Bishop Williamson of the SSPX has had his excommunication lifted. This has caused Israel's rabbinate to react rather negatively and, unfortunately, unwisely.
The Holocaust denying Williamson is wrong on the facts and very likely undertook his provocative recent interview in Sweden to make it more difficult for the Vatican to regularize him and bring about unity and a restoration of Vatican discipline.
What the Vatican understands and the rabbinate does not is that one can be a thorough loon with reprehensible views and not be excommunicate. Excommunication is a specific punishment for a specific act, in bishop Williamson's case a schismatic act of being raised a bishop in defiance of Rome. The way the Western Church works, this was punishment was imposed without due process. No trial, no defense, no airing out of issues. He was raised a bishop without the right paperwork so he's out.
Obviously Williamson has "other issues" and when he's actually back in the Church those issues can be addressed. If they are not, the rabbinate would have a point at that time. I strongly suspect a monastic life for Bishop Williamson inside the Catholic Church, a very quiet one.
Jim Guirard talks about establishing a counter-narrative to Al Queda with it's mujahadeen fighting for Allah and destined for Paradise. What struck me was how accessible this makes participating in the fight.
You don't have to risk your life to fight on Al Queda's side. You can promote the narrative, become a propagandist for them and improve their chances to win. Given Al Queda's remarkable lack of capability on the battlefield, the propaganda side is actually the more important of the types of activity.
But with the establishment of a counter-narrative, specifically:
(1) Hirabah (unholy war, "war against society'") and/or Irhab (Terrorism) by ruthless
(2) mufsiduun (evildoers, mortal sinners, corrupters) destined for
(3) Jahannam (Eternal Hellfire) as a proper punishment for their
(4) khawarij (outside the religion) violations of the Qur'an which are so serious, so
(5) shaitaniyah (satanic) and so willfully unrepented as to constitute
(6) al-Murtadd al Qaeda (the AQ Apostasy) against Qur'anic (not "Shari'a") Islam
In a way, it's also religiously ecumenical, doing Islam the favor of separating out its horrible bits and calling them unholy on their terms, instead of sweeping them up together and tarring Islam itself with its most radical activists.
Sites like Jihad Watch have been doing the latter and there we get into something of a ticklish problem. Will these anti-al queda and company warriors agree to use the counter-narrative? It's not entirely clear that they will. They're invested that jihad is a bad thing, that those who use it in the al queda sense are fundamentally correct in its meaning. Without buy in from the jihadwatch crowd the counter-narrative has no hope for success. You have to have clarity among your friends before you can hope to strongly influence the neutrals.
I've no idea whether this Pajamas Media story on breaking the oil/Al Queda link is accurate but this caught my eye:
The Saudis account for 1% of planet’s Muslims, but provide 90% of the funding for Islamic institutions and charities world-wide. In keeping with Saudi Arabia’s official version of Islam, the kingdom’s billions flow to mosques and charities that espouse a Wahabi doctrine.
Out of all the Catholic Bishops in the USCCB exactly 1, John Michel Botean forthrightly condemned the Iraq war as unjust. You can find a PDF of his 2003 condemnation at the Center for Christian Nonviolence. Bishop John Michael has a tiny flock. In the past, he himself has categorized it as "5000 souls, on a good day". I happen to be one of them.
The invasion of Iraq has, therefore, occupied my moral thinking at a somewhat different level than most. There aren't too many Catholics who had to call up their bishops and ask whether they were going to be excommunicated over this war. I did, and the question wasn't easily dismissed. In fact, it never really has been dismissed.
For various irrelevant reasons, this conversation has been suspended. Recently it reopened (again for reasons well known to me but irrelevant to the conversation) and I've been corresponding with my bishop. He gave permission to write about this and hopefully this will be of use more generally.
At stake is a couple of issues. If this truly is a demonic war (as Bishop John Michael recently called it in the diocesan newsletter "Unirea" (Union), this is not something to be sneezed at. What makes the war demonic and how are we to fix it? What is this war anyway? Who are the sides? What evil did and do they do to merit a war being fought at all?
The approach to use for Catholics is just war doctrine. The Catechism of the Catholic Church covers it in a nutshell in paragraph 2309:
The strict conditions for legitimate defense by military force require rigorous consideration. The gravity of such a decision makes it subject to rigorous conditions of moral legitimacy. At one and the same time:
• the damage inflicted by the aggressor on the nation or community of nations must be lasting, grave, and certain;
• all other means of putting an end to it must have been shown to be impractical or ineffective;
• there must be serious prospects of success;
• the use of arms must not produce evils and disorders graver than the evil to be eliminated. The power of modern means of destruction weighs very heavily in evaluating this condition.
These are the traditional elements enumerated in what is called the "just war" doctrine. The evaluation of these conditions for moral legitimacy belongs to the prudential judgment of those who have responsibility for the common good.
So why write about this? It, frankly, has been seriously impacting my blog output. I've been thinking a great deal about the subject and find that I'm very dissatisfied by the level of ongoing analysis. Other questions which normally grab my interest have paled lately and I find myself turning back to the question of justice in war. So far, I find the anti-war side relatively unhinged from reality because they generally simplify the evil that Saddam did to a question of WMD. The pro-war side is little better because, having lost the moral certainty that Saddam was in possession of WMD they have largely abandoned the field. So I remain pro-war but unsatisfied with the canned arguments of both sides and in a relatively unique position, being under the personal jurisdiction of the most anti-war Catholic bishop in the US who, coincidentally, is my personal friend.
The funny thing is that precisely because he cares for me that he will and has gone after me hammer and tongs. He wants to save me from Hell, you see. It's not only his job, his vocation, but also his personal desire.
My own friendship does not permit me to engage in quiet dissent either, though for other reasons. I find nothing wrong with his application of the moral law. But I see him applying that law to a set of facts that do not actually exist and this has led him to error. So we wrestle with each other.
Peggy Noonan does yoeman's work talking about Virginia Tech saying all sorts of common sense. The close is worth exerpting
The most common-sensical thing I heard said came Thursday morning, in a hospital interview with a student who'd been shot and was recovering. Garrett Evans said of the man who'd shot him, "An evil spirit was going through that boy, I could feel it." It was one of the few things I heard the past few days that sounded completely true. Whatever else Cho was, he was also a walking infestation of evil. Too bad nobody stopped him. Too bad nobody moved.
People are starting to feel the spiritual emptiness, starting to look for a way to fill it. We are sidling up to virtue because we recoil from the horrors unleashed by its lack in the public square.
Sometimes the worst indictments come from fans. Today's day by day disrespects the entirety of western religion. I suspect that Chris Muir didn't even mean to but he perfectly captured the reality for all too many people. For them, the west is science and religion is the outsider, the other, the mysterious east.
It's an alarming sign when even your friends kick you.
For the romanians among my readership, Spovedanie cu grade - SPP-ul, sub sutana. For the rest of my readership, the Romanian version of the US' Secret Service that were working over Easter got sent (SENT!) to confession. When asked whether there was any worry that something that shouldn't might come out during confession, the simple response was that of course not, the priest works for us, has for 10 years.
Just amazing, on so many levels.
Andrew Martin writes as good a description of where religious belief is among the Left today, in the closet, ashamed of itself, and under attack from the secular faction that largely controls the Left these days. The attacks persist even as the come to a growing realization that they need religion to fight off attacks from truly anti-progressive militants like the islamists but they can't quite seem to let go of the church bashing. Even Mr. Martin is not able to personally invite people to Christ in his article. All that he can do is silently admire someone who is brave enough to give public witness to her own faith early on.
This is tragedy. Christ needs to be proclaimed to all and the left-religious seem to have largely given up the task.
HT: MadPriest (truly mad and not to my taste but he uncovered a gem)
Thomas Barnett has his maps, the Functioning Core and the Non-Integrating Gap. It is a map of connectivity and interchange of rulesets. It shows something real, useful, even vital for understanding our world. One of the things that it does not cover as currently developed is the problem of movement between Gap and Core. Why does one country decide to stay in the Gap and another to move to the Core? Why does a country backslide out of the Core (New or Old) and into the Gap?
There must be some mechanism out there but, up to now, I've not seen it described by any of the Core/Gap community. My stab at the problem is that virtue enhances the tendency towards connectivity. Where it is in advance, the chance that a virtuous tyrant (a Kemal Ataturk, for instance) will arise are enhanced. Where it is in decay, demagogues and rogues populate more and more of the high ground of society and people disconnect in horror at association with them. The entire society withdraws into smaller and smaller islands of connectivity until you get to the ultimate disconnection where only ties of blood are left. In pathological cases like N. Korea, sometimes even that fails.
But how does one measure virtue? How do you make its promotion a reality and not like the sick joke in KSA with its muttaween enforcing dress codes. What virtues promote connectivity? Does stoicism, for example? There's a lot of fertile ground here to extend Core/Gap, drilling down into the mechanism of movement.
It's not that Christians are nut free, but rather what nuts we have tend to get turned in by our own. This is the essence of extremist control. The Jews, atheists, muslims, didn't have to reach in to our community. We did it ourselves, and in doing so, proved that it can be done.
For those many christians who celebrate the sacrifice and resurrection of our Lord on the Gregorian calendar. I wish you all a heartfelt and happy Easter.
From The Cafeteria is Closed, a very reassuring picture that the worst is over on the Catholic priestly abuse scandal.
There's going to be an awful lot more pain and suffering exposed before we put this one to bed but the measures put in place *do* seem to be working.
It's just a throwaway line in a larger story but here's another sign of Islam's brittleness:
"This land has had a great history for thousands of years that pre-dates Islam," I said.
"Yes," Nadir answered, "an immoral history."
I had never heard of such a thing, but Nadir's idea, like Khaldun's, was part of Islam's all-encompassing nature. If you had it, you needed nothing else. "If I find one thing," Nadir said, "one thing that the Koran doesn't cover, I will renounce the faith." But Nadir could never find that one thing because Islam served as the source of everything. Unlike Even, I was beginning to feel that this, not the hedonism of the west, was the real problem of limits.
From comments in an article on the coming end of the SSPX schism.
However, as I see it, the Pope's doing this for other reasons: his intention is to end the schism with the Orthodox this year or next; and they have made it very clear that they want him to end the schism with the SSPX first; and show them thereby how he would propose to end the Great Schism.
So this is a case study for that. And I think B16 has the same idea for both: that is a unilateral cancellation of disciplinary censures. He may ipso facto make the SSPX in communion, without requiring anythign from them; as a good will gesture, and then ask them in Christian Charity to make a Christian response in Charity. And likewith to the Orthodox.
On the one hand, this is going to cause a lot of confusion: because laws are supposed to be for guiding the practice of virtue and for the instruction in virtue, and until we se how he does it and if he does it this way, it is hard to say what the repercussions will be. On the other hand, the sins of heresy and schism remain, regardless of whether they are condemend in this particular person or church. And it is conceivable, for those who are ignorant that they are in sin, and have no malice (which even Christ admitted to St. Bridget in regard to the majority of the Orthodox), that such a unilateral step will only foster their acceptance of the truth, ultimately. In short, the pope will be treating them as poorly catechised children, with whom it is pointless to impose censures, since they are not yet ready for the responsibility of adulthood. It all seems highly unorthodox to me.
If this truly is the papal line, be ready for a few adjustments in practical terms. The calculation of Easter is a very likely concession of West to East. Protestants are going to have to decide denomination by denomination whether they want to go along with the Eastern formulation and then civil governments in protestant (like the UK) and split western nations (like the US, FRG, and France) are going to have to mediate.
Get ready to hear an awful lot about the Eastern Church fathers and their different approach to salvation. Even if you're a protestant or not even christian, the new preeminence of the eastern fathers are going to change the discussion in unexpected ways. Get used to thinking again because you're likely to hear some arguments that you haven't heard before.
Get ready for the first full apostolic council in a millenium whose first order of business will be reconciling the last millenia's thelogical developments between the major branches of apostolic christianity. God only knows what would come out of such a council but it will be the acid test of the new unity.
A simple question, why does Arnaud de Borchgrave think that Iran's Ahmadinejad has set the date of the Apocalpse for 2008?
"The ultimate promise of all Divine religions," says Ahmadinejad, "will be fulfilled with the emergence of a perfect human being [the 12th Imam], who is heir to all prophets. He will lead the world to justice and absolute peace. Oh mighty Lord, I pray to you to hasten the emergence of your last repository, the promised one." He reckons the return of the Imam, AWOL for 11 centuries, is only two years away.
The big problem with Islam is that it's wrong. The unlivable problem with Islam is that its crazies are relatively unrestrained by its moderates. Now the world can live with an awful lot of people believing in wrong things. We do so every day on all sorts of things. What we can't live with is even minor groups of people who actively war against the world order swimming in a sea of fellow believers who do not put down the extremists in their midst.
The problem of unlivable Islam seems to have a potential solution in a Malaysian initiative called Islam Hadari. Contrary to the Xinhua article, it's been kicking around for a bit but really hasn't made the front pages.
It's sounding all the right notes. It's not reacting to western pressure but is an internal development trying to further the Islamic faith and moving away from the errors of the middle east salafists and other extremists who bring Islam so much of its reputation for bloodiness and uncivilized behavior.
I wish it well and will be keeping an eye on it. So should anybody who's seriously interested in winning this WOT.
There is no occasion that cannot be improved by prayer. Any serious Catholic knows that we've got some odd ones in the backs of the prayer books. Here's one that's very good and born, appropriately, out of Marine Corps dissatisfaction with the brews available in Iraq. A master sergant asked a chaplain for a "better beer prayer". Here's what he got.
Dear God, Maker of the heavens and the earth: We know you are the creator of all good things. For that reason we come now before you to ask for a better beer. We request it have a taste like unto the sweet nectars of the Garden of Eden. May the blend of its flavor pour gently over our tongues and satisfy not only the thirst of our mouths, but the longings of our souls. Make this beer so good all who drink it will no longer drink the present beers which often lead people to bring injury to children, other drivers or themselves. Make it a beer that multiplies wisdom, instead of killing brain cells. Lord, you know we human beings really cannot afford to sacrifice many brain cells anyway.
Finally, Lord we ask this beer would be so good its consumption would never cause us to jeopardize or sacrifice our relationship with others or you. May the camaraderie generated by this beer make the celebrations and special occasions of our lives even more special by helping us to fully appreciate one of the most sacred dimensions of life-fellowship with our friends, loved ones and you.
Hear our prayer, oh Lord. Improve our lives with a better beer such as we have described and if you can think of any further improvements, by all means please act on our behalf.
By Your Leave, Sir
Written for U. S. Marines
I don't know Anarchangel's intelligence. He might actually be stupid, for all I know. I somehow doubt it. Whatever his intelligence level, he's exposing an Islamist psychological warfare operation, one that most of us have slowly given in to without murmur, without protest, and for too many without even realizing it as it happens.
The aim of jihadists is for us to become dhimmi, to pay the head tax and agree to ritual humiliation, to agree to pull our own punches and only play defense spiritually, religiously, culturally. We can fight among ourselves over whether Protestant, Catholic or Orthodox is the true Church but woe to us if we examine islam with the same critical tools we apply to our own faith. Even worse, woe to those who would mock Islam, whether artistically as Theo Van Gogh did or in a bit of popular culture with target practice and bathroom breaks.
Muslims are going to have to live with the fact that 5/6ths of the planet doesn't think much of their holy book. If they think that they can pass death sentences over offensive speech and cow the rest of the world, they will find that koranic verse toilet paper is going to get quite popular.
On a personal note, I count myself among the cowed. I self-censor this blog because I have a family and won't put them at risk by pushing hard enough to get my own fatwa. That's why I talk about making a movie about mohammed instead of actually doing a 10 minute quicktime short. The latter is guaranteed to generate a fatwa if it circulates widely enough and I won't take the step. I don't think that there would be enough police to protect me.
I was very heartened by USA Today article which tells me that the moderate muslims are starting to get their act together. Unfortunately, they're moving glacially slowly and are not coordinating adequately yet.
British Muslim leaders said they were drafting a fatwa that would strip any bombers of the right to call themselves Muslims.Unfortunately, this clashes with an equally promising development.
A conference of 180 top Muslim religious leaders issued a statement last week forbidding that any Muslim be declared an apostate. Bin Laden has frequently done this to sanction the death of Muslims he believes are too lax in their faith.They will eventually sort it all out and pick an approach but it's painful to realize how slow a process this is likely to be. I hope that they have enough time to get their act together.
It struck me that an entirely promising line of questioning has gone largely unmined in dealing with islamic moderates. If they are muslims, they believe in Heaven and Hell. So where is Mohammed Atta right now? What is the resting place of a soul that was convinced he was going to get his 72 virgins, did not commit martyrdom, but rather the entirely condemnable crime the self-proclaimed muslim moderates no doubt already said he did. They either say he's in Hell and remain consistent in their moderate statements or they are caught in a lie and exposed as fake moderates.
