Saturday, July 4, 2015

"Proclaim liberty throughout all the land..."

The Detection Club

Agatha Christie's first book, The Mysterious Affair at Styles, Joseph Bottum argues, "was clearly a breakthrough of small but real genius.":
...[W]hat Agatha Christie found was the formula for it all. Like a miniature blown up on to a larger canvas, she took the Arthur Conan Doyle-approved pattern of a 5,000-word Sherlock Holmes story and opened it up to an 80,000-word Golden Age novel. She developed the pleasant and deliberately unremarkable prose the new turn in the genre needed—“invisible prose,” we might name it: a style that never rises or sinks enough for the reader to be distracted by becoming aware of the act of reading it. And she figured out how to set in the foreground the rule-bound logic of detective fiction, convincing readers that the author is playing fair.

The formula seems obvious now, but once upon a time it was new, and surprisingly few authors in the 1920s actually got it. ....

Even by the late 1920s, the British writers awake to the new formula numbered only in the dozens, and the most successful and professionally admired of them banded together to form a London dinner society called “the Detection Club.” Such luminaries as Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, the Baroness Emma Orczy, Ronald Knox, R. Austin Freeman, and E.C. Bentley were among them, and they elected G.K. Chesterton as their first president. .... [more]
(The Mysterious Affair at Styles was the first appearance of Hercule Poirot and is now out of copyright and available for free download.)

Bottum is reviewing The Golden Age of Murder, a history of the Detection Club and its original members. I just downloaded the book. It should be fun.

.... Founding members included legends like Agatha Christie, Dorothy L. Sayers, and E.C. Bentley, as well as G.K. Chesterton, who served as the first president. Meetings consisted of dress-up dinner parties, during which the old-school literati would swap writing tips and critique each other’s latest work. Like any legit society, they decided on new members by secret ballot, and each one had to swear an oath, written up by Sayers:
Do you promise that your detectives shall well and truly detect the crimes presented to them using those wits which it may please you to bestow upon them and not placing reliance on nor making use of Divine Revelation, Feminine Intuition, Mumbo Jumbo, Jiggery-Pokery, Coincidence, or Act of God?
Once a member was sworn in, he or she had to abide by the group’s Ten Commandments when penning novels – or they were cast out of the clique. ....
  1. The criminal must be someone mentioned in the early part of the story, but must not be anyone whose thoughts the reader has been allowed to follow.
  2. All supernatural or preternatural agencies are ruled out as a matter of course.
  3. Not more than one secret room or passage is allowable.
  4. No hitherto undiscovered poisons may be used, nor any appliance which will need a long scientific explanation at the end.
  5. No Chinaman must figure in the story. [Editor’s note: At the time, trashy, mass-media mysteries [often] featured a character of Chinese descent. This rule meant the writer should avoid cliche plot devices....]
  6. No accident must ever help the detective, nor must he ever have an unaccountable intuition which proves to be right.
  7. The detective must not himself commit the crime.
  8. The detective must not light on any clues which are not instantly produced for the inspection of the reader.
  9. The stupid friend of the detective, the Watson, must not conceal any thoughts which pass through his mind; his intelligence must be slightly, but very slightly, below that of the average reader.
  10. Twin brothers, and doubles generally, must not appear unless we have been duly prepared for them.

"God mend thine ev’ry flaw"

Hillsdale College Choir:

Monday, June 29, 2015

"A prison of your own design"

Apart from a silly reference to Fox News and Drudge (which makes one wonder whether he takes his own advice), this essayist has some wise things to say about "Safe Spaces and Comfort Zones":
...[T]o avoid discussion of sexual violence, racism and oppression is not to fight such evils; it is to pretend that there are public spaces in which they cannot exist. To live in a prison of your own design does not make you any less of a prisoner.

Is this not contrary to what the study of literature and history is about? Surely both are at least in part concerned with understanding how and why horror rises in the human heart, about the ebb and flow of power and resistance, of humanity against inhumanity, the moral and political struggles of individuals and societies, the fight of hope and faith against hunger, fear and death? Are not both subjects ultimately about the infinitely complex varieties of experience flowering endlessly into events, patterned yet unique, as we all are? ....

It is the historian’s duty as much as the novelist’s or poet’s to understand what people think and why. We must resist anything that pushes us towards the comfortable and the familiar rather than challenges us with the arbitrary and exceptional.

