Fatherly Comfort in Times of Trouble

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ACKNOWLEDGING THE TROUBLES OF LIFE

Man is born to trouble,” said Eliphaz to Job, “as surely as the sparks fly upward.”

This is not a truth that we always want to acknowledge. When the sun is shining and life is good we hope that it will never end. We always want good times to roll on forever. Any reminder that trouble might come our way is hit out of field by the human psyche with all the force of a top baseball player.

But God’s word tells us about reality. It gives us the true shape of life so that we do not live under a cloud of the world’s lies. The Bible corrects our nearsightedness. Scripture will not permit us to be victims of the devil. Thus, God in his majestic truthfulness testifies that trouble is an inescapable part of life for a Christian. St. Paul goes so far as to say that no true Christian will live a trouble-free life on this earth.

This does not mean that every Christian’s troubles will be the same. Some may face extreme situations like martyrdom and exile from their homes (like the Christians in ISIS occupied territory). Others may simply face the daily weariness of work and family, and the mental struggle of living in an ungodly world.

There is, after all, a deep existential tension of being a Christian in the 21st century. There must be. There should be. Nobody can love the world, writes St. John, and love God at the same time (1 John 2:15). Friendship with the world, says St. James, is enmity with God (James 4:4). Given this, Christians can feel like they belong to a shrinking number of the sane. The irreverence and ungodliness around us can torment the mind and soul just as the things Lot saw in Sodom caused him great distress (2 Peter 2:7).

Sometimes Christians experiences trouble as the by-product of the sinful nature. Even as redeemed people, we can make misjudgements, be rash, and come to wrong-headed conclusions about things. We can make bad decisions. There are a legion of examples.

Pastor Tim Conway once related the story of a friend. This young man married a woman who was a local beauty pageant winner. His godly friends counselled him against the match. They could see her true character but like many eager young people, he saw only the surface. Shortly after the marriage the young man discovered his bride was contentious, ill-tempered, and disloyal. She withheld herself from him sexually, had flirtations with his friends, and eventually ran away with one of his buddies never to return.

Christians can (and do) make errors of judgement. We do not always faithfully observe the teaching of scripture, wisdom and the Church. Even Christians can make choices that plunge them into years – perhaps a lifetime – of trouble. No wonder the scriptures tell us to consult the words of the Lord frequently. Meditate on God’s law day and night, writes the psalmist (Psalm 1:2). Joshua commands the people to not only think on God’s word, but to have it continually on their lips (Joshua 1:8).

It is supreme wisdom to adapt our behaviour to God’s will. To walk circumspectly and thoughtfully. For this will keep us from falling into sin. It will prevent us from piercing ourselves with many needless sorrows.

But sometimes we do not stray from the narrow way of Jesus. At times our hearts are overflowing with praise to the King. Our fellowship with God in prayer can be so rich it is as though we walk in the perfumed gardens of Eden with the Lord. At times Jesus can draw us so near to the extent we can almost wonder if we are about to enter heaven. At such times, God’s holiness falls on the heart, we long for more and more righteousness, and his word is life to us.

And then trouble can come.

This is a paradox indeed! Trouble can come when we believe ourselves to be following most closely on the heels of the Master. This has been the discovery of many godly men and women throughout the ages. They often built the Kingdom of God under the weight of trouble. Amy Carmichael, the Irish missionary who spent fifty-five years in India saving girls from temple prostitution, was bedridden in her latter years. Why did such trouble come to such a powerful missionary for the Lord?

We can wonder about this. Why do difficulties sometimes come when the heart burns for the Lord and for the fulfilment of his righteousness? This is a mystery, but there is comfort from the Lord. For though a man is born to trouble as surely as the sparks fly upward, God is the Saviour and Father of all who believe.

TROUBLE, NOT SUFFERING

Notice that I avoid the word “suffering”. In the modern world the word “suffering” is an impaired word. For a start it is commonly linked to ill-health. “Poor Mrs Oliphant,” we say, “she suffers from arthritis.

Under such repeated usage dinned into our ears, we come to associate suffering with a continuous state usually afflicting the body. This raises the high bar on what constitutes “suffering”. People can mistakenly conclude that unless you have Big Bad Stuff going on in your life it is not suffering. The word tends to excludes many painful human experiences. “Oh, you are getting harassed at work? That doesn’t sound so bad. The rest of your life is OK. Can you really call it suffering?

The word “suffering” also evokes fear. It conjures up terrifying visions. It excites painful anxiety. “What kind of suffering am I to endure?” we may fret, “What is going to happen to me?

Such anxiety may be difficult to avoid but it is wrong. It is evident that by God’s grace most Christians do not experience the worst of life. Some brave Christians (whose reward in heaven is undoubtedly very great) do indeed undergo a baptism of fire and their lives are admittedly very difficult. But such Christians are always compensated with abundant joy and grace so that like St. Paul they are enabled to sing even while in the stocks of prison.

Nonetheless, this kind of deep hardship is not a general rule. It does not seem to be God’s intention that his Christian people be kicked to the curb. In fact, God richly blesses his children with many joys both temporal and spiritual. His Church – as a rule – does not go about in ceaseless mourning. God has made a time for tears but also a time for laughter, and for most Christians, there is indeed more laughter than tears.

Thus it is neither healthy nor wise to meditate on the difficulties of others. Neither should we get caught up in the stories of the disgruntled who seem angry at God for their pain. It is not for us to judge the invisible spiritual forces or God’s mysterious purposes. Neither is it up to us to work out all the details of someone else’s life. It is not our place to judge the Judge of All the Earth. A speculative mind on the issue of trouble is polluting.

God has set before us lives to ponder in scripture. These people were no strangers to trouble. But the lives he offers to us to consider are ultimately triumphant ones. All of them. That should be the focus. For as Dr. Martyn-Lloyd Jones once preached, “Some Christians seem to think that God wants them for the same reason the devil does: to torment them.” Such thinking always arises from error and it produces a calumny against God. God is a Father to his people. That is a solid, unassailable truth.

Thus the word “trouble” is better. For a start it is more expansive. It covers a lot more ground and includes the full panoply of Christian struggle. From the minor to the major.

FATHERLY COMFORT

The Letter to the Hebrews contains comfort for anyone who experiences trouble.

It comforts in three ways. Firstly, by reassuring readers that Jesus is a faithful and compassionate high priest whose heavenly intercession is truly efficacious. Secondly, the letter gives a long list of people who were able to face many difficulties through their faith in God. Faith is not just an esoteric feeling, the letter tells us, it takes concrete forms. The letter shows us how to have faith. Thirdly, the letter provides us with answers. It teaches us that our troubles should be regarded as God’s fatherly dealing with us.

There is far too much to mention all at once. But reading this letter prayerfully, with special attention to Hebrews 11 and 12, will surely offer substantial joy, comfort and strength. Here are some thoughts.

The chapter opens with the following statement:

By faith we understand that the universe was formed at God’s command, so that what is seen was not made out of what was visible. (Hebrews 11:3)

This truth comes first because it is the foundation of peace in the turbulence of the storm. If we do not believe that God created all things then we do not have the sort of faith that can receive God’s comfort.

It is not sufficient to simply “believe” in God’s creative acts on an intellectual or mental level. We are surrounded by talk of evolution and the Big Bang. The unbelieving world operates on the basis of this grand deceit and pummels the Christian relentlessly. Unbelief is so ubiquitous that it can chip away – slowly at first – at the Christian’s certainty. Evolution and Big Bang cosmology can quite easily leak into the mind of the Christian so that he plays a double-game. One the one hand he can persuade himself that he believes in creation, while in his heart he doubts and secretly thinks these theories have validity.

A conviction of creation must be deeply internalised so that we come to see that Christ stands behind every painted surface in the universe; whether the rise and fall of a leaf, or the roll of thunder, the rays of sunlight. We must know that Jesus governs all creation.

If this is our faith, it transforms into a source of comfort. It is a great encouragement to know that we can pray to the King of Creation, a King who governs not merely a nation, but all existence. This is the King who sculptured the planets and ignited the stars. If he can do that which is very great, can he not help us in our times of trouble? Can he not perform miracles of grace in our lives? Most assuredly, he can.

The writer goes on to provide a long list of saints who accomplished things by faith. Many of these saints – in fact, all of them – endured struggles of many kinds. But by faith in the Living God, they not only endured, but triumphed over them.

By faith Abraham, when called to go to a place he would later receive as his inheritance, obeyed and went, even though he did not know where he was going. (Hebrews 11:8).

Here the writer emphasises faith in God as we plunge into the unknown. Times of trouble can be frightening precisely because often we do not know what is going to happen. The unknown can make our trouble seem unbearable. Will I be ruined? Will I be outcast? Will I be killed? Will I lose my faith?

The writer to the Hebrews reminds us that Abraham also was sent on a journey into the unknown. He left behind all that was familiar and safe. He did not know where he was going. He journeyed in the dark but he had the faith to believe God would look after him. And God led him safely all the years of his wandering.

The writer goes on:

And by faith even Sarah, who was past childbearing age, was enabled to bear children because she considered him faithful who had made the promise. And so from this one man, and he as good as dead, came descendants as numerous as the stars in the sky and as countless as the sand on the seashore.

By faith, Abraham and Sarah did the impossible. They produced a child when Abraham was 99 years old and Sarah’s barren womb was unquestionably dead. No child had been conceived within her for 90 years. Her past history with childbearing – that is to say, zero children – could have left her with little hope for the remaining years of her life.

For indeed the years had made their mark on the pair. No doubt both were grey-headed and growing gaunt and feeble. They had been allowed by God to age to the point where they were past all possibility of reproduction. Physiologically it was impossible. Barrenness had been a source of trouble and grief in their lives. And God now promised to relieve them at the point where it seemed they had missed the boat.

Yet, hoping against all hope, and believing against all belief, they had faith in the promises of God. God used the material before him. He caused Abraham to desire his wife; and he caused life to flare into existence inside Sarah. After such a long wait, she experienced the joy of being a mother.

In times of trouble; in times of sadness, loneliness and grief we can wonder whether God will ever come for us. Will joy ever lighten our way again? We may sometimes patiently wait and pray for a long time. But faith is always rewarded in God’s economy. And the longer we wait, the greater the reward tends to be. This should serve as a great inspiration to cling to the promises of God in his word. To take him at his word in faith. To keep praying, to keep doing good, to keep plodding heavenward. It is a Christian cliche, of sorts, but it is nonetheless moving: keep on keeping on.

In the 12th chapter, the writer tells us:

Endure hardship as discipline; God is treating you as his children. For what children are not disciplined by their father? If you are not disciplined—and everyone undergoes discipline—then you are not legitimate, not true sons and daughters at all.

Sometimes Christians experience trouble due to God’s corrective discipline in our lives. The writer tells us that this discipline is for our good. It is intended to make us more holy and thus more ready for our meeting with the King at the end of the world.

When God lands blows upon his children in the form of troubles, he does so out of fatherly concern for their soul. Perhaps we are starting to flirt with spiritual danger. Perhaps we are growing cold or arrogant. Perhaps we are hardhearted and need the carapace of self-regard cracked apart. Perhaps we have sinned (or are sinning) and need to be yanked back onto the path of Jesus.

Whatever the case – even if sometimes we may not know the reason for it at all – this corrective discipline, the writer assures us, produces peace and righteousness when it is finally over. Correction and discipline does not feel pleasant for the moment. It is painful and grievous. We do not like it. But the results make it well worthwhile. It leads to the Christian surrendering bad attitudes, habits or desires and learning to love and follow Christ more wholeheartedly. It leads to a life that is more abundant. A life that is brimming with Jesus. A life that is more flourishing like the tree planted by a spring, with its branches that grow over the wall heavy with fruit (Genesis 49:22). It leads to a life that is more joyful, more complete, more rich, more free, and more godly.

It leads to a life that is more full of Jesus; He who is the source of all goodness, joy, laughter, peace, and righteousness. He who is the light of the world.

The Throne Wobbles: The Political Assassination of Pope Francis

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Once more sexual scandal rocks the Roman Catholic Church. But underneath the surface a vicious civil war is being fought in a deeply divided church. Allegations of cover-up are the daggers. And Pope Francis faces a political assassination.

The Roman Catholic Church has fallen upon hard times of late.

Across the world, sexual scandals are exploding like ACME dynamite in a Looney Tunes skit. Each one rocks the church to the core.

