Mobocracy, Individual Rights, and Government

This new Bill Whittle series is extraordinary. This one, entitled Government may be the best short explanation of why and how America’s government was designed as it is.

The last week has been rather heavy in British constitutional theory and practice, what with the general election and all. It’s not a bad reason to remind ourselves and others why it is so important to limit the size and power of the (especially general) government.

And yes, the Brits actually do know this as well as we do. That’s where we learned it, of course. We here in the United States, when it came our turn to mount the recurrent civil war (English Civil War, American Revolution, and American Civil War) we learned not only from the Stuarts, and their overthrow but from Cromwell and his excesses. And because we started with a clean slate, and toweringly good men, and above them one, George Washington, we were provided with safeguards from almost all dangers, except for we the people ourselves.

My British friends have always been uncomfortable with the emphasis we put on the individual. I understand their concern well, so did Benjamin Rush, who wrote to John Adams, in 1789.

Philadelphia Jany. 22nd. 1789.

My dear friend

Your affectionate and instructing letter of Decemr 2nd. did not reach me ‘till yesterday. I Embrace with my Affections, as well as my judgement that form of Government which you have proved from so many Authorities, to be the only One that can preserve political happiness. It was my attachment to a constitution composed of three branches, that first deprived me of the Confidence of the Whigs of Pennsylvania in the Close of the year 1776. My Observations upon the misery which a single legislature has produced in Pennsylvania, have only served to encrease my Abhorance of that Species of Government. I could as soon embrace the most absurd dogmas in the most Absurd of all the pagan religions, as prostitute my Understanding by approving of our State constitution—It is below a democracy. It is mobocracy—if you will allow me to coin a word. If you will not permit me to compare it to a Wheelbarrow, or a Balloon. I never see our self-ballanced legislature meet, but I feel as if I saw a body of men ascending in One of those air vehicles—without sails or helm.—I have collected materials for a history of the Revolution in Pennsylvania, but despair of being Able to arrange or publish them, while I am so closely confined to the duties of my profession. They contain such an Account the follies & cries of mankind as would tend forever to discredit a single legislature. …

If memory holds, the Pennsylvania government of 1776, was not all that different from that of England, a fairly weak executive, and courts, all subservient to the basically unitary legislature. It was a decided failure. In England at the time, the House of Commons was moderated by both a much stronger House of Lords and crown than they are now.

In many ways, it’s a balancing act, between the executive, the legislative assembly (House of Representatives, now), the States (The Senate as originally constituted), and the courts, not to mention the people.

Mobocracy is always a danger, of course, as we are seeing in our own time, offsetting that is that by guaranteeing the unalienable rights of the individual, we thereby guarantee those of the family, the community, the church, and the constituent state vis a vis the federal government, which then as now is seen as the most likely to degenerate into tyranny, which must be guarded against from all comers, whatsoever. And it also guarantees them in practice from the mob itself.

If you would know why I, and many Americans, supported Brexit, full-throatedly, you will find your answer here. We, as Americans, if we know our history, easily quote from our Founders, to make all these points, on rights and obligations and all the rest. But so can the British, more than any other people in the world. For all of these men, who bequeathed to America whatever share of freedom and liberty we have maintained, every one of them considered himself a free-born Englishman, and a proud one, until that government attempted to remove those rights. Then they became Americans. There is nothing comparable to the Anglo-American concept of responsible liberty on the face of the earth, there is only the autocracy of the elites, and the mobocracy of the serfs.

Only in the Anglosphere, (not so) strangely including Israel, do men walk as free men, with unalienable rights.

 

That was the Week that Was

It’s been an interesting week, hasn’t it? The horror of the attack at Manchester, the reactions following, the reactions to the Trump tour of Europe, and yes, the irresponsible and potentially criminal handling of intelligence by American officials. How do we make sense of all this information?

I’ve been fairly quiet this week, listening, and thinking, and have drawn some conclusions.

