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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

War is Peace
Freedom is Slavery
Ignorance is Strength

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

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

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

The Brewing Civil War within Roman Catholicism

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I follow conservative Roman Catholic blogs.

It is fair to say, that I follow very conservative Roman Catholic blogs. The sort written by conservative priests who look fondly back to Old Rome – to the days when the liturgy was in Latin and ecclesiastical discipline within the ranks was iron.

These are the people whose slogan is “save the liturgy, save the world”. Yes, to all the Protestant readers who just fell off their seats, you read that correctly.

This is Rome Catholicism of the Tridentine Rite. This is the Rome Catholicism of arcane medieval mysticism. This is a Rome Catholicism that has been almost forgotten, except in small – but admittedly growing – pockets, where people desperately wish to re-barnacle their religious life in esoteric rituals that were stripped away by Vatican II.

One of the things that has become really, really clear is that there are two utterly incompatible views that now co-exist in Roman Catholicism. The liberal wing are… well, essentially theistic soft secularists, if such a thing can be imagined. They pretty much follow the culture on issues like homosexuality, feminism, abortion, environmentalism, same-sex marriage, and the whole worldview. You can find Catholics within this wing who criticise their own church’s stance on these issues. You can find large numbers of Catholics who even actively and enthusiastically embrace these elements of the culture. For instance, there are entire branches of orders of nuns who are essentially leftover 1960’s radical feminists. They go about crusading for political purposes.

But, to the other extreme, there is the conservative wing. These Roman Catholics largely live in the past, venerating historical Popes and cardinals, and glorying in a very traditional worship that consists of little other than elaborate and ornamented ritual. They reject the minimalist contemporary design of modern churches – which are often built according to zany postmodern designs – and approvingly point to articles in magazines in which pastors describe how they have transformed their parishes by installing pews, altars, candles, and all the other furniture of a heavily-liturgical religion.

(The fact that there is such a palpable thirst among modern Western populations for a deep link to the past and a desire for continuity with history, could be the subject of an entire book. Unfortunately for the poor benighted souls turning to liturgical religions like Roman Catholicism, the tradition that they are told goes back to the New Testament is often only about 500 or so years old. Most of the “apostolic tradition”, along with its attendant rites and rituals developed in the medieval period. To be deeply rooted in God’s work in history, one must turn to the pages of scripture).

Each wing denounces the other. An excellent illustration of this – at least in miniature – is found in the running clash of purpose and perspective between a very popular blog operated by the Roman Catholic priest, John Zuhlsdorf, and the National Catholic Reporter. The National Catholic Reporter occasionally prints insinuations or commentary that would reflect unfavourably on Zuhlsdorf’s website and views, characterising them as unloving or harsh. For his own part, Zuhlsdorf declares the National Catholic Reporter to be “un-catholic”. In fact, Zuhlsdorf usually refers to this publication as “fishwrap” or “the National Schismatic Reporter” and holds in low esteem the liberal Roman Catholics who comment there.

Both parties have convictions utterly removed from the other. The NCR seems hopeful for some changes on the issue of woman’s ordination. They seem to take the view that there is a possibility of having women deacons. Zuhlsdorf, for his part, is implacably opposed to women’s ordination.

Whatever we might think on the issue – and, we, evangelicals and Reformed would typically side with Zuhlsdorf on this issue – the fact remains that these are opposing viewpoints, held with extreme conviction and passion. And both seem to have emerged within Roman Catholicism at the same time and in high volumes. It bespeaks a collapse of church discipline at some point in the line. For how else could two opposing camps emerge in the one communion?

But, this is only the tip of the iceberg! Most of the folks supporting women’s ordination would necessarily (eg. it is necessary to hold these beliefs in order to arrive at their position) have very non-traditional views of the ecclesiastical authority of the Roman Catholic Church and their supposed “teaching magisterium”. They necessarily hold non-traditional views on apostolic tradition. They necessarily repudiate the past example of their own church as repressive, archaic or opposed to women. Indeed, one of the Youtube videos put out by one of these groups has a woman in mock papal attire singing, “Don’t listen to St. Paul… I can lead the way” and a woman dandying her baby wearing a shirt that reads “Mommy for pope”. In other words, Zuhlsdorf – to a certain extent – is right. These people have no theological relation to the theological universe of what once called itself Roman Catholicism.

