Sunday, July 24, 2016

Pride

One of the essays collected in Dorothy L. Sayers' Creed or Chaos (1949) is "The Other Six Deadly Sins" (an address delivered on October 23rd, 1941 at Caxton Hall, Westminster). Early on the Church defined "seven deadly sins" along with "seven heavenly virtues." The virtues were Chastity, Temperance, Charity, Diligence, Patience, Kindness, and Humility. The sins mirrored the virtues. Sayers' subject was the six sins other than Luxuria or Lust because:
.... A man may be greedy and selfish; spiteful, cruel, jealous, and unjust; violent and brutal; grasping, unscrupulous, and a liar; stubborn and arrogant; stupid, morose, and dead to every noble instinct—and still we are ready to say of him that he is not an immoral man. I am reminded of a young man who once said to me with perfect simplicity: “I did not know there were seven deadly sins: please tell me the names of the other six.”
Her essay is about the "other six":
  • Gluttony (Gula) — excess in eating and drinking: “for drunkards and gluttons become poor, and drowsiness clothes them in rags” (Proverbs 23:21).
  • Greed or Avarice (Avaritia) — excessive or reprehensible acquisitiveness: “Having lost all sensitivity, they have given themselves over to sensuality so as to indulge in every kind of impurity, with a continual lust for more” (Ephesians 4:19).
  • Laziness or Sloth (Acedia) — disinclined to activity or exertion: not energetic or vigorous: “The way of the sluggard is blocked with thorns, but the path of the upright is a highway” (Proverbs 15:19).
  • Wrath (Ira) — strong vengeful anger or indignation: “A gentle answer turns away wrath, but a harsh word stirs up anger” (Proverbs 15:1)
  • Envy (Invidia) — painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage: “Therefore, rid yourselves of all malice and all deceit, hypocrisy, envy, and slander of every kind. Like newborn babies, crave pure spiritual milk, so that by it you may grow up in your salvation” (1 Peter 2:1-2).
  • Pride (Superbia) — quality or state of being proud — inordinate self esteem: “Pride goes before destruction, a haughty spirit before a fall” (Proverbs 16:18). (I found the list and scriptures here.)
Sayers on "Pride":
But the head and origin of all sin is the basic sin of Superbia or Pride. In one way there is so much to say about Pride that one might speak of it for a week and not have done. Yet in another way, all there is to be said about it can be said in a single sentence. It is the sin of trying to be as God. It is the sin which proclaims that Man can produce out of his own wits, and his own impulses and his own imagination the standards by which he lives: that Man is fitted to be his own judge. It is Pride which turns man’s virtues into deadly sins, by causing each self-sufficient virtue to issue in its own opposite, and as a grotesque and horrible travesty of itself. The name under which Pride walks the world at this moment is the Perfectibility of Man, or the doctrine of Progress; and its specialty is the making of blueprints for Utopia and establishing the Kingdom of Man on earth.

For the devilish strategy of Pride is that it attacks us, not on our weak points, but on our strong. It is preeminently the sin of the noble mind—that corruptio optimi which works more evil in the world than all the deliberate vices. Because we do not recognize pride when we see it, we stand aghast to see the havoc wrought by the triumphs of human idealism. We meant well, we thought we were succeeding—and look what has come of our efforts! There is a proverb which says that the way to hell is paved with good intentions. We usually take it as referring to intentions that have been weakly abandoned; but it has a deeper and much subtler meaning. That road is paved with good intentions strongly and obstinately pursued, until they become self-sufficing ends in themselves and deified.
Sin grows with doing good...
Servant of God has chance of greater sin
And sorrow; than the man who serves a king.
For those who serve the greater cause may make the cause serve them,
Still doing right.
(T.S. Eliot: Murder in the Cathedral)
The Greeks feared above all things the state of mind they called hubris—the inflated spirits that come with over-much success. Overweening in men called forth, they thought, the envy of the gods. Their theology may seem to us a little unworthy, but with the phenomenon itself and its effects they were only too well acquainted. Christianity, with a more rational theology, traces hubris back to the root-sin of Pride, which places man instead of God at the center of gravity and so throws the whole structure of things into the ruin called Judgment. Whenever we say, whether in the personal, political or social sphere,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul
we are committing the sin of Pride; and the higher the goal at which we aim; the more far-reaching will be the subsequent disaster. That is why we ought to distrust all those high ambitions and lofty ideals which make the well-being of humanity their ultimate end. Man cannot make himself happy by serving himself—not even when he calls self-service the service of the community; for “the community” in that context is only an extension of his own ego. Human happiness is a by-product, thrown off in man’s service of God. And incidentally, let us be very careful how we preach that “Christianity is necessary for the building of a free and prosperous post-war world.” The proposition is strictly true, but to put it that way may be misleading, for it sounds as though we proposed to make God an instrument in the service of man. But God is nobody’s instrument. If we say that the denial of God was the cause of our present disasters, well and good; it is of the essence of Pride to suppose that we can do without God.

But it will not do to let the same sin creep back in a subtler and more virtuous-seeming form by suggesting that the service of God is necessary as a means to the service of man. That is a blasphemous hypocrisy, which would end by degrading God to the status of a heathen fetish, bound to the service of a tribe, and liable to be dumped head-downwards in the water-butt if He failed to produce good harvest-weather in return for services rendered.