First Trump. He just might turn into one of the best Presidents we’ve had in a long while, especially in foreign affairs. His speech in Riyadh bears more attention than it got. So does his response to Manchester. Beyond the conventional and necessary expression of sympathy to our friends and allies, he made an excellent point, which we should adopt, when he said, as Scott Adams reports.

President Trump just gave ISIS its new name: Losers. (Short for Evil Losers).

If you think that’s no big deal, you’re wrong. It’s a big deal. This is – literally – weapons-grade persuasion from the most powerful Master Persuader of our time.

As I have taught you in this blog, President Trump’s clever nicknames for people are not random. They are deeply engineered for visual impact and future confirmation bias.

In this case, the visuals will be provided by future terror attacks. That reinforces the “evil” part, obviously. But more importantly, the Losers will be doing nothing but losing on the battlefield from now until “annihilation.” They are surrounded, and the clock is ticking. Oh, and the press isn’t allowed to watch the final battles. In other words, we won’t need to build new holding cells on Guantanamo Bay this time. No press means no prisoners, if you know what I mean. (American soldiers won’t be shooting the prisoners. We have allies for that sort of thing.)

As you know, “annihilation” of the Losers in Loserdom won’t stop the loser’s ideas from spreading. You still have to kill the ideas. And that takes persuasion, not bullets. President Trump just mapped out the persuasion solution: Evil Losers.

Think about that for a while. Do it while you cry into your Kleenex™, taking your Excedrin™ for your headache, and seeing the USA in your Chevrolet, send me a Xerox™ me of your results, and don’t forget the Kodachromes™ of your trip. Marketing: it’s what we do, it’s what Trump does, his name has always been his brand, and he’s done it again. ISIS now equals Evil Losers™. It’ll stick because it’s true, and it’ll stick because they’ll demonstrate that it continues to be true. A genius move.

Then there is the trip, Riadayh, Jerusalem, Rome, to start. Think there might be a theme there? Sure there is: the home of the three so-called Abrahamic faiths. Truth to power in Saudi Arabia, reinforcing something that the King believes, that his people must modernize, but he, like England, for instance, is awash in Wahabi fanatics. It ain’t going to be easy, and at least he’s trying, and the direct flight to Israel demonstrates that the Saudis recognize that Israel is part of the solution, and that one cannot separate the US from Israel, Great Satan will always stand with Little Satan, not only the government but the people.

Then on to Rome, where all of us Christians have a stake, Catholic or not, this is the last, and foremost of the Patriarchates formed by the Apostles themselves, and arguably, even for Orthodox and Protestants, the one formed by the man that Jesus himself said about, “Upon this Rock.” The current incumbent is in some ways disappointing. In the exchange of gifts, Trump gave him a first edition collection of the works of the Rev Dr. Martin Luther King, a highly appropriate gift, I think. In return, he received copies of Amoris Laetitia, Evangelii Gaudium and Laudato Si’. Am I the only one the who finds it a bit reminiscent of Obama giving Queen Elizabeth an I-pod with his speeches? That’s what I thought.

But writing in the aftermath of Manchester, our friend, Francis Phillips wrote in The Catholic Herald about Dietrich von Hildebrand.

In response to the Islamist terrorist atrocity on Monday night in Manchester, in which 22 innocent people died and 59 have been injured, some severely, so many questions arise: why wasn’t the suicide bomber apprehended earlier (there had been several complaints to the police about his behaviour)? Are sporadic acts of Islamist terrorism now a fact of life in Europe in the future? Is the misplaced ideology of multiculturalism to blame for this act of outrage and others like it? Can we confidently make a distinction between Islam that is peaceful and Islamism that isn’t?

These are natural human questions. But as Christians we have to ask other, deeper and more personal ones. I have been reading the chapter “Blessed are the peacemakers” in Dietrich von Hildebrand’s book Transformation Christ as a way of moving beyond the highly disquieting news in the media with all the anxious questions that flow from it.

