31 December 2005

Singing the liturgy

From Zenit: "Gregorian chant has been unjustly abandoned and its place in the life of the Church should be recovered, says a Vatican aide." I wonder what Monsignor Grau would think of the Genevan Psalter?

23 December 2005

Cyprus decision

One awaits the long-range implication of this for the continuing division of Cyprus: Turkey faces huge payout for homes in Cyprus. According to the Guardian Unlimited report, "Turkey will have to pay hundreds of millions of pounds in compensation to Greek Cypriots who lost their land and homes during the invasion of northern Cyprus in 1974, the European court of human rights ruled yesterday." The European Court of Human Rights is, incidentally, an institution of the Council of Europe, not the European Union.

What shall we make of this story: How the U.N. betrayed Cyprus? Is there really hard evidence "that Turkey launched its invasion of Cyprus only after [US Secretary of State Henry] Kissinger gave the OK"? Did he also threaten "to have the U.S. Sixth Fleet sink a naval armada sent by Greece to defend Cyprus after Turkey launched its invasion"?

21 December 2005

The Council of Europe has spoken

One senses that this document, produced by the Parliamentary Assembly of the Council of Europe, is directed primarily at Islam: Resolution 1464 (2005): Women and religion in Europe. All the same, what is undoubtedly a well-intended effort to protect the rights of women in the member states of the Council of Europe risks making the state a dangerous arbiter of what can and cannot be believed by adherents of virtually every historic faith tradition, including Christianity and Judaism. The Assembly shows its hand in the second paragraph, which asserts that the influence of religion on women is "seldom benign." In response, the Moscow Patriarchate has published its own statement, affirming much of the document while questioning its more dangerous implications. (From Orthodoxy Today)

18 December 2005

The Annunciation

Theresa Koyzis, 2005

17 December 2005

Pro-life is not enough

As promised, I am posting a slightly altered version of my column for the 21 November issue of Christian Courier:

For just over three decades now – for as long as I have been aware of the abortion issue – I have considered myself pro-life. The premature birth of our daughter 7 years ago reinforced this conviction, due to our experience of her pains and joys when she should still have been in the womb. Nevertheless, I have opposed the argument that one should vote only for the obviously pro-life candidate at election time. Why?

To be sure, I do not accept the reasoning of those who, following the late Joseph Cardinal Bernardin of Chicago, claim to adhere to a “seamless garment” approach linking together abortion, capital punishment, warfare and poverty as pro-life issues. Good people can disagree on the best way to address poverty, on whether to wage war in contingent circumstances, and on whether the death penalty is proper retribution for those who have taken innocent life. However, the abortion issue is qualitatively different. Here disagreement revolves around, not how best to protect the unborn child, but whether to do so at all. For this reason those attempting to tie such different issues together sow confusion.

At the same time, there are professed pro-lifers who are so preoccupied with this single issue that they are in danger of overlooking the intrinsic worth of political order itself as a gift of God's grace. Some would seemingly risk bringing down this order if it would serve to prevent one more abortion. Yet John Calvin writes of civil government that “Its function among men is no less than that of bread, water, sun, and air; indeed, its place of honour is far more excellent.” Even when government tolerates specific injustices, it nevertheless plays a crucial larger role in the maintenance and flourishing of human social life. Although it would take too much space to recall every possible way it does this, it is worth pointing out six basic tasks: (1) to uphold the public legal framework within which a variety of human activities take place; (2) to defend life, liberty and property; (3) to protect the diversity of human communities; (4) to care for the commons, that is, the shared patrimony of the body politic; (5) to temper the harsh edges of the economic marketplace; and (6) to assume some responsibility for the economically disadvantaged.

The fact that a given government fails to, say, defend the lives of all the unborn or to protect marriage as a distinctive institution cannot by itself vindicate the single-issue voter, especially if the chosen issue is detached from a recognition of the larger task of government to do public justice. The 17th-century political philosopher Thomas Hobbes was arguably pro-life in the sense that he believed the chief task of the sovereign to be the protection of his subjects’ lives. Yet he also believed that the most effective government to this end was one ruled by a single will unconstrained by law. In short, Hobbes may have got that one issue right, but his overall understanding of government and its role was severely defective.

Fortunately, the vast majority of pro-lifers understand this and respect the institutions of government as the good gift of God. But when some ask their supporters, as one website does, to sign a pledge that they will vote only for pro-life candidates, they effectively ask them to overlook the importance of a variety of issues that may impact the well-being of the constitution as a whole. They ask them to overlook corruption, greed, incompetence and bad domestic and foreign policies, any of which might adversely affect the general functionality of the political system. This is far from adequate as a coherent political agenda.

Of course, we have every reason to call ourselves pro-life and to defend the unborn to the best of our abilities. But we shouldn’t use this label as an excuse to avoid the necessary but difficult job of thinking and working communally through the larger task of the state to do public justice. Nor should we allow it to shortcircuit the needed effort to discern the spirits behind the ideological visions that people bring to the public square.
Limbo to be abolished?

This story is likely to puzzle protestants: Roman Catholic Church Considers Abolishing Limbo Theory. It raises at least two crucial questions: How can one infallible pope abolish a doctrine seemingly affirmed by a previous infallible pope? And what is the source of authority for judging the veracity of such a doctrine or the lack thereof?

By the way, it was Pius X, not Pius V, who reigned from 1903 to 1914.

16 December 2005

The perils of the internet: another viewpoint

Controversy notwithstanding, perhaps there's something to be said in its favour: A Vote of Confidence in Wikipedia. But I still don't like to see my students quoting it in their written work.
Lessons and carols

This sunday, 18 December, at 7 o'clock pm, there will be a Festival of Lessons and Carols at the Church of St. John the Evangelist, at the corner of Locke and Charlton Streets in Hamilton. Come one and all. Here is something I wrote two years ago about this annual event.
Candidates' debate: en français

The four party leaders went head to head last evening in the first verbal contest of the election campaign: First debate produces few fireworks. Tonight they go at it again, but in English.

15 December 2005

The Iraq election

Pray for its success, and for peace, order and good government in that troubled country.
The election campaign: reform promised

On the campaign trail, Conservative leader Stephen Harper has promised a number of constitutional reforms, including an elected Senate and fixed election dates. What about proportional representation?

In a highly unusual move, a former representative of the Queen, Ed Schreyer, plans to run for the New Democratic Party in Manitoba. That will raise more than a few eyebrows, I should think. Perhaps even at Buckingham Palace.

14 December 2005

Social conservatism

The most recent Comment carries an article by Paul Tuns, Social conservatism's Canadian barriers. The responses to Tuns by John Kamphof and Stephen Vander Klippe raise the larger issue of the proper relationship between a normative understanding of politics in God's world and the so-called "hot moral issues" of the day. Unfortunately, as I have argued elsewhere, there is a pronounced tendency towards moralism amongst North Americans, and perhaps especially among Christians. What is the antidote? I will address this soon by posting here a recent Christian Courier column of mine, titled, "Pro-life is not enough."
Today's health news

Fibre's benefits questioned in fight against colon cancer. So much for our daily dose of porridge. Back to steak and eggs for breakfast.

13 December 2005


For at least two of the sundays in Advent, the three-year lectionary prescribes Old Testament readings from Isaiah, chapters 40 and following. In our church the past two sundays, the bulletin printed the following preface: "A reading from the second book of Isaiah," which the reader was expected to say aloud before reciting the passage itself. This struck me as odd. To be sure, many if not most biblical scholars believe that chapters 40 through 66 (or possibly only through 55) were written by someone, usually called Deutero-Isaiah, living centuries after the 8th-century prophet himself. Yet the church has always understood the book to be a canonical unity, and indeed there are a number of elements, such as the uniquely Isaian reference to God as the Holy One of Israel, tying together its chapters. The last two sundays' bulletins struck me as the product of a misguided effort to imbue a fallible and highly contestable scholarly theory concerning authorship with something approaching canonical status itself.