Just in this year alone there have been scandals in Chile, Australia, Pennsylvania, Guam, and Honduras. There are dozens of victims – if not hundreds – going back over decades. Investigators have identified hundreds of perpetrators, which now include some of the highest ranked clergy in the world: bishops and cardinals. Some of these have been convicted in secular courts. A cardinal awaits sentencing in Australia.

And it is not only children who have suffered from clerical abuse, but also seminarians. These young men, some of them scarcely more than teenagers when they began their priestly training, have been abused by men who claimed to be their shepherds. They were harassed, groomed, and coerced into sexual relationships with clergy who were old enough to be their uncles. It has been revealed that rampant homosexuality is virtually the norm in some seminaries around the world.

In July of this year, Lifesite News reported the claims of seminarians in Honduras. They complained:

“We are living and experiencing a time of tension in our house because of gravely immoral situations, above all of an active homosexuality inside the seminary that has been a taboo all this time,” continued the young men’s letter, “and by covering up and penalizing this situation the problem has grown in strength, turning into, as one priest said not so long ago, an ‘epidemic in the seminary.”

An article published by the National Catholic Register, also in July, made the following claim:

In a letter written to the seminary’s formators that was subsequently circulated in June to the country’s Catholic bishops, the seminarians asserted “irrefutable evidence” exists that a homosexual network pervades the institution and is being protected by its rector.

The article goes onto allege that high-placed clergymen had sexual relationships with young seminarians. This is not only a breach of Roman Catholic doctrinal teaching on sexuality and a violation of the vows of celibacy that priests are meant to take in the sight of God, but surely a clear instance of more powerful individuals taking advantage of inexperienced and relatively less powerful young men:

Similar to the charges surrounding Cardinal McCarrick, who reportedly engaged in a long-standing practice of pressuring seminarians into sexual activity with him while he was serving as bishop in two New Jersey dioceses during the 1980s and 1990s, Auxiliary Bishop Jose Juan Pineda Fasquelle of Tegucigalpa has been accused of engaging in homosexual interactions with Tegucigulpa seminarians.

And, just as the revelations regarding Cardinal McCarrick have provoked troubling questions about what his brother U.S. bishops and the Vatican knew about his interactions with seminarians and about why nothing was disclosed publicly for so long, the Honduran allegations call into question the actions of Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa.

While Cardinal Maradiaga — a key confidante of Pope Francis who is coordinator of the “C9” group of cardinals advising him on reforming Church governance and the Roman Curia — is not himself the subject of allegations of sexual misconduct, he is now under fire for appearing to have disregarded a wealth of evidence of homosexual misconduct by Bishop Pineda, whose resignation as auxiliary bishop was accepted by Pope Francis July 20.

The Honduran seminarians’ letter reportedly was not met with praise for having come forward in June; Cardinal Maradiaga instead accused the seminarians of being “gossipers” who wish to portray their fellow seminarians in a bad light, according to sources in Honduras.

The same article reports allegations that more than half of the seminarians in the diocese are homosexuals – something that could never be known if these men were celibate.

These are not victimless sins. This is evil that damages people’s lives forever. Sexual abuse and harassment inflicts terrible wounds on people’s souls and mangles their capacity for trust and faith. Nothing could be more aptly described as the work of Satan than the sexual abuse of children and the sexual coercion of young people since it fundamentally destroys and impairs their human flourishing.

It is not only the horror of the sexual perversion itself that is nauseating. It is also the rank hypocrisy.

The perpetrators and their abettors are the same men who claim for themselves some kind of apostolic authority, and therefore some kind of moral privilege. They even dare to take unto themselves the title alter Christus – that is, “another Christ”. Could there be anything that better qualifies as blasphemy against the Holy Spirit? When a man preys upon the vulnerable like Satan, and at the same time to pretends to be “another Christ”, he has reached a degree of hypocrisy never approached even by the Pharisees.

St. Jude tells us that such men are: “…wild waves of the sea, foaming up their shame; wandering stars, for whom blackest darkness has been reserved forever.” These words surely affix themselves to these grotesque moral and religious mutants. The text also comforts the Christian with the reminder that judgement will most assuredly occur.

THE ASSASSIN’S BLADE

The conclusion is inescapable. Dark cesspits have formed within the Catholic organisation. They steam and bubble and release the fetid odours of sin which until now have remained out of the public eye due to an active effort of concealment.

But a great exposure is taking place. This is not just driven by the findings of courts. It is also being driven by high-ranking clerics effectively spilling their guts to the media. They have sought to “out” each other. They have targeted each other with accusations. They have stamped question marks over each other’s reputation.

It is a vicious political bloodletting that in a previous age would have resulted in piles of bodies, unceremoniously tossed into graves, jewelled daggers firmly inserted into backs.

It is now transparently clear that the Catholic hierarchy is at war with itself. Cardinals are taking potshots at each other. Bishops and priests are weighing in. Both traditionalists and liberals within the church have tried to cast the blame for cover-up and deception upon the other camp. Herein we see the principle that you should never let a good crisis go to waste. Both sides are using it to damn the other.

Some clergy are jockeying for position. They sense that fresh vacancies will soon be open in the upper ranks when senior clerics are purged. Others have battened down the hatches in the hope that the storm will pass and their careers will be unaffected. Still others are spinning their wheels so fast to rewrite history that they have nearly started a small tornado.

Much of the heat has arisen due a former Apostolic Nuncio by the name of Carlo Maria Viganò.  A few weeks ago, Viganò released a lengthy testimony that named prominent and powerful clergy who, Viganò claims, knew of the deplorable behaviour of Cardinal McCarrick but did nothing to stop him.

Most damning of all Viganò has claimed that Pope Francis was told about McCarrick as far back as 2013, and singularly failed to take action. The letter seethes with a spirit of moral retribution. If you want people to resign for their failures, Viganò says, then begin with yourself! Viganò seems to suggest that if Pope Francis wants heads from among the top then he will most certainly get heads: and one of the first to roll will be his own.

It is the first time in living memory that any highly-placed member of the hierarchy has publicly denounced the head of the pyramid: the pope himself. The Roman Catholic Church operates under a strict code of secrecy and silence, which Father Raymond de Souza outlined in the Catholic Herald just a few days ago:

Whatever the truth or falsity of the claims made by Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò in his “testimony” calling for the resignation of Pope Francis, it is indisputable that he spectacularly violated the pontifical secret he swore an oath to keep.

That is an earthquake for the Vatican diplomatic corps and the Roman Curia. The “pontifical secret” which binds them is not the confessional seal, nor is it as grave as the conclave seal for the cardinal electors, but it is most serious. After Viganò it will never be the same.

Archbishop Viganò justified the revelation of details he learned on the job on the grounds that his conscience did not permit him to keep corruption hidden. He brazenly invoked the mafia term omertà to speak about the code of silence he was breaking.

Curial officials and Vatican diplomats take their oaths very seriously. I have known dozens of them, many as close friends, and the norm is that they quite punctiliously refuse to discuss even routine matters that cross their desks.

For example, 10 days before the papal trip to Ireland, I asked an old friend, a current official in one of the Vatican congregations responsible for bishops, whether in fact there were any tribunals set up to judge bishops foreseen in the motu proprio of Pope Francis, Come una madre amorevole. He would not answer. I had not asked for any particulars, just whether it was even happening. (Pope Francis confirmed that such a case was underway on his return flight from Dublin.)

And the Vatican takes the oath seriously too. The VatiLeaks affair of a few years ago involved stolen and leaked documents by one who violated his oath, the butler of Benedict XVI. He was prosecuted, convicted and sentenced (though eventually pardoned).

Supporters of Pope Francis argue that the accusations have arisen primarily from the traditionalist camp of the church because so many traditionalists loathe the pope. Viganò is sometimes described as a traditionalist.

Indeed, supporters of Pope Francis turned their guns on Viganò very quickly. There are now allegations that he also is tainted. The New York Times reported that Viganò has been accused of hindering a sexual misconduct investigation in Minnesota. If this is true, it marks Viganò out as another hypocrite trying to stiff the pope.

The progressives in the Roman Catholic Church see the traditionalists as people who want to turn the clock back to the medieval period; to go back to Latin, arcane rituals, and a loveless moral legalism. They claim the “trads” feel threatened by Pope Francis because his vision of a humbler, more humane church is a threat to their power and their vision.

A lot of traditionalists made their careers, after all, by being public warriors of a hard Catholic morality. They mouthed the conservative lines of the previous popes with an eye to getting a bishop’s mitre or a cardinal’s hat. With Pope Francis, all that work seems to count for nothing! That’s why they are so happy to torpedo a reigning pope, the progressives say. It is an act of revenge. It is spite.

There is probably quite a bit of truth in this.

On the other hand, the opponents of Pope Francis claim that something shady has been going on. They say that Pope Francis has done little to combat the abuses in the church and his public speeches of contrition and prayers are not enough to deal with the problem. The traditionalists accuse Pope Francis of being a scarcely-Catholic ultra-liberal left-winger, influenced by liberation theology. They claim his theology is scrambled and unclear. They also view him as an ecclesiastical tyrant. The pope is political animal, they claim, who fights with the viciousness of South American cutthroat politics. He stacks the Vatican with his own “yes men” and engages in petty retribution.

Pope Francis is possibly all of these things. It is hard to know for sure, given the crackling hostility within the Vatican. This “Holy City” is a hothouse, steamy and humid with petty grudges and politicking. It is a jungle where senior clerics hate each other venomously.

Father John Zuhlsdorf alluded to this very atmosphere on his blog earlier this week:

When I working in a Curial office I was at first rather taken aback by the style of letters I had to write, with flowery – to American ears – phrases and formulae. Why not just get to the point? What’s with acknowledging receipt of “Your Excellency’s is most esteemed letter under date of…”?

I eventually figured it out. The elaborate courtesy and formulae allowed people to sincerely disliked each other and vehemently disagreed to continue to communicate and get things done.

Francis is certainly in a difficult position because he heads a church that is rapidly becoming ungovernable.

The Council of Trent worked hard to give the See of St. Peter the illusion of a divine mandate and thus the guarantor of unity. But the 16th century polish – although very hard-wearing and long-lasting – can be softened and removed by modernism. Thus the shine is off. The papacy is fast regressing to the murderous intrigues of pre-Reformation skulduggery. The papal office itself is now contested territory.

Up until now, the crackle of gunfire has been muted. The war has been fought behind curtains. Shots in the dark. Whispers and rumours. Political signals and coded snubs.

But now the conflict is in the daylight. There has been a drive-by shooting at high noon. The gunman that pumped the trigger is Viganò.

And his ambush has worked, at least so far. Pope Francis is politically and morally crippled. Discussion about his fitness is omnipresent from the Catholic in the pew, to the secular media, to the clergy themselves. Benedict XVI proved it was possible to resign the job, and he quit due to age. Why couldn’t Francis step down too?

The question now on everyone’s lips, which Pope Francis has so far publicly refused to answer, is: “What did the Pope know and when did he know it?

According to the Spectator, the evidence is mounting that Pope Francis knew about McCarrick. Yet Pope Francis has given no denials. Instead he flatly refused to address the Viganò testimony, telling journalists that they should judge the credibility of the accusations for themselves. He has also preached a homily recently in which he spoke of silence sometimes being the only acceptable response to false accusations.

The implication, with all the subtlety of a sack of hammers, is that the accusations are preposterous and beneath the pope’s dignity.

Now, it is quite possible that Pope Francis is a hapless casualty of the internecine conflict within the Roman Catholic Church. It is also quite possible that Pope Francis is as stained and tarnished as large numbers of senior clergy appear to be. We simply do not know.

All we know for certain is that Pope Francis has plenty of enemies. Many are his religious “brothers and sisters” – what a lovely lot! We know that there are large numbers of conservative Catholics who see Pope Francis as dangerous and heretical. Some have even prayed for his death, as one Polish priest was disciplined for doing recently.

We also know that Francis has plenty of friends who play hardball and show no mercy.

There’s a lot of water left to flow under this bridge.

We must take Solomon’s wisdom to heart and judge the case with balanced scales. This means we must let the situation run its course and sensibly, patiently, and intelligently wait for hard evidence to emerge before arriving at conclusions. For nobody deserves a trial by media, not even a pope, and nobody deserves to be condemned and hanged on the basis of Tweets, rumour, innuendo, and hearsay.

What Did Pope John Paul II Know?

