Archives For Theological Reflection

Examine some older texts on philosophy, some Freudian psychology, even some theology, and you’ll come across the term proton-pseudos.

Proton-pseudos is described by the International Dictionary of Psychoanalysis as ‘the link between false premises and false conclusions.’ Sigmund Freud borrowed the term from Aristotle and applied to it to the category of hysteria.

In short, the Proton-pseudos is the ‘original error’. The proton-pseudos sits behind and within the lies we tell ourselves, or the lies we’ve been taught to believe about ourselves, society, politics, theology and a whole range of other areas. The proton-pseudos is the outworking of a negative self-belief caused by exposure to trauma, abuse, and agitation, manipulative or sociological propaganda.

The proton-pseudos is a false idea or belief based on limited or distorted knowledge. It’s an assumption lived out as fact, even though it’s a conclusion derived from a broken reality, one re-pieced together, without a relevant tangible factual basis. In other words, the proton-pseudos is a broken lens. It imagines oppression where no oppression exists, created by a negative self-belief long ago triggered by a genuine traumatic event.

The Freudian understanding of the proton-pseudos is exemplified by ‘Emma, who at the age of thirteen fled the laughter of the sales staff in a shop, consciously believing that they were laughing at her clothes. However, Emma’s reaction in the shop was triggered by a repressed first event from years before, a grocer who had sexually touched her when she was eight.’

French intellectual Jacques Ellul’s aggressive critique of helpful and harmful propaganda, from 1965, assists in providing a framework to explain how propaganda relates to the proton-pseudos as an ‘inner control over the individual by a social force.’ Manipulative, agitation and sociological propaganda preys on the collective social consciousness of a society in an ‘age of anxiety’. Fear is used to control, mobilize and permit.

The manipulative use of fear engineers a desensitizing of sensitivities and objections to an idea, in order to implement it.

As Ellul explains, ‘propaganda will permit what so far was prohibited, such as hatred…propaganda offers him an object of hatred for all propaganda is aimed at an enemy. This hatred is not shameful, evil hatred that must be hidden, but justified because propaganda has pointed out enemies that must be slain, transforming crime into a praiseworthy act.’

Propaganda utilizes proton-pseudos to create conformity. According to Ellul this conformity is the consequence of integration propaganda – political reeducation. This means that any ‘statement whatever, no matter how stupid, any “tall tale” will be believed once it enters into the current of hatred’ perpetuated by the prevailing proton-pseudos; the false doctrine, half-truth, outright harmful or blasphemous lie or deception. The collective social consciousness of society can then be controlled through ‘key words of magical import, which are believed without question.’

The proton-pseudos becomes authoritative through an ongoing maintenance of propaganda. Questioning of the proton-pseudos is viewed as irrational. Even though the proton-pseudos is, itself an irrational conclusion held captive by the ‘original error’.

To borrow further from Jacques Ellul, propaganda instills in the person held captive to the proton-pseudos ‘a system of opinions and tendencies which may not be subjected to criticism…the individual has received irrational certainties from propaganda and feels personally attacked when these certainties are attacked’.

Agitation, manipulative and sociological propaganda reinforces the proton-pseudos by way of affirming its grip on the person held captive by it.

Consequently, ‘ironically, the man or woman who has been successfully subjected to a vigorous propaganda will declare that all new ideas are propaganda.’

This comes back to Freud’s story of Emma.  The proton-pseudos sees oppression where there is none. It confuses a past event with current circumstances, magnifying fear and stopping Emma from distinguishing fiction from real thing. Emma’s negative self-belief affects her interpretation of the intentions of the people who surrounded her in the shop. There may have been good reasons for her to be suspicious and feel uncomfortable, but Emma’s consciousness was governed by a lie based on past abuse; the proton-pseudos which she believes and projects onto others, despite her current context clearly saying otherwise.

Ellul and Freud don’t just give us legitimate reasons for a constructive self-critique, they provide a diagnosis for the current malady affecting the socio-political make-up of Western Civilization.

One example is the proton-pseudos which dominates the Left. The proton-pseudos at work here imagines Nazis in every opponent, or behind every politician or journalist not Left of centre.

There’s no doubt that Nazism is evil, but like Freud’s story of Emma, context matters.

As Dennis Prager recently said, “fighting Nazis in World War two makes you a hero. Fighting Nazis today, in the United States, doesn’t”. Why? Because today’s Nazis are largely phantoms created by the Left. Imagined into existence, but based on an historical event, in order to promote fear, take control and justify an inability (or worse, lack of desire) to engage in reasoned debate. The proton-pseudos provoked by propagandist slogans permits all sorts of viciousness and violence against their political opponents.

