In the recent Royal Wedding, the sermon Bishop Michael Curry preached, walked a fine line. Although his message was hampered by it, the message he delivered wasn’t riddled with the social gospel, nor did it replace Jesus as the Gospel.[i]

While I make note of the fact that Michael Curry has no problem with Same-Sex marriage, and I stand in difference of opinion with him on this matter, I take no issue with him here because of it. What I will aim to take issue with is the ideological reasoning that hampers the interpretation of what was espoused by Curry in his sermon.

Other than witnessing his obvious joy in being there, the highlight for me was his emphasis on God’s redemptive love – which is the essential framework of the Gospel. Curry preached that God’s redemptive love is what saves and transforms. Curry was right to centre his message on this.

Curry could have, however, made a clearer distinction between God’s love and human love, thereby avoiding any blurring of the qualitative distinction between God and humanity.

Hence there are caveats to how we should receive, and why we should test the message Michael Curry delivered.

The first caveat is to keep in mind that God’s love cannot be confused with human definitions of love. God communicates to us about love. It is received and up to us to respond to that Word spoken in both God’s command and deed. Second, love cannot define itself whether from the ground up or horizontally between two people, and, third, we must not deify our neighbour by confusing our love for God, with our love for others. A relationship exists between the two, but ‘they are not identical’ (Karl Barth)[ii].

The side point to this is that we must and should maintain a distance between human triumphalism (a display of self-centred – self-sustaining human pride), and God’s free and decisive triumph on our behalf (display of His love which included His humiliation), in Jesus Christ[iii].

In Jesus Christ, God made a way for man and woman, together[iv], to be with Him[v]. This is God’s redemptive love; that He should become one of us to do for us, what we were unable to do for ourselves. Usurping this only entertains the great primal evil that set primitive humanity on its path to total self-annihilation in the first place. As Curry pointed out, God paid the price for our sins.

Tyranny enters the door where man and woman look to themselves, or nature for a redeeming love – a revelation of love – outside God’s redeeming love – His loving act on behalf of creation, as activated and active, in both Covenant and His revelation in Jesus Christ. Love cannot transform anything without the Holiness of God’s grace.

Looking for redeeming love outside God was the great crime of the majority of Christians in Germany, who, in the 1930s, led astray by natural theology, looked to Hitler as a second revelation of God. An heretical toxicity epitomised in the 1935 film ,’Triumph of the Will’ by Nazi sympathizer, Leni Riefenstahl.

The triumph of God is counter to any and all human triumphalism, because the latter seeks to place man on God’s throne and take His power for ourselves. This is a futile attempt to take the Kingdom and boot God out of it. While we can reject God, we cannot reverse what God has already done – atonement for sin; reconciliation with God, salvation. Nor can we reject God without facing the consequences of rejecting His grace towards us. God triumphant means that human triumph exists only in and through God’s triumph[vi].The Moon cannot produce life, the way that the Sun can.

Double-standards and hypocrisy are inconsistent with love. True love walks hand-in-hand with self-limitation; grace with self-denial. Ergo, pride is the enemy of grace.

Take, for example, the many who in 2016 were quick to make a sordid equivalence between American Evangelical support for Donald Trump, and the support of German Christians for Hitler. They failed to show patience (love) and grace, and in turn failed (and still fail) to see the “German Christian” equivalence of their own support for altars draped in rainbow flags; the misuse of Scripture employed to fortify an ideology, the imposition of new cultural laws, the banning of books with the same fierce fanaticism as when ‘student groups at universities across Germany carried out a series of book burnings of works that the students and leading Nazi party members associated with an “un-German spirit.”[vii]; both professional and public punishment for anyone who doesn’t fall in agreement with the party-line.

If we’re to follow the example of Martin Luther King Jnr, as quoted by Michael Curry, those who unreasonably hate on Donald Trump,  should be asking themselves, do these words apply to my treatment of the President of the United States? Yet, how many instead thought to themselves “gee, all these rich people – especially Trump, SOOOO need to hear this!! #resist“? Even if Trump has, how many asking this latter question have failed to practice love for God and love for neighbour?

It’s only through God’s love that we come to see ourselves as equals; equally a sinner in the hands of a loving God, who seeks not the death of the sinner, but his and her correction, through both His firm “yes” and gracious “no” to them.

These caveats apply to both those who are criticising and praising Michael Curry. Removing love from the context of God’s redemptive love removes the context of love from its rightful place. To leave out God; thus ejecting the theology of his talk about love, rips the heart out of the message. Akin to the same poor decision of screenwriters, who decided that their silver-screen adaptation of P.D James’, ‘Children of Men, didn’t need the theological backbone, which held her brilliant dystopian novel together. What is left is an empty shell, with the same lame laughable substance as is found in ‘Idiocracy’.

In sum, God is at the centre of love because God is love.  Curry could have been more careful with his words, so as to avoid God’s redemptive love being misinterpreted as man’s redemptive love; so as to avoid sound bites being used to fortify an ideology that theology doesn’t fortify, but in fact confronts.

That, God is at the centre of salvation, means that God is the centre of redemptive love. Love alone doesn’t save us, the Creator acting in love towards his creature does. Man is ultimately not capable of redemption by his own means – love therefore does not save us unless it is anchored in God’s love (loving act) for us; we can’t save ourselves. Just as much as we cannot undo what God has done for us, even though his decisive act (for us) can be and is rejected by man and woman.

If I were to give an imediate response to Michael Curry’s choice of sermon, preached at the wedding of Prince Harry and Megan Markle, I would be tempted to view it as heretical. Cultural Marxist LGBT activism preached from the pulpit and not the Gospel. I won’t say that because what Curry preached wasn’t a ”love is love” sermon.

I liked Michael Curry’s sermon because of the emphasis on God’s redemptive love. Curry did what he does, and preached from the ideological stronghold that frames his theology, no one should be surprised by it. To his credit, Curry didn’t abuse his platform, when so many others who are chained by the prevailing ideology might have. The sermon certainly had all the buzzwords that the Left love to talk about[vii]. Ideas that they cannot properly define or impose, without either devouring each other, or inhumanely and unjustly breaking with God’s redemptive love, in order to achieve their own version of it.  Thus, Michael Curry’s sermon comes with necessary caveats.

In the end this event wasn’t about Michael Curry, or his sermon. It was about the joining together of the (now) Duke and Duchess of Sussex, Harry and Meghan Windsor. It was a celebration of freedom in fellowship between man and woman; where man and woman become husband and wife. In an age where that is being regularly attacked, we shouldn’t lose sight of the forest for the trees.

Congratulations to the Royal newly weds.

Addendum:

I left out addressing Michael Curry’s “we need to discover love, like we did fire”, because it’s an whole other post: a) that’s nuts – Love already exists b) if anything Love needs to be rediscovered, and reasserted, not redefined c) the hidden presupposition behind his fire rant, is that “LGBT love” is the only real love that exists – e.g.: the false notion that prior to SSM, love didn’t really exist (which is complete nonsense) d) this is snare because love is love is essentially a lie.


References, not otherwise linked:

[i]  I’ve written about the problem with the asinine “love is love” slogan, here; and I’ve painstakingly pointed out the tyranny of ideology once it muzzles theological critique, here. So I see no need to restate myself outside reaffirming my commitment to what I’d publicly addressed on the subject since 2014.

[ii] Barth, K. 1960 Jesus, Man for Other Men, C.D. 3:2 p.216 (see also C.D. 1:2 pp, 388-454)

[iii] Barth: ‘Where humanity stands only to gain, God stands only to lose. And because the eternal divine decision (predestination) is identified with the election of Jesus Christ, its twofold content is that God wills to lose in order that man and woman may gain. There is a sure and certain salvation for humanity, and a sure and certain risk for God.’ (The election of Jesus Christ, ,CD II/II:162)

[iv] Barth: ‘In introducing the creation of woman, [God] did not put woman on the same level as the animals. He ascribed to her in advance the highest humanity…from the very outset solitary man is denied every other possibility of an appropriate helpmeet (partner). With the creation of woman, God expected man to confirm and maintain his true humanity by the exclusion of every other possibility. [True humanity is lived out, man for woman, woman for man]’  (Karl Barth, Creation & Covenant C.D 3:1:294)

[v] Barth: ‘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].’ (CD. 3:1 p.294)

[vi] John Calvin: ‘Any man or woman [in the Church or any who claim to be in/of the Church] who enthusiastically praises themselves is a fool and an idiot. The true foundation of Christian modesty is not to be self-complacent. [As Cyprian said, we have because God gives. We must not glory in anything, because God is the source of everything.]’ (On 1 Corinthians 4. The words in parenthesis are my paraphrased version).

[vii] 1933 Book Burnings, United States Holocaust Museum sourced, May 21, 2018 from https://www.ushmm.org/collections/bibliography/1933-book-burnings

[viii] liberation, “love” and power.

Photo credit: Andrew Seaman on Unsplash

No doubt you’ve seen this ”share ten albums that had a big impact on you” going around social media. I received a nomination on Facebook from an old friend. Rather than spam my social media walls, I decided to post, and share the list here. This list isn’t definitive, but if I was to give a quick answer as to what were my top ten albums, these would feature heavy in that kind of a discussion.

So, here goes:

“Ten of my all time favourite albums. What really made an impact, and is still on my rotation list, even if only now and then. Post the cover, no need to explain, and nominate a person each day to do the same.” I nominate, guitarist, and talented illustrator extraordinaire, Mr. Frank Grau.

1. Guardian – ‘Miracle Mile’, 1993

2. Guns N’ Roses – ‘Use Your Illusion I & II‘, 1991

3. Metallica – ‘Metallica (Black Album)‘, 1991

4. John Denver – ‘An Evening With John Denver (Live), 1975

5. Aerosmith – ‘Get A Grip‘, 1993

6. Led Zepplin – ‘Led Zepplin IV‘, 1971

7. DC Talk, ‘Jesus Freak‘, 1995

8. Barry McGuire, ‘Lighten’ Up‘, 1975

9. Simon & Garfunkel – ‘The Definitive Simon & Garfunkel‘, 1992

10. Third Day – ‘Conspiracy No.5‘, 1997.

*Close winners for tenth place:

* Jon Bon Jovi – ‘Blaze of Glory (Young Guns II)‘, 1990

** Top Gun  – ‘Soundtrack‘, 1985 

*** Steve Joblansky – ‘Transformers’: The Score, 2007

**** Need to Breath – ‘Hard Love‘, 2016

***** Forrest Gump – ‘Forrest Gump Soundtrack’, (especially “Forrest Gump Suite” composed and conducted by Alan Silvestri)

Special mentions:

P.O.D – ‘Satellite‘, 2001

Paul Wilbur – ‘Jerusalem Arise!‘, 1999

Chuck Berry – ‘The Blues Collection’, 1993.


Thanks for the nomination.

It was fun thinking it through.

Encore edition. Originally posted April 30th, 2014

From Timothy Keller:

‘Idolatry distorts our feelings. Just as idols are good things turned into ultimate things, so the desires they generate become paralysing and overwhelming’[i].

Easter break is over and term 2 of home-schooling is well into its first week.

I graduate in May and along with taking on the majority of the home-schooling, my goal this year has been to carefully read Karl Barth’s Church Dogmatics.

The aim of this was to stretch my undergraduate introduction to Karl Barth, with the hope of doing some post-grad study looking into political theology and the indispensable role of Christian theology in its critique of ideology.http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/

So far I’ve read two, plus ‘Evangelical Theology’, a good portion of his commentary on ‘Romans’, some sermons and a range of material I needed to read in order to complete my degree.

I’m coming close to finishing the mammoth 884 pages of Barth’s Vol.1.2 of his Church Dogmatics. By far his biggest in the series, so I am thankful to be near its end and for having some time out recently to help me make progress towards finishing it.

There are many things to note in this volume.

Particularly Barth’s discussion about ‘The life of the children of God’, which involves a discourse on the command to love God and the command to love our neighbour (pp.388-454).

He points out that ‘scriptures such as John 4:24 & 1 John 4:8-16do not teach the god of love, but the love of God. The fact that God is love means not only that we ought to love but can and must love[ii]

Barth is quick to distinguish between love to God, love for neighbour and God’s love for us. For example: Love for neighbour can only be understood in light of our praise to God[iii].

‘The commandment of love to the neighbour is enclosed by that of love to God. It is contained in it. To that extent it is inferior to it.’[iv]

Barth’s distinction between loving God and loving our neighbour, asserts that, in loving our neighbour we must be careful not to deify our neighbour. I.e.: confuse the command to love our neighbour with our love for God and therefore fall into the mistake of making our neighbour god[v].

At this point in the reading, I began to wonder how idolatry (εἴδωλον/Eidalon: phantoms of the mind), false doctrine, and even poor exegesis are easily linked to “people pleasing”.

If, hypothetically speaking, I read the text of the Bible in the shadow of the arbitrary and hostile opinions of someone like Richard Dawkins, I am tempted to read the text with a blindfold rather than without one. Because I become a slave to his hostile opinion of it and an accessory to his false claim of lordship over it. However, if I let the text ‘speak as it is’[vi], I am more than likely going to be confronted by the text, and in Barth’s words, ‘have the text read me.’

This is because people-pleasing or any demand that others, or even God please me, stands to be challenged by the love and Lordship of God. Who in the Bible summons our response to His offer of relationship. Given freely in Jesus Christ, who is actual, present and active in the work of the Holy Spirit.

Truly loving people, will mean we place God first in any act of responsible love towards them. In other words in showing Christian love towards others, we are called to love God in a love towards them, that is empowered by the fact that He first loved us.

Barth writes:

‘We should love our neighbour only as the people we are; “as ourselves”. We cannot meet our neighbour in a self-invented mask of love. We can only venture, as the man or woman we are, to do what we are commanded in word, deed and attitude, relying entirely on the fact that the one who commands that we – we are without love-should love, will to it that what we do will be real loving’
To love God means to become what we already are, those who are loved by Him. To love means to choose God as the Lord, the One who is our Lord because He is our advocate and representative’[vii]

This echoes what Paul means when he wrote to the Ephesian church:

‘Obey…not by the way of eye service, as people-pleasers, but as servants of Christ, doing the will of God from the heart, rendering service with a good will as to the Lord and not to man…’ (6:5-7)

If people pleasing is a form of idolatry then to practice it is to

‘be a slave…it is motivated by something you feel you must have (or do?) to be happy, something that is more important to your heart than God himself…It is not just a failure to obey God, it is a setting of the whole heart on something other than God’[viii] (Timothy Keller, italics mine)

References:

[i] Keller, T. 2009 Counterfeit Gods: when the empty promises of love, money and power let you down, Hodder and Stoughton p.148

[ii] Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics Hendrickson Publishers p.374

[iii] Ibid, p.406 ‘it is the praise of God which breaks out in love to the neighbour’

[iv] Ibid, p.411

[v] Ibid, p.405

[vi] Ibid, p.533 ‘let the texts speak to us as it stands’

[vii] Ibid, pp.389, 452 & 453

[viii] Keller, T. 2009 Counterfeit Gods: when the empty promises of love, money and power let you down, Hodder and Stoughton pp.24,166, 171

{Image sourced from:http://www.freedigitalphotos.net/}

See also, ‘Jesus is man for His fellows [neighbour/others], and therefore the image of God, in a way others cannot even approach, just as they cannot be for God in the [same] sense that He is [for God]…We are the victims of idealistic illusions if we deck out the humanity of man generally with features exclusive to that of the man Jesus. Man generally may mean and give a great deal to His fellows [neighbour/others], but he cannot be their Deliverer or Saviour, not even in a single instance.’ (Karl Barth, ‘Christology is not Anthropology, CD. 3:2:222). [Added, 20th May, 2018]

John M. Perkins is an American civil rights campaigner. His 2017 book, ‘Dream with Me’, is a brave step forward in seeking to create better dialogue between both black and white communities. Overall, ‘Dream With Me’ is a call for both black and white Americans to unite, in their diversity, under God. This review will focus on two primary strengths of Perkins’ work.

The first strength is the presence of a Theology of Christian Liberation. Perkins refuses to take the easy path of perpetual anger, condescension and resentment – both traits found in Black liberation theology (which is largely tainted by Marxism). Instead, Perkins leans towards the rules of solidarity[i] and subsidiarity[ii]. In doing so, he proclaims a social doctrine, not the social gospel[iii].

The significance of this distinction is, in the former, Jesus Christ remains at the core of the gospel and isn’t replaced by attempts (found in the latter) to synchronise Karl Marx with Jesus Christ[iv]. In addition, a social doctrine allows the freedom to affirm and critique the issues impartially. The social doctrine, in this context, is greater than the social gospel, because the Gospel remains free of any ideological lens (particularly atheist and theistic Marxism).  The Gospel (read Jesus Christ) is allowed to speak for Himself without being muffled by Marx.

Unlike the social gospel, which tends to ‘stray from Scripture’ (D. Bonhoeffer[v]), Perkins’ social doctrine doesn’t respond to injustice through a lens of victimisation, double-standards, excessive-unbridled egalitarianism (dismissive tolerance and irrational equality), dependency on the state, or entitlement. He, instead, advocates for a ‘new alternative’[vi], building on what he calls the ‘three R’s’: ‘relocation, reconciliation and redistribution.’(p.88)  Here, Perkins upholds the uniqueness of Christian liberation, which holds to God’s liberation of humanity from slavery to sin[vii].

‘White people need to take responsibility for centuries of imperialism and failing to repent, but black people  also need to take some responsibility for the breakdown of our families (p.70) […] Things only get fixed – truly fixed – when they are mended by God through faith. Often we have it backwards trying to fix things for God rather than letting God fix things through us (p.81).

The secondary strength of ‘Dream With Me’ is that Perkins doesn’t sugar coat reality. He’s up front about racism, the impoverishment of some Americans (in general[viii]), and is outspoken in his call for the renewal of efforts that move America towards justice[ix]; towards lived reconciliation. Such a lived reconciliation will require jettisoning the shackles of identity politics.

For Perkins, progress towards this goal involves reclaiming the word reconciliation. Perkins believes that

‘‘Issues related to ethnicity and tribalism may divide us, but we are one race – the human race (p.54) […] we have taken God’s definition of reconciliation and made room for bigotry by inserting race into the concept. Racial reconciliation is not a biblical term. People use race as a slave master.’ (p.84)

What he calls for instead is a reconciliation firmly grounded in God’s reconciliation of the sinner to Himself.

‘I will call for – what I believe the gospel calls for – unity across ethnic and cultural barriers’ (ibid)

Perkins’ quest is to attain genuine equality (as opposed to any false utopian idea of supremacy[x] or the fool’s quest of seeking perpetual payback, in order to make things equal). He is adamant that Americans should build on the faith, approach and doctrine of the early civil rights campaigners. This road is difficult, but it should, and must be travelled.

Perkins offers no instant-fix formulas. What he does offer is a roadmap for how this can be achieved.  At the heart of ‘Dream With Me’ are ‘the three R’s: these are relocation where the old informs the new; reconciliation, free of victimization and identity politics; redistribution, not of wealth, but of opportunity’ (pp.74-89). What Perkins means by relocation is a readiness to be available; a readiness to be where, and to do, what God has called the individual to. Redistribution is about ‘stewardship[xi]’ (p.85) and reconciliation ‘is a way of life that displays God’s redemptive power’ (p.84).

