Martyrdom?

February 6, 2014 - Leave a Response

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.

 

Notes.

*  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.

 

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Obamacare? Who cares.

January 26, 2014 - Leave a Response

And why should we?  Certainly, no particular reason comes to mind.  There might, nonetheless, be one other angle from which to consider this bizarre heap of legislation, or rather, the people proclaiming it (very few now) or declaiming against it (rather more).  

And that is the language of the various parties.  Just one example to offer, since reading all this rubbish from Americans (as if their TV and cinema, their culture generally, in the twenty-first century were not enough) is utterly beyond the pale.  

Powerline tells of a televised debate under the proposition “Resolved: Obamacare Is Now Beyond Rescue”.  Apparently one speaker, having no experience of debating (so why begin on television?) was thus “feeling a little trepid”.  Good grief.  

One notices this sort of nonsense on most occasions that one looks at American sites.  Nor is it unique to American web-sites, university publishers are little better.  Dust-jackets reveal a good deal, not least that tertiary education (like primary and secondary levels) now is little more than fraud.  Certainly one can argue that language changes over time, quite so.  It is another thing altogether to claim that the (now) constant deterioration and contraction of language comes into that historical category.

Vocabulary is a significant element here, having been in contraction for possibly four decades (very hard to measure, naturally) but the contexts in which young people learn new words and how to manipulate them with deepening subtlety have gradually been lost. Their parents have followed suit, mostly by tolerating–encouraging?–the loss of their own language.  Actually, that should probably have been grand-parents, for the current generation of parents (of school-aged children) seemed to have learned very little.  And they are content in that loss.

Schools (all levels) might be reckoned guardians of language, not uniquely perhaps, so who now guards the guardians?  The fact is, no-one.  And the authoritarian streaks first noticeable in the 1980s have a stranglehold on personal expression.  Successful employment of meaningless has become a source of power.  And power is the sole source of definition of meaning in the twenty-first century.

Obamacare the book, in excess of two thousand pages, is but one example.  It may be a defining one.

Christianity and the intolerance of the liberal state

January 25, 2014 - Leave a Response

Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap., archbishop of Philadelphia, made numerous, important observations in the course of a homily delivered at the National Shrine for the 41st March for Life.  He particularly emphasised the counter-cultural nature of Christianity.  Against that he observed the deepening intolerance of the liberal state.  And he concluded thus :

If Jesus is the lord of the sabbath, he is also the lord of history.  And sooner or later, despite the weaknesses of his friends and the strengths of his enemies, his will will be done—whether the Pharisees and Herodians of our day approve of it or not.

Yet it remains the historical reality that Christianity has always depended to some degree, however modest, upon the tolerance of the state.  That has implications for Christians, especially if pro-life.  Nothing in the present–or for some time–has indicated that Christianity will survive as states become ever more intolerant.  One would like to hope otherwise but the evidence is, well, intolerant.

 

Update: There is one further observation to make.  I wrote this brief post because although I subscribe to First Things, I could not comment upon Dr. Chaput’s homily without logging-in in one of four ways (logging-in to the journal did not suffice).  I refuse to have dealings with any of the proffered options, at least three of which are doubtless hostile to the pro-lifers (what ‘Disqus’ refers to I do not know).

 

Quadrant, poetry and taxpayers

January 23, 2014 - Leave a Response

Actually Quadrant‘s association with taxpayers is now negligible.  But it does publish poetry  .  .  .  apparently to the upset of other journals.  Roger Franklin, editor of Quadrant, argues that comments in Overland raise questions of arts funding in general.  Perhaps.

The first and, I suggest, only question is why taxpayers should fund poetry or anything else calling itself an art.  This is most unclear.  So much that government funds may be unobjectionable in itself, but when money is taken, with threats of menace, from the public then objections do arise given the typically political nature of the result.  Latterly, in this context, issues have arisen even regarding the Australian War Memorial and its expenditure.  The only reasonable response is termination of the funding.  I would start with the ABC (defunding in toto), then the AWM ( at least in part) and so on  .  .  .  to the end of the alphabet.

Nietzsche rules, so they tell us by what they do.  OK.  Let it be so.

Obamacare in America

January 3, 2014 - Leave a Response

Powerline whines that their federal government’s website (allegedly) for health insurance has no notion that people have babies, among other changes to life.  Not so much exceptional nation and manifest destiny as chronically ridiculous nation.

July-August 1914: Enthusiasm?

January 1, 2014 - Leave a Response

The declaration of war [in July-August 1914] was greeted with wild celebration.  .  .  .

Why do people continue to retail myth?  This from the author of EUReferendum. Not least an author whose purpose in more than one book has, so he wrote, been to overwhelm myth with evidence.  In the central metropolises of the various nations and empires–London, Berlin, Paris, for example–some enthusiasm might be evident.  Away from those questionable places reactions were much more muted, indeed.  And when soldiers in some localities were mobilised, for example, Bavaria, the reactions were ones of despair, even to the extent of suicide by wives unable to conceive how to cope alone.  The war, even before its character became remotely familiar, was quickly reckoned terrible, certainly in some country centres in South Australia.  Determination, incidentally, need not equate with ‘enthusiasm’; nor did it.  So I repeat, why indulge in such nonsense?

Last Century’s nation

December 22, 2013 - Leave a Response

There may or may not be a leading nation at this point in the increasingly ghastly twenty first century.  Certainly it is not the USA.  This response, just one of many, on Powerline makes that patently clear, at least from a cultural perspective.  The expressed conceit that the USA represents the West, itself more or less a ceature of the past, only deepens the case.

More hypocrisy . . . as if there’s anything else

December 11, 2013 - Leave a Response

Electronista moans about working conditions in a factory making products for Apple.  Electronista also notes, with apparent approval, an announcement by the Mayor New York, Michael Bloomberg, of ‘the launch of a new outdoor public Wi-Fi network in Harlem accessible to all users at no cost’.

How often does one see demands for new products, or lower prices on existing products?  Ipad, for instance, requires a new model at least annually.  With more features  .  .  .  and lower cost.  How else, but by exploitation of the weak and oppressed in a totalitarian state, can this wonder of modern education (schools are addicted) be possible and universal?  Helped, naturally, by governments (especially last century’s nation, the US) printing money to cover their failures: intellectual, moral and financial.

The twenty first century has several qualities or, rather, characteristics, none of them commendable.  Hypocrisy is at their head. 

Yawn. Quadrant moans again about the ABC

October 17, 2013 - Leave a Response

Why bother?  Roger Franklin should know by now that the ABC is incapable of reform.  So why waste readers time on such cant? Affordability of a chair for a pot of poisonous prejudice like Barrie Cassidy is an utter irrelevance.  Abolish the whole rotten institution.  Now.  Return the money to taxpayers or, for a time, better, assist a small number of people who cannot otherwise afford it, to receive dental care required urgently.  But that won’t happen.  We live in deteriorating times.  That deterioration has a very long way to go before any improvement can become evident.  It would help to be rid of the ABC nonetheless.

Change? What change?

September 17, 2013 - Leave a Response

This from The Australian today:

RESOURCE giants will be told to step up their spending on mammoth new projects or risk losing their rights to tap the deposits, under an Abbott government plan to accelerate investment and kill off fears of an end to the boom.

The article continues with this Rudd-Gillard-Rudd type threat:

Incoming industry minister Ian Macfarlane  .  .  .  warned that companies that shelved their projects could lose the “retention leases” they held over the reserves, given the commonwealth’s power to revoke the rights as they came up for renewal over the next few years. “I want to put the industry on notice that if the deposits are able to be developed they’ve got to be developed,” he said yesterday as he arrived in Canberra for briefings.

 So, the point of the auction, sorry election, on 7 September was what?  I knew I was right not to take any but the most cursory notice of it or anything else political.  Not only have the government’s spots not changed but the public had to pay for all aspects of the auction (no apologies), including political propaganda from the candidates.  Whether one should yawn or be outraged I don’t know.  Meanwhile, at Maaloula.  .  .  ?