Neither serenity nor strength come from avoiding difficult thoughts and feelings. Experience inures us; only by accepting reality can we begin to change it. Safe spaces and comfort zones, whether emotional or intellectual, may be invaluable for dealing with personal trauma, but they diminish us all if they do not equip us for the multiplicity of the world as it is. [more]

Sunday, June 28, 2015

Psalm 119

Via Mere Comments, Psalm 119 read by Alexander Scourby. It takes about 15 minutes.

Alexander Scourby from Wikipedia:
He is best known for his film role as the ruthless mob boss Mike Lagana in Fritz Lang's The Big Heat (1953), and is also particularly well-remembered in the English-speaking world for his landmark recordings of the entire King James Version audio Bible, which have been released in numerous editions. He later recorded the entire Revised Standard Version of the Bible. Scourby recorded 422 audiobooks for the blind which he considered his most important work.
Early on as a teacher of high school US History I sometimes used the film (i.e. condensed) version of the documentary television series Victory at Sea when teaching WWII. Scourby was the narrator. His script was filled with biblical allusion. The soundtrack score for that film was by Richard Rodgers of Rodgers and Hammerstein fame.

Friday, June 26, 2015

On reading something again, and again, and again
One reader of Anecdotal Evidence brands me “an old foggy [sic]” and a reactionary for “reading all those old books.” I don’t read enough new books, he tells me, I “waste too much time reading books you read before,” and so forth. Similar notes arrive periodically and they leave me, at first, puzzled, and then amused. I suppose I should be grateful that someone cares enough about books to get angry about them. ....

One reliable test of any work is memorability. Do we remember it, even memorize it? Not often, but always happily. The present is a very small place, a place of diminished accomplishment and minimal expectations. Our wealth is in the past. No book is good or worth reading simply because it is old (or new), but because it is good and someone thought enough of it to pass it along. [more]
The illustration, of course, reflects my own tastes, not, probably, the types of books Professor Kurp had in mind. The picture comes from

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

"God's daisy chain"

Many magazines and websites publish lists like this one: "What Books To Read This Summer." These recommendations come from contributors to the Federalist site. For instance, this from Rebecca Cusey:
There are two types of people in this world: Those who love P.G. Wodehouse novels and those who have not yet read them. If you fit into the second group, do yourself a favor and pick up The Code of the Woosters this summer.

Set in the downy rose gardens and stately breakfast rooms of old-time English manors, the novel sets stuffy Downton Abbey on its head. Here, gentlemen throw bits of bread at dinner and nurse hangovers in the morning. Bertie Wooster has to mend the broken hearts of his formerly engaged friends Gussie Fink-Nottle and Madeline Basset while also assisting his loony aunt [in] a scheme to acquire a silver cow-creamer.

Patching up Gussie and Madeline’s engagement is top priority because the daft girl suffers from the delusion that Bertie loves her himself and will “make him happy” by marrying him if the Gussie thing falls through. Nothing could be farther from the truth. After all, who would set up shop with a girl who thinks bunnies are gnomes in disguise and stars are God’s daisy chain? But Bertie has his code and will traipse down the aisle unless his faithful valet Jeeves can save the day.

Come for the wacky characters and the frivolous setting. Stay for the masterful use of the English language. Wodehouse rivals the greats in his turn of phrase. You will find yourself laughing out loud as you read. He creates a world in which the greatest worry is wearing the wrong spats at dinner and where love always comes through. It’s a universe a million miles away from today’s worries and darkness. When you’ve finished with the many adventures of Bertie and Jeeves, move on to Lord Emsworth at Blandings Castle, a myopic would-be farmer with the noble goal of guiding his prize pig to victory at the fair, if only the younger generation would leave him in peace.
Some Wodehouse is now in the public domain and can be downloaded without cost. The Code of the Woosters was published in 1938 and must still be borrowed or purchased. The Kindle version is here for about $10.00.

Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Toward the breaking of day

I'm reading Princes at War: The Bitter Battle Inside Britain's Royal Family in the Darkest Days of WWII. This was quoted by George VI in his Christmas address in 1939. Britain had entered the war in September but there had thus far been little fighting in the West. It was the period known as "Phony War" leading up to Germany's invasions in the spring and summer of 1940 and the fall of France.

And I said to the man who stood at the gate of the year:
“Give me a light that I may tread safely into the unknown.”

And he replied:

“Go out into the darkness and put your hand into the Hand of God.
That shall be to you better than light and safer than a known way.”