Dream With Me’ is a careful discussion about the issues that face African-Americans. Perkins acknowledges (with great care) the historical wrongs suffered by African-Americans at hands of racial hatred. He acknowledges historical abuses by returning to his own experiences. Referring to his own suffering, Perkins sets the example:

‘On February 7, 1970, while I lay on the floor of the Simpson County Jail in Brandon, I made the decision to preach a gospel stronger than my racial identity and bigger than the segregation around me.’ (p.56)

Dream With Me’ brings the civil rights movement out of the museum, and it takes reconciliation out of the hands of race baiters, who seek to keep African-Americans down purely for political advantage.  ‘Dream With Me’ challenges the status quo of racial divisions by inviting change through humility and understanding.

Perkins doesn’t play the blame game. He seeks to end the cycle of abuse by encouraging others to not engage in reciprocating stale responses veiled by resentment and forced tolerance, all of which are underpinned by unrepentant hearts, pride and a fraudulent reconciliation, grounded in toxic identity politics.

In sum, ‘Dream With Me’ brings the practice of reconciliation to life. Perkins provides a viable way forward. This is a brave book written by an elder in the Civil Rights movement. Whether Americans can move beyond stale cultural slogans and tribal segregation; beyond blame and shame[xii], is an open question. It’s one that can only be answered when and where people are freed from the prison of ‘isms’ – racism, sexism, ageism, classism, and so many other divisive systems’ (p.50)

This book is for anyone who has been dealt blows by the hands of injustice, ostracism, abuse and uncalled for hostility. It’s for those who want to move beyond the logical fallacies which manipulatively assume that because someone has a certain type of skin colour, their melanin predetermines their heart, character and how they view the world around them; for those who want to keep Jesus Christ at the centre of justice, reconciliation and stewardship toward our neighbour.

Dream With Me’ is a call to prayer-filled action, which falls in line with Paul the apostle’s command and prayer for the Church in Corinth: ‘aim for restoration.’ (2 Cor. 13:9 & 11, ESV)


References:

[i] Defined as proactive empathy, as opposed to the spectator-sympathy.

[ii] Community and government groups play an auxiliary role in supporting initiatives; helping, not controlling or taking away individual responsibility; ergo offering a hand-up, not a hand out.

[iii] Teachers about Jesus’ teaching, not about Jesus Christ; turning Christianity into a list of ethical principles. In effect, Christless Christianity e.g.: “Who needs Christ? If I follow his example by being a good person, then I’ll be able to save myself, make God happy and get into heaven.”

[iv] See Jacques Ellul’s brilliant criticism in Jesus & Marx, 1988.

[v] ‘The contempt for theology is outrageous. Rauschenbusch’s own “theology for the social gospel” clearly shows, like its successors, that a lack of obedience to Scripture is characteristic for the teaching of the social gospel.’
(Bonhoeffer, DBW 12, Memorandum: The Social Gospel, p.242)

[vi] Perkins, J.M 2017 Dream With Me: Race, Love, and the Struggle We Must Win, Baker Publishing Group, (p.85)

[vii] Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, 1984, Instruction  on Certain aspects of the Theology of Liberation, (Source)

[viii] ‘To be honest, I had never given a second thought to poor whites. I still regarded them negatively – as redneck, trailer park white trash. The wealthy white people could help me, but what good were the poor whites to me? But then this poor white couple showed up at my doorstep. My automatic response was to treat them the way whites had treated poor blacks – to patronize them. But these people were teaching me, John Perkins, the guy who was supposed to be leading the church in reconciliation; a lesson in what it really means to be reconciled to one another.’ (pp.56-57)

[ix] ‘Justice is an act of reconciliation that restores any part of God’s creation its original intent, purpose, or image’ (p.207)

[x] ‘Wealthy whites also used the poor whites as tools of oppression — having blacks beneath [poor white folks] made those [folks] feel superior.’ (p.60)

[xi] ‘We’ve gotten away from the understanding that all of resources belong to God, and that we are stewards of whatever portion of those resources He has entrusted us with.’ (p.85)

[xii] ‘…we need to start getting beyond this stuff. Issues related to ethnicity and tribalism may divide us, but we have to start recognizing that we are one race – the human race’ (p.54)

Disclaimer: I did not receive any remuneration for this review, in any form.

Twenty years ago Michael W. Smith released (what I regard to be) his best album. Before the release of Live the Life, if I’d have been asked about MWS, I would have fired back with mockery. I didn’t give him the credit that he deserved.

I never liked ‘Friends[i]’, and outside the song ’Breakdown[ii]’ I couldn’t have told you (off by heart) a whole lot about any of his albums prior to 1995.For me, his music was dated, far too “early 90’s Christian”, and too in line with mainstream C.C.M (Christian Contemporary Music).

In 1998 this all changed. ‘Live the Life’ entered the MWS discography. While retaining Smith’s reliance on keyboards, keys don’t feature in every song. Each song on ‘Live the life’ is unique.

The set list is carefully ordered. The artwork design is free from cliché colours and formatting. It’s sober, fresh, somewhat steam-punk inspired and is absent of the 1980’s pop gloss.

As a work of art and theology, ‘Live the Life’, gave MWS a seat at the table of the mid to late ‘90s Jesus music revival. Easily putting him in the same line-up as (post-Jesus Freak) D.C Talk, Third Day, Newsboys, and Jars of Clay.

Dealing with loss and tragedy permeates ‘Live the Life’. ‘Hello, Goodbye’ (T12) was written for friends who lost their new born child, Noah. The‘Song for Rich’ (T11) was an instrumental written in response to the tragic passing of Rich Mullins; and ‘In My Arms Again’ (T10) was written for the movie Titanic.

The remaining songs encourage faith in the midst of doubt, despair and brokenness. ‘Missing Person’ (T 1) and ‘Don’t Give Up’ (T6), speaks to the emptiness of routine; numbness in the face of the mundane. ‘Love me Good’ (T2), ‘Never Been Unloved’ (T4) and ‘I Know Your Name’ (T8) speak about fear, rejection and the danger of basing the truth of Christianity on feelings or achievements, instead of God’s love. ‘Matter of time’ (T9) celebrates the hope of reunion. ‘Let me Show you the Way’ (T7) and ‘Live the Life’ (T3) speak of inviting God into our decisions; that the Christian faith is to be lived, not left on a shelf – reminiscent of Swiss theologian, Karl Barth’s statement that ‘grace must be lived out, or it is not grace’[iii].

Live the Life’ was not a creative safe space, it was a sigh offered up as both prayer and witness. The album illustrates what it means to pray through existential cracks that appear in the armour of human pretence.

Breaking the chains of super-spiritual and superficial, positive-optimism, Smith carried us along as he broke free from his CCM roots, reached through the fog of conformity, doubt and loss; past Christian culture, and entered into the gutsy, joy drenched glory of the redemptive light of Christ.

Few could legitimately argue that ‘Live the Life’ was not a watershed moment for Michael W. Smith. Most albums since 1998, share a similar gravitas, they show a breakaway artist, who, by the grace of God had his faith and art reinvent him. Smith hasn’t had to fade from the limelight quietly, lean on gimmicks or acquire cheap tunes to prove that he is what he’s always been: a talented musician with an authentic heart for Jesus Christ.

Without ‘Live the Life’, the same depth of presence, which is found in all the albums which descend from it, wouldn’t exist. ‘Live the Life’ testifies not just to Smith’s renewed commitment to Christ in the midst of darkness, but to the instructive love of God, free from the constrictive routine of empty ritual.

Live the Life’ is written for the broken, from the broken, to the broken. Twenty years on, I still cannot walk away from this album, without being challenged, or moved by it.

‘It is asked, whether anyone can be a servant of Christ, that has not been tried with so many evils, perils, and vexations? I answer, that all these things are not indispensably required, but where these things are seen, there is, undoubtedly, a greater and more illustrious testimony afforded. That man, therefore, who is signalised by so many marks of distinction, will not despise those who are less illustrious, and less thoroughly tried, nor will he on that account be elated with pride; but still, whenever there is occasion for it, will be prepared, after Paul’s example, to exult with a holy triumph, in opposition to pretenders, provided he has an eye to Christ, not to himself. For the main thing is – that we serve Christ with a pure conscience. All others things are, as it were, additional.’
(John Calvin)[iv]

de Vivre Selon Dieu.


References:

[i] I still don’t.

[ii] From his 1995 album, ‘I’ll Lead You Home’.

[iii] CD. 2/2 p.695

[iv] Commentary on 2 Corinthians 11:25

There’s no real need to give you a one thousand word commentary on the following lectures because the content in each speaks for itself. I’ve watched all three; each of them reflect what I’ve written about or questioned here and on my other social media platforms.

When it comes to anything posted by or about Jordan Peterson, I am a cautious and curious listener. He has a grasp of the major issues that few, including most theologians and pastors, do. That’s a sad indictment, but the reality is most theologians and pastors show up as left-leaning and thus refuse to break with the modern liberal ideological radicalism perverting politics. My best guess is that this is due to the fear of public ridicule or a reluctance with having to deal with internal conflict caused by presenting an honest theological critique of the socio-political situation we are currently in.

My problem with Peterson is that he skirts around his own faith and steers clear of clarifying how his theology, or Christian theology in general, speaks into the political milieu of our age. This is amplified by his consistently ambiguous acknowledgement that the success of Western civilisation, especially after, through and despite so much human induced disaster, is due in large part to the Judeo-Christian faith and Western society’s Judeo-Christian foundations. However, given that Peterson is not a theologian, perhaps my problem with Peterson is too hasty; too harsh; too soon.

In regards to Alister McGrath, I’m a lot more receptive and less guarded. McGrath is a lot less political and a lot more consistent in his theological arguments, which are openly supported by his open confession of faith in Jesus Christ. This said, as a true blue student of Karl Barth, when it comes to McGrath overall, I’m drawn to hold some of McGrath’s thoughts on Natural Theology in question. Nevertheless, what Alister McGrath presents in the lecture below is outstanding and worth the effort spent absorbing.

Third and lastly, I’m not all that well acquainted with Peter Hitchens. I am less inclined to listen to him because his brother was a celebrity in the new atheist movement, and more inclined to listen to him because Peter Hitchens is a man of the radical Left, now a man-in-revolt against the radical Left.

Like Peterson, Hitchens is not a theologian, but speaks theological truths into a world happy to deny a Christian voice at the table unless it is a) supportive of the modern liberal ideological radicalism perverting politics or b) supportive of the unforgiving caricature of Christians in mainstream media.

Hitchens is careful with his words, considerate, relational and sober minded. Three qualities that Peterson and McGrath also possess; three qualities which make a great case for taking seriously what each individual has to say.

Peterson: ‘Postmodernism and Cultural Marxism‘ 

Alister McGrath: ‘Why God Won’t Go Away

Peter Hitchens: ‘The Abolition of Britain’ and other topics

 

 ‘Whoever has ears, let them hear.’ (Matthew 11:15)

 

Jaded.

Silence and emergency,

In bludgeoning contrast, clang in discordant unity.

The murderous, winsome sin of vain words

Like a hammer into a child’s birthday cake,

Crushes the crisp dew.

Fresh condensation from heaven

Poluted by shattering humiliation,

Breathes hopelessness.

The abyss yawns;

And with the crushing of this child,

its monstrous smile,

Gets ready to feed off of this child’s broken heart.

Silenced, yet emerging,

God responds,

Hope breathes, and pain retreats,

At light breaking through broken glass.

Inner screams, through sigh and powerless frustration,

Answered by prayer and Spirit-filled consolation.

Though there,

I was unaware,

That the shadows of angels were always obscured by the dark.


©RL2018

25th April 2016 007Anzac Day comes with a caveat.

Absent of any understanding about what causes war and the case for just-peace. Absent of the moral restraints of the message about Christ’s act and command to love God and love one another as we love and care for ourselves, Anzac day becomes a celebration of chaos, not life; a day of hero-worship, not sincere remembrance and gratitude.

We surely remember the sacrifice of our ancestors, but with it we remember God’s summons to hear the importance of His commandments that empower us to stand against the continuing brutality of war. It’s because God comes to humanity that this word can be received as true word. A word we did not speak ourselves. A word that we’re encouraged to test and try out, because God is not insecure about who He is or anxious about what He has planned.

Anzac day is for humanity to stand before the past, under God, towards the future. It’s a time to mourn, a time to recollect, a time to reconsider and lament the effect of war.  Not only on those who didn’t return, but on those who did.

Traditionally, on this day Australia and New Zealand commemorate, not war, or the sins of it, but engrave, through Christian prayer, a deep gratitude and remembrance, of and for, the freedom and life given by those who sacrificed their lives to give it.

But, Anzac day comes with a caveat.

If we jettison Jesus Christ from Anzac day, our remembrance spirals into the worship of chaos, hatred of our enemies and as it deteriorates into the empty worship of our ancestors. Without the Prince of Peace and those He represents, Anzac day has no real message of peace or hope, only war, the hype and devastation of it.

This is exemplified by the words of Anti-Nazi German theologian, Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who in 1932 preached to a solemn gathering of Germans,

‘when the church observes Memorial Day, it must have something special to say. It cannot be one voice in the chorus of others who loudly raise the cry of mourning for the lost sons of the nation across the land, and by such cries of mourning call us to new deeds and great courage. It cannot, like the ancient singers of great heroic deeds, wander about and sing the song of praise of battle and the death of the heroes to the listening ears of enthralled young people. On this day the church stands here so strangely without ceremony, so little proud, so little heroic. The Church is like the seer of ancient times who when all are gathered… is wholeheartedly present but suffers because he sees something that others do not see and must speak of what he sees, although no one wants to hear it…the one who loves most is the one who sees deepest, sees the greatest danger. A seer has never been popular. That is why the church will also not be popular, least of all on days like this.’[i]

“Jesus is victor.”

Any real human victory begins in Him.

In no other way and by no other name can Anzac day be what it should be, a time and place when our hearts are directed, not towards human ideological constructs of peace, but towards the Prince of peace and therefore towards just-peace. Our memory and treatment of those who gave up their very lives for us is only enriched by this. Our mourning turns into hope, as we hear from chaplains, pastors and Christians, throughout both nations, at most remembrance services, we are asked to carry away with us the challenge of the message of just-peace.

‘Memorial day in the Church! What does it mean? It means holding up the one great hope from which we all live, the preaching of the kingdom of God. It means seeing that which is past, and which we remember today, with all its terrors and all its godlessness, and yet not being afraid, but hearing the preaching of peace […] Now pass on the message of peace, for the sake of which their death had to be, and preach it all the more loudly.’ [ii]

The one whose own broken body was laid in a tomb guarded and then, against, and to the shame of the chaos and all that stood in proud victory over Him, was resurrected from the dead.

Any real human victory begins in Him; all just-peace follows the Prince of peace who was judged become judge.

‘Where the power of darkness wants to overpower the light of God, there God triumphs and judges the darkness.’ [iii]

Any real peace follows from the one who is peace, not the one who through media, machine or human, only gives lip service to it. Or who through a mask of peace seeks through a will to dominate, only to expand a human empire.

The importance of Christian participation in Anzac Day is the reminder that peace comes to humanity from outside itself; from outside our ability to save ourselves. Through conviction, through just-justice, through covenant, through commandment the chaos is answered with purpose. It’s lifeless ‘mass, rebellion and tumult against true life is conquered, transformed as the One who ‘hovers over it speaks [and because He does, decisively acts].’[iv]

Jesus the Christ doesn’t seem to be. He is, was and will be.

That is our starting place and EVERY Anzac day what was once their march, but is now ours, must begin and end here.

For as Bonhoeffer noted:

‘wherever the word of Christ is truly spoken, the world sense that it is either ruinous madness or ruinous truth, which endangers it’s very life. Where peace is really spoken, war must rage twice as hard, for it senses that it is about to be driven out. Christ intends to be its death […] Memorial Day in the church means knowing that Christ alone wins the victory! Amen.’ [v]

Sources:

[i] Bonhoeffer, D 1932 National Memorial Day, Berlin, Reminiscere, Feb. 21,. In Best, I. 2012 The Collected Sermons of Deitrich Bonhoeffer,  Fortress Press

[ii] ibid, (p.21)

[iii] ibid, (p.17)

[iv] Bonhoeffer, D. DBW:3 Creation and Fall: A theological exposition of Genesis 1-3, (p.41) [parenthesis mine]

[v] Bonhoeffer, D 1932 National Memorial Day, Berlin, Reminiscere, Feb. 21,. In Best, I. 2012 The Collected Sermons of Deitrich Bonhoeffer,  Fortress Press (pp.20 & 21)

(Originally published, 25th April 2016)

This YouTube post from Lindsay Shepherd is captioned, “I’ve come to the realisation that I am no longer a leftist. Here’s why.” It’s worth sharing because, as one commentator suggested, “it’s not so much that you’ve moved away from the Left; the Left has moved away from you.” I’m not certain that I agree, but the sentiment in that statement describes something that I think is happening to a lot of people who traditionally associated themselves as ideologically progressive.

You might remember that Lindsay was at the epicentre of outrage, when she used a video of Jordan Peterson disagreeing with transgender-ism. Lindsay, a teaching assistant, was attempting to present the opposing side of gender theory in order to open up a broader discussion of the issues.

In true, cult of modern liberalism fashion, Lindsay was brought before a tribunal and punished for doing so. What the University didn’t know at the time, was that Lindsay had secretly recorded the socialist people’s court and their charge of blasphemy against her. The rest is now well documented internet history.

Wilfrid Laurier University in Waterloo, Ont. and the professor directly involved have since apologised. This was after Lindsay had been hit with a wave of the all too predictable harassment and abuse, from many who proudly wave Leftist flag/s.

Has the Left moved away from people who have traditionally associated themselves with the Left? It’s a fair question, and if allowed, it’s a question that needs to be asked by those who’ve invested so much into holding the front-line against enemies of the Left, both real and imagined. An offshoot of this question would be, in light of Lindsay’s experience, how much of those enemies of the Left are in fact, real and how much are in fact the product of an overly sensitive imagination.

The coming great awakening may not be as abrupt as Lindsey’s has been. If anything it’s a classic case of Plato’s Cave. The one who is set free, returns to say to those remaining, that life exists outside the chains and the cave; life isn’t the shadows they see bouncing off the walls. Life isn’t lived in the imagination; life exists in the wonder and the investigation into what (and Who) inspires the imagination. The cave dwellers are being called to a fullness of humanity; freedom from the very thing that chains them. Attempting to silence the truth of the freedman, the remaining cave dwellers reject the summons and address. They see the freedman as foolish and refuse to leave because they’ve found the truth that encounters them from outside the cave to be offensive. They are happy in their ignorance.

Sometimes waking up to the slow boiling of the pot, in which some get stuck, takes time. Sadly, more often than not, it doesn’t happen at all.

In Lindsay’s case, I’m not suggesting that she is a prophet or that she’s now a republican, conservative, “christian traditionalist” (whatever that means), who is ready to live out all the negative stereotypes applied to all three groups.

What I am saying is that the significance of this event, and the many that parallel it, such as  recent attack on Chik-Fil-A’s, ‘Christian traditionalist” (whatever that means)  ”creepy invasion of New York“, is that the genuine prophets of our age, who’ve long been lovingly calling out the tragic trajectory of the Left, in it’s post-modern manifestation, are constantly being justified.

