The Christian Church in Revolutionary Times (1)

realrevolutionIntroduction

I recently read a persuasive article that posited we are living in revolutionary times.  Since persuasive falls short of conclusive, we can still hope that  Angelo Codevilla’s thesis is proved false.  However, the events of 2015 to the present provide credible evidence that something fundamental has changed within our Republic.  If these changes are indeed revolutionary in nature then the question of how the Christian Church should respond becomes of paramount importance.

To begin, here is how Mr. Codevilla defines the revolution which he claims our nation is experiencing.

The 2008 financial crisis sparked an incipient revolution. Previously, Americans dissatisfied with their Progressive rulers had imagined that voting for Republicans might counter them. But then, as three-fourths of Americans opposed bailing out big banks with nearly a trillion dollars, the Republican and Democratic presidential candidates joined; most Republican legislators joined all Democrats; The Wall Street Journal joined The New York Times, and National Review joined The Nation; in telling Americans that doing this was essential, and that their disapproval counted for nothing. And then, just as high-handedly, all these bipartisan rulers dropped that bailout scheme, and adopted another—just as unaccountably. They showed “government by the people, for the people” to be a fable.

This forced the recognition that there exists a remarkably uniform, bipartisan, Progressive ruling class; that it includes, most of the bureaucracies of federal and state governments, the judiciary, the educational establishment, the media, as well as major corporate officials; that it had separated itself socially, morally, and politically from the rest of society, whose commanding heights it monopolized; above all that it has contempt for the rest of America, and that ordinary Americans have no means of persuading this class of anything, because they don’t count.

As the majority of Americans have become conscious of the differences between this class and themselves they have sought ever more passionately to shake it off. That is the ground of our revolution.

Although we need not accept this theory of revolutionary times, we should consider that it is a credible possibility.  In that case, the Christian Church should be thinking hard and long about how it should engage with the chaos and challenges of such a time.

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Questions for Socialists (3)

VENEZUELA-CHAVEZ-REMAINSQ: Why did you Democratic Socialists hail socialism in Venezuela but then fall silent when the terrible consequences became undeniable?

A: Because your primary goal is power over, not the well-being of other humans.

A Thought Experiment

Let’s imagine that there is a group of people who self-identify as protectors of the world’s poor and oppressed.  Members of this group continually boast about their good intentions for and practical expertise in improving the lot of humanity.  However, as a practical matter, we all know that what is said is not always what is actually in the heart.  Therefore, there is need for a means by which to determine if these people really care first and foremost about improving the lot of the poor and oppressed.

Let’s assume that in a specific nation the ideology and associated means by which these people propose to improve the world are embraced and implemented.  And, that the leadership of this group publicly and forcefully voice their support.

But something goes terribly wrong, and rather than the expected advance towards utopia the country descends into poverty, chaos, violence and starvation.  The fact of this utter failure is unavoidable and undeniable.  Thus, the leaders of this group must decide how to respond.

Response #1

It turns out that these leaders do indeed care first and foremost about the plight of the poor and oppressed.  Therefore, they enter into a state of public repentance followed by a ground-up reassessment of their ideology to determine what went wrong.  Although they may not (or may) throw out all of their ideology, they do honestly look into where it has led to the policies that resulted in such terrible human suffering.  After this process they reengage in the public debate, admitting their failures and seeking to advance updated solutions that they honestly believe will lead to improved human well-being.

Response #2

It turns out that these leaders didn’t really care about the plight of the poor and oppressed.  What they were really doing was to use their pretense of virtue to obtain the power by which to arbitrarily and capriciously rule over others.  Therefore, they fall silent for a time and then begin making up excuses for this humanitarian catastrophe.  These excuses place the blame everywhere but on the ideology and policies that they use in their advance towards worldly power.  They never acknowledge that they had previously supported this practical application of their ideology in a specific country, hoping that it will all be forgotten.

They also, over time, have built a predictable track record of support followed by silence followed by excuses as their ideology repeatedly fails miserably to deliver the promised results.  And yet they continue pretending to be the morally superior elite whom we should follow with unquestioning obedience.

From Thought to Reality: Venezuela

Prior to the arrival of socialism Venezuela was the most prosperous country in South America.  In 1999 Hugo Chávez was elected President of Venezuela and reigned until his death in 2013.  He instituted an ambitious set of socialist “reforms” that were “intended” to help the poor.  He funded these schemes by the looting of Venezuela’s private property.  And, as is admitted by Margaret Thatcher, there is a time in the socialist program before they have “run out of other people’s money.”  During that brief period — between when people have property and money to seize and when the economy collapses because no-one has an incentive to be productive — the two most prominent political supporters of socialism in the english speaking world, Bernie Sanders (U.S.) and Jeremy Corbyn (U.K.),  were vocal in their praise.

Corbyn-Sanders-Chavez

Socialism “works” only as long at there’s money and property to loot, so make the most of it while you can!

But, as always happens when socialism becomes the dominant governing ideology (as opposed to a mixed political economy like in the United States), societal collapse ensued.  Here is one description of Venezuela’s situation.

vz-crop

Venezuela: From one of the world’s most prosperous countries to poverty and hopelessness.

Venezuela’s economy is in freefall. It’s probably the worst in the world — literally. The country tops Bloomberg‘s “Economic Misery Index,” which looks at measures including inflation and unemployment to find the economy where things are worst for regular people.

Here is another description of the chaos and suffering in Venezuela.

digging-through-trash-for-food-venezuela-ap-640x480

Venezuela: Digging through trash in search of food.

Venezuela is a woeful reminder that no country is so rich that it can’t be driven into the ground by revolutionary socialism.

People are now literally starving — about three-quarters of the population lost weight last year — in what once was the fourth-richest country in the world on a per capita basis. A country that has more oil reserves than Saudi Arabia is suffering shortages of basic supplies. Venezuela now totters on the brink of bankruptcy and civil war, in the national catastrophe known as the Bolivarian Revolution.

Or from even the New York Times.

chaos-venezuela

Chaos and violence in Venezuela

Venezuela was once one of Latin America’s economic powerhouses…A growing number of Venezuelans are going hungry in a food shortage and dying from treatable ailments in squalid, ill-equipped hospitals…Until political prisoners are released, the prospects for a restoration of democratic rule are very dim…Inflation has soared to an estimated 700 percent, while people in this oil-rich nation are left digging through piles of trash for scraps of food.

So, have our brave, morally-superior socialist leaders behaved more like the description of Response #1 or #2 above?  They have behaved like #2.  There has been no soul-searching, no public repentance, no reexamination of their ideology.  No, they all have run for the tall grass, hunkered down and then pretended that nothing has happened.  And, their allies in the media have issued a fog of bottom-covering stories that places the blame for Venezuela’s suffering everywhere but at the feet of socialism.

So, how can we but conclude that Sanders, Corbyn, et al. don’t actually care a whit about the actual plight of the poor, or flesh and blood humans of any kind.  What they actually care about is using the ideology of socialism to gain wealth and power for themselves and their fellow looters without having to contribute anything of real value to their society.

The daughter of Hugo Chavez, the former president who once declared ‘being rich is bad,’ may be the wealthiest woman in Venezuela, according to evidence reportedly in the hands of Venezuelan media outlets.

Maria Gabriela Chavez, 35, the late president’s second-oldest daughter, holds assets in American and Andorran banks totaling almost $4.2billion, Diario las Americas reports.

So, let’s summarize by reviewing the three stages of socialism.

3-Stages-of-Socialism-Sanders

By the way, you will find the same pattern of support followed by denial for genocidal socialist regimes throughout history (e.g., the Ukrainian genocide-famine and the Cambodian genocide, among many others).  Yes, we can “make fun” of the Progressive Left’s love of socialism.  But we must never forget that this is in the end a deadly serious issue of life and death.

Questions for Socialists (2)

Q: Which political-economic system has been the most brutally murderous towards its own citizens since the beginning of the twentieth century?

A: Socialism, no other system even comes close.

The Data

R. J. Rummel (1932 – 2014) devoted his academic career to the study of what he called “democide,” which is defined as “the intentional killing of an unarmed or disarmed person by government agents acting in their authoritative capacity and pursuant to government policy or high command.”  This definition covers a wide range of deaths, including:

  • forced labor and concentration camp victims
  • extrajudicial summary executions
  • governmental acts of criminal omission and neglect
  • deliberate famines
  • killings by de facto governments, i.e. civil war killings.

Dr. Rummel taught at the Indiana University, Yale University, and University of Hawaii.  He left behind a large body of scholarly work and data on violence by governments.

Note that democide includes genocide but excludes deaths caused by wars that are not civil wars.  Thus, the Chinese civil war (1928 – 1949) is included but World Wars I and II (among others) are excluded.  This data thus allows us to examine murderous government actions outside the scope of warfare.  However, we will return to the issue of warfare in due course.

The following figure summarizes this democide data.  I have added color coding to the table’s rows to indicate the political-economic nature of the regimes.

Democide-Figure

Democide data by political-economic regime type.

Based on this assessment I have generated the total number of killings for each regime type in the following figure.

Democide-Totals

Democide total killings by regime type

Note that socialist governments murdered almost four-times more people than did fascist regimes (the second most brutal regime type) and over 133 times more than capitalist governments.  The conclusion is thus clear.  Socialist governments are the most brutally murderous by far.

However, it’s worse than that.  Dr. Rummel also studied death caused by warfare.  He then compared death by warfare and democide on an annual basis, resulting in the following figure (note that the same color coding as above is used to identify the regime type).

Democide-vs-War

Annual deaths by warfare vs. democide.  Note that it is socialist governments (red shaded) who were primarily responsible for the mass-murder of their own citizens.

The result is stunning.  Note that from 1920 to 1984 the annual rate of death by the hands of a government (i.e., democide) dwarfs those caused by warfare (even though this period includes WWII).  And, note further that it is primarily socialist governments (with a powerful contribution by fascists between 1940 and 1945) who were murdering their own citizens at rates of 5 to 20+ times greater that of warfare.

Discussion

The actual results of socialism range from economic stagnation to societal collapse to democidal totalitarianism.  The specific and undeniable examples of this last result are sickeningly numerous, including the Soviet Union, Communist China, Cambodia, Vietnam and North Korea (to name only the worst, see above for more).  Progressives may say that, well, socialism doesn’t always lead to democide.  While that’s true, doesn’t it reveal something profound when a supposedly “morally superior” ideology is by far the leading cause of governmental mass-murder?

Progressives will also say that “real socialism hasn’t been tried yet.”  But, doesn’t it reveal something profound about their actual morality when they are eager to foist a system upon humanity that has so often led to terrible consequences?  If socialism is so hard to “get right” maybe it’s because it’s an utterly evil, corrupt, idiotic idea that shouldn’t be tried anymore.

Given this track record of massive democide, why do Progressives yet embrace and recommend socialism?  In large part it may be utter ignorance about the actual results.  It still must be judged as morally irresponsible to demand that we embrace socialism while living in purposeful ignorance of its consequences.

However, I’m afraid that in too many cases Progressives support socialism while clearly knowing what has happened in the past.  For example, the editors of the New York Times shamelessly published an article that minimized and justified these unprecedented crimes against humanity (emphasis added) in order to press their demand for socialism.

We can get to this Finland Station only with the support of a majority; that’s one reason that socialists are such energetic advocates of democracy and pluralism. But we can’t ignore socialism’s loss of innocence over the past century. We may reject the version of Lenin and the Bolsheviks as crazed demons and choose to see them as well-intentioned people trying to build a better world out of a crisis, but we must work out how to avoid their failures…

What possible conclusion can be drawn other than that unless socialism literally brings Hell up to earth the Progressive Left will always ignore, excuse, whitewash and deceive in order to maintain the viability of their bloody socialist ideology?

For many others the fantasy utopia supposedly sought by socialism overwhelms all rational thought or human regard.  We err greatly by underestimating the power of idealistic, utopian thought to obfuscate hard reality.  In explaining this dynamic I simply cannot improve on this final paragraph from The Black Book of Communism’s Forward.

screen-shot-2017-02-23-at-6-28-36-am

However, to embrace evil in order to pursue a fantasized but impossible end is not humanitarianism.

Finally, we must face up to the fact that many in the Progressive Movement lust after the absolute power that socialism can deliver.  As has been recently pointed out, there is a disturbing thread that ties the vile totalitarians of practiced socialism to the yearnings and behavior of many on today’s Progressive Left (emphasis added).

While the vast majority suffer under socialism, such suffering is by no means universal. Any number of commissars, Stasi informants, Cuban snitches, petty apparatchiks with dachas, etc., have parlayed their sadistic tendencies into good livings and what they want most, power over others. If you follow Twitter, or generally pay attention to the American Left, you see an army of would-be commissars who yearn for the day when they can accuse a neighbor of wrongthink and have him sent to an American Gulag. In the meantime, they settle for mob action, “doxxing,” and so on.
In spite of all this, Socialists pose as our moral betters; of being altruistic light bearers to humanity.  They do bear fire.  It is a fire that has lit funeral pyres made up from millions of state-murdered human beings.  And, in spite of this vile history, they demand that we once again place our lives and those of our children into their ideology’s blood stained hands.

The Surprising Good News About World Poverty

Child's Hands Under Water Tap
At a recent Bible Study we covered Proverbs 26, which deals with the issue of foolishness and purposeful deceit. One person commented that, based on polling results, there appears to be a small percentage of the population who will support even the most ludicrous of positions. In fact, they cited a number, 12%.  I suspect that this is generally correct.

World Poverty Rate

Screen Shot 2018-08-12 at 7.50.52 AMI recently came across a polling result that appears to confirm this observation. A survey by Glocalities (see top left-hand chart) asked people if poverty had (a) increased by 25% or more, (b) stayed the same, (c) decreased by 25% or (d) decreased by more than 25% since 1990. It turns out that 13% believe that poverty has decreased by 25% or more.

Intrigued, I looked for corroborating data. I found similar results in a United Kingdom survey (see left-hand bottom chart) that asks a very similar question.  There’s that ignorant 12% again, right?

Igonorace-in-UK-on-Global-Poverty-University-populationWrong.

It turns out that over the last 25 years extreme poverty in the world has been reduced by more than 50%, and, that whereas in 1880 ~90% of the world population lived in extreme poverty today that number is below 10% (see the following chart, much more information at this link)!

1200px-World-population-in-extreme-poverty-absolute

How could so many people think that poverty is significantly increasing when the opposite is actually occurring? Well, most likely because we are constantly bombarded with the false, contrary position by people who claim to have authoritative knowledge on such matters.

