The New Intolerance

warningI very much want you to read the linked article, it puts thing in perspective exactly as they are, and I think it does a good job of tracing the course as well. It is written from a Catholic/Christian perspective but in reality, this is a problem for all who care about the poor, the downtrodden, and yes, the children as well. In many ways we have sold our heritage for much less than a bowl of pottage, we have old it to get laid, nothing more, no commitment, to anything or anyone..

yes, it is a bit longer than the average article but, it needs to be. Read it, think about it, and then start thinking about how we restore the values of western civilization. Because if we don’t–we are quite simply doomed.

The New Intolerance

by Mary Eberstadt

In November, Cardinal Walter Kasper gave a speech at the Catholic University of America in which he said, “Mercy has become the theme of [Pope Francis’s] pontificate. . . . With this theme, Pope Francis has addressed countless individuals, both within and without the Church. . . . He has moved them intensely, and pierced their hearts.” The cardinal added, “Who among us does not depend on mercy? On the mercy of God, and of merciful fellow man?”

Those questions move all people of good will, and they also go straight to the core of this essay. Pope Francis and Cardinal Kasper teach that mercy means meeting people where they live. We should take their counsel to heart and apply it to ourselves at the present time, looking at where many Christians in America and Europe and other places live today because they are Christians. We are not speaking here of the believers across the planet who suffer grievous harm for the sake of faith. We’re talking instead about something else: the slow-motion marginalizing and penalizing of believers on the very doorsteps of the churches of North America, Europe, and elsewhere, in societies that are the very historical strongholds of political and religious liberty.

Men and women of faith in these societies are well-off, compared to many others. At the same time, though, their world is unmistakably darker and more punitive than it used to be. Let us show empathy and solidarity with all people who need it. Repeating the cardinal’s watchword, mercy, we hope that moral and political and intellectual leaders of all persuasions hear it too.

For there is no mercy in putting butchers and bakers and candlestick makers in the legal dock for refusing to renounce their religious beliefs—but that’s what the new intolerance does. There is no mercy in stalking and threatening Christian pastors for being Christian pastors, or in casting out social scientists who turn up unwanted facts, or in telling a flight attendant she can’t wear a crucifix, or in persecuting organizations that do charitable work—but the new intolerance does these things, too. There’s no mercy in yelling slurs at anyone who points out that the sexual revolution has been flooding the public square with problems for a long time now and that, in fact, some people out there are drowning—but slurs are the new intolerance’s stock in trade. Above all, there is no mercy in slandering people by saying that religious believers “hate” certain people when in fact they do not; or that they are “phobes” of one stripe or another when in fact they are not. This, too, happens all over public space these days, with practically no pushback from anyone. This, too, is the new intolerance at work.

All these are facts of life for Christians and other believers in the West today. This is where a lot of real people now live, and where they need to be met.

Continue reading The New Intolerance by Mary Eberstadt | Articles | First Things.

The King ( No Longer) in the Parking Lot

Jessica and I have written quite a little about this story starting way back in September of 2012 here, and then here and here as well as the article that forms the basis of this one, and closes the series. because last Thursday King Richard III, the loser at Bosworth field and the last Plantagenet King was re-interred at Leicester.

A Clerk of Oxford compared the whole tumult to the medieval translations of Saints from one cathedral to another. I think she makes a pretty good case, and I find it illuminating to see the same kind of arguments unleashed as were in those translations, as well.

In any case this article of Jessica’s is the centerpiece of what we wrote on this story.


 

Skull of Richard III

Skull of Richard III

So it was him – it was Richard III, the last Plantagent King of England who the archaeologists found underneath a car park in Leicester in the East Midlands of the UK.  If you don’t care for the romance of history, then look away now, but if you do then like me you’ll have wondered at it all.

Of course, when he was buried there it was a church, which was destroyed at the Reformation, and the site was lost over the years. That the first trench dug by the archaeologists should have yielded his bone was the equivalent for them of a lottery win.

There exists a Richard III Society which sponsored the dig, which seems to think the man was next door to a saint. They react violently to Shakespeare’s fictional portrayal of the king, not seeming to realise that the point of a play is that it is fiction, not history.  One of their claims is that the King was not a hunchback. Well, tough, because this skeleton was; this seems not to have gone down well with some ‘Ricardians'; but they are, themselves, writing fiction.

