King Trump v. Naboth’s Vineyard

You know Trump isn’t the first rich man to take the little people’s land to expand his kingdom. It’s a technique as old as time. I was recently reminded of a story from the Old Testament about a man who owned a vineyard. His name was Naboth and he lived in the fertile Jezreel valley. You probably know it better by the ancient fortress city on it’s edge “Har Megeddon” or “Mount of Megiddo”, from which we get “Armageddon” and all kinds of crazy theories. Naboth had a neighbor, who happened to be King Ahab of Samaria. He wanted Naboth’s vineyard, so that he could annex it to his estate and make a vegetable garden. Naboth wouldn’t sell, and rightly pointed out that it wasn’t God’s will. But he didn’t just have a vision or a feeling, God actually did forbid land being sold out of the family(Leviticus 25:23, Numbers 36:7). In addition there was a special command to princes that they were not allowed to take land from his people (Ezekiel 46:17) Because land is life, land is freedom. These things are always connected. Tyrants have historically destroyed property rights. And so they do today.

Elijah Prophesies to Ahab and Jezebel Their End. Thomas Matthews Rooke. c.1879

Elijah Prophesies to Ahab and Jezebel Their End. Thomas Matthews Rooke. c.1879

After this great disappointment, Ahab went into his room to pout. So his loving wife Jezebel, (no it’s not a joke, this is the real Jezebel, from which we get the derogatory term) decides to get it for him, and she tells him as much. She formed a conspiracy to have two men accuse him of slandering God and the King at a banquet. The law required the testimony of two(Deuteronomy 17:6) for putting a man to death. And the penalty for slander was stoning. So she put her plan into action and has Naboth killed. And then Ahab takes the vineyard. It’s almost like God is waiting for Ahab to go through with it, “really you are going to take the land?”. When he does God sends Elijah to curse Ahab. The spot where Naboth died, is where you will die, and your entire house will be cut off. You wanted to wipe out Naboth’s line, well God is going to wipe out Ahab’s posterity.

The same thing happens today, but instead of killing people with land, the rich just got together and invented ‘eminent domain’ so they could do it legally. Similar to how Jezebel had Naboth killed legally. The end of the Fifth Amendment to the U.S. Constitution says “nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.” This might sound familiar. Though we are more familiar with the introduction to the Declaration of Independence “We hold these truths to be self evident that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.” These three things were the common mantra of the day. The founders changed “property” to “pursuit of Happiness” because at the time slaves were legally considered property and they didn’t want to ensconce that institution any further as they separated from England. But property rights have been under assault ever since and we continue to give away our freedom. Most of us pay property taxes. Just say it “property tax”. That means they just take part of what you have, for nothing. Even God never does that, he says if you plant a field and make a profit, he wants the first 10%. That’s the first fruits—fruit, bounty, produce. He doesn’t just walk up to you and take what you have, that’s theft, he takes the beginning of your increase. But we put up with the government charging us rent.

A further step beyond property tax is eminent domain, addressed in the last clause of the Fifth Amendment. Taken in the context of the whole document, which was addressed to the federal government, and geared towards restricting it’s abilities, it hardly bears any resemblance to current case law. The intent was that were it absolutely necessary, in the worst case, for the public good, that you had to take some land, that it must go through a legal process and that the person must be paid fairly. Currently as of the Kelo v. City of New London case the government decided that “public good” means that if someone wants to kick you off your land and build something bigger, which will generate more tax revenue, then that benefits the public and is A-OK. And before this case Trump tried to force a lady out of her home to build limo parking. Because, you know, he’s a builder. She refused, it had been her home for 35 years. So he got the city to condemn her property. But a non-profit legal firm stepped in and helped her keep her home. She won the case, but it doesn’t change the fact that Trump was trying to abuse her property rights, and still believes in eminent domain.

It’s interesting that God eventually used Ahab’s own vanity and then Jehu to wipe out the line of Ahab(Two Kings 9:25-27, Two Kings 11). In addition Jehu wipes out the prophets of Baal(2 kings 10:18-27). And initially God commends him for following God’s will(Two Kings 10:30. But he fell away and worshiped idols, and so his earlier actions were seen for what they actually were, political posturing and not serving God. And God punished him for the blood he had shed(Hosea 1:4,5). It reminded me of Supreme Court Justice John Roberts. Who seemed like the perfect candidate, in 2005. But who eventually sold out so he could get into the right clique in DC. He all but rewrote Obamacare so that it could pass Supreme Court scrutiny. And he isn’t the first conservative to turn liberal under DC peer pressure, he’s the fourth after Harry Blackmun, John Paul Stevens, and David Souter. It’s interesting, because Cruz initially supported Roberts, as many did, it seemed like a good idea at the time, he later condemned his liberal actions. But the depravity of man knows no end. Men of character often fall. Let us hope that Cruz is not one of them. But we can be certain that Trump has already fallen. He plays down in the mud and he loves it unapologetically. Woe to us if we make him our representative.

 

 

Trumping Civilization.

Civilization is based on a lot of assumptions. If you are willing to break those assumptions, you can Trump civilization. But is this good? I don’t think so. You can’t undermine the ground you stand on, and stand for very long.

This is why Chicago is so uncivilized. As Obama said while campaigning, “if they bring a knife you bring a gun”. He was talking about the political race and defeating Republicans but the same is exacted daily in Chicago. It’s easy to break into a room full of civilized people having a political debate and start shooting. But that’s the old way, civilization has moved past that. If you want to win in our arena, you have to bring the best idea.

This is how terrorism works, the West operates by democracy and debate. The terrorist is trying to bring back cave man rules, because he has no ideas. The ideas of Muhammed were dead 600 years before he ‘thought’ them up, when Jesus the Christ died on the cross and gave us another path. Killing your enemies doesn’t work anymore, because Jesus was killed and he came back. And since that day Christianity has marched across the globe making everything better. Muhammed lost, but he can’t admit it so he throws a fit, to this day. His only power is when we play by the old rules, or allow him to do so. Interesting that I bring up terrorism, since Obama actually launched his political career in the home of a convicted terrorist Bill Ayres.

But there is another candidate playing by the same rules. And his rules work, because the rest of us are playing by another set of rules. We are civilized, compassionate, thoughtful even. It’s easy to walk into a room full of business men who are operating by numbers and force your will on them by charm or any number of other devices. Maybe you could threaten them? Maybe you could threaten to walk out? Maybe you could call them names? But this is not debate, this is not how you get the best ideas to market, this is how you get your ideas to the market. This is how the mafia operates. Or else. Now we understand that we must meet our enemies with force, but is this how we want to determine our internal politics? Do we want to go from the English law tradition of Parliamentary debates to a freak show or a gun show?

The sad part is that society seems to be moving towards his rules, backwards towards the cave man. The media likes Trump because he draws ratings, he draws a crowd. Because apparently many of the American people would rather be entertained than choose the best statesman. Which sounds eerily familiar to the Gibbon critique of the fall of Rome. We need to demand better, if we accept the new rules of Trump which are really the old rules of violence we will soon be governed by them. Do you really want to determine your leaders by putting them on the field to have a sword fight? Humanity has figured out a better system, we have lived in the world of violence, now we have established rules for debate. We have identified fallacies, and structures and systems, because they work better. Of course there are problems with our system, but Trump has never proven he understands them or will make them better.   Don’t throw the whole system away in exchange for some temporary entertainment.

