Saturday, June 30, 2012

Seven Days, July 1862

Geoffrey Norman on "Seven Bloody Days," McClellan and the 1862 effort to capture the Confederate capitol, a frustrating and ultimately pointless expenditure of blood:
The story of the Seven Days and the Peninsula Campaign that preceded it is, in large part, a tale of one man’s hubris.

General George McClellan liked to think of himself as a kind of American Napoleon, and in at least one regard there was a similarity. Both men were short.

Napoleon, though, was a master of war. He loved war and thrived on its challenges, and he was a gambler. It could have been said of him, as it was of a general who became McClellan’s adversary in the Seven Days, “his name might be Audacity.”

McClellan was quite the other thing. He was a master of military organization and an exceedingly adroit player in the political contests that result in promotion. But he did not much like war, and he made a point of avoiding both battle and the battlefield. The carnage was repellent to him. .... [more of a good account]
More:

Seven Bloody Days | The Weekly Standard

Stand fast

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all.
[Isaiah 7:9, NIV]

God said to Ahaz, "If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm at all."

This is the first passage of Scripture to slam me to the floor (as they say) in quite some time. I mean, listen to this:

If you are not firm in faith, you will not be firm in at all. You will be firm in nothing. Everything in your life . . . or, more precisely, your response to everything in your life . . . will be infirm, unstable, questionable, uncertain. You will be easily influenced, swayed by circumstances, by every little thing. You will drift. You will fluctuate. You will be unreliable. Things for you will always be running downhill, out of control, headed for a fall.

Well, that's taking liberties with the text I suppose. If you need the real back-story, look it up in Isaiah 7.  And btw, the NIV puts it this way:

If you do not stand firm in your faith, you will not stand at all. ....

Friday, June 29, 2012

Mencken's dictionary

Two of the reference books I acquired early and used often were books of quotations. They were useful, of course, but also fun just to browse. One was Bartlett's Familiar Quotations: A Collection of Passages, Phrases, and Proverbs Traced to Their Sources in Ancient and Modern Literature, now in its 17th edition. I no longer have a copy, Googling having replaced my need for such a source. But I still have the other and it is indispensable. H.L. Mencken's New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles From Ancient and Modern Sources is, unfortunately, no longer in print. Terry Teachout celebrates "Mencken's Notable, Quotable and Witty Compendium" here:
.... The fathomlessly cynical Mencken wisely warned his readers in the preface that the "New Dictionary" was aimed at "readers whose general tastes and ideas approximate my own…. The Congressman hunting for platitudes to embellish his eulogy upon a fallen colleague will find relatively little to his purpose."

He wasn't kidding. Look up "Evolution," for example, and you'll find this 1925 statement by the Bible-thumping evangelist Billy Sunday: "If a minister believes and teaches evolution, he is a stinking skunk, a hypocrite, and a liar." Look up "Critic" and you'll be confronted with a rich catalog of ripe insults, among them this passage from Samuel Coleridge's "Modern Critics": "All enmity, all envy, they disclaim, / Disinterested thieves of our good name: / Cool, sober murderers of their neighbor's fame." Or check out "Irish," under which can be found no less than a page of invidious comments, including a sideswipe from, of all people, Gerard Manley Hopkins: "The ambition of the Irish is to say a thing as everybody says it, only louder."

Most delightful of all are the proverbs. According to Mencken, "Special attention has been given to the proverbs of all peoples, for in them some of the soundest thinking of the human race is embodied, and also some of the most pungent wit." No doubt, but Mencken is widely suspected to have coined a considerable number of them himself. The entry on "Marriage," for instance, ends with a page and a half of anonymous witticisms, including this "German proverb": "The bachelor is a peacock, the engaged man a lion, and the married man a jackass." I wouldn't be even slightly surprised if that particular "proverb" turned out to be the work of the waggish editor of the "New Dictionary of Quotations." .... [more]
The book cover is from my copy.

H.L. Mencken's New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles From Ancient and Modern Sources | Mencken's Notable, Quotable and Witty Compendium | Sightings by Terry Teachout - WSJ.com

The mutual dependence of civil and religious liberty

As we approach the Fourth, an interesting essay about the origins of American attitudes toward religious liberty. Joseph Loconte, on the roots of American religious toleration:
On Sunday morning, Jan. 21, 1776, at a church in Woodstock, Va., Rev. Peter Gabriel Muhlenberg brought his sermon to a dramatic and unexpected crescendo. His text was taken from the book of Ecclesiastes. "The Bible tells us 'there is a time for all things,' and there is a time to preach and a time to pray," said Muhlenberg. "But the time for me to preach has passed away; and there is a time to fight, and that time has now come."

Stepping down from the pulpit, the minister took off his clerical robes to reveal the uniform of a colonel in the 8th Virginia Regiment of the Continental Army. He had been personally recruited by George Washington. Outside the church door, drums sounded as men kissed their wives goodbye and strode down the aisle to enlist. In less than an hour, 162 men from Muhlenberg's congregation joined the patriot cause.

The "fighting parson" was a common sight in the American Revolution. Why? Because American Christianity—anchored in a Protestant understanding of religious freedom—gave its blessing to democratic self-government. ....

Despite their theological differences, colonial Americans shared a singular doctrine about the nature of religious faith: It could not be imposed by force but must be embraced freely by the mind and conscience of the believer. ....

It is now widely assumed that religious toleration—a hallmark of the secular, democratic West—grew out of the 18th-century Enlightenment. This may be true in much of Europe, but not in the United States. The evangelical preachers who supported the Revolution knew their Bible and believed it. They insisted that the gospel of Jesus upheld the rights of conscience in religious matters—Jesus never coerced anyone into following him, they pointed out—and that republican government would collapse without it.

Liberty of conscience became part of the American Creed. Embraced universally by the nation's clergymen, it quickened the thirst for political freedom. "There is not a single instance in history in which civil liberty was lost, and religious liberty preserved entire," warned John Witherspoon, the only minister to sign the Declaration of Independence. "If therefore we yield up our temporal property, we at the same time deliver the conscience into bondage." .... [more]
Loconte: They Preached Liberty - WSJ.com

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Secret Knowledge

Irenaeus [c130-c202] was particularly known as a proponent of orthodoxy and enemy of Gnosticism. In recounting his role, this article explains the heresy:
.... The heresy’s starting-point is that this world is too fundamentally flawed to be the creation of a perfect God. Rather, the Gnostics speculated, it was the work of the Demiurge, a partially corrupted emanation from the supreme deity. The ultimate divinity remains hidden from mankind. Even so, buried deep within us, there are inklings of its existence, discernible by those inherently gifted with spiritual insight, or possessed of the appropriate secret formulae.

