Archives For October 2018

Pat Archbold’s Lament

October 31, 2018 — 6 Comments

 

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

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

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

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


For the ladies (2011):

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

For the Gents (2012):

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

My personal, and somewhat biased, response:

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

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


Originally published 22nd April, 2013

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Citing Douglas Murray, she noted:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Our response is our responsibility.

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

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

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

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

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

Jean Bethke Elshtain puts it this way:

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

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

 


References:

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

[2] Matthew 5:43-48, ESV

Photo by rawpixel on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2018

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Reagan was right, when in 1964, he said:

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

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

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


References:

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

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

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

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

(Originally published, 12th January 2015)

©Rod Lampard, 2018

 

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

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

 

 

 

Cabello’s tweet:

 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


References & Sources linked.

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Poignant.

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

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

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


 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

As summed up by anti-Nazi theologian Karl Barth:

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

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

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

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

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


References:

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

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

[2] Karl Barth

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

[4] Karl Barth

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Photo by Sleep Music on Unsplash