A Most Resolute People?

This was taken in London in 1940. These people are serious, but they look pretty unafraid, and they even have a smile for their Queen. In fact, those people, no less than the Few in Fighter Command, inspired the world, to defeat Nazi Germany. As has been said so often, there was no more compelling reason for the United States to enter the European War than there was for the Soviet Union to enter the Japanese war, and they didn’t till after VE Day.

But we did. Why? Well, there were the famous radio broadcasts, by Edward R. Murrow, starting with “This is London” with the bombs going off in the background, there was the bravery and success of the RAF. But there was also admiration for the British people, fighting on alone, with the King and his family at their head (and bombed himself) and the words of the Prime Minister, Winston Churchill, the best of both countries distilled into one man.

And so, together we built the world of today. But…

The pictures from London this weekend didn’t look like that. They didn’t show a resolute people, who could legitimately say, “Give us the tools, and we will finish the job”. Instead we saw this.

REUTERS/Neil Hall

That is not a portrait of serious, resolute people, that’s a picture of a defeated people, who have given up any control of their own life. Perhaps the police instructed them to do this, it is a reasonable way to make sure they haven’t weapons, but this went on for blocks. They damned sure weren’t ‘walking like free men.’

Thing is, if reports are right, the wannabe terrorists killed 7 people with the total destruction of their force. That ain’t no victory, that’s a defeat, and a bad one. They killed three people each, none of whom had anything to do with their cause, just happened to be there. I think in America the wannabe terrorists would have done even worse, it sounds like there were plenty of opportunities for a civilian who knew what he was doing to intervene decisively. The Mets response was very good, but as always when you need a cop in seconds they were only minutes away.

Then there is this:

It’s kind of reasonable advice, if you’re a helpless subject, totally dependent on the police, which is what the British government seems to want these days. But at some point one must fight, even rabbits will, and rabbits have teeth, and sometimes win.

Kim Quade over at Victory Girls wrote yesterday

Free people don’t live to react. They live confidently and proactively. They fiercely guard their borders and maintain their culture. It’s sad to think that the little island nation of Britain, which kept Nazis from invading their land nearly 80 years ago, may be succumbing to their own folly within.

She’s right, it’s very sad indeed to think that the little island of Britain, whose people more than anyone else, built the world we live in, will end this way. But if they don’t change, it will.

But let’s end with something much more uplifting.

 

The Feast of Bede the Venerable

The first great English historian, patron of writers and historians, writer of what is still the standard history of Anglo-Saxon England in his Historia Ecclesiastica, the only English-born Doctor of the Church, and the first to translate the Bible into English. He was born about 672 and died on 26 May 735, which, as it is this year, was the feast of the Ascension.

From A Clerk of Oxford:

[…]This is a lovely coincidence (or occasional mercy, rather) because the feast of the Ascension and the words of its liturgy were in Bede’s mind, and on his lips, as he lay dying. We know this because a moving account of Bede’s death was recorded by a monk named Cuthbert, a former pupil of Bede’s and later abbot of Wearmouth-Jarrow. Cuthbert was present at Bede’s deathbed, and this is how he describes his death.

For nearly a fortnight before the Feast of our Lord’s Resurrection he was troubled by weakness and breathed with great difficulty, although he suffered little pain. Thenceforward until Ascension Day he remained cheerful and happy, giving thanks to God each hour day and night. He gave daily lessons to us his students, and spent the rest of the day in singing the psalms so far as his strength allowed. He passed the whole night in joyful prayer and thanksgiving to God, except when slumber overcame him; but directly he awoke, he continued to meditate on spiritual themes, and never failed to thank God with hands outstretched. I can truthfully affirm that I have never seen or heard of anyone who gave thanks so unceasingly to the living God as he.

O truly blessed man! He used to repeat the saying of the holy Apostle Paul, ‘It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God’, and many other sayings from holy scripture, and in this manner he used to arouse our souls by the consideration of our last hour. Being well-versed in our native songs, he described to us the dread departure of the soul from the body by a verse in our own tongue, which translated means: ‘Before setting forth on that inevitable journey, none is wiser than the man who considers – before his soul departs hence – what good or evil he has done, and what judgement his soul will receive after its passing’.