The Pastor’s Kid

I was surprise to find out recently that Barnabas Piper was a professing Christian. I had been led to believe that he wrote a book which was a list of grievances against the church. Even worse I was led to believe this by a pastor, quoting a list of these grievances. Apparently Piper’s intention was to give the church a firm talking-to in order that it might make some positive changes. But this was certainly not how the pastor used it. The selected indicting quotes were in similar to a personal list which I received from him in person. And so, books, words, and events can be made to mean different things for different people. Which is the point.

If you are a pastor collecting a list of grievances against the people you supposedly serve, you are in the wrong business. You belong in the break room of the backbiting business world, huddled around the coffee maker badmouthing Joe from Accounting, because, well just because. Is it really a surprise that people badmouth their leaders or that they do evil things to each other? If the sheep were not clueless they wouldn’t need a shepherd. Your job is to minister to them not to accumulate lists of people you think you are better than. Is it any wonder your kids are too good for Christians, when you have taught them that you are?

I am reminded of the Father Brown stories of G. K. Chesterton. Chesterton was, after his youth, always a great fan of the Catholic church and believed it’s Orthodoxy was the best explanation for man and this world. But, after having discussions with a great many priests he realized that they were in a unique position to understand the human heart, even the criminal human heart. Through countless hours of hearing confessions, priests had heard it all, and were in a great position to solve crimes. Father Brown, the priest, made the perfect detective. He is a priest who turns his experience with the negative side of humanity into a tool to serve humanity. This should be the job of all pastors.

I am a bit like a pastor’s kid myself. My mother was always involved in Women’s ministry and basically started a Christian school. She was the headmaster of the school for 13 years, almost every Christian in the community knows who she is. If you think you have seen the worst in people, try reforming their perfect little children when they don’t necessarily want to be reformed. And so, I have seen and heard about countless situations, of amazing evil. But I also got to see the active wisdom and prayer as she dealt with these situations. For hers was not a class in compiling grievances or self inflicted victim status. It was a workshop for how to serve people, how to minister to their needs and make them better in the process. The countless hours of seeking wisdom from those who have been there, and praying for those who are there now, were very instructive. Of course there are people who would not change and all you can do is laugh. I hear one of them is now a profit in Gateway, but that’s another story. Of course there are people who are inconsolable, who still glare at you in church. And all you can do is heap burning coals of love on their heads. This is the business and this is how you pass on the business. Funny the Muslims and the Hindus and whoever, don’t seem to have a hard time passing on their religions to their kids but the pastors of this nation, of this town, do. Carpenters, policemen, military men, even politicians all pass on their trades. It makes sense you have an inside track on how things work and the language of the trade. Why not pastors? Perhaps more of them should have been trained in those Christian schools. Instead of trying them out for a week, only to find another imperfect bunch of Christians to add to your list.

If you have been given more money than other people in the church, your job is to help others who have need. That’s your part of the body, you are the hand that reaches in the pocket and takes out the wallet. God chose to distribute the money unevenly so those two groups could fellowship, and both be blessed. If God blessed you with the ability to minister to people, that’s your body part. You are to share that wisdom with people who are less wise. You are not to use it to repress people, or create a fan club or a rabble which you can body surf. They are not there for your pleasure. If things are really that bad, it’s probably your fault. How can the teacher blame the people he is responsible for, if they are ignorant? Teach them.

And what of the self-consciousness the church forces on the pastor’s kids? If your basis for measuring your progress or success is found by putting your finger in the air is it any wonder your kids do the same. If you are constantly evaluating what people think or say about you, why wouldn’t your kids? And these things go the other way, if you teach your kids to rely on peer pressure instead of the Word of God, how are you going to teach the church? Evaluating your sermon based on how many people say it was good is like evaluating your life based on Facebook likes. If you are not secure in Jesus, you won’t pass security on to your kids. You might have everyone else fooled but your kids will know the truth. If people hold you to a high standard, meet it, don’t become a victim. If their standard is not based on God’s standard, blow it off.

And really, consider the cost before you go into ministry. If you like to study in an office, go be a theologian. If you are really lazy and just want a fancy title, work for the government. Jesus the perfect man, deserving of no evil, came to give everything to this world. And on the night he was experiencing the worst anguish of any man, he was abandoned by even his closest friends. Then the leadership of the very people he had come to serve killed him. It was either their sin or his life, and they chose what sinful man always chooses. Is it any surprise when the people in the church do this to their pastor? The best we can do is follow in Jesus’ footsteps, that’s what we signed up for. That’s what it means to take up your cross and follow him. If you find joy in doing that, then by all means be a pastor. Otherwise, for the Church’s sake and the sake of your children, don’t do it.

 

Anointing King Jesus

As I stood in church this week and sang “behold Him seated on the throne” or something, over and over. I wondered how often we treat him like he is actually seated on that throne.

Then an entire sermon about worship, or something. It was interesting that one of the points was how the woman came prepared to anoint Jesus, we should come prepared for worship. I’ve never heard a more succinct definition of liturgy than “coming prepared”, yet liturgy is constantly berated. Though of course we have our own liturgy. Trying to keep things random and pretending you are two different churches, complete with two different pulpits, every other week, isn’t the absence of a liturgy. That is your liturgy, that which you have prepared for worship. Of course some of it becomes routine. So during the days when you don’t feel like it you can go through the motions anyway. Because the motions lead to a right heart. We, in our bohemian evil, fancy that it doesn’t work that way. But how does a spanking reform a heart? God and sensible experience tells us it does. How does bread and wine unite a people? If this isn’t your experience, perhaps it’s because you are using grape juice. Experience and the word of God say it does. The fact remains, every group of people who meet together, have a liturgy. So you might as well have the best one you can.

But I might say it’s not all about the passion. It’s easy to paint the disciples as pure evil in this situation and then assign their behavior to whichever group of people happen to disagree with you in the current day. Oh those disciples were just like the people today who try to say you have to use a certain style. “Ho ho. Shame on you, don’t you know it’s all about the passion and the content doesn’t really matter? Silly person, not like me, how dare you, slink away now.” But I was reminded of a story a couple chapters back which is in stark contrast to this one. No doubt Mark did it deliberately. There was another dinner party and another woman trying to honor another king, with lewd dancing. Family lust was not a new problem for Herod, he had already stolen his brothers wife and now he was prepared to offer her daughter anything she wanted. At her mother’s behest she asked for the head of John the Baptist. But all in all I’m sure Jesus would have been fine if the woman had filled the house of Simon with lewd dancing instead of a fragrant aroma. It’s all about the passion right? But in the other story, the gloomy rain-on-your parade figure was John the Baptist, who spoke up about an immoral marriage. Because God does have standards, and he has standards for worship. It’s not all about the passion.  The what, the actions, the liturgy matters. Both kings accepted the worship. Jesus rewarded this woman with eternal notoriety. Not her passion but her actions, we don’t know anything about her motives nor any of the motives in that room, except for Judas, and Mark omits that detail here because apparently it matters not to his story. Mark emphasizing the kingly role of Jesus, says she poured it over his head, which calls to mind the way kings were anointed. She treated him as king, even when it didn’t look like it. That is true worship, which we can follow. She prepared him for his death, for by it he would become king over all.

