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. But 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 emblemises 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.

Marjorie Pritchard says:

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. It is mindboggling. It is staggering. Now that the liberal medias has had a taste of public excoriation, it now wants to be accorded respect as “fellow countrymen”. Pritchard is suggesting 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 vivid dust clouds from a third world mining operation. Does Pritchard really expect this to be taken seriously?

This is the same liberal media that through their poisonous writings have mercilessly persecuted Christian bakers, florists, teachers, CEOs, and marriage certificate issuers. They have engaged in this persecution for years.

This is the same liberal media that fanned the flames of racial tension by uncritically supporting narratives that later proved to to be false. They have aided and abetted the destructive nonsense of identity politics on campuses, and subjected both the President and his supporters to violent pillory from the moment he was elected.

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; opening it up to the sunshine of scrutiny, factual critique, and just scepticism. In other words, journalists are discovering they are not immune from being judged and weighed in the balances.

But it gets better.

Pritchard then tries to suggest her profession must “tell truth to power” and “hold the powerful accountable” as if they were latter-day John the Baptists denouncing a modern Herod. It’s enough to make your head spin.

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. It does not hold all powerful people accountable. It only holds some of them accountable. 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, 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. Goebbels only has any relevance within a system where journalists are coerced by force to be complicit with the state. But of course, this is 21st century America. In contrast to Goebbels, poor Donald Trump has no capacity to dictate to the media at all. The living proof of that can be seen in this selfsame vanity project where editors collude to pretend the President of the United States represents a clear and present danger to the press.

The comparison makes no sense. When Trump criticises the press, he is not angling to control it. And most assuredly, waving around the talisman of Nazism can only be seen as the editor’s lazy way of tapping into cultural anxieties about the nature of power.

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

The above statement – written with a high school generalist level of historical knowledge and perhaps a Facebook meme as a source – demonstrates rank ineptitude. For even when it tries to cite history, it gets it wrong – and this in the context of the President’s accusation that much of the media churns out “fake news”! Surely this is the most critical time for editors to check their facts?

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‘ historical claims are popularly held but they are still flatly wrong – something that five minutes of Googling would have confirmed. 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 the 21st century. You really could not make it up.

(Although, in fairness, not all editorials were this hamfisted in their approach.)

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 suggested 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

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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.

Free Speech and Mr Jones: The Old Media Resorts to Censorship

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If you have not heard of Alex Jones by now, you certainly will before too long.

Articles about Jones have appeared seemingly everywhere over the last few days.

His name has appeared in every media outlet from the Daily Telegraph to Breitbart; from the Washington Post to the Weekly Standard. Even international outlets like the Jerusalem Post and Al Jazeera have referenced Jones.

He has been at the centre of countless opinion pieces published over the past few days. In the process, he has become a symbol of the precarious future of free speech. The Empire of the Old Media is striking back. They want to dictate your content choices.

But let’s start at the beginning: who is Alex Jones and why is he suddenly noteworthy?

Well, frankly, Alex Jones is a bit of a nutter. He is a conspiracy theorist who rides a white horse at the head of the pack of the international conspiracy sub-culture – now involving millions of people – that reject established historical and scientific facts.

Sociologically, he is grit in the machine for he reveals one of the great paradoxes of an unrighteous age: that just as mankind gets a super-abundance of easily accessible information, we also get bizarre conspiracy theories by the truckload. Our culture now pumps out spittle-flecked nuttiness faster than a bicycle factory in China. And within this irrational world, Mr Jones is a star in the firmament. An information-age Stakhanovite.

Alex Jones promotes so much paranoia he practically sweats.

He says that 9/11 was an inside job by the U.S. government. He maintains that a shadowy “new world order” is taking over the planet. He argues the moon landings were falsified. He criticises vaccinations. He has claimed that the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) operates secret concentration camps. After the Sandy Hook massacre, he said the shooting was a false flag operation by supporters of gun control. The survivors of school shootings, he declared, were “crisis actors”.

Selecting a broadcast at random, and clicking to a random time index, immediately yielded the following quotation:

Do you understand the grave danger of the Jacobins? We are in grave danger of total Illuminati revolution. And what does the Illuminati call for in their own writings? That are in the Encyclopedia Britannica? Murder; death; mayhem; a boot stomping on the human face; human sacrifice; fires; burning cities; slaughter; death! Because that’s what they like. The journey is the destination for these people.

It seems there is scarcely a single anti-government, anti-authority, anti-science narrative in existence that Jones does not uncritically embrace. It is no wonder that Rolling Stone magazine titled him “the most paranoid man in America”.

One feels a bit sorry for the Mr Jones. It must be exhausting to live in a world so full of malevolent schemes. It must be terrifying to see the long hand of sinister people at work in every joint and fold of the social structure.

It’s tragic that any man’s life could end up in low orbit around such ideas. But this is where Jones has ended up. One wonders what life experiences led him to such a mental void, because Alex Jones gives himself mind and soul to this stuff. He lives and breathes conspiracy. Conspiracy is his life mission. Conspiracy is his consuming passion. He is inextricably deep in the sub-culture, like a miner buried under a hundred feet of rock. You get the impression that Alex Jones will not return to the land of the clear-headed any time soon. For Jones and his legion of disciples, conspiracies serve as substitute religions.

For those who tune into his radio show, he is regarded as a latter-day prophet from whom comes a steady trickle of truth. He commands a following in the hundreds of thousands. But despite his big fan club, Alex Jones has been booted off Facebook, Spotify and Youtube. He still has his website, radio show, and other means of communication so it is not quite the same thing as the smashing of Protestant printing presses by the counter-Reformation. Yet, there is a deeply unsettling dimension to this.

The silencing of Alex Jones on these platforms was greeted with thinly-disguised triumph by a range of commentators who work in Old Media outlets like the Guardian and CNN.  In fact, it has been quite remarkable to witness the degree of collusion among the Old Media against the operators of the New Media.

This is because the New Media is a threat to the Old. Its power is growing.

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Part of the attraction of the New Media is that anyone can be a journalist. If you have worthwhile and interesting things to say, you can get a loyal following that would be the envy of many newspapers. But even more disconcerting (from the viewpoint of the Old Media) is that the content produced by “amateur” journalists is mostly free. It is also mostly uncontrolled. People can say anything, and they do. There are no corporate bean counters; no bottom line; no CEO; no bosses; and no “party line” that needs to be followed. The New Media has remarkable independence.

As a result, the New Media reflects a true diversity of opinion – far more so than any of the Old Media organisations. In other words, thanks to tools like Facebook, Youtube and delivery systems like Spotify, what has emerged is an exercise in true democracy. It is the creation of an open marketplace of ideas where the best ideas gain traction, and the worst ideas are pilloried and ridiculed. It is wild and untamed land, but reflects the rational democratic ideal far better than any Old Media news organisation can possibly do with their rigid, simplistic, stuffy command-style approach.

The attacks on the stars of the New Media follow the failures of the Old Media to really tap into the online world and get a loyal following. Mind you, they tried once. A lot of news organisations built online websites, created new content streams, published apps, and tried to “buzzify” their news stories so they sounded hip, edgy, and too-cool-for-school. But this was always doomed to fail. The social environment has changed. At the rate things are going, Old Media influence will wane within a generation.

But worse than all of this – again, from the view of the Old Media – is the disintegration of their social power. These vast media empires once could break politicians. Like Pope Gregory VII who left the Holy Roman Emperor Henry IV kneeling in the snow for three days in penance, the Old Media establishment could leave leaders sweating and grovelling too. They could ruin the lives of celebrities and commoners alike. They could break men like twigs. They could call the shots of social policy.

But those days are passing and the empires are collapsing. Increasingly, the Old Media is being heavily scrutinised, criticised, and at other times completely by-passed. The most powerful man in the world – Donald Trump – has identified the Old Media establishment as the “opposition party” and he goes for the jugular. Other Republican politicians have adopted the same tactics. Internationally, other politicians are using the same approach. A minister in the Hungarian government recently openly rebuked the BBC for their ideological interview methods.

Brilliant new thinkers appear on Old Media talk shows and make the journalists look wooden-headed and deeply unintelligent – one only needs to consider the fate of Cathy Newman and Patrick Gower whose names are forever linked to disastrous, self-righteous interviews that went very sour. Other media organisations are embattled from their own readership. The frequent rift between the readers and the opinion pieces in “quality newspapers” like the Guardian is striking.

As our Lord once said, “A house divided against itself cannot stand” (Mark 3:25). And a left-wing news organisation that cannot even count on the affirmation of its own left-wing readers cannot surely endure for long.

Throughout the world, media organisations continue to hemorrhage millions of dollars of advertising, and thousands of readers, fans, and consumers. Time and again, cash strapped news organisations announce rounds of job cuts, layoffs, hiring freezes, and efficiency shuffles. Each time they streamline they promise this will make their organisation “leaner” and better able to “meet needs going forward”. And yet, no organisational change seems to prevent the decline of circulation – the New York Times, for example, has seen a 50% decline in print circulation in the last 12 years. Readers may click onto the websites and even pay subscription for iconic boutique news, but digital subscribers are nowhere near as profitable as print news consumers. Furthermore, like other Old Media companies, the New York Times share price in 2018 is about half of what it was in 2002 which means the market does not consider the company to be anywhere near as worthwhile as it was at the turn of the millennium.

