The Anglican Church of Tasmania Sells Up

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(Photograph: ABC, 2018)

The Anglican Church of Tasmania is selling 55 churches and a considerable portfolio of other properties.

Its survival strategy appears to be congruent with its sister branches elsewhere in the Western world. Having haemorrhaged most of its believers as a consequence of no longer proclaiming anything of worth, it has astutely recognised that the only way to keep the religion lumbering on for the immediate future is to approach the church in much the same way that a corporate headquarters approaches its outlets: cull the weak, close the unprofitable, sell the fat. In other words, the ruthless application of economic rationalisation.

The sell-off will raise about $30,000,000 for an estimated 200 survivors of abuse at the hands of Anglican clergy in Tasmania. But it is likely that the sale will generate three times that amount which will then be ploughed back into the very parishes that were unable to sustain the churches they sold in the first place. It thus kills two birds with one stone. It neutralises the issue of abuse survivors and also creates cash.

If there is anything that demonstrates the unenviable conundrum of the Anglican Church, it is this. With congregations in free fall decline, the only means to raise liquid revenue is to sell their property. But raising money for your heart by selling one of your kidneys is never going to be a sustainable strategy.

The financial situation of the Anglican Church more broadly reflects its theological situation where it increasingly represents a hollowed shell, propped up by the pillars of tradition which are so flexible in meaning as to reach the point of utter indifference. The rotting edifice is occupied by ageing liberals and once-radicals from the 1970’s who seem to think they can capture the affection and attention of people by being edgy and “not stuffy”. Such as allowing the Vagina Monologues to be recited in their churches.

In any case, the Bishop of Tasmania Dr. Richard Condie has his work cut out for him since he not only faces the burden of a rapidly thinning flock but also opposition from the very faction of theological liberals that have worked so tirelessly to shrink the number of souls in his cure.

They describe him as “fundamentalist” because he believes what St. Paul wrote about homosexuality. The bishop has even made statements in which he hints at the centrality of scripture. He has said that within the Anglican Communion there has been an “…erosion of confidence in the truth of the Bible that has led to an erosion of teaching about sexuality, the uniqueness of Christ, the resurrection, about abortion, euthanasia, and all kinds of things, such that this is not recognisable as historic biblical Christianity“. In other words, the communicants and clergy of the Anglican Church, many no longer recognisably Christian, are in desperate need of evangelism.

It gives one some indication as to how far off the ranch the Anglican Church has travelled when a “fundamentalist” within their ranks is anyone who believes the Bible. It also explains why they have a shortage of Christian communicants. To have churches brimming full of Christians, you need to present actual Christianity, oddly enough.

My sheep hear my voice and they follow Me… But they will not follow a stranger, but will flee from him, because they know not the voice of strangers.

The Miserable Lives of Celebrities

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Celebrities are dropping like flies in the closing days of 2016. Zsa Zsa Gabor, Liz Smith, George Michael, and now Carrie Fisher.

Biographies and obituaries are the most instructive moral literature our culture now produces. And the biographies of these celebrities do not reveal happy people, but rather deeply unhappy people.

Even when performing in comedic roles, in their private lives they were miserable. They were users of drugs; desperately promiscuous; conflicted; lonely; fretful; fearful; suffered from depressive disorders; rejection; and were ridden with health problems. These were people who had voids in their lives.

Liz Smith, who played comedic elderly characters, said of herself:

It is lack of reassurance that has made me how I am. I’ve had withdrawal symptoms from people all my life – rejection and withdrawal – so it is lovely to have reassurance…  I’m odd and melancholy, that is why I turn to comedy.

Sadness being a common theme among the world’s best known comedians. Kenneth Williams, for example, was a grotesque and monstrous person. Robin Williams built a career of laughter around an inner core of depressive darkness. The list could go on.

The lives of celebrities proves that our deepest convictions about happiness are ultimately an illusion. Unfortunately, the world’s ideas about happiness are drilled so deeply into us, is so much part of the cultural mixture, and is dinned so loudly into our ears, that it requires great personal effort to see through it. We are taught that happiness is predicated on things. Or on fame. Or on friends. Or on romance. Or money. Or parties. Or sexual gratification. Or having big houses and big cars. In fact, some of you reading this article will be literally unable to stop believing that this is where your happiness lies.

But it’s simply not true. And therefore, I think celebrities are greatly to be pitied. For they have ascended to the pinnacle of the culture; a pinnacle to which they can cling only precariously for a brief moment in time. But having drawn back the curtain on the ultimate dream of millions, they discover it is fraud. Yes, they have rivers of money and people who love them wherever they go and yet… “the world is hollow and I have touched the sky“, to quote the brilliant title from the third season Star Trek episode (1968).

Just like all human beings, celebrities desperately try to fill the void. They medicate their pain and misery with pleasure, chemical stimulation, hobbies, or with the pursuit of Some New Thing. Legion are the celebrities who seek for “something” in Buddhism, materialism, Kabbalah, spiritualism and so on. They are the greatest victims of Satan who has plunged them into the deepest misery of all, far from Christ.

Their prosperity and desperate search for meaning always fails to end the existential ache.

This seems to me to be the ultimate tragedy; not only are celebrities unhappy – even more unhappy than ordinary people – but they vigorously repudiate the Christian faith, because the Christian faith forbids the very behaviours they use to medicate their misery!

Most celebrities are forgotten in a few months. Muhammad Ali, who died earlier this year, is never going to be front page news again. Zsa Zsa Gabor’s passing was even less noteworthy, for her star had cooled and faded in the 1980’s. Shrivelled and aged, most young people do not so much as know her name, must less her films and movies. The “glamour” she supposedly radiated is not the idea of glamour that young people have now. From memory she passed, into pitiable, unmemorable old age. And that even before her death.

