Monday, March 28, 2016


Via Rod Dreher, excerpts from a Jonathan Haidt column itself summarizing a study attempting to explain the "microagression" culture on many college campuses. From Haidt:
I just read the most extraordinary paper by two sociologists — Bradley Campbell and Jason Manning — explaining why concerns about microaggressions have erupted on many American college campuses in just the past few years. In brief: We’re beginning a second transition of moral cultures. The first major transition happened in the 18th and 19th centuries when most Western societies moved away from cultures of honor (where people must earn honor and must therefore avenge insults on their own) to cultures of dignity in which people are assumed to have dignity and don’t need to earn it. They foreswear violence, turn to courts or administrative bodies to respond to major transgressions, and for minor transgressions they either ignore them or attempt to resolve them by social means. There’s no more dueling.

Campbell and Manning describe how this culture of dignity is now giving way to a new culture of victimhood in which people are encouraged to respond to even the slightest unintentional offense, as in an honor culture. But they must not obtain redress on their own; they must appeal for help to powerful others or administrative bodies, to whom they must make the case that they have been victimized. It is the very presence of such administrative bodies, within a culture that is highly egalitarian and diverse (i.e., many college campuses) that gives rise to intense efforts to identify oneself as a fragile and aggrieved victim. ....
From the study (as quoted by Haidt. I have removed references.):
This is the great tragedy: the culture of victimization rewards people for taking on a personal identity as one who is damaged, weak, and aggrieved. This is a recipe for failure — and constant litigation — after students graduate from college and attempt to enter the workforce. ....

The prevailing culture in the modern West is one whose moral code is nearly the exact opposite of that of an honor culture. Rather than honor, a status based primarily on public opinion, people are said to have dignity, a kind of inherent worth that cannot be alienated by others. Dignity exists independently of what others think, so a culture of dignity is one in which public reputation is less important. Insults might provoke offense, but they no longer have the same importance as a way of establishing or destroying a reputation for bravery. It is even commendable to have “thick skin” that allows one to shrug off slights and even serious insults, and in a dignity-based society parents might teach children some version of “sticks and stones may break my bones, but words will never hurt me” – an idea that would be alien in a culture of honor. People are to avoid insulting others, too, whether intentionally or not, and in general an ethic of self-restraint prevails. ....

Microaggression complaints have characteristics that put them at odds with both honor and dignity cultures. Honorable people are sensitive to insult, and so they would understand that microaggressions, even if unintentional, are severe offenses that demand a serious response. But honor cultures value unilateral aggression and disparage appeals for help. Public complaints that advertise or even exaggerate one’s own victimization and need for sympathy would be anathema to a person of honor – tantamount to showing that one had no honor at all.

Members of a dignity culture, on the other hand, would see no shame in appealing to third parties, but they would not approve of such appeals for minor and merely verbal offenses. Instead they would likely counsel either confronting the offender directly to discuss the issue, or better yet, ignoring the remarks altogether.

A culture of victimhood is one characterized by concern with status and sensitivity to slight combined with a heavy reliance on third parties. People are intolerant of insults, even if unintentional, and react by bringing them to the attention of authorities or to the public at large. Domination is the main form of deviance, and victimization a way of attracting sympathy, so rather than emphasize either their strength or inner worth, the aggrieved emphasize their oppression and social marginalization. … Under such conditions complaint to third parties has supplanted both toleration and negotiation. People increasingly demand help from others, and advertise their oppression as evidence that they deserve respect and assistance. Thus we might call this moral culture a culture of victimhood because the moral status of the victim, at its nadir in honor cultures, has risen to new heights. .... [more]

Milton House

Arriving this morning in the mail: Milton (Images of America) by Doug Welch and the Milton Historical Society. I suspect anyone who has ever lived in Milton would enjoy it. I grew up there. The book begins with a brief history of the city and then there are five sections of captioned pictures: 1. Milton House, 2. Village of Milton, 3. Milton Junction, 4. Working Rails, and 5. Milton College.

So far I've only looked at the Milton House section. My parents took me to the pageant held when the museum first opened in 1955 and there are pictures of that pageant. In high school I volunteered Sundays as a guide in the museum and spent at least one summer, probably in 1962, as a paid guide (The wage was, I think, $1.25 an hour). On Sundays one guide didn't take a group through the entire tour - it was divided into sections with a different guide for each section. Prof "Si" Inglis always had the basement. The summer I worked there I recall going next door on hot days to Earl Young's Standard Station to buy pop out of the cooler in his front room. In my memory every day was hot that summer although cooler in the museum, especially in the basement and the tunnel. The regular staff at the museum included these folks. The caption is the one from the book.

During the early years of its operation, the Milton House was a seasonal museum offering tours from May through September each year. It was not until the completions of the 2006 expansion that the museum could be opened year round. Pictured here at the opening of the 1960 tour season are museum curators Rev John and Emily Randolph.

I believe "FitzRandolph" is correct, although "Fitz Randolph" may be right. (Note: I gather from a descendent that, for this generation, "Randolph" is correct, although both the previous and subsequent generations used "FitzRandolph.")