Cursed be he that trusteth in man,” says Reinhold Niebuhr [Beyond Tragedy] “even if he be pious man or, perhaps, particularly if he be pious man.” For the besetting temptation of the pious man is to become the proud man: “He spake this parable unto certain which trusted in themselves that they were righteous.”

Wednesday, July 20, 2016

An honest politician

Via Jay Nordlinger, "Theodore Roosevelt on Honesty":
… while the remark of one of the founders of our government, that the whole art of politics consists in being honest, is an overstatement, it remains true that absolute honesty is what Cromwell would have called a “fundamental” of healthy political life. We can afford to differ on the currency, the tariff, and foreign policy; but we cannot afford to differ on the question of honesty if we expect our republic permanently to endure.

No community is healthy where it is ever necessary to distinguish one politician among his fellows because “he is honest.” Honesty is not so much a credit as an absolute prerequisite to efficient service to the public. Unless a man is honest we have no right to keep him in public life, it matters not how brilliant his capacity …

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

"A free society is a moral achievement"

Rabbi Lord Jonathan Sacks was Chief Rabbi of the United Hebrew Congregations of the Commonwealth and is now a professor at NYU. "Rediscovering Our Moral Purpose" is an address he delivered upon being granted the Templeton Prize:
.... I want tonight to look at one phenomenon that has shaped the West, leading it at first to greatness, but now to crisis. It can be summed up in one word: outsourcing. On the face of it, nothing could be more innocent or productive. It’s the basis of the modern economy. It’s Adam Smith’s division of labour and David Ricardo’s theory of comparative advantage that says, even if you are better than me at everything, still we both gain if you do what you’re best at and I do what I’m best at and we trade. The question is: are there limits? Are there things we can’t or shouldn’t outsource? ....

There is, though, one form of outsourcing that tends to be little noticed: the outsourcing of memory. Our computers and smartphones have developed larger and larger memories, from kilobytes to megabytes to gigabytes, while our memories, and those of our children have got smaller and smaller. In fact, why bother to remember anything these days if you can look it up in a microsecond on Google or Wikipedia?

But here, I think, we made a mistake. We confused history and memory, which are not the same thing at all. History is an answer to the question, “What happened?” Memory is an answer to the question, “Who am I?” History is about facts, memory is about identity. History is his-story. It happened to someone else, not me. Memory is my story, the past that made me who I am, of whose legacy I am the guardian for the sake of generations yet to come. Without memory, there is no identity. And without identity, we are mere dust on the surface of infinity.

Lacking memory we have forgotten one of the most important lessons to have emerged from the wars of religion in the 16th and 17th century and the new birth of freedom that followed. Even to say it sounds antiquarian but it is this: a free society is a moral achievement. Without self-restraint, without the capacity to defer the gratification of instinct, and without the habits of heart and deed that we call virtues, we will eventually lose our freedom. ....

What emerged in Judaism and post-Reformation Christianity was the rarest of character-types: the inner-directed personality. Most societies, for most of history, have been either tradition-directed or other-directed. People do what they do, either because that is how they have always been done, or because that’s what other people do.

Inner-directed types are different. They become the pioneers, the innovators and the survivors. They have an internalised satellite navigation system, so they aren’t fazed by uncharted territory. They have a strong sense of duty to others. They try to have secure marriages. They hand on their values to their children. They belong to strong communities. They take daring but carefully calculated risks. When they fail, they have rapid recovery times.

They have discipline. They enjoy tough challenges and hard work. They play it long. They are more interested in sustainability than quick profits. They know they have to be responsible to customers, employees and shareholders, as well as to the wider public, because only thus will they survive in the long run. They don’t do foolish things like creative accounting, subprime mortgages, and falsified emissions data, because they know you can’t fake it forever. They don’t consume the present at the cost of the future, because they have a sense of responsibility for the future. They have the capacity to defer the gratification of instinct. They do all this because they have an inner moral voice. Some call it conscience. Some call it the voice of God.

Cultures like that stay young. They defeat the entropy, the loss of energy, that has spelled the decline and fall of every other empire and superpower in history. But the West has, in the immortal words of Queen Elsa in Frozen, let it go. It has externalised what it once internalised. It has outsourced responsibility. It has reduced ethics to economics and politics. Which means we are dependent on the market and the state, forces we can do little to control. And one day our descendants will look back and ask, how did the West lose what once made it great? ....

We owe it to our children and grandchildren not to throw away what once made the West great, and not for the sake of some idealised past, but for the sake of a demanding and deeply challenging future. If we do simply let it go, if we continue to forget that a free society is a moral achievement that depends on habits of responsibility and restraint, then what will come next ... — will be neither liberal nor democratic, and it will certainly not be free. We need to restate the moral and spiritual dimensions in the language of the 21st century, using the media of the 21st century, and in ways that are uniting rather than divisive. .... [more]

Sunday, July 17, 2016

"He felt the right resentments and hated the right people..."

