The Megachurch Explained

Chris Rosebrough turned me on to some understanding of something I knew to be wrong for several years, yet I was unable to put it into a coherent argument. I have observed numerous troubling things, read troubling things but the nature of the problem illuded me. My recent post on The Problem with the Megachurch began with his presentation below. It first manifested in The Rise of Absurdity in Western Philosophical and Political Views.

Watch his presentation! (Follow along PowerPoint here)

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** I want to be super clear that I am not implying, nor do I believe most of the folks that have used the “Drucker Megachurch Franchise” template had ill intentions. Most of the folks that started these churches were GEN Xers, and we GEN Xers grew into adulthood with a lot of distrust of the things that were around us. Those of us that grew up in church saw a stale, ineffective church. We knew the Sunday talk and the weekly walk of many people.

I grew up in a very typical place that describes that. I was raised in Powedersville, near Greenville SC. As typical of the Southern Baptist Bible belt as you can get. I saw all the things that likely frustrated those that followed the Drucker plan.

I also do not believe the folks working in these churches as underling leaders have ill intentions, or at least they did not start out that way. There is however something corrupting when you place an ordinary man in a position of extreme power over others, young impressionable folks, and give him a soap-box to repeat the myth of himself that develops from that power. I have witnessed such people, abuse their power in subtle ways.

These people did not mean evil, not all of them do overt evil and there are good things that derive from these churches. Most have zero understanding of the flawed philosophy that this movement came from and many of the underling leaders are not even formally trained in theology to recognize error.

On the whole, it was all a mistake, it has morphed into something very dangerous and it is, in my observed opinion, the single greatest existential threat to organized Christianity in America.

When you think of visiting one of these places, keep looking, find a Bible-believing place without all the communitarian trappings, apostasy and error.

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Follow me on Twitter if you want to learn more about this subject or to tell me I am wrong @onlyBarryLClark or take a gander at the tag for all post related to the Megachurch

The Problem With the Megachurch

(Easier to read PDF version here)

I have, intermittently and occasionally, made references, usually as half-serious jabs, about the seeker-sensitive megachurch movement. It is, however, not a simple joke. There are many absurd aspects to the entire movement, and oftentimes one can only but laugh at absurdity.  That notwithstanding, this is all dangerous.

First a caveat. I will not suggest that the megachurch movement all by itself is the thing that will destroy organized Christianity in the US. The Protestant denominations were doing a fine job of that themselves.  The Presbyterians and the Methodist succumbed to liberal theology and social gospel a long time ago, recent splits within the Presbyterian church and the inevitable Methodist split notwithstanding. The Baptist recovered solid theology in the conservative reformation of the 70s and 80s but error began to slip back in with pop authors and strange 40-day programs. Attendance in all of those churches was falling, by the 1990s they seemed to be dying, stale and irrelevant.

I am not here to argue that the old way is The Way because it was the old way.  I understand how the American church and worship styles changed in the major Awakenings. I may personally prefer liturgy, solemnity old hymns and order but that is just personal.  My argument against the megachurch movement is not based upon the style of worship I prefer.

Summary (very short version):  The big brain (Peter Drucker) behind the megachurch movement was a man that grew up in Austria exposed to thinkers and philosophers of or influenced by a the branch of philosophy that gave the world nihilism, fascism, communism, nihilism, and socialism.  In his own writing, he expressed his belief that mankind needed a new way, that both communism and capitalism were insufficient. His concept to achieve this was communities of communities, lead by a leader and who lead leaders, all following a plan. He believed the community was more important than the individual. He believed essentially that fascism went wrong when it failed to account for the spiritual.

After attempting to implement his plan in American industry through ‘plant communities’ he focused his efforts on the churches.  Drucker was key in the formation and growth of the dominant organization that helps megachurches grow and provides templates and plans to megachurch pastors.

At the heart of all of this is the notion that the individual is less important than the community, that leaders must be followed, that the community must be served.

Fascist you say?

The ‘F’ word is a bit overused in our common dialogue.  It often is just a word applied to anyone else that tells someone they cannot do what they want or perhaps an insult applied to a conservative on Twitter.  It is overused, and that is a shame, because The Third Way, fascism is a real ideology.  People will argue that Drucker wrote a critique of the Nazis in 1936 before leaving Austria and that his website states he was neither a fascist nor a Nazi.  I would agree that Drucker thought both the Italian Fascist and German Nazis got it all wrong and that because of the stigma attached to the word Drucker would never claim or want to be labeled as a Fascist.  This, however, does not change the fact that his ideas, particularly about the leader model, the individual, and community and societal order were close to fascist thinking.  He grew up in a connected home, his father had as dinner guest the same intellectuals that the fascist looked to. He read the same foundational philosophers and agreed with their thoughts. Drucker was certainly of the same intellectual cloth as the original fascist thinkers. That this is a true statement no more makes him a Nazi or aligns him with what the Germans and Italians did to the ideology than to claim that Bernie Sanders, a socialist, should be directly associated with Stalin’s purges.  To point out the ideological foundation of Drucker’s thought as he conceived of the megachurch method is simply to honestly assess the source of the ideas.

Perhaps Drucker, seeing flaws in capitalism and communism and the flaws in how fascism was implemented in Europe, while still holding to the core ideas that formed fascism, sought a Fourth Way.  An improved and rebranded fascism that included the spiritual.  His very words hint at that without using the ‘F’ word.

