Archives For Democracy

Last weekend, ‘thugs for hire’ terrorized the town of Yuen Long, Hong Kong, beating up anti-extradition, pro-freedom, pro-Democracy protesters.

Two days ago, University of Toronto professor, Lynette H. Ong in an article for the Washington Post, noted that there were reports the “thugs for hire” were connected to organized crime, however Ong said that there was evidence to suggest ‘that the attacks were orchestrated by pro-Beijing forces, with one pro-Beijing lawmaker reportedly congratulating the attackers.’ [i]

Whether from a plausible deniability angle or open allegiance, authoritarian governments are historically known for outsourcing organized 3rd party mobs to do their bidding. The most famous being the Sturmabteilung (Nazi Storm Detachment/Troopers). According to Ong, it’s likely that “thugs for hire” offers the Communist regime an ‘expedient strategy to intimidate pro-Democracy protesters. This allows authorities to skirt responsibility for any violence that may take place.’ Ong continued, stating, ‘short of rolling in tanks, outsourced violence arguably may be the most effective means to ward of protesters.’ [ii]

Lily Kuo in the Guardian gave some geographical context, writing that Yeon long is ‘one of the more remote areas’ where pro-Democracy protesters ‘hadn’t planned to demonstrate’ against the extradition bill. This changed when ‘commuters returning from dinner, going to meet friends or some coming back from the pro-democracy rally in Central Hong Kong, were met by dozens of masked men in white T-shirts, armed with rattan rods (martial arts sticks) and other weapons’. [iii]

In the shadow of China’s incarceration of Church leaders, destruction of church buildings, and general persecution of Christians, including the Chinese Government’s reported reeducation camps where up to ‘one million Uighur Muslims’ have been detained, the concerns of pro-freedom, pro-Democracy protesters in Hong Kong appear justified.

According to Kuo, the change in law would ‘allow the extradition of suspects to mainland China [iv]; supporters say the amendments are key to ensuring the city doesn’t become a criminal refuge, but critics worry Beijing will use the law to extradite political opponents and others to China, where their legal protections cannot be guaranteed.’

The violence wasn’t just isolated to Hong Kong. On the 25th, pro-Beijing Chinese students clashed with pro-Hong Kong Chinese students during a protest on Brisbane’s, University of Queensland campus. The ABC described the clash as ‘four hour’ standoff between the two groups.

Alex Linder of Shanghaiist said that the standoff and subsequent ‘pushing and shoving’ began when pro-Beijing Chinese students ‘arrived blasting out China’s national anthem, chanting slogans, and later grabbing [anti-Communist] protesters signs and ripping them’. [v]

If Ong is right and the white shirts are “thugs hired” by the Communist regime it’s an escalation which reinforces the concerns of pro-democracy protesters. It’s doubtful that this well-worn authoritarian tactic of political intimidation will have the desired effect.

The events in Hong Kong on the weekend are also noteworthy for their similarity to Antifa. Semi-uniformed thugs wearing masks, rampaging against anyone wearing a MAGA hat, all reflect Antifa’s modus operandi – the stand out example being Antifa’s brutal assault on journalist, Andy Ngo, back in June. An event Quillette Magazine called ‘a wakeup call for authorities and journalists alike’, stating:

We are ‘hoping that our fellow journalists might awaken from the delusion that Antifa is a well-intentioned band of anti-fascists with a few bad apples sullying the cause. As Quillette reported last month, a simple statistical study serves to show that the journalists who cover Antifa most often and most energetically have turned their outlets into pro-Antifa propaganda organs. Indeed, this bias is so entrenched that some left-wing media responded to our report not with introspection, but with paranoid and maudlin claims that Quillette and its authors must be secretly in league with Antifa’s fascist enemies.’

If Antifa are true anti-fascists, where are they’re protests in solidarity with pro-Democracy Chinese demonstrators? Where is Antifa’s stand against real suffering under oppressive authoritarianism in countries such as Communist China, Venezuela, Iran, and North Korea?

As important as Ong’s tentative conclusions about pro-Beijing “white shirts” are, her conclusions also lead us to question Antifa’s origins, and backing. Are Antifa also “thugs for hire”? If so, who’s fitting the bill?


References:

[i] Ong, L.H, 2019. In Hong Kong, are ‘thugs for hire’ behind the attacks on protesters? Here’s what we know about these groups, Washington Post. Sourced 26th July, 2019

[ii] ibid, 2019

[iii] Kuo, L. 2019. All Hong Kongers are scared’: protests to widen as rural residents fight back, The Guardian, Sourced 26th July 2019

[iv] Kuo, L. & Yu, V. 2019 What are the Hong Kong protests about?’ The Guardian, Sourced 26th July, 2019

[v] Linder, A. 2019. ‘Chinese students interrupt pro-Hong Kong rally at Australian university, chaos ensues’. Shanghaiist, Sourced 26th July, 2019.

Photo credit: TYRONE SIU/REUTERS

Originally published on Caldron Pool, 27th July, 2019

©Rod Lampard, 2019

 

The separation between Church and State is not a divide between secular and sacred. Nor is this separation a divide between public and private. Church and State are spheres of authority within the structure of good government. Simply put: one wields the sword, the other the truth of the Gospel. As such the Gospel balances out the ideology behind who gets to yield the sword, when, why and how.

This is why every totalitarian state either twists theology or purges Christians and the Christian faith[1]. They need to suppress God’s moral standard for His creatures, in order to justify their arbitrary use of the sword in bringing about a perpetual revolution until the “utopia” of the proletarian dictatorship is achieved.

Ergo, within the parameters of good government the Church restrains the state, and sets an example of God’s divine world-governance (Providence). For example: rules of engagement like “fire only when fired upon“, is an outworking of just war theory.

