Thursday, July 30, 2009

John Henry Newman on religion that isn't

... Let us not then deceive ourselves; what God demands of us is to fulfil His law, or at least to aim at fulfilling it; to be content with nothing short of perfect obedience,—to attempt every thing,—to avail ourselves of the aids given us, and throw ourselves, not first, but afterwards on God's mercy for our short-comings. This is, I know, at first hearing a startling doctrine; and so averse are our hearts to it, that some men even attempt to maintain that it is an unchristian doctrine. A forlorn expedient indeed, with the Bible to refer to, and its statements about the strait gate and the narrow way. Still men would fain avail themselves of it, if they could; they argue that all enforcement of religion as a service or duty is erroneous, or what they call legal, and that no observance is right but what proceeds from impulse, or what they call the heart. They would fain prove that the law is not binding on us, because Christ has fulfilled it; or because, as is the case, faith would be accepted instead of obedience in those who had not yet had time to begin fulfilling it.

Such persons appeal to Scripture, and they must be refuted, as is not difficult, from Scripture; but the multitude of men do not take so much trouble about the matter. Instead of even professing to discover what God has said, they take what they call a common-sense view of it. They maintain it is impossible that religion should really be so strict according to God's design. They condemn the notion as over-strained and morose. They profess to admire and take pleasure in religion as a whole, but think that it should not be needlessly pressed in details, or, as they express it, carried too far. They complain only of its particularity, if I may use the term, or its want of indulgence and consideration in little things; that is, in other words, they like religion before they have experience of it,-in prospect,—at a distance,—till they have to be religious. They like to talk of it, they like to see men religious; they think it commendable and highly important; but directly religion comes home to them in real particulars of whatever kind, they like it not. It suffices them to have seen and praised it; they feel it a burden whenever they feel it at all, whenever it calls upon them to do what otherwise they would not do. In a word, the state of the multitude of men is this,—their hearts are going the wrong way; and their real quarrel with religion, if they know themselves, is not that it is strict, or engrossing, or imperative, not that it goes too far, but that it is religion. It is religion itself which we all by nature dislike, not the excess merely. Nature tends towards the earth, and God is in heaven. If I want to travel north, and all the roads are cut to the east, of course I shall complain of the roads. I shall find nothing but obstacles; I shall have to surmount walls, and cross rivers, and go round about, and after all fail of my end. Such is the conduct of those who are not bold enough to give up a profession of religion, yet wish to serve the world. They try to reach Babylon by roads which run to Mount Sion. Do you not see that they necessarily must meet with thwartings, crossings, disappointments, and failure? They go mile after mile, watching in vain for the turrets of the city of Vanity, because they are on the wrong road; and, unwilling to own what they are really seeking, they find fault with the road as circuitous and wearisome. They accuse religion of interfering with what they consider their innocent pleasures and wishes. But religion is a bondage only to those who have not the heart to like it, who are not cast into its mould. Accordingly, in the verse before the text, St. Paul thanks God that his brethren had "obeyed from the heart that form of teaching, into which they had been delivered." We Christians are cast into a certain mould. So far as we keep within it, we are not sensible that it is a mould, or has an outline. It is when our hearts would overflow in some evil direction, then we discover that we are confined, and consider ourselves in prison. It is the law in our members warring against the law of the Spirit which brings us into a distressing bondage. Let us then see where we stand, and what we must do. Heaven cannot change; God is "without variableness or shadow of turning." His "word endureth for ever in heaven." His law is from everlasting to everlasting. We must change. We must go over to the side of heaven. Never had a soul true happiness but in conformity to God, in obedience to His will. We must become what we are not; we must learn to love what we do not love, and practise ourselves in what is difficult. We must have the law of the Spirit of life written and set up in our hearts, "that the righteousness of the law may be fulfilled in us," and that we may learn to please and to love God.

John Henry Newman, The Strictness of the Law of Christ

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Sometimes my enemy's enemy is just some chick

Don't tell me that this is a fiddly point. Too many of my friends and allies in the blogging world are lauding Margaret Wente's garbage-column in today's Globe because it's hard on the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal. For some reason they're all ignoring the howlingly absurd 'sane alternative' in which she couches her observations.

