Thursday, November 21, 2013

If George Carey is right, then so is GAFCON!

Discerning readers of ADU, by which I mean all of you, will have been noticing around the internet traps that ++George Carey has recently said that Christianity (or just the C of E?) in England has just one generation of life left and then it's last one out turn off the lights.

Andrew Brown, who often writes what strikes me as 'nasty pieces of work', puts the boot into ++George. First, he says that George has been saying this for years, only previously it was a ploy to inspire the troops to greater evangelistic efforts, now it is "Like a hypochondriac told by the doctor that he really has got cancer, the former archbishop finds that the worries that have comforted him for years are suddenly, horribly frightening."

Secondly, Brown says it is largely Carey's fault. The sub-heading tells his accusatory thesis, "If the CofE is doomed, as former archbishop of Canterbury George Carey insists, it's down to the damage he did in office." Not nice, Andrew. Just nasty. The point of the body of Christ is that all are responsible for its health ... oh, wait, theology has nothing to do with anything when we want to be nasty.

If Brown could get away from the joy of putting the boot into Carey he might like to consider the complexity of British society, the pluralism of Western culture in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Broad churches such as the C of E are going to have complexities. Its archbishops are having (and have had) a heck of a job balancing competing demands to offer both balanced leadership to their diverse and often conflicted church and prophetic response to ever-changing society. Carey (and Williams who gets a kicking too) deserve sympathy not sarcasm.

The worst part of Brown's boot job is its complete failure to think through what kind of church the C of E might be now if from the early 1990s it had completely followed what general English culture had told it to do. I suggest it would be now be dead. Not one generation away from demise.

We are on much better grounds if we read A.N. Wilson in the Telegraph, helpfully brought to my attention by the much maligned (here) David Virtue. His whole article is a sobering if not shattering analysis of the state of faith in English culture. I do not think fluency in Kiwispeak is required before translating it into NZ church life. If you do nothing else today, read this article!

Here are the paragraphs that are the bare minimum required reading for people who love the God of Jesus Christ, his gospel, his body and that bit of it described as 'Anglican.' My bold.

"Evangelicals like [Carey] have had some success, mainly in suburban parishes, where congregations can be numbered in their hundreds. But these places, which appear to buck the trend, are in catchment areas of tens of thousands of people, none of whom would go near such an evangelical Church, with its outreach, Toddlers' Praise and speaking in tongues.

There are two simple reasons for this, and there is nothing anyone can say that will make these reasons go away.

The first is sex. Traditional Christianity taught that there is no permitted sexual act outside marriage. All but no one now - even Christians - really believes this. What used to be called "living in sin" is absolutely normal. Nearly all young people, gay or straight, when they reach a certain moment in their relationship, try living together. The Churches can either back down and say that for 2,000 years they have been talking nonsense about sex; or they can dig in their heels. Either way, the Church is diminished. [Editorial Note: we are in a cleft stick!]

The second reason is a much bigger thing. That is the decline of belief itself. Most people simply cannot subscribe to the traditional creeds. No number of Alpha courses can make people believe that God took human form of a Virgin, or rose from the dead. They simply can't swallow it. They see no reason, therefore, to listen to a Church that propounds these stories and then presumes to tell them how to behave in the bedroom.

When there was a tradition of church-going, there was more room for unbelief. When a young priest told Archbishop Michael Ramsey that he had lost his faith in God, Ramsey replied, after a long pause: "It doesn't matter - it doesn't matter." You can't imagine Lord Carey saying that.
Unbelief, and the change in sexual mores, affects not only the decline in Anglican congregations, but the entire history of the Western Church

The "Francis effect" is said to be drawing back mass attendance in Italy. But the Pope's focus groups, asking what the faithful believe, will yield similar results as they would in the Church of England - people don't think it is sinful to live together, they don't think it is sinful to be gay, and they no longer really believe in the Incarnation.

This is dire news for institutional Christianity."

There is much to ponder here. Both for ourselves in mission in these islands (including the West Island across the ditch from here) and for ourselves working out how to do churchy stuff.

But there is also an angle to ponder in the light of GAFCON 2. Whatever we make of GAFCON, whether we think it gaffed or not in its diagnosis of Western culture, GAFCON represents Anglican Christianity convinced it will last a thousand years or more into the future. That Christianity is African dominated, conservative, sometimes extreme and always confident.

For Anglicans wringing our hands about how we engage with a culture of unbelief, let's acknowledge that if ++George Carey is right, when the lights go out on Christianity in his England, they will not go out in Africa. The surer guide to the future of Anglicanism lies with GAFCON than with the latest missive from the Anglican Communion office.

