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Saturday, April 30, 2005

The Gospel of John

A movie most people will not hear about; a movie everybody should see.

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Maggie’s Farm spotlights a really good and well done movie.  I found it a powerfully moving emotional experience.

Most people have formed a picture of Jesus Christ as a sort of mild-mannered wimp.  While no human being could possibly portray Jesus fully, a bit of His powerful personality becomes evident.  He was a man whose following was growing into the thousands as He travelled to Jerusalem for the Passover feast and His crucifixion.  The religious authorities had good reason to fear His effect on their position. 

Nobody was neutral toward Jesus.  He evoked reverence and adoration, fear, or hostile anger.  Pilate, the Roman governor, was bewildered and frightened by a man who calmly told him that no earthly being had power over Him, even as He stood in chains while the mob roared for His death.

The following comments add to the picture:

Henry Ian Cusick is brilliant portraying Jesus of Nazareth ,12 September 2003
http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0377992/

Author: Andrew Dykstra (.(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address)) from Toronto, Canada

This film premiered at the Toronto International Film Festival. Amazingly, it avoided all of the mistakes made in most other attempts to tell this story. The Bible’s presentation of the story of Jesus is based primarily on four narratives—each stamped with its author’s own personality and unique perspective.

Many previous films have sampled more than one of the Biblical narratives on the life of Christ. Also, they needlessly added scenes not found in the original sources. The authors of those screenplays in merely sampling from several sources, lost the unique focus of each respective author and diluted the overall effect of the story.

This film is based on John Goldsmith’s screenplay which deftly avoids all the laughably silly cliches of previous film versions. Goldsmith’s screenplay is based on only one man’s perspective, that of Jesus’ disciple John. Many stories with which the viewer is familiar, such as the nativity, are missing from John’s gospel and therefore also from this wonderfully complex and yet lucid screenplay. Jesus’ words are not here presented as pious platitudes, but occur within a context where Jesus responded to those around him.

The dialogue is solely based on the Good News Bible (also known as Today’s English Version) Christopher Plummer very ably supplies the verse by verse narration from the same source. His delivery re-enforces the clarity of what is on the screen. Most of the other actors were not known to me—which I felt helped. (What part could one give to an actor who previously portrayed a drug dealer?)

Jesus is brilliantly portrayed by Henry Ian Cusick as Jesus the man with human emotions, Jesus the visionary resented by the religious establishment of his day. This Jesus did not refer to them for his authority. Cusick, convincingly portrays Jesus the carpenter as a handsome, masculine, very charismatic man. Cusick is very much equal to the task. I spoke very briefly with Cusick after the screening, thanking him for his portrayal of a part that is loaded with hazards—all of which he avoided. I hope we see a great deal more of this fine actor.

The music by Jeff Danna is wonderful—well beyond what I could have hoped for.

One friend of mine at the screening expressed his concern that this film in portraying Jesus’ death at the hands of the Jewish establishment might make it vulnerable to accusations of Antisemitism. I reassured him that in its earliest days, Christianity was a sect within Judaism. Almost all the people portrayed in The Gospel of John were Jewish. It was not until the destruction of Jerusalem by the Romans in AD 70 that the Christian sect became predominately Gentile.

Director Philip Saville has done an enviable job directing a project that was fraught with artistic traps.

I hope this film receives very wide distribution. Even Christian conservatives should be very happy with it.

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Woody Allen’s Secular Humanist Heaven

“Melinda and Melinda” is the nothingness of Manhattan

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Woody Allen’s latest movie, “Melinda and Melinda,” features his quirky sense of humor.  More explicitly than his other movies, however, it confesses the sad emptiness of life lived by the secular humanist guidelines of the New York Times editorial board: freedom is just meaningless and unsatisfying hedonism.

The movie’s characters admittedly are caricatures of the Manhattan intellectual fast lane, but nonetheless representative of the pitiful emptiness of life as literally lost souls.  They speak pretentiously and superficially of philosophical concepts, but all that comes through is glibness.  Apart from the background music of Duke Ellington’s great early-1940s band featuring Johnny Hodges and Ben Webster, there’s nothing of solid substance beyond the fast-cut clips of Manhattan’s Bloomingdale’s-area, upper East Side brownstones.

The characters, both the four narrators who set the background, and the people in the two variations of the Melinda story, are paper-thin personalities.  Predictably we witness the unfolding of all the usual themes of “Sex in the City”: self-absorption, marital infidelity, self-doubt, drugs, alcoholism, sex as the only means of personal fulfillment, and a focus on the “arts.” 

