Aristocrats Wanted


Not without reason, in traditional Chinese society, are the merchants the fourth class after the gentry, the farmers, and the artisans. The liberal bourgeoisie, for all its good intentions, will be the death of us all unless we can all commit to reining in its excesses and grounding its successes in the divine virtues that are the foundation of a good and lasting republic. Among those in the polis whom Plato calls the producers, the strongest are the bourgeoisie: money is power. But I cannot recommend, with the agrarians, that we deprecate commerce; it is clear to me that a nation with poor commerce is a nation impoverished not only in goods but also in imagination. Nevertheless, a class whose readiest concern is to fill the belly cannot rightly rule. For all its importance, its place is elsewhere, and modesty will give it a more fitting and comely place. As St Paul says,

Nay, much more those members of the body, which seem to be more feeble, are necessary: and those members of the body, which we think to be less honourable, upon these we bestow more abundant honour; and our uncomely parts have more abundant comeliness. For our comely parts have no need: but God hath tempered the body together, having given more abundant honour to that part which lacked: that there should be no schism in the body; but that the members should have the same care one for another.

Whether the feebler part be the enterprising merchant or the humble farmer, we must acknowledge both with honour and give neither the part of the ruler. For either one as the ruler would be a source of schism in the body politic. It is true that the Apostle was speaking of the Church and not of the civil order, but it could not escape our notice that he used the same metaphor for a group of people as Plato used in the Republic: a human body with parts. Since the Resurrection and Ascension of Christ, the philosopher-king of all the earth has been Christ himself. Greater than Solomon, he has been given for the nations of the earth. As Isaiah has foretold, the spirit of the Lord has rested upon him, the spirit of wisdom and understanding, the spirit of counsel and might, the spirit of knowledge and of the fear of the Lord. What St Paul commends to the Church, then, is the end to which the Lord is both secretly and openly directing the whole of human society. The word of God we must acknowledge in its place at the top of society, as the voice of its everlasting Head, even Christ; and we must imagine that those who safeguard society and the needs of the soul are to hold greater authority than the masses.

In a review of a biography on Benjamin Disraeli by Douglas Hurd and Edward Young, Lord Lexden notes the reputation that prime minister tends to have today: ‘Disraeli is widely praised within the Conservative Party for furnishing it with a new vision, Tory democracy, that was to transform a small aristocratic organisation, run from the Carlton Club, into a mass movement following his audacious Reform Bill of 1867 which doubled the electorate by giving the vote to a significant section of the urban working class.’ But the goal, says Lord Lexden, following Hurd and Young, was not to start a mass movement but to improve aristocratic governance: ‘The task of the electorate enlarged by Disraeli’s 1867 Reform Bill – up from one million to two – was to make good aristocratic government more secure by pressing the upper classes to fulfil their duty to run the country well.’

An admirable end, in my opinion. Since none of Plato’s producers can run a commonwealth, the task of guarding the word of God and advancing society’s submission to it must fall primarily to those whom Plato calls the guardians. By no power of their own can they secure this submission, but they have a sacred trust: though the power to subdue the peoples is in the hands of Christ, it is the guardians who are naturally endowed with the time and ability to lead their people in righteousness. This is the class who can most readily think of other things than profit. If righteous, they can hope to draw the people to themselves with bonds of affection and trust; if decadent, they will lead the people as much astray, either by imitation or by adverse reaction, as did the kings of ancient Israel. As Mencius said King Huì of Liáng,

Why must the king speak of profit? I have only humaneness and rightness. If the king says, ‘How can I profit my state?’, the officers will say, ‘How can I profit my house?’, and the gentlemen and the common people will say, ‘How can I profit myself?’ Those above and those below will compete with one another for profit, and the state will be imperilled. One who murders the ruler over a state of ten thousand chariots surely will be from a house of a thousand chariots; one who murders the ruler over a state of a thousand chariots surely will be from a house of a hundred chariots. A share of a thousand in ten thousand or a hundred in a thousand is hardly negligible; yet, when rightness is subordinated to profit the urge to lay claim becomes irresistible.

This is the power of those who have both power and leisure. Rather than the glory of God, they can magnify their faults in the people. The people are a mirror to their guardians. Thus the guardians’ vice may be the ruin of all; but their virtue may be the happiness of all. To keep the power out of acquisitive hands, to keep it in the service of men of such moral force as the lately deceased Lee Kuan Yew, is good for both body and soul. Whatever its form, an aristocracy that will nobly answer its call is a gift to its people, and for this reason countless writers have tried to instruct their rulers especially in virtue. For Scripture as well as history tells us that, subject to the loving providence of God, virtue is the greatest gift for rulers to have. By virtue are the nations led to happiness.

Perhaps even more than the British Tories, the French legitimists were not interested in democracy, but after the July Revolution of 1830 they did appeal to popular sovereignty against the hypocritically liberal rule of the ‘citizen king’, Louis Philippe. Jeffrey Hobbs says in ‘Death in the Fields: Legitimist Réfractaires and State Violence in July Monarchy France’, Proceedings of the Western Society for French History 37 (2009), 175–86,

In order to consolidate political authority, legitimists argued, Louis-Philippe’s government violently imposed its power on provincial populations and, thereby, actively engaged in the destruction of French families. While liberals purportedly believed that popular sovereignty necessitated a strong central government from which power radiated into the provinces, legitimists contended that popular sovereignty originated in the affective bonds of the family and the local community.

