It was Winston Churchill (an agnostic, essentially) who famously said that he was not a pillar of the Church of England, but a buttress, ”supporting it from the outside”. I feel much the same way (I would still check C of E in a box if asked my religious affiliation), but that church is not what it was, except, of course, when it still is.
Andrew Sullivan brightens up this Sunday by linking to this marvelous Daily Telegraph obituary of the Rev. John Lambourne, country parson, rugby fan, Territorial Army chaplain and, quite clearly, a thoroughly good sort.
Here are some highlights:
As vicar of St Mary’s Salehurst, Sussex, Lambourne described himself as a “traditionalist” with no time for “all this modern stuff”, and his impatience with Church bureaucracy often exasperated his superiors in the hierarchy.
His sermons, meanwhile, were brisk (he claimed that no one could be expected to concentrate for more than four minutes) and notable for his use of sporting metaphors to explain complex matters of doctrine. The Trinity, he liked to say, was like a set of cricket stumps: from the bowler’s end they would appear as three; from square leg they would be seen as one…
Lambourne provided comfort to the sick and bereaved, and there were few people in the parish of Salehurst and Robertsbridge whose lives he did not touch . A major part of his ministry, however, was conducted over a pint at the local pub, where he encouraged all sorts of unlikely people to become regular churchgoers — even to attending “bring-a-bottle” confirmation classes.
One parishioner recalls how at one Midnight Mass, held after a convivial evening in the pub, Lambourne embarked on his sermon but soon found himself struggling with the word “vicissitude”. After three valiant attempts he gave up with a “we’ll leave it there, I think”. At the same service the following year he began his sermon with “vicissitude” and continued where he had left off.
Although Lambourne more than doubled the size of his congregation, filling his large medieval church every Sunday, people who turned up in church only at Christmas or Easter were never made to feel that they were falling short of the Christian ideal. He once observed in a sermon that a lot of people go to church without really knowing why and feel better for having done so; all were welcome whatever their state of belief or disbelief, and once people came to his church they tended to stay.
One exception was the journalist and broadcaster Malcolm Muggeridge, a great friend, whom he was able to coax away from atheism, but unable to prevent making his much-publicised conversion to Roman Catholicism. He was saddened by Muggeridge’s defection, he told an interviewer, but had replaced him with a nice St Bernard dog…
Andrew concludes the extracts he selected from the obituary with this comment:
Ah, yes, the Church of England, the greatest bulwark against religion humankind has yet constructed.
Not at all. At its best, the C of E—as personified by the likes of Lambourne (if we can put holy fools like Rowan Williams to one side)—is in some ways as close to perfection as religion—a man-made thing—can come to perfection, benign, kindly, gently patriotic, theologically broad-minded, a quiet conservator of tradition and order with room (for those who want it) for a spot of the supernatural, but little time for superstition, the navel-gazing nonsense of mysticism or an over-insistence on dogma.
Not bad, not bad at all.
An interview of Sasha Baron Cohen on NPR:
GROSS: One of the things you stay away from in “The Dictator” is religion. We don’t know if this dictator is Muslim. There’s no mention of Islam, there’s no mention of the prophet Muhammad, and that’s a good thing, I think, because I don’t think it’s – I mean, Muslims are very offended by anything that parodies the religion but also especially it’s considered sacrilege to, you know, parody in any way the prophet. Did you intentionally try to avoid that so as not to be misunderstood, so as not to insult people who you had no interest in insulting?
BARON COHEN: Exactly. I mean, firstly again, he’s not an Arab dictator, and he actually says that he isn’t in the movie. And so we wanted to really ensure that he was not Arabic in any way. So we created a new language – well, I say that, but he actually speaks at times in Hebrew, which would be strange for…
Baron Cohen’s whole shtick is broadly offensive to huge swaths of the human race. Ask a Kazakh about how they feel after they were portrayed in Borat as anti-Semitic sister-copulating quasi-pederasts. If you listen to the interviewer’s tone of voice it’s pretty clear she’s been highly sensitized to Islamic norms. Contrast this to her blithe acceptance of Sasha Baron Cohen’s grossly inappropriate behavior in much of the American heartland. Not all offense is created equal.
The Guardian reports:
Christian groups in the Philippines have called for a ban on Lady Gaga’s Manila concerts, alleging that her song Judas is an offensive mockery of Jesus Christ.
Youths gathered at a rally outside the mayor’s office, chanting “Stop the Lady Gaga concerts”, while members of the Biblemode Youth Philippines group called her videos religiously offensive.
In the song, she calls herself a “holy fool” who is “still in love with Judas”, singing: “Jesus is my virtue/And Judas is the demon I cling to.” In the video, Gaga plays a biker chick riding behind a man wearing a crown of thorns, while longing for another biker with “Judas” emblazoned across his leather jacket.
