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US Flag Day poster 1917.jpgOn June 14, 1777 the Stars and Stripes was officially adopted as the flag of the United States of America.

However, despite several petitions and commemorations during the 19th century, it was only in 1916 that President Woodrow Wilson issued a proclamation declaring June 14 as Flag Day. Later, in 1949, an Act of Congress designated a national Flag Day.

Although Flag Day is not a federal holiday, several towns and cities in the United States hold parades.

(Graphic credit: Wikipedia)

It is entirely coincidental, yet highly appropriate, that on June 14, 1946, Mary Anne MacLeod Trump gave birth to a son, Donald John.

Little did she know then that boisterous, brash Donald would become President of the United States at the age of 70.

Few people love the United States the way President Trump does. During the 2016 campaign, the photo below was widely circulated (courtesy of Reddit). Pure Americana:

https://i.reddituploads.com/c7a669673cac4febb40f3c2b8a1e34b0?fit=max&h=1536&w=1536&s=75b9fdfac58479c25a34141d78e4357d

Today it’s hard to imagine anyone more American than Donald Trump.

God threw away the mould when He made Donald.

Even when the billionaire made mistakes in his career, he always bounced back. He turned failure into success.

Despite three marriages, Trump’s five children are exceptional, particularly by today’s standards. Barron is too young, but the other four have never had drug or drink problems. The three eldest, by Ivana, have stable marriages. Tiffany (Marla Maples) is single but has a steady boyfriend. All comport themselves well.

For these reasons, it is difficult to be negative about Trump. He also turned reality television to his advantage with The Apprentice. His successor, Arnold Schwarzenegger, just couldn’t attract the same audience.

Thanks to The Apprentice, Trump engaged in other television appearances, reaching an ever wider audience. This episode from the wrestling show Raw presents the Battle of the Billionaires in a challenge for charity:

Here’s what happened next:

(No billionaire was hurt in the making of that television show. That said, don’t try this at home, kids.)

The genius of this silliness is that, by the time he descended the escalator in Trump Tower in June 2015 to announce his candidacy for president, nearly everyone in the United States knew who he was.

Trump also had a wide circle of friends who deserted him after that. Here is a photo of him with Kathy Griffin of CNN (she’s the redhead) who recently was in a tasteless, gory video holding an effigy of his head in her right hand. Disgusting. Here they were in happier times:

See how hypocritical people can be?

CNN objected to what Griffin posted online, and cancelled her appearance on their next New Year’s Eve show. Meanwhile, Trump supporters have been busy contacting CNN sponsors. The Daily Mail has the full story on Griffin’s video and the blowback. By June 2, several of Griffin’s appearances at venues around the United States were cancelled. Furthermore, despite Griffin’s statements that she would never hurt children, several years ago she targeted Willow Palin — a teenager at the time — and actually had the brass whatsits to knock on the Palins’ front door. But I digress.

Over the past two years, President Trump has come to know who his real friends and allies are.

I wish President Trump a very happy birthday and many happy returns. I hope he is surrounded by family and friends for a splendid celebration.

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Mad Men Mad-men-title-card WikipediaPicking up from my 2010 post on Mad Men, it seems apposite to add a bit — yet (?) — more analysis to this outstanding drama series which explores not only advertising but the socio-political elements of the 1960s.

Warning — spoiler alert!

Producer Matthew Weiner has strongly hinted that the next series — the seventh — will be the last.

As series six wound down recently, protagonist Don Draper (pictured in the title card above) was either sacked or given an indefinite leave of absence from the advertising firm where he had become partner.

Don’s truth brings rejection

As viewers discovered in the first series, Don Draper stole a fellow soldier’s identity in the Korean War. The ‘mad man’ (short for ‘Madison Avenue advertising man’) Don Draper is really Dick Whitman from rural Pennsylvania. When Dick Whitman discovered in situ that his comrade Don Draper had been killed in action, he took the man’s dog tag along with a few other possessions and assumed his new persona.

Whitman’s greatest fear is that as soon as someone finds out about his real background, he or she will reject him.

Mad Men Wikipedia 220px-Mad_Men_season_5_cast_photoAnd so it proved true. His first wife Betty discovered parts of his Whitman truth and divorced him. In series six, Draper revealed sordid aspects of his Whitman childhood to Hershey’s chocolate bar executives during an ad pitch. They were astounded to find out that Draper-Whitman grew up in a house of ill repute after his mother died and an aunt — her sister the madam — adopted him.

They were further aghast to find that Draper told them Hershey’s should not advertise. He explained that, as a boy, the only comfort he had in life was from eating a Hershey’s bar alone. To him, it was a totemic product, almost sacred — therefore, it was something which advertising should not defile.

However, this candid revelation proved to be Don-Dick’s undoing. Up until then, his fellow partners had no idea that Don Draper was really someone else, a hayseed. Roger Sterling (pictured second from left above, next to Joan), the well-heeled silver fox and Draper’s closest colleague, was disgusted at finding out about this lowlife with whom he’d associated for nearly a decade. There was also the business matter of losing a potential huge client known across the nation. Don would have to go.

In a way, once again, as Don Draper-Dick Whitman knew, as soon as his truth emerges, people actively reject him. Some viewers have posited that it’s not what you say but the way that you say it.

Living with a lie

From the very first episode, I’d wondered how the new Don Draper was going to be able to hide the real Dick Whitman.

We saw the Korean War scene, then a tense episode on an evening train from New York City to Ossining, where an old Army buddy attempts to make conversation with Dick. Our mad man deftly discouraged conversation and found a seat elsewhere.

In a subsequent series, if I remember rightly, Dick’s dissolute brother Adam tried to extort money from him with regard to his identity. Don-Dick delivered an attaché case of cash to Adam’s hotel room and gave him strict instructions never to cross his or his family’s path again.

The big question intriguing me is how one can continue such a lie for so many years. It must gnaw at the conscience every day. As Don was raised with practically no religious identity, he has nothing on which to fall back.

However, in series six, he heard a preacher giving a sermon on Judas’s pride. The upshot was that no sin is too great that Christ cannot forgive it. The preacher says that Judas, in his pride, chose suicide instead: he thought his sin was too great to forgive, which was wrong.

I wonder whether Don’s Hershey’s revelation demonstrated his decision to come clean about his identity. Although he would become a truly broken and rejected man, at least he could come to some rebirth by embracing the truth and rejecting a great lie.

Storytelling in Mad Men

Matthew Weiner Wikipedia 220px-MattweinerWeiner (pictured at left) and his team of writers have put together a marvellous show. Granted, the later series are less well done in places than in earlier ones, yet each episode attracts eight to ten million viewers, four or five times the Nielsen ratings average.

Weiner, being Jewish, is — by definition — a natural storyteller. My favourite boss was Jewish and had a different — and true — work story to relate to me every day. I learned so much from him.

Weiner says that he has borrowed true stories from his own life and those of his writers for Mad Men.  As improbable as some of them seem, they have happened at some point in America of living memory.

Therefore, we can trust what he and his writers portray for us on screen. I find Mad Men a realistic depiction of life in the United States in the 1960s. Admittedly, not being a Sky subscriber, I have not seen series five or six but have recently read in detail about the latter (links below).

Furthermore, we never have a black-and-white, clear-cut episode. We’re drawn in further each time. The end of one series leads to anticipation of the next. Few people who regularly watch Mad Men find it boring or a show to scratch from their viewing list.

Weiner and crew present us with puzzles, moral dilemmas and questions which transcend the 1960s. Their writing lends itself to comparisons with Shakespeare, opera and Dante’s Inferno. Viewers’ analyses of the programme bear this out in fascinating detail.

The detail Weiner and his team put into clothes, office interiors, homes and more also shows careful attention to the time. It would be difficult to point out where a hairstyle or setting was out of place. (My only tiny complaint is box-style cigarette packs. I do not recall they came out as soon as portrayed in the series. I didn’t really see them regularly until the late 1970s.)

The trauma of the late 1960s

Although Weiner was born halfway through the decade and has not exactly found that period a redeeming time in America’s history, he and his writers weave historical events and advertising in each episode.

When the series started, I recognised the pleasant, secure years full of optimism. New consumer durables and postwar prosperity filled the middle class with hope for the future. It is no surprise that procreation reached record levels — the Baby Boom. When the middle classes have hope, they procreate.

So we see normal-looking American families happily going about their business until JFK’s assassination in 1963. We then see Betty Draper, like millions of other Americans, glued to the television set for wall-to-wall coverage. I remember it quite well, especially the complaints from female Kennedy opponents who were missing their soap operas. In those days, when television covered an event, it was non-stop during the daytime for as long as necessary. In Kennedy’s case, if I remember correctly, the coverage lasted three days on the main networks.

Later on, Weiner shows us the shock of 1968, with MLK Jr’s assassination and the Democratic National Convention riots in Chicago. It’s a pity that they did not fit in the interim event — RFK’s assassination — because it would have shown just how quickly America herself was assaulted.

By 1969, Americana was well and truly over; it had died an ignoble death.

A decade which had begun full of promise and peace — despite the Cold War — ended so horribly.

