Archives For April 2020

I took some serious heat recently, after raising questions about the usefulness, function, role and consequences of using the Australian Government’s recent COVDISAFE app. I outlined two areas of concern, then was forced to address a third. My primary point was about precedent. The second concerned emotional manipulation; peer pressure, and the third, data security.

Objections to this included asinine responses such as “it’s un-Christian not too”, that I wasn’t’ “loving my neighbor” and that “people will die if I don’t” sign up for the app. The more astute arguments included “Romans 13 and how it commands us to submit to the government as an institution put in place by God.” [i]

The less astute included an outright dismissal, saying my argument was “crap.”Another ridiculed my point about the app being almost on par with taking an ersatz Hitler Oath. (Not an irrational concern, given the social pressure and hostile responses.)

Most of the reactions only served to solidify the precedent and emotional manipulation points. Once we accept as the norm, governments labeling people, places or things arbitrarily as being “hazardous to public health”, how long will it be until this new normal is applied by less benevolent forces to the Israel Folau’s of the world? Or even those, like me, who share Margaret Court’s view of marriage as being the biologically compatible, God ordained union between a man and a woman.

An app that encourages people to potentially stigmatise, be suspicious of, and distance themselves from their neighbour, on the basis of that person having or (are being suspected of having?) an illness, isn’t all that conducive to Christian love, pastoral care or freedom.

Likewise, using emotional manipulation, regardless of how unintentional, to get people to sign up for the COVIDSAFE app by unfairly accusing them of not being a Christian, loving or Christ-like.

We’ve heard this same asinine, emotional manipulative non-sequitur before during the same-sex marriage debate, discussions about Islamic terrorism #illridewithyou, abortion, transgenderism, Apocalyptic Climate Change…really, any Leftist cause.

Speaking out against the potential abuse of power, manipulation, and manipulative political processes, in standing up for civil liberties, is living out a love for neighbour.

Since when did a no questions asked loyalty to politicians, or allegiance to an ideology such as Leftism, become a yardstick for being a Christian?

Starry-eyed supporters of the COVIDSAFE app seem more in tune with those condemning Jesus for liberating people designated by authorities as unclean, than it is supporting Jesus’ care for the wounded, vulnerable, downcast or outcast.

I doubt my detractors would align themselves so quickly with any statement like, “Yo, Jesus, did ya get that app about lepers, mate? No. Why the bloody hell not? Do you want people to die!?”

If this is justifiable on a social distancing level, than why not develop an app to also report the threat of STD’s, AIDS, Hepatitis or HIV? The fact we don’t, and won’t, indicate that COVIDSAFE, and the general response to COVID-19 is more about politics, than science or authentic Christian living. [ii]

If this is justifiable, and in the interest of public health and safety, why not fund an app for non-smokers to ping off the phones of people who choose to smoke? If you wouldn’t support this, and yet are starry-eyed about the COVID-19 app, why wouldn’t you support it?

Let me be clear. I agree with responsible social distancing. I agree with temperature testing. I agree to a slow reopening. I agree with defeating this virus. I agree with better hygiene management, because this, to me, is showing genuine care for others, based on a basic common sense justified by objective morality.

Perhaps one of the silver linings of the Coronavirus is a return to more concern for our neighbour. Especially when it comes to manners, and personal hygiene – practising a level of care, long forgotten; one discarded by the inconsiderate, self-destructive abandonment of healthy Western traditions. I’d welcome this because it has to do more with collective and individual responsibility – people free before God, for God, and accountable to God, not enslaved to government-as-god ruling madly without accountability.

Contrary to the sentiment coming from most of those applauding the app, COVIDSAFE does not make people using it magically immune to COVID-19.

It does however make you susceptible to potentially being denied service and employment if you don’t have the app. The government admits this latter point in its 78 page COVIDSAFE information manual, and doesn’t appear to be discouraging any third party application from denying employment or service to anyone who doesn’t have the app.

“3.19.4 The Australian Government has also given clear indications that it will not be mandatory for any person to install or to use the App. However, there may be a potential risk of circumstances in which a particular individual does feel pressured to download the App (e.g. a supermarket insisting on customers showing that they are using the App before being permitted to enter the store; or an employer insisting that their employees demonstrate that they are using the App before being permitted to start or continue work).”

It’s worth noting a report published during October last year, where The World Heath Organisation concluded that “active contact tracing is not recommended in general because there is no obvious rationale for it in most Member States.”

We don’t need a nanny state to wipe our noses.

How long will it be until sneezing in a public space automatically triggers a COVID-19 alert? Or worse, individuals quickly come under suspicion for blowing their nose into a tissue, or simply coughing in public.

If this sounds ridiculous, look back at panic buying. Look at the irrational, ludicrous interpretations and enforcement of social distancing laws, based on hysteria, hear say, or presumption. See the mounting examples of neighbour spying on neighbour, and neighbor denouncing neighbour for suspected breaches of the COVID-19 lockdown.

Look again at the reaction against anyone opting out of getting the COVIDSAFE app. Look also at how Cory Bernardi was treated for refusing to sign up for the app. Bernardi, the only person on the Skynews panel giving a defence of civil liberties, was told by host Prue MacSween to “give himself an upper cut”, and drown his concerns about government overreach in alcohol.

On the same panel, Melbourne City Councilor, Nicholas Reece accused Bernardi of not living in the real world, of making lofty “high school arguments about liberty and privacy.” It doesn’t appear that Reece fully understood the implications of his rebuttal. By placing Bernardi’s concerns over liberty and privacy, in the realm of school boy fantasy, Reece confirmed Bernardi’s point.

On the subject of data security, signing up to the COVID-19 app is not the same as signing up for an in-store card, or in-store credit. Those involve companies that operate under strict laws concerning privacy and use of personal information. They are accountable to the government, whereas the government is accountable to no one, but their party, their political supporters, and last of all, you the people – in a very, very limited sense.

For those who think that our fuehrers always know best, and will thus follow them blindly:

As Bill Muehlenberg and Matthew Littlefield have pointed out:

1. “ACT Policing has admitted it unlawfully accessed citizens’ metadata a total of 3,365 times, not 116 as previously disclosed in an explosive commonwealth ombudsman’s report on Monday. The new disclosures include a total of 240 cases that resulted in information valuable to criminal investigations and one that “may have been used in a prosecution”.
2. “When Canberra introduced metadata laws a few years ago, we were told they would only be used to find terrorists. But greedy councils were soon demanding access so they could catch litterbugs. Facial recognition tool Clearview AI was allegedly misused by members of Australian police departments.”
3. “Governments routinely go wrong as power grabs become the norm, and technologies are regularly used for evil purposes. Indeed, one clear lesson of history is what is merely ‘voluntary’ today far too often becomes ‘mandatory’ tomorrow – all for the common good of course.”

I get the point of the COVIDSAFE app. It’s to inform people of areas that have been recently exposed to COVID-19, and tell people to get checked if they’ve been exposed. What I question is its usefulness, function, role and the consequences of handing bureaucrats more power.

It’s one thing to look out for others; it’s another to encourage a precedent where innocent, domestic citizens/places are deemed by the government to be “unsafe” based on a virus they are unsure about.

Romans 13 may carry weight in why we respect the need for good government, but it doesn’t hold us back from questioning government initiatives like the COVIDSAFE app. Nor does Romans 13 discourage us from pointing out how our politicians, on both sides, have spectacularly failed, and still are failing, to give any reassurances about civil liberties; including how they will be respected, and reinstated, after the coronavirus counter-measures can no longer be justified under the current crisis.

My point is ultimately about the precedence of citizens signing onto a Government program without question, emotive, even manipulative peer pressure to do so, and the danger it poses.

My point is about concern for people signing on to government program, run by politicians who haven’t bothered to reassure the people they represent that they are protecting civil liberties. Not one politician has done this, before or since the implementation of totalitarian COVID-19 countermeasures.

Break through the jargon, and the COVIDSAFE app is essentially an app that has the potential to monitor citizens. It allows third-parties to deny employment or service to anyone not carrying it on their phone. Throw in the reaction against those questioning it, and the fine print gives cause for real and rational concern.

We, the people are not the virus.

As I’ve said in the past, the warning of the 20th century to government’s and their people today is this: any justifiable counter moves against an enemy become unjustified if they make the government as tyrannical as the enemy it fights.


References:

[i] As far as Romans 13 goes, while I concede that it’s a fair point, let me say again, that there comes a time when it’s necessary to remind the government that they only have, because God gives.

[ii] See the brilliant briefing on COVID-19 by Dr. Erickson for more on this (Link). Unfortunately, YouTube has removed, and continues to remove all links to the Erickson briefing; more information here.

Image cropped and filtered from a photo by Fredrik Bedsvaag on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2020

Under the already oppressive cloud of the Coronavirus crisis, graduates at St. Olaf College, in Minnesota, are currently being denied an official graduating ceremony, unless they’re part of the graduating student body who ‘self-identifies as a person of colour’, International or LGBTQAI+. Though the College’s website states that ‘due to COVID-19, 2020 Commencement festivities are postponed until late May/June 2021’, the College’s Centre for Equity and Inclusion, has sent out an email invite, saying that it will be hosting virtual graduation ceremonies for minority students.