As for the Guardian, in April of this year it published a financial update in which it reported that its losses were less than expected. They only made a 19,000,000 pound loss in the year to the end of March. This is distinct from the 38,000,000 pound loss they made in the previous financial year.

At present, the Guardian is in the midst of a three year plan to reach their grand objective of “breaking even”. That is to say, to make a profit of exactly nothing, while at the same time adding nothing to their debt. “Breaking even” is usually only ever a goal for a business that is so derelict that the investors one forlorn hope is to be able to walk away without a loss. If “breaking even” is the operating goal of a media organisation, it suggests severe stagnation.

The Guardian is now principally supported by donations from its readership as if it were a charity. It trumpets that reader contributions now earn it more money than advertising, as if this is a good thing. What it really means is that advertisers know which way their bread is buttered. With additional costs, the Guardian will make a total loss of around 24,000,000 for the year. Another rousing success story for the Old Media.

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The Old Media – and the left-wing professional class that is allied to them – have responded to the ground-level revolution of the New Media by making the case for censorship. It is truly staggering to read articles in the Guardian and other liberal media outlets that use sophistry and pretended-rationality to argue, at basic, for a person to be unable to use social media platforms – although they try to re-badge this as “corporate responsibility”. In their view, social media corporations that host so much of the New Media have the responsibility to monitor and regulate the opinions that circulate so that nothing they find objectionable will ever be encountered in that social space.

They argue – usually without a shred of evidence – that people like Alex Jones produce “hate speech” and therefore ought to be de-platformed. This is a chilling precedent indeed, and can be understood as a protective measure by the Old Media in response to the fundamental shift that is occurring in regard to their social status.

It was heartening to read on the Guardian website this morning the sheer number of readers who were able to express disdain for Alex Jones and yet vehemently support his right to express his opinion untrammeled by politically-correct tyranny. Many recognise, (despite the fog of progressivism), that free speech should be a value enshrined in any democratic practice; and to the greatest extent possible in the arts, pursuits, and behaviours of a democratic people. It should be expanded and guarded. And the inverse – censorship – should not be celebrated and promoted.

But the Old Media is not a consistent beast. It will howl against the alleged censorship of bakers refusing to make cakes for same-sex couples, yet demand its use against people they dislike. And we may be certain it has not finished its assault yet. Some predators are most dangerous when they are wounded, and we can predict with some confidence that the Old Media establishment will champion censorship and the control of information more aggressively and zealously before their sun finally sinks below the horizon.

If Alex Jones has performed a service to the age, it is the demonstration of how fragile free speech is becoming. If a relatively harmless nutter cannot be allowed to broadcast his preposterous beliefs in peace; if a conspiracy theorist is referenced by a CNN journalist at a Facebook press conference as if this was a pressing concern, it will surely not be long before any one else with views that do not fit the cultural orthodoxy (like Christians!) will find themselves fighting for a voice too.

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux Make New Zealand Reporters Look Foolish

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At the airport entrance Southern and Molyneux mime being blocked by a “force field” as a witty rejoinder to the radical left who declared that the pair would never be allowed into the country. Observe that the archway is decorated by Maori symbols. It surely does not take a genius to imagine how one New Zealand TV reporter interpreted this bit of fun. (Clue: Racism! Disrespect!)

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux are forging successful careers by demonstrating the absurdity and contradictions of left-wing shibboleths.

They are also riding the wave of the future, for increasing numbers of intelligent people are seriously questioning the worldview at the top. And a growing percentage of these are young people. A generation is rising that are not spellbound by buzzwords.

They reflect what is happening in the culture. People are wondering why some hard facts are now taboo. Why are we not allowed to articulate scientific reality about certain topics without it being labelled “hate speech”? Why can’t we speak up about certain medical truths? Why do people get stamped with the label of “fascist” for having common sense views about immigration or gender? When did established historical facts become a minefield that we must tiptoe through for fear of offending someone?

And why is free speech regarded as dangerous – and in desperate need of being monitored and restricted – by that small army of academics, politicians, movie directors, judges, teachers, lawyers, and students who constitute the professional class? The “elites” who tell the rest of us how to live, lecture us, and tell us how to take our freedoms.

It seems to more and more people that we are free to speak our minds so long as we echo the identity talking points and arrive at “the correct” conclusion. Which is always the politically correct, left-wing conclusion.

Yet the leftwing certainties of the elites and the young radicals who are their disciples, are now so ridiculous they can only survive outside of scrutiny and objective fact.

The worldview of the left-wing elite is hilarious.

Just look at modern universities which are the breeding grounds for so-called “progressive” politics.

Students now need “trigger warnings” before they open a book. University campuses are dangerous battlefields full of “microaggressions” – worse than Iraq! Students need “safe spaces” where they can hyperventilate into brown paper bags, and calm themselves down with biscuits and milk. Students introduce themselves with the phrase, “And these are my pronouns“.

As St. Paul forecast, “they think themselves wise but have become fools“.

Surely modern campus life stands as a powerful symbol of the intellectual sterility and the glass-like fragility of identity politics. This is not cleverness. It is utter stupidity. It is moronic. It is unscientific. It is irrational. It is worthy of pillory.

It is dangerous to let it go unchallenged. Right-thinking people; moral people; intelligent people have a duty to their society to question it. Mock it. And combat it.

That’s why identarian politics has become a staple of comedy. That is a warning sign for any political ideology. When your ideas become the punchline of jokes you can be sure that those ideas are beginning to crumble. If you want to destroy a political idea, laugh at it, and invite others to laugh as well. This is why dictators have no sense of humour.

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Thus, memes comparing Premier Xi to Winnie the Pooh are now censored in China. The Communist Party understands that laughing at the elite is to delegitimise them.

Political correctness and Social Justice Warriors are the material for enormously popular Youtube channels dedicated to capturing their idiocy on camera. It is this idiocy that Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux confront with calmness, patience, and a rather good eye for the entertainment value of the perpetually offended.

Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux have just completed a sold-out tour of Australia where they exposed (once again) that the politically correct are unintelligent beings whose capacity for critical thought has atrophied. The pair encountered quite a range of foolish people, including a very silly policeman and a group of students who repeatedly screamed “racist dog” at Lauren Southern even when they were given the chance to actually discuss issues, make a case, and offer an argument.

The pair also had to contend with Australian TV interviewers. These journalists were desperate to display their politically-correct credentials during interviews. At the same time, they tacitly recognised the star quality of these wonderfully articulate North Americans. They were practically queuing up to secure interviews with them. This is not at all surprising because Southern and Molyneux are now internationally famous people who command more name-recognition (and respect) than most Australian journalists could ever dream of.

Now the pair have gone to New Zealand. Just when you thought the media class could not be more unintelligent and dimwitted than that found in Australia, we discover that there are dark depths of unmitigated, blood-curdling cretinism hitherto not plumbed in modern history.

Yes, it is true. There are television interviewers that make Cathy Newman look positively sharp. Remember Cathy Newman? She is now chiefly famous for her disastrous interview with Jordan Peterson who calmly dismantled her politically correct talking points and left her literally lost for words.

The Southern and Molyneux interview currently doing the rounds is with a journalist by the name of Patrick Gower. When I first watched the interview, my first thought was that it could not possibly be real. The interviewer, I told myself, must be an actor or perhaps this was a bit of film caught off-interview. Maybe Southern and Molyneux were casually talking to one of the behind-the-scenes studio employees or a cleaner? But no. This is actually a real thing. This is a real interview.

Patrick Gower (I understand) is one of New Zealand’s premier political reporters. If this is true then New Zealand is in grave trouble. For I have seldom come across an interview that was so obviously intended to rebuke people for their “incorrect” opinions, and one which so boringly repeated stale left-wing talking points that no longer have traction.

Perhaps Gower lives in a bubble and does not read much news outside of his own persuasion. Perhaps he assumes that anyone on the so-called “alt-right” are hillbillies and hicks and thus easily tripped over. Perhaps he thought he did not need to do much preparation since he was combating them on home turf. Perhaps he assumed they would be easy to ridicule and tear to pieces.

Except they weren’t.

Gower discovered that both Lauren Southern and Stefan Molyneux were intelligent and rational people. They could think on their feet. They were reasonable in their outlook. They had done their homework. They were erudite and switched on. Articulate and personable. They were lively, sparkling, and above all interesting people who were saying interesting things. Instead of the boring, recycled, warmed up, microwaved, politically correct sludge that usually features on such TV interviews.

In contrast to his guests, many noted that Patrick Gower seemed shockingly unprepared for the interview and seemed to struggle to understand even very rudimentary points. At one place in the interview, he asked three times for a joke to be explained to him. He gave me the overwhelming impression of being very far away, perhaps on another planet altogether, trying hard to understand incoming signals on an antiquated and degraded radio set. Except he was sitting about two metres away from his guests.

Unsurprisingly, the comments on the video are scathing. Many claim an apparent chasm of intelligence between the interviewer and his interlocutors. Other comments show an increasing cynicism about the media altogether:

What was wrong with the host? Lauren and Stephan had to literally explain the same joke, in detail, 3 times before he understood it.

To which someone sarcastically replied:

Oh he understood it, but he was trying his best to twist it into something that would outrage the public. He has power and he is playing his role to keep and gain more power. The whole identity politics movement (as with most political unending movements) is a power grab.