Carrie Fisher is likely to be the longest remembered of this year’s crop of celebrity deaths. She exercised enormous cultural influence as a consequence of Star Wars. The character she portrayed has entered into a kind of secular mythos, commanding as much power as medieval legends or the hagiographies of the saints once did. Her face will be immortalised (at least for a long time) on countless t-shirts, novel covers, posters, mugs, dress-up costumes etc.

But even here, there is a sour note. She is not really remembered at all. Not the person. Only her face when she was young and pretty, only her body when it was at its shapely fittest is celebrated. Only a youthful Carrie Fisher is worthy of being printed. The actual person who left those impressions on film is a worthless husk. Nobody is interested in her real appearance as she actually was as a 60 year-old woman.

At the termination of her very sad and tumultuous life, “being remembered” seems such poor compensation. This has always been the secular prescription to ease death. Gene Roddenberry and his successors brought this out many times in Star Trek. When a beloved crew member died, it was said that the person lived on in people’s memories and hearts. This was supposed to be a great comfort. This was supposed to be a replacement for the opium of religion. But on reflection, it is a cold and bitter comfort.

Who will remember the real Carrie Fisher? Those who knew her best are also approaching death. So what was her life for? What memories did she produce? Of a princess in a galaxy far, far away? Was making a sci-fi movie series the only thing her life counted for? Are those impressions left on flickering screens the summation of a heart, soul, and mind?

If ever we needed a reminder about the hope of the Christian message, this is it.

Firstly, we are promised that there are real and lasting pleasures forevermore at the right hand of God (Psalm 16:11). These pleasures are pure and clean; loving and gentle. There is pleasure and fulfilment in holy living, in being a people who constitute Christ’s “royal priesthood”. There is hope in a life centred on Christ, a hope that banishes existential gloom, gives meaning and purpose, a daily reason to get up, and “joy unspeakable”.

Secondly, Christianity offers us not only a meaningful life, but the promise of immortality in a world that is so joyous and clean that we shall at once forget this one, swallowed up in the glory of the life of the world to come. And so, at life’s inevitable end, for the Christian there will be a triumphant and true glory when Christ’s people will “shine like the sun” in the kingdom of their Father.

We have no reason to live in the futile shadows of nihilism, fatalism, materialism, or hedonism. These are the hellish forces that have swallowed up man’s mind in the 21st century, but in Jesus Christ, the Christian finds a fortress secure and the fountainhead of crystalline rivers that descend from the very throne of God.

“I am the resurrection and the life. He who believes in me shall never perish, and though he die, yet shall he live, for I shall raise him up again at the last day.”

The Unhappy State of Modern Roman Catholicism

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Protestants who are considering a return to the Roman Church need to look a little closer. There are serious crises brewing in Roman Catholicism, from dissident cardinals, to open theological disunity, to clerical scandals, and a pope whose purposes and aims are an impenetrable fog.

Lately it has been astonishing to me how many conservative (basically orthodox) Protestants have been looking toward Roman Catholicism with longing eyes.

Tired of the liberal direction of their own churches, they think they see something unchanging and solid in Roman Catholicism. It looks so ancient; so united; so deep in history; the dust of the saints seems to hang in the sunbeams shining through the high windows of St. Peter’s. They long (as we all ought to) for stability and connection with faithful forebears. So much so that they indicate that they are ready to swallow a little Mary veneration and papal infallibility if only to belong to a church that opposes the progressive trend and gives them back their Christian history.

These Protestants are standing on dangerous territory. They have lost sight of the reasons the Reformation happened in the first place. They have lost confidence in the centrality of the Word of God. In many cases they lack a strong concept of Christian history, or perhaps, have a fantasy version of Christian history that never existed in the first place. They have lost sight of the fact that the practice of pure Christianity can and does change form from age to age.

Long ago it was practised by fishermen in small homes with glassless windows, and in prison cells, and on long and dusty roads. And then it spread throughout Europe, Africa and eastern Asia where it was practised principally in Latin and Greek in small village chapels. It was practised by an antecedent church that would later mutate into the Roman Church.

Five hundred years ago its form changed again. Under the guidance of God, it began to be practised, believed and disseminated by the Reformers, then the Puritans and the great missionaries, who wore their sombre black teaching gowns and took the Good News to the colonies; to the far reaches of the earth.

Today, pure Christianity is increasingly practised by small cells. Sometimes small faithful cells of true believers who remain together in the rotting body of a larger church. Or more frequently, Christians who gather in plain, simple independent local churches and dispense with the robes and the stained glass and get back to basics with the exposition of the pure Word.

Anyone contemplating a return to Rome needs only to look at its present situation to realise that there are no answers there. The Roman Church has entered a state of decline. It is in free-fall without any possibility of arrest.

Its doctrine and teachings are un-reformable (always the hazard of “infallible government”). It is sclerotic, shackled to traditions that have long passed usefulness or even good sense, and has become so indifferent to its own teachings that it is unwilling to enforce them on privileged members like celebrities and politicians.

Its adherents are often poorly catechised – something even acknowledged by the church hierarchy – with suggestions that maybe half of Roman Catholics do not know what their church really teaches about transubstantiation and the Eucharist, even though this is the centrepiece sacrament in Roman theology. (A Protestant might cynically observe that such widespread ignorance is the Roman Church’s strength.)

Many Roman Catholics are anchored more by familiarity to custom and allegiance to the pope than the official truth claims made by their church. Indeed, knowledgeable Roman Catholics worry about papolatry, defined as the elevation of the pope to a quasi-divine figure. Examples of this abound, from a nun who says that Pope Francis loves you even from the other side of the world to Vatican officials asking Filipino Roman Catholics to use images of Christ and not of the pope.