Take as examples the propagandists perpetuating the proton-pseudos. They create an oppressor, where one doesn’t exist, with terms such as, toxic masculinity, heteronormativity, cultural appropriation, white privilege, islamophobia, Jesus was a socialist, homophobia and mansplaining, unborn babies are a bunch of cells/a parasite, all men are dogs, and all white people are racist, et.al.

All of these and others, as asinine as “love is love”, are designed to incite ‘conditioned reflexes’ (Elull). To ensnare, trap and control the argument through an appeal of the social consciousness of the West which has long embraced the truth of love your neighbor as you love yourself, and long since rejected the evils of racism/fascism.

Anyone who questions the slogan, questions the propaganda, threatening the power of the propagandist and their ability to use the proton-pseudos to feed their own self-interest.

Ellul and Freud share a strong relevance to the current practice in psychology called cognitive behavioral therapy (CBT). The practice of identifying the proton-pseudos, of replacing lies with truth.

They join with Paul of Tarsus in challenging us to discern between the lies we’re told, the lies we tell ourselves and the truth.

For the Christian, and those who heed Paul’s instruction, this will mean wholeheartedly owning the theological truth that ‘the weapons of our warfare are not of the flesh but have divine power to destroy strongholds; destroying 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)

Beware the auctioneers: outsmart the propagandists. Challenge the proton-pseudos both without and from within. Be a factivist, a liberator, one who see the lies for what they are and where they originate, and then replaces them with the truth.

As Paul teaches: ‘don’t be conformed to the world, but be transformed by the renewing of the mind’ , not the emptying of it. (Romans 12:2)


References:

Ellul, J. 1965 Propaganda: The Formation of Men’s Attitudes, Vintage Press (pp.87 & 152)

Photo by Scott Rodgerson on Unsplash

First published on Caldron Pool, 5th September, 2019

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Activists trying to rally Australians around the idea of Indigenous Australian representation in Parliament have tied their argument in knots. Their message is vague, and their reliance on the simplistic slogan, “Indigenous voice” provides little clarity about what direction they’re advocating Australians take.

As a result the push for an “Indigenous voice” has been interpreted as a one of two things: a) call for another advisory group, or b) a call for an entirely new governing body. [i]

The latter can only be interpreted as a push for a ‘third branch of Government’, and the former, as a push to return to a system like the failed Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Commission (ATSIC) advisory committee established in 1989. If the former, why isn’t the new advisory group, National Indigenous Australians Agency (NIAA) good enough?

If you’re not familiar with the history, ATSIC replaced NAC, which was established in 1980. NAC replaced the NACC which was established in 1973; all had the express purpose of ‘advising the government on Indigenous affairs policy.’ [ii]

The aim was to have a committee made up of Indigenous Australians who were democratically elected by Indigenous Australians, to provide a platform for specific Indigenous Australian representation.

Why? Perception drives demand. General elections aren’t seen as doing enough. It’s assumed that the collective vote of Indigenous Australians is so small, that an Indigenous Australian “voice” in how Australia is governed is rarely, if ever, heard. The inclusive constitutional democratic vote made by ALL Australians of voting age, is seen to only serve the non-Indigenous Australian majority, thus the assumed necessity for a specific ethnic advisory committee such as NACC, NAC and ATSIC.

In 2005, ATSIC was discontinued by both the LNP and Labor because of corruption. ATSIC was no longer functional or practical when it came to providing Indigenous Australians with the most effective help.

Criticisms of ATSIC, not connected to corruption, suggest that activist calls for an “Indigenous voice” are in fact more than just calls for another advisory group.

Before ATSIC’s demise, it was attacked  from within the Indigenous community, for not having enough authority. The perception was that ‘advice fell on deaf ears’; that ATSIC ‘produced a white bureaucracy because it couldn’t employ its own staff’, it was over-regulated, ‘not properly representative’, and didn’t have enough women on the board. [iii]

This rebounds against some criticisms from now ex-Liberal M.P. Christopher Pyne, who in 2003, called ATSIC a ‘gravy train’.

Pyne argued that ‘a lack of accountability has turned ATSIC into a bureaucratic, inefficient organization that squanders taxpayer funds…By failing to confront ATSIC’s problems, advocates of indigenous interests have reinforced the talkback-radio caricature of Aborigines as rorters of the system. If Aboriginal interests are to be advanced, ATSIC cannot continue to escape scrutiny. While the ATSIC gravy train rolls on, ordinary Aborigines continue to suffer.’ [iv]

The problems with ATSIC, the vague message and reliance simplistic slogans from advocates for an “Indigenous voice”, should intensify concern about what advocates want an “Indigenous voice” to look like. We can add to these concerns any proposal to enshrine ethnicity into Australia’s constitution under the term “Indigenous voice”; as is proposed by Minister for Indigenous Australians, Ken Wyatt and the Referendum Council.

