Saturday, 24 June 2017

American Providence, by Stephen H. Webb

Stephen H. Webb, American Providence: A Nation with a Mission, 2004 Continuum, New York

I love reading Stephen H. Webb's books, but they are really difficult to review. The problem is that every single page contains a fascinating insight or a profound idea. Not only does this make it difficult to keep track of where his chain of thought is going, but it makes it difficult to decide which of these stack of ideas to share in a review.

It does seem that Webb loves to advocate and defend controversial positions. In this book he advocates the unfashionable idea that the United States of America has a providential destiny to be a light and blessing to the rest of the world. You may recall that a while ago, I reviewed Peter Leithart's Between Babel and the Beast, which argues directly against this view. One of his main points is that the critics of the idea of America having a providential destiny have their own ideas about providence and so an interpretation of God's providential dealings with the nations is inescapable. For instance, many of the theological critics of the USA identify her using the Biblical and providential imagery of Babylon, the Great Whore of Revelation. Along the way, Stephen Webb articulates other unfashionable positions, urging the positive benefits of globalization and advocating a neocon approach to foreign policy.

There are a lot of insights to be found in Webb's critique of Liberation Theology, which he sees as a chief rival as a view of providence to the one he articulates. Questioning the emphasis upon Christianity as a movement of the Poor, he points out that Jesus was from a middle class background within the context of his own society and that those who followed Him came from diverse backgrounds. He furthermore questions the idea that a grassroots movement of the poor is effective in achieving the goals of justice sought by Liberationists:

"For Bell, the poor become a sacrament of salvation when they advance the cause of justice. But how do they "build a new community"? Is this process of building a new community spontaneous, or does it take work, money, power and political connections? Is the new community merely spiritual affair, an invisible church, or does it exist within the network of institutions that compose a political economy? Bell admits that there is now a consensus among liberationists that structures of civil society are essential for Latin America to move forward."

Webb criticizes theologians such as Stanley Hauerwas, John Milbank and Rowan Williams for failing to recognize the value of democracy and accuses them of moral relativism in their failure to confront the evil of terrorism. He points out the irony of how both those on the Christian left and the fundamentalist Christian right have aligned in viewing 9/11 as a judgement of God on America.

Webb predicts the continued triumph of democracy and capitalism all over the world, though he sees Islam as an obstacle to this. He believes that Evangelism, as expressed in Pentecostalism is uniquely able to provide a religion suited to this new globalized world. Given the massive expansion of Pentecostal churches across the world, this appears to be correct. I think he could be a little bit more critical about Pentecostalism. A lot of Christians do not realize just how mainstream Prosperity teaching is among Pentecostals, especially in Africa. While Webb is right that this may promote good habits of work and industry, it may also create damaging false expectations and a sense of entitlement. Entitlement is an huge problem in Africa, where many expect to be given things by the West, while doing nothing in return. Those involved in Christian literature missions in Africa often report that they struggle to persuade African Christians to pay even reduced prices for Christian books because of an expectation that they should be given books for free. I worry that Pentecostal Prosperity teachings may encourage that sense of entitlement.

Should a Catholic be concerned about the spread of Pentecostalism converting many Catholics and leading them from the Church? Working in healthcare, I meet many African immigrants. I've met a lot of Africans who have converted from Catholicism to Pentecostalism, but I've met a few Africans who have converted from Pentecostalism to Catholicism. If a western Evangelical like me can cross from Protestantism to the Catholic Church, so can African Evangelicals. One interesting thing I have noticed is that many Africans who go from Catholic to Pentecostal continue Catholic practices like saying the Rosary. They have not imbibed the Protestant hostility to Catholicism that can be found in some sections of Pentecostalism.

I don't care for Webb's handling of the topic of Islam. I don't think he takes sufficient account of tensions and struggles within Islam and the strength of forces of modernization in Muslim communities. He quotes a number of Islamophobic writers. It's worth bearing in mind that many mainstream Islamophobic authors such as Melanie Phillips were quoted by mass murderer Anders Breivik. Maybe Islam is as bad as some people say, but if so, what is achieved by articulating this? Talking about the evils of Islam won't make Muslims disappear and it can only inflame tensions further.

