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February 2011

The theology of collective bargaining

Human dignity, therefore, should not be regarded as passive, but as active. Human potential is more fulfilled when people have the means to express their creativity, and an important way they do that is through work. Paid labor, of course, is clearly not the only way human dignity is expressed in the world. But when working conditions for employees are unsafe, wages are suppressed, benefits denied or slashed, and people are refused the right even to act together to improve their work life through collective bargaining, something fundamental in the dignity of human beings is also being denied. . . . [Read more]

Reformation: Turning Points

Chapter 6 in Diarmaid MacCulloch's The Reformation is of the final attempts at reunion scorned as various turning points occurred in the political and religious landscape of Europe -- including the end of Charles V's reign, short reigns of of Edward VI and Mary in England, political/religious conflict in France, etc.  Another  main feature of the period from 1547-1570 was militant, popular reform movements.

This particular chapter I read quickly, as a lot of action occurs.

He writes about a "Second Reformation" in the empire as many places shifted from Lutheranism to Reformed theology as the latter gained steam as the real force in Protestantism.

Pope Paul IV, Gian Pietro Carafa, was a real stumblingblock to any attempt at reconciliation.  He even went after loyal Roman Catholic monarchs like Philip II and prominent figures like Reginal Pole, who was finally serving as Archbishop of Canterbury under Mary.  He promoted the Roman Inquisition, created the index of books, and left a lasting reactionary legacy upon the church.

Cranmer comes off as a hero in the telling of his execution.  He had recanted, but at the last moment when Mary put him in public to recant, he withdrew the recantations and won the propoganda moment.  It is interesting that MacCulloch seems to admire both Cranmer and Pole, despite them being on opposite sides (except there are multiple, not just two, sides). 

Writing of the death of Henri II of France while jousting, MacCulloch says "Thanks to the sporting accident of 1559, France now faced a future in which, for four decades, religion tore the kingdom apart."  I like the wit he uses throughout.

Catherine Parr, Henry VIII's final wife, gets strong, positive mention as a reformer,  humanist, and educator of Elizabeth.

Another theme prominent in this chapter is the growing international, cosmopolitan nature of the Protestant movement as key figures move from the contient to England, to the Low Countries, back to England, etc. as the winds of change occur in each place.  Prominent in this is the role that major printers/publishers played.  Many of them had to move to keep their operations going and the reform-minded rulers tried to attract them to their cities.

The Elizabethan reforms, he writes, did not restore the Edwardian Church of England and the country did not become, under Elizabeth, the center of reformation thought and publishing as Edward and Cranmer had hoped. 

Once again, as so often the case in this volume, one reads about lots of interesting supporting characters that don't get much attention in the standard church history volumes that rush through the major figures.

Emperor Ferdinand I attempted reforms of the Catholic churches in the empire, including Mass with both kinds offered to the congregation, worship in the vernacular, and married clergy.  His attempts were frustrated by other members of the Hapsburg family.

Philip II comes off as creepy.  I did not know that his palace, the Escorial, was laid out upon the scheme of the gridiron, an instrument of torture while at the same time trying to be a re-creation of Solomon's temple.  He manifested "an atmosphere of paranoia and repression."  Sounds like many autocrats who would follow in the modern age. Here's something interesting, "All Spanish books printed outside Spain were banned from the peninsula; moreover a blanket ban was imposed on Spaniards studying abroad, and all teachers or students currently abroad were ordered to return home." 

The case of Archbishop Carranza, the primate of Spain, is particularly troubling.  This leading Spanish figure, defender of the church, was himself caught up in the repressive climate.  He was arrested and convicted by the Inquisition because in his private files were notes on the now banned Protestant books that he had read when he was studying them in order to combat them in previous decades!  The last session of the Council of Trent later appointed a commission to create a catechism.  They used one that Carranza had written while in England during the reign of Mary.  It became an "ultimate expression of the Counter-Reformation."  But it was banned in Spain because of its association with Carranza!  So this major document of Tridentine Catholicism was not used in the nation considered the most Catholic?  This is strong evidence to support MacCulloch's claim in the first chapter that there were many different "reformations."

Even in the mood of Catholic response to Protestantism, the final session of the Council of Trent could not decide in favour of papal primacy.  That only came in 1870.

MacCulloch writes about the power of the Psalter in France where most Protestants were underground and hiding from the authorities.  Singing the psalms was an act of subversion: "To sing a psalm was a liberation -- to break away from the mediation of priest or minister and to become a king alongside King David, talking directly to his God."

The King's Speech

We finally saw The King's Speech last night, since it looks likely to win a lot tonight. 

We enjoyed the movie and thought it was good, just not as good as The Social Network and some of the other nominees.

I was particularly impressed with the camera angles and  the shot composition, especially on the close ups, which were often at unusual angles.  The film was very well crafted and left me looking forward to future films with this director.

4 film reels
4 popcorn kernels

Huckabee's changed position on immigration

The more reasonable and likable Mike Huckabee of the last presidential campaign has been replaced, according to Gail Collins who excerpts his two different campaign books:

That old Mike Huckabee spent his defining years as a minister and had sympathy for the most ostracized of the downtrodden, like illegal immigrants. “It hardly seems Americans should truly feel threatened by people who pluck chickens, pick tomatoes, make beds, wash dishes or mow lawns,” he wrote in “From Hope to Higher Ground.”

The best solution to the problem, he said, was to allow people who are here illegally to “pay a reasonable fine” and then put them on a path to legal citizenship. (The to-do list recommended: “Attend a naturalization ceremony.”)

The new book, however, is by a Huckabee whose defining life experience seems to have been hanging out at the Fox studios. Perhaps he contracted some sort of personality-changing virus. Or maybe visitors from another planet swooped down and switched his brain with Glenn Beck’s.

In “A Simple Government,” Huckabee laces into Democrats for suggesting that illegals “pay a fine and back taxes” and then be put on a path to legal citizenship. That’s “amnesty!” Mike 2.0 hates it!

Reformation: Reformed Protestantism

The rest of chapter 5 covers Reformed Protestantism, first Calvin, and then the alternatives to Calvin, in the context of 1530-60.

Here we get a decent presentation of the views of Calvin and his attempts to bring order to Geneva, and those who challenged the order, not just Michael Servetus.  Though Servetus does receive good coverage.  One thing I learned here that I did not know before is that Calvin sought endorsement for his decision to execute Servetus from other reformers in Europe and received it, including folk like Bullinger and Melanchton.  Another point that MacCulloch makes which I had not seen before, Calvin's prominence in the reformed movement continent-wide really was established by the Servetus execution.  Until that time he was eclipsed by other leaders, but that move showed his seriousness.

MacCulloch credits Calvin's preaching.  Its intellectual rigor was one reason it was so popular, "This could be liberating to an audience precisely because it was so demanding: Calvin and the preachers who followed him asked a lot of their audience and were thus taking them seriously, as adults in the faith."

A portion of the chapter focuses, again, on the Eucharist, which I have yet to write individually on.  I thought I might do it after this section. 

The most interesting, to me, section was the final one, on the alternatives to Calvin.  Here we read about Anna von Oldenburg and her attempts to find a third way in East Friesland.  Of Jan Laski and his influence continent-wide.  MacCulloch writes that in the time Laski was more prominent than Calvin, whose reputation has grown with history.  Laski was Polish and was active in reform movements there, in East Friesland, and in England, where Cranmer gave him a church to pastor of Protestant refugees from the continent.  In this church Laski promoted the congregation selecting their own ministers.

Cranmer, under Edward VI, attempted to make England the center of reform, which he was in the process of succeeding to do before Edward's early death.  Bucer, Laski, and Vermigli came to England and Melanchton was on his way when Edward died.  One influence of the reformation was the attempt to form Great Britain, the union of England and Scotland.

I liked reading about developments in places I had not read about before, such as movements in Hungary where many began to think more freely and call into question the divinity of Jesus, the doctrine of the Trinity, and other doctrines.  Some of these groups were even officially recognized and tolerated.

Poland under Sigismond II Augustus seemed destined to become an enlightened, Erasmian place of toleration, but the Protestants divided among themselves and thus Roman Catholicism re-emerged as the dominant force.

A short-lived Protestant state existed in Moldavia under Jakob Heraklides, a Greek mercenary who gained the throne while in the employ of the previous king.  This was an attempt to introduce Protestant reforms in an Orthodox country, and it did not go over well.  Of course the coup by a carpetbagger wasn part of the problem too.

When one reads about all these great intellects and talents and all the possibilities for greater unity, one simply wonders "what if?" as I have written a handful of times before.  I know in the next chapter or two that the serious violence and warfare is about to begin.

From Oklahoma to Tobruk

In the NYTimes, Roger Cohen writes about the unrest in Libya and compares and contrasts it with the lives of Muslims in Oklahoma City who face the Islamophobia there.  He tells of visiting Imad Enchassi's mosque after the vote and listening to the FBI reassure the assembled crowd:

Imad Enchassi, the imam of the mosque, was talking to his congregation about these troubles and said this: “Many of you may have been harassed or threatened at work. I don’t expect you to love those that hate but understand one thing: Many of you came to America from states of oppression. Here we can sue the government. In the countries where you come from, if you sue the government you disappear.”


Finch, an African-American, stood in front of the congregation and declared: “I’ve come here today to tell you that the F.B.I. stands ready to investigate any violation of the civil rights of our citizens in the state of Oklahoma, irrespective of ethnicity, religion or sexual orientation. We are very aggressive in prosecuting civil rights violations, hate crimes, including religious discrimination and defacement or damage to any religious property. All persons in the United States have the freedom to practice their religions without fear of violent acts. If you are threatened in any way, call the F.B.I.”