Saturday, September 19, 2009

Some rambling reflections on the flexibility of denominational loyalty among the Protestant laity

There is of course a very large number of Protestant groupings and also some Protestants who avoid groupings altogether. The reason behind the profusion of Protestant denominations is that the founders of the denominations concerned were struck by important points in the scriptures and have made those points of central importance. And if founding a new denomination seems required by the importance of those points, so be it.

But the concerns that led to the founding of the various denominations tend to be very little attended to by the laity. Protestants normally choose their church not according to its doctrine but rather according to its geographical convenience or the friendliness of its outreach.

The lady in my life -- Anne -- is a rather good example of that. Her father was Gospel Hall and her mother was brought up as a Salvationist. But for reasons of convenience Anne attended solely Methodist and Presbyterian churches -- with Presbyterians being by far her most frequent church associates. But Anne is a singer so when her Salvationist friends got to know of that, she was asked to come with them and sing solo hymns during the street corner evangelism for which the Sallies used to be so famous. And she did. She sang with the Sallies on street corners. And I am MOST impressed by that. I find it hard to think of a better recommendation of good character than that.

My own background is also a little mottled. My father was an Anglican of the most nominal sort and my mother was a Presbyterian. I cannot remember either of them ever putting a foot inside a church but my mother's denominational attachment still had some life in it so I was from an early age sent to Presbyterian Sunday School -- which I greatly enjoyed. Then when I went to High School there was a non-denominational Bible study group which met during lunch hour called the Crusaders. And I joined and enjoyed that too. So: Osama bin Laden, watch out. I am actually one of those evil Crusaders that you fantasize about!

For a while after that I joined the Jehovahs Witnesses, who are FEROCIOUS Bible students -- and that suited me down to the ground. I learnt enormous amounts about what the Bible says at that time. I even began to look at the original Greek and Hebrew of the scriptures then. Sometimes it is useful to go back to the original Bible rather than relying on any of the many translations. And to this day I still enjoy reading the Bible. Ecclesiastes is my favourite book for wisdom and Revelations is the most fun.

Eventually, however, by about age 18, I became dissatisfied with the JWs and went back to attending my local Presbyterian church (Ann st.). And I got on well there with the minister: old Percy Pearson. His sermons used to be a bit obscure but I followed them and would nod when he made a good point. So he got into the habit of addressing most of his sermons to me! Though I think only he and I knew that. We used to have good chats in the church hall afterwards too.

And at about age 20 I became an atheist -- largely as a consequence of studying philosophy. By the time I took up formal study of philosophy at university I had already read all sorts of philosophy -- from Aquinas to Bultmann. I have a younger relative (cousin one removed) who was at one time an Assembly of God minister. When he was, I warned him not to study theology as it would destroy his faith. But he did and it did. He is now an academic.

Many years elapsed after that during which I attended no church at all (except to get married). But about 15 years ago, I felt that it would be good to renew some contact with the marvellous Christian faith so have attended the very occasional service at both the magnificent Anglican cathedral and my old Presbyterian church. And I get a lot out of both, atheist though I remain. I am off to Evensong at the Cathedral this Sunday, in fact.

So I think that denominational wandering is almost a defining feature of Protestantism.


ObamaCare and Red State Democrats

The president is changing the political landscape, but not in the way he intends


On Friday, I was at DePauw University in Indiana debating former Democratic National Committee Chairman Howard Dean. It was two days after Barack Obama's big speech before a joint session of Congress and Mr. Dean is a strong advocate for his party's agenda and a medical doctor, so I expected him to defend the president's idea of adding a "trigger" to health-care reform to ease its passage and thereby guarantee a government takeover of our health-care system.

But Mr. Dean turned out to be tougher on triggers than I was. He called them a "terrible" idea.

It's now becoming clear that Mr. Obama's speech failed to rally voters and failed to inspire Democrats to follow their president's lead. And while the fissures are small now (Mr. Dean's worry seems to be that triggers would give too much away to Republicans), they will likely widen unless the president shows that his policies will do what his campaign did--expand the pool of voters in favor of Democrats.

