Monday, November 03, 2008

Matt 24 Watch, 73: A reading assignment on Judges ch 9 and trends in the West's political culture

Hitherto, I have refrained myself from commenting directly on the current US Election cycle, as my primary focus is on issues that are beyond the cut and thrust of politics, and my interest is primarily in the Caribbean. Also, given the observed intensity of feelings involved even in surprising quarters in our region, I have felt it wise to restrain myself from public comment until matters were pretty clear.

However, matters have now become clear enough for me to hazard a few observations and statements of concern, through giving some balancing reading assignments. I do so under the general principle that we need to promote sound thinking, as a core component of the spiritual struggle we face as 2 Cor 10:4 - 5 outlines, multiplied by my contention -- cf training article that is reproduced below -- that political messianism is a species of idolatry to which we are extraordinarily vulnerable in our region.

So, that makes me look serious askance at how we too often respond to polarising charismatic political figures in times of crisis: local, regional and global.

For, I think we in our region have shown an extraordinary naiveté in how we have responded to the major media houses and their radical secular humanist agendas and propagandistic spin tactics, and to the messianistic rhetoric and charismatic personalities who have been a key part of this US election cycle. For instance, few of us understand the significance of the number 48 millions.

What is that about?

It is the number of abortions to date under the infamous 1973 Roe vs Wade US Supreme Court Decision, that legalised abortion on demand; which unfortunately then became a central, deeply entrenched plank of the US Democratic party. It exposes a tide of blood-guilt that rises at the rate of more than a self-inflicted 9/11 a day, and so has become a spiritual cancer eating away at the consciences, hearts and minds of a generation of Americans.

So, even as I cannot find it in myself to support the parties in my native land that have been implicated in violence and bloodshed, I cannot support political organisations in neighbouring countries that have sustained such a policy as abortion on demand. I might support indivduals seeking to reform from within, but in this case, nurse and pro-life activist Ms Stanek has made shockingly plain just where the Democratic contender for president stands. (Cf here, here and here, for starters.)

{UPDATE: A Washington Times editorial sums up the encounter between Ms Stanek and Mr Obama in the Illinois State legislature as follows:

Mrs. Stanek worked at Christ Hospital in Oak Lawn, Illinois from 1993 to 2001. When she worked in the hospital's Labor and Delivery Department she saw that babies who survived abortion attempts were left to die alone in supply rooms. They could linger for as long as eight hours, without medical care, without even the dignity of a warm blanket or a soft touch. Their tiny bodies were then dumped in the trash. Mr. Obama's spiritual mentor served on the board of the hospital. Mrs. Stanek went on a public crusade to protect these children.

At a 2001 Illinois legislature hearing, Mr. Obama questioned Mrs. Stanek. She insisted that children needed medical care if they were born alive. Mr. Obama said: "Ms. Stanek, your initial testimony last year showed your dismay at the lack of regard for human life. I agreed with you last year and we suggested that there be a Comfort Room or something of that nature be done. The hospital acknowledged that and changes were made and you are still unimpressed. It sounds to me like you are really not interested in how these fetus [es] are treated, but rather not providing absolutely any medical care or life to them."

Mrs. Stanek replied: "What the hospital did was try to make things look better. What it really is, is that the baby is still dead". . . .

Mr. Obama even voted against banning partial-birth abortion - a radical procedure - in the Senate, in October, 2007. Since 2005, he has a 100 percent rating on pro-choice votes by NARAL, a leading, national pro-choice organization. Read the whole editorial, never mind its even strident tone; there is much more.}

And, horror of horrors, just the issue of legalised, easily accessible abortion is evidently now before Parliament in my native land, Jamaica. Oh, God, grant us wisdom to refrain from more blood-guilt!

On the other side of the US election, I am just as deeply concerned to see how many seem to want a charismatic, messianic figure, as came out when the Vice Presidential nominee for the Republicans was announced.