She begins:
White cops and black men can be an unhappy mix. Last week, all hell broke loose when a white cop intercepted a black man trying to break into a big house near Harvard University. Unfortunately for the cop, the man was Henry Louis Gates, a prominent African-American scholar, and he lives there. Tempers flared. Accusations of racial profiling filled the air. Prof. Gates was promptly arrested for disorderly conduct, i.e., mouthing off. It turned out the cop was a race-relations trainer. Barack Obama got involved, declared them both fine men and invited them to the White House for a beer.

If only things worked that way in Canada ...
And ends:
Can't [Barbara Hall and the OHRT] just buy everyone a beer? That's what Mr. Obama would do.
No he fucking wouldn't, Margaret! You've left a big goddamn detail out here--as absolutely anyone who doesn't live under a stone could tell you.

What Obama would do--that is to say, what he did do--was to use the Office of the President of the United States to render an utterly biased judgement on a matter he admitted knowing nothing about, and that was none of his goddamn business in the first place.

(The President, mercifully, only made a fool of himself in this. Mercifully, I say, because the only other option was the destruction of a man's career and reputation, not to speak of the reputation of the Cambridge police.)

This, it seems to me, is exactly the sort of thing Barbara Hall would do. And, indeed, has done.

... And why should everyone get a beer, by the way? If anything, Obama should be buying, Sgt. Crowley should be drinking, and Skip Gates should be watching, in silence, from the corner.

Thursday, July 23, 2009


For those of you who missed the last two episodes of EMG and EMG:

The Metrosexual Meta- physician examines how an ironic appreciation of kitschy sentiment can turn into an earnest and shrill worldview. Easily an 8.7 on the the Scathing Social Commentary Scale ... Maybe runs the tiniest bit long.

The Big Cheese was just an excuse to do a lot of swearing. Hence the flatus ex machina. Deal with it, prudes!

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Cant and the law

The problem underlying the concept of same-sex marriage had nothing to do with law, nor did it have anything to do with rights. The problem with same-sex marriage was one, put simply, of language.

In this matter, as with so many others, the zeitgeist confused means with ends. (Or perhaps I should say that it confused meaning with ends.)

The law (and the rights that it protects) depends on language and not the other way around. Thus, a man may swat a fly and rest assured that he will not be charged with murder.

So long, that is, as the definition of murder remains intact.

Alter language--even if it is for so noble-seeming a purpose as the protection of rights--and you are not amending the law, but blasting at its foundation. Should that foundation crumble, so too, with time, will the law, rights, justice.

A compromise was necessary on this issue, and was possible. The greater loss in not doing so was the relegation of all men to one of only three types: hysterics, opportunists, and bigots.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

Isaac Williams on Trinity 5 and your arrogant presumption

... This is the important warning of this Sunday: the necessity of withdrawing all our affections, interest, and anxieties from the things of time, and fixing them without reserve upon Christ in God, that we may serve Him with joy. Let us apply this to the outward course of this world, in public matters. Many are anxious that these should “be so peaceably ordered,” that the Church may serve God in quietness; but then they seem to think that this is to be effected by their own governance, and not by the governance of God; for otherwise how could they be so full of manifold anxieties, so absorbed in the success of their own wishes and management? and from hence what a world of bitter thoughts and jealousies, low and mean joys, and still meaner fears? From the state of their hearts on this subject, one might think that God had given up unto them the government of His own world. St. Paul commands that we pray “for kings, and all that are in authority, that we may lead a quiet and peaceable life, in all godliness and honesty.” Observe what are the means for this end. It is prayer only; it is to God only that we are to look in this, as in all other matters. For it is by looking to God in such matters, that not only will the objects we desire be brought about, but also our own souls healed with respect to them. It is the only cure for our own anxious desires and private ends.

Such is the lesson which the Collect appears so seasonably to bring before us at this time with regard to the course of public affairs. But it applies no less forcibly to our own personal interests; for as we pray to God that He will so govern this world that His Church may joyfully serve Him in quietness, so also must we leave it entirely to Him alone, that the course of outward events may be so ordered- that the soul may serve Him without distraction. To serve Him with joy is quite impossible, unless it be with an undivided heart; to serve Him in godly quietness can never be, if we are disquieted and “troubled about many things;” and disquieted we certainly must be, so far as we are not deeply in our hearts convinced that the course of this world, with regard to ourselves, must be ordered by His governance, and not by our own. O blessed and peaceful knowledge, which His Spirit alone can give! hidden anchor of the soul which, amidst the storms of this world, binds it to the eternal shore !

