Sunday, February 27, 2011

Puritanism and the Rejection of the Church Year

By getting rid of the church year and all Christian holidays, the Puritans left a vacuum that would ultimately be filled by the non-religious ordering of time, thus reintroducing the idea that there exists a secular world that functions separately to religious categories. Of course, it should not be overlooked that the Puritan antipathy to the church calendar was not initially motivated by a dualistic impulse. In fact, quite the contrary: their rejection of Christmas and all other religious holidays was rooted in the notion that the entire years was sanctified. Nevertheless, the Puritan’s strict adherence to the regulative principle, whereby all things not explicitly prescribed in scripture as part of worship were therefore forbidden from worship, helped (when combined with numerous other social, political and religious factors) to create a duality in the culture that emerged in their wake, especially in North America. By relinquishing the Christian narrative from the calendar, the Puritans created the template for a culture that would be evacuated of its religious moorings. First this would manifest itself in a sense of culture as an autonomous institution running parallel to the church; secondly, culture would become a system in actual competition with the church. By rejecting the church year as one legitimate way to tell and retell the story of redemption, the Puritans helped to underscore the sense of evangelical religion as disembodied, detached from the space-time continuum.

To read more about the church year, see my previous blog post "Church Calendar."

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Thursday, February 17, 2011

Niebuhr on the Dangers of Revivalism

“Protestant against the established order attracts into the camp of reformers and awakeners individuals and groups with motivations very diverse from their own save at the point of antagonism against the prevailing institutions….For such men, the time of revival is not one of hope’s renewal but of its realization; not of faith’s resurrection but of its transformation into sight; not of revived hunger for integrity but of hunger’s satisfaction. To such impatient souls the reformers always seem to be dragging their feet and to be compromising with an evil old world. Every revival and protest has given opportunity for the rise of such groups that assumed the reformers’ real cause and their own to be identical.” H. Richard Niebuhr, “The Protestant Movement and Democracy in the United States,” in The Shaping of American Religion.

Further Reading

Finney and the New Measures

“To the dogs with the Head”: The Anti-inellectualism of Charles Finney

8 Gnostic Myths You May Have Imbibed

The Problem of Mediation in the First Great Awakening

Religion of the People, by the People, for the People

Recovering the Protestant Affirmation of Life

Joseph Smith: Profile of a False Prophet

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Friday, February 11, 2011

Obama & Egypt: what's our President doing?

President Obama has said that Mubarak (who is actually quite a good President for Egypt) must step down immediately in order to pave the way for “free” elections. It is not immediately clear, however, why Obama has sided with the protesters since this approach differs considerably from the one he has taken towards protests in Iran, which he simply ignored even though the plight of Iranians is far, far worse than anything Egyptians have had to experience under Mubarak. 
What Obama’s approach overlooks is that the “free elections” in Middle Eastern countries can often be a summons for the advancement of Islamic radicalism and fundamentalist groups like the Muslim Brotherhood. As Michael Savage has recently pointed out, “The invitation to hold ‘free elections’ in Middle Eastern countries with no history of democracy and no democratic infrastructure or culture in place is nothing less than a naive invitation to Islamist radicals to step in and take control. Such a transition, if it can be made at all, must be very gradual. People with no history of establishing and maintaining democratic institutions must be led into their formation.
The approach of the Obama administration is a marked departure from the United States’ earlier diplomacy, which was overtly supportive of Mubarak’s regime and the stability he brings to the region. Yet now Obama appears to be siding with the Muslim Brotherhood and has even met with the Brotherhood to hold non-publicized talks.
That’s only the tip of the iceberg. Documents exposed through the WikiLeaks show that as early as December 2008 the United States knew that anti-Mubarak opposition groups were developing a strategy for dismantling the Egyptian government. Moreover, U.S. Embassy officials were holding secret communications with anti-Mubarak opposition group throughout 2008 and 2009 even while publicly supporting Mubarak’s regime.
As if that is not enough, the American Embassy in Cairo helped a young dissident go to New York to attend a summit for activists organized by the US State Department. At the same time, America worked to keep his identity secret from the Egyptian police.
The leaked documents suggest that America did this with the knowledge that opposition groups were drawing up plans for a ‘regime change’ in advance of the September elections. The document said that activist claimed “several opposition forces” had “agreed to support an unwritten plan for a transition to a parliamentary democracy, involving a weakened presidency and an empowered prime minister and parliament, before the scheduled 2011 presidential elections”.
Of course, America’s opposition to Mubarak is no longer secret anymore. The New York Times reported on the 3rd that that Obama was discussing with Egyptian officials a proposal for President Hosni Mubarak to resign immediately and turn over power to a transitional government. Crucially, they note, “the transitional government will include members from a broad range of opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood.”
What is Obama’s agenda? We don’t know. But we do know (to quote from a recent article from The Daily Bell) that, “The Anglosphere is notoriously unsentimental when it comes to overthrowing allies in pursuit of its large one-world objectives. Those who have ruled with America’s backing for decades may suddenly [find] they are unsupported in their further prospects.” The same article went on to point out that “Having built up the Middle East through enormous cash infusions, the Anglosphere is continually expanding the role of fundamental Islam and may even be prepared to overthrow old and trusted allies to do so.
It may be that Obama needs trouble in Egypt in order to justify his continued expansion of the United States’ military apparatus which has been a hallmark of his administration. (See my article Obama at War) Or this may simply be the latest phase in America’s 20-year old habit of funding the radical elements of Islam.
One thing is certain: if Obama is successful in his opposition to Mubarak and if the Muslim Brotherhood do manage to gain power, it will not be the first time that America has interfered in the politics of a Middle Eastern nation with disastrous results. For example, America’s involvement in Iran directly helped establish the regime of Khomeini.
In 1925, a soldier named Reza Khan overthrew the ancient Persian dynasty. Khan established himself as Shah (the Persian title for king) and oversaw the industrialization and modernizing of the nation. Khan’ son, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, served as Shah of Iran, from 1941 to 1979. In 1951, and with the Shah’s approval, Dr. Mohammed Mossadegh was elected to the post of prime minister. An enormously popular prime minister, Mossadegh helped to nationalize Iran’s oil industry, which had formerly been controlled by the British. In an attempt for the West to regain control of Iran’s oil, however, Britain urged the United States to intervene in Iranian politics, but President Truman’s Secretary of State, Dean Acheson, refused, urging that the British were “destructive and determined on a rule or ruin policy in Iran.” It was not until General Dwight Eisenhower was elected President in 1953 that Britain had another chance to regain control of Iran’s petroleum reserves. Churchill put an embargo on Iran’s oil industry while the CIA began spreading anti-Mossadegh propaganda, hoping to convince the Shah to dismiss Mossadegh from the post of prime minister. At first the Shah refused to go along with the American plan to overthrow his democratically elected government (a plan known to the CIA as ‘Operation Ajax’). However, after continued pressure from America the Shah relented. The prime minister was then arrested and kept under house arrest until his death in 1967.
With Iran’s democratic government out of the way, the Shah’s rule became increasingly autocratic. While he made friends of America (granting US companies the majority of the country’s oil contracts, which had been the intended outcome of Operation Ajax), he steadily alienated his own people by crushing all political dissent. This set the stage for Iran’s Revolution in 1978 when the religious leader, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini helped to mobilize opposition to the Shah and his pro-American policies. The following year 98% of the country voted to replace the monarchy with an Islamic Republic, unaware that Khomeini was planning to use the new government as a front to rule as a dictator. Since then Iran has suffered under a theocratic Shiite government and remains a focal point for militant Islam and is one of the worst countries for the persecution of Christians. How much better it would have been had America never got involved in undermining Iran’s government.
What we are seeing in Egypt could prove to be an uncanny repeat of Iran.