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Pope John Paul II reigned for nearly 30 years. Much of the abuse that is now coming to light occurred under his pontificate. Moreover, many of the abusers that are being exposed were trained and nourished in the priestly arts while he was pope. A lot of these were flushed down the drain when the abuse scandal exploded in 2002. That year, and those following, the scandal was covered relentlessly by the media and the Catholic Church parted with countless millions of dollars in compensation and legal fees. A slow and shuddering change started to occur – it turns out to be very expensive to harbour perverted animals in your organisation – although many perpetrators remained hidden in the vast spiderweb of the Roman Catholic organisation.

What this means is that of the last three popes, Pope John Paul II sat on the biggest powder keg of them all. He was in charge before the secular authorities began the house cleaning; before the dirty linen started to get aired; before the law came after them. The question legitimately applies to Pope John Paul II. What did the Pope know and when did he know it? All of the evidence seems to indicate that John Paul II presided over a deeply corrupt, money-focused Vatican, and that he not only was disinterested in the issue of child abuse, but would not listen to reports that were sent to him about it.

There is no earthly way Pope John Paul II could not have known. The fact that nothing was done gives us a deep insight into the true nature of the Roman Catholic Church.

JOHN PAUL II – THE CONSUMMATE POLITICIAN

Let’s turn the clock back to 1978. Karol Wojtyla, a youngish Polish archbishop was elected by the conclave of the Roman Catholic Church. He took the papal name of Pope John Paul II. In short order, he proved to be wily and cunning politician.

John Paul II was able to be a good politician because he was a perplexing blend of inconsistent energies. His personality crackled with oddities. On the one hand, he yearned for traditional Catholic family values. He was particularly wont to glorify both the figure of mother and motherhood. He refused to buckle on the issue of birth control.

Yet, despite this staunch conservatism when it came to women he was exceedingly liberal in his views of other religions. He wanted Catholics to join forces with Islam, Judaism, Buddhism and virtually any other halfway sizeable religion in order to influence the world for the better. After all, to engineer social justice you need numbers. If you get a bunch of religions on the same wagon, you have a lot of social justice warriors. And if John Paul II taught anything, it was definitely the Social Gospel.

Pragmatic and calculating when it came to inter-faith alliances, John Paul II was also a decided mystic. It was said that each morning he would crawl around a large map of the world praying for different nations. He is reported to have had “prophetic visions”, and to talk with the Virgin Mary. This tendency is not surprising since he was fiercely dedicated to the cult of the Virgin Mary, even giving her the attribution for saving his life during the assassination attempt by Mehmet Ali Agca:

Could I forget that the event in St. Peter’s Square took place on the day and at the hour when the first appearance of the Mother of Christ to the poor little peasants has been remembered for over sixty years at Fátima, Portugal? For in everything that happened to me on that very day, I felt that extraordinary motherly protection and care, which turned out to be stronger than the deadly bullet.

He was also an exceedingly clever politician.

It was the commensurate political skill of Pope John Paul II – who combined both liberal and conservative impulses in an inconsistent amalgam – that satisfied the two wings of the church for decades and kept them from tearing each other apart.

He achieved this state of Cold War by giving both sides theological morsels in turn. One month, for example, he would thunder out canonical law with the fire of a desert prophet and fiercely condemn liberation theology, birth control, and communism. The traditionalists would throw up their hands and cry, “Great is Pope John Paul II! He is our man.” Yet the liberals would mutter darkly and the shadows would begin to stir.

Then, a few months down the track, John Paul II would issue apologies for past crimes, or beatify national saints (which he did by the truckload), or soften the official stance on liturgical issues. He would talk about world peace, condemn consumerism, and proclaim St. Francis of Assisi the patron saints of ecologists. The liberals would throw up their hands and cry, “All is forgiven! We were in error. Great is John Paul II. He is our man.”

Shortly afterwards, he would simply wash, rinse, and repeat the process.

By this means he kept both traditionalists and liberals in stasis. He had a forceful and charismatic temper which when combined with his contradictory and unsystematic theological views, enabled everyone to claim him as his own. For example, I have an exceedingly liberal grandmother who firmly believed that Pope John Paul II was a great “spiritual man” and a liberal leader who held views similar to her own. By the same token, Father John Zuhlsdorf, a convinced traditionalist who trumpets the value of Latin and wants to revive countless archaic Catholic traditions, regards Pope John Paul II with similar reverence and respect. Zuhlsdorf counts him as a traditionalist defender of Catholic morality and of a tidy Catholic liturgy.

Pope John Paul II also managed to keep the Roman Curia – the secretive bureaucracy of the Vatican – on his side. He did this by never rocking the boat. During his 28 year pontificate, he did little to reform, investigate, or change the curia’s processes or privileges even following the nearly Hollywoodeque Banco Ambrosiano scandal and exposure of the crooked dealings of Roberto Calvi – the Italian known as “God’s banker” – who was connected with the Vatican.

The Banco Ambrosiano, of which the Vatican Bank was a majority shareholder, was used by the Mafia to run a money laundering operation and also by the Masonic Lodge Propaganda Due (P2). Propaganda Due was later found by a parliamentary investigation to be a secret criminal organisation with links to Argentina and numerous corrupt dealings involving banks. Propaganda Due was sometimes called a “state within a state” or a “shadow government” due to the large number of journalists, politicians, industrialists and military leaders who were involved with it.

Roberto Calvi was discovered in 1982 hanging from Blackfriars Bridge in London with his clothes stuffed with bricks and cash in three different currencies totalling $14,000 (US). In 2007, Italian magistrates ruled his death a murder – not a suicide as it may have been intended to appear – and said the case was effectively closed and the five people charged with his murder were acquitted. The defence argued that too many people had an interest in his death, such as the mafia and Vatican officials.

The scandal should have torpedoed any remaining illusions that the Roman Curia and the Vatican administrative apparatus was “the most perfect government on earth”, as it has liked to present itself. In fact, it was an episode that should have troubled all but the most hardened consciences. For during the 25 years in which Calvi’s murder was repeatedly investigated by private and public investigators, time and again the Vatican was spoken of in connection to extreme corruption. Vatican business dealings with the Banco Ambrosiano meant that, through the nexus of the bank, they were commercially rubbing shoulders with criminal organisations that were implicated in murders.

One demonstration of its corruption was revealed more recently by Cardinal George Pell (who is awaiting sentencing following a trial for historic sexual abuse). Pell admitted that during his audit of Vatican finances, he had discovered hundreds of millions of euros that had not appeared on balance sheets. Moreover, he also admitted in an interview with the Catholic Herald that one of the problems of auditing Vatican finances was the resistance of each department to transparency. Naturally Pell used the euphemism “independence” but it is clear what is implied. Pell said:

I once read that Pope Leo XIII sent an apostolic visitor to Ireland to report on the Catholic Church there,” he writes. “On his return, the Holy Father’s first question was: ‘How did you find the Irish bishops?’ The visitor replied that he could not find any bishops, but only 25 popes.

So it was with the Vatican finances. Congregations, Councils and, especially, the Secretariat of State enjoyed and defended a healthy independence. Problems were kept ‘in house’ (as was the custom in most institutions, secular and religious, until recently). Very few were tempted to tell the outside world what was happening, except when they needed extra help.

Pell went on to drop a bombshell. Not only were Vatican finances healthy, but large pools of money were washing around the Vatican completely unaccounted for. One must ask the question, “Where did this money come from?” and “Who was profiting from this money while it was sitting unaccounted for?”. Pell, of course, gives no inkling about this:

It is important to point out that the Vatican is not broke. Apart from the pension fund, which needs to be strengthened for the demands on it in 15 or 20 years, the Holy See is paying its way, while possessing substantial assets and investments.

In fact, we have discovered that the situation is much healthier than it seemed, because some hundreds of millions of euros were tucked away in particular sectional accounts and did not appear on the balance sheet. It is another question, impossible to answer, whether the Vatican should have much larger reserves.

Pell then frankly admits that the Vatican was involved with criminal activity, to such an extent that other European banks would not deal with it. He says:

Many will remember the scandals at the Vatican bank (IOR) in the early 1980s, with Archbishop Paul Marcinkus and the lay bankers Michele Sindona and Roberto Calvi (who was famously found hanged under Blackfriars Bridge), and the Vatican being constrained to pay $406 million (£259 million) in compensation. Comparative quiet then returned, until the international laws against money laundering needed to be applied within the Vatican.

The authorities supervising the Vatican bank did not move swiftly enough, and some tens of millions of euros were frozen by the Bank of Italy, with many European banks refusing to deal with the Vatican. It was a grave situation where the worst was narrowly averted. It was only this November [2014], after years of dialogue and good work, that the €23 million (£18.3 million) were released.

All of this developed under the pontificate of Pope John Paul II who showed little interest in doing much about Vatican finances and this reflected his preference for the dirty linen of the Catholic Church to be kept under wraps – until it exploded.

Given the wretched condition of the Vatican administration under his reign, it is not at all surprising that there are significant numbers of people today who believe that Pope John Paul II was well aware of the abuse that ran like a plague through his church, and yet he did not take concerted action against it.

His supporters argue he did not know. Like the common peasant myth in Tsarist Russia, it was not the king himself who did not wish to act, but rather his evil officials who kept the truth from him. Likewise, supporters of John Paul II have said that had he known – had he been told – he would have vigorously sought to root it out. Unfortunately the corrupt curia prevented the knowledge from flowing through.

Such an argument (if true) confirms the rottenness of the Vatican administration, something that is now acknowledged even by the most ardent Catholics, but it is not really a credible argument. To claim that Pope John Paul II was actively denied knowledge of the prevalence of abuse, or that he had no knowledge of abuse during a 30 year period when literally thousands of abuse cases occurred and were reported, requires a faith that exceeds that of a simple believer in God. You would need to believe in supernatural ignorance, for that is what it would take for this argument to hold.

Contrarily, there is striking evidence that not only did Pope John Paul II know about the abuse, he actively sought to suppress its exposure.

The pontiff “turned a blind eye to the problems that were happening in Los Angeles,” said Joelle Casteix, Western Regional Director of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP).

“The canonization of Pope John Paul II is very traumatic for victims of sexual abuse in the catholic church because they don’t see him as the unifying figure that many other Catholics do,” Casteix said. “They see him as someone who knew about sexual abuse, covered it up, promoted wrong doers and allowed more priests to molest kids.”

It is difficult not to come to the same conclusion articulated by Joelle Casteix, given that the Vatican has virtually drowned in cases of sickening child abuse for nearly two decades.

In February last year, the Business Standard magazine reported the comments made by Thomas Doyle to the Royal Commission inquiry into historical sexual abuse in Australia. Doyle alleges that Pope John Paul II had indeed known about the abuse:

Late Pope John Paul II was aware of priests sexually abusing children, and of efforts by the Catholic Church to cover up the allegations, an American canon lawyer claimed on Tuesday.

Thomas Doyle, an expert on cases of sexual abuse by the clergy, said this while testifying at a hearing here in Australia, Efe news reported.

Doyle is deposing before the Royal Commission into Institutional Responses to Child Sexual Abuse in public and religious institutions.

He also said that in 1985 at least four US dioceses sent reports to the Vatican on child sexual abuse by priests.

Doyle went on to describe his personal involvement in trying to solicit support from Pope John Paul II for stamping out abusers within the Roman clergy:

One of these reports were prepared by Doyle himself, who requested a bishop be sent down to Luisiana to deal with cases of paedophilia.

The report was sent by courier to the Cardinal Archbishop of Philadelphia, Cardinal John Krol, who took it to the Vatican the next day, said Doyle.

He added Krol handed the report to the Pope, who read the document and named a bishop for the purpose – AJ Quinn – within three days.

However, Quinn, he said: “turned out to be part of the problem, not part of the solution, because he was trying to figure how to continue with the cover-up.”

After being informed, Pope John Paul II appointed a bishop who proceeded to cover up the abuse. Given John Paul II’s political instincts, it is again questionable whether this could be an accident. If Thomas Doyle can be believed – and there is no reason to question his integrity – there are only two possibilities here. Either John Paul II wanted to minimise the fallout and scotch tape the situation up, and therefore gave implicit or explicit instructions to that effect, or the culture in the Vatican was so noxious that the bishop concluded off his own bat that his sole duty in being awarded the task was to cover it up as best as possible.

Doyle went on to say:

Doyle’s claims came a day after a detailed report by the Australian Catholic Church that revealed around 4,500 people reported cases of child sexual abuse by members of the clergy between 1980 and 2015.

