Ceremony marks 100 years since Battle of Passchendaele

The offensive, which began on 31 July 1917, claimed the lives of more than half a million British, French and German troops.

Source: Ceremony marks 100 years since Battle of Passchendaele

Today marks the 100th Anniversary of the Battle of Passchendaele, also known as the Third Battle of Ypres, in the First World War: a particularly horrific battle in a particularly horrific war. Honoured memory of those who fought – tinged with sadness that they fell in a war which, even more than many others, was unnecessary, and the effects of which we continue to experience to this day. “What is past is prologue…”

We Choose to go to the Moon – YouTube

JFK’s eternal speech at Rice University on September 12th, 1962 setting the goal of the space race during the 1960’s.

Source: We choose to go to the Moon | YouTube

President John F. Kennedy gave this speech almost 55 years ago. It was a stirring example of American resolve, and of the American exploratory spirit. Now, more than a half-century later, we are dependent upon the Russians to get an American astronaut to the International Space Station.

Somehow, I think President Kennedy would be appalled.

Briefly Noted: Sanctions vs Space

Soyuz lanch - ISS-bound

From Darryl B. Petitt, on Facebook:

“Republicans in Congress have no interest in [making America great again, or putting America first].

“The ISS space-station the U.S. astronaut along with a European and Russian astronaut are going to is a Russian space-station. The Soyuz MS-05 is the Russian rocket taking them there

“Our Republican Congress can’t pass a healthcare bill…but they can work with Democrats to sanction the country who shuttles our astronauts at $85 million a pop to and from the Russian space station. There’s no explanation for this.”

I need say no more.

Flora Vale Farmstead: Turning the Wheel, or, Let’s put the Rooster in the Stew…

Source: Flora Vale Farmstead: Turning the Wheel, or, Let’s put the Rooster in the Stew…

An excellent blog entry about one of the more challenging aspects of keeping chickens. I still want to do it, and hope to do it, one day…

End of the EU? Wave of populism takes over bloc despite Merkel’s Brexit relief | World | News | Express.co.uk

European Union bosses breathed a sigh of relief when Marine Le Pen was defeated by Emmanuel Macron in France – but new studies have revealed the spread of populism is FAR from over.

Source: End of the EU? Wave of opulism takes over bloc despite Merkel’s Brexit relief | World | News | Express.co.uk

Angela Merkel revealed just last month she was rocked by Brexit, and feared for the future of the EU, but the result of the French presidential election gave her new hope.

However, that hope may be dashed after the findings of Epicenter (the European Policy Information Centre).

Populism is being described as the ‘third force’ in Europe – with right-wing parties gaining renewed support across the bloc.

The Epicenter report revealed the total number of European voters who bucked the Brussels rhetoric and chose an anti-system force at the last political elections was 21.4 percent.

This means 55.8 million people preferred an alternative to traditional political forces – or those preferred by the EU.

Read on for more. More and more people in Europe appear to be waking up to the existential threat posed to European countries’ history, heritage, culture, and way of life by the “soft” invasion unleashed by Merkel and her fellow-travelers (helped along, sadly, by American stupidity in taking down governments – such as Libya, and we’re working on Syria, too – that helped to hold back the tide). But will it be enough, and will it be soon enough, to prevent irreparable harm? That is the question…

Is There a Proper Role for “Contemporary” Music at Church? – The Imaginative Conservative

The history of modern music is a history of deliberate rebellion and revolt against the great tradition of Western music. – Peter Kwasniewski

Source: Is There a Proper Role for “Contemporary” Music at Church? – The Imaginative Conservative

In which it is pointed out that “the music we employ in church always embodies and communicates an ecclesiology, a Christology, and an anthropology—it is that significant! There is no escaping it: Every bit of music we perform in church is expressing a vision of the whole and inculcating it in those who listen.”

Therefore the music which becomes part of the liturgy – the “worship experience,” if you will, though I dislike that terminology for its focus on the worshiper and not on the God who is worshiped – is not something extrinsic or incidental to that liturgy. It is, if used at all, intrinsic to the liturgy, for better or for worse: often, what is sung is often remembered better than that which is merely spoken. Therefore the music that we use matters, and matters deeply.

The author contrasts the Church’s tradition of adopting and “baptizing” elements of Pagan culture, including its musical traditions, with the situation in today’s world:

“Today’s Westerners, in contrast, are post-Christian aliens, estranged from their own history and the great cultural synthesis that could and should be theirs. The history of modern music, whether atonal or jazz or rock or pop, is a history of deliberate rebellion and revolt against the great tradition of Western music, against its high art forms, its slowly-developed musical language, its explicitly or implicitly Christian message. In its origins and its inner meaning, much of modern Western music is a rejection of the Catholic (and European) tradition.

