Monday, September 28, 2009

More on Michaelmas


Hail, you by whom Satan was cast down like lightning from heaven!
Hail, you by whom humanity preserved goes up to heaven!
Hail, splendid adornment of the most radiant world on high!
Hail, most glorious defender of the fallen world here below!
Hail, never-defeated by the forces of evil!
Hail, you, established forever by divine grace in truth and righteousness with all God's angels! Hail, Michael, great chief captain with all the hosts of heaven!

Akathist to Michael Archangel

Hail Michael!

It is the Feast of St. Michael today--Captain of the Heavenly Host, and Mighty Upholder of the Faithful--and his crew, usually referred to as "and All Angels...."

St. Michael gets all the cool stuff to do--wrestling the Great Dragon, rescuing God-fearing Greek monks, leading Christian armies against Infidel hordes, and binding the souls of the damned at the Last Judgement--among other incidents in his long and varied career.

Dr. Swift really likes him, and hopes he's around a lot--as have Christians throughout history.

The Akathist Hymn to Saint Michael (cutting edge worship c. AD 600) sets out all the cool stuff there is to love about the Archangel, and praises God for His protection.

Archangel Michael, you show in yourself the strength of an unconquerable zeal for the glory of God.
At the head of the choirs of angels, you have withstood the arrogant daystar Satan, exceedingly proud and breathing out evil when he and his dark fellow-servants had been cast down into the nethermost parts of the world, while the heavenly hosts led by you in your glory shouted as with one voice for joy before the throne of God:
Alleluia!

Sunday, September 27, 2009

Bravo, Your Grace!

A proud moment for Anglicans today--there are few of them, but they happen.

The Lord Archbishop of York, John Sentamu, has waded into the debate on assisted dying, whacking with crozier the Director of Public Prosecutions' attempt to dodge the will of Parliament, and decriminalise assisted suicide.

In a Telegraph column, His Grace puts it this way:

As a country we need to appreciate the sanctity of the human person and their uniqueness. Christians believe that their lives are given by God and that everyone has an important role to play in society. We do not believe that we own our individual lives and therefore we believe we should not choose to end them deliberately. I understand that others, especially those with terminal diseases, may take an alternative view, but I remain opposed to any move to legalise assisted suicide.

A truly caring society would not devalue or pressurise its most vulnerable and frailest members.

His Grace (like Dr. Swift) is a long-time supporter of hospice care. He sums up the argument in a Times column, this way:

The way forward for our society is to value how much can be done for the seriously ill and the dying. We need to learn to value both one another and ourselves, not for our economic output, our worth to society, but as those created in the image of God and deeply loved, by Him and by others.

In the words of the headline, "to choose death, rather than love and care, is a terrible mistake."

What he said.

Saturday, September 26, 2009

Sunday Taster: The Apostles Creed

The Apostles Creed is one of the most ancient Creeds of the Church: A distillation of the Faith recited by saints and elders, martyrs and doctors, children with their mothers, drunks and crazy people, holy fools and intellectuals. It is still recited today, before the Consecration Prayers in the Communion Service, and has stood as the quintessential statement of Christian belief for millennia.

Quinquinque vult salvus esse teneat catholicam fidem--"Whosoever will be saved, it is necessary that he hold the universal and catholic Faith. Now the catholic faith is this....."

Friday, September 25, 2009

Repent Ye


For the Kingdom of Gaia is at hand.....
For those of you who thought our last post on enviro-religion a little extreme, you can now go to confession for your biggest enviro-sins.

"Water (over)usage is my biggest eco sin. And every time I soak in a hot bath after a long day at work, I swear it'll be my last."

Dr. Swift is tempted to go on:

I accuse myself of failure to turn off the tap while brushing my teeth.

I accuse myself of having more than two point five polluting infants.

I accuse myself of failure to digest my own waste....

The parade of pseudo sins is endless--at the same time, we're forgetting the real ones. That'd be what you call irony--I suppose displaced guilt has to go somewhere.


But fear not.


"(I know, I know, a green blog shouldn't be rewarding bad behavior, but perhaps confessing your sins is the first step to reform.) "


Please stand for the Creed.

Hat tip: Hanc Aquam.