42 comments:

hogsters said...

Re ++Carey "he was influenced – if not seduced – by the pomp and circumstance of establishment".

What ignorant tosh. Nice sound bite with the nice being ironical. What about he idea that ++Carey may have been influenced by his theological understanding or his reading of the gospels.

Anonymous said...

Like always this analysis misses the rise of the non-traditional churches .

The Anglican church may be dead in a generation (though I suspect not - the church's ddeath has been predicted many times but has yet to happen) but not the Church Universal in the UK, (and the same is probably true of NZ.

Recent academic research has shown that" There has been substantial church growth in Britain between 1980 and 2010. This is the controversial conclusion from the international team of scholars, who have drawn on interdisciplinary studies and the latest research from across the UK. Such church growth is seen to be on a large scale, is multi-ethnic and can be found across a wide range of social and geographical contexts. It is happening inside mainline denominations but especially in specific regions such as London, in newer churches and amongst ethnic minorities. "Church Growth in Britain" provides a forceful critique of the notion of secularisation which dominates much of academia and the media - and which conditions the thinking of many churches and church leaders."

From here:
http://www.amazon.co.uk/Church-Britain-Ashgate-Contemporary-Ecclesiology/dp/1409425762

Mary

Bryden Black said...

Dear Peter, for those of us who have straddled, had to straddle - to try to straddle! - the worlds you mention, of the West and Africa, all that is hinted at (with due sarcasm) and perhaps (?) bemoaned is ... no surprise at all. What we are witnessing is the inevitable for those who seemingly know the form of godliness but deny its power. When we insist upon talk of “our building/growing the kingdom” instead of waiting upon the Living God, when we address this Glorious Deity with such language as “Loving God”, and yet shy away from the likes of Athanasius’, “It would be more godly and more accurate or true to signify God from the Son and call Him Father, than to name God from his works only and call him Unoriginate”, when we forget the Rock from whence we were hewn, then of course - it’s as inevitable as a cracked cistern’s slow but steady seepage ... Western religion’s demise is a function of its loss of holy intimacy. Cultivate that - learn to cultivate that! - and then perhaps we might enjoy some hope (as Mary suggests) ... Otherwise; do turn those lights off - they are as garish as Oxford Street’s Christmas kitsch anyway!

Father Ron Smith said...

Unfortunately for the Church of England especially, George Carey's election to Cantuar did not bring any enlightenment on the human condition now known as sexual-orientation. His being coerced by the sola-scriptura African Churches into encouraging their emergence as the GAFCON alliance, has done nothing but harm to the unity of world-wide Anglicanism.

Carey's more recent (since his 'retirement') efforts to demonise the conscientious movement of the Anglican Churches towards recognition of the human rights of LGBT people have caused more harm than good. If the Church of England is dying, then he did very little to help it survive.

Fortunately, his successors, though still bedevilled by the anti-gay rhetoric of the Gafcon community, have managed to at least keep the Communion together.

I think that ex-Archbishops of Canterbury should be 'seen and not heard' - especially in the House of Lords!

Bryden Black said...

Can’t resist this one: AN Wilson - “But such habits of Common Prayer (as we still call it, some of us) are a knack, like the enjoyment of classical music (which is also, we are told, something that is catastrophically on the wane in Britain). Lose the knack and it is very difficult to reclaim it.”

Unless or until one publishes a few shades of grey stuff, with reference to Thomas Tallis’s “Spem in Alium” - and watch the downloads of Peter Phillips’ version!! Some call it Providence.

Father Ron Smith said...

"The "Francis effect" is said to be drawing back mass attendance in Italy. But the Pope's focus groups, asking what the faithful believe, will yield similar results as they would in the Church of England - people don't think it is sinful to live together, they don't think it is sinful to be gay, and they no longer really believe in the Incarnation. This is dire news for institutional Christianity."

Peter, it seems to me that there is no logical reason to connect the fact that people "don't believe it's sinful to be gay or to live together" with the accusation of their "no longer really believing in the Incarnation of Christ".

My own position - and that of many who have a more realistic view of human sexuality - is a case in point. I DO believe in the Incarnation, and in every credal statement, and I think it a wee bit misleading for anyone to say otherwise.

But then, I am not a sola-scriptura advocate - even though I read the Scriptures every day and recognise them as a basic guide to Christian spirituality.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron,
A.n. Wilson is not talking about you, but about the non church participating Jack or Jill Citizen who has drunk deeply from the wells of secularisation.

carl jacobs said...