In popular demonstrations of Roman Catholic pride, singers and dancers have displayed a giant head of the pope with a dove hovering above it, as in the case of the 2015 Argentine mardi gras (caution: I have provided only a link to a secondary website with a clean photograph. If you research this further you will come across photographs of the event which featured dancers in very impure costumes. Best avoided.). Their float featured near-naked dancers cavorting before the papal visage, summoning up images of that ghastly pagan dancing in in the movie classic Solomon and Sheba (1959). To the best of my knowledge, this float was never repudiated by the church’s hierarchy.

Upon Jorje Bergoglio’s election, cute Youtube cartoons quickly appeared which presented him very nearly as a perfect saint. When he visited the United States, a Roman Catholic group put up a Twitter theme featuring the word HOPE with the Pope’s head as the letter O. In an effort to reign this in, some Roman Catholic blogs dealt with comments regarding “blasphemy” against the pope. Protestants are forced to wryly observe that blasphemy is always an offence against God. Even when men spoke against St. Paul or St. Peter, they never charged their accusers with blasphemy!

But Rome’s obsession with human mediators and human intercessors does not just end there. During the “Year for Priests” all kinds of Roman Catholic Youtube videos appeared glorifying the priesthood in audio-visual displays akin to worship. The most disturbing of these featured a song by Brian Flynn who sings, “You are a priest forever, in the line of Melchizedek, in persona Christi ad majorem dei gloria“.

For a Protestant, the full lyrics are unendurable. The song appropriates the words written to the Hebrews about the glory of Christ our High Priest who supersedes any earthly priesthood. The song-writer takes that glorious teaching and applies it to feeble, mortal, sinful men who claim they have power to bring Christ down from heaven on their command and render him present on their altars! Who do these priests think they are? And where in sacred scripture is such a power ever bestowed upon men? Most assuredly, it is not ever given to men.

If the cardinals of the Roman Catholic Church knew what they knew now, I suspect they would never have elected Jorje Mario Bergoglio as pope.

Pope Francis has been treated very kindly by the media, far more so than his predecessor. Initially this was because he seemed to promise a new direction. The media believed that he might change Roman Catholic practices and introduce a wave of 1960’s style policies, like ordaining women priests, giving communion to divorcees, and softening the line on practising homosexuals.

We were hammered with talk of something called the “Francis Effect”, which turns out to be almost entirely a media construction. It is a textbook example of the sort of “phenomena” the media falsely discovers, spends months chattering about in broad abstract terms, before realising that it never existed in the first place.

Under Francis’ leadership, the Roman Catholic Church has lurched from disaster to disaster, both internal and external. It exposes the ever-broadening contradictions, inconsistencies, and disunity within the Church itself, as it navigates the 21st century with all the acuity of a rudderless vessel.

Numbers of Roman Catholics in the developed world continue to fall. There are massive and widening internal divisions within the Roman Church, between the progressives who wish to pull in a more liberal direction akin to their Lutheran counterparts, and the conservatives who often wish to pull in a more traditionalist direction and return to the Tridentine forms of worship. This chasm will result in schism. It is well and truly on the cards now, and this is being muttered about even by very conservative Roman Catholics whose allegiance to the Vatican is absolute.

The Synod on the Family (2014-2015) exposed both internal machinations and deep theological divisions. And the resulting encyclical Amoris laetitia has clarified nothing and instead prompted months of debate and disputation, some of it very unpleasant. There is now virtual open warfare between the highest ranking members of the hierarchy over the encyclical, with four cardinals going public with their “dubia” or “doubts”. And this hasn’t just been a recent development. Even while the dust was still settling from the Synod, the words began to fly with cardinals openly calling each other out over this.

Meanwhile, the progressive editor of La Civilta Cattolica, Fr. Antonio Spadaro, who gets interviews with Pope Francis and produces the only Roman Catholic magazine to be examined under draft by the Secretariat of State of the Holy See, has been using Twitter in a manner that has prompted journalists to write lengthy and detailed exposes. It has been suggested by these websites that the tweets have been aimed at those very same cardinals who went public with their “dubia”.

Francis’ public comments have certainly been fodder for misinterpretation. From the “who am I to judge” comment in relation to homosexuals to the implication that good atheists might enter heaven. Many defenders were quick to point out that these may have been misunderstood, misinterpreted or misquoted. Maybe they were, but one cannot help noticing that if this is the case, Francis has been the unfortunate victim of this on many, many, many occasions. At some point, blaming the translator starts to seem a little empty.

Satirists, like the famous Lutheran Satire, were not so forgiving. Their humour has a cold zing to it because they sourced their material more-or-less verbatim from Francis himself:

They lampoon some of his comments. For example, the report in which the Pope said that youth unemployment and loneliness among the elderly were the most urgent problems facing his church. Not the salvation of sinners, apparently.

But then we come to the here and now.

The latest remarks from the pope this week were so off-colour I initially thought they were satire or “fake news” when I first read them on an Italian news site. But alas, they appear to have been quite real. In speaking about media coverage of scandals and corruption, the Pope referred to sexual arousal over faeces and eating faeces, explaining that this is what the media do when they chase negative stories. In turn, the Spectator in the United Kingdom published an analysis of this, and asked whether or not it was time for the pope to retire.

Yet, the pope and his church have still other problems. Recently, it lurched from the progressive angle and banned all men with homosexual tendencies from the priesthood. There is multiple news coverage of this and it is not very clear what the Roman Church is saying. Whatever it is saying, however, it seems the church is able to judge something after all regarding homosexuality.

According to news sources, from this point forward, a man with homosexual tendencies, even if he is committed to priestly celibacy and continence, will not be allowed to serve as a priest. Some of the comments from the Daily Mail readers suggested that this would decimate the priesthood if it were enforced on existing clergy. Their glib comments do point to something serious. The fact that this ruling has been made at all suggests that there are many such men entering the priesthood. It also suggests that such men may be a source of trouble for the Roman hierarchy.

