Posts Tagged ‘Society’

Bloodless Moralism – First Things Magazine

August 25, 2015

http://www.firstthings.com/article/2014/02/bloodless-moralism

Helen Andrews writes an interesting article about moral decisions in First Things magazine.  It essentially is a treatise on the current method of justifying moral decisions on the political and social theory level using statistics and heresy, and contrasts it with how the same decisions are made on the personal level. It implies that over-reliance on the statistical method can lead to absurdity. I agree. Here are some of my favorite quotes from it:

“We are hesitant, almost to the point of paralysis, about making moral claims on moral grounds.”

“During the Depression, the problems that government sought to address had mostly been brought to its attention by cries from below, expressed by people who could see the problem with their own eyes. From Kennedy’s presidency onward, bureaucrats armed with national statistics—then a fairly new phenomenon, not coincidentally—began searching their data for problems to solve, whether popular demand for such solutions existed or not.”

“When professionals put such zest and seriousness into persuading people that they have a problem that can be solved, several things can go wrong. It may be that the targets of their attentions have a problem that cannot be solved. It may be that they do not have a problem at all. Or it may be that they do have a problem and it can be solved, but it would be better for them in the meantime to be able to appreciate, relish, draw from, or find the richness in their problem instead of simply deprecating it. The professionals’ response to each of these three possibilities ends in false hope, false despair, or false resentment for the sufferers, yet ever greater self-satisfaction for their would-be saviors.”

“If the governor of New York were to promise to abolish stupidity within ten years, anyone hearing him would think, “Physician, heal thyself.”

“Membership in the lower class, for example, has never been a picnic, but it used to be something that a person could draw from and take pride in. Described in the terms that politics permits us to use today, as “socioeconomic disadvantage” (or worse, “lack of privilege”), it sounds like nothing more than a list of things to complain of.”

“During the Cold War, especially its early stages, the books written in defense of the Soviet model fairly bristled with statistics. Wisely, the West’s more effective defenders did not attempt to refute tractor-production figures from the Ukraine with tractor-production figures from Moline, Illinois. They made more fundamental points, like the difficulty of collecting accurate statistics in a police state, or the conclusiveness with which even accurate statistics are trumped by the brute fact of mass starvation.”

At a more Kirkian level of abstraction, there were such simple observations as: Our people are free, yours are not; we produce poetry, you produce propaganda; our cities are beautiful, yours are hideous. The equivalent arguments in the modern context might be (1) no amount of creative accounting will convince a sane person that you have made a money-saver out of a vast new entitlement like Obamacare; (2) no study could ever refute the fact that character is both a cause and a casualty of government-subsidized poverty; and (3) I will listen to econometricians as soon as you show me one that can write with more fluency than a high school sophomore.”

“…they have an idealized picture of the sciences as a self-policing community of disinterested truth-seekers with laboratories and databases and state-of-the-art modeling programs.”

Ron Paul’s Predictions

January 13, 2012

http://ahref=

No Customer Service for the Regular Folks – Enough Already!

February 8, 2011

Customer Service for the average citizen and consumer today may be summarized in three phrases:  One size fits all, get in line, and do it yourself.

One begins to wonder just who is behind the continuous dis-improvement of the products and services offered up by both government agencies and businesses.  Try calling a government agency and see if you can reach someone that even cares about your problem, or can even understand your problem, much less someone that can actually solve your problem.

And don’t look for relief amongst the commercial interests of the free market.  Just try to get someone on the phone (forget ever going into a business PLACE to get service) that can speak English well enough to be understood.  If the customer is #1, why can’t we get customer service after the sale?

There are exceptions, of course.  One I know of is USAA.  I have several accounts with them, and I have never had a problem with customer service with them.  They are friendly; they are Americans; they seem to care about my problems; they always solve the issue and communicate it in a way I can understand.  — AND THEY MAKE A PROFIT!!

So if USAA can make a profit while providing superior service to every customer, why can’t other businesses do it?

It seems to be either a matter of pure choice, or perhaps certain the government provides businesses with certain incentives to hire minimally trained, broken-english-speaking foreign workers to provide customer service.

No doubt some business managers are scared to death they might spend a penny more than they have to for customer service.  And I am certain that there are government-subsidized incentives to encourage them.