Richard did not, they say, kill his nephews, the Princes in the Tower. Well, they disappeared from view under his reign, when he took the throne from his eldest nephew, Edward V, and if we ask the simple question of what happened to deposed kings in those days, the answer is that the man who deposed them had them killed: it happened with Edward II, Richard II and Henry VI, so why not with Edward V? The answer of the Ricardians, that their hero wasn’t that sort of guy, won’t wash. They claim the man who defeated Richard at Bosworth, Henry VII did it. There’s no proof at all that the Princes were even alive in 1485, but to exonerate their hero, the Ricardians will blame anyone, even when the obvious is just that – obvious.

That’s what you get with people who already know the conclusion they want before they read the evidence; they read it in the light of their own conclusion; it is why it is pointless to argue with conspiracy theorists and atheists – they already know the truth, they just select the evidence to support it.

There is certainly a mystery with Richard.  As the youngest brother of King Edward IV he won a reputation as a gallant knight and a reliable supporter, and yet, on the sudden and unexpected death of Edward, he seized the throne, imprisoned his nephews, had his enemies executed and declared himself King.  The Ricardians claim that he’d become convinced that stories about his brother’s marriage not being legitimate were correct. When did that one happen? Oh, when Edward IV was dead – how convenient. Isn’t that just the sort of excuse a man with bad conscience would make to excuse himself?

Far more likely that Richard, like others, feared that the new King’s mother and her grasping and ambitious family, the Woodvilles, would seize as much power and money as they could, and that they’d try to get rid of men who stood in their way, as Richard would have done. It was a dog eat dog political world then, as now, and Richard would have acted wisely from his own point of view in seizing the throne.

If he’d won at Bosworth in 1485, no one would have cared one way or the other by now. But he lost – and ended up as the king in the parking lot. Moral of that one – if you seize the throne, better make sure you hang on to it.


And so he was reburied last week with at least a simulacrum of the pomp and majesty of medieval England. There were horses, and knights in shining armor, and pennons not seen in the field for hundreds of years.

And money was spent and money was made, and some decried the pandering to tourists, and some were appalled that he was not translated to York, or Westminster Abbey.

The Ricardians were aghast that he really was a hunchback, but pleased that he got a fancy reinterment. And so now it is all over, and everybody knows (or can know) where every anointed King (or Queen) of England is buried.

And here is the video.

And yet, one is left wondering what our world would have been like if Richard had won. Because so much of the modern world is the growth of what was no more, and no less, than a Tudor Enterprise when they turned the face of England from Europe and faced the outer world. So  much history flows from that, including the very existence the United States.

The War Against the Humanities

SarahChurchwell8d6f2f50-ea62-4bd4-a111-30f33583918d-1360x2040

Sarah Churchwell, professor of American literature at UEA, who has written in defence of the humanities in Times Higher Education. Photograph: David Hartley/Rex

“There are two types of education… One should teach us how to make a living, and the other how to live.”

– John Adams

It appears that the new  Research Evaluation Framework (REF) in Britain has set off a lot of skirmishing. It’s interesting to read, and has implications for us here in the States as well.

As near as I can make out, the government funds most research in the UK (or at least England, it’s not all that specific) and the government is imposing structures that lead to generating hard numbers for quality, quantity,and ‘impact’ on the world. In other words, they are looking for short-term monetary impact.

Well, my standard answer for that is that “He who pays the piper, calls the tune”. They wanted all that government research money and thought (I suspect) that the government would fund their whims no matter how ludicrous. And don’t kid yourself, The United States Universities do at least their share of worthless research as well. We’ve all seen the lists.

In addition what many humanities people like to do is talk, not act, and teaching, which I at least consider to be the prime mission of a school (whether it’s a kindergarten or Oxford itself) is an action, and needs to be performed efficiently That does not mean authoritatively however. that’s not education, that’s indoctrination, and it stifles creativity like nothing else.

Just ask China, the benchmark for measuring education why they are sending their students to England to learn to be creative.

As an aside, that is the exact reason I oppose ‘Common Core’ as well. I don’t care what the test is, if you base performance and pay on a test, the test will be taught to. If you base (what we call) grant money on short-term applied research, you’ll get short-term applied research.