Another example of this breakdown is seen in Ireland, where the decay of Roman Catholicism is now an unmistakable fact. Here is a country that has a long history of being a Roman Catholic stronghold. A country where 73% – nearly three quarters of the population – claim to be Roman Catholic. Yet in the 2015 referendum on same-sex marriage, 62% of Irish voters approved a constitutional change to allow people to marry without the distinction of sex.

Assuming that the 25% of the population who are non-Roman Catholic all voted in favour of this change, it would mean that 37% of the Roman Catholic population also voted in favour of same-sex marriage. And this contrary to the advice, teaching and instruction of their own clergy and church! (Although, to be honest, any fair assessment of the political campaign conducted by those affiliated with Roman Catholic Church would surely indicate a fair degree of apathy. The impression I received, at least, was that their heart was just not in it. The secular perspective had already quite clearly won – at least, according to the vote statistics – even within the Roman Catholic community long before the referendum took place.)

You can find these sorts of inroads into Roman Catholicism at every point. And most troubling for the conservatives, the secular viewpoint seems to be held by a growing number of bishops, cardinals, and priests. Many of these come in for regular excoriation from the conservative wing . On the other hand, the conservatives lionise other of their hierarchy as if they were celebrities. These cardinals and bishops receive rock star treatment because they celebrate the mass in Latin or they are fighting back against the ambitions of the liberal half of the church.

Now enter the Pope.

For all the unbiblical Roman pretensions that the Pope functions as an authoritative unifying figure, the reality is the inverse. Nobody could say with a straight face that Pope Francis believes what his medieval (or even early 20th century) predecessors believed given his remarks on a range of issues. He continues along the lines set by previous Popes who proclaim a social gospel to outsiders and a religious practice to insiders so lacking in discipline as to render it almost indifferent to the manner in which they choose to live. Among Francis’ encyclicals is the entirely forgettable Laudata si’, or the “Green Encyclical”, which was about the environment and sustainability. In Francis’ speech to the Congress, he mentions Martin Luther King, Dorothy Day and Abraham Lincoln but does not once make reference to the Lord Jesus Christ.

In so doing, he merely follows the example of other post-Vatican II popes, like Pope John Paul II, who was certainly no great evangelist either. When addressing the European Study Congress, Pope John Paul II spoke much about “Christianity” and even mentioned “Christ” once, but his focus was not where the conservative Roman Catholics would have placed it.

It is categorically impossible to imagine the Apostle Peter – whose authority Roman Catholics claim for their pope – if presented with the chance to address the representatives of the most powerful nation in the world, or a congress planning a trans-continental constitution that would govern 500 million people – would fail to present the fullness of the message of the good news of Christ our Lord.

But the Popes reflect the Roman Catholic Church’s culture. True there is a bit of a lag before certain cultural trends and elements get represented in a pontificate, but it shows up sooner than later. Popes are increasingly political-correct beings and mealy-mouthed, never being entirely direct. Each subsequent pope differs substantially from the one before and thus the entire Roman church is in a perpetual condition of division. Half of them will cleave now unto this pope, and the other half will cleave unto that one. Francis is beloved by the liberal Catholics, just as Benedict XVI is beloved by the conservatives – some of which freely admit to shedding tears over his resignation.

Of course, nearly every Roman Catholic holds to Pope John Paul II whose genius for more than thirty years involved the careful placation of all wings of the church by granting to each a measure of what they sought. One month he would pound the arms of his throne and thunder down the old dogmas, gladdening the heart of the conservatives. A few months later he would make a ringing declaration about women or some other group, and bring pleasure to the liberals. But in retrospect, I think it will be seen that Pope John Paul II’s seemingly stable pontificate, solved nothing. In fact, he oversaw the unravelling of the discipline and authority of his church, the continuation of the 1960’s experiment. His pontificate will be seen to mark the further degradation of the belief and allure of the (non-existent) continuity the religion claims for itself.

