Tuesday, August 9, 2011

25 years ago: David Brinkley comments on the U.S. deficit

The thing that hath been, it is that which shall be; and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. Ecclesiastes 1:9

I have no interest in the political battle over raising the U.S. debt ceiling, but I came across this commentary by David Brinkley, one of the "homilies" he used to deliver at the end of every broadcast of This Week with David Brinkley on ABC television. This was published in his book Everyone is Entitled to My Opinion (1996) (p. 85). From August 3, 1986:

Next week Congress will be voting to set a new and higher federal government debt limit, to give the Treasury power to borrow still more money. Even though in the last three or four years--if we can believe the claims coming from the White House and Congress--the deficit has been wiped out and there's no need to borrow any more.

In 1981 the White House claimed it had cut $130 billion out of future spending.

In 1982 Congress passed something called the Tax Equity and Fiscal Responsibility Act and claimed it would reduce the deficit by an additional $100 billion.

In 1984 there was the Deficit Reduction Act, claiming to save still another $60 billion.

And a lot of others.

But somehow, the more they've claimed to cut spending, the higher the deficit has risen. It's well over $200 billion a year, every year.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

50 years ago: The death of Frank Buchman, founder of Moral Re-Armament, and forerunner of Rick Warren

On August 7, 1961, Frank Buchman, founder of the organization that became known as Moral Re-Armament, died in Freudenstadt, West Germany at the age of 83. He had been in Freudenstadt--where he claimed to have first come up with the idea for Moral Re-Armament--for two weeks, and died of a heart attack in his hotel room.

Mr. Buchman was born in Pennsburg, Pennsylvania in 1878 and was educated at Muehlenberg College in Allentown and Mount Airy Seminary, becoming ordained as a Lutheran minister in 1902. Mr. Buchman went to England in 1908 to attend the Keswick Convention, where he became convicted of his own self-centredness. He tended to go increasingly in the direction of pietism--the idea that there is a technology or technique that the Christian can employ that will enable him to rise above the level of "ordinary" spiritual experience--as the years went along. Mr. Buchman spent several years working with the YMCA and then took a post at Hartford Theological Seminary. He spent much of his time travelling, leading missionary conferences in China and forming groups of university students at Oxford and Cambridge in England. By the late 1920s-early 1930s, Mr. Buchman's movement was known as the "Oxford Group;" like the Freemasons, the Oxford Group concentrated its efforts on attracting the support of wealthy and influential people.

In its first stage Buchmanism aimed at the regeneration or "change" of individuals by a process of psychological catharsis which involved meditation, prayer, Bible reading, surrender, and confession of sins to other individuals...the "Groupers," as there were called, launched a nation-wide series of "house parties," at which students, and in some cases prominent and wealthy men and women, gathered to seek the "change." At one point in this stage of the movement the insistence upon "confession" caused trouble in some of the "house parties," particularly on college campuses, because the confessions were largely sexual in nature; the movement was banished from Princeton University after Buchman declared that 85 per cent of the students there were sexually perverted. Elmer T. Clark, The Small Sects in America, Revised Edition, 1949, pp. 83-84.

Eventually, the emphasis of the Oxford Group broadened from individuals (pietism) to society (moralism). In order to do that, it would be necessary to appeal to those of other faiths; as a result, the movement shifted from ostensibly Christian commitment to civil religion and morality. In his book Remaking the World (1948), Mr. Buchman said, "MRA is the good road of an ideology inspired by God upon which all can unite. Catholic, Jew and Protestant, Hindu, Muslim, Buddhist and Confucianist - all find they can change, where needed, and travel along this good road together." This shift was reflected in the movement officially becoming known as Moral Re-Armament in 1938. Mr. Buchman visited Edmonton, Alberta in 1933 and 1934, holding a mass rally at McDougall United Church in 1933 and attracting 2,000 people to rallies at the Macdonald Hotel and a downtown theatre in 1934. He visited Banff in both years, and was made an honourary chief of the Blood tribe in 1934, with the title Chief Big Light in Darkness.

Mr. Buchman became increasingly concerned with the influence of Communism, and decided that his movement could counter it. The New York World-Telegram of August 25, 1936 printed an interview with Mr. Buchman where he offered the throwaway comment, "I thank heaven for a man like Adolf Hitler, who built a front line of defense against the anti-Christ of Communism." Efforts by Mr. Buchman to convert Nazi leaders to his views were unsuccessful, and the Nazis suspected Mr. Buchman of being a British spy.

Mr. Buchman tried to use MRA to prevent war, but when the U.S.A. entered World War II, Mr. Buchman enlisted MRA in the war effort using the slogan "You Can Defend America." Harry Truman, then a United States Senator from Missouri who had been assigned the task of reducing waste in the military, praised Moral Re-Armament for encouraging teamwork in industry, and thereby aiding the U.S. war effort. MRA was influential and successful in facilitating post-war reconciliation and co-operation among former World War II enemies and in the peaceful decolonization of Morocco and Tunisia.

One prominent convert to Moral Re-Armament was Ted Workman, owner of the Montreal Alouettes of the Canadian Football League from the late 1950s to the late '60s. In 1960 he was quoted as saying: "Football used to be the end result of life, but that was superficial. Now I think the Alouettes are designed to illustrate the ideology of MRA" (Canadian Football League Illustrated: Montreal Alouettes '70). I don't know how successful the Alouettes were in "illustrating the ideology of MRA," but Mr. Workman's teams during this era never achieved a winning record or finished higher than third in a four-team Eastern Football Conference.

In an interview shortly before his death, Mr. Buchman said of his vision for humanity:

It is that the whole world will learn to live like sons of God, where no man demands too much for himself while any other man goes hungry, where character not color becomes the yardstick to human values, where it is normal to live as one honest, pure, unselfish, loving, united family throughout the earth. Edmonton Journal, August 8, 1961, p. 2.

It became apparent that this vision wouldn't be immediately fulfilled when the Soviets began erecting the Berlin Wall, about 356 miles from Freudenstadt, within a week of Mr. Buchman's death.

Mr. Buchman was succeeded as leader of Moral Re-Armament by J. Blanton Belk. Mr. Belk's most memorable accomplishment may have been the creation of the singing group "Sing-Out 65" in 1965, which carried the "Sing-Out" label until 1968, when it officially broke its ties with MRA and became known as Up with People. Community service was added to the singing and Up with People was incorporated as a charity within the United States. Up with People suspended operations in 2000, but was revived in 2004.

The influence of Moral Re-Armament gradually waned, and in 2001 it changed its name to Initiatives of Change, which calls itself " a diverse network committed to building relationships of trust across the world's divides." If you look at Initiatives of Change's affirmation of its core values, you'll find a mention of God's leading, but no definition of who that God is. To look at this affirmation of an individual's ability to "be a powerful agent for positive change in society," one would never know that this man-centred movement had originated as an ostensibly Christian pietistic movement. The Oxford Group has been credited with greatly influencing the founders of Alcoholics Anonymous; John Lanagan has much useful information on the occultic roots of A.A. at his excellent blog My Word Like Fire.

In looking at the change of emphasis on the part of Mr. Buchman and his movement from the sanctification of individual Christians to "building relationships of trust across the world's divides," one can see an obvious parallel with Rick Warren, an ostensibly Christian pastor who has widened his influence from evangelical Christian churches to international organizations, and has broadened his interests from improving the lives of churches and individual Christians to solving the world's problems. The problems are too big to be solved just by Christian churches, so the help of other "faith communities" must be enlisted. Bridges of unity rather than walls of separation must be built, and since "doctrine divides, but love unites," distinctive Christian doctrines such as trusting in the shed blood of Jesus Christ on the cross as the only payment of the penalty for sins must be de-emphasized if not abandoned. As for a definition of God, that's another potential point of division, so it's best to let each "faith community" define God according to its own understanding--and any differences are best not discussed in the interests of unity. Unity will be achieved at the lowest common denominator; in Mr. Buchman's time, it was a variety of "the Brotherhood of Man under the Fatherhood of God," popularly abbreviated as "BoMFoG." (In 2011, "BoMFoG" may appear too narrow; "Brotherhood" and "Fatherhood" sound too sexist, and being "under...God" sounds too limiting to people who believe in their own divinity.) With Mr. Warren, as with Mr. Buchman, this broadening has led and is leading to the complete abandonment of anything recognizable as Christian, and will likely end up in the same place.

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

In Canada, hockey is more than a religion--it's a cult

People and societies that abandon worship of the true God will invariably worship false gods, how pathetic and trivial these idols may be. I used to enjoy following hockey, but in recent years the sport business has become such an obsession in Trudeaupia (formerly Canada)--oddly, as the sport business of professional hockey has become noticeably less Canadian--that I've come to detest it. Dennis Bekkering, a Ph.D. student in religious studies, argues that hockey is the national religion. As reported by Shannon Proudfoot of Postmedia News on June 1, 2011:

..."You can really see a lot of similarities between the attention paid to holy relics of the saints and spiritual heroes and the way Canadians, in particular, have treated their hockey heroes and the products they've created," said Denis Bekkering, a PhD candidate in the Wilfrid Laurier-University of Waterloo, Ont., joint program in religious studies.

He bases his theory on previous research suggesting Americans rally around the "unifying civic religion" of politics, including sacred places (Washington, D.C.), martyrs (Martin Luther King, Jr. and John F. Kennedy) and objects (the Liberty Bell).

Lacking this larger-than-life political mythology, Canada has built its collective religion around the rink, Bekkering says, and specifically around international competitions such as the Olympics, which turn a Team Canada jersey into a national talisman...

...Like any faith, the "national church" of hockey has its holy relics, or items believed to be imbued with the powers of the heroes connected to them, he said. From Paul Henderson's 1972 Summit Series jersey - which fetched $1.2 million at auction last summer - to the "Lucky Loonie" hidden beneath centre ice at the 2002 Salt Lake City Winter Games, where the Canadian men's hockey team netted the country's first Olympic hockey gold medal in 50 years, Bekkering said these relics are revered just like those in traditional religions...

..."It's a way to connect the state and politics to something transcendent," Bekkering said of this religion on ice.

But lest anyone think this makes National Hockey League commissioner Gary Bettman the Pope, he said NHL hockey doesn't work the same way traditional religions do. Team Canada provides a raucous revival tent where all Canadians can worship during events such as the Olympics, but NHL devotees are otherwise divided by the "tribalism" of the different teams they support, he said.

"When you have the national Canadian men's hockey team, it allows hockey fans and Canadians in general, to go above any tribal allegiances they may have to particular teams," he said, noting that a star such as Crosby literally sheds his usual tribal markers and trades a Pittsburgh Penguins jersey for a Team Canada sweater in international competition.

And while Montreal Canadiens' fans will spend the Stanley Cup finals wishing a hex on the Boston Bruins for eliminating their team in the first round, Bekkering said the factionalism of NHL hockey as a religion means there's no guarantee Canadians will cheer for Vancouver simply because they're the only Canadian team in contention.

"Tribal allegiances may actually keep many Canadians from supporting the Canucks," he said.

Bekkering presented his research this week at the Congress of the Humanities and Social Sciences, hosted this year by the University of New Brunswick and St. Thomas University and expected to draw more than 6,000 delegates to Fredericton.

In Edmonton, home of the National Hockey League's Oilers, there is a debate going on as to whether the city needs a new arena and whether it should be built downtown ( in my opinion it shouldn't be built at all, especially downtown). The Oilers' owner, Darryl Katz, is a multibillionaire with no long-term commitment to the city (I have it on good authority that he's moving himself and his family to Victoria, British Columbia, hundreds of miles west of Edmonton), and someone who can well afford to build a new arena himself. Instead, he's trying to get federal, provincial, and local taxpayers--many of whom, including me, who can't afford to go to any events held at Rexall Place, the current facility--to pay for a new arena, to the profit of Mr. Katz. It's a matter of record that Mr. Katz has donated handsomely to the re-election of Mayor Stephen Mandel, and has been rewarded by having the mayor and many of the city councillors as his loyal puppets, while the voices of ordinary Edmontonians--none of whom, that I know, support this--count for nothing.

The corporate media have dutifully fallen in line in support of corporate interests. As evidence of the cult-like nature of hockey worship, check out the columns and blog posts of David Staples of the Edmonton Journal, especially those that deal with the arena issue. It's no coincidence that Mr. Staples' blog is titled The Cult of Hockey. Indeed, the mentality of Mr. Staples and those of his ilk are indeed those of the devotees of a cult--in this case, a cult that has a stranglehold on this city, if not the whole country. With these brainwashed people, the desires and interests of the cult take priority over everything else, and must be satisfied at all costs, including the extortion of financial contributions from non-members.

Monday, August 1, 2011

Woman in Quebec dies after "earth healing therapy"

As reported by QMI Agency, July 30, 2011:

MONTREAL - A 35-year-old woman died after undergoing a mud therapy treatment on Friday at a spa in Quebec's Eastern Townships.

Chantal Lavigne, from Saint-Albert, about 150 km northeast of Montreal, died after she was covered in mud and wrapped in a thin sheet of plastic for several hours, according to QMI Agency sources.

Provincial police confirmed Lavigne's death Friday night.

Emergency crews were called to the spa, located in Durham-Sud, about 100 km east of Montreal, at 1:15 p.m. Friday afternoon and found three unconscious women covered in black mud.

One woman was treated at the spa and a 49-year-old woman regained consciousness on her way to a hospital. Police have not made information about the 49-year-old's condition public. Lavigne, however, was pronounced dead at the hospital.

Clients at the spa were given an "earth healing therapy," sources said. The procedure involves covering a person in mud and wrapping them in a thin sheet of plastic and a blanket. A piece of cardboard with a hole to allow for breathing covers the head.

The goal of the therapy is to induce sweating.

However, Lavigne spent too much time wrapped in plastic, according to Sophie Saint-Aubin, a director at a Montreal spa.

She said the amount of time one spends in these types of "sweat" treatments is critical.

"There is a big different between a 20-minute treatment and one that lasts several hours," she said. "Normally we don't go over 30 minutes. A treatment lasting several hours is really inadvisable."

The head of the Durham-Sud spa, Daiva Goulet, 60, said Friday's events were an "anomaly."

"What happened was not due to negligence - that's certain," Goulet told QMI...

...Neighbours interviewed by QMI said they regularly heard loud screams coming from the spa.

"There are therapy sessions every week," said a neighbour who wanted to remain anonymous. "We hear chants, drumming and screams. The screams are so loud it sounds like people are being tortured. Our neighbours who live over a kilometre away said they can hear the screams, too."