Ian Brown from the Stone Roses gets the shamanic functions that music, especially concerts, perform for the modern masses. He says:
No, I don’t have a Messiah complex but I think music is the nearest thing to achieving Christian ends. It unifies people and sustains them. It uplifts them and makes them closer to love. You get a great gig at Wembley or somewhere and that is modern Christianity in action.
My book club just read through Moby Dick, a fascinating novel that operates on many levels below the surface narrative of the hunt for a whale. James Jordan offers a unique take on the book which I wish someone would expand on and dig into further in an old newsletter. He writes:
Ishmael is the narrator of Melville’s fantasy-romance Moby Dick. Melville takes up the traditional view of Ishmael as a wayward son of Abraham, driven out solely because of the Divine “caprice” of election, an angry man with his hand raised against all other men. He is a fitting “anti-hero,” or at least “anti-character,” in a book full of inversions.
Melville objected to calling Moby Dick a novel. He knew that the persons on board the Pequod are anything but real people — they are symbols much more than characters — and that the situation he describes is fantastic. Moby Dick is a fantasy-narrative like Homer’s Odyssey and Swift’s Gulliver’s Travels.
Ahab, carrying the name of Israel’s wicked king, is an anti-Christ. Like Jacob (Israel), Ahab has the messianic foot-wound, but he has no interest in submitting to God. Rather, he wants to kill God, the “vengeful,” “predestinating,” and capitalized White Whale. The whiteness of the whale is both the whiteness of God’s holy throne and the whiteness of leprosy. The long exposition of how to kill a whale in the many chapters on whaling is a kind of anti-Leviticus: Instead of rituals showing us how to kill ourselves and submit to God, Melville gives us a long survey of the rites by which to act titanically and kill “god.” The White Whale wins in the end, but only because He is all-powerful, not because He is good or fair. Ahab, his “Satan”-like ship, and his crew of pagans and estranged New Englanders is drowned in the ancient flood.
Ahab rages against New England’s Calvinistic God, the God of Melville’s rejected Dutch Reformed upbringing. The Antichrist Ahab had lain “like dead for three days and nights” in his great crisis, and now “resurrected” he gathers his anti-church with anti-rituals and leads them in an attempt to kill the “god” who put him through his “crucifixion.” Ishmael is part of this anti-church.
This would be a great project to take on as an investigation: the Levitical themes of the book.
After years of waiting, the bishops of ACNA met in another “conclave” this week and the result is a totally unsurprising and yet disastrous bunch of nothing:
…we continue to acknowledge that individual dioceses have constitutional authority to ordain women to the priesthood.
I continue to come back to the first post I wrote on this subject several years ago and a comment from the Titus One Nine blog which was 100% correct:
I would suspect that ACNA’s leadership knows exactly how the theological report (if fairly done) will come out. Indeed, pretty much any minimally informed person will know how this report will come out: there are good arguments pro and con, and there is no clear resolution. Therefore, ACNA will continue its current practice as it is the best possible solution to a theologically incoherent problem. In this way, the non-WO activists can be partially mollified, or at least, they can no longer complain about the lack of any theological study. And at the same time, ACNA can continue on its current policy but on a stronger footing.
What ACNA is at its core can now be discerned fairly clearly: a set of theologically incompatible tribes that do not agree about a great many things, but value institutional unity over all. It possesses no common liturgy and no common theology.
Most articles about Rwanda tout its economy even if they identify the repressive nature of the State. Increasingly, this economic “miracle” looks more like a sham as this new article describes. It says:
The conclusion of this brief analysis is that if there ever was a Rwandan economic miracle it has probably fizzled out some time ago and is likely to come crashing down very soon. At the very least, the data shows that the development strategy adopted by the Rwandan government is risky in the extreme, bordering on reckless. The closest example we can find in recent history of similar policies is Mobutu’s Zaire that squandered the country’s resources on space projects, nuclear power plants and a Concord airplane. As outlandish as they seem today, these projects also helped to give Mobutu an image of success up until the 1970s (remember the Rumble in the Jungle?) But Rwanda’s PR machine has even surpassed Mobutu’s, having managed to keep the narrative of success going for all these years even as evidence to the contrary has been in plain sight, or just below the surface waiting to be scratched. Even today, there is not a single article in the press (even the critical ones) that does not mention Rwanda’s alleged economic success, and its low levels of corruption – forgetting to mention that close associates of Kagame appeared in the Panama Papers last year and a transparency international coordinator was assassinated.