Yes, the profound shift in Western Culture is an espitemoogical shift regarding the nature of truth. Western culture gave up on Revelation and tried to find Truth in Reason. But Reason failed as well. So we chased after Science for awhile. Yet another false god. And now we have settled into a post-modern ennui of hopeless metaphysical doubt where we worship our own Autonomy. Truth isn't knowable and so each man is free to pursue his own truth. And all that sustain that little self-deception is money. People buy experiences to pass through their lives in some circumstance of happiness or pleasure and presume to call it meaning. This is the state to which we have been reduced.

So what happens when all these people who believe nothing in particular suddenly find themselves with no money? Their lives are built upon a futile attempt at purchasing happiness. What will they do? If you ponder the rise of Asia as you ask yourself this question, you will find yourself afraid. Very afraid.

carl

Anonymous said...

The phrase 'culture of unbelief' is helpful. It's unbelief right across the board - eg the current scepticism about liberal democracy in the UK; about all forms of authority (especially scientific medicine); about all customs and traditions; and scepticism about any form of sexual morality other (sometimes)than a minimalist and in practice meaningless 'do no harm' ethic. The belief in tolerance so widely held is essentially negative - it's not about brother and sisterhood; it's about do what you like. Where there are beliefs they are single issue and pretty intolerant - a little island of belief in a cast ocean of unbelief and held all the more aggressively because of that. And you see that in some of the militant groups in the church. Of course the church isn't going to be in the mainstream any more - but have you seen what's in the mainstream?
Rhys

Father Ron Smith said...

Frankly, I find all this pessimism pretty gruesome - if not really funny. This is typically Lord Carey talk. One would think the Gospel reads: 'God so hated his world - that he sent his Only-Begotten Son to destroy it'. This is defeatist talk.

In the wonderful words of the Holy Saturday 'Exultet', the author speaks of the reality: "O happy fault, O necessary sin of Adam, which gained for us so great a Redeemer". This fact releases us into the full Gospel Truth - That Christ HAS redeemed us. What we have to do is to believe that this has happened - this is The Gospel!

"Christ our Passover has been sacrificed for us: therefore, let us keep the Feast. Not with the old leaven of malice and wickedness, but with the unleavened bread of sincerity and truth". We are ALL sinners, but Christ has redeemed us. Alleluia!

The only possible reaction to 'the Great Love of God as revealed in the Son', is to admit our human weaknesses, beg God's forgiveness, and go on - believing that only the power and love of God can save us - despite our sins.

God have mercy on me, a sinner!

Justification lies not in our own righteousness, but in that of God. Only by acknowledging our sinful nature, and our total dependence upon God in Christ can we ever become 'justified'. This is a lesson we all have to learn - that without God's saving grace, we are and have nothing.

Anonymous said...

As a parish priest of a very ordinary inner city parish within the Church of England, but ordained in New Zealand, my own parish owes all its growth to immigration. Fragile growth at that. Yes Evanelicals do numerically well in the wealthy suburbs, but not in our Urban Priority Areas. Where they have gone in, with their team from "outside", local leadership, however complex, is replaced. Incarnational leadership is lost. Immigration growth here. Just try attending a Roman Catholic Spanish or Polish speaking Mass one Sunday. The Coptic Church is overflowing into the streets. To the displeasure of some locals. Immigration has filled our two local Mosques also.

Kurt said...

It’s much the same here in America. Polls show that, in general, younger people have been turned off by decades of conservative evangelical politicking, and are rejecting ALL organized religion. Some groups, such as the Pentecostals, are growing somewhat, but this growth is probably more a function of the rather low status of its adherents. As the American (and British) social safety net has continued to unravel, those with the least skills and finances at the bottom of the socio-economic barrel seek social networks to help them cope. Many Pentecostals are also champions of the so-called “Prosperity Gospel,” which may help their membership figures in the short run, too.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Bryden Black said...

Rhys is rightly putting his finger firmly on “unbelief” as the fulcrum here, IMHO.

Speaking of ‘the world’ as “creation” is only possible when viewed as if it were the Gift of God the Creator, who as such is worthy of all Praise due to the perceived Goodness and Beauty of “the heavens and the earth when they were made”. Just so Augustine in Confessions, following the likes of Rev 4, the climax of the biblical witness, whose textual nature the Community of believers need to embody themselves.

The alternative view is as bleak as the postmodern nihilism already alluded to - where properly there is no thing as ‘evil’ or ‘good’ - just what ‘is’. Just so, why send aid to the Philippines ...?!