For the Gnostics, then, religious knowledge was confined to the superior intellect. To such sophisticates there could be no absolute truth or morality, merely intuitions gathered by the favoured few. As for Christ, while He might be regarded as a valued teacher, he could hardly be part of the Godhead.

Irenaeus perfectly captured the smugness that Gnosticism imbued: “As soon as a man has been won over to their way of salvation, he becomes so puffed up with conceit and self-importance that he imagines himself to be no longer in heaven or on earth, but to have already passed into the fullness of God’s powers.

“With the majestic air of a cock he goes strutting about, as if he had already embraced his angel.” ....

While some Gnostics gained a reputation for asceticism, Irenaeus railed against their sexual licence. What else, he demanded, could be expected of those who believed that “conduct is only good or evil in the eyes of man”? Irenaeus insisted that sinful men and women required a religious authority above and beyond their individual whims. Christian practice and morality, he taught, was laid down in apostolic tradition and Scripture. But which Scripture exactly? Irenaeus played an important part in rejecting various Gnostic texts and establishing the canon of the four gospels, later confirmed by Church councils. .... [more]
The priest who captured the smugness of Gnosticism | CatholicHerald.co.uk

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Picking fights with allies

At the Gospel Coalition site a Calvinist interviews an Arminian, specifically, Fred Sanders, a professor at Biola. The full interview is here. In one section Sanders was asked to complete some sentences. Two of them:
If you think Arminianism is semi-Pelagian, then...

You need a more flexible vocabulary of heresiology. John Wesley's longest treatise was on original sin, and he affirmed it, right down to the bondage of the will. He put a sermon on the subject into his Standard Sermons. The Wesleyan emphasis on sinners being enabled to respond to the gospel has nothing to do with a high view of human abilities, and everything to do with an optimism of grace and a trust in the Holy Spirit's prevenient work.

Perhaps anti-Wesleyans do this because they are hoping to make the error of Arminianism more obvious by exaggerating it into its supposedly logical conclusion. But if you think Arminianism is an error, you should just call it "the heresy of Arminianism." If you have to exaggerate its flaws to make it seem terrible, you probably shouldn't.

It may also be that some anti-Wesleyans are tempted to characterize Wesleyans by their worst exemplars. There have indeed been Pelagians and semi- demi- hemi- Pelagians in the Wesleyan tradition. I don't know any other way to interpret Charles Finney. But it's a basic rule of fair discourse that you should meet your opponent's views at their strongest and most central, not their weakest and most peripheral. Calvinism has generated its fair share of antinomians, determinists, theocrats, anti-evangelicals, and formalists. Anti-Calvinists shouldn't attack on that front, but at the places where the tradition is strongest.

The one thing I wish Calvinists would stop accusing Wesleyans of is...

Being anthropocentric in their soteriology. Caring more about human free will than God's glory.

I also wish Calvinists would resist the urge to think of Wesleyanism as the secret to Reformed self-definition. I don't mind sharpening a position by contrast, but Calvinists need a better foil than Wesleyanism. Only if you live in a very small thought-world is Wesleyanism the opposite of Calvinism. A more instructive opposite for Calvinism probably ought to be Roman Catholicism, if we're going back to origins. About 200 years ago, I believe the Reformed in Europe still thought of Lutherans as their opposites. I would think today's evangelical Calvinists would think of liberals as their opposites. But if you think "there are two kinds of people, Calvinists and Wesleyans," you're on a false trail; your devil is too small (to paraphrase J. B. Phillips). That will lead you to pick fights with other conservative, evangelical, Protestant Christians who really are on your side of the net in the game that counts. .... [more]
You’re a Calvinist, Right? – The Gospel Coalition Blog

"The fool says in his heart, 'There is no God.'"

Richard Dawkins, one of the most prominent of the "new atheists," helpfully provides a scale we can use to determine exactly how theistic we are. The Shadow To Light blog provides it as described at Wikipedia:
  1. Strong theist. 100 per cent probability of God. In the words of C.G. Jung: “I do not believe, I know.”
  2. De facto theist. Very high probability but short of 100 per cent. “I don’t know for certain, but I strongly believe in God and live my life on the assumption that he is there.”
  3. Leaning towards theism. Higher than 50 per cent but not very high. “I am very uncertain, but I am inclined to believe in God.”
  4. Completely impartial. Exactly 50 per cent. “God’s existence and non-existence are exactly equiprobable.”
  5. Leaning towards atheism. Lower than 50 per cent but not very low. “I do not know whether God exists but I’m inclined to be skeptical.”
  6. De facto atheist. Very low probability, but short of zero. “I don’t know for certain but I think God is very improbable, and I live my life on the assumption that he is not there.”
  7. Strong atheist. “I know there is no God, with the same conviction as Jung knows there is one.”
Wiki also adds: “Dawkins self-identified as a ’6′, though when interviewed by Bill Maher and later by Anthony Kenny, he suggested ’6.9′ to be more accurate.”
Does that make Dawkins an agnostic?

Where would you place yourself on his scale? I'm somewhere below 2.0.

Dawkins 7 Point Scale « Shadow To Light

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Judenrein

A German court has decided that it is a crime to circumcise a child in Germany. Walter Russell Mead expresses his outrage about the intolerance exposed in a country once notorious for it:
.... Jews believe that the circumcision of infants is a necessary act; the command to circumcise male children at the age of eight days is the first command that God gives Abraham to mark their covenant; for thousands of years this has been a foundation of Jewish life. To ban infant circumcision is essentially to make the practice of Judaism illegal in Germany; it is now once again a crime to be a Jew in the Reich.

Some may have worried that the memory of past, ahem, problems in German-Jewish relations would inhibit German judges from the single most anti-Semitic state action taken anywhere in the west since 1945. Holm Putzke, a legal expert at the University of Passau, praised the court’s dedication to duty, telling the Financial Times Deutschland that “Unlike many politicians, the court has not allowed itself to be scared off by charges of anti-Semitism or religious intolerance.”