This past sunday, however, the reader (who is the husband of a Redeemer colleague) chose to ignore the word second and simply said, "A reading from the book of Isaiah." Good for him.

12 December 2005

Post-abortion trauma

This news is hardly surprising: 'Anguish of abortion is worse than miscarriage'.
The election campaign: childcare policy

The Prime Minister's Office is in damage control mode today after Scott Reid's ill-considered criticism of the opposition: Tory plan is 'beer and popcorn' money.

11 December 2005

The perils of the internet, continued

The prankster who authored the false biography of John Siegenthaler has been unmasked. In the meantime, Wikipedia has come off looking very bad indeed. Some months ago someone went so far as to post a biography of me on Wikipedia, but it was subsequently deleted by a Wikipedia administrator who judged that the subject of said biography was a "nonnotable." That's fine with me.

As for that ancient question, Quis custodiet ipsos custodes, here is a possible candidate: Wikipedia Watch.
Last interview

Glenn Friesen has posted on his website an English translation of Herman Dooyeweerd's last interview, conducted by lawyer Pieter Boeles in 1975, the very year I first learned of Dooyeweerd's philosophy.

10 December 2005

Zionism with a bolshevik twist

Iran's outspoken President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has made yet another less than fully helpful foreign policy initiative by urging that Israel be relocated to Europe. One safely predicts that, after careful deliberation, the Israeli government will decline his generous offer.

While we're on the subject, few people are likely aware of the other Jewish homeland. It's called the Jewish Autonomous Republic of Birobidjan, established by the Soviet Union in the far east of Siberia along its sometimes tense Amur River border with China. A veritable promised land, if there was one.

08 December 2005

The end of an era

For those of us who grew up in the Chicago area, the name Marshall Field & Co. has more than a familiar ring. It calls to mind the big clock at the State Street store in the Loop; the elaborate, animated Christmas displays in the windows along that same street; a meal at the foot of the giant Christmas tree in the Walnut Room; and waiting in a ridiculously long line to sit on Santa Claus's lap. I have especially fond memories of my mother's best childhood friend driving us into the Loop in her Volkswagen Beetle around 1960 and our lunching in the Walnut Room. But this is Fields' last Christmas. Next year all Fields stores will become Macy's, a result of the company's purchase by Federated Department Stores. Another link with the past – my own past – will be gone.

Photo: Bill and Jill Haueisen

07 December 2005

It's official. . .

Beethoven died of lead poisoning.
The courts and the constitution

Chief Justice Beverly McLachlin spoke at Victoria University in Wellington, New Zealand, last week, arguing for an expansive view of the judiciary's role in a democracy. Thanks to Dan Postma for calling attention to this article in the National Post: Put rights before Constitution. Rather than respond directly, I will post a column I wrote for Christian Courier, dated 19 January 2004. It is a little out of date, but the basic argument is not:

The vast majority of the world’s states have written constitutions specifying the arrangement of government institutions, the relationship between the levels of government in a federal system, the rights of citizens, and the amending procedures. Unlike ordinary legislation, which requires only a simple majority in a parliamentary assembly, a constitution is usually protected by the requirement of a qualified or raised majority.

For example, a proposed amendment to the US Constitution must secure the approval of a two-thirds majority of both houses of Congress and three-quarters of the state legislatures. Here in Canada an amendment to our Constitution Acts generally requires the agreement of both chambers of Parliament and seven provinces containing at least 50 percent of the country’s population. But some issues, for example the status of the monarchy, require provincial unanimity. Not surprisingly, the US Constitution has been amended only a handful of times, while Canada’s two post-patriation attempts at amendment have failed.

Why should it be so difficult to amend a constitution? Why not allow an ordinary parliamentary majority? Because a constitution is assumed to represent a broad consensus among the citizenry in favour of a particular form of government and the political values that support it. To change a constitution thus requires a similar consensus in its favour. If such a consensus is not forthcoming, then the constitution remains as is.

This very consensual nature of a constitution indicates why the role of the courts in its interpretation is potentially troublesome. Since 1803 the United States Supreme Court has claimed the authority to rule on the constitutionality of federal and state legislation. In 1982 our own Supreme Court acquired similar powers under the Charter of Rights and Freedoms. There is in itself nothing wrong in this, as long as the courts understand their own role as functioning within this consensus.

However, in recent decades the courts have effectively changed their countries’ constitutions in ways that have departed from the consensus. Perhaps the most infamous example of this was the Roe v. Wade decision of 1973. Here the US Supreme Court invalidated the carefully constructed abortion laws of the several states on the basis of a supposed right of privacy nowhere found in the text of the Constitution itself and for which there was no consensus in the public at large. This single decision, so controversial at the time, unleashed three decades of political discord yet to be settled in a satisfactory manner.

Although the Supreme Court of Canada’s 1988 abortion decision, Morgentaler v. the Queen, took care to leave room for parliamentary action, later decisions have increasingly followed the American pattern. The Ontario Appeals Court's controversial Halpern ruling (2003), as well as the US Supreme Court's Lawrence v. Texas decision, can hardly be said to reflect an obvious popular consensus in the two countries. Had formal amendments been proposed to legalize same-sex marriage or to prohibit anti-sodomy laws, it is highly unlikely they would have overcome the qualified majority requirements.

The courts are thus undertaking, on highly questionable legal and constitutional grounds, to change their countries’ constitutions in ways that depart significantly from the consensus of the citizens and that undercut the formal amendment process. While the latter requires a qualified majority, the courts are effectively amending the constitution by doing an end run around the consensus. The problem is not so much that the courts are usurping democracy, as some would have it, as that they lack a proper understanding of what a constitution is, namely, something rooted in the consensual traditions and mores of a political community.

06 December 2005

Moscow municipal elections

Vladimir Putin's Kremlin is the victor in elections for Moscow's City Duma: United Russia Gets 28 Out of 35 Seats.
Political architecture

From about age 6 until age 14 I had plans to become an architect, which I abandoned after discovering a lack of interest in some of the ancillary skills, such as drafting. Nevertheless, I still have an interest in the subject of architecture and city planning. I am especially interested in the design of government buildings, including the interior layout of parliamentary chambers. At some point I may write something more coherent on this topic. Here I will content myself with four pieces of trivia.

  1. Both Canada and the United Kingdom have parliamentary chambers in which government and opposition members face each other across an open floor. This tends to reinforce the adversarial character of proceedings. Many, if not most, other countries have parliaments whose deputies are seated in semicircular fashion around the speaker. This is true of the French National Assembly, the German Bundestag and the United States House of Representatives and Senate. Australia and its component states have parliaments which combine these two patterns. Government and opposition MPs face each other through most of the chamber, but the seats form a "U" at the far end from the speaker.

  2. It seems that many Commonwealth countries have upper chambers whose interiors are coloured red, following the example of the House of Lords, the original Red Chamber. This includes the Canadian and Australian Senates, the Legislative Councils of five of the Australian states, as well as the Rajya Sabha in the Indian Parliament in New Delhi. (Canadian provinces abolished their own legislative councils long ago and now have unicameral legislatures. In Australia only Queensland's parliament is unicameral.) Senate reform is a semi-popular noncontact sport in this country, but thus far no one has managed to win at it, except for the senators themselves, who are appointed (not elected) to their positions until death or age 75, whichever comes first, and can put in as much or as little work as they please.

  3. When the British House of Commons was destroyed by German bombs during the Blitz in 1941, some thought was given to rebuilding it along continental European lines, i.e., in semicircular shape. Prime Minister Winston Churchill opposed this, arguing that "We shape our buildings, and afterwards our buildings shape us." His wishes carried the day and the Commons chamber was rebuilt along the lines of its predecessor.