As the author says, to imitate Christ necessarily involves a love of peace and “a horror of all forms of discord, disunion and dissension”. But that in itself is not enough: to love peace is to act in a way that will help to bring it about. “Ignoring objective evils does not establish true peace”; nor does a “passive tolerance of evil”, through moral cowardice or sloth. At an individual level this means that we have” to draw [our enemy’s] attention to the wrong he has done us.” It also means engaging with the wider society and for the same purpose.

As von Hildebrand points out, “Cowardly acquiescence is not the love of peace”. True peace can only be found in close communion with Christ. This relationship alone will give us the strength to “possess, irradiate and spread peace.” We cannot always avoid suffering in this world but we can at least show others what the peace of Christ means in our lives. It calls for courage as well; in particular the courage to point out that what society calls “tolerance” is often the opposite. Christian values are not always the same as “British values” – as Christians have learned to their cost.

Indeed so, Christianity, and its allied secular powers have not built the modern world by ignoring evil, nor will we maintain it by doing so.

Then there are the inexcusable leaks to the New York Time of evidentiary material from Manchester. The British (and American) people deserve far better from our bureaucracy, as does our President. Hopefully, dismissals and prosecutions will follow. Something else bears here, as well. The Senate would be well advised to get off its ample rear (or head, it’s hard to tell) and confirm Trump’s people, a lot of this, I’d bet has to do with unreconciled Obama appointees.

On the other hand, it might have had a bit to do with waking up a few British folk about how much HMG covers up, to the point that I am hearing the word Londonistan again. And amongst my friends, I sense a resolve to solve this problem, one that I (and they) fear that their government does not share. And that is a most charitable way of putting it.

If I were asked (I won’t be!) my advice to Mrs. May would be three words from Britain’s heroic past…

Who Dares Wins

Manchester

So, it has happened again, this time in Manchester, England. We talked about this after the Boston bombing, and it’s just as true for our cousins, except this was arguably worse, targeting kids, many of them girls. I simply have no words, not even unprintable ones, for the scum that do such things. But I do have words for the way Manchester and England reacted, but Cranmer put it better.

Bodies and blood.

Carnage, terror and tears.

“There are children among the deceased,” confirmed Greater Manchester Police. “This has been the most horrific incident we have had to face,” said Chief Constable Ian Hopkins.

Nuts and bolts and nails.

Smoke and burning.

“This is horrific, this is criminal,” said Harun Khan, Secretary General of the Muslim Council of Britain. “May the perpetrators face the full weight of justice both in this life and the next.”

Emergency services praised.

Cobra committee convened.

“Please hold the people of #Manchester in your prayers,” tweeted David Walker, Bishop of Manchester. “We’ve faced terror attacks before and this latest won’t defeat us.”

Fear and division.

Thoughts, prayers and condemnation.

Evil descended upon Manchester Arena last night: his target was teenagers at a pop concert. He wore a vest packed with explosives and metal bits. There was a blast and then a flash of fire. And then everyone just started running, screaming and crying.

And then Jesus came.

“We are visiting for a health conference from morecambe bay trust tomorrow 3 Theatre ODPs available if needed,” tweeted Kirsty Withers, an NHS theatre clinical manager.

“If anyone needs shelter we are right on the outskirts of central Manchester in Salford, anything I can do to help DM me!!” tweeted science student Karolina Staniecka.

“Anyone in Manchester who needs to wait for their parents or needs somewhere stay or to make phone calls, etc, just DM me. We have tea!” offered the BBC’s Simon Clancy.

“Anyone needing somewhere to stay can come to our Manchester headquarters in the city centre,” tweeted Stephen Bartlett.

“The Holiday Inn nearest to Manchester Arena have taken dozens of kids who have been separated from their parents tonight,” said Samuel Carvalho.

“Taxi drivers in #Manchester offering free journeys to those stranded after the events in #ManchesterArena,” tweeted Bethan Bonsall.

Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me,‘ said Jesus.