Well, thank goodness for that! If courts start letting themselves be inhibited because people will denounce them for being intolerant anti-Semites, how can we possibly build a clean and beautiful New Europe?
German Court Declares Judaism A Crime | Via Meadia

The Third Man

In Italy, for thirty years under the Borgias, they had warfare, terror, murder, bloodshed, but they produced Michelangelo - Leonardo Da Vinci, and the Renaissance...In Switzerland, they had brotherly love. They had five hundred years of democracy and peace, and what did that produce?...The cuckoo clock. So long, Holly. [Orson Welles as Harry Lime in The Third Man]
Many films deserve only a single viewing, if that; others only two or three unless you are introducing a pleasure to someone else. The Third Man is one of those I can watch over and over. Shmuel Ben-Gad introduces and comments on the film here:
The Third Man (1949) is a very interesting collaboration of director Carol Reed, screenwriter Graham Greene, and actor Orson Welles. Greene did not want to write a screenplay directly but rather first wrote a novella from which he then wrote the screenplay. With the zither music of Anton Karas as background, the film tells of Holly Martins (Joseph Cotten), an American writer of pulp westerns, who comes to post-Second World War Vienna to work for his friend Harry Lime (Orson Welles) whom he has not seen for nine or ten years. Martins finds that Lime was killed by a truck and attends his funeral but the circumstances of his death seem strange. Two men supposedly carried his body after he was killed by a car, but a mysterious third man was also seen. .... [more]
An Entertaining Ironical Tale: “The Third Man.” | The American Culture

The cult of the body

I Corinthians 6:19 isn't about eating or drinking [look at the context]. A Dominican friar, on the "Theology of the Soda Ban":
.... There aren’t many card-carrying Albigensians running around today, but there is another kind of bodily obsession—a cult of the body—that is just plain unhealthy. The ideal body image shifts with culture, no doubt. The plump, pale figures of Baroque painting were archetypically beautiful and aristocratic. But what is considered ideal now—and gyms surround you with magazines, pictures, and mirrors to aid your meditation—is elusive and unrealistic. Many spend hours of precious time and heaps of precious cash for the gym, but can’t seem to find the time for Sunday worship, or spare more than a couple of bucks for the church.

It’s the combination of values that is puzzling: a quasi-religious zeal to eliminate soda, salt, and saturated fat on the one hand, and the toleration—nay, promotion—of grave offenses against human dignity and health on the other. When premarital sex, homosexuality, contraception, and abortion are encouraged in health class, isn’t Michael Bloomberg’s crusade against sugary drinks a bit odd? As the Church is backed into a corner because of its teaching on sexuality, and its institutions face increasing pressure to compromise and cooperate with abortion, gay marriage, and contraception, and after the city bans religious groups from using public property, lawmakers are getting moralistic about food. It’s a good thing if people eat less fat and sugar, to be sure, but let’s put first things first. .... [more]
Theology of the Soda Ban | First Things

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Fireflys in a jar

Another good appreciation of Ray Bradbury, this one by Peter Leithart at First Things. Leithart captures some of what it was that I so much liked about the books:
.... He is at his most exotic when exploring the mysteries of a summer evening in a small midwestern town. Streetlights blink on, fireflies flicker over the yard, cicadas and crickets chirp in the warm air. As you walk down the sidewalk, you can hear the clatter of dishes through open kitchen windows, the creak of swings and rocking chairs and the murmur of the men sitting in the yellow dome of light on the front porches, a whiff of tobacco smoke hovering overhead. Out on the darkening lawn, a cluster of boys led by Douglas Spaulding argues, wrestles, and plots. Tomorrow, they’re going to refight Shiloh all over town, using the parks and cemetery as battlefields. They’ll steal the chess pieces from the old men who play in the town square and magically control the boys with their knights and rooks. Tomorrow night, they’ll break into city hall and kill the clock that keeps the town in thrall.

The idyll is touched with melancholy and a tremor of gulping panic. It’s late enough in the summer for the boys to feel the chill of a new school year coming. Pencils and notebooks are displayed already in the shop window at the five-and-dime. Summer is ending, and with it, freedom and innocence. Bradbury’s America feels as vigorous as boyhood, and as elegiac.

Other endings overshadow Douglas and his friends in Dandelion Wine. Colonel Freeleigh the living time machine dies, and Douglas understands that all the characters that lived in his memory died with him. Douglas’s great-grandma dies, and his best friend John moves away. At the end of the summer, Douglas takes out his yellow pad and his Ticonderoga pencil and lists all the things that you can’t depend on in life—machines, tennis shoes, trolleys that come to the end of the line, people. As he writes, the fireflies in the jar beside his bed “turned themselves off.” ....

.... Re-reading Bradbury means reliving the existential Illumination that comes to Douglas early in the summer of 1928. Sprawled on the grass after wrestling his brother, one eye open to “everything, absolutely everything,” Douglas discovers the summery wonder: “I’m alive.” The world around him brims with glory he never noticed before. Bradbury helps us notice. Then, and more slowly, he brings the further Revelation: Summers end, so make the best of it. [more]
I looked for Dandelion Wine at Amazon only to discover that almost none of Bradbury's books are available for Kindle. That is an option I would love to have [but Bradbury probably resisted].

Poet of Summer’s End | First Things

Friday, June 22, 2012

Crazy good

Crazy Dangerous was, for me, a very fast read. I thoroughly enjoyed it and so did Lars Walker: "Klavan’s ‘Crazy Dangerous’ is Crazy Good."
Andrew Klavan has taken a small (but worthwhile) detour in his writing career over the last few years, producing top-notch thrillers aimed at the Young Adult audience, published by Christian publisher Thomas Nelson. His previous four books, The Homelanders series, brought the Christian YA field to a whole new level. All in all, I think the stand-alone novel Crazy Dangerous is even better.

One improvement is the narrator/hero of Crazy Dangerous, Sam Hopkins. Unlike Charlie West, the hero of the Homelanders books, Sam is not an adolescent James Bond, outstanding at everything he does and equipped with a black belt. Sam will be far easier for most kids to identify with. He’s a smallish, not very popular, not academically outstanding, not very athletic teenager, struggling with the challenges of being a preacher’s kid in a small town in upstate New York. When he receives an odd offer of “friendship” from three of the shadiest kids in his school, he gets involved with them, just to escape the public expectations that face every PK.

But the situation changes when his new “friends” make an attack on Jennifer, a vulnerable classmate with mental problems. .... [more]
Klavan’s ‘Crazy Dangerous’ is Crazy Good | The American Culture

Why study church history?

Why study the history of the Church? An important reason, Kevin White suggests, is to get to know "Our Future Contemporaries":
...[W]hy study church history? For the Christian, it is to gain an acquaintance with our future contemporaries. In the visible realm, they are our forebears in the faith. Their ways are often foreign to us, and their lives seem often remote and strange. Their virtues can seem either hollow or unreachable, and their faults glaring and incomprehensible. But in the greater reality, for now invisible, we are all immediate family. In Christ, the Church is only one generation.

And that is one reason why the doings, the customs, and the teachings of past Christians should interest us. If they are in Christ, and we are in Christ, we are not ultimately foreign to each other. We received the faith from them across time, and we will enjoy future sight together as peers. In the eternal kingdom on Earth, we will be together far longer than we were ever separated. And in the present time, that should also relativize the distinctions and divides between generations, classes, nations, and ethnicities.