"So I went forth, and finding the Hand of God, trod gladly into the night.
And He led me towards the hills and the breaking of day in the lone East.”
Minnie Louise Haskins, God Knows, 1908
▶ King George VI's Christmas Speech 1939 - YouTube

"In sure and certain hope of the Resurrection..."

By chance this morning I came across Chad Bird's "The Tragic Death of the Funeral" in which he argues that a "celebration of life" is "necronarcissism," and doesn't serve well the real needs of the mourners:
.... Whereas a funeral, at least in traditional Christianity, takes death seriously, and balances the truth of grief and loss with the hope of life and resurrection, the Celebration of Life looks neither to the present of grief nor the future of hope, but solely to the past. Its focus is neither faith nor hope but only love of what was lost. .... Call it a celebration all you want; life is not so much celebrated as death is ignored. Therein lies a great tragedy, for a Celebration of Life is a missed opportunity to understand death aright.

.... When a funeral degenerates into a Celebration of Life, mourners may find temporary relief in the nostalgia of the memories, but they will be deprived of true and lasting healing that comes only after confronting death and finding life in Another.

While the old adage, “A funeral is for the living,” is true, it is an ambiguous truth. It leaves unanswered the question: for what purpose is it for the living? The assumption behind the saying is that death creates a need, or needs, that must be addressed. While these needs vary in kind and number from individual to individual, at the core of them all is this: the need to find that death is not the end, that life will have the last word. Call it a celebration all you want; life is not so much celebrated as death is ignored.

Despite its name, a Celebration of Life is ill-equipped to address that. It’s focus is upon a dead person, not a living and vivifying God. Nor does it take seriously the reality and cause of death, without which life cannot be understood. Indeed, it seems an ideal Trojan horse to roll into a religious service, for inside it are hidden many of the same errors that devalue life in our culture.

The bereaved need, and deserve, something better. They deserve a service that speaks frankly and honestly about death, while anchoring the survivors in a hope that extends beyond this world. If any life is to be celebrated, let it be the life of the One who alone can lighten the load of grief borne by the survivors, and who shines a ray of his life into the gloom of death. [more]
The Tragic Death Of The Funeral

Monday, June 22, 2015


Jerry L. Walls, a professor at Houston Baptist University, "has written a book defending eternal hell...." He writes "I will be most delighted if one of the things I have spent a lot of time and energy in my career defending turns out to be wrong." From his "10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Hell":
.... The Christian hope is not defined in terms of a lifetime of happiness that lasts 80 or so years and is at best partial, intermittent, and hit or miss. Rather, the Christian hope is for nothing short of perfect happiness that literally lasts forever and answers our deepest longings for satisfaction and joy.

No sane person can be indifferent to such a prospect. You may doubt that it is possible, but you cannot rationally be indifferent. Not to care is not to understand. And that is why every sane person cares about hell. ....

God wants to elicit our love and he has gone to the extreme length to demonstrate the depth of his love for us by sending his Son to die and save us from our sins though we turned our backs on him. Amazing as it is, we can resist his love and continue to go our own way.

If we persist in doing so, hell is the natural result. God certainly does not want anyone to go to hell, but precisely because he is love, we are free to walk away, and if we really want hell instead of love, we can have it. ....

[In that view] God does not lock sinners into hell against their will, but rather, they are in hell because they have locked God out of their lives. C.S Lewis famously put it this way: “I willingly believe that the damned are, in one sense, successful, rebels to the end; that the doors of hell and locked on the inside.”

The notion that anyone would freely lock themselves in hell sounds incredible. Why would anyone do that? This is one of the most puzzling things about hell. Lewis attempted to answer that question in a little book called The Great Divorce.

If you want to read one book on heaven and hell, I would recommend this one. The premise is that a group of the denizens of hell take a bus ride to heaven and are given every opportunity to stay. Indeed, they are implored to do so.

As surprising as it may seem, almost all of them choose to go back to hell. Why? Because they need to make some profound changes in their lives in order to enjoy the heavenly society of perfect love and joy. In particular, they need to give up various resentments, jealousies, attitudes of self-righteousness, and so on that they have been clinging to.

When faced with this reality, they choose to go back to hell. .... [more]

Friday, June 19, 2015

"Then let our songs abound"

I have the responsibility of planning worship for our small congregation in the month of June. I decided to do a series of services that each week used hymns by a single writer. We have already done services using hymns by William Cowper and John Newton. Tomorrow it will be Isaac Watts based on a 1948 200th anniversary commemoration of his death. My Skaggs grandfather apparently preserved the bulletin below. I have somewhat modified the service.