No doubt the quest for endless, real, live, passion has caused us to sweep a great many things aside. What would you think of a church that paid people to come to every service? No doubt the church could then pride themselves on the growth and the passionate engagement of the new people. But it’s easy to see that’s not real, they are doing it for the wrong reason, for the money. Now what about a worship leader always adapting the music to what the people want, to what makes them feel good? We might easily write off their feeling as passion, but how do we know it’s not just because we gave them ear candy? This woman bore the cost as she anointed Jesus. Do we bear the cost, do we worship when we don’t like the music? Or do we complain and go to another church? Is it really about the worship or just worship of ourselves and our preferences. As Luther said, ideally the music should be horrible and then you would know the people were there for the right reasons. A people constantly obsessed with the next new thing is a people constantly throwing away. Then it makes you wonder why they threw away the great hymn tradition of Isaac Watts. Was it for good reason, or to fulfill their desire for throwing away? The sad reality is that we miss about 90% of the doctrine of the Psalms and about 90% of the musical complexity our forefathers gave us. We were supposed to be conformed to the scriptures not the other way around. And what better way to practice than by laying aside our preferences for a tradition which has proven itself for hundreds of years? That sounds like real worship to me.

Something we don’t learn during the constant repetitions of certain passages from Revelation, is the result of worship on earth. Worship is warfare. As the people of God worship around the throne, actual events take place on earth. But it’s not just something that happens behind church doors. The church is to be the rally cry for the rest of our lives. Which is why many old hymns were vibrant marches. We sing about Jesus as our King, but then we go out in the world as if we were part of the Ron Paul for President campaign. We think we are right, and more informed than everyone else, but we know in the end we are losers. While we sing the exact opposite, because it’s true, Jesus is King. Whether you believe it or not, that’s the reality. The devil is still pretending he is king, but he has been defeated. He loves it when you pretend he is king too, and lament the evils of this world, or give up and wait for the rapture. Worship is warfare. When you obey the commands of scripture, you plant the flag for your king, Jesus. This is his world and it operates by his rules and so do you!  What good does it do to sing how great he is if you don’t act like it? If you don’t live by his decrees during the week before men? If instead you go out in the world and get tips on music and life and bring them back and alter the church? If you bring lewd dancing back and then claim it’s your worship style? And so we have. And so we have a church that is impotent. We let the world cut off our head and we didn’t even notice.

The Feast of Herod, Peter Paul Rubens, c.1635

The Feast of Herod, Peter Paul Rubens, c.1635

Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee, Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1620 Interesting the he painted the two episodes similarly and titled them both feasts.

Feast in the House of Simon the Pharisee, Peter Paul Rubens, c. 1620
Interesting the he painted the two episodes similarly and titled them both ‘feasts’.

 

 

 

Cruz Birthers

No Person except a natural born Citizen, or a Citizen of the United States, at the time of the Adoption of this Constitution, shall be eligible to the Office of President; neither shall any Person be eligible to that Office who shall not have attained to the Age of thirty five Years, and been fourteen Years a Resident within the United States.  -U.S. Constitution, Article II, Section 1

This seems pretty simple and reasonable.  We don’t want outside people running our country.  As was the purpose of the entire document, we want real people connected to the country to govern.  By this standard most professional politicians are ineligible. But sticking to the letter, in order to be President of the United States,  you have to be 35, have lived in the country 14 years and be a citizen by birth.  The second clause no longer applies, but was necessary because at the beginning no one was a citizen by birth, so the Constitution automatically qualified everyone.

It get’s a little more complicated because there are ways you can never claim or lose your citizenship.  Let’s say you were born in Kenya and your mother was a Communist, I mean American but she never files the appropriate paperwork, or you don’t spend enough time in the country before you are 18, your claim to citizenship is void.   It would allow you to go to college in America, for free, as an immigrant, but you can’t be President.  And if by some slight of hand, a big mafia hand from Chicago, you did become President, you would be the worst President ever.  Another option is that you could move to a country which doesn’t recognize dual citizenship, like say Indonesia.  If you want to be Indonesian, you must revoke your other allegiances.    Another scenario is if you say,  commit light treason, by I don’t know, stashing national security secrets in a bathroom in Colorado.  U.S. law states that you can no longer hold federal office.

But it’s a little absurd to suggest that going on vacation while you are pregnant puts your child’s citizenship in question.  Or how about men and women serving in the military in another country?  Would anyone suggest that you lose your eligibility?  What about going overseas for another reason?  Again the founders considered it; sure move away, as long as you live in the country for fourteen years before you run.

 

Further Reading:  http://www.nationalreview.com/article/429867/ted-cruz-natural-born-citizenship-eligibility-president

social studies

Some teacher got an award the other day, or maybe it was a hollywood actress, all they seem to do is give each other awards.  Anyway, the term social studies came. up.  It’s a total BS term but, you know, I think it actually may be more accurate than say, History or Political Philosophy.  Those terms denote actual classical disciplines, arts, which require much skill and hard work to achieve and communicate actual knowledge, things humanity has learned.  Social studies is what?  It’s the study of how to do well in social situations.

Say you are at a dinner party and the topic of the Civil War comes up, and you begin to discuss the non-slavery causes of the war and states rights, or that sort of thing, you will soon find yourself alone with the dip.  The proper, social studies response, is to bash the South and talk about how sad you are that America started slavery and forced it on the world, and of course racism.  Racism!  Never mind that this isn’t even close to true.   You will soon find yourself the life of the party. You could probably sleep with anyone available and confetti will reign down from a mysterious source, which is strange, since you are actually at a barbecue, outside.  This is the power of social studies, examples could be multiplied a thousand fold.  This is the sad reality of the over degreed children walking around today, without two thoughts to rub together.  Historical facts are replaced with emotions and political correctness.  It’s a lot like a dictatorship, you follow the party line or get kicked out of the, um, party.

 

To stave off the castrated effects of social studies, read anything by Hilarie Belloc.  It’s hearty, blunt, ever wise, truthful, History.

Joy to the Whole World

joySince hanging out in Presbyterian and repentant dispensational circles I discovered that there was another verse to Joy to the World, which I had always skipped. Still in our hymnal today, three verses are called out and the third is skipped. But this season, as the absence was again brought to mind, I was thinking about it even more deeply.

The hymn was not originally a Christmas carol, it was an adaptation of the second half of Psalm 98. Among his many achievements for the faith, Isaac Watts adapted the Hebrew Psalms in light of the work of Christ. Of course the Psalms were always about Christ, but Watts wanted to make it more explicit. As language and understanding change there will always be an important place for new translations of Scripture. Given the subject matter and the way Watts changed the tense in many of his Psalm adaptations, it became a natural Christmas carol.

I was struck because Watt’s reading of the Psalm includes areas of theology often ignored by the typical Evangelical Christian. But it really is all there in the Psalm.

Joy to the world, the Lord is come!
Let earth receive her King;
Let every heart prepare Him room,
And heaven and nature sing.

We like the part about the heart, but what about the earth? The whole earth receiving her king? We tend to skip over the accomplishments of the cross and instead sit around and wait for a dramatic return. But the work has been done, Christ is king, he has conquered sin and death and now sits at the father’s right hand, he has come. From the Psalm:

“For he has done marvelous things. . .

The Lord has made known his salvation;
he has revealed his righteousness in the sight of the nations”

The fact that many people don’t believe this, is their problem. Or rather it’s our problem, that is our task as Christians. We are supposed to be Evangelists, to the whole world telling them of the work that has been done. We shouldn’t be sitting around waiting for the trumpet, we should be sounding it, as verse 6 says

“With trumpets and the sound of the horn
make a joyful noise before the King, the Lord”

But that’s not our only job and our hearts are not the limit of his redemption of the earth, the hymn continues:

Joy to the world, the Savior reigns!
Let men their songs employ;
While fields and floods, rocks, hills and plains
Repeat the sounding joy.