Huey Long is one of the most interesting figures in the history of American politics. He was also one of the most dangerous. FDR considered him one of the "two most dangerous men in America." I read T. Harry Williams' excellent Huey Long years ago and I think Ken Burns' documentary about the man is one of his best. The current issue of the Weekly Standard includes a fine article by Geoffrey Norman, "The Shadow of the Kingfish," a great short introduction. Somehow Long seems relevant to both sides of our contemporary partisan divide. From Norman:
.... Long had an instinctive, almost feral feeling for the wounds and woes suffered by the common man during those bleak years. In 1933 unemployment nationally reached nearly 25 percent. In Long's Louisiana, if you were poor and lived in the rural portions of the state, life had been plenty hard before the Depression. And then it got worse.

Long was not himself what was once called "poor white trash," but he was not above encouraging people to think he was. Among the dozens of stories about his gift for empathetic and improvisational speech-making, there is one about how in the middle of a campaign speech, he asked the crowd of hard-pressed farmers, sharecroppers, laborers, and generally put-upon and burdened voters, "How many of you wear silk socks?" No hands went up. "How many wear cotton socks?" When he saw hands raised in answer, Long raised a pant leg and showed the crowd that he, too, wore cotton socks. "And how many of you have holes in your socks?" The hands went up again, and now Long took off a shoe and showed the audience his big toe, sticking through a hole in his sock. At that moment, and perhaps for evermore, the people in that audience were his. Even if they knew he wasn't really one of them.
If he wasn't born poor and could have worn silk socks from very early in his political career, it didn't matter. Huey Long made the visceral connection and at its roots, it was pure. He felt the right resentments and hated the right people and institutions. ....

.... He attacked Joe Robinson, the leader of the Senate's Democrats—nominally his party—as an ally of Herbert Hoover and then accused him of being in the grip of his corporate law clients back in Arkansas. Long went on to name those clients and then went after Robinson's looks, saying, "he doesn't look really as well with his hair dyed."

This was typical of Long, who enjoyed mocking opponents at a personal level. (One inevitably thinks of parallels with a current presidential hopeful.) He would give his opponents nicknames that his rural Louisiana audiences found amusing. For instance, U.S. Senator Joseph "Feather Duster" Ransdell, New Orleans mayor T. Semmes "Turkey Head" Walmsley, and Esmond "Shinola" Phelps, of the New Orleans family that published the Times-Picayune for decades. ....

He pushed his Share the Wealth plan, which was far too radical for Roosevelt and might, indeed, have been too radical for anyone until the advent of Bernie Sanders. The scheme called for heavy and escalating taxation on fortunes of more than $1 million. A limit of $5 million on inheritances. (Long believed the Bible sanctioned this, and that taxing estates was protection against the accumulation of great fortunes.) He called, additionally, for a $1 billion program to pay college tuition for needy students.

It was extreme and radical and—according to the economists who studied it—impossible. It would require confiscation of incomes over $4,000 in order to provide guaranteed subsidies of $1,400 to the poor. The plan was widely dismissed as impractical and utopian.

But not to Huey Long and not to his growing national following. As Roosevelt's New Deal attempted to gain traction against the Depression, Share the Wealth looked like a promising alternative to people who were struggling. So Huey created a Share Our Wealth Society and gave a nationwide radio speech to launch it. He urged listeners to "join with us." And people did. There were 3 million members by the end of 1934 and more than 7.5 million members of 27,000 local clubs by summer 1935. .... [more]


Friday, July 15, 2016

"Only in part..."

From Allen Guelzo's review of a biography of Ralph Vaughan Williams:
.... The catalyst that propelled him to fame was the modest invitation of Percy Dearmer in 1904 to join the editorial staff of Dearmer's new project, The English Hymnal. Vaughan Williams' work on the Hymnal not only plunged him into the long history of English church music—from Tallis and Byrd to the Victorians—but into English folk-song and the use of modes as an alternative to keys. ....

More people today encounter Vaughan Williams in church, through their hymnals, choir anthems, and cantatas, than in the concert hall, especially in the United States. As editor of The English Hymnal and then later Songs of Praise, Vaughan Williams introduced a wealth of arrangements from folk-song (an example being the tune 'Forest Green' for "O Little Town of Bethlehem") and his own compositions ("For All The Saints," "Ye Watchers and Ye Holy Ones," and "Come Down, O Love Divine"). But Vaughan Williams, even though the son of a clergyman, shunned the title of Christian. ....

...[World War I] scarred Vaughan Williams in the same way, if not to the same depth, that it had scarred his entire generation. Musical friends and protégés—George Butterworth in particular—had been gassed, killed, maimed, and mentally destroyed, and his own tasks as a medical orderly gave him a close-enough view of the mass human destruction the 1914-18 war had wrought to darken several lifetimes. No sooner was he back at composing than a fountain of religious works erupted: the motet O vos omnes and the Mass in G (1920-1), The Shepherds of the Delectable Mountains, adapted from Bunyan (1922), and the oratorio Sancta Civitas on St. John's Revelation (1923), all of which exude a deadly serious treatment of their texts. And the Mass contains a cry of musical anguish in the 'Agnus Dei' that confounds any attempt to explain it away as conventionality. All through the Blitz, Vaughan Williams would read "the epistle and Gospel for the week" from the Book of Common Prayer to Adeline after breakfast, and the manuscript of the slow movement of the 5th Symphony in 1943 bears this heading from Bunyan: Upon that place there stood a cross and a little below a sepulchre. Then he said, 'He hath given me rest by his sorrow and life by his death.' ....

