Wednesday, March 31, 2010

Canon Wired

Regular readers know my affinity and respect for Doug Wilson.  I believe I've linked to some of his "Ask Doug" segments in the past, but I encourage all my readers to subscribe to the Canon Wired RSS feed.  The "Ask Doug" segments are always worth the time to watch them.  The most recent segment is on Family Worship, embedded below.

For those of you unfamiliar with RSS, it is a way to receive notification of new content at a given website.  I have been using Google Reader for years now, to manage the blogs that I read.  Whenever new content is posted at the blog, Google Reader will display the content.  Some sites require clicking on the link, others, like this blog will give all the content in the post. 






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Tuesday, March 30, 2010

College Tuition and Idolatry

Roy Atwood, President of New Saint Andrews College, has a good post concerning college tuition and state idolatry.  

Students who accept federal financial aid for college are eating meat offered to idols.  If their spiritual house is in order, they’re not engaged in idolatry themselves, and their consciences are clear, then God bless them. It’s lawful and not a sin.
However, I believe eating meat offered to idols is not in the same league as helping the idolaters with their meat offerings. In an age of academic and statist idolatry, Christians should be very wary whenever they smell federal financial aid. Now that colleges must deal directly with the feds and have become financial agents of the state, they are at grave risk of blurring the line between eating meat offered to idols and engaging in the idolatry itself. Eating meat offered to idols is one thing. Being an agent for the idolater’s meat business is another. I believe Christian colleges have no business trading in federal financial aid.

Read the whole thing.
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Monday, March 29, 2010

Christ and Culture

I just finished reading Ken Myers' book All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes.  It is the best and most practical book I've read concerning the Christian's interaction with culture.  His conclusion is one that should be thought about critically, as it is easy to accept the terms on which one has embraced one's culture as biblical, without true examination.  Here is the conclusion which I found very thoughtful, and very helpful: 

"You can enjoy popular culture without compromising Biblical principles as long as you are not dominated by the sensibility of popular culture, as long as you are not captivated by its idols.

Ken Myers, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes page 180 

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The Application of Scripture

"Applying Scripture to our individual experience is difficult for each of us, often as much because we fail to understand the significance of our own situation, the context in which we are applying it, as because we fail to understand the original, objective meaning of the text.  We live in complex patterns of need, of opportunity, and of sin, and the inference we really ought to draw from Scripture is often the most difficult to see, because of the complexity and sin in our lives.  This is why we need teachers and the fellowship of the saints."

Ken Myers, All God's Children and Blue Suede Shoes page 33

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Thursday, March 25, 2010

Biblical Wisdom from Doug Wilson

"I prefer love over lies, peace over war, the taste of butterscotch over the taste of spinach, Christ over Baal, the straight over the crooked, the Navy over the Army, the Greeks over the Persians, the hills over the plains, two weeks of sunshine over two weeks of gray fog, feminine women over effeminate men, and I put all those things in one sentence for a reason. John Stott once wrote that fuzzy thinking was one of the sins of our age, and he was right. And Dorothy Sayers argued in her great essay on the lost tools of learning that we must learn how to make careful distinctions."

Read it.

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Wednesday, March 24, 2010

The Triumph of Marxism in America

"From its outset, the Cold War that began at midcentury was a conflict fought on two fronts at once: a political and military struggle abroad and a political and cultural struggle at home. By the end of the twentieth century it was apparent that the side that had won abroad had lost at home--and vice versa. In the external conflict, the forces of democratic capitalism, led by the United States vanquished the forces of Marxism-Leninism, embodied by the Soviet Union. But in the internal conflict, the cultural left prevailed, not by destroying the right but by compromising it irredeemably. The counterculture of the 1960s had by the 1990s effectively become the dominant culture. As Eugene Genovese has explained, the debacle of 1989 may have "exposed the false promises on which the Left has proceeded, but it has done so at a time in which the Right is embracing many of those premises, notably, personal liberation and radical egalitarianism." Or, as Gertrude Himmelfarb, reflecting the chagrin of many Cold Warriors, has observed: "Having been spared the class revolution that Marx predicted, we have succumbed to the cultural revolution."

Andrew Bacevich American Empire pages 81-82

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America's Consumerist Culture

I am currently reading Andrew Bacevich's book American Empire. It is an excellent study on American foreign policy from President George H.W. Bush through the first year of President George W. Bush. The basis of the book is that though American foreign policy has looked confused and unfocused since the end of the Cold War, it has in fact remained on the same trajectory since the Spanish-American War at the end of the 19th century. The trajectory has been one of American power projected across the globe in an effort to open markets to American products and influence.

Here, Bacevich comments on the problem of consumerism in America:

"In a society in which citizens were joined to one another by little except a fetish for shopping, professional sports, and celebrities along with a ravenous appetite for pop culture, prosperity became a precondition for preserving domestic harmony. Arguing on behalf of a populist vision of an engaged, independent, self-reliant citizenry, an acerbic critic like Lasch might rail against luxury as morally repugnant, insisting that "a democratic society cannot allow unlimited accumulation." But in reality, the prospect of unlimited accumulation had long since become the lubricant that kept the system functioning. A booming economy alleviated, or at least kept at bay, social and political dysfunction. Any interruption in economic growth could induce friction, stoke discontent, and bring to the surface old resentments, confronting elected officials with problems for which they possessed no readily available solutions. Lasch may well have been correct in charging that "the reduction of the citizen to a consumer" produces a hollowed-out American democracy. But by the 1990s no one knew how to undo the damage without risking a massive conflagration."

Andrew Bacevich American Empire pages 80-81

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Tuesday, March 23, 2010

Wise, Pastoral Words on Obamacare

Doug Wilson has written some helpful thoughts regarding Obamacare. I, of course, encourage all to read them.

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Friday, March 12, 2010

The Consequences of Moral-Free Education

"Our elites--the ones in Congress, the ones on Wall Street, and the ones being produced at prestigious universities and business schools--do not have the capacity to fix our financial mess. Indeed, they will make it worse. They have no concept, thanks to the educations they have received, of how to replace a failed system with a new one. They are petty, timid, and uncreative bureaucrats superbly trained to carry out systems management. They see only piecemeal solutions that will satisfy the corporate structure. Their entire focus is numbers, profits, and personal advancement. They lack a moral and intellectual core. They are as able to deny gravely ill people medical coverage to increase company profits as they are to use taxpayer dollars to peddle costly weapons systems to blood-soaked dictatorships. The human consequences never figure into their balance sheets. The democratic system, they believe, is a secondary product of the free-market--which they slavishly serve."

Chris Hedges The Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, page 111


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The "Arcane Jargon" of Academia

"I sat with a classmate from Harvard Divinity School who is now a theology professor. When I asked her what she was teaching, she unleashed a torrent of arcane jargon. I had no idea, even with three years of seminary, what she was talking about. You can see this retreat into specialized, impenetrable verbal enclaves in every academic department and discipline across the country. The more these universities churn out these stunted men and women, the more we are flooded with peculiar breed of specialist who uses obscure code words as a way to avoid communication. This specialist blindly services tiny parts of a corporate power structure he or she has never been taught to question. Specialists look down on the rest of us, who do not understand what they are talking and writing about, with thinly veiled contempt."

Chris Hedges The Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, page 96

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Thursday, March 11, 2010

24 Hour News

"The ability to amplify lies, to repeat them and have surrogates repeat them in endless loops of news cycles, gives lies and mythical narratives the aura of uncontested truth. We become trapped in the linguistic prison of incessant repetition. We are fed words and phrases like war on terror or pro-life or change, and within these narrow parameters, all complex thought, ambiguity, and self-criticism vanish."

Chris Hedges The Empire of Illusion: The End of Literacy and the Triumph of Spectacle, page 49

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Monday, March 08, 2010

Hotdog!

For those of you baseball fans out there, the Star Tribune has an article about the hot dogs that will be available at Target Field this season. They'll be from Schweigert, rather than Hormel. I am eager to try one out!

