Monday, 30 April 2012

Letter From the UK

Ignorant Luddites and Their Greek-Chorus Government

On extracting gas from rock, or putting it in there, the greens are equally confused  
The push for 'carbon capture' and the row over 'fracking' are both misguided. 

Christopher Booker  
The Telegraph

A delightful parable unfolded last week over the scarcely believable shambles we are making of our national energy policy. Ever more people are waking up to the fact that “renewables” such as windmills are absurdly expensive and hopelessly inefficient. Meanwhile, our nuclear plans have been thrown into disarray, our North Sea gas is fast running out, and we have turned our back on coal, even though it still often provides us with half our electricity. So how will we keep the lights on?
There were headline stories last week from two areas of energy policy that highlighted our predicament.

Delicious Irony

Life Outside the Beltway

The folly of Kiwibank, along with its parent NZ Post, is becoming more and more obvious by the month.  Both alike face a long, lingering death.  Neither can overcome the commercial challenges facing them.

Let's consider NZ Post first.  It has long been part of received wisdom that the government must ensure a functioning reliable, inexpensive postal service.  Consequently, most postal services around the world have been government owned and operated.  New Zealand took a gigantic step forward some years ago when it was decided that NZ Post needed to run along commercial lines.  It was made a State Owned Enterprise, which meant that it had to function as an independent commercial entity and make a profit for its owner, the government.

It did.  So far so good.

Saturday, 28 April 2012

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Five More Volleys on Effeminate Worship 

 Liturgy and Worship - Liturgical Notes
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, 24 April 2012

A short while ago I posted something about effeminate worship that has since that time excited some comment. The original piece was here, and you can see a couple of responses here and here.

This is not so much a point-by-point refutation as it is getting out a wetvac to clear up some misunderstandings. Once we understand each other, it is unlikely that this will bring about sweet concord on the subject, but at least we should be closer to the heart of the actual disagreement.

First, effeminacy and femininity are not synonyms.

Biggest Casino Makes a Deal with A Minnow

Gamble Away

Historically, gambling has been judged sinful, evil, a violation of God's law.  The question is, On what grounds?

One modern school of thought is that gambling is just another form of entertainment--a kind of competitive sport by proxy.  Just as one goes to the cinema, one can attend the local horse racing meet, place bets to give some "edge" to the entertainment, and thereby make the whole experience more participatory, exciting and diverting.  At the other edge is professional poker playing, which clearly is a participative, competitive sport, requiring finely honed skills to be successful.  We grant both points. 

For the Christian, the issue is not one of entertainment: there are plenty of ways to relax and find exhilarating enjoyment.  The issues are stewardship, covetousness, and the love of money--which is the root of all kinds of evil (I Timothy 6:10).

Friday, 27 April 2012

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Your Worship Service Might Be Effeminate If . . . 

Liturgy and Worship - Liturgical Notes
Written by Douglas Wilson
 Monday, 16 April 2012

For a number of interesting reasons, Christian worship in the West has become increasingly effeminate. Leon Podles outlines some of these historical reasons in his fine book, The Church Impotent. Ann Douglas makes a fine addition to the discussion in her book, The Feminization of American Culture.

To emphasize masculinity in worship is not a practice that excludes women. Rather, it includes them, brings them along, and makes them feel safe. If you reach the men, you will reach the women. Moreover, you will find yourself reaching the worthiest of women, the true mothers in Israel. Think tent pegs and mallets.

This being the case, and in the spirit of those lists you see from time to time -- "you might be this or that if . . ." --  I would like to offer a small checklist for pastors and elders, in no particular order.

Ideological Civil War

We Have a Voice! . . . Finally

An ideological war has broken out within the Commentariat in New Zealand.  It does not happen very often, making it all the more diverting.  The field of battle is the government education system. 

On one side are the Allies--a fighting coalition of three powers which has held sway in our education system for four decades or more.

The first of the Allied powers are the Marxist education theoreticians and their followers who argue that the power structures and their ideologies in New Zealand must be broken down if the New Society is to be built.  Therefore, education is a process of teaching a student to criticise everything, accept nothing, and reject everything (except Marxist dogma, of course).

The second member of the triumvirate is the oh-so-trendy "pomos"--the post-modernists--who argue that there is no truth, only narratives, stories.

Thursday, 26 April 2012

Modern Prejudice

Chronological Snobbery and the Spirit of Our Age 

Justin Taylor

J. I. Packer describes the heretical spirit of our age, which holds that:
  • the newer is the truer, 
  • only what is recent is decent, 
  • every shift of ground is a step forward, and 
  • every latest word must be hailed as the last word on its subject.
This is what C. S. Lewis called “chronological snobbery” (a lesson he learned from his friend Owen Barfield.

