Sunday, June 27, 2021

Woolly-headed illiterates

After attending school in America she returned to Britain to discover she had been ill-prepared to write well. In The Telegraph today:
.... Students today can no longer take for granted the apparent luxury of being evaluated harshly and fairly, and with it, the potential for learning, improvement and excellence. This is because, with its genius for turning good things bad and true things false, woke ideology has decided that even basic standards of coherence and accuracy themselves are evidence of a white, male Euro-centric (and therefore bad) worldview. At a number of universities in Britain, good spelling, proper grammar and robust essay structure – not to mention concepts like facts, truth and argument – all now fall under suspicion. Continuing on in thrall to these devious non-ideas now risks turning us into a nation of woolly-headed illiterates. ....

We must make sure these ideas never gain the same supremacy in Britain [as in America]. For by rejecting standards and objective criticism, their proponents want the politics of identity to triumph over the challenge of learning. But in rejecting the whole concept of merit as still more evidence of racism, they seem to want to put as high a barrier as possible in the way of minorities and those from less privileged backgrounds. We must ensure that, unlike America, we don’t fall into a morass of intellectual dishonesty where woke nonsense, rather than actual quality and potential, is king.
Zoe Strimpel, "Why we must all resist the woke war on written English," The Telegraph, 27 June, 2021.

Friday, June 25, 2021

Room for the punctilious and the peculiar alike

On the 10th anniversary of his arrival in the United States Charles C.W. Cooke explains his love for this country:
.... When I first moved here, my favorite national holiday was July 4th, with its fireworks, its renaissance vibes, and its unabashed Americana. A decade later, my favorite holiday has become Thanksgiving. Zoom out into space and look back at the Earth. Where, and when, would you live if you had an unfettered choice? In my estimation, there is only one sensible answer to that question: In America, now. There is nothing at all wrong with our bitching and moaning all day about the government or the culture or this or that; indeed, as citizens, that is our right and our responsibility. But it is a great sin to do so absent context, and the reality is that Americans who are alive in 2021 have won the grand prize in the cosmic lottery. Every Thanksgiving, I think about this: Of all the people in all the world in all of human history, I got to live in America. To be ungrateful for this would be absurd.

And yes, I mean in America. Not “red” America or “blue” America or whatever other color America. Not the North or the South or the Pacific Northwest. America. Like everyone else, I have my personal political preferences, and yet I am convinced that an America without all 50 of the states would be a sadly diminished place. What a privilege it is to be able to move freely between New York, Miami, and New Orleans; between the Rocky Mountains, the lakes of Minnesota, and the Carolinian coasts; between Missouri barbecue, Texas steak, and Californian wine. This is a country that offers skiing and surfing, museums and rollercoasters, the Masters and the Daytona 500. It is a sprawling, diverse, rambunctious, wild sort of place, with room for the punctilious and the peculiar alike. Taken together, this country we call home is the greatest framework for freedom and flourishing that the world has ever known. .... (more)
"Ten Years in America," National Review, June 25, 2021.

Tuesday, June 22, 2021

On racism

I don't usually pay much attention to the Southern Baptist Convention's annual sessions. My Baptist tradition has a rather different history, particularly with reference to slavery. But this year I found their sessions very interesting, and found myself in entire agreement with "On The Sufficiency Of Scripture For Race And Racial Reconciliation," adopted overwhelmingly by the messengers voting:
WHEREAS, “All Scripture is inspired by God and is profitable for teaching, for rebuking, for correcting, for training in righteousness, so that the man of God may be complete, equipped for every good work” (2 Timothy 3:16-17); and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states, “All Scripture is totally true and trustworthy” (Article I); and

WHEREAS, “God created man in his own image” (Genesis 1:27); and

WHEREAS, “From one man [God] has made every nationality to live over the whole earth” (Acts 17:26); and

WHEREAS, In his prophetic vision John saw “a vast multitude from every nation, tribe, people, and language, which no one could number, standing before the throne and before the Lamb” (Revelation 7:9-10); and

WHEREAS, “Sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin, in this way death spread to all people, because all sinned” (Romans 5:12); and

WHEREAS, “Through faith [we] are all sons of God in Christ Jesus… There is no Jew or Greek, slave or free, male and female; since you are all one in Christ Jesus” (Galatians 3:26-28); and

WHEREAS, “God…has reconciled us to himself through Christ and has given us the ministry of reconciliation” (2 Corinthians 5:18); and