Wallace Shawn, as one of the narrators, sums up the Manhattan view of the good life.  There is no meaning to anything.  Life is short, and there’s nothing afterwards.  The only reality is what you can touch and feel.

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Friday, April 29, 2005

Filibusters and Constitutional Principle

Background for the Senate battle over President Bush’s nominees.

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After looking into the history of filibusters, I have reached two conclusions, both the opposite of my starting impressions.

First, what’s going on today is nothing new.  In fact, it is less obstructionist than what happened many times in the past, when all different sides and political parties used filibusters to halt all legislative activity, in some cases for months, and thereby to thwart majority votes on specific issues.  Filibusters started in the very first session of Congress, in June 1790, and they have been used dozens of times in both Houses of Congress since then.

Second, however much I abhor the secular humanist views of liberals who oppose the President’s nominees, I find myself favoring retention of the filibuster. 

Most importantly, our Constitution was intended to create a Federal government of limited powers.  To that end delegates to the Philadelphia Constitutional Convention in 1787 structured a series of checks and balances.  Filibusters, though not specifically authorized in the Constitution, are part of a tradition of more or less unlimited debate running back several centuries in American and British tradition.  The aim of unlimited debate is to prevent strong executives or strong party factions from steamrolling minority views.  That necessarily means that passing legislation must be difficult and time-consuming to assure that all sides of important issues are thoroughly and fairly considered. 

The most important of all minority interests, the bedrock principle of our Constitution and the reason for our War of Independence in 1776, is the Fifth Amendment rights of private property.  It’s a great pity that rational opinion in 1933 and later years of the New Deal failed to halt President Roosevelt’s imposition of our socialist welfare state and the abrogation of vital property rights.  A cunning executive like Franklin Roosevelt who is intent on maximizing his personal power at the Constitution’s expense can too easily manipulate public opinion by playing on greed, unless Senators are willing to stop him with filibusters, if necessary.

Ironically, the judicial activism favored by liberal-socialists is a tactic to circumvent Congress’ constitutional prerogative of thorough and careful consideration of legislation, as well as to prevent the implementation of legislation that enjoys wide and deep public support.  Judicial activism permits a small number of individual judges to impose their personal views regarding the secular religious catechism of social justice.

Filibustering supports this by allowing a handful of socialistic Senators to prevent appointment of judges who oppose activism.  Without the cover of a filibuster by Senators from socialistic states like New York, Massachusetts, Connecticut, Vermont, and California, Democratic Senators from other states would be compelled by their constituents to vote to approve the President’s nominees.

Nonetheless, the principle of strong legislative checks, via lengthy debate in filibusters, outweighs the evil done in specific cases.

Viewing filibusters as a matter of principle, whether the filibusterers’ views are well-taken or ill is not the issue.  Effectively limiting government power and preserving individual political liberty requires mechanisms to forestall ill-advised popular action taken hastily, in the heat of the moment, the sort of defect that was both the downfall of classical Athens and the origin of the French Revolution’s mass murders in its Reign of Terror. 

The public may clamor for quick action by a strong President who will impose his will on the legislative process.  But let’s not forget that this is exactly what we got in 1933, when Franklin Roosevelt was able to use the panic of the Great Depression to collectivize nearly all governmental power in Washington, DC, and thereby to impose our present-day socialistic welfare state.  Had it not been for the New Deal and President Roosevelt’s openly socialistic Ivy League Brains Trusters, such as professors Rexford Guy Tugwell, Dean Acheson, Adolf Berle, and Charles W. Taussig, we would not now confront the catastrophe-in-the-making of Social Security and Medicare insolvency.  The basic rottenness of American society today is the decay of individual morality and personal responsibility stemming from the barrage of socialistic economic and social-control programs rammed through Congress in the famous first 100 Days of the New Deal.

In the case of our own Constitution, the counter-principle is described in Federalist No. 51, written either by Madison or Hamilton in 1788:

“To the People of the State of New York:

“TO WHAT expedient, then, shall we finally resort, for maintaining in practice the necessary partition of power among the several departments, as laid down in the Constitution? The only answer that can be given is, that as all these exterior provisions are found to be inadequate, the defect must be supplied, by so contriving the interior structure of the government as that its several constituent parts may, by their mutual relations, be the means of keeping each other in their proper places. Without presuming to undertake a full development of this important idea, I will hazard a few general observations, which may perhaps place it in a clearer light, and enable us to form a more correct judgment of the principles and structure of the government planned by the convention.