But what do we do about it?

One thing we can do is to speak out against it.  Refuse to accept it.  When we get a customer service rep on the phone that cannot speak clearly, or does not have the ability to help you, or the desire to help you, demand to speak to a supervisor.  There’s the old-fashioned letter to the editor, or to the Company President.

It’s time to stand up to the continuous minimalization of service birthed by the World planners.  Whether it’s TQM, Peter Drucker, ISO 9000, or whatever other program that’s behind the destruction of decent society, we’ve had enough of it, haven’t we?

Economics, Second Lesson: WORK, the First Foundation of Prosperity

August 27, 2010

For even when we were with you, this we commanded you, that if any would not work, neither should he eat. (II Thess 3:10)

 In case I haven’t said this before, I am not a professional economist (I make my living as a Military Education and Training Manager), nor do I have a degree in economics (but I do have a BA in Religion and Philosophy, Sterling College, 2010), nor has economics been the focus of the larger portion of my studies (that honor goes to the Bible and all things related to it).  However, a lifetime of observation, along with a couple of college courses in Economics, and a great deal of independent study has led me to certain obvious conclusions concerning economics.

 One of those obvious conclusions is that we (America) are NOT HEADED IN THE RIGHT DIRECTION!  How is that, you say?

 Well, let me summarize it this way:  We are violating God’s Word every day.

 No, that’s not hyperbole.  It’s no exaggeration.  Stealing is a violation of the 8th Commandment, and the U.S. Government steals every day.  We covered that in our first installment of our economic commentary.

 Another way we violate God’s world every day is by allowing people that will not work to have food.  Yes, you read that right.  The Bible plainly says that if anyone will not work, neither should they eat.

 Now to save myself from the indignation of those that may not understand this law, let me say that I do not wish or desire in any way that non-working people will begin starving in the streets of our country.  No, I do not mean that at all; nor is the biblical passage I quoted to be taken to that extreme, absolute understanding.

 The key to the passage is the word “would”, which indicates that the violators of this law is not those who cannot work, but those who will not work.

 Unfortunately, in today’s society, work has lost its full original meaning, its vital role in imparting meaning to life, and separating the human being from the automaton world of animals.  This and other higher purposes of work will be the subject of future installments, but for now I’ll concentrate on the most basic purpose of work – sustenance.

 The scripture with which I opened the post makes it very plain – if a person will not work, that person should not eat. 

 Is the Bible the Word of God?  I say yes, but I’ll let the read abide by his or her own conscience.  But let’s be perfectly clear that the biblical rule is plain.  If a person wants to eat, that person must work.  It’s just that simple.

 Many people have a dreamy, euphoric, utopian idea of God’s economy.  We’ve watched movies where people sit quietly around the feet of Christ and everyone seems happy and well fed.  But the fact is that Christ’s first disciples had to work to eat, the Church fathers had to work to eat, I have to work to eat – EVERYONE has to work to eat.  Those that eat but won’t work are stealing from those that do work.  This is a take-home truth for all people and societies, whether Christian or not.

 But again, this rebuke has nothing to do with people that cannot work, or has left off of working for an income because they have accumulated enough savings to do so, or are receiving a pension.  People that cannot work are to be the recipients of charity (a subject for a future post), and people with savings or pensions earned their income through work.  But this rebuke DOES apply to those who see nothing wrong with living off the labor of others.  Indeed, I will drive this home to our present situation.  I am advocating the total elimination of state-sponsored welfare.  Giving people who will not work money and food is a violation of God’s word.  Stop it!

Now, let me explain that the elimination of welfare must be accompanied by the elimination of the minimum wage.  The elimination of welfare and the minimum wage together would have the effect of practially ending unemployment.  Every able-bodied man would be expected to work, and most of them would gladly work.  Many men are on welfare, or selling drugs, or just bumming around that would work if they had an expectation of finding a job.  Not only would eliminating the minimum wage make jobs abundant, it would actually drive wages UP for many workers.  Money otherwise spent on over-paying part time teenage employees could be spent on better pay for experienced and skilled workers.  So we see that doing away with two American idols – welfare and the minimum wage – would bring about a tremendous boom in the area of economy and also in the area of societal morale.

