28 April 2022

Lind's case for democratic pluralism

Over the past two or more decades, Americans in particular have become increasingly polarized between a new highly-educated urban managerial class and a working class that has lost much of the political and economic clout it once wielded in the post-war era. From 1945 to around 1973, the economies of most western countries revolved around a tripartite power-sharing arrangement among business, labour, and government. The rule of an educated elite was kept in check by the power of labour unions and other nonpolitical associations which channeled the aspirations of ordinary workers. These were the "little platoons" celebrated by Edmund Burke, and together they constituted what has come to be called civil society.

However, during the dislocations of the 1970s, including the unprecedented coincidence of inflation and recession, this power-sharing arrangement broke down, with leaders like Margaret Thatcher and Ronald Reagan ushering in a neoliberal era of domestic deregulation, open borders, and labour arbitrage. Globalization was the net result, with a rising managerial class dominating policy-making at the expense of especially the unskilled workers who once manned the factories of America's northeast and Great Lakes industrial belt. The central problem with globalization, however, is that it is undemocratic. Because globalization cannot police itself, it tends to empower a transnational class with shallow roots in any particular country. This is what Michael Lind, in The New Class War, calls the managerial elite. In the United States, the Democratic Party represents this elite class of educated urbanites.

25 April 2022

The world responds to Russia

Christian Courier has published online my article, The world responds to Russia, which appears in the 11 April 2022 print issue. An excerpt:

I have been amazed at the international response to what virtually everyone agrees is an unprovoked and unjust attack. Putin’s public pretexts for sending Russian troops into a neighbouring country are scarcely credible, and there is widespread recognition of this. With Russia now locked out of the international banking system and economic sanctions depressing the value of the rouble, Putin risks the welfare of his own country to satisfy his imperial ambitions. That he has nuclear weapons at his disposal brings an additional element of danger to his isolation. Nevertheless, few want to see Putin go unpunished for raining missiles on defenceless Ukrainian civilians, many of whom speak Russian as their first language.

Read the entire article here.

24 April 2022

Jesus Is Risen Flash Mob, Beirut Lebanon

Today the world's Orthodox Christians celebrate the resurrection of Jesus Christ from the dead. Here is a wonderful video of a flash mob singing the traditional paschal hymn in Arabic and Greek. Christ is risen! He is risen indeed!

22 April 2022

Keller on pandemic books

Once more the Rev. Tim Keller has seen fit to endorse my Political Visions and Illusions in a video just posted two days ago. I am amazed that someone suffering from pancreatic cancer continues to retain such energy and purpose. Thanks be to God!

21 April 2022

Reversing secularization: Africans in Britain

When we look at the trajectory of the contemporary west, it is easy to give way to despair. The process of secularization, which has been slowly emptying the churches of Europe and North America for the past two centuries or so, seems relentless. Even those churches that retain an element of vitality too easily fall prey to the allure of the latest manifestation of secularism. In our case this takes the form of what some call expressive individualism, which alters the message of the gospel from one of repentance and conversion to an affirmation of one's subjective proclivities. Small wonder, then, that parishioners would abandon churches that do little more than parrot the latest faux-redemptive stories of the larger society. What would be the point of getting up in the morning to attend such a church when one could just as easily sleep late and imbibe the same message elsewhere?

18 April 2022

Putin's successes

Russian President Vladimir Putin has scored some notable successes for his imperialist policies, including the following:

  1. Putin has succeeded in putting on display for all the world the incompetence as well as the brutality of Russia's military.
  2. In focussing his military might on Ukraine, he has successfully made his vast country vulnerable on other fronts, especially in the far east along the border with China, at the moment an ally of convenience.
  3. Putin has brought unity to the Ukrainian people across the historic linguistic and religious divisions that once separated them.
  4. Putin has succeeded in ensuring the enmity of virtually all Ukrainians, including native Russian speakers, for decades to come.
  5. Putin has succeeded in convincing Russia's neighbours that they cannot trust him and are in need of protection from his aggressive policies.
  6. Putin has successfully strengthened the unity and resolve of NATO members and has made membership more attractive even to long-time neutral states.
  7. Putin has succeeded in reorienting NATO from a broad-based collective security zone to an alliance against his aggressive policies.
  8. Putin has succeeded in sinking the Russian economy in his efforts to restore his country's great power status.
  9. Putin has successfully earned the epithet of war criminal and has made his country a pariah state throughout much of the world.
  10. With the aid of Patriarch Kirill of Moscow, Putin has successfully demonstrated the negative consequences of following a nationalist faith.

Few rulers have achieved such notable successes in so short a time. They have certainly secured his reputation and legacy in the history books, where he will take his place in the company of a small collection of similarly notorious rulers.

17 April 2022

13 April 2022

April newsletter posted

My new Global Scholars newsletter is now posted here: APRIL 2022 newsletter.

11 April 2022

Warren interviews Keller

Two people I have come to admire conversed with each other recently, and the interview now appears in The New York Times: How a cancer diagnosis makes Jesus’ death and resurrection mean so much more. Tish Harrison Warren regularly writes for the Times and is a priest in the Anglican Church in North America. Author of Liturgy of the Ordinary: Sacred Practices in Everyday Life, Warren manifests considerable Christian wisdom in her writings, which are definitely worth reading. Here she interviews Timothy Keller, former pastor of Redeemer Presbyterian Church in New York City, who recently authored a new book, Hope in Times of Fear: the Resurrection and the Meaning of Easter. Keller has been suffering from stage 4 pancreatic cancer for the past two years. An excerpt from Keller in this interview:

Statement of Solidarity

On 13 March, the Sunday of Orthodoxy, Orthodox clergy and laity published A Declaration on the “Russian World” (Russkii mir) Teaching, modelled on the 1934 Barmen Declaration. With my paternal Orthodox roots, I was greatly heartened to see such a statement emerge out of a tradition better known for the cosy relations between church hierarchs and political rulers. If I were an Orthodox Christian, I definitely would have signed the statement. Now Religion in Praxis has published A statement of solidarity with the Orthodox declaration on the “Russian World” (russkii mir) teaching, and against Christian Nationalism and New Totalitarianism. From the introduction:

06 April 2022

Corporate responsibility for a criminal war

As we are into the second month of the Russo-Ukrainian War, many of us have been thoroughly shaken and outraged by what we have seen on our screens day after day. Unable to bring myself to watch the grisly footage of the aftermath of the Bucha massacre, I nevertheless pray constantly for an end to the carnage, for relief to come to the Ukrainian people, and for the perpetrators of what amount to war crimes to be brought to justice. Among those at the top of the list are Vladimir Putin himself, Patriarch Kirill, and Aleksandr Lukashenko, the venal ruler of collaborationist Belarus.

04 April 2022

Christian Courier picks up post

Christian Courier has picked up my post from last week: The Liberal-New Democrat Pact, with this description: "It’s a rare move, but one that has precedents in Canadian politics and other Western democracies." An excerpt:

In reality, there is nothing undemocratic about the new agreement. Moreover, one might argue that the Trudeau government is more democratic than it has been up to now. After all, the federal Liberals garnered just under one-third of the popular vote last year, yet they formed a single-party government over the objections of more than two-thirds of voters. The Conservatives actually outpolled the Liberals, gaining 35.2 percent of the vote. Yet our current single-member-plurality electoral system – often labelled first-past-the-post (FPTP) – gave the Liberals a plurality of seats in the Commons. By bringing the NDP onside, the Liberals have actually increased the popular support for their government, which would in principle now be supported by 50.4 percent of Canadians. If so, this can scarcely be called undemocratic.

Read the entire article here.

01 April 2022

Faith in Democracy: Chaplin's contribution

God calls us to do justice in all settings and circumstances. In so far as we are faithful to our spouses, treat our colleagues with respect, raise our children with love and attention, we do justice to them. But there is a specific type of justice applicable to the political community and its associated institutions of government. It is sometimes called public justice, because it relates to the public space within which individuals and communities live their lives and fulfil their respective callings. In the United States an organization called the Center for Public Justice has attempted to flesh out its implications for a mature differentiated society for more than four decades. Public justice plays a role in my own writings and in those of many others, especially those in the neo-Calvinist tradition associated with Abraham Kuyper and his heirs. Jonathan Chaplin, Associate Fellow of Theos and member of the Divinity Faculty at Cambridge University, offers readers a new book that admirably brings substance to what might otherwise seem an abstract principle.

Nationalism's deadly allure

In my book, Political Visions and Illusions, I treat nationalism as an ideology that makes too much of nation, according it the reverence rightly belonging to God alone. When I was still teaching, I openly admitted to my students that I had a certain blind spot with respect to nationalism. I could easily see the moments of truth in liberalism, conservatism, socialism, and democratism, but I found it more difficult to do so with respect to nationalism. I understand in principle that solidarity among people sharing similar characteristics is a genuine good. In our society, which claims to value diversity and encourages a navel-gazing focus on individual identity, we need a countervailing emphasis on the things that bring us together. This applies to nations as well as to the other communities of which we are part. But national solidarity can also breed unhealthy conformism and a tendency to vilify those deemed outside the nation. Moreover, it tends to suppress those other communities by demanding an ultimate allegiance we owe only to God.


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