For those who place Atta in Hell, a further question is warranted, what is the final spiritual destination of an imam that would lead a man into such error, assuming he did not repent his ways? Furthermore, how should such preachers be treated by the muslim community, their Ummah on earth where they are spreading their falsehoods and leading men into Hell? Should they be permitted to preach in the mosques and lead others astray?
Finally, what is the proper role that the civil authorities should take to mosques that not only do not condemn such false imams but let them lead their prayers and spread their poison? Should these houses of false worship be treated as mosques or are they something else? If they are something else, what is it and what should be done about them?
It has been 4 years since 9/11/2001. I've followed the international discussion on Islamism with great interest. I have yet to see any muslim moderate explain the theological consequences of Islamism. It's a shame because reputable clerics explaining that these people are going to Hell are the best immunization against the seductive promises of martyrdom and glory by Semtex.
London has been bombed, likely by terrorists, likely by Al Queda. I pray that the injured will pull through, that the dead have a quick trip to Heaven and that justice will swiftly find the perpetrators.
I have to disagree with Mary Madigan posting on Dean's World that President Bush went wrong in his speech here:
The terrorists, both foreign and Iraqi, failed to stop the transfer of sovereignty. They failed to break our coalition and force a mass withdrawal by our allies.
The lesson of this experience is clear: The terrorists can kill the innocent, but they cannot stop the advance of freedom
The advance of freedom, as relates to winning the war on terror, is largely in stopping the Islamists from killing their opponents before their opponents convince the great mass of the Islamic middle that Islamists go to hell for their apostasy. Preventing a Sistani from being killed by a Sadr is crucial to our war aims. Sistani is not an innocent. He is an allied combatant, fighting on the religious front. Sistani puts out a pronouncement and hundreds of thousands turn away from terrorism as it is distributed throughout the Shia world. Mosques that spew hate suddenly get a bit less full, and the recruiting funnel for suicide bombers runs a bit drier.
We simply don't have the ability to substitute for the dysfunctional muslim world's police forces without instituting a draft and bleeding our country dry. The best we can do is to protect the force generating seed of these societies so that they can raise their own armies and clean up their own societies. The tree of liberty must be fed with the blood of patriots and tyrants.
I ran across an article on street cameras themed on the idea that they're really not such a bad thing for civil liberties. It's not a bad piece but misses the real problem of the cameras, they make the state too strong. A society where everything done by an individual in public is captured, stored, collated, and attached to a personal file makes it too easy to keep tabs on dissidents, on the loyal opposition, even on personal enemies of those in power.
The US has plenty of experience with corrupt governments. The municipal history of most major urban centers in the US can lay out entire corrupt eras where the city was controlled by this or that corrupt "machine". Corruption is not something that is of mere theoretical interest but a real, live concern that is a problem from the beginning of the Republic to today.
So what happens when those street cameras are controlled by a corrupt group that is technically savvy? There are no civil liberties problems per se with cameras but they make overthrowing the corrupt regime much more difficult. They are not a technology that can be turned off with a change in administrations. One bought election and they can be turned from a crime fighting tool serve an alternate role as a political discipline tool. Defy the machine and your business suffers as anybody in (or contracted with) city government who patronizes your store is caught on tape and given grief on the job. That sort of pressure could be done in the past by posting someone to watch a business and take down names but it was expensive, detectible, and embarrassing if the papers caught wind of it and snapped a picture or two of the political machine's spy.
People don't like to think about their government turning corrupt a few administrations down the road so the concern turns itself into a bogus fear about civil liberties. The problem of street cameras is real, though. They should be avoided where possible.
I regularly read Midwest Conservative Journal but I'm starting to think I'm getting most of what I can out of it and should move it back in the rotation. I use it to chronicle the nasty split in the anglican church and as a reality check for myself. Chris Johnson sounds an awful lot like a lot of people on the Catholic/Orthodox split, a religious fault line which I'm right on the active zone. Being able to see it from outside makes me realize that I don't want to join in in that sort of back and forth trashing. It can be fun, exhilarating, but ultimately not spiritually satisfying and that makes the back and forth of combat ultimately self-defeating.
Reading the current NRSP newsletter I find myself in conflict with Tom Barnett's characterization of the Catholic Church. We're both Catholics so this is a bit of inside baseball but it's also useful to illustrate a general point.
Abstractly, The Core and Gap are useful tools for denoting connectivity of mutually acceptable rulesets. The rulesets themselves can be anything. Core/Gap analysis is a useful tool in explaining the propagation and interaction of the rulesets. Political/economic connectivity is pretty much all we generally talk about because these rulesets are crucial to war and peace, starvation or material plenty.
The Catholic Church does not consider war and peace, starvation or plenty to be the most important thing to worry about. They are secondary to its mission to bring Truth unto the world and save all our souls. Political reform, economic progress, these things are all very nice but you can't understand the Church if that's the lens you are looking through. The Catholic vision of community maps into connectivity but it's not economic or political in nature.
Looking through a spiritual lens, having a base of economically powerful nations aligned with your interests enhances the spiritual mission by providing the material base for the real work. Politically stable nations that permit the work of priests and missionaries are useful but they are not the goal.
Barnett's analysis (page 9 in the link above, a Word doc) is practically irrelevant because it applies the conventional map (politico-economic connectivity) to an institution that uses a different criteria in creating its own maps of connectivity and disconnectedness. Adding a new map layer is crucial and Barnett simply doesn't do that.
For the Catholic Church, the territory of the Romanian Orthodox Church has at least as much reality as the country of Romania and the two entities do not have exactly the same boundaries. The Romanian Orthodox Church, in a Catholic map is a seam state just as Romania is a seam state in the conventional politico-economic map. The reason why the two entities are seam states in the two map systems are quite different though. That difference makes any prospective analysis of what is proper to do to bring each into the Core crucially depend on which map you're talking about.
Romania gets into the Core by negotiating an entry into the global politico-economic rulesets that have been negotiated among the Core for the past century plus. The Romanian Orthodox Church gets into the Core by negotiating a mutually acceptable role for the Pope in the Church, something that has also been the subject of centuries of negotiation. These are two different Cores but the mechanism for admission, agreement on a common enough ruleset, are exactly the same.
The maps interact with each other. Most famously the Islamic map religiously is interacting with the politico-economic map in the Global War On Terror (GWOT) but it does it in less obvious ways too. The Romanian Orthodox Church is holding back Romania's admission into the Politico-Economic Core (PEC) because of its insistence on the government of Romania not honoring the rule of law with regards to properties it received in 1948 as part of an odious communist land/power grab.
More specifically, Barnett's analysis of this Pope mistakes the status of Germany. He's looking at the wrong map, where Germany is a solid part of the PEC instead of the Catholic Religious Core (CRC) where Germany is sliding backwards from Old Core to New Core and arguably is already a Seam state.
Germany's Seam or New Core status in the CRC is what fundamentally matters to the Catholic Church. Germany's status mismatch makes dealing with it difficult because the markers of PEC membership are much more visible than the markers for CRC membership and people tend to believe that there is a close match between the two (where they recognize the two layers existing at all as separate entities). Backsliding state analysis is probably the least developed part of Core/Gap analysis so this remarkable new toolset doesn't help as much as it usually would.
So is Benedict XVI an Old Core Pope? It really depends on which map you're talking about. If you're looking at the PEC, Benedict XVI is about as Old Core as you can get. If you're talking about the CRC, he's coming out of a backsliding state, trying desperately to retain the light and reverse the slide into spiritual darkness. His name pick for his papacy (a crucial early clue into the mind of any Pope) is much more in line with that second vision of his papacy.
So what does all this mean for us poor geo-political amateurs? It means the papacy is likely to surprise. Viewed from a politico-economic view, Benedict's papacy will be full of unexpected activity, vaguely disturbing moves that will be categorized left or right, conservative or radical, and there will be a heavy tendency to censor the reporting of his actions to fit a preconceived news filter.
Treat news reports on the papacy with special care during this pontiff's reign because Barnett's conflation of PEC with CRC is likely going to be the high point of most secular media analysis. For the media to catch on and understand this papacy, they will not only have to understand the Pentagon's New Map but also understand that Catholicism has one too and analyze the Church's actions on its own terms, something that has not happened for decades at the very least.
Pope Benedict's web page is up. In contrast with his predecessors his coat of arms has not been put up yet. No doubt, they're still working on it. This is a sign that it's not something he's just going to slap together just so his stuff can be differentiated from other popes' writings and objects. When Pope John Paul II picked a coat of arms whose saliant feature was a big M for Mary on it, it really meant something, that he was going to elevate Mary and push forward her style of femininity as a model for women. It's quite likely that Pope Benedict XVI is considering exactly that sort of symbology as well, we'll see. It's just another of those objective signs to look out for to see where this Pope is heading.
Pope Benedict XVI has email (email@example.com). So what would you write to the Pope? Would it be a request, a complaint, a joke? Does it matter how you can reach him? Does papal e-mail make a difference at all?
I have to confess that it does make a difference for me. It makes me much less reluctant to contact Rome. If I were to use the address, it would most likely be in the form of a cc: or bcc: in the case of something that I felt strongly about. I'd also probably send him an e-card for his birthday and when he inevitably has health problems, a get well card.
I don't delude myself that he answers all his e-mail personally. Heads of state have staff for that. I'm sure that like everybody else at that level, he gets exceptional pieces forwarded to him and summaries of ordinary correspondence that got shuffled off to the appropriate subordinate (or /dev/null for the wacky stuff).
I really hadn't thought of papal e-mail until I read that Benedict XVI has it. It very much modernizes and humanizes the man in my eyes. I wonder how many other techno-geeks are thinking the same thing?
HT: Catholic Light
God Bless Benedict XVI, nee Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, our new Pope. He's moved from chief prosecutor of the Church to the top job, a career path that is quite familiar in an awful lot of free societies. May God bless him, keep him, and guide him in the maintenance and improvement of the world's oldest continuous bureaucracy, the structural skeleton called the hierarchy of the Catholic Church. May he provide an inspiration and guide the spiritual formation of the faithful to greater fidelity to the Divine Plan and greater wisdom among us all.
Avem o Papa
Here's a classic instance of completely ignoring Catholic Law, an editorial attacking a bishop for denying a notorious gay bar owner right to a Catholic burial.
To our knowledge, McCusker never has been accused of doing anything illegal. If Bishop Brom has information to the contrary, he should step forward with it.
The legal code of the Catholic Church defines, among other things, who can be buried in a Catholic cemetery. Bishop Robert Brom is charged, as part of his duties, to enforce that legal code. What happens when he does his job? Know Nothings from the San Diego Union-Tribune call it intolerance and seem to think he enjoys doing this for fun.
This is the sort of thing that leads to laxity in applying the rules and a return to the "spirit of love and tolerance" of the recent past that gave us the pedophilia priest scandal. Pedophiles were to be shuffled around and sent back to ministry elsewhere instead of put into remote monasteries where they could contemplate their sins and spend the rest of their years in prayer and penance far away from children.
We all know where that led us, a horrible scandal that consumed the US church and destroyed so many lives. No doubt the Union-Tribune editorialized against episcopal laxity that succored priestly pedophilia as frequently as most other papers if not more but when the bishops actually do something and start tightening up legal enforcement of the rules, the instantly swap back to licentious scolds who want the bishop to just sit back and let the good times roll.
I'm very glad I scrolled down to an older Donald Sensing item at One Hand Clapping. I completely agree that this moderate Islam article is both important and exciting. The $64,000 question for those who equate islamism with the whole of Islam has always been how such a dysfunctional ideology could have survived so many centuries.
The answer that this article comes back is that Islamism didn't because it isn't of ancient pedigree but a modern mutation that is less than fully rooted in the events that led to the writing of the Koran. Essentially, this article places modern Islamism within a tradition of Islamic puritan movements that crop up every once in awhile and then get beaten down by mainstream Islamic forces. Apparently there have been several episodes of this sort of thing in the past.
None of this is indicative of whether non Wahabbi/Salafist/puritanical is not also fundamentally incompatible with modernity. In fact, if it wasn't for mainstream Islam's long downhill slide, the Wahabbi/Salafist puritans would likely not be so advanced. That's largely a fight for another day, though.
The decline of mainstream Islam is going to have to be corrected internally or the religion is going to eventually disappear. Managing that decline is a delicate job, one that seems to have gone amiss lately. Hopefully in future they will do better.
I just came across a neat bit from Karl Popper (who I have to get to reading one of these days).
The conspiracy theory of society ... comes from abandoning God and then
asking, 'Who is in His place?' -- Karl Popper, Conjectures and Refutations,
Andrew Sullivan really must be going on some sort of personal faith roller coaster. I can't imagine any other reason he's react so foolishly to a personal statement by President Bush regarding the personal challenges of the presidency. President Bush "see how you can be president without a relationship with the Lord." Sullivan sees that as a threat to atheists. It is no such thing.
I don't see how you can work at a garbage dump without nose plugs or how you can be a thin chef that's any good but if I saw such things appear before my eyes, I wouldn't lift a finger to correct the world but rather correct my impressions. I'm sure that President Bush would too if we ever would elect an atheist president in his lifetime and he did well.
The whole sad note is an assumption of intolerance and bigotry on Sullivan's part. I wondered what Sullivan had become after he renounced his Catholicism. I guess I've got a good idea now.
Is the possible, or even probable, misuse of a law reason enough to be against it if the law itself is just? (After all, isn't every law misused in India?) Would that not be injustice to those who would legitimately benefit from the law if it existed, as Venkatesh and his family would?
What is a law? What is the rule of law? Is it what you see in books or is it the reality of how the books interact with human beings? You ask whether a mercy killing law would be just. I have to say that it would not. I point to the case of US Senator and presidential candidate Bob Dole. He was horribly wounded in WW II. If he had been wounded a year earlier, it would have been certainly understandable for him to ask for mercy killing. His wounds were extensive, impossible to cure, and he would have suffered a lot before succumbing to infection. The future Sen. Dole was one of the early experimental patients who received the miracle cure of penicillin. His subsequent contribution to US political life would have been snuffed out without a stubborn, even obstinate attachment to life.
The case you bring up in your blog of K Venkatesh is even more clear cut. Here is a talented man, already proven in your own society. Let him fight, let him use his talents, let him teach a last lesson in how to die. As a younger person who has been on the receiving end of such a lesson, let me tell you that it is a profound thing, to be with a man near his last moments, to silently urge him to live, live, come back one more time, give one more smile, tell one more story, win one more fight, and know, in the end, the battle was well fought to the last gasp of breath.
Society is robbed of such lessons in a euthanasia regime. I assure you, it is the poorer for it. If I have the fortune of someone who cares to receive such a lesson from me in my last days, I will do my best to be worthy of my audience.
At 81 a leading British atheist, a well respected philosophy professor, has decided that there is a God after all. Best line?
Prometheus [ed: his new book's publisher] specializes in skeptical thought, but if his belief upsets people, well "that's too bad," Flew said. "My whole life has been guided by the principle of Plato's Socrates: Follow the evidence, wherever it leads."
HT: Mark LaRochelle, in email
Jeff Jacoby has a pro-hate column out extolling the virtue of hating evil. I can't say that I agree with him there. He recognizes the dangers though.
Hatred is dangerous even when justified, Soloveichik cautions, and must be directed only at the truly vicious and depraved. "We who hate must be wary," he writes, "lest we . . . become like those we are taught to despise."
This is a very old jewish/christian fault line. I don't think that I'm going to resolve it here. The muslims, I believe, come down on the jewish side of this one and absolutely do suffer spiritually for it. That spiritual disfiguration comes out in some of their most egregious practices, like honor killing. Your very own child, the fruit of your highest dreams and aspirations, does something wrong and you hate them enough to kill them. You give them no chance to make things right with God. You just go out (or worse, send out their siblings) to their hiding place (they justifiably fear you already) and kill them.
When to hate is a potent question that even the tolerant nonreligious must face. A democracy that wanted to eliminate honor killings on the basis of the rule of law would be forced to make capital crimes out of the actions that provoke honor killings. Anything else would be religious oppression.
Michael Ledeen presents an important morality tale.
On September 28, 1918, Tandey participated in an attack against enemy trenches near the small French town of Marcoing. The British carried the day, and as they advanced, Tandey Cautiously peered into a trench. He saw an enemy soldier, a corporal, lying bleeding on the ground. It would have been easy for Tandey to finish off his enemy, as he had killed many that day; Tandey had played an heroic role in the battle and later was awarded the Victoria Cross, the highest wartime decoration, for his great courage. But he felt it was wrong to shoot an injured man, and he spared the corporal's life.
