Thursday, December 27, 2007

Lawrence Auster gets it right on You Know Who

When Auster is good, he's very good. He says he's been pressured recently by some correspondents to support Him Who Must Not Be Named. (That's the candidate with the initials R.P. who has a Zombie Army that descends upon you if you put his name into a blog post title and criticize him.) Now, as Auster says, he's been an anti-Rockwellian all this time; why should people think he'll suddenly support the uber-Rockwellian candidate for president now? But the Zombie Army is persistent. They think if you're a small-government conservative it's just inexplicable that you wouldn't support their candidate. So they've provoked Auster into saying some good stuff.

The reason it's especially interesting is because the discussion applies to several bigger issues where the paleolibertarians and paleoconservatives have their ideologies, like the Islamist threat and the "blowback" theory, as well as U.S. relations with Israel. In the thread I learned that R.P. voted against a resolution (of which I admit I haven't read the text) condemning the Iranian president's holocaust denial. Auster, by the way, takes the Iranian threat to Israel very seriously, which is interesting in itself. Of course, R.P. and his supporters say the Holocaust denial resolution is political, is unnecessary, is just symbolic, etc. (I wonder how many of them were up in arms over the refusal, based on similar reasons, of GOP Representatives to support the condemnation of the Armenian genocide. Hmmm?)

I also saw in the VFR thread a reference to R.P.'s interview with Russert in which he actually denies that "Muslim fanaticism" is the problem when it comes to terrorism. Wow! (I did see it in the VFR thread originally, but now I can't find it there, so here's the partial transcript from a different link.) Now we're not only not allowed to say that Islam is the problem. We're even supposed to deny that Islamic extremism is the problem! No, according to R.P., the "litmus test" (for what?) is whether we are occupying Islamic "holy land." Uh-huh. It's all back to that "poor, poor Muslims. We've had troops stationed in Saudi Arabia, so what could OBL do over in Afghanistan but fly into a saffron-colored rage and send his charming boys to murder thousands of our citizens?"

Auster makes what is to my mind an extremely shrewd comment. He says that since paleolibertarian ideologues (but I repeat myself) hate the U.S. government because of interventionist foreign policy, they assume that the Islamists are like themselves and hate the U.S. government for the same reason. I also thought this comment was extremely good: "As I've been pointing out for years, scratch a person who claims merely to want the U.S. to be neutral and uninvolved vis a vis Israel and her enemies, and 99 times out of a hundred you'll find something else."

To me this is all something of a relief. After all, no one can accuse Auster, of all people, of being a war-mongering Bushite yes-man! Not by a long shot. But he has the paleos' number.

Oh, I almost forgot. For humor value, here's a great Don Feder post giving sample honest campaign ads for all the candidates. If you are a liberal, you won't like it. If you are a conservative, you will find it very funny.

Update (correction): Christopher points out in the comments that the interview I have linked for RP is actually with John Stossel, not Tim Russert. I apologize for the error and even more for the carelessness that led to the error.

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

New Christmas Music Pick for this year: Mannheim Steamroller

And a happy Feast of Stephen to everybody.

Speaking of St. Stephen's Day, we now have a new great Christmas CD: This one, Mannheim Steamroller's first, apparently. And it has the world's most fun rendition of "Good King Wenceslaus." Mind you, it doesn't seem to have much to do with the Duke of Bavaria who forgave his murderous twin brother with his dying breath. More kickin' than that. But we have to have fun sometimes, especially at Christmas. The CD was my husband's request for a Christmas present. The last version of "God Rest you Merry" on the CD is also exceptional, as is "Silent Night." The audio clips on Amazon don't do it justice, so I didn't know if I was going to like it. One of the best things about it is its variety. I like that Olde Renaissance Faire style (cum authentic instruments) occasionally, but in moderation. So before you have time to get tired of it, the Steamroller moves back to a straight 1980's blasting synthesizer sound that makes you want to dance. I'm now dying with curiosity to know what Chip Davis means in the liner notes by referring to his "toys" which include instruments (are they?) that I've never heard of, like "dry ice" and "dots and lines." (The official editorial reviewer on Amazon is rather snooty: "Depending on your point of view, Christmas is either a quaint sonic time capsule extracted from the mid-1980s or a timeless holiday classic." We're voting "timeless Christmas classic" around here. I don't recall buying any of that guy's music recently, so perhaps he should defer to Chip Davis, who seems to know what a Christmas classic sounds like.)

I also heartily recommend this book for your young kids, grandkids, nephews and nieces, etc. It looks at first blush like just another baby-Jesus-in-the-hay picture book for children, but it's actually something much better than that. Paul Maier is a real historian, and the emphasis of the book is on the historicity of the Christmas story. As you can imagine, this makes it much appreciated in the McGrew household. The paintings are beautiful, too, with the only newborn-looking Baby Jesus I've ever seen. The book was a present from my mom and dad.

Finally, here's the collect for St. Stephen's Day from the BCP:

Grant, O Lord, that, in all our sufferings here upon earth for the testimony of thy truth, we may stedfastly look up to heaven, and by faith behold the glory that shall be revealed; and, being filled with the Holy Ghost, may learn to love and bless our persecutors by th example of thy first Martyr Saint Stephen, who prayed for his murderers to thee, O blessed Jesus, who standest at the right hand of God to succour all those who suffer for thee, our only Mediator and Advocate. Amen.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

Merry Christmas!

And the word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father, full of grace and truth.

Thanks be to God!

A blessed feast of the Nativity of Our Lord to my readers.

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

Terminology shift--Jerusalem now part of the "West Bank"

Terminology shifts in the news media are interesting. They often signal historical changes in the wind. Now we find that the relatively conservative Washington Times has referred to neighborhoods in Jerusalem as "settlements in the West Bank."

Let me stress this: These are not far-outlying suburbs of Jerusalem. These are Jewish neighborhoods within the city limits of the city that is Israel's own capital, and apparently not even right at the edge, either (if that mattered). All of Jerusalem is governed by Israeli law. People who live in Har Homa (the neighborhood in question) are literally just Israeli citizens living within Israel's own capital city. That's it. And the building in this neighborhood was approved ten years ago. (Again, if that mattered.)

Now, I'm very interested in being corrected if I'm wrong, but as far as I know it has not previously been part of standard practice in the American MSM to refer to any part of Jerusalem proper as "the West Bank." Certainly even I, ignorant though I have been in the past of the entire Israeli situation, would have thought of "the West Bank" as being outside of Jerusalem. Israeli blogger Carl in Jerusalem confirms that the MSM has not previously referred to any part of Jerusalem proper as being "in the West Bank." Of course, Israel is so narrow that perhaps the entire country could be thought of as "the West Bank" of the Jordan river, if one construes "bank" broadly enough. An ominous thought.

But now we have Condoleeza Rice having a snit over building in Jewish neighborhoods within the city limits of Israel's own capital, and an American official with the insufferable, sickening, almost unbelievable arrogance to say of this, "We don't like chastising people, but we don't want people to do anything to make us chastise them." And Olmert was apparently trying good and hard to give away East Jerusalem to the "Palestinians" for their own capital (read "new rocket-launching pad") at Annapolis, but somehow he didn't succeed in doing so. And Israel may be caving on a plan to build housing in a different neighborhood, also within the limits of the city of Jerusalem, in the face of Condi's wrath. So the Washington Times reporter gets the idea from all of this that the places over which all this fuss is being made must be properly designated as "settlements in the West Bank."

I don't want to make too much of one line in one article. But I think this may be a (bad) sign of things to come for the Jewish inhabitants of East Jerusalem...and, one way or another, of all of Jerusalem.

HT to Dhimmi Watch for the link to the Washington Times article. HT to Carl in Jerusalem for information on the location of these neighborhoods and for links to the Jerusalem Post. But I noticed the line about "settlements in the West Bank" and what it was referring to all on my own and am waiting for my "place in history" badge for having been the first to notice. :-)

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Hymn of the Week--O Very God of Very God

Here's one I owe solidly to the old Episcopal 1940 Hymnal. Never heard of it in the Baptist church, though there's nothing sectarian about it. And it's very beautiful.

O very God of very God,
and very Light of very Light,
whose feet this earth's dark valley trod
that so it might be bright:

Our hopes are weak, our fears are strong,
thick darkness blinds our eyes;
cold is the night; thy people long
that thou, their Sun, wouldst rise.

And even now, though dull and gray,
the east is brightening fast,
and kindling to the perfect day
that never shall be past.

