Tuesday, October 19, 2021

Our Christian Culture

 

Assumptions that I had grown up with – about how a society should properly be orgnanised, and the principles that it should uphold – were not bred of antiquity, still less of ‘human nature,’ but very distinctively of that civilisation’s Christian past.

Dominion: How the Christian Revolution Remade the World, by Tom Holland

Tom Holland was raised in a Christian family, and attended Christian Sunday School – until he asked the teacher about a picture of Adam and Eve with dinosaurs.  The lack of an answer – not even a bad answer, but any answer – convinced him that Christianity offered little value.

Ancient Rome and Greece – these grabbed his attention, and his heart.  Yet, the more he studied antiquity, the more he came to feel alien to it.  Eugenics, young trained in the art of murder, Caesar, celebrated for killing a million Gauls and enslaving a million more.  None of this offered a modern liberal anything to cheer.

He has told the story often: having written a less-than-flattering history of the birth of Islam, he was challenged by a Muslim to do the same regarding his own religion.  What do you mean, my religion?  In any case, he dove into the history of Christianity, and found it told his story far more than he ever thought.

How was it that a cult inspired by the execution of an obscure criminal in a long-vanished empire came to exercise such a transformative and enduring influence on the world?

How did we in the West become as we are?  Even as the West has disposed of Christianity, it is Christianity that is seen throughout – Holland has described the culture wars of the West as a Christian civil war.  Many arguments made by those clamoring for social justice (in today’s bastardized sense of the term) are based on not-quite-complete Christian arguments.  Try making those same arguments in ancient Rome….

Yet, many in the West are reluctant to contemplate this foundation.  We see it even in the new atheists – arguing for Christian ethics while pretending that Christianity had (or has) nothing to do with these. 

He begins with a look at ancient Athens – to set some sort of foundation.  The many gods, the many sacrifices and offerings; would something sacrifice be overlooked?  Further, what kind of gods were these?

The gods, inscrutable and whimsical as they were, rarely deigned to explain themselves.  They certainly never thought to regulate morals.  The oracle at Delphi might offer advice, but not ethical instruction.

An examination of democracy at the time: ‘Such a mob should never rank as citizens,’ quoting Aristotle.   The most accomplished kings, or Caesars would be celebrated a lord and savior.  A Graeco-Egyptian god invented to merge Greek and Egyptian in Alexandria. 

There was something called natural law – but nothing like that which has come to be identified post-Christianity.  While recognizing the spark of the divine in each individual, they nevertheless found that the spark in some was more valuable in the eyes of the gods than the spark in others.

The siege of Jerusalem, 63 B.C.  The locals knew they were doomed, at the wrong end of Pompey’s battering rams.  Twelve thousand lay dead; Roman casualties were light.  Not like Jerusalem was a great prize: distant from the sea; a “backwater.”  Besides, the locals had some strange customs: circumcision, the refusal to eat pork, they rested every seventh day – a reality that Pompey took full advantage of when preparing for the siege.

Friday, October 15, 2021

Why Smart People Are Stupid

 

What convinces masses are not facts, and not even invented facts, but only the consistency of the system of which they are presumably part.

-          Hannah Arendt

Why is it that when you offer facts, even the most intelligent will look at you with a blank stare….

John Waters wrote a piece on Substack, Covid Totalitarianism: The Deification of Error.  In it, he examines the work of Belgian psychologist Dr. Mattias Desmet, who, as he describes, “may be the most articulate voice on the most clear and present danger facing us: the mob-baiting now being pursued by formerly democratic governments.”  Desmet is a professor of Clinical Psychology at Ghent University in Belgium.  He holds both a master’s degree and PhD in clinical psychology, and a master’s degree in statistics.

Waters’ piece is very long…and worth reading in its entirety.  He also includes three videos of Desmet, of which he finds the first most valuable (and the only one I watched; it is also worthwhile).  I will try not to make this post equally as long, only touching on some key points…I hope.  All references are from the essay; none directly from the video.

Desmet describes that the majority of the world’s population has fallen under a kind of a spell – not literally a spell, but what he calls a “mass formation,” a term first used by French philosopher Gustave Le Bon late in the nineteenth century in his book The Psychology of Crowds.

Individual personality disappears, replaced by group sentiment; brain activity is replaced by reflex.  These changes may produce better or worse outcomes, but usually worse – such groups are “generally disposed to destruction.”

‘The ascendancy of crowds,’ wrote Le Bon, ‘indicates the death throes of a civilisation.’ The upward climb to civilisation is an intellectual process driven by individuals; the descent is a herd in stampede. ‘Crowds are only useful for destruction.’