Another commentator posted:

I’ve seen some pretty cringe worthy left wing reporters before, but he has to be the worst, he was completely intellectually out of his depth.

Another cuttingly wrote:

Do they actually pay that guy to do interviews? He must be somewhere on the bell curve to fulfill their equal opportunity.

Perhaps these comments may seem harsh but they are expressions of justifiable disdain and anger.

The media peddles unrighteousness. Much of the media (especially left-wing media) supports and advances a dangerous and totalitarian ideology – political correctness – and this attacks and vilifies traditional families, the Church, normality (as God created it), godliness, the integrity of a society, law and order, the integrity of a nation, appropriate penalties for crimes, common sense, discipline, and so on and so on. Politically correctness also attacks the most productive members of a community. It is inherently anti-science. And anti-reason.

The media personalities that support this dying creed are the inquisition of our time. They want to police ideas; lecture people like a classical schoolmarm for the “wrong” ideas. Yet if the new wave of anti-politically correct politics proves anything, identity politics and political correctness is running out of time.

It is bereft of ideas; it is intellectually sterile; and it is moribund. Overnight (it seems) this interview has become a symbol of the stupidity of recreational outrage; of the politically correct brain fog; and even the political senility of the elites.

Watch it here.

 

The Death of a Minor Celebrity

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It was reported this week that a young Canadian by the name of Rick Genest killed himself (although some of his friends and associates have claimed his death was an accident).

Rick Genest wanted to be a freak.

He set out to achieve this distinction by covering himself with tattoos of bones and insects. The top of his head was shaved and tattooed with exposed brains. His eye sockets and tip of his nose was black (whether this was tattooed or aided by cosmetics is uncertain). Around his mouth and over his lips were tattoos of teeth. Over his torso were tattoos of ribs with fragments of skin tissue hanging between the bones, and insects scuttling around the illusion of a cavity. Metal piercings in his nose and ears completed the image of a living Frankenstein’s monster.

Genest wanted to look as if he were in a partial state of decomposition like a zombie. Indeed, his nickname was “zombie boy”, an title he gladly adopted as part of his public signature. To say that he succeeded in his aim to look horrific is an understatement. The tattoos are repellent. Yet the New York Times reported that Genest had been proud of his appearance. “Please do stare,” he was quoted, “I like it.”

Unsurprisingly, the Guardian reported that Genest had a long history of depression. In May of this year, for example, he posted a photograph of himself in a hospital bed wearing a shirt emblazoned with the words “Kill Me” and a tongue depressor hanging from his mouth. The article mentioned that he frequently wore this shirt for media interviews. The shirt was referred to with the definite article – “the Kill Me shirt” – since it had appeared so often in photographic shoots. The use of the definite article accords the shirt an iconic status, although it never seemed to occur to the Guardian writer that a shirt that invites people to murder the wearer – even if worn only for shock value – points to the real source of Genest’s problems and does not at all deserve a celebrated status.

Genest made both money and fame from his appearance. He displayed uncanny instinct in generating an income from his repugnant appearance. Even the sympathetic eulogising of the left-wing press cannot disguise Genest’s evident eye for career development and industry shrewdness.

For example, the New York Times mentions that he was named in the Guinness World Records in 2011 for having the most insects tattooed on a human body. Setting aside the complete lack of merit inherent in such a title, it is noteworthy that to get a mention in the Guinness World Records would require Genest to apply for a record title.

The Guinness process is exhaustive, requiring several witnesses, authenticated evidence, and detailed photographs. Genest could only have received his title by being an initiator and driver of the process. Depending on how much personal effort he was willing to invest in his application, it may have cost him a large amount of money. An official Guinness consultant – marketed by the Guinness organisation to people who wish to obtain notoriety; in other words, people exactly like Genest – would have cost thousands of dollars and still required him to be painstakingly photographed from head to foot.

Genest was also aware of the value of victimhood. He ascribed forms of victimhood to himself publicly on several occasions. He claimed to have run afoul (among other things) of school bullying and religious parents. Both of these alleged forms of “oppression” are quite commonplace, and most people successfully move past the memory of difficult childhood experiences when they reach maturity. But with a horrific visage to illustrate the supposed depth of his angst, Genest was able to weave a narrative fabric out of humdrum teenage experiences and thereby elicit the needed pathos for forging fame. Victimhood is the coin that makes the coffer sing in the 21st century.

When asked about other people’s reaction to his appearance, Genest expertly coloured his life with a sparkling beatific quality worthy of a Greek Orthodox iconostasis. His self-appraisal is highly suggestive of a self-indulgent and narcissistic personality.

What changed was the masses’ reaction to me. Prior, I had my place amongst those who understood me and had the luxury of privacy. Now I often feel that every walk of life either has a question or an opinion about the way I breathe air – although I do seize this opportunity to raise awareness for tolerance, acceptance and embracing our differences.

Here, other people are merely “the masses” who did not understand him. For Genest, the ignorance of “the masses” was both an indictment against them – for they lacked broadness of vision – and evident proof of the enlightened complexity of his existence. To be unconventional is a sign of moral superiority. This is the internal narrative of the entertainment world in which he swum. Aberration is sophistication. Revolution is evolution. Normality is boring.

Genest also hinted at his frustration that the people around him had the temerity to hold an opinion on the repellent tattoos he chose to inflict on the world at large. But fortunately for everyone, their narrow-mindedness only produced more virtue in his beneficent heart. It gave him an opportunity to “raise awareness” for the liberal shibboleths of “tolerance”, “acceptance” and “embracing differences”. By this he meant that, contrary to all appearances, his tattoos performed a public service. By making himself so horrendous and ghastly to look at, other people must (and ought) to accept and tolerate him. This caused them to grow to be as broadminded as he was.

At times his hypocrisy was staggering, yet no interviewer ever pressured him to explain the incongruity between his words and his life choices. For example when asked “what is the philosophy behind your tattoos”, he answered:

The zombie concept is also often used as a metaphor for runaway consumerism. Rebelling from this notion is the very meaning of punk. The origins of the zombie creature came about from stories of people being buried alive in times of plagues and such crises; that would come out the other side ‘transformed’. Zombies, to many, represent a pervasive xenophobia. As in my life, I was often out-casted, hated or misunderstood.

Genest answered by pointed out that within his subculture, his tattoos serve as a metaphor for “runaway consumerism”. It is surprising that Genest was not perspiring from the sheer effort to sound deep and meaningful at this point in the interview.

Despite his concern about “runway consumerism”, Genest’s most publicised employment involved working as a model for the fashion label Rocawear and performing in high end fashion shows in Berlin and Paris. He also appeared in a music video with Lady Gaga (the stage name adopted by Stefani Germanotta) in the performance of her song Born This Way. Typical of the zeitgeist, the song begins with a long, disturbing prologue followed by an uptempo song in which Germanotta sings in her underwear.

Surely, in all the pages of history, there have been few industries which better exemplify rank consumerism than the pop music and fashion industries of the 21st century. Over and over, Genest appeared in slick photographic presentations wearing designer gear. In one photograph, he is turning somersaults on red leather couch positioned against an expertly arranged tapestry, set against a mottled wooden floor. The image appears to be extensively photoshopped, light-filtered, and edited until it is more artificial than real. In another marketing photograph he huddles in a bed glaring up from underneath his labelled attire.

After insinuating to his interviewer that his tattoos were a cry against runaway consumerism, Genest is asked for more details about being “the face” of the fashion label Rocawear. One cannot help wondering whether the interviewer was asking tongue-in-cheek because it is such a naked inconsistency.

To this Genest replies with an burst of enthusiasm:

Growing up in the city as a teenager, I have always embraced urban culture and style. It is a great honor to represent what I live, breathe, and bleed for as long as I have. I’m excited to be involved with Rocawear’s re-launch across Europe for Spring Summer ’13.

Urban style and urban culture, says Genest, is what he lives, breathes and bleeds for. What, then, is urban style and culture? This is not defined by Genest, but presumably Rocawear’s designer hoodies, oversized caps, and ridiculously baggy trousers permits us some insight into what Genest believed urban style to be. In short, it “urban style” is a carefully cultivated shtick that permits the safe and comfortable middle-classes to ape some of the grittiness of the city, so that they might feel a little more “authentic”.

Elaborately torn and disfigured garments are essential to this image. One line of jeans features imitation paint splotches down the front of the legs while others are purposefully cut and ripped. Others billow around the wearer’s limbs like prison garments, utilising fabric far in excess of what is necessary to cover the person sensibly. Apparently this is what Genest meant when he spoke of “urban style”. In other words, “urban style” is ghetto chic for people who will almost certainly be safely insulated from ever experiencing the horrors of poverty in an urban slum.

Genest also had roles in a few films and was busily working on a music album. The entertainment industry, like the fashion industry, are not exactly bywords for frugality and material restraint. To the contrary. One can think of few industries that symbolise the “runaway consumerism” against which Genest submitted his tattoos as a living protest, than the very industries he sought to make a career within.

