Archive for February, 2014

Oz Intelligentsia on Display
February 27, 2014

You can read it all here.  Climate change goes on and on.  .  .  .

What I noticed in particular was an absurd sentence by a journalist, David Marr who finds the want of public interest in climate change, the political ideology of the day.  He tries to command:

We need to pray for an absolutely devastating drought to make [climate-change denying] Australia snap out of it.

Why “pray”?  Has David Marr found God?  Or does he recall that during a severe drought many years ago the premier of Queensland at the time, the much-derided Joh Bjelke-Petersen, prayed for rain.  Such, apparently, was the success of his petition that a few days later many begged him to turn off the spigot.  Alternatively, Marr and his friends (all listed in the linked article in Quadrant), could head for somewhere caught up in drought, California.  Or, they might leave the green shores of Oz for inland dry, like south-west Queensland.  I don’t mind.  What I do mind is taxpayers’ funds being wasted on spurious literary festivals.  Want variety of perspective?  Where you might find it, I don’t actually know.  Where you definitely won’t find it is at a government-sponsored literary event.  We should note the fundamental contempt that the likes of David Marr have for those who provide for their comfort.  In South Australia the government includes a Fringe, an alleged Festival of the Arts (once upon a time it was), a car race  and a public holiday and plonks an auction (sorry, election) in the middle of it all.


The Great War–according to George Weigel.
February 12, 2014

The short answer to the question posed–not uniquely–by George Weigel, Why did the First World War begin? seems to have no answer than that “Men have forgotten God”.  At least that’s the impression left by the only report available thus far.  I offered the following comment on that particular page.  For whatever reason the moderators at the Family Research Council found it unacceptable.


Hmm!  Not notably enlightening.  Pity.  More interesting–and Weigel’s lecture was said to be discussing this question–is why the conflict continued.  “That men have forgotten God” provides little that is compelling regarding beginning of the Great War and even less regarding its continuity, its extraordinary momentum.  One should recall, too, that the Kaiser, for all his faults, as well as his cousin, Nicholas II, himself not without fault, both recognised in July 1914 that the war then impending would be catastrophic for millions of men–and they knew it was wrong.  Politicians had taken control, acted in a variety of ways none of which were commendable, and those men indeed paid the price.

Some 360,000 volunteered from Australia, most served in Europe.  In excess of two thousand of them in splendid voice on 25 April 1916 sang Kipling’s Recessional in Westminster Abbey, having been invited by the King who, like his continental cousins, recognised the moral depravity of this war.  Many Australian soldiers believed deeply in the rightness of their cause, primarily for freedom.  The public at home supported them to the hilt.  And some highly varied notion of God underlay that determination to work for victory over “Prussianism”.  They mourned 60,000 fellow citizens killed in the First World War but did not relent.  Politicians then served up another within twenty years.

February 6, 2014

What is it, I wonder, that makes martyrdom so attractive to those for whom it is not a risk?

The Most Reverend James D. Conley, STL, the Catholic bishop of Lincoln, Nebraska, writes in this way in a recent post for First Things.  He does so on behalf of Pope Francis:

The promise of the Gospel is that authentic commitment to the truth—and a refusal to separate a commitment to social justice from a commitment to orthodoxy and piety—will lead to conversion. The path of Pope Francis might lead to “media martyrdom.” But martyrdom sows the seeds of conversion.

There is a qualification, it is true, regarding (the horror that is contemporary) mass media.  But the point remains: it won;t be the author’s experience or that of those who offered comments on the article.

Elsewhere, Robert Morgan, published in the Journal for the Study of the New Testament, in 2010, made the following comment on the ‘self-confessed sin of Christians [in National Socialist Germany]’.*  Morgan noted:

the failure of most (not all) Christians to face martyrdom for themselves and their families when that was perhaps the only fully adequate Christian response.†

As Morgan noted, not quite all failed his basic test of making ‘the only fully adequate Christian response’.  

What is now interesting is not only the typically loose expression of such matters as martyrdom, ‘the death or suffering of a martyr’.  It is also, first, the failure to recognise either its unsought presence among Christians, particularly in the Middle East.  Secondly, and perversely, it is the discounted nature of persecution of the followers of Christ, and martyrdom of some, among historians of the Third Reich.  

I recently endeavoured to find the name of Pastor Paul Schneider, murdered in Buchenwald concentration camp, in July 1939, in the indexes of recent works of history where one might have expected to find it.  And, as that suggests, it occurs but very rarely.   Indeed, the more glowing the reviews of the work, the less likely is it that Schneider’s name (let alone details of his pastorate and persecution) will appear.  

In brief, the following list indicates a disturbing trend of disregard for a significant proportion of the historical record:  Bergen, Twisted Cross (1996); Heschel, Aryan Jesus; Ericksen, Theologians under Hitler (1985); Judaism and Christianity under the Impact of National Socialism, ed. Kulka and Mendes-Flohr (1987); Ericksen, Complicity in the Holocaust (2012); Betrayal: German Churches and the Holocaust, ed. Ericksen and Heschel (1999); Historiography of the Holocaust, ed. Stone (2010). 

I don’t read German.  One two accounts is this a pest.  One, naturally, is the fact that original sources are beyond me.  Secondly, I cannot read what conclusions historians writing in German have reached in, say, the last twenty years.  Most especially does this matter at the level of microhistory, work telling of the life of local churches and families.  Nor, therefore, can I compare these with the much-lauded work of Heschel and Ericksen so damning of Christians and Christianity.  For it would be very interesting to know what occurred at the local level, of daily life and devotion under a racist, totalitarian regime.  That is to say, the places where easy talk of martyrdom could not exist.



*  Robert Morgan, ‘Susannah Heschel’s Aryan Grundmann’, Journal for the Study of the New Testament, vol. 32, no. 4 (2010), pp. 437.

†  Ibid., p. 438.