In 1940, during the Nazi bombardment of Coventry, when Tandey worked as a security guard at the Triumph automobile factory, he gnashed his teeth. "Had I known what that corporal was going to become! God knows how sad I am that I spared him." The corporal was Adolf Hitler. Tandey's human gesture had led to the deaths of millions of people and, in a bitter irony of military destiny, had placed his own life at the mercy of the monster whose life he could have taken.
Hitler is, of course, an extreme case but his case is by no means unique. The killer who kills again in prison, who escapes and kills again, or who is released and repeats his crime, all of these are circumstances that confront us in reality, not only theory. Unfortunately, the anti-capital punishment side often does not seem to take responsibility for the consequences of their mercy.
The future is unclear, however. How many lives are spared and who reform themselves, contributing instead of further taking from us all? It's a difficult question which is why capital punishment is, rightly, not condemned by Catholics in the same terms that abortion is. Guilt, innocence, and the consequences of choosing humble even the most decisive of theologians and moral judges from making entirely hard and fast rules.
This is a true story. You may not believe it but this is my son, an extraordinary boy of 5. As usual he did not want to go to sleep. He hopped up on a stool and was trying to get to an icon we have put on his bedroom wall. It is a classic western icon of Jesus pointing to his sacred heart (it's a classic rendition with crown, thorns, flames and blood). George tells me he wants one. He further explains that he wants a real one. So I tell him to get into bed, I pull down the icon and explain to him, in very abbreviated form, Genesis, original sin, Calvary, the three days in Hell, the freeing of the imprisoned spirits, the Resurrection, and how Jesus' sacrifice completed a very long, complicated plan to redeem mankind from that original sin.
Wide eyed, he took it all in very calmly and repeated that he wanted his own heart like the flaming heart of Jesus. I told him that only God could give him that and that he should pray and talk to him frequently. Only God could do it. He seemed content and ready to go to sleep.
I found out a few minutes later that his window was open and went to close it. He turned, informed that he had decided, and said that he wanted to help God so that men would know Him. Then he turned and seemed to go back to sleep.
It was a false sense of finality. In the middle of writing this, he burst into my home office and informed me that we needed to house for God, informing me, in his most serious five year old manner, that there needed to be a place with doors and a lock that no man could come in but that God could come in because he would have the key.
We still haven't got him to sleep yet, but I'll close this note here about this extraordinary episode. God is still alive in the hearts of little boys. With all the scary, mad things going on in these times, it is a true note of hope.
A small update by way of Catholic Light on John Kerry's heresy trial. The Catholic Church obviously doesn't want to inject itself into the US presidential campaign in this fashion but the unofficial response received strongly strengthens the orthodox Catholic hand in this long term confrontation between themselves and pro-choice Catholics. In short:
If a Catholic publicly and obstinately supports the civil right to abortion, knowing that the Church teaches officially against that legislation, he or she commits that heresy envisioned by Can. 751 of the Code.
The penalty for knowingly doing this is what Roman Rite Catholics call automatic excommunication.
Now I'm from a different corner of the Catholic Church. It actually has alternate canons and (at least according to my own bishop) lacks the concept of automatic excommunication. A bishop has to go and wrestle with a sinner and his conscience before you get to the point of excommunication. The idea of excommunicating yourself as a sort of paperwork saving device is one of those things that make me glad I'm a Romanian Rite Catholic where if my bishop thinks I need to be knocked on my butt for being a bonehead, he's quite capable and willing to do the deed himself (and, in the past, has though not on this serious a scale).
Sometime in the next decade, what is unofficial today is very likely to turn official and a good 5%-15% of the voting population is going swing with it. Even at the low end, that's going to be a huge change in voting patterns that will just devastate the Democrat party while inflicting no small amount of damage on pro-choice Republicans as well.
Islam, supposedly, has a prohibition against suicide. Famously, this prohibition has become somewhat elastic with the suicide bombing campaigns in Israel and Chechnya. Thomas Friedman started me thinking about this in recent article.
There is some kind of suicide-supply chain working in the Muslim world and in Iraq that is able to draw recruits, connect them with bomb makers and deploy them tactically against U.S. and Iraqi targets on an almost daily basis.
This provides something of a theological dilemma. If suicide is a preferential option, if killing yourself in war even though you could escape and fight again is permissible, what is left of their suicide prohibition? And if the prohibition on suicide falls, what is left of their claim that Islam is unchanging?
At some point, the bulk of islamic scholars has to turn on this tactic and declare that some or all of the jihadi groups are apostate and the great Islamic civil war will unfold in the open. With each greater exception to the suicide rules we're getting closer to that day.
Going through the Iron Blog topic list:
Before I get to the topic at hand, A small personal job history note. I was an employee for Putting People First in the early 90s. I was their first network administrator. I also designed and maintained their database, oversaw a lot of their early direct mail operations, and did various work in other areas. Putting People First was an organization devoted to fighting against animal rights, a topic I hadn't thought about much prior to working for them but soon learned a great deal about while working for the group in a technical capacity.
The death threats in the mail were always entertaining as was the "what to do if they bomb us" disaster planning.
Animal rights is a travesty of an ideology. The idea that animals can claim anything as a right implies the ability to enter into some sort of social contract with the rest of us. But animals cannot do that. They are incapable of understanding such an agreement and keeping up with any obligations that would ensue from such a contract. Animal rights would be a precedent that you can have rights without responsibilities as a general case for an entire class.
Animal rights claims to raise the level of care and humanity we show towards animals to a level equal with what we show our own pre-rational children and the mentally retarded. In this, there is some truth but it is a bitter sort of truth. Since animals are not infants or retarded or senile, to equalize these categories is to justify the reduction of consideration of these vulnerable human groups to the level of animals. Peter Singer, probably the most famous of animal rights philosophers notoriously believes that infanticide should be legalized as should euthanasia.
The animal rights movement has spawned a loosely connected terrorist group, the Animal Liberation Front which, prior to 9/11 was considered one of the premier domestic terrorism threats in the US. Just because 9/11 has thrust islamist terrorism to the fore does not mean that ALF has ceased activity. It has not.
Animal rights claims to raise up animals and by doing so elevate human kind as well. In reality, it reduces us to beasts.
Going through the Iron Blog topic list:
Border conditions are among the most difficult (and interesting) to analyze. Sure, everybody agrees that they should have a right to life but going further out from the self, respect and reverence for human life starts to lose adherents. The mentally ill, the aged, the very young have all been subject to death in various societies and the further away from the average member of the polity's health and independence, the fewer still defend their right to life.
The absolutist position is the hardest to establish, but also is hardest to dislodge. People have a right to life is a powerful statement. Once you start making exceptions, you weaken it to the point where more and more exceptions can be carved out and down we slide along the slippery slope.
Abortion is not justified unless we believe in some very ugly concepts. If a life is created abusively, via rape or incest, to abort an unborn child conceived from that ugly situation is to say that the rapist, the family abuser, has worked a corruption of blood, that the child is guilty of the sin of the parent and deserves the death penalty. We don't even allow corruption of blood for traitors anymore. That sort of primitive vengeance went out with the Middle Ages but in our horror at the crime of the (usually) father, we want to wipe the innocent issue away, so perhaps the shame shall recede. Instead we create a greater shame.
The idea of genetic deformity as a cause for abortion creates a slippery slope because there is no accepted definition of what conditions should be repaired and what require abortion. At the very extreme, the "inconvenience" of a daughter has led to huge sex selection abortion totals in the PRC and India. This too is genetic selection as much as aborting hare lips and other correctible conditions. Even conditions that are not correctible, such as Down's syndrome, are no excuse for abortion. Many Down's syndrome sufferers can walk, talk, hold simple jobs, even get married and have their own families. Yet some people routinely recommend abortion in such cases.
Even for hopeless cases, one of the most overlooked contributions that they provide is, during disease shortened lives, they provide lessons to those around them in human spirit, dignity, and love. When you foreshorten those unpredictable, deeply moving lessons, you may relieve strong emotion and suffering but what is left is a shallower existence.
I've just about had it with Andrew Sullivan's misstatements of Christianity. He claims to have been a Catholic, though recently he seems to have put himself in the lapsed category. Whatever his current status, he shouldn't me making mistakes like this.
The entire idea of women being subordinate to men is half of a bargain. To mention just one half of a bargain, the cost, and not mention or even consider the benefits is to unbalance the thing and make any analysis a foolish exercise. Try doing it with a house mortgage and you'll see what I mean in short order.
Both sides of the bargain is laid out in the Bible in a couple of places but Ephesians 5:21-33 works quite well. The obligation of the husband is to take the subordination of the wife and do what is necessary so that she will spiritually become "holy and without blemish". Your job as husband is to do whatever it takes so that happens in imitation of Jesus' actions to create a Holy Church. In Jesus' case, he found that what was necessary was for him to be indescribably tortured, crucified, and die for the sake of the founding of the Church.
Yeah, husbands have a really sweet deal in that bargain. Boy, it's the easy life for us if we take on that role.
The key to the entire structure is in the first line "Be subordinate to one another out of reverence for Christ." That really gives the game away in that it is a replay of leadership as servitude that happens so frequently in christian theology. The woman subordinates her wishes to the man and the man must sacrifice all for the project of sanctifying and preparing the woman for Heaven as Christ sacrificed all at Calvary.
Whoever Andrew Sullivan had for religious instruction was either entirely without talent in the area or AS never much paid attention. By pretending that only the female half of the bargain exists, AS is leading his readership astray about christianity. That's a real shame.
I found this story via Marginal Revolutions. The idea that not only would you refuse vaccines because you think there is an international infidel plot to transmit diseases via vaccination, but also that you don't even quickly arrange for muslim countries to supply your vaccine is simply appalling. But the western reaction in the original article shows its own blind spots.
Polio is very rare in the world today. Vaccinations, which are done worldwide, have managed to nearly eradicate the disease. If the ‘wise’ men of those regions of Nigeria had decided to see sense a long time ago, polio would most probably not exist in Nigeria today. Why didn’t they ask for batches from muslim countries a year ago? Why did they wait so long? Everyone, the WHO, their neighbours, even their own population was begging them to see sense.
The key point can't be repeated often enough. Talk in the language of your target. If you want strict muslims to be influenced by you, cloak your arguments in the language of faith. Insisting on avoiding religious talk is just a good way of upping the body count.
Andrew Sullivan's amazed that somebody still pays attention to that stuffy old document, the Catholic Code of Canon Law but apparently a plucky canon lawyer from Los Angeles has decided to bring the issue of pro-choice catholicism before the private courts the Church runs according to the Canon. In the complaint (filed in John Kerry's home jurisdiction, the Archdiocese of Boston), pro-choice position is labeled the Right-to-Murder heresy.
A layman can bring forward such a complaint but a bishop is not obligated to act on it. If the local Bishop passes, the complaint can be forwarded to the Vatican where it will likely sit for years before being adjudicated. Such complaints are apparently rare (the complainant claims that he's the first to do so under the current Code, adopted in 1983). Furthermore, as it's a class action suit that most anyone can join I'd expect the plaintiff list to expand quite a bit.
I won't be joining the suit, but not because I agree with AS that this is some cheap "theoconservative" stunt to influence the election. On the contrary, I take the entire process deadly seriously as a fight for the soul of one John Kerry who, whatever differences I might have with him politically, is a child of God and in the same struggle to get to Heaven as the rest of us. There is an entire cast of characters that are playing their part in that struggle on the side of good and I think it quite likely that this lawsuit is likely to jog their elbows, retarding Kerry's spiritual progress, not enhancing it.
I have no doubt that not only the lines between the Boston archdiocese and the Vatican are burning up but I also think that several calls are being placed to LA to get local Church officials to squelch the fuse on this dynamite accusation. No doubt, fairly soon there might be a UK component to this mess as defide.org (the organization filing the complaint) is registered to Bruno Quintavalle, a name that comes up in Google as the director of the UK Pro-Life Alliance.
Now there's a twist that I bet McCain and Feingold never thought about.
I think we should all highlight when muslims condemn muslim terrorists forcefully and point out that this is what we expect from other muslims who claim moderation but offer no such forceful condemnations:
At a Friday prayer meeting in Karbala, a spokesman for Grand Ayatollah Ali al Sistani told worshipers that Al Qaeda's top leaders are "filthy infidels". He names Osama bin Laden and the Jordanian-born terrorist purportedly operating in Iraq, Abu Mussab al-Zarqawi. He says they are "bastards" who "nurture malignance" against Shiite Muslims. A prominent Shiite leader was assassinated in Iraq on Thursday night. Al Qaeda's leadership is made up of Sunni Muslims from the Wahabi sect.
It was SDB's original construct of Alice (where I thought he was too hard on the poor girl) that I was worried about. There is a rare case that is utterly impossible to create via human external action. This is the case where there is simply no temptation, not even in the most appealing circumstance. Alice, Betty, and Cathy can all shift to this fourth state, called sainthood by Christians. The historical ranks of the saints are mostly drawn from the Cathys of the world who work up to it but the Alices can have it from the start and the Bettys can reform and stick to it.
As I said, it is an utterly useless state when thinking about the promotion of virtue as there is no human method to prevent fleeting temptations that are not acted on, only divine intervention can accomplish that. It is the end state that all should aspire to and far too few actually achieve.
A society of saints makes a lot of things we normally worry about irrelevant. Saints don't lie, cheat, steal, or shirk so even the most defective of economic and political arrangements can work in a society exclusively made up of saints. Of course, utopians are always populating their imaginary societies with saints as it makes thinking up novel social arrangements much easier.
But in the real world, there is no reliable method to produce them. You just hope for them and try to shift as many people over to Cathy status as possible because the chance of Cathy moving to sainthood is somewhat larger and being a Cathy is a pretty good thing in itself.
A story in Dhimmi Watch got me thinking. Turkey's prime minister Erdogan made a very strong statement when he stated that there is just Islam, that there is no such thing as moderate Islam. So when Al Queda blows up and kills muslims by other means, calling them apostate, that means that those dead (some of them Turkish) are either apostates or Osama bin Laden is. It's a pity that nobody asked the good prime minister that. The next time somebody says that there are no such things as moderate and radical muslims, somebody should ask. I would be fascinated by the answer.
Steven Den Beste has an interesting article up highlighting correspondance with Daryl a correspondent from Singapore. They speak to each other about law and order but it seems wrong somehow. To my eyes, the discussion is less about revolution and more about virtue and how to instill it. Normally, I'd run this in email to the fellow in Singapore but since I can't seem to find his email...
Virtue, in the both Singapore and the US, is of concern by the state. But the liberal values of the US make instilling virtue largely something that the people do while in Singapore, the state works intensively in the field of promoting virtue. While this has good effects in some areas, it lays waste the entire field of intellectual exploration and creates a group of people who are much more vulnerable to cultural change by exposure to new ideas. Singaporeans may show higher levels of virtue in their controlled environment but they must stay small, stay inside that environment for the system to continue to work.
In contrast the virtue promotion system in the US is much more resilient. It will never achieve the high levels that a Singaporan style system can achieve but it can survive assault much better. I can't imagine how Singapore would handle the gay marriage situation that has arisen in the US where elements in the government are violating laws and issuing tendentious court decisions. I can't imagine it would be resolved without violence whereas I can hardly imagine it ending in violence in the US.
Both systems obviously are viable in the short run but I think that Singapore's the one that's really in trouble. It's handicapped intellectual class will continually need to import the results its freer colleagues are creating because they will continue to fall behind without reforms giving them more freedom. And they will be vulnerable to intellectual movements that are incompatible with the state system they have chosen because the third raters who remain in Singapore and work under the censorious government rules will not be able to forever reconcile Singapore's unique system with the progress the rest of the world is producing.
Singapore will have to change. I just hope that it's a gradual, peaceful shift.
Steven Den Beste has a very wide ranging article on the concepts of ethics, identity, and property. At one point, he talks about the discovered ethical problem of tissue and identity transference and how this leads to very unpleasant answers for christians. I suggest that this is an unlikely situation because of the billion smartasses of Catholicism.
An explanation is in order.
The Catholic Church runs one of if not the biggest school system on the planet. Like all schools, each one of them has their share of smartasses who ask questions like this because they're bored and they want to play "stump the teacher" or in this case priest. Over the centuries, there have probably been billions of smartasses posing an uncounted number of impertinent and improbable questions. Sometimes they just get the brush off, but surprisingly often not and there is a huge body of scholarship that resides in the bowels of the Vatican containing the answers to a lot of very unlikely questions, many posed by that great inspiration to research, the billion smartasses of Catholicism.
