Archives For Ideology

In a 2006 article written for the Stanford Journal of International Relations, called ‘Responding To Genocide In Sudan[i], Stephan M. Doane lays out reasoning for a much needed, tougher international stand on the issues plaguing Sudan.

The article is dated, but raises, on an academic level, awareness about the plight of many South Sudanese people, who are stuck in a cycle of constant violence. Many of whom are Christians.

Doane’s piece is well researched. He argues that the humanitarian crisis in Sudan is less acknowledged by international stakeholders. For example, the U.N and the international community appear ‘indifferent’ towards the aggression and socio-political maneuvering of the Islamist North.

Evidence for this is found in the fact that up until at least 2006, when foreign aid was delivered to Sudan for distribution in the South, the North controlled when, where and who received it. As a result, International aid became one more way in which the North could control the South.

‘Operation Lifeline Sudan (OLS), was restricted by the North from bringing aid to South Sudan. Many died because of UN acquiescence to Khartoum demands that dictate where to allow passage of UN-sponsored flights. To this day (2006) the UN still grants the northern government authority over its relief efforts’ (Doane, p.2)

Demographically, the North of Sudan is ‘primarily Arab and Arab-African’ (p.1). Most of the North are Muslim who desired Sudan to become Muslim. Doane, citing Madut Jot’s ‘War and Slavary in Sudan’, 2001 states that ‘the resolute will to make Sudan an Arab and Islamic nation originates from the belief that

“Arabism has a superior rank than Africanism, based on the way they view the racial hierarchy”[…]‘Southern leaders were treated as second class citizens.’ The intent of the North was to implement Islamic law (Shari’a) and set up and Islamic state; ‘”it’s chosen hegemony” (p.2)’.

According to Doane, Sudan’s troubles can be traced back to its independence. When independence was formed, under a British civil administration in 1947, ‘many of the southern representatives present were not ready to accept the unity of the Sudan – due in large part to prior deception from the North’ (those deceptions aren’t elaborated on).

In 1955, a civil war erupted between North and South that lasted until 1972. This was initiated by the South and was triggered primarily because ‘the Sudanese government [sought] to subjugate southerners to a cultural, ethnic, and religious heritage that is not their own – Islam.(p.2)’

In 1983, civil war broke out again. This time towns were

 ‘ravaged by government troops and government supported milita caused internal displacement of southerners in gigantic  proportions. The hijacking of food deliveries from international relief agencies resulted in more than 250,000 deaths by famine in 1988 alone, in addition to military casualties. Military victories by the Southern forces motivated a peace initiative which included the abolishment of Islamic Law (Shari’a) as the law of the land (p.2).’

Doane continues,

‘Displaced Southerners were often gathered in forced-labor camps as well as re-education camps where children are forced to learn Arabic, memorize the Qu’ran, convert to Islam, and are beaten or tortured if they do not comply. [Among other war crimes] Women are frequently raped; arbitrary arrests and imprisonment are common […] Government armies and government-supported Popular Defence Forces also sell southern women and children as slaves (p.2).’

Yet, even with these examples,

‘many international governments support the aggressor [the North] and its policy goals. In addition, the U.N has been reluctant to rebuke the Sudanese government for its human rights violations […] The international body most sympathetic to the northern government is the League of Arab States. Bulgaria, China, Iran, Iraq, Russia, and former Soviet Republics have all sold weapons to the northern government armies and state-sponsored militias (p.4).’

As Doane is right to point out, ‘what is most ironic,however, is Sudan’s membership on the UN Human Rights Commission.’ Furthermore, ‘the hypocrisy of selecting such an abusive government to judge human rights violaters reveals the extent to which the world has turned a blind eye to the [issue of slavery in Sudan] and the genocidal actions of the North.’

Sudan was a member of the UN Human Rights Commission from 1998-2000 and was assured a seat in the 2012[ii] election round for the Commission’s replacement, the UN Human Rights Council which replaced the Commission in 2006[iii]. The North’s candidacy was, however, vetoed when a ‘group of African nations petitioned against it’[iv], on the grounds of the human rights abuses carried out there by the North.

Doane also highlights how blind-eyed foreign investment in oil, helped the North exploit and torture the people of the South.