Presented by Gail Furness, the counsel assisting the commission, the report said between 1950 and 2010, 1,880 alleged perpetrators were identified — 572 priests, 597 religious brothers, and 96 religious sisters and others.

These figures are mind-blowing. The numbers provided by the Australian Catholic Church themselves, indicate that in the space of 60 years there were 1,880 perpetrators of sexual abuse. Given that each perpetrator probably offended many times, and despite the fact that perpetrators would not have been identified in consistent batches, it still provides an average of 31 offenders per year over a 60 year period. Or, to word it another way, it means that on average two clerics began to abuse children in the Roman Catholic Church every single month across a 60 year period.

This is not including the physical abuse that was documented by the Royal Commission, or the frequent efforts to get justice from the victims.

Even supporters of Pope John Paul II admit that his response to endemic levels of horrific abuse was “slow”:

Supporters of the late Polish Pope say he was slow to wake up to the enormity of the sex abuse scandal because in his homeland he had witnessed the Communist authorities use trumped-up allegations against the clergy to attack the Church.

They also claim that his aides may have known of the scandals but kept them from the Pope – an argument discounted by victims’ groups.

The Telegraph article continues:

In Austria, the Church has paid token compensation to 1,800 victims of sex abuse in return for their silence, and not a single priest has been defrocked or removed, he said.

Nicky Davis, 50, from Australia, another member of SNAP and a former victim, said: “All of us here were abused because John Paul II chose not to act in the way that the Vatican claims he acted. We don’t believe it’s saintly behaviour to allow sex abuse to continue for a 27-year reign. He could have used his enormous power to save children but instead he decided to save the reputation of the Church.

And victims ominously comment on Pope Francis’ response as far back as 2014:

Victims’ groups are also highly critical of Pope Francis, saying that he has taken no tangible steps during his 13-month papacy to crack down on abusive clergy, instead simply forming a committee to address the issue.

In an interview in March which prompted outrage from survivors of sexual abuse, he claimed that “no one else has done more” than the Catholic Church to root out paedophilia.

The Church was “perhaps the only public institution to have acted with transparency and responsibility,” he told Corriere della Sera, the Italian newspaper. “Yet the Church is the only one to have been attacked.”

Mrs Blaine said: “Francis is cleaning up the Vatican bureaucracy and demoting bishops who live in luxurious mansions but he has taken no action to protect children. Sexual predators remain in the Church today. Rather than turn them over to the police, and release the Vatican’s documents on predators priests, he has just set up a commission.”

Pope John Paul II also seemed to keep company with some very shady characters, some of whom were later found to be abusers of children and rank hypocrites, even by the rock-bottom standards of the Roman Catholic clergy. One of these was the leader and founder of the Legion of Christ, a Mexican priest by the name of Marcial Maciel Degollado. He was eventually exposed as once being addicted to drugs, being expelled twice from seminary as a young man, and having kept two mistresses – one of which was given a luxury apartment in Madrid with funds not disclosed. He is also known to have fathered six children – although there could well be others – and to have abused possibly a hundred children, two of them his own.

Bizarrely, the order he founded – the Legion of Christ – was meant to form the character of priests and seminarians. It is little wonder it has come under scrutiny given the consistently weak moral calibre of its founder. Nonetheless, the Legion of Christ now describes Macial’s actions as “reprehensible”. The Vatican also has described him as “immoral” and labelled his behaviour “true crimes”. Yet, for all of this outrage and fury, the Vatican was well aware of the accusations of child abuse that accompanied the man wherever he went.

In 2013, GlobalPost did a feature expose on Macial:

Dozens of victims in multiple countries made sexual abuse allegations against Maciel over the course of several decades, dating back to the 1950s.

Though he was suspended in 1956 from his leadership of the Legion by Pope Pius XII after being accused of abusing youths in Mexico, Cardinal Clemente Micara, the Vicar of Rome, reinstated him in 1958 after his predecessor’s death and Maciel enjoyed a long and prosperous career despite the claims of as many as 100 victims.

As the claims mounted, Pope John Paul II knuckled down. He offered praise and protection for a man about which there was no possible way he could not have be aware of the allegations against him. How are we to understand this gaping lapse in judgement?

It could be understood as an instance of Pope John Paul II’s pigheadedness, as his supporters claim. The pope was a stubborn old man, and like many stubborn old men could not be told. Maybe he was just firmly placing his head in the sand, and that because he had come to believe the best of Maciel he would not hear a word spoken against him. If this is true, then the pope was strikingly naive to the point of utter stupidity. Had his long pontificate with the thousands of accusations of child abuse against “upstanding” clergy not taught him anything?

Or, is it more likely that this is a case of Pope John Paul II’s razor-sharp pragmatism at work? After all, Maciel sent streams of money to the Vatican. Was toleration of a serial child abuser the price that had to be paid for the church coffers to be filled?

The Globalpost goes on describing an extraordinary pattern of apparently inexplicable protection, which involved not just the pope but the Vatican administration as well:

A man of great charisma, and the greatest fundraiser of the modern church, Maciel cultivated a relationship with John Paul II, using scenes of the two men in video-tapes that the Legion distributed to its growing base of benefactors. Maciel accompanied John Paul on papal visits to Mexico in 1979, 1990 and 1993, and in 1994 he was celebrated in “an open letter by Pope John Paul II celebrating Maciel’s 50th anniversary as a priest, appeared in major newspapers of Mexico City, as a paid advertisement, celebrating Maciel as ‘an efficacious guide to youth.’”

In 1997 a Hartford Courant investigation by Gerald Renner and Jason Berry identified nine seminary victims of Maciel in on-the-record interviews. The Vatican refused to comment. In 1998, the ex-Legionaries filed a recourse in Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger’s tribunal seeking Maciel’s ouster. But John Paul continued praising him, and the canon law case went nowhere.

Letters sent directly to the Vatican in a diplomatic bag were never acted upon:

Vaca entered the Legion in Mexico in 1947, at age 10. Repeatedly abused by Maciel in Spain from age 12 through adolescence in Rome, the young priest went to Orange, Conn., as the Legion’s U.S. director. In 1976, when Vaca left the Legion, joining the Diocese of be Rockville Centre, Long Island, N.Y., he sent a blistering 12-page letter to Maciel, naming 20 other victims.

With support of Bishop John R. McGann, he sent the letter to the Vatican in a formal protest, which achieved nothing. With McGann’s support he petitioned the Vatican to punish Maciel again, sent via diplomatic pouch from the Vatican Embassy, without action. His final attempt in 1989, again through Vatican channels, included an impassioned cover letter to John Paul specifying what Maciel did.”

According to a Newsweek feature article published in 2013, Marciel was swimming in cash, regularly carrying $10,000 on his person:

Meanwhile, he held great prominence in Rome. Cardinals relished the grand dinners with a mariachi band at the Legion college. He traveled relentlessly, each time taking $10,000 in cash with no questions asked from his subalterns.

He also cleverly directed cash into the right pockets, not only giving insight into the calculated nature of his corruption, but into the corruption that exists at the highest levels of the Roman Catholic Church amongst people who are supposedly charged with the oversight of the eternal souls of other people. Newsweek reports:

Gaining access to the small chapel in the Apostolic Palace turned on a flow of donations Maciel allegedly orchestrated to Monsignor Stanislaw Dziwisz, the Polish assistant to John Paul and gatekeeper of attendance at the private masses, who admitted only a few world leaders.

In 1995, according to former Legion insiders, Maciel sent $1 million via Dziwisz in advance of a papal trip to Poland. In 1997, according to a priest who left the Legion and spoke on the condition of anonymity, a wealthy family from Mexico gave Dziwisz $50,000 to attend a private papal mass. Dziwisz, now a cardinal in Kraków, did not answer my questions about the incident, sent by fax in 2010 and translated into Polish. “This happened all the time,” the ex-Legionary told me. “It was always in cash. And in dollars.”

While the Vatican has no constitution or statutes that would make such transactions illegal, a second priest who says he gave funds to Dziwisz said, “You don’t know where the money is going. It’s an elegant way of giving a bribe.”

He targeted powerful cardinals:

In Rome, Sodano was a “cheerleader for the Legion,” as several ex-Legion priests told me. “He’d come give a talk at Christmas, and they’d give him $10,000,” said one. Another recalled a $5,000 donation to Sodano. (Sodano has also declined my interview requests.)

And when he finally was kicked out of his position, he left an organisation that was worth more than the economy of several small island nations combined:

The Legion had a $650 million annual budget and $1 billion in assets by May 2006, when Ratzinger, as Benedict, banished Maciel to “a life of prayer and penitence.” The Vatican communiqué did not stipulate what he had done. But Maciel had “more than 20 and less than 100” victims, according to an unnamed Vatican official quoted by John Allen in the National Catholic Reporter.

The abuser was never punished by the Roman Catholic Church, unless retiring to a villa to pray is considered a form of punishment:

Maciel retired to Jacksonville, Florida, and a house with a pool in a gated community the Legion bought to comply with Rome’s penitential order. He died January 30, 2008, surrounded by several priests, his daughter Normita, and her mother, Norma Hilda Baños. Several days later he was buried at a family crypt in his hometown, Cotija de la Paz.

His son Raul watched the news on TV in Cuernavaca; several years had passed since he had been heard from, though Raul in subsequent interviews said he never forgot how the man he knew as dad sexually abused him through adolescence, a charge now pending in a civil lawsuit against the Legion in Connecticut.

The Legion website announced that Maciel had gone to heaven. It took them another year to disclose his paternity, which sent shock waves through the movement, at which point top Legionaries began apologizing to the pedophilia victims whom they had attacked for years as participants in a dark conspiracy.

At that point the Vatican, which had known about the daughter for four and a half years, announced an investigation of the Legion. In 2010 the Vatican took the scandal-battered order into receivership, something unique in the modern church.

According to Raul Gonzalez, his father seemed well aware that his time would be up after John Paul II died:

“My dad told my mom that when John Paul II dies, he was going to be in trouble,” said Raul Gonzalez, who filed a lawsuit in 2010 claiming that he is one of Maciel’s children and alleging the late priest molested him beginning when he was 7 years old.

If true, this suggests a deep and disturbing relationship between the pope and Marciel.

The Roman Catholic Church now faces the circling wolves of secular authority. Governments around the world have come to the conclusion that the Roman Catholic Church is incapable of restraining the bestial impulses of its clergy and cannot be trusted to act properly toward victims when their cases come to light. In other words, government authorities no longer have any confidence that the authorities of the Roman Catholic Church can be counted on to do much more than cover up evil behaviour.

In Australia, state governments are determined to pass laws that would force priests to divulge the secrets of the confessional to the police when they hear confessions involving sexual abuse. This would mean that priests would have to violate the much-ballyhooed “seal of the confession” which forbids priests from revealing anything mentioned in the confessional booth on pain of excommunication. The Roman Catholic Church is quite robust in its rejection of the new laws; more robust, indeed, than it ever has been in rooting out and disposing of the evil people who have infested its hierarchy.

To some extent, the new laws are symbolic because they are unenforceable. If something is revealed in the confession, who would know? And if a confession is anonymous, how can it be reported? It has also been pointed out that sexual predators do not generally confess their sins to priests because they have no conscience. They have rationalised their abuse and justified it to themselves. Finally, the popular image of Catholics regularly going up to a confessional booth to spill the beans to Father McHellfire is far from the reality for most modern Catholics in the Western World. Confession is no longer the norm for most Catholics.

But Australian state governments are – understandably – determined to send a message to a church that has been gravely implicated in scandals involving children. The message is this: the days of your power are fading and like it or not your church will be ruled by secular law because you clearly cannot govern your own. It is, in one sense, the assertion of the primacy of parliament over the Catholic church. And if there was any hesitation on the part of lawmakers about implementing these laws, the disgraceful spectacle over the last few weeks will have dispelled any doubt.

The Darwinian Icarus: How Evolutionists Avoid their Logical Endpoint (Part I.)

icarus-flying

Evolutionary theory is stoutly defended by atheists and progressives because it provides one of the major planks of their worldview.

The theory is cherished and frequently clothed with an aura of infallibility. Evolution is a fact, they thunder, and anyone who disputes this is worthy of ridicule and contempt. Such a person must be unenlightened and unintelligent. Christian scientists and scholars in significant and reputable universities who question evolution are typically deemed suspect. When their questions raise serious challenges to the theory, they can be safely dismissed as fringe nutters or fundamentalists. “Real scientists” do not question evolution.

