Who says nothing is sacred?
Archive for the 'Religion' Category
A year ago I was dispassionately composing my analysis. Today, when I left the Sprint campus and drove east on 115th Street to turn north on Nall toward I-435, there were TV news vans with telescoping antennae lining the street at the entrance to the Jewish Community Center.
Coincidentally the number of dead is identical. There are, however, no (physically) injured survivors, and the motivation for the attack was similar only in that it was intended to draw attention to a cause. I fear that the perpetrator is cunning enough to succeed in that; his previous notoriety was due to legally forcing some radio stations to briefly carry Nazi ads during an election campaign season. Much has been made of the gentile – and indeed seriously committed Christian – identity of the victims, but I believe that was unimportant to him. What mattered was that he seize a mechanism for dissemination of conspiracy theories, and now, given the administrative blockheadedness of the American justice system and the puerile conventions of American journalism, we are all too likely to be subjected to many hours and tens of thousands of words of exceptionally vicious, totalitarian propaganda, varying portions of which will be heard by tens of millions of people. This guy knew exactly what he was doing.
I could tell that from the video snippets of his arrest, just as I could tell, hours before it was officially confirmed, that he would turn out to have come from rural Missouri (Aurora is nearly a 3-hour drive from Overland Park; he had to have cased both facilities beforehand) and would turn out to be a southerner with prior Klan involvement. It was completely obvious from his accent, his tone of voice, and his attitude on camera. He is now operating inside the American institutional OODA loop. Our entirely proper determination to grant a scrupulously fair trial – when we’re not piling on the charges in order to ram a plea bargain through, that is – will be roughly equivalent to giving him not airtime for advertisements, but his own highly rated nationwide radio network.
Fortunately, he is also sufficiently sui generis that copycat attacks are unlikely, at least in the immediate future. Should an American Dolchstoßlegende catch on, however, things may deteriorate sharply. The general case is to scapegoat a relatively small, easily-identified minority: it was the “1%,” or twenty-five guys on Wall Street, or the Koch brothers – or George Soros, or Obama/Pelosi/Reid, or the leftist academics on their Long March through the institutions – or (of course) Jews, or Latino immigrants or Asians stealing our jobs. If we just expropriate, or deport, or exterminate them, and everyone like them, the story goes, our country will be purified, and Utopia ensue. The ideology may be Nazi or Communist; either will do in a pinch, as Hayek wrote nearly three-quarters of a century ago: its adherents are uncertain, and know only that they hate Western liberal civilization.
Just to make things more complicated, tolerance can definitely be taken too far. Interviews with the perpetrator’s neighbors in Lawrence County, Missouri, immediately elicit idiotic postmodernist comments to the effect that he seemed like a nice enough guy but had some opinions that they didn’t agree with. Great. Your assigned reading is here, you nitwits.
So when blood ran in the streets of my city, did I follow my own advice in the ostensibly-uplifting conclusion to my analysis of a year ago, and immediately redouble my efforts on whatever it is I was supposed to be doing? Well, it was a Sunday, so there was somewhat less of that, although I tend to devise more projects for my spare time than I could possibly execute anyway. But in the event, whatever it may say about me, I felt tremendously violated, as though the murders had occurred in my driveway rather than six miles away. And what I actually did was drink rather more cheap boxed red wine than usual and break down a couple of times. I don’t have any particular aversion to weeping, but I don’t need to do so very often. Turns out I needed to on Sunday evening. The question of how I will react should much larger-scale events occur in even closer proximity remains unanswered.
The problem, of course, is that this kind of thing isn’t supposed to happen here … which is a rather hypocritical sentiment in light of the actual statistics on violent death locally. A couple-three people a week get murdered in this town, three-quarters of them in an area covering only one-tenth of the municipality of KC, Mo., and a tiny fraction of the area of the entire MSA. Assuming that the said area (34 mi²) has the same population density as zip code 64130 (of which it largely consists), a moment with a calculator establishes that the homicide rate in question – the southwestern boundary of that area reaches to within two miles of my house – is nearly 80 per 100,000 per year, making it one of the most dangerous places in the Western world, and also as dangerous as Iraq before the Surge, which the media thoughtfully informed us at the time was the Worst Thing Ever. Gallivanting off to Haïti is all very well, but perhaps I should find a more local ministry to volunteer with while I’m at it.
But it really isn’t supposed to happen here, and not just because Overland Park is a world away from the East Side. Side-by-side, indeed inextricably mixed, with the ongoing mayhem five minutes’ drive from my doorstep is a deep reservoir of peace and contentment. God damn it, we just want to listen to jazz and eat barbecue. In its best moments, there is no gentler place on Earth. The lives of those taken on Sunday bear witness to that.
