Notes from a Byzantine-Rite Calvinist

30 September 2008

The Panic of 2008

Here is a small sample of opinion on the current financial crisis south of the border: R.R. Reno, The Wall Street Crisis; James W. Skillen, The Root of the Problem; Martin Masse, Bailout marks Karl Marx's comeback; Chuck Colson, The Bill Comes Due and Cost and Opportunity. But now this: The U.S. bailout plan goes awry. Now what?

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26 September 2008

A weak parliament?

Sometimes our politicians say exactly the opposite of what they mean. For example: Weak Parliament would hurt Canada's economic stability: Harper. Not quite. What Stephen Harper really wants is a strong government and a compliant parliament that won't thwart his government's agenda. I'm sorry to break it to you, Mr. Harper, but that is a weak parliament.

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25 September 2008

Television appearance

For those interested in the upcoming federal election, an obscure Upper Canadian political science professor was recently interviewed for the CTS television programme, 100 Huntley Street, which aired yesterday. It is available online here (high speed) and here (low speed). Or it can be downloaded here (high speed) and here (low speed). The report starts nearly 13 minutes into the programme.

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21 September 2008

Speaking of which . . .

. . . it seems that our cousins south of the border are faced with deciding which team prevaricates less than the other. Check out this site if you don't believe that falsehoods are being deliberately disseminated in the current presidential race: FactCheck.org. For shame!

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Choose your poison

With a federal election looming next month, is the choice with which we are presented one "between an intelligent unprincipled cynic, and a relatively honest fool"? That's the conclusion of David Warren, easily Canada's most curmudgeonly journalist: Stephen & Stéphane.

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16 September 2008

Pulling through

Some six decades ago my mother used to listen to the immortal Fanny Brice on the radio playing her Baby Snooks character. In one episode, she and her father are on their way to visit his boss who is ill and in hospital. He tells his young daughter to say something cheerful to the patient, such as "I hope they pull you through." Upon their arrival, the boss groans in pain: "I'm at death's door," to which Baby Snooks dutifully replies, "I hope they pull you through."

It seems that the state of Oregon, perhaps soon to be followed by neighbouring Washington, is taking this notion of pulling people through a little too literally, as indicated in this story: Oregon's Suicidal Approach to Health Care. To the culture of death it seems that life is a mere commodity, to be disposed of when its maintenance is no longer cost-effective.

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Skillen to retire

Here is the posted announcement from the Center for Public Justice:
Dr. James Skillen has announced his intention to retire as president of the Center for Public Justice effective Oct. 1, 2009. Skillen has served the Center for more than 30 years, 27 of these as executive director and later president.

“We are grateful for Jim’s excellent work of promoting CPJ’s mission to foster justice in public life,” said Dr. Harold Heie, chair of the Center’s Board of Trustees. “I am pleased to announce that, with the full support of the trustees, Jim will continue to serve the mission of CPJ after September 2009 as a writer, speaker, and researcher.”

The Board of Trustees has appointed a special committee to be chaired by Gail Jansen, a former Board chair, to lead the search for the Center’s next president. The committee hopes to recommend a presidential candidate to the Board of Trustees at its spring 2009 meeting.

These will be tough shoes to fill. Let us pray for the work of the committee in the coming months as it undertakes this important task.

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12 September 2008

Religious freedom versus public conformity

Stanley Carlson-Thies, of the Center for Public Justice, is a man of considerable insight, a quality much in evidence here: Is the Common Good Rainbow-Striped? Though his target audience is American, his remarks have definite relevance for Canada as well.

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11 September 2008

Damascus road again

This post by screenwriter Joe Eszterhas is little short of remarkable: My Base Instincts and God's Love. How God can turn such a heart to his ways is beyond our comprehension, but by his grace it happens time and again.

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08 September 2008

September snippets

  • I have added another blog to my sidebar: The Idea File. The author is my emeritus colleague at McMaster University, Dr. Janet Ajzenstat, author of, among other things, The Once and Future Canadian Democracy. A few years back she and I exchanged views on Canada's constitution.

  • Downtown Hamilton is the location of an intriguing, recently-formed intentional community, some of whose members have connections with Redeemer. Read about them here: All for one: A communal, 'intentional community' has taken root in Kirkendall. We wish them God's blessings on their efforts at living a life together and reaching out to the surrounding neighbourhood.

  • Richard John Neuhaus, a Catholic convert from Lutheranism, offers some insight into the singular attraction evangelicals in the US have towards a civil religion that puts their nation at its centre:
    A peculiarity of the American experience is that, in the absence of an ecclesiology that tethered them to the Church through time, for many American Protestant thinkers, America became their Church. That was true then, and it is true now. More than three hundred years later, in yet another reversal that they describe as radical, some evangelical theologians, notably those influenced by my friend Stanley Hauerwas, today depict America not as the Church nor as the precursor of the New Jerusalem but as Babylon. . . . Whether America is depicted as the anticipation of the New Jerusalem or as its antithesis, whether America is the precursor or the enemy of the City of God, what such thinkers have in common is the lack of a clear connection to the Church in continuity with the Christian story through time.
    This is a trenchant observation. That said, one wonders whether Neuhaus can find a modest place for the American body politic as a community bound together by the mandate to do public justice. This would be a great improvement over his often expressed Lockean notion of the state and his habitual appeals to a supposed American exceptionalism.

  • From a quite different standpoint Brian Walsh has contributed this thoughtful piece to the Empire Remixed blog: To Hell With Romans 13. My question is similar to that for Neuhaus: can we find in Walsh's remarks a coherent political theory recognizing a normative task for the state? As for Romans 13, it seems to me that an appropriate interpretation would have to begin with Paul understanding that, while government frequently abuses its God-given authority, it still operates within a normative framework within which authority and obedience find their proper place.

  • It's off to the polls for Canadians: Federal election called for Oct. 14. And, uh, what happened to our fixed election dates? I don't recall Stephen Harper's government being defeated on a confidence motion.

  • Preliminary genealogical research indicates that John McCain, Barack Obama and Sarah Palin are all distant cousins to each other. Then again, so are you and I.

  • An independent Republic of Vermont? Some think it would be a good idea: Breaking Out of the Empire Box. Check out their website: Second Vermont Republic, whose links page includes the League of the South, the Republic of Cascadia and, of course, our own Parti québécois.
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    04 September 2008

    Seeking justice

    Michael C. Hogeterp offers some political wisdom: Beyond Election Madness. Hogeterp works for the Committee for Contact with the Government of the Christian Reformed Church and is a 1992 graduate of Redeemer's political science programme.

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    Can parents be trusted?

    This video has more than a little relevance for us here in North America. It's a pity no one made use of this during last year's provincial election campaign.

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    01 September 2008

    September

    This time of year I frequently have this haunting song by Kurt Weill running through my head. Here is a classic rendition of September Song sung by the composer's wife, Lotte Lenya:

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