Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Matthew Block in National Post re Religious Persecutions

"Disagree with Christians? That's fine. But do not silence them." Canadian Lutheran editor writes this piece for The National Post.

Note: There is one error in the text. It says that one hundred thousand Christians suffer persecution. It should read one hundred million." (The error has been communicated to the paper but hasn't yet been corrected.)

(Canadian Lutheran) 

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Short quote from Luther on Psalm 23


We should, then, learn from this psalm not to despise God’s Word. We should hear and learn it, love and respect it, and join the little flock in which we find it, and, on the other hand, flee and avoid those that revile and persecute it. Wherever this blessed light does not shine, there neither happiness nor salvation can be found, neither strength nor comfort of body or soul, but only dissension, fear, and terror, especially when sorrow, anxiety, and bitter death threaten. As the prophet says (Is. 48:22), however, the wicked never have peace, regardless of whether they prosper or fail. For when they prosper, they grow presumptuous, haughty, and proud, and they forget our Lord God. Their only boast and trust is in their power, riches, wisdom, and holiness. These they are concerned to keep and increase while they persecute and suppress those that hinder them. But when their fortunes change, as eventually they surely must—for the tender Virgin Mary is a most truthful singer, and she has never missed even a single note in her song—then they are the most miserable and sorrowful people, who speedily despair and lose heart. What ails them? They do not know where and how they may seek comfort. They do not have God’s Word, which alone can properly teach patience and good cheer in affliction (Rom. 15:4)

Monday, February 25, 2013

State of Blogging / WW II cont.

Dear Internet,  what happened to my blogging...

Blogging takes time and effort and getting through the books one wants to blog about...

Well, lately there were several difficulties.  One, I had moved the computer to the basement which is really cold; now I've moved it back upstairs.  One could use the laptop, but I don't like it as much.

Then there was the subject matter all related to Word War II, misguided ideologies and atrocities.  I had got some way through "Bloodlands.  Europe between Hitler and Stalin", which is truly an extremely important book.  I stopped after the deliberate starvation of millions in the Ukraine, and the proof supplied that truly it was done deliberately and not just an unfortunate result of collectivization.  The author convinced me.  It was done deliberately.  And Hitler had the mind to starve the entire East after he had conquered it, if he had conquered it, since the Slavs were an inferior race and could legitimately be killed off in the game of the survival of the fittest.  It can make one's stomach turn and surely takes a toll.  Indeed, the Russian prisoners of war were starved and killed for this same reason of inferiority.  Millions and millions of people.  It is hardly fathomable.  It is so terrible.  Social Darwinism is what it is called.

This is partly why I stopped.  I also watched all the WW II documentaries on Netflix.  They provided an overview but did not provide much depth nor did they explore the aspects of the story I am interested in.  There was one part where the German people happily coped with the destruction of their cities while they still cheered on their leader and kept on fighting.  This was quite infuriating.  It seems like no one wants to understand how oppressive the regime was.  Who wants to have war and keep fighting when the country is bombed to pieces? (And how many really wanted it in the first place.)

And then the entire series so far, no person has commented on anything at all.  This is ok but after a while it becomes all a bit boring.  This is not that there have not been google-hits.  Some of the searches have been for Fichte, Voltaire and polygenetics.

One more thing I found discouraging was the fighting on other blogs.  It seemed all the sudden that all the talking, all the discussing, all the clarifying  comparing, hoping for consensus is all for nothing.  It appeared to me that after three or four years on the internet nobody has ever changed their mind on much. ( -- No, it's not true.  There is one person I know about.  And he even became a Lutheran.)

So that's that, and I still don't feel like picking up the WWII thread, again.  There are nicer things to read and think about and do.

The only other thing is a suggestion I have.  After going some distance in the "Bloodlands", I thought it would be important for the world to acknowledge all the losses explored in the book.  We should have an international day that recognizes the entire tragedy. In Edmonton we have a memorial to the Ukrainian Famine because many Ukrainians came here. In the spirit of racial thinking, even here they were considered something inferior to the Anglo-Saxon.  In my teacher's foundation training we had a unit on how Ukrainians were to be integrated in those decades. This European thinking existed over here, also.  In any case, we need to have not just Remembrance Days for Nov. 11, thinking about the end of WW I, but a time where we all stand together remembering all these atrocities and victims.

I mentioned this thought to a Russian Orthodox friend I have and he agreed whole-heartedly.  We all need to know this and remember this.  Not only were the Jews nearly exterminated for being racially inferior, etc. but so nearly were the Slavs.  And Stalin killed whomever he wanted for whatever reason--his own comrades in purges and the Ukrainians for their nice fertile land.

P.S.  In googling Ukrainian Famine Memorial in Edmonton I found out that we do have a ceremony here at the end of November called the Holdomor.  .  I should get myself out for it next time.