“The new thing — the thing which we had not known — the thing we have learned now and should never forget, is this: that a society of self-governing men is more powerful, more enduring, more creative than any other kind of society, however disciplined, however centralized.” – Harry S. Truman, Radio Report to the American People on the Potsdam Conference, 9 August 1945
“Boys, if you ever pray, pray for me now.” – Harry S. Truman, to reporters, 13 April 1945
Posted in Anti-Americanism, Civil Liberties, Civil Society, Crime and Punishment, Current Events, History, Judaism, Law Enforcement, National Security, Personal Narrative, Politics, Predictions, Quotations, Religion, Society, Terrorism, USA | 3 Comments »
A couple of weeks ago, I commented on an article by Joseph Bottum about the search for spiritual meaning as a driver of “progressive” politics.
Comes now an essay by David Goldman–The Rise of Secular Religion–which is in part a review of Mr Bottum’s new book, An Anxious Age: The Post-Protestant Ethic and the Spirit of America. Recommended reading. Excerpt:
America’s consensus culture, Bottum argues, is the unmistakable descendant of the old Protestant Mainline, in particular the “Social Gospel” promulgated by Walter Rauschenbusch before the First World War and adopted by the liberal majority in the Mainline denominations during the 1920s. Although this assertion seems unremarkable at first glance, the method that Bottum brings to bear is entirely original. A deeply religious thinker, he understands spiritual life from the inside. He is less concerned with the outward forms and specific dogmas of religion than with its inner experience, and this approach leads him down paths often inaccessible to secular inquiry. The book should be disturbing not only to its nominal subjects, the “Poster Children” of post-Protestant America, but also to their conservative opposition. The battle is joined on a plane far removed from the quotidian concept of political debate.
Closely related: Carbon Dioxide as Original Sin. Excerpt:
Thanks to this new green faith, our smallest acts have incalculable repercussions. The world seems literally to hang on whether we leave the water running as we brush our teeth, take the subway rather than drive, or flick off the switch as we exit a room. The humblest objects are alive with meaning. Bruckner calls it “post-technological animism” (33). Environmentalist discourse, he suggests, is a variation on the Fall of Genesis: eating of the fruit of the tree of scientific knowledge has driven us from God-given Paradise.
(link via American Digest)
Also see Paul Gottfried on the lack of interest in logical argument prevalent among today’s leftist campus professors, and how this differs from the attitudes of their predecessors of a few decades ago. Indeed, if contemporary “progressivism” is a religion, it is not a religion of the intellectual system-building type represented by, say, Saint Thomas Acquinas or William of Ockham, but rather of the most emotionally-driven type of snake-handling fundamentalism.
Also related to this topic of spiritual hunger as a driver of political belief: Arthur Koestler’s novel of ideas The Age of Longing, which I reviewed at length here: Sleeping with the Enemy.
Last Friday I was the MC for our first Midwest Business and Markets Conference. It was a great day, and Zen went over it pretty well in this post.
The day before, Thursday the 6th, I had a few hours to kill so I worked out and walked all around the Union League Club of Chicago. The place is like a museum.
Of greatest interest to me was the library.
It is an old school room, where they are still using the Dewey Decimal System. It reminded me of days long gone, when I used to have to go to the library in my hometown of Rockford, IL or at school at U of I and use the Dewey system to find out where texts were that I needed.
The ULCC library isn’t that large, so I just strolled around looking at all of the books and magazines. They have a giant signed book collection of the people who have spoken there, as well as many rare volumes under plexiglass. There were a couple of old guys who were sleeping in the soft leather chairs. It was QUIET in there and the only audible sounds were guys pecking away at their keyboards and the turning of pages.
I sort of enjoyed this quiet, as my life doesn’t afford much quiet time with work and kids and wife and farm and all the rest.
After a while I grabbed an unusual volume (to me), and below you can see the title page:
Basically, this offers a prayer (or a few) for every day of the year, including holidays and other special events. The book was printed in the thirties, and had a calendar for the prayers extrapolated out to 2013.
Some of the prayers were interesting to me, as I don’t really know squat about the Episcopalian religion. I also read a few Psalms. It brought back a few memories as when I was a child I was raised Baptist and we were forced to memorize many of the Psalms (in the King James Version).
The books in the library could be checked out by ULCC members and they used the old school cards in the front of the book, stamped with the date it needed to be returned. The prayer book had been checked out a total of once, in 1993. That may have been the last time it was touched, besides to be moved or cleaned.
Most importantly, when I opened the volume, a note fell out into my lap.
