Monday, May 31, 2010

Magic in Harry Potter versus Magic in Lewis and Tolkien

One of the arguments for Christians accepting the Harry Potter (HP) books as fine for Christian children to read is that, even though there is an emphasis on magic and witchcraft, which are condemned by Scripture, are not magic and witchcraft to be found in stories everyone accepts as good, namely, The Chronicles of Narnia? This is a powerful argument on the surface and anyone who wishes to rule out Harry Potter as good, children's literature must come to grips with it.

Throwing out
The Chronicles of Narnia (CN) and The Lord of the Rings (LOTR) would be absurd for many good reasons. But if we are to criticize the one and praise the other, we must be able to specify the difference between magic in Rowling's work versus magic in the work of Lewis and Tolkien.

Fortunately, Michael O'Brien is up for the task. He argues that magic in the HP books is very different from magic and witchcraft in Lewis and Tolkien. Let me summarize his argument briefly with some thoughts of my own thrown in. (For those who wish to get their O'Brien pure and unfiltered, see his essay: "The War for Our Children's Souls" in
Remembrance of the Future: Reflections on Our Times (Justin Press, 2009), which is a collection of his essays and shorter writings over the past 30 years or so.)

1. HP and the Occult:

He points out first that, unlike the CN or the LOTR, the HP books have sparked an interest among children in the occult and psychic phenomena. Citing research from the Barna Group in 2001, he shows that children who read HP are more likely to show an interest in occult and psychic phenomena such as seances, casting spells, mixing potions, fortune telling etc.

This is the weakest of O'Brien's points simply because interest in magic and witchcraft is higher today than two generations ago and HP may simply reflect the age, rather than being a cause. Still, it would make sense that HP is part of the "mainstreaming" of the occult much like Playboy was the mainstream of porn. So, while the exact relationship of cause and effect is hazy, the HP books are part of the growth of neo-paganism in our culture.

2. Magic and Witchcraft are Always Evil in Lewis and Tolkien:

The second point refers to the upsetting of the Christian symbolic universe in HP by making magic and witchcraft neutral in themselves and arguing that they can be used for either good or evil. In the Narnia books the White Witch is a traditionally evil figure and Aslan's powers are supernatural, but Divine in origin. Aslan aids the humans in the war against evil, but the humans do not wield "white magic." In fact, the fact that the witch is a "White Witch" may be symbolically very significant.

In LOTR, Gandalf is called a wizzard by others, but he is clearly stated to be one of the Istari, an order of beings between the angels and men. Basically, he is one of a lower class of angels. He is like a Guardian Angel and a guide to morality. His function is to elicit faith and goodness from elves, hobbits and men. He uses his powers sparingly and not to replace the moral effort of mortals.

Magic in Lewis and Tolkien always corrupts mortals when they try to wield it and the supreme example of this is the One Ring, which Boromir and his father wish to use against the Dark Lord, but which only corrupts any who try to use it. The only solution is to destroy it. Frodo's adventures in using it always turn out badly and he never really recovers from his wound on Weathertop when he put the ring on and was stabbed by the Witch-King of Angmar.

3. The Cosmos is Ultimately Impersonal and Ammoral in HP:

What I mean by this is that the universe of HP is basically a materialist one with no God and no Devil. Magic in HP is similar to technology in our world; it is a power wielded by a scientifically trained elite that taps into "natural" forces which seem "magical" to the uninitiated. There is a force or power in the universe that humans can access, according to HP, and it can be used for good or evil. The universe is ultimately impersonal.

Contrast this to the Christian metaphysics in which the universe is ultimately personal because God the Creator is personal. Good and evil derive from God and the Devil and so supernatural powers can never be neutral because they ultimately derive from either God or the Devil. Thus miracles done by Divine power working through human instruments are good while magic, which is a seizing of power illegitimately, is a gift of the Devil who works in fallen creatures to use them and ultimately to possess them. Therefore, the prohibition of magic and witchcraft in Scripture is ultimately rooted in the personal and moral nature of the cosmos. It is instructive that disaster befalls Narnia when a person in London dabbling in the occult causes a door to open between the worlds. In the Providence of God, Aslan uses the Pevensee children to repair the evil that results from the use of magic by mortals.

The difference between the HP books and the Lewis/Tolkien books is that the latter are written within a Christian worldview and are meant to nourish that worldview imaginatively and hopefully in their readers. The HP books, by contrast, only challenge the worldview of modernity on the surface. In actuality, they reflect the materialistic worldview of modernity in which humans may safely grasp impersonal forces to use to impress their will on nature and other human beings. Ultimately this is because the HP books reflect a world without God.

The Descent Into Liberalism and Women's Ordination

Robert Benne, at First Things, has a lucid and concise account of what happened to the Evangelical Lutheran Church of America over the past 30 years after its creation out of the union of two previously existing Luther denominations: the American Lutheran Church and the Lutheran Church in America.
In its August 2009 Churchwide Assembly, the Evangelical Lutheran Church decided formally to leave the Great Tradition of orthodox Christianity for a declining and desiccated liberal Protestantism. The decisions it made—accepting a weak and confused social statement on sexuality, allowing blessings of gay unions, ordaining gays and lesbians in partnered relationships, and requiring Lutherans to respect each other’s “bound conscience” on these issues—crossed the “line in the sand” that separates revisionist Christians from orthodox.
So how did a once confessionally-orthodox Church slip into heresy and confusion?
That result was a foregone conclusion for critical observers who had been watching the ELCA carefully since its inception in the late eighties. . . . The planners of the new Lutheran church saw to it that those who provided theological guidance to predecessor churches—then almost exclusively white and male—were marginalized from the real decision-making centers of church life.

One of their instruments was a quota system that insured that the more “progressive” elements of the church would be overrepresented. Every committee, task force, and voting body must be comprised of 60 percent laypeople of whom half must be female and 40 percent of clergy of whom half must be female. 10 percent must be people of color or people whose first language is other than English, of whom half must be female. This scheme dramatically reduced the role of white, male pastors in the church.

Other instruments were: making the Bishops merely advisory; categorizing theologians as only one interest group among others; and locating final authority in lay-dominated, semiannual assemblies that could vote even on doctrinal matters, as one fatefully did in August 2009. These bodies made sure there would be “many voices” in the life of the ELCA, and we now have “many voices,” but no authoritative ones. What is left of classical Lutheranism in the ELCA is a mere “aroma in the bottle.”
The multi-cultural, politically-correct, voting quota system ensured that the theologically trained pastors could not function as shepherds of the flock. Thus confusion reigned in the same way that it would have reigned in the New Testament Church if the apostles had not exercised their God-given ministry.

Benne then discusses the decision of two organizations within the ECLA to form some sort of new denominational structure to ensure the continuing of Gospel ministry.
The two organizations formed to resist the direction of the ELCA—the Word Alone Network and Lutheran CORE—have redefined themselves. Neither desires to continue organized resistance within the ELCA, which they regard as futile. Both have turned their attention to building new organizations independent of the ELCA, as they seek to provide harbors for those in search of a church beyond their congregations.

The Word Alone Network has become Word Alone Ministries, which provides educational and worship materials, mission opportunities, and theological education for the church that it founded earlier. That church, or better, that “association of congregations,” is the Lutheran Congregations in Ministry for Christ. The LCMC was formed during the fracas over an agreement, between the ELCA and the Episcopal Church, Called to Common Mission, which required ordination to the historic episcopacy for Lutheran pastors and bishops. That requirement was anathema to the mostly Midwestern, low church Lutherans. The LCMC now lists 410 member congregations, with 191 having joined since last August. Among them are some of the largest Lutheran churches in America.

Representing the “evangelical catholic” or high church wing of the church, Lutheran CORE redefined itself after the fiasco of August 2009 as a coalition for the renewal and reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America. Though it had no initial desire to start yet another Lutheran church, CORE responded to the wave of churches wanting to leave the ELCA for a more “churchly” organization than Lutheran Congregations in Mission for Christ, and hopes to facilitate the birth of the new North American Lutheran Church next August. It is uncertain just how many congregations will be on board at its founding.