The Destruction Wreaked by Faux Human Rights

Righteous Anger Over Chinese Poppies

In New Zealand our veteran's association is called the Returned Services Association, or the "RSA".  Anzac Day is the statutory holiday when we remember our veterans and express our thankfulness for their service to us all.  In the last couple of years controversy has swirled around the Anzac season.  It has to do with the Chinese.

Well, indirectly.  The RSA raises funds at this time of the year by selling artificial red poppies which the public buy in large quantities and pin to their coats.  It is an effective visible way of showing respect for our veterans and our commitment to the memorial Anzac season.  It also funds the on-going activities and services of the RSA.  Two or so years ago, the RSA decided to get its red poppies manufactured in China. People resent that.  Previously the poppies were manufactured in New Zealand.  Now the job has been exported; working people in New Zealand have missed out.  Folk are protesting the "Chinese poppies" as an alien, unwanted, exploitative violation of the true spirit of the Anzac season.

The back story, however, is far, far more sinister.

Wednesday, 25 April 2012

Romney's Moral Antennae

Bloodshed and Buggery 

Culture and Politics - Politics
Written by Douglas Wilson
Sunday, 22 April 2012

So Mitt Romney hired Richard Grenell as his foreign policy spokesman, and Grenell is an "out and proud" homosexual. Well, who could have seen that coming?

The issue is how these things get mainstreamed. There is a certain kind of conservative who, in Dabney's immortal phrase, is the shadow that follows radicalism to perdition. It makes a gruff show with a respectable amount of growling, but in the end acquiesces to the last set of the left's innovations, and runs on the hard right conservative platform of trying to make socialism work. It has no idea, Dabney said, of being guilty of the folly of martyrdom.

It is not just about elections.

The Decline of the Republic

Patronage Politics

The last decades of the old Roman Republic were replete with corruption, big money politics, intrigue, murder, and vaunted arrogant ambition.  Naturally, the Republic eventually broke down, to be replaced by the Empire.  (If you are a non-specialist, and want a ripping, riveting good read about the decrepit latter days of the Republic you can go no further than the historical novels by Robert Harris about the life and times of Cicero, Imperium and Lustrum.)

At times we get a sense that the Republic of the United States is echoing the decline and fall of the ancient Republic of  Rome. There are adumbrations of that failed Republic at almost every turn.

Tuesday, 24 April 2012

Breivik's Brethren

 The Spirit of Terror in the West

Notorious killer, George Zimmerman has been released on bail.  Thus far, his notoriety derives from the apoplectic narrative coursing through sections of the US media.  Zimmerman, a community crime watch patrol member, has been arrested for shooting a black late-teen.  Whilst the public does not know what happened that night, racial demagogues have insisted that the shooting was a racist, murderous act. Fools rush to judgment.

Zimmerman's release on bail has resulted in a rise of vigilante sentiment.

Salutary Leadership

 Evoking Thatcher

Judith Collins is an unusual politician.  There is a "no-nonsense" aura about her that is redolent of Margaret Thatcher in her prime.  We suspect that her instincts on issues are conservative and, more-often-than-not, right.  We still marvel at the progress she made as Minister of Police in, firstly, depoliticising the NZ Police force--an essential constitutional protection perverted by former Prime Minister, Helen Clark--and appointing real policemen and women to head the department--as opposed to the political lapdogs appointed by Clark.  She, like Thatcher, is a "lady not for turning".  Like Thatcher, she does not tolerate fools lightly. 

Recently it has been the Accident Compensation Scheme ("ACC") which has been feeling the crush of her embrace.

Monday, 23 April 2012

What is Unbelief?

Foolishness Indeed

This, from St. Hilary of Poitiers (c. AD 315-67):

All unbelief is foolishness, for
it takes such wisdom as its own finite perception can attain,
and measuring infinity by that petty scale,
concludes that what it cannot understand must be impossible.
Unbelief is the result of incapacity engaged in argument.”

De Trinitate, III.24, cited in Douglas Kelly, Systematic Theology, vol. 1, p. 19.

Chuck Colson

. . . Of Whom the World Was Not Worthy 

We have often reflected on the Apostle Paul's "former life" where he persecuted Christians, hauling them into prison, inflicting punishment, and killing them.  Then, for the rest of his life, after his conversion to Christ, he laid down his life many times over, serving the very people he once persecuted.  His entire post-conversion life became a trophy to God's mercy and glory.

In our day, Chuck Colson--who died after a brief illness over the weekend--showed the same pattern.  Once a hard-nosed criminal political enforcer, he was confronted by the risen Lord Jesus Christ.  Thereafter his life was lived serving the very people he once despised.  Paul's particular sphere of service was the Gentiles.  Colson's was to inmates, prisoners.  He, like Paul, has been a trophy of God's mercy and glory.  We thank God for Chuck Colson.