Daniel Wild of the IPA rightly red flagged the notion, stating:

“…91% of Australians voted in 1967 to change the Constitution to remove references to race. This was an important step towards achieving equality for indigenous Australians. It is disappointing that now, 52 years later, both major political parties want to put race back into the Constitution. Indigenous Australians and non-Indigenous Australians are all first and foremost Australians who share a common country, legal system, and destiny. A ‘voice’ is not able to represent only one segment of the Australian population, because all policy decisions apply to all Australians regardless of their race.” [v]

Indigenous Australians already have a higher representation in the official Australian calendar, than any other ethnicity. Eleven events enshrined in the national calendar, including a satisfactory level of Indigenous history taught as part of the Australian Curriculum proves that Indigenous Australians have a voice.

For example:

3 February – Anniversary of the Apology (2008)
21 March – National Close the Gap Day
26 May – National Sorry Day
27 May – Anniversary of the 1967 Referendum
27 May – 3 June – Reconciliation Week
3 June – Mabo Day
7-14 July  – NAIDOC Week
4 August – National Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander Children’s Day
9 August – International Day of the World’s Indigenous Peoples
4 September – Indigenous Literacy Day
13 September – Anniversary of the UN Declaration on the Rights of Indigenous People

This list doesn’t include Ken Wyatt’s Ministry position, which gives indigenous Australians representation, or welcome to country ceremonies. Nor does this list include Indigenous Australian flags flown next to Australian flags on, or near, every Government building. In addition, this list doesn’t include the specialized Government programs only accessible to Indigenous Australians such as Abstudy, nor does it include privatised ethno-centric schemes which specialize in only serving Indigenous Australians by providing further assistance when buying a home.

It’s an enormous credit to every Australian that our Indigenous neighbours already have a voice like this in our community.

We as a nation already share the responsibility of giving above and beyond to those vulnerable in our community. This includes giving Indigenous Australians the tools needed for them to liberate and launch themselves from Government dependency into self-sufficiency.

So why are there calls for an ‘Indigenous voice’ when it’s obvious Indigenous Australians have one?

The naysayers who spread the toxin of white guilt and white privilege want more. They prefer we sign on to a Marx-esk revision of history, redefining history with terms like “first nations” instead of tribes, all in order to bolster their attacks on Australia Day, in support of the dubious term “invasion day”.

To the naysayers, we as a nation aren’t carrying our fair share of responsibility for our Indigenous neighbours. To them Indigenous recognition doesn’t go far enough, even though Indigenous Australians have the highest (and only ethnic) representation on the national calendar, and as an ethnic group now have their own ministerial department.

The naysayers forget that individual responsibility trumps government programs. It’s true that we may need to reform these programs, but we don’t need more of them.

We certainly don’t need a new third tier of the federal government; one where membership is solely based on ethnicity, tribe, dialect, melanin, blood and soil, and not on merit or election via the constitutional democracy process that gives a voice to all Australians.

As said the great ANZAC, General John Monash, who went to India, in a clear refusal to not entertain those trying to get him to head a Communist-inspired coup in Australia during the 1930’s:

”…Depend upon it, the only hope for Australia is the ballot box, and an educated electorate.” (Roland Perry, Monash. 2004:509.)

Indigenous Australians have recognition. They are already an integral part of the Australian voice and cultural identity.

Beware of those who say otherwise.


References:

[i] Bennett, S. & Pratt, A. Current Issues Brief no. 4 2004-2005: The End of ATSIC and the future administration of Indigenous affairs, Parliament of Australia.

[ii] Anthony, T. 2010. Learning from ATSIC, The ABC.

[iii] This seems to have been confirmed by The ABC, in an article from Thalia Anthony called “Learning from ATSIC” (2010).

Thalia pointed out that since the disbanding of ATSIC, ‘lobbyists for Indigenous representation at a national level have been drawing up blue prints for a national Indigenous body. At the fore has been the proposal by the Australian Human Rights Commission for a National Congress of Australia’s First Peoples in Our future in our hands. The Commission’s proposal consists of a National Congress, which constitutes 128 delegates from across Australia. Some delegates will be appointed based on merit and other will be elected from Indigenous organizations. The Congress will then elect a National Executive of six part-time members and two full-time Chairs, with a requirement of 50 per cent female representation. In addition, an Ethics Council of senior Indigenous peoples to oversee the work of the National Congress.’