Both CORE and the NALC see themselves as instruments of a reconfiguration of Lutheranism in North America—CORE as an ongoing convocation of Lutheran teaching theologians, and the NALC as an ecclesia embodying those teachings.
He ends with this prophecy:
Whatever comes of these ventures remains to be seen. If the Holy Spirit blesses them they will flourish and provide new beginnings for Lutheranism in America. For many they are the last, great efforts to live out the promise of Lutheranism as a church on this continent. If they fail, the only remaining option may be a bracing swim across the Tiber.
Several of those who commented on this post expressed astonishment that Benne didn't even mention the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod as a hope for future expression of orthodox Lutheranism. In reply, Benne wrote:
Thanks to you--most of you--for the engaging remarks about my assessment of where we are in American Lutheranism. I think I do owe a couple of clarifications to my article. . . . Now to a difficult topic...why not the Missouri Synod as "one of the last best hopes for Lutheranism in North America." Missouri certainly hasn't gone off the tracks like the ELCA has and perhaps can become that vital expression of Lutheranism in America we had hoped for in the ELCA. I hope it does precisely that and wish it well. I should have spoken more personally about hopes for such a Lutheran renewal. While I have great respect and even fondness for many expressions of Missouri and would join some of its parishes in a hearbeat, I could probably not find a home there for two reasons. One is women's ordination. I know of too many fine ELCA women pastors to deny the validity of their ordination. One of my own pastors is a fine woman pastor. Second, the quasi-fundamentalism of some of the Missouri guiding documents would probably guarantee that I would not last long as a theological ethicist in the Missouri Synod. Some suspicious someone could ask me if I believed in the seven-day creation and with my answer I would be meshed in a controversy that I certainly would not want at this stage of my life. I need more intellectual freedom than would be available, I fear.
So, in the name of being Catholic and Evangelical, Benne holds up the recent innovation of women's ordination as the sine qua non of the Biblical and historically orthodox Church. Is this not strange in the extreme? Missouri Synod Lutheran Paul T. McCain replies:
A friend pointed out to me today that Robert Benne has offered a brief response to some of the comments on this thread. It is a shame he did not apologize for the sweeping statements he makes about the "last best hope" for Lutheranism being in those splinter organizations from the ELCA he is now involved in, statements that seemed to go out of their way to ignore and snub The LCMS.

The friend who pointed me to Benne's most recent comments noted the following:

I see that Robert Benne has "replied" to his responders. Frankly, the disappointment of his remarks are only superseded by their sheer inanity. Could not go to the LCMS because of his fear that the literal interpretation of the Scriptures would cause him controversy, and, of course, we do not ordain women. He knows too many good women pastors not to recognize the validity of their ordinations.

It remains too true that for these people the mark of the church is an enthusiasm from the 60's. "True" Lutheranism ordains women. Well, so much for "evangelical catholicism." Why the deconstruction of Trinitarian language was not sufficient for them to leave ELCA is a mystery. It took the deviance of sexual ethics to move them off the block. And they don't get it.

When everything is said and done, the LCMS remains closer to Rome and the rest of the catholic tradtion than these self-styled "catholics."
I find this exchange highly revealing. Benne seems caught in an impossible situation. On the one hand, he lays out clearly how the Marxist-feminist ideology of power was used to destroy the ECLA, but, on the other hand, he cannot really extricate himself from that ideology long enough to consider the possibility that the Lutheran Church Missouri Synod had perhaps been right all along in not accepting women's ordination as the foot in the door for numerous other heresies that followed along behind.

His fear of fundamentalism seems a bit over-wrought. I too function in a denomination in which young earth creationism is widespread, but it is not a test of fellowship. The final sentence in McCain's reply is consistent with my experience as well; the high church pretensions of liberal Protestants in the Lutheran and Anglican traditions are a superficial kind of catholicism. The tough-minded orthodoxy of the Missouri Synod and the Southern Baptist Convention is a lot closer to Rome than all the smells and bells of pomp and ceremony.

In the end, the most significant division in the Church today may be between those who do and those who don't ordain women and those Evangelicals and catholics who do ordain women may find themselves occupying a space that they find more and more uncomfortable.

The Post-Christian Episcopal Church

Here are some excerpts from George Conger's story in the Church of England Newspaper on the recent ceremony held in Los Angles that sum up this story.

First, we note that this was the ordination of the church's second practicing homosexual bishop. The denomination has many divorced bishops, some divorced multiple times, as well as closet homosexuals. But this was a celebration of Mary Glasspool's homosexuality.
US Presiding Bishop Katharine Jefferts Schori has consecrated the Episcopal Church’s second ‘gay’ bishop, Canon Mary Glasspool, as suffragan bishop of Los Angeles.
Second, we see the mixture of pagan and Christian symbols in the liturgy expressing the post-Christian, neo-pagan nature of the Episcopal Church.
In a colorful three-hour ceremony that incorporated traditional Episcopal symbols and liturgy with shamanism and a mosaic of ethnic and cultural motifs, Bishop Jefferts Schori consecrated Canon Glasspool and the Rev. Diane Jardin Bruce on May 15.
Third, the forlorn and misguided efforts of the church to reach out to homosexuals by affirming the homosexual lifestyle were on full display. They tried having the ceremony next door to a "Gay Pride" event and invited the participants.
Held in the 13,500 seat Long Beach Arena, the consecrations coincided with the nearby 27th annual Long Beach Pride Festival, a gay and lesbian community event. Invitations to the 70,000-member Diocese of Los Angeles welcomed all comers, saying 6,700 seats would be set up for the service. The Episcopal News Service reports 3000 people attended the gathering.
Fourth, the homily was an attack on Christian tradition.
In an oblique criticism of conservative Anglican objections, Bishop Bruno stated that “We, as bishops of this church, are called to be exemplars of Jesus’ presence in this world. We are called to teach people and bring them to a place of self understanding so that they do not, out of fear or anxiety or fear of change, become ideological idolaters of the past.”
This ceremony pretty much sums up the state of liberal Protestantism, as exemplified by The Episcopal Church, today. It has embraced sexual sin, adopted religious pagan practices, become smaller and more irrelevant and attacked Christian tradition as "idolatry."

Is there any future for such a religion? One is reminded of the last days of Israel as depicted in the Old Testament as the nation staggered toward judgment seemingly unaware that it had become the problem and ceased to be part of God's solution. The difference is that Liberal Protestantism is not the whole of the Christian Church today. Liberal Protestantism can fail and die and the Church of Jesus Christ can simply go on without it.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Moderate Muslims versus Islamists

One of the astounding things about the interaction of Western governments with Islam is how often those Muslims who simply want to blend into the religious freedom of the West and be good citizens are ignored, while Muslim groups that want to take over the West are made the dialogue partners of Western government.

"Moderate muslims" are those who share the jihadist zeal to conquer of the "Islamists," (or as some more accurately describe them: "Islamofascists"), but who renounce violence as the method of achieving that goal. So you have three distinct groups:

1. Muslims immigrants who wish to adapt to the West and its religious freedom and diversity and practice their faith without seeking to dominate others or change laws or traditions.

2. Islamofascists like Osama bin Laden who seek the violent overthrow of the West and the establishment of a worldwide Caliphate.

3. "Moderates" who share the goals of the second group but who personally renounce violent methods.

It should be obvious that the third group is just as dangerous as the second and that the two groups are partners in attaining the same goals. Yet, governments choose very often to deal with the moderates rather than the first group, which tends of course to be unorganized into a specific Muslim block. Why is this? Is it simply a strategy of negotiated surrender on the best terms possible? Is it a death wish? Is it stupidity rooted in colonial guilt?

Daniel Pipes has some historical backround in this post entitled "How Islamists Came to Dominate European Islam."
The 7/7 bombings in London, in which Islamists killed 52 and injured 700, prompted British authorities to work with Muslims to avoid future violence.

However, rather than turn to anti-Islamist Muslims who reject the triumphalist goal of applying Islamic law in Europe, they promoted non-violent Islamists, hoping these would persuade coreligionists to express their hatred of the West in lawful ways. This effort featured Tariq Ramadan (b. 1962), a prominent Islamist intellectual. For example, London’s Metropolitan Police partially funded a conference that Ramadan addressed, and Prime Minister Tony Blair appointed him to an official “working group on tackling extremism.”

Deploying an Islamist may have seemed like an original and clever idea, but it was neither. Western governments have been allying without success with Islamists for decades. Indeed, they have been allying with Ramadan’s own family.
Read the rest here. It is very enlightening.