In this obituary, we present some brief comments from national political leaders in the United States, together with reflections from one of the most widely read columnists in the US.

Saturday, 21 April 2012

Letter From America: Too Stupid to Survive?

What’s Your Plan?

The “Buffett Rule” is just another pathetic sleight of hand.

By Mark Steyn
April 14, 2012
National Review Online

In the end, free societies get the governments they deserve. So, if the American people wish to choose their chief executive on the basis of the “war on women,” the Republican theocrats’ confiscation of your contraceptives, or whatever other mangy and emaciated rabbit the Great Magician produces from his threadbare topper, they are free to do so, and they will live with the consequences. 

Flamboyant, Irresponsible Scientist

The Capricious Dr. Hansen

By Charles C. W. Cooke
April 16, 2012 

In 1988, the longtime head of NASA’s Goddard Institute for Space Studies (GISS) gave an explosive performance in front of the U.S. Congress’s Science, Space, and Technology Committee, during which he claimed that America and the world were on the brink of disaster. The earth’s surface temperature, Professor James Hansen contended, was rising in concert with carbon dioxide emissions, and the consequences would be increased drought, rising oceans, and an average rise in global temperature of ten degrees Fahrenheit by 2050. If the United States government did not act now, it would be sanctioning catastrophe, he warned. With this testimony, invited by the committee’s chair, Senator Al Gore, Hansen effectively started the modern climate-change movement.

Professor Hansen came across as a scientifically minded Inspector Poirot, assembling the family in the library to explain how the murderer among them had hidden his crime. But within ten years, he had morphed into the hapless Inspector Clouseau.

Siren Songs of Populism and Easy Money

Becoming Serfs in Our Own Country

Economic xenophobes.  Welcome to the wonderful world of New Zealand populist politics.  Actually, it's a bit worse than that.  We are economic racist xenophobes. How cute to see the Green party revealing its anti-Chinese prejudice on the matter.  This from Kiwiblog:
When Bill English is over in Australia talking about how more and more Australian companies want to invest in New Zealand, and no politician says a word. But then you have a Chinese leader visit and promote investment from China, and the Greens rush out a press release. It is absolutely playing to xenophobia. Not all opposition is xenophobic, but much of it is – and politicians play to it.
But, there is an argument on the other side to be made.  The Prime Minister, John Key has said that he does not want a New Zealand where citizens are serfs in their own country.  That is a powerfully visceral line.  It raises a spectre that is not unrealistic at all.

Thursday, 19 April 2012

Political Correctness In the Dock

Norway on Trial

Anders Breivik  is on trial in Norway for mass murder.  The court will decide his guilt--which is a pretty straightforward affair, since Breivik admits setting off the car bomb which killed eight people, and executing a massacre of young campers, murdering sixty-nine.  The trial is supposed to last ten weeks.  Since his guilt is straightforward, the only other question is his sanity.  Ten weeks to determine the sanity of Anders Breivik.  How bizarre.

What has led Norway into such a fix?  We suspect it has something to do with political correctness.

Wednesday, 18 April 2012

Christians and the Classics

Camus: Representative Modern Man

Leland Ryken
Professor of English at Wheaton College
(Hat Tip: Justin Taylor)

There is no more representative intellectual figure of the mid-20th century than Albert Camus. In addition to being an influential fiction writer, Camus was at the focal point of the intellectual crosscurrents that swirled about Europe and crossed over to the United States. The underlying principles of those movements remain pervasive in Western culture, and this is part of the relevance of Camus to us today.

Born in Algeria in 1913, Camus was a restless spirit who kept on the move and pursued many intellectual and professional paths. As a literary figure, Camus is considered a French author. He is as famous as a philosopher as a fiction writer, and in fact his novels are an embodiment of his philosophical viewpoints. Camus was killed instantly in a car crash in 1960 at the age of 46.

The many-sided nature of Camus's life makes it a veritable primer on modern secularism. Camus was a political activist, pacifist, and revolutionary. He was twice married but dismissive of marriage as an institution. He lived a sensual and disordered life. That chaotic life is itself instructive for Christians. If we want to see modern man "writ large," Camus can supply our representative figure.

Tuesday, 17 April 2012

Feeling the Pain, Part #2

That Bus Everybody Talks About

Culture and Politics - Politics
Written by Douglas Wilson
Thursday, 12 April 2012

I like Jonah Goldberg a lot, and David Bahnsen here has done us a favor by pointing to this over there. Jonah argues his case well, and the best thing about it is that he really understands the problem a number of us have with Romney.