Citing Mindy Belz,

‘China’s petroleum firm (CNPC) reportedly purchased a high-tech radar system for the government last year. It was installed in summer, and since then the government bombing raids against southern targets (mostly churches and humanitarian relief organisations) have increased.’[v]

He then writes,

‘The windfall  of revenue allowed the North to purchase sufficient military firepower to permanently eradicate the South Sudanese opposition. This impending possibility correlates with the stated vision and previous action of the despotic Khartoum regime, and this threat must not be taken lightly’ (p.5)

In concluding, Doane links up the War on Terror with continued oppression in the South. While the North supported the West in its War on Terror, the North had leverage over any committed effort by the international community to push for peace and justice for the South Sudanese:

 ‘It would be sadly, ironic if the deaths of thousands of civilians on September 11 provide a pretext that the North Sudanese Government could use to kill many more thousands of civilians with international impunity’ (p.8)

In other words, Christians and people of South Sudan were fighting a war against terror in their own right, only to be overlooked by the West, because they lacked the resources, voice, support, and recognition that its Northern neighbour had and has.

Doane’s essay is eleven years old and shows its age. It doesn’t mention the 2013 ethnically motivated civil war in the South, nor does it mention diplomatic efforts in the way of sanctions, pushed for by the recent Obama administration, efforts designed to censure the North. Also missing is the important historical note that in 2011, South Sudan found its own independence[vi].

Although independence was won, and civil war continues to linger, turmoil created by the North also continues. In 2012, the UN Security Council issued a resolution calling for a cessation of ‘repeated incidents of cross-border violence between [North] Sudan and South Sudan, including seizure of territory, support to proxy forces and aerial bombing.’[vii]

The South is a nation trying to find its way towards reconciliation. It’s a new nation, that fought a great struggle against much of what the world seems to ignore: militant Islamist expansionism, non-white racism, modern slavery, and religious genocide. Given their fight against terror and oppression; the calamity, division and devastation brought onto the South by the North, it’s no surprise, that two years after independence, the South was thrown into a civil war.

The strength and benefit of ‘Responding To Genocide In Sudan’ is found in its clear ability to raise awareness of the situation in Sudan. With over 45 references, it issues us with a reliable resource that gives invaluable insight into the whole of Sudan. Both what it is, what it was and what it may perhaps still become. It’s age shouldn’t be a deterrent to reading it.

South Sudan is a war torn land. It’s a land torn apart by wars spreading out over eight decades. There can be no doubt that the South Sudanese are an ostracized, isolated and suffering people, stuck in a perpetual cycle of violence.

Stephan Doane highlights this tragedy and the need for its quick remedy. Through it he also reminds us about what occurs when, once again, the world stands by in its appeasement of real totalitarians, who under the guise of peace, blind the world to the oppression of their people; disguising the insidious nature of an ideology that forges a toxic hegemony, from which the totalitarian can hide his or her crimes behind.


Sources: (underlined and hyperlinked where appropriate)

[i]  Doane, S.M 2006 Responding to Genocide in Sudan: Barriers to Peace, International Indifference,  and The Need for Tough Diplomacy,  Stanford Journal of International Relations sourced 19th April 2017 from web.stanford.edu

[ii] Miller,J.R. 2012  Genocidal Sudanese regime’s appointment to UN human rights council all but certain, watchdog says” sourced 19th April 2017 from http://www.foxnews.com

[iii] BBC, 2013 Concern Over New Human Rights Members sourced 19th April 2017 from http://www.bbc.com

[iv]  Human Rights Watch, 2012 African Union: Don’t Endorse Sudan, Ethiopia for Rights Council, sourced 19th April 2017 from www.hrw.org

[v] Belz, M. 2001 Blood For Oil, World Magazine sourced 19th April 2017 from http://www.world.wng.org

[vi] Gettleman, J. 2011 After Years of Struggle, South Sudan Becomes a New Nation sourced sourced 19th April 2017 from http://www.nytimes.com

[vii] UN Security Council Meeting notes, 2012 Calls for an immediate halt to fighting sourced 19th April 2017 from http://www.un.org.

Photo Credits: Gregg Carlstrom (Creative commons).

 (RL2017)

Jules Verne BrittanicaDespite what might be a popular conception for those of us, raised in, by, and with pop-culture, author, Jules Verne (1828-1905) was neither American nor British.

Verne, the author of ’20,000 Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘Around The World in 80 Days,’ was French.

He wasn’t a curious atheist or even a fierce agnostic. Not that being an atheist or agnostic disqualifies anyone from having anything of value to say.

It’s just worth noting that there is a distinction between the man and any perpetuated assumptions that deconstructionism, selectively-applied-to-support-an-agenda might create. (Through, say, it’s presumed, superior grasp of authorial intent?)

