Monday, 31 January 2011

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Eager for the Wrong Kind of Vindication

Culture and Politics
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Scriptures tell us what kind of man is qualified to lead us. "Moreover thou shalt provide out of all the people able men, such as fear God, men of truth, hating covetousness; and place such over them, to be rulers of thousands, and rulers of hundreds, rulers of fifties, and rulers of tens"(Ex. 18:21).

There are three requirements here -- the fear of God, real commitment to truth, and a hatred of covetousness.
Now how should this line up with my particular political commitments and perspectives? Assume that I am not such an ideologue as to believe that everyone on the outside of my particular political faction is an orc. Assume also that I do not believe that everyone inside it is a registered angel. Now what?

When it comes to foreign policy, I am a paleocon. But I would rather be ruled by a neocon who loved God than a paleocon who didn't. When it comes to economics, I am a free market guy, but I would rather be ruled by a member of the Bush family who hated greed than an Austrian school atheist who did not hate it. And so on. In short, ideological consistency is not the ultimate measuring stick.

But ideology often has us by the throat, and we wonder why God will not rise to our heights of partisanship.

"But there was none like unto Ahab, which did sell himself to work wickedness in the sight of the LORD, whom Jezebel his wife stirred up. And he did very abominably in following idols, according to all things as did the Amorites, whom the LORD cast out before the children of Israel. And it came to pass, when Ahab heard those words, that he rent his clothes, and put sackcloth upon his flesh, and fasted, and lay in sackcloth, and went softly. And the word of the LORD came to Elijah the Tishbite, saying, Seest thou how Ahab humbleth himself before me? because he humbleth himself before me, I will not bring the evil in his days: but in his son’s days will I bring the evil upon his house" (1 Kings 21:25-29).
And so we stare at Ahab the way Jonah stared at Nineveh, exasperated with God, and eager for the wrong kind of vindication.

But one other qualification must be remembered. The leftists and progressives have mastered the rhetoric of hating covetousness, so it would seem they qualify on the third point. But they are liars, missing the second point entirely. I am talking about rulers who actually do hate covetousness -- a good thing for those in control of taxes to hate.

What Does Modern Syncretism Look Like?

Playing the Harlot Once Again

We are all familiar with the noun, syncretism. It indicates a joining of contradictory beliefs or principles into a common cause of one kind or other. It is a word derived from the Greek, where it initially referred to Cretan cities, usually independent and isolated from each other, joining together for common cause, such as defeating an invader.

In the Christian faith, syncretism has at times deeply infected both Israel and the Church. At root it is a state of joining together Belief and Unbelief, so that beliefs and practices of Unbelief become stock and standard for Christian communities. In Israel, one of the most persistent forms of syncretism was mixing the worship of the Living God with respect and adoration of idols. First Israel, then Judah were sent into captivity because they refused to live exclusively for God, but wanted to have a bit of idolatry on the side. A quick reading of I and II Chronicles underscores how this was the sin of sins which finally brought down the longsuffering wrath of God upon His people. Judah refused to take away the altars on the "high places" but continued to offer worship and obeisance to idol gods, along with keeping up formal worship practices in Jerusalem. This is what the Bible calls, "playing the harlot".

Here is just one passage amongst numerous declamations by the prophets:
And the word of the Lord came to me saying, "Son of man, set your face toward the mountains of Israel, and prophesy against them, and say, 'Mountains of Israel, listen to the word of the Lord God! Thus says the Lord God to the mountains, the hills, the ravines and the valleys:

"Behold I Myself am going to bring a sword on you, and I will destroy your high places. So your altars will become desolate, and your incense altars will be smashed; and I shall make your slain fall in front of your idols. I shall also lay the dead bodies of the sons of Israel in front of their idols; and I shall scatter your bones around your altars.

"In all your dwellings, cities will become waste and the high places will be desolate, that your altars may become waste and desolate, your idols may be broken and brought to an end, your incense altars may be cut down, and your works may be blotted out. And the slain will fall among you, and yo will know that I am the Lord." ' " Ezekiel 6: 1--7

The pattern is repeated in the New Covenant, when final judgment fell upon Israel and Jerusalem in AD 66-70. Jerusalem was destroyed because of her syncretism: the deceitful and duplicitous attempt to make common cause with the pagan nations of the earth, siding and conspiring with them against Messiah, the King and against His people. This is made clear repeatedly in Revelation which is primarily about the judgment of God falling upon Israel and Jerusalem in AD 70, even as our Lord foretold. (Revelation 17 & 18--where Jerusalem is called Babylon, the mother of harlots.)

Syncretism did in Israel. It also marks the eventual departure of the Lord from rotten parts of His Church. Syncretism is very, very bad ju ju. But what does syncretism look like in the modern word--where secular humanism has exalted man to the place of God? In what ways is the Church guilty of mixing the Belief with Unbelief? Clearly, unless we are speaking of Hindu immigrants or superstitious Chinese and their ancestor shrines, there is no cult nor idols nor altars to mix into the Christian faith in modern secular society. Does this mean that we have once and for all dispensed with syncretism? Does this meant that secular humanism is a blessing for the Church?

Unfortunately, many within the Church, consciously or unconsciously, think so. It is inevitable, therefore, that syncretism remains a terrible curse upon the Church. This is what it now looks like: a survey amongst evangelical Christians in the UK puts the spotlight on the problem and exposes what form syncretism in the modern secular West takes.
A Snapshot of the Beliefs and Habits of Evangelical Christians in the UK

This looks like a helpful report.

91% think Jesus is the only way to God
96% attend a church once a week
77% are in small groups
83% read/listen to the Bible a few times a week
96% pray a few times a day
96% have given money to their church this year
88% strongly agree that their faith is the most important thing in their life
94% believe in creation care
83% believe in miraculous gifts today
83% agree the Bible has “supreme authority” in beliefs, views, and behaviour
71% believe it is a Christian’s duty to be involved in evangelism (58% talk about their faith to someone once a month)
62% think sex before marriage is wrong (38% believe it is not wrong).
54% believe it in inerrancy”; 32% are for it or unsure (nearly half believe the Bible has errors).
37% think abortion is wrong; 46% are straddling (unsure/disagree a little); 17% disagree.
37% strongly agree that hell is a place where the condemned will suffer eternal conscious pain; 13% agree a little with this; 31% are unsure; 8% disagree a little; 11% disagree a lot.
51% are strongly favor women in leadership; 20% disagree only a little; [71% are in favor]; 9% are unsure; 10% disagree a little; 10% strongly disagree.
59% agree a lot that homosexual sexual acts are wrong; 14% agree a little; 11% are unsure; 8% disagree a little; and 8% disagree a lot.
Hat Tip: Justin Taylor

That's what syncretism looks like in the modern world. In every ethical and social area where the pagan secular humanists have won societal control and imposed their agenda, the evangelical church shows compromise with, concession to, and agreement with the world. The inerrancy of Scripture is telling: the pagan world has slammed the integrity of the Scriptures in the West for over two centuries now: upshot--in the hearts of nearly half of evangelical Christians incense is offered to the secular rationalist gods. Pre-marital sex, abortion, women's "rights"--all these pop secular humanist causes which have captured society--have been adopted and embraced by a large component of Believers.

Syncretism is alive and well. In Israel, God called it playing the harlot, committing spiritual adultery. Nothing has changed--only the masks worn by the actors and the audience. Playing the harlot it remains.

Saturday, 29 January 2011

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

No Root in Himself

Theology - Life in the Regeneration
Written by Douglas Wilson
Sunday, January 23, 2011

One of the reasons why we talk past each other on the question of apostasy is that we succumb to the common mistake of choosing which verses are the "clear" ones. A hermeneutical rule of thumb (quite a good one, I should add) is that unclear verses should be interpreted in the light of the clear ones. But however wise this is -- and it is wise -- we also have to distinguish between verses which are unclear, and verses that are excruciatingly clear but which conflict with the received interpretation.

It is this latter situation which causes Christians to arbitrarily dub these as the clear verses, and those other verses as the ones which must be massaged. On this question of apostasy, both Calvinists and Arminians do this. Calvinists take the verses outlining God's sovereignty at face value (which they should do), and explain away the apostasy passages. Arminians take the apostasy passages at face value, and explain away the glorious promises of a guaranteed perseverance. Thought experiment. What would happen if you took them all at face value? You would get in trouble with everybody, like the guy in the Civil War who tried to make peace by walking in between the armies with a blue coat and gray trousers.

The Bible emphasizes, through some of its illustrations, a certain continuity of type between the converted and unconverted covenant member. In the parable of the sower, the converted and unconverted both spring from the same seed, and they are both wheat. The Bible emphasizes, in other illustrations, a radical discontinuity of type between the two -- a sow that is washed is always a sow. Tares are not wheat -- they are an alien plant in the wheat field. We should take both kinds of illustration at face value. In one respect, there is a radical gulf between converted and unconverted covenant members, a gulf as wide as the distance between Heaven and Hell. In another respect, there is a shared covenantal identity of some sort. Fruitful and fruitless branches are found in the Vine, although the fruitless ones are not found there for long. Fruitful and fruitless branches are found in the olive tree of the true Israel -- although the only way to remain in that tree is by having the faith of Abraham.

