christmas-buschWilhelm Busch, reflecting on Christmas past as a young German soldier in World War One, noted that the overwhelming sense of desolation and homesickness which had dominated the atmosphere, hindered all attempts to celebrate it.

After a large quantity of alcohol had been delivered and consumed, things went from sombre to surreal. Though Christmas celebrations were arranged, “everything went wrong”.

That dugout and this Christmas, any glimmer of consolation gained from communal conversations about gathering to mark the day had been lost.

No longer did this Christmas feel or even look as it could have.

Busch hints at a deep disconnect between the alcohol induced light-heartedness of his comrades and the heavy heart he felt for the clear absence of community marking the real value in Christmas.

Sorrow, loneliness and self-pity were being drowned in a sea of self-medication. With it, the beauty and healing that can come from a Christmas acknowledged and shared was abandoned.

Busch writes that he quietly left the noise behind him and walked outside to sit alone in the darkness.

Looking beyond the dugout towards what was left of an old village, he asked himself,

‘two years ago joyful people had celebrated Christmas there. Where were they now that their homes had disappeared?’[i]

According to Busch, this pondering laced with lament was interrupted by a Lieutenant who emerged from the smoke-filled, buoyant hole.

Not seeing Busch nearby the Lieutenant stopped stared out into the evening sky and then:

‘…pulled out from under his cape a glistening horn and put it to his lips.
The music sounded soft and strange as it carried over the devastated valley the tones of the carol:
‘Oh you joyful, Oh you blessed, grace bringing Christmas time…’
His blowing practically forced me to speak the words quietly along with him. And everything rose up in rebellion within me. ‘No! No!’ cried my heart. ‘It is not true! There is a village that’s destroyed. Every ruined house is a reminder of deep sorrow.
And here are the drunk, homesick men, back home the weeping women, children calling for their fathers.
Blood, death, misery … How can you play like that: “Oh you joyful…”?’ But he blew on unperturbed.
And it sounded accusingly: ‘The world was lost…’ ‘Yes,’ I thought, ‘now that is altogether true.’ I had never perceived and seen it like that.
‘Christ is born…’ he blew into my thoughts. So bright, so jubilant that I had to listen:
‘Christ is born! Rejoice, rejoice O Christendom!’
Then it was as if scales fell from my eyes: this is Christmas, this and nothing else:
‘The world was lost; Christ is born! Rejoice, O Christendom!’[ii]

I see in this account a message deeper than that of the tragic complexities of war. Here we see the burden of expectations we place on ourselves by what we think Christmas should be, look and feel like.

The challenge issued to us from Busch is to stop seeking our perfect idea of Christmas, to at least refine what we expect Christmas to be. Instead, reflect on how Christmas finds us and on what it actually brings to us.

Christmas can be a confusing mix of wonder and dread. It can sweep us off our feet or remind us about the gloomy agony of isolation, ostracization.  At the same time Christmas can answer our despair with inspiration, overwhelming generosity, and breathe new life into each dark and exhausting step.

It is an act of joyful remembrance; a time of acknowledgement that the knowledge of who God is, and what God is about, is confirmed in His free act to be free for, with, and near us.

To act on Advent and Christmas is to acknowledge with humility and gratitude, in prayer, a season set apart for new life.

It is a moment beyond moments, one that transcends money, presents, deifying and impressing our neighbours or family. Such a time as this must be grasped as we are grasped and held.

Christmas is a season unlike any other that consists of one of two days in the year where we get to stop and acknowledge that in Jesus Christ we are truly reached for.

This is a moment in time that is not centred on our ego, although it is for us it is not about us. As Karl Barth would term it, Christmas is an event carved by God’s good pleasure into a calendar otherwise dominated by awkward celebration, loss and lament. Here, on this day, we recall that God’s Word of freedom is decisively spoken.

To act on Advent and Christmas is to acknowledge the revelation of God in Jesus Christ.

Without this, our celebration is an empty ritual filled with cheap decorations, avarice and religion. The weight of faulty products from a fallen people working too hard to please each other and ourselves.

To act on Advent and Christmas is to be moved politically and relationally beyond religion. It is the encroachment of God’s Kingdom come.

With Christ and in Christ, our celebration moves us beyond ourselves, our wallet and our pain. We are moved towards a light that was not lit by human imagination, but was and is an historical event in space and time. Responded to, reasoned about, joyfully acknowledged and reverently proclaimed.

“The world was lost;

Christ is born!

Rejoice, O Christendom!”


References:

[i] Busch W. (1897-1966) Stories from my life and times, in Puritz, C. 2013, Ed. Christ or Hitler? Evangelical Press. Kindle Ed. Loc. 637-638

[ii] Ibid, loc. 642-652

Originally published 24th December 2014

©Rod Lampard, 2018

With over 2000+ years of thought, action and in some cases really good ideas, that simply just crashed and burned, Christian history is rich and vibrant. If we ignore this history and the theological enquiry attached to it, we turn our backs on faith, heritage and hard lessons learnt along the way.

The old saying still reigns:

‘I believe in order to understand’  (St. Augustine, & Anselm of Canterbury)

Unfortunately, we live in a ‘Just get me to the chorus’ era:

 ‘’Give me the theological truth – but if it doesn’t fit in a MEME that I can like, share or wave passive aggressively at my not-yet-Christian friends on Facebook, I don’t want to know about it’’.

Don’t get me wrong. Minus their manipulative passive aggressive abuse, I think MEMEs, are overall, useful. They provide a form of art-therapy for adults. Plus, the simplicity of a meme can be inspiring, and the art that goes with it can be soothing. Memes have a place.

This isn’t a beat up of that genre.

Like it or not. Christians should be interested in theology, because every Christian is in some way or another, called to have a thinking faith. As Stanley Grenz put it: ‘theology is called forth by faith’ (Theology for the community of God, 1994, p.9)

In truth, engaging with difficult reading isn’t easy, but doing so does us good.

We are shaped by the challenge and its outcome. This could be likened to carefully navigating our way up a mountain, stopping to enjoy the view, then employing the same caution on our way back down.

If we sense that the subject matter is ‘’beyond us’’, it’s more than likely a manifestation of our impatience, which seeks to impale us on the stake of ignorance. [Insert Jesus’ words about – Doves, wisdom, snakes, wolves, and sheep (Mt.10:16).]

This apathy towards learning wounds us, not just individually, but collectively,  because ‘theology is done in community’ (Grenz, 1994 p.9).

In his ‘Aids to Reflection’, poet, Samuel Taylor Coleridge stated:

An unreflecting Christian walks in twilight among snares and pitfalls!…because he will not kindle the torch which his Father had given into his hands, as a mean of prevention, and lest he should pray too late.’ 

Likewise American author, Nathaniel Hawthorne, protested the circumventing of this imperative. In his 1843 work ‘The celestial railroad’, Hawthorne reworks Bunyan’s pilgrim’s progress. The result is an attempt to tackle the dangers associated with taking short-cuts in a faith that seeks understanding.

In a brief exposition of Hawthorne’s Celestial Railroad, Jean Elshtain pointed out that

‘counter to Reformed orthodox doctrine, some 19th Century theologians suggested that there were short cuts to heaven[…]We live in a time of shortcuts […] We want to pave the way as easy as we can’.  This is evidenced by ‘social media which promises a painless way to get community, human identity and democracy’[…] ‘where techno-cyber consumerism makes it easy to have hatefulness confirmed rather than challenged.’

Elshtain goes on to suggest that this is indicative of Hawthorne’s theological critique of society:

‘Hawthorne’s work presents the promises of ease and convenience which are made by the antagonist, ‘’Mr. Smooth it away’’ as a stark contrast to the striving difficulty of ‘’Christian’’ on Bunyan’s road’.

On the surface this could be translated as progressive versus conservative, and it wouldn’t be a complete stretch. This is because they bridge between Hawthorne’s tale and current sociopolitical realities of a technological society.

We can draw a contrast between a pilgrim’s progress and the journey undertaken by progressive pilgrimsThere is a difference between the progress of pilgrims and pilgrims who call themselves progressive.The former is a dynamic, ‘pilgrim people’ (Karl Barth CD.IV.4:40), critically processing ideology through theological enquiry. The latter are a passive people, who have already surrendered their theology to ideology, and doing their best to justify their surrender.

The distinction between a pilgrim’s progress and that of a progressive pilgrim, is fleshed out by Elshtain further:

 ‘The old image of a pilgrim carrying their sins on their back  is made superfluous. This is seen in Hawthorne’s narrative critique, when people were told that there is a super hot railway that would get them there quick, without all the messy stuff about sin, remorse, penance, meaningful membership and so on’ (2013).

Like the sheep and the goats (Matthew 25:31-46), the pilgrim and the progressive pilgrim are heading the same direction. However, as in Hawthorne’s narrative, not only do they travel different paths, tragically, upon arrival, the progressive pilgrim finds that their destination is in complete contrast to that of their neighbour’s. They find out that you cannot just rock up to heaven and demand to be let in (see Matthew 7:21 and John 14:6).

This distinction between a pilgrim’s progress and the journey undertaken by progressive pilgrims, is upheld by Hawthorne. His description of the advantage claimed by progressive pilgrims, over the journey taken by those who follow Christian through the Wicket Gate in the Pilgrim’s Progress is as follows:

‘’The passengers being all comfortably seated, we now rattled away merrily, accomplishing a greater distance in ten minutes than Christian probably trudged over in a day. It was laughable, while we glanced along, as it were, at the tail of a thunderbolt, to observe two dusty foot travellers in the old pilgrim guise, with cockle shell and staff, their mystic rolls of parchment in their hands and their intolerable burdens on their backs. The preposterous obstinacy of these honest people in persisting to groan and stumble along the difficult pathway rather than take advantage of modern improvements, excited great mirth among our wiser brotherhood. We greeted the two pilgrims with many pleasant gibes and a roar of laughter; whereupon they gazed at us with such woeful and absurdly compassionate visages that our merriment grew tenfold”.

Pilgrims who entered through the Wicket Gate are mocked, taunted and physically assaulted by their ”wiser brothers and sisters”.

This also finds traction in Christian history with what is called the ‘downgrade (downhill slope) controversy’. This was when English Baptist Pastor, Charles Spurgeon, choose to resign from the Baptist Union in 1887 (Iain Murray ‘The Forgotten Spurgeon’, 1966:161). He issued a reasoned response against the new phenomena of altar calls, liberal protestant emotionalism and an excessive focus on personal experience. Spurgeon’s refusal was met with all forms of opposition, and yet remained steadfast:

Perhaps there is relevance here for the Church today? In 1889, Spurgeon wrote:

‘Fellowship with known and vital error is participation in sin…should truth be sold to keep up a wider fellowship? The day will come when those who think that they can repair a house, which has no foundations, will see the wisdom of quitting it altogether. All along we have seen that to come out from association with questionable doctrines is the only possible solution of a difficulty which, however it may be denied, is not to be trifled with by those who are conscious of its terrible reality’…it might be more satisfactory to take the whole house down, and reconstruct it.  
(Murray citing Spurgeon, 1966:144-155)

Interestingly, Robert Shindler, a friend of Spurgeon’s, wrote:

‘’in some cases, it is all too plainly apparent [that] men are willing to forego the old for the sake of the new. But commonly it is found in theology, that that which is true is not new, and that which is new is not true.” (‘The Sword and the Trowel’, March 1887)

Let us remember where, what and who our lives are aligned to serve. God can still speak out of the chaos in a whirlwind (Job 38:1 & 40:6). If He chooses too, we would do well to listen, understand and gratefully obey. Instead of opting for the empty progressive promises of Mr.Smooth-it-away, and Hawthorne’s ‘Celestial train’, may we have the courage to persevere and make progress as Bunyan’s Christian did.


References:

Barth, K. 1969 Church Dogmatics Vol.IV The Doctrine of Reconciliation, part 4 Hendrickson Publishers

Elshtain, J.B 2013, State of Democracy Maxwell School lecture sourced 16th June 2013

Grenz, S.J. 1994 Theology for the community of God Wm. B. Eerdmans Publishing Co. Grand Rapids MI. USA

Hawthorne, N. 1843 The Celestial Railroad sourced from http://www.nathanielhawthorne.com/short-stories/The-Celestial-Railroad.html

Murray, I. 1966 The Forgotten Spurgeon Banner of Truth Trust USA

©Rod Lampard, 2013

Hank Williams, Sr. once wrote:

‘You’ve never walked in that man’s shoes or saw things through his eyes Or stood and watched with helpless hands while the heart inside you dies. Some were poor some were kings and some were masters of the arts.But in their shame they’re all the same, these men with broken hearts. So help your brother along the road no matter where he starts. For the God that made you, made them too. These men with broken hearts!

Hank Williams may have written, but it was Elvis who took these words to a whole new level.

For me brokenness and worship are intertwined.  These places of brokenness bring us to the cross and push us towards resurrection. This is because ‘we do not raise ourselves; we are raised’ (Eugene Peterson, Christ Plays in Ten Thousand Places. 2005:231). 

I’m not sure why these particular words affect me the way they do. It’s probably because I understand, to some degree, the deep well from which these words are drawn.

In recognising that we are undone (Isaiah 6:5), the pride within us can no longer be an enemy to the gracious “Yes” of God, in Christ (Jn.15), which stands for us, and the shadow of His “no”, which exists for our sake. (Karl Barth/St. Francis of Assisi/ Lk.10:25).

May it be so.

                                                                                             


Video: Elvis Presley, Lost ”that the way it is” (August, 1970 – Midnight show. Lyrics and song, Joe South

Poem: Hank Williams, ‘Men with broken hearts

Originally published, 27th May 2013.

In August, Iranian refugee and former Muslim, Ramin Parsa was arrested for trespassing {*coughs* for breaking blasphemy laws}, while privately sharing his testimony about becoming a Christian, in a Mall of America, shopping centre in Minnesota.

Tyler O’Neil from PJ media reported that while Ramin, now a Christian Pastor living in Los Angeles, was sharing his testimony,

“Another woman who was not part of the conversation went and complained to the security. The guard came and said, ‘You can’t solicit here.’ He then told them “we were not soliciting”. He just said, ‘Bye,’ and walked away.” After Parsa, the pastor, and his son grabbed some coffee, “three guards were waiting for me and said, ‘You must leave now.’ I asked why. They said, ‘You’re soliciting.’ I said, ‘No, we are not.’ I was explaining to them that I’m from out of state, I’m here as a guest, I’m here to see the mall.”
“That’s when they grabbed my coffee, handcuffed me, and took me to the underground mall gaol,” he recalled. “They patted me down, handcuffed me to a metal chair that was bolted to the ground. They refused to give me water, refused to let me go to the restroom except right before the police came. When I was taken to gaol after 3 hours. I was hungry and thirsty.”

In a video aired on Facebook, Ramin Parsa gave a detailed response about his encounter, talking about the dangers of creeping shari’a law, how Christians should be aware of Shari’a creep and how necessary it is to become pro-active in answering it. Parsa also mentioned his support for Donald Trump’s travel ban on Somalia, saying “Imagine if these people [Somalian Islamists] get into power [in the United States]. They don’t respect the constitution and the bill of rights, and American values. They come here to oppress. So…now I understand why there’s a [travel] ban on Somalia, which is a good thing….I believe that true refugees are Christians and other minorities in Muslim countries living under Islamic Shari’a Law.”

According to Parsa’s website, he was ‘raised in Iran, in a Shiite Muslim family. He lived under Islamic Law and was taught to practice strict religious traditions. After his father died, Parsa began to question Islam and the existence of God.

He heard about the gospel, disagreed with it, but became curious. Parsa gave himself to God, asking to be shown the way forward and came to Jesus Christ as a result. He was later arrested for handing out bibles. Then stabbed, causing him to move from Iran to Turkey.’ He came to America for Bible College and now works as Pastor of Redemptive Love Ministries International.

PJ Media also reported that Ramin Parsa’s pre-trial is for December 11th, where, while hopeful for an acquittal, “if prosecutors don’t drop the charges, his case will go to trial.”


Originally published at www.caldronpool.com 4th December 2018 under the same title.

Bellowing temperatures?

“The sky is falling!”

Karl Marx’s mindless drones are calling.

Climate change is the opiate of the masses,

Line up, fall in, protest; deny independent thought.

Fixing figures, the seas are now rising!

“The sky is falling!”

.

Marxism’s callous drones are calling.

Find the oppressor, he breathes out carbon dioxide

“It must be the straight white man, toxic masculinity”,

“That racist breed, that oppressor deserves no dignity”.

“The sky is falling!”

Environmentalists,

Militant fundamentalists; socialists,

Come brawling

“The Sky is falling!”

Line up, fall in, protest; deny independent thought.

Build more dams?

Like hell, man!

Keep your cattle away from the forest

We need the disasters, to stay politically relevant.

We need the fear and chaos to keep funding levels permanent.

“The Sky is falling!”

Line up, fall in, protest; deny independent thought.

.

Indoctrinate! We want it taught!

“The Sky is falling!”

Line up, fall in, protest; deny independent thought.

Climate change deniers?

Holocaust triggers,

Fund the Marxist myth, pay the toll and become a believer!

your money is ours to rort!

‘The sky is falling!”

Line up, fall in, protest; deny independent thought.

Keep your naïve silence, because we own the science!

Convert, pay a tax or die.

Bellows the Marxist war cry!

“The Sky is falling!”

.

Line up, fall in, protest; deny independent thought.

You are what we say you are, you will do, think and say

That which you ought:

“The Sky is falling!”

Line up, fall in, protest; deny independent thought.

Only traitor’s question

The revolution needs soldiers,

We are Gaia’s priests, the new holy rollers.

Fail to Line up, fall in, protest and support the fight

Or our lynch mobs will shoot, and kill on sight.

Fear what we tell you to fear.

And ignore those who say,

“beware the auctioneers;

The utopian world order

And its globalist engineers.”


©Rod Lampard, 2018

Bassist and Co–founding member of KISS, Gene Simmons, did at least two interviews between January and September 2017. In those interviews he gave some surprising  responses to questions about Donald Trump. I stumbled onto these while scrolling through Youtube. I was looking to corroborate a claim that Gene Hackman said, “Donald Trump could be the best President yet.”

So far Gene Hackman’s comments remain “fake news”, and perhaps are a product of wishful thinking.  I get why people are sharing the claims, even though the source does not reference where they go the information from. (The reason for why I won’t share it here)

There’s a lot of people looking for something sane to come from Hollywood celebrities that doesn’t involve demonising the current President, and those who support him. Gene Simmons did what I haven’t heard a lot of celebrities do. He pointed his interviewers to proof of performance. Simmons’ response was well thought out and non-reactionary.

See for yourself:

CNBC:

Sirius XM:


#rockon

God is love. It’s his character revealed – Love is His language – peace, long-suffering, patience, joy, kindness, it does not envy or boast it is not arrogant or rude, it is not irritable or resentful it does not rejoice in wrongdoing, but rejoices with the truth.

Love bears all things, endures all things. Love never ends. Among the three top things rated in life: faith, hope and love – love remains the greatest. (1 Corinthians 13)

Sex is not God. Money is not God. Love is not God. Things we own? Not God. Social status? Not God – the Job description? Not God. Debt? Not God. The Church building, or doctrine? Not God. The self-help books we read on better living? Nope. Not God.

Although, a lot of these things can be OF God and reflect the purpose in His design, they are not God. Though, in some cases, they have taken the place of God. They are not God.