O guide us till our path is done,
and we have reached the shore
where thou, our everlasting Sun,
art shining evermore!

We wait in faith, and turn our face
to where the daylight springs,
till thou shalt come our gloom to chase,
with healing in thy wings.

The tune is Welsh. Those Welshmen really know how to do tunes. Think of a few--"O The Deep, Deep Love of Jesus," "Jesus Lover of My Soul" (in Advent, good words to that one are "Watchman, Tell us of the Night"). A year or so ago I had a debate with someone on the proposition "Anglicans can't write tunes." I was arguing the negative side. (Clarification: This means I was arguing that Anglicans can write tunes.) My interlocutor told me I couldn't count any Welsh tunes!

This hymn raises the interesting question of the imagery of the sun and Christmas. There's no doubt that, as Christianity flourished in the Northern Hemisphere, the connection became very strong between the short days in winter and the darkness of the world awaiting the coming of Christ. One of my favorite lines in a Christmas carol is from the German carol "Es ist ein Ros"--"She bore to men a savior when half-spent was the night." This is an allusion to the phrase in the Christ Mass from the Apocrypha--"When the night was in the midst of her course, thine almighty word leaped down from on high." But the word "half-spent" in what I think is the best translation of the German carol (not, unfortunately, the translation used in the 1940 hymnal) is brilliant, combining the notion of midnight with the image of exhaustion.

But of course Christianity didn't originate in a country very far to the north. I've never lived in Israel, but by a quick and highly unprofessional look at the globe, it appears to be about on a latitude with Georgia, or perhaps Tennessee at the farthest. Not exactly the land of long, dark, cold nights of winter. And then of course there's the possibility that Jesus was born in the spring rather than the winter, which opens up a whole different historical can of worms.

God certainly foresaw the powerful darkness-light-sun motif for Christmas. Did he desire and intend it?

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Gaudete Sunday--with liturgical puzzle

Today is Gaudete Sunday. We were, however, snowed out of church today, so the only signs of Gaudete will be here at home, where we would have been lighting two purple candles and one pink today anyway.

The snow has stopped at something like six inches plus drifting, which really isn't too bad for this part of the world. And now the sun has come out gloriously. Hurts your eyes on all that beautiful snow. It's all very well for me to say "beautiful snow," of course. It's my husband who is going out to get milk and bread, if any is left in the store after storm-spooked shoppers were there yesterday. And it was Eldest Daughter who--for a wage she considers somewhat inadequate--shoveled the walks and driveway and brushed off her Dad's car. The hardest labor I'm doing today is laundry. But it looks pretty out there anyway.

Gaudete Sunday is the source of a small liturgical puzzle that no one I've ever talked to, nor some googling I've done in the past, has been able to solve: The introit contains the words, "Rejoice in the Lord alway," and that's why it's Gaudete Sunday. But those words appear nowhere in the readings for the day in the Book of Common Prayer. Now, that might not be so puzzling. The introit is often unrelated to the readings. The real oddity is that next week the Epistle reading in the Prayer Book is exactly that passage in Philippians 4, beginning "Rejoice in the Lord alway...the Lord is at hand." It seems to me like these must at some time have come on the same Sunday. After all, why consider one Sunday "Rejoice Sunday" in virtue of the introit but put the entire passage with those words on a different week when you're back in purple vestments again? But if so, when and how did they get separated? And which week was the original Gaudete--the third or fourth of Advent? (My bet is on the third.)

Just to be confusing and difficult, I'm going to put here next week's collect. This week's collect is about John the Baptist. Not a bad fellow, but not as great a collect as next week's. And I might be feverishly wrapping presents next week and not have time to blog. So, the collect for Advent IV:

O Lord, raise up, we pray thee, thy power, and come among us, and with great might succour us; that whereas, through our sins and wickedness, we are sore let and hindered in running the race that is set before us, thy bountiful grace and mercy may speedily help and deliver us; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be honour and glory, world without end. Amen.

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Bible Sunday--Hymns and collect of the week

I've been letting this feature languish, so by way of making up, this week I'll feature one collect and two hymns.

First, the collect. This is the week known as "Bible Sunday" from the collect for Advent II, an original composition by Cranmer for the 1549 Prayer Book:

Blessed Lord, who hast caused all holy Scriptures to be written for our learning; Grant that we may in such wise hear them, read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest them, that by patience and comfort of thy holy Word, we may embrace and ever hold fast the blessed hope of everlasting life, which thou hast given us in our Saviour Jesus Christ. Amen.

This is one of those bits of the liturgy whose phrases make it into speech occasionally (like "devices and desires" or "chances and changes"). You might have at some time heard someone say "read, mark, learn, and inwardly digest." It makes a good way to tell your students to pay attention to something, anyway.

Certainly one of the emphases of the Reformation was the sheer knowledge of Scripture, and one of the greatest gifts of my own upbringing was a comprehensive knowledge of the contents of the Bible. In my parents' home, we read the entire Bible through over the course of many family devotions. One of the big frustrations I can recall at the age of six was being forced to wear a patch over my good eye just as I was learning to read the Bible and thus having to read the small print with my bad eye. (The patch was supposed to correct a "lazy eye," but actually it was a completely useless exercise in frustrating a little kid who was just learning to read. That, however, was the doctors' fault, not my parents'.) There are many passages that still, despite the waning memory that comes once one has gone even a little way over the hill, I can continue to quote from memory if you get me started. All in the beautiful King James English, of course. I can't say I've quite given such a fully-formed treasure to my children, though we're working on it. The older ones have memorized a number of passages, and we just this year started a regular "Bible time" for Middle Daughter which is going very well. We've finished Acts and are nearly through John and Romans. I think we'll go to Hebrews after that. Just knowing what's in Scripture is a great guard against many-a heresy. I highly recommend it.

Speaking of knowing the Bible, I showed that I'm a bit rusty this morning. I was telling my family about one of the hymns we'd be singing in church that I thought they might not know or might not remember. It's "O Word of God Incarnate" and was chosen for Bible Sunday. (A bit odd to call the Bible the "Word of God Incarnate"; that should really be Christ himself. But the song gets it worked out in the end, referring to Christ as the "living Word.") I mentioned the ending, which I especially like: "O teach thy wandering pilgrims by this their path to trace/till, clouds and darkness ended, they see thee face to face." So I, trying to look learned and thinking vaguely of "Thou hast made us for thyself, and our hearts are restless until they find their rest in thee" said, "And it ends with a nice St. Augustine allusion," and proceeded to quote the line. "Sounds like a Paul allusion," said my husband. Er, right. And far more St. Paul than St. Augustine. What was I thinking? Obviously: "Now we see through a glass darkly, but then face to face"--I Corinthians 13. I've gotta watch that; don't want to start losing my familiarity with St. Paul and replacing it with St. Augustine!

So here's a nice, exceedingly meaty, Scriptural hymn for my second featured hymn, with words by none other than Charles Wesley: "And Can it Be." All the words are here, but a better version of the music is here. Click on "play music." I especially like that music recording, because it reminds me of some of the better hymn-playing pianists I've heard. Women can do that sort of thing well enough, with the big, moving bass line, but men do it best of all, because they have the big hands for it. Here's verse 1:

And can it be that I should gain
An interest in the Savior’s blood?
Died He for me, who caused His pain—
For me, who Him to death pursued?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?
Amazing love! How can it be,
That Thou, my God, shouldst die for me?

When I say "all the words" are at the cyberhymnal, I mean all. I really like John W. Peterson's 1968 hymnal Great Hymns of the Faith. I own thirty-some copies and use it for all our hymn sings, but one of my few gripes with it is that Peterson has cut out some of the words to "And Can it Be." And it isn't just whole verses that he cuts. That would be okay; some hymns do have too many verses to be printed or sung easily. But for some reason Peterson has cut the second half of all the verses other than verse 1 and replaced it with the second half of verse 1, beginning "Amazing love! How can it be..." as a chorus for all the rest of them. The version given in the cyberhymnal repeats the last two lines of every verse. The other hymnals I have here repeat only the second "Amazing love" pair of lines as a short chorus, so that all the unique words for all the verses are preserved.

Anyway, one of my favorites as a kid was the verse about the angels. (I'm printing it here with the short chorus.)

’Tis mystery all: th’Immortal dies:
Who can explore His strange design?
In vain the firstborn seraph tries
To sound the depths of love divine.
’Tis mercy all! Let earth adore,
Let angel minds inquire no more.
Amazing love! How can it be?
That thou my God should'st die for me?