So much is a statement of the problem. What is the solution to the problem? How can we take both kinds of passages at face value? There is only one way -- and that is by emphasizing, in its right biblical balance, the absolute necessity of the new birth for every last human being, not excluding those who are baptized Christians.

Even in the parable of the sower, note how Jesus explains the difference between different kinds of wheat. The wheat in rocky soil sprang up quickly. It sprang up from the seed that was sown. It was wheat, but it was wheat that died, wheat that did not persevere to the harvest. And why? Jesus says that it was because that man had "no root in himself" (ouk rhitzan en auto). This wheat did not have within itself something that the abundant wheat did have (Matt. 13:21). You must be converted to God.

Jesus told a teacher in Israel once that he needed to be born again. Israel today, the new Israel, is filled to overflowing with that same kind of teacher.

The Seditious Nature of Humour

The Power of Irony: You Cannot be Persecuted for What Was Unsaid

Years ago we watched a programme on the gradual emergence of political opposition in Czechoslovakia whilst it was still under the boot of Soviet Russia. The protagonist was arguing that opposition was nurtured in the night clubs of Prague by comedians--stand up comedians.  It was the kind of activity which escaped the attention of the censors and remained underground.  Holding the Soviet Union up to ridicule encouraged a far more critical attitude towards one's own repressive government.

One of the comedians involved recounted the following joke he had told in the night clubs: 
A Soviet commissar was racing home late one afternoon only to realise that he had forgotten to pick up some meat and bread from the elite commissar's GUM that lunchtime, as he had promised his wife he would do.  He decided to stop off at the neighbourhood food shop.  Alighting with his aides and bodyguards, he was confronted by a long queue stretching down the pavement, fifty metres from the shop entrance.  After waiting patiently in the line for thirty seconds, he murmured some instructions to his chief bodyguard.  The guard stood out from the line a bellowed, "Hands up all those that are Jews."  About a quarter of the queue put up their hands.  "Jews, go home," he shouted.  The Jews trudged off. 
But the line was still slow moving, and the Commissar was getting cold.  He spoke with his bodyguard again, and the chief once again stood out from the line and bellowed, "Hands up all those who are not Party members."  About ninety-five percent of the people in the queue put up their hands.  "Non-Party members, go home," shouted the guard.  This put the Commissar right up near the store entrance.  Ten minutes later he got in.  There was nothing on the shelves.  "We sold out hours ago," said the frightened storekeeper.
The angry Commissar stalked back to his limo.  "See," he said to his secretary, "it's what I have always told you.  The Jews always get the best deal." 
This is a profoundly subversive joke which operates at a number of different levels.  At all levels of the joke, the regime is exposed,  mocked and pilloried.  And it worked because it was so close to actual reality.

A recent article in Foreign Policy argues that subversive humour is emerging, particularly via the Internet.  We suspect that, as in Eastern Europe, such humour will prove a powerful force in eventually breaking down the authoritarianism of the Chinese Government.  It is probably even more devastating in China because the loss of face is a matter of shame--which brings an extra bite to seditious jokes.  And China provides no lack of opportunities for mockery.  The Middle Kingdom is a satirist's dream.

Irony Is Good!

How Mao killed Chinese humor ... and how the Internet is slowly bringing it back again.


"Socialism is great!" Was there ever a statement riper for ironic mockery than this erstwhile catchphrase of the infant Chinese republic? How could a thinking people accept this and a host of other bald statements at face value, without so much as a raised eyebrow or a silently murmured really? And why, 60 years later, when the Chinese government calls the Dalai Lama a "devil with a human face," do none of its citizens seem to feel the urge to giggle?
Irony, put simply, is a gap between words and their meaning, a space across which speaker and listener exchange a knowing wink. For this knowingness to be mutual, a web of common experiences and beliefs must exist, within which language adopts deeper echoes and associations. In China, however, the Communist Party has made quite clear that there is no commonality but that of the party and its people, and certainly no shared language beyond that handed down by national leaders. The Chinese government has spent decades ensuring that public discourse has remained "public" only in the sense of "government owned." . . .

But it was really the Internet that salvaged Chinese humor, . . .  In the late 1990s, the Internet was still entirely uncensored (it would remain that way as late as 2004 or 2005), and it became, at last, a public space for writers and thinkers, who had been stifled by the government-controlled mainstream media, to explore new kinds of voices. . . .

These days, more sophisticated and ubiquitous Internet controls have meant less humor and criticism aimed at central government and top leaders, but a proliferation of mockery of lower-profile targets: the figures of authority and power that exist at all levels of society, from the classroom to the office. Reports of official corruption or abuses of power are regularly seized upon, creating memes that echo around the web. When a drunk driver killed a student in Baoding city last October, the driver's only defense was to proclaim, "My father is Li Gang" -- the deputy director of the local Public Security Bureau. The web erupted in rage and derision, creating poems, music videos, and innumerable mocking variations on the phrase, which now, in its Chinese form, gets 32,400,000 hits on Google. . . .

Han Han, a writer who may be one of the widest-read Internet personalities in the world, is one proof. . . . In 2009, a group of river boatmen, with the backing of local cadres, retrieved the bodies of students who had accidentally drowned in the river and then refused to hand the bodies over to the students' parents without an exorbitant fee. Han Han's recommendation was that all Chinese citizens carry the body-recovery fee on their persons at all times: "If you or a friend should fall in the water, you can hold the cash up above your head -- that's the only way these half-official body-recovery teams will bother fishing you out.". . . 

But most traditional media continue to move in earnest lockstep with the government line. Irony still seems to fall flat in a culture where one-dimensional discourse is promoted from the earliest days of school on up into the professional world. Starting in middle school, all Chinese students are still required to take "political thought" classes, later developing into versions of Marxist-Leninism, Mao Zedong Thought, and Deng Xiaoping Theory that are re-taught every year until the end of higher education.

The same formulations are repeated year in and year out, unleavened by reflection or analysis, and the result is a kind of mental numbness: the ability to set two potentially related thoughts side by side, without ever connecting the two. Japan's World War II invasion and occupation of northern China is continually rehashed in the media, yet the blindingly obvious correlations to the Chinese presence in Xinjiang and Tibet are never drawn.

Truly nuanced, self-aware social discussion may still be in the future -- "It could take two or three generations," Wang Xiaofeng told me -- but among educated Chinese the government's baldest self-contradictions no longer pass unremarked. When Wen Jiabao spoke about free speech and constitutionality in a September interview with CNN, his comments were subsequently censored in the Chinese media. China's online cognoscenti crowed over the absurdity.

The government is lumbering around to face this new challenge. The first rule of censorship is still "Don't talk about censorship"; and it would be fatal for the government to address popular sarcasm and irony directly, because so much of its own identity is written in language that would not sustain scrutiny. But its awareness is apparent through what is forbidden: "My father is Li Gang" has made the list of "sensitive" phrases.

No matter how swiftly authorities stamp out new criticism, however, it's too late. The brute removal of undesirable language from public discourse only works when ideas do not exist independent of language, but it is precisely irony that allows silence to speak as loudly as words. Wang Xiaofeng may be right in saying it will take another generation before any voices will be raised in direct challenge, but the government should be worried. Even now, each online report of disaster, failure, corruption, or injustice is met with a newly repurposed old Maoist catchphrase, perhaps angry or resigned, but above all, ironically knowing: "Our thanks to the nation."
Subversive humour was making the rounds in Czech night clubs in the sixties.  It took a generation before the Wall came down.  We suspect that subversive humour and irony in China will make a similar contribution--and in thirty years time we will all be repeating the new conventional wisdom, "Of course China had to dismember its authoritarian government.  The internal contradictions were tearing it apart."

Friday, 28 January 2011

Dr Gosnell's House of Horrors, Part III

The March for Life 2011: America’s REAL rally to restore hope and sanity

By Michelle Malkin  •  January 24, 2011 09:34 AM

Photo credit: ProtestShooter

Washington DC – Pastor Luke Quinn, Quinn Chapel A.M.E. Frederick MD, asks: “Where is President Obama? Where is Jesse Jackson? Where is Al Sharpton?”

Today marks the 38th annual March for Life in Washington, D.C. Throngs of peaceful activists — increasingly young and minority — will fill the streets of the nation’s capital to speak up and stand up for unborn life.
It has become an annual ritual to watch the national media and liberal commentariat strain to ignore or marginalize the burgeoning movement.

Expect no different this year.

Just as they have averted their eyes to the Philadelphia Horror, they will look the other way at the passionate women of all ages exposing the horrors of Planned Parenthood predation, the forgotten victims of choice, the girls who have been lied to, the modern-day eugenicists masquerading as feminists, and the obscene profiteering of the government-funded abortion racket.

The official March for Life site is here.  The National Catholic Register is liveblogging the march today.
The FRC prolifecon event is being livestreamed hereBlogs4Life is here. Pro-life blogger extraordinaire Jill Stanek has full coverage.