[iv] Pyne, C. 2003. Why the ATSIC gravy train must be derailed, The Age.

[v] Wild. D. & Begg. M, 2019. Race has no place in the Constitution

©Rod Lampard, 2019

In what could be labelled, the Left devouring its own. Seven U.K. Labour members broke with the party yesterday over concerns about Brexit and what ex-Party member, Luciana Berger called, “institutional anti-semitism”.

Berger stated that she was “embarrassed and ashamed” of what the U.K Labour Party had now become.

According to The Australian’s, Greg Sheridan, the seven M.P. Labour-exit is not unwarranted.  Sheridan’s aptly titled piece, ‘Stinging rebuke to a Marxist takeover[1]’, backed Berger and her reasons for the seven M.P. exit. ‘

‘Jeremy Corbyn, the thirty-six year political veteran, and Socialist, who ascended to the Labour leadership back in 2015, has ‘brought a toxic, regressive, crude political culture’ to the party.

Anyone who thinks that sectarian hatreds, foul abuse and ideological extremism are monopolised by the far Right, need only look at Corbyn and his extremely unlovely cadre of close supporters.’[2]

In 2016,  a year after Corbyn became leader, Nick Cohen, The Spectator (U.K),  featured an appeal from a Labour Party member, who chose to be called Chris, for ‘fear of abuse’ stated:

‘I write this as a passionate leftist and liberal. Corybn was against peace in Ireland, for the Iranian religious Right, for anti-Semites, Pro-Putin, Against Self-determination [Falkland Islands]…’[3]

In addition, Hadley Freeman, in March last year, wrote a lengthy piece for the leftist aligned, online media heavy-weight, The Guardian, expressing frustration at the Labour leader’s “blind eye to anti-Semitism”.

This shouldn’t be a surprise, though. As Troy Bramston noted, ‘Corbyn (who has given degrees of support to terrorist organizations) and his Marxist shadow chancellor, John McDonnell, have terminated Labour’s Blair-Brown legacy […] Class warfare and the politics of envy are its watchwords.’[4]

The same frustration, angst and confusion being felt today, is similar to those of Allied troops, who were thrown into a world war, that most of them and the West never wanted. Nazism forced people to take sides. Leftism is doing the same.

Perhaps Berger and the six M.P.’s who stand alongside her is a sign of hope. Hope that some on the Left are not afraid to turn to their own side and say enough is enough; Leftism has gone too far and we will not let it go any further. If so, their task will not be easy.

Luciana Berger and the six other M.P.’s might be looking for a more centrist position, but as is evident since Hilary Clinton lost the 2016 election in the United States, thanks to Leftism, centrism is a luxury, few can now afford.

Young Labour’s[5] response to Berger and company, confirms everything Berger said about their reasons for their Labour-exit.

Communism is as communism does. #bewaretheauctioneers

 

 


References:

[1] Greg Sheridan, The Australian, Wednesday 20th February 2019 (p.9)

[2] Ibid, 2019

[3] Nick Cohen, The Spectator, Why You Shouldn’t Vote for Corbyn, 24th August 2016

[4] Troy Bramston, The Australian, Grab for the Centre as parties pulled to the extremes, 20th February 2019 (p.9)

[5] Times reporter, Rachel Sylvester ‘Corbynistas’

Also published @ The Caldron Pool, 20th February 2019

 

Since 2014 I’ve been committed to considering what different things God might have to say at the close of Christmas. Traditionally this is Epiphany, the 6th January, marking the end of the twelve days of Christmas.

Magi from the East (Persia), following the star (likely to be the well-timed rare alignment of three planets in our Sol system; a Nova or Super Nova) find confirmation of Micah 5:2:

‘but you, O Bethlehem who are too little to be among the clans of Judah, from you shall come forth for me one who is to be ruler in Israel, whose origin is from old, from ancient of days’.

The Magi, after arriving in Jerusalem, are sent by the malicious, King Herod, to Bethlehem. The order is: ‘diligently search for the child and report back’ (Matthew 2:9). The Magi are once again ‘guided by the star that they had seen when it rose before them’ (ibid). At this the Magi ‘rejoiced exceedingly with great joy’ (Matthew 2:10). Arriving at the house where Mary and Joseph now reside, the Magi gift their famous tribute of gold, frankincense and myrrh.