In addition, I know I live in Idaho, and I know that my refusal to cast a vote Romneyward will not affect Idaho's behavior in the Electoral College. I also know that if I lived in Florida I would have to sit down and ponder a bit longer.

David was very kind in his introduction to his disagreement with me and, like him, I have no desire to get into a fracas with any of those who understand the problems with Romney but who will be supporting him anyway.

Charter Schools Damned Before They Exist

Radical Utopians

Well, that's it then.  The educational establishment in New Zealand has resolved that charter schools don't work.  They fail.  We don't have any yet, but according to the Education Commentariat they will be useless from the get-go.  Worse, they will do real harm. 

Whenever this sort of thing goes down it is helpful to ask what world-view or framework the critics are arguing.  Here is one premise: if an educational policy does not produce uniform results across the entire nation, it is implicitly unjust.  Harmful.  Charter schools (being an alternative to government schools) only help some pupils, not all.  Therefore they have to be judged a failure before they begin.

Run the logic on display here: by this definition of success, no non-government schools can succeed, ever.

Monday, 16 April 2012

Letter From America

Romney Ruminations: Feeling the Pain

Now that Mitt Romney has the Republican nomination effectively sewn up, conservatives in the US are trying to rationalise supporting him.  The rationalisations run from "he's fifty times better than Obama, so let's overlook the lacunae on his resume" to "he really is a conservative--don't worry too much about his past performances because he is a recent convert".

Jonah Goldberg offers his two cents worth:

Vapid Dogmatism

Spurious Claims of the Age of Reason

Materialism is not a fact of experience or a deduction of logic; it is a metaphysical prejudice, nothing more, and one that is arguably more irrational than almost any other.  In general, the unalterably convinced materialist is a kind of childishly complacent fundamentalist, so fervently, unreflectively, and rapturously committed to the materialist vision of reality that if he or she should encounter any problem--logical or experiential--that might call its premises into question, or even merely encounter a limit beyond which those premises lose their explanatory power, he or she is simply unable to recognize it.

Richard Dawkins is a perfect example: he does not hesitate, for instance, to claim that "natural selection is the ultimate explanation for our existence."  But this is a silly assertion and merely reveals that Dawkins does not understand the words he is using.

Saturday, 14 April 2012

Reformed Heritage

Book of the Month/April 2012

Engaging the Culture - Book Review
Written by Douglas Wilson
Sunday, 01 April 2012 16:48

Reformer of Basel
Diane Poythress
Reformation Heritage Books

This might seem like an odd book to get excited about (at least to some), but I have wanted to see a book like this for years. In Reformer of Basel, Diane Poythress has given us a very fine introduction to the life and influence of John Oecolampadius, the great Reformer of Basel. It is available at Amazon here, but they don't seem to have a deep bench on this title, and so you can also obtain it here.

I call them the lost Reformers. Men like Luther and Calvin are the A team, and men like John Knox are right behind them. The B team would be men like Zwingli, Bucer, and Bullinger -- the names are generally known to those who know the period at all, but not a lot is known about them. And then . . . the lost Reformers.

Setting the Record Straight

Vague Talk of Medieval Science

There is a narrative coined by Enlightenment philosophes which presents the classical era of ancient Greece and Rome as the greatest golden period in human civilization.  The emergence of Christianity undermined this glory as a fifth column.  Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire largely blames Christianity and the Christian Church for Rome's rotting away.

In this fictional narrative the classical era was a profuse explosion of of science and mathematics, only to have it all snuffed out by the rank darkness of a benighted Europe labouring, in turn, under the superstitious ignorance of the Christian religion.  The Renaissance and the Enlightenment represents a throwing off of the cloak of religiously-enforced ignorance and an enlightened recovery of ancient scientific and technological knowledge.

It's a great story.  Imaginative fiction.  But profoundly ignorant of actual history.  But the story has one happening to give it the appearance of credence: the Western church's conflict with Galileo.  David Bentley Hart gives a more accurate and truthful account:

Friday, 13 April 2012


What Happened Right After

Books in the Making - Chrestomathy
Written by Douglas Wilson
Tuesday, 20 March 2012

"Virtually all the books of the New Testament have an expectant air about them. They are all waiting for something drastic that will happen soon, and not one of them even mentions the most cataclyismic event in Jewish history -- the fall of Jerusalem in A.D. 70 -- as being past. That event was the destruction of the old Judaic order and its replacement by the Christian church, the new Israel" (Heaven Misplaced, p. 111).

Thursday, 12 April 2012

Letter From America

Blacks Under Attack

The Murders That Don’t Count
March 30, 2012

National Review Online

Delric Miller IV died in a hail of bullets a month ago. When someone fired 37 AK-47 rounds into his Detroit home at 4:30 a.m., he was mortally wounded while dozing on the couch. He was nine months old. No one made the multicolored teething ring he got for Christmas or his toy hammer into a national symbol of random violence.