  4. After our own parliament building burned in 1916, a number of designs were considered for its replacement. During my visit to Ottawa last February, I was privileged to visit the old Justice Building, courtesy of my good friend Eric Hogeterp. As we entered, I was astonished to see on the wall an artist's rendering of one such proposed design. Its style was neoclassical, complete with a domed capitol, making it resemble nothing other than the American federal government buildings in Washington. Needless to say, this design was not adopted, and the current Centre Block was rebuilt in neogothic style.

05 December 2005

The perils of the internet

Here is a timely warning against relying too heavily on Wikipedia as a source for information: Truth can be at risk in the world of the Web.
'Red-state' Poland rankles 'blue-state' Europeans

Something of North America's culture wars is making its way to the old world, as indicated in this report from Brussels: Conservative Poland Roils European Union. It seems that Polish deputies to the European Parliament set up an anti-abortion display which deeply offended the otherwise assiduously tolerant members from elsewhere in the EU. Parliamentary guards quickly dismantled the display in a conspicuous manifestation of this tolerance.

04 December 2005

Princeton seminary professor applauds war and peace report

The following item was posted on CRC (Christian Reformed Church) Voices:
Princeton Theological Seminary professor Max L. Stackhouse had fine words for the recently released CRC synodical report on war and peace. In an email to his Christian Social Ethics class, Dr. Stackhouse called the report “absolutely the best statement of the Reformed tradition's treatment of these issues in view of the contemporary debates over Iraq, etc., that I have seen.” The professor encouraged students to save the report “for future reference when and if you are called upon to preach or teach on these matters.”

The members of the committee include two persons I know personally, Dr. James W. Skillen and Dr. Elaine Botha. I've not yet read the report, but I look forward to doing so.

03 December 2005

Schaeffer and Muggeridge

During their lifetimes Malcolm Muggeridge (1903-1990) and Francis Schaeffer (1912-1984) tended to appeal to somewhat different constituencies within the larger christian community. Yet few are aware that the British journalist and convert to Christianity once met and conversed with the popular American apologist and author some four decades ago. This unexpectedly awkward meeting was arranged by David Virtue (whose surname sounds pseudonymous) and recounted here: The Collision of Two Minds.

Later: Coincidentally, David Warren eulogizes Muggeridge's son John, who has died at age 72 and was responsible for his father's conversion.
Is Hargrove confused?

From The London Free Press: "A Liberal minority government with the balance of power held by the New Democratic party would be the best outcome in the federal election, Canadian Auto Workers president Buzz Hargrove said yesterday." Well, correct me if I'm wrong, but didn't NDP leader Jack Layton just indicate that he could no longer support the current minority Liberal government? Isn't that why the government fell? What does Hargrove think will have changed after the election?

02 December 2005

'Trudeaumania' it ain't

Michael Ignatieff's candidacy for Etobicoke-Lakeshore continues to stumble along in its early days: Talk of Harvard return was a joke, Ignatieff says. Oh, the trials of would-be philosopher-kings.
Bird flu

Is the current scare over a possible global flu pandemic an example of media hype? Chuck Colson (or at least his ghost writers) thinks so: Of Ganders and Geese: The Perils of Scientific Group-Think.

01 December 2005

To fight or not to fight

After months of trying, a Fr. Neuhaus wannabe has finally got the real thing to pay him some attention. It must be a terribly satisfying feeling. As for Fr. Neuhaus, it seems that he, like some of the rest of us, will decide for himself which battles are worth fighting and which are not.
Why is it. . .

. . . that on a balance sheet credit and debit mean the opposite, whereas in your wallet a credit card and a debit card both lead to less money in your bank account?
At last . . .

. . . the Peter Turkstra Library at Redeemer University College is now open and available for use.
Defeat in the Commons

It's all happened before: Anger over budget brings PCs to brink of defeat in Commons, and TORIES FALL, 139 to 133.

29 November 2005

From the Koyzis kitchen: spinach turnovers

Although this is not a cooking blog, I thought it might be nice to include a favourite from my mother’s kitchen. It apparently comes from an early effort of my father to communicate to her something his own mother used to make in Cyprus. I doubt she got it exactly right, but the result is delicious nonetheless. There may even be a subconscious influence from the Cornish pasties enjoyed by her immigrant Finnish forebears in the upper peninsula of Michigan. I hadn’t eaten spinach turnovers in probably more than two decades, but a few weeks ago I decided to try my hand at them once again, with great success. Nancy loved them. Here’s the recipe, using imperial measures:

  • 2 pckg. frozen chopped spinach
  • 2 pckg. ground meat (e.g., beef or turkey)
  • 2 c. Uncle Ben’s® rice or other long grain rice
  • 1 small chopped onion
  • Salt to taste
  • Approx. 2 Tbsp. cinnamon
  • Biscuit dough (or use boxed, commercial biscuit mix such as Jiffy® or Bisquick® — amount to be used depends on the number of turnovers desired)

    Cook spinach in as small an amount of water as possible. Drain well in strainer. While spinach is cooking, begin cooking rice per directions on package, using slightly less water than suggested. Turn off burner under pan for the last five minutes and let rice sit, still covered. Chop onion. Brown meat in skillet, adding chopped onion. Mix spinach, rice, meat and onion. Add salt and cinnamon to taste – probably ½ teaspoon salt; possibly as much as 2 tablespoons cinnamon. (Cinnamon flavour will lessen during baking.) Mix well.

    Roll out biscuit dough thinly. Cut out using round circle 5 to 6 inches in diameter (e.g., the top to a metal canister). Roll the resulting circle even thinner. Put above mixture on one side of the circle, pulling the other side over the mixture to form a half circle. Pinch edges together, marking entire edge with the tines of a fork. Pierce top of each turnover with fork tines. Bake 15-20 minutes in a 375-400 degree oven until lightly browned. Brush with butter, margarine or extra virgin olive oil while still hot. Enjoy.

    spinach turnovers
    Spinach turnovers

    Depending on the amount of biscuit dough you’ve prepared, you will likely have a large amount of the mixture left over. This can easily be frozen and used later. Altogether, making spinach turnovers from scratch takes about two hours. But with the mixture already prepared, the time is cut down to about an hour.

    I remember as a child absolutely loving to drink a cold glass of milk with spinach turnovers. My tastes have evidently changed in the ensuing decades, because the milk didn’t quite go as well as I remembered it to. All the same, I would be hard pressed to recommend a good wine to go with it. I’ll leave the beverage up to you.

  • Ledra Street to remain closed

    As usual, the government of Cyprus appears determined to forgo another opportunity: Greek Cypriots reject new crossing point to the north.

    28 November 2005

    Government falls

    It's off to the polls for Canadians, after the Martin government is defeated in the Commons. Few people may be aware of this fact: "The Liberal defeat marks the first time a government has fallen on a straight motion of no-confidence in Parliament."

    In other news, Prince Edward Islanders overwhelmingly rejected electoral reform, sad to say.
    Electoral reform in PEI?

    Prince Edward Islanders vote today on whether to adopt a mixed-member-proportional electoral system, which just happens to be my personal favourite. Let's hope the measure will win at least "60 per cent of the votes, and majority support in at least 16 of the island's 27 electoral districts."
    Blood and belonging to the Liberals

    Ukrainian-Canadians do not want Michael Ignatieff running for the Liberal Party in the forthcoming winter election. Neither do I.

    27 November 2005

    Cyprus: unilateral reunification?

    This is a rather extraordinary development, coming as it does on top of last week's news: TRNC launches one-sided initiative towards reunification of divided Cyprus. Ten years ago this past summer, Nancy and I stood at the barricade at the north end of Ledra Street in Nicosia, saddened at our inability to walk any further into the occupied zone. And now it's being opened.

    Could this be the beginning of the end of Cyprus' division? Perhaps, but there are possible complications: Greek side raises concerns over Ledra crossing. Nevertheless, this Cyprus Mail editorial holds out hope: Ledra crossing a step in the right direction.

    26 November 2005

    Conservatives. . . and conservatives

    There are conservatives. And then there are conservatives. In the latest entry in the WRF's Comment series, Russ Kuykendall reviews Adam Daifallah and Tasha Kheiriddin's Rescuing Canada's Right: Blueprint for a Conservative Revolution. Although Kuykendall (aka Burkean Canuck) and I undoubtedly share much in terms of political perspective, I have never been enthusiastic about wearing the conservative label, whether begun with an upper- or lower-case C. I will not go into detail explaining this reluctance, because anyone can easily discover this in chapter 3 of my book.

    That said, however, I will be the first to admit that, if the secular media were to pay any attention to me, they would almost certainly peg me as some sort of conservative, mostly because I oppose legalized abortion on demand, support a stable definition of marriage and family, and believe that government is under no obligation to manifest a supposedly benign neutrality towards a variety of personal lifestyle choices, much less to subsidize them.

    All the same, the variety of conservatism I dislike most is the libertarian variety, exemplified by the likes of Ayn Rand and Friedrich von Hayek. Conrad Black is a caricature of the libertarian conservative, in which the common good or the public interest is ancillary to the ego of the sovereign individual — especially the individual with the economic means to have his own way. As I've written before, a government content only to protect a free economic marketplace falls short of doing public justice. It should encourage the wealthy to use their resources for the public benefit, probably through a careful design of the tax code. Those conservatives who can recognize this are worth co-operating with. By contrast, those claiming the conservative label, but who, following Marx's stereotype, do no more than to try to conserve their own spending power, are definitely not worth the time of day.
    Arguing About a War In Question

    Here is the latest Capital Commentary from the Center for Public Justice, by Center president James W. Skillen:

    Ask yourself just one question. During all the argument over the past three weeks about whether U.S. forces should leave Iraq quickly or stay the course, why was there so little reference to the upcoming Iraqi elections on December 15?

    President Bush says American troops will stand down when Iraqi forces are ready to stand up. But what is the relation between military forces (whether theirs or ours) and the future Iraqi government? Can Iraqi forces be made ready to take over even if a stable Iraqi government doesn't materialize after December 15? On the other hand, if Iraqis do elect a government on December 15, will it really be governing Iraq if American forces, under U.S. command, are still required for many more years?

    At the beginning, the American military intervention in Iraq aimed to overcome Saddam Hussein's imminent threat to the security of the United States and Iraq's neighbors. Then it became a war to liberate the Iraqi people from an oppressive dictator. And then it became a war to bring democracy to Iraq and the wider region. Yet on those terms, once Hussein was gone and a new constitution and transition government were in place, what enemy was left for the American military to fight?

    The enemy that still exists, we hear, is the Sunni terrorist insurgency within Iraq itself, along with some anti-American jihadists coming in from outside Iraq. However, as even Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and American commanders now state publicly, that enemy cannot be defeated by American military forces. But then the question again: what "war" is the American military now fighting?

    This is where the remaining words and phrases we have grown so accustomed to using over the past three years become more and more slippery. The so-called "Iraqi forces" in the now "liberated" Iraq, which is about to certify its "democracy" with elections on December 15, may be a mirage. The military and police forces that the American military is trying to train in Iraq come from, and are primarily dedicated to, Shiite, Kurdish, and Sunni communities. Many, in fact, are tied to, if not directly representative of, militias in those regions. In that respect, there is not an independent "Iraqi force," like our American military, under the firm control of a national government and independent of all local governments.

    Furthermore, those diverse forces in Iraq closely align with the new constitutional order of the country, an order that, above all, solidifies the independence and autonomy of Shiite and Kurdish regions. The Iraqi constitution is far weaker than the American Articles of Confederation that failed our culturally homogeneous colonies after 1776.

    This is why the "war" in Iraq is so disconnected from the upcoming elections and vice versa. If the elections are successful, in the same way that the passage of the constitution was successful, the not-yet-unified country of Iraq will be dominated by a Shiite majority. That majority will respect and largely ignore the Kurds, who will govern themselves. And it will either succeed in putting the Sunni minority in its place or will have to fight that minority if enough Sunni factions continue their terrorist insurgency. If the elections are unsuccessful, it will simply mean that the civil war has already begun.

    This is why the main planning now being done in Washington is for the exit of American forces rather than for an expanded program of nation building. Within the framework of American policy our military no longer faces an enemy it can defeat, and nation building was never part of our plan. I just hope that the sad moment will never come when Americans are willing to accept the post-exit explanation that after our forces "liberated" and brought "democracy" to Iraq, the "Iraqi people" apparently did not want to keep it.

    — James W. Skillen, President

    25 November 2005

    Black wants back

    This request might be just a trifle opportunistic: Black wants citizenship back. And just what does Canada have to gain from this? Someone badly needs to tell Lord Black that citizenship is not a consumer item, to be removed and put on again at whim — like one of his wife's pair of shoes.

    24 November 2005

    Hope for Cyprus?

    The British think-tank Chatham House has expressed doubts that Cyprus' reunification could ever be made to work, as indicated in this Cyprus Mail report and in the Chatham House press release. However, the Financial Mirror reports an intriguing development: Is Turkey imposing a legal solution on Cyprus? According to the report:

    Reports that the Turkish government is pushing the Turkish Cypriot administration to change its constitution so that Greek Cypriots can be allowed to return to the property from which they fled during the invasion in 1974 has taken the (Greek Cypriot) Republic of Cyprus government in the south completely by surprise. However, if reports are true, it could a sign that, in the absence of agreement with all parties, Turkey will follow in the footsteps of Israel’s Ariel Sharon and implement its own solution.

    It remains to be seen how Papadopoulos and the Greek Cypriot government will respond to this initiative.

    23 November 2005

    A new cause célèbre?

    For those of us non-coffee drinkers, is there such a thing as fair-trade Postum?

    21 November 2005

    Danish for breakfast?

    After decades of gutting Canada's military capacity, the federal government finds another way to assert sovereignty in the arctic.

    19 November 2005

    Neuhaus on American ecclesiology

    One hates to lift a single sentence out of its larger context, but what Fr. Richard John Neuhaus says here has a certain aphoristic quality and is definitely worth repeating: "In the absence of a strong and deep ecclesiology, American Protestantism has always been prone to embrace America as its church, and to react with angry disillusionment when America fails to live up to that role." Coming from someone who so often seems to ascribe redemptive significance to what he insists on calling the American experiment, such a statement is striking. It also bears no small resemblance to what was written here: A mixed legacy: evangelicalism's puritan roots.
    Beignets du monde

    If the Dutch have their oliebollen and the Greeks their loukoumadhes, what do Canadians have? Timbits!

    18 November 2005

    Expats' extravagance exposed

    How the mighty are fallen: Rise and fall of the doyen of decadence. There's more here: Black's career takes a further step into darkness.

    Later: Some of the very wealthy are keenly aware of their responsibility to use their wealth for the benefit of others. Lord Black appears not to have been among those, as indicated in this episode related by Iain Benson of the Centre for Cultural Renewal. Black apparently once asked, "since when is greed a crime?" I guess he's finding out for himself.

    16 November 2005

    'Fair-trade' coffee?