Richard Dawkins put it this way:

One thing all real scientists agree upon is the fact of evolution itself. It is a fact that we are cousins of gorillas, kangaroos, starfish, and bacteria. Evolution is as much a fact as the heat of the sun. It is not a theory, and for pity’s sake, let’s stop confusing the philosophically naive by calling it so. Evolution is a fact.

It is no wonder that evolution is aggressively proclaimed as a “fact” for it serves an important psychological and moral purpose in the atheist, progressive, and liberal worldview. It provides a mechanism that lets a person to occupy a godless worldview in a way that seems intellectually coherent. This is something Dawkins acknowledged in his book The Blind Watchmaker (1986):

Although atheism might have been logically tenable before Darwin, Darwin made it possible to be an intellectually fulfilled atheist.

In other words, Darwinian evolution provides answers to the questions any fulfilling worldview must address. It answers the issues of origins – the perennial question “where did we come from?” – and thus offers a means by which human beings can establish an alternative morality that is not based on revelation. Thus evolution holds a place of supreme importance for nearly every secularist.

Moreover, it is the single bang in the cannon. There is nothing else. If you want to live independent of God, then evolution is the only horse in town as far as the secularist is concerned. Therefore, no matter how many difficulties exist in the theory (such as the galactic jump from inorganic matter to the first organic cell), and no matter how many holes there are in theory’s key assumptions (such as the dearth of mutations that increase genetic information), Darwinian evolution remains an untouchable Moloch. It has to be. The secularist has no alternative.

But Darwinian evolution is even more than a worldview or an ideology, it is also used as a source of moral and intellectual supremacy. It is the battering ram that is hurled against the ramparts of the Church. It is aimed squarely at orthodox Christians, that turbulent band of medievalists who bunker inside their religious fortress and stubbornly refuse to abandon the Creator!

Such is the oppressive pride that is impossible to wade through the words of social liberals, or Dawkins, or other celebrity atheists without encountering  their extreme contempt for anyone who does not share their viewpoint. Dawkins’ opines, with his characteristic certitude:

It is absolutely safe to say that if you meet somebody who claims not to believe in evolution, that person is ignorant, stupid or insane (or wicked, but I’d rather not consider that).

Laurence M. Krauss, a “notorious atheist” at Arizona State University (who has spent much of this year being investigated for sexual harassment), goes even further:

You couldn’t be here if stars hadn’t exploded, because the elements – the carbon, nitrogen, oxygen, iron, all the things that matter for evolution and for life – weren’t created at the beginning of time. They were created in the nuclear furnaces of stars, and the only way for them to get into your body is if those stars were kind enough to explode. So, forget Jesus. The stars died so that you could be here today.

One may note the mystical element contained in the writings of these materialists. You are made out of stardust, Krauss says, you are the product of powerful cosmic forces.

Krauss’ above statement from his book A Universe From Nothing (2012) is typical of what might be described as Darwinist theology. Theology does seem to be the correct term, for the cited text has quite clearly passed from the realm of empirical science and into the realm of myth. It is myth woven into poetry. It is a genre of writing that shares striking similarities with spiritual literature, as it attempts to evoke awe and wonderment. It also serves an apologetic function in its naked attempt to persuade people to abandon Christianity.

This tells us a lot about the place of evolution in the firmament of secular thought. Does any other theory get this sort of treatment by secularists, humanists and atheists? Not at all! No scientist talks in this fashion about germ theory. No scientist writes books of florid prose in which he seeks to inspire faith and awe at the theory of gravitation. No scientist uses the heliocentric model of the solar system as a basis to “forget Jesus”. It is upon evolution and its allied cosmology alone that they make this call – evolutio solus.

But evolution is not just the weapon of radical atheists. Evolution also spills over into political disputes as well. During the United States presidential election in 2008, Matt Damon appeared in an interview that went viral. In the interview he challenged Sarah Palin’s suitability for high office, in part, based on her beliefs about origins.

Damon could have chosen to challenge Palin on a wide range of legitimate political issues. After all, her governorship in Alaska had more than its fair share of controversies, and her performance during the campaign did not inspire confidence, even among conservatives. Even the Republican presidential candidate himself, John McCain, later expressed regret about choosing her as his running mate. So there was plenty of material. Despite that, Damon chose to specifically allude to issues of origins.

Damon said:

I think there’s a really good chance that Sarah Palin could be president, and I think that’s a really scary thing because I don’t know anything about her. I don’t think in eight weeks I’m gonna know anything about her. I know that she was a mayor of a really, really small town, and she’s governor of Alaska for less than two years. I just don’t understand. I think the pick was made for political purposes, but in terms of governance, it’s a disaster.

You do the actuary tables, you know, there’s a one out of three chance, if not more, that McCain doesn’t survive his first term, and it’ll be President Palin. And it really, you know, I was talking about it earlier, it’s like a really bad Disney movie, you know, the hockey mom, you know, “I’m just a hockey mom from Alaska”—and she’s the president. And it’s like she’s facing down Vladimir Putin and, you know, using the folksy stuff she learned at the hockey rink, you know, it’s just absurd. It’s totally absurd, and I don’t understand why more people aren’t talking about how absurd it is. I … it’s a really terrifying possibility.

The fact that we’ve gotten this far and we’re that close to this being a reality is crazy. Crazy. I mean, did she really—I need to know if she really thinks dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago. That’s an important … I want to know that. I really do. Because she’s gonna have the nuclear codes, you know. I wanna know if she thinks dinosaurs were here 4,000 years ago or if she banned books or tried to ban books. I mean, you know, we can’t have that.

He plainly suggests that if a person has the temerity to believe in creationism, by definition they are not responsible enough to have access to the nuclear codes. The unmistakable inference is that creationists must be stupid, or dangerous, or both.

But Damon’s statement goes further than just Palin. Since most Christians believe in the divine creation of the universe – and many believe in Young Earth Creationism – and since either belief necessitates a rejection of the evolutionary timeline, by logical extension bible-affirming Christians must also be stupid, dangerous and irresponsible. And they are to be held in contempt by their sophisticated betters.

The liberal glitterati abounds with exactly this viewpoint.

In 2014 there was a much ballyhooed debate between Bill Nye “the Science Guy” and Ken Ham the founder of Answers in Genesis. A year after the debate the National Geographic published an interview with Bill Nye.

The piece opened with:

Last February, the former engineer defended the theory of evolution in a debate with young-Earth creationist Ken Ham, a vocal member of a group that believes the Earth is only 6,000 years old. Nye’s decision to engage Ham kicked up plenty of criticism from scientists and creationists alike.

The experience prompted the celebrity science educator to write a “primer” on the theory of evolution called Undeniable: Evolution and the Science of Creation. In his new book, Nye delights in how this fundamental discovery helps to unlock the mysteries of everything from bumblebees to human origins to our place in the universe.

Having established Nye’s credentials as a crusader for evolution, the National Geographic asks its first question:

Who do you hope will read this book?

To which Nye replies:

Grown-ups who have an interest in the world around them, people coming of age who have an interest in science, people who still want to know how the world works.

This is the big concern of mine with respect to the organization Answers in Genesis and Ken Ham and all those guys: their relentless, built-in attempts to indoctrinate a generation of science students on a worldview that is obviously wrong.

Two interesting things emerge in this statement. Firstly, Nye implies that people who will be interested in evolution are “grown ups” and those “coming of age”.

Now, he might simply be talking about age groups of the people who would read his book. To understand his comment in this way would certainly be the most straightforward interpretation, except that throughout the interview the themes of maturity and intelligence repeatedly comes up.  For instance, he talks about a “mature society” that can filter out the bad ideas. He calls creationism “inanity”. He says that Ken Ham is trying to “indoctrinate a generation of science students”. He says his “breath was taken away” when he first encountered creationists. He calls the creationism “silly”.

But he also specifically attacks the worldview of creationists. To have a worldview that hinges on a belief that God created the heavens and earth, says Nye, is “obviously wrong”. The inescapable conclusion from these comments is that Christians must not be mature and probably not very intelligent.

Last year, in a tabloid piece in USA Today, Tom Krattenmaker wrote:

Creationists will believe what they want to believe. But they should know the consequences. Continued fighting to promote creationism is hurting religion’s credibility in an age when science and technology are perceived as reliable sources of truth and positive contributors to society. Anecdotal and polling evidence implicate religion’s anti-science reputation in the drift away from church involvement — especially among younger adults, nearly 40% of whom have left organized religion behind.

Krattenmaker is a self-confessed secularist who wrote the book: Confessions of a Secular Jesus Follower: Finding Answers in Jesus For Those Who Don’t Believe. He also writes an occasional blog for The Humanist.

Krattenmaker is about as secular as you can get. He supports fashionable liberal shibboleths and coordinates projects arising from Yale Divinity School. His articles for The Humanist seem generally enthusiastic about the supposed decline of the Church and Christianity. His conclusion is typical of a secularist liberal. It is deeply unfashionable to believe in creationism, says Krattenmaker, because it is anti-science and this drives people away from religion. In this he echoes what so many have said before him, and what the majority of liberals continue to say today: “the Church must change or die“.

Such is the supreme arrogance and folly of secularists, humanists, liberals, and atheists when their words are contrasted against those uttered by the Church’s divine Founder who promised, “I will build my Church and the gates of hell shall not prevail against it“. That Founder knew a thing or two about the universe. For he made it.

The Revenge of the New Thinkers: Joining The Cultural Revolution

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More than ten years ago liberal views seemed to be making galloping progress.

Back then, the orthodoxy was virtually unchallenged. Identity politics was the incontestable ideology that had made giant strides across the moral landscape. In nearly all of the cultural institutions in the West – from museums, to libraries, to parliaments, to entertainment – the secular liberal worldview not only seemed riveted in place, but appeared to be in a state of cancerous expansion.

It was a different world fifteen years ago.

On one hand, the institutions of power largely dictated to the people. To have cultural influence you needed to invest in hard infrastructure like a TV studio or a publishing house. Or you needed to rise through the ranks of an institution. Every once in a while, like Martin Luther, someone might make a tilt at reforming an institution from the inside, but, as Luther himself discovered, this is not usually a winning strategy when the institution does not want to take its medicine. Besides, it was hard to make change when the deck appeared to be heavily stacked against anyone who held to a worldview centered on continuity and moral consistency.

In the early 2000’s traditional boundaries, like marriage, did still exist. In fact, it was even still possible for a Democratic president opposed to same-sex marriage to come to power in the United States. But though the boundaries remained, it was a foregone conclusion by nearly everyone (especially despondent Christians) that these structures were doomed.

Many concluded that the march of liberalism was unstoppable, and some of us sunk into a pervading sense of hopelessness. Like ill-equipped defenders in the trenches, it sometimes felt that the best we could do was set up flimsy wooden barricades only to stand back and watch as the enemy tanks smashed their way through. It often seemed as if nothing Christians or conservatives did worked.

The Proposition 8 ballot in California was a classic example. Organised by defenders of marriage in 2008, California voted narrowly to eliminate provisions for same-sex marriage. Despite winning the popular vote, the proposition was overturned by courts after a convoluted legal process. Thus, even when a majority of the electorate expressed a preference for conservative social policy, their wishes were trampled over by a handful of judges. In such an atmosphere, what hope remained?

Near-nihilistic despair was palpable within Christian circles. Even a cursory reading of apologetic materials from the time will attest to the general sense of gloom. Piles of articles were published by Christian scholars lamenting the apparent decay of the Church. Other Christians sighed and declared that the moral condition was due to the decline of prayer in schools. Still others were worried by the lack of Christian and conservative influence within academic circles, fueled (in part) by David Horowitz, the editor of FrontPage Magazine, who published evidence suggesting that the ratio of liberal academics to conservative ones ran at about 10 to 1. Other Christian scholars referred to the sense of “post-Christian” torpor.

And on it went. In a way, the early 2000’s was a period of protracted mourning for the death of a short-lived era of cultural Christian supremacy – a supremacy that actually did the Church no favours. It was accompanied by tremendous pessimism. It seemed everyone wanted to go back the halcyon days when children prayed at school and most people in communities trotted along to church – and try as they might to offer solutions, most of these were focused on trying to rehabilitate the golden past.

Thus the Christian attitude of those years was often far removed from the unbridled optimism and cheerfulness of the Apostles as they set out into a far bleaker world dominated by the dark sophisticated totalitarianism of the Roman Empire.

