Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Christless Christianity vs. Humanism

What happens when a well known atheist Christopher Hitchens was recently interviewed by a liberal Unitarian minister who isn't even sure of the existence of God? Hilarity and irony.

Here is one of the more interesting passages from the interview:

Q: (Agnostic pastor) The religion you cite in your book is generally the fundamentalist faith of various kinds. I’m a liberal Christian, and I don’t take the stories from the scripture literally. I don’t believe in the doctrine of atonement (that Jesus died for our sins, for example). Do you make and distinction between fundamentalist faith and liberal religion?

A: (Atheist Hitchens) I would say that if you don’t believe that Jesus of Nazareth was the Christ and Messiah, and that he rose again from the dead and by his sacrifice our sins are forgiven, you’re really not in any meaningful sense a Christian.

The second page of the interview is the best, as Hitchens goes after the agnostic newager about why she bothers with Christianity at all, since it is of little to no practical value compared to humanism.

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The Ethics of Freedom

The Ethics of Freedom was one of the most challenging books I’ve ever read. It is difficult to summarize a book so full of ideas, particularly ideas that are not discussed widely within the church.

Ellul argues that man is not free in his natural state. Freedom is illusion, and though man seeks to attain it, he is unable to bear it and instinctively turns back to enslavement. Man may only be free through Christ—but even this is difficult, as it pits man and Christ against the natural order.
This idea is not necessarily a novel one in Christian theology, but the implications of the argument as expressed by Ellul are novel and compelling.

Ellul does not view Christian faith as the personal devotional faith so rampant through American evangelicalism, but instead it is a challenge to live in freedom and to boldly evangelize and to reject the power structures inherent in the fallen order—what he calls the ‘order of necessity.’

I've quoted Ellul several times on this blog already, and it is clear that his ethics are unique and either ignored, or rejected by the modern church. Ellul is radically opposed to the power of the nation state and believes the only meaningful restraint is through Anarchism. He also rejects the use of violence for the Christian. Ellul's perspective on work, too, is unique, as he does not believe the Bible stresses the importance of work, outside of the necessity of it. This is perhaps the most difficult aspect of his ethics for me to agree upon.

The book, as I said is difficult, but certainly worthwhile, as it will challenge your understanding of the Christian faith in ways that you may never otherwise encounter. That being said, I recommend starting with some of his shorter works first.

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Jacques Ellul on Anarchism

Jacques Ellul was a Christian anarchist--a strange combination to be sure. Here is his explanation of why he was an anarchist, and why the Christian ought to be. I am not wholly convinced of his position, but as much of what he has to say, I find it very persuasive.

"...for most men today the involvement which is most useful, and which best expresses Christian freedom, is involvement in anarchy. I am well aware of all the arguments that can be brought against this. I know that Calvin viewed it as the one orientation which cannot be accepted. I realize that there are texts in the Bible which tell us that authority comes from God. Nevertheless, in my opinion, Calvin's judgment relates to the circumstances of his own time and the passages in the Bible are not contrary to my thinking, paradoxical though it may seem to be.

What reasons drive me to this view? I certainly do not say that it seems to me to be a direct expression of Christian freedom. What leads me in this direction is the constitution and development of the modern state. All specialists agree that we now have to speak of the nation state, i.e., the state which absorbs into itself the entire life of the nation. They also agree that the state is bureaucratic, i.e., abstract and anonymous. It is authoritarian, even when democratic. It is arbitrary, for no state observes rules and constitutions. It is universal. It wants adoration; no state can really govern today without obtaining the adherence of the heart and the emotional support of the masses. It knows neither limit nor humanity.

These characteristics, which have often been analyzed, mean that in certain circumstances--and again I am not trying to lay down what should be an intrinsic or permanent Christian attitude--the state in any country, no matter what may be its form, whether democratic or dictatorial, new or popular, is in fact the chief danger known to man, whether from the material standpoint or from the spiritual standpoint.

The danger is not the absence of authority or even the misuse of authority. Calvin could see it thus because in his place and time, both in France and in Germany, the danger was indeed anarchy, the weakness of authority, and the unleashing of the passions of the mob. In our day the exact opposite is the case. For when the mob gets out of hand and revolts today the final result is always the creation of an even more powerful state.

In this area the only danger known to man in our age is the tendency of the state to become absolute in every field. This is aggravated by the fact that this power which tends to become absolute is set in a technological society, i.e., in a society which provides the state with a fantastic number of means. The state is totalitarian, not because of totalitarian doctrines, but because of the vast array of means, e.g., in planning, economic and administrative management, forecasting, investigation, control, research, inquiry, and psychological action.

Every modern state is totalitarian. It recognizes no limit either factual or legal. This is why I maintain that no state in the modern world is legitimate. No present-day authority can claim to be instituted by God, for all authority is set in the framework of a totalitarian state. This is why I decide for anarchy.

We must be more precise, however, in two respects. The first has to do with the common accusation brought against anarchy. This is that it is too utopian and idealistic. No society can last in conditions of anarchy. This is self-evident, and I am in full agreement. But my aim is not the establishment of an anarchist society or the total destruction of the state. Here I differ from anarchists. I do not believe that it is possible to destroy the modern state. It is pure imagination to think that some day this power will be overthrown. From a pragmatic standpoint there is no chance of success.

Furthermore, I do not believe that anarchist doctrine is the solution to the problem of organization in society and government. I do not think that if anarchism were to succeed we should have a better or more livable society. Hence I am not fighting for the triumph of this doctrine.