By which, I mean, the inadvertent creation of a long-winded meaning, in order to explain a meaning, but which ends up having nothing to do with the author’s actual, original and intended meaning.[i]

Verne was, according to common belief, a deist.  An unorthodox Christian belief that became popular in the 17th, 18th and 19th Centuries.

Evidenced by the concept that, ‘God helps those who first help themselves’.[ii]

Or as is understood by our Muslim neighbours in the Quran as,

‘Indeed, Allah will not change the condition of a people until they change what is in themselves.’[iii]

More precisely, deism is

‘a movement of rationalistic thought that acquires knowledge of God solely by the use of reason as opposed to knowledge gained through revelation (God’s making himself known; Jesus Christ) or church teaching.’[iv]

With some amount of caution about oversimplifying deism, it is, in a sentence, Christianity without Christ. It has little to nothing to do with grace, gospel or the relationship, Father, Son and Holy Spirit, has chosen to establish, rescue and then secure, with humanity.

The five points of deism are:

  1. ‘the belief in a supreme being
  2. the obligation to worship
  3. the obligation of ethical conduct
  4. the need for repentance of sins
  5. divine rewards and punishments in this life and the next’[v]

It could be argued that deism is syncretism, landing somewhere in the middle of Christianity, Judaism and Islam. Their similarities fused together in a way that allows for the possibility of an absolute reason-in-unison between the three. Not quite universalism.

It’s easy to see why deism was attractive. It advocates an easy tolerance.  Appearing to be justified by reason it’s seen as a useful tool for mediation, one that ignores differences. Conveniently, God’s relationship with us is reduced to a utilitarian, religious checklist that is then imposed back onto Him.

Effectively, God’s reconciliationMaritime steampunk in the uniqueness of Christ is displaced. He is reassigned to the role of under-Lord who exists to meet the desires, wants, progressive goals and universal happiness of His human-overlords.

The outcome being totalised subservient coexistence.

Held out at a distance God is detached. His transcendence over-emphasised, He is thought to be unmoved until we choose to move.

Consequently, God’s free act in Christ is stolen. Like the prodigal son’s father, God’s decision to move before we do is overlooked. His reach and run towards us rejected as foolish, embarrassing and undignified.

Driven by hypocritical intolerance, this empowers a push towards the slow annihilation of the Christian. God is enslaved, Christ subsumed. In its place is established the quintessential, dysfunctional kingdom of man or woman. The unexpected result being the embodiment of terror; power held in place by the tyranny of suspicion and the misuse of appearances to manipulate reality in order to maintain such power.

In truth this easy tolerance is a ruse. At best it’s only an uneasy truce between those in the West who seek to displace Christianity and elements of fascist ideology that, in part, still marches on through the desert sands of the Middle East and the halls of Western academia.

As for Verne, perhaps his later works are an enquiry into this. Perhaps they are a judgement on humanity about what can happen when progressive optimism turns into human arrogance.

The caution and detail within Verne’s tales show that he was a keen observer, not a prophet. His words are a reminder to the over-confident, self-assured and tenured wise.

Not a lot of accessible contemporary debate[vi] appears to exist about how much his theism was influenced by deism, and how heavily or not, deism or theism might have influenced his work.

Most commentators seem to settle comfortably on the point that Verne rarely mentions Jesus Christ, so his deism is considered unquestionable.

On the surface they appear right. However, doubt about their conclusions is justified. For example: Verne had apparent fascination with Mormonism.[vii]

In the relatively unknown, 1871, publication ‘A Floating City’, Verne, in response to the sails of the Great Eastern being drawn out of respect for a Sunday Church service at sea, writes:

‘I thought myself very fortunate that the screw-propeller was allowed to continue its work, and when I inquired of a fierce Puritan the reason for this tolerance, “Sir,” said he to me, “that which comes directly from God must be respected; the wind is in His hand, the steam is in the power of man.” I was willing to content myself with this reason, and in the meantime observed what was going on, on board.’[viii]

In addition, certain parts of ‘A Floating City’, ‘Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea’ and ‘Around the World in Eighty days’ provide us wit evidence of Verne’s respect for traditional Christian devotion, it’s place in society mixed with a healthy criticism of the church-as-institution.

For now, outside quick token mentions of deism, those details are left to trivia and the footnotes of historians.

Yet, without real enquiry, or interest in it, any debate about Verne’s faith and theology will remain locked in speculation.Relegated to the rubric of opinion. Any conclusions will remain quietly hidden within the realms of mysticism, cool steampunk fashion and science-fiction that Verne is all too easily assigned.