I am a Christian because of Jesus Christ. I’ve failed many times. I struggle with many things, but I have a sure hope! A certain joy that comes with strength. Not my strength, but that which comes from the person and revelation of God in Jesus Christ. In no other place can salvation be found. In no other place can love be found. This is where we find what it means to love, and to forgive. (John 14:6)

Love finds itself displayed in God’s Grace poured out towards humanity in Jesus Christ, from the stables of Bethlehem, in the dust of Nazareth, within the blood spilled at Golgotha, the echo within the now empty tomb, and even in a warm breakfast cooked up on the beaches of Galilee (John 21:4-14).

Love is a verb. We choose love because it contains both a “yes” and a “no”. We choose a direction and are responsible for its results. Love isn’t an easy road. It includes acknowledging limitations. It involves setting boundaries and empowering others through those boundaries.

‘Only when our hearts are full of love are we fit to judge another or to speak of their faults…love is always the ruling motive’ (Miller, D.D. p.24 & p.39)

Love impacts our character. God corrects the corrupt condition of our hearts. He teaches us that he is not interested in our reputation – He looks at our hearts; what informs and makes up our character; what makes up who we are and who we choose to be (1 Samuel 16:7).

Word of mouth might be great for those selling something, but a good reputation is not proof of good character. To love is to leave behind the appearance of righteousness and embrace the Godliness of the one who embraces us. We don’t love for applause. We don’t love for approval. We love because God first loved us (1 John 4:19).

‘Those who follow Christ never walk in darkness…our best friends are not those we make life easy for us; our best friends are those who put courage, energy, and resolution into our hearts. There are thousands of lives dwarfed and hurt irreparably by pampering’ (Miller, D.D. p.33 & p.55)

References:

Miller, J.R. D.D. 1894.  The Building of Character Mr Bruce Fry (Publisher)

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Photo Credit: Photo by ActionVance on Unsplash

 

If Australia’s Prime Minister is serious about fairness, he’ll preserve the right to a conscientious objection to SSM; the right for people to hold the view, and teach their kids that marriage is between a man and a woman; and that those children have a right to equal access to their biological father and mother.

As I have hopefully made clear in the written contributions I’ve made to this national debate, I see the issues as a matter of social justice. The “no” vote has been about defending truth, liberty, fraternity, science, and even equality, from unbalanced ideological servitude.

The State wants the church to stay out of politics, but the Church is being encroached on by the State. The people want the church to stay out of politics, but it paints their political slogans on church walls, violently interferes with gatherings and misuses the Bible to manipulate or bash Christians into submission. The people want the church to stay out of politics, but they bring politics into the church, demanding a pledge of allegiance to systems that perpetuate hatred and inequality, behind a veil of tolerance, love and equality.

None of this is new, it’s the very same thing that was perpetuated by Nazis and Communists, as French theologian and Marxist scholar, Jacques Ellul noted:

‘But I’ve heard such talk a thousand times, from fascists as well as Stalinists: “You have no right to judge from the outside; first you must join up, sympathize totally with our aims, and then you can talk.” BUT that is just when one can no longer say anything! The experience of those who looked horrified, in hindsight, on Hitler’s or Stalin’s time confirms this: “How could we have taken part in that?” they ask.’
(Ellul, Jesus & Marx 1988:146)[i]

It’s a clear double standard when the LGBTQ and their supporters can freely criticise and push others to refuse service to those who disagree, then turn around and deny those in disagreement, the right to the same free speech and freedom of conscience. That’s not equality.

The line is blurring. Christians who support SSM have confused love of God with love of neighbour, and as such have compromised their neighbour, through a false [Marxist/materialist] claim that says we should place love for neighbour over and above God.

This is what is called horizontal theology. It is grounded in the errors and perversity of natural theology; the implicit claim that by blindly loving  our neighbour we can reach God through our neighbor. This encourages me to treat my neighbor as though that neighbor was a second revelation of God. The kind of ideas that lead to the false worship of Kings, rulers, prophets and objects throughout history. In short, the creature is worshipped in place of the Creator, because the Creator has been confused with His creature.

We are to be Christlike in our treatment of our neighour; have Christ in mind when we go to serve our neighbour, but we are grossly mistaken if we think that Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40 “as you did it to one of the least of these my brothers, you did it to me”, means that our neighbor replaces Christ.

This misunderstanding leads is to works-righteousness. It leads us away from the righteousness of God that is graciously placed on us by the dynamic love of God. Grace that is active, free and sufficient, in the work carried out by the obedience of Jesus Christ.

We reject grace, when we reject Christ and put our neigbour in His place. This is because we reject God’s invitation to relationship. It denies God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, “who is the way, the truth and the life”[ii] it denies the fact that life with God, begins with, God with us. Christless Christianity is an oxymoron.

Love is not love, God is love. That “they will know us by our love”[iii] is true, but that love involves the freedom to give both a reasoned “yes” and “no”. The alternative view confuses love with niceness, sloth and indifference.

What this does is turn Christianity into a numb universal ethic of niceness – a lukewarm empty shell; a stoic idol built to reflect and cater to the feelings of men and women.

The ethic of universal niceness is false and incompatible with a thinking faith that commands us to have no god before God; to “test all things, and hold fast to the good[iv]”; to discern and ultimately lean not “on our own understanding, but on God.’’ (Proverbs 3:5-7). To lean not on an abstract or vague idea of God, nor on a god created by human imagination, but on the tangible gracious grip of God, as the One who grasps us and testifies to us about Himself, in space and time, through covenant and in Jesus the Christ.

Faith seeks understanding.

Our response to this is found in prayer and gratitude. Actions; grounded in word, deed and attitude that reciprocates God’s selfless movement towards us, in covenant, manger, cross, empty tomb and beyond.

Being super nice has the veneer of Christian love, but it’s moral therapeutic deism at best, practical atheism (Christian in name only) at worst. This is the kind of thing that fed the blood and soil ideology of Nazism, and the Marxist ‘deification of the poor, over against THE POOR One’ (Ellul, 1988), through the dictatorship of the proletariat. Not that we should ignore the poor, but that we shouldn’t deify them to further the self-interests of those who take it upon themselves to designate who the oppressed and the oppressors are. For all have fallen short of the glory of God and are justified by his grace as a gift through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus (Romans 3:23).

For those who voted “no” in 2017, there will be a need to take time to carefully consider the way forward.

If we are to be true to this “no” and the love behind it, this will involve having to rise and once again say to the world that we refuse to surrender or kneel before anyone but God, and His revelation in Jesus Christ.

To once again say to the world that love of neighbour is not love of God, nor should we confuse the two. For to do so is to make a god of our neighbour, and make love for neighbour, the means of salvation. Love of neighbour is grounded on and in our love of God, without the latter we are not free and therefore, we cannot truly do the former. We will be doomed to serving our own selfish interests.

Jesus is the way, tolerance isn’t. Jesus is the way, love is love isn’t. Jesus is the way, means that no man or woman, good work or intention, super niceness, or feeling is or can be. The true path to freedom, the only path to salvation is the revelation of God in Jesus Christ. This cannot be reversed. It is decisive. The path is set.  #bewaretheauctioneers

In light of the changes to come, Christians are to do what they are called to do, centre everything in Jesus Christ. To lay every issue before the cross, following Paul’s words in Romans 12, clinging especially to those which encourage us to ‘…rejoice in hope, be patient in trial, be constant in prayer.’

This is bolstered by Karl Barth’s reminder:

‘The Church is either a missionary Church or it is no church at all. Christians are either messengers of God [with or without words] to both Jew and Gentile, or else they are not Christians at all.’ [v]

Far too many churches, ministers and Christian scholars are staying silent, waiting to see who wins what society calls “the culture wars”, so that they can back the winner. That’s a coward’s gamble. It’s an action that they may one day come to regret. Now is the time. Speak life. Speak truth in love. Set your eyes towards Christ, because inhaled grace ignites.

Kyrie Eleison.


References:

[i] Ellul, J. 1988 Jesus & Marx: From Gospel to Ideology Wipf and Stock Publishers

[ii] John 14:6, ESV

[iii] John 13:35 & Matthew 7:16 ESV

[iv] 1 Thess. 5:21, 1 Corinthians 14:29, 1 John 4:1 ESV

[v] Barth, K. Church Dogmatics 3.3, The Divine Preserving (p.64)

(Updated and edited from an article posted in November, 2017, called, To Everything There Is a Season: Deifying Our Neighbour Isn’t One of Them. Also published on The Caldron Pool, 20th November, 2018.

Photo Credit: Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018.

The speech delivered by Emmanuel Macron, at the Armistice Centenary this week, was a carefully targeted rejection of Donald Trump and his popular platform.

French President Emmanuel Macron remarked that

“The old demons are rising again, ready to complete their task of chaos and of death. Patriotism is the exact opposite of nationalism. Nationalism is a betrayal of patriotism. In saying, ‘Our interests first, whatever happens to the others’, you erase the most precious thing a nation can have, that which makes it live, that which causes it to be great and that which is most important: its moral values.” [source]

Macron was referring to hyper-nationalist imperialism, regarded as one of the primary causes of WW1. The French leader also alluded to its like minded cousin, which ignited WW2: ethnocentric nationalism and fascist imperialism.

The connection made between the contents of Macron’s speech, and the American leader, are not hard to miss. In October, Donald Trump publicly separated himself from Globalism, and declared himself to be a nationalist.

This also rides on the back of Donald Trump’s speech at the United Nations in September, where he gave a resounding “no” to Globalist Imperialism.

Yet it wasn’t Macron’s remarks about Nationalism, or the inferences behind it that prompted the push back from Trump on Twitter the next day.

The Trump/Macron exchanges are fuelled by the French leader’s claim, made in early November, that Europe needed to protect itself, not just from China and Russia, but also from one of their longest, strongest, and most supportive allies, the United States.

Even German chancellor, Angela Merkel came out in support of Macron, saying

The times when we could rely on others is past. We have to look at the vision of one day creating a real, true European army. According to the Guardian, Merkel added that a European Army would be a “compliment to [the largely U.S. tax-payer funded] NATO.”

Via Twitter, Trump gave public criticism of Macron’s claim, stating, that it

‘was very insulting, but perhaps Europe should first pay its fair share of NATO, which the U.S. subsidises greatly!”

In response to Trump’s tweets, Macron shot back with:

“France was a U.S. ally but not a vassal state…at every moment of our history, we were allies, so between allies, respect is due.”

Instead of answering Trump, Macron threw out a red-herring. Avoiding Trump’s question, Macron decided to cheapen American sacrifice, good-will and support for the maintenance of peace and safety in Europe, by reducing America’s relationship with Europe to the context of a Suzerain vassal treaty, where overlords demand fealty.

Macron’s meaning is clear enough: “Americans see themselves as feudal overlords, and have a fascist dictator who seeks to impose his will on Europeans.”

All of which is false, when presented with the facts. Donald Trump’s call for a fairer funding model of NATO, would allow America to roll back its contributions to NATO. By seeking a fairer share of the financial commitment to peace, America is looking to raise others up, not enforce a conqueror-slave dictatorship.

Trump’s frustration is understandable. Based on figures from NATO, American funding is at 22.2%. This is 33% more than Germany, and twice that of Britain and France.

Macron’s advocacy for a European Army built on his premise that Europe needs to protect itself from America, means that The United States would be funding the protection of Europe, while Europe raises an Army against The United States. Trump was right to call this an insult.  If member nations of NATO view America as someone they needed an army to protect themselves from, why would the United States continue to fund NATO at its current rate? Why even have an alliance?

Macron’s comments about Nationalism, during the Armistice Centenary, was also a red herring. He invoked the “Trump is Hitler” fallacy, and was predictably applauded for doing so.

It’s worth noting that the very fact Emmanuel Macron still speaks French, and is able to be the President of a nation called France, negates some of what he said about nationalism, and all of what he projected onto the President of the United States and his “Make America Great Again” platform.

For example: France acted in its own national interest when it became one of the few European nations to ban the Niqab; an action that the United Nations [wrongly] considers to be a violation of human rights.

Healthy Nationalism [aka responsible borders[1], rejection of ethno-nationalism, empowering fair trade etc] isn’t a betrayal of patriotism. Surrendering the French people to the rule of unelected Globalist overlords, in the European Union or the Middle East is.

If the European Union, and its unelected bureaucratic caste, is aiming to build an Army at America’s expense, no wonder the President of the United States is frustrated. America’s funding of NATO would be illogical and counter-productive.

During the Armistice Centenary Emmanuel Macron presented himself as a political opportunist. He made himself the centre of attention, drawing attention away from the service and sacrifice of ALL allied soldiers. He made a mockery of the sacrifice of ALL United States service men and women, who’ve paid the ultimate price to liberate Europeans, from the dark grasp of real tyrannical overlords, and their oppressive social Darwinian ideologies.

American blood lies mixed with the blood of Europeans, Canadians and Australians[2] on the sands of Normandy, Utah, Juno, Gold and Sword.

Macron’s appeal to globalism is an appeal to imperialism. If the European Union, and its unelected bureaucratic caste, is aiming to build an Army, under Emmanuel Macron’s premise that Europe needs protecting from the United States, it’s no surprise that Poland would ask the United States to build a military base within its border. Not only does Poland have Russia to its East, Poland is geographically centred right in the middle this growing globalist imperial bureaucracy.

In the words of Historian, Veteran and author, Col. Douglas V. Mastriano:

“Even during the ceremony to commemorate the end of World War I, Macron refused to walk back his statement. If such lack of appreciation and disdain continues to grow against the United States, Europe may just wake up one day and find that America has decided to part ways with them.
Should this happen, a generation of rich, spoiled, and prosperous Europeans like Macron will have to learn the hard way what their grandparents endured but a generation ago. Freedom is not free, and the United States of America is the sole reason for the enduring peace the French have enjoyed.”

The real threat to global security isn’t Donald Trump or his Make America Great Again platform. It’s another “Fortress Europe” defended by an army built by unelected bureaucrats and forced allegiance to their lordship.


References & Notes (not otherwise linked:

[1] Nations cannot protect refugees from the evils that they are fleeing, through multiculturalism and open borders.

[2] 3000 Australians took part in the air assault, a small contingent in the Royal Army and 500 served on board Royal Navy Ships. 14 Australians are known to have died. (source: Australian Department of Veterans Affairs)

Also published at The Caldron Pool, 18th November, 2018 under the heading, French President Emmanuel Macron wants to build a European army to oppose the United States:  How Emmanuel Macron used the Armistice Centenary to smear Trump and the memory of dead American soldiers.

Photo credit: Imke van Loon-Martens on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Punch-drunk Innocence

November 16, 2018 — Leave a comment

 

What makes a boy thrown to the ground,
Wrestle with quiet inner rage?

The silence of spectators
As they turn their backs and close the outer gate.

All the pain and sorrow,
All the weight of a broken heart,
Breaking backs, breaking love;
Spreading fog, spreading confusion
Breathing in

And breathing out
Innocence left punch-drunk,
Staggering through
A volatile haze.

What makes a young man throw himself to the ground,
Fist drawn, red faced, with flooding eyes, fight like an animal stuck in a cage?

The aftermath of something amiss, its escalation and the
Downward spiral of a soul thrown towards the abyss.

Why did they hate me so much?
What great benefit fell upon them that my tears would bring them joy?

My face painted red, I am become
Their scapegoat,
A nothing, my name expendable.
My heart shattered,
I am become undefendable.
what vicious acquittal
Springs forth from unholy happiness.

What makes a grown man fall to his knees?
What makes the raging innocent, find eternal peace?

It’s the narrow way; through the wicket gate,
Beyond the marsh,
Past deceivers mill,
Up to the top of Golgotha,
To the foot of the cross,
And The One who died there,
Yet lives still.


©Rod Lampard, 2018

Respected theologian, Pastor and author, Will Willimon, recently wrote an article citing a bishop who  changed his mind about homosexuality.
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Here is the brief response I posted in the comments section:
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Unlike so many who will no doubt applaud this, I won’t. As was pointed out above [in another comment], a lot of the reasoning appears emotionally based. Surrendering to the man-made god of love, is not surrender to the God who is love. The LGBT church can hardly be called a Christian church, any more than the German Christians, who watered down theology and surrendered themselves and their theology to the ideological overlords of their day.
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As Karl Barth noted, we must not confuse love for God, with love for neighbour, for if we do, we end up deifying our neighbour. It neither helps them, loves them, or is an example of walking in the footsteps of Christ. I admit, this is a complex issue, but if beloved family cannot respect, tolerant and be inclusive of a loving “no”, built on convictions drawn from biblical truth, tried and true healthy tradition, and biological science. Then I would question whether appeasement of them; and a happy ignorance of the consequences such as the fatherless and motherless children who will come after them (among other things), was only self-serving, and not truly loving.
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I fear this appeasement is a surrender to Natural Theology, and as such, I am reluctant to applaud those well-respected and esteemed theologians who, not only sign onto it, but take its oath in servitude to it.

Who Are The Real Fascists?

November 13, 2018 — 1 Comment

If the facts cannot be squeezed into a meme the level of attention those facts receive is reduced. Attention to detail is overlooked for what will best attract a view, a like, a follow or a share. Information is seen purely as a commodity.

The problem is that when information is seen purely as a commodity, truth is easily compromised.

We don’t need to look any further than the internet. It’s now common place to log on and find someone accusing someone else of being a Nazi or a racist. This may have reached the status of cliché, and as such is easily dismissed. Nevertheless real concern should be given to it. Especially, when we’re bombarded with celebrity endorsed outrage, and articles written by professionals, (often falsely) equating their opponents with the National Socialists of the 1930’s, without qualification.

For example: in August 2016, a lecturer from Sydney University,  compared fair-minded conservative opposition to same-sex marriage, with the Nazi treatment of homosexuals. In addition, a student was reported to have been disallowed from presenting a case, linking examples of how anti-Israel sentiment, is linked to anti-Semitism. [source]

Historical comparisons made between present and past, should be measured for accuracy. Responsible self-criticism leads us to ask ourselves whether or not our opponent has a point. However, measuring the accuracy of our opponents claim shouldn’t stop with us. For it to be completely fair, the enquiry must also include the consideration of whether or not our opponents, are themselves guilty of doing the very things they’re accusing others of doing.

One good practice, when being likened to the Nazis, is reading material from those who’ve studied the historical context; the history of and the history associated with Nazism. Read those who’ve engaged with the primary sources, and who understand not just what the Nazis did, but how, and why, they did it.

It’s here that Thomas Doherty’s insightful and well researched 2013 book, ‘Hollywood & Hitler‘ shines:

Page 9, citing a PCA[i] report on the prohibition of the movie ‘All Quiet on The Western Front‘, Dec, 18, 1930:
“There is no doubt that this wave of intense national prejudice, which is for now going on, will continue and that any pictures, particularly foreign pictures, which offend the sensibilities of the National Socialists will be a signal for riots and demonstrations.’ [i]
Page 21: ‘Even before Goebbels laid down the law, the Nazi rhetoric on race was being implemented by pumped-up S.A. thugs and zealous party bureaucrats. From Berlin radiating outward, the iron grip tightened over all aspects of film-related culture – artists and technicians, film content and style, trade periodicals and reviewer bylines, theatre ownership and ticket buyers.’ [ii]
Page 97: ‘The Nazis, said Prince Hubertus Lowenstein [an early critic of Nazism], had annihilated all that was good in German culture.”Everything that had made for the glory of Germany has been destroyed in the past three years. The best actors and artists have been expelled. Approximately 1100 scholars and scientists have had to leave, only because they believed in freedom of art, of thought, and of religion.” Jews were forbidden to buy milk for their children, and Catholics were jailed for keeping the faith. The jackboot crushing Jews and Catholics, he predicted, was but a preview of oppressions to come. All those speaking that night urged a united front against Hitler. “We must organise to fight the Nazi invasion before Americans lose their constitutional liberties”‘[iii]

Doherty helps to shine a light on where, and if, Nazism or fascists are active today. When matched against current events descriptions such as, “intense prejudice, the iron grip, that which offends the sensibilities is a signal for riots and demonstrations; rhetoric on race by pumped-up thugs and zealous party bureaucrats”, all show that those pointing their finger and crying wolf about Nazism and fascism, reflect it the most.