We’ll continue our little discourse on work next time.  In the mean time, the reader should exercise his mind on the following article by Jordan Ballor on the Acton Institute website, access on 25 Aug 2010 at

 http://www.acton.org/pub/commentary/2010/07/28/lutheran-world-federation-misses-mark-work-and-wea

The eleventh General Assembly of the Lutheran World Federation wrapped up yesterday, and the theme of the conference was a petition from the Lord’s Prayer, “Give us today our daily bread” (Matt. 6:11). There was a good deal of reflection and self-expression from the hundreds of delegates gathered in Stuttgart, Germany, on topics related to global poverty and hunger. And while the assembly’s introduction explicitly noted the contribution of the German theologian Dietrich Bonhoeffer, the LWF meeting would have been improved if there had been a more substantive integration of Bonhoeffer’s views on the ecumenical movement, poverty, and work, into its proceedings.

 The LWF is a global ecumenical body consisting of 140 member churches in 79 countries, representing over 70 million Christians. The LWF, founded in Lund, Sweden in 1947, has much to learn from the legacy of Dietrich Bonhoeffer, who was executed in the prime of his life by the Nazis two years earlier. This year’s LWF assembly opened on July 20, the sixty-sixth anniversary of the failed Stauffenberg plot to assassinate Hitler, in which Bonhoeffer was implicated. This year also represents the seventy-fifth anniversary of one of Bonhoeffer’s most significant essays, “The Confessing Church and the Ecumenical Movement.” In this essay, Bonhoeffer challenges the ecumenical movement to identify itself as either an institutional form of the Christian church, with all the attendant responsibilities and duties, or as a simple gathering of interested Christians, with no binding authority or official purview.

In the latter case, says Bonhoeffer, the actions of such a group would have “only a neutral character, not involving any confession, and this conversation might only have the informative character of a discussion, without including a judgment or even a decision on this or that doctrine, or even church.” In the intervening decades, Bonhoeffer’s challenge continues to resonate, since the LWF, for instance, continues to waver between its self-understanding as an expression of Christian communion on the one side, and its political and social activism on the other.

The problem with the social witness of the LWF and the broader ecumenical movement is not simply that it addresses problems like hunger or poverty. It is, instead, the way in which it has done so, as typified in the recent Stuttgart meeting. Here we saw statements decrying “illegitimate debt,” the privileging of “profits over people,” and in the words of LWF general secretary Rev. Dr. Ishmael Noko, “the gap between those who do not have enough to eat and those who have far more than they need.” But beyond this kind of activist jingoism, or pietistic bewailing, there was precious little in terms of helpful analysis of the complex realities of a globalized world.

Rather than engage in the difficult work of providing a coherent and normative basis for responsible social proclamation, the LWF preferred instead — as is so often the case in the deliberations of mainline ecumenical groups — to point to “neoliberal globalization” as the structural injustice causing extreme poverty in the world. The missing element in the LWF’s poverty discussions, most recently at the General Assembly, has been a nuanced and comprehensive valuation of the role of creative work and entrepreneurship in the creation of material wealth. The social witness of ecumenical groups like the LWF have, for the better part of the past 50 years, consistently undermined work and labor as God’s order of blessings to provide material sustenance for humankind.

Bonhoeffer himself identified the mandate of “work” and “culture” (in the sense of human cultivation of God’s creation) as one of the four arenas (in addition to the family, church, and government) in which we fulfill our calling to serve God through our service to others. There are certainly cases in which God miraculously or specially provides material goods for our wellbeing, such as manna and quail from heaven (Exodus 16) or the seemingly bottomless baskets of bread and fish (Mark 6:30-44). But the regular means that God has graciously ordered in the world for meeting our physical needs is the realm of work.

We can see this in the Apostle’s injunction, “If a man will not work, he shall not eat” (2 Thess. 3:10). Far too little of the LWF deliberations about the nature of food and hunger, work and poverty, have focused on the role of human labor in economic relationships. The difference between the productive worker in a modern economy and the subsistence labor in primitive societies is the extent to which the worker and the fruits of his or her labor are brought into relationship with neighbors: local, regional, national, and international.