So, in an odd way, we Christians should study the past so as to better understand our eschatological future.
Why Church History? Our Future Contemporaries | Mere Orthodoxy | Christianity, Politics, and Culture

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Not simply happy, but blessed

Anthony Esolen, in "Rejoice, I Say Rejoice!" on the error of confusing happiness with blessedness and joy:
“The word happiness does not occur in the Gospels,” writes Dorothy L. Sayers in The Whimsical Christian. “The word joy, on the other hand, occurs frequently — and so do the name and the image of hell. The command is to rejoice, not to display a placid contentment or a stoic fortitude.”

If we are commanded to rejoice, as we are commanded to love, then neither joy nor love is reducible to a feeling, since feelings are not at our beck and call. They are acts of the will. But since our wills are frail and prone to sin, we do not always love whom we should or rejoice when we should. ....

.... “Happiness is a gift of the heathen gods,” says Sayers, “whereas joy is a Christian duty.” Our English happy, like German gluecklich, and Latin fortunatus or felix, suggests that we have been blessed with good happenstance or fortune; although now in both English and German the sense of luck has been almost entirely folded into feelings.

Jesus uses stronger language when he describes what it means to be truly blessed. Baruch attah, Adonai Elohenu, said the Jews in prayer: “Blessed art thou, O Lord our God.” Not simply happy, but blessed, holy. The evangelists translate that word baruch as Greek makarios: “blessed,” a word used properly only of the gods, and by extension of men most fortunate, most blessed. .... [more]
Rejoice, I Say Rejoice!

A culture of reading in the church

Reading has been very important to my growth as a Christian. Yesterday I came across several posts relating to its importance to others.

First, Jared Wilson explains in "The Page That Changed My Life" how for him [and for me and so many others] reading C.S. Lewis — cleared his mind:
.... When I graduated from high school in 1994, my Grammy gave me a paperback copy of C.S. Lewis's God in the Dock and Other Essays. I devoured it. And when I came to my absolute favorite piece in the book, a little treatise on the importance of mythology called "Myth Became Fact," the effect was similar to putting on corrective lenses for the first time. Clarity of vision descended. I am speaking of page 67 in my edition, specifically, where Lewis writes this: "We must not be ashamed of the mythical radiance resting on our theology." ....

Lewis's point is this: Myths resonate because there is a residue of truth in them—not historic facts of course, but truth about reality. (In his novel Perelandra he writes that myth is "gleams of celestial beauty falling on a jungle of filth and imbecility.") And in the biblical story of Jesus and his gospel we find the convergence of the radiance of the mythopoeic with the glorious radiance of fact! Finally the one true "myth," the myth that is not fiction. Lewis writes:
For this is the marriage of heaven and earth: Perfect Myth and Perfect Fact: claiming not only our love and our obedience, but also our wonder and delight, addressed to the savage, the child, and the poet in each one of us no less than to the moralist, the scholar, and the philosopher.
Can even the Christian scholar and philosopher deny that the facts of the gospel are received on a frequency deeper than just the intellect? We discern the facts of the gospel with our minds, of course, but we receive them with our hearts because the Spirit has freed our hearts to receive them as true—to receive Christ as The Truth, the one true myth that is incontrovertibly fact.

What Lewis helped me see in that page helped me to see period. Page 67 of "Myth Became Fact" helped me to make the difference between seeing along the beam of light and seeing into the beam of light (to borrow from a later essay in the volume, "Meditation in a Toolshed"). .... [more]
And continuing with books that have made a difference, Suzannah, at "In Which I Read Vintage Novels" doesn't recommend a novel this time: On the Incarnation by St Athanasius (with an introduction by C.S. Lewis):
.... Unlike many of the great books of Western Civilisation, On the Incarnation is quite short and pithy, explaining the whys behind many of the doctrines of Christianity, but most importantly, why Christ had to come in the flesh, truly God, truly Man, to die and rise again. It explains exactly why this was the only thing that could have worked....
For it is a fact that the more unbelievers pour scorn on Him, so much the more does He make His Godhead evident. The things which they, as men, rule out as impossible, He plainly shows to be possible; that which they deride as unfitting, His goodness makes most fit; and things which these wiseacres laugh at as "human" He by His inherent might declares divine. Thus by what seems His utter poverty and weakness on the cross He overturns the pomp and parade of idols, and quietly and hiddenly wins over the mockers and unbelievers to recognize Him as God.
.... The young Athanasius's enthusiasm reflects the high spirits of the exciting first two centuries of Christendom. Not jaded, as so many Christians today seem to be, by the sheer back-breaking difficulty of spreading the good news of the kingdom of heaven, Athanasius happily proclaims the death of idols, the end of the reign of demons, and the death of death itself....

Read this book. And, just for a while, look at our own world through the eyes of Athanasius. .... [more]
And finally, Mark Dever, pastor of the Capitol Hill Baptist Church in Washington, D.C.:

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Christian Right Derangement Syndrome

Timothy Dalrymple, having entered into the controversies over how and whether American Christians ought to be involved in politics, has suffered one of the usual consequences of engaging online with any issue — angry, intolerant, and deranged comments. One in particular inspired him to compose this test, part of a post called "Diagnosing Christian Right Derangement Syndrome" [a commenter to his post composed a similar test for diagnosing "Christian Left Derangement Syndrome"]. It is, of course best, if possible, to avoid derangement entirely. Dalrymple:
...[H]ere is a simple points-based system to indicate whether you, a progressive Christian, might be suffering from Christian Right Derangement Syndrome:
  • ENCLAVING. You surround yourself with people who think like you do (1 point), and you consume the majority of your news and commentary from sources that confirm your biases (1 point). You think Bill Maher just speaks the hard truth (3 points).
  • DICHOTOMIZING. You find cartoonish dichotomies like “Conservatives are stupid and liberals are smart,” or “Conservatives are heartless and liberals are compassionate” to be accurate descriptions of reality (2 points each).
  • BROAD-BRUSHING. When you hear the words “Christian Right,” you think of everyday Christians like myself with different political views than my own (subtract 3 points), Billy Graham (subtract 1 point), Franklin Graham (add 1 point), Jerry Falwell (add 2 points), the Klan (add 4 points).
  • CULTURE-WAR OBSESSING. You can name three groups of people Franklin Graham has criticized but cannot name the major charitable relief organization he heads (add 2 points). You cannot name three other charitable organizations founded by conservative Christians (add 2 points). You believe most conservative Christian preachers spend a lot of time addressing culture war issues in their sermons (add 2 points). You actually find it plausible that “the Christian Right” wants to establish a theocracy (add 3 points).
  • IMPUTING NEFARIOUS MOTIVES. Complete the sentence: “Conservative Christians are really motivated by…” If you answered basically the same things that motivate me, subtract 1 point. If you answered a true (if misdirected) desire to honor Christ, subtract 3 points. If you answered hatred, bigotry, ignorance, intolerance, or greed, add 1 point each.
7-12 POINTS: a mild case of Christian Right Derangement Syndrome.

