Saturday, September 30, 2017

Mises on Communist and Fascist Varieties of Socialism

"The history of mankind is the history of ideas.  For it is ideas, theories and doctrines that guide human action, determine the ultimate ends men aim at, and the choice of the means employed for the attainment of these ends...

"Such people [anti-social individuals] condemn the formalism of the due process of law.  Why should the laws hinder the government from resorting to beneficial measures?  Is it not fetishism to make the laws supreme and not expediency?  They advocate the substitution of the welfare state (Wohlfahrsstaat) for the state governed by the rule of law (Rechtsstaat).  In this welfare state, paternal government should be free to accomplish all things it considers beneficial to the commonweal.  No 'scraps of paper' should restrain an enlightened ruler in his endeavors to promote the general welfare.  All opponents must be crushed mercilessly lest they frustrate the beneficial action of the government. No empty formalities must protect them any longer against their well-deserved punishment.

"It is customary to cal the point of view of the advocates of the welfare state the 'social' point of view as distinguished from the 'individualistic' and 'selfish' point of view of the champions of the rule of law.  In fact, however, the supporters of the welfare state are utterly anti-social and intolerant zealots.  For their ideology tacitly implies that the government will exactly execute what they themselves deem right and beneficial....  They want to exterminate all opponents, that is, all who disagree with them.  They are utterly intolerant and are not prepared to allow any dessension, Every advocate of the welfare state and of planning is a potential dictator.  What he plans is to deprive all other men of all their rights, and to establish his own and his friends' unrestricted omnipotence.  He refuses to convince his fellow-citizens.  He prefers to 'liquidate' them.  He scorns the 'bourgeois' society that worships law and legal procedure. H himself worships violence and bloodshed....

"This was the true meaning of the Lenin revolution.  All the traditional ideas of right and legality were overthrown.  The rule of unrestrained violence and usurpation was substituted for the rule of law.... They we free to kill ad libitum.  Man's innate impulses towards violent extermination of all whom he dislikes, repressed by a long and wearisome evolution, burst forth.  The demons were unfettered.  A new age, the age of the usurpers, dawned.  The gangsters were called to action, and they listened to the Voice....

"It is important to realize that Fascism and Nazism were socialist dictatorships.  The communists, both the registered members of the communist parties and the fellow-travelers, stigmatize Fasism and Nazism as the highest and last and most depraved stage of capitalism.  This is in perfect agreement with their habit of calling every party which does not unconditionally surrender to the dictates of Moscow - even the German Social Democrats, the classical party of Marxism - hirelings of capitalism....

"In recent years the communists' semantic innovations have gone even further.  They call everybody whom they dislike, every advocate of of the free enterprise system, a Fascist....

"Dictatorship and violent oppression of all dissenters are today exclusively socialist institutions.  This becomes clear as we take a closer look at Fascism and Nazism."

~ Ludwig von Mises, 1947
"Planned Chaos"
Published in the 1951 edition of Mises's Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, pp. 566-573

Mises on Nazi Germany: A Left Wing Socialist Ideology

"The philosophy of the Nazis, the German National Socialist Labour Party, is the purest and most consistent manifestation of the anti-capitalistic spirit of our age....

"These [Socialist] parties proclaim income equality as the main thing. The Nazis do the same....  They aim at a fairer distribution of the earth's natural resources.  As a 'have not' nation, they look at the wealth of the richer nations with the same feelings with which many people in the western countries look at the higher incomes of some of their countrymen.  The 'progressives' in the Anglo-Saxon countries assert that 'liberty is not worth having' for those who are wronged by the comparative smallness of their incomes.  The Nazis say the same with regard to international relations....

"For more than seventy years the German professors of political science, history, law, geography and philosophy eagerly imbued their disciples with a hysterical hatred of capitalism, and preached the war of 'liberation' against the capitalistic West....

"The Nazis were quick to adopt the Soviet methods.  They imported from Russia: the one-party system and the pre-eminence of this party in political life; the paramount position assigned to the secret police; the concentration camps; the administrative execution or imprisonment of all opponents; the extermination of the families of suspects and of exiles; the methods of propaganda; the organization of affiliated parties abroad and their employment for fighting their domestic governments and for espionage and sabotage; the use of the diplomatic and consular service for fomenting revolution; and many other things besides.  There were nowhere more docile disciples of Lenin, Trotsky and Stalin than the Nazis were."

~ Ludwig von Mises, 1947
"Planned Chaos"
Published in the 1951 edition of Mises's Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, pp. 578-580

Mises on Socialism: Common Sense and Moral Courage

"The intellectual leaders of the peoples have produced and propagated the fallacies which are on the point of destroying liberty and Western civilization.  The intellectuals alone are responsible for the mass slaughters which are the characteristic mark of our century.  They alone can reverse the trend and pave the way for a resurrection of freedom.

"Not mythical 'material productive forces', but reason and ideas determine the course of human affairs.  What is needed to stop the trend towards socialism and despotism is common sense and moral courage."

~ Ludwig von Mises, 1947
"Planned Chaos"
Published in the 1951 edition of Mises's Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, p. 592

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Sermon: St. Michael and All Angels - 2017

24 September 2017

Text: Mat 18:1-11 (Dan 10:10-14; 12:1-3; Rev 12:7-12)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

St. Michael has long been associated with warfare.  A common statue of Michael the Archangel depicts him standing on the throat of a disfigured and ugly Satan, sword aimed at the beast ready to run him through.

Such a violent work of art!  So different than the feminine depictions of angels, or even the bare-bottomed cherubs, shown in more recent religious art.

