Monday, September 30, 2019


(1) In many ways following up last week's post and comments thereon, I draw your attention to Issue 2 of Theology Magazine, which focuses on the nature of the church. Here is the Mag's own byline for the edition (my bold):

"Exploring ecclesiology doesn’t begin with church government, nor does it ponder church programs and music preferences. No, exploring ecclesiology takes on a much more sacred task, that is, the exploration of our union with the risen Christ. In our second issue of Theology Magazine we do just that, we explore what it means to be united to Christ."

(H/T Bryden Black)

(2) I was struck last week by an interesting parallel between Greta Thunberg's now famous UN summit speech and a DEL reading for Thursday, Haggai 1:1-8 (but stretched here to verse 11).

The parallel depends on making an imaginative equation between the house of the Lord and planet Earth ... which is plausible if we think of Genesis 1, according to some scholars, as setting out the creation of the world as though the world is God's temple.

Here is part of Greta's speech:

"My message is that we'll be watching you.
"This is all wrong. I shouldn't be up here. I should be back in school on the other side of the ocean. Yet you all come to us young people for hope. How dare you!
"You have stolen my dreams and my childhood with your empty words. And yet I'm one of the lucky ones. People are suffering. People are dying. Entire ecosystems are collapsing. We are in the beginning of a mass extinction, and all you can talk about is money and fairy tales of eternal economic growth. How dare you!
"You say you hear us and that you understand the urgency. But no matter how sad and angry I am, I do not want to believe that. Because if you really understood the situation and still kept on failing to act, then you would be evil. And that I refuse to believe.""For more than 30 years, the science has been crystal clear. How dare you continue to look away and come here saying that you're doing enough, when the politics and solutions needed are still nowhere in sight."
Here is Haggai 1:1-11
"In the second year of King Darius, on the first day of the sixth month, the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai to Zerubbabel son of Shealtiel, governor of Judah, and to Joshua son of Jozadak,[a] the high priest:
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “These people say, ‘The time has not yet come to rebuild the Lord’s house.’”
Then the word of the Lord came through the prophet Haggai: “Is it a time for you yourselves to be living in your paneled houses, while this house remains a ruin?
Now this is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. You have planted much, but harvested little. You eat, but never have enough. You drink, but never have your fill. You put on clothes, but are not warm. You earn wages, only to put them in a purse with holes in it.”
This is what the Lord Almighty says: “Give careful thought to your ways. Go up into the mountains and bring down timber and build my house, so that I may take pleasure in it and be honored,” says the Lord. “You expected much, but see, it turned out to be little. What you brought home, I blew away. Why?” declares the Lord Almighty. “Because of my house, which remains a ruin, while each of you is busy with your own house. 10 Therefore, because of you the heavens have withheld their dew and the earth its crops. 11 I called for a drought on the fields and the mountains, on the grain, the new wine, the olive oil and everything else the ground produces, on people and livestock, and on all the labor of your hands."
In other words, while we may argue (or not) with the scientific underpinnings to Greta Thunberg's speech (not cited above) and for which I have seen debate which suggests science is on her side, there is a case for thinking of Greta as a prophet in Old Testament style!


Father Ron said...

And in the meantime, Bishop Peter, conservative Christians advising Donald Trump are still casting doubts about Climate Change. What, do you think, is their responsibility in all of this? Are they resisting what might be the prophetic voice of this brave young girl?

Peter Carrell said...

Dear Ron,
We do not have to look all the way to the USA - there is quite a bit of climate denial is going on in Australia (and influencing Scott Morrison (a Christian) in his love of coal).
Most prophets are resisted!

Anonymous said...

As usual, Father Ron. I have been enjoying your comments.

However, personally, I think of the POTUS's supporters, not as conservative Christians, but as politically populist and piously evangelical. And-- I mean this merely analytically-- their support for him is very intentionally more revolutionary than conserving.

B owman W alton

Father Ron said...

Dear Bowman, I see Trump's Evangelical Supporters as theological creationists who refuse to acknowledge the effects of depredation of the environment - especially when it conflicts with their capitalist, nationalistic (Make-America Great Again) self-interests. Noses buried in the sand are slow to recognise the need to retreat from the waves of social and economic change, preferring their inert stagnation.

Anonymous said...

Yes, Father Ron, I know that this is how you see them, and I respect your reasons for that.

But each side of the divide here is more diverse than the stereotype that its enemies profile. The basis for the two stereotypes is that polarized politics leave voters and politicians with one big choice between two packages of policies that reflect the two alliances rather than reality. But individual voters seldom agree with everything in the package they choose. And not all remain loyal to one side or the other. To say no more, a substantial slice of those who voted for Obama in 2008 and 2012 preferred Sanders to Clinton in 2016, but finally voted for Trump.