“In order to lay a due foundation for that separate and distinct exercise of the different powers of government, which to a certain extent is admitted on all hands to be essential to the preservation of liberty, it is evident that each department should have a will of its own; and consequently should be so constituted that the members of each should have as little agency as possible in the appointment of the members of the others. Were this principle rigorously adhered to, it would require that all the appointments for the supreme executive, legislative, and judiciary magistracies should be drawn from the same fountain of authority, the people, through channels having no communication whatever with one another. Perhaps such a plan of constructing the several departments would be less difficult in practice than it may in contemplation appear. Some difficulties, however, and some additional expense would attend the execution of it. Some deviations, therefore, from the principle must be admitted. In the constitution of the judiciary department in particular, it might be inexpedient to insist rigorously on the principle: first, because peculiar qualifications being essential in the members, the primary consideration ought to be to select that mode of choice which best secures these qualifications; secondly, because the permanent tenure by which the appointments are held in that department, must soon destroy all sense of dependence on the authority conferring them.

“It is equally evident, that the members of each department should be as little dependent as possible on those of the others, for the emoluments annexed to their offices. Were the executive magistrate, or the judges, not independent of the legislature in this particular, their independence in every other would be merely nominal. But the great security against a gradual concentration of the several powers in the same department, consists in giving to those who administer each department the necessary constitutional means and personal motives to resist encroachments of the others. The provision for defense must in this, as in all other cases, be made commensurate to the danger of attack. Ambition must be made to counteract ambition. The interest of the man must be connected with the constitutional rights of the place. It may be a reflection on human nature, that such devices should be necessary to control the abuses of government. But what is government itself, but the greatest of all reflections on human nature? If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself.”

Even though, in the present situation, liberal-socialists are using threats of filibusters to destroy the unwritten constitution of our nation, it’s better to permit filibusters than to throttle them.  However infuriatingly frustrating they have been, the more effective, less harmful tactic is to turn public opinion against the filibusterers’ atheistic and socialistic designs, rather than to curtail free speech.

What in recent years have been called filibusters are merely threats to stage real filibusters, against which the majority party has backed down, because they preferred to get on with passing other essential legislation.  Calling the liberal-socialists’ bluff and holding a real, 24/7 filibuster will compel these obstructionists to choose between a full floor vote on nominees, or bringing the Federal government, in a time of war, to a standstill. 

A real filibuster that stops all Senate action, even on urgent matters, will focus public opinion on the narrowly ideological, anti-moral and anti-religious nature of their opposition.  It will become much more widely known that all of the President’s judicial nominees, for example, have been rated qualified or highly qualified by even the left-wing, socialist American Bar Association.  Liberal-socialists endeavor to prevent a full floor vote, where confirmation is assured, only because they oppose judicial nominees who are not atheistic socialists.

Once that begins to seep into the consciousness of the general public, we may hope, liberals will find themselves in the same position that stymied Republicans under Newt Gingrich when President Clinton called their bluff and let them shut down the Federal government in 1995 in the Federal budget dispute.  The Republicans lost that PR battle with the Democrats, who are aware that they can suffer the same fate over the filibuster tactic.

It is ironic, of course, that liberal-socialists are today so strenuously defending filibusters as an essential element of free speech and political liberty.  For generations, Southern Senators employed filibusters to prevent the passage of civil rights legislation.

Most readers will know that a real filibuster requires opponents of a legislative action to speak against it non-stop, round-the-clock, until either they exhaust the will to continue and yield the floor to their opponents, or until the opponents knuckle under and postpone or drop the proposed legislative action.  Some of these real filibusters have been colorful affairs.  My own home-town boy, Senator Huey Long, entertained the public for fifteen hours and thirty minutes in 1935, when he opposed some of President Franklin Roosevelt’s budget measures.  The all-time record for a single speaker holding the floor in a filibuster was established by the late Strom Thurmond of South Carolina, who spoke continuously for twenty-four hours and eighteen minutes opposing the Civil Rights Act of 1957.

How did filibusters arise?

In the House of Representatives filibusters have not, since the beginning of the 20th century, been a big factor in legislative tactics, because the powerful Rules Committee can set limits on debate and thereby assure that a vote will be taken, if the majority party desires it.  To a considerable extent, this also reflects the large membership in the House (435 Representatives), which makes open debate on the floor of the House a practical difficulty.  As a consequence, most of the House’s business is conducted in committees, where the testimony and questioning of witnesses amounts to extensive debate.

The Senate, as we now know too well, is a different story.  With only 100 members (two from each state), extensive debate on the Senate floor is possible.  At least 60 Senators must vote to invoke cloture (i.e., to terminate a filibuster).  Under the Senate’s rules, no other motion, such as calling for the previous question, moving to adjourn, or laying on the table for future discussion, is effective in stopping debate in a filibuster.