Theirs was a protest, then, against a liberal despotism that served the profit of the Parisian bourgeoisie. Legitimists, who were royalists of aristocratic beliefs and hardly democrats, here challenged urban individualism and its guarantor, the central despot, by appealing to the popular sovereignty embodied in families and local communities. The Duchesse de Berry, the symbol of royalist popular sovereignty, was portrayed to represent all French families by virtue of being a mother. No longer was the humanity of Frenchmen to be symbolized by a myth of universal rights, rights that obtained for one class against the others, but rather it was to be esteemed in the truly universal but truly particular institution of family. Out of this matrix, this womb, would rulers rule. Whatever self-serving agenda may have motivated this framing of the terms of debate, the symbolism is objectively correct. And it is a reflective aristocracy, attuned to the needs of all, brought up to serve, that is best equipped under this symbolism to uphold the social order, if it will do what it does best.

If a reflective class of guardians is meant to safeguard respect for the law of God, widening the franchise in Britain was either a stroke of genius or a stroke of madness. Which it was remains to be seen. In the Britain of today, it is perhaps the widened franchise that allows the liberal bourgeois élite to be chastened by the people, particularly by working-class folk. Votes for the UK Independence Party, whatever that party’s flaws, have made for a viable alternative to the tired neoliberal consensus of the main party establishments. Perhaps, when all is said and done, the voices of ordinary people will have been enough to give a strong message of no confidence in the culture of bailouts for the City and concession of sovereign power to the unaccountable, unelected, unknown bureaucracy of the European Union. If so, let the guardians take note and remember their duty.

The fact is that statesmanship is not democratic. That power accrues to certain lineages is beyond dispute. But it is better that we have good aristocrats than bad, and that we, acknowledging the truth, set out to cultivate the most virtuous character in those who could be guardians, beholden neither to the rich nor to the poor. Such persons, even if various class interests seem incommensurable, may devote themselves to the common good and listen for the needs of all. Who knows? They may even forge one nation anew from its old shards. God save the Queen, whose majesty is an image of his own majesty in heaven, which in the Last Day will come to judge the quick and the dead. May all who are charged with keeping society acknowledge him to be the Lord and keep their bond, that he may bless us with greater obedience and godlier examples of life.

Assyrians Silenced by Western Media


Photograph: Steven Vidler/Eurasia Press/Corbis.

In all the moral outrage over the destruction of ancient Assyrian artifacts, I have rarely heard Assyrians speak. Instead, the folk who have spoken the most have been Western liberals. It seems to me a pathetic irony that this drowning out of Assyrian voices against the destruction of cultural artifacts important to the Assyrian people has effectively left Daesh (the self-styled ‘Islamic State’) the only close-to-native voice receiving much attention. There is one thing to conclude: the White Man’s Burden strikes again, and the Assyrians themselves have been silenced. For all its handwringing about imperialism and White guilt, the Western élite has only shown itself once again to pay little heed to the chief stakeholders, dominating the moral discourse in their stead. Let the moral voices of Iraqis and especially of the Assyrians speak for themselves.

For Chinese-Californian Domestic Architecture

In the Straits Settlements of Singapore, Penang, and Malacca, Chinese settlers have made their architectural mark; in the United States, this has not happened. As the Chinese become increasingly prominent in American life, I expect that our cultural contribution will increase, especially in California, where a third of Chinese Americans live. Fremont and similar cities, which are more than 15% East Asian, would be excellent places for architects to explore new ways of designing houses which were attuned to Chinese culture.

For Chinese folk, layout ideally will suit Chinese needs. A page might be taken from the way in which houses were laid out in ancient Rome, whose family culture was in some ways similar to that of the Chinese. Here is a basic Roman domus, or house:

And here is an extended layout that provides for two sets of bedrooms, one around the atrium (main hall) and the other around the peristyle (garden court):

In a Chinese household, the main hall would be the place where the ancestor cabinet and the home altar were kept, corresponding to the Roman lararium, at which the household gods used to be worshipped. Since I have already discussed how Christians might adapt these things, I shall pass over that matter here, saying only that a Christian family and a pagan family would each have its own way of using the space for worship. For both, however, the most fitting place for the altar would be opposite the entrance.

Besides the altar, the Roman atrium also had an impluvium, or rainwater basin, which gathered water from the sloping roof of the compluvium above. Though a distinctively Roman feature, it is not without parallel in Chinese practice. According to Ronald G. Knapp, in China’s Old Dwellings (Honolulu, Hawai‘i: Univ. of Hawai‘i Press, 2000), many an old southern Chinese house has a skywell (天井), which like an atrium lets light and air into the house. Like the Romans, the Chinese have often stored rainwater, though in large vats. Especially in the drought-prone Californian climate, keeping this water rather than allowing it to run off helps save precious drinking water. In the summer, says Knapp, the skywell itself also catches passing breezes and evacuates interior heat. If we are to prepare for scarce water and energy, these features are worth making available.

In a larger house with two sets of bedrooms, the bedrooms opening upon the main hall would be more suitable for guests, and the more private area in the back could be reserved for the family. This separation corresponds well to Chinese practice in a traditional house, which maintained a hierarchy of living spaces. But the back rooms, in many cases, would be better stacked on top of the rooms arranged around the main hall. Especially in California, space is often at a præmium, and the use of a second story allows for flexible garden space in the back, perhaps with herbs, vegetables, and clothes-lines. Though earthquakes have made one-story houses common, the Bay Area is not short on houses with two storeys. Either way, however, a usual separation of spaces fits well with the Chinese need for clear order.

Photograph by Miguel Virkkunen Carvalho (CC BY 2.0).

For a two-story façade, fitting construction and stylistic details might be found in the houses of Provence and other houses inspired by Provençal architecture. The look of Provence would fit well with the climate of some parts of the Bay Area, and in time architects could find ways to combine Provençal construction and colour with Chinese elements, as the folk of Penang have done with the cultures in their context.