Watch over our child, O Lord, as her days increase; bless and guide her wherever she may be.
Give us, her parents, the wisdom to teach her the realities of life.
Strengthen her when she stands for what she believes in; comfort her when she is discouraged or sorrowful; raise her up if she falls in trying to grow; and in her heart may your peace which passeth understanding abide all the days of her life; through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
After reading some of the prayers and Psalms, I carefully folded the letter, placed it back in the book and put the book back on the shelf.
Cross posted at LITGM.
Beginning with the abolition of slavery, the bitter battles of American political life have often been fought over spiritual issues. It’s hard to know, for example, what else Prohibition was about. And yet the great moralizing and spiritualizing of American politics feels different these days, more complete, more all-encompassing. It’s as though our public life were not a political stadium in which spiritual footballs sometimes appear; rather the field itself has become religious. Our public life is now a supernatural game and our purely political concerns have been reduced to nothing more than footballs with which we happen to play that public game of spiritual redemption.
RTWT. I think there’s considerable truth to this: much “progressive” politics is driven by people seeking meaning in their lives, and the ostensible issues are merely markers in that search. On the other hand, though, much “progressivism” is simply about an individual’s assertion of a status position (actual or desired), and the apparent political issue is merely a “football” (to use Bottum’s term) in this status game…no spiritual angst necessarily involved. And one important aspect of status in today’s world, in many circles at least, is being perceived as “cool.”
Related to which, Greg Gutfield’s book Not Cool: The Hipster Elite and Their War on You looks interesting:
Behind every awful, dangerous decision lurks one evil beast: the Cool.
From politics to the personal, from fashion to food, from the campus to the locker room, the desire to be cool has infected all aspects of our lives. At its most harmless, it is annoying. At its worst, it is deadly, on a massive scale.
(via American Digest)
It seems that Jesus Christ returned to earth, sometime during the sixteenth century…at least, this is the premise of the parable that Ivan relates to Alyosha, in Fyodor Dostoyevsky’s novel The Brothers Karamazov. The city to which Christ came was Seville, where on the previous day before almost a hundred heretics had been burnt by the cardinal, the Grand Inquisitor, “in a magnificent auto da fe, in the presence of the king, the court, the knights, the cardinals, the most charming ladies of the court, and the whole population of Seville. He came softly, unobserved, and yet, strange to say, everyone recognised Him.”
But the Grand Inquisitor observes the way in which people are being irresistibly drawn to Jesus, and causes him to be arrested and taken away.
The crowd instantly bows down to the earth, like one man, before the old Inquisitor. He blesses the people in silence and passes on. The guards lead their prisoner to the close, gloomy vaulted prison- in the ancient palace of the Holy Inquisition and shut him in it. The day passes and is followed by the dark, burning, ‘breathless’ night of Seville. The air is ‘fragrant with laurel and lemon.’ In the pitch darkness the iron door of the prison is suddenly opened and the Grand Inquisitor himself comes in with a light in his hand. He is alone; the door is closed at once behind him. He stands in the doorway and for a minute or two gazes into His face. At last he goes up slowly, sets the light on the table and speaks.
“‘Is it Thou? Thou?’ but receiving no answer, he adds at once. ‘Don’t answer, be silent. What canst Thou say, indeed? I know too well what Thou wouldst say. And Thou hast no right to add anything to what Thou hadst said of old. Why, then, art Thou come to hinder us?
Posted by Lexington Green on 9th January 2014 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Our good friend Seth Barrett Tillman has an excellent article, part personal narrative, part meditation on the basis of conflict between Arabs and Jews, based on thoughts on the book of Esther.
On the Jewish holiday of Purim the practice is to read the book of Esther. Purim is on March 15-16 in 2014. It is not a widespread practice, but I know Catholics who read the book of Esther on Purim, and I read it last year for the first time. If you have never read it, you should. It is only about 6,000 words, the length of a long article, not a book. You can find it here.
As Seth notes, while the story is one of survival for the Jews, it also shows the sorrow and disgrace suffered by every defeated people at the hands of their conquerors.
Every year at Purim, my co-religionists and I read Esther. The story, as customarily explained to children, is that Esther won a contest . . . something akin to the modern beauty pageant. The prize was that she was made queen – the wife of the Persian emperor. As a result, by pleading to her husband on behalf of her brethren, she was well-situated to save the Jewish community from the nefarious Haman, who actively plotted genocide against the Jews. Esther’s courage thwarts Haman and the community is saved, although it remained in exile. The story is presented as one with a happy ending.
But, that is the story as it is told to our children.
By contrast, an adult, who considered Esther, would understand that the story of Purim is also an intensely sad story.