No provision of the Constitution directly authorizes filibusters.  Their legitimacy arises under Article I, Section 5, which reads, inter alia, “Each House may determine the Rules of its Proceedings…”  The proposed “nuclear option” involves using a provision of Senate rules to change the rules affecting filibusters in order to make cloture easier.

A present-day anomaly is that the threat of a filibuster is being used by liberals from the most populous East and West Coast states to oppose majority views in the nation’s heartland.  Theoretically filibustering in the Senate is most useful to the smaller states against the more populous states’ greater numbers of Representatives in the House.

Throughout the most of the 1800s, filibusters were more common in the House than in the Senate.  Speeches by filibustering Senators could be stopped by calling for the previous question, or by a motion to lay on the table.  Moreover, the presiding officer of the Senate had the authority to terminate speeches he regarded as not directly relevant to the question under debate.

Possibly the first filibuster was in June of 1790, in the first session of the House of Representatives under our new Constitution.  The protracted argument that stalled other vital legislation for a month was over where to locate the new national capitol: New York, Philadelphia, or nearer the nation’s most populous state, Virginia.

Not until 1825, when John Randolph entered the Senate, did lengthy debate become a contentious issue in that chamber.  Senator Randolph’s long-winded, and sometimes vicious, speeches produced a fist-swinging free-for-all at one point on the Senate floor.

Over the years, Senate rules changed from time to time to limit debate or to make terminating irrelevant speeches easier.  In 1872, seven years after the end of the Civil War, however, the modern filibuster came into existence in the Senate.

In the 1872 election for the Presidency, a large segment of the Republican Party opposed the Radicals’ policy of keeping the former Confederate states under military subjugation.  With their support, Ulysses S. Grant won re-election for a second term as President.  Moderate Republicans, over objections of the Radical Republicans, passed the Amnesty Act of 1872 restoring full political privileges to almost all southern whites who were still disenfranchised by Reconstruction.  Reconstruction was then entering its last stage.

I have been unable to discover the specific issue in 1872 that led to full empowerment of the filibuster, but it may have been a matter relating to ending Reconstruction.  Vice President Schuyler Cox, as presiding officer of the Senate, ruled that “under the practice of the Senate the presiding officer could not restrain a Senator in remarks which the Senator considers pertinent to the pending issue.”  Since then, the rules of cloture to terminate a filibuster have been modified from time to time, but mostly in the direction of making it more difficult to stop filibusters.

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Wednesday, April 27, 2005

Simple-Minded Socialism

One definition of insanity is repeating the same maneuver again and again, even though it always ends in disaster.

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My thanks to Peter Liniker, who edits the UK website petes world, which is temporarily under repair.  He directed me to Theodore Dalrymple’s article in City Journal’s Spring 2005 edition titled The Roads to Serfdom.

The article’s title refers to Friedrich Hayek’s celebrated “The Road to Serfdom” in which he predicted, shortly after the end of World War II, that Britain’s Labor Government plans for full-scale socialism were foredoomed.

Mr. Dalrymple notes the resulting change in British psychology, from concern for one’s neighbors and for the well-being of society as a whole, to self-centered dependence on the political state for every daily need.  This is exactly what Alexis de Tocqueville observed in the French citizenry in the mid-1800s as a consequence of socialism in that formerly great nation.  It is precisely the change wrought in the United States as a consequence of President Franklin Roosevelt’s imposition of our socialist welfare state under his New Deal in the 1930s.

Liberal-socialists believe ? and teach our children ? that only the government can improve people’s lives.  In the liberal creed, individualism, personal responsibility, and moral rectitude are nothing more than criminal greed. 

This requires doctrinaire blindness, or insanity.  To paraphrase H. L. Mencken, liberalism is, at best, a form of neurosis.

The following excepts from Mr Dalrymple’s fairly lengthy article should be enough to encourage you to read the entire piece:

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Why couldn?t the dedication of millions, centrally coordinated by the government?a coordinated dedication that had produced unprecedented quantities of aircraft and munitions?be adapted to defeat what London School of Economics head Sir William Beveridge, in his wartime report on social services that was to usher in the full-scale welfare state in Britain, called the ?five giants on the road to reconstruction?: Want, Disease, Ignorance, Squalor, and Idleness?