On November 1, 2015 Bishop Laurent Mbanda spoke to the Dean’s Class of the Cathedral Church of the Advent Birmingham Alabama. He provides some background on how he became a bishop (according to him):
(In) 2010 the church called me up and said, “can we put your name up for a possible candidate as bishop.” And we said, “Nobody know us, and uh, if God can close a door he will still have room to close the door, so, we let them take the name after prayer and getting God’s peace, and was traveling in the country of Ghana and while there I got a call to say, “yes you have been elected bishop of Shyria” and we were consecrated in 2010, March.”
Bishop Mbanda goes on to praise Rwandan dictator, Paul Kagame. Curiously, he does not use his name but refers to him simply as the President:
The country of Rwanda was reduced to ashes in 1994…and no one gave it a chance…but I believe because of good leadership, I believe because of a President who was then a Major in the army, actually he was the head of the army, who stopped the genocide. I think he made two choices that were crucial; one, he made a choice to, not to revenge. He could have led his army to revenge for the number of people who had been killed, over a million people. But he said “we won’t revenge we will instead forgive.” Number two, he was willing to be inclusive in bringing people who were actually fighting him into his government, and so a government of unity. And number three, the churches in Rwanda started talking about evangelism…
Bishop Mbanda does not appeal for help against a dictatorship that disappears people in the night, instead he peddles the false narrative of reconciliation:
And I think those initial decisions then started bringing people together. The reconciliation has taken place, the President, I believe in the leadership that he has, are people who are trying to fight corruption and umm, there are people also who have the country and the people at heart.
Christians in the West should be careful about who they are embracing when they do not realize the historical facts.
Despite years of evidence that Rwanda is a repressive dictatorship, the message has not sunk in to cheerfully naive Anglicans. For example, Lisa Puckett writing on behalf of the Anglican Diocese of Christ Our Hope (ACNA) says:
We are grateful for this rich heritage. If you would like to learn more about the story of Rwandan leadership, Bishop Thad Barnum’s book “Never Silent” is a great resource. If you would like to share the story of radical reconciliation, the movie “As We Forgive” is a great place to start. Additionally, Rwanda Ministry Partners and Walk with Rwanda are ministries of ACNA established to encourage continued journeys along this fruitful path. The best stories are found in your own congregation; ask one another, “How are you influenced by our Rwandan heritage?” “Where do you see an ongoing story filled with miracle, mystery, connection, and blessing?”
This gauzy vision of miracles and blessing bumps into the harsh reality that the Anglican Church of Rwanda is utterly silent in the face of evil and in fact has been part of it (Bishops Kolini and Rucyahana in particular). And yet, Archbishop Rwaje is a key part of GAFCON and was recently at the ACNA Provincial Assembly. Is ACNA interested in the truth, or do we accept pleasant stories about Rwanda at face value?
In order to see behind the curtain a bit, those interested in the truth might look at the following reports from Rwanda from the past couple years:
July 13, 2017
State security forces in Rwanda have summarily killed at least 37 suspected petty offenders and forcibly disappeared four others since April 2016, Human Rights Watch said in a report released today.
Some victims were first arrested by civilian authorities who then took them to nearby military stations. Soldiers then executed the victims at or near the military base, sometimes after ill-treating them in detention. Witnesses who saw the bodies soon after the executions said they saw bullet wounds and injuries that seemed to have been caused by beatings or stabbings. One victim had been stabbed in the heart; another had a cord around his neck.
