The Charismatic Movement: The Degraded Cultural By-Product of a Secular Age

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The charismatic movement is predicated on the idea that it is the modern outpouring of the Holy Spirit as described in the Acts of the Apostles. Each charismatic person fully expects to be able to perform (or to learn from their numerous “schools”) the same works that were witnessed in the early Church.

Charismatics commonly appeal to a passage that appears early in the Acts of the Apostles. There, St. Peter preaches to a large assembly after the miracle of Pentecost. During his great sermon St. Peter quotes the Prophet Joel and and tells his hearers:

In the last days, God says,
I will pour out my Spirit on all people.
Your sons and daughters will prophesy,
your young men will see visions,
your old men will dream dreams.
Even on my servants, both men and women,
I will pour out my Spirit in those days,
and they will prophesy.(Acts 2:17-18)

Despite St. Peter’s explicit application of this passage only to those who spoke in foreign languages that morning, this is taken by charismatics as a proof text for the claim that these spiritual works will continue as a normative experience for the Church.

They, thus attempt to replicate these works (and others). Not only prophecies, but healing and visions about the future. They believe Holy Spirit manifests himself with ecstatic worship, spontaneous outbursts of emotion, and the speaking of tongues – glossalalia. The charismatic movement is restless and energetic in searching for new manifestations and experiences of the Holy Spirit, and this has caused the movement to spiral into increasing extremes. Today you can find everything within its pale from the fraudulent to the occult; from practices that are bizarre to those that are grotesque.

One of the fountainheads of the movement is Bethel Church in Redding, California. Bethel Church originates and popularises spiritual practises that are frighteningly indistinguishable from the New Age movement. Unfortunately, these ideas tend to spread outward from Bethel since the church operates a “School of Supernatural Ministry”. Here its students learn spiritual arts in something reminiscent of magical arts at Hogwarts.

Bethel claims that the Holy Spirit is active in their institution and people. They go so far as to claim that the tangible presence of God appears during their worship services (as in this official video). This “presence” looks exactly like craft store glitter released from air-vents in the ceiling sometimes with a few feathers swirling around allegedly from the wings of observing angels. As the glitter floats in the air, the pastor Bill Johnson cracks jokes, children point as if they were at a birthday party, and hoots can be heard from the audience.

Like the unbelieving world in our time, charismatics pride themselves on being loud and “messy”. Their services are boisterous and rowdy. Rowdiness is taken as a sure sign of the Holy Spirit’s presence. Quiet, discipline and restraint are typically viewed with suspicion or disdain. Thus, hooting, shouting and whistling, once the preserve of football matches, are ubiquitous in charismatic worship. It is behaviour that is modelled by pastors within the movement. It is not uncommon for a pastor to begin his sermon with a loud roar of excitement.

It demonstrates the extent to which the movement has adopted its norms of behaviour from the sporting and entertainment world. Indeed, popular cultural references are seamlessly interwoven with their preaching. To choose but one example among thousands, Passion Church in Maple Grove, Minnesota gives an annual performance of Jackson’s Thriller. The church looks like an absolute nightmare, with zombies shuffling through green fog in a graveyard and people painted up in the grinning, voodoo visages of the undead.

But Passion Church seems untroubled by the admission of dark, creepy worldly ideas about death into their church. Instead, they claim that people are led to “overcome their fear” and “step into faith” through the performance. Or put another way, you can lead people to Christ through Michael Jackson’s pop music.

Meanwhile, at Bethel Church, Jenn Johnson – the daughter-in-law of its pastor – goes even further with the deification of popular culture. She has given a number of presentations in which she reflects on the Holy Trinity, If you thought that nobody would ever dare to apply pop culture to the Person of God himself you would be greatly mistaken. In her presentations, Jenn Johnson describes the Holy Spirit as being like the “genie from Aladdin”. She says the Holy Spirit is “blue”, “funny”, “sneaky”, “silly”, and “fun”.