By the time Beveridge published his report in 1942, most of the intellectuals of the day assumed that the government, and only the government, could accomplish these desirable goals. Indeed, it all seemed so simple a matter that only the cupidity and stupidity of the rich could have prevented these ends from already having been achieved. The Beveridge Report states, for example, that want ?could have been abolished in Britain before the present war? and that ?the income available to the British people was ample for such a purpose.? It was just a matter of dividing the national income cake into more equal slices by means of redistributive taxation. If the political will was there, the way was there; there was no need to worry about effects on wealth creation or any other adverse effects.

Hayek pointed out that the wartime unity of purpose was atypical; in more normal times, people had a far greater, indeed an infinite, variety of ends, and anyone with the power to adjudicate among them in the name of a conscious overall national plan, allowing a few but forbidding most, would exert vastly more power than the most bloated plutocrat of socialist propaganda had ever done in a free-market society.

Orwell?s assertion that the state would simply calculate what was needed airily overlooked the difficulties of the matter, as well as his proposal?s implications for freedom. The ?directing brains,? as Orwell called them, would have to decide how many hairpins, how many shoelaces, were ?needed? by the population under their purview. They would have to make untold millions of such decisions, likewise coordinating the production of all components of each product, on the basis of their own arbitrary notions of what their fellow citizens needed. Orwell?s goal, therefore, was a society in which the authorities strictly rationed everything; for him, and untold intellectuals like him, only rationing was rational. It takes little effort of the imagination to see what this control would mean for the exercise of liberty. Among other things, people would have to be assigned work regardless of their own preferences.

Collectivist thinking arose,  according to Hayek, from impatience, a lack of historical perspective, and an arrogant belief that, because we have made so much technological progress, everything must be susceptible to human control. While we take material advance for granted as soon as it occurs, we consider remaining social problems as unprecedented and anomalous, and we propose solutions that actually make more difficult further progress of the very kind that we have forgotten ever happened. While everyone saw the misery the Great Depression caused, for example, few realized that, even so, living standards actually continued to rise for the majority. If we live entirely in the moment, as if the world were created exactly as we now find it, we are almost bound to propose solutions that bring even worse problems in their wake…...

The most interesting aspect of Hayek?s book, however, is not his refutation of collectivist ideas?which, necessary as it might have been at that moment, was not by any means original. Rather, it is his observations of the moral and psychological effects of the collectivist ideal that, 60 years later, capture the imagination?mine, at least.

Hayek thought he had observed an important change in the character of the British people, as a result both of their collectivist aspirations and of such collectivist measures as had already been legislated. He noted, for example, a shift in the locus of people?s moral concern. Increasingly, it was the state of society or the world as a whole that engaged their moral passion, not their own conduct. ?It is, however, more than doubtful whether a fifty years? approach towards collectivism has raised our moral standards, or whether the change has not rather been in the opposite direction,? he wrote. ?Though we are in the habit of priding ourselves on our more sensitive social conscience, it is by no means clear that this is justified by the practice of our individual conduct.? In fact, ?It may even be . . . that the passion for collective action is a way in which we now without compunction collectively indulge in that selfishness which as individuals we had learnt a little to restrain.?

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Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Reactions to “The Nature of True Virtue”

Kartik Ariyur has some thoughts about the decline of religion and how churches can reverse it.

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This is in response to the article on The Nature of True Virtue. By the way, the sermon by Jonathan Edwards, along with several other famous American sermons is available in print from the Library of America under the title American Sermons.

Returning to the topic, by the decline of religion, I mean the reduction of the proportion of population with an understanding of true religion and therefore a concomitant increase in the proportion of the population lacking its guidance. By churches, I mean religious organizations of all denominations preaching true religion?by true religion I mean those precepts whose practice saves us from suffering and leads us to lasting happiness. Hence this rules out clubs devoted to wanton violence or license.

It is clear from the article that individual self-restraint fostered by religion is the prime driver of the growth of knowledge, and therefore of civilization. But the very process also results in greater numbers of individuals thinking more clearly. While there are in every age, men and women who have understood the Divine Will for their lives, the understanding of the majority is far from perfect, and will remain so (for the harvest is plenteous but the reapers are few). However, the inconsistencies in religious understanding that escaped the notice of the previous generation become obvious to the next. Thus, the interpretations of religion such as those that resulted in the Spanish Inquisition became obvious to many. And unless there is a sufficient number of religious practitioners who through their practice resolve the contradictions, and also disseminate a more consistent interpretation among the general populace, those wanting to indulge their passions will take advantage of the bewilderment of the masses, and attribute the ills of society to religion to reduce its influence on men.

