Thursday, September 6, 2018

Fancy Karl du Fresne noticing something I said!

I love reading Karl du Fresne's columns. He is straightforward, clear and generally conservative in a reasonable way. However I never expected him to notice a minion like me and the words I have said.


Now, it is entirely fair of Karl to critique the role of the church in politics and society, and no doubt we do our share of virtue signalling and falling over ourselves to be relevant in ways which, er, turn out to be not that relevant.

But as a reporter of many years, Karl might at least give me and other church leaders the benefit of the doubt on one matter: that we might have talked about Jesus with our interviewers and those interviewers might have thought it less than newsworthy to report that a Jesus follower thinks Jesus should be at the centre of life.

Blessings, Karl, if you should read this!


James said...

Yes and no:

Yes, journalists do a disservice when they report the newsworthy rather than the objective truth - this seems more prominent in NZ, and I can point to numerous examples of sensationalist reporting on our military, police, farming and other sectors if you would like to feel less alone in finding grievance with how you are being portrayed!

On the other hand, When churches (especially church leaders) make any mention about social justice, the very big risk is that it detracts from gospel messages, and no matter how much prominence the gospel is given, what is newsworthy will be reported. John MacArthur and others have signed and promulgated a statement on social justice and how it does not (in their theological opinion) fit into the gospel at all, and churches should avoid it completely.

Furthermore, when the Archbishop of Canterbury makes claims on the economy and taxation (no matter how qualified he might personally be to make informed comments on this), he only alienates people with opposing political viewpoints, and what good does that do for evangelism?


Anonymous said...

I am not sure that your argument is that strong.

If the various Church leaders/leadership (ie I am not just thinking of you) gave teaching that was controversial [i.e. not aligned to the prevailing PC approach] then it would not only be reported, but reported with the headline "HORROR - the INTOLERANCE of Christians". So Karl is right to assume they didn't say anything that did not align with "political correctness".

It was a startlingly insightful piece - and it bears a lot of thinking about.

I cannot understand why the collective leadership never talks about things like:
-On sex - since the church forever talk about it - how about the strong link between sole parenting and child poverty (and for that matter child abuse) and God's intention that adult relationships were intended to be for life and the way in which this gift from Him is being mistreated

- or inequality - how about Christ's teaching that the riches of this world are not what really matters (for either rich or poor) and people should seek first the kingdom of heaven

I can think of others but won't bore you with them, but I think if the church was saying things like that it certainly would be reported!!


Anonymous said...

The writer asks some pertinent questions about how far the leaders of the 'mainline' (increasingly old line) churches actually believe their own message - which isn't primarily about 'social justice' and 'social inclusion' but about forgiveness of sins, spiritual regeneration and eternal life, instead of facing hell.

If the lake of fire has been quietly extinguished and all are saved - or there really isn't an afterlife at all (at which point the 'progressive' cleric and the secular politician clasp hands - take a bow, Sir Lloyd Geering), what really is the point of the church after all? The unbelieving Kiwi has made his or her mind up on this. I wonder what Karl du Fresne hears at the "all too frequent" funerals he attends in churches. At least it should not be a surprise to him that death is not optional for human beings. But that is something we can defer thinking about as long as our physical needs are met and there is sufficient 'divertissement' for the masses.

It is true, as Margaret notes, that 'mainline' churches have taken a largely leftist position on social welfare questions, as if the answer to our problems is to be found in more government, more spending (and therefore more tax and borrowing) and more laws. But does it never occur to the official spokespersons of churches - who are presumably trying to influence politicians with their pronouncements - that the Christian gospel and lifestyle are themselves in large measure the answer to many social ills? That faithful marriage (before having children), respect for parents, the proper nurture and care of children, a love for literacy ('Get off facebook and read your Bible!') and education, the ambition to fulfil your God-given talents, the deferment of gratification ('No, you don't need those Nikes'), a renunciation of drugs and alcohol as delusion, and the inculcation of thrift from an early age have the effect of lifting people from poverty and dependency? Yet who will say this? Mainline/oldline clerics are terrified of being labelled 'judgmental' for saying what a previous generation would have simply seen as common sense. But this is the sad reality today - the middle classes are still marrying and having children - although the NZ Prime Minister doesn't seem to have much time for marriage - while the underclasses are not marrying and generations of boys (particularly among Maori) are growing up without learning proper respect for women and the family. The outspoken pastor at Aretha Franklin's funeral earned opprobrium for speaking the truth about the chaos among America's black population (and the crisis affecting black males: single parenthood, school failure, drugs, criminality, the hip hop culture - and the dreadful conflict with police refracted in the demagogic 'Black Lives Matter' movement), which is at root the failure to form and sustain proper marriage relationships.
Drug-taking, school failure, petty criminality and promiscuous sex all have a destructive effect on young people - and all of these things the Gospel has some clear things to say. Which church leaders know how to articulate these things today?


Unknown said...

Peter, we must be both salt and light; we cannot be either without being the other as well.

Andrei once insisted that churches should influence society mainly by examplifying and not by signifying. Actions speak louder than words, and words explaining actions are more interesting and credible. As a corrective to the practice of echoing the moral sentiments of a church's predominating region, class, or ideology, Andrei's idea is attractive. So have a solar-powered cathedral where families are learning to be strong, and if anyone asks Why you do this, answer them.

Of course, ministries of reconciliation deeply rooted in the Son do involve some signaling. But who wants mediation from a church that is itself bitterly divided, foolishly one-sided, or more interested in opinion than truth? It might be wise to acquaint very close readers of Romans 1-4 with 5-8, and vice versa.


Jean said...

I have little doubt the media is loathe to print anything about Jesus in a positive context as a news story. Good news doesn’t sell apparently, and especially so when the subject is socially unpopular.

Social Justice is a modern term it has been imbedded in the practice of the Christian faith since the beginning and theologically is indistinguishable. If one preaches and practices the command of Jesus “Love your neighbour as yourself” and this is considered to be political then so be it.

Despite many a negative media report about Christianity and churches in general lets take a look at our non-governmental not-for-profits with Christian underpinnings which work to help communities in NZ alone naming only a few - Barnados; Salvation Army; Presbyterian Support (Family Works); Save the Children; City Missions; The Samaritans; Drug Arm; Prison Fellowship etc etc etc...

The Bible without contention has messages on how to live for the good of all and these are to be prized and promoted in love. But to be prized overall is the transformative power of the love of Jesus which has the power to intervene in lives influenced by poverty, crime and abuse. Many a “social justice” initiative works on the grass roots of proclaiming the forgiveness of sins, mentioned in posts above, such as the faith based unit at the men’s prison in Rimutaka.

William I would challenge your comment about the marriage of the middle class versus the underclass, firstly as to what category puts one in the underclass monetary status or criminal involvement or ? ... but primarily because I grew up in a middle class family and went to university with middle class kids and honestly there was not a lot of marriage before sex going on there at the same time as many of my parents friends from middle class backgrounds were divorcing or running off with other people. Less drugs and less violence and less poverty yes, less sexual promiscuity debatable.

Unknown said...

Jean, I read William's comment on class and marriage differently, and so more favourably.

To me, he seems to be saying that the practice of organising one's life around marriage and family is more unusual among the poor, and that among them sex outside of marriage is not just normal among them but normative. His words are evaluative, yes, but I see no prejudice in them.

Things may be better on the scepter'd isle and the blessed ones too, but for the US there is indeed plenty of evidence for the increasing correlation of mating practices with economic class. That reality here up yonder has informed both my past criticisms of the class-mindset of most modern synods (eg on That Topic) and my comment just above.

Alas, I do recognise the milieu that you describe, and I suspect
that William might as well. But I hope neither of you recognise a poor one in which prospective mothers and fathers both tacitly prefer enforced child support and state assistance to the difficult institutions of marriage and family. Many still try it, but many do not, and anyway divorce among the poor is quite common.

Meanwhile, the marriages of those more prosperous or wealthy are not necessarily heartless up here, but they are financial partnerships solidified more by their retirement assets and social standing than by some transcendent commitment to either romance or procreation. And among them, divorce is becoming rare.

The behaviour varies from class to class, not because the poor per se are more wicked, but because the prosperous and the wealthy have more material incentive to behave well. Nothing about marriage in any of these strata necessarily brings the ideal of Ephesians 5 to mind.