As she recites this list of attributes shared by both Disney’s cartoon character and the Third Person of the Blessed Trinity, her voice trembles with a straining-to-be-meaningful emotion. We are to understand from these flutters that turning a cartoon character into an icon of the Holy Spirit is deep wisdom. (See: video compilation).

The movement is so filled with “lying wonders” and gimmicks that one could write a multi-volume encyclopedia and still not exhaust the material. For example, the charismatic movement has developed a practice called “fire tunnels“. During one of these rituals, a person wishing to receive blessing will walk between two lines of congregants. As they do so, people on either side pray over them, lay hands on them, praise their qualities, and infuse them with “fire”. There is usually a great deal of hollering, hooting and whistling, and the recipient of this blessing frequently shakes or falls to the ground overwhelmed with the spiritual energy they have received.

According to the Gospel Coalition, the leaders at Bethel and others within the charismatic movement have also practised “grave soaking” or “grave sucking”. This practice involves touching or laying on the graves of great evangelists or saints in order to absorb the spiritual power (“the mantle”) from their bones. Although there has been some back-peddling from this practice, Pulpit and Pen published an article last year in which they offered photographic evidence of “grave soaking” being conducted.

FOUR POINTS

What are we to make of the movement? I think there are four sensible conclusions orthodox Christians can arrive at.

1. The charismatic movement is immutably anarchistic: Like rebels who take up firearms in the street, and shout to the heavens that they are freemen who will not heed the laws of the king for they have found a deeper truth, so the charismatic movement is also shaped by a deep longing for freedom from the “restrictions” of God’s word and law. To achieve this, the movement has a spaghetti tangle of pathways to follow that enable them to pursue their own inclinations and desires.

Spiritual anarchism is the direct result of legitimising claims of special revelation (“the Holy Spirit told me”). Since every charismatic is potentially a prophet like Jeremiah or Moses, and since their prophetic ramblings are taken seriously by other charismatics, each learns that they have a special authority. Although they claim to subordinate this authority to scripture, history has long taught us that such subordination never in practice occurs.

Imagine a society where citizen was elevated to a Supreme Court judgeship. The resultant discordant crackle of legal interpretations would be impossible to measure against any outside standard, even if every citizen claimed his authority was subject to the constitution. If everyone is a Supreme Court justice, to what degree does the constitution really hold authority?

2. The charismatic movement is functionally relativistic: Relativism is the doctrine that truth is not universal or objective but is individually discerned. Everybody has their own truth because the basis upon which each person discerns “their truth” is different. Truth differs according to person, situation, context, culture, time, and so on.

As philosopher Hillary Putnam correctly identified, the result of the doctrine of relativism is that it becomes impossible to believe that one is in error. For if there is no truth beyond the personal belief that something is true, then one can never hold their own beliefs to be untrue. Relativism, therefore, gives rise to an independent reality that is ungovernable by any facts, claims, authorities outside of the individual.

Charismatic claims of special direct revelation places them in precisely this situation. Few charismatics ever believe they are in error, because it is not possible for them to be so. Their special direct revelation thus forces them to function on the basis of relativism.

Imagine a charismatic walks up to you and announces, “The Holy Spirit told me that you must move to Minnesota“. Consider the tension in this claim.

The charismatic is saying that God the Holy Spirit is issuing you a command. You are being commanded to move interstate. This is a divine revelation from heaven, and since it comes from the Holy Spirit, it logically shares co-equal authority with the scriptures.

But here lies the conundrum. How do we know that this prophecy is actually authentic?

Even charismatics are forced to admit that there are many false prophets, faked prophecies, charlatans, tricksters, and frauds in their movement. They have to admit this because the sheer volume of demonstrable error is overwhelming. They will even accept that sometimes spiritual claims can be inspired by evil spiritual forces. Given this, how is any person to determine whether a revelation is true or just another fraud? For there is no independent authentication.

This results in a long, muddy quagmire over which the carriage of reason cannot travel. Each charismatic person claiming the “mantle” of prophecy believes themselves to be authoritative mouthpieces of God and therefore cannot be subject to correction. But, each charismatic who receives a prophecy must also accept it or interpret it according to their own inner revelation and they likewise cannot be subject to correction. Moreover, one charismatic can countermand another charismatic’s revelation by simply receiving a super-ordinate revelation.