One thing I have noticed is that while Stephen Webb has defended Catholic doctrines in his books, he does not really write as a Catholic, offering a specifically Catholic perspective. This means that we don't quite get an answer as to how a Catholic should regard the idea of the USA having a providential purpose. This is significant, because of the historic Protestant character of the USA. There are some Catholic traditionalists who regard the USA uneasily, often dreaming of replacing the USA with a Catholic monarchy (not a bad thing to want!).

I really appreciate Webb's positive evaluation of Postmillennialism:

"Postmillennialism is out of favour in theological circles today, in part because of overtones of triumphalism. The idea that the reign of Christ will occur before the final judgment can be taken to mean that human effort can bring about the kingdom of God. The logic of Postmillennialism does not, however, entail a view of history that minimizes God's contributions while maximizing human effort. Postmillennialism is certainly optimistic, but it is optimistic about the direction of history as that direction can be ascertained in the present, not about the strength of human nature unaided by grace. Postmillennialism reminds us that the kingdom of God is continuous as well as discontinuous with human history. It thus suggests an ultimate coordination of human politics with the coming kingdom of God. That is, the political sphere can anticipate the greater glory of the heavenly governance of God. This is a historical hope with biblical roots, but it gained credibility with the rise of Constantine, the first Christian emperor of Rome."

Postmillennialism has seldom been explicitly advocated by Catholic theologians, but it resonates with some aspects of Catholic theology.

Webb discusses the British empire, but like Leithart's Between Babel and the Beast, I would have liked more comparison between the USA and other nations that see themselves as having a providential role, such as France and Russia. Can we agree with Webb that America has a special providential destiny? I would like to think so. However, unlike the Hebrews, we have no infallible prophets to guide us in our understanding of God's providential dealings. Our interpretation of history can only be speculative.

Evening Standard:We should unilaterally allow EU citizens to stay

Evening Standard:We should unilaterally allow EU citizens to stay


"A good rule in international relations is: never issue a threat unless you are prepared to carry it out. For if you do, you only reveal to everyone how weak your negotiating hand actually is. That’s been the problem with Theresa May’s position on European citizens living in Britain ever since she first articulated it as Home Secretary in the days after the Brexit referendum. Last night in Brussels, she again said that they can remain here, but only if the same rights are extended to Britons living in European countries. Once again, this morning, millions of families wake up among us not knowing whether they will be allowed to remain in the country where they have chosen to make their lives. There has to be a very strong reason of national interest even to contemplate causing such upset. There isn’t.

It seems very unlikely Spain would kick out our expats on the Costa del Sol, or that France would depopulate the Dordogne. But even if they did, no one really believes that Britain would deport the three million European citizens who live and work here. Why not? Because it would be a massive act of self-harm. As Mrs May said in February: “EU citizens living in the UK make a vital contribution to our economy and society and without them we would be poorer and our public services weaker.”

Threatening to make yourself poorer and your NHS weaker isn’t very credible. Nor does anyone believe that, even if she wanted to, Mrs May has the numbers to carry out her threat. She has barely persuaded her Conservative colleagues to back her plan. Last June, in the days immediately after the referendum, David Cameron wanted to reassure EU citizens they would be allowed to stay. All his Cabinet agreed with that unilateral offer, except his Home Secretary, Mrs May, who insisted on blocking it. A vote in the Commons earlier this year was only carried with a nod and a wink to Tory MPs behind the scenes that she didn’t really mean it. Since then, the Government has lost its majority and it seems likely that an opposition motion to grant EU citizens the right to remain unilaterally could be carried."

Happy Armed Forces Day!

Independent: Transgender policies in schools 'a waste of time and money', claims leading academic

Independent: Transgender policies in schools 'a waste of time and money', claims leading academic

Introducing transgender policies in schools is a waste of time and taxpayers’ money, and only confuses children further, a leading academic has claimed.

As increasing numbers of children and adults in the UK seek referrals for gender identity clinics, schools are being encouraged to become more inclusive, with many now providing gender neutral toilets, uniforms and language policies.

But putting such policies into practice only encourages more children to question unnecessarily whether they are a boy or a girl, argues Dr Joanna Williams.