I claim honorary membership among the BSoC as poor Fr. Clinet can probably attest to from Heaven. Even though I never attended catholic schools, I made up for it by asking questions later. When I discovered Catholic Answers I really felt I'd discovered a little slice of Heaven. Even today, I'm looking with great anticipation as the Catholic Church takes all of that collected knowledge and documentation and (too slowly!) puts it up on the web. I've found it of invaluable use to differentiate between media spin as to what the Catholic Church's position is and the actual position. The two are not often in agreement.
But back to SDB's essay. Because he places his dilemma in the realm of science fiction, he seems to believe that this is some new uncharted realm. However, a much more mundane situation nearly fits the same challenges, the case of amnesiacs. If you have a murderer who becomes an amnesiac and the new personality is holy, do the prior sins count against him during final judgment? Since such cases have undoubtedly come up in the last two millennia plus the BSoC has undoubtedly posed the question numerous times, I feel confident that somewhere there are entire volumes devoted to such questions.
But I find the very idea that memory is necessary for guilt to be highly unsatisfactory. Imagine SDB's mad scientist did not go around switching brains but rather made a machine which could produce targeted amnesia. If an assassin is trained and has every one of his murders wiped from his memory, is he guilty of murder? He doesn't remember doing a single one. How satisfactory would a world be where this assassin would not be guilty?
Muslim women are taking courageous action to shake up Islam and start the process of reform in that faith. They are agitating to be able to pray in the main hall of mosques along with the men. I've spoken often in the past about the need of moderate muslims to clean up Islam and I view this as an important step. It's similar, in its way, to France's banning of veils in schools, a small act on the face of it that is exquisitely designed to provoke a foolish madness on the part of radicals that will weaken the radicals position and drive them out from positions of power.
This movement of praying in the main hall has the advantage of being an entirely intra-muslim affair. There is no hope of labelling this as anti-muslim, or a crusade and thus shutting down reason and thought. Bravo for the women and I look forward to more initiatives like this. Hopefully the Wahabbi import imams will either change their outlook or change their address and go back to Saudi Arabia and do one of the two soon.
Iraqi, and arab, humiliation seems to be a continuing issue. I've written previously about how to handle Iraqi humiliation. But for those who want more, a thought occurs to me. Run Iraq, run it as a free state and run it better than the US ever did, than the British ever did. Expose their efforts as 2nd rate and humiliate the West with your competence, with your brilliance. Go ahead, do it and not only restore your own pride but make the "democratizers swallow theirs.
Juan Cole ladles the "woe is us" on pretty heavy:
Even if the shrines were not damaged, you can't imagine how much Shiites don't want to hear phrases like "American tanks and AC-130 gunships pounded insurgent positions near two shrines in the center of the holy city of Karbala early Friday . . . " I cringed when I saw it. I don't see how Iraqi Shiites are going to forgive us for this. Ever.
Perhaps he should ask christians how they have forgiven muslim fighters invading the Church of the Nativity. The ire in the christian world to that military desecration seems to be a realistic model for what is likely to happen regarding Shiite outrage over anti-Sadrist operations in Najaf and Karbala. Near does not mean in and it's pretty obvious that if only military considerations were being taken into account all the shrines (which are being used as strong points by Sadr's Mahdi army) would be leveled by now. The fact that the worst damage in most of them is the mess that the muslim cartridges make as they clatter on the floor after firing shows an extraordinary level of sensitivity to Shiite religious feelings. We're spending our blood to protect their buildings. I find it hard to believe that a billion muslims will tip over from their previous, more friendly attitudes to a more hostile one because of this.
Donald Sensing today refers to an older post of his which asserts that the God of Islam is not the same God that Jews and Christians worship. I have to stand in disagreement with the good Reverend because he ends up oversimplifying the criteria by which we must understand border conditions. A Catholic and an Orthodox mutually recognize that they each worship the same God. Their sacraments are valid. The differences between them, the borders that define the two faiths center on the role of the Pope (if you're Orthodox and want to argue I'm wrong, first go convince Patriarch Theoctist of Romania and then get back to me) in the Church.
But if you get much beyond Catholicism, Orthodoxy, and Anglicanism (though the latter is getting more dubious by the day) sacraments start not being recognized. The authority of most protestant ministers to conduct sacramental service is not considered valid by Catholics because the necessary conditions are not fulfilled. Every church has its own rules as to who is close enough so that the differences are viewed as administrative, and which differences are viewed as too big to be merely administrative.
Beyond that, the subject of Rev. Sensing's note, is the level of difference at which point you are talking about a different God. Again, the level of difference is somewhat arbitrary. Rev. Sensing's idea that both christian and muslim ideas about God cannot be simultaneously true is useful for him, but it is not a universal standard. The choice is one of sharpening differences versus blurring differences. Blurring differences between christianity, judaism, and islam permitted the victorious muslim conquerors to set up dhimma treaties with their christian and jewish subjects. This is a process that let sephardic jews and a variety of eastern christians survive, albeit in a second class status while living in muslim lands.
These communities, which exist to this day, are virtually forced to concede the commonality of their deity with muslims or they set themselves up for slaughter. For them, such blurring is not just a potential way to bridge differences, it is life and death.
But even for those of us who are not under muslim domination, we would do well to have a care in casting Muslims completely out of the family. Unless we, as christians, are really going to embark on a crusade to convert muslims, our duty to evangelize must come in the form of a softer road, persuasion. And that persuasion is made easier by the idea that it is the same God, wrongfully worshipped, rather than a different God, rightly worshipped.
In that vein, I'm more than ready to concede the sameness of the muslim and christian God. The differences are great and it's sometimes tempting to declare that they are not the same but it would serve little purpose but personal satisfaction to deny the muslim claim that they are the same.
Bush's official blog is poking at Kerry's new abortion statements but I think that it's more aimed at the bishops than at the electorate. Kerry might have decided that he needs to at least feint pro-life to toss his hierarchy supporters a bone so that there is no unified opposition to him in the Church. He doesn't need to get all the bishops on his side but even having a few will greatly reduce the ability of the orthodox bishops to move forward in a way that affects Kerry personally.
The controversy regarding pro-choice politicians being banned from Holy Communion has got to puzzle the Orthodox. The Orthodox and Catholic Churches are so close that they recognize each other's sacraments for Holy Communion, a real rarity in the christian world. But Orthodoxy has always had a more stringent set of requirements to gain Holy Communion. My wife, who is Orthodox, is used to having to fast a minimum of seven days prior, confess her sins right before, and only then does she qualify. The Orthodox fast is a vegan fast, with no meat, egg, or milk allowed and you're supposed to reduce your calorie intake as much as you can.
The idea of going up every week for Holy Communion is viewed in the Orthodox world as something for the really hard core old folk and monks. Go to an Orthodox Church sometime and you might end up seeing nobody, or just one or two people come up for Holy Communion. Frankly, I think their bishops are going overboard but it's their right to do so. Each individual bishop, Catholic or Orthodox, can set criteria for qualifying to take Holy Communion. Some are more lax, others more strict. It is incredibly presumptuous for the laity of any stripe to lecture bishops on an intrinsic part of their job. For Catholics who are being challenged by their bishops to follow standard Catholic teaching on abortion to challenge this fundamental episcopal right is appalling.
One of the more interesting framing aspects of this controversy is the mainstream press' attempt to spin this as a partisan problem. Catholic pro-choice politicians exist in the Republican party. I have yet to see any news story that is sympathetic to Kerry's side of the story talk to any Republican pro-choice politicians who come under this decree just as much as their Democrat colleagues do. Republican pro-choice pols must remain invisible for now, otherwise it becomes clear that it's not a partisan issue and the hierarchy does not actually have it in for the Democrat party.
The Corner has an item on politician excommunication. Apparently, the last time it happened was in New Orleans in 1962. Three politicians defied the Archbishop's order to integrate the parochial school system and were excommunicated for it.
Two days later, President John F. Kennedy was asked at a press conference, "Mr. President, would you care to comment on developments in New Orleans where the Archbishop excommunicated three people for hindering school desegregation?"
He replied: "No, the action of the Archbishop related to private acts and private individuals, which did not involve public acts or public policy, so that carrying out the spirit of the Constitution which provides a separation between church and state, I think it would be inappropriate for me to comment on that."
I'm starting a new occasional series, putting questions to imams as a means of denying them grey areas where they can sit back, have their cake, and eat it two. Below is the first installment.
An article over at Solomonia on Iranian nukes got me thinking on a tangent. The biggest international threat that Iranian nuclear weapons would pose would be to Afghanistan, Pakistan, and India from the fallout pattern after they are used to safeguard the revolution when the pro-democracy forces try to take over.
It would be an interesting question to ask imams in the Ayatollah Khameni faction under what circumstances would such domestic use be permitted under Islamic law? And if the answer is never, what would be the appropriate islamic response if such a thing were to happen?
After reading Andrew Stuttaford's recent note in The Corner on arab condemnation of torture in Abu Ghraib I found myself in disagreement. Stuttaford talks about the crocodile tears of arab authoritarians and their lapdog presses finding their voices against torture only at Abu Ghraib and only when done by Americans against Iraqis.
But what if this isn't the case. What if we said instead that we salute and welcome the press and officials of the arab world in their forthright setting of a new and better standard on torture in the Middle East? What if we were to facilitate this new standard by assisting in the publicity and offering to further this welcome sign of cleanup of official abuse across the muslim Middle East?
In short, what if we were to take them seriously as honest expressions of a new reality and then moved to make the facts on the ground match the words?
You could set up a torture report hotline in every embassy and provide quick reporting to the press and ensure that at least Al Hurra did cover the stories. You could hold the press to their words by rating their coverage of domestic or even other foreign torture stories against their coverage of the Abu Ghraib stories. After all, a children's magazine in Egypt that didn't cover Abu Ghraib because it was inappropriate for their audience shouldn't be dinged for not covering such stories in other circumstances. But those that did cover the story have set themselves up as outlets where discussion and condemnation of such things is appropriate. They have set their own bar. They should maintain their new standards.
What a sad, morose day today is. The Belmont Club writes quite persuasively about my second greatest fear. My fear is that we will win and lose our souls in the process:
One day Ted Koppel will read, in addition to the names of American soldiers who died in Iraq, the names of friends who will have died in another attack on New York. One day Nicholas de Genovea, the Columbia professor who called for a "million Mogadishus" will understand that it means a billion dead Muslims. And then for the first time, perhaps, they will understand the horror of Abu Ghraib while we all raise our glasses, sardonically like Robert Graves, "with affection, to the men we used to be".
My greatest fear is that we will be forced to look into this abyss and, in recoiling, lose the war entirely.
Andrew Sullivan demonstrates how much he misunderstands Catholicism with the following:
But the Catholic wing of the religious right wants not simply for the Church to defend its positions and criticize Kerry's; it wants the Church to deny communion to Kerry, effectively excommunicating him for his political views, principally on abortion.
What the argument is fundamentally over is whether Kerry, and many other Catholic politicians, is causing moral scandal in the Church by ignoring the barriers and effectively thumbing his nose at a Catholic central organizing principle, that priests and bishops are an individual's spiritual partners, guiding, encouraging, and occasionally bitch slapping you when you need it.
Normally, people don't go up and get communion all the time. In Sullivan's construction, they're self-excommunicating. They might have arrived too late for services, eaten to close to mass time, not be in the proper frame of mind, have a sin weighing down on their soul, the reasons vary. I've been guilty of infractions that keep me from receiving the sacrament myself. Most Catholics have. And most Catholics have the sense to stay in the pews and not show up for a sacrament they don't (at that moment) qualify for. Sometimes people who aren't qualified show up anyway and the priest doesn't know and gives it to them. That's a sin but not any fault in the priest. But if the priest does know, he has a firm obligation not to give communion to someone who is not qualified. This is for both parties' sakes as it is sinful to partake of communion when you aren't qualified and it's a sin to knowingly assist in the first sin.
For Catholics, this is obviously more important than for non-Catholics though some faithful might look askance at someone who's not right with his own church even if they don't share that faith. But excommunication is an extreme judicial punishment that goes far beyond mere loss of communion privileges. Nobody's talking about excommunicating Kerry which would make it a sin to associate with him, even to vote for him until he relents. Sullivan's either ignorant or dishonest in conflating the two sanctions.
I read this email over at HughHewitt.com
I am taking time to ask you all for your help.
First off, I'd like to say that this is not a political message. I'm not concerned about domestic politics right now. We have much bigger things to deal with, and we need your help.
It seems that despite the tremendous and heroic efforts of the men and women serving here in Iraq to bring much needed peace and stability to this region, we are losing the war of perception with the media and American people. Our enemy has learned that the key to defeating the mighty American military is by swaying public opinion at home and abroad. We are a people that cherish the democratic system of government and therefore hold the will of the people in the highest regard. We love to criticize ourselves almost to an endless degree, because we care what others think. Our enemies see this as a weakness and are trying to exploit it.
When we ask ourselves questions like, "Why do they hate us?" or "What did we do wrong?" we are playing into our enemies' hands. Our natural tendency to question ourselves is being used against us to undermine our effort to do good in the world. How far would we have gotten if after the surprise attacks on December 7, 1941 at Pearl Harbor, we would have asked, "Why do the Japanese hate us so much?" or "How can we change ourselves so that they won't do that again?" Here in Iraq the enemy is trying very hard to portray our efforts as failing and fruitless. They kill innocents and desecrate their bodies in hopes that the people back home will lose the will to fight for liberty. They are betting on our perceived weakness as a thoughtful, considerate people. Unfortunately our media only serves to further their cause.
In an industry that feeds on ratings and bad news, a failure in Iraq would be a goldmine. When our so-called "trusted" American media takes a quote from an Iraqi doctor as the gospel truth over that of the men and women that are daily fighting to protect the right to freedom of press, you know something is wrong. That doctor claimed that out of 600 Iraqis, that were casualties of the fighting, the vast majority of them were women, children and the elderly. This is totally absurd. In the history of man, no one has spent more time and effort, often to the detriment of our own mission, to be more discriminate in our targeting of the enemy than the American military. The Marines and Soldiers serving in Iraq have gone through extensive training in order to limit the amount of innocent casualties and collateral damage.
Yet, despite all of this, our media consistently sides with those who openly lie and directly challenge the honor of our brave heroes fighting for liberty and peace. What we have to remember is that peace is not defined as an absence of war. It is the presence of liberty, stability, and prosperity. In the face of the horrendous tyranny of the former Iraqi regime, the only way true peace was able to come to this region was through force. That is what the American Revolution was all about. Have we forgotten? Freedom is not free and "peace" without principle is not peace. The peace that so-called "peace advocates" support can only be brought to Iraq through the military. And we are doing it, if only the world will let us! If the American people believe we are failing, even if we are not, then we will ultimately fail.
That is why I am asking for your support. Become a voice of truth in your community. Wherever you are fight the lies of the enemy. Don't buy into the pessimism and apathy that says, "It's hopeless," "They hate us too much," "That part of the world is just too messed up," "It's our fault anyway," "We're to blame," and so forth. Whether you're in middle school, working at a 9-5 job, retired, or a stay-at-home mom you can make a huge difference! There is nothing more powerful than the truth. So, when you watch the news and see doomsday predictions and spiteful opinions on our efforts over here, you can refute them by knowing that we are doing a tremendous amount of good. Spread the word. No one is poised to make such an amazing contribution to the everyday lives of Iraqis and the rest of the Arab world than the American Armed Forces. By making this a place where liberty can finally grow, we are making the whole world safer. Your efforts at home are directly tied to our success. You are the soldiers at home fighting the war of perception. So I'm asking you as a fellow fighting man: Do your duty. Stop the attempts of the enemy wherever you are. You are a mighty force for good, because truth is on your side. Together we will win this fight and ensure a better world for the future.
God Bless and Semper Fidelis,
1st Lt. Robert L. Nofsinger USMC
Remember this, the next time somebody throws around the label "chicken hawk" or trots out insults about "keyboard warriors" that this isn't a call to veterans, military, families of those who are serving or who have served. This is a call to all of us and all of us can respond.
We should respond and consciously fight the miasma of pessimism and defeatism that is rising up like swamp gas. It's the very least we can do.
All churches have been ordered demolished in the Nigerian state of Zamfara as part of the governor's Sharia campaign. The Nigerian Constitution enshrines freedom of worship and his decision was condemned at the national capital.
I'm just waiting to hear the condemnations from all the forces of Islam who wish to coexist with christians and not launch a religious war. It doesn't come any clearer than this folks. He's not even giving them the traditional option of becoming dhimmis so even internally (internal to the worldview of Islam), his order doesn't make sense.
HT: Urban Onramps
Twirling around the blogosphere, I'm starting to get the sense that some people who haven't thought through the issues enough are trying to justify the Abu Ghraib torture scandal in terms of at least we're better than Saddam. That's not good enough, not nearly good enough. The way we win is not being more tolerant tyrants than Saddam's Baathist thugocracy. That's a differentiation based quantitatively. It implicitly places us as a thugocracy and does the enemy's work for him.