1960s home life

On the domestic front, Weiner accurately depicts Don and Betty as a married couple and as parents, typical of the 1960s.

Men were strong and silent. Women were also self-contained, the only exceptions being for a bit of gossip at the hairdresser’s or the grocery store; however, even that concerned other people, rarely themselves. There was little ‘talking about things’, which really only came about in the 1970s. No parent ever ‘related’ to their children. That wasn’t even a parenting concept.

Yet, as we see in Mad Men, times were changing. Whereas ‘nice girls’ didn’t do certain things without suffering social sanction, as the decade progressed, fornication and adultery progressed among all sorts of people who wished to ‘experiment’. The Pill, mainstream psychology and a postwar Beat Generation (1950s) questioning of mores increasingly became the norm. And the Frankfurt School was partly responsible for changing the way the middle classes viewed life (see my Marxism/Communism page) as more young people attended university. The media were also changing; ideas from New York and California — featured in magazines and on television — permeated the rest of America. Homespun truths from the first half of the century were eventually displaced by revisionist versions of history, Christianity and statecraft (e.g. the Vietnam War).

The well-read household often made mainstream reading material available and accessible to children. Therefore, it is no surprise that the Draper children — Sally and Bobby — pick up on the zeitgeist. Sally demonstrates an early interest in sexuality, Bobby in race relations.

I’m closer to Bobby’s age than Sally’s, although I’m probably a mix of both. My mother says I was precocious; I certainly was compared to my contemporaries. Some Mad Men viewers are worried that Sally has no friends of her own sex. I don’t find that strange at all. Despite what might be seen as repressive — perhaps cruel — parenting, Don and Betty’s household was one of new ideas and trends, for better or worse. Although I might have given the impression here that everyone was receptive to change in the 1960s, a substantial number of households ignored or downplayed their significance. That extended to the perspectives which their children held.

My paternal grandmother tapped into the zeitgeist but my maternal grandparents did not. My immediate family did in order to better understand it but a number of our neighbours did not. (I think this explains why American conservatives are so divided today. A lot just do not pay attention to what’s happening, never mind analysing it. This, understandably, annoys those who keep track of the news and apply it, along with history, to America’s future.)

As one of my former high school teachers told me several years ago, ‘It was all new then. We had no idea what the consequences would be.’

Change came thick and fast at the end of the 1960s — too much so. In fact, every time I hear the word ‘change’ today, I cringe. What more needs to be done?

I am glad now that BBC4 gave up the rights to Mad Men to Sky. In some sense, it would have made me sad to see a realistic portrayal of those years. I’d rather read about them instead.

Closing thoughts — for now

It surprises me that Jon Hamm has never won an Emmy for his depiction of Don Draper. I hope he wins next year; he is long overdue and well deserving.

Vincent Kartheiser plays Pete Campbell so well that I’m beginning to connect him personally with the character. He, too, deserves an Emmy, but only after Jon Hamm wins one!

Kiernan Shipka, who plays Don’s daughter Sally, is a well grounded actress, despite the fact that she is only 14. See the first link below for an interview.

Don’s telling Peggy — who had just delivered Pete’s illegitimate child (series one) — that ‘this never happened’ was a typical response of the 1960s. Peggy, if I remember rightly, took some time off for ‘female trouble’ or similar in her final trimester and gave her baby up for adoption. Don came to pick her up at the hospital and took her home, at which point he uttered those words. Some viewers found this harsh. I do not. He was trying to preserve her reputation by urging her to keep the pregnancy a secret for her protection. He did not want her to be seen by others as a fallen woman.

It is interesting that Don has never challenged the buxom siren, office manager Joan. I think he sees something in her that reminds him of himself. I would have liked for Weiner and Co. to have explored her background a bit more for us. I suspect she and Don aren’t too far apart in socio-economic origins and life experience.

Finally, many viewers are worried for Sally’s future. (I hope none of them are in the 55-60 age range. If so, they are talking out of their hats, for reasons explained in this paragraph.) I think she probably did just fine. Yes, we used recreational drugs to a greater or lesser extent and fornicated — sins to true Christians but less so in modernist Christianity. That said, most of us graduated from university when a degree was still worth the paper it was printed on. We then went on to marry and raise children whilst being productive members of society. I think that Sally was in the preppy circle, went to an Ivy League or Seven Sisters school and made a good name for herself, probably as a civil rights lawyer and prominent Democrat.

But that’s looking too far ahead.

For now, I wish Matthew Weiner and his team all success for series seven.

For further reading on Mad Men series six (when only the best links will do — don’t miss the comments):

Mad Men‘s Kiernan Shipka …

‘Mad Men’ creator Matthew Weiner on … series 6

‘Mad Men’ creator: Don’t hate Don Draper

Tom & Lorenzo — Mad Men: In Care Of (last episode of series six with more on their ‘television’ page)

Mad Men: Notes from the break room (every episode of series six analysed)

A Psychiatrist Analyzes Mad Men‘s Sally Draper

A Psychiatrist Analyzes Mad Men‘s Don Draper

‘Mad Men’, Oranges And Their Role In Foreshadowing Death

Reading about Andy Griffith’s demise at the age of 86, millions of Americans must have felt as if part of them had died, too. I know I did.

Although many television fans around the world connect Griffith with his later incarnation as Matlock, for Baby Boomers and their parents, Sheriff Andy Taylor represented the best father and wisest sheriff in America!

Surprisingly, Griffith never won an Emmy for his role as Andy Taylor. However, he was such a great actor that many Americans were shocked to see his promotional advertisements for Barack Obama co-starring television son Opie, director Ron Howard.

SpouseMouse (who is English) and I happened to see his campaign announcement for Obama in 2008. Our jaws dropped. We looked at each other and asked, ‘Did Opie talk him into this? Or was he always a Lefty?’

Almost every thread that allows comments on Griffith’s obituary has many from disappointed, if not angry, Americans. We had connected Griffith so closely with Andy Taylor — a modern-day Solomon — that it seemed inconceivable he would promote any political candidate. Sheriff Taylor would have said, ‘This is a free country and I’m not going to influence your choice.’

I don’t know who was behind those adverts, but if it was an Obama operative, it was a cynical move which probably didn’t work very well with devoted viewers of The Andy Griffith Show.  Regardless, this serves to illustrate how closely a good actor is linked with his principal role — and how much we are mistaken in drawing a conclusion between person and persona.

However, although raised early on as a Baptist, Griffith later joined a pietist denomination, the Moravian Church. Many pietists are left-of-centre in their utopian emphasis on love and harmony. And it turns out that Griffith did support Democrat candidates in North Carolina. There are a number of Moravian congregations in Griffith’s home state of North Carolina.

His obituary on Fox News stated:

Griffith was born in 1926 in Mount Airy and as a child sang and played slide trombone in the band at Grace Moravian Church. He studied at the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and for a time contemplated a career in the ministry. But he eventually got a job teaching high school music in Goldsboro.

Moravians settled in the coastal Southern states during colonial days. Regular readers will recall Methodism’s John Wesley. Wesley became an Arminian — free-will Protestant — through his encounters with them:

The Wesleys, together with the members of the Holy Club, developed a methodical way to achieve what they saw as a sanctified, obedient life. This rigid system of holiness would become known as Methodism.  The word ‘pietist’ was initially used by those critical of the movement; and so it was with the word ‘Methodist’, used against the Holy Club by its critics at Oxford.

The Wikipedia entry on pietism describes the German influence on Wesley as coming from both the Lutherans and the Moravians:

Moravians (e.g., Zinzendorf, Peter Bohler) and Pietists connected to Francke and Halle Pietism.

However, Wesley’s first encounter with their pietism initially occurred not in Germany but on his journey to North America with Charles in 1735.

A storm broke one of the ship’s masts en route to the American colonies. The story has it that, whilst the English (Anglicans and/or Calvinists) panicked, the Moravians on board remained calm by praying and singing hymns.  Their reaction impressed John Wesley, and he befriended them …

Once Wesley arrived in the southern colony of Georgia at the invitation of Governor James Oglethorpe to head a new congregation in the city of Savannah, he maintained his connections with Moravian pastors which affected his ministry there adversely …

Upon his return to England, John Wesley continued his Moravian associations.

Moravians in London worshipped in Aldersgate Street, then at the Fetter Lane Society, which Peter Böhler established in 1738. Both Wesleys and George Whitefield, as well as other Anglican clergy and laypeople, began attending Moravian services …

The Moravian worship style at the Fetter Lane Society was typically pietistic, inducing meaningful religious experiences, surges in emotion and a subjective notion of the presence of God …

Back now to Andy Griffith’s life. Twice divorced, he married a third time and left a widow, Cindi Knight, as well as a daughter from his first marriage to Barbara Bray Edwards.  In 1996, he recorded a CD of hymns which went platinum and won a Grammy Award the following year.

Griffith was buried within five hours of his death. Fox News tells us that he was a private person (emphases mine):

Griffith protected his privacy by building a circle of friends who revealed little to nothing about him. Strangers who asked where Griffith lived in Manteo [North Carolina] would receive circular directions that took them to the beach, said William Ivey Long, the Tony Award-winning costume designer whose parents were friends with Griffith and his first wife, Barbara.

