March 2006 on my blog.
DEPOLARIZING A HOSTILE WORLD
I found this site yesterday while looking for something else and I have already mentioned it in Books and Ideas, but I really don’t want anyone to pass up the chance of visiting it. Charles Notess is informed, positive, and also American. Perhaps there is hope.
While preparing to lead an 8-week course on Postmodernism for retired professionals at a Senior Center in Ft. Collins, Colorado, in the Spring of 2001, I got to thinking about the polarization that has been increasing in legislative bodies and in church congregations over the past few decades.
As a research engineer for 17 years, I gained experience simulating multidimensional dynamic systems. I worked on population projections and simulated traffic volumes for transportation planning purposes. I received a PhD in Sociology and, for several years, taught college courses in transportation planning, urban sociology, community development, and sociological research methods for several years before leaving academia to work 15 years for local government planning departments.
After retiring, I volunteered with a social service agency and local development groups. These latter experiences made me sensitive to the variety of responses to polarization. Close interactions with ethnic and racial minorities before and after retirement helped me appreciate the mix of social, economic, and ideological forces acting upon citizens and to recognize the different ways people respond to the stresses of rapid social and cultural change.
The disaster of 9-11-01 motivated me to learn about Islam and to lead adult classes, based upon the books Islam in America by Jane Smith, When Religion Becomes Evil by Charles Kimball, and many others. I have given talks to help Americans understand better the variety of approaches to Islam and to Christianity. I have also explored answers to the question – Why Do They Hate Us?
Much of his reading parallels my own, but he has brought it all together more ably than I can. This is not to say I agree with every jot and tittle of his work, but I do strongly commend it.
This is what has been exciting us here in South Sydney lately.
A RELENTLESS 12-week campaign by Peter Holmes a Court – and the dramatic last-word intervention of the actor Russell Crowe – swayed die-hard South Sydney supporters to accept a $3 million privatisation offer at an extraordinary general meeting yesterday.
The bid scraped across the line. With a 75 per cent majority required, the suitors won 75.8 per cent of the 3936 votes accepted – a margin of only 30 votes.
Ardent “no” campaigner George Piggins emerged a shattered man, declaring: “It’s over. I won’t be watching the team play. It’s a big blow but that’s life. It’s about time I wandered off.”
Why even Lord Malcolm, Sirdan, Simon H and I were discussing it over lunch at the Strawberry Hills Hotel yesterday.
17 Mar (Links updated 2016)
In my own youth I was an Elder in a Presbyterian Church which took the Westminster Confession of Faith (1646, from what we might call England’s Taliban phase) very seriously indeed. You may peruse this classic Calvinist creed for yourselves. I should add that the current Anglican Archbishop of Sydney is very much a Calvinist, if not quite as hardline as the Westminster Confession, but his followers now, as we did then, admire The Banner of Truth Trust, for example.
From The Westminster Confession, which is vigorous at least, not mincing words:
…V. The purest Churches under heaven are subject both to mixture and error; and some have so degenerated, as to become no Churches of Christ, but synagogues of Satan. Nevertheless, there shall be always a Church on earth to worship God according to His will.
VI. There is no other head of the Church but the Lord Jesus Christ. Nor can the Pope of Rome, in any sense, be head thereof; but is that Antichrist, that man of sin, and son of perdition, that exalts himself, in the Church, against Christ and all that is called God.
VII. No man may vow to do any thing forbidden in the Word of God, or what would hinder any duty therein commanded, or which is not in his own power, and for the performance whereof he has no promise of ability from God. In which respects, popish monastical vows of perpetual single life, professed poverty, and regular obedience, are so far from being degrees of higher perfection, that they are superstitious and sinful snares, in which no Christian may entangle himself.
IV. And because the powers which God has ordained, and the liberty which Christ has purchased are not intended by God to destroy, but mutually to uphold and preserve one another, they who, upon pretence of Christian liberty, shall oppose any lawful power, or the lawful exercise of it, whether it be civil or ecclesiastical, resist the ordinance of God. And, for their publishing of such opinions, or maintaining of such practices, as are contrary to the light of nature, or to the known principles of Christianity (whether concerning faith, worship, or conversation), or to the power of godliness; or, such erroneous opinions or practices, as either in their own nature, or in the manner of publishing or maintaining them, are destructive to the external peace and order which Christ has established in the Church, they may lawfully be called to account, and proceeded against, by the censures of the Church, and by the power of the civil magistrate.
That, you may say, was then, and so say I; but there are those among us who still cherish such thoughts.
My father, when I was deeply into all this — I got Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion (and a new stereo) for my 21st birthday — used to quote Omar Khayyam (see head link) to me:
Myself when young did eagerly frequent
Doctor and Saint, and heard great Argument
About it and about: but evermore
came out by the same door as in I went.
I now have a strange machine called a holter taped to me; it will record all my heart gets up to for the next 24 hours until I go back to Royal Prince Alfred Hospital to get it removed. Just outside the hospital I ran into, and spoke to, Professor Brian McCaughan, still very recognisable, who was a member of the Class of 1968 at Cronulla High, my first teaching post. I have of course heard of him, but have not seen him since 1968. That was nice. Kind of ironic though, given he is a member of the Australasian Society of Cardiac and Thoracic Surgeons, among other distinctions. Some of the most brilliant people I ever taught were at Cronulla High, but then the opposite was also true…
I started the day at Erskineville, dropping in on the ESL teachers’ Information Network meeting. Then up to Newtown where I bought a couple of books, had lunch, and a beer at the Newtown Hotel. King Street beats Oxford Street these days, no risk. There is just no comparison. King Street is a far more interesting place.
King Street Newtown