WHEREAS, The Baptist Faith and Message 2000 states, “Christians should oppose racism” (Article XV); now, therefore, be it

RESOLVED, That the messengers to the Southern Baptist Convention meeting in Nashville, Tennessee, June 15–16, 2021, affirm the sufficiency of Scripture on race and racial reconciliation; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we reaffirm our agreement with historic, biblically-faithful Southern Baptist condemnations of racism in all forms; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we reject any theory or worldview that finds the ultimate identity of human beings in ethnicity or in any other group dynamic; and be it further

RESOLVED, That we reject any theory or worldview that sees the primary problem of humanity as anything other than sin against God and the ultimate solution as anything other than redemption found only in Christ; and be it further

RESOLVED, We, therefore, reject any theory or worldview that denies that racism, oppression, or discrimination is rooted, ultimately, in anything other than sin; and be it further

RESOLVED, That, understanding we live in a fallen world, we reaffirm the 1995 Resolution On Racial Reconciliation On The 150th Anniversary Of The Southern Baptist Convention, which includes, “That we apologize to all African-Americans for condoning and/or perpetuating individual and systemic racism in our lifetime; and we genuinely repent of racism of which we have been guilty, whether consciously (Psalm 19:13) or unconsciously (Leviticus 4:27),” applying this disposition to every instance of racism; and be it finally

RESOLVED, We affirm that our reconciliation in Christ gives us the opportunity and responsibility to pursue reconciliation with others so that we can display and share the hope of the gospel with the world.
On The Sufficiency Of Scripture For Race And Racial Reconciliation

Monday, June 21, 2021

"A big society is a society for the promotion of narrowness"

From G.K. Chesterton's Heretics:
.... The man who lives in a small community lives in a much larger world. He knows much more of the fierce varieties and uncompromising divergences of men. The reason is obvious. In a large community we can choose our companions. In a small community our companions are chosen for us. Thus in all extensive and highly civilized societies groups come into existence founded upon what is called sympathy, and shut out the real world more sharply than the gates of a monastery. There is nothing really narrow about the clan; the thing which is really narrow is the clique. The men of the clan live together because they all wear the same tartan or are all descended from the same sacred cow; but in their souls, by the divine luck of things, there will always be more colours than in any tartan. But the men of the clique live together because they have the same kind of soul, and their narrowness is a narrowness of spiritual coherence and contentment, like that which exists in hell. A big society exists in order to form cliques. A big society is a society for the promotion of narrowness. It is a machinery for the purpose of guarding the solitary and sensitive individual from all experience of the bitter and bracing human compromises. ....
G.K. Chesterton, Heritics, "XIV. On Certain Modern Writers and the Institution of the Family."

Sunday, June 20, 2021

A turtle on a fence post

From a very good article about the newly elected president of the Southern Baptist Convention:
Have you ever wanted to be a turtle on a fence post?

If you answered “No,” that’s because you didn’t hear Pastor Ed Litton’s sermon at Redemption Church in Saraland, Ala., on June 6.

Pastor Litton was elaborating the third point in his three-point sermon entitled “After God’s Own Heart.” He said that author Alex Haley had a picture of a turtle on a fence post in his office. He said there was an inscription at the bottom of that picture that said, “If you see a turtle on a fence post, you know he didn’t get up there by himself.”

Litton delivered that line in a soft voice and followed it with a pregnant pause. Then, with his finger pointed heavenward, he said, “Oh that God would put you [his finger now pointed at the congregation] on a fence post in this community! That people would look at your life and say, ‘How’s that possible?’” In typical Southern Baptist preaching style, he was winding up to exhort his flock with the Good News in parallel structure:
How’s joy possible in such grief? How’s love possible in a world of hate? How’s satisfaction possible when there’s so many needs? Man, I’m gonna tell you what I’ve learned: When I don’t have enough, He [pointing heavenward again] is enough. When I couldn’t go on, He goes on.
And in that moment, as his voice reaches your ears, and his impassioned hand gestures reach your eyes, even if you aren’t poetically inclined, you want to be a turtle on a fence post. You want what Pastor Litton has — and he wants you to have it. .... (more, very interesting and very much worth reading)
Dominic Pino, "Southern Baptist Convention President Ed Litton Is a Turtle on a Fence Post," National Review.