Here up yonder, churches often still talk as though it is 1960 and will always be 1960. All the women want to be wives; they want to put on hats and white gloves and take their whole families to church. And all the men want to be husbands; they are not always well-behaved, but they soldier on nevertheless until they are well-paid providers for grateful families. Liberals still inveigh against various indignities of the 1950s, and conservatives still stoutly defend that order of things. But it is all gone.

Was it Niels Bohr who complained that Science advances one funeral at a time? I sometimes think that churches up here will need many funerals before they will begin to see the society around them as it is. But everything is better on the blessed isles.


Anonymous said...

BW has understood me correctly - I wasn't saying the middle classes are purer than the poor, just savvier about the economic, legal and social dimensions of child-rearing, and most of them grasp that marriage, properly understood, changes a man's attitude toward his offspring (i.e., makes him grow up and take responsibility as a protector, provider and example). (Meanwhile, the pill and abortion allow them to be as immoral as everyone else.)
It was the left-leaning Brookings Institute that concluded years ago that there were three indicators whether a person would make it into the middle classes and these are widely quoted: finishing school; accepting an entry level job (and sticking at it); and getting married (and sticking at it). No doubt the Cultural Marxist-feminist attack on marriage has provided a lot of university women with material for their scholarly maunderings, but the consequence of the abandonment of marriage by the underclass has been catastrophic for the poor. And this has a racial dimension as well. In the early 1960s births out of wedlock in the western world was only about 5%, now it is in excess of 40%. Among US blacks, this figure is near to 70%. I know this figure includes cohabiting couples, but the breakup rate among cohabitees is a good deal higher than among married couples (for obvious reasons). This is the crisis among African-American men and the African-American family. There is the additional problem of the very high level of incarceration among black men in the United States. I haven't looked up the figures for Maori births out of wedlock but I have a hunch there may be a parallel development.
As I said, this is the background to the much condemned remarks by the preacher at the Aretha Franklin funeral - he was only speaking the truth. And if he had spoken more about Aretha Franklin's life - well, I suspect he would have earned even more condemnation. First child at twelve, second child at fourteen, daughter of a womanising star preacher the Rev (!) C. L. Franklin who fathered a child by a twelve year old, a chaotic series of relationships and marriages - quite a story and one she could ride because of her amazing and lucrative talent as a singer. For those who don't have such a talent, such life-events and life choices spell disaster.
The simple point is that poverty and culture are closely related. Both Jews and Chinese entered America poor, not knowing the language and suffering discrimination, yet both groups have moved to the top economically. A study of family dynamics can explain a lot of how this happened. A lesson for the churches here?


Anonymous said...

Hi Peter; Mr du Fresne makes salient arguments. Some bishops prefer what the right call virtue signalling to telling the gospel truth. I accept that is brutal to their feelings ( though I am not particularly concerned) but since a pastor’s judgment is going to be extremely challenging even on a good day, facing reality is a good place for bishops to start. In fairness to NZ Catholic bishops, the right often assume that Catholic social justice is left wing. They’d be calling Mother Aubert a commie. On the other hand bishops including Francis do a lot of talking with no real action.

Jean said...

Hi BW and William

I concede there is often less family cohesion amongst those living in lower socioeconomic areas. My questioning would be is this relatable to wealth or relationship dysfunction. Certainly, William, the onset of women having economic power had an influence on marriage, women no longer ‘had’ to stay for purely economic reasons; and contraception had an effect on both sexes attitude towards sex. In these changes the Maori population in terms of having children out of wedlock followed a similar trajectory to the other ethnic populations in NZ.

I am on the page here a bit with Gregory Boyle from your neck of the woods Bowman on these matters...who speaks in Tatoos on the Heart of being in awe of what the poor have to carry rather than sitting in judgement of how they carry it. He contends it isn’t primarily the lack of money that causes social dysfunction but the lack of kinship, of belonging, of being cared for and loved. Certainly of those I know from backgrounds similar I come away with the same conclusion. I stand in awe of a friend who grew up being beaten for getting her homework wrong, a gun in her face for making too much noise, the responsibility of looking after her younger siblings while her Mum went out on the town etc etc. The awe comes not only from what she has carried but that she is, with God’s help, living out another of Boyle’s observations... that is ‘transform your pain and you will never have to transmit it.’ She offers her own children that which she never knew herself, proper food on the table, encouragement, birthday presents, family outings, a home environment free of violence.