On the other hand, it seems to me that an anarchist attitude is the only one that is sufficiently radical in face of a general statist system. For there can be no question of being able to overcome the system by changing it from within. The failure of Lenin, Castro, and others is all too evident. The system absorbs those who think they can utilize it. nor can there be any question of finding a modus vivendi or achieving attenuations. It has been demonstrated how a liberal state becomes an authoritarian state. The course is set and no accommodation will be either lasting or sufficient.

In face of this absolute power, only an absolutely negative position is viable. What we have in mind is the attitude that conscientous objectors take on a specific point, and not without good reason. In the present set-up the anarchist attitude of a total refusal of validity or legitimacy to any authority of any kind seems to me to be the only valid and viable one. The point is not to enforce a particular view of society but to establish a counterbalance, a protest, a sign of cleavage. In face of an absolute power only a total confrontation has any meaning.

When we speak of dialogue with the sovereign, it seems to me that this can be definitely initiated only on the basis of the greatest possible intransigence, for power today is completely alien to any real discussion. It is true that discussion is allowed within the system. But the quarrels between right and left seem to me completely futile, for in every possible way they simply lead to an enhancement of the power of the state.

Democracy is a mere trap with the party system as it is and a bureaucracy that cannot be altered. Discussion may go on about taxes and the improvement of social services. But power is totally deaf to the individual, indifferent to the interests of freedom, and ignorant of the true concerns of the nation. Only a radical opposition, i.e., an attack on the root of the situation, can engage it in authentic dialogue.

The second point that I wish to clarify has to do with concrete organization. What we have in mind is a radically negative attitude to the validity of any undertaking of the modern state. This means on the one side that it is possible but by no means necessary to associate with an anarchist group. This is good if Christians can bring new blood, and useful and serious contacts are possible. On the other hand, it is clear from our first point that the Christian will always be in an ambiguous position in any such group.

It must also be stressed that this is not the only possibility of anarchist action. Links can also be forged with situationist and pacifist groups. The actions entered into can also be of very different kinds, e.g., ideological action, propaganda, direct action, refusal to vote in elections, conscientious objection, refusal to pay taxes, and so forth. This is where each individual must decide for himself. The essential thing is the decision to challenge the modern state, which without this small group of protesters will be checked by neither brake, value, nor reason."

----- The Ethics of Freedom, pages 395-398
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Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Keynes Versus Hayek Rap

I'm not one to enjoy rap music, but here's one I really enjoyed.



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Jacques Ellul on Work

"Is there really any job that is more independent than others? To become a workman is to bind oneself hand and foot. To be an executive in a big corporation is certainly to make a lot of money but it involves a personal bondage that can be worse than that of the ordinary employee. Finding a job which will give the maximum of free time and personal initiative and the minimum of external control is by no means easy. Such jobs still exist, but their number diminishes from year to year. ----- The Ethics of Freedom, page 456

"Our age is characterized by non-meaning. All psycho-sociologists agree ultimately that the work we do is marked by this fault. It makes no sense. It has no obvious value of its own. We have on the one side the dividing up of tasks, monotony, and the production of articles of no evident utility, while on the other side we find a break with matter, then with the machine, then a break between the function of thought and that of execution, the growth of an enormous labor organization and bureaucracy, a mass of paper work, often with no recognizable content, for every conceivable function, and finally the wastage of giving complex and highly advanced training to men who are the entrusted with jobs far below their competence. These things, and many others, contribute to the fact that work has no meaning in modern society.

It is simply a way of making a living. Now we may allow that this is not bad in itself. Nevertheless, man needs some additional justification for something on which he spends most of his time and his creative powers. Hence he suffers from this lack of meaning. He feels that he has become a machine which performs meaningless acts whose relation to other acts and to the rest of his life is not perceived.

One of the tragic questions which parents with children in their upper teens confront today is the question: "Why do we have to work? What is the point of it?" Unless one is prepared to exalt work as such, it is hard to give any reasonable answer to this question in the actual situation of work today. No explanation is adequate. None can satisfy a critical mind." --- The Ethics of Freedom, page 461




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Jacques Ellul on Money

Sociologist and theologion, Jacques Ellul has some relevant observations regarding money. Though he does not raise the cause, namely inflation, he recognizes its consequence. He also recognizes the effects of government control over money.

"Money and its possession and use always have meaning. Is not this self-evident? Yet it is not as certain as all that. Economists and sociologists have noted a change in the attitude to money. People recognize that there is now no point in being economical, in building up capital, in looking ahead. Economizing? What sense does this make when prices keep going up and the value of money constantly falls? Capital? What is the point of going without things to build up a reserve when there is an increasing socialist trend, when more and more funds are held collectively, when capital is increasing social and individual capital is threatened and might in the long run be confiscated? Money is simply a thing in transit.

This does not mean, of course, that the power of money has decreased. Not at all! But it no longer has any meaning in itself. It is becoming either an instrument of social power and prestige (if one has enough of it) or a means of consumption. It is linked to consumer growth.

Psychologists and sociologists, however, tell us that this is not enough to satisfy modern man. Modern man finds no happiness in high consumption. Affluence grants him a moment of pleasure bot over a long period it satiates him. The pleasure it gives is fleeting. Consuming does not fill his life. He wants something else." The Ethics of Freedom, page 462-463

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Priorities

"We tend to bond to all the wrong things. Picture a four-lane highway, two lanes headed to heaven and two lanes to hell. Alongside one another a Ford and Chevy are driving to heaven, and on the other side of the road a Ford and Chevy are heading the other way. If the guy in the heaven-bound Ford beeps and waves at the other Ford and periodically glares at the guy in the Chevy headed the same direction he is, his priorities are seriously skewed."