Our Gospel opens with a dispute among the disciples about greatness: “Who is the greatest in the kingdom of heaven?”  Would the greatest be brash and bold like Peter?  Or maybe erudite and intelligent like Luke?  Maybe John, the one whom Jesus loved?  Maybe the greatest isn’t one of the twelve at all!  Maybe a biblical scholar or great speaker, a former of opinions in the Sanhedrin or Senate?  Maybe a famous actor or athlete?

Of course, Jesus puts a child in their midst.  

He tells them that to aspire to greatness is to “humble himself like this child.”  He speaks of greatness as “receiving” a child – sometimes translated as “welcoming” a child – for whoever welcomes a child welcomes Jesus.  And Jesus came into our world as a child, as one dependent upon parents, one who is weak and in need of social protection and human love.  We have an obligation to welcome children, to protect them, to love them, to nurture them, to teach them, to baptize them, and to raise them in the faith.

And our Lord explains that the opposite is always true: “whoever causes one of these little ones who believe” in Him, “to sin, it would be better for him to have a great millstone fastened around his neck and to be drowned in the depth of the sea.”

Better to be put to death by having your neck broken and being drowned than that “one of these little ones who believe” in Jesus to be harmed, to be misled into sin.

The Lord points out that this isn’t just about social customs.  This is a matter of a great cosmic war: “See that you do not despise one of these little ones.  For I tell you that in heaven their angels always see the face of My Father who is in heaven.”

Lest we forget, dear friends, we are at war.  

Our epistle lesson from the Revelation explains this cosmic battle: “Michael and his angels fighting against the dragon….  And the great dragon was thrown down, that ancient serpent, who is called the devil and Satan, the deceiver of the whole world – he was thrown down to the earth, and his angels were thrown down with him.”

In the crosshairs of this war are children.  Satan hates them.  He drowned the Hebrew boys in an attempt to enslave the people of God.  He murdered the holy innocents in Bethlehem in an attempt to kill the Christ child.  The ancient Satanic religions practiced human sacrifice, including little children.  And since 1973, in the modern American religions of statism and convenience-ism, infanticide has become a sacrament among those who despise the little ones.

Things have degraded since that time.  This year’s movies that are under consideration for Oscar awards feature vulgarity and debauchery in general, and also unspeakable acts with children – which, of course, the Hollywood critics think is so wonderful.  Children from young ages are now being indoctrinated in American schools that boys may not be boys, and girls may not be girls, and that what Jesus and their Bibles and their churches teach about marriage, is actually bigotry and hate-speech.  Children are systematically being taught to despise their great-grandparents, and to disobey their mothers and fathers – and this is happening openly while we go about our lives as usual.

We are in the midst of this cosmic war between good and evil, and the children, as they always are, are in the crosshairs.  

If you don’t realize that we are at war, consider the armed mobs of masked youth waving Communist flags and calling for the death of police officers – scenes that are being repeated week after week in city after city in America.  Consider how the Roman Catholic diocese of Pittsburg is beginning to consolidate its parishes, looking to close 75% of them because of diminishing numbers.  Our own Lutheran Church – Missouri Synod, as are all authentically Christian churches, are suffering terrible losses, as our children and our youth have been led into sin by a godless youth culture, and by college professors who deny the existence of truth itself, and by monstrous entertainers whose idiotic and vulgar words are treated like oracles from the living God (and yet these people are really nothing more than very rich clowns).  This is all happening right under our own noses.

Our children are bombarded with propaganda, and they grow up to leave the church, and in some cases, attack the church.  Satan and his angels are racking up a large casualty list in this war, dear friends.  

We all need to be in this war.  There is something for everyone to do.  Our armament is spiritual.  St. Paul teaches us to take up the armor of God, for we are in a spiritual war.  Your only offensive weapon, dear friends, is the Word of God – living and active, like a two-edged sword.  We need to be praying the Word of God, placing it not just in our hands but on our lips.  That sword in the statue of St. Michael, that sword that slays the devil, is the Word of God.

We Lutherans celebrate that very thing that happened five hundred years ago, when the Word of God was restored to its place of primacy, and put in the language of mothers teaching their children.  For children who are not being raised with the Word of God are being disarmed, and only waiting to be conquered.  And in Europe, the homeland of the Reformation, the churches today are empty, and the mosques today are full.

This is a war that cannot be won by political action or government policy or street fighting.  It can only be won by God’s will being done.  How is God’s will done?  We should have the answer memorized: “God’s will is done when He breaks and hinders every evil plan and purpose of the devil, the world, and our sinful nature, which do not want us to hallow God’s name or let His kingdom come; and when He strengthens and keeps us firm in His Word and faith until we die.”

We are in dire straits, dear friends, and we have been so many times in history.  This is why the Lord dispatches angels to strengthen and protect us.  This is why St. Michael and his sword are needed now more than ever, brothers and sisters.

In 1941, Winston Churchill spoke to a group of young students.  He said, “Never give in.  Never give in.  Never, never, never – in nothing, great or small, large or petty – never give in, except to convictions of honour and good sense.  Never yield to force. Never yield to the apparently overwhelming might of the enemy…. Do not speak of darker days; let us speak of sterner days.  These are not dark days; these are great days – the greatest days our country has ever lived; and we must thank God that we have been allowed, each of us according to our stations, to play a part.”

Dear friends, whether we win or lose battles, our Lord has triumphed in the war.  For on our shields is the cross, and on our banners is the name of Jesus.  Like the martyrs, we have conquered by “the blood of the Lamb.” Our Lord has triumphed over Satan when He declared “It is finished!”  He calls us to fight for our little ones from this position of strength and right.  Ours is not a petty squabble over territory, but rather our time of militancy is the ancient struggle between our Lord and the serpent; between our ancestors and Satan, and between generations yet unborn and the devil who despises them and leads them into sin.

