Sunday, September 27, 2020

Gentleness and Ann Coulter’s Mugged

 Here are some items from church this morning, followed by a write-up on Ann Coulter’s Mugged.

A. The theme of the church service was gentleness. The youth pastor interviewed a teen who is currently serving at an aide at the preschool. The aide was saying that she has to take a gentle approach to the kids. If she yells at them, they will not want to be around her. When she is encouraging them to share, for example, she tells them that it is fun to share because, in doing so, people can play and have fun together.

B. The pastor opened his sermon by talking about the Cuban Missile Crisis. Apparently, at that time, there was a hurricane that made an American submarine exceedingly hot, putting pressure on the people inside of the submarine. They received a message about a nuclear attack, but they decided to delay any retaliation. This sounds like the movie Crimson Tide.

C. Philippians 4:5 states: “Let your gentleness be evident to all. The Lord is near” (NIV). The pastor said that, if you consult a commentary or study notes, it would probably interpret this verse as suggesting that the early Christians believed that Christ’s second coming was imminent, conveying urgency. The problem with this, the pastor suggested, is that such a sense of urgency runs against the gentleness and inner peace that the verse is exhorting Christians to have; instead, it promotes stress. The pastor interpreted the Lord’s nearness in that verse as spatial nearness. He talked about the Reformation debates about whether Christ is physically present in the Eucharist and quoted Martin Luther’s statement that, even if Christ is omniscient, that does Luther no good unless Christ is present for him.

D. Ann Coulter. Mugged: Racial Demagoguery from the Seventies to Obama. Sentinel, 2012.

—-Different proposals have been given to account for stereotypes about African-Americans. These stereotypes include that African-Americans are less intelligent than whites, promiscuous, indolent, abusive of substances, violent, impulsive, given to instant gratification, and talented in oratory and rhythm. Many, of course, deny that the stereotypes are accurate, but those who consider them to be accurate attempt to account for them.

David Duke attributes these characteristics to genetics and accepts controversial psychologist J. Philippe Rushton’s evolutionary explanation. According to Rushton, the reason that whites and Asians are statistically more intelligent and disciplined than blacks is that whites and Asians lived in exceedingly cold regions, where intelligence and self-discipline were crucial for survival. Blacks, by contrast, lived in warm, fruitful Africa, where good things were handed to them on a silver platter, without much effort on their part. Critics of this position point to counter-examples: Eskimos lived in cold regions yet are documented in studies to have lower IQs than other ethnic groups, and there historically were advanced civilizations in the warm, temperate global south. The point here is that, according to one perspective, the negative stereotypes of blacks point to characteristics that are intrinsic to them and that go back to their experience in Africa.

A more left-wing explanation is that slavery and institutional racism caused these negative characteristics. Slavery and institutional racism pushed down blacks and denied them opportunities to develop intellectually. Institutional racism after the Civil War deprived blacks of any incentive to work hard because it denied to them any reward for their labor. Promiscuity within the black community is due to the forced separation of black families under slavery and is one way that African-American men seek status in a society that denies them status in the economic realm. Blacks who steal and loot do so either out of economic desperation or because they want the good things in life that whites have but that have been denied to blacks. Drugs are a way that they cope with the contempt that society continually shows to them.

Ann Coulter appears to agrees with Thomas Sowell’s explanation. Thomas Sowell traces these characteristics to southern redneck culture, brought by the “Celtic fringe” from Scotland, Ireland, and Wales that immigrated to the United States in the eighteenth century. The Celtic fringe was promiscuous, violent, emotional, drunken, and given to stirring oratory and smarmy politicians. Southern rednecks also spoke in ebonics. Sowell rejects the idea that such characteristics are naturally intrinsic to blacks, for he points to studies about blacks having higher IQs than whites, in cases.

The thing is, Coulter also traces blacks’ problems to the Great Society. That was when government welfare programs incentivized single parenthood and illegitimate births, undercutting the need for African-Americans to marry and to work to support a family. In the decades after the Civil War, African-Americans were committed to their family, had high marriage rates, owned businesses, had low crime rates, and did better economically than they did after the Great Society. They were clean cut, as pictures from the Civil Rights era demonstrate. Even poor blacks prior to the Great Society married and refrained from committing crimes, so Coulter rejects the liberal view that black promiscuity and crime are due to institutional racism.

—-A lot of Ann Coulter’s contempt is directed towards white liberals, who infantilize blacks, talk down to them, distort facts to promote a narrative about white racism, and are hypocrites. Democrats are latecomers to Civil Rights: the Republicans championed Civil Rights in the decades after the Civil War through the 1960’s, whereas the Democrats in the South and even some in the North and the West supported institutional racism and segregation. White liberals also promote integration while they fail to practice it in their own lives; they send their kids to lily-white private schools and do not associate with minorities on the job and socially. Coulter also dislikes African-American leaders like Al Sharpton and Jesse Jackson, whom she sees as self-promoting, opportunistic demagogues who stir people up to violence. In Al Sharpton’s case, he did so on the basis of inaccuracies (Tawana Brawley). Barack Obama also is problematic, for Coulter, because he plays the victim on the basis of no evidence, labels criticism of him as racist, manifests contempt for whites, and explicitly takes political advantage of his blackness even as he criticizes those who accuse him of doing so. While Obama acts as if he speaks for the descendants of slaves, he himself did not descend from slaves; Coulter says that his Kenyan ancestors were more likely slave-traders than slaves. And he, along with his pastor Jeremiah Wright, grew up in middle-class privilege.