I anticipate enjoying the remaining sections of the book just as much as this one.

I believe the book can be purchased from the Milton Historical Society. An Amazon link for the book is here.

Sunday, March 27, 2016

"On the third day he rose"

In "The Day of Jesus' Resurrection According to Matthew," Paul Manuel takes up the question of the chronology of Easter. His conclusions:
.... Buried on Friday, before the Sabbath had begun, when did Jesus rise from the dead? The most common belief is that he rose early Sunday morning, but that does not seem to agree with his prediction of spending "three days and three nights" (72 hours?) in the grave. An examination of the different statements about the time of the resurrection, though, reveals considerable variation, forcing the reader to view them either as a host of contradictions or as simple approximations referring to parts of a three-day period. ....

How are we to understand such disparate statements about the time of Jesus' resurrection? These are all approximate references and, therefore, not contradictory. Their purpose is to direct attention to the third day, which is when Jesus rose from the dead. If there is any uncertainty which day of the week that momentous event occurred, Luke resolves the matter, for he identifies "the third day" with "the first day of the week" (i.e., Sunday). ....

The chronological markers in the gospel accounts enable modern readers to establish the day of Jesus' crucifixion and the day of his resurrection. According to those markers, Jesus died on Friday, the preparation day for the weekly Sabbath, and he rose on the third day, which was Sunday, the first day of the week. [more]
The argument, with end notes, is here.


Risen indeed!

Christ Jesus lay in death’s strong bands
   For our offenses given;
But now at God’s right hand He stands
   And brings us life from heaven.
Therefore let us joyful be
And sing to God right thankfully
   Loud songs of alleluia!

Here the true Paschal Lamb we see,
   Whom God so freely gave us;
He died on the accursèd tree—
   So strong His love—to save us.
See, His blood now marks our door;
Faith points to it; death passes o’er,
   And Satan cannot harm us.

No son of man could conquer death,
   Such ruin sin had wrought us.
No innocence was found on earth,
   And therefore death had brought us
Into bondage from of old
And ever grew more strong and bold
   And held us as its captive.

So let us keep the festival
   To which the Lord invites us;
Christ is Himself the joy of all,
   The sun that warms and lights us.
Now His grace to us imparts
Eternal sunshine to our hearts;
   The night of sin is ended.

Christ Jesus, God’s own Son, came down,
   His people to deliver;
Destroying sin, He took the crown
   From Death’s pale brow forever:
Stripped of pow’r, no more he reigns;
An empty form alone remains;
   His sting is lost forever.

Then let us feast this Easter Day
   On Christ, the bread of heaven;
The Word of grace has purged away
   The old and evil leaven.
Christ alone our souls will feed;
He is our meat and drink indeed;
   Faith lives upon no other!
       Alleluia! (Martin Luther, 1524)

It was a strange and dreadful strife
   When life and death contended;
The victory remained with life,
   The reign of death was ended.
Holy Scripture plainly saith
That death is swallowed up by death,
   Its sting is lost forever.

Christ Jesus Lay in Death’s Strong Bands

Saturday, March 26, 2016

A Holy Saturday kind of faith


.... Martin Luther said himself that Saturday was the day that God himself lay cold in the grave. Friday was death, Sunday was hope, but Saturday was that seemingly ignored middle day between them when God occupied a dirty grave in a little garden outside Jerusalem. Saturday is about waiting, about uncertainty, about not knowing what’ll happen. ....

So much of Christian faith is Saturday faith. ....

A medieval theologian, Anselm, once described the kind of faith that comes with Saturday—fides quaerens intellectum: “faith seeking understanding.” By that, he meant that faith isn’t something that arises after moments of understanding. Rather, faith is something that you cling to when understanding and reason lay dead. We don’t believe once we understand it—we believe in order to understand it. Saturday’s like that: offering a day of waiting, a day of ambiguity, a day when God is sovereign even if our ideas and theologies and expectations about him are not. It is the day that our ignorance is our witness and our proclamation. Truth is, our intellect will always be one step behind in our love of God. We don’t love God once we understand him; we love God in order to understand him. ....

At times, we are all like the two disciples on their way to Emmaus who were really close to Jesus but didn’t always know it. In Luke 24, two disciples walked away from Jerusalem, where they’d just seen their Lord and Master die on the cross. Leaving, dejected, upset, hopeless, and broken, to find the next stage in their lives and careers. Unbeknownst to them, Jesus had been resurrected and was actually walking alongside them on their way to Emmaus. The hope of Sunday hadn’t dawned on them yet. The Gospels tell us that, on their way to Emmaus, the disciples were “downcast.”

That experience is the kind of experience Saturday is all about. .... [more]
A. J. Swoboda is a pastor in Portland, Oregon. This is from his A Glorious Dark: Finding Hope in the Tension between Belief and Experience, excerpted in Christianity Today.

