Wednesday, August 10, 2005

ELCA Churchwide Assembly Update

The work of the ELCA Assembly continues in Orlando, and a lot of the folks in the pew are going to wish that it wasn't. Today (Wednesday) the Assembly voted 75% to 25% to adopt a new hymnal that its critics decried as theologically inept, musically vapid, and very politically correct. The new hymnal will de-emphasize masculine references to God, de-emphasize trinitarian references, and change lyrics of well-known hymns for reasons that no one seems to be able to figure out. Images of God as Father are downplayed because, in the words of one supporter, fathers are too often abusive and oppressive and that's not the image we wish to connote when we talk of God. The individual didn't mention that this view of fatherhood suggests that the Church views families as essentially dysfunctional units and views fathers as overall negatives in the lives of their families.

For the benefit of my Lutheran readers, most of the opposition to adoption of the new hymnal came from the Lower Susquehanna Synod, several of whose members spoke out strongly against it, including the Bishop.

Meanwhile, Lutherans in Assembly adopt what they call memorials, which are non-binding resolutions or statements which express the sense of the church. Discussion Tuesday and Wednesday centered on a memorial concerning world hunger. To read the memorial and listen to some of the discussion one got the feeling that it is the consensus view of many of the Voting Members (delegates) that if only we in the West would give more money to starving people we could eliminate world hunger. In fact, there was no mention in the memorial about what is perhaps the major cause of hunger in much of the world: tyrannical, corrupt regimes, especially in third world countries.

In Zimbabwe, Sudan, Somalia, and North Korea people are starving because the leaders of those countries are brutal thugs who take whatever we offer and use the money to line their pockets and the food to feed their soldiers. The problem is not an unwillingness in the West to do enough to alleviate the hunger. The problem is psychopathic dictators who have their boot on the necks of their people.

Anyway, your humble scribe entered a motion to amend the memorial to include the statement that the Lutheran Church will oppose tyrannical, oppressive governments whose policies result in chronic hunger among their people, and defended it by stating essentially what is written in the preceding paragraph. It was supported by two different pastors who grew up in Ethiopia and felt very strongly that what was said in the motion needed to be said. The motion carried by a 95% to 5% vote. One critic later sniffed that the amendment was too simplistic and that it blamed the people in Africa for their plight when the real cause of their suffering was greedy Americans.

Thursday, there will be speeches from the floor on whether to bless same-sex unions and ordain gay and lesbian pastors. It should be interesting.

Another Prisoner Escapes the Cave

Another British leftist breaks free. Here are a couple of highlights from Nick Cohen's essay about his ideological apostacy and subsequent excommunication:

I'm sure that any halfway competent political philosopher could rip the assumptions of modern middle-class left-wingery apart. Why is it right to support a free market in sexual relationships but oppose free-market economics, for instance? But his criticisms would have little impact. It's like a religion: the contradictions are obvious to outsiders but don't disturb the faithful. You believe when you're in its warm embrace. Alas, I'm out. Last week, after 44 years of regular church-going, the bell tolled, the book was closed and the candle was extinguished. I was excommunicated.

The officiating bishop was Peter Wilby, a former editor of the New Statesman and a friend of long-standing, who delivered his anathema in the Guardian. The immediate heresy was a piece I'd written about how difficult the courts made it to deport suspected Islamist terrorists.

The least attractive characteristic of the middle-class left - one shared with the Thatcherites - is its refusal to accept that its opponents are sincere. The legacy of Marx and Freud allows it to dismiss criticisms as masks which hide corruption, class interests, racism, sexism - any motive can be implied except fundamental differences of principle. Wilby went through a long list of what could have motivated mine and similar 'betrayals'. Perhaps we became right wing as we got older. Perhaps we wanted to stick our snouts into the deep troughs of the Tory press. Perhaps taking out a mortgage committed us to the capitalist system or having children encouraged petit bourgeois individualism of the most anti-social kind.

The reason why one million people marched through London without one mounting a platform to express solidarity with the victims of fascism was that it never occurred to them that there were people in Iraq who shared their values.

[G]ood motives of tolerance and respect for other cultures have had the unintended consequence of leading a large part of post-modern liberal opinion into the position of 19th-century imperialists. It is presumptuous and oppressive to suggest that other cultures want the liberties we take for granted, their argument runs. So it may be, but believe that and the upshot is that democracy, feminism and human rights become good for whites but not for browns and brown-skinned people who contradict you are the tools of the neo-conservatives.

