What can we learn from the ‘melting pot’?

 

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Over at my blog, there was been some spring cleaning going on – so perhaps this post should be preceded by a trigger warning (no, I think conservatives are tough enough to take it)? As my new job brings me into the front line of evangelism in a big city, although God does not change, my sense of what we need to be doing for him does. I have spent most of my life in monolingual, white, middle class communities. Christianity became inculturated there long ago, but on the whole the culture has moved on and we haven’t. The net result is what any marketing exec could tell you – those who have always bought your product still do so, but it lacks mass appeal.  If you have no experience, as was my case, of what it is to live in a multi-cultural, multi-lingual and multi-racial community, two options seem common – go all defensive or all enthusiastic. But if you stand back and do neither, so you see things, things about which I think the USA has much to teach us.

Sure, it’s multi-cultural and multi-racial, but the middle class people live in one area, and the working classes in another, and as the goods on the shelves of the corner shops (Mom and Pop stores) show, ethnic communities tend to congregate together. If you are a city or national government, how do you make sure you talk to all those communities – and listen to them? The old way was to insist that people adopted your customs and languages, but across time, that modified those older customs and languages, and you got something like a melting pot effect. It was never a perfect ‘blend’, because people tend to be attached to their own kind and customs, but it offered a chance for people from different places to become ‘Americans’.

Sometimes I read things which say that what went wrong was not insisting that everyone conformed to one model, but I wonder if that notion was wrong? Christianity spread not by insisting that everyone became Jewish – although the ‘men from James’ seem to have thought that would be a good method of evangelisation – but by a process we call ‘inculturation’ – and the USA is a really good example of that. Sure, you can try to spread the Gospel by insisting that African-Americans have church services like white middle class Episcopalians, or that you speak to Spanish-speaking communities only in English, but if you expect any of that to work, you’re on a loser. Being supreme pragmatists, Americans have tended not to do these things. You can point, rightly, to racial tensions and inter and intra-community problems, but these things, like the poor, are always with us, and at least Americans aren’t trying to pretend that these problems don’t exist.

Building communities, like evangelism, is a work in progress. If you want a comfort zone, stay away from such endeavours and criticise those who do – the Monday morning quarterback always plays the best football after all. It is easy, in pessimism, to point at what seems wrong and miss the efforts that go into making a nation out of divided and separated communities. America has been unique in doing this, and I’m less inclined to criticise than to learn – and often we learn most from things which don’t quite work – or even by getting in wrong and trying something that does. If you act, you risk getting it wrong, if you don’t act, you will definitely atrophy – for me the American way suggests positivity is better than negativity.

However much we’re all inclined to throw up our hands and despair, we know for sure that if the Apostles had taken that course, we’d be damned for eternity.

Ride ’em Hard!

The inventor of the Harley-Davidson motorcycle, Arthur Davidson, died and went to heaven. 

At the pearly gates, St. Peter told Arthur, “Since you’ve been such a good man and your motorcycles have changed the world, your reward is, you can hang out with anyone you want in Heaven.” 

Arthur thought about this for a minute and then said, “I want to hang out with God.” 

St. Peter took Arthur to the Throne Room and introduced him to God.

God recognized Arthur and commented, “Okay, so you were the one who invented the Harley-Davidson motorcycle?” 

Arthur said, “Yep, that’s me.” 

God said, “Well, what’s the big deal in inventing something that’s pretty unstable, makes noise and pollution and can’t run without a road?” 

Arthur was apparently embarrassed, but finally he said, “Excuse me, but aren’t you the inventor of woman?” 

Continue reading: Ride ’em Hard! | Oyia Brown

The Rising of 16

pizapcom146219386145812Jessica and I are both rather taken with Ruth Davidson, the leader of the conservative opposition in the Scottish Parliament. Jess wrote about her, here, and she just keeps sounding better and better. For instance, last Sunday, writing on one of my favorite British blogs, A Conservative Woman, Tom Gallager said this.

The SNP’s [Scotish National Party] membership swelled during the referendum which David Cameron carelessly gifted to Alex Salmond when he was First Minister, on terms that suited the SNP. Militant activists from post-industrial west-central Scotland now dominate the party. The new party leader, Nicola Sturgeon, sought to appease them by talking up the chances of another vote on Scotland’s constitutional future in an otherwise lacklustre campaign.

The Scottish Tories have got a capable team who often sound authentic because many can relate to the farmers, housewives, small business people, owner occupiers and aspirational young people overlooked by the SNP in favour of urban activist groups.

Months on the stump under a massively popular young leader, Ruth Davidson, have persuaded a lot of Scots to take a fresh look at the Tories and not dismiss them as class-ridden, out-of-touch and anti-Scottish.

