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Gene Robinson traditiocomYou know, I’m still hacked off with Gene Robinson, Episcopal Bishop of New Hampshire.

This is an old story by now, and Gene is safely ensconced in his role and living with his male partner.  In his own mind he’s won, claimed justice and can now lord it over the rest of us.

But, wait.  Doesn’t the Bible say homosexuality is wrong?  Should he have continued in holy orders after divorcing his wife?  Should he have clamoured for the episcopacy?  Should he have divided a worldwide Anglican Communion with 76m members?

Gene Robinson getreligionorgAt what point do we put our pride and wrongheadedness above Holy Scripture, tens of millions of faithful and the Lord Jesus Christ himself?  Uhh, that would be never.

At what point did Gene Robinson ever sit down and think about all this?  Did he pray, ‘Lord, I may be a sinner, but I have so much to give Episcopalians in the United States.  Please help me find a way to please You, do Your will and put my own personal pride aside.’ 

What Gene Robinson did was ungodly.  In making such a showpiece of himself for a position he shouldn’t even be entitled to is unspeakable.  And how the Episcopal hierarchy and General Convention in the United States could allow it to happen is unforgiveable.  Some supporters cite the 1976 General Convention resolution which states:

It is the sense of this General Convention that homosexual persons are children of God who have a full and equal claim with all other persons upon the love acceptance, and pastoral concern and care of the Church.

Yet, allowing admission of the LGBT community as full-fledged members of the Episcopal Church is different to saying that openly practicing homosexuals should be ordained or allowed to continue in the priesthood or become bishops.  Jesus commanded us to love our brothers and sisters.  However, the Bible also clearly states that homosexuality is a sin.  

Gene Robinson jeremiahandrewswordpresscomSo, who is Gene Robinson and how did he get where he is today?  Gene Robinson’s given name is really Vicky.  He was born to a tobacco sharecropper in Kentucky.  Gene’s mother suffered complications with the birth, and it looked as if the newborn would die of head injuries.  Doctors advised the Robinsons to choose a name for the child which could be put on the birth and death certificates as well as a gravestone.  Expecting a girl, the couple already had ‘Vicky Jean’ in mind: a combination of their names — Victor and Imogene.  So, they promptly wrote down Vicky Gene, thinking it was immaterial. 

But, God’s plan was for little Gene to survive.  The Robinsons were members of the Disciples of Christ church, a fundamentalist denomination.  Growing up, Gene wanted to become a pediatrician and began his studies at the well-respected University of the South in Tennessee, an Episcopal university.  Then he began having thoughts about entering seminary.  (At the same time, he also sensed his sexual orientation was different. The therapy he voluntarily underwent at university did not change his feelings.) 

He told Lawrence Ferber, writing for Passport Magazine, in June 2009: 

‘It wasn’t the science in medicine I was interested in,’ he recalls. ‘It was the contact with people. So I thought, “Why should I do all this science for all these years just to get to be with people?” I’d always been a part of the church growing up, a fairly fundamentalist church. Despite what my church was telling me about homosexuality I heard God’s affirming, loving, accepting voice coming through scripture …

‘I think the understanding of God in the Episcopal Church has a kind of integrity and authenticity I don’t often see in other religious groups.’

He’s right. The Episcopal Church, like the Anglican Communion of which it is a part, is a broad church.  You can be Anglo-Catholic or Calvinist or Evangelical, and you’ll find a congregation that’s right for you.  However, 76 million Anglicans are spread throughout the world.  Culture, tradition and Scripture shape their views.  An Episcopalian of Anglo-Saxon heritage living in Boston will view the Church differently than a Bishop in Nigeria will.  And it’s this tension between Scripture and socially accepted behaviour that makes the ordination of sexually active gays a sensitive issue for millions.  The Bostonian will say that the Episcopal Church has a social responsibility to enter the 21st century: Western society trumps Scripture.  The Bishop in Nigeria will counter that homosexuals must repent and not be ordained: Scripture trumps Western society.  Homosexuality is accepted in Boston.  It is taboo in Nigeria.

Anyway, back to the story.  Gene married Isabella McDaniel after he graduated from seminary.  They had two daughters, now adults.  Gene ‘came out’ in 1985 and the couple divorced.  By all accounts, Gene’s ex-wife and his daughters support his ministry and speak well of him.  In 1988, Gene began a serious relationship with Mark Andrew.  They entered into a civil partnership in 2008.

Normally, the appointment of an Episcopal bishop is done at a diocesan level.  The Diocese of New Hampshire elected Robinson bishop on June 7, 2003.  However, because the Episcopal Church’s General Convention would be taking place within 120 days of this decision, it, too, needed to ratify the decision.  And this was how Gene Robinson became a household name in the United States and beyond.  A. Katherine Grieb explains the sensitivity of the situation in the Fall 2005 issue of the Anglican Theological Review (highlights mine):

The perception of North American arrogance is complicated by ECUSA’s [Episcopal Church of the USA’s] failure to consult widely enough and to signal clearly enough its nearly-thirty-years-long conversations predictably moving towards the actions it finally took. It is perhaps also the case that for some of that time the Archbishop of Canterbury and other Anglican leaders found the issue so distasteful that serious discussion of it was not allowed. Even when the issue was discussed at the [Anglican] Communion level, some of the primates [bishops] returned home to provinces where the death penalty is imposed on anyone with same-sex affections, limiting frank discussion of an already difficult issue. For whatever reasons, one result of not engaging this controversial issue was that in some parts of the Anglican Communion, the people had no word for same-sex relationships, did not believe there was such a thing, or believed that ECUSA had invented it a few months before the consecration of Bishop Robinson. Perhaps this is the most important difference between this issue and the way the question of women’s ordination was handled. Because there had been extensive anticipatory conversations about the possibility of some provinces ordaining women to the episcopate, primates were not surprised. There had already been agreements to disagree and assurances that women bishops would not be imposed on unwilling provinces, agreements that stand fast today. Though there were fears of potential schism, there was also more time to get used to the idea because of the conversations that had occurred. Provinces without ordained women could learn from the experiences of those, like Hong Kong, that had already ordained them.

You know, if I had been Gene Robinson in 2003, I would hope I would have had a close friend sit me down and say, ‘This is such a difficult situation.  Yes, you believe you have a “right” to become a bishop, regardless of your sexuality.  But many people in our denomination do not think you are reading or understanding the Bible correctly.  And there are tens of millions in the Anglican Communion who see homosexual relations as an abomination and know it to be a criminal act.  Let’s pray for guidance from the Holy Spirit and for humility.’  And had I heard that, I would have gone off for a few days by myself with access to an impartial spiritual advisor.  I would have read the Bible, prayed and avoided outside contact.  I’m sure that, at the end of it, I would have withdrawn my name from further consideration — and I’m no angel.

I cannot imagine splitting a religious denomination just for my own ego or my heartfelt cause.  The pride, the arrogance!     Gene Robinson

And, even now, six years later, his position as bishop hasn’t made things any easier.  Following Robinson’s ordination in 2003, The Revd Jeffrey John’s name was put forward for the post of Bishop of Reading (England). John maintained that he was celibate. The nomination created considerable controversy in the Church of England, and John withdrew his name.  Instead, he became the Dean of St Albans. The Archbishop of Canterbury, Rowan Willliams, set up the Eames Commission to examine the issues involved.  At that time John’s name was under consideration as Bishop of Reading.  The Eames Commission produced the Windsor Report, which recommended that no more active gays or lesbians be consecrated as Anglican bishops (no mention of their becoming priests or deacons).     