Saturday, June 19, 2021

Auden liked it

A tweet brought me once again to this 1956 NYT review of J.R.R. Tolkien's The Return of the King. The reviewer was W.H. Auden and the third and final volume of LOTR had just been published. I have quoted from the review before, including a portion of this particular passage.
...[T]he situation in the War of the Ring is as follows: Chance, or Providence, has put the Ring in the hands of the representatives of Good, Elrond, Gandalf, Aragorn. By using it they could destroy Sauron, the incarnation of evil, but at the cost of becoming his successor. If Sauron recovers the Ring, his victory will be immediate and complete, but even without it his power is greater than any his enemies can bring against him, so that, unless Frodo succeeds in destroying the Ring, Sauron must win.

Evil, that is, has every advantage but one—it is inferior in imagination. Good can imagine the possibility of becoming evil—hence the refusal of Gandalf and Aragorn to use the Ring—but Evil, defiantly chosen, can no longer imagine anything but itself. Sauron cannot imagine any motives except lust for domination and fear so that, when he has learned that his enemies have the Ring, the thought that they might try to destroy it never enters his head, and his eye is kept toward Gondor and away from Mordor and the Mount of Doom.

Further, his worship of power is accompanied, as it must be, by anger and a lust for cruelty: learning of Saruman's attempt to steal the Ring for himself, Sauron is so preoccupied with wrath that for two crucial days he pays no attention to a report of spies on the stairs of Cirith Ungol, and when Pippin is foolish enough to look in the palantir of Orthanc, Sauron could have learned all about the Quest. His wish to capture Pippin and torture the truth from him makes him miss his precious opportunity.

The demands made on the writer's powers in an epic as long as The Lord of the Rings are enormous and increase as the tale proceeds—the battles have to get more spectacular, the situations more critical, the adventures more thrilling—but I can only say that Mr. Tolkien has proved equal to them. ....
I recently re-watched the movies. I think Jackson made a mistake when he made Saruman an ally rather than a rival of Sauron.

W.H. Auden, "At the End of the Quest, Victory," New York Times, January 22, 1956.

Wednesday, June 16, 2021

"To aggravate regret"

Via Patrick Kurp, Samuel Johnson on losing a friend:
The loss of a friend upon whom the heart was fixed, to whom every wish and endeavour tended, is a state of dreary desolation, in which the mind looks abroad impatient of itself, and finds nothing but emptiness and horrour. The blameless life, the artless tenderness, the pious simplicity, the modest resignation, the patient sickness, and the quiet death, are remembered only to add value to the loss, to aggravate regret for what cannot be amended, to deepen sorrow for what cannot be recalled. (The Idler #41)
Anecdotal Evidence: 'The Last Steps of an Inoffensive Life'

Tuesday, June 15, 2021

"He has not created me for naught"

In a high school commencement address Ryan Anderson quotes John Henry Newman:
God has created me to do Him some definite service. He has committed some work to me which He has not committed to another. I have my mission. I may never know it in this life, but I shall be told it in the next. I am a link in a chain, a bond of connection between persons. He has not created me for naught. I shall do good; I shall do His work. I shall be an angel of peace, a preacher of truth in my own place...if I do but keep His commandments. Therefore, I will trust Him, whatever I am.... He does nothing in vain. He knows what He is about. He may take away my friends. He may throw me among strangers. He may make me feel desolate, make my spirits sink, hide my future from me. Still, He knows what He is about.
“He Knows What He Is About”: Living a Life that Matters

Monday, June 14, 2021

Flag Day

As has become my custom on Flag Day I post this (almost forgot this year):

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

First posted in 2009

Sunday, June 13, 2021

"I pray that..."

This morning Tim Challies posted a portion of the prayer that "John Stott would use to begin his day":
Heavenly Father, I pray that I may live this day in your presence and please you more and more.

Lord Jesus, I pray that this day I may take up my cross and follow you.

Holy Spirit, I pray that this day you will fill me with yourself and cause your fruit to ripen in my life: love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.
A Brief, Daily, Trinitarian Prayer

Sunday, June 6, 2021

June 6, 1944

On June 6, 1944, American, Canadian, and British forces under the command of Dwight D. Eisenhower landed in Normandy to begin the final campaign to defeat the Nazis. Everyone knows the story of that day. The cost was very high. About 2,500 Americans were killed. The landing was successful and by the end of the day the Allies had moved beyond the beaches — but the war was far from over.

President Franklin D. Roosevelt led the nation in prayer:
Almighty God: Our sons, pride of our nation, this day have set upon a mighty endeavor, a struggle to preserve our Republic, our religion, and our civilization, and to set free a suffering humanity.