Update on the Ground Zero Site Mosque: Research From Rod Dreher

Rod Dreher has posted a very informative article entitled: "Ground Zero mosque imam a closet Islamist?" in which he retracts his earlier statement that he had no reason to doubt the sincerity of the inman who is seeking to build this mosque as to his wish to promote peace and tolerance. His post details why he now has reason to doubt that sincerity.
So says Walid Shoebat, an Arabic speaker who says he found an Arabic-language interview in which Imam Feisal Abdul Rauf -- the allegedly liberal/moderate New York imam who wants to build a giant mosque near Ground Zero to make a statement about religious tolerance and reconciliation, and to spite radical Islam -- advocates turning America into an Islamic state. Excerpt:
More recently -- in fact on May 26, one day after his Daily News column - Abdul Rauf appeared on the popular Islamic website Hadiyul-Islam with even more disturbing opinions. That's the same website where, ironically enough, a fatwa was simultaneously being issued forbidding a Muslim to sell land to a Christian, because the Christian wanted to build a church on it.

In his interview on Hadiyul-Islam by Sa'da Abdul Maksoud, Abdul Rauf was asked his views on Sharia (Islamic religious law) and the Islamic state. He responded:

Throughout my discussions with contemporary Muslim theologians, it is clear an Islamic state can be established in more than just a single form or mold. It can be established through a kingdom or a democracy. The important issue is to establish the general fundamentals of Sharia that are required to govern. It is known that there are sets of standards that are accepted by [Muslim] scholars to organize the relationships between government and the governed. [emphasis added]

When questioned about this, Abdul Rauf continued: "Current governments are unjust and do not follow Islamic laws." He added:

New laws were permitted after the death of Muhammad, so long of course that these laws do not contradict the Quran or the Deeds of Muhammad ... so they create institutions that assure no conflicts with Sharia. [emphasis in translation]

In yet plainer English, forget the separation of church and state. Abdul Rauf's goal is the imposition of Shariah law -- in every country, even democratic ones like the U.S.

I said yesterday that I had no reason to doubt the imam's motives in establishing this mosque. Let me retract that. It is absolutely par for the course for American Muslim leaders to speak out of both sides of their mouths on the question of peace, tolerance and their intentions, and to get angry when anybody points that out (you really should read this transcript), and tries to draw them out on what they really believe. And many non-Muslim Americans, because they have an emotional need to believe the words of duplicitous Islamic community leaders, prefer to demonize those who raise perfectly legitimate questions. I wouldn't say that what Shoebat has uncovered is conclusive evidence that Rauf is a wolf in sheep's clothing, but I do think it's enough evidence to be skeptical of him and his stated intentions, and that he has some hard questions to answer -- among them, the sources of his funding. If he receives any significant money from the Muslim Brotherhood, he's radioactive, and here's why. I do not expect The New York Times to put them to him, though. It could be that Rauf is genuinely a religious liberal, in an Islamic context, and was giving an Arabic audience the red meat they require. One way or the other, he should be questioned hard about what he really believes, and reporters should not be satisfied with bromides.

I thought just now, "Well, I'll see what Zuhdi Jasser says about this mosque project and Imam Rauf. If he thinks it's a good idea, and if he has confidence in this imam, then I'll feel a lot better about this." Zuhdi is the Muslim-American physician who, with his American Islamic Forum for Democracy, has taken a strong public stand against the Muslim Brotherhood and its infilitration of the leadership class of American Islam. He's suffered for his beliefs and his activism, and for telling truths that many in the media don't want to hear; he has credibility. So I just Googled do see if Zuhdi had made any comment about this affair. Turns out he has published an op-ed about it, and comes out against the project. Excerpt:

This is not about the building of a mosque or a religious facility. It is not about religious freedom. This is about a deep, soulful understanding of what happened to our country on 9/11.

When Americans are attacked, they come together as one, under one flag, under one law against a common enemy that we are not afraid to identify. Religious freedom is central to our nation - and that is why the location of this project is so misguided. Ground Zero is purely about being American. It can never be about being Muslim.

The World Trade Center site represents Ground Zero in America's war against radical Islamists who seek to destroy the American way of life. It is not ground zero of a cultural exchange.

Zuhdi says in his column that he's concerned about the sources of money for this thing, but he doesn't elaborate. I'll look forward to receiving that information -- but it looks like there is very little money in the bank for this project, and that what's there hasn't been looked after very carefully.

This is very helpful information and should help people make up their mind about the whole Ground Zero mosque project. No one is condemning all Muslims; in fact, many individual Muslims want to live in a liberal democracy and support religious freedom for all. The question is whether or not this project is being funded and promoted by Islamofascists who want to destroy the West, democracy and religious freedom for all but Muslims. That is a realistic and reasonable concern.

Religious Freedom for Christians Shrinks in Canada

David Koyzis has some insightful comments on the recent appeal of Christian Horizons of its conviction by the Ontario Human Rights Commission for dismissing an employee for breaking the lifestyle code she agreed to uphold when she was hired.

The Charter of Rights and Freedoms claims to guarantee all Canadians certain fundamental freedoms, including “freedom of conscience and religion” and “freedom of association.” However, following American precedent this country’s courts have tended to interpret religious freedom rather narrowly, viz., as the right of individual citizens to worship freely. Whether communities are recognized to possess religious freedom is unclear in contemporary jurisprudence, given the dominating influence of liberalism.

Take the recent case of Heintz v. Christian Horizons. Christian Horizons is a more than 40-year-old organization dedicated to the care of mentally handicapped persons. Like many confessional organizations, it has a faith and lifestyle statement which employees are required to sign. Ten years ago an employee was dismissed for not living up to this statement. She filed a complaint with the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal, which ruled in her favour two years ago, holding that a Christian ministry could not impose such requirements on its own employees if it served the larger community rather than its own members. On appeal, however, the Ontario Divisional Court in Toronto upheld the right of Christian Horizons to adopt such a statement. Or did it?

The Evangelical Fellowship of Canada immediately claimed victory for charities across the country. Others were not so sure: Faith-based charity ruling too murky, experts say. Even the EFC’s general legal counsel Don Hutchinson, writing in yesterday’s National Post, was less than favourably impressed by the ruling: Heintz v Christian Horizons: Solomon would not approve. So is religious freedom in Canada secure? Despite the Charter guarantees that appear to say yes, court interpretations leave the matter open.

The distinction between freedom of religion and freedom of worship is crucial here. The old Soviet Union upheld freedom of worship, meaning that individuals could worship whoever they wanted in private. But many social aspects of religion - public worship services, teaching religion to one's children and congregations exercising church discipline on their members were heavily regulated and stifled by the State.

In the process of narrowing freedom of religion down to freedom of worship what happens is that the individual is progressively separated out from the herd and isolated. This is actually a form of religious persecution, but it is clothed in the language of tolerance and freedom. This is what is happening today in Canada and it is not very different from what happens under totalitarianism.

We have a constitution but it is not worth the paper it is written on if the courts do not uphold it. And if the courts seek to "uphold" it by narrowing the definition of "freedom of conscience and religion" (Part I, Section 2a) down to a private and individualistic right to "worship" in one's own mind, then what we have is the death of freedom by a thousand cuts, a gradual erasure of freedom of religion conducted in that quasi-legal manner that tends to characterize all totalitarian regimes.

If our government and courts will not uphold the constitution, then it is the duty of all to rise up and restore the constitution. Democratic means of doing so have not yet been exhausted, so violence is not yet justifiable. But it is the duty of Canadian citizens to become informed, organize, lobby and vote for the constitutional right of freedom of religion in Canada. This is a basic responsibility of citizenship in our system and one that Canadian Christians must not shirk.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

Global Warming Alarmism is Not About Science

James Delingpole reports on his experience as the only non-scientist speaker at the Heartland Institute's 4th International Conference on Climate Change held recently in Chicago.

Wow! Finally in my life I get to experience what it’s like to be a rock star and I’m loving every moment. OK, so the drugs are in pretty short supply. As too is the meaningless sex with nubile groupies. But what do I care, the crowd love me and I love them. God bless America! God bless the Heartland Institute’s Fourth International Conference on Climate Change!

When time comes for Delingpole's speech he explains why he is there even though he is not a scientist:
At my session, I find myself in the ludicrous position of being on a ‘science’ panel with distinguished rocket scientist Fred Singer, Ross McKitrick (the Canadian economist who, with Steve McIntyre, exposed the flaws in the infamous Hockey Stick) and meteorologist Joe D’Aleo (whose research into the siting of weather stations and the Urban Heat Island effect has cast serious doubt on the extent of late-20th-century ‘global warming’). . . . The BBC’s Roger Harrabin — one of the Beeb’s army of die-hard Warmists — has noticed too. ‘What’s a know-nothing like Delingpole doing on a science panel?’ he has asked the organisers, as if this simple fact alone is enough to render the entire conference invalid. . . .