And now, it all gets very complicated.  Wikipedia has the most straightforward explanation of where we are at present:

In July 2009, clergy and laity in the US voted to reject the three-year moratorium on the consecration of gay [bishops]. The Archbishop of Canturbury responded to this in a statement which regretted that this move would not heal the divisions in the church, and effectively sets in motion a two-tier system of Anglicanism in which those within the covenant can speak as Anglicans, and LGBT clergy and those who support them fall outside the covenant, and so cannot speak on behalf of other Anglicans.  A coalition of thirteen LGBT Christian groups in the UK formulated a united response to the Archbishop’s statement, questioning whether the ‘listening process’ he had called for had been properly engaged with, that LGBT people are committed members of the communion, and criticising a ‘two-track’ system within Anglicanism.

In August 2009, it was announced that two gay Episcopal priests were among the six nominated candidates for the role of assistant bishop of Los Angeles. Both are in committed same-sex relationships. The appointment will be voted on in December. At the same time, the Episcopal Diocese of Minnesota has also announced a lesbian has been nominated as a a bishop.

Well, Gene, I hope you’re proud of yourself.  To me, it just bears out the pain we create for others when we put our needs above theirs.  To some, you might be a hero or a pioneer.  To me and millions more, you’re just a self-serving egotist.  

You can read more here: ‘Bishop V Gene Robinson: The Right Reverend — The Gay Bishop Doing God’s Work’, Lawrence Ferber, Passport Magazine, June 2009;  ‘”But It Shall Not Be So among You”: Some Reflections towards the Windsor Report within ECUSA’, A. Katherine Grieb, Anglican Theological Review, Fall 2005.

Coming soon: Gay ordinations in the ELCA (Evangelical Lutheran Church of America)

Bible croppedLast Sunday, I started a new series that could be called ‘Forbidden Bible Verses’.  The first entry cited 1 Corinthians 6:9-20 and 2 Thessalonians 2:1-14. 

The passages in this series are those that we rarely hear anymore in church.  Either they’re too controversial or blatantly non-politically correct.  Today’s selection, Psalm 12, is taken from the New King James Version. 

My thanks to Antonella, a faithful reader, who suggested Psalm 12.  It is often subtitled as ‘Good Thoughts in Bad Times’, which could also perhaps describe Antonella’s view of life and faith when things are less than rosy. 

Psalm 12

To the Chief Musician. On an eight-stringed harp (sheminith). A Psalm of David.

 1 Help, LORD, for the godly man ceases!
         For the faithful disappear from among the sons of men.
 2 They speak idly everyone with his neighbor;
         With flattering lips and a double heart they speak.
 3 May the LORD cut off all flattering lips,
         And the tongue that speaks proud things,
 4 Who have said,
         “With our tongue we will prevail;
         Our lips are our own;
         Who is lord over us?”
 5 “For the oppression of the poor, for the sighing of the needy,
         Now I will arise,” says the LORD;
         “I will set him in the safety for which he yearns.”
 6 The words of the LORD are pure words,
         Like silver tried in a furnace of earth,
         Purified seven times.
 7 You shall keep them, O LORD,
         You shall preserve them from this generation forever.
 8 The wicked prowl on every side,
         When vileness is exalted among the sons of men. 


It is thought that David wrote this psalm during the reign of Saul when many people were turning away from God towards dishonesty and moral decay: the ‘bad times’ referred to in the aforementioned subtitle.  David is beside himself and begs God for help.  ‘The godly man ceases’ and ‘the faithful disappear’ refer to death and the living deserting their faith.  Lies and flattery have become the order of the day, a sign that Satan is at work.  Who are David’s true friends?  Whom can he trust?

Pride and arrogance accompany these people: ‘Our lips are our own’.  They feel free to say whatever they want — who will stop them?  David prays that the punishment given to  traitors befalls them — the removal of lips and tongue so they can speak no more.  Of course, God’s just punishment of those who betray Him will be far worse.

The poor and needy are more than those in physical want.  They also include those who no longer feel able to speak for fear of being maligned or persecuted.  Therefore, the good suffer in silence and keep their own counsel.  Yet, the Lord knows they suffer and will rescue them.   

God’s word and assurance are ‘like silver tried’ — the purest and most genuine — of the greatest lasting value.  His word never deceives.   The word ‘seven’ may have a mystical connotation but would imply that God’s promises are like the most refined precious metal: they contain no dross. 

Some scholars have interpreted the final verse as more of a question, ‘How can filth rise so high as to appear to be on the same level as the faithful?’  Yet, the psalmist has no doubt in verse 7 that God will care for and exalt those who love Him and their descendants forever.

You can read further analysis of Psalm 12 here and here.

Hillary Clinton graduateThis is my final post on Saul Alinsky’s influence on American Christianity.  Thankfully, I have exhausted my references and told the stories that needed telling.  It’s been dispiriting, a bit like walking with the devil.  So, we’ll move on to other topics starting next week.

And, at some point in the future, I’ll be looking at Marxist influences on the Church in other countries.

But, for now, this final story involves the influence of the Methodists’ social programmes on the current Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton (pictured at left graduating from Wellesley College).  I am Hillary-agnostic, but her story is an excellent illustration of an individual being intrigued by leftism through church influences.

Hillary Diane Rodham grew up in a comfortably-middle class Methodist household.  Her father, like many men of his generation, would have been viewed as ‘strict’ today.  Mr Rodham wanted things done properly and wasn’t one for a lot of hand-wringing emotions we get with new ‘in-touch’ dads who cry. 

Nonetheless, Hillary was a little girl growing up with ambitions to make it big on the national stage.  And, it’s a credit to the Rodhams and her brother — her childhood playmate — that she was able to develop her imagination and idealism to break through traditional female stereotypes as an adult.  When they were children, she and her brother used to play astronaut, with Hillary piloting the spacecraft. But, women weren’t allowed into the space programme.  Even if they had, though, her eyesight would have disqualified her from becoming a fighter pilot, a prerequisite for the programme.  Mrs Rodham suggested Hillary become a lawyer with the possibility of sitting on the Supreme Court. 

As time went on, however, Hillary began to consider a more influential position, which would have an impact not just in the United States but around the world.  The Revd Don Jones, Hillary’s Methodist youth group minister and first mentor, remembers: ‘From an early age, she dreamed of living in the White House.’  In her book The University of Life, author Barbara Olson explains how pivotal the family’s Methodism was to Hillary’s outlook:

At an early age, Hillary absorbed the lessons of the Methodist church, and was shaped by the power of its social gospel…Like all Christians, Methodists believe in salvation through grace. But John Wesley…distinguished Methodism from other Protestant denominations by injecting it with the doctrine of the ‘second blessing’ — the dynamic interaction of human will and divine grace that could lead toward spiritual perfection.