It is this that we see today – throughout the West certainly – in size and scope never before seen in recorded history.  What is interesting is that Le Bon describes, over 125 years ago, that which he saw occurring in his time and that which is overtly obvious today.  The causes are twofold: destruction of common religious, political, and social beliefs, and the creation of entirely new forms of existence due to modern discoveries.

Enough of Le Bon.  What of Desmet?  He sees the strange situation – people indifferent to their own suffering, and certainly to the suffering of their fellow man (talk of increased suicides, drug and alcohol addition, etc., and get a blank stare).  Loss of freedoms, loss of work, loss of human contact.  Everything is closed out and sacrificed except that which has attracted the group’s single focus.

Being educated in statistics as well as psychology, Desmet early on understood that the numbers don’t add up.  His training and study in psychology led him to conclude that the whole point was to drive the crowd toward this phenomenon of mass formation.  His fear wasn’t the virus.  It was the inevitable move toward totalitarianism.

Four conditions must be met to enable this mass formation: a large presence of socially isolated individuals – this described as the most important; second, a large number of people who lack sense-making in their lives; third, lots of free-floating anxiety – anxiety not connected to a mental representation; fourth, free-floating psychological discontent – anger and frustration aimed at…they don’t know what, exactly.  And you need mass media.  And, as Waters adds, the media must be corruptible.

These conditions were all in place prior to covid.  All that was left was for these to be aimed at one specific event, one cause that would set the wheels in motion.  As my own aside: the fear of terrorism was not personal enough; to make it more personal, we needed to be instilled with a fear of breathing.

Now mesmerized, the mass has meaning and purpose – that which they lacked is now offered to them.  A new, bogus, solidarity is offered.  It doesn’t matter the absurdity of the narrative: Desmet offers, “The more absurd a narrative is the better it functions as a ritual.”

Wednesday, October 13, 2021

Random Comments

 

Paul VanderKlay has been offering some interesting videos and commentary lately, much of it focused on the culture wars and wokism of society.  I think this is very much on his mind because these same culture wars are being fought in many Protestant denominations, including his.

Following are some of my comments at his site, in response to these videos; I include some further thoughts as well.

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PVK: Feminism [BM: or any of the other third rails in the culture war of today] won, but can’t take “yes” for an answer.

That is because winning isn’t the objective, but making the enemy lose.  More precisely, destroying the enemy.  Critical Theory has no finish line, no “objective truth” where it can now offer: “we won.”  How could it?  There are no objective truths in Critical Theory.

I am currently reding a book: The Red Trojan Horse, by Alasdair Elder.  It is on the history and current situation regarding Critical Theory, the foundational backbone of the Cultural Marxism we have seen in society over the last fifty years or so.  I will end up writing at least a couple of posts based on this book.

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The following comment was made in response to a post on Christian pacifism, Anabaptists, etc.

Charles Martel and John III Sobieski would be hearing “blah, blah, blah,” and even the most pacifist Christians, deep down inside, would have said at the two respective times, “thank God for Charles” … “thank God for John.”

We are called to love our neighbor and love our enemy.  But what if our enemy wants to destroy our neighbor?  To which one do we then show love?  Look into your child’s eyes while answering the question.

I have written a few posts on this topic in the past (here, here, and here).  Let’s just say I thank God for men like Charles Martel and John III.

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Regarding the possibility of civil war...certainly violence will come if the "jab or no job, jab or no food" is implemented.  It is already true in some parts of the world - the parts where guns have been virtually outlawed.

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Ephesians 6: 12 For our struggle is not against flesh and blood, but against the rulers, against the powers, against the world forces of this darkness, against the spiritual forces of wickedness in the heavenly places.

I might be reading too much into PVK’s statements, but it appears that he recognizes that the actors we see on stage are those through whom Satan works.  It is always a good bet to assume that we are being fed lies, and that none of the actions and pronouncements of those who claim to lead us (political, business, and, unfortunately, much of the clergy) are in our best interests.  Hasn't failed me yet.  “Remember the Maine” was just one in a series of never-ending lies in this long string.

CS Lewis: “They are not men at all.  Stepping outside the Tao, they have stepped into the void.  Nor are their subjects necessarily unhappy men.  They are not men at all: they are artefacts.  Man’s final conquest has proved to be the abolition of Man.”

We entered the final phase of this in March 2020.  Unfortunately, too many have chosen the wrong side.  It is still possible, at least for the sake of one’s soul, if not body, to repent.  Then make a public profession of faith.

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PVK: These things tend to die when enough people have blood on their hands….