Call to Worship:
“Come, let us join our cheerful songs
With angels round the throne;
Ten thousand thousand are their tongues
But all their joys are one.”
Isaac Watts, 1707

Worship Theme:

“We worship and bow down before the Lord, Our Maker”

Meditation Verses: 
Bless the LORD, O my soul:
And all that is within me, bless his holy name.
Bless the LORD, O my soul,
And forget not all his benefits:
Enter into his gates with thanksgiving,
And into his courts with praise:
Be thankful unto him, and bless his name.
For the LORD is good; His mercy is everlasting;
And his truth endureth to all generations.
Psalm 103:1-2; 100:4-5

Hymn of Praise “From All That Dwell Below the Skies”  by Isaac Watts, 1707

From all that dwell below the skies,
Let the Creator’s praise arise;
Let the Redeemer’s name be sung,
Through every land, by every tongue. 
Eternal are Thy mercies, Lord;
Eternal truth attends Thy Word.
Thy praise shall sound from shore to shore,
Till suns rise and set no more.

Responsive Call to Prayer
Leader: O Come, let us worship and bow down: Let us kneel before the Lord, our Maker.
People: For He is the Lord, our God: and we are the people of His pasture, and the sheep of His hand.
Leader: Let us pray:
Almighty God, unto whom all hearts are open, all desires known, and from whom no secrets are hid; cleanse the thoughts of our hearts by the inspiration of Thy Holy Spirit, that we may perfectly love Thee, and worthily magnify Thy holy Name, through Jesus Christ our Lord, in whose Name we pray:
Our Father, who art in Heaven, Hallowed be thy Name. Thy kingdom come. Thy will be done, on earth as it is in Heaven. Give us this day our daily bread. And forgive us our debts, as we forgive our debtors. And lead us not into temptation, but deliver us from evil. For Thine is the kingdom, and the power, and the glory, forever. Amen.
Pulpit Reading: from Psalm 72
Give the king Thy judgments, O God, and Thy righteousness unto the king's son.
He shall judge Thy people with righteousness, and Thy poor with judgment.
They shall fear Thee as long as the sun and moon endure, throughout all generations.
He shall have dominion also from sea to sea, and from the river unto the ends of the earth.
Yea, all kings shall fall down before him: All nations shall serve him.
His name shall endure forever: His name shall be continued as long as the sun:
And men shall be blessed in Him: All nations shall call Him blessed.
Blessed be the LORD God, the God of Israel, Who only doeth wondrous things.
And blessed be His glorious name for ever: And let the whole earth be filled with His glory;
Amen, and Amen.
Hymn of Old Testament Prophesy  “Jesus Shall Reign Where’Er the Sun”  by Isaac Watts, 1719

Jesus shall reign where’er the sun
Does his successive journeys run;
His kingdom stretch from shore to shore,    
Till moons shall wax and wane no more.
Blessings abound where’er He reigns;
The prisoner leaps to lose his chains;
The weary find eternal rest,
And all the sons of want are blessed.

To Him shall endless prayer be made,
And praises throng to crown His head;
His name like sweet perfume shall rise
With every morning sacrifice.

Let every creature rise and bring
Peculiar honors to our King;
Angels descend with songs again,
And earth repeat the loud amen!

People and realms of every tongue
Dwell on His love with sweetest song;
And infant voices shall proclaim
Their early blessings on His name.

"As new as it was on the seventh day of creation"

Joy is related to wonder, I think. From a Chesterton essay "A Defence of Baby-Worship":
THE two facts which attract almost every normal person to children are, first, that they are very serious, and, secondly, that they are in consequence very happy. They are jolly with the completeness which is possible only in the absence of humour. The most unfathomable schools and sages have never attained to the gravity which dwells in the eyes of a baby of three months old. It is the gravity of astonishment at the universe, and astonishment at the universe is not mysticism, but a transcendent common-sense. The fascination of children lies in this: that with each of them all things are remade, and the universe is put again upon its trial. ...[W]e ought always primarily to remember that within every one of these heads there is a new universe, as new as it was on the seventh day of creation. In each of those orbs there is a new system of stars, new grass, new cities, a new sea. .... [more]

Thursday, June 18, 2015

200 years ago, June 18, 1815

On the anniversary of the Battle of Waterloo a blog re-publishes Jules Crittenden's review of a book about the battle, from which:
A couple of times a year, some old warriors I know get together, a small group of friends. They are men who have seen heavy combat, including, for two of them, a day at the Ia Drang in 1965, when a third of their battalion's men were killed and another third were wounded in the space of a few hours. But they held, giving better than they got.