Kudos, Lindsay:

What people think matters; how people see us matters. We anchor ourselves to the opinions and values of others. Men and women latch their value to the people we see as giving us value. Our worth is then neatly packaged into the confined space of that other person’s thoughts and whims. This is all okay up to a point. Humans were built for community, we need good government and organisation; men and women, living in fellowship, not in isolation, are human together.[i]

That people tether themselves to the thoughts of others without caution is, however, a potential disaster. For example, when we get down to bottom line of Social Media, unless a person is selling something, the heartbeat of those platforms is either genuine sharing or sharing because of a fear of loneliness and isolation. What makes these platforms thrive is the role they play in anchoring one person to a community, whereby that person gains some form of self-worth, validation and completeness as a human. If none of this were true, there would be no rhyme of reason for social media.

It doesn’t seem to matter whether or not the foundation of that self-worth, validation and completeness is at its core faulty and dysfunctional.  If a person gets the feeling that they are accepted and wanted, that’s all that matters. Questions like, “What if that anchor isn’t locked in the right place? What if that anchor only has the appearance of providing safety and isn’t actually safe?” aren’t considered.

What doesn’t seem to matter is whether or not the opinions and values of others are valid, just or holy. These factors seem to be rarely considered. Questioning those who cross-examine us in such a way, is something very few are brave enough to do.

Few want to be a source of healthy conflict. Few want to cut loose an anchor for fear of getting tossed on to rocks and being carried away by violent seas.  Even when deep down they know that the anchor is dragging them down into the abyss, most don’t see it, or want to see it, for fear of losing the very thing that they think grounds them to a sense of worth, purpose, community and inclusion. Oblivious to the false security the unsecured anchor provides, when the storm hits, the ship goes down or gets carried away regardless of how they or others feel.

The reality is that people set standards and draw opinions about us behind our backs. People talk. We are looked at, measured, weighed, judged and then valued. Our position in any community is just as good as our appearance, and our last great performance.  Our worth in those communities is just as good as our silence, compliance and applause for those in positions of power. Sometimes this is done willingly because we want to appease those in power because they have the ability to thrust us into power.

The reality is this: the ambitious, conform. The covetous, charm. The selfish, betray. The prideful play power games; the greedy, lie, and the jealous, manipulate in order to gain. Social media platforms can be just another tool for anyone like this to gain superiority over others. If you can be used as a pawn in this process, you will be.

As stated by Jeremiah, the “weeping” prophet, who had a firsthand experience with rejection and abuse from within his community, the heart is deceitful above all things…who can understand it?’ (Jer. 17:9)

In a recent post to their Facebook wall, Sanctuary International Matrix posted the question:

“Dear Pastor Bob: I’m tired of trying to be a good Christian. As hard as I try, I still get criticized for what I do wrong. My Christian friends keep reminding me that I’m not a very good example. I’m considering leaving the faith. I’m just too miserable.”

I agree with Beeman’s response:

“Sometimes the best examples to me, have been the people who fight the hardest. That fall down the most and get up every time. Because I identify with them, and I want the hope that they have. That’s what the Bible says: First Peter 3:15, “in your hearts honor Christ the Lord as holy, always being prepared to make a defense to anyone who asks you for a reason for the hope that is in you; yet do it with gentleness and respect, having a good conscience, so that, when you are slandered, those who revile your good behavior in Christ may be put to shame. For it is better to suffer for doing good, if that should be God’s will, than for doing evil.”

It’s worth stopping to think about what anchors us. It’s worth asking what our anchor is secured to; investigating to see whether or not our anchor is secure, or if our anchor only has the appearance of being secured. [ii] If it doesn’t, pull the anchor up and relocate it.

If I measured, or tethered my membership criteria in the Church by the standards of others, and not by what God had set for us all, in Jesus Christ, I’d have quit a long, long time ago.

The struggles are real, but keep both eyes on the prize because inhaled grace ignites.[iii]

‘…Therefore, we who have fled to him for refuge can have great confidence as we hold to the hope that lies before us. This hope is a strong and trustworthy anchor for our souls. It leads us through the curtain into God’s inner sanctuary.’ (Hebrews 6:18-19)


References:

[i] ‘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 p.294)

[ii] “For where your treasure is, there your heart will be also.” (Jesus Christ, Matthew 6:21, ESV)

[iii] ‘there is no more intimate friend of sound human understanding than the Holy Spirit’
(Karl Barth C.D. IV.4:28).

Photo credit:  Ksenia Makagonova on Unsplash

Capitalism may be plagued by the sin of greed, a greed that hinders the free market through hoarding and monopolies, but ultimately capitalism creates room for compassion. Laws exist to fortify the free market, so as to protect the free market from the death blows of a greed-is-good culture. Through the referee of small government the free market is nurtured. Through capitalism doors are opened for freedom; for people to be free to be compassionate; free to give out of the abundance of what they have earned; out of the abundance of what they are free to own.

Socialism on the other hand has no checks and balances against greed. Socialism therefore cannot produce a people who are free to be compassionate. Although socialism is viewed as compassion, it doesn’t allow room for compassionate giving because by definition, under a socialist system, there shouldn’t be any need for anyone to have to give compassionately. However, the theory that all needs should be met, does not meet with the reality.

Socialism presupposes that the poor worker will never get rich or rise above his or her poverty. Socialism has to keep people poor in order to justify its own existence. This is because there can be no proletariat, no cause for class war, without keeping the working poor where they are.[i]

Socialism strips the individual of their right to own private property. The individual is left with no amount of abundance to give. Anything given outside the absolute rule of the socialist regime is frowned upon as suspiciously capitalist imperialism. In an exaggerated form, compassionate giving, at least without the state taking its cut, is a crime against the state. To give freely is treasonous because, in theory, under socialism there is no need for people to be compassionate. Every want and need is fulfilled even if the collective has to work for the time being in order to eradicate work entirely. The socialist holds fast to the paradoxical dream of a work-less society.

Unlike compassionate capitalism, compassionate socialism cannot exist. It’s an oxymoron because socialism as absolute economic law only has what it’s taken from the people; it has no capital outside what socialism has taken without compassion; creating no real margin of abundance for individuals to give compassionately from. Therefore the people themselves aren’t free to be compassionate in their giving towards one another.

People are to believe in strict equality, but not fairness. By concessions, the individual under socialism may have the freedom to earn or how they earn it, but they don’t have the freedom to be compassionate with what they earn. They couldn’t, even if they wanted to, because there is no abundance in socialism unless it is awarded to them by the state. The people have what the socialist government gives and nothing more. By default the socialist ruler becomes god, employer, mother and father; in essence the Führer is raised up as savior, because it is believed that he, through the socialist system he controls, knows what’s best for the people of the fatherland.

The Bible does not preach or foster socialism as an absolute economic law or morality. What the Bible does preach is that greed is a sin, that God loves a fair weight; fair trade; that He is a compassionate judge who wills to govern for His people, not govern at the whim and will of His people. The biblical witness as a whole holds fast to fairness and justice within the bounds of a life lived in freedom, under grace, in His Word; Jesus Christ. It is Father God, not führer-as-father who should rule out hearts and guide our minds.

As Paul noted to the Church in Corinth, in 2 Corinthians 8:8-24: give earnestly; give from abundance; give from that which is left over to those in need. Give what you can, when you can, where you can. Trade in fairness, do acts of grace, and do so freely [complete the work you started]. Do so with joy, for this will encourage reciprocal giving. Provide out of abundance in order to bring relief for those experiencing affliction.

Without compassion, capitalism fails. That is why checks and balances exist in order to keep the capitalist system from gorging itself to death with gluttony. Socialism, however, has no room and sees no need for compassion once it holds power. The socialist only sees the capitalist as his or her enemy, upholding socialism religiously, without opposition. Socialism is seen as true compassion and therefore the only compassion anyone truly needs. All who disagree or refuse to fall in line with this are labelled, without compassion, an enemy of it.

Socialism as a paragon of virtue lost its shine a long time ago.The socialist and capitalist can both operate under a “I will take from you to benefit me” rule.

It is, however, the necessary function of compassion that capitalism not only allows, but empowers, that sets capitalism apart from socialism. From this empowerment the individual under capitalism can and is empowered to say, “what can I give you in order to benefit you” as opposed to “what can I take from you to benefit me”.

Compassionate capitalism empowers compassion because it provides enough for people to choose to be compassionate. Socialism doesn’t allow this kind of freedom because it ultimately denies individuals the freedom to give. Whilst allowing the potential for greed, capitalism must eventually give a firm “no” to it, for its own sake. If not, the free market falls victim to the similar kind of totalitarian rule as that of socialism, only in this case, it’s a corporation, not a government left holding the throne without opposition.

‘No constitution or ethic can prevent power from becoming totalitarian. It must discover outside itself, a radical negation. [such as grace; the Divine compassion exhibited in, through and by Jesus Christ].’ (Jacques Ellul, Jesus & Marx. 1988 p.174)

References:

[i] ‘In Marxist dialectic, the oppressed must become the oppressor – the poor person becomes the absolute, a kind of priest – only through him can we meet Jesus and God; through serving him we are sanctified – this horizontal theology [or version of natural theology] returns quite simply to the project of excluding God’ (Jacques Ellul. Jesus & Marx, 1988. pp.42 & 48 parenthesise mine)

Photo credit: Milada Vigerova  ‘Hand, closeup, prayer‘ on Unsplash

I recently had the privilege of being a guest on an XYZ Google hangouts panel, which included XYZ’s editor-in-chief David Hiscox, & Matt from Matty’s Modern Life.

A few things worth mentioning: this was a first for me, though I don’t think this factor took too much away from the overall discussion. It was great to sit down with David and Matt to discuss, in brief, the finer points of homeschooling, Resurrection, freedom in Christ and cultural Christianity.

The panel was live streamed to YouTube and the link can be found here:

Define Your Illusions_RL2015_GVLWe the broken are far too easily ignored. We the abused are far too easily used. We are sold hope and guided by hands quick to speak of solidarity. We fall for blurred distinctions and ignore the price.

We are sold an empty comfort from mouths  that speak words of sympathy, but are absent of any real connectivity. They may promise salvation and deliverance from the deep sadness and pain we want so much to rip or be ripped out of us, but they cannot deliver what they promise. Sadly, some choose to keep us dwelling on that pain and sadness, in order to squeeze a dollar or two out of it.

In a way that pain and sadness become commodities.

In the church and world, if among the broken we are picked out as ‘charismatic, gifted, beautiful or anointed’ we are seized upon and raised up by the collective and individual alike.

Either to promote a cause or financial gain. Paraded on stage, our testimony is “validated”, our pain and healing seemingly put to good use. However, when the doors close and the next ‘big’ thing is promoted we realise that our pain and healing was paraded  in order to hype up the masses or sell politics, an opinion, idea or distorted theology. Here the veil falls and we see that interest in the One who saves, saved and will save was pushed to the background as we were adorned with adoration, idolised and syphoned for hope.

The essence of our contact with world, relationship and institution is easily manipulated. We the broken, guarded and sensitive to those things which have hurt us so successfully, are ironically attracted by those things that will hurt us. Buying into the false promises that control us as they promise remedy.

Sometimes, therefore, the broken become the prey of the fortunate. Then, sometimes the affected are thrown away like chaff by the disaffected.

This could be because the voices of the experienced are disruptive. Disputing certainty, and intellectual anxiety about meaning and purpose. Disrupting those firmly held inside a web of ideological conformity.

Our continuing survival discomforts their faith in empirical impassabilities. It challenges the surety of presuppositions that imprison the impossible to ignorance and the absurd. It challenges their claim to power. Examples here include the historical, Martin Luther and The Reformation, or the fictitious Katniss Everdeen and her role in ‘The Hunger Games.’

Those with higher opinions based solely on higher education or their association with certain institutions may comment, but it is clear that most are selective and set only on pursuing a particular narrative – often the one that will keep them popular.

Faith uninformed by reason ends in delusion; superstition. Worse still is reason detached completely from the necessary dualism of faith and reason – scientism. As proven by the 20th Century, is the grounding of gross inhumanity.

An evolutionary ethic demands the strong must resource their strength from the weak until the weak are no longer useful. The “elite” have no problem assuming, then, that the broken are ruined beyond repair. That we cannot think for ourselves or see through the shattered lens that pales in comparison to their presumed-to-be superior, unscarred monocles.

So, we are sold illusions and sadly, we buy into them. We are even convinced enough to vote for them.

Niceties and platitudes of human tolerance end in hypocrisy. Resulting in acts of kindness being abandoned and the real importance being place solely on the appearance of giving it.

Additionally, the beauty of an orthodox theological understanding of Christian love is deconstructed, then subsumed into an “absolute ethic of niceness.[i]” God’s mercy is, thus, distorted without any acknowledgement let alone recognition of His right and freedom to act in just judgement. [ii]

With all the brokenness and abandonment around me at the time. Growing up as a teen in the 1990’s. I found it easy to fall into the trap of self-medication. Weekends spent young, drunk (and/or stoned); finding my identity in the closest people or things that I thought were identifying with me.

Looking back on that time, it wasn’t  because I was being drawn to those people or things because they identified with me, but because I leaned towards whatever I could identify, understand or nullify my pain with.

We hear packaged in phrases that ‘such and such, really identifies with their audience‘. Terms of endorsement often found in movie and music reviews alike.

The important distinction not to be missed here, though, is that artists don’t generally identify with their audience. Rather their audience (the customer) identifies with them. It’s not reciprocal, even if the understanding is mutual.

The truth is that those people and things only identified with my money and my blind, happy applause.

Case in point is the band Guns n’ Roses.

I remember reaching for everything I could find or learn about them, to be them. Even up to the point of copying almost every riff and niche Marshal Amp sound I could squeeze out of my $150 second-hand electric guitar, which had a cracked head and the embarrassing habit of going out of tune after each strum, pick or bend.

I was more than a fan. I was a disciple flirting with a generalised, but similar inner darkness that they seemed to be wrestling with. Questing for the transcendent; looking to ascend the hole of despair that my existence had boxed me into.

This was poetry with guts.

Emotion and truth screaming through mic, five string, bass and drum. In short: a form of worship. Throwing up; ’emotional vomit’ (as Lacey Sturm from ‘Flyleaf’ brilliantly described it); a numbness screaming out for feeling. This was a reach for rescue-through-revolt. A desire to be heard and acknowledged; a potential revolution powered by real-anger, angst, amp and an “appetite” for definition.

The reality is that the men of Gn’R didn’t identify with me. They couldn’t. They didn’t know me. Yet, there is no blame that I can justly attach to them. What I was being sold hung on a blurred distinction.*

I identified with them, their craft, skills and lyrical aptitude. I related to what people were selling through them and bought-into it every time. It wasn’t and couldn’t ever be reciprocated.

Any healthy personal connection where I felt cared for or understood was an illusion; an estrangement caused by a blurred distinction.

Although tempted, I wouldn’t simply relegate this as ‘idol worship‘ hoping to avoid over-analysing things, but as something more complex propagated by the absence of key relationships in my life.

What I have learnt through all of this is that my identity must rest in and under Jesus Christ, not any man, woman or ideology. He is the one in whom God chooses not only to identify with us, but to free us, in order to be for us and with us. So that we can be free for Him; free from, in order to be for, each other**:

‘…when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons [and daughters]. And because you are sons [and daughters], God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but sons [and daughters], and if so, then an heir through God.’
– (Galatians, 4:3-7; see also Romans 8:15)


References:

[i] Elshtain, J. 1993 Just War Against Terror

[ii] (see Karl Barth C.D II:1 ‘Dues non est in genere’: God is not a species that can be categorised by us, outside that which and who He has chosen to reveal Himself to us).

*So that I am not misinterpreted, “Gunners” as-they-were, still are, in my opinion, musical giants. Lyrically, rhythmically and melodically they hit on truths with criticisms of society that no one else dared to speak in and from that kind of arena.

** Karl Barth, paraphrased. 

 

 

We’re walking through Nathaniel & Hans’ Bluedorn‘s 2009 book, ‘The Fallacy Detective‘ for Homeschool at the moment. The Bluedorns do an excellent job of distinguishing  between the various logical fallacies, discussing how they work on and off the page. I’ve even learnt a few things I didn’t know, and gained clarity on a few of the more nuanced fallacies like ad hominem, straw man and equivocation.

The Bluedorns provide an easy to read text. Placing at the end of each chapter well written quizzes with some humour mixed in, they effectively teach a complex subject to their reader.

‘The Fallacy Detective’ was a recommendation from one of our American homeschooling friends and I can see why they were so excited about using it as a resource for lessons in logic and communication. I haven’t finished using this text, but once I am we will be revisiting it and beginning a walk-through of Nathaniel and Hans’ next book, ‘The Thinking Toolbox‘.

In the final chapter of ‘The Fallacy Detective’ the authors hone in on propaganda. The introduction to this section differentiates between propaganda and manipulative propaganda.

Some key points are made, such as,

‘Propaganda is any strategy for spreading our beliefs or ideas…Propaganda is not always bad. There isn’t anything wrong with spreading our ideas and encouraging people to buy our product – as long as we do it honestly’ (p.188).

The definition given for manipulative propaganda is,

‘when someone plays with our emotions in a way designed to make us agree with them without thinking through the matter carefully’ (p.189)

I had a problem with these definitions because they didn’t go deep enough. For instance, someone could easily use this to (falsely) justify the accusation that preaching is propaganda, or worse manipulative propaganda. So when teaching through this part, I added a qualifier. Throwing in the fact that there is a distinction between propaganda and preaching.  Granted the two are sometimes blurred by questionable sermons, poor theology, and stale dogma.

This is sometimes seen in the Charismatic movement, where the emphasis can be more on transaction and performance. By that I mean “naming and claiming something”, “having the [quote] right anointing [unquote], “feeling God’s presence in the band if it played well, and if it didn’t play to standard? Well, God somehow didn’t show up”.

Thus giving the congregation and spectator the guilty feeling that they somehow failed to impress God and are abandoned for not having done so. Jesus had a stinging rebuke for those in the temple, who confused preaching with manipulating others. Knowing the difference between preaching and propaganda, especially manipulative propaganda falls in line with that rebuke.

‘And Jesus entered the temple and drove out all who sold and bought in the temple, and he overturned the tables of the money-changers and the seats of those who sold pigeons.’ (Matthew 21:1, ESV)

There’s a big difference between preaching and manipulating someone in order to get something. Preaching is about proclamation, invitation, empower faith seeking understanding and learning together in humility.

I take my own understanding of preaching, from Jesus and Paul, who together, teach us that preaching, in sum, is about saying “I give this to you, in order to benefit you” (paraphrased). It’s far removed from the sales room floor of crony capitalism, the soap box of Marxists, the auctioneer’s gavel and the manipulative propagandist who, hiding behind all of these platforms, has his and her ultimate aim as being, “what can I take from you to benefit me”. At the heart of this we hear caveat emptor – let the buyer beware; Jesus and Paul telling us to be careful about what is being sold to us, who is doing the selling, and why they are selling it.

Even without the distinction between preaching and propaganda, the final chapter of ‘The Fallacy Detective’ holds itself together. The differentiation between propaganda and manipulative propaganda is followed by a clear description of, why, how, when and where propaganda is used. This includes, among others, car salesmen, lawyers right up to celebrities, artists and politicians.