An allusion to I Peter 1:12, where we are told that "the angels desire to look into" our redemption. Peter's quite a presence in the song. Until I saw the painting at the cyberhymnal site, I'd forgotten the verse about the dungeon flaming with light--an allusion to Peter's release by an angel in Acts 12. But St. Paul is all over the place, too: "Emptied himself of all but love"--the kenosis passage in Philippians 2. "No condemnation now I dread"--Romans 8. "Bold I approach th'eternal throne"--Hebrews 4:16. (And I am once again five years old, lying on my parents' bed, listening to Moody radio, and hearing a man's deep voice just before praying say, "Let us go now to the throne of grace...") In fact, you can go line by line through this hymn, as through others of Wesley's, and look up biblical allusion after biblical allusion. Yet they all fit together into poetry. You get the feeling that Scripture had become so much a part of Wesley and of his poetic gift that it just flowed out of him this way. I've known a few people (mostly, though not all, old people) whose talk sounded a bit like this.

Wesley's hymns are a gift to the world, and a gift to all Christians, from Protestantism. I don't know any other tradition that could have produced them, but all Christians can profit from them.

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Tudor and Neo-Gothic

A blessed Advent Sunday to my readers. I begin with the collect for Advent Sunday, to be repeated throughout Advent each week. It is one of Cranmer's masterpieces, composed by him (not, in this case, translated) for the 1549 Prayer Book.

Almighty God, give us grace that we may cast away the works of darkness, and put upon us the armour of light, now in the time of this mortal life, in which thy Son Jesus Christ came to visit us in great humility; that in the last day, when he shall come again in his glorious majesty to judge both the quick and the dead, we may rise to the life immortal, through him who liveth and reigneth with thee and the Holy Ghost, now and ever. Amen.

The Advent Sunday collect has all those Cranmerian things that a lover of the Prayer Book loves--the Scriptural allusions (in this case, to Romans 13, the epistle for the day), the request for those things that we ought to be asking for, even if we aren't, put in a way that most of us would never think of putting it, the inevitability of cadence and phrasing. It's all there.

Contrast that with the collect which the Anglican missal, an outgrowth in the 20th Century of the 19th Century Oxford Movement, places immediately thereafter in the liturgy:

O God, who didst vouchsafe that thy Word should be made flesh in the womb of the blessed Virgin Mary at the message of an angel, grant to us thy humble servants, that we, believing her to be indeed the Mother of God, may by her intercession find favor in thy sight, through the same Jesus Christ thy son, our Lord, Who liveth and reigneth with thee in the unity of the Holy Ghost, ever one God, world without end, Amen.

I will admit that it is difficult to separate my criticisms of style of this collect from my criticisms of substance, not to mention of logic. Even if one believed in the intercession of the BVM, isn't there something a little odd about asking God to let us find favor in his sight "through her intercession"? I mean, if you believed in prayers to the Virgin, wouldn't it make more sense to speak either to God directly or to the Virgin to request her intercession? The oddity of this prayer (as of virtually all such invocations of the saints in the Missal) lies in its curiously roundabout nature. It's rather as if one is saying to God, "Would you please ask the Virgin to ask you that I might find favor in your sight?"

Then there's that loong, drawn-out ending. Many of the original Prayer Book collects go straight to the "Amen." The one for this week has a little more to it, but is still restrained. But in the weirdly standardized mind of a Missal writer, we can never go straight to "Amen," much less vary our collect endings. All the added Missal collects have the entire spiel, "through the same thy Son Jesus Christ our Lord, who liveth and reigneth," etc., etc. There's nothing doctrinally wrong with it. It just gets tedious to tack it on to every single collect, and it shows a tin ear. Some collects should end in a more flowery fashion, some in a less flowery, depending on the sound of the rest of the collect. To make matters stranger, I see in my copy of the Missal that it is suggested that this exceedingly long ending be added to the Cranmerian collect, as well. To my mind, that sort of Procrustean treatment would be nothing less than liturgical vandalism. (But it's all of a piece: If the weekly Gospel is read strictly according to the Missal, every single Gospel reading must be introduced with the phrase "at that time," no matter how strange it sounds with what immediately follows and regardless of the fact that most of the passages don't actually begin that way in Scripture. Every single epistle reading has "Brethren" tacked on to the beginning in the same mindless and pointless fashion.)

I call these sorts of additions "neo-Gothic," whereas the Cranmerian liturgy is undeniably Tudor. And the result is the sort of architectural mix-up you would get if you built a neo-Gothic wing onto a Tudor building. Sometimes the feeling of strangeness arises from sheer aesthetic blindness on the part of the Missal authors. Sometimes it arises from attempting to reintroduce doctrines that were rejected by the Tudor Anglicans and to juxtapose those additiions with the more austere Protestantism of the original Prayer Book. Sometimes it arises from an oddly pointed and pushy insistence on doctrine. The Cranmerian collect for Advent Sunday is "merely Christian." The Missal collect is making sure we work in the intercession of the saints and, indeed, asks blessings only for those who believe such-and-such, in such-and-such terms, about the Virgin Mary. There is none of that feeling of inevitability, none of the flow of phrasing, that one finds in the Cranmer collect. And I venture to say (though here I may be wrong) that even a person who invokes the prayers of the Virgin himself would not have the sense almost of relief in participation which should be called forth by a well-written collect, the sense of gratitude to the fellow who wrote it for having said it for you. The Missal collect is programatic, choppy, unpredictable, and uninspiring.

Now, it's only fair for me to admit that the Cranmerian liturgy was itself an innovation, and a fairly massive one. Cranmer partly translated, partly cut and pasted, partly rewrote, and partly added to the Gregorian liturgy, and he did it for partisan Protestant purposes. It would be foolish to deny these historical facts. But Cranmer was a liturgical genius. The makers of the Oxfordish Anglican Missal most definitely aren't. The result of their efforts reminds me of what Dr. Johnson said of the metaphysical poets: "Heterogenous elements by violence yoked together."

Perhaps any liturgy that has stood the test of time should have a little note at the front in fine print: "This liturgy was written by a certified liturgical genius. Do not try this at home."

Saturday, December 01, 2007

What's (just one thing) wrong with Ron Paul, and several things wrong with George Ajjan

I used to be a big fan of Ron Paul. I was really pleased when I heard he was running in the primary and at first was considering voting for him. But really, I didn't know all that much about him. My attitude changed abruptly when I saw the now-infamous clip of Paul debating with Giuliani (for whom I hold no brief whatsoever) about the cause of 9/11. I kept listening through the whole clip, hoping Paul would clarify or something, that he really wasn't that confused, but it just kept getting worse. Well, that was it. Paul made it clear that he was one of those "blame America" paleolibertarians and that he doesn't recognize the Islamist threat, that he thinks non-interventionism can solve all our problems. It's a position with which I've been becoming increasingly familiar over the past year, so I recognized it right away in that clip.

Now, Paul didn't say anything there specifically about domestic policy concerning, say, Muslim immigration, "profiling," and the like. So someone really pulling for him might try to say that he'd be strong on those domestic issues and only objects to foreign intervention.

To that argument, I present this open letter to "Arab Americans" by George Ajjan in support of Ron Paul.

Ajjan is...terribly confused. (There, that was tactful, wasn't it?) He obviously thinks that getting (gasp!) profiled because of his last name is a much bigger thing to worry about than getting blown up on a plane by one of his fellow "Arab Americans." He also is just absolutely dying to bring Arab Christians and Arab Muslims together in a common cause against such evils--profiling, that is, not blowing people up. He has strangely little to say about that. He speaks without irony of "the Prophet Mohammed," and I swear by that point in the letter I nearly expected him to add "peace be upon him" in parentheses afterwards. Read it and see for yourself. It's very ironic that Ajjan begins the letter by making fun of Hugh Fitzgerald of Jihad Watch, though not by name, for using the term 'Islamo-Christian' and then proceeds to illustrate exactly what Fitzgerald means by that word. This whole "we Arabs are all in this together" stuff is really pretty disgusting, at least to a conservative.

I will pass by with arduous self-restraint and relatively little comment Ajjan's fantasy that the Israelis could have peace tomorrow if only they could get rid of their "militant elements" (which ones were those?) and make use of the principle of (drumroll) land for peace. Gosh! What a bodacious, new-fangled concept! Why didn't anybody ever think of that before, or try it? Unless, of course, Ajjan means by "land" what evidently the Palestinian Authority (those were the "moderate" Palestinians, in case you get confused) mean by "land"--i.e., all of the land between the Jordan River and the Sea. I suppose once that is turned over to the Arabs and made judenrein we might have peace...of a sort.