Doug Wilson, The Case For Classical Christian Education, pg. 196

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Monday, January 25, 2010

Our Food From God

I discovered a link to a 2002 Touchstone Magazine article while digging around the comments on Doug Wilson's blog. The article is entitled "Our Food From God" and is a Christian perspective on factory farms.

This is the best and most comprehensive Christian perspective I've seen regarding the un-Christian treatment of animals in factory farms. I commend the piece to you.

This isn't the most pressing issue in the church by any means, but it is symptomatic of the church's pragmatism and indifference to matters of Christian ethics--which is one of the most pressing issues in the church. Christians are called to live as Christians. Treating animals without regard to the manner in which they were created, or without regard to the manner in which God demands us to relate to them is "nothing less than contempt for the God who created them."

Also of note is a book review by the same writer of this article, also at Touchstone. The book is entitled Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. I've added it to my reading list.

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Christian Colleges

"The American landscape is covered with Christian colleges, but these colleges (overwhelmingly) have two major problems... From the brochures, it would be fair to conclude that the purposeof attending evangelical Christian college is to ride horses, eat pizza, and make lifetime friends. In other words, it was hardly a clarion call to academic discipline, integrity, and hard work. At least one college I know of has a Dean of Fun."

Doug Wilson The Case For Classical Christian Education pg. 90

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Friday, January 22, 2010

Arguments For Christians in Public Schools

"...one of the most common arguments in favor of sending Christian children to the government schools is what might be called the "salt and light" argument. Our children are having a good influence there--maybe not on the institution as a whole, but they still have an evangelistic presence. A few quick answers. First, the argument is not true. The unbelievers are having a far more profound impact on our children than our children have on them. Secondly, evangelism is not a duty to be undertaken without training and teaching. Parents use this as a reason, but they acknowledge the need for preparation to be salt and light in other settings. Who sends their kids to Vacation Bible School run by the Mormons in order that they might be salt and light? Who sends their eight-year-old to India to be a missionary? The reason they do not is because training, preparation, and education are necessary in order to be salt and light. Preparation is necessary.

Other parents settle for a good deal less. They point to the (indisputable) evidence that some Christian kids survive their experience in the government schools. This is quite true, but it is also a perverse argument. People survive plane crashes, too, and cancer. This is not an argument for them. There is no point to playing a game when all you are going to do is play defense."

Doug Wilson The Case For Classical Christian Education pg. 59

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The Democratic Impulse and Judgment

"The ultimate reason why the democratic impulse is so strong--why we resist such differences--is that the sinful heart resents the final discrimination made in the judgment of God when He separates the sheep from the goats. Spelling tests smack of the Last Day. The way we manage our schools shows how, deep down, we would really like to abolish the Great White Throne Judgment. This resistance extends from the democratic government school system down to the most trivial awards ceremony. And judging from our awards ceremonies, many modern educators do not want God to separate the sheep from the goats. They want him to hand out participant ribbons to all."

Doug Wilson, The Case For Classical Christian Education page 77

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Christians in Public Schools

"If two men were building a house together, but they held tightly to differing sets of blueprints, it would not be to the point to say that they still had much in common. They both own hammers, saws, nails, carpenter's belts, and so on, and let us say that both of them were of comparable competence. They would soon come to blows if they persisted in trying to build two different houses on the same site. If one wanted a split-level ranch house and the other wanted a beach bungalow, everything they had in common would be irrelevant. But this is exactly the tension in every secular classroom where Christian children attend. One builder wants to further the process of evolution, and the other wants to develop the image of Jesus Christ in students. The only way to keep the peace is for one of the builders to surrender his blueprints. Thus far, except where Christians have removed their children, the surrendering has been done by the Christians."

Doug Wilson The Case For Classical Christian Education pg. 50-51

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Blasphemy Laws

"Every culture has blasphemy laws. They are not always called that, but no society allows citizens to rail against the reigning deity. In our pluralistic times, these blasphemy laws are called "hate crimes" legislation, among other euphemisms, but they are really religious protections to keep the reigning god, demos, from being blasphemed."

Doug Wilson, The Case For Classical Christian Education pg. 73

NOTE: "Demos" is greek for the populace, or the masses, and relates in the context of the quote to democracy, or egalitarianism.

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Thursday, January 21, 2010

On Second Thought

I briefly had a post concerning the Supreme Court's decision regarding campaign financing by corporations on my blog. I have since reconsidered it and removed it. Those of you who subscribe via RSS probably saw the post. My initial reaction was against corporate power and interest, which I still oppose. But we must recognize the right to free speech, even when we disagree with the voices and messages it allows.

I do believe corporations have far too much influence upon America and our government, but infringing upon the free speech of corporations means transgressing the laws that we are all meant to respect and uphold.

Rather than limit corporate freedom of speech, we ought to limit government's ability to fulfill the interests of corporations and bestow blessings upon the few at the expense of the many.

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Chesterton's Revolution, Part II

Chesterton's solution is revolutionary. I quote it at length:

"If other things are against it, other things must go down. If landlords and laws and sciences are against it, landlords and laws and sciences must go down. With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization. Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home: because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution."

This is a radical solution, yet is it not fundamentally human?

He concludes, "That little urchin with the gold-red hair, whom I have just watched toddling past my house, she shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her hair shall not be cut short like a convict's; no, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be hacked about and mutilated to suit her. She is the human and sacred image; all around her the social fabric shall sway and split and fall; the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come rushing down, and not one hair of her head shall be harmed."