Forty years later, they fight tears when they talk about absent friends. They remain intensely interested in war in all its aspects, and when we meet, we talk about war. The old wars and today's wars, how they are being fought and where they will take us. Courage and cowardice, the timeless misery of infantrymen, and the cleverness and failings of officers. ....

There is one constant of war through time, and that is the base experience of it. Technical aspects may change, but the gut feelings remain the same, and in varying degrees of intensity are shared by everyone who has done this. They are conflicting feelings of horror, fear, commitment, despair, camaraderie, discipline, honour, fatalism, hilarity, sacrifice, bloodlust and the desire to prevail, elements of which combine to carry us through, carry us away or destroy us. ....

You know more or less how [the Battle of Waterloo] goes. As Napoleon tried to resurrect his shattered empire in 1815, nearly 200,000 men engaged on a few square miles of Belgian woods and farmland. The British and their allies, badly beaten two days earlier at Quatre Bras, had stopped on a ridge while falling back toward Brussels. The British squares held, and the Prussians arrived on the French flank. Exactly how many British, French, German, Dutch and Belgian soldiers died on June 18 1815 is unknown, but estimates range to about 20,000, with twice as many missing or wounded. The future of Europe hinged on it, and two magnificent generals, the greatest of their age and artists of war, faced each other. ....

Barbero (the author of the book being reviewed) quotes Sgt. William Lawrence of the 40th Foot, on being ordered to bear the regimental colours.
This, although I was used to warfare as much as any, was a job I did not at all like: but I still went as boldly to work as I could. There had been before me that day 14 sergeants already killed and wounded while in charge of these Colours and officers in proportion... This job will never be blotted from my memory; although I am now an old man, I remember it as if it had been yesterday. I had not been there more than a quarter of an hour when a cannon-shot came and took the captain's head clean off. This was again close to me, for my left side was touching the captain's right, and I was spattered all over with his blood. The men in their tired state began to despair, but the officers cheered them on continually throughout the day with the cry of 'Keep your ground, my men!' It is a mystery to me how it was accomplished, for at last there were so few left that there was scarcely enough to form a square.
It's nearly 200 years, but that's not so much time. It could be yesterday. .... [more]

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Signing the cross

I am probably much too self-conscious to adopt the practice but Joel Miller makes a pretty good case for this physical expression of faith:
Reading Letters and Papers from Prison, I was surprised to discover Dietrich Bonhoeffer used the sign of the cross in his daily prayers. “I’ve found that following Luther’s instruction to ‘make the sign of the cross’ at our morning and evening prayers is...most useful,” he said in one letter. “There is something objective about it....”

Growing up evangelical, I always understood signing oneself to be empty superstition. It was something Catholics did, not Protestants. And yet here’s a famous Protestant pastor and theologian comforting himself with the sign while imprisoned.

Not to mention Martin Luther instructing every Lutheran since his own day to “bless yourself with the holy cross,” as he says in his Small Catechism. ....

...[S]igning oneself is more than mere symbolism. It is, as Bonhoeffer said, “objective.” There is something tangible and actual about tracing the points of the cross over one’s body. It goes back to something covered in C.S. Lewis’ The Screwtape Letters. Christians, the senior demon informs the junior, “can be persuaded that the bodily position makes no difference to their prayers, for they constantly forget...that they are animals and that whatever their bodies do affects their souls.”

What we do physically affects us spiritually. Whether it’s lowering our gaze, raising our hands, bending our knee, or crossing ourselves, physical actions have a qualitative, spiritual effect. .... [more]

Monday, June 15, 2015

"A far green country under a swift sunrise"

I have been watching once again, and over several evenings, the extended Blu-ray version of The Lord of the Rings. Tonight in The Return of the King comes one of my favorite passages:

In the book those words come later and not as dialogue:
And the ship went out into the High Sea and passed into the West, until at last on a night of rain Frodo smelled a sweet fragrance on the air and heard the sound of singing that came over the water. And then it seemed to him that as in his dream in the house of Bombadil, the grey rain-curtain turned all to silver glass and was rolled back, and he beheld white shores and beyond them a far green country under a swift sunrise.