But I digress. What does all of this have to do with Ron Paul? Well, let's just start with the fact that Ron Paul was the only Republican candidate to court the Hezbollah-loving Arab American Institute at their conference in Dearbornistan. Here's a good Front Page Mag. article on it, for the link to which I am indebted to Mr. Ajjan! That's pretty significant in itself. Here's one bit of fluff, quoted by Ajjan, from Paul's speech:

The freedom message brings all of us together, whatever our religion is, or whatever our beliefs are, and wherever we came from, because freedom is not judgmental. It allows people to make their own choices as long as they don't use force to impose their will on us. So this brings people together, and this is what has been happening in this campaign. People from all walks of life are coming together.

Straightforward libertarian ideology, you may say, but libertarian ideology that takes on a peculiarly foolish, not to say dangerously stupid, ring when addressed to this particular audience! Then there's this little bit of challenging naivete:

For us to be so fearful and so intimidated from a country, whether it's Iraq or Iran, that they might attack us? How are they going to attack us, even if they had a nuclear weapon? How or why would they attack us?

One wonders what Paul would say to Iran's recent announcement that Iran has missiles that can go as far as Israel. I have a terrible feeling that I know what he would say: "It's none of our business."

And finally, there is this sentence, which is obviously part of Ajjan's reason for thinking Paul would protect people with his name against the horrors of profiling:

But we should NEVER have punishments because we belong to a particular group either.

What all of this says to me is that I was spot-on right about the implication of Ron Paul's words in that debate. And that, I might add, was before he started having such very unsavory followers in the form of neo-Nazis and such. My judgement there was a straightforward one about his judgement on matters of policy--that it is poor. Ron Paul, like so many paleos--whether -conservative or -libertarian--really doesn't believe that Muslims are any more dangerous than anybody else or that we need to have any special policy, either foreign or domestic, to take into account that threat. On the contrary, he is courting a group whose entire approach to Islamic terrorism is, as Robert Spencer points out in the article linked above, to start running about worrying that maybe somebody will be "profiled" and to act as though the enemy, and the center of all their anger and worry, should be their fellow Americans who are making obvious inductive connections rather than their fellow Arabs who are blowing people up and giving them a bad rep. In other words, Ron Paul is clueless on this subject.

And that's just one thing that is wrong with Ron Paul.

Saturday, November 24, 2007

One of the good guys?

I have just this week learned of the existence of Ian Douglas Smith, former Prime Minister of Rhodesia. I heard of him, because he died on November 21 at the age of 88; there were obituaries of him all over the web, and I ran into some of them at VFR.

He still exists, of course, though not on this earth.

No doubt all the members of my vast readership know all about Ian Smith, but I didn't previously, knowing very few details about the history of Rhodesia. In brief, Smith declared unilateral independence of Rhodesia from Britain in 1965, when Britain was pressuring Rhodesia to have universal sufferage and majority rule, rather than the white-only suffrage it had had since voting was known in Rhodesia. Smith resisted this change to the last. The Brits didn't want to go starting a war in Rhodesia (and who knows if, in 1965, they could have done so successfully), so there was a 15-year standoff during which guerilla fighters supporting (ta da!) Robert Mugabe harassed the Rhodesian troops, various forms of international pressure were exercised, and eventually Britain went ahead and held elections in 1979 or 1980 (not sure which) at which Mugabe was elected. I forget how much later Smith was forced out of politics.

Well, we all know what a wonderful success majority rule has been for everyone in Rhodesia--now Zimbabwe--since then. Under Mugabe's nasty leadership, the country has gone from prosperous and civilized to a near disaster area, and its citizens, black and white, are in a bad way. Smith maintained to the end of his life that history had vindicated his predictions on these points, and it's hard to argue with him.

Now, to some people, Smith's position on race issues and on democracy and the vote mean automatically that he was on the side of the bad guys--prima facie, a bad guy himself.

But to anyone who (like me) has read nearly all of the novels of H. Rider Haggard and several novels by John Buchan, plus Isaak Dinesen's Out of Africa and Elspeth Huxley's The Flame Trees of Thika, matters are by no means so simple. Because let's face it--there have been lots of people who on most contemporary models would count as racists, who believed in the white man's burden and all the rest of it, who were nonetheless basically very good people, heroic people even, who loved and respected the black people with whom they interacted, and who did immeasurable good in the world, and especially good for Africa and Africans. Reading Ian Smith's obituaries, I saw that he was, as one journalist put it, a man out of time. He harked back to the Victorians and Edwardians who were around when he was born and was growing up. And perhaps I'm just naive and too inclined to take eulogies at the time of a famous man's death at face value, but the picture they give is of an honorable, brave, decent, Christian man.

Herewith a few tidbits: Smith lived into the 21st century in the capital of Zimbabwe, just a few streets over from Mugabe's compound. He was an old man by then and could have been murdered at any time; to my mind it's a wonder he wasn't. Nonetheless, his door was open (literally, ajar) to all comers, black and white alike, and the black people of Zimbabwe came to him for help, which he gave as he was able. While a reporter was visiting him, a black woman came, an entire stranger to Smith, and walked in the door to ask his help for her sick daughter who had been turned away at the local hospital.

Smith's behavior in living where he did and how he did in those years may seem quixotic or reckless, but he had an answer to that, too: He said he was a lifelong Presbyterian, feared God, and believed in Divine sovereignty. Peter Hammond, the missionary who reported the above comment, remembers his driving up, while Prime Minister, to a club in the middle of town. He was alone, without any guards of any kind. He drove up in an old car, smiled at the 14-year-old Hammond standing outside, petted his cat, and walked into the club. This utter lack of ostentation could not have been more in contrast with Mugabe's manner of travel, detailed in the article. In the late 1980's, Smith called the (now grown up) missionary to meet him. Smith had heard that Hammond's organization was going to smuggle Bibles into Mozambique. He gave detailed advice on how to get in and out safely and carry out the smuggling successfully.

Jesus said, "By their fruits ye shall know them." If it's true that an evil tree cannot bear good fruit, then we ought to take seriously the possibility that Ian D. Smith was one of the good guys.

Rest eternal grant unto him, oh Lord, and may light perpetual shine upon him.

We also bless thy name for all thy servants departed this life in thy faith and fear, beseeching thee to grant them continual growth in thy love and service. And grant us grace so to follow their good example, that with them and with all thy saints we may be made partakers of thy heavenly kingdom.

O Lord, support us all the day long, until the shadows lengthen and the evening comes, and the busy world is hushed, and the fever of life is over, and our work is done. Then in thy mercy grant us a safe lodging, and a holy rest, and peace at the last. Amen.

Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Happy Thanksgiving!

For a Thanksgiving post, I can do no better than to quote the Book of Common Prayer.

Almighty God, Father of all mercies, we, thine unworthy servants, do give thee most humble and hearty thanks for all thy goodness and loving-kindness to us, and to all men; we bless thee for our creation, preservation, and all the blessings of this life; but above all, for thine inestimable love in the redemption of the world by our Lord Jesus Christ; for the means of grace, and for the hope of glory. And, we beseech thee, give us that due sense of all thy mercies, that our hearts may be unfeignedly thankful; and that we show forth thy praise, not only with our lips, but in our lives, by giving up our selves to thy service, and by walking before thee in holiness and righteousness all our days; through Jesus Christ our Lord, to whom, with thee and the Holy Ghost, be all honor and glory, world without end. Amen.

A happy Thanksgiving to my readers!

Sunday, November 18, 2007

A prayer for guidance

I apologize to my kind readers for having not updated here for a couple of weeks. I did post at What's Wrong with the World on a couple of topics: On the NRLC's nomination of Fred Thompson (I'm agin' it) and on my husband's and my recently drafted paper, "A Cumulative Case for the Resurrection of Jesus of Nazareth."

The regular weekly collects here toward the end of Trinitytide always seem a little generic to me. Maybe I'm just not paying attention. But I'm going to branch out and go to the back of the Prayer Book, to the section called "Forms of Prayer to be Used in Families" and to the part of that called "Additional Prayers." This section evidently is not in the English Prayer Book but is in the American one from 1789 onward. Word has it that it was taken from a compilation of prayers first put together by Archbishop Tillotson. It doesn't follow that he wrote them, of course. And it seems to me pretty evident that the prayers in this section are the work of many hands. They certainly do not sound Cranmerian. So probably there are learned people out there who know where each of them came from, but I don't. This particular one is labeled "For Guidance."