ProtestShooter has inspiring images of the March for Life in San Francisco — yes, San Francisco — which drew an estimated 40,000!

Read this reflection on life, love, and faith from Ned Ryun.

The Anchoress has a big march round-up.
Here is President Obama’s statement on Roe v. Wade:
Today marks the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade, the Supreme Court decision that protects women’s health and reproductive freedom, and affirms a fundamental principle: that government should not intrude on private family matters.
I am committed to protecting this constitutional right. I also remain committed to policies, initiatives, and programs that help prevent unintended pregnancies, support pregnant women and mothers, encourage healthy relationships, and promote adoption.
And on this anniversary, I hope that we will recommit ourselves more broadly to ensuring that our daughters have the same rights, the same freedoms, and the same opportunities as our sons to fulfill their dreams.
Here is his statement on the Philadelphia Horror:
Oh, wait. There isn’t one.
National Review reminds us of the deadly, ineluctable logic of the mainstream abortion racket that got us from Roe v. Wade to Barack Obama to the Philadephia Horror:
Gosnell’s Philadelphia clinic’s lack of hygiene is not the detail that has captured the most attention, or inspired the most outrage. It turns out that Gosnell frequently, perhaps hundreds of times, fully delivered intact fetuses and then used scissors on the newborn. In his words, he engaged in “snipping” to “ensure fetal demise.” In many cases, the fetuses were in the third trimester.

This procedure, sometimes called a “live-birth abortion,” is illegal. But not thanks to President Obama. As a state legislator in Illinois, he argued that the law should offer no protection to neonates if they had been delivered before viability. He said that protecting them would violate Roe v. Wade and undermine the right to abortion. What looked like infanticide to most people was for him, it must be inferred, a “private family matter.” When Gosnell applied his scissors to pre-viable children, he was, on Obama’s terms, merely exercising a cherished freedom.

Credit Obama with a real insight: The physical location of a human being conceived five months ago may mark the difference between whether he is considered a “fetus” or an “infant,” but it cannot mark a moral difference. Nor can it make a moral difference whether this being is partly inside the womb. When Congress moved to ban partial-birth abortion, most liberals took the view that any prohibition had to include a health exception: If in the judgment of the abortionist the safest method of . . . ensuring fetal demise . . . was to partly deliver the fetus, crush its skull, vacuum its brains, and then deliver the rest, then he had to be free to do so — at any stage of pregnancy. President Obama favored this health “exception.”
A few liberals — notably Supreme Court justices John Paul Stevens and Ruth Bader Ginsburg; also the celebrated intellectual Richard Posner in his role as a judge — made the moral point as well: What difference could it possibly make whether the fetus was partly out of the birth canal when its life was ended? Start with the correct view that location does not matter; add the liberal view that partial-birth abortion is justified whenever an abortionist says so; and it is hard to escape the conclusion that a live-birth abortion is justified whenever an abortionist rules it the safest method of killing.
We don’t know that Gosnell has closely followed the Supreme Court’s opinions or the president’s statements. We can say that his actions perfect the logic of the mainstream of the pro-choice movement. He has followed premises shared by the president and by four Supreme Court justices to their unavoidable conclusion.
Gosnell’s victims speak.

More on the “sisterhood of suffering:”
FIFTEEN-YEAR-OLD Robyn Reid didn’t want an abortion. But when her grandmother forcibly took her to an abortion clinic one wintry day in 1998, Reid figured she’d just tell the doctor her wishes and then sneak away.
Instead, Kermit Gosnell barked: “I don’t have time for this!” He then ripped off her clothes, spanked her, wrestled her onto a dirty surgical stretcher, tied her flailing arms and legs down and pumped sedatives into her until she quit screaming and lost consciousness, she told the Daily News yesterday.
Nicole Gaither got an abortion from Gosnell in 2001. After four days, she said, the pain was so bad she could barely walk. She returned to the clinic, where, she said Gosnell blithely told her he’d left fetal remains in her.
“Stand up! It don’t hurt that bad!” he yelled at her, she said, before suctioning – without any medication – her insides.
In 2001, Davida Johnson changed her mind about aborting her 6-month fetus after seeing Gosnell’s dazed, bloodied patients in his recovery room, she said. But in the treatment room, Gosnell’s staffers ignored her protests, smacked her, tied her arms down and sedated her into unconsciousness, she said. She awoke no longer pregnant.
Weeks later, she said, she was diagnosed with a venereal disease that she believes she contracted from unsterilized equipment Gosnell used. Now, she can’t carry a baby to term and said she has miscarried four times since her abortion.
One day after a grand jury issued a hefty report charging Gosnell with eight counts of murder stemming from his West Philadelphia practice, Reid, Gaither, Johnson and other women stepped forward yesterday to share stories of horrors they had hidden for years, unaware that they were part of a sisterhood of suffering.

Getting the Politics Right

Struggling out of the Great Grimpen Mire

Regular readers of this blog will know where we stand on the matter of national debt. We have argued repeatedly that New Zealand is at serious risk. We have argued that we must cut government spending and we must pay down debt through asset sales. If we do not do this now, it will be forced upon us later by the international capital markets to whom we are deeply in hock. If we refuse to face up to it and put it off, it will be far more painful and destructive when our back is against the wall and we are forced to it.

In the light of this we welcome the Prime Minister's announcement that the government is looking to reduce spending by $300 million per annum, and conduct a partial sell down of four state owned companies: three electricity companies and a coal company. Now, we are not that excited about the spending cuts--because it is only pegging back planned new spending. It is not a real cut in spending--which would require us to address our woefully bloated entitlement payments which extend government largesse to the majority of the population. But it is a start. It is a step in the right direction. As our mother used to say, we must be thankful for small mercies.

But we wish to make three more general observations. The first is a rarely seen conviction in the Prime Minister's words and tone. He actually is conveying conviction! This has been one of the biggest disappointments in John Key. The dominant narrative about the Prime Minister in the public square is that Key just smiles and waves at everything. He is a welter-weight. "To get along you have to go along" seems to have been his mantra. But maybe things are changing just a little. Maybe Key has the foresight to see how soon our backs will be against the wall. He is now speaking clearly and emphatically. Here are some speech extracts:
Growth over the last decade was built on all the wrong things – debt, consumption, and government spending. People borrowed heavily to buy houses and farms, property prices soared and New Zealanders felt wealthier as a result. They spent a lot on consumer goods, which led to a bubble of economic activity.

The Labour Government thought this bubble, and the tax revenue it generated, would go on forever and spent up large on permanent new spending programmes. The Government’s spending increased by more than 50 per cent in just six years. . . .

When we are borrowing $300 million a week, have an overvalued exchange rate, and face the prospect of a credit rating downgrade, the Government believes it should be spending less and therefore borrowing less. I have therefore challenged my Ministers to balance the books more quickly.

Government spending will continue to increase each year in dollar terms, but at a slower pace than the rest of the economy. Hat Tip: Kiwiblog
But, wait, there's more! Being interviewed, he was asked about the political risks of introducing the toxic asset-sales bogey. Key said that if his new strategy cost him the election, so be it. He was resolved to do what was for the good of the nation, not further his own interests. Now that is more like it. That is what we must have in a Prime Minister if he is to be worthy of the office.

The second observation is how Key and his advisers have thought long and hard about getting the politics right. You not only have to be doing the right thing, you have to take the majority of the nation with you, so that at the very least they are willing to suspend critical judgment and let you have a go. (That's about as sophisticated as most voters get. They have a sense of fair play. They think political leaders need a fair shot--just as long as what is being proposed is not pilloried from the get-go as monstrous.) So, the crafting of his proposals has been particularly skilful, it seems to us. Things like, the partial sell down of blue chip companies, with government retaining the majority stake--and the comparison with Air New Zealand as the successful model--effectively neuters most of the knee-jerk criticism from the outset.

Also, stating that the sell-down will release around $9 billion which would then be spent on roads, hospitals, and schools puts the opposition in a vice. As they criticise the proposals they can innocently be asked, "What, you don't believe in more schools and hospitals?" If they retort that they certainly do, they can then be asked how they propose to pay for them, because there is certainly no money in the kitty--which would further drive home the recklessness of the Left's "borrow and spend" mantra.

And Key's team clearly have thought about objections and have some "take that" one-liners already thought out. For instance, immediately the critics insisted that as a result of partial privatisation, power prices would rise, Key was prepared. State ownership had not kept power prices down: under the previous administration whilst the big power companies were fully owned by the state, electricity prices rose 70 percent, he pointed out. Even Sue Chetwin of Consumer agreed Key had a valid point.

The crafting of the policy, then, appears politically astute and clever. Already the media, which previously have vented eruptions of populist nonsense over asset sales, are divided. Whilst some are trotting out, "Oooooh, the people won't like this" others are strongly supportive--as witnessed by this NZ Herald editorial, entitled "Key Presents Powerful Case for Asset Sales".