Hence, because of the spiritual, intellectual and material growth of society they catalyze, there is also a need for churches to become laboratories of spiritual effort to understand the commandments in Scripture ever more precisely, and to disseminate the results of those experiments. For Scriptural Truths live on in the lives of those who demonstrate them. Great sermons such as those of Edwards or the abolitionists in the 19th century brought change in the world because the preachers practiced what they preached. In more recent times, the power of group prayer to bring the Divine response, the power of mutual service, and service to society to cultivate love, and the value of solitary contemplation and meditation are being recognized by increasing proportions of the populace.

However, analogous to those labor unions whose members want an assured income without making the efforts to constantly acquire new knowledge and skills, many priests have wanted to preserve their status, influence and power in society without continuously striving to understand and practice with ever greater precision the commandments in Scripture. Hence, priesthood has in many instances sunk to a merchandising of religion?as with some of the Pharisees in the time of Jesus, some of the Popes, and some of the churches of today that seek to hold on to their flock through entertainment instead of edification. This obviously cannot continue for long, for Mammon?s (Hollywood for example) supply of entertainment is not subject to the restraints to which church entertainment is subject.

Another consequence of the expansion of knowledge is the breakdown of the rules of thumb that ensured self-control and morality for the previous generation, which lived in simpler circumstances. In a more complex society, a correspondingly deeper understanding is required to maintain self-control. A science of self-control is therefore as much necessary as material science to sustain civilization. The science of self-control is the science of attaining Divine Love. This is because the human mind is incapable of computing the long term consequences of actions?the world is too complex to permit it. But if it is in touch with its Infinite Source through Love, it can intuit the correct actions to perform. Priestly condemnation does not make the ignorant wise, but feeling the love of God and giving it to all changes the world through teaching them to feel that love. The task of the religious is therefore to understand through meditation upon Scriptural Truth how to feel Divine Love under the various circumstances of life (thrown up by a more complex society), and then to transmit that understanding to the masses.

Pessimism about the survival of religion, and thence of civilization itself, is unfounded, for the Truth shall continue to triumph, as evidenced by the eradication of various social evils. The present decline of religion is only a transient, many of which have been witnessed by history. In an age where there is ever greater access to information, and the values instilled by religion continue to make a greater proportion of men more reasonable (even if many don?t realize it or acknowledge it) generation after generation, and the explosion of knowledge imposes tremendous stresses on individuals because of the changes it brings about, men must of necessity turn to their Maker to preserve their sanity.

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Joyful Contemplation

It’s Spring and time to remind ourselves that nature really is Grand!

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Barbara Batchelor Harris, my friend of many years, emailed this link to a beautiful presentation with spectacular scenic views called Interview With God.

In addition to being a good summary of the Christian doctrine of love ? for God and for your neighbor ? it calls to mind the writings of G. K Chesterton, a prolific writer and a devout Christian who died in 1936.

One of the G. K. Chesterton websites has this to say about him:

“Gilbert Keith Chesterton was born in London, England on the 29th of May, 1874.  Though he considered himself a mere “rollicking journalist,” he was actually a prolific and gifted writer in virtually every area of literature.  A man of strong opinions and enormously talented at defending them, his exuberant personality nevertheless allowed him to maintain warm friendships with people—such as George Bernard Shaw and H. G. Wells—with whom he vehemently disagreed.

Chesterton had no difficulty standing up for what he believed. He was one of the few journalists to oppose the Boer War.  His 1922 Eugenics and Other Evils attacked what was at that time the most progressive of all ideas, the idea that the human race could and should breed a superior version of itself.  In the Nazi experience, history demonstrated the wisdom of his once “reactionary” views.”

Emil Pavone, another of my friends, happily introduced me to Chesterton’s work.  What has struck me about Chesterton’s “The Everlasting Man” is his enormous joy in God’s creation, in the wonders and beauties of nature and their power to inspire humans to creative and artistic expression shared by no other living creature. 

This joy is an important component of loving yourself and loving your neighbor as yourself. 

Chesterton would have loved the Interview With God.

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A Reader Disagrees

Some observations regarding Pope Benedict XVI.

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Reader Christopher Sufle has some reactions to Survival of the Western World.

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I disagree with this post a little bit. Mr. Auster is somewhat off the mark when he says that the Pope’s conception of multiculturalism is wrong. Pope Benedict XVI uses the term in a broader sense than the “multiculturalism is an end in and of itself.” The context in which the Pope speaks is that in which freedom is a means to an end, the greater good.

I have to wonder whether Lawrence Auster’s expression here is not ultimately rooted in a fear of saying, “the Pope is right, and I may have something to learn here.” I’m going to get a little bit more theological here than our society is used to when it comes to “polite” discussions. That’s my segue into a rhetoric in defense of Christendom and the reunification of the religion that I believe is the way to peace and more importantly, the best way to knowing the will of God.