That's not happening now. A Gallup poll this week found that 38% of Americans say their representative should vote for ObamaCare--40% want their member to vote against it. It was 37%-39% on the same question the day before Mr. Obama spoke.

Part of Mr. Obama's problem is his language. His speech contained little new information and his tone was unpresidential. Instead of binding Americans to his cause, he called legitimate concerns "misinformation," "false," "demagoguery," "distortion" or "tall tales." Earlier in the week he declared them "lies." This was like calling people with concerns stupid, and it's not the way to win them over.

Take the issue of illegal aliens. The president's assertion that his reform "would not apply to those who are here illegally" drew an angry eruption from a GOP House backbencher. Then late Friday night, the White House quietly announced that proof of citizenship would be required to enroll in the president's health plan. This closed the loophole that provoked Rep. Joe Wilson. Had Mr. Obama acknowledged the concern and offered a solution in his speech, he would have come across as reasonable.

Mr. Obama is forgetting that the political landscape can change when the pool of people who vote changes. In 2008, five million more people voted than in 2004. Mr. Obama drew two million more African-Americans to the polls. He also shifted support among younger voters (ages 18-24) from 54% Democratic, 45% Republican in 2004 to 66% Democratic, 32% Republican.

Today, Mr. Obama's approval among young voters is down 10 points since July, according to Gallup polls. It may drop more when those voters discover that the plan put out by Sen. Max Baucus (D., Mont.) this week would fine them up to $950 a year for not being insured. Young people are 9.9% of the population. Fining them only antagonizes them.

Fiscally conservative independents who were already upset with Mr. Obama's stimulus spending will only be more upset with his health-care plan. It starts running annual deficits in its third year, piles up $219 billion in deficits in its first decade, and could add $1 trillion to the debt in its second.

Last weekend's grassroots rally against ObamaCare in Washington was a sign that voters are getting active to oppose the president's agenda. If it keeps up, middle-class anxiety about the national debt could make 2010 a tough year for any Democrat up for re-election.

Those Democrats will soon notice that seniors are worried about Mr. Obama's proposed Medicare cuts and that Hispanics --the fastest growing part of the electorate-- are slipping away from the president. Gallup polls reveal his support among Hispanics fell 14 points to 67% over the summer. Mr. Obama may be changing the electorate for 2010, but in the wrong direction for his party. This has worried many of the 70 Democrats in congressional districts carried by George W. Bush or John McCain.

Pennsylvania Rep. Jason Altmire's district went 55% for Mr. McCain last year. After Mr. Obama's speech, he called the House bill "flawed" and said, "We can do better." Ohio Rep. John Boccieri, whose district favored Mr. McCain 50%-48%, told reporters, "I don't believe the president has shifted any of my opinions." Alabama Rep. Parker Griffith, whose district gave Mr. McCain 61% of its vote, called for health-care reform "without expanding government or adding more debt to an already overburdened treasury."

And it's not only Democrats in red districts who are questioning the president. California Reps. Dennis Cardoza and Jim Costa followed the speech by saying it hadn't swayed them. Mr. Obama carried their districts with 60% of the vote. Reps. Emanuel Cleaver of Missouri and Artur Davis of Alabama, both African-Americans, voiced similar sentiments.

Mr. Obama will appear on five news shows on Sunday. His time might be better spent praying for more public support.




Civility, 2007-Style: Hanging George Bush: "Some people who are outraged by anti-Obama placards have forgotten that, only a few years ago, many people were condemning George Bush in terms as harsh or harsher. Here is a picture I took at an antiwar rally in Washington in January 2007. The sign – “What’s good for the goose….. gander” – refers to the recent hanging of Saddam Hussein... The artist’s representation of George Bush could have been better, but so could the photograph itself".