Magna Carta and the Wisconsin Supreme Court

Mural in the Wisconsin Supreme Court
On the 800th anniversary of the signing of Magna Carta the Wisconsin State Journal notes a connection in the Wisconsin Supreme Court:
Monday marks the 800th anniversary of the signing of the Magna Carta, the document that curbed the power of King John of England and established the foundation of America’s modern judicial system. It’s also 100 years after a mural depicting its signing was installed in the Capitol hearing room. ....

The painting looms large on the left of the Wisconsin Supreme Court Hearing Room at roughly 9 feet tall by 18 feet, 6 inches wide. It’s one of the room’s four murals, which depict sources of Wisconsin Law: “The Signing of the Magna Carta” depicts English common law, a scene at a trial before Caesar Augustus Octavius depicts Roman law, “The Signing of the Constitution” represents federal law and “The Trial of Chief Oshkosh Before Judge Doty” represents territorial law. ....

Finding an artist to paint them was...trying. The state first selected Francis Millett, but by the time Millett and [Justice] Winslow had finished debating the content of the murals, Millett had died on the Titanic.

Another artist proved too expensive before the state settled on Albert Herter, who charged $28,000. ....

In the front of the painting, a young boy holds a large dog. Neither are historical figures; they’re Herter’s son and family dog.

The artist’s son, Christian Herter, coincidentally went on to become the governor of Massachusetts and Secretary of State under President Dwight D. Eisenhower. ....

Albert Herter completed the murals on the East Coast, rolled them up and installed them in Madison in less than a month. .... [more]

Sunday, June 14, 2015

People pleasing

Via Kevin DeYoung, from an ordination charge delivered by John Witherspoon (1723-94):
This leads me to exhort you in the whole of your work, public and private, to beware of the sin of man-pleasing. I do not say, beware of popularity: because, in the sense to which common language hath confided that word, it is but one half of the snare. Besides, in propriety of speech, popularity should signify only being accepted and beloved, which in itself is neither duty nor sin, but a blessing.

Man-pleasing signifies, in Scripture, having this as the end and motive of our actions, rather than being acceptable to God. You ought, indeed, for edification, to avoid displeasing any without necessity. But as in this, so in every other thing, you should have a far higher principle, than merely courting the favor either of great or small, good or bad.

Flag Day

As has become my custom on Flag Day I post this:

Several years ago I was part of an exchange with secondary teachers from Japan. The Japanese teachers spent time with us in Madison and in our schools and we did the same in Japan. As preparation for the experience, all of us were together in Washington, D.C., learning about each other, getting acquainted, and trying to bridge some of the cultural differences. In one of the sessions a Japanese teacher asked why Americans seemed to place so much emphasis on the flag. Many Japanese are, for understandable historical reasons, very skeptical of anything smacking of nationalism. I explained that in our case we have no national figure—no queen or emperor—who symbolizes the nation. Nor does the flag stand for blood or soil. It stands for our ideals—"the Republic for which it stands, one nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all." It stands for what we believe in and aspire to be as a country. We honor the flag because it represents the Constitutional system that protects our freedoms and our rights.

In my files I came across a pamphlet, undated, published by the Marine Corps, titled How to Respect and Display Our Flag. A stamp on it indicates that it was distributed by the "Marine Corps Recruiting Sub-Station" in Janesville, Wisconsin. Since the flags in the illustrations have forty-eight stars, it must be from the late 1950s. The rules it specifies seem almost quaint after the events of the last half century. The flag has been burned and trampled by Americans. It is flown night and day in good weather or foul—even by those who intend to honor it. A colleague used to put one on the floor of his classroom, inviting students to decide whether to walk on it. How one treats the symbol became partisan, expressing a political rather than a patriotic allegiance.

Here is the section from that pamphlet titled "How to Display the Flag":
Respect your flag and render it the courtesies to which it is entitled by observing the following rules, which are in accordance with the practices approved by leading flag authorities:

The National flag should be raised and lowered by hand. It should be displayed only from sunrise to sunset, or between such hours as may be designated by proper authority. Do not raise the flag while it is furled. Unfurl, then hoist quickly to the top of the staff. Lower it slowly and with dignity. Place no objects on or over the flag. Various articles are sometimes placed on a speaker's table covered with the flag. This practice should be avoided.

When displayed in the chancel or on a platform in a church, the flag should be placed on a staff at the clergyman's right; other flags at his left. If displayed in the body of the church, the flag should be at the congregation's right as they face the clergyman.