O God, by whom the meek are guided in judgment, and light riseth up in darkness for the godly; Grant us, in all our doubts and uncertainties, the grace to ask what thou wouldest have us to do, that the Spirit of Wisdom may save us from all false choices, and that in thy light we may see light, and in thy straight path may not stumble; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This prayer seems to me all by itself an answer to those who claim that written prayers stand between us and God and that extemporaneous prayer is the only way to speak to God personally. I hate indecision almost more than anything else. I always want to have some sort of backup plan, sometimes years in advance, in case the Plan A I have (also years in advance) doesn't work out. This prayer, it seems to me, is just what I would want to say to God when I'm trying to make a decision. So far from distancing me from God, it is a vehicle for the very request I want to make under those circumstances. Which is what a good liturgical prayer should be.

I could wish that, instead of some of the Oxford Movement-inspired additions to the liturgy that have come into High Church worship through the Anglican Missal, we could instead bring into our weekly liturgy some of these collects that are already in the Prayer Book and that have been there for so long. They don't particularly appeal to High Church sensibilities. If they were written by Tillotson, who would be quite unhappy at the Oxford Movement additions, this is only to be expected! But it doesn't matter. In fact, it's better so. In their grave, simple, and gentle wisdom, their sympathy for the human condition, and their application to that condition of the biblical injunction that we "come boldly to the throne of grace, that we may obtain mercy and find grace to help in time of need," the prayers from this section of the American Prayer Book can be an instrument of that Holy Spirit who helps us to pray when we "know not what we should pray for as we ought."

Thursday, November 01, 2007

Blessed All Saints

And a blessed Feast of All Saints and following octave thereof to all of you out there in readerland.

One of our autumn traditions around here is taking a walk on All Saints Day or thereabouts, preferrably kicking through the leaves on the sidewalk, and singing "For All the Saints" at the top of our lungs. I have this silly telling-stories-to-yourself fantasy: Imagine some elderly man who used to be part of the Anglican church in England when it was a lot better than it's gotten since and is living out an embittered retirement, for whatever reasons, in the U.S. Sitting in his quiet, lonely house one beautiful autumn day, he hears young voices outside the window singing a song he recognizes. He can scarcely believe his ears. He sticks his head out the window...Anyway, like that. Where we encourage someone. But so far we're just encouraging ourselves, which is good, too.

I love the hymn, but I haven't the energy to type out the many verses of the words. So here's the cyberhymnal link. This is the best cyberhymnal link I've heard yet--they really let you hear that great continuo written by Vaughan Williams. I'd never seen the third through fifth verses given here. Golly! That would be even longer than it is now.

Perhaps my favorite line in the hymn is "thou in the darkness drear their one true light." I always think of the persecuted Church when I sing that. This year the person I especially think of is Helen Berhane, beaten to the point of being crippled and imprisoned in a shipping container in Eritrea for two years in an attempt to get her to forsake her faith. She had plenty of "darkness drear," and in it He was her one light. She has finally found asylum in Sweden.

Here is the collect and proper preface for the day.

Saturday, October 27, 2007

Hymn of the Week--Saved by Grace

Some readers have mentioned that I should provide links to the music for the hymns I discuss. Unfortunately, many of them appear to be found only in the cyberhymnal, which provides a tinny-sounding and quickly-played version of the tune. This is one. But it's the best I can do if you really don't know the tune at all.

I did discover that the inimitable Ken Medema has recorded it, but unfortunately there is no clip.

It's of course particularly appropriate that Ken Medema should have recorded it, and if you don't know why (being for whatever reason unacquainted with Protestant hymnody and music), it's because both he and Fanny Crosby are blind. Except, of course, Fanny isn't anymore, because she's in heaven.

Fanny Crosby wrote so many hymns I couldn't begin to list them, and nearly all of them allude to her blindness. In this one, it's the chorus: "And I shall see Him face to face, and tell the story, saved by grace." Sometimes the allusion is more subtle, as in "Pass me not, O gentle Savior." There she is comparing herself to Bartimeus who was a blind begger and called to Jesus as He passed by.

But the song (go read the words at the link) raises the interesting question of assurance of salvation. One of my moves away from being a Baptist has been my conclusion that it is possible to fall from grace. This is sometimes identified as a "Catholic" view, but actually I believe it is also standard Lutheran theology and is certainly implied by much Anglican liturgy. Now, Fanny obviously is absolutely convinced that she is going to heaven, which I guess the Catholics would call "presumption."

For myself, I can't see it that way. I'm reminded of a very personal story: My dad had been sick a couple of years ago, and he was home from the hospital and still not doing too well. He told me on the phone about how he passed out one time. He said he thought to himself as everything went dark, "Well, I guess I'm goin' to heaven." "But then," he continued, "I just woke up on the floor with a gash on my head."

Now, it seems to me that there is a certain innocent purity in some people, such that their confidence of this sort is itself evidence. In both of these cases, my strong inclination is to say, "That's not someone whose eternal destiny I have to worry about. That's someone close to Jesus. That's someone who is ready."

Anyway, enjoy "Saved by Grace," and if you already know it, go around humming it this week.

Tuesday, October 23, 2007

A resolute idea

I dunno. Some people seem a bit worked up about the Armenian genocide resolution. Even some conservatives. (Read that in the philosophers' sense: "There exists at least one x such that x is a conservative and x is worked up over the Armenian genocide resolution.") By "worked up" I mean "in favor."

I don't claim to know a thing about it. Never heard of the Turkish genocide against the Armenians until this past year. But I'm a pessimist. People are evil. I'll buy it. That it happened, that is. But the sudden appearance of a resolution about it just now on the congressional roster is hardly a result of the fact that Nancy Pelosi woke up one morning and was seized with the abstract lust to tell the truth at all costs.

So. Suppose you are a conservative congressman, and you think this thing really happened. Suppose moreover that you think there are people who deny it or downplay it in a fairly annoying fashion, and that it is therefore a controversial truth. You are the sort of person who hates not to speak controversial truths boldly just because of consequences, and you don't like the feeling of being muzzled by the fact that we have an unpleasant ally who has an unpleasant desire to bury this unpleasant truth about the past. You worry that you are a cowardly skunk and a tool of the administration if you oppose the resolution. On the other hand, you know quite well that not all truths need to be told at all times, that there are prudential reasons against this resolution, and that its introduction is a cynical political ploy by people who are hardly your friends on other issues, so you don't want to be their tool, either. What do you do?

Well, isn't it great that you came here to read my blog, because I've got an idea. Did somebody say "controversial truths, denied by many"? Did somebody say "murder of innocent people that people want to cover up"? In Veggie Tales terms, have we got a show for you! Introduce a replacement resolution, or an amendment, so that the resolution condemns not only the Armenian genocide but also the murder of the unborn by abortion in the United States since Roe v. Wade and the dehydration murder of Terri Schiavo. Be sure to include the word "murder." I can think of lots of other additions to offend the Democrats if that isn't enough, but that'll do for starters. And conservatives, even the sort who get worked up about the Armenian genocide, ought to be all in favor of such an idea.


Saturday, October 20, 2007

Why does salt water taste salty?

In case this burning question was ever bothering you, I thought I'd post the answer here. We have been doing some research on this here at Chez McGrew lately after I noticed in Middle Daughter's science book a diagram that seemed to mean that when salt dissolves in water the ions of chlorine and sodium actually get separated from each other and surrounded by water molecules. So, I wondered, why is dissolving salt in water still considered a physical rather than a chemical change (if the salt is really broken down into its sub-molecular components), why does the salt water still have the property of being salty to the taste, and why do you get the salt back when you reverse the process by evaporating the water?

The answer is apparently that there are such things as semi-associated states of ionic molecular compounds. Evidently the ions of chlorine and sodium are, despite being separated and individually surrounded by water, still associated within a certain distance by their respective charges. This allows them to snap back together into a crystalline solid state when the water is evaporated.

To make things even more interesting, evidently our subjective sensation of a salt taste is caused by the separate effect on our taste buds of the sodium and chlorine ions, not by a single undivided molecular substance called "salt." Hence a certain amount of dissolving actually has to take place in order for us to taste salt at all.

It's my impression that not all compounds (e.g., not sugar) dissolve to this extent in water, but salt is one that does.