Before the house, a front porch and a front yard could serve as the forecourt. Following Chinese tradition, the entrance into this forecourt, whether a gate or a simple opening in a hedge, would be placed to the southeast – that is, toward the right from the perspective of the street.

Photograph by Sarah Gilbert (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

In keeping with the American tradition of the front porch – a tradition the folk at Front Porch Republic have stressed – the use of a soft forecourt affirms the republican tradition of bridging the privacy of individual persons and their families and the public good of the commonwealth. As Patrick J. Deneen says, ‘The porch, as a physical bridge between the private realm of the house and the public domain of the street and sidewalk, was the literal intermediate space between two worlds that have been increasingly separated in our time, and hence increasingly ungoverned in both forms.’ Thus a feature of Chinese architecture can be adapted to support, on American soil, both the life of our republic and every family’s need for fellowship with a society greater than itself, a society that at last embraces the entire human race. Especially when the Chinese are held to keep to ourselves and serve the kindred of the Chinese rather than the whole that is the United States – to care for the advancement of our own children in élite universities but not for the common interest – the semi-open forecourt is a place to prove that imputation wrong and to add Chinese strengths to the American republic. We are neighbours, and our use of the space can reflect that truth.

By bringing Chinese architecture into concourse with ancient Roman and modern American republicanism, I hope to have encouraged the cultivation of Chinese virtues in the American state and the inculcation of American habits in Chinese persons. As the Trimetric Classic says, 人之初,性本善,性相近,習相遠:Man has been created with a good nature; but though nature brings us together, as Aristotle also tells us, habit takes us apart. Hence, to integrate a large population of Chinese in the States and also to acclimate Americans to a world in which the Chinese must be known is a greater task than simply setting up Chinese shops for commerce and putting up Chinese folk in American tract houses, even in the prosperous Silicon Valley. We need the gifts God has providentially developed to be formed into a cohærent whole, and we need the gifts of architects who will understand the task and apply their skill to it.

Eschatological Cabinet

Perhaps you know what the image above shows. It is a Chinese shrine cabinet, once used by a prosperous family to hold the spirit tablets of the ancestors. Today, however, I am considering the use such a thing would have for a Christian family. Obviously, the superstitions of the pagan past do not belong to the pure worship of the luminous faith of Jesus Christ, so rites and cæremonies, and even ornaments, must differ from those which the pagans use.

A cabinet, of course, is meant to be opened. Inside, on the backdrop, I would have written the Beatitudes:


And surrounding these words I would have memorial tablets for the ancestors who had died in the faith, with whose honourable examples we also strove, by the might of Jesus Christ, to live for the righteousness of God. And this whole cabinet would be the reredos to the home altar, and in it we would keep the family Bible.

When the family was worshipping God, we would take the Bible out of the reredos and have it on the table until it was to be read. The ancestors’ memorial tablets would bear witness to the presence of God and the blessed hope of everlasting life. On their death days, we would read their commemorations after the official Collect of the Day. In this way, the Bible of all God’s people would beautify the tablets of the ancestors, and the tablets would serve the word of God. When the Scriptures were read, they would be represented as being in the midst of the living and the dead, in the communion of all the saints in Christ Jesus. When we sang praises to God, and offered prayers in the Name of his Son, we would remember that the ancestors did the same, as well as innumerable angels and all the company of heaven, and we would look toward the life of the world to come.

And if a cleric should come to prepare communion for the sick, it would be on the table standing before this reredos, wherein were written all the names of family’s faithful departed. Death, then, is not a lonesome passage, but an entrance in communion with all those in the family who have gone before into Sheol in the footsteps of our Lord. Into the joy of the saints in everlasting rest will he go, with the ancestors, who trusts in the Lord. The Lord’s body and blood are the last tokens of his faithfulness in death and in life, that those who feed upon the life he has given will surely rise to everlasting life at the Last Day.

All this awaits a family that daily gathers not around entertainment but around piety. The family must seek the wisdom and assistance of the Lord who has saved the ancestors and will save his own who are now living. Salvator mundi, salva nos, qui per crucem et sanguinem redemisti nos: auxiliare nobis, te deprecamur, Deus noster.

For a Sober Appraisal of Segregation in the Church

The Rev. David Robertson has written about Selma, racism, and apartheid in the Church.

In Sunday school I remain being ‘indoctrinated’ with the belief that ‘red, and yellow, black and white, all are precious in his sight’, long before being anti-racist [sic] became the fashion of the day. Although human sin has distorted that image and resulted in the gross sin of racism, Christ came to restore that image. He died that we might be one. As Paul says, in Christ there is no Barbarian, Scythian, slave or free.

As the Apostle says,

For he is our peace, who hath made both one, and hath broken down the middle wall of partition between us; having abolished in his flesh the enmity, even the law of commandments contained in ordinances; for to make in himself of twain one new man, so making peace; and that he might reconcile both unto God in one body by the cross, having slain the enmity thereby: and came and preached peace to you which were afar off, and to them that were nigh. For through him we both have access by one Spirit unto the Father.

Old humanity is being made, in Christ and by the Holy Spirit, into one new humanity. It almost goes without saying that the gospel of Christ brings together folk who might otherwise have little to do directly with each other: slaves and masters; Greeks and Jews; and even the least civilized Scythians on the edge of the world. That a White church institution should spend $10 million to move from the edge of the city centre to the suburbs, all to avoid serving Blacks, is clean contrary to the gospel. Likewise, it is no Christian spirit that moves Black Christians to object to White Christians’ presence in ‘their’ church. These are things Mr Robertson saw in Jackson, Mississippi, and having heard from others who come from Jackson I know the hearts of Christians need to be changed by the faith that they profess.