As the Reformed author Lester DeKoster writes in his little classic, Work: The Meaning of Your Life—A Christian Perspective, “Our working puts us in the service of others; the civilization that work creates puts others in the service of ourselves. Thus, work restores the broken family of humankind.” This connection of work to civilization is achieved through the kind of relationships made possible in a globalized world. And the ideological opposition to globalization manifest in the ecumenical movement would relegate the labor of those in the developing world to the margins of civilization itself.

As Bonhoeffer writes of the relationship between work and our daily bread, “the bread is God’s free and gracious gift. We cannot simply take it for granted that our own work provides us with bread; rather this is God’s order of grace.” It is precisely this “order of grace” that the developing world needs most, and the social witness of the ecumenical movement offers least.

 

Future topics: 

The Three Classes of Work:  Sustaining, Productive, and Fulfilling

Charity

The Elements of Prosperity: Work, Freedom, Innovation, Creativity, Rights.

Poverty:  Where the elements of prosperity do not exist, prosperity itself does not exist.

Economics, First Lesson: What’s mine is mine.

August 22, 2010

Is it not lawful for me to do what I will with mine own? (Matthew 20:15)

The first lesson of economics is not supply vs. demand, or the calculation of the M1 money supply, or the theory of equilibrium.

The FIRST lesson of economics is this: What’s Mine is Mine.

Here’s how it works:  Let’s say you and I agree that if I cut your grass, you’ll give me a chicken as payment.  So I cut your grass, and you give me a chicken. 

Question:  Who does that chicken now belong to? 

Answer:  Me.

Another question:  How much of the chicken belongs to me?

Answer:  All of it.

Do the feathers of the chicken belong to me?  Yes.  How about the beak?  Yes,  How about…well, you get it by now.

Now let’s say that instead of a chicken you agree to give me a check worth ten dollars if I cut your grass.  Having cut your grass, and having received the check for ten dollars from you, now how much of that ten dollars is mine?  Hint:  See the chicken story above.

You guessed it right if you said “All of it.”  YES!  Every single dollar of the ten dollars is mine, all mine, and no one else can have it!  I have earned exactly one thousand pennies, and they are all mine.

Okay Joel, you’ve made your point.  But have I?

We live in a society today that doesn’t seem to understand this basic principle, because there’s a group of highly armed and dangerous people that take my money by force every time I get paid.  And that group of people takes my money and divides it up among themselves and gives some of it to their friends. 

It’s sad but true – there are people that think they have an absolute right to my money.

But the fact is, my money is mine.  It doesn’t belong to the government.  The government has no rights to it.  It doesn’t belong to the poor.  The poor have no rights to it.  It doesn’t belong to my neighbor.  My neighbor has no rights to it.  It doesn’t belong to anyone but me. 

Government does not produce wealth, but is dependent on it, and takes away from it.  Government is non-productive overhead.  It may be necessary overhead, but the necessary aspect of government is a splinter of its current girth.

Nothing is more basic to certain unalienable rights than the right to what one earns.  This is the core of sound economy.  Unless America can ever get the genie back in the bottle, and repeal the sixteenth amendment, we will never have a sound economy and experience real individual freedom.

Opposition to the Mosque in New York City: Hysteria, or History?

August 20, 2010

Lately I’ve been identifying myself with the Libertarian branch of politics.  There are many good reasons for this, not the least of which is the Libertarian idea of the relative supremacy of individual rights.  For this I applaud them and support their effort to change America back into a decentralized, freedom-loving society.

But I continue to struggle with certain libertarian viewpoints – the same opinions that have kept me at bay for years – keeping away from any real association with the movement.

Thanks to an article by Eric Margolis on lewrockwell.com, my struggle has been renewed with vigor.  Margolis’ article entitled New York Mosque: Bigotry Rears Its Head seems to disregard one of my primary axioms of truth, and an axiom that I would expect libertarians woul confirm:  Ideas have consequences.  A parallel to this concept is my own construct which is related:  Nothing happens in a vacuum.

What I mean by this is that libertarians often speak of economic and political actions as if they were inanimate phenomena unrelated to history.  For example, the reason the socialists can take advantage of poor people is because it is a fact of history that poor people have been abused and exploited not only by government officials but also by ambitious “entrepenuers” that have used up their employee’s energies and discarded them at the first sign of weakening.  This is not to be taken as an attack on free market principles;  rather, it is a statement of historical fact that defenders of the free market must account for.