A third general observation is this: the level of ignorance in the Commentariate over economic matters and how economies actually work never ceases to surprise. It does not seem to grasp the basics of company law, such as what a 51 percent shareholding actually means in terms of control. It does not seem to grasp that State Owned Enterprises have had to make a profit from the outset. Further, members of the Commentariate have lamely argued that partial privatisation will lead to higher electricity prices, due to the rigours of profit making obligations. They appear to have zero understanding of the efficiencies wrought by a regime of competitive profit making. They appear to think that socially owned monopolies are more efficient. There is an abundance of analysis to prove beyond reasonable doubt that this is not the case--but still, they persist in wanting to flounder in the Great Grimpen Mire.

We realise that in the grand scheme of things the intent announced by the Prime Minister is a baby step. But it is a step, and it is in the right direction. We beggars will take any crumbs we can get.

Thursday, 27 January 2011

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Right in the Juicy Spot

Culture and Politics
Sex and Culture
Douglas Wilson
Monday, January 24, 2011

Inter-Varsity Press ("IVP") has released a new title, called The End of Sexual Identity: Why Sex Is Too Important to Define Who We Are (HT: Baylyblog). Reading how they have described it themselves was like playing ping pong with your junior high friends, and one of them hits the ball about five feet above the table, exactly in the middle, right in the juicy spot. Time slows down, and what can you do? No choice involved in it, really.

"Concepts like 'gay' or 'straight' are relatively recent developments in human history. We let ourselves be defined by socially constructed notions of sexual identity and sexual orientation, even though these are not distinctly biblical or Christian ways of thinking about sex."
Now anyone who thinks that this is a prelude to urging us all to start adopting more biblical ways about speaking about sex, is someone who is perhaps a tad more naive than they ought to be.

"And there were also sodomites in the land: and they did according to all the abominations of the nations which the LORD cast out before the children of Israel" (1 Kings 14:24).
"Thou shalt not bring the hire of a whore, or the price of a dog, into the house of the LORD thy God for any vow: for even both these are abomination unto the LORD thy God. (Dt. 23:18).
Heh. So let us abandon all these recent social constructs that have done so much to clutter up our speechifying. Let us walk away from all talk of transgendered communities, let us abandon all notions of gay orientations, and let us not have any more of this funny business about dykes on bikes. Let us return to the biblical world in which harlotry is considered a problem. Everybody happy now? No? Maybe something else is going on then. Hmmm. Let's check on what that might be.

"Anthropologist Jenell Williams Paris offers a Christian framework for sexuality that accounts for complex postmodern realities..."

But why do we want to account for complex postmodern realities? That is called missing the point, for there are no longer any points to miss. Right? Actually, underneath all the pomo jargonizing, there are a couple of non-negotiable points that they insist on us not missing, while pretending they are insisting on nothing whatever.

One is that everybody must be able to get laid whenever and however they want, and the other is that they must be allowed to rail against power games while playing the ultimate power game themselves. The first item is the bait, and the second is the trap. The people doing this are really evil or really stupid.

But let us play the game for a couple more minutes. If we were still trapped in the older Aristotelian categories, then we would have to account for realities. Part of the whole point of complex postmodern cogitations was to stop accounting for realities. Reality is offputting. Reality involves a boy and a girl, who grow up into a man and a woman (more a divine construct than a social one), fully capable of having their fun time without any help from anthropologists who write for IVP, or leather merchants in San Francisco for that matter.

"She unpacks how sexual identities are socially constructed in our cultural context, and assesses problems with common cultural and Christian understandings of heterosexuality and homosexuality. Ultimately, linking sexual feelings to human identity leads us to a dead end."
To wit, the dead end of not being able to follow your fellow academics to the party that promises to turn into an orgy, the one with a daisy chain involving half the faculty, a chain that actually is a social construct, come to think of it.

"Avoiding simplistic moral exhortation about sexual behavior, Paris argues that the Christian tradition holds a distinct vision for sexuality without sexual identity categories. The End of Sexual Identity moves beyond culture war impasses to open up new space and vocabulary for conversations with people in diverse communities both inside and outside the church."
Anybody who can read that without catching a whiff of the sulphurous pit it came from is probably on the tenure fast track, and those who keep wrinkling their nose like they are doing are never going to get tenure.
Incidentally, I don't think they really mean it when they resolve to abandon all simplistic moral exhortations. If any of them ever read this post, and afterwards have reason to speak to me, I would be willing to bet ready money that I would hear quite a few simplistic moral exhoratations.

So shall we avoid all "simplistic moral exhortations" when it comes to sexual identity? As Uncle Andrew said to Digory, "Ours is a high and lonely destiny . . ." It is a hard living trying to grow luxuriant flowers on that moonscape of theirs. "Orchids need atmosphere" is a simplistic truism, and we have abandoned all such. The problem is, nothing grows anymore.

So these people are reduced to the expedient of kidnapping what other people have grown. Some poor kid arrives at their InterVarsity group at college from his Bible church background, sent there because his parents were so influenced by Packer's Knowing God (IVP) when they were in college, little realizing that IVP is now putting out . . . initially I was going to make up some ridiculous title like Walking with Christ through Gender Change: How a Fundamentalist Man Became a Methodist Woman . . . but I think I'll just leave it at "IVP is now putting out."

Money Produces Righteousness--Apparently

Why Are The Poor So Evil?

The other day we were driving home after a pleasant afternoon on the golf course. That day, publicity had just been accorded the now thoroughly discredited UN report on an allegedly very dim situation for children in New Zealand. Driving home we switched on "Larry William's Drive" only to be assailed instead with the coruscating brilliance of stand in, Susan Wood.

Susie may not the brightest pin in the cushion, but she is very definitely representative of the fashionable chardonnay sipping set. She is duly outraged at child abuse, or human degradation of whatever sort. She thinks with her gut--which is to say, emotively. In all of this she represents the norm for the chattering classes or the commentariate.

In the ensuing discussion on the plight of children in New Zealand, Susie expressed her agreement with one of the allegations made in the UN report. The allegation was that 20% of children in New Zealand lived in "income poverty". It was inferred that of course those families would be dysfunctional. Now it is patently obvious--beyond dispute--that the overwhelming majority of child abuse in this country occurs in homes (usually consisting of "blended families") who are "poor" on the New Zealand scale. Child abuse is far less prevalent in families where not only are the parents decently educated, but they have jobs and don't rely on social welfare benefits.

Now to Susie and her cohort colleagues it is axiomatic that poverty causes crime. The thing that was striking on the radio was the emphatic "of course" kind of claim that she (and by implication all educated and intelligent people) believe this to be self-evident.

Now, this is not self-evident at all. Why? Well, firstly it is logically inadequate. As has been observed many times, co-incidence does not mean, nor necessarily imply, causality. If I beat my drum at 6.00pm every night and then the sun goes down, the co-incidence of a drum beating and the sun setting does not necessarily imply that my drum caused the sun to set.

Secondly, in order for Susie's proposition to be self-evident, suppressed assumptions upon which she and those in her cohort are drawing need to be truthful and right. These assumptions will be some sort of variant of economic determinism: the belief that money or wealth determines ethics, beliefs, and human behaviour. One form of economic determinism was and is Marxism. But the more trendy chardonnay-socialism draws upon the same assumptions. The tenets making up economic determinism are built, in turn, upon some permutation of evolutionary materialism: the assertion that matter is all that exists and matter determines human action.

Now, if Susie were a committed evolutionary materialist or an economic determinist we can understand why she would express the views that she did. But we suspect that she has never thought about it. If she had thought about it, she would know that the idea of material causality is highly contentious, and she would not have assumed it to be self-evident. Rather, we believe she was simply repeating the proposition that poverty causes child abuse because it is the shared view amongst her cohort, and it co-incides with emotive and paternalistic sentiments of pity towards those less well off than herself.

Thirdly, Susie has a lot of explaining to do. Since even the most desperately poor person in New Zealand lives like a king when compared to the greater majority of the world's population, she needs to explain why poverty stricken and afflicted families in Africa and Asia do not abuse their children far worse than the way we in New Zealand do.

Fourthly, is Susie really asking us to believe that if only we gave poorer New Zealand families more money and lifted their standard of living, not only child abuse would disappear, but, by implication most crime in the country. That would appear to be the logical concomitant of her position.

Matter does not cause evil. Electrons do not produce wickedness, any more than a lamp-post is intrinsically evil. Malice, greed, pride, lust, envy, anger, selfishness, pride, self-indulgence--these produce outworkings of evil. These produce family breakdown, bitterness, hatred, and destructive human relationships. Moreover, once in a state of impoverishment, these sins and concupiscences of heart work to keep people poor.

This of course would turn Susie's argument on its head: because some people hate their children and their de-facto spouses and their own lives, they languish in poverty. Now, of course this causality would need to be demonstrated. And like all societal research there will always be exceptions; we will only ever be talking about tendencies and averages. Moreover, there is the complicating factor of family conditioning: those who have been abused as children so often grow up to be abusive.

But the notion that human evil is caused by a lower relative standard of living is specious. Sin is not a socio-economic class construct.  The sooner we get rid of it, the better. But along with its passing, all the various "materialisms" will also have to be thrown out. And that would be an uncomfortable moment for us all. For if evil is not economically determined, whence its seat and source?