So a charismatic who says, “The Holy Spirit told me you must buy oil stocks by the end of the week“, can be rebutted by another charismatic who says, “Well, the Holy Spirit told me that this prophecy was not for me and I must not listen to it“.

Even when a false prophecy is accidentally believed – like the apocalyptic warnings over Iran or North Korea which never eventuated – those instances are simply dismissed on the basis someone had a lack of faith in the Holy Spirit, or someone muddled the message, or did not have enough spiritual insight to interpret it.

The ultimate result of this complete dispersal of revelatory authority is that nobody is ultimately correctable. Nobody’s claims of truth can be proved or disproved by anyone else. This is why virtually nobody in the charismatic movement ever holds their own dreams, visions, prophecies or voices to be untrue, no matter how violently they disagree with reality, with facts, with scripture, with history, or even with other charismatics.

This leads to a galloping relativism as well as an imperial disposition that allows transparent charlatans and corruption to flourish within the movement. For who is to say that a charismatic pastor imprisoned for taxation fraud did not truly receive a revelation from the Holy Spirit who “told him to guard the Lord’s money from the unbelieving Feds”? If a charismatic believes it is true, his theology teaches him that it must be true. And who is one charismatic to deny the message of the Holy Spirit to another?

I once witnessed the full moral crookedness of this relativism vividly demonstrated in the fallout of a very tragic situation. A charismatic man in our community who was married to a delightful lady, had an affair with another woman. He then abandoned his children and took off with his mistress. Even while he was living in a state of separation pending a divorce, this man still claimed that God was directly giving him messages.

His graphically sinful conduct; his abhorrent lack of self-restraint; the unbelievable pain he inflicted on a very sweet and gentle woman did not give him the slightest hesitation in firmly believing that for all of his wickedness he was still genuinely in touch with the Almighty.

That is relativism to the max.

3. The charismatic movement is deeply materialistic, consumerist, and temporally focused: For all of their spiritual hocus-pocus, the movement itself is fuelled significantly by a thirst for “my best life now”, wealth, health, success, and power.

The website of nearly any charismatic church will contain terms like: “vibrant”, “fulfilling life”, “overcoming fear”, “health”, “relationships” and so on. These websites seem to have compiled every self-help buzzword in existence. They advertise a particular lifestyle characterised by ecstatic worships and “power” over all of their temporal problems. The focus is squarely on the temporal, the here-and-now.

In charismatic belief, the good life starts now. Thus people should experience healing, financial success, and all of the good things of life. Now. In tangible, measurable form.

4. Far from representing the final outpouring of the Holy Spirit, the charismatic movement is the terminal stage of a decayed Christianity. The charismatic movement is the polluted by-product of a toxic, ungodly culture. It does not subvert the world. Quite the reverse. It has been thoroughly subverted by the sinful spiritual debris of the age. It is what you get when you freely pour the acidic sludge of an ungodly, shallow and materialistic culture over the clean marble of Christianity: the acrid, stained fragments left over from this acid bath is only “new” in the sense that most of the original substance was deleted.

Everything about the charismatic movement distorts God. The movement presents God as a kind of granddaddy hipster and shows little regard for God’s supreme holiness and glory. If a person can seriously believe that glittery sparkles in the air is the glory of the Lord, then such a person has no comprehension at all – as much comprehension as the cattle have of the beauties of the stars – as to what the glory and majesty of the Lord really is like. When one has been in the true presence of God, like St. John beholding the exalted Christ, they fall on their faces as dead.

This distortion of God’s Person manifests in the triviality of their worship.

For example, there are few charismatic experiences not accompanied by laughter – sometimes even referred to as “holy laughter”. They laugh during sermons; during prayers; during healings; during fire tunnels. Bill Johnson cracks jokes and the congregation laughs appreciatively even as the “glory cloud” of God’s holy presence supposedly appears. Comedy is next to holiness, as is the nearly ceaseless turbulence of noise, motion, and music that is omnipresent at all charismatic services. People sway, they bob like Hasidic Jews, they shriek, they jitter and fall to the ground. Some wave their hands in the air. During services people run around, or walk or skip, while others stand listening to the sermon, while others sit, or others roll on the ground. There’s hollering and cheering. The band plays a nearly ceaseless sound track.