This is no time to sit on the sofa and allow others to go into battle.  The church has been called to arms.  “Never give in!”  “If your hand or your foot causes you to sin, cut it off and throw it away!”  Come to where the Holy Spirit calls, gathers, enlightens, and sanctifies us!  Come to where the Word is proclaimed, and where you are fed and fortified for battle!  Stop fighting on the enemy’s ground, and renounce the devil and all his works and all his ways.  Come to this field hospital to be bandaged up, and to help bandage up others.  This Divine Service is not only about “what you get out of it” – which is eternal life – but it is also your service to your brothers and sisters, closing ranks with them and marching with them into battle, “for the devil has come down to you in great wrath, because he knows his time is short.”  

This is why Dr. Luther taught us to pray every day in the morning and evening a line that says: “Let your holy angel be with me, that the evil foe may have no power over me.”  

Let us give thanks and praise for St. Michael and all angels, and let us pray for ourselves and our children, for our church and world, for our civilization and country, for our repentance and for our zeal for the cross.  Let us never give in.  Let us never get discouraged.  We are soldiers of the cross – the cross of Christ, the “Valiant One whom God Himself elected, the God whose Word promises:

“And those who are wise shall shine like the brightness of the sky above; and those who turn many to righteousness, like the stars forever and ever.”  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Monday, September 18, 2017

Nazis, Fascists, and Commies are All Socialists

Here is a thorough expose of how the word "Nazi" became so popular in modern parlance, and how the Socialism in National Socialism has been hidden from view.

In this 2015 Independent Review article "From 'Nationl Socialists' to 'Nazis'" by University of Memphis historian Andrei Znamenski (whom I had the pleasure to meet and hear lecture this year at Mises University), the author argues that the Socialist aspect of Nazism was covered over by a deliberate linguistic shift from the use of the term "National Socialism" to "Nazism" in the English language, largely at the behest and example of the Communist Frankfurt School.

The typical viewpoint expressed in academia. the media, entertainment, and popular culture is that the Nazis (and other Fascists) were/are a "right-wing" ideology, and are representative of capitalism and conservatism. This represents an Orwellian shift from the reality that the term "Nazi" is a contraction of "National Socialist" - from the party's original name: "Nationalsozialistische Deutsche Arbeiterpartei" (National Socialist German Workers' Party) - a contraction which conveniently obscures the "Socialist" element of the party and political philosophy.

This is how it is that right-wing, traditionalist, capitalist, conservative or libertarian political leanings (which includes the nearly 63 million people who voted for Donald Trump) are painted with the broad-brush as "Nazis" when in fact, most such people decry Socialism.  This is why we are seeing modern campus Communists violently marching under the "anti-fascist" (Antifa) banner that dates back to the German Communist Party of 1932.  In an Orwellian abuse of language, such totalitarians are setting themselves up as the alternative to "Nazism" - when in fact, they are birds of a feather, kindred spirits divided only by the question of whether their Socialism is national or international in scope.

Whether the concentration camps bear the red and black banner of Stalin or Hitler makes little difference.  Both are the antithesis of liberty.

In fact, the Frankfurt School's linguistic shift represents a Hegelian dialectic that presents us with two opposite alternatives: National Socialism, or International Socialism.  In rejecting "Nazism," we are led into the arms of Communism ("Internazism"?).  In reality, the opposite of both National Socialism and International Socialism is Libertarian Capitalism or Classical Liberalism.

Instead of buying the lie that Socialism is good, and "Nazism" is capitalism run amok, we need to see the reality that Marxism in all of its forms (national and international) is a repudiation of human rights, dignity, private property, and liberty in exchange for central economic planning by boards and bureaucracies, enforced by political and police power to imprison, torture, and kill dissenters.

In his 1947 work entitled Planned Chaos, economist Ludwig von Mises sums up two patterns of Socialism:

There are two different patterns for the realization of socialism.  The one pattern - we may call it the Marxian or Russian pattern - is purely bureaucratic.  All economic enterprises are departments of the government just as the administration of the army and navy or the postal system.  Every single plant, shop or farm, stands in the same relation to the superior central organization as does a post office to the office of the Postmaster-General.  The whole nation forms one single labour army with compulsory service; the commander of this army is the chief of state.

The second pattern - we may call it the German or Zwangswirtschaft system (footnote: Zwang means compulsion, Wirtschaft means economy. The English language equivalent for Zwangswirtschaft is something like compulsory economy) - differs from the first one in that it, seemingly and nominally, maintains private ownership of the means of production, entrepreneurship, and market exchange.  So called entrepreneurs do the buying and selling, pay the workers, contract debts and pay interest and amortization.  But they are no longer entrepreneurs.  In Nazi Germany they were called shop managers or Betriebsfuerer.  The government tells these seeming entrepreneurs what and how to produce, at what prices and from whom to buy, at what prices and to whom to sell.  The government decrees at what wages labourers should work, and to whom and under what terms the capitalists should entrust their funds.  Market exchange is but a sham.  As is all prices, wages, and interest rates are fixed by the authority, they are prices, wages and interest rates in appearance only; in fact they are merely quantitative terms in the authoritarian orders determining each citizen's income, consumption, and standard of living.  The authority, not the consumers, directs production.  The central board of production management is supreme; all citizens are nothing else but civil servants.  This is socialism with the outward appearance of capitalism.  Some labels of the capitalistic market economy are retained, but they signify here something entirely different from what they mean in the market economy.