The radical Left is already becomes suspect when its adherents use its political platforms to denounce all opposition as Nazism, without any real qualification. It’s already suspect when those same adherents ignore questions, make false claims and turn all fair criticism into “hate speech”. It’s already suspect when this very same ideology backs policies that undermine the humanity of the unborn, democratic debate, diversity of thought, reasoned opinion, expression and faith.

It’s already suspect when some of its most fervent adherents remain silent about the current events in Turkey, or Islamism in general, and yet continue to promote the BDS academic boycott movement against Israel. [source] The radical Left is more than worthy of our suspicions when we only hear the sound of crickets chirping to the tune of double standards, hypocrisy, selective outrage, suppression of faith and reason, political evasion, and propaganda.

As Theodore Kupfer asked, ‘Where are the Academic Boycotts of Turkey?’ It’s tragically ironic that anti-Israel protesters are loud and proud, yet they remain silent about Turkey:

“The response of Western academia has thus far been limited to expressions of grave concern for the fate of individual academics who have been subject to the purge [in Turkey].
No organised boycott effort has surfaced on any level. Mere proclamations of solidarity are supposed to suffice in the case of Turkey, while the same organisations agitate for nothing short of a blanket institutional boycott in the case of Israel.
Mind you, academic conditions in Israel are far superior to those in Turkey. Even attempts to portray Israel as hostile to academic freedom are evidence for this.” [iv]

The irony feeds suspicion of the radical Left. All that’s missing from the trajectory of this ideological radicalism is a figure-head with the power to influence enough people to fanatically fall in line behind them. With what’s happened in opposition to Donald Trump’s election in the United States, such suspicions should be weighed carefully.

Whether we like it or not, we’re being forced into categories by those who want to define us, determine what we think, and turn our freedoms into a carrot on a stick. The agenda isn’t about equality, it’s about dominance. The agenda isn’t about rights, it’s about power. The agenda isn’t about progress, it’s about pride.

It’s ironic that a people’s court stands ready to condemn those who don’t align, agree or pledge allegiance to the Left. The oppressor presents themselves as the oppressed, and no one is allowed to have an opposing view. It’s at this point that we’re not far from Gene Edward Veith, in his underrated 1993, book ‘Modern Fascism’, rightly suggested that there is a link between Heidegger’s revisionist/deconstructionism and fascism.

For example:

“What is the deconstructive basis for condemning Nazism? Would it not be in keeping with the in keeping with the logic of deconstruction, the deconstructive basis for condemning Nazism, reverses a claim like “the Nazis oppressed the Jews,” showing instead that the Jew cooked in a Nazi oven was really the Nazis’ oppressor.
The real-world endpoint of Heideggerian (and now Derridean and de Manian) deconstructionism [and its elimination of] the logocentric (Judeo-Christian) tradition is Auschwitz […]” [v]

This is why theology is important. As Timothy Gorringe states, ‘[Judeo-Christian] theology stands as a critique of ideology,’ [vi] but if it’s to remain authentic theology, it will have to navigate society’s obsession with the Left/Right metaphor. This is partly why I’m not big on the Right/Left metaphor in regards to describing factions within the State or the Church. Throughout history, the meaning has shifted. The metaphor is inadequate. We cannot rely on it entirely.

Another reason for why theology is important is because faith seeks understanding. To confess that Jesus Christ is Lord necessarily means to admit that Jesus Christ is no human pawn. Whether they be, deconstructionists, modernists, futuristic, archaic, primitive, progressive, communist, fascist, conservative, material or spiritual; Any Christian theology worthy of its name-sake, is and always will stand as a critique of all human centered strongholds that claim godlikeness; a challenge to all towers of Bable.

Genuine Christianity is, as Karl Barth duly noted, ‘the protest against all the high places which human beings build for themselves’ (Karl Barth C.D IV/II p.524).

To say that history is being repeated is not overstating the current zeitgeist. History is not, however, being repeated in the same way that the Left often sells it. Based on what is presented by Doherty, Kupfer, Vieth and Hirsch above, it’s those who recklessly cry wolf about Fascists, and subsequently point to the Right, who have more in common with the Nazis, than they do the victims of Nazism.

May we continue to be free, and well informed enough to differentiate between the real and the wrongly labelled.


References:

[i]  Doherty,T. 2013 Hollywood & Hitler: 1933-1939 Columbia University Press

[ii] ibid, 2013

[iii] ibid, 2013

[iv] Kupfer, T. 2016 Where Are the Academic Boycotts of Turkey? sourced 24th August 2016 from nationalreview.com

[v] Hirsch, D. 1991. The Deconstruction of Literature: Criticism after Auschwitz (p.87) Cited by Gene E. Veith, Modern Fascism, 1993. Concordia Publishing House.

[vi] Gorringe, T.J 1999 Karl Barth: Against Hegemony Christian theology in context Oxford University Press New York

[Updated and edited from an article posted in August, 2016, called, The Usurping of Things To Come?’ Also published at The Caldron Pool, 13th November, 2018 under the heading, ‘Who are the real fascists?’]

Photo credit:  Taton Moïse on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018.

By no means is this a conclusive run down on what I see as the need to find, and advocate for, a fair use of the vehicles we choose to communicate, and receive information through.  By pointing out inconsistencies, and connecting them to a possible cause, my purpose here is primarily an attempt to suggest, that when it comes to social media, we practice the proverb of looking before we leap.

A few years back an incident showed me the contrast between hard reality, and cheap comment. Comments from people, who in the comfort of relative security, only seem to be far more concerned with the side of the story that sells best, than with finding balance.

Surely, this is far from what media outlets mean by the term integrity and investigative journalism? To his credit, Bennett pushes back against the leading questions made by the anchor-man, quickly realising, not without some frustration, that the interview had ended before it had really begun.

Remarking:

“…You’re invited to a situation like this..it’s just great sitting on the sidelines, just telling us how to react” {2:39} – (Naftali Bennett, Isreal’s Economic Minister)

At the time, Australian journalist and political commentator Andrew Bolt, in support of Bennett, rightly noted:

It’s easy to say “disproportionate” when you’re sitting in London

The same applies to social media. It’s easy to make criticisms when sitting behind a keyboard.

We need make room for each other. We need to look before we leap. We need to make room for giving consideration to context, details, and careful comment. Patience is the imperative (if not the virtue), mainly because we’re all still trying to figure out live in a technological society, and how to use this technological freedom responsibly.

In spite of the evidence, or any quest for the truth, and balance. Like some aspects of the main stream media, social media can become a misinformation behemoth.

In the hands of resourceful and ambitious communicators, it has the disturbing potential to become the ultimate propaganda machine.

As hashtags and memes trend towards the ridiculous. The misuse of the mechanism allows an industrial grade hysteria to push a smoke screen of emotions over the facts, extinguishing balance and respectful dialogue.

The march of memes takes to the virtual street, utilising the same mass marketing concepts of Edward Bernays (1891-1995) that was so fundamental to fascism and its control of images.

By calling upon those willing to mindlessly wave around clichés and slogans, a mob-in-revolt is created. Its cause gathers momentum, often recklessly damning anything that stands to speak freely in reasoned disagreement against it, as “hate speech or racism”.

The mob-in-revolt lowers protest to the quantity of “likes, shares or follows”. Sometimes asserting itself under a mechanic of anonymity, which denies their target of protest any right of reply.

The ivory colossus of cyber communities end up inadvertently propagating totalitarianism. Inviting a repugnant irony through the vitriolic intolerance, exhibited by irresponsible and repressive armchair activists, who live in glass houses.

With small amounts of fact, and information, these glass houses become the launching pad for mobile projectiles of shame and exclusion. The term “hate speech”, for example, is utilised as a toxic and ambiguous whip statement, and is thus thrown around flippantly and without qualification. This fuels an irate frenzy of boycotts, accusation and intolerance.

A restrained, and civilised exchange of ideas is set adrift, by an unrestrained tribalism. It’s members march alongside images, marked by oversimplification. At its core is a subjectivism,  full of dismissive ridicule and cynical discounting. Consequently, social media can tend to magnify that which is dysfunctional and shocking, over against,

‘…whatever is true, whatever is honorable, whatever is just, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is commendable,  excellent, or worthy of praise…’ (Philippians 4:8, ESV)

An ‘activism’ like this measures efficiency by vanity metrics. This is because thoughtless approval can be translated into the currency of likes, shares and/or followers. In this case, why not mindlessly wave flags and howl with the wolves? The assumption being that if the price is right, so the comment should be also. Who cares if its wrong?

The questions then are:

Does self-interest, in a quest for approval, play a role in commenting, liking or sharing? If so do such considerations hinder an authentic, responsible but also vulnerable contribution? Does it drive out self-respect the same way that the mindless-mob-in-revolt drives out  decency and the respect for others?

American President John Adams, citing the prophet Jeremiah, wrote:

‘Let me conclude, by advising all men to look into their own hearts, which they will find to be deceitful above all things and desperately wicked (Jer.17:9). Let them consider how extremely addicted they are to magnify and exaggerate the injuries that are offered to themselves, and to diminish and extenuate the wrongs that they offer to others. They ought, therefore, to be too modest and diffident of their own judgment, when their own passions and prejudices and interests are concerned…’[i]

Adams’ caution here cries out for a fair hearing. We should not politicise the pain of others.

We can do this by removing any hint of benefit to our social standing, and unmasking the transactions that hide self-interest behind indifference, or behind a facade of good intentions. We can do this by looking before we leap; giving real consideration to context, details, and careful comment.

As Australian scholar, Dr. John Dickson, in a comment about a recent debate on Facebook, once said, “redeem the medium”[ii].

 


References:

{Dedicated to the memory of Jean Bethke Elshtain (1941-2013), a list of her works can be found here.}

[i] Adams, J. 1851 On Private Revenge http://oll.libertyfund.org/titles/2101 #Adams_1431-03_2153 Sourced: 23/07/2014

[ii] Dickson wrote this in response to the suggestion that he move a discussion to another site, because of the communication limitations of social media.

Originally published 23rd July, 2014, under the heading Truth & Balance Vs. The side of the Story that Sells Best. Also published on The Caldron Pool, 9th November, 2018 under the headline: Hate speech is a myth: It’s a shaming control technique used by those who can’t debate the issue.

There’s an eerie similarity between the protests against Asia Bibi and the protests against Brett Kavanaugh.

The tension, and rhetoric, of anti-blasphemy protesters in Pakistan, are at the same fever pitch, as anti-Kavanaugh protests were during the senate hearings, surrounding Kavanaugh’s supreme court nomination (and subsequent confirmation) in the United States.

Placards brandished about during the Ford-Kavanaugh debate which labeled Kavanaugh a rapist (without evidence or a judicial trial), have much of the same intensity as the placards brandished about by Islamist protestors in Pakistan.

For evidence of this, see the long list of celebrity outrage expressed online against the Kavanaugh confirmation.

In a similar vein, after Asia Bibi’s acquittal, Islamist protestors took to the streets in order to demand that Asia Bibi’s death sentence be carried out. This is despite a court acquitting Asia Bibi, because the evidence was inconsistent and contradictory.

Protests against the acquittal of Asia Bibi on the 1st November have only increased, with the Pakistan Government being strong-armed into keeping to its promise to uphold blasphemy laws.

Imran Khan, (now) Prime Minister of Pakistan, made the promise in July before a group of Islamic leaders in Islamabad, where he went on record promising that his party will: “stand with Article 295c and defend it”.

According to The Guardian’s, Memphis Barker, Article 295c is a “clause of the constitution that mandates the death penalty for any “imputation, insinuation or innuendo” against the prophet Muhammad.”

Asia Bibi, a Christian, fell victim to this law. In 2009, while picking fruit she was in involved in a disagreement about a bucket of water with two sisters, “who said that because Bibi had used a cup, they could no longer touch it, as her faith had made it unclean. Bibi was then accused of making three offensive comments about the Prophet Muhammad after the women said that Asia Bibi should convert to Islam. She was later beaten up at her home, during which her accusers say she confessed to blasphemy.” (The BBC)

Not only is there an eerie similarity between the two sets of protests and reactions, but each case has a list of obvious parallels.

For example:

Both have faced accusations from dubious witnesses with a potential motive for making a false accusation.

Both Bibi and Kavanaugh’s family have suffered because of those accusations.

Both Bibi and Kavanaugh are Christians.

Both are being protested after their acquittal.

Both live in nations that claim to Democratic Republics, who uphold the right of due process (benefit of the doubt/innocent until proven guilty).

Even the differences between Asia Bibi’s case and Brett Kavanaugh’s merge at certain points.

For instance:

Bibi faced a judicial trial, and has, based on spurious evidence, served an 8 year sentence for blasphemy against Islam. Now, after her acquittal, there are ongoing protests calling for her execution.

Kavanaugh faced a virtual people’s court, and  on zero evidence, was deemed guilty, by verdict of those protesting his candidacy to be a United States Supreme Court judge.

Where no comparison between the two cases can be found, is in Asia Bibi’s imprisonment, the travel ban imposed on her, and that Bibi lives in Muslim majority country, on a different continent.

In both groups of protesters, concern for the just workings of the rule of law is absent. Protests because a Christian woman wasn’t executed, based on trumped up accusations, directly reflects the Ford vs. Kavanaugh lynch mobs who were demanding Kavanaugh’s head, without granting him due process.

Any removal, or denial of due process, would easily lead to the same thing happening to habeas corpus. Conclusions based on raw emotions about accusations, without any regard for evidence is regressive.

#FREEASIABIBI


©Rod Lampard, 2018

Originally published on The Caldron Pool, 7th November, 2018 under the headline: ‘Death by lynch mob: Brett Kavanaugh, Asia Bibi and the shared rage of the mobs out to get them: Guilty until proven innocent?’

Abortion to be or not to be.Guest post by Jonda Lampard.

There have been lots of news articles, memes and comments after Queensland passed its recent laws legalizing unrestricted abortion. Predictably, there were immediately calls for New South Wales to follow suit.

Although they are already performed by qualified Doctors despite this law, and have been for many years, I was surprised to hear that abortions are illegal in New South Wales. Even though abortion is technically a criminal offence, there are enough loopholes in the law already to allow abortions, (even to girls under 16 years old WITHOUT their parent’s consent or knowledge[1]).  I have seen comments saying that abortion up until birth has not been legalised under the new Queensland law, however, it has, with the approval or consultation of two doctors.  One of those doctors doesn’t even need to see the mother of the unborn child’s file. What two doctors, who are paid well, to work in an abortion clinic are going to say “No, there is no good reason to kill your baby, take your money and go home”?

A frighteningly confronting truth is that the unborn human has been dehumanised. We’re told by abortion activists that an unborn baby is just a ‘parasite’ or a clump of cells and not a ‘real’ baby. Through subliminal means the idea is implanted that conceiving a child is the equivalent of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

Add to this the fact that someone is financially benefiting from operating abortion centres. These centres already openly operate in New South Wales, providing women with a private procedure, so that they don’t have to wait, deliver or recover in an actual maternity ward.

There are also the calls from abortion activists to fully cover the cost of abortions under Medicare. This would enable abortion activists to make an even bigger profit, padding their murderous bottom- line with the tax-payers purse. All under the guise of ‘helping’ women, so that they don’t have to pay any out of pocket expenses for killing their own child/ren.

Another frighteningly confronting truth is that abortion statistics in Australia are inaccurate[2]. They are complicated by the fact that only South and Western Australia keep actual abortion records. The other states use approximation based on Medicare codes for post-miscarriage procedures during all trimesters and other situations or conditions that may require procedures like a ‘D and C’[3].

This is to the advantage of abortion providers because no one knows exactly how many abortions they perform a year (and at how many weeks) except for them- and they aren’t telling. For the majority of Australia, the loop-hole abortion industry is unregulated, and exists without any real accountability.

Australia doesn’t need a tax-payer funded murderous monolithic political conglomerate like America’s ‘Planned Parenthood’.  It doesn’t need to place graphic sex education placed up there in importance before even Math, Science and English. Australia needs to encourage and cherish the value of human life and self-control, not abort it.

With the level of contraception available to women today, there should be no need for abortion. What happens if a woman becomes pregnant because of a violent sexual assault? Not every woman who is raped and becomes pregnant chooses to abort the unborn child. It’s a misconception to believe that conception during rape is a wide-spread issue. Only a small percentage of abortions in the West are performed as a result of a woman having been raped. The majority of abortions are for adult women who have consented to having premarital sex, with multiple partners, without choosing to protect herself, first against sexually transmitted diseases and without being responsible enough to use a wide range of contraception available to her and her male partner/s. Something that can be simply bought at the grocery store.  There are likely to be more cases of conceiving a child because of intoxication and drug use, than through the vile act of rape.

There is no excuse in this day and age for abortion. Most Western countries have sex education classes for children. Some, thanks to activists, are now pushing this onto children at younger and younger ages, for spurious reasons.  With all this effort and education, it would be a weak case for any reproductively healthy adult male or female, to claim to not know that when a man and woman are sexually intimate, the possibility of conceiving a child is always a high probability. Abortion is not a form of birth control, and there is nothing ‘reproductive’ or ‘healthy’ about it, it takes a life. It dehumanises the unborn and pads the coffers of the greedy with the blood of the innocent.


References:

[1] https://www.fpnsw.org.au/sites/default/files/assets/law_on_abortion_fs.pdf

[2] It is estimated by ‘family planning services’ at one quarter of all pregnancies. https://www.childrenbychoice.org.au/factsandfigures/australian-abortion-statistics If we use the 2015 birth total, approximately 155,000 babies would have been aborted each year. https://www.aihw.gov.au/reports/australias-health/australias-health-2018-in-brief/contents/births-in-australia

[3] https://www.childrenbychoice.org.au/factsandfigures/australian-abortion-statistics

(Photo credit: Manuel Schinner on Unsplash)

Wiel 18th October 2018In 1944, C.S Lewis wrote:

‘The demand for equality has two sources; First, the noble: the desire for fair play. Second, the mean-spirited: the hatred of superiority. If you seek to appease envy: 1. you will not succeed. Envy is insatiable. 2. you are trying to introduce equality where equality is fatal.
Political democracy is doomed if it tries to extend its demand for equality into the higher spheres of beauty, virtue and truth. Neither of which are democratic. Ethical, intellectual or aesthetic democracy is death.’
(C.S. Lewis, 1944. Democratic Education) [i]

Lewis’ position can be read as a push back against extreme egalitarianism and the quagmire of sameness. The late American political philosopher, Jean Bethke Elshtain, also brilliantly hummed her own critical tune in relation to this issue.

Writing under the heading, ‘Multiculturalism and Democratic Education’ Elshtain stated:

‘Teacherly malfeasance occurs in instances of unreflective, dogmatic politicisation […] This sort of education fails in its particular and important task of preparing us for a world of ambiguity and variety. It equips us only for resentment or malicious naivete [ii]

Lewis and Elshtain come at this argument from different angles. Both add to an argument for the re-balancing of popular ideologies birthed in the 1960’s, and the new societal norms which come from them.