Friday, 23 June 2017

Cooperation is the way to Victory

The Feast of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Grant, Lord God, that we, your servants, may rejoice in unfailing health of mind and body, and, through the glorious intercession of Blessed Mary ever-Virgin, may we be set free from present sorrow and come to enjoy eternal happiness. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

O Immaculate Heart of Mary, Heavenly beauty and splendor of the Father, You are the most valued Heavenly treasure.
New Eve, immaculate in soul, spirit and body, Created of the godly seed by the Spirit of God, You are the spiritual Mother of mankind.
Pure Virgin, full of grace then and now, Your whole being was raised Heavenly in full glory, To be elevated above all the hosts within the Kingdom of God.
O Heavenly Mother, Queen of Heaven and earth, I recognize the glory of your highest title, The Immaculate Heart of Mary!
Loving Mother, dispenser of endless blessings, You who continuously intercedes on our behalf, Please present my need before your loving Son Jesus.
(In your own words, make your special request here. Speak to the Immaculate Heart of Mary as you would speak to another person, begging your Heavenly Mother to plea to Jesus on your behalf, that you be granted this special request.)
O Immaculate Heart of Mary, I know that you are now presenting my need before Jesus, For you have never turned away those in dire need.
Mother dearest, I await your favorable answer, Submitting myself to the Divine will of the Lord, For all glories are His forever and ever.

Litany of the Immaculate Heart of Mary

Lord, have mercy on us.
Christ, have mercy on us.
Lord have mercy on us. Christ hear us.
Christ graciously hear us.

God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Spirit, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, One God, have mercy on us.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, favorite Daughter of God the Father,
pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother of God the Son,
pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Spouse of the Holy Spirit,
pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, redeemed in a sublime
manner by the merits of thy Son, pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mother and
Model of the Church, pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, excellent exemplar
in faith and charity, pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, who conceived the Word
of God in Thy heart before thy did in thy womb,
pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, who gave precious Blood
to the Son of God in His human nature, pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, conceived free of Original Sin,
pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, who embraced God's saving will
with a full heart, impeded by no sin, pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, whose sweet soul a
sword pierced beneath the Cross, pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, given to us as Mother
by Jesus as He hung dying on the Cross,
pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, who accepted us
as sons as thou stood beneath the Cross,
pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, all pure and holy,
pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, exalted by Divine grace
above all Angels and men, pray for us.
Immaculate Heart of Mary, Mediatrix of grace,
pray for us.

Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
spare us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
graciously hear us, O Lord.
Lamb of God, Who takest away the sins of the world,
have mercy on us.

V. Pray for us, O Holy Mother of God.
R. That we may be made worthy of the
promises of Christ.

Let us pray.
O Immaculate Heart of Mary, bearing with love for all thy children upon earth, pray for us who have recourse to thee. Show to Our Heavenly Father the Wound in the Heart of Thy Son and at the same time offer again the sword that pierced thy Sorrowful and Immaculate Heart as thou suffered by compassion with Thy Divine Son for the redemption of the world. By thy intercession, through the merits of Jesus Christ, bring us to salvation. Amen.

Immaculate Heart of Mary, pray for us, that we would be truly conformed to Christ.

Thursday, 22 June 2017

The Feast of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

Grant, we pray, almighty God, that we, who glory in the Heart of your beloved Son and recall the wonders of his love for us, may be made worthy to receive an overflowing measure of grace from that fount of heavenly gifts. Through our Lord Jesus Christ, your Son, who lives and reigns with you in the unity of the Holy Spirit, one God, for ever and ever.

The Litany of the Sacred Heart of Jesus

V. Lord, have mercy on us.
R. Christ, have mercy on us.
V. Lord, have mercy on us. Christ, hear us.
R. Christ, graciously hear us.
V. God the Father of Heaven, have mercy on us.
God the Son, Redeemer of the world, have mercy on us.
God the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Holy Trinity, one God, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, Son of the Eternal Father, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, formed in the womb of the Virgin Mother by the Holy Ghost, have mercy on us.
Heart of Jesus, united substantially to the Word of God.
Heart of Jesus, of infinite majesty.
Heart of Jesus, holy temple of God.
Heart of Jesus, tabernacle of the Most High.
Heart of Jesus, house of God and gate of heaven.
Heart of Jesus, glowing furnace of charity.
Heart of Jesus, vessel of justice and love.
Heart of Jesus, full of goodness and love.
Heart of Jesus, abyss of all virtues.
Heart of Jesus, most worthy of all praise.
Heart of Jesus, King and center of all hearts.
Heart of Jesus, in whom art all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.
Heart of Jesus, in whom dwelleth all the fullness of the Godhead.
Heart of Jesus, in whom the Father was well pleased.
Heart of Jesus, of whose fullness we have all received.
Heart of Jesus, desire of the everlasting hills.
Heart of Jesus, patient and rich in mercy.
Heart of Jesus, rich to all who call upon Thee.
Heart of Jesus, fount of life and holiness.
Heart of Jesus, propitiation for our offenses.
Heart of Jesus, overwhelmed with reproaches.
Heart of Jesus, bruised for our iniquities.
Heart of Jesus, obedient even unto death.
Heart of Jesus, pierced with a lance.
Heart of Jesus, source of all consolation.
Heart of Jesus, our life and resurrection.
Heart of Jesus, our peace and reconciliation.
Heart of Jesus, victim for our sins.
Heart of Jesus, salvation of those who hope in Thee.
Heart of Jesus, hope of those who die in Thee.
Heart of Jesus, delight of all saints.

V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. spare us, O Lord.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. graciously hear us, O Lord.
V. Lamb of God, who takest away the sins of the world,
R. have mercy on us.

V. Jesus, meek and humble of Heart,
R. Make our hearts like unto Thine.

Let us pray.

Almighty and everlasting God, look upon the Heart of Thy well-beloved Son and upon the acts of praise and satisfaction which He renders unto Thee in the name of sinners; and do Thou, in Thy great goodness, grant pardon to them who seek Thy mercy, in the name of the same Thy Son, Jesus Christ, who liveth and reigneth with Thee, world without end.

An Appropriate Protestant Hymn

There is no love like the love of Jesus,
Never to fade or fall,
Till into the fold of the peace of God
He has gathered us all.


Jesus’ love! precious love!
Boundless and pure and free!
Oh, turn to that love, weary, wand’ring soul!
Jesus pleadeth for thee.

There is no eye like the eye of Jesus,
Piercing so far away;
Ne’er out of the sight of its tender light
Can the wanderer stray.


There is no voice like the voice of Jesus,
Tender and sweet its chime—
Like musical ring of a flowing spring
In the bright summer time.


There is no heart like the heart of Jesus,
Filled with a tender love;
No throb nor throe that our hearts can know,
But He feels it above.


Oh, let us hark to the voice of Jesus,
Then we shall never roam;
And we shall rest on His loving breast,
In the dear heavenly home.


Theodore E. Perkins (1831-1912)

Sacred Heart of Jesus, may we never stray from thy love.

Wednesday, 21 June 2017

Eastern Ukraine Stuation Report 21st June

This is war. This is Europe. This is happening today.

Evening Standard: The challenge facing a weak administration

Evening Standard: The challenge facing a weak administration


"In the face of this dawning reality the Prime Minister promises humility. If that had been her approach these past 11 months perhaps she might have avoided this humiliation. But from the first day of her coronation as Tory leader last July, Mrs May behaved as if she had a mandate to undo the work of the previous government that she had been part of. She also interpreted the close result in the EU referendum — 17 million votes for Leave against 16 million for Remain — as an emphatic vote not just for Brexit but for a hard Brexit, leaving all economic and security arrangements with our closest trading partners. Those who questioned this interpretation were dismissed as Quislings.

Now it is her Government that is on the receiving end of the electorate’s will — and the Conservative Party, which looked set for ascendancy 12 months ago, fears for the future. It is caught in the Brexit wringer, losing support among urban voters, working people, students and ethnic minorities. Its strategy appears to be — to borrow an old analogy — a combination of John Travolta and Mr Micawber: staying alive and hoping something will turn up. That is not a plan for success.

It will take a new approach to Brexit, a new effort at co-operation and — before long — new leadership to have a chance of turning things around. That’s the only way to stop Jeremy Corbyn and the hard Left reaching No 10, which would — as is evident from their alarming calls for extra-parliamentary action — make a bad situation much worse."

Tuesday, 20 June 2017

BBC News| Philip Hammond on Brexit: Prioritise jobs and living standards

BBC News| Philip Hammond on Brexit: Prioritise jobs and living standards

Jobs and living standards must come first as the UK negotiates its exit from the EU, Philip Hammond has said.

The chancellor said it would require "every ounce of skill and diplomacy" to get the right deal, warning that people didn't vote for Brexit to be poorer.

Speaking in London, he said changes to customs arrangements should be phased in and there should be transitional measures to protect key industries.

One of the best things about the election results was that they saved Philip Hammond, who was in for being sacked or reshuffled. He seems to have found his mojo and is doing a fantastic job of making a case for a softer Brexit.

Monday, 19 June 2017

Committed to Operation Sophia

The Guardian: After Finsbury Park, Britain must tackle its preachers of anti-Muslim hate

The Guardian: After Finsbury Park, Britain must tackle its preachers of anti-Muslim hate

by Nesrine Malik

"We now live in a world where prejudice and violence against Muslims is firmly established. In a relatively short space of time, we have gone from deliberating whether Islamophobia actually exists to scrambling to deal with its rapidly unfolding consequences. On Sunday night, on the 24th day of Ramadan, an Islamic centre in Finsbury Park was deliberately attacked as worshippers left a nearby mosque.

Hate crimes of any nature do not occur in a vacuum, and there is a particularly urgent need to examine the context in which this attack took place. For innocent people to become targets, two things must happen: first, incitement to hatred, and then normalisation. Incitement happens when anger is stirred up and people are depicted as less than human. Normalisation occurs when the incitement is repeated, when it begins to feel like part of the scenery. After that, acting on that rage can begin to feel like less of a crime. This applies, by the way, whether the attackers are “lone wolves” or part of an organised network. It applies to Muslims fed dehumanising distortions about those who don’t share their religion. And it also applies to non-Muslims fed smears against their Muslim neighbours."

Politico: Lithuanians ‘sleep peacefully’ thanks to German troops

Politico: Lithuanians ‘sleep peacefully’ thanks to German troops

by David Stern

PABRADE, Lithuania — When German forces arrived in Lithuania during World War II as part of Hitler’s invasion of the Soviet Union, many locals greeted them with flowers, hailing what they believed were their liberators from Moscow’s brutal occupation.

Almost eight decades later, the Germans are back — and Lithuanians are again welcoming them with enthusiasm.

This time, some 650 Bundeswehr soldiers are heading up a multinational NATO infantry battalion of around 1,400 troops — part of the alliance’s “enhanced Forward Presence” program.

“They applauded us as we went through one town — that’s never happened to me before,” said Michael, a lance corporal who for security reasons could not provide his last name.

Others say they’ve been told “thank you” and “we’re very glad you’re here.” A recent poll had Germans as Lithuanians’ second favorite nationality — after Latvians.

Saturday, 17 June 2017

5 Rifle Battlegroup in Estonia

Thursday, 15 June 2017

ConservativeHome: Farron’s sideswipe at the ethos of the party he led was truly remarkable

ConservativeHome: Farron’s sideswipe at the ethos of the party he led was truly remarkable

by Paul Goodman

"Be that as it may, his resignation statement was remarkable. “To be a political leader – especially of a progressive, liberal party in 2017 – and to live as a committed Christian, to hold faithfully to the Bible’s teaching, has felt impossible for me.” That sideswipe at his party was extraordinary. It can be read as meaning that orthodox Christian belief and the Liberal Democrat worldview are currently incompatible. Not all Christians will share Farron’s views – or perhaps what were once his views – on abortion and gay sex. Liberal Anglicans, for example, would have no intrinsic problem with the second. But churchgoers and others should ponder what he said.

Farron yesterday put his finger on a problem that this site identified when he was first quizzed about his beliefs. Social conservatism, for want of a better phrase, is not only unfashionable amongst the elites that shape our public culture, but is increasingly treated by them as somehow illegitimate. That the DUP is currently under fire for its stance on abortion and gay sex is a reminder of this (even though the SDLP takes much the same position on the first). That Farron is an evangelical Christian leading a party with a strongly secular ethos was always going to make him a target for media smart alecs and alices. They have pursued him relentlessly."

Wednesday, 14 June 2017