God love the cousins, “We have tea!” It’s the way of our people, care for the injured,  help the helpless, bury the dead, and carry on.

The Book of Common Prayer has it.

MERCIFUL God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, who is the resurrection and the life; in whom whosoever believeth shall live, though he die; and whosoever liveth, and believeth in him, shall not die eternally; who also hath taught us (by his holy Apostle Saint Paul) not to be sorry, as men without hope, for them that sleep in him: We meekly beseech thee, O Father, to raise us from the death of sin unto the life of righteousness; that, when we shall depart this life, we may rest in him, as our hope is this our brother doth; and that, at the general Resurrection in the last day, we may be found acceptable in thy sight, and receive that blessing, which thy well-beloved Son shall then pronounce to all that love and fear thee, saying, Come, ye blessed children of my Father, receive the kingdom prepared for you from the beginning of the world: Grant this, we beseech thee, O merciful Father, through Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Redeemer. Amen.

And then there will be time to consider what must be done.

But our cousins don’t need us for that, like us, they will find the answer, likely after they have tried almost everything else. That too is the way of our people. But I suspect I speak for all Americans, that we agree with what Harry Hopkins told Churchill, long ago, in another crisis.

Well, I’m going to quote you one verse from that Book of Books … ‘Whither thou goest, I will go; and where thou lodgest, I will lodge: thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.’” Then he added very quietly: “‘Even to the end.’”

But those who wish us ill would be wise to consider the words of another Englishman, as well.

It was not part of their blood,
It came to them very late,
With long arrears to make good,
When the Saxon began to hate.

They were not easily moved,
They were icy — willing to wait
Till every count should be proved,
Ere the Saxon began to hate.

Their voices were even and low.
Their eyes were level and straight.
There was neither sign nor show
When the Saxon began to hate.

It was not preached to the crowd.
It was not taught by the state.
No man spoke it aloud
When the Saxon began to hate.

It was not suddently bred.
It will not swiftly abate.
Through the chilled years ahead,
When Time shall count from the date
That the Saxon began to hate.

Losses, and Despair

This blogging is a funny thing, often. We end up considering people that we’ve never spoken to as friends and colleagues. One of the people I most enjoyed reading, although only a few times have I referenced his blog was Kevin O’Brien, who went by the screen name of Hognose. He wrote mostly about guns, and their role in our society and his posts were excellent. He was an expert on Czech weapons and made them fascinating. Quite a trick with a guy like me, that tends to think the world begins and ends with Colt. In any case, the last post on his blog was by his brother

I’m sorry to have to tell you all that my brother Kevin O’Brien, host of this blog, passed away peacefully this morning at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. […]

Now I’d like to tell you more about Kevin and how he lived and died.  He was born in 1958 to Robert and Barbara O’Brien.  We grew up in Westborough, Mass.  Kevin graduated from high school in 1975 and joined the Army in (I believe) 1979.  He learned Czech at DLI and became a Ranger and a member of Special Forces.

Kevin’s happiest times were in the Army.  He loved the service and was deeply committed to it.  We were so proud when he earned the Green Beret.  He was active duty for eight years and then stayed in the Reserves and National Guard for many years, including a deployment to Afghanistan in 2003.  He told me after that that Afghan tour was when he felt he had made his strongest contribution to the world.

He was the best of us, and I’ll miss him, always. Rest in peace, my friend, whom I never interacted with at all.

Also, and even sadder, Bob Owens of Bearing Arms, died yesterday. Preliminary indications are that it was suicide. Bob was an expert on all thing connected with the 2d Amendment. As far as I recall, he only appeared here once, but there are many drafts here for things that for one reason or another didn’t get published. The one that did was from that very dark period following the 2012 election, when it looked like the wheels were really coming off. He said then:

When I wrote What you’ll seen in the rebellion, I had no idea how widely read an article warning of the dangers of second Revolutionary War could become. It has been “shared” thousands of times in social media, and new readers and comments are pouring in constantly.