Proof in the Pudding

Since we overuse fascism, and we have become so skeptical of ideas and information that contradicts what we have come to believe as knowledge, I suggest the following. Look directly at how the megachurches behave and are organized.  Despite the independence of them all, they are fascinatingly similar in several areas. They are similar because they share the techniques and methods passed along by The Leadership Network, the organization Drucker so influenced.

Leader Driven:  Drucker called these ‘pastoral churches’, he argued that the main pastor should be more of a leader than a minister.  He called this the Leadership Principle, but it has much in common with the fuhrer principle from Germany - a central leader that casts the vision and layers of subordinate leaders that manage, execute and get the people to act. As ‘independent’ churches most megachurches are ultimately accountable to only themselves - in practical application, this means the senior pastor and his small specially selected and appointed board.

There is much less transparency in the megachurch than most traditional denominations.  The congregation does not vote on big issues or on the leadership.  Accounting and finances are generally presented in much less detail.  Many megachurch members have never met their senior pastor, he is certainly not a minister to them.

The leader principle extends all the way to the personal (relational in MC speak) level from senior pastor to satellite pastors to community pastors and finally small-group leaders.

It sounds like solid organizational design and nothing more you say. I mean, after all, Drucker was called the ‘father of modern management” you would expect such in an organization he helped shape, no harm there, right?  Maybe.

Community: The small-group forms the basis of the organization.  All major decisions of the individual should be taken to the small-group.  Megachurches teach that it is a sin of pride to take on major decisions outside of community. The small-group is the central feature of the megachurch, not the individual.  All movement, progress, and momentum begins in the small-group.  People share their dark secrets and confession to their small-group, items that are often used as subtle tools of control when necessary. Participation in the small-group is a foundational requirement.

Community is above family in the megachurch, the family is subordinate to the community just as the individual. That is unless you are in the inner circle. The children’s and teenager’s small-groups feature youngster ‘leaders’ leading kids through discussions of ‘parent wounds’, demonstrating that the group has answers and help where the family fails.  Husbands and wives are not immune to meddling in their marital business.

Those that leave the megachurch seldom say anything publicly that is bad about their former church, and many exhibit an irrational level of fear and anxiety when they come into contact with their former leaders. There is a degree of social control present that is difficult to articulate, but easy to observe when you look.

Service: In the megachurch service, oftentimes service done for the church itself, not for directly for those outside, comes near to a doctrinal position.  I have heard megachurch people claim in anger than an old grandma that lived a faithful Christian life could not be a Christian because she does not ‘serve’.  This phenomenon is close to, if it has not already become, heresy.

Oaths:  One does not simply join a megachurch, you sign a contract, a membership covenant.  All of them contain variations of the following (just two sections from a random contract):

Unity

Guard my tongue from destructive criticism and gossip, submit to the discipline of the church elders and appointed leaders, and work for the good of all members.

Participation

Regularly participate in the life of […] Church by attending weekly worship services, engage in biblical community, and serve those within and outside the church.

Members sign this, and sometimes the church requires members to sign again at random intervals, for reasons.  On the face of it these seem like commonsensical items.  Preachers have admonished congregants for gossiping for years. Of course, a person ought to participate.  However, the meanings of this covenant, as evidenced by how the megachurch interprets their meanings are very different than innocent words.

  • Don’t agree with a plan or a program?  Shut up or get disciplined for not working in community to follow God’s plan.
  • Refuse to date the right person, make the ‘right’ life choices or live in community, then you agree to face discipline from folks you did not elect.
  • Refuse to ‘serve’, in community?  See above, you agree to face discipline.

NewSpeak:  Megachurches have almost universally adopted terms that are routinely peppered into almost every sentence and conversation.  ‘Intentional’, ‘relational’, ‘authentic’ and others. These terms, what folks schooled in megachurch theology would claim are extracted Biblical concepts, because the words certainly do not exist in any accurate translation of the Bible. Most megachurch members can explain these terms much more fluently than theological concepts. This is all very disturbing and perhaps dangerous. It seems a form of language control. At the very least it demonstrates the theological weakness of the megachurch teaching method. At worst, it is a form of language conformity.

Finally,

The Parking Lot:  If you are unconvinced with the subtle ties to fascism in the megachurch go visit one and attempt to just willy-nilly go park where you want. You will find a group of men, those too old to ‘serve’ inside anymore lined up to tell you exactly where to go and park from the moment you turn off the public road.  Yes, I get it, the mega in megachurch means a lot of people.  Sure, this seems efficient, got it.  Hitler made the trains run on time too - I do not want to take the analogy too far, but fascism is designed for efficiency and compliance. There is more to the parking lot than even the parking lot guys understand.

The Bottom-line.  I am not saying megachurch pastors are evil, or have bad intent, not on the whole.  I am not suggesting their small board meetings are conducted in dark rooms with nefarious intentions.  I am suggesting that at the root of the ideology and methodology there exists the elements of bad philosophy, bad philosophy that has in other cases gone very wrong.  Group-think, language conformity, oaths, control, lack of transparency combined with shallow topic theology is not Biblical Christianity.