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Friday, March 05, 2010

Good Words From Pope John Paul II

I'm not one to quote the Pope, but I encountered this quote from Pope John Paul II in Dominion. I think he has captured much of what is wrong with the world:

"In his desire to have and to enjoy rather than to be and to grow, man consumes the resources of the earth and his own life in an excessive and disordered way. At the root of the senseless destruction of the natural environment lies an anthropological error, which unfortunately is widespread in our day. Man, who discovers his capacity to transform and in a certain sense create the world through his own work, forgets that this is always based on God's prior and original gift of the things that are. Man thinks that he can make arbitrary use of the earth, subjecting it without restraint to his will, as though it did not have its own requisites and a prior God-given purpose, which man can indeed develop but most not betray. Instead of carrying out his role as a cooperator with God in the work of creation, man sets himself up in place of God and thus ends up provoking rebellion on the part of nature, which is more tyrannized than governed by him."

Pope John Paul II, as quoted by Matthew Scully's book Dominion page 23. The quote is originally from Centesimus Annus: Encyclical Letter of Pope John Paul II on the 100th Anniversary of Rerum Novarum, reprinted in Catholic International, Vol. 2, No. 3.

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Thursday, March 04, 2010

Rabbits

A little more than a month ago I linked to a review of Matthew Scully's book, Dominion. I began reading the book this week and have mixed feelings about it. I find myself resonating with much of what he has to say, but his lack of spiritual wisdom is also troublesome. Scully uses Bible texts in his arguments, also quoting Augustine. Yet he acknowledges he is not a "a particularly pious or devout person." So his arguments are much more emotional than spiritual. That being said, I am sympathetic with some of what he says. Here is one of the better quotes I've read:

"...when you look at a rabbit and can see only a pest, or vermin, or a meal, or a commodity, or a labratory subject, you aren't seeing the rabbit anymore. You are seeing only yourself and the schemes and appetites we bring to the world--seeing, come to think of it, like an animal instead of as a moral being with moral vision."

Matthew Scully, Dominion page 3

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Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Doug Wilson on American Exceptionalism

This is another excellent post by Doug Wilson in response to a National Review piece by Rich Lowry and Ramesh Ponnuru entitled An Exceptional Debate.

The last line is the best.

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Tuesday, March 02, 2010

The Unraveling of the American Empire

Blowback was written in 2000, prior to 9/11. Here, Johnson anticipates the era of terrorism, the response, and the near inevitablility of the collapse of the American Empire:

"Blowback" is shorthand for saying that a nation reaps what it sows, even if it does not fully know or understand what it has sown. Given its wealth and power, the United States will be a prime recipient in the foreseeable future of all of the more expectable forms of blowback, particularly terrorist attacks against Americans in and out of the armed forces anywhere on earth, including within the United States. But it is blowback in its larger aspect--the tangible costs of empire--that truly threatens it. Empires are costly operations, and they become more costly by the year. The hollowing out of American industry, for instance, is a form of blowback--an untended negative consequence of American policy--even though it is seldom recognized as such. The growth of militarism in a once democratic society is another example of blowback. Empire is the problem. Even though the United States has as strong sense of invulnerability and substantial miliary and economic tools to make such a feeling credible, the fact of its imperial pretensions means that a crisis is inevitable. More imperialist projects simply generate more blowback. If we do not begin to solve problems in more prudent and modest ways, blowback will only become more intense.

David Calleo, a professor of international politics, has observed, "The international system breaks down not only because unbalanced and aggressive new powers seek to dominate their neighbors, but also because declining powers, rather than adjusting and accommodating, try to cement their slipping preeminence into an exploitative hegemony." I believe that the United States at the end of the twentieth century fits this description. The signs of such an exploitative hegemony are already with us: increasing estrangement between populations and their governments; a determination of elites to hang on to power despite a loss of moral authority; the appearance of militarism and the separation of the military from the society it is supposed to serve; fierce repression (the huge and still growing American prison population and rising enthusiasm for the death penalty may be symptomatic of this); and an economic crisis that is global in nature. History offers few examples of declining hegemons reversing their decline or giving up power peacefully, although Gorbachev's policies at the end of the Cold War may constitute one. Given that it is close to inconceivable that any American leader could have the authority and vision to act with similar restraint in dealing with our client states (for example, by withdrawing our military from the Korean penninsula), one must conclude that blowback will ultimately produce a crisis that suddenly, wrenchingly impairs or ends America's hegemonic influence. Given the almost sacred position empire bestows on the American military, it seems unlikely that the crisis will occur in that area. Thus, barring an unforeseen reform movement, it seems most probably that economic contradictions will force the unraveling of the American empire."

Chalmers Johson, Blowback 223-224

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