Tuesday, June 16, 2009

Drawing Courage from Resistance

[UPDATE 06/17/2009: Another site linked to the right, Six-Meat Buffet, has put up an excellent post for those following the situation in Iran using Twitter. If you are at all knowledgeable in using that Internet tool, you should read and follow carefully the suggestions made by Preston Taylor Holmes. Once again, such bloggers prove why they have links on this site.]

With the unfolding drama of the post-election demonstrations in Iran, I have added a new link in the blogroll at the right, in the "CannonFodder" section of political commentary: the excellent Contentions blog sponsored by Commentary Magazine. While not stinting on normal political commentary, it is doing an outstanding job (along with Power Line and Hugh Hewitt, also linked at the right) of enabling one to follow what is happening in Iran. Did you happen to catch, for example, these photos showing a courageous group of Iranians attacking a local compound of the hated, baton-wielding and indiscriminately shooting Basij militia? And here is an excellent analysis of the evolving situation by the well-informed Michael Ledeen. As we see and read about the massive crowds gathering in the streets in Teheran, and see how the liberals both home and abroad are nonplussed in the face of such unyielding resistance, we may be able to draw some inspiration for our own (somewhat less dramatic, to be sure) situations.

One of the reasons this site links to so many other blogs in the sidebar is precisely so that your humble host does not have to try to comment on everything. The fact that a blog is listed here constitutes my commendation that it is worthy of your attention, even if I do not happen to agree with what it is saying. (I trust my regular readers, by now, to have understood that.) The point is to follow the links, read the posts that interest you, and make up your mind for yourself.

Much that is excellent I simply let stand on its own, due to time constraints --- as the sidebar notes, this site does not try to be Instapundit. For example, I am passing up any opportunity to comment on the brilliant speech delivered in Israel recently by Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, because this post by John Hinderaker at the PowerLine blog explains in detail exactly what is so brilliant about the speech. There is no need for me to add a single word to his exposition. Likewise, this post by Ann Coulter says everything necessary there is to say about the shooting of Dr. George Tiller.

That is the criterion I apply to every blog linked from this site. While I may not agree with the viewpoint of the author, as I say, I respect the author's integrity enough to present his (or her) opinion to you by way of an ongoing link. And if I disagree strongly enough with anyone to whom I link, you will certainly find out about it on this Website. If a site no longer meets my criterion (or if it ceases to publish on a regular basis, or in the few cases where its author has requested it), it will be taken down. I try especially to link to any site which in my view contributes to the ongoing dialogue among those who are concerned about the future path of the Episcopal Church (USA). Not all such sites, however, are equal.

When the case comes to legal matters involving the Church, I find myself in a somewhat different position. In my excursions through the Episcopal/Anglican blogosphere, I have not found any other site which regularly assesses the actions of the Episcopal Church (USA) from the standpoint of its own Constitution and canons. (If there is another such site out there, I would love to know about it.) Certainly I have yet to find any blogger on the left who systematically attempts to defend ECUSA's legal stances from a position grounded upon current canon law and precedent. (I deliberately include this blog in that sweeping statement, because after examining it on numerous occasions, I find its commentary to be persistently more in the nature of left-wing diatribe and ad hominem attacks than of legal reasoning.) Blogs on the left are all too often concerned more with celebrating the practical results of a given case ("Good---we get another empty Church building back, and those schismatic dissenters will be forced to meet in a parking lot!") rather than with troubling themselves about the process by which the court arrived at its opinion, or even about the long-term consequences of the strategy ECUSA is pursuing. (For a corroboration of those consequences since 2003, see this post.)

In reviewing other Episcopal/Anglican sites, I sometimes find criticism directed at the angle from which I cover legal disputes and decisions affecting the Church. ("He's too often concerned with how the law ought to be than with how it is," runs a rather mild form of such criticism.) All too true --- the point of this blog is not to provide Episcopalians with sage guesses as to how a court will decide a given case (for that, you would have to pay me), as to give them some background about the law and the precedent in order to enable them to understand how a court ought to decide a case. The problem in our society seems to be that there is an increasing gap between ought and is --- the "is" viewpoint is too often accepted as something which nobody can or should do anything about, as in the infamous closing words which appear so often by way of a pitiful summing up of what the author has presented: "Well, there it is."

That is not enough for me --- or, I would hope, for any decent curmudgeon entitled to the name. To be a curmudgeon is to be dissatisfied with the state of things as they are. And by striving for what ought to be, one resists what is --- indeed, as we can see from Iran, the very act of resistance supplies courage to face the "is". The situation in San Joaquin just now, for instance, is particularly dissatisfying: we have a person who is "no bishop of no see" going around and claiming the right to depose clergy for supposedly violating their oaths, while himself weekly violating the Canon stipulating that only baptized Christians may receive Holy Communion. Meanwhile, millions are being spent on a court suit which by all rights should not even get to first base --- because the court and all the parties agree that the March 29, 2008 "Special Convention" was not properly noticed, and hence that the bishop in question was not elected in accordance with the diocese's own canons, to which the national Constitution yields ("In every Diocese the Bishop or the Bishop Coadjutor shall be chosen agreeably to rules prescribed by the Convention of that Diocese"). The court, at least tentatively, felt that its hands were tied, however, by the recent California Supreme Court decision, and that it was precluded from any inquiry into the manner by which the bishop was elected. We shall have to wait some more to see what its final conclusion is.

Well, I began this post with politics, and I shall end it with politics. I have one more article to commend to you after my morning perusal of the Web: it is this very salient survey, in the current issue of the Claremont Review of Books, on where conservatives can (and should) go from here in the present political situation. Authored by William Voegeli, "The Wilderness Years Begin" is well worth your time and consideration (use the .pdf download feature to be able to peruse it at your leisure). I shall whet your appetite with just these paragraphs --- as you read them, try to apply their terms to the current dispute between the factions in the Episcopal Church:

In the American context, our experiment in self-government is the precarious undertaking conservatives defend. Most experiments fail. America's astounding triumphs in the past do not guarantee perpetual success going forward. Whatever their differences about conservatism's foundations, conservatives agree that defending the American experiment more often requires opposing than accommodating liberalism.

The danger liberalism poses to the American experiment comes from its disposition to deplete rather than replenish the capital required for self-government. Entitlement programs overextend not only financial but political capital. They proffer new "rights," goad people to demand and expand those rights aggressively, and disdain truth in advertising about the nature or scope of the new debts and obligations those rights will engender. The experiment in self-government requires the cultivation, against the grain of a democratic age, of the virtues of self-reliance, patience, sacrifice, and restraint. The people who have this moral and social capital understand and accept that there "will be many long periods when you put more into your institutions than you get out," according to David Brooks. Instead, liberalism promotes snarling but unrugged individualism, combining an absolute right "to the lifestyle of one's choice (regardless of the social cost) with an equally fundamental right to be supported at state expense," as the Manhattan Institute's Fred Siegel once described it. Finally, the capital bestowed by vigilance against all enemies, foreign and domestic, is squandered when liberals insist on approaching street gangs, illegal immigrants, and terrorist regimes in the hopeful belief that, to quote the political scientist Joseph Cropsey, "trust edifies and absolute trust edifies absolutely."

Conservatives have no guarantees that they will be able to save the American experiment from those who cavalierly dissipate the capital required to sustain it. They can only struggle to prudently reconcile the experiment's deepest needs with the exigencies posed by today's circumstances and threats. If that reconciliation ultimately requires nothing short of morally disgusting compromises that give up basic principles, the conservative will, instead, cheerfully commit to doing his duty for the duration, fully expecting to die on the losing side.
Exactly --- couldn't have said it better m'self. Except had I written it, I would have been pointing out how the liberal Episcopalians are into spending and dissipating the Church's spiritual capital, by denying that there is sin, and by extending Holy Communion to anyone who walks in the door. They could not be concerned less with its need for constant replenishment --- otherwise, they could not be pushing the programs they do. (It is no response to argue, by the way, that Jesus was also welcoming to all manner of sinners. Yes, He was --- but he never spent spiritual capital without at the same time calling for its replenishment: "Your sins are forgiven --- go, and sin no more.")

Take your time and read the whole thing --- it will give you some heart to face the liberals today.


  1. Mr. Haley,

    "As we see and read about the massive crowds gathering in the streets in Teheran, and see how the liberals both home and abroad are nonplussed in the face of such unyielding resistance...."

    I have not seen or heard any liberals who exhibit this reaction. I am certainly identified as a liberal and am not at all nonplussed, but am glad to see the signs of resistance to tyranny in Iran. I will not draw a parallel to ECUSA's resistance to the opprssion of gay and lesbian brothers and siters, but one might.

  2. I had in mind reactions like this, Father Weir. Or this. And this.

    Nor is what we are seeing now anything new.

    In using the word "liberals", of course, I was referring to the liberal figureheads, such as the ones I have linked to above. If you take a position that differs from them, I will welcome seeing your post to that effect on your blog. Here, however, I would prefer to stay with the topic of resistance to power wherever and however it is asserted by those who have no aim but to keep it.

  3. Mr. Haley,
    I think the public statements of elected and appointed government officials cannot be assumed to be their own personal views,much less those of the members of the party to which they belong. I did note, however,in the President's remarks that he was concerend about the violent response to peaceful demonstrators - hardly sign that he was nonplussed by the demonstrators resistance to tyranny.

    I would remind you that power is being used by all sorts of people in the Anglican Communion. I recall that one of the things that some people say about Arbp Akinola, approvingly, is that he is powerful.

  4. Father Weir,

    I never made any assumption as to what President Obama's or Prime Minister Brown's personal views were; I am interested the views they express in their respective positions, because of the power which those positions are seen to wield. And in contrast to President Reagan's words of support for Solidarity when they were resisting the Polish government's tyranny, I find President Obama's official words rather insipid. However, chacun à son goût, as the French say. You have your Presidential exemplar, and I have mine.

    As for Archbishop Peter Akinola, I challenge you to give me one instance where he has (a) presumed the "power" to depose someone who is no longer part of the clergy in the Anglican Church of Nigeria, or (b) wielded political power akin to that wielded by the Iranian mullahs. As far as I can tell, his sole abuse of "power" in the eyes of Anglican liberals consists of supporting the mores of his own country, instead of being a Western-minded liberal. (And please --- not that you were going to do so, for I know you require more rigid standards of proof --- let this blog be spared from any of the undocumented and unsubstantiated charges that Archbishop Akinola had anything to do with certain riots and burnings that occur between Muslims and Christians on almost a daily basis in his country. In the first place, the particular charges I have seen leveled against him have never been supported by any responsible kinds of proof, but second, and far more important, they were one-time charges that smack of attempted slurs rather than of any kind of systematic abuse of power --- which would be substantiated by evidence of repeated incidents.)

  5. Mr. Haley,

    You are right that Reagan's response to Solidarity was more robust that Obama's response to the resistance movement in Iran. Differences in persoanl style account for some of it, but there are real differences between the two situations. Solidarity represented a much more promising movement than the opposition in Iran today and Obama is right that Iran's foreign would not change much with a change of presidents. The security of Israel may also be an important factor in the muted response from Obama. While the USSR did pose a threat to western Europe, that threat was long-standing and had been countered by US and NATO. I think the threat posed by Iran is real, includes the possibility of the use of terrorist groups rather than Iran's own military, and so far there has been limited success in countering it.

    I am glad that you brought up Reagan and Solidarity because, in spite of my opposition to many of his policies, I agreed with him on this issue.

  6. It is interesting to note that Pat Buchanan thinks that the President's response to the situation in Iran is the right one The situation in Iran is at a very dangerous point and providing the regime with "evidence" that the opposition is a tool of the US could lead to disaster.

  7. It is rather fascinating, I agree, Father Weir, to contrast the views of Pat Buchanan with others such as Charles Krauthammer, who thinks Obama totally misses the point about Iran, or Paul Mirengoff at Power Line, who uses stronger words.

    What I find even more fascinating is that all the usual Obamabots on the left are silent --- his stance is not getting much backing from that quarter. One wonders why.

  8. I am not at all surprised that other conservative commentators are highly critical of the President on this issue, but I suspect that some of them want a more confrontational stance that could provoke Iran's current regime into giving us or Israel an excuse to bomb Iran. I agree with Buchanan, perhaps for the first time, that a more cautious approach is wiser.

  9. Father Weir, I don't know whether or not you are still tracking the comments on this post, but if you are, I would be curious to know your reaction to President Obama's adoption of a "more robust" stance on Iran at the press conference he gave this morning (here is a quote and a critique).

    Do you feel that he has changed tack on you, and left you "high and dry" with his new, more aggressive stance? Or do you agree with this question from an Iranian blogger in the midst of it, which Obama in the end was unable to answer definitively?

    In the final analysis, isn't this commenter correct? Obama's "Silence Is not Neutrality". I give Obama credit for coming to realize that, although I have to dock him for trying to assure his followers that "we've been entirely consistent . . . in terms of how we've approached this."