Saturday, May 19, 2007

The People's Prime Minister

I am not at all familiar with the way British politics works, so I suppose it's quite possible that I may someday find that I am here paying tribute to the wrong man politically. But in any case, on the gut level I have found much in the leadership of the Right Honorable Tony Blair that is honorable and right. Gordon Brown will have a tough act to follow this June.

I watched The Queen last night, a film by Stephen Frears released earlier this year, which, by the way, is well worth your time. Helen Mirren's portrayal of Elizabeth II and her struggle with Mr. Blair over the aftermath of the death of Princess Diana is magnificent. (To whet your appetite, click here to view the trailer.) What I also took from the film was a reminder of just how much I have grown to admire Mr. Blair over the years. It was he who first coined the phrase "the People's Princess" with respect to Diana, and it was also he who best interpreted the pulse of the British people in that tragic hour.

To be sure, much about the life of Diana was less than pure, and there was, I recall, a certain warped irony about the way the world doted on her while largely ignoring Mother Teresa who also died that summer of 1997. Nevertheless Diana was larger than life. She was an icon. She was the lovely princess of everyone's childhood fairy tale, and she was a real live person. The paparazzi not only played a central role in causing her death; they also sought to ruin that image England and the world saw in the Princess. It did not matter that she and the Prince were divorced; in fact, since it was in the public view the Prince's fault, she became all the more loved for it. Mr. Blair likely understood all this, so in the hour of her death it was he who was able first to say the right thing at the right time.

And we Americans dare never forget how he stood shoulder to shoulder with us after September 11, 2001, and has not flinched in his loyalty since. Everyone in the world seemed to call himself an American for the next few weeks, but he sank his teeth into that alliance. He dedicated his government's troops to stand beside ours in Afghanistan and in Iraq, and he never wavered in the face of sometimes fierce opposition. You think President Bush has received bad press for Iraq? Mr. Blair's enemies are ten times as vitriolic. But he has always worn his determination on his sleeve, and in being a friend to our President he has been a friend to all Americans, pro- and anti- war alike. I remember reading in National Review shortly after 9-11 an editorial which brought a lump to my throat. It was a grateful American's response to Mr. Blair's staunch support: "We will not forget this, sir." Count me as one who has not forgotten.

So he was a socialist at heart; so he was labor; so he was progressive, whatever all that means. This man has acted with a well-informed conscience in his public life. History should and probably will look on his legacy more kindly than current public opinion does. For the measure of a true leader must be understood in the end to be a measure of leadership, rather than of following public opinion. That is what the people will ultimatly respect and admire. It's why Winston Churchill and Ronald Reagan were the 20th century giants they were. Would that all public officials would learn to be so governed by a sense of what is the right thing to do, ever regardless of public opinion.

Friday, May 18, 2007

The Grammarian, II.

Recently I read a review by Gilbert Meilander of a new translation of Dietrich Bonhoeffer's Discipleship, i.e., his classic more commonly known under the title of its older translation, The Cost of Discipleship. Meilander's beef against the obsession of the new translator with being gender-neutral toward God is right on the mark. Not only does it raise serious questions about how one views God; it also ruins the language. So in this case, the ruin of the language is all in service to a rejection of the Biblical depiction of God as Father and Son, and even of the Holy Spirit as He. When God visited Abraham and Sarah, it was in the form of three men.. Most significantly of all, Jesus is quite undeniably Man. But to return to the Grammarian's point in this, it's also degrading of the English language; and anything which degrades the language is just another, if subtle, attack on the Word of God; for if the language we speak suffers, especially when referring to God, then the Word of God comes under assault. Churches worried about offending feminists have bought into this nonsense and, as Meilander documents well with regard to the Bonhoeffer translation, are attacking beauty in language. I've heard some of this jarring omission of pronouns in their references to God, and it's worse than fingernails on a blackboard. It's just goofy to think you can get away with not ever using a pronoun when referring to the Creater. The reasoning, I suppose, is that any prounoun is at least as phonetically long as the vocable god, so why not just always use the latter? But what you get is a clumsy repetition, as, for instance, in this: God is in God's holy temple; God is on God's heavenly throne." The feminists are ruining the English language, to say nothing of virtually everything else they get their hands on. As the title of Meilander's piece puts it, "Enough of God."