Do not use the flag as a portion of a costume or athletic uniform. Do not embroider it upon cushions or handkerchiefs nor print it on paper napkins or boxes.
1. When displayed over the middle of the street, the flag should be suspended vertically with the union to the north in an east and west street, or to the east in a north and south street.
2. When displayed with another flag from crossed staffs, the flag of the United States of America should be on the right (the flag's own right) and its staff should be in front of the staff of the other flag.
3. When it is to be flown at half-mast, the flag should be hoisted to the peak for an instant and then lowered to the half-mast position; but before lowering the flag for the day it should again be raised to the peak. By half-mast is meant hauling down the flag to one-half the distance between the top and the bottom of the staff. On Memorial Day display at half-mast until noon only; then hoist to top of staff.
4. When flags of states or cities or pennants of societies are flown on the same halyard with the flag of the United States of America, the latter should always be at the peak. When flown from adjacent staffs the Stars and Stripes should be hoisted first and lowered last.
5. When the flag is suspended over a sidewalk from a rope, extending from house to pole at the edge of the sidewalk, the flag should be hoisted out from the building, toward the pole, union first.
6. When the flag is displayed from a staff projecting horizontally or at any angle from the window sill, balcony, or front of a building, the union of the flag should go clear to peak of the staff (unless the flag is to be displayed at half-mast).
7. When the flag is used to cover a casket, it should be so placed that the union is at the head and over the left shoulder. The flag should not be lowered into the grave or allowed to touch the ground.
8. When the flag is displayed in a manner other than by being flown from a staff, it should be displayed flat, whether indoors or out. When displayed either horizontally or vertically against a wall, the union should be uppermost and to the flag's own right, that is, to the observer's left. When displayed in a window it should be displayed in the same way, that is, with the union or blue field to the left of the observer in the street. When festoons, rosettes or drapings are desired, bunting of blue, white and red should be used, but never the flag.
9. When carried in a procession with another flag or flags, the Stars and Stripes should be either on the marching right, or when there is a line of other flags, our National flag may be in front of the center of that line.
10. When a number of flags of states or cities or pennants of societies are grouped and displayed from staffs with our National flag, the latter should be at the center or at the highest point of the group.
11. When the flags of two or more nations are displayed they should be flown from separate staffs of the same height and the flags should be of approximately equal size. International usage forbids the display of the flag of one nation above that of another nation in time of peace.

A federal law provides that a trademark cannot be registered which consists of, or comprises among other things, "the flag, coat-of-arms or other insignia of the United States, or any simulation thereof."

Take every precaution to prevent the flag from becoming soiled. It should not be allowed to touch the ground or floor, nor to brush against objects.

When the flag is used in unveiling a statue or monument, it should not be used as a covering of the object to be unveiled. If it is displayed on such occasions, do not allow the flag to fall to the ground, but let it be carried aloft to form a feature of the ceremony.

On suitable occasions repeat this pledge to the flag:
"I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America, and to the Republic for which it stands, one Nation, under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all."
The pamphlet also has the words of our National Anthem. We almost never sing anything beyond the first verse. The third is particularly good:
Oh, thus be it ever when freemen shall stand,
Between their loved home and the war's desolation;
Blest with vict'ry and peace, may the heav'n-rescued land
Praise the Power that has made and preserved us a nation.
Then conquer we must, when our cause it is just,
And this be our motto: "In God is our trust";
And the star-spangled banner in triumph shall wave
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave.

First posted in 2009

Saturday, June 13, 2015

How particular a Baptist are you?

Thomas Kidd is co-author of the recently published Baptists in America: A History. His post at Desiring God, "Calvinism Is Not New to Baptists" interests me because the question of Calvinism also affected my Baptist denomination. We had churches, both in America and Britain, that identified either as Particular (i.e. Calvinist) Baptist or as General (Arminian or "Free Will") Baptist. Here is part of what Kidd writes about the situation among Baptists in America in the 18th century:
In a 1793 survey, early Baptist historian John Asplund estimated that there were 1,032 Baptist churches in America. Out of those, 956 were Calvinist congregations. These were “Particular Baptists,” for they believed in a definite atonement (or “particular redemption”), that Christ had died to save the elect decisively. “General Baptists,” who believed that Christ had died indefinitely for the sins of anyone who would choose him, accounted for a tiny fraction of the whole. Even some of those, Asplund noted, believed in certain Calvinist tenets such as “perseverance in grace.”

