“This is called slave labor,” said Pope Francis.
The Holy Father was referring to the $40 a month paid to apparel workers at that eight-story garment factory in Bangladesh that collapsed on top of them, killing more than 400.
“Not paying a just wage … focusing exclusively on the balance books, on financial statements, only looking at personal profit. That goes against God!”
The pope is describing the dark side of globalism.
Why is Bangladesh, after China, the second-largest producer of apparel in the world? Why are there 4,000 garment factories in that impoverished country which, a few decades ago, had almost none?
Because the Asian subcontinent is where Western brands—from Disney to Gap to Benetton—can produce cheapest. They can do so because women and children will work for $1.50 a day crammed into factories that are rickety firetraps, where health and safety regulations are nonexistent.
This is what capitalism, devoid of a conscience, will produce.
Rescuers at the factory outside Dhaka have stopped looking for survivors, but expect to find hundreds more bodies in the rubble. Read More…
Two days ago I wrote that the results of legal battles over church property for Anglicans breaking away from the Episcopal Church was mixed. As of today, it’s, well, less mixed. The Virginia Supreme court ruled against the breakaway Anglicans today, and their property will remain with the diocese. From the Washington Post:
On Thursday, the Supreme Court affirmed that the property was rightly given to the mainline denomination but said some of the nearly $3 million in church coffers belongs to the Falls Church Anglican congregation.
It was not immediately clear whether there would be an appeal by either side. If there is not, this would end a property dispute that drew global attention starting in 2006 when more than a dozen Virginia congregations voted to leave the Episcopal Church but keep the church properties, arguing that the denomination had “left” by becoming more liberal on homosexuality, the role of women and how God views non-Christians.
The rector of The Falls Church Anglican sent a message to his congregation:
We have received word from the Virginia Supreme Court that it has ruled in our appeal. The Court’s decision reverses the trial court’s ruling as to a part of our church’s funds, and sends the case back to the trial court for further proceedings regarding that point. But the Court has affirmed the trial court’s decision as to our church’s real property and much of the personal property, meaning that our lands, building, and much of our money have not been returned to us. …
Please join me in praising and thanking God for his faithfulness to us despite this result. Although this is not the outcome we had hoped for, our faith and our future do not depend on court decisions. The Lord works all things together for our good (Romans 8:28), and we had purposed to praise Him regardless of the outcome. It is difficult to face the prospect of losing things that are precious to us, but ultimately we do not place our hope in land, buildings, or money.
To clarify the money issue, the EDV had laid claim to donations made to the breakaway churches after they had separated.
South Carolina is the site of the latest confrontation in the slow-motion collapse of the Episcopal Church in America. As the Wall Street Journal reported this week, the November decision of Bishop Mark Lawrence and most of the Diocese of South Carolina to leave has resulted in another all-too-common property dispute. Mark Movesian explains over at First Things:
One faction, representing the leadership and about two-thirds of the membership, broke away from the national Episcopal Church in November over the national body’s liberal approach to sexuality and other issues. The minority faction has remained loyal to the national body. Both factions assert ownership of the diocese’s property, including St. Michael’s Church in Charleston (left). In total, the diocese’s church buildings, grounds, and cemeteries are worth around $500 million.
Church property disputes have become increasingly common in America, as local congregations distance themselves from more liberal national church bodies. In the Episcopal Church alone, there have been a dozen such disputes in the past few decades. Human nature being what it is, each side in such a dispute thinks of itself as the true depository of the faith, with a moral, and legal, right to church property.
It’s not the first time the decision to leave has been made at the diocesan level—Pittsburgh, Fort Worth, San Joaquin in California, and Quincy in Illinois have also taken a similar path—but it does make this case different than the high-level dispute over nine Virginia Anglican church buildings. Movesian writes that the TEC “should be confident of ultimate victory” given the history of litigation, but the record is a little more ambiguous than he suggests. In Pittsburgh, for example, the breakaway diocese lost in court, but in Fort Worth they won a major victory when the Texas Supreme Court found they lacked jurisdiction. The nine Virginia churches were expelled from their buildings last spring following a state supreme court ruling, but were recently granted an appeal. In other words, it’s a mixed record, but one could speculate South Carolina’s courts might defer to state authority rather than national, given their history.
The Episcopal Church’s carpetbagger replacement for Bishop Lawrence in the rump diocese, elected in a January convention that included TEC’s presiding
sociologist bishop Katherine Jefferts Schori, has now issued an ultimatum to the clergy asking that they “make known your allegiance to TEC.” It was apparently sent to retired clergy members as well. That could be a minor clerical error—no pun intended—but I doubt it. Should they fail to declare that allegiance or renounce it, that’s grounds for deposition, which can mean exclusion from the clergy’s pension plan. The orthodox Anglican blog VirtueOnline noted that similar communiques are often received from bishops of other rump dioceses.
That “loving Jesus means hating gay people” is “proclaimed in Christian churches and on Christian television and radio broadcasts.”
So declares Dan Savage in his review of Jeff Chu’s Does Jesus Really Love Me: A Gay Christian’s Pilgrimage in Search of God in America—on page one of The New York Times Book Review.
Who is foremost among those who have made “anti-gay bigotry seem synonymous with Christianity”? The Family Research Council and the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops.
So says Savage. And who is he? A cradle Catholic who says he “was in church every Sunday for the first 15 years of my life. Now I spend my Sundays on my bike, on my snowboard or on my husband.”
One gets the point. And in handing this review to an apostate Catholic and atheist homosexual, the Times was nailing its anti-Catholic colors to the mast. Yet what Savage alleges and the Times published is a lie.
No true Catholic church can preach that Jesus hates gays. “Love your enemies” is the message of Christ. Hate the sin and love the sinner is taught as gospel truth in Catholic schools.
This has been Catholic doctrine for 2,000 years.
Yet in contending that America is reaching a “cultural tipping point,” Savage is not all wrong. Read More…
Dr. Ben Carson, the Johns Hopkins Hospital neurosurgeon who rocketed to national fame after a provocative keynote speech at the National Prayer Breakfast in February, is a 7th Day Adventist and, hence, a literal six-day-creationist.
Carson has not kept his views on biology and geology secret. But since he’s new to the national scene, many will find this a baffling revelation. As in: how can this brilliant scientific mind entertain an outlandish theory that virtually none of his peers shares? Or as Washington Post reporter Valerie Strauss implies: how can such an accomplished medical professional reject “Darwin’s theory of evolution, which is the central principle that animates modern biology, uniting all biological fields under one theoretical tent, and which virtually all modern scientists agree is true”?
John Derbyshire put the matter succinctly in a piece about the documentary “Expelled: No Intelligence Allowed,” Ben Stein’s attempt at exposing the Stalinesque suppression of scientists at variance with Darwinian orthodoxy: “How could a guy like this do a thing like that?”
The truth is, as I learned throughout my childhood, lots of smart people are literal six-day creationists. They are not all mouth-breathing rednecks who, with Homer Stokes, rail against “all those smart-ass folks think we come descended from monkeys.” Some of them managed to graduate from Ivy League universities and clerk for Supreme Court justices. Some of them even conduct “impeccable” paleontological research. And at least one of them is, yes, a world-renowned neurosurgeon.
For the vast majority of human beings, even modern cosmopolitan professionals, beliefs about the geologic timescale, the processes of biological adaptation, paleontology, cosmology, etc. exist comfortably outside the scope of their core competencies. I get twitchy when scientific illiteracy creeps into the top ranks of our political class, but, at the same time, I’m forced to recognize that a country in which only four in 10 people believe in theory of evolution seems to function pretty well on an everyday basis.
In the event that you found yourself in Baltimore and required emergency brain surgery, would you, proud secular liberal, let a six-day creationist gay-marriage critic cut open your skull?
If you admit the answer is yes, then savor the irony—and maybe dial down the self-superiority.
“Beyond the Hills,” the wrenching new movie from Romanian director Cristian Mungiu (“4 Months, 3 Weeks and 2 Days”), is easy for American audiences to misunderstand. The Washington City Paper‘s review thinks it’s about the sufferings of an unbeliever trapped “within a world of intolerance.” It’s about “a battle between salvation and love.” This is badly missing the point.
“Beyond the Hills” is about two young women, Voichita and Alina, who grew up together in an orphanage. When they aged out of the orphanage Alina left the country, going to Germany to find work, while Voichita entered an Orthodox women’s monastery. The movie begins when Alina returns, ostensibly to visit Voichita but actually to rekindle their (apparently lesbian) relationship and persuade Voichita to leave the nuns. The movie is at least somewhat “based on a true story” about an exorcism gone wrong, so you know that this visit will end very, very badly. But the portrayal of faith and love in “Beyond the Hills” is complex and far more challenging than a mere clash between misunderstood secular girl and intolerant religious nuns.
Lots of discussion below the cut, including some spoilers.
Here a very local event foreshadows more profound consequences of changing American demographics and mores. The University of Pennsylvania student newspaper, edited by Jennifer Sun, has refused to publish a bigoted anti-Islam ad by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. The ads (which are meant to portray as representative of all Muslims some extreme instances of Muslim criminality) had been rejected by some student papers, accepted by others. I think it’s fairly obvious that no student paper in the current — say post-1960s — era would run a similar ad targeting any ethnic or religious group besides Muslims, one which seeks to take some instances of criminal behavior and make them stand for the group as whole. Sun issued a statement noting:
As a fellow student, I’ve been grateful for how diplomatic student leaders from the Muslim Students Association and PRISM [Penn's Interfaith Student group] have been when they approached us with their concerns. This advertisement hit hard, but the last intention we have is to insult or offend our fellow classmates.
Reading between the lines, it’s clear that critical cultural decisions at an Ivy League campus are being made by people who aren’t necessarily white Protestants, Catholics, or Jews, or indeed, African-American. The Ivy League has been diverse for a while, with many Asians; I’ve noted elsewhere that Students for Justice in Palestine groups are active in many elite campuses, where Muslim students often form a core contingent. But here the children of new immigrants are not just present, but assuming cultural leadership. This new America isn’t reflected yet in Congress, but it will be.
I can see potential pitfalls of course, but overall this seems a pretty favorable phenomenon. Bigotry against Islam has long been the only remaining socially acceptable form of American bigotry, and it played a big role in greasing the skids towards the disastrous Iraq war, as it does in the reflexive deference to Israel in the U.S. Congress. White Protestants who could no longer publicly despise (as many of their ancestors did) Catholics, or blacks, or Jews, found they could hate Arabs and be sanctified by Bernard Lewis and Abe Foxman. Several trillion dollars and thousands of lives later, Americans may have begun to realize these attitudes come with a price. Look at Penn, and welcome the new day.
Probably since Maisie Allison brought him up in her recent survey of post-movement conservatism, I’ve had Peter Viereck on the brain again. I thought of him in, of all places, the grocery checkout line. My eyes had wandered toward the cover of People magazine, currently featured on which is the happy-seeming couple Sean Lowe and Catherine Giudici, of ABC’s The Bachelor fame. Lowe, evidently, is a “born-again virgin” and has abstained from sexual activity since college. Hence, as People’s snappy headline writers tell it, the couple is “honoring his traditional values,” meaning: “No sex until ‘I Do.’”
I don’t think I’m out on a limb in assuming that 1) many shoppers will react to that cover with an “Aww, isn’t that sweet and romantic and old-fashioned?” sort of condescension; and 2) such condescension would rightly upset traditionalists. Indeed, if you actually delve into the cover story (I was conducting research, people!), you’ll find Lowe explaining, “I lived life kind of selfishly for a long time, and I reached a point where I was tired of being selfish. I wanted to live my life the way I know it to be right. It’s a personal choice for me.”
“A personal choice”: just another option on the lifestyle menu of modern liberal society.
Isn’t that sweet and romantic and old-fashioned?
I can’t decide if it’s a left-handed compliment or a knockout punch.
Which is why I thought of Viereck.
In a 1974 appendix to his study Conservatism Revisited: The Revolt Against Ideology, Viereck wrote that classical conservatism, of the mostly British but also French variety, is “an inarticulate state of mind and not at all an ideology. Liberalism argues; conservatism simply is.” Once conservatism becomes conscious of itself—becomes aware that it is a thing set apart—it changes irrevocably; it becomes another species of rationalism. Viereck was writing in a sociopolitical context, in which classical conservatives recoil from Rights of Man universalism and other logical abstractions. But the observation applies just as well, I think, to traditional values in modern Western societies.
That couples should abstain from sex until marriage used to be more than an imperative; it was a norm, a widely-shared expectation of behavior. Today it is a value—inculcated and professed as against the more lax standards of the mainstream. It is joined to a narrative about honor and degradation. It is an argument, rather than something that simply is.
This no more presages the disappearance of the practice of abstaining from sex until marriage than it does the disappearance of any other rational, self-conscious ethical or political blueprint. It does, however, mean that its adherents must realize they are tending to something inorganic and exposed to a “torrent of change,” like Chesterton’s white post. It means they must become radical and set apart.
As an outsider, I’ve been utterly transfixed by the last two papal conclaves (at 36, the only ones I can remember)—the white smoke; the crowd of people, with their diverse faces, in St. Peter’s Square and the Road of Consolation; the sheer theater of waiting for a newly empowered man to emerge from behind a curtain. In its mystery and pomp and historical continuity, the election of a pope is an echo of the ancient that’s utterly absent (by design) in the vulgar rituals of modern democratic politics.
Not being Catholic, I couldn’t identify with the reporting on Vatican intrigue and “frontrunner” cardinals leading up to the conclave. I did not know Bergoglio from Scola from Erdo. Consequently, I found myself wondering, more than anything, which regnal name the eventual pope, whoever he turned out to be, would take for himself. I find this idea of symbolically re-christening oneself, and thus signaling to the world what kind of leader one intends to be, tremendously powerful.
In our own politics, we do this informally and hagiographically. Reagan was Goldwater II. Clinton was JFK II. Or Obama is FDR III. Imagine these men being able and expected to attach such names to themselves, and then to be remembered by them long after they’re dead.
The power of naming to shape or predetermine identity is a well-documented thing. We encounter it almost immediately in the Bible. God gives Adam dominion over the earth and commissions him to name the animals. In his first intervention into human history after the creation, fall, and flood, God assigns a childless elderly couple, Abram and Sarai, with the progenitorship of a special new people. Later, God renames that man’s grandson “Israel.” And much later, he takes the persecutor of Christians Saul of Tarsus and repurposes him as “Paul,” the greatest of all evangelists.
Shakespeare wrote of the power of names, too, as did Freud, who, the Argentine psychiatrist Juan Eduardo Tesone writes, believed that a given name places a child “in a genealogy that partly determines the place the child comes to occupy”:
The princeps function of the family is to give the child a place that generates otherness. It is through the interpellation of his given name that the child begins to recognize himself as a being-separate-from his parents. He answers to his given name long before he can say “I,” an ontological anteriority that confirms him in his own identity and precedes the possibility of his announcing himself with his personal pronoun separated from the “you.”
The characters of a Bruce Springsteen track reflect on the qualities of themselves that they wish they could excise: “Billy got drunk, angry at his wife / He hit her once, he hit her twice / At night he’d like in bed, he couldn’t stand the shame / So he gave it a name.”
But given names are not taken names. Before his election to the papacy, “Jorge” was unknown to 99.99 percent of the world. He was a blank slate. Now the world knows, and will remember, this man as “Francis” and associate with him the ethos of a revered historical figure.
A neat trick!
On a much smaller scale than the See of Peter, I think of the example of John Mellor, a son of postwar British privilege who, having rejected his roots, became a singer and took to calling himself “Woody,” after Woody Guthrie. Eventually, he renamed himself Joe Strummer—a nod to his ordinary Joe-ness and his penchant for strumming all six strings of the guitar, rather than the “fiddly bits” favored by arena-rock soloists. The arc of Strummer’s life is captured beautifully in Julien Temple’s documentary “The Future is Unwritten”. Owing at least in part to the power of his self-chosen name, I think it might be said that Strummer invented his true identity. (You can’t easily imagine a “Woody Mellor” as the frontman of the Clash, can you?)
Jorge Mario Bergoglio got to do something like that yesterday, and on a world-historical stage.
After Jordan Bloom tells the tale of the $5 million animatronic zoo cum children’s chapel for a San Antonio megachurch, Rod Dreher points out that it’s not the cost that staggers ($5 million for these churches is relatively pocket change), but the purpose—cultural relevance. The idea is to compete with theme parks and pizzerias for the kids’ attention so they’ll stay for the Word of God.
John Hagee is your average megachurch the-end-is-nigh, bless-Israel-so-you-may-be-blessed prosperity preacher, with an aging choir, a corpulent belly, a multimillion dollar TV ministry, a son groomed to take over the empire, and a massive retirement package. He needs your pity more than anything.
With room for 850 boisterous children cascading over the room, it’s hard to imagine those wonderful toys surviving long, but it’s not all bad. The model Noah’s ark is at least a rudimentary architectural symbol of the congregation’s theology, which is more than can be said for the main stadium, which only says that the guy standing down at the bottom middle with the mic is really important and you’d better listen to him.
But it’s a skin-deep symbolism. The electronic elephant symbolizes…a live elephant. It was important to the ark designer “that it really feel more real than just a playground.” “We never wanted a curtain to look behind. No place where it gave it away,” he said. Of course there is a curtain, the plastic which covers the hydraulic innards. A kid who can’t find the curtain (and they will try) is impressed by the design quality, but that’s more reason to believe in the ingenuity of technicians than in the providence of God. That’s why pastor Hagee acknowledges that their real value is entertainment. We wonder how long it will be before the kids get bored and start demanding to see pterodactyls nesting on the church rooftop. The cleverer ones will have overthrown the entire enterprise as soon as they ask “so how did all the animals on the earth fit into this ark? And didn’t the animals come in two by two?”
The power of sacred architecture is in the fitting combination of its beauty and its meaning. Hagee’s chapel is gaudily commercial and theologically spare, powerless to move the soul to God. His church has nothing to say, and no idea how to say it. The larger story here is that the parents and retirees who paid for the building are raising children who are bored with church, and a pachyderm playground is their best idea to get the little ones’ attention.