This raises the question of how "a declared agnostic" should have been able (as Ursula Vaughan Williams put it) "all through his life, to set to music words in the accepted terms of Christian revelation as if they meant to him what they must have meant to George Herbert or to Bunyan." Must have meant? How, exactly, does an agnostic capture what the Christian revelation means to its followers without the results reeking of insincerity? ....

Vaughan Williams once commented that "the object of all art is to obtain a partial revelation of that which is beyond human senses and human faculties—of that in fact which is spiritual." .... At best, one can say, I think, that Ralph Vaughan Williams enjoyed that 'partial' revelation. But he saw only in part of what he might have seen in full, and not through a glass darkly. [more]


Come down, O love divine,
seek Thou this soul of mine,
and visit it with Thine own ardor glowing;
O Comforter, draw near,
within my heart appear,
and kindle it, Thy holy flame bestowing.
Let holy charity
mine outward vesture be,
and lowliness become mine inner clothing;
true lowliness of heart,
which takes the humbler part,
and o'er its own shortcomings weeps with loathing.
O let it freely burn,
till earthly passions turn
to dust and ashes in its heat consuming;
and let Thy glorious light
shine ever on my sight,
and clothe me round, the while my path illuming.
And so the yearning strong,
with which the soul will long,
shall far outpass the power of human telling;
for none can guess its grace,
till Love create a place
wherein the Holy Spirit makes its dwelling.

A Vaughan Williams Elegy | Books and Culture

When verses are missing

In "The Gospel of the Kingdom Is Like an Old Hymn" Jared Wilson makes the case for hymns that have survived the test of time:
.... Most of these old hymns follow the gospel storyline. The first verse usually presents the problem of sin in some way. The second and third verses typically introduce Christ and his cross, the work of the Spirit, or some other proclamation of redemptive narrative of the gospel. And the last verse typically puts the Christian in heaven, focusing on the blessed hope of Christ’s return and our glorification.

The classic hymns, like the gospel they help us exult in, are much bigger than they appear. ....

A lot of the new songs—not all of them, of course, but a lot of them—head straight to how I feel about Jesus but never take me into the depths of why I ought to feel that way. ....

But what I really need is to rehearse what he’s already done for me, what he’s already done in Christ that has satisfied my desires, met my needs, and answered my longings. In the rush to emotional outburst, I miss affectionate remembering. .... [more]

Tuesday, July 12, 2016

"Lord have mercy..."

More by Vaughan Williams. I was introduced to his "Mass in G Minor" by a good friend when he played a recording of it during a visit to his house. I was in high school. This was my introduction to Williams' work. (26 min.)


For the Latin challenged—me among them:

Kyrie
Lord have mercy
Christ, have mercy.
Gloria
Glory be to God on high and in earth peace, good will towards men.
We praise Thee, we bless Thee, we glorify Thee,
We give thanks to Thee for thy great glory
O Lord God, heavenly King, God the Father Almighty
O Lord, the only-begotten Son, Jesus Christ;
O Lord God, Lamb of God, Son of the Father,
That takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy upon us, receive Thou our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father
Have mercy upon us. Receive Thou our prayer.
Thou that sittest at the right hand of God the Father
Have mercy upon us.
For Thou only art holy;
Thou only art the Lord;
Thou only, O Christ,
With the Holy Ghost, art most high
In the glory of God the Father. Amen.
Credo
I believe in one God, The Father Almighty,
Maker of heaven and earth, and of all things visible and invisible:
And in one Lord Jesus Christ, the only-begotten Son of God,
Begotten of the Father before all worlds;
God, of God; Light of light; Very God, of very God;
Begotten, not made; Being of one substance with the Father,
Through whom all things were made:
Who for us men, and for our salvation came down from heaven.
And was incarnate by the Holy Ghost of the Virgin Mary,
And was made man, and was crucified also for us under Pontius Pilate.
He suffered and was buried,
And the third day He rose again according to the Scriptures,
And ascended into heaven, and sittethat the right hand of the Father
And He shall come again with glory to judge both the quick and the dead:
Whose Kingdom shall have no end.
And I believe in the Holy Ghost, The Lord,
The Giver of Life, who proceedeth from the Father and the Son,
Who with the Father and the Son together is worshipped and glorified,
Who spake by the Prophets.
And I believe One, Holy, Church.
I acknowledge one Baptism for the remission of sins.
And I look for the Resurrection of the dead,
And the Life of the world to come. Amen.
Sanctus—Osanna I—Benedictus—Osanna II
Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts,
Heaven and earth are full of Thy glory.

Hosanna in the highest.

Blessed is he who cometh in the name of the Lord.

Hosanna in the highest.
Agnus Dei
Lamb of God,
Who takest away the sins of the world,
Have mercy on us, grant us peace.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Fantasia on a theme...

Relax and let it be. Ralph Vaughan Williams: "Fantasia on a Theme of Thomas Tallis." The BBC Symphony Orchestra conducted by Andrew Davis at Gloucester Cathedral (17 min.)

Sunday, July 10, 2016

"If ye love me..."

