If your town is taking HUD housing dollars, diversity, in the form of third world refugees, is on th… – http://wp.me/p5sGi-vyh
“If you only read one book this year….” is the sort of thing that one sees at the beginning of a review of a momentous book, so that phrase is rightly placed here. You will do yourself a favor if you read this book this year – or at any time.
The Baby Boomers who came up during the period under Mr. Murray’s examination are all acutely aware of how different America is today. And the brilliance of Murray’s approach is that he is able to succinctly but thoroughly show how the context of our lives has changed, what is now so very different and what were the causes.
The first evidence of Murray’s genius is in his title. With images of Ferguson or of Baltimore fresh in our minds the temptation may be to add a racial component to any “coming apart” one might describe. But by focusing exclusively on “White America” Murray avoids even the appearance of possible racism. He further deploys extensive statistical evidence to support his conclusions which should assuage any remainder of suspicion. So the result is the description of a bifurcation of American society – that is, “white” American society.
Murray begins his analysis in November 1963 and the assassination of John F. Kennedy which he sees as a line of demarcation. What I found fascinating is his observation of how similar life was then for both the middle class and the “rich”. There were only three television networks. There was typically only one or maybe two newspapers in a town. The movies in the local theaters had to be seen in the week or two they were there or nobody could see them. There was a monotony in local eating establishments that children of a later generation would find “quaint”. The difference is captured wonderfully in a quote Murray takes from David Brooks. Brooks had written about his hometown in Pennsylvania describing it as an “espresso desert” while he was growing up! Now, his town has as many boutique coffeehouses as any other town. So the opportunities available to the rich were as few as those for the rest. This leads Murray to the wonderfully prescient synopsis: “In 1963, the main difference between the old-money rich and everybody else was mainly that they had more money.”
In order to paint a picture of what’s different now, Murray asks his reader to think of attending a parent’s night in an average neighborhood elementary school and then to imagine one at an “elite private elementary school.” He starts with differences in the parking lot and then describes the likely differences in the strollers used by each group and finishes with a description of the parents themselves. The latter group, while driving foreign cars and pushing high dollar strollers bought at baby boutiques are also much more slender and likely to know their cholesterol number. They will be more well informed, less likely to watch TV and please, don’t look for them in a McDonald’s! They will marry later, frequently vacation out of the country and will obsess over every aspect of their children’s lives. In short, a separation of mainstream and rich has visibly occurred.
What were the causes? Murray identifies four: “the increasing market value of brains, wealth, the college sorting machine, and homogamy.” And they all work in an incestuously powerful way. Murray quotes Bill Gates as identifying the ability of “brains” to effect high value impact on a company, thereby driving up the cost of those people so gifted. This produces wealth which produces the ability of more parents to send their children to elite schools in pursuit of more “brains”. The more children attending elite schools means students of both sexes which then are more likely to marry their own kind. Murray uses statistics to show how these “brainy” marriages produce children of higher IQ’s which then, are more attractive to elite schools so the scenario repeats, ad infinitum. These “homogamous” couples are also more likely to settle into zip codes with more of their “kind” which augments the separation of the elite from the mainstream. Murray’s extensive statistical support for these phenomena is fantastic and prevents any skepticism about his conclusions. This separation would not be problematic, per se, save for two attributes of the new elite: they tend to be the new influencers in politics, business and media and they are now almost completely devoid of any knowledge of the other class; a process Murray describes as “balkanization”.
Having outlined the new upper class, Murray turns his analysis to the new lower class. In order to establish a context or framework Murray reflects at some length about the qualities which allowed American to prosper since its founding and he cites four: industriousness, honesty, marriage and religion. Fascinating observations follow about how few people were on the dole, how few were in prison, how important married women are to the social fabric and how religion builds a sense of caring and community which undergirds the whole enterprise. Murray quotes at length from Tocqueville and Grund – two contemporary European observers – as well as several of America’s Founders here. Having established the framework, he then applies modern statistics to show how those four areas have deteriorated so extensively as to produce the lower class of today. But, in a fascinating bit of counterpoint, Murray underlines the fact that the new upper class still exhibits those virtues. That is, they are highly industrious, they stay out of jail, they stay married and they have exhibited a slower decline in “religiosity”.
One drawback I find is Murray’s skittishness in prescribing a solution. Anyone with a basic familiarity of American history will recognize that Murray’s concept of “industriousness” used to be called the “Protestant work ethic.” And the concepts of “honesty”, “marriage” and “religion” were part and parcel of the Calvinist ideology America’s Founders held while forming this country. Even the idea of “community” grew out of the Protestant notion of the “priesthood of all believers” and the organization of society around the local church. If the “coming apart” of our current society is signified by deficiencies in these areas, surely a “coming together” would result by returning to them. Murray seems to imply that the shortcomings in these areas will magically heal themselves as Americans watch the slow suicide of Europe.
Another unfortunate part of this book is the author’s swipe at the sincerity of America’s Founders, at least with regard to their religious convictions. Murray says that, “They (the Founders) went to church, but few of them were devout.” Historic psychoanalysis is always problematic. Besides, this negative focus on a mere handful of individuals obscures the broader picture that 80% of Americans at the time of the Founding were strongly influenced by the teachings of Calvin and more than 70% of the universities were founded on those principles. The focus on these men, even if the conclusion is true, also says nothing about their families which were nearly always “devout”.
One might despair having come this far – and there is reasonable support for this reaction. But Murray ends on rather a high note that points to the light at the end of this tunnel. The light seems somewhat dim and at a considerable distance but Murray is not a pessimist about the outcome – at least in the long run. If you are the slightest bit interested in how our society is changing, I would highly encourage you to read this book.
One of the more misguided comments by prominent Roman Catholics of late is that “Science proves when life begins.” I am thinking specifically of Bill O’Reilly and Senator Marco Rubio who have both stated this publicly.
Unfortunately, for this to be true, man would have to be only a material being. If we hold to the traditional view that man is constituted of body and soul, we must allow that science has not a thing to say about the soul.
One of the things which allures the unsuspecting to the Catholic Church is it’s claim to authority. In a world of constant change and sinfulness, one full of strife and discord, Rome’s claims can look very much like a safe harbor. So the emotional appeal that lures the unaware is understandable. However one must go beyond emotions and look at the claims themselves to see that they are, in a word, vacuous. Worse still, Rome’s authority actually hinders honest scholarship, damages the relationship between clergy and laity and actually undermines the sacraments.
So it was with great interest that I found a compilation of twelve articles by Catholic scholars that makes this case in spades.1 The anthology is edited by noted historians Michael J. Lacey and Francis Oakley and includes contributions by Catholic professors from the Louvain, Catholic University of America and Notre Dame, Catholic priests, nuns and canon lawyers and others with like specialties. They show with great aptitude how Roman authority has created a “crisis” for the modern Catholic church.
In the period ahead I would like to share with you several of these articles that I have found fascinating. The next will be a look at how the history of the church makes it impossible to identify what truly is the nature and justification for Rome’s claims to power.
From the Prologue
The editors make the observation that the locus of Catholic authority – the papacy – is at once more consolidated and powerful than ever…
As the church settles into the twenty-first century, students of Catholicism no less than Catholics themselves are confronted with a paradox regarding the authority of its central institution, the modern papacy: it is stronger than it has ever been, yet frailer than before…2
…and increasingly irrelevant to local Catholics.
The practice is up to them (local Catholics). They cannot be scared into obedience or shamed into piety, and they know it. They can leave if they like and return if they wish.3
That is to say, today’s Roman Catholics cannot be bullied by Rome the way Catholics have been in the past.4 Or said still another way is that Rome has none of the actual authority that it claims.
This is amplified by another essay which shows that in Rome’s authoritative written instruments – it’s encyclicals, catechisms and the teachings of its bishops – “more authority is claimed than accepted, and the gap is apparently widening.” (This is reminiscent of a like situation that existed in the French church until it’s 1801 Concordat with Napoleon. Papal bulls and encyclicals were not allowed to circulate in that country without the local bishops’ approval.) In a lovely turn of a phrase it is noted what a charade teaching has become in the Catholic church:
“A spirit of reciprocal pretense seems to prevail: “…you pretend to teach me, and I’ll pretend to learn.”5
“Pretend” authority aptly describes the extant environment for Roman Catholics.
There is no better example of this than Rome’s “authoritative” teaching on birth control and contraception. The unwarranted claim that Rome makes in its current teaching is rejected by the majority of Catholics for several good reasons. The first is that incontrovertibly contradicts earlier church teaching and actually permits what was previously – and “authoritatively” – proscribed as sinful!
John Noonan, for example, has recently traced the convoluted process whereby a pattern of behavior once denounced as contrary to nature has modulated across time into the routinely acceptable, whereas another such pattern, once taken for granted as unexceptionable, has come to be viewed as totally unacceptable, perhaps even “intrinsically evil.”6
What the editors are drawing attention to here – and what Dr. Noonan describes in scholarly detail elsewhere – is the “rhythm method” of contraception. Declared a sin for centuries by Rome’s authority, Pope Pius XII made licit for all Catholics. To borrow a phrase from Judge Noonan, this is typical of the “topsy turvy” nature of Rome’s pronouncements.7
Later in this volume we will hear from a professor at Roman Catholicism’s oldest university – the Louvain – explain how the meaning of the term “Magisterium” – which signifies the teaching authority of the Roman church – has devolved into whatever the current Magisterium says it is.
I am very excited to be sharing this work with you. It is obvious to any honest observer that the official Roman claims to authority over the Catholic church are merely a power grab and a charade. The fact that innocent people are still, today, swayed by them is all the more reason to bring the discussion into the open.
This fabrication deserves to be exposed and these Catholic writers have begun the work brilliantly.
Next we will begin with an old problem for Rome’s claims to authority – the Council of Constance.
1 Lacey, Michael J. and Francis Oakley, ed. The Crisis of Authority in Catholic Modernity. New York: Oxford University Press, 2011.
2Ibid. Kindle loc. 81
3Ibid., Kindle loc. 95
4The example of the mistreatment of John Courtney Murray, S.J as recently as the 1960’s is but one example.
5Ibid., Kindle loc. 162
6Ibid., Kindle loc. 670
7More detail can be found in Noonan, John T., Jr. Contraception: A History of Its Treatment by the Catholic Theologians and Canonists . Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1986
A disturbing trend that shows DHS involvement in skirting the law.
The reason that treaties cannot be negotiated with Islam is that they teach that non-believers (in Islam) are the worst of creatures! (Surah 98:6) Why would you have to honor a commitment to one less than the lowest creature?
Last week’s Halbig decision is an interesting application of the Reformation doctrine of Sola Scriptura for today and is a prime demonstration why that doctrine is central to American life.
The question in Halbig was essentially whether a “magisterial” administration could redefine a written law contrary to its explicit text in favor of what the political hierarchy “meant” when the law was drafted. Was the text supreme or was it just one leg in a multi-legged stool upon which a prince could sit while pronouncing the law’s meaning?
Providentially, Kevin Williamson at the National Review Online weighed in on Halbig with his article, “Halbig and Hammurabi” (www.nationalreview.com, July 27, 2014). Hammurabi, it will be remembered is known to history as being (at least one of) the earliest king to codify laws in written form.
Williamson reminds us of the importance of Hammurabi’s legacy:
The Hammurabic Code…represented something radical and new in human history. With the law written down – with the law fixed – a man who had committed no transgression no longer had reaason to tremble before princes and potentates. If the driver of oxen had been paid his statutory wage, if a man’s contractual obligations had been satisfied, and if his life was unsullied by violations of the law, handily carved upon slabs of igneous rock for all to see and ingest, then that man was, within the limits of his law, free.
And the implications are immense:
“The written law was the first real constraint on the power of kings. An oral tradition is subject to constant on-the-fly revision.”
So the Court’s decision in Halbig was an affirmation on the restraint of kings.
Dr. Mereidth Kline has written a wonderful study entitled, “The Structure of Biblical Authority” (Euguene, OR; Wipf & Stock. Copyright 1989 by Meredith G. Kline) which traces God’s purposes in creating a society built upon written laws. Kline shows how the ancient near east – including the Babylonia of Hammurabi – was moved to codify their laws in stone. These ancient “covenants” specified the name of the king, his relation to his subjects and theirs to him, the laws that were to be followed and specific penalties for their violation. One stone was typically placed in the center of town so that all could see it; another was tucked away for safe keeping in the event the first was damaged or lost. This supports Williamson’s idea thoroughly.
This concept begins to become more interesting when one realizes that this is expressly the context into which God chose to codify His laws to the ancient Israelites. Sometime about 200-500 years after Hammurabi (depending on which source you choose) God wrote His law in stone; one copy for the Israelites and one stored in the Ark of the Covenant. (Exodus 34) That was His way of assuring the Law was being expressed in a fashion that would have been familiar to the Israelites. And it would have been an entirely familiar thing to those societies among whom the Israelites lived.
But there is yet another fascinating part of God’s creation of laws written in stone that is fundamental. And that is the extreme sanction against anyone seeking to change it.
Dr. Kline explains:
A feature of the covenant tablets of peculiar significance for their canonical character is the inscriptural curse, or what we may call the canonical sanction. The tablet was protected against alteration or destruction by making such violations of it the object of specific curses… Wherever it is found the inscriptional curse is somewhat stereotyped in content. This is so both in respect to the techniques envisaged by which the text might be defaced or removed and with respect to the divine retribution threatened as a deterrent to any contemplating such transgression.” (Kline, p. 29)
How fascinating that God used that part of His creation as a model for the communication of His Law to the Israelites.
Consider Deuteronomy 4:2 –
You shall not add to the word which I command you, nor take anything from it.
…or Proverbs 30:6 –
Do not add to his words, or he will rebuke you and prove you a liar.
So this was an established principle centuries later when the Apostle Paul wrote in the New Testament:
“Do not go beyond what is written.” (1 Corinthians 4:6)
Or when the Scriptures closes with just such an admonition.
Revelation 22:18-19 –
I warn everyone who hears the words of the prophecy of this scroll: If anyone adds anything to them, God will add to that person the plauges described in this scroll. And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God willt ake away from tath person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City….
So we readily see that the roots of Sola Scriptura – contrary to some claims of its modernity – is really an ancient doctrine.
So the Halbig Court affirmed principle that is thousands of years old and one that America’s Founders also affirmed. Dr. John Eidsmoe’s study of early America produces this interesting fact:
Many, if not the vast majority of colonial Americans came from Calvinistic backgrounds.
The author goes on to show that by 1787 two thirds of Americans were “trained in the school of Calvin” and had come from “Calvinistic backgrounds.” This resulted in seventy seven percent of the country universities being built on Calvinistic principles. (Eidsmoe, John. “Christianity and the Constitution: The Faith of Our Founding Fathers”. Grand Rapids, Baker Books, 1987. Kindle locations 82, 87). With such a large Calvinistic influence the presence of the doctrine of Sola Scriptura in the establishment of the laws of this country is self-evident.
So what happened in Halbig? The court merely restated what the Apostle Paul taught us two thousand years ago: “Do not go beyond what is written.”
Sola Scriptura at work today!
Dr. Clark weighed in a topic about which I posted yesterday. In this 600th anniversary year of the convening of the Council of Constance, his effort is very timely and can be read here.
The crux of the matter is put succinctly here:
The Avignon crisis is just one of many examples from the history of the medieval church that illustrate the futility of seeking continuity, unity, and stability where they have never existed. The historical truth is that the Roman communion is not an ancient church. She is a medieval church who consolidated her theology, piety, and practice during a twenty-year-long council in the sixteenth century (Trent). Her rituals, sacraments, canon law, and papacy are medieval. The unity and stability offered by Roman apologists are illusions—unless mutual and universal excommunication and attempted murder count as unity and stability. Crushing opponents and rewriting history to suit present needs is not unity. It is mythology.
I commend his post to your reading.
Pray for Christians in heathen lands…..