And yet, we do send aid to those victims of natural disasters; and we chastise the likes of China with their ‘inadequate response’.

Yet again, while/so long as western Christians straddle painfully these two “views”, they deny a true embodiment of the textual witness of Scripture, suffering the double-mindedness of James’ Letter. And we wonder at our consequent Christian powerlessness ...

So choose: either God in Jesus IS redeeming his broken, fallen creation; OR, it’s all a case of nasty, brutish and short natural tooth and claw.

Janice said...

Apart from being self-refuting, post modernism provides a handy get-out-of-gaol-free card to lazy thinkers, or perhaps thinkers who are frightened of what they might discover if they dig too deeply and start subjecting the foundations of their opinions to the rules of logic. Challenges to clear thinking are easily brushed away with assertions of the relativism of truth.

However the fact is, as Rhys has pointed out, people do still believe that truth can be discovered. It may be a single issue truth and intolerantly held to but it is there and the current scepticism about so many things exists because people have discovered that so much of what they thought to be true is not.

People don't believe in the virgin birth and the resurrection because they believe such things are not possible. That is, they believe materialism/naturalism/physicalism, call it what you will, is true. "We ain't nothing but mammals," so there is no reason not to, "do it like they do on the Discovery Channel". That is precisely the conclusion I came to when I was studying biology at high school many long years ago. If all the variety of life on earth can be explained by chance interactions of atoms then God is an unnecessary postulate. Matter is all there is. Do as you please to maximise pleasure during your brief years of life and if that means not staying within the bounds of the law try not to get caught. And then you die and that's the end.

Fortunately for me, Philippians 1:6 applies. Studying high school biology led me astray but studying university level biochemistry destroyed my faith in chance. It's easy to imagine that complexity can occur by chance when you don't know just how complex living systems are. That, I presume, is why teaching that chance is responsible begins when children are very small and the lesson continues to be hammered into them for all the years they're at school and beyond, via the broadcast media, e.g., the Discovery Channel.

The mainstream churches have failed to counter this propaganda for well over a hundred years and that is why they are dying in the West, the cultural capital of going to church having largely been spent. Church leaders have not set people to guard the walls but have let them be overrun. They have bowed to the presumed superior knowledge of establishment scientists and failed to take advice from scientists with contrary views. Worse, they haven't even educated themselves enough to understand the provisionality of the results of scientific research, let alone to understand what makes some studies more reliable than others.

While we're busy managing and placating those who make the most noise we're not fighting where the battle is being waged and while we're offering apologias for materialistic cosmologies and for abiogenesis we're not giving glory to God.

Father Ron Smith said...

IMNSHO (In my not so humble opinion) people can only experience God by their openness to that 'great love of God as revealed in the Son'. It is thus precisely through the Image and likeness of God in another human being that we encounter the Christ within. Deep calls to deep!

This is probably why Jesus said that: "They'll know you're my disciples by your love", In other words, we can read about God in the scriptures, but until another human being is ready and able to display divine love - by loving and accepting us as we are - thus relating the 'Christ in them' to 'the Christ in us', we may never really know the love of God.

This is what Saint Francis found out when he embraced the leper. This is what Pope Francis recently demonstrated in his embrace of the modern equivalent in the street.

This gives real meaning to the declaration of Saul-become-Paul, that "Christ in me is the hope of glory" - not just for one's-self, but for the beloved 'other'.

Father Ron Smith said...

" Of course the church isn't going to be in the mainstream any more - but have you seen what's in the mainstream?" - Phys -

" The mainstream churches have failed to counter this propaganda for well over a hundred years and that is why they are dying in the West, the cultural capital of going to church having largely been spent. Church leaders have not set people to guard the walls but have let them be overrun."
- Janice -

I find these two points of view - both intimating that the world is going to the dogs - blaming the 'mainstream' Churches. And all the time we have a Christian blog called 'Anglican Mainstream' presuming it has all the answers.

Now, make your minds up folks, when is mainstream not mainstream? And perhaps we need to still be reminded that Christianity was always meant to be the 'leaven in the lump' not, necessarily what we might call 'mainstream'. That's what happened with the Roman Empire taking over Christianity - by force, and with dire results!

Kurt said...

