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Good Morning Nanty Glo!
            Monday, November 17 2003 

Jon Kennedy, webmaster

Frames of reference

He makes me squirm, being on the wrong side of the fence politically, but in the two interviews I've seen with him recently, author Norman Mailer has made points worth taking in. Most recently, on the PBS Charlie Rose Show, he described American Protestant fundamentalism as not so much an "opiate"—as Rose was glad to suggest for the second that Mailer was grasping for a term—but as a frame of reference, a filter or lens through which its proponents look at everything in our contemporary world. This turned out to be an unexpectedly benign description, considering how much most of the liberals who've gone public on the matter detest and fear our home-grown fundamentalists.

I've worked on defining fundamentalism most of my life and am unsatisfied with any of the results. There was a time when I was happy to have the adjective applied to me, but that's been a long time ago. Orthodoxy, in the Eastern sense, is not fundamentalist, and neither is the Reformational Protestant (aka "Christian democratic") movement with roots in the Netherlands that I moved in for 30 years before converting to Orthodoxy. John Calvin, arguably the most influential theologian in American religious history, described the necessity of developing a biblical worldview as being comparable to looking everything through biblical spectacles. In other words, it's a frame of reference. That's a concept Orthodox Christians can endorse, but we would add that eyeglasses have two lenses, the one that's the Bible should be balanced with one of sound interpretation, which we call the Tradition of the Orthodox church.

The most noticeable contributions on the Nanty Glo email list the past couple of days have been a point and counterpoint exchange about the relative merits of political conservatism versus liberalism, the two most commonly mentioned frames of reference in our everyday life. This turn of events has moved me to choose these issues for a new series of entries. Those who've been reading for a while know already that I identify with social conservatism, though not with all conservatives, and despite the fact that probably most of the people in Christian circles I've alienated over the years are people who turned against me because they consider me too "liberal" for their tastes or to merit their support. As always, feedback is encouraged. Feel free to chime in at any time.

And to set up the agenda for subsequent numbers in this series, I'll close by nominating two icons I see as epitomizing liberalism on one hand and conservatism on the other. Here in the month of the 25th anniversary of the horrendous catastrophe in Jonestown, Guyana, it's well to remember that Jim Jones, the perpetrator of that horror, was a liberal, in both the political sense as a lifelong Democrat who was well known in the San Francisco establishment as one minister who could deliver a voting bloc, and in the theological sense as a one-time poster boy for his liberal Protestant denomination, the Disciples of Christ/Christian Churches. Of course I allow that Jim Jones went over the abyss into madness, but until the terrible end of his revolutionary experiments, he never renounced his philosophy, nor did the people who influenced him renounce him. Among the first of the more than 900 murder victims in Jonestown, in fact, was a liberal Democratic Congressman who went there to reason with Jones. I'm not saying this proves much of anything, but the end of Jonestown is to me a harbinger of what awaits Western culture once liberalism gets total control. Today's liberalism has roots in the French Revolution, which we'll discuss more in this series, and the Paris of that era eclipses Jonestown many times over. And from France's era of blood the attenpts by Hitler and Stalin to replay the same tunes were easy leaps.

And as the poster person for conservatism, my choice is Mother Teresa. Her whole life of sacrificing her own life for others gives the lie to this claim of one of yesterday's contributors to the forum: "the conservative...car[e]s only about embryos in utero, once the child is here—anything goes—a life in poverty, killed in the military for no reason, etc."

Webmaster Jon Kennedy

Fun facts (or "facts," so it says, but take with a grain)

You can't kill yourself by holding your breath.

Americans on the average eat 18 acres of pizza every day.

—Sent by Trudy Myers 

Thought for today

One person with a belief is equal to 99 who have only interests.
 
— John Stuart Mill
 
Sent by Mary Ann Losiewcz
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