Last year, Charinez Jefferson, 17, was shot and killed on a Chicago street. “She begged the shooter not to shoot her because she was pregnant,” a pastor explained.

Monopolists All

Ah, Competition, Thou Art a Jewel

Milton Friedman once famously observed that enterprise owners want all their competitors to face open market competition, whilst they call for regulation of their own business.  Too true.  We have known more than our fair share of business owners spending a good deal of time lobbying government for regulations (to protect consumers, of course) in the attempt to get the "inside track" with officials, so they can secure their own financial market advantage.  Beware the business owner who speaks often about the "public interest".  More often than not the real motive is to put the squeeze on their competitors or prevent competitors coming into "their" patch. 

All business owners are natural monopolists, and should be regarded as such.

Wednesday, 11 April 2012

The Difference Between Faith and Fideism

God's Faithfulness

Junk Drawer - Previous Publications
Written by Douglas Wilson
Sunday, 01 April 2012

"If we are faithless, He will remain faithful, for He cannot disown Himself" (2 Tim. 2:13, NIV).

When we first catch a glimpse of the faithfulness of God, faith is the natural response. Faith is not the ladder which we climb in order to discover the faithfulness of God. It is the other way around. God is faithful, period. When we see that, faith is the natural response.

A misunderstanding concerning this shows up in many of our expressions. One that pertains to those in Christian work is the expression "living on faith." If that were strictly true, many of us would be in trouble. We do not "live on faith," we "live on faithfulness."

In Government We Trust

Puncture Wounds

Bureaucracies, it is universally believed, are costly, inefficient boondoggles.  Nevertheless, hope does spring eternal in the human breast.  Equally universal is the belief that a bureaucracy can be reformed, made better.  A tweak here, a personnel change there, a reform or two and hey presto, a new bright shiny efficient common-sense bureaucracy will emerge. 

We believe the idiocy of bureaucracy is an inevitable result when governments exceed the mandate given them by the Almighty.  Breaking divinely appointed bounds inevitably means that bad consequences will follow.  Costly, inefficient, stupid boondoggles are the consequence of expansionist government. 

New Zealand has a socialist accident compensation system.

Tuesday, 10 April 2012

Future Blessings Upon this Wonderful Planet

No Fool

[This post is re-published from Justin Taylor's blog]

The best-known line of martyred missionary Jim Elliot is, “He is no fool who gives what he cannot keep to gain that which he cannot lose.”

In the archives at Wheaton College’s Billy Graham Center you can view Elliot’s journals (published here.) Below is a picture of the page from his journal. (As the Archives note, the underline and asterisk was likely added later after he died.)

The Coming of the Kingdom

Like a Mustard Seed

"My chief ambition in writing is to call attention to the peculiar and radical nature of the new faith in that setting (of the culture of late antiquity): how enormous a transformation of thought, sensibility, culture, morality and spiritual imagination Christianity constituted in the age of pagan Rome; the liberation it offered from fatalism, cosmic despair, and the terror of occult agencies; the immense dignity it conferred on the human person; its subversion of the cruelest aspects of pagan society; its (alas, only partial) demystification of political power; its ability to create moral community when none had existed before; and its elevation of active charity above all other virtues.

Monday, 9 April 2012

Homosexual Marriage

Not a Human Right

Oh, dear.  This is going to be a bit of a set back to the Commentariat in the UK and here.  The European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg has ruled that homosexual marriage is not a human right.  Now, of course, this is a bit of a joke, because secular humanists only have gigantic sky hooks on which to hang their "human rights".  In secular humanist Western democracies human rights are whatever the majority of people want anyway.  Human rights in a secular state are nothing more than a wax nose to be twisted to the shape-shifting of the day.

But for what its worth, the European Court has ruled against homosexual marriage.  Regardless of the tenuous nature of the ruling, we are glad with the outcome.  This from the Daily Mail:

Adorning the Gospel of God

Charity and Its Fruits

David Bentley Hart writes on the Christian revolution that transformed the late classical world: Christian charity towards the needy made the Gospel radically different from the pagan cults.

Christian teaching, from the first, placed charity at the centre of the spiritual life as no pagan cult ever had, and raised the care of widows, orphans, the sick, the imprisoned, and the poor to the level of the highest religious obligations.  Thus, in the second century, Tertullian could justly boast that whereas money donated to the temples of the old gods was squandered on feasts and drink, with their momentary pleasures, the money given to the churches was used to care for the impoverished and the abandoned, to grant even the poorest decent burials, and to provide for the needs of the elderly.