13 POINTS OR ABOVE: you are suffering from a severe case of CRDS. Seek help immediately. [more]
Diagnosing Christian Right Derangement Syndrome

The Zimmermann Telegram

The sinking of the Lusitania in 1915 angered Americans but did not result in the entry of the United States into World War I. That didn't happen until 1917 and the Zimmermann Telegram was the immediate cause. Years ago I read Barbara Tuchman's The Zimmermann Telegram which tells the story superbly. Giles Milton provides a more succinct accout of how a codebreaker's success and the well-timed public release of the contents brought America into that war and contributed to Allied victory:
It arrived on his desk as a jumbled series of numbers.

There was no pattern to the code and nor was there any obvious logic. Yet it was immediately obvious to cryptologist Nigel de Grey that he was looking at a highly secretive document. Now, his task was to decipher it with all possible speed; the British government urgently needed to know what it said.

The message had been transmitted on 16 January, 1917, by the German Foreign Secretary, Arthur Zimmermann. It contained a message intended for the president of Mexico, but it was intercepted by Room 40, Britain’s celebrated code-breaking service. .... [more]
Giles Milton: NIGEL THE DORMOUSE: THE BRILLIANT CODE-BREAKER WHO CHANGED THE COURSE OF WORLD WAR ONE

Tuesday, June 19, 2012

A stern, beautiful command

Ben Dueholm is a Lutheran pastor in the Chicago area. Here, in "Treading Out the Grain," he writes about the importance of Sabbath:
.... The saddest aspect of the New Atheism is its abuse of the Pentateuch. It’s not hard to pull up the King James Version and do a word search for slavery or stoning, while missing the deep roots of everything from forgiveness of debts to animal welfare that a more patient reading turns up. This is typical of our age, in a way. The “moral” laws we inherit from the Biblical tradition are treated as self-evident while the “ceremonial” and “judicial” laws are exposed to scorn and outrage, often in ignorance of the larger social ethic they serve.

Lutherans are ancient offenders in this. We have inherited a long tradition of interpreting the stern, beautiful command to Sabbath rest as a strictly spiritual matter. Luther glosses the third commandment as an obligation to worship. “We are to fear and love God, so that we do not despise preaching or hearing God’s word, but instead keep that word holy and gladly learn and hear it,” Luther says, in his uncharacteristically obtuse explanation of the third commandment (reflective, it must be said, of his deeper hostility to that law expressed throughout his writings). What we have lost in our emphasis on Godly worship — on the work of the people — is the primal command to rest, and in so doing to enjoy the fruit of labor that is expressed in handing one-seventh of life over to this devotion. It is rest ordained not only for us who are part of the sacred community, but for those whom we employ, believer and pagan alike, and even the animals who work in our stead. .... [more]
Treading Out the Grain

Without holiness...

John Henry Newman supposes that "Heaven is heaven only for the holy," reminding me of C.S. Lewis in The Great Divorce:
.... If then a man without religion (supposing it possible) were admitted into Heaven, doubtless he would sustain a great disappointment. Before, indeed, he fancied that he could be happy there; but when he arrived there, he would find no discourse but that which he had shunned on earth, no pursuits but those he had disliked or despised, nothing which bound him to aught else in the universe, and made him feel at home, nothing which he could enter into and rest upon.

He would perceive himself to be an isolated being, cutaway by Supreme Power from those objects which were still entwined around his heart. Nay, he would be in the presence of that Supreme Power, whom he never on earth could bring himself steadily to think upon, and whom now he regarded only as the destroyer of all that was precious and dear to him. Ah! he could not bear the face of the Living God; the Holy God would be no object of joy to him, "Let us alone! What have we to do with You?" is the sole thought and desire of unclean souls, even while they acknowledge his majesty. None but the holy can look upon the Holy One; without holiness no man can endure to see the Lord.
[John Henry Cardinal Newman. "Heaven is heaven only for the holy." excerpt from Parochial and Plain Sermons, San Francisco: Ignatius Press, 1997]
Heaven is heaven only for the holy

Sunday, June 17, 2012

Rationalism in politics

Continuing to read Gertrude Himmelfarb's The Moral Imagination: From Edmund Burke to Lionel Trilling, I've come to her essay about Michael Oakeshott. I've owned a copy of Oakeshott's Rationalism in Politics and other essays since graduate school and particularly value the essay which, it seems to me, accurately describes the mindset of most contemporary liberal thinkers and politicians (and not a few libertarians and "conservatives"). Himmelfarb on Oakeshott on "Rationalism in Politics":
.... The title essay of Rationalism in Politics first appeared in 1947 and set the tone, if not the theme, for the rest of the volume, For Oakeshott, Rationalism is the great heresy of modern times. (He generally capitalized "Rationalism" and lower-cased "conservatism," which is itself a commentary on his use of those terms.) The Rationalist, taking reason as his only authority, is necessarily hostile to any other authority: tradition, habit, custom, prejudice, common sense. It is the nature of the Rationalist to be at the same time skeptical and optimistic: skeptical because "there is no opinion, no habit, no belief, nothing so firmly rooted or so widely held that he hesitates to question it and to judge it by what he calls his 'reason'"; and optimistic because he "never doubts the power of his 'reason' (when properly applied) to determine the worth of a thing, the truth of an opinion or the propriety of an action." The Rationalist has no respect for the seemingly irrational vestiges of the past, and little patience with the transitory arrangements of the present. He has only an overwhelming yearning for a future in which all will be made orderly, reasonable, of maximum utility and efficiency. And he would like this future to be realized as soon as possible. His is the politics of "destruction and creation" rather than of "acceptance or reform." He wants no patch-up jobs, no tinkering with this or that, still less the kinds of changes that come about without the direct, conscious, rational intervention of men. He sees life (social and political affairs as well as the life of the individual) as a series of problems to be solved, of felt needs which have to be instantly satisfied, And they can be solved and satisfied only by a set of rationally devised techniques that are of immediate, universal, and certain application.

