But I Have Stopped Beating My Wife, Really!

I don’t know which is more annoying, Yankee fans or Christians arguing that their religion is the basis for all good things. Here are a couple recent iterations on Christianity and the West from opposite sides of the Tiber. First, the pastor who would turn the world upside down (even though like it when beverages remain in their containers — odd, that), David Robertson:

The worst place to be an atheist is in an atheist country. Conversely the best place is a country where a Christian tolerance and view of humanity is deeply rooted within the structures, institutions and psyche of the nation. The vision of a ‘benign secularism’ is at best a fantastical dream. The choice is not between a theocratic Presbyterian Taliban state run by evangelical rednecks, waffling wooly liberal clergy and authoritarian paedophile priests, or an absolutist state where religion is reduced to the status of a knitting club. Why can we not reinvent the traditional Scottish model of an open tolerant State founded upon and with the ethos of, a biblical Christianity which recognizes that neither the State nor the Church is Absolute? Our societies metro-elites want the fruits of Christianity, without the roots. That’s not how the universe works. If post –referendum Scotland is to flourish then we need to heed the mottos of our two greatest cities and make them the anthems for the renewed nation. “Unless the Lord builds the house, the builders labour in vain”. “Let Scotland flourish by the preaching of the Word.”

Second, from Roman Catholic professor, Donald DeMarco:

Christianity has supplied culture with invaluable benefits, including the notion that man has an inalienable dignity, that marriage is a sacred institution, and that justice and mercy should prevail. Without these benefits man is denied his proper functioning and risks being enslaved by the state. Christianity should not be reduced to something private since, in its proper mode, it confers immense benefits to culture.

More recently, two major American prelates have written thoughtful books on why Catholicism should not be private. Archbishop Charles Chaput, OFM Cap., in Render Unto Caesar (2008) states that no other community than the Catholic Church understands better “why the health of our public life requires men and women of strong moral character in political service.” The Church, not the state, teaches and proclaims the importance of virtue and good character. He laments that America is now exporting “violence, greed, vulgarity, abortion, a rejection of children.”

I have no reluctance in worrying along with Pastor Robertson about the excesses of social activists, nor is it implausible that, as professor DeMarco points out, Christianity advanced certain virtues that were advantageous in ways the the pagan world’s ethics weren’t. But cheerleaders for Christianity and cherry pickers of the past will never persuade their adversaries when they ignore the bad things that Christians did, or forget about the lack of freedom and equality that accompanied established Christianity. A Christian social activist is just as scary as a secular one. Thinking that Christians running things is better than non-Christians running those same things is frankly dishonest. And here I would have thought that Christians would excel in honesty. Antinomianism anyone?

57 thoughts on “But I Have Stopped Beating My Wife, Really!

  1. Dr Hart,

    Excellent points, sir. As offensive of this post may appear to pietists and other evangelicals who believe as I understand it – grace changes nature completely – the sentiments of this column seem to have deep roots in reformational theology.

    I am reminded of Dr. Luther’s quote about preferring a smart Turk in civil government than a stupid Christian … And I believe Augustine of Hippo made similar points in CITY OF GOD when talking about what a good society needs. But I am a layperson of of course, so that begs the question? Am I wrong – or is your perspective seem new simply because so many contemporary evangelicals in the face of cultural meltdown are over-estimating exactly what Christianity does and does not do? Or mean?

    Thanks again, professor!

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  2. D.G.,
    You are certainly correct about the past misdeeds of Christians in society. But isn’t the opposite of Christians being in charge, Christian complicity with the evil du jour? It isn’t the devil that is in the details of past Christian wrongdoing, it is understanding. And all-or-nothing approach too easily groups unlike objects together.

    My approach as a Christian, social activist is not to point to utopia if they follow my ideology, but to point out the sins that are part of the status quo in order to say it is time to get back to work. And I am to do my job as a fellow sinner. The moment I distance myself from the sinner I am speaking to, whether the sinner is an individual or a group, that is the moment I’ve externalized evil and granted myself, out of delusions of holiness and grandeur, too many privileges and too many excuses to mistreat others. Perhaps one of the best models for Christian, social activism was the one lived out by Martin Luther King Jr. who prohibited those accompanying him from exercising both external and internal violence. Not only that, King sought not to punish his opponents, but to win them over.

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  3. Amelia Bedelia is a fun children’s character with her amusing literalism. I’m thinking of a new character – maybe Curt Blurt – who always, regardless of the conversation, brings it back to the same subject over and over.