The English translation of John’s Gospel which Bede was working on at his death has not survived, and nor have any of Bede’s other English writings (it’s not clear whether his ‘Death Song’ was of his own composition, or if he is quoting a poem he knew). But a century or so after Bede’s death, an Anglo-Saxon poet composed a poem on the Ascension which must be one of the greatest poems ever written on that subject. I quoted it at length here, but this is my favourite part:

Swa se fæla fugel flyges cunnode;
hwilum engla eard up gesohte,
modig meahtum strang, þone maran ham,
hwilum he to eorþan eft gestylde,
þurh gæstes giefe grundsceat sohte,
wende to worulde. Bi þon se witga song:
‘He wæs upp hafen engla fæðmum
in his þa miclan meahta spede,
heah ond halig, ofer heofona þrym.’
…Wæs se siexta hlyp,
haliges hyhtplega, þa he to heofonum astag
on his ealdcyððe. þa wæs engla þreat
on þa halgan tid hleahtre bliþe
wynnum geworden. Gesawan wuldres þrym,
æþelinga ord, eðles neosan,
beorhtra bolda. þa wearð burgwarum
eadgum ece gefea æþelinges plega.

So the beautiful bird ventured into flight.
Now he sought the home of the angels,
that glorious country, bold and strong in might;
now he swung back to earth again,
sought the ground by grace of the Spirit,
returned to the world. Of this the prophet sang:
‘He was lifted up in the arms of angels
in the great abundance of his powers,
high and holy, above the glory of the heavens.’
…The sixth leap,
the Holy One’s hope-play, was when he ascended to heaven
into his former home. Then the throng of angels
in that holy tide was made merry with laughter,
rapt with joy. They saw the glory of majesty,
first of princes, seek out his homeland,
the bright mansions. After that the blessed city-dwellers
endlessly delighted in the Prince’s play.

Here is where English, British, and American written history begins, where it ends depends, in large part in our diligence in studying what has come before.

Also: Bede’s death — NEWMAN LECTURES.

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.

 

 

Literally: The Bible

And here is that question we’ve all had asked us, “Do you believe the Earth was created 6000 years ago?” Give or take for whatever smug resource our questioner is using. And the question is always a gotcha question, no matter what you say, the one asking it will ridicule you. Not that that matters, we should expect little else from unbelievers, although we should engage them, always trying to help them to see. But Glenn T. Stanton, in yesterday’s Federalist, went through the whole thing, and very well too.

[…]

Why? It’s quite simple: Literally no one takes the Bible literally. NO ONE. But otherwise intelligent pollsters and journalists continue to ask the question as a gauge for who really takes the Bible seriously—or too seriously. And Christians continue to play along.

Here, here and here are just a few examples of this. It all shows an embarrassing ignorance of how billions of Christians and Jews approach this important and world-changing book hermeneutically. This is unacceptable.

I’ll Prove It in Ten Seconds

All one need do is open a Bible to any random page. I’ve just slipped my thumb into my closed Bible as I write this and aimlessly opened to Ecclesiastes 10:2, where we read: “The heart of the wise inclines to the right, but the heart of the fool to the left.”

If I say I take Scripture literally, then I must believe my heart—this four-chambered, muscular organ beating in my chest—physically inclines to the left part of my chest cavity because I’m a fool. If I were ever to become wise, it will physically shift toward the right side. My cardiologist would be amazed.

However, if I take these words as true, authoritative, and reliable, rather than literally, they mean my internal self—who I really am—is inclined in a direction exactly opposite of one who is wise. Scripture’s lesson for me? Being wise or a fool has dramatic and polar opposite consequences and affects us internally and externally, right down to our deepest depths.

Let’s do it again for confirmation. I randomly flip over a few books and find myself in Psalm 62. I read here, in verse two, that God is my rock, my salvation, and my fortress. This is good news indeed.

Taken literally, it raises the question as to what kind of rock God is: igneous, sedimentary, or metamorphic? God says he’s my fortress. Is he stone, wooden, or steel? How tall are his walls? What’s his configuration? Am I being disrespectful with such questions?  It seems like it, and that’s the point. If anyone actually took the Bible literally, these would be perfectly reasonable questions for any serious student.

What People Really Mean by the Question

Of course, when we answer “Do you take the Bible literally?” we are simply taking it as short-hand for “Do you take the Bible as truth?” But the faithful student should have long ago dispelled such misinformed assumptions, correcting the questioner with, “You don’t really understand much about Christianity or the Bible, do you?” The serious student of Dante or Shakespeare wouldn’t tolerate such ignorance of their beloved texts. We shouldn’t either.

And that is the right answer, as it always has been. And one thing you’ll usually find is that the question wasn’t asked in good faith, anyway. That is sad, but it is.