Re-posted:


If ye love Me, keep My commandments,
And I will pray the Father,
And He shall give you another Comforter,
That He may 'bide with you forever,
E’en the spirit of truth.

Thomas Tallis (1505-1585)

"Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead"

One of the films that probably belongs in my "guilty pleasures" category is John Milius's "The Wind and the Lion" (1975) starring Sean Connery and Candice Bergen. It purports to be about the 1904 kidnapping of an American citizen in Morocco by a Berber chieftain and TR's response. The film isn't concerned with being historically accurate, e.g. Bergen plays Perdicaris, who was in fact a man, and Greek. It is fun to watch. I've continued to read All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt and have come to this incident. By this time, Hay had been Secretary of State for years, now for Roosevelt. This is from the book's account of the Perdicaris affair:
.... Ion Perdicaris, a middle-aged bon vivant who for the past twenty years had been living in affluent idleness in Morocco, was kidnapped, along with his stepson, by the Berber chieftain Muali Ahmed er Raisuli, universally described in the English-speaking press as a "brigand."

Morocco was the nominal suzerainty of a corrupt and ineffectual sultan. Raisuli was the sultan's nemesis, and he had paid a dear price for his hostility. His people had been dragooned into military service and cruelly taxed, their villages had been burned, and he had been imprisoned in chains for four years.

Raisuli
In retaliation, Raisuli became a sort of Robin Hood of the Rif. His ransom demand for Perdicaris included not just money—although he wanted a great deal of that: $70,000—but also withdrawal of government troops, release of partisan prisoners, removal of the military governor, and control of the districts surrounding Tangier. It was a stiff order, but Raisuli was both devious and cocksure. He had chosen to kidnap Perdicaris not simply because he knew Perdicaris was wealthy, but because he supposed Perdicaris to be a prominent American. By creating an international incident, Raisuli figured to shame the sultan into meeting all of his demands. ....

Purely by chance, as the telegram announcing the kidnapping of Perdicaris reached Washington, three naval squadrons were steaming across the Atlantic en route to the Mediterranean, for training but also as a demonstration of American sea power. Never before had the U.S. Navy concentrated so many ships—thirteen in all—in European waters.

Hay and Roosevelt did not receive the ransom terms until May 27, and then only by way of a telegram from Joseph Choate in London; Perdicaris's stepson was a British subject. They agreed that Raisuli's demands were preposterous. Lacking a better remedy, Hay sent orders to the commander of the navy squadrons, Admiral French Chadwick, to show the flag at Tangier. ....

Ion Perdicaris
Rather than be drawn into awkward and potentially demeaning negotiations between the kidnappers and the Moroccans, Hay's inclination was to send a terse telegram to Gurnmeré, making it plain that the United States would punish Raisuli commensurately for any harm he did to Perdicaris. ....

...[N]egotiations with Raisuli were not going well; with each hesitation by the sultan, Raisuli increased his demands and advanced the day of Perdicaris's execution. The arrival of Admiral Chadwick's South Atlantic Squadron and Admiral Theodore Jewell's European Squadron at Tangier was hardly a deterrent; rather, their presence made Raisuli that much more determined. "Now the Sultan's authorities will be compelled to accede to my demands," Raisuli is said to have told Perdicaris, who by this point, despite the death threats, was being treated more as guest than prisoner in the brigand's mountain hideout.

Hay's distaste for the Moroccan standoff increased on June 1, when he received a letter from A.H. Slocomb, a cotton broker in North Carolina who had met Perdicaris in Athens during the Civil War. "[I]s Perdicaris an American citizen?" Slocomb wanted to know.

A good question, it turned out. Perdicaris's father was Greek by birth but naturalized as an American citizen; Ion Perdicaris was born in New Jersey. Slocomb claimed that Perdicaris had come to Greece during the war in order to renounce his American citizenship as a way to keep the Confederates from confiscating property he had inherited from his mother, who was a South Carolinian.

Roosevelt
Hay shared Slocomb's query with Roosevelt, and on June 4 he sent a cipher telegram to the American consul in Athens, asking for the facts on Perdicaris. The consul wrote back on June 7 that "one lonnas Perdicaris" had been made a naturalized Greek citizen on March 19, 1862. Hay did not pass this unsettling intelligence to Gummeré; nor to the British, who now had their own battleship at Tangier; nor to the French Foreign Ministry, whose "good offices" he had also entangled with the diplomatic tar baby of the moment. ....

.... Roosevelt...was through negotiating. "Our position must now be to demand 'the death of those that harm [Perdicaris] if he is harmed," the president declared to Hay. He also broached the notion of a joint military action with England and France. The following day, Admiral Chadwick began working up a plan to put ashore two brigades of 'Marines and sailors to seize the Tangier waterfront and customs house. Such emphatic action, the admiral reckoned, ought to cure the sultan's impotence in consummating a deal with Raisuli—which., of course, was what Raisuli had been scheming for all along.

More than ever, Hay wanted the affair behind him. The Republican Convention had begun in Chicago; the campaign would hit full stride after that, and neither Hay nor the president was eager for another war—not over a brigand on horseback and the dubiously credentialed Perdicaris. And so Hay wired Gummeré, repeating a message that he and Roosevelt had drafted at least once already, only this time he put it more bluntly: "We want Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead." ....