But what does she think about blacks as a group? On the one hand, she points out that black-on-black violent crime is far, far greater than white-on-black violent crime, and that blacks commit a disproportionately high percentage of violent crimes, considering they are the minority of the U.S. population. She tells stories of high numbers of blacks rioting or demonstrating, but she fails to explain why they see a need to do so. She is effective in documenting hoaxes about racism and police brutality, showing that the police often had reason to use the force that they did. Yet, if such problems were non-existent, would so many blacks see a need to protest against them in mass numbers? Are they solely influenced by propaganda from the liberal media and racial agitators, or do they truly experience such problems? On the other hand, Coulter sees blacks as regular people. Some, when presented with facts about police encounters, vote to acquit the police officers. They, too, do not want to be victims of violent crime and have reason to support police. Blacks do not want to be treated with condescension, any more than anyone else does.

—-Coulter believes that the O.J. verdict was a turning point in American race relations. Before the O.J. verdict, whites accepted the liberal narrative that America was a racist society and that whites were to blame for blacks’ problems. After the O.J. verdict, whites walked away from that kind of white guilt. Coulter is unclear as to why. Was it because O.J. was obviously guilty, so black criticisms of the American legal system looked ridiculous when they were appealing to those criticisms to justify acquitting O.J.?

—-Coulter argues that Democrats only started embracing blacks to get votes, and she argues that Democrats are in the process of marginalizing blacks in favor of other constituencies: women, gays, and illegal immigrants. Some of these groups have more money, and some of them have higher numbers, so they are a more attractive constituency for the Democratic Party than blacks, whom it takes for granted. Coulter’s analysis here reminds me of the widespread liberal criticism of African-American TV host Wendy Williams for mildly criticizing transsexuals. But do transsexuals have a lot of money and numerical power to make them politically attractive to the Democrats? Here, people offer alternative reasons for the liberal stance: a sincere concern for justice and fairness (a liberal explanation), and a desire to subvert and undermine the traditions of Western society (a conservative explanation).

—-Coulter points out the heroic deeds of people society has demonized. One of the LAPD officers in the Rodney King case did mouth-to-mouth on a prostitute with AIDS because he considered that person to be created in God’s image. Interestingly, though, Coulter also has nice things to say about Corey Booker, whom I have often seen as a sanctimonious hypocrite. According to Coulter, Booker, as mayor of Newark, sharply reduced crime and improved Newark’s economy. For Coulter, he is an examplar of a black politician who can succeed on his own merits without playing the race card or pursuing disastrous policies.

—-On the Southern Strategy, Nixon’s alleged attempt to court southerners with racism, Coulter argues that it did not exist. The southern states that went for Goldwater in 1964, due to Goldwater’s opposition to the 1964 Civil Rights Act, often went for Democrats in subsequent Presidential elections (i.e., Carter, Clinton). Coulter’s points deserve consideration. She could have done a better job explaining how exactly segregation would fit into a liberal Democratic worldview; one liberal political science professor I had said that southern whites embraced the New Deal because it provided them with benefits. Coulter does well to argue against the claim that “law and order” was veiled racism, and to point out that Reagan actually did not kick off his campaign in Neshoba County, Mississippi but had done so before. Still, I have difficulty divorcing segregationism from conservatism, for a variety of reasons: states’ rights is largely a conservative concept, Goldwater and Reagan opposed the Civil Rights Act in 1964 as federal enroachment on individual liberties, and the John Birch material I have read opposes Brown vs. the Board and the 1964 Civil Rights Act.

—-Coulter offers little in terms of solutions, perhaps because she does not believe racism is a serious problem that holds blacks back. She does well to point out the flaws of conventional solutions: affirmative action, for instance, produced some unqualified doctors by prioritizing race over qualifications. I suppose, though, that I prefer robust conservative solutions to problems: acknowledge there are problems, without all the “white guilt” and “privilege” talk, and come up with solutions to those problems that help make people’s lives better.

Reason: SCOTUS Contender Amy Coney Barrett’s Mixed Record in Criminal Cases

 “While the 7th Circuit judge is often skeptical of the government’s position, some of her conclusions will give pause to civil libertarians.”

SCOTUS Contender Amy Coney Barrett’s Mixed Record in Criminal Cases

Current Affairs: Why Amy Coney Barrett Should Not Be On The Supreme Court

“Sometimes her opinions have been downright cruel.”

"For Barrett, she is likely to care more about minute bureaucratic procedural issues than whether a person’s rightful legal claims are adjudicated (i.e. she prefers 'the set of rules that are good because they’re the rules' over 'the set of rules that are good because they help people who need help'). She doesn’t care as much about the powerless, and that affects her judgments, because being a judge requires you to decide how much the claims of the powerless matter."

Wednesday, September 23, 2020

Anxious for Nothing, Buchanan’s The Greatest Comeback, with a Goebbels Tangent

Some items from church today, followed by a quick write-up on Patrick J. Buchanan’s The Greatest Comeback, with a Goebbels tangent thrown into the middle. The church group in which I am participating, via Zoom, is going through Max Lucado’s Anxious for Nothing.

A. “Anxious for Nothing” comes from Philippians 4:6-7. The pastor gave some background about Philippi. Philippi was a Roman colony in Greece. The inhabitants of Philippi were Roman citizens, so they had rights and privileges that the cities around them did not possess. Such background may explain some of the themes in Paul’s Epistle to the Philippians. Like the city of Philippi, Christians are strangers in a strange land and possess a different citizenship from that of the people around them: Christians are citizens of heaven, not earth. At the same time, the pastor said, Christians still are involved in the world out of love for their neighbor.