The way we win is to be something qualitatively different. We are human beings who have created a free society and want others to join us. We fail, like all other human beings on the planet, to always uphold our principles but we do our best and excise the rot as soon and as thoroughly as we can.
To demand perfection of us is to deny the monotheistic constant that man is a fallen creature, born in sin and doomed to imperfection without the grace of God. But that does not excuse us from doing our best, making up for our deficiencies and striving to rise above our sinful natures and do what is right.
Muslims should be outraged at the torture. There is no excuse. But they should do more than be outraged. They should see what we do next. Because if they see the trials, see the punishments, and demand just that for their own societies, they will do more for themselves than a hundred invasions and the US will become vastly more secure.
I think that Steven Bainbridge has it wrong when he questions the willingness of Catholic bishops to lay down the law and establish that they are serious about the admission requirements for holy communion. The rule is simple, if you're reconciled to the church and free from serious sin at the moment of communion it's ok, otherwise, you do your soul grave injury by fraudulently taking communion.
A commission on the subject will likely not rule before the election, and rightly so. This is not about politics but the souls of the various Catholic politicians who are taking a position that, according to Catholic theology, is tantamount to endorsing murder and facilitating millions of murders a year. No matter the ultimate rightness or wrongness of abortion, partaking of the sacraments is voluntary and most people are assumed to be right with God when they go to receive them. Where priests know that this is not the case they have a duty to prevent further injury by refusing to participate in a mockery of the faith.
I suspect that the list of courageous Bishops will be near complete, in the end.
Are we seeing the start of the second Saudi civil war? The Religious Policeman thinks we are and condemns those who had the duty to speak out against the terrorists long ago but did not. I'm quite sure that there are an awful lot of Saudi's coming to the same conclusion.
So where does that put us? Where do we stand as Americans for this new found outrage and realization of Saudi error? I think that if we're as dumb as the EU thinks we are we won't take advantage of this grand opportunity. We'll get in our "I told you so" and feel sanctimonious and smug and we will not capture the Saudi people's hearts to fight on our side.
The truth is that we need to put aside the memory of 19 terrorists and worry about the next 19. Those 19 will, with Saudi aid, be converted away from their beliefs to a more pacific form of Islam. But we have to do more than cluck our tongues and grimly think "now see how you like it". If we're not going to end up in a genocidal conflict we're going to have to help muslims come to some sort of conclusion that excludes the nihilistic death cultists from among their ranks. We can't do it for them. But we can support them and watch their backs and flanks.
There's an opening here. We need to take it.
There's not much to say about Matthew Yglesias' recent posting on Negroponte beyond this quotation "As we all know, the Pope hates fags."
No, we don't actually.
This is about as funny as a blackface minstrel show and about as illuminating. I don't know what was going on in his mind when he wrote it but he hasn't yet come out with a clarification that he was just kidding about the Pope.
Apparently, the new Hamas leader has been picked but his name is a secret. The only other organization that I've heard of doing this is the papacy who will sometimes name a cardinal "in pectoris" or close to the chest to put off persecution and martyrdom in a particularly tough territory. Current "in pectoris" appointments include cardinals in the PRC, as an example. This does set up Hamas for some trouble though. What happened to their ideological taunts that they love death and martyrdom? Isn't the adoption of this Catholic practice a hypocritical nod to the culture of life? I'm sure Shin Bet is savoring the psy-ops possibilities of this as we speak.
Matthew Yglesias asks whether "it's hopeless". By this he means the war on terror and the remaking of the muslim world as tolerant, free nations that are at peace with modernity. He starts off by setting up the straw man of treason, that supporters of George W. Bush call any opposition to Bush administration policies treason and defeatism (being "with the terrorists"). I call this a straw man because you find criticism of Bush policies both from the left and the right and a certain type of criticism is never tagged as treason even by the biggest tinfoil hat types.
It's pretty obvious if you come at the question "can opposition be treasonous" objectively that certainly some of it can. Rolling grenades into your officers' and comrades' tents is many things, one of them being treasonous. Supporting treasonous actions in word and deed would also qualify though sometimes you wouldn't be able to get a formal conviction because of the high bar to treason prosecutions in the US. But aside from such obvious cases, treason is usually not used as a charge by serious people; stupid, counterproductive, and idiotic are much more appropriate labels. And it's up to the right wing to police our own misusers of the term.
It's also pretty clear that a huge chunk of the left simply has not gotten on side to the idea that we're at war. And until they are spanked soundly at the voting booth (possibly several times since 2002 clearly wasn't enough) they're not likely to do so. There is defeatism, there is an attempt to undermine morale on the part of some sections of the opposition, and there has been an appalling lack of effort on the part of too much of the responsible left to clean up after their own nutballs.
But what's really upsetting is Yglesias' second premise, the idea that public opinion in dictatorships is reliably measured by polling the people and that even where it's accurate, it means much. We've got a lot of experience with soviet bloc opinion measurements. It's unlikely that the arab dictatorships are any different in their attempts to manipulate public opinion. In fact, it's a central reality of the region that Israel is used as a whipping boy to distract the populace from focusing on their domestic leadership's culpability in the sorry state these countries find themselves in.
The opposition by the leadership of arab regimes to freedom and democracy in Iraq is palpable and completely understandable. They don't want to be shown up as the pathetic losers that they are. They wish to cling to their national myths that they are the necessary whip hand needed to keep their people in line. And the overwhelming weight of the state owned and controlled media in that part of the world is an active participant in this myth making.
But these are rotten, hollow governments, terrified of freedom in Iraq because they know that they could not stand the spectacle of day in, day out life in an Iraq that was free and progressed faster than they were. As Iraq stabilizes and Iraqis start learning the lessons and habits of free men, whether they agree with the US all the time or not, they will be a subversive force in the Middle East just by existing. And in a way Iraq will be worse than Israel because they are Sunni, they are Shiite, they are Christian, they are Arab, they are Kurd, they provide none of the excuses, the ability to demonize them as outsiders that Israel offers.
Can we do this? Sure we can. Will we do it? We will, despite the ankle biters in Europe and the ones at home. Fundamentally I think we've grown tired of cutting and running. The idea that a new face on the same old policy of liberation and democratization is going to get France et al to provide troops because of our new nuance is very much a non-starter. There is room for a loyal opposition to provide alternatives but they need to be realistic alternatives. Too much of what is coming out of the wall sounds and feels like advice to turn our face to the wall and die.
Dhimmi Watch reports an Iraqi group is threatening church burnings as a tactic to get the US to lay off. There isn't much to say to that except that such things are unacceptable. If churches have become fair game, not because they hide combatants, but merely because they exist, there is no reason to think that even traditional muslim tolerance and protection in exchange for christian submission is viable anymore. Somebody needs to bring the subject of tolerance to Sistani and ask what the penalties are for muslims who violate them.
In listening to services today, one thing struck me about the traditional resurrection story. God's plan, as set out in the Bible was for women to be the first to go forth and proclaim the resurrection of Jesus. For a supposedly patriarchical, woman suppressing Church it's pretty interesting that the first to hear, to be called to spread the word were devout women.
Greeter: "Christ is risen!"
Response: "Truly, he is risen"
I'm not quite sure in what way to get outraged by PETA's latest offensive campaign. Should I be pissed off that they've decided to update the golden calf and put it on a crucifix? Or should a cow in Pope regalia be the focus of my outrage? Nah, I think it's the complete distortion of christian vegetarianism that really gets my goat.
Christianity has no problem with vegetarianism as a sacrifice that we do for love of God. But PETA makes a mockery of such traditional sacrifices with their faux faith and faulty theology. They do lots of things wrong, from supporting violent terrorists to trying to suppress medical progress but no matter how wacky their beliefs are, do they really need to be raising a new heresy?
Professor Bainbridge points out a perfectly disgusting Matthew Yglesias article that tendentiously declares that the left is trying to kill the Vatican and it goes downhill from there. After some of the commentors get through with the subject, we have accusations that the Catholic Church is authoritarian and fascistic.
This all started because John Forbes Kerry is a baptized, practicing Catholic. His positions on some issues have set him at odds with well-understood Catholic teaching and we're off. But it was the idea that Catholicism is fascistic that really got my creative juices flowing. Let's see how this would work in other areas. If Kerry was a current member of an organization that was racist, even if he, himself, was not racist, could you vote for him? For those who care about women in country clubs, you can make the same argument. It wouldn't matter your own personal opinion. If you believe that the organization is beyond the pale (and fascistic certainly should be beyond the pale) then a candidate who is a member of that organization should never get your vote.
I'm a Catholic. Clearly, I think that the idea that the Church is fascistic or otherwise 'not an admirable organization' as Matt Yglesias put it is simply false and insulting. But for those who do believe such things, how can they pull the lever for Kerry? Either they really don't believe what they say or they simply don't think that membership in a fascistic organization is all that bad. I'm not quite sure which is worse.
There are rich mines of hypocrisy waiting to be exploited on this theme.
Francis Poretto notes the convergance of the death the death cults a phenomenon that I've quietly noted for awhile and the motivating spirit behind the Bush Administration's Axis of Evil construction. Fran (I know him from long ago though we've largely lost touch) throws the net very widely and talks about death cults from Catholic mortification groups to the Voluntary Human Extinction Movement, "senescence begins when growth ends" and no matter the source, there's quite a bit of truth to that.
Taking things a bit further, there is an important question implied by this convergence, why are they doing it? Why are atheists and Islmists converging? Why are old barriers between hated nihilistic rivals falling? I think that the reason for this gathering danger is fundamentally optimistic, things are getting better. The culture of death used to run an awful lot of the world and its grip is slipping. Human freedom, growth, choice, democracy, equal rights, all these antidotes to death cults of all stripes are gaining ground worldwide in a quiet assault that has panicked nihilists around the world. They can see the end of the road for all of them so they band together to put down these upstarts.
This sort of grand coalition to bring down any potential player who has the potential for world domination is a very common feature of geopolitics. Such strange bedfellows coalitions exhist in the fall of most dictatorships, the rise of world powers like Napoleon's France, and potentially against the US today in the 'multipolarity' movement. It makes sense that in a spiritual fight between the forces of spiritual growth and senescence, the same mechanism would function.
If we fail today (and most bids for persistent global domination fail) the forces of spiritual growth and light need to prepare better for the next push. The grand coalition of nihilists will be waiting for them.
Well, the numbers are in for US moviegoers who saw The Passion of The Christ and it looks like Mel Gibson doesn't have to worry much about creating a wave of anti-semitism so far. By far the largest group is the 89% who say it doesn't change their opinion about jews, followed by 9% who say it made them feel more positive toward jews with the remaining two feeling more negative about jews.
The problem of the assumed moral superiority of the Left is fairly widespread. Unfortunately, a great many people believe that past moral crusades of people wearing the leftist label has earned leftists a presumption of good intentions and good will.
This presumption, unfortunately, has relaxed the intellectual standards that leftists use as the minimum level necessary to avoid embarrassment. The results are sad. You can bash the Bush administration for missing the boat and not spotting that something has changed but professional corruption or more specifically professionals engaging in a corrupted policy process where economists are putting out propaganda, not analysis does go beyond the pale.
It happens time and again. It is not enough that the center-right is mistaken or their solutions don't work. They want to starve people, kill them, burn down churches, and stage domestic coups. And because of the banked up good feeling of a great many honest, middle-of-the-road americans, they have often gotten away with it in the past. Such charges, and the lack of repudiation by others in the left, are marks of the rise to prominence of an indecent, immoral left. They will say any charge, repeat any lie, if it staves off their collapse due to their intellectual bankruptcy. The only thing more horrifying to these people than being outside the halls of power is having to sit down and rethink basic premises of what an honest left should be about now that socialism has been proven a mistake.
I like Wretchard's blog and I generally support the positions that he takes but there's something wrong with the latest essay at the Belmont Club. Animal models are well and good for making analogies to human situations. George Orwell took this form to great heights in his classic Animal Farm but there is a terrible danger of dehumanization in using such models.
The major problem with his article is that it frames the situation in a self-defeating way. The idea of a human form of Ichneumon Wasp with islamist killing parasites being made secure by a paralyzing fifth column of postmodernists, cultural relativists, and assorted other tribes of the left is to give these people a subhuman quality that is intrinsically evil and impossible to reform. Kill them all is the instinctive response. But is that what we want? No.
What we want is to fracture them against each other. A kill them all response unites them. What we want is to reform and peel off those we can to our own side. A dehumanizing message gives them no common ground with us. We can no longer befriend the bug, the assassin, the parasitic demon.
What we need is something better, much better than this message, but unfortunately Wretchard is very talented in his walk down the wrong road. Glenn Reynolds has graced him with an instalanche and the killer bug, intrinsically evil meme has already gone 'round the world.
What we need is to demonstrate to the leftists that they can turn away from the codependent enablers of the islamists and turn back to the noble cause of battling for human liberty when it counts. The left, too much of it anyway, seems to have forgotten that the center-right is its electoral opponent but those who believe in slavery, in unequal rights based on religion, in conversion or death, those are the enemy. No matter how far fetched the idea of a restored Caliphate ruling triumphantly over the entire world, this is their goal and it is not a goal that any honest leftist can tolerate in any shape, way, or form.
What we need to demonstrate to the islamists is that Islam does not honor the suicide. It condemns the apostate to hell. And the leadership of Al Queda and the rest of the terrorist breed are not true faithful but betrayers of the faith, members of a nihilistic death cult that is abhorrent to God. Following them means losing any hope of salvation and paradise.
And what we need to demonstrate to our fellow war-coalition members is that while dehumanization may be momentarily satisfying to our most base emotions, it is destructive to the cause and it strengthens the hand of the terror masters to reclaim their waverers. The Islamists and their leftist enablers are members of the culture of death. You cannot fight death with death, only with life. That's a hard challenge for even the best of wordsmiths. I hope that Wretchard rises to that challenge next time he takes up the subject.
I am a bit miffed about the fact that everybody seems to have developed an awfully comprehensive case of amnesia regarding Al Queda's long sought goals regarding Spain. This is a problem that seems to be afflicting the right as well as the left so it's not motivated by partisanship. Long before the election of the current center-right government, Al Queda said it wanted to retake all muslim lands and repeatedly, specifically mentioned Andalusian Spain.
I can only speculate that there is something of a demented psychological defense mechanism at work that wishes to wrest control of events from the Islamists and make this about us. It is something that we did that provoked hostility, enmity, and the current attack. If Aznar wasn't heading the government, if Spain hadn't gotten involved in Iraq, the hostility towards Spain that Al Queda has would not be different in character. They would still want the king dead, the Spanish Constitution torn to shreds, and a sharia regime imposed on that land as part of a restored Caliphate.
There is nothing that Spain can do about that sentiment among Islamists. All it can do is to take action to kill the ideology that gives birth to such undying enmity and while that long-term strategy is working to reduce the number of believers via police and military action as much as possible.
Changing positions on Iraq will not spare Spain. It would not spare any of us.
This is the sort of development that will truly allow us to get off the color charts and the clash of civilizations maps, simple people establishing schools, engaging the radical islamists and the violent militias and claiming that they are insufficiently islamic, with enough knowledge and education to back that claim up. This is an islam that does not have to be warred against but debated with. It is something that can live and thrive in the modern world and we can reach an agreement with it.
May many more such initiatives come about.
Romanians are mostly eastern christians, overwhelmingly Orthodox with a light sprinkling of byzantine catholics (of which I'm one). I've asked several what they think about The Passion of The Christ and what I found is bad news for Mel Gibson, capitalist, but pretty good news for Mel Gibson christian.
I don't think The Passion of The Christ is going to do very good numbers in Eastern Europe. The reason is the utter incomprehension of those (non-american acculturated romanians) who I've talked to who've seen the film, to understand what the big fuss is all about. The attitude is best summarized by a classic phrase from one friend "It's like they've never seen a crucifixion before."
This movie is jarring and inspiring for those who have either forgotten or never really internalized what the Passion was all about, the base brutalization, suffering, and death of the most perfect being ever on this planet who, though without sin, paid for all our sins. If you've already internalized this. If you already know this in your bones, Mel Gibson doesn't have a lot to teach you via this movie and a country filled with such people will not go to see this movie in large numbers.
And you know what? I think Mel, the christian, wouldn't mind that result at all.
I found myself pondering the term "Useful Idiot" after reading this article in Balloon-Juice. There is a fundamental problem with the term in that it originated and takes the point of view of the tyrant. For a citizen in a free society, the phrase has no inherent core meaning without transporting your self-view, however momentarily, to that of a dictator. And once you arrive in that dirty place, there is only a feeling of disgust and cynicism that after these idiots have outlived their usefulness, they too will go to the wall.