Which is right from the Psalm,

Make a joyful noise to the Lord, all the earth.

The whole earth participates in the joyous song. And it’s even more explicit in the third stanza, the forgotten stanza.

No more let sins and sorrows grow,
Nor thorns infest the ground;
He comes to make His blessings flow
Far as the curse is found.

The whole earth is being redeemed, as far as the curse is found. One of the most optimistic and incredible lines of any hymn and we skip over it. Then the hymn ends as the Psalm, Christ is ruling.

He rules the world with truth and grace,
And makes the nations prove
The glories of His righteousness,
And wonders of His love.

But this inclusion of all the earth, the rocks and hills and animals isn’t just unique to this Psalm. Hasn’t it always seemed odd that when God told Joshua to enter the land, he called for the destruction of all the people and all the animals(Joshua 6:21)? Because the work of God is not just some metaphysical heart thing it affects every area of life and even our surroundings. God didn’t just send Israel in to kill some random people. It was a judgement, for their evil. They had corrupted the entire land and it had to be cleansed, even the trees(Leviticus 19:23). You think it’s a coincidence that a converted harlot saved the two spies? Most women were probably harlots, just like the rampant homosexuality in Sodom. But even then God gave them a chance to repent as the exploits of Israel’s God proceeded Joshua(Joshua 2:10). And only one woman repented. And her unfruitful harlotry was turned into the ultimate fruit, the ultimate child, the Christ, who would be born to Joseph who was descended from her son Boaz(Matthew 1).

What you believe affects more than just your heart, it affects your body, others around you and the physical world. You can see it on individual and national levels. There are a few Christian insurance companies attempting to be more affordable by only including other Christians. Because the immoral activities associated with the world, are higher risk. It’s a fact. From property damaged to sexually transmitted diseases, to regular diseases. People who obey the word of God don’t have to deal with as many problems. On a national level pagan peoples fall into all sorts of problems. Without a morality based on God’s standard basic relationships break down. Everyone is just in it for their own pleasure. If you can’t maintain basic relationships with your own people or the tribes around you, the result is unfettered war and the environmental destruction that always brings. The Middle East used to look like the West Coast. Lebanon used to have massive cedar rain forests like those in Northern California. The Middle East is today a very dark place as the paganism of ISIS sweeps across destroying everything. Sadly the same is also more evident in California as a new paganism called environmentalism has turned once fruitful fields, into dead barren dust.

And just as pagan godless nations destroy, contaminate and pollute, we as Christians do the opposite. Environmentalism isn’t something most Christians want to have much to do with, because it has gone so far off the rails from stewardship of God’s creation to pagan worship. I am always amazed by the need for the West to defend it’s record on these things. It was Christian nations who pioneered the concept of environmentalism. We clean up our messes better than anyone, we are the first people to do so. We set aside national parks, and cultivate forests and animal populations so that they will thrive and multiply. This is what redemption of the whole earth looks like. The whole earth is under a curse, species are constantly dying off from the dinosaurs to the dodo. But the gospel entering hearts is just the beginning of birth pangs (Matthew 24:8). This world before the gospel was a dark, evil place. Paganism was always about death, savage cruel death. There was little concern for human life when it was convenient, much less the lives of other creatures. But the gospel changed all that. God has always been concerned about that. In Deuteronomy he cautions his godly armies to take care of the trees (Deuteronomy 20:19-20). The common practice was to slash and burn everything. But God’s prescription is not destruction but redemption. Even Christ the great gardner took the time to clear out a fruitless fig tree (Mark 11).

Of course our task as Christians is to point people to Christ, but it doesn’t end there. We have let the world take over many of our tasks and turn them into idols. But this shouldn’t dissuade us from taking them back. Our work is to extend “as far as the curse is found” to all of creation. Our faith must be made to work out into every aspect of creation. As to the lamb lying down wit the lion, we could make it happen, literally. Why not? But these things take work and lots of time, generations even. It’s easy to live in a house that is a constant mess while you talk about how great you are on the inside, but that’s just a lie. The truth is that if your heart is really changed it should affect everything, even the trees in your yard, even the trees in your neighbor’s yard. This is the rich world of medieval Christendom, a world that has been sadly forgotten as we emphasize butts in the seats, and large dramatic conversion services. So I urge you to get up off the couch, fire your gardner,your mechanic and especially your kid’s teachers and put some Christian hands on this fallen creation, Christian hands. It won’t be instant, we have let the world take over and forgotten much of what the church taught us. But as Chesterton said, a thing worth doing is worth doing badly. Do do it.

 

Further Reading: Simply Jesus, N.T. Wrght

Age of Adaline

adaOurs is a world of rich metaphor upon metaphor, folded back onto itself over and over again.  Things are rarely the same, instead the common themes sometimes look the same with many differences in the intricate details. Reality does this on its own, but also by our observing.  We can add to and build on the metaphors by various arts.  The power of good art is to call attention to an aspect that has become forgotten by familiarity, to reflect.  This is the power of well crafted fantasy, another world slightly different from our own which can help us to appreciate what we find when we fall back through the looking glass.  The other world and its problems are not all that distant, from our own.  It’s like Samuel telling King David the story of a man who has all the flocks in the world, but still steals the one sheep of his neighbor.  A story gives David the perspective he needs to see his own sin for what it is.  Of course some of us are so thick that nothing will ever get through, but we should try to emulate the heart of David and be willing to change and understand(II Samuel 12).

I was a little surprised by this movie The Age of Adaline.  It is just the right kind of fantasy.  It was very well done, Blake Lively is stunning and classy.  I could do without the pseudo science which seems to be required to get most people into a fantasy story these days.  Your grasp of even science is a story, get over it.  So you want to paint a world where the rules are a bit different, it’s ok, don’t feel the need to put in a lame explanation which would make anyone with an actual grasp of anything, roll their eyes.  Though, I always do love a narrator.   And so this is a different world, but only slightly.  I don’t really want to give any of it away, and ruin the magic it might work on you.  Heaven knows there are far to many women who share Adaline’s affliction.  I would love to administer this antidote as I try to administer any of dozens of perspectives on our ever staling state of life, in order that we might find a better way, and live it.  So, go watch the movie and be enchanted.  Then come back and keep reading.

 

I said go watch the movie, no fair peeking.

 

Adaline is different from other women.  And this difference, leads her to be insecure.  She is always on the run ever fearful that someone will get too close to her and find out her secret.  This describes every single woman I have ever met.  All women have things about them that they think will freak out potential suitors whether it’s a curiously placed mole or webbed feet.  These things only make you unmarriable if you let them, if you keep running away.  The other aspect is the fear of future pain.  Adaline fears that she will outlive any future husband, so she avoids ever getting to that point, she runs away.  But again, this describes the same possibility of any marriage.  In reality most women do outlive their husbands, but most of them are too wise to care by that point.  It’s still worth it.  Instead for all those years Adaline lives in her intricately constructed system.  I’m surprised she had a dog instead of half a dozen cats, perhaps she is allergic.  This too describes most single women worth knowing.  They are very much in need of allowing a man to mess up their system.  But it’s hard to let go of the familiar.  You tried it before and it never worked.  But did you? Actually try?  Maybe what needs to change is the giving up part,  the running away.