Lead them straight and true; give strength to their arms, stoutness to their hearts, steadfastness in their faith.

They will need Thy blessings. Their road will be long and hard. For the enemy is strong. He may hurl back our forces. Success may not come with rushing speed, but we shall return again and again; and we know that by Thy grace, and by the righteousness of our cause, our sons will triumph.

They will be sore tried, by night and by day, without rest — until the victory is won. The darkness will be rent by noise and flame. Men’s souls will be shaken with the violences of war.

For these men are lately drawn from the ways of peace. They fight not for the lust of conquest. They fight to end conquest. They fight to liberate. They fight to let justice arise, and tolerance and goodwill among all Thy people. They yearn but for the end of battle, for their return to the haven of home.

Some will never return. Embrace these, Father, and receive them, Thy heroic servants, into Thy kingdom.

And for us at home — fathers, mothers, children, wives, sisters, and brothers of brave men overseas, whose thoughts and prayers are ever with them — help us, Almighty God, to rededicate ourselves in renewed faith in Thee in this hour of great sacrifice. ....

And let our hearts be stout, to wait out the long travail, to bear sorrows that may come, to impart our courage unto our sons wheresoever they may be.

And, O Lord, give us faith. Give us faith in Thee; faith in our sons; faith in each other; faith in our united crusade. Let not the keenness of our spirit ever be dulled. Let not the impacts of temporary events, of temporal matters of but fleeting moment — let not these deter us in our unconquerable purpose.

With Thy blessing, we shall prevail over the unholy forces of our enemy. Help us to conquer the apostles of greed and racial arrogances. Lead us to the saving of our country, and with our sister nations into a world unity that will spell a sure peace — a peace invulnerable to the schemings of unworthy men. And a peace that will let all of men live in freedom, reaping the just rewards of their honest toil.

Thy will be done, Almighty God.


Saturday, June 5, 2021

In joy and felicity

From the 1662 Book of Common Prayer, a prayer from "At the Burial of the Dead":
ALMIGHTY God, with whom do live the spirits of those who depart hence in the Lord, and with whom the souls of the faithful, after they are delivered from the burden of the flesh, are in joy and felicity: We give Thee hearty thanks because it hath pleased Thee to deliver this our brother out of the miseries of this sinful world, beseeching Thee that it may please Thee, of Thy gracious goodness, shortly to accomplish the number of Thine elect, and to hasten Thy kingdom, that we, with all those who are departed in the true faith of Thy holy name, may have our perfect consummation and bliss, both in body and soul, in Thy eternal and everlasting glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

Thursday, June 3, 2021

The twilight bark

This reviewer at CrimeReads has no intention of seeing the new Disney film Cruella, but celebrates the 1961 animated feature One Hundred and One Dalmatians. She is totally uninterested in a backstory about how Cruella de Vil came to hate puppies, but she really liked the original movie. I think I'll watch it tonight.
One Hundred and One Dalmatians (which IS a crime film) is a timeless joy, and an aesthetic marvel. If you have seen it (or even if you haven’t) you probably know the gist, but here’s a deeper dive. The film is set in London in 1958, and tells the story of an affable dog named Pongo (voiced by Rod Taylor) who wants to start a family, and so concocts a plan to set up his human, a musician named Roger Radcliffe, with a young woman named Anita, who (more relevant to Pongo’s interests) just happens to own a beautiful female dalmatian named Perdita. The pairs fall in love and settle down together in a neat row home near Regents Park (with a housekeeper known as “Nanny”), and it’s not long before Perdita gives birth to puppies: fifteen.

But when the puppies are born in the wintertime, Anita is visited by an old acquaintance, Cruella de Vil (incomparably voiced by Betty Lou Gerson), who attempts to buy the puppies to have their skins made into fur coats. “My only true love, darling,” she tells Anita re: furs. “I live for furs, I worship furs.” But the Radcliffes and the Pongos refuse to hand over the babies, and so Cruella hatches a plan to steal them: getting the material for her coats as well as revenge.

When the Radcliffes and the Pongos realize that their puppies have been dognapped, the humans turn to Scotland Yard. But Pongo and Perdita instead turn to the dogs of London, spreading the word and asking for assistance through a continental barking chain called “The Twilight Bark.” .... (more)
Stopping for a Moment to Appreciate the Original 1961 film One Hundred and One Dalmatians