Saturday, November 17, 2012

The Problem with Propaganda/Rap

Propaganda's  rap/song is  still making the rounds, as well as waves  these days with  heavyweights like Joel Beeke and Thabiti Anyabwile weighing in either on it or Jonathan Edwards's defense of a fellow slave holding minister. Props considers the Puritans to be hypocrites on slavery and is critical of the modern reformed love for them. Yet the problem with propaganda is just that . . .  it's propaganda.

This Just In
But what else is new? If  the essence of propaganda or a half truth is that it contains enough of the truth to convince somebody that it is the whole truth, then good enough buddy, let's go for it. So, lemme see, before we found out that The some Puritans puritans  approved of slavery, if not owned slaves, we learned the same things regarding the Puritans and Ye Burning of Ye Olde Witches. Or Calvin executing  Servetus. With his bare hands no less. (I think the Big P's reference to 'slave ship chaplains' had something maybe to do with John Newton, who was a captain,  not a chaplain, that  eventually repudiated the slave trade.) The point being in all of this, is that  slavery was endemic to the times, just like witch hunting and the civil execution of heretics.

The corresponding and salient distinction lost in all the noise is that while Christians engaged in what are now reprobated activities - and properly so -  Puritanism/Christianity is also  pretty much what got rid of them. Which somehow got left out of the song, due to poetic license, no doubt.  Or is that the license of  propaganda?

What is It?
Of course it might be helpful to define terms. Not all that is called puritanism might qualify.  It is generally considered to be an English  movement that beginning with the English Reformation in 1500's as opposed to the status quo sought for further reformation in the doctrine, worship and piety  in the Anglican state church. It perhaps culminated in the Westminster Assembly which first met in 1643 and dragged on until  1652. This assembly was in response to the Solemn League and Covenant of 1643 between England, Scotland and Ireland and which covenant pledged in part, uniformity in the true Protestant and Reformed religion in the three  national churches. That meant reform of the Anglican church. 

This assembly  it is best known for giving us a Confession of Faith, a Larger and Shorter Catechism, Directory for Worship and Form of Church Government.  The Scottish Presbyterian Church,while adding a directory for family worship, approved  the Westminster documents as its confessional basis. In England though, presbyterianism and the Assembly documents never uprooted the Anglican church.  Still English Congregationalists and Baptists largely signed on with the Savoy Confession in 1658 and the London Confession of 1689 only modifying the Westminster Confession to reflect their particular view on polity and the sacraments.

While puritanism as a movement gradually  became evangelicalism in England, in America,  an English immigrant George  Bourne wrote a book,  The Book and Slavery Irreconcilable  in 1816  advocating the immediate emancipation  of slaves. On account of these views, he was deposed from the presbyterian ministry in Virginia.  Bourne's case was built on the condemnation of  the "man stealing" of 1 Tim. 1:10, a proof text for the Larger Catechism Q&A 142 on the ninth commandment.  Though largely unknown today,  "Daddy" Bourne not only preceded William Lloyd Garrison, Garrison  borrowed heavily from Bourne, who edited and wrote for Garrison's newspaper, The Liberator in its early days.

Bourne's main sources besides the American  presbyterian preacher, David Rice, was   John Brown's Dictionary of the Bible and  Thomas Scott's Commentary on the Bible, who were respectively Scotch and English. Later of course, most of the  radical northern unitarian abolitionists in the States swore that if the Old Testament Bible condoned slavery,  as it did polygamy, the Bible had to go. A few of them even backed the insane John Brown's violent attempt to jump start a slave uprising.

Meanwhile  in England,  William Wilberforce became an Evangelical and as a Christian,  opposed slavery in Parliament. Eventually in 1833 slavery was outlawed in most of the British Empire. Overseas though,
cousin America  fought a bloody civil war to supposedly accomplish the same thing. Regardless Christianity, if not "Puritanism"  was at  bottom in the abolition movements on both sides of the Atlantic.

Even further the  Scotch presbyterian contemporaries of the English puritans, who theologically agreed with them as per the joint Westminster Assembly, were often sold into slavery and shipped to the American colonies or the West Indies when they   resisted the enforced Anglicanism of King Charles after his return to the English throne in 1660. In the Barbadoes, these British  were known as redlegs and the remnant of those presbyterians to this day in the Reformed Presbyterian Church of North America only have two congregations below the Mason Dixon line because they have always opposed slavery.

In short, "Puritanism" did not approve of slavery across the board and the opposition to slavery and its eventual outlawing had something to do with at least the descendants of puritanism, if not puritans themselves.

Non Abolitionist Reality
But this is nothing new. Others have said the same thing at different places and times. As one Thomas Sowell  put it,  in contrast to the Arabs, Asians and Africans, who all practiced slavery, if not at least tolerate it  to this day - think Darfur -  it took the Europeans/Caucasians (red neck crackers and pecker woods to some), if not Christians  to abolish slavery.

Likewise it is not that some puritans killed witches, but that in a day and age when everybody had in it for witches, what is surprising is that they actually killed so few, much more repented of it and quit. (Which is not to say, Virginia, that one, witches only exist in one's imagination - check with  Anton LaVey on that - and two, they should be prosecuted if they commit a crime.)

As for Calvin, Servetus was a man with a price on his head and sentence of death  through out  both Roman and  Protestant Europe. After escaping Roman Catholic civil authorities elsewhere, he deliberately came back to Geneva and courted discovery/disaster.  Calvin, the supposed dictator of Geneva,   on his part requested the more humane and quicker death of beheading for Servetus, but was turned down.

Genocide: The Good and the Bad
When it comes to Cortez, we wish our rapper  good luck  defending the bloodthirsty religious human sacrifice, if not cannibalism of the Aztec empire. (As in,  "Yo' P, you wanna go back in time to those days, you  goin' by yourself".) Yes,  the Arawak Indians of Haiti were treated far better by las Casas than Columbus  and nobody  questions that the Cherokee Trail of Tears was an injustice. An American hero of the War of 1812 like Andrew Jackson was  also an inveterate Indian hater of even civilized, literate and peaceful tribes like the Cherokee.

Of course, the reformed don't claim Cortez, Columbus or Jackson for one of their own, but  all of this has something to do with sin which is never a popular topic, unless it's somebody else's  sin or it happened long ago and faraway. With those precious hypocritical  Puritans it is both to some degree.

SWPL & Post Modern Propaganda
Anti- puritanism also might tie in with the popular Stuff (Guilty) White (Liberal) People Like that we are not supposed to see right under our nose,  Geo. Orwell to the contrary. Such as pretending we are Superman and heroically beating up  Big Bad Racism,  (Hetero)Sexism, Homophobia and  Anti-Semitism (Zionism). It gives everybody such good feelings all around. 

To be sure,  'God does strike straight with crooked sticks' though and a good thing that.   What we are not sure of though,  is whether  Props really   gets it even if he says he does.  After all, that's what being  crooked is all about. Any stick and not just a pool cue will do when it comes to beating down  racism or any of the other current du jour scapegoat-isms (see above). Supposedly a  reasonable discussion is provoked and the post modern  truth prevails -  which is not necessarily  a good thing.

All this  doesn't mean that I am going to throw away  any Anthony Bradley's books just because I disagree with him on this, but it does mean that since we are not a fan of "rapmewzik" in the first place,  we probably won't be listening to any more of it  than we already haven't, whether he recommends it or not.

But hey, that's just our two bits/fifty cents on it and we're not  talking mpthrees.


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