Blood and Earth

Steve Berman wrote an article for yesterday’s Resurgent. I think he makes quite a valid point. Here’s some of what he said:

[…] Europeans are very much into discussing Trump, and generally trolling any American who doesn’t display sufficient venom and hatred of him. I’ve been criticized by American liberals in the same way, and of course by Trump Kool-Aid drinkers who think I must have carried a Hillary sign because I recognized the factual negatives of a Trump presidency.

But, short of a nuclear war, which is only barely more perceptible inside the realm of fathomability, Trump represents little more than a blip on the slope produced by the American political equation. But someone like Marine Le Pen represents a much greater threat to Europe than Trump does to America.

It’s not just Le Pen. Greek Prime Minister Alexis Tsipras, leader of the Syriza (officially “Coalition of the Radical Left”) party; Dutch nationalist Geert Wilders, whose PVV party controls 13 percent of the Dutch House of Representatives and 12 percent of the Dutch Senate;  Turkish President-cum-dictator Recep Tayyip Erdoğan, and Britain’s Brexit vote all represent a swing toward European nationalism. […]

In social liberalism, all the EU nations (Turkey having stalled their joining) share the same cultural liberalism and moral relativism. The term “conservative” in Europe has quite a different meaning than it does in America.

What we’re seeing in Europe is actually dangerous. I’m no fan of one-world government globalism, or some utopian panacea to produce Liberté, Equalité, Fraternité forever. But forgive me for pointing out that Europeans, untethered from the requirements of entwined interests, tend to pursue extremely self-interested courses, regardless of the political philosophy or structure of state government applied to each nation.

In other words, Napoleon, Mussolini, Kaiser Wilhelm, Tsar Nicholas II, Stalin, and Hitler were all woven from the same loom, if not cut from the same cloth. Nationalism, socialism, national socialism, communism, monarchy, or the Jacobins–take your pick. They all inexorably fell to the same result: war, death, conquest, and the conquered.

He’s got a pretty good point here. If I was a Frenchman, I would vote for Le Pen, because as I said on another site yesterday, policies don’t matter all that much when survival is at stake, and I think that is where France is.

You all know that I detest the EU, to my eyes it’s little more than a German Zollverein, a customs union, tending toward Das Vierte Reich, but that’s my view.

But the EU program got underway initially to curb European nationalism. That nationalism has often been toxic as well. It’s often called ‘blood and soil nationalism’. And it has a nasty habit of getting completely out of hand. Frankly, in some ways, Le Pen doesn’t sound all that different from Mussolini and bears watching. But the EU has gone bad and needs destroying before it destroys the West.

One place where I disagree with Steve is where he lumps the UK in with Europe. To me, that just doesn’t hold up. From what I’ve seen of Britain, although that Gott mit uns (like the Kaiser’s) sort of patriotism does exist, as it does in the US, theirs is more like ours, holding their ideals aloft, rather than their land and blood.

And that is the difference with America, our patriotism, while very pronounced, isn’t about the land, or the people. It’s about the idea, often expressed as ‘The City on the Hill’. Traditionally, we go out into the world to fight evil, hoping we are on the Lord’s side, not claiming he is on ours. Therefore, it is not really dangerous in geopolitical terms, if people stay in their own country and leave their neighbors alone, they have little to fear from the US.


A couple shorts:

It was reported that several ISIS fighters, in Iraq (I think) were killed by feral boars. Well, if you ever hunted feral boars, it’s not hard to believe. I mention it mostly because Ace won the day with his phrase, “They got attacked by ‘armored bacon’. That is a most felicitous phrase.

Also, Nordstroms, who are again quietly carrying Ivanka Trump’s designs have also unveiled a pair of jeans (for $425.00) that have been presoiled with fake dirt.

That man wins one internet! Mike Rowe wasn’t impressed, either.

 

Christ is Risen

That’s the importance of the day. Jesus the Christ is risen from the dead.

A few words on some of the symbolism, The term Easter comes from the old Anglo-Saxon goddess of spring, although the only real mention is from the Venerable Bede. The egg being proscribed during Lent was offered in abundance at Easter and is an obvious metaphor for rebirth. There is some evidence for a hare hunt being traditional on Good Friday but, it’s a fairly obvious sign of “go forth, be fruitful, and multiply” anyway.

For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life.

And so we come to the crux of the matter. The triumph over original sin and death itself. For if you believe in the Christ and his message you will have eternal life. This is what set Christianity apart, the doctrine of grace. For if you truly repent of your sins, and attempt to live properly, you will be saved. Not by your works, especially not by your wars and killing on behalf of your faith, valid and just though they may be,  but by your faith and your faith alone. For you serve the King of Kings.

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