The little nation that defeated the Soviets

Simo_hayha_honorary_rifle

Simo Häyhä, the “White Death”

A nation is defined by its history and its people’s common experiences.  That is especially true of nations whose citizens, for the most part, share a specific ethnic identity.  In Finland, where I spent some time recently, history is a living force.

For some 500 years, Finland was part of Sweden, a region in the East where members of the Finnish tribe dwelt.  Finland was Swedish during the 17th century when that kingdom was a world power, as the Swedish kings saved Lutheranism during the Thirty Years’ War and dominated much of Northern Europe.  To this day, Finland has a Swedish-speaking minority.

But then, in 1809, Sweden lost a war with Russia.  Finland, on Russia’s border, was ceded to the Czar, who made it an autonomous Grand Duchy under his authority.  So Finland went into its Russian phase, though it resisted assimilation.

When the Communist Revolution broke out, Finland saw its chance.  It declared independence and established itself as a free republic.  This happened in 1917, so that this year Finland is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The Communists had their own problems in 1917 so basically let Finland go.  Some Finns, however, were on the Bolshevik side, so the new nation fought a bloody civil war, with the “Whites” defeating the “Reds.”

But in 1939, Stalin resolved to take Finland back.  Soviet troops poured over the Finnish border.  In this conflict, known as the “Winter War,” the Soviets outnumbered the Finns three to one, with 30 times more airplanes and 100 times more tanks.

I was told that the president of Finland then was a devout Christian.  He called upon all Finns to pray.  And they did. [Read more…]

Repealing chivalrous laws

318px-John_Everett_Millais_The_Black_BrunswickerThe Oklahoma state legislature, supposedly a conservative lot, has repealed the criminal seduction law, which forbade seducing a virgin by promising to marry her.  Also repealed was a law  forbidding slandering a woman’s virtue.

The state senator who pushed these repeals, a woman, thought the laws were funny.  She also said they were “obsolete, antiquated, inappropriate for our modern society.”

The Daily Oklahoman, supposedly a conservative newspaper, also thought these laws, designed to protect women, were funny.  But when the reporter, in the spirit of fun, quoted advocates of the law from 100 years ago, those gentlemen came across as noble and chivalrous in their zealous concern for wronged women.

I’m not saying we should or should not have such laws.  But the notion that chronology determines whether or not an idea is right or wrong or a law is appropriate or not is surely fallacious.  Yes, women now must be treated just like men, and the Victorian exaltation of womanhood is now considered sexist.  But women are still exploited sexually, and the problem of slandering a woman’s reputation has become even worse in the age of social media.  At any rate, mocking those chivalrous laws designed to protect women just shows the coarsening of our age.

Painting:  “The Black Brunswicker,” by John Everett Millais (1860), Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=564102 [Read more…]

Does mainline liberal Protestantism have just 23 years left?

512px-Ruins_of_Holyrood_Abbey,_EdinburghMore on the plight of mainline liberal Protestantism. . . .

Evangelical scholar Ed Stetzer calculates that at the current rate of decline, mainline liberal Protestant churches will cease to exist in 23 years.

He crunches the numbers and suggests the reasons.  For example, “Over the past few decades, some mainline Protestants have abandoned central doctrines that were deemed ‘offensive’ to the surrounding culture,” but that strategy doesn’t work.

Wait a minute:  Isn’t that the sort of thing that we have been hearing from the evangelical church growth movement?

Stetzer doesn’t really believe that these churches will cease to exist and he laments their decline.  But would it be good if they cease to exist, or is a liberal church better than nothing?  Is there a point to institutional religion without the religion?  Doesn’t that leave just an institution–with all its trappings of bureaucracy, self-protection, and regulation–without a purpose?

I would say that the rumors of the death of mainline churches may be greatly exaggerated.  There still have their Christian pastors, theologians, congregations, and members. But their future may be in their becoming more conservative.  This may be happening.  The Methodists, for example, have embraced the pro-life cause and show some skepticism about the gay agenda, though the church is still torn over those issues.  Conservatives in those denominations often struggle over they should stay and fight–until they are thrown out–or leave, thereby abandoning their church to the liberals.  And it is theoretically possible that some of today’s secularists might start attending the increasingly secularist church bodies.
[Read more…]

The 10 characteristics of Germans

German_mosaic_2The United States, as is often said, is a nation that rests of ideas rather than ethnic identity.  Immigrants wanting to become citizens must pass a test on the Declaration of Independence, the Constitution, and civic participation.

But other countries are based on ethnic and cultural identity.  How can they integrate immigrants from other societies?  What, exactly, is the cultural identity these would-be citizens need to integrate into?  That can be hard to define.

The German interior minister Thomas de Maizière has taken a crack at it.  He has proposed 10 principles of Germany identity.

He is getting lots of criticism for this from rivals to his Christian Democratic party, headed by Angela Merkel.  The left is accusing him of being anti-Muslim, nationalistic, too-Christian, etc.

There have been news stories about this, but they don’t give the 10 principles!  I have found them in a very bad translation and offer them to you after the jump.

What do you think of these?  Do they confuse what “should be” with “what is”?   Do they present the dark side of German history as if it isn’t really German after all, or does it handle that part effectively?  Does this list give a basis for an “enlightened patriotism,” or is it a new version of the German nationalism that gave us World War II?  Do these describe “modern” German culture or do they apply also to the German culture of the past that has made positive contributions to Western civilization?  Do any of these apply also to German-Americans?  Is this kind of exercise helpful or futile?

Could there be a similar list defining the America identity or would that be an offense against American diversity?  If there could be such a list of American cultural principles, what might that look like? [Read more…]

Shouldn’t liberals be going to liberal churches?

6209348934_ccf5e3159a_zMainstream liberal Protestantism is dying, with a decreasing number of people bothering to go to their churches anymore.  This is ironic because, in many ways, the message of those liberal congregations is now widely shared among our cultural elite:  be tolerant of all; be progressive; don’t worry about the supernatural; conform to the culture.  But though the cultural elite has embraced the social gospel of liberal Protestantism, hardly any of them bother with liberal churches.

Ross Douthat, himself a conservative Catholic, argues in the New York Times that those who are liberal politically and culturally should start attending a liberal church.  Even out-and-out non-believers in the supernatural will experience little conflicts with their beliefs.  And there are benefits to church attendance that would be good for them.

Douthat says that it would be good for the cause of liberalism to be grounded once again in some kind of church.  Liberalism, to have an impact, needs an institutional home.  He also throws out this priceless line, referring to recent tendencies:  “Liberal Protestantism without the Protestantism tends to gradually shed the liberalism as well, transforming into an illiberal cult of victimologies that burns heretics with vigor.”

Read what he says, excerpted and linked after the jump, but then consider:  Why is it that liberals tend not to go to liberal churches?  Can you have the benefits of going to a church without holding to its beliefs?  Why is mainline liberal Protestantism in such a state of decline?  What happens to a Christianity purged of its supernatural elements?

[Read more…]

Court rules that Civil Rights laws cover LGBT bias

640px-Lyndon_Johnson_signing_Civil_Rights_Act,_July_2,_1964Title VII of the 1964 Civil Rights law bans discrimination on the basis of race, color, national origin, religion, and sex.  The 7th Circuit federal appeals court ruled that the category of “sex” includes sexual orientation.  This would mean that any kind of discrimination against LGBT folks is illegal.

The ruling only applied to the 7th Circuit Court’s jurisdiction:  Illinois, Indiana, and Wisconsin.  That restriction isn’t made clear in all of the news reports I have read. But it sets up the issue for resolution by the Supreme Court.

Traditional thinking considers homosexuality in moral terms, rather than as an “identity.”  This ruling, if upheld, would bring the law down on the side of “identity,” something the culture has seemingly already done.

Where does that leave the moral traditionalists, including most conservative Christians?  (My discussion continues, with a report on the ruling, after the jump.) [Read more…]