“Feminist Fantasies”

No, that’s not what you think it is. And, no, you wouldn’t want to know what those were, anyway. Feminist Fantasies is a brilliant collection of Phyllis Schlafly’s articles, columns, and Congressional testimony. If you’re looking for some enlightening, frequently amusing, and frequently disturbing reading on feminism and its cultural and moral bankruptcy, I recommend this book. The following excerpt is a good summary:

Feminism is incompatible with the truth. It’s based on the lie that American women are oppressed and mistreated, whereas American women are in fact the most fortunate class of people who ever lived.

Feminism is incompatible with human nature. The premise of the feminists is that God goofed in making us in two different sexes, and our laws should remedy His mistake. …

Feminism is incompatible with common sense. The rejection of the family flies in the face of all human expreience. The family is the proven best way fro men and women to live together on this earth. …

Feminism is incompatible with marriage and motherhood. … [W]hile the feminists rejected motherhood, not many men changed their attitudes, and babies didn’t change at all. A Wall Street Journal study showed that 52 percent of successful women are divorced or unmarried, compared with only 5 percent of men.

Feminism is incompatible with personal happiness. Its technique of identifying and exaggerating grievances produces a chip-on-the-shoulder attitude toward life as well as a disdain for traditional values and roles. …

Feminism is incompatible with the private enterprise system because feminists propose government as the solution to every problem. … But the feminists who proclaim their liberation from men always run to Big Brother Government as a replacement. …

Faith, commitment, hard work, family, children, and grandchildren still offer the most fulfillment, as well as our reach into the future. Feminism is no substitute for traditional marriage. Liberation is no substitute for fidelity. Political Correctness is no substitute for chivalry. Careers are no substitute for children and grandchildren. (pp. 140-142)


“Abandoned in Deepest Africa”

Does that title have a double meaning? Oh, those “backwards” Africans. But surely they’ll continue to let us condescend to them for the rest of the trip! Nope, sorry: “hospitality withdrawn.”

The Rev Christopher Newlands, chaplain to Bishop Gladwin, and not part of the Kenya visit, said: “We are shocked but are trying to see what we can do to recover the planned programme and make the best possible use of their time out there.

“The group of curates with the bishop are experiencing the work of the church in Africa and are trying to build bridges between Chelmsford and four dioceses in East Africa so we are disappointed with the reaction.

“I hope that we can get over this misunderstanding and make clear our determination to carry forward the Lambeth Resolutions and to learn how God is at work in all his people in England and in Kenya.”

Ah yes, “building bridges” with other Anglicans by tearing down the bridges with the communio sanctorum. The benighted bigots “misunderstood” and “reacted” disappointingly. Isn’t that how it always goes? The ones who are truly causing the offense act as if they are completely taken aback by the fact that anyone would dare to question their fidelity to the Faith. You mean there are still people out there who think that “lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgendered” behavior is a sin? News to us.

“Bishop Gladwin is trying to meet Archbishop Nzimbi to explain what patronage of the Changing Attitude group means.” Thanks, Rev. Newlands, but I think we know what it means. Sometimes a misunderstanding is not a misunderstanding at all.


“Tell It to the Church”

You have to love litigation as the cure-all for ecclesiastical problems. In Dallas, two members of a church called “Watermark” are suing to prevent the pastor from talking to other people about their sins, which, according to the story, they “thought they had revealed…to Watermark’s pastor confidentially.”

I don’t know all the details of how Watermark works things out. Some things seem a little strange, like “Watermark’s bylaws say a member ‘may not resign from membership in an attempt to avoid such care and correction,'” and “Watermark’s next step would have been to send more than a dozen letters to people who know “John Doe” – half to Watermark members and half to members of other churches who know and have worked with him.”

“The basis of the lawsuit was the church wanted to go outside of the church and the community at large, including potentially even their employers,” said Jeff Tillotson, attorney for the man and woman.

But this story raises the larger issue of church discipline and what kinds of risks congregations take in actually exercising it. I kind of doubt that the pastor of Watermark was engaged in private confession and absolution. It sounds like they just told him their sins and he felt like he had to begin the discipline process. It also sounds like the man refused to repent of the behavior for which he was called to account.

It’s always a little risky to draw conclusions from newspaper stories, when all the details are not known. This will be something to watch, especially for pastors and congregations who take church discipline seriously.


Only on Lost


For those individuals who have not gotten “lost” in Lost, the ABC television series, I wonder what they think this picture is all about? It depicts some action from last night’s season finale.