Those who do mostly fit the stereotype of a Trump voter are best defined by geography. They are inland Somewheres angry at being neglected yet dominated by Anywheres on the two coasts. We can find similar resentments in many Western lands beyond the glittering skylines of their metropolitan centres-- the north of England, the south of Italy, etc. Canada's Stephen Harper probably minimises the role of culture too much, but his economic explanation for Trump's victory in 2016 is broadly correct.

When Trump leaves the White House, his demonic grotesquerie will leave with him. But an inland constituency for some populism of the right will remain to be reorganized by politicians with more knowledge, competence, and grit. Those on the American center-left should ask themselves what slices of that constituency they can win over to their side, because that is the only way to build a majority able to govern. Those overseas should remember that, although the most influential Americans are cosmopolitan Anywheres, they share this country and its government with provincial Somewheres who are probably not very different from others nearer to home.

Bowman Walton

Andrei said...

More a post-Christian Western World's reincarnation of William Miller than prophet would be my guess

There are still some adults in the room though

Father Ron said...

Agreed, Bowman that the U.S. - like Britain at this time - is in a position of dangerous flux. The majority that voted for Trump, like the majority that voted for Brexit, arer no longer necessarily enamoured of their choice. I see from the latest news that even some of Trump's former supporters are turning against him - on account of irrational decisions made via Twitter-chatter. Boris is also about to get his comuppance certainly by the E.U.if not by the British public (and the C.of E, HOB).

Andrei said...

"The majority that voted for Trump, like the majority that voted for Brexit, arer no longer necessarily enamoured of their choice."

You know this how Fr Ron?

It seems to me that public discourse is dominated by an elite who are totally out of touch the the "hoi polloi" who they consider to be "uneducated oiks"

I am kind of reminded of Marie Antionettes apocryphal "let them eat cake" response to being told the peasants had no bread in these attitudes

An example of this might be the dissmisive attitude of Coastal Americans to heartland USA as "flyover country"

Bur places like West Virginia, once prosperous coal country are now enclaves of dispair and hopelessness fueled by an opiate crisis.

Even in Washington DC, the capital, parts of the city resemble a war zone, where young black men are dying violent deaths at a rate higher than that suffered by infantry men in Vietnam.

And this post is about a sixteen year old Swedish Girl who is convinced she has no future because she has been lied to by upper middle class twits who are enjoying lives of luxury and security unparalleled in human history and more focussed on gay rights and climate change in their cosy little bubbles than solving the real problems their communities face

Father Ron said...

Happy Saint Francis Day - 4 October, 2019

Now here's a Saint to be celebrated, with Love, Peace and Joy to ALL

Anonymous said...

Father Ron, the "latest news" needs some context, some interpretation, and a psotscript.

NEWS. Reliable polls show that since Trump's dealings with Ukraine have become public knowledge, a tiny bit more than half of the US electorate favours his removal from office by House impeachment and Senate trial. As so often, the trend in the data over time matters more than the headline number, and until some time passes there is no trend.

Because Trump's natural opposition is only about a third of the electorate, this shows that, in just a fortnight, roughly a sixth of the rest of the electorate has shifted to the most extreme sort of opposition. Do we know anything for sure about who has shifted, why they did so, and whether the shift will last? Not yet.

CONTEXT. In 2016, Clinton received about three million more votes than Trump. In any given week since his inauguration, at most about 45% of the electorate has approved of Trump's performance in office, and far fewer voters have approved of his performance recently. However, the US Constitution permits presidents (eg George W Bush) to be elected and to govern with only minority support. Thus by design, Trump's mere unpopularity has no direct legal consequences for his administration. Unless removed by the Senate-- a first in American history, although not quite impossible-- Trump will exercise the powers of his office until noon, 20th January 2021.

INTERPRETATION. Personally, I do not think that Trump can be re-elected, and look ahead to the complex decisions that many will have to take as that fact becomes harder to deny. For example, Biden's candidacy will need a new rationale as it sinks into several million Democratic minds that almost any of them running would likely win against Trump.

Across the aisle, Republican office-holders cannot risk being seen as disloyal to a POTUS of their own party, but neither can they risk being rats on a sinking ship. Gored by the horns of this dilemma, many are quietly leaving Congress. But those determined to stay will have to find a way to live beyond Trump without upsetting him or his base. For Republican members of Congress, the more likely it is that the Democrats will defeat Trump for them in November 2020, the less sense it makes for them to risk their own precious futures to get rid of him.