Although Oakeshott puts the Rationalist's "reason" in quotation marks, as if it were a spurious kind of reason, he does not specify any other kind of reason to which the non-Rationalist can lay claim. But he does so implicitly in identifying the Rationalist's "reason" with "technical knowledge" in contrast to "practical knowledge." "The sovereignty of 'reason,' for the Rationalist, means the sovereignty of technique." But there is another kind of knowledge, practical knowledge, which "can neither be taught nor learned, but only imparted and acquired," and which cannot be laid down in rules and precepts because it involves a sensitivity, artistry, and intelligence that come from long exposure to traditions and habits that have proved themselves in practice. ....

Obedient from the heart

Today's quotation from the "40 Day Journey With Dietrich Bonhoeffer":
Cheap grace is the mortal enemy of our church. Our struggle today is for costly grace.

Cheap grace means grace as bargain-basement goods, cut-rate forgive­ness, cut-rate comfort, cut-rate sacraments; grace as the church's inexhaustible pantry, from which it is doled out by careless hands without hesitation or limit. It is grace without a price, without cost...

Cheap grace means grace as a doctrine, as principle, as system. It means forgiveness of sins as a general truth; it means God's love as merely a Christian idea of God. Those who affirm it have already had their sins forgiven. The church that teaches this doctrine of grace thereby conveys such grace upon itself. The world finds in this church a cheap cover-up for its sins, for which it shows no remorse and from which it has even less desire to be free. Cheap grace is, thus, denial of God's living Word, denial of the incarnation of the word of God.

Cheap grace means justification of sin but not of the sinner. Because grace alone does everything, everything can stay in its old ways. "Our action is in vain." The world remains world and we remain sinners "even in the best of lives." Thus, the Christian should live the same way the world does. In all things the Christian should go along with the world and not venture...to live a different life under grace from that under sin...

Cheap grace is that which we bestow on ourselves.

Cheap grace is preaching forgiveness without repentance; it is baptism without the discipline of community; it is the Lord's Supper without confession of sin; it is absolution without personal confession. Cheap grace is grace without discipleship, grace without the cross, grace without the living, incarnate Jesus Christ.

What then? Are we to sin because we are not under law but under grace? By no means! Do you not know that if you present yourselves to anyone as obedient slaves, you are slaves of the one whom you obey, either of sin, which leads to death, or of obedience, which leads to righteousness? But thanks be to God, that you who were once slaves of sin have become obedient from the heart to the standard of teaching to which you were committed, and, having been set free from sin, have become slaves of righteousness.
[Romans 6:15-18]
Day 17 (6/17/2012) - 40 Day Journey Dietrich Bonhoeffer - Bible Gateway Devotionals

Friday, June 15, 2012

The fortunate effect of religion

I'm reading Gertrude Himmelfarb's The Moral Imagination: From Edmund Burke to Lionel Trilling, a collection of essays about various 19th and 20th century personages. I've come to her essay about John Stuart Mill, "The Other Mill," that is, the Mill before and after On Liberty — a somewhat different Mill than the one in that book. Mill described himself as a ""rational sceptic" with respect to Christianity. This passage is about the late Mill's opinion of religion [the words between quotation marks and those indented are Mill's]:
...[I]t is precisely when reason is strong that "the imagination may safely follow its own end," doing its best to "make life pleasant and lovely inside the castle," secure in the fortifications erected by reason outside. This combination of reason and imagination gives rise to an "indulgence of hope" with regard both to the existence of God and the immortality of man — a hope that is "legitimate and philosophically defensible" as well as of considerable human benefit.
It makes life and human nature a far greater thing to the feelings, and gives greater strength as well as greater solemnity to all the sentiments which are awakened within us by our fellow-creatures and by mankind at large. It allays the sense of that irony of Nature which is so painfully felt when we see the exertions and sacrifices of a life culminating in the formation of a wise and noble mind, only to disappear from the world when the time has just arrived at which the world seems about to begin reaping the benefit of it.
It is not only the idea of immortality that has this humanizing and elevating effect; it is the idea of God as well, the imaginative conception of a "morally perfect Being" who has "his eyes on us and cares for our good," and who provides human beings with the standard of excellence by which they regulate their characters and lives, Moreover, it is not only God that serves this purpose but the "Divine Person" of Christ.
For it is Christ, rather than God, whom Christianity has held up to believers as the pattern of perfection for humanity. It is the God incarnate, more than the God of the Jews or of Nature, who being idealized has taken so great and salutary a hold on the modern mind.... About the life and sayings of Jesus there is a stamp of personal originality combined with profundity of insight, which if we abandon the idle expectation of finding scientific precision where something very different was aimed at, must place the Prophet of Nazareth, even in the estimation of those who have no belief in his inspiration, in the very first rank of the men of sublime genius of whom our species can boast.
These reflections, Mill makes it clear, are those of a "rational sceptic," who realizes that after all that rational criticism can do by way of disputing the "evidences" of religion (revelation, miracles, the supernatural), what remains is the undoubted evidence of the fortunate effect of religion on character and morality. Conventional religion can thus supplement that "purely human religion" called the Religion of Humanity, fortifying it with those "supernatural hopes" that are allowed even to a rational skeptic like himself.

By orthodox religious standards, this "indulgence of hope" is an attenuated religion, perhaps no more than a will to believe. But it is so movingly and eloquently expressed as to have almost the force and status of genuine belief, Certainly in tone and substance, "Theism" stands in dramatic contrast to the view of religion presented in On Liberty, which was not so much skeptical as hostile. ....
For all its inadequacy it is a rather more approving attitude toward religion than that expressed by today's "new" atheists.

Gertrude Himmelfarb, "The Other Mill," The Moral Imagination: From Edmund Burke to Lionel Trilling

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Unvisited tombs

.... Her finely-touched spirit had still its fine issues, though they were not widely visible. Her full nature...spent itself in channels which had no great name on the earth. But the effect of her being on those around her was incalculably diffusive: for the growing good of the world is partly dependent on unhistoric acts; and that things are not so ill with you and me as they might have been, is half owing to the number who lived faithfully a hidden life, and rest in unvisited tombs. [George Eliot, Middlemarch]

Eric Liddell

The C.S. Lewis Institute provides a fine biographical sketch of Eric Liddell, Scot, Christian missionary, and Olympic Gold Medalist. It gives context to Chariots of Fire and portrays a remarkable man.

I found the following interesting, particularly in view of the controversies surrounding the witness of Tebow and Jeremy Lin:
.... In the fall of 1921, Eric and his brother Robert played rugby for Edinburgh University. While only five-foot-nine and 155 pounds, Eric’s speed and determination made him an instant rugby star at the wing position. He was selected to play on the Scottish national team in 1922. He and his former schoolboy partner, Leslie Gracie, made a powerful “Gracie-Liddell Wing” combination. Over the course of his short rugby career, Eric played for Scotland in seven games and was on the winning side six times. The greatest win was against Wales, which Scotland hadn’t beaten since 1870. That win helped make Eric Liddell a hero among the working class of Scotland who admired the toughness and skill required to be a world-class rugby player.