In fact, at least three Roman Catholic bishops have been involved in sexual scandals in the past 10 years or so. One was even videoed having sexual relations with another man. This is to say nothing of openly gay priests. We do not know how many such men carefully conceal their sexual activities, but some groups suggest that around 50% of the Roman Catholic clergy may be homosexual. These claims are made by liberal and conservative groups. (See: source 1, source 2, source 3, source 4.)

The pope is meant to bring unity, which is the big drawcard for conservatives in embattled denominations. But conservative Roman Catholics within the Roman Catholic Church are growing increasingly dissatisfied themselves. These conservatives are eyeing traditionalists groups with increasing longing. Since Benedict XVI’s motu proprio Summorum Pontificum issued in 2007 gave priests far greater freedom to celebrate the old Latin form of the mass, the traditionalists have started to grow in number. Their enclaves have expanded, but for many of them, the Roman Church is still not traditional enough.

Consequently, traditionalist schismatic groups like the Society of St. Pius X (SSPX) continues to grow and continues to reject any rapprochement that involves accepting the present doctrinal state of the Roman Catholic Church. (A move that seems rather wise in light of the explosive growth of the SSPX and the equally evident decline of the parent organisation.)

Although they would deny it, the Society of St. Pius X is essentially a breakaway church, developing into a parallel organisation practising a robust Tridentine Catholicism. It has an ever-expanding constellation of seminaries, schools, nursing homes, university institutes, churches, chapter houses and monasteries. But more than this, the SSPX is a vivid demonstration of just how much the “unchanging” Roman Catholic Church really has radically changed in the past 70 years.

The two religious groups bear virtually no relation to each other at all. The form of worship is different; the whole premise of their respective ecclesiology is different. Neither is this just a superficial flourish. Modern Roman Catholicism is simply not the same religion that it was in the 1950’s and earlier. The church defended by G. K. Chesterton  would be unrecognisable to him today.

It reminds us all that the only unchanging authoritative centre of true Christianity is that which God himself has given us. Namely, his word, which cannot change.

 

Dare we Hope? Have the Green Shoots of Springtime come after such a Long Ideological Winter?

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I have recently begun teaching a unit on Marx.

Refreshing myself with the material, I was struck by how similar the internal operation of Marx’s worldview is to the worldview of modern secularism.

Marx looked at society and divided it into competing groups. For him, classes. His big idea was that each class is made up of people who think the same and work together to achieve common ends. According to Marx, each class is in conflict with the others. Under the force of history, some classes would die, and other classes would survive. Ultimately, the downtrodden workers would rise up and establish a Utopian state once they got rid of class parasites once and for all.

Marx belonged to the bourgeoisie class that oppressed the workers, but he believed he was different. He was enlightened. Being noble and beneficent, he made it his task to free the working classes. To join with them in the struggle.

If this sounds familiar, it is because it is still underlying mechanism of prevailing liberal doctrine.Under this philosophy, society is still divided into competing sectors. Today, the oppressed are so-called “minorities”. (I use quotation marks because women are included among the victim groups as if they were minorities, despite making up 50% of the population.) Minorities, as everybody knows, are oppressed by the large mass of white, prosperous, straight, conventional people – primarily men, but also conservative-leaning women – who make the lives of minorities hell.

There are enlightened one’s however. These are mostly the better educated white, straight, prosperous, conventional people, who have broken ranks. Like Marx, they are clearly more moral than anyone else because they denounce their own social segment in service to the weak and oppressed.

By this means they prove how compassionate, intelligent and sophisticated they are. Often they can signal this virtue through exaggerated reverence for various minority groups. Or they signal virtue through ferocious and morbid denunciation of anyone who is white, straight, prosperous and conventional.

Interestingly, concern for the working-class is nearly dead. Unless the poor belong to a minority group, they get very little airtime. The poor are more likely to be subject to ridicule and mockery than sympathy. People with certain accents, who can afford only to live in trailer parks, and who may work in low paying jobs have become people to laugh at.

This divisive approach to social issues always produces anti-democratic forces because it idealises and romanticises the victim groups (anyone who has met the working-class poor, much less representatives of other minority groups, knows that they are not always very nice people. They suffer all the foibles of mankind). Since this is a sociology that is, essentially, based on fantasy and not a warts-an-all approach to humanity, and since it takes the side of minorities against the majority “oppressors”, the logical and necessary outworking of this view is ultimately authoritarian and anti-democracy.

Marxism, wherever it has been applied in any form, has always resulted in the suspension of democracy. Marxism has never existed anywhere without the crushing of free speech and the right of dissent. The same is increasingly true of modern secularism. Modern secularism inches toward authoritarianism in our own time in so many ways.

This week The Spectator reported on a group that is trying to get companies to boycott certain conservative newspapers for speaking “hate”. This is code for “views different from our own”. “Hate” involves certain views on immigration, for example.

When Donald Trump was elected, students at universities went into the kind of mourning that is usually only seen in totalitarian dictatorships when the Leader dies, or in absolute monarchies, when the king or queen passes away.

In fact, some student reactions on university campuses sank even lower. Their behaviour has descended to the level of small children. See here, and here.

Now that ballot boxes around the world have stopped responding to elite pressure by giving the “correct” responses,  we have seen the most amazing outpouring of anti-democratic sentiment since the 1930’s.

This is not just the temper tantrum of an elite tangle of journalists, politicians, bankers, academics, and lobbyists. It goes much further than complaints and tears. The response is nothing less than a call for social revolution.

Some academics have called for a new “aristocracy of the wise“. Others are calling the United States’ Founding Fathers “terrorists” and have denounced their principles.

Left-wing newspapers and media organisations have bombarded their audiences with dire predictions as to what will now happen when people vote for the wrong candidate or the wrong cause.