But taken from the point of view of the lover of liberty, useful idiots may still be idiotic but they are certainly not useful, nor is there any future plan for their execution or imprisonment. The species needs another label, something that puts, not the dictator, but the son of liberty at the psychological center. If hypocrisy is the compliment that vice pays to virtue, useful idiot and other such borrow terms from the slavemaster's dictionary are the compliments that free men pay to tyrants.
It is an unnecessary compromise. We should rid ourselves of it.
The massive bombing casualties in Baghdad and Karbala are a clear sign that there will be no end to muslim deaths in Iraq until Al Queda's infrastructure is destroyed and sufficient well trained and experienced local forces are available to both secure against attacks and take away any excuses that some might still have that Al Queda is an anti-occupation force.
Such a large operation could not have been done without a support structure in place locally. But if the inter-confessional war that Al Queda clearly wants to break out actually happens, that infrastructure is likely to grow, destabilizing Iraq and raising the possibility of a regional war.
In the end, the solution will be a general muslim determination that muslims killing other muslims to provoke further war against muslims earns the perpetrators a place in hell. A useful exercise that outsiders can further is to encourage all imams to pronounce on the issue and to advertise those who are pro-fratricide and who support them.
I'm absolutely taken aback by the naked religious hate imbued in this article on Gibson's Passion. It has a clear tone of regret that Protestants are no longer iconoclasts, smashing Catholic Cathedrals and whitewashing their murals. Why only a century ago, upright protestant elites were sneering and looking down at those blood drenched papists with their florid counter-reformation art.
What's wrong with you people? Why don't you hate each other anymore? Don't you see that Gibson's artistic style is too lush and fancy for Protestants to do anything but hate and smash? You're wimps for not taking up the hate of your forefathers!
Mel Gibson, notoriously, belongs to a stripe of Catholicism that is extraordinarily conservative and traditionalist. Whether he thinks this Pope is legitimate or that Peter's seat is empty is not, to my understanding, definitively settled.
Such Catholics are generally most up in arms about Vatican II's initiatives in ecumenism. One of the most unremarked ironies of the entire event that is The Passion of The Christ is that he is, in his most conservative and traditionalist way, making more headway in Catholic/Protestant understanding than entire commissions of theologians and interfaith committees that have grappled with the subject since the heady days of Vatican II. Whether this progress would have happened absent those committees and commissions is a long and complex exercise speculating in alternative histories but the progress that Gibson is forging is remarkable and notable.
We might just be getting past our hates without giving up our faith. No doubt, Christ would smile.
I've talked about jewish responsibility for communism before. The problem is complex. Dissecting Leftism has a post that's somewhat on point. It shows how taking collective responsibility can go overboard and lead to horrible consequences. Whatever the truth about jews dominating the marxist movements of Hitler's young adult years, the jewish community's responsibility should never have gone beyond stern words of verbal disapproval and dissociation from people who personally refused to take up their responsibilities.
Hitler saw a horribly violent evil spreading throughout Germany via marxism. He made the fundamental mistake of fighting evil with evil but the error was in his evil means, not the idea of fighting an evil itself.
Donald Sensing's current article on culture generated some really frustrating comments that advocated turning off the TV and dropping out of the current culture. That's, at best, a half baked solution. I should know, I tried it. For over a year I literally had no TV. I got all my news off the Internet and radio, mostly the Internet. I read, I paid attention to my new wife. It was a decent existence, I thought, but what it wasn't was engaged. I was, to a great extent, absent from the spiritual battle over american culture. And when I returned, I noticed the difference.
When I left TV land, things weren't quite as crass, when I came back, it seemed like every other show had an occult or vampiric link to it. Now my father was born in the heart of Transylvania and I was born on its edge so I understand the schtick but the current iteration was a little too admiring of the evil side of things for me to be comfortable with it. And the general level of intelligence dropped. It's still dropping but if you haven't at least dropped out for a year, you can miss the gradualness of the process.
There are technical innovations, filtering content, that permit the erection of a wall between you and the sewer. But that's not enough for an ultimate solution. What needs to happen is for us to demand something better and be willing to spend our money on that, be willing to lead the cultural elite not just with the negative stick of a boycott but the positive carrot of increased profitability if they do good things.
Part of that, I fear, will require us to remake the distribution networks of culture in a way that destroys the monopolies that the current gatekeepers enjoy. Hollywood, the RIAA big five, the broadcast networks need to be forced to create new business models that destroy their ability to impede highly rated shows like 'Touched by an Angel' because the people who watch them are not the 'right people'.
Literally, the demographics of people who are most likely to care about christian morality are valued less than those who do not have the experience, and tend not to have the judgment, to include serious moral standards in their cultural consumption habits.
This is going to create some very odd bird alliances. The countercultural hackers who wish to create technological systems to end-run our current cultural gatekeepers are the most likely allies we have in this battle. They often don't understand christianity, sometimes are even explicitly hostile to it, but their free code ethic and hostility to the corporatist control machinery will create an atmosphere where the consumers of culture will actually be the customers and that is a situation in which serious christians will have a favorable playing field to engage in spiritual warfare.
Moral degradation and deviance will always exist as long as free will does. Some will choose the wrong path, however much we may try to persuade them otherwise. But there is no reason that such fare has to be tolerated in our own homes. There is no reason that we have to accept this bystander view of our culture where the broadcaster is the vendor and the customer is the advertiser, not the consumer.
Creating a world where the cultural consumer is the customer is the best current option for freedom minded faithful. This gets the free market working in our favor, not at cross purposes to what we want. The market will respond to our needs, but only if we are the customer. Withdrawing from consuming culture does not get us to this position. At best it is a temporary spiritual retreat that arms you with a more objective perspective about how bad things are.
What's missing is the idea of struggling for these men's hearts and souls. There is a great opportunity of a hotline of muslim imams who would be able to bring these men in from the cold, preach to them, and arrange for them to have a reconciliation with the US government. There is nothing holding back such an organization from forming and putting up notices in every mosque in the US. It would be a tremendous blow if we could lower the cost of rooting these people out to our pennies in re-education to their dollar in training them in the first place.
The Department of Homeland Security could make an initiative to imams offering to respect confidentiality and providing a legitimate way for these people to get clean papers and stay in the US (surely monitored, but legal). From a muslim perspective, these misguided souls must be saved and brought back to the true, more tolerant islam that they have abandoned for a false vision that will condemn their souls.
So why doesn't this organization exist? Why isn't it generally known? Why aren't they active nationwide wherever there are muslims to guard against these inserted agents? All we can hope is that moderate muslims will organize and that the DHS will enable it by offering a way out for these sleepers.
One of the ways to disarm Al Queda is to demonstrate that it is not a muslim organization. It's ability to recruit fanatical muslims would be destroyed by the idea that muslims following them are going to Hell. Over at joyfulchristian, we have a note not only remarking that we are making progress but that our news media is so bad at its job that they haven't noticed.
Fitna is a complex term that includes the idea of provoking muslim to fight muslim, improper combat, and temptations that draw people away from God. By provoking Al Queda into displaying their contempt for traditional muslim values, we're creating a situation which dries up their ability to recruit. But this effect is greatly affected by mainstream media's ability to notice that this is what Al Queda is doing and to transmit this information world-wide.
There is no betrayal of media values toward truth and justice to accurately report Al Queda's hypocrisy in provoking sectarian strife. Their failure to do so is mostly incompetence and inexperience in covering this sort of thing. Where it is not (paging Al Jazeera, paging Al Jazeera), their failure to expose this anti-muslim action is a major news story in itself.
Another loose Vatican cannon? I wonder. I'm highly skeptical of the idea that reducing AIDS drug costs are anything but charity. Furthermore, I find it rather puzzling that a lack of charity can be genocide.
Certainly, you hope that people will be charitable, that they will give of themselves as much as they can to help the poor and unfortunate. I can even see sharp words and disapproval over someone's lack of charity. Genocide accusations are so over the top that I really wonder whether the Curia is becoming lax in disciplining loose cannons.
The folks over at Dhimmiwatch are always on the lookout for the appearance of dhimmitude, the subservient attitude that militant islam demands of its non-muslim subjects. Dhimmitude is not just a legal status in a caliphate population, it is a psychological attitude that presages defeat at the hands of muslim aggressors throughout history. It is the attitude that Al Queda wants to instill in us.
Now the Chicago Tribune note referenced in the above item is supposed to be an example of dhimmitude because it buys into a cover story that true Islam is not aggressive. Now I'm a bit more agnostic than the Dhimmiwatch folks but only a little bit. The cure for such arguments is to assume the cover story is actually the truth and strictly demand performance by the true believers to act in accord with the cover story. If there really is a fight for the soul of Islam, all well and good, we want to know all about it and demand that all muslims in our nation fight on the right side against the death cult islamists who want to enslave us.
But if it really is a cover story, close examination will force these people to either repudiate the cover story or enact it into reality despite their true beliefs. And if their behavior is the same as if they were sincere, I'll take it as a win and keep an eye on them so there is no backsliding. In a generation or two, they'll even forget that it's an act.
I recently discovered Clayton Cramer's blog and generally liked what I read. He goes off the rails with his innuendo laden post on the recent papal call for fairness in suspected cases of child abuse. Cramer mischaracterizes the message which was that justice for the child should predominate but that we should not forget fairness to the accused. He makes it sound as if it were solely about the rights of the accused instead of a minor caution that a hunt for justice should not descend into witch hunt.
Cramer also unjustifiably criticizes Roman Catholic priestly celibacy. As a member in a part of the Catholic Church where celibacy is not mandatory, I have a bit more experience than most catholics in the pros and cons of married v. celibate priests. Both have their place and have both positives and negatives. In my church, the last time the balance tilted in favor of unmarried priests was in 1989, which was the year the last Romanian dictator fell.
Married priests can be threatened with damage to their spouses and children in an assault that is, by definition, unavailable against celibate priests. The rule of celibacy is a general rule adopted by rite and is a worldwide affair. If you want married priests, accept the headaches that go along with them, and swap over to a Catholic rite that has them. The idea that the celibate clergy is a useless anachronism is a horrible denial of the suffering going on among faithful celibate priests in the PRC and other countries where the Catholic Church is under active persecution. Married priests are often excused some trials as they have families to care for while celibate priests soldier on.
As for there being something peculiar to the Catholic faith and priestly organization that promotes or attracts or causes pedophilia, such statements would only be reasonable if priests were being convicted at higher rates than rabbis, ministers, or imams. As far as I know there are no such studies demonstrating this and there was certainly nothing cited in the article justifying it. It's all character assassination and innuendo. Who was the childhood priest when John Geoghan was a young boy? Was he a pedophile? Is there any evidence to back up this charge?
It looks like the papal admonition to avoid witch hunts is necessary after all.
Andrew Sullivan is taking a bit of flack about his recent columns on the trampling deaths at the Hajj. Sullivan's right to be bothered by the 'so what' attitude but I think he needs to think a bit deeper about what fatalism's relationship is to the Islamist death-cult.
It's not indifference to human life that is a problem with fatalism. Fatalism is an indifference to the idea that you, as a person inside the system, have any responsibility, or even ability to affect things for the better.
The ceremony of innocence is drowned; The best lack all conviction, while the worst Are full of passionate intensity.
Yeats' words are very much on point, those written above, and yes, the rest of them too.
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last, Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?
What rough beast indeed?
Putting aside the main point for a second, an example Stanley Kurtz uses in his most recent gay marriage in Scandinavia article puzzles me. He refers to this article about pro-gay flags flying above two Norwegian parishes. From Kurtz's article, it appears that the Lutheran churches have a bishop who does not want those flags flown but the council has acted in defiance of his lawful authority.
What puzzles me is why those who represent orthodox christian views on the subject allow themselves to be bullied by a local majority of rebels. At least two council members were against it. The solution is simple to my eyes. If I were in such a position as a church council member. I would simply enter the church, take down the flag, pack it up and mail it to the bishop with the following note.
Dear Bishop XYZ,
Enclosed, please find one flag paid for with parish money that I took down from our church. I understand that you have forbidden this but since it's your parish, it's your flag so I leave it to you to do what you see fit with it.
I will continue to send any such flags I find flying illegally to you until you either lift your prohibition or put a stop to this foolish rebellion. Parish discipline is your business. Being faithful to your authority is mine.
Yours in Christ,
In NYC I knew a tough as nails priest who went through Romania's communist repression (he's since passed away). He would have understood my actions. In Chicago I knew an even tougher priest that went through the same hard prison camps. He would have thought I was being too civil. That's the school from which I took my faith. That's the kind of faith that is needed to take back a church.
I can't understand how the orthodox believers are tolerating it. I simply can't understand it.
It appears that the highest ranking cleric in Saudi Arabia has taken the occasion of the haj (a very important occasion for all muslims) to deliver a sermon against terrorism. How important this is will become more clear as his words circulate and are translated into more languages but so far it's looking a great deal like progress.
I've always maintained that it is the theologians who will win the war on terror. If hell is the destination of the suicide bomber according to muslim consensus, we will shortly find the practice falling into disuse. If jihad is examined and re-examined to take into account the modern pluralistic world into proper account, even more progress might be made. This, at heart, is a war fought on religious terms. We win a great victory without firing a shot every time a muslim cleric exposes the false theology of our enemies.
Update: The Chicago Tribune also has an article (which is a bit longer than the LAT article referenced above).
Samizdata has an article out on renaming suicide bombers to something more useful. Unfortunately, most of the suggestions tend to minimize the bombers' humanity. My own reply below:
The renaming impulse is all wrong and actually helps the islamists. Instead of minimizing their humanity we should be emphasizing it and noting that the theologians who support this are supporting a faith of nihilism and death that, in Islam's own tradition, marks them for intense pressure culminating in fatwas that call for their own deaths. If they're not human, it lets the imams who try to recruit people into that mindset off the hook and in business.
I don't have an actual new name but something that I'd be happy with would make and emphasize the svengali/koresh/stockholm/Jim Jones aspect to the whole thing. By Islam's rules, they should be slitting these imams' throats for persistently encouraging this sort of thing. I'd be more than happy for them to stop short of that and reform but if it takes some slit throats to stop it, I'm ok with that.
Go over and suggest your own reforms. I think it's urgent that the islamic world come to its senses and realize that these imams encouraging nihilism under cover of Islam are, literally, satanic. And that term is used in a context that is technical, not pejorative and covers theology that was established in the time of monotheistic unity, ie prophets upon whom Islam, Christianity, and Judaism all agree on.
Believe it or not, this is the only strategy we actually have for eliminating the threat of suicide bombings. No spiritual warfare, and there will never be an end to the tactic. Unlike thuggee, we can't just jail all the muslims, nor should we want to.
Coldest day in the year, it hurts to breathe outside, and I've got two mormon girls going door to door and endangering their health. It's way below zero today and they're going to get hurt. Whoever sent them out on a day like this is irresponsible or crazy.
Stanley Kurtz has an excellent article on the history of gay marriage in the Scandinavian countries and the impending dissolution of the institution of marriage in Scandinavia.
One thing that struck me is the utter failure of christianity to go on the offensive in propagating the institution of marriage. Christianity is a faith whose charge is to spread the word throughout the world. You would think the dissolution of marriage into a sea of cohabiting couples would create alarm, organization, and a counterattack not only to gain back the territory lost but spread and deepen the christian message. Instead, the scandinavian churches have largely failed to even hold the line, much less create any sort of gain for their message. They reveal themselves as impotent and hollow institutions badly in need of regeneration and renewal.
Relapsed Catholic notes that the ADL seems to be 2004's largest spreader of the meme that jews killed Jesus.
Now I've actually met Catholics who believe in the blood libel, that jews born today are guilty. They were, to a person, ignorant of both recent Catholic thought on the subject and a good deal of ancient thought among the first Church fathers. Such people are usually bigots first and Catholics second but argument from authority actually works in case the order is reversed. For those who want more detail, you can find a great deal at the Vatican website.
One thing you would find there is the following passage:
At the dawn of Christianity, after the crucifixion of Jesus, there arose disputes between the early Church and the Jewish leaders and people who, in their devotion to the Law, on occasion violently opposed the preachers of the Gospel and the first Christians. In the pagan Roman Empire, Jews were legally protected by the privileges granted by the Emperor and the authorities at first made no distinction between Jewish and Christian communities. Soon however, Christians incurred the persecution of the State. Later, when the Emperors themselves converted to Christianity, they at first continued to guarantee Jewish privileges. But Christian mobs who attacked pagan temples sometimes did the same to synagogues, not without being influenced by certain interpretations of the New Testament regarding the Jewish people as a whole. "In the Christian world—I do not say on the part of the Church as such—erroneous and unjust interpretations of the New Testament regarding the Jewish people and their alleged culpability have circulated for too long, engendering feelings of hostility towards this people". Such interpretations of the New Testament have been totally and definitively rejected by the Second Vatican Council.