And so it is with Mr. Margolis’ opinion of the controversy surrounding the proposed establishement of a Mosque near Ground Zero in New York City.  

He speaks of “hysteria”, but is the real motivation behind the opposition to the mosque hysteria, or history.

He seems to suggest that public fear of Islamism is unfounded, that it is taking place as a knee-jerk reaction to near-time events, that 9-11 was a one-time anomaly, an exceptional case of violence, the proponents of which violence will simply go away if ignored.

But such is not the case, for ideas have consequences, and nothing happens in a historical void.  The populace of the Western World may not be brilliant, but they are not stupid.  We know that Islamic violence has a historical track record dating back many centuries, and it is founded not in the whims of a splinter group of cultists that are cut off the main stream middle, but is founded largely in the prescriptions of its founding documents.  Furthermore, these violent prescriptions found in their holy words were validated by the actions of its founding fathers.

One only need to briefly review the circumstances surrounding President Thomas Jefferson, an icon of libertarians, and his battles with piracy along the Barbary Coast, and Tripoli’s declaration of war upon the United States to see the long history of conflict that this country has had with Islam.

Gary Demar notes the conflict as follows:

In vain Jefferson and Adams tried to argue that America was not at war with Tripoli. In what way had the U.S provoked the Muslims, they asked? Ambassador Abdrahaman went on to explain “the finer points of Islamic jihad” to the Koranically challenged Jefferson and Adams. In a letter to John Jay, Jefferson wrote the following:

The Ambassador answered us that it was founded on the Laws of their Prophet, that it was written in their Koran, that all nations who should not have acknowledged their authority were sinners, that it was their right and duty to make war upon them wherever they could be found, and to make slaves of all they could take as Prisoners, and that every Musselman [Muslim] who should be slain in battle was sure to go to Paradise. (http://americanvision.org/3373/thomas-jefferson-and-the-ground-zero-mosque/).

We the People believe in individual freedoms, and in the right of religious groups to purchase property to practice their religion, but we are not stupid.  We are fearful of Muslem expansion. And why shouldn’t we be fearful?  I supposed a philosopher might ask, “Is that fear rational?”.  To which we I would reply, “if your neighbor’s dog has attacked you on several occasions, would it be rational to have no fear of him?”  Mr. Margolis cannot rationally explain why the people’s fear of Muslims is unfounded. 

Some have argued that radical, violent groups and individuals are but a small minority of the millions of practicing Muslims.  I am fairly certain that this is true.  However, it is not the millions of Muslims that are more interested in getting their work done and earning their daily bread that are manning the battle stations in the Jihad.  It is Islamic leaders that have either outrightly called for violence or have stood silently by while it is executed that have made Islam the leading menace against civilization that it is today.

And in the case of those Islamic leaders that are in fact peacible toward non Muslims and are willing to participate in Western society to the highest degree that their religious convictions will allow, I will offer to them my greatest critique.  I say greatest critique because it is one thing for a bloody man to have no conscience toward his deeds, but it is a greater sin for those that do have a living moral conscience to remain silent in the face of the hatred and slaughter.

But I can understand their trepidation.  I suspect that any Islamic leader that boldly denounces the violent factions of his own religion immediately becomes a target of that same violence.  Assuming this is the case, then the only way to progress is for some, many, yea, all of them, to pull up to the line and make their stand, which may cost them their own blood before peace can be found.   

We Christians had our own version of it – it was called “The Reformation”.  Christian blood flowed at the hands of fellow Christians for centuries, till we finally came to ourselves and starting to actually believe the Bible’s admonition that “Faith works by love”, and to obey God’s command to “love one another”.  Maybe the time has come, after so long, for an Islamic Reformation.  Yes, that’s the thing – a Reformation along the lines of the Christian Protestant Reformation – a complete overhaul of the system, of the way of thinking about the freedom on an individual’s conscience, a resetting of the norm.  But alas!  We have those scripts in the Koran to be dealt with, we have the legacy of the Islamic fathers to be dealt with.  Is reformation even possible given these obsticles?  The Christian Reformation was fueled by the overwhelming encouragement of the Christian text, and the superlative loving example of our Founder, the Lord Jesus Christ.