I was talking with a British pure mathematician yesterday, and he says in his field, he has the same problems as his humanities colleagues. I can’t say I was surprised either. You see of all the so-called STEM subjects pure math, like the humanities, has a long-term effect but little short-term benefit.

And yet, the old Bell Labs, the antediluvian research arm of the old Bell Telephone system was almost a pure math shop. They didn’t accomplish much either, only the world-wide telephone system, inventing the transistor,and inventing Boolean algebra, which is the underpinning of every digital device, not just the computer.

But none of it was short-term, it was pure research intelligently applied, often I suspect by humanities majors, who could see new applications and worked with enough engineers to be able to translate the jargon of engineering.

None of that says that accountant aren’t important. they are. They keep score, but are not players in innovation, nor are they players in transmitting our culture to our descendants. Even more than engineers, they are rule bound, and like lawyers, they will nearly always say no, if they can’t understand something, and their understanding is limited to arithmetic.

One of the people I know slightly in British Academia is Sarah Churchwell, I always hope she’ll pardon me for reading her name often as Sarah Churchill. (she’s a lot younger than the mother of the first Duke of Marlborough, after all!). I also think she’s one of the best things to come out of Chicago since pizza. She was one of the people interviewed for The Guardian piece linked, and this some of what she had to say:

Aren’t humanities academics stuck in the 1950s, desperate for an age of long lunches and even longer holidays? “The stereotypical academic world of the 1950s, of dilettantes lounging around with pipe and slippers sipping sherry, disappeared decades ago,” Churchwell said. “The idea of the easy life of the academic is a straw man, a caricature of academics when they say ‘You can’t just swan around like it’s 1950 any more.’ There’s been no swanning for some time, believe me. What initially happened under Thatcher was the forced professionalisation of academia and actually I don’t disagree with the imperative of professionalisation. But this notion that there are still academics at universities who can say ‘I’m going to spend 50 years at this institution, I’m never going to write a book, I’ll never publish, I’ll just sit around reading and chatting with students’, is absurd. Yes there are still a few people who chronically underperform and whom it is difficult to remove. There’s a bit of dead wood. Now I don’t know much about government-funded organisations outside of HE, but I’d venture to speculate that this may be true in other bureaucratic regimes. And the vast majority of people in UK HE are working extremely hard, all the time.”

Obviously I can’t speak in generalities and be accurate, but I know several who bear the title of Professor, and I’ll tell you a (not) secret: they are almost all in the humanities and they are amongst the hardest-working people I have ever met (some of the nicest too, although that may not be relevant, unless you’re their student, of course.) Without exception, they are also outstanding writers as well. To continue:

“What has changed radically in the last 10 years is that they’re trying to turn everything into a for-profit business,” said Churchwell. “And that’s bullshit. Universities are not for profit. We are charitable institutions. What they’re now doing is saying to academics: ‘You have to be the fundraisers, the managers, the producers, you have to generate the incomes that will keep your institutions afloat.’ Is that really what society wants – for everything to become a marketplace, for everything to become a commodity? Maybe I’m just out of step with the world, but what some of us are fighting for is the principle that not everything that is valuable can or should be monetised. That universities are one of the custodians of centuries of knowledge, curiosity, inspiration. That education is not a commodity, it’s a qualitative transformation. You can’t sell it. You can’t simply transfer it.”

Churchwell went on to talk about what would be lost if we didn’t stand in the way of this systematic destruction of the traditional liberal education. “Virtually every cabinet minister has a humanities degree,” she said. “And I think there’s something quite sinister about it: they get their leadership positions after studying the humanities and then they tell us that what we need is a nation of technocrats. If you look at the vast majority of world leaders, you’ll find that they’ve got humanities degrees. Angela Merkel is the only one who’s a scientist. The ruling elite have humanities degrees because they can do critical thinking, they can test premises, they can think outside the box, they can problem-solve, they can communicate, they don’t have linear, one-solution models with which to approach the world. You won’t solve the problems of religious fundamentalism with a science experiment.”

The war against humanities at Britain’s universities | Education | The Guardian.

There’s a lot more, and it;’s all excellent. Remember this, in any case, I’m an electrician and a lineman, essentially a technician or even a technocrat and a manager. That’s how I’ve made a living for nearly a half century. Without the background in the humanities from my parents and my schooling, it would have been a drab and sterile life. is that really what you want for your children?

What I really think is that our societies need to get over this kick that everything must have an immediate payoff. The most important things never do. In addition, our schools (UK and US which the two I know most about) need to be funded from diverse sources, with diverse goals. How we get there (actually back there) I have some ideas but, not all the answers. But Sarah is right in all she said here, and I couldn’t agree more. It’s time for people with vision get involved in this.

“I must study Politics and War that my sons may have liberty to study Mathematics and Philosophy.”

– John Adams, letter to Abigail Adams, May 12, 1780.

Palm Sunday, Triumphalism, and Leadership

palm-sunday-jesus-christ-on-donkeyOn Palm Sunday, way back in the mid 60’s, according to the traditions of the Evangelical and Reformed Church, I became a man, with all the responsibilities to God that that carried. It was also when you traditionally got your first suit. The Sunday before was Examination Sunday, the test was verbal, in front of the congregation. This entitled me to take my First Communion on Easter Sunday, as was considered meet and right.

As always the Sanctuary was decorated in palm fronds commemorating Jesus’s triumphal entry into Jerusalem. Also as on all special Sundays we processed behind the Pastor and Choir up the center aisle to this, Hymn No. 1 in the old E&R Hymnal.

And so I became responsible for my own everlasting fate, which up until this time had been my parents (and Godparents) responsibility.

Palm Sunday was, of course, the most triumphant day of the Christ’s ministry. With the adoring and worshipful crowds which of course would soon demand and receive his death.

What can we learn from this? General Patton put it this way:

“For over a thousand years Roman conquerors returning from the wars enjoyed the honor of triumph, a tumultuous parade. . .

A slave stood behind the conqueror holding a golden crown and whispering in his ear a warning: that all glory is fleeting.”


We know that earthly glory is fleeting, who can recite the exploits of Edward Longshanks, or Frederick Barbarossa from memory. Sure we remember some of our founders but its only been a few generations, and we have been trained (some of us anyway) pretty well.

But what is different about the Christ, other than the Resurrection that is. Like most troublemakers through the ages he died a common criminals death. Think about that for a moment. Within a week he went from the darling of the populace, to an executed criminal, that’s quite a fall, in any time or place.

The other thing is: He never forgot the mission. What thoughts must have been in his mind on that long ago Palm Sunday, knowing, as he did, the fate that awaited him. But he never flinched, only prayed that this fate might be averted. He knew, as did his disciples and followers in coming times, that there would be many martyrs, Saints of the Faith, if you will. There will be many more. Christianity, even more than the Judaism from which it sprang, is the religion of the oppressed, the underdog, the person who never got a fair shake in this world, the sovereign individual made in God’s image. All you have to do is: Remember the Mission and take care of your people. The shepherd of the flock. And that is more than most of us can do consistently, without God’s help, because it is one of the most difficult missions ever entrusted.

Do not fall into the trap of triumphalism, earthly glory leads to nothing but trouble. I think most of us know this instinctively. What is the thing we remember about George W. Bush? He had many faults, which most conservatives can recite from memory. But, and it’s a huge but, he was a humble God-fearing man. To me, that is a lot of the difference between him and Barack Obama. Obama wants lives for the acclaim of the crowd, the earthly glory, one could easily call it the cult of personality.

And so the lesson for me from this Palm Sunday is the old one that the US Air Force taught me long ago and far away:

First the Mission

Second the People

Last Yourself.

Over at Jess’s site, one of her co-authors, Fr. Malcolm has a beautiful Palm Sunday post.

ImageBoy with a donkey on the road from Bethany to Jerusalem.

John 12:9-19

9 When the great crowd of the Jews learned that he was there, they came not only because of Jesus but also to see Lazarus, whom he had raised from the dead. 10So the chief priests planned to put Lazarus to death as well, 11since it was on account of him that many of the Jews were deserting and were believing in Jesus.

12 The next day the great crowd that had come to the festival heard that Jesus was coming to Jerusalem. 13So they took branches of palm trees and went out to meet him, shouting,
‘Hosanna!
Blessed is the one who comes in the name of the Lord—
the King of Israel!’
14Jesus found a young donkey and sat on it; as it is written:
15 ‘Do not be afraid, daughter of Zion.
Look, your king is coming,
sitting on a donkey’s colt!’
16His disciples did not understand these things at first; but when Jesus was glorified, then they remembered that these things had been written of him and had been done to him. 17So the crowd that had been with him when he called Lazarus out of the tomb and raised him from the dead continued to testify.*18It was also because they heard that he had performed this sign that the crowd went to meet him. 19The Pharisees then said to one another, ‘You see, you can do nothing. Look, the world has gone after him!’

Continue reading That first Palm Sunday.

[First published on 24 March 2013]

Leaders and non-leaders

[For Easter this year, here, and to a limited extent, at All along the Watchtower (more about that later in the week) at well, we are looking back a couple of years, and bringing forward some of our favorite posts from the Easter season. I think it well to begin with one of my favorites from my Editor and dearest friend, Jessica. We both believe that Jesus epitomizes servant leadership, and today we tell you why. My thoughts will follow later today. Here’s Jess. Neo]

Thatcher for againstOne theme of this blog is the importance of leadership. Those of us who read today’s Gospel for Palm Sunday (though where I live it is more like Arctic Sunday, and we are dreaming of a white Easter) will have seen a perfect example of its absence – and the results.

Pontius Pilate was the prefect of Judea.  It wasn’t one of those top notch jobs, and like most Romans in such posts, Pilate had two priorities: keep things quiet and make money for himself.  The Romans were pragmatists. Gods? Heck, they had hundreds of them. So it was irritating that those Jews insisted there was only one of them. What was worse is they wouldn’t bend the knee to the gods of Rome. Live and let live was Pilate’s motto. He went to Judea in about AD 26, and had been there a few years when the Jews brought Jesus to him. He couldn’t see much wrong in the fellow, and he tried to find a way of avoiding blatant injustice. He was quite willing to have the fellow flogged, but crucifying him – that was another matter.

But there, blast it, went those Jews again. They wanted the fellow crucified. Pilate didn’t want any trouble, and you can almost hear him: “Come on guys, give us a bit of wriggle room here, the guy’s basically harmless, c’mon, cut me a bit of slack.” But they wouldn’t.  On the one side the pragmatic politician looking for a way through; on the other men who knew what they wanted and would stick at nothing to get it. If you didn’t know, you’d be able to tell who was going to get their way, and you’d not put money on the first guy.

Enter Mrs Pilate, telling him that she’s had a dream and that he should let the man be. That was all he needed, the little lady putting her oar in. Didn’t she realise he had enough trouble with those stiff-necked Jews?  Clearly not. Well, only one thing to do, wash his hands of it and let it be. And it all went off well in the end. There weren’t any riots, and although there were the strangest stories that the man had not died, it caused Pilate no problems for a bit. Politics is the art of the possible. You can see him afterward with Mrs P: “c’mon, what do you want? I did my best. Now what’s for supper, not more larks’ tongues?”

Small men, large events. Churchill said that in his father’s day there had been great men and small events, but during the Great War it had been the other way round. But really, we only see the real size of men when they are faced with great events. Cranmer just quoted some recently released papers from 1982 and the Falklands Crisis. Nearly every member of Mrs Thatcher’s Cabinet was for a quiet life and giving in. We remember none of them. She was for doing what was right. We remember her.

There’s a lesson in Pilate for us all – small men never get to grips with great events – and without vision the people perish.

[First published on 24 March 2013]

CONFESSION: YESTERDAY AND TODAY: The Newman Lecture

Another fascinating lecture, which gave me some insights into my own life, as well as why ‘confession is good for the  soul’,. As usual the Storify is linked below the Soundcloud, and Professor Charmley outdid himself in live-tweeting this one, there is a huge amount of meat here for your digestion.

Professor Henry Mayr-Harting is former Regius Professor of Ecclesiastical History at the University of Oxford (1997-2003), amongst many other honors.

 

//storify.com/ProfJCharmley/confession-yesterday-and-today-professor-henry-ma/embed?border=false[View the story ” ‘CONFESSION: YESTERDAY AND TODAY’ Professor Henry Mayr-Harting” on Storify]
On a personal note, Yay! for me, I got quoted as well. :)
%d bloggers like this: