Archive for March, 2010

Europe displays a paralytic guilt complex

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

Guilt trip, writ large


All the world knows what causes great global problems. It’s the West, meaning the United States, Europe, the countries that inherited British politics and of course Israel.

There’s nothing that can’t be blamed on the West. Many countries are poor today because Western capitalism keeps them that way. If they are undeveloped, that’s the fault of colonialism, which was invented by Europe after it invented slavery. Colonialism’s numerous crimes will never be forgotten or forgiven, its numerous virtues never celebrated.

Pascal Bruckner describes the melancholy results of these attitudes in his forthcoming polemic, The Tyranny of Guilt: An Essay on Western Masochism (Princeton University Press). His angry book could change a whole civilization’s opinion, if only that civilization had sense enough to pay attention.

“Nothing is more Western than hatred of the West,” Bruckner says. It runs through the bloodstream of opinion, a river of poison that thrives in our universities, affects our media, saps the spirit of foreign policy, and routinely gets subsidized by genial NGOs.

In theory, guilt has a positive effect when it encourages better behaviour. Everyone could use some improvement. But the guilt of the West, as Bruckner correctly sees it, takes a morose and cynical pleasure in moral failure.

“We Euro-Americans,” Bruckner argues, “are supposed to have only one obligation: endlessly atoning for what we have inflicted on other parts of humanity.”

Bruckner identifies guilt as an indirect form of self-glorification. Popular American memoirs express the same syndrome when the authors describe, for large audiences, their earlier lives of degradation as alcoholics or drug addicts. Old sins become the basis of a new importance. In the same way, Europe’s barbarity in the fascist and communist eras gives it the authority of an expert witness.

It acknowledges, of course, only the barbarity of the West. For the crimes of non-Western states, the West likes to find extenuating circumstances, a way of denying them responsibility.

Bruckner was one of the New Philosophers who emerged in Paris in the 1970s. They were passionate anticommunists, more academic yet more flamboyant cousins of the American neo-conservatives. In 1983, Bruckner created intense discussion with The Tears of the White Man: Compassion as Contempt, a vehement critique of the West’s sentimental and mainly unsuccessful aid programs. He influenced many writers, though perhaps fewer policy makers. His fiction can generate as much controversy as his essays. (One novel became the basis for an unfortunate Roman Polanski film, Bitter Moon.)

In the 1990s, Bruckner argued in favour of military action against Serbia in Croatia, Bosnia and Kosovo. He supported the war against Saddam Hussein but later decided the human cost was insupportable. Even so, he writes in The Tyranny of Guilt that the pacifists who paraded against George W. Bush in 2003 were supporting one of the worst dictatorships in the Middle East. He sets down a typically rueful conclusion: “Iraq was an exemplary case of the double bind: whether one approved of the intervention or not, one was wrong.”

Israel has suffered spectacular collateral damage from Western masochism. We might guess that Europeans would empathize with the state of Israel, which was in large part founded by Europeans on mainly European models. But those in the West who consider their own history shameful find it natural to dislike its offspring in the Middle East. Pathological hatred of Israel has reached grotesque levels in Europe.

Bruckner, no admirer of recent Israeli governments, nevertheless suspects that supporters of the Palestinians are essentially Europeans pursuing their own guilt trips in a foreign theatre. He agrees with Bernard Lewis’s remark that for many people, “the Arabs are in truth nothing more than a stick for beating the Jews.”

Why do those who love the Palestinians never march for the Chechens, the Tibetans, the Sudanese, the Congolese? People who speechify endlessly on the Palestinians show no interest in the Uighurs. Those who care about only one of the world’s downtrodden peoples naturally arouse suspicion that something other than humanitarian feeling is behind their rhetoric.

Europe displays its paralytic guilt complex, Bruckner notes, even on its common currency. Once the great artists of Europe (and some not-so-great monarchs and politicians) appeared on European money. Travellers in Europe found themselves paying their bills in Michelangelo, Cervantes or Voltaire. No longer. The European heritage has disappeared from the cash, to be replaced by unidentifiable arches, bridges and doors. Artists are too blatantly specific—too European, in fact. Chastened by its history and terrified by its enemies, Europe prefers to advertise nothingness.


The Lost Art Of Catechesis

Tuesday, March 16th, 2010

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It’s a tried and true way of teaching, among other things, Christian doctrine.