The megachurch was born of Continental philosophical anti-rationalism. In the megachurch this translates into:

  • Anti-Doctrinalism (theologically shallow)
  • Deeds NOT Creeds (service sneaks in here as a form of Justification)
  • Head knowledge vs. Heart Knowledge (emotion based, feeling it instead of knowing it; entertainment)
  • Unity of the Faith Community (community over the individual and families)

 

Drukerism and the Megachurch

The Rise of Absurdity in Western Philosophical and Political Views

Peter Drucker, essentially the key founder of the megachurch movement, grew up exposed to the great thinkers of the German school (Continental Philosophy) during his youth in Austria.  In his own writing, he expressed a view that community was more important than the individual (Neoplatonism) and an affinity for Schopenhauer and Kierkegaard. He expressed ideas about the failures of capitalism and communism and suggested a third way, in words that echoed that of Italian Fascist Giovanni Gentile. The creation of a new “noneconomic society” was Drucker’s lifelong project. His life’s work was focused on finding a way to build community structures, focused on the common good that could change society. Part of his plan was based upon the leadership principle, taken from the German model of the fuhrer principle, one leader cast the vision and subordinate leaders ensure the community executes it. Essentially Drucker found both capitalism and socialism to be flawed, they could not solve poverty. He thought Fascism had gone wrong because it ignored the spiritual. He believed a noneconomic system built upon communities within communities accountable to a leader who was accountable to a leader was the answer, an improved version of Fascism.

Drucker tried to implement his ideas in industry in America.  He is perhaps most famous for being the creator of modern management.  He found that factories were insufficient to implement his community of communities plan as people simply moved too often.

In 1990 he wrote Managing the Nonprofit Organization: Practices and Principles and changed his focus from business to nonprofits, specifically churches and more specifically what he called pastoral churches. In a Forbes interview in the 90’s, he said, "The community … needs a community center. … I'm not talking religion now, I'm talking society. There is no other institution in the American community that could be the center." he told Forbes that pastoral megachurches are "surely the most important social phenomenon in American society in the last thirty years." Drucker advised “you must change the primary role of pastor from minister to leader”, harkening back to the leadership (fuhrer) principle. (Rosebrough)

The Leadership Network, an organization that claims to mentor thousands of pastors and hundreds of churches states on their website, “Leadership Network would not be the same–in fact, might not exist at all - were it not for Peter Drucker”. (Network, 2005) A quick search of their site, conference attendees and participants demonstrates it is difficult to find any randomly selected megachurch pastor that has not participated in some way. (Steinfels, 2005) The corporate, business model of ‘doing church’ was created by Peter Drucker, because he saw it as a way to implement his vision.

The next time your megachurch pastor or one of his underlings relays the story of how it all started with just a handful in someone’s house or a bar, remember Drucker.  A few of them probably did start it, and maybe they met in a bar or a house, but it was much more like a board meeting than a very small church hoping to grow to thousands in a few years.  That little groups read Drucker, participated in The Leadership Network, did market research and bought a mailing list.  It was a lot less authentic, much more programmatic and planned than the organic story people recall so fondly.

So, what of these churches that the Drukerites have helped build, what are they really all about.  Firstly, they are anti-rational, emotional rather than reasoned.  Heart-knowledge over head-knowledge. Deeds over creeds. There is no messy theology or doctrine to scare you away or confuse, two thousand years of Christian thought and writing out the window. Secondly, but perhaps most importantly, it is about the collective, not you.  Everything is done in community, decisions, confession, service, discipline. Everything follows the plan, the plan from the guy on the big screen you probably have never met.

Community, service to the community, a leadership plan and everyone on board with the plan. For many it begins in the parking lot during a visit, there are people there to tell you exactly where to park - getting people on board with the plan early in the experience.  If you join you will be assigned to a small group, so will your kids. The small group is where small furhers help ensure the plan and the community are taken care of.  Your small group is, of course, a member of a larger community, the satellite campus, with another underling leader.  You see your main leader on the large screen but he never minsters to anyone, most never meet him.  To join, you were probably required to sign a membership covenant, one that says you will submit to disciple and follow the leaders.  Major life choices must be brought to the community.  Your children will be pulled away from you as they are forced to talk about ‘parent wound’ in their small group to their leader that is barely past being a kid themselves.  The family is an impediment to the collective, it will be praised and talked about but in reality, it is subordinate. You may come to believe that service to the community somehow relates to your salvation. You will notice that everyone speaks in code, peppering sentences with authentic, intentional and relational, and of course community. Basically, once you join you become part of the collective and give up being part of yourself.

If you leave the church, you will be shamed and ostracized. Most that leave never say anything bad publicly about the church or their experience. The community still has a hold and still instills fear of shunning on them.

None of that meshes very well with authentic, orthodox, genuine Christianity and that is because it does not.  Very little of what megachurches focus most of their efforts on is biblical Christianity.  This is not to say that many Christians do not attend these churches, nor that the leaders did not have good intentions when they started out. However, power corrupts, and the power from a community focused on the community, with leaders accountable to nobody is pretty intoxicating.  In the last few years some notable megachurch leaders have fallen, and some entire churches of thousands have collapsed overnight.

In some few cases, megachurches have slipped into outright and atrocious heresy. The December 2019 Bethel, raise Olive from the dead tragedy comes to mind.  Oddly enough, even after outright heresy and apostasy like that groups like The Gospel Coalition, the 9s, 9Mark and the Leadership Network fail to disavow them.  Every megachurch still associated with the Drukerites is guilty by association with that tragic heresy related to that little dead girl and her family.