A similar outpouring was seen after the Brexit vote.

Before the referendum, left-wing media became shrill. They printed a torrent of fear. In fact, after the vote, a columnist for The Guardian went so far as to predict Nazism would come to Britain (and worse):

The Human Rights Act is abolished and the BBC absorbed into government. National socialism will no doubt carry a new name – but it’s there in the making.

The fact that protests have erupted over the outcome of democratic votes in both the United Kingdom and the United States is bizarre. I do not think I have ever seen protests against the verdict of the ballot box on this scale.

The people marching in the streets use words like “tolerance”, “diversity”, “anti-hate”, but none of this is sincere. We know what those words mean. We know that they are really demanding the suspension of democracy because it has given a verdict they dislike.

Like Marxism, PC-Culture is fundamentally undemocratic. The new morality, new economy, new culture, new politics, and new sociology all shy away from the verdict of the people as much as possible.

A classic example has recently occurred in Australia where a coalition of left-wing parties have voted against putting a plebiscite about same-sex marriage to the people.

Get it? These left-wing parties are for same-sex marriage. And the ruling conservative government has painfully agreed to pass it into law if it gets the approval of the people. But, by voting the plebiscite down, the left-wing groups have deferred the change for years – at least until the next election in 2019.

Why? Well, they claim they are afraid of unleashing “hate”. Much better for parliament to vote on it and impose it from the top down, they say. Apparently the average Australian is so bigoted and violent, that to debate the issue outside of parliament could put people’s lives at risk! If that is true, one must ask how you could call the law “democratic” if there are so many ignorant, benighted, rednecks who are violently opposed to it.

Of course, what they mean is that they are afraid of dissent. They have contempt for the people. They are fearful of open debate. And they stamp “hate” on this process to legitimise side-stepping it completely. Anyone who opposes their policy is a “hater”.

There are many hopeful signs of a new awakening in the West.

No philosophy or ideology lasts forever – not even the liberal consensus that has held the West in a stranglehold since the 1960’s. There are signs of springtime after winter. The long ideological trauma the West has lain in since the end of the Second World War may (dare we hope!) be waning.

Green shoots are seen in many directions, not all of which an evangelical can celebrate, but all of which must be acknowledged.

The election of an outsider to the Presidency of the United States is huge. The slow internal bonfire burning up the European Union is causing nations to rethink the value of their own cultures. The rapid Christianisation of China is a cause of joy. The vote for Brexit seems to flow from a patriotic resurgence in Britain unseen since the coronation of Her Majesty in 1953.

We can certainly celebrate the financial decline of left-wing media, which is experiencing a slow – but inexorable – eclipse by the new online media. These outlets which have produced so many lies, so much pain, and so much fear are reaping the whirlwind.

The sexual revolution has borne incredibly bitter fruit. Men who avoid marriage at epidemic levels, and “male deserts” in Britain where 60% of children live in single-parent homes headed by mothers.

The torrent of “Social Justice Warriors owned” videos that now appear on Youtube (Warning: video may contain profanity, intemperate opinions, and commentary, none of which is endorsed) which clock up hundreds of thousands of views – some millions.

There is an increasingly bold backlash against third-wave feminism, an ideology which has done so much damage to male education, to the family, to self-esteem of both men and women, and inserted its destructive influence in the very possibility for healthy relationships to exist between both men and women.

(Warning, the following links are to example videos which contain presentations that may contain crudities. My linking to them is not an endorsement of their content: Stephen Crowder on “fat feminism”, and commenting on Emma Watson’s speech to the U.N. on feminism, and female Senators getting reprimanded for using anti-male terminology).

A new model of society seems to be gaining currency in some places. Russia is a prime example of a nation where Church and State are closely allied, yet work together in a democracy that wants to save Russian culture.

We can also see something significant in the explosion of traditional Roman Catholicism that marks a growing undercurrent of people turning away from modernism. This is happening despite – even in spite – of a pontiff like Francis. These Traditional Latin Masses are typically very well attended, and often incongruously celebrated in awkward, garish 1970’s-vintage churches that must have looked “relevant” once.

As Christians we must never put our confidence in chariots or horses, but only in the Lord our God. Joy should never be linked to politics.

But let us keep praying – always praying! – that our good God, having given us a glimpse of the terror of a godless world, will cause the moral decay to reverse.

Let us pray that Christ will empower his Church again to sally forth and tear down the strongholds and fortresses in people’s minds.

For too long the Church has been in retreat. Our forward trenches overrun. The sound of gunfire over the hills getting closer each year. The artillery shells of the Enemy shaking our bunkers. Beloved comrades wounded. Traitors and turncoats slipping out at night.

Let us hope reprieve will come for a season. That once more God’s name would be hallowed and the sound of his praises echo across the world.

Let us hope springtime has come.

The Unstoppable Decline of America: Fighting Over the Steering Wheel on the Titanic

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Whoever wins the election this week, the outcome will contribute to the palpable decay of the United States (and by extension, Western society). America, as the pessimists have so long pointed out, is heading at full speed toward inevitable catastrophe.

If ever there was any doubt whatsoever that there exists an powerful elite group within Western society, we need to look no further than the example of the United States and the United Kingdom (the latter of which will get a separate article in due time), each of which is stumbling into their own electoral hell.

In both cases, there is now a mammoth – probably system breaking – conflict between the interests of the people and those who have successfully implanted themselves into the institutions of power.

This elite group is comprised of powerful business interests, a majority of tenured academics of most universities, well-funded media organisations (that are now virtual propaganda engines), and the cream of the political class along with the various agencies and bureaucracies they fund.

In the United States, the situation is particularly parlous. A virtual cartel has arranged itself into battle positions. It has been extraordinary to see the lengths to which a loose confederation of liberal entities have gone to destroy a presidential candidate.

