Archives For Theological Reflection

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

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.

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

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

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

According to Variety, Cromwell said,

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

“Tell them they’re not welcome.”

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


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

©Rod Lampard, 2018

Photo by Hasan Almasi on Unsplash

Poignant.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Edmund Burke was right:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


References:

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

[ii] Burke, ibid.

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

©Rod Lampard, 2018.

Photo by Anthony Garand on Unsplash

I’ve never really fitted all that well into the establishment. So I often ask God: If I’m not Christian enough for some Christians, but too Christian for the World, am I Christian enough?

The reply is swift: “it’s not about you. It’s about what I’ve done for you. No one is enough by themselves. Others may give off the veneer of self-righteousness, and ostracise those deemed unworthy, but remember this: ALL have fallen short of the glory of God. Not one is righteous. You are righteous because you are in Christ; He alone is righteousness and it’s His righteousness that you wear. No one is Christian enough if they look at others, smile and think to themselves that they are beyond His righteousness and can stand on a righteousness of their own. No matter how holy they sound. You are mine and I am yours. My grace is sufficient –

‘…he said to me, “My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.” Therefore I will boast all the more gladly of my weaknesses, so that the power of Christ may rest upon me. For the sake of Christ, then, I am content with weaknesses, insults, hardships, persecutions, and calamities. For when I am weak, then I am strong.” (2.Cor.12:9-10)

Guest post by Greg Hutana.

Recently, I watched a YouTube video on the Top 30 things to have prepared in case the Government or Financial systems that we have grown up with should come to an abrupt end.

The first on the list was to have some cold hard cash on hand, if indeed this should happen, while cash is still legal tender. The second was a real surprise. I was dumb struck to find, that according to this commentator’s reasoning, the second was to be debt free.

The person went on to explain that in a crisis like this most people assume that they get a free pass on their debts. In fact this is not the case. Instead the wealthy and those in power, turn to the function of a debtor’s gaol in order to continue having control and influence over people’s lives.

Now is this a fact or not? I couldn’t tell you for sure, but it might be worth investigating some of the small print in your mortgage contracts or credit card contracts to find out.

I realised after my first wife took the houses and left me with nothing, that in fact God had been generous with me in a roundabout way. Overnight I became free of my mortgage. I still had to work for five more years in a cleaning business to payoff my other debt’s, but today I’m debt free.

The Bible talks about not being in debt. Some may just see it as a story or a parable and not all that valid for today, but I believe it’s there to help us not be slaves to this world and its system. It’s very much valid for us today.

The Scriptures and this conversation are not meant to make you feel like crap or condemn you because you might be in debt to your eye balls, but rather to potentially help you to make new decisions around debt and the accumulation of more debt in the future.

People often say to me, “but Greg I have a house I can sell, or my kids must have the best schooling and health, so in fact I am not in debt, but instead, I’m sowing into equity for my kids future.”

The problem with this is that when you lose your job, fall ill or the housing market collapses, the people who loaned you the money, won’t want your brick house, your kids wonderful teeth or good education as payment. They will want the cold hard cash that you owe them, or something else far worse. The equity you thought you had will vanish.

If this teaching stirs up something in you then please don’t let it be condemnation. Let it be rather be a call to action.

One of the main reasons the modern church is so powerless is because the people of faith are as broke as everyone else around them, so how can you sow into your neighbour’s situation when your own is so dire?

Every month I’m able to be generous for no other reason then I have surplus. I have overflow. Will I ever own a house again? Maybe not, especially when I keep giving the savings for a deposit away, but God is big enough and he is more than able.

I’m fortunate, my ex-wife has a knack for milking the worlds systems for all their worth. My kids will never go without. Even though I don’t agree with everything she does, I thank God for her and her wisdom in this area. She has no idea that God has been able to give me confidence to be generous because of her skills.

God is big enough to care for my girls future, pretty awesome ha. God bless you and keep you in the faith. May you find the strength to be generous and work from abundance in regard to your neighbour, on your journey towards being debt free.

‘Keep yourselves free of the love of money and be content with what you have, because God has said, “Never will I leave you; never will I forsake you,” So we confidently say, “The Lord is my helper, I will not fear; what can man do to me?”‘ (Hebrews 13:5-6, ESV)

Greg is 47, and currently lives in New Zealand.

He is an elder at Beth Melek Jewish Community and a member of Maori Initiatives, helping indigenous people do better. Maori Initiatives runs a podcast, which can be listened and subscribed to via itunes.

He is the proud father of two daughters, and by his own admission is “a terrible example of Christ, who Christ still loves anyway!”

 

 


Image credit: Urfan Hasanov on Unsplash