Further Reading

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Thursday, February 10, 2011

Egypt and President Mubarack

I've been researching Egypt this week for Christian Voice, and one of the things I've found interesting is that the reality of what is going on is actually quite different to what is generally being reported in the news. 
We keep being told that President Mubarack is a dictator who is oppressing his people. No doubt this is partly true. Yet despite the criticisms that can be made against him, you've got to give it to him: President Mubarack has provided a stabilizing influence in the region, Moreover, he has helped Israel secure its borders and has kept radical Islam in check.
Most importantly, however, Mubarack has succeeded in keeping the Muslim Brotherhood at bay since 1981 when he assumed the presidency. We would do well to consider exactly what that means. If the Muslim Brotherhood were once to grab the reigns of power, they would likely open the border to Gaza and pour in weapons, including long-range missiles. Hamas would then have the capability of attacking Israel.
The longer the unrest in Egypt continues, the more opportunity there will be for the Muslim Brotherhood to channel the chaos towards their own destructive agenda. America desperately needs the stability that President Mubarak has brought to the region to be preserved. There are many reasons for this, not least because whoever controls Egypt could potentially hold the world to ransom since 10% of the world’s goods pass through the Suez Canal.

Further Reading

Egypt: The Key Players

Egypt protests: America’s secret backing for rebel leaders behind uprising
Western Elites Secretly Still Building Islam?
Obama’s War Mongering
‘Obama met Muslim Brotherhood members in U.S.’
White House and Egypt Discuss Plan for Mubarak’s Exit
Jewel of the Nile
The Muslim Brotherhood – in its own words

Friday, February 04, 2011

Is Jonathan Edwards also among the Gnostics?

This post has moved to the website of the Jonathan Edwards Society. Please visit the Society's website to join in the lively debate on whether or not Jonathan Edwards was a gnostic.

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Thursday, February 03, 2011

Watch out for the Food Police!

Ryan Close, an architect in Springfield Missouri, recently wrote a Declaration of Health Freedom.
The Declaration asserts that Americans have a fundamental right to make their own health choices.

I recently interviewed Ryan Close about a Declaration of Health Freedom that he drafted.  He wrote the Declaration in response to new laws that are threatening the freedoms that Americans enjoy to make their own health decisions.

Health freedom has been a concern of mine ever since 2009 when I wrote “An Historic Perspective on the Health Care Debate”. In that article I used the example of Germany under Hitler and America under Woodrow Wilson to show that when a government succumbs to the totalitarian temptation, one of the first impulses is to assert authority over the food and health of its subjects, thereby gaining control of their physical bodies.
The concerns I raised in 2009 are now becoming a reality. As Ryan mentioned during my interview with him, reports have been pouring in from all over America of armed raids from police to confiscate honey, milk and other products, in addition to banning a variety of perfectly harmless foods. Moreover, under recent health care legislation, Americans could soon be forced to buy commercial products aimed at keeping them healthy.

Further Reading

Freedom of Health: Does Uncle Sam Own Your Body?

Totalitarian Creep

Raw-food raid highlights a hunger

John Stossel’s Videos about the Food Police

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Wednesday, February 02, 2011

Interview with Mark Noll

I have found Mark Noll's books to be incredibly stimulating, particularly (though not limited to) The Scandal of the Evangelical Mind and America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln. In the following interview he talks about his work, why it's important, and the need for evangelicals to return to the life of the mind.

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