This sacrifice honours the One whom they have sought to honour. Their mission is complete. Their journey comes to an end, and they’re offering enters them into a history they never intended to be included in. The Magi aren’t Jewish, but they know the Old Testament; they know of the Jewish prophets. From the East the Magi arrived, perhaps with apprehension and anticipation, but by the time that they end up leaving, they leave having that apprehension and anticipation answered with great joy. The Magi are not disappointed.

With their own eyes they not only see, but joyfully participate in the confirmation of the prophet Micah’s significant foretelling of the birth of the one who comes from the Ancient of Days; the birth of The King of Israel, in insignificant Bethlehem.

This great joy emboldens the Magi. They take heed of a dream in which they are warned not return to King Herod. This is later justified by Herod’s command to kill all male infants aged two and under, in Bethlehem and the surrounding region.

Like the Magi’s visit and their presenting of gifts to the infant Christ (Matthew 2:11), Epiphany is a time of stepping back and gifting God with the attention of our hearts and minds.

Wise men still seek Him, and Epiphany (the traditional close of Christmas celebrations and contemplation) is a good place to end one year and begin another.

Instead of us making our own resolutions, it’s a good time to seek out the resolutions God has already made towards us. Understanding that we ‘worship by the Spirit of God, glory in Christ Jesus and put no confidence in the flesh’ (Philippians 3:3); and that we can rely on His strength to do so, not solely our own.

Looking to what God has already revealed about Himself, we ask, what can we draw from God’s self-revelation that will take us into the New Year with confidence?

What is it about God’s self-revelation that will help us build on God’s resolution towards us, one that outlasts vain and clichéd New Years Eve promises?

Epiphany is not without substance. The great joy of the Magi is not without justification.

They may leave empty-handed, but they don’t leave empty and disillusioned. The Magi leave well guarded; full of the joy of the Lord. This is a joy they’ve witnessed face to face with, and received from, the One who is the ‘fountain of all joy’ (Tony Reinke)[i].

As Karl Barth noted, this great joy is the radiance of God’s glory:

‘God’s love becomes an event and a person, God’s fellowship, powerful and a fact [.…]It is a glory that awakens joy […] God’s glory radiates it […] because it is God who Himself radiates joy […] His glory is radiant, and what it radiates is joy. It attracts and therefore it conquers.’ (Karl Barth, CD. II:1, pp.643, 655, 654, 661) (Nehemiah 8:10; Psalm 30:5; Isaiah 55:12; John 15:11)

May Epiphany remind us that ‘the presence of the Creator is not an idle or unfruitful presence. It is not the presence of cold confrontation. It is not a presence which leaves blind eyes blind or deaf ears deaf. It is a presence which opens them. God’s glory is the indwelling joy of His divine being which as such shines out from Him.’ (Barth, CD 2.1:647)

May Epiphany not be a cold confrontation with the great joy experienced by the Magi. May this great joy, be the joy of the Lord working in our lives. May we ‘not be grieved, knowing that the Joy of the Lord is our strength’ (Nehemiah 8:10), and that it is only in Him that great joy is to be found. That we too are guarded and that we too can march on as wise men, when kings, rulers, or the world (and sometimes those about us), are all too happy to deceive, mock, destroy, steal and tear down.

With the Magi, may we say that the great joy awakened in them by the glory of God is now also before us, for us and given resolutely to us. With the Magi, we can embrace the birth of the new and the continuing reminder of God’s faithfulness to His people, and the fact that His joy WILL BE our strength, and none other[ii].


References:

[i] Tony Reinke noted that ‘joy is fundamental to God’s triune nature. To find God is to find the fountain of all joy […] We participate in joy when we reach the essence of all joy: God Himself’. I disagree with how Reinke’s article conflates happiness with Joy, but I agree with the fact that ‘God is the fountain of joy’.

[ii] Dietrich Bonhoeffer: ‘One should, in such times of confusion, go back to the beginning, to our wellsprings, to the true Bible, to the true Luther. One should keep on, ever more undaunted and joyfully, becoming a theologian who speaks truth in love (ἀληθεύοντες ἐν ἀγάπῃ). (DBW 12)

Photo by Nghia Le on Unsplash

© Rod Lampard, 2019

Also published @ The Caldron Pool, January 13, 2019 under the same title.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“The world was lost;

Christ is born!

Rejoice, O Christendom!”


References:

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

[ii] Ibid, loc. 642-652

Originally published 24th December 2014

©Rod Lampard, 2018

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

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

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

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

Remarking:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The questions then are:

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

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

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

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

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

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

 


References:

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

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

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

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