    One of my colleagues sells fair-trade coffee. But John Larrivee, an economist at Mount St. Mary’s University, argues that the notion of fair-trade coffee is flawed, citing analogies to other products: Why Not Fair-Trade Beer and Cakes? Is Prof. Larrivee wrong or right in his analysis? If the former, where does he go wrong?
    Try these with your waffles

    For the second morning in a row our Theresa has requested kalamata olives for breakfast. Yesterday she ate these for all three meals. Typical second-generation Byzantine-rite Calvinist, I suppose.
    Putin's Russia

    Last week one of my colleagues called my attention to this fascinating article: Reading Russia Right, by Dmitri Trenin. Here is the abstract:

    After the fall of Communism, Russia reverted to czarism. But more importantly, Russia embraced capitalism. Although not democratic, Russia is largely free. Property rights are more deeply anchored than they were five years ago, and the once-collectivist society is going private. Indeed, private consumption is the main driver of economic growth. Russia’s future now depends heavily on how fast a middle class — a self-identified group with personal stakes in having a law-based government accountable to tax payers — can be created. The West needs to take the long view, stay engaged, and maximize contacts, especially with younger Russians.

    In my Russian politics class this semester, we have discussed the constitution of the Russian Federation, including both the written document and the "unwritten" constitution as it actually functions. Here is Trenin's verdict on the latter: "[Vladimir] Putin’s regime is openly czarist. Its defining element is that the presidency is the only functioning institution." This underscores my own thesis that constitutional democracy presupposes supportive political traditions, the development of which takes time.

    14 November 2005

    'I told you so'

    Science has proved what mothers have known for ages: Cold weather may help cause colds. Of course some of us have been wearing hats all along. Watch for my salute to hats coming soon in this space.

    12 November 2005

    The Whitlam dismissal, plus 30

    Yesterday marked the 30th anniversary of a constitutional crisis that can still get Australians hot under the collar.
    Just out from Comment

    Here, as promised, is my contribution to the debate raging on the virtual pages of Comment: The city and its renewal.

    11 November 2005

    The (new/old) Russian anthem

    The Russian national anthem came up in conversation yesterday in my Russian politics class. Coincidentally this story appeared in the international press: Atheist challenges Russian national anthem. Oddly, the tune to this anthem is that of the old anthem of the Soviet Union, with music composed by Alexander Alexandrov. In 1990, just prior to the demise of the Soviet Union, Boris Yeltsin's government adopted a distinctive anthem for the Russian Federation, called simply Patriotic Song, with no lyrics and composed by Mikhail Glinka, the founder of the national movement in 19th-century Russian music. But when Vladimir Putin became president in 2000, he brought back the music of the former Soviet anthem, albeit with new lyrics. Putin is not, of course, a communist and he is reputed to be a practising Orthodox Christian. Yet in many respects he is resuscitating the autocratic ways of his predecessors, thus seemingly vindicating the tired cliché that the more things change the more they stay the same.

    Those interested in the history of the Russian anthems should look up the Russian Anthems museum, a wonderfully informative website boasting many recordings of the relevant music. My personal favourite is the Osipov Orchestra of Folk Instruments' recording of the Patriotic Song — a version I am confident Glinka would have approved.
    A Muslim's assessment of Islam

    Irshad Manji is the author of The Trouble With Islam Today and writes on this subject in the Los Angeles Times: From books to virgins. Manji argues that "dogma is hobbling our faith, because we Muslims have forgotten Islam's own tradition of independent thinking: ijtihad," which left the doors open to "discussion, debate and dissent." At one time the islamic world was a hotbed of philosophical thinking, with Moorish Spain playing a prominent role. Cordoba, one of the largest cities in Europe at the time, had 70 libraries. From the 8th to the 12th centuries "Islamic civilization led the world in ingenuity."

    So what happened? The Caliph in Baghdad suppressed ijtihad in an attempt to secure the political unity of his empire. Since then unity has come to be conflated with uniformity. The chief casualty is the vitality of Islam itself. The solution? Ordinary Muslims need to be informed of "their God-given right to think for themselves," and thereby seize the initiative from the extremists. All of this sounds good, of course, but my guess is that Manji's "feminist-lesbian-journalist perspective" (see the Amazon.com description) just might be an obstacle to her gaining a wide following among her fellow Muslims.

    10 November 2005

    Marshall at Redeemer

    Yesterday we were privileged to have Dr. Paul Marshall deliver the second annual Bernard Zylstra Lectures here at Redeemer University College. He spoke three times. His chapel address, titled, "The Church at the Start of the Third Millennium," was a sobering survey of the state of the church around the world, focussing especially on the persecution of Christians. Yet out of this we were also heartened to hear of the growth of the church, especially in China, where it has expanded phenomenally over the past 25 years. The afternoon featured an in-house open forum in which my esteemed colleague, Al Wolters, and I were part of a panel discussion with Marshall concerning Islamic Law, on which he has just published an edited volume, Islam’s Rules: The Worldwide Spread of Extreme Shari'a Law. The evening's public lecture was titled, "Understanding Radical Islam," in which he gave the audience something of a history of Islam itself over the course of some 1,400 years.

    Marshall is a Senior Fellow at the Center for Religious Freedom, Freedom House, in Washington, DC. From 1980 until the late 1990s, Marshall was a professor of political theory at the Institute for Christian Studies, Toronto, where he succeeded the late Bernard Zylstra, after whom the lecture series was named. I myself first met him a few years before that, when he was still a Ph.D. student at York University and I was just beginning masters studies at the ICS under Zylstra.

    Among the many articles he has written are the following: The Islamists' other weapon and Islamic Counter-Reformation. Here is a recent interview with Marshall in FrontPage magazine on the subject of "extreme Sharia."

    I think I speak for others in saying that I was impressed by the thoughtfulness of Marshall's presentations, given the potentially polarizing nature of the topics. All in all, it was a worthwhile and stimulating day.
    Unusual weather

    What? A tornado? Here in Hamilton? And in November? Must be global warming.

    08 November 2005

    One man's prognostication

    One of my students alerted me to this site. If Gregory D. Morrow's predictions are at all plausible, then perhaps we shall soon have a Conservative minority government.
    Classical Christian education

    In today's Breakpoint commentary, Chuck Colson endorses something called "classical Christian education," whose goal is the cultivation of both knowledge and character. Of his own alma mater Colson says that it "no longer has a core curriculum. You can go through the school without ever knowing who Plato, Aristotle, Darwin, or Freud were." Perhaps he should urge prospective undergraduate students to come to Redeemer and similar institutions. On the other hand, Colson errs in thinking it possible "to [free] science from philosophical assumptions and instead [look] at what God has made." Rather he should be urging the application of correct philosophical assumptions to the exploration of God's world.
    Dallmayr on democracy

    Fred Dallmayr was one of my professors at Notre Dame more than two decades ago. As part of the Opening Democracy debate, Dallmayr writes of Mobilising global democracy, arguing, in a not so veiled critique of the Bush administration, against those who who would spread democracy by force of arms. Instead he makes a case for cross-cultural learning as a better alternative, drawing on the centuries-old pattern of harmonious coexistence among Christians, Jews and Muslims in Moorish Spain as just one example. Point well taken. But will such a pacific approach be an adequate response to this: The Islamists' other weapon?

    07 November 2005

    Reading the signs of the times

    Recently I have not commented much on Comment and the excellent articles it runs from week to week. The debate on agrarianism continues with three recent entries. I myself will shortly be making my own contribution with a piece on cities. (I'll let you know when it's published.) But I especially want to call belated attention to Gideon Strauss's trenchant essay, What is to be done... to understand our moment? Strauss organizes his thoughts around four challenges to "Christian cultural faithfulness in these times": those of (1) modern liberal capitalism; (2) Salafiyyah Islam; (3) China; and (4) post-western Christianity in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Not only is Strauss's essay well worth reading and thinking about, but it might also provide fodder for informal discussion at a soirée with one's friends.
    A Christmas election?

    Is the end near for Paul Martin's minority Liberal government? Perhaps.
    La crise française — encore une fois

    The continuing violence in France threatens President Jacques Chirac and the government of Prime Minister Dominique de Villepin. Could it bring down the Fifth Republic after nearly half a century? There are precedents. Four, to be exact. My prediction? Assuming the régime survives, the Front National will improve its showing in the next elections.

    05 November 2005

    Organizing ecclesiastical labour

    Time to send in the CLAC? CAW fails in bid to unionize United Church. Of course, as the Globe article points out, it is difficult to distiguish management from labour in such an organization. Given the polity of the United Church, might the congregations themselves be considered management?
    La crise française

    Paris is burning and France is in turmoil. What next for Chirac and Villepin? Could last year's headscarf ban have been a contributing factor to the current troubles?

    04 November 2005

    Another birthday

    Seven years ago yesterday our daughter Theresa was born unexpectedly 14 weeks early. Her original due date had been set for 10 February 1999, but she came into the world more than three months before then. Thank God she was born in a hospital with a level-3 neonatal intensive care unit (NICU). There she remained for the first three and a half weeks of her life until she was out of danger, after which she was transferred to a hospital across town with a level-2 unit. Altogether she was in hospital for over 10 weeks. When she finally came home, she was still very small, weighing less than 5 pounds. It was a scary time for us, and I kept a huge number of people informed of her progress over email, asking for their prayers. At some point I intend to turn our experience into a book, but it is still not emotionally easy for me to reread those emails and my own personal journal entries from then.

    Two sundays ago Nancy was in church talking with Susan, the director of the junior choir with which Theresa sang for just over a year. Nancy mentioned to her the upcoming birthday, and something clicked in Susan's head at hearing this information. It seems Susan was part of a Bible study back in 1998, and the group was asked to pray for a little girl who had been born early to a Redeemer professor and his wife. Only now was she putting two and two together.

    Nancy told me about this when we were home, and I was deeply moved — as well as humbled at the ways of God — to learn that a woman we didn't even know at the time was among the many people praying for Theresa throughout those trying early weeks of her life.

    03 November 2005

    Letting go of the past

    The following is my column for the 24 October issue of Christian Courier:

    A few weeks ago I became aware of a campaign to have the fabled Aghia Sophia, the Church of the Holy Wisdom, in Istanbul returned to the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople. HagiaSophiaBlog.com is trying to collect at least one million signatures on a petition to convince the European Union (EU) to make return of this architectural wonder a condition for Turkey’s membership in that organization.

    As a Christian with Orthodox roots on the paternal side, I must admit that this initially struck a chord with me. The Patriarchate has never relinquished its claim on the building, which the Ottoman Turks turned into a mosque after they conquered the city in 1453. As recently as the end of the Great War, many Greeks hoped that the defeat of the Ottoman Empire and the occupation of Constantinople by the victorious allies would lead to the Divine Liturgy once again being celebrated beneath the dome of the church built by the Emperor Justinian in 537.

    Indeed, Aghia Sophia contains some of the most beautiful mosaics in the world, including this haunting icon of Christ (see the third image in the sidebar under "Web pages"), thought to have been fashioned shortly after the Byzantine Greeks recovered Constantinople from the Crusaders in 1261. These were covered over by the Muslims after the conquest, but in the early 1930s, shortly after the secularizing government of Mustafa Kemal had made the historic building into a museum, restoration of the mosaics was permitted. It continues as a museum to this day, despite the competing claims of two religious communities.

    When I learned of the petition for its return, my first inclination was to sign. After all, the seizure of this historic place of worship was an obvious injustice. Shouldn’t it be rectified after all these centuries?

    The answer to this question is not as obvious as some might think. If we say yes, we risk opening a pandora’s box in which long dormant injustices come pouring out, awaiting a resolution that may be impossible to achieve without unleashing further injustice. Should the two American continents be returned to the aboriginal peoples? If so, what do we do with the scores of millions of people of nonaboriginal descent? Should Israel be returned to the Palestinians, who were displaced from their homes nearly 60 years ago? If so, what do we do with the sabras, the generations of Israelis who were born there and know no other home?

    In common law jurisdictions there is a concept known as the statute of limitations, which imposes time limits on the opportunity for injured parties to redress grievances. Why? Because in its absence injustices would continue to multiply until they overwhelmed the mundane concerns of ordinary people, who would be unable to get on with their lives because they were so consumed with the desire to right the wrongs of an increasingly remote past. Eventually, their descendants would be stewing over crimes committed against forebears generations earlier, thereby poisoning lives that might be better lived if they could manage – as the cliché puts it – to forgive and forget.

    It is precisely in those parts of the world where people have allowed the wounds of the past to fester that establishing and maintaining political community is such a precarious venture. The Middle East, the Caucasus and the Balkans come immediately to mind.

    Aghia Sophia is unlikely to be returned to the Orthodox Church and will almost certainly remain a museum. However, there is ample reason for the EU to raise the issue of Turkey’s current treatment of its religious minorities, including the Patriarchate, while letting the past be the past.
    Orthodoxy and original sin

    The remarkable Mr. Rob Joustra, from his base in Japan, writes on why Orthodox theologians object to the western church's notion of original sin as inherited guilt. Something to ponder over a plate of sushi.
    Corruption in Russia

    Has Russia become more corrupt under Vladimir Putin? Yes, says a recently released report from a Russian thinktank. However, after reading the report more carefully, Peter Lavelle concludes that the level of corruption has actually decreased, even if the amounts of money involved have gone up.

    01 November 2005

    Istanbul protest

    This story will cause those who remember the events of 6-7 September 1955 to shudder: Nationalists demonstrate against Greek Orthodox patriarch. Someone needs to remind these "Turkish nationalists" that the Patriarchate was there first.
    New rules from Brussels

    What? This sounds like a joke: European Union lowercases 'Christ': Brussels' grammar rule says title to be spelled with small 'c' in future. Who could possibly take this seriously? One can more easily believe that Pluto's "new" moons will be named Goofy and Mickey.
    De Souza on Neuhaus

    Fr. Raymond J. de Souza profiles Fr. Richard John Neuhaus for The National Post. My question: Although Fr. Neuhaus may have been born in this country, can he really be called a Canadian public intellectual? That seems to be stretching the definition a bit.
    All Saints Day

    30 October 2005

    Time for a snack

    We know that our Theresa's blood sugar levels are too low when, while listening to Gustav Holst's The Planets, she becomes overly upset at the fact that the composer didn't put the corresponding movements in the same order in which the namesake planets actually occur in the solar system and, as if that weren't enough, had the temerity to leave out earth.
    Iran contra mundum. . . again

    Iran's president Mahmoud Ahmadinejad has called for Israel to be "wiped off the map." In response, New Zealand's foreign minister has helpfully called these remarks "unhelpful." Strong words, but the circumstances call for them.

    28 October 2005

    Religious staffing, reforming the tax code

    Is the Salvation Army engaging in a "most reprehensible form of discrimination" by employing only those who agree with its mission? The ACLU has joined one member of Congress in saying yes, but a federal district judge in the United States has ruled otherwise. Writing for the Center for Public Justice's Capital Commentary series, Stanley Carlson-Thies analyzes the controversy in Religious Staffing-2, Opponents-0. (Check out the pious-looking box on "Freedom, Belief and Religious Liberty" on the ACLU's front page!)

    In the most recent Capital Commentary, Center president James W. Skillen looks at A Good Tax-Reform Proposal for the US. A presidential advisory panel is urging that the mortgage-interest deduction on federal income tax be limited to $312,000 and be eliminated entirely for second homes and home equity loans. Skillen agrees. Of course, this issue means little to Canadians, who receive no such tax break at all. However, it may be that both countries' governments need a more radical reconfiguration of public policy to recognize that homeownership is not merely about purchasing a consumer good but about having a stake in one's local community.

    27 October 2005

    Sox are tops

    Sporting fans, especially those with Windy City roots, will appreciate this: SOX SWEEP AWAY PAST: Chicago wins 1st title since 1917, erases scandal of 1919 team. At this rate, White Sox fans can look forward to celebrating another victory in 2093.

    26 October 2005

    A peeping Thomist?

    Ryan Miller, a disciple of Bernard Lonergan, has made the wonderful discovery that one of my colleagues is now a Thomist: A Reply to Al Wolters: What is Christian Philosophy? I'm certain Wolters himself will be thrilled to hear the news.

    25 October 2005

    Rosa Parks (1913-2005)

    For those of us who grew up during the civil rights struggle in the US nearly half a century ago, this report recalls to mind a time when malicious racial discrimination was an ugly fact of life: US Civil Rights Icon Dies at Age 92.
    Scandal in the Antipodes

    Have the recent troubles surrounding New Zealand's Maxim Institute effectively rendered the organization unable to exercise a positive influence on its own country? Time will tell.
    Naming the tenth planet

    Although my childhood fascination for astronomy has waned over the decades, I have a moderate interest in proposals for naming the tenth planet, 2003 UB313, which is larger than the ninth planet, Pluto. My own suggestion is that asteroid 399 be renamed and Persephone be given to this "new" body in the solar system. Think of what this will do for the field of pop psychology: "Men are from Pluto, women are from Persephone." It has a nice ring to it, don't you think?

    24 October 2005

    Russia in decline

    What can the future hold for a country that loses half a million people in the short space of 12 months? Господи Помилуй!
    The nanocar

    Researcher Develops World's Smallest Car. Given the rise in gas prices, this may be all we can afford next time around.
    Priestly celibacy

    From Rome: Vatican synod rules out married priests. This admittedly comes from an outsider, but it is not at all clear to me why the Roman Catholic Church could not extend the precedent of the Eastern-Rite churches, which allow marriage before ordination, to the Latin Church.

    22 October 2005

    Slogans supplant virtue

    This looks like a book worth reading: Decadence: The Passing of Personal Virtue and Its Replacement by Political and Psychological Slogans, edited by Digby Anderson. The book is a collection of essays pointing to the loss of a traditional virtue-based ethic and its replacement by a new morality centred on the self. Here is Zenit's account of the Rev. Peter Mullen's argument in one of the essays:

    The old religious idea of acting virtuously for its own sake, or for God's sake, has been replaced by the psychotherapeutic notion of virtue for our own well-being. Self-respect has been replaced by self-esteem. Self-respect used to come from the peace of trying to live a virtuous life and having a clear conscience. Now it means just feeling good about ourselves and lacks any moral content.

    Another of the contributors to this anthology will be familiar to some neocalvinists. Theodore Malloch was last year's Bernard Zylstra Lecturer at Redeemer University College. He writes with typical calvinist enthusiasm on – what else? – the virtue of thrift.
    Christians assailed in Egypt

    Alexandria once housed substantial numbers of Jews and Christians prior to half a century ago. Those Christians remaining undoubtedly fear this sort of thing on a regular basis: Muslims riot outside church in Egypt. Fortunately the police intervened to protect against the rioters. In Egypt as a whole Coptic Christians are thought to make up between 5 and 10 percent of the total population of 70 million. We should not only keep them in our prayers, but do what we can to draw the western public's attention to their plight.
    Songs of Syon

    One of my all-time favourite hymnals is Songs of Syon, subtitled “A Collection of Psalms, Hymns, & Spiritual Songs set, for the most part, to their ANCIENT PROPER TUNES,” edited by the Rev. George Ratcliffe Woodward, M.A. My copy, purchased in 1989 (probably in Toronto), is the 4th edition, published in London in 1923, the original edition having come out in 1904. It is an exceedingly comprehensive collection, containing plainsong melodies, metrical melodies of the 13th to 16th centuries, Lutheran chorales, “Old English and Scotch psalm-tunes” and old French psalms and canticles. It is based on the earlier work of Robert Bridges' Yattendon Hymnal.

    The plainsong texts are generally John Mason Neale’s famous 19th-century translations of the ancient Greek and Latin hymns. These are often rendered in mediaeval musical notation, which, with a little practice, is fairly easily sight-read. The titles of the German hymns are set in blackletter font, perhaps making them appear exotic to an early 20th-century English readership – or should I say “singership”? In his preface to the 4th edition, the Rev. Mr. Woodward felt it necessary to say the following:

    If objection be taken to the number of foreign tunes which appear in this Edition, be it remembered that many of our favourite Hymn-tunes. E.g., The Old Hundredth, Luther’s Hymn, Adeste fideles, O Sacred Head surrounded, Now thank we all our God, Sing praise to God who reigns above, are not of English origin. It is confidently believed that many other exotics need only to be transplanted, and they will take equally deep root in the hearts of English-speaking people.

    The material is organized at the outset in fairly typical manner, i.e., according to the church calendar. Hence Advent hymns come first, followed by Christmas-even, Christmas-tide, &c. Then come Holy Eucharist, Sundays and Week-days, Evensong, Mattins, Common of Our Lady, Common of Saints, Proper of Saints, &c. Then come sections devoted respectively to Psalms, Hymns and Spiritual Songs.

    The Psalms section is of particular interest to me, because the editor put some effort into recovering for the English-speaking church the tunes of the Genevan Psalter, which, apart from a very few, are generally unknown to Anglo-Saxon Christians. Some of the translated texts are by Woodward himself. Here is the first stanza of his rendition of Psalm 150:

    Alleluya. Praise the Lord;
    Be his holy Name ador’d:
    Praise him in the firmament,
    Mighty, great and excellent:
    In his noble acts revere him:
    Praise him on the harp and lute,
    Praise him with the trump and flute;
    Love, adore, and greatly fear him.

    Eight decades later, Woodward’s effort to recover the Genevan tradition appears largely to have fallen short. But his Songs of Syon stands as a monument to the rich liturgical heritage of both eastern and western Christendom. It deserves to be better known than it is.

    Unfortunately I myself do not use this volume as often as I would like. My copy is redolent of mildew to which I am, sadly, allergic. Should I attempt to sing directly out of this book, I would have to stop every few bars to blow my nose. I would love to find a much newer reprint with which to replace this.

    21 October 2005

    'Inciting hatred'

    If Mark Morford were living in Canada and published this detestable article in one of our periodicals, would he be charged under section 319 of the Criminal Code for wilfully inciting hatred against an identifiable group?

    20 October 2005

    On this date in history

    The Free University of Amsterdam opened its doors 125 years ago today. Its founder, Dr. Abraham Kuyper, marked the occasion with an address on "Souvereiniteit in eigen kring", or Sphere sovereignty.
    Aleksandr Yakovlev (1923-2005)

    The mastermind of perestroika is dead.
    McKendree Langley (1945-2005)

    The Westminster Theological Seminary website carries an obituary of McKendree Langley, who died last week of a heart attack at age 60:

    Langley taught history for 35 years at the high school, college, and seminary levels. He was associate professor of history at Dordt College (Sioux Center, Iowa); history teacher at Phil-Mont Christian Academy (Erdenheim, Pa.); and chair of the history department at City Center Academy (Philadelphia, Pa.). Since 1989, he was an adjunct faculty member at Westminster, and throughout his career lectured at Barrington College (R.I.); Free University (Amsterdam); Gordon College (Wenham, Mass.); Reformed Theological Seminary (Jackson, Miss.); Delaware County Community College (Media, Pa.); and Eastern University (St. Davids, Pa.). For five years, he worked as a journalist for Eternity magazine, New England Church Life, and The News (Southbridge, Mass.).

    He was considered an expert in Christian democracy and the theology of Dutch statesman Abraham Kuyper. A graduate of Gordon College (B.A.), Northeastern University (M.A.), and Westminster Theological Seminary (M.Div., Ph.D.), his P.D. dissertation was entitled “Emancipation and Apologetics: The Formation of Abraham Kuyper’s Anti-Revolutionary Party in the Netherlands, 1872-1880.” In 1984, he published the book The Practice of Political Spirituality. He also wrote numerous articles on U.S. and Eastern European worldview politics.

    I first came to know of Langley through his 1984 book, as I was researching my dissertation. I met him only once, in 1998 at an international conference on Abraham Kuyper at Princeton Seminary.

    19 October 2005


    What is the least corrupt country in the world? Iceland, according to Transparency International's newly released Corruption Perceptions Index survey, closely followed by Finland and New Zealand, which tie for second place. Which is the most corrupt? Chad and Bangladesh tie for this coveted spot at number 158. Canada comes in at number 14 and the United States at 17. It's no surprise to me that Cyprus comes ahead of Greece at 37 and 47 respectively. What I would not have expected to see is the Kingdom of Jordan tie Cyprus for 37th place. Nor would I have anticipated Singapore's rank at number 5, ahead of Australia and the Netherlands.

    Canada's record is better than that of most countries. Nevertheless, the report has the following to say:

    Wealth is not a prerequisite for successful control of corruption. New long-term analysis of the CPI carried out by Prof. Dr. Johann Graf Lambsdorff shows that the perception of corruption has decreased significantly in lower-income countries such as Estonia, Colombia and Bulgaria over the past decade.

    In the case of higher-income countries such as Canada and Ireland, however, there has been a marked increase in the perception of corruption over the past ten years, showing that even wealthy, high-scoring countries must work to maintain a climate of integrity.

    One assumes Adscam has played a role in depressing Canada's rating. Yet if so, it appears not to have adversely affected the popularity of the governing Liberal Party, if recent opinion polls are any indication. What does this say about Canadians? I hope it doesn't mean we are becoming more accustomed, and thus more numbed, to corruption in high places.

    18 October 2005

    Genovese reviews Noll

    Here is something I missed two years ago. I found it while looking for that Niebuhr quote I mentioned yesterday. Eugene Genovese reviews Mark Noll's America's God: From Jonathan Edwards to Abraham Lincoln in, of all places, this New Republic article: God of Thunder. There is something intriguing in seeing an ex-Marxist, Catholic convert with an affinity for the southern agrarians take on a Reformed Christian for not being confessionally Reformed enough, as well as for mischaracterizing the southern Presbyterian tradition. I can't imagine what the stereotypical TNR reader would make of this.
    Paying the price

    A member of parliament from northern Manitoba is now being made to pay the price for defying her own party and voting to uphold justice. When the election call comes, may her constituents do the honourable thing and return her as an independent.

    17 October 2005

    Neuhaus joins the blogosphere

    This month I received the new issue of First Things somewhat later than usual. (Canada Post is a tempting scapegoat.) Turning to the FT website, we see that Fr. Richard John Neuhaus, who has long had the print equivalent of a blog in his monthly Public Square columns, is now doing the real thing.
    An apt and much quoted description

    Here is H. Richard Niebuhr on liberal protestantism, as it developed in the United States a century ago: "A God without wrath brought people without sin into a kingdom without judgment through the ministrations of a Christ without a cross." It comes from his book, The Kingdom of God in America. A quick Google search reveals that some people ascribe this to the author's better known brother, Reinhold.
    Iraqi democracy?

    As Iraqi citizens go to the polls to vote on a new constitution, it is worth taking a look at James L. Payne's survey of cases in which an American or British military occupation led to the establishment of democracy in the occupied country. In general the results have not been good. Let's hope and pray that Iraq will be an exception to this historical record.

    By the way, am I the only one to have noticed possible tensions within article 2 of the proposed constitutional document?

    First: Islam is the official religion of the State and it is a fundamental source of legislation:

    A. No law that contradicts the established provisions of Islam may be established.

    B. No law that contradicts the principles of democracy may be established.

    C. No law that contradicts the rights and basic freedoms stipulated in this constitution may be established.

    Second: This Constitution guarantees the Islamic identity of the majority of the Iraqi people and guarantees the full religious rights of all individuals to freedom of religious belief and practice such as Christians, Yazedis, and Mandi Sabeans.

    Which of the above provisions will be held to take priority when they come into conflict, as they inevitably will?

    16 October 2005

    An anniversary

    On this day 450 years ago Bishops Hugh Latimer and Nicholas Ridley were martyred for the cause of the Reformation in England.
    More from Comment

    The Work Research Foundation continues to publish thoughtful Comment articles on a weekly basis. Three recent ones are especially noteworthy. First, Ray Pennings writes on What is to be done… in the public square? For many years I have known Pennings to be an activist, both in his several political campaigns and in his work for the CLAC. Thus he is well situated to be writing on this topic. Pennings argues that "the battle for public square influence is not dependent on any one policy initiative, election, or campaign. Results will only be measured over decades, and we need to develop the persistence and perseverance to keep at it." This suggests that a future Comment article might appropriately deal with the virtue of patience.

    Then we return to the longrunning debate on agrarianism, which sees Richard Greydanus replying to Wilma Van der Leek's take on Wendell Berry's thought. While admitting the historical priority of the agrarian way of life, Greydanus believes that God's cultural mandate requires "the care and cultivation of both localizing and globalizing potentialities."

    Finally, my revered friend and colleague, Dr. Al Wolters, has written a thoughtful — and I'm tempted to say moving — analysis of the neocalvinist/reformational movement, identifying its promise and dangers alike: What is to be done... toward a neocalvinist agenda? Wolters frankly discusses the cleavages within the movement, as some adherents have embraced one emphasis at the expense of others, thus making for an imbalanced appropriation of the true fulness of the life in Christ. Among other things, Wolters asserts that neocalvinists need (1) to recover a "robust and straightforward notion of Scriptural authority," which can hardly be argued with; (2) to immerse themselves in a genuine piety conversant with the spiritual disciplines of other christian traditions, such as Ignatian spirituality and the pentecostal/charismatic movements, as well as with Reformed Christianity; (3) to cultivate an ecumenicity rooted, not in a lowest common denominator, but in the particularities of the calvinist tradition; and (4) to recognize that the only way to the restored creation is by way of the cross of Jesus Christ. There is much more to grapple with here. I hope Wolters' brief, but rich, article provokes a larger conversation about the issues he raises.

    14 October 2005

    A tragic loss

    I have just received word of the sudden death yesterday of Dr. McKendree Langley, author, teacher, and expert on the life and career of Abraham Kuyper. Here is an announcement of his death. When I learn more, I will post it. May God grant comfort to those he left behind.

    13 October 2005

    Vanished bloggers

    Where did Rob Joustra and Dan Postma go? Perhaps it's time for them to switch to a non-German server.
    Aussies and Kiwis going separate ways?

    Former New Zealand Prime Minister Mike Moore has written an article that is making waves in the Antipodes: A tale of two countries. His comparison to Canada's relationship with the United States is especially instructive.

    12 October 2005

    New PJR issue

    The fourth quarter issue of The Public Justice Report, published by the Center for Public Justice, is now out. In the lead article, Center President James W. Skillen undertakes to assess the United States' policy in Iraq according to traditional just war criteria and finds it wanting on several counts. Professor Prabhu Guptara writes on Facing the Challenge of Globalization, acknowledging the dangers of this phenomenon while setting out steps towards a healthy globalization. Skillen reviews Judith M. Dean, & al., Attacking Poverty in the Developing World. My friend and colleague John Hiemstra questions efforts in his own province of Alberta to develop oil sands while ignoring the need to conserve energy use and adopt a more stewardly economic practice. This issue also carries highlights of Dr. Stanley Carlson-Thies' testimony before a congressional subcommittee on Making the Faith-Based Initiative Permanent, a review of the second edition of Roy Clouser's Myth of Religious Neutrality, and a final commentary to mark the 40th anniversary of the Voting Rights Act.


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