This pessimism produced crooked fruit. Ten years ago, the discussion among believers was sometimes tragically silly (and naive) perhaps reflecting a theological or spiritual paralysis; a nearly existential shock at the suddenness of the moral collapse. At the time, a lot of Christian discussion centered around the need to inoculate Christians – especially the young – against the ravages of the culture. We will lose quite a few along the way, went the attitude, since the society is doomed and our heyday is past, but hopefully we can salvage something.

This ecclesiastical salvage operation did not involve a proclamation of the glories and certainties of the Most High Jesus Christ with thundering apostolic confidence from pulpits. Rather, the preferred methodology was programmes and techniques that focused more on behaviour, improving critical statistics (like teenage pregnancy rates among children of Christians), and other measurable criteria.

The late 1990’s and early 2000’s are pockmarked with religious fads. For example, one idea that did the rounds was that young Christian men should be trained and disciplined to think of themselves as medieval knights. Robert Lewis’ (1997) book Raising A Modern-Day Knight, was particularly instrumental in the explosion of knight-themed discipleship. One website introduces the technique in this way:

Christian youth listen closely when knighthood themes are used to convey Christian truth. We have seen rooms of hundreds of youth in today’s churches instantly quieted when a knight dressed in full armor comes to teach a lesson. Sword play, stories, and skits surrounding the knight theme have proven to be a highly effective way of conveying God’s truth to young audiences.

Another idea that flourished ten years ago was that young people should have chaperones when they date, or that dating should be abolished altogether among Christians and replaced by “courtship”. This was spearheaded by a book published by Joshua Harris, I Kissed Dating Goodbye (1997), as if the method by which young people met each other and got to know their partner was a guarantee of future marital success. Then there was the strange “purity ring” movement in which young people would wear rings to keep them in mind of a hypothetical spouse, coupled with the very odd “virginity pledges” that young people were urged to sign by some churches.

And on it went. These silver bullets have not aged well.

But today, things are different. Winds of change are blowing through the stale air. Not just in the Church but in the wider society as well. There is a newness of thought (although really, it is the rediscovery of the brilliance of the Christian worldview) that is starting to make its presence known. These “New Thinkers” are combating the acidic triad of political correctness, secular liberalism, and identity politics. If Christians want to make inroads for the gospel unquestionably they need to set their sails to catch this new wind and ride it so that they can have a serious impact.

This is because insightful and sceptical thinkers in the New Media have finally reached a critical mass. A new intellectual spirit is emerging – one that is bold, that rebels against the cultural orthodoxy, and champions the human birthright to be free to think and speak. The New Media is dominated by these New Thinkers and they actively threaten the empires of the Old Media. They do this through the power of their material, but also because they have adopted some of the timeless tools of the Church. The New Thinkers, for example, engage in street debate, in old-school lectures, and utilise the spirit of free speech respectfully yet intelligently, just as it was intended to be used. The New Thinkers are not generally dogmatic. They purposefully contrast ideas and let their audience make up their minds about the strength of them.

Above all, the New Thinkers are saying interesting things because they are saying things that have long needed to be said. The ideas they are tackling have been considered to be politically taboo, suppressed by the rigid orthodoxies of the elites. But they are also examining issues from an interesting angle, such as applying real world data sets to interpreting problems and arriving at novel solutions. This is very threatening to an ideologically-based worldview like secular liberalism which requires certain data to be ignored, or suppressed, or explained away.

In the process, the New Thinkers are deconstructing the cherished shibboleths of the left. This is being done logically, scientifically, medically, and morally, and their arguments are irresistible. This is the direction the battle is moving. Bad ideas are being exploded, but not with sophisticated word play and emotional sob stories, but by simply pointing to the real world. Reality itself, as expressed by hard scientific fact and by living experience, is proving to be a devastating weapon against many of the tenets of identity politics.

Increasingly, Christians are in the forefront of this intellectual wave, although non-Christians are perhaps still better represented on this coming crest. Nonetheless, it is a wave that is strengthening the Church’s collective intellectual and philosophical thought. We are being sharpened. We are being shaped for God’s purpose.

And it is not before time.

Our culture urgently needs antibiotics, since it is now clear that secular liberalism and identity politics are beyond cure or correction. They cannot be safely harnessed for anyone’s good, and both social philosophies are rocketing downward into bizarre and freakish radicalism with the pedal firmly planted to the floor.

Secular liberalism has become a grotesque circus of ideas; a festival of insanity, where, for example, mental disorders are normalised and the mentally healthy are pressured to behave in dysfunctional ways. Identity politics has become the realm where unhealthy lifestyles are celebrated as if they were healthy; death is celebrated as an individual right; and the whole of society is upbraided unless it follows the madness. A vivid example of this is the Size Acceptance Movement (sometimes called “Size Diversity”) with its manifestly false slogan “health at any size“.

Then there are the sinister thugs of the Antifa movement which do represent a serious threat to citizen freedoms. These are tacitly aided by the liberal media. For while the liberal media has no problem excoriating Neo-Nazis even though their members are cartoon characters and their numbers are minuscule, it has a much harder time even mentioning the crimes of Antifa. Indeed, the liberal press seldom condemns or even mentions Antifa, despite their numbers being much higher and despite their blatant, criminal, and well-documented efforts to shut down legitimate public speeches and lectures they happen to dislike.

These radicals dress in black, cover their faces in masks, intimidate people with the “wrong” beliefs, and engage in violent and destructive behaviour. They bluster and roar that their opponents are fascists. And yet their behaviour is indistinguishable from the bully tactics of the Brownshirts in Wiemar Germany or the Blackshirts in fascist Italy. It seems you can get away with mirroring evil if you just shout loud enough that you hate the evil you are imitating. The liberal media will certainly give you a free pass.

The more the lunacy flows out of the ungodly worldview of liberalism, the greater the pillory it receives. There are now hundreds of Youtube channels that are dedicated to compiling the shrieking, sanctimonious, melodramatic and even violent outbursts of identarians. (Just a few examples can be found here, here, and here). These are presented as forms of comedic entertainment and they are wildly popular. People operating these channels are clocking up views and money from doing nothing other than sticking video segments together, without even the whisper of commentary. This is because the insane behaviour and complete lack of reason speaks for itself.

Whether it is college students introducing themselves with the prissy phrase “My name is Shaynalah and my pronouns are…“, or the well-documented arrest of a young man for calling a police horse “gay”, or videos of police smashing the stuffing out of protesters (to the applause of all onlookers) for holding up traffic on a busy road, liberalism has become a movement of comedy. Ridicule. And contempt. People either find it amusing in its lunacy, or they find it horrific in its intellectual violence and mutant thought. Others have such antipathy toward it that this expresses itself in interesting ways. For example, there are channels dedicated to showing protesters being beaten up by police or getting injured by angry bystanders. These videos are popular.

It has become very obvious that liberal social ideology is not based on meaningful thought, but an internal contest for virtue, and this is why it is dangerous. The animating impulse behind most of its ideas is the sheer force of emotion – self-righteousness coupled to melodrama. These emotions always race to the edge. Always try to get a peg or two higher. You have to continually jack up to ever-escalating levels of sanctimony in order to be always more virtuous. The melodrama then becomes more juvenile, shrill, and self-indulgent until the melodrama gets to the point where mere words are seen as murderous bullets that cripple a person’s entire life if they are heard, or even if they are anticipated but not heard (e.g. trigger warnings!). This never-ending climb up an emotional Mount Fuji is exhausting. No society can sustain such faux virtue forever.

Liberal social ideology is predicated on “guiltifying” people into silence with magic mantras like “that’s extremely offensive“. It is built on harnessing the power of the state, whether by criminalising certain beliefs or criminalising certain words. Most chillingly of all, liberalism has harnessed censorship, speech codes, and the social media pitchfork brigade – the “unintellgensia” – who set out to get people sacked if they do not like their opinions. Unable to engage on the level of rational discourse, all that is left is force.

Above all, liberal social ideology is built on massive contradictions. It is these contradictions that the New Thinkers in the New Media are diligently exposing. This work may seem insubstantial but it is actually producing a quiet revolution deep in the currents of the culture, far from the surface waters of TV and Hollywood. Most significantly, it is making inroads among young people, particularly young men.

It is within these realms that Christians must work. When we can, preaching the gospel. When that is not possible, Christians must preach a worldview based on the gospel. A worldview of integrity, moral sanity, of freedom and liberty for the human mind and soul. A worldview of personal responsibility. A worldview that confronts error with reality. Such an approach will destabilise identity politics and liberalism because it is already doing so. This very hour. In fact, the increasing intolerance of elites and the demands for censorship by the Old Media is proof that the edifice is crumbling.

Far from quitting social media, Christians need to be more busy on Facebook, personal blogs, in online public discussions, on Instagram, and on Youtube. They need to engage regularly, intelligently, and with an attractive confidence and poise.

For social media is the cultural point where the New Thought and the New Media are ushering in a generation of change. This is where we must be at work, and have the greatest opportunities to be fishers of men, and make disciples, or at least build sympathy and admiration for the robustly Christian view. It is at this nexus of people and technology – this welded seam – where the liberal empire is weakest and most susceptible to defeat. This is where Christians can unquestionably make a cultural impact and advance Christ’s Kingdom.

It is time for every Christian, great and small, to be at work in this realm, emboldened to say with St. Paul: “I am not ashamed of the gospel for it is the power of salvation unto all who believe“.

Newspaper Cartels: When the Media Combine

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Last Thursday, led by the Boston Globe, about 350 newspapers ran coordinated editorials to criticise Donald Trump.

Despite the breathless, celebratory reporting by the liberal media who tried to make it sound like a tsunami wave of dissent was washing across the American landscape, this campaign did not involve the majority of newspapers in the United States. According to Wikipedia – whose lists are usually credible – the United States has more than 1,300 newspapers. This means that only around a quarter of the United State’s print media participated in this protest.

For the most part, the participants and their shtick were predictable. The Guardian, for instance, reported it as a “defence of press freedom”, despite there being absolutely zero legislative effort to curtail the freedom of the press. In amongst its story, it added:

The Guardian has also joined the effort and has published an editorial alongside outlets around the United States.

Which is laughably redundant. Was there ever any doubt? Just as a manure seller goes in search of dung, and a jackal is drawn to rancid carrion, so the Guardian is irresistibly drawn to any fashionable liberal shibboleth and any anti-Trump crusade.

This mass media protest appears to be the brainchild of the Deputy Editor of the Boston Globe, Marjorie Pritchard, who “put out the call” to other newspapers. Most newspaper ignored the campaign and a few reacted by strongly distancing themselves from the project. It seems likely that Pritchard hoped this would be a watershed moment of media solidarity.

As Geoff Caldwell of the Joplin Globe wryly observed:

I’m sure when she dreamed it up, she thought it one of those “Yes, that’ll show ’em!” moments.

In an interview with NPR, Marjorie Pritchard emblemised the problem with the modern media. Her remarks demonstrate an extreme narrowness of thought and a worldview that is built over the rubble of mere assumptions.

One gets the impression from listening to her comments that many modern journalists are not very bright and, as a profession, have experienced tragic decline from the trailblazers who went before them. Gone are the trenchcoat-wearing, fedora-capped stalwarts skulking around dark alleys armed only with a notebook and pencil. The sun has set on the days when telling the truth to the public – and properly informing them – was the high calling of the profession.

In the NPR interview, Marjorie Pritchard insisted:

This editorial project is not against the Trump administration’s agenda. It’s a response to put us into the public discourse and defend the First Amendment.

Pritchard simply assumes that the First Amendment is critically endangered in the United States but she never explains why. If an alien beamed down and heard this comment he might justly wonder, “Is there some law being proposed to squelch the freedom of expression?” The answer is no.

Despite the liberal media’s persistent demand for other people’s opinions to be criminalised or marginalised, neither the United States Congress nor the United States President has even hinted that they would yank on the levers of power to trammel the freedom of the press.

It seems in Pritchard’s ivory tower, scrutiny and criticism of the massed media is a form of unconstitutional attack. There is no other way to interpret her remark here.

She goes on:

He’s calling the press a domestic enemy. And we are fellow countrymen. And our profession is to hold the powerful accountable.

The self-indulgence is off-the-charts. Now that the liberal media has had a taste of public excoriation, it suddenly wants to be accorded respect as “fellow countrymen”. Pritchard argues that the media should not be subject to pillory and savage rhetoric because, after all, they are fellow citizens too. They are citizens who just happen to have a different view.

Hypocrisy rises from these words like dust clouds from a third world mining operation.