Again, not all propaganda is bad, but propaganda shouldn’t be accepted without question; my take on this is that caveat emptor becomes: beware the auctioneers.

This differentiation between propaganda and manipulative propaganda gives the authors the opportunity to prepare the reader for the discussion ahead. Every time they use the word propaganda, they mean manipulative propaganda. By only using the word propaganda, the authors ingeniously force the reader to make their own differentiation between the two.

The information video I’m posting below on Marxist manipulative propaganda, circa 1957 illustrates this differentiation and the definitions presented by Nathaniel & Hans’ Bluedorn. There’s some real insight into manipulative propaganda. For instance the video explains how most Marxists/Communists play the information warfare game. Adding to this, is the small presence of American manipulative propaganda, which pops up from time to time, clearly designed to push the Communists back by using their own strategies against them.

For most hardcore Marxists there is no truth, but that which is filtered through the lens of Karl Marx. As the script writers for the video accurately describe:

“America is the major obstacle that stands between the grave-digger [Communist] and its intended victim. Here is target number one for the Reds and who’s in the bulls-eye. You are being in the bulls-eye. It’s important to know something about the enemy’s weapons and how to spoil their aim. That aim is nothing less than world conquest, and subversion by every possible means, is the cheap method used.The keyword is conflict.
Outside of the red countries themselves conflict must be promoted everywhere. Every dissatisfaction must grow into a resentment. Every resentment must become an argument. Every argument must grow into a fight. Every fight must blossom into a riot. Every riot must expand into a war. Every war must end in devastation.Where, there, in the ruins, communism finds its chance. For the Communists there must never be a compromise. Never a settlement of disputes, only conflict.”

If, as the video concludes, the only ‘effective defence against [manipulative] propaganda is the truth’, then the way forward for the aggressor, in any information war, is to attack the truth. The truth is watered down in order to get people to second guess it; smothering the truth in lies, half-truths, and the displacement of absolute truth. On this level truth means that at any stop light, red can be made to mean “go” by any individual who so desires, and no one is liable for the consequences.

This is why one of Roger Scruton’s more tongue in cheek comments in his 1994 work Modern Philosophy carries so much weight:

‘A writer who says that there are no truths, or that all truth is ‘merely relative’, is asking you not to believe him. So don’t.’  (pp.5-6)

Worth noting is the date this video was made. With the benefit of hindsight, the information presented shows that those who came before us, were not as ignorant as we are about the dangers posed by Communism and all forms of manipulative propaganda.


References:

Bluedorn, N. & H., 2009 The Fallacy Detective Christian Logic

Scruton, R. 1994 Modern Philosophy Bloomsbury Publishing

Image design: Rod Lampard Photo: Riccardo Annandale on Unsplash

In a recent article titled ‘Abortion in/as a Consumer Structure’ for Solidarity: The Journal of Catholic Social Thought and Secular Ethics, Dr. Matthew Tan, a Lecturer in Theology and Philosophy at Campion College Australia, suggested that the Church needs to assert itself as an ‘alternative public’ in the marketplace.

Matthias Grunewald, ‘The Last Supper’. c.1500 A.D

According to Tan the real battleground where issues like abortion are to be engaged in is the ‘community called “the market”[i],

‘In consumer culture everything is reduced to a commodity and the market is the community’[ii]. He explains that ‘bodies become units of exchange. Greater value is attributed to those with the greater buying power’[iii]

Enter a ‘politics of visibility’ where bodies are:

‘reduced to a blank slate whose sole worth lies in its ability to exalt the logos that hang off it[iv]… Mere existence then becomes ‘dependent on performance and audience. Self itself becomes dependant on visibility’[v]

In response to this the Church needs to engage by seeing through the ‘lens of economic efficiency’. It needs to engage as a ‘public in its own right to challenge to the public circumscribed by state and society’.

This is as opposed to allowing itself to be simply relegated by society and politics to function in a private ancillary role e.g.: ‘chaplaincy’.

How can the Church apply its resources in presenting itself as an alternative?

Tan suggests that the language of the Sacraments meet the language of commerce, ‘in particular the Eucharist’.

Here the Church can assert itself as a direct:

‘counter-structure’ to the consumerist ‘logic of efficiency’ because the Eucharist (communion) ‘undoes the logic of efficiency by challenging the logic of resource scarcity that mandates the need to ensure efficient management. The Eucharist challenges this by positing counter-logic of plenitude where people ‘receive without charge [and] give without charge’
‘The Eucharist can challenge the very foundations on which contemporary socio-political arrangements are grounded. Because of this, the Church’s task of producing its own fields via sacramental practice will ultimately call into question the Church’s own political positioning’
‘This alternative public…contains an alternative structure and is one in which the imperative to consume others is seen as an aberration rather than the norm. If the structure of consumer practice is implicated in the normalisation of abortion, the Church can only comprehensively undercut that normalisation by supplementing its discourse asserting the personhood of the foetus with its own counter-structure.
In so doing the church will need to go beyond making claims that are allegedly recognisable to all endowed with reason. Through its own sacramental economy, it would need to be engaged in the production of practices that declare an allegiance that is contrary to the state/society/market complex’

Even though, they are in fact very political, I am not sure the sacraments (primarily Baptism and Communion – for those us reading Tan who are Protestants) should be employed as a purely political and financial tool. This is because the purposes of the sacraments are firstly about recollection. Secondly, relationship and then, only in a final sense, does it become about transformation.

I wonder though if Tan is in fact talking about marketing the church and its practices better. For example: Does this counter logic advocate that the Church view itself as a corporation and set itself apart from other corporations such as McDonalds, Apple or Microsoft?

If so, are we talking about taking up the very thing only God can do and does? Does this make or lead us to falsely make the sacraments purely transactional, bypassing Jesus Christ, to the point where something akin to the indulgences of the Middle Ages, salvation is taxed by the institution?

For the church the marketing of the message seems to be the evangelical outer workings of the people working with God, whereas the latter marketing of the church appears, at least in an exegetical understanding of scripture, to require and consist of the present participation of the Holy Spirit, in both external and internal evangelical work of God for the children of God.

Would this human effort to commercialise the sacraments then further diminish the transcendent point of reference which appears to be abandoned by modernity’s extreme focus on ‘surface over substance’; i.e.: material gain measuring a persons net worth?

I only ask this because it is my only hesitation in completely agreeing with his point of view. This doesn’t negate the strategic importance of Tan’s thinking here. There is potentially a lot good that can grow from what he is suggesting.

To witness the Church having its task of proclamation really heard and appreciated, on any level in real time, is energising. To engage as a serious alternative to the alternatives, is a privilege of freedom, that none of us in the church ought to remain complacent about or take for granted.


References:

[i] Tan, M. 2014 Abortion in/as a Consumer Structure, Solidarity: The Journal of Catholic Social Thought and Secular Ethics: Vol 4: Iss.1, Article 7,p.7

[ii] Ibid, p.11

[iii] Ibid, p.8

[iv] Ibid, p.7

[v] Ibid, p.9

Article originally published April 27, 2014

Unexpected Rescue

January 31, 2018 — 4 Comments

There are days when no matter how hard we try to realign our attitude, the overwhelming feelings we might encounter in our situation, become a flood that sinks us further into a feeling of pointlessness. We’re in too deep.

Days come and days go. We watch them pass by from sunrise to sunset. The pace of life smothers us. The things that we felt so qualified to do, no longer make us feel all that qualified.  Instead, we’re overcome by despondency, disillusionment and then despair. Almost breathless, all attempts to make sense of the place we find ourselves in fail.

Though people surround us, there is no one really near us. We hear the noise of those around us, but struggle to process the fact that when we speak, we only find ourselves contributing to that noise. From here we come to the point where we realise that no one can hear us because everyone is listening to the sound of their own voice, answering the applause or condemnation of the world that follows it.

Most are dealing with something, wrestling with their own fears, failures, excesses and successes.  Some give in and slip into a slow motion view of the world.  Faces and facts are distorted. The noise around them drops in pitch. Their world is turned from the sounds of bustling activity into a slow monotonous drone.  Some go faster, live harder, decide to medicate themselves and give their lives over to the consequences.

Surrendering their lives on the altar of human wisdom, both slide into oblivion. Trapped by the cave of their own existence, they refuse to hear any word spoken from beyond it. Creatures of habit, they lean on their own understanding and conclude that any such word is a lie. At best a figment of their imagination, at worst, a tool designed by others to control and deceive them. The word that penetrates the noise of the world around them is too strange, too much of a contradiction, too foreign for them to be comfortable in acknowledging it.

This word in its contradiction speaks of hope, of water in desolate places, of dry bones coming to life, of possibilities within impossibilities. This word contradicts their entire world. It is a word that challenges all human presuppositions about their situation. It is spoken and it speaks to the despondency, disillusionment, despair, and breathless uneasiness.

This word speaks and stands in the way of our own words, answering the applause and condemnation of the world that follows it. It is spoken and it speaks of liberation from both the world’s applause and its condemnation. It is spoken and it speaks of liberation for both the one living in slow motion and the one given over to the self-destructive consequences of their defeatist, live fast, die hard philosophy. This word is a contradiction to their sacrificial slide into oblivion.

They’re in too deep, but this word throws to them a lifeline. Supported in the midst of their impending drift down into the abyss, they are confronted by its strange rescue. This word and its rescue exist despite what they were told and in contradiction to what they were sold. It makes no sense to them. It doesn’t look the way human wisdom says it should. It is an unexpected rescue.

The world’s eloquent words that denied the simplicity of this word cannot save them. Their rescue by this word comes to them out of the act of the One who spoke it, not by the eloquence of the world’s wisdom spoken to them. They are summoned to grasp its grasp of them.  They are summoned to believe, not because human wisdom sold it to them at the “right” price, out of protest, through manipulation or well-crafted words and sugar coated rhetoric. They are summoned by this word to believe because this word is acted upon by the One who speaks it.

‘In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was in the beginning with God.  All things were made through him, and without him was not anything made that was made.  In him was life, and the life was the light of men.’  (John 1:1-4, ESV)

This Word became flesh and dwelt among us[i].  He now becomes the contradiction to all of our impossibilities and the foundation[ii] for all our possibilities. The Word of the cross is the testimony of God, Jesus Christ and Him crucified. This is a word testified to, as God testifies about Himself through it.

‘but neither human resources, nor imperial munificence, nor appeasement of the gods, eliminated sinister suspicions that the fire [of Rome] had been instigated. To suppress this rumour, Nero fabricated scapegoats – and punished with every refinement the notoriously depraved Christians (as they were popularly called). Their originator , Christ, had been put to death in Tiberius’ reign by the governor of Judea, Pontius Pilatus. But despite this setback the deadly superstition had broken out afresh, not only in Judea (where the mischief started) but even in Rome.’ (Tacitus, Annals circa 116 A.D)

Committed to His Word, God dived in deep to throw us a lifeline. Days may come and days may go. We may watch them pass by from sunrise to sunset. The pace of life may smother us, but the Word of God stands forever.  The possibilities that come with this Word stand as a living, breathing, defiant contradiction to the threat of oblivion and any despair the threat of irrelevance might throw at us.

In light of this Word, we can stand firm against all that ‘assumes to itself authority, and does not allow itself to be regulated by the word of God, reckoning as nothing all the applause[iii]’, and condemnation of the world. This is because it’s ‘light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it.’ (John 1:5, ESV)


References:

[i] John 1:14, ESV

[ii] 1 Cor. 3:10-15, ESV

[iii] Calvin, J. Commentary on 1 Corinthians 3

Photo by Luke Besley on Unsplash

Karl Barth postulated that we must always reckon with the existence of teachers of the Church who exist, but are not presently evident or realised.

Packaged into the latter part of Volume 1.2 of his Church Dogmatics is an intense discourse with neo-protestant and Roman Catholic perspectives on Church authority, biblical exegesis, Revelation and reformation.

Within those pages Barth draws up a critique of the liberal neo-protestant trends (‘excesses’[i]) which included the hero-worship[ii] of the reformers Luther and Calvin, a complete “jettisoning” of tradition by rejecting the church fathers (pre-reformation) as irrelevant and the absolutism of the bible which pushed the view that “Christianity can only be constructed out of the bible alone.” (Barth referencing Gottfried Menken) [iii]

This was a practice, evident in modern Biblicism, which seemingly allowed 19th century neo-protestant theologians to assert a “new” authority. Therefore, allowing them the ability to assert themselves over the bible, as if they were masters of the text[iv].

Barth writes:

‘We need the guidance and correction afforded by the existence of the Church Fathers’[v]

In line with his overarching theme – Barth is advocating a ‘hearing and receiving of the Word of God’, in situ as the recollection and anticipation of its witness to the Revelation of God.For Barth, ‘we are the children of God and must walk as such’.

So far in this discussion I have found a man, a theologian and a Pastor not just looking for balance in the quest to fight back to a ‘unity of confession’[vi] in the church, but also arguing a strong case for it.

Evidence of this is found in Barth’s words from page 616:

A teacher of the Church is the one who in exposition of Holy Scripture has something to say which comes home to us. Many of those whom we no longer hear today will never be heard again. But there are others who, although they are not heard today, will one day be heard.What remains of their authority is in the first instance a memory: the neutral memory of a great name, bound up with facts, relationships, and reactions to them which is also neutral.Their authority is suspended, as it were. It would be a very arbitrary undertaking to try artificially to reassert them.
If they come to life again in the power of Holy Scripture which they are concerned to expound, Scripture itself will see to their authority.We have to reckon with this possibility. We cannot, therefore, ignore such recollections of former authority which have now become neutral. Their hour might suddenly come.Those who are silent might speak again, as according to the confession of the Church they once spoke to their age. The facts and circumstances in relation to which their names and reactions and word were once significant may suddenly return – for there is nothing new under the sun – and the decision which they demand may again be a relevant one.
We have perhaps overlooked something if this has not already happened.
In the modern period the Reformers themselves were for a long time only latent teachers of the Church. And it is to the Church’s good that it has not ceased to give them its attention. (Karl Barth, CD.1.2, 1938)

This is something made more significant by the “gathering storm” surrounding the era in which he wrote it.

Given certain divisive issues within Christian thought and practice in society and politics today, I read this as an encouragement to listen and receive. Not blindly hearing or receiving. Not without question or caution, but with gratitude, decision, appreciation, prayer, critique and respect.

“Those who are silent might speak again and the decision which they demand may again be a relevant one. We have perhaps overlooked something if this has not already happened” (ibid, p.616:1938).

‘For as the rain and snow come down and water the earth making it bring forth life, so shall my word be that goes out from my mouth; it shall not return to me empty, but it shall accomplish that which I purpose, and shall succeed in the thing for which I sent it.’ (Isaiah 55:10-11, ESV)


References:

[i] Barth, K. 1938 C.D 1.2 Authority in the Church/under the Word Hendrickson Publishers p.605

[ii] Ibid, p.611

[iii] Ibid, p.607

[iv] Ibid, p.609

[v] Ibid, p.609 (see also his statement in p.610: ‘Pure neo-protestantism means a break with the Reformers)

[vi] Ibid, p.603

Image courtesy of [Nuttapong] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net

[Originally published on May 17th, 2014]

A lot of people leave out the Christian part when it comes to Martin Luther King Jnr because they either don’t know, or don’t really wanna know. Like all, especially those who move from the position of spectator, to being on the field, he wasn’t without sin, but he was a man who knew that ALL sin is answered first and foremost by God, in and through Jesus Christ.

After posting this illustration from Vince Conard to Facebook, a friend pointed out that given the tone, aggression and disunity of our day, mention of Martin’s faith, is anathema on some circles within the West. The fact that he was named after a German theologian and reformer, in 1934, of all years, presents a challenge to those who rail against the West in the name of a mostly concocted cause, in ways far from King’s own.

Martin Luther King’s legacy is first of all a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the overcoming of sin. All sin, not just the bits and pieces some people choose to focus on over others, including the sin of treating others, who are created in the image of God, differently because of the colour of their skin.

Martin Luther King’s legacy is a Christian witness to the Gospel of Jesus Christ and the liberation of humanity from its primal atheism. This is a liberation from humanity’s rejection of grace, its self-displacement, subsequent displacement of others and self-destruction.

Karl Barth spoke consistently about his view that the “no” of God heard in Jesus Christ has nothing on the great “yes” of God, spoken at the same time. This humiliation of God is the exaltation of humanity. This is something He chose and in exercising His freedom God hands to us freedom.

Freedom consecrated by response, responsibility, partnership with God, prophesy, ministry, healing and teaching. Freedom made real by His choice and His suffering at the hands of whip, condemnation, betrayal, spear, and death on a Roman cross. Freedom vindicated by the empty tomb and the resurrected Jesus, who is not another myth like that of the half-god/half-man Hercules, but is Himself very God and very man.

What grounded Martin Luther King from the start was faith in Jesus Christ. It’s well documented that when things weighed MLK down, he would lean on the gifts of Mahalia Jackson, who would minister to him through word and song. It’s his defiant Christian faith that should inspire us and point us to the goal of liberation as he saw it, liberation from ALL sin, in the name, word and deeds of Jesus the Christ.

“God is neither hard-hearted or soft minded. He is tough-minded enough to transcend the world; He is tender-hearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us to our agonies and struggles. He seeks for us in dark places and suffers with us, and for us in our tragic prodigality.” (A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love, p.9)

The faith of Martin Luther King Jnr is not to be confused with optimism. It’s not the “faith” of optimists and psychologists who preach from the pages of positive psychology. The clever term they use in order to justify reducing the Christian faith to principles that can be lived without any need for a relationship with the One who authored that faith; the One who anchors humanity to the living hope this defiant faith testifies to.

To segregate Martin Luther King Jnr from this defiant Christian faith, is to fail to hear what it is that he had to say, what he set in motion, and what he hoped to see achieved.  This segregating of King from his faith and theology may serve the secular political aims of modern liberals and their quest for total power by any means necessary, but it ultimately enslaves King to the servitude of ideology-as-master and the reactionary political groups it controls. Groups and agendas, he, in all likelihood would never have signed on to because they persist in denying their own sin, and yet, are loud and proud in their condemnation of the sin of others.

Paraphrasing Thomas F. Torrance from his book Atonement: ‘all self-justification is a lie’.

Beware the auctioneers.


References:

Artist: Vince Conard, https://www.instagram.com/vince_conard/  (Used with permission)

King, Jnr. M.L. A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart, Gift of Love (p.9)

Torrance, T.F. 2009 Atonement: The Person & Work of Jesus Christ InterVarsity Press

Born out of conversations with a friend from the United States, I was given the opportunity to read a compilation of fragments and essays written by Simone Weil called: ‘Oppression and Liberty’.  The compilation flows in chronological order and presents some of Weil’s thoughts on anthropology, economics, politics, ideology and war.

Simone was a French intellectual. Like Jacques Ellul, whom she presumably never met, Weil worked in the French resistance and was well schooled in Marxism.  Among many others in the elite French communist circles of mid 20th Century, she was a contemporary of rebel and excommunicated member, Albert Camus.

Later in life, Weil matured back towards Roman Catholic Christianity, taking an interest in aestheticism and Catholic mysticism. Detaching herself from the French intellectual trends of her day, Weil also made a break with Marxism. Whilst remaining a fan of Karl Marx, Weil set alongside her criticism of [crony] capitalism, an intense critique of Marxism, detailing the threat posed by plutocrats and bureaucrats when they choose to entertain and ride the backs of both monsters.