Like Labour before it, a mediocre SNP has ramped up the anti-Tory rhetoric to make up for its glaring deficiencies during 9 years in office. But outside some Clydeside areas, this opportunistic tactic has obtained diminishing returns.  Six Tories have been elected for single constituencies instead of relying on salvation by getting a place on the list system which makes voting in Scotland roughly proportional. They include Davidson herself in Edinburgh, Adam Tomkins in Glasgow, an academic who played a formidable role in the 2014 referendum, and a swathe of new MSPs right across southern Scotland.

via Tom Gallagher: The SNP is obsessed with social engineering – The Conservative Woman

Yep, and you know, part of what I detest about politics here, and in Britain as well, is all the negativity and campaigning by running down your opponent. Since Jess moved to Edinburgh (and had the pleasure of voting for Ms. Davidson, which I envy) I’ve been watching the Scottish news fairly regularly, and if anything Ms. Sturgeon comes off worse to me than Tom says above.

Not much of that with Ms. Davidson. She seems to be all about responsible government, improvements, especially in education, Britain’s educational system is in almost as bad shape as ours, and for the same reasons, mostly. Tom also made this point.

The SNP is dominated by lawyers and managerial types who along with mobilised minorities have sought to turn Scotland into a laboratory for  ever more radical forms of equality laws, which are a screen for heavy state control of society by ‘experts’ and overseers.

It is well-known that Ruth Davidson is a lesbian, less well-known that she is a practising Christian who has boosted the appeal of her party by offering common sense answers to problems rather than ideological prescriptions. She is committed to making government more transparent and less centralised and arbitrary. With this approach she struck a chord with numerous Scots throrougly fed up with SNP autocracy.

The Scottish Tories are stronger in terms of brains, experience and broad appeal than any of their competitors. This is quite a turn around for a political force written off by academics and media commentators as moribund or from another age. They will make their presence felt in the committee system of parliament where the SNP has been able to ram through civil service blueprints for turning Scotland into a thoroughly state-controlled entity.

As I said to Jess recently, Davidson portrays conservative parties as they should be, both here and there. What I said was this, “The party of productive people at all levels, and all (how do I say this) lifestyles.” because as conservatives, we know that what you do at home isn’t our business, it’s yours, and likely something for you to take up with God, not the politicos. That to me is the worst part of the very leftist SNP, they really do want to stick their nose in your bedroom.

But let Ruth Davidson speak for herself.

Too often, our parliament has focused on the powers it hasn’t got and on endless debates about the constitution.

The time for that is over.

Whatever else Nicola Sturgeon has, she doesn’t have a mandate to drag independence back to the forefront of political debate.

This is one area where I will be uncompromising. There can be no excuse for the SNP to continually hold our country to ransom.

We’ve had enough of the grievance. Enough of the dog-whistle politics which always seeks to lay the blame at Westminster. Enough of the clumsy attempts to claim that whatever the problem in Scotland is, the answer is independence.

The SNP were sent a clear message last week.

The people of Scotland asked them to govern for five more years.

In denying them an overall majority, the voters put them on a shorter leash.

The SNP need to focus on the day job. Making sure they do will be my guiding mission for the next five years.

via: Ruth Davidson: I will work with the SNP as opposition leader – But there will be NO second referendum on my watch

My sort of conservative, she is!

The title? Well, if you know your history, you’ll know that in 1715, there was a rebellion in Scotland against King George I, attempting to restore to the Throne King James II, after King George had purged the Tories from government, and amongst other things, imprisoned in the Tower Robert Harley, for supposed financial mismanagement. The rebellion succeeded for a time in Scotland under the earl of Mar but ultimately failed, almost everyone was pardoned, except for Rob Roy MacGregor, eventually, the entire Clan Gregor was mostly suppressed, many coming to America. In fact, MacGregor, Iowa is named for the clan. The rebellion has come down to us as ‘The Rising of 15’.

And that made me think of a few line from Walter Scott’s poem Glenfinlas

Not so, by high Dunlathmon’s fire,
Thy heart was froze to love and joy,
When gaily rung thy raptured lyre
To wanton Morna’s melting eye.

Angry and afraid, Moy replies,

And thou! when by the blazing oak
I lay, to her and love resign’d,
Say, rode ye on the eddying smoke,
Or sail’d ye on the midnight wind?

Not thine a race of mortal blood
Nor old Glengyle’s pretended line;
Thy dame, the Lady of the Flood—
Thy sire, the Monarch of the Mine.

Gaudium et Spes: The Church in the Modern World

eb1050dd-5a47-45db-9243-08b6c3276143This Newman Lecture is by the Rt Revd Philip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth, whose title is also the title of the post.

Bishop Philip is a graduate of King’s College, London and the University of Birmingham (PhD, Theology). He undertook his formation for the priesthood at Allen Hall, London and the Venerable English College, Rome, and was awarded his Licentiate in Sacred Theology (STL) from the Pontifical Gregorian University.

He was ordained to the sacred priesthood in August 1984 and served as an Assistant Priest at St. Anthony’s, Woodhouse Park (1985-8), before becoming assistant chaplain at Fisher House to the University of Cambridge (1988-91).