 

“Static objects mustn’t be confused with dynamic ones, or we’ll be open to serious error.” – Nemo [ix]

 


Source:

[i] Wordy, I know, but…it makes sense when you think about it.

[ii]  A quote often attributed to Benjamin Franklin, this is, however, more than likely a proverb which originated in Classical Greece.

[iii] Quran 13:11

[iv] Mcdonald, M.H in Elwell, W.A (Ed.) 2001 Evangelical Dictionary of Theology, 2nd Ed. Baker House Publishing Company (p.329)

[v] Ibid.

[vi] It’s difficult to find any.

[vii] Verne mentions it with an air of fascination in both A Floating City, and Around the World in Eighty Days.

[viii] Verne, J. 1871 A Floating City (Illustrated) Kindle Ed. (p.45)

[ix] Verne, J. 1869 Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Seas, BookRix GmbH, Kindle Ed. (p.29)

Images:

1. Jules Verne, Brittanica.com

2. Photo of an old divining suit I took in Ballina, NSW. Filtered using picmonkey.

IMG_2219As a ship before a reef is directed by a lighthouse, so must we find ourselves directed. Who we allow to do the directing is a matter of choice and faith.

This is, however, counter to the logic of advocates who aggressively serve an ideology of absolute freedom; who, in turn deny absolutes and inadvertently also deny freedom.

The outcome is the theft of freedom under the guise of promising freedom.

The few assert themselves as lords over the many because some form of direction is ultimately necessary for survival.[i] Necessary for freedom to remain freedom.

Accordingly, the act of being confronted by a lighthouse is repressive, and unfairly restrictive.

Following this logic, it’s an anachronistic social construct of a by-gone era.

Something to be denied its right to speak.

Something to be denied its right to confront us.

Something to be silenced by put-downs and ridiculed into submission.

Something that no longer has a right to exist or the freedom to shine?

That is until the unmovable brunt of a reef rips apart the hull and this charade of freedom-without-limitation is shattered upon its concealed jagged surface.

Unveiled, this hidden danger now leaves a trail of debris, terror, chaos and destruction in the wake of what is an observable and reasoned, natural intolerance.

The reef could have been avoided, but it wasn’t.

Consequently, the pride and cheering stop. The celebrity promotions, hype, progressive optimism, associated propaganda, ad hominem, and ticket tape parades are instead replaced by mourning, blame, loss and emptiness.

An unhealthy fear of offending or demands of compensation for being offended by the offensive posturing of the lighthouse no longer matter. All that was has been sacrificed to the abyss. Behind the veil of universal niceness, true freedom is regrettably lost.

Like most ships, who on seeing the warm and graceful signal fires of a steadfast lighthouse, do not stay ignorant; or choose to remain on its own wilful course. So it is, that although an ‘educator may teach a child, the student must take pains to get an education. There is a difference between merit and means. There is moreover a difference between cause and effect…Wisdom’s dole is dispensed at wisdom’s gate’ [ii]

Or, in the brilliant words of the late Dallas Willard,

‘grace is opposed to earning, not to effort.’ [iii]

Karl Barth might meet this with a resounding, “yes! this is our response to God because He loves in freedom; chooses to be responsibly involved.” He grants us permission to know what He expects of us. We are not abandoned to fallible perilous assumptions. We are not left alone, having to choose between what is the equivalent of Scylla and Charybdis.

God is free. In His freedom he acts. In His love we hear His “yes and no” spoken for our benefit. Not because we deserved it, but because it is God’s will-to-rescue us from a corrupted will-to-power; He directs us towards Himself.

Our response, (our effort?) then, is to be one of ‘prayer and gratitude’; or as Barth simply puts it, ‘grateful obedience.'[iv]

For him this is because ‘the truth of humanity, [in our being confronted by grace; Jesus Christ] is that we are directed towards God.’ [v]

Spurgeon, himself, appears to have grasped this, stating:

‘There is no merit in seeking the Lord; but we may not hope to find him without it. The cup must be held under the flowing fountain or it will not be filled, yet the cup does not create the water or purchase it’ [vi]

A summary of this might be as simple as saying that grace affords our gratitude.