Might not the Living God actually have to be reckoned with, when He says through the mouth of His prophet: "the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked; who can know it"? (Jeremiah 17:10) "No, no, no!" would scream the modern sophisticate. Anything but that.

Then again, the heart of the modern sophisticate is likewise deceived and desperately wicked, and is not to be trusted for a moment in such things. Susie, the chattering classes, and the commentariate are hardly disinterested in the matter.

Wednesday, 26 January 2011

Worship, Prayer and Judgment

Reforming Public Worship

In Revelation 8: 3--5, we read the following:
And another angel came and stood at the altar, holding a golden censer; and much incense was given to him, that he might add it to the prayers of all the saints upon the golden alter which was before the throne. And the smoke of the incense, with the prayers of the saints, went up before God out of the angel's hand. And the angel took the censer; and he filled it with the fire of the altar and threw it to the earth; and three followed peals of thunder and sounds and flashing of lightning and an earthquake.

David Chilton comments on this text, tracing the connection between public worship and divine judgment upon the earth:
God rains down His judgments upon the earth in specific response to the liturgical worship of His people. As part of the formal, official worship service in heaven, the angel of the altar offers up the prayers of the corporate people of God; and God responds to the petitions, acting into history on behalf of the saints.

The intimate connection between liturgy and history is an inescapable fact, one which we cannot afford to ignore. This is not to suggest that the world is in danger of lapsing into "non-being" when the Church's worship is defective. In fact, God will use historical forces (even the heathen) to chastise the Church when she fails to live up to her high calling as the Kingdom of priests.

The point here is that the official worship of the covenantal community is cosmically significant. Church history is the key to world history; when the worshiping assembly calls upon the Lord of the Covenant, the world experiences His judgments. History is managed and directed from the altar of incense, which has received the prayers of the Church. (p. 232,3).

Chilton also cross-refers this connection between the imprecatory prayers and petitions for help by the saints and the judgments of God from heaven upon the earth to Psalm 18:6--15:

6 In my distress I called upon the LORD;
to my God I cried for help.
From his temple he heard my voice,
and my cry to him reached his ears.

7Then the earth reeled and rocked;
the foundations also of the mountains trembled
and quaked, because he was angry.
8Smoke went up from his nostrils,
and devouring fire from his mouth;
glowing coals flamed forth from him.
9He bowed the heavens and came down;
thick darkness was under his feet.
10He rode on a cherub and flew;
he came swiftly on the wings of the wind.
11He made darkness his covering, his canopy around him,
thick clouds dark with water.
12Out of the brightness before him
hailstones and coals of fire broke through his clouds.

13The LORD also thundered in the heavens,
and the Most High uttered his voice,
hailstones and coals of fire.
14And he sent out his arrows and scattered them;
he flashed forth lightnings and routed them.
15Then the channels of the sea were seen,
and the foundations of the world were laid bare
at your rebuke, O LORD,
at the blast of the breath of your nostrils.

This important function and part of corporate worship is something which the Church of our generation needs to recover as part of the on-going reformation of public worship.

New Zealand's Religious Establishment

Unclean Things

New Zealand, along with all nations, is acutely religious. But, more than most Western countries, the dominant religion is now the Established Religion. We are using "established" in the historical sense of a religion prescribed and protected, so that all citizens must respect and honour that particular religion's beliefs and practices. Established religion is the religion buttressed and proscribed by the law of the land.

The established religion in New Zealand is Maori animism. In historical terms it is a pagan and primitive religion, riddled with superstition and idolatry. It is an offence and provocation to the Living God. But none who want official and public respect in New Zealand dare criticise the Establishment. Those, however, who fear God more than man are prepared to call it for what it is: hokey pokey--a thoroughly sour, ignorant and stupefying batch of mouldy ice-cream. Every Christian who understands what the Bible says about idolatry and false gods has no hesitation in flatly rejecting Maori animism. In so doing, we have become the new Dissenters.

Wavering Christians may well be offended at such a stand because they fear it will cause offence to Maori. Not causing offence has regrettably become for some of our brethren, not the eleventh commandment, but the only commandment. To these brethren we say, "harden up". Fear God, not man.  These weaker brethren have not yet realised that when it comes to a choice between offending the Living God, on the one hand, or man on the other, Christians must offend man a thousand times over. We must never, ever offend our God. We will drive out any idol, never tolerating any in His presence. We will be as jealous of God's honour as God is Himself.  We will never bow down or honour any image of God, which makes all graphical representations of God idolatrous. We will never tolerate His Name being used in an empty or vain fashion. We will honour His holy day.

The ignorance and stupidity of Maori animism has been on display in recent days. A church youth group had a fantastic day out, climbing Mount Taranaki, packing up a couch and BBQ by hand. Quite a feat. At the top they reclined for a celebratory meal. After enjoying the Lord's creation and celebrating his goodness, they decamped taking their gear and detritus with them.

On returning to the land of the living dead they were assailed by a government official: an outraged Taranaki Department of Conservation boss, Phil Mohi. Now, Phil it turns out is a Maori who has returned to the religion of his ancestors and is a card carrying Maori animist. He has taken it upon himself to speak out in the name of his gods. His god is the mountain. The top of the mountain is tapu--sacred ground, in the eyes of Phil and his colleagues. According to a media report:

He said the summit barbecue was disappointing because the young people there probably didn't realise or hadn't learnt that the mountain and especially the summit is a very sacred place for iwi of Taranaki. "We discourage camping at the summit and try to make people aware that the very highest part is the most sacred of all – and ask climbers to avoid standing there.

"There's a difference too between eating prepared food for sustenance and actually cooking on the summit," he said.
Ah, the casuistry of the animist. How quaint.

Now the young Christians were taken aback by this outburst. They apologised. They did not want to cause offence, they said. What they should have said is something like this: "Mount Taranaki is holy to us because it belongs to the Living God Who owns the cattle on a thousand hills and the wealth in every mine. All the earth is His. We went up the mountain to celebrate His glory and His majesty. We ate and drank with Him and feasted with Him and communed with Him. We gave thanks to Him for our food. We praised Him for His greatness displayed in the grandeur of Mount Taranaki which He has created. People need to respect our faith. All the earth is the Lord's and the fullness thereof." Sadly, these young folk were not mature enough to understand that this is how they ought to have responded. Instead they apologised for offending animists by not respecting their beliefs. Sad. But, hey, they will mature.

Now all of this may have been a mere debate between opposed religions--except that Phil Mohi was speaking as an officer of the Government of New Zealand. This is why we have argued that Maori animism is now the Established religion of our nation.
Mr Mohi said that was a good reflection on the group and he encouraged and applauded all those that made use of the park. "But part of our management role is to promote and protect the mountain's cultural and spiritual values," he said.

He said the summit barbecue presented a timely reminder that the mountain is of huge significance to a great many people and that such actions show little respect to a very special place. DOC's interpretation panels do explain the overall significance of the mountain but Mr Mohi said that staff will be exploring other ways to build greater awareness among the public. (Emphasis, ours.)
OK, Phil--let's become aware of each other. What you are promoting is deeply offensive to Christians and to God. It is also a lie. Your gods do not exist. Your beliefs offend and anger the Living God. Such idolatry ripens New Zealand and our people for judgment. It calls down the curses of the Covenant upon our land. Have we not already begun to taste His cup of wrath. Are we not being left once again in this country to demons from the ancient world? Are we not bloated upon the carcasses of our abused and aborted children? Are we not enslaved to drink, drugs, and crime? Are we not subjected to criminal gangs that imprison, enslave, rape and maim all who fall into their clutches?

The fact that your paganism is now the Established Religion of our nation makes it all the worse. The fact that our government will stand four square behind Phil, supporting him in his imperialistic animist beliefs condemns us all to wrath. But we Christians want no part of it. We are called to come out from among them, and be separate, and to touch not the unclean thing. (II Corinthians 6: 16-18)

The "unclean thing" is Maori animism; the clean thing is the creation, for it belongs to the Lord alone. Therefore, we will go up the mountain again, as often as we consider it appropriate, and eat and drink and feast and be merry before the Lord.