As Elshtain posits, “I wonder if democracy can survive what it has to, by definition allow? Such as, the desires a mob majority,  which works against the democratic voice of the people. Democratic freedom must have a framework of responsible limitations, for example, a just constitution, in order for democratic freedom to exist.

The area where this applies most is forced compliance with ‘unreflective, dogmatic politicisation’ (Elshtain)(E.g.: forced compliance to the failing and flawed ideology of multiculturalism and new definitions of tolerance).

Instead of preserving the vibrancy of a cohesive multi-ethnic society, under one meta-culture, multiculturalism morphs a once united multi-ethnic society, into a multi-nationalist society. This threatens the national sovereignty and stability of that multi-ethnic society, because it breaks with a shared history, agreed upon ideals, civility and common values. It creates foreign enclaves or beachheads, such as “no go zones“.

This is the direct result of tolerance introducing ‘equality where equality is fatal’ (Lewis). The ‘unreflective, dogmatic politick’s’ reign of terror.

Disguised as part of the new educational standard, guided by a good vibes only, ‘unreflective, dogmatic politicisation’.  The new definition of tolerance and compliance poses as the only academic essential. Acceptance and legitimacy are only validated by an absolute alignment with approved ideologies. In turn, a form of emotional blackmail follows. The academy is paralysed because the academic focus is reduced to how best education can be forced to fit within the new educational standard of the ‘unreflective, dogmatic politick’.

Democratic education is reduced to compliance. Academic standards are lowered, while teachers are forced to obsess over appeasing the feelings and fickle sentiments of society.
In not being willing to responsibly discuss differences, for fear of offence or ridicule, democracy wanes.

This narrowing forces everyone into the same box: a secular version of “convert, pay a tax or die.” From here academic indifference and complacency replaces the energy of academic rigour. Genuine progress, and the conservation of hard fought for healthy traditions, are held back by the demand for total compliance to the ‘unreflective, dogmatic politick’.

Along with a cohesive multi-ethnic society, democratic debate and its ability to preserve the beauty of unity-in-diversity, dies. Political democracy, as C.S Lewis pointed out, is ‘doomed if it tries to expand its demand for equality into beauty, virtue and truth [none of which are determined by democratic vote].’

Society and politics, placed under this good vibes only, ‘unreflective, dogmatic politick’, sets people on a trajectory towards tribalism and slavery. People are then forced to stick to their “own kind”: Whites with whites; men with men; women with women; black with black; indigenous Australian with indigenous Australian; Left with Left, Right with Right.

Differences are considered irreconcilable. People are divorced from one an another. Strangers become enemies, and friends become strangers. Thus we come to the  inevitable rejection of differences and the quagmire of sameness.

As Elshtain predicted, this flags a new segregation:

‘As a form of ideological teaching, multicultural absolutism isolates us in our own skins and equates culture with racial or ethnic identity. [In America], the new multiculturalism promotes commensurability: If I am white and you are black, we cannot, in principle, speak to or understand each other. You just won’t “get it […]. Some critics wonder how long it will take to move from separate approaches for African-American children in the name of Afro-centricity, for example, to a quest for separate schools.[iii]’

Extreme egalitarianism is a quagmire of sameness. We arrive at the quagmire of sameness because of envy and (as C.S. Lewis so brilliantly put it) its hatred of superiority.

The quest for equality ends up creating new forms of inequality. Anyone with opposing views or unique abilities is silenced, condemned and shipped off to camps, under the guise of “re-education” or “resettlement.” This is all done “for the good of the collective”.

This is evident in Australian society. Where very early on children are taught to tow the good vibes only, ‘unreflective, dogmatic politick’.

Over achievers are called “try-hards.” They’re deemed a threat to the collective and are consequently castigated for it. Rather than celebrate the competency and talent of a person, the majority maliciously turn against them. “Try hard”, an otherwise encouraging term, is used as a shaming control technique. Uniqueness is squashed into the box of sameness, under the name of equality.

For both Lewis and Elshtain, extreme egalitarianism is a ‘phony equality.[v]’ It perpetuates that which it says it opposes. This phony equality levels whatever it subjectively sees as uneven ground. The same could be said about the new definitions of tolerance.

Those who want to walk away from the ‘unreflective, dogmatic politicisation’ won’t find it easy.

They will face the same hostile reaction, French philosopher, Albert Camus faced, when he ‘was virtually excommunicated from the French Left by Sartre, and his comrades, because he expressed a strong disapproval of the passion for unity that saw any opposition as treason.’[iv]

In not being able to celebrate unity in diversity or find and maintain common ground, democracy fails. The cohesive elements of a vibrant multi-ethnic Western society are then consigned to the prison of a good vibes only, ‘unreflective, dogmatic politick’. If left unanswered, Western society will descend into the terror of fascist rule, the shared poverty of communism or the destructive anarchist vacuum of pagan tribalisation.
________________________________________

References:

[i] Lewis, C. 1944, Democratic Education In Walmsley, L. (Ed.) 2000 C.S Lewis Essay Collection Harper Collins p.190

[ii] Elshtain, J.B. 1995 Democracy on Trial Basic Books, Perseus Books Group p.83

[iii] Ibid, p.79

[iv] Ibid, p.120

[v] Ibid, p.74

Originally published 5th January, 2016 & on The Caldron Pool, 2nd November, 2018 under the headline: ‘Multiculturalism has failed: Identity politics sets people on a trajectory towards tribalism and slavery.’

Photo credit: rawpixel at unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

 

78 year old, actorvist, James Cromwell, has predicted that “if we don’t stop Trump now, there will be blood in the streets.”

The actor and activist, most famous for his role as farmer, Arthur Hoggett in the 1995 movie ‘Babe’ (et.al), inferred that Trump was a fascist dictator, and that America was dangerously close to losing its democracy.

Variety reported that Cromwell made the “candid comments” during a quick Q & A, while walking up the red carpet. He was attending an award ceremony where he was also “honored for his work as a character actor.

According to Variety, Cromwell said,

“This is nascent fascism. We always had a turnkey, totalitarian state — all we needed was an excuse, and all the institutions were in place to turn this into pure fascism […] If we don’t stop [President Trump] now, then we will have a revolution for real. Then there will be blood in the streets.”
“We’re living in very curious times, and something is coming up which is desperately important to this country and to this planet, and that is an election, in which hopefully in some measure we are going to take back our democracy.
We will have a government that represents us and not the donor class. We will cut through the corruption, [and] we won’t have to do what comes next, which is either a non-violent revolution or a violent one, because this has got to end.”

If Cromwell is right, and America is heading for totalitarian rule, it’s difficult to see how Cromwell was able to freely speak his mind in public. Let alone be free to give a speech. All while moving without hindrance into an award ceremony where he was honoured for his work. This was all achieved without a special security detail to ward off any potential harassment from the alleged fascist dictator and his totalitarian minions.

Cromwell gave his speech in relative safety, was celebrated by his peers, and spoke his mind in public without fear of harassment; inferring that a bloody revolution needs to take place, in order to restore America to democracy.

It’s a pity that the same cannot be said for Conservatives like Ben Shapiro, who, when giving a speech at UC Berkley in 2017, saw the “Campus pay an approximate $600,000 for security, in order to anticipate violent protests” from the allegedly anti-Fascist, Leftist movement, Antifa.

If we add onto this, examples of people being assaulted for wearing MAGA hats, public personalities advocating for the assassination of Donald Trump, or the calls for people to harass Trump supporters and Trump administration officials, perhaps Cromwell is looking in the wrong direction.

If the fires of fascism are being stocked, Trump isn’t stoking the fire.

Exhibit A): 15 Stars Who Imagined Violence Against Donald Trump.

Exhibit B): 12,000 Assasination tweets: Trump’s Social Media Presence is a new challenge for the Secret Service

Exhibit C): Two Years of Democrats Calling for Assassinations & Hate

And who can forget the September 13, 2016, Washington Post article by Shalom Auslander, headlined:

‘Don’t Compare Donald Trump to Adolf Hitler. It belittles Hitler.’

Or more recently, Democrat, Maxine Waters calling for the public harassment of men and women in the Trump administration:

“Tell them they’re not welcome.”

If James Cromwell is right, the “nascent fascism” isn’t coming from opponents of the Left, it’s coming from those on the Left.


Originally published, 1st November, 2018 on The Caldron Pool, under ‘Hollywood actor-vist warns: “There will be blood on the streets” if Democrats lose.’ 

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

Pat Archbold’s Lament

October 31, 2018 — 6 Comments

 

In 2011 and 2012 Pat Archbold, contributor to the National Catholic Register, wrote laments that are difficult to find fault with.

As an online video game connoisseur (the casual kind), I hear a lot of what Pat discusses, expressed by men, in what is a predominantly male arena.

The church needs to engage with this topic and minister to it without leaning too heavily on an ideology to do so.

Pat’s laments are a good starting point for discussion.


For the ladies (2011):

”Our problem is that society doesn’t value innocence anymore, real  or  imagined.  Nobody aspires to innocence anymore.  Nobody wants to be  thought of as innocent, the good girl.  They want to be hot, not  pretty. I still hope that pretty comes back, although I think it not likely any time  soon… Girls, please, bring back the pretty”. – Pat Archbold…read more.

For the Gents (2012):

”I have a simple, yet effective rule of thumb for how men should act.  I  would never look at a woman or say anything about a woman that I would not do or  say in front of my wife.   To do otherwise would bring shame upon her and  me” – Pat Archbold…read more.

My personal, and somewhat biased, response:

With daughters fast approaching ”that age”, this is a subject close to my heart (and theology).

At the risk of sounding more like the pretentious Mr.Collins than Mr.Darcy, I say,  ”here, here…we love the epoch, we are obsessed with it’s art and it’s historical significance, so why not retrieve some of the Austinesk social deportments as well!”


Originally published 22nd April, 2013

In the debate about whether we create or discover a writing voice, it doesn’t matter which side of the camp you land on. It’s generally agreed that a writing voice takes time to develop.

When I started a blog in 2013, I had no real idea how it would develop. My plan was to use the blog as a way of networking, and as a way of improving my own writing skills. In my post-graduate world, I wasn’t sure a blog would achieve either.

Looking back, I can see areas where I’ve succeeded, and I can also see areas where I haven’t.

In the areas where I haven’t succeeded, I can see one specific reason for it. I let a fear of being misrepresented by critics, influence how I wrote.

This stumbling block is illustrated by some of my earlier articles from 2013 and 2014. Those posts are unintentionally hard to read. Some were convoluted or weighed down by my attempts to navigate what Douglas Murray calls, the ‘dishonest critic’.

Overcoming this stumbling block has taught me how fear hinders free speech. Speech is paralysed through the fear of offending someone with the truth, or fearing that someone might deliberately misrepresent what has been written or said. Insecurity complicates intention. This fear messes up content, intention and limits the development of a writing voice.

Lindsay Shepherd recently made the observation that when we ‘try to answer a dishonest critic’ we fail to communicate effectively.

Citing Douglas Murray, she noted:

‘It’s hard not to sort of self censor in some way in this era, because everyone who’s a writer, speaker, thinker, or public figure is basically trained, (you train yourself or you’re trained) to learn, to write, or speak in such a fashion, that an honest person cannot honestly misrepresent you; that what you said is faithfully understood by decent people, acting in a decent manner. The era of social media, among other things, has caused something different to happen which is that many people are now, having to write, think, and speak in a manner that ensures that a dishonest critic, cannot dishonestly misrepresent you. There’s a problem with this: it’s not possible to do.’

At certain times in my life, I’ve found myself surrounded by ‘dishonest critics’. Criticisms from my parents, sister and some friends would sometimes include back-handed compliments. Along with snide remarks, criticisms padded with some half-truths, were designed to tear me down in order to pull others up. Sometimes these involved passive aggressive whip statements, and sometimes those criticisms were intense cross-examinations, where words were selectively chosen to steer an argument in a selfish direction; all designed to discourage, control and put down.

Growing up in this kind of environment has given me a greater appreciation for free speech and its consequences. Just as I can see the dangers in muzzling freedom of speech, I can see how some people would want to subdue it; force a straight jacket over it, and muzzle people from saying things that we disagree with or that can be harmful to us; such as the words of the ‘dishonest critic’ and their manipulative ways.

When it comes to creating content, writing and posting my own thoughts online, I was a clumsy beginner. I could have cried victim, for fear of the ‘dishonest critic’, and stayed there. Instead I’ve persevered, learnt some news things along the way, and made improvements[1].

I don’t blame any one for my own clumsy writing, but I can acknowledge the root cause of it. Only then am I able to rise, and be raised above it.

Insecurity complicates communication. When we try to navigate the ‘dishonest critic’, how we communicate is bound in a type of psychological straight jacket. This breeds uncertainty. From uncertainty (self-doubt) comes insecurity and eventually silence. We end up saying nothing at all.

This why I believe, that the area in Western society where Jesus’ commands to ‘turn away from offence, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you’[2], are most applicable, is freedom of speech.

Our response is our responsibility.

The Apostle Paul, in his Second letter to the Church in Corinth highlights personal responsibility in thought, deed and attitude, by encouraging Christians to remember that:

‘..the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds. We destroy arguments and every lofty opinion raised against the knowledge of God, and take every thought captive to obey Christ…’ (2. Corinthians 10:4-5, ESV)

Paul’s statement, ‘we destroy arguments and every lofty opinion, taking captive every thought’ means taking personal responsibility for our actions. This includes how we use free speech and respond to the speech of others. In acting without fear of the bureaucrat, or ‘dishonest critic’, we deny those who would shut down freedom of speech, the room to stifle freedom, and complicate communication by forcing what we say through a bureaucratic tea strainer, like political correctness.

If we can relearn the Jesus-art of turning the other cheek, and recognise that words are only harmful to us, if we let them have power over us, we don’t have to restrict, or stifle freedom by asking bureaucrats to police speech. As Paul said, ‘..the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds…taking every thought captive to obey Christ’.

This doesn’t mean ignoring the ‘honest critic’, making laws restricting freedom of speech, or refusing to take an assertive stand when wrongly accused, or misrepresented. What it means is that the freedom to speak, includes the freedom to listen, it implies room for self-limitation, and personal responsibility, because freedom of speech allows for honest rebuttal.

Jean Bethke Elshtain puts it this way:

‘Our ideas have to meet the test of being engaged by others, far better than having people retreat into themselves and nurture a sense of grievance, rage and helplessness…thoughts must be tested in the public square where you have to meet certain standards…we must be careful not to confuse tolerance with complete and total embrace…total acceptance does not mean universal love’ (Maxwell School Lecture, State of Democracy 2013).

Rather than limiting freedom of speech by advocating that free speech be forced through a bureaucratic tea strainer, perhaps we could keep this in mind. Even when ‘dishonest critics’, stand at the ready, with pen in hand, eager to pounce on any misstep, or easily misinterpreted statement, our response is our responsibility, their response is theirs.

 


References:

[1] For ‘the man who believes in the providence of God is distinguished from the man who does not, [by the fact that he does not rest his head on his own prudence], and is not too proud to be a continual learner.’ (Karl Barth, CD.3:3:25)

[2] Matthew 5:43-48, ESV

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Although American Political Scientist, Jean Bethke Elshtain didn’t consider herself a theologian, there’s a good chance that anyone willing to exhaust an enquiry into her eligibility for the title, would conclude that she, in fact, was.

Theology forms part of the hidden backbone in the majority of her work.

Elshtain’s broad and consistent conversation partners include St. Augustine, Albert Camus, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, Martin Luther, Hannah Arendt, Vaclav Havel, and Karol Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II). This also includes some small contact with theologians Karl Barth, Paul Tillich and Reinhold Niebuhr.

Elshtain considered herself a layperson when it came to theological matters.  Adding theologian to her list of accomplishments may have handicapped her from being the proverbial, voice-in-the-leftist-academic-wilderness, that she was.

It’s likely that Elshtain benefited from not having been assigned the title of a theologian. Resulting in her being more able to navigate dishonest rhetorical tactics, like reckless labelling, selective outrage, guilt by association, negative preempting and agenda driven ridicule. All the things associated with predominantly modern leftist institutions.

Elshtain follows the example of Hannah Arendt, Albert Camus, and Karl Barth, who are credited, among others, as being careful and critical, when it came to allowing themselves to profiled in political terms; and/or  placed into rigid theological, philosophical or sociological categories. They weren’t looking for disciples or to create a school of thought.

It’s long, but here’s an excellent example of some of her work. In a critique of the assumption that Christianity is a universal ethic of niceness, Elshtain argues for a better understanding of Just War theory, post-September 11, 2001. In her sights are some Western theologians and philosophers, such as Mark Taylor [i] and Noam Chomsky [ii]:

Misunderstandings of Christian teachings are rife. Christianity is not an exalted or mystical form of utilitarianism. Jesus preached no doctrine of universal benevolence. He showed anger and issued condemnations.
These dimensions of Christ’s life and words tend to be overlooked nowadays as Christians concentrate on God’s love rather than God’s justice. That love is sometimes reduced to a diffuse benignity that is then enjoined on believers.
This kind of faith descends into sentimentalism fast. But how do believers translate the message of the Christian Savior into an ethic of worldly engagement if an ethic of universal niceness misses the point? Because Christianity is far and away the dominant faith of Americans, these are exigent matters of concern to all citizens, believer or no[…]
For Christians living in historic time and before the end of time, the pervasiveness of conflict must be faced.
One may aspire to perfection, but living perfectly is not possible. To believe one is without sin is to commit the sin of pride and to become ever more boastful in the conviction that a human being can sustain a perfectionist ethic.
For St. Augustine, for Martin Luther, and for the anti-Nazi martyr Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the harsh demands of necessity as well as the command of love require that one may have to commit oneself to the use of force under certain limited conditions, and with certain intentions. [iii]
(Elshtain, Just War Against Terror, 2008, p.100-101)

For Christians, just resistance is in the same category as falsehood. To answer the question, when is it just to “lie”? We have to compartmentalise the subject. Martin Luther held the view that there were four types of lies. The humorous, the helpful, the harmful, and the blasphemous. The first two are are ‘praiseworthy, since they do no harm. The last two are intolerable because they offend both man and God’ (Table Talk #33).

For example: Telling a ‘necessary lie‘ (Martin Luther [iv]) would always be grounded in God’s definition of what is good. If there is a greater good at stake, than there might be justification for the use of a helpful falsehood, such as to stop another human being legitimately harmed.

In 1 Samuel 18 & 19, Michal misled her father, who was King Saul. She did this in order to save her husband, David, from her father’s jealousy of David and his God-approved ascendancy to the throne. Corrie Ten Boom did the same in order to protect the Jews from Nazis. Being grounded in God’s definition of what is good means that there are core restraints; or clear rules of engagement. In other words, boundaries. As with falsehood, we don’t make an absolute of war. War is only ever an absolute last resort.

Just war is one specific example of many, which shows that Christianity is not, and can never be reduced to an ethic of universal niceness.  Just War is not the equivalent of Islamic jihad (as understood as war against the infidel). If the West is to respond to its enemies, and follow its Judeo-Christian heritage, the West must respond in love. This doesn’t mean that the West should surrender to its enemies. It means that the West is  free to engage on behalf of the vulnerable, only by way of restrained defence. Not cowering away from having the courage to say a loving “no” to those determined to see the West as an enemy.