Such wisdom paired with the beauty of youth is irresistible.  And so the more wise, determined, and beautiful the women, who have crossed my path are, the more they tend to follow Adaline’s footsteps.  But if you know Adaline, perhaps you can save her.  Take her through the looking glass, that she might see her reflection and find it lacking grey hairs.  Take her to the movie.

The clock stops for no woman, don't let this life pass her by.

The clock stops for no woman, don’t let this life pass her by.

Pastor Wisdom

In the New Testament we see time and again people marveling at the wisdom of Jesus. Do you ever do that? I think we hardly do these days. We are used to Jesus or we think he sounds crazy. So the modern approach tends to be; sit down and shut up. Do what Jesus says because he says so. It comes from misunderstanding the way authority works on this earth. It comes from misunderstanding Romans 13, because in the back of your head you don’t want anyone questioning you. How dare they! I am God’s anointed. I’m the Pastor, Elder, President, Leader or King, God decreed it.

But we really should love Jesus for his wisdom. We should be in awe, we are his children, we have the Spirit, why shouldn’t the spirit within us be moved by the same spirit in the ultimate incarnation? I think the fault lies with pastors. They are busy teaching us to do what Jesus said rather than teaching us to love what he has said. Of course there are churches that go off the deep end the other direction. All they have is love. Not love of anything or any moral standard, just love, whatever that means. And most often it means, love of self and immunity to change or repentance. The local incarnation of this is the Journey Church. Or whatever they want to not call themselves. But love must have an object. At least Brick got it, he loved Lamp.

It is the job of the pastor to be giving us the Gospel every week. To be making us fall more and more in love with Jesus and what he has done, is doing and will do on this earth in real ways. Jesus didn’t just show up and do amazing things like a freak show or a three ring circus. He gave us wisdom. He got to the root of what God was doing in the Old Testament, he was the root. But if pastors don’t constantly apply who Jesus was to every new situation, it become stagnant. It becomes platitudes on a dusty shelf that has been the same way for a generation and shows no signs of being updated. In other words it becomes meaningless. The words are the same, they are still there, they meant something once but not today. They were true even, they still may be, if only you could imagine the world when they were said. But that is just what we are missing. That is just what the job of the pastor is, to help us remember. But preaching to an audience from forty or even twenty years ago might be your schtick but things have changed. Wisdom, takes the truth of scripture and applies it to real lives, our own and the lives of others. It requires that we know the content on one side the Word of God, and that we know the audience on the other side. It’s easy to have one or the other. You could be lost in the clouds studying the minutia of every Greek mark on every manuscript, and have no idea how to communicate it to your audience or apply it to their lives. Or you could be completely chummy with your audience, but have no idea who Jesus was or what he was saying. To some degree this applies to every Christian and not just the teachers. We all will find ourselves communicating Jesus to someone, even if it’s only our own kids. Which is why the advice Paul gave Timothy on the subject of Church leadership is so important. The family is a training ground for further leadership. The same is also true of our United States. Things may be tried on a smaller level in counties or states before they are tried at a national level. Governors who run things well, may be elected as President. This is the same wisdom applied to the Church. If you can’t bridge the gap between the Gospel and your own children, who are a captive audience for as long as you wish, how are you going to do it in the Church a couple hours a week?

As a congregation it can be easy to fall into either side as well. It’s easy to hear a pastor every week up there laying out Greek vocabulary and sentence structure. Then you can go home and yell at your wife or gamble away the house payment on the internet. The pastors words leave your conscience free to do whatever you please, while you pride yourself that your pastor preaches the Word. And aren’t you great that your church is better than all the other churches because your pastor is so smart. But what good does this do anyone? This is not the gospel, this is selfishness, an agreement of selfishness for mutual self assurance. On the other hand if your pastor is just warm and fuzzy and spouts the love and understanding of every aspect of your life as if he followed you around taking notes this week, but doesn’t have a clue what the Bible actually says, you are in another fantasy. He never gives you anything hard to do, he just validates you as a person, and whatever you feel like you want to do. It’s, all a big ball of emotion between two people. But we should hold our pastors to something better. Paul tells us that the Holy Spirit gives the church, as a group, many gifts. He doesn’t leave us hanging, good leadership is promised to us. Now if we don’t recognize it or take advantage of it, or want it, we end up with one of the two pastors above. We should demand more.

This is not how Jesus taught. He was awing people by his knowledge of scripture and his understanding of people. We often write him off, as if he were cheating and not fully human, he just used his powers to know things and people. But this is heresy. Jesus grew in knowledge and understanding. He was fully man in every way. In addition you see Paul telling the church something similar. Don’t go the the secular judges to apply the law to your situation. You have the word of God. Paul shames them, can it be that there is no one amongst you to settle these things? Are you sheep without a shepherd? The Bible is clear, people get the leaders they deserve, be they kings or pastors. If the people are fools they will have foolish leadership. But if they are Christians, they should have Christ-like people leading them. People who get in your lives and mess things up because they love you.

 

 

What is America? G. K. Chesterton

This is the first chapter of G. K. Chesterton’s book What I Saw in America, entitled What is America. This is a bit of a catch 22, the points he makes here are almost required of us to appreciate this chapter. Travel can be an opportunity for us to be humble and learn or to be prejudice and become more narrow. He wrote this work to help his fellow Englishmen so that they might appreciate America, or some aspects of her. But the same applies to us today, because we were taught about America from un-Americans. Academia is full of them they write our textbooks and teach our teachers. And so we need to again try to appreciate America as an outsider. I really wanted to write commentary or footnotes on this to help people appreciate Chesterton as I do, but his writing is so rich and poetic, I didn’t want to ruin it. So all I can say is, trust him. If something doesn’t make sense, keep reading, he generally restates the same thing in a different way.

This was written in 1922, before World War II, before America was the world’s super power.  At the time we were still the rebellious child of England. We had been economically superior for about forty years, but we didn’t take on the political responsibilities of the world until the United Kingdom stepped down in the aftermath of WWII.

He discusses here the paperwork he had to fill out to visit the United States. I think it sheds a lot of light on what is masquerading as the current immigration debate. It’s not really a debate as much as it is people howling curses at something they know nothing about. So take the time to read this, and know something, even if it’s only about yourself.

I have never managed to lose my old conviction that travel narrows the mind. At least a man must make a double effort of moral humility and imaginative energy to prevent it from narrowing his mind. Indeed there is something touching and even tragic about the thought of the thoughtless tourist, who might have stayed at home loving Laplanders, embracing Chinamen, and clasping Patagonians to his heart in Hampstead or Surbiton, but for his blind and suicidal impulse to go and see what they looked like. This is not meant for nonsense; still less is it meant for the silliest sort of nonsense, which is cynicism. The human bond that he feels at home is not an illusion. On the contrary, it is rather an inner reality. Man is inside all men. In a real sense any man may be inside any men. But to travel is to leave the inside and draw dangerously near the outside. So long as he thought of men in the abstract, like naked toiling figures in some classic frieze, merely as those who labour and love their children and die, he was thinking the fundamental truth about them. By going to look at their unfamiliar manners and customs he is inviting them to disguise themselves in fantastic masks and costumes. Many modern internationalists talk as if men of different nationalities had only to meet and mix and understand each other. In reality that is the moment of supreme danger–the moment when they meet. We might shiver, as at the old euphemism by which a meeting meant a duel.