B. Someone in the group pointed to Philippians 4:5. Her translation said, “Let your reasonableness be known to all.” For the Greek word translated as “reasonableness,” other translations have “moderation,” “forbearing spirit,” and “gentleness.” The Greek lexica on my BibleWorks gravitate towards kindness, gentleness, and yielding to others. Still, the group’s discussion about reasonableness resonated with me. The person in the group said that, so often, we react. The pastor replied by talking about a marriage counselor he knew. If a couple is having a shouting match, the counselor suggested they take ten minutes then resume the conversation after they had cooled down. That way, the reasonable part of their mind could take over from the lower, flight-or-fight part aspect of their mind.

C. In Philippians 4:2-3, Paul exhorts two women, Euodia and Syntyche, to put aside their differences, and he urges his companion to help them in this. The pastor said that Euodia and Syntyche were allowing their differences to distract them from the mission of the church and the proclamation of the Gospel. This resonates with me, somewhat. For one, reconciling with others for the sake of a goal makes more sense to me than saying we all should like one another, which, in my mind, is unrealistic. Second, Paul recommended that someone help the two women to set aside their differences. Reconciliation may require a third party to help. Reconciliation is not easy, so people may need outside help to do it.

D. In Matthew 6:33, Jesus exhorts his disciples to seek first the Kingdom of God, then those other things (i.e., food, clothing) shall be added to them. The pastor referred to a lesson that the youth pastor gave, in which people placed stuff in a bag. You need to put the Kingdom of God and righteousness into the bag of our mind and life first; if you put other things in first, there will be little, if any, room for the Kingdom of God and God’s righteousness. The pastor interpreted the Kingdom of God in reference to God’s provision and protection, and there being a bigger picture than what is right in front of us.

E. I Peter 5:6-8 exhorts believers to humble themselves before God, to cast their anxiety onto God, and to be sober and vigilant, since the devil seeks to devour them. The pastor interpreted the part about humbling themselves as throwing themselves into God’s embrace. They must do so consistently, since the devil is there to distract them and to try to make them think that everything rests on their shoulders, rather than trusting in God. The pastor interprets v 6 in light of v 7, and that may have some truth. At the same time, v 5 appears to define humility more in terms of submission to elders and interpersonal relationships. Anxiety and pride in relationships can overlap, though, since anxiety can lead to strife. Another point that the pastor made was that, when we fill ourselves with ourselves, we leave little room for God. When we empty ourselves, God can fill us with God’s gifts.

F. The pastor talked about Habakkuk. Habakkuk was upset with God, hoping God would stop the Babylonians from attacking Israel. God responds in Habakkuk 2:4 that the righteous shall live by faith. Later, in Habakkuk 3:17-18, Habakkuk affirms that, even if there is poverty around him (fruitless fig tree, no crops, no sheep), he shall still rejoice in the God of his salvation. God works in and through the bad for the benefit of people.

G. People in the group talked about the hatred and problems in America today, and the pastor talked about the strife in America, the world, and even his home during the late 1960’s and the 1970’s. Then, as a historian, he went back to the 1920’s, the time of the Red Scare. People in America feared Communism, and, in Europe, Germany was on the verge of becoming socialist, and Hungary was overthrown by a Communist dictator. As the pastor talked about the problems in Europe, I thought of Joseph Goebbels’s speeches and articles that I have been reading lately (not that I am comparing the pastor to Goebbels). Fear of Bolshevism pervades Goebbels’s speeches. Even towards the end of World War II, when Germany’s defeat looked inevitable, Goebbels encouraged the Germans to keep on fighting, since otherwise the Bolsheviks will take over and bring a reign of brutality and oppression. Goebbels’s speech contrasting National Socialism with Communism is especially enlightening, since conservatives act as if the Nazis and the Communists essentially supported the same kind of statist system. Goebbels differentiates between Nazis and Communists in that (1.) the Communists are internationalist and seek to overthrow nationalism, whereas the Nazis champion nationalism, both their own and that of the countries that they govern, and (2.) the Communists seek to overthrow religion and private property, whereas the Nazis uphold both. Goebbels was far from a laissez-faire capitalist, however, for, in other speeches, he criticizes the wealth inequality that exists in Britain and the United States, contrasting them with Nazi Germany, which takes care of its people; one reason that Britain opposes Nazi Germany, Goebbels maintains, is that Nazi Germany has a system of socialism that shows up Britain’s deficient capitalistic system. Goebbels also mentions the Communist takeovers of countries in Europe, which the Communists do under the guise of protecting those countries. When Goebbels talks about the Nazi takeover of countries, he justifies it as protecting countries and creating a new order in Europe. Goebbels seems to reject imperialism, though. He never says that Germany should rule the world, for, as much as he loathes the British empire, he envisions German coexistence with it; plus, like A.J.P. Taylor, Pat Buchanan, etc., Goebbels presents Nazi Germany as militarily unprepared for the British attacks on them and their interests. According to this picture, Germany was not preparing at the outset to take over Britain and the world.

H. Patrick J. Buchanan. The Greatest Comeback: How Richard Nixon Rose from Defeat to Create the New Majority. Crown Forum, 2014.

Nixon lost the Presidential election in 1960, then the California gubernatorial election in 1962. It was after the latter that he told the press, “You will not have Nixon to kick around anymore.” Nixon came across, not just as a loser, but as a sore loser. Pat Buchanan joined Nixon’s team in 1966 and played a key role in Nixon’s political resurrection. He wrote speeches for Nixon and advised him on political strategy, as Nixon sought to appeal to conservative, moderate, and liberal Republicans.