BM: Even if one wants to believe it is totally coincidence, the wokism we see around us is completely consistent with the strategy laid out by Antonio Gramsci, and also the Frankfurt School.  Their purpose was to bring communism to the West by destroying the common culture that held together the bourgeoisie and the proletariat.  That culture was Christian and based on natural law.

Wokism will die, either when enough people have blood on their hands (and we know which side is better trained at firearms) or when the economics falters to such a degree that the division of labor economy ceases to function (as it always will in communist systems).

The second possibility is coming true right before our eyes.

It is interesting to watch: people are pushing back at school board meetings, on both woke teaching and masks, etc.  The Biden administration now has labeled this domestic terrorism – to confront your local school board makes you a terrorist.  Why?  The answer is obvious.

Soon the Biden administration will label airline pilots and others like them who protest by going on strike as domestic terrorists as well.

Friday, October 8, 2021

Reformation. And Reconciliation?

 

The Protestant Reformation proved unstoppable, despite the vast coercive powers accumulated by the Roman Catholic Church during its five centuries of existence.

The Age of Division: Christendom from the Great Schism to the Protestant Reformation, by John Strickland

Strickland writes of Spain and Portugal, travels to the New World, colonization, the violence and illness that followed, etc.  He notes a debate in 1550 between Bartolomé de las Casas and Sepúlveda regarding the “wars of conquest against Spain’s helpless subjects.”  Sepúlveda would argue that the wars were just because they served the end of Christianization.  Being secondary to my purpose in this post, I only note this passage and otherwise will drop this can of worms.

Returning to Europe, the “witch hunt” craze was going full speed; according to Strickland, nothing similar had ever occurred in the East.  Thousands, both Protestant and Catholic, were charged with holding communion with the devil with many executed.  There was also the Spanish Inquisition – which, despite creating a tremendous and terrible bureaucracy, had executed only a relatively small number.

Which comes to what Strickland calls the “wars of Western Religion,” although, as I and others have noted elsewhere, were wars of state building using religion as a pretext.  Strickland notes that such wars of Christians against Christians were not fought in the East. 

If this understanding of the Christian East was better grasped by today’s intellectuals…

…the modern prejudice against a civilization with a supporting culture that directs its members toward the heavenly transformation of the world might indeed be less virulent.

The German Peasants’ War is noted, as is the Schmalkaldic League.  The subsequent wars led to the Peace of Augsburg, allowing that the prince of a given territory is free to determine the religion of his realm.

Still, little had been resolved.  Five centuries of internal pressure in the West had yet to be fully relieved.  Yet more pressure was building: Roman Catholics against Huguenots in France – and the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre; altogether, three million were killed, but the pressures hadn’t been meaningfully reduced.  The Dutch Revolt followed, with Protestantism suppressed by the Spanish Duke of Alba.

There was the English Civil War; violence in Ireland.  Cities burned to the ground, no quarter for the men, women, or children.  Yet all of this was secondary to the Thirty Years’ War, ignited when Protestant soldiers threw a pair of Roman Catholic agents of the Holy Roman Emperor out of a castle window in Prague.

The Holy Roman Empire and Spain would fight against Protestant Bohemians, Saxons, Prussians, the Dutch, English, Scots and Swedes.  Notably absent was Catholic France – choosing, for reasons of the state, to stay out of this religious fight….at least until much later in the conflict.  They would then fight against Catholic Spain and the Catholic Holy Roman Empire!  Are we sure this was a war of religion?

The Thirty Years’ War marked the near total dereliction of Western Christendom.  No previous event, no abomination of desolation, had so tarnished its history as the spectacle of Christians murdering each other in the name of the God of love.

…no evil done in the name of Christ during the course of a millennium and a half had ever done so much to discredit Christendom as this meaningless bloodbath.

Perhaps ten million had been killed, including half of the population of Germany.  It is difficult to argue Strickland’s statement even if one wishes to disagree with his views of the underlying causes (both theological and political).

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Russian Wars of Religion

 

The religious terror-state of Henry VIII was not the only case in which political ambition overwhelmed paradisiacal culture.  Russia, which had almost no contact with Tudor England, was another example.

The Age of Division: Christendom from the Great Schism to the Protestant Reformation, by John Strickland

Like Henry’s England in regard to Catholicism, Russia was a strong anchor for the Orthodox Church.  Like Henry, Ivan the Great would set in motion events that would cost the Russian Church the ability to withstand political intrusion. 

The Metropolitan, Daniel, would implement a radical subservience of the Church to the state.  He would intervene in the succession to the throne, on behalf of Ivan’s son Vasily III.  When this new ruler initiated a purge of rivals, Daniel assisted.  When he wanted to divorce his wife without canonical justification, Daniel blessed the subsequent marriage.