Griffith helped Long’s father build the house where the family lived in a community of bohemian artists with little money, sharing quart jars of homemade vegetable soup with each other.

[Close friend Craig] Fincannon described Griffith as the symbol of North Carolina, a role that “put heavy pressure on him because everyone felt like he was their best friend. With great grace, he handled the constant barrage of people wanting to talk to Andy Taylor.”

The Andy Griffith Show started a trend on CBS for rural sitcoms in or of the South — The Beverly Hillbillies, Green Acres and Petticoat Junction among them. This genre continued throughout the 1960s until the head of the network, Fred Silverman, pulled the plug on them and made a dramatic switch to purely urban comedy shows which have continued from the 1970s to the present day.

This programming switch is now referred to as the rural purge. It also affected the two other main networks in making shows more ‘relevant’:

The numerous cancellations prompted Pat Buttram (“Mr. Haney” on one of the canceled shows, Green Acres) to make the observation: “It was the year CBS canceled everything with a tree—including Lassie“;[2][3] Lassie actually survived the initial rural purge.

The first rurally-themed show canceled by Silverman was Petticoat Junction. In September 1970, The Mary Tyler Moore Show premiered on CBS. All in the Family premiered in January 1971 as a mid-season replacement. Both series provided the urban demographic, cutting-edge social relevance and ratings that CBS sought.[citation needed] These ratings successes prompted Silverman and the network to cancel Green Acres, The Beverly Hillbillies, Mayberry R.F.D., Hee Haw, Lassie, and The Jim Nabors Hour at the end of the 1970-71 season. Another series, The Glen Campbell Goodtime Hour lasted until the end of the 1971-72 season.

ABC also was looking for younger audiences, and in May 1971 canceled shows that skewed toward rural viewers (such as The Johnny Cash Show) or older viewers (Make Room for Granddaddy and The Lawrence Welk Show). NBC also targeted rural and older oriented programs in its cuts, eliminating long-running programs such as Wild Kingdom, The Andy Williams Show and The Virginian, all of which ran nine seasons or more.

Several shows were still popular when the axe fell:

What made these cancellations puzzling were the fact that they had come prior to 1970, at a time when CBS had yet to air any of their more “sophisticated” shows and gauge their popularity with the television audience. The success of The Mary Tyler Moore Show, All in the Family, and newer variety shows such as The Flip Wilson Show and The Carol Burnett Show in 1970 would allow for the mass cancellations of most of the now “undesired shows” at the end of 1971 despite their high ratings and popularity. Both Green Acres and The Beverly Hillbillies had dropped from the Nielsen top 30 by the 1970-71 season, yet both shows continued to win their respective time slots and had a loyal following, warranting renewal for another season. Other shows that were still pulling in even higher ratings when canceled included Mayberry R.F.D. which finished the season at number 15, Hee Haw at number 16, and The Jim Nabors Hour at number 29.[7]Nevertheless, the course had been set by the networks and the shows were cancelled to free up the schedules for newer shows.

The inclusion of demographics into determining a series’ worth to its sponsors meant that high ratings alone did not necessarily warrant a series for renewal. Series such as ABC’s The Brady Bunch and The Partridge Family were never truly a ratings hit; however, both series appealed to a younger demographic and thus were renewed for three more seasons.

It would seem reasonable to conclude that the shift to nearly exclusive urban and suburban settings — with certain subsequent exceptions, e.g. The Waltons and Little House on the Prairie — helped to shape the opinions of America’s viewers. The result was that ‘urban’ was seen as ‘desirable’ and ‘rural’ as ‘backward‘. I would enjoy reading a critique of this, if it exists, showing that the shift helped to denigrate the America which lies between the two coasts. My hypothesis is that the rural purge indirectly gave rise to the term ‘Flyover Country’ and explains why the South is still so despised, despite the fact that many Northerners have moved there for lower taxes or to reunite with families whom they left in the 1950s and 1960s. And let us not forget the clement winter weather and the springtime magnolias which rival England’s!

The Andy Griffith Show differed from the other rural shows, partly because it was modelled on Griffith’s home town of Mount Airy. Griffith loved North Carolina, and the show reflected this. As other journalists have pointed out, we laughed with the characters — not at them.

Griffith’s show demonstrated man’s fallibility in a poignant, instructive yet positive way. We knew that they wanted to do the right thing but, like all humans, couldn’t. Although not outwardly intended as such, the sitcom showed man’s tendency to sin and the healing which biblical values (mercy, forgiveness, obedience) produced. Every episode ended with balanced reconciliation and resolution. Griffith poured his Moravian faith into this gentle comedy, which was full of fun moments.

Viewers are still picking up on this, even if they are unaware of it, because the show has never been off the air since cancellation in 1968. It’s been running for 52 years, most of that time in syndication.

Most of the cast have now gone to their rest. George Lindsey, who played Goober, died in May 2012. Jim Nabors, who went on to star in the spinoff series Gomer Pyle, USMC, is still alive as, of course, is Ron Howard who played Andy’s son Opie.

Griffith and Don Knotts — Deputy Barney Fife — were close friends in real life and remained so until Knotts’s death in 2006. From the start of the show, Griffith let Knotts carry the comedy, for which he won five Emmy Awards.  Griffith decided to play the ‘straight man’, demonstrating fairness and wisdom. Many were the times Sheriff Andy rescued his deputy from a potential accident with his firearm!

Just as Andy Taylor treated everyone equally, he was also an exemplary father to his son Opie. The online obituary comments reveal that children from dysfunctional homes found comfort and encouragement in the programme: there really were good parental models to follow. Those half-hour episodes showed them the positive side of family life.

In 1996, NBC’s Today show featured a series on famous police shows. In this clip, presenter Matt Lauer interviews Griffith and Knotts. They explain how, although the show was set in the present-day, it also portrayed the Mount Airy, NC, which Griffith knew during the 1930s. Yet, even the small Southern town where my family and I lived for a season in the mid-1960s (job transfer for Dad), was similar to the fictional Mayberry — whilst imperfect, there was virtually no crime and many neighbourly values were evident.

Without further ado, here’s the video. Griffith explains that they purposely wanted to keep the show clean and ‘pure’, taking out any questionable jokes:

The next clip is from the backdoor pilot for The Andy Griffith Show. It was an episode of Make Room for Daddy, starring the late Danny Thomas (Marlo’s father). Thomas, travelling through Mayberry, gets stopped for speeding. He spends time in the cells. Andy Taylor is not only the sheriff but also the Justice of the Peace and the local newspaper editor. Here we see his wisdom as a lawman and shades of Matlock’s canny questioning:

In closing, some fans of the show might be unaware that the theme tune, which Griffith did not whistle, actually has lyrics. Here Griffith sings The Fishin’ Hole:

Rest in peace, Andy — and thanks for the enduring memories!

Further reading:

Andy Griffith – Wikipedia

Rural purge – Wikipedia

‘Legendary television actor Andy Griffith dead at 86’ – Fox News

‘Why People Love The Andy Griffith Show‘ – RCP

‘Andy Griffith sings original lyrics … – Zap2it

‘Andy Griffith — already buried’ – TMZ

‘George “Goober” Lindsey dead …’ – TMZ

Until a few years ago, the name Charles Grandison Finney meant nothing to me. However, many American Protestants will have been unknowingly influenced by his 19th century Pelagianism.

In 1995, Dr Michael Horton examined the long shadow of Finneyism on the American Church in ‘The Legacy of Charles Finney’, written for Modern Reformation magazine.  Horton is the J. Gresham Machen professor of apologetics and systematic theology at Westminster Seminary California (Escondido, California), a host of the White Horse Inn broadcasts and editor-in-chief of Modern Reformation magazine. He is author of many books, including The Gospel-Driven Life, Christless Christianity, People and Place, Putting Amazing Back Into Grace, The Christian Faith, and For Calvinism.

Horton’s essay is lengthy and absorbing reading for anyone seeking a better understanding of Protestant denominations in America. Charles Finney has influenced fundamentalist preachers as well as social gospel ministries. Horton explains how Finney’s man-centred, emotional and experiential focus works. Excerpts follow, emphases mine:

Finney’s moralistic impulse envisioned a church that was in large measure an agency of personal and social reform rather than the institution in which the means of grace, Word and Sacrament, are made available to believers who then take the Gospel to the world … Evangelists pitched their American gospel in terms of its practical usefulness to the individual and the nation.

That is why Finney is so popular. He is the tallest marker in the shift from Reformation orthodoxy, evident in the Great Awakening (under Edwards and Whitefield) to Arminian (indeed, even Pelagian) revivalism, evident from the Second Great Awakening to the present. To demonstrate the debt of modern evangelicalism to Finney, we must first notice his theological departures. From these departures, Finney became the father of the antecedents to some of today’s greatest challenges within evangelical churches, namely, the church growth movement, Pentecostalism and political revivalism.

Who is Finney?