My first reaction was, "Amen!" But as I reflected further, I realized the revolutionary nature of his resolution may be worse than the disease. Chesterton's revolutionary stand ultimately rests in either violent upheavel, gospel transformation, or delusion. As Jacques Ellul argues, violent revolution only begets more violence. Chesterton himself argues that government "is force," as Ellul argues. This hardly seems productive. Gospel transformation alone may be the remedy. Where does this leave us? Penitent, prayerful, and proselytizing.

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Chesterton's Revolution, Part I

At issue in the conclusion to What Is Wrong With The World is that an oligarchical class is oppressing the lower classes, creating wage-slaves through oppressive rents and laws.Chesterton writes, "the poor man is so ground down by the great rents of the great ground landlords that his wife often has to work as well as he." Of course, one thing leads to another, "Therefore she has no time to look after the children, therefore one in forty of them is dirty. Because the workingman has these two persons on top of him, the landlord sitting (literally) on his stomach, and the schoolmaster sitting (literally) on his head, the workingman must allow his little girl's hair, first to be neglected from poverty, next to be poisoned by promiscuity, and, lastly, to be abolished by hygiene. He, perhaps, was proud of his little girl's hair. But he does not count."

So as Chesterton argues, the problem is not defined as the conditions of poverty caused by the "great ground landlords," but instead, it is that poor girls have lice. So their hair must be cut. Chesterton describes this as a "plain parable, which is none the worse for being also a fact." In essence, he's summing up what is wrong with the world.

He goes on to say, "When a crapulous tyranny crushes men down into the dirt, so that their very hair is dirty, the scientific course is clear. It would be long and laborious to cut off the heads of the tyrants; it is easier to cut off the hair of the slaves. In the same way, if it should ever happen that poor children, screaming with toothache, disturbed any schoolmaster or artistic gentleman, it would be easy to pull out all the teeth of the poor; if their nails were disgustingly dirty, their nails could be plucked out; if their noses were indecently blown, their noses could be cut off. The appearance of our humbler fellow-citizen could be quite strikingly simplified before we had done with him. But all this is not a bit wilder than the brute fact that a doctor can walk into the house of a free man, whose daughter's hair may be as clean as spring flowers, and order him to cut it off. It never seems to strike these people that the lesson of lice in the slums is the wrongness of slums, not the wrongness of hair."

So rather than dealing with the root issue, we deal with the result. For if we eliminate the undesirable result, is not the problem resolved? Is this not in essence, what is wrong with the world? Rather than come to terms with the reality that our government is responsible for the ruin of our economy through massive deficit spending enabled by the lawless Federal Reserve, we attempt to spend ourselves out of recession. Rather than create a stable dollar, we inflate it to eliminate debt and stimulate growth. Rather than feed animals the diet God intended them to eat, we protect them with biotechnology when they live sickly lives. Rather than deal peacefully with neighbor nations, we impose our will upon them in the name of keeping the peace. Rather than outlaw criminality in business, we legalize and "bail it out" it.

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Wednesday, January 20, 2010

A Christian Rebuke for Libertarians

Peter Leithart, whom I have linked to a couple times recently, has written a biblical rebuke against Christian libertarians. It is a good argument, and one that must be reckoned with.

"David’s poem challenges not only the libertarianism represented by Norquist’s coalition but strikes more generally at widespread and even fundamental convictions of American politics. The claim that the purpose of government is to secure and protect goods that are already enjoyed by the people rests on the assumption that these goods are achievable apart from government, and this rests on the social contract myth that society is prior to government, a myth bolstered by sociology. As Oliver O’Donovan has pointed out, however, societies are “politically formed” and “depend on the art of government.

All this means that the Bible ought not be enlisted in support of Leave-Us-Alonism. Rather, the Bible exposes its folly: Leave-Us-Alonism ignores the goods that flow from the “necessary good” of government. It is a program for blotting out the sun and a plea to be left in darkness."


Read it all.

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The Conclusion to "What Is Wrong With The World"

Here is the conclusion to G.K. Chesterton's book What Is Wrong With The World. It is a good introduction into the thought of Chesterton, as well as worth pondering. I encourage my readers to read the whole thing, as it is well worth reading, and I will follow up this post with my own thoughts regarding it.

The entire book is available online at Project Gutenberg.

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A little while ago certain doctors and other persons permitted by modern law to dictate to their shabbier fellow-citizens, sent out an order that all little girls should have their hair cut short. I mean, of course, all little girls whose parents were poor. Many very unhealthy habits are common among rich little girls, but it will be long before any doctors interfere forcibly with them. Now, the case for this particular interference was this, that the poor are pressed down from above into such stinking and suffocating underworlds of squalor, that poor people must not be allowed to have hair, because in their case it must mean lice in the hair. Therefore, the doctors propose to abolish the hair. It never seems to have occurred to them to abolish the lice. Yet it could be done. As is common in most modern discussions the unmentionable thing is the pivot of the whole discussion. It is obvious to any Christian man (that is, to any man with a free soul) that any coercion applied to a cabman's daughter ought, if possible, to be applied to a Cabinet Minister's daughter. I will not ask why the doctors do not, as a matter of fact apply their rule to a Cabinet Minister's daughter. I will not ask, because I know. They do not because they dare not. But what is the excuse they would urge, what is the plausible argument they would use, for thus cutting and clipping poor children and not rich? Their argument would be that the disease is more likely to be in the hair of poor people than of rich. And why? Because the poor children are forced (against all the instincts of the highly domestic working classes) to crowd together in close rooms under a wildly inefficient system of public instruction; and because in one out of the forty children there may be offense. And why? Because the poor man is so ground down by the great rents of the great ground landlords that his wife often has to work as well as he. Therefore she has no time to look after the children, therefore one in forty of them is dirty. Because the workingman has these two persons on top of him, the landlord sitting (literally) on his stomach, and the schoolmaster sitting (literally) on his head, the workingman must allow his little girl's hair, first to be neglected from poverty, next to be poisoned by promiscuity, and, lastly, to be abolished by hygiene. He, perhaps, was proud of his little girl's hair. But he does not count.