I make this the subject of my speech. What is a non-scientist like me doing here? Simple. I’m here to point out that the Anthropogenic Global Warming scare is not about science and never was. As Climategate proved (but as some of us suspected long before), AGW is the invention of a cabal of activists, all working towards more or less the same ecofascist agenda: Mother Gaia is suffering; it’s mostly our fault; the only way to atone for our sins is to destroy Western industrial civilisation and shackle ourselves with a form of One World government run by ‘experts’ and bureaucrats over whom we have no democratic control. It is a battle against a tyranny every bit as great as we faced in the second world war or the Cold War. All what’s different about this enemy is that instead of jackboots it wears long hair, a warm, caring smile and drives a VW Combi with an ‘Atomkraft Nein Danke’ sticker.
But wasn't the conference funded by Big Oil?
It’s no wonder that the bit of my speech that got the biggest laugh was when I asked: ‘How many of you here are in the pay of Big Oil?’ No hands were raised. ‘And how many of you would like to be in the pay of Big Oil?’ Up shot 150 arms. ‘Guess we picked the wrong side of the debate to be on,’ I said, hardly needing to explain that companies like Shell and BP pump far, far more money into eco-nonsense like carbon trading and green posturing than they do into sceptical science.
Sounds like he had a good time. Good for him.

A Clarification re. Steve Jobs and Porn

Justin Taylor has a clarification on the confusion surrounding Steve Jobs and porn:

A few people have asked about this, so I wanted to clarify: Steve Jobs did indeed say that he was not going to allow any porn apps in the Apple Store. He did not say (ala a fake twitter account) that all Mac browsers would ban porn, starting this summer.

If you want to read a few articles in support of Mr. Jobs’s position, see:

Jim Wallis Attacks the Tea Party: What are His Arguments?

Jim Wallis thinks Left-wing socialism is Christian but Tea Party libertarianism is not. He wants a debate. Fine, let's have it. I'm ready to debate Jim Wallis anytime. In what follows, I respond to his article. My emphases in bold and my comments are in [square brackets and red.]

"The insurgent Tea Party and its Libertarian philosophy is a political phenomenon, not a religious one. [OK, why is this relevant? Jim doesn't start off most of his articles by saying "Socialism (or Big Government Liberalism or the Welfare State) is a political phenomenon not a religious one. Maybe he should, unless he is trying to transform the Gospel into a political ideology. I think most Christians who support the Tea Party would agree that libertarian political philosophy is not the content of the Christian gospel but they would quite reasonably see Wallis's teachings as implying that Big Government liberalism, if not outright socialism, is the Christian gospel.] Like the Democratic and Republican parties it seeks to challenge, it is a secular movement, not a Christian one. As with both major political parties, people who regard themselves as Christians may be involved in, or sympathetic to, the new Tea Party; but that doesn’t make it “Christian.” [Just as Christian democratic socialist don't make democratic socialism "Christian."] But like the philosophies and policies of the major political parties, the Tea Party can legitimately be examined on the basis of Christian principles -- and it should be. [Agreed.]

Since the Tea Party is getting such national attention, our God’s Politics blog is going to begin a dialogue on this question: Just how Christian is the Tea Party Movement -- and the Libertarian political philosophy that lies behind it? Let me start the dialogue here. And please join in.

Libertarianism is a political philosophy that holds individual rights as its supreme value and considers government the major obstacle. It tends to be liberal on cultural and moral issues and conservative on fiscal, economic, and foreign policy. [This is true of some libertarians but not all by any means. Many economic libertarians are actually social conservatives on cultural and moral issues. Libertarianism is an older political philosophy than welfare state liberalism - not a recent "phenomenon" - and it has historically been just one co-belligerent in the conservative coalition in America along with traditional conservatives and social conservatives like me plus neoconservatives and foreign policy hawks. I would see libertarians as allies even though I am not one personally. I do think they are much less dangerous than the socialists in the Democratic coalition Wallis is part of. I'm happy to support smaller government in alliance with libertarians who support moral standards as on the pro-life issue for example.] This “just leave me alone and don’t spend my money” option is growing quickly in American life, as we have seen in the Tea Party movement. [It may be growing but the opposite philosophy currently controls the Presidency, both houses of Congress and at least half of the Supreme Court. So the "take-over" is not exactly imminent.] Libertarianism has been an undercurrent in the Republican Party for some time, [this is an attempt to paint it as less than mainstream despite it majority status among America voters] and has been in the news lately due to the primary election win of Rand Paul as the Republican candidate for a Senate seat in Kentucky. [Typical Democratic talking points - attack Rand Paul - but, will this work any better than the attacks on the Arizona immigration bill which are now backfiring with independent voters?]

. . . snip . . .

Is such a philosophy Christian? In several major aspects of biblical ethics, I would suggest that Libertarianism falls short.

1. The Libertarian enshrinement of individual choice is not the pre-eminent Christian virtue. Emphasizing individual rights at the expense of others violates the common good, a central Christian teaching and tradition. [It is somewhat hypocritical to attack libertarians for emphasizing individual rights when you support a liberal philosophy that exalts individual choice on abortion, euthanasia, same-sex marriage, no-fault divorce and other issues concerning sexual ethics, family matters and the sanctity of human life. Why isn't Wallis attacking the "libertarianism" and "individualism" of the Left on these issues? When he sides with the social conservatives, THEN he will have the right to criticize the libertarians on individualism.] The Christian answer to the question “Are we our brother’s keeper?” is decidedly “Yes.” [Yes, but it is a huge leap to define that "we" as the State rather than us Christians or the Church.] Jesus tells us that the greatest commandment is to love God and love our neighbor. Loving your neighbor is a better Christian response than telling your neighbor to leave you alone. Both compassion and social justice are fundamental Christian commitments, [depends on what you mean by "social justice" here - if you are trying to smuggle in a commitment to socialism, that is not acceptable] and while the Christian community is responsible for living out both, government is also held accountable to the requirements of justice and mercy. Both Christians on the Right and the Left have raised questions about Libertarian abandonment of the most vulnerable — whether that means unborn lives or the poor. [As a pro-lifer, I'd rather take my chances with the Tea Partiers rather than with the supposedly compassionate Democratic Party!]

Just look at the biblical prophets in their condemnation of injustice to the poor, and how they frequently follow those statements by requiring the king (the government) to act justly (a requirement that applied both to the kings of Israel and to foreign potentates). Jeremiah, speaking of King Josiah, said, “He defended the cause of the poor and needy, and so all went well” (Jeremiah 22:16). Amos instructs the courts (the government) to “Hate evil, love good; maintain justice in the courts” (Amos 5:15). The prophets hold kings, rulers, judges, and employers accountable to the demands of justice and mercy. [Notice that there is nothing in these verses about socialism or the welfare state or redistribution of wealth. The prophets were talking about justice and the rule of law - major conservative principles. And they were critics of the advent of "big government" under the Kings.]

2. An anti-government ideology just isn’t biblical. In Romans 13, the apostle Paul (not the Kentucky Senate candidate) describes the role and vocation of government; in addition to the church, government also plays a role in God’s plan and purposes. Preserving the social order, punishing evil and rewarding good, and protecting the common good are all prescribed; we are even instructed to pay taxes for those purposes! Sorry, Tea Party. Of course, debating the size and role of government is always a fair and good discussion, and most of us would prefer smart and effective to “big” or “small” government. [It is not anti-government for libertarians to want government to stick to core functions of enforcing justice and national defense rather than intruding into every area of life and replacing the family as the main provider of income to most citizens. Libertarians are not anti-government; they just have a different view of its proper function than Wallis does.]

Revelation 13 depicts the state as a totalitarian beast — a metaphor for Rome, which was persecuting the Christians. This passage serves as a clear warning about the abuse of governmental power. But a power-hungry government is clearly an aberration [one wonders how much history Wallis reads when he throws out an over-generalization like that] and violation of the proper role of government in protecting its citizens and upholding the demands of fairness and justice. To disparage government per se — to see government as the central problem in society — is simply not a biblical position. [As Rom. 13 and Rev. 13 demonstrate, government can be either a servant of the people or an out-of-control monster and the bigger the government is the more of a danger it is. Libertarians don't disagree with that.]