The Didascalia, a fascinating Christian document of the third century, describes the duties of a bishop as encompassing responsibility for the education of orphans, aid to poor widows, and the purchase of food and firewood for the destitute, as well as strict vigilance over the money flowing through the church, lest it issue from men guilty of injustice or of the abuse of slaves, or lest it find its way into the hands of persons not genuinely in need.  In 251 the church in Rome alone had more than fifteen hundred dependents on its rolls, and even small local churches kept storerooms of provisions for the poor, such as oil, wine, and clothing (especially, tellingly enough, women's clothing).  In this way the church, long before Constantine, had created a system of social assistance that no civic or religious office of the pagan state provided.  [David Bentley Hart, Atheist Delusions: The Christian Revolution and its Fashionable Enemies (New Haven: Yale University Press, 2009), p. 164.]

Saturday, 7 April 2012

Letter From America

Not-So-Smooth Operator

Obama increasingly comes across as devious and dishonest.
Peggy Noonan
Wall Street Journal

Something's happening to President Obama's relationship with those who are inclined not to like his policies. They are now inclined not to like him. His supporters would say, "Nothing new there," but actually I think there is. I'm referring to the broad, stable, nonradical, non-birther right. Among them the level of dislike for the president has ratcheted up sharply the past few months.

It's not due to the election, and it's not because the Republican candidates are so compelling and making such brilliant cases against him. That, actually, isn't happening.

What is happening is that the president is coming across more and more as a trimmer, as an operator who's not operating in good faith.

Lenten Meditation

Dancing in the Aisles

On that Sabbath Morning particularly celebrating the Resurrection, Christians all over the world will assemble as part of the new world and will greet each other with the triumphant declaration, "Christ is risen!"  and the formal response will redound: "He is risen, indeed!".  It is probably our most triumphant "high five". 

Why is the Resurrection so significant, so central?  Is it such a "big deal"? Or is it Christians making much ado about very little? 

Friday, 6 April 2012

Letter From Australia (About China)

Raw Power and Brute Force

John Garnaut has written an insightful piece in the Sydney Morning Herald describing the power struggle taking place within the Communist Party in China.  The whole article is worth a careful reading.  We endeavour to summarise it below:

Seismic shift

March 31, 2012The battle between China's Maoist past and a more democratic future is laid bare in the 30-year-old family feud that has reshaped the nation's political landscape.

If Premier Wen Jiabao is ''China's greatest actor'', as his critics allege, he saved his finest performance for last. After three hours of eloquent and emotional answers in his final press conference at the National People's Congress earlier this month, Wen uttered his public political masterstroke, reopening debate on one of the most tumultuous events in the party's history and hammering the final nail in the coffin of his great rival, the now disgraced Chongqing party boss Bo Xilai. In doing so, Wen wreaked his revenge on a family that had opposed him . . .  countless times.

Responding to a gently phrased question about Chongqing - the municipality until this month headed by the charismatic Bo - Wen foreshadowed Bo's political execution, a seismic leadership rupture announced the following day that continues to convulse China's political landscape to an extent not seen since 1989. . . . When Bo failed to show humility or contrition to his colleagues in Beijing, it seems, his legion enemies took the opportunity to strike him down.

But the addendum that followed might be even more significant. Indirectly, but unmistakably, Wen went on to define Bo as the man who wanted to repudiate China's long effort to reform its economy, open to the world, and allow its citizens to experience modernity. He framed the struggle over Bo's legacy as a choice between urgent political reform and ''such historical tragedies as the Cultural Revolution'', bringing to a head a 30-year battle for two vastly different versions of China, of which Bo Xilai and Wen Jiabao are the ideological heirs.
Bo Xilai has wanted to turn China back to the highly centralised command-and-control past.   Wen Jiabao has tried to move China into a decentralised, less state-controlled direction.  Both have spent their careers deep within the belly of the Communist party, plotting their schemes and building their support base.  Bo has now been politically banished; the Wen faction appears in control.  It may, however, not last. 

The problem is that Communist China has only the apparatus of raw power.  It has no ideology of the rule of law, no constitution which limits the rule of government.  Wen Jiabao has little to work with, apart from the hunger for development and economic progress amidst the people. 
Wen was speaking against a background where China is rising and challenging Western supremacy and yet beset by a crisis of identity, legitimacy and direction. The contest of ideas, politics and patronage is climaxing ahead of a wholesale leadership transition that will start to unfold at the party's five-yearly Congress in October. This transition is as globally consequential as the US elections that will immediately follow. But for the first time it is taking place without the guiding hand of the republic's founding fathers. And, unlike the world's established democracies, China has no constitutional bottom line, no elections and no independent judiciary.
His rival, Bo Xilai has built his power base in the city of  Chongqing.
Bo has deployed his prodigious charisma and political skills to attack the status quo in favour of a more powerful role for the state. He displayed an extraordinary capacity to mobilise political and financial resources during his 4½-year tenure as the head of the Yangtze River megalopolis of Chongqing.

