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A number of orthodox Christian blogs, including this one, have explored the postmodern Church.  We’ve mentioned names, techniques and genres of ‘doing church’ but few have explored what exactly is happening and how it happens.

In short, all these movements — e.g. church growth, emergent — have their roots in a combination of dialectic and praxis, which one Christian, Dean Gotcher, combined as ‘diaprax’.  Diaprax is common not only in the Church but in the world at large.  Its goal is to set all of us on the road to constant compromise and continuous change.  It is designed to promote unity from diversity and to get rid of tradition and ‘divisiveness’.

First, a review of dialectic in a Christian context.  Do keep in mind that every step along the way is designed to inch the believer further away from the inerrancy of the Bible and his confessions of faith.

How diaprax works

Dr Robert Klenck, an orthopaedic surgeon in Los Angeles, contributes to Mr Gotcher’s Institution for Authority Research and, like him, has studied diaprax closely in relation to the trends we see in our churches today.  In ‘The 21st Century Church: Part 3’, he explains (emphases mine throughout):

Briefly, the Hegelian dialectic process works like this:  a diverse group of people (in the CGM, this is a mixture of believers and unbelievers – thesis and antithesis), gather in a facilitated meeting (with a trained facilitator/”teacher”/group leader), using group dynamics (peer pressure), to discuss a social issue (or dialogue the Word of God), and reach a pre-determined outcome (consensus, or compromise).

When the Word of God is dialogued (as opposed to being taught didactically) between believers and unbelievers, and consensus is reached – agreement that all are comfortable with – then the message of the Word of God has been watered down, and the participants have been conditioned to accept (and even celebrate) their compromise.  This [new synthesis] becomes the starting point [thesis] for the next meeting.  The fear of alienation from the group is the pressure that prevents an individual from standing firm for the truth of the Word of God.  The fear of man then overrides the fear of God.

This process is similar to workshops you might have participated in at work.  The principles are identical.  A facilitator leads the group.  He has a set agenda, given to him by a manager (or a pastor, in the case of a church).  However, he asks people what they hope to ‘get’ out of the session, although his questions will help engineer the desired agenda outcome.  Then, as is true with workplace workshops, a number of discussions take place and, inevitably, conflict arises.

People stating their positions or beliefs on an issue is what is known as thesis.  Conflict, roughly speaking, is antithesis (against the thesis, or belief).  The facilitator brings about synthesis by getting everyone to arrive at a common position.  It might not be 100% to everyone’s liking, but it is one that people will largely agree upon. It will also be one that is man-centred, because, as we shall see tomorrow and have seen in my Gramsci posts, nothing is more threatening to the Marxist than faith in God, Christianity and the traditional family under the authority of God and His Son.  Gramsci believed that Christianity fostered the continuance of:

the Western values of individual liberty, private property, and the traditional family, and must be abolished in order for the new communist society to emerge.

Let us say (in an Anglican context) the issue debated is one of bringing a female curate (assistant priest) on board. The church wardens meet to discuss it. Among their number is a traditionalist. The vicar (pastor) introduces the topic then leaves it in the hands of the facilitator, perhaps an expert in conflict resolution paid for by the diocese. A day’s workshop can engineer consensus among the church wardens, as they move from the traditionalist’s thesis — especially that which is expressed in Jesus’s First Cause language, ‘It is written’ — through to conflict (antithesis) and concluding with a postmodern resolution (synthesis) on the part of the traditionalist.

Says the traditionalist at the end of the afternoon, ‘Gosh, I might have been a bit short-sighted on this issue.  I’m sorry.  Yes, if it’s the right woman, I’m sure I could be persuaded.’  Therefore, the door opens just that little bit.  Our traditionalist has started to ‘change with the times’ and puts Scripture slightly off to the side.  The group is happy.  Perhaps they have a glass of sherry afterward.  The traditionalist has gained acceptance — for now.  He is happy to have bonded with his fellow church wardens on this thorny issue.  In finding ‘common ground’, he has pleased man, but perhaps not God.

Yet, although the traditionalist doesn’t realise it, that is only the start.  Dialectic and praxis require continual change in order to meet the times, which are ever-evolving. A few years down the road, he may be further persuaded — again through diaprax — that a new Sunday evening service be started, replacing the traditional Evensong.  The new service would be of an emergent style, to draw in the younger members of the ‘community’, i.e. neighbourhood.  ‘Well, it’s not a big issue, is it?  I understand the youth ministry leader is a very dynamic individual.  We can increase the membership of our church and be seen as a vibrant congregation. It’s all to the good.’  And so, he takes another noticeable step away from orthodoxy and an initial giant step away from traditional liturgy.

Dr Klenck observes that the same method — diaprax — has been used with regard to abortion:

… first, the fact (“what is”) was questioned – what is life?, and does it really begin at conception?  It was decided that as long as the child was not aware of pain, that it was not viable, or really alive.  Now, through incremental change, our society has gotten to the point of tolerating “partial-birth” infanticide.  This would have been unconscionable in the days that Roe v. Wade was decided.

Church buildings and Emergents — for a New Age

And things are always changing.  Think of how church buildings are changing.  Some, like the Crystal Cathedral, are generally recognisable as churches.  Yet others look like big, prefab boxes.  They have no crosses, inside or out.  This is in order that the ‘seeker’ isn’t put off by what he sees.  Many newer churches don’t want people to start thinking about Jesus’ painful death, blood or similar things.  The seeker might then walk away, feeling unsettled.

Dr Gregory Jackson, author of Ichabod, posted on this topic recently.  In ‘Leading Lutheran Moms Astray at The CORE’, he reprinted dialogue among a few women on Facebook who discussed whether they should attend the CORE in Appleton, Wisconsin. The CORE is an emergent church affiliated with WELS.  Here is a brief excerpt — certainly worth a read in full:

Imah: We missed our regular church service this morning … I decided we’d try the Core in Appleton.  It’s an outreach congregation and really cool.  The music is very contemporary– in fact, all songs were songs I hear on 91.9 or the Q, 90.1The boys age 9 and 5 were happy to eat popcorn and drink water while listening to the service.  The place was comfortably full and everyone was smiling!!  I highly recommend going to a service.  It was fun!!

Coley22: Personally, I prefer a traditional service and I’ve also heard that The Core isn’t really teaching God’s Word so much. I think it’s a step backwards for the WELS. If a church wants to do something more contemporary, that’s fine, but what good is it if you’re not even teaching God’s Word?

JulieMomof5: Coley22, I hope you actually visit the CORE instead of just listening to rumors…
Just because the CORE focuses on theme-based sermons instead of on the lectionary doesn’t mean it’s not true to Scripture …  The truths of God’s Word are emphasized, in terms that unchurched people can more easily understand (I like that Pastor Ski explains church terms when he uses them!).  The fill-in-the-blank folder makes it easier to remember what was said.  The visuals are used to reinforce the message.  Remember, the CORE’s focus is REACHING OUT to the unchurched.  Pastor Ski likes to remind us not to cause unnecessary offense to others before introducing them to Jesus!  Too often, our “traditional” services risk doing just that.

Popcorn, pop music and avoiding ‘unnecessary offence’ — oh, my.  It was a bit too much to take in.  I had to have a cup of tea and a sit-down after reading that.

Caution — discernment required!

Some of you have been spared attending one of these services.  Dr Klenck describes them:

The presentation is informal …  There are distractions, such as numerous video screens, and the pastor often paces back and forth across the stage, which makes the “real” message that is being taught difficult to discern

The message is ambiguous, sounding reasonable to people who think traditionally, are in transition, or have been trained to think transformationallyOften, half-truths are used (i.e. Christ’s preeminence as a religious leader, but omitting His deity), or “subliminal” messages utilized.  We heard a tape of one pastor who was teaching against Mormonism, and he was stating how they latch on to a verse in the KJV that is an unfortunate translation.  He then stated how “I can show you numerous errors in the King James.”  The message was against Mormonism, but the subliminal message that people took home with them was that the KJV Bible version is unreliable.  We have very little training in listening to what is not being said, and in the atmosphere of distraction described here, this type of discernment is very difficult, and must be pursued vigorously.  Peter Drucker, who plays a large role in this movement is aware of this fact:

The most important thing is communication is to hear what isn’t being said.”  Peter Drucker

The pulpit is the ultimate tool for church growth.”  Rick Warren [7]

A tool is used to manipulate objects.  In the same article, Pastor Warren declares that he first considers the needs, hurts, and interests, and then he goes to the Bible to see what it says about their needs.  Once he examines what the Bible says about the subject, he asks himself:  “What is the most practical way to say this?  What is the most positive way to say this?  What is the most encouraging way to say this?  What is the simplest way to say this?  What is the most personal way to say this?  What is the most interesting way to say this?”  In other words, he puts his “spin” on the Blessed Word of God in order to tickle the itching ears of his audience.

“For the time will come when they will not endure sound doctrine; but after their own lusts shall they heap to themselves teachers, having itching ears; and they shall turn away their ears from the truth, and shall be turned unto fables.” 2 Tim 4:3 (KJV)

If Rick Warren’s technique sounds familiar, it’s what his mentor Robert Schuller used over 40 years ago in California.

Tomorrow: Diaprax, small groups and more

Readings from Revelation 6 do not appear in our standard three-year Lectionary, which makes them perfect for the ongoing Churchmouse Campanologist series, Forbidden Bible Verses, also essential for our study as Christians.

Today’s reading is taken from the English Standard Version (ESV).  Sources are listed at the bottom of the post.

Revelation 6

The Seven Seals

1Now I watched when the Lamb opened one of the seven seals, and I heard one of the four living creatures say with a voice like thunder, “Come!” 2And I looked, and behold, a white horse! And its rider had a bow, and a crown was given to him, and he came out conquering, and to conquer.

3When he opened the second seal, I heard the second living creature say, “Come!” 4And out came another horse, bright red. Its rider was permitted to take peace from the earth, so that people should slay one another, and he was given a great sword.