But I am not so sure that ‘churches based on ethnic or racial grounds’ are never biblically justified.

In a way, yes, no church based on ethnicity or race is justified: a church must be based on the faith of Jesus Christ. To pervert that basis and exchange it for similarity in looks and (sub)culture is hæretical. Today’s American society seems to have disintegrated so much that there are – though not so called – churches for the young and churches for the old. Even within a congregation with a broad range of ages, separation by age and life stage is so regimented that Christians in one group may feel discomfort at the mere presence of different people at ‘their’ events. So far has our society been splintered that few people will question it; and so, formed by consumeristic capitalism, they embrace separation in church as much as they have embraced identity politics, even if they sometimes go to events of token unity. In this separation we give the lie to the prayer of our Lord: Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on me through their word; that they all may be one; as thou, Father, art in me, and I in thee, that they also may be one in us: that the world may believe that thou hast sent me. The Church’s unity is basically mystical and not institutional, but it is to be observable enough that the world takes it as evidence that the Father has indeed sent his only-begotten Son. So this unity, though of spiritual and invisible origin, is not wanting in tangible reality. Faith is prior to the Church’s unity, not constitutive of it. Belonging in the one true Church is not a human work, since faith is not a human work, but showing the world that this unity is genuine is a human work. Thus much it is wrong to ground our common work in ethnicity or race, because that is not the foundation of the Church: the Church’s foundation is Jesus Christ our Lord.

On the other hand, though our natural gravitation toward others like ourselves must not be allowed to break up the social bonds of Church and commonwealth, I do not think we can simply say that no segregation is ever warranted. I affirm the importance of being our Christian selves as one, but I also hold that we must be ourselves as many. Even the nation of Israel had twelve tribes, and these twelve distinct but related groups formed a single people. And today, in the one and holy Church, there are many nations and tongues. To insist that each be dissolved in the whole is, no less than the vision of separate but equal islands, to deny that the faith is one: it is to deny that Christians are one until they have given up their cultures and identities for the authority of the centre. Such a call is crueller in principle than the detestable enormities of Rome, for it separates sons from their fathers and daughters from their mothers. It may be the call of liberalism, and the call of the July Monarchy that ruled over France from 1830 to 1848, but it is not the call of the Christian faith. There are other bonds, other loyalties, which are not greater than the bond of peace which is the Holy Ghost, but which no part of God’s word dissolves, because those bonds are made and consecrated by God himself. And God is one, and what he hath himself joined together, let not man put asunder.

So what we need to identify are those natural bonds which God has made. As Aquinas has said, ‘Gratia non tollit naturam sed perficit’: grace does not destroy nature, but perfects it. Parent and child, husband and wife, these are sacred bonds that the Church has no authority to break. Beyond these are other bonds that we must examine before pronouncing upon their maintenance the name of sin. To set oneself against the presence of different folk is to set oneself against the gospel; but to commit oneself to loyal service to one’s own people while loving those of other nations and together acknowledging the same God, as well as the one holy catholic and apostolic Church, is only to attend to nature as God has made it.

There is much sin that separates the Church, but there is also local loyalty that rather builds up the Church than fragments it. Let us discriminate these carefully.

My Rosary


I did get a rosary. There goes my Reformed cred, right? Well, I asked the maker to ensure that there was no ‘ora pro nobis,’ nor anything with the Sacred Heart of Jesus or the Immaculate Heart of Mary – such, then, that a Protestant may use without scruple, convinced in his heart that nothing about the rosary itself can in any wise please God, but only the devotion of prayers and meditations on the life of Christ.

The centre piece is of St Patrick, that I may remember to bind unto myself the strong Name of the Trinity. The beads, which are made of jasper, also remind me of the heavenly city, whose foundation is God.


It is clear that women, at least in some way, may speak and have spoken in the Church with God’s approval. St Paul himself, who calls for women to be silent, has not given an absolute injunction. A woman may prophesy, says St Paul, if her head be covered; but a woman may not use the power of the keys upon a man.

Reverent Burial

The burial of a parent is one of the most important events of a Chinese person’s life. To do this reverently is morally requisite, no less for the Christian than for the pagan – only the Christian is to do it in full assurance of God’s mercy to all who believe in his Name.

The Confucian teaching on funerals is explained by Chen Huanzhang (陳煥章) in The Economic Principles of Confucius and His School (New York: Columbia University, 1911). Though we should not spend indulgently on funerals, in a form of conspicuous consumption, we should take care to honour our fathers and our mothers, for this is right. The cæremonies observed in the Confucian tradition are such as are useful for training people in a natural reverence for, and service to, the memory of our departed parents; while resisting the predations of the death industry, most of us also cannot suppress an instinctive and laudable desire to pay our respects to the dead as we loved them when they were with us.

Therefore, though we may not enclose our dead in several layers of coffins, we ought nevertheless to spend a moderate amount of our substance to bury our dead decently. As Mencius says (tr. Bloom, ed. Ivanhoe),

Now, in high antiquity there were some who did not bury their parents. When their parents died, they picked them up and cast them into a ditch. Another day, when they passed by, they saw that they were being devoured by foxes and wildcats and bitten by flies and gnats. Sweat broke out on their foreheads, and they averted their eyes to avoid the sight. The sweat was not because of what other would think but was an expression in their faces and eyes of what was present in their innermost hearts. They returned home and brought earth-carrying baskets and spades to cover them over. Burying them was truly right, and filial children and benevolent people also act properly when they bury their parents.