He transfixed the nation by smashing the city's mafia - together with unco-operative officials, lawyers and entrepreneurs - and rebuilding a state-centred city economy while shamelessly draping himself in the symbolism of Mao Zedong. He sent out a wave of revolutionary nostalgia that led to Mao quotes sent as text messages, government workers corralled to sing ''red songs'' and old patriotic programming overwhelming Chongqing TV.

At the same time, China's netizens were amazed to learn that Bo's favourite son, Bo Guagua, drives a red Ferrari, and asked how the family could afford to educate him at Oxford and then Harvard.
It's all about power and control.  Evoking Communist ideology is a means to consolidate a power base.  One's personal wealth has nothing to do with it--or, so Communist elites always tell themselves.   Wen, in the meantime, has started publicly to raise criticism of the bloody and destructive Cultural Revolution:
By raising the spectre of the Cultural Revolution, Wen Jiabao has opened a crack in the vault of Communist Party history: that great black box that conceals the struggles, brutality, partial truths and outright fabrications upon which China has built its economic and social transformation. Beneath his carefully layered comments is a profound challenge to the uncompromising manner in which the Chinese Communist Party has always gone about its business.
It remains to be seen whether Wen Jiabao will succeed.  The fundamental irony he faces is that the purging of his enemies and pushing China to a more free society has to occur in a vacuum of law, ideology, tradition, or a doctrine of a limited state and personal freedom.  His only resource is the use of raw state power.  Mao used to say that (state) power grew out of the barrel of a gun.  It's hard to see how such raw power can destroy itself by withering away under the rule of law.  Modern China has never known any other way of operating apart from brute force.

Wen Jiabao sees Bo's downfall as a pivotal opportunity to pin his reformist colours high while the party is too divided to rein him in. He is reaching out to the Chinese public because the party is losing its monopoly on truth and internal roads to reform have long been blocked. Ironically, he is doing so by leading the public purging of a victim who has no hope of transparent justice, because the party to which he has devoted his life has never known any other way.

John Garnaut is writing a book on the princelings who are shaping China's future. A longer version of this story appears online in Foreign Policy magazine (

War of the Worlds

 Recovering Cosmic Christianity

Conversion and baptism were momentous events for early Christians.  Both involved a rejection of one earthly realm and an entering of another earthly realm that was now also a heavenly realm--the power of God and His Christ falling upon the earth, to establish His kingdom here.

Here is David Bentley Hart's description:

Thursday, 5 April 2012

Letter From America (About the UK)

British Freedom of Speech Endangered

John Stuart Mill, where art thou?

By Charles C. W. Cooke
March 29, 2012
National Review Online

In Britain, the trend toward the curbing of free expression picked up speed on Monday, when British student Liam Stacey was sentenced to 56 days in prison for posting racist comments on Twitter. When Premier League footballer Fabrice Muamba had a heart attack during a soccer game and was rushed to hospital, a drunk Stacey took to the microblogging site and spewed a series of racially abhorrent tweets into the ether. Other Twitter users — including sports pundit and former top-flight footballer Stan Collymore — quickly noticed his words and reported Stacey to the police, who arrested him and charged him with incitement to racial hatred a few days later.

When Muamba collapsed, said the judge at Stacey’s trial, “not just the footballer’s family, not just the footballing world but the whole world were literally praying for his life. Your comments aggravated this situation.” In fact, it is hard to see how Stacey’s words aggravated anything much at all.

Western Civilisation

The Age of Vaunting Pride and Gnawing Doubt

The title of Dickens novel "Great Expectations" aptly summarizes a dominant theme in Victorian England (and the West in general at that time, for that matter).  There was a widespread, burgeoning belief that nirvana was just ahead.  Much of the optimism was due to advances in technology and science. 

To our jaded eyes, technological advances have become the norm.  Another "breakthrough" has become decidedly deja-vu.  But in the late eighteenth century this was not the case.  Consider Sebastien Mercier's account of the first balloon flight in November 21, 1783:

Wednesday, 4 April 2012

Letter From America

The Sun Also Sets

By Mark Steyn
March 24, 2012

National Review Online

I was in Australia earlier this month and there, as elsewhere on my recent travels, the consensus among the politicians I met (at least in private) was that Washington lacked the will for meaningful course correction, and that, therefore, the trick was to ensure that, when the behemoth goes over the cliff, you’re not dragged down with it. It is faintly surreal to be sitting in paneled offices lined by formal portraits listening to eminent persons who assume the collapse of the dominant global power is a fait accompli. “I don’t feel America is quite a First World country anymore,” a robustly pro-American Aussie told me, with a sigh of regret.