Megachurches in Drukerite model are the fastest-growing segment of Christianity in America.  The leaders of these churches are accountable to nobody but their small hand-picked boards.  Nobody is there to ensure they maintain any sort of orthodoxy in doctrine or theology - they have dispensed with all that just as the Postmoderns have gotten rid of all the parts of modernity and history that confound them.

Drucker thought a better, more spiritual version of fascism, with communities of communities, was the future for mankind and he worked to see that through, churches, megachurches were his vehicle.  One does not have to be around one of these operations long, not with your eyes open, looking past the fog machine and disco lights, to see authoritarian behavior. Reason tells anyone that walks in that something is not right - they keep you by suspending reason and playing to emotion.

Left unchecked, particularly considering the collapse of all the other protestant denominations, it is not hard to see, absent divine intervention, how within ten years there will be much Christianity left in any of these churches if they can hold out 10 years, without accountability and built upon bad ideology, there is no way they can survive 20.

See Chris Rosebrough presentation (follow along PowerPoint here)

 

Network, L. (n.d.). Drucker’s Impact On Leadership Network. Retrieved from https://leadnet.org/druckers-impact-on-leadership-network/

Rosebrough, C. (n.d.). Resistance is Futile. Retrieved from http://004f597.netsolhost.com/fftf/ResistanceisFutile.pdf

Steinfels, P. (2005). A Man’s Spiritual Journey From Kierkegaard to General Motors. New York Times. Retrieved from https://www.nytimes.com/2005/11/19/us/a-mans-spiritual-journey-from-kierkegaard-to-general-motors.html

Look at Me

I have been conducting a bit of research, watching a lot of mega-church pastor’s sermons, and I have noticed a trend that the Babylon Bee nailed recently in a satirical story of a preacher that placed himself in the middle of a sermon about election.

Churchgoers were impressed by Vickery’s theological illustration and his general ability to always make himself look good in his messages.

“Some Sundays, I’ll admit, I have no idea how he’s going to end up making himself look great, cool, popular, important, or heroic. Especially with this one—I was thinking, ‘How is Pastor Chuck going to make himself the man in a message on election?’ I mean, it’s election,” said church member Becky Lenhardt, adding that despite her doubts, somehow he was able to pull it off.

“I can’t wait until next Sunday to see how he’ll become the hero of a sermon on creation,” she added.

I have come to the conclusion, after watching dozens of videos from various mega-church pastors, that this is pretty much par for the course. I suspect they would be incapable of preaching a funeral or a wedding without performing the verbal equivalent of photo-bombing.

This sort of behavior is closely related to the story of the worship leader that took 16 hours to explain to his congregation why he selected a particular song for that morning and what it meant to him. Me, me, look at me.

Satire is a pretty good way of addressing the absurd and getting after a reality that makes no sense. I thought I was alone in this observation of crass interposition but apparently not.

Philosophical and Political Worldviews

We often view the world through a limited perspective and fail to see the larger narrative, the foundational differences in world views. A liberally inclined person may look at some conservative ideas and see totalitarianism. A conservative invariably does the same. Neither is absolutely wrong, but it is also unlikely that when a person right or left speaks these words or has these thoughts that they understand why this is true.

Within the umbrella of the philosophy of the Enlightenment, within the context of millennia of Western political, philosophical and theological thought, both left and right, conservative and liberal ideas of freedom, economics and government exist side by side. They are complementary, they share the same basic world view. Conservatism and liberalism, left and right, in the Western tradition, are based upon realism, rationalism, and acceptance of truth – this is Classical Liberalism.

The image above represents the various ideations of thought that derive from the Enlightenment. Obviously there is a vast swath of difference across this spectrum but at the core the most rigid forms of republicanism and the most liberal forms of scientific socialism share in common an acceptance of materialism, rationalism, realism and objective truth. From right to left, there is a difference in agreement as to what constitutes objective truth but everything that is true to the Enlightenment, everything above the ‘cut line’ agrees on the foundational world view, there is an agreement that truth exists.

Postmodernism

The Enlightenment itself was subjected to a counter-revolution, beginning with Immanuel Kant and continuing through philosophers like Søren Kierkegaard and Friedrich Nietzsche and finally to the modern era and postmodernism. The counter-revolution was a slow but steady assault on the ability of men to know truth and finally of the existence of truth at all.

This shift perverted the classical liberalism philosophical spectrum. Without an understanding of the nature of man, universal truths, natural moral law, and natural rights the poles of the spectrum devolved into dangerous ideologies. Far-right republicanism gives birth to statism, far left progressivism gives birth to pseudo-marxism and totalitarian communism. Finally, a third way was born to address the inadequacies of perverted classical liberal ideologies, fascism, a phenomenon that can exist on the right and left of the spectrum below the classical liberal cut line.

The great political divide we observe at almost all levels of the process is a direct result of the abandonment of truth, or perhaps agreeing that truth exists. No longer does the definition of liberal or conservative reach across the spectrum to some degree as it did under a classical liberal view, no longer is there a middle. To be certain, there are still those that term themselves conservative and liberal but almost all on each side have succumbed to various postmodern ideological influences. This must invariably lead to some sort of totalitarianism, a form of fascism.

Postmodernism is an intellectual stance or a mode of discourse that rejects the possibility of reliable knowledge, denies the existence of a universal, stable reality, and frames aesthetics and beauty as arbitrary and subjective. It can be described as a reaction against scientific attempts to explain reality with objective certainty, recognizing that reality is constructed as the mind tries to understand its own personal circumstances. It is characterized by an attitude of skepticism, irony, or rejection toward the grand narratives and ideologies of modernism, often denying or challenging the validity of scientific inquiry, or declaiming the arbitrariness of the aesthetics of artistic works or other artifacts of cultural production, or questioning various assumptions of Enlightenment rationality.