Mencius also says of filial devotion, ‘I have heard that the noble person would not for anything in the world stint when it came to his parents.’ Thus it is that, though we must keep modesty, we should also allow our natural feelings to be expressed; for it is modesty itself that keeps us from casting our parents’ bodies into a ditch. So when our parents die we attend to them. We wrap them in shrouds lest disgust should overtake sorrow, and we put them into coffins to mourn their death and – if we are Christian – remember that in the Father’s house are many rooms Christ has prepared for those who love him. Thinking of the deaths of our parents, we can also think of the Father of all who for the love of his Son will raise up those of our parents who have placed their hope in him.

The Trappist monks of New Melleray Abbey make coffins as a work of mercy, and one of the monks also offers his prayers on behalf of the deceased:

Merciful Father, by your Son’s suffering, death, and rising from the dead, we are freed from death and promised a share in your divine life. By the hands of monks each day raised in praise of your goodness, this casket was fashioned for your child who died in faith. We ask you now to bless this casket. Receive the soul of our departed brother or sister who is laid in this humble bed as in a cradle, safe in your care until the day of resurrection, when we will all be reunited in the vision of your glory who are Father, Son, and Spirit, one God forever and ever. Amen.

Though I think there is no biblical warrant for the blessing of coffins, prayer for the day of resurrection, and for God’s blessing upon the family, is good. The Trappists at New Melleray Abbey are doing their part to help others honour God and the faithful departed, both by their prayers and by the care they put into making decent coffins. The coffins they make are not above the station of most folk, but seemly enough to hold our parents’ bodies and to commend them to us as worthy of continued honour even when they are no longer with us. As Xunzi tells us (tr. Hutton),

The standard practice of funeral rites is that one changes the appearance of the corpse by gradually adding more ornamentation, one moves the corpse gradually farther away, and over a long time one gradually returns to one’s regular routine. Thus, the way that death works is that if one does not ornament the dead, then one will come to feel disgust at them, and if one feels disgust, then one will not feel sad.

Cremation, which is alien to the Chinese way and the historic Christian practice, does not ornament but rather denigrates the dead and treats them as disposables to be burned away for ever; it is suitable for Hindus, Buddhists, and atheists. We know that worms will destroy this body, but he who is reverent and believes in the resurrection of the dead will not deal lightly with his parents’ bodies, even when they are dead, because he knows the Lord will dignify and make them glorious.

Even our Lord, when he died, was laid in a tomb by those who loved him; and Mary of Bethany had anointed him with spikenard for the day of his burial, and he had commended her for it. This is love, this is the better part, and it will not be taken away for the sake of those who scoff at the expense. God tells us we will always have the poor, and so we must serve the poor, but he does not condemn the apparent waste of money on those who are dead and will be alive. He sees both and commends us for both, and in both he makes beauty among us and his face to shine upon us.

Mountain View Cemetery. By Stephen Coles (CC BY-NC-SA 2.0).

Restrained Tractarian Cæremonial

Bp Peter Robinson remembers the Tractarian worship of his youth:

The ceremonial was pretty simple. Eucharistic vestments were used for the Holy Communion, but there was no elevation or ringing of bells at the consecration, and reverences [were] confined to bows. A couple of Readers assisted at the main Sunday Eucharist as Chalice Bearers, Epistoller, and server. Incense was reserved for the three great feasts of Christmas, Easter, and Whitsunday. Mattins and Evensong saw the officiant in traditional Anglican choir dress – cassock, surplice, tippet and hood. Everything from ‘O Lord, open thou our lips’ to the end of the third Collect except for the lessons was sung or chanted with the sermon rounding off the service before the blessing. Sometimes these services would be left to the Readers, with the priest giving just the absolution and the blessing.

Except for the eucharistic vestments – for I do not even favour stoles – this is all quite close to what I think ideal. In fact, though I like to see and smell incense upon two more feasts, namely Ascension and Trinity Sunday (which is the octave of Whitsunday), perhaps keeping it to the three great feasts is better for an ordinary parish church. Such a relatively modest cæremonial is perhaps just what Confucius thought the soundest practice:「林放問禮之本。子曰。大哉問禮、與齊奢也、寧儉; 喪、與其易也、寧戚。」In English, ‘Lin Fang asked about the fundamentals of ritual. Confucius said, “What an excellent question! In ritual, it is better to be frugal than extravagant; in funerals deep sorrow is better than ease.” ’ The ritual and cæremonial, in other words, meant as it is to serve the real need of developing earnest human feeling, should be modest enough not to be distracting but not so easy that it demands nothing. It is right to subordinate the body to the good of the soul.

Miscegenation Not to Be Lightly Enterprised

Having some miscegenation is not a problem: the Pomo Indians of California have even practised language exogamy without endangering themselves. Though it is often commendable, however, I think people need to approach their marriage choices thoughtfully and actually consider the cultural advantages and disadvantages. To act as if marriage is only a match of two persons is naïve at best, and an intercultural marriage needs to accept responsibility for two communities. Contrary to the internationalist presumptions of many liberals, we are in no way bound to support anything that mixes people up, even though it is no crime for culturally different folk to marry.

I suspect that intercultural marriage requires the preëxistence of a certain degree of trust and understanding between the two kinds. That way, a marriage cultivates a relationship that already exists rather than forcing strangers into a false relationship.

For me, to marry a Japanese lady would be no mean task. Multum obstat. Those who are able, I respect them, but I myself would have to find overwhelming virtues to even consider having a Japanese wife and Japanese in-laws.