Some items:

—-In 2013, I devoted the year to reading books by and about Richard Nixon. Nixon often came across as introverted and vindictive, afraid of interpersonal confrontation, and as a loner. How did this jibe, or not jibe, with Buchanan’s portrayal? In Buchanan’s picture, Nixon definitely could be vindictive, as when he punished a press person by having Buchanan escort him off the plane. Nixon also preferred that others confront people on his behalf rather than doing so directly: this is the case with that press person, and also when Nixon had Buchanan get Nixon out of a speaking commitment that he had just made to a woman, just to be polite. Nixon also did some of his activities in solitude, for he studied and read a lot and communicated through memos. But Buchanan also depicts Nixon as more social than other books I have read. He loved to joke and banter with his staff. He enjoyed golfing with people he knew, as awkward as he was at golfing. I have wondered if Nixon had Asperger’s, but Buchanan’s descriptions of Nixon make me question that. Buchanan also comments briefly on whether Nixon had a problem with alcohol. Buchanan’s view is that Nixon was not an alcoholic but, because he was so tightly wound up, when he finally did loosen up, it did not take that many drinks for him to appear drunk and silly.

—-Buchanan offers his own views about political issues, in some cases. On academic freedom, Buchanan defines that as the right of professors to speak their mind about their fields, not the right to express support for the Viet-Cong without consequences. On the First Amendment, Buchanan rejects the idea that it applies to riots, thinking it relates to speaking one’s mind at a town hall, to use an example. On the former, Buchanan has an ironic story about a professor who endorsed the Viet-Cong in the late 1960’s but, decades later, converted to Catholicism and endorsed Buchanan’s presidential candidacy in 1996.

—-An issue on which Buchanan is ambivalent is that of tribalism and nationalism. On the one hand, Buchanan sympathizes with the nationalist sentiments of Third World countries, especially those whose countries and peoples were split apart by artificial political borders. On the other hand, Buchanan questions whether African leaders possessed the experience and knowledge to rule Africa, whereas the European colonialists had those things.

—-Buchanan in 1968 advised Nixon on how to make a stronger stance in favor of gun control. This is ironic, since gun control nowadays is anathema to conservatives. Although the gun lobby was strong then, as it is today, polls indicated that 70 percent of Americans supported gun control. Nixon incorporated gun control into his law-and-order platform. A lesser irony is that Buchanan appears more supportive of Israel in the late 1960’s than he later became.

—-Buchanan is a little muddled about the Southern Strategy. On the one hand, Buchanan denies that Nixon sought to appeal to Southern racists by opposing integration. Buchanan notes Nixon’s heart for African-Americans and quotes his own memos that advise Nixon to leave racism to the Democratic racists. Nixon supported black capitalism and opposed liberal urban renewal programs that displaced African-Americans from their homes. Nixon appealed to white Southerners on other issues, including riots, lawlessness, and American weakness in the face of Communism. On the other hand, Buchanan is critical of school busing and attempts to mainstream lower-performing African-American students into higher-achieving classes; he prefers upgrading African-American schools rather than trying to create an artificial equality. He is rather critical of federally-imposed open-housing but eventually embraces it as a way to show that positive change can occur through law rather than riots. He says that Nixon, as part of his Southern Strategy, supported states’ rights and decentralization in education and open-housing; if that is not a wink-wink to Southern segregationists, what is? 

----In Oliver Stone's 1995 movie Nixon, Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover are apprehensive that Robert F. Kennedy might win the Democratic nomination then the Presidency. Nixon laments that young people treat RFK like a "rock star," and the implication is that the Deep State had RFK killed. Buchanan in this book, by contrast, states that Nixon did not deem RFK to be a significant threat. RFK was doing poorly and lacked the charisma of JFK, and the anti-war vote was divided. According to Buchanan, Nixon was more apprehensive about George Wallace!

I will be doing my Buchanan series off and on. Right now, I am reading an Ann Coulter book.


Sunday, September 20, 2020

Angels in Romans 8:28 and Matthew Barrett’s Canon, Covenant and Christology

 Here is my Church Write-Up for today, followed by a brief write-up of an IVP review book that I received.

A. The Bible study finished up Romans 8. One topic the pastor addressed was v 38’s statement that neither angels nor demons shall be able to separate believers from the love of God in Christ. Why does v 28 mention angels? Aren’t angels the good guys? The pastor referred to Galatians 1:8, where Paul instructs the Galatian Christians to reject another Gospel than that proclaimed by Paul, even if it be preached by an angel from heaven. But why would an angel from heaven preach another Gospel? The pastor cited Daniel 10:13, 20, where Michael the archangel refers to his struggles against the prince of Persia and mentions a coming prince of Greece. Each nation was headed by a spirit being, to whom God allotted that nation (Deuteronomy 32:8). These spirit beings, or angels, over the nations could be at odds with God; therefore, there was a very real possibility that an angel from heaven could preach a different Gospel. The “angel” was not merely a demon pretending to be an angel but was an actually an angel from heaven. According to the pastor, there were Jewish traditions that the soul needed to interact with various heavenly personalities on its way to God in heaven. Jesus, however, eliminated that. No angel can separate believers from the love of God in Christ.

B. The pastor in his sermon showed a picture of his father when the father was young, vibrant, and happy. The father had just completed a play-set at the backyard and was ready to play with his kids! That is the pastor’s favorite picture of his father, but the pastor said that his family had a lot of problems. One time, his father told him that, through all of his family’s problems, his faith gave him some cause for joy.

C. Matthew Barrett. Canon, Covenant and Christology: Rethinking Jesus and the Scriptures of Israel. IVP Academic, 2020. See here to purchase the book.

Matthew Barrett teaches Christian theology at Midwestern Baptist Theological Seminary.

In part, this book is about what Jesus thought about the Scriptures. Barrett argues that Jesus considered them divinely-inspired and historically and theologically accurate. Barrett believes in verbal and plenary inspiration and thinks Jesus did so, too. At the same time, looking at the Gospels of Matthew and John, Barrett contends that Jesus viewed himself as the object and goal of Scripture and even, in a sense, above and beyond the Scripture.

