Monday, 29 September 2008
Saturday, 27 September 2008
At the top of the side bar is a "Follow this Blog" button that does what it says on the tin
Then there is an RSS facility that helps visitors follow specific posts and discussions if they wish.
If you use Blogger yourself go to the Dashboard and you can find all you need to know. MeanwhileI look forward to seeing who follows my blog in future.
Sunday, 21 September 2008
I am not a resident of California, neither am I American so my interest in this issue has been what you might call concern from a distance. As a Christian of the conservative variety my sympathies lie with those who wish to strengthen Christian values. What has caught my attention, however, is the way the argument is made on the liberal side and I think it illustrates a fundamental and dangerous flaw in the thinking of those arguing the liberal cause.
The case, as I understand it, is that there are those who wish to enter into law the right of individuals to marry, if they choose, someone of the same gender. Opposed to this are those who wish to enter into law something called proposition 8, a fourteen word amendment to the state constitution to include the words, “Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.” On a blog entitled Daily Mendacity it is argued that the Mormons, who are busy advocating proposition 8, are trying to change the constitution to reflect Mormon doctrine. The writer goes on to argue:
“To be very clear - if a gay couple weds in the United Church of Christ it does not affect Mormon doctrine in any way.But they are determined to use our state constitutions to prevent the UCC from following their beliefs.”
Of course, we all know that religion is a hot topic in America, what with the militant idea of the separation of church and state (originally intended to separate the state from the church, not the church from the state), the preoccupation with private morality and the insistence that public leaders show themselves believing something even if they privately harbour doubts. The thing that has caught my attention, however, is not a religious so much as a philosophical problem, and one that shows up the inherent weakness of every liberal argument I have ever heard.
No Man is an Island
First there is the notion that “believers” of any stripe must not be allowed to bring their faith informed views into the public square where all the great issues are debated, while those with no particular faith may bring forward any idea that suits them however it is informed or arrived at. It amounts to insisting that a person must vote with their conscience so long as their conscience isn’t informed in church, in which case – what? It is a view that has people of a liberal bent free to lobby canvas and promote while those of a religious bent are denied the same privilege. It appears that “One nation under God” cannot countenance the views of those who trust the God under which that nation prospers.
Then there is the idea that what people in one part of society do need not have an effect on what those elsewhere in society experience. But, surely, that is what the liberal is complaining about, i.e. if the conservative argument holds sway it will impact others because whatever is passed into law is binding on everyone. John Donne famously wrote:
“No man is an island, entire of itself; every man is a piece of the continent, a part of the main; if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe is the less...any man's death diminishes me, because I am involved in mankind... and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.”
The naked truth is that, whether liberal or conservative, any view that holds sway over such an important issue will impact everyone. When people debate such things they are not arguing over private morality, or any individual group’s rights but over what sort of society everyone wishes to live in. All have an interest and perhaps one of the great complaints in the political arena today is that not enough people engage with the issues that potentially impact them. Those who do so engage will find people of like mind and work together to an end common to those of that particular view. It is not a question of whether that view should be heard but whether it is heard and found to be compelling enough to influence others.
If the conservative view wins then the consequences are perhaps more immediate and obvious in that the law will immediately have a proscribing effect. But if the liberal view prevails, while the effect on a wider society may not be as immediate, make no mistake it will prove as far-reaching and ultimately more insidious, its influence being felt by many more people than the island of liberalism envisioned by the blogger. Ideas know no borders and “the madness of crowds” is contagious.
Totalitarians Need Not Apply
The blogger goes on to wave at us the usual bogeyman of religious totalitarianism:
“What the church is doing is within the law, but I think that it also shows how vulnerable we have become to a theocracy as oppressive as those Islamic Republics we claim to deplore and how little regard we have for human rights when religions enter the mix.”
The irony here is that the human rights which he is so anxious to protect are founded on Christian values and, far from being ancillary to the main business of life, religion is integral to people’s lives as well as to the communities in which they live. It is not a question of whether religion is permitted a place but whether it takes its place in a way that recognises the high values common to a democratic society. Perhaps we need to deal with the bias that highlights religion as the totalitarian threat we should concern ourselves with when history teaches us that totalitarianism is the product of wrong thinking not particularly religious thinking. As though to prove the point the great totalitarian regimes of the twentieth century, surely the bloodiest century in history, were secular. Whether an ideology wins adherents and wields influence depends on how society engages with ideas, religious or secular, and it is quite wrong and misleading to suggest that secular thought is somehow better than religious.
Mormons, Baptists, Presbyterians etc, are not inhabitants of individual island communities, for each is part of the continent. In the same way, liberals do not inhabit islands of private morality in which they can do as they please with no thought for the consequences on a wider society. Of course, it is the ambition of liberals to spread the message of liberalism as much as any other ideologues and by any means. The conservative, the Christian wishes to be heard above the cacophony in the marketplace of ideas while the liberal wishes to dictate who is allowed a voice in the public square before the argument begins. Totalitarianism indeed! It was once considered a virtue to declare, “I don’t agree with what you say but I will defend your right to say it”. This is no longer the case as the liberal declares, “I don’t agree with what you say and I will go to any lengths to deny you the right to say it.”
Monday, 15 September 2008
"ISLAMIC law has been officially adopted in Britain, with sharia courts given powers to rule on Muslim civil cases.
The government has quietly sanctioned the powers for sharia judges to rule on cases ranging from divorce and financial disputes to those involving domestic violence."
So reports the Times of Sunday 14 September 2008. This isn't about being fair and evenhanded; it is about being fearful and trying to placate violent Islam. It is not about being multicultural; it is about being so culturally vacuous that anything is allowed to step into the gaping hole that once was a proud and rich Judeo/Christian and democratic British heritage. It isn't about being liberal; it is about being careless of those precious values that more than one generation sacrificed to preserve for us.
It is a fact that not all Muslims are terrorists but the majority of terrorists are Muslims (read who said it here). Islam is historically, culturally and temperamentally a vanquishing and subjugating religion and those who seek security in the notion that if you concede a little territory in the name of peace and liberal values then all will be well are tragically mistaken. It is well to remember the fable of the camel's nose:
One cold night, as an Arab sat in his tent, a camel gently thrust his nose under the flap and looked in. "Master," he said, "let me put my nose in your tent. It's cold and stormy out here." "By all means," said the Arab, "and welcome" as he turned over and went to sleep.
A little later the Arab awoke to find that the camel had not only put his nose in the tent but his head and neck also. The camel, who had been turning his head from side to side, said, "I will take but little more room if I place my forelegs within the tent. It is difficult standing out here." "Yes, you may put your forelegs within," said the Arab, moving a little to make room, for the tent was small.
Finally, the camel said, "May I not stand wholly inside? I keep the tent open by standing as I do." "Yes, yes," said the Arab. "Come wholly inside. Perhaps it will be better for both of us." So the camel crowded in. The Arab with difficulty in the crowded quarters again went to sleep. When he woke up the next time, he was outside in the cold and the camel had the tent to himself.
Wednesday, 10 September 2008
"This is an honest nation--in private life. The American Christian is a straight and clean and honest man, and in his private commerce with his fellows can be trusted to stand faithfully by the principles of honor and honesty imposed upon him by his religion. But the moment he comes forward to exercise a public trust he can be confidently counted upon to betray that trust in nine cases out of ten, if `party loyalty' shall require it....” (Twain, Christian Science, 359).
Sunday, 7 September 2008
"Aboriginal leaders in Australia have called for a book teaching girls how to play the didgeridoo to be scrapped.
The Australian version of the Daring Book for Girls is due to be published next month.
It has angered some indigenous leaders who view the didgeridoo as a male instrument not to be played by women.
Publisher Harper Collins Australia said it was not aware of any taboos on women playing the didgeridoo, and has apologised for any offence caused."
So reports the BBC in a recent online news report. It is popular these days to think it very civilised to consider all religions, ideologies and world-views as of equal worth and worthy of equal "respect". This story raises the question of what happens when two worlds collide.
The publishers of the offending book are the product of a culture holding to the world-view that sees men and women as equal, hence an adventure book for girls as well as the original book for boys. With its introduction into Australia we have a clash of opposing ideologies; one that includes women and one that is exclusive of them. It is all well and good to want to be even-handed and sensitive but what happens when the irresistible force of modernism comes up against the immovable object of aboriginal tradition?
Science tells us that when an irresistible force meets an immovable object a vacuum is created. Nature abhors a vacuum and seeks to fill it. Ideologically, it is essential that we decide for one argument over another or someone else will fill the vacuum and make up our minds for us.
The publishers have been sensitive enough to apologise for any offence inadvertently caused but have, nevertheless, determined to carry on with publishing in Australia on the sound basis that there are different ways to look at these things.
The liberal agenda often finds itself groundless when it comes up against reality because, while liberalism would have us bend ourselves out of shape to try and accommodate everyone's world-view, reality inconveniently challenges us to choose.
As someone once said, "Stand for something or fall for anything, live for something or die for nothing"
Friday, 5 September 2008
A Mormon may well have “heard it all before” but we are not in ministry to provide novelty for the otherwise jaded Mormon aficionado looking for a place to rest their weary derriere and yawn affectedly at the rest of us. Mormons have a tendency to speak and act as though the world revolves around Mormonism but it doesn’t.
A Mormon may well have “heard it all before” but that does not mean they were listening properly or appreciated fully what they have heard. When someone is in defence mode they tend to hear only offence and threats and offer only opposing and self-justifying answers. When, on the other hand, someone reaches a place of genuine inquiry they can hear again all those thing they have heard before as though hearing them for the first time.
A Mormon may well have “heard it all before” but they are not the only visitors to our forum and others, either participating in the discussions or just silently watching them develop, may not have heard it all before. There may be those who have never heard that Joseph Smith had many wives; that there are eight different versions of the first vision; that Joseph Smith died in a gun fight in which he shot two people; that Joseph Smith issued a “revelation” denying that Mormons practiced polygamy even when he already had more than one wife; that, contrary to popular Mormon myth, polygamy was illegal in the state where Mormons first practiced it; that, contrary to official statements, the Adam/God doctrine was officially taught for years and that denying Negroes the priesthood was an official doctrine of the church and not a social convention, the product of the times, as many are now being told. Perhaps these other people would like to hear these things and even if they have heard it all before themselves perhaps they are not yet satisfied with the answers they have heard and wish to hear more.
A Mormon may well have “heard it all before” but there will be those, Christians, Mormons, former Mormons, other interested parties, who wish to get a clearer picture, test their knowledge, try out their arguments and otherwise get involved in discussion that offers the opportunity to grow in all those things that help them make sense of the world, having met with, been involved with, or had relations who are Mormons.
A Mormon may well have “heard it all before” but that is no excuse for refusing to get involved in honest discussion, for feigning an urbanity that ill-befits someone who is meant to be eager to discuss their faith, and for an ill-mannered and cynical humour that betrays an attitude that could not be less than the Christian Mormons claim to be.
For all these reasons, and more, any Mormon visiting our forum is welcome to join in our discussions, start discussions, participate in vigorous debate and be part of the process of helping our visitors to understand and work things out for themselves. But if they have “heard it all before” they should just remember that this forum, much less this world, does not revolve around them and keep quiet about it.
Thursday, 4 September 2008
According to Julia Duin, a religion reporter for the Washington Times, more and more evangelicals are in fact fleeing their churches. Indeed, Ms. Duin regards church-quitting, at least among evangelicals, as nothing less than an epidemic. The problem, in her view, is not in the souls of the church quitters but in the character of the churches they choose to leave. "Something," she observes, "is not right with . . . evangelical church life."
So we find ourselves in the lamentable situation where young people who want to be godly pastors trained with the tools to accurately handle the Bible have difficulty finding a place to be educated, and those who actually do find such an education have difficulty finding churches that want them. As a result, our evangelical movement has grown accustomed to pastoral malpractice as though it were the norm. Many seminaries are producing professional “people handlers” rather than theologians, and many churches like it that way.