3. The Libertarians’ supreme confidence in the market is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin. [I'm glad Wallis has rediscovered the doctrine of sin all of a sudden! But . . . the Big Government Liberal's supreme confidence in the State is not consistent with a biblical view of human nature and sin.] The exclusive focus on government as the central problem ignores the problems of other social sectors, and in particular, the market. [The typical Big Government liberal exclusive focus on the market as the problem ignores the problems of other sectors, and in particular, the State.] When government regulation is the enemy, the market is set free to pursue its own self-interest [the market does not have an "interest" because it is not a person - any more than a government office has an interest without someone filling that office who does have "interests." A market is a democratic mechanism for setting prices as opposed to prices being set arbitrarily by bureaucrats on the basis of central planning] without regard for public safety, the common good, and the protection of the environment — which Christians regard as God’s creation. Libertarians seem to believe in the myth of the sinless market [again, it is not the market that is sinful and to demonize the only economic system in the world to have lifted the majority of the population out of poverty like this is just irresponsible Marxist propaganda] and that the self-interest of business owners or corporations will serve the interests of society; and if they don’t, it’s not government’s role to correct it. [This places all power in the hands of the State. Apparently the Christian view of human nature and sin don't apply to anyone who gets elected or hired as a government bureaucrat. There is a difference between the proper role of government: to ensure the rule of law and uphold justice and the falsely expanded role of government to replace the market and ensure equality of outcomes.]

But such theorizing ignores the practical issues that the public sector has to solve. Should big oil companies like BP simply be allowed to spew oil into the ocean? [No libertarian I've ever met has ever said yes to that -a straw man argument coupled with an appeal to emotion.] And is regulating them really un-American? Do we really want nobody to inspect our meat, make sure our kids’ toys are safe, or police the polluters to keep our air clean? Do we really want owners of restaurants and hotels to be able to decide whom they will or won’t serve, or should liquor store owners also be able to sell alcohol to our kids? Given the reality of sin in all human institutions, doesn’t a political process that provides both accountability and checks and balances make both theological and practical sense? [Once all power is in the hands of the State, there is no check and balance. The key is balance. Some regulation is good but not all. Wallis is just as extreme as the straw man on the other side. ] C.S. Lewis once said that we need democracy not because people are essentially good, but because they often are not. Democratic accountability is essential to preventing the market from becoming a beast of corporate totalitarianism – just as it is essential for the government. [Here we are confusing two very different things: the rule of law and socialist redistribution of wealth by the administrative state. The State should enforce law with regard to corporations and ensure fairness. But it should not appropriate profits arbitrarily for its own purposes. This is a mixed up jumble.] And God’s priorities should determine ours, not the priorities of the Chamber of Commerce. [Wallis can't imagine God and the CoC ever being on the same page on anything! He has really drunk the Kool-Aid.]

4. The Libertarian preference for the strong over the weak is decidedly un-Christian. “Leave me alone to make my own choices and spend my own money” is a political philosophy that puts those who need help at a real disadvantage. And those who need help are central to any Christian evaluation of political philosophy. “As you have done to the least of these,” says Jesus, “You have done to me.” And “Blessed are those who are just left alone” has still not made the list of Beatitudes. [Most of those in the Tea Party movement have been more influenced by Christianity than by Nietzsche and Darwinand would agree with the need to help the poor and weak. There has never been a Nietzschean libertarian government anywhere in the Western world precisely because of the influence of Christianity, so this is another straw man.] To anticipate the Libertarian response, let me just say that private charity is simply not enough to satisfy the demands of either fairness or justice, let alone compassion. [Private charity is the foundation of the Western world and far more effective, far less corrupt and much more compassionate than government welfare checks. Government to government aid to Third World countries is generally a disaster. World Vision etc. is a much better option.] When the system is designed to protect the privileges of the already strong and make the weak even more defenseless and vulnerable, something is wrong with the system. [But Wallis's real problem with private charity is not that it won't be able to deal with absolute poverty (because it clearly can do so), but rather that it can't erase relative poverty by making the rich poorer and the poor richer until everyone is about the same. Only socialism can do that.]

5. Finally, I am just going to say it. There is something wrong with a political movement like the Tea Party which is almost all white. [First, the Tea Party is not all white. Second, does this mean that Wallis' lily white Episcopal Church must also be racist? Third, this is a dirty and low blow that is an insult to the tens of millions of ordinary middle class Americans who support the Tea Party.] Does that mean every member of the Tea Party is racist? Likely not. [Every member - only likely not?!] But is an undercurrent of white resentment part of the Tea Party ethos, and would there even be a Tea Party if the president of the United States weren’t the first black man to occupy that office? [How does Wallis know that? It is nothing but sheer projection onto the people he hypocritically claims to want to dialogue with. He is saying: "You are a bunch of racist bigots; I have no evidence but I just know it. Now, how about having a nice polite dialogue?" Now who is being prejudiced here?] It’s time we had some honest answers to that question. [Oh, and by the way you are all liars too. Now for the polite dialogue?] And as far as I can tell, Libertarianism has never been much of a multi-cultural movement. Need I say that racism — overt, implied, or even subtle — is not a Christian virtue.

Wallis sure has funny ideas about how to go about having a dialogue. But if you ask me, he would be better off hurling his rocks from a safe distance because he hasn't got much of an argument for his position.

Germany is in Trouble and the Problem is Religious in Nature

At a time when Germany is the most economically powerful nation in Europe and straining to bail out Greece and stabilize the Euro, the economic future of the country looks grim because of the critically low birth rate. Here is an excerpt from Time on why Germans are declining to reproduce themselves.
Germany is shrinking — fast. New figures released on May 17 show the birth rate in Europe's biggest economy has plummeted to a historic low, dropping to a level not seen since 1946. As demographers warn of the consequences of not making enough babies to replace and support an aging population, the latest figures have triggered a bout of national soul-searching and cast a harsh light on Chancellor Angela Merkel's family policies.

According to a preliminary analysis by the Federal Statistics Office, 651,000 children were born in Germany in 2009 — 30,000 fewer than in 2008, a dip of 3.6%. In 1990, German mothers were having on average 1.5 children each; today that average is down to 1.38 children per mother. With a shortfall of 190,000 between the number of people who died and the number of children who were born, Germany's birth rate is well below the level required to keep the population stable. (See why the recession is causing women to have fewer kids.)

"The German birth rate has remained remarkably flat over the past few years while it has increased in other low-fertility countries, like Italy and the Czech Republic," Joshua Goldstein, executive director of the Max Planck Institute for Demographic Research, tells TIME. "Women are continuing to postpone motherhood to an older age and this process of postponement is temporarily lowering the birth rate." According to Goldstein's research, Germany has the longest history of low fertility in Europe.

To explain Germany's low reproduction rate, Steffen Kröhnert, a social scientist at the Berlin Institute for Population Development, points to a number of factors. Many German women decide not to have children because of poor state-run child-care facilities. Most schools in Germany finish earlier than in other parts of Europe — some as early as 1 p.m. — leaving parents struggling to find and afford sufficient day care. And often women who take up part-time jobs to try to juggle work and family life end up paying a high financial price. "Many German women have to stop work and end their careers if they want to have kids," says Kröhnert. It doesn't help that German mothers are still often branded Rabenmütter — "raven mothers" — a pejorative label that accuses them of being bad mothers if they decide to put their children in nurseries and continue working.

Read the rest here.

The common mistake being made here is to treat this as an economic and political problem when the real source of the problem is upstream from politics and lies in the realm of culture and religion. The real problem is the culture of death and its anti-humanistic bias. The environmentalist movement sees humans as a cancer on the earth. Materialism views humans as just mouths to feed, not as people with inherent dignity because they are made in God's image. With no belief in a higher purpose in life or a reason to live beyond pleasure, the idea of self-sacrifice seems to be unreasonable. The only solution to this problem is a religious revival of Christianity and it may already be too late for Germany.

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Any Exuse to Take a Shot at Good Fathers: Who Needs Them Anyway?

CTV has this story about Russ Hiebert, a conservative MP with a young family from BC, who has higher than average travel expenses because he brings his wife and two young daughters to Ottawa with him when Parliament is sitting.
Russ Hiebert, the B.C. Member of Parliament elected on a promise to fight government waste, is defending his use of taxpayer dollars to fly his family to and from Ottawa during the six months Parliament is in session.

The Conservative MP for South Surrey – White Rock – Cloverdale racked up $637,093 on his expense account for the 2008-2009 fiscal year – more than $200,000 more than the national average.

The former lawyer spent $214,360 for return trips for himself and his family between Ottawa and his home in Cloverdale, B.C. The average MP spends $87,415.

Hiebert told CTV News he was actively encouraged to travel with his family by his peers and he believes he is the only MP with a young family who has to travel a long distance.