5When he opened the third seal, I heard the third living creature say, “Come!” And I looked, and behold, a black horse! And its rider had a pair of scales in his hand. 6And I heard what seemed to be a voice in the midst of the four living creatures, saying, “A quart of wheat for a denarius, and three quarts of barley for a denarius, and do not harm the oil and wine!”

7When he opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth living creature say, “Come!” 8And I looked, and behold, a pale horse! And its rider’s name was Death, and Hades followed him. And they were given authority over a fourth of the earth, to kill with sword and with famine and with pestilence and by wild beasts of the earth.

9When he opened the fifth seal, I saw under the altar the souls of those who had been slain for the word of God and for the witness they had borne. 10They cried out with a loud voice, “O Sovereign Lord, holy and true, how long before you will judge and avenge our blood on those who dwell on the earth?” 11Then they were each given a white robe and told to rest a little longer, until the number of their fellow servants and their brothers should be complete, who were to be killed as they themselves had been.

12When he opened the sixth seal, I looked, and behold, there was a great earthquake, and the sun became black as sackcloth, the full moon became like blood, 13and the stars of the sky fell to the earth as the fig tree sheds its winter fruit when shaken by a gale. 14 The sky vanished like a scroll that is being rolled up, and every mountain and island was removed from its place. 15Then the kings of the earth and the great ones and the generals and the rich and the powerful, and everyone, slave and free, hid themselves in the caves and among the rocks of the mountains, 16 calling to the mountains and rocks, “Fall on us and hide us from the face of him who is seated on the throne, and from the wrath of the Lamb, 17for the great day of their wrath has come, and who can stand?”

——————————————————————————-

The visions of the apostle St John, as given to him by Our Lord Jesus Christ, continue as He opens the scroll, described in Revelation 5, the first five verses of which we studied last week.  (That post also explains the importance of scrolls and their seals in the ancient world.) During this time — 95 AD — St John was in exile on the Greek island of Patmos.

The 17th century Calvinist minister and Bible scholar, Matthew Henry, writes that John sees the vision but not was written in the scroll itself.  Henry says that some things are known only to God Himself, therefore, we would be unwise to pretend to know what they are or to have a perfect understanding of them.  Therefore, it is worth remembering that what the apostle sees appears puzzling.  Perhaps this is the way it is meant to be until we reach the fullness of time.

Henry posits that Christ unrolls the scroll one seal at a time.  Therefore, a portion of the inside of the scroll is visible, then He must break another seal to see the next portion of writing.  Other scholars contradict this, but in line with how the chapter unfolds, Henry’s interpretation makes sense.

Furthermore, Henry believes that the events in Revelation 6 reveal what would happen to the Church between Christ’s Ascension and the reign of Constantine.  The Lutheran pastor, the Revd Thomas Messer, of Peace Lutheran Church in Alma, Michigan, has studied Revelation extensively and extends this time period to Our Lord’s Second Coming.  Pr Messer reminds us that the imagery in Revelation is taken from Jewish Messianic literature and is not to be taken literally.  The Jews would have known how to interpret the symbolism in Revelation.  The Four Horsemen of which we read here signify events to happen on earth.  Some may have already happened, depending on whose interpretation you follow.

In verse 1, Christ in all glory and majesty opens the first seal.  The living creature commanding John to pay attention may be a minister of the Church.  Henry believes the rider on the white horse is Jesus Himself (verse 2).  He gives several reasons for this.  One, only someone who was assured of victory in a war would ride a white steed.  Otherwise, the colour of the horse would make him a moving target. Two, the bow signifies the convicting nature of the words of Scripture, which pierces the hearts of men.  Three, Christ rides in victory, wearing His crown instead of a traditional warrior’s helmet.  As the verse says, ‘He came out conquering and to conquer’.  He wins the souls of men through Spirit and the Word.  The Gospel and the story of Christ win converts every day around the world and will continue so to do.

Pr Messer offers an interesting counterpoint.  He writes that the rider of the white horse is a deceiver, one who says he is on the side of good, yet is an oppressor of men.  How can Christ be among the horsemen if no one is His equal?  Furthermore, why would Christ carry a bow when He is depicted carrying a sword? We saw the sword is that of the Word and His mighty judgment in His letter to the church in Pergamum (Rev. 2:16).  Pr Messer’s white horseman is one who, by tyrannising others, makes a mockery of the freedom which Our Lord offers.  The white horseman could include Fabians, dictators, those who legislate for ‘the common good’, who wish to control our lives through seeming ‘law and order’.  Yet, they care nothing for us, only what blood, sweat and toil they can extract.

Christ opens the second seal in verse 3.  Again, Henry interprets this next horseman as relating to Our Lord, but this time, to His divine and terrible judgments.  To him, the red horseman of verse 4 symbolises His warlike judgment against unbelievers, who will exact an awful price for not following Him.  Yet, he offers a second interpretation: because they do not obey Christ’s commandments of love, unbelievers cannot help but fall into hate and combat.

On the other hand, Pr Messer sees the red horseman as revealing the bloodthirsty nature of tyrants who fight to remain in power at all costs.  They slay their enemies.  They initiate wars to show their power and seeming invincibility.  He notes that this has run the course of human history and will continue to do so until the final day.  Fortunately, he says, those who believe in Christ have a heavenly reward to look forward to.  Our earthly sufferings are but transitory.

I should note here that both men’s interpretations give us much hope.  Henry says that, whilst believers will fall at Christ’s feet in adoration, He will use unbelievers as His footstool.  Messer says that every time we hear Scripture read, Christ reminds us that He has control over world events.  He allows evil to happen in order for people to see the folly and destruction of iniquity and, thereby turn their hearts and minds to His will and His promise of salvation.

Read the rest of this entry »

As much as I missed Cranmer’s blog during his hiatus earlier this year, I missed commenter D Singh’s apposite and conservative commentary even more.  I’m happy to report that both have been back on form for a couple of months now.

I rather wish that D Singh had his own blog.  If you’re reading this, Mr Singh, please give it serious consideration!

Mr Singh and another commenter, Oswin, described today’s Anglican Sunday services perfectly in the comments of Cranmer’s post, ‘Announcing the Society of Cardinal Cranmer’.  The post and the excerpts from their comments are somewhat unrelated, so without any further ado, this is why Anglican churches are so dashed empty on Sundays.  (Emphases mine throughout.)

First, from D Singh:

I attend every Sunday my local Church of England service. I have listened patiently to my faith being questioned from the pulpit; St Paul’s teachings on sexuality rubbished; his authority questioned and blamed for disputes that rumble on down through the centuries to this day. I have even listened to a sermon that justified polygamy. Through all this I have sat and listened in silence.

Children are permitted to run around, shriek and wail to the point where I cannot even hear what the preacher is saying. We are often asked (Harvest Sunday was a prime example) to sing songs that do not even mention God (to whom then are we singing in praise of?): it infantilises us.

I am sure you understand why men’s patience snaps and they walk away.

The congregation is elderly … The youngsters out in the public square do not want to come into church because what is preached from the pulpit they can read in The Guardian and listen to on the street corner. I often see some of them secretly drinking in the concealed alleyways of the village … Their hearts long to hear someone tell them that life is worth living because Someone died for them. It is unlikely that they will hear that from the pulpit: because we are modernising to attract the young. Right? Right.

They long to hear something different to that which is being blared out from the pulpit; the TV, the CD and the DVD. They eat hamburgers like there is no tomorrow; and yet they are still hungry. They drink cans of lager [beer] until they are stupefied; and yet they are still thirsty. They have sex frequently with one girl after another and like Mick Jagger they can’t get satisfaction. They have freedom – but they are enslaved by ‘isms’.

I am sure you understand why men’s patience snaps and they walk away.

The various moral and theological and sociological disputes of the day, however progressively resolved with ecclesiastical connivance, have nothing to say to this spiritual hunger, which is not assuaged by legalized abortion and homosexuality, solaced by contraception, or relieved by majority rule. Nor will it take comfort in the thought that God is dead, or that mankind has come of age, or even in ecumenical negotiations for writing off Papal Infallibility against the validity of Anglican Orders. The only means of satisfying it remains that bread of life which Jesus offered, with the promise that those who are of it should never hunger again. The promise stands.’

Malcolm Muggeridge

I am sure you understand why men’s patience snaps and they walk away.

Now to Oswin’s response to D Singh:

I recognise only too well the substance of your opening paragraphs, indeed of its entirety.

A visit to any of my local churches is akin to that of our local public libraries: wee children screeching and hurtling aboot the place, annoying the elderly and causing disaffection amongst those few who are held to leash.

Milk-sop hymns (?) and the facile ‘Laura Ashley’ Order of Service, together with the wan, prescribed responses, all serve as a pallid, bloodless effusion that irks, rather than satisfies

As with the ‘National Curriculum’ we are fed a ‘one size fits all’ uniform drab mismash of meagre fare. We are neither challenged, enlightened or inspired.

For me, a typical attendance is marked by degrees of irritation, annoyance, grumpiness, down-right anger, lip-curling cynicism and the occasional inclination to do actual bodily harm to other communicants!

In my own defence, I do not recall feeling thus in my earlier years … at times a wee smidgin of boredom perhaps; but that in its self, is character-forming, yes?

I am increasing inclined towards solitary visits; it is less fraught, and less likely to end in my eventual arrest!

Come to think of it, it is not too dissimilar from my experience of village pubs these days; wherever one might go, the same sub-standard beer, sold to a dwindling and irksome clientele … oh Lord, have mercy!

The frustration comes in when you know, as with politics and public policy, there is not one thing you can do about it!  Your vicar couldn’t care less. In fact, he’d be happier if ‘troublemakers’ and ‘divisive’ members didn’t attend Sunday service.  So, a number of former churchgoers in England spend a leisurely Sunday morning at home; a few of them pray privately and read the Bible.

Like Oswin, I haven’t ever recalled feeling so irritated with church as I have in the last several years.  I, too, used to look forward to going.

