Archive for the ‘localism’ Category

Alasdair Macintyre, the astute Roman Catholic philosopher, got off one of the better quips about the difficulty of feeling loyalty for the modern nation-state when he wrote that being asked to die for one’s country is like “being asked to die for the telephone company.” Whether it’s AT&T or Verizon, it’s just too big, too abstract, too bureaucratic for people to be willing to sacrifice anything meaningful. It’s even hard to imagine wearing a phone company t-shirt.

This is the way contemporary evangelicalism feels and it confounds me that so many Reformed Christians continue to show allegiance to a religious phenomenon that is as big, remote, and weightless as the phone company. A number of blogs recently have taken up the subject, Lee Irons’, Scott Clark’s, Ref 21, and the Confessional Outhouse among them. Also at Greenbaggins the posting of recent statements from administrators at Westminster Seminary (Philadelphia) on the schools relationship to evangelicalism was the occasion for reflections on the relations between evangelical and Reformed Protestantism.

Typically, Reformed types will concede that evangelicalism has its problems – theological especially – but the garden variety evangelical’s devotion to the Bible, sincere religious experience, belief in Christ as savior, and general zeal are all worthy of Reformed respect. So deep is this respect that many Reformed believers will speak of the fellowship they have with evangelicals.

Fellowship? How exactly is such fellowship manifest? Is it like being listed in the Yellow Pages? Where does this fellowship happen other than when American Protestants answer pollsters questions a certain way, when journalists lump everyone from Rick Warren to James Dobson under the heading of evangelical, or when a university press releases yet another book about evangelicalism in the United States?

The way Christians are supposed to consider fellowship is through the prism of the church – not the warm and fuzzy invisible church that incorporates believers the way Verizon sends out direct mail. It is rather the visible church that sets the terms of fellowship and these bodies have definite views about doctrine, worship, and polity. That’s why Orthodox Presbyterians may have great respect for Missouri Synod Lutherans but don’t exchange pulpits with Lutheran pastors. And yet, certain Reformed Protestants, who are supposed to know better because they have actually taken vows that circumscribe their ministry and membership within a specific communion, will speak of the fellowship and unity they have with Christians who are in communions not even within the Rolodex of the chairmen of their denomination’s committee on ecumenicity.

To speak of fellowship with evangelicals is really like speaking of oneness with fellow Americans who favor marriage. I do support marriage and am glad for as many citizens of this republic who value it as we can find. But what I share with pro-marriage Americans is hardly the same as the real fellowship I have, by virtue of marriage, with my wife. I wonder when Reformed Protestants will consider that their membership and ordination vows may be as serious as their marriage vows, and may even trump their identity as evangelicals.


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Running on a “Little America” theme, Caleb Stegall scored a 30-point romp over the incumbent DA in yesterday’s election. Good news for all populists, crunchy cons, and reactionary radicals!

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Beer and civilization

Sad news today about the sale of Anheuser-Busch to the Belgian-owned, Brazilian-run InBev company. Of course, you shouldn’t have been drinking very much Budweiser even before this sale. You should be drinking local beer (or making your own). But now Budweiser must definitely be booted from the fridge.

Anyway, this news story has spawned an outstanding op-ed column by George Will.

No beer, no civilization. After reading Will’s essay, I have to wonder whether it might also be true that “no beer, no church”. Did the RPCNA grow during the decades when beer-swilling was prohibited? No. Might our modest growth in the past decade be partly attributable to the fact that our elders are once again free to imbibe? Yes.

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If you live in or near Rochester allow me to invite you to the Old Toad this Thursday at 5:00 p.m. Bill Kauffman will be joining us to discussion his recent books. Bill is a Western New York legend and has a great following among the Presby-Cons (a term coined by Kauffman to describe us).

Bill will be speaking to The Club, a circle of friends and associates that gathers quarterly at the Old Toad for finely crafted beverages, excellent food (the bangers and mash are amazing), and civilized company. Talks cover a range of topics, political, literary, philosophical, and theological. Conversation follows and it is always stimulating. If you come you will enjoy it.

If you cannot come, buy Bill’s new book Ain’t My America: The Long, Noble History of Antiwar Conservatism and Middle-American Anti-Imperialism. It will be good for you and it will help stimulate rural Western New York’s stagnant economy.

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Caleb’s review of Jason Peters, ed. Wendell Berry: Life and Work

If you have not done so already, you really need to bookmark First Principles. It is the Intercollegiate Studies Institute’s new web journal.

ISI should really start a blog. Maybe they could get Caleb to be a regular. I would tune in daily.

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I am so glad to live in Walworth New York. Wayne County New York is an agrarian paradise. During the summer the road sides are dotted with small farm stands standing in front of handsome old farm houses. Pick up your fruits and veggies put your money in a little box and you are on your way.

For ravenous carnivores like the Chellis family, Wayne County has another hidden pleasure. Just down the road, really in middle of nowhere, stands Joe’s Meat Market. At first glance Joe’s looks like a regular farm but on closer inspection the astute eye will note that cattle trucks parked by the slaughterhouse. Here local cows, pig, ect. are brought to be slaughtered, butchered, packaged, and sold. The prices are significantly LOWER than the local supermarkets and the quality is far superior.

After living here for a few years we were able to get our hands on a freezer. We now buy our beef by the quarter and our pork by the half pig. They come from local farmers who are our neighbors. The animals are treated humanely by farmers who remain committed to authentic husbandry. This allows our family to eat well at a cheeper price and with a cleaner conscience.

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Industrial and farming are two words that should never be in the same sentence except by way of contrast. Kinda like the words industrial and ecclesiastical. Mega-churches with cheap salvation. Mega-meats with cheap chicken. Everyone once in a while a news story offers a warning about the dangers, even the sins, of industrial farming practices and their effects on the food supply. Few seem to ever think deeply about the implication no matter how disturbing or disgusting the details. Today’s massive meat recall is such a story.

If your conscience is not bothered by eating that large, cheap steak from your local supermarket you might want to pick up a copy of Matthew Scully’s book Dominion: The Power of Man, the Suffering of Animals, and the Call to Mercy. If you are thinking… oh boy, I am not reading some left-wing diatribe from some animal rights freak… reconsider. Matthew Scully is a conservative who has written for National Review and the American Conservative. He has served as a speech writer to conservatives like G. W. Bush (does he still count as a conservative?), Dan Quayle, Bob Dole, Robert Casey, and Fife Symington). It is worth checking out.

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