Tuesday, 25 January 2011

Dr Gosnell's House of Horror, Part II

 Complicit Authorities

We are pleased that the story of Dr Gosnell's grisly abortion mill has made the mainstream media in New Zealand. But, as Michelle Malkin has documented, the administrative authorities are complicit in Gosnell's crimes and perpetrated evils. They also deserve to be in the dock.
The Philadelphia Horror: How mass murder gets a pass
by Michelle Malkin
Creators Syndicate
Copyright 2011

Let’s give the “climate of hate” rhetoric a rest for a moment. It’s time to talk about the climate of death in which the abortion industry thrives unchecked. Dehumanizing rhetoric, rationalizing language, and a callous disregard for life have numbed America to its monstrous consequences. Consider the Philadelphia Horror.
In the City of Brotherly Love, hundreds of babies were murdered by a scissors-wielding monster over four decades. Whistleblowers informed public officials at all levels of the wanton killings of innocent life. But a parade of government health bureaucrats and advocates protecting the abortion racket looked the other way – until, that is, a Philadelphia grand jury finally exposed the infanticide factory run by abortionist Kermit B. Gosnell, M.D., and a crew of unlicensed, untrained butchers masquerading as noble providers of women’s “choice.”
Prosecutors charged Gosnell and his death squad with multiple counts of murder, infanticide, conspiracy, abuse of corpse, theft, and other offenses. The 281-page grand jury report (see the link to the Grand Jury report  below) released Wednesday provides a bone-chilling account of how Gosnell’s “Women’s Medical Society” systematically preyed on poor, minority pregnant women and their live, viable babies. The report’s introduction lays out the criminal enterprise that claimed the lives of untold numbers of babies — and mothers:
“This case is about a doctor who killed babies and endangered women. What we mean is that he regularly and illegally delivered live, viable, babies in the third trimester of pregnancy – and then murdered these newborns by severing their spinal cords with scissors. The medical practice by which he carried out this business was a filthy fraud in which he overdosed his patients with dangerous drugs, spread venereal disease among them with infected instruments, perforated their wombs and bowels – and, on at least two occasions, caused their deaths. Over the years, many people came to know that something was going on here. But no one put a stop to it.”
Echoing the same kind of dark euphemisms plied by Planned Parenthood propagandists who refer to unborn life as “fetal and uterine material,” Gosnell referred to his deadly trade as “ensuring fetal demise.” Reminiscent of the word wizards who refer to the skull-crushing partial-birth abortion procedure as “intact dilation and evacuation” and “intrauterine cranial decompression,” Gosnell described his destruction of babies’ spinal cords as “snipping.”
He rationalized his macabre habit of cutting off dead babies’ feet and saving them in rows and rows of specimen jars as “research.”

His guilt-ridden employees then took photos of some of the victims before dumping them in shoe-boxes, paper bags, one-gallon spring-water bottles, and glass jars.
They weren’t the only ones who adopted a see-no-evil stance:
*The Pennsylvania Department of Health knew of clinic violations dating back decades, but did nothing;
*The Pennsylvania Department of State was “repeatedly confronted with evidence about Gosnell” – including the clinic’s unclean, unsterile conditions, unlicensed workers, unsupervised sedation, underage abortion patients, and over-prescribing of pain pills with high resale value on the street – “and repeatedly chose to do nothing.”
*Philadelphia Department of Public Health officials who regularly visited Gosnell’s human waste-clogged offices did nothing;
*Nearby hospital officials who treated some of the pregnant mothers who suffered grave complications from Gosnell’s butchery did nothing; and
*The National Abortion Federation, the leading association of abortion providers that is supposed to uphold strict health and legal standards, determined that Gosnell’s chamber of horrors was “the worst abortion clinic she had ever inspected” – but did nothing.
Meanwhile, the death racketeers have launched a legislative and regulatory assault across the country on pro-life crisis pregnancy centers from New York City to Baltimore, Austin, and Seattle who offer abortion alternatives, counseling, and family services to mostly poor, vulnerable, minority women.
Already, left-wing journalists and activists have rushed to explain that these abortion atrocities ignored for four decades by abortion radicals and rationalizers are not really about abortion. A Time magazine writer argued that the Philadelphia Horror was “about poverty, not Roe V. Wade.” A University of Minnesota professor declared: “This is not about abortion.”
But the grand jury itself pointed out that loosened oversight of abortion clinics enacted under pro-choice former GOP governor Tom Ridge enabled Gosnell’s criminal enterprise – and led to the heartless execution of hundreds of babies. Mass murder got a pass in the name of expanding “access” and appeasing abortion lobbyists. As the report made clear: “With the change of administration from [pro-life Democrat] Governor Casey to Governor Ridge,” government health officials “concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions. Better to leave clinics to do as they pleased, even though, as Gosnell proved, that meant both women and babies would pay.”
Deadly indifference to protecting life isn’t tangential to the abortion industry’s existence – it’s at the core of it. The Philadelphia Horror is no anomaly. It’s the logical, blood-curdling consequence of an evil, eugenics-rooted enterprise wrapped in feminist clothing.

Grand Jury Report — Philly Abortionist Kermit B. Gosnell Multiple Counts of Murder (January 2011)

Three Strikes Law at Work

Inherently Just

We have had our own New Zealand version of the "Three Strikes" law on our statute books for six months. The Police and Corrections Minister, Judith Collins reports that 132 offenders have been sentenced under this new law in that time.

We are very supportive of the NZ version of the "three strikes" approach to sentencing. It will no doubt require some tweaks from time to time. But we believe that this is something we have got basically right. It is a carefully graduated statute, avoiding the unpalatable injustices of "three strikes" laws when they were originally introduced overseas.
The Sentencing and Parole Reform Act imposes a graduated scale of harsher penalties for repeat criminals who are convicted of one of 40 violent or sexual offences. An offender receives a normal sentence and a warning for strike one, a sentence without parole for strike two, and the maximum sentence for that offence, without parole, for strike three.

There will be plenty of people in the "commentariate" who will continue to question this law. Is it working? Are criminals being deterred? No doubt every time someone reaches "strike three" and gets the maximum non-parole sentence it will be an occasion to opine that the law is "not working". This is because New Zealand, like most Western countries, remains paralyzed in a hopeless confusion over crime and punishment. Given that all Western countries to a greater or lesser extent believe that government has a redemptive function and responsibility, the existence of even one criminal and the commission of just one crime would be seen as a failure of the state and of society. In such a world-view, punishment for crime is not an option. That is why in New Zealand, our prison system is called the "Department of Corrections", underscoring its conception as a redemptive, saving institution.

Thus, the "three strikes" law will always be assessed as to whether it is believed to be effective in reducing crime. But this is a nonsense. Not only is it grounded in a false ideology, but how would you ever tell? No doubt criminologists and "commentariate" members will routinely trot out things such as "Our research tells us that 'three strikes' has not worked to reduce crime in New Zealand," in the future.

But the very pronouncement conveys the folly of such spurious research. No doubt the causes of crime are manifold, various, and complex. No doubt they also change over time. Unless research can screen out all the multi-variate factors and test "three strikes" as an isolated factor, the research will be worthless. But, it will get done, and it will be published, and it will be used to argue that "three strikes" has failed. How do we know this?

One reason is ideological: the very suggestion of "punishment" with respect to crime is an offense to those who believe in the redemptive powers of the state--and that is the vast majority in our country. "Three strikes" will gnaw at the ideological vitals of the body politic. The second reason such spurious research will be done and will be employed is because such shonky research is done all the time. Multi-variate causes are ignored routinely in much "social science" statistical research because they prevent hard conclusions being drawn, which, in turn, precludes headlines, which in its turn makes it more difficult to get funding--and so on. Multi-variate causes make conclusions die the death of a thousand qualifications, so things "work better" if they are just ignored, being quietly put to the side.

We have no interest in whether "three strikes" laws reduce crime. The reason, however, we believe "three strikes" is the right approach is because of the inherent justice involved. If two people are in the dock, one convicted of aggravated robbery as a first offence, the second as a third offence the guilt of the repeat offender is greater; therefore the punishment must be greater. Punishment does not atone for crime. It is retributive. It deals out what the criminal deserves. Restitution atones--making up and good, restoring the victim. Punishment does not. Therefore, for successive crimes the guilt of former crimes continues and is heaped up.

"Three strikes" sentencing policies are inherently just. Whether they reduce crime or not is irrelevant.

Monday, 24 January 2011

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Full of Surprises

Culture and Politics - Sex and Culture
Written by Douglas Wilson
Monday, January 17, 2011

Not having said anything about the monkeyshines of the erstwhile CO, Captain Honors, of the U.S.S. Enterprise, allow me to do so now. Since the videos that cost him his command were a few years old, the first thing that occurs to me is that he was probably done in by some competitor. We can file this under "yet another Social Media firing." You know the kind of thing . . . someone calls his boss a jerk on Facebook, his boss reads it and lets him go. The former employee, meanwhile, wants to claim that the firing was an invasion of his privacy. Somebody read what I published for the whole world to read, and this is unconscionable.

Back to the Navy. We have multiple problems here, layered like they were chocolate cake, with raspberry filling in between the layers. Only the problems aren't chocolate, and they don't taste good. But they are layered.

The first is that we see how inadequate professionalism is an an antidote to the unregenerate heart of man. You take a bunch of sailors, who act like sailors always have, and who like what sailors all have always liked, and you send them out on a floating city for months at a time. You put some women on board for some reason, for what could possibly go wrong, and they all have access to video equipment. This means that it is just a matter of time.

And it is just a matter of time before this kind of thing is masterminded by the mastermind, by some guy at or near the top. The lame defenses that were offered for Honors after the fact sometimes appealed to context, and to the fact that Honors was just trying to "raise morale." Everybody knows that raising morale is a good thing, right? Everybody should also know that there are two kinds of football coaches -- the kind who think that discipline is indivisible, and who insist on a strict code of conduct on and off the field, and then the other kind who say that the football field is the only place where discipline matters, and who don't care how many strip clubs the guys hit the night before the game. The latter think that they are "leaders of men," but they are actually just bribers of men.

