Tuesday, April 22, 2014
Liberals Must Choose Between Freedom And Fascism
Honest liberals are having their Andrew Breitbart moment. Andrew started out as a liberal, except he was the kind of liberal that’s exceedingly rare today. He was a liberal who actually believed in the things liberals say they believe in, like free expression and personal autonomy.
But they don’t.
Andrew’s change began when he watched the Clarence Thomas hearings. He saw a “high-tech lynching,” as racist Democrats intent on stamping out dissent among black Americans channeled their former Majority Leader/KKK Exalted Cyclops Robert Byrd in attacking the black jurist for refusing to toe the liberal line.
Andrews’s views didn't change. What changed was his understanding of who actually stands for freedom. And it isn’t liberals.
Which brings us to the recent kerfuffle involving popular comic Patton Oswalt. He is known as a sarcastic, snarky, underdog with genuine stand-up chops. He’s also an occasional movie and television star who recently had a memorable role on “Justified,” a conservative favorite due to its general awesomeness and the presence of right wing acting legend Nick Searcy.
By all accounts a funny, decent guy, Oswalt thinks of himself as a liberal, and he frequently bickers with conservatives on Twitter. That's fine. Many conservatives died to give him that right. Conservatives don't resent him for doing so even as they disagree with what he says. But that's not true of his allies on the left. They want to shut him up. You see, Oswalt pulled a Clarence Thomas and left the reservation without the chiefs’ permission.
What was Oswalt’s crime? He tweeted approvingly about a Mark Steyn column in which the conservative raconteur took on the global progressive assault on free expression. He made the mistake of characterizing Steyn’s forceful advocacy of free speech as “hitting it out of the park.”
That, the Left cannot forgive.
You see, Mark Steyn is evil. He has ideas liberals don’t approve of. So to cite him as he took on the left’s Ball Gag Caucus was simply unacceptable to the progressive conformity enforcers. Soon Oswalt found himself swamped by a tsunami of Twitter outrage.
Oswalt, stunned but so-far uncowed, tweeted back that his erstwhile allies were proving Steyn’s point. And he was right.
The challenge for honest liberals is to get their collective heads around the fact that the liberalism they think they subscribe to is being advocated and defended only by the very conservatives their prejudices and ignorance have led them to believe are undermining it. The real enemy of free expression isn't the conservative John Lithgow in “Footloose” banning dancing because of some idiosyncratic take on Jesus’s teachings. The real threat is the pseudo-enlightened schoolteacher on “Glee” enforcing his rigid progressive vision of diversity. And his vision of diversity is a diverse collection of those ideas he approves of and no others.
So is Oswalt going to stand up for freedom and take his lumps, or is he going to take the easy path of submission and obedience to the politically correct commands of the gatekeepers of liberalism?
It's a lot easier to submit, to not fight, to not make a fuss. What happens when you make a fuss? Remember John Lovitz? He’s another liberal who stood up to political correctness on social media. Do you see John Lovitz in a lot of movies these days?
Did Lovitz suddenly become unmarketable about the same time he became uncontrollable, or are people just afraid to be seen with him lest his new reputation for heresy rub off?
The temptation for someone like Oswalt, when faced with the braying mob of radical feminists, crypto-fascist academics, and assorted other progressive weirdoes, losers and mutations, must be overwhelming. It's so easy to surrender, to redouble your attacks on conservatives to prove you’re still one of the gang. All you have to do is hand over your autonomy and they'll give you a pass. Sure, it's humiliating, but who needs self-respect when you can guest star on “Two and a Half Men?”
Oswalt can submit, or he can face the fact, as must other honest liberals, that the side they think they are on doesn’t remotely believe in free expression. It doesn’t believe in free thought. It doesn’t believe in diversity. It believes in a crushing conformity enforced by a creepy Red Guard of politically correct goose-steppers with gender studies degrees, Twitter accounts and the burning need to bend others to their will.
We don't have to agree with what Patton Oswalt says, but the difference is that we conservatives aren’t the ones trying to silence him. We will argue with him. We will fight with him. But we won’t try to stick a rag in his pie hole. That's what his “friends” are trying to do.
Oswalt and other honest liberals need to decide who their friends really are.
Do Something about abortion
Mike Adams is advocating here what I have long proposed. It is also what the Vatican's Cardinal Pell and GW Bush have also supported -- JR
American culture is in trouble. It is impossible to watch television for long without concluding that we are all living in one big reality TV show that is defining deviancy one embarrassing episode at a time. Unfortunately, the church isn't doing much to fight against the cultural current. By trying to be "relevant" the church is simply getting pulled into the undertow. Consequently, most churches are slowly drowning in the shallow water of our declining culture.
So how do we turn the tide and begin to have a meaningful church experience that also influences the culture in a meaningful way? The answer is that we must learn to deal with relativistic thinking in a proactive fashion. Take, for example, the issue of abortion.
No one wants to confront a woman who has had an abortion and tell her that she has just committed a profoundly evil act by taking an innocent life. So the natural impulse is to simply pretend that no evil act has transpired. Indeed, this is what most pastors do. They don't condemn abortion. Nor do they praise it. They just ignore it. In this way, the taking of innocent life becomes just another morally neutral choice in a society that is becoming increasingly incapable of making moral distinctions between alternative courses of action.
This trend must be reversed. As long as the church refuses to push away from relativism, the culture will push the church towards it. More innocent children will die as a result.
So what specifically is to be done on an issue like abortion? I believe the answer is to get churches actively involved in preventing abortions from happening in the first place. The best way to do that is to provide direct financial support to women who are considering abortion - and to make the availability of that support known to them well in advance of their decision.
If your church is doing nothing on the issue of abortion, please take the time to meet with your pastor. Ask him to prayerfully consider starting a specific ministry aimed at reducing abortions within the church and in the broader community.
By actively collecting tithes that will be directed towards paying the expenses (medical and otherwise) of women in crisis pregnancy situations, two important things will be accomplished:
1. The church will implicitly communicate that abortion is wrong by acknowledging that it is a thing to be avoided. But it will do so without slapping a scarlet "A" on the garments of church members who have had negative experiences with abortion. This will satisfy the more conservative members of the congregation who want the church to do something instead of remaining neutral on the abortion issue.
2. The church will also appease those who argue that we need compassionate approaches to the abortion issue, rather than focusing on legislative and judicial restrictions. This approach will satisfy the more liberal members of the congregation who want conservatives to do something charitable that doesn't involve "legislating morality" (as if it were somehow possible to legislate in a morally neutral way).
Of course, there will come a time when people ask questions about why the church takes a stand against abortion, even if it is merely an implicit stance. This is where education, rather than condemnation, should become the focus of the church. Note that 1Peter 3:15 calls us to defend the Gospel. I believe we should also use apologetics to defend the unborn. In fact, when we do so, we create new opportunities to share the Gospel.
My good friend Scott Klusendorf provides the best example I've seen of how we can defend the unborn in a way that draws people to the Gospel without harming them by shielding them from uncomfortable truths. He knows how to defend the unborn by relying on science and philosophy, rather than simply quoting scripture. That approach helps him share the good news every time he speaks on an otherwise difficult topic. Once they decide to do something to prevent abortion, churches would do well to invite Scott to educate their congregations on why they are weighing in on the matter.
Compassion is good, but pulling drowning kids out of the water isn't enough. At some point pastors must take a hike upstream and confront the ones who keep throwing our children in the water. Indeed, the true measure of our compassion is our willingness to confront injustice. And injustice toward the unborn can't be confronted by ignoring the central question on the issue, which is a simple one: Are the unborn fully human and made in the image of God?
If God is the creator of life then He alone has the authority to define it. Cultural definitions are irrelevant. So are the churches that refuse to challenge them.
As the tide of faith retreats here, it surges forward elsewhere
Charles Moore reviews The Essay: The Retreating Roar (Radio 3)
Probably in 1851, Matthew Arnold wrote a short, great and, later, famous poem called “Dover Beach”. It describes the view of the shingle by moonlight, as seen from a window. It is addressed to an unnamed companion, the poet’s love, whom he invites to listen to the sound of the pebbles “which the waves draw back, and fling”.
The waves remind the poet of how the “Sea of Faith/ Was once, too, at the full”, and has now retreated: “But now I only hear/ Its melancholy, long, withdrawing roar, /Retreating… down the vast edges drear/ And naked shingles of the world.” He is dismayed.
The journalist Madeleine Bunting took this poem as her starting point for a series of short talks for Holy Week in which she analysed the flotsam and jetsam the retreating sea has left behind. She is an example of the phenomenon – a North Yorkshire convent-educated girl from a strongly Catholic family, now “no longer a practising Christian” (she was not absolutely explicit about whether she has lost all faith).
Ms Bunting is a well-known, somewhat solemn Left-wing commentator, and I had feared a bit of a drone about patriarchy, imperialism and all that. The final talk did end uninterestingly with the unsubstantiated claim that we are now destroying our planet, but on the whole my expectations were pleasingly confounded.
The striking and original Bunting method was to select a series of Christian-inspired ideas, some of which, she admitted, she missed in the post-Christian world, and to ask what has become of them. These were: glory, sin, salvation, patience and sacrifice. She noticed that modern secular society employs inferior echoes of some – celebrity culture instead of glory, unredemptive self-loathing about body image, weight etc instead of sin and forgiveness – and jettisons others at a high cost.
She was particularly good on patience. She had given it no thought, she said, until she had children, when she came to realise that it is “a vital organising principle of life” and one which is being beaten out of women (who traditionally embody it better than men) by modern time-poverty (“speed and greed”) and the emphasis on worldly success. She pointed out that, from his hour in the garden of Gethsemane onwards, Jesus became entirely patient (hence the word the Passion) until his death, and through this achieved his glory.
Also sacrifice. Ms Bunting spoke of how a pregnant woman might lose hair and teeth and weaken her blood for the child she is bearing. She praised “an altruism beyond calculation”. With the weakening of such concepts, the springs of action fail. The loss of the idea of salvation helps explain the feebleness of modern secular politics, particularly the decline of socialism. She quoted Clement Attlee’s promise in 1945 that Labour “will build Jerusalem”, and complained that a post-Christian society could muster no “salvific vision”. She saw what she called “techno-optimism” as a poor substitute.
Although the continuity announcer said that Madeleine Bunting was speaking about “the losses and the gains” which have resulted from the decline of faith, she mentioned far fewer of the latter. Apart from her passionate assertion that Christianity’s attitude to sex had engendered “a state of chronic anxiety in followers” and involved a “deeply manipulative” abuse of authority, she said little about why post-Christian life is better, and much about how it is worse. What she persistently, eloquently identified in our times was a greater triviality and a lack of connection in people’s minds without which it becomes much harder to make sense of the world and live with dignity.
In the end, this series made no attack on Christian belief as such. Ms Bunting’s objections were to the behaviour of the Church, which is not the same thing. Indeed, when she made her objections, Ms Bunting was at pains to contrast the imperial Roman pretensions of the Church with the attitudes of the “itinerant carpenter” who got the show on the road. His idea of sin, she noted, was not of something that demanded punishment, but a more “generous” concept of “missing the target” or of trespassing upon others. Pope Francis could not have expressed it better. So by the end, I felt like putting to Ms Bunting a proposition so startling that she probably could not accept it and keep her job on The Guardian. Has she considered that there might be a reason why the concepts she analysed run so deep, cohere, and refresh the parts that secular ideas cannot reach? Could the reason be that the faith itself is true?
Attlee is supposed to have said of Christianity, with characteristic brevity: “Like the ethics: don’t like the mumbo-jumbo.” He was speaking in an era when the belief system was still so strong that this seemed quite a safe thought. Seventy or 80 years on, it has become clearer – as Ms Bunting showed – that the ethics may not be able to survive without the “mumbo-jumbo”. And that suggests – though obviously it does not prove – that it may not be mumbo-jumbo after all.
In her otherwise broad sweep, Madeleine Bunting did omit one interesting fact. She did not mention that the loss of faith is almost wholly a phenomenon of white, western European/American culture. Despite her dislike of imperialism, her approach very much sees our culture as the centre of the world. Yet there are more Christians (and Muslims) alive today than at any time in human history. Not coincidentally, their countries are growing while ours stagnate. The tide may have retreated on Dover Beach, but it is flowing up the rivers of China and over what the hymn calls “Afric’s golden sand”.
Stop preaching politics, Tories tell the bishops: Fury as church leaders use Easter speeches to attack government's 'sinful cuts'
Tories accused church leaders of playing politics last night for using their Easter messages to attack the Government over poverty and ‘sinful’ cuts.
In his sermon, the Archbishop of Canterbury highlighted the plight of struggling families ‘left broken and weeping’ by hunger and debt.
He told the congregation at Canterbury Cathedral: ‘In this country, even as the economy improves there is weeping in broken families, in people ashamed to seek help from food banks, or frightened by debt.’
And the Bishop of Truro the Right Reverend Tim Thornton spoke of the ‘sinful consequences’ of the squeeze on local authority budgets.
The bishop, who sits on a committee looking at food banks, told Radio 5 Live: ‘Politicians have to decide how to allocate resources.
And in allocating some resources, you are then inevitably taking away from other people.
‘I am not saying it’s a sin. I am saying that some of these policies lead to effects and consequences which have sinful elements in them.’
The bishops’ comments come amid growing unease over the use of political messages by figures in the Church of England.
Last week saw a letter signed by 600 church leaders, including 36 Anglican bishops, calling on the Government to tackle what it called a ‘national crisis’ of hunger and poverty.
The letter cited the rise of food banks as evidence that ‘unfair and harsh benefits sanctions’ were causing people to go hungry.
But the claims contradict findings by the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development showing food poverty in Britain has reduced.
Many argue there will always be an almost unlimited demand for food that is given away for free and that it does not necessarily mean people are going hungry.
Last night Enfield Southgate MP David Burrowes, chairman of the Conservative Christian Fellowship, said: ‘I don’t remember church leaders in years gone by talking about the huge debt mountain this Government inherited, or talking positively about the number of people now back in work.
‘Of course church leaders can comment on politics, but they should get an appropriate balance.
Fellow Tory Douglas Carswell, the MP for Clacton, said: ‘You can’t criticise debt from the pulpit and then have a go at a Government that is trying to do something about it.’
Archbishop Welby left himself open to accusations of hypocrisy after it emerged yesterday that the Church of England still has financial interests in Wonga.
The Archbishop lambasted the payday loan company last year, only for it to be revealed that the church’s pension fund had invested money in one of the high-interest lender’s financial backers.
Church Commissioners continue to hold shares in the firm worth around £90,000.
But in a newspaper interview on Saturday Archbishop Welby dismissed the issue, saying he had not acted because he had ‘a million other things to do’ and was not an ‘investment manager’.
Political correctness is most pervasive in universities and colleges but I rarely report the incidents concerned here as I have a separate blog for educational matters.
American "liberals" often deny being Leftists and say that they are very different from the Communist rulers of other countries. The only real difference, however, is how much power they have. In America, their power is limited by democracy. To see what they WOULD be like with more power, look at where they ARE already very powerful: in America's educational system -- particularly in the universities and colleges. They show there the same respect for free-speech and political diversity that Stalin did: None. So look to the colleges to see what the whole country would be like if "liberals" had their way. It would be a dictatorship.
For more postings from me, see TONGUE-TIED, GREENIE WATCH, EDUCATION WATCH INTERNATIONAL, FOOD & HEALTH SKEPTIC, AUSTRALIAN POLITICS and DISSECTING LEFTISM. My Home Pages are here or here or here. Email me (John Ray) here.