Reacting against the pervasive Calvinism of the Great Awakening, the successors of that great movement of God’s Spirit turned from God to humans, from the preaching of objective content (namely, Christ and him crucified) to the emphasis on getting a person to “make a decision.”

Charles Finney (1792-1875) ministered in the wake of the “Second Awakening,” as it has been called. A Presbyterian lawyer, Finney one day experienced “a mighty baptism of the Holy Ghost” which “like a wave of electricity going through and through me … seemed to come in waves of liquid love” … Refusing to attend Princeton Seminary (or any seminary, for that matter), Finney began conducting revivals in upstate New York. One of his most popular sermons was “Sinners Bound to Change Their Own Hearts.”

Finney’s one question for any given teaching was, “Is it fit to convert sinners with?” One result of Finney’s revivalism was the division of Presbyterians in Philadelphia and New York into Arminian and Calvinistic factions. His “New Measures” included the “anxious bench” (precursor to today’s altar call), emotional tactics that led to fainting and weeping, and other “excitements,” as Finney and his followers called them …

What’s So Wrong with Finney’s Theology?

One need go no further than the table of contents of his Systematic Theology to learn that Finney’s entire theology revolved around human morality … a collection of essays on ethics.

But that is not to say that Finney’s Systematic Theology does not contain some significant theological statements …

Finney declares of the Reformation’s formula simul justus et peccator or “simultaneously justified and sinful,” “This error has slain more souls, I fear, than all the Universalism that ever cursed the world.” For, “Whenever a Christian sins he comes under condemnation, and must repent and do his first works, or be lost” (p.60).

Finney’s doctrine of justification rests upon a denial of the doctrine of original sinAs someone has said, “We sin because we’re sinners”: the condition of sin determines the acts of sin, rather than vice versa. But Finney followed Pelagius, the fifth-century heretic, who was condemned by more church councils than any other person in church history, in denying this doctrine.

… In clear terms, Finney denied the notion that human beings possess a sinful nature (ibid.). Therefore, if Adam leads us into sin, not by our inheriting his guilt and corruption, but by following his poor example, this leads logically to the view of Christ, the Second Adam, as saving by example …

That is not entirely fair, of course, because Finney did believe that Christ died for something—not for someone, but for something. In other words, he died for a purpose, but not for people. The purpose of that death was to reassert God’s moral government and to lead us to eternal life by example, as Adam’s example excited us to sin … Not only did Finney believe that the “moral influence” theory of the atonement was the chief way of understanding the cross; he explicitly denied the substitutionary atonement

Then there is the matter of applying redemption. Throwing off Reformation orthodoxy, Finney argued strenuously against the belief that the new birth is a divine gift, insisting that “regeneration consists in the sinner changing his ultimate choice, intention, preference; or in changing from selfishness to love or benevolence,” as moved by the moral influence of Christ’s moving example (p.224) …

Having nothing to do with original sin, a substitutionary atonement, and the supernatural character of the new birth, Finney proceeds to attack “the article by which the church stands or falls”— justification by grace alone through faith alone.

Distorting the Cardinal Doctrine of Justification

The Reformers insisted, on the basis of clear biblical texts, that justification (in the Greek, “to declare righteous,” rather than “to make righteous”) was a forensic (i.e., legal) verdict … Therefore, it was a perfect, once and-for-all verdict of right standing …

To this, Finney replies: “The doctrine of imputed righteousness, or that Christ’s obedience to the law was accounted as our obedience, is founded on a most false and nonsensical assumption.” … (pp.320-2) …

Finney Today

... With roots in Finney’s revivalism, perhaps evangelical and liberal Protestantism are not that far apart after all. His “New Measures,” like today’s Church Growth Movement, made human choices and emotions the center of the church’s ministry, ridiculed theology, and replaced the preaching of Christ with the preaching of conversion ...

When the leaders of the Church Growth Movement claim that theology gets in the way of growth and insist that it does not matter what a particular church believes: growth is a matter of following the proper principles, they are displaying their debt to Finney.

When leaders of the Vineyard movement praise this sub-Christian enterprise and the barking, roaring, screaming, laughing, and other strange phenomena on the basis that “it works” and one must judge its truth by its fruit, they are following Finney as well as the father of American pragmatism, William James, who declared that truth must be judged on the basis of “its cash-value in experiential terms.”

Thus, in Finney’s theology, God is not sovereign, man is not a sinner by nature, the atonement is not a true payment for sin, justification by imputation is insulting to reason and morality, the new birth is simply the effect of successful techniques, and revival is a natural result of clever campaigns

As Whitney R. Cross has carefully documented, the stretch of territory in which Finney’s revivals were most frequent was also the cradle of the perfectionistic cults that plagued that century. A gospel that “works” for zealous perfectionists one moment merely creates tomorrow’s disillusioned and spent supersaints

Christians and interfaith groups campaigning today against alcohol and tobacco borrow from Finney.  Theonomists striving for a ‘moral America’ owe the idea to Finney. The evangelical witness testifying ‘Today, I made the decision to be saved’ has ripped a page out of the Finney notebook. The parents who seek formulaic holiness in church activities and at home with ‘godly’ parenting books have copied Finney’s theology. The pastor who says that an emotional ‘experience’ of Christ indicates salvation is borrowing from Finney, whether he realises it or not.

Finney’s theology, imbued as it is in many corners of America, produces confusion when people leaving an unbiblical Evangelical church for a confessional denomination encounter the doctrine of grace for the first time.

This is the danger of heresy — it’s false, oppressive, confusing, painful and soul-destroying in many ways. It also leads people away from the crucified and risen Christ who freed us by dying and rising from the dead for us.

Tomorrow: Legalistic Lutheranism – part 1

Another day of reading — and what insights to share over the next few days!

Today’s post comes from a PJ Media reader, Art Chance, in a discussion about a Victor Davis Hanson article tying together today’s American university education and the Occupy movement, ‘Rage on and on and on‘.

Art Chance gives an historical and a family view of education, which rings true, from what my grandparents (during the Great War) and parents experienced (during the Depression).  Emphases mine below:

Trouble is, it now takes sixteen years to get less education that one got in eight or ten years less than a century ago. And to make it worse, those with the sixteen or more years of “education” have no practical skills because [teachers] have resisted all attempts to give [students] any unless you consider a vast knowlege of pop culture and the ability to use all sorts of electronic entertainment devices a practical skill.

My grandmother had 10 years of what passed for public education in rural Georgia in the late 19th Century and she had two years of “Normal School,” a teaching “college.” She could rattle off great long passages of Caesar’s Gallic Wars in Latin, she could read Greek somewhat, she knew great long passages of Shakespeare and the KJV by heart and could rattle off from memory the proofs to those Geometry theor[e]ms that drove me nuts. Admittedly, she had a very limited knowlege of physical science, but, frankly, as a “God said it, I believe it, and that settles it” Christian, she wouldn’t accept much of what she did know of “science.”

I had the best of both worlds, the rigorous old-fashioned academics of the Southern Jim Crow schools and the beginnings of federal aid to education that enabled us to have books that didn’t promise that someday railroads would span the continent. I grew up in a poor, rural Southern community. If many of my schoolmates’ parents weren’t illiterate, certainly their grandparents had been, but failure was not accepted and there were desks in rows, kids in them, and teachers were addressed as “Mam” or “Sir.” A public education was a rising tide that raised all boats and that was true of the segregated Black schools as well, though I’ll make no pretense that the separate schools were anything like equal …

I’ve experienced three iterations of public education: in the ’50s and well into the ’60s a public education was a rising tide that raised all boats. School for my bio[logical] daughter in the ’70s and ’80s was much less rigorous but not yet the enemy of the family. School for my step-kids in the ’90s and ’00s was simply the enemy; no failure or excuse went unrewarded. They were bombarded by propaganda in the form of teaching them to avoid and report abuse that was patently intended to undermine parental influence; the school taught them that parents were stupid and abusive and they were to report anything they didn’t “like” at home. There was nothing resembling academic rigor, little homework, and the only way to get a bad grade was to not be there at all. We did what we could at home, but when the school is pounding them with your stupidity and awfulness, it is hard to get and keep a kid’s attention. They’re all doing OK today, though the two younger ones are doing no more than OK; it’s hard to get ahead when nobody buys your excuses any more.

I see no solutions other than a gray, depressed socialist society with a youth culture out of “A Clockwork Orange” unless and until something can be done to restore discipline and academic rigor in schools and we stop encouraging and subsidizing ill[e]gitimacy. Traditional Black family structure and culture has been destroyed, destruction of traditional Hispanic family structure and culture isn’t far behind, and Whites are trying as hard as they can to catch up with the Blacks and Hispanics on the sleigh ride to Hell.

On the last point about family structure, in the late 1960s my dad was shocked to return to his home town periodically and find so many black teenage girls with children out of wedlock living with their mothers, who were divorced or separated.  I had been taught at school — already — that this was a black ‘norm’.  He said, ‘No, it isn’t. I played basketball after school with a group of friends nearly every afternoon.  Several of these guys were black and they all came from two-parent homes.’