See here and here for a Q and A about this.

Now, didn't you always want to know that?

Against ANT-OAR

I won't post the whole thing here. Done that here at W4, as my colleagues are taking to calling it.

The basic gist is that this technique is supposed to give us "embryonic" stem-cells without our ever making (and then destroying) embryos. That has always sounded fishy to me. What I decide in the post is that one way of doing it probably does make embryos and the other plausibly doesn't. But I could be wrong even about the second of these and am disturbed, perhaps more than I make evident in the post, by the lack of empirical underpinnings for all of this. The bottom line is that to some extent it seems the proponents of this stuff are doing armchair science and don't really know what will happen when they try this stuff. Moreover, one advocate, Marcus Grompe, is gung-ho even about the ways of doing this with knock-out genes that sure look to me like they would make merely damaged embryos. And the fact that he doesn't make any serious distinction between the two methods (though some other advocates do) makes me wonder how different their results really are and how they would know.

All skating on exceedingly thin ice, ethically, it seems to me. Why do it?

P.S. I actually do plan to update here at least weekly, but I was sick last weekend.

Sunday, October 07, 2007

Hymn of the Week--I Sing a Song of the Saints of God

This hymn of the week is another of those "darned if you do/darned if you don't" things. As a very low-church-sympathizing Anglican, I like it a lot. It has exactly the via media touch: On the one hand, the writer of the words is clearly thinking of specific people who have been saints historically. Both in that fact itself and in the whole implication of the words there is none of the rather lazy idea one sometimes got in Baptist circles that Christians are all automatically saints, even if we live like the devil. The words say, "I mean to be one, too," implying that there's some remaining question about the matter.

But there's no denying that it has a rather more Protestant notion of sainthood than a Catholic one, in its idea that we are all, as it were, "candidate saints" and "there's not any reason, no not the least, why I shouldn't be one too."

The upshot of which is that, though I like it, the high churchers think it's too Protestant, and the Baptists would probably think it's too Catholic. I haven't actually sounded any of my Baptist and unspecified evangelical Protestant friends on it yet, though, so I could be wrong about that second part. But as for the first, I know it rarely seems to get picked at church for All Saints' Day. I have to squeeze it in by playing it as the postlude. (Heh, heh.)

If you know the 1940 Hymnal, you'll know the tune. You can hear it here. But beware: Somebody's gone and changed the words on that page and several others I've seen on line. Must be from some gol'darned revised hymnal. Mine are the real ones. I gather the "shops or at tea" stuff was too un-American sounding for some people!

I sing a song of the saints of God, patient and brave and true,
Who toiled and fought and lived and died for the Lord they loved and knew.
And one was a doctor, and one was a queen, and one was a shepherdess on the green;
They were all of them saints of God and I mean, God helping, to be one too.

They loved their Lord so dear, so dear, and his love made them strong.
And they followed the right for Jesus’ sake the whole of their good lives long.
And one was a soldier, and one was a priest, and one was slain by a fierce wild beast,
And there’s not any reason, no not the least, why I shouldn’t be one too.

They lived not only in ages past, there are hundreds of thousands still.
The world is bright with the joyous saints, who love to do Jesus’ will.
You can meet them in school, or in lanes, or at sea, in church, or in trains, or in shops, or at tea,
For the saints of God are just folk like me, and I mean to be one too.

Tuesday, October 02, 2007

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Songs to Die For III

C.S. Lewis said various things to the effect that we will actually love the things of this world more when we learn not to grasp at them. I have always found this hard to understand, but I think he is almost certainly quite right.

Which brings me to the song, "Home Where I Belong" by 70's country singer B. J. Thomas. (Very short clip of the recording available here.) My long-suffering immediate family is rather tired of this one ever since I found the chords and can play it for myself on the piano. But my sister-in-law says maybe someone could sing it at her funeral. And she's not much older than I am!

It's a rather surprising song for being so light and popular. It seems to me that the first verse of this song gets just the right balance between love of this world and love of heaven. This world is beautiful, but if we have to choose, we should choose heaven. The chorus is a perhaps unconscious echo of St. Paul's statement in Philippians 1 that he would like to die and be with Christ but that it is necessary for him to remain for the sake of others.

Verse 1
They say that heaven's pretty, and livin' here is too.
But if they said that I would have to choose between the two,
I'd go home. Goin' home, where I belong.

Verse 2
Sometimes when I'm dreamin' it comes as no surprise
That if you look you'll find that homesick feeling in my eyes.
I'm headed home. Goin' home, where I belong.

But while I'm here I'll serve Him gladly, sing Him all these songs.
I'm here, but not for long.

Verse 3
One day I'll be sleepin' when death knocks on my door,
And I'll awake to find that I'm not homesick anymore.
I'll be home. Goin' home, where I belong.

Saturday, September 29, 2007


We went kite flying today. Down to a big field known in our family as "the kite field," next to a local public school. There was a football game going on with cute little kids in football gear, but there was enough room for the kites too.

Eldest Daughter captained one kite and I the other, the other two girls to take turns with us once we'd gotten them up, and when we had left some space between us and were trying to launch them, a little boy came up to E.D. She says he asked her, "Will you be my friend?" E.D. is great with kids, and young Leo had a wonderful time with her. He was six. She told him Bible stories and talked with him about the solar system and what animals eat and other fascinating topics. He also got to fly the kite.

When it came time for us to go, it turned out that he didn't know where his mom was. Eventually, with Leo's help, I found his mom with a man at the end of the line of spectators at the game. The man rolled over on the turf, gave a rather hard laugh, and said, "Hey! We've been looking for this cat." The mom gave a nervous smile and thanked me. I explained where he'd been and that he'd been a good boy. The man said, "You can take him back again." I ignored this and said that we needed to go home. Mom still had nothing to say except a nervous, "Thank you," but the man continued to be voluble. "Hey, I've got twenty bucks I'll give you if you take him with you." My face probably showed what I thought of this witticism; he gave another of his unfunny laughs and said, "I'm just kiddin'." I went on my way, feeling vaguely guilty. I hated to leave a child with them. I can't remember if I said goodbye to Leo, for which I feel specifically guilty.

I looked in the Prayer Book for a collect for children like Leo. Couldn't find one. They all make reference to the child's being a "member of thy Church" and "standing fast in the faith" and stuff like that. Maybe there isn't a collect for everything after all. But pray for Leo anyway.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Phoreign Policy Phobias

I don't want to do too much about foreign policy on this blog. As I said in an e-mail to a friend lately, too much of a focus on foreign policy makes for bores and cranks. So I'll try to make this the last one on foreign policy for a little while, anyway.

But there is a phenomenon I'm noticing on the paleoconservative side that I find rather annoying. It's this business of labeling those who disagree on foreign policy as "phobics." We've had Russophobia and now, a new one on me as of yesterday, Persophobia. This ugly word apparently describes the psychological state of thinking that Iran is, or plausibly may be, a serious threat to other countries and that Ahmadinejad is something more dangerous than a powerless buffoon.

Now, I'm not going to claim to know that Iran is going to a) get nukes and b) use them. But they're very open about getting them. Boast about it loudly. And as for using them, well, Mr. A. may not be nearly as brilliant as he thinks he is, but he does apparently think it would be a cool thing if Israel were wiped off the map. And some of his creepy fans seem to think nuking Israel would be a wonderful idea and are getting all geared up to celebrate. Even if it's true (as some claim) that quite a few of his own people think little of him, it doesn't follow that he would have neither the will nor the de facto authority to use nuclear weapons if they were available. It certainly doesn't seem to me ridiculous to think that this raving kookball would be dangerous with such power in his hands. It doesn't, for example, seem to rate the kind of snooty scorn heaped upon the head of Rick Santorum for thinking of Iran as a threat or for taking seriously Mr. A's saber-rattling. I'm as prepared to think that Rick Santorum might have some evidence on this subject that I don't have as to think that, say, the writers at The American Conservative (who think very well of themselves) have such evidence. It's certainly possible that if I knew more about the matter, I'd decide that Iran is nothing to worry about. But even then, I don't think I'd ever call anybody "Persophobic."

I don't like the -phobic suffix in this connection for reasons similar to those that obtain with regard to homosexuality or Islam: I don't think the opinions being so labeled are stupid or indicate anything like mental illness, and to label them as if they do is a preemptive strike on normal political discourse. Do I think some views deserve to be laughed out of court? Sure I do. But not only are these not among them, the words "Russophobic" or "Persophobic"--unlike, say, the phrase "Bush Derangement Syndrome" for people who fantasize about disemboweling the President--aren't even a little bit amusing.

