Saturday, July 31, 2010

Anti-Defamation League Comes Out Against the Ground Zero Mosque

John McCormack reports in the Weekly Standard that a leading group fighting anti-Semitism, the Jewish Anti-Defamation League, has come out against the building of the mosque, Cordoba House, at Ground Zero.

The Anti-Defamation League, which describes itself as "the world's leading organization fighting anti-Semitism through programs and services that counteract hatred, prejudice and bigotry," released a statment this morning opposing the building of the 13-story mosque near Ground Zero.

"In our judgment, building an Islamic Center in the shadow of the World Trade Center will cause some victims more pain – unnecessarily – and that is not right," says the ADL. Full statement here:

We regard freedom of religion as a cornerstone of the American democracy, and that freedom must include the right of all Americans – Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other faiths – to build community centers and houses of worship.

We categorically reject appeals to bigotry on the basis of religion, and condemn those whose opposition to this proposed Islamic Center is a manifestation of such bigotry.

However, there are understandably strong passions and keen sensitivities surrounding the World Trade Center site. We are ever mindful of the tragedy which befell our nation there, the pain we all still feel – and especially the anguish of the families and friends of those who were killed on September 11, 2001.

The controversy which has emerged regarding the building of an Islamic Center at this location is counterproductive to the healing process. Therefore, under these unique circumstances, we believe the City of New York would be better served if an alternative location could be found.

The condemnation of the accusations of bigotry hurled at opponents of the mosque is especially helpful. The Jews can be said to be well-experienced at recognizing bigotry when they see it. This is more evidence of the growing rift between the Western Left and Jews.

Friday, July 30, 2010

Evangelicals and the Manhattan Declaration: The Church and Politics

How should the Church/Christians be involved in politics? This is a complicated question that has occupied Christian thinkers for centuries in all sorts of different cultural settings. The Church has been the majority in some times and places (eg. 13th century Europe), an influential minority in others (eg. 20th Century United States) and a persecuted and oppressed minority in others (eg. 20th Century China). It has also moved from being a majority or influential minority to becoming a persecuted minority in other situations (eg. Asia Minor, North Africa) and it has been virtually wiped out of certain areas (eg. North Africa under Islamic invaders).

In situations where the Church is a persecuted or small and impotent minority, practically the only way a Christian influence can be brought to bear on the society is by individual Christians living out their faith as individuals very unobtrusively. Once the Church becomes a larger percentage of the population, the number of Christians in positions of power and influence naturally increases and so the question of a "Christian perspective" on various political questions becomes pressing.

At this point the Church has to make a decision: should the Church qua Church, with the clergy as its representatives, pass resolutions, write letters to elected officials and urge its members to vote as a block on certain issues or not? It is perfectly possible for the Church to allow its members to serve in all sorts of vocations including political and bureaucratic ones which exert political power and simply trust individual Christians to exert a Biblical and Christ-like influence in so doing. Or, on the other hand, the Church can decide to get involved as a Church in taking stands and seeking to influence the political process. Both strategies are often followed to one degree or another.

However, one can recognize the Fundamentalist position in the decision to stick to preaching the Gospel of eternal salvation to individuals and keep the Church as an institution and the clergy as its representatives out of politics. One can also recognize the Liberal Social Gospel position in the decision for clergy to take the lead in mobilizing the Church as a voting block to try and change society through political means. For many, the issue is defined as apolitical ministry that ignores politics versus sidelining the centrality of the Gospel in favor of working for social reform in a Progressivist, Liberationist or Social Gospel manner. It is clear from the past 200 years of church history that these two positions have been at odds with each other and have had many champions who stood for one approach or the other. Sadly, many younger Evangelicals have concluded that their choices are to concentrate on personal evangelism or else take up socialist politics and that these are the only two viable choices. We see many of these younger Evangelicals following the siren songs of leftist figures such as Jim Wallis, Brian McLaren, Tony Campolo and Ron Sider.

But I would like to suggest that the Manhattan Declaration stands in an honorable tradition of Evangelical social involvement that dates back much farther than the relatively recent socialist and progressivist captivity of liberal Protestantism. Ever since the Reformation, Protestants have combined the preaching of the Gospel and the conversion of souls with a different kind of political involvement that consists not of furthering the revolution in the name of equality, but rather of strengthening the Judeo-Christian moral foundations of society so as to preserve the conditions for the recognition of God's law and human dignity.

This tradition has been expressed in all branches of Protestantism, but may be seen most clearly, in my view, in the Reformed tradition. In the 20th century, figures such as Abraham Kuyper, Francis Schaeffer and Charles Colson have been influential in instilling in the wider Evangelical conscience a sense of responsibility for Christian political involvement that rejects both statist collectivism and extreme libertarianism in order to help provide the moral foundations of law and culture that cultivate the virtue needed by a people that wants to enjoy freedom and self-government rather than tyranny and statism.

In this tradition, there is considerable debate about the role of natural law, but there is always some recognition (following Paul in Romans 1) that even non-Christians can discern and acknowledge certain basics of moral behavior that permit a society to function without top-down control. There can be a recognition of the moral principles embodied in the Ten Commandments by Jews, Christians, agnostics and members of other religions, which can form the basis for a society enriched by institutions of civil society and the family. At this stage of history, to take such a position is necessarily to take a conservative position.

To conceive of Christian social involvement in conservative terms as the Reformed tradition and the Manhattan Declaration do is inevitable, given the Judeo-Christian heritage upon which Western culture is built. To do this is to reject both individualism and statism, both quietism and progressivism, both the pessimism of certain strands of millennialism and the modern idea of progress. It is to recognize that the Church has a role in culture but also to recognize that that role is not to try and become a rival state or a quasi state. Rather, that role is to preach the Gospel, convert and spiritually form people as light and to proclaim the morality upon which society is based and thereby strengthen the society as salt. Then, as part of their Christian discipleship individual Christians, both as individuals and as they form themselves in to free associations for greater effectiveness, bring their character and faith to bear on political problems.

The Church does take a political position in this scenario because of her responsibility to shape and form her members for political service as citizens. But while that political position will be conservative in the context of a civilization with deep historical roots in the Judeo-Christian encounter with Greek philosophy, it must necessarily appear revolutionary in the context of a non-Christian culture like contemporary China. So a Christian politics is not necessarily conservative, but it is necessarily based in the Ten Commandments and the natural law. In our day and culture a Christian politics is conservative necessarily and must reject both progressivist and Marxist forms of revolution against Christian Western culture.

Thursday, July 29, 2010

Dr. Ken Howell is Reinstated: A Step in the Right Direction

Dr. Kenneth Howell, the professor at the University of Illinois who was fired for teaching the Catholic (Christian) position on homosexuality, has been reinstated after great protests and the threat of a lawsuit.

An adjunct religion instructor barred from teaching by the University of Illinois after defending the Roman Catholic stance on homosexuality has been invited back to teach this fall.

Adjunct associate professor Kenneth Howell was reinstated today -- a day after the deadline when his lawyers said they would sue the university for violating his academic freedom if administrators failed to reinstate him.

Why was he fired?

Howell, who has taught on the Urbana-Champaign campus since 2001, was removed last month after explaining during class why the church believes that homosexual behavior violates natural moral law. He elaborated later in an e-mail that lawyers say circulated around campus, prompting one student to call it "hate speech."

"All I ask as your teacher is that you approach these questions as a thinking adult," Howell wrote. "That implies questioning what you have heard around you. Unless you have done extensive research into homosexuality and are cognizant of the history of moral thought, you are not ready to make judgments about moral truth in this matter. All I encourage is to make informed decisions."