J. I. Packer and Gary A. Parrett

Historically, the church’s ministry of grounding new believers in the rudiments of Christianity has been known as catechesis—the growing of God’s people in the gospel and its implications for doctrine, devotion, duty, and delight. It is a ministry that has waxed and waned through the centuries. It flourished between the second and fifth centuries in the ancient church. Those who became Christians often moved into the faith from radically different worldviews. The churches rightly sought to ensure that these life-revolutions were processed carefully, prayerfully, and intentionally, with thorough understanding at each stage.

With the tightening of the alignment between church and state in the West, combined with the impact of the Dark Ages, the ministry of catechesis floundered. The Reformers, led by heavyweights Luther and Calvin, sought with great resolve to reverse matters. Luther restored the office of catechist to the churches. And seizing upon the providential invention of the printing press, Luther, Calvin, and others made every effort to print and distribute catechisms—small handbooks to instruct children and “the simple” in the essentials of Christian belief, prayer, worship, and behavior (like the Westminster Shorter Catechism). Catechisms of greater depth were produced for Christian adults and leaders (like Luther’s Larger Catechism). Furthermore, entire congregations were instructed through unapologetically catechetical preaching and the regular catechizing of children in Sunday worship.

The conviction of the Reformers that such catechetical work must be primary is unmistakable. Calvin, writing in 1548 to the Lord Protector of England, declared, “Believe me, Monseigneur, the church of God will never be preserved without catechesis.” The Church of Rome, responding to the growing influence of the Protestant catechisms, soon began to produce its own. The rigorous work of nurturing believers and converts in the faith once for all delivered to the saints, a didactic discipline largely lost for most of the previous millennium, had become normative again for both Catholics and Protestants.

The critical role of catechesis in sustaining the church continued to be apparent to subsequent evangelical trailblazers of the English-speaking world. Richard Baxter, John Owen, Charles Spurgeon, and countless other pastors and leaders saw catechesis as one of their most obvious and basic pastoral duties. If they could not wholeheartedly embrace and utilize an existing catechism for such instruction, they would adapt or edit one or would simply write their own. A pastor’s chief task, it was widely understood, was to be the teacher of the flock.

The Problem with Sunday School

Today, however, things are quite different, and that for a host of reasons. The church in the West has largely abandoned serious catechesis as a normative practice. Among the more surprising of the factors that have contributed to this decline are the unintended consequences of the great Sunday school movement. This lay-driven phenomenon swept across North America in the 1800s and came to dominate educational efforts in most evangelical churches through the 20th century. It effectively replaced pastor-catechists with relatively untrained lay workers, and substituted an instilling of familiarity (or shall we say, perhaps, over-familiarity) with Bible stories for any form of grounding in the basic beliefs, practices, and ethics of the faith.

Thus, for most contemporary evangelicals the entire idea of catechesis is largely an alien concept. The very word itself—catechesis, or any of its associated terms, including catechism—is greeted with suspicion by most evangelicals today. (“Wait, isn’t that a Roman Catholic thing?”)

We are persuaded that Calvin had it right and that we are already seeing the sad, even tragic, consequences of allowing the church to continue uncatechized in any significant sense. We are persuaded, further, that something can and must be done to help the Protestant churches steer a wiser course. What we are after, to put it otherwise, is to encourage our fellow evangelicals to seriously consider the wisdom of building believers the old-fashioned way.


Epiacopal Quotes of NOTE!!!!!!!

Monday, March 15th, 2010

Lets make a collection of the more curious quotes of those who are called, (and I trust have promised) to be defenders of the Faith handed down.

A first offering: and one wonders if this refers only to certain texts or the whole book his predecessor Cranmer held so dear?

The Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned evangelist “bulies” who attempt to convert people of other faiths to Christianity.

In his address, titled “The Finality of Christ in a Pluralist World” the Archbishop asked……..

“What could we possibly mean by saying that a truth expressed in the Middle East 2,000 years ago was truth applicable to everybody, everywhere?” he asked.

Reference:  Quoted by Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
March 9, 2010

UK: Archbishop of Canterbury condemns evangelist ‘bullies’

Monday, March 15th, 2010

by Ruth Gledhill, Religion Correspondent
March 9, 2010

The Archbishop of Canterbury has condemned evangelist “bulies” who attempt to convert people of other faiths to Christianity.

Dr Rowan Williams said it was right to be suspicious of proselytism that involves “bullying, insensitive approaches” to other faiths.