But the book is also about how the Old Testament anticipates, prefigures, predicts, and sets the stage for Jesus. The Old Testament authors may not have seen this clearly (sensus plenior), but they still had a sense that there was more to what they were writing than they understood. Jesus was the fulfiller of the Old Testament. Types pointed to him, prophecies predicted him, and Jesus was the goal of God’s calling of Israel and encapsulated its mission in himself.

I have heard much of this before in some way, shape, or form. There were few insights in the book that floored me. But reading the book and these familiar themes was still an edifying experience.

There were discussions in the book that I especially appreciated. Barrett lists and evaluates different interpretations of Jesus’s statement in Matthew 5:17 that he came, not to abolish the law, but to fulfill it. He does the same with Jesus’s appeal to Psalm 82:6, “ye are gods,” in defending his own conceptualization of his identity (John 10:34). Barrett briefly discusses Jesus’s quotation of Isaiah 29:13 in Matthew 15:9 and how Isaiah 29:13 could relate both to the times of Isaiah and Jesus. Barrett also manifests awareness of alternative interpretations, both traditional and scholarly, and the introductory part of the book clarifies and refines such concepts as sensus plenior and typology.

And, as is usually the case with this series, the views that the book refutes are sometimes more interesting than the book’s own positions! I think here of Barrett’s argument against the idea that the commandments of God that Jesus defends in Matthew 15:19 are Christ’s commandments rather than the Torah command. Barrett effectively refutes that, but the point is still intriguing.

The best part of the book is the final chapter, where Barrett relates his Christological interpretation of Scripture to contemporary theological debates about biblical inerrancy. At the 2017 Evangelical Theological Society, a question was asked: do the latest books defending inerrancy reflect a last gasp and preaching to the choir or instead mark a wave of the future, with fruitful possibilities? Barrett attempts to point a new way forward in the inerrancy debates. In the past, fundamentalists have sought to defend inerrancy by reconciling biblical contradictions and showing that biblical “errors” actually are not such. Barrett prefers a different focus. Barrett finds Karl Barth’s Christological focus to be refreshing, even if he deems Barth’s conception of Scripture to be inadequate. Perhaps the way to affirm biblical inspiration is to appreciate the Christological focus of the Bible. Barrett believes such an appreciation addresses theological objections to inerrancy, such as the annoying objection that inerrancy makes the Scriptures static. According to Barrett, the Scriptures point to Christ, who is far from a static word!

Is this book, by itself, adequate? Not really. Barrett’s conclusion to his discussion of Matthew 5:17 was rather “ho-hum,” though, to his credit, he was trying to resolve a complex issue. At times, his tendency was to assert rather than to demonstrate. He is dismissive of the argument that Jesus in the Gospels is functionally rather than ontologically divine, for example; maybe a rereading would change my perception here. Barrett’s approach to the inerrancy debates seems to be to focus on patterns in Scripture, the theological big picture, and the creative effects of Scripture rather than minute details in the text, yet he himself embraces a rather fundamentalist approach to Scripture because he believes that was what Jesus held. Barrett acknowledges that this book, by itself, is not adequate and refers to other books he has written. Maybe they are worth checking out, but are they similar to this one: having edifying insights while dodging tough challenges?

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest!

Monday, September 14, 2020

Book Write-Up: Suicide of a Superpower, State of Emergency, Day of Reckoning (Patrick J. Buchanan)

 Patrick J. Buchanan. Suicide of a Superpower: Will America Survive Until 2025? Dunne, 2011.

—. State of Emergency: The Third World Invasion and Conquest of America. Dunne, 2006.

—. Day of Reckoning: How Hubris, Ideology, and Greed Are Tearing America Apart. Dunne, 2007.

Some items, as they come to mind:

A. At the end of State, Buchanan offers policy proposals about what the U.S. can do about immigration, both legal and especially illegal. Essentially, he states that the U.S. should cut off public services to illegal immigrants, then they just won’t come. He makes one exception, however: for emergency services. Presumably, if an illegal immigrant comes to an emergency room with a genuine emergency, he will be treated, even under Buchanan’s system.

B. Buchanan criticizes the idea that the U.S. is bound together by an idea (i.e., representative democracy) rather than racial and ethnic brotherhood. For Buchanan, racial and ethnic brotherhood was important to the Founding Fathers, which was why they preferred European immigration (if even that) and distinguished between Americans and the Native Americans. Yet, there are some wrinkles in Buchanan’s view. For one, Buchanan supports allowing immigrants into the country, on a limited scale, so long as they assimilate; he does not like a massive influx of immigrants coming from Latin America with ingrained animus against the United States and its native inhabitants. Second, Buchanan notes that there was a point at which the early Americans ceased to be Europeans and became Americans. Something in addition to race—-culture, history, ideology, identity, and location—-was creating this new people. Third, Buchanan has to deal with the fact that African-Americans, who have a different race from that of the Founding Fathers, are an integral part of this country, due to their prominent role in the nation’s history.

C. Related to (B.), Buchanan denies that diversity and equality are a part of America’s heritage. The Founding Fathers were committed to neither. Yet, like Abraham Lincoln in the Lincoln-Douglas debates, Buchanan agrees that all Americans, of all races, are equal in that they possess the inalienable rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. People are not equal, however, in aptitude, and the government should not be legislating or mandating equality of results, as far as Buchanan is concerned.