“That's what happened with the Roman Empire taking over Christianity - by force, and with dire results!”—Fr. Ron

That’s exactly right, Father Ron. Only this time it has been the political right-wing which has—with some success up until now in America, at least—taken over much of non-mainstream Evangelicalism during the past 30 years. And the results have been negative for all denominations, not simply those of the right. All of the reputable social surveys reveal that large numbers of young adults perceive Evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned. They are perceived as unconcerned with social justice and down-right hostile to gay people.

But what’s particularly interesting to me is that things look like they are beginning to change. The most recent surveys also show that religious conservatives make up smaller proportions of each successive generation: 47% of the Silent Generation, 35% of Baby Boomers, 23% of Gen X and only 17% of Millennials. Religious progressives are significantly younger than religious conservatives. Religious progressives constitute nearly twice the proportion of Millennials (23%), compared to the Silent Generation (12%). Among Millennials, there are also roughly as many non-religious (22%) as religious progressives.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Father Ron Smith said...

In This weekend's copy of 'The Tablet', there is an editorial comment of Lord Cary's statement about the Church dying out within a generation. Here is what it says:

" What Lord’s Carey’s jeremiad amounts to is the not-so-subtle truth that the Church of England needs a Francis effect of its own.

On the other hand, some of the factors that in Lord Carey’s view threaten the viability of the Church of England are also present in the Catholic Church.

"Evangelical Protestantism tends to treat Scripture as a rule of life rather than as an inspiration for Christian living – which may be why in modern Britain “religious” is commonly regarded as a synonym for “respectable” or even “strict”. The same could be said for a certain brand of authoritarian Catholicism, which liked to think of itself until recently as the only one allowed. In that case, it is the current prohibitions of the Magisterium rather than the censures of St Paul or Leviticus that are used to bind; but both produce an interpretative framework that is legalistic and cerebral."

I was interested in the fact that a R.C. newspaper - which is normally very hospitable towards Anglicans in the U.K. - here talks of what it sees as Lord Carey's 'Jeremiad' approach to what he sees as a catastrophe in the Church of England. This cannot but reflect the opinion of many people among our Catholic colleagues.

Anonymous said...

"All of the reputable social surveys reveal that large numbers of young adults perceive Evangelical Christianity to be too political, too exclusive, old-fashioned. They are perceived as unconcerned with social justice and down-right hostile to gay people."

I do not doubt this, either - given that most young adult Americans have been through about 17 years of expensive formal education, only to emerge with poor literacy, little historical knowledge (I remember a cohort of American college students who didn't know there had been a war in Vietnam) and a jumble of clichés gained through hours on MTV. American 'higher' education is in many ways a huge con trick, but the high school education is scarcely better, turning out functional illiterates and innumerates in their hundreds of thousands in states like California, with its legions of low information voters. I doubt if New York State is much different. If you form your impression of Christianity (as most young Americans do) from exposure to modern Hollywood and TV, with its addiction to fantasy, sex and violence, you're not likely to have a very accurate picture.
It's the culture, Kurt.

Martin Sallust

Anonymous said...

"As the American (and British) social safety net has continued to unravel, those with the least skills and finances at the bottom of the socio-economic barrel seek social networks to help them cope."

I don't know what to make of this remarkable and confused statement. The 'social safety net' in America has NOT unravelled - Obamacare is actually a huge extension of that (though whether Obamacare is unravelling is another question) - and the number of Americans who receive a portion or all of their income from the state ('food stamps', welfare etc) has continued to mount, thanks to Chinese loans. What HAS unravelled is the family: about 45% of all births are now out of wedlock and over 70% of African American births. Hispanics are not at those levels yet, but they are tracking that figure.
This is the real story of what is happening at the most fundamental human level, and it betokens school failure and intergenerational poverty, as Daniel Moynihan showed many years ago.

Martin

Kurt said...

Actually, Martin, a “majority” of Americans do not have a bachelor’s degree, only about 30 percent of them do, and their number is decreasing. In 2005, the proportion of the population completing high school and obtaining a BA in college was 22 percent. It’s hardly a “majority” and it’s probably even less today.

It appears that you are unaware that, here in America, post-secondary education is stratified into several layers or “tiers” of colleges and universities, generally comprising four academic status levels. In top tier institutions, such as my alma mater, I can assure you that students have heard about the Vietnam War; I meet them at least once a year when I journey Upstate back to campus. They retain a pride in the anti-war work done at our school in the ‘60s (and in the 1930s and ‘20s, too). They have heard of New Zealand, and can locate it on a map. And they also know that Sydney was founded as a British penal colony. Of course, this may not be the case in third or fourth tier schools such as Southwestern Assemblies of God University, or Valley Forge Christian College, where the highest percentages of functional illiterates are undoubtedly concentrated.