It is restrained violence governed; it is restrained violence judged and measured by the Gospel. We cannot understand, or even reform the primarily Western ideal of the separation of Church and State, without understanding the theology behind it.

With the neglect of history, and malady of theological illiteracy that is so dominate in Western life, it’s no wonder that this unique concept, which is built on biblical Christianity (Judeo-Christianity), is widely misunderstood.

Believing in a false divide between secular and sacred, the majority of the German Church, in both World Wars, surrendered their voice and role to that of the State. Faith was a private affair, something for Sundays, not something relevant to every day in between. In World War One, along with 92 other intellectuals, theologian and historian, Adolf Von Harnack, who partly wrote the Kaiser’s speech announcing war, signed on to the State’s arrogant belligerence.

This unquestioning moral defense for engaging in the march to war compromised the separation between the Gospel and the sword; Church and State. Instead of the Church calling for restraint, it sought to give the State moral credibility for the slaughter and suffering of millions.

The same can be said for the German church in World War Two. After the disaster of WW1, the church underwent a process of introspection, lament and reform. It sought to get ‘back to basics; a rediscovery of the Bible, a reminder of the Reformers protest against corruption of the Church and the over-reach of the state.’[2]

Karl Barth’s diagnosis was that Western Civilization, not just Germany, had

‘failed to confront National Socialism firmly because the realization of the Christian revelation among the civilized people of the West had become dim. Men did not see the inherent atheism of the Hitlerian system. Hence, they could not see the robber state from the legitimate state, the democratic from the dictatorship.’[3]

Faith in Western culture was not enough to stop the blitzkrieg before its bombs began to fall, and its gas chambers, masked as welfare units, began to mass execute European Jews and political opponents. Appeasement failed, as Winston Churchill had warned it would. The lapse of, and apathetic faith, in Christian revelation allowed the State to use the Church as its mouthpiece.

Western civilization without Christian revelation; in other words, the State without the genuine Church, is a State without restraint. Ideology is restrained by genuine theological critique. This is the Gospel’s “yes” and “no”. Without the genuine Church being free to live and proclaim its mandate to love God and love others – without the genuine Church being free to proclaim the Gospel as it has been spoken to, Western Civilization will fall to the tyrannical gods that take its place.

Hannah Arendt, one of the most prominent Agnostic thinkers of the 20th century, revised her definition of the Nazis from ‘radical evil’ down to the ‘banality of evil’, because she was ‘aiming at stripping the Nazis of their god-like standing, taking from them the power to draw us to them as if they, and their storm troopers in gleaming black boots, had poured forth from the perils of hell itself.’[4]

Arendt understood the perils of a compromised separation between the Gospel and the sword; Church and State. Though it was worshipped as a god, the Nazi state was not God. Nazism serves as a prime example of the fact, highlighted by Karl Barth, that Western Civilization, without Jesus Christ, or with a watered down version of Him, is far from civilized.

Add to this the horrendous history of Communism and we can say, with confidence, that the world has been well warned of the catastrophe, should these States who attempted to ditch Jesus Christ, be allowed to manifest themselves again.

The separation of Church and State is a founding principle of Western civilization. This separation isn’t about two competing entities. The separation serves God’s divine world-governance. The principle is a continuous challenge to the concept of the “divine right of kings”, and is as equally challenging to any twisted theology that promotes the idea of the “divine right of the State”.

The Churches’ proclamation of the Gospel restrains the State from abusing its power. This counterpoise to the power of the State, stops the State from operating with what Albert Camus called, an ‘unchecked will-to-power, where men become either a victim or an executioner, [a dehumanized number], within a [machine] cult of efficacy’.[5] In other words, the State, counterpoised by the Church, does not get to arbitrarily position itself as God, and determine the quality and worth of human life.

One only has to look at World War One, Communism, Nazism, The Vietnam War[6], Islamic State, and the tragedy of child sex abuse in the institutional church, to understand that the State without the Church is as tyrannical, as the Church who has forgotten, or watered down Jesus Christ.

In a subtle criticism of all forms of Socialism, Karl Barth noted two dangers:

first, ‘bureaucracy is the encounter of the blind with those whom they treat as blind. Second, the limits of all planning and philanthropy, but also all doctrine and instruction’[7], is that we lose sight of the individual created in the image of God. We lose our humanity in worship of efficacy and its assumed “benefit” for the collective.

Abortion and Euthanasia (by stealth) is no less part of this dehumanizing mechanization. An old family friend recently reminded me of how her husband tragically became a victim of this denial of the Gospel’s critique of the State. The health care system failed their family because it favoured the cold clinical ‘cult of efficacy’ and its mechanization of humanity, over against individual care; loving God and others, as we love ourselves.

Many of those who are quick to point out dehumanizing rhetoric are also likely to advocate the dehumanizing practices. Abortion and euthanasia are both part of Nazi eugenics laws. The doctrine, ‘life unworthy of life’ gave the National Socialists unilateral power to determine the quality and value of human life. Humanity was resigned to a number in a mechanized system under the ‘cult of efficacy’. These are the dangers of the State without the Gospel.

The Gospel impacts the State. The historical and present nearness of Jesus Christ categorically denies any State’s violent claim to implement a super-race. From this impact we learn that it is the ‘vulnerable who teach the rest of us what it means to be human’ (Jean Vanier)[8].

The voice and presence of the vulnerable mirror our own humanity. The vulnerable remind us not only of our own human limitations, but that where there is breath there is hope. Not just for the vulnerable, but for the humanity as a whole. As a result, biblical Christian doctrine opposes all pride, right down to Nietzsche’s “ubermench” and the Ayn Rand inspired, “greed is good”.