Unpacking this threat is ‘Oppression & Liberty’s recurring theme. Weil makes it known that she is no fan of big business or big government. It’s more apparent in the latter than the former, but both big business and big government form big bureaucracy.  This creates a ‘bureaucratic caste’ and is dangerous because ‘all exclusive, uncontrolled power becomes oppressive in the hands of those who have the monopoly of it’ (p.15).

Readers wouldn’t have to look far to locate examples of where big business and big government corroborate to create big bureaucracy. Some corporate promotion and imposition of new cultural laws such as those posited by radical feminist ideology, punishment for disagreeing with any forced imposition or disloyalty to the LGBT flag and the questioning of the movement’s agenda; weapons factories, political groups, career politicians, Islamist shar’ia, some parts of the institutional Christian church, pharmaceutical, oil and power companies, information tech companies and, the education and military industrial complexes, all provide adequate proof.

From an historical point of view, it’s easy to see the beneficial relationship that developed between industrialists and “Captains of industry” with the rise of National Socialists in Germany, Europe and America throughout the 1930’s. As is shown by Thomas Doherty in his 2013 book ‘Hollywood and Hitler’, European and American corporations did their best not to upset the newly established status quo. It could be argued that this is one of contributing factors to why Winston Churchill was so highly criticised for speaking out against the ‘gathering storm’.

Additionally, the Soviet nonaggression pact with the Nazis also gives further credibility to Weil’s conclusions about how big government and big corporations create big bureaucracy. Stalin had imperialist ambitions. Hitler was a way to implement them. Hence the Soviet attack on Norway on the 30th November 1939, three months after the Molotov–Ribbentrop Pact (23rd August 1939) between the Nazis and the Soviets was signed. This gave parts of Eastern Europe to the Soviet Union and open commercial ties with the Nazis.

Weil is right then to say that the ‘bureaucratic machine, though composed of flesh, and well fed flesh at that is none the less as irresponsible and as soulless as are the machines made of iron and steel.’ (p.13)

The ‘bureaucratic machine excludes all judgement and all genius; it tends by its very structure, to concentrate all powers in itself. It therefore threatens the very existence of everything that still remains precious for us in the bourgeois regime […] Instead of a clash of contrary opinions, we end up with an “official opinion” from which no one would be able to deviate. The result is a State religion that stifles all individual values, that is to say all values’ (pp.15 & 16).

For Weil, bureaucrats, like [crony] capitalists, can become parasitic. They receive benefits by causing damage. The three main areas Bureaucrats operate in are ‘Trade Union bureaucracy, Industrial bureaucracy and State bureaucracy’ (p.16). The working-class only exist as pawns, even in the ‘hands of trade unions’ (p.26). The worker and the poor are putty in the hands of the revolutionists, who utilise the hope that revolution inspires, unaware that ‘fanning revolt to white heat, can serve the cause of fascist demagogy’ (p.21).

This last point then leads into her much larger criticism and separation of Karl Marx from Marxism, which is something I don’t have room here to delve into. Very briefly, Simone applies Marx’s critique of power structures, including Marxism, stating:

‘All power is unstable, there is never power, but only a race for power – the quest to outdo rivals and the quest to maintain’ (p.64). This is the black hole of greed, the ‘aimless merry-go round’ (p.65) which the lust for power drags humanity into.

Weil concludes that all monopolies (centralised power) to be a leading cause of oppression. This might surprise some, but her conclusion aligns with capitalist economists such as Milton Friedman, Thomas Sowell and Hayek. All of whom, see and saw, monopoly and big government as a being a restriction on the free market.  There are of courses differences between them on this, however, the object of their concern is the same. For the latter group, monopolies are oppressive to the free market, for Weil monopolies are oppressive to people. Despite this difference, they are essentially saying the same thing because economics is about people. There is no free market without people, who are free to operate responsibly within it.

My only point of real disagreement with Weil in regards to this subject is her position on Nazism and Socialism. For Wiel Nazism was not socialism, and attempts to bring National Socialism into the Marxist framework are ‘vain’ (p.7).

This is contrary to the well defended conclusions of F.A Hayek, George Reisman, Jacques Ellul, Roger Scruton, and Richard Wurmbrand. All of whom present National Socialism and Communist Socialism as branches of Marxism.

Simone seems to have her own definition of what Socialism and National Socialism are.

‘The orientation of the Hitlerite masses, though violently anti-capitalist, is by no means socialist, any more so than the demagogic propaganda of the leaders; for the object is to place the national economy, not in the hands of the producers grouped into democratic organizations, but in the hands of the State apparatus.’ (p.7)

On these points, genuine capitalists would agree that the economy should be in the hands of producers grouped into democratic organizations.  Genuine capitalists understand that capitalism without compassion is not capitalism. Greed strangles the life out of the free market. This is one of the reasons, why, in the West, Frank Capra’s 1946 movie, ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’ remains the number one film of all time.

Not because people long for a socialist revolution, but because they understand that a market weighed down by monopolies, big government and big business is not free. It is instead chained to the aimless merry-go round of big bureaucracy where the bureaucratic caste do what they can to outdo each other and maintain power.

Oppression & Liberty’ was a surprise. It wasn’t something I planned on reading, but am thankful I had the chance to. Simone’s work isn’t easy to read. ‘Oppression & Liberty’ sometimes comes across as lofty and too complex, which is very much a reflection of her schooling in French intellectual circles. That, however, doesn’t subtract from Simone’s sincerity or the insights that this compilation of fragments and essays offers.


References:

Weil, S. 1955 Oppression & Liberty, 1958, 2001 Routledge Classics NY

Those who helped stir up fear by recklessly labelling Trump and all Trump voters as Nazis or white supremacists [et.al], aligned themselves, through the decision to do so, with those who are hell-bent on their destruction.

Decisions like this aid in the downgrade of all that is best about the West.

As most of you know I’ve been calling this out since I made my thoughts on this public in August 10, 2016. I’ve had to leave forums because of that and I’ve been unfriended, blocked and ridiculed for challenging the wave of dissonance and hypocrisy, in the hate Trump/ love trumps hate movement:

Why Trump is Not Hitler & Why Evangelical Americans Are Not German Christian Movement

Why Social Justice Warriors Are The Brethren of Iscariot, Not Christ

In an article published on January 1st of this year, called ‘About That Trump Autocracy‘,  the WSJ calls us to not forget the serious lessons of 2017:

‘Democratic institutional norms are worth defending, which is why we called out the Obama IRS for bias against the tea party. We’ll do the same if Mr. Trump exceeds his constitutional power. But the lesson of the past year is that progressives should have more faith in the American system—whether they’re in power or not. Losing an election isn’t the same as losing a democracy.’

I agree with this. We need to celebrate our healthy traditions, not walk blindly with mobs that seek to undermine or destroy them. All the evidence needed to show how different Conservatives, allies to Conservatives and Leftist modern liberals react to losing an election can be seen in the Republican candidate Roy Moore’s recent loss in Alabama.

There were no riots. No over-the-top claims and subsequently expensive investigations into fears of foreign interference.  Conservatives did not organise nationwide marches, fly Antifascist-fascist flags and shout out an insanely ignorant praise of Communism, as part of their protest against losing the election or against [mostly] phantom Nazis. What we did see is a lot of introspection, regrouping and the need to present better candidates in the future.

Losing an election is not the same as losing a democracy. Kudos to the Wall Street Journal for stepping up and saying so. Conservatives and those allied to the current concerns of Conservatives know this because they understand Classical Liberalism. They also see how dangerous the Leftist cult of modern liberalism is to truth, society and healthy tradition.

The lessons of late 2016 right throughout 2017 should not be ignored.  If we are to ask ourselves, would Jesus approve of Trump as President? We must also ask, would the same Jesus approve of the spite and venom, thrown Trump’s way?

The most important lessons of the Trump era may very well come from the decisions and reactions of those who hate Trump. Those who fund, and celebrate, the spite and venom, all while carrying sharpie coloured posters, that preach love trumps hate.

Charles Spurgeon:

‘…some two faced men are hypocrites by nature; slippery as eels, and piebald like Squire Smoothey’s mate. Like a drunken man, they could not walk straight if they were to try…They are born of the breed of Judas. The double shuffle is their favourite game, and honesty their greatest hatred. Honey is on their tongues, but gall in their hearts.’ (The Complete John Ploughman, p.115)


References:

The Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal, 2018 About That Trump Autocracy sourced 3rd January 2018, from www.wsj.com

Epiphany marks what is technically the end of Christmas. The wise men, avoiding Herod and his schemes visit Mary, Joseph and Jesus. They mark the birth by way of tribute to the child born to be King.

Advent closes and the door opens to a new year and with it the remembrance of what Christ’s election means. Instead of being crowned a king, He moves past the crowds willing to crown Him as such. His response was wrapped in the fact that His kingdom was not of this world. His rule is like no other.

How we approach Jesus Christ, might be like that of the Shepherds, fishermen, tax collectors, Mary, Joseph, His cousin John, or the Roman and Jewish officials. How we come to Christ is nothing compared to how He comes to us.

As Karl Barth rightly saw it,

‘we live by the fact that God Himself willed to be the Bearer of our contradiction, that in the full mystery of His Godhead He so deeply condescended to us. We live by the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ, by God’s own suffering and triumph, sorrow and joy, by His original participation in the twofold nature of our being. Enduring to be what we are and as we are, He bears us.’ (CD. 3:1:382)

That in the appointment of Jesus Christ,

‘as the Bearer of creaturely existence and its contradictions, God did not in the same way will and accomplish His humiliation and death on the one side and His exaltation and resurrection on the other […] He took to His own heart very differently in Jesus Christ the infinite hope of the creature and its infinite peril.’ (ibid, p.383)

Jesus Christ is the living action of God.

‘He sees the hopeless peril of the created world which He has snatched from nothingness but which is still so near to nothingness. He sees that it cannot and will not check itself on the edge of this abyss [therefore] God Himself willed to become man, to make His own the weakness and frailty of man, to suffer and die as man, and in this self-offering to secure the frontier between His creation and the ruin which threatens it from the abyss. God is gracious to man and woman.’ (ibid, pp.383-384)

Thus Barth adds,

‘we cannot stop at the suffering, death and burial of Jesus Christ. This is not the final word. The cross is followed by the resurrection, humiliation by exaltation, and the latter is the true, definitive and eternal form of the incarnate Son of God. This is the Yes for the sake of which the No had first to be spoken’. (ibid, p.384)

We stand in ‘defiant confidence’ not because we ‘cling to an idea of God, but because that confidence has its origin and object in God’s self-revelation’ (ibid, p.380). We don’t construct God, in Jesus Christ, He confronts us with the truth about Himself. Any response to this that is neutral or indifferent is, according to Barth, ‘of radical and genuine ungodliness’ (ibid, p.379).

For ‘Christian faith sees and knows what it holds. It does not need to persuade itself of anything. It has nothing to do with a tense clinging to the consequences of an idea or a laboriously constructed concept of God.’ (ibid, p.379)

Reason dictates that if God has revealed Himself to humanity, like those wise men, we should follow and respond in gratitude and obedience to that knowledge. As risky as the journey is, and as limited as we might be in being able to comprehend it completely.

For 2018 may epiphany mark for you a return to this defiant confidence, not because it proudly boasts of its own ideas or because it rests on human constructs of what and who we think God is, but because in the freedom given to us in Christ’s incarnation, under God’s grace, you find His “Yes” to you, and then by the light of that, your own “Yes” to the Him. The One who was, who is, and is to come.

‘Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation. The old has passed away; behold, the new has come.’ (2 Corinthians 5:17, ESV)

 


References:

Barth, K. 1945 The Doctrine of Creation, C.D. Volume 3 Part 1  Hendrickson Publishers, 1958

Photos excluding heading image: RL2018

Come Alive‘ by the Foo Fighters is over ten years old, yet it remains an example of Christ alive in contemporary culture.

“…Nothing more to give I can finally live
Come alive
Your life into me I can finally breathe
Come alive
I lay there in the dark
Open my eyes

You saved me the day that you came alive.”

(Foo Fighters, 2007)

‘Come Alive’ was part of the 2007, Echoes, Silence, Patience & Grace album.

Viewed through the eyes of a child, teenager, husband or wife the words could easily reflect the sentiment of gratitude for an abusive/self-abusive person who has changed and is in the process of recovery.

The repetitive  “come alive” is about the solemn gratitude that comes from an awakening. Within it is the mixture of a cautious relief, recognition and acknowledgement that when “good turns to bad”, “good can come from bad”. Accompanying this theme of thankfulness is the apparent rescue, and the author’s proclamation that rescue from the abyss is possible.

This isn’t an optimist speaking about a positivism detached from reality. ‘Come Alive’ is a proclamation and an invitation. Sentences like, “you saved me the day you came alive” could be taken to be a reference to the resurrection of Jesus Christ. His death and resurrection as the point of our conversion – our being saved;the reconciliation with God made possible by the free decision of God to dwell among us, showing us our freedom to reject or accept that state of reconciliation.

The message speaks of promise for the broken, from the broken, to the broken.The message speaks to the recovering and those still stuck in a cycle of abuse, reminding them that Inhaled Grace Ignites.

The song starts with clear lines of remorse, empathy and remembrance.

“Seems like only yesterday
Life belonged to runaways
Nothing here to see,
No looking back

Every sound monotone
Every color monocrome
Life begin to fade into the black
Such a simple animal
Steralized with alcohol I could hardly feel me anymore

Desperate, meaningless
All filled up with emptiness
Felt like everything was said and done I lay there in the dark,
I close my eyes…”

From a theological  perspective, the voice of proclamation and victory (one I would confidently say is empowered by the Holy Spirit) is to be heard moving out from behind the pain, and the silent groans which rest in what the author is reflecting on.

This is Jesus Christ alive in contemporary culture.

Within the song there is an active, raw acknowledgement of grace, and the gratitude given within it is a recognition of an awakening, a personal apocalypse, now very real, and very present to the author.

Dave Grohl confirms as much, stating that ‘Come Alive’ is ‘about reawakening after becoming a father. Anyone who’s a father understands how the world becomes a different place when your child is born. I just feel and see everything differently now.’ (Fooarchive)

Although the song is in the end about fatherhood.The overall weight, tone and presence of the song, even with its lack of a clear object, is worship.

It’s the intensity of these kinds of songs, which are created outside the ”Contemporary Christian Music Machine”, that make statements like the made by Kevin Davis, all the more intriguing:

“art and artists are vital for teaching us how to live. And, therefore, art is part of the gospel, whether or not the artist is fully aware.”  (Kevin Davis, ‘The Grace of Holly Williams‘) 

Jesus is Victor.

‘How precious is your steadfast love O God! The children of mankind take refuge in the shadow of your wings. They feast on the abundance of your house, and you give them drink from the river of delights. For with you is the fountain of life; in your light we see light. Oh continue your steadfast love to those who know you, and your righteousness to the upright of heart! Let not the foot of arrogance come upon me, nor the hand of the wicked drive me away.’  (Psalm 36:7-11, ESV)

 

 


(Updated from a post originally published on 5th May 2014)

Pol Pot was a Marxist, schooled in France; part of the French communists such as Sartre et.al.

As I noted in a quote  from Simone Weil on Facebook the other day:

“Marxism is a fully-fledged religion, in the impurest sense of the word. In particular it shares in common with all inferior forms of the religious life the fact of having been continually used, according to Marx’s perfectly accurate expression, as an opium of the people.” (Simone Weil, Oppression & Liberty p.165)

Weil was a fan of Marx, but chose to leave Marxism behind.

In the particular fragment the above quote comes from, Simone’s conclusions pull up alongside Roger Scruton’s in ‘Fools, Frauds & Firebrands (2015)’, and Jacques Ellul’ in ‘Jesus & Marx (1988)’.

I would also add in here F.A. Hayek’s ‘Road to Serfdom‘ (1944), Richard Wurmbrand’s, ‘Marx & Satan (1976)’, Albert Camus’, ‘The Rebel‘ (1951) and for good measure, Jean Bethke Elshtain’s, ‘Sovereignty: God, State, & Self‘ (2008).

In an article called, A dark century’s blackest cloud, from November 2004, The Economist gives a decent summary of what an ideological allegiance made to Marxism demands, and the tragic consequences that follow it. The piece brilliantly summarises the pain caused by Pol Pot to the people of Cambodia. (If I could, I’d quote the whole thing).

“…it was the pseudoscientific certainty of Marxism-Leninism, that malformed child of the Enlightenment, which was chiefly to blame.
…All Cambodians were to become workers on the land. There were to be no wages. Meals were to be provided by collective kitchens (“unity of feeding”). Each Cambodian had to refer to himself or herself as “we”, forbidden to use the first person singular. When one region found it did not have enough food, supplies were not sent from better-off places; rather, the hungry were marched off to look for them.
Of course, it did not work. Up to 1m people died of starvation.”  (The Economist, 2004)

Marxism can be defined very simply as this:

Rich people manipulating not-so-rich people, into eliminating rich people, that rich people don’t like.


Further relevant reading on the snares of Marxism:

The N.Y. Times: Venezuela has the largest proven oil reserves in the world. But in the last three years its economy has collapsed.

BBC News:  Venezuela protests: Man set alight as death toll rises

The Washington Post: It’s official: Venezuela is a full-blown dictatorship

Life With God…

November 2, 2017 — Leave a comment

 

The shape of things to come?:

‘Wojtyla (Pope John Paul II) was constantly battling an [oppressive totalitarian] Polish government that was seeking to harass the Church and reduces its influence over the Catholic population of Poland.
[…] Priest were taxed excessively, and often followed and beaten up; students were denied admission to universities if their parents were churchgoers; permits for the building of churches were withheld when new towns developed;
the state abolished old religious holidays and invented ersatz national ones; and there was a constant ideological compaign of lies in the media designed to weaken religion and reduce it to an expression of patriotic nostaligia. Wojtyla  resisted all these pressures by evading them inventively as much as by challenging them boldly.’
(O’Sullivan, 2006. )[i]

Czech playwright, poet, President, and political dissident, Václav Havel:

“Anything that in any way opposed the vision of the world offered by Communism, thus calling that vision into question or actually proving it wrong, was mercilessly crushed. Needless to say, life, with its unfathomable diversity and unpredictability, never allowed itself to be squeezed into the crude Marxist cage.
All that the guardians of the cage could do was to suppress and destroy whatever they could not make fit into it. Ultimately, war had to be declared on life itself and its innermost essence.
[Having come from a country once ruled by Communism] I could give you thousands of concrete examples of how all the natural manifestations of life were stifled in the name of an abstract, theoretical vision of a better world. It was not just that there were what we call human rights abuses. This enforced vision led to the moral, political and economic devastation of all of society.”
(Havel, 2002) [ii]

 

What should our response look like?

Jesus:

“Be as wise as a serpent, & as gentle as doves” (Mt.10:16)

Martin:

“God is neither hardhearted nor soft minded. He is toughminded enough to transcend the world; he is tenderhearted enough to live in it. He does not leave us alone in our agonies and struggles. He seeks us in dark places and suffers with us and for us in our tragic prodigality.” (MLK, 1963) [iii]

Never give up.

Even when they try to kill you:

P.J.P II: assassination attempt, St. Peter’s Square, 1981.