His subsequent removal generated outcry from alumni and students, including a Save Dr. Ken Facebook page. On Thursday, the page was filled with posts celebrating victory.

Remember, if there is one group that is being persecuted today in Western society, it is traditional Christians. Radical Leftists are determined to eradicate all Christian influence from our society and our choice is either to abandon society to their tender mercies or stand and fight. Dr. Howell is to be commended for standing up to the thugs. However, this case is not over yet.

But the reinstatement is only temporary. It does not affect an ongoing faculty review, which has been investigating whether Howell's immediate removal violated his academic freedom or right to due process.

"We are going to be monitoring what happens now to make sure Ken Howell's academic freedom under the First Amendment is protected," Lorence said.

We will continue to follow this story and pray for a successful conclusion for Dr. Howell and the public witness of Christianity on the University of Illinois campus.

But, as this story and this one show, the fight is far from over as religious freedom continues to be under assault on university campuses.

The "The Ruling Class" and Israel

I've been reading and discussing Prof. Angelo M. Codevilla's scintillating essay "America's Ruling Class - and the Perils of Revolution," which was recently published in the American Spectator. Codevilla is Professor Emeritus of International Relations at Boston University and his essay can only be described as "class treason."

Caroline Glick, the highly perceptive conservative columnist for the Jerusalem Post, has some thoughts too:
The main unifying characteristic of the American "ruling class" as Codevilla describes it is inexhaustible contempt for the majority of their countrymen who are not part of their clique. In his words, "our ruling class does not like the rest of America. Most of all does it dislikes that so many Americans think America is substantially different from the rest of the world and like it that way."

Codevilla's article focuses on US domestic policy. He accuses the ruling class of purposely spending the US into insolvency. He claims that their goal is to aggregate power. The more Americans depend on governmental largesse for their livelihoods, the greater the power of the government to dictate norms of social and political behavior and the greater the governing class's hold on power.

Codevilla claims that the Republicans are the permanent minority in the ruling class which is naturally aligned with the Democrats. When they are in power, the Republicans, he claims repress populist and conservative voices within their ranks calling for small government and do so to maintain their good relations with their colleagues in Democratic ruling circles. His prime example of a ruling class Republican is the first president George Bush.
Although Codevilla focuses on domestic issues, Glick is interested in the implications of his essay for international affairs:
There is a clear foreign policy corollary to Codevilla's discussion. Just as US bureaucrats, journalists, politicians and domestic policy wonks tend to combine forces to perpetuate and expand the sclerotic and increasingly bankrupt welfare state, so their foreign policy counterparts tend to collaborate to perpetuate failed foreign policy paradigms that have become writs of faith for American and Western elites.

A prime example of this is US Middle East policy. Regardless of its repeated failure over the course of four decades, since 1970, and with ever-increasing urgency since 1988, the consensus view of the US foreign policy elite has been that Israel's size is the cause of violence and instability in the Middle East. If Israel would just contract into the indefensible 1949 armistice lines, everything would be wonderful. The so-called "extremists" in the Arab and Islamic worlds will become moderates. Iran, Syria, the Saudis, the Palestinians, al Qaida, Hizbullah and the rest would abandon terror and beat their suicide belts and ballistic missiles into ploughshares.

An outstanding example of this sort of cross-partisan nonsense was the 2006 bipartisan Iraq Study Group's recommendations to then president George W. Bush. The war in Iraq was going nowhere and the considered view of esteemed Republican and Democratic policy hands was to stick it to Israel.

In the considered view of these wise men, for the US to emerge from Iraq with honor, it didn't actually have to defeat its enemies. Instead, according to Republicans like James Baker and Brent Scowcroft and Democrats like Lee Hamilton and Zbigniew Brzezinski all Bush needed to do was force Israel to cough up the Golan Heights, Judea, Samaria and Jerusalem. Then al Qaida in Iraq, the Shiite militias and all the rest would shrivel up or - at a minimum - allow the US to withdraw its military forces from the country without being humiliated.
It does seem that liberals really believe that if only Israel retreated to its indefensible 1949 borders with no one to prevent Hezbollah and Hamas from wheeling Iranian missiles right up to its borders, then there would be peace.

Do they really believe that? This is what I find hard to believe: that anyone really believes that such a unilateral Israeli retreat would lead to peace rather than simply tempting Israel's enemies from destroying the Jewish state. Finding myself unable to believe that even the most uninformed and mentally slow person could believe that the path to peace is unilateral Israeli surrender of the occupied territories - like the Gaza pull-out on a larger scale - I am forced to conclude that the liberals demanding such behavior from Israel do not want peace at all. What they really want the end of Israel as a Jewish state. They want peace only in the sense that the Communists wanted peace - after the conquest of the world by Communist ideology and the Communist Party.

Liberals who criticize Israel's arms blockade of Gaza should understand that when they blame Israel for the lack of peace and demand unilateral concessions by Israel alone, they do not look like peace activists, but rather like stooges of fanatical, evil terrorists. They should not be upset to be called anti-Jewish racists and fellow-travelers of fascists. They should realize that they have no one but themselves to blame for being perceived that way. Nobody believes the line they are peddling. They might as well be still defending the government of Joseph Stalin as "misunderstood."

If they want to surrender to Islamic terrorism in the Holy Land and in New York and in London, they must expect only scorn, ridicule and denunciations from those who love their own country, their own civilization, and their free way of life. There is no use calling conservatives names as if the conservatives were the problem. The problem here is the loss of credibility of the Western Ruling Class.

The Mosque at Ground Zero: What Would St. Augustine Say?

Correction: The original post quoted "Ezra Klein" when I should have said "Ezra Levant." The mistake would be obvious to anyone who clicked through to Levant's article. But I'm sorry about that - my mistake. The other Ezra has enough problems these days organizing the vast left-wing conspiracy to be misquoted like this.

There is a growing controversy about the proposal to build a mosque at the Ground Zero site in New York. The building on the property that the mosque is to be built on was damaged by debris from the collapsing towers. There is a Muslim tradition of building mosques on the sites of historic battles won by Muslim invaders attempting to extend the rule of Islam. Is this a simple case of religious freedom trumping all? Or is there more to the story?

I must say it is a bit surreal to see liberals, who are supportive of eliminating the freedom of religion of Christians, as in this case, for example, wax so eloquently about the freedom of religion for radical, violence-supporting, Jew-hating, homosexual-executing Muslims. It makes you rub your eyes in disbelief and ask if you missed something. It certainly appears that, (whether all liberals have actually thought this through or not), the liberal/progressive attitude is that, since Christianity is a bigger threat to their interests in the West than Islam is, and since "the enemy of my enemy is my (temporary) friend," they are eager to provide Islam with a free pass to attack Christians and Jews.

A typical liberal perspective is that of Steve Chapman who attacks Sarah Palin for being against religious freedom for Muslims. He writes:

A group called the National Republican Trust Political Action Committee says that "to celebrate that murder of 3,000 Americans, they want to build a monstrous 13-story mosque at Ground Zero."

Of course, the "they" who planned and executed the 9/11 attacks are not the same "they" who want to erect this structure. Both groups are made up of Muslims. But associating all Muslims with al-Qaida is like equating all Christians with the Ku Klux Klan.