The Revd James David Manning from Harlem preaches about the breakdown of the black family structure.  He often says that there will be no hope for black people until they resume living a more biblically-oriented life.  He has his local ministry in Harlem and, understandably, has strong feelings on the matter. He came from a two-parent family, by the way, and is married with children.

I agree with Revd Manning and would echo Art Chance’s warnings to whites and Hispanics.  Our Western culture has moved too far away from Judeo-Christian morality. For those who object to my use of ‘Judeo-Christian’, I am acknowledging the influences of the Old and New Testaments on our society.

To conclude on education — by the time I had finished high school, I became aware that I knew less than my mother did.  She had also had what Americans call a ‘college prep’ secondary school education. (My dad’s was more business-oriented.)

Over 15 years ago, I spoke with a longtime history professor, an American, and asked him how he compared students he had in class in the 1950s, 1970s and the present day.  He told me that the students from the 1950s were the best educated and that standards had started to slip noticeably by the 1970s (less memorisation in primary school, therefore, less aptitude for remembering dates and facts).

By far, the worst were his students in the 1990s, his last decade teaching.  ‘I always give my freshman students a general knowledge test on current affairs at the beginning of my introductory course.  Keep in mind that many come into my course expressing a wish to become history majors.  In the last test I gave, nearly half of these freshmen could not tell me who the President of the United States is!’  Frustrating?  ‘Yes,’ he replied, ‘because I can see our educational standards slipping about every five to 10 years.  I hold onto the tests and look through them every so often.’

I read an online comment on another blog last yearOne commenter wrote, ‘I’m impressed! For someone with only [sic] a Bachelor’s degree, you can really write well!’  That should not be the case.  By the time they’re halfway through secondary school, a university-bound student should be able to write competently and show evidence of persuasive — not emotional — argument.

I shall leave you with another comment on the PJ Media post, this time from Tex Taylor.  I agree with him, although I had to chuckle, as this was how many middle-aged people viewed our generation. I say ‘our’ because Tex and I are probably not much different in age. Swings and roundabouts:

My kids will play no part of this stoner, slacker, tatted and pierced, free love, free spirit, bang the drum OWS movement (one in med school, one planned to be there), and I agree with most of the comments here. Lord knows we spent a small fortune on K-12 private education to group with parents of like mind. Apparently, it worked.

From what I have observed now for the better part of a decade, you can kiss a a large part of this 18-29 generation goodbye. Taken as a collective, I have never met a more amoral, debased bunch of imbeciles in my life – and the blame rests at the foot of their parents – those who are my age (45-60). Not only do their kids have the morals of alley cats, they couldn’t put a drill bit in a keyless chuck or jump start a car. Helpless.

These parents are the 40 year result of liberal policies and Woodstock mindset. Parents who wanted to be friends with their kids, who believed in innate self esteemed and tolerance, freedom from religion, more concerned with bullying in schools than their kid learning sciences. Hard to imagine it will get worse, but with OWS as parents, it will.

A shame, because there are legitimate grievances against Wall St. that need to be addressed – corruption and cronyism being two. But not by this bunch of bleating sheep, and certainly not by this feckless, lying, hypocrite and community activist for President.

I fear for the country I am leaving my future grandchildren, and I am feeling much overwhelmed in number. I come to PJM to make sure I’m not the only one concerned, and I thank you for providing a small degree of hope.

I, too, fear not only for the United States but for Western society as a whole. A number of parents have an increasingly hands-off attitude towards supervising their children’s schooling.  I wouldn’t be surprised if a number of them never even glance at their textbooks or what they receive as homework assignments.

Parents’ constant pandering to children’s pleas for gadgetry of one form or another along with the latest sports gear is also absurd:  ‘I could look sooooo cool!’

Yes. And you would still know absolutely nothing. Get a paper round and buy your own stuff.

Future serfs, pure and simple.

My deepest sympathies to the family of Gordon and Norma Yeager who died on October 12, 2011, in an automobile accident.

The Yeagers had been married for 72 years and died holding hands.  The family requested that the couple be placed in the same casket hand-in-hand.  The funeral home was able to grant this final request.  The couple were later cremated, their ashes mixed.

This is how I pray that SpouseMouse and I go.  Although considerably younger, we are much like the Yeagers, spending our free time together and enjoying every minute of it.  I believe that I can speak for both of us in saying that we would not wish to be without each other.  May God be merciful to us both when our time comes.

ABC News reported:

“As a rule, everything was done together,” said the couple’s daughter Donna Sheets, 71.

Gordon Yeager, 94, and his wife Norma, 90, left their small town of State Center, Iowa, on Wednesday to go into town, but never made it. A car accident sent the couple to the emergency room and intensive care unit with broken bones and other injuries. But, even in the hospital, their concerns were each other …

When it became clear that their conditions were not improving, the couple was moved into a room together in beds side-by-side where they could hold hands.

“They joined hands; his right hand, her left hand,” Sheets said.

Mrs Yeager died an hour after her husband passed from this mortal coil.

The couple married within hours of Norma’s high school graduation on May 26, 1939.  They had four children, two of whom had also died in car accidents.  However, the Lord blessed the couple with 14 grandchildren, 29 great-grandchildren and one great-great-grandchild.

I’ve included a 10-minute video, quite possibly made by a family member, as it has a fascinating photo montage of the Yeagers from the early 20th century to the present day.  A video of the televised news story can be found here.

Some of my younger readers might find this of interest.  The Yeagers are what I would have considered a normal American family, the kind I knew when I was growing up.  Gordon worked hard and eventually owned his own business, a Chevrolet dealership. He went to church, had a drink now and then, smoked and enjoyed hunting, shooting and fishing.  Norma raised responsible, loving children and, from what they say, was an excellent hostess. She also helped Gordon run his car dealership.

Many of us who grew up during the last century assumed this style of marriage and lifestyle would be with us forever.  This, for many families across America, was the norm, not the exception.

The other day, I posted two videos from 1950 on marriage preparation.  The film came with a three-point Cupid’s Checklist, the second of which was ‘Real Friends’.  I cannot emphasise enough the importance of real friendship between a husband and wife. It is crucial to a marriage’s success.

The Yeagers’ matrimonial union clearly demonstrated this lifelong friendship.

I pray that they know everlasting life and that God sends every grace to their family at this difficult time.

Every now and again, I feature one of my favourite Calvinists, Dr Michael Horton, Professor of Apologetics and Systematic Theology at Westminster Seminary California, author of numerous books, host at White Horse Inn (WHI) and Editor-in-Chief of Modern Reformation magazine.

In ‘The politics of enthusiasm’ (White Horse Inn blog) Horton recently examined the Christian beliefs of some of the more high-profile candidates in the 2012 presidential race.  He has also given us a bit of American religious history behind these beliefs.  Emphases below are mine:

Just as the Iowa straw-poll concluded last Saturday, with Michele Bachmann and Ron Paul taking first and second place, Texas Governor Rick Perry announced his candidacy.  Happily, the kingdom of Christ is neither threatened nor furthered by the kingdoms of this age.  Nevertheless, the way in which not only the media but professing Christians distort Christianity in public should be of serious concern to all Christians—including those who support the political agenda of offending candidates.

The media has had a feeding frenzy over Gov. Perry’s prominent role in a Houston prayer service.  Secularists will be unhappy with any political leader who exhibits strong religious convictions in public.  The furor over Michele Bachmann’s former membership in the Lutheran Church-Wisconsin Synod, which is confessionally bound to the view that the papacy is “antichrist,” points up the incomprehensibility of traditional churches (Catholic or Protestant) to many journalists.  The press hostility churned the already murky waters of religious and historical ignorance into a whirlpool of secularist bigotry.  No one in the press corps apparently Googled the fact that the confessions of 10 Presbyterian and 2 Dutch Reformed U. S. presidents said the same thing.

At the same time, why is it that so many public figures belong to strange churches or identify with extreme movements and leaders?  President Obama’s now estranged pastor, Jeremiah Wright, traced God’s hand in the September 11, 2001 terrorist attack to American sins against non-white and disadvantaged peoples.  “America’s chickens are coming home to roost,” he preached.  Of course, it’s wacky, but the only difference from a lot of right-wing sermonizing is the choice of targets (and reasons) for divine retribution …

Please note that ‘enthusiasm’ has a different — and negative — theological meaning from what we think of when we hear the term.  Enthusiasm has a long and sometimes violent history:

However much the press will get it wrong—and oddly declare the free exercise of religion somehow unconstitutional—U.S. politics seems more dominated than ever by what the Protestant Reformers called “enthusiasm.”  Meaning literally, “God-within-ism,” Luther and Calvin had in mind the radical Anabaptists who thought they were new apostles.  Hearing God’s voice directly within, they did not need an external Word (the Scriptures) or the external ministry of preaching, sacrament, and discipline.  Some of the early radicals even sought to take over civil government.  In the city of Mühlhausen, Thomas Müntzer succeeded, albeit briefly, until his violent, polygamous, and communist theocracy (“The Eternal League of God”) was defeated.  Like Müntzer, many political radicals since have appealed to the twelfth-century mystic Joachim of Fiore and his prophecy of a coming “Age of the Spirit” that will replace all external government and churches.  Everyone will know God by direct revelation and there will be no need for the law or the gospel, the state or the church.

This is a dangerous, not to mention unbiblical, outlook to adopt — despite the fact that it has gained much currency in the United States since the age of revivalism with Charles Finney in the 19th century.  Like Charles Taze Russell, who founded the Jehovah’s Witnesses, Finney was another Presbyterian who went off the rails because he could not bring himself to accept confessional — and scriptural — tenets of the faith.  Two of Finney’s better legacies were his strong abolitionist stance and belief in education for all, regardless of sex or colour. But I digress.

Horton continues:

The religious left and the religious right have roots in the Second Great Awakening, which in many ways carries on this radical Protestant impulse.  And while Charles Finney’s broad agenda of public justice and personal morality has split into two divergent streams (indeed, political parties), they are twin offspring of revivalistic Protestant enthusiasm.

Mormonism is a quintessential offspring of the millennarian, restorationist, and heretical impulse of radical Protestant sects in nineteenth-century America.  Although Mitt Romney professes deep commitment to his Mormon beliefs, he has shown no sign of taking his cues from the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles in Salt Lake City … 

That’s ironic, because the other Republican front-runners not only believe that the extraordinary office of apostle is still in effect (as Mormonism teaches), but apparently share the hope of their closest religious advisors that they will be emissaries of the Spirit to bring a decadent nation back to God—through the political process.

This American-style 19th century enthusiasm has taken some strange turns since the days of the Religious Right from the 1970s, as we shall see:

First, Michele Bachmann.  Though she used to belong to a conservative Lutheran church, Bachmann’s faith seems to have been shaped more by the Pentecostal-theonomist synthesis of “dominion theology.”  (See Ryan Lizza, “Leap of Faith: The Making of a Republican Front-Runner,” The New Yorker, Aug 15 2011, p. 54-63).  She has spoken openly of having had a vision of the person she was to marry, while he was having the same vision of her.  Influenced initially by Francis Schaeffer’s “A Christian Manifesto,” she eventually enrolled in the Oral Roberts University Law School and then moved to Virginia Beach, where her husband took a degree in counseling at Pat Robertson’s Regent University.  Serving on the school board of a charter school led by Christian activist Dennis L. Meyer, she says she admired his philosophy of governance: “Denny encouraged the board to do things and move forward not because we ‘think’ it should be done a certain way, but because God wants us to” …

Horton tells us that Bachmann served on the board of Summit Ministries in Colorado.  He adds that Summit’s founder David A Noebel was a member of the ultra-conservative John Birch Society. Bachmann’s time at Summit encouraged her to enter politics with this same philosophy.

Why would someone desert Lutheranism for evangelicalism? Wouldn’t she have wanted to remain a member of the original Reformation church with a sound doctrine?

Then, there’s Texas Governor Rick Perry.  Horton writes:

Second, Rick Perry. First, a little background—sorry in advance for the autobiography.  I edited two books in the 1990s—The Agony of Deceit (1990) and Power Religion (1997).  The first one investigated the theology of then-prominent prosperity evangelists … my goal was to search beneath the televangelism scandals in the news to examine the heart of prosperity theology itself.  After a TIME magazine story on the book and its charges, a firestorm of controversy ensued—including letters from the lawyers of some prominent televangelists.

The theology that undergirded many of the televangelists’ ministries was shared by other men and movements like C. Peter Wagner, the Vineyard movement, the “Toronto Blessing,” and the “Kansas City Prophets.” Together they were the self-styled “Next Wave,” a Third Great Awakening.  Behind this movement lay the “Latter Rain” (a.k.a. “Shepherding”) movement of the 1970s: a bizarre aberration all its own that continues in the New Apostolic Reformation movement I mention below.

You can read more about C Peter Wagner here.

And what you will read below explains why I am leery of evangelicals on a national stage.  We can never be sure what ‘brand’ of evangelicalism they believe.  Back to Horton:

Through many of these leaders, the radical fringes of Pentecostalism found their way into more mainstream evangelicalism.    

More radically, many “Third Wave” Pentecostals linked up with R. J. Rushdoony’s “Christian Reconstructionism,” radical defenders of the antebellum South, and other assorted enthusiasts.  Popular versions of dispensational premillennialism (waiting for the Rapture while the world gets steadily worse) gave way to an extreme—and highly politicized—postmillennialism (preparing the way for a golden age of Christian dominion before Christ returns).

And this really is as strange as you might imagine it to be.  What Horton refers to as ‘radical defenders of the antebellum South’ includes a belief in kinism, which is staying within your own racial group and adopting the superiority which accompanies it.  I have read of families who will move cross-country to be part of one of these churches, believing that the pastor and that church will somehow save them from not only spiritual but social ills.

But, let’s go back to C Peter Wagner, founder of the church growth movement, and his New Apostolic Reformation. (Why Horton refers to it as ‘NAP’ instead of the usual ‘NAR’ is unclear.)

C. Peter Wagner, Fuller Seminary professor and pioneer of the church growth movement, was the theologian of the Vineyard movement.  He also launched the phenomenon of  “spiritual mapping,” where various cities or regions were identified with specific demons to be bound by international prayer warriors.  I met with some of these leaders years ago and I don’t question their sincerity, but I do question their orthodoxy.  Until recently, I had assumed that the whole thing was just another revivalistic movement that had come and gone like an Arizona monsoon.  Not so, evidently.  Enthusiasm never goes away, it just keeps reinventing itself.

And this is why I hope that Sarah Palin will work behind the scenes instead of upfront, as she, too, has an indirect connection with prayer warriors, dating from the 2008 campaign when she ran as vice president on John McCain’s ticket.

This year, however, Horton points us to Rick Perry’s purported links with this group:

According to Wagner and the NA[R] circle, the office of prophet and apostle, moribund for centuries, was restored in 2001—with Wagner and his associates as the chief candidatesWhile most Pentecostals have been somewhat a-political and the Assemblies of God (a Pentecostal denomination) has consistently repudiated the succession of movements leading to the NA[R], this group is radically postmillennial and politically engaged.  Its “Latter Rain” roots are on many points theologically heterodox, its discipline verges on cultic, and now it seems that it wants political power.  The “New Reformation” such groups envisage is more like the radical Anabaptist theocracy of Thomas Müntzer that Luther thundered against in “Against the Fanatics” and Calvin excoriated in “Against the Anabaptists.”

We can be sure that if Luther and Calvin took a theological stance against a belief that it was for just cause — being unbiblical and doctrinally unsound.  The question is — do these politicians understand what they are getting into?  I am not convinced that they know why these movements are theologically objectionable. We shall see as the 2012 campaign progresses.

Reportedly, Governor Perry has close ties with the New Apostolic Reformation group.  Rather than rehearse the reports, you can read and evaluate them for yourself, especially the Texas Observer story and the recent Rachel Maddow report.  I’m not suggesting that we should uncritically accept the claims of journalistic neutrality from either source, but this movement—and similar yet less defined sub-groups—will no doubt bring greater disgrace to the cause of Christ in the minds of a biblically illiterate society.  You’ll hear more about it in coming months.  Regardless of how one judges the merits of the candidates’ political positions, the close identification of evangelical Christianity with radical enthusiasm (a direct, unmediated, extraordinary work of the Spirit in charismatic individuals) will only become more justifiable in the minds of many of our neighbors.  Its politicization will only make it more difficult to have serious conversations with our friends and co-workers not only about the common good of civil society but the gospel.

The last thing we need is for a Republican candidate to identify with Christian fringe movements.  It also makes it difficult for us to evangelise in our daily lives when this is the only Christianity the public hears about from the mainstream media — and, believe me, it will be.

The Gospel is apolitical. Jesus said: ‘My kingdom is not of this world’ (John 18:36).

Christ’s sacrifice on the Cross was, is — and ever will be — sufficient atonement for our sins.

God does not need our help in accomplishing His divine purpose for the world.

Whatever temporal and imperfect transformation we can effect now comes from a godly and moral life as individuals, not as organised theocratic groups or movements.

Now that warm nights are almost upon us in the Northern Hemisphere, our thoughts turn to romance.

Many couples are planning their weddings and young people are thinking about dating during school holidays.  So, with the past few posts in mind, how do young people go about finding the right boy or girl?

Parental extremes

Despite the recent tendency towards home lock-down in the US, parents should trust their children enough to let them out of the house for group activities.  It’s a good way for teens to mix with the opposite sex and prepare for courtship.  When I was growing up in the 1970s, we had ample opportunity to meet other teens from different schools, which eased the way into the dating game.  From some Christian sites I read, this has gone by the boards.  Parents won’t let their children sleep over at a friend’s home or leave the house unless chaperoned.  Well, if they want their children to be living with them when they’re 35 years old, they’ve got the right idea.

These parents often met each other at university then ‘find the Lord’, place themselves ‘under care’ of a church and adopt house rules which are a cross between 17th century Puritanism and Little House on the Prairie.  Reading these sites and fora contributions is a real education.  It’s a perfect formula for producing neurotic children.