"Because my wife and I made a commitment to keep our family together, that means my wife and kids come with me when the house is in session," Hiebert said.

The MP insists his spending is within the limits set forth by the House of Commons.

"They allow for MPs, all MPs, to bring a spouse and dependent children to Ottawa," he said.

"As far as I can tell, most MPs take advantage of that opportunity because they recognize how important it is."

But some of Hiebert's constituents don't feel that he deserves that opportunity.

"With the economy the way it is, you shouldn't be able to make those kinds of expenditures," said Ken Lloydsmith.

"Why does he have to fly with his family?" asked Norma Sproston.

The "central budget" of the House of Commons includes 64 return trips a year for each MP to travel between their constituency and Ottawa, as well as covering meals and incidental expenses.

The Canadian Taxpayers Federation says the auditor general needs to examine whether the spending guidelines are too lax.

"If you have a regular job at a regular company and you want your family or children to travel with you, you pay for it out of your own pocket not out of the company pocket," said Scott Hennig.

What is with these people? Why is Russ Hiebert not a hero and role model as an example of a caring father in a society in which so many children have dead beat losers as absentee fathers? Let's probe a bit deeper here.

First, Hiebert is a Conservative so that is one strike against him with the mainstream media. It is hard not to be suspicious right away.

Second, he lives in BC and the complaint is that his $214,360 is higher than the national average of $87,415.00. I'm surprised his total is so low, considering how far away from Ottawa he lives. After all, many MP's live so close to Ottawa they wouldn't even need to fly home and their expenses figure into the national average.

Third, perhaps the subtext here is that there is something wrong with a man not being willing to sacrifice his family for his career. Or perhaps the idea that his wife is not busy with her own career irritates some people. Whatever the real issue, it is difficult to see why an MP who has broken no rules and has simply tried to be a good father should get beat up by the media like this. (Some of the comments in the comment section after the story were far worse thant he story itself, which suggests that the story was designed to provoke without going too far explicitly.)

Ezra Levant has a great response entitled: "Let's Have a Parliament with Only Childless Toronto MPs." Yep, that would be just dandy. It would get rid of all those pesky social conservatives and representatives of the far flung outposts of civilization like the Lower Mainland.

Islamic Trimphalism: Mosque Planned Near the Site of the 9:11 Attack in NYC

Islam has been taking over churches and turning them into mosques and building Islamic monuments over Jewish and Christian holy sites for 1400 years and the trend shows no sign of abating. While no churches can be built in most Muslim countries, Arab oil money can finance the building of mosques throughout the West as monuments to Islamic supremacy.

But to try to build a mosque/cultural center in a building that was damaged in the 9:11 attacks over the objections of families of the victims - how insensitive is that? Western liberal self-hatred apparently knows no bounds. Allahpundit at Hot Air writes in a post:

“So, in the ruins of a building reduced to rubble in the name of Islam,” writes Mark Steyn, “a temple to Islam will arise.” Indeed. And yet, as repulsive as this is, so ingeniously does it exploit liberal pieties about multiculturalism that I almost want to congratulate the people behind it for their canniness. You know exactly how this debate’s going to go. If we don’t let them build it, we’re blaming all Muslims for the actions of the tiny minority who espouse etc etc, so let’s strike a blow for tolerance instead and greenlight a mega-mosque at the site of the world’s most famous pit of Koranically inspired human misery. Think of it as a way for peaceful Muslims to contribute to rebuilding lower Manhattan, not as … a triumphalist icon that’s going to give every jihadist fanatic in the universe an orgasm when he hears about it.

Scheduled opening date: 9/11/11. To show solidarity with America, you see.

Plans to bring what one critic calls a “monster mosque” to the site of the old Burlington Coat Factory building, at a cost expected to top $100 million, moved along for months without a peep. All of a sudden, even members of the community board that stupidly green-lighted the mosque this month are tearing their hair out.

Paul Sipos, member of Community Board 1, said a mosque is a fine idea — someplace else.

“If the Japanese decided to open a cultural center across from Pearl Harbor, that would be insensitive,” Sipos told me. “If the Germans opened a Bach choral society across from Auschwitz, even after all these years, that would be an insensitive setting. I have absolutely nothing against Islam. I just think: Why there?“…

Called Cordoba House, the mosque and center is the brainchild of the American Society for Muslim Advancement. Executive director Daisy Khan insists it’s staying put.

“For us, it’s a symbol, a platform that will give voice to the silent majority of Muslims who suffer at the hands of extremists. A center will show that Muslims will be part of rebuilding lower Manhattan,” said Khan, adding that Cordoba will be open to everyone.

Says Ace, “Someone who cared for what the dhimmi thought at all would recognize this as singularly, incandescently inappropriate.” My hunch is that we’re going to end up playing a game with the left about this, as even though most of them won’t admit it, the obvious provocation here will bug many of them too. (Especially lefty New Yorkers.) They’ll tut-tut about wingnut overreaction and tolerance and so forth because that’s just how they roll, but secretly plenty of them will be perfectly fine with conservatives kicking up a media fuss until the mosque is forced to relocate. Further to that end, here’s a fun tidbit from Pajamas Media about Faisal Abdul Rauf, the mosque’s developer:

Rauf has often directly contradicted his seemingly tolerant and peace-loving pronouncements with harsh, antagonistic assessments of the U.S. In his May 7 Khutbah (Muslim sabbath sermon), delivered at 1:00 p.m. at 45 Park Place in Manhattan, Rauf implied that Muslims did not perpetrate 9/11 at all, according to writer Madeline Brooks, who attended (26): “Some people say it was Muslims who attacked on 9/11 … ” he stated, before trailing off into another topic.
Read the rest here. Religious freedom is great, but sensitivity to other people's religion seems to be a one-way street with Islam. Let them build it elsewhere; it is really is just a house of worship that should be no problem. There is lot's of real estate in Manhattan for people with 100 million to throw around.

Some politician are not afraid of the political correctness police. Here is Rick Barber on why Americans should say no to the mosque. He is running for Congress as a Tea Party candidate and his rhetoric shows why the Tea Party scares the living daylights out of liberal appeasers.

Feminist Hypicrisy and Sarah Palin

Cassy Fiano's post called "Sarah Palin Brings Out the Hypocrisy of Jessica Valenti and the Feminist Left" at Hot Air is a rational explanation of how the hard left uses feminism as a vehicle for its own ideological agenda and has no interest in actual women or their interests whatsoever.

Sarah Palin is the feminist Left’s favorite target. It seems strange to anyone not entrenched in a radical, extremist feminist agenda. Feminists once fought for equality between the sexes — the right for women to vote, giving women a fair chance to go to college and get a job without fear of discrimination, and the choice to either stay at home with her children or work full-time. Fighting for equality has long since fallen by the wayside though, and the leftist agenda has fully set in. Women like Sarah Palin and Michelle Malkin, therefore, cannot be feminists.

Daring to call Sarah Palin a feminist will make radical modern feminists’ heads explode. Currently screeching with rage is Jessica Valenti, angry that someone might think that Sarah Palin is indeed a feminist.

Seriously, y’all – how many times does it have to be said? Sarah Palin is not a feminist. I thought we had covered Palin’s gross appropriation of feminism and feminist rhetoric during the election, but media coverage of Palin’s recent speech for the anti-choice PAC the Susan B. Anthony List has reignited the debate. (Incidentally, the whole thing about Anthony being pro-life has been debunked.)

So, simply declaring oneself a feminist is all that it takes to be a feminist? Methinks not. Under this standard of feminism anyone – a racist, a misogynist, etc – could be a feminist just because they identify as such.

Sarah Palin’s crime against modern feminism is that she is a political conservative who is pro-life. This makes her anti-woman, because all conservatives are apparently anti-woman. Valenti writes:

[W]hile I’m sympathetic to the idea that abortion shouldn’t be a litmus test for feminism – I believe, for example, that one can be personally pro-life and feminist – there is simply no way that you can advocate for the limitation of other women’s rights and access to health care and call yourself a feminist.

The line about being “personally pro-life” is meant to mislead. You can’t be personally pro-life and still support abortion, and Valenti knows it. This is exactly why Valenti phrases it this way. It comes across as a much more moderate position, yet still argues that all feminists must support abortion. The feminist Left believes it isn’t good enough to just believe in equality between the sexes. You have to toe the “progressive” line, as Amanda Marcotte recently showcased in an interview, saying that real feminists are devoted to a very specific set of issues.