ACORN loses its funding, allies in House: "House Democrats on Thursday unexpectedly abandoned their longtime ally ACORN, joining Republicans in an overwhelming vote to end all federal funding for the embattled liberal activist group. The Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN) watched its last bastion of support in Washington crumble a week after hidden-camera investigative videos surfaced that showed its workers advising a supposed underage prostitute on how to cheat on taxes and loan applications. The latest setback followed a decision by the Obama administration to cancel plans for ACORN to work on the 2010 census and a Senate vote to block funding for ACORN in the 2010 housing appropriations bill. The Republican-sponsored measure, dubbed the Defund ACORN Act, passed on a 345-75 procedural vote as part of an unrelated student loan reform bill. Two Democrats voted present. The final tally was a startling rebuke from congressional Democrats, who in the past steadfastly supported ACORN in the face of conservative criticisms that the organization skirts tax laws, violates election rules and commits other crimes while heavily supporting Democratic candidates and liberal causes".

ACORN's Illegal Alien Home Loan Racket: "There's one thing more shocking than the illegal alien smuggling advice that an ACORN official in San Diego gave undercover journalists James O'Keefe and Hannah Giles. It's the illegal alien home loan racket that ACORN has already been operating with the full knowledge of the U.S. government... In 2005, Citibank and ACORN Housing Corporation -- which received tens of millions of tax dollars under the Bush administration alone -- began recruiting Mexican illegal aliens for a lucrative program offering loans with below-market interest rates, down-payment assistance and no mortgage insurance requirements. Instead of the Social Security numbers required of law-abiding citizens, the program allows illegal alien applicants to supply loosely monitored tax identification numbers issued by the IRS. The San Diego Union-Tribune reported that "undocumented residents" comprise a vast market representing a potential sum of "$44 billion in mortgages." Citibank enlarged its portfolio of subprime and other risky loans. ACORN enlarged its membership rolls. The program now operates in Miami; New York City; Jersey City, N.J.; Baltimore; Washington, D.C.; Chicago; Bridgeport, Conn.; and at all of ACORN Housing's 12 California offices. San Diego ACORN officials advised illegal alien recruits that their bank partners would take applicants who had little or no credit, or even "nontraditional records of credit, such as utility payments and documentation of private loan payments."

Eastern Europe unhappy about downgrade in US ties: "Scuttling a missile defense shield in the Czech Republic and Poland helps smooth relations between the U.S. and Russia. But at what price? Some of America’s staunchest allies are the East Europeans — and on Thursday, they expressed dismay at what many see as a slight after decades of their support for the U.S. Among them were some famous names, including Lech Walesa, the former Solidarity leader and Polish ex-president.”

Post-bubble malaise: "The question is, how long can the Obama administration write checks on an account that’s overdrawn by $11 trillion (The National debt) before the foreign appetite for US Treasuries wanes and we have a sovereign debt crisis? If the Fed is faking sales of Treasuries to conceal the damage — as I expect it is — we could see the dollar plunge to $2 per euro by the middle of 2010. Imagine pulling up to the gas pump and paying $6.50 per gallon. Ouch! That should be revive the economy.”

Katie, Matt & Tingly Chris: Suck it Up and Say Goodbye: "Well, surprise, surprise, surprise. According to the latest poll from the Pew Research Center, the “Drive-By Media” no longer have any credibility left with the American people. To quote Pew, “Just 29% of Americans say that news organizations generally get the facts straight, while 63% say that news stories are often inaccurate.” Now, let’s see … why would that be? … Hmmm ... Let me think for a second … Hold on, I think I’ve got it! It’s probably because ABC, NBC, CBS, CNN, MSNBC, the New York Times, and the Washington Post lie through their teeth on a daily basis. Yep, I think that’s it. Once people figure out that you are an inveterate liar who contrives and contorts the news to fit your own perverse world view, you probably are going to end up with a Credibility Gap about the size of the Grand Canyon."

