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The Hayden-Furnish Matter

Wednesday, July 17th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — opening a discussion of two tweets and the place of New Testament theology in political praxis ]
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Gen Michael Hayden:

Dr Timothy Furnish:

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It seems to me that Tim Furnish‘s response to Gen Hayden opens up one of the few truly central questions of our times — maybe in fact The Key Question for holders of western culture and values.

I take it that this question is in fact a koan — strictly unanswerable, yet livable, lively.

Zen koans are the equivalent of case law. In what follows, I shall offer some precedents that may be of use as we consider the case that Tim Furnish sets before us.

**

First, I would like to offer two notions from New Testament studies which may be of help here.

The Kerygma:

Following the scholar CH Dodd, Wikipedia defines the kerygma thus:

  • The Age of Fulfillment has dawned, the “latter days” foretold by the prophets.
  • This has taken place through the birth, life, ministry, death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.
  • By virtue of the resurrection, Jesus has been exalted at the right hand of God as Messianic head of the new Israel.
  • The Holy Spirit in the church is the sign of Christ’s present power and glory.
  • The Messianic Age will reach its consummation in the return of Christ.
  • An appeal is made for repentance with the offer of forgiveness, the Holy Spirit, and salvation.

if that’s the Foreign, what’s the Domestic Policy?

The Acts of Corporal Mercy:

I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me. .. Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

Gospel of Matthew 25 vv. 35-36, 40.

**

Michael Lotus gave me an exemplary comment with permission to quote it the other day:

As to binaries, lawyers, judges and legislators do not get to spend unlimited time dealing with the ultimately unique nature of each person, each event, each controversy. They have to determine when government power will be applied to compel behavior, to extract money, to seize and bind and carry away persons against their will, to imprison, to put to to death. They have over millennia determined that clear, simple rules are the best way to use this blunt and often brutal, but essential, instrument. Then they have to apply rules to actual cases. Clarity, certainty, and the ability to plan accurately based on known rules, is critical. And inevitably there will be, or seem to be, unfairness in the application, and hard cases, and heart-breaking cases. Attempts to deal with many nuances lead to a thicket of confused rules, lack of guidance for action, and even more arbitrary application of the same unavoidable application of government power. Large and complex human groups cannot be governed otherwise than by general rules of general application. Some balance between hard-and-fast rules tempered by some degree of judicial discretion is where most reasonably fair systems end up, and that is what we have. But the basic fact of binary division is inevatable in the law. Do we hang this man or not? Is this or is this not the type of property subject to this set of rules? Is this man entitled to a deduction on his tax or not? Etc., etc. The law is at best a very crude approximation of the ideal of justice which we can imagine even in human terms if we lived in a a less defective world than the real one. And of course our poor, merely human law, even at its best. falls bitterly, laughably short of that perfect justice that God alone can comprehend and impose. It is one of the many tragedies of the human condition, deriving ultimately from original sin.

Much food for thought there..

**

I’m a Brit, and a guest here in these United States. Here, accordingly, are some materials of British origin:

Think of the British coronation service, a Eucharist with anointing, and these words proffered to the King or Queen by the presiding Archbishop:

Receive the Rod of equity and mercy.
Be so merciful
that you be not too remiss,
so execute justice
that you forget not mercy.
Punish the wicked,
protect and cherish the just,
and lead your people
in the way wherein they should go.

**

Sir Thomas More, in Robert Bolt‘s play, A Man for All Seasons:

Oh? And when the last law was down, and the Devil turned round on you–where would you hide, Roper, the laws all being flat? This country’s planted thick with laws from coast to coast–man’s laws, not God’s–and if you cut them down–and you’re just the man to do it–d’you really think you could stand upright in the winds that would blow then? Yes. I’d give the Devil benefit of law, for my own safety’s sake.