Friday, September 21, 2007

I agree with this editorial


I'm feeling more political than liturgical this week, and this got my dander up, so all two of you who come here can follow the link if you want. If you read on you'll find out what it's generally about.

Can anyone give me one really overwhelming reason--more overwhelming than the evil of the "Palestinians" in deliberately shooting rockets at an Israeli daycare and advertising it as a "gift" for the start of the new school year--why the Israelis should continue to supply electricity and water to Hamas-controlled Gaza? Are they crazy? Are we crazy in the rest of the West for demanding this of them? And, here's the 64 million dollar question, if the "Palestinians" really did get the sovereign state they supposedly long for, would the Israelis then be allowed to stop sending them electricity and water?

Cutting off electricity would merely be telling the people of Gaza, "You wanted Hamas. You claim to want independence. Now act even a little bit like grownups and at least try to pretend you don't want all the Jews over here dead. Then maybe we'll start giving you handouts again." This isn't military action. It isn't trying to kill civilians. It isn't murder. It isn't even remotely like what the Gazans try to do to the Israelis day after day. Yet we hear whines about "collective punishment." Give me a break. If any group of people did this to us we'd bomb the heck out of them, probably without too much regard to collateral damage. Yet not giving them electricity is "collective punishment"?

I think some of the more sanguine Israelis think that somehow if they satisfy all the demands from their Western enemies, give the "Palestinians" everything they say they want, except perhaps for the so-called "right of return" to overwhelm Israel with descendents of those who left in 1948, then the rest of the world will leave Israel alone. I say this is a delusion. If the "Palestinians" are given a state, the Israelis will continue to be expected to subsidize them, to send them electricity and water, to let them move freely back and forth across the border to have jobs in Israel, even if the suicide attacks start again. In fact, these things will be demanded of them even more hotly than they are now because of the then-fiction that they have gotten a "peace deal" with the "Palestinians." And these things will be demanded just as unconditionally as they are now.

The policies foisted upon Israel are insane. They must stop. And it is a matter of great indignation to me that some still insist on demonizing that country as the villain of the piece when, in fact, Israel is if anything far too easy-going on her avowed and implacable enemies.


Saturday, September 15, 2007

Hymn of the Week--The Son of God Goes Forth to War

It occurs to me that all of you poor folks out there who have emasculated hymnals probably don't have this one. Perhaps it's better if you don't have it. I'd hate to think what the feminizers would do to it. Anyway, I find it in both my Baptist and my Anglican hymnals, though we never sang it for some reason when I was growing up. But my father-in-law knows it, so the Baptists in his day must have sung it. Wish I could put up the tune to it. But if you already know it, I hope it gets it humming in your heads:

The Son of God goes forth to war
A kingly crown to gain.
His blood-red banner streams afar,
Who follows in His train?
Who best can drink His cup of woe
Triumphant over pain.
Who patient bears His cross below
He follows in His train.

The middle verses go through the martyr Stephen and the Apostles. My favorite line from the Apostles' verse is "They met the tyrant's brandished steel/the lion's gory mane." For some reason the "gory mane" always makes Eldest Daughter get the giggles. I think that phrase exemplifies some sort of literary form with a Greek name, but I'm not going to guess what it's called. Here's the last verse:

A noble army, men and boys
The matron and the maid
Around the Savior's throne rejoice
In robes of light arrayed.
They climbed the steep ascent of heav'n
Through peril, toil, and pain.
Oh God, to us may grace be given
To follow in their train.

Amen! That's what I mean if I get to church on time of a Sunday morning for the Apostles' Creed in Morning Prayer and say "I believe in the Communion of the Saints." (Middle Daughter, of theological turn of mind, insists the "Communion of the Saints" means we will receive Communion in heaven. I haven't been able to convince her otherwise. I believe hers is the Eastern Orthodox view of the matter, though contrary to Aquinas's.)

Anyway, the Communion of the Saints, that great crowd of witnesses. May grace be given to follow in their train!

Update: Ivan in a thread below tells me that I should try to find recordings of these hymns. I haven't been terribly lucky so far. (I haven't been able to find a good recording of "In Shady Green Pastures" for example.) But here is a page with hymns as found in a Lutheran hymnal, and you can find "The Son of God Goes Forth to War" down the page and hear the tune, if by any chance you didn't already know it. (The harmonization in the Anglican and Baptist hymnals is better, IMO, but ya' can't have everything.)

Collect for the week--Going back to Easter IV

I've decided to call it "collect for the week" when I'm fudgin'. This one is all the way back from Easter IV:

O Almighty God, who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men; Grant unto thy people, that they may love the thing which thou commandest, and desire that which thou dost promise; that so, among the sundry and manifold changes of the world, our hearts may surely there be fixed, where true joys are to be found; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

I researched all this years ago and have not looked it up since, but as I recall, the phrase "who alone canst order the unruly wills and affections of sinful men" was added after the Protestant Reformation, while the rest of it was translated from one of the Latin liturgies. The phrase does have a Calvinist ring to it, but you don't need to be a card-carrying Calvinist to echo the idea: How many times do we try to order our own unruly wills and affections and find that we're right back where we started from? I especially find this to be true when it comes to resenting a wrong done to me in the past. It really is true: You can control your actions, but you can't control your feelings. But God can.

Here again, too, is the theme from the collect I quoted last week: If we love what God commands and desire what He actually promises, as opposed to what we might want, we will not be disappointed.

And there is the inimitable Prayer Book phrasing--"the sundry and manifold changes of the world." Boy, is that ever true. Being emotionally conservative, there are few things I hate more than change, but there are few things more inevitable. Small things: the wallpaper is coming off the walls in my kitchen to such an extent that I'm going to have to have it replaced, which will mean also new linoleum...I hate doing that sort of stuff. And big guys in and out for days doing the work, too. Big things: One loses friends over time. It's a sad thought to remember all the people who have passed out of my life, whether through some actual rupture or just gradually. But this world is not my home and isn't where "true joys are to be found," not even in human friendships.

Autumn thoughts, on a very beautiful autumn day.

Tuesday, September 11, 2007

Songs to Die for--Post II

William Cowper (pronounced "Cooper") was a late 18th century Christian poet who suffered from madness at recurrent intervals. He tried to commit suicide, imagined that people were trying to poison him, and decided that he was doomed to hell. He was a Calvinist, and it's interesting to me to see that Calvinism was a very upsetting doctrine at the time. The Baptist Calvinism with which I was raised (and I'm not even that much of a Calvinist anymore) was a modified version: The idea there was that if you had, on a certain nameable date, accepted Jesus Christ as your personal Savior, you could know that you were one of the elect. But if you were a Calvinist in Cowper's time, you were always worrying that maybe you'd been predestined to damnation and just weren't going to find that out for sure until you died.

John Newton, of "Amazing Grace" fame, was a great friend of Cowper's and one of the most unfortunate friends poor, mad Cowper could have had. Newton would write Cowper letters saying that he doubted that Cowper was one of the elect after Newton heard that Cowper had been hob-nobbing with neighbors of whom Newton disapproved. I seem to recall that they were Catholics. Newton seems to have considered them "worldly." This is not the sort of thing you should be saying to a person who goes mad periodically thinking he's damned. Cowper's letters, which I've read with great profit, make sometimes lovely reading and sometimes terribly sad reading, because at the end of his life he was on the seashore and thought that the ships he saw coming were coming to take him away to hell.

Anyway, one of the most famous hymns with lyrics by Cowper is "There is a Fountain Filled With Blood," and two verses of it fit well into my series on songs about heaven. They are joyful verses to sing if you know Cowper's story, because you can think to yourself that now he knows the assurance he felt only temporarily when he wrote these verses. Now he doesn't have to be afraid anymore.

Dear dying Lamb, thy precious blood shall never lose its power
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more.
Be saved to sin no more, be saved to sin no more.
Till all the ransomed church of God be saved to sin no more.

When this poor lisping, stammering tongue lies silent in the grave
Then in a nobler, sweeter song, I'll sing thy power to save.
I'll sing thy power to save, I'll sing thy power to save.
Then in a nobler, sweeter song I'll sing thy power to save.

Saturday, September 08, 2007

Trinity XIV Collect

I don't have to argue with myself about whether to have the "collect of the week" this week be the real collect of the week. Some weeks I may fudge on that, if there's a different collect I'd rather talk about. But this is one of the best, for the fourteenth Sunday after Trinity.