Methodist theology became increasingly popular in the 19th century, a subject this blog will cover in more detail at a later date.  Suffice it to say that its influence carried into the 20th century.  Part of the appeal was spiritual and part was its emphasis on a ‘Social Creed’ as a means of achieving human perfection.  The denomination brought to the fore the issues of social class and race in its somewhat socialist concepts of ‘progress’.  During this time, the Methodists also came out strongly in favour of temperance and later Prohibition.  The Methodists I knew growing up were very much anti-drink.  However, they were also quite conservative politically, which would seem to tie in with Hillary’s father’s political leanings and contradict a progressive interpretation of the ‘Social Creed’.  Yet, whatever their political stance, one thing seems true universally: Methodists are committed to fairness for everyone, in and out of church. 

To begin with, Hillary, too, was supportive of the Republican Party.  However, she broke with their views in the late 1960s once she got involved in Pastor Jones’s Methodist youth programme — The University of Life — in Park Ridge, Illinois.  Barbara Olson explains:

[Methodism] became the root of her worldview, one in which it is never enough to attack an opponent’s actions. One must also expose his motives, and use that perspective to destroy both the action and its proponents.  For the natural companion of a doctrine of perfectibility is a conviction in the existence of evil — and immorality — of one’s enemies.

Hillary was confirmed at the age of 11. She was catechised and learnt the tenets of Methodism. A few years later, Mr Jones’s cultural Marxist outlook would have a deep influence on Hillary.  Jones was a young, enthusiastic minister who had recently graduated from seminary.  He was the youth minister for her church in Park Ridge, Illinois, in the 1960s.  He wanted to show the teens in his charge just what the real world was like with its constant injustice and ongoing struggles.  Olson elaborates:

Don Jones was determined to break open the comfortable cocoon of Park Ridge [Hillary’s home town] and expose his protégé to the disturbing realities of the contemporary world. He brought in an atheist to debate the existence of God. He upset the congregation with a discussion of teenage pregnancy. He conveyed his deep commitment to the theology of Paul Tillich, who redefined Christianity in terms of the German idealistic tradition and existentialism … Its revival, Tillich argued, could come only from a critique of society that took its inspiration from Marxist lines of thought.

In this new spin on Christianity, sin and grace, death and redemption were no longer the key features of theology. The major problem facing American youth, the Reverend Jones informed his students, was a crisis of meaning and alienation. Hillary carried this forward to her ‘politics of meaning’

Did you catch the words ‘critique of society’ and ‘Marxist lines of thought’?  Yes, our old friend ‘critical theory’ rears its ugly head yet again.  At some point in the future, this blog will explain the principals and principles in the cultural Marxism that the Frankfurt School spread throughout Europe and the United States.  Its proponents were Theodor Adorno, Herbert Marcuse and Erich Fromm, among others.  They fled Nazi Europe for professorships in other countries and were highly influential in academia.          

But, back to our story.  As one would expect — and had I been there at the time — I, too, as an adolescent, would have found Jones’s educational tactics exciting:

a bracing mixture of counterculture and high culture, the poems of e.e. Cummings, J.D. Salinger’s The Catcher in the Rye and a discussion on Picasso’s GuernicaHe drew explicit parallels between the utopia of Karl Marx and the heavenly kingdom

Pity the parents who were paying this guy’s salary through their tithes to the church, though!  Jones lasted two years at the church in Park Ridge before accepting a new post in New Jersey. Although older Methodists weren’t sorry to see the back of him, young Hillary was.  Jones had transformed her outlook from that of a young Republican to a Christian socialist to a young woman with a focus on politics and power.

But how could it all happen so quickly?  Before Jones left suburban Chicago, he took the youth group into the South Side of the city to meet Saul Alinsky.  A Rake’s Progress explains:

It allowed her to have an open heart to the suffering she saw in Chicago … it also meant that she could hear firsthand what he had to say in a context that probably spoke louder than his words

Alinsky believed the poor were poor because they lacked power.  It would seem that Mrs Clinton believes the poor are poor because government policies aren’t up to scratch:

Hillary Clinton still seems to believe that the middle classes can do things to make life easier for the poor, and that is the lever she pulls most often. Her decision about the best way to create change ultimately led her down a path that made her a senator; had she made the other decision — to organise the poor — she would not be in government, but rather in that place where she learned so much — the ‘streets’ …

Hillary — even as a girl — was used by the [cultural Marxist] movement. She added her consent later …

That the Sixties, Alinsky and religious faith taught her to learn from experience is the deeper and more enduring social source of her behavior.

A few years later, when she was a student at Wellesley, one of the prestigious Seven Sisters colleges, she took the Bible study course which was part of the required curriculum.  She and the other students saw how one’s faith could influence one’s response in the public sphere.  If community organising didn’t tick all of Hillary’s boxes, faith could inform her social mission.  A Rake’s Progress notes that Wellesley’s motto bears this out: ‘Non ministrar sed ministrare’ (‘we are not here to be ministered to, but to minister unto’).

Having said that, Hillary hadn’t forgotten about Alinsky.  She went to hear him speak in nearby Boston and later organised a demonstration in Wellesley. Alinsky told her that protests in a comfortable town like Wellesley were for the middle class, not part of his community organising.  She took his comment on board.  Still enthralled, she wrote her senior thesis about his work.  After she graduated, Alinsky invited her to work for him on his community projects. It’s important to note that Alinsky didn’t offer these positions to women.  He also didn’t extend such an invitation unless he had throughly researched the candidate beforehand.  So, he would have known about her background, campus activities, personality, strengths and weaknesses

Hillary declined Alinsky’s offer.  She thought that the local level that community organising demanded would hold her back.  Instead, she chose to study law. But, think of it, she stood up to Alinsky and said ‘no’!  More than Catholic priests did!  Still, it wasn’t for entirely altruistic reasons.  Hillary had ambition and a plan to influence as large a stage as possible:

Her assertion to Alinsky that confrontational tactics would upset the kind of people she grew up with in Park Ridge,thus creating a backlash, was either naive or brilliant. He surely told her what he is reported to have said — ‘that won’t change anything’. It couldn’t have been said with respect. She apparently countered, ‘Well, Mr. Alinsky, I see a different way than you.’    

That she thought Alinsky could not provide that is surprising, but that is what she thought at that time … Her thesis concluded that ‘organising the poor for community actions to improve their own lives may have, in certain circumstances, short-term benefits for the poor but would never solve their major problems. You need much more than that. You need leadership, programs, constitutional doctrines.’ That analysis ultimately led to law school and not back to the University of  Life  or to Alinsky’s streets. In extensive correspondence with Revd Jones during college, she began the shift from Goldwater conservatism to a more liberal viewpoint. ‘Can one be a mental conservative but a heart liberal?’ she asked him at one point.

And, so we have the story of the influences on Hillary Rodham Clinton: lawyer, First Lady, Senator, Presidential candidate hopeful and, now, Secretary of State.  Her outlook reveals the combination of conservative upbringing at home, the role of Methodism, the insight into the lives of the disadvantaged, the influence of cultural Marxism and Saul Alinsky.  She sees the public purse as offering ‘short-term benefits’ — that’s the Rodham conservatism talking. But she proposes a ‘need [for] much more than that’ — that’s the Methodism. Finally, she sees the solution through programmes and ‘constitutional doctrines’ — an Alinsky-inspired activism but tempered with orderly agitation leading to change.  It’s all there.