D. The Declaration of Independence affirms that people are endowed by their Creator with the rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness. Since the Creator endows these rights, should they not apply to all people, not just Americans? Yet, Buchanan is critical of U.S. attempts under George W. Bush to make other countries into representative democracies. He effectively picks apart Bush’s speeches. If everyone hungers for American-style freedom, why do so many lack it, and why have so many lacked it throughout history? Is democracy really necessary for the U.S. to be at peace with other nations, since America was at peace with Communist dictators for decades? Plus, there is the question of feasibility: America lacks the resources to make every country into a democracy. Yet, as far as I can recall, Buchanan fails to address the neoconservative argument that all people have God-given rights to life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness and thus should have democracies on that basis.

E. Buchanan, as was noted in (C.), denies that the government has a responsibility to legislate or enforce equality of results. For Buchanan, the talented should be allowed to rise and that’s it. And those who do not want to learn in school should be allowed to leave. Buchanan observes that attempts to legislate equality of results, such as increased education spending on Washington, D.C., have failed dismally. On the other hand, though, Buchanan acknowledges that there are systemic problems. Corporate greed and government policies, particularly “free trade,” undermine the prosperity and economic well-being of Americans. Moreover, as Buchanan observes, the talented are not necessarily the ones who rise, for those who make millions do so because they can manipulate the financial system, not always because they create anything valuable.

F. Buchanan laments the decline of Christianity among white Americans, for Christianity has historically bound Americans together. But are not the Hispanic immigrants to the U.S. devout? Don’t they count? Here, Buchanan is pessimistic. He observes that Christianity has declined among second generation Hispanics in the U.S., who have absorbed America’s moral pollution. Apparently, for Buchanan, they are assimilating in a bad way!

G. I have been reading, off and on, some old editions of the Phyllis Schlafly Report. Schlafly disputes the idea that Americans were unfair or oppressive towards the Mexicans in the 1800’s. Buchanan does not go that far. He does dispute the Mexican narrative in some areas, as when he denies that the Mexicans have a right to southern California. Buchanan, citing a scholar, states that southern California was sparsely populated and underdeveloped before the Americans possessed it. But Buchanan does not thoroughly whitewash American history. He acknowledges historic American injustice and atrocities against non-whites. That is one reason he opposes massive Mexican immigration: Mexicans have a grievance against America, and they are open about their desire for payback! As far as U.S. history is concerned, Buchanan sees nuances: Mexicans invited Americans to settle in Texas, and the U.S. offered Mexicans millions for its territory but fought Mexico for it when the U.S. refused Mexico’s offer. What Buchanan does with America’s historic injustices is unclear. Does he deem them insignificant in comparison with the good that America has done? Does he believe that the injustices were worth it because they allowed America to build a unique civilization?

H. Buchanan devotes a lot of space to the issue of tribalism. What he thinks about that tribalism is unclear. On the one hand, he seems to be for allowing countries to do their own thing. On the other hand, he observes that Western colonialism elevated Third World nations in humanitarian and economic areas.

I. Buchanan acknowledges that there are severe economic and political problems in Mexico, which pushes Mexicans to come to the U.S. He does not discuss in depth what should be done about Mexico’s problems. He says at one point, though, that, if Mexicans stayed in their own country rather than coming to the U.S., perhaps they can organize to change their country’s condition for the better.

J. Donald Trump in 2016 said that there were some good people among the illegal immigrants from Mexico, but most were bringing crime, drugs, and rape. Mexico was sending their worst, he said. Buchanan states that most Mexican immigrants are good, hardworking people. Yet, like Trump, he argues that they bring problems: crime, low wages, and dependence on government services.

K. Buchanan believes that the American presence throughout the world should be reduced but not eliminated. He states at one point that American vessels overseas can safeguard peace and American interest against America’s competitors.

L. In Suicide, Buchanan discusses how America is divided on political, cultural, and religious issues. What he thinks should be done in response to that is unclear. Does he believe that religious conservatives should attempt to impose their values, via government, on the other half of American society? Does he believe they should try to persuade the other side, despite the societal pressures (i.e., the Internet, multiple media options) that separate them from one another? Is he for them separating themselves from one another and governing themselves as they see fit, with “conservative” and “liberal” regions?

M. Buchanan in Suicide not only talks about the decline of whites in America and Europe. He also discusses the decline of Russian birthrates in Russia and Jewish birthrates in Israel. While white nationalists would agree with a lot of what Buchanan says, how they would interact with his argument about the decline in Jewish birthrates would be interesting. White nationalists argue that Jewish elites have promoted and perpetuated the decline of the white race in order to gain power, but what if their birthrates are declining, too?

N. Buchanan laments the demise of the white race in Suicide. White birthrates are falling, white Americans are being displaced by foreigners, and elites treat whiteness as inherently bad. Buchanan is not explicit about why the white race should be preserved. David Duke in My Awakening is quite explicit: Duke argues that whites have a higher IQ and the intellectual heft to preserve society and come up with scientific innovations; that whites have contributed significantly to culture, science, and civilization; and that seeking to preserve the white race is as noble as environmentalists seeking to preserve nature. Buchanan comes close to some of that, but never that explicitly. Buchanan talks about IQ differences among the races, but his point there seems to be that seeking to legislate equality of results is futile. Buchanan does have nostalgia, though, for the America of his youth and believes that the West has contributed positively to civilization, and he is sad that this is unraveling.

O. On pages 60-61 of Suicide, Buchanan talks about Hitler’s views on history and Christianity. Hitler, according to a scholar Buchanan quotes (Eugene G. Winchy), wished that the Muslims had triumphed in eighth century Europe. The Germans then would have acquired a more warlike creed than Christianity offered and would have come to rule the Muslim empire. Albert Speer related that Hitler admired the Japanese religion, which stressed sacrifice for the country, and thought that even Islam would have been more compatible with Germany than the meek-and-mild Christianity. This is noteworthy in that it depicts Hitler appreciating other cultures.