Rick Genest was a man who spent his life living in an unreal bubble. Most of his tattoos were completed before his was out of his teenage years. For nearly half of his life he drew people’s gaze and riveted their attention. Whether walking down a street or attending a party, his visage was blatant. His tattoos extruded into the world around him and gave him the limelight he so evidently wanted. The desire to be noticed, to catch people’s gaze, to gain notoriety, to be the most obvious person in a room are all symptomatic of a person who is either profoundly insecure or profoundly narcissistic.

But something of the person is always lost by such self-seeking. Thus, it is impossible for anyone to tell what Genest really looked like. The tattoos functioned as a mask, concealing the person beneath. One is left to wonder whether even Genest himself could really peer beneath the inking to see his adult self. In any case, they would have served as a daily reminder as he stood at the bathroom mirror that he had rendered himself different. He had turned himself into a macabre character. The horror they resembled was an inescapable feature of his life and must surely have leaked into his perception of the world around him. How could any person find simple and unadulterated delight in a blue sky or a flower when their life was both swaddled and imprinted with horror?

It shows how full body tattoos can take on a life of their own. For although these morbid tattoos arose initially from Genest’s teenage personality, upon being tattooed, they in turn contributed to forging his character and his career. For instance, few things shape a person quite as much as the company they keep and the social circles in which they move. Genest’s tattoos would surely have alienated him from much of conventional society, forcing him to walk among the bizarre and freakish individuals that inhabit the moral wasteland of the entertainment industry. By tattooing himself in this way, he deliberately isolated himself from the very relationships that might have helped him to surmount his depression and find a meaningful and manly existence.

It is with extreme difficulty, for example, that one could imagine him ever having a settled marriage, being a dedicated father of children, or enjoying the comforting routine of a family life. Yet God has so created human beings that we discover purpose and comfort in fixed and permanent relationships, and in the nurture of children. Genest’s tattoos largely precluded him from the possibility of relating to the sort of woman that might have helped him to discover God’s intention for his creatures.

Even of his self-professed friends, now busily eulogising him in overblown language, there were many who personally profited from his tattoos. He was their marketing gimmick; their gritty freak to bestow their wares with some element of novelty. This makes it uncertain whether his closest associates truly valued him as anything other than a mobile stage fitting. Certainly without his tattoos, would they have given him a second glance?

Whether it was suicide – as has been reported by the press – or an unexpected accident as claimed by his friends and manager, we know only that Genest spoke to his girlfriend, went out onto a balcony for a cigarette, and fell to his death. Nobody witnessed his death. We have only his girlfriend’s word about the lead up to it, although there is no good reason to speculate that she is not being truthful.

Whatever the case, the death of an unbeliever has eternal repercussions, as death does for us all. Our Lord teaches us that there is no hope for souls who part this life without having repented and believed in the salvation of the cross through Christ. The future of the wicked is fixed and no rays of a new dawn will lighten their eternity. For this reason,  the Bible urges men, “Today if you will hear his voice, do not harden your hearts”, for the day of salvation is today. Each day is our opportunity to find our shelter in the Rock from the deluge of judgement that will surely come.

It is bitterly ironic that after Genest’s death, a poem he wrote was posted to Instagram. It has been suggested this post was automatically sent by a posting app. Perhaps Genest had planned for this poem to be his final work before his death? The poem is dark. It references a pagan god and uses the tawdry and boring themes so beloved by those who think the darkness of the goth subculture is “deep”. He writes about flesh being cut, and the cold, the moonlight, and howling under the stars. The image that accompanied the poem featured darkness interrupted only by a circle of light.

In one sense, this is chillingly symbolic of his soul’s trajectory. Having quite literally loved darkness rather than light, Genest’s final word to the world – whether by design or happenstance – is also about the things of the night. Little did he realise that there is a darkness more terrible than that of his subculture and imagination. Our Lord called it “outer darkness”, a lonely wilderness everlastingly submerged in blackness, where the souls who refused to submit to Christ will wander in torment forever.

Genest was a wicked man. He did not commit murder or violent crimes, but he set himself against God and the imago Dei imprinted on his humanity nonetheless. By his own confession he lived a life that purposefully sought to normalise the aberrant and ungodly. He took his body and disfigured it into a grotesque death mask thereby claiming his ownership over it and pretending that it was not God’s. His very flesh which was meant to reflect the glory of God became a canvass upon which he could feature the horror of death, desecration of the sacred, and to turn people’s minds to devilish themes.

The death of this minor celebrity will make no difference to the vast majority of mankind. Like a candle snuffed out, he will be quickly forgotten. As so many before him have done, he has stepped suddenly over the parapet into an eternity he spent little time considering. For him, his short existence here is over; his time is up. Far sooner, perhaps, than he may have ever expected.

We may find little (or more accurately, nothing) to commend in the central, consuming passion of his life, or the empty and frivolous nature of his work. But the death of an unconverted sinner should at least remind us of the urgency of repentance and the hope that exists in Christ Jesus alone. By faith, we can make ourselves ready for eternity.

St. Paul’s words in the Letter to the Romans are apt. They contradict Genest’s glamorisation of darkness, with an unshakeable and towering authority:

The night is nearly over; the day is almost here. So let us put aside the deeds of darkness and put on the armour of light… clothe yourselves with the Lord Jesus Christ, and do not make no provision for the flesh… (Romans 13:11-14)

 

The Baptism Controversy (Part I): Strange Bedfellows

baptism

(This is the first of a four part series on baptism. Part I. is a survey of the baptismal conflict, and an expose on the curious agreement between the Reformed and Roman Catholics in their defence of paedobaptism. This article finishes with a taxonomy of the methods used to defend unbiblical traditions.

Part II. of this series is a response to Samuel Watterson’s “review” of the debate between John MacArthur and R. C. Sproul. Part III. looks at the defects in the arguments for paedobaptism advanced by the Reformers, specifically John Calvin. Part IV. considers the arguments of the historical Anabaptists and Baptists of the 16th and 17 centuries, and the strong biblical support for credobaptism.)

The Battle Wreckage: A Survey of the Baptismal Conflict

Long ago on a mountaintop somewhere in the Province of Judea, the Lord Jesus Christ – indisputably risen from the dead and soon to return to the highest reaches of heaven – issued a great commission to his disciples:

Therefore go and make disciples of all nations, baptising them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, and teaching them to obey all that I have commanded you. (Matthew 28:19-20)

As the Lord ascended back to heaven into the blinding sun, and the clouds hid him from view, the disciples obediently rolled up their sleeves and began the tremendous work of building the Lord’s church.

As they carried the gospel throughout the long stretches of the Roman Empire, preaching, teaching, and engaging in disputation with opponents, it probably never entered their minds that one day baptism would become so controversial that Christians would be put to death by other “Christians” for the sake of this sacrament.

It would never have occurred to them that baptism would excite hostility and division among future generations of Christians, to the extent that it would cleave the Christian community apart into vast disconnected camps. Neither would the Apostles have imagined that traditions would emerge from a complex fusion of politics, circumstance, and state policy that would harden into inflexibility like dry wood.

All of this would have been inconceivable in those early decades of the Church. None of the Apostles could have foreseen the religious conditions of 2018, in which millions of people have been baptised (“christened”) but grow up without any shred of Christian faith, while others accept the Christian faith but are not baptised.

Whatever baptism was intended to be by the Lord Jesus, even a cursory glance at the current situation must lead any thoughtful Christian to realise that baptism (and how it is understood) has suffered some terrible breakdown in the corridors of history. One of the most vivid illustrations of this breakdown is found in the sheer number of competing ideas about baptism, not shared merely by one or two off-the-ranch groups, but by large swathes of Christendom. These ideas range from an outright denial of the role of baptism altogether, to claims that baptism itself regenerates a person.

Let us survey the landscape for a moment and behold the wreckage of the centuries.

Unquestionably, the majority position is paedobaptism (the baptism of infants). Under this view, baptism is regarded as a continuation of Old Testament circumcision. It is seen as “the sign of the covenant” by which a person enters the “covenant of grace”, or alternatively, as the means by which a person is initiated into the Christian community. Paedobaptism has a long history of being enforced as a matter of state policy by governments, councils and kings, since there was a strong overlap between baptism (“christening”) and being a citizen within the civic order. Penalties for failing to baptise one’s infant could result in dispossession, exile, or even death.

The sizeable minority position among Christians is credobaptism (sometimes called believer’s baptism). The Latin word credo means “I believe”.  Thus, credobaptism is a baptism contingent on faith. Credobaptists teach that baptism can only rightly be administered to people who openly confess their faith in Christ, declare their repentance from sin, and profess a commitment to follow Christ. It is still seen as an initiation into the Christian church but it is regarded as an initiation that reflects a conscious and willing faith. Conversely, credobaptists teach the uselessness and invalidity of administering baptism to infants, citing an infant’s lack of faith, the absence of scriptural support for the practice, and the resultant numbers of people baptised as babies who never go on to a serious faith later in life. Historically, credobaptists have been brutally persecuted by holders of paedobaptist understandings, because their repudiation of infant baptism and their practice of re-baptising people who were baptised as infants, was regarded as a threat to the civic and political order of the age.

Other groups simply do not baptise at all. This position that could be termed nullbaptism. The Salvation Army for example has a long-standing policy of neither observing baptism nor holy communion. They argue that the sacraments are too divisive, too external, too lacking in scriptural support, and that these sacraments tend to obscure the need for people to have a personal relationship with Jesus. They lead people to rely on an external rite instead of inward conviction. This is a position that has been held by a wide range of smaller groups, such as Quakers and Hyperdispensationalist groups.