Here, at least, is an argument from facts. So what are the true facts here? Is Chapman right to assert that while the 9/11 terrorists were like the Ku Klux Klan, the Muslims wanting to build the mosque are like enlightened, progressive, civil-rights activists? Ezra Levant argues, in effect, that they are actually more like the 1960s Jim Crow establishment in the South - not quite the Klan, but certainly enablers and secret supporters. He writes:

The driving force of the mosque is a radical imam named Feisal Abdul Rauf.

Just weeks after 9/11 he told 60 Minutes that America had it coming—U.S. policies were to blame, and Americans were “an accessory to the crime.”

That’s like telling a rape victim it’s her fault for wearing a skirt.

Rauf helped organize the recent terrorist flotilla that set sail for Gaza. He refuses to acknowledge that Hamas is a terrorist organization. But he has no trouble condemning “Christians in World War II” for bombing civilians in Hiroshima.

Rauf won’t even admit that Islamic terrorists were responsible for 9/11 itself. He told a New York radio station that’s just the “general perception.”

Rauf has been working on his plans for Ground Zero for a while. He published a book called A Call to Prayer from the World Trade Center Rubble: Islamic Da’wah in the Heart of America Post-9/11. It’s about expropriating the symbol of the crumbling U.S.—that can’t even build a memorial to 9/11 after nine years, let alone rebuild the towers — and contrasting it with a gleaming new tower of Saudi-style propaganda.

But even America-hating radicals have the right to build mosques in America, even at Ground Zero. That’s what makes America different from Saudi Arabia, where non-Muslims aren’t allowed to set foot in Mecca, let alone build a church.

But does the Saudi government have the right to build at Ground Zero? According to the Washington Times, the

Cordoba Initiative has assets of just $20,000 and total revenues since 2004 have been $100,000. How do you get from there to $100 million?

Rauf won’t say, but hints at outside funding.

Saudi Arabia has a religious foreign ministry, called the Muslim World League. It gave $7 million to build Toronto’s Islamic Centre, and more to mosques in Calgary and Montreal.

Are they the source? There are 100 mosques in New York City. But the Ground Zero mosque isn’t really a mosque. It’s a jihadist headquarters. And if the secret $100 million is from Saudi Arabia, it’s not even a mosque at all—it’s a clandestine embassy for the country from which 15 out of 19 9/11 terrorists came.

Now, Levant does not offer proof for his assertions and neither does Chapman. Both are writing short newspaper columns. But I would suggest that the whole issue turns on the facts of the case concerning who the promoters of this mosque are, what their track record is in terms of attitudes toward terrorism, Shaira law etc. and what their motives look like when a reasonable person in possession of all relevant facts examines the situation.

If they are not willing to admit forthrightly that 9/11 was caused by a group of young Muslim men, mainly from Saudi Arabia, claiming to be inspired by centuries of Islamic aggression against the infidels - then they should not be allowed to build their mosque.

If they are not willing to apologize for the atrocity committed against America by members of their own religion and in the name of that religion, regardless of how misguided they may be regarded as having been, - then they should not be allowed to build their mosque.

If they are not willing to meet with representatives of the victims families and listen to their suggestions of how the design of the building could incorporate a suitable memorial to the victims, a clear repudiation of the ideology that motivated the attackers and a commitment to American principles of separation of church and state and liberal democracy - then they should not be allowed to build their mosque.

Why not? Because if they wish to be at war with the West, the West should treat them as enemies. Religious toleration ends where murder begins. St. Augustine could have told us that.

Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Robert Higgs on Codevilla's Call to Revolution

Robert Higgs comments on Angelo M. Codevilla's essay "America's Ruling Class - and the Perils of Revolution" that was published last month in the American Spectator. I commented on this essay here, but I thought that Higgs' summary is excellent and well worth reflecting on:
Codevilla cuts immediately to the core: the United States today is divided into (a) a ruling class, which dominates the government at every level, the schools and universities, the mainstream media, Hollywood, and a great deal else, and (b) all of the rest of us, a heterogeneous agglomeration that Codevilla dubs the country class. The ruling class holds the lion’s share of the institutional power, but the country class encompasses perhaps two-thirds of the people.

Members of the two classes do not like one another. In particular, the ruling class views the rest of the population as composed of ignoramuses who are vicious, violent, racist, religious, irrational, unscientific, backward, generally ill-behaved, and incapable of living well without constant, detailed direction by our betters; and it views itself as perfectly qualified and entitled to pound us into better shape by the generous application of laws, taxes, subsidies, regulations, and unceasing declarations of its dedication to bringing the country—and indeed the entire world—out of its present darkness and into the light of the Brave New World it is busily engineering.

This class divide has little to do with rich versus poor or Democrat versus Republican. At its core, it has to do with the division between, on the one hand, those whose attitudes are attuned to the views endorsed by the ruling class (especially “political correctness”) and whose fortunes are linked directly or indirectly with government programs and, on the other hand, those whose outlooks and interests derive from and focus on private affairs, especially the traditional family, religion, and genuine private enterprise. Above all, as Codevilla makes plain, “for our ruling class, identity always trumps.” These people know they are superior in every way, and they are not shy about letting us know that they are. Arrogance might as well be their middle name.

The ruling class, not surprisingly, is also the statist party:

[O]ur ruling class’s standard approach to any and all matters, its solution to any and all problems, is to increase the power of the government – meaning of those who run it, meaning themselves, to profit those who pay with political support for privileged jobs, contracts, etc.

Despite the rulers’ chronic complaints about people’s exercising “discrimination” of one kind or another, they have no intention of treating everybody equally. Hence, “[l]aws and regulations nowadays are longer than ever because length is needed to specify how people will be treated unequally.” As the recent health-care and financial-reform statutes illustrate perfectly, however, much of the inequality is achieved not directly, but by the statutes’ delegation of authority to countless regulatory and administrative bodies, which will use their ample discretion to do the desired dirty work.

But what I really want to call attention to is Higgs' stirring conclusion:

I heartily recommend this magnificent essay, which is one of the most intelligent, forthright discussions of America’s current socio-political condition I have ever read. If we serfs are ever to escape the grip of our overbearing, self-appointed nobility, the first requirements will be to recognize correctly our current condition, to denounce openly its injustice and idiocy, and to deride every claim of legitimacy or entitlement our rulers have the temerity to make or presume.
Every revolution begins with the oppressed refusing to recognize the legitimacy of their self-appointed, self-aggrandizing overlords. To recognize and reject the legitimacy of the Ruling Class - as if operated under some sort of Divine Mandate - is where the road to justice, equality and freedom starts.

The Evangelical Left has spent the past few years deriding conservative Evangelicals for supporting the Republican Party only to become, themselves, slavish supporters of the left wing of the Democratic Party. It should be pointed out that the Ruling Class has dominated major sections of the Republican Party and that the goal of true conservatives is not to support the Republican Party establishment; it is to take over the party and make it the vehicle for a conservative revolution in much the same way that the New Left seized control of the Democratic Party at the beginning of the 1970s and have triumphed completely through the Obama wing of the party.

The Ruling Class would have its own left and right factions define the political just as in Europe, the "Conservative Parties" have come to mean roughly "conservative socialist parties" as opposed to more consistently socialist parties. Everybody agrees with socialism; the only disagreement permitted is on how fast we should move in that direction. The Communists want it immediately by revolution; the democratic socialists think it should be done gradually by votes, and the conservatives just want to slow the process down a bit. Real conservatives are labeled extremists and dismissed. This is what the Ruling Class wants for America. But the conservative revolt going on in the Republican Party right now aims at moving the political center several degrees rightward and defining the whole Ruling Class as "The Left."