In the end perhaps, Abigail Adams says it best:

‘I wish our gratitude may be in manner and way, proportionate to our benefit.’ [vii]

Which in turn means:

‘blessed is the one who hears instruction and responds wisely to it’ – (Proverbs 8:33-34)

 

 


Sources:

[i] My tentative conclusions here rest on those of Albert Camus. To paraphrase, ‘therefore, absolute freedom is ultimately a lie.’ (The Rebel)

[ii] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883 Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden,  Electronic Ed. p.78

[iii] Willard, D. 2006 The Great Omission: Reclaiming Jesus’ Essential Teachings on Discipleship, Monarch Books, United Kingdom

[iv] Barth, K. 1940, The Limits of The Knowledge of God CD. II/1 p.218-229 Hendrickson Publishers, T& T Clark Ltd, 1957

[v] ibid, p.121

[vi] Spurgeon, C.H. 1883 Flowers from a Puritan’s Garden,  Electronic Ed. p.78

[vii] Adams, J & A. The Letters of John & Abigail Adams, #81, 10th December 1775

ANZAC

April 25, 2015 — 2 Comments

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Orchestrated by socio-political heavy weights such as Lord Kitchener, and younger politicians like Winston Churchill. Commonwealth soldiers landed in the beach assault on Gallipoli and other areas of the peninsula, in April, 1915. These included soldiers from Britain, India, Australia and New Zealand.

Though debate still continues, The Dardanelles Strait campaign ended in more of a stalemate than defeat.

It was ultimately deemed a failure, due, according to Lloyd George, ‘not so much [the younger] Winston Churchill’s haste as to Lord Kitchener’s and [the then British Prime Minister] Herbert Asquith’s procrastination.’ [i]

Among other things, the joint Australian and New Zealand commemoration of ANZAC day provides an opportunity to reflect on the cost of war, freedom and the importance of our gratitude; that our collective “thank you” is collectively acknowledged; lived and breathed, not just superficially spoken.

Just as importantly, the day also provides an opportunity to talk about the violent persecution of the Armenians; a persecution carried out by some of the louder political factions within the politically unstable Ottoman Empire during this period.

The Armenians were Christians. They were considered more Westernised than their Muslim neighbours and as a result were looked upon with suspicion by the hostile factions.

The Armenian people looked for independence from Turkey, but were yet to be represented by any organised governmental body.

This was unlike Turkey, Australia and New Zealand, who, being represented as a nation in the battle for the Gallipoli Peninsula, had been considered to have come of age .

Alan Moorehead rightly noted that the success of the Turkish Army had become a political success.

‘They saw themselves as standing for the Turk, and for Islam. So, in elation, they set about hunting down their racial and political opponents (which was nothing new in the East or everywhere else for that matter). Success against the allied assault had expedited the persecution and slaughter of Armenians. It would be absurd, however, to argue that the Allies’ failure in the Dardanelles was the only cause of this, since the root instinct to destroy the unprotected, Christian, Armenian minority was always there. Before March there were about two million Armenians in Turkey, and it was the young Turks’ intention to exterminate or deport them all. This task, however, was never completed; barely three-quarters of a million were dead or dying by the time the frantic rage of their tormentors had exhausted itself.’

The point of ANZAC day is first found in an ode near to its heart:

‘…At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.’
(The Ode, from For The Fallen, Robert Laurence Binyon, 1869-1943 )

We are in need of ANZAC day. Though body and memory fade, the act of being remembered transcends time. Placing us in the humble position of being reminded that ‘we are not God. That we aren’t even good idols.’ [iii]

Because of the gravity of it, our corporate, individual and collective arrogance is challenged; And we are met face to face with the enormity of the task before us. A task of vigilance that requires us to make every effort to protect and seek, peace and good will, among societies and nations.

Standing with those who care to uphold it, and are willing to share in bearing both its burdens and its blessings.

Standing in responsible disagreement against those who would seek to do the opposite.

Perhaps at the core of how important ANZAC day is, is that we as a society, are ourselves, confronted with the brutal fact, that a history too easily forgotten is a history too easily repeated.

 


Source:

[i] Moorehead, A. 1956, The Classic Account of Gallipoli, Aurum Press LTD. (p.171)

[ii] ibid, pp.98-101

[iii] Niebuhr, R. 1945 ‘Today, Tomorrow & The Eternal’ in Discerning the Signs of the Times :Sermon Essays

Related posts:

100 Years

The image in the photo above is of some knitted, red, poppy flowers. They mark the 100th anniversary of the ANZAC landings and were on display at a local show a few weeks back.

 

Define Your Illusions_RL2015_GVLWe the broken are far too easily ignored. We the abused are far too easily used. We are sold hope and guided by hands quick to speak of solidarity. We fall for blurred distinctions and ignore the price.

We are sold an empty comfort from mouths  that speak words of sympathy, but are absent of any real connectivity. They may promise salvation and deliverance from the deep sadness and pain we want so much to rip or be ripped out of us, but they cannot deliver it. Then some, sadly, choose to keep us dwelling on it in order to squeeze a dollar or two out of it.

In a way that pain becomes a commodity.

In the church and world, if among the broken we are picked out as ‘charismatic, gifted, beautiful or anointed’ we are seized upon and raised up by the collective and individual alike.

Either to promote a cause or financial gain. Paraded on stage, our testimony is “validated”, our pain and healing seemingly put to good use. However, when the doors close and the next ‘big’ thing is promoted we realise that our pain and healing was paraded  in order to hype up the masses or sell politics, an opinion, idea or distorted theology. Here the veil falls and we see that interest in the One who saves, saved and will save was pushed to the background as we were adorned with adoration, idolised and syphoned for hope.

The essence of our contact with world, relationship and institution is easily manipulated. We the broken, guarded and sensitive to those things which have hurt us so successfully, are ironically attracted by those things that will hurt us. Buying into the false promises that control us as they promise remedy.

Sometimes, therefore, the broken become the prey of the fortunate. Then, sometimes the affected are thrown away like chaff by the disaffected.

This could be because the voices of the experienced are disruptive. Disputing certainty, and intellectual anxiety about meaning and purpose. Disrupting those firmly held inside a web of ideological conformity.

Our continuing survival discomforts their faith in empirical impassabilities. It challenges the surety of presuppositions that imprison the impossible to ignorance and the absurd. It challenges their claim to power. Examples here include the historical, Martin Luther and The Reformation, or the fictitious Katniss Everdeen and her role in ‘The Hunger Games.’

Those with higher opinions based solely on higher education or their association with certain institutions may comment, but it is clear that most are selective and set only on pursuing a particular narrative – often the one that will keep them popular.

Faith uninformed by reason ends in delusion; superstition. Worse still is reason detached completely from the necessary dualism of faith and reason – scientism, as proven by the 20th Century, is the grounding of gross inhumanity.

An evolutionary ethic demands the strong must resource their strength from the weak until the weak are no longer useful. The “elite” have no problem assuming, then, that the broken are ruined beyond repair. That we cannot think for ourselves or see through the shattered lens that pales in comparison to their presumed-to-be superior, unscarred monocles.

So, we are sold illusions and sadly, we buy into them. We are even convinced enough to vote for them.

Niceties and platitudes of human tolerance end in hypocrisy. Resulting in acts of kindness being abandoned and the real importance being place solely on the appearance of giving it.

Additionally, the beauty of an orthodox theological understanding of Christian love is deconstructed, then subsumed into an “absolute ethic of niceness.[i]” God’s mercy is, thus, distorted without any acknowledgement let alone recognition of His right and freedom to act in just judgement (see Karl Barth C.D II:1 ‘Dues non est in genere’: God is not a species that can be categorised by us, outside that which and who He has chosen to reveal Himself to us).

With all the brokenness and abandonment around me at the time. Growing up as a teen in the 1990’s. I found it easy to fall into the trap of self-medication. Weekends spent young, drunk (and/or stoned); finding my identity in the closest people or things that I thought were identifying with me.

Looking back on that time, it wasn’t  because I was being drawn to those people or things because they identified with me, but because I leaned towards whatever I could identify, understand or nullify my pain with.

We hear packaged in phrases that ‘such and such, really identifies with their audience’. Terms of endorsement often found in movie and music reviews alike.

The important distinction not to be missed here, though, is that artists don’t generally identify with their audience. Rather their audience (the customer) identifies with them. It’s not reciprocal, even if the understanding is mutual.

The truth is that those people and things only identified with my money and my blind, happy applause.

Case in point is the band Guns n’ Roses.

I remember reaching for everything I could find or learn about them, to be them. Even up to the point of copying almost every riff and niche Marshal Amp sound I could squeeze out of my $150 second-hand electric guitar, which had a cracked head and the embarrassing habit of going out of tune after each strum, pick or bend.

I was more than a fan. I was a disciple flirting with a generalised, but similar inner darkness that they seemed to be wrestling with. Questing for the transcendent; looking to ascend the hole of despair that my existence had boxed me into.

This was poetry with guts.

Emotion and truth screaming through mic, five string, bass and drum. In short: a form of worship. Throwing up; ’emotional vomit’ (as Lacey Sturm from ‘Flyleaf’ brilliantly described it); a numbness screaming out for feeling. This was a reach for rescue-through-revolt. A desire to be heard and acknowledged; a potential revolution powered by real-anger, angst, amp and an “appetite” for definition.