To read more, see: ‘Hillary’s Takfir’, Gerald L Atkinson, June 15, 2008, and ‘Hillary Clinton’s Thesis about Radical Activist Saul Alinsky’A Rake’s Progress — Donna Schaper, Rake Morgan and Frank Marafiote, July 18, 2007 (includes a link to Hillary Rodham’s senior thesis on Alinsky)

CHD bannerNEW_02To read previous posts about Saul Alinsky, the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CHD), click here.

The social activism of the Catholic clergy might appear to laypeople to have peaked in the 1970s, but that would be a mistaken view.  It has merely gone mainstream, with funds still pouring in to the CHD via designated second collections at Masses across the country, normally in November.  

Here are just a few examples of where CHD money has gone over the past 25 or more years:

  • 1985$40,000 for Chicago’s Developing Communities Project, led by then lead organiser, Barack Obama
  • 1986: $33,000 for Obama’s Developing Communities Project, which Obama continued to lead 
  • 1992: ACORN funding (see below) for Project Vote, a Chicago programme which Obama also led
  • 1995: Cardinal Bernardin helped commit $116,000 from the national CHD fund to Chicago Metropolitan Sponsors, an Alinsky Industrial Areas Foundation organisation
  • 2000 – 2008: $7m went to ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now), an Alinsky-influenced, leftist network under criminal investigation in several states.  ACORN supports radical, ‘in your face’ local and national causes as well as abortion.  CHD funding stopped only in November 2008, well after every other American wondered when the bishops would halt the allocation of $1m to the group.
  • Ongoing: $20,000 to $30,000 per community group across the country under the guise of ‘community organisation’
  • Also ongoing: 4% to 5% of total CHD funds to the Gamaliel Foundation, a Marxist socio-political network of Alinsky-inspired organisations
  • Still ongoing: Alinsky’s own Industrial Areas Foundation, which receives 16% of CHD funds annually!  

Barack Obama was still a lad when Alinsky died in 1972.  So, how did he get to be so adept at Alinskyite techniques?  One of his community organiser mentors was Greg Galuzzo, a former Jesuit, who was lead organiser for the aforementioned Gamaliel Foundation.  Gamaliel has no direct connection with the Catholic Church and does not support Catholic teachings.  

The Revd Owen Kearns, editor-in-chief and publisher of the National Catholic Register, was among a small group of representatives from the Catholic press in the United States who met with President Obama in July 2009. (H/T: Doug Lawrence’s blog.) Fr Kearns states (emphasis mine):

The President said he had fond memories of Cardinal Bernardin and that when he started his neighborhood project, they were funded by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development …  The president spoke about how during Cardinal Bernardin’s time the U.S. bishops spoke about the nuclear freeze, the sanctuary movement, immigration and the poor, but that later a decided change took place. He said that the responses to his administration mirror the tensions in the Church overall, but that Cardinal Bernardin was pro-life and never hesitated to make his views known, but he had a consistent ‘seamless garment’ approach that emphasised the other issues, as well. explained last year:

99% of Catholics in the pews haven’t any idea of how much they have invested in building the political infrastructure that has now been activated to support Obama. That infrastructure always supports the Democratic Party and its candidate, but now they have a candidate who comes directly out of their political culture, well to the left of previous Democratic nominees like Gore and Kerry.

Yet, it’s not just laypeople who are ignorant of the facts.  Catholic journalist Stephanie Block observes:

A few bishops understand exactly what the Catholic Campaign for Human Development is and approve what it funds. Most, however, swallow the concept of its ‘helping the poor’ and have probed no deeper. Busy about the Lord’s work of minding their dioceses, they’ve trusted others to run the ‘social justice’ offices.

It’s important to understand that the USCCB does not fund Catholic organisations and charities with CHD monies!  This is because they wanted the CHD to be seen as impartial when the campaign was established in 1969.  The American Catholic sagely notes:

The bishops could really help poor people by promptly shutting down CHD and giving any remaining funds to, for instance, Catholic inner-city schools. In any event, if there is a collection at your parish this month, I suggest that you return the envelope empty—and perhaps with a note of explanation—without the slightest moral hesitation

For all of us still scratching our heads and wondering why this is allowed to go on, the Snow Report offers an answer:

For anti-capitalist radicals — as indeed for zealots generally — the ends justify the means. It has ever been so — for the Jacobins, the Communists, the fascists and now the post-modern Alinsky/Obama left. And that is because of the very nature of those ends as radicals conceive them. A world without poverty, war, racism, or ‘sexism’ is so noble, so perfect in contrast to everything that has preceded it — that it would be criminal not to deceive, lie … in order to advance or protect the cause

You can also read more here: ‘The Influence of Saul Alinsky on the Campaign for Human Development’, Lawrence J Engel, December 1998

To read previous posts about Saul Alinsky, the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CHD), click here.

In 1970, the Revd P David Finks, personally trained by Saul Alinsky, and now effectively controlling the CHD, went with the other members of the Catholic Committee on Urban Ministry to an Industrial Urban Institute that Alinsky was running.  Its purpose was to:

bring together a dozen or so priests to examine in some detail the practical process of group organisation to effect social change based on the goal of a free and open society. It seemed clear after several years of investigation that Mr. Alinsky and his staff had developed the best process and rationale for organising people.

It didn’t take a political strategist to figure out that CHD funds would be earmarked for Alinsky’s projects.  Chicago’s Cardinal Cody had already picked up on the notion and wrote Bishop Bernardin warning him about it.  It seems, however, that Bernardin knew and empathised with Alinsky’s work.  Cardinal Cody was the only prelate in Chicago over the past 30+ years to object to Alinsky.  Therefore, Bernardin could safely ignore Cody on the matter.

Finks, meanwhile, wrote an article entitled ‘Poverty Crusade: Getting It off the Ground’.  In it, he suggested that those involved with the bishops’ task forces read Alinsky’s 1947 book, Reveille for Radicals, and The Professional Radical: Conversations with Saul Alinsky by Marion Sanders.  In another article, he described a link-up between Alinsky’s Rochester, NY FIGHT Organisation and the Xerox Corporation.  Finks said:

the organisation and selling to the bishops of the Campaign for Human Development–all were an attempt to make available and find support for Alinsky’s approach to community organisation.

Wow.  Imagine being so enthralled by Marxist theory and practice that you completely disregard the words of Our Lord and the teachings of His Church!

In November 1970, Egan wrote to Bernardin explaining that local clergy would need to be involved in achieving the objectives of the CHD, including the $50 million fundraising mandate.  As the General Secretary for the National Catholic Conference of Bishops, Bernardin realised that he would have to lend his name and his time to further the programme.  This he gladly did.  The first CHD parish collection a few weeks later raised $8.4 million nationwide, an astronomical sum in those days and the largest single collection in the history of the US Catholic Church at that time.    

Since then, the numbers increased five-fold to a total of $225 million in donations by 1998.  It is unclear how well the funds have been used.  Yes, we read where the money has gone but see little evidence that the blight in Chicago, New York, Los Angeles and other urban centres has disappeared.  In fact, it appears that little has changed over the past 40 years, despite astronomical sums being thrown at these very real problems

Yet, many American Catholics have swallowed the CHD line completely.  In an article dated September 4, 2008, Catholic Democrats criticised a remark from Vice Presidential candidate Sarah Palin in which she derided candidate Barack Obama’s community organiser history.  The article says in part:

Community organising is at the heart of Catholic Social Teaching to end poverty and promote social justice … The US Conference of Catholic Bishops has operated the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, its domestic anti-poverty and social justice program, since 1969. In 1986, the Bishops issued Economic Justice for All: Pastoral Letter on Catholic Social Teaching and the US Economy, which said, ‘Human dignity can be realized and protected only in community’. Senator Obama worked in several Catholic parishes, supported by the Catholic Campaign for Human Development, helping to address severe joblessness and housing needs in economically disadvantaged neighborhoods of Chicago.