Upon this simple principle (or rather precedent) the sociological doctor drives gayly ahead. When a crapulous tyranny crushes men down into the dirt, so that their very hair is dirty, the scientific course is clear. It would be long and laborious to cut off the heads of the tyrants; it is easier to cut off the hair of the slaves. In the same way, if it should ever happen that poor children, screaming with toothache, disturbed any schoolmaster or artistic gentleman, it would be easy to pull out all the teeth of the poor; if their nails were disgustingly dirty, their nails could be plucked out; if their noses were indecently blown, their noses could be cut off. The appearance of our humbler fellow-citizen could be quite strikingly simplified before we had done with him. But all this is not a bit wilder than the brute fact that a doctor can walk into the house of a free man, whose daughter's hair may be as clean as spring flowers, and order him to cut it off. It never seems to strike these people that the lesson of lice in the slums is the wrongness of slums, not the wrongness of hair. Hair is, to say the least of it, a rooted thing. Its enemy (like the other insects and oriental armies of whom we have spoken) sweep upon us but seldom. In truth, it is only by eternal institutions like hair that we can test passing institutions like empires. If a house is so built as to knock a man's head off when he enters it, it is built wrong.

The mob can never rebel unless it is conservative, at least enough to have conserved some reasons for rebelling. It is the most awful thought in all our anarchy, that most of the ancient blows struck for freedom would not be struck at all to-day, because of the obscuration of the clean, popular customs from which they came. The insult that brought down the hammer of Wat Tyler might now be called a medical examination. That which Virginius loathed and avenged as foul slavery might now be praised as free love. The cruel taunt of Foulon, "Let them eat grass," might now be represented as the dying cry of an idealistic vegetarian. Those great scissors of science that would snip off the curls of the poor little school children are ceaselessly snapping closer and closer to cut off all the corners and fringes of the arts and honors of the poor. Soon they will be twisting necks to suit clean collars, and hacking feet to fit new boots. It never seems to strike them that the body is more than raiment; that the Sabbath was made for man; that all institutions shall be judged and damned by whether they have fitted the normal flesh and spirit. It is the test of political sanity to keep your head. It is the test of artistic sanity to keep your hair on.

Now the whole parable and purpose of these last pages, and indeed of all these pages, is this: to assert that we must instantly begin all over again, and begin at the other end. I begin with a little girl's hair. That I know is a good thing at any rate. Whatever else is evil, the pride of a good mother in the beauty of her daughter is good. It is one of those adamantine tendernesses which are the touchstones of every age and race. If other things are against it, other things must go down. If landlords and laws and sciences are against it, landlords and laws and sciences must go down. With the red hair of one she-urchin in the gutter I will set fire to all modern civilization. Because a girl should have long hair, she should have clean hair; because she should have clean hair, she should not have an unclean home: because she should not have an unclean home, she should have a free and leisured mother; because she should have a free mother, she should not have an usurious landlord; because there should not be an usurious landlord, there should be a redistribution of property; because there should be a redistribution of property, there shall be a revolution. That little urchin with the gold-red hair, whom I have just watched toddling past my house, she shall not be lopped and lamed and altered; her hair shall not be cut short like a convict's; no, all the kingdoms of the earth shall be hacked about and mutilated to suit her. She is the human and sacred image; all around her the social fabric shall sway and split and fall; the pillars of society shall be shaken, and the roofs of ages come rushing down, and not one hair of her head shall be harmed.


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Doug Wilson on the Scott Brown Win

" This was about as clear a referendum on the health care proposal before Congress as can be imagined. If the Democrats double down on this, and they force through passage of the health care bill despite this message, then they will have become the Demoncrats, and the tenuous bands holding our civil polity together will quite simply come unstuck. The tea parties would be ten times bigger, and they wouldn't be tea parties anymore -- more like Jolt Cola parties."

Read it all.

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Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Chesterton on Feminism

The Feminist (which means, I think, one who dislikes the chief feminine characteristics) has heard my loose monologue, bursting all the time with one pent up protest. At this point he will break out and say, “But what are we to do? There is modern commerce and its clerks; there is the modern family with its unmarried daughters; specialism is expected everywhere; female thrift and conscientiousness are demanded and supplied. What does it matter whether we should in the abstract prefer the old human and housekeeping woman? We might prefer the Garden of Eden. But since women have trades, they ought to have trades-unions. Since women work in factories, they ought to vote on factory Acts. If they are unmarried they must be commercial; if they are commercial they must be political. We must have new rules for a new world—even if it not be a better one.” I said to a Feminist once, “The question is not whether women are good enough for votes; it is whether votes are good enough for women.” He only answered, “Ah, you go and say that to the women chain-makers on Cradley Heath.”