"Uncle Joe" Cannon
As the cable was being transmitted to Gummeré, a correspondent in Washington got wind of it and forwarded it to Chicago, where it was hurried to Joseph Cannon, Speaker of the House of Representatives and holder of the gavel at the convention. .... With Roosevelt a shoo-in, the convention had been short on suspense thus far.

"Uncle Joe" Cannon recognized red meat when he saw it, and when he regained the podium, he fed his listless congregation with good effect. "We want Perdicaris alive or Raisuli dead!" he read aloud.... The Republicans roared like Romans at the Coliseum. "Fee, Fi, Fo, Fum, give me the blood of the Mussulman [Muslim]," the New York World bruited the next morning. ....

The party nominated Roosevelt by acclamation. (Their choice for vice president was Indiana senator Charles W. Fairbanks.) Most of the delegates had attributed the dead-or-alive ultimatum to bully Teddy, but at least one newspaper praised Hay for a rare display of pugnacity....

A bit surprised at his own virulence, Hay wrote in his diary with wry amusement: "My telegram to Gummeré had an uncalled for success. It is curious how a concise impropriety hits the public."

Yet his telegram had not been necessary at all. By the time Gummeré received Hay's instructions, Raisuli had agreed to release Perdicaris and his stepson, in exchange for the asked-for $70,000 and the freedom of his imprisoned tribesmen. Two days later, Raisuli escorted Perdicaris and his stepson down from the mountains to Tangier. Kidnapper and captives parted as friends, and soon the American warships weighed anchor to resume their summer exercises. The nation, Republicans especially, approved of the administration's tough talk, but Hay exhaled merely a sigh of relief. Several weeks later when it was at last confirmed that Perdicaris had indeed forsaken his American citizenship as a young man, Hay elected to keep the information quiet. He wanted to hear nothing more about "Perigoric," he told Alvey Adee. "Or is it Pericarditis?" ....
All the Great Prizes: The Life of John Hay, from Lincoln to Roosevelt

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Christianity is for losers

Matthew Schmitz on "Donald Trump, Man of Faith":
.... Peale, always generous in his assessments of human nature, said that Trump had a “profound streak of honest humility.” Trump, not exactly showing that humble streak, said that Peale “thought I was his greatest student of all time.” In a certain sense, Trump was right. Peale has had no more perfect disciple. ....

Peale promised his readers “constant energy” if they thought positively. Optimistic thoughts opened one up to a vital force coming directly from God. Negative thoughts, especially a tendency to dwell on one’s faults, could interfere with the divine charge. He warned those with active consciences that “the quantity of vital force required to give the personality relief from either guilt or fear” was so great that it left “only a fraction of energy” for going about one’s tasks. Productivity and cheeriness became for him the signs of eternal election. (In attacking Jeb Bush for being “low-energy,” Trump effectively accused him of having forfeited the Holy Ghost.)

For Peale, “attitudes are more important than facts.” The man who displays “a confident and optimistic thought pattern can modify or overcome the fact altogether.” The first fact that Peale’s positive thinking had to overcome was the fact of human frailty. Peale knew about the difficulties some encounter in alcohol, in troubled marriages, and in economic hardship, but he never could accept the inevitability of misfortune or that all must pay the wages of sin. Like one of Job’s comforters, he told the suffering that they simply needed to look on the bright side. Where the Bible urges man to search his heart and know his faults, Peale encourages him to “make a true estimate of your own ability, then raise it ten percent.” For Jeremiah the heart is deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked, but for Peale its dark recesses are bathed in California sunshine. ....

At a campaign event in Iowa, Trump shocked the audience by saying that he had never asked God for forgiveness. All his other disturbing statements—his attacks on every vulnerable group—are made intelligible by this one. The self-sufficient faith Trump absorbed from Peale has no place for human weakness. Human frailty, dependency, and sinfulness cannot be acknowledged; they must be overcome. This opens up the possibility of great cruelty toward those who cannot wish themselves into being winners. A man who need not ask forgiveness need never forgive others. He does not realize his own weakness, and so he mocks and reviles every sign of weakness in his ­fellow men. ....

Christianity is a religion of losers. To the weak and humble, it offers a stripped and humiliated Lord. To those without reason for optimism, it holds up the cross as a sign of hope. To anyone who does not win at life, it promises that whoever loses his life for Christ’s sake shall find it. At its center stands a truth that we are prone to forget. There are people who cannot be made into winners, no matter how positive their thinking. They need something more paradoxical and cruciform. .... [more]

Thursday, July 7, 2016

"We believe..."

.... Plenty of well-meaning Christians hesitate to learn, know, and even recite the traditional Church creeds. Often they insist “We believe the Bible!” rather than mindlessly repeat man-based creeds, which is understandable.

Yet Bird reveals that sooner or later, even if you stand alone on the Word of God, you’ll have to outline what you believe about what the Bible says. And when you do that, you’re constructing a creed. Which makes them standard.
What does the Bible…say about God, Jesus, salvation, and the life of the age to come? When you set out the biblical teaching in some formal sense, like in a church doctrinal statement, then you are creating a creed. You are saying: this is what the Bible teaches about X, Y, and Z.
And that’s how the traditional Church creeds function in the first place.