Highly recommended. RTWT.
A Winter’s Tale. An appropriate post given today’s temperatures.
Saint Alexander of Munich. Alexander Schmorell, a member of the anti-Nazi student resistance group known as the White Rose, has been canonized by the Russian Orthodox Church Abroad.
Deconstructing a Nazi Death Sentence. The transcript of the verdict passed by the “People’s Court” on members of the White Rose provides a window into the totalitarian mind.
Despicable. US Secretary of State John Kerry, speaking in Istanbul, compared the victims of the Boston Marathon bombing to the nine Turkish activists killed by the IDF as they tried to break Gaza’s naval blockade.
Newgrange is an ancient structure in Ireland so constructed that the sun, at the exact time of the winter solstice, shines directly down a long corridor and illuminates the inner chamber. More about Newgrange here and here.
Grim has an Arthurian passage about the Solstice.
Don Sensing has thoughts astronomical, historical, and theological about the Star of Bethlehem.
A wonderful 3-D representation of the Iglesia San Luis De Los Franceses. Just click on the link–then you can look around inside the cathedral. Use arrow keys or mouse to move left/right, up/down, and shift to zoom in, ctrl to zoom out.
Vienna Boys Choir, from Maggie’s Farm
Lappland in pictures, from Neptunus Lex
Snowflakes and snow crystals, from Cal Tech. Lots of great photos
A Romanian Christmas carol, from The Assistant Village Idiot
In the bleak midwinter, from The Anchoress
A Christmas reading from Thomas Pynchon.
An air traffic control version of The Night Before Christmas.
Ice sculptures from the St Paul winter carnival
O Come, O Come, Emmanuel, sung by Enya
I’ve been pondering Pope Francis’ recent writings and have come to certain conclusions about some serious miscommunication regarding what the Pope is doing. Contrary to a lot of the Francis miscommunication corpus, I don’t think that this is the Pope’s fault.
Capitalism is not, properly speaking, a totalitarian system. It requires a separate moral system, a guide to provide purpose to all the buying and selling. It can fit to a wide variety of moral systems which is a good reason that capitalism ends up being global.
Capitalism’s limits to economic acts create a space for morality to survive and thrive and are natural fetters to the system. These are the fetters that would interest a churchman. Unfettered or unregulated capitalism is totalitarian. If you’re worshipping mammon. If you find value only in your bank account, if there is no other system that informs your purchases and your production, then you have a serious problem. The fetters of government regulation in the economic sphere are irrelevant to Pope Francis because he’s not a politician and not an economist. He has a different scope for his job and vocation.
This is a virtue problem and one that has real world, practical effects. The difference in the education levels in virtue in the American colonies at the start of its revolution and Bourbon France at the start of its revolution are a major factor in why the former succeeded and the latter was ultimately a failure that died in the terror.
Pope Francis’ gig is ultimately to inculcate virtue and prepare us for Heaven. Occasionally this means he falls into the jargon of his profession which, like all professional jargon, is sometimes confusing because in different professions, the terms have different meanings.
cross post: Flit-TM
This long and thoughtful essay by Robert W. Nicholson is well worth reading for anyone with an interest in Israel and modern Christianity, particularly the relationship between American Jews and evangelical Christians.
At a time when the state of Israel lies under existential threat from jihadist Islam, and under ideological and diplomatic assault in foreign ministries, international organizations, churches, universities, editorial offices, and other circles of advanced Western opinion—and when even some Jews in the Diaspora seem to be growing disenchanted with the Zionist cause—millions of evangelical Christians unabashedly continue their outspoken, wholehearted, stalwart defense of both the Jewish state and the Jewish people.
By all rights, this rather stunning fact—the fact of a vibrant Christian Zionism—should encourage a welcoming response from beleaguered Jewish supporters of Israel. Instead, it has caused palpable discomfort, especially among Jewish liberals. Wary of ulterior religious motives, and viewing evangelicals as overly conservative in their general outlook on the world, such Jews either accept the proffered support with a notable lack of enthusiasm or actively caution their fellow Jews against accepting it at all. To many, the prospect of an alignment with evangelicals, even one based on purely tactical considerations, seems positively distasteful. Very few have attempted to penetrate the evangelical world or to understand it in any substantive way.
This is a pity, for many reasons. It is also a serious strategic error. For the reality is that today’s Christian Zionism cannot be taken for granted. For one thing, not all evangelicals do support Israel. For another, more alarming thing, a growing minority inside the evangelical world views the Jewish state as at best tolerable and at worst positively immoral, a country that, instead of being supported on biblical grounds, should be opposed on those same grounds.