The military has always had this kind of leader, but it should be known that it is this kind of leader who, after the city falls, allows his troops to go in for a little compensatory rapine, pillage and slaughter. To build morale. Slack hand leadership is the kind of leadership that creates excesses like the Abu Ghraib debacle.

So this is no defense of raunchy behavior, no "sailors will be sailors" defense. Sailors need discipline, but they need the kind of discipline that can only grow out of a Christian civilization. They need, in short, the kind of discipline that can flourish in a culture saturated by gospel norms. And even then, in order for such discipline to exist at sea for months at a time, you need leaders who are extraordinarily competent, and who themselves have been shaped by a gospel-shaped culture.

Our military prides itself on being "professional." And that is a good thing. But like all good things in the world, it is not itself the gospel, and cannot do a single, blessed thing about the wicked heart of man. Furthermore, it cannot sustain itself. Professionalism and competence are fruit, not root. Morality at sea is fruit, not root. A tight ship is fruit, not root.

The laughable thing about all this is the delusional state of those who think that you can bring up a generation through a godless system of education, have them steeped in degraded entertainment, support their right to get condoms from the school nurse ad libitum, and then have a mysterious change come over everybody as soon as they join the Navy, they cast off the last line, and put out to sea. Life is full of surprises for the unteachable fool.

And with the repeal of DADT, we have now in effect privileged homosexual expression at sea, and you can't do that without accepting what comes from it. He who says A must say B . . . whether or not you really want to say B.

In order to live by a particular code, men need reasons. Maintaining discipline at sea would be hard enough, even if the whole culture knew that Jesus is Lord, and that He, the Savior of mankind, is in the process of restoring heaven and earth. But if the reason is that we used to have some reasons two hundred years ago, reasons that morphed into core values of some sort, and we think they still might be around here somewhere . . . and yet we still feel an emotional need to keep up the pretence of professionalism, then we will get the kind of Navy we are building. Sooner or later, you wind up where you are going.

Without Jesus, you have no way of dealing with sin. Without Jesus, you have no way even to define it. A Navy captain showed a video of some women showering together. So?

More UN Rubbish

NZ Remains Supine Before UN Criticism

The UN body which summoned NZ government representatives to Geneva to account for our "care" of children has judged that the situation in New Zealand is appalling. According to the NZ Herald, "The United Nations has expressed concern over shortfalls in the rights of New Zealand children, including "staggering" infant and child mortality rates and a lack representation for children in legislation." That we pay money to this bizarre, corrupt organization and participate as a "good global citizen" is madness.

MacDoctor takes the UN's report apart. A few choice quotations:
The UN committee on the rights of the child are concerned that we have insufficient rights for children in New Zealand. They imply that this is the cause of our “staggeringly high” infant mortality statistics. This would be impressive if we actually had high infant mortality stats, but we don’t. New Zealand’s infant mortality rate (from CIA stats) is 4.85 deaths per 1000 live births. This is not an especially good statistic, but is only marginally worse than the UK’s (4.69) and Australia’s (4.67). It is quite a bit better than the European Union’s (5.61) and America (6.14) and massively better than Russia (10.32) and United Arab Emirates (12.30) – the latter being the best of the middle eastern countries except, of course, Israel (4.17).
It would seem that all these concerns for child abuse, infant mortality and poverty are just a smoke-screen for the UN to get across its real agenda of child rights. While these “rights” are made out to be essential for combatting the ills besetting our children, there is no evidence that this is what they will achieve. After all, Singapore has no child rights at all and yet has the second lowest infant mortality in the world (2.32, right behind Monaco at 1.78), low rates of child abuse and fewer people in income poverty.
As MacDoctor suggests, the UN is driven by an evil ideology, viz: all the ills of mankind can be solved by government and its ministries.
In this particular case more government legislation, rules, interventions, committees, foundations, databases, and commissions superintended and intruding into family life will shore up and strengthen families. "NZ is bad because it does not have enough intrusive government is the basic refrain." One can think of nothing which is more devastating to family life. The more government asserts itself to become the uber-parent, the weaker family life becomes. Soon parents are living in perpetual infancy, looking to government as its wetnurse and nanny. We already have plenty of that in New Zealand--to where state dependence has become the heritage of generations. The UN wants to see more of it.

The UN is a morally bankrupt and wicked institution, existing solely for the glorification and deification of Man. It has no warrant in Scripture. As the world progressively Christianises, it will be gradually starved then dismembered. It is not something which we will likely live to see, but it will inevitably transpire. It, too, is an idol which will eventually "like broke in the temple of Baal".

In the meantime what we can rightfully expect is that our own Government would stand up and complete the kind of surgical dismembering of this UN report performed by MacDoctor. But our expectations, rightful or otherwise, will not be met. Why? Because New Zealand governments never criticise the UN, over anything. In overweening arrogance New Zealand diplomats, politicians, media, and other Beltway creatures see the UN as offering a way to increase New Zealand's influence in the world, opening up doors so that we can sit at the table with the Big Boys. Thus, never criticise, never resist. The powerbrokers at the UN may shut doors in our national face.

New Zealand has a very, very bad case of "short man's syndrome". Prattling on about "global governmental solutions to global problems", and glorying in the UN, is one way of compensating for our endemic cultural cringe.

Saturday, 22 January 2011

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

What the Broken Pustules Want

Culture and Politics - Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Lurking just beneath the surface of every reform movement to change the world is the innate and depraved human lust to run the world. And since this is actually the fundamental thing about our sorry planet that needs to be reformed (and can only be reformed by the Holy Spirit), we find that the medicines we apply are simply perpetuating the infection. Wowsers, do-gooders and bleeding hearts do not see that the central problem in all their problem solving is that they are aspiring to Deity, and they are wanting to solve problems that no human being, or collection of human beings, can possibly hope to solve.

When they urge the passage of Obamacare because this person will now "have coverage," they overlook the fact that nothing good can come from men wanting to be God. And men want to be God when they insist that every program address all the problems -- if they are appalled at the idea that certain significant problems have no political solutions, then they are still in the grip of the serpent's lie.

If we refuse the course of action they are urging, they will no doubt point to some (very real) problem that will now go unaddressed. But to refuse to go the way of a lunatic hubris does not constitute a warm approval of that particular problem. To fear the devil you don't know does not constitute backslapping the devil you do know.

To bring it down to particulars, let us ask the question this way. Suppose Obamacare is repealed in the House, and this spooks enough senators that they go along with repeal as well. Since there are not enough votes to override a veto, let us suppose that Obama has a miraculous moment of humility and he signs the repeal. Now what? We are back to the kind of health care we had before. Were there no problems with that? No, there were huge problems. So let us suppose that every health care provider in the country starts reading up on Friedman, Hayek, and Sowell. A revival of free market solutions then sweeps the country. Would I be happy with that? You bet. Would some people still be getting screwed by their insurance companies? Again, you bet.

I don't like that. I don't approve of that. If I am exhorting my desk mate down at the insurance company, I tell him, "Don't screw the customers, Bobby!" All I am saying is that global hubris in political affairs, the totalitarian impulse, is a sorcerer's apprentice kind of thing. As I periodically tell people in counseling, there is no problem you might have that you can't, by diligent effort, make far worse.

Now of course, the parable of the Good Samaritan, along with the tenor of Scripture everywhere, teaches us that our neighbor is the one in front of us, and that our obligation to love our neighbor must translate into concrete action. Our obligation to love involves people, not abstractions. Our obligation to love involves people, not statistical analysis from the World Bank. Our obligation to love involves people, which means that our obligations are near and clear.

When we undertake to solve problems that are not near and clear, we need to have, in the forefront of our minds, the fact that we are being tempted to think of ourselves more highly than we ought. We are being tempted, not to partake of forbidden fruit in our garden, which would be bad enough, but are rather being tempted to scale the heights of heaven to take fruit from the garden of God Himself. And if you have read the right kind of stories, if you know anything about the nature of the human heart, you know that this . . . how shall I put it? . . . never works out well.

C.S. Lewis remarks somewhere that the desire to "control nature" is actually the desire to control other people, with nature as the instrument. This basic manipulative move occurs in countless circumstances. So when someone from the government shows up at my door, and he is here "to help me," and asks what my biggest problem is, how can I communicate to him that my biggest problem is that I live in a fallen and broken world? And that the central thing that complicates this fallenness enormously is that the arrogant heart which broke it in the first place wants to be in charge of all the reconstruction? And won't take no for an answer?

The broken pustules want to have a medical degree conferred upon them, and to be given complete liberty in taking over this patient's sad case. That's all they ask.

Happy Birthday, Heidelberg

Uncovered Treasures From the Past

One of the more pernicious cultural effects of the dogma of evolution is its anti-historical cant. Moderns, raised under the influence of Evolutionism standing on every street corner extolling the virtues of her bordello, breathes her heady perfumes everywhere. "We, my lover, we are the best, the brightest, the most developed beautiful persons ever to grace the earth," she murmurs, amidst her seductive caresses. It's no surprise then that Moderns regard the past,at best as a curio, but fundamentally irrelevant.