Social conservatives have sensed a radical, left-ward drift for some time but now the economic conservatives (classical liberals) have been radicalized by the hard left economic agenda of the Obama administration and the dangerous and unsustainable debt being run up by the Democrats in the midst of a recession. When the social and fiscal conservatives both become convinced that a revolution is necessary to save the country from socialism, it will happen.

Liberal Jews Reluctantly Abandon Obama

American Jews are overwhelmingly liberal and overwhelmingly support the Democratic Party, so naturally they voted overwhelmingly for Barack Obama. But the American diaspora is increasingly troubled by the way Obama is showing deference to America's and Israel's enemies and failing to support the security of Israel. American Jews can criticize Israel, but they know very well that when push comes to shove it is crucial for the security of Jews worldwide that Israel continue to exist as an independent, Jewish state in the Jewish ancestral homeland.

Michael Lumish is one liberal, American Jew who has had enough of Obama. He has been reading the liberal blog Daily Kos with increasing dismay over leftist anti-Semitism and writes:
Speaking as a liberal, it is saddens me that anti-Semitism has become so prevalent on the liberal-left in the forms of exceedingly toxic anti-Zionism and Israel Hatred. The political right has done a very good job of marginalizing Skin-Head types and Klansmen, even as the Left provides venues, such as Daily Kos, for a movement that despises the Jewish state and gives tacit, and sometimes overt, support to organizations like Hamas and Hezbullah and al-Qaida, or countries like Iran, that oppress women, kill gay people, attack Jews, hate Democracy and western culture, and that represent everything that liberalism is allegedly opposed to.

- snip -

Oh, and by the way, I voted for Barack Obama. You can imagine my horror when he actually took it upon himself to tell Jews where they may, or may not, live in Jerusalem, the ancient capital of the Jewish people.

That was perhaps the final nail in the coffin of my support for President Obama and the Democratic party.

Jewish, Evangelical and neoconservative supporters of Israel have been turning up the heat on politicians like Pennsylvania Democratic candidate for the US Senate, Joe Sestak, who has been waffling on support for Israel. A recent letter to Obama urging support for Israel was signed by 87 US Senators and a majority of the House of Representatives. The effect of that letter was the recent meeting between Obama and Netanyahu at the White House, which was in sharp contrast to the disgraceful way Netanyahu was treated during his last visit to Washington. The May visit shows what Obama really thinks of Netahyahu, while the July one shows that Obama needs to appear to be showing support for Israel for domestic political reasons. But no one should be fooled: Obama would sell the Jewish state out in a heartbeat if he thought he could get away with it.

Here is a TV ad that is being run by the David Horowitz Freedom Center. It has a lot of liberal knickers in a knot. But they better get used to it because a pro-Israel stance is going be a major vote getter for the Republican nominee in 2012.

Tuesday, July 27, 2010

A Slow Day for Blogging

Tomorrow (Tuesday, July 27) is a travel day for us. Access to wireless may be limited so blogging may be slow. Here are some of the upcoming posts I plan to do in the next little while:

"Why Believing in the Trinity is Not Enough to Make You Orthodox"

"Progressivism is a Form of Modernity or What's a Nice Pomo Boy Like You Doing Hanging Around a Modernist Ideology Like That?"

"Why the Left is Cheapening Political Discourse in America by Desperately Trying to Change the Subject from Policy to Racism"

"John Calvin and Metaphysics"

And, of course, I'll be reviewing books and commenting on the news day by day. I'd also like to do a mid-year update on my "Predictions for 2010" post from last January. So far, my predictions are looking pretty good. There is also a good chance that the Obama administration will do something outrageous.

On the other hand, if you want to see some beautiful photos of the cutest grandaughter in the world, you can check them out at:

I was not aware that today (July 26 - it is still July 26 as I write this in Alberta) is Grandparents Day. When it comes to families, the Catholic Church thinks of everything. So happy grandparents day to all you grandparent.

Monday, July 26, 2010

From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics and Racism in Germany: A Review

From Darwin to Hitler: Evolutionary Ethics, Eugenics, and Racism in Germany (Palgrave Macmillan, 2004) by University of California historian Richard Weikart is a book which raises uncomfortable questions for anyone who wishes to reconcile Darwinism and humanism, let alone Darwinism and Christianity.

Let us set aside for the moment the question of whether and how Darwinian evolution might be compatible with the Genesis account of creation or the historical Christian doctrine of creation as it has developed over the centuries. This book does not deal with that question but it does deal with one that must be addressed before it is even worth discussing the question of whether evolution can be reconciled with the Christian doctrine of creation.

This book takes up the question of the compatibility of Darwinism with a humanistic ethic of respect for human life and compassion for the weak. This ethic of humanistic compassion (as exemplified in the liberal German theologian/physician Albert Schweitzer or in the life of Mother Theresa of Calcutta, for example) is common both to conservative and liberal Christianity and also to the Western humanism inspired by it, as in, for example, the secular organizations Doctors Without Borders, the International Red Cross and the Save the Children Fund. The issue this book raises is whether or not Darwinism is compatible with any of full-fledged Christianity (eg. Mother Theresa), liberal Christianity (eg. Albert Schweitzer) or secular humanitarianism (eg. the Red Cross). Or are all of these types of humanitarianism undermined and ultimately destroyed by Darwinism.

The book is an intellectual history and it focuses primarily on Germany in the period from the 1870s to the 1920s. The final chapter then discusses what influence the widespread and somewhat diverse interpretations of Darwin's work in Germany during the late 19th and early 20th centuries might have had on Hitler himself. It follows recent Hitler scholarship (such as Ian Kershaw's massive biography) in viewing Hitler not as an amoral monster (which makes him so unlike us that we can use him as a stick with which to beat our debating opponents without ever taking him seriously), but as a man with a consistent ethic that he and many of the people around him had good reason to regard as "scientific" given the science of the time.

But if Hitler was not an amoral, nihilistic monster, but rather a rational, consistent, scientific thinker who implemented an ethic which (1) was legitimately derived from or at least strongly influenced by Darwinism and which (2) was shared by many leading scientists and academics of the day, the consequences are radical and far-reaching. It means that either Darwinism is wrong and, in fact, evil or it means that Darwinism is true and that we must give up humanitarianism as silly sentimentalism that must give way to a truly "scientific" outlook on life.

Of course, at this point, the obvious response will be to distinguish between "Darwinian evolution" on the one hand and "Social Darwinism" on the other and to assert that one can believe in the former without accepting the latter. While it is a fact that many individual thinkers have in fact made this distinction, the question raised by this book is whether or not this distinction is based on anything more solid than wish fulfillment. It is well and fine to accept Darwinism and reject Social Darwinism, but is this anything more than an inconsistent move made by thinkers who refuse to face up to the inherent logic of their position?

The contribution of this book is to show that during the period under consideration the anthropologists, biologists, politicians, activists, etc. who believed that the Christian ethic must be overturned and replaced with Darwinian ideas in order for society to progress did not distinguish between Darwinism and Social Darwinism. This first, logical, naive impulse is likely more honest and more realistic about the long term impact of Darwinism on society.