Nicholson is alarmed by continued Jewish indifference or hostility to evangelical Christian support in the face of a growing pro-Palestinian, anti-Israel/anti-Jewish movement in the evangelical world that he compares to Liberation Theology in Catholicism. He makes a strong case and American Jews would be wise to heed it. Most of them probably will not do so, however. If they were smarter about their interests they would long since have embraced evangelical Christians as political allies.
Posted by Charles Cameron on 15th October 2013 (All posts by Charles Cameron)
I’m borrowing this announcement from the New Liturgical Movement blog, where Fr Thomnas Kocik posted it today:
This coming Sunday, October 20th, at St John Cantius Church in Chicago, His Eminence Francis Cardinal George, Archbishop of Chicago, will bless the church’s recently installed, fully restored Casavant pipe organ (Opus 1130) at 4:00 pm.
Immediately following the blessing, a Pontifical High Mass will be celebrated by the Most Reverend Joseph Perry, Auxiliary Bishop of Chicago. There will be a dinner in the church hall at 6:00 pm, and at 7:00 pm the Organ Dedication Recital by Thomas Schuster of Miami’s Church of the Epiphany.
The event, as you see, will be both musical and liturgical: if I come across a suitable video of the liturgy taken during the event, I will drop it in here.
Posted by Lexington Green on 7th October 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
In our book, we speculate about politics, economics and technology in the years ahead. We did not try to predict religious revivals or re-awakenings. Such events do occur in history, and they have fundamentally reshaped the world, but they are impossible to predict. The appearance of great religious leaders, of saintly men and women, of the Holy Spirit moving people in new ways, appear on a schedule, and follow a logic, that only God can understand.
Nonetheless, the historical record does give one hint: Major religious movements often happen at times of social upheaval. The United States is now embarking on a period of massive and transformative change. Old ways of life will be uprooted, and some of the changes will be wrenching. People will need to look within themselves, and outward to God, for the strength to adapt and to build a new and better America for themselves and their families.
Thanks to Real Clear Religion for publishing this piece.
Posted by Lexington Green on 6th October 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Almighty God, who hast given us this good land for our heritage: We humbly beseech thee that we may always prove ourselves a people mindful of thy favor and glad to do thy will. Bless our land with honorable industry, sound learning, and pure manners. Save us from violence, discord, and confusion; from pride and arrogance, and from every evil way. Defend our liberties, and fashion into one united people the multitudes brought hither out of many kindreds and tongues. Endue with the spirit of wisdom those to whom in thy Name we entrust the authority of government, that there may be justice and peace at home, and that, through obedience to thy law, we may show forth thy praise among the nations of the earth. In the time of prosperity, fill our hearts with thankfulness, and in the day of trouble, suffer not our trust in thee to fail; all which we ask through Jesus Christ our Lord. Amen.
The Book of Common Prayer (1928)
I am a Roman Catholic, but I happen to like this prayer.
It is sometimes attributed, apparently wrongly, to Thomas Jefferson.
Posted by Lexington Green on 7th September 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
Pope Francis has called for a day of prayer and fasting for peace. I’m doing it. I hope you will, too. J
John Paul II opposed the invasion of Iraq. At the time I thought he was wrong. He proved to be right. I am paying more attention to His Holiness this time.
Max von Oppenheim was a German ancient historian, and archaeologist who also worked as a diplomat and spy for the German Empire during the First World War. In those latter two capacities, he basically tried to incite Jihad against the Entente powers. From Wikipedia:
During World War I, Oppenheim led the Intelligence Bureau for the East and was closely associated with German plans to initiate and support a rebellion in India and in Egypt. In 1915 Henry McMahon reported that Oppenheim had been encouraging the massacre of Armenians in Mosques.
Oppenheim had been called to the Wilhelmstrasse from his Kurfurstendamm flat on 2 August 1914 and given the rank of Minister of Residence. He began establishing Berlin as a centre for pan-Islamic propaganda publishing anti-Entente texts. On August 18 1914 he wrote to Chancellor Bethmann Hollweg to tell him that Germany must arm the Muslim brotherhoods of Libya, Sudan and Yemen and fund Arab exile pretenders like the deposed Egyptian Khedive, Abbas Hilmi. He believed Germany must incite anti-colonial rebellion in French North Africa and Russian Central Asia and incite Habibullah Khan, the Emir of Afghanistan, to invade British India at the head of an Islamic army. Oppenheim’s Exposé Concerning the Revolutionizing of the Islamic territories of our enemies contained holy war propaganda and ‘sketched out a blueprint for a global jihad engulfing hundreds of millions of people’. Armenians and Maronite Christians were dismissed as Entente sympathizers, quite useless to Germany nicht viel nutzen konnen. 