Minnesotan based Alphanews, published a copy of the invitation, written by Dr. Maria C. Pabon Gautier (Director of the Taylor Centre for Equity and Inclusion). Delivered by email, Gautier fails to mention any consolation for non-minority graduates, but firmly outlines that there would be ‘three virtual graduations’ in May for three special groups, beginning with: ‘Multicultural Graduation (Domestic Students of Colour), International Graduation (International Students) and Lavender Graduation (LGBTQIA+ students).’

Kyle Hooten, (who also penned the more evidence based Alphanews article cited above), first raised the news on April 22nd via Campus Reform. He noted that Campus Reform checked in with ‘multiple graduating seniors at St. Olaf, [and] none said [that] they’d been informed of any online ceremony for the general student body.’

While St. Olaf’s Director for Equity and Inclusion has seemingly failed to include the majority, or even reassure them that they have not been forgotten, overlooked, or worse, segregated, some consolation did come from ‘Associate Director of Communications Kari VanDerVeen’, who ‘told Campus Reform that the school is “exploring a number of ways to celebrate the Class of 2020,” but that plans were not yet “finalized.” (Hooten)

To be fair, reasons for having, what look a lot like segregated graduation ceremonies, probably include logistical limitations, technological capability, and the ease with which smaller student numbers can be catered for in a virtual graduation environment.

This said, it doesn’t provide a total explanation for the apparent contradiction between the St. Olaf’s Centre for Equity  & Inclusivity, and the claim that official ‘Schedule of Events’ which clearly states that ‘2020 Commencement festivities have been postponed until 2021.’ Neither do these reasons explain the absence of any public information reassuring the general student body about whether their graduation will be accommodated in a similar fashion to that of these minority.

While the Lutheran college’s mission statement states a specific goal towards achieving ‘inclusivity’, its Centre for Equity and Inclusivity appears to be intentionally excluding non-minority students.

Gautier may be too distracted to care, or worse, is being derelict in her duties as director. The evidence suggests either an innocent oversight in trying times, asinine good intentions, or something more malicious. All three are likely. There’s a dissonance created by Gautier. Inequality in the name of equality exposes what Jean Bethke Elshtain called ‘phony equality.’[i]

The academic world is bogged down in a quagmire of sameness. This is the direct result of political correctness; tolerance introducing ‘equality where equality is fatal’ (C.S. Lewis) [ii]. With its perversion of Christianity – reducing its primary tenants to an ethic of niceness; the academy’s obsession with identity politics, safe spaces, and inane virtue signaling, education is replaced with indoctrination.

Special privilege is rubbed in the faces of those who are excluded for their assumed privilege; excluded because of their skin colour, heterosexuality, presumed “evil” right-wing political sympathies, and “sinful” passion for living out a no compromise, honest biblical theology.

It’s a package deal. Year by year, the academy not only continues to manifest Orwell’s, ‘all are equal, but some are more equal than others’, it normalizes the special treatment of the few, with disdain and disregard for the many – the destructive anarchist vacuum of pagan tribalism.

The general student body should expect more from the director of equity and inclusivity, who like some Republicans and most Democrats, currently appear to be willingly absent at the helm. Surely Gautier and those in her team understand that ALL of their graduates are under a lot of unexpected uncertainty and anxiety.

Those graduates face the dismal prospect of trying to fit into a job market severed to pieces by multi-level government agencies enforcing questionable Coronavirus lockdowns, its consequential suffocation of the economy, and the massive rise in unemployment. Students being told in not so many words that they don’t meet the criteria for care by their own Centre for Equity and Inclusivity, is far from helpful, it’s a downright harmful abdication of responsibility.


References (not otherwise hyperlinked):

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

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

First published on Caldron Pool, 27th April, 2020.

©Rod Lampard, 2020.

For anyone who missed it, here’s the YouTube link for the LIVE Caldron Pool panel hosted by Dave Pellowe last night. I sat down with fellow CP contributors Girl rising above the noise, writer & Pastor Mark, & the always impressive to hear, James Macpherson for a chat about current events. Comment below or head over to Pellowe Talk on YouTube or FB to add your voice to the conversation.

In a brief five minute video posted to Desiring God’s YouTube channel, John Piper rips apart the cultural control of ‘cancel culture’. The small segment was taken from a talk given in January called ‘Serious Joy, Cultural Conflict, & Christian Humility: Thoughts on Christian Education.’

Piper’s argument is one of the best I’ve heard so far from Christian leaders – Voddie Baucham’s lengthy, but poignant takedown of ‘Cultural Marxism being the only exception (as has been discussed by Caldron Pool’s Editor Ben Davis, here).