Reagan: assassination attempt, 1981, Washington D.C.

Thatcher: assassination attempt, Brighton, 1984

‘[In the 1970’s] All three were @ or near the peak of their careers. All three were handicapped by being too sharp, clear, and definite in an age of increasingly fluid identities and sophisticated doubts. Put simply, Wojtyla was too Catholic, Thatcher too conservative, and Reagan too American.’
(O’Sullivan, 2006. ) [iv]

 


References:

[i] O’Sullivan, J. 2006. The President, The Pope & The Prime Minister: Three Who Changed The World Regnery Publishing, (p.14)

[ii] Havel, V. 2002 Preface to Karl Popper’s ‘The Open Society and Its Enemies’, Routledge

[iii] King, M.L. 1963. Sermon: A Tough Mind & a Tender Heart; A Gift of Love, Beacon Press

[iv] O’Sullivan, ibid, 2006. (p.2)

Related reading:

Karl Barth, 1939: “Dear France,” Appeasement, Eschatological Defeatism & Resistance

Reagan’s Reminder: “The Martyrs of History Were Not Fools.”

The Confessing Church Is A Church of Martyrs: Church, Sleep No More!

 

Treating the slippery slope argument in the SSM debate as if it were a fallacy is to commit a fallacy.

It’s ridiculous to discount the slippery slope argument as reactionary, backward, uncouth and pessimistic. It is valid and has value.

Most of us who live by a monetary budget use the slippery slope approach, for instance: “if I spend ‘x’ amount on this, the consequence is that I cannot, or may not be able to afford this”.

With very few exceptions, most “Yes” voters in the SSM debate who dismiss the points made by the slippery slope argument, generally do so based on reductio ad absurdum – whereby they reduce the “no” side to the absurd; dehumanising “no” voters by way of labels and slogans ( = classic Marxism).

This goes hand in hand with employing an identity politik that somehow grants “yes” voters a divine right to make judgement on others through a doctrine which brazenly declares, that there is life not deserving of having an opinion, or the freedom to responsibly support or respectfully share that opinion. It would seem that all attempts to do so, must be policed, shouted down and violently resisted.( = classic fascism).

Emergency laws and the threat of a fine up to $12,600, only bolster this. If anyone is proven to have vilified on the basis of sexual preference, religion, or politics,  they will be potentially crushed by the weight of this law, all judged case by case by the Attorney General. Although, this emergency law is only in place for the duration of the plebiscite on Same-Sex marriage. The immediate question it raises is this, will some on the Left find exemption from this law, since some appear to have broken them already?

With all of the abuse from “yes” campaigners, it makes me wonder whether those voting “yes”, actually know what it is that they are voting “yes” to? What this, and things that have been said to me indicate, is that the culture of repudiation will bring with it a culture of silence.

I don’t see how any thinking person can vote “yes” to this, and so willingly align themselves with those who only throw abuse, instead of reasoned and respectful argument.

Some of which has been well documented. One such high-profile example includes Mothers, who, featured in a vote “no” advertisement. Since they did have been slammed, publicly insulted and threatened.

Other, more recent examples, include the poor treatment of celebrated Australian athlete Margaret Court, the questionable firing of Royal Australian Army Veteran Bernard Gaynor and the ridicule endured by Christian Democrat leader, The Rev. Fred Nile, who sought to bring together politicians to have a reasoned discussion on SSM. In response, Jeremy Buckingham, a member of the Greens, posted a video on his Facebook wall, vilifying Nile as bigoted and showing Buckingham shredding Nile’s invitation.

Even I’ve coped some flak for raising questions & expressing valid reasons for why I am voting “no” to SSM. Not once in my discourse in regards to this matter, have I engaged in, or encouraged abuse, slander, homophobic rants, emotional manipulation or tried to bully people into voting the same as me.

In response some people have taken to social media, and rather than discuss the issues or answer any of the questions I have posed, they’ve decided to troll me, attacking me and my faith. I politely disengaged  when it became clear the person had never read any of what I’d written on the issue.When someone else tried to carry the conversation on in a civil way, it ended with this:

 

Contrary to popular sentiment, being a Christian doesn’t make one ignorant or blind. Faith seeks understanding. Therefore, I am open to hearing disagreement, I draw the line at mockery, reductio ad absurdum, and the cherry of picking of bible verses; the taking them out of context, to show how supposedly ignorant, unloving and unChristian I am. For good reason, this isn’t tolerated when racists do it, so why shouldn’t it be pushed back on, when members of the LGBT community or their supporters do the same?

Misusing the bible in the service of a political, or even personal, advantage is the equivalent of burning the Quran. It does violence to the text. This was the heresy committed by the puppet apparatchik, German Christians, in their pro-Nazi opposition to the Confessing Church, which stood firm against Nazism in Germany during the 1930’s.

 

 

Why are the Left so okay with practising what amounts to anti-Christian bigotry, when they wouldn’t attack a Muslim in the same way? Two very good reasons. First, they know that Christians are more likely to respond with a forgiving answer. Second, Muslims, in Australia have a close relationship with the Left. This connection was made clear when Ali Kadri from the Islamic Council, said in an interview for the ABC, “We are afraid that the LEFT may abandon us, if we speak out and express our opinion.”

Ali Kadri’s concern is that the Left will abandon Muslims to the “Right”. I acknowledge that concern. There are extreme elements who do not differentiate between Islam and Islamism; along with the fact that some of their policies appear to breach freedom of religion. Because they do, those policies require rigorous consideration, as all legislation should.

Nevertheless, if we have read the Quran and understood Shari’a Law, through countries who practice it, the SSM debate shows that our Australian Muslim neighbours should be more fearful of the Left, than the Right. The alliance between the Left and Islam surely cannot be a happy one.

It’s helpful to remember the often quoted words of German Pastor, Martin Niemoller, who was imprisoned by the Nazi’s: “First, they came for…”

All claims, in this debate, that Christians are haters or bigoted, are negated, by the very fact that the Left launches an assault on them. In addition, some advocates, like the  Van Vuuren Bros  have taken to essentially, bashing Christians with the bible, and committing the very crime they say ALL Christians are guilty of. It seems the only ignorance and hypocrisy here, although some can exist on the Christian side from time to time as well, is coming from those on the Left.

From what we’ve witnessed this week, we can be certain that any “yes” to SSM, is a diminishing, if not an outright denial of rights. It is therefore a “no” to freedom.

This makes its reverse all the more important. Not just for us, but for future generations.

Any “no” to SSM, is a “yes” to freedom, not a denial of it.

“To the good Nazi not even God stands before Hitler”. [i]

Beware the auctioneers.


References (not otherwise linked):

[i] Julien Bryan, Henry Luce & Louis de Rochermont, 1939 March Of Time 

Brave German Pastors, The Argus, Melbourne, Australia 14th August 1934 Sourced 15th May 2017 from  http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/10953135

German Pastors Sent to Concentration Camps,  The Sydney Morning Herald, 30th March 1935, Sourced 15th May 2017 from http://trove.nla.gov.au/newspaper/article/17157115

Whether you’re for or against same-sex marriage, room needs to be made for answers to fundamental questions about the consequences and fabric of the issue.

Swiping these away with the empty words of “love is love” or “it’s about equality”; or the equally dismissive ‘’God made Adam and Eve, not Adam and Steve”, does harm to the overall debate.

Dismissals like this rob the debate of substance, thought and meaning.

There are substantial questions which very few people are willing to answer.

Fewer still, appear to have the courage to stand by conclusions that have already been determined by either biology, or worked out through the centuries and, by reason and faith, accepted as tried and true.

Heterosexuals, by matter of their biology and biological function are already ahead of alternative unions which lack this biological function. That it is easier for heterosexuals to have children, for example, isn’t something they’ve chosen. Heterosexuals are born that way. It isn’t a deliberate affront, social construct, or conspiratorial plan to oppress homosexuals.

Yet the tone of SSM advocates places this biological fact and its “superior” function, as an oppressive tool used against a minority group of individuals who, by the inconclusive, and therefore current understanding of science, choose, are groomed, or nurtured into, a sub-culture that is, by all appearances and dynamics opposed to that union between a man and a woman. It is opposed because same-sex unions cannot be the biological equal of the union between a man and a woman.

This raises serious questions like: at what point does the push for SSM, which seeks, outside just provisions already made in Australian law for Homosexuals and homosexual unions, become more about contempt, resentment and heterophobia, than actual equality?

For example, one store in Melbourne took to Facebook to effectively ban anyone who voted “no” from their store:

By precedent, does this “refusal to serve” now mean that Christian bakers, Pastors and other service providers, in Australia, can ALSO REFUSE to bake cakes for Same-sex weddings, should marriage be redefined? Based on examples from countries that have legalised SSM, the answer is no. They would be sued, and as evidenced below, would have to ‘run the gauntlet’ set up by social media lynch mobs, as they are smeared, and destroyed for their dissent.

With so many questions, sitting without answers, all I hear is the mindless and empty retort, “love is love” or “it’s about equality”, which is, as I’ve pointed out here, and here, not an argument for Same-Sex marriage.

In addition, how is SSM not about the imposition of an unhealthy gender segregation that says we should stick to our own kind; since, by definition of homosexuality, there is no reconciliation between the genders of male and female; no loving union between male and female?

There has been no discussion about the role of misogyny or misandry, either. Which is ironic, since misogyny has been, rightly, taken up by Left-wing politicians as a great evil in need of purging.  Does their stand on misogyny make them hypocrites, when they deny the presence of misogyny or misandry when “yes” to SSM supporters vilify “no” voters?

The apparent double standard from the Left was witnessed by Australians yesterday, when, Benjamin Law, sometimes ABC guest, writer and gay activist, threatened Conservative politicians with “hate sex” – {rape} – on Twitter.

This double standard from the Left is reinforced, by the fact that the Left remained predominantly silent about Benjamin’s ”violent sexual threats”, yet only a few weeks ago, were taking the stick to Christians, claiming that  “Christians were more violent than Muslims”, by exaggerating a study done by W. Bradford Wilcox, in the United States, on domestic violence among American Evangelicals.

Why can’t we get answers to questions, like, how or does SSM, for the sake of self-aggrandizement, seek to undermine, through ridicule, the natural biological union shared between heterosexuals?

At what point can we say “no” to strategies of evasion that circumvent this, such as the false claims that biological sex and all that pertains to it, is fluid?

“P” cannot equal “q” without the violence of perpetual revolution and proposed idea of utopian reconstruction:

In the English speaking world, the letter “p” can never be the letter ”q”. A true ”q” can never be a true “p”, it, despite any claim that would seek to displace ”q” from its true value, would always be a false claim. This is because the identity of “q” is found in it’s relation to the truth value of “p”.
Anything outside this means we are no longer talking about ”p” or ”q”, but a distortion of relationship; a falsification that impacts, not just the value of ”q”, but also ”p”.
To do so would be to commit ”q” to a false truth-value; a construct that in the end, tyrannically imposes falsehood over the correct functions of both ‘p” and ”q”. This reassignment of values, doesn’t just surrender truth to an untruth, it creates confusion in communication by way of relational dysfunction.

At what point can we ask how this push for SSM undermines true equality – does it seek to rip the heart out of the beauty of a man loving a woman and vice versa?

Likewise, does SSM undermine friendships between men and men/women and women, by confusing close friendships with same-sex attraction or homosexual activity?  When can we ask, whether or not SSM will destroy the very idea of friendship?

Where it becomes necessary:

‘in our time to rebut the theory that every firm and serious friendship is really homosexual. The dangerous word really is here important. To say that every friendship is consciously and explicitly homosexual would be too obviously false…[unfortunately, though] The fact that no positive evidence of homosexuality can be discovered in the behaviour of two friends does not disconcert the wiseacres.’ (C.S. Lewis, 1960) [ii]

Biology is not a social construct. Demanding that the world eradicate, in the name of so-called equality, the recognition of the biological union between a man and woman, that commitment and marriage seals, is an attempt at reconstruction. It is classical Marxism, involving the creation of a social construct built up and imposed on society, by the very people who claim to fight against one.

How does this debate involve Marxism? At the core of Marxism, Leninism and the socialist agenda is perpetual war. Will SSM become a perpetual war because the goal of biological equality, should that be the aim of the LGBTQ movement in regards to SSM, can never be reached?

The main goal of Marxism is perpetual war/revolution against those who stand opposed to what they say you shouldn’t be opposed to. You are, will, do and say, what they tell you to, or else. :

‘The building of socialism implies the destruction of capitalism…To forget this is to forget socialism. Socialism, Lenin noted, “is not ready-made system that will be mankind’s benefactor. Socialism is the class struggle of the present day proletariat as it advances from one objective to another objective tomorrow for the sake of its basic objective, to which it is coming nearer every day.’ (Fedoseyev, 1980) [ii]

Based on the imposition of this “revolution” and it’s new cultural law/s, and the actions of those on the “yes” side of the SSM debate, just being a heterosexual could one day, if it isn’t in some circles already, be considered a crime against the “revolution”.

As such, our young and the unborn will be the victims of this “revolution” in the name of an (unattainable and unrealistic) equality.[iii]

Where, then, will the insatiable desire be countered? At what point will humanity, hand in hand with reason and faith, draw a line in the sand and so no more?

Will the “no” of future generations be far more determined and perhaps violent? Generations who were handed over to confusion, loss and fear, their pain ignored, all in the name of mindless, feel-good, slogans such as “love is love”?

This raises some final questions: Is SSM really about a demand for a biological equality, where there, biologically cannot be equality?

Such as the biological fact that two women, or two men, cannot procreate together; Where they cannot become one flesh. At least not at the moment, and certainly not in the future, without the aid of petri dishes, test tubes, chemicals, and or mechanical apparatuses; a sedated polis, and twisted science.

By the tone and language of most SSM advocates, the very existence of any natural biological union between a man and a woman, [I would add within the boundaries of cohabitation and commitment], and any who celebrate that union, can be viewed as being oppressive towards the LGBTQ.

Suggesting that, by way of their very existence, heterosexuals are offensive to homosexuals. If true, does this mean that every male and female in their “yes” to each other, whether within committed cohabitation (defacto) or sealed by marriage (dejure) stands as a “no” to same-sex marriage?

What eventually will humanity, in particular heterosexuals, be demanded, subjected or commanded to consent to?

At what end, will this “revolution” find its own answers and closure? Is it, by all current social trajectories, possible that the imposition of new cultural laws, under the Rainbow Flag, ends tragically with: “The existence of “breeders” should only serve one purpose”?


References:

[i] Coalition MPs lash out at ‘vile’ tweet by same-sex marriage advocate Sourced 12th September 2017, from News.com

[ii] Lewis, C.S. 1960 The Four Loves HarperCollins Publishers (pp.72 & 73)

[iii] Fedoseyev, P.N, 1980. ‘What is Democratic Socialism?’  Progress Publishers, U.S.S.R Sourced 9th September 2017 from archive.org

 [iii] Ardent, H. 1936 On Revolution, as Hannah Arendt argued, in her discussion on the French Reign of Terror, ‘revolution must devour its own children, [and in the case of France, “perpetuate a sequence of revolutions”]’  (p.57)

I purchase the Wednesday edition of The Australian, not only for the mid-week news coverage, but also for the commentary. Given the hostile nature of the debate and the level of excellence I admire Janet Albrechtsen for, issuing this response is either really smart, or really dumb.

Last week I laid out some of my reasons for voting “no” to SSM in a blog post called, “Nein: Why I will be voting “no” to SSM?

That remains relevant, of course, only if a high court challenge to the planned Government survey (plebiscite) on SSM, doesn’t overrule giving Australians the right to voice their opinion, on this issue, in a democratic way.

What hasn’t been blocked, although major attempts from SSM advocates have tried to do so, is the debate.

Today, in The Australian (p.14), Janet Albrechtsen, a libertarian conservative, laid out her reasoning for having changed her position on same-sex marriage. Janet argues that protecting/preserving freedom – liberty – is the reason conservatives should vote “yes” to SSM.

The problem with this position is that for freedom to exist, it must be governed. If not, why have road rules and enforce them? Why have flags on a beach to protect swimmers from unknown dangers? Why have workplace safety laws?

If I understand correctly where Janet is coming from, it is a secular humanist view of humanity. This view sees humanity as inherently good; therefore it has no problem with advocating absolute personal freedom, but that position has a distinct lack of accountability and individual responsibility. It turns a blind eye to the blood soaked ground of the 20th Century and blurs the crimes committed in the name of liberty, during the Reign of Terror in the late 18th Century. This position rejects the Judeo-Christian pillars which form the foundations for the very liberty, Janet says she wishes to protect. To argue that by voting for SSM, a person is preserving freedom, is myopic. It is short-sighted.

Freedom exists in limitation. Edmund Burke wrote, “liberty must be limited in order to be possessed”. Karl Barth, who stood up against Hitler, carefully stated: ‘Where there is no genuine authority, so there is no genuine freedom. There is only action and reaction between a despotic arrogance and an equally despotic despair. (C.D.1938, p.646)’.

Likewise, C.S Lewis, states in the Abolition of Man that, ‘the heart never takes the place of the head: but it can, and should, obey it.’ To vote for SSM based on an idea of absolute personal freedom, no matter how sedated that might be, is as senseless and dangerous, as the words “love is love”.

I’m not yet a card-carrying conservative, but I do consider myself an ally in some of their current causes. Janet’s newfound position on SSM and her arguments for why conservatives should vote “yes” to SSM, isn’t a convincing one.

To her credit, the abuse of SSM advocates towards their opponents is acknowledged, but that Janet didn’t address the broader concerns, such as the long-term effects and the consequences of SSM on society as a whole, is the equivalent of dismissing the elephant in the room.

After holding out against the gathering storm, Janet, now seems, sadly, to be saying, “I’ve had enough of all the whining and tantrums. Just give the children what they want, or we’ll never hear the end of it.”


References:

Albrecthsen, J. 2017 Same-sex marriage: A libertarian conservative case for voting ‘yes’  Sourced from The Australian, 6th September 2017

Barth, K. 1938 Church Dogmatics 1.2: The Doctrine of the Word of God, Scripture as the Word of God Hendrickson Publishers, p.646

Burke, E. Letter To The Sheriffs of Bristol, (Sourced 6th September 2017 from https://archive.org/stream/sheriffsbristol00burkrich#page/42/mode/2up/search/liberty

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

Commenting on contentious issues comes with a level of risk. These risks include misinterpretation, malicious dismissal, personal attacks and harassment. Therefore, I proceed here with the utmost caution.

Over the course of the next month Australians of voting age will be having their say in a postal-vote on same-sex marriage. From this plebiscite the Government will, presumably, discern the will of the people and act accordingly.

As a Christian theologian, I acknowledge that I may be accused of having a bias. I respond to this with humility, saying I have given this matter a great deal of consideration. As such I have endeavoured to speak truth in love.

I have also refrained from delving into biblical exegesis which backs our scientific understanding of human biology, procreation and the dangers of irregular sexuality. I have chosen to leave this out, not because of a lack of knowledge on my part, but because these subjects have been addressed at length by people, who are far more eloquent than me, and have more time and resources to devote to the subject at hand.