See? Even the laity are bamboozled, to borrow an Obama word. That explains all the Obama bumperstickers seen in the car parks of Catholic parishes, which infuriates conservative pro-life Protestants no end. Gee, and all along I thought that obeying the Word and spreading the Gospel were at the heart of the Catholic Church’s teachings.  Like other Christians, Catholics are commanded to look after the less fortunate, but do they need sacerdotal community organisers to do that?

But even the Catholic Democrats can’t come up with any evidence of material improvements from all the cash poured into disadvantaged neighbourhoods.  Community organising isn’t something you do for a while and then move on once you’ve improved things.  You never really want to improve things because then you’d have to look for another job.  And that might imply looking for real work.

Nope, community organising funded by the CHD cash cow — and other religious institutions — is here to stay.  It’s an industry now, don’t you know.

Please think twice before you feed the CHD any more money.  Unless you love your community organiser in the dog collar, that is.

You can read more here: ‘The Influence of Saul Alinsky on the Campaign for Human Development’, Lawrence J Engel, December 1998

Tomorrow: Conclusion – the CHD, ACORN and Obama

CB064038To read previous posts about Saul Alinsky, the Archdiocese of Chicago and the Catholic Campaign for Human Development (CHD), click here.

In 1968, the United States was in a socio-political state of flux.  American Catholics, in particular, were bemused and dismayed at how their highly-respected clergy could seemingly change overnight.  Not only that, but many Catholics were living in what were known as ‘changing neighbourhoods’ which were making the transition, rather painfully, from European-influenced middle-class enclaves to minority-dominated areas.  It was a difficult time during which many families who had lived in the same area for generations — from the time their ancestors had arrived in the United States — moved to the growing suburbs.  It was hard for Catholics even in medium-sized cities to fully comprehend what was happening.  Change happened quickly — within a couple of years — and you didn’t need to live in Chicago, New York or Los Angeles, to witness it first-hand.

The Church seemed to be adding to the confusion.  Locally, there was still the neighbourhood parish, still offering Mass but with a new Vatican II liturgy and outlook.  Nationally, guest newspaper columns and television interviews featured young clergy and religious talking about peace, social justice and the poor.  This was set against a backdrop of campus protests, riots and anger, the likes of which hadn’t been seen since the early part of the century, when the struggle was for workers’ rights. Martin Luther King was assassinated in April 1968.  Democratic Presidential candidate Bobby Kennedy met his brutal death two months later. There was little to no guidance for the faithful to be found in the Church. 

I know: I lived it.  I don’t know what was worse: being a Catholic school pupil seduced by all the change because the nuns said it was good or being an adult trying to make sense of it all and wondering where your hard-earned church donations were really going.  The Church no longer seemed to be speaking for the man in the pew.  

So, when Cardinal Cody became head of the Archdiocese of Chicago and dumped Msgr Jack Egan’s Alinsky-influenced Office of Urban Affairs, it seemed to Catholics that the Church was nipping radicalism in the bud.  Hopes were soon dashed when the then illustrious president of the University of Notre Dame, the Revd Theodore ‘Ted’ Hesburgh, CSC, invited Msgr Egan for a ‘sabbatical’ there, one which would last 14 years!  Egan’s work under Alinsky’s tutelage established him as the ‘unchallenged leading Catholic priest in the urban ministry’.  It must have delighted Father Hesburgh to have Egan on board.  Notre Dame was undergoing its own transformation both as a Catholic institution of higher learning and experiencing its own campus unrest during the anti-Vietnam War years. 

From his new base at Notre Dame, Egan expanded the year-old Catholic Committee on Urban Ministry.  His chief acolytes were

  • Msgr Geno Baroni of the Archdiocese of Washington’s Urban Office
  • The Revd Eugene Boyle of the Archdiocese of San Francisco, active with Cesar Chavez’s United Farmworkers of America
  • The Revd Patrick Flood of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee (Wisconsin) and trained by Alinsky, was active in race relations
  • The Alinsky protege, the Revd P. David Finks of the Diocese of Rochester (New York), who was active in Alinsky’s FIGHT organization.  Finks had written the 1969 Labor Day message which Msgr Higgins of the Archdiocese of Chicago gave to launch the CHD
  • The Revd John McCarthy who was assistant to the labour activist, the Revd George Higgins
  • The Revd Phil Murnion of New York who was to direct the National Institute on Pastoral Life
  • The Revd Marvin Mottet of Davenport (Iowa) who was to become the director of the Campaign for Human Development 

Together, Egan and his men expanded their activism nationally.  The Committee on Urban Ministry:

  • put two members on the U.S. Catholic Conference social-action staff in Washington
  • built a lobby to work on church social programming (Network)
  • developed urban-ministry offices in dioceses nationwide
  • implemented social-action projects in seminary education
  • created the National Center for Urban Ethnic Affairs
  • organised a theological conference that brought together priest activists, theologians, and bishops
  • developed the CHD itself, although it should be noted that Egan only influenced its development — Baroni and Finks were the founders

In the summer of 1968, when America was building up towards a socio-political explosion of events, the Right Revd John J Wright, Bishop of Pittsburgh and chair of the USCCB Social Action Department announced a 45-member urban task force to work on race relations.  Egan, Finks, Flood, Baroni, McCarthy and Boyle were part of it.  By late autumn, 101 American dioceses each had their own task force along with a co-ordinator.  In June 1969, Baroni would discuss the formation of the CHD, saying vaguely:

A national response by the U.S. Church would be a concrete initiative in leading the nation by way of example to develop new priorities and new efforts in meeting human needs in our society. This would be expended mainly at a diocesan level for practical programmes aimed at self-determination of all our citizens.

In August of that year, the group met in Canada to discuss an agenda. Egan did not attend.  The priests and bishops knew the Black Manifesto was asking for $3 billion in reparations for slavery.  Protestant churches were quick to respond: the United Church of Christ was allocating $1.1 million for racial justice programmes and the United Methodist Church would give $1.8 million.  The Catholics hadn’t yet committed any funds. This was how and when they decided the CHD would raise $50m for urban causes.  It was a staggering sum for the time, unmatched by their Protestant brethren.  The money would go toward all the usual ‘community organiser’ causes with which they were familiar:

projects as voter registration, community organisations, seed money to develop non-profit housing corporations, community-run schools, minority-owned co-operatives and credit unions, capital for industrial development and job training programs, and setting up of rural cooperatives.

Compare that goal with Alinsky’s own words on transferring power from the Haves to the Have-Nots (emphasis mine):

we are concerned with how to create mass organisations to seize power and give it to the people, to realize the democratic dream of equality, justice, peace, cooperation … the creation of those circumstances in which man can have the chance to live by values that give meaning to life.

