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Wednesday, July 19, 2017

Reformation politics

As I watch today’s politics and read about the Reformation on its 500th anniversary, I am struck by the modern similarities.  The later day followers of Luther have sworn off politics. “Why did the Lutheran cross the road? To get to the middle.” --Garrison Keillor.  But Luther used politics to survive.  And he got lucky. 

Oct. 31, 1517 is the day he posted 95 Theses on Wittenberg’s church door for scholarly debate in Latin.  But students translated the list into German.  It lit the country afire.  And who were the students?  Luther often drew about 400 to his classes in Wittenberg.  Townspeople, travelers, visiting scholars, and students would come.  There was no required attendance, so students chose to hear a popular, dynamic lecturer. And they formed a huge following along with the faculty of Wittenberg College.  Theses attacked the sale of indulgences but it was a bigger issue.  The Medieval church was a money machine. Pope Leo was building St. Peters in Rome and needed funds. Not only did the church sell indulgences that promised time out of purgatory, but they owned half the land in Germany.  The Holy Roman Empire was Germany-Austria-Italy and lands left to the church became papal fiefs, baronies if you will, that Rome gave to newly named bishops—if the bishop could come up with the right price.  In fact some bishops never set foot in Germany, but once ordained, just collected taxes from their lands.  Then there were the priests, half of whom were married—but they couldn’t legally marry—so they paid a forgiveness price for their girlfriends.  And any kids born had to be redeemed out of bastard staus to be made legal. The priesthood was impoverished. It didn’t take a theologian to realize the Italy was raking it in and Germany was seeing the wealth of the nation depart.

Luther didn’t realize the hornet’s nest he had stirred.  He just thought he was making a point of true Christian belief.  But Dominicans, a rival order to the Augustinians which Luther belonged, published fake news, a forged document attributed to Luther with disgusting quotes. Dominicans were the chief beneficiaries of Indulgences.  And then the head papal theologian, Prierias, wrote a scathing attack. Luther had exposed their swamp of financial dealings.   Cardinal Cajetan, a traditionalist who advocated the papacy be considered infallible, demanded a questioning of Luther.  Luther agreed but played his politics carefully.  First, he was best friends with Spalatin, the most influencial advisor of Prince Frederick the Wise  whose territory Wittenberg was in. Spalatin, always with his ear to the ground, said don’t go until they guarantee safe passage.  The Wittenberg faculty wrote a lengthy letter supporting Luther.  Frederick realized the church needed reform and thought upon hearing Luther, he had the guy who could pull it off.  And then Johann von Staupinz, the leader of the Augustinian order, was a personal mentor for Luther. He proofread Luther’s reply to Cajetan expressing humility, offering to repent of his teaching if he could be proven wrong.  Cajetan was in over his head.  Luther was a brilliant mind and Cajetan could offer no response when Luther asked him for scripture passages as proof of the papal position. Worse, Cajetan said some questionable things that refuted salvation by grace, the prime tenet of Christianity, and expressed a disdain for faith.  Luther, stunned, knew hundreds of passages.  The Cardinal could only demand Luther recant, got frustrated and ordered him out of his presence. Luther left town, fortunately, because Catejan’s papal orders to arrest him were leaked. 

When Frederick got orders to hand over Luther, he formed an investigation, listened to Wittenberg’s faculty, local nobles, Staupinz and Spalatin, and then Miltitz, a nuncius (official speaker for the pope) sent from Rome.  Miltitz was a conniver and Frederick immediately saw his game.  The nuncius got nothing but a meeting with Luther and vague promises from Frederick.  Now understand that many officials of the Roman Curia weren’t very godly people.  Some bought their offices too.   Miltitz got quite drunk, started telling stories about Leo’s real motives (women, money) and advised Luther to just shut up for awhile.  In a modern sense, he was telling Luther to stop tweeting.  Luther’s friends agreed.  If ever a guy didn’t stop tweeting, it was Luther.  Realizing that he was as good as dead, he started claiming air time, that is, he began writing books.  In 36 months he wrote 30 books in two languages, eloquent Latin and German.  He simply outpublished the church. Prints and reprints spread like a mania.  In them he expounded on biblical humanism—as his Protestant ideas of the time were then called.  But he also wrote To the Christian Nobility Concerning the Reform of the Church.  In it, he recounted the abuses of the Roman Curia and said that just as they had sucked Italy dry, they had now come to Germany.  The fire in Germany grew to a forest fire from the North Sea to Bavaria.  Meanwhile the Emperor died.  Maxmillian had wanted his son Charles to inherit the throne, but 7 electors selected emperors.  One Elector was Frederick the Wise.  And the Pope didn’t want Charles.  So Frederick parlayed his alliance against Charles into a safe haven for Luther.

Instead of thinking about repeal and replace of their system, the Curia and especially the Dominicans, were seized with unreasonable hatred for Luther.  They arranged a debate and drew Luther into it in a sly way.  Eck, the Dominican debater, in some ways won the debate, but Luther won the crowd.  The Romanists wrote scandalous letters against Luther that were all too plain to the reader that their insane hatred was the motivator.  As a result, when Luther finally went to trial at the Diet that took place in Worms,  Frederick had made plans to kidnap or spirit Luther away when he was condemned.  Why didn’t the Emperor Charles seize Luther immediately and have him burned at the stake in Worms?  80,000 of Luther’s fans had invaded the small city and a rebellion would have resulted. 

In the end, the thing that the Roman hierarchy didn’t understand was that Luther spoke to his followers simply and they couldn’t be dissuaded—they had an agenda  Finally in 1530, with Turks ready to besiege Vienna, the Emperor  was in a fix.  He had ostracized half of Germany over religion, but needed help to fight the Turks.  To his disbelief, the Lutheran princes showed up, handed him The Augsburg Confession, a statement of what they believed, but swore allegiance to his cause against the Ottomans.  This good will delayed the Emperor’s vengeance for 17 years.  Then in 1547, after Luther, Henry VIII of England and Francis I of France had died ( thus no international allies of the Lutheran princes remained) Charles began a successful campaign.  But killing the princes and occupying the land didn’t work.  The priests had all turned Lutheran and the people as well.  Rather than a triumph, the Peace of Augsburg ended in a whimper with each prince allowed to keep the religion of his choice throughout the land. Finally, in 1563 the Catholic Church had their own Reformation. 
You often see movements that won't die.  It is often because the perpetrators of an ugly system don't realize their own problem.         

Monday, July 3, 2017

They analyze Trump

So what are the opponents and Europeans alleging about Trump and the Republicans?  I sit here reading Economist, “A Divided Country” which is in full lament of Trump’s Presidency.  They’re worth studying.  Amid the cacophony of hyenas and apes from the MSM, Economist represents Europeans and learned elites.  Americans are riven by mutual  incomprehension. They’re talking R’s and D’s as well as city and rural, factory and universities. Donald Trump is not only a symptom of America’s division, but a cause of them, too.  Always the equivocation.  No, it didn’t start with Trump and he’s not the sole cause.  But then they never name anyone else nor detail other faults.  Thus, Trump is in effect the cause alone.  Mr. Trump has fueled the mistrustA political culture that is even more poisonous than when he took office…poor judgment, missed opportunities.  The federal government is already showing the strain. Gee, I didn’t know how he could have made it worse when the Dems wanted him impeached before he took office.

 I guess it must be my perspective.  I was rather hoping the federal government, which gave us Obamacare that only raised insurance rates, kicked people off policies, made docs quit, might show a bit of strain. And concerning the mistrust, that’s what happens when the left-leaning party adopted a platform of neo-fascism, a platform sans God. And, you see, some of rather like God, count our lives as lost without Him, and attribute all that is the experiment of Exception called America to Him. “Our Father’s God, to Thee/ Author of Liberty” and “endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.”  In myhumble perspective, there seems to have been an uprising of common people against the left.  Democrats lost 1200 seats over 6 years, the Congress, most governorships,Presidency, and now only control 4 state legislatures.  Quite a come-down for the majority party!  All this erosion came, not during Trump, but via Obama and friends. 

