Hymnus Deo

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Location: Greensboro, NC, United States

Thursday, June 28, 2012

Naomi Wolf on Creeping Totalitarianism

We in America are used to a democratic social contract in which there is agreement about the rules of the game: When Congress demands an answer, for instance, the president does not simply refuse to pick up the phone. So we keep being startled when the steps of the democratic interplay are ignored: "He can't do that!" It's time to notice that they are playing a different game altogether....

What has happened in the past is that at a certain point in a weakening democracy, would-be dictators pretend that everything is as it should be but simply stop responding to the will of the people and the representatives. While the nation is trying to grapple with this interim period, then such leaders deploy sudden unexpected changes that assertively upend Parliamentary protocols and expectations.

At this point, the speed of these moves itself is disorienting: It takes people some time to figure out what has happened. (In a very moving scene, Italian legislators were still frantically trying to engage in standard political negotiations with Mussolini - even as he simply waited for them to realize that the time for negotiating was over.) That psychological hangover - that delay in "getting it" - is a very dangerous time. This is the moment when action is most necessary, and this is the moment when the window is closing.

In Italy and Germany, legislators kept believing that they were still engaged in the negotiated dance of democracy - even as the militaristic march of dictatorship had already begun.

At a point in both Mussolini's and Hitler's takeovers, citizens witnessed a stunning series of quickly escalating pronunciamentos or faits accomplis. After each leader made his bids for power beyond what the Italian Parliament and the German Reichstag allowed him, each abruptly started to claim all kinds of new rights that were extraparliamentary: the right unilaterally to go to war, to annex territory, to veto existing laws, or to overrule the judiciary.

"I am not a dictator," said Hitler in 1936. "I have only simplified democracy."

At this stage, shock follows shock so quickly that the civil society institutions start to reel. At this point, in weaker democracies than ours, the police forces and the army are negotiated with. In any late shift, the final stage is the establishment of government by emergency decree or actual martial law and the leader's assertion - usually using the law to defend this assertion - that he is above the law, or that he is the law: the decider. -- Naomi Wolf, "The End of America", pp. 144- 145, published 2007

Daniel and Synagogue Worship

Another response I wrote on someone else's page, in which I pat myself on the back for ideas I stole from someone else. The question was: did Daniel participate in synagogue worship while in exile?:

There is actually no absolute proof that synagogues in full were developed during the Exile, though that’s the prevailing theory. Weekly local meetings were ordained by God much earlier (Lev. 23:3), which presumably would have been led by the Levites who dwelt everywhere throughout the land of Israel. Daniel was acting in the manner of Israel’s daily Temple worship that would have occurred were the Temple in repair and Israel back in the land. As Solomon had prayed in his prayer at the consecration of the Temple (1 Kings 8:46-50), Daniel was looking toward Israel, a ”condition” for God to hear the prayer of Israel and restore her to the land. He was acting on behalf of Israel, as their representative. And wrapped up with this, he was imitating the practice of Temple worship in his private (hardly private when sitting in a public place in front of an open window) worship. His private worship was shaped by Israel’s public, corporate worship.

While the synagogues may have been allowed to function in Babylon, I must say I have my doubts. I imagine a situation of small gatherings of believers at best, maybe not functioning fully the way a synagogue would have. At least, Daniel was carrying on his own worship as a part of the larger whole, longing for and looking to Israel’s promised return to the land and her worship.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

On Boycotting Businesses that Support Evil

A friend sent me an email asking me about businesses that openly support evil, and whether or not Christians should patronize them. Below is the response I wrote to her.

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I think it's difficult to make hard, fast standards about this. In the New Testament, we see the believers in the young church having to deal with idolatry dominating in the marketplace, and that affecting where they would buy there food, and even whether or not they were able to get a job and make a living. But that was clearly stated idolatry. The food and wine were literally offered to idols in acts of worship before being sold in the market. And in order to be part of the local guilds, you had to offer incense to Caesar as a god, and maybe even to some local pagan deity in addition.

The question in my mind then is how far we go in applying this. Do I not shop with a certain retailer because they sell a cd by a band that is clearly Satanic? Do I not buy clothes from a certain business because they sell clothes that are too revealing for women to be wearing? I think one guideline is that once the money has been exchanged between myself and the business for whatever I purchase, I am no longer responsible for what they do with it. It may be going to an employee supporting her family, or it may be going to some pro-homosexual organization. It's impossible to trace anyway, and with everything operating on credit in the world economy anyway, the "money" I give them is hardly money.

Romans 14 and 1 Cor. 10 apply in places. So if Starbuck's were to clearly say, "for every purchase of a beverage, a dollar goes toward pro-choice activists," then I would have to withhold my money. But that normally isn't the situation. You're purchasing a product, not supporting wickedness. That isn't to say there isn't a place for boycotts; that's a perfectly legitimate thing to do. But it's all about the greater good. If I were a parent responsible to buy diapers at the cheapest price, and Target was the cheapest, that's where I would go. My first responsibility is to my family, and I can't neglect their good for the larger good of society. Our responsibilities in life have a hierarchy to them - what and who are nearest to me, who are under my specific care and headship, who will God specifically hold me accountable for in the day of judgment? That doesn't mean it's always easy to make those determinations. But I pray for the Lord's guidance in all things, and make the best decisions I can, trusting in His forgiveness when I make a wrong move, which I will inevitably make sometimes.

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

"Christian Romanticism" is a Myth

We often fail in our duties before God because we take too Romantic a view of the Christian life. Love, joy, obedience, worship - we behave as if these are things that normally attack us when we aren't looking. No doubt this is part of the reason marriages and friendships so often fail these days. But the reality of the matter is that the Christian life is one of deliberate intention. We reduce Christian virtue to emotion. But while all of salvation is a work of the Spirit, the way we achieve fruit is by the doing of it. If we lack joy, it is because we aren't actively rejoicing in God. If we are hung up in negative emotions, one of the first places to look is to one's life of thanksgiving, to examine onesself to see if we are living a life of expressing gratitude to God for His innumerable blessings towards us. Nothing could be more unbiblical than sitting around passively and waiting for "Christian" emotions to wash over you.

Saturday, June 02, 2012

Review of "October Baby"

For those who continue to be exercised about my three-year old review of "Jonathan Sperry", here is Dr. Peter Leithart's review of the recent film "October Baby", and his commentary on Christian films more generally:

http://www.firstthings.com/onthesquare/2012/04/messages-at-the-movies/peter-j-leithart