This is the same liberal media that through their poisonous writings have mercilessly persecuted Christian bakers, florists, teachers, CEOs, and marriage certificate issuers.

This is the same liberal media that fanned the flames of racial tension by uncritically supporting narratives that later proved to to be false.

This is the liberal media that has subjected both the President and his supporters to violent pillory from the moment he was elected. The Guardian, for example, commended the actions of the Red Hen restaurant that threw out Sarah Sanders.

This is the same liberal media that showed a Vaticanesque reluctance to publicly expose horrific instances of child abuse and predatory sexual harassment within their own profession, even when the perpetrators were widely known.

And on it goes.

The media have been a toxic influence on the culture for decades. To now tremulously hold out the hands that have bloodied others and plead for cordiality as “fellow countrymen” is to ask for the sort of civility that the liberal media has never accorded its victims. For all his faults (and they are numerous) Donald Trump represents a justifiable outpouring of disinfectant upon this whole cartel. He has opened it up to the sunshine of scrutiny, factual critique, and overdue scepticism. In other words, journalists are discovering they are not immune from being judged and weighed in the balances.

But the delusions of grandeur get even worse.

In the NPR interview, Pritchard tries to suggest that the media must “hold the powerful accountable” as if they were latter-day John the Baptists denouncing a modern Herod.

But Geoff Caldwell rightly points out that the reason the public is unimpressed with the liberal media is precisely because it does not tell the truth. Instead it lies in order to service its own narratives and agendas.

Neither does it hold all powerful people accountable. It only holds some of them accountable, those it does not like. A good many powerful people get a free ride in the press. Genuinely shocking evils are left hidden even when they would be easily discoverable, simply because liberal journalists have no desire to find them.

Caldwell writes:

It wasn’t Trump who spread the Michael Brown, “Hands up; don’t shoot,” lie around the world from Ferguson, Missouri.

It was The Washington Post, not Trump that falsely reported that Russian hackers had penetrated the nation’s electrical grid via a Vermont Utility.

In Charlottesville, Virginia, a week ago Saturday night, NBC News reporter Cal Perry and crew were attacked by radical left antifa protesters in an event Perry documented on Twitter as it happened.

Yet the next morning, on NBC’s own “Sunday Today” show, none of Perry’s footage of the attack was shown and reporter Garrett Haake referred to it as but “tense moments in the streets of Charlottesville, Virginia, with far-left protesters heckling the media and chanting anti-police slogans.”

He goes on to add:

Where was that accountability for eight years of a Barack Obama administration? Where was that “truth to power” as Hillary Clinton and staff erased servers, destroyed phones and refused to turn over information duly requested by investigators?

Where is that dedication at this very moment regarding the glaring amount of questionable activities by a multitude of FBI, Department of Justice and intelligence figures that let Clinton skate and brought a sledgehammer to the ice pond against Trump and crew?

Not surprisingly, many of the protesting newspapers looked faintly farcical in the end.

The Morehead News in Kentucky ran a piece that began with a quotation from Josef Goebbels, the minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda in Nazi Germany. It was all downhill from there with the editor invoking Hitler and Nazis left and centre.

At one point it was asserted:

We believe the Nazi tactic of “the big lie” is alive and well at the White House because of President Donald Trump’s continuing “fake news” claims since the 2016 presidential campaign.

It should be clear to most Americans that Trump is relying on another Goebbels’ principle of propaganda:

“A lie told once remains a lie but a lie told a thousand times becomes the truth.”

The glaring disanalogy seems to have passed over the top of the editor’s head.

In Nazi Germany the state tightly controlled the media. The example of Goebbels only has any relevance in a system where journalists are coerced by force to be complicit with the state. But this is 21st century America. In contrast to Goebbels, poor Donald Trump has no capacity to dictate to the media at all. If anyone needed proof of this, you need only look at this selfsame vanity project where editors pretend the President of the United States is a clear and present danger to the press freedom!

When Trump criticises the press, he is not angling to control it. So spouting off about Nazis and Goebbels is merely a crude editorial effort to manipulate its readers.

But, the editors at the Morehead News are not only illogical, they are also wrong.

The above statement – apparently written with a high school generalist level of historical knowledge and perhaps a Facebook meme as a source –  is a misquotation.

There is no record that Goebbels ever said what the Morehead News claims. The statement was first attributed to Goebbels in Publications Relating to Various Aspects of Communism (1946), by the United States Congress, House Committee on Un-American Activities, Issues 1-15, p. 19. But no reliable source has been found in which this attribution can be credibly said to have originated from Goebbels.

Furthermore, when Hitler wrote about “big lies” in the opening chapter of Mein Kampf, he did not recommend it as a political strategy but instead argued that this was the methodology of Jewish Marxists and their alleged 1918 “stab in the back” of the German army and General Ludendorff. The Jews, Hitler claimed, were widely believed because their lie about the weakness of the German army was so incredible nobody would ever dream it could possibly be false.

Goebbels also wrote about “big lies” but he directed his comments toward the English:

“The essential English leadership secret does not depend on particular intelligence. Rather, it depends on a remarkably stupid thick-headedness. The English follow the principle that when one lies, it should be a big lie, and one should stick to it. They keep up their lies, even at the risk of looking ridiculous.”

(Aus Churchills Lügenfabrik, published in Die Zeit ohne Beispiel on 12 January 1941.)

The Morehead News‘ historiography is flatly wrong. It may not be a big error, but it is a falsehood all the same. It also shows precious little fact checking. Five minutes of Googling would have yielded the above information. Moreover, the tormented application to an inverse modern situation makes for a dizzying display of irrationality.

This, then, is the quality of a journalistic rebuke in 2018 against the term “fake news”: a rebuke that includes demonstrable fakery. You really could not make it up.

Meanwhile, the Guardian adopted the standard liberal stratagem of arguing that viewpoints and opinions it detests are potentially dangerous to society. Not for the first time, the Guardian virtually suggests that Trump’s comments about the media is putting journalists at risk of being murdered:

The anti-media mood at some Trump rallies has been intimidating. Social media trolling, violent abuse and threats to journalists (especially sexual threats to women journalists) have reached unprecedented levels. The United Nations human rights commissioner warned this week that Mr Trump’s attacks on the press are “very close to incitement to violence”. In June, five staff members at the Capital Gazette in Maryland were shot dead by a local man with a local grievance. They may not be the last.

As the Prophet Hosea warned, “For they have sown the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind” (Hosea 8:7). And likewise St. Paul cautions, “Whatever a man sows, that shall he reap in return” (Galatians 6:7). If is true that the liberal media now feel the pressure of public opprobrium, they must examine themselves to find the cause. For it is the liberal media that have sown the wind.

It is the liberal media that have long published reams of material that can only be viewed as a calculated (and at times cynical) effort to create fear and division. They have sought to manipulate social outcomes by sacrificing truth. They have even tacitly tried to inflame segments of society and aim them against others.

They have emboldened violent and intimidating movements (like Antifa) with soft soap reporting. They have attacked law enforcement over one-sided BLM narratives. Many liberal media outlets have approvingly promoted every nonsensical, shrieking, finger-pointing movement that comes down the insane pipeline of the left wing. They attempt to silence or delegitimise people who speak against the liberal agenda (e.g. Dr. Jordan Peterson, Lauren Southern, or Stefan Molyneux). They support speech codes and advocate for censorship in the name of “tolerance” and “diversity”.

Now they are reaping a taste of the whirlwind.

It is simply stupid to imagine that Trump has created a resentment toward the media out of whole cloth. Of course he has not. But he is a convenient scapegoat for a profession that knows it is under siege. On the one hand it is frightened by declining circulation as the New Media displaces the Old (hence their desire to censor the social media space). On the other hand they are battling fresh outbreaks of public contempt.

Donald Trump has tapped into this existing wellspring of anger. He has given that attitude a voice. Even some of the dissenting newspapers recognise this to be true. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette opined:

Just as his lack of restraint has often been the president’s self-inflicted wound, the bias of some of the press has hurt journalism, at the very moment when it is most needed to save itself… It is time for a truce.

The Horn News was even more cutting in its analysis:

Polls show Republicans have grown more negative toward the news media in recent years: Pew Research Center said 85 percent of Republicans and Republican-leaning independents said in June 2017 that the news media has a negative effect on the country, up from 68 percent in 2010.

When is the “fake news” going to wake up to the damage their rhetoric is causing this country — and their own professional integrity?

One must ask some questions.

Who do these 350 newspapers think they are appealing to and what do they really hope to achieve? Certainly, there is an obvious profit motive. Many of the newspapers implored readers to subscribe to their papers in order to “defend a free press”. As a stunt, this does have the potential to give the bottom line of the account books a bit of a bounce.

But are these coordinated editorials going to persuade Trump supporters or even Trump-opposing conservatives? Highly unlikely. Conservatives of every sort have long decried the liberal media. That’s one of the reasons Fox News exists and survives. Is it going to appeal to the young to buy newspapers so as to fight the power? Hardly. Young people do not read newspapers, neither do they typically pay for their news. The media can channel the vibe of the French Revolution all they like, but it is not going to save their papers from the inevitable end.

Even critics of the current President think this gesture is a grand form of virtue signalling to fellow liberals that highlights the groupthink of the media class. Jack Shafer at Politico writes:

Another problem with a nationally coordinated pro-press catechism is that the audience likely to reap the greatest benefit from the haranguing—Trump and many in his base—tends not to read newspapers in the first place. While there’s always value in preaching to the choir—that’s why churches hold services every Sunday—the combined weight of 200 pro-press editorials is not likely to move the opinion needle or deter Trump from defaming and threatening reporters.

Most newspaper editorials are already a watered-down product of groupthink. It’s unlikely that expanding the size of the group and encouraging everybody to bake and serve a tuna-fish casserole on the same day will produce editorials that are more interesting and persuasive than the normal fare.

But maybe I’m wrong. If a single day of pro-press editorials is a good idea for a collective assignment, then maybe newspapers should set aside next Saturday for 200 editorials on tariffs and next Sunday for 200 editorials on global warming and next Monday for 200 editorials on Afghanistan. Surely these issues are as compelling and urgent as press freedom.

If anything, this stunt has proven that a large segment of the media really is an ideological cartel – a kind of informational mafioso – that is largely isolated from the grit of the wider society. It shows what a slanted view of the world they have; what disrespect they have for opposing viewpoints; and a chronic over-estimation of their own importance to democracy. It shows what microscopic interest they have in perspectives that differ from the liberal buzz. They have become propagandists.

Fortunately, newspapers are doomed to largely vanish within a generation. Liberal journalists already stand in the centre of the small shrinking islands of their readership. They wish to salvage their credibility without any material change to their stinking methodology. As a result, each time they attack they end up injuring themselves. Like a bumbling knight who falls in his armour and spears himself with his sword or an inept soldier who accidentally shoots his fingers off, the liberal media seem intent on ever-more grievously wounding themselves.

I can remember shortly after Trump’s election, the Guardian (and many other liberal media outlets) started to bitterly report on “fake news”. I could hardly believe that such a term was getting such circulation within the media. If an organisation of heart surgeons exists somewhere, I am very sure they would be careful never to popularise the concept of “fake heart surgeries”. They would avoid any such suggestion because the slightest doubt regarding the efficacy and value of surgery would do irreparable harm to their profession as a whole. Yet though it runs contrary to all common sense, the liberal media promoted such a concept and in the process, effectively undermined their own franchise.

The media confidently assumed that the “fake news” terminology could be safely quarantined. It would be a spear that would be thrown only at conservatives, social media news, or other sources of information that they disliked.

But the term would never remain static. Overnight, it was weaponised against the liberal media, and because of the super-abundance of double-standards and transparent agendas, has become irrevocably associated with the liberal media. They kicked a goal for the opposition.

It is not difficult to see that the Boston Globe and the 350 news outlets have done the same thing here. Again. They have lent fuel to Trump’s fire. He accuses the media of being in cahoots against him. They are the “opposition party”, says Trump, who are working together to destabilise the presidency, torpedo our agenda, and spread misinformation. Thanks to the Boston Globe, the liberal media have just handed him a perfect exhibit for his case. He will forever be able to point to the 350.

They have also just confirmed in the minds of sceptical people that large and disparate media companies will band together to forward a common agenda when they sense that their survival is at stake, or when their politics is threatened. Pritchard’s project will promote the popular anxiety that media groups are merely different branches that spring from the same root. Can any be trusted? For there are few things that so greatly arouses concern among the public than coordinated efforts by big industries, powerful people, influential institutions.