Nor, am I impressed with any of the major candidates or the general leadership of that nation. Indeed, I am currently inclined to believe that the US, having plainly begun to live out of Romans 1, is facing the stage in which bramble bush leadership emerges; as Jotham (sole survivor of a massacre of the sons of Gideon led by Abimelek, their half-brother) warned the men of Shechem in Judges 9:
v. 6 . . . all the citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo gathered beside the great tree at the pillar in Shechem to crown Abimelech king.

JDG 9:7 When Jotham was told about this, he climbed up on the top of Mount Gerizim and shouted to them, "Listen to me, citizens of Shechem, so that God may listen to you. 8 One day the trees went out to anoint a king for themselves. They said to the olive tree, `Be our king.'

JDG 9:9 "But the olive tree answered, `Should I give up my oil, by which both gods and men are honored, to hold sway over the trees?'

JDG 9:10 "Next, the trees said to the fig tree, `Come and be our king.'

JDG 9:11 "But the fig tree replied, `Should I give up my fruit, so good and sweet, to hold sway over the trees?'

JDG 9:12 "Then the trees said to the vine, `Come and be our king.'

JDG 9:13 "But the vine answered, `Should I give up my wine, which cheers both gods and men, to hold sway over the trees?'

JDG 9:14 "Finally all the trees said to the thornbush, `Come and be our king.'

JDG 9:15 "The thornbush said to the trees, `If you really want to anoint me king over you, come and take refuge in my shade; but if not, then let fire come out of the thornbush and consume the cedars of Lebanon!'

JDG 9:16 "Now if you have acted honorably and in good faith when you made Abimelech king, and if you have been fair to Jerub-Baal and his family, and if you have treated him as he deserves . . . 19 if then you have acted honorably and in good faith toward Jerub-Baal and his family today, may Abimelech be your joy, and may you be his, too! 20 But if you have not, let fire come out from Abimelech and consume you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and let fire come out from you, citizens of Shechem and Beth Millo, and consume Abimelech!"
Thankfully, assassination and massacre are not the driving forces in political life in contemporary Western civilisation. (NB: In the 1920's - 50's such were driving forces in the Soviet Union, Germany and Japan. And, I am troubled by not only the bloody violence of Jamaica's politics of the 1970's to 1980, but also by the track record of suspicious deaths in that general time in Guyana, and by the Grenada events of 1979 - 1983.)

But, back on the USA: I fear, the blatant and accelerating loss of civility in the USA, occasioned by the sort of rebellion, endarkenment and out of control passions occasioned by rebellion against God as outlined in Romans 1, has led to a politics of rhetorical fratricide and personal destruction that hinders sound leadership from emerging. And since "when America sneezes, we get pneumonia," that has serious implications for our region indeed.

Onward, the USA clearly faces the implications of the Deuteronomy 8 judgements on nations that turn their backs on, disobey and willfully forget God:

17 You may say to yourself, "My power and the strength of my hands have produced this wealth for me." 18 But remember the LORD your God, for it is he who gives you the ability to produce wealth, and so confirms his covenant, which he swore to your forefathers, as it is today.

19 If you ever forget the LORD your God and follow other gods and worship and bow down to them, I testify against you today that you will surely be destroyed. 20 Like the nations the LORD destroyed before you, so you will be destroyed for not obeying the LORD your God.

Moreover, I remain seriously concerned that our civilisation as a whole -- including here in the Caribbean -- is increasingly blind to the mortal peril it faces from two closely linked threats:
[a] internal disintegration due to the rise of evolutionary materialism-driven secular humanism and linked apostasy, paganisation and de-christianisation, together with their implications (as we have been discussing in this blog for some time),

[b] the rise of radical islamist fascism as a religiously motivated, global conquest eschatological ideology and agenda.
Accordingly, I think it appropriate to give out a bit of a reading assignment, much of it from a very interesting UK based commentator on major issues and trends, Ms Melanie Phillips.

You (and the author of this blog post, for that matter) may not agree with everything linked below, but we desperately need to take a balancing look at our current situation:
1] In "America’s first far-left radical President?" Ms Phillips raises a vital cluster of troubling issues on media bias and agendas, the propagandistic politics of demonisation, ridicule and personal destruction and linked messianistic adherence to charismatic political figures. This, backed up by serious questions on the radical socialist, subversive nature of key formative associates and experiences behind the likely next president of the USA.