I myself am most interested in what Trump activists will do once they realize that they are effectively leaderless. Like other *triadic populists* (eg Franco), Trump presents himself as an irreplaceable messiah without whom the treachery of elites cannot be thwarted and America cannot be saved. There may always be a few who believe him, but the Trump activists that I know seem much more down to earth. They support him when he is under attack as their *protest candidate* against arrogant cultural leftism-- what else can they do?-- and they are usually unconcerned about the consequences of his many refusals to play the role of a POTUS in the customary way, but as men with earth-bound *survival values* they are also able to give astute assessments of how well and badly he is serving their interests as they see them. When Trump is passe, some will give up as the followers of Ross Perot did and as some followers of Bernie Sanders will, but others will regroup yet again in search of a politics that serves farmers and workers in the American heartland.

POSTSCRIPT. As a candidate, Trump was a unique voice for commonplaces about globalization that could be heard from the 1980s over a beer in any bar near a factory in inland America. But the force reshaping economies now is automation, and the mindset that wants a second chance to fight the last war seems unprepared for the economic change that is coming.


Anonymous said...

Welcome back, Andrei!

For a view closer to your own, see--

Bowman Walton

Andrei said...

Hi Bowman that article is an example of projection = it even uses the pejorative "flyover man" and in the first sentence the writer puts words into his mouth implying "flyover man" is ill informed.

In fact the writer himself is ill informed or perhaps chooses to to ignor information that contradicts his world view.

Perhaps the moment when Hilary Clinton sealed her fate in the last election cycle was when she used the phrase "basket of deplorables" to desccribe Trump supporters

The sad truth about American democracy is that the turnout of voters is lower than in any other Western nation - just over 55% of the voting age Americans voted last time, which is abour par for the course. And this is because the options are so appalling that the average Joe feels disenfranchised - which they are.

This talk of impeachment is pure political theatre played out in part to provide cover for Joe Biden's corruption. For the first three years of DT's presidency the "Russian Collusion" hearings have dominated the News Cycle until that narrative fell over about a month ago. And now we see a new line of attack.

Meanwhile the problems everyday Americans go unaddressed while in the so called "land of the free" has the highest number of her citizens incarcerated both in terms of absolute numbers and percentage of population of anywhere in the world.

And you know as well as I do that who will occupy 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue from 2021 will be decided by who bothers to vote in a some States and who decides to sit it out in those States. It is not going to be decided in the States of New York or California, nor Wyoming or Texas is it?

Anonymous said...

Andrei, it is refreshing to have you back. However, I apologize for getting your name wrong when occasionally echoing a wise insight that you posted last year.

David Brooks, like Ross Douthat of the same 'paper, has been a tireless advocate for the white working class voters of America's interior who now reliably vote Republican. His imaginary dialogue takes some license to shake the average NYT reader out of a certain urbicentrism ;-)

Hillary Clinton received almost 3 million more votes than Donald Trump. But like Al Gore in 2000 and John Kerry in 2004, she failed to make any specific appeal to the white working class rural voters whose votes carry more weight in the Electoral College. The moral of all three stories is the same: The Democratic popular majority endures, but its EC margin is too thin for candidates to rely on without at least some appeal to these neglected voters.

Apparently, the average Joe is more motivated to vote for referenda than for candidates. Referenda against SSM got Republicans to the polls for Bush in 2004, just as referenda legalising marijuana got Democrats to cast votes for a new House in 2018.

Nobody seriously believes that Biden is a crook-- probable cause?-- just as even Republicans concede that Trump lacks a moral core. Thus far in this primary season, those who have attacked Biden have seen their own poll numbers drop. Why? People made up their minds to like him decades ago.

Biden's prospects are tied to Trump's. If Trump is a viable candidate in 2020, then so is Biden as the Democrat who can take votes away from him. If impeachment by the House and trial in the Senate results in either Trump's conviction (unlikely) or his unelectability (probable), then Democrats will need an excellent new reason to choose Biden over say Warren, who may already be the actual frontrunner. Biden's candidacy will be hurt rather than helped by anything that takes Trump out of the race.

Until the Ukraine, Australia, etc matters came to light, most Democrats saw impeachment as a risky distraction from their march to probable victory in 2020. The fringe who did pursue the matter over their Speaker's objections were-- like the Republicans who impeached Bill Clinton-- just doing their duty as their constituents demanded. Now that there is an impeachable offense that is easy to anyone to prove and understand, it will indeed be much better theatre than before: Republican Senators will be as much on trial as Trump.