I don't know if Planned Chaos (which was appended to post-1951 editions of von Mises's 1922 work Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis) was written in German or English.  It would be interesting to see if Mises himself used the word "Nazi" or if English translators overwrote "National Socialist").  It is important to note that the Jewish Ludwig von Mises and his wife fled Austria in 1938 to escape the National Socialist threat - leaving behind his library and papers.

At any rate, von Mises, far from placing Communism and Fascism (or Nazism) on opposite poles, he places them both under the overarching heading of Socialism.  Socialism comes in two varieties: Communism, in which the State owns all of the means of production, and Fascism, in which the State micromanages and regulates the means of production.  Both are variants of Marxism: both are opposed to individual liberty and capitalism, and both rely on central economic planning by state bureaucrats.  The former is international in scope, the latter is national.  Both are ultimately authoritarian and totalitarian.  Both enforce Marxism by fear, intimidation, incarceration, concentration camps, torture, slavery, and genocide.  Both seek a "New Man" in a perverse parody of Christianity, both offering hope of an Edenic Utopia once human nature is itself evolved, goaded, and transformed through the elimination of "undesirables."  Both versions of Socialism oppose the traditional family, champion abortion, and have no scruples about crushing dissent by any means necessary.

I am no longer going to play into the deception by using the term "Nazi."  It may take a second longer to use the term "National Socialist", but that is exactly what they are.  I believe we can more accurately convey the Dirty Little Secret of our modern-day "Antifascists" and "Democratic Socialists" - that they are actually in an incestuous and inbred love/hate relationship to the very ideology that claim to oppose.

They are all Socialists.  We would do well to say so.

Sunday, September 17, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 14 - 2017

17 September 2017

Text: Luke 17:11-19 

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

I have heard two people this week bring up a verse that isn’t in our text, but it is an important point that touches upon our text.  That verse is Luke 18:25: “It is easier for a camel to go through the eye of a needle than for a rich person to enter the kingdom of God.”

Most of us instinctively like this text, because we aren’t rich. It enables us to wag the finger at people we are envious of.  What’s there not to like about that?

But in fact, dear friends, we are rich.  All of us.  First of all, we live in the 21st century and in the First World.  We have luxuries that even kings did not enjoy a hundred years ago: air conditioning, refrigerators and freezers, televisions, cell phones, automobiles, the internet, and all sorts of social safety nets – so that even people who are considered poor in America are rich when compared to the rest of the world.

But we are also rich in a different way: spiritually.  For whether we believe it or not, whether we are Christians or not, we have the love of our Creator and the sacrificial death of the Son on the cross for us to pay for our sins.  Jesus died for all – including His enemies, including those who reject Him, including those who don’t believe their sins are sins at all.  And being recipients of this free offer of eternal life, we are rich beyond measure.

So instead of looking down our noses at those who have more money than we do, what we should be doing is thanking God for His superabundant mercy, for lavishing upon us the most valuable substances on the planet – more precious than all the diamonds of the world: the priceless handful of water used in our baptism, which when combined with the Word, makes us heirs with Jesus of our Heavenly Father.  And let us thank God for the richness of the precious body and blood of Christ, given and shed for us for the forgiveness of sins, a Eucharistic feast that brings us into eternal communion with Almighty God.  What price can be put on the Sacrament of the Altar?

What greater treasures could we have, dear brothers and sisters?

And in this context, the ten lepers who met our Lord between Samaria and Galilee, were likewise wealthy beyond measure.  For though they were afflicted beggars, they were crossing paths with Jesus.  They could have had the equivalent of billions of dollars, but still would have been poor because of the cursed leprosy that was rotting their skin away and drawing them down into the grave day by day.  But in Christ, they were rich!  For they were lavished with the mercy of the Creator in the flesh, who came to restore their flesh in their time of great need.  And He did just that!

For they were cleansed.  They were healed.  Or as it literally says in the Greek, they were saved.  They were purchased and redeemed by Christ Himself!  And so they are indeed made rich beyond measure.

But there is a biblical warning about riches, is there not?  For let us not forget the camel and the eye of the needle.  Being rich can be a spiritual stumblingblock.  What do we profit, dear friends, if we gain the world, but lose our souls?

In the richness of being healed by Jesus, nine of the ten fell into the trap of having great possessions interfering with the kingdom: in this case, the riches of a restored health.  Their focus was on the health, and not the Healer.  Their focus was on themselves and not the one who gave them their very selves back.  They had already forgotten the grace and mercy of God in order to go back to being self-centered and ungrateful.

Except for the Samaritan, the “foreigner,” as Jesus puts it.  

For he too is “rich” insofar as he has been saved and given the gift of life.  But unlike the nine, this Samaritan “turned back, praising God in a loud voice; and he fell on his face at Jesus’ feet, giving Him thanks.”  He returned to Jesus to worship, to praise, to acknowledge the source of his riches: the Lord Jesus and His grace.

This gratitude, dear friends, is what makes camels capable of passing through the eye of the needle.  It is the humility to understand that health and wealth and all good things come to us from above, from Him by whom all things are possible – even camels squeezing through the eye of a needle.  That kind of humility acknowledges that we do not deserve our riches or our vigor, but that our very life itself, and all that we need to support this body and life, come from the Lord above, according to His mercy – not because we are worthy, but because He is merciful.

We return to Jesus, dear friends, not only because He gives us health and life and forgiveness and communion with God, but also to give Him thanks and praise.  For we know where our health and wealth come from.  And in many ways, we Christians are “foreigners” like the Samaritan that came back to praise God.

Like the children of Israel as they left Egypt, we are “strangers in a strange land,” and like the Samaritans, we are looked down upon and marginalized by a culture that revels in its ingratitude, a world in which we are encouraged to brag and take credit that that which we did not earn.  Let us not fall into the trap of the nine ingrates, dear friends, but rather let us follow the example of the Tenth Leper, returning frequently to the Lord in prayer, in praise, and in thanksgiving, coming to where He is, and in our gratitude, once more rising from our knees after being fed with the riches of His very self, just as He invites us: “Rise, and go your way; your faith has made you well.”  Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, September 15, 2017

The Key to the Hypocrisy of Socialism

I was recently listening to Sirius XM 's The Beatles Channel.  The song that was playing at that time was not one of the Fab Four's, but rather one that reflected one of their musical influences: Woody Guthrie's 1940 tune: "This Land is Your Land."

Like most people my age, I remember being taught this song in school as a young child.  It is a modern-day folk song that cheerfully celebrates the vastness and diversity of the American landscape.  It opens:

This land is your land, this land is my land
From California to the New York island
From the Redwood forest to the Gulf Stream waters
This land was made for you and me

It's a rather innocuous patriotic ditty.  Only it isn't.

In this version of Woody Guthrie's anthem, I heard a verse that I had not heard before:

As I went walking, I saw a sign there
On the sign it said 'No Trespassing'
But on the other side it didn't say nothing
That side was made for you and me!

This is obviously a swipe at the concept of private property. Its use as a patriotic children's song is a bit of Trojan-horse irony.

And this anti-property sentiment makes sense, given that Woodie Guthrie was a himself Communist (and a Stalinist at that).  Most versions of "This Land" are bowdlerized by removing this Marxist verse, along with another controversial stanza bemoaning hungry Americans relying on the government "relief office" for sustenance - ostensibly because the capitalist system rooted in private property is the cause of poverty.

At the end of the song's performance on The Beatles Channel, the announcer, Peter Asher, addressed the usually missing verse, and praised it for its positive expression of Socialism. He used the adjective "powerful."

Peter Asher was a bit before my time.  He was part of the early sixties folk duo Peter and Gordon. After his band's split in 1968, Asher went into the business side of music, worked with the Beatles, and eventually had a stellar career as an executive.  In 1995, he was appointed senior vice president of Sony Music Entertainment - a multi-billion dollar subsidiary of the Sony Corporation (whose revenue in 2016 amounted to $67.9 billion).  Asher was made president of Sony Music Entertainment group in 2005, and resigned in 2006 when he co-founded his own company, Stretegic Artist Management.  Asher's whole executive career is founded on contracts and the enforcement of copyright law.  Music is a commodity for which one pays money.

It's curious that an entrepreneur, executive, and former president of one of the richest and most powerful corporations would praise Socialism and trespassing.

The song itself has an interesting history.  Guthrie often performed it without the two controversial stanzas.  It has been covered many times over the decades by numerous other folk artists and rock musicians - both with and without the Marxist sentiments.  Guthrie's son, Arlo Guthrie, was roundly criticized by the Socialist Workers' Party not only for performing the "clean" version of his father's song, but also for registering as a Republican and supporting libertarian private property advocate Ron Paul for president in 2008, as well as for sympathizing with the anti-Marxist Tea Party movement.

"This Land" was performed at the Obama Inaugural celebration in 2009 at the Lincoln Memorial by Bruce Springsteen, Pete Seeger (who was a friend of Guthrie and also himself a Communist, publicly embracing the term as late as 1995), and others.  This performance chillingly included the anti-private property stanza (see between minute 3:00 and 3:30):

There are other pop songs that likewise denounce private property and embrace Marxist economics and politics.  John Lennon's "Imagine" (1971) comes to mind:

Imagine no possessions
I wonder if you can
No need for greed or hunger
A brotherhood of man
Imagine all the people
Sharing all the world

But again, there is a note of dissonance in this otherwise euphonic composition, insofar as John Lennon was one of the richest musicians in the world.  One of his "possessions" that he wanted the world to "imagine" not existing was his own Rolls Royce.  Lennon's net worth at the time of his tragic death at the age of 40 was $800,000,000.  

Another pop song in this vein is the 1970 hit "Signs" by the Canadian Five Man Electrical Band.  It was written by Ottawa, Ontario rocker Les Emmerson, and was covered by the American heavy-metal band Tesla in an acoustic "unplugged" version in 1990 (and I like Tesla, so I'm embedding the video)...

The song includes the stanza:

And the sign says, "Anybody caught trespassing will be shot on sight"
So I jumped the fence and I yelled at the house,
"Hey! What gives you the right... 
To put up a fence to keep me out,
"Or to keep Mother Nature in?
"If God was here, He'd tell it to your face. 'Man, you're some kind of sinner.'"

Again, the song suggests that private property is immoral, that fences are to be jumped and disregarded, that it is wrong to keep people out of one's property, even in the proximity of one's house (which also got "yelled at" in the song's narrative.

Now, I don't know anything about Emmerson, his bandmates in Electrical Band, or the guys in Tesla.  But I suspect they live in houses, may even live in "gated communities" complete with fences - and maybe even signs!

But there is one little thing that almost every person has in his pocket that blows away all Socialist pretensions about private property: a tiny common object rooted in a primitive technology that exposes the hypocrisy of all such popular song lyrics and Socialist pontifications of corporate executives: the key.

John Lennon's Rolls Royce, Peter Asher's automobile(s) (probably not a 15-year old Chevy with a broken air conditioner and bald tires, if you catch my drift), and even the homes of people like Les Emmerson and the guys in the Five Man Electrical Band and Tesla - all make use of the simple key.  Woody Guthrie and Pete Seeger probably had sets of keys in their pockets as well.  Bruce Springsteen probably still does.  Moreover, something tells me that if he came home and found me in his house, he would probably not join me in a chorus of : "As I went walking I saw a sign there/ And on the sign it said "No Trespassing."/But on the other side it didn't say nothing,/That side was made for you and me."  In fact, I would suspect that he'd call the police.  But that would never happen, because he probably has quite the security system to exclude other people from his house and property.  

Keys today may be sophisticated or simple.  They may operate by means of microwaves or primitive notches designed to turn manual tumblers.  But the purpose of the key that nearly every Socialist has in his pocket is not to open the door of the house or to start the engine of the car.  A knob or a button can do that.  The key's actual purpose is to keep other people out.  The ubiquitous key is a tool of exclusion, a means to enforce the rule of "no trespassing" and is the very antithesis of inclusivity, equality, and Marxism.  The key is a symbol of capitalism, trade, and individual liberty.  The key is a confession of the sanctity of private property, in thought, word, and deed.

Keys speak louder than lyrics.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

Sermon: Trinity 13 - 2017

10 September 2017

Text: Luke 10:23-37

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

The Parable of the Good Samaritan is one of our Lord’s most quoted stories.  We usually focus on the parable itself.  And it is a magnificently constructed tale, with irony and a twist in the plot. 

A man is beaten and robbed and left to die in the street.  A priest and a Levite pretend not to see the victim.  But a Samaritan, a member of an ethnic group that is hated, comes to his rescue.  He binds up the victim’s wounds, takes him to an inn. And pays for his lodging.

And then Jesus asks which person was the “neighbor to the man who fell among the robbers?”  “The one who showed him mercy” is the correct answer.

So ironically, it is not the priest or the Levite, but the hated Samaritan who is the hero of the story.

But why did Jesus tell this story?  It all began when Jesus told His disciples privately how blessed they were to “see what you see” and “hear what you hear.”  But then another person who has seen and heard Jesus just as have the disciples, “stood up to put him to the test.”  This man was a lawyer.  He sees Jesus, but he doesn’t really “see.”  He hears Jesus , but he doesn’t really “hear.”

The lawyer isn’t submitting humbly to our Lord’s teaching, but he is rather playing a game of “gotcha.”  He wants to trap Jesus, to embarrass Him.  And perhaps annoyed that Jesus is preaching a good news of a different kind of kingdom, our lawyer challenges the very basics of the Gospel itself: “Teacher, what shall I do to inherit eternal life?”

The lawyer does not ask Jesus about God’s grace.  The lawyer does not ask Jesus about how we receive God’s love through faith.  Instead, he asks, “What shall I do to inherit eternal life?”  He is not interested in grace or faith.  He wants to be rewarded for his works.  He is trying to justify himself, when he should be seeking forgiveness. 

The world forces us to justify ourselves.  We have to justify our own existence at work.  We have to earn our paychecks.  We are judged by the content of our character.  We have to earn the respect of others.  We have to pass a test in order to drive.  And lawyers – including our friend who is trying to put Jesus on trial, are judged by how well they read the law.

And so, since he wished to be judged in this way, our Lord obliges him: “What is written in the Law?  How do you read it?”  And here is where our lawyer shines: “You shall love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your strength and with all your mind, and your neighbor as yourself.”

This is the right answer.  If you wish to earn salvation by works, this is all you have to do.  “You have answered correctly;” says our Lord, “do this, and you will live.”

That’s all.  Just “do this.”  Just keep the law perfectly.  Just love God with all your heart, soul, mind, and strength – all of it, not most of it, not 90% of it, and not 99% of it.  Just perfectly love God all the time.  Oh, and your neighbor too.  Love him just as much as you love your own life.  Just love God and your neighbor perfectly, and you will live.

Congratulations, lawyer, you have got the right answer.  Now just be perfect, and you can indeed be justified by the law, by your works.  “Do this,” says Jesus, “and you will live.”

But instead of honestly admitting that he can’t do it, rather he still seeks to “justify himself.”  And so he tries to pick apart what the Bible means by “neighbor.”

And here, dear friends, is where Jesus teaches him what Scripture means by “neighbor.” 

Our “neighbor” is whoever God places in our lives, people who are in need of love. And we show love when we show mercy.  And here is where the idea that we can “justify ourselves” falls apart.  We are like the man who has been beaten up on the road.  We are “half dead.”  We have been beaten by sin.  We need mercy.  We need someone to love us, being a “good neighbor” by loving God and loving us in our need.  And neither the priest nor the Levite save us.  In other words, the Law doesn’t save us.  Only one who shows mercy can bind up our wounds, pay for our care, and transport us to where we find health and restoration.  And this merciful One is the One who is good, who is despised by priest and Levite.  The Good Samaritan is in fact Jesus.

We cannot justify ourselves, but we are justified by Him.  We cannot go from being beaten and half dead to being righteous through our own works.  We are not justified by the Law or its servants.  Instead we are justified by “the one who showed him mercy,” that is Jesus Christ.

And in this Christian life, we share this mercy with others, “You go,” says Jesus, “and do likewise.”  For He works through us in our vocations, by our mercy, to share His mercy: forgiveness, life, and salvation.

Dear friends, our Lord is merciful!  We don’t need to justify ourselves, for He justifies us not by our works, but by His work upon the cross.  He binds up our wounds even as He suffers wounds for us.  He pays for us not with two denarii, but rather with “His holy, precious blood and with His innocent suffering and death.” 

And this is the irony and the great twist in the plot: Jesus is willing to be hated as a Samaritan, and yet He is good and merciful.  We don’t, and we can’t, justify ourselves by means of the Law, but Jesus is the “neighbor” to us poor miserable sinners “who fell among the robbers.” 

This Parable is not just a story dear friends, it is the Gospel.  It isn’t just a call to righteousness, but rather the very means for our righteousness.  It is about mercy: the mercy of Jesus, the mercy by which we are justified and made healthy, by which we inherit eternal life.

Indeed, dear disciples, “Blessed are the eyes that see what you see…. And to hear what you hear.”  Amen!

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Saturday, September 09, 2017

Holocaust Deniers

These people are literally Holocaust-deniers. 

They have been taught in schools (paid for by our tax dollars) and in universities (staffed by open Marxists) to deny the historical realities of what happened in the Soviet Union: the repressions (political, religious, ethnic, and artistic), the forced labor and exiles to Siberia, the Gulag death camps, the tortures, the purges, the intentional starvation perpetrated upon Ukraine ("lies made up by the Nazis!"), etc. 

They are in total denial as they display the hammer and sickle and chant mindless slogans. 

This is so common among young people that it isn't just a strange anomaly. This is the public school and university curriculum of a generation finally bearing fruit. Parents willingly sent their children off to these indoctrination centers and looked the other way while their children were taught to despise their own heritage, culture, country, and freedom itself. 

These silly little boys and girls in this and other videos, people whose life experience consists of social media and the classroom, who enjoy the fruits of freedom and capitalism that are the envy of the world, are actually pontificating to a guy who really grew up in the Soviet Union how great it was because, well, "free college" (which, as Vladimir Jaffe explains, wasn't free at all). 

Many of Jaffe's interviewees repeat the same Big Lie that the Socialism worked great in the USSR from 1917 to 1953 (until the end of Stalin's reign), and that the atrocities under Stalin never happened. According to The Narrative, the USSR ultimately failed because of the reforms from the time of Khrushchev and later. 

And they know this not from visiting Russia or talking to people who survived the Communist Holocaust - but because they want free stuff, and they will believe in whatever fairy tale that promises to give them free stuff. Oh, and chanting. Chanting angry mantras seems to be their preferred method of education. 

And these people have the ear of politicians (of both parties) who act virtually on their orders to mandate cultural-Marxist school curricula, remove inconvenient public historical landmarks and monuments that don't conform to The Narrative, denounce capitalism, raise taxes, and socialize more and more sectors of the economy to give away "free stuff."

These people actually believe that the USSR was wonderful under Stalin, and they would like to recreate that here in America. Please read that again. 

Let that sink in. 

PS: In 2011, I visited several sites in Siberia.  Here is a link to my travel notes on the day I visited Yurga, the site of a death camp that is not a memorial park dedicated to the largely Lutheran population that was interred there, including photos and a brief interview with the Russian bishop who consecrated the park.  There is a Lutheran congregation in Yurga that has survivors of the camp.

While in the city of Yekaterinburg (the site of the brutal murder of the last Russian Tsar, his wife, and children by the Bolshevik Communist revolutionaries), I visited another grim reminder of the Stalin years: a memorial park dedicated to the victims of the purges.  It is a somber place marked by a large memorial cross visible from the highway.  Here are my travel notes with pictures.

While in Yekaterinburg, I met a lady who was exiled to Siberia and whose grandfather, a Lutheran pastor, was shot under the Stalinist reign of terror.  Here are my notes and a photograph - including links to an interview with her.

Monday, September 04, 2017

G.K. Chesterton on Attitude

"Everything is in an attitude of mind.... The world will never starve for want of wonders; but only for want of wonder."
~ G.K. Chesterton, 1909
Tremendous Trifles

Sunday, September 03, 2017

Sermon: St. Gregory the Great - 2017

3 September 2017

Text: Luke 4:31-37 (Ps 116:1-9, 1 Thess 5:1-6, 9-11)

In the name of + Jesus.  Amen.

Dear brothers and sisters in Christ, we are living in a time of iconoclasm.  This means that literally or figuratively, people are toppling statues and redefining how we remember our ancestors.  In the past couple years, historic statues in America have been removed by governments or by mobs.  It has just been announced that the Jefferson Memorial in Washington, DC will be retrofitted with plaques confessing Thomas Jefferson’s sins.

Rather than honor our fathers and our mothers, we are smashing their images.  This iconoclasm happened at a couple of points in church history, as statues and icons of the saints were destroyed in the 8th century, and again during the reformation in the 16th century.  Once cooler heads prevailed, it was discovered just how many priceless works of art – and even the tomb and body of St. Thomas Becket in the Cathedral of Canterbury England – were destroyed and lost to us.

Just recently, a Roman Catholic parish and school in California has decided to get rid of statues of Jesus so as not to offend people.

Some iconoclasm is less literal, such as modern Lutherans cutting themselves off from their own history and tradition by refusing to honor our fathers and mothers of our own church history.  Some claim that honoring the saints is “too Catholic.”  This is not what our Book of Concord says.

We are not iconoclasts, dear friends.  When Luther himself was in hiding at the Wartburg Castle, iconoclasts began smashing statues in Wittenberg.  Luther came back and condemned such behavior. 

This is how it is that our Book of Concord and early Lutherans – not to mention our own Lutheran Service Book of today – honors Pope St. Gregory the Great, whose feast day is today.  St. Gregory was bishop of Rome from 590-604 AD.  He was a lawyer and politician who became a monk.  As bishop of Rome, he evangelized the British Isles and parts of Eastern Europe, he standardized the liturgy and the church year (some of our own short prayers known as collects date to his reforms), he brought what we call in his honor today Gregorian Chant to the liturgy, he was an able administrator, and true bishop to the people of Rome.  He was a writer and theologian and known for his advocacy of the poor.  But most of all, St. Gregory was a preacher and pastor.  His book on pastoral theology is till used in seminaries today.

What makes Christian saints great is not their own greatness, but in their confession of the greatness of Christ.  St. Gregory was just such a confessor – not because he could recite facts about Jesus, but because he trusted in and proclaimed Jesus.

In our Gospel text, a demon appears to be a confessor of Jesus, saying: “Ha!  What have You to do with us, Jesus of Nazareth?  Have You come to destroy us?  I know who You are – the Holy One of God.”

But there is a big difference between just knowing who and what Jesus is (even the devils know that much) and submitting to Jesus (the devils will not submit).  For it is one thing to confess Jesus as God, but quite something different to confess him as Lord.  To call Jesus “Lord” is to submit to Him, to be His servant, to acknowledge Him as one’s Sovereign.  It is to acknowledge one as a servant.

In fact, Pope Gregory was the first to describe his office as bishop of Rome to be “the servant of the servants of Christ.”  He saw the pastors of the church as Christ’s slaves, and he saw himself as their slave.  St. Gregory submitted to Christ, and that is the source of his greatness.

How do we submit to Jesus, dear friends?  Certainly, we don’t have to be bishops to do this?  We can and should submit to our Lord in all of our callings in this life.  It is not enough to simply say, “I believe in Jesus.”  For even the demons have that kind of belief.  Better to say instead, “I trust in Jesus for my salvation, and not in myself or in my works.  I submit in every manner of my life to Christ, for He is not just the Lord, but my Lord.”  This means that nothing in our lives is more important than Jesus, that hearing His Word, than being where He is present for us – in the sacraments.  It means being a servant of Jesus, and a servant of our fellow servants of Jesus.  It means more than just talk, dear friends.

It means the cross, it means the blood of Christ, it means confession and absolution, it means being washed in baptism and calling that baptism to mind often.  It means partaking of Holy Communion as if your life depended on it, because it does, dear friends.  And this explains the church’s urgency in mission work.  The world needs the Gospel.  We need the Gospel, dear friends!

This is why we honor St. Gregory.  He proclaimed Christ!  Gregory was not perfect.  If he were perfect, he would have no need of a savior.  He had his own flaws.  He made changes in the papacy that led to later corruptions.  He accepted some newer doctrines in the church that were essentially superstitions.  Who among us will cast the first stone?

And yet, dear friends, our Book of Concord treats St. Gregory with love and respect, as a father of the church, as an elder brother in Christ from whom we can learn.  Our saints are not perfect – which is the point.  We are all sinners made into saints by grace through faith.  And St. Gregory is a sinner-saint like the rest of us.

We are not iconoclasts.  We are grateful for our brother Gregory’s work and ministry, for his proclamation of Christ, for his tireless work for the kingdom.  We have no problem with statues in his likeness to remind us of God’s mercy in sending us faithful servants of the servants of God to look up to.  We are not going to tear down his statues or add lurid plaques to tarnish his image.  We are right to have his name mentioned in our hymnal and to honor his feast day today.

Let us all remember St. Paul’s words, words that St. Gregory knew well: “For God has not destined us for wrath, but to obtain salvation through our Lord Jesus Christ, who died for us so that whether we are awake or asleep we might live with him.”  And rather than tearing down as iconoclasts do, let us heed St. Paul’s further instruction: “Therefore encourage one another and build one another up, just as you are doing.”

St. Gregory built up the church by his faithful proclamation of the Gospel, by his missionary work, and by the importance he placed on the liturgy.  But most of all, St. Gregory was a pastor: a shepherd who fed his parishioners with the Word of God.

And thanks to St. Gregory’s proclamation of Christ and the preaching of other faithful servants of the Lord who followed in St. Gregory’s footsteps, we can to this very day join the Psalmist in singing: “Gracious is the Lord, and righteous, our God is merciful!” Amen.

In the name of the Father and of the + Son and of the Holy Spirit.  Amen.

Friday, September 01, 2017

Richard Weaver on the Entitlement Society

"The spoiled child has not been made to see the relationship between effort and reward. He wants things, but he regards payment as an imposition or as an expression of malice by those who withhold for it. His solution, as we shall see, is to abuse those who do not gratify him....

"In the final analysis this society is like the spoiled child in its incapacity to think. Anyone can observe in the pampered children of the rich a kind of irresponsibility of the mental process. It occurs simply because they do not have to think to survive. They never have to feel that definition must be clear and deduction correct if they are to escape the sharp penalties of deprivation. Therefore the typical thinking of such people is fragmentary, discursive, and expressive of a sort of contempt for realities. Their conclusions are not 'earned' in the sense of being logically valid but are seized in the face of facts. The young scion knows that, if he falls, there is a net below to catch him. Hardness of condition is wanting. Without work to do, especially without work that is related to our dearest aims, the mental sinews atrophy, as do the physical. There is evidence that the masses, spoiled by like conditions, incur a similar flabbiness and in crises will prove unable to think straight enough to save themselves."

~ Richard M. Weaver, 1948
Ideas Have Consequences, pp. 103, 116

Ludwig von Mises on Intellectual Battle

"Everyone carries a part of society on his shoulders; no one is relieved of his share of responsibility by others. And no one can find a safe way out for himself if society is sweeping towards destruction. Therefore everyone, in his own interests, must thrust himself vigorously into the intellectual battle. None can stand aside with unconcern; the interests of everyone hang on the result. Whether he chooses or not, every man is drawn into the great historical struggle, the decisive battle into which our epoch has plunged us."
~ Ludwig von Mises, 1922
Socialism: An Economic and Sociological Analysis, p. 515.