Ridiculed, labelled a warmonger, and considered too old to be relevant, Churchill critically questioned the Nazi movement, long before it became a bloody necessity to reject it. Blind acquiescence and what C.S Lewis called ‘the tyranny of good intentions’, resulted in the catastrophic ambivalence, and indifference of the West throughout the 1930’s.

To do the same is to ignore reality, whitewash conflict and allow tyrants to thrive. This is an unloving abdication of responsibility, in favour of appeasement.

History has never forgotten British Prime Minister Chamberlain’s well intentioned declaration, “Peace For Our Time”. A declaration that was brutally shattered by the sound of falling shells, broken lives, screeching stukas and Nazi blitzkriegs.

Reagan was right, when in 1964, he said:

‘There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace—and you can have it in the next second—surrender.
Admittedly, there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the spectre our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face—that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender. If we continue to accommodate, continue to back and retreat, eventually we have to face the final demand—the ultimatum.
You and I have the courage to say to our enemies, “There is a price we will not pay.” “There is a point beyond which they must not advance. This is the meaning of peace through strength.”
(A Time For Choosing)

Elshtain is right, viewing Christianity as an ethic of universal niceness and attributing it to Jesus Christis an aberration of Christianity. It misses the point.

To veil Christ and Christian action behind the fabric of an ethic of universal niceness, is to repeat the past. This unloving abdication of responsibility, in favour of appeasement, leaves the West embracing a false security. One that is further masqueraded by the ignorance of the past, the dangers of positive optimism, and a flawed understanding of Biblical Christian theology.


References:

[i] Mark Taylor, “The Way of the Cross as Theatric of Counter-Terror,” paper presented at a conference on justice and mercy, University of Chicago (Spring 2002), cited by Elshtain in Just War Against Terror: The Burden Of American Power In A Violent World Basic Books Kindle Ed (p.82)

[ii] Chomsky, N. 9-11 cited by Elshtain, (JWAT, p. 226)

[iii] Elshtain, J. 2008, Just War Against Terror: The Burden Of American Power In A Violent World Basic Books Kindle Ed. (p. 100-101).

[iv] Luther, M. Conversations With Luther: Selections From Table Talk, 1915, The Pilgrim Press

(Originally published, 12th January 2015)

©Rod Lampard, 2018

 

American celebrity and UNHCR Special Envoy, Angelina Jolie, who had recently visited Venezuelan refugees in Peru, has been accused of being a tool of “Right Wing Propaganda”.

Venezuelan Socialist Party boss, Diosdado Cabello, as reported by The Washington Post labelled Jolie’s visit, as “right wing media”, distracting from a caravan of thousands of Central American migrants heading to the United States.”

 

 

 

Cabello’s tweet:

 

Angelina Jolie was in Peru on behalf of the United Nations special envoy.

In an UNHCR press release yesterday, Jolie gave her assessment on the Venezuelan refugee crisis, saying that it was ‘all the more shocking for being predictable and preventable.’

 “Every Venezuelan I met described the situation in their country as desperate. I heard stories of people dying because of a lack of medical care and medicine: cancer patients whose chemotherapy was abruptly stopped, diabetes sufferers without access to insulin, children without basic antibiotics, people starving, and tragic accounts of violence and persecution. None of the Venezuelans I met want charity. They want an opportunity to help themselves.” source

Jolie’s statement is in direct contrast to, Jim Carrey, who in September gave a bizarre affirmation of socialism when he said,

“We have to say yes to socialism, to the word and everything. We have to stop apologizing.”

Carrey was reprimanded by Venezuelan columnist Laureano Márquez, who, in an open letter (on Runrun.es, which now appears to have been deleted) said,

“I read that…you said: ‘We have to say yes to socialism, to the word ‘socialism’ and to everything.’ Perhaps for you, as for all humanity, the word ‘socialism’ sounds beautiful [….] [In] Venezuela, what we find is just that our regime is not – for God’s sake – the antithesis of selfishness,” […] “In Venezuela, dear Jim, from what I have just told you, there is no equitable distribution of wealth; wealth is concentrated, as rarely before in our history, in very few hands. In Venezuela, we’ve seized hatred for the word ‘socialism,’ it represents oppression against a people, the destruction of a flourishing nation, and the despair of its citizens”. source

A special report for World Magazine, headlined, ‘The Undeniable Venezuelan Migrant Crisis’, World reported that Venezuela is seeing 5000 people leaving the country every day, as the country’s economic decline under socialism’ continues. The growing migration crisis is yet to be acknowledged by the Venezuelan socialist government.’

Props to Angelina for giving a voice to those who genuinely don’t have one because their Socialist government continues to deny there is even a problem.

She’s giving a voice to the suffering and oppression of those living under the crushing weight of socialism, in opposition to Socialists, who continue to claim there’s nothing wrong with it.


References & Sources linked.

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Poignant.

Arendt, citing Georges Clemenceau in The Origins of Totalitarianism. (1968, p.114)

American comedian, Tim Hawkins, just released a video parodying Disturbed’s version of ‘The Sounds of Silence’, and it’s hilarious.

If this doesn’t go viral, we’re all taking ourselves way too seriously.


 

For those who believe in absolute freedom, any “no” spoken to humanity from outside humanity, is repressive, and unfairly restrictive.

In the shadow of this logic, even a lighthouse or global positioning navigation is offensive. Both the lighthouse and GPS direct humanity. They protect freedom, because in their very confrontation with us, they invite true freedom.

They remind us of individual responsibility. Their existence shows us the necessity and power of decision. They direct us to make responsible choices.

The existence of the lighthouse warns us that danger awaits. To act in absolute freedom and ignore this warning, is to deny freedom. The light which shines forth from its lantern encourages us to not see freedom as being without the necessary choice guided by self-limitation and external direction.

The presence of a lighthouse warns us about the consequences of living out the false doctrine of the nihilist.

In the shadow of this false doctrine, the lighthouse is viewed as anachronistic.

The lighthouse is viewed as an oppressive social construct from a by-gone era. So violence is done to it. Alongside well positioned propaganda, walks the advocate with placards demanding that the lighthouse be torn down. Through ridicule and raw emotion, the lighthouse is mocked, sentenced to the museum and ignored.

The ruling is that the lighthouse should be denied its right to speak; its right to signal danger and direct a pathway to safety. The lighthouse is viewed as something to be denied its right to confront us with it’s “no, not that way”.

In the case of the nihilist Captain and his ship, the lighthouse is ignored.This is until the unmovable brunt of a reef tragically rips apart the hull of his ship, and the shadow of absolute freedom is exposed for what it is: a denial of freedom. The reef is hit and lives are lost. Freedom is sacrificed to the abyss.

The ability and permission to say “no”, is as much a part of freedom, and love, as is the ability and permission to say “yes”. If someone is without the ability and permission to say “no” to themselves or to others, it cannot be said that this person is truly free. This is because direction and self-limitation are ultimate necessities for survival and healthy progress. Direction and self-limitation are necessary for freedom to remain freedom. In other words: No self-control, no freedom. Know self-control, know freedom.

The responsible parent will say “no” to an infant wanting to play with a loaded gun, sharp knife, and hot stove or in the middle of a freeway. The loving limitation of the infant’s freedom protects the freedom of the infant.  The loving parental “no” directs the infant towards true freedom. Absolute freedom denies this[1].  It denies that freedom exists in limitation[2].

This is because freedom-in-limitation is counter to the flawed logic of advocates who believe in absolute freedom (such as the nihilist). The denial of self-limitation, and rejection of direction, both form the cornerstone of a false doctrine which preaches that freedom can exist without limitation; without direction.

Advocates who believe in absolute freedom have no time for discussion about issues such as self-control, perseverance, and commitment. Their “Yes” is always spoken; permission always given, and their “No”, if spoken at all, is a quiet, uncertain “no”.

Under the nihilist doctrine of absolute freedom, the only one who is free to say “No” is the nihilist himself. In this way advocates of absolute freedom assert themselves as lords over others.

We saw this in Australia, when the State Government in Queensland, with the support of a broad list of representatives from different parties, passed a bill that would legalise abortion up to 22 weeks. The bill also allows for a mother to abort her unborn child right up to birth. This latter option is, however, conditional. The mother must have the signatures of two doctors. (Even if she does obtain two approvals, the doctor isn’t even required to view her file or meet with her.)

No amount of arguments in favour of abortion changes the fact that abortion is the deliberate violent interruption of pregnancy[3]. It’s where women (and some men on behalf of women) demand the absolute freedom for pregnant women to”miscarry on demand”.

With abortion, absolute freedom claims the higher moral ground. The battle cry is that absolute choice, and gender equality, must be won, no matter what the cost. Freedom of choice reigns over against any forms of, or reasons for, moral restraint. Like the lighthouse,  the warnings from those who fight for, and seek the protection of life, are pushed aside as irrelevant. The value of human life is shattered on the reef. Abortion is made into a commodity, where human life is bought and sold, at the command of doctor, parent or state.

Like the nihilist Captain who ignores the lighthouse, the reality of man and woman’s new dilemma is brutal. They are unaware of what they’re entertaining and what they’ve bought into.Absolute freedom negates freedom.

Industrial abortion is another manifestation of lebensunwertes leben (The Nazi ideology of life [deemed] unworthy of life). That’s good reason for why it should be rejected, not embraced. It’s certainly not to be celebrated as liberation, and abortion clinics should not be paraded as liberators – where all who are opposed to abortion are painted as anti-freedom or oppressors.

The false doctrine of the nihilist should be fervently rejected. In its theological form, this false doctrine spawns the false interpretation of grace as freedom to sin, as opposed to grace being freedom from sin; freedom to be for God and for others[4].

Consequently, under the shadow of nihilism, the light of God’s “no” spoken to humanity from outside itself is rejected. The power and sovereignty of God over life, is subsumed into the hands of men and women; patients, the government, family and professionals.

Man takes up the power of life and death, and (as he has done from the beginning of his choice against God, in order to be God), man puts himself in the place of God.

As summed up by anti-Nazi theologian Karl Barth:

‘he who destroys germinating life kills a man and thus ventures the monstrous thing of decreeing concerning the life and death of a fellow-man whose life is given by God and therefore, like his own, belongs to Him. He desires to discharge a divine office, or, even if not, he accepts responsibility for such discharge, by daring to have the last word on at least the temporal form of the life of his fellow-man. Those directly or indirectly involved cannot escape this responsibility.’ (CD.3:4:416)

God is thought to be dethroned or an unconcerned spectator. His absolute power is now viewed as a weapon in the hands of the nihilist. Power handed to them by man and woman’s selfish and self-destructive quest for what they have accepted, without question, as being true freedom.

Absolute freedom negates freedom. We cannot afford to ignore the lighthouse. For what we face without it is an age of darkness.

To be so convinced that true freedom is existence without the One who birthed that existence, is to give in to an arrogance which rejects grace, and chains humanity to the Dark agenda of total extinction and self-annihilation.

‘Blessed is the one who hears instruction and responds wisely to it’ – (Proverbs 8:33-34)


References:

Barth, K. Respect For Life, Church Dogmatics 3:4 Hendrickson Publishers

[1] My conclusions here rest on those of Albert Camus. To paraphrase, ‘absolute freedom is ultimately a lie.’ (The Rebel)

[2] Karl Barth

[3] Ibid, CD.3:4:416

[4] Karl Barth

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Photo by Sleep Music on Unsplash

Details about Simone Weil’s life and thought are enigmatic. Other than what’s included in the general encyclopedic biographies circling the internet, I know very little about her. Unlike someone such as Dietrich Bonhoeffer, there is no long, authorised biography written by her friends. What knowledge I have been about to find out about her, is padded by what I’ve learnt from conversations with internet friends, whose admiration for her work has increased over the years.

Simone was a French intellectual. Like Jacques Ellul, Weil worked in the French resistance, was an admirer of Karl Marx, and a contemporary of Albert Camus.

Weil moved back towards Roman Catholic Christianity and took an interest in Catholic mysticism. This detached her from the French intellectual trends of her day. Weil also made a break with Marxism. Whilst Weil remained a fan of Karl Marx, alongside her criticism of [crony] capitalism, she also wielded a heated criticism of Marxism.

Some of these criticisms are set out in Oppression & Liberty, 1955. Weil’s major criticisms begin with the monopoly of centralisation. This is what Weil says fuels forms of ‘bureaucratic oppression’ from a ‘bureaucratic caste’[i]:

‘All exclusive, uncontrolled power becomes oppressive in the hands of those who have the monopoly of it… instead of a clash of contrary opinions, we end up with an “official opinion” from which no one would be able to deviate.’ (pp.15 & 16)

Three bureaucracies exist: these are ‘state, capital industries and worker’s organisations (trade-unions)’ (p.17). Given the right environment (such as Germany in the 1930s) all three can merge into one. The state takes control of the market and runs it from a centralised politick, with a salaried and bureaucratic hierarchy. Weil calls this ‘state capitalism[ii]’. This means that the economy is managed by the government and government approved capital industries. In 1930’s Germany, this manifested as a dictatorship resting on the twin supports of trade unions and the national-socialist movement[iii]’ (p.25).

The zenith of all of Weil’s criticisms is when she calls Marxism ‘a fully-fledged religion in the impurest sense of the word’ (p.165). Two other earlier statements back this up: ‘‘Marxism is the highest spiritual expression of bourgeois society’ (p.124); ‘Marxism is a badly constructed religion; it has always possessed a religious character’ (p.154).

In a similar way to Jacques Ellul, Weil advocates the truth in Marx’s critique, but is not a believer in Marxism.  For her, the social, economic and political mechanisms of bureaucracy and industry, turn men and women (the working class), into machines. The working class becomes a means to an end.

Weil’s praise for Marx doesn’t go any further than this:

the truth in Marx’s critique is found in how he ‘defined with admirable precision the relationships of force in society […] Two things in Marx are solid and indestructible. First: method; study of and defining the relationships of force. Second is the analysis of Capitalist society as it existed in the 19th Century – where it was believed that in industrial production lay the key to human progress ’ (p.152).

Weil’s short lived praise for Marx ends here: ‘Marx was an idolater; he idolised the Proletariat and considered himself to be their natural leader’ (p.151); Marx made oppression the central notion of his writings, but never attempted to analyse it. He never asked himself what oppression is’ (p.154)

Oppression & Liberty concludes with Weil’s summary of Marx’s failings. This includes his obsession[iv] with production, class war and moralism.

‘The only form of war Marx takes into consideration is social war – (open or underground) – under the name of class struggle.  Class struggle or social war is the sole principle for explaining history. Marx was incapable of any real effort of scientific thought, because that did not matter to him. All this materialist was interested in was justice. He took refuge in a dream and called it dialectical materialism.’ (pp.178 & 180)

As Weil explains,

‘Marx fell back into the ‘group morality which revolted him to the point of hating society. Like the feudal magnates of old,  like the business men  of his own day, he had built for himself a morality which placed above good and evil the activity of professional revolutionaries; the mechanism for producing paradise’ (p.182). Marx’s ‘moral failing was that he do not seek the source of the good in the place where it dwells.’ (p.183).

When I was given a copy of Oppression and Liberty, I wasn’t sure what to expect.  I hadn’t planned on reading the book, but I’m thankful to have had the chance to make a careful study of it.

The subject matter is dense. This is made more complex by Weil’s writing style. However, this complexity doesn’t make Oppression & Liberty unbearable to read. Weil takes aim at a lot of relevant themes which pose serious questions for our contemporary setting. These themes include unintended consequences, ‘bureaucratic oppression’[v], monopolies, power, materialism, group-think morality, sociopolitical force, the mechanisms of power, and subjectivism.

The latter coming out through her discussion and warning about seeking morality in places other than where genuine goodness and authentic morality dwells. This can be interpreted to mean that God is the only means by which humanity has a moral anchor. Weil’s example of this is Karl Marx and his obsession with justice, production and power. These led to contradictions in his theory and its application. His subsequent moral failing was that his quest for morality searched everywhere, but where the source of goodness and authentic morality is, can, and therefore, ought to be found.

Oppression & Liberty is a book that teaches something new each time it’s opened. Weil’s book is a gold mine, with a complex nature and a variety of themes which require careful navigation. Because of this it’s difficult to take ownership of Weil’s main points with just one reading.

Oppression & Liberty’s main theme pivots on an analysis of Karl Marx. Within this analysis, Weil yields a critique of Marxism. This criticism is balanced by her agreement and disagreement with Marx. For Weil, any centralised control of an economy (monopoly), leads to the oppression and tyrannical rule over those who work under it, or are made to serve it. In sum, this criticism states that despite appearances, Marxists, plutocrats and bureaucrats alike, all pose a threat to equity and morality.

The warning from Simone Weil in Oppression & Liberty is loud and clear: those who chose to entertain Marxism, big bureaucracy or crony capitalism, ride the backs of monsters.


References:

[i] Weil, S. 1955, Oppression & Liberty, 2001. Routledge Classics, ‘the dictatorship of the bureaucratic caste’ (p.14)

[ii] Weil credits Ferdinand Fried with the term and its definition.

[iii] An interesting add-on to this is Weil’s statement: ‘The communists accuse the social-democrats of being the “quartermaster-sergeants of fascism”, and they are absolutely right.’ (p.27)

[iv] Ibid, (p.178)

[v] ‘the bureaucratic oppression; the bureaucratic machine’, (p.13)

Fankl_KindleEd_MeaningThere is a statement made by Augustine in Confessions that reads: ‘what I mean when I say I love my God, is that I am clinging to an embrace which is not severed by the fulfilment of desire’[i]

Centuries later, Leo Tolstoy made a similar statement, writing that ‘grace supported him over the abyss.’[ii]

This may seem an odd correlation, but Viktor Frankl’s book ‘Man’s Search for Meaning’ embodies the essential characteristics of these theological positions.

Frankl, a Jewish psychiatrist and holocaust survivor, presents a perspective born from extreme adversity.

The connection of his thought and experience with that of Tolstoy’s and Augustine’s, is at first an ‘existential struggle for meaning”[iii]. What follows is a break with existentialism, with an acknowledgement that meaning and purpose are found outside ourselves.

For example, Frankl ambiguously states that ‘being human always points, and is directed, to something, or someone, other than oneself’[iv]. Augustine and Tolstoy would agree, but go further, by more directly stating that we are not just pointed, but are being pointed towards the God who encounters us in Jesus Christ.

Where Augustine states that clinging to grace is first brought about by God’s embrace, Tolstoy reminds us that ‘faith is the strength of life’. Frankl adds, so is hope.

His prevailing conclusion is that in the midst of difficult circumstances, we are never without the ‘free decision[v]’ to say yes to life.

“…the last of the human freedoms is found in the ability to choose one’s attitude in any given set of circumstances, to choose one’s own way.[vi]
The pessimist resembles a man who observes with fear and sadness that his wall calendar, from which he daily tears a sheet, grows thinner with each passing day.
On the other hand, the person who attacks the problems of life actively is like a man who removes each successive leaf from his calendar and files it neatly and carefully away with its predecessors, after first having jotted down a few diary notes on the back.
He can reflect with pride and joy on all the richness set down in these notes, on all the life he has already lived to the fullest. What will it matter to him if he notices that he is growing old? Has he any reason to envy the young people whom he sees, or wax nostalgic over his own lost youth? What reasons has he to envy a young person?
For the possibilities that a young person has, the future which is in store for him? “No, thank you,” he will think. “Instead of possibilities, I have realities in my past, not only the reality of work done and of love loved, but of sufferings bravely suffered.’[vii]

God gives us permission to act.