Unfortunately, most of the time that you try such persuasion, it doesn't work because for that person their religion is just a convenient cover. Whatever they truly believe in, it generally isn't christian.
Michael Williams swings a bit at a straw man. Yes, I believe in a soul that lives after death, as does any conventional christian. But the priceless artwork I was referring to was the body, not the soul. This is the source of all the christian prohibitions against suicide, self-mutilation, gluttony, and other acts that damage the body. If the soul were all important and the body without much value, why not get right with God and off yourself to get a straight ticket to Heaven?
For that matter, if villains are "ones who have surrendered their natural rights by infringing on the natural rights of others" when do they regain their natural rights? When do they regain their humanity? When do they cease to be "goblins"? Without an answer to that you can go straight to execution of sentence, no need for Miranda or trial. I don't actually think that he's serious about that statement, but that it was uttered without due thought as to the implications of surrendering those natural rights meant. Would man traps be legal in his regime? Would an immobilized burglar merit a coup de grace to the back of the head before the 911 call? If he's surrendered his rights, why not?
And such horrible scenarios are where ill-thought out dehumanization eventually leads. It contributes to an atmosphere of moral coarsening, a coarsening that has no natural stopping point beyond visceral horror and rejection at a random point of slide down the ugly slippery slope. And if there is no random point of collective revulsion that turns the tide? That's when you get Rwanda's Tutsi genocide and all the other bloody body piles of the ugly side of human history.
Well, the Vatican has spoken. In Chutzpah Squared I chided Frank Rich for raising the ludicrous idea that the Vatican was incapable of correcting the record itself if the Pope did not say those words. In Chutzpah Squared II I was incredibly ticked off about a CNS item that claimed the words were not uttered. I declared "Unless this story has more twists left to play out, all enthusiasm I had about this movie has drained clean away."
One final twist does seem to be in the cards. The news story linked above has both the full Vatican statement in translated english and the original italian. This can be confirmed at the official website so this is likely to be the final posting in the series.
The end result is that the Vatican's official policy is that film makers should not be submitting their art for papal blessings. Don't do it. The Pope is not an art critic even if the physical man that holds the office used to be in the theater. However, it does seem to be a gospel based historical film.
I, once again, will be enthusiastic and looking forward to seeing the film in the theater.
Villains in the piece: Frank Rich, CNS
Heroes: Gibson, official Vatican Channels, the nameless heroes who champion the Vatican website
Technology does matter and can cure a lot of the vile manipulations that have plagued the Vatican historically. This is a nice case study on a minor point.
Michael Williams has a somewhat disturbing post on the subject of dehumanizing in order to kill. I think that he's adopting an easy way out that has wide negative implications for social policy.
I think that it should not be easy to kill. I belong to a faith that takes the commandment against murder very seriously. But at the same time it is not a pacifist faith (though our current bishop, God bless him, gets very close). One thing that it would be very much against is the idea of dehumanization. Yes, Saddam Hussein is a child of God, yes Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot all were children of God and special to Him.
That doesn't mean that they didn't need a bullet to their brain as soon as possible to limit the horrific damage they were bent on, and ultimately succeeded at, doing. What it does mean is that killing is ultimately a horrible moral choice and that you should look very hard at alternatives to doing the equivalent of taking a baseball bat to one of God's priceless artworks because if you could have got around the problem without killing, without destroying that priceless handiwork, and you chose destruction over an alternative, he's going to be mad.
Each of us, however, has a personal duty to preserve ourselves. We have a duty to preserve our families because we too, are just as priceless, just as precious in the eyes of God. And if someone comes into my house with death on his mind, I'll take up that duty of defense without forgetting the enormous value of what I destroy by baseball bat, knife or shotgun. I'm not killing a "goblin" as Michael Williams thinks of it. I'm destroying something priceless to preserve something priceless that I'm specifically responsible for, myself. And spiritually, civilized men should be prepared to do such things. Dehumanization just makes it too easy for others to fashion rationalizations for aggressive killing. To a certain extent, it disarms us and makes us more receptive to the calls of demagogues and haters.
The Drudge Report is carrying an item from Catholic News Service stating that the Pope did not comment on Mel Gibson's film. Earlier today, I grew hot under the collar at Frank Rich's IHT column on the affair. I still don't think that Rich got things right. As Archbishop Dziwisz has made clear, the Pope is fully capable of correcting the record if it needs it. And, by CNS' account, it needed it.
I had been looking forward to going to see this film, largely on the strength of the extraordinary comment from the Pope. Unless this story has more twists left to play out, all enthusiasm I had about this movie has drained clean away.
Some day, I might see the film, but not in theaters, not even as a rental. Making up a papal endorsement is just not acceptable and the financial penalty for that sort of idiocy should discourage any repeats.
Frank Rich's recent IHT column entitled Chutzpah and spiritual McCarthyism takes the cake.
In Rich's eyes, the Pope is a bit of a boob. His mind is slipping as he has "unwittingly" been roped into endorsing Mel Gibson's new movie. No pontiff with a quarter century of experience running the Vatican is so naive as to not understand exactly what is being requested when his opinion is being asked about a controversial movie he just saw. Papal endorsements have carried enormous weight for centuries. And what an endorsement! Five words that say it all. Five words that any first grade child would understand. "It is as it was" is a great feat of economical wordsmithing. Or it would be, if the Pope still had his wits about him. Rich's story makes no sense unless the Pope has lost them.
So, in the end, after slinging ugly accusations that Mel Gibson's producers take advantage of a mentally reduced pontiff, that Robert Novak is a McCarthyite, and that Archbishop Stansilaw Dziwisz is a liar, we are left with the impression that this most semitophillic of popes would leave such an interfaith time bomb ticking away without correcting the record in good time.
John Paul II runs a state. It's a small state, sure. But if any pontiff felt he had been roped "into a publicity campaign to sell a movie" under false pretenses he could certainly call his press secretary and correct any falsehood. And it would be covered, to the deep detriment of anybody foolish enough to lie about getting a papal blessing. The backlash would be tremendous.
And if some of the liars were Church officials? With a whisper the most powerful Cardinal can have his world stripped to the inside of a monk's cell if the Pope wishes it. It is an awesome power that this particular pontiff has been loathe to employ but that does not mean that there is anyone in the full-on scrum that is Vatican politics who is unaware that he retains it. And what would such a lie buy when everybody assumes that the papal throne will soon be vacant? The smallest misstep in the last 50 yards of a close race is fatal. And the race for the next papacy started in 1979.
Update: Here I go talking about the Pope being perfectly capable of defending himself and Archbishop Diwisz demonstrates it.
I said there would be backlash if they made up the quote. You bet there will be.
St. Louis' new Catholic Archbishop is taking a strong stand at the forefront of the pro-life movement.
The disconnect between Catholic politicians who want the benefits of the Catholic label without the pain of having to defend their faith have long been a painful issue among Catholics. Arcbishop Burke has decided that a bit of public discourse will improve more of the faithful than might be damaged by exposing what have been previously private exhortations to the public. This the same sort of difficulty that Cardinal Martino tripped over in his badly worded comments on Saddam's capture. You feel for the guy, sure, but the benefit in relieving suffering by publicizing the situation sometimes exceeds the suffering caused by taking public action. Forgetting that balance is not compassion but moral callousness. Nobody likes his personal struggle with his faith to hit the newspapers. But past a certain point, the public exposure creates more general benefit than the pain may cost to one person's pride.
HT to The Corner
Hizb ut-Tahrir is starting to worry The Argus. I'd heard of them before but decided to follow the link to their site to see if they really were turning themselves into the "Sinn Fein" of the Islamist movement. On their site I found a link to a text entitled How the Khilafah was Destroyed. This is their great grievance so I thought that it would be worthwhile to get their perspective.
Then the industrial revolution in Europe emerged in a remarkable manner that had a profound impact on the states’ powers. Muslims stood idle and confused by this revolution, hence the balance of power in the world changed and the Islamic state began her slide from the leading spot gradually, until eventually she became the coveted object of the greedy.
This quote appears in the first chapter of the book, right after the preface. "Muslims stood idle and confused by this revolution" and they could say, but did not, that they have stood idle and confused by every major revolution since then, the green, information, and biotech revolutions have also left muslims standing idle and confused.
The rest of the book is history, detail, and obfuscation. This sentence is the only thing you really need to understand muslim failure, their current impotence, and their hopeless look at the future. They have failed to integrate the industrial and post-industrial revolutions into their world and, no matter how much they were ahead of us at one time, we struggled and overcame them. Their lead was not permanent and neither is ours. This is something else that they do not understand and their failure to understand the impermanence of societal victory as long as competitive societies still exist leads them to strike out in frustration because of their impotence, their current weakness.
They waste their strength, their opportunities to catch up, in senseless violence and fall further behind. Their educated become martyrs instead of society builders. They decimate their own ranks.
It's hard to tell where to start with regard to Mark Kleinman's flawed analysis of christianity and politics.
He goes wrong in the very first sentence in that christianity is not an ethnicity. There are many ethnicities that take pride in their christianity but no ethnicity, that I am aware of, that kicks you out of the group if you are not one. From this unpromising start much foolish and ignorant opining follows.
To love your enemy does not require you to not imprison him, depose him, or even kill him. What it does do is require you to take action against your enemy in a spirit of love that, if/when he repents, you will not descend into mindless revenge but take your sincere new ally and get beyond the conflict that has tried your strength to that point. Mr. Kleiman may believe in vendetta unto the end of time but it is neither practical nor christian to do so. Perhaps he didn't recognize enlightened self-interest wrapped in 1st century mediterranean philosophy. I can only hope.
But not only is he completely missing the point of loving your enemy but also the point of I Corinthians 1:18. The christian is playing a different game than the atheist. It is the same game that the jew and the muslim are playing (though they believe that there are different rules). The game is uniting with God in eternal Paradise. The goals are different, success metrics are different, and successful tactics are different because it fundamentally is a different game. That's the point of the passage. If you're not playing the game, you will perish or, more accurately, your soul will lie in eternal Hell. Different games are being played on the same playing field and this confuses many, evidently including Mr. Kleinman. This is strange because the very next paragraph he lays the monotheist game of souls out fairly well. He just doesn't connect it to the text properly.
Mr. Kleinman finds it hard to reconcile the idea of a good God with a punishing God. Did his father never send him to his room, give him a stern lecture, or a warm bottom? Punishment is an inescapable part of good parenting. Children will make mistakes and test limits. It is their nature. Without punishment, there is a significantly lower chance of learning and correction of bad behavior. As many indulgent parents have learned, the kids don't thank you for it later either.
In the Eastern Catholicism that I practice, there is no distinctive purgatory. The doctrine of purgatory is merely a portion of hell that you can get out of. And while it is a distinctly minority position, some of the church fathers did hold that it was remarkably presumptuous to limit God's forgiveness even on the question of the Devil himself. Who God forgives is His business. No doubt he would want Hell to be empty (as Mr. Kleinman speculates) and even the fallen angels returned to his good graces but there's that whole free will thing that takes matters out of his hands. He granted free will freely and knew the price of that gift.
Mr. Kleinman really goes off the rails when he states "Christians are the professed adherents of a foreign dominion, serving a King whose authority is not recognized by the Constitution of the United States. It's not even obvious that people with such divided loyalties ought even to be allowed to vote, let alone have their voices heard in public discourse." This is profoundly unfaithful to american history, tradition, and common good sense. The Declaration of Independence formally started the revolution that ended with the Constitution, firmly placed God at the top of the authority chain, endowing humanity with inalienable rights which governments (including the US government) respect. When human governments do not respect those God given rights, government becomes illegitimate and rebellion licit.
The truth is that a free society, whether under a constitutional monarchy, a democratic republic, or some other system, calls on the christian to play a different role in civic life than a tyranny. Render unto Caeser, meant pay the tax in Jesus' time because that's all that Caeser rightfully required. But a free society requires more from all its citizens. It requires their judgment, their moral sense, and their active consent.
Christians are called to evangelize and be a light unto the nations. This is something that is both done through preaching and through daily action. Living your life well, helping others, contributing to society is a basic duty and there is no conflict between voting, participating in public counsels, even governing, and being a good christian.
Then we get to the case of Cardinal Martino. Part of what makes loving your enemy hard to implement is that you love his victims too. Cardinal Martino's error was not in feeling compassion for Saddam. It was in feeling insufficient compassion for his victims, the entire nation of Iraq. The millions who lived in fear, even then, of Saddam's eventual return were in a sort of anticipatory hell. In love for them, how should Saddam's capture be handled? How do you balance things?
Saddam could have, should have, been captured secretly and nobody should have been told if things were counted in military/intelligence terms only. Who knows who would have shown up with how many more incriminating documents if they thought Saddam was still free? Who knows how many people narrowly escaped capture because they were warned and fled ahead of the search and capture teams? How many people will die because of those uncaptured Baathists?
But Saddam's capture was handled in a fairly sophisticated manner. Secrecy until confirmation and then video footage that would highlight that the nightmare was over and that people no longer had to fear Saddam's return or that the Coalition had the wrong man was what we got. If we didn't minimize future net deaths, my estimate is that we got pretty close. And for the price of a bit of grooming and swabbing, millions slept that night in peace and joy. Most of them were in Iraq but I can say with assurance that the Iraqi diaspora had their hearts eased as well. Whether the balance of compassion was set up correctly is a grand topic that theologians might debate for the next hundred years but to show selective compassion only for your enemy is not Christian and undeniably unjust.
In his update things do not notably improve. His attempt to define ethnic christianity fails. The jewish parallel does not hold. If you are an atheist you can still be a jew. You cannot be an atheist christian.
The idea of Christianity as being the sum total of what is in the Gospels is the protestant doctrine of "only scripture" or "sola scriptura". It is not a majority opinion, by any means. To take it as normative without a bucket of caveats is misleading at best. It is even worse in the case of Prof. Bainbridge who appears (according to Mr. Kleinman) to be a Roman Catholic.
But if Christianity means a set of beliefs, then it's perfectly possible for an outsider to say whether someone's remarks indicate that he holds those beliefs. It should be no more offensive to say that "X is not a Christian" in that sense when he rejects the love of enemies than it is to say "X is not a Kantian" after X argues for a consequentialist ethic.
The particular doctrine of the Roman Catholic Church is not only that the Bible is the Word of God but that the miracle of Pentacost that created the Church established a chain of bishops that had the power to decide which texts would go into the Bible and never lost the power to modify, tweak, and add to the equally valid Tradition that is complementary to Holy Scripture.
Thus, Prof. Bainbridge (if he is an RC, I didn't independently check) can only be judged as faithful by this larger body of work, of which the Bible is a relatively small part. You have to toss in the ecumenical councils as well at a minimum and probably the canons as well. Drawing a jewish parallel, it would be like judging the Torah without the rabbinical commentaries. For muslims, it would be like into account the Koran without taking into account the hadiths. But here I myself may be treading in unfamiliar waters. Suffice it to say that Holy Scripture and Holy Tradition for a Catholic are equal in validity and to pick and choose between them in evaluating a Catholic's fidelity is profoundly misguided.
Mr. Kleinman can stack himself against two millenia of monks, bishops, theologians, and canon lawyers and claim that he has discovered that, as an outsider, as someone who has not gone through all the relevant documents, christians should be out of politics and arguably should be stripped of the vote. Christians, faithful christians cannot wield coercive power according to Mr. Kleinman. Perhaps when he's actually read enough to know what he's talking about, he will have the decency to recognize how wrong he is.
There are a billion Catholics that he owes an apology to. There are hundreds of millions of Orthodox who have the right to an equal amount of outrage. There is a chance that there is a storefront church down the street from his favorite Starbucks that might vaguely resemble his indictment of the entire, varied, body of christianity but I wouldn't count on it.
HT: to Chuck Karczag for bringing the original post to my attention in email. If my cousin would only tell me where he's blogging these days, I'd give him a link.
In an otherwise excellent article, Steven Den Beste misses a trick when he states "the religious zealots who have been coming into Iraq from outside are pretty much invulnerable to loss of morale".
They are not. Their motivation is to get into Heaven. They would lose heart if they heard they were going to hell for their actions and believed it. They are vulnerable on this front because they believe in a non-hierarchical religion and there is no authoritative opinion. Give them lists of imam after imam, respected by them as graduates of the best theological schools Islam has to offer, and have them teach them that what they are doing is banditry (hirabah) not jihad (holy war) and they stand condemned before God for doing what they do. This, and other actions on the same theme, would cause doubt and attack their fundamental reason for taking up arms against us.