Likewise, I am increasingly convinced that marrying someone White who bore little relation to the Chinese would likely be disastrous. Several in my family, both in my generation and in the generation above me, have married White Americans or Europeans; but in every case both spouses need to some extent to identify with the other ethnicity. It would be out of the question to marry a White lady who had no steady interest in learning Chinese.

It is ignorant to take offence at people liking to marry their own kind, and it is tyrannical to suppress this preference under the pretence of integration. It is one thing to oppose antimiscegenation laws, but another thing to imagine that miscegenation is always good. In many cases, it is unwise, and I am unwilling to accept the use of marriage as a pawn for anyone’s utopian ideals. For those who marry are stewards of their people’s heritage and the institution of marriage, and those who flout their duties dishonour their parents.

Better Buildings: Silicon Valley Alliance Church in Comparison

Some of my relatives attend Silicon Valley Alliance Church (SVAC) in Milpitas, at 10 Dempsey Street. This is the view shown by Google Maps:

Across Dempsey Road to the north is a strip mall, and across South Victoria Park Drive to the east, beyond another strip mall, is Ocean Supermarket.

Placed in this context, the church building could stand prominently among the strip malls as a place where God spoke, a place where people could seek his face. Instead, it is only one story tall, flatter and wider than it is tall. (The low ceiling and the carpeted floor also make for poor acoustics, which by nature discourage congregational singing.) The entrance used by most people to get to the worship service looks like this:

Much more, I think, could be done to make this look like a place where people worshipped God, rather than a generic building that might as well be called ‘Building’. Architecture serves not only physical needs but also the human need for context and orientation, and these are what the SVAC building does not give.

In contrast, look at the façade of St Thomas, Fifth Street, New York:

Front elevation plan of the church

The building cannot be mistaken for anything but a house of worship. Anyone who wants to worship God, or is thinking of worshipping God, is presented with just the thing. Any signs with the name of St Thomas Church are there only to confirm which church it is, not to announce that this is a place for the worship of God. As a landmark, then, St Thomas is far superior; with SVAC, which is in no way distinctive, there is no comparison.

One obvious thing about St Thomas is its very different proportions. Its nave is 43 feet wide between columns, and 95 feet from the pavement to the vault. The SVAC building, of course, need not be of such grand dimensions, but some height would enhance its presence in the neighbourhood. Indeed, substantial height in the presence of strip malls and a single-story supermarket would suggest God’s dominance over the immediate surroundings, which I think an unequivocal good. Perhaps a taller church building could even be seen by someone walking to or from Calaveras Hills High School, the local alternative high school, and later lead to opportunities for school chaplaincy. Though a prominent building is obviously unable to do any good on its own, it may help Christians minister to the city.


Besides height and landmarking, however, St Thomas also has other features that are instructive for any redesign of the SVAC building. At the bottom of the floorplan above, four vault bays have pews in them. Indeed, at St Thomas, there is a second story of gallery pew space. For a congregation of SVAC’s size, the additional pew space is probably unnecessary, but what is needed is classroom space; and that is what might similarly be furnished by space outside the side aisle. These classrooms could be separated from the worship space by a solid wall, much like the solid wall on the north side of St Thomas.

Even with the solid walls next to the side aisles, there would still be window space in the open triforium and clerestory to fill the place with light, eliminating the need in the daytime to use a full set of electric lights. Instead, the light created by God himself and set in the sky would light up the worshippers as they prayed and sang praises toward heaven.

The reason St Thomas has an asymmetrical façade, with a heavy tower on the left and none on the right, is that the left side is next to 53rd Street, whereas the right side is nestled close to another building. The tower, then, is right at the street corner, calling the city to prayer. For SVAC, the nearby building would be the strip mall to the west – that is, to the left of the entrance on Dempsey Street – and so a redesigned building whose practical solutions were inspired by those of St Thomas, Fifth Street, would instead have a tower on the right, on the far side away from the strip mall. This would also allow the side classrooms potentially to have doors open to the outside, toward the parking lot, if anyone needed to be picked up or dropped off. This, I think, would be well-informed adaptation rather than slavish imitation.

Obviously, a Gothic building is only one way to do things. In Milpitas, the kind of Gothic used for St Thomas might even be rather out of place. I note, however, that First Presbyterian Church of San Leandro, built in an English Gothic style, has no difficulty fitting into its surroundings. Any design would have to be sensitive to its surroundings and strive to make the building an integral part of its neighbourhood; but, with some imaginative skill, a competent architect could do the necessary.

Traditionalism Without God? Forget It

By Ryan McGuire (CC0 1.0).

By Ryan McGuire (CC0 1.0).

Thinking traditionalists need to engage with the best of the tradition that was there before self-identified traditionalists and reactionaries wrote. These are the ones who successfully appealed to the common good rather than vituperating the world for not looking like the world of yesteryear. Hooker, Althusius, and Pufendorf seem to have done good work. People like Swift and Dávila are fun, but one does not build up society with them.

Otherwise, traditionalists are serving dead wood. Their wildest dreams are but fantasies of children they are impotent to beget.

Underlying the neoliberal order, however, is some kind of theology, even if at times what T. S. Eliot recognized as a very negative theology with no cohærent positive vision. A strong positive theology, as we see in the evil ISIS, can be quite powerful in the face of neoliberal impotence. But traditionalists who do nothing but negate modernity have no such power, and what they need to do is more than any human tradition: they need to stare at the face of God, see the image of God in their fellow men, and do what society’s betterment most requires. For this is an act of charity, an act that bears the fruit of the Spirit; and with such, for the sake of his Son, God is well pleased. An impotent traditionalist, in other words, is one who has forgotten that God is there; but someone who remembers his face in the mirror and never forgets the love of God is strong in the Spirit, able by faith, and at God’s good pleasure, to show wisdom and sometimes miraculous power.