In free decision we are encouraged to let God transform our hearts. (Romans 12:1-21)

We are not bound to the definitions of others, our culture/sub-culture or the opinions of our neighbour.

Identity rests in the one who, while we were yet sinners, died for us (Romans 5:8). For God, in Jesus Christ chose to free us, so that we can be truly free to say “yes” to Him, and “yes” to life.


References:

[i] St. Augustine, Confessions Penguin Classics p.212

[ii] ‘I am supported above the abyss’ Tolstoy, L. 1869, A Confession

[iii] Frankl, V.E. 2006 Man’s Search for Meaning Beacon Press. Kindle Ed. Loc. 27-29 & 1268-1270

[iv]Ibid Loc.1387-1388

[v] Ibid, Loc. 922-924

[vi] Ibid, Loc. 877-878

[vii] Ibid, Loc. 1514-18-1521

Originally published 14th September 2014

Todd Friel, from Wretched Radio, argues a solid case for the importance of maintaining the distinctions between hurt feelings and physical violence; as well as maintaining the distinction between ‘believing all women’ and taking all women seriously.

I don’t want to draw the Ford-Kavanaugh debate out on this blog, but I stumbled onto this video. Friel’s presentation has to be one of the sanest things I’ve heard said in relation to the subject, the rhetoric and the raw emotion associated with the debate.

 


 

Judgement based on raw emotion is the reason for why we have due process and habeas corpus. This system is not without flaws, but erasing due process is equal to denying the right of habeas corpus. If that happens then everyone is bound; subjected to the whim of the mob or the mood of the ruler.

Due process is as important as habeas corpus. Habeas corpus being ‘the removal of illegal restraint on individual liberty.’ (Burke) [i]  Any removal, or denial of due process, would easily lead to the same thing happening to habeas corpus. Conclusions based on raw emotions about accusations, without any regard for evidence is regressive.

Emerging from a week drenched in the Ford vs. Kavanaugh debate, you’d be right to feel a little more cynical about American Democrats and the mainstream media.

It doesn’t really matter whether you or I, think Ford or Kavanaugh was lying. The fact is that there are hard fought for and won judicial principles, which are grounded in liberty and equity, that came under attack for the purpose of trying to win some political gain.

It’s right to be angry about the chorus beaten out violently from those seeking to side-step due process and subjugate it to serve their own self-interests. When, in 2016, we were all told that “Trump was Hitler”, we saw this attempt at side-stepping. It was applied during the 2016 election and has been applied to Donald Trump ever since.

We’ve witnessed the slander of American Evangelical and African-American voters who supported Trump, dubious claims about Brexit, the blanket tar and feathering of Tommy Robinson in the U.K, and the dehumanizing of anyone who stands in disagreement with where many in the progressive Left, currently stand. In addition to all of this, we’ve heard of celebrities calling for an economic crash in the United States, so as to take down Trump. They didn’t seem to give any thought to how their imprecatory wish for an economic disaster by which they could impeach Trump, might impact the rest of the world, especially the poor.

The actions of many during the Ford vs. Kavanaugh debate, shouldn’t be all that much of a surprise. Many of those who voted “yes”, or support same-sex marriage, do so based on raw emotion. They didn’t want to hear the evidence or consider the opposing viewpoints. LGBT agitprop successfully manipulates voters into falsely believing that all opposing viewpoints are unloving, fear-based and therefore irrelevant. Thought is suspended in favour of whatever feels right.

Given the success of the S.S.M campaign in the West, it’s no surprise that those same malicious tactics are now applied en masse to other areas, in an attempt to suppress, maim, destroy and control.

Edmund Burke was right:

‘…Parties are but too apt to forget their own future safety in their desire of sacrificing their enemies. People without much difficulty admit entrance of that injustice of which they are not to be the immediate victims.’ [ii]

Although anger about these attempts to side-step due process, is justified, this anger shouldn’t drive those opposed to it, to fight back in kind. Raw emotion may inform, it should never govern. It should drive us towards prayer, sympathy, concern and action.

First, prayer and sorrow for the people placed at the centre of this tug-o-war.

Second, deep concern for what could have been the undermining of a system, which legitimately requires evidence from the prosecution in order to back up an accusation, and allows the accused to have the benefit of the doubt. (Innocent until proven guilty is an imperfect gift, handed down to us by those who knew no such protections. The system isn’t perfect, but it’s a system that emerged to protect innocent victims from the mindlessness of the mob and the malevolence of the tyrannical ruler.)

Third, this anger should empower action. Vote accordingly. It’s time to start to read more carefully, reflect and look at the reality of where the West currently is. This reflection should prompt us to ask, why is speech being stifled, why is responsible discussion in some cases forced into silence, by angry mobs threatening individuals and businesses, and how will this inevitably affect each and every individual who lives, and benefits from living in the West?

The heart should inform the head, but the head should never become a slave to the heart. C.S. Lewis identified this necessary tension, when he wrote:

‘the heart [should] never take the place of the head. But it can, and should obey it.’
(The Abolition of Man, 1944) [iii]

Judgement based on raw emotion is why I don’t see white nationalism or cultural Christianity as a refuge or safe harbour. As I’ve stated quite a few times without apology, pride is the enemy of grace. That pride is an enemy of grace is also why I wrote and argued that ‘Social Justices Warriors Are The Brethren of Iscariot, not Christ‘. For those who currently stand in disagreement with most on the Left and their tactics, the struggle is real, but the response has to include discernment, wisdom, tact, consistency, and reflection.

Judgement based on raw emotion is the reason for why we have due process and habeas corpus.Suspending one, will lead to the suspension of the other. Due process and habeas corpus anticipate the whim of the mob or the mood of the ruler; it acknowledges original sin and the corrupt condition of the human heart. Due process and habeas corpus are imperfect gifts handed down to us by those who knew no such protections. The protections inherent within both are worth holding onto and fiercely defending.


References:

[i] Burke, E. Letter To The Sheriffs of Bristol, (Sourced 10th October 2018 from https://archive.org/stream/sheriffsbristol00burkrich#page/42/mode/2up/search/liberty )

[ii] Burke, ibid.

[iii] Lewis, C.S, 1944. The Abolition of Man, HarperCollins Publishers

©Rod Lampard, 2018.

Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash

Some time ago I took up a detailed exchange on twitter with a lady who had proudly stated that she was cutting out “hate the sin” from the phrase, ‘love the sinner, hate the sin’.  She was happily proclaiming her decision to stick with ‘’love the sinner’’ because this was apparently more biblical.

Her post won her a few retweets and likes, but I disagreed and gave good reasons for doing so. The biblical imperatives such as: “Let love be genuine, abhor what is evil; hold fast to what is good” (Romans 12:9) mean that there is a distinction between love for the sinner and sin. To remove the “hate the sin” clause is to leave too much room for  “love the sinner” to easily become “ignore the sin” or worse “love the sin as much as the sinner”.

The distinction between loving the sinner and hating the sin, is at the very core of Jesus Christ’s reconciliation of humanity with God. Without a separation  between sin and sinner grounded in God’s act in Jesus Christ, there can only be a further separation of the sinner from God. For sin separates the sinner from the Sinless. Only in Jesus Christ can the sinner be freed from sin and reconciled to God.

In a rebuttal to my response, an academic (I presume a theologian) proudly stepped in. He then decided to lecture me on the error of my ways.

In response, I brought up Bonhoeffer:

‘Many Christians are unthinkably horrified when a real sinner is suddenly discovered among the righteous. So we remain alone with our sin, living in lies and hypocrisy. The fact is that we are sinners! But it is the grace of the Gospel, which is so hard for the pious to understand, that it confronts us with the truth and says: You are a sinner, a great, desperate sinner; now come as the sinner that you are, to God who loves you. He wants you as you are; He does not want anything from you, as sacrifice, a work; he wants you alone.  You can hide nothing from God. The mask you wear before men will do you no good before Him […] He wants to be gracious to you. You can dare to be a sinner [dare to be who you really are before God; a sinner]. Thank God for that; He loves the sinner but Hates the sin.’ (Confession & Communion, Life Together, 1954)

My interlocutor huffed with pride. He said that he’d read everything of Bonhoeffer’s work and was sure that Bonhoeffer had never used the phrase. So I provided page, date, book title, chapter and verse. Then pointed out, “loving the sinner, hating the sin” isn’t something Bonhoeffer spoke as a one off. Bonhoeffer had also included it in The Cost of Discipleship,

‘May we be enabled to say ‘No’ to sin and ‘Yes’ to the sinner. May we withstand our foes, and yet hold out to them the Word of the gospel which woos and wins the souls of men.’ (p.xxxiv)

After I provided the reference which proved him wrong, he dismissed my thoughts and ended his correspondence. The lady maintained her position. Then had to have the last word by tweeting at me her reasons for doing so.

It will not make me popular, (because it didn’t) but standing by the exegetical accuracy of Bonhoeffer’s statements on the issue, is far safer ground than building an unbiblical ethic around subjective human ideas of God. Standing on what, where and in whom God reveals himself, is far safer ground than making deceptive theological statements which repaints Christianity as solely being about an ethic of “niceness”.

I’ll end this with Reinhold Niebuhr, who very aptly hinted at the same thing when he wrote:

‘A position of detachment destroys our responsibilities in life’s controversies for the sake of avoiding sinful corruptions of those responsibilities. We ought to be angry when wrong is done; but we must learn the difficult art of being angry without sinning.’
(R.Niebuhr, Discerning The Signs of the Times.)

References:

[i] Bonhoeffer, D. 1954. Life Together, HarperCollins Publishers

[ii] Bonhoeffer, D. 1934. Cost of Discipleship, SCM Press

[iii] Niebuhr, R. 1946. Discerning the Signs of the Times 

Artwork: John Martin, 1840 ‘Calvary’ 

From the start of his candidacy, I’ve considered Donald Trump a diamond in the rough. It’s a working hypothesis that I’ve held onto in the face of an onslaught of fear and dire predictions about his alleged “reign of terror”, a lot of which came from almost everyone I know (theologians and pastors included). Joining the bandwagon condemnation of Trump, in order to spread fear, was always a darkened side-road best left in the rear-view mirror. Minus a few friends and two years on, this hypothesis still stands strong.

While I believe that God can transform, and still is in the business of transforming people’s hearts, I’m also cautious of Donald Trump and the euphoric support which surrounds him.  For instance, I’m no fan of the ‘’god emperor’’ memes or any view of Trump that implores manifest destiny or deus ex machina.

I’m as fervent in my caution about this as I am in my opposition to people who deify victimisation, and use reckless narratives in order to irrationally “Hitlerise” personalities, because they see potential political gain in doing so. (No one should seek to make a profit from suffering, unless those who have suffered are the primary beneficiaries.)

My caution of Trump is the same as my caution of ‘the bureaucratic caste’[1]. The highlight of reports today was Trump being laughed at during his speech at the U.N. This myopic reporting gives justification for such caution. The Washington Post was drooling with satisfaction at what they said, was a fair response from the German delegation. Trump “made claims” about German dependency on Russian energy. According to the W.P., Trump, ‘as usual, got his facts wrong’. However, one look at the transcript of his speech shows that Trump was issuing a warning about the trajectory of German dependency on Russian energy. He wasn’t claiming that Germany is completely dependent on Russia, as was implied by the W.P.

Even BBC World News was quick to misquote the Trump:

 

 

Despite the red herring headlines, there are a lot of positive things which can be said about Trump’s speech to the U.N. He rejected the ‘ideology of globalism’, called for diplomacy and a better deal. He didn’t just speak about American sovereignty. He spoke about the uniqueness of every non-belligerent nation, and their valuable contribution to the peace and prosperity of their neighbours.

In addition to this, Trump discussed the dangers of allowing globalists (and I would add in with them: those who operate from within the Leftist cult of modern liberalism[2]) to set the national and state, right down to regional, and local, agendas of nations; nations that allow an un-elected bureaucratic caste to rule over them, such as exists within the current structure of the European Union. This is the very definition of imperialism and Donald Trump is right to oppose it.

Globalism is imperialism. Ultimately globalism undermines the usefulness of the United Nations. Through a uniformity of identity, diversity is diminished. Behind the veil of words about diversity, equality and tolerance, there is no unity in diversity because the telos of globalism is a quagmire of sameness.

Compliance is monetarily rewarded. Dissent punished. There is no real check or balance allowed under this kind of absolute power. The global demonization of Donald Trump, and Trump administration supporters, provides a taste of life under global imperialism and how its newspeak is used to sure up its centralised control of the masses[3].

Globalism is a surrender of sovereignty, rights, citizenship and cultural identity. It is the stuff of a monolithic alliance. Poised to strike at all who oppose the faceless, would-be lordless powers who control it. Higher institutions of learning are weaponized. The education industrial complex jackboot marches side by side with the entertainment and military industrial complexes. They all fall into line and are employed to indoctrinate, shame, negate history and healthy culture via manipulation, appeasement and revisionism. Thus globalism promotes the use of shaming techniques and manipulative propaganda. It provokes national genocide and advocates perpetual war behind a veil of humanitarian benevolence.

It would appear that most news outlets have chosen to report only on the areas which can be utilized to further demonize and mock Donald Trump. What’s ironic about this is that there’s a bunch of do-very-little bureaucratic elites and spectators sitting in chairs, laughing at a leader, who may have the flaw of speaking too much about his own success, and not staying on script, but is leading a team, which is, according to balanced reporting, achieving a great deal of success[4]; and they’re achieving this despite unprecedented attempts by a bitter and resentful group of political opponents, to manipulatively interfere in undermining that success.

For the rest of us watching it’s a bizarre era, not because of Donald Trump and his idiosyncrasies or flaws, but because of the bizarre behaviour of many who cry wolf, simply because he was elected President of the United States.

Perhaps Trump and his critics could take a step back and consider what Theodore Roosevelt said in 1910:

‘’The poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt…
It is not the critic who counts; not the man who points out how the strong man stumbles, or where the doer of deeds could have done them better.
The credit belongs to the man who is actually in the arena, whose face is marred by dust and sweat and blood; who strives valiantly; who errs, who comes short again and again, because there is no effort without error and shortcoming; but who does actually strive to do the deeds; who knows great enthusiasms, the great devotions; who spends himself in a worthy cause;
who at the best knows in the end the triumph of high achievement, and who at the worst, if he fails, at least fails while daring greatly, so that his place shall never be with those cold and timid souls who neither know victory nor defeat.” (‘Man in the Arena’)

While I still see Trump as a diamond in the rough, I remain cautious. He isn’t God. He is human and therefore prone to the same temptations and failings as the rest of us. This same caution needs to also be applied to those who would seek to be our self-appointed lords, such as an un-elected bureaucratic caste; those who would gain and then maintain power via newspeak, agitprop and by profiting off of the subjugation of others.

Donald Trump is right to oppose globalism because it is another form of imperialism.  The conclusion of globalism is injustice; a quagmire of sameness enforced by foreign rulers over nations not their own. A monolithic alliance filled with paralysed citizens, who are burdened by a meta-state with division, mistrust, fear and suspicion.

Criticism of Trump and those in his administration should be heard, but every thinking person should apply the necessary filters to sift the wheat from the chaff. For the words of America’s 26th President, Theodore Roosevelt, still ring true: ‘the poorest way to face life is to face it with a sneer. There are many men who feel a kind of twister pride in cynicism; there are many who confine themselves to criticism of the way others do what they themselves dare not even attempt…’[5]

Britannica defines Imperialism as ‘state policy, practice, or advocacy of extending power and dominion, especially by direct territorial acquisition or by gaining political and economic control of other areas.’

In the light of this, Donald Trump’s “no” to globalism, is a no to imperialism and a “yes” to freedom.


Notes & References:

[1] Simone Weil, Oppression and Liberty.

[2] Faceless (largely Leftist) powers who operate as though they were god; in other words masters of humanity; lordless.

[3] Watch any news conference between Donald Trump and the reporters. It’s easy enough to hear the prejudice and hostility. The product of lament and bitterness because their team lost the 2016 election.

[4] E.g.: Trump’s work on the Korean Peninsula, continued to commitment to NATO, pulling an aggressively expansionist Communist China into line, and practising diplomacy with Russia and Syria, instead of triggering a total, or maintaining a covert war against both.

[5] Roosevelt, ibid.

Roosevelt, T. 1910. The Man In The Arena (sourced 26th September 2018, from http://www.theodore-roosevelt.com)

‘Trump‘ photo by Kayle Kaupanger on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ is exactly what you would expect a Rowan Atkinson film to be: slap stick funny, quirky, a little irreverent, with a small amount of awkwardness on the side. The film parodies our level of dependence on technology, the power of Silicon Valley elites, and Western Society’s obsession with political correctness. [1]

Atkinson and Ben Miller make an excellent comedy duo. Their reunion for ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’, makes this third film more of a sequel than second. The female leads, played by Emma Thompsons and Olga Kurylenko are in balance with the eccentricities of Johnny English and the serious attributes of Angus Bough.  Thompson’s character is fumbling, frantic and Prime Ministerial, whereas Kurylenko’s character is all about completing the mission successfully.

The third instalment in the Johnny English trilogy takes aim at our level of dependence on technology. Exaggerations for comedic effect are obvious, but within those there’s a serious critique of how easy it is to lose control of information; how data could be compromised or manipulated by anyone with the resources and knowledge to do it. [2]

The film critiques the trust placed in those who live and work in Silicon Valley. Silicon Valley Corporations have access to people’s lives and private information; the kind of access to people only ever witnessed in a totalitarian State. The differences being that these corporations benefit from capitalism and people are willing to give them access to their lives, and hard-earned money, in exchange for a service or a reliable product. Silicon Valley corporations have a lot of power. The premise, and trust placed in these corporations, as worked out in ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ is something akin to: He, who controls the internet, controls the world.

Leaving behind the second film (‘Johnny English Reborn’) the third movie goes back to the formula of the first and borrows a little from its sequel. This isn’t a bad thing. As one of my perceptive daughters observed, ‘Johnny English: Reborn’ (Johnny English 2) wasn’t as good as the first or third in the trilogy, because Angus Bough [pronounced “Boff”; played by Ben Miller) wasn’t in it. Atkinson and Miller make an excellent comedy duo. Miller’s return as Bough in ‘Johnny English Strikes Again’ proves that leaving Miller’s character out of ‘Johnny English Reborn’ was a huge mistake.

The third film borrows from the second in how it makes fun of the West’s obsession with political correctness. Where Post-Modern sensitivities are excessive, they are justifiably mocked. For instance, in one scene, English is met by an agent who, in answer to a question about acquiring a gun for a mission, said, “Guns? Well, we don’t really do those anymore; we prefer a more diplomatic approach.” (Paraphrased).  In another scene, the ever pragmatic English chooses a muscle car over an “environmentally friendly” hybrid, due to its zero dependency on computer technology.

The film succeeds in applying comic relief to serious criticisms – these criticisms being our dependency on technology, the power of Silicon Valley elites, and excessive political correctness. Johnny English Strikes Again is an exciting film which links up better with the first film than its sequel. Although not absent of one or two ridiculous scenes, the film takes the tension between analogue versus digital and suggests that analogue may still have a significant part to play in an age of espionage and information technology[3].


Notes & References:

[1] Hence the review I’ve written for it.

[2] For example Russia’s alleged interference, and collusion, with Donald Trump and his campaigners during the United States 2016 election; as well as the FBI allegedly pushing their own form of interference, on behalf of the Democrat Party candidate Hillary Clinton and the incumbent President Barak Obama.