Educating the People

On a recent post, Jean-Martin asked about educating people in (LCMS) congregations, especially when American evangelicalism has become so pervasive. (There is certainly something amiss when more LCMS people know what the 40 Days of Purpose is than know what the Smalcald Articles are.)

I do not claim any expertise. All I’ve got is eight years of theological education, experience in a handful of Lutheran congregations, my vicarage year, and (perhaps most importantly) experience with my own daughter.

However, I do have opinions (suprise, surprise!). First, I think David Brazeal’s comments are a good starting place:

I think a good start is to turn people back to the Lutheran Confessions. I was amazed — just outright shocked — at how right the Lutheran viewpoint is, when I saw it laid out in the Confessions for the first time. And I grew up in an LCMS church! But to see the obvious case for the salvific effect of baptism, and the clear passages on the Lord’s Supper, and the proper distinction between Law and Gospel — those insights were eye-opening, to say the least.

No doubt knowledge of the Confessions is even closer to extinction than knowledge of the Bible.

But maybe we’re over-thinking this. If you have kids, you will know what I’m talking about. My daughter is almost two, but it is amazing what she knows already. As my mom said recently, there’s no time in your life when you learn so much so quickly. For example, we started praying the Lord’s Prayer with her when she was probably 18 months. But she had been hearing it every Sunday since before she was born. One day I just stopped at certain points, and she filled in the blanks. I never made any concerted effort to have her repeat after me; I didn’t put it to a catchy melody; I didn’t play any Lord’s Prayer games. The sheer repetition and exposure put it in her brain. I tried a similar thing with the Apostles’ Creed, without having said it every night, and she filled in blanks there as well. That came purely from hearing it in church, though she was probably writing on a pew at the time.

How is it that we have come to assume that kids need something “fun” to keep them involved? Hey, I’ve got no problem with fun–except when it becomes an excuse for adults’ lack of attention span. I think it has far more to do with adults needing to be entertained than it does with kids being bored. As I’ve already found out, kids pick up body language (far too easily!) and when adults act as if they’re just in church because they have to be, kids will follow suit.

Another question is, how come we can be convinced that the best time for kids to learn a second language (or two) is very, very early, and yet we assume the liturgy is much too difficult for them? Maybe it’s much too difficult for us adults and we project our intellectual and emotional shortcomings onto our kids (kind of like when we make them wear a coat when we’re cold).

The liturgy is the language of the Divine Service. The prayers and hymns that have been handed down to us are the language of the Church–and not just of whichever myopic generation we happen to be a member.

Education in the Church? I don’t have all the answers, but I’m pretty convinced it needs to be comprehensive, firmly grounded in the tradition (in the best sense of that word) of the Church, and utilize the language and culture of the Church. It also needs to start at the earliest ages, and not 11 or 12 years later. I’d be interested to know of any programs that attempt to accomplish such things.


Theocracy When Useful

Are all the people on the left this unthinking? I know there are lots of people on the right who have trouble with logical thought (like Pat Robertson), but, seriously, this is ridiculous.

I am 99.9% sure (I haven’t asked him) that Anthony B. Robinson, a pastor in the UCC, is against theocracy in North America. I could be wrong, and I would gladly take back half of my criticism of his opinion piece in the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. But since I’ve never met a leftist who openly advocated theocracy in America, I’m guessing I’m right. So then, how is it that Rev. Robinson thinks the United States should uphold the position of any Scriptures, let alone those which adherents of another religion might find offensive? Or is it that upholding the laws of God is only good when they support my issues? Does Rev. Robinson also believe that the United States should stone homosexuals? Or children who disrespect their parents? Maybe we could play that game that lefty-religious types like to play with Dr. Laura and point out all the laws in the Old Testament that go against left-wing ideology. Why the selectivity when it comes to immigration or poverty or other issues that seem to be the favorites of Democrats and their friends? Come on, just admit that you want a theocracy too, and you and the Fundamentalists get on with arguing about which theocracy we should have.

Even more than the confusion over whether he does or does not want a theocracy is the confusion between Israel and America. Can you guys please get your story straight? Is America the Chosen People or not? If not, as the derision for “Jesus is Lord of America” types shows, why is Rev. Robinson making a connection between what God told Israel thousands of years ago and what America should do?

As for the first question, the answer is that God didn’t want the ancient Hebrews to forget where they had come from, or how they had gotten where they were, namely, the Promised Land. They had come from slavery in Egypt. They knew what it was like to be exploited and taken advantage of. Now that they had land and wealth they shouldn’t forget that hadn’t always been the case. Ring any bells? It should. Most Americans are the descendents of immigrants.

But wait: there’s more.

A second reason that the scriptures of Judaism and Christianity press their adherents to respect and not exploit the alien in their midst is especially pertinent to the contemporary American scene. Injustice anywhere leads inexorably to injustice everywhere. If there is a class of people without rights, without voice, without legal recourse and protection, it puts not just that group at risk. It puts an entire society at risk. It becomes a cancer that eats away at the whole social body. If a certain group can be exploited, then exploitation begins to infect the whole society. Its overall standards of justice and fair play are lowered and distorted.

Another way to put this, and to bring it forward to the contemporary situation in the United States, is that we ought to want immigrants to have legal rights and to be treated fairly because it is in the best long-term interest of our own society and its health. It is bad for all of us to have a group that lacks legal protection and is vulnerable to exploitation.

The first paragraph sounds interesting, but in the second, the argument implodes from its own weight. Let’s think about this the other way around: Rev. Robinson writes, “If a certain group can be exploited, then exploitation begins to infect the whole society. Its overall standards of justice and fair play are lowered and distorted.” But what if that “certain group” is the United States? Does not the lack of enforcement of laws lend itself to exploitation on the part of immigrants and foreign governments? Are the overall standards of justice and fair play “lowered and distorted”? I should think so, especially for those immigrants who are law-abiding and who do wish to play by the rules. In fact, in many cases, they are probably the ones who are being hurt because the rules are so extensive on how to gain citizenship.

The second paragraph would be great…if it had any relationship to actual reality. Rev. Robinson writes that “we ought to want immigrants to have legal rights and to be treated fairly.” Let’s see: do immigrants have legal rights? Of course they do! That’s why this argument is so stupid and self-defeating. Rev. Robinson is not arguing about whether immigrants should have legal protection. He’s arguing that illegal immigrants should have legal protection. While we’re on the subject, it seems to me that Old Testament Israel also had requirements for its “immigrants”–something about “cutting around” something with a sharp object.

“It is bad for all of us to have a group that lacks legal protection and is vulnerable to exploitation.” Indeed. Unless that group has itself willfully exploited the laws already in place for its legal protection, and, in effect, caused the society to be the group that is vulnerable to exploitation.

Rev. Robinson makes one good connection between the laws of the Old Testament and America’s immigration laws: The question that merits serious reflection is this:

Do we want to be a society of the rich and the rest, where a servant class is tolerated and required? The Scriptures of Christians and Jews argue for legal protection and respect for “resident aliens” because these faiths see the danger to the whole society in an unprotected servant class. Do we?

This is absolutely right. We should not have an “unprotected servant class,” and employers who do exploit illegal immigrants are sinning. But what is the underlying problem that the situation exacerbates? Illegal immigration! Obviously (or so one would think), if there are no illegal immigrants (as opposed to 12 million, or whatever the number is), they can’t be exploited. Rev. Robinson’s motto (along with most of the other pro-illegals in this country) seems to be: We can leap amazing gaps of logic in a single bound!

Should Christians love immigrants, whether legal or illegal? Of course. What does that have to do with the United States protecting its citizens and offering ways recognized under the law for non-citizens to become its citizens?


The Shifting “Base”

President Bush is “losing his base,” or so we’ve been told. (I’m sure it’s in other places as well, but this is one of the latest.)

There are a number of things at work here. First, politicians pandering to their constituencies. Is the President doing that? He doesn’t have any re-election worries, other than keeping the Republicans in the majority. I hardly believe that he’s making a play to raise his poll numbers. He hasn’t seemed too concerned about that up until this time.

Second, the Republican base vs. the Democratic base. This kind of story highlights a major difference (although, no doubt, David will disagree with this!) between the supporters of the two parties, i.e., Republicans support issues, while Democrats are about people. I can’t say that Democrats support people, because I think it’s much more about opposing people they dislike, rather than continued support of people they do like (although, the Clinton administration, as beacon of glorious light in the darkness of Amerika, poses a counter-example). Republicans are not afraid to oppose a fellow Republican if he or she appears to betray a cause which they support. This is often pointed out with a knowing smirk, as if it somehow proved something. What does it prove? That Republicans care about particular issues, not necessarily the person with the (R) behind the name.

A “conservative base” may have gotten President Bush elected, but that doesn’t mean that an election can keep that base from pursuing its chosen agenda.


Blogging the Bible

A while ago there was blogging about churches. Now there’s blogging about the Bible. Both, I think, are interesting. David Plotz at Slate is blogging what’s really in the Bible. He realizes, after reading about the rape of Dinah, that he didn’t really know the Bible all that well, even though he felt like he did. Frankly, I’m not sure how many Christians know the Bible very well. (Plotz is Jewish.)

The point of his blogging is to comment, from the perspective of someone who is neither a committed Christian nor a committed Jew, on the incidents in the Bible that most people don’t know about.

He notices striking things. Beyond “Who was Cain’s wife?” (who really cares, anyway?), he notices that God seems a little capricious. He seems to just choose Abram for the heck of it.

Why Abram? There is no obvious reason. Unlike Noah, he’s not a “righteous man.” He’s 75 years old and hasn’t done anything with his life. He isn’t pious, rich, or accomplished. He’s not a king, not a chief, not a prophet, not a genius, not a warrior. He’s completely ordinary, and I suppose that’s the point. Abram isn’t special: It is God choosing him that makes him special. He is a regular man touched by God—just like any of us could be.

Also, it seems, from our human point of view, that God is on the wrong side of “collective punishment” and people like Abram are on the right side.

This problem of collective punishment seems to plague the Bible—the flood, Babel, Sodom and Gomorrah, the Egyptians in the Red Sea. To my modern eyes—though perhaps not to the Bible’s authors—collective punishment appears to be the great moral question of the Torah. And God is on the wrong side of it. And Abraham is on the right one.

I think it has something to do with humans being on the wrong side of God.

Anyway, it’s all interesting, and I think we had better admit that the Bible does not give us all the answers we want, nor, even when it gives us answers, does it give us the answers we think we want. The best Biblical verse for the challenge (and it’s in the Torah, no less)? Deuteronomy 29:29: “The secret things belong to the LORD our God, but the things that are revealed belong to us and to our children forever, that we may do all the words of this law.”

“The secret things belong to Yahweh our God.”


John Gibson’s My Word

Good stuff from Mr. Gibson:

200 or so students at Boston College, along with some professors, will be protesting her presence at Boston College, protesting especially the school conferring upon her an honorary doctorate.

Why? The students say they object to her presence because she doesn’t represent their values.

An adjunct professor and part-time novelist named Steve Almond actually quit over her appearance saying in his resignation letter that he and others object to her because she is a liar.

As far as the professor goes, I spoke to him on my radio show — until he hung up on me — and the college should consider his resignation good riddance. …

Condi Rice doesn’t represent their values. I should say not, since their values seem to be intolerance, closed-mindedness and the cocksureness of youth that allows a college student to pass judgment on a secretary of state.

(Read the rest here.)


More on Black Jack

Some commenters below raised questions about various aspects of the law in Black Jack. I had not read the law, and my comments had to do somewhat superficially with the actual case. I was more concerned with Black Jack’s definition of family. Here’s the actual definition from their Code of Ordinances: “Family. An individual or two (2) or more persons related by blood, marriage or adoption, or a group of not more than three (3) persons who need not be related by blood, marriage or adoption, living together as a single non-profit housekeeping unit in a dwelling unit.” The purposes of Article V of the Code of Ordinances on Housing are described as:

The general purpose of this article is to protect the public health, safety, comfort and the general welfare of the people of the city. These general objectives include, among others, the following specific purposes:
(1) To protect the character and stability of residential areas within the city.
(2) To provide minimum standards necessary to the health and safety of occupants of buildings.
(3) To provide facilities for light and ventilation, necessary to health and safety.
(4) To prevent additions or alterations to existing dwellings that would be injurious to the life, health, safety or general welfare of the occupants of such dwellings or neighboring properties.
(5) To prevent the overcrowding of dwellings by providing minimum space standards per occupant of each dwelling unit.
(6) To provide minimum standards for the maintenance of existing residential buildings, and to thus prohibit the spread of slums and blight.
(7) To thus preserve the taxable value of land and buildings throughout the city.

Despite my beliefs about what a family is and is not, is the current case really about the definition of family or about overcrowding? If it is about overcrowding, perhaps they need to amend the law so that it has requirements about square-footage per person (which they have; just not for unmarried or unrelated people), rather than a simple number of people. Then again, the above statements show that this is really about both family and space, and it is hard to disentangle them.

All I’m really saying is that valid points have been raised about the propriety of the law, but those points generally coalesce with a person’s definition of “family.” In other words, I may be willing to concede from the perspective of the law, but not from the perspective of what makes a family.