I’ll start of by attempting to tag a historical dynamic of degeneration: BPC. Ann Coulter in remarks made at a Clare Boothe Luce Inst. Award ceremony, spoke of Bike Path Christianity (BPC) in reference to Howard Dean leaving the Episcopal Church (“the Church of the Proper Fork”) because it opposed his local bike path project.

Martin Luther was confounded by a Pope of a very fallen nature. The Pope was the least accomodating of the two; yet these two men, If I’m not wrong, undermined the institution, the architecture by which the work of the apostles was and is to continue. Mt. 16:18 reads “Thou Art Peter And Upon This Rock I Will Build My Church and the Gates of Hell will not prevail against it.” Each Pope, in the Church, is considered the successor of Peter. A new Pope, also known as the Bishop of Rome, is selected by the College of Cardinals of the Catholic Church. Cardinal comes from Latin, a word meaning hinge; so the Cardinals are the clerics around whom the church turned, so to speak; the pivots; the key figures. They are key officers in the world changing body of Christ…

In terms of Information Technology (“Get wisdom, get understanding…” -Prov. 4:5, “Test Everything, hold on to the good.” -1 Th 5:21), This system of heirarchy reflects the idea that Jesus made Peter the leader of the apostles producing the organization by which the West was Christianized.

The term Roman Catholic reflects a historical shift brought about by the continued historical revelation of Providence; a new empire, so to speak. New Advent’s encyclopedia explains that the term church “is the name employed in the Teutonic languages to render the Greek ekklesia (ecclesia), the term by which the New Testament writers denote the society founded by Our Lord Jesus Christ.

George Neumayr had some insights regarding the future of Christianity: “Toward the end of liberalizing the Church, the media will look for fixes to problems from the liberal clerics most responsible for causing them… Pope John Paul II knew that a worldly liberalism had derailed the Church and was trying to remove it… The greatness of his life consisted in what the press ignores and seeks to undo in the Church: holiness, the measure of which is never the will of men but of God.”

And on the new Pope, Oswald Sobrino explains the significance of the name ‘Benedict’: ” the collapse of Western culture happened before when the old social structures of the Roman Empire finally gave way in 476 A.D. The barbarians had invaded. That was the collapsed world that St. Benedict was born into in 480 A.D. Similarly, both John Paul the Great and Benedict XVI saw, as youths, the collapse of Western society in the barbarism of Nazism. They later saw the monstrosity of Communism gobble up Poland and half of Germany. Finally, they saw Western democracies morally collapse from within as pagan hedonism and a pagan Culture of Death set off decadence on a Neronian scale throughout the democratic West.

“And so it is fitting to look back at the achievement of Benedict in rebuilding European culture as the old classical order collapsed. Cardinal Ratzinger did just that with Peter Seewald at the reknown monastery of Monte Cassino founded by St. Benedict in the same year (529) that the classical Platonic academy in Athens closed:

‘I find this temporal coincidence of the closing of the Athens academy, which had been the symbol of classical culture, and the start of the monastery at Monte Cassino, which then became, as it were, the academy of Christianity, to be of great significance. The Roman empire was in decline; it had already broken into fragments in the West and no longer existed as such. There was, of course, the danger that an entire culture might be lost, but Benedict more or less preserved it and gave it new life. And therein he was entirely consistent with a Benedictine motto: Succisa virescit—ever again pruned, it grows again. The breakdown became in a certain sense a new departure.’

Ratzinger, p. 389 [God and the World, Ignatius Press, 2002]

“Benedict XVI, has a mission to preserve and give new life to Christianity in the West. Our Pope has spoken in the past about the Church first becoming smaller before expanding again in the West. In my view, the becoming smaller in number is a consequence of recovering and proclaiming unvarnished Catholic moral truth as the first step toward re-evangelizing the West. We must first prune so that the Church will grow again in the West. We must prune away the confusion and secularism that has infected the Church herself—pruning work that Cardinal Ratzinger did since 1981 under John Paul the Great. “

I recommend the lecture, The The Rise of the West by Professor Ralph Raico of Buffalo State College. ?But I would first make clear that it needs some correcting. I believe that one great aspect of this talk is that it emphasize something that is often overlooked by many unsuspecting people. That the power of taxation confers a great centralizing power that people that lived centuries before us were very very familiar with and weary of. They could see things that many of us can’t, even with the benefit of hindisght and other developments.