Because Germany was not an Islamic power the war on the Entente powers needed to be ‘endorsed with the seal of the Sultan-Caliph’ and on 14 November 1914 in a ceremony at Fatih Mosque the first ever global jihad had been inaugurated. The impetus for this move came from the German government, which subsidized distribution of the Ottoman holy war fetvas, and most of the accompanying commentaries from Muslim jurists, and Oppenheim’s jihad bureau played a significant role. By the end of November 1914 the jihad fetvas had been translated into French, Arabic, Persian and Urdu. Thousands of pamphlets emerged under Oppenheim’s direction in Berlin at this period and his Exposé declared that, “the blood of infidels in the Islamic lands may be shed with impunity”, the “killing of the infidels who rule over the Islamic lands” , meaning British, French, Russian, and possibly Dutch and Italian nationals, had become ” a sacred duty”. And Oppenheim’s instructions, distinct from traditional ‘jihad by campaign’ led by the Caliph, urged the use of ‘individual Jihad’, assassinations of Entente officials with ‘cutting, killing instruments’ and ‘Jihad by bands’,- secret formations in Egypt, India and Central Asia.
“During the First World War, he worked in the Foreign Ministry in Berlin, where he founded the so-called “message Centre for the Middle East”, as well as at the German Embassy in Istanbul. He sought to mobilize the Islamic population of the Middle East against England during the war and can be seen thus almost as a German counterpart to Lawrence of Arabia. The AA pursued a strategy of Islamic revolts in the colonial hinterland of the German enemy. The spiritual father of this double approach, the war first, by troops on the front line and secondly by people’s rebellion “in depth” was by Oppenheim.”
The German adventurer met with very little success in World War I. To this day, the British see him as a “master spy” because he founded the magazine El Jihad in 1914 in an effort to incite the Arabs to wage a holy war against the British and French occupiers in the Middle East. But his adversary Lawrence of Arabia, whom he knew personally, was far more successful at fomenting revolts.
Lawrence of Arabia, aka T. E. Lawrence was successful because he didn’t appeal to religious fervor, but rather to the far more basic sentiment of ethnic solidarity against an oppressor of different ethnic origin. In other words, the Arabs cared far more about their struggle against the Turkish Empire than they did about religion, leave alone jihad.
Real social taboos cost you hits in the blogosphere. The persistent reduction in hit count every time I touched the subject of gay marriage finally twigged me to the fact that secular marriage has an entire set of cultural taboos associated with it and if you touch them, people run away. Your hit counts drop. Try analyzing why you have secular marriage at all and people suddenly turn dense, obtuse, and conflate religious with secular marriage at every opportunity. No fear, I won’t go into it in this post. This is more of a meta commentary.
Gay marriage advocates have skillfully deployed those taboos to achieve what they want, a change in public consensus regarding marriage that is playing out in the slow motion avalanche in favor of gay marriage. They are winning in large part because nobody wants to discuss to consensus what is secular marriage for. It’s too icky.
Once secular marriage’s split from religious marriage norms becomes large enough, courageous believers are going to dive into the ick and explain it, in great detail. There will be Catholics, Muslims, Jews as well as others explaining what they haven’t had to explain before because of the prior consensus that, if not perfect, was at least close enough to their beliefs to be acceptable. Social conservatives who look like your grandparents will be talking about sex, about dominance, about female and male emotional frailties that generally only come up in rare “moment of clarity” fashion for most people. It will be the biggest orgy of social transgressiveness to happen in decades and the traditional tribes of social transgressiveness are going to be running for the door with their ears plugged up crying out “la-la-la I can’t hear you” in an absolutely clarifying display of hypocrisy.
I can’t wait.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 13th June 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
The latest word on the NSA scandal, and it is a scandal, is that the FBI is not allowed to snoop on mosques.
Since October 2011, mosques have been off-limits to FBI agents. No more surveillance or undercover string[sic] operations without high-level approval from a special oversight body at the Justice Department dubbed the Sensitive Operations Review Committee.
Who makes up this body, and how do they decide requests? Nobody knows; the names of the chairman, members and staff are kept secret.
We do know the panel was set up under pressure from Islamist groups who complained about FBI stings at mosques. Just months before the panel’s formation, the Council on American-Islamic Relations teamed up with the ACLU to sue the FBI for allegedly violating the civil rights of Muslims in Los Angeles by hiring an undercover agent to infiltrate and monitor mosques there.
That makes sense. After all, all terrorists thus far have been fundamentalist Christians.