Interestingly, even as nullbaptists, Salvationists still recognise a need for an initiation of some kind. They essentially replace baptism with a “swearing in ceremony” involving a public confession under the banner of the church’s flag. This initiates a new “soldier” into the Salvation Army. Salvationists cite the Quakers as an example of the possibility of living a holy life without baptism or holy communion.

In addition to the above positions, some hold to baptismal regeneration. They teach the very act of baptism accomplishes spiritual renewal – it gives new birth and new spiritual life to the person who is baptised. When administered to infants, regeneration is said to occur, although this is often followed with the caveat that the promise contained in baptism is conditional on future faith and repentance. Various understandings of baptismal regeneration can be found in Roman Catholicism, Anglicanism, Eastern Orthodoxy and among the Reformed. Mormons and the Churches of Christ also believe in a form of baptismal regeneration.

Then there are other novel ideas about this sacrament such as the baptism of the dead, practiced by Mormons on behalf of dead people so that they can be given posthumous chances to believe in Mormonism and reach some level of heaven. Baptism of the dead is also practised by the Old Apostolic Church and the New Apostolic Church where a living person essentially serves as a proxy for someone deceased.

Roman Catholic theology also advances the theory of the baptism of desire whereby a person who has never believed in Jesus Christ for a single moment of his life, can still be saved merely by mere virtue of wanting to be a good person.

The baptism of the Holy Spirit is another major concept within some circles, but one that is perhaps the most difficult to nail downMyriad are the ways this concept is understood and taught, from the charismatic view of the Pentecostals whereby baptism of the Holy Spirit produces the ecstatic speaking in tongues, to the view found within the Holiness Movement that such a baptism produces a deep and abiding personal sanctification – an extraordinary level of virtue and Christ-likeness – in the life of the believer.

There are also fierce disagreements between Christian groups about the mode of baptism. Some argue that baptism must always involve full immersion under the water as the only method that secures a proper baptism and the method that best follows the example set of Jesus himself. This is the characteristic position of those who hold to believers’ baptism. Other Christian groups – generally paedobaptists – usually practice sprinkling small quantities of water on the head of an infant. Other groups may apply baptism through affusion, which involves the pouring of water on the head. Some churches, like the Roman Catholic Church, practice all three modes of baptism.

A Christendom That Lost It’s Mission

Evidence abounds (see: here, here, and here for a sample) that Christendom has lost its mission in the West. Far from evangelising the nations and making disciples of all people, the “old” mainstream churches spend their time with symbolic and self-indulgent proclamations about the environment, internecine conflict over sexual ethics about which the Bible clearly judges, and ecumenical meetings in which the guests are attired in the colourful garb of other religions. So deep into the puddle of heresy has so much “Christian” religious activity has fallen, that nearly 20% of the clergy of some churches do not even have an identifiable faith in God.

Churches no longer project a united, determined, and simple message, but present themselves more like failing businesses desperate to generate revenue. They have become so desirous for new buttocks to sit in their pews that their attitude toward doctrine is one of near-indifference. You could sit for centuries worth of man hours in the modern Church of England or even most Methodist and Presbyterian churches before you heard a fire-and-brimstone sermon, thundering from the pew like the voice of God, commanding the congregation to repent and believe the Most High Jesus Christ as the one and only way to heaven.

How could Christendom have collapsed so spectacularly? How could John Wesley’s Methodism, (to choose just one example among many), which once performed such a great missionary work in the American colonies and among the Welsh working poor, descend into rank liberalism? How could the Church of England, which once sent missionaries to China, India and Nigeria, become a nut house whose clergy seem more concerned with Palestinian rights and discrimination than the necessity of salvation through Christ?

Although the entire answer does not lie in the sacrament of baptism – as if by fine-tuning a rite we can manufacture faith – yet, certainly part of the answer does. The church is in urgent need of completing the Reformation. It needs to purge out the last remaining medievalisms and return to the sparkling fountains of the source, and thereby recover a true, Christ-centred sacramental theology. A theology of baptism in which repentance and faith, and a true inward communion with an authentic, risen Christ is so paramount, that Christians would be able to say with St. Peter, “and this water symbolises baptism that now saves you also — not the removal of dirt from the body but the pledge of a clear conscience toward God“.

This issue is a pivotal one and cannot be tossed aside like junk in the attic. The best reason to handle baptism thoughtfully and with care is the plain fact that baptism was commanded by Jesus, and it thus forms a core part of the Church’s mission – the mission that was defined by none other than Christ himself. Therefore, errors regarding baptism threaten the very integrity of the Church’s divinely mandated task on earth. Given this, we may even go so far as to assume that any Christian revival – (should the Lord in his mercy allow fresh sap to flow through the withering vine of the remnants of the organised church that grows in the West) – will also feature a wholesale renewal in the practice of true biblical baptism.

One may even argue with some force – as John MacArthur and others do – that the visible, organised church has experienced a catastrophic collapse in the West precisely because biblical baptism has been forsaken and there is no longer a clear, public means of identifying who is a true Christian. In most paedobaptist communions today, it is assumed that a regular churchgoer who was christened as a baby must be an authentic Christian. The gateway to the pulpit and the sacraments are swung open freely, and this has allowed generations of unbelievers to rise to the top. Once ensconced in a position of authority, they soon beckon upward other heterodox believers like themselves, and thereby attempt to reshape their denomination in their own image.

Filling a church up with unbelievers merely by dint of an infant sprinkling is particularly disastrous to the integrity of the faith in our age – a period in which believers can no longer rely upon the state to uphold Christian morality or enforce Christian doctrines.

Until recently, a church full of non-Christians could limp along without shattering into heresy because cooperative governments provided a framework of support. The organised church grew like a climbing plant. Providing it had the trellis of the State to entwine itself around, it could operate its schools, hospitals, and it could even proclaim a reasonably whole gospel in a mechanical fashion with a half-baked clergy. The organised church trundled along as a conservative cultural and social institution. Even if it manufactured hypocrites and pharisees by the truckload, and though it did not catapult many people into glory, at least it did not publicly damage the Christian witness.

Since the Second World War, Western governments have secularised. They no longer give any priority to Christianity, even on a basic cultural level. Thus, the trellis has been kicked away, and the organised, visible church is left to grow unsupported. Since it is full of non-Christians – and has been for a long time – who are not instinctively obedient to the word of God, it has no means to prune and regulate itself. It has lapsed into a chaotic mess. One need only look at the Anglican Church to see this writ large.

Yet Christ came to establish a pure Church of people with a deep and personal communion with his love. He brought into existence a spotless bride; harmless and gentle; a broken and contrite people; a people who would have mercy and not sacrifice; and a people who would constitute a faithful spouse. Confessional baptism is instrumental to this objective because it calls people to public witness and to public repentance. It is a demand for faith and obedience. It is an admission into the mystery of being united with Christ in his death, burial and resurrection.

Until credobaptism becomes the norm in Christendom again, the visible church will continue to look like a vine disconnected from its lattice; a mess of contortions and broken limbs; disunited; its fruit crushed; its frame sickly.

The Taxonomy of Defending a Tradition

Unbiblical traditions – like paedobaptism or other baptism theories – can only ever be defended with an inconsistent approach to the Bible and to history. The arguments are never rooted in scripture as a first recourse. They are instead sculptures of assumptions, drawn from history and from vague, indirect passages of the Bible.

Indeed, the arguments of a traditionalist may not even follow logically from other key principles held by them. But that is not regarded as a problem. A consistency of argumentation is never a priority when a person is already devoted and committed to a particular doctrine. Instead, the objective is to circle the wagons around a particular belief. One sees this over and over again with paedobaptist arguments.

This approach to apologetics is analogous to hacking one’s way through a corn field in the firm assurance that any shortcut that gets you to the mill must be legal, safe, and legitimate. So long as you can “prove” the theological point to the degree that would be accepted by an uncritical audience, what does it matter how you get there?

Do you have a trail of logical wreckage left by broken arguments and silly analogies? Not a problem. What about contradictions and non-sequiturs? That’s okay! Is there an absence of any references to didactic teachings in the scriptures? Again, no problem at all. Just as long as you get there in the end, the means are unimportant.

In the matter of baptism, Reformed Christians (and other Protestant paedobaptists) and Roman Catholics speak with one voice. Upon nearly all other theological matters they are opponents, excommunicating and anathamatising each other. But on this issue they become allies, standing shoulder-to-shoulder on the barricades. This is unsurprising since the Reformed understanding of baptism is borrowed, with very little alteration, from Roman Catholicism. Both affirm paedobaptism; both have some notion that baptism is a continuation of circumcision, and both affirm the sufficiency of the sprinkling mode.

Because the tradition is the same, the manner in which both Reformed and Roman Catholics defend paedobaptism is the same. Let us consider some of the features of their apologetic.

Firstly, they tend to appeal to church history as if it were an authoritative yardstick of practice. They argue that infant baptism is hallowed by a long usage and therefore ought to be accepted by Christians so that they can be in “communion with the true church throughout the ages”. This approach essentially enscripturates history and turns it into a authoritative source of revelation.