The same people (primarily but not exclusively the Progressive Left) who claim that poverty is increasing consistently blame that (untrue) outcome on the United States. The United States became a world super-power at the end of World War II (1945). Note that by the above chart it is between then and now that the improvement in world poverty occurred. And, the massive absolute (i.e., number of people) reduction in extreme poverty occurred shortly after Communism collapsed in the then U.S.S.R. and Communist China reformed it’s economy to allow more economic (if not political) freedom (i.e., around 1990).

World Middle Class

World-Middle-Class

Washington Post

Then

World-Middle-Class-Lede

Lede paragraph

there’s

World-Middle-Class-2

Paragraphs 3 & 4

this (see left-hand figure) recent article from the Washington Post. The title is “Middle-class to make up half of planet’s population?”  The answer according to the article is “Yes!

Here’s the lede paragraph (see right-hand top figure).   Is this not amazing information?  For, if generally true, this means that not only has tremendous progress been made to reduce world extreme poverty, but also in increasing world household wealth!

But, there’s more here to challenge the Progressive narrative of the current world-order being unjust.  Paragraphs three and four deliver the shocking (to Progressives at least) news that it was the Industrial Revolution (and thus the Capitalism upon which it was based) that enabled this rise from almost universal serfdom and poverty to today’s amazing economic  “miracle” of decreasing poverty and increasing wealth.

And yet the Progressive-Left maintains that human economic freedom is an illusion by which evil Capitalists fool the general population into becoming poor so that the Capitalists can become rich.  This data argues the opposite, that economic freedom is a necessary means which, by allowing some to become very rich, allows most to experience greatly increased well-being.  But, as I have previously discussed, this reality is anathema to the Progressive movement.

Discussion and Implications

Venezuela-SocialismDoesn’t all of this suggest that there is a high burden of proof required to be met by those on the Left who demand that we scrap our current political/economic/social systems to solve the problem of world poverty? If they actually care about improved living conditions for flesh and blood humans shouldn’t they be celebrating this amazing progress rather than denying it? And, shouldn’t they have to prove to a high standard that their alternate solutions (i.e., socialism, more government power, less economic freedom, etc.) would actually improve the situation (or at least not make is far worse, see Venezuela)?

Finally, none of this changes the fact that poverty still exists at unacceptable rates throughout the world. Yes, Christians and all people of good faith should work together to eradicate poverty in ways that significantly improve human well being. Issues like clean water, proper sanitation, hunger, education, government corruption, war, energy availability, civil rights, medical care, rule of law, etc. all need continued attention.

How-can-we-shape-capitalism-to-increase-human-well-being_knowledge_standardHowever, if our goal is to actually make improvements to human life then we have an obligation to acknowledge and honor (and yes, reform and improve when necessary) that which has actually worked rather than denying because it doesn’t meet pre-determined ideological constructs.  For, if we prioritize our own desire for self-esteem over the actual improvement for human life then it is no longer humanitarianism but rather self-aggrandizement.

 

Glimpses into the Progressive Psyche (6)

battles2Closing Thoughts

The encounters described in the previous four posts (and numerous others) have profoundly affected me.  When I began attending Presbytery of Chicago assemblies in 2012 I hadn’t given much thought to just how and why the PCUSA was being fundamentally transformed.  Yes, I knew that a revolution was occurring to enable first homosexual ordination and then marriage.  But I assumed that there was hope that the tide could be stopped and eventually reversed.  After all, the Bible and derived Confessions were so clearly on the side of opposition that they would eventually prevail.

What I found out, to my shock and sorrow, was that the Bible and Confessions had been rendered irrelevant by a combination of postmodern philosophy and Progressive politics.  There was simply no center of Christian orthodoxy, Reformed or otherwise, left to hold.  In its place was a secular-driven ideology that sees the PCUSA’s civilizational value to be the “Christianization” of any and all political policies embraced by the Progressive Left — from abortion on demand (and soon infanticide) to the destruction of Israel to Socialism to gun confiscation to open borders to destruction of free speech to gay marriage and on and on.

I challenge anyone to demonstrate that the PCUSA elite has ever opposed a significant Progressive political policy.  Yes, sometimes they have argued that the secular Progressives are pursuing a common goal too quickly or slowly or in the wrong way.  This is an internal argument over tactics.  I am talking about them standing athwart a Progressive goal and clearly saying that it is wrong and must be stopped.  Go ahead, I’m waiting.

But because they had jettisoned the Bible and Confessions, other means of achieving their ends had to be found.  Those means were abuse of the PCUSA’s rules, turning their democratic assumptions into cudgels by which to beat any opposition into submission.  This was accomplished by making life miserable for any majority that opposed their radical ends, and eventually, to drive them out of the church.  Here’s what the Presbytery of Santa Barbara had to say about one aspect of this abysmal situation at the 2014 General Assembly (emphasis added).

Official committees of the PC(USA), like the Mission Responsibility Through Investment (MRTI) and the Advisory Committee on Social Witness Policy (ACSWP), have failed to recognize the spirit and intent of prior General Assembly actions and have continued to promote the very kind of negative approach to peacemaking that prior General Assemblies have rejected. This is wrong and must end.

This situation is ending, not because of a change in heart by our leadership, but rather because so many orthodox-minded Presbyterians have been driven out of the PCUSA that there is no longer the realistic possibility for majority opposition to their schemes.

The preponderance of evidence supports this theory.  Recall from a post on the a recent GA how the progressive camp chose to self-identify (excerpt from When We Gather at the Table: A PC(USA) Snapshot).

They are less tolerant of conservative theologies within the denomination. Some remain hopeful that conservatives who are upset with the 221st General Assembly (2014) decisions on marriage will see that there are different ways to interpret scripture, and will choose to stay and accept the changes, over time. Others would simply be happy if the conservatives left the PC(USA), and a few offered suggestions for helping dissenting congregations to leave the denomination with grace and dignity.

Thus there are only two options for orthodox Christians described in the thinking of these “Purposeful Progressives,” (1) conform and stay and (2) get out! I’d say that the loss of 1,126 churches is well aligned with the “get out!” goal.

We clearly saw this strategy in practice on same-gender marriage in a Rational paragraph from the Presbytery of Chicago (Amending Marriage).

Overtures directly addressing marriage equality in the United States and the Presbyterian Church (U.S.A.) have come before the last two General Assemblies. The 219th Assembly (2010) completely failed to substantively address the marriage-related overtures that were before it. The 220th General Assembly (2012) failed to substantively address overtures related to authoritative interpretation of the marriage provisions at issue in this overture and, by a narrow margin, failed to approve changes to W-4.9000.

Note how failure to approve same-gender marriage is viewed as failure to do the “right thing,” thus requiring continual debate, ending only when the “right thing” has been done.

Thus, the personal encounters that I have described were only isolated skirmishes within a larger battle.  The elite Progressive strategic goal was always to deceive, discredit, demoralize and ultimately destroy any and all opposition from orthodox-minded Christians.

In this cruel goal they have succeeded.  Now they undisputedly control the PCUSA.  To accomplish this end they have made it into a theological laughing stock and a pathetic little appendage to the secular Progressive political machine.  And, having illegitimately achieved this position they now demand that those of us in opposition shut up or leave.

Perhaps we will leave.  But while we remain we should clearly and loudly oppose the clique of false teachers who have seized control of what once was a vital Christian denomination.

Glimpses into the Progressive Psyche (4)

believe-anythingThe Corruption of Language

The Encounter

I found myself in debate with a committed Progressive on a topic that I can’t recall.  What I do clearly recall is the increasing frustration of my opponent as I stubbornly refused to submit to their position. Finally, in exasperation they blurted out that I was a totalitarian because I refused to admit that they were right.

Given that the word totalitarian is associated with the most bloody regimes and evil rulers in human history, I took great offense at being characterized in this manner.  So, the debate turned from the original topic to that of if I was indeed a totalitarian.  The discussion raged on until another member of the group looked up the definition on their smart phone.

Although I have no idea from what source the definition was then found, it was very similar to that of this dictionary site.

totalitarian
adjective
  1. of or relating to a centralized government that does not tolerate parties of differing opinion and that exercises dictatorial control over many aspects of life.
  2. exercising control over the freedom, will, or thought of others; authoritarian; autocratic.

Of course, this settled the question, as this is the exact opposite of what I was being accused.  That is, I was insisting that my differing opinion should be (at least) tolerated and that I had the freedom to state my opinion.

To this person’s great credit, they asked that we remain after the event to resolve the issue between us.  In that discussion they stressed that their personal definition of totalitarian was very different, and far less pejorative than that of the official definition.  I was taken so aback by this explanation that I wasn’t able to adequately respond in real time.  Later, after more thought, I sent the following note explaining my response (excised text [snip] to maximize anonymity).

I’m sending this note because the written word can in some cases be the best way to accurately explain a point of view.  I certainly will be happy to continue our discussion in person as well.

Firstly, I understand that by your internal definition of “totalitarian” you were not intending to label me with the generally understood meaning of this word.  This is a great comfort to me, and I’m thankful that you asked that we continue the discussion  [snip] .  However, since the other members [snip] were unlikely to understand that you were utilizing a highly individualized and non-standard definition (I didn’t come to understand this until we had had a significant discussion [snip]), it is reasonable to be concerned about such a term being applied to me.

Secondly, if we all started to utilize highly individualized and non-standard definitions of words, the communication benefits of language would break down.  That is, rather than being able to discuss and debate ideas, we would be continually bogged down in explaining to each other our individual, internal dictionaries.  That is, our communication would be only about semantics rather than ideas.

I certainly agree that human language is an imperfect tool of communication.  There are ambiguities and white spaces that cause real problems.  However, the existence of problems doesn’t invalidate language, nor give us leave to unnecessarily exacerbate them.

Finally, as Christians, shouldn’t we hold a high view of language?  After all, God has chosen to use the Word to bring the Gospel to humanity, and, the Bible highly extols the power of language, both to help and harm.

It’s my hope that this brief note has been useful in explaining the point of view that I bring to this issue.

This is where the discussion essentially ended.  I think that we achieved a greater understanding of one another, and, parted without rancor between us.  For this I am grateful and give this individual great credit for being the one who took the initiative to achieve this outcome.

The Implications

I don’t know the extent to which this person was actually unaware of totalitarian’s official definition.  I do find it hard to believe that an educated person wouldn’t understand the obvious connection between this word and the evil people / regimes with which it is inextricably associated.  On the other hand, I’m also well aware of the destruction that postmodern philosophy has wrought on rational thought and language.

My guess is that, in a state of exasperation, this person had groped for a label that would discredit my position.  In the heat of the moment they blurted out “totalitarian.”  However, they didn’t anticipate the extent of the offense that I took, or the force of my response.  I also believe that they quickly realized that they had gone too far, were truly sorry to have done so and took the initiative to make amends after the fact.

However, even ceding all of this, I still find it troubling that language was so irresponsibly used.  The sad fact is that, had I not so forcefully and effectively fought back, I could well have exited that debate labeled as a totalitarian.  Yes, it would have been a false label, but that would have been cold comfort.

I think that this encounter illuminates the extent to which our use of language has been undermined and corrupted by Progressive postmodern thought.  If you wonder how it is that we have lost the ability to effectively communicate across ideological lines, this encounter sheds significant light on one of the underlying causes.

Glimpses into the Progressive Psyche (3)

obfuscationThe Centrality of Obfuscation

The Encounter

I found myself in an ongoing discussion with a group of Christians where theology was an important component.  At one point I stated my views under the heading of “Reformed Theology.”  Another member challenged me to define with clarity and specificity just what I meant by this phrase.  I was very happy to oblige, seeing this as an opportunity to engage at a deeper theological level.  So, I spent quite some time crafting a fairly comprehensive, detailed response.

I sent this note to the group, but was disappointed by the lack of response, particularly by the instigator.  However, since they could have read the note and thought. “ok, that makes sense,” I let it drop without further comment.

Later on this same person stated views under the heading of “Progressive Christianity.”  I thought that this might be an opportunity to reopen the theological discussion, so asked them to define this term just as they had previously challenged me to define mine.  Their response was both unexpected and confusing, being along the lines of “no, let’s not confuse people.”  Add thus it ended there.

The Implications

I remained perplexed by this outcome.  Something just seemed so off.  This person is a highly skilled, persuasive communicator, and they know it.  Thus, the idea that their explanation of Progressive Christianity would cause “confusion” was preposterous.  And, why had they shown such enthusiasm for defining terms for me but become so unenthusiastic when the same thing was asked of them?

This encounter caused me to more carefully observe the way that Progressive Christians approached debate.  And, what I eventually discovered was deeply troubling, for they appeared to avoid debate on the merits, particularly if the topic was the Biblical justification for their position.  If I insisted, all too often the next step was deflection, usually centering on questioning of my motives or even directly my character.  If I yet persisted there would eventually emerge a highly selective, contorted exegesis on Scripture’s teaching.  And, if I pressed on, a hard refusal to acknowledge that any other passages of Scripture than those that they has selected had any relevance to their position.

With regard to the careful selectivity that obfuscates Scripture’s actual teaching, the Presbytery of Chicago’s Rationale in support of gay marriage is a prime example (emphasis added).

My issue with this statement [by the Presbytery of Chicago] is not that it is untrue. Rather, I contend that it is so incomplete and shallow that it distorts the true nature of Christ’s relationship to people “on the margins.”

Contemporary Western culture has decided that “love and compassion” towards people “on the margins” means in practice utter non-judgment. That is, the objects of this “love and compassion” are to be affirmed and accepted in all that they believe and do within the context of their marginalized status.

The following three Scriptural examples of Christ’s actual engagement with people on the margins will suffice to show how erroneous is this belief.

These three examples make it crystal clear that, though the Rational statement is technically true, it utterly fails to capture the completeness and depth of Scripture’s testimony on this issue. Thus, I believe the authors to be in error when they imply that Christ’s “love and compassion” means affirmation and acceptance (in this case, the affirmation and acceptance of same gender marriage) of marginalized people’s behavior or beliefs.

With regard to the refusal to acknowledge Scripture’s testimony if it violates their predetermined position, after my exhaustive analysis of the Rationale record in support if gay marriage I concluded:

For, it’s no longer the case that Scripture is interpreted with “the freedom to decide which portions of the Bible are inspired and which are not.” No, based on the Rationale record provided by Presbyteries in support of same-gender marriage, Scripture itself is found to be utterly irrelevant to their deliberations.