I left Rwanda in 2012 when I could no longer justify offering any sort of political cover to the Kagame regime. No matter how many lives I saved in the hospital, an order of magnitude more would be killed or imprisoned that very day. Perhaps as the US turns inward and pulls back from funding activities outside the borders, the conflict of interest will resolve of its own volition. Or perhaps the repression of the strongmen in places such as Rwanda and Burundi will boil over, resulting in yet another series of bloody conflicts. The preservation of poisonous people like Kagame certainly portends the possibility of conflict, but the examples across West Africa provide hope for a democratic and peaceful future.
Rwandans go to the polls on 4 August 2017 to elect their next president, in a climate of fear created by years of repression against opposition politicians, journalists and human rights defenders. They have been jailed, physically attacked – even killed – and forced into exile or silence. Prior human rights violations and unresolved cases of murders and disappearances continue to have a chilling effect on the current political and human rights context.
One year after her sudden and suspicious disappearance, the Rwandan authorities must reveal the fate of nurse and opposition activist Illuminée Iragena, Amnesty International said today.
Illuminée Iragena, a member of the unregistered opposition political party United Democratic Forces (FDU-Inkingi), went missing on 26 March 2016 on her way to work as a nurse at the King Faisal Hospital in the country’s capital Kigali.
“Sources close to the case believe that Illuminée was tortured and died in custody, but have no official information on her fate,” said Sarah Jackson, Amnesty International’s Deputy Regional Director for East Africa, the Horn of Africa and the Great Lakes Region.
Unity in Rwanda is part of a rehearsed consensus. The government has established a monopoly over the country’s history, to the extent that alternative histories cannot be articulated. Debate about the past is actively policed. The regime’s authoritarian approach has prevented the emergence of potentially more complex identities from below that could form the basis for more inclusive forms of citizenship.
Kagame has grossly exaggerated his social and economic accomplishments of the past 23 years. He says he has built an African economic lion – the Singapore of Africa. In reality Rwanda remains the poorest country in East Africa, except for Burundi. Its per capita income stands at $697.3 versus Kenya’s of $1,376.7; Uganda, $705; and Tanzania at $879. Burundi is poorer than Rwanda with per capita of $277. Rwanda receives $1 billion a year in foreign aid, which is half of its annual budget of $2 billion. This is hardly a spectacular success.
The most important human rights problems were government harassment, arrest, and abuse of political opponents, human rights advocates, and individuals perceived to pose a threat to government control and social order; security forces’ disregard for the rule of law; and restrictions on media freedom and civil liberties. Due to restrictions on the registration and operation of opposition parties, citizens did not have the ability to change their government through free and fair elections.
Other major human rights problems included arbitrary or unlawful killings; torture and harsh conditions in prisons and detention centers; arbitrary arrest; prolonged pretrial detention; government infringement on citizens’ privacy rights and on freedoms of speech, assembly, and association; government restrictions on and harassment of some local and international nongovernmental organizations (NGOs), particularly organizations that monitored and reported on human rights and media freedoms; some reports of trafficking in persons; and government restrictions on labor rights; and child labor.
But the dominant political party, the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF), does more than help business: it runs its very own conglomerate.
Crystal Ventures, the RPF’s holding company, has investments in everything from furniture to finance. It owns the country’s biggest milk processor, its finest coffee shops and some of its priciest real estate. Its contractors are building Kigali’s roads. There are several firms offering security services in Rwanda but the guards from ISCO, part of Crystal Ventures, are the only ones who tote guns. The company is reckoned to have some $500m of assets.
In a new twist to the unsolved mystery of the assassination that triggered the Rwandan genocide, United Nations peacekeepers have found a missile launcher with remarkable similarities to the weapon that killed Rwanda’s president in 1994.
More than two decades after the assassination, new clues are beginning to surface, while a French investigation remains active. The latest discovery could bring the world closer to the truth by shedding light on the murder weapon itself.
A confidential report by the UN peacekeeping mission in Congo, obtained by The Globe and Mail, documents a Soviet-made surface-to-air missile launcher that was seized by Congolese forces from a Rwandan rebel group last August.
Last October, The Globe obtained a document written by one of Mr. Kagame’s former close aides, alleging that the Rwandan President had been directly involved in organizing the 1994 missile attack.