Postmodernism relies on critical theory, an approach that confronts the ideological, social, and historical structures that shape and constrain cultural production. Common targets of postmodernism and critical theory include universalist notions of objective reality, morality, truth, human nature, reason, language, and social progress. Postmodernist approaches have been adopted in a variety of academic and theoretical disciplines, including political science, organization theory, cultural studies, philosophy of science, economics, linguistics, architecture, feminist theory, and literary criticism, as well as art movements in fields such as literature and music.

Wikipedia

Why This Matters

Everything that derives from postmodernism is poison to the Western tradition, right reason, morality, and ethics based upon truth. Critical Theory, as applied to Critical Race Theory, has divided the populace by reigniting racism. Feminist Theory has destroyed the family. It has slipped into traditional organizations such as:

  • Most of mainline Christianity in the form of Social Gospel
  • The Southern Baptist Convention and the acceptance of Critical Race Theory
  • The core ideology behind the formation of the megachurch growth, seeker-sensitive and emergent church movements – Peter Drucker, the Leadership Network The Gospel Coalition and others.
  • Almost all of academia.
  • Neoconservatism, neoliberalism and progressivism – meaning most of the Republican and Democratic parties and most of the organizations and individuals that advocate in the public square for either are affected in some way by postmodern ideology.

My daughter asked me recently, “how can two sides look at the evidence and issues related to Trump’s impeachment and see the facts so differently?” The answer is simple: people are incapable of thinking from first principles and agreeing on the existence of universal truths. And so it is, so long as the vast majority are mired in bad ideology the situation will persist and intensify.

Russell Moore Error

In my new book, Retrenchment: A Christian Defense of Permanent Things, I described the book as “a continuation of the dialogue of Schaeffer, MacIntyre, Moore, and Dreher and owes much to Eliot, Yeats, and Kirk for inspiration.”

In researching the topic I read Russell Moore’s Onward: Engaging the Culture Without Losing the Culture. In Retrenchment, I described Moore’s book as a much more optimistic version of Rod Dreher’s The Benedict Option and that mine was the most pessimistic of the three. Each tackled the issue of how Christians survive and thrive in a post-Christian civilization.

I was perhaps too kind.

Despite the fact that my denominational orientation and background are much closer aligned to Moore than Dreher, I found myself in agreement with Dreher much more than Moore. I explained this in Rethrenchment as perhaps a result of Moore’s book being with his publisher when Obergefell v Hodges was decided. I gave Moore the benefit of the doubt for being more touchy-feely, including social gospel innuendo and ignoring the massive cultural shift manifested into law in 2015 because Obergefell was not yet a reality.

I read within Onward some head-scratching notions, nuanced rather than stated outright, that smacked of some of the ideas that derive from bad ideology and sociological theories. After viewing a documentary by Founder’s Ministries called By Who’s Standard, I came to understand that the nuanced error I read in Onward was just that, a glimpse at the ideology Moore, and some leaders in the SBC, have come to embrace.

Christians have to change much of what we have been doing, but Moore’s prescription seems poisonous to me. From the front cover of Retrenchment.

Things fall apart, the center cannot hold

Old strategies no longer work, Christians no longer comprise a silent moral majority, our ideas are alien and our understanding of truth is difficult for the world to comprehend; something must change.  Increasingly the general culture, the zeitgeist of the age, is hostile to our ideas. Ancient institutions based upon the Christian concept of truth have fallen; more will fall.  Old assumptions about the nature and extent of our liberty and religious freedom seem to be proven false as we watch.  Allies, once beacons of principle, have crumbled under the pressure of radicals; more will fall.  Strange and false doctrines have replaced Christian teachings; entire denominations that once held to orthodox Christianity have succumbed.  No church is immune, alien ideas, philosophies and theological doctrines have crept in everywhere. 

Update: 8 January 2020

How many Southern Baptists actually know that their number one public representative and the most influential man in the denomination is in cahoots with George Soros? I suspect not many. 

Pen & Pulpit

An article in Christian Post from 2018 shows Moore’s connection to the Evangelical Immigration Table

Update 9 January (Moore cannot stay off the radar it seems)

First Principles Working List

I humbly submit my very rough working list of First Principles. It is ironic that since Elon Musk said he thinks in first principles the Interwebs are all aquiver with folks publishing list that generally have nothing at all to do with fist principles – usually, their list do not comport the requirements of real first principles, which are:

  1. First principles are true
  2. First principles are necessarily true
  3. First principles are indemonstrable

And most importantly, generally these lists do not derive from First Causes.

My beginning work:

The same thing cannot be affirmed and denied at the same time

Nothing comes from Nothing

There is/are a creator (G)god(s)

Natural Moral law exists and is written into the spirit of all men in all times

Imperfection Abounds

There exists a Transcendent Order

Social Continuity is Good

Variety is Good

No fear if you are reading the above and think I have become a transcendental theist or polytheist even. I personally believe in one God, the Christian God. My effort with this is to build philosophical proofs into a list of first principles that argue against atheism, secular humanism and metaphysical naturalism and to articulate the foundations that bias my opinions on other subjects. In fact from the above I infer:

Inferences, Deductions and Syllogisms

11. The God of the Bible is most likely the true God

I. There is a God that created the universe (3 a.-d.), Christianity presents a system supported by evidence that aligns with natural law and is supported by reason, therefore, the God of the Bible and Christianity must be true.