Prof. Raico concludes that “collision” and “economic freedoms” were the keys to progress and what made the West different from the rest of the world. I believe that that is a very sad and depressing distortion. Those who fought for freedom and in defense of God’s holy commandments were absolutely not fighting to be means to no end. I believe that Prof. Raico makes a shallow interpretation that progress ultimately came down to a matter of “counterveiling powers.” Though they absolutely played a significant role, it is absolutely critical to stress that this is not what made the West. As I explained to a libertarian friend: “The moral vacuum left by the arrogance of self-centered man that produced transitional libertarianism in Europe only rolled out the red carpet for the tyranny that moral relativism leads to. With the coming challenges that face the world, not disregarding the present threats to the future of civilization, now more than ever we must stress the folly of th e idea that we can repeat the present threats to the future of civilization; now more than ever we must stress the folly of the idea that we can repeat the claim in America as was made in Europe, implicit and explicit, that civilization can harvest and consume the fruits of Christianity presently without bothering to care for its seeds for very long.” The weather may prove fortunate today, but it’s no guarantee tomorrow, as the Europeans and Asians have learned while flip-flopping back and forth between economic centralization and decentralization.

To recap my disagreement with the libertarian claim that the West, that capitalism was produced by people fighting for economic freedom “primarily”: In fighting for Christendom, of course economic freedoms were advocated, and those strengthened also the overall rights of man. If you agree with that then you agree with America’s founders that the law of history was written by God.

Here is where I believe that Bikepath Christianity comes into play. I believe that libertarianism and leftwing liberalism developed from a backslide into paganism and sin, and that because of the unnecessary division of Christianity via what I call the BPC factor. Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for tolerance but the point is that the BPC approach is the kind of multiculturalism that we criticize, yet as Christians out of habit/culture we?condone.

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Monday, April 25, 2005

Justice Sunday: A Political Mistake?

I must respectfully disagree with John Leo.

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John Leo writes a column for USNews & World Report that is a paragon of sanity and decency.  It is thus a matter of regret to disagree with him on a view expressed in his recent column titled Justice Sunday.

Writing about the April 24 rally and national telecast sponsored by conservative Christian groups, he concludes:

“Consider just the damaging fallout from an event that is meant as a strenuous effort to identify religion with one political party…..Accusing the Democrats of running a jihad against believers clearly implies that people who vote Democratic are either terribly ignorant or simply not good Christians, Jews, or Muslims. This is a surefire recipe for increasing polarization within the churches.”

Mr. Leo’s assessment of the politics may be correct.  Doubtless his political judgment is better than mine.  But one basis for his assessment is, I believe, wrong.  He writes:

“The premise is that Senate Democrats, by threatening to filibuster several of President Bush’s judicial choices, have attacked religious believers….Pardon me, but this is clearly untrue. The Democrats would be delighted to approve fervently religious nominees, so long as they endorse Roe v. Wade and the party’s general strategy of using the courts as an end run around the legislative process. The obvious is true: The filibuster threat is about abortion politics and left-right polarization, not religion.”

In fact, using Mr. Leo’s own terms, the dispute is clearly about religion.  The American religion that approves of abortion is secular, atheistic socialism, which includes nominal Christian groups that have watered-down the Gospel message to avoid offending our increasingly secular and hedonistic populace.  Liberal-socialists, for obvious reasons, would be happy to appoint judges who worship at those altars.

Whether this is a divisive issue or not, it clearly is a matter of liberals struggling to impose the religion of secular socialism via judicial fiat.

In a larger context, the issue is the fact that we already have an unconstitutionally-established national religion, and that religion is secular socialism.  It first climbed into the saddle in 1933, and has by now become firmly seated.  Something must be done to disestablish the religion of socialism.

For a discussion supporting that contention, see Socialism: Our Unconstitutionally Established National Religion.


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Survival of the Western World

The Western world is drifting toward the rocks.  It must anchor itself in the Truth.

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Lawrence Auster has another on-the-mark posting in which he notes that Christianity preserved what remained of the Western Roman Empire and created Western civilization. 

See Benedict XVI ? soul brother of VFR? for more.


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Sunday, April 24, 2005

Canada: The United States’ Declining Future

The title of “Canadian Sunset,” a 1957 popular song, is an appropriate image for their future and ours, unless some major changes occur.

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Lawrence Auster’s National Suicide Professional Edition links to an article in Canada Free Press that describes what both Canada and the United States are rapidly becoming.  And it’s not a feel-good thing.

With the “gim’me” generation of the 1960s about to retire and demanding ever more benefits entitlements, the economic outlook for us is gloomy.  Couple that with the flood of immigrants from Latin America, Asia, and the Middle East, and we have the makings of a cultural disaster, as well.

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