[3] The analogue vs. digital tension is reminiscent of Kelsey Grammer’s brilliant 1996 film, ‘Down Periscope.

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Disclaimer: I received no remuneration of any kind for providing this review.

Thomas Doherty’s 2013 book, ‘Hollywood and Hitler: 1933-1939’, is a 373 page look into the past ideological make-up of Hollywood.

The book is well referenced, including both footnotes and a lengthy bibliography. The text flows chronologically and stands as essential reading for anyone studying, or wanting to know more about, both Hollywood’s reaction, and involvement, in Europe and America during the 1930’s.

Doherty paints a picture of the Hollywood scene, beginning with a basic introduction to the context and zeitgeist. What emerges is an insight into the things which divided and unified Hollywood. Avoiding a dreary run down of politics and economics, Doherty writes about a vibrant and diverse group of people, who, though continents apart and ideologically separated, forged an ardent opposition to Nazism and Fascism.

One of the main pillars of his book is Doherty’s exposition of the pro-active steps taken in order to counter the rise of anti-Semitism and Fascism. Opposition to Nazism from within the American film industry was an up-and-coming movement, which matured quickly after Hitler’s 1933 election to the Chancellery.

The movement wasn’t free of factionalism and fickle alliances. According to Doherty, shifting loyalties were brought about because of concerns raised with regards to the reach of Nazi propaganda and communism’s covert takeover of the Hollywood entertainment complex. Communists were involved in the Hollywood anti-Nazi League (HANL) movement. Consequently, some individuals within the movement became as much about quietly promoting Communism, as they did resisting Nazism. This narrowed diversity, as new factions split off and other groups, such as traditional Christians, were slowly purged from their place in the HANL movement. As Doherty shows, the biggest challenge for Communists was in maintaining a push towards Communist influence whilst keeping up the movement’s anti-Nazi; anti-Fascist agenda.

Doherty writes:

‘The Hollywood Anti-Nazi League’s rise, dominion and fall offer a case study in the merging of media and politics, celebrity status and social activism, and the ultimately irreconcilable marriage between starry-eyed liberalism and hard-nosed communism in the 1930s’ (p.100)

Hollywood & Hitler’ unpacks this subtle Communist overthrow of the Hollywood Anti-Nazi league. The primary factor for the ousting of Catholics and non-communists was the Spanish Civil war. As Doherty explains, the Spanish Civil had a complex political context. By proxy, Nazi Germany, Italy, and the Soviets were warring against each other.

The Spanish Civil war is a key feature under Doherty’s microscope. This is because it was the first conflict to be filmed, and shown to the public, close enough to real-time. Images flowed from the battlefront and were spilled out onto audiences through cinemas. The skills, process, procedure and art developed during these times, pioneered the way for film makers during World War Two.

Two compromises appear. First was the compromise of neutrality. Hollywood had a strong economic reason for working with the Germans and therefore a majority was against any boycotts of German goods[1]. Hollywood had to maintain neutrality wherever possible, in order to keep from directly enraging the Germans. Subsequently, Hollywood practiced a selective self-censorship of anything which displayed blatant opposition to the Nazis or Nazi ideology.

Second was a compromise of values and unity. One radical splinter of HANL, The Hollywood Popular Front, considered ‘neutrality the moral equivalent of lending aid and comfort to the enemy’ (p.161), such an extreme view alienated balanced reporters and compromised integrity. This was fueled further by a war between propaganda and ‘cinematic neutrality’ (p.171) over how the Spanish Civil war should be reported and retold[2].

Hollywood’s neutrality and its selective self-censorship[3] came under attack. Censorship and propaganda became the battlegrounds. Countering Nazi propaganda in films was an opportunity for the Popular Front to slip in Pro-Communist agitprop.  Simplifying the great length Doherty goes to in order to unpack this: there was an obvious tension between those who desired to push back against the evils of Nazism and those who wanted to do so by pushing the “virtues” of Communism. Not every member of NAHL was as starry-eyed about Communism as the Communists would have liked.

Doherty suggests that the ‘best explanation for the affinity of motion picture artists-actors and screenwriters [“Champaign communists”] especially-to an ideology counter to their economic self-interest [capitalism] was the respectful hearing according to them by the Communist Party of the USA. In Leninist doctrine[4], the artist stood among the vanguard elite, a cadre whose shining example would lead the benighted proletariat into the dawn of revolutionary enlightenment…the artist was the antenna of the revolutionary race-so much the better if he or she was a magnet for publicity and a donor with deep pockets.’ (p.114)

Doherty also points out the inconsistency of Hollywood’s Communists and their anti-Nazism. For example, the Soviet Molotov-Ribbentrop-pact with the Nazis caused the Communists in Hollywood to double-down on their anti-Nazi rhetoric. This dilemma didn’t just reveal the façade that hid Communism, but how (with a few exceptions) self-serving their loyalty to the anti-Nazi cause was.

For better or worse, the Hollywood anti-Nazi movement, birthed (the now common) political celebrity[5]. The success of pushing support for ideas and consumer products through well-known and trusted, voices and faces, became common practice. Even if the celebrity didn’t know much about what they were selling, the opportunity to do so was as risky as it was potentially lucrative[6].

In Doherty’s words, HANL resorted to reaching the masses using ‘the same “hypodermic needle” theory of mass communications propounded by Joseph Goebbels: Inject the message into a mass consciousness through repetition, simplicity, and raw emotion.’ (2013, p.106)

The process this followed was to ‘first, gain the individual’s sympathy for what he is about to learn and second, present the material in a way which reaches his or her personal interest and at the same time supplies the necessary facts to sustain the first emotional reaction.’ (ibid)

It wasn’t until later on that Hollywood gained enough room to move on to directly producing films that had an anti-Nazi theme. Worth noting is Doherty’s point on how far Hollywood has shifted since the 1930s. The industry reluctant to criticize Nazism, has built a thriving business[7] on Nazis as the arch-nemesis of all that is good, (and for good reason!).

The Nazis, in the moral universe of Hollywood are the equivalent of pure evil, ‘the Nazi-centric documentary and narrative feature film is cultural currency –rarely dropping in value, always a good investment’ (2013, p.371).

It’s curious, however, that Nazism’s not so distant cousin, Communism, moving freely behind the anti-Nazi platform[8], has largely been given a free ride.

Perhaps this is why Doherty concludes that,

‘The American Communists had never thought of the movie capital as a party mint, but Otto Katz (a communist agent) corrected the oversight. Theodore Draper, the historian of American communism who observed Katz work his magic, described him as “the international Communist huckster par excellence”…Katz sold communism to the wealthy Hollywood magnates by working on their bad social consciences until they were cringing with contrition. The complete religious and metaphysical desert in the mind of many in the motion picture colony made Katz’s game easier’ (pp.103-104).

Hollywood & Hitler’ is balanced and tactful. Doherty draws from a depth of well researched information, and has taken pains to avoid any statements that would lead to the charge of McCarthyism. While Doherty addresses the positive points surrounding the anti-Nazi/anti-fascist movement in Hollywood, he doesn’t gloss over the negatives. ‘Hollywood & Hitler’ is well written, surprising in its relevance and enjoyable to read.

With the increasing visibility of celebrity activists, voicing opinion after opinion against things that Hollywood dislikes and distances itself from, the facts presented by Doherty, prompt the reader to question whether Hollywood has become what it once took a firm stand against. Jim Carry’s recent supportive statements in favour of Socialism, and every Hollywood award ceremony since 2016 being saturated in irrational, venomous hatred for one of their own, American President, Donald Trump, (et.al) force the question: has the institution, which once valiantly fought the dragon, become one?


Notes & References

[1] This was because, ‘American Jews in the motion picture business warned that any boycott of German imports would only rebound to the grief of their kinsmen overseas.’ (p.179)

[2] ‘Like the rest of the Spanish Civil war documentaries, it was less a recruiting device for new converts than a ritual; exhibition for true believers’ (p.171) #greatquote

[3] From both Catholic and Jewish sections of the Entertainment community, see footnote #2 and Doherty’s discussion on the National League of Decency, pp.154 & 155: ‘the watchful eye of the Legion fell increasingly on any glimmer of communist influence in Hollywood Cinema.’

[4] The same is with Nazism. Doherty: ‘Unlike  the American government, whose policy toward creative expression was mainly benign neglect, the Nazis honored intellectuals and artists as avatars of Aryan culture…Talented filmmakers of good stock and reliable opinion were pampered; the rest were persecuted.’ (p.197)

[5] ‘In casting actors as activists, HANL was a farsighted pioneer.’ (p.113)

[6] This may be backfiring on Hollywood, where people, in a technological age start to see through the veneers and question why, who is selling what to whom.

[7] ‘In the digital age, the collection and repackaging of images of the Nazis remains a growth industry, sustaining documentary features, action films, and cable channels.’ (p.371)

[8] The Communist beachhead in Hollywood caused a split it, which created the far-left’s Popular Front, and the Catholic, National League of Decency (formed in 1934).

Doherty, T. 2013 Hollywood & Hitler: 1933-1939 Columbia University Press

Image credit: Columbia University Press

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Disclaimer: I received no remuneration of any kind for providing this review.

Six Strings

September 13, 2018 — Leave a comment

.

Rhythm Shoes

Broken blues

Wooden floors

Blackened halls

Five notes

Minor stairs

Strings and wood

Fred Astaire.

Fret board

Dancing

Fender,

Gibson

Debonair.

Octave jumping

Big band

Bouncing

It’s Jazz, man!

Climbing Chords

Inverted forms

Progression lords

Marshal stack

Leads unraveled

Fold back.

High hats

Brass cats

Tactical hits

Discordance

Rhyming scat;

this and that.

Bass walking

like it’s a living thing.

 water on a tin roof.

Eclectic,

smooth and hectic.

It’s jazz, man!


©Rod Lampard, 2018

Amazon’s ‘Jack Ryan’ is a fresh creative take on Tom Clancy’s, ‘Jack Ryan’ brand. The story has a standard structure. The plot is revealed as characters move from one crisis to the next. Each episode adds to the next, leading to the narrative’s conclusion.

Casting was on point. Actor John Krasinski (Jack Ryan) plays alongside Australian actress, Abbie Cornish (Doctor Cathy Mueller who takes up a “casual” romantic relationship with Ryan). Wendell Pierce (Robert Zane in Suits’) plays the role of James Greer. All three add to the series and its fresh creative take on Tom Clancy’s, ‘Jack Ryan’ brand. Amazon has been consistent in the temperaments of key personalities, making a deliberate emphasis on Ryan’s, Sherlock-like, ability to see what others don’t, his by-the-book-ethic, and the sage-know-to-pick-your-battles no nonsense Greer.

While Jack Ryan is still a CIA analyst, he’s only an entry level desk jockey. The witty discourse and gracious tension between Ryan and James Greer, has been retained. However, there’s a big difference in tone and the nature of each character’s back story. James Greer is no longer an Admiral. He is fluent in Arabic, and is a backslidden Muslim (he converted to Islam in order to marry his now estranged wife). In addition, Jack Ryan is a scar ridden Marine vet, who wrestles with post traumatic stress and deep regret.

One of the most interesting themes raised within the series is the use of drones against belligerent Islamists. Through a subplot the script writers insert an introspective narrative that is isolated from the main storyline. This subplot explores the relationship and impact of drone strikes on pilots, and their targets. The subplot screenplay is exaggerated in order to make a point. Nevertheless, it presents an interesting talking point about the cost and justification for drone warfare; the unpredictable presence of drones and how that compares to the unpredictable presence of suicide bombers. The threat of a drone attack, anywhere and everywhere, might be a necessary deterrent to people who make the West their enemy[1].

One of the most noticeable aspects of Amazon’s ‘Jack Ryan’ series is the transformation of James Greer. Greer has been politically sanitized. Rewriting Greer as a convert to Islam and removing him from his key role in the United States Navy “liberates” him from the American military industrial complex. Add to this the noticeable anti-American statements in the dialogue of both protagonists and antagonists; the anti-American lens is visible and provocative. The take away impression is that Greer is a disgruntled CIA officer, who’s patriotism is first to himself, and secondly to Islam.

While many may applaud the subtle promotion of Islam as “the religion of peace”, some may take issue with how the screenwriters have not just demoted, but removed a beloved African-American character from his position in Ryan lore. Greer, no longer being an Admiral, is one of the major drawbacks of the series, and is, in my opinion, a serious flaw in the redesigning of the ‘Jack Ryan’ universe. Though, Wendell Pierce plays Greer well, his task isn’t easy. Greer has been robbed of his cautious patriotism, pro-American dedication and high position of authority, as drawn out by James Earl Jones in ‘Hunt for Red October’, ‘Patriot Games’ and ‘Clear & Present Danger’.

The less generous and more astute Western viewer wouldn’t be entirely wrong to see Amazon’s remake as outright propaganda against an alleged Islamophobia in the West. If standing against fundamentalism and prejudice was one the hidden aims of the ‘Jack Ryan’ series, this revision of Greer raises questions about what Amazon was thinking when it decided on fundamentally changing James Greer. If “racism” was a core issue being discussed, why was an African-American character removed from his privileged and respected position within the ‘Jack Ryan’ universe? Was Tom Clancy’s, Greer not worthy enough, or simply not minority enough?[2]

On the whole, Amazon Prime’s ‘Jack Ryan’ has the makings of a decent series. The cast is on point and the crux of Clancy’s brand remains intact. The storyline is engaging and for the more discerning, the ideological lens can be easily filtered out. Audiences are patient and will be generous in how the series takes Greer from a sharp minded naval veteran and Western patriot to a conflicted, weary American, who is committed to himself first and Islam second. Unfortunately, the compromises and revisionism may sabotage the shows future as it further alienates an audience, already growing tired of being bullied and misrepresented by Hollywood. An audience fed up with being force-fed conformism, through Hollywood’s self-styled piety, anti-Trumpism, appeasement of modern liberalism, and the sugar-coated half-truths and lies which tend to go along with it.

Furthermore Amazon’s ‘Jack Ryan’ seems to provide further proof that parts of the West are funding their own cultural suicide[3]. The series tip toes around serious concerns of many in the West. This is displayed in one episode, when those concerns are dismissed and discounted as “racism” by Greer. It’s for this reason that season one comes across as apologetic towards Islam, and in parts, hostile towards the West. The series stumbles drunkenly between speaking truthfully about Islam and promoting popular myths, such as perpetuating the idea that Islam is a race, that Islam is completely compatible with healthy Western values, that Islam is “the religion of peace”, and that the fault with Islam lies with fundamentalists (both external and internal), who are out to taint, abuse or misuse its ideology.

I’m keen for the next series, love the cast, but was disappointed and frustrated at what can only be described as Amazon’s (if not the screen writer’s) own strange case of Stockholm syndrome. While the crux of Clancy’s brand remains intact, Tom Clancy’s, ‘Jack Ryan’ has been rebranded by Amazon to be more palate worthy to an oppressive politically correct culture. Season one is pro-Islam, and in parts anti-American. It’s narrative and dialogue may only alienate a large majority of Clancy’s fan, forcing them to tune out and become entrenched in the very thing the show’s creators may have been trying to address. Season two looks set to involve Russia. Given the political climate in Hollywood since November,  2016, one can only hope that when it comes to the screen play, plot and storyline, cooler heads will prevail.

 


Notes:

[1] Just as society doesn’t know where or when a fifth column of Islamists might blow themselves or others up, Islamists don’t know where a drone will pop up next to them

[2] Has Amazon sold James Greer off; using the character to sell an idea of Islam that differs from the reality?

[3] Season one comes across as too anti-American. The screenwriters seem to have done their best to be sympathetic towards Islam, for fear of offending Muslims, while being inconsiderate of its Western audience. Islam is treated like a victim of oppression from fundamentalists[3] in the West and fundamentalists within its own ranks. There’s an impression that the screen writers are seeking to lull people into a false sense of security in its pointless attempt to separate political Islam and Islamic ideology from “the religion of peace”.

Karl Barth is viewed by many as being one of the 20th Century’s most important theologians.The chief reason for this is the renewed focus on Jesus Christ that he brought back into all aspects of theology. Barth’s approach to Jesus Christ and the Bible, involved letting Jesus Christ and the Bible approach him. He “let the Bible speak for itself.”

I see a great deal of humility and joy in that approach. Not only do I aim to savour every bit of time I set aside to read Barth, I aim to let Barth’s approach to theology be an example, which I can borrow from in my own journey towards an ever maturing theological education.

So it’s with some reluctance that I outline and seek to explain my three core criticisms of Karl Barth. From the outset it’s important to point out that these criticisms are not in regards to persevered contradictions in his theological conclusions. The goal here is to work from the ground up, covering aspects of his work which provide certain difficulties for his students today.

My first criticism of Karl Barth is his extramarital affair with his secretary and primary researcher, Charlotte Von Kirschbaum.  Second is his reluctance to criticise the brutal nature of Communism and third is the question about whether Barth did enough to avoid his work descending into a closed community; a kind of pious and esoteric, Barthian social club.

My first criticism is straight forward. Barth found himself between two loving women, but he crossed lines. This was something his family was silent about, until recently, when they opened up access to correspondence between Karl, Nelly (Karl Barth’s wife and mother to his five children) and Charlotte (his secretary/fellow researcher and theologian in her own right). Up until this time, Barth’s extramarital affair had been quietly mentioned by biographers, but was always footnoted as conjecture.

The positive take away from their letters is that they show Nelly Barth, hurt, but still shining the light of Christ through her reactions and responses. Nelly presents an example of resilience, determination and faith in difficult and trying circumstances.

In addition, Karl Barth wrestled with his situation and choices. He never publicly boasted about his relationship with Charlotte. The extramarital relationship reminds us that Karl Barth was just a man. He was susceptible to the same issues as every other man, no matter how great they are. As others have pointed out, his own theology speaks it’s own criticism of his decisions. He wrestled within himself and with his own theology. Any accusation Barth used his theology to justify his spousal abuse is inconsistent with what is encountered in Barth’s words and work. What we encounter is a man who was constantly confronted by the contradiction between his own theology and the consequences that stemmed from the decisions he made. None of this, however, removes Karl Barth from being accountable for engaging in a relationship that he would have known was a betrayal of his wife, Nelly.

My second criticism is not so straight forward. Barth was an outspoken anti-Nazi theologian. So much so that he was deported from Germany for refusing to take the Hitler oath, unless changes were made, whereby the ideology and its leader were not deified. Unfortunately, when it came to Communism, Barth refused to show the same fierce consistency. He is silent about Marxist killing fields in Asia, and about its oppressive totalitarian rule in Eastern Europe.

Two possible reasons exist for this. Reason number one was Barth’s age and circumstances. He wasn’t in the position he was in when living in Nazi Germany; being a lot older he probably considered the fight against Communist terror to be well covered and didn’t want to lend support to an ever-increasing hysteria or phobia of the Russian people. If that protest is well established and achieving its goals, why add your voice to the “howling of wolves”? To do so would have been more about self-promotion, than promoting awareness about the suffering of others.

Reason number two is the possibility that Barth figured his theological statements and work, would stand for itself as a restrained critique of Marxism. In view of Church Dogmatics 3:2, it’s probable that Barth saw his theology, particularly his “Nein” to natural theology, as being also an inherent nein to Marxism. Barth’s anthropological theology in 3:2 contains a subtle rejection of Marxism’s deification of class war, social division, the state, subjugation of theology (into the service of an ideology), the reign of terror and potential global reign of terror attached to it.