After the meeting in Canada, Finks and Baroni started working through details with then-Bishop Bernardin, General Secretary of the National Catholic Council of Bishops, in advance of the CHD launch.  We saw in an earlier post that Bishop Sheil was the Catholic who lent credibility to Alinsky’s Back of the Yards campaign.  The Alinsky-trained Finks would now assume the limelight with the CHD.   He crafted the language and discussion of the CHD resolution as well as its agenda. Bernardin gave his approval and the CHD was born. Finks credited his mentor, not Christ or the Church:

I was convinced that Alinsky’s approach was the best there was. I didn’t see anything else on the horizon.      

Tomorrow: The CHD agenda 

You can read more here: ‘The Influence of Saul Alinsky on the Campaign for Human Development’, Lawrence J Engel, December 1998

cash continuumjournalscomYesterday’s post examined Saul Alinsky’s influence on the Archdiocese of Chicago.  Today, we’ll look at subsequent developments in the American Church. 

Before his death in 1972, Saul Alinsky said:

The biggest change I saw in the first twenty years or so that I was involved in social action is in the role of the churches … In the 1960s they really moved into the social arena, the political arena. They took over the position organised labor had a generation ago.

By the 1960s, civil rights were at the forefront of American policies and politics.  And, for a brief time, the United States had its one and only Roman Catholic President, John F Kennedy.  Kennedy’s ascent to the White House brought Catholics from both sides of the political spectrum to the forefront of American society and thought.  Some, like William F Buckley, were intellectual conservatives. Others, like Dorothy Day of the Catholic Worker movement, were Communist Catholics active with the poor.  Cesar Chavez, an Alinsky disciple, worked with migrant farm workers in California. 

It wasn’t long before the media spotlight eventually landed on Catholic clergy, who became increasingly active in social movements:

  • Monsignor George Higgins and the labour movement
  • Monsignor Geno Baroni and ethnic urban neighborhoods
  • Fathers Philip and Daniel Berrigan and the antiwar movement
  • Father James Groppi and the civil rights movement
  • Monsignor John ‘Jack’ Egan and Alinsky’s community organisations
  • Thomas Merton and his social critiques from the monastery
  • John Courtney Murray and U.S. civil discourse
  • Andrew Greeley and James Kavanaugh and their radical points of view about the Church and society 

By the end of the decade, the post-Vatican II world was in full swing.  Priests and religious renounced their vows and rejoined the secular life.  Catholic women hoped for relaxed rules on birth control. Many younger Catholics questioned the Church and papal authority.  This revolution in the Church gave birth to the Catholic in Name Only — CINO — even if they weren’t called that at the time.  They made their own rules, and the priests were no longer stopping them.

So, it will come as no surprise that against this backdrop the CHD launched in November 1969 as a vehicle for bringing about a ‘new Catholicism’ in America.  Senior clergy with leftist sympathies were instrumental in bringing the campaign together: Archbishop John Dearden of Detroit, Bishop (later Cardinal) Joseph Bernardin, Monsignor George Higgins and Monsignor John Egan.  Msgrs Higgins and Egan were from the Archdiocese of Chicago.  Furthermore, the NCCB would realign itself to more closely fit what was perceived to be Vatican II theology.  More ‘community organisation’ priests around the US would come to the fore, led by Msgr Egan.  

Egan first met Alinsky in 1954 in Chicago.  Under Alinsky’s tutelage, Egan went from being a conventional parish priest to one with a ‘public role’.  By 1957, he was a community organiser who would have a nationwide influence extending beyond Chicago.  Egan lamented seminary education, saying that ‘nothing in our training enables priests to be administrators or organisers’. Alinsky instructed Egan in his classic methods: power, leadership development, personal relationships, strategy and tactics.  Money was no problem.  Cardinal Stritch of the Archdiocese of Chicago gave Alinsky $40,000 a year for Egan’s internship, which included a three-year study of racially-mixed neighbourhoods in the city.  Those were tidy sums of money 50 years ago.  You could buy a decent house in those days for a fraction of the annual amount Alinsky received

Egan later recalled, ‘Saul and I began working very closely … to focus the power of the Church on the problems of the city.’  Together, they:

  • developed the first Office of Urban Affairs in Chicago
  • organised three major neighbourhood community operations
  • lent a ‘Catholic’ credibility to community organising
  • trained and mobilised organisers
  • raised money to finance their organisations 

Egan was the first Catholic priest to devote his official ministry to community organisation, with the full backing of the Archdiocese of Chicago!  Note how nicely author Richard McBrien cloaks the language:

[Egan was a] pioneer in the urban ministry apostolate … a pioneer in inner city ministry, a pioneer in community organisation, a pioneer in priestly ministry as a ministry to the whole Church and to the whole society.

Sounds awfully impressive and godly, doesn’t it?  It’s no surprise how many people must have pulled out their chequebooks hearing words similar to that.  Remember the Communist Party’s ‘honeyed words to the church people’.

To give you an idea of the sums of money they raised in the 1960s, Cardinal Meyer made an archdiocesan commitment for $150,000 for three years, $50,000 a year to the Woodlawn [a Chicago neighbourhood] Organisation.  $20,000 could buy you a comfortable middle-class house at the time.


You can read more here: ‘The Influence of Saul Alinsky on the Campaign for Human Development’, Lawrence J Engel, December 1998   

Tomorrow: The CHD in depth

bishops blogsreuterscomTwo readers have asked me to elaborate on the Marxist connections within the Catholic Church in the 1960s.  I am happy to oblige.

Many American Catholics know of the Campaign for Human Development (CHD), which the national conference of Catholic bishops initiated in 1969.  It is the longest-running social experiment in American Catholic history.  It is the primary example of Catholic social action in the United States.

This is the founding statement for the CHD:

There is an evident need for funds designated to be used for organising groups of white and minority poor to develop economic and political power in their own communities…. Therefore be it resolved that the National Conference of Catholic Bishops (NCCB) establish a National Crusade Against Poverty. The crusade will commit the Church to raise a fund of 50 million dollars over the next several years.

By 1998, the CHD had raised a total $225m.  But why?  Surely, the original goal of $50m would have been sufficient, particularly with a variety of US Government programmes in force at the same time: welfare, aid to dependent children, food stamps, Medicaid.

A former President of the NCCB, Bishop James Malone, says the CHD was started as a response to:

  • ‘the crisis of human needs and aspirations which was being experienced with peculiar urgency in American society’
  • ‘the impact of the Second Vatican Council’

There is also a third reason which largely goes unstated: as a means of support to Saul Alinsky, the daddy of community organisers in the United States.  Since his Back of the Yards programme in 1939, he and the Catholic Church worked closely together.  The ‘Yards’ referred to the Chicago Stockyards, where all the big meatpacking facilities were located.  They moved out at the end of the 1960s to other parts of the nation, but for decades, since the advent of processed meat and commercial packing, they relied on European immigrant labour from nearby neighbourhoods.  (For a turn-of-the-century look at what the Stockyards were like, read Upton Sinclair’s The Jungle, a jaw-dropping account of the daily grind, poverty and dire working conditions.)   

The Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago got involved because many of the Stockyard workers were Roman Catholics from various ethnic backgrounds.  Each neighbourhood had its own church reflecting the national identity of the employees and their parents: Poland, Lithuania, Ireland, Germany.  Alinsky organised the parishes one by one to argue for better housing for local families and improved working conditions for the men in the Yards.  Alinsky knew that the Church was the focal point for these neighbourhoods and that any lasting impact would require their support.

The Auxiliary Bishop of the Archdiocese of Chicago at the time, the Right Revd Bernard J Sheil, became the honorary Chairman of the Back of the Yards Council.  His support legitimised Alinsky’s organisation immeasurably.  Alinsky’s additional powerful public support came from  John L Lewis, the head of the Congress of Industrial Organisations (CIO).  Alinsky had what he wanted: a community programme built on the foundation of the Church and organised labour. 

The media were not slow in picking up on this fact. Time magazine that Sheil’s involvement and his application of a papal encyclical (Rerum Novarum) to Lewis’s organizing drive ‘was making not only Chicago, but U.S. history’.  The Chicago Daily News said:

… something new in community organisation is about to happen in the Back of the Yards…. The council is the conception and individual project of Saul D. Alinsky … The residents of the district … are almost completely stockyard workers and Catholics, and on this basis the sociologist [Alinsky] has enlisted churchmen and the CIO leaders to form the main pillars of the neighborhood council.

Both publications were right.  Lewis and Sheil appeared together in public support of the Stockyard workers who were threatening to strike.  Hours later, in July 1939, the four main meatpacking companies — Armour, Cudahy, Wilson and Swift — acceded to the workers’ demands for better pay and conditions.  Cardinal Joseph Bernardin of the Archdiocese of Chicago would state decades later in 1995 that the Back of the Yards victory marked the moment when ‘the great work of community organising began in Chicago’.

This remark was part of the cardinal’s address marking the 25th anniversary of the CHD.  Let’s examine a passage from that speech (emphasis mine):

It is fitting that we are gathered here because since the beginning, Chicago has been important to the Campaign and the Campaign has been important to Chicago. As you may know, Msgr. George Higgins of this Archdiocese wrote a Labor Day message that pointed the way to the Campaign; Auxiliary Bishop Michael Dempsey of Chicago was the CHD’s first spokesperson; Msgr. Jack Egan organised the ‘Friends of CHD’ in the mid-1970s, and for decades has been an inspiration to the Campaign’s work; the great work of community-organising began in Chicago, and Chicago has many important networks and training centres; CHD enjoys a rich tradition of support here, both in the form of active and enthusiastic participation by people in organisations and projects funded by CHD, and in the generous donations to the annual CHD Collection.

Here are the salient facts from that excerpt:

  • Of the individuals the cardinal mentions, Dempsey was the only one with no direct link to Alinsky
  • An Alinsky protege, P David Finks, wrote the Labor Day message for Msgr Higgins
  • Msgr Egan was the first priest to be an Alinsky intern
  • Egan organised the Friends of CHD using Alinsky’s strategy as developed in Rochester, New York
  • The ‘network and training centres’ have direct links to Alinsky’s methods
  • The ‘generous donations’ — hundreds of thousands of dollars — from the Catholic faithful support Alinsky-style organisations   

It was no exaggeration for Heather Booth of the Midwest Academy in Chicago when she remarked, ‘Alinsky is to community organising as Freud is to psychoanalysis’.

You can read more here: ‘The Influence of Saul Alinsky on the Campaign for Human Development’, Lawrence J Engel, December 1998 

Tomorrow: Activism among clergy in the 1960s

Bible openMainstream Christianity can be peculiar.  Have you ever noticed that despite our ever-expanding lectionaries across the denominations that a bit of censorship has been going on over the past 20 years?

Every so often you’ll see an ellipsis (…) in the Sunday readings, especially during Ordinary Time.  The priest or reader will omit a few offensive verses.  Those are the meaty ‘yes-you’ ones, but because of the nature of Christianity today, you’ll have to read them on your own, unless you go to a church that believes in the unvarnished Biblical truths.

What follows are two of my favourite readings.  Yes, they may sound familiar, but you might not have heard one or two verses for a while, if at all.  Yet, they are as true today as they were in the early Church.  Today’s readings come from the Douay-Rheims Bible.

1 Corinthians 6:9-20:

Know you not that the unjust shall not possess the kingdom of God? Do not err: neither fornicators, nor idolaters, nor adulterers, 10 Nor the effeminate, nor liers with mankind, nor thieves, nor covetous, nor drunkards, nor railers, nor extortioners, shall possess the kingdom of God. 11 And such some of you were; but you are washed, but you are sanctified, but you are justified in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ, and the Spirit of our God.

12 All things are lawful to me, but all things are not expedient. All things are lawful to me, but I will not be brought under the power of any. 13 Meat for the belly, and the belly for the meats; but God shall destroy both it and them: but the body is not for fornication, but for the Lord, and the Lord for the body. 14 Now God hath both raised up the Lord, and will raise us up also by his power. 15 Know you not that your bodies are the members of Christ ? Shall I then take the members of Christ, and make them the members of an harlot ? God forbid. 16 Or know you not, that he who is joined to a harlot, is made one body ? For they shall be, saith he, two in one flesh. 17 But he who is joined to the Lord, is one spirit. 18 Fly fornication. Every sin that a man doth, is without the body; but he that committeth fornication, sinneth against his own body. 19 Or know you not, that your members are the temple of the Holy Ghost, who is in you, whom you have from God; and you are not your own ? 20 For you are bought with a great price. Glorify and bear God in your body.

‘Do not err’ — don’t be mistaken.  There are many who shall not possess the kingdom of God. Note verse 17: ‘He who is joined to the Lord is one spirit.’ When we are obedient to God and do His will, we remember the price Jesus paid for our sins through His Crucifixion.  When we are truly at one with the Lord God, we no longer operate through the alternating dichotomy of sin and spirituality.

2 Thessalonians 2:1-14:

And we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and of our gathering together unto him: 2 That you be not easily moved from your sense, nor be terrified, neither by spirit, nor by word, nor by epistle, as sent from us, as if the day of the Lord were at hand. 3 Let no man deceive you by any means, for unless there come a revolt first, and the man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition, 4 Who opposeth, and is lifted up above all that is called God, or that is worshipped, so that he sitteth in the temple of God, shewing himself as if he were God. 5 Remember you not, that when I was yet with you, I told you these things? 6 And now you know what withholdeth, that he may be revealed in his time. 7 For the mystery of iniquity already worketh; only that he who now holdeth, do hold, until he be taken out of the way. 8 And then that wicked one shall be revealed whom the Lord Jesus shall kill with the spirit of his mouth; and shall destroy with the brightness of his coming, him, 9 Whose coming is according to the working of Satan, in all power, and signs, and lying wonders, 10 And in all seduction of iniquity to them that perish; because they receive not the love of the truth, that they might be saved. 11 Therefore God shall send them the operation of error, to believe lying: 12 That all may be judged who have not believed the truth, but have consented to iniquity.

13 But we ought to give thanks to God always for you, brethren, beloved of God, for that God hath chosen you firstfruits unto salvation, in sanctification of the spirit, and faith of the truth: 14 Whereunto also he hath called you by our gospel, unto the purchasing of the glory of our Lord Jesus Christ. 15 Therefore, brethren, stand fast; and hold the traditions which you have learned, whether by word, or by our epistle.

The revolt  in this passage is an augur of the downfall of the Roman Empire.  Later, the Catholic Church understood it to mean the Reformation.  However, it can still be considered today as the state of play which will occur during the time of the Antichrist and false preachers.  God will punish those who turn away from the truth with false wonders, or ‘the operation of error’.  To avoid this, St Paul counsels holding fast to tradition, scriptural and unwritten.   

I’ll have more forbidden passages to share with you soon.

Decadence3 romanempirenet

Well, here is another jaw-dropping example of weak, numbers-driven ministry.  Thank goodness we have John MacArthur to lift a lid on it and show it for the sham that it is.

My regular readers will be aware that I have puzzled over the watered-down, mindless sermons I’ve heard in recent years.  Thanks to Dr MacArthur, we now know why.  It’s because pastors are discouraged from mentioning sin, hell, fornication, adultery, drunkenness, licentiousness and any deviant behaviour.

The reasons are two-fold: one, it reduces the number of people in church and, two, it eases the minds of the living about what might have happened to some of their deceased relatives.

He calls this ‘easy-believism’, about which you can read more in his essay ‘An Introduction to Lordship Salvation’.  Pastoral guidelines are such that difficult topics are forbidden when ministering in Protestant churches. However, I suspect that the same thing is also occurring in Catholic parishes.  To find out more about this aspect, listen to his 55-minute sermon, broken down into five videos.  To see the videos, click here at DefendingContending

I shall try to tackle this one point at a time.  As to the first, the focus on ‘bums on seats’ (as we say in the UK): churches have targets.  Now, those are driven either at national or diocesan level.  I always watch when a new type of programme starts at my church.  It’s announced in the weekly bulletin;  posters go up all over the place;  the vicar talks about it at Sunday services;  invariably, someone rings to gauge my level of interest.  So, just as it is in the corporate or academic world, so it is among churches.  There are certain targets to be met.  

In the diocesan model, the bishop is likely to follow up with pastors about declining Sunday attendance, less money in the collection plate and so forth:  ‘Why is this happening?’  Any priest who attempts to preach Scriptural truths is likely to have people fall away.  ‘Mmm, I didn’t like what he said last Sunday.  He talked about sin, and that made me feel guilty.’  Yes, well, that’s what church is for, folks.  You don’t mind your boss telling you what a lousy job you did and how you might not win promotion, but when it comes to a priest exhorting you to avoid sin, that seems to be a step too far? 

Bearing all this in mind, the priest knows he has a bishop to please and a job to keep.  Therefore, he opts for an easy life.  He decides to maintain the status quo.  Easy-believism church: smooth as silk, calming to the conscience.  There’s always redemption to look forward to — you’ve been baptised or born again, right?  So, go live your life the way you want.  Be kind to animals, mow the lawn and take the kids out for a meal now and then.  Consequently, the congregation gets the message that whatever they do is okay.  God will understand.  God will accept.  We are all sinners.  He knows that. 

Now, to the second point: what if Uncle Harry or Auntie Jane went to hell?  I’m sure this train of thought torments some people, mostly because it reminds them of their own mortality and behaviour: ‘If they went to hell, I might be joining them.’  For a start, no one knows what’s going on in our judgment except the Judge Himself, God.  So, there’s no use fretting about others, although we can pray for the repose of their souls.  People forget that our ways are not God’s ways. We also don’t know what goes on in the final days or even hours of a person’s life between him and his Maker. Therefore, we would do well to avoid preoccupation with others’ salvation and worry about our own. 

Having said that, a priest or minister does no one any favours by denying hell or saying that we’re all saved no matter what.  MacArthur says that what few people say anymore — on either side of the pulpit — is that Jesus is Lord.  God is sovereign.  This means we owe Him obedience, otherwise we fall from His favour. 

MacArthur lays out nine characteristics of a true understanding of salvation and the Gospel (emphasis mine):

First, Scripture teaches that the gospel calls sinners to faith joined in oneness with repentance (Acts 2:38; 17:30; 20:21; 2 Pet. 3:9). Repentance is a turning from sin (Acts 3:19; Luke 24:47) that consists not of a human work but of a divinely bestowed grace (Acts 11:18; 2 Tim. 2:25). It is a change of heart, but genuine repentance will effect a change of behavior as well (Luke 3:8; Acts 26:18-20). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that repentance is simply a synonym for faith and that no turning from sin is required for salvation.

Second, Scripture teaches that salvation is all God’s work. Those who believe are saved utterly apart from any effort on their own (Titus 3:5). Even faith is a gift of God, not a work of man (Eph. 2:1-5,8). Real faith therefore cannot be defective or short-lived but endures forever (Phil. 1:6; cf. Heb. 11). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that faith might not last and that a true Christian can completely cease believing.

Third, Scripture teaches that the object of faith is Christ Himself, not a creed or a promise (John 3:16). Faith therefore involves personal commitment to Christ (2 Cor. 5:15). In other words, all true believers follow Jesus (John 10:27-28). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that saving faith is simply being convinced or giving credence to the truth of the gospel and does not include a personal commitment to the person of Christ.

Fourth, Scripture teaches that real faith inevitably produces a changed life (2 Cor. 5:17). Salvation includes a transformation of the inner person (Gal. 2:20). The nature of the Christian is new and different (Rom. 6:6). The unbroken pattern of sin and enmity with God will not continue when a person is born again (1 John 3:9-10).

Fifth, Scripture teaches that God’s gift of eternal life includes all that pertains to life and godliness (2 Pet. 1:3; Rom. 8:32), not just a ticket to heaven. In contrast, according to easy-believism, only the judicial aspects of salvation (e.g., justification, adoption, and positional sanctification) are guaranteed for believers in this life; practical sanctification and growth in grace require a post-conversion act of dedication.

Sixth, Scripture teaches that Jesus is Lord of all, and the faith He demands involves unconditional surrender (Rom. 6:17-18; 10:9-10). In other words, Christ does not bestow eternal life on those whose hearts remain set against Him (James 4:6) … In contrast, easy-believism teaches that submission to Christ’s supreme authority is not germane to the saving transaction.

Seventh, Scripture teaches that those who truly believe will love Christ (1 Pet. 1:8-9; Rom. 8:28-30; 1 Cor. 16:22). They will therefore long to obey Him (John 14:15, 23). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that Christians may fall into a state of lifelong carnality.

Eighth, Scripture teaches that behavior is an important test of faith. Obedience is evidence that one’s faith is real (1 John 2:3). On the other hand, the person who remains utterly unwilling to obey Christ does not evidence true faith (1 John 2:4). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that disobedience and prolonged sin are no reason to doubt the reality of one’s faith.

Ninth, Scripture teaches that genuine believers may stumble and fall, but they will persevere in the faith (1 Cor. 1:8). Those who later turn completely away from the Lord show that they were never truly born again (1 John 2:19). In contrast, easy-believism teaches that a true believer may utterly forsake Christ and come to the point of not believing.

I’ll give MacArthur the final words here:

no major orthodox movement in the history of Christianity has ever taught that sinners can spurn the lordship of Christ yet lay claim to Him as Saviour.

This issue is not a trivial one. In fact, how could any issue be more important? The gospel that is presented to unbelievers has eternal ramifications. If it is the true gospel, it can direct men and women into the everlasting kingdom. If it is a corrupted message, it can give unsaved people false hope while consigning them to eternal damnation. This is not merely a matter for theologians to discuss and debate and speculate about. This is an issue that every single pastor and lay person must understand in order that the gospel may be rightly proclaimed to all the nations.

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