Eric’s status as a Scottish national team rugby player and Scottish sprint champion gave him the platform that he would soon use to further the gospel of Jesus Christ. In the spring of 1923, one of Robert’s friends, D.P. Thomsen, was struggling to find a way to reach the working class men and miners of Scotland. Noticing the men’s passion for rugby, he thought to ask Eric if he would be willing to come to a meeting hall in Armadale and speak of his faith, though he knew that introverted Eric rarely talked openly about his Christian faith.

D.P. traveled to Edinburgh and went straight to the Liddells’ home. He was greeted by Robert; when asked if Eric would speak at an evangelistic meeting, Robert said, “I think you’d better ask him yourself.” A few minutes later, when Eric came in from a run, D.P. shared his vision. Would Eric address the men? Eric dropped his head for a time, reflected upon the question, and then replied, “All right—I’ll do it.” That response was to change the course of Eric’s life. In fact, the next morning, before he could second-guess himself, he received a letter from his sister sent from China weeks before; it ended with Isaiah 41:10, “Fear thou not; for I am with thee: be not dismayed; for I am thy God: I will strengthen thee; yea, I will help thee; yea, I will uphold thee with the right hand of my righteousness.” This confirmed his decision to use the platform of sports fame to share his faith openly. He would never look back and would proclaim his love for Jesus with enthusiasm and boldness in the days to come.

Liddell would write later about this moment of saying yes to D.P.’s request,
My whole life had been one of keeping out of public duties but the leading of Christ seemed now to be in the opposite direction and I shrank from going forward. At this time I finally decided to put it all on Christ—after all if He called me to do it, then He would have to supply the necessary power. In going forward the power was given me. Since then the consciousness of being an active member of the Kingdom of heaven has been very real.
In the next year, as Eric trained to qualify for the British Olympic team as a sprinter and finished his university degree, he also began speaking nearly every weekend at evangelistic rallies and churches. The more time Eric gave to sharing his faith, the faster he seemed to run. At the British Olympic Trials, in July 1923, he set a new British record of 9.7 seconds at 100 yards and also won the 220-yard distance in 21.6 seconds. Thus he had qualified for the 100-meter and 220-meter events at the 1924 Paris Olympics. .... [more]
Knowing & Doing Summer 2012 - Profile in Faith: Eric Liddell | Discipleship, Bible, Christian, Studies – C.S. Lewis Institute

Faith and freedom

Explaining why many Catholic institutions have gone to the courts to stop the HHS insurance mandates, John Garvey, President of Catholic University, uses an example from the Apocrypha. From "A Matter of Faith and Freedom":
A wonderful story in the second book of Maccabees describes the martyrdom of the old scribe Eleazar. It occurred during the Hellenizing campaign of Antiochus Epiphanes. He forced the Jews "to forsake the laws of their fathers and cease to live by the laws of God." Eleazar was ordered on pain of death to eat pork. He refused.

The men in charge of the sacrifice, who had known him for a long time, took him aside and offered to spare him if he would just eat something that looked like pork. "Such pretense is not worthy of our time of life," he said, "lest many of the young should suppose that Eleazar in his 90th year has gone over to an alien religion[.]" And so they killed him.

This is a story about religious freedom, and it has two points. The first is that we should put our duty to obey God's laws above our obligation to the state. (And it is cruel on the state's part to force people to commit sinful acts.) The second is that, quite apart from our own failure in forsaking God's laws, we do an additional wrong in leading the young to believe that this is acceptable.

I have found myself thinking a lot about Eleazar in the past few months, as we have looked for a way to escape the dilemma the Department of Health and Human Services has posed for The Catholic University of America with its mandated-services regulation. The regulation orders the university, in its student and employee health-insurance plans, to cover surgical sterilization, prescription contraceptives, and drugs that cause early-stage abortions at no added cost to the subscribers. If we fail to do this, we will have to pay a fine of $2,000 per full-time employee, or roughly $2.6-million per year.

The Catholic Church believes that married couples should be open to the possibility of new life, and that artificial interventions to prevent or terminate pregnancy are wrong. News coverage of the dispute has observed that many members of the church dissent from this teaching. Many of the Hellenized Jews in Judea went along with Antiochus's decrees, too. That division of opinion did not make the treatment of Eleazar any more liberal.

Like Eleazar, our university has been ordered by the government to do something it views as morally wrong. America, unlike the Seleucid Empire, has traditionally taken a tolerant view toward folks in that predicament. When West Virginia ordered the children of Jehovah's Witnesses to salute the flag (an act they viewed as sinful), the Supreme Court said, "If there is any fixed star in our constitutional constellation, it is that no official ... can prescribe what shall be orthodox in politics, nationalism, religion, or other matters of opinion or force citizens to confess by word or act their faith therein." .... [more]
A Matter of Faith and Freedom - Commentary - The Chronicle of Higher Education

Wednesday, June 13, 2012

Torment without end

Via Elizabeth Scalia, "Chesterton and Lewis on the Tyranny of Bloomberg":
G.K. Chesterton’s assessment of fundamental liberty:
“The free man owns himself. He can damage himself with either eating or drinking; he can ruin himself with gambling. If he does he is certainly a damn fool, and he might possibly be a damned soul; but if he may not, he is not a free man any more than a dog.” – Broadcast talk 6-11-35
Nanny Bloomberg is now going after popcorn and milk products, because he’s very enlightened, as is our self-congratulatory and appallingly smug 21st century.

And everything he is doing was understood in the 19th [sic] century as a fundamental tyranny. Particularly by Chesterton and C.S. Lewis, two pretty damned enlightened men.
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It may be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron’s cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end, for they do so with the approval of their consciences.” – C.S. Lewis” ....
Chesterton and Lewis on the Tyranny of Bloomberg

Flag Day

Tomorrow is Flag Day. A few years ago I posted this as something of a tutorial for customs regarding the flag which seem in danger of being lost:

Several years ago I was part of an exchange with secondary teachers from Japan. The Japanese teachers spent some time with us in Madison and in our schools and we did the same in Japan. As preparation for the experience, all of us spent some time 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 our 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 just 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

Freedom of worship but not of religion?

Terry Mattingly, reporting on a conference about religious freedom, calls attention to a troubling distinction between "freedom of worship" and "freedom of religion" appearing in the speeches of some of our political leaders - including the Secretary of State. Thomas Farr, quoted below, is director of the Berkley Center for Religion, Peace and World Affairs at Georgetown University.
.... Clinton’s speech contained repeated references to freedom of “worship,” but none to freedom of “religion.” She also argued that “people must be ... free to worship, associate, and to love in the way that they choose.”