The concept of worship as a shared experience, orderly and disciplined to reflect the holiness of heaven and its King, has fled. The texts of scripture that say, “Be still and know that I am God“, could never be observed under such conditions. It seems that silence and deep reverence is only for the angels of heaven. Or, perhaps for the dead, cold Christians of the past (and present). But for the children of the fresh outpouring, the approved order is a kindergarten level of restlessness.

The charismatic movement actively feeds the narcissism that is frighteningly prevalent in the culture. The charismatic movement turns each man into an authoritative prophet who is beholden only to his own revelations.

It feeds on the present cultural fascination with supernatural powers by turning everyone into a Harry Potter. This mysticism and solipsism is deeply attractive to the culture, for it grants a hidden significance that none but the enlightened can reach.

Thus the new follower is suddenly swept into a world where they can receive secret messages, can cast healing spells, learn easy answers to all problems, and obtain special powers. It is as though they had stepped through a wardrobe into the land of Narnia. The reason they can enter this magical domain is because they are special. They have hidden discernment and insight. This is the very message that Samuel’s Mantle – a prophetic training school in Canada – gives its would-be students. Unlike other Christians, they have a particular anointing and a special calling.

To such a depth of magical delusion have some in the movement sunk, that charismatic “supernatural students” have even attempted to raise the dead as though it were a skill you could learn like sport or moves in a video game. The Gospel Coalition reports:

People in the Bethel movement believe that raising the dead should be something we aspire to. As a result, some Bethel students formed a Dead Raising Team. They go to the morgue to practice raising the dead. They also listen to the radio and try to beat ambulances to accidents to raise the dead or heal the injured before the ambulance arrives. From all accounts, they have yet to raise their first corpse.

Christianity Today reports that in 2008, two Bethel students were involved in an accident that left a man stricken at the base of a 200-foot cliff. The students believed that the man had died and so they tried to resurrect him by prayer. They waited until the next morning to call emergency services. Thankfully, the man survived but unfortunately, he remains paralysed.

Worst of all, the charismatic movement cheapens everything to do with the Blessed Holy Spirit. The Holy Spirit is presented as a force or a genie who is at the constant beck and call of the summoner. Receiving the Holy Spirit “fire” is as mechanical a process as an engine injecting fuel into a cylinder. Yes, the Holy Spirit is a divine Person, but apparently He functions very much like an impersonal force or energy field.

St. Paul tells us that he “purposed to know nothing” among the Corinthians, “but Christ and him crucified”. As always St. Paul was in perfect harmony with our Inerrant Lord who taught us that he would send the Holy Spirit to exercise a very specific ministry. For the Holy Spirit would not point to Himself; the Holy Spirit would not glorify himself; neither would he be “funny” and “silly” like a blue cartoon genie.

Rather the Lord said of the Spirit: “He will glorify me because it is from me that he will receive what he will make known to you“. The Holy Spirit’s work, says the Lord, would be to convict the world of unrighteousness and unbelief, and teach people about judgement.

When Christ is glorified and righteousness, repentance and judgement are declared, we can be sure that the Holy Spirit is truly at work. For the Spirit does not direct men to himself, but always to the Son. The Son, in turn, points men to the Father via himself.

In charismatic circles, this divine order is entirely turned on its head. For what do charismatics emphasise and preach? They emphasise the Person of the Holy Spirit. Which Person of the Trinity receives the most attention in their gatherings, their literature, prophecies, and activities? The Holy Spirit. Which Person of the Trinity is glorified and exalted, called upon, and attributed power and strength? The Holy Spirit.

You do not end up at charismatic worship when you seek Christ and him crucified above all. You do not end up with charismatic worship when you repent of the world and the values and attitudes that are invisibly infused into it – the narcissism, self-indulgence, self-seeking, desire for prominence and power, the emotionalism that triumphs over many minds.