Here is a picture of our current prime minister at a Holdomor memorial.  It does not mention the location.  Thanks to Flickr.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Saturday, February 9, 2013

Some good words from Pastor Luther

From Luther on "Living and Dying as a Christian". (Lull, p. 648, 649;  written in 1519)

Sixteenth, it is of utmost importance that we highly esteem, honor, and rely upon the holy sacraments, which contain nothing but God's words, promises, and signs.  This means that we have no doubts about the sacraments or the things of which they are certain signs, for if we doubt these we lose everything.  Christ says that it will happen to us as we believe.  What will it profit you to assume and to believe that sin, death, and hell are overcome in Christ for others, but not to believe that your sin, your death, and your hell are also vanquished and wiped out and that you are thus redeemed?  Under those circumstances the sacraments will be completely fruitless, since you do not believe the things which are indicated, given, and promised there to you.  That is the vilest sin that can be committed, for God himself is looked upon as a liar in his Word, signs, and works, as one who speaks, shows, and promises something which he neither means nor intends to keep.    Therefore we dare not trifle with the sacraments.  Faith must be present for a firm reliance and cheerful venturing on such signs and promises of God. What sort of a God or Savior would he be who could not or would not save us from sin, death, and hell?  Whatever the true God promises and effects must be something big.

But then the devil comes along and whispers into your ear, "But suppose you received the sacraments unworthily and through your unworthiness robbed yourself of such grace?" In that event cross yourself and do not let the question of your worthiness or unworthiness assail you.  Just see to it that you believe that these are sure signs, true words of God, and then you will indeed be and remain worthy.  Belief makes you worthy;  unbelief makes you unworthy.  The evil spirit brings up the question of worthiness and unworthiness to stir up doubts within you, thus nullifying the sacraments with their benefits and making God a liar in what he says.

God give you nothing because of your worthiness, nor does he build his Word and sacraments on your worthiness, but out of sheer grace he establishes you, unworthy one, on the foundation of his Word and signs.  Hold fast to that and say, "He who gives and has given me his signs and his Word, which assure me that Christ's life, grace, and heaven have kept my sin, death, and hell from harming me, is truly God, who will surely preserve these things for me.  When the priest absolves me, I trust in this as in God's Word itself.  since it is god's Word, it must come true.  That is my stand, and on that stand I will die."  You must trust in the priest's absolution as firmly as though god had sent a special angel or apostle to you, yes, as though Christ himself were absolving you.

Seventeenth, we must note that he who receives the sacraments has a great advantage  for he has received a sign and a promise from God with which he can exercise and strengthen his belief that he has been called into Christ's image and to his benefits.  The others who must do without these signs labor solely in faith and must obtain theses benefits with the desires of their hearts.  They will, of course, also receive these benefits if they persevere in that same faith.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

An angel in one's own eyes.

"God should be praised and blessed forever for dealing with His saints in a truly wonderful manner. For while He permits them to be weak and to stumble, while He lets them abound with actions that result in displeasure and offense, and the world judges and condemns them, He forgives them these weaknesses and has compassion on them. On the other hand, He leaves to Satan and utterly rejects those who are angels in their own eyes." -Luther on Genesis 9:20-22 (LW 2:169)

Monday, February 4, 2013

How could it happen? / 15 / Haeckel

There is a book on Amazon, which has been sitting on my wishlist.  "From Darwin to Hitler, Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany." 

The reviews are not all glowing, but in reading the detractors, I find that they don't really have a problem with the book per se; instead they consider it making a valid contribution, as it deals largely with Ernst Haeckel, and other certain individuals some of whom we've encountered several times in the last posts.  So, here we have an interesting connection.

I am loathe to buy another book, still,  and maybe will try and find it in the library.  We see that there is also a Wikipedia entry on the book. The author is a historian at the University of California.  Criticism seems to center on the evolution vs. intelligent design debate and the author's appearing in "Expelled.  No Intelligence Allowed."  One could see how regular Darwinian evolutionists would not like to see themselves besmirched by Hitler's policies.  However, I would have to see, that in our research so far, we can see how the materialist world-view, and the anti-Biblical liberal "Christian" world view, also, leave the door wide open for such ideologies as Hitler's to develop, as well as "scientific racism", as we have explored, lately.

Ernst Haeckel indeed has taught wrong and disastrously inhuman things.  It helps no one to ignore these facts or white-wash them.  Through Haeckel we can dehumanize the embryo into a fish, and the negro into a subhuman, the Jews and Slavs into inferiors, the Aryans into the master race.  Not, not, not, not good.

