Wednesday, August 31, 2016

The Happiest Days

A change of weather with the turn of August into September has made the mornings and evenings pleasant.  It’s not just that they are cooler; the air feels different in a way I had almost forgotten during the long summer.

The refreshing change has turned my thoughts back to another late August, the most pleasant one I’ve ever experienced – my first days in Oxford in 2007.

I had just arrived there to study at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies.  I got there a few days early to settle in before the courses started.  And I was excited.  I was about to live a dream of studying in Oxford.  And the perfect weather had me that much more eager to explore and experience.

The combination of reveling in a new and happy experience and of looking forward to living out a dream made those perhaps the happiest days of my life.  (I know what you’re thinking.  I’ve never been married.)  Nine years later, I can still almost taste how it felt. 

There was the ancient city of Oxford to experience, one of the great libraries of the world to explore, church bells and music everywhere, glorious worship and glorious architecture, along with varieties of Englishness to make one smile. And even blackberries along the River Thames towpath and a mum and her boy shopping had a newness I enjoyed.

I’m hesitant to compare Oxford with the kingdom of God.  But is that not what it will be like when Christ brings in His Kingdom?  He will “make all things new.” (Revelation 21:5)  And not only will we get to revel in the newness, including us being new, we will look forward to enjoying God and his pure and glorious goodness forever.

Perhaps that is the secret to happiness, if there is such a thing – to have experiences you enjoy now, particularly something good and new to venture into, along with a future to look forward to. 

Yes, this world can hardly provide that although those first days in Oxford were almost intoxicating.  Still, it turned out a dark, rainy Autumn in Oxford was not as pleasant as August.  That’s the way of Oxford and of this world.  But God can certainly give newness and a future better than we can even imagine.

So I am happy to enjoy the newness of this present turn of August into September and to look forward to the future turn of the kingdoms of this world into the kingdom of our Lord and of his Christ.

Tuesday, August 30, 2016

When the Clintons Left the White House

If a couple wants to spend some time at your house, you may consider what kind of guests they were during their previous visit.  If they and their friends, say, messed up your computers, smeared glue on your desk, left obscene messages about you, and generally vandalized your house, costing over $10,000 in damages, you perhaps, maybe, may not invite them back.

So why are we even considering letting the Clintons back in the White House?

And isn’t it funny that the Democrat News Media (But I repeat myself.) is silent about how the Clintons left the White House.  Isn’t that something to consider in letting them back in?

(Note that the linked New York Times article is from 2002 and is complete with lame Democrat spin, of course.)

Oh, and that’s not the only aspect of how the Clintons left the White House in 2001 about which the Noos Media is strangely quiet.

To be continued.

Friday, August 26, 2016

Hillary’s Hate and the Southern Poverty Law Center

This week, Hillary Clinton pulled out an old tool in the Democrat/Leftist tool box – smearing their opponents as bigots/sexists/homophobes/racists/etc, in short as haters.

But in doing so, Hillary revealed herself to be in league with haters, particularly in citing the Southern Poverty Law Center as a reliable source.

This is not the first time I’ve taken the Southern Poverty Law Center to task.  I’ve noted with both alarm and derision their labeling groups like the Family Research Center as “hate” groups.  Even being a (Sit down now!  This is sooo scary!) “radical traditional Catholic” can get SPLC’s attention.

Really SPLC is a hate group.  Let’s say I label Catholic Charities as a hate group.  Now I oppose much of what Catholic Charities does and that under the guise of Christianity. I would discourage anyone from contributing to them.  But they are no hate group.  But let’s say I went overboard and did smear them as a hate group.  It would then be safe to say I would be the hater.  Flip it and you get the Southern Poverty Law Center.  They smear right of center and Christian groups that have nothing to do with hate and lump them in with Nazis and the KKK.

Hillary cited SPLC in attacking Breitbart News:

It's truly hard to believe, but according to the Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks hate groups, Breitbart embraces “ideas on the extremist fringe of the conservative right."

Breitbart is not my main news source, but I am familiar with them.  And I find nothing hateful or extremist about them.  Hillary and SPLC are being the haters here.

Let’s look at two more examples of hate from the Southern Poverty Law Center.  I look at their famous hate map and find Probe Ministries of Plano, Texas is supposedly a hate group.  Probe Ministries?!?  I heard of that group for decades and have seen nothing hateful from them.  Just the opposite.   Their purpose to serve as winsome reasonable apologists for the faith and for Christian teaching.  That gets them smeared as an anti-gay hate group by SPLC, yet Probe advocates love for gays.  But Probe stands firm in not recognizing gay marriage, and that’s hate, don’tca know.

This made me wonder if SPLC has targeted David Barton.  I’ve long been a fan of his, attending two of his wonderful history workshops in my younger days.  Well, I searched on SPLC’s website and I found this smear piece on Barton under a masthead of “hatewatch” of course.  More SPLC smears and hate.

Again, the Southern Poverty Law Center is a vicious Leftist hate group using “hate” to smear political opponents who have nothing to do with hate.  And Hillary, by her own admission, is just fine with that.

Back in 2011, I gave the following warning, and, with Hillary on the verge of the White House, it bears repeating:

Totalitarians of both Left and Right have a long history of vilifying those they later repress. To think the SPLC and like-minded Leftists have no intent of taking freedoms from those of us who oppose gay marriage or unrestricted immigration and may be a bit “radical” and traditional in our Christian views would be na├»ve indeed – dangerously so.

Thursday, August 25, 2016

The University of Chicago Issues a Letter

Some newer readers may not know that my interest in the academic world has greatly increased in recent years.  When I graduated from Duke too long ago, I was so ready to be through with school.  But about twelve years ago, my increased interest in English and church history pushed me into graduate studies, including two stints at Oxford.  (Full disclosure: I was a student at the Centre for Medieval and Renaissance Studies in 2007 and later an independent student, but not enrolled in the University of Oxford itself.)

Energy issues have made my studies a bit sporadic, but now I’m back at it, enrolled at Cranmer House and pursuing a Certificate in Anglican Studies.

Having disclosed all that, the trend in recent years for genuine academic freedom to be suppressed at universities and to be replaced more and more with ideological indoctrination, cheerleaded by certain repugnant breeds of “students”, who deserve not to be called students, but deserve expulsion instead…. 

Excuse me.  I was hyperventilating a bit and need to take a breath or two.

As I was saying, the attacks on academic freedom, particularly on the free exchange of ideas, have concerned me.  I fear for the future of even great universities like Oxford, and for what sorts of graduates they will unleash on the world.

So it is heartening to see some pushback on behalf of academic freedom.  The University of Chicago’s missive to incoming students is especially heartening:

You will find that we expect members of our community to be engaged in rigorous debate, discussion, and even disagreement.  At times this may challenge you and even cause discomfort.

Our commitment to academic freedom means that we do not support so-called “trigger warnings,” we do not cancel invited speakers because their topics might prove controversial, and we do not condone the creation of intellectual “safe spaces” where individuals can retreat from ideas and perspectives at odds with their own.

Do read the whole letter.  It is wonderful.  Every worthy university should send a letter like this to every incoming student and to current students as well.

By the way, if you are a university alumnus, you can do you part for academic freedom.  Inform your alma mater that your future financial support depends on their support of academic freedom.  Trust me, that can get their attention.

And let us hope and pray that the University of Chicago’s letter is part of the tide turning towards revived academic freedom.

Friday, August 19, 2016

On the Priority of Worship

A post over at Fr. Z’s Blog reminds me of a change in my attitude about fifteen years ago.  Up to then, congregational worship was a low priority for me.  Don’t get me wrong – I was a faithful church attender and very active in lay ministry.  But as long as the service did not annoy or bore me to death, I really did not care that much about how the church did worship.  Years before that, it was hardly a factor in considering what church to join. “Liturgy” was hardly a part of my vocabulary.  Yes, shocking I know.

But, partly through negative experiences of overamplified music, manic happy-happy standing-for-twenty-minutes singing and the like, worship slowly became more important to me.  And when I ventured into an Anglican church (Christ Church Plano) for the first time in decades, I was hooked.  I fell in love with good liturgical worship.  And now that is a high priority for me.

But back to Fr. Z’s post.  He gets quite excited that the Roman Catholic Bishop of Pittsburgh, David Zubik, said the following about the future of his diocese:

The No. 1 priority has to be, ‘We need to make our worship better.’”

Fr. Z’s response:

YES! A thousand times YES!  As I have been shouting for decades now, no undertaking or project we initiate in the Church will bear lasting fruit unless we revitalize our sacred liturgical worship of God!  The first thing we owe to God, by the virtue of religion, is worship.  If we don’t have that in order in the hierarchy of priorities, nothing else will be in order.

I told you he got excited.  And twenty years ago, I would have said he was a bit excitable.  But now, I agree.  Not only is our God worthy of the best worship we can give, we must communicate that to everyone who steps through our church doors.

The flip side is inferior worship sends the wrong message about our God and our church.  And why should those investigating joining the church have to endure sorry worship?

I think it no coincidence that Roman Catholics, along with a number of other jurisdictions, have been losing people at the same time their worship has gone downhill.  The numbers in the Diocese in Pittsburgh for example:

Since 2000, weekly Mass attendance has dropped by 40 percent — for almost 100,000 fewer regular churchgoers; K-8 Catholic school enrollment fell by 50 percent; and the number of active priests plummeted from 338 to 225.

Yes, there are other factors at play.  But willfully inferior worship repels people not to mention stinks in the nostrils of God.

You can expect further rants posts on this subject.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

About Social Media Unpleasantness

I should warn that this post may be somewhat stream-of-conscience.  Yes, I’ve completed my course so I have time for such things for now.

Ace published a thoughtful post [LANGUAGE WARNING, including the comments.  I’ve included those because they reveal a lot of different social media experiences and responses.] the other day about the mass unfriending and unfollowing happening on social media sites during this political season.  I found this especially perceptive:

I've mentioned Amusing Ourselves to Death by Neal Postman a lot. It's very relevant to our age. He notes Marshall MacLuhan's aphorism about TV -- "The medium is the message" -- and explores it.

Every medium has a certain type of message it's good at delivering, and other types of messages it's not good at delivering. Thus, every medium has an implicit bias towards certain styles of messaging -- the medium itself has embedded within it a "message" about what types of messages are important.

Thus we should take the medium into account when posting.  For one thing, don’t post everything that comes into your head on Facebook or even on Twitter!  You’re not having coffee with a friend on Facebook as much as you may want to, and trying to have coffee with all your FB friends by continually posting every little thing that comes to mind will likely annoy them.

But I don’t want to so much give advice as to tell some of what I do about social media unpleasantness.

First my Twitter and Facebook policies are quite different.  On Facebook, I want to keep up with friends, and have some fun, too; on Twitter I want to keep up with the world . . . and have some fun, too.

So on Twitter, I can be very unsentimental about unfollowing.  If your feed is annoying me more than it’s informing me, I will probably unfollow you.  I am very ecumenical about that by the way.  I’ve unfollowed #NeverTrump people and Trumpistas (especially those who smear Ted Cruz – I went on an unfollowing spree about that!).

On Facebook, if we are, or have been, good real life friends, you could support Satan for President, and I will not unfriend you.  And I will not unfriend anyone for mere disagreement.  But I have occasionally unfriended or even blocked for the following reasons:

1.  Refusal to accept my input.  One time a real life friend deleted a polite comment that added information to a political issue he brought up.  I confronted him on that privately, but his explanation didn’t hold water.  Is someone who literally deletes your thoughtful input much of a friend? Some of his other FB activity showed me I did not know him as well as I thought and really did not want much contact with him anymore.  Which brings up…

2. Protecting myself.  Both from personal experience and that of others, it is clear that there are people out there who will harmfully attack friends and even family for holding “wrong” views. So if someone acts too much like that kind of person . . . .  I don’t need more of that in my life.  Related…

3. Attacking me.  I can think of two millennial friends (They once were friends in real life even.) who attacked me personally as a bigot and got even nastier than that.  With a heavy heart, I unfriended and blocked both of them.  Maybe I should leave the door more open.  But they willfully crossed some serious lines, and I felt it was necessary to protect myself.

4. Intellectual dishonesty.  This is more a Twitter issue than a Facebook issue.  But I really hate willful intellectual dishonesty, including willful ignorance (Reasons I unfollowed so many Trumpistas). If someone is a serial offender and not a real life good friend, they’re gone.  By the way, it is remarkable how abortion issues reveal the intellectual dishonesty of many.

But what if a good friend is a serial offender who sorely annoys but who has not attacked you personally in a significant manner?