Closer to the election we can know with some precision which states and even which counties could be decisive. (For example in 2016, weak "get out the vote" by Wayne County's Democrats gave Trump all of Michigan's EC votes. That, with upset wins in Minnesota and Wisconsin, gave the loser of the popular vote his EC majority.) The deciding states are usually neither blue nor red, but purple. Texas could indeed become a purple state in 2020.

Bottom line: a sometimes decisive sliver of the US electorate will vote Republican on right-wing cultural issues (immigration, sex) unless they are given a chance to vote Democratic to support left-wing economic causes (higher minimum wage, stable healthcare etc) that matter to them much more. As the POTUS plainly fears, Biden could defeat him simply by being better liked by Trump's own base and by being too centrist to start a culture war for him to win. But it could also happen that any of a few Democrats running as real populists could defeat Trump with the simplest strategy of all-- offering some slice of his base what they actually most want.


Andrei said...

Thank you for your kind words Bowmn

The thing is Bowman when you repeat the talking point HC received 3 million more votes than DT you ignore the elephant in the room that these extra votes come from California and New york State - in fact remove California from the equation and DT wins by nearly 2 million votes.

If you really look into it the Democrat Party was extremely successful in getting a high voter turnout in Los Angeles county over 75% compared to thee national average of 55% I beleive - if you live in urban California and were inclined to support DT it is something you would keep to yourself and your motivation to cast your vote would be low - no?

In the disputed 2000 election Florida was important as you no doubt recall.

One of the things that occurred in that cycle was the major Networks called Florida for Al Gore before the polls had even closed in the Eastern Panhandle, The Eastern Panhandle being on Central time rather than Eastern meaning the polls closed an hour later

The voting in that region virtually ceased and the voter turnout in that region was significantly lower than the rest of Florida. And you can see why - why bother voting if the deal is done? The Florida Panhandle (CST) is heavily Republican while Southern Florida (EST) is Democrat - true? Would have Florida even have be in play for Al Gore if this hadn't happened?

Personlly I think American "Democracy" is just theatre - all smoke and mirrors to give the people the illusion they have a say and can influence events

Andrei said...

You know Bowman my purpose on commenting on this post initially was to try and take those who congregate here outside of their own bubbles which leads these thread into becoming echo chambers where assumptions are reinforced rather than challenged.

You might see Joe Biden as a credible candidate for the 2020 Presidential election whereas my reaction might be "you have to be kidding, the man would be 78 years old when he begins his presidency" - just digest that thought for a minute.

Bishop Peter saw Greta Thunberg addressing at the UN like some prophet of old addressing the Israelites, whereas maybe I saw a spoiled child having a tantrum in public encouraged by adults to advance their own agendas - should public policy and economic programs really be decided by petulant teenagers in plaits?

It is a good thing to try and see things through other peoples eyes, to walk in their shoes for a bit

Father Ron said...

re Andrei's commen (above). It's predictable how comments about the exposure of teenager Greta's public performance seems to have been viewed by 2 very different lenses: (1) is from those of us worried about climate-change, and (2) others like yourself, Andrei, who seem to be Climate-Change deniers.

There is one biblical reference that might apply: "Jesus said, 'I bless you Father, Lord of heaven and earth, for hiding these things from the learned and clever, and revealing them to mere children, for that is what it has pleased you to do"

After all, ib this instance, our children have much more to lose by ignoring this important reality than either you or I do, Andrew.

Andrei said...

You shouldn't use "Climate-Change denier" to describe those who have a different view to you because to do so reveals you cannot debate this issue intellectually on its merits and have to resort to scorn to assert your point and your assumed but totally misguided intellectual superiority.

This "debate" is just the Western World's equivalent of Lysenkoism which undermined biological science in the Soviet Union for political purposes - the parallels are striking.

Our Children Fr Ron have grown up in a world where they have never known hunger, had access to the finest medical care known to mankind, have been protected from diseases that are killing or crippling for life other less fortunate children in less blessed Lands and have opportunities placed before them denied those that went before them - in 1900 my girls probably would have been destined for domestic service from birth, doomed to emptying the chamber pots of those born into higher stations. Instead they got to go to University, travel the World and work in intellectually stimulating and relatively well renumerated jobs. It sounds like good deal to me

It is incredibly sad to see a child such as Greta Thunberg born into a world of comfort, safety and security unprecidented in human history crippled by terror of an imagined Armeggeddon.

Anonymous said...

Hi Andrei

Why do I remind readers here-- and others unfamiliar with the US Constitution-- that Clinton received almost 3 million more votes than Trump in 2016? To show them that, by the Framers' design, territory as well as population influence the outcome of an American presidential election. Getting the rules straight is the beginning of a fact-based discussion, and unsurprisingly you and I both recognise that rule.