The Gospel transforms. The Churches’ critique of the State condemns the mechanization of humanity. The Church can do this, because the Church itself is critiqued by its own proclamation of the Gospel. The Gospel is Jesus Christ, the Word of God, freely spoken to humanity in time and space. This critique is God’s voice of freedom, grounded solely in His sovereignty. This critique births within us a renewing of the mind which acknowledges that conformity to the World’ is slavery, not salvation.

This is affirmed by Jesus with these words:

‘For everyone who does wicked things hates the light and does not come to the light, lest his works should be exposed. But whoever does what is true comes to the light, so that it may be clearly seen that his works have been carried out in God.’ (John 3:19-21, ESV)

Stopping Western Civilization from joining the dust of its forebears begins with reacquainting people with the Gospel and Civics; a proper understanding of the separation of the Church and State as one of the founding principles of Western civilization.

This separation is about good government dependent on God, not the government becoming a god. The separation of powers is not a divide between secular or sacred, public or private. As though God’s grace and commands only apply to the inner life, not in our deeds.

The separation between Church and State does not create two competing entities. The Gospel impacts the State, restraining the State from abusing its power.

The Gospel isn’t based on a subjective conscience, or consciousness. The Gospel is good news, and objective Word from God spoken to humanity in time and space.

The separation of Church and State is not between the State and Christ. Jesus Christ still has a relationship with the State, as Lord over both it and the Church. Any such forced ejection of Christ from the State is the rejection of God’s grace towards humanity.

Such a rejection creates a void which is filled by nihilism (no morality), false prophets, and superstition. This is what Jordan Peterson has penned the ‘displacement of the Logos from Western Civilization’.

Faith in Western Civilization is not enough. Just as faith in the Logos (Word; Jesus Christ; the Gospel) was central to moral revolution that saw the rise of Western civilization, the dislocation of the Logos (Jesus Christ) from Western civilization will be its downfall.

The 20th century warns us of the perils of this displacement. The State forcing theology into the service of its ideology leads to bloodshed and suffering on an industrial scale, for in ‘hating the light, they brought death upon themselves’[9].

Therefore understanding and upholding the important role of the Churches’ critique of the State, in its proclamation of the Gospel to the State, not as its patron, but its conscience, is the only sure refuge; all else fails by comparison.

Tolstoy’s indictment fits what the State without the Church looks like:

“Bereft of [that] religion [which establishes the relation of man to the All, to God], men possessing enormous power over the forces of nature are like children to whom powder or explosive gas has been given as a plaything.” (Bethink Yourselves!, 1904)

In sum, know Jesus, know peace. No Jesus, no peace.


References:

[1] Jean Bethke Elshtain, 2008. Sovereignty: God, State, and Self, Basic Books

[2] Karl Barth, 1942. The Church & The War, The Macmillan Company (p.2)

[3] Ibid, 1942, p.5

[4] Ibid, 1995, p.75

[5] Jean Bethke Elshtain, 1995. Augustine & the Limits of Power, Notre Dame Press (p.71)

[6] J.William Fullbright (Dem.), 1966. The Arrogance of Power, Random House

[7] Karl Barth, Church Dogmatics,  3:2 p.252

[8] Jean Vanier, ‘Why The Strong Need the Weak: J.V at the House of Lords’, 30th January 2015. Sourced from Youtube, Together for the Common Good 2nd June 2019

[9] Augustine citing Virgil, City of God, Penguin Classics, (p.29)

Photo by Ken Theimer on Unsplash

(Originally published on The Caldron Pool, under ‘The Separation of Church & State: What it is & What it’s Not‘ 3rd June 2019.

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Freedom of the press requires a societal framework that empowers free speech. So it’s rare to witness the Australian media unite together in order to tear down an Australian politician for speaking his mind.

However, what most in the Australian media expressed to the world in their dealings with Fraser Anning this week, is that free speech is only available to a select, and authorized few.

It would appear that Senator Fraser Anning’s biggest sin wasn’t his poorly timed press release; but the fact that he spoke out of turn about things that should not concern him. In other words, Anning is not “approved opposition”.

Had Senator Anning been a woman, or someone of minority status, the 17 year old perpetrator, who filmed himself physically assaulting an elected Australian official, would have been toast by now.

He’d have been dragged through the mud, and beaten until he, his friends, his parents and some fifth cousin, in some backwards town (someone, living somewhere, he rarely ever saw), were all forced into admitting he did the wrong thing, and was consequently made to attend mandatory cultural sensitivity “classes”.

Those well acquainted with the globalist media, and the Leftist cult of modern liberalism in general, know this is exactly how it would go down.

Instead, the crime was applauded, the perpetrator hailed a hero, and Senator Anning, was further driven towards the guillotine, by a Leftist lead mob, hell-bent on his destruction.

This same mob, who were right to condemn the premeditated, internet streamed, Eco-fascist terrorist attacks in New Zealand, now seem only too happy to give applause to premeditated, internet streamed, physical assault.

The condemnation of Anning also included ridiculous attacks on the 69 year old Queensland senator for exercising his right defend to himself.

Anning’s reaction was slammed as unbecoming of a statesman, with Prime Minister Scott Morrison, saying, ‘the full force of the law should be applied[1] to the Senator – presumably because Anning hit back.

In addition, Seven news ran an online poll which showed significant support for the Senator’s arrest. It also showed a poll which suggested support for, what amounts to the police turning a blind eye to the actions of the assailant.

It doesn’t take a security expert to know that Anning would have a long list of death threats already made against him. Those are bound to make anyone giving a public appearance reason enough for concern for their own personal safety.

Prime Minister’s have a security detail for this very reason.

The largely Leftist controlled media cannot have it one way, then another.

For example, when in July 2010, ‘a 55-year-old small business owner was charged by police for throwing an egg at Julia Gillard in her first visit to WA as Prime Minister.’ (WaToday)

If a 55 year old throwing an egg at an elected politician is considered a crime, why isn’t a 17 year old smashing an egg into the head of a politician treated differently?