Your Revival’s God Is Too Small

By Pasu Au Yeung (CC BY 2.0).

A month ago, Matt Wakeling wrote provocatively about the pitfalls of thinking about revival. Responses have been written by Elle Cronin, Ollie Ip, and Yannick Christos-Wahab. I’ll weigh in here so that my blog’s readers can also enter this conversation.

The success of gospel missions will be seen in repentance under the judgement of the Lord of hosts:

Woe to him that buildeth a town with blood, and stablisheth a city by iniquity! Behold, is it not of the Lord of hosts that the people shall labour in the very fire, and the people shall weary themselves for very vanity? For the earth shall be filled with the knowledge of the glory of the Lord, as the waters cover the sea.

Woe to them that carry on in idolatry and in the worship of false gods. That is the way of death, and nations who follow it are like Sodom and Gomorrah, doomed to die. But the Lord is in his holy temple: let all the earth keep silence before him. A dead world is one that serves dead things, but a revived world is one that keeps an awed silence before the holiness of the glory of the Lord.

So we should not give up the Lord’s vision of a whole earth that worships him. This is the natural end to which creation is ordered, and anything short of this end is not enough. Nevertheless, Matt and Mrs Cronin have a good point, that we must remember that God is already everywhere working, and that the Father has set his choices unalterable, and the Son has already died for the sin of all men, and the Holy Ghost has been working right from the Fall to teach men virtue and give them faith. Let us not forget, then:

Whilst a number of traditional denominations in the UK report a struggle to keep numbers, church plants from various ‘Christian: Other’ denominations are continuing to grow and blossom. I think leaders and congregations can see true revival every week when someone new asks for prayer, or just a coffee and a chat. There is a sudden, heart-felt change, a breath of life, that may indeed set off a domino-effect in others. It might not. God is still there.

A nation is not revived, a community is not revived, unless its members are filled with the Spirit. Yet one person filled with the Spirit is through faith a member of the catholic Church, and his regeneration cannot be understood or even complete without the life of the holy Church. Let us not neglect that God works in the little things, the despised things, but let us also remember that the whole world, for whom God’s only-begotten Son died, is naturally meant (by God’s command) to serve as his holy priesthood. And mankind is by nature organized into many kinds of households: families, consociations, and nations. Let him deny the piety of national revival who denies the truth of Psalm 85:

Wilt thou be displeased at us for ever : and wilt thou stretch out thy wrath from one generation to another?
Wilt thou not turn again, and quicken us : that thy people may rejoice in thee?
Shew us thy mercy, O Lord : and grant us thy salvation.

The Lord has not finished dealing with families and nations, nor has he stopped blessing children for the sake of their faithful parents. His faithfulness is real. Though we do not understand it, nor elect for ourselves how he will accomplish his ends, we can and must pray for it to be manifest. Let us beg the Lord, not because we or our fathers have the merits – for we have no such merits – but rather because the Lord is pleased to work through the natural bonds of family while also grafting those into his Church who have never been Israelites.

Let it not be in hypocrisy, but in sincerity and truth, that we seek to serve our families and our nations and to build them up in godliness. The word of God itself demands that we seek for them the peace that only the Holy Ghost confers; but let us trust in the merits of Christ and the persuasion of his Holy Spirit, not in the earthly power and glory of all that tickles the ear and impresses the eyes. In other words, let us be chaste.

The empire of God is not found in the colonial hand of Rome, but instead our citizenship is in heaven. The glory we shall look for, the glory of which the knowledge is to fill all the earth, is to be found when the Lord Jesus Christ shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself. As they used to say in the coronations of the Holy Roman Emperor, ‘Christus vincit, Christus regnat, Christus imperat’: Christ conquers, Christ reigns, Christ gives the orders. For his everlasting glory, though his rule is also in the ministry of the civil power and the grave and learned rulings of godly bishops, we are to look not in the pomp of the world but in the leaven-like work of the Spirit. That alone is a sign of the righteousness that endures to everlasting life. Lift up, therefore, your hearts.

God has used the Roman, British, and American empires for his purposes, just as he has used the Assyrian and the Babylonian and the Persian. There have been good kings and bad kings, God-fearing kings and wicked kings. Yannick rightly draws our attention to the social advances effected through a Christian culture. (And, honesty, would anyone prefer the vile and anti-Christian culture of ISIS?) As Ollie says of the term revival, ‘what is needed is the word’s rehabilitation, such that “revival” is not seeking for a once “Christian” nation to be revived into the image of it’s [sic] former self, but for a broken creation to be revived into the image of the Kingdom of God.’ That is, if our vision is only for the nation to look respectable once again, our vision is too small. God was not contained in Rome, Britain, or America, for not even in ancient Israel was his kingdom contained. It is natural to look at nations and pray for nations – what else do overseas missionaries do? – but our eyes need to be catholic enough to look at Christ’s commission and the Holy Ghost’s emission for the whole world, and to count all other glories loss in comparison with the treasure that will not die.

Taking the bigger view, Ollie points out, ‘He is bringing the Kingdom, which is is something more than just evangelism and discipleship (neither of which I am devaluing in the slightest), but extends to include the ending of systemic injustice on a grander scale. War. Poverty. Sickness.’ So great and so profound are the systematic changes God calls for, and so inextricably bound with things particular to this life, that we who are honest about these changes cannot call them anything but Christendom. The Kingdom of God is no less than that. But it is more.