This was all prelude for Ivan the Terrible, who reigned for over 50 years in the mid-sixteenth century.  Strickland divides his reign into a good period and a bad period – almost equally split in years.  During the good period, Ivan conquered the Muslim city of Kazan, securing the eastern borders against the Mongols.  He oversaw the continued development of an independent Russian Church, presiding over the Stoglav Council of 1551.  During this council…

…Ivan declared himself the ruler of the Church and accountable only to God.  in the absence of other legitimate witnesses to God’s will, this meant in practice that he was totally unconstrained.

The “good” part of Ivan’s reign came to an end in 1560.  His wife, Anastasia, suddenly died, and Ivan believed she was poisoned.  In his grief, he would lash out.  He launched a new institution, the oprichnina, representing a reorganization of the state’s military and economic resources.  This organization would be administered via terror, putting thousands to death on charges of treason.

Like Henry, Ivan went through many wives – perhaps up to seven.  After the third, the clergy refused to recognize any more – unlike their counterparts in England.  Some lasted only days before being sent off to a monastery or dying mysteriously.

Red Square became the site of regular public executions:

Increasingly sadistic in his efforts to destroy perceived enemies, he nevertheless maintained a strong attachment to Christianity.

His reaction to criticism was complex: when criticized by one who could do little harm, he welcomed it.  However, if it came from a powerful quarter, he could be ruthless.  When Metropolitan Philip of Moscow refused Ivan the blessing cross due to Ivan’s unrestrained bloodletting, Ivan had him arrested and killed.  Unlike the wars in Western Europe following the Protestant Reformation, the violence in Russia was internal: “a case of ‘civil massacre, not civil war.’”

Orthodox bishops found it difficult to maintain proper order – frequently being harried by the authorities.  They grew open to advance from the Roman Church, which promised freedom of worship in exchange for submission to the papacy.  Despite little support from their flocks, a group of four bishops signed on with the Jesuits who delivered the negotiations.  As these East Slavic lands were not part of the Muscovite state, this Union of Brest had little immediate impact on Russia.

This time, the filioque was optional; purgatory and papal supremacy were not; leavened bread could be used; they could continue Eastern liturgical practices.  This Uniate Church, an Eastern-Rite Roman Catholic Church, partially healed the schism.

Meanwhile, Ivan produced no healthy and long-lived male heir – certainly he had himself to blame here.  He did have a promising eldest son, but one day the tsar flew into a rage and beat the young lad to death.  His only heir was a “half-wit” named Fyodor, and after Fyodor…nothing (well, one other heir, Dmitry, was murdered).  The long Rurik line, to include Vladimir, was no more, and soon Russia would face a time of difficulty not seen since the Mongol invasions: the Time of Troubles.

Monday, October 4, 2021

Countering the Abuse of Power

 

Hans Hoppe has delivered a wonderful essay and lecture, The Idea of a Private Law Society: The Case of Karl Ludwig von Haller.  Who is von Haller?

Karl Ludwig von Haller (1 August 1768 – 20 May 1854) was a Swiss jurist, statesman and political philosopher. He was the author of Restauration der Staatswissenschaft (Restoration of Political Science, 1816–1834), a book which gave its namesake to the Restoration period after the Congress of Vienna, and which Georg Wilhelm Friedrich Hegel strongly criticized in §258 of Elements of the Philosophy of Right.

Von Haller's work, which was burnt during the Wartburg Festival, was a highly systematic defense both of the principles of dynastic legitimacy and monarchy founded on territorial lordship, as well as of pre-modern republics like those of the Swiss city-states, and the most consistent rejection of modern political ideas of the social contract, public law, and state sovereignty.

His books burned because he rejected the social contract, public law and state sovereignty.  Already sounds like a great guy.

In [Restauration der Staatswissenschaft] he uncompromisingly rejected the revolutionary conception of the State, and developed a natural and juridical system of government, arguing at the same time that a commonwealth can endure and prosper without being founded on the omnipotence of the state and official bureaucracy.

Sounds almost Hoppean.  Unfortunately, it seems the book is only available in German; and this, among countless other reasons, is why we have been blessed to have Hoppe in our number.  And, as I could never do justice to depths of Hoppe’s examination of the work, I will only focus on one specific point raised by Hoppe:

The stability of every society, i.e., the peaceful, tranquil and convivial association of men, is always threatened from two sides. On the one hand by the envy of the have-nots vis-a-vis the haves, and on the other hand by the abuse of power by the powerful.