Thus, the Secretary of State raised sexual liberation to the status of religion and other central human rights, said Farr. This evolving political doctrine is now shaping decisions in some U.S. courts.

“Powerful members of our political class are arguing,” he noted, “that there is no rational content of religion; that religious freedom means the right to gather in worship, but not to bring religiously informed moral judgments into political life; that religious freedom must be balanced by the right to love as one chooses, and that to make religious arguments against that purported right is unconstitutional.”

In other words, argued Farr and other speakers, there is more to America’s current debates about religious liberty than clashes between religious groups and the Obama White House over Health and Human Services regulations that require most religious institutions to offer health-insurance plans that cover sterilizations and all FDA-approved forms of contraception, including so-called “morning-after pills.”

The larger civic argument, however, focuses on whether government officials can decree that “freedom of worship” is more worthy of protection than “freedom of religion,” a much broader constitutional concept.

After all, the HHS mandate recognizes the conscience rights of a religious employer only if it has the “inculcation of religious values as its purpose,” “primarily employs persons who share its religious tenets” and “primarily serves persons who share its religious tenets.”

In other words, “freedom of worship” protects a nun when she prays for people with AIDS, but she may not be protected by “freedom of religion” when caring for non-Catholics with AIDS in a ministry that hires non-Catholics. .... [more]
Christianity Today: "Stop Dividing "Worship-Oriented" From "Service-Oriented," nearly 150 Religious Leaders Tell HHS:
.... In a letter sent Monday (June 11) to Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, the 149 religious leaders note that they hold differing views on “the moral acceptability” of birth control and on the viability of various administration proposals to allow faith-based groups to bypass the mandate for contraception and sterilization coverage.

But they said they share a strong objection to the language that defines which "religious" groups are eligible for an exemption, saying the definition creates a “two-class system” of religious groups: churches, which qualify under the wording of the exemption, and “faith-based service organizations,” which may or may not qualify.

"This two-class scheme protects those religious organizations focused on activities directed inward to a worship community while offering little religious freedom protection to the many religious organizations that engage in service directed outward,” the letter says.

The letter says that “both worship-oriented and service-oriented religious organizations are authentically and equally religious organizations. ... We deny that it is within the jurisdiction of the federal government to define, in place of religious communities, what constitutes true religion and authentic ministry.” ....
Another threat to religious liberty comes primarily from the political Right: Fears of ‘Creeping Sharia’ - Matthew Schmitz - NRO

tmatt.net » Blog Archive » Freedom of “worship” vs. “religion” — again, Christianity Today Liveblog: Stop Dividing "Worship-Oriented" From "Service-Oriented," Nearly 150 Religious Leaders Tell HHS

Monday, June 11, 2012

Passion in, duty out

In a very interesting article adapted from his book, The Juvenilization of American Christianity, Thomas E. Bergler asks "When Are We Going to Grow Up?" attributing much of the growth of evangelicalism to its "juvenilization." But there are also serious problems. From the article:
.... In the first stage, Christian youth leaders created youth-friendly versions of the faith in a desperate attempt to save the world. Some hoped to reform their churches by influencing the next generation. Others expected any questionable innovations to stay comfortably quarantined in youth rallies and church basements. Both groups were less concerned about long-term consequences than about immediate appeals to youth.

In the second stage, a new American adulthood emerged that looked a lot like the old adolescence. Fewer and fewer people outgrew the adolescent Christian spiritualities they had learned in youth groups; instead, churches began to cater to them. ....

Despite its obvious weaknesses, this juvenilized Christianity proved highly adaptive to cultural changes. It fared equally well in the buttoned-down 1950s and the psychedelic 1960s. Long before the 1960s counterculture alerted everyone in America to the "Generation Gap," white evangelicals were already highly skilled at adapting their message and methods to young people. The pioneers of YFC and Young Life paved the way for evangelicals to accept long hair, Christian rock, small groups, or any other cultural adaptations that might be needed to capture the attention of later generations. Some of the growth of conservative churches over the subsequent decades would come from this expertise in recruiting and retaining young people.

The final step in the process was the transformation of American adulthood itself. Older cultural conceptions of adulthood encouraged responsibility, self-denial, and service to others. In the first half of the 20th century, most people clearly entered adulthood in their teens or early 20s by virtue of getting married, getting a job, and having children. More recently, the passage to adulthood has been delayed and rendered more subjective for most middle-class Americans.

In what sociologist James Cote calls the new "psychological adulthood," the individual's "needs and wants" expand and his or her "obligations and attachments" contract. The seven deadly sins have been redefined: "pride has become self esteem … lust has become sexuality … envy is now channeled into initiative and incentive … sloth has become leisure."

Of course, many adults still value virtue and deplore vice. But they also increasingly view life as an unending journey of self-development. And the contemporary landscape through which they journey has many paths that can end in self-centeredness or even narcissism.

In short, at least some traits that should be included in Christian maturity have been decoupled from adulthood in post-1960s America, and this change has encouraged juvenilization. Indeed, it is likely that the juvenilization of American Christianity and the emergence of the new immature adulthood have mutually reinforced one another. We're all adolescents now.

Because of juvenilization, American Christianity is doing much better than it should be. Despite numerous cultural, legal, and institutional changes that should have led to religious decline, American churches remain about as full as they were 50 years ago, and most Americans continue to believe in a God who bears considerable resemblance to the Christian God. Why? ....

Youth ministries and juvenilization contributed to this surprising outcome by making the Christian life more emotionally satisfying. Passion was in, duty was out. ....

.... Juvenilization tends to create a self-centered, emotionally driven, and intellectually empty faith. In their landmark National Study of Youth and Religion, Christian Smith and his team of researchers found that the majority of American teenagers, even those who are highly involved in church activities, are inarticulate about religious matters. They seldom used words like faith, salvation, sin, or even Jesus to describe their beliefs. Instead, they return again and again to the language of personal fulfillment to describe why God and Christianity are important to them. The phrase "feel happy" appeared over 2,000 times in 267 interviews. ....

Today many Americans of all ages not only accept a Christianized version of adolescent narcissism, they often celebrate it as authentic spirituality. God, faith, and the church all exist to help me with my problems. Religious institutions are bad; only my personal relationship with Jesus matters. If we believe that a mature faith involves more than good feelings, vague beliefs, and living however we want, we must conclude that juvenilization has revitalized American Christianity at the cost of leaving many individuals mired in spiritual immaturity. .... [much more]
Christianity Today - When Are We Going to Grow Up? The Juvenilization of American Christianity