And you will never end up as a charismatic if you see yourself honestly and without affectation, as an unimportant servant of Christ who is privileged to have any calling at all. If you are desirous to be the smallest in the kingdom of heaven – to be a vessel that is emptier and lowlier so that it might be more at the disposal of Christ – then you will never succumb to the thirst for power and glamour; for razzmatazz and the spiritual sensationalism of the charismatic movement.

St. Paul in the discharge of his ministry teaches us the remedy against all degraded religion that would exalt the self:

“What, after all, is Apollos? And what is Paul? Only servants, through whom you came to believe—as the Lord has assigned to each his task. I planted the seed, Apollos watered it, but God has been making it grow. So neither the one who plants nor the one who waters is anything, but only God, who makes things grow.

For no one can lay any foundation other than the one already laid, which is Jesus Christ.”

Therefore, let us make it our aim to excel in regarding ourselves as “nothing” but servants. Like St. Paul, we ought to strive to be ever more empty of self-regard and increasingly “small in our own eyes” so that we will not fall victim to the devil’s schemes. We know he tempts men with multiple forms of pride, and there is no pride as dangerous and subtle as religious pride.

As servants, let us humbly enthrone Christ on the highest pinnacle of our regard and affections. Let us flee from any desire for spiritual status or prominence. Let us forsake the noisy and revolutionary; the worldly and novel and experimental; and let us set our hearts to follow the Shepherd on the path of righteousness. “My sheep hear my voice,” the Lord said, “and they follow me… they will not follow a stranger for they do not know the voice of strangers“.

Indeed, true Christians do follow the voice of the Good Shepherd. We look to the unchanging Father for our guidance, and we find our strength and hope in the unparalleled majesty of the Son of the Living God “who is the same yesterday, today, and forever“. Follow him.

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.

 

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.

Easter Sermons: Banal, Saccharine, and Boring

atina

When St. Paul preached on this hill in Athens nearly 2,000 years ago, his “Easter sermon” turned the city upside down and became one of the most influential in the history of the world. Not much danger of that happening with the trite, cliched efforts of modern pastors, clerics, and theologians.

At Easter it has become customary to hear straining-to-be-meaningful sermons that aim either to emotionally energise a congregation, or otherwise attempt to apply the resurrection of Christ to contemporary political and social issues. Some preachers are unwitting comedians, as they offer hilarious examples of what happens when orthodoxy is derailed and an ersatz Christianity is transposed over the top. The result veers between contemptible and ridiculous.

This year did not disappoint. Dutifully, newspapers reported the sermons of a motley cast of popes, bishops, princes, pastors and priests whose pronouncements from pulpits around the world, when taken together, constitute a powerful emetic.

A small sample is sufficient to give a flavour of Easter in 2018:

Pope Francis used his Easter sermon to talk about refugees, immigrants and Syrians. Last year, he used his Easter Sunday sermon to talk about tragedy, misery, and disaster in the world with very little mention of the themes that the Apostolic writers were wont to associate with Christ’s death, burial and resurrection: themes like sin, repentance, forgiveness, and spiritual regeneration.

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Pope Francis offers to the crowd the glad tidings of Easter, with sermons featuring strong messages about geopolitics, including immigrants, Syrians and refugees.

To be fair to Prince Charles, he is not a preacher by vocation but if he is ever crowned king, he will receive the appellation “Defender of the Faith” and will become the head of the Church of England, which implies the need for a minimal theological awareness.

It is with great relief to all that Prince Charles demonstrated that he would not be out of place among the muddle-headed prelates of the Church of England as he delivered a patented woolly message on Good Friday reminding everyone about the great similarities between Islam and Christianity. So great are these similarities, that it is a matter of extreme befuddlement to the Prince as to why there is no peace between them.