And now to return once more to the Epistle. What can be more seasonable and valuable than that concluding exhortation of St. Peter, Who can harm you if ye be followers of that which is good? and if, for righteousness’ sake, ye suffer persecution, happy are ye. And be not afraid of their terror, neither be troubled. Sanctify God in your hearts, and all will be well. Fear Him, and ye need fear nothing else. “Seek ye first the Kingdom of God and His righteousness,” and all will work together for your good, your great and final happiness.


Why then, it may be asked, do we pray that the course of this world may be so peaceably ordered, that His Church may joyfully serve God in quietness; if this joyfulness in God may be in the midst of persecution, and He may be served in quietness amidst the storms of the world? The fact is, that this distraction of heart, which hinders us from the true service of God, does not so much arise from troubles and enemies that are without, as from the fear of them; and it is by prayer to God that we get rid of such fears.

Isaac Williams, The Peaceable Ordering of the World

h/t to KDN for LC

Wednesday, July 15, 2009

Barbara Kay, will you marry me?

Imagine if, instead of narrating the actual drama of the 1917 Halifax Explosion in his riveting 1941 novel, Barometer Rising, Hugh MacLennan had chosen to focus, as we are told February does, on the "swelling loneliness and eventual letting-go" of one woman bereft of a beloved husband in the conflagration. Zzzzzzz.

Not only are her characters plucked from her own experience, Moore boasts to Laidlaw that "she intentionally didn't interview any families affected by the disaster." Imagine: There are many people still alive -- though they won't be forever -- who actually remember the tragedy as it happened, yet in terms of "research," their doubtlessly compelling survivor experience is trumped by Moore's memories of the personal sadness evoked when her 41-year-old father "died of natural causes" (again, emphasis mine).

Me, me, me and my extraordinary capacity for sadness. Welcome to the unrelenting self-regard of CanLit, where it's all about nobly suffering women or feminized men: men immobilized in situations of physical, psychological or economic impotence (that is when they're not falling through the ice and nearly drowning), rather than demonstrating manly courage in risk-taking or heroic mode.

Barbara Kay, Unreadably Canadian

Saturday, July 11, 2009

Open email to Mr. Toad

Good evening. In light of this, I was sort of wondering how you can be a Roman Catholic and a gay supporter at the same time?

I mean, not only do they deny homosexuals' very existence - they think you should be punished for appearing in any way supportive of them, or those like them.

It's your life and all that, but I was just wondering how you sleep at night?

As I've indicated before, if the Papists don't want you, the Anglicans--and just about every other dying Protestant denomination--do.

Faithfully yours,


Friday, July 10, 2009

What's he(mg) listening to?

New segment here at EMG: What's he listening to?

Today I'm listening to Dr. Octagon:

(aka Kool Keith)

And Beans:

(aka Beans)


Wednesday, July 08, 2009


I do have an excuse for my long silence for once. My internet's been down. And now I'm working on a couple of things that aren't leaving me much spare time.

Meanwhile, though, why don't you drop by casa Borealis for the latest installment of Eric's brilliant-if-too-fitful series Hideous Public Art:
This monumental bronze excrescence is called "Universal Man" and was created by Gerald Gladstone in 1976. According to Wikipedia, Mr. Gladstone frequently complained that "his work was misundertood by the Canada Council's arts bureaucracy" - quite the statement considering the hideous art inflicted on the public by Canada's "arts bureaucracy" over the years.

It originally stood at the base of the CN Tower to "give a balance of human scale" to the world's tallest free-standing structure. It was removed in 1987 and re-erected in 1994 in a parking lot on the west side of the Yorkdale shopping mall, where it was unveiled by North York Mayor Mel Lastman (himself a living monument to bad taste). According to the accompanying plaque, Universal Man was created "to symbolize the earthbound human energies reaching towards a higher universal knowledge".

Here it is in its current location, reaching towards a higher universal knowledge outside the entrance to the Bay.


Poor Universal Man. Erected to give a human scale to Toronto's most prominent structure, removed from public view for seven years and then installed ignominiously in a parking lot outside a suburban shopping mall. Is this the fate of western culture?
The whole of Eric's HPA series is, it seems to me, the best kind of blogging and I recommend it highly. My particular favourite is this one.