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Twilight of the Muppets




The legislation introducing voluntary student unions has passed the first hurdle in Parliament.

We hope it is passed--and soon.

It is iniquitous that university campuses still run (with some isolated exceptions) what is basically a closed shop, collecting student levies by compulsion.

It is a shame that Student Unions are run by the same rag-tag bunch of socialists and sociologists who represent no-one, and pretend they do.

It is a shame that Student elections are run with low turnout, student levies squandered on trendy political causes, student services creaking and inefficient, and student engagement generally low.

The analogy is far from original--it resurfaces every time a student union does something crashingly stupid--and that, Dear Reader, is often.

Break the stranglehold of the mediocre, the fashionable and the bizarre, the power-hungry and the loutish. Let some fresh air in.

Ladies and Gentlemen, in the words of an old poster slogan, "it's time to get rid of the muppets."

Dedicated, with love, to the compulsory Student Unions: May they rest in pieces.

A one, a two, a one, two, three, four....



Tuesday, September 22, 2009

September Busting Out All Over




Young harridans are flopping out their bits again.

Yawn.

What we find more interesting past the-ahem- titillation is the in-your-face insistence on drooping skin to the (quite rainy) elements--a rather pathetic attempt at manipulation.

Toleration is not enough for these "poore tits", they must have approval. And despite their alleged unrepentant brazen-ness, they must have it from men who will not give their names, and hide behind dark glasses. Feminism changes little, methinks, where it really counts.



We cannot summon up much outrage, and we are not shocked. Just a little sad.


Give the poor girl a blanket--she'll be old, raddled and sad herself soon enough, without being wet too.


O GOD, whose nature and property is ever to have mercy and to forgive; Receive our humble petitions; and though we be tied and bound with the chain of our sins, yet let the pitifulness of thy great mercy loose us; for the honour of Jesus Christ, our Mediator and Advocate. Amen.


Penitential Office, BCP 1928.


Monday, September 21, 2009

More fun with Dan Brown

The release of Dan Brown's new book (which Dr. Swift will borrow from the Circulating Library when next in need of laughing very hard) has allowed a small current of dissent to surface--finally, people are realising that actually:



Dan Brown isn't all that good.



Even in the hand of a Dostoyevsky, an Austen, or an Evelyn Waugh, the mediocre pap that was the Da Vinci Code would have been thin. In the hands of Dan Brown, it's a train wreck.

Our friends at the Daily Telegraph have itemised the 20 worst sentences in Dan Brown's books--and they are very entertaining.

Favourites follow:

8. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 3: My French stinks, Langdon thought, but my zodiac iconography is pretty good.

(Qualifications to opine on Medieval and religious history: Tarot cards. Check.)

2. Angels and Demons, opening sentence: Physicist Leonardo Vetra smelled burning flesh, and he knew it was his own.

(I knew I could smell something burning.)

15. The Da Vinci Code, chapter 4: As a boy, Langdon had fallen down an abandoned well shaft and almost died treading water in the narrow space for hours before being rescued. Since then, he'd suffered a haunting phobia of enclosed spaces - elevators, subways, squash courts.

(NOooo! Not the SQUASH COURT!)

Much more entertainment available at the link.

When you're finished there, you can read Anthony Lane's review of The Da Vinci Code film and book.

As far as I am qualified to judge, the film remains unswervingly loyal to the book, displaying an obedience that Silas could not hope to match. I welcome this fidelity, because it allows us to propose a syllogism. The movie is baloney; the movie is an accurate representation of the book; therefore, the book is also baloney, although it takes even longer to consume.\

Yep. Pretty much.

Hat tip: MCJ

Sunday, September 20, 2009

Inside St. Paul's

No, the big one...


One of the glories of Anglicanism--and now there is a virtual tour.

Dr. Swift has many important matters to attend to today--servants to chivvy, sermons to write-but this tour is interesting enough that most of them can go hang....

Die Quietly

Here's a crashingly bright idea.

British Justice Secretary Jack Straw is in favour of prescription heroin.

“For the most problematic heroin users it may be the best means of reducing the harm they do themselves, and of stamping out the crime and disorder they inflict on the community," said Mr Straw.

Yes, the studies look good. And yes, trials in Switzerland have seen drug crime go down, and disorder and whatnot decrease.