Travel ought to combine amusement with instruction; but most travellers are so much amused that they refuse to be instructed. I do not blame them for being amused; it is perfectly natural to be amused at a Dutchman for being Dutch or a Chinaman for being Chinese. Where they are wrong is that they take their own amusement seriously. They base on it their serious ideas of international instruction. It was said that the Englishman takes his pleasures sadly; and the pleasure of despising foreigners is one which he takes most sadly of all. He comes to scoff and does not remain to pray, but rather to excommunicate. Hence in international relations there is far too little laughing, and far too much sneering. But I believe that there is a better way which largely consists of laughter; a form of friendship between nations which is actually founded on differences. To hint at some such better way is the only excuse of this book.
Let me begin my American impressions with two impressions I had before I went to America. One was an incident and the other an idea; and when taken together they illustrate the attitude I mean. The first principle is that nobody should be ashamed of thinking a thing funny because it is foreign; the second is that he should be ashamed of thinking it wrong because it is funny. The reaction of his senses and superficial habits of mind against something new, and to him abnormal, is a perfectly healthy reaction. But the mind which imagines that mere unfamiliarity can possibly prove anything about inferiority is a very inadequate mind. It is inadequate even in criticising things that may really be inferior to the things involved here. It is far better to laugh at a negro for having a black face than to sneer at him for having a sloping skull. It is proportionally even more preferable to laugh rather than judge in dealing with highly civilised peoples. Therefore I put at the beginning two working examples of what I felt about America before I saw it; the sort of thing that a man has a right to enjoy as a joke, and the sort of thing he has a duty to understand and respect, because it is the explanation of the joke.

When I went to the American consulate to regularise my passports, I was capable of expecting the American consulate to be American. Embassies and consulates are by tradition like islands of the soil for which they stand; and I have often found the tradition corresponding to a truth. I have seen the unmistakable French official living on omelettes and a little wine and serving his sacred abstractions under the last palm-trees fringing a desert. In the heat and noise of quarrelling Turks and Egyptians, I have come suddenly, as with the cool shock of his own shower-bath, on the listless amiability of the English gentleman. The officials I interviewed were very American, especially in being very polite; for whatever may have been the mood or meaning of Martin Chuzzlewit, I have always found Americans by far the politest people in the world. They put in my hands a form to be filled up, to all appearance like other forms I had filled up in other passport offices. But in reality it was very different from any form I had ever filled up in my life. At least it was a little like a freer form of the game called ‘Confessions’ which my friends and I invented in our youth; an examination paper containing questions like, ‘If you saw a rhinoceros in the front garden, what would you do?’ One of my friends, I remember, wrote, ‘Take the pledge.’ But that is another story, and might bring Mr. Pussyfoot Johnson on the scene before his time.

One of the questions on the paper was, ‘Are you an anarchist?’ To which a detached philosopher would naturally feel inclined to answer, ‘What the devil has that to do with you? Are you an atheist?’ along with some playful efforts to cross-examine the official about what constitutes an [Greek: archê]. Then there was the question, ‘Are you in favour of subverting the government of the United States by force?’ Against this I should write, ‘I prefer to answer that question at the end of my tour and not the beginning.’ The inquisitor, in his more than morbid curiosity, had then written down, ‘Are you a polygamist?’ The answer to this is, ‘No such luck’ or ‘Not such a fool,’ according to our experience of the other sex. But perhaps a better answer would be that given to W. T. Stead when he circulated the rhetorical question, ‘Shall I slay my brother Boer?’–the answer that ran, ‘Never interfere in family matters.’ But among many things that amused me almost to the point of treating the form thus disrespectfully, the most amusing was the thought of the ruthless outlaw who should feel compelled to treat it respectfully. I like to think of the foreign desperado, seeking to slip into America with official papers under official protection, and sitting down to write with a beautiful gravity, ‘I am an anarchist. I hate you all and wish to destroy you.’ Or, ‘I intend to subvert by force the government of the United States as soon as possible, sticking the long sheath-knife in my left trouser-pocket into Mr. Harding at the earliest opportunity.’ Or again, ‘Yes, I am a polygamist all right, and my forty-seven wives are accompanying me on the voyage disguised as secretaries.’ There seems to be a certain simplicity of mind about these answers; and it is reassuring to know that anarchists and polygamists are so pure and good that the police have only to ask them questions and they are certain to tell no lies.
Now that is a model of the sort of foreign practice, founded on foreign problems, at which a man’s first impulse is naturally to laugh. Nor have I any intention of apologising for my laughter. A man is perfectly entitled to laugh at a thing because he happens to find it incomprehensible. What he has no right to do is to laugh at it as incomprehensible, and then criticise it as if he comprehended it. The very fact of its unfamiliarity and mystery ought to set him thinking about the deeper causes that make people so different from himself, and that without merely assuming that they must be inferior to himself.

Superficially this is rather a queer business. It would be easy enough to suggest that in this America has introduced a quite abnormal spirit of inquisition; an interference with liberty unknown among all the ancient despotisms and aristocracies. About that there will be something to be said later; but superficially it is true that this degree of officialism is comparatively unique. In a journey which I took only the year before I had occasion to have my papers passed by governments which many worthy people in the West would vaguely identify with corsairs and assassins; I have stood on the other side of Jordan, in the land ruled by a rude Arab chief, where the police looked so like brigands that one wondered what the brigands looked like. But they did not ask me whether I had come to subvert the power of the Shereef; and they did not exhibit the faintest curiosity about my personal views on the ethical basis of civil authority. These ministers of ancient Moslem despotism did not care about whether I was an anarchist; and naturally would not have minded if I had been a polygamist. The Arab chief was probably a polygamist himself. These slaves of Asiatic autocracy were content, in the old liberal fashion, to judge me by my actions; they did not inquire into my thoughts. They held their power as limited to the limitation of practice; they did not forbid me to hold a theory. It would be easy to argue here that Western democracy persecutes where even Eastern despotism tolerates or emancipates. It would be easy to develop the fancy that, as compared with the sultans of Turkey or Egypt, the American Constitution is a thing like the Spanish Inquisition.

Only the traveller who stops at that point is totally wrong; and the traveller only too often does stop at that point. He has found something to make him laugh, and he will not suffer it to make him think. And the remedy is not to unsay what he has said, not even, so to speak, to unlaugh what he has laughed, not to deny that there is something unique and curious about this American inquisition into our abstract opinions, but rather to continue the train of thought, and follow the admirable advice of Mr. H. G. Wells, who said, ‘It is not much good thinking of a thing unless you think it out.’ It is not to deny that American officialism is rather peculiar on this point, but to inquire what it really is which makes America peculiar, or which is peculiar to America. In short, it is to get some ultimate idea of what America _is_; and the answer to that question will reveal something much deeper and grander and more worthy of our intelligent interest.
It may have seemed something less than a compliment to compare the American Constitution to the Spanish Inquisition. But oddly enough, it does involve a truth; and still more oddly perhaps, it does involve a compliment. The American Constitution does resemble the Spanish Inquisition in this: that it is founded on a creed. America is the only nation in the world that is founded on a creed. That creed is set forth with dogmatic and even theological lucidity in the Declaration of Independence; perhaps the only piece of practical politics that is also theoretical politics and also great literature. It enunciates that all men are equal in their claim to justice, that governments exist to give them that justice, and that their authority is for that reason just. It certainly does condemn anarchism, and it does also by inference condemn atheism, since it clearly names the Creator as the ultimate authority from whom these equal rights are derived. Nobody expects a modern political system to proceed logically in the application of such dogmas, and in the matter of God and Government it is naturally God whose claim is taken more lightly. The point is that there is a creed, if not about divine, at least about human things.