We know very well the envy of the have-nots.  Envy, worse than jealousy, wants to destroy.  One can use the term “envy” to describe all of Critical Theory, the process of tearing down with nothing offered as replacement.  It is destruction solely for the sake of destruction – seeing something or someone better, with more (wealth, happiness, stability, generosity, whatever) as nothing more than a target to destroy.  Taking traditional western culture and ripping it apart.

But it is on the second concern that I wish to comment, regarding the only protection against the abuse of power by the powerful.  Ultimately, it is the Golden Rule, or, to put it in terms that work in an Aristotelian-Thomistic framework of man’s highest purpose: fulfillment through other-regarding action, or love.  As long as any other value is seen as man’s highest purpose, there will be abuse of power by the powerful.

What does this mean?  If “power” is attained by love, because love is the highest purpose or value held by man, then those who best excel at love will be the most powerful.  Those who most excel at love will be the least likely to abuse power.  As the archetypal example…Jesus Christ.  Our most impactful stories tell of one man laying down his life for another.

I have previously written several posts on this issue, prompted by a question offered by Ira Katz.  His question:

Is it inherent in the nature of free market capitalism for the most wealthy individuals and/or corporations to capture government power?

My answer, in short: yes.  If you want the long version, here are the posts that examine this:

-          One Answer to An Important Social / Political / Economic Question of Our Time

-          Free Market Capitalism as the Highest Value (Part Two)

-          The Way Out and the Way To (Part Three)

-          Virtuous Governance

But here is the condensed response.  Hoppe himself offers the answer (big surprise, I know….).  Regarding Haller’s examination of the social contract theory, Hoppe writes:

A theory, as he notes exasperatedly, so patently false, from beginning to end, as to be almost risible; a chimera so devoid of common sense and detached from reality that only an “intellectual”—a “sophist” in Haller’s terminology—could invent it. And yet a theory that would literally turn the world upside down. That would transform lowly servants into rulers of princes and children into masters of parents (chap. 4, esp. p. 25n6, and also p. 284), and that would be destructive of all human liberties (p. 335 f.).

Friday, October 1, 2021

Does God Ordain Evil Men?

 

…I have watched, with great horror, the way Romans chapter 13 has been increasingly misinterpreted by pastors and laymen alike.

-          Dr. Chuck Baldwin

Romans 13: The True Meaning of Submission, by Timothy Baldwin and Chuck Baldwin

This book, written by Chuck Baldwin and his son Timothy, examines the meaning of Romans 13, a chapter used by many Christians to advocate that we must obey the government no matter what. 

Now, regarding such Christians, there was a time that I would have said something like “except if the government tells us that we cannot go to church on Easter Sunday,” but I can no longer even say that much….

Would such Christians also demand submission of a wife to a husband no matter what?  An employee to an employer?  A church member to a pastor?  Yet these are also examples of governing authorities.

Instead of being understood as a chapter requiring Christians to submit to government (meaning the modern state), the passage describes the proper and expected role of those in governing positions.  For example, verse 3 offers: “For rulers are not a terror to good works, but to the evil.”  Or verse 4: “For he is the minister of God to thee for good.”

So, what of rulers who are a “terror to good works”?  Or they are not ministering for good?  Well, such in governing authority are not conforming to God’s requirement of Romans 13.

The book is ten chapters long, with a total of 144 pages.  About forty of these pages offer over six-hundred endnotes – it is a very well documented and researched book.  I have written much on this topic (most recently here, written a few weeks after the madness of March 2020), so I will only highlight a few of the many areas that struck me as points I had not previously considered:

The Greek word for “power” connotes the meaning of limited authority…

The authors note that the same Greek word is used when Jesus describes, for example, the limited authority a master gives his servant to perform certain works.  This understanding is consistent with the verses from Romans 13 cited above: the authority is given to governing powers in order to be a terror to the evil; to be a minister for good.  The authority is limited only to such things – most certainly, not to be the opposite of such things.

So, how do we know when to submit and when not to submit.  The authors offer some considerations, all in accord with the responsibility demanded for the one in authority: husbands are to love their wives; parents are to nurture and properly admonish their children, and not provoke them to wrath; pastors are to watch for the souls of their flock; masters are to treat their servants justly.  When this guidance is not followed, one need not submit.

How, then, can this be applied to government?  Romans 13 describes what is good, God-ordained government.  It does not change the standard set by God, as described in numerous other Biblical passages:

So Scripture reveals, government must protect the innocent, protect freedom and rights, provide justice, give fair trials to all accused, provide expeditious due process of law and fair judgement, punish evil, and protect state borders….

Which, it should be clear, is precisely the opposite of the actions taken by the current government we are told by many Christians that we must obey.