Like Baucham, Piper turns the light on where few seem willing to do so. Leaning on work from Jonathon Haidt and Greg Lukianoff in their outstanding book, ‘The Coddling of the American Mind’ (2018), Piper briefly addresses the non-sequitur, and vacuous subjective nature of the movement. In sum, Haidt and Lukianoff identify ‘cancel culture’ as part of a broader new paradigm which measures good and evil by the yardstick of ‘safe versus dangerous, instead of true versus false.’

Under the authoritarian, whimsical hegemony of ‘cancel culture’, ‘if you take your stand and speak your truth, you may be subject to call-out, outrage, or being cancelled, because you have not sufficiently coddled’ the feelings of others, or sufficiently met any number of asinine politically correct requirements. As Haidt and Lukianoff quip, the response then is one where ‘you must call out [the offence giver]! Assemble a coalition of the righteous, and shame the evil ones until they change their ways.”

As part of their introduction, Haidt writes that ‘cancel culture’ ‘unwittingly employs the very cognitive distortions that Cognitive Behavioural Therapy tries to correct. For example: catastrophizing (jumping the worst possible conclusions), and negative filtering (negative self-talk; such as saying to yourself, “I’ll never amount to anything”). Haidt then notes, ‘stated simply: Many university students are learning to think in distorted ways, and this increases their likelihood of becoming fragile, anxious, and easily hurt.’

Equating ‘cancel culture’ with the persecution of Christians in Acts 5:27-41, Piper supports this appraisal. Just as the ‘Sanhedrin tried to silence the voice of Christian leaders’, so sways the motion and violent conclusions of ‘cancel culture.’ Being easily offended, or a person having their feelings hurt, isn’t enough just-cause to rage at people, call people out, or “cancel” them.

According to Piper, the response to ‘cancel culture’ is ‘serious joy.’ The Apostle Peter, beaten by enraged, and blood-thirsty authorities, ‘rejoiced’ that he and others ‘were counted worthy to suffer dishonour’ for speaking in Jesus Christ’s name; that name having been banned – cancelled – deemed offensive by the authorities.

Piper’s conclusion:

“If you take a stand the culture hates, and speak a word the culture condemns, and they shame you, and persecute you, and plunder you, but your serious joy remains, they’ve lost their power to control where you stand and what you say.
If your joy comes from the world — its benefits, its comforts, its kudos — you’re like a leaf in the wind. Yours is not a serious joy. It’s a secondhand joy. You are not free. Serious joy sets people free. And makes them the most secure and subversive people when it comes to cultural control.
This has always been true, for two thousand years. Serious joy in Christ through pain has always been radically liberating from cultural control. In getting their joy from heaven, Christians become free on earth.”

Piper is right. ‘Cancel culture’ cannot beat ‘serious joy.’ There’s no excuse for our response to be joyless. Humility wins. We speak truth in love, bearing the name of Jesus Christ. Not falling into step with the spirit of the age, but keeping in step with the Holy Spirit, knowing that though, would-be and actual authoritarians may try to cancel us, our work – or even our entire livelihoods – the unconquerable joy gifted to us in Jesus Christ, and the gracious provision God brings with, through, and because of it, cannot, and will not be cancelled.

Extending out from Piper’s final word is this: ‘stand firm in serious joy’ – for the fact that man ‘is not God. We are sinners. We are finite’ (Piper); and though men and women may arrogantly try to control it, for the very fact that ‘man has no control over God’s grace.’ (Karl Barth, CD. 3:4:105).


References:

Full video & transcript: https://www.desiringgod.org/messages/serious-joy-cultural-conflict-and-christian-humility

First published on Caldron Pool, 20th April, 2020

Image cropped & adjusted from a Photo by Christian Lue on Unsplash

© Rod Lampard, 2020

One of Dietrich Bonheoffer’s key advocates in England throughout the 1930s-40s was Anglican Bishop George Bell. He famously clashed with Churchill over saturation bombing, challenged the ‘kill ‘em all’ ethos of Vansittart, and stood firm against the fallacies behind Vansittartism, which painted all Germans as Nazis without distinction.

Bell’s close relationship with the Confessing Church in Germany led to his 1940 book ‘Christianity and World Order’. Bell was well aware of the German Church’s struggle against a diluted Christianity, which had been pressed into the service of an overbearing and totalitarian state [i]. The book was a brave attempt at igniting the light of post-war peace in the hearts of those fighting against a present darkness.

Through his friends in Germany, Bell had the privilege of seeing firsthand the anti-Nazi actions being undertaken by the Church. He also witnessed the suffering inflicted on the Confessing Church for standing, where many others chose to remain silent or had given up; where once-were-Christians, replaced their faith in Christ, with faith in the Utopian promise of National Socialism.