Since the time it was written, state legislators in Illinois and New York have formally pressed for crushing gun control measures that would outlaw standard-capacity magazines, all semi-automatic handguns, rifles, and pistols, and even pump shotguns. There would be no grandfathering in these proposals, and no inheritance rights. A complete confiscation of these arms, “liberty’s teeth” as other have termed them, are the goal of these totalitarian governments. Legislators in other states are plotting similar measures.

In Washington, DC, federal Democrats—goaded by figures in the poli-media calling for the murders of gun owners and politicians that would oppose their “common sense” statism—have pushed for a similar raft of legislation, supporting the criminalization and confiscation of the most common firearms in the United States and various accessories. The Vice President of the United States has signaled to the mayor of Boston (how historically apt) that the White House itself may attempt to circumvent Congress and attempt to outlaw these common firearms with an executive order.

The people have responded to these threats by not merely buying up the firearms, magazines, and ammunition that might be affected by these proposed bans as they did in 1993/94 before the Clinton-era ban was pushed through, but by purchasing nearly every firearm of military utility of the past 100+ years. Ruger 10/22s and other common .22LR rifles have doubled in price when they can be found at all. Inexpensive Mosin-Nagants, originally designed in 1891 and typically found by the dozen in your average neighborhoodgun shops, are nowhere to be found, and their ammunition is gone as well. U.S. citizens are preparing for war against their government by the millions. Americans aren’t “going Galt” in response to the push by would-be elites to surging statism. We’re on the cusp ofgoing Häyhä. […]

Most of the downtown shops, in fact, weren’t doing much business except the two gun stores. I’d been in one several days ago to pick a .22LR for an article I’d be writing forShooting Illustrated, and decided to stop in at the other to see what the current political environment had left behind.

There were no less than six clerks working feverishly with the dozen or so customers, so I simply stepped to the side and walked the aisles. The cases of ammunition that typically lined the far wall were picked to pieces. There was a 100-round case of .50 BMG, and cases of European shotshells suitable for small game. The .223 Remington, 5.56 NATO, 7.62×39, 7.62 NATO, and 7.62x54R had sold out long ago, along with the bulk 9mm, .40 S&W, and .45 ACP.

A few pump shotguns remained along with a smattering of deer rifles, single-shots, and longer double-barreled shotguns suitable only for trap or skeet. Even the semi-automatic .22LR rifles like Ruger 10/22s were gone, along with all but one BX-25 magazine.

The customers in the shop were picking through what remained; lever-action rifles, oddball shotguns, and the smattering of name-brand centerfire pistols. One man was attempting to trade in an antique double-barrel shotgun for something more current.

I did speak to one harried clerk, briefly.

They didn’t know when they’d be getting anything back in stock, from magazines to rifles to pistols. Manufacturers were running full-bore, but couldn’t come close to keeping up with market demand.It wasn’t just the AR-15s, the AK-pattern rifles, the M1As, and the FALs that were sold out. It really hit me when I realized that the World War-era M1 Garands , M1 carbines, and Enfield .303s were gone, along with every last shell. Ubiquitous Mosin-Nagants—of which every gun store always seems to have 10-20—were gone. So was their ammo. Only a dust free space marked their passing. I’ve never seen anything like it.

Every weapon of military utility designed within the past 100+ years was gone. This isn’t a society stocking up on certain guns because they fear they may be banned. This is a society preparing for war.

He was one of those men who could easily read between the lines, the ones we need to help us all.

From the reports I’ve read, it sounds to me like he suffered from depression, and it’s not uncommon. I’ve dealt with it on a more minor scale, and even there it is an insidious disease, affecting us in ways we simply do not understand, and sometimes cannot even explain to those who want to help. Sometimes nothing at all helps, and even the good things, like the relaxation of the pressure on the Amendment in the last few months, can make things even worse. Yesterday, Nina Bookout at Victory Girls Blog said this

We were shocked and saddened to hear the news that Bob Owens died yesterday of an apparent suicide. Bob Owens deeply loved his family, this country, our Constitution, and was a fierce advocate for our 2nd Amendment rights. One only has to go back through his many blog posts at Bob Owens, his work with PJ Media or as the editor of Bearing Arms, to get a sense of who this man was. I myself first learned of him through his original blog, Confederate Yankee.

I too first read him at Confederate Yankee, and I agree with all she says here. There is a Go-Fund-Me for Bob’s family that you can access here.

God rest his soul, and give his family peace.

Once when she was having a bad spot, Jess wrote to me, ending with this,  “I guess I just have to ride this out and not give in to despair.” I guess she was right for all of us.

Julian of Norwich

Today is the Feast day of Mother Julian of Norwich in the Anglican and Lutheran traditions. She’s one of my favorite what? (not sure, she’s not a formal saint, but far more than merely the first published woman author in English). Mystic will perhaps do. I’ve written about her before, of course, here’s a bit.

“Her theology is interesting, she comes fairly close to being an Universalist, although some of it appears to be based somewhat on St. Augustine, and her thinking is such that I have heard her called a Proto-Lutheran because it does somewhat parallel Luther’s beliefs.”

It’s true enough, although she uses different terms and conditions she unmistakeably (at least to me) read as a “Theologian of the Cross”, in Lutheran terms. There are echoes too of Wycliffe and Langland’s Pier Plowman here as well. In sum, I find her firmly on the road that would lead to the Reformation, but not stridently enough to concern the church in her lifetime.

She also, while enclosed as an Anchoress, gave advice to many who came to her cell, including Margery of Kempe, the author of the first autobiography in English, from (what we would call) nearby Bishop’s (now King’s) Lynn. Margery rather sounds like she was a “bloody and difficult woman”, a trait not unknown amongst Englishwomen in any age. In fact, she got herself tried for heresy several times.

But Julian lived a quieter life. Susan Abernethy gives the best write up I know of it.

From her writings, we know that Julian was most likely born in 1342. She lived in Norwich or nearby and may have been from a privileged family. Her real name is not given in her texts. She may have taken her name from the parish church of St. Julian at Conisford in Norwich where she had a cell and lived as an anchoress or perhaps her real name was Julian or Juliana which was a common name at the time. We don’t know if she married or if she had children or even if she was a nun. We don’t know how she got the education that allowed her to write her books. Julian may have learned reading and writing from her mother or from the priests in her parish. Throughout her writing it is evident she sought teachings and preaching from her local priests. Everyday medieval life was inextricably linked to the church.

Norwich at the time of Julian’s life was a vibrant town whose wealth came from sheep breeding and wool production. There was trade with the Low Countries, Zeeland and France. At the time of Julian’s birth, Norwich had a population of about ten thousand and it was the second largest city in England. She and her family would have spoken English. Latin was spoken in the churches and the merchants and upper classes spoke French. A decade after her birth, the King made English the official language of his court.

When Julian was six years old, Norwich was visited by the pestilence known as the Black Death for the first time. Julian herself survived but within a year, three quarters of the population of the city was dead. It persisted for three years. The city itself came to a standstill. There were no workers to repair roads or shepherd the sheep. The wool trade ceased. Slowly, slowly life came back to the city.

When Julian was nineteen, the steeple of Norwich Cathedral fell to the ground in the storm. It seemed to be an omen. A few months later the Black Death returned and this time it targeted infants and small children. Medieval people believed the plague was sent by God as punishment for man’s sins. But everyone from all walks of life and all classes died from the plague. It was a confusing and perplexing time. The plague returned once again in 1368 along with a cattle plague and a bad harvest the next year.

I wrote a bit about her theology in Julian of Norwich: The ‘Sharpness’ of Sin. But hey, Mondays are bad enough, let’s have a conversation between Mother Julian and Rev. Dr. Luther, shall we?

NARRATOR: I came early this morning to set up, and no one was here. I was tired so I sat down on the chancel steps, and fell asleep. And I had the strangest dream: Julian of Norwich had a conversation with Martin Luther …..

