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This Month's Scripture Verse:

But mark this: There will be terrible times in the last days. People will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boastful, proud, abusive, disobedient to their parents, ungrateful, unholy, without love, unforgiving, slanderous, without self-control, brutal, not lovers of the good, treacherous, rash, conceited, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God— having a form of godliness but denying its power. Have nothing to do with such people.
2 Timothy 3:1-5

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Friday, September 17, 2021

What Is Always Forgotten When Christian Leaders Sing The 'Things Ain't What They Use To Be' Blues.

 Ever since the Obergefell SCOTUS decision, many Christian leaders have been remorsefully reminiscencing about the past. It was a past where Christianity ruled the roost in much of the thinking in the West. Even with unbelievers back then, because of Christianity's influence on society, many unbelievers held to theistic views in general. But something happened on the way to the future and now many Christian leaders are singing the blues for a past gone by.

In 2017, Albert Mohler (click here for a bio) wrote such a blues article for Ligioneer Ministries. In that article, Mohler talks about the secularization of America in terms of how and when it occurred (click here for the article). 

In citing Peter Berger, Mohler explains that, unlike the secularization of Europe, the epicenter for the secularization of America was in its universities and it occurred well after the secularization of Europe.

By secularization, Mohler is referring to the change in society when a belief in a deity is no longer the binding moral authority for people in general. The secularization process in Europe took around 150 years and lasted up through WW II, according to Mohler. America itself seemed to have escaped that process for a while, but it is now catching up.

Citing Charles Taylor in a general discussion about the secularization of Western Civilization, the process occurred in stages when there was the impossibility of unbelief in Pre-Enlightenment times to the time where general acceptance of the Christian God became optional as science provided alternative explanations for the world to the current time of the impossibility of belief. Using different names, what Taylor, and Mohler as he echos him, were describing were Pre Modernism, Modernism, and Post Modernism. Pre Modernism was when faith was used as the metanarrative to understanding and describing the world. That was when unbelief was "impossible." The Modern period saw science and reason compete with faith in explaining the world and reality. So faith was possible then but only optional. The current Post Modern time period has rejected the metanarratives of both faith that claims to have exclusive knowledge of the truth and the metanarrative of science and reason. In the end, Post Modernism seems to philosophically be going where no philosophy has gone before. And it has in a sense just as in another sense it hasn't.

So now America seems to be catching up to Europe in unbelief. One of the biggest canaries in the mine used by many religiously conservative Christians to determine the state of Christianity in America is the acceptance of same-sex marriage in society. Mohler is part of that crowd. And he is surprised at the pace of the change as indicated by the failing health of that canary. 

Mohler joins the many other religiously conservative Christian leaders in singing the blues about a lost past, a past where Christianity had more influence over society even to the extent of controlling cultural values to various degrees.

There are two questions that one could hope that Mohler et. al. would address but do not generally speaking. The first question is, what did you expect? Now that question isn't asked because of the effects that Modernism and Post Modernism have had on society. Instead that question is in the light of the makeup of society itself. Society consists of believers in the Gospel and unbelievers. That very fact alone should prepare us not to be surprised when our nation rejects our beliefs in God. This is especially true when we are outnumbered. Because we should not be surprised that a collection of people that includes unbelievers will at times not be dominated by our beliefs. In fact, I don't want Christianity to be in the position of dominating anyone, but that is besides the point. 

And it matters not that that group of unbelievers in our society included those who adhered to different faiths. Our very own Constitution dictated that faith is optional when it declared that we have a freedom of religion. 

Perhaps it is because of a sense of loss that many religiously conservative Christian leaders today for losing their influential position in society that is driving many to be surprised or ask questions. But that should not be and that society consists of many unbelievers should be one reason why many do not believe the basics taught in the Scriptures. But there is another question that is seldom addressed as it should by these same leaders. That question asks us about our own history.

What is rarely mentioned when religiously conservative Christian leaders sing the 'things ain't what they use to be' blues over their lost influence over our nation are the failures of Christians to adequately live up to what the Gospel teaches. To be sure, all of us who take the name of 'Christian' have failed many times to bring the honor to the Gospel which it deserves. And the struggle by past Christians has greatly contributed to the societal shift away from theism that we see today. 

Here in America, prominent Christians have promoted white supremacy, practiced, promoted, and defended slavery, promoted and defended Jim Crow, have had a negative view toward science especially in terms of evolution and climate change, have used the law to persecute the LGBT community, have supported American imperialism, and the list could go on. Note what is absent from the list are the public failures to practice biblical sexual morals by some Christian leaders. Here we should note Post Modernism's beef against religions with exclusive truth claims. Such religions have practiced or supported imperialism, colonialism, wars, slavery, and other means of exploitation and domination. Even just some of that was more than what Post Modernism's outcome-based truth system could tolerate.

This second question points to one of the real contributors to the downfall of the influence of Christianity in our society and culture today. The many failures of its followers has contributed greatly to the secularization of society. And despite how obvious that fact is, it is not asked about or addressed in many of writings of those who lament the secularization of our nation. The failure to admit our own failures as being a contributing factor in the secularization of our nation because that failure to admit our faults and sins are damaging the credibility of not just our own witness, but of what we are a witness too.

Religiously conservative Christian leaders must continually address the above two questions regarding our nation's secularization and fall of Christian influence in our society if they want to fully understand what is going on and possibly how to mitigate the current trend.


Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For September 15, 2021

 Aug 27

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost that defends the right of people to refuse to comply with vaccine mandates. This appeared in Heidelblog.

Are there justifiable moral reasons for refusing the vaccine in the face of the current pandemic? The argument for that refusal must be regarded as weaker now in the face of the Delta variant and the future variants that the Delta variant points to.

The beginning of the above blogpost is problematic because it points to competing claims. That is problematic because it doesn't mention the sources of those competing claims. It doesn't say anything about people vetting their news sources. To spread misinformation, especially deadly misinformation because one was negligent to vet one's news sources is to become vulnerable to violating the prohibitions against bearing false witness and killing. So this discussion about having the moral right to refuse the vaccination must start with knowing how to obtain news sources that are as reliable as possible.

Next, Clark's argument is structured around the individual and their conscience. The selective appeal to the sovereignty of the conscience is determined by the writer's own views and political-moral issues at hand. For example, Clark does not argue for the sovereignty of the conscience when it comes to homosexuality and same-sex marriage. Why? Because the conscience is fallible and thus must answer to higher authority. So why are we not discussing the fallibility of the conscience when structuring the discussion of mandated vaccinations around the conscience?

We should note that to so structure the discussion around the conscience can become counterproductive to promoting Biblical morals. Why? That is because to structure the discussion that way causes people, especially Christians, to be self-directed to the point of being self-focused. The concern for such people is to maintain their own moral purity. But Biblical morals are also about loving one's neighbor as themselves. Biblical morals adds to the mix a concern and even preoccupation with the welfare of others. Note that Biblical morals adds love for neighbor to the mix; it does not replace the valid concerns for maintaining one's own purity.

Next comes a confusing concern about the legality of the abortion from which fetal cells were used in the development of the vaccines. Before noting the confusion, we should note that fetal cells, that is cells from an actual fetus, were not used at all in the development or production of any vaccine. Rather, cells from a fetal cell line were used. That means that reliance on these cells is not causing more abortions. 

As for the moral objections to using such cells, one might ask if it is immoral to use organs in transplant operations from a person who was murdered. Again, the question of whether such use becomes an incentive for future murders is important here. Does the cause of death suggest anything about the use of those organs? If not, doesn’t the comparison suggest a similar, if not the same, answer, for use of fetal cells from an abortion? And since cells from a fetal cell line is being used, doesn’t the suggestion become stronger in the face of the current pandemic?

Clark’s objection to this line of thinking is one of choice only in a broader context. A volunteer organ donor is making the choice to donate one’s organs. But how does that apply when the fetal cell donor has no ability to make such a choice? Is Clark comparing apples to oranges in making  this particular point? Again, isn’t the overriding moral issue here whether the use of these fetal cells leads to future abortions?

As for the confusing concern for the legality of the abortion when it occurred, if one believes that elective abortions is murder, what does the legal status of the abortion add to the discussion of using cells from fetal cell lines?

Clark’s argument encourages Christians to be very focused on their own moral purity. In so doing, he is encouraging a greater self preoccupation at the expense of love for neighbor. The moral objections he considers are not well thought out. And at the end, he lacks precision in talking about the flaws of the vaccines. He fails to mention that the drop in the efficacy of the current vaccines are due to the Delta variant rather than a drop against the earlier forms of the Covid-19 virus. In addition, the growth of the Delta variant has been greatly contributed to by the number of unvaccinated people. And for as long as that number is not reduced, new variants, which pose even greater threats than the current forms of Covid-19, are more likely to emerge. 

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Around Aug 27

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost that quotes an article by Chris Gordon that that we must focus on and keep the 10 Commandments in order to worship God as he wants us to. This appeared in Heidelblog.

The link for the article quoted by Clark is below:

https://agradio.org/resource/legalism-what-it-is-and-what-it-is-not

But isn't true that in the Old Testament, ways of living and worship had to be more prescribed in detail because Christ and His coming was veiled in the Old Testament? For the Old Testament doesn't just contain the 10 Commandments, it also adds to that ways of applying those Commandments. Isn't it true that in the Old Testament, God's people were centralized in a geographical area and under a certain lineage for the most part and thus God's direction for them was to be different from the neighbors to show that they were set apart while worshiping a revealed Christ?

And isn't it true that under the New Testament, many of those strict prescriptions for life and worship no longer became binding? Isn't it true that the New Testament describes the Sabbath as shadow of what was to come? 

And isn't it true that we now live as a dispersed people throughout the world? And thus our unity is no longer around a particular ethnic group or geographical center, but around Christ. And so local culture may play legitimate roles in a group of believer's worship of God.

And so isn't it true that if how we live and worship accurately reflects or points to Christ, that we are not worshiping God according to our own devices, but instead we are following and proclaiming Christ?  And if how we worship God is adequately proclaiming Christ, then our worship is not only valid, it is safeguarded from following our own devices. In fact, revolving our ways of worship around who Christ is according to the Scriptures is a better perspective for determining how we will worship.

So shouldn't the focus of our worship be on Christ rather on the 10 Commandments. For if our ways of worship accurately portray Christ as the Scriptures define him to be, we will automatically include what is necessary from the 10 Commandments since those Commandments play a significant role in defining who Christ is because they show why He came to earth in the first place.

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Sept 1

To R. Scott Clark and Katie Herzog for his blogpost citing of an article by Herzog on how some in Medical Schools are approaching gender identity issues. This appeared in Heidelblog.

Herzog's article can be found at:

https://bariweiss.substack.com/p/med-schools-are-now-denying-biological

The article cited contains quite a generalization from  a few examples. But it also contains a common error made by both conservatives and many in the LGBT community. That error is to conflate gender or gender identity with biological sex. 

While conservatives believe that our gender identity should be defined solely by our biological sex,  those on the other side of the argument believe that our biological sex should be defined only by our gender identity. The problem there is that while our biological sex is a physical construct, our gender identity is a social construct which implies that there are other factors, non physical factors at that, that contributed to our gender identity. 

What the AMA and doctors that follow its direction when recognizing and attempting to   respond to gender dysphoria. Gender dysphoria is a real condition that is not yet adequately understood. We should note that though in somewhat different ways, this gender identity issue was handled differently by some Native American tribes some of which only recognized up to 5 genders, they honored those whose gender identity was different than their biological sex. But, again, the gender identity issue in those tribes did not always match up with our gender identity issues here.

The point here is that we religiously conservative Christians, not all of whom are politically conservative, need to stop conflating biological sex with gender identity before judging others for approaching gender identity in ways we disapprove of. 

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Sept 3

To R. Scott Clark and Matt Taibbi for Clark's blogpost quote of a Taibbi article on an NPR episode that talked about the 'dangers of free speech.' This appeared in Heidelblog.

Reality says that authoritarianism is the other pandemic. Authoritarianism, from what I have personally experienced, has become the rage in liberal circles, conservative ones, and even leftist circles. BTW, I count NPR as being liberal, not leftist. And it is authoritarianism that helps govern how tolerant of diversity we are especially in our own ranks.

Common sense would tell us that conservatives have a stronger penchant for authoritarianism than others have because of their emphasis on preserving tradition. In fact, the conservative vigilance in guarding tradition produces conservatism's most glaring fault: the over reliance on selective parts of the past to understand and respond to the present. But the more ideological a group is, the more likely it is to become authoritarian regardless of its conservative credentials. Only instead of the past, a strongly ideological group will rely too much on its own ideology to understand and respond to the present.

And how ideological a group becomes will depend on how much it sees its own ideology as being be all and end all it is either regarding all of life or a given sphere of life. The more a given group believes that its own ideology is omniscient, the more it sees the ideas from other groups as a corrupting influence and thus the less tolerant it will be of those other groups and the more authoritarian it will act toward others. 

So it isn't just NPR that is antagonistic to free speech, every authoritarian group is. They just show it in different ways.

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Sept. 9

To R. Scott Clark and Carl Trueman and Clark's blogpost quote of an article by Trueman on how the faults of past Christian leaders should not move us to dismiss everything they said. This appeared in the Heidelblog

Carl Trueman's article can be found at:

https://www.firstthings.com/web-exclusives/2021/09/judging-the-sins-of-our-fathers

If judging the sinfulness of our fathers should include taking into account our own sinfulness, that's a good point that should be taken. But should that also apply when we judge the sinfulness of our ideological, religious, and all other opponents too?

But we should add another point when it comes to judging Christian leaders like Jonathan Edwards. That point is that we are often reminded of Edwards's good credentials as reasons to accept what he said without much examination. At the same time, here we are told to remember our own sins when being reminded of his sins. Perhaps, we should remember both Edwards's sins and his good points when we listen or read to his theology so that we neither automatically accept nor reject it. Instead, we should thoroughly examine Edwards's words to see what we agree with and what we disagree with it. To do otherwise would be to passionately embrace authoritarianism.

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Sept 10

To R. Scott Clark and Ilya Shapiro for Clark's blogpost citation of Shapiro's article that opposes vaccine mandates. This appeared in heidelblog.

Ilya Shapiro's article appears in 

https://www.cato.org/blog/federal-vaccine-mandates-pose-constitutional-triple-threat

What is missing from the above citation is the context for vaccine mandates. We do know that even before the pandemic, we've had vaccine mandates. Many colleges require its residential students to receive a particular meningitis vaccine. A vaccine mandate regarding the vaccine for smallpox was supported by SCOTUS in 1905 (see Jacobson v. Massachusetts) and there was a 1922 case ruled on by Judge Brandeis regarding school mandates for children (see https://www.npr.org/2021/08/29/1032169566/the-u-s-has-a-long-precedent-for-vaccine-mandates  ).

To debate vaccine mandates in general would be to go against history and the present.  To go against particular vaccine mandates requires an adequate discussion about the disease, the vaccines, and both the public and private risks and benefits of a given set of vaccines. But neither the above citation nor the article it comes from includes past or present mandates nor the specifics about the proposed vaccine mandate. Rather it speculates on the effects vaccine mandates can have on the application of The Constitution

So why does the above citation and the article it is taken from avoid  so much of the context of vaccine mandates in general and the recently proposed one in particular?

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Sept 11

To Joseph Mussomeli and his article on the importance of remembering the dead from the 9/11 attacks. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative.

Mussomeli come closer to understanding 9/11 than most conservatives I've either listened to or read. But where he comes closest to understanding is also where he loses it. 

In analyzing the reactions of both the left and the right to 9/11, he correctly describes the perpetrators of 9/11 as acting out of a desire for justice, though it was a perverted sense of justice.  And he is correct in describing the left as sort of attributing 9/11 to American belligerence and imperialism. But what he fails to understand was that the left was not excusing crimes, they were trying to get us to understand why it happened. Also, the perpetrators of 9/11 were acting not out of a merely perceived sense of just, but out of remembering their own dead--remembering our dead from 9/11 is the central theme of the article.

In what was said innterviews with Bin Laden can be easily confirmed by history. It was Bin Laden who pointed to the number of dead in Iraq from both our sanctions (hundreds of thousands of children died from the combination of first Persian Gulf War and the sanctions that followed) and from our support from Israel's Occupation against the Palestinians (more Palestinian civilians have been killed than those from any other group in the conflict). Another reason for the 9/11 attacks was the use of US troops in the first Persian Gulf War and their continued presence in Saudi Arabia. 

Not being cognizant of the number of dead we've caused as being a necessary lesson to understanding 9/11 is a key missing link in better  understanding 9/11 in order to prevent another such attack. This is where Mussomeli fails. But his failure is partial. 

Furthermore, we might note that what happened on September 11th, 2001 was actually the second 9/11. The first one occurred in 1973 and saw a US supported violent military coup in Chile. Yes, that was the first 9/11. And many more civilians died in the aftermath of that 9/11 than were lost in our 9/11. In addition, what makes us oblivious to those facts is our own America-cefuller picture of 9/11. Though it must be said that Mussomeli's America-centrism is not as strong as that of many other people. And Mussomeli should be commended for coming as far as he did in reflecting on 9/11.




Tuesday, September 14, 2021

This Year's 9/11 Anniversary

 September of 2021 has 2 notable anniversaries. The first one occurred on Saturday as we, with great sadness and perhaps some fear of the future, remember what happened 20 years ago on that date. The next anniversary will be discussed next week.

I still have vivid memories of how I found out and what my reactions were. Our two kids were in school. Both the wife and I taught but at different universities. I was at home grading papers while listening to an Art Tatum cd. I was scheduled to give those papers back and to give a quiz to an afternoon class. A student called me to ask if we were going to have our scheduled quiz since one of the Twin Towers was struck by an airplane. 

My first reaction was to say that of course we are going to have a quiz. I said that because I could only picture a small plane flying into one of the Twin Towers. The TV reports quickly corrected my false assumption. I went to campus to find that classes had been cancelled. On the drive home, an electronic sign on the highways I was taking, a highway that led to NYC, stated that all entry points to NYC were closed.

When I got home, I watched more of the reports on the attacks on tv. It was a horrible time. Atrocities were committed against people here and many died a horrible senseless death because of the rage of some religious extremists.

I thought for sure that if we sent the military in there that they would get the job done. That is because in the first time in decades, our troops would be fighting and be put in harm's way in response to their own nation being attacked rather than for some foreign policy venture.

But something else was occurring. I was in the beginning stages of going through massive changes in my political views. For most of my life, I was typical political conservative. When I had voted, it was always for Republican candidates. I was relieved that Bush had beaten Gore in the 2000 election. But being moved by my best friend, I started to read non-conservative material. I started with reading a book on the Israeli-Palestinian conflict by Noam Chomsky along with reading some of Martin Luther King's Jr. writings. While Chomsky had a passion for fairness in that our nation should follow the rules standards that it imposes on others, Martin Luther King Jr. demonstrated a passion for winning over others. I could not find any arguments against their thinking.

That change I was beginning to go through in the summer of 2001 partially colored how I saw the attacks. Added to the anger I felt for the atrocities committed against us, I knew that they occurred within a certain context. That though we were victims of heinous attacks, we were not necessarily innocent victims. That though the attacks on us were immoral and wrong, our policies contributed greatly to the motivation of our attackers to attack us. That like us, they too were enraged by attacks on their own people. But by their own people, these attackers were thinking outside the box of national borders. Later on, my reading revealed who their own people were. It included the Iraqi victims, with hundreds of thousands of them being children, who died from the combination of the infrastructure attacks from the first Persian Gulf War along with the following sanctions. Their own people also included Palestinians, including many civilians, who were killed by Israel's Occupation against the Palestinians.

Here we should note that our policies that led to far more deaths than the 9/11 attacks did are no justification for the 9/11 attacks. But our deadly policies provided the motivation for 19 men to become coldhearted vicious murderers.

Because of our authoritarian culture, we prefer to think in black-white terms. That means that for us to regard as victims, they have to be faultless while victimizers are seen as being evil only. And perhaps it is that kind of thinking that prevents many of us from seeing those civilians who suffer at the hands of our foreign policies as being victims. Why? It is because it is difficult to see such people as being totally innocent and nearly impossible for us to acknowledge our nation as being capable of doing any evil let alone only being evil. Perhaps that thinking causes some to conclude that those who try to understand that 9/11 attacks in the context of our foreign policies are only trying to justify the attacks. The world, however, is more complicated than what our logic allows for.

Certainly those who have died because of the military operations that we have either conducted or supported are victims as much as the victims of the 9/11 attacks continue to be. And that is the problem here. Those innocent victims are objects of opportunity by those directing the violence. Those innocent civilians are, in a sense, used as a moat that protects those who make our foreign policies or those who use terrorism to strike back.

Maybe as an American, I can say that the lives of Americans mean more to me than the lives of those who are victims of our foreign policies, but I cannot say that as a Christian despite my many faults. While some churches teach that we are Christians first and Americans second, I disagree. Yes, those who believe in Christ are Christians first, but I can't be partisan here. People, regardless of their nationality, are equally important because all are made in the image of God regardless of their nationality, race, ethnicity, ideologies, biological sex, gender identification, and so on. Not being an American should not make the life of any person less important than the life of an American.

Martin Luther King Jr. expressed a similar sentiment only he couched it in terms of sharing the Gospel. That the Gospel is meant for all people including their children regardless of where they are from or their ideologies. 

Thus, my Christian beliefs do not tell me that I am a Christian first and an American second. Rather, I am a Christian first and then a person--a citizen of the world who is a fellow image bearer of God-- second. Then I could somewhere add to that that I am an American. Because of my Christian beliefs, supporting my nation right or wrong has been replaced by the belief that I want America to be neither the practitioner nor the victim of injustice.

It was black-white thinking that led George Bush to claim that we were attacked because of our freedoms. Here, Bush was telling us to believe that 19 people sacrificed themselves to commit mass murder and start a war because we could choose between cheering for the Red Sox or the yankees, or that we choose between eating a hamburger or fried chicken for lunch. Does that make sense? 

According to Bush's thinking, our nation was truly a victim in that it was totally innocent while our new enemies were totally evil. But as evil as our attackers were, Bush's thinking is wrong. Just as we continue to remember those who died from 9/11, the 9/11 attackers were at least partially remembering their dead when they attacked us. Again, that does not justify the 9/11 attacks. But realizing the context of those attacks could help us to stave off some future attacks before they are even conceptionalized by demanding that our foreign policies be solely determined by what is just and merciful rather than on opportunistic utilitarianism or tribalism.



Friday, August 27, 2021

Another Things Ain't What They Use To Be Lament

Ever since the Obergefell decision, many conservative leaders and writers have been singing the blues over the loss of days gone by that really never existed. But those days existed in their minds because of the image they have of their faith. Such is not the case of Joseph Bottum (click here for info). In 2008 Bottum had already seen the writing on the wall. In fact, he traces the loss of Christianity's position of influence back to the mid 1970s. However, in 2008 he wrote an article for the Catholic website First Things that talked about the death of an America from the past.

Mildly surprising because Bottum is a Catholic, he wrote about America being a Protestant America--a Protestant nation rather than a Christian nation. Or to be more precise, he wrote about an America that was formerly a Protestant America, but is no longer. And in his lament, is a picture of a Protestant America that at least in part never existed (click here for the article).

Though he correctly wrote America as being a Protestant America rather than a Christian nation, some of the good points he attributed to America never existed. For example, Bottum stated that there is reason to think of Protestantism as the most 'accommodating religion' ever. But was it really accommodating? When we think about the early days of settlers arriving here, we saw conflicts between some of the different denominations. For example, the Puritans persecuted and even martyred some Quakers. 

But even when necessity forced the different Protestant denominations to tolerate each other for a greater gain for all, many from these denominations certainly didn't accommodate Native Americans or Blacks. Consider the following paragraph:

The great fight to abolish slavery, or women’s suffrage, or the temperance struggle against the Demon Rum, or the civil-rights movement: Every so often, there would explode from the churches a moral and prophetic demand on the nation. But, looking back, we can now see that these showy campaigns were mostly a secondary effect of religion’s influence on America. Each was a check written on a bank account filled by the ordinary practice and belief of the Protestant denominations.


What is missing from those reminisces about the past is that the Protestant Church  was on both sides of many of those struggles. And even when it was on the right side of a conflict, its position was tainted by motive. 

We need to remember that many white abolitionists also believed in white supremacy and treated their black counterparts as being inferior. After the abolition of slavery, another institution or era was well supported by Protestants: Jim Crow. And though the North didn't have Jim Crow, it had its own resistance to equality. And none of that mentions the plight of Native Americans. 

Yes, women worked for the right to vote. But women remained 2nd class citizens and were viewed and treated as such until the Sexual Revolution.

As for the Civil Rights Movement, we saw Protestants on both side of the movement. Yes, some Protestants worked and sacrificed for equality for Blacks. But in the recent past, we have resolutions from 2 major denominations apologizing for their resistance to the movement: the PCA and the SBC. Even now, with many conservative Protestants voting for Republican candidates, they are voting for elected officials who oppose the kind of equality that Martin Luther King Jr. gave his life for. In addition, here we are forgetting the contributions of non-Protestants to the Civil Rights Movement. These non-Protestants included atheists, Jews, Catholics, and people from non-Christian religions. 

While describing Protestantism as being accommodating, Bottum mentions how intolerant it could be as he mentioned the conflict between the liberal mainline denominations and the more conservative, fundamentalist branch. He states that liberal Protestantism felt under attack by conservative Protestantism because the latter hated key beliefs of the former. How does that make Protestantism accommodating? Was it formerly accommodating but not longer?

Bottum saw the passing of America as being a Protestant nation around 30 years before his article. The passing of the Mainline Protestantism was the clue for him. In speaking about that passing, he makes a strange comparison. For he talks about how different movements have been replacing Protestantism such as Feminism,  homosexuals, and the environmentalists. He complains about how environmentalists react to those who disagree. He then goes on to say that just as a religion that acted political movements damaged themselves, he was referring to conservative Protestants there, so to will political movements do to themselves when they act like religions by looking for followers, not supporters.

With the departure of Protestantism as having the dominant influence over the nation, Bottum asks what will unify our nation? Inferred by Bottum's concern is the need for a nation to be based on religion. For in describing America earlier on he said:

Think of the American experiment as a three-legged stool, its stability found in each leg’s relation to the other legs. Democracy grants some participation in national identity, an outlet for the anxious desire of citizens to take part in history, but it always leans toward vulgarity and short-sightedness. Capitalism gives us other freedoms and outlets for ambition, but it, too, always threatens to topple over, eroding the virtues it needed for its own flourishing. Meanwhile, religion provides meaning and narrative, a channel for the hunger of human beings to reach beyond the vanities of the world, but it tilts, in turn, toward hegemony and conformity.

Through most of American history, these three legs of democracy, capitalism, and religion accommodated one another and, at the same time, pushed hard against one another.

It is at that point that Bottum called Protestantism the most accommodating religion ever. But think about those 3 legs. Democracy not only wants people to take part in things, democracy as a state of being vies for people of all groups to share the nation as equals. But how can that happen when a particular religion rules the roost? Wasn't conservative Christianity always a political movement along with being a religion? And with Capitalism vying for a privileged place for those in business in society, Democracy and Capitalism are constantly at odds. So while Bottum is right in stating that these 3 vital parts of America battled each other in the past, there was never any real accommodation without one acting as a superior. And that superior part was not Democracy.

Bottum is at least partially correct in calling America from the past a Protestant nation rather than a Christian one. His article describes some interesting stages between the past and the present. At the same time, somehow the rough parts of our nation and its history, and there are many of those, and the roles that Protestantism has played in contributing to those rough parts is underrepresented. Part of that is due to Bottum's conservative political views. At the same time, Bottum saw America as it was in relation to religion significantly before many current Christian leaders.



Wednesday, August 25, 2021

Comments Which Conservatives Block From Their Blogs For August 25, 2021

Around Aug 18

To Bradley Birzer and his article that reviews a new book about war and propaganda in the US. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative Blog.

The Left here has been writing about propaganda and war for a long time. It is often mentioned in the writings and talks given by Noam Chomsky.  Chris Hedges has written and talked about government efforts to control narratives since WW I. In fact, Leftists like Helen Keller and Eugene Debs spoke out against entering WW I with the latter being incarcerated for sedition. Norman Solomon's book on the subject titled War Made Easty appeared in 2007.

Not that the above should make obscure the book reviewed here, it is that this is not a new subject to certain groups of people.

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Aug 19

To R. Scott Clark and his blogpost that uses multiple news items to talk about Christians and the government. This appeared in Heidelblog.

The conservative political bias on this blog is not usually as strong as it is in the above article. Take the part on Afghanistan. Absent is the fact that Biden was acting on Trump's peace deal with the Taliban. Also absent is the fact that Carter approved covert aid to the Mujahideen in July of 1979, 6 months before the Soviet invasion. Such aid raised the probability of Soviet intervention.

But what is also not noted here is that the Mujahideen was fighting then because of social reforms, which included rights for women, introduced by Soviet friendly Afghan regimes. We could place a lot of blame on Carter for that, but we should also note that Reagan greatly upped the ante in support for the Mujahideen. We should note here that after the Soviet Union left and quit providing aid for Afghanistan, it eventually fell to the Taliban. And guess who made up much of the Taliban back then. It was the Mujahideen that was supported by both Carter and Reagan.

What is absent from the rule of natural law mentioned above is that it is a Christian view of natural law developed when Christendom was the rage throughout Europe. And not only that, it is theology that tells us that natural law should govern nations, not the New Testament. This should be noted when it comes to laws we have regarding marriage and sex. As much as advocates for natural law were saying that we have 2 kingdoms, a lighter Christian dominance of society than Christendom over society  was, and still is, being advocated for.

We might also want to talk about the good old days when Christians could ignore government. The problem is such an approach to government demonstrates a lazy democracy rather than a working one. And the fact that we have expansion in gov't roles is sometimes a function of a working democracy as people put limits on others, such as business, for how they will interact with and affect their lives. 

Thing about democracy is this, we can talk about it as either a set of political  mechanisms employed by society to make corporate decisions, or we can talk about it as a state of being in which each group in society shares the state as equal to the other groups. In other words, the rule by majority is not used to oppress some minority. Thomas Jefferson warned against such oppression in his 1801 inaugural address. If we consider our democracy a stewardship so that there are minority groups being oppressed, as there were when Christians could ignore government, then practicing a lazy democracy is not an option for the Christian. For during the good old days that Clark mention was the Jim Crow era.

Finally, claiming that Fox News gives a Christian worldview, as claimed by a Baptist minister cited by Clark, can only be true if we conflate a white, American patriotism with the Christian faith. The trouble with that is that such a conflation  causes us to compromise the Scriptures.

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Aug 20

To Pat Buchanan and his review of what was going on in Afghanistan 10 years after America sent troops in in the year 2001. This appeared in the Imaginative Conservative blog.

Any commentary on Ameria's part in the Afghanistan War is deficient and incomplete without starting with Carter's July of 1979 decision to send covert aid to the same group that the Taliban would recruit from when it was formed in the 1990s. We should note that Carter's decision and aid took place before the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

Why did Carter send covert aid? First, he was sending that aid to the Mujahideen who opposed the social reforms such as rights for women started by some of Afghanistan's Soviet Union friendly leaders. Those reforms and rights were the same that the US was defending once we sent our troops in in 2001. While Carter's aid was relatively small, it helped the Mujahideen survive. Then Reagan upped the ante considerably and referred to these same Mujahideen as 'freedom fighters.' Again, theses same people opposed social reforms such as rights for women. 

So why was it right for the US to send aid to help those who opposed rights for women while sending troops to fight those who opposed those same rights for women? Apparently, the difference rests in which gov't is promoting and working for those social reforms including rights for women. If the wrong side is providing them, then we must support those who oppose such social reforms. If we or  our allies are promoting and working for such rights, then we defend those reforms and rights against the same evil people who would take them away..

Such is missing from Buchanan's look at our involvement into Afghanistan.

 

Tuesday, August 24, 2021

The Real Objection To CRT: Outcome-Based Truth Systems

 The idea of an outcome-based truth system came to me as I was reading about Post Modernism. Post Modernism rejects the metanarratives, the overall way of understanding the world, of Pre Modernism and Modernism. The metanarrative for Pre Modernism is faith while the meta narrative for Modernism is the combination of science and reason. For the former metanarrative, adding a detail would be helpful. It isn't that Post Modernism opposes religion. Rather, Post Modernism opposes religions that make exclusive claims to knowing the truth.

Why has Post Modernism gone this way? The answer is history. History has shown the destructive results that certain ideologies and ways of understanding the world have produced. Whether we are talking about the belief in racial superiority as shown in the cousins of slavery, colonialism, and imperialism, or wars, or the oppression and exploitation of people, any metanarratives that produce such results cannot possibly be true according to Post Modernism.

Thus, we are talking about a backwards looking outcome-based truth system. That is once we look at the history of certain certain ways of understanding the world, we find those ways of understanding can't possibly be true There are also forward looking outcome-based truth systems. Certain rejections of CRT are also based on how we expect people will react if they believe CRT. Here we are talking about some, but not all, rejections of CRT.

The particular reaction to CRT which I am referring to here goes like this. Because CRT teaches people to hate America, it can't be true and thus we cannot teach it.

Such a criticism takes what CRT says quite seriously though I am not aware of any CRT writings that tell people to hate America. Rather, with how CRT describes the sufferings and travails of people of color in this nation, some critics of CRT understandably expect a hatred of America to be the response. That is because the description of racism in America that CRT teaches is incriminating. And that is a problem for many who highly value patriotism.

Thus, because the unwanted outcome of hating one's own nation could result if people read what CRT had to say, CRT cannot be taught. In fact, for them, CRT cannot even be true.

At this point it would be easy to severely criticize those who are so afraid of how people will react to CRT that they assume it is wrong. It would be easy but it would also be foolish. For whenever we rationalize our compromising of our moral standards or faith we hold to because of an unwanted outcome, we too have employed a outcome-based truth system. Thus the presence/absence of a negative outcome can have strange effects on what we are willing to believe is true.

Some who reject CRT employ an outcome-based truth system when rejecting it. And we should note here that CRT is not inerrant. But this rejection of and opposition to CRT because of the outcomes we expect that belief in the theory will produce are wrong actions to take. But lest we look down on such critics of CRT and judge them harshly, we have all, and still are, guilty of employing an outcome-based truth system when it is serves our own purposes. 





Friday, August 20, 2021

Blindspots In The Religiously Conservative, American Christian Response To Afghanistan

 Rather than respond to the editorial view or opinion of a singular writer, I thought I would review a news story. And the Christian views of the surrender of Afghanistan to the Taliban was a great story to review because of their interpretations of those events. What some might find in this article is that the interpretations of many religiously conservative American Christians are either distorted by America-centrism or ignorance or by ignorance of Afghanistan's past. And the ignorance is quite specific, ignorance is over who started and when did America's intervention into Afghanistan begin.

The views of American Christians about Afghanistan exhibit America-centrism when they state that the war started in 2001 and has been going on for only 20 years. America-centric views are also indicated when only America's cost of fighting the war are mentioned. In reality, Afghanistan has been in a state of civil strife or war since 1978 when a Communist Coup overthrew a Soviet Union friendly government and continued at least some of the social reforms stated by the former government. Those social reforms included women's rights. And those opposing the new government were Mujahideen, many of whom would join the Taliban. The Mujahideen opposed those social reforms. In addition, President Carter started to provide covert aid to the Mujahideen starting in July of 1979, 6 months before the Soviet Union invaded the nation. Reagan upped the ante considerably. So understand that the US backed what would later become the Taliban with their restrictive views of the role of women in society against a Soviet friendly government that promoted women's rights.

The article focused on here is one written by Ryan Foley for The Christian Post (click here for the article). Instead of reviewing the article here, this blogpost is depending on you to read the article yourself. The article consists of 5 short webpages and is a small compilation of reactions to the events in Afghanistan by some Christian leaders. Count in the story how many times those Christian leaders only expressed concern for fellow Christians or were totally unaware of the fact that those we supported in Afghanistan when Afghanistan was ruled by a Russian supported government became those we fought in Afghanistan. And what is a constant here is that the group we supported when Afghanistan was ruled by a Soviet approved government and the Taliban were fighting, in part, to oppose women's rights and freedom in society.