Christians are completely different The past is essential and vital and we stand under its life-giving shadow, in the cool of Redemption's day. The past has brought forth the Saviour of the world, God's Messiah, our Lord. The great works of redemption wrought by our Saviour are all historical: our hope is found and grounded in the past.

Moreover, because of His great works two thousand years ago, He has risen and lives forever. He has sent His Spirit to lead, guide and teach His body, the Church. Therefore, we Christians are acutely interested in what our spiritual forefathers and mothers did, thought, taught and achieved--for in their lives and struggles we learn what God has taught them, and through them, us. This makes our heritage far, far richer than what was to hand for Augustine and Cyprian, and Bernard of Clairvaux.

In the latter part of the twentieth century there arose in the Church a deficient view that all that was necessary was an open Bible and the work of God's Spirit in the life of a Believer. As one great theologian grumbled, "It never ceases to surprise me that those who glory so much in the leading and teaching of the Holy Spirit in their lives remain so profoundly uninterested and ignorant of what He has taught the Church over two thousand years." Behold the rotting fruits of evolutionism upon even Christian minds!

The Heidelberg Catechism stands as one of the great documents of the Church. It represents a profound teaching moment by the Holy Spirit. (We do not mean, of course, that the Catechism is inspired or God-breathed as Holy Scripture is, but, rather, that under His guidance and instruction it clearly summarises some of the most important and central teachings of Scripture.) The Heidelberg Catechism is now 446 years old.

In honour of its birthday, we post this tribute from Fred Sanders:
Today is the Heidelberg Catechism’s 446th Birthday
Fred Sanders
On This Day, Theology

The first edition of the Heidelberg Catechism was published on January 19, 1563. If you know this little book well, then this reminder is enough to make you call to mind some of the best passages. If you know it less well, let this reminder move you to pull it from the shelf and refresh your memory. If you don’t know the book at all, then I get to be the first to tell you about a treasure, one of the best pieces of theology ever written.

It was written in the sixteenth century by a couple of young hot shot theologian-pastors named Zacharias Ursinus (1534-1583) and Caspar Olevianus (1536-1587). They did it at the bidding of Elector Frederick III, known as Frederick the Pious ( 1515-1560). Frederick had it published with a preface by himself: "My catechism, word for word, is drawn, not from human, but from divine sources, the references that stand in the margin will show.  If anyone of whatever age, station or class he may be, even the humblest, can teach me something better from the Holy Scriptures, I will thank him from the bottom of my heart and be readily obedient to the divine truth."

It was published in German and Latin. Within 25 years it was available in Dutch, Hebrew, Greek, French, Italian, Polish, English, Lithuanian, Bohemian, and Romanian. After 1700 it really took off, and was translated into Indonesian, Singhalese, Tamil, Arabic, Tiv, Hausa, you name it, the Heidelberg Catechism has been made available.

What’s so great about the Heidelberg Catechism? Here are ten characteristics for you:

It’s Personal. “What is YOUR only comfort in life and death?” It also contains the great objective truths of Christian revelation, things that are true whether you believe them or not. But as a Reformation document written in interrogative form, it puts the question to you: What about you?

It’s Devotional. It is designed not simply to instruct you or exhort you, but to set you before the face of God, confessing to him who you are, what you need, who he is, and what he has promised.

It’s Biblical. The Heidelberg Catechism draws together biblical truth in very helpful summaries. Get an edition with the original scripture references in the margin, or if possible, get an edition that prints the text of those references at the bottom of the page for you.

It’s Ecumenical. Let me qualify that claim: Within the house of the Reformation, it was intended to be a document that Calvinists and Lutherans would both agree on. That “big tent” strategy really pays off throughout. As a sixteenth-century text, it certainly was not written to emphasize what Catholics and Protestants have in common . . . . But most of the 129 questions cover the solid ground of “mere Christianity,” the great common central truths.

It’s Irenic. As opposed to polemical: Lovey, not fighty. Zacky Bear and C.O. … I mean, Zacharius Ursinus and Caspar Olevianus were not out to pick a fight. They want the calm, strong light of Christian truth more than the flame of controversy, whenever possible.

It’s Pastoral. Of course every Christian needs a real pastor in a real church, but this book provides the kind of counsel that is directly pastoral.

It’s Didactic. It is so well structured and carefully composed that it can teach you some serious theology. It would be hard to find a better theological education experience than simply working your way through these 129 questions intelligently, memorizing the key answers.

It’s Confident. Have you ever been asked a direct question about Christianity by an alert, inquisitive person, and found yourself drowning in a torrent of your own “ummms” and “uhhhhhs,” making weak and tentative statements hedged around with “like” and “sort of” on all sides? The voice of the Heidelberg Catechism is solid stuff. It knows things and says them confidently, giving clear and distinct answers to the questions. . . .

It’s Dense. That makes it worth your time to memorize. Ursinus and Olevianus packed a lot of truth into a few words.

It’s Free. Public domain. Help yourself by helping yourself to it.

The Heidelberg Catechism has 129 question-and-answer exchanges. In my opinion, about two-thirds of them are astonishingly good, but none are better than the very first answer:

Q: What is your only comfort in life and death?

A: That I am not my own, but belong with body and soul, both in life and in death, to my faithful Savior Jesus Christ. He has fully paid for all my sins with His precious blood, and has set me free from all the power of the devil. He also preserves me in such a way that without the will of my heavenly Father not a hair can fall from my head; indeed, all things must work together for my salvation. Therefore, by His Holy Spirit He also assures me of eternal life and makes me heartily willing and ready from now on to live for Him.

Friday, 21 January 2011

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Yet Another Den of Thieves

Culture and Politics - Obama Nation Building
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, January 18, 2011

In the debate about the repeal of Obamacare, there are people who understand the principles involved, and there are the wafters. The wafters can blow either way, depending upon the prevailing breezes in their district, but wafters they are -- whether they blow to the right or to the left. If they blow in the right direction it may benefit both me and the republic at large, but such men are not to be counted on. Winds change direction sometimes.

We can see this in the response of some Republicans to what is perceived to be one popular feature of Obamacare, the fact that "preexisting conditions" are covered. These guys want to repeal the monstrosity at large, but they want to keep (because popular) this small monstrosity. That resonates well with certain audiences. They can put it into their speeches in the home district without wincing. This is because most people in most audiences don't know what is actually being said by it.

There are two ways to spread risk over a large population. The first way is Christian -- it is biblical because the risk is shared voluntarily, and without coercion. The second way is from the pit -- because it depends for its success on violence and coercion. These are the two ways -- the way of peace and the way of blood. The way of the cross or the way of the gun.

If enough people pool their resources at a rate of ten dollars a month, they can then together take care of some disastrous occurrence that has befallen any one of them. In order for this to work, the disastrous occurrence needs to have not already happened. If it is okay for it to "have already happened," then a bunch of people to whom it has already happened will show up tomorrow morning, applications filled out, and all of a sudden the math doesn't work any more. And after the math quits working, and ten bucks a month ain't cuttin' it, then the temptation for the other way of doing business kicks in.

This other way still talks about "contributions," a linguistic vestige of another time and era, but it is the kind of contribution which, if you fail to make, lands you in chokey. This is called strong-arming, extortion, thuggery, intimidation, or, as some brethren on the left would have it, compassion.

The logic of free market insurance is compassionate because it involves free men and women taking care of themselves by means of free transactions. But what about the people with preexisting conditions, who are in a terrible spot? The law of Christ requires compassion here too, of a different nature, but which is still voluntary. This is why Christians should overflow with charitable (and voluntary) giving to take care of such folks. We should take care of them (though they cannot pay) because Christ took care of us when we could not pay. Give. Sacrifice. Bleed. Freely we have received, freely we must give. But this text does not say, please note, that because we have freely received we must haul out the guns, and the jackets with big block letters on the back, to make sure other people are giving, sacrificing, and bleeding enough.

Coercion skews everything. Even something as admirable in principle as Medishare, where Christians try to help take care of one another, is corrupted by the presence of governmental coercion. As a pastor, I know of at least three instances of Christians who belonged to this kind of program who were turned down in their applications, being in effect told that "we will cover this if Medicare turns you down. But you have to apply there first." In other words, they were told to go soak some unbelieving chump in Kentucky who is struggling with his taxes. If he does not cough up, then we will help out. Ah, a Christian testimony is a glorious thing. Behold how they love one another, after they have put the squeeze on others.

Wanting to have your insurance cover your preexisting condition (at no extra cost to you) is exactly like trying to place a bet at the Kentucky Derby after the race is over. You want to bet somebody that Miles Ahead will come in miles ahead when he already did. More than that, you want good odds in your favor. You can't get any takers for some reason, and so you call the men with guns to come and make somebody bet with you. The reason this has happened is that the human heart, which ought to be a house of prayer, has become a den of thieves.