Martin, your lack of understand about what has happened to the so-called social safety net in America during the past 30 years is mind boggling!

The reason that social service spending has increased within the last five is that we have an economic depression, and people need assistance more than ever! During the so-called “recovery” 95 percent of the gains since 2009 have gone to the top 1 percent. Indeed, more than 60 percent of the gains went to the top 0.1 percent, people with annual incomes of more than $1.9 million.

“Obamacare” is a disaster for the American people. It was conceived behind closed doors, by the Demopublican administration and lobbyists from the insurance and pharmaceutical companies. Single payer and the public option were ruled out from the beginning. It is not a “huge extension” of the frayed American safety-net; it is a huge extension of corporate giveaways and subsidies for private, profit-making companies!

Kurt Hill
In frigid (-4.4 C)
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

It's a shame that Kurt can't read what I actually wrote, but I won't blame his college education on that!
The actual figures for graduates - now at an all-time high - are given here in that notorious right-wing rag, The New York Times, which Kurt may have heard of:
http://www.nytimes.com/2012/11/06/education/record-numbers-of-young-americans-earn-bachelors-degree.html?_r=0
I didn't say most young Americans were graduates, because even in America, with its abysmal public schools (along with excellent private education, such as President Obama enjoyed) there is a huge dropout rate from colleges that practise open enrolment of functional illiterates. The real problem lies in the high schools, where standards continue to decline, despite record expenditure. Victor Davis Hanson is a good chronicler of the dire state of 'higher' education in the Golden State, which also has among the poorest school outcomes in the whole Union for literacy and numeracy. I don't doubt there are noble exceptions in leafy upstate NY; wealthy people in private education and small town people in traditional communities usually do better academically. Even in Valley Forge. Homeschoolers as well. Check out Patrick Henry College.
Trying to blame Obamacare on the Republicans ('Demopublican') is ludicrous nonsense. Not one Republican voted for this dog's breakfast, which has led to millions of Americans losing their existing policies. It's a Democrat baby entirely.

Martinus Orbilius

Anonymous said...

In any case, Kurt's point was that many young Americans see evangelicals as harsh, ungenerous, judgmental etc, and I readily agreed that this probably is the outlook of a generation whose minds have been formed by such heroic icons of art and character as Miley Cyrus, Lady Gaga and Kanye West. These Hollywood pornstars do indeed inhabit a large space in the mind of the legions of poorly educated and anti-religious young Americans and shape their sense of decency and values, and their contempt for Christianity and sexual purity is well known, in close alliance with Planned Parenthood and post-Christian Democratic Party.
Victor David Hanson has described this latter day Satyricon very well:
http://victorhanson.com/wordpress/?p=6787#more-6787
Faced with so many low-information people, I do wonder often what to do, except pray and keep patiently telling the truth.

Martin

Kurt said...

Well, Martin, I must admit that it certainly makes sense that, given the current economic depression, people are staying in school longer, and that has reversed the trend from before the downturn. Score one point for you, buddy.

I’m curious though; the decline in educational standards in California that concerns you so much marches in tandem with the increasing concentration of wealth in that state in fewer and fewer hands—along with lower taxes, (e.g., Prop 13) yes? When I was in high school in the ‘60s, California’s system was one of the best in the nation, and the envy of many foreign countries. Californians willingly paid taxes for this system. In the late 1970s, conservatives succeeded in permanently lowering taxes there. Obviously, one gets what one pays for, no?

“Obamacare,” as many of us on the left pointed out years ago, is a Republican-initiated program. First advanced by the Nixon administration in the ‘70s, then more fully developed programmatically by the right-wing Heritage Foundation, it was first applied in action by conservative Republican Mitt Romney, in Massachusetts, where it has been a dismal failure. any progressive could have told you that, Martin. Why do you think we were arguing for single payer? Yet the corporate wing of the Democratic Party kept single payer and public option off the table from the beginning. The fact that these Dumbocrats have moved so far to the right as to promote this subsidy for private, profit-making, health insurance and pharmaceutical companies, tells you where most of these “elected officials” are at. The Corporatecrats are as useless as the Republicans!

I do agree with you, however, that this disastrous corporate boondoggle will come back to bite the Obamaistas in the a*#. Perhaps 2016 will be a good year for the left in the USA…at least locally…

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY
(Where it has warmed to a balmy 2.83 C)


Peter Carrell said...

Heh, Kurt
In places like NZ the single payer system is just the facts, neither left nor right!