The Prince reminded everyone that Mary is a shared figure in both Islam and Christianity, and having thus established this striking, cosy closeness between the faiths, appealed for everyone in the middle east to lay down their shoulder-held missile launchers, and to live at peace as friends. The Prince’s message is bound to make a big difference to the geopolitical situation, with many thousands of people heeding his words. For what militant in Syria does not hang, bat-like, from every word that proceeds from the His Highness’s mouth? Just like bishops of the Church of England, the Prince has acquired the habit of public hand-wringing, virtue-signalling, vacuous lamentation, and “calls” to masses of humanity to immediately cease their evil ways because their evil ways are simply not very nice.

This year, the Archbishop of Canterbury Justin Welby gave his sermon in the presence of an art installation made from hundreds of dangling articles of refugees’ clothing, transforming Canterbury Cathedral into something resembling a Mad Hatter’s laundry room. The Archbishop did make a heroic effort to sound like an Anglican clergyman who actually believes things in the New Testament, although his Easter sermon was richly interspersed with references to bombs and terrorism in Egypt, giving the impression that any mention of the resurrection was a somewhat irritating excursion from his real topic of interest, that being geopolitics in the Near East.

In Australia, the Anglican Archbishop Kay Goldsworthy was reported to have given a sermon imploring Anglicans “not to run away from challenges”. Following this sermon of dazzling substance, she was so swept up in the awe of the resurrection that she immediately addressed the major sporting scandal running the rounds in Australia, involving high profile cricket cheats. The Archbishop was most concerned that the cricketers should forgive themselves, which she opined was going to be one of their foremost challenges – the forgiveness of God not even rating a mention.

Perhaps one of the most preposterous articles was written by Robyn Whitaker, a theologian whose interests include “gender, sexuality and ethics”. One online profile states that she has expertise in feminism and gender equality.  Whitaker’s article asked readers to focus on the race of Jesus of Nazareth and to think about his skin colour.

Other clerics and would-be religious leaders decided that it was best to boil the texts of the scripture dry, and get down to the residue of a few basic principles. “Hope” is always a popular one, or sometimes “renewal“. Vague concepts like these are quite plastic. Even a borderline-competent public speaker can use a theme like that as a launching pad for a peppy talk to boost the morale of their listeners. The resultant sermon typically sounds like it could have been lifted from a life coaching manual.

Finally, there are those sermons that bear titles which imply that the meaning of Easter is opaque and dark. It is no longer clear in a world of modernity, colour and excitement. Titles like “Why Easter still matters” or “What should the resurrection mean to you?” arrogantly suggests that the resurrection of Christ is an impenetrable historical story, remote and alien to the listener.

This is just a small sample, mind you, of Easter sermons. The banality is endless, and it comes as a considerable relief to turn from these “clouds without water”, as St. Jude would describe them, to the fountains of living water from the scriptures. For in contrast to modern clerics, the New Testament begins from a very basic supposition.

The New Testament takes for granted that this supposition is clear to anyone.

It is quite simply this: something of tremendous consequence was accomplished when Jesus died on a crucifix outside of Jerusalem. This has shifted the invisible order of things, and this alteration of the spiritual reality in which humankind lives reached its apogee three days later when Christ rose from the dead, the true King of all the Earth.

Not one of the apostolic witnesses asks the question, “Why does the resurrection matter?“. Not one of them attempts to make the resurrection applicable to their hearer’s context. Not one tries to blend the resurrection story into a morality fable about slavery or the machinations of the Roman senate and their greedy imperial taxation schemes. Not one tries to boil it down to a string of saccharine, safe buzzwords – “it’s all about love, folks!”.

No, the inverse. The apostolic assumption is the resurrection, if truly believed by the reader, is significant in a way that will be obvious to anyone. It is quite clearly a testimony that requires no interpreter because the very fact that a man has risen from the dead is sufficient of itself to establish his primacy in the constellation of ideas and opinions. It justifies his claims; it underscores their merit; it overturns all competition; it empowers his gospel. A person who reads of the resurrection, who believes it, and who earnestly, deeply seeks for Christ in the silence and stillness, will find him.

The best kind of sermon in our times, therefore, is one that follows the apostolic example. It is the sort of sermon that invites people to believe and seek for Jesus himself. Not to seek for “hope” that Aunt Sally will get better, not to seek for “renewal” of our finances in 2018, neither to seek to mine the text for forgettable sentiments to spray upon contemporary political issues. But, rather to be made aware of the heaviness of our peril. Of our imminent approach to judgement and ruin. To be broken and contrite in our reflections upon ourselves.

And thus to seek for Jesus himself: the Lord of Life who welcomes properly penitent souls. The One who can transform a person’s inward life and give him a deep sense of the beauty of holiness; the ugliness of sin; a thirst for godliness; a hunger for God; and the unspeakable joy of tangible, deep communion with our Creator, Friend, and Redeemer.

How different Easter would be if clerics took their cues from St. Paul and preached the resurrection as the Apostle did. No mealy-mouthed sugary sweetness here. Rather St. Paul preaches the resurrection as a divine command to the human race; an urgent and non-negotiable summons to repent and believe. And he does so with the unstudied impetuosity of a man who knows of that which he speaks, is unswerving confident, and knows that he is conveying the authorised message of God to the world:

For as I walked around and looked carefully at your objects of worship, I even found an altar with this inscription: TO AN UNKNOWN GOD. So you are ignorant of the very thing you worship—and this is what I am going to proclaim to you…

In the past God overlooked such ignorance, but now he commands all people everywhere to repent. For he has set a day when he will judge the world with justice by the man he has appointed. He has given proof of this to everyone by raising him from the dead.

Charismatic Nuttiness: Baal Worship comes to America?

palmyrareplica

The replica of the Palmyra Arch, destroyed by ISIS in October, 2015. This reasonably nondescript Roman archway was recreated using 3D printing technology and put on display in a New York City park. According to charismatics, this exhibit signals the arrival of Baal in the United States. It seems Baal litters the world with easily identifiable clues as to his whereabouts, in this instance an 11-tonne lump of moulded plastic.

There are those who seek for signs.

A great number of these people fall within the charismatic camp, which is a movement so frequently riven with heterodox opinions. Heterodoxy is the natural result of a small army of self-appointed “prophets” who deliver “revelations” to the charismatic faithful. These revelations range from idiotic musings to a mash of scripture and commentary, blended with a tincture of politics and a liberal splash of imminent doom.

People caught up in the movement – and I know a few – seem to live lives of ceaseless supernatural drama. They crave it. Perhaps their lives are so boring that the only way they can realise some purpose in their daily existence is to imagine a constellation of supernatural workings surrounding them, both demonic and angelic. The charismatics I know interpret every dream, every international news event, and every happening in their personal lives as a “sign”, or the voice of God, or a portend of the apocalypse. Usually a portend of the apocalypse. The nuttier drivers of the movement appear to find supernatural signs in their morning cornflakes. So ubiquitous is this characteristic of sign hunting, that it seems to be the logical and inevitable outworking of charismatic doctrines.

Our Lord, of course, warned people against seeking for signs (Matthew 16:4). God-honouring faith should not require them. Indeed, a person who lacks faith in the integrity and the quality of God’s word – as many charismatics seem to – will lack the fundamental prerequisite for meaningful knowledge of the Almighty. After all, without faith, it is impossible to please God (Hebrews 11:6). Nonetheless, God in his great mercy sometimes does provide his people with authentic signs to demonstrate the reliability of his Being and purpose, and these actual signs have been recorded in inerrant scripture for our edification. As C. S. Lewis once pointed out, the authentic signs and miraculous works of God never have the quality of fiction to them. They could not ever be lifted from the script of a supernatural teen drama series, unlike the ruminations of many charismatics which seem to indeed be strongly influenced by supernatural television drama.

Too many charismatics seem to imagine that the devil and the demons litter the world around us with signs of their activity, like the exhaust of a passing engine. To wit, a few days ago, Charisma News reported the following story that follows the charismatic script to the letter.

It turns out that a 3D printed plastic replica of the ancient stone archway in Palmyra destroyed by ISIS was erected in a public park in New York City. Because this 2,000 year old Roman archway once connected a main thoroughfare to the entrance of a temple to Baal, charismatics immediately “exposed” the fact that… yes, you guessed it, that this replica archway is a sign that Baal has come to America. (Cue sinister organ music.)

(For an immeasurably more sober account of what is going on, read here.)

It is my contention that charismatics who promote this kind of nonsense bring disrepute to the gospel of Christ, which first and foremost is a reasoned and logical presentation of truth. Part of the inestimable glory of the gospel is that it is divine knowledge with a power unto itself. Humble, long-term exposure to this knowledge changes a man into a wiser creature, a more sensible creature with mature habits of thinking, who is thus equipped to really and properly enter into a loving relationship with God. One never gets the impression from the New Testament that the first Christians were jumping at shadows, or trying to divine the future by using the news headlines in the same manner that a shaman might once have employed the entrails of a bird.

These sorts of charismatic claims are juvenile and childish. They do not betoken tutored or sober minds that have been nourished by the word of God. Moreover, such claims are also utterly illogical. By the logic of the Charisma News article, any ancient archaeological religious artefact that is brought to a country must be a “harbinger” of doom or a sign of some demonic entity’s day of visitation. It must be very perplexing for charismatics, (should they consider the matter deeply at all), that most national museums in advanced Western countries hold collections of pagan religious artefacts and have done so for a long time. These artefacts are essential pieces of the historical record.

I simply refuse to accept a Christianity that is so intellectually sterile, juvenile, and fearful that a plastic replica of an ancient doorway is cause for alarm. Such a Christianity is not that of St. Paul, or of C. S. Lewis, or of St. Francis, or of Martin Luther, who despite his famous wrestling matches with the devil, was a level-headed fellow who did not engage in omni-directional emoting but produced considered argumentation. He did not interpret every change of wind as a sign of coming doom.

If it were not for the painstaking archaeological investigations of scholars both Christian and non-Christian, we would know very little about the ancient world and therefore our understanding of the biblical past would be much impoverished. Sensible Christians should never be afraid of evidence or of knowledge, which when rightly interpreted through the prism of a God-honouring intellect, always enhances and enriches our wisdom. It helps us to grow and learn, not just as individuals, but as as Church.

Charismatic nuttiness, of course, is the direct function of certain presuppositions and first principles. If a person lives in a reality where the devil leaves easily identifiable demonic signs everywhere – in this instance, an 11-tonne plastic archway in a public park – and if a person buys into the (largely American fundamentalist) idea that America is so extraordinary and exceptional that it must feature prominently in any end time prophecy, then of course these signs will form the links in the fabric of a worldview. Or more correctly, these signs will form the iron bars of an intellectual cage.

To such irrationality, I prefer scripture which is rational and sound above all things. In scripture, Paul tells us that idols are “nothing at all”. Indeed, a person may even eat food sacrificed to idols in a clear conscience (1 Corinthians 8) providing he does not violate the conscience of his brother by so doing. Now, if it is true that an idol is “nothing at all” other than a misshapen lump of wood or metal, then it is most assuredly true that a 21st century plastic replica of a 2,000 year old Roman archway that once linked a street to a temple is “nothing at all” as well.

This archway has no moral quality to it. It has no power. It is merely a moulded form that bares some resemblance to something else. It is a copy, and therefore lacks the essential qualities of the thing that it imitates. It is not being used for purposes of worship. It is not being used to revive a cult of Baal in the United States. If anything, it is being used to strike a note of defiance against ISIS – which is a real evil in the world.

The devils do not work according to the dictates of ancient and medieval superstition (or according to the silly tropes of Hollywood!), which imagined that this object or that totem could somehow take upon itself a power and must therefore be regarded as having moral agency all of itself. The devils work by corrupting men, not by inhabiting things.

This is where charismatic nuttiness becomes dangerous and even corrupting. For if you buy into the idea that this plastic archway is a revival of Baal worship, then you have to also (logically) buy the idea that ISIS were doing God’s work by destroying the ruins in the first place. Are any charismatics prepared to embrace the logical overflow of their worldview?