Thursday, May 17, 2007

The Ascended Christ and the Preacher

The Gospel accounts of the Ascension contain an unmistakeable link between Christ's ascension and the going forth of His apostles to preach the Gospel to all the world. We are told that He sits at the right hand of God, and we are told that they went forth everywhere preaching.

Two things may be taken from this. First, that every time a preacher proclaims the Gospel, the ascended Christ becomes manifest. Like Stephen, the hearer beholds Christ at the right hand of God. The authority of the preachers is in the Gospel they preach, and that authority is absolute, for Christ said, "All authority is given to me in heaven and on earth." Not only, therefore, shall every knee bow at the name of Jesus, but every heart should also give place to this proclamation. To put the matter simply, there is no excuse for sleeping in or playing golf when you belong in the place where the King in His glory becomes manifest.

Secondly, the phenomenon we call "preaching" is something germane to the New Testament. Although prophets spoke in the name of the Lord, and even King Solomon is called "the Preacher," in Ecclesiastes, these must all be seen as tokens or foreshawings of that which is accomplished in the coming of Christ. In Him is all the fulness of the godhead, bodily. Therefore in the preaching of Him is manifested all the fulness of God, whereas formerly this was only foreshadowed. This, in short, is what the New Testament is all about. It is about fulfillment, accomplishment, and the finishing of the grand story of the redemption of the world. This story is what preaching is. Any "preacher" who does not make this story the sum and substance of his own words is not really preaching at all. From such imposters we Christians must flee, for they preach only themselves, and their god is their belly.

The royal, divine majesty of the Man Jesus Christ on His eternal throne requires the attendance of every man, woman, and child at the hearing of His Holy Gospel, proclaimed from the lips of His called and ordained preachers.

Monday, May 14, 2007

The Grammarian, I.

In the interest of bucking up the English language, I herewith launch a new occasional blog label, "The Grammarian." But fear not, ye grammatically challenged! I shall begin with a mea culpa: My own grammar in the previous post was fundamentally flawed. Can you see where? Behold the title, "A Prayer for Mother's Day." Now this is a bit tricky, because one could conceivably mean to call the second Sunday in May the day set aside for "mother," in which case the placing of the apostrophe would be proper, that is, as "mother's," that which pertains to mother. On reflection, however, it would appear that the day is meant to honor mothers, plural, and is therefore more properly called "Mothers' Day."

Thus I begin this blogging branch on my own error, and seek to build up rather than to tear down. Good grammar begets good manners. It also does wonders for sermons.

So, for starters, let us all agree to the following points:

One does not lay down to rest, unless he indicates what he is to lay down. Otherwise he lies down to rest.

One does not say, "I could have came," unless he is perhaps pondering how nice it would be to have a stained glass window in his foyer, with its grooved bars of came, the lead used to hold the pieces of glass in place.

Heighth is not a word.

One ought never pour over a document, because then it would get all wet. But some documents are well worthy of poring over.

One does not refer to himself as "myself" unless he is the subject of the sentence. To illustrate, it would be incorrect for me to say, "This grammarian blog is good for myself as well as for others." No, "it would be good for me." But then, it would be correct to use the reflexive pronoun thus: "I have written this blog for myself as well as for others."

One does not say "literally" unless he really means it.

OK, that's enough for starters. Be advised: The Grammarian is on the prowl.

Thursday, May 10, 2007

A prayer for Mother's Day

Like many a confessional Lutheran, I do not follow the modern rule of abandoning the historic liturgy in favor of some mother's day theme every time the second Sunday in May rolls around. It's Eastertide, after all, and there are more important things to preach than matters which make Hallmarks happy.

Having said that, however, I am by no means averse to the honoring of our mothers on Mother's Day. On the contrary, I believe that he who dishonors his mother dishonors God who gave us all our mothers.

Therefore I have consistently followed the practice of including a special Mother's Day prayer in the General Prayer (i.e., the Prayer of the Church). Anyone who needs a prayer for Mother's Day, feel free to use it if you like. Only don't make it a collect for the day; just include it among the petitions:

O Almighty God, who didst send forth Thy Son to be born of a woman, the Blessed Virgin Mary, and who by His holy incarnation didst in truth cause her to be the very Mother of God, thereby crowning and honoring all motherhood, grant Thy perpetual favor and blessing upon all of our mothers, that they in turn may be a blessing to all their children. Bless the memory of those of our mothers who have passed on from this vale of tears, and leave us not comfortless. Grant also to the Holy Christian Church, which is the Mother of us all, prosperity in faithfulness, that we through her pure milk of the Word may gain everlasting joy, through the Son of Mary, Thine only Son Jesus Christ, our Lord.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

A very wise man . . .

It is unquestionably the case (he said with a wry grin) that Father Hollywood is a very wise man. The reason? Well, of course, because he thinks that I am a very wise man. He's given a great plug on his blog for my Every Day Will I Bless Thee which you can see here. And if you want a copy of my book, which was published several years ago by Concordia Catechetical Academy, you can either go there to purchase it for $21 plus 10% s&h, or by sending me an email: Thanks, Fr. Beane!

Sunday, May 06, 2007

Pachelbel Rant

Thanks to Fr. Wade Seaver for sending me this video called Pachelbel Rant. If you're like me and can't stand the Pachelbel canon, you really should see this video. So true, and worth some laughs.

Thursday, May 03, 2007

Amazing Pro Life Article

Every once in a while you get a good word from an unexpected place. Not that the Wall Street Journal is an unexpected place for a good pro-life article, but I found this article in it by a longtime feminist and worker in the Clinton White House. It's by one Kirsten Powers, who worked in the Clinton administration from 1993-1998, which means most of the time he was in office.

She speaks as a feminist, but from the perspective that feminism used to represent, which, as we all know, was nothing like what it is today: "Many early feminists -- the Suffragettes -- opposed abortion. They viewed it as an affront to human rights. There is little doubt that they would have recognized elective, late-term abortion for what it is, a gruesome, uncivilized and inhuman procedure."

So she can't understand why, when between 60 and 70% of Americans oppose late-term abortions, nevertheless "late-term abortions now enjoy the imprimatur of every one of the presidential candidates of one of the two main political parties."

Today's women, she laments, "have been elevated to a special status where they have the 'right' to determine whether a five-month or older 'live fetus', as the court called it, should be partially delivered outside of their body and killed in the most gruesome manner imaginable, even if carrying that fetus poses no threat to their life."

But here's her best line of all: "It needs to be said that there is no constitutional right to crush a living human's skull and suction out its brains, no matter where that life may reside -- inside the womb, or partially outside the womb, as is done in the so-called partial birth abortion. It's immoral and contrary to the values of the Democratic Party, which prides itself on standing up for the weak and voiceless."

Wow. Too bad they won't listen to one of their own. Here's more: "Rather than defending the indefensible . . . the Democratic Party should be taking the lead in eliminating a still legal form of elective late-term abortion where, as the court described it, 'The fetus is usually ripped apart as it is removed, and the doctor may take 10 to 15 passes to remove it.'

And this: "Sen. Barack Obama pointed out that late- term abortions account for less than 1% of all abortions. Sounds sort of benign, until you consider that in the last 10 years more than 10 million babies have been aborted in the United States." That would add up to 100,000 of these late-term procedures in ten years. People love to use that line, that there are so few of these gruesome abortions. I call one of them too many, and there are actually over 10,000 per year. How dreadful. Kyrie eleison!