The reality is that the men of Gn’R didn’t identify with me. They couldn’t. They didn’t know me. Yet, there is no blame that I can justly attach to them. What I was being sold hung on a blurred distinction.*

I identified with them, their craft, skills and lyrical aptitude. I related to what people were selling through them and bought-into it every time. It wasn’t and couldn’t ever be reciprocated.

Any healthy personal connection where I felt cared for or understood was an illusion; an estrangement caused by a blurred distinction.

Although tempted, I wouldn’t simply relegate this as ‘idol worship’ hoping to avoid over-analysing things, but as something more complex propagated by the absence of key relationships in my life.

What I have learnt through all of this is that my identity must rest in and under Jesus Christ, not any man, woman or ideology. He is the one in whom God chooses not only to identify with us, but to free us, in order to be for us and with us. So that we can be free for Him; free from, in order to be for, each other**:

‘…when we were children, were enslaved to the elementary principles of the world. But when the fullness of time had come, God sent forth his Son, born of woman, born under the law, to redeem those who were under the law, so that we might receive adoption as sons [and daughters]. And because you are sons [and daughters], God has sent the Spirit of his Son into our hearts, crying, “Abba! Father!” So you are no longer a slave, but sons [and daughters], and if so, then an heir through God.’
– (Galatians, 4:3-7; see also Romans 8:15)

 


 

Source:

[i] Elshtain, J. 1993 Just War Against Terror

*So that I am not misinterpreted, “Gunners” as-they-were, still are, in my opinion, musical giants. Lyrically, rhythmically and melodically they hit on truths with criticisms of society that no one else dared to speak in and from that kind of arena.

** Karl Barth, paraphrased. 

 

 

FDRWith the start of the new school year we’ve been engineering the tone of homeschool for the rest of the year. So, my focus has been elsewhere. Which means, as far as blog content goes, posts are short and sweet.

Recently, I came across Franklin Roosevelt’s address to the nation on D-Day. One of THE defining military campaigns of the Second World War. (link to full text)

D-Day did more than symbolise a united stand against totalitarianism, it was a just act against blatant evil.

Hence the value of this document: it is both a humble prayer and political speech. Speculation is a cardinal sin for theologians, (or so I was taught), therefore I find myself holding back (with some difficulty) from thinking about how things would have gone if this act of contrition by the then American President had not happened. Looking at the paradigm of today’s political world, it is hard to imagine a prayer like this being deemed permissible.

For this reason: here is one the most powerful leaders in the free world submitting to the Lordship of Jesus Christ. There is no sentimentalism in it that I can see.This is not cultural Christianity parading the veneer of vaguely remembered Sunday School lessons in order to appeal to popular applause.

Underpinning this prayer is the understanding that the human judgement which rightly involved taking action against Nazi aggression and ideology, is itself under divine judgement.

Excluding the word ‘crusade’, Roosevelt is inadvertently preempting the same considerations made by American theologian, Reinhold Niebuhr, in 1945:

‘Out of the humility of prayer grows the charity for comrade and foe. The recognition that we all stand under a more ultimate bar of judgement mitigates the fury of our self-righteousness and partly dissolves the wickedness of our dishonest pretensions…
We will therefore not be swollen by pride because others think well of us. We will remember that they do not know the secret of our hearts. Neither will we take their disapproval too seriously. The sense of a more ultimate judgement arms us with the courage to defy the false judgements of the community’ [i]

Both are impressive. Each make a unique contribution to how Jesus Christ, just judgement, Christian love and responsibility are valuable to an evangelical ethic that supports life and reaches out in truth. With the understanding that sometimes “no” is given in order to say “yes”; an ethical framework that every responsible parent knows well and practices daily.

Official & original:

With music and a video montage:


‘Even the ”devils believe and tremble,” and I really believe they are more afraid of the Americans’ prayers than of their swords’
 
(Abigail Adams, 1775, Letters #55)

[i] Niebuhr, R. 1945 Discerning The Signs of The Times, Niebuhr Press Kindle. Ed.

Image: Mine. I cropped it using the first and last page of the transcript in order to draw attention to it.

David_Low_(cartoonist)_1947Reading C.S Lewis’ essay, ‘Blimpophobia, 1944’, resulted in me sifting through the 1956 autobiography of satirist David Low.

Low was born in New Zealand, later moving to Britain, where he became an influential newspaper cartoonist.

The following quote is a reflection he gives on a cartoon which he drew that featured Mohammed, among others.

Based on the reference to Cricketer, Jack Hobbs, in the text, the date these events took place is 1925.