On California's taxes, I thought they had been rising again under Governor Brown ...

Kurt said...

Perhaps the trend toward lower taxes is presently being reversed under Gov. Brown. Nevertheless, it will take time to undo the damage caused by the tax cuts of yesteryear.

Yes, Peter, I know that in NZ health care is not a left/right issue, but rather it is a human right. Unfortunately, here in the belly of the empire, it is an "issue" and not a human right.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

You're living in the past, Kurt, when Ronald Reagan was the Governor of California.
Under Governor Moonbeam, California has the highest state sales tax in the union (7.5%) and the highest state income tax on incomes over $1m (13.3%). That's why it's been leaching jobs to Texas and Florida (no state income tax). California's 47th ranking in educational achievement is no doubt due in part to the huge number of non-Anglophone illegal immigrants in the state school system. California public finances are largely acknowledged to be a bloated mess, but I don't know that the bankruptcy of Stockton has wakened anyone up. How can it when the public service unions have a lock on the Democratic Party? - the same disaster that wrecked Detroit.

Martinus Quaestor

Father Ron Smith said...

One question from an ignorant Kiwi, who wonders just how experienced the various personalities of Martinus Omnibus has in life in America? I thought he was a Sydney-sider. Am I wrong?

Kurt, I am aware, is a bona fide American, and he actually lives there. Greetings Kurt.

Peter Carrell said...

Hi Ron
We live in a global village ...

I like "Martin Omnibus"! Very droll.

Anonymous said...

Ron, it's many years since I lived in Sydney, though I continue to share Peter's admiration for the world's finest former penal colony.

Martin Powers

Kurt said...

The residents of delightful Madeira would no doubt disagree with you, Martin.

Kurt Hill
Brooklyn, NY

Anonymous said...

Yes, Kurt, they do make a fine wine and the seizure in Boston of John Hancock's sloop laden with the stuff is probably the real reason you colonials rebelled against your King. I have never believed Americans would go to war for the sake of cheap tea. You don't know how to make the stuff!

Martinus Infusus


Anonymous said...

... which, incidentally, goes well with a generous slice of Madeira cake topped with whipped cream.
A must in the best vicarage tea parties.

Martin Barchester

Father Ron Smith said...

Hi, Kurt. Diana and I were in Madeira only this year. We found both the surroundings and the people most appealing - very different from our experience of Sydney. There was even an irruption of old-time Catholic fervency while we were there with a public procession of the Blessed Sacrament in the streets of Santa Cruz - and everyone was there. Old-time religion - without prejudice!

Anonymous said...

Yes, that Old-time religion - the stuff that made Brazil such a free and vibrant place!
As for the prejudice - well, it's always helpful to know a little Portuguese.
Madeira, of course, had African slaves working its plantations already in the 15th century, and it played an important role in the export of slavery to the much more productive fields of Brazil, until those doughty Anglican Evangelicals, Wilberforce & co., forced or persuaded the Portuguese to stop.

Martinho da Braga

Father Ron Smith said...

Ah! William Wilberforce - now there's an Evangelical worthy of the name!

Those Evangelicals in the Church today who totally oppose prejudice - on account of colour, race, social background, educational proficiency, gender, number of GCEs, or God-given sexual-orientation - they are worth celebrating.

Anonymous said...

If you invoke the name of William Wilberforce, then you should know that by today's "standards" he was an insufferable moral prude and the battle against slavery was only one part of his mission, which had nothing to do with "prejudice" (an effete 20th century obsession) and everything to do with we have come to call 'Victorian standards' of public life, as Mark Steyn notes in review of that overblown 2007 film 'Amazing Grace':

"The film of Amazing Grace shows the Duke of Clarence and other effete toffs reeling under a lot of lame bromides hurled by Wilberforce on behalf of 'the people.' But, in fact, 'the people' were a large part of the problem. Then as now, citizens of advanced democracies are easily distracted. The 18th- century Church of England preached 'a tepid kind of moralism' disconnected both from any serious faith and from the great questions facing the nation. It was a sensualist culture amusing itself to death: Wilberforce goes to a performance of Don Juan, is shocked by a provocative dance, and is then further shocked to discover the rest of the audience is too blasé even to be shocked. The Paris Hilton of the age, the Prince of Wales, was celebrated for having bedded 7,000 women and snipped from each a keepsake hair. Twenty-five per cent of all unmarried females in London were whores; the average age of a prostitute was 16; and many brothels prided themselves on offering only girls under the age of 14.