Now this is the attitude which I attack. It is the huge heresy of Precedent. It is the view that because we have got into a mess we must grow messier to suit it; that because we have taken a wrong turn some time ago we must go forward and not backwards; that because we have lost our way we must lose our map also; and because we have missed our ideal we must forget it. There are numbers of excellent people who do not think votes unfeminine; and there may be enthusiasts for our beautiful modern industry who do not think factories unfeminine. But if these things are unfeminine it is no answer to say that they fit into each other. I am not satisfied with the statement that my daughter must have unwomanly powers because she has womanly wrongs. Industrial soot and political printer’s ink are two blacks which do not make a white. Most of the Feminists would probably agree with me that womanhood is under shameful tyranny in the shops and mills. But I want to destroy the tyranny. They want to destroy the womanhood. That is the only difference.

Whether we can recover the clear vision of woman as a tower with many windows, the fixed eternal feminine from which her sons, the specialists, go forth; whether we can preserve the tradition of a central thing which is even more human than democracy and even more practical than politics; whether, in a word, it is possible to re-establish the family, freed from the filthy cynicism and cruelty of the commercial epoch, I shall discuss in the last section of the book. But meanwhile do not talk to me about the poor chain-makers on Cradley Heath. I know all about them and what they are doing. They are engaged in a very widespread and flourishing industry of the present age. They are making chains.

What Is Wrong With The World - G.K. Chesterton

Friday, January 15, 2010

Ellul on "Dialogue"

"I will not insist on the word "dialogue," for it is now bandied about everywhere and has become for some a universal panacea. As J. Lecroix finely puts it, "dialogue has become the answer to all difficulties. To make problems go away we have only to enter into dialogue. Religious differences, class divisions, diversities of interest, and psycho-sociological contradictions are all magically dispelled by the one force of dialogue. This is no only false, it is dangerous. There is nothing worse than verbalizing a man's humanity when the situation renders it impossible. Better sometimes naked violence than a pseudo-dialogue which is merely a hypocritical mask." This is why I never present dialogue as a way of resolving conflicts. I simply present an attitude of freedom which allows conflicting situations and tendencies to meet in truth, and thus opens the way for love to heal the breach. But this does not lead to a smoothing over or a solution." (The Ethics of Freedom, page 324 in the footnotes)

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Ellul on Martyrdom

"Need it be recalled that the great witnesses of the faith have always regarded martyrdom as the supreme act of freedom of conscience and religious liberty, and that the way of martyrdom rules out the way of revolution, since he who is ready to lose his life does not fight others but refuses to kill them? For the enemy is the neighbor whom he must love even though he be unjust toward others. To accept martyrdom is certainly not passivity or resignation. On the contrary it is a royal affirmation of the sovereignty of our Lord." (The Ethics of Freedom, page 393)

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Thursday, January 14, 2010

Foot, Meet Buckshot

Seven years ago, then Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott spoke at Senator Strom Thurmond's 100th birthday party. He famously said, ""When Strom Thurmond ran for president, we voted for him. We’re proud of it. And if the rest of the country had followed our lead, we wouldn't have had all these problems over the years, either." Fifteen days later he resigned as Senate Majority Leader in scandal as a result of the racist nature of his comments.

Without knowing the background to those comments, it impossible to recognize anything racist about his remark. Of course, Thurmond, "had based his presidential campaign largely on an explicit racial segregation platform," as Wikipedia states. Democrats, who already thought Lott was a racist, as they presume most Republicans are, and quickly demanded he resign his leadership position. Republicans accused Democrats of politicizing Lott's comments and ardently defended Lott.

More recently, Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid was quoted in a book called Game Change. The relevant passage states: ""He [Reid] was wowed by Obama's oratorical gifts and believed that the country was ready to embrace a black presidential candidate, especially one such as Obama -- a 'light-skinned' African-American 'with no Negro dialect, unless he wanted to have one,' as he later put it privately."

Reid has been getting abused by Republicans concerning the quotation. Republican Party Chairman Michael Steele is quoted as saying, ""It's either racist or it's not. And it's inappropriate, absolutely. So if the standard is the one that we saw with Trent Lott as speaker -- as a leader at the time, then I think this absolutely falls in that category." You can read more concerning Steele's comments here.

The comments are hardly racist, though it is difficult to say definitely without added context. But what most concerns me is the poisonous atmosphere that the Republicans are perpetuating. Republicans cried foul over the Lott controversy, and now they are themselves demanding the same things of their political opponents. While it is obvious that there is a double-standard at play, Republicans should not continue to foster the demands of political correctness if they don't want to have to play by its rules. This is utter hypocrisy. If you demand your opponent play by the PC rule book, you too must play by it. Republicans instead should be magnanimous, but that's like asking a pig to fly.

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A Picture Is Worth a Thousand Words


This graph alone, states the case for why the American economy will take years to recover. This is a graphical representation of the novel Atlas Shrugged. When the productive capacity of an economy is super-ceded by non-producing government jobs, the economy is bound for a severe correction. This is simply unsustainable. The goods-producing jobs must be exceedingly efficient for this to work, and it is very difficult to imagine that this can last for long.

Who will pay the massive debt we Americans owe? Those government jobs produce nothing. This is a recipe for hyperinflation.

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Ye Shall Be As Gods

The Huffington Post has an article concerning the effects of Monsanto's genetically modified corn. The Huffington Post states, "researchers found that agricultural giant Monsanto's GM corn is linked to organ damage in rats."

You can read the article here.

God-like power in man comes with a cost, as Adam and Eve learned in the Garden of Eden. They sought the God-like power of the knowledge of good and evil and found death. Man's aspirations to genetically modify any living organism is also likely to result in catastrophe. Yet, we persist.