P. Buchanan observes that the 9-11 hijackers were wealthy. In Where the Right Went Wrong, however, he states that the Islamic world hates the U.S. because it sides with oppressors who keep the people down in poverty. Buchanan in Suicide also equates Islamic terrorists with other disenfranchised peoples, who resort to terrorism out of desperate conditions.

The books have some redundancies with each other, but, overall, each book stands on its own. State has numerous details that are absent from Suicide. And, although there are tensions within the books, which I have highlighted above, they are well-written. Buchanan speaks with passion and eloquence, appealing to historical and philosophical details without getting lost in them. These three books are better than other Buchanan books that I have read.

Sunday, September 13, 2020

Church Write-Up: Romans 8:14-30 and Forgiveness

 Some items from church this morning:

A. The Bible study went through Romans 8:14-30, which talks about God’s Holy Spirit in the Christian life. The Spirit is God’s life and breath, which is added to our life and breath. Christians used to have a life leading to death, but God has breathed in them and given them new life. There is a continuous conversation occurring between the Holy Spirit and the spirit of believers—which the pastor defined as believers’ life force and breath as human beings, but also as the new person in Christ. The Spirit keeps believers in the faith, deepens their faith, continually enlightens them, and connects them to the Trinity. The Spirit is involved in their prayers, either in that he continually dialogues with their spirit, or in the sense that he prays for them before God when they lack the words. The pastor commented on election. Election is from the Old Testament: God gathers God’s people to be a witness to the nations and to serve him. The purpose of election in Romans 8 is to comfort the believers: believers can go through the brokenness and craziness of life knowing that God is not making things up while going along, for God is working out a story of redemption for believers and creation, and none of the craziness in life can separate believers from the love of God in Christ. Believers belong to God.

B. The pastor referred to an interpretation of Romans 8:17 that distinguishes between being an heir of God and a co-heir with Christ. All believers, according to this interpretation, are heirs to God, but only those who suffer as Christ did are co-heirs with Christ. The pastor disagrees with this interpretation, while saying that the Greek is consistent with it yet does not necessitate it. The pastor also said that believers in Rome likely believed that they were suffering as Christ did. If the world rejected Christ, then it would reject them. The Romans empire was also a place of suffering: political conspiracies, lead pipes poisoning people, and persecution of Christians.

C. The service was about forgiveness. The youth pastor said that, when we hate people for what they have done to us, those people’s deeds are holding us in bondage. The pastor made the same point, while commenting on how people like to keep records. His relatives, for instance, make their decisions about whether to acknowledge others on whether others have acknowledged them. I admit that I am like this, and part of this is showing others that I am a person of value. The thing is, they may neither notice nor care, but this only reinforces that I would rather not have to devote my time to them. As far as bondage goes, is unforgiveness bondage? I would say that the Christian requirement that I forgive, love, and befriend everyone is bondage, as I cannot live up to that. I am at the point where I do not want to forgive. I do, however, want to forget, to cope successfully with bad memories, and to move on. Maybe that is forgiveness; maybe not. What is forgiveness, anyway?

Monday, September 7, 2020

Book Write-Ups: Libido Dominandi, The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit (E. Michael Jones)

This is a break from my Pat Buchanan series, to allow me more space to read Buchanan's books. 
A. E. Michael Jones. Libido Dominandi: Sexual Liberation and Political Control. St. Augustines, 1999.

This is the first E. Michael Jones book that I read. Jones is a controversial Catholic academic, criticized by such groups as the Anti-Defamation League and the Southern Poverty Law Center. Libido Dominandi is a profile of the sexual revolution, and it goes from the seventeenth century through the twentieth century. Essentially, Jones argues that the push for sexual liberation flows from two motivations. First, there is hostility towards traditional Christian morality. This came from the Illuminati during the eighteenth century, and also from certain Jewish thinkers who were social outsiders in predominantly Christian societies in Europe. A desire to undermine the prevalent order formed part of this particular motivation, but so did a desire to be free from traditional sexual restrictions. Second, there was a desire for political control. Think Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World: the political establishment maintains its power by allowing people to indulge in their hedonistic urges. As long as the people are deleriously happy, they will not care who is controlling and exploiting them. For Jones, this explains why Communist Russia was initially in favor of sexual liberation. Over time, however, it became more restrictive and conservative. Jones also talks about the push to persuade African-Americans to become promiscuous and portray them as exemplars of sexual freedom. According to Jones, this push ran contrary to the moral, responsible lives that most African-Americans led prior to the 1960’s. Jones also details the flaws of the Kinsey studies. An intriguing spiritual point that Jones makes is that masturbation and religious devotion are two contrary, and irreconcilable, ways to cope with life, implying that doing one will undermine the desire to do the other. Personally, I find that both sexual and religious desire are within me, with neither lessening the other. This book contains biographical profiles and hits the same points repeatedly. One may understandably feel that Jones contradicts himself in places or jumps to conclusions, but the book is still a repository of information.

B. E. Michael Jones. The Jewish Revolutionary Spirit and Its Impact on World History. Fidelity, 2008.

This book essentially argues that the rejection by most Jews of Christ as the Messiah has been a repudiation of reason that has led them to fall back on political revolution as the means to make the world better. Whereas Christianity has a spiritual vision, Jones contends, Judaism is quite carnal, as it stresses an earthly paradise with material prosperity. Such a vision coincides with political revolution.