Now a creed is at once the broadest and the narrowest thing in the world. In its nature it is as broad as its scheme for a brotherhood of all men. In its nature it is limited by its definition of the nature of all men. This was true of the Christian Church, which was truly said to exclude neither Jew nor Greek, but which did definitely substitute something else for Jewish religion or Greek philosophy. It was truly said to be a net drawing in of all kinds; but a net of a certain pattern, the pattern of Peter the Fisherman. And this is true even of the most disastrous distortions or degradations of that creed; and true among others of the Spanish Inquisition. It may have been narrow touching theology, it could not confess to being narrow about nationality or ethnology. The Spanish Inquisition might be admittedly Inquisitorial; but the Spanish Inquisition could not be merely Spanish. Such a Spaniard, even when he was narrower than his own creed, had to be broader than his own empire. He might burn a philosopher because he was heterodox; but he must accept a barbarian because he was orthodox. And we see, even in modern times, that the same Church which is blamed for making sages heretics is also blamed for making savages priests. Now in a much vaguer and more evolutionary fashion, there is something of the same idea at the back of the great American experiment; the experiment of a democracy of diverse races which has been compared to a melting-pot. But even that metaphor implies that the pot itself is of a certain shape and a certain substance; a pretty solid substance. The melting-pot must not melt. The original shape was traced on the lines of Jeffersonian democracy; and it will remain in that shape until it becomes shapeless. America invites all men to become citizens; but it implies the dogma that there is such a thing as citizenship. Only, so far as its primary ideal is concerned, its exclusiveness is religious because it is not racial. The missionary can condemn a cannibal, precisely because he cannot condemn a Sandwich Islander. And in something of the same spirit the American may exclude a polygamist, precisely because he cannot exclude a Turk.

Now for America this is no idle theory. It may have been theoretical, though it was thoroughly sincere, when that great Virginian gentleman declared it in surroundings that still had something of the character of an English countryside. It is not merely theoretical now. There is nothing to prevent America being literally invaded by Turks, as she is invaded by Jews or Bulgars. In the most exquisitely inconsequent of the _Bab Ballads_, we are told concerning Pasha Bailey Ben:–

One morning knocked at half-past eight
A tall Red Indian at his gate.
In Turkey, as you ‘r’ p’raps aware,
Red Indians are extremely rare.

But the converse need by no means be true. There is nothing in the nature of things to prevent an emigration of Turks increasing and multiplying on the plains where the Red Indians wandered; there is nothing to necessitate the Turks being extremely rare. The Red Indians, alas, are likely to be rarer. And as I much prefer Red Indians to Turks, not to mention Jews, I speak without prejudice; but the point here is that America, partly by original theory and partly by historical accident, does lie open to racial admixtures which most countries would think incongruous or comic. That is why it is only fair to read any American definitions or rules in a certain light, and relatively to a rather unique position. It is not fair to compare the position of those who may meet Turks in the back street with that of those who have never met Turks except in the _Bab Ballads_. It is not fair simply to compare America with England in its regulations about the Turk. In short, it is not fair to do what almost every Englishman probably does; to look at the American international examination paper, and laugh and be satisfied with saying, ‘We don’t have any of that nonsense in England.’

We do not have any of that nonsense in England because we have never attempted to have any of that philosophy in England. And, above all, because we have the enormous advantage of feeling it natural to be national, because there is nothing else to be. England in these days is not well governed; England is not well educated; England suffers from wealth and poverty that are not well distributed. But England is English; _esto perpetua_. England is English as France is French or Ireland Irish; the great mass of men taking certain national traditions for granted. Now this gives us a totally different and a very much easier task. We have not got an inquisition, because we have not got a creed; but it is arguable that we do not need a creed, because we have got a character. In any of the old nations the national unity is preserved by the national type. Because we have a type we do not need to have a test.

Take that innocent question, ‘Are you an anarchist?’ which is intrinsically quite as impudent as ‘Are you an optimist?’ or ‘Are you a philanthropist?’ I am not discussing here whether these things are right, but whether most of us are in a position to know them rightly. Now it is quite true that most Englishmen do not find it necessary to go about all day asking each other whether they are anarchists. It is quite true that the phrase occurs on no British forms that I have seen. But this is not only because most of the Englishmen are not anarchists. It is even more because even the anarchists are Englishmen. For instance, it would be easy to make fun of the American formula by noting that the cap would fit all sorts of bald academic heads. It might well be maintained that Herbert Spencer was an anarchist. It is practically certain that Auberon Herbert was an anarchist. But Herbert Spencer was an extraordinarily typical Englishman of the Nonconformist middle class. And Auberon Herbert was an extraordinarily typical English aristocrat of the old and genuine aristocracy. Every one knew in his heart that the squire would not throw a bomb at the Queen, and the Nonconformist would not throw a bomb at anybody. Every one knew that there was something subconscious in a man like Auberon Herbert, which would have come out only in throwing bombs at the enemies of England; as it did come out in his son and namesake, the generous and unforgotten, who fell flinging bombs from the sky far beyond the German line. Every one knows that normally, in the last resort, the English gentleman is patriotic. Every one knows that the English Nonconformist is national even when he denies that he is patriotic. Nothing is more notable indeed than the fact that nobody is more stamped with the mark of his own nation than the man who says that there ought to be no nations. Somebody called Cobden the International Man; but no man could be more English than Cobden. Everybody recognises Tolstoy as the iconoclast of all patriotism; but nobody could be more Russian than Tolstoy. In the old countries where there are these national types, the types may be allowed to hold any theories. Even if they hold certain theories, they are unlikely to do certain things. So the conscientious objector, in the English sense, may be and is one of the peculiar by-products of England. But the conscientious objector will probably have a conscientious objection to throwing bombs.

Now I am very far from intending to imply that these American tests are good tests, or that there is no danger of tyranny becoming the temptation of America. I shall have something to say later on about that temptation or tendency. Nor do I say that they apply consistently this conception of a nation with the soul of a church, protected by religious and not racial selection. If they did apply that principle consistently, they would have to exclude pessimists and rich cynics who deny the democratic ideal; an excellent thing but a rather improbable one. What I say is that when we realise that this principle exists at all, we see the whole position in a totally different perspective. We say that the Americans are doing something heroic, or doing something insane, or doing it in an unworkable or unworthy fashion, instead of simply wondering what the devil they are doing.