The singer is due to play the 20,000-seat Mall of Asia tomorrow and on Tuesday, and James Imbong, a lawyer filing a petition to ban the concerts, said Christian groups would not accept a compromise as organisers in South Korea did when Seoul authorities agreed to forbid under-12s from attending instead of cancelling the concert.
“She has a song that suggests that she wants to have sex with Judas and performs it with a dance,” Imbong told the news website PhilStar. “Of course, it would be accompanied by a costume that has pornographic elements.”
Manila’s mayor has issued a statement ordering Gaga not to “exhibit any nudity or lewd conduct which may be offensive to morals and good custom”, with the stark reminder that the penal code in the primarily Roman Catholic country of 93 million can convict anyone up to six years for offending race or religion…
Indonesian activists called the cancellation of a gig in Jakarta a sign of the country’s “Talibanisation” after authorities withdrew permission for her concert on 3 June, making her the first foreign artist to be banned despite selling out a 52,000-seat venue.
Indonesian human rights activist Andreas Harsono has said the concert ban represents “the Talibanisation [of] Indonesia”, while sociologist Ida Ruwaida said it was up to the government to “facilitate different interests without allowing the cultural hegemony of one group over another”.
Police denied the singer a concert permit amid claims from hardline Islamic groups that the suggestive nature of her show and lyrics would sabotage the country’s moral codes of conduct. “During her concerts, Lady Gaga looks like a devil worshipper,” said Suryadharma Ali, the religion affairs minister of the nation of 240 million people, mainly Muslims.
One of the best special-interest bloggers is Ann Corcoran of Refugee Resettlement Watch. She knows her territory well and comes up with some amazing stories. The importation of refugees — a high proportion of them fraudulent (90 percent according to Don Barnett) is an appalling racket that cries out for reform; but of course, any politician who said so aloud would be accused of wanting to slam the nation’s door in the faces of the homeless, tempest-tost, etc.
Ann’s post today is about the sensational growth of Islam in western New York state. Huge loser from that growth? The Catholic Church. Major enabler of that growth? The Catholic Church. You can’t make this stuff up.
[I note that the region Ann's writing about belongs to the "burned-over district" of the early 19th century.
The name was inspired by the notion that the area had been so heavily evangelized as to have no "fuel" (unconverted population) left over to "burn" (convert).
Something in the water up there, perhaps.]
The presidential victory of socialist Francois Hollande in France is being presented everywhere as a vote for “growth” over stagnation:
[Irish Foreign Minister] Eamon Gilmore last night said the election of Francois Hollande will “accelerate” a growth agenda in Europe.
Mr. Hollande has said that he intends to give “a new direction to Europe,” demanding that a European Union treaty limiting debt be expanded to include measures to produce economic growth.
What a brilliant act of branding. Implication: Those who believe in reining in government debt and spending are “anti-growth.” Those who believe that the private economy and the free market are the only true sources of economic growth are “anti-growth.”
The pro-big government stimulus spenders have managed to turn a disagreement over means into a division over ends. Obviously, there is a lot more work to be done in explaining how an economy works. The fact that Germany’s is practically the only non-moribund economy in Europe should in theory help make the case for government discipline, but the false promise of the big government Ponzi scheme is apparently too seductive.
- News that former Trent Lott aide Edwina Rogers named as top atheist lobbyist ruffles commenters at Daily Caller [TheDC]
- Indian skeptic charged with blasphemy for revealing secret behind “miracle” of weeping cross [Doctorow] Denmark Supreme Court, 7-0, strikes down conviction of Lars Hedegaard for criticizing Islam in own home [Mark Steyn]
- N. C. preacher says he was just joking when he advised dads to smack around offspring. Oh? [Ann Althouse]
- Failure to accommodate religious beliefs forbidding hair-cutting result in $27K payout by NC Taco Bell operator [EEOC]
- Law to legalize necrophilia? Egyptian Bonk of the Dead story turns out to be too good to check [Dan Murphy, Christian Science Monitor]
- Ryan Radia on Twitter, attending American Enterprise Institute banquet: “At #aeigala Leon Kass asks whether freedom and prosperity are meaningful without love for God and country. Answer: yes, absolutely.”
- And speaking of Twitter, you can follow Secular Right on it here.
A reader brought it to my attention that on Chrome/Firefox the new theme was forcing registration. That was not the setting in WordPress, but the caprice of the theme. An issue I did not notice because I am always registered. I’ve reverted to the old theme, which does not seem to have the problem with slow page load at this time. If it does in the future, I will switch to a new theme, though make sure that the commenting system remains de facto functional.
Sorry about that.
The similarities between the build-up to the 1992 Los Angeles riots and the media demagoguery around the Trayvon Martin case are eerie and disturbing, as I write about here:
Could it happen again? That is the taboo question on the 20th anniversary of Los Angeles’s murderous Rodney King riots, just as another racially charged prosecution—this time in Florida—captures headlines across the nation. Sadly, the answer is yes. As the Oakland riots in 2009 and 2010 following a transit officer’s fatal shooting of a parolee made clear, the threat of riots . . . still hangs over interracial incidents of violence when the victim is black. And just as the press cynically manipulated the facts in the Rodney King beating in order to increase racial tensions, it has done so again in the Trayvon Martin shooting inSanford,Florida.