Disillusion only grows…because of his own incontinent ego. As harmful as what Mr. Trump does is the way he does it.   Now we get to the heart of the matter.  True, Trump has ego, but the true rarity among politicians is the one who doesn’t have a big ego.  The writer here is a journalist and makes a living with yap.  Trump has changed the rules of yap. He’s bombastic, rude and blunt, He punches back at a negative press.  Hence their conclusion is Trump Is Not One of Us by his manners and the way he talks. Secondly note the missing title.  It’s “Mr.” not “President”. Distaste for Trump has misled them to think he’s illegitimate as a President, even though elected by 30 states.  I learned a long time ago that in US politics we have to learn to live with the winner.  It doesn’t always suit me either, but I live under it.  And finally the parochialism of journalists is why they are in false-panic over Trump.  Republican Presidents are supposed to meekly sit silently as the press gets glee from running them down.  When someone does slam their analysis, they think it means government repression.  In other words, free speech is for them and their allies, but others must be mute.  They dish it out but they can’t take it. 

Political bias shows as well.  Reform plans show every sign of turning into a cut for the rich…Instead of reforming Obamacare, Repbulicans are in knots over a bill that would leave millions of Mr. Trumps’s own voters sicker and poorer. This is what I call the Thomas Frank effect.  His book, “What’s the Matter with Kansas” was a hit with New York libs but left Kansans baffled and angry.  In it, he argues that Kansans don’t know what’s good for themselves.  They should crave socialism and entitlements.  Instead, the silly little people opt for Liberty.  To back it up, he cites examples in Kansas that don’t exist—an Emporia fallen into near ghost town status and Kansas City suburbs become unlivable. Here, the writer for Economist avows that Obamacare should be saved because surely only that will help Trump voters.  And when all else fails, criticize with class warfare. Oh! The evil rich! 

Nor can the Economist seem to find much wrong with Obama’s tenure. Well, they concede Pres. O had competing agencies spun too much red tape. Yet its [Trump’s] attempt to reform this ‘administrative state’ is wrecking the machinery the government needs to function. Contrarily, most of America seemed tense over wrecks government had caused the previous 8 years—Middle East policy, Obamacare, National Debt, illegal immigration and crime/terrorism.  The bottom line is that the Europeans have a lot of political/cultural bias towards the ever-necessary welfare state.  America is biased in letting people live freely.

The miasma of scandal and leaks surrounding Russia’s role in the campaign have made chances of cross-party co-operation even more remote…undermined the courts…lack of respect for expertise, such as the attacks on the CBO…Mr. Trump’s disregard for the truth. Hmm, well the leaks were all designed to support leftist narratives.  We know in one case, spread by a Bernie fanatic.  Russian collusion was made up by the media.  CBO said Obamacare would decrease expenses (and dozens of other embarrassing predictions).  Did I mention most conservatives love Trump’s court picks?  And concerning the Truth, Trump seems to forever stun his former naysayers in the R-party by raw, visceral tweets that actually turn out true and shrewd.  He really was surveilled by the Obama admin.  CNN really did have an agenda to get rid of him.  He really wasn’t under investigation by Comey.  Cripes!

The bottom line is that the Europeans and the Left don’t get it.  Their intellectual giants were Marx and Hugo, and they scoffed at C.S. Lewis.  They hate Trump’s talk and his social media method. He’s unwelcome at their table. They fear for their ease in the US markets and cost-free NATO protection.  They can’t understand conservatism, refuse to acknowledge Trump’s win and agenda, or observance of leftist activists throwing pussy marches to try to disrupt the inauguration. Leaks leave no concern, nor surveillance by US Intel on US citizens. [Odd.  They went bonkers of Merkel getting bugged.] They think “Gov is Good”.  Meanwhile, Americans fret over a jobs-smothered economy full of restrictions and high taxes. I suppose we don’t understand their fawning and drooling over that socialist Macaroon guy who won in France, either. Vive le difference, tout le monde.

And they advance no solutions except bipartisanism.  So, I note he’s signed 39 bills, many of which slap down the bureaucracy.  There’s his budget for cuts in the worst bureaucracies.  Illegal immigration is down 70% and we have barely started building the wall. The foreigners now say they are scared to come illegally because Trump is serious about the borders.  Stocks are up and optimism is sky high.  Health care has to be reformed and we are working to get 51 egos to sign on to a compromise bill.  Ditto tax reform.  And the opposition, instead of being loyal opposition with well-considered alternatives, is batshit crazy. The MSM is dying. Wouldn't it be really crazy if Trump confounded them?