2] In her earlier "Revolution you can believe in" she lays out what a "community organiser" is, and what that potentially implies for not only the USA but our civilisation, in the face of Marxist ideologue Gramsci's long, de-Christianising march through the culture and its institutions. In a shocker disclosure, she cites from a telling
75 pp undergraduate senior thesis submitted at Wellesley College by native Chicagoan and future Mrs Hillary Rodham Clinton, in 1969:
If the ideals Alinsky espouses were actualized, the result would be social revolution. Ironically, this is not a disjunctive projection if considered in the tradition of Western democratic theory. In the first chapter it was pointed out that Alinsky is regarded by many as the proponent of a dangerous socio/political philosophy. As such, he has been feared -- just as Eugene Debs or Walt Whitman or Martin Luther King has been feared, because each embraced the most radical of political faiths -- democracy. [Ms Phillips observes, tartly but aptly: "That’s not democracy as we know it, more a Marxist conception of people power."]
3] Two backgrounders allow us to peer deeper into the underlying radical socialist-developed dynamics and strategy of subversion, i.e. Alinski's Rules for Radicals, and Ayers' Prarie Fire. Thanks to a certain reader, I can sum up the Alinsky "community organizer" methodology in a tight quote from a certain blogger [without endorsing the wider context of the excerpt]:
. . . lie, cheat, steal, etc., while making those with American principles live up to impossibly high standards of institutional altruism, so that we and our liberal government fail in ridicule. Preach "change" and gradually build an activist army of the proletariat, motivated by (short sighted) self interest, for a crescendoing revolt. All, to pave the way for the "egalitarian state." And funny thing, Alinsky's book tosses an acknowledgment to Lucifer, "the very first radical," a refreshing lapse into candor.
4] Phillips' "Planet Equality and the eclipse of nation," opens up the underlying radical relativist multicultural can of worms to critical analysis, with as background her crucial book on Islamist subversion, Londonistan. [Cf Amazon page.]
Beyond that, I think that the below is still all too relevant:


Political Messianism

Often, politicians in our region project themselves as messiahs, anointed to lead us into new promised lands. However, as Christians, we know that it is only God who can save us from all the bitter fruit of our sin and selfishness, and it is only God who knows what is in men's hearts and can thus know the exact motives or attitudes of those who question or oppose him. (See 1 Sam. 16:7.)

Therefore, when mere men project themselves as messiahs able to deliver our people into a new age, free of want, misery and suffering, and thus demand unquestioning support, or claim that politics is a sphere in which questions of right or wrong are irrelevant, they demand loyalties which properly belong only to God.

The first commandment still stands: "You shall have no other gods before me." (Deut. 5:7.)

Marxian ideology — now lying in a shallow and noisily stirring grave — added to this potent idolatrous brew a philosophical framework, based upon materialism. For, starting from the basic stance of rejecting any notion of a personal, Sovereign God, it asserted that matter and the purposeless laws that govern matter are all that exists. It then claimed that social injustice is due to how some men have invented the notion of property and have used it to steal the fruit of other people’s work to fatten themselves, inventing complex social structures, notably religious and political/economic ones, to legitimise their action. The proposed solution was revolution: the oppressed must throw off their chains and violently seize what "rightfully" is theirs.

Unfortunately, as the aftermath of the collapse of communism in Eastern Europe in 1989 – 1991 revealed, Marxist revolutions have simply substituted one oppressive, unjust and often incompetent ruling class for another. So, the collapse of the East Bloc has for the moment settled the debate over whether centrally planned economies outperform market-based economies: across time, they have not.

However, as Bob Goudzwaard points out in Capitalism and Progress, the underlying greed and oppression issues first raised by Marx and other Socialists remain unresolved. For, those who own or manage the capital assets of a firm often think only in terms of maximising profits. They thus tend to neglect the legitimate rights, needs and interests of other stakeholders: workers and their families, suppliers (especially when their bargaining power is weak), customers, the wider community, even the environment.