Lastly, the hyper-ventilating and hand-wringing from a profession that are not widely respected will only magnify the impression that the media are worried. They are weakened. They are fighting for survival. In the minds of many people, if the liberal media is worried it is surely because they have something to be worried about. Moreover, it will reinforce the view that whatever is going on with this presidency, it is significant, even historically unprecedented. Unlike anything in living memory. After all, you only get special denunciations from special events, from unparalleled developments, and personalities hitherto not seen before in high office.

Whatever happens, people will be able to point to the participating newspapers and say, “There’s the collusion. There’s the groupthink. There’s the fake news.”

From the Mailbag: Enemies of the Cross of Christ

cross

Dear Agnes,

Thank you for your message and for taking the time to express your feelings about Rick Genest. I want to respond to your message with both respect and depth. So I have chosen to break your post down into its major points and to include my response to each.

Hopefully this will help you to understand my perspective a bit better.

You wrote: 

Hi. Rick Genest touched with his smile much more lives for the better than these words will ever.

Perhaps you are being hyperbolic here for effect, but history shows us that words tend to outlive smiles.

With gentleness and respect, I must point out that the above statement is emotional but not very logical. You are really only stating that you held Rick Genest in high regard and have a corresponding disregard for my article.

But likes and dislikes are irrelevant to theological truth. I notice that you never point out errors of fact or logic in the article. That is because there were no such errors. I research my topics carefully. Rather, your basic complaint is that you did not like the article. You did not enjoy the way the article made you feel. 

But Christianity tells us things about ourselves (and others) that we do not always enjoy hearing. It offers tough truths about the human condition. That is why genuine Christianity is unpopular and that is why most people have no interest in a daily commitment to following Jesus. People never want their idols dethroned.

In the light of Christianity, it does not really matter whether a person “touched lives” with their smile. It does not matter whether a person is nice to others sometimes. Remember, the greatest villains in history have had a kindly side. Hitler was very fond of children and played games with them. Stalin is reported to have once stopped his chauffeured car and offered people a ride home. Stalin’s smiling visage could be seen everywhere in the Soviet Union.

Smiles and personalities mean a lot to mankind but very little to God. What really matters to God is the inner life. “The LORD does not look at the things people look at. People look at the outward appearance, but the LORD looks at the heart” (1 Samuel 16:7).

What is important is a person’s true standing before a holy God. This is revealed in the honest answer to the question: is Jesus the Lord of my whole person?

You say that Genest “touched with his smile more lives for the better”. I find myself puzzling about what this means. How did he “touch lives”? What does it mean to “touch a life”? It’s a common phrase but one that is seldom explained. And what make Genest’s smiles more special than anyone else’s?

He was a pure and beautiful soul. Please look one of his interviews not just his pictures.

This is the very opposite to how God sees mankind.

If the Bible teaches us one thing about the human condition, it teaches us that mankind is sinful. This is such a prevalent teaching in scripture that you really only need to read a few pages to encounter it. It is underlined. Highlighted. Over and over again. And nobody is exempt. The Bible says that the sinful nature is transmitted to every single human being through their parents. Consequently, the entire human race consists of sinners. Exclusively. Not one person is pure. Not one person is righteous.

This does not mean that all human beings are as bad as possible neither does it mean that all human beings are sinful in the same way. Some people are more tempted to steal. Others are more tempted toward sexual sins. No matter where our weakness is found, the scriptures teach that sin has affected every part of our being to one degree or another. Our mind, affections, will, relationships, and even our bodies are corrupted on some level.

The message of the Christian gospel is that only one human being had a “pure and beautiful” soul. His name was Jesus Christ and he is mankind’s Redeemer and King.

The universal sinfulness of mankind is an essential component for a Christian worldview. In other words, if a person rejects this truth, he cannot really be a Christian. For scripture says:

“If we say we have no sin, we deceive ourselves, and the truth is not in us… If we say we have not sinned, we make him a liar, and his word is not in us.” (1 John 1:8-10)

And in another place:

“There is no one righteous, not even one,
there is no one who understands;
there is no one who seeks God.
All have turned away,
they have together become worthless;
there is no one who does good,
not even one.” (Romans 3:10-12)

Jesus teaches that the human heart is the source of evils and miseries:

Jesus said, “What comes out of a person is what defiles them. For it is from within, out of a person’s heart, that evil thoughts come—sexual immorality, theft, murder, adultery, greed, malice, deceit, lewdness, envy, slander, arrogance and folly. All these evils come from inside and defile a person.”

And Eliphaz rhetorically asks:

What is man, that he can be pure? Or he who is born of a woman, that he can be righteous?

No Christian could accept your verdict that Genest was a “pure and beautiful soul”. Not because he was especially evil. But because inwardly, all human beings are ugly and wild, and that is why everyone needs the purity and beauty of Jesus.

Yes, he was not a Christian, he might have lost the track but we never judge where somebody goes.

To the best of my knowledge Rick Genest was never a Christian. He did not attempt to live out Christian teachings. He did not promote Christ’s kingdom. Never once in his life did he ever profess Christian beliefs. In fact, his interviews and life suggests that he rejected everything about Christianity down to brass tacks.

Now the Christian gospel is very clear about what happens to people who do not believe in Christ. It says that unbelievers are forever lost.

Yet here you seem to leave open the possibility that an unrepentant unbeliever will be found worthy of everlasting life. The problem is that your viewpoint is a direct contradiction of the entire Christian religion and what Christ himself teaches.

We do not need to judge where unbelievers go after death because God has judged this matter already and has rendered his verdict. Hell is real. Repentance is urgent. Faith in Jesus is the desperate priority of life. Because when a man dies without a Saviour, he is separated forever from God. What’s more, hell has no exits.

This is why evangelism is so vital. There is only one hope for mankind and it is the cross of Christ. 

St. John tells us:

Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because they have not believed in the name of God’s one and only Son. This is the verdict: Light has come into the world, but people loved darkness instead of light because their deeds were evil. 

Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that their deeds will be exposed. But whoever lives by the truth comes into the light, so that it may be seen plainly that what they have done has been done in the sight of God. 

Let’s use the words of St. John here to evaluate Rick Genest’s situation.

Did Rick Genest believe in Christ?

No.

Did Rick Genest live by the truth of God’s word?

No.

Did Rick Genest come into the “light” and publicly display his Christianity?

No.

Is a person matching this description under the condemnation of God?

Yes.

I am a christian, I believe in Jesus and I say that I hope the best for Rick.

I hope you would agree that being a Christian is not merely a matter of self-identity.

I grew lemon trees once. Their flowers had a citrus fragrance. When it was time for fruiting, they grew lemons. I could have stuck a label onto them that said “oranges”. I could have scotch-taped flowers to them and called them “roses”. But the labels would not have changed the truth. It was still a lemon tree.

Likewise, with religion. It is quite easy for people to take a name to themselves. A person can call themselves a Muslim, for example. But if he does not read the Qur’an, eats pork, never go to mosque, does not live up to the Five Pillars, has no idea about the Hadith, and no interest in Muhammad, is he really a Muslim?

Of course not. Nobody would accept that as valid. Religious identity is more than a label.

The same goes for Christianity.

One of the most important criteria for being a Christian is fidelity to the words of Jesus. The Lord said, “Anyone who does not love me will not obey my teaching” (John 14:24). Part of that teaching is that people who reject God’s salvation in Christ are damned.

Thus, when you say that you “hope for the best for Rick” what you are really doing is disagreeing with God. When you suggest that a person can go to heaven without any faith in Jesus, without love for Christ, without repentance, and without any humble submission to God, you are really denying the core teachings of Jesus.

Bottom line: if you do not like the words of Jesus and refuse to live by them, then you need to be honest and admit that deep down you just don’t like Him.

He touched my life with his genuinity and death and I think that this article could have been written with love and not hate.

Your message demonstrates the frightening tendency of the 21st century millennial to describe any contrary opinion, viewpoint, or idea as a form of “hatred”. I encourage you to think more deeply about that term and how it is used. To simply claim that a particular view is “hate” without any knowledge of the motivation is dangerous and even bigoted.

What you regard as hatred is an opinion that is directly shaped and formed by the Christianity you claim to espouse. No Bible-believing Christian would find anything especially controversial in my article. Yet you see it as a form of hatred because for you Christianity has nothing whatsoever to do with Christ, or the Bible, or living out a life in humble obedience to God’s word that is very different to the culture around us.

I am quite sure the day will come when the New Testament and the words of Jesus will be described as “hate speech”. Should that day arrive in the near future, I am equally sure you will forsake your Christianity with little pain, since it seems not to be the bedrock of your worldview or moral compass.

Those who were on the edge of suicide because of pain are never judgemental. We can not judge somebody else’s struggles. I have been there, I know what am I speaking about.

Of course we can judge other people’s struggles! To claim otherwise is a raw demonstration of the silly moralising that has now become the vogue in the West.

Exactly the opposite is true.

With a bit of common sense and a level head, we can often judge other people’s struggles with a fair degree of insight. For example, picture a person who repeatedly takes drugs, commits crimes, and is imprisoned multiple times. With very little effort we can judge that such a person would be better off not taking drugs and that their drug-taking is the source of misery for themselves and for everyone around them.

We may even be able to judge the reason they chose a self-destructive course. Maybe they had bad friends. Maybe they ignored their parents’ counsel. We can analyse their situation, judge the rightness or wrongness of their choices, and see where things went wrong. We can do this because we are not doomed to solipsism, and because God has given us the ability to observe, to learn, and to evaluate the evidence before us.  

Judgement can even be professionalised. There are a range of occupations which involve making a judgement about other people’s struggles – determining whether they are genuine, what sort of help is required, or whether the struggles are merely excuses for bad behaviour.

It always astonishes me when I hear this moral assumption being confidently asserted. Oh, we cannot judge someone else! What astonishes me is just how irrational it is. It is impossible to consistently apply such a philosophy. For instance, in your short post you certainly judged me. According to you I am writing from the vantage point of “hate”. Why are you not pleading that my struggles be taken into account as justifications of my writing? 

The reality is, when people disclaim judgement, they are judging. Human beings cannot function without making judgement about other people, their words, actions, and values. So it is a form of radical hypocrisy to demand that other people suspend their opinions – to “stop judging” – because we happen to not like what those opinions are and want instead our own judgement to prevail.

Nor life, nor death can apart us from the love of God, though I know that we should never give up. God bless You !

St. Paul did not say this. He said that nothing can separate us from the love of God which is in Christ Jesus our Lord (Romans 8:39). The context and terminology tells us that the apostle was speaking to professed Christians about the special redeeming love that God has for his chosen people – for the people who have bowed the knee to Christ Jesus their Lord.

Although God loves all of his creation he does not love everybody in the same way. He has a general love for all people and he shows this by sending the rain and the sun, and giving blessings to all. On the other hand, he loves his own people – his Church – with an everlasting and saving love. Although his Church are unworthy sinners like everyone else, God predestined them and saved them through his Son.

This verse should never be used to falsely offer hope in the cases of people who have died in an unrepentant and sinful condition. It is a sobering and serious reality that those who die without faith in Christ are lost for all eternity. It is for this reason that a serious Christian will regularly meditate on the “Four Last Things”: death, judgement, heaven and hell so that having received from God the promise of everlasting life, he will not be found to have fallen short of it (Hebrews 4:1).

St. Paul warned the Church about “enemies of the cross of Christ”:

For, as I have often told you before and now tell you again even with tears, many live as enemies of the cross of Christ… Their mind is set on earthly things. (Philippians 3:18-19)

What does it mean to live as an enemy of the cross of Christ? There are different views among orthodox theologians and commentators, but all would agree that in essence it involves a denial of the necessity and power of the cross. An enemy of the cross does not need to be a fanatic wielding a Kalashnikov or someone burning churches with their hands dripping with blood.

An enemy of the cross can be quite mild mannered and civilised. They can be softly-spoken and even ostensibly gentle. All one needs to do is advance the possibility that the cross of Christ is an optional extra, and they have set themselves up in opposition to it. To suggest that a person can go to heaven without Christ is to deny the Lord, invalidate the gospel, nullify the Faith, and blaspheme the cross.

Given the impossibility of escape from judgement without a firm anchoring in Christ and the forgiveness of sins that comes only through his cross, it behooves us all in this generation to take more seriously – in humility – both our staggering need and God’s great gift of mercy in the Most High Jesus Christ and his cross.