Except, here's the thing.

The addicts (usually) remain addicted to heroin.

This is the governmental equivalent of

"Die quietly in a drug induced haze, somewhere you won't stain the rug."

A triumph for human dignity.

Hell, meet hand-basket....

On Stuff today, the top ten headlines under the title "Europe" follow:

Europe
Dead man named as barmaid sex killer
Contraceptives save the planet
Concern as swine flu rises in UK
One in seven Germans want Berlin Wall back
Europe missile defence plan scrapped
Man kills in-laws with flame-thrower
Nine hurt in school Molotov attack
Italian troops die in Afghan blast
Elizabeth 'hated Queen Mother title'
Teens cleared of 'UK Columbine' plot

Does that list really need commentary?

Friday, September 18, 2009

Sunday Taster III: Mass for Louis XVI

Perhaps it is too much Mauriac, but Dr. Swift is in a Counter-revolutionary mood today--
(when are we not?).

In that spirit, we present a small extract from the Requiem Mass for His Most Christian Majesty Louis XVI, King of France and Navarre, foully murdered by the tyranny of evil men, 21 January 1793.

Celebrated on the anniversary of the execution in 2009, by the priests of St. Eugene and St. Cecile in Paris, note the way cool black vestments in this stunning Dies Irae.

It appears "regretting the Bourbons" is coming back in fashion.


Thursday, September 17, 2009

The Dan Brown Sequel Generator

Slate has published the hilarious Dan Brown Sequel Generator.

Dr. Swift's effort follows:

The Last Crypt

When renowned Harvard symbologist Robert Langdon is summoned to the Pere Lachaise Cemetery to analyze a mysterious rune—etched into the floor next to the mangled body of the head docent—he discovers evidence of the unthinkable: the resurgence of the ancient cult of the Quintifori, a secret branch of the New York Times that has surfaced from the shadows to carry out its legendary vendetta against its mortal enemy, the Vatican.

Langdon's worst fears are confirmed when a messenger from the Quintifori appears at the Sacred Heart Church to deliver a sinister ultimatum: Turn over the archbishop, or one cherub will disappear from the Sistine Chapel every day. Racing against the clock, Langdon joins forces with the saucy and quick-witted daughter of the murdered docent in a desperate bid to crack the code that will reveal the cult's secret plan.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Song of the Week

We're not sure how seriously this was meant at the time (we suspect not very) , but this is the current sound track in the Bell Tower.

Bickerstaff! Stop head banging!


Tuesday, September 15, 2009

Find a Mob

Former MP Larry Baldock has come up with an idea.

He wants a referendum on whether Citizens Initiated Referenda should be binding.

Once you've untangled that tortured syntax, untangle the equally tortured logic behind it.

Putting things direct to The People seems like a good idea. Except that the Mob is a fickle beast.

Who wants lower taxes?

We do!

Who wants more government services (Health/Education/Pensions/etc.)?

We do!

Who is going to square the circle, untangle the knot, and reconcile the craziness?

Huh?

We elect representatives (as Mr. Burke points out) to excercise their proper judgement, and their consciences. We elect them to weigh up competing interests, do the maths, balance the books, and the country, on an even keel. We elect them to care about the things we need, and the things we are too busy to care about, but that we would miss--like sewerage, and paying for the Police, and road projects, and the even coverage of social services, and the efficiency of welfare procedures. We elect them to be bored stiff in our interest, and to work hard for our welfare.

Don't like the guy?

Don't vote for him again.

Think her conscience is smaller and more snappy than Paris Hilton's chihuahua?

Vote for someone else, or stand yourself.

But voting "Yes" to Mr. Baldock's proposed question is a vote to destroy the Supremacy of Parliament, a vote for sectional interest, demagoguery, and the mob.

We believe in the Constitution--and Dr. Swift says No.

Monday, September 14, 2009

Ritual prostrations and the ETS

"He throws down his language, and his words a foot and a half long..."

Horace.*

News has come this morning that the Government and the Maori Party have done a deal to pass the Emissions Trading Scheme.

We are receiving these Glad Tidings (tm) with crashing indifference.