One example of many is this statement which is contra to Marxist historical materialism/determinism:

‘Man & woman’s historical determination is that God wills to be with them and they with God.’
(Karl Barth, CD. 3:2:427)

It’s naïve to suggest that Barth was simply ignorant of the oppression and violence faced by those living under Marxist rule. Just as naïve would be the assumption that Barth did know, but simply brushed it off as a “capitalist conspiracy.” While it’s possible that Barth took the same approach as the French Communists in their denial of Gulags, purges and the fear of the Cheka, it’s unlikely that Barth was so deliberately dismissive.

Equally unlikely is the implication which stems from this, that suggests Barth was dedicated to protecting a political party and its toxic ideological platform. Although Barth refusing to ”howl with the wolves”, was him simply refusing to add to the hysteria of the mob, his absence from genuine criticisms of the crimes of communism is inconsistent with his stand against Nazism.

My third criticism is split between Barth and his students. On Barth’s side, there’s an effort to detach himself from becoming an idol, but did he do enough to avoid people reading his work before the Bible? On the student’s side there’s a tendency to idolise Barth and turn his theology into a rigid systematic method; or support a rigid oppressive system[1], rather than view Barth’s theology as a helpful travelling companion[2].

Trying to grasp Barth’s theology is like to trying to hold water in cupped hands. The water can’t be easily grasped, and is even harder to hold. This lends itself to explain the problem when people try to build their own systems around Barth’s theology. The biggest example of this is found in what I would call a pompous, Barthian Gnosticism.

Whilst this definition is not definitive, it’s the best description I can find for the closed community, which has built up a dam like castle from which ordinary people are prevented access. Barth is only reachable for an elect few. Everyone else is doomed to hearing Barth through their lens, or the lens of their choosing. Consequently, we hear more from theological journalists, than we hear from Barth.

Whether intended or not, there are ‘towers of Babel’ built up around Barth[3]. Like the not so easy to grasp Church Dogmatics, it’s difficult to contribute or participate in a Barthian realm. The tower is defended by those who often proudly identify ideologically as “Leftists or progressives”.Some of whom are are “privileged”, Ivy League scholars, who tend to blurr the line between Karl Barth and Karl Marx; as they take to the perch of Marxism to preach a kind of Barthian social gospel[4]. Anyone with a different view is viewed as a threat, and the offender is subsequently dealt with.

Hence the pompous Gnostic nature of the closed community, they only let in those who choose to conform to the agreed upon special knowledge they might claim to have found in Barthian theology, or become subservient to the prevailing ideology that is built up around it. For this elect few, knowledge of Karl Barth is special, and only available to those deemed worthy of being able to hold it. Therefore it’s perceived to be a given that a conservative cannot be a Barthian, but a Barthian must be a progressive or a socialist[5].

The Socialist hold on Karl Barth comes from the fact that he was a member of the Social Democrats. Another part of this socialist hold on Karl Barth is that he was called the “Red Pastor” during his ten-year tenure as Pastor in Safenwil. However, he wasn’t a sold out fan. He distanced himself from the rhetoric and movement[6]; and “Red Pastor” was fed partly by suspicion, partly by frustration, but is mostly sarcasm. This is to be taken more cum grano salis, than as a literal description of Karl Barth’s political and ideological allegiances. The title “Red Pastor”, to my knowledge, was a title that Barth never wore with pride, let alone promoted or wanted promoted.

Herein rests the crux of my criticism. If this socialist cementing of Karl Barth as a Marxist hero goes unanswered, he will become more unreachable for the average lay person. The closed community that surrounds Barth is under lock and key. Like the hysterical hounding[7] which surrounded Eric Metaxas’ biography of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, access to Barth would be denied to the “working class”.  Metaxas, a conservative, entered a modern liberal world, and invited the masses to hear about an important historical figure. It was more Metaxas’ conservatism than the content of his book, which led largely left leaning academics to reject it. It seems that only those with permission from Leftist academics, and who can prove that they have the “correct” political leanings, can comment on or write about subjects that Leftist academics think they own, or have been granted a kind of divine special knowledge about.

There are a few exceptions to the rule, but this similar lens is applied to Barth. His works and words are encapsulated in a kind of sacred Leftist packaging. Everything which differs from the political narrative built up and forced onto Barth is downplayed, mocked or rejected.The perpetual Marxist war between an “us & them” ejects conciliation, as it propels the elect few into rejecting-without-just-cause all opposing viewpoints from anyone outside the socialist paradigm. Without examination, opposing viewpoints are met with suspicion written off as tainted, ignorant or worse. The exceptions to this include some more of balanced aspects of Princeton’s Centre for Barth Studies, authors such as John Webster, Daniel Migliore, Ebherhard Busch, Frank Jehle, and the Social Media site Karl Barth for Dummies.

The impression I received when trying to engage in the Barth community is that the elect few read Barth, and cheer others on, as long as the material justifies their own ideological positions. They take ownership of Barth and become guardians of a mythos[8] that the closed community has built around him and his theology. This is something Barth refused to cede to the conservative evangelicals of his day. I believe he would be of the same mind, with regards to socialists and progressives today.

In conclusion, it was with some reluctance that I set out to explain three core criticisms of Karl Barth. These criticisms are core concerns that function as a guide post on how to navigate a community closed to foreigners[9] and theological orphans. These three criticisms include the disconnection between parts of Barth’s theology and his life choices. The sole example of this was Barth’s extramarital relationship with Charlotte Von Kirschbaum. Secondly, I made a point of criticism about his silence when it came to the crimes of communism and the suffering of those who live under its regimes. The third criticism is that Barth didn’t intend to create a Barthian school, and discouraged others from creating one, but unfortunately, his silence about communism seems to have worked against this goal. He might have refused to be owned by any faction[10], but a faction has risen in his name all the same. This shows that Barth was either too trusting or didn’t adequately anticipate the cult like movement that would use him, and his theology, to promote a utopian ideology responsible for the oppression, death and suffering of millions.


Notes & References:

[1] Examples include: moralism and Marxism (which is, in praxis, a form of moralism in and of itself)

[2] (Think of the jovial Friar Tuck, flawed Father Mulcahy and the gracious, but assertive paternal voice of Gandalf.)

[3] This is a tiresome subject and is wrought with holes. Nothing is clear cut, because there are overlaps. This said, for anyone looking to engage in the community of theologians who read Barth, they will come up against a closed community; one that resembles a pious and esoteric social club.

[4] I will agree that Barth uses a lot of the similar language of Marx. I would not agree that a person needs to be an expert on Marx, to properly understand Barth. Barth was a product of his age. This doesn’t mean his theology itself is written through the lens of Marxism – “us & them” – there is a clear difference. For Barth it’s “God & us” and the unbridgeable divide between proletariat and bourgeoisie in Marx, is for Barth the qualitative distinction “God is God and we are not”. Although other examples exist, the distinction made here between Marx and Barth could not be any clearer.

[5] I consider myself neither a conservative nor a progressive. I would only own the statement that I currently share in the concerns that conservatives have about the direction of Western society and everything in between.

[6] As in Barth refused to be a poster boy, much to the dismay and frustration of many who were Social Democrats.

[7] It’s interesting to note that this was before Trump was elected, but has the same ungracious “resistance” and hate attached to it.

[8] A set of assumptions and beliefs.

[9] Those who hold an opposing view or are seen as different and unacceptable because of their ideological/political leanings.

[10] Placing his profile, as some have done, on a red background next to the Bolshevik leader Lenin, and the like, can be nothing other than a brutal betrayal of Barth.

* ‘Bureaucracy is the encounter of the blind with those whom they treat as blind…It is not the man who works in the bureau, for to some extent we all have to do this, but the bureaucrat who is always inhuman.’ (CD. 3:2:252)

** ‘Those who try to fight the Gospel always make caricatures, and they are often forced to fight these caricatures. Nietzsche’s own (and not all that original), was to equate Christianity with Socialist teaching.’ (CD 3:2:242)

*** ‘Marxism with its exclusively economic view of human affairs and all the theoretical and practical consequences, is a violation of history which in its way is no less bad than [the social Darwinism] which Haeckel and his associates imposed on human nature.’ (CD:3:2:386-389)

**** ‘The New Testament does not look for an amelioration of present conditions or for an ideal state, but for the coming of the Lord – Maranatha.’ (CD.3:2:486-487)

**** ‘Man can owe no creature what he owes to God – himself in his totality. Nothing [created] can claim from humanity, servitude. When a created thing imposes this demand on man, and when man recognises the demand, we have nothing but the invalid claim of false gods. No created thing can substantiate the Creator’s right over [what and who He created].’ (CD.3:2:414)

Header image credit: Zulmaury Saavedra on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Jacques Ellul’s books have moved up on my ladder of reading priorities with an ever increasing pace. My acquaintance with his work began last year when, after reading Roger Scruton’s, ‘The West & The Rest’, I was prompted to dig further into the relationship between Islam and Judeo-Christianity. From there, I’ve continued to casually seek out Ellul’s work and study it. Since I voluntarily publish a lot of discoveries, and discuss their impact on my own theological study here, I thought it appropriate to introduce Jacques Ellul and explain my interest in his work.

Ellul was a student of Karl Barth[1]. This discovery was a bonus and it’s padded the desire to explore Ellul’s work. Out of particular interest is finding the point of contact between Ellul and Barth. (Political theology is ground zero, but the topic is large and best left for an essay solely dedicated to the subject.)

Ellul was a French theologian. He majored in philosophy and made a career out of lecturing on Marxism.

He was once involved in the French resistance, but unlike the equally fantastic breakaways from the Left, such as Simone Weil and Albert Camus, Ellul never appears to have been granted the same status (read: given the same time of day) by the predominantly Leftist French and Western academy.

I gather that the reasons for this dismissal come down to the fact that Ellul was a critic of Islam and wasn’t a Marxist[i]. In addition to this, he took orthodox Christian theology seriously.  Ellul wasn’t without his own criticisms of the institutional church or Christendom, but he never abandoned Jesus Christ for Karl Marx. The content and response to his works ‘Islam and Judeo-Christianity: A Critique of their Commonality’ and ‘Jesus & Marx: from theology to ideology’, present evidence of this.

Ellul worked with the understanding that every human, even if that man or woman wasn’t aware of it, has a theological viewpoint. Whether a person is agnostic or atheist, both hold to theological conclusions about the world around us, within us and beyond us.

For many, those conclusions are usually arrived at via loose information and deliberate misinformation. They have some basic knowledge of Christian theology, but this knowledge is limited, and often built on fragments, gossip or whatever ideological lens they’ve been taught is superior to all the rest.

Elluls work, so far as I’ve deciphered, sought to engage that inherent theological knowledge in conversation with relevant topics. So much so, that under the microscope placed over contemporary Western politics, it’s tempting to look at a good portion of his subject matter and consider it prophetic.  However, like Karl Barth, Ellul, was no prophet and so it’s a temptation that proves to be an unhelpful trivial speculative distraction.

Whilst Ellul took orthodox Christianity seriously, he wasn’t someone who was absorbed by any particular Protestant denomination. He wasn’t a puppet of the Left, nor a product of conservatives or sectarian dogma. He lived out his faith, and applied the science of dogmatics to his own theological viewpoints. Living out what he termed, Christian anarchism[ii], Ellul came to his own conclusions based on the bible and a working dogmatics.

As David W. Gill’s, (President of the I.J.E.S[2]), recent lecture pointed out,

‘Ellul was of the view that “we must come to Scripture asking “what does God wish to say to us through these texts? He insisted [as did Karl Barth] that the Bible should be read with Jesus [the revelation of God] at the Center. Any separation of a text from the totality of God’s revelation will inevitably cause us to distort the Bible.” (Gill, 2018. Words parenthesis are mine)

According to Gill,

‘the grounding of Ellul’s conversion was in reading Scripture. One day at the age of twenty-two, Ellul was reading the Bible, and “it happened-with a certain brutality.” Not a sermon in a church, not a celebration of the sacraments, not a mystical vision, bu the private reading of the Bible was decisive in Ellul’s decision to become a Christian.’ (Ibid, 2018)

Ellul wasn’t a blind follower of high-minded Biblical Criticism. Gill reports that Ellul ‘took biblical scholarship including historical criticism seriously, but was feisty in challenging its excesses’[3]:

  “I fail to see the justification for accepting as legitimate all the questions about the revelation while at the same time refusing to question those systems, methods, and conclusions from the point of view of Revelation.” (Jacques Ellul, Hope in the Time of Abandonment).

Gill concludes his lecture with two main areas of consideration for those being introduced to Ellul. First, not everyone will agree with Elull’s theology. Second, one area we will agree on is ‘one of Ellul’s most powerful points about the Bible: let it put us in question rather than for us to constantly put it in question.’ (Gill, 2018)

It’s here that Jacques Elull first finds some shared ground with Karl Barth. As a result, I’m keen to read more.

I think that Jacques Ellul picks up where Barth stopped (had to stop]). I wouldn’t go as far to say that Ellul finished what Barth started, only that, from what I’ve read so far, Ellul gives Thomas Torrance some serious competition for the top spot as Barth’s successor.


Notes & References:

[1] ‘After his conversion, Ellul was drawn to the Reformed Church and to the theology of Karl Barth.’ (David.W Gill, Scripture & Word In Ellul’s Writings, 2018)

[2] International Jacques Ellul Society

[3] Ibid, 2018

[i] This is a tentative conclusion I base squarely on Roger Scruton’s tenacious and meticulous research about the French and Western Academy in, ‘Fools, Frauds and Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left, 2015’.

[ii] At this point, Christian Anarchism is where I depart from Ellul. I need to read more about what he thinks Christian Anarchism is. His chapter in ‘Jesus & Marx’, whilst it explains some of his ideas about Christian Anarchism, I’m yet to be convinced that it’s a good thing.

Gill, D.W. 2018 Scripture & Word in Ellul’s Writings, IJES Conference, Vancouver BC Canada (Sourced 3rd July 2018 from http://ellul.org/wp-content/uploads/2018/06/Scripture-and-Word-in-Ellul%E2%80%99s-Writings.pdf)

Parents can tend to place their kids on a pedestal.

It’s not that children take the place of God nor that parents deify their children. The pedestal is more akin to that of an illusion; a fog of false security which assumes our children are perfect, and if not perfect, at least better than we are.

In sum: without sin.

Of course, parents know deep down that it’s naïve to think children are excluded from a sinful world.

We know by our own childhood and teenage years that they aren’t. Those years teach us that we shouldn’t be complacent in thinking that our children are not prone to the affects of sin, in the same way that we are, and once were.

The condition of the human heart, as described by Jeremiah 17:9, says that we can expect ‘the human heart [to be] deceitful above all things’. This goes right back to the retro-prophetic witness in Genesis, whereby the archetypal humans, together as male and female, through temptation, broke humanity and at the same time, broke fellowship with God.

In the beginning was God and relationship with God. This relationship was initiated by God and nurtured by boundaries. By breaching those boundaries, man and woman broke fellowship with God. Having already outlined the consequences, God brings humanity to account: “Where are you? Why are you hiding? What have you done?” (Gen.3:8-13).

In a great act of love, God punishes the serpent, makes clothes for the man and woman (Gen. 3:21), then removes them from the Garden. Where, if they were to remain and eat of the second tree (the fruit of the tree of life), as they had the tree of the knowledge of good and evil, death – this break with God; its lifeless godlessness; the nothingness of the abyss[i] – would be forever.

The cherubim and flaming sword (Gen.324) are set in place to save humanity from the condition they now find themselves in. God doesn’t cut and run. He sees the consequences and redefines the relationship. He removes them from the Garden, but not from His fellowship. For ‘God does not flee to man for refuge – man flees to God and lives by God’s grace’ (Barth, p.187).

By removing man and woman from the Garden, God removes them from their own destruction. That God does this proves His love for His creature. He doesn’t separate the man from the woman. Any separation of male from female; man from woman, at God’s command, or any others, would bring about the same thing that God is protecting humanity from – its own absolute and final self-annihilation.

By choosing to help them, in the midst of God’s judgement, we see His wisdom and mercy. This decision helped humanity, it was never about depriving or hurting humanity.

God never stops being graceful, merciful or just. This is who He is. No where greater is this seen than in the constant care God shows towards His people, through His people, and with decisive finality, in His son. In Jesus Christ, the entire world sees His glory. Jesus Christ is God revealed; God in revolt against the disorder of the world. God, the light of the world, pushing back against eternal darkness; against the potential forever of lifeless godlessness, and the nothingness of the abyss.[1]

By choosing to help us, we see wisdom and mercy, in the midst of God’s judgement.

‘sin means that man [and woman] is lost to themselves, but not to their Creator’. That ‘true freedom is in the act of responsibility before God […] it is never the freedom to sin’ (Barth, pp.196-197)

Contrary to God’s parenting style, parents can tend to place their kids on a pedestal. One indication that we might have put ourselves, or our children, on a pedestal is thinking that “our kids can do now wrong”. This is dangerous because the pedestal is high. The inevitable falling-off can lead to a serious falling-out between mum, dad and children. One way that we can remove ourselves and our children from that pedestal, is by acknowledging human limitations.

It stands as a well established fact, that parents are limited in being able to protect their child from the consequences of their child’s rejection of parental advice or poor decisions. We cannot wrap children in cotton wool, nor completely protect them from the affects of a sinful world.

As much as parents may want it to be different, Children are not excluded from a sinful world. As much as parents fight for their kids; teach or desire to walk with them. Just as the archetypal humans did, children may choose to walk away. They will choose not to listen to advice. They will choose to run too fast on a slippery floor, deceive from time to time, and be reckless with a knife, boiling water or worse. When these things happen, the pedestal shatters and the child comes crashing down.

Parenting then is not about pedestals, but about recovery, joy and improvisation! Being there to nurture, correct, create with, love and empower those entrusted by God into our care. Giving a firm “yes” and loving “no”, and allowing wisdom and mercy to inform when to give them.

God has no grandchildren; just as we are children, our children are God’s children. Therefore, parents are caretakers (Gen.2:15). We are given a great gift, and entrusted with the ‘training up a child in the way he should go; [so] even when he is old he will not depart from it’ (Proverbs 22:6). .

Parenting is a gift. There can be no pedestal for us or for them. There can only be protest and petition. Protest for them against the disorder of the world [ii]; prayer for them, as they walk with God against it and all that sets out to destroy them.

Ultimately, parenting is receiving what God has to teach us. Learning what God has done for us. Learning from what God does and will have us do, then doing our best to walk in that; to help pick up the pieces of our children’s poor decisions, when they make them; to pray like breathing [iii], to ‘love justice, love mercy, [and together], walk humbly with our God’ (Micah 6:8).


References & Notes:

Barth, K. 1960. Church Dogmatics III/2 Hendrickson Publishers

[1] ‘With the creation of woman God expected man to confirm and maintain his true humanity by the exclusion of every other possibility [of a partner].’ (Karl Barth CD. 3:1, 1958 p.294) ; ‘Every supposed humanity which is not radically and from the very first fellow-humanity is inhumanity’ (CD. 3:2, p.228)

[i] As are the terms given to this breach by Karl Barth & Dietrich Bonhoeffer

[ii] I’m adopting Karl Barth’s phrase: ‘Prayer is a revolt against the disorder of the world’ from CD Fragments IV:4 

[ii] because to pray is to act. Prayer is action. Prayer is not stoic detachment.

‘far be it from me that I should sin against the Lord by ceasing to pray to you, and I will instruct you the good and the right way.’ (Samuel’s “Parenting Speech” 1 Samuel 12:20-25)

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Photo credit: Liane Metzler on Unsplash