Perambulating Berkeley as Priests

The Mennonite historian and missiologist Alan Kreider says in ‘Ressourcement and Mission’, Anglican Theological Review 96.2 (2014), 260, ‘When we watch the Jerusalem Christians of the late fourth century practicing ambulatory, “stational” worship, we will think of ways that Christians in pluralist societies can give public demonstration to their faith.’ Especially if we ought to separate worship for the baptized and formation for those who are being initiated, yet in a time when believers are not persecuted and so are still free to appear openly in public as Christians, perhaps processions are a way for the Church to show her presence by reminding the world that its peace is secured by the ministry of Jesus Christ and the prayers of the Church.

Such a procession would probably start at the door of the church building or of the house where believers were accustomed to gather. From thence it would go to places of spiritual import, places that needed prayer. On the way to these places, the believers would sing psalms that were fitting for the occasion, and stopping at these stations they would give their prayers, which a man would articulate on behalf of the entire group in a short collect. This public exercise would require a sense of spiritual geography. Perhaps, turning from a place where Christian students lived, the procession would go toward a place where people ate. The Lord upholdeth all that fall, and raiseth up all those that be bowed down. The eyes of all wait upon thee; and thou givest them their meat in due season. Thou openest thine hand, and satisfiest the desire of every living thing. And the prayer might be for those who ate, who were filled with good things by the hand of the Lord, that they would acknowledge him who had made all these things and come to know the peace of God offered in the holy gospel. Blessed for ever be his holy Name, in whom is all our help.

In-N-Out Gyros and other food court finds. By quite peculiar (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

And thence on to the university campus, a place of learning and hearts shrouded in darkness. I will praise thee with uprightness of heart, when I shall have learned thy righteous judgments. I will keep thy statutes: O forsake me not utterly. For the law of the Lord is perfect, and the law of the Lord is the basis of all learning, for the fear of the Lord is the beginning of knowledge. I have declared my ways, and thou heardest me: teach me thy statutes. Make me to understand the way of thy precepts: so shall I talk of thy wondrous works. Teach us, O Lord, to know thy will displayed throughout the world, whose truths we discover in the many sciences. Thy hands have made me and fashioned me: give me understanding, that I may learn thy commandments. The whole world is a school for piety, and all its knowledge directed toward praise, if only the Father of all will give us understanding. Of the making of books there is no end, and God alone is the giver of delight. That those who read many words and write many words and speak many words may hear in the silences the word of the Lord, may God hear our fervent prayers. We stop at the lecture halls, the libraries, the laboratories. O Christ, hear us.

Sather Tower. By Michelle658 (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

At the clock tower, one remembers that all men must live and die, and that praise must be sung to God for the time that is given us and the hour that is appointed for our death. And the only-begotten Son of God himself, incarnate as a man, has died for us and our salvation, and by his precious death and glorious resurrection has redeemed the race of sinful men, and we believe that he will come to be our judge at the Last Day and set all things right.

Sather Tower reflection. By OhOlek (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Therefore we look up to the heavens, whence the Son of Man is to come with power and glory, and remember the washing of regeneration which assures us that he will change this vile body into his glorious body, incorruptible. And in the meantime he is King.

Sproul Hall. By Prayitno Hadinata (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

All power and authority in heaven and on earth is in his hand. Beautiful for situation, the joy of the whole earth, is mount Zion, on the sides of the north, the city of the great King. God is known in her palaces for a refuge. For, lo, the kings were assembled, they passed by together. They saw it, and so they marvelled; they were troubled, and hasted away. The gates of hell shall not prevail against his kingdom, which shall have no end. Let the people praise him. Thy God hath commanded thy strength: strengthen, O God, that which thou hast wrought for us. Because of thy temple at Jerusalem shall kings bring presents unto thee. Therefore shall no man stand against his will, but their hearts will melt like wax, and they will be scattered who will not do honour to his Name.

People’s Park. By Thomas Hawk (CC BY-NC-ND 2.0).

Down the street the Christians go, to the park where beggars live, the Pool of Bethesda where the shadows lie. My heart is smitten, and withered like grass; so that I forget to eat my bread. It is a house of affliction and drugs. They shall perish, but thou shalt endure: yea, all of them shall wax old like a garment; as a vesture shalt thou change them, and they shall be changed: but thou art the same, and thy years shall have no end. Let us pray that the Lord may lift up the countenances of those who are in the shadow of death, and show the glory of his Name. Hear us, Almighty God, that the waste may become the meadow of the blooming crocus, and the deaf hear, and the mute speak, and the lame dance for joy in thy righteousness.

Through all these places the believers went, for they trusted in God that he would deliver them. Through their prayers God looked upon the place and blessed the Church with great wisdom and power to give due priestly honour to his Name and proclaim the Desire of Nations. As they worked for love of their neighbour, the Holy Ghost moved upon the waters, and fear came upon the people to lighten their minds toward the knowledge of God.

Asking Pagans Not to Attend Church?

Or, ne paganos adducant liturgiæ, lest they bring pagans to the liturgy.

These days, it seems, most evangelicals think the way to minister to pagans is to invite them to the Church’s worship, supposing that the pagans, seeing our pious worship, will themselves be moved to piety. That was not the practice of the Church in her early days, who instead kept a measure of secrecy (or modesty?) and excluded those who were learning about the faith from seeing or taking part in believers’ worship services. Perhaps this is what we, too, ought to do, since calling people to attend believers’ worship – such as during the Great Awakening – was a practice more characteristic of times when those who were so called were already baptized. Perhaps the distinction between the worship of the faithful and the instruction of the hearers has been eroded by revivalism and forgetfulness, and we should guard it once more in an age when many are strangers again to the Church and to the Bible and its doctrines.

Related: ‘The Prayer Book in the Process of Evangelism’.