In fairness, it must be pointed out that Roman Catholics are being consistent with their theology when they make such an appeal because they also reject the principle of sola scriptura and appeal to tradition defined by their church’s magesterium. But these sorts of historical arguments are profoundly inconsistent when made by the Reformers like John Calvin who purport to settle all their theology on sola scriptura. If sola scriptura really is the foundation for one’s doctrines, then one’s first resort in an apologetic defence would never be to church history and tradition. Yet this is often the first port of call for both Roman Catholics and the Reformed.

Secondly, both the Reformed and Roman Catholics tend to appeal repeatedly to silences in scripture and history as if this was a logical proof of their position. They interpret these silences as affirmations of their position, which is always easy to do. There are many silences in the historical and biblical record, into which a determined dogmatist can insert whatever teaching they like. They can then insist that neither history nor scripture says anything contrary to their position.

To such an extent does an appeal to silence mark their arguments that I have seldom come across a paedobaptist presentation that does not include somewhere, statements to the effect of: “the scriptures say nothing about…” or “church history never shows…“, or “show me one place where the Bible says this is incompatible…“.

Naturally, being eager to argue from silence corresponds to an equal and opposite eagerness to dismiss the hard, positive evidence that would confirm credobaptism. It seems historical and scriptural silence is worth more to the traditionalist’s apologetic than positive statements from the historical and scriptural record. Dismissing the positive evidence to the contrary is always necessary when one wishes to establish a doctrine that is unbiblical.

They do this by the simple means of arbitrarily lifting the goalposts for those scriptural passages, thereby insisting that credobaptism must carry a heavier burden and reach a higher standard than any of their own proofs. The standards are elevated only for evidences in support of credobaptism, of course. The goalposts are always shortened for easy kicks when it comes to their own position.

For example, R. C. Sproul conceded in the baptism debate with John MacArthur that the New Testament shows only adult baptisms. He further conceded that the usual New Testament texts trotted out by paedobaptists in support of their position – such as children being blessed by Jesus – are unconvincing on a scholarly level and are plain silly. This he openly acknowledged.

Yet, in a remarkable about-face on his own principle of sola scriptura, he then insisted that the scriptural examples are irrelevant since they only show baptism of first generation believers. R. C. Sproul went on to appeal to silence (as is always to be expected of the traditionalist) that the New Testament does not show any second generation believers being baptised. Thus, Sproul concluded, in order for the credobaptist texts to carry the weight of authoritative teaching they would have to show Christians in the second generation also being baptised upon confessing Christ. The lack of such baptisms in the Bible, Sproul insisted, suggests that they were baptising their babies.

To say that this is a weak argument is an understatement. It is a preposterous argument. Anybody can play the game of devising loopholes around positive scriptural texts. Anyone can win a debate – “win”, at least in their own minds – if they simply announce that all the evidence opposing their position is inadmissible. Atheists like Richard Dawkins do the same thing when they claim that there is no historical proof of the resurrection. This approach was the subject of a hilarious satire by the Youtube channel Lutheran Satire which pointed out that if you dismiss and wave away all of the proofs of the resurrection found in the gospels, in early church writings, and even in non-Christian historical source then it is certainly true that there is “no historical proof” of the resurrection. In other words, this is a dodge.

Moreover, it is relatively easy to devise some objective to a positive fact of history and then raise the goalposts denying your opponents the right to appeal to that fact. It’s a form of intellectual ring-barking of a healthy, valid fact.

For example, one could adopt R. C. Sproul’s methodology and argue that paedobaptism is invalid because the first adherents of the practice lived in a time of impure water. They thus resorted to sprinkling their children rather than immersing them as adults in order to minimise the risk of disease. Over time, this simple family health measure was elevated to the level of doctrine. Thus, to prove paedobaptism, and to show that it was not just a temporary precautionary measure, it must be shown the early historical record that paedobaptism was practised by Christians with purified water.

This example is purposefully ridiculous, yet it illustrates how arbitrary theology and history can become when unproven assumptions are simply applied to scripture (or even to history) from gaping silence. This is what inevitably happens whenever a traditionalist deviates from the simple reading of the normal sense of the Bible.

Thirdly, the defence of any unbiblical tradition very often requires a misuse of the Old Testament. The Old Testament is a goldmine for proof texts and handy-dandy theological analogies. This is because the Letter to the Hebrews in the New Testament teaches that the Old Testament provided “types and shadows” of what was to come.

For the traditionalist, this is taken as a license to deduce all kinds of things from the Old Testament that were never dreamed of by the original writers. They turn poetic flourishes into law; hyperbolic remarks into normative standards; minor technical details are turned into didactic teaching, and narrative passages become a fertile dig site for analogies. These analogies, of course, would never occur to anyone reading the scriptures in a simple and direct fashion. To “discover” the analogy, a person must first be exposed to the very doctrine that the traditionalist claims the analogy supports.

At other times Old Testament “evidence” is sought by the traditionalist by word-searching or theme-searching for anything that is vaguely connected to the doctrine.

A good example of these tactics is the effort by at least one Roman Catholic apologist who was defending papal authority. He was particularly determined to prove that the papal claim to bear the “keys of the kingdom” was prophesied in the Old Testament which foresaw the Roman Catholic Church. To find his evidence, he appealed to 1 Chronicles 9:26-27 which speaks of the Levites being responsible for opening the House of God with a key each morning. The Roman Catholic writer triumphantly pointed to this passage as clear evidence that in the Old Testament the priesthood carried the keys to the temple, and so in the New Testament the pope – the highest priest of Romanism – also bears the keys of authority to the kingdom of God.

The logic is clearly invalid. For here the starting point is the doctrinal concept of “the keys”. The Old Testament is then sifted to find anything remotely analogous, but the analogy is clearly not intended by the writer, and the connection would never naturally occur to a reader. You need to begin with the doctrine first – as it was devised by men – and then go and find its proof in the Bible later. This is always the essence of an unbiblical teaching and an unbiblical line of reasoning.

Similarly, when Roman Catholics – like Gerry Matatics – defend the Marian dogmas (such as the intercession of Mary), they sometimes reference Bathsheba as the queen mother. Bathsheba was a “type of Mary” they claim, since she interceded for Adonijah by carrying his requests to King Solomon (2 Kings 2). This is immediately taken as an analogy of the motherly intervention of Mary on behalf of her supplicants. Just like Bathsheba, she receives their prayers and conveys these to her kingly Son. Thus, the Old Testament person of Bathsheba is a prefigure of what Mary would be in the New Testament (according to Roman Catholics).

Yet when it is pointed out that Solomon denied Adonijah’s request which was made through the intermediary of Bathsheba, and that Bathsheba’s intervention directly led to his execution, this is dismissed by the Roman Catholic apologist. “All Old Testament types break down at some point; that is why they are just types“, is the standard response. This is, of course, highly convenient for any defender of tradition.

While it is true that Old Testament types are never exact simulacrums of New Testament doctrines, we are surely entitled to point out that Old Testament types must at least contain the same concepts as the New Testament doctrines that point back to them, or otherwise they cannot be types.

Fourthly, the Old Testament can be subject to having passages removed by the traditionalist completely from their context, and having a new meaning applied to those passages retroactively.

For example, some of the Reformed, unable to evade the clear priority given to personal faith in the New Testament, thus conclude that infants must be capable of faith. It is their infant faith – even if they are just a few days or weeks old – that makes their baptism valid. In essence, these Reformed (and those who follow them) attempt to argue that infant baptism is actually a form of credobaptism. This helps them to resolve the difficulty of having grace supposedly flow into an infant in the absence of any faith whatsoever in Christ.

Credobaptists reject this suggestion as not only unscriptural but as an outrage to plain reason and common sense (traditions often violate plain reason and demand assent to something that is effectively magical).

Credobaptists point out that an infant which cannot so much as speak its own name is hardly going to be able to conceive of Christ as Lord. Neither can an infant hear the word of God which is the Holy Spirit’s ordained means of creating faith. The credobaptist also stands first and foremost on the source of truth – the Bible. They point out that the scriptures always speak of faith as a virtue that works in tandem with a person’s reason and knowledge of the gospel. Faith is not a property that can exist independently of knowledge and conscious awareness of either self or Christ. There is no such thing as unconscious faith. There is no such thing as gospel-less faith.

A person must be conscious of what they believe in order to have faith. Otherwise we could say that a baptised dog or horse is capable of faith, even if they are unaware of Christ and cannot understand the words of Jesus.

The Reformed theologian who makes such a claim – that babies can believe – is obligated to “find” evidence. So he dutifully digs into the Old Testament to conjure up texts that he claims will prove that babies can be believers. Note that when traditionalists use the Old Testament in service of their doctrines, the texts they prefer almost always have a poetic or hyperbolic dimension to them. Or, at the very least, passages that have broad terms. This allows new meanings to be anachronistically applied to them.

The Psalms are especially useful for the purpose of supplying such proofs for traditions because they are written with plenty of metaphors and vivid imagery. This makes them malleable and plastic, easily shaped to a pre-determined interpretive purpose. Context is ignored under such circumstances.

In the case of “proving” infant faith, the Reformed appeal to Psalm 22:9: “Yet you brought me out of the womb; you made me trust in you, even at my mother’s breast. From birth I was cast on you; from my mother’s womb you have been my God.

They anachronistically supply an artificial context – that of infant baptism – while ignoring the surrounding passage entirely. “Is it not clear,” they ask, “that the psalmist was referring to receiving saving faith as an infant? Does this not prove that infants can have true faith in God and therefore receive baptism as believers?

In the process of constructing such an argument, they ignore the fact that this is a messianic psalm with many mysteries and metaphors not literally fulfilled in the life of David (who wrote it!). For example, David writes about having pierced hands and feet. He says his heart has melted like wax within him. He writes about being mocked by everyone who passes by, and finishes by declaring that all the families of the earth will worship God.

Clearly, much of the psalm is not to be taken as if it finds literal fulfillment in the life of David. To the contrary, it is the poetic outpouring of a man experiencing deep suffering and depression. Not only does David – the sufferer – feel alone and forsaken, he is left to trust in a God who seems to be far from him at that moment.

As a messianic psalm, it finds its deepest and most complete fulfillment in Christ. From the vantage point of the New Testament we can clearly see how beautifully it expresses Christ’s passion, the loneliness of being mankind’s sin bearer, and the hope contained in his ultimate vindication. The psalm points to his miraculous birth, his crucifixion at the hands of gentiles, his resurrection, and even the new creation that he will inaugurate on the earth.

The context of the psalm tells us that in its primary sense David is reminding God of his providence. Despite the oppressive weight of rejection and pain in David’s existence, it was God, ultimately, who brought him into the world. It was God who had caused him to believe from an early age – so early, it might as well have been at his mother’s breast! Thus, the psalm is simply a testimony that all his life he had believed and trusted in the Living God. Yet even if the text did teach that David had received faith as an infant – even if such a reading is contrary to reason and textually ridiculous – it does not allow us to infer that this is so for all infants.

Naturally the passage says nothing about baptism. The defenders of tradition seldom find in the Old Testament anything explicitly addressing their doctrinal innovations. In this case, the passage does not even didactically and unequivocally teach anything about the implausible idea that infants have faith.

Moreover, a wider look at scripture provides many demonstrations that references to the womb and reports of God’s mercy during infancy are common hyperbolic Hebraisms. This kind of poetry is only intended to speak of God’s providential leading and working from the very beginning of life, not to assert that the infants themselves received those properties and gifts at that very stage of their lives.

We can see this in the language used by St. Paul when gave his testimony to the Galatians: “But when God, who set me apart from my mother’s womb and called me by his grace, was pleased to reveal his Son in me so that I might preach him among the Gentiles, my immediate response was not to consult any human being” (Galatians 1:15-16).

St. Paul says that he was separated by God from his mother’s womb. He cannot be talking about either faith or baptism in this passage, since prior to his conversion his faith was in a false Judaism (and a God he did not know). And when St. Paul had been born, there was not yet any Christianity into which he could possibly be baptised. He is simply employing a Hebraism to speak of God’s lifelong providential care and supervision, right from the moment that God brought him into the world from his mother’s womb.

Thus the Reformed use of this Old Testament text to “prove” the possibility of infant faith not only offends reason, but stretches the proof text far beyond the container of its context. It is quite common for traditionalists to magnify poetic statements and adapt them to the least natural interpretations and reading of the text. This they do in service to a concept far removed from the text, its genre, its purpose, and overall message.

Moreover, it must be remembered that this is the sort evidence being used to lay just a single plank in the outbuildings of a doctrinal edifice that has not even been shown to be scriptural in a direct and primary sense.

Traditionalists commonly use the Old Testament to find these textual tidbits. These are used to confirm the secondary details of their doctrine. Often this forms the body of their argument, as if by establishing proof texts for enough of their doctrine’s secondary details they will somehow give the main premise of their doctrine a scriptural foundation. It is like a builder pouring his efforts into gardens, retaining walls, landscaping, and driveways in the hope that by erecting all of these, somehow a new dwelling will suddenly materialise as well.

Ultimately, Reformed Christians end up using the same arguments against credobaptists that Roman Catholics used (and continue to use) against the Protestant Reformation! It is truly noteworthy with what unity the Reformed and Roman Catholics speak when they denounce credobaptists. The Reformed sometimes appear to be blissfully unaware that their key debating points could have been directly lifted from the counter-Reformation. And this fact alone should be a flashing red light as a sign of a deficient argument. For if you repeat arguments against your opponent’s position which could be validly used against your own theology, you can know with certainty that the wheels have come flying off the bus and logic has broken down somewhere.

Any time an argument is made that bears this kind of logical architecture, one can be sure they are dealing with an extra-biblical tradition. It is the mere teaching of men and bears the imprint of men. Thus its reasoning is slippery and ill-founded, for it is not founded on the Rock of the word of God.

Mr. Trump Goes to the United Kingdom

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President Trump has been greeted by the secular orthodox with unthinking hostility as he visits the United Kingdom.

The Guardian, which prides itself on being the vanguard of what is vaingloriously called “progressivism”, eagerly reported on the protests attended by a broad cross-section of feminists, professional agitators, communists, student radicals, transgender activists, and opportunity sniffing politicians. Many of the attendees interviewed did not appear to have jobs and nearly all of the photographs of the protests show a high ratio of women to men. One suspects that many of the protesters are state subsidised in some way.

Although all the protesters were smug and professed apoplectic rage, some were more smug and outraged than others. None more so than the left-wing politicians giving speeches, each of which seemed enormously pleased with themselves.

It has not yet occurred to these politicians that hitching a ride on a sinking ship is not very smart. Cheap tickets on the Titanic do not work out to be quite as much a bargain as they may first seem. In the same way, the identarian, virtue-signalling, minority fundamentalist form of politics is experiencing the first signs of striking an iceberg in within the Western world. Intelligent politicians would do well to disembark instead of trying to clamber aboard and throw the engines into high gear.

Firstly, identarian politics is no longer is doing much other than providing an easy way for people to climb the ladder of their public careers. Secondly, it has become a parody of itself as it embraces a philosophy that is nakedly unsustainable and irrational. A brand of politics is always in trouble when it starts becoming funny.

Thirdly it is doing genuine harm to people for whom the most compassionate thing anyone could give them is a dose of reality. Locking people in a prison of their own delusions and pretending those delusions are true is as cruel as treating a sick person as if he were healthy; or releasing a madman into the community and holding him to standards designed for the sane.

Fourthly, minority fundamentalism has become cancerous on the body politic, using vicious and intimidating thuggery to try to silence dissent. From shrieks of “microaggression” as medieval villagers might once have cried “witch!”, to the documented efforts to get people fired for having beliefs disfavoured by the identarian drones, it constitutes an attack on free thought, free speech, and the once-assumed right people had in a democracy to freely differ from others and still be accepted as citizens.

Lastly, (and it is jolly good news), identarian politics is also beginning to disintegrate from within. It is destroying and excluding its own practitioners as seen in the Pride 2018 parade just a few weeks ago in the United Kingdom, where the organisers literally apologised for the parade being led by lesbian TERFS. These lesbians now feel excluded from their own movement, as explained in their campaign cheerfully titled, “Get the L out of here”. I will write more on the internal war between second wave feminists and the transgender movement in a future article, but it is noteworthy that this internecine conflict has already turned violent. There has been a court hearing in the United Kingdom involving the battery of a 60 year-old feminist by a young transgender activist and (in all probability) a female friend.

These are the sorts of people – yes, with a smattering of kind but woolly-headed old lefties wearing floppy sun hats – who turned out to greet Trump. They did not greet him as the man with whom the United Kingdom will rely upon heavily to secure a favourable trade deal for its economic future. The risk of national economic upheaval was not enough to dampen their truly mindless rancor. It gives credence to the moral (and theological) view that even human self-interest will be set aside for the sake of resentment. After all, it is the petty resentments of sinners that cause them to embrace fiery damnation forever rather than kneel before the Almighty and receive paradise.

Trump is not detested by this crowd because they can articulate with reasonable detail any of his policies to which they object. They tend to paint in broad bush strokes using a simple, vivid narrative structure that omits much need for thought – e.g. “He’s locking up children on the border!” or “He’s a misogynist!”.

The majority of the protesters do not give the impression of being particularly bright, alas. It is certainly questionable whether most of the protesters would be able to make a rational case against the policies or issues they claim to oppose.

The Spectator demonstrated as much in a hilarious article written by Lloyd Evans, who did some boots-on-the-streets work and actually went out and interviewed the anti-Trump protesters. Evans found they had a very fuzzy grasp on politics altogether with instances of truly symbolic grandstanding on the streets. For instance, the communists were out in force. Evans offered an amusing account on his effort at trying to score a free copy of a communist newspaper from a communist newsstand as he imbibed the atmosphere of the protest. Needless to say, he could find no communist willing to give him a freebie not even during the crisis of Trump’s visit! Capitalism, Evans found, is alive and well among the purveyors of Marxist worldviews in the United Kingdom.

Evans also wrote about a man selling t-shirts commemorating the protest. According to Evans, the t-shirts were being sold at 10 pounds a piece, and the seller reported that he was doing a ripping trade, parting with about six shirts every 10 minutes. The shirts carried simple, unimaginative anti-Trump slogans, such as “No to Trump”, but a masterstroke lay in the printing of the date upon the shirt: “London July 13th 2018”. As Evans correctly inferred, this was attractive to protesters trying to build a personal archive of their activism. It was a way for them to say, “I was there.”.

All of the source material coming from the protests suggests that the animosity toward Trump really has very little to do with concerns for the best interests of their country (after all, what other reputable capital city would fly a “baby blimp” over its ancient institutions in order to purposefully insult the world’s most important leader? And what kind of mayor is Sadiq Khan to give permission for such a stunt?). The animosity is not even driven by a knowledgeable repudiation of Trump’s international or domestic policies.

Rather, the rhetoric at these protests reveals that the hostility principally arises from what Trump represents: he is a symbol of the imminent funeral of identarian, virtue-signalling, snowflake-nurturing, safe-space building, minority fundamentalism. The desperation of those wedded to identarian politics is palpable, for they can hear – as yet afar off – the audible chiming of the end of their era. And not before time. The suspension of rationality shown by the practitioners of identarian politics is frightening to behold.

The following interviews and comments were published in the Guardian demonstrating this in spades. The Guardian evidently felt this would be convincing. But to whom? The commentary seems like a black hole at the terminus of rationality.

Corbyn attacked the US president for his comments on Thursday that Boris Johnson would “make a great prime minister”, saying it was “not his business who the British prime minister is”.

Addressing a packed square, Corbyn said: “We are asserting our rights to democracy, our rights to freedom of speech and our rights to want a world that is not divided by misogyny, racism and hate.”

It is not surprising that Jeremy Corbyn should jump on the opportunity to address the minority fundamentalists because this is his meal ticket. That his audience were minority fundamentalists is evident from the language Corbyn chooses to use. With his politician’s acumen, he has sensed precisely what kind of language he needed to use to tap into this rich vein of emotion, hostility, and best of all, resentment. Resentment springs eternal in the human breast, and no modern politician can go far wrong if he provides both succor and justification for the resentments that crackle among the masses.

In true form, Corbyn tried to put a noble gloss on what is a crass political surge. This is seen in the conceit that the protesters had gathered to “assert rights” to democracy, as if they were latter-day revolutionaries standing up against a malignant tyrant. It is a supreme irony indeed that democracy is most threatened by the disdain for free speech shown by the bullying and oppressive cloud of identarian snowflakes currently swirling in a blizzard through London.

Corbyn’s own dislike for the sinews of democracy (freedom to think and speak as one pleases) – as well as his willful misrepresentation of Trump’s comments – is obvious in his remark here. For when Trump expresses an opinion about Boris Johnson, this is professed by Corbyn to be a kind of political interference in the internal workings of the United Kingdom. Therein one finds a thinly-veiled appeal to nationalism, with the subtext, “Who will rid us of this troublesome American?“. This, in its own right is remarkable because national identity is the one identity class in existence, other than religious identity, that identarian fundamentalists seem to both loathe and fear.

Of course the usual meaningless buzzwords are inserted: “misogynist”, “racism”, and “hate”. One may well ask: what does any of this actually mean? How can Trump hate women when he is married to one and has a devoted daughter who by all accounts both respects and loves her father? Is Trump a “misogynist” because he is crass? Or is he a misogynist because he does not conform precisely to the wishes of the feminist movement? Is Trump’s immigration policies racist because he wishes to stop the uncontrolled traffic of human being across the United States’ southern borders?

These words are utterly bereft of meaning.

In our brave new world, however, even asking questions about this terminology is regarded as “offensive” or a “microaggression”. Thus, crucial terms pass undefined and without scrutiny. Their meaning gets wider over time because there is no objective authority to delineate the boundaries of the terminology. It is at this point that language become dangerous and slippery because when words no longer have fixed meanings, there cannot be a shared reality. When there is no share reality, true discourse becomes impossible. All that is left is assertion, uncritical acceptance, and censure. Liberty itself – which is predicated on a shared reality – becomes hostage to minority fundamentalism.

The identarian words Corbyn pumps out with his chilling mechanical style, no longer describe specific attitudes or behaviours. Rather, they are synonyms for “bad”. Corbyn is really saying that Trump is “really, really, really bad” and that women and non-Caucasian people should be really, really, really worried.

Among the Americans who turned out was Michael Avenatti, the lawyer for the US adult film star Stormy Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump. Avenatti said he was there to send a message to “our brothers and sisters here in the UK and around the world that … there’s millions of Americans that are outraged by his conduct and by his behaviour.”

Here, the Guardian uncritically references a lawyer working for an “adult film star” (that description is a purposeful effort to soften the fact that she was involved in the pornography industry, which many feminists argue exploits women). The lawyer and his client are engaged in a sordid court action against Trump. The whole affair is tawdry to the maximum level.

That there might possibly be a less-than-altruistic motive at work here never seems to occur to the Guardian.

I suspect most Americans are not at liberty to take a casual holiday in the United Kingdom in order to attend a political protest. It would be nice to be so empowered. Furthermore, I suspect very few thoughtful Americans would arrive with such singularly uninteresting commentary.

Mr Avenatti’s statement to the press is monumentally boring in the sense that it says nothing of significance and is laced with hyperventilating superlatives that now seem to be the vogue. In effect he travels to another country, marches in the streets, gets his name into the press (by virtue of aforesaid tawdry court action not because he says anything interesting), all so that he might inform the world that there is opposition to the president within the United States.

He seems to think this might come as a revelation to the world. Perhaps he could point to a single elected leader of a democratic country that has no domestic opposition?

In Soho in London, a group of house music DJs including A Guy Called Gerald performed on a giant sound system under the banner “No to Brexit, no to Trump, no to Theresa May”. The actor Laura Carmichael, who played Lady Edith Crawley in Downton Abbey, held an “End Violence Against Women” banner.

The confusion of issues here is palpable. There are threads of Brexit, meshed with distaste for Theresa May’s government, blended with a little violence against women for good measure. These (and other issues) mingle in a cold, jellylike blob that must seek a bogeyman. This is hardly ideologically coherent.

Hundreds of protesters gathered outside City Hall in Belfast and thousands gathered at George Square in Glasgow.

Among them were Roberta Logan, 32, and her sons Magnus, six, and Aidan, three. “It felt important to bring them today to teach them to stand up against things that are wrong,” Logan said.

Roberta Logan deigns to explain precisely what she means by “things that are wrong”, against which she is supposedly teaching her sons to stand. Although her stated aims are laudable, it is questionable whether the lesson will stick. At the age of six, young Magnus is still learning how to read and write and may just be starting to work on his lower multiplication tables. Later in life he may dimly recollect the hullabaloo, but he is certainly not mature enough to understand the “wrong things” without the issues being simplified down to the level of lies. As for young Aidan, unless he is a particularly precocious three year old (as Kim Jong Un is purported to be, driving a car at the age of three), he will certainly not remember the protest nor will he learn anything from it.

If I could hazard a guess, I would like to bet that Roberta turned out for the protest for her own reasons. Her children, nonetheless, formed a perfect virtue-signalling opportunity when approached by the press. For what better way to communicate the depth of your disdain for a leader than by insisting – contrary to all common sense – that what you are doing for yourself you are really doing for others? And surely the best of all virtue-signalling is to seek to inculcate your uncomprehending children with the purest identarian values.

The declaration of the impossible is the apotheosis of minority fundamentalism. You show your devotion best with assertions that are overblown to the point of irrationality, or which are physically or mentally impossible. Like the claim that a three year old child is really being taught to oppose Trump. The only thing that surprises me in this article is that the Guardian was unable to find a protester with a dog, professing to be in attendance in order to nourish the political well-being of his canine.

Emily Darnell, 40, an executive assistant from Haywards Heath in West Sussex, made a banner that tipped its hat to Mary Poppins, reading: “Super Callous Fragile Racist Sexist Nazi Potus.”

“Trump is just a vile, vile man so I felt really motivated to come here,” she said. “I think it is really important that so many people are here so that he knows how Britain feels and how women feel about him. He is such a loser.”

At Oxford Circus in London, James O’Brien from Ireland was selling Donald Trump toilet paper, calling out: “The most satisfaction you can have in a toilet, kids.”

Anne Howard said she thought protester numbers had been bolstered by Trump’s “insulting behaviour” to Theresa May in his interview with the Sun published on Friday.

Lastly, we have a final illustration of the intellectual quality of the protest. This section seems both grotesque and childish, a combination that has long been a stock-in-trade for the horror genre whose authors have learned how to turn the innocent accouterments of childhood into repulsive, disturbing and degrading narratives.

You will note that here Emily Darnell believes herself to be the mouthpiece of both “Britain” and “women”, which must surely come as a surprise to the British women who do not find Trump to be the pantomime villain she believes him to be. Naturally, her opposition arises from her disdain for him as a person, and she expresses this by corrupting a fun nonsense word from an innocent family movie into a lengthy insult. Her sad parody of the Mary Poppins song, it must be said, has the characteristics of the ungainly word salad so beloved by the left, yet is completely emptied of the joy and winsomeness of the original – a perfect representation of left-wing identarianism.

James O’Brien has gone even further in illuminating his fellow citizens that they might join his cause. Apparently wiping fecal matter off one’s anus and onto a tissue imprinted with the president’s face is a political statement. It may express contempt and resentment but it in terms of anything more meaningful it is the equivalent of the toilet humour so beloved by small children.

If this is the intellectual state of the virtue-signalers, then we may hope for sunny days ahead.