Jones’s story begins in the first century C.E., as Jews participated in violent revolution against Rome, reflecting their preference for the revolutionary Barabbas over Jesus. But Jones’s story continues throughout history up to the twentieth century, traversing such topics as Julian the Apostate, John Huss, the Protestant Reformation, Freemasonry, Communism, Woody Allen’s crass mockeries, and neoconservatism.

The Southern Policy Law Center (SPLC), not surprisingly, calls Jones an anti-Semite, but Jones emphatically rejects the racial anti-Semitism of such groups as the Nazis. Rather, Jones supports Jewish conversion to Christianity, which has occurred throughout history, particularly in medieval times.

Particularly intriguing is Jones’s account of anti-Catholic movements, including John Huss and the Protestant Reformers. A formidable influence on my conception of these figures was such books as Ellen White’s The Great Controversy and Fox’s Book of Martyrs, which, of course, depicted the Catholic authorities as the villains. Jones, a traditional Catholic, goes the opposite route. John Huss comes across as an irrational apocalyptic revolutionary, and Martin Luther not only is a drunk but also a whore-monger. In terms of Jewish influence on these figures, part of it, I vaguely recall from the book, was actual Jewish support, but even more it includes the impact of a literal interpretation of Old Testament motifs on these figures, including violent warfare and support for an earthly material paradise.

Jones’s book is no light read. It runs over 1000 pages, and lots of words are on each page! Even apart from that, the book is heavy—-not incomprehensible or dense, mind you, but heavy. Many Christians, particularly those under the influence of the Social Gospel or N.T. Wright, might consider Jones’s conception of Christianity to be overly spiritualistic, as they believe that God cares for the material world and the people in it. They would have a point, even though, of course, revolution has had its share of pitfalls.

Sunday, September 6, 2020

Romans 7-8 and Review of Discerning Ethics

 Here are a few items from church, followed by a book write-up on an IVP review book.

A. The Bible study was about Romans 7-8. The pastor said that the mind of the Christian is yielded to God and is not under the condemnation of the law, but the body of the Christian is still pulled by sin and death. This makes a degree of sense to me. When one becomes a Christian, one still has a physical body, and that physical body dies, in accordance with God’s curse on Adam for sinning. But is it the body, apart from the mind, that encourages me to sin? In the realm of sexuality, it arguably does, for sexual organs contribute to sexual desire (lust). But I have my share of sinful thoughts: hatred, resentment, unforgiveness, a temper, etc. Is that solely a mind-thing, or does the body contribute to those things, meaning that the flesh, indeed, is what pulls me down spiritually? Of course, materialists would attribute everything to the body, including the mind. But, if one is not a non-materialist, where does the mind begin and the body end?

B. According to the pastor, when Christians allow themselves to become mastered by sin, they risk being pulled back into the law’s condemnation. The pastor was arguing against the idea that Christians can indulge in the flesh yet still feel happy that they are uncondemned by God. Yet, the pastor was depicting mastery by sin almost in an absolute sense: one’s life is shaped by a pursuit of sinful pleasure and rebellion against God. I doubt that even the non-Christians I know are that bad: they, too, can be benevolent towards others. And I doubt that even the Christians I know are that good: they, too, can be shaped by the promiscuous and misanthropic attitudes of the world. The pastor tried to stress that Christians, in sanctification, do not pull themselves up by their boot-straps. Sanctification is God, not us, being in the driver’s seat, meaning we need God to become holy.

C. In the sermon, the pastor referenced Dietrich Bonhoeffer’s Life Together. One way that Christians can live life together, according to the pastor, is by confessing their sins to one another and offering forgiveness in Christ. I agree that this can contribute to vulnerability, honesty, and relatability in interpersonal relationships. But I have a couple of problems with it, personally, due to my past experiences. For one, there are judgmental Christians: those who marvel that any Christian would think sinful thoughts, as if they themselves are perfect. Second, I question whether I am repentant enough. In the liturgy, we asked for God’s forgiveness for our temper, unforgiveness, and lack of concern for others. I cannot just ask God for forgiveness and go on and try not to be those things. Those things are a significant part of who I am, like it or not.

D. Hak Joon Lee and Tim Dearborn, ed. Discerning Ethics: Diverse Christian Responses to Divisive Moral Issues. IVP, 2020. See here to purchase the book.

This book includes chapters about ethical and political issues today. These include climate change, guns, abortion, poverty, racism, and others. Each chapter opens with a story about the issue under discussion, followed by a summary of three Christian positions. Then, the contributor analyzes and assesses the positions and offers his or her own Christian view.

The book is nauseatingly woke. The opening stories are largely liberal: the chapter on guns talks about Dylan Roof, and the chapter on public schools is about a kid who decides to go to a public school after his experiences at a Christian school. There are cases in which this undermines the effectiveness of the chapters. The chapter on immigration, for example, fails to engage the problems that critics have with massive immigration: the lowering of wages, immigrant reliance on government benefits, and the undermining of a common culture. It dismisses that last one as nativism, which has no place in a Christian worldview. Not only does the book have a leftward bias, but it is also overly dramatic, as when the chapter on poverty says America is as bad today as it was during the Great Depression (this book is pre-Covid), and the book also sees white racism everywhere.

On a positive note, the book effectively summarizes different Christian perspectives. Most of the chapters provide documentation and statistics that one should at least address, even if one disagrees with the authors’ conclusions. Some of the stories paint a graphic picture of the struggles with which people deal: a released convict trying to get back on his feet with the system stacked against him, a resident of an urban area seeing the city decay in front of his eyes, and a disabled woman pursuing ministry and confronting the biases and prejudices that fellow Christians possess. There is also a yearning for creative solutions rather than divisive rhetoric.

The book was important for me to read, nauseating as it was.

I received a complimentary copy of this book from the publisher. My review is honest.

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