• First published in 2004 as Bartholomew’s Notes on Religion (BNOR).

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EDL Again

More of the same in Birmingham, where another anti-Muslim protest (following the one in August) by the English Defence League has ended in disorder and violence. The Daily Mail website has the best collection of pictures – we see signs reading “More More Mosques” and “No 2 Islam”, and more bald red-faced men looking angry. There’s also a large Israeli flag in one picture – once again, vicarious identification with Israel in the Israeli-Arab conflict.

Meanwhile, after months of trying show that it has no links with the BNP (there has been some overlap of membership), the BNP has decided to return the favour, declaring the EDL to be a “proscribed organisation” which “brings nationalist and patriotic politics into disrepute”.

It appears that the protestors included the Emperor Palpatine…

EDL Palpatine

Religious “Revivals” at Courthouses on 9/11 to Oppose Healthcare Reform

WorldNetDaily has a new Christian right rally to promote:

Founding Father John Adams once said, “The general principles upon which the Fathers achieved independence were the general principles of Christianity,” but an organization says now only 17 percent of Americans attend church on any given Sunday.

Can that be changed, and if so how?

One possible answer is coming up soon: A prayer outreach called Cry Out America assembled by the Awakening America Alliance that calls for Christians to meet for prayer at a time when a spokesman says the greatest need in the United States is not more money, health care or other physical conditions.

Spokesman Billy Wilson said the hope is that there is an awakening in the nation, “to issue a new spiritual wakeup call to help Americans understand the greatest need in America is … spiritual.”

…Wilson said Jonathan Edwards, a key figure from an earlier spiritual awakening in America, contended “that any true awakening starts with believers gathering together in unity … and prayer.”

“What we’re trying to do is answer the biblical injunction that when calamity surrounds the nation, financial disasters have happened, when people are confused, when crops have failed so to speak, the nation is in despair, the right response for the people of God is what Joel 1:14 says: call a sacred assembly, declare a holy fast and cry out to the Lord,” Wilson said.

…The work will being with a team prayer gathering at Ground Zero at 11 a.m. Among the participants will be Mariano Rivera from the New York Yankees; Sujo John, a 9/11 survivor and evangelist; Luis Cortes, president of Esperanza; Ron Luce, president of Teen Mania; Mark Rutland, president of Oral Roberts University and David Cerullo, president of INSP TV Network.

Other events are at county courthouses from noon until 1 p.m.

The Awakening America website has further historical ruminations:

America has been and continues to be the world power of our generation. Yet, the influence of our financial, political, and moral authority is in decline as evidenced in daily news across the world and by current statistics which show that only 17% of Americans attend church on any given Sunday and America as the third largest mission field in the world.

…In the classic study The Rise and Fall of the Roman Empire [sic!], Edward Gibbon gave at least five internal causes as to why Rome fell: rapid increase of divorce, spiraling taxes and government spending, a craze for pleasure and brutality, failure to see the moral erosion as an enemy and the decay of religion leaving people without guidance.

One should always be suspicious when an explanation for the Decline and Fall of Roman power is reduced to a single sentence dripping with generalisations and moralism, and presented as irrefutable due to the authority of its supposed originator. This particular vulgarized (and woefully inadequate) summary of Gibbon has been kicking around in various forms for several decades, and is usually quoted by people who have never read him and wouldn’t like him if they did (or could). Here’s another form in which it is popularly expressed, as cut-and-pasted by dozens of bloggers and religious websites under the illusion that it makes them seem deep:

1. The undermining of the dignity and sanctity of the home, which is the basis of human society.
2. Higher and higher taxes and the spending of public monies for free bread and circuses for the populace.
3. The mad craze for pleasure, sports becoming every year more and more exciting and more brutal.
4. The building of gigantic armaments when the real enemy was within the decadence of the people.
5. The decay of religion – faith fading into mere form, losing touch with life and becoming impotent to warn and guide the people.

Note that Awakening America isn’t too keen on the first half of point four.

Clearly “Cry Out America” is not a “revival” in any sense that Jonathan Edwards would have understood it, nor is it primarily a memorial for those who were murdered on 9/11 – rather, this looks more like a political stunt by teabaggers at prayer on issues of tax and anti-healthcare reform.

Rev. Billy Wilson is a Pentecostal, and he heads the “International Center for Spiritual Renewal” in Tennessee; Cry Out America’s executive cabinet includes representatives from, among others, the Foursquare Church; Mission America Coalition; the Assemblies of God USA; Charisma magazine; AGLOW International; the Church of God; the Presidential Prayer Team; and Teen Mania Ministries.

Incidentally, the citations from Adams and Edwards are a strange religious mash-up. The quote from Adams, while not exactly bogus, is a sloppy paraphrase that perverts its original meaning. It’s derived from a letter Adams wrote to Jefferson in June 1813, recalling the Revolution:

Who composed that Army of fine young Fellows that was then before my Eyes? There were among them Roman Catholics, English Episcopalians, Scotch and American Presbyterians, Methodists, Moravians, Anababtists, German Lutherans, German Calvinists, Universalists, Arians, Priestleyans, Socinians, Independents, Congregationalists…Deists and Atheists, and Protestants “qui ne croyent rien. Very few however of several of these Species; nevertheless, all Educated in the general Principles of Christianity, and the general Principles of English and American Liberty.

…The general principles on which the fathers achieved independence, were the only principles in which that beautiful assembly of young men could unite, and these principles only could be intended by them in their address, or by me in my Answer. And what were these general principles? I answer, the general principles of Christianity, in which all those sects were united,  and the general principles of English and American Liberty, in which all those young men united, and which had united all parties in America, in majorities sufficient to assert and maintain her Independence.

Now I will avow, that I then believed, and now believe, that those general principles of Christianity are as eternal and immutable as the existence and attributes of God…In favour of these general principles in philosophy, religion, and government, I could fill sheets of quotations from Frederick of Prussia, from Hume, Gibbon, Bolingbroke, Rousseau, and Voltaire, as well as Newton and Locke: not to mention thousands of divines and philosophers of inferior fame.”

In other words, Adams’ “general principles” of Christianity are so watered down as to include Unitarians (“Priestleyans” and “Deists”), atheists, and religious nominalists (“Protestants ‘qui ne croyent rien‘”). This would have appalled Jonathan Edwards – and I doubt that Rev. Wilson would go along with it either.

Adams’ mention of Newton is particularly amusing, as the “Cry Out America” website vilifies Isaac Newton in contrast to Edwards as having “promoted the idea that man is in charge of his own destiny and morality”; this is a bizarre interpretation of Newton (which would also have appalled Edwards) but it reinforces the idea that all that is wrong with society can be traced back to bad ideas promoted by scientist-intellectuals. As with Gibbon reduced to one sentence, this is a lazy narrative framework that appeals to people who are less clever than they think they are.