters all over the world relegating climate change issues to the realms of irrelevance.

But Key has stubbornly gone ahead with our draconian, comprehensive Emissions Trading Scheme, despite it now making us a "world leader"--a position which our small, vulnerable economy cannot bear. Meanwhile, New Zealand teeters on the edge of going back into recession. Things are very, very bad, and our economy is at great risk. One of the worst things--one of the most damaging things--that governments can do in a recession is increase the costs and impediments to producing goods and services--particularly tradable goods and services. The ETS does that--and its taxation dead-weight costs are just beginning.

Key had plenty of facts, a veritable phalanx of changed circumstances, to justify a suspension of the ETS. But no, he has recklessly and stubbornly insisted upon it. He was a man of his word! He will likely go down in history as New Zealand's version of President Hoover, worsening the recession and making our economy even more vulnerable than it was before. And that does not include the wasteful, economically irrational, unsustainable distortions being wreaked upon New Zealand's rural sector as the taxpayer funded gold rush for artificial "carbon credits" gathers momentum. It will prove to be just one more government engineered and created distortionary bubble that will end in a vale of tears.

John Key has some sterling qualities. But, oh, the damage he has wrought. He deserves a big tick for his integrity, but a D minus for his foolish and stubborn refusal to face the emerging facts. Regrettably, it casts a dark pall over his other qualities.

Now a cynic may say that when Key cancelled the promised programme of tax cuts he did so, not just because of the changed circumstances, but political calculations were compelling. After all, the Left could not complain. They were against tax cuts to begin with. And on all the other cases of stubborn refusal to change, the Opposition would have been "outraged" by a change in policy. So, a cynic may say, all along Key has been bending his principles and beliefs to ensure that he hugs "the centre" and gives his political opponents no ammo.

We hope that our Prime Minister is not as superficial, nor venal, nor tawdry as that would suggest. But time will tell all.

Thursday, 21 October 2010

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

The Machete of Curiosity

Political Dualism - Mere Christendom
Written by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, October 20, 2010

So, then, the issues are perennial, but the terms are not. Anyone working through the tangled weave of religion and politics may need some help with terms. Anyone whacking away at the thicket of culture and faith with the machete of curiosity could probably use a simple lexicon. It seems only fair to provide some basic definitions.

By mere Christendom, I mean a network of nations bound together by a formal, public, civic acknowledgement of the lordship of Jesus Christ, and the fundamental truth of the Apostles' Creed. I do not mean establishment or tax support for any particular denomination of Christians, but it is possible (and necessary) to avoid such establishment without falling for the myth of religious neutrality. Religious neutrality is impossible. So mere Christendom stands in contrast to sectarian Christendom on the one hand and complete secularism on the other. Approaching these alternatives from the middle distance are the claims of radical Islam, about which more in a minute.

Secularism refers to the idea, popular for the last few centuries, that it is in fact possible for nations to be religiously neutral. This impressive trick is managed by having everyone pretend that secularism does not bring with it its very own set of ultimate commitments. But it does bring them, and so secularism has presented us with its very own salvation narrative, in which story the Enlightened One arose to deliver us all from that sectarian strife and violence. The horse and rider were thrown into the sea, and this is why you can't put that Christmas tree up in the county courthouse. 

American exceptionalism is the idea that America is a more of a creed than a nation. This kind of American exceptionalism makes a certain kind of civic religion possible, a quasi-sacramental approach which all consistent Christians reject as, in equal turns, blasphemous and silly. American exceptionalism in this sense is currently the high church form of secularism.

American exceptionalism is not the grateful recognition that we live in a nation that has been enormously blessed in many ways. What might be called normal patriotism is not idolatrous, but is simply natural affection.

Radical Islam is a Christian heresy, but one of the features that it retained in its departure from the truth was the idea that religious claims are total and absolute. Islam functioned in this way for many centuries, competing head to head with the Christians, before the Enlightenment arrived in order to demote all religious totalism (except for their own). Muslims who have accepted the claims of this secularism are now called "moderate" Muslims, while Muslims who are faithful to the older, all-encompassing claims of Islam are called radical Muslims. The word radical comes from the Latin radix, which means root. Radical Muslims have gone to the root of the matter, and they are the ones who at least understand the nature of the conflict. If Allah is God, then follow him. If he isn't, then we shouldn't.

And I would say the same thing about Jesus. If He is Lord, we should do what He says. If He is not, then we needn't bother.