The reason for this obvious error is that it is a US weakness to assume that you *must* keep the 1st amendment's prohibition on playing favorites with religion with everybody and everywhere. It's graduated from a very sensible bit of law to an unexamined fetish. It needs more thought than that. If God's telling you to arm yourself and fight the US, I don't think the freedom of religion clause applies and the government is free to attack on this front.
The problem is that developing a toolset of attacking a particular religion is probably one of the most dangerous capabilities the US government can have. There is good reason for a country that contains just about every faith on the planet to normally abstain from taking part in religious debates. We have allies (contrary to mainstream media opinion) which certainly are more and better equipped to develop such attacks and would not be in such danger if they did so. We need to make use of them. In some limited instances we already are.
Either Lee Malvo is practicing Jihad (spiritual warfare) or Hirabah (banditry). The truth is that Islam is a religion without a Pope or Patriarch. There is no one guy who we can go to and tell who's legitimately Islamic and who is not. Thus it devolves on the world's community of Imams (teachers) to make it clear which is which. If Malvo, if Mohammed are bandits then Imams should be asked to render an Islamic judgment as to what is the fitting punishment for such people.
Will the Imams do their duty unasked? The outlook doesn't look hopeful. But if they won't, they should be asked, and often, to define the difference between the two and what should be done with muslim bandits who prey on us all.
You would have thought that they would have learned their lesson from the time of the Pharoahs. Do not hold people in your country who want to leave. Unfortunately, the lesson has apparently been forgotten. Boulos Farid Rezek-Allah Awad committed the crime of being faithful to christianity and marrying the woman he loved, who had been born into a family of muslims.
He has a valid visa to enter Canada (which expires in April 2004) but is not allowed to leave Egypt as trumped up charge after charge are filed against him. Drug pusher, identity paper falsifier, murderer, insulter of Islam, it is a great embarrassment to a religion of peace when torture, drugs, and threats are deployed to keep a married couple apart and no imams are available to slap some sense into these official thugs.
Mr Rezek-Allah deserves to be able to come to Canada and finish his qualifications as a pharmacist. He deserves to be reunited with his wife. He deserves his freedom. As a first step, it would set Egypt on notice that this story isn't going to go away if Canada were to extend its visa offer to him for as long as it takes for Egypt to give up on its repressive course of action.
I've previously said that the US government is constitutionally blocked from engaging the terrorists on the most fruitful of battlefield terrains. It looks like the US has gotten help from Saudi Arabia to do what the US government cannot, engage in spiritual warfare. The fruits are beginning to show up with clerics denouncing their own pro-violence fatwas and a bonanza of information coming from Al Queda prisoners who have turned to a more conventional form of Islam.
Having the keepers of Mecca and Medina on your side against Islamists was always a valuable card. It's nice to see that it's starting to pay off. Arabia may yet keep the "Saudi" moniker yet.
Thomas Friedman's most recent column contains this eye opening sentence:
Because the message from these terrorists is: "There are no limits. We have created our own moral universe, where anything we do against Americans or Iraqis who cooperate with them is O.K."
Of course, muslims don't create their own moral universe. Neither do christians or jews. All three faiths are revealed wisdom from on high. God sets their moral compass and though they fight, kick, and scratch each others eyes out, they worship the same God.
So, where's the support for Boykin? After all Friedman later complains that President Bush hasn't fired the man in the very same column. It stems from this. One of the most controversial of Boykins' statements was about a confrontation with a warlord who claimed that Allah would protect him. "My God was bigger than his god" was Boykin's reply and he hunted that warlord down.
If that warlord were a muslim, this is a twofold insult, first that Allah does not protect his warriors and second there is a God higher than Allah. But if the warlord is, like the bomber of the ICRC in Baghdad, someone who has created their "own moral universe" then there is no insult to Islam because the man being discussed was, at best, a lying hypocrite, an apostate muslim who merits death according to sharia law. Claiming that the God of Abraham is a higher god than an apostate's deity is no insult to Islam.
The headline for the story is Iraqis condemn suicide attacks, blame foreigners. It could just as easily read "Iraqis condemn suicide attacks, blame apostates".
“The people who did this are not Iraqis they are from other countries,” said Najah Shamon, a luggage vendor. “The people making these attacks are not Muslims. If they were, they wouldn’t attack during Ramadan. I accuse Al-Qaeda,” he added.
Maybe the idea that islamists are just idol worshippers aping a monotheism that has its roots in Abraham's faith has more appeal than in orthodox evangelical christian circles.
I'm a libertarian. A minarchist, more specifically. If we can further social goals by privatizing, I'm for it. If it's even a close call, we should do it anyway on principle because the long run evidence favors private action over government in most things and the evidence just keeps piling up. But some libertarians are idiots. Here's one that should have stayed in bed rather than intellectually expose himself in this way.
The argument is that partial birth abortion is simply a wedge issue to embarass the pro-choice faction. This is remarkably ignorant of the issues and a real shame for Reason magazine to publish such a weakly thought through article.
The real mother lode of idiotarianism follows
It's not surprising that 64 senators, including many who consider themselves "pro-choice" on abortion, decided this procedure was indefensible. But is a D&X really more objectionable than the much more common "dilation and evacuation" (D&E) method, in which the fetus is dismembered inside the uterus and removed piece by piece?
If so, it's only because the killing is more visible and because a D&X starts out like a delivery, thereby emphasizing the similarity between the fetus and a baby. Those factors make "partial birth" abortions an easier target politically, but they are morally insignificant.
No, the difference is that the baby is viable. There is a true option here to deliver the baby live. In fact sometimes this happens by accident. The doctor slips and oops, you have a constitutionally protected person. Sorry charlie, you can't kill the kid now. Infanticide's still illegal.
But if abortion is acceptable because the child creates an unreasonable burden for the mother that can't be removed from her body, this justification is completely absent in the case of partial birth abortion. The idea may be that a woman owns her own body but the child is, at most, an innocent trespasser. Choosing death when not strictly necessary to remove the baby would be as if an innocent trespasser would be shot dead with one foot off the property as he was leaving. A partial birth abortion is only done in late pregnancy when the baby is viable and could be removed live. The conscious choice is death instead of removal and adoption (and yes, there are people who would take the kid, go call the Catholics if you're in doubt).
The death penalty is a harsh judgment that should legitimately be reserved for serious crimes. Defense of property, even in the most pure of libertarian states, does not excuse taking a life in the case of trespass as the trespasser is leaving. It goes double when you know that the trespasser simply innocently crossed the lines. Choice is a difficult issue for even the pro-lifers, especially those who believe in liberty. But the choice to take a life shouldn't be easy, and it shouldn't be the preferrential choice when you can remove without death. You don't have to be either religious or a statist to restrict that.
Andrew Sullivan has an emotional piece on the state of his soul and his inability to continue forward with his participation in the Catholic faith. Having gone through some spiritual crises of my own over the years, I can sympathize and my heart goes out to him on that count.
What I can't pass over is his glib falsehood that the Pope would not meet with homosexuals, that he would rather talk to terrorists or international thugs and butchers. This is simply not true. In fact there is a Vatican recognized group called Courage for Andrew Sullivan if he would be willing to join them. He obviously is not at the present time.
The people in this group have the same feelings, the same urges as Andrew Sullivan but have decided to be faithful to Catholic teaching to the best of their ability. When the Church makes a place for you but you wish to remain in stubborn opposition to It then it should be no surprise that you don't get a lot of papal invites.
This article analyzing a 30 minute audiotape of OBL brings up an intriguing notion. If the tape is valid, Osama Bin Laden has declared himself a new Prophet and has radically rearranged Islam to the point where it can't really be seen as the same religion.
Judging the validity of OBL material is difficult at this stage but if it is true, this sets up OBL not as a muslim but as a schismatic heretic, much as the monophysite christians (who heavily influenced Mohammed) were viewed in Mohammed's time.
Given this revelation, it is essential to confirm its truth or falsehood. The problem is that the US is uniquely handicapped by the 1st amendment in wading into an intra-muslim religious war. A state attack on one religion is viewed as the precedent necessary for later attacks on any other religion and such actions are viewed with a great deal of suspicion. If you thought the religious wars of Bosnia were bad, don't even contemplate what would happen if the religious peace protected by the 1st amendment were to ever unwind.
A lot of people scratch their heads when the Pope talks about the Culture of Death. Mark Steyn captures it in full flower in an article in the Jerusalem Post.
Hat tip to our own Bruce Rolston and LGF
The problem with such articles, as Charles Johnson demonstrates in his short commentary, is that not everybody is as morally well grounded as the Pope and the visceral horror a normal person feels at the idea of explosively detached heads, pure death glorification, parents celebrating their children's suicide, a complete culture devoted to genocide (if not very competent at it), is shock, horror, and a revulsion that can go too far.
There is something missing here in Charles Johnson's analysis. Palestine is a binary culture, both muslim and christian. The christians aren't suicide bombers. They, like Lot and his family are living in Sodom but they are not partaking of the local sin, the culture of death. It really needs to be remembered and if we are not to be corrupted into our own sin, we have to keep our heads and continue going forward and make the proper distinctions.
The Catholic Church deserves a lot of brickbats for the pedophilia scandals but sometimes its detractors go too far. News flash, Andrew Sullivan, just because the bishops screw up on one front does not lessen their responsibility to call for greater morality on all fronts. The article in question, True and False Reform is a well thought out examination of where do we go from here and deserves reading by followers of any venerable institution in need of major reform.
Midwest Conservative points out a disgraceful attempt at censorship to stifle the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria's ability to speak freely and practice his religion by participating in an October conference of the Anglican union.
The Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement, who wrote the letter to the UK's Home Secretary, David Blunkett, has as its motto "we are praying for an inclusive church" and informs the casual website visitor that "you are welcome here".
Unless you happen to be the Anglican Archbishop of Nigeria, of course. Then you should be denied a visa to enter the UK and be kept from doing your duty as a high Anglican official.
Midwestern Conservative Journal writes:
And one day, African Anglicans may become wealthy enough to send missionaries to America and set up on Sunday mornings outside parishes like mine to preach the Gospel to the rich, generally white suburbanites walking inside. God willing, I will still be alive so that I can stand with them.
As somebody who has some personal experience with mission work from a lay perspective here and here in this diocese, I can pretty much say that's not how you do things at all if you want to ensure you "will still be alive" to see it. Bishops, if they're smart, will send missionaries on request long before they blindly send them out in a shotgun pattern to the benighted lands of the US. A missionary isn't all that expensive to keep if you have committed parishioners and other churches will rent you space at fairly reasonable rates.
As a byzantine catholic, I would like conservative episcopalians to move to catholicism but if they're not ready for that jump, getting missions set up is just not that hard if you can find 10-20 families who are committed and willing to raise 3000-4000 per month in cash and resources (somebody putting up the priest at the beginning is a big help as well as passing him around for meals, you don't have to be rich, just have a spare bed or extra food in your larder). For a 20 family group, that's $50 a week, easily within reach of most middle class committed churchgoers. The most important thing is to make sure whatever priest is sent has to have a missionary spirit (who will be so bold as to stand on the church steps calling to the faithful to return home to the anglican communion) and you have a few lay people who can partner with him on monetary issues.
My prayers go to those currently without a spiritual home. The US conservative episcopalians are living the parable of the young rich man who is told by jesus to give away his wealth and follow him. Will they be able to pass the eye of the needle? They certainly are physically able to.
The Orthodox Christian Church has very strict rules on the ritual of holy communion. Lengthy fasts and confession are required ahead of time (rules vary in detail by bishop as with any apostolic church). Once I read in a manual of two major exceptions occur to the regular rules, one for each sex. For men, they are permitted communion right before battle and women are permitted it any time in their pregnancy. These two exceptions are right next to each other in the tome where I read them and last night I found out why.
Back when I was just posting to the flitters commentary forum that's attached to this blog, I made the happy announcement that my wife was pregnant. This is our third child and it is due in January/February 2004. My wife is a physician (internist) and when she says something is wrong medically, I pay strict attention.
Last night, during a grocery shopping trip she suddenly announced that she was bleeding and that we needed to go home. By the parking lot, the destination had changed to the emergency room and we started tossing words like miscarriage between us. I'm just a computer guy but I know that miscarriages are sometimes fatal. She also let me know that at this stage of the pregnancy, there really isn't anything they can do, just extract the body of our child if it dies so that she doesn't die from infection herself.
After an initial exam, we're told that it's just spotting but that we need to have an ultrasound done to check the health of the baby. As we were waiting to hear the results of the ultrasound, my very practical wife examines herself and starts asking for tissues, further saying that "that's not just spotting" and "that's a lot of blood". I looked and saw a small and growing pool of blood beneath my wife as she started handing me bloody tissues to dispose in the little red biowaste pail in the corner.
The only thing that went through my mind at that point was that there was a small but nonzero chance that my wife would die, that this truly might be our last night together. I put my brave face on and followed orders because the last thing anybody needed to hear were my fears and doubts.
Fortunately, the bleeding stopped, the baby lives, and his heartbeat is ok which means that there is a good chance of an eventual normal delivery. But looking back at things 24 hours later one thing really gnaws at me. In the normal course of a heterosexual marriage, without disease, without anything abnormal going on, society expects women to risk their lives to create the next generation. Together, my wife and I had a tiny brush with this deadly reality. Others get to bury their wives because of it.
Marriage is an ancient heuristic. Part of that heuristic is the honor and status that we assign to the couple together or individually. Those orthodox priests who wrote those communion rules knew what they were doing when they gave honor to women in pregnancy equivalent to men going to battle.
I've previously written about gay marriage and gotten responses in flitters about the equivalency of love and how we should not condemn gays to 2nd class status. In all my writing and thoughts, I actually never considered women's role as risk takers in childbirth. Now that I've gotten a celestial 2x4 reminding me of the real and unique risks that wives encounter, I'm even more convinced that marriage is a special state that homosexuals have no business entering into.
Getting back to that other special status in those communion rules, men going into battle, it's normal in modern warfare that only a minority of soldiers ever get shot at. The supply clerk, the mechanic, the trainer, and a great many other roles are filled by people who are likely to never hear a shot in anger (unless things go really, really badly). But after they've served their term they all get labeled as veterans and all are rightly honored by society for their sacrifice.
Wives, by their marriage vow, whether they actually ever get pregnant, enroll in their own special sorority and deserve similar honor as men in uniform deserve. Part of what they deserve is codified by the rule limiting marriage to relationships between one man and one woman. We should not strip our wives of this to raise up people who, in the normal course of affairs, will never place their bodies on the line for society as wives are expected to do as a matter of course.
Delusion is poison in the modern world. The modern world thrives on truth telling, honesty, and adjusting for past acts. Usually, the West is more willing than most to look honestly at. One major shoe in the punch bowl is the West's differential tolerance for communism over nazism when by all objective measures, communism was the bloodier, more morally corrosive, and more dangerous of the two.
But in the east, they are closer to the stink and seem to be making more of an effort to get at the truth. When will we?
What's really needed is a mirror image to denazification but this time with communism as a focus. Does anybody have the courage to take an honest look at our society and see how many of us have been complicit in a great evil?
Islam has a fragility that is quite unlike Judaism and Christianity. The majority of believers hold the theological position that the only change made to the Koran since it was first written was the later addition of pronunciation marks and that not one word, not one syllable has been added or subtracted and nothing has been shifted around that would change meanings. This, they claim, compares favorably with the 'lying scribes' who have altered and changed the Jewish and Christian holy texts to fit their convenience, not God's (this also resolves, in Islam's favor, any discrepancies between the Koran and the Bible).
In discussing this, I've personally seen the veracity and unchanging nature of the Koran backed up with the most serious religious statement possible, the promise of conversion away from the faith if it were ever found to have been changed over time.
Thus we have a significant religious claim that can actually be historically verified or falsified, at least in theory and which could convulse the muslim world, with those who are more inclined toward Islamism being far more susceptible to disruption than their more moderate and liberal counterparts who can see a wider path of Islam.
Establishing that the Koran has a history, when Islam claims it does not levels the playing field between the Christian/Islamic debate as most christians admit the historical record, that the Bible has a history.
But establishing that koranic writings were assembled and developed, also has a disparate effect on the various strains of Islam and most strengthens muslim liberals at the expense of Islamists and other inflexible muslim fundamentalists. Like the old millenarian christians who set a date for the 2nd coming, when the testable statements are falsified, that movement tends to die out.
The political use of religious debates has a long history. "God is on our side" is possibly one of the oldest political tactics known to man. Discrediting a violent, religious based, political movement has got to be the fundamental strategy of the resistance to Islamist aggression. If a challenge to Islam is presented that only the more peaceful moderates and liberals have an answer to, the hard line extremists will be left unable to adjust and will die away. They can threaten to kill researchers and publishers but that can't hide the truth for long.