Churchill’s government downplayed the potency of the German resistance. The resistance was rejected as impotent, and discounted as inconsequential. Bell was eventually shut out by Churchill for his insistence on Allied support for it, and for his public criticism of “saturation bombing” over areas known to be populated by civilians. Churchill’s move ignored the opposition on the ground. Formed by people like Hans Von Dohnanyi, and Karl Bonhoeffer; key conspirators, who knew that a negotiated peace was only an option if the Nazis were replaced.

The conspirators knew that peace would not be a reality unless the German resistance could stage a type of 1776 revolution, akin to that of the United States. Something Bell himself concedes was difficult, but not impossible; acknowledging that the ideological vice-grip was too firmly wrapped around the hearts and minds of Germans [ii].

Still, Bell remained defiant. Churchill’s justifiable counter moves against Hitler were not justified, if Churchill became as tyrannical as Hitler. The dismissal of the existence of any German resistance, and the “saturation bombing” policy were red flags.

An Allied victory and the post-war peace which followed would see a repeat of history if Christianity was ejected from the centre of the proceedings. For Bell, any positive post-war reconstruction necessitates placing the peace handed to us by Jesus Christ into the marrow of present war aims.

His justification for this was that Christianity is a threat to all man-made systems of salvation and condemnation [iii]. Subsequently, under the Lordship of Christ, Christianity stands opposed to the Lordlessness of the totalitarian state.

Therefore, Bell concludes,

‘the extension of Christianity all over the world is vital to the future of humanity. The new movements which are pseudo-religions, such as Communism, Fascism, and Secularism in its various forms, threaten the highest spiritual values in human life with destruction.’ [iv]

Inherent within these anti-Christ movements is the denial of life. Man and woman are solely material beings; a cog in a machine.

‘These movements reject God. They reject the supreme value of humanity. They are destroyers of civilisation.’ [v]

Bell’s big warning to us in our current climate is this: the expanding State develops totalitarian tendencies.

It ‘lays claim to man, and woman, in the totality of his and her being. It seeks to impose on all its citizens a particular philosophy of life (ideology)’ – any such ‘State which advances such claims on humanity has declared itself to be not only a State, but also a religious organisation.’ [vi]

Here the State exalted to godlike status moves from servant to master. There are no free citizens, only tortured subjects and power-hungry sycophants.

Staunchly opposed to this denial of a right to life and livelihood, is Christian faith and its ‘hope which can [and does] rise above all horrors’ (Romans 8:28).

Bell states, ‘Christianity is not a fugitive and cloistered religion. It is alive, fiery, exercised and fully breathed.’ [vii] As such, Christian existence ‘protests against this terrible despotism, this overwhelming domination of human life, with all the energy at its command’ [viii].

In other words, Christian living commands defiance of the deification of personality, party or political ideology. Likewise, we must identify and critique a diluted Christianity, which is pressed into the service of an overbearing and totalitarian state.

This is why Bell asserts that ‘the Church everywhere should be a confessional Church. It should be the church of the brave Word, [bravely] spoken.’ [ix] For ‘it is Christianity alone that shows man and woman their true destiny, and enables both to enjoy fullness of life.’ [x]

These words were written down eighty years ago. They contain within them a stern warning to our governments today: any justifiable counter moves against an enemy are not justified, if they make the government as tyrannical as the enemy it fights.

Question the new normal.


References:

Bell, G. Rev. 1940, Christianity and World Order, Penguin

[i] ‘The church struggle between the German Confessing Church & German Christians was about a refusal to yield to National Socialist ideology & the pressure of the State.’ (p.71)

[ii] Bell advocates revolution against the National Socialist regime. (p.92) Although the dismissal from Churchill’s government wasn’t completely unjustified, it can be argued that the lack of serious interest gave longevity to the war.

[iii] For Bell, ‘Christianity means primarily Jesus Christ, His life, death resurrection, the new age He birthed, and the community of which He is the head.’ (p.140)

[iv] ibid, p.137

[v] ibid, p.137

[vi] Bell citing J.H.Oldham, p.69

[vii] ibid, p.145

[viii] ibid, p.70

[ix] ibid, p.146

[x] ibid, p.137

First published on Caldron Pool, 16th March 2020

© Rod Lampard, 2020

Like you, I’m wrestling with the COVID-19 changes imposed upon us. We’re adapting, steady, and we’re focused. We’re still homeschooling. We’re still reading the news in one hand, and reading the Bible with the other. We’re engaged, determined not to let the bad news sneak past us, or our prayers. We’re also determined not to let the barrage of repetitive, useless speculative analysis paralyze us.