Many of these features -- weedy faint-hearted mainstream churches, skanky celebs, weary provocations for jaded debauchees -- will strike a chord in our own time. 'There is a deal of ruin in a nation,' remarked Adam Smith. England survived the 18th century, and maybe we will survive the 21st. But the life of William Wilberforce and the bicentennial of his extraordinary achievement remind us that great men don't shirk things because the focus-group numbers look unpromising. What we think of as 'the Victorian era' was, in large part, an invention of Wilberforce which he succeeded in selling to his compatriots. We, children of the 20th century, mock our 19th-century forebears as uptight prudes, moralists and do-gooders. If they were, it's because of Wilberforce. His legacy includes the very notion of a 'social conscience': in the 1790s, a good man could stroll past an 11-year-old prostitute on a London street without feeling a twinge of disgust or outrage; he accepted her as merely a feature of the landscape, like an ugly hill. By the 1890s, there were still child prostitutes, but there were also charities and improvement societies and orphanages. It is amazing to read a letter from Wilberforce and realize that he is, in fact, articulating precisely 220 years ago what New Yorkers came to know in the nineties as the 'broken windows' theory: 'The most effectual way to prevent greater crimes is by punishing the smaller.'

As for affirmation of "God-given sexual orientation", I imagine quite a few polyamorists and people with Child Sex Attraction (more common than you would imagine) would heartily agree.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

Well, I'm glad you and I can agree on something, Martin.

Anonymous said...

Well, I have no idea what you mean by that, Ron, but for the record, I do not believe that Child Sex Attraction is a 'God-given sexual orientation', no matter how 'natural' it seems to those who have it. I doubt you would agree with it either, but I leave you to speak for yourself.
Actually my concept of God's action in the world means I don't believe *any 'sexual orientation' is 'God-given' (as opposed to 'God-willed'), but rather just develops, for any number of reasons (some quite mysterious to us, as most things psychological are). How feelings like Child Sex Attraction or polyamory develop is a different question from their moral status in the eyes of God. I have never believed it was God's will for certain persons to feel and act homosexually (or ephebophiliacly), but you may have a different belief about God's purpose for some people (i.e. that He intended some people to be homosexually attracted and gave them that vocation in life). Again, I leave it you to confirm or deny whether this is what you actually think.

Martin

Father Ron Smith said...

" you may have a different belief about God's purpose for some people (i.e. that He intended some people to be homosexually attracted and gave them that vocation in life). Again, I leave it you to confirm or deny whether this is what you actually think." - Martin -

I think you know by now pretty well what I think, Martin, and I do not see that a God-given sexual orientation is a 'vocation'. Nor are big ears, or a perpetual frown - these are just part and parcel of our ontological make-up.

However, how we employ them in the vocation to which God actually IS calling us, is quite important. You may feel that God is calling to proclaim your heterosexuality as 'the norm' for all humanity. I do not feel the same compulsion.

Furthermore, I do not see human sexual-orientation as a morality problem. What we do with our sexuality may become a morality issue, but not its aetiology.

Anonymous said...

Well, once again, Ron, you have avoided answering a simple question, and failed to read what I wrote.
I do NOT know what you actually believe on the subject: whether you think God intended some people to be homosexual. Is this what you mean by speaking of 'God-given orientation'? If that is what you believe, do you think ALL sexual orientations are 'God-given' or only some? And if the latter, why do you think this?
If you really want to further understanding, you should engage with my genuine questions. Otherwise, why bother commenting? It doesn't serve any useful purpose for this Christian.

Martin

Michael Godfrey said...

While I can't offer any solid analysis my observation around my years of knocking around the ecclesiastical traps suggest that the generations of late Boomer, X, Y, Z and beyond have a fairly well-honed bulls' faeces meter. While there re short term fluctuations, the churches that maintain a healthy and even sometimes sustained growthful identity are those that allow worship and teaching to be infused with the authenticity that stems from meaningful analysis of scripture, authentic application of worship, and no credibility gap between the pronouncements of leadership and their personal lives.

I have seen failures of these ingredients in churches of many traditions, and applications of these ingredients in churches of many tradition. The former group - and some of the most spectacularly "numerical giants" fall into this bracket - are increasingly demonstrating crash and burn trajectories, while the authentic Christ-bearers are soldiering on in gospel-witness. Unfortunately those of us who strive to be in the latter group - and strive is the verb because, well, it ain't easy - find the pontifications of Carey somewhat unhelpful, and the often sneering self-satisfaction of GAFCON more redolent of hubris than the gentle encouragement of the Spirit of God.