Friday, March 25, 2016

"In Thee is all my trust"

Oh Lord in Thee is all my trust.
Give ear unto my woeful cries.
Refuse me not, that am unjust,
But bowing down Thy heav'nly eyes,       
Behold how I do still lament
My sins wherein I do offend.
O Lord, for them shall I be shent,
Sith Thee to please I do intend?
Haste Thee, O Lord, haste Thee, I say,
To pour on me Thy gifts of grace
That when this life must flit away
In Heav'n with Thee I may have place
Where Thou dost reign eternally
With God which once did down Thee send,
Where angels sing continually.
To Thee be praise, world without end.
No, no, not so! Thy will is bent
To deal with sinners in Thine ire:
But when in heart they shall repent
Thou grant'st with speed their just desire.    
To Thee therefore still shall I cry,
To wash away my sinful crime.
Thy blood, O Lord, is not yet dry,
But that it may help me in time.

Thomas Tallis, "Oh Lord In Thee Is All My Trust," 1565
Tallis: Oh Lord In Thee Is All My Trust - YouTube

Good Friday

And they brought him to the place called Golgotha (which means Place of a Skull). And they offered him wine mixed with myrrh, but he did not take it. And they crucified him and divided his garments among them, casting lots for them, to decide what each should take. And it was the third hour when they crucified him. And the inscription of the charge against him read, “The King of the Jews.” [Mark 15:22-26, ESV]
Justin Taylor:
Written over 20 years ago and published in the Journal of the American Medical Association, this article goes into graphic detail about the physical pain that Jesus would have endured in his beatings and crucifixion....
Here is an excerpt from that article, "On the Physical Death of Jesus Christ" by William D. Edwards, Wesley J. Gabel, and Floyd E. Hosmer. The original article is substantially longer and detailed, with diagrams and ample citation. Our Lord's manner of execution was like that suffered by a great many others in the Roman world:
…. It was customary for the condemned man to carry his own cross from the flogging post to the site of crucifixion outside the city walls. He was usually naked, unless this was prohibited by local customs. Since the weight of the entire cross was probably well over 300 lb (136 kg), only the crossbar was carried. The patibulum, weighing 75 to 125 lb. (34 to 57 kg), was placed across the nape of the victim’s neck and balanced along both shoulders. Usually, the outstretched arms then were tied to the crossbar. The processional to the site of crucifixion was led by a complete Roman military guard, headed by a centurion. One of the soldiers carried a sign (titulus) on which the condemned man’s name and crime were displayed. Later, the titulus would be attached to the top of the cross. The Roman guard would not leave the victim until they were sure of his death. Outside the city walls was permanently located the heavy upright wooden stipes, on which the patibulum would be secured. In the case of the Tau cross, this was accomplished by means of a mortise and tenon joint, with or without reinforcement by ropes. To prolong the crucifixion process, a horizontal wooden block or plank, serving as a crude seat (sedile or sedulum), often was attached midway down the stipes. Only very rarely, and probably later than the time of Christ, was an additional block (suppedaneum) employed for transfixion of the feet.

At the site of execution, by law, the victim was given a bitter drink of wine mixed with myrrh (gall) as a mild analgesic. The criminal was then thrown to the ground on his back, with his arms outstretched along the patibulum. The hands could be nailed or tied to the crossbar, but nailing apparently was preferred by the Romans. The archaeological remains of a crucified body, found in an ossuary near Jerusalem and dating from the time of Christ, indicate that the nails were tapered iron spikes approximately 5 to 7 in (13 to 18 cm) long with a square shaft 3/8 in (1 cm) across. Furthermore, ossuary findings and the Shroud of Turin have documented that the nails commonly were driven through the wrists rather than the palms.

After both arms were fixed to the crossbar, the patibulum and the victim, together, were lifted onto the stipes. On the low cross, four soldiers could accomplish this relatively easily. However, on the tall cross, the soldiers used either wooden forks or ladders.

Next, the feet were fixed to the cross, either by nails or ropes. Ossuary findings and the Shroud of Turin suggest that nailing was the preferred Roman practice. Although the feet could be fixed to the sides of the stipes or to a wooden footrest (suppedaneum), they usually were nailed directly to the front of the stipes. To accomplish this, flexion of the knees may have been quite prominent, and the bent legs may have been rotated laterally.

When the nailing was completed, the titulus was attached to the cross, by nails or cords, just above the victim’s head. The soldiers and the civilian crowd often taunted and jeered the condemned man, and the soldiers customarily divided up his clothes among themselves. The length of survival generally ranged from three or four hours to three or four days and appears to have been inversely related to the severity of the scourging. However, even if the scourging had been relatively mild, the Roman soldiers could hasten death by breaking the legs below the knees (crurifragium or skelokopia). …. [the article pdf]
It was now about the sixth hour, and there was darkness over the whole land until the ninth hour, while the sun’s light failed. And the curtain of the temple was torn in two. Then Jesus, calling out with a loud voice, said, “Father, into your hands I commit my spirit!” And having said this he breathed his last. [Luke 23:44-46, ESV]
Dorothy L. Sayers on at least part of the meaning:
For whatever reason God chose to make man as he is — limited and suffering and subject to sorrows and death — he had the honesty and courage to take his own medicine. Whatever game he is playing with his creation, he has kept his own rules and played fair. He can exact nothing from man that he has not exacted from himself. He has himself gone through the whole human experience, from the trivial irritations of family life and the cramping restrictions of hard work and lack of money to the worst horrors of pain and humiliation, defeat, despair, and death. When he was a man, he played the man. He was born in poverty and died in disgrace and thought it well worthwhile. (The Man Born to be King, Dorothy L. Sayers)
And suffered far, far, move than we do or ever will.

(I have posted this material previously on Good Fridays.)

The Inklings: Good Friday, Between Two Worlds: On the Physical Death of Jesus

Thursday, March 24, 2016

"A new commandment I give to you..."

re-posted from 2014:

Various Christian denominations place greater or lesser emphasis on what is known as the Christian Year. I grew up in one that emphasized only Christmas and Easter, and observed Lent only because the local ministers' council cooperated in a Lenten series of services. Kevin DeYoung helpfully defines Maundy Thursday for people like me:
.... If you've never heard the term, it's not Monday-Thursday (which always confused me as a kid), but Maundy Thursday, as in Mandatum Thursday. Mandatum is the Latin word for "command" or "mandate", and the day is called Maundy Thursday because on the night before his death Jesus gave his disciples a new command. "A new commandment I give to you, that you love one another: just as I have loved you, you also are to love one another" (John 13:34).

At first it seems strange that Christ would call this a new command. After all, the Old Testament instructed God's people to love their neighbors and Christ himself summarized the law as love for God and love for others. So what's new about love? What makes the command new is that because of Jesus' passion there is a new standard, a new examplar of love.

There was never any love like the dying love of Jesus. It is tender and sweet (John 13:33). It serves (John 13:2-17). It loves even unto death (John 13:1). Jesus had nothing to gain from us by loving us. There was nothing in us to draw us to him. But he loved us still, while we were yet sinners. .... [more]
DeYoung, Restless, and Reformed: Maundy Thursday

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

“Intransigent historical claims”

From "Easter is not a Question Mark" by George Weigel at First Things
.... The grittiness of Lent, and the “intransigent historical claims” without which Easter makes no sense at all, should remind us that Christianity does not rest on myths or “narratives,” but on radically changed human lives whose effect on their times are historical fact. Within two and a half centuries, what began as a ragtag gang of nobodies from the civilizational outback had so transformed the Mediterranean world that the most powerful man in that world, the Roman emperor Constantine, joined the winning side. How did that happen?

It didn’t happen because of better myth-making. It happened because those first Christians met a young rabbi who promised that, should they believe in him, each of them would become “ a spring of water welling up to eternal life” [John 4:14]. Then came what seemed complete catastrophe: his crucifixion. But they met that teacher again as the Risen Lord Jesus Christ, and were infused by his Spirit. And after that, they didn’t sit around in the “presence of the question mark; rather, they told the truth of what they had “seen and heard” [cf. 1 John 1:1].

And thereby changed the world.
More about those "intransigent historical claims": "Is There a Witness to the Resurrection? Yes!" by William Lane Craig and Sean McDowell.
If the bones of Jesus were found, then Christianity would be false. Paul said, “If Christ has not been raised, your faith is worthless; you are still in your sins.” (1 Corinthians 15:17, NASB) Some religions may make untestable claims about reality, but Christianity makes claims about real events in history that can be tested. Let’s put it to the test! .... [more]
Easter is not a Question Mark | George Weigel | First Things, "Is There a Witness to the Resurrection? Yes!"

Monday, March 21, 2016

"Almost everything of Lewis is edifying and a pleasure to read."

One of the most remarkable aspects of the life of this book is that, even though it was not originally designed to be a single book, it had maintained its vitality far better than most other books of its time. Remarkably, it has sold quite a bit better in the twenty-first century than it did in Lewis’s day, when it already sold well. It has sold over three and a half million copies in English alone. So one major question I try to answer in my book is: what accounts for its unusual lasting vitality? It helps that Lewis always looked for timeless truths, as the idea of “Mere Christianity” (or the beliefs that almost all Christians have shared through the ages) illustrates. So the book is less dated than most books. Also Lewis was a brilliant communicator. He listened to how ordinary people talked and then translated his views into language they could understand. And even though he uses lots of arguments he always puts these in imaginative contexts that make them come alive. So he uses many more vivid analogies and metaphors than do most non-fiction writers. And he acts as a friendly companion and guide on a journey that he himself has taken from unbelief to belief. At the same time he does not draw attention to himself but leads the reader to see the challenging beauty of the core Christian message. .... [more]

Wednesday, March 16, 2016


Re-posted from 2013:

I don't mean to suggest that these are my favorite hymns, but rather that they are hymns I have discovered that I really like. I wasn't an actual discoverer — either I had been oblivious to them before or they were genuinely new to me. I tend to pay more attention to words than music, partly because I don't read music well, but also because Christian hymns need to be Christian. The words are important and as a worship leader they are what I notice first. I think in each of these the words are good and the words and music compliment each other well. [Clicking on the images will bring forth a readable enlarged version.]

My Shepherd Will Supply My Need is a version of the 23rd Psalm. There are many paraphrased versions of that psalm and I like others very much, especially the one often set to Crimond. The words for this one are by Isaac Watts [1674-1748] and the setting for them that I particularly like is one of those "folk hymns" collected in Southern Harmony. I am particularly fond of the words of the last verse which paraphrases KJV's "Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the LORD for ever" as:
The sure provisions of my God
Attend me all my days;
O may Thy house be my abode,
And all my work be praise.
There would I find a settled rest,
While others go and come;
No more a stranger, nor a guest,
But like a child at home.

The Sands of Time Are Sinking is a 19th century hymn that I discovered on the 9 Marks site, although it doesn't seem to be there now. It was originally there because Mark Dever's wife, Constance Dever, had written a new setting for the hymn as a present for him. Dever had indicated to her that he wanted it sung at his funeral. I think her music fits the words much better than older efforts. A performance of this version can be found on YouTube. The first verse:
The sands of time are sinking, 
The dawn of Heaven breaks;
The summer morn I’ve sighed for,
The fair, sweet morn awakes:
Dark, dark hath been the midnight,
But dayspring is at hand,
And glory, glory dwelleth in Immanuel’s land.

When I Can Read My Title Clear is another great Isaac Watts hymn with a theme not unrelated to Sands of Time. It is about the assurance of Heaven and the confidence that assurance brings as we face the vicissitudes of this life. "I bid farewell to every fear." The first two verses:
When I can read my title clear to mansions in the skies,
I bid farewell to every fear, and wipe my weeping eyes.
And wipe my weeping eyes, and wipe my weeping eyes
I bid farewell to every fear, and wipe my weeping eyes.

Should earth against my soul engage, and hellish darts be hurled,
Then I can smile at Satan’s rage, and face a frowning world.
And face a frowning world, and face a frowning world,
Then I can smile at Satan’s rage, and face a frowning world.

My Song is Love Unknown is a hymn I discovered at Ray Ortlund's site where he posted a beautiful YouTube performance. The hymn is from the 17th century, the music I like best is from the 20th. The first verse asks "O who am I that for my sake my Lord should take frail flesh and die?" and the last verse

Here might I stay and sing,
No story so divine;
Never was love, dear King!
Never was grief like Thine.
This is my friend, in whose sweet praise
I all my days could gladly spend.

Here is Love, Vast as the Ocean I found while planning a worship service that fell near St David's Day. I was looking for Welsh hymns and essentially stumbled across this one. It was written and composed in the late 19th century but became very popular in Wales during the great Welsh revival early in the 20th. I had never heard it before but choose it fairly often now when it appropriately fits the theme of a service. The last two verses:

Let me all Thy love accepting,
Love Thee, ever all my days;
Let me seek Thy kingdom only
And my life be to Thy praise;
Thou alone shalt be my glory,
Nothing in the world I see.
Thou hast cleansed and sanctified me,
Thou Thyself hast set me free.

In Thy truth Thou dost direct me
By Thy Spirit through Thy Word;
And Thy grace my need is meeting,
As I trust in Thee, my Lord.
Of Thy fullness Thou art pouring
Thy great love and power on me,
Without measure, full and boundless,
Drawing out my heart to Thee.

The words for Firmly I Believe and Truly are taken from John Henry Newman's poem "The Dream of Ge­ron­ti­us" and the music is by Ralph Vaughan Williams, my favorite 20th century composer who wrote settings for many hymns and much else besides. The words are a credo:

Firmly I believe and truly
God is Three, and God is One;
And I next acknowledge duly
Manhood taken by the Son.

And I trust and hope most fully
In that manhood crucified;
And each thought and deed unruly
Do to death, as He has died.

Simply to His grace and wholly
Light and life and strength belong,
And I love supremely, solely,
Him the holy, Him the strong.

Finally for now, Come Ye Sinners, Poor and Needy, another great hymn from the shape-note tradition, like my first selection, from Southern Harmony. A good performance can be found here.

Come, ye sinners, poor and needy,
Weak and wounded, sick and sore;
Jesus ready stands to save you,
Full of pity, love and power.

I will arise and go to Jesus,
He will embrace me in His arms;
In the arms of my dear Savior,
O there are ten thousand charms.

Come, ye weary, heavy laden,
Lost and ruined by the fall;
If you tarry till you’re better,
You will never come at all.


Let not conscience make you linger,
Not of fitness fondly dream;
All the fitness He requireth
Is to feel your need of Him.