Who is going to help the victims of religious intolerance in Britain's immigrant communities? Not the Liberal Democrats, who have never once offered support to liberal and democrats in Iraq. Nor an anti-war left which prefers to embrace a Muslim Association of Britain and Yusuf al-Qaradawi who believe that Muslims who freely decide to change their religion or renounce religion should be executed. If the Archbishop of Canterbury were to suggest the same treatment for renegade Christians all hell would break loose. But as the bigotry comes from 'the other' there is silence.

The thing to watch for with fellow travellers is what shocks them into pulling the emergency cord and jumping off the train. I know some will stay on to the terminus, and when the man with the rucksack explodes his bomb their dying words will be: 'It's not your fault. I blame Tony Blair.'

My advice to my former comrades is to struggle out of your straitjackets and get off at the next station. It would be good to see you on this side of the barrier.

Plato tells the story of a a group of men imprisoned since birth in a cave, chained to a rock so that all they can see are flickering shadows on the wall of the cave. The prisoners pass their time debating the significance and meaning of this or that shadow. Their whole existence is spent speculating upon flickering, insubstantial images. The shadows are all they have to put meaning into their bleak lives.

One day one of the prisoners breaks free and climbs up out of the dark cave. At first he's blinded by the brilliance of the sun, but once his eyes adjust he becomes aware of a world infinitely more beautiful and substantial than the dark realm of the cave. He experiences life as he had never known it before. He hastens back to tell his comrades, but they're unreceptive. The cave is all they know. They're comfortable enough, and they don't care to hear of any sun or colors or anything else. They think their former friend mad, and if he persists in pestering them, Plato warns, they may even kill him.

I think of that parable almost every time I hear an account of another lefty climbing out of the ideological cave in which he had been chained.

Narcissistic Neo-Nazi Darwinian

Biologist P.Z. Myers explains his noted rhetorical felicity in response to a column by John Hawks advising restraint in the Evo/ID controversy:

It is correct that if I were talking to a student or a parent, trying to persuade them to abandon misbegotten notions of creationism that are affecting the student's ability to be a good biologist, I wouldn't call them lunatics. It isn't very effective to try and persuade an individual by calling them idiots, and in most cases I don't think the creationist students I occasionally get are idiots-just sadly misled.

However, I was not attacking such individuals, but the president of the US and the preachers at the Discovery Institute. You know, the responsible people who are lying to the public or working to disseminate destructive delusions.

Oh, but Hawks has that covered; his last sentence suggests that the people they "know and respect" should not be so harshly criticized, lest we alienate them. I strongly disagree. It is the leaders and enablers who must be vigorously attacked, the ones who abuse those positions of authority and respect to poison minds.

[I]t is my responsibility as a scientist to oppose ignorance, especially ignorance that has power and influence. Let them find comfort and forgiveness for stupid mistakes in their religion, because I sure as hell am not going to give it to them.

Don't tell me to be dispassionate or less unreasonable about it all because because 65% of the American population think creationism should be taught alongside evolution, or that Americans are just responding to common notions of "fairness". That just tells me that we scientists have not been expressing our outrage enough. And yes, we should be outraged that the president of our country panders to theocrats, faith-healers, and snake-oil artists; sitting back and quietly explaining that Bush may be a decent man who is mistaken, while the preachers are stridently condemning all us evilutionists to hell, is a damned ineffective tactic that has gotten us to this point.

I say, screw the polite words and careful rhetoric. It's time for scientists to break out the steel-toed boots and brass knuckles, and get out there and hammer on the lunatics and idiots. If you don't care enough for the truth to fight for it, then get out of the way.

Goddamn, but don't even suggest that we're being too partisan. I am on the side of reason and human rights, and my only failing is that I'm not partisan enough.

His only failing? Oh, what ineffable joy it must be to be P.Z. Myers.

Anyway, we can be grateful to Myers for nicely summing up for us the Left's preferred modus operandi in debate of any kind: Try to defeat your opponent through the power of your ideas. If that fails then kick him in the groin. And Myers says, after admonishing all and sundry not to expect him to be less unreasonable, that he's on the side of reason? The man sounds more like a narcissistic neo-nazi brown-shirt.