How did this preponderance of Baptist Calvinists come about? Both Calvinist and Arminian (General) Baptists had existed in the American colonies since the early 1600s. But the Great Awakening of the 1740s, the most profound religious and cultural upheaval in colonial America, wrecked the General Baptist movement, and birthed a whole new type of Calvinist Baptist — the “Separate Baptists.” ....

Isaac Backus, the most influential Baptist pastor in eighteenth-century America, perfectly illustrated the journey from Great-Awakening convert to Separate Baptist. Backus experienced conversion in 1741, writing that “God who caused the light to shine out of darkness, shined into my heart with such a discovery of that glorious righteousness which fully satisfies the law that I had broken . . . . [N]ow my burden (that was so dreadful heavy before) was gone.” But Backus’s Norwich, Connecticut church would not permit evangelical itinerants to preach there, and the pastor refused to require a conversion testimony of prospective church members. So Backus and a dozen others started a Separate small group meeting, apart from the church. In spite of his lack of a college degree, Backus also began serving as a Separate pastor.

Backus also started to have doubts about the proper mode of baptism. He, like virtually all churched colonial Americans, had received baptism as an infant, but in 1751, after a season of prayer, fasting, and Bible study, Backus became convinced that baptism was for adult converts only. A visiting Baptist minister soon baptized Backus by immersion. Thousands of colonial Americans would go through a similar sequence of conversion and acceptance of Baptist principles.

Because the move to Baptist convictions happened under the canopy of the Calvinist-dominated Great Awakening, Backus and most of these new Baptists were Calvinists, too. .... [more]

Friday, June 12, 2015

There are limits

In "Do Not Speak Well of Randianism" David Mills expresses a view I share. (Note: He is not equating Randianism and libertarianism.) From his argument:
Ayn Rand was a mean girl in person and in politics America’s ideological mean girl, I wrote recently. In my weekly column for Aleteia, I quoted as evidence two of her comments on abortion and pointed out that they were both stupid and evil.

The Randians grumbled, or snarled, that the criticism was ad hominem, a term they apparently didn’t understand. I wasn’t arguing that her ideas were bad because she was an awful person, but that her ideas were bad and she was an awful person....

I’m speaking here of Randianism as a public ideology. The individual trapped in that ideology is a different matter. Even while rejecting Randianism, you don’t reject the Randian, though your pastoral engagement with him (it will almost always be a him) must recognize the peculiar character of his ideas and the moral choices one has to make to accept them. ....

No one believes as an absolute principle that every view deserves public respect. The American ideal holds that all views deserve a hearing and argument, but societies rightly impose moral limits to the views to which this applies. We do not treat anti-Semitism, terrorist apologias, eugenicism, white supremacism, ideological misogyny, radical Islamism, Holocaust denial, neo-Nazism, pedophilia, and North Korean-style communism as respectable ideas with a legitimate place in the discussion of the human good. ....

.... Randianism’s view of the individual and all that flows from it, not least its social Darwinist hatred for the weak and the poor, is deeply, fundamentally inhumane. It is a settled dogma set against basic and public truths of human life. It is not mistaken about human dignity and human flourishing, it rejects them. The Randian is the man who brings dynamite to the barn-raising. ....

[I]t should not be given a place at the table.... (Whatever of value a Randian might say will be said as well, and probably more humanely, by a libertarian.)

...William F. Buckley came to a similar conclusion way back in the mid-fifties when he published Whitaker Chambers’ take down of Rand’s novel Atlas Shrugged, “Big Sister is Watching You.” The review effectively read Rand and Randianism out of the conservative movement—which purge proved to be one of the conditions of its later success. .... [more]
From Mill's Aleteia column:
...Flannery O’Connor wrote of her fiction, in which Rand incarnated her philosophy in a stick-figure kind of way: “I hope you don’t have friends who recommend Ayn Rand to you. The fiction of Ayn Rand is as low as you can get re fiction. I hope you picked it up off the floor of the subway and threw it in the nearest garbage pail. She makes Mickey Spillane look like Dostoevsky.”

Then there is the famous comment ascribed to the writer Raj Patel: “There are two novels that can transform a bookish fourteen year old’s life: The Lord of the Rings and Atlas Shrugged. One is a childish daydream that can lead to an emotionally stunted, socially crippled adulthood in which large chunks of the day are spent inventing ways to make real life more like a fantasy novel. The other is a book about orcs.” ....
Do Not Speak Well of Randianism - Ethika Politika, The Childish Ayn Rand - Aleteia