Some of us have tried mid-week services, which are no better.  Often, they are worse.  The elderly bring in bottles of water to drink.  The New Agers come in to do exegesis on a psalm the vicar chose which wasn’t even suggested for the day.  ‘This is a psalm of two halves,’ I remember one saying. ‘It’s like climate change.’  What?  The vicar nods politely — because we are all asked to contribute and affirm each other.  Does the vicar then do an exegesis?  No, he does not.  He says, ‘Yes, this is a very depressing psalm.  Does anyone else have anything to say about it?’  No, we do not.  So, those of us who are interested must return home and spend the next hour checking out Bible commentaries to find out what the psalm actually meant.  Why should we have to do this? Isn’t that what a church and a vicar are for?

Then there are the times when some of the women priests taking the service decide to use supermarket rolls in place of the wafers.  They think it lends authenticity.  (In which case, wouldn’t pitta bread be preferable?) All I can envision is the leftover crumbs of consecrated bread being thrown out for the birds.  This is why we use wafers;  any leftovers are reverently returned to the sacristy for home or hospital Communion visits.  Every time I see a breadroll being broken up, I always wish to ask afterwards, ‘What exactly did the Consecration mean to you when you recited that prayer? Does Holy Communion mean so little to you that you have to use a supermarket roll?’

As I have written before, many Anglican clergy are former atheists.  Many are also steeped in New Age practices.  Many preach frequently about social justice.  Many came of age in 1968 and consider that the apogee of Western Civilisation. Many despise the West. Many take their holidays in Third World countries so they can have a look at the poor, whom they have no real interest in helping, because then, they wouldn’t have a reason for feeling like guilty Europeans.  Many are deeply committed to resolving climate change.

But why don’t they care about spreading the Gospel of Jesus Christ?  Find out starting Monday.

I am sure you understand why men’s patience snaps and they walk away.

I am increasing inclined towards solitary visits … oh Lord, have mercy!

For anyone who grew up in the US in the 1960s or 1970s, the future was bright. This continued through part of the 1980s.

We had a vibrant space programme, we put men on the moon, we were taught that — thanks to technological advances — we’d have the shortest work week in history and we’d have much more leisure time to spend with friends and family. Our cars were gorgeous, our televisions state-of-the-art. We also made friends from other social classes and economic groups. We believed that we’d grow up and sit around drinking Coca-Cola with half the world, singing in perfect harmony. And we could go out to eat whenever and wherever we liked, getting there by a Jetsons-like space car. We figured most of us would be able to fly Concorde at some point in our lifetime. No surprise, then, that we kids felt as if the world were our oyster.  Truly, it was an exciting time to be alive.

It was the same in the UK. Nick M and his readers discuss it on Counting Cats in Zanzibar (language alert). The television show Tomorrow’s World was hosted by Raymond Baxter, who was a

Wartime Spitfire pilot, rally driver, commentating on everything … and presenting Tomorrow’s World in an age where tomorrow’s world was going to be a huge advance in man’s capabilities rather than a massive disaster brought on by man’s hubris.

So where did it all go wrong and is it any wonder that those of us who grew up then are so cranky now?  Nick M notes:

Being able to buy “organic” sprouts at ASDA is no recompense for the lack of a jetpack.

Our generation seems to have got it wrong.  We betrayed our gorgeous future by turning against each other in a most appalling way.

Back to Nick M (emphases mine throughout):

You took my life (I was born between Apollo 11 and Viking) and puked it out of the conservatory window. For what? What did we get in exchange for it? I want to know. Where did your imagination fail? Where? C’mon tell me right now. Tell me right now why the overseas aid budget is ring-fenced at 0.7% of GDP (practically none of which shall get to the poor) but you can’t afford to fund Skylon.

I’ve only been waiting 37 … years.

… This is the twenty-first century and we’ve got the iPad.

Well, yeah, great.

I guess there’s an app for that.

I don’t want an app. I want a space elevator.

Then there’s our generation of politicians who have turned from being servants to their consituents to controllers of our every move.  Is it any wonder songs like this have appeared on YouTube (sorry, another language alert)?

Along with them are those living high off the hog who will never have to worry about household budgets, cutting back on food or paying their mortgages. James Higham at Nourishing Obscurity objects to the notion of imposed ‘austerity’:

… there are the people whose own greed er keeping up with the joneses er naivety in buying the bankers’ la dolce vita er aspirations landed them in trouble, come the recession.

Then there are the people who did absolutely nothing wrong, played the game as it should have been played and lost their pensions, their savings and who were penalized for doing the right thing and on behalf of these – I’m very, very angry …

Now people are losing jobs, public sector employees are being laid off and it’s not good in our fair land at this time whilst, at the same time, banksters, quango heads and politicians are raking in big money – even now

They need a population which is working long hours for little money or else not working at all, hit hard by the law if they dare to step out of line in the least little way, whose food produces obesity, who content themselves with East Enders and the X Factor, … who are on drugs and screwing around, who cannot relate on an intimate level any more, resulting in people living alone in little boxes and so on and so on.

The last thing the PTB want is a fit, healthy, educated, self-thinking population who rigorously and vigorously debate the issues of the day, including the PTB.

Well, no, you cannot debate anymore.  When was the last time you had an intense discussion about matters socio-political with anyone other than a spouse or a close family member? People are either too afraid to speak up or they continue to tell themselves that the MSM is the same friendly, objective news source as it was 30 or 40 years ago.  Nothing to see here — move along, move along.

And saying something to a wider audience in public? Only last weekend an American rabbi, Nachum Shifren, who is a candidate in the California State senate race, wanted to say a few words at London’s famous Speaker’s Corner.  Police prevented him from doing so.  He was sandwiched in between two groups, socially and politically poles apart.  One group was acting as his host, the other thinks it has exclusive rights to Speaker’s Corner.  This shouldn’t be happening.  I have no interest in either group, but Speaker’s Corner is for everyone to have five or 10 minutes sharing his perspective with the public.

Journalists, in particular, know that they have to couch their language carefully when discussing multiculturalism. Around the same time Rabbi Shifren was prohibited from Speaker’s Corner,  Louis Jacob wrote the following for the Irish Independent, musing on Angela Merkel’s recent comments about the failures of multiculturalism.  Note how he has to couch his words:

Before we get off on the wrong foot, I want to establish an exact meaning according to the dictionary: multiculturalism is the preservation of different cultures or cultural identities within a unified society, as a state or nation.

The reason I find this definition so important is because I am not entirely comfortable with what I have to say and I don’t want it to be misconstrued. Like everyone else, I am infused with the fear of political incorrectness that now runs deep in the veins of western society.

I remain convinced that a diversity of ethnic groups is essential to the health of a modern nation and I am passionately in favour of free movement. However, I have also come to believe in the need for ethnic groups to embrace a single culture as citizens of whatever host country they choose and to accept the social fabric of that country as pre-eminent.

In an article in Newsweek in November 1994, George F Will wrote that: “Multiculturalism is a campaign to lower America’s moral status by defining the American experience is terms of myriad repressions and their victims. By rewriting history, and by using name-calling (‘Racist! Sexist! Homophobe!’) to inhibit debate, multiculturalists cultivate grievances, self-pity and claims to entitlements arising from victimisation”.

As I read this, I thought, ‘And who were the people responsible for that?  Who was walking the corridors of power — whether in schools, universities, offices, public institutions — in 1994?  Why, none other than our wonderful generation who threw away all the hopes and dreams of their childhood for authoritarian control over each other and generations to come.’

Jacob cites European examples in his editorial.  Not one ‘victim’ group he cites really wishes to fit in with the majority of society.  If they did, they would no longer be victims. And this is, in my mind, a Catch-22 of multiculturalism and victimisation.  They are a vicious cycle, going hand-in-glove.

Jacob writes:

The worst part of it being that most of them wouldn’t dream of contributing to the society that they demand keeps them, and prefer instead to live in a cocoon.

This is the inherent flaw of multiculturalism — that the people for whose benefit multiculturalism is so often wheeled out are seldom so concerned with equality and fairness themselves.

In that way, those of us on the other side who pander and are wracked by our conscience are essentially little more than useful idiots, being continually slapped in the face.

But, as bad as that is, there’s also the sting in the tail of the victim being more precious than society at large (emphases mine):

A few years ago I was surprised to hear that Polish mass was being said in Irish churches. It seemed ridiculous that when we had so much in common, we still found the need to pander to this urge for ethnic identity and separatism. It was a sham. I put it to a Polish friend of mine. He told me that I didn’t really understand how important mass was to Polish people.

I was floored. He was basically telling me that their form of Catholicism was purer than ours. I’ve been to mass in Poland and bar a few minor details, it is identical to ours. Prior to that I was of the opinion that multiculturalism was the tonic for all evils. Now I see things differently.

I remain an idealist but even I can see that when an ideal doesn’t work, there comes a time when you have to stop shoving it in people’s faces.

Yes, I, too, thought multiculturalism would solve all our ills.  It’s only made everyone’s lives worse, even when they don’t realise it.  It’s controlling and authoritarian.  Over the past couple of years, various articles have even appeared suggesting that our thoughts be controlled, too. We must be saved from ourselves. News flash: only God’s grace, faith and the Word can do that.

Speaking of authoritarianism, I ran across this gem a couple of days ago about miniskirts being banned in an Italian seaside resort by the mayor, a member of the People of Freedom party.  You couldn’t make it up.

But, hey, this is all about the ‘wrong’ type of people, the ‘wrong’ type of behaviour, the ‘wrong’ everything about humanity — fallen man in a fallen world.  Where did our generation go so wrong in deserting our dreams for a constant condemnation of each other?  Is it really all the Fabianism and Frankfurt School stuff we learned at school?  Did something else bolt on to it? Where? When? How?  Only tongue-in-cheek here, but is this what a fluoridated water supply does to people?

Finally, we have Barbara Harris who is paying addicts and other volunteers who don’t ‘fit’ £200 if they have themselves sterilised.  Eugenics writ large but in a ‘concerned’ way.  If you’ve caught any of the comments on this, you’ll find a number of people who think it’s a great idea.  Nathalie Rothschild analysed this for Spiked!:

You might say that in targeting drug addicts, Harris is saying that some people – Them – have no right to become parents. But the overpopulation debate is also riddled with prejudice about the ‘wrong’ kind of people having too many kids, whether it’s working-class people in Britain or black and Asian families in the developing world. Harris’s organisation is only saying more explicitly what the respectable Malthusians have learned to spin in the language of saving the planet and empowering women. Here is a woman who just comes right out and says it: some people are not worthy of having children. No mollycoddling, no subtle nudging; just a couple of hundred quid, a snip, and the problem is solved.

Of course, for the mainstream Malthusian lobby, talk of sterilisation sounds too much like eugenics; campaigning for couples to have just one child sounds too much like Chinese authoritarianism; and only criticising oversized Third World families is too much like colonialism. They far prefer … moral blackmail to financial blackmail, warning us again and again that if we don’t stop breeding, the world will become an uninhabitable place. Is such baseless fearmongering about fecundity really that much better than giving cash to junkies on a Glasgow estate? In both cases, the aim is the same: to put pressure on people to stop breeding.

And the other convenient thing about these laws, campaigns and societal trends is that the finger inevitably points at someone else, never ourselves.  Increasingly, instead of singing in perfect harmony over a Coke, we’re labelling the world’s Western population as undesirables in one way or another: breeders, druggies, smokers, racists, homophobes.  ‘There ought to be a law against them!’  At the rate we’re going, there probably will be.  It wasn’t so long ago — just before the Baby Boomers were born — that this actually happened.  Will a war be fought this time around or will the world simply acquiesce?

In all this self-righteousness — and I’ve had colleagues who were eugenics supporters, by the way — aren’t we forgetting Jesus’s commandment to love one another?  Is restricting speech, imposing taboos on procreation and enforcing impoverishment ‘loving our neighbour’?

Somewhere along the line, Boomers, Jonesers — and now our progeny — really lost the plot.  We’ll look at this in more detail next week, starting with the Church.

Yesterday, we looked at health and behaviour within the parameters of statism.  Today, we examine welfare and foreign aid.

On Thursday, October 21, 2010, Cranmer featured a post, ‘Man does not live by Trident alone’, which discusses the Coalition government’s spending cut of the defence budget and an increase in foreign aid.  He gave us some interesting figures (emphases mine throughout):

One wonders if [critics] bothered to consider that the defence budget in 2011 will be £35.7bn while that for overseas aid will be £9.4bn.

Or what proportion of total public expenditure (£702bn) these figures represent.

Or that the Government (ie we) will pay £43.3bn of gross government debt interest this fiscal year followed by £46.5bn in 2011.

And one also wonders if they bothered to consider for a moment that spending on overseas aid may actually mitigate the need for future military intervention through conflict prevention or help to deter the ‘export’ of terrorism or opium to these shores.

The prioritisation of aid over defence is not simply a question of political economics but of moral justice.

Charity does not begin at home: it is the plainest teaching of the New Testament that it begins with one’s neighbour (eg Lk 10:27-37).

And throughout the Old Testament, we are exhorted certainly to look after our own widows and orphans, but these are rarely divorced from the divine command to show compassion to the ‘alien’ or ‘stranger’ (i.e. foreigner), which the Jews considered a moral duty (eg Deut 10:18f cf Mt 25:44).

Re charity beginning at home, His Grace must have forgotten about 1 Timothy 5:8:

But if anyone does not provide for his relatives, and especially for members of his household, he has denied the faith and is worse than an unbeliever.

Because even an unbeliever provides for his own.  Barnes’s Notes on the Bible explains:

The meaning is, that the person referred to is to think beforehand … of the probable needs of his own family, and make arrangements to meet them. God thus provides for our needs; that is, he sees beforehand what we shall need, and makes arrangements for those needs by long preparation … So, according to our measure, we are to anticipate what will be the probable needs of our families, and to make arrangements to meet them. The words “his own,” refer to those who are naturally dependent on him, whether living in his own immediate family or not. There may be many distant relatives naturally dependent on our aid, besides those who live in our own house.

One of His Grace’s frequent ‘communicants’, D. Singh, responds in the comments:

‘The prioritisation of aid over defence is not simply a question of political economics but of moral justice.’

Och! Now we really are getting close to the truth; so that’s why the Chinese are all over Africa building bridges, roads, reservoirs; in exchange for oil, gas and metals.

Jean-Paul Getty was right: the meek might inherit the earth but they sure won’t get the mineral rights …

From a Judaeo-Christian point of view it is the duty of the ‘rich’ to ‘devise better systems of delivery to ensure that aid reaches those who are most in need…’

It is true that, for example, the Cadbury brothers (Quakers) did so. But experience teaches that the rich are reluctant to release wealth. For to do so may mean relinquishing power. Many of the rich love their money. It is the love of money (not money itself) that produces evil.

He adds:

‘If charity begins at home, our community and nation are deprived.’ How? …

If you want to alleviate poverty why doesn’t Osborne tell the European Union to eliminate the high tariffs that suppress the selling of goods from the the Third World in the EU?

The poor do not want your charity, your handouts, your hand-me-downs; they want a level playing field so that they may increase in wealth; challenge their governments; draft constitutions and live as free men before God and man.

Reader Jared Gaites pointed us to Zambian-born economist and author Dambisa Moyo‘s page about her book, Dead Aid.  Ms Moyo believes that foreign aid has failed Africa.  In the Amazon readers’ book reviews, A O Akemu commented:

Ms. Moyo then asks why aid has failed? Her answers are insightful. They include:

– Aid to Africa is an open-ended commitment, unlike other historically successful aid interventions like the Marshall Plan;
– Aid corrodes the incentives system in many African countries (Ethiopia and Uganda, for example). Aid is essentially “free money”; therefore, governments do not see the need to generate revenue by growing their economies. Why work with local entrepreneurs when you can always go cap-in-hand to beg the white man?
Aid engenders corruption because aid money is easy to steal

The message in Dead Aid is not new; it has already been delivered–with greater analytical depth–by Paul Collier (The Bottom Billion) and Bill Easterly (The Elusive Quest for Growth and The White Man’s Burden). Dead Aid‘s strongest selling point, however, is the messenger: an articulate, intelligent, well-educated African woman. As an African, I want to hear hard-headed proposals for Africa’s development from African leaders, and not unworkable, bleeding heart solutions from Bono, Bob Geldof, and Jeffrey Sachs.

So, perhaps it is time to start reducing instead of increasing foreign development aid whilst retaining the humanitarian and charitable aid donations.

Here is a short BBC Radio 4 interview from 2009 featuring Ms Moyo:

Now, on the subject of charity beginning at home, D Singh is right to ask Cranmer how that deprives our community and nation.  Surely, if anything, our community and nation would be much better off if more of us were able to care for ourselves and our families without state dependence.

Back to Spiked!, wherein editor Brendan O’Neill says, ‘The Welfare State is not our “guardian angel”‘.  Yet, like the decades of foreign development aid going to the Third World, we also have experienced decades of welfare to the point which we are inured to both.  Not only that, but just as we are reluctant to reduce spending in foreign development aid, we also find it unthinkable to reduce welfare spending.

O’Neill puts forward a secular case for a reduced welfare system:

Yet from a humanist perspective – rather than from a money-saving, anti-scrounger one – there is much about welfare that can be, and ought to be, called into question. To take the extreme: incapacity benefit (IB) should definitely be rethought, not as a money-saving exercise, but as a way of challenging the welfare state’s problematic redefinition of the relationship between the state and the individual, as a way of recovering important ideals such as autonomy and solidarity. Properly instituted (ironically enough) during the Thatcher years, IB is explicitly about encouraging people to accommodate to the fact of being unemployed, to see their lack of employment not as a political problem that might be fixed through protest or reform or economic development, but as a natural state, a product of their own inability to hold down a job.

It is no coincidence that the numbers of men claiming IB rose exponentially in the 1980s and 1990s, increasing every single year (apart from 1997), from 463,000 men in 1981 to 1,276,000 in 1999 (today, an estimated two million people, including women, claim IB). This is because in the 1980s, when thousands of working-class men were being thrown out of work, they were being encouraged to see themselves as sick, as physically or mentally incapacitated rather than as being deprived of work by social and economic factors.

It was inconceivable that hundreds of thousands of working men had actually fallen gravely ill. Rather, the welfare state was cynically soaking up these people, desperately attempting to offset their potential political anger at being unemployed by inviting them to view their predicament as a health-based problem instead.

And probably even O’Neill might agree that ‘charity begins at home’:

In other areas, too, the spread of the welfare state is further harming social bonds, community solidarity, and even individual self-reliance and belief, to the extent that welfare has become increasingly therapeutic, too. And yet on one side we have a government only chipping away at aspects of welfare because it is so scared of how people will respond, and on the other side various commentators and activists are passionately defending welfarism because their lack of faith in people’s capacities is so profound, so deep-rooted, that they cannot comprehend how we would cope without permanent external assistance.

It’s true, isn’t it?  I always think, ‘But what provision will there be?’  Regardless of where we go with this as a nation, and — rest assured — it won’t be too far, there will always be a state safety net funded by taxation.

However, incapacity benefit — colloquially known as ‘being on the sick’ — has gone too far.  In placating unemployed men nearly 30 years ago, it really has incapacitated them — and us — because we cannot think of a better way.

It’s not social justice to throw good money after bad.  It’s psychological impoverishment and sapping of one’s own self-reliance. And oh so authoritarian.

Western governments have been eager over the past decade to help their citizens to achieve better health and increase ‘happiness’.  How one can improve personal ‘happiness’ through more legislation is up for debate.  Only an elitist would think it possible.  But then, they live in a rarified atmosphere.

Today, here is analysis on the topic from the online magazine Spiked!

Earlier this month, the British Coalition of Conservatives and Liberal Democrats issued their programme for government.  Spiked! took a look at this in more detail.  Whilst all the right buzzwords were used, author James Woudhuysen found it wanting.  Innovation really means more state control of R&D, transport policy and health.  For anyone living in Britain, it’s worth a read.

Near the end of his article, Woudhuysen says (emphases mine throughout):

Inspiring stuff. In fact, what is really meant by ‘innovation’, here as elsewhere, is well captured by a passing phrase that is made in the coalition’s passage on public health. What is needed, it says, is an ‘ambitious strategy’ which harnesses ‘innovative techniques to help people take responsibility for their own health’ …

Termed ‘social’ innovation, it is really about innovation in behaviour. Overpaid bankers must make innovations in their behaviour. Men with too much testosterone must do the same. Here, any amount of blue skies thinking is suddenly permissible, as long as liberties are curbed and individuals start to behave themselves. Science and technology are occasionally flagged up, but nearly always ignored.

As expected, the inspiration came from the United States:

Since 2008, when the US economists Richard Thaler and Cass Sunstein published Nudge: Improving Decisions about Health, Wealth, and Happiness, the idea that the state’s job is to act as a paternalistic ‘choice architect’, guiding feckless and irrational people to the right path, has become highly fashionable in the corridors of power on both sides of the Atlantic. Conservative leader David Cameron took up this doctrine almost immediately. Today, every initiative in fields such as transport or energy can only be made, officials say, by first recognising that technology is ‘not the only answer’ (whoever said it was?). Then, in the usual condescending style, it is suggested that ‘helping people make informed choices’ about their behaviour – that is, dutifully accepting the choice laid down from on high – does, in fact, amount to the only answer.

And anything personal must be legislated, it would seem.  On October 5, the Labour-inspired equality legislation was signed into law.  Spiked! editor Brendan O’Neill explains:

In many ways it’s just a bureaucratic bundling together of various different laws into one act: the Equal Pay Act 1970, the Sex Discrimination Act 1975, the Race Relations Act 1976, and so on. But some problematic and hectoring new rules have been sellotaped to this sweeping act. First, the act invites tighter policing of our everyday speech and interactions at work through its promise to protect employees from any form of offence, whether real or perceived, in relation to their now ‘protected characteristics’

The controversial ‘equality duty’, which various religious groups have criticised, was passed as part of the act on Friday but it won’t come into force until April 2011. It will put pressure specifically on public bodies to adhere to every aspect of the new equality law, but there are concerns that it might eventually be used to put pressure on private societies not to discriminate against homosexuals, for example, or women. It could ‘threaten religious liberty’, claims one Christian campaigning outfit, by imploring Catholic adoption agencies to deal with homosexual couples or informing religious schools that they must educate children about the acceptability of the transsexual lifestyle.

Many people think this is a good idea, secularists in particular.  Some believe the law hasn’t gone far enough.  However, O’Neill sees a danger here:

It is the distinction between our ‘outward lives’, our public duties and our civil existence, and our ‘inward lives’, what we believe and think, which is an arena where no civil authority should have jurisdiction. Both the argument that the civil authorities should tolerate various belief systems and the argument that individual churches should not have to tolerate non-believing or what they consider to be ‘sinful’ individuals are aimed at preserving the fundamental freedom of conscience; the freedom of the individual to believe what he wants and to join private societies that reflect and uphold those beliefs.

Not having had their fill with policing speech and belief, our betters also want us to be on the lookout for binge drinkers.  Spiked! cites Brighton’s ‘Save Dave’ campaign:

As a contemporary health scare, the Save Dave campaign feels clumsily familiar. It shares the creepy and crude logic of today’s stranger danger mentality. A precautionary principle once espoused in the odd school assembly is now a moral dictum applied to all human relations: watch out, the abuser or addict could be your husband, or the bloke next door. Such an approach also individuates the problem of alcoholism and encourages therapeutic or pseudo-therapeutic interventions off the back of mere suspicions.

Author Anna Travis, who lives in Brighton, concludes:

Brighton is at the cutting edge of Britain’s current prohibitionary zeal. Trends such as the increasingly wanton use of the ID age checks in alcohol purchases are overtly Orwellian, afflicting Brighton as much as other British cities. But the Save Dave campaign is part of a raft of health initiatives that we really have to watch. Such adverts speak to our internal health spy. They encourage us to measure ourselves and our friends against ‘concerning’ – and misleading – statistics. It’s not my Dave and your Dave who need saving, but the sense of proportion about what alcohol does to us, and just how dark that inner self is that is unleashed by the demon drink.

I read somewhere this year that Britons are consuming less alcohol in general — the lowest level of consumption since the 1930s. Unfortunately, what we see on television documentaries are a small group of people who get wasted every weekend.  The message is, ‘Oh, look how we Britons drink! There oughta be a law against it!’  Meanwhile, most people quietly tope at home or in the pub, if we can still find one that’s open.  Most of us drink sensible amounts, yet we have local councils in the north west of  England — with the blessing of Mr Cameron (please, stop the control freakery — that’s why people voted for you!) — regulating alcohol pricing for everyone.

What this really is is regulating what you can do in your leisure time.  Hike the price on something to make it less accessible, all in the name of ‘public health’.

And speaking of binge drinkers, you know what else they do?  Smoke! Here’s Rob Lyons, writing for Spiked!:

The study by Cardiff Institute of Society and Health at Cardiff University and the Welsh branch of the anti-smoking lobby group, Ash, surveyed 13,000 smokers, ex-smokers and never-smokers. The researchers found that smokers have unhealthier lifestyles than both non-smokers and those who have given up. For example, 35 per cent of smokers ‘binge drink’, compared with 31 per cent of ex-smokers and 23 per cent of non-smokers. Non-smokers seem to like fruit and veg more, too, with 39 per cent of those surveyed saying they eat five portions per day, compared with 28 per cent of smokers.

And apparently it’s not just physical health that is threatened by smoking. Mental health problems were more common in smokers (14 per cent) than non-smokers (eight per cent).

So, smokers are mentally unbalanced binge drinkers, although only a trifling four percentage points ahead of binge-drinking ex-smokers.

I am not surprised this gem came from Wales, which is unduly influenced by healthism.  I have had several encounters with Welshmen who were proud to proclaim they were atheists yet picked on smokers.  One said, ‘I hope by hectoring them whilst they were smoking I prevented them from enjoying their cigarette.  I purposely started when they lit up and I continued until they stubbed it out in the ashtray.  Good.  It’s what they deserve.‘  Healthism is wonderful, don’t you think?  I feel happier already!

Lyons notes:

Smokers are persona non grata, outcasts huddled in office doorways or crowding together with their outcast friends in front of bars …

For anti-smoking campaigners, however, this can never be enough. There must always be another shocking association between cigarettes and misery, and there is always another reason why smokers must be targeted for even more ‘health intervention’. Smoking is still a legal activity – just about – but not one that the government or campaigners are going to allow anyone to enjoy in peace.

Think about it.  Smokers have no choice but to pay for their own persecution.  Portions of their cigarette tax pay for fake charities like ASH to exist and for Cardiff University to issue yet another study, probably involving more bogus science, besmirching those who puff on tobacco.

Smokers pay four to five times over in tobacco tax what smoking-related disease care costs the NHS.  Tobacco tax goes into a big pot.  The billions generated in tobacco tax helps keep the nation going, including the NHS.  Next time someone feels like criticising a smoker, they might consider saying thank you instead.

Of smoking and autonomy, Lyons concludes:

But here’s the rub: people like to smoke. Nicotine magically possesses the capacity to stimulate and calm us. How many other drugs can actually improve our ability to work (at least in the short term)? It should be for us to decide what kind of trade-off we place on health risks versus pleasure. This autonomy, much reduced by regulations and legislation, is worth defending from those – in government, in the medical profession and in campaign groups like Ash – who believe they know what is good for us and who are prepared to use anything from junk science to blatant moralising to get their way.

Which brings us to sunny Spain.  A partial ban on smoking came into effect a few years ago, with the result that non-smoking venues are empty and smoking ones are full. On January 2, 2011, however, Spain’s laws will be tightened to become like those in the UK and Ireland. Josie Appleton, writing for Spiked!, says that governments and elites have a reason for such bans:

The Spanish ban can in no way be seen as the result of a non-smoking mood in the population. Recent surveys suggest that smoking is increasing in Spain, moving upwards from around 30 per cent of the population. Smoking is still habitual among the most frequent patrons of Spanish bars and cafes …

With the economic crisis in full swing, the issue of public smoking is hardly pressing on people’s minds. All over Spain lie the skeletons of half-erected buildings – a frame without walls, or walls without a roof, or, even more poignant, streetlights for a street that never came …

The smoking ban springs from elite rather than popular concerns … the smoking ban is playing a particular political role. This is what the state can do these days: ban something. While the Spanish state may be impotent to affect the economic situation, the smoking ban is the kind of action it can take to ‘improve the public health’ and extend its authority.

What we see with the spread of smoking bans around Europe is the shift in the role of the state, from the regulation of economic life to the regulation of informal social life. The pattern for the new Eastern entrants to the EU was first to sell off their public industries, and second to bring through measures such as smoking bans in bars and cafes (even though 40 per cent or more of their populations smoked). In Spain and Greece, we see clearly that the ban is the last refuge of public policy: when the state cannot make things happen, it can at least stop people from doing things. The lifestyle ban is the thing that can be done at a stroke to change social life.

She then explores the bogus threat of passive smoking:

The war on ‘passive smoking’ is a metaphor rather than a question of medical fact. The metaphor of passive smoking is this: one person’s enjoyment is damaging to others. Your smoke gets in their eyes, and it is the role of the state to protect one person from another. The spread of smoke through a bar is seen as a kind of poison or pollution. Ultimately, this is the pollution of social life itself … It is the officials’ job to turn down the volume of social life.

In response, the Spaniards have organised the ‘Club of Smokers for Tolerance’.  It has two goals, Appleton writes:

As an organisation, it represents ‘Smokers and non-smokers who believe in tolerance as a fundamental principle for living together’. In an interview, a representative from the club said that the supposed ‘war’ between smokers and non-smokers only existed in the media and the politicians’ imagination …

There is also an opposition group called ‘Ban the Bans’:

The call of the Spanish ‘Ban the Bans’ movement is for the rules to be negotiated by citizens rather than set from above by elites …

Conclusion: these bans and interventions have nought to do with health and everything to do with control.  All over the West, we see spiralling crime rates, increasing numbers of jobless, higher taxes, higher food prices and the only thing that the elites can do is control us — our lives, our leisure time and our speech.

More’s the pity.

We’ll look at the reasons why soon.

Heresy Corner featured post a few days ago, ‘Pregnant women told: Don’t visit museum, it’ll upset the exhibits’.

The Te Papa Museum in New Zealand is exhibiting some of the Taonga Maori collection in November.  Some of the taonga to be shown have been used in battle as deadly weapons.  As such, Maori representatives lent the artifacts to the museum on the condition that pregnant or menstruating women stay away from the taonga portion of the exhibit.  They believe that if such women look at the taonga, the spirits in the objects will be offended.

Needless to say, a storm has erupted over the issue to the extent that New Zealand’s Arts, Culture and Heritage Minister, Chris Finlayson, stepped in to say it is an ‘advisory’, not a requirement. An editorial in the New Zealand Herald asks what the big deal is:

Recognition of such aspects of Maori belief would involve no great sacrifice. It is important to note the Te Papa request was not directed at public attendance throughout the museum but a background specialist tour taking in the Taonga Maori collection.

Surely only the most dogmatic, those who want to ignore matters of Maori culture, could discern a real menace in this.

The key point is that the taonga will not be on display in a Maori setting but in a public museum.  That then poses the question of how far viewers in the specialist tour should be requested to go in ‘respecting’ the significance of and beliefs about objects which are not part of their culture.  A Maori shrine is one thing.  A museum — a place containing exhibits of anthropological and cultural interest — is quite another. Where do policies like this end?

The museum’s spokesperson on this issue, incidentally, is a woman — Jane Keig — something else to keep in mind.

Please ensure you read the full post — you won’t want to miss the ending on this one.

Heresy Corner‘s comments were thought-provoking.  Here are a few:

Sam Vega: … I think the magic here is in the invocation of the deep arcane secrets of cultural sensitivity, along with its sister-religion, celebration of diversity. These mysterious sects have a priestly elite who manipulate the language of threat and reward in order to secure for themselves a degree of status and a form of easy livelihood within the greater tribe. Labelling another as “insensitive” or even “racist” can cause them to become lifelong outcasts. By so acting as guardians of this mysterious closed world, the elite manage to secure positions in museums, education, law enforcement, and government; frequently they are people whose social characteristics preclude other forms of livelihood.

Edwin Moore: … I would suggest with the Maori objects that they in fact do not belong in a museum displayed to the public. They should be kept locked and displayed only to believers in the Maori belief system.  It is of course nuts that in 2010 we should be talking like this – but that’s the world we live in.

Thornavis: Either they are on public display or they aren’t, if the owners want the cultural integrity of those items to be maintained they should keep them away from museums.
A question for you, a museum might display a chalice and a monstrance as part of an exhibition of catholic ritual objects, do you think the Church authorities would allow a consecrated host to be placed in the monstrance? If they did would visitors be required to genuflect?

ivan: I object to religions telling us that everyone should do X to show them respect, where in practice the effect of everyone doing X is that the religion obtains societal compliance with a religious practice. But I have no problem with a religion enforcing rules on visitors to their own location – it is my choice to enter …

But — here’s the surprise ending which reveals how respectful and reverential Te Papa is to Christianity.  Heresiarch, the author of Heresy Corner, tells us:

Incidentally, the Te Papa museum is quite selective about who they respect. In 1998, they exhibited a statue of the Virgin Mary wrapped in a condom, despite vociferous protests from Catholics.

So, some beliefs are more sacred than others, after all.

Last week in the first post under Apologetics Corner, we looked at the meaning of ‘love’ and ‘hate’ in the Bible.

Today, we examine what specific things God abominates.  Unfortunately, we are prone to commit them often not only at home or at work, but possibly in our church groups as well.

I’m going to use Al Maxey’s ‘Hated by God’ article for In Plain Site as a reference point.  He was useful in spelling out immediately that ‘Hate the sin but love the sinner’ is actually a saying from Gandhi, not Scripture.

A caveat before going into the text: Mr Maxey devotes a fair amount of space discussing Church unity, which put me off somewhat.  Nonetheless, he offers interesting observations on sin.  This is a good one for teens and young adults who tend to rationalise what they and their friends do.

He begins by citing Proverbs 6:16-19:

16There are six things that the LORD hates,
seven that are an abomination to him:
17haughty eyes, a lying tongue,
and hands that shed innocent blood,
18a heart that devises wicked plans,
feet that make haste to run to evil,
19a false witness who breathes out lies,
and one who sows discord among brothers.

These verses bear a similarity to what Jesus said in Mark 7:20-23:

20And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man.

21For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders,

22Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness:

23All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Of the Proverbs passage, we may ask, ‘Is it only six things that the Lord abominates?’  No — there may be more.  Maxey explains:

First, it might interest some students to know that the poetic style of these four verses, and the wording of the phrase in verse 16 in particular, is known in biblical hermeneutics as a Numerical Ladder, a literary technique often found in Scripture.

    “The point of such a poetic arrangement is that the present enumeration does not exhaust the list” (Expositor’s Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 934). “The seven is not a definite number intended to exclude all others. Seven is a round number, and the list might easily be lengthened. Therefore let no man flatter himself because his peculiar failing may happen to be omitted” (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 142) …

It is also extremely important at this juncture, prior to the examination of these seven items, to note something about the first five in particular. Although the last two speak of the person himself, the first five speak of various parts of that person’s body (eyes, tongue, hands, heart, feet) which serve as tools this person will employ to carry out his wicked purposes. The real culprit in each case, however, is not the body part, but the person who uses that aspect of his or her being to cause pain and suffering in the lives of others. “All sin is the abuse of some power or faculty. The organ is innocent in itself, but it is prostituted to a base purpose. Every part of our nature is susceptible of this degradation. The more powers we have, the greater is our capacity of evil-doing, as well as of well-doing” (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 142).

Another useful comparison between Proverbs and Jesus’s words from the New Testament can be found in the Beatitudes (Matthew 5:3-9):

3“Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven.

4“Blessed are those who mourn, for they shall be comforted.

5“Blessed are the meek, for they shall inherit the earth.

6“Blessed are those who hunger and thirst for righteousness, for they shall be satisfied.

7“Blessed are the merciful, for they shall receive mercy.

8“Blessed are the pure in heart, for they shall see God.

9“Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God.

Maxey notes:

Some have characterized it a “contrasting parallel.” The first item in the Proverbs passage deals with haughtiness and pride, whereas the first of the Beatitudes speaks of those poor in spirit, which many feel represents a humble spirit; certainly not a prideful one. The seventh item in Proverbs depicts one who spreads strife among brothers, whereas the seventh Beatitude presents to our view the blessedness of peacemakers, “for they shall be called sons of God.” Perhaps this is all merely coincidental, or perhaps our Lord did indeed have in mind these seven which our Father hates, and was seeking, by way of contrast, to present those persons, attitudes and actions God viewed more favorably. It is at least an attractive theory, and, for you preachers out there, might just “preach well.”

Now onto the seven things which God ‘hates’ (in line with loves less, disfavours, etc.):

1/ Haughty eyes: those which display pride, arrogance, ambition, lasciviousness, defiance or disdain.

“Pride and arrogance and the evil way, and the perverted mouth, I hate” (Prov. 8:13). Pride is put first in our text “because it is at the bottom of all disobedience and rebellion against God’s laws” (The Pulpit Commentary, vol. 9, p. 131). The Lord has never looked favorably upon the haughty! They are an abomination to Him. One of the primary reasons for this is because of what pride generates — “By pride comes nothing but strife” (Prov. 13:10). When men are haughty, they will inevitably regard those around them with contempt, and when others are regarded with contempt, there is strife! And the Lord hates “the one who spreads strife among brothers” (Prov. 6:19). Thus, “pride goes before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall” (Prov. 16:18). The Principle of Reciprocity will be experienced by those who, with haughty eyes, look with disfavor upon others — “In pride the wicked hotly pursue the afflicted; let them be caught in the plots which they have devised” (Psalm 10:2). Amen!

2/ Lying tongue: one which deceives or is unjust, iniquitous, vicious, fallacious.

“A lying tongue hates those it crushes” (Prov. 26:28). In return, our God hates a lying tongue. The Principle of Reciprocity. You get just what you give. Lying tongues have but one fate awaiting them — these tongues shall be terminated. “Truthful lips will be established forever, but a lying tongue is only for a moment” (Prov. 12:19). “He who tells lies will perish” (Prov. 19:9). Ananias and Sapphira are a perfect example of what happens to such would-be deceivers of men and God (Acts 5:1-11). “You love every harmful word, O you deceitful tongue! Surely God will bring you down to everlasting ruin; He will snatch you up and tear you from your tent; He will uproot you from the land of the living” (Psalm 52:4-5). “O lying tongue, what shall be your fate? You shall be pierced with sharp arrows and burned with glowing coals” (Psalm 120:3-4). “But for the cowardly and unbelieving and abominable and murderers and immoral persons and sorcerers and idolaters and all liars, their part will be in the lake that burns with fire and brimstone, which is the second death” (Rev. 21:8).

3/ Hands which shed innocent blood: those which murder, maim, cause evil consequences through witchcraft or sorcery.

We are told that King Manasseh, who reigned fifty-five years over Judah (taking the throne at the age of twelve), did much evil in the sight of the Lord God. An aspect of that long list of evil deeds is presented to us in 2 Kings 21:16 — “Manasseh shed very much innocent blood until he had filled Jerusalem from one end to another.” He also “made his son pass through the fire, practiced witchcraft and used divination, and dealt with mediums and spiritists” (vs. 6), and “seduced them to do evil more than the nations whom the Lord destroyed before the sons of Israel” (vs. 9). His deeds (vs. 11) were “abominations” in the sight of God, as he himself was (Prov. 6:16). There is a chilling observation found in 2 Kings 24:4 about the consequence of the sins of Manasseh which ought to serve as a warning to us — it speaks of “the innocent blood which he shed, for he filled Jerusalem with innocent blood; and the Lord would not forgive.” What a sobering thought!

Before we become too self-congratulatory for not having murdered anyone, let’s remember the words of Jesus in His Sermon on the Mount — “You have heard that it was said to our ancestors, ‘Do not murder,’ and whoever murders will be subject to judgment. But I tell you, everyone who is angry with his brother will be subject to judgment” (Matt. 5:21-22). I fear that in our bickering, biting and devouring of one another, we too may be just as guilty of shedding “innocent blood” as those murderers sitting on Death Row. God hates those who shed innocent blood! Are you “drawing blood” in your anger against a brother? Beware!! “For judgment will be merciless to one who has shown no mercy” (James 2:13).

4/ Heart that devises wicked plans: one steeped in emotion and revenge which plots against someone or something, actively wishing to bring hurt, harm, ruin, strife or sorrow.

“There are evil thoughts in all men’s hearts; but the devising, fabricating of them, and thus making the heart into a devil’s workshop, is the mark of utter depravity and wickedness, and is abhorrent to God” (ibid, p. 131). “For out of the heart come evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, slanders. These are the things which defile the man” (Matt. 15:19-20; see also: Mark 7:20-23). Isaiah 59:1-8 is very instructive here. Iniquity has “made a separation between you and your God, and your sins have hidden His face from you” (vs. 2). Isaiah then goes into quite a list of godless characteristics that constitute the makeup of those “hated by God.” Many of them are the same as in our text in Proverbs, and there are more besides. These are people “who do not know the way of peace” (vs. 8), and peace is the last thing they will find when they appear before God in judgment!

5/ Feet which run rapidly to evil: those which gravitate towards wicked occasions, places and acts.

These are godless wretches who are “couriers of ill news, eager retailers of slander, and all who cannot bear to be forestalled in the hurtful word, who are ambitious of the first deadly blow” (ibid, p. 147). They are the ones who would have gleefully thrown the first stone in John 8, and the ones who most certainly ran to do so in Acts 7. “These are they who take a savage delight in being the instruments of punishment — who gloat over their work of severity or blood” (ibid, p. 152). When the Lord comes in judgment, they shall reap what they sow. Notice the words of the angel to John, “They poured out the blood of saints and prophets, and Thou hast given them blood to drink. They deserve it!!” (Rev. 16:6).

6/ A false witness who utters lies: similar to No. 2 above, except that this relates to perjury — lying under oath.  God finds this sin abhorrent because it works against justice, condemns the innocent and excuses the guilty.  Thankfully, even today, this sin is still taken very seriously by our courts!  Perjurers can be fined, imprisoned or both.

“One of the most solemn and responsible positions a man can occupy is the witness-box; he stands there, invoking the dread Name of the Eternal Himself to cause justice to be done. If then he perjures himself, and ‘speaketh lies’ when actually under oath, he defies his Maker, perverts justice, wrongs the innocent or releases the guilty, is disloyal to his country, outrages his own conscience. Well may he be among those whom God especially condemns” (ibid, p. 152). Such men are clearly seen rallying themselves against Stephen, the first martyr in the church (Acts 6:9-14), and against our Lord Jesus Christ Himself (Matt. 26:59f; Mark 14:55f). These false witnesses brought about the death of the innocent. God hates the false witness, as well He should!! “Truly speaking, he that lies as a false witness must be hateful to God” (ibid, p. 132).

7/ One who spreads strife amongst brothers: those who are quarrelsome, contentious, agitating, stirring up one group against another (yes, community organisers!), fomenting dissent, causing a peaceful town or congregation to dissolve into discord.  I have highlighted something to remember below, because socio-political events in the West over the past few decades have proven it to be so.

The apostle Paul warns against “strife, abusive language, evil suspicions, and constant friction between men” (1 Tim. 6:4-5). He characterizes such persons who engage in these godless acts as “depraved in mind and deprived of Truth.” A great many of the “works of the flesh” have to do with such godless attitudes and actions. “Enmities, strife, jealousy, outbursts of anger, disputes, dissensions, factions” (Gal. 5:20) are just some of these satanic works of flesh, the practice of which will cost one their eternal salvation. “I forewarn you, just as I have forewarned you, that those who practice such things shall not inherit the kingdom of God” (Gal. 5:21). Prov. 15:18 tells us that “a hot-tempered man stirs up strife, but the slow to anger pacifies contention.” Prov. 29:22 tells us “an angry man stirs up strife.” In Prov. 16:28 we see “a perverse man spreads strife.” “An arrogant man stirs up strife” (Prov. 28:25). “Hatred stirs up strife” (Prov. 10:12). I think it is obvious from these passages that where strife exists, one will also find present a godless person stirring up that strife.

These passages gave me much food for thought.  I hope you will find them useful whether for conversations at home or Sunday School.  It is unfortunate that all of these abominations have become commonplace within Western society in recent years.

The first few verses of Revelation 5 are excluded from the three-year Lectionary, qualifying them as Forbidden Bible Verses, equally as essential as the ones we hear read on Sundays with the prescribed readings from Years A, B and C.

However, it is worth mentioning the importance of scrolls and seals in the ancient world and the alarm St John experiences in initially believing that no one can open the scroll mentioned in this chapter.

Today’s reading comes from the English Standard Version (ESV).

All source documents are listed at the end of the post.

Revelation 5:1-5

The Scroll and the Lamb

1Then I saw in the right hand of him who was seated on the throne a scroll written within and on the back, sealed with seven seals. 2And I saw a strong angel proclaiming with a loud voice, “Who is worthy to open the scroll and break its seals?” 3And no one in heaven or on earth or under the earth was able to open the scroll or to look into it, 4and I began to weep loudly because no one was found worthy to open the scroll or to look into it. 5And one of the elders said to me, “Weep no more; behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David, has conquered, so that he can open the scroll and its seven seals.”

————————————————————————-

Before we examine this passage verse by verse, a few words about scrolls and seals in antiquity.  If we had been alive when St John received these visions and prophecy in 95 AD, we would have understood the references perfectly and Revelation would have been no mystery to us.  If we had been Jews who had recently converted to Christianity, we would have also understood the dramatic imagery contained in this final book of the Bible.  That imagery, as used throughout Revelation, characterised messianic literature at the time, with which the Jews would have been familiar.

For the Jews, Romans and Mesopotamians — among others — a sealed scroll signified a legal document, a witnessed contract or last will and testament which laid out terms of property ownership and inheritance. Often on the outside was a summary of the scroll’s contents. Each seal bore the mark of the seal’s owner, e.g. a witness to the contents.  Sometimes in order to be opened, the owner of the seal needed to be present.  So, it would not be unusual to have a number of seal owners present to open a scroll which they would have sealed some time before.  You can imagine such a gathering taking place to open a last will and testament.

Woe betide anyone who opened a seal which wasn’t his.  It was unthinkable, such was the authority and finality of a sealed scroll, which generally had between five and seven seals on or in it.   Here is where we find differences of opinion as to how the scrolls were written and sealed.  Some scholars, like Matthew Henry, say that the biblion — book (from which we derive ‘Bible’), but actually a scroll — was a series of parchment pages. Each was sealed to the other, so that when it was unsealed, it was unrolled one ‘page’ at a time.  The contents of that page were read and examined, then the next seal was broken to reveal the following page and so on.   Other scholars say that the scroll bore all the seals on the outside and were broken one by one, enabling the scroll to be unrolled and read.

The important points to remember about seals and scrolls is that they had to be broken by the rightful person in authority.  And this is where we find the apostle St John the Divine, who, in Revelation 4 had just experienced a remarkable vision of God in all glory and majesty on His throne, surrounded by elders, possibly holy representatives from all the churches, adoring Him.  It is an awe-inspiring vision which, understandably, draws John’s full attention.

Now, in Revelation 5, John sees that God, seated on His throne, holds in his right hand a scroll with writing on both sides of it.  The scroll has seven seals (verse 1).  Here God is seated in all authority and judgment.  Only He knows what the scroll contains.  It recalls His omniscience and omnipotence — complete sovereignty over all His creation from the beginning of time.  Of the significance of the seven seals, Matthew Henry writes:

This tells us with what inscrutable secrecy the counsels of God are laid, how impenetrable by the eye and intellect of the creature; and also points us to seven several parts of this book of God’s counsels. Each part seems to have its particular seal, and, when opened, discovers its proper events; these seven parts are not unsealed and opened at once, but successively, one scene of Providence introducing another, and explaining it, till the whole mystery of God’s counsel and conduct be finished in the world.

Then, a ‘strong angel’ cries out and asks who is worthy to break the scroll’s seals (verse 2).  Could any man or elder or angel have the authority to open them? If so, he should make himself known.

This is one of three ‘strong angels’ in Revelation.  The next to appear will be in Revelation 10 in connection with the second scroll.  The third is mentioned in Revelation 18:21, foretelling the doom that is to come.  These ‘strong angels’ have a specific role, which is to reveal future events.  A similar angelic function appears in Daniel 10:21.  Revelation Commentary tells us:

Here an angelic being, who identifies himself as one sent to proclaim revelation to Daniel, states, “Yet there is no one who stands firmly with me against these forces except Michael your prince.” The New American Standard Translation indicates that the word stands should be translated shows himself strong. The Hebrew verb means to be strong. However, the Hebrew verb can be intensified, which in this case gives the sense to show oneself strong. That Michael is classed with this angelic being suggests that these two angels are a special class—strong angels.

In verse 3, John sees that no one responds. In verse 4, he weeps because of it.  He is desperate to know more and cannot. There may be a second possible reason for John’s tears — apprehension.  The scroll must be opened in order for the dreadful prophecy can come to pass ahead of Christ’s Second Coming.

Then an elder says to John that he should stop weeping (verse 5), because there is Someone who can open the seals, ‘the Lion of the tribe of Judah, the Root of David’ who ‘has conquered’.  This means that the person in authority who can open the seals is Jesus Christ, our Lord and Saviour. The Revd Thomas C. Messer, Pastor of Peace Lutheran Church in Alma, Michigan, explains in a commentary on Revelation he wrote for his congregation:

This is Messianic language and would hit home for the Jews. Jesus, the Lamb, is the Messiah, the Christ.

In his sermon, ‘The Excellency of Christ’, Jonathan Edwards provides the background to the juxtaposed references of Christ as both lion and lamb:

  1. He is called a Lion. Behold, the Lion of the tribe of Judah. He seems to be called the Lion of the tribe of Judah, in allusion to what Jacob said in his blessing of the tribe on his death-bed; who, when he came to bless Judah, compares him to a lion, Gen. 49:9. “Judah is a lion’s whelp; from the prey, my son, thou art gone up: he stooped down, he couched as a lion, and as an old lion; who shall rouse him up?” And also to the standard of the camp of Judah in the wilderness on which was displayed a lion, according to the ancient tradition of the Jews. It is much on account of the valiant acts of David that the tribe of Judah, of which David was, is in Jacob’s prophetical blessing compared to a lion; but more especially with an eye to Jesus Christ, who also was of that tribe, and was descended of David, and is in our text called “the Root of David“; and therefore Christ is here called “the Lion of the tribe of Judah.
  2. He is called a Lamb. John was told of a Lion that had prevailed to open the book, and probably expected to see a lion in his vision; but while he is expecting, behold a Lamb appears to open the book, an exceeding diverse kind of creature from a lion. A lion is a devourer, one that is wont to make terrible slaughter of others; and no creature more easily falls a prey to him than a lamb. And Christ is here represented not only as a Lamb, a creature very liable to be slain, but a “Lamb as it had been slain,” that is, with the marks of its deadly wounds appearing on it.

Therefore, we understand two ‘excellent’ characteristics of our Lord — His mighty strength (as that of a lion) and His gentle meekness (like a lamb’s).  He is all-powerful, yet capable of being offered in sacrifice.  He is One to be feared in judgment yet One who is accessible to His people.

Matthew Henry concludes his exegesis on these five verses reminding us of our Lord’s divine and human nature, making Him the perfect — and only — One capable of breaking the seals and opening the scroll:

He who is a middle person, God and man, and bears the office of Mediator between God and man, is fit and worthy to open and execute all the counsels of God towards men. And this he does in his mediatorial state and capacity, as the root of David and the offspring of Judah, and as the King and head of the Israel of God; and he will do it, to the consolation and joy of all his people.

Further reading:

Matthew Henry’s Commentary

‘Revelation Commentary: Chapter Five’Revelation Commentary

‘Revelation – Chapter 5 Notes’ – Pastor Thomas C. Messer (LCMS)

‘The Excellency of Christ’ – Jonathan Edwards

‘Scroll’Philologos

‘The Sealing of God’s Servants’ – Crossroad Evangelical Free Church

‘Seals, Trumpets, Bowls’ – Watchman Bible Study

‘Sealing – Notes’ – NETBible

Channel 4 in the UK has just finished showing the six-part Jamie’s Food Revolution, which documented Jamie ‘The Naked Chef’ Oliver’s attempt to get residents in Huntington, West Virginia, to improve their eating habits.

What follows is my open letter to Mr Oliver:

Jamie, I do wish that we knew each other so that I could have sat down with you before you filmed this documentary. Growing up, I lived in small- to mid-size towns and cities across America (my dad got transferred frequently, part of his job).  I know first-hand how many residents are friendly yet reserved to ‘outsiders’, people who haven’t lived there for three or four generations, as they have.

I can also tell you that you’d better say you like a lot of what you find in that town or else you’ll get an earful.  That means you don’t barge in, all guns blazing, to tell people whom you’ve never seen before that they’re fat, ignorant and in need of ‘change’.

I’ve seen almost all your documentaries and cooking shows in full, starting with The Naked Chef in the 1990s.  Yep, you were a cute, skinny Essex boy then.  Now, you’re a bit heavier, older and more like an experienced community organiser working a town.  (Hint: the ‘community organiser’ bit isn’t a compliment.)

It’s no surprise then that WDGG (‘The Dawg’) Radio‘s Rod Willis reacted the way he did to you. (Photo at left courtesy of delish.com — Jamie, Rod and radio sidekick Rocky.) Ditto dinner lady Alice Gue.  I met a lot of Rods and Alices when I was growing up.  They’re just regular folk telling you home truths in an uncompromising way. And what did you do but cry because they had the temerity to … disagree with you? Pull your socks up, mate.

You were fortunate in that Rod eased up on you during the 1,000-resident cooking session which appeared on Good Morning America.  But I do agree with him when he told Huntington News Net after the series premiere in March 2010:

I should have been a little more receptive to the [nutritious] things he was talking about and a little more cruel to him. I don’t think Jamie Oliver should be the one to tell us how to live our lives. After all, this guy is a rich, British b——d.

(That he is, Rod — a multi-millionaire several times over who lives in Primrose Hill in London now, well-shielded from fat people.)

Jamie, how much did you know about Huntington before you went there, other than an obesity statistic?  How much do you know about the history of the Appalachians?  I lived across the river from another city in West Virginia for a summer.

To get there, I crossed the Appalachians by car with my parents in the 1960s.  I know the conditions people were living in then.  They were dignified, God-fearing people from British stock who lived in dilapidated shacks. While all of President Johnson’s special funding was going towards the inner cities, these people had nothing.  They had to rely on growing their own basic crops on a tiny plot, raising a few chickens and were probably lucky to have meat once a week. I saw many women on foot carrying boxes of charity shop clothes from their nearest small town back to their shacks a few miles away. There was little industry in the parts we went through and few jobs.  It really was like Coal Miner’s Daughter.

Okay, I realise Huntington is a city, but how many people there have their roots going back to the mountains?  If you think about it, we may be seeing the first couple of generations for whom food — thankfully — hasn’t been an issue.  Granted, the type of fare on offer hasn’t been the best, as we saw from some of the youngsters and their parents featured in your show.  However, I would have suggested delving into the psyches and backgrounds of people like the Edwards family before hauling them off to the hospital for checkups.   Food means different things to different people.  I think you would have been surprised at the answers you would have received … if only you had cared enough to ask.

Incidentally, I contrasted the way you treated the people of Huntington with the way you acted towards the people in your inner-city television series.  Remarkable.  It didn’t matter that your inner-city ‘mates’ ate deep-fried food, did it?  No, that’s because those recipes came from their grandmothers.  It didn’t matter, did it, that they were still high-calorie, fat-laden dishes?  Apparently not.  Then you told us that the United States had stolen land which rightfully belonged to Mexico and that it should be given back.  Fair enough, you can air your views (again, you’re missing some history there), but there was no such empathy for something as simple as eating habits of the residents in Huntington, was there?  Even if some of those schoolkids were probably on the same socio-economic level as their inner-city counterparts.

And how could you expect those first-year students to know what an aubergine (eggplant) was?  Or what peas in a pod looked like?  Even in the most middle-class of supermarkets, they aren’t even on offer most of the time apart from on the East or West Coast.

So, no, I’m not surprised that Rod Willis and Alice Gue were offhand with you, even though they probably never watched one of your series. And you should have taken it like a man.  They weren’t being nasty to you as you alleged, just honest.

Let’s look at things from Alice’s perspective, shall we? (Jamie, I’ve borrowed a photo from your website to show the folks who Alice is — the lady in black.) In one episode, Alice expressed concern that she and the other dinner ladies would need to come in earlier to begin preparing meals for no extra pay.  Funny that, because I remember the English dinner ladies saying the same thing during your school lunch crusade this side of the pond.   Either that, or they would have to try to get some extra help in the kitchen.  Do you realise those costs need to be factored in to a school’s or a council’s budget — months in advance?  It didn’t seem to me in either case that you cared too much.

What’s more, rules in the United States for what goes on a child’s school lunch tray are remarkably bureaucratic.  And, yes, French fries do count as a vegetable. I’m not sure whether ketchup still does. I watched in amazement as you expected the rules to be bent and budgets to suddenly be increased just because … you asked?  The best scene for me was at the end as the ineffably polite lady in charge of local school food services, Rhonda McCoy, and the superintendent of schools suggested you discuss matters with the USDA (United States Department of Agriculture).  Why did that take you by surprise?

What Jamie’s Food Revolution showed us was yet another facet to your personality — the man who cannot bear to hear the word ‘no’.  You want to change the eating habits of certain people — not all, mind — and you go in swaggering and matey but don’t know a thing about where you’re going or with whom you’re dealing.  Many viewers saw a display of pride and arrogance which we certainly didn’t see in your inner-city series.

Maybe you and your dad should have a bit of a father-son chat concerning how you go about making these shows.  I’ve picked up a lot of useful culinary short-cuts from you over the years, but sometimes your desire to ‘change’ — not to mention control — some people and not others leaves me wondering about you and your motives.

Humility in all things, Jamie — humility.  Not to mention patience.  And a bit of understanding.

On that note, Cabell Huntington Hospital has just pledged another $50,000 towards your programme.

For further reading:

Jamie’s Food Revolution USA

‘Huntington Still Welcomes Jamie Oliver’Huntington News Network

‘West Virginia eats Jamie Oliver for breakfast’The Independent

‘Can Jamie Oliver Really Start a Food Revolution in Huntington, WV?’Huffington Post

‘Can Jamie Oliver Convince Americans to Eat Well?’Newsweek

‘The Food Issue — Jamie Oliver Puts America’s Diet on a Diet’New York Times

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