Do not misunderstand me. In common with many conservatives, I think Donald Trump would have to comprise one of America’s most unsuitable presidential candidates in living memory. I am not complaining about all of the tough treatment he has received.

No. It is not extraordinary to me that his foibles should receive the standard treatment of an anti-intellectual media enterprise that is now primarily concerned with drama, smugness, manipulation, glitz, showmanship and ratings than with truthful reporting.

What is truly extraordinary, however, are the ways in which the elite have championed an equally unsuitable candidate whose conduct, by many accounts, is transparently illegal.

We are talking here about a candidate whose connections naturally invite concerns of corruption, or at least, undue influence from powerful interests. A candidate who has given contradictory – or at least, very puzzling – answers to inquiries that cannot be seemingly reconciled when the video footage is played. It is for the sake of this candidate that so much of the mainline media have dispensed with even the pretence of impartiality.

I live in a country where our state broadcaster is meant to be politically impartial and claims not to take sides. Yet it has relentlessly published every embarrassing scandal it can about Trump, and has published every bit of good news about Clinton’s poll results. That is because it is an organisation that, like all elite media – is secularist and liberal to the core, and no longer even recognises its own biases.

So, where to next? Unfortunately the United States has now reached a point where the system is visibly no longer translating the views and wishes of at least half of its population into concrete consideration. Under such circumstances, it is only a matter of time before it comes to a shuddering stop.

Case in point. Today, Julian Assange gave an interview to RT news (yes, sponsored by Russia and thus to be taken in small doses with great caution, yet I note that it is often surprisingly good at linking its news stories to the source material and often is the first to explain what is going on in the Middle East). In this interview, Assange has asserted that Trump will not be “allowed to win”.

Now, I do not buy into conspiracy theories even though I do believe there now exists a powerful secular, liberal group of elites whose interests are increasingly convergent. And because I do not accept conspiracy theories, I accept that it is perfectly possible for Trump to lose this election as a genuine expression of democratic will.

But, here’s the rub. If he does win, he will have been pushing against the most hostile environment probably seen by any presidential candidate in United States history. It would require a large number of people to purposefully reject the vision of the elites and for the pollsters to have gamed their results so badly that they bear no semblance anymore to reality. Is it possible? Yes. Probable? Probably not.

Yet the sheer hostility naturally invites people to ask whether this election can be truly considered a fair run. Trump, after all, has faced more media hostility, dare it be said, than that faced by Herbert Hoover who presided over the outbreak of the Great Depression. Yes, Trump has contributed to it through his own hubris. But not all of it.

On the other hand, if Trump loses, statements like those being made by Assange will guarantee the perpetual suspicion and de-legitimisation of any Clinton presidency. The elites will have won but at what cost? To seize control of the wheel of the Titanic is a Pyrrhic victory at best.

Whoever wins, the system is manifestly broken and the leaks are getting worse. It’s so bad that no political group or president can scotch tape it back together anymore.

America now finds itself in a situation where nearly half of the people have absolutely no confidence left in the system; no faith in the institutions of power; no belief left in the essential institutions of society to regulate their own conduct; and no reverence for the new orthodoxy imposed upon people by law and by fear – i.e. radical “isms” about relationships, family, gender, and race. In fact, there is now open antipathy toward all of these things. Ironically, a Trump presidency might have gone some distance to restoring the confidence of the most angry, unhappy, disaffected and ignored Americans.

From top-to-bottom the edifice is creaking and rocking. The iceberg has smashed a hole and the engine room is flooding. This is manifestly obvious in any quick survey of American society and culture.

Take the Supreme Court. It’s judges are now held in open derision. Their detection of same-sex marriage in the Constitution (and subsequent defence of it) are laughably absurd. And the Supreme Court itself is so hopelessly politicised that stacking it with partisan judges is now considered an urgent reason to elect Trump.

The Presidency itself is held in deep suspicion by nearly half of the voting public, many of whom are convinced that it is misused and neck deep in questionable overseas entanglements.

The Congress is an open joke, and has been for decades. But never in United States history has the contempt reached the stratospheric dimensions it has in 2016. Paralysed by lobby groups; bogged down in mindless procedures; boring; unable (and unwilling) to check either the President or the Supreme Court, it is stacked with career politicians – creatures for whom re-election is the ultimate goal – drawn from two corporate political parties who fall over themselves to collude when it is in their interests to do so. Together they pass bills that are purposefully rigged with miscellaneous legislation and spending, until the deception is so common it no longer even makes headlines.

The United States’ higher education system is now plagued with political correctness to the detriment of serious intellectual endeavour. A whole new industry has sprung up in which protesting students are interviewed, trolled, bailed, or questioned and the subsequent idiocy published on Youtube. Their banal mindless defence of every new liberal shibboleth rolling off the assembly line is not conducive to the continuance of a sane society. These people are being given skills and training to take responsible professions, and yet their cause célèbre are bathrooms, “safe spaces”, and essentially finding egalatarian-sounding language and arguments that would enable them to nobble free expression.

As for racism, well, quite possibly, not since the 1960’s has relations between races been at such a nadir. Race riots in Ferguson and Baltimore (et al) and misleading statistics regarding police shootings have sparked a fresh wave of antipathy toward the police (who are already severely besieged by expectations of political correctness). Not only do large numbers of black Americans now have open contempt for the law, and not only do their find succour and support in the academy, but the various responses have legitimised violence and property destruction as expressions of validated rage.

Behaviour that constitutes sheer madness is being treated as if it is a legal conundrum. Forcing cake shop owners to bake cakes against their wishes, or florists to supply flowers when they do not want to is an infringement of liberty by any meaningful, traditional, historical definition. Instead, government coercion is being packaged as the true freedom. It is becoming increasingly clear that “isms” of all kinds that require government support, need it because they are anti-democratic. Eventually those same “isms”, once entrenched, force a kind of moral tyranny on the society. It’s the only way they can flourish.

Single parenting is now the new normal. Literacy rates are plummeting. Widespread disregard for the state school system has led to waves of parents – mostly with a conservative bent – taking their children out of them. Radical atheists are on the march, trying to sue anyone who so much as utters the name of a deity in the precincts of a government institution (so much for diversity!). The list could go on. The madness is escalating. It really is a form of social insanity that people take some of what is happening remotely seriously – like the scientific journal that has blasted some contributors for giving a medical presentation inconvenient to the the transgender movement because their journal is about “diversity”. I mean, you could not make it up.

About 70 years ago, Orwell presciently gave us the mantra of his fictional (yet frighteningly realistic) authoritarian regime fronted by “Big Brother”:

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength

I propose an updated version of this intellectual sophistry of the kind that Orwell rightly pointed out was a blatant lie; a nakedly obvious contradiction of reality visible to those with eyes not dimmed by ideology to see:

Diversity is Conformity
Equality is Inequality
Free Speech is Controlled Speech
Non-Discrimination is Compulsion

Not as pithy as Orwell’s, of course. But the basic point is the same. No society, no political system, no culture can long survive when its entire intellectual, spiritual and institutional landscape is bankrupt. In this, the pessimists are quite right. For they have long gloomily pointed out that America is veering toward the iceberg. And the liberal watchmen on the decks are crying, “It is merely a bump in the voyage. Nothing to worry about at all!

The Church that Was: The Decline and Fall of the Church of England

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The mission of St. Augustine to England’s green and pleasant land may come to an end in the 2060’s. The Reformation looks to be ending too. What happened to the Church of England?

The doom of the Church of England has been written about for decades. And for good reason. The number of its communicants have been plummeting for decades. On current projections, its total extinction will occur at some point in the late 2060’s.

Despite this, we learnt this week from the Daily Telegraph (among other sources) that the current Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, has been having meetings with Pope Francis in order to stitch up the differences and reconcile the Anglican Communion with Rome.

It is a fairly clear sign that as far as the Church of England is concerned, the Protestant Reformation is over. Finished. All water under the bridge! A mere flesh wound of 500 years which can be smoothed over in about 30.

A hundred years ago, hardly an Anglican on the planet would have countenanced a return to Rome. In fact, the articles of religion that are still contained in the Book of Common Prayer are fundamentally incompatible with the doctrine of Rome.

But the articles of religion were the product of Reformed men. They are meaningfully rooted in the Protestant re-discovery of the pristine biblical doctrines of the true Christian Church. These documents are not written in the flexible, malleable, inoffensive, fundamentally meaningless language of the 21st century where even the possibility of absolute truth has largely been consigned to the dustbin of history.

If the Church of England ploughs ahead with its rapprochement with Rome, then these articles of religion are ultimately destined to become mere historical artefacts.

Of course, this development will not be as violent as it might seem. Many Roman Catholics and Anglicans can hardly articulate their own church’s doctrine anymore. Yet they do like fuzzy, warm sentiments about unity. In an emotional age, feelgoodism is sure to triumph over uncompromising doctrine inked onto pages. Out with the old! In with the new!

In any case, I find it hard to see this outburst of ecumenicalism to be entirely principled.

It certainly has nothing to do with doctrine, since the official doctrine of both Rome and Canterbury are mutually exclusive. In fact, the respective documents still say as much. Rome’s documents anathematise Protestants. And there are similar imprecatory  passages in Protestant documents. Previous generations were not timid when it came to laying on the line what they actually believed. Their forthrightness is now an obstacle to be bulldozed over.

On the other hand, reunion does serve two selfish, political interests.

First, any reunion of the Church of England with Rome would secure a place in the history books for the Archbishop that seals the deal. And fame and glory for being a great healer of division is surely desirable. One might even get column space in an encyclopedia next to Nelson Mandala or Martin Luther King (Jr)!

Second, reunion would be a surefire way to keep the Church of England alive. In its current condition, its life is ebbing away on an operating table in the religious emergency room. The medics are pumping adrenaline into its limp arms and doctors are shouting “clear!” as they press the paddles to its chest. Nurses are wiping the sweat from the brow of surgeons as they perform intricate and arcane measures in the hope of animating the patient.

But once the Church of England is attached to the larger and more vibrant Roman Catholic community, it might not even become extinct after all. Survival has always been one of the greatest political motivators, crystallising hard choices and ushering in radical compromises.

Rulers tend to be surprisingly flexible when it results in their continuance in office. In this instance, continuance in office may require jettisoning core doctrine, or coming to “new understandings” of existing doctrine – that is, reinterpreting the text so that it means the opposite of what its originators clearly intended.

How did it come to this?

How did the Church of England – in the space of about 50 years – manage to alienate its own people, produce biblically-illiterate adherents, decimate its own congregations, transform its priority in the public education system from one of instruction in the gospel to an induction in philosophy, sow scepticism about the most sacred salvific events of the gospel, transform its representatives from respected pillars of the community into contemptible social justice engineers, trash the quality of its own seminaries, and even make itself an open joke on television comedies about the difficulties of finding a bishop in the Church of England that actually believes in God (see: Yes, Prime Minister).

How did this happen?

A scathing article in The Spectator regarding a book that was withdrawn from publication (warning: link contains some profanity at points), hints at some of the causes. It purports to expose what has been going on behind closed doors. The book seems to consist of a blow-by-blow account of sexual scandals and uncharitable in-fighting. It sounds like a cheap and tawdry approach, but even the tawdry can sometimes be illuminating – it can illuminate what not to do.