When we realise the democratic design of such a cosmopolitan commonwealth, and compare it with our insular reliance or instincts, we see at once why such a thing has to be not only democratic but dogmatic. We see why in some points it tends to be inquisitive or intolerant. Any one can see the practical point by merely transferring into private life a problem like that of the two academic anarchists, who might by a coincidence be called the two Herberts. Suppose a man said, ‘Buffle, my old Oxford tutor, wants to meet you; I wish you’d ask him down for a day or two. He has the oddest opinions, but he’s very stimulating.’ It would not occur to us that the oddity of the Oxford don’s opinions would lead him to blow up the house; because the Oxford don is an English type. Suppose somebody said, ‘Do let me bring old Colonel Robinson down for the week-end; he’s a bit of a crank but quite interesting.’ We should not anticipate the colonel running amuck with a carving-knife and offering up human sacrifice in the garden; for these are not among the daily habits of an old English colonel; and because we know his habits, we do not care about his opinions. But suppose somebody offered to bring a person from the interior of Kamskatka to stay with us for a week or two, and added that his religion was a very extraordinary religion, we should feel a little more inquisitive about what kind of religion it was. If somebody wished to add a Hairy Ainu to the family party at Christmas, explaining that his point of view was so individual and interesting, we should want to know a little more about it and him. We should be tempted to draw up as fantastic an examination paper as that presented to the emigrant going to America. We should ask what a Hairy Ainu was, and how hairy he was, and above all what sort of Ainu he was. Would etiquette require us to ask him to bring his wife? And if we did ask him to bring his wife, how many wives would he bring? In short, as in the American formula, is he a polygamist? Merely as a point of housekeeping and accommodation the question is not irrelevant. Is the Hairy Ainu content with hair, or does he wear any clothes? If the police insist on his wearing clothes, will he recognise the authority of the police? In short, as in the American formula, is he an anarchist?

Of course this generalisation about America, like other historical things, is subject to all sorts of cross divisions and exceptions, to be considered in their place. The negroes are a special problem, because of what white men in the past did to them. The Japanese are a special problem, because of what men fear that they in the future may do to white men. The Jews are a special problem, because of what they and the Gentiles, in the past, present, and future, seem to have the habit of doing to each other. But the point is not that nothing exists in America except this idea; it is that nothing like this idea exists anywhere except in America. This idea is not internationalism; on the contrary it is decidedly nationalism. The Americans are very patriotic, and wish to make their new citizens patriotic Americans. But it is the idea of making a new nation literally out of any old nation that comes along. In a word, what is unique is not America but what is called Americanisation. We understand nothing till we understand the amazing ambition to Americanise the Kamskatkan and the Hairy Ainu. We are not trying to Anglicise thousands of French cooks or Italian organ-grinders. France is not trying to Gallicise thousands of English trippers or German prisoners of war. America is the one place in the world where this process, healthy or unhealthy, possible or impossible, is going on. And the process, as I have pointed out, is _not_ internationalisation. It would be truer to say it is the nationalisation of the internationalised. It is making a home out of vagabonds and a nation out of exiles. This is what at once illuminates and softens the moral regulations which we may really think faddist or fanatical. They are abnormal; but in one sense this experiment of a home for the homeless is abnormal. In short, it has long been recognised that America was an asylum. It is only since Prohibition that it has looked a little like a lunatic asylum.

It was before sailing for America, as I have said, that I stood with the official paper in my hand and these thoughts in my head. It was while I stood on English soil that I passed through the two stages of smiling and then sympathising; of realising that my momentary amusement, at being asked if I were not an Anarchist, was partly due to the fact that I was not an American. And in truth I think there are some things a man ought to know about America before he sees it. What we know of a country beforehand may not affect what we see that it is; but it will vitally affect what we appreciate it for being, because it will vitally affect what we expect it to be. I can honestly say that I had never expected America to be what nine-tenths of the newspaper critics invariably assume it to be. I never thought it was a sort of Anglo-Saxon colony, knowing that it was more and more thronged with crowds of very different colonists. During the war I felt that the very worst propaganda for the Allies was the propaganda for the Anglo-Saxons. I tried to point out that in one way America is nearer to Europe than England is. If she is not nearer to Bulgaria, she is nearer to Bulgars; if she is not nearer to Bohemia, she is nearer to Bohemians. In my New York hotel the head waiter in the dining-room was a Bohemian; the head waiter in the grill-room was a Bulgar. Americans have nationalities at the end of the street which for us are at the ends of the earth. I did my best to persuade my countrymen not to appeal to the American as if he were a rather dowdy Englishman, who had been rusticating in the provinces and had not heard the latest news about the town. I shall record later some of those arresting realities which the traveller does not expect; and which, in some cases I fear, he actually does not see because he does not expect. I shall try to do justice to the psychology of what Mr. Belloc has called ‘Eye-Openers in Travel.’ But there are some things about America that a man ought to see even with his eyes shut. One is that a state that came into existence solely through its repudiation and abhorrence of the British Crown is not likely to be a respectful copy of the British Constitution. Another is that the chief mark of the Declaration of Independence is something that is not only absent from the British Constitution, but something which all our constitutionalists have invariably thanked God, with the jolliest boasting and bragging, that they had kept out of the British Constitution. It is the thing called abstraction or academic logic. It is the thing which such jolly people call theory; and which those who can practise it call thought. And the theory or thought is the very last to which English people are accustomed, either by their social structure or their traditional teaching. It is the theory of equality. It is the pure classic conception that no man must aspire to be anything more than a citizen, and that no man should endure to be anything less. It is by no means especially intelligible to an Englishman, who tends at his best to the virtues of the gentleman and at his worst to the vices of the snob. The idealism of England, or if you will the romance of England, has not been primarily the romance of the citizen. But the idealism of America, we may safely say, still revolves entirely round the citizen and his romance. The realities are quite another matter, and we shall consider in its place the question of whether the ideal will be able to shape the realities or will merely be beaten shapeless by them. The ideal is besieged by inequalities of the most towering and insane description in the industrial and economic field. It may be devoured by modern capitalism, perhaps the worst inequality that ever existed among men. Of all that we shall speak later. But citizenship is still the American ideal; there is an army of actualities opposed to that ideal; but there is no ideal opposed to that ideal. American plutocracy has never got itself respected like English aristocracy. Citizenship is the American ideal; and it has never been the English ideal. But it is surely an ideal that may stir some imaginative generosity and respect in an Englishman, if he will condescend to be also a man. In this vision of moulding many peoples into the visible image of the citizen, he may see a spiritual adventure which he can admire from the outside, at least as much as he admires the valour of the Moslems and much more than he admires the virtues of the Middle Ages. He need not set himself to develop equality, but he need not set himself to misunderstand it. He may at least understand what Jefferson and Lincoln meant, and he may possibly find some assistance in this task by reading what they said. He may realise that equality is not some crude fairy tale about all men being equally tall or equally tricky; which we not only cannot believe but cannot believe in anybody believing. It is an absolute of morals by which all men have a value invariable and indestructible and a dignity as intangible as death. He may at least be a philosopher and see that equality is an idea; and not merely one of these soft-headed sceptics who, having risen by low tricks to high places, drink bad champagne in tawdry hotel lounges, and tell each other twenty times over, with unwearied iteration, that equality is an illusion.

In truth it is inequality that is the illusion. The extreme disproportion between men, that we seem to see in life, is a thing of changing lights and lengthening shadows, a twilight full of fancies and distortions. We find a man famous and cannot live long enough to find him forgotten; we see a race dominant and cannot linger to see it decay. It is the experience of men that always returns to the equality of men; it is the average that ultimately justifies the average man. It is when men have seen and suffered much and come at the end of more elaborate experiments, that they see men as men under an equal light of death and daily laughter; and none the less mysterious for being many. Nor is it in vain that these Western democrats have sought the blazonry of their flag in that great multitude of immortal lights that endure behind the fires we see, and gathered them into the corner of Old Glory whose ground is like the glittering night. For veritably, in the spirit as well as in the symbol, suns and moons and meteors pass and fill our skies with a fleeting and almost theatrical conflagration; and wherever the old shadow stoops upon the earth, the stars return.