In a speech at Guildford cathedral, Dr Williams criticised those who believed they had all the answers amd treated non-Christians as if their traditions of reflection and imagination were of no interest to anyone. “God save us form that kind of approach,” he said.

But he added: “God save us also from the nervousness about our own conviction that doesn’t allow us to say we speak about Jesus because we believe he matters, we believe he matters, because we believe that in him human beings find their peace, their destinies converge, and their dignities are fully honoured.”

In his address, titled “The Finality of Christ in a Pluralist World”, Dr Williams addressed difficulties modern Christians have with Biblical texts which suggest that Christianity is the only path to salvation.

Dr Williams admitted that in the past four decades, the problems around the classical interpretation of these texts had become more prominent.

He asked: “What about all those people who never had a chance of hearing about Jesus?”

He also asked about the generations before Jesus and the many cultures untouched by Christianity.

“Can we believe in a just God, who in effect punishes people, for not being in the right place at the right time?”

He raised a political objection to the claim that Christ is the final truth about God and the Universe, suggesting it had helped justify “wicked” things such as crusading and colonialism.

“What could we possibly mean by saying that a truth expressed in the Middle East 2,000 years ago was truth applicable to everybody, everywhere?” he asked.

Belief in the uniqueness or finality of Christ, in the way it has usually been understood, is something that “sits very badly indeed, not just with a plural society – whatever that means – but with a society that regards itself as liberal or democratic”.

In the Gospels, Jesus said: “No one comes to the father, except through me.”

Dr Williams said that in this context: “The father cannot be shown as an object in the sky, something abstract, something you can point to.” Instead, God should be understood in the first or second person, walking with Jesus towards the cross and resurrection.”

The Archbishop’s speech was an attempt to reconcile the claims of the Bible about Jesus and Christianity with the multi-faith societies in which Christians around the world must live.

The Gospels and the rest of the New Testament urge believers to spread the “good news” or evangelise, but the need for good relations with other faiths in the secular world militates against proselytism.

Dr Williams said: “When we sit along side the Jew, the Buddhist, the Muslim, Hindu, when we sit alongside them, we expect to see in their humanity something that challenges and enlarges us.”

The Archbishop quoted the Koran: “And God did not elect to make everybody the same. God has made us to learn in dialogue.”

On the question of whether Christians could legitimately believe that people of other faiths could be saved, Dr Williams said believers were too reluctant to leave this to God to sort out.

“We have often a vague feeling that God hasn’t read the proper books,” he said. “I’m very content to let God be the judge of how far anyone outside the visible family of faith is related to Jesus or has turned towards the father.”

The Episcopal Church is ‘demonic’, Nigerian Archbishop charges

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

Source: Church of England Newspaper (Via George Conger)

Week of March 12, 2010

By George Conger

The Primate of the Church of Nigeria has accused the leadership of the Episcopal Church of being in league with the devil for waging a “demonic” campaign of litigation against breakaway conservative parishes in the United States.

In an interview with the News Agency of Nigeria published last month, Archbishop Akinola stated the Nigerian-backed Convocation of Anglicans in North America (CANA) was growing, but faced a number of obstacles. The law suits were a “major challenge,” he said, but “it is not CANA going to court; it is the demonic powers in the so-called Episcopal Church that are suing CANA churches.”

“They are fighting us with everything they have with the hope of crushing us,” he said in the interview published on the Church of Nigeria’s website.

“It is so ungodly, so demonic and they are determined to completely wipe us out and this is costing millions of dollars,” he said, noting that “money that could have been used in more positive work of the Gospel, is now being used for legal battle; it’s so sad.”

Archbishop Peter Akinola’s denunciation of the Episcopal Church comes as the Virginia Supreme Court has set a date for oral argument in the case of the Diocese of Virginia versus CANA. On March 3 the court stated it would hear oral arguments on the appeal of the diocese of a trial court ruling that held in favour of the breakaway parishes during the week of April 12. . .

Read the entire article here.

Dallas Episcopal Bishop Rejects Gay Resolutions

Sunday, March 14th, 2010

By Lillian Kwon|Christian Post Reporter

The Rt. Rev. James M. Stanton wrote to clergy in the Diocese of Dallas informing them that they will continue to “stand with the larger Church in affirming the primacy of Scripture, the sanctity of marriage and the call to holiness of life.”

Episcopal leaders have insisted that their actions last week – which included approving resolutions that open the ordination process to all baptized members, including practicing homosexuals, and calling for the development of liturgical resources for the blessing of same-sex couples – did not repudiate their relationships with the rest of the global Anglican Communion. Stanton, however, says their intent is plain.

“[T]his is de facto a repudiation of the repeated requests directed to us by the Archbishop of Canterbury, the Primates of the Communion, and the Anglican Consultative Council,” Stanton said in the Wednesday letter.

After The Episcopal Church consecrated its first openly gay bishop in 2003, Anglican bishops worldwide agreed to the moratoria on the consecration of partnered gay bishops and the authorization of public rites blessing same-sex unions. The moratoria were reaffirmed earlier this year by the Anglican Consultative Council – a decision-making body of bishops, clergy and laity – just months ahead of The Episcopal Church’s General Convention.

Anglican leaders, including the Archbishop of Canterbury, Dr. Rowan Williams, had also specifically asked Episcopal leaders not to pass any legislation that would further impair the unity of the 77 million-member communion.

And although some Episcopal leaders maintain that the moratoria themselves were not specifically addressed during their triennial convention, Stanton said it is clear from the resolutions passed that “it is the intention of the leadership of The Episcopal Church that the moratoria requested by the Communion are no longer binding.”

Posing challenging questions to the Episcopal leadership, Stanton wrote, “[T]he larger question is what it means for ‘the Church’ to make these decisions: is it right or good, or even possible, for a congregation, a diocese, or even a province of the Universal Church to make its own way and claim to give ‘the Church’s blessing’ – or God’s?”

“The Christian faith is something we receive, not legislate,” he added.

Distancing himself and his diocese from the liberal actions of the wider church’s leadership, Stanton affirmed the diocese’s commitment to continue honoring the moratoria.

“These commitments are in keeping with the historic teaching of the Holy Scriptures as held by the vast majority of the Anglican Communion, and, for that matter, the Church throughout the centuries.”

Episcopal Bishop: Priests may preside at civil marriages in D. C.

Sunday, March 14th, 2010
Episcopal Church House – Mount Saint Alban – Washington, D.C. 20016-5094

For Immediate release
Additional information: Jim Naughton

Episcopal priests in the Diocese of Washington may preside at civil same-sex marriages in the District of Columbia under guidelines released today by Bishop John Bryson Chane. No priest is required to preside at such ceremonies.

“Through the grace of Holy Baptism, there are no second class members of the Body of Christ, “ Chane said. “We are of equal value in the eyes of God, and any one of us may be called by the Holy Spirit into holy relationships as well as Holy Orders.”

At its General Convention in July, the Episcopal Church granted bishops with jurisdiction where civil same-sex marriage is legal the discretion to “provide generous pastoral responses to meet the needs of members of this church.” Chane joins bishops in Iowa, Vermont and Massachusetts in permitting clergy to preside at civil same-sex marriages. Diocesan clergy in Washington have long been permitted to offer liturgical blessings to same-sex couples.

Chane’s guidelines do not specify what rites clergy may use when officiating at a civil marriage.   “I would prefer to work that out in consultation with the clergy who will be performing these services,” he said.

The Episcopal Church does not permit its “Order of Marriage” to be used in the marriage of same-sex couples. However, numerous rites for blessing same-sex relationships are in circulation and under development. At its 2009 General Convention, they Church authorized its Standing Commission on Liturgy and Music to collect and develop theological resources that might lead to the development of a rite for blessing same-sex civil marriages or marrying same-sex couples.
Under the Diocese of Washington’s new guidelines:

  • Priests who wish to preside at a civil same-sex marriage in an Episcopal parish must have the support of the parish’s rector and lay governing board, known as a vestry.
  • Priests from outside the diocese are prohibited from presiding at same-sex civil marriage ceremonies within the diocese unless they are from a state and diocese that permits such marriages.
  • Couples who reside in other dioceses may have a civil same-sex marriage performed in the diocese by a priest if such marriages are legal in their state, and their bishop permits clergy to participate in civil same-sex marriage ceremonies.

“I hope that these pastoral guidelines will be helpful to the clergy that I serve as bishop,” Chane wrote. “In the matter of how to engage or not engage in performing, witnessing and blessing same-sex marriages within the District, I respect the pastoral judgment and decisions of the clergy under my pastoral oversight.”