James Madison

This day in 1751 was the birthday of James Madison (1751-1836), President, political philosopher, statesman, friend of liberty, "Father of the Constitution."
Wherever the real power in a Government lies, there is the danger of oppression. In our Governments, the real power lies in the majority of the Community, and the invasion of private rights is chiefly to be apprehended, not from the acts of Government contrary to the sense of its constituents, but from acts in which the Government is the mere instrument of the major number of the constituents. – Letter to Thomas Jefferson (1788)
We hold it for a fundamental and undeniable truth, “that Religion or the duty which we owe to our Creator and the Manner of discharging it, can be directed only by reason and conviction, not by force or violence.” The Religion then of every man must be left to the conviction and conscience of every man; and it is the right of every man to exercise it as these may dictate. This right is in its nature an unalienable right. It is unalienable; because the opinions of men, depending only on the evidence contemplated by their own minds, cannot follow the dictates of other men: It is unalienable also; because what is here a right towards men, is a duty towards the Creator. It is the duty of every man to render to the Creator such homage, and such only, as he believes to be acceptable to him. This duty is precedent both in order of time and degree of obligation, to the claims of Civil Society. Before any man can be considered as a member of Civil Society, he must be considered as a subject of the Governor of the Universe.... – Memorial and Remonstrance Against Religious Assessments (1785)
If men were angels, no government would be necessary. If angels were to govern men, neither external nor internal controls on government would be necessary. In framing a government which is to be administered by men over men, the great difficulty lies in this: you must first enable the government to control the governed; and in the next place oblige it to control itself. – Federalist Paper No. 51 (1788)
I live in a city named after Madison and, for twenty-two years, taught at James Madison Memorial High School.

Tuesday, March 15, 2016

Moral failure

Yesterday I was surprised to find the current Forbes magazine in my mailbox: the "30th Annual Almanac of Wealth." I have never subscribed to the magazine, am not wealthy, nor am I unusually interested in those who are, so its appearance was something of a mystery. Perhaps it was a premium unnoticed by me when I bought something online. Nevertheless I almost immediately found something interesting in a Steve Forbes column: a book review titled "Why They Stuck With Hitler." The book is The German War: A Nation Under Arms, 1939–-1945. Forbes writes that the book "brilliantly and with impressive nuance and texture deals with the astounding questions of how the most educated and cultured nation on earth could unloose such a murderous, barbarous and genocidal war and why most Germans—Nazis and non-Nazis alike—closed ranks around Hitler, even when it became clear the war was going to end disastrously." And "This is an extremely interesting and disheartening tale of a civilized people's descent into barbarism." From the review, the German Church:
.... A prominent Protestant, Bishop Wurm of Wurttemberg, faintheartedly protested the Nazi regime's policy of murdering "deformed" infants and the mentally ill by administering poisonous drugs or starving them to death, while Catholic Bishop Galen of Münster initially courageously and publicly condemned the practice. The death toll from this alone was well over 200,000. Yet Galen vigorously supported the invasion of the "Jewish Bolshevik" Soviet Union and refused any aid to Jews, even to those who had years before converted to Christianity, while Wurm privately wrote letters to the Reich in support of those converts. As this book makes clear, both the Protestant and the Catholic churches were guilty of moral failure.

A number of German soldiers and officials were uneasy or outright horrified by what was happening, but most did nothing about it. ....

Most German civilians were aware of the mass killing of the Jews and other atrocities through letters and photos sent to them by husbands, sons, brothers and friends, and from conversations when these men came home on leave.

Goebbels was a master at making the home front complicit in what was happening, first by noting Hitler's January 1939 "prophecy" that if the Jews launched another European war they would perish, and then letting events speak for themselves—the deportation of German Jews and the auctioning off of their property, along with what people learned from news sent by their relatives fighting on the Eastern Front. ....

Sunday, March 13, 2016

"A tangible sense of dread"

Tonight at 7:00 (CDT) Lifetime will have a new BBC TV dramatization of Agatha Christie's most successful book — "the best selling crime novel of all time" — originally published here as Ten Little Indians (1939) and soon thereafter as And Then There Were None.

I have a DVD of a 1945 film version of the story that I enjoy but this one may be even better. Both Channel Guide's list of the cast (including Aidan Turner, Toby Stephens, Charles Dance, Sam Neill, and Miranda Richardson), and a review at The Weekly Standard, "Isle of Retribution," persuade me to watch. From the review:
.... With twists and turns and double bluffs, it's a completely engrossing mystery. Ten people are invited to a party on an island. Ferried across the storm-tossed waves, they climb one by one to the mansion on the hill, establishing character by brief snippets of conversation. The bluff general. The effete dandy. The religious spinster. Fast-forward to dinner, and it becomes apparent that no one knows their host personally. Odd. But no matter, at least the food's good.

When the first guest drops dead, there is a tendency to think they really should have seen this coming: After all, a tangible sense of dread permeates the island. The shadowed halls, the tempestuous sea and stormy sky, the ghosts of guilt haunting the victims—it all builds to a nerve-wracking, claustrophobic atmosphere. After the second death, the characters start to piece it together. ....

Agatha Christie has an unfair reputation as a cozy novelist. In fact, she was very realistic about human frailty. Her stories bring violence to the center of ordinary life and show even the most respectable of people committing unspeakable crimes. Many adaptations of And Then There Were None attempt to soften its essential tragedy, offering up a happy, crowd-pleasing ending. This one, by focusing on the cost of death, on the weight of taking human life, may be more true to Dame Agatha's spirit than any campy Miss Marple flick and yet more moral than the brutal pulp fiction served up daily on our screens.

Tuesday, March 8, 2016

"The cloud clear'd away"

.... A Traveller on an open Common in such a Storm of Hail & Rain as we had this Morning would find his spirits cheered by seeing on the distant horizon, the Cloud clear'd away and the Sky looking sunny and cheerful. So you, I doubt not, can view the Sunshine gilding Your future prospect. And yours my dear Girl is a Sun which will never go down, but will get brighter & brighter with a Warmth & brilliance, of which now you can have no conception. I dare say you know & like Cowper. He, you know, speaks of "a Vault unsullied with a Cloud." Now therefore accustom yourself to think "the Scene around me is gloomy and darksome, but a friendly and, that a divine Hand of a kind and loving Saviour, is leading me on the Way He sees best for me, & in His own good time He will bring me into the Light.

As I know He is Truth itself, he cannot deceive me & He has promised to be a Shepherd full of kindness as well as Care to the Lambs of His flock. He would not let me suffer pain if He were not persuaded it would be for my benefit and I will therefore receive all and submit to it all He orders for me, as that which is sure to be more than made up to me. So that if more I have to bear now, the more I shall have to rejoice hereafter. ....
The post at Quaerentia explains how the letter was found and explains why Wilberforce would emphasize such matters when writing to a young girl.

Quaerentia :: A Sky Unsullied by Clouds: William Wilberforce gives hope to a 14 year old girl in pain

Sunday, March 6, 2016

"The flattery of knaves"

Via Power Line, a very good — and always relevant — passage from Burke:
Men are qualified for civil liberty in exact proportion to their disposition to put moral chains upon their own appetites, — in proportion as their love of justice is above their rapacity, — in proportion as their soundness and sobriety of understanding is above their vanity and presumption, — in proportion as they are more disposed to listen to the counsels of the wise and good, in preference to the flattery of knaves. Society cannot exist, unless a controlling power upon will and appetite be placed somewhere; and the less of it there is within, the more there must be without. It is ordained in the eternal constitution of things, that men of intemperate minds cannot be free. Their passions forge their fetters. (Edmund Burke, Letter to a Member of the National Assembly, May 1791)
And another quotation from the same source:

A word from Edmund Burke | Power Line, Those who have been once intoxicated with power, and have derived any kind of emolument from it, even though but for...

Friday, March 4, 2016

March 4, 1861

.... In your hand, my fellow countrymen, and not in mine, is the momentous issue of civil war. The government will not assail you. You can have no conflict without being yourselves the aggressors. You have no oath in Heaven to destroy the government, while I shall have the most solemn one to preserve, protect, and defend it… We are not enemies, but friends. We must not be enemies. Though passion may have strained, it must not break our bonds of affection. The mystic chords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave, to every living heart and hearthstone, all over this broad land, will yet swell the chorus of the Union, when again touched, as surely they will be, by the better angels of our nature.

Thursday, March 3, 2016

"Not things of the same kind"

In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God.
The same was in the beginning with God. All things were made by him;
and without him was not any thing made that was made.
John 1:1-3
“And [we believe] in one Lord Jesus Christ,
the only-begotten Son of God, begotten of His 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….”
Nicene Creed
ONE OF THE CREEDS says that Christ is the Son of God "begotten, not created"; and it adds "begotten by his Father before all worlds." Will you please get it quite clear that this has nothing to do with the fact that when Christ was born on earth as a man, that man was the son of a virgin? We are not now thinking about the Virgin Birth. We are thinking about something that happened before nature was created at all, before time began. "Before all worlds" Christ is begotten, not created. What does it mean?

We don't use the words begetting or begotten much in modern English, but everyone still knows what they mean. To beget is to become the father of: to create is to make. And the difference is this. When you beget, you beget something of the same kind as yourself. A man begets human babies, a beaver begets little beavers, and a bird begets eggs which turn into little birds. But when you make, you make something of a different kind from yourself. A bird makes a nest, a beaver builds a dam, a man makes a wireless set—or he may make something more like himself than a wireless set: say, a statue. If he is a clever enough carver, he may make a statue which is very like a man indeed. But, of course, it is not a real man; it only looks like one. It cannot breathe or think. It is not alive.

Now that is the first thing to get clear. What God begets is God; just as what man begets is man. What God creates is not God; just as what man makes is not man. That is why men are not Sons of God in the sense that Christ is... They may be like God in certain ways, but they are not things of the same kind. ....
C.S. Lewis, Mere Christianity

Wednesday, March 2, 2016


“Push back against the age as hard as it pushes against you. What people don’t realize is how much religion costs. They think faith is a big electric blanket, when of course it is the cross.”
Flannery O’Connor, The Habit of Being: The Letters of Flannery O’Connor
Quotes by Flannery O’Connor | Quotes

Tuesday, March 1, 2016

E.C. Bentley

Once upon a time I collected early editions of detective novels that historians of the genre considered important. I bought E.C. Bentley's Trent's Last Case (1913) from a British bookseller sometime in the '70s. Bentley was perhaps G.K. Chesterton's closest friend and succeeded GKC as President of the Detection Club even though this was the only detective novel he had written. Bentley later wrote a prequel and a number of short stories featuring Trent. Today the Facebook G.K. Chesterton site linked to "Trent’s Last Case by E. C. Bentley: First Among Mysteries?" from which:
My copy
.... But that one mystery, that single contribution to the genre of detective fiction, was hailed by Chesterton, Christie, and Sayers as, perhaps, the single best mystery story ever written. High praise indeed. Though Bentley’s first mystery, it featured the last mystery of his detective. And though President Bentley swore that he would defend the principle of detectives detecting crimes using the wits bestowed upon them by their creators, his own Trent’s Last Case could be seen as breaking that rule. For throughout the twists and turns of its scintillating plot, the impotence, instead of the omnipotence, of human reason is revealed. ....