Interestingly, Valenti’s screed against Palin is so extreme that not all of her readers could get behind her. Feministing usually serves as a leftist echo chamber, but several commenters actually disagreed that all feminists need to think a certain way in order to be considered feminists. Valenti had to jump in to defend herself five times before closing commenting on the post.

Perhaps it’s because she isn’t following her own rules of feminism. In her book, Full Frontal Feminism, Valenti had this to say about people defining what feminists should be:

[L]ike many feminist authors before her, Valenti quickly expands feminism to include a wide array of liberal pet causes. If you don’t agree with them, guess what? You’re not really a feminist — you’re an anti-feminist. According to Valenti, feminists demand government-funded preschools and universal childcare, think American culture “breeds a society where rape is expected and practically okayed,” and proudly wear shirts that say “I don’t f*** Republicans.”

Valenti vents that she’s “so f***ing sick and tired of people telling [her] how to be an appropriate feminist.” Maybe so, but Valenti is happy to dish out a feminist litmus test herself.

So it isn’t OK for someone to tell Jessica Valenti what makes an appropriate feminist, but it’s OK for her to tell other people what makes an appropriate feminist? Quite the hypocrite, I see.

Read the rest here.

Remember, mainstream contemporary feminism is not about equality for women, but rather about encouraging a revolution to tear down Western civilization so that some kind of utopian fairy tale can emerge in its place. It would be better understood as an expression of cultural nihilism. If you want a high view of women, try Christianity. If you want revolution and rage against the West, try Jessica Valenti.

Tuesday, May 25, 2010

When You Were a Fetus, Were You Human?

Just asking.

More great pro-life graphics from Lila Rose and Live Action Blog. Feel free to use this to spread the pro-life message.

Another Sign the EU is Bent on Suicide

So the response of the EU to the financial crisis caused by many of its member states running up too much debt is to cripple its industry and raise taxes all in order to fight a non-existent problem.

Europe is caught in the grip of relativism and cultural amnesia. The culture of death is spreading its tentacles. Europeans are not having enough babies to maintain the population. There is a passive posture of appeasement and submission to Islam in the name of securing peace and safety. Now, in the midst of economic crisis global warming inspired anti-industrial and anti-capitalism fanaticism, we have a move to hurt fragile economies.

From the Times Online comes a story entitled: "EU sets toughest target to fight global warming."

Europe will introduce a surprise new plan today to combat global warming, committing Britain and the rest of the EU to the most ambitious targets in the world. The plan proposes a massive increase in the target for cutting greenhouse gas emissions in this decade.

The European Commission is determined to press ahead with the cuts despite the financial turmoil gripping the bloc, even though it would require Britain and other EU member states to impose far tougher financial penalties on their industries than are being considered by other large economies.

The plan, to cut emissions by 30 per cent on 1990 levels by 2020, would cost the EU an extra £33 billion a year by 2020, according to a draft of the Commission’s communication leaked to The Times.

The existing target of a 20 per cent cut is already due to cost £48 billion. The Commission will argue that the lower target has become much easier to meet because of the recession, which resulted in the EU’s emissions falling more than 10 per cent last year as thousands of factories closed or cut production. Emissions last year were already 14 per cent below 1990 levels.

Business leaders fear that thousands of jobs could be lost and energy bills could soar. Carbon taxes on road fuel, heating and other sources of emissions could be introduced, with proceeds reinvested in renewable energy products.

The EU’s present policy is to wait for other countries to commit themselves to equivalent action on their emissions before raising its target to 30 per cent “as part of a genuine global effort”. But after the failure of the Copenhagen climate summit, a global deal on cutting emissions is now unlikely to be agreed until the end of next year.

Connie Hedegaard, the Climate Commissioner, will make the case for the EU to commit itself unilaterally to a 30 per cent cut, to inspire other countries to follow suit and accelerate the development of low-carbon industries.

. . . snip . . .

The plan could raise tensions in Britain because the Liberal Democrats promised in their manifesto to adopt the 30 per cent target “unilaterally and immediately” but Conservatives suggested they would oppose such a move.

The draft Commission document raises the possibility of trade wars by suggesting EU industries could be protected by imposing border tariffs on imported goods from non-EU countries with less stringent emission controls. The tariffs would be introduced with a requirement for importers to buy emissions permits.

The Department of Energy and Climate Change, where Chris Huhne, the Liberal Democrat, is Secretary of State, said the Government did not yet have an agreed position on whether the EU should unilaterally adopt the higher target. “They haven’t got further than the coalition agreement so it’s unclear at the moment,” a spokeswoman said.

Jeremy Nicholson, director of the Energy Intensive Users Group, said: “A unilateral move to 30 per cent would damage the European economy at a time when we can ill afford it.”

Neil Bentley, director of business environment at the CBI, said: “Talk of moving to 30 per cent is premature because it seems unlikely that we will get a global deal this year.
This is infuriating and it affects you and me. For example, my stocks are down this week after just making it back to the level they were at prior to the recession because of the turmoil in Greece and the loss of confidence in world economic growth. The whole world is being placed at risk by the global warming alarmists pressuring governments to impose punitive taxes on industry and therefore pushing down growth and further increasing the debt that is now threatening the world economy.

Is Having a Large Family a Sin?

Well, you would think so to hear the prejudice and animosity directed against those who obey God's command to be fruitful and multiply. A cornerstone of the culture of death is a hatred of fertility and a denigration of family.

But even in this climate, it takes a lot of nerve to claim that your opponent for political office can't do his job properly because he has a wife and six children. (Apparently having six children is now considered "freakish" and "impossible" in some circles.)

Here is a story from Thomas Peters at Catholic Vote Action about a Pennsylvania Republican primary race in which a woman accused her opponent of being unable to do the job of holding public office just because he was a father of six: "Opponent claims Catholic candidate, father of six, too busy for office." Methinks that if he were to be as rude as she was in reply he might have told her to get back into the kitchen and leave politics to the men! Honestly, in this day and age, prejudice against women is outlawed but prejudice against Christians is A-OK. One step forward, two back.

How did the primary turn out, you ask? Well, the "Minivan Dad" crushed his anti-natalist opponent 67% to 33%!

The moral of the story: if you want to run for office, have a large family. Eventually, they all will be voters! Let the secularist barbarians observe our fertility and tremble!

A Clarification:
It seems there was some misunderstanding by at least one reader about what I wrote above:

"Methinks that if he were to be as rude as she was in reply he might have told her to get back into the kitchen and leave politics to the men! Honestly, in this day and age, prejudice against women is outlawed by prejudice against Christians is A-OK."

I posed a hypothetical "If he were to be as rude as she . . . " with the implication that it would be equally rude of him to dismiss her as a woman that way as it was for her to dismiss him as a father of six. Both would be wrong; my point was that while one would be recognized as wrong by everyone, her prejudice would not be. So it was a shock tactic to say "See how bad you sound." I myself of course would never tell a woman to get back in the kitchen. That was the farthest thing from my mind. So I'm sorry if that was left unclear; I'll try to be more clear next time.

Why is the Public Turning Against Global Warming Alarmism?

This story from The New York Times, "Climate Fears Turn to Doubts Among Britons," is by a true believer who basically can't believe that, after all the global warming activists have done to spread fear and drum up support for their cause, the public is losing the faith.
Last month hundreds of environmental activists crammed into an auditorium here to ponder an anguished question: If the scientific consensus on climate change has not changed, why have so many people turned away from the idea that human activity is warming the planet?

Nowhere has this shift in public opinion been more striking than in Britain, where climate change was until this year such a popular priority that in 2008 Parliament enshrined targets for emissions cuts as national law. But since then, the country has evolved into a home base for a thriving group of climate skeptics who have dominated news reports in recent months, apparently convincing many that the threat of warming is vastly exaggerated.

A survey in February by the BBC found that only 26 percent of Britons believed that “climate change is happening and is now established as largely manmade,” down from 41 percent in November 2009. A poll conducted for the German magazine Der Spiegel found that 42 percent of Germans feared global warming, down from 62 percent four years earlier.

And London’s Science Museum recently announced that a permanent exhibit scheduled to open later this year would be called the Climate Science Gallery — not the Climate Change Gallery as had previously been planned.

“Before, I thought, ‘Oh my God, this climate change problem is just dreadful,’ ” said Jillian Leddra, 50, a musician who was shopping in London on a recent lunch hour. “But now I have my doubts, and I’m wondering if it’s been overhyped.”

Perhaps sensing that climate is now a political nonstarter, David Cameron, Britain’s new Conservative prime minister, was “strangely muted” on the issue in a recent pre-election debate, as The Daily Telegraph put it, though it had previously been one of his passions.