Therefore, in recent years, the ideological and moral controversies that have dogged capitalism from its inception have simply moved on to other grounds. These include: market failures and environmental damage; [un-]sustainability of development and North/South globalisation agendas; capitalist/patriarchal oppression of workers, women, black people, and other racial/cultural minorities. (Nor have the usual noises about profit maximisation as an efficiency measure put the critics to flight, for the key theorems relate to idealised, not real world markets.) That is, the underlying theme of oppression/liberation remains unresolved, and the underlying materialistic thinking and hankering after political messiahs still set the agenda for public debate.

This is fundamentally problematic, for secularist political messianism/liberationism rejects God, as its first step in thinking. So, however good the analysis may be at particular points — and it can be uncomfortably close to the truth, even though such thinkers have more than their fair share of misleading arguments — such thinking has no clear and firm basis for respecting truth, rights, and values; even though it often reflects a splendid sensitivity to the cry of the oppressed.

Now, it is an easily observed fact that we naturally become angry and complain or quarrel when we are treated unfairly, though we often fail to live up to the standards we thus set for others. That is, as C. S. Lewis was fond of pointing out, how and why we quarrel reveals that we expect other people to respect our rights — binding moral claims on others. In short, in practice, we all accept that at least some moral principles are objectively binding. Unfortunately, at the same time, we often wish to escape the force of such claims against our own selves!

As a result, it is an all-too- common human failing to be busy about sawdust in the next person’s eye, when we have planks sticking out of our own eyes. [Matt. 7:1 – 5; cf. 18:15 – 18.]

It is therefore quite easy for political messianists to highlight the failings and hypocrisies of others. But, more importantly, it is quite another thing for would-be saviours of society to give an adequate basis for the binding nature of our rights. For, what “rights” can “an accidental by-product thrown off by the random chaos of a chance world” ultimately claim against those who hold the levers of power in the community?

This is crucial, as secularist thinking naturally tends to reduce morality to subjective feelings driven by accidents of genetics or of culture, religion and history. Would-be political messiahs therefore typically resort to manipulative media and political power games as they attempts to deliver their promised utopias. But, since secularists reduce truth to subjective perceptions, and cut rights down to being mere entitlements granted through control of the levers of political, legal and regulatory power, they are usually blind to the planks in their own eyes — their own fallen, sinful, deceitful and desperately wicked hearts. [Cf. Jeremiah 17:5 – 11, esp. 9 – 10, and Deut. 8:17 - 20.]

Consequently, secularist utopian reformers all too easily fall prey to the corrupting temptations of power. For example, they often ruthlessly exploit media access and academic/ideological power to push through their policy agendas — often based on questionable or even deceptive scientific, factual, moral or legal claims. In some instances, they have even abused the power of police agencies and the courts — and not just Nazis and Communists, either.

As a result, public policy dominated or controlled by such ideologues soon drifts away from sound foundations, in pursuit of ever-receding mirages, often ending up in shipwreck. This has already become all too clear in the case of the Marxists, who have now left behind the daunting challenge of repairing the political, social, cultural, economic, educational and environmental havoc created by forty to seventy years of ruinous rule by tyrannical Communist Dictators.

Similarly, should they gain or hold power for long enough, bitter fruit will also come from the current crop of would-be political messiahs, precisely because they have lost sight of their own inner corruption and need for redemption, inner renewal and transformation through the only true Messiah. For, as the great Russian writer and dissident, Alexander Solzhenitsyn, observed — consciously echoing the ancient prophets — the line between good and evil passes, not between classes and nations, but right through the individual human heart.

The main question, in short, is NOT over particular issues, theories, rights and policies, but rather over who is Lord: man, or Jesus? (For, as Rom. 13:1-7 points out, governing authorities are servants and stewards of God, responsible for upholding justice, rewarding good, and punishing evil. When those who hold power drift from this mooring, they inevitably follow a road to ruin.)

In short, the state is, and must always be, accountable to God. For, it is only he who can truly establish justice in the community.


So, let us ponder our times, and let us seek a word from our Lord that will show us the right way forward in these troubled, turbulent times. END

No comments: