July 2012 Archives
July 1, 2012
Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels
Two more lectures by Tim McGrew followed by Q & A are now available. These have been labeled numbers 4a and 4b. 4a is "Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels--Matthew and Mark."
Part 4b is "Alleged Historical Errors in the Gospels--Luke and John."
It may seem difficult at this point to remember a world without the Internet, but actually, many of us do remember it well. It's a blessing to have the technology to make this material available so widely. Lord willing, it will be preserved in this way, will be viewed often, and will be of help to many.
July 4, 2012
Happy Independence? Day
O say can you see by the dawn's early light,
What so proudly we hailed at the twilight's last gleaming,
Whose broad stripes and bright stars through the perilous fight,
O'er the ramparts we watched, were so gallantly streaming?
And the rockets' red glare, the bombs bursting in air,
Gave proof through the night that our flag was still there;
O say does that star-spangled banner yet wave,
O'er the land of the free and the home of the brave?
It is somewhat ironic that in this bicentennial year of the start of the War of 1812, upon whose conclusion the U.S. finally could claim a safe and secure independence from Great Britain, we face a future that seems to creep ever closer to the socialist, petty tyranny that exists in Britain now. My neighborhood Independence Day parade kicks off this morning with the theme of “Let Freedom Ring” – I don’t think it is an exaggeration to wonder if the bells of freedom will ring just a bit softer today after last week’s Supreme Court ruling or even to wonder, as Francis Scott Key did 200 years ago after the Battle of Fort McHenry, if the star-spangled banner still waves over the land of the free and brave. Only time will tell.
July 9, 2012
The Cult of Liberalism and its "Traditionalists"
Liberalism has many paradoxes. It is, historically, a jealous and publicly authoritative anti-tradition Tradition - a political philosophy intended to liberate man from the "tyranny" of tradition - and is therefore a hopeless bundle of contradictions. Liberalism tolerates every religion or point of view that claims no public authority, which means it tolerates nothing but itself. (Only an honest, coherent, self-respecting tradition can genuinely tolerate other traditions.) Dr. Thaddeus Kozinski of Wyoming Catholic College exposes the cult of Liberalism in two recent essays: "The Tradition of Nothing Worship", Part One and Part Two.
Part Two reveals the essence of Liberalism as follows:
July 10, 2012
What we're reading: A Cry of Stone
I've long wanted to write a post for W4 about Michael D. O'Brien's A Cry of Stone, which I re-read not too long ago. Yet I have found it surprisingly difficult to know what, exactly, to say about it. This may be simply a result of the fact that, for a few months after re-reading it, I went about loaning it to other people and trying to get them to read it (sometimes successfully), so that now the vividness of memory that might have told me what to say has faded somewhat.
But I think under any circumstances it would be difficult to know how to explain this book. A Cry of Stone is, in my opinion, O'Brien's masterpiece. (I've now read all but one of his published novels.) Its central premise is fairly simple: Rose Wabos is a Canadian Indian woman born around 1940 in an impoverished Indian settlement in Ontario. She is innately a gifted visual artist, and God's plan for her life is that she have nothing, that she continually lose anything that she seems to have gained, for the good of both her own soul and the souls of others. She is hunchbacked from her youth upwards and continually in pain; this, too, is part of the offering way that is asked of her. She is a small, improbable saint. Or maybe not so improbable, if one knows anything about saints, who, it seems, are often asked by God to have nothing.
God sustains Rose in the many sufferings he sends her by a frequent and overwhelming sense of his presence and sometimes even by dreams and visions. No doubt some of us have wished that God would give us guidance more directly, but which of us would be willing to live Rose's life in exchange? I cannot say that I would. Even the spiritual comforts are withdrawn from time to time, when Rose must walk her weary way in the darkness and in what seems to her utter isolation.
A Cry of Stone is painful and challenging. I guarantee that if you are a Christian and read the book with an open heart and mind, you will gain from it. This is as true for Protestants as for Catholics, though Protestants should realize going in that the book is very Catholic, suffused throughout with that specially Catholic concept of "offering up" one's pain and loss for the good of others.