The best hope for avoiding a repeat of the L.A.mayhem, should blacks not be satisfied with the verdict in the Trayvon Martin case, is that police forces across the country have learned the lesson of the Rodney King riots: that outbreaks of civil anarchy must be immediately and unapologetically suppressed.
Anniversary coverage of the LA riots has sanitized the violence and spun out a narrative that holds individuals blameless for their sadistic and homicidal destruction, placing responsibility instead on the usual suspects: the racism of the police and of society. Los Angeles Times reporter and editor Jim Newton provides a classic version of the “we are all guilty” topos:
The Los Angeles riots represented the culmination of many failures: the failure to provide hope for young people; the failure to supply education and jobs in the numbers that would stabilize communities; the failure to engage those communities in their own protection instead of relying on harsh and coercive law enforcement.
But even more remarkably, the Los Angeles Police Chief Charles Beck follows suit, using the nauseatingly PC term for the riots, “civil unrest,” and issuing a mea culpa for the police role in them:
The result [of aggressive LAPD tactics] was a city that was increasingly alienated from the police who were supposed to serve them. That alienation culminated in the worst civil unrest in Los Angeles history.
Oh, really? As I write in City Journal:
If LAPD oppression was both the cause and the target of that violence, why did the mobs assault the following civilians, among many others, in the first two hours of violence alone? There were the son of the Korean owner of Tom’s Liquor Store at Normandy and Florence, beaten by gangbangers while the store was being torched; the white driver of a gray Volvo, who was dragged from his car and kicked in the head by assailants yelling “It’s a black thing,” and who barely escaped in his car (minus his camera and briefcase, naturally); the white driver of a brown Jeep Wrangler who was hit by a rock thrown through the front windshield, then smashed in the face with a bottle when he got out of the jeep . . .
Interestingly, Latinos constituted a majority of the arrests during the riots, as photos of the looting would predict. The riots began as a “black thing,” but ended up as much a Hispanic thing. So much for the Ron Unzian view of Latinos as pacific saviors of California. On the other hand, Hispanics were overwhelmingly the victims, not the instigators, of the most vicious crimes of violence. While it is hard to imagine a Hispanic-initiated riot, certainly of the fury and personal predation of the LA riots, Hispanics’ eager participation suggests how fragile are the constraints of social order and how essential it is to enforce law and order with unflagging vigilance.
The New York Times is shocked that Apple seeks to minimize its liability under California’s exorbitant tax rates by moving profits to lower taxing states and countries. The paper melodramatically suggests in a front page “expose” today that the economic woes of a local community college, attended in the early 1970s by Apple founder Steve Wozniak, are directly related to Apple’s stinginess.
I wonder if Arthur Sulzberger, Jr., and other Times executives employ tax attorneys for their personal finances or for those of the paper. And if Apple paid more taxes in California, how much would reach the classrooms of Cupertino’s De Anza College, as opposed to bankrolling the thousands of diversity bureaucrats throughout the state’s university and college systems, not to mention funding astronomical public employee union benefits or bloated
government agencies and their ineffective social uplift programs.
The Times can’t contemplate that the solution to tax avoidance is to lower taxes and reduce the magnitude of government spending. It’s too bad that the titans of Silicon Valley don’t have the guts to speak out about the economic realities that drive business decisions.
New York City Mayor Mike Bloomberg has eloquently opposed two local living wage bills championed by New York’s left-wing City Council:
“Government cannot bend the laws of the labor market,” he said, arguing that the bills would destroy jobs, and that taxpayers would ultimately pay for the increased wages.
This month, on his weekly radio show, he compared the living-wage bill to Soviet economic policies, saying, “The last time you really had a big managed economy was the U.S.S.R., and that didn’t work out so well.”
And yet, Bloomberg urged the Supreme Court not to hear a case challenging New York’s hoary rent regulations, defending them
as a necessary response to a housing shortage and as a way to prevent “rent profiteering.”
Last month, [he] certified that there was still a state of housing emergency, defined as a vacancy rate of less than 5 percent, which is a requirement for the regulations to be in effect.
The emergency has been in effect for more than 40 years.
There is actually a stronger case to be made for living wage bills as they apply to government-funded projects than for rent regulations, an insane, demonstrably counterproductive policy far more akin to Soviet-style central planning, one which inevitably produces the very “housing emergency” which Bloomberg cites as justification for it. Apparently, Bloomberg does understand the workings of supply and demand, except when it comes to New York’s sacrosanct rent controls, virtually the last in the country. A very depressing demonstration of the power of politics over principle.