An example of how Scripture is twisted to support the partisan political Progressive position on immigration can be found via the use of Leviticus 19:33-34.  After a careful examination of the issue I concluded:

Based on this information I conclude that a “sojourner” is something very different from the formulation of the Rev. Parsons, that being someone “who find themselves within our borders.”   That is, a sojourner is someone who has entered into an explicit and bi-directional relationship with a community “not inherently his own.”  Thus, someone who illegally sneaked into a community and attempted to reside without any mutual agreement on the nature of their relationship would not be considered to be a “sojourner,” but rather an interloper.

Finally, the end result of this strategy of obfuscation is a loss of trust in the credibility of their positions.

If there’s only one thing that I’ve learned in this recent work, it’s this:

Don’t take what is said by the PCUSA elite at face value.  Rather, look for the inconsistencies and omissions that can, over time, be leveraged to smuggle false, foreign ideas into Christianity.

This statement will likely cause discomfort in some readers.  However, given the PCUSA’s recent record, how can we possibly avoid such a conclusion?

What a sorry state of affairs we have reached.

Glimpses into the Progressive Psyche (2)

Pres-Chicago-CAREA Quiet Conversation over Lunch

Background

While I served as a Commissioner to the Presbytery of Chicago I had began to voice opposition to their theology and actions.  One of my first significant statements in this area, “Thoughts About the PCUSA: Investigating Boundaries of Division,” was publicly released in May of 2012.  I have republished this paper under the title “Honoring Christ in our Relationships” on this blog site.  The paper explores the theological foundations for the Presbytery’s behavior concerning continuing controversy over the PCUSA’s decision to ordain practicing homosexuals.

In it I propose the theory that it is postmodernism intersecting with Christian theology that accounts for their behavior.  If you examine my early posts you will see that I describe those with whom I am contending as “Postmodern Christians.”  However, due to this discussion  I am now certain that it is something else with which I am contending.  A description of the encounter that set me straight on this issue follows.

The Encounter

A senior leader in the Presbytery sat down next to me at a luncheon.  I don’t recall most of the conversation, but near the end he paused and said something to the effect of “You realize that this is a Progressive Presbytery.”  The entire conversation was pleasant and friendly.  I think he was trying to point out that I was kidding myself if I thought that my views were going to make a difference in the Presbytery’s direction.  And, he was certainly right about that.

But the real impact of this comment was to correct a misconception on my part in another area.  Up to that point I had been thinking about the Presbytery’s behavior in strictly theological terms.  I thus was considering the impact of postmodernism on Christian theology, resulting in the concept of postmodern Christians.

His comment made me realize that the true center of the Presbytery’s identity is political Progressivism.  Yes, postmodernism played a significant role, but it was not at the center. This insight caused me to move to the concept of Progressive Christianity.

Of course, the realization that the Presbytery was driven by a secular and often godless human ideology increased my sense of alienation.  I have explored this sad situation in many posts.

Glimpses into the Progressive Psyche (1)

 

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The great divide.

Opening Thoughts

I suspect that many Americans are currently living in a state of bewilderment.  I don’t know if someone who is thirty is as affected as someone in their fifties or older.  For myself (in the second age group), the nation in which I am now living bears scant relationship to that in which I grew up.  This is certainly true from the technological perspective, but that has been the case for almost every generation that has participated in the American experience.

The primary cause of this bewilderment is the state of the American psyche.  The closest analogy that I can come up with is that we began experiencing a sort of cultural nervous breakdown in the 1990s followed by a profound schizophrenic break after 9/11.  Of course I’m not here discussing the state of each individual’s psyche.  Rather, it’s the general cultural milieu that presses in upon our individual psyches, pressuring them to move in specific directions.  Thus, this definition of schizophrenia (Google Dictionary) for an individual also applies well to our contemporary collective behavior as a political culture.

a long-term mental disorder of a type involving a breakdown in the relation between thought, emotion, and behavior, leading to faulty perception, inappropriate actions and feelings, withdrawal from reality and personal relationships into fantasy and delusion, and a sense of mental fragmentation.

We are currently a nation splintered into contending groups who appear to have lost the ability to communicate, let alone cooperate, with each other.  These groups can often (there are numerous exceptions) be be roughly divided into two primary camps.

The first is populated by people who tend to define themselves by associations and interests outside the realm of politics.  To them, though politics may be an important part of life, other domains like faith, family, neighbors, sports, etc. have clear priority.  Although there is no agreed name for this group, I’ll refer to them as the “commoners”  This is justified not by any presumption of lower ability or value, but rather by the fact that they see themselves as part of a common heritage and culture.  Thus, they have appreciation for the nation and those through whom it was formed and maintained.  If there is a central organizing principle for this camp it is opposition to the idea that the nation must be “fundamentally transformed” in order for it to be valued.