According to a Harvard Crimson article:

Sir Howard Beale, the Australian ambassador to this country, took the late Mr. Justice Frankfurter to see Bolt’s play in New York in 1962. Beale recounts that the Justice could scarcely contain his excitement during the scene just set out, and as it ended Frankfurter whispered in the dark. “That’s the point, that’s it, that’s it!”

**

I saw a reference to More, who was Lord High Chancellor under Henry VIII, as Keeper of the King’s Conscience, which drove me to this definition:

Keeper of the King’s Conscience”

The early chancellors were priests, and out of their supposed moral control of the King’s mind grew the idea of an equity court in contradistinction to the law courts. A bill in chancery is a petition through the Lord Chancellor to the King’s conscience for remedy in matters for which the King’s common law courts afford no redress. The Keeper of the King’s Conscience is therefore now the officer who presides in the Court of Chancery; see Chancellor and Lord Keeper.

**

Barnett Rubin, today, for another up-to-the-moment view:

Politics is not a mechanism for transforming goals into reality, for the Taliban or anyone else. It is a process of conflict and cooperation dependent on resources, relationships, and chance in which no one controls the outcome.

**

St Francis would, I think, like to see the Beatitudes, and proceeding from them the corporal works of mercy, deployed in all functions of the individual and community / state; the Jesuits would, by and large and in contrast, it seems to me, appreciate pragmatism — tempered by mercy, yes, as and when pragmatism permits.

Think on these things..

Your thoughts?

A Sporting Sunday Surprise

Sunday, July 14th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — Triptych, DoubleQuote and Single in sports, with a sermon you should really click through and hear, delivered by the inimitable Alan Bannett of Beyond the fringe ]
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The London Review of Books sends me a weekly email, and this week it offered sporting articles that might be of interest. I can’t access all the articles in question, not being a subscriber, but the sort versions offered in the email provide me with this triptych of sporting paragraphs.. on the theme of suffering..

**

A Broad Grin and a Handstand
by E.S. Turner, 2004

The Paris-Madrid road race of 1903 was a wonderfully disgraceful affair. Three hundred cars set out, conferring death and dismemberment along the dust-choked roads south. Six of the drivers were killed outright and nearly twice as many gravely injured. The hospitals were stuffed with mangled sightseers. By the time the surviving drivers reached Bordeaux the race was called off, and in Madrid the garlanded welcome arches were quietly dismantled. City-to-city road racing was now over. However, the dawn of motoring was still one of those dawns in which it was bliss to be alive.

**

Everybody gets popped
by David Runciman, 2012

For Tyler Hamilton, as for many of the other leading cyclists, doping did not constitute an unfair advantage. Instead, it was a way of sorting out who was really the toughest. In an extraordinary passage, Hamilton writes that EPO made the sport fairer, because it ‘granted the ability to suffer more; to push yourself farther and harder than you’d ever imagined, in both racing and training’.

**

Bantu in the Bathroom
by Jacqueline Rose, 2015

The full citation from Corinthians tattooed on Oscar Pistorius’s upper back reads:

I do not run like a man running aimlessly;
I do not fight like a man beating the air;
I execute each stride with intent;
I beat my body and make it my slave
I bring it under my complete subjection
To keep myself from being disqualified
After having called others to the contest.

The line about making my body my slave is not in most translations from Corinthians, nor is subjection described as ‘complete’. Pistorius was raising the stakes. He was also punishing, or even indicting, himself.

**

So much for the Triptych: now, still with sports in mind, for a Twitter DoubleQuote:

**

And finally, for a Single, this delightful sports metaphor in religion quote, also from the LRB offering this morning, and worthy of the Alan Bennett sermon (to die for):

6/4 he won’t score 20
by John Sturrock, 2000

In prelapsarian times, it was only ever a short step from the batting crease to the pulpit, as generations of cricketing vicars used the game that they played heartily, if not usually very well, on Saturday afternoon for a neighbourly source of Sunday metaphors with which to earth a sermon and reassure the congregation that the rules by which a good Anglican was urged to live were really no more arduous than those framed by the MCC.

Howzzat?

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So the Bible said, and it still is news

Friday, July 5th, 2019

[ by Charles Cameron — Universities hither and yon, illustrating Matthew 25:29 and it clearly still is news ]
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Celebrated cellist Yo-Yo Ma, and acclaimed astronomer Professor Andrea Ghez were among the recipients of honorary degrees at Encaenia..

News below from my alma mater, the University of Oxford

**

It’s worth noting that the gift to the humanities (top panel, above), though smaller than that to the sciences (lower panel), is to the University of Oxford itself, whereas the gift to the sciences, though larger, is to the city of Oxford.

But Oxford — city with university, town and gown — benefits in both cases.

**

Contrast that with the University of Alaska:

My hope here would be for the university to prioritize the full continuation of its unique services – the indigenous language and arctic climate change programs — all else is covered elsewhere..

**

A Biblical explanation:

For unto every one that hath shall be given, and he shall have abundance: but from him that hath not shall be taken away even that which he hath.

Or, musically stated:

**

Further readings:

  • Oxford University, Honorary degrees awarded at Encaenia 2019,

  • Oxford University, University announces unprecedented investment in the Humanities
  • Oxford University, Legal & General commits £4 billion to Oxford partnership

  • Bryan Alexander, Alaska gears up to clobber its universities
  • University of Alaska, Main page, University of Alaska
  • **

    Achtung!

    A Methodist Happiness Healthcare Ouroboros

    Saturday, June 29th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — on finding that the word hospital just might be related to the word hospitable ]
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    Note that the name of the medical group is Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare

    **

    The twenty-first century thinks in terms of optics; Christianity thinks in terms of the imitation of Christ. And it would seem from this ProPublica report that Methodist Le Bonheur Healthcare isn’t doing terribly well on either count:

    The thing is, there’s an ouroboric (snake-bites-tail-ish) quality to the situation. The same hospital group that is under-paying and under-insuring its workers is then over-suing them for their medical costs.

    It wouldn’t be terribly good, from either a Christian or an optical perspective, if they were suing people who were too poor to pay, but who were employed by others. That would be simple thoughtless meanness, though, and since they’d not be responsible for the financial situation of their creditors, John Wesley, the Anglican pastor who founded Methodism as a revivalist movement in the English church, might shrug in his grave, knowing how things tend to be down or up here on earth, but not actually spin.

    But Methodist Le Bonheur are the ones under-paying and under-insuring their own workers: they appear to control both ends of a vicious circle, and that’s why the headline above caught my eye.

    See the vicious circle? That’s the snake biting its tail — that’s ouroboros.

    **

    Hmm.

    The appearance is terrible — as, in these cases at least, is the fidelity to Christ’s teachings as reported in Matthew 25: 35-40 —

    I was an hungred, and ye gave me meat: I was thirsty, and ye gave me drink: I was a stranger, and ye took me in: Naked, and ye clothed me: I was sick, and ye visited me: I was in prison, and ye came unto me .. Verily I say unto you, Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these my brethren, ye have done it unto me.

    It’s pure speculation, of course, but my guess is that there’s a layer or three of bureaucracy atop the medical staff, inhospitable to hospital-ity. And that’s the ouroboric vicious serpent in its essence: being inhospitable to hospitality

    **

    Le Bonheur is French for happiness, welfare, by the way.

    Here’s aother way of phrasing the problem: those whose focus is on quantity all too often blind themselves to quality.

    I fully expect Methodists do a great many (quantity) of good works (quality). What ProPublica reports here would not appear to be among them.

    On mercy’s side — the Scott Warren case

    Wednesday, June 26th, 2019

    [ by Charles Cameron — Scott Warren faces justice for providing water to migrants in the desert — surely, an act of mercy on his part ]
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    The ceremony for the Coronation of HM Queen Elizabeth II included the words:

    Be so merciful
    that you be not too remiss,
    so execute justice
    that you forget not mercy.

    This derives, if from no other source, from the consecration of a bishop as ordained in the first Book of Common Prayer of 1549:

    Be to the flock of Christ a shepherd, not a wolf; feed them, devour them not. Hold up the weak, heal the sick, bind together the broken, bring again the outcasts, seek the lost : Be so merciful that you be not too remiss, so minister discipline, that ye forget not mercy, that when the chief Shepherd shall come, ye may receive the immarcessible Crown of glory, through Jesus Christ our Lord.

    This is background.

    **

    The BCP’s so minister discipline and the Coronation rite’s so execute justice are set against mercy, a juxtaposition that we may also note in classical Kabbalah, where the Sephirotic Tree features two matching pillars, one on either side — those of Justice (Din) and Mercy (Hesed), whose balance is illuminated in the central pillar and the sephirah of Beauty (Tipheret.

    It is also worth noting that in the Coronation rite, there are eight instances of the words just, justly and justice, and 28 instances of mercy and merciful, including the great appeal known as the Kyrie Eleison:

    Lord have mercy upon us.
    Christ have mercy upon us.
    Lord have mercy upon us.

    And although the notion of a Judgment Day is found in some strains of Judaism and is intrinsic to both Christianity and Islam, no-one prays for the opposite — Lord, have judgment upon us — .

    All this has been background.

    **

    Now:

    Justice and mercy in action:

    Hey, justice as context:

    4 Arizona Women Convicted for Leaving Water for Migrants

    Four aid workers were convicted Friday on charges connected to their efforts to leave food and water for migrants in an Arizona wildlife refuge along the U.S.-Mexico border.

    The volunteers, who are members of the faith-based humanitarian aid group No More Deaths, were caught on Aug. 13, 2017, by a Federal Wildlife officer as they left water jugs, beans and other supplies for migrants in Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge, which shares a 50-mile border with Mexico. No More Deaths claims that 155 migrants have died in the refuge since 2001, and that the organization aims to save lives by providing basic supplies.

    And to set beside that, more memorable context:

    Indian migrant girl, 6, died in Arizona desert as mother sought water

    A six-year-old girl from India died of heat stroke in an Arizona desert after her mother left her with other migrants to go in search of water, a medical examiner and U.S. Border Patrol said on Friday.

    **

    And with all that in background and as context:

    Scott Warren faced judgment and mercy:

    Scott Warren Provided Food & Water to Migrants in Arizona; He Now Faces Up to 20 Years in Prison

    Mercifully, FELONY TRIAL OF NO MORE DEATHS VOLUNTEER SCOTT WARREN ENDS IN MISTRIAL

    Eight jurors believed Warren was innocent on all counts. Four believed he was guilty. .. The judge asked the jurors if they all believed that further deliberation would fail to yield a unanimous decision. On that point, they were all in agreement: The jury was hung.

    That suggests a ratio of mercy to justice of two to one.

    **

    Okay.

    There’s a saying of Jesus recorded in the gospels:

    Judge not, that ye be not judged

    I’ve searched in vain, but in neither Testament do I find it written:

    Be not merciful, lest ye receive mercy..

    And Shakespeare tells us plainly:

    The quality of mercy is not strained;
    It droppeth as the gentle rain from heaven
    Upon the place beneath. It is twice blest;
    It blesseth him that gives and him that takes:
    ‘T is mightiest in the mightiest; it becomes
    The throned monarch better than his crown:
    His sceptre shows the force of temporal power,
    The attribute to awe and majesty,
    Wherein doth sit the dread and fear of kings;
    But mercy is above this sceptred sway;
    It is enthronèd in the hearts of kings,
    It is an attribute to God himself;
    And earthly power doth then show likest God’s
    When mercy seasons justice.

    Okay?

    >”


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