Trent’s Last Case is not a mystery story that exposes the mystery maker as much as it exposes the mystery story itself. The book is a romping and riveting and rhetorical parody leading to the Golden Age of detective literature. Trent is not the keen amateur who sidesteps and blindsides the dunderheaded professionals. He pursues criminals not out of a brooding sense of justice, but because he finds it an engaging lark. Trent is a man that has a brain in his head, but he also has a heart as big as his head. By turning the world of detective fiction upside down with Trent’s Last Case, E.C. Bentley was one of the first mystery authors to place an innovative importance on duping readers through a series of false conclusions and multiple solutions, rather than bedazzling them with gymnastics of reason that hit the truth with unerring precision. [more]
Bentley may have been been just as well known for the Clerihew:
A clerihew is a whimsical, four-line biographical poem invented by Edmund Clerihew Bentley. The first line is the name of the poem's subject, usually a famous person put in an absurd light.
For example:
The art of Biography
Is different from Geography.
Geography is about maps,
But Biography is about chaps.
Sir Humphrey Davy
Abominated gravy.
He lived in the odium
Of having discovered sodium. more
Trent’s Last Case by E. C. Bentley: First Among Mysteries? - Crisis Magazine, Edmund Clerihew Bentley Poems - Famous poet at allpoetry

Stepping through a door

From First Things: "When Toward Evening, Light...." by Gary Whitby:
What is death but stepping through a door,
then onto summer lawns, with fathers waiting
or mothers chiding, “Why were you so late?”
—the clouds around their feet a billowed flooring

of golden cumulus reflecting more
of them than moon could manage, fallen sensate
into star-thronged eyes by a garden gate
when they were young.

And now that greeny roar
is gone. Now this: the tree, the swing, your dad
full-bellied still, your mother’s soaring smile
a wing; your brother racing from the house
and shouting “It’s my turn,” no longer sad

about his death.

And for a little while,

or ever, love is all that time allows.
Perhaps, ...or something better.

When Toward Evening, Light.... by Gary Whitby | Articles | First Things

On St. David's Day

From 2014

Every American knows that St Patrick's Day comes in March. Far fewer are aware of St David's Day (March 1), the national day of Wales. Both my father and mother had ancestors who were Welsh and — although I've only been to Wales twice — that ancestry has provided me with a certain unearned pride that grows the more I learn about the land. Today, on his blog, Sean Curnyn posts about the new release of a 1957 recording "Music from the Welsh Mines" by the Rhos Male Voice Choir. That site has links to various places where the music can be purchased. I've just ordered a copy but, since it will come from the UK, I won't have it by this weekend. Part of Curnyn's persuasive description:
.... Below is embedded a YouTube clip that has some samples from the old recording, but its availability should not deter anyone from buying the new release which is substantially cleaned-up and enhanced in terms of sound quality. ....

The clip...below features this Rhos Male Voice Choir singing the very poignant Welsh national anthem, “Mae Hen Wlad Fy Nhadau” (“Land of my Fathers”) followed by two liturgical hymns, “Ave Verum” and “Laudamus.” The fourth and final tune in the clip is “Myfanwy,” an old Welsh ballad of lost love, which, whenever I hear a fine rendition—as this one most certainly is—I am quite willing to declare is simply the most devastating song ever composed, in any language, by any human, anywhere. ....

Every track on the album is astounding in its way, including another Welsh love lament titled “Ar Doriad Dydd” (“On the break of day”), the exceedingly haunting rendition of the Welsh hymn “Tydi a Roddaist” (“O Lord, who gave the dawn its glow”), and about as affecting a musical performance of the 23rd Psalm (in English) as one need ever hear during one’s life on this old earth. ....

I will fly the Red Dragon on March 1st and I will probably watch A Run for Your Money (1949), one of my favorite movies involving the Welsh: a comedy, with Welsh singing and harp playing, and a very young Alec Guiness. Part of Wikipedia's plot summary:
Two Welsh coal miners from Hafoduwchbenceubwllymarchogcoch, David 'Dai Number 9' Jones (Donald Houston) and Thomas 'Twm' Jones (Meredith Edwards), win a contest run by the Echo newspaper.... The prize is 100 pounds each, plus the best seats for an important rugby union match between Wales and England at Twickenham. For the naive Welshmen, this is their first trip to England.

They are supposed to be met at Paddington station by Whimple (Alec Guinness), a gardening columnist on the paper, but they miss each other. ....
And I may watch Zulu, too, if only to hear them sing "Men of Harlech."

Music from the Welsh Mines – Rhos Male Voice Choir | The Cinch Review