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  4. Curt, “My approach as a Christian, social activist is not to point to utopia if they follow my ideology, but to point out the sins that are part of the status quo in order to say it is time to get back to work. And I am to do my job as a fellow sinner. The moment I distance myself from the sinner I am speaking to, whether the sinner is an individual or a group, that is the moment I’ve externalized evil and granted myself, out of delusions of holiness and grandeur, too many privileges and too many excuses to mistreat others.”

    What if you externalize evil out of a sense of injustice, you know, like the fellow who steals your car? Do you want to come along side him and say you’re really on his side? (Psst. I may know a church that values your “gradualism.”)

    Could it be that you are describing yourself in self-righteous ways by asserting how much you identify with sinners? What a great guy, Curt is. Holy too.

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  5. Curt, let me see if I follow: MLK did not distance himself from sinners but loved his [female] neighbor. These acts of love were not done out of delusions of holiness and grandeur and privileges for that only happens when one distances himself from the sinner and externalizes evil. Therefore, we must model MLK’s acts of love. A sort of “One flew over the cuckoo’s nest” freedom from oppression and spiritual liberation of body and mind?

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  6. D.G.,
    And if you aren’t externalizing evil, how are you describing yourself?

    I know you struggle with social justice issues. But in the end, aren’t most social justice issues addressing the breaking of the commandments against murder and stealing by groups rather than by individuals?

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  7. igasx,
    There is no excuse for King’s adulterous affairs. At the same time, there is no excuse for the injustices he was confronting and protesting. And what would be wrong for us to do would be to sweep one set of sins under the carpet of the other.

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  8. David has such a presence with his Wee Flea blog, the SOLAS organisation, moderating the FPCS and his book writing it makes me wonder where he gets all his energy from. Has he a role model for his pattern of ministry, I wonder?

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  9. Curt- you missed the point of my post. It wasn’t about MLK’s sins it was about your faulty psychology. Your internal/external dichotomy doesn’t hold. What kind of psychology was involved when MLK refused to ride with the original Freedom Riders? Did he externalize evil upon these riders? Was it because they weren’t members of his group? If so, why should we model your god?

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  10. igasx,
    Then perhaps you need to communicate more clearly. BTW, why ask the question. The fact that he spoke against internal and external violence, implying that the potential was there with those on his side of the issue, and that he sought to win people over, which assumes a certain capability for his opponents, it seems very unlikely that he did externalize evil. But I imagine there were some in the movement who did. Did that make their observations about the injustice practiced by others wrong?

    BTW, the reason MLK didn’t ride with the freedom riders was more practical and showed, on the negative side, a difference between him and the kids. He was on parole. He saw the need for himself to stay out of any long term prison stints. And he might not have had the courage that the kids did.

    Finally, it seems like you’re a on witch hunt with the questions. It isn’t too difficult to recognize people externalize evil. I saw it at OWS. It occurs when one demands the punishment of those in the other group and the removal of their voices from the democratic process. It assumes that the acts of those who are practicing oppression are below oneself or one’s own group. If we had read and followed King closely, we wouldn’t have externalized evil and we would be inviting the 1% to leave their economic apartheid and join the rest of us.

    As for your questions, we can speculate. I don’t see any evidence that King externalized evil to any significant extent–we might all do that to some degree. But, in the absence evidence, find the search for externalizing evil on King’s part to distract people from the more important issues.

    finally, he isn’t a god at all. But he does provide a useful model to follow. The model isn’t flawless, no model is. But it does seem to follow the scriptures to a significant amount.

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  11. D.G.,
    You know how to flatter, don’t you?

    Why not include the 7th commandment? We certainly don’t see Paul pushing for that in I Cor 5 or elsewhere. And perhaps you can explain how not including the 7th commandment would make anyone a sexist.

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  12. Curt- If you had read carefully you would have noticed I used your phrasings. And just because I bring up a historical fact I’m on a witch hunt? Why are you externalizing evil upon me?

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  13. I know you struggle with social justice issues

    Hilarious. No “we” there at all. All you.

    From the guy who is incoherent coy about what he believes regarding the basic tenets of his version of socialism and has yet to substantively answer the charge that socialism as a system – the rule, not the exception or bad actors – violates the 8th commandment in thought, word and deed daily. But “social justice” has nothing to do with socialist stealing. Just so you know.

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  14. But it does seem to follow the scriptures to a significant amount.

    Civil rights legislation or MLK’s habitual plagiarism, adultery, theological liberalism and socialism?

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  15. D.G.,
    Who says I am not concerned about rape? You? There are laws written against rape though in some places, like the military, the enforcement of those laws are not carried out. And when they are not carried out, then people have to speak out.

    But when mentioning social justice issues in America, most deal with violating the commandments forbidding murder and theft because these are commandments that are committed by groups and society that are ignored by civil law.

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  16. Bob,
    I’m less than coy about my socialist beliefs. However, there those here who are less than subtle about how they stereotype different groups.

    I do have criticisms of Marxism. I share Martin Luther King Jr.’s first two criticisms of Marxism. His third criticism does not reflect Marxism as I understand it because I look at Lenin as a departure, to the Right, from Marxism. This is indicated not just by the criticisms he received from fellow Marxists like Luxemburg and Kautsky, but by the fact that he ridiculed the Left in Russia as he instituted what Luxemburg called a “bourgeoisie dictatorship.” So the Soviet Union’s totalitarian gov’t, IMO, was not Marxist.

    But all of that leaves one more criticism for Marxism. Marx’s “proletariat dictatorship,” though being an effort to establish justice for the workers, still lives by a classocracy but where the main players have been changed. I agree with Kautsky who said that preventing abuse, regardless of who it is by, is what is most important. To put this in OWS terms, I don’t believe that the 99% should scapegoat the 1% for punishment. Rather, the 99% must try to win over the 1% but where that cannot happen, then those in the 1% must have their power reduced. Democracy has to be for the 100%, not just the 1%, which is currently the case, or the 99%.

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  17. Bob,
    Regarding civil rights legislation or MLK’s moral failures, I will say to you what I already said to someone else. Neither set of sins should be swept under the rug of the other.

    At the same time, were those Christians not working in some way for civil rights guilty of complicity? See, Romans 2:1 was written for a reason. So was the parable of the two men praying.

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  18. Curt- one last point on your defense of MLK. The Progressive always employs a Machiavellian pragmatism as a defense for the greater good. Implicit is that there will need to be some human sacrifice on the altar for this good. MLK understood that. These children were merely the sacrifices needed for the ends. MLK was too important to sacrifice as a means to the end. History is clear that the progressive tyrannies in their restless pursuit of some abstract good is more than happy to trample the individual as needed.

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  19. Curt, socialism is based on endemic and systematic theft. But since that was the main point of my remarks, I don’t expect you ever to deal with it. You have a track record, after all.
    As for Marx, a fraud and a bum who never worked a day of his life and leached off the proletariat/market economy, his system was and is fraudulent.
    IOW until you can refute Shafarevitch and Mises on the fundamental flaws of socialism all you are going to get around here is guffaws.

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  20. Bob,
    All I am reading from you are pejoratives stereotypes and attempts to discredit. Unless you have read what socialists have said for themselves and have learned to distinguish the different forms of socialism, you are venting and lashing out.

    That is not to say that all who understand socialilsm agree with it, far from it. But there is a difference between both lashing out and venting and having legitimate disagreements.

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  21. igasx,
    What children did King sacrifice? And how was King Machiavellan? Those who sought to preserve the status quo which King opposed were those were Machiavellan. After all, that is what the status quo relies on to survive.

    And tell me, what progressive tyranny was King seeking to establish? Was it the one where segregation was dismantled? Was it one where militarism was undone and the wars, like the one in Vietnam, were ended?

    Seriously, people who merely lash out can speak in generalities but cannot address the specifics. And that is all you are doing. First, you haven’t even defined what you mean by the word ‘progressive.’ You haven’t stated whether progressives in King’s time had legitimate concerns but had the wrong solutions. And if progressives had legitimate concerns, you haven’t described your alternative solutions.

    Finally, people who are too involved with building up or discrediting others are only demonstrating a penchant for authoritarianism.

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  22. Curt- you’re the one preaching corporate guilt. The corporate fruits of progressivism are evident. By your own standards and by your association with progressivism you’re awash in the blood of 56 million murdered babies.
    For in the way you judge, you will be judged; and by your standard of measure, it will be measured to you

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  23. Curt – Finally, people who are too involved with building up or discrediting others are only demonstrating a penchant for authoritarianism.

    Over/under on Hitlerian accusations being hurled is 45 minutes…

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  24. Curt, play the tape back. You wrote: “in the end, aren’t most social justice issues addressing the breaking of the commandments against murder and stealing by groups rather than by individuals?”

    You left out 8 other commandments, including ones that involve men violating women (because on your grounds the social structures privilege men). Don’t kill the messenger. Strike that. Kill the stupid messenger.

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  25. Paul – David has such a presence with his Wee Flea blog, the SOLAS organisation, moderating the FPCS and his book writing it makes me wonder where he gets all his energy from. Has he a role model for his pattern of ministry, I wonder?

    Is this a paid advertisement?

    Here’s his role model:

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  26. Erik, i can only speak for myself but I play this game of trying to make sure someone is honestly committed to the ruinous path in their spirituality that they posture on the internet.

    It never is too late to come to ones senses and repent (until they croak), often forced by life taking its natural course, and I’ve seen amazing turnarounds by people close to me.

    A few people were nosy and forceful over my situation decades ago, it wasn’t appreciated at the time, but I think of them fondly sometimes after i came to see they were right.

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  27. Eric,
    Ta for the Speedy Gonzalis clip in reference to David Robertson’s seeming ability to zip around and do so much. I wasn’t making a positive advert for him at all. I asked if he had a role model for the package of blog, books, culture centre, Presbytery moderating AND pastoring because I reckon he thinks being a Scottish version of Tim Keller who also does many of these things is the way to have the most influence.

    Thankfully David has bugged out of OL, displaying an almost infantile use of words in his last retort which makes such a wannabe influential pastor look like a bad tempered Scot. Does he want to turn the world upside down? Well he consciously or otherwise seems to like the limelight, sparring with Dawkins and writing very provocatively. He gives every impression of having a lot to say on many subjects, as though Christians have some special insight to politics and culture which is highly questionable.

    Most importantly of all, if he continues to push his model of church life (New Calvinism with a buzz) which shows little reference on the church web site to anything Reformed, others here in the gullible UK will accept such so called Presbyterian practise as normative. This isn’t a daft comment about the soft Brits. gullibility – the Southern Gospel Partnership (Anglican evangelical, posh and well connected) boys went gaga over Mark Driscoll.

    If any UK readers see this, please push back against the transatlantic model which David and others are pushing, which is trying to be a ‘Big Dog’ in the church scene by having an armoury of packaged tools like those I mentioned above, plus of course degrees and Doctorates which they make them sometimes very verbose, self important and too clever for their own good. Other words come to mind when I think of such men over here and in the USA, namely power, manipulation, and coercion in subtle and not so subtle ways.

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  28. D.G.,
    We are not here to enforce some kind of theonomy and 2kers like you should agree with us there. We are here to oppose groups that oppress, abuse, or neglect those in need. And if that bothers you, then perhaps you think that it is fine for groups to do what individuals are forbidden to do. After all, corporate sin does not exist to you.

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  29. igasx,
    Why do you so pigeonhole people? I am against abortion. I think it should be illegal except when the woman’s life is in danger. I’ve been involved with pro-life activism and have been trying to get my family involved in the pro-life march but they have been unable to. And I’ve written against abortion on my blog. So why am I guilty of the deaths of those babies?

    To the rest, you seem more intent on attacking me than talking about the issues. Does blogging give you an exemption from the Biblical commands about making personal accusations? Did you learn nothing from the parable of the two men praying? It is a tragedy that you so represent the Christian faith.

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  30. Curt, your appeal to pro-lifery won’t work, at least not on those around here who understand that it’s just the other side of your skewed social justice (and flaming fundamentalist) coin. Those who don’t understand that will get more or less behind the BBs, Catholics, eeeevangelicals, and Duckbeard types with all the “culture of death” and holocaust rhetoric.

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  31. To all,
    This is all you have shown. That you will say many things simply to discredit rather than discuss the issues. You will associate me with the old Soviet Union and Red China assuming that all socialists are the same. The assumption is wrong and a little reading is all that’s needed to show that. I get accused of being a progressive who is responsible for murders of babies through abortion though I oppose abortion except for when the life of the mother is in danger. Some want to totally disregard what Martin Luther King Jr worked for because of his sexual sins. The calling him Machiavellian show a lack of understanding of bother how King worked for social justice and what Machiavelli taught.

    In short, yous guys are so eager to attack people you disagree with instead of discussing the issues that you are showing the your authoritarianism. After all, with authoritarianism, credentials determine truth, not facts and logic. And when you are too busy making personal attacks or finding personal flaws that may or may not exist, you can’t discuss the issues. But you also show a disregard for whether you’re bearing false witness.

    All you have shown is a territorialism, a form of tribalism, that goes hand in hand with authoritarianism. But you don’t care. For it seems that some here believe that all’s fair in love, war, and blogging and thus the 2nd table doesn’t apply when they blog. And since there is little to no accountability for what people say in blogging, you feel free.

    Finally, with all of the territorialism and tribalism evident here, there is one more characteristic that you might want to take note of. That is pride. And pride, which is against faith, is evident in how we relate to others. To believe that one is better than another is to show pride. But the more pride we show, the less faith we exercise. Think of Romans 3:27; 4:2; and the parable of the 2 men praying.

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  32. A few people were nosy and forceful over my situation decades ago, it wasn’t appreciated at the time, but I think of them fondly sometimes after i came to see they were right.

    Hope springs eternal in the cynics heart. All is not lost. Until.

    Curt, another less than substantive response. You do have the labels, buzz words down tho. Mega kudos for that.

    Betcha still don’t get this though in that talking with you reminds me of talking to a dispensationalist who thinks protestantism started with Scofield. Think trees forest.
    Socialism didn’t start with Marx – who was everything I said he was and more, even if you think it “namecalling”. Instead the parameters need to be shoved back to include Mesopotamia, Egypt, China, the Incan Empire, Paraguay under the Jesuits, even the Reformation era anabaptists before we even get close to Karl buddy.
    IOW you need a new paradigm. Careful though, Rome is socialist and Bryan is always looking for newb converts.
    The Roman Catholic Socialist Agenda
    But maybe if you to get out more and stop reading TheHuffPost religiously/exclusively.
    Distinguishing between Marx/Lenin and Kautsky/Trotsky doesn’t quite cut it in the real world.

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  33. Paul – Thankfully David has bugged out of OL, displaying an almost infantile use of words in his last retort which makes such a wannabe influential pastor look like a bad tempered Scot.

    Erik – Yeah, but those 15 minutes were a time of rich fellowship.

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  34. Curt, it could also be that you haven’t come close to making a credible case for any of the socialist propositions you toss out there. Look in the mirror, brah (and I hope it’s not one you bought from a big box store, social justice and all that).

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  35. Erik, one has to keep pressing on. Some days will suck less than others. Great levels of faith are required to embrace this.

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  36. Curt is stuck trying to line up intuition within his tiny little reasoning system.

    Amusing.

    It’s a phase.

    Some who get into this find their way out.

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  37. What Curt is ‘humbly’ wishing for is that he would singlehandedly – the ever so humble ‘flaming fundamentalist’ – convert all of Old Life into Socialists.

    Well, like Richard Smith, Baus, Bryan Cross, et cetera, the logic is: if you can’t convert a group of enthusiasts from their own club, they MUST be arrogant.

    Great logic, and great humility.

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  38. TBR – Well, like Richard Smith, Baus, Bryan Cross, et cetera, the logic is: if you can’t convert a group of enthusiasts from their own club, they MUST be arrogant.

    Erik – You left off Tom Van Dyke trying to convert us to some vague sort of politically conservative form of universalism.

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  39. Curt: This is all you have shown. That you will say many things simply to discredit rather than discuss the issues…

    But I tried to discuss the issues, and you ignored them. So where are we? Should I take you seriously if you don’t show the inclination to be serious?

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  40. We have levels of

    Things we cannot dispute if we have signed onto a good P&R membership

    Debatable adiaphora

    Plain old adiaphora

    Gnats buzzing around which sometimes amuse but quickly get tiresome.

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  41. TVD reminds me of the SNL sketch of the guy at the business meeting who says something he believes is really witty, but it isn’t appropriate, and then shouts out NO as soon as he says it.

    They ran it for a few weeks, I think it was Farley as the man

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  42. Curt, what Jeff said. Plus, you haven’t come across as very interested in understanding the other side of the table here, but in fact a little nonplussed that anybody could possibly think in another direction. And is attempting to discredit, deconstruct, or caricature the other guy’s outlook only bad when the guy with whom you disagree does it (perfectly kosher when you do it)? Personally, I’d like to hear more from you on abortion, if only for the benefit those who would from one side of their mouth eschew social justice mentality but from the other sound like the Marx of natalism–kind of like how 2kers turn into neo-Calvinists once the subject turns to schooling.

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  43. Eric,
    What exactly made the time David Robertson briefly showed up at OL a “rich time of fellowship”? Do you share his New Calvinist outlook in any sense and his passionate concern for politics and society?

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  44. Curt,
    Many nations in Europe have embraced socialist principles, making them law particularly through the European Union. The EU is proving a spectacular disaster – the poor folks of Greece and Ireland will testify to this, and we are sinking gradually but definitely under the collosal debt socialism is racking up. Can you give one example of a nation where it has proved a sustainable success?

    Have you read any Terry Eagleton on Marxism? He’s a good read and thoughtful writer. I would like to see any response you could give to the excellent Theodore Dalrymple in his book on Marxist countries where he worked as a psychiatric doctor. Also, have you read any Roger Scruton?

    Like

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