None of this has been taken into consideration. Suggesting that thinking rationally about why a high profile politician would defend himself is counter-productive to the group-think used to suck in the gullible.

Anning stuffed up with the timing of his press release, but demonizing him, just because he doesn’t hold to the globalist views of most in the elitist Australian media, is opportunistic.

The same can be said for not showing any level of fairness, or understanding. It feeds the self-interest of Anning’s enemies, to selectively use some of Anning’s points to further build the “white supremacist” narrative they appear to be determined to construct, not just around Anning, but everyone who doesn’t side with them.

This determination to link what happened in the New Zealand with everyone not of the Left was exemplified by the violent mistreatment of Pauline Hanson[2], when she was interviewed on Sunrise, by David Koch and Darryn Hinch. Yet, there was no outrage from the usual quarters, accusing Koch and Hinch of “mansplaining”, “toxic masculinity” or “misogyny”.

Qantas joining the press posse[3] looking to lynch Anning only goes to prove my point. Qantas management jumping on the virtue-signaling bandwagon, are doing so because they see a profit in capitalizing on a shell-shocked and angry public. Adding the Australian corporation to the list of globalist voices trying to not only to somehow link Fraser Anning to the New Zealand shooting, but label him a terrorist, gets them publicity. Cui Bono? (Who benefits?)

Don’t miss the irony. Carrying out a premeditated act of violence is a crime. Whether it be committed via egg or gun; dismissing the former, gives quiet approval to the latter. It’s hypocritical to laugh at the former. Then condemn the latter.

If the media and celebrities can get away with their attempt to destroy Fraser Anning, and get away with justifying the actual crime committed against him, don’t think they wouldn’t do the same to you.

As warned by ex-leftist, turned Conservative Philosopher, Roger Scruton,

‘Once again I was forced to acknowledge that crimes committed on the Left are not really crimes, and in any case those who excuse them or pass over them in silence always have the best motives for doing so […] From the beginning, labels were required that would stigmatize the enemies [of the Communist movement] within and justify their expulsion […] The success of those labels in marginalizing and condemning the opponent fortified the communist conviction that you could change reality by changing words […]The purpose of communist Newspeak, has been to protect ideology from the malicious attacks of real things.’[4]

For Leftism to gain total control, it requires Leftists to seek the total destruction of anything not of the Left. Any crime or injustice committed, by the Left, in the process of achieving this, is not considered to be unjust or a crime. It’s simply a means to an end, and the end justifies the means.

Anning isn’t completely innocent. He often appears reactionary, not all that unlike the late, Bruce Ruxton. Is there a place for some of Anning’s points, absolutely! Is there a place for hotheaded, reactionary politicians, no.

One of Anning’s strengths, however, is that he is no mediocre politician. He doesn’t come off as self-serving, and he has the balls to say what many think; or are concerned about, but fear speaking. He can do better and should aim to do better.

However, given the activism, diatribes and vitriolic standards set by Leftism, will the Leftist dominated society we now live in, take notice of anyone else? They haven’t so far. And they’ve successfully silenced those who have sought to dialogue with the Left on fair terms.

When you send smart delegates into a diplomatic meeting between two camps, and one camp all-but executes the other, the time for “niceness” is probably at an end. A new strategy of diplomacy and communication needs to be applied.

I don’t condone all of Anning’s words, or approve of the timing of them, but when is the right time to discuss the discomfort many Australians feel about having new cultural laws imposed upon them?

The Leftist doesn’t want coexistence, they are out to destroy, control and dominate. Not just the Right, but the traditional Left as well. It’s unjust, naive and senseless, to sit back and let that happen.

If that means not beating about the bush with the truth, and hurting a few feelings in the process, so be it.

We all would benefit from keeping in mind the words of Margaret Thatcher in her 1984 address to the United States Congress:

“Let us not forget the 1930’s […] from good intentions can come disastrous results.”

Appeasement only serves those being appeased. It rarely serves those doing the appeasing.

We would also benefit from keeping in mind the words of Dietrich Bonhoeffer who said,

‘the ultimate possible rebellion, is that the lie [of the serpent] portrays the truth as a lie. That is the abyss that underlies the lie—that it lives because it poses as the truth and condemns the truth as a lie [and we fall for it].’[5]

This is the dark precipice we are being guided towards by many of our leaders. It’s a precipice that few will survive, if the socio-political trends of the past two decades are allowed to continue, unchallenged and uncorrected.

In the process of pushing back against this, may we ALL be drawn back towards the words of Jesus Christ, as he lowered himself in the defense of a woman facing a Pharisaic death squad, “let he who is without sin, throw the first stone” (John 8:7, ESV).


References:

[1] Paul Karp, The Guardian, 17th March 2019

[2] Pauline Hanson’s Official Facebook page sourced 19th March 2019

[3] As reported by Radio FiveAA, and the Australian, 18th  March 2019

[4] Roger Scruton, 2015. On Marxist Newspeak in Fools, Frauds & Firebrands Bloomsbury Publishing

[5] Bonhoeffer, D 1937, Creation & Fall, Fortress Press (pp.109-116)

(Originally published on Caldron Pool, 19th March 2019)

Photo ‘Chains’, by John Salvino on Unsplash

©Rod Lampard, 2019

Chesterton110 years since it was published, Heretics hasn’t lost a great deal of its significance.

In-situ, Heretics is a sum of careful considerations rendered at a time of significant change. Although his one hundred year old addresses easily convey to a modern reader, a sense of prophetic poignancy, Chesterton’s insights aren’t compromised by it. He is still a man writing for his own times. A simple example of this is that Chesterton is as critical of progressives as he is of aristocracy, and yet he is neither against progress nor entirely against the existence of an aristocrat. His concern is with the true and false definitions.