Consider this: The Bible itself is filled with creedal statements outlining beliefs about God, Jesus, and salvation. Bird draws our attention to several of these creedal formulas:
  • “Hear, O Israel: The Lord our God, the Lord is one. Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength” (Deuteronomy 6:4-5)
  • “For we believe that Jesus died and rose again.” (1 Thessalonians 4:14)
  • “He was delivered over to death for our sins and was raised to life for our justification.” (Romans 4:25)
One of the clearest creedal statements is the so-called “Christ Hymn” in Philippians 2:5-11. “Whether sung, read, or recited, it certainly lends itself to a creedal function,” Bird explains, “as it sets out what Christians believe about where Jesus came from, why he died, and why he should be worshiped.” ....

Monday, July 4, 2016

"The truly infinite importance..."

Chesterton supposes (see below) that "in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly." Much earlier, in the Revolutionary era, John Witherspoon (1723-94) was anxious that not be the case. Witherspoon was a Presbyterian clergyman and president of what became Princeton University. He was also a signer of the Declaration of Independence. On May 17, 1776 he preached a sermon titled "The Dominion of Providence Over the Passions of Men." A portion of that sermon via Kevin DeYoung:
I do not blame your ardor in preparing for the resolute defense of your temporal rights. But consider I beseech you, the truly infinite importance of the salvation of your souls.

Is it of much moment whether you and your children shall be rich or poor, at liberty or in bonds?

Is it of much moment whether this beautiful country shall increase in fruitfulness from year to year, being cultivated by active industry, and possessed by independent freemen, or the scanty produce of the neglected fields shall be eaten up by hungry publicans, while the timid owner trembles at the tax gatherers approach?

And is it of less moment my brethren, whether you shall be the heirs of glory or the heirs of hell?

Is your state on earth for a few fleeting years of so much moment?

And is it of less moment, what shall be your state through endless ages?

Have you assembled together willingly to hear what shall be said on public affairs, and to join in imploring the blessing of God on the counsels and arms of the united colonies, and can you be unconcerned, what shall become of you for ever, when all the monuments of human greatness shall be laid in ashes, for “the earth itself and all the works that are therein shall be burnt up.” ....

"All men are created equal"

.... America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things."

Sunday, July 3, 2016

"Stand beside her and guide her..."

The original broadcast radio performance of "God Bless America" by Irving Berlin as introduced by Kate Smith on November 10, 1938.

Friday, July 1, 2016

The cult of oppression chic

In I Find That Offensive, Claire Fox’s pithy, punchy contribution to Biteback’s ‘Provocations’ series, she appeals to the members of ‘generation snowflake’ to cast off their bubble wrap and embrace the liberating responsibilities of adult life.

Fox is not simply having a go at the younger generation, although there is good reason to, from students No Platforming anyone they disagree with, to their obsession with microaggressions. Rather, she wants to know ‘why?’ Why are they taking offence on such an epic scale? Why are they banning people from campus? Why are they are claiming to be ‘triggered’ by words? And to answer these questions, she digs at the roots of youngsters’ fragility, and explores the wider culture of victimhood.

Fox observes, for example, how many young people today acquire a perverse authority through the adoption of an ‘oppressed’ status. The result is that even mild criticism of their beliefs is deemed tantamount to hate speech, which effectively gives the beliefs of the self-proclaimed victims special immunity. Meanwhile, those without sufficient victim status try to compensate by overzealously empathising with acknowledged victim groups in the hope that some of the moral lustre of others’ victimhood will rub off on them. ....

So who is to blame for generation snowflake, in all its victimhood-seeking, offence-taking inglory? Fox fingers us, its elders. We have socialised these youngsters in a culture of health and safety, in which we catastrophise life’s challenges and obsess about health scares and child protection. And it’s this overprotection of children, their immersion in our risk-averse culture, in which we now see threats and suspect abuse everywhere, argues Fox, that has blurred the line between physical and psychological harm. ....

So, instead of helping young people to put unpleasant experiences into perspective, we have been encouraging children to over-react, to become traumatised by minor slights. It is no wonder that young people now head off to college, obsessed with their psychological wellbeing, and conscious of themselves as vulnerable and victimised. As Fox writes, we have pathologised what were once considered basic experiences of student life, from being broke, to staying up all night to get an essay finished. Disappointment, stress and frustration are no longer integral parts of life, of growing up; they’re sources of mental distress and illness.

An insidious paternalism has also eaten into youngsters’ everyday life. Childrens’ informal activities are organised and supervised; ‘free time’ is structured and monitored; ‘helicopter parents’ encourage children to be reliant on outside intermediaries. The space in which young people can develop their independence has shrunk. Instead, young people are encouraged to believe that they are empowered by dependency on external agencies and institutions. Their diminished sense of responsibility and autonomy ties them, as if with an umbilical cord, to external authorities. It’s not just their liberty that is undermined; their capacity to become autonomous is stunted, too.

Fox also criticises the transformed relationship between teachers and pupils. Protecting pupils’ self-esteem is now paramount – their ‘student voice’ must be heard. Teachers are told that in order to engage their pupils, all subject matter must relate to pupils. This demand to treat young people’s views with unconditional respect, writes Fox, to pander to their experiences and prejudices, ‘effectively destroys the intergenerational duty of passing on knowledge, setting boundaries for behaviour and the broader task of socialisation’. The necessarily unequal relationship between the teacher and student, based as it is on a relationship between one with knowledge, and one without, is eclipsed. As a result, students never learn to cope with disappointment or accept criticism. .... [more]

Thursday, June 30, 2016

"Know before whom you stand."

From a sermon about worship by Paul Manuel (soon to be on his site). The text is Psalm 100.
Shout joyfully to the LORD all the earth.
Serve the LORD with gladness; come before Him with joyful singing.

No matter what the stresses of the previous week, no matter what difficulties the worshiper may have encountered, he should leave them all behind when coming before God. How is that possible, especially when some or all of those stresses will still be there when normal life resumes? Can a person be joyful under such circumstances? …Yes, he can, with the right perspective.

Many synagogues display an imperative on or above the ark containing the scrolls of God’s word:
“Know before whom you stand.”

.... Worship is not about you; it is about Him. Therefore, you should not limit it to when you are emotionally disposed. Worship is mainly a matter of will; it is what you decide to do even when it is not what you desire to do. ....

For the LORD is good;
His mercy is forever, and His faithfulness [endures] to every generation.
Worship should not be unplanned or unfocused. It is not enough for worship to be exciting (or exuberant), it must also be excellent (even exceptional). This high level of quality does not just mean the musicians are skilled, although that is certainly appropriate. They must also be committed to the One they are serving with their music. To that end, they must craft worship that directs attention in only one direction and to only one object. Similarly, the person who leads the congregation in worship must have as his goal to focus people’s minds on the One who matters most. To do that, it is helpful to highlight God’s attributes, as the author does here, making them a means of eliciting the congregation’s response. The author chooses three: God’s goodness, mercy, and faithfulness, all of which appear frequently in other psalms.

These three attributes serve as the motivation for the congregation’s devotion as the psalmist closes his song of thanksgiving. When the worshiper comes before the LORD, he should not do so merely out of habit or obligation. Neither should he do so without a plan for expressing his devotion. He should have a reason that reflects an appreciation of who God is and of what He has done for His people. ....

Psalm 100 is “A psalm of thanksgiving.” Whether or not for a special occasion, it expresses The Way of Worship this author prescribes for his audience.
  • Worship should be joyful.
  • Worship should be thoughtful.
  • Worship should be thankful.
  • Worship should be purposeful.
Psalm 100 has been part of Israel’s hymnbook for centuries, and its recommendations are appropriate for the people of God in any era, including today. Are they the way you worship?
"Worship is not about you; it is about Him" reminds me of the paraphrase of Psalm 100:3 (KJV) in verse 2 of the hymn All People That on Earth Do Dwell: "without our aid He did us make."

Wednesday, June 29, 2016

Orthodoxy is an act of humility

Several evangelical theologians have recently been debating each other about the relationship of the Son to the Father in Trinity. Today Albert Mohler, president of The Southern Baptist Theological Seminary, comments on the debate and cautions that a certain humility is required about such matters.
.... Heresy is a denial or deviation from a doctrine central and essential to Christianity. Thus, the Christian church has learned through sad experience that heresy is a necessary category and a constant concern. In the early centuries of Christianity, church leaders had to define the true faith against false gospels and to defend biblical teachings concerning the most essential doctrines of all — the triune nature of God and the full deity and humanity of Christ. ....

The first heresy to call for a universal condemnation by the church was known as Arianism. Arius, a presbyter and priest in the church at Alexandria in Egypt, taught that the Son was a created being — even declaring “there once was a time when the Son was not.” ....

Their creed was so openly contrary to Scripture and so contradictory to the church’s faith in Christ that it was easily rejected. Eventually, the Council of Nicaea adopted a creed that established orthodoxy, rejected heresy, and confessed essential teachings about the Son of God, Jesus Christ. ....

Nicaea was a necessary victory for orthodox Christianity, and the formula affirmed in the Nicene Creed is foundational for all genuine Christianity. Any deviation from Nicene orthodoxy is a matter of grave consequence. The Bible alone is our final authority in matters of doctrine, but creeds and confessions serve the necessary purpose of defining what the Bible teaches and condemning error on basic doctrines. ....

.... Potential heresies lay at every side. Modalism and tritheism result, in turn, from over-stressing the unity of the Trinity, on the one hand, and over-stressing the diversity of the Trinity of three divine persons, on the other hand. Harold O.J. Brown described the challenge well: “How is it possible to express the distinction between the Persons clearly without destroying the fact that God is one divine substance or being, not three beings?”

All of our attempts to answer this question fall short of God’s glorious reality, but we dare not say less than the Scripture clearly reveals. We ought also to be very cautious in trying to say more.

Orthodoxy is, in part, an act of humility. Faithful Christianity in this generation means believing and teaching what faithful Christians have always affirmed as taught in Scripture. G.K. Chesterton captured this spirit when he quipped: “Tradition means giving votes to the most obscure of all classes, our ancestors. It is the democracy of the dead. Tradition refuses to submit to the small and arrogant oligarchy of those who merely happen to be walking about.” .... [more]
Note: I added the links above. They were not present in Mohler's post.