He was appointed Chaplain to Arrowe Park Hospital, Wirral (1991-4) before doing further studies at Boston College, Ma. For twelve years, he was on the formation staff of St. Mary’s College, Oscott, the major seminary in the Archdiocese of Birmingham, where he was the College’s Dean of Studies and Professor of Fundamental Theology. He returned to Boston College as a post-doctoral research fellow of the Lonergan Institute in 2007, before being appointed Parish Priest of Our Lady and St. Christopher’s, Romiley, near Stockport in 2008.

In 2010 he was appointed Vicar General of the Diocese of Shrewsbury and in 2011 a Prelate of Honour to his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI and in 2012 a Canon of Shrewsbury Cathedral.

Bishop Philip is frequently asked to speak at theological symposia and at catechetical gatherings and he has regularly contributed to religious journals and magazines. He has written about the thought of Newman and Lonergan and recently published Philosophy and Catholic Theology: A Primer (Collegeville, 2009).

This is, sadly, the last of this years Newman Lectures. We have been proud to again bring them to you.

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Our lovely @NewmanLectures team – Tvm @SiobhanHoffmann@deeksgeorge@mattmediauea@TBaragwanath@Katyy_s#newman2016pic.twitter.com/pq033ggOOo

— John Charmley (@ProfJCharmley) April 25, 2016

 

One of the things that always fascinates me about these lectures is that while they are mostly done by Catholic clergy, how appropriate they are for us all. Here for example, in telling us about how Vatican II effected the Church, he also tells us a deal about why the Catholic Church is becoming not like us conservative Protestants, exactly, but perhaps why it has become so much easier for us to work with Catholics on matters of the faith. And besides, for all of us, John says it well, here:

 

And so, we come to the end of another year’s worth of Newman Lectures, we hope you have enjoyed and profited as much from them as we have. I also want to add my thanks to the team that works so hard to put these on.

And especially thanks to Professor Charmley and Deacon Andrew, for making these possible.

If you wish to review any of these just click the tab on the top of the page that says, “Newman Lectures’ at any time.

As always, sponsored by:

Diocese of East Anglia

Conservative success!

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In the 1997 General Election, the UK Conservative Party lost all its Scottish seats, and with the creation of devolved parliament in Edinburgh (where I now live), it seemed that north of the border, the Conservatives were a dead ‘brand’. As recently as 2011 they had only 17 seats in the Scottish Parliament, and with the Scottish nationalists winning an unprecedented second term with a majority of seats (something hard to get under the electoral system here), it seemed that the country was headed toward a one party state and possible independence. Then something happened – or rather someone happened – a 5 foot 3 bundle of energy called Ruth Davidson became leader of the Scottish Conservative Party. She seemed, to put it mildly, an unlikely leader for the Scottish Unionists.

She comes from a working-class background, got to University, went into the media and then, so it seemed, committed career suicide by taking up a career as a Tory politician in the most viscerally anti-Tory part of the UK. Before she became leader there was some doubt as to how Tory voters – and others – would react to the fact that she was both openly gay and a practicing Christian? The short answer was delivered yesterday when the elections saw her win a seat in Edinburgh (I voted for her) and her party become the second largest in the Scottish Parliament. So, what went right?

We often say here that personality matters. Well, Ruth Davidson is a former territorial army officer, she broke her back in her twenties and had to learn to walk again – she’s not really going to be phased by political insults. She’s a bundle of energy, she’s so obviously sincere in her support for the Union that she’s been able to win support from those who are not natural Tory voters but want to save the Union and do not trust the Labour Party (which did dismally here) to do so. Labour, in an attempt to win some nationalist votes, at least sent signals it might be willing to do deals on the subject. No doubt there were those offering the save advice to Ms Davidson, but she rejected that line and went with what she believed.

There’s a lesson here for the Conservatives south of the border. Widely seen as dominated by upper-class public school boys who have no idea how the rest of us live, their candidate for the London Mayoralty, the multi-millionaire Zac Goldsmith, was beaten into a cocked hat by the Muslim son of a Pakistani bus driver, Sadiq Khan, a Labour MP who sounded as though he actually lived in London in the way most ordinary people do. Boris Johnson, another public schoolboy, had the charisma to be able to appeal across the political divide, and who knows, may become Prime Minister when Cameron stands down.

But up here, the dynamism of Ruth Davidson offers another option – a down to earth figure who can appeal to people across the political spectrum and whose obvious sincerity and connectedness to reality makes her a popular figure. Boris might hope she stays here – we certainly do.

The Changing Faces of the Papacy

This is a fascinating overview of the last 50 or so years of the Catholic church, not so much a lecture as an audio/visual memoir. While he doesn’t take anybody’s side in the controversies racking our churches, he gives a perspective on why things are as they are, one of the best talks I’ve heard anywhere. I think you’ll enjoy it, and profit from it.

His Eminence Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor

Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O’Connor is a retired bishop and cardinal of the Roman Catholic Church, Archbishop Emeritus of Westminster and former President of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales. He was created a cardinal by Pope John Paul II in the 2001 Consistory.

The next, and last, lecture for this year will be Bishop Philip Egan, Bishop of Portsmouth

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