I cannot say whether changes on a grand scale are possible in the Islamic world.  I am hardly an amature, much less an expert, on the internal workings of the Muslim religion.  But am I wrong to hope for such a change?

Of course, as a Christian, I see the greatest hope for change among Muslims as the promise of forgiveness of sins offered in the blood of Christ.  But I’m a realist – I know that the idea of a substitutionary atonement is regarded as blasphemy to a Muslim.  In the Muslim view, one must atone for oneself.  For someone that did not commit the sin to pay for the sin of another is an aggregious injustice.

The thing is, IT IS AN AGGREGIOUS INJUSTICE!  That is the very wonder and glory of God!  That the sinless Christ would pay for the sins of guilty man.  How else shall man be justified before Holy God?

In any case, centuries of Islamic violence, whether justifiable or not, have tainted that religion’s reputation, and millions of people live in perpetual fear of the “religion of peace”.  It is for this reason that the opposition to the establishment of a Mosque near the site of the World Trade Center destruction is the only rational position a thinking person can take; supporting it is completely irrational, and exposes one’s anti-Western/American bias.

History tells us where are, because it shows us where we have been.  Ideas have consequences, and nothing happens in a vacuum.

The Failure of Socialism in Buffalo NY

August 19, 2010

 If you don’t want to know what’s going on in the world, then click out of this web site and find something on the internet about Snooky.  It shouldn’t be hard.  But if you want your eyes opened to the cruelty of machine politics and the failure of socialist economics, then take the time to read James Ostrowski’s essay entitled What’s Wrong With Buffalo: A Rothbardian Analysis, which can be accessed on the Lew Rockwell website at http://www.lewrockwell.com/ostrowski/ostrowski99.1.html.

 Yes, it’s longer than what you’re probably used to reading on the internet, but I cannot recommend it too highly.  It takes political and economic theory and examines a real-world, specific case in the light of libertarian economic principles.  Libertarian economic principles are represented in its best and purest form in the “Austrian” school of economics.  We will be saying more about Austrian economics as Providence allows, but for now let’s start by offering a small excerpt.  But please read the whole essay as you have opportunity.

Let’s look in more detail at why socialism, or liberalism as we call it in the United States, is so popular. The reasons are not complicated. First, socialism allows people to spend other people’s money. Let’s avoid the word “steal” other people’s money, because only libertarians see it that way. Nevertheless, however socialists justify this spending, even they realize they are taking other people’s money. Yes, I know some socialists deny the very concept of private ownership. But even they realize that socialism takes money and property that is possessed by some and transfers possession to others so they can spend or use it.

Reason No. 1: Socialism allows people to spend other people’s money without feeling guilty about it.

Second, there is a related but distinct craving that animates socialism, as noted by many commentators. Envy is a strong emotion that has a powerful impact on society and politics. Envy is “a painful or resentful awareness of an advantage enjoyed by another joined with a desire to possess the same advantage.”  (Webster’s New Collegiate Dictionary). Because no one admits to acting on the basis of envy, the term “equality” – robbed of its original and legitimate meaning, equality of liberty – is used instead. Socialism is the perfect political expression of envious people as it purports to rein in “greedy” and wealthy capitalists and usher in social and economic equality. When socialists and liberals want to steal people’s money, they call the victims “greedy.”

Reason No. 2: Socialism satisfies the deeply-felt and widely-held emotion of envy.

Third, free market capitalism emphasizes the individual’s responsibility for his own economic welfare. Socialism professes to place this responsibility outside the individual and with the state. Many people are happy to be rid of this burden and glad to be able to blame others for their problems. Unlike Reasons No. 1 and No. 2, this reason for the popularity of socialism is one trumpeted by its proponents. They do not see the obvious downside of the structural reduction of individual economic responsibility: laziness, profligacy, passivity, and worst of all: boredom!  Life in the advanced welfare state is a big bore. Check your brain at the door; pick up your check on the way out.

Reason No. 3: Socialism purports to relieve people of the burden of worrying about their economic well-being.