This is perhaps more clearer in the final chapter of Heretics than anywhere else:

‘The great march of mental destruction will go on. Everything will be denied. Everything will become a creed […] Fires will be kindled to testify that two and two make four. Swords will be drawn to prove that leaves are green in summer. We shall be left defending, not only the incredible virtues and sanities of human life, but something more incredible still, this huge impossible universe which stares us in the face. We shall fight for visible prodigies as if they were invisible. (p.163)

Chesterton’s conclusions seek to follow some of the logic of his day to their eventual ends. Mocking selectively, he unapologetically points out their inadequacies, lamenting that a time may come when the consequential absurdity that follows them might actually be given free reign. In fact, judging by the overall tone of Heretics it’s something Chesterton sees as already starting to happen.

On Bigotry:

‘Bigotry may be roughly defined as the anger of men who have no opinions. It is the resistance offered to definite ideas by that vague bulk of people whose ideas are indefinite to excess. Bigotry may be called the appalling frenzy of the indifferent. This frenzy of the indifferent is in truth a terrible thing; it has made all monstrous and widely pervading persecutions.’ (pp. 158-159)
‘Bigotry in the main has always been the pervading omnipotence of those who do not care, crushing out those who care, in darkness and blood…Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are least dangerous is the man of ideas. He is acquainted with ideas, and moves among them like a lion-tamer. Ideas are dangerous, but the man to whom they are most dangerous is the man of no ideas.’(p.159)

On Art:

‘It is healthful to every sane man to utter the art within him; it is essential to every sane man to get rid of the art within him at all costs’ (p.129)
‘All the art of all the artists looked tiny and tedious beside the art which was a by-product of propaganda […] Originality is disagreement with others’ (p.155)
‘A small artist is content with art; a great artist is content with nothing except everything.’ (p.155)
‘The men and women who have really been the bold artists, the realistic artists, the uncompromising artists, are the men who have turned out, after all, to be writing “with a purpose.” (p.155)
‘When we want any art tolerably brisk and bold we have to go to the doctrinaires.’ (p.156)

On Literary Criticism:

‘It need hardly be said that this is the real explanation of the thing which has puzzled so many dilettante critics, the problem of the extreme ordinariness of the behaviour of so many great geniuses in history. Their behaviour was so ordinary that it was not recorded; hence it was so ordinary that it seemed mysterious. Hence people say that Sir Francis Bacon wrote Shakespeare…The explanation is simple enough; it is that Shakespeare had a real lyrical impulse, wrote a real lyric, and so got rid of the impulse and went about his business. Being an artist did not prevent him from being an ordinary man.’ (p.130)

On Democracy:

‘Democracy is not philanthropy; it is not even altruism or social reform. Democracy is not founded on pity for the common man; democracy is founded on reverence for the common man, or, if you will, even on fear of him.’ (p.143)
‘Nothing can be more dangerous than to found a social philosophy on any theory which is debatable but has not been debated.’ (p.153)
‘If a man or woman convinces us at all, it should be by his or her convictions.’ (p.156)

On Dogmatics:

‘When he drops one doctrine after another in a refined scepticism, when he declines to tie himself to a system, when he says that he has outgrown definitions, when he says that he disbelieves in finality, when, in his own imagination, he sits as God, holding no form of creed but contemplating all, then he is by that very process sinking slowly backwards into the vagueness of the vagrant animals and the unconsciousness of the grass. Trees have no dogmas. Turnips are singularly broad-minded.’ (p.153).
‘No man ought to write at all, or even to speak at all, unless he thinks he is in truth and the other man in error.’ (p.154)
‘Dogmatism is the founding of a system.’ (p.154)
‘Heresy is the intellectual poisoning of a whole people, in which only a prosperous and prominent man would be likely to be successful. The evil of aristocracy is not that it necessarily leads to the infliction of bad things or the suffering of sad ones; the evil of aristocracy is that it places everything in the hands of a class of people who can always inflict what they can never suffer.’ (p.147)
‘The modern world is filled with men who hold dogmas so strongly that they do not even know that they are dogmas. It may be thought “dogmatic,” for instance, in some circles accounted progressive, to assume the perfection or improvement of man in another world. But it is not thought “dogmatic” to assume the perfection or improvement of man in this world; though that idea of progress is quite as unproved as the idea of immortality, and from a rationalistic point of view quite as improbable. [For example] we see the full frenzy of those who killed themselves to find the sepulchre of Christ. But being in a civilization which does believe in this dogma of fact for facts’ sake, we do not see the full frenzy of those who kill themselves to find the North Pole.’ (p.162)
[Memorable quote:] ‘Some hold the undemonstrable dogma of the existence of God; some the equally undemonstrable dogma of the existence of the man next door.’ (p.163)

On Poverty:

most of our realists and sociologists talk about a poor man as if he were an octopus or an alligator.’ (p.147)
‘The missionary comes to tell the poor man that he is in the same condition with all men. The journalist comes to tell other people how different the poor man is from everybody else.’ (p.148)

On Philosophy:

‘If we talk of a certain thing being an aspect of truth, it is evident that we claim to know what is truth; just as, if we talk of the hind leg of a dog, we claim to know what is a dog. Unfortunately, the philosopher who talks about aspects of truth generally also asks, ‘What is truth?” Frequently even he denies the existence of truth, or says it is inconceivable by the human intelligence.’ (p.157)
‘It is ludicrous to suppose that the more sceptical we are the more we see good in everything. It is clear that the more we are certain what good is, the more we shall see good in everything.’ (p.157)

Chesterton walks along the edge of poignancy. His wit and quips land closer to sharp and reasoned criticism than they do to a flippant, mournful, petulant rejection of his subject matter. Chesterton has widely read and thought about the material he is addressing.

G.K. Chesterton’s voice, although slightly worn and visibly dated in some aspects, still remains as confronting as it did when he first put pen to paper.