Opposition figures residing outside of Rwanda have also been threatened, attacked, forcibly disappeared, or killed. Former members of the Rwandan security forces living in exile have gone missing, while others have been targeted for assassination.
Although the constitution calls on the president to ensure “representation of historically marginalized communities” in the Senate through his appointees, asserting one’s ethnic identity in politics is banned, meaning the level of representation is unclear.
In January 2016, writer and editor John Williams Ntwali, whose reporting had been critical of the government, was arrested, accused of rape (later reduced to indecent exposure), and illegally detained for 13 days. In February, the offices of the East African newspaper were raided by police, who seized materials and arrested a journalist, Yvan Mushiga. In August, radio journalist John Ndabarasa—a relative of a former bodyguard of President Kagame who had been sentenced to life imprisonment for treason in 2014—went missing.
Many Rwandan journalists have fled the country and work in exile. Due in part to this phenomenon, the government has increasingly blocked access to news websites based abroad. The British Broadcasting Corporation’s Kinyarwanda-language service has been suspended in the country since 2014.
There is credible evidence of massacres by Kagame’s forces of tens or hundreds of thousands of people after Rwanda’s 1994 genocide, and his political opponents are almost all in exile, in prison or dead.
Yet Kagame heads several prestigious UN development initiatives. Harvard and Yale invite him to speak about democracy and human rights. It is even fashionable to celebrate Kagame’s leadership of Rwanda. The extent of this hypocrisy is an indication not of Kagame’s dictatorial achievements or crimes, but rather of the world’s hunger for postcolonial leaders and narratives. Kagame is held up as a counter to western hegemony.
Kagame is expert in crafting postcolonial myths that resonate powerfully in a world still grappling with colonial legacies. He claims he ended Rwanda’s genocide, which killed nearly a million people in just 100 days, while a morally bankrupt west stood idle. There is merit in his argument that the world should be held accountable for not deploying peacekeepers during the genocide. However, genocide survivors are afraid to mention that Kagame had himself opposed the deployment of those UN peacekeepers. He was concerned they would interfere with his military takeover of the country.
Eventually African Rights ended up on the RPF payroll, working closely with intelligence operatives and even moving to a building that housed the Directorate of Military Intelligence, Reydams reveals. By that time, de Waal had left the organization. Yet even before de Waal and Omaar parted ways, African Rights had become enormously prescriptive and influential; it scolded the international community about who was morally right during the war, who should be arrested and why. It staunchly defended the RPF against reports that its troops had engaged in violence and shamed other human rights investigators and journalists for calling attention to RPF abuses: “Allegations that the RPF was massacring civilians were ‘hysteria’ and journalists who ran such ‘stories’ were not doing their work properly.” Reydams aptly points out that “human rights reports usually do not defend a warring party. Yet, Death, Despair and Defiancedoes exactly that. The RPF’s resumption of the war is presented as humanitarian intervention and, therefore, a ceasefire was out of the question.”
Not surprisingly, African Rights’ work, which provided a one-sided, sanitized version of the Rwandan genocide, did not stand the test of time.
Rwandan authorities are rounding up poor people and arbitrarily detaining them in “transit centers” across the country, Human Rights Watch said today. The conditions in these centers are harsh and inhuman, and beatings are commonplace. New research indicates that the authorities have made few changes in a center in Gikondo, in the capital, Kigali, despite an earlier Human Rights Watch report on abuses there, and that similar degrading treatment prevails in other transit centers.
Contrary to the designations for these centers, none of the people interviewed had “transited” to other facilities after their most recent arrest and most had not been through any “rehabilitation,” such as professional training or education, at the centers.
“They correct us by beating us with sticks,” one man told Human Rights Watch.
It becomes clear quickly that people are not cleaning because it’s good for the country or for the official line of together and taking personal responsibility for beautification of this land of a thousand hills.
This is a programme that works because it’s enforced by law and penalties.
We need special permission to be on the road during Umuganda and our vehicle is indeed stopped twice and police officers check the paperwork.
Failure to clean up comes with a fine, the equivalent of about $10.