In 1939, Karl Barth, who had long since been exiled by the Nazis for refusing to sign the Hitler Oath, and for opposing the deification of the State, wrote,

‘the Church prefers to suffer persecution at the hands of the State, which has become a “beast out of the pit of the abyss,” rather than take part in the deification of Caesar.’[i]

It’s in the vein of this context that we’re determined to not give in to fear and its consistent demand for absolute fealty. We’re steadfast in our commitment to the current treatment plan, but defiant in our “no” to this silent freedom killer. The virus, its source, and the exercise of political power – through a centralisation of government ruling by fiat, without the limitation of existing checks and balances – require a line in the sand drawn between us, and the totalitarianism attached to it.

Despite fear and powerlessness Good Friday remains Good News.

Its events do not show the clash of two kingdoms, and two kings, they show the affirmation of one King and His kingdom. Pilate asks, “are you the King of the Jews?” Jesus replies, “You have said so.” (Mark 15:2) And yet, Jesus ‘confirms Pilate’s claim to “power” over Him, as power given from above.’ (Barth) Pilate does not release Jesus. He crucifies Him. The confirmation of Christ as King is affirmed by Pilate’s mockery and Jesus Christ’s death sentence: here hangs, pierced, beaten, spat on, speared and abused, ‘Jesus, the King of the Jews.’ (Matthew 27:37).

The place where God makes His stand before all humanity is on a cross for all humanity. There is no greater line in the sand between humanity and sin – the corruption of absolute power, and the rejection of true freedom, than God’s revelation in Jesus Christ – Christ crucified and resurrected. Whether that absolute be a seemingly unbeatable microscopic parasite or seemingly unbreakable bloated bureaucracy.

Barth writes that Jesus and Pilate (Caesar’s proxy in Judea) confronted one another. What we see is the ‘homelessness of the Church in this age’, and ‘in its demonic form, the State’s authority as the “power of the present age.”

In yielding the Gospel the Church brings to the State a theological critique against all superstition, ideas, imaginations and ideologies, and therefore judgement on any manifestation of an imbalance of power. It can do this because ‘judgement begins with God’s household’ (1 Peter 4:17).

The Church is as a watchman, ‘knowing that it is responsible for the State and for Caesar, and it finally manifests this responsibility, through “the prophetic service of the Church as Watchman,” in its highest form by praying for the State and for its officials in all circumstances.’ (Barth) Both the Church and the State are under the Lordship of Christ.

There was no false dichotomy between secular and sacred. Civic duty for Christians is, as it has always been, holding themselves as individuals, and the Government to its role, function and purpose, accountable, under the Divine Lordship of Christ.

Right through the Gospel of Mark, Jesus’ Kingship is at work. Healing and exorcism, announce His kingdom drawn near, His kingdom to come; his actions calling us to rethink and repent – for ‘the Kingdom of God is near.’

As Ethan the Ezrahite wrote, ‘God rules over the surging seas; waves rise, He stills them.’ (Psalm 89:9). The shock-waves of Christ’s kingship confirmed by the events of Good Friday, dark Saturday and Resurrection Sunday, spread His authority like a slow tsunami over the Pax Romana, past Rome’s powerful legions, liberating the hearts of the wounded, lame, repentant and humble. Christ’s just rule breaks like a wave over Church and State permeating both. The just who was judged becomes our just judge.

As things currently stand, we’ve had no reassurance from prominent politicians about how civil liberties will be safeguarded during the Coronavirus counter measures. We, the people, seem to be on a Shakespearean rodeo, living as Romeo, liberty as Juliet. There seem to be powerful forces at work to keep both separated, perhaps even on a permanent basis. But Shakespeare’s work isn’t just a tale of woe about oppressive forces that seek to keep man from woman, and woman from man, it’s a warning telling us not to give up hope.

Regardless of how dead liberty might appear to be, or how pathetically silent our leaders choose to remain. Regardless of how intimidated we are by the state flexing its muscles, prancing its ferocious might in our faces. Regardless of how we may suffer under the hands of those who make themselves the enemy of civil liberties, it’s because of Good Friday, we, who are raised in Christ, can say Good Friday, is still Good News.

Liberty may have been crucified, but liberty was liberated and lives yet still!

Though the state may flap and dance about, howl, breathe fire and brandish the sword, in a political thrust and parry against liberty, they cannot win. For although ‘it’s true that Jesus told His disciples to render to Caesar the things that are Caesar’s, and to God the things that are God’s. It [shouldn’t be forgotten that it] is God who declares what belongs to Caesar.’ [iii]

May God’s wisdom guide us, may His strength empower us, and with defiant humility, may we gratefully embrace the Light from which all true freedom breaks. For the Light shines in the darkness, and the darkness has not overcome it (John 1:5).

Happy Easter, folks!

Jesus is Victor!


References:

[i] Barth, K. Community, State, and Church, Wipf & Stock Publishers.

[ii] Barth, K. The Theology of John Calvin, Eerdmans Publishing Company.