In my capacity as resident sprite, I have observed many religious rituals, from Holy Communion to the Juggernaut. The discovery of a new cult is at the least interesting--and the ritual prostration of the Chattering Classes before Mother Gaia is certainly that.

They send their children on missionary trips. To the accompaniment of choirs of angels, they harken unto their High Priests. They send out snake oil salesmen to sell indulgences.

This insight is not new, but it bears repeating. People cannot live without a religion.

And now, we have one: the salvation of Holy Mother Earth, complete with heretics, sinners, priests, an economy of grace, and all the pompous and bloviating apparatus of sanctimony without goodness.

Is climate change real?

Who cares?

Even accepting the claims of global warming, the demonisation of dissidents, the glory in self denial, the evangelical zeal and the canting clap-trap which goes with it does no service to the cause of real environmental stewardship.

Does anyone think taxing cows will help save the planet?

Does anyone think New Zealand martyring itself in the cause of green-ness (as we arguably have for free trade) will make one jot of difference to rapidly industrialising India and China?

Does anyone really think that even if the threat is real, and we adopted the targets, they would save us?

And further, does anyone think that even if we can save the planet, we should hire the government to create the system and push the innovation?

(Health which doesn't cure sick people, an education system with a tail longer than a boa constrictor, and welfare which keeps far too many people down--and we want to give them the environment as well?)

Enough. Let us do what we can by all means. But let us not pretend that Salvation cometh with a government label--especially one worked out by Committee.

In honour of our New Missionaries, we offer the quintessential hymn of missionary urgency--a little adapted--and wish them good luck. If they want to keep Greenland's mountain Icy, they better start now.

From Greenland's Icy Mountain

From Greenland’s melting mountains, from India’s smoky strand;
Where Afric’s third world fountains smelt down their golden sand:
From much polluted river, from many a warming plain,
They call us to deliver their land from carbon's chain.

What though the sulfrous breezes blow soft o’er Zeeland's isle;
Though every prospect pleases, and only man is vile?
In vain with lavish kindness the gifts of God are strown;
The heathen in his blindness bows down to wood and stone.

Shall we, whose souls are lighted with wisdom from on high,
Shall we to those benighted the lamp of life deny?
Salvation! O salvation! The Greenful sound proclaim,
Till earth’s remotest nation has learned Al Gore His Name.




*Yes, yes, irony, we know....

Sunday, September 13, 2009

The Kiss of Death

Gordon Brown is toast.

Why? Because Blairism's very own Madame Defarge plans to campaign for him.

"I will personally get involved in the electoral campaign," [Cherie Blair] says.

Excellent news for the Tories, no doubt. But do not cheer up quite yet.

She unsuccessfully contested the seat of North Thanet for Labour at the 1983 election. Perhaps, like Hillary Clinton, she may consider that her time has now come.

Now there's a thought to send small children diving under the bed.

Saturday, September 12, 2009

Sunday Taster II: Tenebrae

The Lamentations of Jeremiah, chanted in Latin with an accompanying slide show, by the Young Dominicans of Oxford. It is chanted in the service of Tenebrae (or "shadows") on the day after Good Friday.

One of the things which attracts Dr. Swift to his own, rather pessimistic and acerbic form of Christianity is that the Faith tells the truth about the way people really are--and part of the truth is this, however uncomfortable. Indeed and indeed, we are "very far gone."



The text is here in English.

Remember, O LORD, what is come upon us: consider, and behold our reproach.
Our inheritance is turned to strangers, our houses to aliens.
We are orphans and fatherless, our mothers are as widows.
We have drunken our water for money; our wood is sold unto us.
Our necks are under persecution: we labour, and have no rest
.
............................

We gat our bread with the peril of our lives because of the sword of the wilderness.
Our skin was black like an oven because of the terrible famine.
They ravished the women in Zion, and the maids in the cities of Judah.
Princes are hanged up by their hand: the faces of elders were not honoured.
They took the young men to grind, and the children fell under the wood.
The elders have ceased from the gate, the young men from their musick.
The joy of our heart is ceased; our dance is turned into mourning.
The crown is fallen from our head: woe unto us, that we have sinned!
For this our heart is faint; for these things our eyes are dim.

Thursday, September 10, 2009

The sad state of defence


This article makes scary reading.
Last year the 2007/2008.... the Royal New Zealand Navy was finding it difficult to sail, the Royal New Zealand Air Force to fly and the New Zealand Army would have struggled to take part in combat.

Panic not, though. Things have improved this year!

The shameful lack of cash, manpower and modern equipment for our armed services is the product of two things.

1. Complacency

2. Stupidity.

We think we'll never be invaded or threatened, and if we are, we'll have friends to jump in and help us--even if we have spent roughly the last thirty years making them mad.

We do not live in a safe world--and security depends on the ability to demonstrate that you mean it when you say you want your people safe. Even in a limited sphere (ie: the Pacific) we should be pulling our weight, doing our bit, and contributing.

More importantly still, doing that (which we have been, kinda) shouldn't strain us to breaking point.

We are never going to be able to afford aircraft carriers and nuclear subs, even if we wanted them. But an extra frigate or two, maybe an air strike force, and some basic respect for the army wouldn't kill us--it's shameful that last ANZAC Day the Auckland parade mustered a fly-over of---sparrows. No, I am not kidding. There was no fly over, due to the fact that the plane scheduled to do it broke, and we don't have another one.

The government can attend to how parents should raise their kids, what they should eat, how you should trim your trees and how much alcohol to drink, while putting on the back burner our defence policy--which is just about the most basic thing we trust them for.

I'd call it irony if it weren't so stupid.

Wednesday, September 9, 2009

O Salutaris Hostia



In twofold form of sacrament,
He gave His flesh, He gave His blood,
That man, of soul and body blent,
Might wholly feed on mystic food.

In birth man's fellow-man was He,
His meat while sitting at the board;
He died, our ransomer to be,
He reigns to be our great reward.

O saving Victim, opening wide
The gates of heaven to man below;
Our foes press hard on every side,
Thine aid supply, Thy strength bestow.


Verbum Supernum Prodiens

Thomas Aquinas.

Crucifixion by C. McCahon.

Headline of the Week

Nicole Ritchie gives birth to Sparrow.

Hoping in vain to see an avianly-mutated she-devil give birth to a bird?

Out of luck.

She called her son Sparrow--presumably under the influence of post-birth drugs, or some picturesque disease, the details of which are not yet public.

And they say Etheldreda is bad.

How sweet to be a cloud,


Floating in the Blue....


The weather is finally cheering up--Hail, Sunlight!

Dr. Swift and Mr. Bickerstaff decamped to the park today, and all things were filled with light.


High Country Weather

by James K. Baxter

Alone we are born, and die alone

Yet see the red-gold cirrus over snow mountain shine

Upon the upland road

Ride easy, stranger

Surrender to the sky your heart of anger.

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Telegraph Notes

The British Scouts have allegedly been stopped from carrying pocket knives on field trips, as some kind of silly attempt to address Britain's "knife culture."

Dare one suggest that the problem isn't the knives, (as if inanimate metal can have a culture) but the people who carry them? Scouts carrying pocket knives produce an epidemic of--woodcraft. Criminals carrying knives kill each other.

And here's a shocking idea--introduce young criminals to some of the values incalcated in Scouting, and maybe they'll find something better to do.

Are the Beatles still cool?

No.

That was easy.

Enough idiocy? No, wait, there's more.

The "Liverpool Care Pathway", otherwise known as "Granny, hurry up and die" gets creepier by the day. "The decision to withdraw treatment is an incredibly complex one..." I'm sure you're glad to know--like "complexity" is some sort of excuse.

The money quote in today's DT article is: "Under these guidelines, being rolled out across England, patients can have fluid and drugs withdrawn while on continuous sedation until they die."

So that's OK then. There are "Guidelines." All will be well.

The next time I go to hospital, I want one thing: a doctor interested in keeping me permanently alive.

Lastly, it was Mary's Birthday yesterday, and we missed it.

"...With all generations we call her blessed, and with her we rejoice and proclaim the greatness of Your Holy Name."

Chaire, Theotokos!

Monday, September 7, 2009

Ut Unum Sint

In the service of Ecumenical and Left-Footed relations (and Bickerstaff hopes to have a Left-footed announcement soon, by the bye), we have dug around to find something for the Fenians among us to say "Amen" to.

We did suggest a playing of The Wearing of the Green, in the interest of parity of esteem and all that Blairite malarkey, but His Reverence kicked up such a fuss, we abandoned the attempt.

I had no idea anyone could sing The Sash my Father Wore so loud, or so badly.

He did, however, concede on the below--Civility bein' ever our watchword.

Losin' Respect

At 4W, Frank Beckwith recounts the track list for the New Dylan album, Christmas at the Mall--sorry, I mean In My Heart.

Dr. Swift is a Dylanista from way back (or at least from the Age of Maturity) and read it eagerly.

Here Comes Santa Claus
Do You Hear What I Hear?
Winter Wonderland
Hark The Herald Angels Sing
I'll Be Home For Christmas
Little Drummer Boy
The Christmas Blues
O Come All Ye Faithful (Adeste Fideles)
Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas
Must Be Santa
Silver Bells
The First Noel
Christmas Island
The Christmas Song
O Little Town Of Bethlehem

Respect for O Little Town of Bethlehem etc., but I think I'll be saving my thirty bucks, skipping the musac, and buying this one instead:

A warning

Bickerstaff here.

I should warn you that Dr. Swift is subject to vapourous fits--that is, especially when he is moved to spleen about something, he tends to regress to Those Opinions and Styles which were in fashion at the time of his death.

Although we at the Examiner office have tried to modernise him, and then tried to edit him, we often fail--the Seventeeth Century tone will come and go, but alas, there is little we can do about it.

The wider point Dr. Swift is making may be a serious one. The persona is not--simply a conceit designed to have a little fun.

Cringing,

Isaac Bickerstaff, Esq.

Examiner Leader: One, Two, Three, Four...


Progress is but the deification of our own faults--Roger Scruton.

The Staff at the Examiner editorial office are not generally in favour of protests.

We consider manifestations of opinion from the Great Unwashed to be generally pointless, and often irritating.

Dr. Swift has been known to cross union picket lines (on one memorable occasion wielding a walking cane to excellent effect), and, shielded by the useful buffer of Mr. Bickerstaff, Genteely Ignores The Mob--except when they come for charity, of course.

Unlike many of his modern clerical brethren, Dr. Swift does not consider it a duty to support every pink and red tinged cause on offer, preferring to preach the same Duties of quietness and Godliness in vogue at the time of his death. This would explain, of course, why he is a sprite condemn-ned to wander the earth, and they are climbing the greasy ecclesiastical pole--but His Reverence is unmoved.

For every rule there is an exception. In this case, The Examiner is in entire sympathy with the Protests, the Rumblings of Present Discontent, the Noble (if possibly Doomed) Attempt to Save the Post Office.

We were slightly put off by the appearance of the Lady Protester in the accompanying photograph, but we are willing to entertain the possibility that beneath fluorescing and large exterior beats a heart of genuine Concern for the Poor.


She would have looked better in a hat (as would so many of the Earnest Suffragettes of Activist Temper we trip over nowadays) but we are convinced her cause is Just.


Communities are incarnated in actual things: Churches, Schools, Post Offices, and Banks, War Memorials, Libraries, Parks and Corner Shops.

They say "We exist. We are here. This is Our Place"

That is something which should not be forced to prostrate itself before the Great God Efficiency.

All together now, lads. In tune--we shall not do this often.

One, Two, Three, Four!

Throw Efficiency Out The Door!

Five, Six, Seven, Eight!

Save the Post Office--It's Not Too Late!

Not remarkable for euphony or depth, we admit.

Strike, Ye Lyres of Hippydom! Guitars and Marracas, Tie-dyed caftans and beads, Sound Ye Together, Ye Shrieking, Harpeous Infinities! (DLS Love....)



Saturday, September 5, 2009

Sunday Taster: Haydn's Nelson Mass

Bickerstaff here. Dr. Swift is on holiday this weekend, but he has commanded me to produce for your edification the first Sunday Taster.

Haydn's Nelson Mass is one of Dr. Swift's favourite choral pieces--perhaps because the screaming soprano in the Kyrie reminds him of himself.

It is a piece of great weight, and builds, drawing in orchestra, organ and choral parts in a beautiful and building rhythm, drawing to a climax with the cry of the whole world (at 2.40 and following in this recording), when the soprano floats over the agonised orchestra, repeating with a thud the desire of all Creation:

Lord, have mercy. Christ, have mercy--upon us, and upon the whole world.



I cannot by my own reason or strength believe in Jesus Christ, my Lord, or come to Him; but the Holy Ghost has called me by the Gospel, enlightened me with His gifts, sanctified and kept me in the true faith; even as He calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies the whole Christian Church on earth, and keeps it with Jesus Christ in the one true faith; in which Christian Church He forgives daily and richly all sins to me and all believers, and at the last day will raise up me and all the dead, and will give to me and to all believers in Christ everlasting life.

This is most certainly true.

Dr. Martin Luther--The Little Catechism

Thursday, September 3, 2009

What he said

It's amazing--being out of politics has allowed former Prime Minister, WTO boffin and nine-day wonder Mike Moore to, you know, tell the truth.

Most people behave well, they are just sick of a political culture where you expect, at any moment, someone to intrude on your television set and tell you to sit up straight and not to eat too much meat.

He's right. There are too many laws, too many regulations, too many bossy bureaucrats, and too much tax collected to support all of the above--oh, and mayhap more on the way. There is something very wrong when the government has to tell you to snap your braces and tie your laces--when did we get to be so anaemic?

Eating vegetables, not smacking your children, not climbing trees, looking both ways, practicing sexual health, moderating alcohol consumption, not smoking, and other stuff, like phoning your parents regularly, might indeed be good ideas.

But do we really need to be bullied into them?

It's taken us roughly eight hundred years to make power accountable and limited. It's a precious and rare thing for an ordinary peasant to be able to tell the powerful, the smart and the expert to butt out, sod off, and go away.

We've got it. For now.

Civics?

The so-called "republic debate" in New Zealand is an odd thing. Here's the Cliff Notes, setting out how it's usually handled--at least, when it's handled at all.

1. The Poll War.

Every now and then, someone will do a Poll on the Monarchy. It usually (but not always) reveals a majority in favour of the Queen--personally--who doesn't like Her Majesty? And crashing indifference about Constitutional arrangements in general. Insert lots of "But when we have Prince Charles, will the Crown continue?" breathlessness. To be honest, I think the Poll War is pointless, for reasons I shall outline.

2. The National Identity issue

A republic is a sign of national growth. Gratitude, even. Place in the sun, mature country, growing out of colonialism and cultural cringe, etc. When we "grow up" we leave home. I disagree with the basic premise of this argument, but it's a good one. In the news media, it is accompanied by lots of slightly sneering old newsreel footage of people bowing and snivelling to various Royal figures, and implications it's time we grew up. Vide John Campbell's A Queen's Tour.

3. But young people/ordinary people don't care.....

Royal tours, events like the Jubilee, interest in the Monarchy, etc. is ebbing--young people don't care about it, and old people are dying. See 2. It's this argument I'm interested in for this post.

Suppose I grant it (I don't think I do, but suppose I did). Here's my question. Are "young people" uninterested in the Monarchy, or simply uneducated about it? Is the indifference to the Monarchy a sign of wider indifference to, and disconnection from, civic life in general?

How many young people vote?
How many vote in local bodies?
How many join service clubs, or political ones?
How many know their neighbours?

How many are educated enough about civic life, history, and constitutional issues to even make an informed decision, for or against the republic?

Is our generation (for Dr. Swift is young) generally remarkable for depth of public engagement? Investment in constitutional, moral and social values? (in some cases, clearly yes. But is civics one of these things?) Or is the young majority for a republic (assuming there is one, see 1.) simply making up their mind based on sloganeering, and back issues of OK! ?

Somehow, it is a bad thing for the Monarchist majority to make up their minds based on personal loyalty to the Queen, as a celebrity figure (I don't disagree with this contention).

But the level of knowledge and engagement of the republican man-in-the-street are not interrogated. Is he or she really in favour of a republic? Or simply blankly incomprehending about the Monarchy and its historical and Constitutional role?

How much is disconnection from the Monarchy a sign of disconnection and distrust of institutions in general? It's these things we should be debating.

And by the way, if you want to see the republican case set out in depth and detail, skip the Cliff Notes, which do not do it justice--buy the Handbook. I intend to practice what I preach, and do just that.

Cross-posted at The Monarchist.

Wednesday, September 2, 2009

Give Up Yer Awl Sins

An utterly gorgeous series from 1960's Ireland--school children telling "the men from the television" five minute Bible stories, and all about "poor (Saint) Patrick". These have been animated into Oscar-nominated short films, and they are wonderful--endearing, but oddly gripping too.

Here is "The Birth of Jesus"

Officially Creepy

David Bain wants his rifle back.

The Court has found him not guilty
The Court has found him not guilty

Trust the System
Trust the System

Nope.

Didn't work.

Papa Gregory

Today is the Feast of Gregory the Great (d 604). You can read about him in orotund Catholic style at the link, but top five reasons to love Papa Gregory:

1. Gregorian chant--rocking the world since AD 598.

2. Rich yuppie + conversion experience = monk.

3. non angli, sed angeli. And the heathen English all rejoice.

4. The Super-duper Roman bestseller, Pastoral Care

5. Lazy clerics + Papa Gregory = Sudden feverish activity.

As against that, John Calvin actually liked him, calling him "the last good Pope."
Luckily, back when the Curia didn't take ages to do anything, they canonised him anyway.

How do you know an airline

is really, really, rubbish?

It's reduced to insulting its passengers just to get them to pay attention.

There'll be the usual handwringing from insulted mayors, Offended Persons, and whatnot. But the take-home message is that Air New Zealand has nothing to sell.

Much like liberal clergy, metal grunge bands and some postmodern artists, all they can do is aim to shock--and shout REALLY LOUD.

That's fun for five minutes--what about the next five?

Pack your pacemaker

Watch out world--the Right Honourable Winston Peters is....forming an army.

No, I did not make that up. Everyone's favourite crook told an audience in Southland:

"Despite our treatment at the last election, the party is still in good heart. We had a very good AGM in Hamilton ... and we are going to form an army."

It's funny he should mention heart conditions--if he is relying on Grey Power to support his return to Wellington, he should begin the Long March as soon as possible. If he starts from Gore now, and goes by easy stages, with lots of stops to recharge electric wheelchairs and defibulate the troops, he should reach the capital by about---2014?

Take it away, Anne:

Tuesday, September 1, 2009

What does goodness look like?

That was fast: Cross emails already.

Mr Dean,

What does Goodness look like, then? Surely standing with poor workers is a good thing?

What does goodness look like?

How's this?

Outrage, Tom Paine and Trade Aid.

News: Whittakers to launch Fair Trade Chocolate, after public outcry.

I shall probably get hate mail for saying this, but I have no intention of eating Fair Trade chocolate.

I've got a whole email storm demanding my signature on petitions to Cadbury, petitions to Whittakers, petitions to end Child Labour, petitions to ask the government to condemn child soldiery in Uganda, and solve world poverty ten minutes ago.

I'm suffering from outrage fatigue. And to be honest, the whole thing seems a tiny bit---fake.

I don't question the good intentions of all kinds of campaigners for justice overseas. I will sign Amnesty petitions, and sponsor children. Anything that will do real, and Christian good, I'm down wid', as they say in the hood.

But I can't shake the feeling that the cornucopia of outrage about Various Things our government couldn't change even if it wanted to is a rather ersatz substitute for real charity.

It's easy to raise your fist in the air for Chocolate/ Africa/Asia/AIDS/Global Warming/Patagonian Goatfish.

It's harder to do anything constructive about them.

And hardest of all to be charitable not in the abstract, but to your annoying neighbour, your brattish brother, and the slightly odd man on the bus.

Tom Paine (curses upon his shade) once wrote that:

"Mankind is my country, and good is my religion," anticipating by centuries the mentality of people who shop at Trade Aid.

Goodness to mankind means getting wildly indignant over the Millennium Development Goals, and the lack of health access in some obscure Third World country, shopping at Trade Aid, and demanding the government issue a Statement condemning child soldiers (like any sane government is actually in favour of them).

Real goodness is harder. It involves asking for real sacrifice, from yourself, not demanding someone else do it for you. I have an obscure sense of unease about activism--it's too easy. It's too cheap. It's not deep enough.

Thoughts?