The second camp draws in people who see themselves as intellectually, morally and ideologically superior to such an extent that they are the natural leaders of our nation.  These people value academic degrees, career success, political power and personal accomplishment above virtually everything else.  Although the largest and most vocal component of this group is the Progressives, it is clear that there are also many members of the Conservative intelligentsia and political class who see themselves this way.  For obvious reasons I will cal this group the “elite.”

While the elite are by definition much smaller in numbers than are the commoners, many people yet look to the elite as their political guides and/or are influenced by them through various forms of education and media.  Thus, the elite wield significant democratic power.  They wield overwhelming institutional power, having taken over virtually all educational, entertainment, government bureaucratic, news, legal and international organizations, among others.

One key differentiation between the elite and the commoners is that the elite consciously know who they are and carefully control who gets to be a member.  Commoners generally don’t see themselves in terms of group identity, so are far more amorphous.

Much of what I have done in this blog traces back to this distinction between the above described groups.  Clearly, I see myself as a member of the commoners (although my high interest in politics is a deviation). One of my goals is to give voice to their issues and perspectives.

However, it is at the personal level that our current cultural disorder creates the greatest pain.  For example, when families split or valued relationships are ended over political disagreements. It is also occasionally at the personal level that important insights can be obtained into the psyches of those with whom we disagree.  I have had numerous personal interactions with members of the Progressive group that rise to this level, which I will share in following posts.

One final point.  The Progressive individuals with whom these interactions occurred were sometimes of a special type.  That is, they tended to see themselves as enforcers of Progressive orthodoxy.  Therefore, they were far more aggressive and vocal than are most in the elite group.  In me they came up against someone who not only rejected their right to enforce, but also aggressively argued for an alternative.  Perhaps we are two sides of the same coin.  That’s for each reader to decide for themselves. Regardless, I hope that some light will be shed on our current crisis through discussion of these personal interactions.

21st Century Pearls of Wisdom (2)

The Continuing Moral Growth of a Political Giant

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Bill Clinton, credibly accused sexual predator by multiple women for over 30 years

Bill Clinton’s accusers have been seeking some sort of justice for almost 30 years.  Their stories have not wavered over time, in some cases they have witnesses who saw them immediately after the sexual assault.  In all cases they were subjected to vicious personal attacks by members of Mr. Clinton’s staff (including in the White House), led by his wife, Hillary Clinton.

And yet, when the #MeToo train left the station she jumped on board.  Her’s is a level of shameless hypocrisy that can be reached only by living a morally wretched life.

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What Hillary Clinton said after living a life in which she enabled and protected her husband’s sexual predation by shaming and silencing any woman who credibly accused him of sexual harassment, assault and rape.

Even in the #MeToo world the stories of Bill Clinton’s victims barely register in the Progressive conscience.  A few Progressives have voiced mild remorse, but these comments have gone nowhere.

It is within this context that Bill Clinton made the following comment in a PBS interview on June 7 regarding former Minnesota Sen. Al Franken (emphasis added).

“I think the norms have really changed in terms of, what you can do to somebody against their will, how much you can crowd their space, make them miserable at work,”

As with all statements by this credibly accused sexual predator, it is equal parts falsity and special pleading.  Anyone over the age of 50 knows from personal experience that sexual assault, sexual harassment and rape were just as illegal and culturally forbidden in the 1990’s as they are now.  Anyone under 50 would have to be a moron to believe that just thirty years ago the United States consisted of cave men dragging women around by their hair.

What has changed is we now know that many of the oh so Progressive men who inhabit our oh so Progressive elite institutions (i.e., the news media, Hollywood, academia, politics, etc.) have been dragging women around by their hair behind closed doors for decades.  And everyone knew, but until recently no-one talked, including the women who were being victimized.

But, what can be expected when the most visible Progressive politician of the 1990’s is slavishly protected from the consequences of his vile actions?  The standard was then set that, as long as a man says and supports the Progressive politically correct things in public, in private they can behave as sexual predators with impunity.

And women should not only accept this as normal, but willingly participate.  As was said without shame in 1998 by elite journalist Nina D. Burleigh on the public record (asterisks added):

I would be happy to give him [President Clinton] a bl***ob just to thank him for keeping abortion legal. I think American women should be lining up with their Presidential kneepads on to show their gratitude for keeping the theocracy off our backs.

And then we wonder how elite Progressive institutions became cesspits of sexual predation.

The loss of moral authority by Progressives has occurred for many reasons.  But this particular situation stands out as demonstrating the rank hypocrisy and vile corruption that hides under the do-gooder facade of Progressive institutions.

Mr. Clinton appears to think that by his clever words we can be fooled into believing he has grown morally.  And he also appears to believe that we can be convinced to accept his vile behavior in the 1980s and 1990s because “norms have really changed” since then.  False and false.

This was an admission of guilt camouflaged as a moral advancement.

This is pure deception as practiced by the elite Progressive movement’s standard-bearer and tar-baby.

If you want insight into what Progressive elites are actually doing in private look at what they in public are accusing their opponents of doing.