“As a result, it is not morally, intellectually, or culturally ‘neutral’; it is already laden with an anti-institutional, anti-sacral, anti-traditional significance. This music is not naïve raw material waiting to be Christianized, but highly articulate anti-Christian propaganda. It rejects the ideals of lofty beauty and grandeur, spiritual seriousness, evocation of the divine, openness to the transcendent, and artistic discipline, in favor of vapidity, frivolity, profanity, sensuality, and banality.”

There are exceptions to this characterization, of course, but they are exceptions which, to my mind, prove the rule. There is more, of course – much more, and all of it worth reading. The modern world is obsessed with many things, but one of them is “relevance”: if a thing, be it music, liturgy, morality, etc., is not “relevant,” it is suspicious at best, easily-dismissed, at worst. Unfortunately, as this article points out, the result is that

“Today’s popular culture… to the extent that it has grown up in revolt against the unifying principles, certainties, and demands of Christianity, is a veritable melting pot of conflicting fashionable ideologies, a volatile mishmash of tribalism, globalism, and techno-barbarism. Its underlying anthropology is suited not for saints and heroes, but for narcissists and manipulators.”

 

This Day in History: “In God We Trust” becomes the national motto | Tara Ross

On this day in 1956, President Dwight D. Eisenhower signs a law making “In God We Trust” the national motto. His action came just two years after he signed a law adding “Under God” to the Pledge of Allegiance.

Source: This Day in History: “In God We Trust” becomes the national motto | Tara Ross

“As he signed the 1954 law, [President Eisenhower] explained the importance of such actions: ‘[W]e are reaffirming the transcendence of religious faith in America’s heritage and future; in this way we shall constantly strengthen those spiritual weapons which forever will be our country’s most powerful resource, in peace or in war.’

“Eisenhower made an even stronger statement a year later. In 1955, he observed: ‘Without God, there could be no American form of Government, nor an American way of life. Recognition of the Supreme Being is the first — the most basic — expression of Americanism. Thus the Founding Fathers saw it, and thus, with God’s help, it will continue to be.'”

I am reminded of John Adams’ quote: “Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.” O, how the mighty have fallen! As Tara so accurately puts it in the essay linked above,

“In this country, of course, no one is forced into any particular religion. We are free to be religious — or we are free *not* to be religious. However, an honest assessment of our history shows that much of our founding was steeped in religious roots. And our national motto reflects that fact.”

Why the American ‘multicultural’ model falls apart in Europe and Israel – Haaretz.com (with reflections)

Source: Why the American ‘multicultural’ model falls apart in Europe and Israel – Life – Haaretz.com

There is so much here that is worth reading! The author, Mr. Taub, says many things that I have been arguing for some years, now – and most key, that the current “liberal”-Left obsession with “diversity” and “multiculturalism” is in fact neither diverse nor tolerant of difference.

Rather, it seeks to implement a model of society in which, under a thin and illusory veneer of difference, the reality is actually one of bland sameness; a society in which everyone marches in lockstep, a society in which every element is “diverse” to precisely the same extent demographically, and within the same politically-correct parameters philosophically.

As Mr. Taub puts it in this essay, “In fact, the colorful cultural mosaic that espousers of such approaches create in their mind’s eye works only when it is not actually colorful… Paradoxically, when everyone believes in diversity, it does not really exist.” Or again, “there is something deceptive about this paean to multiplicity. It talks about otherness but refuses to look at it, declares diversity but presumes uniformity. In other words, it is a form of self-deception.”

He goes a little astray, in my opinion, in some of the assumptions he makes about the situation in America, for instance when he writes,

“American liberalism, which developed within a migrant society, had to wrestle with the question of creating unity from multiplicity from its very inception. And it also found effective solutions. In America, too, the multicultural view involves self-deception. But in its case the self-deception was beneficial, juxtaposed as it was on the bedrock of a deep and far-reaching consensus.

So far, he’s on reasonably solid ground, at least historically. But he continues,

“The assimilationist forces in America are tremendous, and the pressures they exert on people to conform are powerful. In various ways, both de facto and de jure, assimilation demands that migrants accept the country’s basic moral values: individualism, natural rights, gender equality, democracy, capitalism and a contractual conception of society and human relations. This is a precondition for becoming part of the American dream. If you have other dreams, America will shatter them quickly and efficiently, lest they endanger the moral consensus.”

This was indeed true historically, but from my perspective as an early 21st century American, I have grave doubts as to whether this historical consensus continues to hold, or for how long it may retain even a tenuous grip on our national discourse.

There are certainly powerful countervailing forces at work, emanating from the academic and media hotbeds of “liberal” (no longer classically liberal, but Leftist) thought, which Marxists and their fellow-travelers have so successfully infiltrated. Ironically – and dangerously – those who were committed to tearing down “the establishment” (a.k.a. “the system”) in the 1960s and early ’70s have become the establishment, now, they and their philosophical heirs.

The idea they are putting forward, aggressively, is that “multiculturalism” is actually “a broadening of democracy from human beings to values. It is not enough to acknowledge that all human beings are equal; true equality requires that we respect their cultures equally too.” But, as Taub points out, “This simple argument contains a contradiction: According equal value to cultures can have the effect of undermining equality among human beings, not only of expanding it.”

Thus we have the bizarre spectacle of “feminists,” heirs to the struggle to allow women to wear miniskirts and blue jeans, adopting the hijab. As the symbol of… what, precisely? Opposition to patriarchy and oppression? But it is a cultural expression of one of the most patriarchal and oppressive religious ideologies on the planet.

Of course, they argue that it is not about the hijab, per se, but about the “choice” to wear it. The problem with that is that the hijab comes with a great deal of cultural and religious significance. By “choosing” to wear it, one is doing one of two things: either signaling one’s adoption of those cultural and religious values, many of which are very much at variance with the feminist – and liberal, both classical and current – agenda, or else one is seeking to sever it from those values, and consequently, by the Left’s own reckoning, engaging in cultural appropriation.

But as I have said on more than one occasion, irony is usually lost on Leftists, nor is consistency one of their strengths. And the wearing of hijab is of relatively minor consequence, compared to other cultural distinctives such as female genital mutilation, or the propensity in many Moslem countries to lob homosexuals off tall buildings.

At any rate, here is Mr. Taub again:

“In fact, when one peels the jargon off multicultural rhetoric, one finds an absurdity at its core. Saturated as it is with the liberal spirit, it nevertheless somehow assumes that liberalism itself is not liberal enough, whereas all the adversaries of liberalism are for some reason more liberal than it is. It’s not surprising, then, that an obfuscating jargon is needed to hide such a simple contradiction.

“The Black Panthers were not feminists, Ho Chi Minh was not one of the Righteous Among the Nations, the Shas party’s rabbis are not defenders of the gay community’s rights, and the conclusion of Israeli occupation of the Gaza Strip did not make Hamas a human rights organization. The assumption that democratic pluralism and liberal freedom will necessarily emanate from the margins has no foundation in reality. The logical fault can be formulated in brief: The whole model rests on the moral kitsch that identifies victimization with justice. Unfortunately, however, in the real world, victims are not necessarily saints, still less saintly liberals.”

The reality, uncomfortable as it may be for folks on the left side of the socio-political spectrum to grasp, is that just as individual humans are created by God, and are thus of equal intrinsic value in the eyes of God – but that does not mean that all are equally good, kind, decent, accomplished, productive, reasonable, etc. – so not all societies, all cultures, all worldviews and all ideologies participate equally in the transcendent values of Goodness, Truth, and Beauty.

Even the hardest-Left ideologue knows this, or one would not see the visceral attacks they launch on belief systems and worldviews with which they do not agree! Just ask any Trump supporter whether the Leftists’ belief in the equality of all cultures extends to those “riding on the Trump train.” Or why it’s admirable for a clothing designer to refuse to design fashions for the First Lady, but abhorrent for a Christian cake-maker to refuse to make a cake for a same-sex wedding.

At any rate, for a complex set of reasons the totality of which eludes me, but which appear to include a combination of guilt (the most extreme Leftists are usually among the most economically and academically privileged in our society), self-loathing, hatred of anything that smacks of tradition, and a misguided sense of compassion, the socio-political Left has chosen to elevate to a pedestal anyone who can make a claim – however thin and full of holes – to “victim” status… as long as that individual or society is not part of a predetermined “oppressor” class.

What do they expect to accomplish with this? Is their impulse simply nihilistic and destructive – do they hate the West and its roots in “patriarchy” and Christianity so deeply that they are willing to effectively commit suicide to bring it down?

Or do they labour, still, under the false assumption that if only we can be “welcoming” enough, the most committed Islamic terrorist, the greediest economic migrant, the members of cultures most dramatically disparate from the West, will kick off their shoes, place flowers in their hair, and sit around the campfire singing “Kumbaya”…?

I imagine the answer to that differs with the individual. Some probably identify more with the first option, others the second, still others lie somewhere along the spectrum. Yet either view is dangerous. Cultures are not equal; but true diversity would be willing to accept a wide range and variation of cultures, as long as they did not attempt to impose themselves on others by force.

True multiculturalism would respect the distinctiveness of cultures, not attempt to amalgamate them, either philosophically or geographically.

 

Is the “natural habitat” of Catholic Christians (including Anglicans) urban or rural?

Angelus-Jean-François_Millet
The Angelus (1857–59) by Jean-François Millet

I wrote this piece as a reply to a thread in a Facebook group called “Catholic Village Movement: Rebuilding Christendom.” The idea was floated that, Many of us came from cities just 100 years ago. Maybe cities are the Catholic’s natural environment. Ugh. Gross. But also maybe true.” I am not so sure. In fact, I doubt it!

Here is my response – please read “Catholic” or “Catholics” to include all branches of the Church Catholic, including not only those of the Roman observance, but our Eastern Orthodox brethren, and of course, those of us who are Anglicans – slightly cleaned up and elaborated upon from the original:

I have just been an observer of the conversations on this group heretofore, but for what it’s worth (maybe nothing), here’s another perspective on the urban-vs-rural thing. Yes, “pagani” meant, roughly, “country bumpkins.” Actually it meant, literally, “dwellers in the pagus,” with “pagus” meaning – interestingly enough – “village,” but also district, countryside, rural portions of a civitas (http://latinmeaning.com/pagus-latin-to-english-translation/). It had, by the early Christian era, acquired a slightly pejorative cast to it, like “hicks” or “rednecks.”

So the question to ask ourselves is, why did those who clung to their pre-Christian religions (shades of Obama’s infamous “bitterly clinging to God and guns” remark…) become known as “pagani” (“pagans”)? Because a) new teachings took longer – a lot longer – to percolate out to the countryside, in those pre-hi-tech (and, for many, pre-literate) days, and b) because the cities had become inhospitable to them, having been largely converted to the new religion, Christianity. The situation is similar today, although the roles are reversed.

Ask yourself, where is the greatest survival of Christian (not only, but including, Catholic) belief and practice today? Hint: it’s not in the big, densely-populated coastal urban enclaves! It’s in the “flyover states,” and in more rural sections of the rest of the states. And for many of the same reasons that the “pagus” remained “pagan” long after Christianity had begun to gain traction in the more urban areas: cities are not, and never have been, amenable for those who want to maintain traditions. Continue reading “Is the “natural habitat” of Catholic Christians (including Anglicans) urban or rural?”

Why not “Smash Cultural Atheism”…?

An amusing little meme (please excuse the language in the last frame) which actually asks a very good question:

Smash Cultural Atheism

Note: This is in reference to “Smash Cultural Marxism” (see my post on the subject), which has become something of a buzzword or catch-phrase in some quarters. Some militant atheists (and, unfortunately, a few militant pagans / heathens) have responded with “Smash Cultural Christianity.” This meme takes a more balanced view – and asks the appropriate follow-up question!

The irony of atheism, of course, is that while it claims to be grounded in “reason” and “science,” it is in actuality just as much of a belief system as any religion. While it is not possible to conclusively prove the existence of God, neither is it possible to conclusively prove the non-existence of God: is anyone really foolish enough to think that a deity capable of creating the entire cosmos, from quasars to quarks, couldn’t build sufficient ambiguity into the system to make belief in “his” existence a matter of faith and not fact?

Speaking personally, the idea that all the incredible wonder, splendor, and complexity of the Cosmos, from astronomy to biology to particle physics, came about by sheer chance, and/or spontaneously generated from nothingness, requires more faith than I can muster. So I take my hat off to the deep faith of atheists, even as I question their supposed rationality.

Thus, while a discrete and humble agnosticism is an entirely reasonable approach to the question of the existence of God, and the relationship between that God (if in fact, as seems most probable, He exists) and humans – for there is indeed much that we do not and cannot know – militant atheism comes across, to me at least, as ignorant, arrogant, and downright silly, no better than the most extreme and fundamentalist forms of Christianity. The fact that it denies that it is a belief, a matter of faith in fact, just makes it seem all the more silly…

That being the case, both Christianity and Paganism have a great deal more, intrinsically, to recommend them – as this meme humourously points out!