Finally, in a secular age, socialism acts as a substitute for religion. Traditionally, religion would offer solace to people facing the numerous traumas of life. Now, for millions of people, socialism plays that role. “For who would bear [Hamlet’s] whips and scorns of time, the oppressor’s wrong, the proud man’s contumely, the pangs of despised love, the law’s delay, the insolence of office and the spurns that patient merit of the unworthy takes, when he” could overcome all these problems with socialism? 

Utopian socialism – all socialism is utopian – purports to offer a solution to virtually all human problems. In contrast, the claims of capitalism are seen as too modest, and hard work is required as well. There is no need to quote a Marxist on the all-encompassing promises of socialism. Lyndon Johnson will do fine. In an Orwellian speech given on May 22, 1964, President Johnson promised that his Great Society would “pursue the happiness of our people,” conquer “boredom and restlessness,” and satisfy the “desire for beauty” and the “hunger for community.”  All this and beat the Viet Cong, too. Amazing!

Reason No. 4: Socialism is a secular substitute for religion and offers people (false) solace against the traumas of this life.

These are some of the main reasons why socialism, in spite of its spectacular failure, remains so popular, even in a society such as ours whose fabulous wealth is the result of the shrinking capitalist remnants of the economy.

Douglas Wilson on Popular Culture

August 7, 2009

Disclaimer:  I don’t follow Federal Vision theology. 

However, Douglas Wilson, who does, is a brilliant communicator of truth nevertheless. 

The following articles is a peak into this great mind speaking on a rather tired yet ever-important subject.

The article is copied from the blog “Blog and Mablog”, found at:  http://www.dougwils.com/index.asp?Action=Anchor&CategoryID=1&BlogID=6807.

 

 

Unleashing Your Inner Fundamentalist

Topic: Sex and Culture
Suppose that John R. Rice, during his Sword of the Lord days, accidentally took a couple hits of acid, and prophesied wildly about what would happen down the road if women quit wearing their hair in a bun, and started wearing slacks like crazy. Suppose he got really out there, and promised us all that the day would soon come when men would be marrying men, and women women. He said that people would begin paying surgeons to cut perfectly good organs off so they could justify wearing a dress, and that Secular Man, in solemn assembly, would pronounce the results to be a surgically-altered good. And the evening and the morning were the weird day.

Suppose he had done that. The results have refuted his predictions exactly . . . how? If we added up all the dire predictions that the fundamentalists have made down through the years, what about them didn’t happen? Fundamentalists are the cassandras of American cultural life. Back when everything seemed so stable in its Eisenhowerishness, the fundamentalist would say that everything was soon to be headed for hell in a handbasket. Ho, ho, ho was the cogent reply. Now here we are bouncing along in the handbasket, with some of the more gifted of our number getting grants from the National Endowment for the Humanities to puke over the side of the handbasket as we bounce along. “This small performance is one I like to call ‘Seasickness Against the Absolute.’ Thank you, thank you!” And a fundamentalist in the corner says, “You know, I don’t see how you can call that art.” Everybody, all together now, ho, ho, ho!Fast forward to our day. When people object to tattoos, or jewels stuck in odd places, and someone objects to the objection by saying that back in the day they used to object to slacks for women, what about this makes it seem like a strong argument? Now before anyone rushes to the keyboard in order to type I can’t believe . . ., let me say that I do believe the fundamentalist argument is simplistic and inadequate. But compared to the arguments for getting the tats and other badges of the moment, the fundamentalists come off looking like Derrida on one of his subtler days.

A fundamentalist woman in a sun bonnet and a gingham dress, who gets a wicker basket to go pick blueberries, so she can bake her man a pie, with a golden crust, the kind he likes, may be a little bit hokey for your tastes, and certainly for mine. But at least she is trying to achieve an effect that the Bible says women should strive for — she wants to be modest and discrete. She is not trying to achieve an effect that the Bible never urges women to strive for, as in “edgy.” Or “provocative, but not too skanky for an evangelical.” She may be playing the instrument badly, but at least she is playing the right one. Suppose the Bible tells women to play the piano. This does not make every woman an accomplished pianist, but I do have respect for every woman who practices the piano, blunders and all. But the women who show up with a leaky concertina they got at Goodwill are trying to do something else. In other words, let us make a distinction between doing the right thing badly, and doing the wrong thing well. And, as Herodotus might say, so much for the fundamentalists.