One could go on. The fact that there is such a staggering variety of religious orders – some liberal and some conservative – each existing side-by-side within the tent. We could examine the rot within Roman Catholic educational institutions, producing generations of Roman Catholics who are probably mostly theologically liberal. We could consider the resurgence of conservatism within many seminaries, coupled with the fact that the overall number of priests is low and shrinking. But time constrains me.

Bottom line: this state of affairs cannot continue forever. One wing will dominate eventually, or there will be a permanent schism. Many conservatives have already thrown in the towel, declared most of the post-Vatican II popes to be heretics, and have run off to sedevacantist movements and the SSPX, who generally believe that the Seat of Peter is empty and there is no legitimate pope.

It is fantasy to imagine the staunch, Tridentine, “Latin Mass” conservatives winning this battle. In fact, their efforts are more likely to accelerate a schism since so many of them actively believe that their Tridentine mass is more legitimate than the Novus Ordo mass which is the common global Roman Catholic practice.

Certainly, the wing that shall be most badly affected will be the conservatives for whom the Pope and bishops and priestcraft is pivotal. Their entire faith is built on it. They have been taught that their church, when manifested in the ecclesiastical hierarchy, is infallible and miraculously safeguarded from error. The ructions to their faith when they realise with the passage of time, that the old Roman Catholicism is beyond revival, will be painful to bear. The conservatives are desperately placing their hope in the next pontificate. Pity them, should the next pope be another Francis. Their demoralisation will be complete.

We must keep our eyes open for these troubled souls, the recipients of a dreadful medieval corruption that enslaves and mesmerises with the false claims of historicity. We must aim to always be ready to offer to these people the gospel – for there can only be one. This gospel is the one that they have never heard. The pure gospel that elevates the Great High Priest, Christ Jesus. A gospel that speaks to the heart and redeems it by the sovereign power and grace of a compassionate and holy God. A God who does not come seeking for the utterances of empty phrases and repetitious prayers. Who does not look for hail Marys and penances. Who does not justify us based on our merits or our works. But a God who revealed himself fully through his Son; who regenerates men through his words – alone infallible and inerrant – and who sends his genuine Spirit as the down payment on future glory.

A God who once spoke words that are much applicable to these burnt out, tempest-tossed, misused, and exhausted Roman Catholics:

Come unto me, all you who labour and are heavily burdened and I will give you rest. Take my yoke upon you and learn about me, for I am gentle and humble in heart and you shall find rest for your souls. 

Coup d’etat in Turkey

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News is filtering in of an attempted coup d’etat in Turkey. According to the news, an attempted military takeover involved the use of helicopters – some still commandeered by the rebels – and jet aircraft flying over Istanbul. About 60 people have been killed, although it seems that pro-government forces are gradually making progress in restoring control over the capital.

It demonstrates a number of things:

1. Civilisation is fragile. It does not take a great number of lawless people to bring a nation to a standstill, and situations like this where anarchy reigns (even temporarily), provide ample opportunities for lesser rebels to make hay while the sun shines. If you look at the crime statistics following this attempted coup, I am almost sure they will register an increase. While the police are battling to save the government, thieves and other assorted villains can do as they please. Yes, civilisation is fragile.

2. Turkey’s admission to the EU is likely to be regressed by a long time, if not forever. Public opinion in Europe was always strongly opposed to Turkey’s accession to the European Union, although the leadership of the project have always been in favour.

Turkey has been strung along for a long while now. They have been promised admission if they make necessary social and political reforms – in other words, to make Turkey align more with the pluralistic, democratic culture of Europe.

Reforms all seem rather superfluous at this point. A country that cannot control its own capital from militants, whose leader has sought to prosecute journalists across the EU for writing disparagingly about his conduct, and a regime that has some seriously awry priorities in relation to the Kurds and ISIS, does not make for a cracking good candidate.

Quite apart from Turkey’s prospects in joining the EU, I wonder whether this coup represents another nail in the coffin for the European Union in more ways than one.