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Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Inside Guantanamo

The BBC has a fascinating piece on two prisoners and a guard from Guantanamo, home of Camp X-Ray, the terrorist holding camp. The three are reunited in England and what follows is a very interesting look at at least two men that the American government detained as suspected terrorists, and their treatment by the U.S. military. There are a couple video clips of the reunion in addition to the article itself.

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Monday, January 11, 2010

TSA Buffoonery

Reuters has a hilarious story about the TSA's mistaking bottles of honey for bombs. But the best part of the story is that " two of the screeners smelled a strong chemical odor, complained of nausea and were rushed to a local hospital, where they treated and released."

That's right--two TSA screeners opened the bottles of honey and complained of nausea and actually went to the hospital to be treated. Somehow the honey tested positive for exploses called "
TNT and TATP." Is the TSA completely inept?

Reuters also reports "was shut down and evacuated for hours and flights diverted after the incident."

Pure idiocy.

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Some Thoughts on Movies

I have been thinking about movies recently. I recently watched the trailer for Dorian Gray online and read quotes from Don Carson and Doug Wilson. These thoughts have propelled me to ponder the nature of film, the motivations of film makers, and the interests of the moviegoer.

Let me first make some observations regarding the trailer to Dorian Gray. The trailer tells the essential story of the film, which is that Dorian Gray somehow traded his soul for constant youth, though he indulges his evil desires he stays physically unstained by his sin, though his portrait becomes disfigured by it. He states that he must pay for his wickedness. Yet the trailer advertises the film with erotica--promising to allow the audience to participate in Dorian's fornication. This is the sort of contradictory message that Hollywood excels at.

This leads to a quote by theologian, Don Carson, in regards to Genesis 2. He writes, "What a strange way, we might think, to end this account of Creation: “The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame” (Gen. 2:25). Hollywood would love it: what an excuse for sexual titillation if someone tries to place the scene on the big screen."

I thought briefly upon this, imagining how such a situation could ever be filmed without becoming pornography and it is plainly impossible. Through the fall, man came to know his nakedness (Genesis 3:7). As Carson notes, Hollywood would love this. What better than having a man and woman traipsing through a garden, naked, all in the context of a religious story?

And finally, the second quote is from Doug Wilson via Twitter. He writes, "Christian cultural engagement used to mean prophetic opposition to abortion and sodomy. Now some want it to mean watching dirty movies."

Wilson has a great insight into modern evangelicalism here. The truism of our age is "relevance"--is it not? We Christians, must be "relevant" to non-believers. How can we successfully communicate with non-believers if we are not fluent in their cultural milieu?

Now I would characterize Dorian Gray as a "dirty movie." The trailer alone testifies to this. It advertises itself as an escapade into hedonistic fornication. Even if the film finishes with a "good ending" it is dirty. Ponder again Carson's musing on a film in the Garden of Eden. A film with a man and woman, both naked in a garden, even under the pretense of the Bible, would be a "dirty movie." Could the call for "cultural engagement" possibly justify viewing such a film as that?

Yet I can fully envision Christians justifying viewing such a film under a variety of pretenses, even to quibble with the artist's conception of Eden, or of the script's integrity to the Bible. We Christians must think differently about cultural engagement--particularly regarding television and movies. Wilson is right, "prophetic cultural engagement" may not justify viewing pornography--it may only unreservedly condemn it.

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Friday, January 08, 2010

Culture's Deceptive Transaction

I have been reading Jacques Ellul's The Ethics of Freedom for a couple weeks now and encountered an excellent quote concerning society's function as deceiver:

"Society does not want its members to suffer. It offers them remedies. The individual for his part does not want to know the real situation. He is ready for anything rather than this. Hence he joyfully accepts these possibilities and demonstrations. In so doing, substituting illusion for reality and a fake for real life, he brings about his ultimate alienation." (page 231)

This is the function of idols, is it not? Much of culture's purpose is to subsitute illusion for reality. I linked to a video yesterday of a model of unnotable beauty who was turned into a beautiful model through makeup Photoshop. But this is only the surface.

Our society has also chosen to replace capital with debt money; real food with edible food-like substances, knowledge with information, truth for half-truth, and so on.

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The Census and Unemployment

Mike Shedlock linked to a story from Bloomberg that raises the specter of unemployment dropping in the next few months as "The stimulus bill President Barack Obama signed in February and additional funding by Congress provided enough money to hire 1.4 million Americans in total for the census, almost three times as many as in 2000. About 160,000 were already employed last year to do preliminary work."

Bloomberg also states:

The Census Bureau anticipates hiring about 181,000 workers from January through March and about 971,000 in the following three months.

The economy may add about 700,000 jobs in May alone, mostly because of the census, said Nigel Gault [chief U.S. economist at IHS Global Insight].

Beware, unemployment may drop back down below 10% again soon, don't forget that this too is governed by massive debt spending by the government to fund temporary employees.

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Our Totalitarian Government

It is illegal in America to make frequent transactions in sums just shy of $10,000 as it is deemed a tax evasion scheme. This may sound ludicrous at first, but this is a very serious issue in our nation. I've written about this before, and the LRC Blog has another painfully immoral example of judicial tyranny.

This time, Kent and Jo Hovind who oversaw a ministry called Creation Science Evangelism was accused by the IRS of structuring forty-five payments over a two year period to evade the scrutiny of the IRS and hence avoid taxes. In 2006, Kent was sentenced to ten years in prison. In 2007, Jo was sentenced to a year in prison.