II. The God of Christianity is God and the Creator of the Universe, the text of the Bible is provably accurate and authentic and states it is the word of God, therefore, the Bible must be an accurate testimony of God’s word.

Creating New Math

Last evening, the wife and I had a dinner date that included attending a performance of Silkroad Ensemble at the Maxwell Theater over at Augusta University. I am always game for musical entertainment that may perhaps broaden my perspective a bit so a hybrid fusion ensemble of talented musicians seemed like a nice evening event. I am not a musical expert, let us establish that up front. However, I do not believe I actually heard anything that could pass as actual music last night.

Silk Road Ensemble
Silkroad Ensemble

Let me explain.

At one point early in the presentation one of the performers mentioned how the group was formed some twenty years ago to bring together all sorts of musical styles, put them in a pot and cook them into what Silkroad produces. They mentioned that 2+2 could be 5. As a metaphor, I could accept the premise. Concerning music and what music actually is, I cannot. Good music in all places, times and cultures has followed certain mathematical rules.

At another point the musicians stood on stage, essentially silent for 45 seconds, perhaps two minutes, I do not know for certain, doing ma. Ma is Japanese for a pause or gap in a sequence. I looked about the crowd in attendance and it seemed to me folks thought this was the most brilliant thing possible. I saw seven people standing on stage not playing music.

I actually had to stop the wife from laughing out loud at this point.

Music in all paces and in all times has been based upon certain mathematical certainties. (Well that and the obvious requirement to actually play your instrument and not stand silent – actually playing something is a requirement for music also I think.)

You can look anywhere, across history, and find that some cultures added 20+20 to get 40 and others 200+200 for 400 and others 5+5 to arrive at 10, etc., but all followed what can be clearly interpreted as mathematical rules to produce actual music that humans enjoy. Good music follows a mathematical ratio, the golden ratio, that all humans everywhere recognize. Tempo, style, instrumentation all vary, but real music always follows this rule. In fact, all art, architecture and even what we perceive as beauty in other humans is related to how closely something aligns with the golden ratio. It is almost like this is the mathematical basis of beauty that God wrote into the universe when he created it and we all intrinsically recognize it even for those that do not recognize a Creator.

When one of the performers stood up and told the crowd that 2+2=5 they actually meant it. Each performer clearly had talent in playing various instruments, but what they did on the stage was not at all music. It is not that I did not like it, that is not relevant. I can dislike a style of music but still, accept that it is actually music. My radio dial is filled with music that I dislike but that I still accept as actual music. It is not that I am an ignorant creten that simply cannot appreciate art. I may, in fact, be such, but as a human, I am attuned to the universal law of math and the golden ratio, I can easily discern noise from art.

The question I ask is why would otherwise talented people travel the world performing noise rather than music? Why would educational institutions such as Augusta University spend money to bring talented people to the school so that they can perform noise? Why would a small audience sit and pretend that they “get it”? Well, the answer to those questions are not very pretty I am afraid.

If one looks at the description of Silkroad it seems innocent enough:

Silkroad creates music that engages difference, sparking radical cultural collaboration and passion-driven learning to build a more hopeful world.

Seems innocuous enough, after all, who can really be opposed to a “more hopeful world”. There is, however, I suspect a lot of imagery and code in that simple sentence. When a person tells you who they are, you ought to actually believe them. The 2+2=5 statement at the beginning of the show was not merely a metaphor for perhaps thinking differently. It was a statement that these folks believe that the foundation of what has come before is not worthy of their time or effort. It is essentially a statement that the rules of the universe, created by God, are not relevant to them. It is a bold statement of rebellion against tradition. They might as well have stood on stage and stated that the Earth is flat and gravity does not exist. There is a palatable ideological bent to this group.

In the free market I would say let these folks make what ever noise they want and try to sell it as music. In a truly free market they would be on the side of the street with a bucket accepting donations for supper. However, the market this ideology exist in is not free. It is supported by funds from large endowments and educational institutions.

Make no mistake, the profit this group took from their performance on Saturday was not based upon ticket sales. Augusta University paid to have this group here under the guise of providing an enlightenment opportunity for students (I saw few students in attendance by the way). As a public institution, this means that ultimately two groups paid for this, the taxpayers and students out of their tuition and fees. Imagine that some student will pay some small amount of interest on the cost of this for the next 30 years in the form of repayment of student loans – all in the name of allowing a few eccentrics the luxury of declaring that they are smarter than all of the world’s great composers and musicians to come before them and smarter than God himself.

This performance was nothing more than another expression of the supremacy of man, a self-centered secularism that seeks to dispense with all that has proven good and acceptable through centuries of human history. It was not just the innocent act of a few otherwise talented musicians banging on drums to produce noise that three eight-year-olds running amuck in a music room might similarly produce.

I enjoyed the evening, dinner was nice, accompaning the wife was nice and watching this event was informative, but I am left to shake my head at what passes for art and enlightenment.

Jus Bellum Justum

Today I was listening to Mike Church on his network Veritas and was struck by a topic he covered.

I have heard Mike talk about what is a just war and why America is involved here or there before. I have heard him mention that others have accused him of not being “conservative” or being anti-American and all that because of his stance and suggestion that perhaps we ought to think about these things a bit more. These are tired arguments I saw hurled at other conservative and moral voices beginning back in the mid-2000’s. Justin Raimondo received the same sort of reception for some of the same reasons.

In the legal world there is this notion of standing, essentially having an interest in something before one might be party to or bring an action. In Mike’s case, his standing is upon centuries of doctrine codified into church teachings and that eventually found there way into international law. Numerous treaties related to how nations conduct war and when are based upon the Christian doctrine of jus abellum, first theorized by Augustine of Hippo and fleshed out by Thomas Aquinas.

Mike has never “been there” and “done it”, he has almost certainly read something about it and talked to a few people that may have been there but his standing to make the case that many of America’s military engagements are unjust is based not upon personal experience, rather upon church doctrine and quite obviously Western tradition as manifested through laws, treaties and customs we have developed based upon the foundations of those teachings over centuries. That plus the fact that he is a tax-paying American citizen give him standing to have an opinion on these matters.

Still, there are the moans and groans from the crowd of “traitor”. It seems that historical facts are not enough of standing for some to accept these arguments.

If one is Protestant rather than Catholic and if you attended a more fundamental or evangelical church it is highly likely that you have never heard Augustine mentioned within the confines of your church. So why do you care what this Augustine guy said?

One might argue that this is America by God and we will not be hamstrung by international law, even if such law is buttressed by foundational principles of Western Culture itself. So why care about international law developed over decades based upon the Western tradition?

Perhaps you served an enlistment as a young Marine years ago and still puff out your chest when telling boot-camp stories to folks that will listen. I will not deny you that. Perhaps your grandfather served in WWII and after almost 80 years since that event he only tells the good stories – that is his prerogative and I would listen to his stories. Maybe still you knew or know someone that came back from Vietnam and spent much of their life with a sadness that they could not explain, a feeling of betrayal – perhaps you feel a little guilt and sadness about that. I have seen that, I understand it and I hate what was done to those men.

However, none of that should matter when talking about what is truly just and what is unjust, what we should do and what we should not do. Some of the above is based upon ignorance, others pride and the last shame. These are vices that ought not direct us to an understanding of right and wrong.

If, you are still in the camp that says a guy like Mike has no standing to speak to these issues and that his Catholic Saints have no say in how America dictates to deals with the world. What say you of me? Do I have standing to speak to this issue?

Your humble writer is but a hypocrite of sorts. I spent 33 years in the Amy, 23 on active duty. I knew perhaps as early as Somolia and for certain no later than Bosnia that something was wrong – yet I still served, still took a paycheck and today I draw retirement.

I was pretty certain we had won, as best as one can win, the war in Afghanistan just a few weeks after it started. We had punished and diminished the folks that did us harm and that should have been that. We should have gone home and let them sort out the rest. And yet I still served.

I questioned why we should invade Iraq. I had been part of planning to “finish the job” way back in the mid-1990’s, we were just waiting for a reason. I saw through the WMD nonsense. Yet, still, I served.

One might ask why if I knew and believed these things as early as the mid-1990’s I continued to wear the uniform. That is a complex answer.

Robert E. Lee is quoted as stating a truism that I came to understand more and more as my career progressed.

“It is good that war is so horrible, or we might grow to like it.”

I did not spend each and every deployment safely ensconced on some well-bermed FOB perhaps taking an “adventurous” ride over to BIOP or some other well-fortified location. I spent much time embedded with, living beside, training and fighting with foreign forces.

I have seen people die, I have feared for my life and I have rejoiced at the countenance shown upon me when I escaped unscathed.

Lee’s quote could not be truer. Wrapped up in what real war is one finds a breadth of emotions more intense than I suspect is possible to replicate in any other way. All of the senses, all emotions and all of a person’s being can and does transcend into a hypersensitive, acutely alert and devastatingly feeling and acting being. Fear, anger, hate, love, compassion, confusion, surety, exhilaration, exhaustion, all in one moment’s breath felt more intensely that it seems possible. And after, nightmares, memories (fond and foul), hypervigilance, distrust, fear, anger and more. Sherman got only one thing right in his deplorable life, war is hell, but Lee got it more right, there is something appealing to the terribleness.

All of the above coupled with the fact that from a young age I knew that I was born to be in the military – there was never a question. I was once idealistic about it. Ronald Reagan did much to stoke my enthusiasm and encourage me to pick up a rifle and stand a post.

Once in, I decided that I would do as much good as possible. Perhaps for those I served with or those I led and maybe for those people who’s country I was occupying.

I recall in 2011, while a peon on a staff planning an operation in (or shall we say against) Libya I was one of the few that questioned if we even had the right to enact regime change based upon the limited scope of the UN resolution (and a clear understanding of first principles). Some of the lawyers said the same thing before they were replaced. In my own way, I tried.

I cannot recall the number of times, late at night over tea and pretending to smoke a proffered cigarette, I had a conversation about Christ with a Muslim I served beside. They always initiated it and it was always their attempt to convince me to convert – but in my way I thought my presence and those conversations had a purpose.

I even once tried to proselytize my profession.

There is more – my personal story is not the point. My point is I do have standing to talk about just and unjust wars if you will not accept Mike’s explanation. I picked up a rifle and I stood a post.

God created us all for a purpose, my life and my career were my purpose. Much like the Centurion in Mathew 8, I was a man under authority, doing what God created me to do.

Honor the servant but chastise, rebuke and hold the master accountable. It is simply not un-American to ask that our government engage in a less bellicose form of diplomacy. It is not anti-conservative to look at war as the last and perhaps least best option in most cases.

It is perhaps the converse. The most conservative and American thing we can do is ask why we make war and hold those actions to a standard accepted by the Christian Church and Western Culture in general for centuries.

There is a real cost to war and military action and it ought not be undertaken lightly.

I am not referring to mere dollars and cents, although considering that actions and expenditures today will burden our children and grandchildren, that in and of itself is not small concern.

Consider.

It was the first week of November 2004. My team and I hunkered down in an apartment complex just north of the railroad tracks on the outskirts of Fallujah. The presidential election results were just in back in the States, Bush had won reelection which meant the operation to retake the city was a go (could not have casualties or collateral damage pre-election you know). Beginning near sundown, just after the election results were received, the entire city was engulfed in fire from all manner of ordinance. It made a million-dollar minute look like a small fireworks show, and it persisted for hours. I recall all the mosques in the city actively calling prayers all night throughout the barrage. I wondered what sort of folks would stand and fight in the face of such terrifying firepower.

We had a mission the next morning and knew the next days (it turned into weeks) would be grueling, therefore we needed a rest plan and sleep. We took turns sleeping in the various bedrooms. The apartment was that of a family of four. There were two children, they appeared to be perhaps eight or nine years of age. The bedroom I selected was that of a little girl. The family had left almost everything as they evacuated before the operation. The US had dropped leaflets for weeks telling the civilian population to leave, 300,000 or so left.

I lie there trying to sleep, listening to the prayers and the explosions and looking at the pictures, dolls and essentially the stuff of this family’s life sitting just as they left it. I imagined that they had perhaps a bag of small items each and did not know if they would ever see their home again. It was a difficult night as I imagined how I would feel as that father.

Were terrible things occurring in Fallujah? Yes! There was were torture houses, makeshift courts and execution rooms and all that. It was all terrible. The thing is, the people we fought in Fallujah came from around the world, they had migrated there for months and saw the city as the start of a great caliphate. They were there to fight us. The civilians were just caught in the middle.

Did retaking the city change the future history of Iraq for the better? You can judge that for yourself, but considering ISIS eventually established a caliphate much larger than just Al Anbar province I say no.

There are many other stories from other places The one above is sufficient I think to tell of the true cost.

Cost to young US troops, many who joined because they simply had no better options, some out of idealism or a sense of duty and others as a way to better themselves. These were young folks under authority doing what we, The American people, asked.

Cost to civilians in lands where we wage these wars.

Cost to the young ideologically motivated on the other side with conviction in their faith and a belief fighting the US is a holy thing.

Cost to spouses and children left alone temporarily or permanently because their military parent is deployed and/or killed.

Cost the the soul of our nation for waging wars willy-nilly without debating the temporal and eternal cost.

I picked up a rifle and I stood a post. I have standing to say there is a cost and we ought to think and pray more diligently before rushing into any war anywhere.

The Freedom to be You

One of my objectives in retirement was to stand up a nonprofit corporation with the intent of “enhancing scholarship, education and critical thinking related to matters of first principles”. Additionally, the purpose of the organization is to encourage the study of the works of John C. Calhoun and to defend that which is good of his legacy.

Last night my wife lovingly looked at me and said people would not understand and that somebody, somewhere would eventually call me a racist just because Calhoun was involved.

Heck my daughter attends the Calhoun Honors College at Clemson, on the grounds the Calhoun family gave to found that orange covered place. When I was a youngster in school I was taught Calhoun was the greatest statesmen to ever come from SC and one of the greatest from the US generally.

This perplexed me. I am a chauvinist for certain, in a loving, paternalistic sort of way. I cannot help but be who I am and believe that women are the fairer sex and that men were created to leave the cave and protect them. I do not apologize for that. I am perhaps a curmudgeon of sorts in training in terms of cultural, social and moral values – I cannot hide nor deny that.

But a racist because I think there is still great value in the political philosophy of John C. Calhoun? Do some of his words offend modern sensibilities? Certainly. Can the same be said of many other men of his time and after, Abraham Lincoln comes to mind? – certainly!

The thing most people seem to have forgotten or were never taught in history courses is that everything must be taken in context.

I thought deeply about what she said. Shame on anyone that ever or eventually paints me with such a brush. I also resolved to come to the conclusion that I do not care. If one can find anyone that I ever worked with or for or that worked for me that would honestly call me a racist then I would say they had traveled to a parallel universe to find said person.

There is no truth to it.

As a benefit to my efforts with this new organization, I have been dialoguing with a man whom I have read and respected for years. In the next couple of weeks, I will sit with him and have lunch. He is perhaps the most accomplished scholar alive, perhaps ever to live, related to the life and works of Calhoun. This man, since retiring from his professorship at the University of South Carolina has been called a racist in many places on the web. He is a curmudgeon, he is old school, but I have read most everything he has written and I have never seen anything that would qualify as racist.

It is a sad state of affairs in a society that claims to love freedom where an individual can be denigrated based upon spurious and unfounded accusations simply because they support elements of truth that are uncomfortable to someone else’s narrative.

The beautiful thing is. I am free to do what I believe and I need not care what anyone that would spread such filth might say or believe.

Part of finding purpose is knowing where you stand and not being afraid to be present in that spot.