Bookworm discovered and embedded a video by Professor Anthony Esolen, in which he challenges the common belief that the Middle Ages were a dark and dreary era with few redeeming attributes. Book adds thoughts of her own, and there is a good comment thread on the post.
Pseudodionysius posted the same video at Ricochet, resulting in an extensive discussion thread…192 comments so far…which includes significant pushback against the Esolen thesis. The thread became pretty contentious…unpleasantly so, at points, but it includes some worthwhile discussion and useful links, especially on the comparison of Medieval with Classical technologies.
Suppose you wanted to create a perfect enemy. An enemy so vile that its evil would be recognized by almost everyone. An enemy that would inspire people to come together in order to ensure its defeat.
To be more specific: suppose you were a screenwriter with the assignment of creating a suitable villain-organization for a major motion picture. The marketing plan for this movie suggests that it will be marketed primarily to a certain demographic and that, hence, your villain-organization should be particularly appalling to members of that demographic. The demographic in question consists of people who are affluent, highly educated (college with at least some postgraduate education), not particularly religious, and who consider themselves politically liberal or “progressive.” The plot of the movie demands that the audience must see the necessity for Americans–of many beliefs, occupations, and social backgrounds–to come together in order to defeat the enemy.
Oh, and one other thing. The year in which you are given this assignment is 1999.
You will clearly want your enemy to share many of the characteristics of the Nazis–disrespect for human life, wanton cruelty, a love of apocalyptic violence. But to make the enemy particuarly awful from the standpoint of your target demographic, you will want to emphasize certain aspects of its belief system.
Members of your demographic usually have strong beliefs about women’s rights. So, your enemy must have a particularly disrespectful belief set, and a violent behavior pattern, towards women. Similarly, your demographic is generally favorable toward gay rights…so the enemy must advocate and practice the suppression, torture, and killing of gays. Your demographic is generally nonreligious and often hostile toward religion…so, make sure the enemy includes a large element of religious fanaticism. Members of your demographic talk a lot about “the children”–so make sure your enemy uses children in particularly cruel ways.
Had you created such an enemy for your screenplay in 1999, you would have surely felt justified in assuming that it would achieve its intended reaction with your target demographic.
It didn’t work out that way, though.
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 24th April 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
UPDATE: Mickey Kaus now has a column called Gang of 8 Fraud of the Day. Today’s is “Back Taxes.”
Negotiators had to choose between a hard-line approach favored by Republicans, like Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.), that would have required immigrants and employers to painstakingly piece together a tax history so the government could collect what is owed and a less burdensome option of focusing on people who already have a past-due bill with the Internal Revenue Service.
Yup. No tax audits. Only if they already have an assessment is it pursued.
Rubio’s published materials now often carefully say to-be-legalized immigrants would have to merely ”pay taxes” as opposed to pay “back taxes.” That hasn’t stopped the bogus “back tax” meme from being propagated during Rubio’s current round the clock Con-the-Cons tour.
The Senate has served up another in Harry Reid’s menu of “Unanimous Consent” bills with no hearings and no amendments except those he approves. This is not how the Senate is supposed to work and is a large part of the reason that Congress has produced such bad legislation since 2008. Now, we have another massive bill which is being presented with minimal hearings and debate.
The “Gang of Eight” has written this bill and it is supposed to be fast tracked with no argument. Marco Rubio has been pressing for approval and now Paul Ryan is aboard.
In an interview last week with the Catholic television network EWTN, Ryan recalled his history at Kemp’s side and how they worked together to fight Proposition 187, a California ballot initiative that prevented non-citizens from using the state’s social services.
One reason why immigration worked in this country for 150 years was the fact that immigrants were here to work and support themselves. There was no welfare for them. Prop 187 in California was passed with 60% of the vote and even had majorities in heavily Hispanic districts. It was ruled “unconstitutional” by the California Supreme Court and the decline of the “Golden State” has followed. His reasoning at the time ?
“I actually campaigned with Jack Kemp against a thing called Prop 187,” Ryan told host Raymond Arroyo. He said they both worried that the proposal would burn Republicans within the immigrant community, and “make it so that Latino voters would not hear the other messages of empowerment.”
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 20th April 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Update #2: I have great deal of respect for Richard Fernandez and his opinions.
The second part of the response is that an outsourced, privatized jihad will probably be increasingly met by privatized security regime based on reputation. With the government unwilling to profile in a increasingly vulnerable public space some entrepreneurs may create members-only events where attendance is limited to pre-cleared individuals who pay to have themselves vetted.
I think this has merit.
UPDATE: There have been three more arrests of young people with heavy Russian accents near U Mass. They had a car, a BMW, with the license plate “terrorista #1. Photos at the link.