Almighty and everlasting God, give unto us the increase of faith, hope, and charity; and, that we may obtain that which thou dost promise, make us to love that which thou dost command; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.

This is a theme in a number of the collects. That for Trinity X, for example, asks that we may "ask such things as shall please thee" in order to obtain our petitions. But it's stated even better here: If we love what we should love and want what we should want, we will have what we want. God's promises surpass all that we could desire or deserve, but that doesn't mean that they are what we imagine or wish them to be.

When I was little, I was always bugging my mother about whether there would be horses in heaven. I figured if I couldn't have a horse on earth, I should get one in heaven. She used to imagine with me that perhaps I'd get to tend the white horses who would be ridden by Our Lord and his armies of the Apocalypse. This seems to me to have been rather catering. But I get similar questions from my girls today, "Will there be dogs in heaven?" is still a burning question for Eldest Daughter, even in her teens, for pretty much the same reason I asked about horses. Only she loves dogs more than horses.

But while we adults may think ourselves less crude in what we hope for from heaven, which really means more vague, we (or at least I) still imagine all too often that God exists to serve us and that the wonderful thing about heaven will be that we don't have to do uncomfortable things anymore. All peace, bliss, joy, and so forth. But "in his will is our peace." The real hope is that we ourselves shall be changed. That is the promise. And that we may obtain it, let us in this life try to learn, just a little, to love what God commands.

Hymn of the Week--Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone

Whether I can keep up a "hymn of the week" feature every Saturday or Sunday remains to be seen, but for this week I'm talking about "Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone." I can't find today on Google the history I found for this a few years ago, but that version said that Thomas Shepherd was a Church of England minister in the late 1600's and wrote only the words to the first verse. (This fits with internal evidence, too, as the other verses sound quite different.) The story went that he preached a sermon for Good Friday about Simon of Cyrene and that the original words were "Must Simon bear the cross alone, and other saints go free?" If so, I'm glad it's been changed, because Jesus said we should take up our crosses and follow Him. Apparently other anonymous folks came in and wrote the later verses, and the tune is a good deal later (mid 1800's), with a sound of "Amazing Grace" to the chords.

Must Jesus bear the cross alone, and all the world go free?
No, there's a cross for everyone, and there's a cross for me.

Just that first verse is enough to make me squirm a little, and perhaps all the more when I hear my kids singing it. After all, I don't want there to be a cross for me, much less for them. But St. Paul said that if we suffer with Him we will reign with Him. And our Lord said that if we deny Him He will deny us. So I guess we'd best get to it.

Which means no second cup of coffee this morning...

Friday, September 07, 2007

Collect for Trinity IV

So now that I've started this so late in Trinitytide, I'll have to throw in some extra posts on collects to bring in some of the best that have already gone past. Here's perhaps the very best one of the liturgical season (though it's hard to choose):

O God, the protector of all that trust in thee, without whom nothing is strong, nothing is holy; Increase and multiply upon us thy mercy; that, thou being our ruler and guide, we may so pass through things temporal, that we finally lose not the things eternal. Grant this, O heavenly Father, for the sake of Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen

C. S. Lewis has had not one but two comments on this. He has Screwtape say, "Nothing is strong. Very strong." This is when he is picturing for Wormwood the patient grown old and sitting around doing nothing, not even needing pleasures to tempt him to damnation anymore--chilling picture.

Lewis's other is in his wonderful little essay "A Slip of the Tongue," where he says he accidentally prayed that he might so pass through things eternal that he would finally lose not the things temporal. Ouch!

I can't think of much more profound to say about this one, but merely that it bears meditation. Historical note: "things temporal" in the Latin collect translated and modified for the Prayer book was "the good temporal things." (I don't have the exact Latin phrase to hand.) That's striking. That we would pass through the good things of this life in such a way that we finally lose not the things eternal.

I'm off. Gotta get to sleep early tonight before the electric company turns the power off for some mysterious reason. Let's hope they don't make a habit of it! At least they forewarned the neighborhood.

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Songs to Die For--Post I

I was once told about a man who would go to the hospital and sit with anyone he knew who was dying. While he sat there, he would sing all the songs he could think of about heaven.
This got me to thinking about all the songs I know about heaven, that I sing around the house pretty frequently. There are so many. Even if they were in the 1940 Hymnal (which none or almost none of them are), they couldn't all be sung at my far-distant funeral. Probably none of them will be. But I'd like to list them somewhere, sometimes a bunch at once, sometimes one at a time.

Here's one: The old spiritual "Poor Wayfarin' Stranger." This one makes a great lullaby. Babies love it. I hope it's burned into my girls' brains from being sung to them in a rocker at ungodly hours of the night, in illness, and during the day to comfort scraped knees. It alludes to Hebrews 11, "They confessed that they were strangers and pilgrims on the earth... But now they desire a better country, that is, an heavenly, wherefore God is not ashamed to be called their God, for he hath prepared for them a city."

I'm just a poor wayfarin' stranger
A-travelin' through this world of woe,
But there's no sickness, no toil or danger
In that bright world to which I go.
I'm goin' there to see my Savior
I'm goin' there no more to roam.
I'm just a-goin' over Jordan.
I'm just a-goin' over home.

Saturday, September 01, 2007

Hymn of the week, collect of the week

This post represents my breaking down and admitting that there are things that can't be done with group blogs that I still want to do. But first, hurray for the new group blog on the block, What's Wrong With the World, and all my colleagues over there. (Hi, guys!)

But one thing I just do not feel I can do over there is to associate my friends there directly with my rather unusual passion for Protestant hymns. The collects from the Book of Common Prayer would be okay, and I expect to put up a post or two there mentioning my evangelical friends and music, but not just saying, "Hey, isn't this a great hymn?" when it's so very, very low.

So I'm breaking down and starting here a feature, which perhaps scarcely anyone will read (unless I advertise it elsewhere), called "Hymn of the week" which will sometimes also include Collect of the Week.

The collect of the week for this week is actually the collect for last week, Trinity XII:

Almighty and everlasting God, who art always more ready to hear than we to pray, and art wont to give more than either we desire or deserve; Pour down upon us the abundance of thy mercy; forgiving us those things whereof our conscience is afraid, and giving us those good things which we are not worthy to ask, but through the merits and mediation of Jesus Christ, thy Son, our Lord. Amen.

The hymn of the week. Gosh, there are so many that are so good. But you have to start somewhere. So this week it's "God Leads His Dear Children Along." (I warned you. I love "A Mighty Fortress." But everybody knows "A Mighty Fortress." And I'm fortunate enough to be at a church where they don't butcher it, so I don't have to write about the horrible mess the revisers made of it. So the hymns I'm more likely to talk about are the Baptist kind that they don't sing at my church.) Here's the first verse and chorus:

In shady green pastures so rich and so sweet
God leads his dear children along.
Where the water's cool flow bathes the weary one's feet
God leads his dear children along.


Some through the water
Some through the flood
Some through the fire
But all through the blood.
Some through great sorrow
But God gives a song
In the night season and all the day long.

See, if you just read the verse, you'd think it was just a "feel-good" song, wouldn't you? The other verses make it even clearer that it isn't, but the chorus always does. And a good, singable tune, too. Next week, maybe I'll make it "Must Jesus Bear the Cross Alone."

Hey, this personal blogging isn't so bad...

Wednesday, March 14, 2007

Update to the non-blog

A friend just told me that some people have actually left comments on my non-blog blog page. I apologize to all of you (if you check back) for not having discovered this for myself. As you can imagine, I've discovered that my resident expert was wrong and that there is no way to post technical papers and a curriculum vitae to a blogger blog page. What I really wanted was a home page, and I got that with yahoo. It is here. That page is not a blog either but gets updated on an on-going basis, which this does not.

I blog from time to time at Right Reason, the weblog for philosophical conservatism. I did blog at a page called Enchiridion Militis, run by Josh Trevino, the Internet maven of Redstate fame. Its focus was on the threats to Christendom from Islam and from liberalism. But Josh consolidated some web projects and partly withdrew from blogging, and EM was a casualty in that process. Some of the old EM folks are working on a successor site, hopefully to be up by May of 07. I'll try to remember to update here on that, but in any event, I will certainly link it on my simple home page.

Thanks, Lifeethics, for the citation. I'm glad you liked the phrase. I enjoy interacting with you guys on Wesley Smith's Secondhand Smoke, too.