But though the book is painful, it is also for the most part (with one exception) gentle. I've recently read O'Brien's Island of the World, whose main character suffers horribly under the Communist regime in Yugoslavia. Island of the World, unfortunately, is graphically violent in several places. O'Brien is always delicate regarding sexual matters, handling them with a sense of reverence and care. It is my opinion that he needs in his most recent novels to be a good deal more delicate about things like slaughter and torture.
A Cry of Stone is very largely free of that drawback. The one instance of terrible mistreatment, amounting to torture, of a character (not Rose) is not directly portrayed when it is happening. Rose has a spiritual gift that at times amounts to a type of ESP, and she "sees" what happened and briefly describes it to the other character. Of course the book is not appropriate for children nor even for those who are not up for something fairly intense, but it is not brutal.
July 11, 2012
Three great reads
There are threads connecting three exceptionally memorable essays that I have just read, but I lack the time to draw them out beyond the barest outline.
First read this righteous polemic by Robert Zubrin, adapted from a chapter in his recent book. In vivid detail it summarizes the cruel despotism visited upon the developing world by the “family planning” complex of private agitation and public funding, which by means of mendacity, coercion, blackmail, and intimidation has tyrannized and abused millions, earning in spades the full force of Zubrin’s term holocaust. “In just five short years, the U.S. non-military foreign aid program was transformed from a mission of mercy to an agency for human elimination.” It’s not an exaggeration.
Next read Walter Russell Mead’s probing discussion of meritocracy and its discontents, the second half of which throws light on the inner incubators of that autocratic mentality whose rotten fruit Zubrin details.
Finally, read this beautiful appreciation of Burke’s prodigious eloquence and his remarkable wisdom, framed by a lyrical sketch of the great Irishman’s own inner life; attend particularly to the passages on his fury at the calamity of man’s inhumanity to man, which his wisdom discerned and to which his eloquence bore witness, throughout his long, grueling public life of service.
July 12, 2012
Reading Liberal Articles – Frustrating Experiences in Futility
I have been a close reader of “austerity” versus economic stimulus arguments over the past couple of years in various magazines/websites of liberal and conservative/libertarian opinion as well as more traditional academic journals. This debate centers on whether prosperous, modern governments, especially those with large amounts of debt, should respond to recessions with stimulus measures or with measures of “austerity”. I put austerity in scare quotes because how it is defined is a key part of the argument as will become
So last week I was particularly interested to read latest missive from the liberal The New Republic on this subject written by a Brit named Robert Skidelsky whom the magazine describes as John Maynard Keynes’s biographer and a member of the British House of Lords. Lord Skidelsky begins his article as follows:
The last four years have created what economists call a “natural experiment” in economic policy. As a consequence of deregulation and globalization, Britain and the United States experienced the financial crisis of 2008 in much the same way. Large parts of the banking system collapsed and had to be rescued; the real economy went into a nosedive and had to be stimulated. But after 2010, the United States continued to stimulate its economy, while Britain chose the stonier path of austerity.
Now, to begin with it is amusing to read his confident appraisal of the causes of the U.S. and British financial crisis of 2008: deregulation and globalization. This by itself is nonsense on stilts, but is not the focus of his piece and is just an amusing example of bad opinion piece writing in general (examples of which you can find on the right and left). It is generally a bad idea to devote a throw-away sentence to a highly controversial and complicated historical topic as if there is a clear-cut answer that everyone and their brother knows as if recalling the date of the Battle of Waterloo.
Of more interest, is the next sentence in which he assumes like most liberals that government must respond to “problems”. Notice how he says “the real economy went into a nosedive and had to be stimulated.” Well, actually the real economy didn’t have to be stimulated and how governments should respond to recessions is a highly controversial and complicated topic that includes “nothing” as one solution to the question of “what should the government do when there is a recession.”
July 15, 2012
This may be a moment for justified Schadenfreude
I have no love for international governmental agencies such as the International Criminal Court. But since New Zealand has apparently subjected itself to the ICC, I cannot help getting a certain amount of pleasure out of this spectacle:
Apparently the "Rome Statute," a part of the code the ICC enforces, prohibits "the persecution of an identifiable part of the civilian population." The Rome Statute also refers to deliberate policies of "birth prevention" aimed against a portion of the civilian population as relevant to the crime of genocide (but see more on that below).