One jihadist is dead and the other is in custody. The younger bomber’s wounds have not been described so it is impossible to say if he will survive. The emergency is over and now it is time to think about why this happened. It now appears that both young men were long time residents of this country and, at least the younger was a citizen. Both had registered to vote, according to Nexis. The older brother was married with a child. His wife had converted to Islam and, according to reports yesterday, was wearing a full chador when she was taken from their home protesting about a male FBI agent handling a Muslim woman. She was lucky, as one commenter observed, that she was not strip searched as Chechen women have been prominent in terrorism cases in Russia, sometimes as suicide bombers wearing bomb belts.
The majority [of suicide bombers] are male, but a huge fraction — over 40 percent — are women. Although foreign suicide attackers are not unheard of in Chechnya, of the 42 for whom we can determine place of birth, 38 were from the Caucasus. Something is driving Chechen suicide bombers, but it is hardly global jihad.
I doubt the Times’ insistence on the absence of Islamist motives although Chechens have been at war with Russians for centuries. The suicide bomb is a common weapon for jihadists. The Palestinian “Mother of Martyrs” comes to mind.
Mariam Farhat, who said she wished she had 100 sons to die while attacking Israelis, died in a Gaza city hospital of health complications including lung ailments and kidney failure, health official Ashraf Al-Kidra said. She was 64.
(This piece was part of a much longer essay about life in Greece when I was stationed at Hellenikon AB in the early 1980s. I posted it originally on The Daily Brief, and also rewrote much later to include in a collection of pieces about travel, people and history for Kindle.)
Christmas in Greece barely rates, in intensity it falls somewhere between Arbor Day or Valentines’ Day in the United States: A holiday for sure, but nothing much to make an enormous fuss over, and not for more than a day or two. But Greek Orthodox Easter, in Greece – now that is a major, major holiday. The devout enter into increasingly rigorous fasts during Lent, businesses and government offices for a couple of weeks, everyone goes to their home village, an elaborate feast is prepared for Easter Sunday, the bakeries prepare a special circular pastry adorned with red-dyed eggs, everyone gets new clothes, spring is coming after a soggy, miserable winter never pictured in the tourist brochures. Oh, it’s a major holiday blowout, all right. From Thursday of Holy Week on, AFRTS-Radio conforms to local custom, of only airing increasingly somber music. By Good Friday and Saturday, we are down to gloomy classical pieces, while outside the base, the streets are nearly deserted, traffic down to a trickle and all the shops and storefronts with their iron shutters and grilles drawn down.
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Posted by Lexington Green on 13th March 2013 (All posts by Lexington Green)
God bless the new Pope. Michael Potemra notes that St. Francis of Assisi was called to rebuild the Church. May his namesake repair what needs repairing.
On the subject of St. Francis, I highly recommend G.K. Chesterton’s short, entertaining and insightful life of St. Francis. (There is a nice edition which also has Chesterton’s short biography of Thomas Aquinas.)
Posted by Michael Kennedy on 12th February 2013 (All posts by Michael Kennedy)
Spengler has a new column that points out the coming collapse of Islam as a demographic entity. I have thought for years that Iran, if the population ever succeeds in overthrowing the regime, will abandon Islam as its first priority. Spengler points to a column by David Ignatius that belatedly recognizes a phenomenon that has been noted by others for years.
Something startling is happening in the Muslim world — and no, I don’t mean the Arab Spring or the growth of Islamic fundamentalism. According to a leading demographer, a “sea change” is producing a sharp decline in Muslim fertility rates and a “flight from marriage” among Arab women.
Nicholas Eberstadt, a scholar with the American Enterprise Institute, documented these findings in two recent papers. They tell a story that contradicts the usual picture of a continuing population explosion in Muslim lands. Population is indeed rising, but if current trends continue, the bulge won’t last long.
The second class status of women in the Muslim world has led to important changes in their beliefs, especially about the religion that oppresses them.
Eberstadt’s first paper was expressively titled “Fertility Decline in the Muslim World: A Veritable Sea-Change, Still Curiously Unnoticed.” Using data for 49 Muslim-majority countries and territories, he found that fertility rates declined an average of 41 percent between 1975-80 and 2005-10, a deeper drop than the 33 percent decline for the world as a whole.
Twenty-two Muslim countries and territories had fertility declines of 50 percent or more. The sharpest drops were in Iran, Oman, the United Arab Emirates, Algeria, Bangladesh, Tunisia, Libya, Albania, Qatar and Kuwait, which all recorded declines of 60 percent or more over three decades.
The present fertility rate in Iran is about equal to that of irreligious Europe.