[iii] Bell, G, 1940. Christianity & World Order, Penguin Classics.

First published on Caldron Pool, 10th April, 2020.

© Rod Lampard, 2020

Ahmed Shaheed, lecturer and volunteer adviser to the U.N., is advocating that religions conform to an eventual universal, “progressive” law. In his latest report for the U.N, the religious freedom advocate provides an argument for a blueprint, which will outlaw any theological critique or practice, unless it has first been approved, or established by LGBTQAAI+ activists, radical feminists & academics who advocate from a Leftist worldview.

Steve Warren from CBN news rightly noted that recent ‘Report of the Special Rapporteur on freedom of religion or belief (available as a Word Document here), makes no distinction between who and what religion Shaheed’s volunteered prescriptions pertains to. Instead Shaheed appears to have subsumed all religions into one category of hate, bigotry and discrimination.

Shaheed accuses all governments of failing to stop discrimination against women, and those who identify as LGBTQAAI+, stating:

‘Governments in all regions of the world have also failed to uphold their obligation to protect people from gender-based violence and discrimination perpetrated against them by private individuals or entities claiming a religious justification for their actions and to sanction the perpetrators of such acts. Gender-based violence and discrimination is being perpetuated both in the public sphere and by and within religious communities and entities.’

The report’s findings and prescriptions were based on ‘information gathered directly from survivors of human rights violations from over 42 countries.’ Participants ‘also included members of several United Nations agencies including UN AIDS, UNFPA, UNWOMEN, and the WHO.’

The key findings of Shaheed’s report specifically addressed,

‘Female Genital Mutilation, marital rape, early and forced marriage and polygamy; [and] noted the increasing use of religion or belief to deny reproductive health and sexual rights; criminalize protected conduct and deny the equal personhood of LGBT+ persons; or to undermine the right to freedom of religion or belief to women, girls and LGBT+ persons.’

Examples acknowledged progress, but specifically included countries such as Saudi Arabia where women ‘continue to face systematic discrimination in law and in practice in several areas and are inadequately protected against gender-based violence.’

Shaheed also stated that in Israel, ‘Denominational family law, to which there is no civil alternative, permits divorce only with the consent of the husband, which reportedly can coerce women to forfeit property or custody of children.’

In addition, the report cited Tunisia, first saying that

‘although it stands out in the Middle East and North Africa (MENA) region for many of its  protections for the human rights of women and girls, the Personal Status Code of 1956, rooted in an interpretation of Islam, requires further amendment to guarantee gender equality in inheritance rights.’

Other nations and regions mentioned were South and South-East Asia, citing Sir Lanka’s Muslim Marriage and Divorce Act ‘which, unlike national legal provisions for non-Muslim women, does not identify a minimum age requirement or require a woman to consent to marriage; leaving Muslim women and girls unprotected by national provisions.’

This is in addition to some ‘counter-extremism’ measures from South and South-East Asia where some states have ‘targeted women from Muslim minority communities with rape, forced sterilization, and forced abortion.’

Iran got its own paragraph. Shaheed’s volunteered advice raised concerns about ‘laws inspired by religious beliefs’ such as the Iranian regime’s ‘compulsory veil legislation and the reported arrest, enforced disappearance, and arbitrary detention of women’s human rights defenders who protested against it.’

In the same way, the report described concerns about limitations put on Muslim women (no region or country was referenced) regarding wearing ‘headscarves, or full-face veils – in their efforts to combat gender-based discrimination, but without sufficient attention to the self-understanding and agency of women.’

As is to be expected, pro-life advocates were high on Shaheed’s hit list. Following the general abuse of language regarding abortion, Shaheed, rebelled this section: ‘State restrictions on access to sexual and reproductive rights.’ He then cited partial and total bans on abortion in some Latin American countries, claiming that ‘discriminatory religious edicts inform laws and policies that restrict sexual and reproductive rights’. His justification for this claim is that some ‘women and girls can be prosecuted for miscarrying their pregnancies, and limited access to abortion has in some cases, caused serious suffering.’

As for LGBTQAAI+ discrimination, Shaheed pointed again at South and South-East Asia, and Sub-Saharian African regions, stating that many have ‘justified’ the maintenance of the country’s legal prohibition of homosexuality on the grounds that it upholds the tenets of Islam or Christianity.‘ He argued that civil laws in these regions are ‘contributing to violence and discrimination against LGBT+ persons’.

Shaheed then addressed adultery laws, noting that in

‘countries where Islamic law governs personal laws, adultery is severely punished and may even result in a sentence of death by stoning. The sanctions are generally imposed on the women rather than the men. Additionally, sexual assault and rape often go unreported because women fear they will be charged with adultery; and there may be impunity for marital rape.’