Wikipedia has more on the Hovind case. There is more to this case than "structuring" but it is definitely the bulk of the case. Again, America is a totalitarian regime, bent on the supremacy of the state over and above that of the individual. I say this not to indict the United States, per se, but to open the eyes of those who still believe that America is a free country where justice reigns supreme. This is not so, and the sooner we all realize it, the sooner the state, who operates on the consent of the governed, will collapse into irrelevancy.

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Thursday, January 07, 2010

Artifice

This is a fascinating look at how a billboard photo is made. This is a sort of metaphor for modern culture.



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Wednesday, January 06, 2010

Fishy

The Liberty Maven Blog alerted me to a program from the U.S. Mint that will allow you to order 250 to 500 $1 coins and they will ship it to you for free.

The site actually states, "The intended purpose of the Circulating $1 Coin Direct Ship Program is to make $1 Coins readily available to the public, at no additional cost, so they can be easily introduced into circulation–particularly by using them for retail transactions, vending, and mass transit. Increased circulation of $1 Coins saves the Nation money."

Ponder that last sentence for a moment. How could using $1 coins save the government money?

Jake Towne of Liberty Maven answers the question: "The Mint is trying to replace $1 bills, which cost around 5 cents each to print as they wear out very easily over several years, after which it is shredded and treated as toxic waste." He points out that the melt value of the coins is approximately 5 cents--though they never need to be replaced.

Does this not clearly demonstrate the duplicity of our monetary system? Our money has virtually no value--the U.S. Mint's policies demand that its currency cost as little as possible. The bounds on money creation were long ago unleashed and this further demonstrates my contention that our understanding of capital has been destroyed.


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Shock! Politicians Lie

Naked Emperor News has collected eight clips of President Obama promising that health care reform negotiations be broadcast on C-SPAN. Obviously, he has failed to deliver on these promises. Yet another reason to distrust politicians. They're a pack of lying thieves bent on power.

If you really want to subject yourself to watching, here you go:



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Good Videos on Media

Don't Eat the Fruit posted a couple excellent videos of a Wheaton College chapel given by Dr. Read Schuchardt. They are both below. The original post has some quotations from them, but I commend both brief videos to you.





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Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Doug Wilson, College,and Standards

Doug Wilson is always worth reading. Here's another great post regarding education and why college isn't for everyone.

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Conservative Backlash

Doug Wilson is concerned about the coming conservative backlash against Obama in the coming election cycles. It is a long post, but as always, worth the time. Here is the thrust of his argument:

"Right now, Obama is in the White House, and he really is proposing demented things. But America is far more foundationally conservative than people usually believe, and I believe that a conservative backlash of very large proportions is building. And here is my point: for Christians, this is not to be treated as an automatic good. Whatever the temporary relief ("oh, good, our queen is safe"), we have to have our eye on the game, not on the move. Okay, so the lunatics are currently running the asylum -- or as Mencken once described it, democracy is the art of running the zoo from the monkey house -- and we are due for a reaction in which some sane grown-ups will take control of the asylum again. If and when that happens, conservative Christians are in very great danger of going back into their slumbering consent to an idolatrous regime, just so long as it is run by sane grown-ups and doesn't insult them overtly."

Read the whole thing.

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Christians: Let's Disavow Nationalism and Cease Praying to the God of War

Scott Ritsema of Civic News has written a good critique of Richard Land's (President of the Southern Baptist’s Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission) response to President Obama's troop surge in Afghanistan.

I commend the critique to you.

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The Tax Racket

Karen DeCoster has a post at the LRC Blog regarding new regulations for tax preparers. The original article is from the Wall Street Journal. It states:

"Under the new rules, employees of chain tax-preparation firms including H&R Block Inc. and Jackson Hewitt Tax Service Inc. will be required to pay a registration fee to the IRS, pass a “competency” exam and have 15 hours of education a year. Previously these employees weren’t required to meet federal standards.

The requirements also will apply to hundreds of thousands of independent preparers and mom-and-pop storefronts that offer tax preparation as one of several services. About 60% of U.S. taxpayers use tax preparers, according to the IRS. That number includes certified public accountants, or CPAs, who are already subject to professional standards and aren’t covered by the new rules.

…starting in 2011, all paid tax preparers will have to register with the IRS and include a unique identification number on any returns they prepare. Preparers will be given three years to pass a competency exam in either individual or small-business taxation."

Some may be surprised to learn that H&R Block and Intuit both lobbied in favor of the regulations. At first this may seem counter-intuitive, but this is a perfect example of corporatism. Both companies are are leaders in tax preparation and stand well prepared to pay extra fees which will make it more difficult for smaller, independent firms to compete.

Here is DeCoster's conclusion, which says it all:

"I have a little tidbit for readers: Mark Ernst resigned as CEO of H&R Block in 2007, and where did he land? He is a Deputy Commissioner at the IRS.

I found this quote quite remarkable, coming from an enrolled agent who sees “unregulated” tax preparers as being bad for his business (because they offer competition at lower prices): ”We want to make this into a profession, not just a part-time thing you set up on the kitchen table for six weeks during the tax season.” Let’s see, the tax season is about three months long, and that means? Most paid preparers are part-time for that very reason. Many are homemakers who only want to work for part of the year, and many, like some of my non-CPA, business colleagues, do tax work to supplement their income. Many of these folks will be driven from their part-time jobs.

I’ll leave you with a comment from a WSJ reader: ”How about fixing the tax code so we don’t need tax preparers?” Easy answer. Because government works to empower large, wealthy special interest groups and enables them to profit handsomely from its massive web of taxes, codes, and regulations that enslave powerless American citizens within the omnipotent corporatist state."

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