But we saw that some of these ideas were prevalent much before Darwin and Haeckel.  Even in Voltaire's day, we have these thoughts, as we saw, yesterday.  They came to the evil fruition in the fullness of time, so to speak.  These ideas came up through colonialism, anti-Biblical, materialistic philosophy.  A Hitler did not have to necessarily happen, nor the slave trade.  But the door was open for these systems.

Richard Weikart wrote another more recent book, which also has many reviews, "Hitler's Ethics".   And there is a book on Bonhoeffer and how evangelical he was.  Hm.  I'll have to peruse the section at the Concordia library, if not head down to the U of A.

Re: Bonhoeffer.  He is something of a Lutheran, but he is also a child of his times having imbibed some modern ideas about reality and myth.  I do like him and respect him a lot, though, if only for his profound and densely poetic communication.  That he should have moments of doubt along with faith, we cannot begrudge him.  We are all like that.

Hitler's Ethic: The Nazi Pursuit of Evolutionary Progress

Sunday, February 3, 2013

How could it happen? / 14 / Voltaire, Geniuses and Slaves

I'm still interested in Voltaire and his opinions.  You can read in various places that he was anti-Jewish and anti-Christian in something of the same vein.  But what about his views on races, slavery and the "polygenetics"?  The German Wikipedia entry explains the dispute more fully than the English.  In the German entry also we find a note that the paragraph needs work.  I will translate the German into English, so we can get a fuller picture.

Here we go (under Voltaire):  

Voltaire's position regarding Africans, slaves and the slave-trade has been a source of scholarly controversy.  Claudine Hunting thinks that Voltaire was decidedly against slavery.  On the other hand, for example, Christopher L. Miller and Michele Duchet point out that the evidence is otherwise.  Also, it has been stated by biased authors that Voltaire profited directly from the trade in slaves overseas, himself.   Eugene de Mirecourt had published portions of a letter in 1877 as proof for such accusation, but the letter has been judged not authentic by more recent scholarship.   Indeed, however, Voltaire had invested funds in the company "Companie des Indes".  This company participated in the colonial wars of conquest and at times held the monopoly for the slave trade in France.  Voltaire seemed to be more concerned about the welfare of regular servants than the problems with the trade of slaves which he held to be a necessary evil, perhaps.  A ship belonging to a slave trader was named after Voltaire, which he considered an honor.
One of the slave traders brought back an albino person to Paris whom he described as "an animal, which is similar to a human being."  The albino seemed to him to be a missing link between animal and human being;  this is a topic Voltaire also dealt with in other places.  Voltaire thought the African to be a different species of man from the White man, which reproduces with the orangutan monkey.
In Voltaires "Essai sur les moeurs et l'esprit des Nations"  [Essay on the Blacks and the Spirit of the Nations.?]  there is a passage stating:  "We purchase our house slaves only from among black men;  some condemn this practice.  But a people which trades with its children, is much more damming than one who purchases slaves.  This trade demonstrates our superiority;  the one who gives himself to an owner has been born to have one (an owner).  Already the editor, named Condorcet, an opponent of slavery, commented that this passage by Voltaire is not meant to be seen as a defense of slavery.  The older secondary sources commenting on this have not fully supported this conclusion (of Condorcet).  The same work by Voltaire also contains the thesis that there exist among peoples of the world a natural gradation, which rarely changes,  in regards to genius and character.  This is the reason which the black man are different kinds of humans.  But, still, Voltaire describes also the unfair treatment of slaves, saying "Humans like ourselves" and compared the disparagement of Jews in the ancient Rome with "our" view of the "negro", as a "less developed species of mankind."
With Voltaire one also finds firmly critical thoughts regarding slavery... He also describes the mutilation of slaves by Surinam in "Candide"... In "Commentaire sur l'Esprit des lois" (1777)  Voltaire praises Montesquieu for denouncing slavery.  Voltaire commented with enthusiasm on the attitudes of the Quakers of Pennsylvania who had a position against slavery and were able to to abolish it.  He called the war of Sparta a just war, if not the only ever just war. [?]  In the last years of his life, Voltaire worked toward the abolishing of slavery in the Jura together with a lawyer friend Charles-Frederic Gabriel Christin... 

 Most likely Voltaire developed his thoughts over time standing somewhere in the middle at times or combining points of views. 

Nevertheless, it is interesting to hear in the context also, and in that time, place and with this author, the opinion regarding the descent or interbreeding with the orangutan, the idea that there are different kinds of species of man with different levels of genius or intelligence.  Once the biblical view went out, the new semi-scientific, or speculative philosophical view was open to rationalization and viewing others as inferior. 

Interesting also that he was commenting on "a link" between animal and human.  

Saturday, February 2, 2013

How could it happen? / 13/ Some notes on scientific racism, eugenics, etc.

1.  Interesting summary re:  church and Bonhoeffer involvement against Hitler plot, here.

2.  Some points about eugenics, here.

3.  Some quotes by Margaret Sanger, here and here.

4.  On "whiteness" from Wikipedia:

The study into race and ethnicity in the 18th and 19th centuries developed into what would later be termed scientific racism. During the period of the mid-19th to mid-20th century,[25] race scientists, including most physical anthropologists classified the world's populations into three, four, or five races, which, depending on the authority consulted, were further divided into various sub-races. During this period the Caucasian race, named after people of the North Caucasus (Caucasus Mountains) but extending to all Europeans, figured as one of these races, and was incorporated as a formal category of both scientific research and, in countries including the United States, social classification.

Meyers Blitz-Lexikon (Leipzig, 1932) divides "Europäid" into various types.Heinrich Kiepert is shown.
There was never any scholarly consensus on the delineation between the Caucasian race, including the populations of Europe, and the Mongoloid one, including the populations of East Asia. Thus, Carleton S. Coon (1939) included the populations native to all of Central and Northern Asia under the Caucasian label, while Thomas Henry Huxley (1870) classified the same populations as Mongoloid, and Lothrop Stoddard (1920) excluded the populations of the Middle East and North Africa as well as those of Central Asia, classifying them as "brown", and counted as "white" only the European peoples.
Some authorities, following Huxley (1870), distinguished the Xanthochroi or "light whites" of Northern Europe with the Melanochroi or "dark whites" of the Mediterranean.

Under Hitler, by the way--so enjoyed to tell my married-into-the-family uncle-- my father's family was classified as "dark", i.e. Mediterranean type.  Indeed, there is some really dark hair there, even growing in the ears of some of the men, and in the summer they are as brown as any East Indian, for example.  Not really good Aryan stock, anyhow.  I am surprised, however, to see how these distinctions arose as kind of "science" way before Hitler's time.

5.  Polygenism is a subject which is somewhat fascinating at this point. My generation has not come into contact with these ideas, anymore, not in the countries where I have lived, though once in a while one hears that some sort of "scientist" has be silenced somewhere because he dared to compare traits and intelligence in races.  But this must have been quite a subject in different times and places.  It reminds me that until recently the American cult of Mormonism labeled the black as inferior and a black person could not become a real Mormon.

Here is what one famous polygenist said:

Regarding Negroes, Cuvier wrote:
The Negro race... is marked by black complexion, crisped of woolly hair, compressed cranium and a flat nose, The projection of the lower parts of the face, and the thick lips, evidently approximate it to the monkey tribe: the hordes of which it consists have always remained in the most complete state of barbarism.[39]

Polygenist evolution is the belief that humans evolved independently from separate species of apes. This can be traced back to Karl Vogt in 1864. Polygenist evolution allowed polygenists to link each race to an altogether different ape, this was shown in the work of Hermann Klaatsch and F. G. Crookshank.[62]Karl Vogt believed that the Negro was related to the ape. He believed the White race was a separate species to Negroes. In Chapter VII of his Lectures of man (1864) he compared the Negro to the White race whom he described as "two extreme human types". The difference between them, he claimed are greater than those between two species of ape; and this proves that Negroes are a separate species from the Whites.[63]

Yes, incredibly "scientific" ALL OF THAT.

Top all this off with Haeckel, our brilliant inventor of the embryo series, taught to children even recently (along with the white moth and peppered moth).

In contrast to most of Darwin's supporters, Ernst Haeckel put forward a doctrine of evolutionary polygenism based on the ideas of the linguist and polygenist August Schleicher, in which several different language groups had arisen separately from speechless prehuman Urmenschen, which themselves had evolved from simian ancestors. These separate languages had completed the transition from animals to man, and, under the influence of each main branch of languages, humans had evolved as separate species, which could be subdivided into races. Haeckel divided human beings into ten races, of which the Caucasian was the highest and the primitives were doomed to extinction.[69]Ernst Haeckel claimed that Negroes have stronger and more freely movable toes than any other race which is evidence that Negroes are connected to apes because when apes stop climbing in trees they hold on to the trees with their toes, Haeckel compared Negroes to "four-handed" apes. Haeckel also believed Negroes were savages and that Whites were the most civilised.[63]

Which leaves me with another question.  I wonder if Swedenborg had opinion on this. 

--Found something:   He wrote: 'Africans are the best, gentlest and most intelligent of all the gentiles ... They long for information and rejoice when they get it' (Evans 1991, 10). Again he wrote: 'because Africans are of this character (i.e. spiritual) a revelation has this day been made to them, which is spreading in all directions ... ' (Swedenborg 1771, para. 840, 387).

That sounds like a very nice thing to say.  But we do see that we have categorical statements about a race.  We have here a set of people who are seemingly more spiritual.