And a poll in January of the personal priorities of 141 Conservative Party candidates deemed capable of victory in the recent election found that “reducing Britain’s carbon footprint” was the least important of the 19 issues presented to them.

Politicians and activists say such attitudes will make it harder to pass legislation like a fuel tax increase and to persuade people to make sacrifices to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.

“Legitimacy has shifted to the side of the climate skeptics, and that is a big, big problem,” Ben Stewart, a spokesman for Greenpeace, said at the meeting of environmentalists here. “This is happening in the context of overwhelming scientific agreement that climate change is real and a threat. But the poll figures are going through the floor.”

The lack of fervor about climate change is also true of the United States, where action on climate and emissions reduction is still very much a work in progress, and concern about global warming was never as strong as in Europe. A March Gallup poll found that 48 percent of Americans believed that the seriousness of global warming was “generally exaggerated,” up from 41 percent a year ago.
Read the rest here. The article goes on to bemoan the fact that the scandals at CRU and IPCC eem to be influencing public opinion and reaffirms the belief of the author in Anthropogenic Global Warming. The author brushes off these events as not the kind of events that should shake one's faith in AGW because, after all, a consensus still exists among scientists about the truth of AGW.

Except that the so-called "consensus" is anything but. The Fourth International Conference on Climate Change was recently held in Chicago, Illinois on May 16-18, 2010 at the Chicago Marriott Magnificent Mile Hotel. It focussed on new scientific research on the causes and consequences of climate change, and to economic analysis of the cost and effectiveness of proposals to reduce greenhouse gas emissions. Dozens of scientists from all over the world from various disciplines discussed the holes in the AGW agenda and the ineffectiveness and economic costs of all proposed "solutions" to the problem as defined by the alarmists.

An example of the economic disasters awaiting countries that jump on the "Green Economy" bandwagon comes from a damning report prepared for Spain's socialist government and leaked recently on the effects of "going green" on the Spanish economy.

Pajamas Media has received a leaked internal assessment produced by Spain’s Zapatero administration. The assessment confirms the key charges previously made by non-governmental Spanish experts in a damning report exposing the catastrophic economic failure of Spain’s “green economy” initiatives.

On eight separate occasions, President Barack Obama has referred to the “green economy” policies enacted by Spain as being the model for what he envisioned for America.

. . . snip . . .

But today’s leaked document reveals that even the socialist Spanish government now acknowledges the ruinous effects of green economic policy.

Unsurprisingly for a governmental take on a flagship program, the report takes pains to minimize the extent of the economic harm. Yet despite the soft-pedaling, the document reveals exactly why electricity rates “necessarily skyrocketed” in Spain, as did the public debt needed to underwrite the disaster. This internal assessment preceded the Zapatero administration’s recent acknowledgement that the “green economy” stunt must be abandoned, lest the experiment risk Spain becoming Greece.

The government report does not expressly confirm the highest-profile finding of the non-governmental report: that Spain’s “green economy” program cost the country 2.2 jobs for every job “created” by the state. However, the figures published in the government document indicate they arrived at a job-loss number even worse than the 2.2 figure from the independent study.

This document is not a public report. Spanish media has referred to its existence in recent weeks though, while Bloomberg and the Washington Examiner have noted the impact: Spain is now forced to jettison its plans — Obama’s model — for a “green economy.”

Remarkably, these items have received virtually no media attention.

Close your eyes, close your mind, keep marching forward into the Green Utopia! Once the ordinary citizens of the US and other countries become aware of how much the Green Economy is going to hurt employment, increase taxes and stifle business development, the poll numbers we are seeing now are going to look positively rosy.

Monday, May 24, 2010

Judaism, Christainity, Islam: One of These Things is Not Like the Others

David Goldman at First Things explains why, in his view, Sharia law is incompatible with Western law. It stems from a radically different view of the relation of the individual to the state.
To what extent is sharia compatible with Western law? Dr. Rowan Williams, the Archbishop of Canterbury, and Britain’s Supreme Court president Lord Phillips created a stir in 2008 by proposing that British courts might permit the application of Muslim religious law. Numerous American scholars have suggested that sharia might have an application to family law. All the proponents of importing sharia into the West cite the example of Jewish religious law, Halakha, which has coexisted seamlessly with Western law for two thousand years.

In a “Spengler” essay published today at Asia Times Online, titled “Wife-beating, Sharia,and Western law,” I characterize these proposals as “monstrous.” Sharia, I argue, stems from a radically different, and indeed antithetical, concept of the relation of the individual to the state.

More than the Koran’s sanction of wife-beating, the legal grounds on which the Koran sanctions it reveals an impassable gulf between Islamic and Western law. The sovereign grants inalienable rights to every individual in Western society, of which protection from violence is foremost. Every individual stands in direct relation to the state, which wields a monopoly of violence.Islam’s legal system is radically different: the father is a “governor” or “administrator” of the family, that is, a little sovereign within his domestic realm, with the right to employ violence to control his wife and children. That is the self-understanding of modern Islam spelled out by Muslim-American scholars – and it is incompatible with the Western concept of human rights.

The practice of wife-beating, which is found in Muslimcommunities in Western countries, is embedded too profoundly in sharia law to be extracted. Nowhere to my knowledge has a Muslim religious authority of standing repudiated wife-beating as specified in Surah 4:32 of the Koran, for to do so would undermine the foundations of Muslim society.

By extension, the power of the little sovereign of the family can include the killing of wayward wives and female relations. Execution for domestic crimes, often called “honor killing”, is not mentioned in the Koran, but the practice is so widespread in Muslim countries – the United Nations Population Fund estimates an annual toll of 5,000 – that it is recognized in what we might term Islamic common law.

Muslim courts either do not prosecute so-called honor killings, or prosecute them more leniently than other crimes. Article 340 of Jordan’s penal code states, “He who discovers his wife or one of his female relatives committing adultery and kills, wounds, or injures one of them, is exempted from any penalty.” Syria imposes only a two-year prison sentence for such killings. Pakistan forbids them but rarely punishes them.

. . . snip . . .

The comparison with Halakha is entirely specious, I argue:

Jewish law proceeds from God’s Covenant with each member of the Jewish people. The notion of an intermediate sovereign, such as Islam’s “governor” of the family, is inconceivable in Jewish law, for there is only one Sovereign, the King of Kings. The powers of the earthly sovereign derive from God and are limited by God’s laws. The American founding notion of “inalienable rights” stems from the Hebrew concept of covenant: a grant of rights implies a Grantor, and an irreversible grant implies a God who limits his own sovereignty in covenant with mankind.

From the vantage point of Islam, the idea that God might limit his own powers by making an eternal covenant with human beings is unthinkable, for Allah is absolutely transcendent, and unconditionally omnipotent. From a Hebrew, and later Christian standpoint, the powers of the earthly sovereign are limited by God’s law, which irreversibly grants rights to every human being. Islam can make no sense of such self-limitation of the divine sovereign, and thus never has produced a temporal political system subject to constitutional limitations.

As an afterthought: this is precisely what Rosenzweig meant when he characterized Islam as “pagan,” as I wrote in a 2007 essay for First Things.

In the thoroughly organized State, the State and the individual do not stand in the relation of a whole to a part. Instead, the state is the All, from which the power flows through the limbs of the individual. Everyone has his determined place, and, to the extent that he fulfills it, belongs to the All of the State. . . . The individual of antiquity does not lose himself in society in order to find himself, but rather in order to construct it; he himself disappears. The well-known difference between the ancient and all modern concepts of democracy rightly arise from this. It is clear from this why antiquity never developed the concept of representative democracy. Only a body can have organs; a building has only parts.

Read the whole post here. The entire article at Asia Times Online is available here.

The Muslim concept of the State is not that different from the Fascist concept of the State in its totalitarianism. The Jewish-Christian view is that there ought to be limited government and a division of powers. This goes all the way back to the division of powers in prophets, kings and priests in ancient Israel and it is expressed in the Medieval doctrine of the Two Swords. We are members of both the State and the Church and therefore the claim of the State on us can never be total. We must render to Caesar only what belongs to Caesar and be sure to rend to God what is God's.

I think the reference to Islam as "pagan" is very interesting. Islam is very different from the other two Abrahamic religions and has more of the spirit of pre-Christian Arabic culture about it than it does Jewish-Christian culture. The big push today to see Islam as closely related to Judaism and Christianity may be mis-guided and doomed to failure.