Yes, as I have explained, Western society does have a problem with gender roles, family disintegration and sexual preoccupation.  But that’s not a reason for Christian parents to keep their children — especially daughters — locked up at home.  At some point, they will have to enter the outside world.  The longer parents prolong that day for them, the worse it will be.  It’s one thing reading or hearing about the world, it’s another thing for young people to experience it  themselves.  So, if these parents have brought their children up as biblically as they claim they have, problems should not arise.

I feel sorry for a lot of these young people, sheltered beyond belief.  Are they — particularly the girls — going to college or university?  Or are they staying inside the house as cheap labour?  What happens if the main family breadwinner falls ill?  Someone will need to go out and work.  Jobs are difficult enough to find as it is, but for someone — no matter how talented — with no paid work experience or college degree, it will be a nightmare.

This is something I really don’t understand, and, with all respect for my readers across the Atlantic, it does appear to be an American phenomenon — and a rather recent one, at that.

On the other hand, we have single mothers by choice.  This is an equally hot topic.  One thing which is completely forbidden today is an open criticism of single mums.  That holds true not just in the media, but at work or social situations.  Any slight or question on this topic meets with a barrage of abuse from someone aged 30 or younger.  ‘How can you say that?  My mum is a single mum.  You don’t expect her to live with my dad, do you?’  After hearing this enough times, one draws the conclusion that sex no doubt took the place of conversation in those relationships.  Avoid being unequally yoked.

In my childhood, divorce was the exception rather than the rule.  Living together was unheard of, unless it was a boho artist or dissolute celebrity.  And people who have lived in a two-parent home are wondering where all this is going to end.  The UK has the highest teen pregnancy rate in Europe, yet we have more sex education than ever.  The clear message is for kids to rut like beasts.  And many do.

I don’t think it’s all about getting a council house, although that might be part of it.  I don’t think these girls felt loved at home, so a baby provides a replacement for that absent love.  However, as it is a dependent love — that of a child — the young mother soon finds that she needs adult companionship.  Enter ‘the boyfriend’.  Then, the relationship between mother, child and stranger becomes mixed up in all manner of potentially horrible ways. He doesn’t care about the child because it isn’t his. He does, however, care about sex with Mum.  If you haven’t already done so, try a Google search on ‘I hate mom’s boyfriend’. The number of child abuse stories in the news which appear will keep you reading for days.  There are too many to take in.  Even scanning the first couple pages of entries reveals an alarming array of scenarios.

On the other hand, sometimes the single mother goes without sex for many years after she has her child.  I know one woman who didn’t want to marry, just have a baby.  So, she did (with only a brief period of dating another man some years later). She never told her son who the father was. He found school difficult because he was the only one in his class whose dad didn’t live at home.   Needless to say, when his primary school teachers assigned their pupils to make a Father’s Day card, he felt bad because he couldn’t participate.  He went home on more than one occasion crying: ‘Why don’t I have a dad?’ During his adolescence and young adulthood, he begged his mother to tell him who his father is. He still doesn’t know. His mother’s selfishness caused considerable tension in the household.  Fortunately, the son ended up marrying a lovely young woman whom he had dated for a few years.

Advice for dating success

Parents can help ease social pressures from the time their children are small.  Simple courtesies, pleasing attire, good table manners and making conversation are essential.

(Before I go into my suggestions, one of the biggest eye-openers for me as an adolescent was going out to dinner after school dances or proms and watching the table manners on display.  Appalling!  What I witnessed really lent credibility to the old saying, ‘You can dress ’em up but you can’t take ’em out.’)

What Mum and Dad can do

1/ Give children small cutlery sets to eat with, so they know how to hold and use a fork, knife and spoon properly from an early age (i.e. three years old).

2/ Serve a variety of foods at home which not only require a knife and fork but introduce children to a number of tastes, textures and flavours. 

3/ Eat together as a family at table — with Dad leading the conversation — at least once a week.

4/ Ensure that girls dress appropriately for their age.

5/ Teach boys how to tie their own ties.  I read where some young men keep the knot on the tie and just slip it over their heads to put away until the next time!

6/ Start good manners when children are small — reinforcing the use of ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ as well as introductions and shaking hands.  And why not revive the long-lost courtesy of the thank-you note?

7/ Children should have manners allowing them aspire upwards, not just socially, but with regard to education and work.

8/ Know who your child is dating — have a polite conversation with the person when s/he comes  to the house. If you have a funny feeling about them, have a one-on-one discussion later with your son or daughter and calmly explain your reservations.  Don’t turn it into an inquisition unless absolutely necessary.

What girls can do

1/ Men like a healthy-looking girl for breeding purposes. (It’s true!  Their parents have also been known to pass comment.) Look fresh and radiant.

2/ Hair reflects general health, so it’s important to keep it clean and luxuriant — not too close to the head.

3/ Wear simple jewellery — a single strand of pearls will see you through any social occasion and should be worn every day to keep them looking their best.

4/ Classic clothes are always in fashion.  Nicely tailored skirts and trousers can last many years.

5/ Be gracious and feminine.

6/ Offer to pay your share of the date now and then — and mean it.  Take him out once in a while, if he allows it.

7/ Avoid strong scent — e.g. vanilla.  Classic fragrances (e.g. rose, jasmine) rarely offend.

8/ Know how to get out of a car: legs (together!) out first, then the rest of the body.

What boys can do

1/ Have a variety of polo shirts for going out.  They’re neutral and will pass the parental beady eye! 

2/ Buy a navy blue blazer which you can wear all year round.  Very handy when you’re going out with her family to dinner.

3/ Be polite and chivalrous — protect your lady.

4/ Know how to tie your own tie — very important.

5/ Forget trendy, strong colognes and opt instead for classic men’s scents (e.g. sandalwood).

6/ Wear a classic hairstyle which doesn’t require much product.

7/ A good sense of humour can lighten most situations.

8/ Keep yourself clean and tidy — and remember the loo seat!

For both sexes

1/ Keep to a normal weight.

2/ Get enough sleep and exercise.

3/ Learn to cook — it will impress not only your future spouse but their family, too.

4/ Remember your table manners and start from the outside in

5/ Wear a full-length winter coat in cold weather — it looks smart and is perfect when you want to impress.

6/ Speak clearly and confidently — no grunting or fast-talking.

7/ Keep bad habits in check, especially when you think no one is watching!

8/ Shop on sale and at discount malls for the best deals on clothes.

9/ Know what’s going on in the world and be able to discuss the day’s news.

10/Maintain good posture and eye contact.

11/ Write a short but sincere thank-you note to your friend’s family after an important dinner or social engagement which you attended as their guest.

12/ Study the Book of Proverbs, which tells you what you need to know about leading a life pleasing to God.

Readers will have their own pointers to add — feel free to comment.

In any event, I wish singletons everywhere all the best in finding Mr — or Ms — Right!

My apologies to readers who have left comments during the last few days.  My time online has been limited the last few days, hence the delay in my approving your messages.

On this subject, a tip for my fellow bloggers who like to keep posting daily or routinely: try to have a few days’ worth of posts scheduled to appear so that, if unforeseen events do occur, you can keep the blog going.

Nothing is more unsettling than to find that someone who posts often just … deletes their work.  Around a year ago, I used to visit Geneva Redux quite a lot.  I ended up following his posts on John Gresham Machen quotes and bookmarked quite a few along with his H L Mencken quotes.  A couple of months ago, I saw that Geneva Redux disappeared from the blogosphere.  Goodness.  Just when I was ready to tell you the Machen story.  My question: is it really necessary to delete one’s blog?  Why not conclude it with an exit post and say, ‘Please feel free to use this as a resource’?

Then, whilst reading Reformation Anglicanism, I saw that Dr R Scott Clark of Heidelblog had turned off his comments facility.  Dr Clark’s blog is one of my weekly stops along the internet highway and one of the first Christian blogs I began reading regularly.  His readers also add a lot to his posts.  Therefore, it is disappointing to see that this has been interrupted.  I realise that he has had some challenges with comments, although this would appear to be more evident to him than to his readers.  At the beginning of this year he announced that he would no longer accept anonymous comments, meaning that you had to use your real name going forward, even if you had an existing blog and left halfway decent comments.

Fair enough.  After all, as we say in London, Heidelblog is his manor and he’s the guv’nor. Yet, adding a name to one’s comment doesn’t necessarily mean that what one has to say is worthwhile or that one will even stand by it and, as Dr Clark put it, ‘take responsibility’ for what one says. (And, yes, despite all this, he did have a chap trolling under a real first name at the end of August.)  Along with his many faithful readers, I hope that his comments break is a temporary one and wish him all the best with his other projects.

This is Americana for you. Some Americans have particular difficulty understanding why people use pseudonyms when blogging.  It’s as if anyone who chooses to do so is being disingenuous or insincere by definition.  If you find that you can blog under your real name and hold down a job in the secular world, then count yourselves lucky.  Here in Europe, things are less clear-cut.  Many lay Christian bloggers use pseudonyms in order to keep their jobs or maintain the possibility of future employment.  I suspect, the way things are going in the United States, the same may soon be true there.  I know that it’s not easy for some men of the cloth, like Dr Clark, to understand. (Then again, others manage to — quite graciously.) Yet, anyone  wishing to have a go about ‘anonymous’ (I use the term advisedly) comments, has only to quickly check the blog of origin.  It takes seconds.   Who among bloggers has the right to know someone else’s identity?

Americans forget that their nation was built on anonymous patriotic pamphlets during the Revolution.  ‘Oh, but things are different now, Churchmouse.’  Are they?  I wonder.

In any event, best wishes to Dr Clark and for his continued success with Heidelblog.

Why the word ‘Americana’?  Because an American surgeon I had a nodding acquaintance with often used it as an answer to a question about life in the United States: ‘That’s Americana for you.’

America appears to be the only place in the West which has some rather strange Christian observances or customs.  These have sprung up only in the past 10 or 15 years, as they were happily absent from my youth.  Two which spring to mind are cultic headcoverings and attire for women.

Admittedly, the US — along with the rest of the West — has slipped into some ungodly habits and practices. Therefore, I can fully appreciate the urge to rectify this through moral living in the light of Christ. However, how far should a Christian go, especially women?

It used to be that we were brought up to ‘be in this world but not of it’:

And be not conformed to this world: but be ye transformed by the renewing of your mind, that ye may prove what is that good, and acceptable, and perfect, will of God.  (Romans 12:2)

So, we dressed modestly and tried, at least, to conduct our lives similarly.  As the Jamieson-Fausset-Brown commentary explains (same link as for the aforementioned verse):

… -new, considered as a whole, and in such a sense as to be wholly unattainable save through the constraining power of the love of Christ …

Such then is the great general duty of the redeemed-SELF-CONSECRATION, in our whole spirit and soul and body to Him who hath called us into the fellowship of His Son Jesus Christ. Next follow specific duties, chiefly social; beginning with Humility, the chiefest of all the graces-but here with special reference to spiritual gifts.

So, we dressed in a self-effacing way.  However, there was no need for Christian ladies to walk around in ankle-length dresses when the societal norm was to wear them knee-length.  No one did that when I was growing up because it would be seen as calling attention to oneself.  And that was certainly something one learned not to do.  Wearing an outfit that so extended the bounds of modesty as to look cultish was deemed just as bad as wearing a skimpy outfit in public. 

Now, there are religious sects, such as the Amish or Mennonites, whose laywomen have long made this a distinctive part of their religious practice, and, that’s fine.  But, recently, over time, mainstream Christian women have begun to adopt very long skirts which seem to advertise their modesty.  Would this go against the spirit of Romans 12:2?  The aforementioned commentary states (emphases mine):

by the renewing of your mind – not by a mere outward disconformity to the ungodly world, many of whose actions in themselves may be virtuous and praiseworthy; but by such an inward spiritual transformation as makes the whole life new – new in its motives and ends, even where the actions differ in nothing from those of the world  …

Can excessive modesty, therefore, end up being a form of immodesty?  Surely, what matters is a pureness of heart and mind relying on the gifts of the Holy Spirit in effecting an internal transformation.

The next point has to do with ladies’ headcoverings.  When I was growing up, all Christian ladies wore hats when they went to worship. (They also wore them when going shopping — watch any old movie and you’ll see that almost all women wore hats outside the house.  So did men when they went into town, but that’s another story.) By 1970, very few Christian women covered their heads in church (or in the high street).  My mother was one of the last stalwarts and lamented the day when she could no longer appear socially acceptable in church by wearing one of her modestly stylish hats. ‘I stick out like a sore thumb now,’ she said, ‘as if I were calling attention to myself.’  Again, we see the notion of modesty becoming immodesty.

Many prominent American ministers have been urging women to return to covering their heads in church.  Tens of thousands of words have been written about 1 Corinthians 11:1-16.  I shall include a few of the more interesting treatises following this post.

One of the more balanced exegeses of this chapter dates from the late 17th century.  Matthew Henry, in his Complete Commentary on the Whole Bible, explains the societal nuances for the Corinthians and for us.  If you read any explanation of this chapter, this is certainly the one.  Excerpts follow.  It is somewhat more nuanced than our contemporary preachers would give us to understand (emphases mine below).

First, on what headcoverings meant in Corinth versus 17th century England:

The thing he reprehends is the woman’s praying or prophesying uncovered, or the man’s doing either covered, v. 4, 5. To understand this, it must be observed that it was a signification either of shame or subjection for persons to be veiled, or covered, in the eastern countries, contrary to the custom of ours, where the being bare-headed betokens subjection, and being covered superiority and dominion.

Second, the reason why a man bares his head in church (the same still applies today):

The man that prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonoureth his head, namely, Christ, the head of every man (v. 3), by appearing in a habit unsuitable to the rank in which God has placed him. Note, we should, even in our dress and habits, avoid every thing that may dishonour Christ.

Third, the reason why a woman covers her head in church:

The woman, on the other hand, who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonoureth her head, namely, the man, v. 3. She appears in the dress of her superior, and throws off the token of her subjection.

Fourth, women’s hair:

She might, with equal decency, cut her hair short, or cut it close, which was the custom of the man in that age. This would be in a manner to declare that she was desirous of changing sexes, a manifest affectation of that superiority which God had conferred on the other sex. And this was probably the fault of these prophetesses in the church of Corinth.

Fifth, why closely-cropped hair was forbidden for Christian women:

It was doing a thing which, in that age of the world, betokened superiority, and therefore a tacit claim of what did not belong to them but the other sex. Note, The sexes should not affect to change places. The order in which divine wisdom has placed persons and things is best and fittest: to endeavour to amend it is to destroy all order, and introduce confusion. The woman should keep to the rank God has chosen for her, and not dishonour her head; for this, in the result, is to dishonour God. If she was made out of the man, and for the man, and made to be the glory of the man, she should do nothing, especially in public, that looks like a wish of having this order inverted …

Should there not be a distinction kept up between the sexes in wearing their hair, since nature has made one? Is it not a distinction which nature has kept up among all civilized nations? The woman’s hair is a natural covering; to wear it long is a glory to her; but for a man to have long hair, or cherish it, is a token of softness and effeminacy.” Note, It should be our concern, especially in Christian and religious assemblies, to make no breach upon the rules of natural decency.

Sixth, the divine and natural order of God and the sexes — God, man and woman, respectively:

… man is the image and glory of God, the representative of that glorious dominion and headship which God has over the world. It is the man who is set at the head of this lower creation, and therein he bears the resemblance of God. The woman, on the other hand, is the glory of the man (v. 7): she is his representative. Not but she has dominion over the inferior creatures, as she is a partaker of human nature, and so far is God’s representative too, but it is at second-hand. She is the image of God, inasmuch as she is the image of the man: For the man was not made out of the woman, but the woman out of the man.

Seventh, why the divine and natural order must be reflected in godly worship:

… she who was intended to be always in subjection to the man should do nothing, in Christian assemblies, that looks like an affectation of equality.

Recall that Henry said above that St Paul was objecting to women prophesying in church with their heads uncovered.

Eighth, as to the role of angels in this passage, Henry examines both sides of the question.  Some believed that evil angels were in play (e.g. unveiled women prophesying) and others pointed to the influence of good angels (e.g. that the gifts of the Holy Spirit were working actively in the congregation):

Now, believe evil angels will be sure to mix in all Christian assemblies, therefore should women wear the token of their shamefacedness and subjection, which in that age and country, was a veil. Others say because of the good angels. Jews and Christians have had an opinion that these ministering spirits are many of them present in their assemblies. Their presence should restrain Christians from all indecencies in the worship of God. Note, we should learn from all to behave in the public assemblies of divine worship so as to express a reverence for God, and a content and satisfaction with that rank in which he has placed us.

Note that Henry agrees in the mandate of female headcovering, he appears to be saying that the composition and proportion of such headcovering may differ:

which in that age and country, was a veil

Which is not to say that it necessarily must be a veil in our ‘age and country’. 

He goes on to say further down in the essay:

Custom is in a great measure the rule of decency.

Excessive modesty becomes immodesty.

Do you think Whistler’s Mother put on a nun’s veil to go to church to cover all her hair?  No, because that was not the custom in her time.  Later, in the late 19th century, a woman would have worn a large-brimmed hat to Sunday worship.  A mid-20th century woman may have worn a cloche or pillbox hat … because that was the custom.

So, our ladies need not look like Nation of Islam women or Catholic nuns in church. 

We are to obey the rules, but not in such a way that attracts undue attention to ourselves.  That is why a hat still does the job nicely.

For further reading:

Matthew Henry’s Commentary

‘Should Christian Women Wear Headcoverings Today?’ (Monergism)

‘The Woman’s Headcovering’ (Bible Researcher)

‘Head Coverings are not required for all Christian women’ (Shepherds’ Fellowship)

‘What is the Head Covering in 1 Cor 11:2-16 and Does it Apply to Us Today?’ (Bible.org)

‘Head Coverings in Public Worship’ (Reformed Online)

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