However, since Australia is still a country that values civic principles such as freedom of speech and freedom of religion, in writing this, I am choosing to exercise my right as a free citizen, who is not a subject of a party, a church denomination or secret society.  It is in the spirit of these civic principles that I present the following:

I will be voting “no” to SSM because genuine marriage equality is no better displayed than in traditional marriage. This is a union that is equally shared between a man and a woman. This is where male and female, who are not brother and sister, come together to create a home. This is true equality. As such, it makes marriage the property of those who inherited the truth that man, is free to be for woman, and woman, is free to be for man.

From this union comes a new generation, who is at the mercy of this equality and by being conceived into it, becomes an heir to true equality. To eventually take on the responsibility for preserving it.

From this comes the nurture of children. This involves the man and the woman, as father and mother, who are given, not just an inheritance from those men and women who nurtured them, but the responsibility to preserve the tried and true, against its usurpation. In some cases, to even move beyond abuse and neglect, where true equality has become compromised, or irregular; to rise up, and be what they were not shown.

Man and woman invite each other into this equal union. It is an act of reconciliation between the man and woman. Misogyny and misandry are alien to it, and only pose a threat to the unity, balance and true equality that such a union encourages.

There can be no compromise with misogyny or misandry. No allowance for a whole generation to only know one parent and be withheld unjustly from the other. We see on a daily basis, the results of fatherless homes. Some of us have even experienced the brokenness of an orphan heart and wrestle daily with wounds caused by the absence of a mother or a father.

Love is not defined by the state, which is governed by whimsical fads, customer satisfaction ratings and is often bloated and self-serving.

I will be voting “no” to SSM because I also believe in the Biblical witness which proclaims this true equality. It points to centuries of witnesses who followed its faithful path.

Their witness is an inherited and loving “no” against those who would replace Father and Mother with ”parent one and parent two”. It is an inherited and loving “no” against those who would chain innocence to irregularity, by confusing a child about their own identity, imposing adult presuppositions, fads or twisted social experimentation on them.

God is love. Love is not God. If love was god, it would be a false god; a god made in human image. It would not be God. Therefore love is love, is a lie. If love is love, then there is no argument against racists who love their race more than others and proudly show it. The answer then is that love cannot, does not and must not be construed as, being able to define itself.

As the anti-Nazi theologian Karl Barth stated in 1938:

‘God is not what we know as love in ourselves…We are taught by John’s Gospel [et.al] and [his] 1st letter, not about the deity of love, but the love of the Deity’
(C.D 1:2 1938:374)

I will be voting “no” to SSM because love is love, is a lie.

An environmentalist seeks the preservation of nature and what is good in nature. They rightly stand against the imposition of human structures, specifically, the violence done to nature by grotesque pollution, and human pride and greed, which arrogantly justifies the unnecessary destruction of nature.

It stands to reason then, that any environmentalist who argues for SSM based on the argument that love is love, and all that is behind love is love, necessarily allows the person who loves his or her money, more than the environment, to destroy the environment. Empowering them to act in violence against the environment.

Making, by default, the environmentalist in their “no” to the greed and pride of the lover of money, and their ”yes” to SSM, a hypocrite of the highest order. Not only are they not protecting the natural union between man and woman, woman and man, for the generations to come, they are negating their stand against the abuse of the environment. Therefore any environmentalist, who supports SSM, makes environmentalism obsolete.

I will be voting “no” to SSM because there is no creative power in darkness.

The moon is dressed up and reflects the light of the sun. It is imitation light. It is not light itself. It does not produce life, nor does it have the power to nurture it, without corrupting it. It is a morbid light. Light imitating light.

The moon can never be or fulfil the role of the sun. No matter how much man and woman, in worship of that morbid light, may wish to twist this fact. Light which imitates light, is a false dawn; at its end there is only darkness; the flames of annihilation, self-annihilation and the malady of nothingness. Light that does not become light, cannot produce life.

“the moon gives off light, but not life. It is a cold, morbid light. It is light without heat ; a secondary light, only a dim reflection from a dead world.”
(Orthodoxy, p.18 paraphrased)

I will be voting “no” to SSM because as a son broken by the absence of his father, I cannot in good conscience consign others to the same depth of pain and loss, felt by the absence of a mother or a father.

Coming from a background where my father was not around, not just because of his own failures, but those of others, I cannot, in good conscience, consign others to experience that pain, and loss.

I cannot in good conscience consign a child to confusion over their gender, which is determined biologically. I cannot in good conscience consign a child to a numerical system such as parent 1 and parent 2, where they may never know the love of a father and a mother.

I cannot in good conscience consign a man to abandon his children, for want of being a woman, or a woman abandon her children for want of being a man. Then demanding those children accept the loss of that parent and accept the heartache and longing it causes with the self-justification that the adult’s want overruled the needs of the child.

I cannot in good conscience surrender love to abuse and the perversion of science to aesthetically turn the moon into a sun, and the sun into a moon, and then demand it be widely accepted as scientific fact.

I see a loving “no” as being part of our corporate responsibility towards future generations, and our collective responsibility to preserve, for those generations, the good, like that of civic principles which uphold true freedom and true equality, that have been handed to us, often at great cost.

It is with these considerations in mind that I say “no” to same-sex marriage.


References:

Barth, K. 1938, Church Dogmatics 1/2 Hendrickson Publishers

Chesterton, G.K, 1901 Orthodoxy Relevant Books

Related reading: 

When a Man Loves a Woman: Barth’s Freedom in Fellowship

Bonhoeffer’s Discourse On Pride, Identity, Lust & Christian Discipleship

#loveislove?

Tell Me

August 29, 2017 — Leave a comment

.

Ask me what I see, and I’ll show you battle scars.

Tell me what I’m not
and I’ll show you my old home, and its prison bars

Tell me how I’ve failed,
and I’ll show you my bible,
its well-worn corners, impressed with the mark of a child’s hopeful embrace,
and how, though, lost in a sea of loneliness
that child broke through the bitter dark.

Tell me to prove this
and I’ll show you healed marks,
of how they illustrate a trophy of grace;
the miracle that is this mended heart.

Tell me why I’m not enough
and I’ll tell you of teen intoxication,
of long midnight footsteps away from temptation,
and the gut wrenching sound of the devil’s bark.

Tell me how none of this ever happened,
and I’ll take you right back to the start,
then speak of father wounds,
and in minute detail, roll out the saga of abuse
and the many cruel people who joyfully played their part.

Scream at me that I’m wrong,
and I’ll have to walk away,
for I was there in that moment,
you abandoned your right to have a say.


(©RL2017)

Create in me a clean heart, O God,and renew a steadfast spirit within me. Do not cast me from your presence     or take your Holy Spirit from me. Restore to me the joy of your salvation and grant me a willing spirit, to sustain me.My sacrifice, O God, is a broken spirit; a broken and contrite heart you, God, will not despise.”

– Psalm 51:17

Л. Н.Толстой рассказывает сказку внукам. 1909

The quote below, taken from Tolstoy’s ‘A Confession’, reads like a critique of the leviathan that is social media:

We were all then convinced that it was necessary for us to speak, write, and print as quickly as possible and as much as possible, and that it was all wanted for the good of humanity. And thousands of us, contradicting and abusing one another, all printed and wrote — teaching others. And without noticing that we knew nothing, and that to the simplest of life’s questions:
What is good and what is evil? We did not know how to reply, we all talked at the same time, not listening to one another, sometimes seconding and praising one another in order to be seconded and praised in turn, sometimes getting angry with one another — just as in a lunatic asylum.
Thousands of workmen laboured to the extreme limit of their strength day and night, setting the type and printing millions of words which the post carried all over Russia, and we still went on teaching and could in no way find time to teach enough, and were always angry that sufficient attention was not paid us. It was terribly strange, but is now quite comprehensible. Our real innermost concern was to get as much money and praise as possible. To gain that end we could do nothing except write books and papers. So we did that’[i].

Of course, it is anachronistic to suggest that Tolstoy was talking about social media as we know it. Tolstoy’s words are, however, a critique of 19th Century, Russian media, its medium and the noise therein. Therefore, they are an early critique of the content and form which makes up a large part of social media. As such, they are a relevant criticism for us to take seriously, particularly when applying them to a 21st Century context.

Today, Henry Ergas from ‘The Australian’, made an interesting observation. In writing about sensitive information, how it is monitored, distributed and delivered. He provided an historical insight, which although topically unrelated, helps us to contextually frame the sharp poignancy of Tolstoy’s reflection:

“19th century’s Pax Brittanica, was built on a solid technological foundation: Britain’s control of global telegraphy. As late as 1890, 80 per cent of the world’s submarine cables were British; Britain ruled the wires even more decisively than she ruled the waves… The sophistication of today’s communications networks is obviously many orders of magnitude that of Britain’s global telegraph system. In 2012, daily internet traffic was in the order of 1.1 exabytes, one billion times more every day than the 19th century system could carry in a year. And the growth rates remain breathtaking: wireless traffic alone is now eight times larger than the entire internet in 2000[ii]

If Ergas’ facts are correct, that is a lot of information being exchanged. For better or worse we engage, encode, disengage and decipher information at ‘breathtaking’ speeds. Matthew McKay suggests that ‘55% of all communication is mostly facial expressions’[v]. Thus, my conclusion is that because most of the information exchanged via social media is in written form, it seriously limits our ability to receive a message, in the same way it was intended to be received by the author. (there are many examples of how comments have been wrongly interpreted).

I consider Tolstoy’s reflection a full-stop. An important interruption that encourages us to take a breath and ask ourselves:

  • Is the information we are consuming authentic, well-informed, or is it just propaganda; distortion (noise)?

Further questions might be:

  • Are we consuming information without really processing and retaining what it is being said?
  • Who is saying this, and why are they saying it?
  • Is the source trustworthy?
  • Will my time be well spent reading this or not?

There is a further word worthy of consideration here. Augustine, in his day, had this to say about grace and human nature:

…’many sins are committed through pride; but not all happen proudly. They happen so often by ignorance, by human weakness, and many are committed by people, weeping and groaning in their distress[iii]

Perhaps there is a timeless clarity by which these words help us to reflect on the interpersonal conduct, and content of the information exchanged on most prominent social media sites today?

Diary of Leo Tolstoy

Diary of Leo Tolstoy (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Even with all its pitfalls, the strength of social media is in its ability to connect people and strengthen relationships. I remain a cautious participant of social media, aware of its limited ability to ‘properly allow a healthy and fair exchange of ideas’ (Elshtain, 2007). Therefore, I find here in Augustine and Tolstoy’s words, a reminder about the limits and the responsibility which coincides with the right to use such mediums. Augustine’s insight here could be bridged to Tolstoy’s reflection, and therefore buttress our proposition. Their words present us with a useful framework for a theological critique of social media.

Finally, if we look at Proverbs 4:20-5:6, we can see a parallel logic that could exonerate this train of thought.

Be attentive to God’s word

Keeping them close.

Guard your heart with vigilance,

Avoiding spin and smear.

(“Refusing to be conned by the rhetoric of either the new right or the new left’’)[iv]

Looking forward, ponder the path of our feet.

Be attentive to wisdom.

Use words that guard knowledge,

And ponder the path of life.


Related articles

Tolstoy’s Faith – GVL

The Who, What And When Of Social Media – RVD, The Christian Pundit

Sources:


[i] Tolstoy, L. 1879 A Confession (Kindle for PC ed. Loc. 92-100).
[ii] Ergas, H. 2013 Wrong for Abbott to follow Obama and add lying to spying, The Australian, Sourced 25th November 2013
[iii] Augustine, ON NATURE AND GRACE (With Active Table of Contents) Kindle Ed. Loc. 704-706
[iv] Wright, N.T. 2013 Creation, Power and Truth: The gospel in a world of cultural confusion, SPCK & Proverbs 4:27
[v] McKay, M., Martha, D. & Fanning, P. 2009 Messages: The communications skill book p.59, New Harbinger publications

©RL2013

johnabigailPart of the beauty of the ‘Letters of John and Abigail Adams’ is that every sentence suggests careful consideration.

There are sentences for example, where John cautions Abigail against openly sharing his letters for fear of sensitive information falling into the wrong hands. They reveal a husband and wife, both loving parents who are also very much the exemplary, one for the other, each for God.

‘Their mutual respect and adoration served as evidence that even in an age when women were unable to vote, there were nonetheless marriages in which wives and husbands were true intellectual and emotional equals.’ (History.com)

I picked this book up out of curiosity about its historical and theological significance. As I continue to casually read through them, I am more and more convinced about the gravity of their contents, context and the important message they carry to the world, not just Americans.

Part of a letter written to John in May, 1775, from Abigail, further clarifies my point :

‘The Lord will not cast off his people; neither will He forsake his inheritance. Great events are most certainly in the womb of futurity; and, if the present chastisements which we experience have a proper influence upon our conduct, the event will certainly be in our favour’[i].

The Adams family epistles have contemporary relevance. The most pertinent of which is that they challenge Christians to steer clear of anti-intellectualism. They encourage Christians to engage; to understand current events in light of the biblical texts, and move away from disengaging in informed debate, dismissing it as uninteresting, convoluted and/or unnecessary.

Here are a people on the cusp of necessary conflict; a people not yet prepared for what they hope to avoid; a people who understand the danger of the mob; a people who acknowledge that they bear the burden of responsibilityand are God’s participants in necessary decisions that will require courage, faith, hope, prudence, calm justice and fierce mercy.

The same people who, under God, will stare down the supposed divine right of a king, and challenge his exercise of freedom without restraint.

The same people who will instead assert that under God all are created equal, and that authentic freedom can only come with the caveat of authentic responsibility.

One example is that both John and Abigail looked unfavourably on slavery, made clear by Abigail’s rebuke: ‘I wish most sincerely there was not a slave in the province. It always appeared a most iniquitous scheme to me— to fight ourselves for what we are daily robbing and plundering from those who have as good a right to freedom as we have. You know my mind upon this subject.[ii]

Both husband and wife lived out their faith – not in a cloister, reserved pew or in pious appearances.

A constant in the letters are references to biblical texts. Used comfortably, they form an important part of the extraordinary exchange. It might not be so wrong to suggest that these letters read like small sermons, shared between a loving, overburdened husband, and his equally loving and overburdened bride.

Unfortunately, the letters are not without theological issues.

Gaps exist. Such as Abigail’s allusion to a form, of what Shirley Guthrie called, the ‘common heresy’ of Pelagianism (Christian Doctrine, 1994:127) – an ancient misinterpretation of God’s salvation, grace and the role of the responsive sinner.

‘God helps them that help themselves, as King Richard says; and if we can obtain the Divine aid by our own virtue, fortitude, and perseverance, we may be sure of relief.[iii]

In addition, I’m uncertain as to whether or not the countless references to ‘Providence’ are in fact veiled 18th Century Congregationalist references to the Holy Spirit. The context implies they are.

‘I pray for you all, and hope to be prayed for. Certainly there is a Providence; certainly we must depend upon Providence, or we fail; certainly the sincere prayers of good men avail much. But resignation is our duty in all events.[iv]

Nevertheless, reformed theology appears to dominate the politics, parenting philosophy, orthodoxy and sociology. Prayer and references to God’s care, wisdom, provision and guidance are ever-present.

This is not something that is the result of a cultural Christian appendage. To begin with Abigail Adams is openly critical of appearance only faith.

‘General John Burgoyne practices deceit on God himself, by assuming the appearance of great attention to religious worship, when every action of his life is totally abhorrent to all ideas of true religion, virtue, or common honesty.[v]

John affirms this in a similar way stating that:

 ‘The man who violates [destroys] private faith, cancels solemn obligations, whom neither honor nor conscience holds, shall never be knowingly trusted by me. Had I known, when I first voted for a Director of a Hospital, what I heard afterwards, when I was down, I would not have voted as I did. Open, barefaced immorality ought not to be so countenanced.[vi]

The Adams family epistles are unique in that they present an organic living relationship between husband and wife, grounded in God’s freedom. What has caught me by surprise is that God is not reduced to second place. Alongside great concerns, God is still in the forefront of their thoughts, and as a result a good deal of theology permeates the wisdom that informs their actions, wit and dialogue .

One thing grasps me as I read through these letters. That is the relevance they hand out to a contemporary audience still concerned with the matters of God, love, liberty and the caveat of responsibility.

Braintree, 19 August, 1774:

Did ever any kingdom or state regain its liberty, when once it was invaded, without bloodshed? I cannot think of it without horror.
Yet we are told that all the misfortunes of Sparta were occasioned by their too great solicitude for present tranquillity, and, from an excessive love of peace, they neglected the means of making it sure and lasting.[vii]
– Abigail Adams.

History forgotten is history repeated.


References: (Not otherwise linked)

[i] Adams, J & Adams, A. 2012. The Letters of John and Abigail Adams (Kindle Ed). Start Publishing LLC, 7th May , 1775

[ii] Ibid, 24th September , 1774

[iii] Ibid, 16th September , 1775 & John Adam’s agrees with this. See letter 62. 1st October, 1775

[iv] Ibid, John Adams, 8th May , 1775

[v] Ibid, Letter 55. 25th July, 1775

[vi] Ibid, Letter 72. 23rd October, 1775

[vii] Ibid, Letter 13. 19th August, 1774

Image: Abigail and John Adams (Source)

Stumbling through some images yesterday, I came across an ‘old’ e-formatted copy of Leo Tolstoy’s 1879 work – ‘A Confession’. I had originally been looking for humorous pictures about coffee, power etc. Instead, I found myself navigating my way through this book.

As I made my advance into Tolstoy’s world,  I found it difficult to put down.

There are free versions of this available from Christian Classics (Link: A Confession CCEL).

In short, Tolstoy’s documented struggle with theology, science, life, faith, the Greek Orthodox church, severe depression and mental illness, is ripe for contemporary reflection. Which is saying a lot for a 134 year old academically astute work of art.

Karl Barth was aware of Tolstoy’s work. However based on the indexing in his Church Dogmatics I could only find a loose connection to the imagery of being ”held over the abyss by the infinite” (CD, IV:I:411), which Tolstoy uses in the abridged quote below.

Considering that Barth was born in 1886, there is a strong possibility here that Tolstoy had a big influence on Barth’s thought and theology. I am keen to confirm this link, so if anyone can point me in the right direction with this, I would appreciate it.

For me, among the highlights of this journey was this postscript (Some of which I hope to write and post about this week. After I pray and mine it some more):

I had a dream.

Leo Tolstoy

The dream was this:
I saw that I was lying on a bed. I was neither comfortable nor uncomfortable: I was lying on my back.
I looked down and did not believe my eyes. I was not only at a height comparable to the height of the highest towers or mountains, but at a height such as I could never have imagined. I could not even make out whether I saw anything there below, in that bottomless abyss over which I was hanging and which I was being drawn.
My heart contracted, and I experienced horror. To look thither was terrible. If I looked thither I felt that I should at once slip from the last support and perish. And I did not look. But not to look was still worse, for I thought of what would happen to me directly I fell from the last support. And I felt that from fear I was losing my last supports, and that my back was slowly slipping lower and lower.
Another moment and I should drop off. And then it occurred to me that this cannot be real. It is a dream. Wake up!
I try to arouse myself but cannot do so. What am I to do? What am I to do? I ask myself, and look upwards.
Above, there is also an infinite space. I look into the immensity of sky and try to forget about the immensity below, and I really do forget it. The immensity below repels and frightens me; the immensity above attracts and strengthens me.
I am still supported above the abyss by the last supports that have not yet slipped from under me; I know that I am hanging, but I look only upwards and my fear passes. As happens in dreams, a voice says: “Notice this, this is it!” And I look more and more into the infinite above me and feel that I am becoming calm.
I remember all that has happened, and remember how it all happened; how I moved my legs, how I hung down, how frightened I was, and how I was saved from fear by looking upwards.
I ask myself how am I held: I feel about, look round, and see that under me, under the middle of my body, there is one support, and that when I look upwards I lie on it in the position of secured balance, and that it alone gave me support before. And then, as happens in dreams, I imagined the mechanism by means of which I was held; a very natural intelligible, and sure means, though to one awake that mechanism has no sense. I was even surprised in my dream that I had not understood it sooner.
It appeared that at my head there was a pillar, and the security of that slender pillar was undoubted though there was nothing to support it. From the pillar a loop hung very ingeniously and yet simply, and if one lay with the middle of one’s body in that loop and looked up, there could be no question of falling. This was all clear to me, and I was glad and tranquil. And it seemed as if someone said to me:
“See that you remember.”
And I awoke.

