Volume 10, Issue 2: Anvil
Chaos at the Center
Rumor thrives in two environments. The first is obvious. When men who love to wag the tongue are so undisciplined that they refuse to confirm what they pass on, the ninth commandment is clearly broken. The environment is that which is established by the lying tongue. The world has always contained many who have loved to live in this way—and Christians condemn all such gossip, slander, libel, and wild speculation, particularly when it has to do with a "ruler of your people" (Acts 23:5).
But another breeding ground for rumor exists as well, and this is why we have seen such a remarkable explosion of astounding reports in recent years. This environment for rumor is created when the courts of justice have been hopelessly compromised and corrupted, and have been turned aside from their ordained and appointed use. When this happens, it means that those who have reasonable grounds to make an accusation are prevented from doing so by a conspiracy of factors—awareness of the futility of the endeavor, knowledge of the widespread corruption and bribery, real fear of being dismissed as a crank, concern about physical harm, and so forth. The throne of iniquity has no fellowship with God, and the righteous know that these guys are good at framing mischief through a law (Ps. 94:20). Anyone who believes that unbelieving secularism can have become the established faith in our nation without a gross corruption of the courts of justice simply does not understand the biblical teaching of antithesis. This is not written as a warning of things to come, but rather as a explanation of what has already occurred to us. Res agitur.
When someone cannot lawfully be charged with wrongdoing—even when plain and evident proof of that wrongdoing exists—then the available information seeks another route. Meantime, the one who is officially "bulletproof" believes he may conduct his affairs with a high hand because he knows he has the official system in his back pocket. This creates an abundant demand for information from those who disseminate it through the new channels. In our day, when the courts no longer settle anything that looks or smells like justice, the new channels are books by alternative publishers and internet newspapers.
When someone is bold enough to mention such things as will be mentioned below, he will be indignantly told that these are all unconfirmed internet rumors, none of this has been established in a court of law, no controlling legal authority . . ., etc. Quite so. We're sorry. So may we be permitted to present all this evidence in a court of law? No?
Our president is well-known for his sexual immorality and financial corruption. Tragically, this considered by itself does not make him unique among our presidents. But it must honestly be said that he has brought an old game to new levels of performance. In addition, in the minds of those whose understanding goes past what they hear from Peter Jennings, he is also under reasonable suspicion of drug trafficking, cocaine use, obstruction of justice, perjury, and serial murder. These are reasonable charges, with enough evidence to bring a biblical charge in a court of law, provided that the court has not been previously subverted. But here is our dilemma—the courts have been.
Now the loyal opposition is of no use in such situations. The Republicans believe themselves to be conservatives, but they have an ineluctable problem before them. Scandal of the garden variety helps them out, helps them considerably in the next election. Then, if everything goes well, they can be king of the hill. But scandals of this magnitude call into question the legitimacy of the entire regime, that entire interlocking power grid which we call the Washington establishment. This includes the media and Congress, lobbyists and presidents, cabinet officers and big business, White House interns and Starbucks employees. If such charges are true, then that whole sorry ganglion on the Potomac needs to go.
Our "national greatness" conservatives are of course appalled at the corruption and mendacity of the current administration. But for the most part they remain quiet about it—why? And those who are not quiet are attacked by the tamed conservatives with a ferocity which can only come from fear. This is not the same kind of corruption as was found in the administrations of Ulysses Grant or Herbert Hoover. Our national life now lingers between a struggling consciousness and the collapse of final surrender. We are afflicted with the kind of disease which attends great republics, hacking pitifully on their death beds.
Nevertheless, we pretend otherwise, which calls to mind a comment from Pirates of Penzance, where it is said that there are "the remains of a fine woman" about Ruth. The vestiges of blessing which we still enjoy these days are enough to convince many that these problems are transient and will pass away. A cancer patient may truly enjoy those times in which he denies everything he knows. But reality is not optional, and truth haunts.
When an accuser is refuted in open court, we may all rejoice at the defeat of slander. But when potential accusers are found dead in an open ditch, our thoughts turn in another more melancholy direction. The silver has become dross, the wine is filled with water, the bread is made with sawdust, and Lady Justice has taken to sleeping around.
"Hear this, I pray you, ye heads of the house of Jacob, and princes of the house of Israel, that abhor judgment, and pervert all equity. They build up Zion with blood, and Jerusalem with iniquity" (Micah 3:9-10).
Resurrecting the Enlightenment
By Douglas Jones
I used to speculate that the remnants of Enlightenment ideology would last another full century (a good ninety years beyond its huffing and puffing critic—postmodernism). But no more. If Edward O. Wilson's recent and much touted book, Consilience, in defense of Enlightenment project is any indication, then modernists might as well untie their boxing gloves now.
An excerpt from the book was run in the Atlantic Monthly, and Wilson's claims were the subject of ongoing discussions on National Public Radio. Even Richard Rorty waded into the pages of the Wilson Quarterly to pour a postmodern "rebuttal" on Wilson's chirpy modernity.
Billed as "one of the century's most important scientists," E.O Wilson begins the Atlantic Monthly essay, titled "Back from Chaos," with the line: "In contrast to widespread opinion, I believe that the Enlightenment thinkers of the seventeenth and eighteenth centuries got it mostly right." He goes on to praise the Enlightenment for providing "a vision of secular knowledge in the service of human rights and human progress," a vision that was "the West's greatest contribution to civilization."
Now before you say "Sheesh," E.O. Wilson does draw back a bit and mentions in passing there might be a connection between totalitarian horror and the Enlightenment: "such is the dark side of Enlightenment secular thought, unveiled in the French Revolution and expressed more recently by theories of `scientific' socialism and racialist fascism." He says the problem was that Enlightenment thinkers "reached too far." Yes, and Jack the Ripper was good at heart but just a little zealous.
In short, Wilson argues that all our cultural squabbles stem from the fragmentation of knowledge. We could all make nice and be happy if we just had more interdisciplinary studies: "only fluency across the boundaries will provide a clear view of the world as it really is, not as it appears through the lens of ideology and religious dogma."
Now watch his sleeves. Religious "unfounded" dogma is a bad boy, but he doesn't flinch at admitting that "the possibility of consilience beyond science and across the great branches of learning is a metaphysical worldview" that "cannot be proved with logic from first principles or grounded in any definitive set of empirical tests."
In the end, he seeks to sell us the Enlightenment on the ground that its "strongest appeal. . . is in the prospect of intellectual adventure." Ridem' cowboy. Part of the thrill that raised Wilson into recent media prominence was his rebellion against the postmod-ernists. Yet all he wants in the end are more core courses. He closes with, "Inevitably, I think, we will accept the [Enlightenment] adventure, go there, and find what we need to know." That sort of vision couldn't move the wind. I picture E.O. Wilson saying this last line face up from the boxing mat. The game is over.
Just Say "No" to Politics
By Douglas Jones
U.S. News and World Report recently ran one of those scary cover stories titled, "The Power of James Dobson." Inside, the story headline reads: "A Righteous Indignation: James Dobson is set to topple the political establishment." And a similar caption reads, "Dobson now reaches more than Falwell or Robertson ever did."
By itself the story is interesting because it details how Dobson has leading Republicans shaking in their boots over his threats to bolt the party and take millions with him.
It's always interesting to see folks get the willies about right wing Christian politics. In truth, if an evangelical ever became president he would probably be as threatening as Dwight Eisenhower on quaaludes. No matter how principled you promise to be, Washington, D.C. will remake you in its image (unless you're Ron Paul or Pat Buchanan). Evangelicals want to be liked and respected too much to withstand national political pressure.
That's a criticism of folks like Dobson, but it's also a compliment. Should Christians froth all about if we finally got someone who was nasty enough to machete through the deeply rooted wickedness of the Beltway? What ever happened to: "so shall it not be among you: but whosoever will be great among you, shall be your minister" (Matt. 10:42)? Charlemagne and other good guys at least had some cultural consensus. But a Christian political victory now would be like painting smiley faces on Egyptian tombs. Our nation's paganism runs too deep. And talk of Christian politics only terrifies our non-Christian neighbors.
Just imagine the scene we could create if we publicly swore off of active politics. What would happen if we openly said no to Christian scorecards, PACs, and candidates? Now think about this. This isn't one of those pietistic claims that denies there is a Christian political theory. There is, and we should think about it. But there is power lurking in a Christian denial of politics. We could unashamedly say that the church and family are far more culturally important than dumping millions upon millions into transient politics. But we aren't able to do it because we believe the lie that politics is what moves the world. We want to be like the other nations.
Politics is always and essentially the threat of violence, no matter how we smooth its frosting. But how sad and short lived is that culture which places its hope in violence—"Some trust in chariots, and some in horses: but we will remember the name of the LORD our God" (Ps. 20:7). Why must Christians play by the same rules?