Let’s talk for a moment about establishment worldliness, as distinct from organic food, tattooed, burlap shopping bag, NPR-listening worldliness. There is country club worldliness, and there is earth muffin worldliness. When I tag tats and odd jewelry as worldliness, as I have most certainly done, the response is often that women who have their nails done by Pierre at the salon for six hundred dollars a minute can be worldly too. There is a two-fold response to this. The first is sure, worldliness is quite possible there, and at this ostentatious level, inevitable. But what is that to you? You follow Christ. The fact that she shouldn’t be at the salon doesn’t mean that you get to go to the tattoo parlor. And secondly, this kind of monied worldliness is the result of a real failure in the right area, as opposed to success in the wrong one. Bear with me for a minute.

The Bible calls upon women to be sober (Tit. 2:4) and discrete (Tit. 2:5). They are to live in a way that provides no occasion for others to speak reproachfully (1 Tim. 5:14). Their demeanor should be characterized by shamefacedness (1 Tim. 2:9) and sobriety (1 Tim. 2:9). It is important to note that the word translated shamefacedness is aidous, which does not denote an Islamic browbeaten demeanor. That said, neither does it constitute an invitation to go ahead and buy a halter top that is two sizes too small. The word is not that elastic, unlike the halter top. In this same verse, the ESV says that women should wear respectable apparel. The word is one of those judgment-call words.

Who makes the judgments? The Bible says that older women should teach younger women how to achieve that effect, an effect we can sum up with the word respectable. Strikingly, it does not call upon the younger women to push the envelope until the older women finally say something critical about it. Again, the older women are to help the younger women try to achieve a modest respectability. The younger women are not called upon to demand the older women prove that something or other is not positively disreputable. According to the Bible, respectability is the goal. This means that the wife of the country club president is being worldly as she tries too hard to be respectable, with results that are too flashy. And she shouldn’t do that — she is playing the piano poorly. But a woman who is schlepping around the supermarket in sweat pants is playing the concertina, and it doesn’t matter if she is playing poorly or well.

Clothing and jewelry are all forms of communication. They are a form of language. Some elements of communication and language are universal — such as laughter or weeping. Other forms are culturally determined, such as a phonetic collection of sounds that mean an obscenity in one language and doorknob in another. When someone inveighs against tattoos, as I am more than willing to do, the resultant dispute often gets dragged into a debate over whether there is a deep structure to this, like laughter (as I believe), or not. But this usually happens with the objectors bringing an assumption that if it is not a universal sort of thing, then it is entirely arbitrary, and nobody can say anything about it. But the fact that English obscenities are not obscenities in every language does not grant one the right to stand on the street corner, yelling them at the passing motorists.

There is a deep, human way of showing respect, and there are particular linguistic ways of doing so. The Bible requires us to use both and to honor both. And the Bible says that younger women should learn about respectability from older women, and not the other way around. Any system of propriety-definition that has to say that the younger women know more about it than do the older women has scratched at the starting line. Whether we are talking about creational language or cultural language, showing honor and respect are the fixed goals. We shouldn’t be distracted by the creational/cultural debate such that we allow in a different goal entirely just so long as “it is not a sin in every culture.” A Christian woman may not adorn herself in a way that is flippant, lazy, disrespectful, or irreverent. And if she has an honest question about something that seems on the line, she should ask her grandmother, not her fourteen-year-old cousin.

Now I am prepared to argue that bodily mutilation and tatting is a necessary manifestation of cultural unbelief (Lev. 19:27-28; 1 Kings 18:28; Gal. 5:12). Idols always bring the knives with them. God created man in His image, like a priceless Durer woodcut, and so the devil brings the marker pens to doodle with. But suppose for a moment that this is all wrong, and that hypothetically and postmillennially there could be a culture someday in which tatting up your thirteen year virgin with dragon pictures was a practice that God the Father thought was swell, and about time the Holy Spirit added, encouragingly. It still remains true that in our culture, in English, nothing says trailer trash like a halter top and a tat. And when you get a nose stud, you are a lot closer to Brittany and Paris Hilton than you were before, and farther away from all the fifty-year-old church ladies. Which, come to think of it, may have been the whole point.

Posted by Douglas Wilson – 8/5/2009 5:51:27 PM