Most unnerving is that it’s neighbours who rat on you to a local cell block leader who issues a fine. Communities who have slacked on cleaning make headlines in a press that is anything but free.
This adherence to a social structure of cells and cell leaders emanates from a time when working the hilly terrain successfully relied on mutualism and reciprocity. Now this structure of cohesion can be leant on to enforce ideals of unity, collectivism and co-operation. But it was also this social structure that allowed the genocide that started on April 7, 1994, to ignite and spread, and for the command to kill from Hutu cell leaders to be obeyed.
Taken together, Guichaoua’s historical analysis and Sundaram’s contemporary analysis raise significant questions about Rwanda today, and whether the facade erected by the RPF in the post-genocide period is sustainable. The parallels between what Guichaoua describes and the current situation are alarming: A small minority of one ethnic group controls almost all of political, economic and social life; there are virtually no avenues for meaningful, peaceful dissent about the country’s direction or its leaders; and, as Sundaram shows, information flows are controlled and manipulated by elites.
“The consistent harassment of journalists has had a chilling effect in Rwanda, where there is no space for dissenting narrative at all, today,” he explains. “A colleague of mine was shot dead on the same day he criticised Paul Kagame. Another was beaten into a coma after bringing up the harassment of journalists at a press conference with the president. Others joined the presidential propaganda team out of fear. In my book I document over 60 cases of journalists who have been killed, disappeared, arrested, imprisoned, tortured or forced to flee the country, fearing for their lives after criticising the Rwandan government.”
Does it matter how we worship God? Does anything govern the actions and rituals we perform in gathered worship? Quite often it seems that churches worship with little or no thought about the theological right or wrong of a given practice. Most of us would realize that we cannot erect a golden calf in the sanctuary and offer incense to it, but what about a cross? Are there areas of indifference, where we can do whatever we want, or must we have a command from God for everything we do?
One wing of the Reformation reacted against Roman excesses by enacting the “regulative principle” where anything not expressly stated by God should not be done. Others move in a completely opposite direction and do just about anything, so long as they have a “tradition” to fall back on that justifies the practice. Many others, perhaps the majority, just do whatever they grew up with and add a dollop or two of whatever the cool church in town does.
Peter Leithart offers a convincing, Biblical way forward in his book From Silence to Song. He says:
…a word must be said at this point about the hermeneutical assumptions underlying the Reformed “regulative principle of worship.” In the hands of at least some writers, the regulative principle is, in practice, hermeneutically wooden and theologically Marcionite. It is wooden because an explicit “command” is required for every act of worship, and it is Marcionite because it ignores the abundant Old Testament liturgical instruction in favor of exegeting a few passages of the New.
He says later:
I adhere to the regulative principle in the sense that we are to worship God as He has taught us to worship Him, but He has taught us in myriads of ways, and not merely in explicit commands.
Using syllogisms, Leithart shows how strict regulativists contrast with how David approached worship:
Major premise: Whatever is not commanded is forbidden.
Minor premise: Singing is not commanded in the Levitical Law.
Conclusion: Therefore, singing in worship is forbidden.
David appears to have reasoned by analogy:
Major premise: The Law governs worship.
Minor premise #1: The Law prescribes that trumpets be played over the public ascensions, in public worship.
Minor premise #2: The trumpet is a musical instrument.
Conclusion: Analogously, song and other music are a legitimate part of worship.
In place of a “regulation-by-explicit command” principle, David operated according to a “regulation-by-analogy” principle.
This blog has been dormant as I have worked on other things. Sadly, the move from WordPress to Medium and back again dorked with all of my pictures, so I have to rebuild them from scratch if I want to. Hopefully I can kick it into gear again soon and follow some Anglican events that have happened recently.
I think we can see which way the wind is blowing based on this interview with Bishops Hicks:
If a bishop as respected as Bishop Hicks who is staunchly against women’s ordination thinks that it should not be forbidden in ACNA because “…how effective are we going to be as Province? I just don’t see that splitting over this issue is going to help us at all…” then we can conclude that there will not be the requisite votes in the College of Bishops to change the Constitution. Unity and expediency are trumping truth and WO is being categorized as adiaphora.