Source:

Leo Tolstoy 1879 A Confession  Kindle for PC. (Loc. 962).

Image credit: Tolstoy, Wikipedia

(Originally posted 7th July 2013)

 

Moving slowly with the wind,
.  elements of thread bare rags
.  sit idle on the parched and colourless ground.

Curled up in a ball.
Like a wounded child dressed in dust.

Frayed fabric sways,
shifted by the breeze and its biting thrust;
fragments of its former self.

Silently dancing to discordance
.            bowing to abandonment and its solemn discourse.
No owner to be found.

O dry-eyed,
.                   whimpering bundle;
.                   rarely loved,
.                   emptied of life,
.                   left to lie on the cold and barren ground.

Resolved you sit,
.               begging for patience to fill every tear less cry,

Sorrow heaves like vomit
. up through whisper, heart, and broken tongue,
.     the only prayers are sighs.

O hear the beating of distant drums
From morbid light to cheerful sun.

Raise your head to see
Your shadow in the hands of the One
.       who now stands,
.       and by your side,
.       picks you up to breathe.

Picks you up to give you life;
.  Life emptied of lifelessness,
.     Like day emptied of night.


(©RL2017)

‘And behold, a leper came to him and knelt before him, saying, “Lord, if you will, you can make me clean.” And Jesus stretched out his hand and touched him, saying, “I will; be clean.” And immediately his leprosy was cleansed.’

(Matthew 8:2-3, ESV)

Image credit: Rembrandt, The Leper at Capernaum, 1657-60

On page 291, of his 2013 book, Hollywood and Hitler, Thomas Doherty makes a small, but note worthy statement about the song “God Bless America.”  Written by Irving Berlin from an earlier tune called “Yip!, Yak!, Yaphank!” , “God Bless America”  was to become an unofficial second national anthem.

 ‘as the wave of antisemetic violence [during what was penned by journalists as Krystallnacht], in [Nazi Germany], was subsiding, the singer Kate Smith had long planned to dedicate her variety show program to the 20th anniversary of Armistice Day, a solemn look back at the last war as the world stood on the brink of another. Smith asked Irving for a patriotic theme suitable for the occasion’[i]

Whilst it is right to describe “God Bless America” as a patriotic song, I don’t think it’s a stretch to say that it also fits well within the rubric of protest songs.

Cast in the light of his original intent, Berlin’s song is an anthem for peace. It rallies people of all races, around the banner of peace.

God Bless America” is perhaps also the most significant musical push-back against the onslaught of mid-20th century Nazism, to come out of America during that pre-WW2 era.

Post-1939, into, America’s 1942 involvement in the war; first in the Pacific, then in the North African, and European theatres, this prayer for peace, while still holding its integrity, extended its meaning towards a prayer for freedom.To call on God’s blessing is to call on His grace and victory.

And if prayer is, as Karl Barth asserted:

 ‘…the beginning of an uprising, [a revolt] against the disorder of the world’[ii]

Then “God Bless America” is a protest. It is an effective protest that draws people’s attention towards the great Other. Towards the God, who, in His Covenant with Israel, and it’s fulfilment in Jesus Christ, sets out to present Himself as the revolution against the disorder, that is set in play by false lords, false claims to authority, and all human versions of “ordering” the world, which takes place under those false claims, in total allegiance to those false lords*.

Irving’s lyrics join up with the voice of the Confessing Churches, who, in the 1934, Barmen declaration, led by Karl Barth, declared that any proposition that suggests, or asserts that salvation could come through Hitler, or any human, outside of or abstracted from God’s revelation in Jesus Christ, is false, and is therefore is to be utterly rejected. This is because:

‘Jesus is the one Word of God and the proper hearing of this Word takes place in trusting and obeying […] The one Word is the way upon which, and the door through which, God comes to us in his truth and in his life, comes as the light that overcomes the lie and as the resurrection that disempowers death’[iii]

There are no ways to God, there is only one way from God to us. Founded and expressed entirely through, and in Jesus the Christ. No man, woman, leader, idea or natural organism can lay claim to this revelation that lays claim to all of humanity, without usurping God. It’s not something that can be moulded, crafted and raised in the name of human triumphalism.

Irving Berlin’s song declares that before nations and governments, there is no other Lord, but God.

As problematic as ambiguity and nationalism[iv] that is attached to the song, can be; at its inception, “God Bless America” was conceived as an anthem for peace. It was written at a time when the majority of Americans understood God as the one who makes Himself known in history, as testified to in the Judeo-Christian Bible.

What “God Bless America” became was both a prayer and protest. It focuses, unites, humbles, and in combined song, rouses a challenge against all those who actively seek to do the opposite.

God Bless America” is a song of defiance in the face of an adverse and overwhelming enemy. As a prayer, it becomes the anthem for revolt. Not just against an oppressor from without, but also from within; against the sinful nature of the flesh that exists within each of us, to which God has answered, not by the way of man’s religion, and feeble attempts to save himself, by way of the Cross of Jesus Christ.

In “God Bless America” both the Sh’ma Yisrael and The Lord’s Prayer are heard. If we lean in close enough, we’ll hear Irving, Kate, Barth, Roosevelt and the many others, who, in fox holes, camps and gas chambers, ‘prayed both'[v], we may hear them “whisper their legacy”[vi] to American and non-American alike. I should point out that I’m not an American, but that doesn’t mean I’m exempt from joining in and singing the same kind of prayer and following the same kind of protest. For:

‘Even the “devils believe and tremble,” and I really believe they are more afraid of the Americans’ prayers than of their swords’
(Abigail Adams, 1775, Letters #55)


References:

[i]  Doherty, T. 2013 Hollywood & Hitler: 1933-1939, Columbia University Press, p.291

[ii]  Barth, K. CD Fragments IV:4

[iii]  Busch, E. 2010 The Barmen theses then and now: the 2004 Warfield lectures at Princeton Theological Seminary, Wm.B Eerdmans Publishing Company Grand Rapids Michigan, U.S.A. pp.23 & 37

[iv] For more on this see Sheryl Kaskowitz’s article ‘How “God Bless America” became a conservative anthem’

[v] Victor Frankl: we watched and witnessed some of our comrades behave like swine while others behaved like saints. Man has both potentialities within himself; which one is actualized depends on decisions but not on conditions. Our generation is realistic, for we have come to know man as he really is. After all, man is that being who invented the gas chambers of Auschwitz; however, he is also that being who entered those gas chambers upright, with the Lord’s Prayer or the Shema Yisrael on his lips.’ Man’s Search for Meaning, Beacon Press. p. 134.

[vi] Robin Williams, 1989. The Dead Poets Society.

*According to an unverified source, the Klu Klux Klan, only with Pro-American Nazi’s are said to have boycotted the song. The only source I could find, so far, which mentions this, is parade.com:  6 Things You Didn’t Know About the Song ‘God Bless America’ 

Original image credit: Photo by Jake Ingle on Unsplash

Tomorrow we embark on Term 3. The past year has been full of privilege and anticipation. We’ve made some new friends, been encouraged and branched out into new areas of learning. One of the biggest being our commitment to Driver’s Education.

In my particular State, each learner driver has to complete 120 hours of supervised driving before sitting for a practical drivers test. If they pass that, they can go on to drive unsupervised, working their way up through two different levels, over three years, before being able to attain their full licence.

One of the challenges of drivers education is monotony. Discipline requires repetition. Practice requires discipline. Overcoming a dreary routine requires creativity.

So, from the beginning I laid this journey before the Lord, and then come up with a road map. Each lesson will be a road trip. They won’t be the same every time and each lesson will have a deliberate goal and destination.

In addition, once we nailed down the basics, and worked up confidence to a satisfactory level, we’ve just come into the stage where we can safely add “mix tapes”. Music and driving go hand in hand. Since our young drivers are at this more confident level, adding music, takes the lessons to a new level.

With this in mind, here’s what’s on our current A-list:

1.  Lift Your Head Weary Sinner (Chains) [feat. Tedashii] [Live], Crowder

The lyrics and music already shine, but Tedashii makes this version. Heart felt, honest, raw.

2. Ghost Ship, Theocracy.

I started listening to Theocracy around the beginning of the year after having had the band pointed out to me in a Facebook post from an internet friend. The quality this band puts out meets the genre head on. It’s solid, lyrically intentional and well thought out.

3. Kyrie (Eleison), & Serve Somebody, Kevin Max.

Released this past week, Kevin Max’s cover album, ‘Serve Somebody‘, fills some gaps missing in the eclectic, electric musician’s anthology. His version of Mister Mr’s, 1985 Kyrie Elesion (Lord, Have Mercy) levels up against the original, at some points, even exceeding it. I had added this song without really thinking about the lyrics, but God has a sense of humour, so as He does from time to time, the humorous set-up couldn’t be more relevant. The album also contains a rock version of Bob Dylan’s, ‘Serve Somebody’. It’s the best cover of the Dylan original that I’ve heard; Johnny Q. Public’s version on their ’95 album, ‘Extra*Ordinary‘, coming in a close second.

4. Golgotha, W.A.S.P

I never really clung to this band. It wasn’t until last year when I read an article about front man, ‘Blackie Lawless’s’ conversion to faith in Jesus Christ, that my interest in the story of W.A.S.P. was peaked.

“Certainly, lyrically everything is written from the eyes of my faith, everything is through that filter. You’re also talking about a genre that, in general, is obsessed with the idea of God and/or the Devil. Jazz, pop, there is no other genre that is absolutely obsessed with it as this genre is.’ [i]

Golgotha is lyrically intense. It reaches straight into the void, the silence, its pain, the feeling of absence, abandonment and points the listener to the life, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. As a bonus the finale of this epic seven minute song, contains one of the best guitar solos I’ve heard. There’s no glam rock finger tapping, every string is hit, every note played, every beat felt.

5. Who’s The (Bat)man, Patrick Stump.

After watching the Batman Lego movie, our homeschoolers came to me and said, ”hey dad?”, ”check this song out, it’s you’re new anthem.” So, I log into Spotify and find it added to a few of my lists. It’s not a bad song. The guitar work, works. The lead solo is okay and the lyrics remind me of Weird Al, so win-win.

 

‘If there is one word, which describes learning, it is process. Hence, to teach is to enhance and facilitate that process. The teacher is the facilitator. The function of education is to do everything to promote the process.’
– ( Obed Onwuegbu, Teaching That Guarantees Learning).

References:

[i]  Sourced 16th July 2017W.A.S.P. Frontman Blackie Lawless Delves Deep Into His Faith + New Album ‘Golgotha’ 

.

Sanity pins the past out in patterns;
doors emerge between then and now.

.    Ghosts live here,
.    and they dress memories in dread.

Surrounded by four right-angled curves of abuse;
Weighed down by broken mirrors,
.    their cursed shards scream out in cycles of excuse.

As the fog of their image fades in and out,
.    painted words scratch blood lines onto my reflected face.

Attempting to lay old claims;
.    then from within them, as if in pain,
.    silent snarls and smirks, distort their pale images.

Drawn, like swords, their fingers point to my chest.

Some unseen presence has disturbed them, in their contorted place of rest.

Drawn, like swords, their fingers point to my right and then to my left.

Midnight Walkers, absent of wings,
.              uphold the bereft.

Transparent companions,
.                    their prayers always accompanied by command
.                    and gracious invitation.

Never demanding for themselves my attention.

These human-like strangers travel in pairs.

Acting with intention,
.          only ever seen in rare moments of intermission,
.          they serve God’s interventions.

Messengers, autographed in blood-red.

Echo the Living Word and what He has spoken:

“You’re never alone. For angels shadow the broken.”


 (©RL2017)

“it is the spirit of man, the breath of the Almighty, that makes him understand; the Spirit of God. Has made me, and the breath of the Almighty gives me life. For God is greater than man. He has redeemed my soul from going down to the pit, and my life shall look upon the light.”

(Job 32:8, 33:4, 28, ESV)

The word martyr [μάρτυς] means to ‘bear witness’, this is derived from the word marturion [μαρτύριον] which is understood to mean evidence testimony; witness; to be testified.

The word martyr is also connected to martyromai [μαρτύρομαι] ‘I am urging; I am bearing witness; I am declaring; I am insisting.’ [i]

Along with a lot of His colleagues, family and friends – of whom one was Karl Barth and the other Martin Niemöller, Bonhoeffer fits the profile of declaring; bearing witness; insisting. He was a martyr.

Today, fascist theory might only exist in fringe elements of society, but the style of political activism employed by the Nazi’s isn’t.

Rhetoric and labels offer to tempting of a tool to withstand. Evident in the ‘punch a Nazi‘ slogan, which when translated comes to down being a leftist justification for punching a Trump voter, conservative or anyone who is deemed to be an ”oppressor” by pharisees on the Left.

Anyone who, in their opposition, falls foul of the tar and feathering. The put downs. The emotional manipulation and the slurs. Such as the tattooing of the ”wrong side of history” on the social media arms of their victims. People who in their disagreement and opposition, find themselves, ridiculed into silence, falsely branded as racist, bigot, phobic or worse.

The significance of Bonhoeffer, Barth and Niemöller’s resistance must not be overlooked. Their resistance is as relevant as ever. In 1993, Lutheran academic Gene Veith pointed out that the Fascist political play book is still in service today:

…’fascism is a worldview….the defeat of Hitler and the Axis powers in World War II meant the military defeat of fascism, but an ideology cannot be defeated by military power alone. Ideas linger…despite the military victory over fascism, it will long continue to live’ [ii]
(Veith, 1993 Modern Fascism)

Although the Church in the 21st Century shares a different context with the German Church struggle; the Kirchenkampf,  there are parallels.

It  can, however, be difficult to see those similarities. Some similarities are subtleties. The pretenders are in large part invisible to the majority, but are working hard at ‘gradually liquidating the True Church through intimidation.’ (Bethge cited by Metaxas, 2010:294, italics mine).

‘Marx’s categories [generalised dehumanising labels] have been used to complete the work begun by Napoleon [in Europe] and continued in another more horrible way by Hitler […] to replace civil society with a committee of intellectuals – as the official ”voice of the worker” – in which only abstractions can be uttered and only Leftist bureaucrats takes part’ [iii]
(Roger Scruton, 2015. Fools, Frauds & Firebrands)

Part of the Christian and his or her response to this new Church struggle may perhaps require applying Bonhoeffer’s admonishment to ‘not defend God’s word, but testify to it…’ (Metaxas citing Bonhoeffer, 2010:261).The Confessing church is a church of martyrs.

Rather than retreat into gated communities, under the appearance of defeat, or defeatism, the church must, like Bonhoeffer, in Christ, step-up:

…‘Although I am working with all my might for the church opposition, it is perfectly clear to me that this opposition is only a very temporary transition to an opposition of a very different kind, and that very few of those engaged in this preliminary skirmish will be part of the next struggle. And I believe that the whole of Christendom should pray with us that it will be a ‘resistance unto death’, and that the people will be found to suffer it’
(Eric Metaxas citing Bonhoeffer 2010:195-196 [iv])

Marxist, Leon Trotsky saw the danger of not supporting the Church struggle in Germany, which by default meant negatively affecting, through the compromise of freedom, the proclamation and testimony of the Church:

‘…It is only necessary to find real and effective methods to intervene in the struggle, to stir up the religious-democratic opposition, to broaden it and to assist the young Catholics, especially the workers, in their struggle (and not, of course, the Nazi police, which wants to “destroy” these religious organisations). Thus, in Russia we always defended the struggle of the Armenian church for its autonomy.’ (19th August 1935) [v]

The work of the church today is to try and define this new Church struggle, not be defined by it. It comes from within, by way of pressure from without: culture seeking to determine the agenda of the Church. In pushing back, the church today must be cautious of schism. Those involved in the opposition, because of their opposition, must be careful not to trigger it. The Church must be careful of it’s “no” and even more careful of it’s “yes”, but speak it must!

Right from the start those in the church opposition have to ask:

1.  How does struggle connect with ‘bearing witness’?

2. Is ‘bearing witness’ found in the act of struggle as opposed to full subjugation to the powers with which the Church struggles against?

3. Who or what are those powers?

In 1964, Ronald Reagan said that ‘the martyrs of history were not fools [vi]’. Those who speak out are not fools. Those who bare witness to Christ, to the truth and grace that impacts and transforms are not fools. In Bonhoeffer’s story there is holy ground. His stand and those who stood in the same opposition; their ‘no compromise’ theology and service to the Church are real examples of genuine resistance.

‘The reaction should be one of a spiritual and psychological nature, and on a scholarly level.’
(Jacques Ellul, p.67 [vii])

The term martyr (marturion), is understood to be witness. One who declares and insists. All who are raised up in Christ, are called to raise up Christ. As Shelly Rambo puts it:

‘Perhaps the figure of ‘the martyr’ [μαρτύριον – marturion] that we need to mobilize [recover] is not the one who sacrifices him-or herself but the one whose compulsion is to witness and to provide testimony.’ [viii]

How Christians tell their story, live out the struggle or ‘bear witness’ in testifying to that story, may require more effort and attention than is currently being wielded. One thing is clear, the struggle is something we share. Genuine resistance can and should employ testimony.

If this should eventuate in the way it did for Bonhoeffer, and has done in the Middle East, then, with the Moravians of old, from sigh to prayer, “may the lamb that was slain receive the reward of His suffering.”

The Confessing church is a church of martyrs. Church, sleep no more!


References:

[i] Goodrick,W.E & Kohlenberger.J.R 1999  NIVAC:The Strongest NIV exhaustive concordance Zondervan USA

[ii] Veith, G.E.1993 Modern Fascism (Kindle Locations 179-181). Concordia Publishing House. Kindle Edition.

[iii] Scruton, R. 2015 Fools, Frauds & Firebrands: Thinkers of the New Left, Bloomsbury Publishing Plc.

[vi] Metaxas, E. 2010 Bonheoffer, Pastor, Martyr, Prophet and Spy Thomas Nelson Publishers

[v] The Church struggle under fascism, 1935 Leon Trotsky

[vi] Reagan, R. 1964 ‘A time for Choosing’, PDF transcript

[vii] Ellul, J. 2015 Islam & Judeo-Christianity: A Critique of Their Commonality, Wipf & Stock Publishers

[viii] Shelly Rambo, 2010. Spirit & Trauma: A Theology of Remaining