An activist group representing the interests of people with Down Syndrome and another group representing people with spina bifida have brought a formal complaint against the government of New Zealand, referring to the Rome Statute, for the government's blatantly eugenic prenatal screening program. According to the complaint, the government has expressly said in its goals that the intent of the program is to prevent the births of people with Down Syndrome, spina bifida, and some other disabilities.
The ICC prosecutor is evidently taking this seriously enough not to toss it out ab initio. My guess is that the rub will come in this: While the "persecution" portion of the Rome Statute refers more generally to "identifiable groups" of the population, the "birth prevention" section (on genocide) refers only to attempts to destroy a "national, ethnical, racial or religious group." Presumably this will be used as an argument that a deliberate and unabashed attempt to wipe out people with Down Syndrom and spina bifida by killing them before they are born doesn't count.
Still, it's worth a try. I can only applaud the efforts of the groups who have brought the complaint. If New Zealand is hoist with the petard of international governance when it comes to disgusting governmental eugenics programs, I won't be crying.
HT: Secondhand Smoke
July 17, 2012
Divine sovereignty for the rest of us
For by grace are ye saved through faith, and that not of yourselves, it is the gift of God. Not of works, lest any man should boast.
The Apostle Paul in the Epistle to the Ephesians
If you’ve got a business -- you didn’t build that. Somebody else made that happen. The Internet didn’t get invented on its own. Government research created the Internet so that all the companies could make money off the Internet.
It's a cliche that Communism is an alternative religion, or at least that it plays the role in the minds of its adherents that a religion plays. But it's also true. And great writers like Whittaker Chambers have made that truth far more than a cliche.
Barack Obama here translates into secular terms, and thereby warps and perverts, what Christians believe about God. All that we have is a gift. God has given us our talents, our abilities, our opportunities. And especially in salvation, the work is of God. None of us has anything to boast of.
Obama replaces God with the government. What we have is all a gift...of the government. Therefore, presumably, just as Christians owe everything back to God ("All things come of thee, oh Lord, and of thine own have we given then"), presumably entrepreneurs owe everything to the government. They have done nothing of themselves. It is the gift of State. Not of works, lest any man should boast.
A little later, Obama weakens a bit in the direction of synergism:
The point is, is that when we succeed, we succeed because of our individual initiative, but also because we do things together.
Because we are not fools, we know that "do things together" is easily deciphered code for "the government does things." Obama makes this clear in the next sentence by comparing all businesses to firefighting and urging the necessity for firefighting to be done by a government agency.
So here, Obama is sounding a bit like St. Paul in another place,
Work out your own salvation with fear and trembling, for it is God who worketh in you both to will and to do of his good pleasure. (Phil. 2:12-13)
But Obama's synergism doesn't amount to much. Ultimately, like a devout Christian (perhaps especially a Calvinist), Obama believes what he said the first time: If you've got a business, you didn't build that. State made that happen. It's all of grace, and therefore all is owed back.
Should this Socialist religionist creep us out? Yes, he should. (And if anyone gives me a hard time about using the "S" word, I shall be much inclined to rend him limb from limb. There comes a time when you just have to say it, as Balint Vazsonyi told us ten years ago.) As Lawrence Auster points out, here Obama is canceling all individual achievement and making all achievement collective in nature. And I'm quite sure Obama really believes it.
This is the true face of the left. Get used to it, because you'll be looking at it for a long time. But also: Fight it to the end.
July 19, 2012
More Disruption Please
This week I came across this interesting item in the latest Weekly Standard email newsletter:
A quick anecdote about illegal immigration. I noted a line from Maggie Jones’s fantastic story on Postville, Iowa up above. If you haven’t read it (it’s long), here’s the thumbnail summary:
Postville is a small town in Iowa—3,000 residents and 2 square miles. The only large business in town was a meatpacking plant run by a company called Agriprocessors, which employed 900 people. On an afternoon in 2008, a massive Homeland Security raid descended on the plant. It turned out that nearly all of the plant’s employees were illegal immigrants from Guatemala.
In short order, about 1,000 of Postville’s residents vanished. Some were detained and deported. Others just fled. But within days Postville lost a third of its population, like a neutron bomb had gone off.
Hard times ensued for Postville. The plant closed and went into bankruptcy. Many of the businesses in town that relied on the Agri workers and their families as customers—laundromats, apartment buildings, ice cream shops—went belly up.
It’s a perfect distillation of why illegal immigration is such an intractable problem, both logistically and politically. From a logistical standpoint, having big illegal populations disappear suddenly can be hugely disruptive. And politically, there’s a pretty broad coalition of interests who want to keep them here. Democrats see them as a gateway to future votes, and business sees them both as cheap labor and increased consumer demand.
The management at Agri, for instance, complained that they had to hire illegal workers because they couldn’t get Americans to do the work, because meatpacking is an unpleasant job. But Agri was paying $6 an hour—so what they really meant was that they couldn’t get legal workers at the wage they wanted to pay. One suspects they could have gotten plenty of legal workers for $12 an hour. Agri, like many businesses, was in favor of the free market only when it suited them.
Illegal immigration causes all sorts of very real problems. (To take just one, it clearly depresses wages at the lower end of the labor market.) But there's a reason we haven't been able to hammer out a societal consensus on how to deal with it. For both good reasons, and bad, there is a constellation of interests arranged to support the status quo.
I refused to click through to the original story on a matter of principle – any author (or publication) that refuses to use the phrase “illegal immigrant” just isn’t worthy of my attention.*
July 23, 2012
The DOJ is watching you
Do you ever picket abortion mills? Does a hostile clinic owner ever get aggressive or make frivolous or fraudulent complaints against you? Well, it might behoove you to know that Big Brother, the Obama DOJ, may be watching you and may also try to get the names of your pro-life friends whom they can harass. Not that that should stop you.
Having eradicated all federal crimes and brought in a utopia of Peace and Justice, with extra time lying heavy on their hands, the agents of the FBI have decided to go on fishing expeditions against pro-lifers, just in case they might have violated the (arguably unconstitutional) FACE act.
Jill Stanek reports on one of these (emphasis added):
On July 13 FBI agents Conrad Rodriguez and William Sivley paid a visit to my son-in-law, Andy Moore, at his home.
Per Andy and my daughter, who was home at the time, here were questions the agents asked:
What affiliations do you have including church groups?
How long have you known your wife?
What belief system makes you believe in your cause?
What is your goal in protesting?
Do you know why people would make complaints against you?
Are there friends of yours or people you’re connected with that you could confidentially tell us are aggressive or abrasive? “Don’t be afraid to tell us.”
They were REALLY interested in the connection to Jill Stanek – details of internship, New Zealand speaking tour visit, did you get your activist and pro-life ideas from her? Did she train or teach you? Did you meet Jill before or after you became involved in the movement? Was it Jill who “fired you up” to become so active in the movement?
They were overly nice saying he wasn’t in trouble and feel free to tell us anything. Encouraged him to keep going back out there, that they represent both sides. ++they are protecting his freedom of speech++ is what they kept saying.
They said their task force that deals with these abortion cases also handles Hate Crimes and White Supremacy. Odd grouping with pro-lifers.
And here's my favorite:
They knew he was an immigrant. They said a felony on his record could/would get him deported. “You wouldn’t want to be apart from your wife and newborn.”
"Nice little life you got there, Andy. It would be a shame if anything were to happen to mess up that life." All of you who have had an elementary logic class will recognize this as an example of innuendo used to convey a threat.
July 25, 2012
Liberals Used to Value The Truth, Part 345
I just read with horror and disgust the full story of what happened to University of Texas sociologist Mark Regnerus who published a recent studythat contradicted the “accepted” scholarly consensus that children raised by homosexuals have no different life outcomes than those raised by intact biological parents. The wonderful Andy Ferguson summarizes:
As of mid-July, a month after his paper was published, these are some of the things that have happened to Mark Regnerus. Three of his colleagues in the sociology department at UT joined with a fourth to -publish a widely distributed op-ed in the Huffington Post accusing him of “besmirching” the university through his “irresponsible and reckless misrepresentation of social science research.” Led by Gary Gates, the UCLA demographer who had declined Regnerus’s offer to help design the study, more than 200 “researchers and scholars” signed a letter to the editor of Social Science Research. The letter demanded that the editor “publicly disclose the reasons” why he published the paper and insisted that he hire scholars more sensitive to “LGBT parenting issues” to write a critique for the journal’s next edition. UT’s Director of Research Integrity sent Regnerus a letter informing him that a formal complaint of “scientific misconduct” had been lodged against him. The complaint, made by a gay blogger/activist/“investigative journalist” called Scott Rose, triggered an official inquiry into Regnerus’s research methods and his relationship with the Witherspoon Foundation; he’s now preparing to appear before a panel of faculty investigators. Requests have been filed with the Texas attorney general’s office demanding that Regnerus, as an employee of a state-run institution, make public all email and correspondence related to his study. And he has hired a lawyer.
A large number of his fellow social scientists—members in good standing of the guild of LGBT researchers—would like to destroy his career.
Ferguson’s whole article is quite good and goes into the problems with Regnerus’ study (and since Regnerus is a good scholar, he acknowledged those problems up front!) and its “unique strengths” as Ferguson puts it, as well as the reaction from other scholars who study these issues (in particular the weaselly demographer Gary Gates).
I suppose I shouldn’t be surprised at any of this by now; but because I still care passionately about the truth, because I have known wonderful scholars and teachers who were willing to pursue the truth wherever it led them, and because I think the homosexual lobby is inimical to a flourishing American society – this story still managed to surprise me and make me sick.
Pensees on Austerity
Any man who propounds his doctrine on Austerity, whether to damn or approbate, must acknowledge forthrightly that Austerity entails both (a) broad-based tax increases and (b) deep defense cuts, or reveal himself as a mountebank.
There is no imposture more common in our public counsels today than presenting a portion of Austerity as the whole. It is convenient for the tendentious purposes of the Left, no less than those of the Right, to quietly pretend Austerity consists only in welfare, entitlement and other public-sector cuts. By this trickery a liberal committed firmly to austere cuts in the defense budget and sharp increases in taxation, may pass himself off as a friend to the little man who will stand against the menace of Austerity; quite as much as the conservative committed firmly to fiscal retrenchment, may pass himself off as a friend to the middle class and military, who will stand against the selfsame menace.
Austerity thus becomes a perfect bogeyman: every man despises it, denouncing his opponents for their embrace of an iniquitous policy, while secretly endorsing key portions of its substance.
July 29, 2012
Will America get government suicide clinics? Maybe, maybe not.
Well, now, here's an interesting development: Writing in the New England Journal of Medicine, a hospital bioethicist named Dr. Lisa Lehmann and her co-author struggle to find a (final) solution to the shortage of doctors willing to write lethal prescriptions for patients. What to do? What to do?
Their idea is to make doctors unnecessary to the deadly transaction in order to make it easier to get 'er done. Instead, a doctor would simply do doctor-ly things like giving his patient a diagnosis and a prognosis. The patient would then take this information to a "central state or federal" location, where a non-physician of some sort, a government employee, would dispense the deadly medication. Neat, huh?
Now, this idea is pretty much a suicide clinic idea. The only thing that might make a difference to the accuracy of that name is that perhaps the patient would take the lethal dosage home and take it himself. But who knows? Lehmann & co. envisage the bureaucrats as "monitor[ing] demand and use," so I suppose there's no reason in principle why the government hub couldn't also provide a place for you to be bumped off on-site.
In any event, here's a question that raises some interesting thoughts: Would such a switch--to non-physicians prescribing and even doling out suicide doses--be culturally better or worse than physician-assisted suicide?
July 31, 2012
The Devilish Mr. Derbyshire
I’m sure by now most of the readers of this blog have heard of the controversy that engulfed Mr. Derbyshire this summer when he wrote about an important issue concerning the fate of Western civilization. Indeed, Christians who are passionate about their faith should be particularly concerned with Mr. Derbyshire's views.