To Democrats here up yonder who do not pay enough attention to it, I make three further points-- (1) The election of Trump was a black swan-- a possible event that was so improbable that it is unlikely to recur-- and it is foolish to ignore perennial realities whilst obsessing about 2016. (2) Without some concessions to the inland white working class who vote Republican on culture but Democratic on economics, there is no secure road to victory for Democrats, but with such concessions a governing majority that endures is within their grasp. (3) Anyway, progressives ought, as a matter both of principle and of self-interest, to promote the prosperity of the Somewheres in the continent's interior. Nobody here wants to see a northern England, southern Italy, or Albania in the American heartland.

"Personally I think American "Democracy" is just theatre - all smoke and mirrors to give the people the illusion they have a say and can influence events."

At present, senators' fear of the 40% of Americans who oppose Trump's removal from office is the only thing keeping the man in his job. That say seems to be influencing Trump-- and of course Pence-- although it is not clear just what acts of government Trump himself influences.

There are famously two notions of what democracy is. Some (eg John Stuart Mill)-- especially liberals of the left and the right-- see it as a sovereign people's exercise of deliberation and self-determination. Fed up with the war in Vietnam, a citizenry enlightened by Walter Cronkite and student protests elects Nixon to bring peace. But others (eg Joseph Schumpeter) see it as the neverending competition of elites being constrained and arbitrated, not by wily monarchs or by violence in the streets, but by the peaceful vote of the citizenry. Fed up with choosing between rival Virginia aristocrats (1, 3, 4, 5) and Boston brahmins (2, 6) for POTUS, the people elect a frontiersman *, Andrew Jackson (7).

Both notions have their theatrical moments-- nothing important happens without memorable spectacle and good catering-- but, as we were just saying, the United States of America is a republic. In a pure democracy, you cannot lose an election, be sworn into office anyway, and keep your job when most of the electorate is shouting "You're fired." In contrast, we have an very impure democracy, one more eager to gobble a continent whole than to precisely correlate *raisons d'état* to the consent of the governed. If Paris was worth a mass, California is surely worth an Electoral College that once in a century or so elects a freak. In school they called this feathered moose a "democratic republic."

Anonymous said...

"my purpose on commenting on this post initially was to try and take those who congregate here outside of their own bubbles"

Good. But with one obvious exception, opinion here is less bubbled and polarised than your comments suppose. I, for example, see Trump as a failed president, guilty or not, but would much rather do business with my populist Republican neighbours who voted for the man than with the narcissistic billionaires that he humiliated in 2016. A Republican friend of mine who served in Nixon's Cabinet and who ardently supports Trump agree on this: (a) the United States needs a Seventh Party System, (b) Trump has partially filled that need by dragging the kicking and screaming Republican Party into populism, and (c) intentionally or not, the Democratic Party will inevitably evolve to complement that grand new party. I wear many kinds of shoes.

* Even then, *les hommes des châteaux* won two more presidencies (9, 10) before fading from American politics.


Anonymous said...

Father Ron, I viewed "Greta's public performance" through lens (1) as you did, but nevertheless found it to be manipulative agitprop. Just the facts, please.


Andrei said...

I understand why the framers came up with the system now used Bowman - it means the citizens of Wyoming retain a small voice in Government with their one congressman and two senators along with three electoral colledge votes and are not completely shouted down by the citizens of New York

I worked and lived in Tallahassee in the mid ninties, a very congenial place it was too and typically Democrat unlike the surrounding areas

Funny thing is the Republican party was initially the progressive party. In the 1960 election it was the progressive Nixon vs the Patrician New Englander Kennedy. And this election was closer than the disputed 2000 one. Nixon's advisors wanted him to challenge the result but he didn't. The Mafia Boss Sam Giancana openly boasted how he fiddled the results in Cook County Illinois to put Kennedy into the White House. Nixon declined to challenge on the grounds it would be bad for the Nation to do so - famously saying "They stole the election but they stole it fair and square"

Nixon was always an outsider and always a "progressive" - The EPA was a Nixon initiative for example

Nixon won his second term in 1972 with the biggest number of electoral college votes in history - a landslide. And the democrats spent the next three years hounding him out of office with Watergate. A scandal we now know driven by the deputy director of the FBI, Mark Felt, who was miffed he didn't get the gig as Director. He wasn't impeached though - the scandal took its toll on his health and he had a heart attack which led to his resignation

We are seeing history repeat here -an outsider has taken the White House and his entire term has been spent with congressional investigations into him in an attempt to overturn that result - with little effect so far. But however you spin it this is not good for American Democracy, such as it is.