If the article leaves one with any impression at all, it is the fundamental deadness of the Church of England as a viable Christian community (although, there is a living evangelical wing within it even still that are living for our Lord and Saviour in faith).

The article also gives one the distinct impression that many of its clergy are simply living on another planet. It shows the sad by-products of the absence of concrete and ruthless internal discipline to maintain the purity of the office-holders within the church, and a sorry lack of commitment to the Christian life of holiness, love and self-denial.

Out of it all, the former Archbishop of Canterbury Rowan Williams emerges as a rather sympathetic figure, caught up in an uncontrollable whirlwind roaring about him. One cannot help feel that he is a basically decent man, and it was precisely because of that decency that he was so cruelly maligned by those he sought to serve and lead.

A memorable, but unkind, passage from the article presents him in these terms:

The former Archbishop of Canterbury emerges as a high-church Welsh mystic who felt more at home in Narnia than in England, where village fetes were more sacred than Holy Communion. We read that he ‘had no glib answers to the problems of human tragedy and suffering’ — or to any problem, for that matter. He expected his bishops to ‘worry at the truth like patient followers of Wittgenstein’. Instead, they kicked him around because they knew he could be bullied.

All of this is a tragic reflection of the reality of the old mainline denominations.

So much of what occurs within them is far from what Christ indicated would characterise his true people. The overwhelming picture given by the article is that the Church of England, to a very great extent, has ceased to be a communion of brothers and sisters united in doctrine, purpose and energetic commitment, and more a loose confederacy of warring tribes who do not even agree on who Christ is, much less what the church is for.

Minister: The War in the Middle East is a Proxy War between Russia and the USA

 

 

Anglican Canon Andrew White, the “Vicar of Baghdad”, has pastored one of the most dangerous churches in the world: St. George’s Church of Baghdad.

In Baghdad, converts are often killed within a month of their conversion. Many of the children of the parish call him “abba”, for they lost their own daddies in the fighting. Rocket attacks and bomb blasts were a common occurrence.

The canon has been hijacked, kidnapped, locked up in rooms splattered with body parts, held at gunpoint, had members of his staff murdered, and had to raise tens of thousands of dollars to pay the ransom for others who were kidnapped. If this were not enough, Andrew White also suffers from multiple sclerosis, which accounts for his balance problems and his somewhat slurred speech.

The canon is famous for the depth of pastoral love he has for his Iraqi people, and for boldly and insistently declaring that in the midst of all this horrendous evil, the Christians at Baghdad saw visible manifestations of angels and regularly experienced miracles such as the dead coming to life after being prayed for. Moreover, he said, the church always was provided for even when it seemed like the financial well had run completely dry. No matter what happened, they always had just enough money each month to be able to feed their people, maintain the parish, and also operate a free hospital (Andrew White is a trained surgical practitioner).

To find a minister in the Church of England who holds to a fully-scriptural and orthodox Christianity is a marvel in its own right; to find one who genuinely believes in the Triune God is more amazing still, and to find one who both believes and has experienced the supernatural workings of God, marks him out as a truly extraordinary fellow indeed.

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Canon Andrew White doing his daily rounds in St. George’s parish, Baghdad.

On one occasion, the canon observed that Eden was located in Iraq. “This is where it all began,” he said, “and who knows, maybe this is where it will all end as well.

These comments came back to me yesterday following a truly remarkable interview given by the Australian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Julie Bishop.

Ms Bishop is not a lady to speak lightly. Like most skilled diplomats, her words are measured and she speaks advisedly. She knows that words can be bullets. Nonetheless, on national television, Ms Bishop announced that the middle-east now consists of a proxy war between the United States and Russia.

Below is part of the transcript. The interviewer’s name was Barry Cassidy:

BARRIE CASSIDY: Now on Syria and the bombing of Aleppo in particular and the suggestion that the Russians have been involved in that, what is the relationship now between the US and Russia?

JULIE BISHOP: Well, I witnessed two meetings between the Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and the US Secretary of State John Kerry. Let me say that all trust has broken down. Neither side trusts the other side and while ever the Assad regime, backed by Russia… believes that it can win militarily over the opposition groups backed by the US and the Gulf countries, the killing and the war will continue. Likewise, the opposition groups believe that they can defeat the Assad regime militarily. I believe that all options have to be on the table. It seems that Russia has given up any pretence of a ceasefire at this point and the violence and the atrocities going on in Aleppo are unprecedented.

BARRIE CASSIDY: But if all trust is broken down, will they continue to talk?

JULIE BISHOP: They must. They have to continue to talk because the indiscriminate bombing is killing thousands of civilians. It is a humanitarian disaster on an unprecedented scale. Nothing we’ve seen in our lifetime. And the international community is willing both Russia and the US and their supporters to sit down and try and find a way through this. A ceasefire is absolutely central so that humanitarian relief can reach those in need. But we need to find a political solution to what is essentially a civil war and then, of course, ISIL is operating in the vacuum.

BARRIE CASSIDY: Are we anywhere near a point where the US might start bombing the Assad regime and what would be the consequences of that?

JULIE BISHOP: That would be an all-out war. We are currently seeing a proxy war between Russia and the US and other players in this disaster but I urge all of the parties to continue to talk. There has to be a diplomatic and political solution, not just a military solution. In fact I don’t believe there will be a military solution and one option would be an arms embargo. One option would be for both sides to withdraw military support from the regime, from the opposition groups and force them to the negotiating table.

Terrible things are taking place in the middle-eastern nations. It is a whirlwind that is spitting out refugees, and sucking in nations and arms to ever-expanding war. And now two of the world’s most powerful nuclear-capable nations, one on the verge of electing a volatile real-estate tycoon as leader and the other with a virtual dictator in charge, no longer trust each other. In fact, they are fighting their conflict via the proxy of different sides in the middle east. This does not portend well.

“Watch and pray.”