ANGEL: (singing, from the balcony) “I want Jesus to walk with me, I want Jesus to walk with me, all along my pilgrim journey, Lord I want Jesus to walk with me.” (ELW #325)

LUTHER: (appearing from behind the pulpit, holding a large Bible, opened, in one hand, his feather ink pen in the other) “Be perfect, therefore, as your heavenly Father is perfect!” (Matthew 5:48, Gospel for Epiphany 7A) What does this mean?

JULIAN: (appearing in her cell, sitting on a stool, leaning upon the reading desk) What does this mean to you?

LUTHER: Who are you?

JULIAN: Julian of Norwich.

LUTHER: Are you one of those uber-enthusiasts, I call Schwaermer in my native German tongue? Julian of Norwich, that’s hardly the way to relate to the Lord.

ANGEL: (singing) “I want Jesus to walk with me; I want Jesus to walk with me; all along my pilgrim journey, Lord, I want Jesus to walk with me.”

JULIAN: How did you learn that you couldn’t be perfect as God is perfect, by your efforts alone? What did you do?

LUTHER: At first, I rubbed the tips of my fingers raw washing the floors in the Augustinian monastery in Erfurt. That didn’t help my conscience. So, in 1510 I decided to go off to Rome. I crawled devoutly up the stairs of the Scala Santa, as millions of other pilgrims did.

JULIAN: Life, itself, Martin offers its own penance: disappointments, failures, sickness, betrayals. Life, if we but allow it, purges us of all the things for which our habits and affections grasp. Why on earth did you do all those things?

LUTHER: I laboured and sacrificed so much in order to purge myself of sin. It was up to me, I believed, to make myself right before God. It all depended on how hard I worked and the more penitential I became. I tried to impress God. I once believed my good works were the gateway to my salvation; only then, could I be perfect as my heavenly Father is perfect.

JULIAN: What happened to change your understanding?

LUTHER: It was on the Scala Santa in Rome as I made my wearisome, guilt-ridden way up those holy stairs, I heard God’s voice saying to me: ‘The just shall live by faith, not by doing penance.’ It was like scales fell from my eyes. I stood up, walked back down, and stalked out to ignite the Reformation!

JULIAN: You heard God’s voice speak to you! How do you know that it was God who spoke? Was it the only time you heard the voice of God speak to you? It seems quite an experience, no? Did you not criticize the ‘Schwaermer’ — as you call them — those ‘fanatics’ who relied on experience alone to express their Spirit-filled faith?

LUTHER: Well, yes .. and no, not just experience alone. I was suffering severe cramps in my room one evening, reading through Paul’s letter to the Romans, when I came across the verse from chapter 3: “Since all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, we are now justified by God’s grace as a gift, through Jesus Christ” (v.23-24). This word of God is external, and comes to us quite apart from any experience we might have.

JULIAN: But you are not denying that God comes to us and speaks to us through our experiences?

LUTHER: Only when mediated through the Word.

JULIAN: I see, “Only when mediated by the Word.” And what, for you Martin, is the “Word’?

LUTHER: The spoken word, preached and proclaimed. The words in the bible. And, most importantly, the living Word made flesh, Jesus Christ.

Do continue with Martin Luther & Julian of Norwich.

Mother Julian wrote, and it is important for us to remember…

“If there is anywhere on earth a lover of God who is always kept safe, I know nothing of it, for it was not shown to me. But this was shown: that in falling and rising again we are always kept in that same precious love.”

And that is important, we are, none of us, perfect and the world shall trouble us. but she also reminds us that in the next world if not this one (in Elliot’s words)

Sin is Behovely, but
All shall be well, and
All manner of thing shall be well.
If I think, again, of this place,
And of people, not wholly commendable,
Of no immediate kin or kindness,
But of some peculiar genius,
All touched by a common genius,
United in the strife which divided them;

[…]

Whatever we inherit from the fortunate
We have taken from the defeated
What they had to leave us—a symbol:
A symbol perfected in death.
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well
By the purification of the motive
In the ground of our beseeching.