The second half of the 19th century was characterized by a widespread belief in progress by both Christians and secularists. Science, meaning technological science, was seen as the engine of progress and it was understood that science had emerged out of a Christian, not an Oriental or other worldview. The effect of Darwinism was to break the link between Christianity and science and to associate in the minds of many people science and progress with atheistic materialism. Prior to Darwin, atheism and materialism were pre-Christian errors that Western civilization has progressed beyond - particularly as a result of the union of Greek rationalism with Biblical revelation. The Bible presented the world as a contingent effect of a rational decision of God to create - by His Word - and Greek rationalism offered a disciplined method of rational inquiry that seemed to match up perfectly with the Biblical picture of a God who speaks the world into being by His Word and then upholds its laws by His gracious Providence. This gives us an incentive to explore the contingent creation by means of human reason and makes the idea of progress as a result of discovering nature's laws perfectly reasonable. To the extent that nature's laws depend on nature's God, science and progress are both inextricably linked to (and dependent upon) God. This was the link that Darwinism was perceived as breaking, in particular by means of the theory of natural selection, which explains how nature's laws can exist without nature's God.

Richard Dawkins is one contemporary thinker who stresses the degree to which Chance replaces God in Darwinism. If Chance can be seen to perform the work God used to be required to do, then we can have a scientific universe without God and a perpetually-progressing society without God. In this scenario, man stands supreme at the top of the evolutionary ladder God-like in his understanding and, especially, in his technological mastery of matter that enables him to create new things and eventually the New Man out of the raw material thrown up by evolution. This is why the story of eugenics was so inter-woven with the rise of Darwinian thinking and evolutionary ethics. Creating a New Humanity is the task of the Creator Man who fills the vacuum left by the disappearance of the old Christian God, who has now been rendered superfluous - not proven to not exist, just rendered superfluous as in the famous quip of Laplace "I have no need of that hypothesis."

The value of Weikart's book is its intensely detailed and fair-minded chronicling of the writings of German scientists, ethicists, activists and politicians between Darwin and the period of chaos after World War I in which Darwinism was absorbed into the bloodstream of the German scientific mind. It does not answer or explicitly raise the question of why Darwinism became so popular and persuasive to so many people so quickly, but this is an important question to consider. Was it so persuasive because it had so much explanatory power that the old paradigm did not have? Or was it so persuasive because it reinforced the spirit of the age and offered a Faustian bargain by which modern man could gain the god-like power to destroy and create?

In the case of Hitler, it would seem that we have a man who attempted to seize this god-like power and by so doing unleashed great evil and destruction upon the world. Have we rejected Hitler while accepting Hitler's worldview? And, if so, is our sentimental humanitarianism a vestigal survival of a worldview that has been permanently discredited for us? And, if that is true, how long before the relentless, iron logic of destroying in order to re-create in our own image tempts us into the kind of madness that characterized Nazi Germany in the 1930s and 40s? Does Western civilization teeter on the precipice of self-destruction because of its acceptance of Darwinism in place of the Christian doctrine of creation?

These are the questions raised by this excellent book. I highly recommend it.

Sunday, July 25, 2010

The Gap Between the Political Class and Mainstream America

In a recent post, (The Coming Second American Revolution), I looked at the most significant divide in American politics today, which is not between races or genders or even economic classes, but rather between those who make up the Ruling Class or Political Class and the mainstream of ordinary citizens who call themselves conservative.

The Political Class pretends to speak for women, minorities, the poor, the working class, etc. but they are overwhelmingly middle and upper middle class people of both genders who share a common secularist outlook. The rest of America represents rich and poor, Hispanic, Asian, Black and White, women and men and income levels from the lower working class to wealthy entrepreneurs. The divide is one of worldview: one is religious and one is secular. One believes in God and natural law, absolute truth and Judeo-Christian morality while the other believes in atheism, materialism, relativism and socialism.

This report from Rasmussen documents the difference between the two groups on the economy. I cite it because it is a good empirical piece of evidence that shows the actual difference in thinking between the two groups.

A new Rasmussen Reports national telephone survey finds that 75% of Likely Voters prefer free markets over a government managed economy. Just 14% think a government managed economy is better while 11% are not sure. These figures have changed little since December.

Polling released earlier this week showed that Americans overwhelmingly believe that more competition and less regulation is better for the economy than more regulation and less competition.

Not surprisingly, America’s Political Class is far less enamored with the virtues of a free market. In fact, Political Class voters narrowly prefer a government managed economy over free markets by a 44% to 37% margin. However, among Mainstream voters, 90% prefer the free market.

Outside of the Political Class, free markets are preferred across all demographic and partisan lines. This gap may be one reason that 68% of voters believe the Political Class doesn’t care what most Americans think. Fifty-nine percent (59%) are embarrassed by the behavior of the Political Class.

One really has to make a choice of which group one believes is closer to the metaphysical truth about reality. I started out as a member of the conservative majority and for 25 years attempted to accommodate myself the Political Class in order to facilitate my upward mobility in academia. It was always a struggle because I could never accept abortion or homosexuality, which function as boundary markers or group identifiers for the Political Class. I tried to fit in, however, on the basis of accepting a form of socialism. In the last two years, I have experienced a re-conversion to my conservative roots and I have simply lost my faith in big government liberalism and Marxist ideas such as the labor theory of value or the rightness of coercively-enforced economic equality. I just no longer believe in such things any more and I have found it a lot easier to read John Paul II, St. Augustine, C. S. Lewis and Alexander Solzhenitsyn now without cognitive dissonance.

Saturday, July 24, 2010

Intolerant Liberals Take Over the Church of England

David Virtue surveys the wreckage following the recent Church of England synod where the promise made in 1992 when women were ordained that no one would be forced to go against his or her conscience by having the ministry of women forced upon him or her was decisively and shamelessly broken. His article, "Church of England Faces Biggest Exodus Since Reformation," looks at how the anglo-Catholic Forward in Faith movement and the conservative Evangelicals, led by the Reform movement, are likely to respond to the vote that women bishops will be imposed on the whole Church regardless of theological conviction.

The Archbishops of Canterbury and York jointly proposed an amendment that would have created breathing space for dissenters but it was defeated. Interestingly, it passed both the House of Bishops and the House of the Laity but failed in the House of the Clergy by a mere five votes. Thus, the women clergy were able to make the difference in preventing compromise and maintaining unity in the Church, choosing instead to ram the liberal agenda down the throats of the Evangelicals and Catholics.

I remember back in the late 1970s when the issue of woman's ordination was being debated in our Baptist denomination in the Atlantic Provinces that it was said that it was woman's ordination today and homosexual ordination tomorrow. It seemed absurd and most of us laughed off any connection. I am not laughing any more.

In denominations in which many women were ordained it appears that, although a minority are orthodox and Evangelical, the majority are liberal in theology. Thus the overall effect has been to make the denomination more liberal. Accompanying the ordination of women is the ideology that there must be equal gender representation on all committees, which means that the smaller, more liberal pool of females is over-represented. Those wondering how confessional denominations could shift to wild-eyed heresy in such a short period of time need look no further than this political reality for an explanation.

It now seems to me that the Church of England, having basically invited the Evangelicals and Anglo-Catholics to submit or get lost, is absolutely certain to go the way of the Episcopal Church in the US. Homosexual ordination and homosexual bishops are on the way now and it is only a matter of time. A weak, vacillating and theologically vague Archbishop of Canterbury cannot stem the tide or rally the faithful. Everything is politics and compromise for him; nothing is theologically non-negotiable. His most important doctrine is institutional unity above all - even theological truth.

Virtue sums up the future of the Church of England in a sad but probably accurate paragraph near the end of his article:
Likely scenario in 20 years' time
The Church of England will be very largely a homogeneous liberal body, like the Church of Sweden. It will have about 250,000 active members. The hierarchy will still be intact, but at the local level there will be many closed churches, and many more struggling to remain open. There will be no significant growth points, once Evangelicals and Catholics are gone. Former Anglo-Catholics will by now have been fully absorbed into the Roman Catholic Church with little trace remaining. There will be a number of large Evangelical churches around the country, but no longer in communion with the Church of England - congregational churches in all but name, with occasional visits from overseas prelates, in the tiny rump of the Anglican Communion that will have survived by 2030 - all those provinces which currently ordain women will have gone the same way as the Church of England.

The Church of England will have lost its identity. Church properties will be sold off just to pay the bills with disestablishment a real possibility. Prince Charles, now King, will be the "Defender of Faiths." He has already said he wants to be crowned King in a multi-faith coronation.

At that point, Global South leaders who represent more than 80% of the Anglican Communion might well ask themselves if the historical attachment to Canterbury is worth the paper it is printed on.
Read the whole article here.

Once the Anglican Communion represented a via media between Roe and Protestantism and seemed to have an historic mission as a bridge to ecumenical unity. That mission now lies in taters because of intolerant, politicized, theological liberalism and it determination to accommodate the Church to the world instead of standing firm for the Gospel. This is unspeakably sad, but thankfully we know that the true Church cannot be destroyed by anything that happens on earth and that Jesus Christ reigns forever.

Friday, July 23, 2010

The Comng Second American Revolution?

I have been reading a fascinating article by Angelo M. Colevilla in the American Spectator entitled: "America's Ruling Class - and the Perils of Revolution." (HT to David P. Goldman at First Thoughts.)

It is very interesting reading in that it clearly calls for a revolution against the current ruling class of America, which seeks to undermine America as a conservative, Judeo-Christian nation founded on "nature and nature's God." He describes the ruling class this way:

Never has there been so little diversity within America's upper crust. Always, in America as elsewhere, some people have been wealthier and more powerful than others. But until our own time America's upper crust was a mixture of people who had gained prominence in a variety of ways, who drew their money and status from different sources and were not predictably of one mind on any given matter. The Boston Brahmins, the New York financiers, the land barons of California, Texas, and Florida, the industrialists of Pittsburgh, the Southern aristocracy, and the hardscrabble politicians who made it big in Chicago or Memphis had little contact with one another. Few had much contact with government, and "bureaucrat" was a dirty word for all. So was "social engineering." Nor had the schools and universities that formed yesterday's upper crust imposed a single orthodoxy about the origins of man, about American history, and about how America should be governed. All that has changed.

Today's ruling class, from Boston to San Diego, was formed by an educational system that exposed them to the same ideas and gave them remarkably uniform guidance, as well as tastes and habits. These amount to a social canon of judgments about good and evil, complete with secular sacred history, sins (against minorities and the environment), and saints. Using the right words and avoiding the wrong ones when referring to such matters -- speaking the "in" language -- serves as a badge of identity. Regardless of what business or profession they are in, their road up included government channels and government money because, as government has grown, its boundary with the rest of American life has become indistinct. Many began their careers in government and leveraged their way into the private sector. Some, e.g., Secretary of the Treasury Timothy Geithner, never held a non-government job. Hence whether formally in government, out of it, or halfway, America's ruling class speaks the language and has the tastes, habits, and tools of bureaucrats. It rules uneasily over the majority of Americans not oriented to government.

Codevilla describes the majority of Americans as people who have a very different life experience, a very different worldview and as having no (or few) elected representatives fighting for their convictions:

As over-leveraged investment houses began to fail in September 2008, the leaders of the Republican and Democratic parties, of major corporations, and opinion leaders stretching from the National Review magazine (and the Wall Street Journal) on the right to the Nation magazine on the left, agreed that spending some $700 billion to buy the investors' "toxic assets" was the only alternative to the U.S. economy's "systemic collapse." In this, President George W. Bush and his would-be Republican successor John McCain agreed with the Democratic candidate, Barack Obama. Many, if not most, people around them also agreed upon the eventual commitment of some 10 trillion nonexistent dollars in ways unprecedented in America. They explained neither the difference between the assets' nominal and real values, nor precisely why letting the market find the latter would collapse America. The public objected immediately, by margins of three or four to one.

When this majority discovered that virtually no one in a position of power in either party or with a national voice would take their objections seriously, that decisions about their money were being made in bipartisan backroom deals with interested parties, and that the laws on these matters were being voted by people who had not read them, the term "political class" came into use. Then, after those in power changed their plans from buying toxic assets to buying up equity in banks and major industries but refused to explain why, when they reasserted their right to decide ad hoc on these and so many other matters, supposing them to be beyond the general public's understanding, the American people started referring to those in and around government as the "ruling class." And in fact Republican and Democratic office holders and their retinues show a similar presumption to dominate and fewer differences in tastes, habits, opinions, and sources of income among one another than between both and the rest of the country. They think, look, and act as a class.

Although after the election of 2008 most Republican office holders argued against the Troubled Asset Relief Program, against the subsequent bailouts of the auto industry, against the several "stimulus" bills and further summary expansions of government power to benefit clients of government at the expense of ordinary citizens, the American people had every reason to believe that many Republican politicians were doing so simply by the logic of partisan opposition. After all, Republicans had been happy enough to approve of similar things under Republican administrations. Differences between Bushes, Clintons, and Obamas are of degree, not kind. Moreover, 2009-10 establishment Republicans sought only to modify the government's agenda while showing eagerness to join the Democrats in new grand schemes, if only they were allowed to. Sen. Orrin Hatch continued dreaming of being Ted Kennedy, while Lindsey Graham set aside what is true or false about "global warming" for the sake of getting on the right side of history. No prominent Republican challenged the ruling class's continued claim of superior insight, nor its denigration of the American people as irritable children who must learn their place. The Republican Party did not disparage the ruling class, because most of its officials are or would like to be part of it.

Here in a nutshell is the genesis of the Tea Party movement. Those who mistake it for an upsurge of populist Republicanism do so at their own peril. These people do not want to vote for the Republican Party: they see it as corrupt and they want to take it over and reform it! They feel only slightly less alienated from the Republican Party than from the Democratic Party, but they are realistic enough to recognize that a third party would split the conservative vote and the only real chance to gain power is through the Republican Party. If they do take over the Republican Party, it will be an event similar in importance to the New Left takeover of the Democratic Party in 1970, which resulted in the exodus of many of the few remaining true liberals from the Democratic Party (the neoconservatives). Expect a similar phenomenon if the Tea Party folk take over the Republican Party. The Charlie Christs and Arlen Spectors will be just the beginning.

Codevilla's article is too long and rich to summarize properly here, but the heart of his argument, I think, is that the two classes (what he calls the ruling class and the country class) are separated most fundamentally not by levels of wealth or education, but by diverging religious/philosophical faiths. The idea of equality of all people is the view of the country class (the conservatives):

The notion of human equality was always a hard sell, because experience teaches us that we are so unequal in so many ways, and because making one's self superior is so tempting that Lincoln called it "the old serpent, you work I'll eat." But human equality made sense to our Founding generation because they believed that all men are made in the image and likeness of God, because they were yearning for equal treatment under British law, or because they had read John Locke.

However, the ruling class (the progressives) do not really believe in equality, except in the sense that it is up to them to create equality:

It did not take long for their paradigm to be challenged by interest and by "science." By the 1820s, as J. C. Calhoun was reading in the best London journals that different breeds of animals and plants produce inferior or superior results, slave owners were citing the Negroes' deficiencies to argue that they should remain slaves indefinitely. Lots of others were reading Ludwig Feuerbach's rendition of Hegelian philosophy, according to which biblical injunctions reflect the fantasies of alienated human beings or, in the young Karl Marx's formulation, that ethical thought is "superstructural" to material reality. By 1853, when Sen. John Pettit of Ohio called "all men are created equal" "a self-evident lie," much of America's educated class had already absorbed the "scientific" notion (which Darwin only popularized) that man is the product of chance mutation and natural selection of the fittest. Accordingly, by nature, superior men subdue inferior ones as they subdue lower beings or try to improve them as they please. Hence while it pleased the abolitionists to believe in freeing Negroes and improving them, it also pleased them to believe that Southerners had to be punished and reconstructed by force. As the 19th century ended, the educated class's religious fervor turned to social reform: they were sure that because man is a mere part of evolutionary nature, man could be improved, and that they, the most highly evolved of all, were the improvers.

Thus began the Progressive Era. When Woodrow Wilson in 1914 was asked "can't you let anything alone?" he answered with, "I let everything alone that you can show me is not itself moving in the wrong direction, but I am not going to let those things alone that I see are going down-hill."
The Progressives believe that they constitute a superior group within the human race and that they have the ability, the right and even the responsibility to improve the world by social engineering, eugenics, social reform and progressive education.

The Conservatives believe that human nature is fixed and fallen. So, while there undoubtedly can be material progress, moral progress is impossible. Therefore, change should come gradually and cautiously and all Utopian schemes and Pelagian denials of the intractability of human sinfulness must be firmly resisted.

For Progressives, democracy is good because it helps to overturn aristocratic or oligarchical rule, which tend to be conservative. For Conservatives, democracy is good because it allows for the widest possible dispersion of power and thus avoids the dangers of power corrupting a small group in society to the detriment of all.

The American Founders believed in God, believed that the rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness were grounded in "nature and nature's God," and they created a political system that makes radical change difficult, limits government and divides power among the three branches plus state as well as federal governments and relies on individual initiative, individual virtue and individual piety rather than on government bureaucrats or programs.

The Progressive movement, which in some ways began in the abolitionist movement, the civil war and reconstruction, really got off the ground with Woodrow Wilson, World War I and the League of Nations. It was moved forward by FDR, who laid the foundations for the welfare state, and LBJ, who built on those foundations. Barack Obama is attempting to write another major chapter in the narrative of "progressivist" progress.

The usefulness of Codevilla's article is that it explains so well the depth of the gap between what he calls the "ruling class" and the "country class" and what I term the "Progressives" and the "Conservatives." Compromise between two such radically different faiths is going to be very difficult and the total victory of one over the other is going to be likewise very difficult. This leaves the future unclear except that continuing conflict is inevitable.

Herman Cain for President!

Here is a story about a black businessman, Christian, conservative, journalist and Atlanta talk show host who could totally demolish Barack Obama in 2012.

He has been CEO of Godfathers Pizza, CEO of the National Restaurant Assocation, a mathematician for the US Department of the Navy, a business analyst for Coca-Cola and is a former chairman of the Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas. He has a bachelor's degree in math from Morehouse and a masters in computer science from Purdue. He has written five books, including: They Think You're Stupid: How Democrats Lost Your Vote and What Republicans Must Do to Keep It! He lost in a bid for the US Senate in the 1990s and is now a columnist for WND and a talk show host. Here is his website.

Here are a few choice quotes from the WorldNetDaily article:

One of the biggest challenges for the GOP and conservative candidates in the 2010 and 2012 elections, he explained, will be to "educate the public on what has truly happened in the first two years of this administration and this Congress."

"One of the tactics of the Left is the assumption that 50 percent of the American public is clueless and makes all of its decisions based on sound bites and pretty speeches," he explained. "They're right. The biggest challenge for the GOP and conservatives will be to educate people. This is why the Left is trying to demagogue talk radio, Fox News and WorldNetDaily."

He said Obama's supporters don't want people to know the truth or challenge the administration's policies. Rather, they seek to silence their opposition.

This is what Obama tried to do in his attempt to marginalize Fox News early on in his presidency. It was a shameful episode that made the United States look like a third world, tin pot dictatorship with the Big Leader trying to intimidate and sideline the parts of the press that disagreed with him. And it is happening again with the Big Lie that the Tea Party movement is racist. The Left keeps repeating this lie because they know that if it is repeated often enough some people will believe it.

But Herman Cain is a Tea Party speaker and he denies and demonstrates that the issue is not racism, but liberal policies.

Cain has been a keynote speaker at more than 20 tea-party rallies. In August 2009, an estimated 12,000 people attended a rally in Atlanta's Olympic Centennial Park where Cain was scheduled to speak. His first tea-party speech was April 15, 2009, at a tea party in Las Vegas. Organizers were expecting 600 people, and 2,600 people arrived. . . .

After all his experience with tea parties, Cain said he is certain the movement is not racist – an accusation often hurled by left-leaning mainstream media outlets.

"They can produce no proof – no evidence whatsoever – to substantiate this claim," Cain said. "When the tea parties first started, I have to acknowledge that some people brought signs that denigrated the image of President Obama – not because he was black, but because they did not like his policies."

Herman Cain is unwaveringly pro-life and defends marriage against the current attacks. He is a living embodiment of the American Dream and his relentless optimism reminds one of Ronald Reagan. Listen to him talk about his own life and what the American political system - the one now under attack from the Left as old-fashioned, racist and inadequate - and think about how this man would wipe the floor with Obama in a head to head debate.

I honestly believe that if the Republicans nominated Herman Cain for president in 2012 the Democratic Party would not dare let Obama run again. They would turn to Hilary Clinton in a last ditch desperate attempt to make a race out of it.

Oh, and did I mention that he is a Baptist? He sure would make up for the last Baptist to be president, the walking disaster called Jimmy Carter. I can assure you that Herman Cain would not have a foundation financed by Saudi oil money and Herman Cain would not despise the two thirds of American people who respectfully dissent from the liberalism of the political class.

Wednesday, July 21, 2010

Will America Go the Way of Greece?

This story in the New York Times about the state of railroads in Greece is like a scene right out of Atlas Shrugged. Having recently read that novel and now reading today's New York Times is an unsettling experience.

Losses at Hellenic Railways, however, continue to mount — at the rate of 3 million euros ($3.8 million) a day. Its total debt has increased to $13 billion, or about 5 percent of Greece’s gross domestic product.

In spite of about $3.2 billion of investment since 1997, outside of the main route between Athens and Thessaloniki, the network seems in many respects patchwork and at times chaotic.

Earlier this month, for example, a trip from Athens to Diakopto, a seaside town on the northern coast of the Peloponnese, took more than four hours. The journey required train passengers to complete a second leg by transferring to an overcrowded bus that was delayed for an hour. The result was a near riot as enraged passengers hurled abuse at overwhelmed train officials.

The same trip by car would take less than two hours.

So the railway is a sinkhole for public money, but it is also disgracefully inefficient. Does the union care?

“It is crazy,” said Nikolaos Kioutsoukis, the union chief for the railway. “It’s not surprising that people prefer to go by car.”

Even he accepts that train travel in Greece is not financially viable on many routes. He blames low prices, misguided investment and political meddling for the railway’s poor condition, and says the government should make new investments to modernize the network. He opposes privatization and says that if jobs and benefits are threatened, the union will strike.