Well, what does some rinky-dink ’roo-infested didgeridoo mill on the other side of the planet know about anything? Fair enough. But Australia was the only major Western nation not to go into recession after 2008. And in the last decade the U.S. dollar has fallen by half against the Oz buck: That’s to say, in 2002, one greenback bought you a buck-ninety Down Under; now it buys you 95 cents. More of that a bit later.

Patron Saints

Dirty Secrets

The Government education system has its patron saints.  Some have been particularly influential over the past fifty years.  One of the most influential has been American educationalist and philosopher, John Dewey.

He wrote:
Now the change which is coming into our education is the shifting of the centre of gravity.  It is a change, a revolution, not unlike that introduced by Copernicus when the astronomical centre shifted from the earth to the sun.  In this case the child becomes the sun above which the appliances of education revolve; he is the centre about which they are organised.  [Cited in Paul Henderson,  Vying for Our Children: The Ideological Struggle for Hearts and Minds (Auckland: Maxim Institute, 2003),  p.45.]
Child-centred education.  This is why the "experts" oppose National Standards testing so much: it removes the child from the "centre" of the process and makes him subject to an evil, external, harmful hegemon.

Tuesday, 3 April 2012

Douglas Wilson's Letter From America

Flashing the Laymen

Atheism and Apologetics - Moist Robots
Written by Douglas Wilson
Wednesday, 28 March 2012

The penultimate chapter of Free Will is on politics, and is only a few pages. All it takes is a few pages to snark at conservatives.

"Conservatives, however, often make a religious fetish of individualism" (p. 61)
"Living in America, one gets the distinct sense that if certain conservatives were asked why they weren't born with club feet or orphaned before the age of five, they would not hesitate to take credit for these accomplishments" (p 62).

All of which goes to show that Harris knows as much about conservatism as he does about free will.
We could go off in that direction, but I will refrain. What I want to chortle about in this instance is the fact that Harris is blaming conservatives for doing simply what the space/time continuum is making them do.

More Time, Please

Blasphemy Laws in the UK

Western societies are gradually enacting their version of blasphemy laws.  It is axiomatic that every nation, whatever its creed or governing belief about itself, regards some things as so sacred and holy it punishes the desecration of the same.  For some nations it may be burning or spitting on the flag.  For others it is defaming the gods.  Thus Socrates was condemned and killed.  For others, it is anyone who defames Dear Leader.  The gulag or firing squad awaits. 

Blasphemy laws indict any action which a particular state believes undermines its very foundations.

Living Under the Curse

Ineffectual Laws

In New Zealand the occurrence of adults seeing, yet ignoring, the abuse of children is not uncommon.  There are many, many children living in "blended families"--a pathetic euphemism for broken dysfunctional casual associations of adults where children are an unwanted, unwelcome, unloved appendage.   But children are inevitably demanding: they are dependent, they need help, and they are also sinful themselves.  The resulting dysfunctional household cocktail is to inflict terrible abuse, even torture, upon little ones. 

It is often the case that when children are beaten, even to the point of infanticide, the adults co-habiting or associating with the children become tight-lipped. They swear Faustian covenants with each other to hang tight, and not say a word.  Police investigations are stonewalled.  The abusers and murderers are thus not brought to justice.

Monday, 2 April 2012

Media Echo Chambers

No Teeth Left to Lie Through

The Zimmerman case in the US has caught the nation by the throat.  An hispanic neighbourhood watch person has been the victim of vigilante "justice" in the media.  Black politicians and commentators have poured forth hard-to-believe invective against Zimmerman, who allegedly shot a black teenager, without any evidence being presented and heard formally--except that provided by the news media.

The hate-ridden invectives of the unhinged black community, aided and abetted by the liberal white tragi-comic chorus, has been conducted before any trial.

Can Women Be Saved?

It All Depends

It has often been stated that the Gospel of Christ, flowing as a healing stream to Gentiles, brought deliverance and salvation to women in particular.  That proposition, however, has come under sustained attack in recent decades by the Commentariat which attempts to obliterate any, but the most superficial, distinctions and differences between men and women.  The Christian faith has consequently been slurred as misogynistic.  Women becoming like men, functioning like men in society, has been labelled a "liberation" for women. 

But the reality was that  in the early centuries of the Gentile in-gathering women flocked into the Church--for good reason.  The truth of Christ set them free.  In the new society being forged by the Spirit and the Word they moved from a culture where they were subservient and degraded to one of respect and honour. 

David Bentley Hart paints the actual historical picture: