Saturday, August 19, 2006

Peculiar People

A Book Review
Title: A Peculiar People
Subtitle: The Church as Culture in a Post-Christian Society
Author: Rodney Clapp

Here is today's entry from my dream journal:
I am walking westward down a street much like the one near my home. Looking west, toward the vast field where alfalfa is grown, I see a magnificent storm in the sky, like a vast thunderstorm with dark clouds filling the sky. It was a beautiful sight. I turned to look east and, behold, in the sky there was a storm so great, so dark, so awesome that I was greatly astonished at the sight of it. But in the midst of the clouds, shining through them, was a bright light, that was beautiful like to the full moon at night. This sight lasted a moment and then my vision went blurry and grey. I felt as if I was trying to open my eyes but couldn't. Then I woke up.
I mentioned earlier that there is an answer, even if it's hidden in darkness. I have my suspicions as to the interpretation of this dream, but I need to think about it for a time.

After reading Rodney Clapp's book "A Peculiar People", I do recommend the book, especially for pastors. But it's the sort of book that has to be read very carefully, at least twice, first of all, because Mr. Clapp covers a great deal of territory in his book, and secondly, because, I think, he can be easily misunderstood in what he is saying. For example, Clapp sometimes uses words in a way that have peculiar meanings, and one has to pay careful attention to understand exactly what he is talking about. As an example of this, sometimes he uses the words "politics" and "political" in a sense that really has nothing to do with their usual meanings, which most people would probably associate with political parties, Republicrats and Democans, lobbyists, pressure groups, and the rest of the usual hubbub of secular governments. It is actually the case that Clapp is using the words with the far more subtle meaning of "that which constitutes the structuring and maintenance of an independent community in its essential nature and identity".

It would almost require a book of its own to completely analyze what Clapp had to say. But to put it very briefly, in a nutshell, he is saying that the Church has truly entered an entirely new epoch in its history: it has entered what he calls a "post-Constantinian" era. But one would have to read his book to understand all the ramifications of what this means. But what is important to note, as Clapp sees it, this pivotal development is actually a great opportunity wherein the Church can fulfill its true destiny as the eschatological community of God's people here in this temporal age. Basically, I agree with Clapp's thesis; it resonates with me in many ways. But I would go one step further: the Church in not just a community, but it was meant to be a supernaturally empowered community, which exists as a prophetic testimony to the truth of the Resurrection, Ascension, and Glorification of XP, and to His ineluctable Second Coming.

Although it constituted only a small sidebar in what his book was really about, the one area where I would disagree with Clapp is in his espousal of pacifism. For me pacifism is a respectable but mistaken position, understandably mistaken, but mistaken nonetheless. Nevertheless, "A Peculiar People" is one of the best xtian books I have read in a long time, and I rate it up there with Marva J. Dawn's book "Reaching Out Without Dumbing Down".

Sunday, August 06, 2006

All Perfectly Legal

Book Review
Title: The Constitution in Exile
Author: Andrew P. Napolitano

Most people probably have seen judge Andrew P. Napolitano on the Fox News network, where he is often called upon to be a judicial analyst. I am currently working through his book "The Constitution in Exile, How the Federal Government Has Seized Power by Rewriting the Supreme Law of the Land".

It's an interesting book, and it is full of plenty of legal information regarding important case histories. On that level I do recommend the book.

But on another level, the more I read the book the more I found myself saying stuff like "pul-leeze!" or "give me a break!" or "you can't be serious!" Napolitano might long for the glory days of the good old "Lochner Court", but for my part I have no desire to return to any of that. Yes, Napolitano might be completely correct in saying the rapacious, laissez-faire capitalism of the 19th Century — with its 60-hour work weeks, gruesome sweatshops, 14 year old children working in coal mines, union-busting Pinkerton Detective thuggery, greedy and bloated monopolies, and whatnot — may have been all perfectly legal and "constitutional", but he should remember that it was also perfectly hellacious.

When the nation's founders wrote the Constitution, they never anticipated the direction that the 19th Century Industrial Revolution would take, especially in its more destructive aspects. That a private individual like John D. Rockefeller could amass such immense power was probably unimaginable to them. Therefore, it is clearly foolish to think that the founders necessarily had the ultimate and final word on everything. If they had been able to foresee what was going to happen, my bets are they probably would have tweaked the Constitution accordingly. And truly it might have been more honest back then, in the 1800s, to have had another constitutional convention to better delineate the course of things and how to handle the situation, rather than dealing with it by a convoluted process of stretching the document with overly-inventive interpretations. But for me, returning to anything like the "Lochner Court" is must plain lunacy.

Reading the book has clearly brought back to me just why it is that I can never embrace the radically libertarian wing of the Republican Party.