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

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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?

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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?