Deal ‘pounded out’ on card-check ought to pass: "Senators have hammered out a compromise that would allow unions to swell their ranks, and a key lawmaker said it should pass this year. Sen. Arlen Specter (D-Pa.) on Tuesday told the AFL-CIO convention in Pittsburgh that he has been working hard “for hours” on a deal with other key senators, such as Sens. Tom Harkin (D-Iowa) and Charles Schumer (D-N.Y.), as well as labor leaders, on the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). “We have pounded out an Employees Choice bill which will meet labor’s objectives,” Specter said. “I believe before the year is out, and I will join my colleague Sen. [Bob] Casey [Jr. (D-Pa.)] in predicting, that there will be passage of an Employees Free Choice Act which will be totally satisfactory to labor.” ... What was unsaid in the senator’s speech was whether a core provision in the bill was part of the deal. Much of the attention has focused on the “card-check” provision, which would allow workers to bypass secret-ballot elections and instead organize by getting a majority to sign off on authorization cards. Attacked relentlessly by business associations as undemocratic, lawmakers have been discussing removing the measure in order to win more support from centrist Democrats."

The expanding public realm: "Virtually every time someone promotes increasing the scope of government’s involvement in our lives, the excuse is that the problem being tackled is a social or public type, not one of individuals. In some cases this is credible, as when a contagious disease surfaces. But in the cases now being dealt with by means of government intervention, such as smoking and even helping people to be happy, this is a phony excuse serving primarily to expand the reach of government into the life of everyone.”

Britain: Hands off my camera!: "Since the Counter-Terrorism Act 2000 came into force, many amateur and professional photographers have found themselves questioned, manhandled and detained by police who have received extended stop and search rights. … As many photographers have experienced, cameras — especially if they are professional-looking or are mounted on a tripod — are now often deemed ’suspicious articles.’ More and more professional and amateur snappers are being stopped by police while documenting everything from demonstrations to bus stations and street life in Britain. … In response to this mood of suspicion and to growing restrictions on individual and press freedom, the newly formed campaign group, I’m a Photographer, Not a Terrorist, staged a photography ‘flash mob’ on Reuters plaza in Canary Wharf, east London, on Saturday.”

Britain: Call to punish police without ID: "A watchdog said it was ‘extraordinary’ that officers caught policing protests without wearing their ID badges were escaping with ‘a slap on the wrist.’ The Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA) said senior officers must ensure frontline colleagues can be identified. Some officers were photographed without ID badges during April’s G20 protests. Assistant Commissioner Chris Allison of the Metropolitan Police said discipline may not be appropriate for officers who sometimes forget to attach their ID.”

Ireland may scupper EU power grab again: "With the trappings of wealth that come with having made a multimillion fortune in aluminium, forestry and telecommunications, you might think it difficult for this English-born Irish businessman to paint himself as David against Goliath in the coming Lisbon treaty referendum. But he did it once and believes he can do it again. It was Mr Ganley’s Libertas group that consolidated the ranks of socialists and right-wing Roman Catholics who opposed Lisbon last year to deliver the knockout punch. This week, to the dismay of the Irish Government and the Opposition, he went back on his word and said he would fight again. “They are trying to scare the crap out of the Irish people by saying ‘vote yes for jobs, vote yes for the economy’ when the treaty will not create a single job in Ireland. In fact I am convinced it will result in job losses.” The Lisbon treaty is a repackaging of the European constitution, aimed at streamlining the expanded 27-nation European Union."


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The Big Lie of the late 20th century was that Nazism was Rightist. It was in fact typical of the Leftism of its day. It was only to the Right of Stalin's Communism. The very word "Nazi" is a German abbreviation for "National Socialist" (Nationalsozialist) and the full name of Hitler's political party (translated) was "The National Socialist German Workers' Party" (In German: Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei)



Anonymous said...

"And I get a lot out of both, atheist though I remain."

You are no atheist. You are the very definition of a religious man, by which I mean a fanatic. The Bible was merely too tame for you. Big waves and lightening bolts; what are such things in an era of hydrogen bombs? I know your religion. It's not hard to divine. It is John'sGenesis. In the beginning was...the WORD.

Are not these little letters that we write the most mysterious thing ever? What *other* religious tome ever said so?

Skip de diddle lee doo, me an you too.


JR said...


En arche een ho logos

is in fact my favourite bit of Greek