Poland copped it too, with Shaheed labeling opposition to identity politics, gender wars, and LGBTQAAI+ ideology as ‘pseudoscience’; saying that protecting ‘heterosexual norms’ was discriminatory and doing violence to ‘LGBTQAAI+ persons’. He claims that ‘well coordinated groups are misusing freedom of religion or belief across continents and in the media – to counter human rights in the name of religion or belief.’ Calling anyone who ‘espoused that a gender ideology is harmful to children, families, tradition and religion’ an active participant in perpetuating “injustice”.

The report did distinguish between beliefs and interpretations of those beliefs. Shaheed gave special praise to (Leftist) activists in religious communities, for showing that ‘not necessarily all members of a religious community held to [“oppressive beliefs” based on interpretations of religion].’ He inferred that this was the correct way to use freedom of religion, and it’s for these people alone, that religion of freedom should be protected.

In sum, citing specific examples and allegations from within the Middle East, African, Poland, Israel, Saudi Arabia, Latin America, Tunisia, South and South-East Asia, Shaheed is claiming that all religions are doing violence to women, girls and people who identify as LGBTQAAI+. As such, he seems to be advocating a “need” for religion to be brought into line with the “glorious benevolence” of what could be rightly termed the religion of Leftism. Shaheed’s suggestions present a strange irony, given that he is a well-known, advocate for freedom of religion, freedom of conscience and of belief.

Given that Islamism makes up the majority of areas where Shaheed’s concerns rest, by subsuming all religions into one melting pot of discrimination and violence, out of what seems to be a fear of discriminating against Muslims, Shaheed is doing unfair violence to Christians and Jews. He, among all people should know that playing the ‘they’re all just as bad as each other’ card is dismissively childish and in some parts lazy. It buttresses ignorance of, and encourages an increasingly prejudice against Christianity, and all traditionally free societies built on Biblical Christian foundations.

Shaheed (and potentially the U.N as a whole) is saying that those who choose to provide a loving “no” to transgenderism, or refuse to embrace the LGBT flag, and its ideology; alongside Christian pro-life advocates in Western nations are to be equated with Islamists beheading infidels, murdering their wives in honour killings, taking child brides, and throwing homosexuals from rooftops.

Thus the lack of definition and distinction regarding specific religious, judicial and theological contexts raises red flags. It’s ludicrous to brand Christians as extremists simply for holding to the view that marriage is between a man and a woman, or that there are only two genders.

Where we can agree with Shaheed is that ‘traditional, historical, religious or cultural attitudes must not be used to justify violation of human rights’. I’m all for this. But again, let’s define our terms of reasoning, and examine the context before making broad recommendations that could give rise to the U.N equivalent of the Gestapo, and Soviet gulags.

The Christian theological understanding of the world, agrees at this point with Shaheed. The Biblical witness testifies that sin pervades human existence, kills relationships, hinders God’s providential fatherly Lordship at work in the world, and affects male and female genders, nations, and ethnicities equally.

Abuses and abuse does occur, not just in the name of religion, but name of ideological paradigms – all man-made systems of salvation and condemnation, both civil and ecclesial. Borrowing Karl Barth’s terminology, these ‘towers of Babel’ should be challenged, because God challenges them. The most obvious example of this is in His remedy for sin, via a reckoning and forgiveness of sin, through Jesus Christ.

Where we should depart from Shaheed is his politically motivated generalizations. This is evident in his broad use of religion, and his push to protect freedom of religion or belief, only for those who fit neatly within a universally approved ideological paradigm (Leftism).

His only issue with Christianity appears to be pro-life advocates, and Christians who uphold both binary gender, and the equality of the physiological, biological union, which sees man free woman, and woman free for man.

In sum, Shaheed’s recommendations resemble a receipt for re-education camps. His definition of ‘human rights defenders’ might be better translated ‘social justice warriors’ or Leftists; and his call to protect them, seems to be advocating freedom from religion, not freedom of religion.

Worth noting: it’s strange Shaheed has overlooked Communist countries. The report doesn’t mention Communist Chinese persecution of the Muslim minority Uyghurs and Christians. It makes no mention of Christians suffering in droves at the hands Islamists in Nigeria, Asia, The Middle East, or the African Continent; and he makes no mention of oppression in Vietnam, North Korea, or even Russia.

As for people characterizing others as “immoral actors”, Shaheed may want to look in his own “progressive” backyard first, and observe the caricatures of Christians made en masse by radical feminist and LGBTQAAI+ activists, his so-called ‘human rights defenders’. To quote Warren, ‘mainstream Christianity doesn’t call for violence or discrimination against anyone, even though some opponents of orthodox Christian belief have tried to characterize it that way.’


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First published on Caldron Pool, 21st March, 2020.

© Rod Lampard, 2020