It’s worth pointing out, then, that this is 90 years old. Given the recent events, I consider its sharp relevance to be poignant and of significant importance to current debates.

With such primary information it is harder for ‘strategies of evasion’[i] to be employed by an esoteric anti-Americanism hell-bent on pushing denial in a blame game that seeks to disempower opposition and further advance the lordship of an overbearing ideological agenda. This point is identified by Jean Bethke Elshtain’s analysis of responses to her attempts to reasonably engage with Muslims and the Western-Left about the harder questions, such as: whether or not there is an embedded relationship between Islamic terrorism and genuine Islam.

Low’s generalisations aside (since not all Muslims would have been in an outrage about it at the time), his experience almost perfectly parallels recent events. It is not something easily overlooked.

Although I get that Low is lamenting a poor decision, I’m not completely sympathetic with him at the end. This is because there are negative ramifications against freedom of speech brought about by these arbitrary responses.

‘Jack Hobbs, the famous cricketer, had touched a high point in his career in equalling Grace’s batting record. I celebrated the event in a cartoon entitled Relative Importance’ depicting Hobbs as one of a row of statues of mixed celebrities, in which his towering figure overshadowed Adam, Julius Caesar, Charlie Chaplin, Mohammed, Columbus and Lloyd George.
It was a piece of mere facetiousness, meaning nothing, but since the public interest in Hobbs was strong the Star gave it an importance it did not deserve by printing it twice the usual size.
It brought a large number of letters, eulogizing and applauding, which surprised me, and an indignantly worded protest which surprised me even more from the Ahmadiyya Muslim Mission, which deeply resented Mohammed being represented as competing with Hobbs, even of his being represented at all.
The editor expressed his regrets at the unintentional offence and regarded the whole thing as settled.
Two weeks later cables from India described a movement in Calcutta ‘exhorting Muslims to press for resolutions of protest against the Hobbs cartoon which shows a prophet among lesser celebrities. Meetings will be held in mosques.’
An additional complication arose. Not only one prophet but two had been profaned because Muslims reverence Adam also.
Bitterness and fury were redoubled.
To quote a Calcutta correspondent of the Morning Post:
“The cartoon has committed a serious offence, which had it taken place in this country, would almost have led to bloodshed. What was obviously intended as a harmless joke has convulsed many Muslims to speechless rage…An Urdu poster has been widely circulated throughout the city, calling upon Muslims to give unmistakable proof of their love of Islam by asking the Government of India to compel the British Government to submit the editor of the newspaper in question to such an ear-twisting that it may be an object-lesson to other newspapers. The posters have resulted in meetings, resolutions and prayers.”
The British Government was unresponsive, for we heard no more.
It is not without a twinge of regret that I reflect upon the loss to history of a picturesque scene on Tower Hill, with plenty of troops, policemen and drums, on the occasion of my unfortunate editor having his ears twisted on my behalf.
When I was talking with Mahatma Gandhi some years later, he deplored the insufficient number of cartoonists in his country and suggested that the well-known appreciation of satire possessed by Indians might make it a congenial place for me to spend some time professionally.
I refrained from comment.
The whole incident showed me how easily a thoughtless cartoonist can get into trouble. I had never thought seriously about Mohammed. How foolish of me. I was ashamed – not of drawing Mohammed in a cartoon, but of drawing him in a silly cartoon.’[ii]

Lewis used Low’s cartoon of the infamous Colonel Blimp as a critique of both over-enthusiastic nationalism and hyper-moralist pacifism.

It’s probably not all that detached from relevance to conclude with his indictment against having a permanent home-guard and the invitation to disaster that total disarmament would bring:

‘My present purpose is not to settle a question of justice, but to draw attention to a danger.
We know from the experience of the last twenty years {1924-1944} that a terrified and angry pacifism is one of the roads that lead to war.
I am pointing out that hatred of those to whom war gives power over us is one of the roads to terrified and angry pacifism…
A nation convulsed with Blimpophobia will refuse to take necessary precautions and will therefore encourage her enemies to attack her’[iii]
5_%20gallery%20-%20Evans%20-%20David%20Low%20-%20Beaverbrook

Sources:

[i] Elshtain, J.B. 2008 Just War Against Terror, Basic Books, Kindle Ed.

[ii] Low, D. 1956, Low’s Autobiography, Simon & Schuster, Inc. pp.123-124

[iii] Lewis, C.S. 1944 Blimpophobia in Walmsley, L. (Ed.) 2000, C.S.Lewis Essay Collection Harper Collins Publishers

Image: David Low (Wikipedia)