 

 

Jane Austen and Morality

Yesterday, when I posted the Jane Austen movie Persuasion, my friend the Unit made this comment.

I admit I’m commenting without watching the movie yet, and likely won’t. ‘Cause I read the plot and don’t care for stories of romance and female conniving. Anyway I read it ends “all’s well that ends well.”
Wiki says “Austen’s plots often explore the dependence of women on marriage in the pursuit of favourable social standing and economic security. Her works critique the novels of sensibility of the second half of the 18th century and are part of the transition to 19th-century literary realism.” I realize she’s widely acclaimed and it is my loss to not appreciate her and her works.

Well, he’s not exactly wrong, I could see myself making that exact comment a few years ago. But, as you all know, I’m more than a bit of a history geek, not to mention a romantic. I commented to him that she appeals to me as a smart-aleck and a very good user of the English language. That too is true, but there is still more.

She also speaks to us from a time when it was realized that the ideal state of human existence was to be married. I know that I was, I am not now, and my life now is far from optimal, not that I have a solution that is acceptable to me at present. Back in September, Carolyn Moynihan wrote a letter to Bridget Jones in Miss Austen’s persona. Here’s a bit from Mercator.

Dear Miss Jones,

Having kept an eye on the twists and turns of your romantic career for the past 15 years, I now hear that you are going to have a baby. I should like to congratulate you but I have deep misgivings about this news. You are not married. You are not even sure who the father is. DNA tests may settle that question, but will he (that travesty of Mr Darcy, or the new hook-up) marry you?

It is a truth universally acknowledged that a man who can get sex without the commitment of marriage is not going to be in a hurry to tie the knot, even when a baby is on the way. Mr Wickham, the “gentlemanlike” villain of Pride and Prejudice, only married Lydia Bennet with a (metaphorical) gun in his back, and I believe that shotgun weddings have not been heard of since about 1970.

I am sure you want this baby – at 43 it may well be your last chance. It may all seem like a good joke to you, and the film director will no doubt contrive a happy ending; but in reality the situation is fraught with uncertainty both for you and your child. If you consult the data, or simply read the Daily Mail, you will find that pre-marital sex, especially with more than one partner, increases your risk of divorce; and should you separate, your child will be robbed of the steady presence of a father and the optimum conditions for his or her wellbeing.

Given these real risks, and since your story is supposedly a 21st century analogue of P&P, I feel compelled to point out where you and your times have actually lost the plot – not only of my book but of marriage itself. (You will forgive me quoting from the Bible and the Prayer Book, but I am a vicar’s daughter!)

‘What God has joined together…’ I mentioned divorce. Your risk of this is greater not only because of your previous experience but also because it is so easy to get. The first big mistake in your era was the introduction of no-fault divorce. The idea that a marriage could be ended because one of the spouses walked out of it has made the whole institution appear arbitrary and fragile. Countless children have been wounded by the separation of parents who could have transcended their differences and focused on the wellbeing of the family unit.

This is roughly what Mr and Mrs Bennet did with their most “unsuitable marriage” because divorce was not an option 200 years ago; certainly not for the gentry and lower classes. And although the results were mixed in terms of the characters of their daughters, there was only one real disaster – partly salvaged by good offices of extended family and Mr Darcy. The law, religion, other social pressures and family support helped them to muddle through. […]

Honestly, Bridget, I would not want to write, or read, about any other kind of marriage. Nor would I want to see the movie.

Yours,

Jane Austen

Do read it all, and as someone who has been on both sides of this equation, I wholeheartedly agree. I’ll think you’ll see that Miss Austen’s society held women (and men) in much higher regard than our society does. Yes, it had many inequities, but it also had many uplifting qualities that we have lost along the way. All in all, I think they had it much closer to right than we do.

%d bloggers like this: