From Geraghty’s “Morning Jolt” Newsletter

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Geraghty highlights a piece from Allahpundit:

Obama Did Change Washington . . . for the Worse

Allahpundit makes the case that ultimately, Obama’s inexperience isn’t really the problem with his presidency; his ideology and ruthless willingness to toss out precedent, tradition, previously-established Constitutional limits is:

If Obama had spent four years as governor of Illinois, would he have been a considerably better commander-in-chief? The “inexperience” argument is ultimately one about ineffectiveness — the guy never took the time to learn the ropes, which is why he often seemed not to know what he was doing when he was put in charge. But on the stuff that matters most to conservatives, Obama did “know what he was doing.” He got the stimulus passed and then, with a major, major assist from old pro Nancy Pelosi, he got ObamaCare passed. The parts of Hopenchange that most aggrieve the right were the parts where Obama waseffective; the “ineffectiveness” argument is more natural to the left, which whines endlessly about all the goodies they wanted from Hopenchange — cap and trade! amnesty! a public option! — that haven’t been delivered. “If only he’d spent more time on the Hill building relationships,” they say, “maybe he’d have been able to forge grand bargains.” Could be, but that’s certainly not a lament you will, or should, hear on the right. Also, his lack of executive experience hasn’t stopped him from becoming one of the most aggressive presidents in modern American history when it comes to executive action.

All really good points. But Obama’s lack of experience in Washington did ensure he didn’t feel all that attached to anyone or anything that was there before him.

Remember the contrast between the way Biden negotiates and Obama does? Biden, the longtime Capitol Hill veteran, takes his three top priorities, your top three priorities, a similar number of concessions for each side, a couple of deal-sweeteners and mashes them together into a giant, messy, sometimes contradictory compromise agreement. By comparison, Chuck Todd describes the Obama approach as, “immediately identify the common ground as a means of showing the other person that they were on the same side, and that therefore that person’s prejudices and preconceptions should be abandoned.” Unsurprisingly, that sounds a lot like insufferable lecturing to the other party.

Pre-Obama Washington wasn’t perfect. Pre-Obama Democrats had plenty of flaws. But it was rare to see pre-Obama Democrats, say, boycott an address from the Israeli prime minister. They didn’t attempt to withhold FEMA funds from governors that didn’t toe the line on the administration’s climate-change rhetoric. They didn’t endorse a secret deal with Iran with no congressional approval or public review. They didn’t put up barricades around open-air monuments during government shutdowns.

Obama’s brought a lot of personal pique and pettiness to Washington politics. Sure, we may roll our eyes at the excessive formalities and phony manners of Capitol Hill — “my good friend, the distinguished gentleman” — but it beats “I won” as a nose-thumbing debate-settler, or calling your opponents “tea-baggers.”

Obama-era Washington is a nasty pit of vipers, as an administration that’s gotten thoroughly clobbered at the ballot box in congressional elections attempts to wall off Congress from any significant role in American governance at home and abroad. You may or may not need experience in Washington to appreciate the Constitution, checks and balances, and the rule of law. That’s what the next Republican president needs to restore, whether he’s a longtime veteran of Washington or an absolute newcomer.

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Scattershooting: Private, Religion-Based Education 

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Scattershooting = throwing ideas together to see what develops. 

I’m working at rethinking our model for Christian higher education, rising out of the idea of postmodern Christianity as Christianity is exile. 


I know of four models of private, religion-based education that are analogous to what I’m envisioning. These are systems that go from elementary through post-secondary & professional levels. 

  1. Catholic schools 
  2. Private Christian (Evangelical) schools 
  3. Jewish schools–yeshivot, day schools 
  4. Muslim schools–Jamia?

The only model that I’ve much familiarity with is #2. I’m not happy building my model for postsecondary education on it, for a variety of reasons. 

Models 1, 2, and 4 seem unfit to me because they are not appropriate for exiles. Jewish education, on the other hand, has historically been done in exile. What can I learn about it?

Christianity in Exile and Christian Higher Education, Pt 2

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This is part 2.  You might want to read part 1 first.

Part 1 closed with:

Much has been said recently about how Christianity is in exile in the modern world.  Can Christianity be said to be “in exile” in a country so rife with the trappings of Christianity, so “Christ haunted”?  What does it mean to be “in exile”?  Is there a theology of living “in exile”?  How does exile relate to empire?  

My hypothesis is that Christianity is ALWAYS in exile.  In this world, in this life, if Christianity is not in exile–if it’s perfectly at home in this world, perfectly in harmony with the culture–THEN IT’S NOT CHRISTIANITY.

In exile: poor definitions? Several on the conservative side have written recently about Christianity being “in exile” in the modern, secularistic world.  And others from liberal branches of Christianity have decried that description, seeing it as akin to the way some Christians claim to be persecuted because Hollywood makes fun of them.  (See Carl Trueman’s essay in First Things and Ben Dueholm’s snarky rejoinder in Christian Century for examples of the two sides of this particular spat.)

I argue that both Trueman and Dueholm are thinking not of Christianity but of Christendom.  I follow Malcolm Muggeridge’s  formulation of this distinction (see his magnificent The End of Christendom).  Christianity is the community of the faithful.  Christendom is the necessary but man-made organizations, the necessary human institutions (missions committees! denominations! parachurch organizations!) that Christianity uses to exist and to do the work of the Kingdom in the world.

A church, an individual congregation or a denomination, is at least two things at once.  

1.  On one hand, the church is the people, seeking to be faithful, seeking to follow Jesus together.  That’s Christianity, part of the Kingdom of God.

2.  On the other hand, the church is a human-made legal entity.  It’s incorporated, owns property, pays its workers, deals with the IRS and the state entities that recognize / regulate non-profits and churches.  That’s Christendom: the visible, external, institutions, the apparatus through which Christianity interacts with the kingdoms of this earth.

One of the problems today’s Christians have is that we tend to confuse or conflate the two.  If we think that the organization, the denomination, IS the Church, IS the Kingdom of God, …

When American Christians equate being American, or being Western, with being Christian, we are confusing Christendom with Christianity.

When Christians ANYWHERE equate Christianity with empire, with dominance in a culture–“A Christian America!”, “America is (or used to be) a Christian nation!”–they’re really thinking about Christendom, not Christianity.

So: when I say that Christianity is “in exile,” I mean something different from what Trueman or Dueholm mean.  They are using the term to refer to the influence (or lack of influence) of Christendom, the influence of the institutional, enculturated church.  That’s not what I’m talking about.

Christianity in Exile: In my thinking, Christians live in exile because we do not presume we have the right to force, to demand, to dominate, or to dictate to the world around us how it should be.  We respond to the world as faithful foreigners in it.  If we influence, we influence by faithful witness and christlike service.

The Kingdom to which we belong, which we represent, is separate from and will never be identical to any of the kingdoms of this earth.  It cannot even be grafted into the kingdoms of this earth; attempting to do such is a category mistake.

We belong to a Kingdom whose king said, “My kingdom is not of this world.”  It’s not a human kingdom, nor does it contest with human kingdoms:  “We wrestle not against flesh and blood, but against the powers, the rulers of this darkness.”

Exiles don’t try to remake the country of their sojourn.  Instead, they live like those who have no home here, with faces and hearts always set on another place, “whose builder and maker is God.”

When they seek influence, they influence from the bottom up, by service and prayer and witness, NOT from the top down.

So: Christian Education in Exile?  That’s the next part, I haven’t gotten there yet.

Christianity in Exile and Christian Higher Education

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Some disconnected thoughts in search of a thread:

I’ve been reading Lawrence Wright’s The Looming Tower, where he describes the seeds of the terror attacks of 9-11-01.  One of the things he describes, not a central theme but a recurring motif, is the Islamic educational system and how the Islamists–Qutb, al-Zawahiri, bin Laden–understood its role and used it (especially in the case of Qutb, whose calling was educational philosophy) to transform and radicalize.

This got me thinking about the similarities shared by the Islamic approach to education, the Catholic approach to education (at least when it was ascendent), and the approach to Christian higher education in America today.

Islam’s vision for education is inspiring and frustrating.  Inspiring in its understanding of the centrality of education and the centrality of religion to education: faith-centered learning, faith-centered inquiry, at least in some ways uncompartmentalized.  All knowledge, learning, enculturation is/was done in the light of the central truths of Allah, scripture, etc.  (See the parallels with Catholic education in its ascendency.)

In our modern Western system, faith is marginalized or treated with contempt.  Faith is seen as bloodless and powerless.  And the place of faith in education is similarly hollow.  Part of the fault may be pluralism: how can we use faith as the lens for inquiry if we can’t agree on what faith is, or what the tenets of faith should be?  Even in the places where faith IS central to education, we do not have unity on these issues.

Is there a way to do Christ-centered education in a pluralistic world, where religious convictions and particulars are not shared, where they do not dominate the conversation?  Perhaps the Jewish model, the Jewish approach, where the attitude is separatist?  Not education-from-empire, education that begins with the idea of cultural dominance, but education-as-exiles?

Much has been said recently about how Christianity is in exile in the modern world.  Can Christianity be said to be “in exile” in a country so rife with the trappings of Christianity, so “Christ haunted”?  What does it mean to be “in exile”?  Is there a theology of living “in exile”?  How does exile relate to empire?  

That’s my next post, maybe today, maybe tomorrow.

Human Reality

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My friend, Paula Williams, blogs about her views on scripture and same-sex relationships. A few things I agree with, some I do not, but worth considering throughout.

Paula Stone Williams

Human Reality

I recently received a thoughtful email from a young graduate student. He had been reading my weekly magazine columns and is now a reader of my blog. With curiosity he noted while I have clearly stated my understanding of what the Bible does and does not say about gender dysphoria, to the best of his knowledge I have not written about homosexual relationships. He is correct. The only thing in print is the written conclusion of a debate position I was assigned in my Doctor of Ministry program. While I never publicly circulated that paper, someone did. Copies have been floating around the Internet for years.

In today’s post I want to go on record on the subject of homosexual relationships. Over the years I have read dozens of books and academic papers on the subject. I have considered just about every theological argument proffered. A very long…

View original post 589 more words

Roger Olson on Being “an Egalitarian Complementarian”

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Roger Olson is mining a vein that I have also visited.  Modern egalitarianism AND modern complementarianism have generated ideologies that are polar opposites, and ignore reality.

Among academics I reject the radical minimizing of sex differences. I believe male-female difference is more than biology/physiology and social conditioning. I admit that identifying that difference is never easy, but I believe it is observable in tendencies of behavior well before hormonal influences can account for it. We are one humanity; our humanity is one. But difference does not mean inequality in any other area of human life; we celebrate difference and “otherness” (in academia). We can be and are one humanity in variety. And maleness and femaleness is one of the irreducible manifestation of that variety. It cannot and should not be obliterated by social engineering.

At the same time I stand together with feminists in opposing oppression based on sex or gender. Females should have every opportunity to fulfill their human giftedness including entrance to every level of leadership in every profession.

Read more: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/03/confessions-of-an-egalitarian-complementarian/#ixzz3TXDH8lkH

From my earlier post:

 Am I a “Jesus Feminist”?  I can’t be a feminist; I don’t think the Jesus Feminists would have me.  I’m a conservative Republican.  I’m thoroughly pro-life.  I like & admire Sarah Palin.  I agree with 85% of what the pro-family movement says.  I listen to Rush Limbaugh.

I’m not a feminist; I just don’t believe women who are gifted by the Holy Spirit for ministry should be pigeon-holed, restricted as to the kinds of ministry they can do.

Am I an egalitarian?  I don’t buy this label, because “egalitarianism” is often taken to mean that there are no essential differences between women and men, they are interchangeable.  That’s clearly NOT the case.  I believe both women and men are gifted by God, but the embodiment and outworking of those gifts may differ depending on any number of factors.  One of those factors will be the gender of the person with the gift.

Am I a complementarian?  Complementarians accept that there are differences between men & women, as do I—so far so good.  But those differences are incredibly slippery and difficult to pin down, much moreso than the complementarians are willing to admit.  For example, see McKnight’s summary of Mary Stewart Van Leeuwen’s paper, “Social Science Studies Cannot Define Gender Differences” (http://www.patheos.com/blogs/jesuscreed/2013/05/09/whats-a-man-whats-a-woman/).

Complementarians ignore the difficulties and universalize these differences.  Further, somehow “complementarian” always ends up meaning SUBORDINATION and hierarchy.  I categorically reject the notion that God’s design for his Church is subordination on the basis of gender.  (Or race, or socioeconomic status, or …)  God’s intention is MUTUAL submission (Eph 5.21); “submission” does NOT = subordination.  It means giving up yourself for the benefit of others, in imitation of the example of Jesus Christ.

I don’t think any of these labels fit me.