That parallels can be proven to exist between the then and the now shows the longevity of Chesterton’s broad intellect, the broad impact of his ability to laugh and courage to speak out.

‘Eternity is the eve of something…Our existence is still a story. In the fiery alphabet of every sunset is written, “to be continued…” (pp.125 & 102)

Source:

Chesterton, G.K. 1905 Heretics, Catholic Way Publishing

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The Most Agreeable Elements Of Chesterton’s HeReTiCs: Numero Dos

Elshtain quote D_O_TThe following analogy illustrates the point that ‘good nature may be a great misfortune if we do not mix prudence with it’[i]:

”An old man and his young son were driving a donkey before them to the next market to sell. ‘Why have you no more wit’, says one to the man upon the way, ‘thank you and your son trudge it on foot, and let the donkey go light?’
So the old man set his son upon the donkey and continued himself on foot. ‘Why, sir’, says another after this, to the boy, ‘you lazy rogue, must you ride, and let you old father go on foot?’
The old man upon this took down his son, and got up himself. ‘Do you see,’ says a third, ‘how lazy old knave rides himself, and the poor young fellow has much ado to creep after him?’
The father, upon hearing this, took up his son behind him. The next person they met asked the old man whether the donkey was his own or not. He said, ‘yes’. ‘There’s a little sign on it’, says another, ‘by loading him thus.’
‘Well,’ says the old man himself, ‘and what am I to do now? For I am laughed at, if either the donkey be empty, or if one of us rides, or both;’ and so he came to the conclusion to bind the donkey’s legs together with a cord, and they tried to carry him to market with a pole upon each of their shoulders.
This was sport to everybody that saw it, inasmuch that the old man in great wrath threw down the donkey into a river, and so went his way home again. The good man, in fine , was willing to please anybody, and lost his donkey in the process” (‘The complete John Ploughman’)

In some respects the father’s acquiescence is blind. His son also shows the same symptoms by his inability to challenge the father’s sedate tolerance which, because of a lack of assertiveness has led to absolute confusion.

Father and son were both paralyzed not just by fear, but also by indifference and indecision.  Something akin to moral failure or as penned by Carl Trueman, ‘moral abdication’.[iii]

They were unable to push back or challenge the wisdom behind what they were accepting, because they were too eager to appease the commentary of their detractors.

Accommodating the high opinions of those around, and not wanting to offend, negated the very purpose of their journey, harming not only themselves, but also the donkey.

In a comment related to this story, the blunt-talking, 19th Century Preacher, the Rev. Charles Spurgeon, stated:

‘Put your hand quickly to your hat, for that is courtesy; but don’t bow your head at every man or woman’s bidding, for that is slavery…A person is not free if they are afraid to think for themselves, for if our thoughts are in bonds we are not free.[ii]

This is somewhat echoed in the words from theologian, Marguerite Shuster:

 ‘Those who Jesus confronted most directly were as likely to want to kill him as to follow him. He seemed to not have the slightest inclination to make hearing and following him pleasant and easy…Truthfulness, in other words, is not determined by customer satisfaction surveys’[iv]

For the free citizen, Shuster’s words mark the very essence of what it means to be a ‘good citizen’ instead of a ‘nice citizen’; the ability to say “yes” and “no” with a ton of responsible care and a stack of well-informed conviction.

Control the language means control of the argument, and therefore control of the people. Under this Machiavellian ethos all contradictions, double standards and hypocrisy are ignored, if the end justifies the means.

Spurgeon’s analogy also shows the danger of double mindedness. Accommodation and blind tolerance, in the forms of indifference and indecision, create the ground from which the late political scientist, and  feminist, Jean Bethke Elshtain unpacks her own concerns:

‘Western democracies are not doing a good job of nurturing democratic dispositions that encourage people to accept that they can’t always get what they want and that some of what they seek in politics cannot be found there’[v]

What Shuster, Elshtain and Spurgeon speak to is the giving of an ”absolute feel-nice yes” with a notable absence of any ability to say “no” and have it respected.

For example: equality, fairness and freedom cannot exist in a truly democratic society when the people give unquestioning loyalty to the state, or the fashionable ideology propagated by some circles in academia.

It is right to suggest that nihilism and its progeny, like utilitarian hedonism or totalitarian fascism, should be identified and resisted by the public when it comes to having a decisive influence on socio-political policy. It is wrong to not allow these to be reasonably argued against in the free marketplace of ideas.

Equally bad is a politics of appeasement which caves in to demands for unrestrained freedom or extremist forms of social justice for easy political gain. Such politics, and those who advocate it show that they do not understand freedom. For genuine freedom[vi] to be realised there must be responsible restraints. For example: the ability to say no to ourselves is an act of freedom. In essence, no self-control, no freedom. Know self-control, know freedom.

Otherwise real mercy and real justice are sacrificed for the sake of an idea of freedom. The problem is that freedom cannot exist without the counterbalance of self-limitation. Freedom is negated if we are not free to say both “yes” or “no” responsibly.

‘Absolute justice is achieved by the suppression of all contradiction: therefore it destroys freedom. The revolution to achieve justice, through freedom, ends by aligning them against one another.[vii]

Absolute freedom is an illusion because of its innate contradictions. Such as absolute justice, which allows the mob-in-revolt to violently dictate and impose the rule of total law. Or allow a leader to take on emergency powers where, drunk with power, he or she, takes that ”one ring to rule them all.

The place where free citizens become subjects, and take on the lonely and confused, dire submission of Ralph and his faithful companion, who amidst the mad chaos and fire, stirred up by Jack, in Golding’s classic, Lord of the Flies, decide:

‘…under threat of the sky, to eagerly take a place in this demented, but partly secure society’. [viii]

It’s as Ronald Reagan said in his 1964 speech, ‘A Time for Choosing‘:

There’s no argument over the choice between peace and war, but there’s only one guaranteed way you can have peace — and you can have it in the next second — surrender.Admittedly, there’s a risk in any course we follow other than this, but every lesson of history tells us that the greater risk lies in appeasement, and this is the specter our well-meaning liberal friends refuse to face — that their policy of accommodation is appeasement, and it gives no choice between peace and war, only between fight or surrender.

Appeasement, and its cousin, détente, end in an uneven politics of displacement.

This is a lesson learnt the hard way and one that still, eerily, echoes out from Neville Chamberlain’s ”peace in our time”. Something which, at the time, stood out as a so-called justification for the decade long charge of ”warmongering” howled out loud against Winston Churchill in the 1930’s [xix].

We need not look any further for more weight to this than Thomas Doherty’s assessment of that era in his 2013, book ‘Hollywood & Hitler’:

‘Aggression undeterred, is aggression encouraged. That is the lesson of the 1930’s’ [x]

Appeasement only benefits those who are being appeased. It rarely, if ever, benefits those doing the appeasing.

As exemplified by Kennedy’s resolve in the Cuban Missile crisis, Churchill, Reagan and Thatcher, under this freedom in limitation*, good leaders are those who direct us away from both slavery and war, but are not afraid to lead us, under just rules of engagement, into the latter for the sake of avoiding the former.

Like the donkey in a ditch, democracy will be abandoned and lay dormant, placed there by indifference and indecision. Denied, despairing and desperate for rescue, whilst those who chose appeasement, pledge allegiance to an altar of sinister ideologies, advancing by a list of lustful, lost and predatory activism.

Such an activism clings to historically destructive theories that say to humanity “you will only be free when you can liberate yourself from responsibility, and the life-giving source and order of that freedom.”

No longer are people citizens, free because their freedom is recognised as God-given, sourced from outside of themselves. They become thoughtless subjects of an ideology; pawns in the ‘dictatorship of the proletariat’.

In a direct challenge to French Communists Albert Camus highlighted this in 1951, claiming that people become subjects to a party, as ‘man takes refuge in the concept of the permanence of the party, in the same way that he formerly prostrated himself before the altar.’[xi]

They willingly march towards becoming the subjects (pawns) in the hands of an “elite” who worship at the altar of deified humanity, created by a ‘religion of [so-called] reason’[xii].

In today’s “post-modern” society we see this in the accommodation of blurred distinctions.

Our society tends to value appearance and reputation, over against the truth and the substance of real character.

The result seems to be a persecution of thinkers. In my case, Christians, who choose a thinking faith over a sedated polis; a faith which doesn’t just parade itself as righteous, but acts in righteousness because of the ‘freedom in limitation’[xiii] granted to humanity by its Creator.

With a large degree of venomous intolerance they are labelled as intolerant bigots and suppressed as an enemy instead of an opponent. Like Israel today, the very existence of Christians stands as a defiant, yet responsible “no” against any ideology that seeks to master and dominate others.

Christian theology is only political in the sense that it enters into conversation with politics. Theology never becomes political. It cannot or it’s no longer free. It’s no longer free to critique the politik and its ideology. It exists in relation to politics, not a substitute for it. Hence the working relationship – a very successful one – between Church and State. Something even Jesus talked about.

That critique is grounded on the conviction that ”Jesus is Lord”. It stands opposed to the worship of Caesar as lord. Therein lies the danger of a Christless Christianity or any Christless Christian West, in general. Absent of Christ. Man becomes god. Only Christ, God become man, stops this. Hence, the way, the truth and the life – true freedom. OR as the Old Testament teaches us, God’s house of freedom vs. man’s house of slavery. In sum, God saves man and woman from themselves, in Christ this authentic “no” has as it’s goal, which is an authentic “yes.”

It is not surprise then that Christians are subsequently forced, or sadly, sometimes surrender themselves into bondage to trends, bad theology, neo-tolerance and failed ideas, which lay waste to the existence of a free and responsible representative democracy, governed by faith, reason, mercy and justice.

Perhaps that old reminder stands as true today as it did then:

‘When we don’t apply a moral criteria to politics, we mix good and evil, right and wrong. Therefore we make space for the triumph of absolute evil in the world’
(Alexander Solzhenitsyn, 1971, Harvard address[xiv])

References:

[i] Spurgeon, C.H.  2007 The complete John Ploughman Christian Focus publications

[ii] Ibid. This echoes the biblical call to pray: ‘If any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach… because a double-minded person is unstable in all their ways’ (James 1:8)

[iii] Trueman, C. 2004 The Wages of Spin Christian Focus Publications Kindle Ed. (Loc.89)

[iv] Shuster, M. 2008 Truth and truthfulness in Performance in preaching Childers & Schmidt, Baker Academic

[v] Elshtain, J.B 1995 Democracy on Trial, Perseus Books Group (p.62) See also, Elshtain, J.B 2000 Who are we? critical reflections and hopeful possibilities (particularly chapter three) Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Grand Rapids Michigan U.S.A

[vi] Albert Camus, The Rebel 1951 Kindle Ed. (Penguin Classics, 2013)

[vii] Ibid, 1951

[viii] Golding, W. 1954 Lord of the Flies Bloomsbury House (p.167)

[xix] Gilbert, M. 1992 Churchill: A Life

[x] Doherty,T. 2013 Hollywood & Hitler: 1933-1939 Columbia University Press (p.368)

[xi] Camus, 1951

[ix] Camus, 1951

[x] Solzhenitsyn, A. 1978 A world split apart Harvard sourced from Columbia.edu

* The phrase ‘freedom in limitation’ is Karl Barth’s, not mine.

PDF of Reagan’s speech visit: “A Time for Choosing” (American Rhetoric)

I have been mulling over these words from Marguerite Shuster:

 ‘those who Jesus confronted most directly were as likely to want to kill him as to follow him. He seemed to not have the slightest inclination to make hearing and following him pleasant and easy…Truthfulness, in other words, is not determined by customer satisfaction surveys’

(‘The truth and truthfulness’, 2008)

For Christians, Shuster’s words express the very essence of what it means to be a ‘good [faithful/trustworthy] Christian’ instead of a ‘nice Christian’ (Paul Coughlin, 2005).As a consequence, the misappropriation of these words  becomes one of the causes of the double mindedness, which drives our anxiety fuelled obsession with people pleasing.

My developing thesis is that in todays post-modern society we seem accustomed to using the words ‘nice’ and ‘good [faithful/trustworthy]’ interchangeably. For example:  western society tends to value appearance and reputation, over truth and substance of character. In other words, those who appear to be nice are also good. Therefore the assumption is that appearance surrounding a persons reputation negates the need for a reasoned assessment of their character .

The following story illustrates the point that ‘good nature may be a great misfortune if we do not mix prudence with it’ (Charles Spurgeon):

”An old man and his young son were driving a donkey before them to the next market to sell. ‘Why have you no more wit’, says one to the man upon the way, ‘than you and your son trudge it on foot, and let the donkey go light?’

So the old man set his son upon the donkey and continued himself on foot. ‘Why, sir’, says another after this, to the boy, ‘you lazy rogue, must you ride, and let you old father go on foot?’

The old man upon this took down his son, and got up himself. ‘Do you see,’ says a third, ‘how lazy old knave rides himself, and the poor young fellow has much ado to creep after him?’

The father, upon hearing this, took up his son behind him. The next person they met asked the old man whether the donkey was his own or not. He said, ‘yes’. ‘There’s a little sign on it’, says another, ‘by loading him thus.’

‘Well,’ says the old man himself, ‘and what am I to do now? For I am laughed at, if either the donkey be empty, or if one of us rides, or both;’ and so he came to the conclusion to bind the donkey’s legs together with a cord, and they tried to carry him to market with a pole upon each of their shoulders.

This was sport to everybody that saw it, inasmuch that the old man in great wrath threw down the donkey into a river, and so went his way home again. The good man, in fine , was willing to please anybody, and lost his donkey in the process” (Spurgeon, ‘The complete John Ploughman’)

IMG_20130711_110610_20130711111046627After sharing this short story Spurgeon notes:

‘The way of pleasing man is hard, but blessed are they who please God.Put your hand quickly to your hat, for that is courtesy; but don’t bow your head at every man or woman’s bidding, for that is slavery…A person is not free if they are afraid to think for themselves, for if our thoughts are in bonds we are not free…‘.

We are left with this reminder: ‘if any of you lacks wisdom, let him ask God, who gives generously to all without reproach…but let him ask in faith, with no doubting, for the one who doubts is like a wave of the sea that is driven and tossed by the wind…a double-minded person is unstable in all their ways’ (James 1:8)

In some respects the father’s blind acquiescence (neo-tolerance) and his son’s inability to challenge the father’s lack of restraint in pleasing people, led both of them away from questioning the wisdom behind what they were accepting. As a result they entertained the opinions of others and negated the very purpose of their journey.

Appearing to be nice or good does not equate to the actuality of being faithful and trustworthy. Accommodation (blind tolerance), lack of restraint and making decisions just to keep people happy informs part of Jean Bethke Elshstain’s politically charged statement:

‘I read the palpable despair and violence as dark signs of the times, warnings that democracy may not be up to the task of satisfying the yearnings it unleashes for freedom and fairness, and equality’.

What Elshtain and Spurgeon are alluding to is the absence of the dialectical qualifier. One which says to the current state of Western democracy: that equality, fairness and freedom cannot exist in a truly democratic society when the people give unquestioning loyalty to the state, or the fashionable ideology provoked by academia, which promises much and delivers little.

Hedonism cannot be the deciding factor in political policy. A people pleasing plebiscite that caves in to the demands for unrestrained freedom, does not understand either slavery nor freedom. By it democracy falls and quickly becomes ‘mob rule’. Like the donkey in a ditch it will lay dormant, denied, despairing and desperate for rescue. Those who choose to people please, pledge allegiance to an empty ideology advanced by a lost and wandering activism. An activism which clings to historically destructive theories which say that humanity will be free when it can liberate itself from the life-giving source of our freedom.

As gulag survivor Alexander Solzhenitsyn in 1978 said:

‘When we don’t apply a moral criteria to politics, we mix good and evil, right and wrong. Therefore we make space for the triumph of absolute evil in the world’ (Harvard address)

The result is a persecution of those who respond in a thinking and faithful way to the free God. They are limited and are placed into bondage to a regime that is far from a reasoned, mature democratically elected representative of the people . This consequence is threefold. Firstly, in seeking equality, the lost and wandering activism creates inequality. Secondly, in seeking fairness they subject people to their disorientated view of tolerance. Lastly, by arguing that true freedom means to allow, and act on such a view, is to forget that any freedom absent of self-restraint takes for granted the source of human freedom and ignores it’s ‘commanded orientation’ (Karl Barth).

446px-The_Torment_of_Saint_Anthony_(Michelangelo)

Source: Michelangelo, Torment of Saint Anthony

Sources:

Elshtain, J.B Democracy on Re-trial
Elshtain, J.B 2000 Who are we? critical reflections and hopeful possibilities (particularly chapter three) Wm. B Eerdmans Publishing Grand Rapids Michigan U.S.A
Shuster, M. 2008 Truth and truthfulness in Performance in preaching Childers & Schmidt, Baker Academic
Solzhenitsyn, A. 1978 A world split apart Harvard sourced from Columbia.edu
Spurgeon, C.H.  2007 The complete John Ploughman Christian Focus publications