There are definitely some ethnic groups, who although being financially poor at a point in time, are able to rise above their circumstances. And of course many families who struggle financially but are healthy, loving and contributing citizens. I wonder if such groups are relationally poor - maybe not? Is it possible that relational poverty has a greater impact than financial poverty? Notwithstanding the relationally poor are often going to end up also being financially poor, and that financial poverty can put pressure on relationships but what are the primary precursors to relational poverty? Certainly coming from a dysfunctional family doesn’t help but how does it begin? Only a lack of money?

Unknown said...

Jean, there is more consensus on the *description* of what is than on the *causes* of what is.

There is least disagreement that belonging to a circle of wealth creates both incentives to marry and disincentives to divorce. The marriages are not always good, but ceteris paribus they tend to last.

By definition, children of the merely prosperous and the poor need to get some virtuous cycle of learning and earning started to avoid poverty by default. And the mores of one's class determines the age range of reproduction, which in turn assigns a hidden deadline on that escape. Postponing procreation until after 4-12 years of professional education gives the children-- daughters and sons-- of the prosperous much more time to find their virtuous cycle than the children-- mainly the sons-- of the poor who are often parents before they finish secondary school.

Now family dysfunction, little social capital, serious injury or illness, violent crime, addiction, stress, etc will slow any adolescent down somewhat. But the rich seldom meet all of these, and when they do it does not fix their fortunes for life since wealth will buy second chances and open doors surprisingly late in life (eg George W Bush). The children of the merely prosperous are more likely to meet these obstacles, but they also have more time to find a path around them. Sadly, the sons of the poor are very likely to be tripped up at the starting gate with no time to get up before their children are born and their windows to a solid future begin to close.

It is worth remembering that not all poverty is transgenerational. Poverty is also caused by *creative destruction*, central bank management of economic cycles, and perhaps by oligopoly wage-fixing. Nations vary widely-- to me, interestingly-- in their responses to transgenerational and occasional poverty. In some nations, the occasionally poor are well-supported in their return to prosperity. In others, not so much.


Glen Young said...

Hi Jean,

Which came first, the chicken or the egg? If dysfunctional relationships are caused by a lack of money; then, lets look at why there is a lack of money.

We should neither be in awe of the burden which the poor are required to carry or sitting in judgement of them; but rather, helping and equipping them to become fully fledged SAINTS in the UNIVERSAL CATHOLIC FAITH. If the Maori people are not achieving this; then perhaps Ti Kanga Maori should look seriously at their Ministry model and worry less about the LGBT. With all the money which has been paid to the Iwi around N.Z.; there is a foundation for helping Maori move forward but don't lock Maori into a tribal culture where the group is more important than the individual.

Jean said...

Indeed Bowman there is less consensus on the cause of social dysfunction than the description.

Glen I think Gregory Boyle’s ministry has been doing what you mention; living alongside the Gangs in L.A. and pointing them towards the light so to speak. From my understanding Tikanga Maori are, compared to Tikanga Pakeha, not as ummm well resourced but our Bishop Elect will have a wider comprehension of that dynamic. It is helpful to remember, however, that many Maori reside as a part of Tikanga Pakeha.

It is good to see how the Treaty Of Waitangi settlements have helped Maori communities; the Iwi’s paying for funding of scholarships for Maori at Universities; the resurgence of Kohanga Reo’s and the Maori Language etc etc..

Karl du Fresne said...

I've just stumbled across this blog and thank you for your comments about my work, which are appreciated. However I must challenge you on one point. You say I should have allowed for the possibility that you did indeed talk about Jesus but that your comments might have been disregarded as not newsworthy. I should point out that I quoted you not from a news item, but directly from a press release issued to Scoop by the Anglican Diocese of Christchurch.

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Karl
I have reread the Scoop article and your comment is entirely fair with reference to what I said in our press release.
There were other interviews in that week when I did talk about Jesus but it is entirely appropriate that you have found a weak point in the press release and I will learn from that!