I’ve used and recommend the “unfollow” function on Facebook.  That way you and the unfollowed remain friends, but you don’t see their posts.  And you can refollow them again anytime, perhaps a week after Election Day.  Twitter has a similar “mute” function, but I think it is more important on Facebook.

One example of my using that.  There is a gentleman who was a good friend of mine in high school.  I’ve always thought highly of him.  But in the past month, he posted two items which smeared people and a group I value (and I’m a member of said group).  It didn’t seem like him, an intelligent man, (And he’s since deleted one of the posts I think.), but the posts genuinely angered me, and I have enough bile in my life already.

But I value our friendship.  I don’t want to burn bridges at all and, at the same time, do want to give both of us space for this season at least.  So I quietly unfollowed him with the intention of refollowing him after the Election.


Now, believe it or not, I try to avoid being needlessly annoying myself.  I do know the truth can be annoying.  And part of who I am is I want to inform people and give them food for thought. 

But I also recognize that the medium of Facebook may not be the best venue for that at times.  Twitter is much better for throwing observations out there.  But Facebook is more like, say, a continuous family reunion than Twitter.  And if you are the uncle at the family reunion who is constantly ranting about politics, others may avoid you . . . unless you are very amusing (even when you do not intend so to be).

So I am selective about posting less than pleasant matters on Facebook lest I needlessly annoy and find myself the one unfriended and unfollowed.  In fact, a real life friend told me she unfollowed me on FB (while remaining friends) because of my political posts.  But because of my usual restraint, I consider that both her free choice and not my fault.


Anyway, although you may think me a *bad man* for one or more of the episodes above, I do try to use some grace and restraint on social media, both in posting and reacting, particularly on Facebook.  Perhaps that is the way to get through this political season together . . . and stay somewhat together.

Feel free to comment.  I’m sure my good readers have stories to tell.

Friday, August 12, 2016

I think like a Roman Catholic (or not).

Over at Fr. Z’s blog, there is a poll asking the following:
Should the [Roman Catholic] Bishops of the USA have us return to obligatory meatless Fridays during the whole year and not just during Lent?

My thinking is that fasting is commendable and that the adult faithful should be encouraged to practice fasting when health permits.  But to make it obligatory once a week is going too far.  And, besides, the Roman Catholic Church in the U. S. has much bigger problems to deal with.  (Don’t get me started on those!)  So I answered “No, this would be a really bad idea.”

And 3% of Fr. Z’s audience agrees with me.  3%.

I guess I really don’t think like a Roman Catholic.

I’m not into rosaries either.  But I heartily agree with the call of Fr. Zed and associates to pray for the U. S. from August 15th through October 7th.  (I would take it through Election Day myself, but I’m nitpicking.)  To say my view of the United States’ future is pessimistic would be an understatement.  We need all the prayer we can get and not only because of the two major parties’ nominees for President.

I would not be surprised if the Lord’s answer is to let us eat our own cooking for a few years.  But we should nonetheless pray and trust God to answer in his justice and mercy in due time.

Monday, August 08, 2016

I still live. (And I’m still right about World Vision.)

I hope I haven’t worried any of my readers with my relative silence.  I’ve been so intent on fulfilling my requirements for a class, including a 25-30 page paper (You’d think I was writing a Masters thesis instead of completing just one course towards a Certificate in Anglican Studies!), that I just haven’t had the energy and time to blog.

But now I am near the end of this course.  And I’ve been inspired by strong ale (Be warned!), so here goes.

Decades ago, I decided to stop giving to World Vision.  I was concerned that none of their literature I had read mentioned actually sharing the Gospel.  I was not well disposed towards sending people to Hell well fed, so I turned towards other organizations.

Well, it looks like was too right as I tend to be.  The Gaza office of World Vision has been caught funneling money to Hamas.

Now World Vision might be the victim here as much as perp.  But if funneling aid to those in need is given too much priority over propagating the Faith, over offering eternal life along with temporal sustenance, these things can and will happen.  I doubt Mr. Mohammed el-Halabi was much committed to the Christian faith, much less proclaiming it.  So why was he hired by a "Christian" organization in the first place?

This just goes to show that I am always right (Ignore my predictions in my previous post concerning the Day of Rage!), and that you should always read carefully every word that emanates from my wise fingers.

Or maybe it just means you should find better ways to help the needy than giving to World Vision or to any other “Christian” organization that gives little priority to sharing the Gospel of Christ.