He admits the problem but threatens to undermine any attempt to fix the problem. This is unbelievable. He apparently thinks the EU owes him and his membership a living and he does not care that the system is on the brink of collapse. This is the socialist mentality on display for all to see.

Haris Tsiokas, the general secretary for the Greek Transport Ministry, contends that the government’s plan to close at least 35 loss-making routes and cut 2,500 jobs (1,000 via mandatory retirement, with the rest being moved to other government jobs) will make Hellenic Railways attractive to foreign investors. But he concedes that the pressure is building for the railway, which, for now at least, does not have access to debt markets.

Now, as a condition of Greece’s financial rescue, the International Monetary Fund is demanding that a solution be found. The fund and the European Union, which also chipped in to provide the bailout, are requiring that the debt of Hellenic Railways, as well as the off-balance-sheet obligations of other state-owned enterprises, be counted toward Greece’s official debt — which Greece has agreed to do.

Analysts estimate the total to be around $33.6 billion, a sum that would add another 11 percentage points to Greece’s current debt level of about 120 percent of gross domestic product. It would also surely raise questions for many investors about the government’s ability to repay ever-increasing amounts as the overall economy contracts.
The problem here is that the government is not running a railroad. It is running a ponzi scheme that is on the verge of collapse.

Until now, Greece has been able to use its rail system as a means to support employment while not adding to its official debt number.

“This was an accounting trick, another good way for the government to hide its debt,” said John C. Mourmouris, a former chief executive of the railway who is now an economics professor here. “But a company with 100 million euros in revenue can no longer borrow 1 billion euros a year.”

Read it all here. If the NYT says it is this bad, the reality is likely worse.

Greece is just the worst case in Europe (so far as we know now), but it is by no means atypical of the European social democratic welfare state and there are several other countries close behind Greece such as Portugal, Spain and Italy.

When you consider that Obama and the leftists of the Democratic Party are trying their level best to transform America into a European-style, social democracy, it is a wonder that the American public is not more up in arms that it is. The Tea Party movement is a sign that America is rejecting the leftist agenda, but it is a tribute to how powerful the Marxists true believers are in America that any Democrat at all is projected to hang on to his or her seat in November.

However, Rasmussen Polls is now saying that the Republicans are projected to have 44 seats in the Senate after the November elections with the Democrats projected to have 49 with 7 more as toss ups. If the Republicans run the table on the toss-ups, they could have control of the Senate after November. This is still a long-shot but much less of a long-shot than it was 3 months ago. The House, where more Democratic seats are in play, is likely going to go Republican and the Senate is on the edge. If the slide of America into Greek-style socialism is to be halted, the November elections are absolutely crucial.

Civil Disobedience: It Has Been Necessary in the Past and May Become Necessary Again in Our Time

Here is a message from Chuck Colson and Timothy George, two of the framers of the Manhatten Declaration, on the issue of civil disobedience.

As I have indicated on this blog in recent days, the threat to religious freedom for Christians and to the precious liberties bequeathed to us by our Western religious heritiage are under assault from the Left as never before. They want to degrade our countries into backwards, totalitarian, socialist states where poverty, coercion, thought-control and oppression flourish in the name of their idol: Equality. This kind of ideology creates a culture of death in which death is first seen as the solution to social problems and later is worshiped. In the face of the Left's assault on human dignity, hope and freedom, it is necessary to say that free, Christian people must resist. And this resistance must be firm and unyielding, even in the face of persecution and peril. Listen to Dr. Colson and Dr. George speak frankly on this issue.

Here is the Manhatten Declaration website. Remember that Christians did not start the culture wars: Marxists did. But Christians know that we serve a God who will still be God after the culture wars of late Western culture are long over.

Tuesday, July 20, 2010

The Awesome Power of Obama: Defining the Enemy Out of Existence!

We can all rest easy now: there is no such thing as Islamist terrorism. All gone. How, you ask? The Obama administration has defined it out of existence. Poof. Disappeared. Ignore those explosion sounds you hear in the background. There is no such thing as radical Islam or Islamism. As Crethi Pelethi explains with regard to the Fort Hood shooter, the Christmas Day bomber and the Times Square attacker:

On May 13, the following exchange occurred at a hearing of the House Judiciary Committee:

Rep. Lamar Smith (R-Tex.): “Do you feel that these individuals might have been incited to take the actions that they did because of radical Islam?”

Attorney General Eric Holder: “There are a variety of reasons why I think people have taken these actions. . . .”

Smith: “Okay, but radical Islam could have been one of the reasons?”

Holder: “There are a variety of reasons why people –”

Smith: “But was radical Islam one of them?”

Holder: “There are a variety of reasons why people do these things. Some of them are potentially religious-based.”

Potentially, mind you. This went on until the questioner gave up in exasperation.

A similar question arose last week in U.S. District Court when Faisal Shahzad, the Times Square attacker, pleaded guilty. Explained Shahzad:

“One has to understand where I’m coming from . . . I consider myself a mujahid, a Muslim soldier.”

Well, that is clarifying. As was the self-printed business card of Maj. Nidal Malik Hasan, the Fort Hood shooter, identifying himself as SoA: Soldier of Allah.

Holder’s avoidance of the obvious continues the absurd and embarrassing refusal of the Obama administration to acknowledge who out there is trying to kill Americans and why. In fact, it has banned from its official vocabulary the terms jihadist, Islamist and Islamic terrorism.

Instead, President Obama’s National Security Strategy insists on calling the enemy — how else do you define those seeking your destruction? — “a loose network of violent extremists.” But this is utterly meaningless. This is not an anger-management therapy group gone rogue. These are people professing a powerful ideology rooted in a radical interpretation of Islam, in whose name they propagandize, proselytize, terrorize and kill.

Why is this important? Because the first rule of war is to know your enemy. If you don’t, you wander into intellectual cul-de-sacs and ignore the real causes that might allow you to prevent recurrences.

The Pentagon review of the Fort Hood shooting runs 86 pages with not a single mention of Hasan’s Islamism. It contains such politically correct inanities as “religious fundamentalism alone is not a risk factor.”

Of course it is. Indeed, Islamist fundamentalism is not only a risk factor. It is the risk factor, the common denominator linking all the great terror attacks of this century — from 9/11 to Mumbai, from Fort Hood to Times Square, from London to Madrid to Bali. The attackers varied in nationality, education, age, social class, native tongue and race. The one thing that united them was the jihadist vision in whose name they acted.

To deny this undeniable truth leads to further absurdities. Remember the wave of speculation about Hasan’s supposed secondary post-traumatic stress disorder — that he was so deeply affected by the heart-rending stories of his war-traumatized patients that he became radicalized? On the contrary. He was moved not by their suffering but by the suffering they (and the rest of the U.S. military) inflicted on Hasan’s fellow Muslims, in whose name he gunned down 12 American soldiers while shouting “Allahu Akbar.”

With Shahzad, we find the equivalent ridiculous — and exculpating — speculation that perhaps he was driven over the edge by the foreclosure of his home. Good grief. Of course his home went into foreclosure — so would yours if you voluntarily quit your job and stopped house payments to go to Pakistan for jihadist training. As The Post’s Charles Lane pointed out, foreclosure was a result of Shahzad’s radicalism, not the cause.

There’s a final reason the administration’s cowardice about identifying those trying to kill us cannot be allowed to pass. It is demoralizing. It trivializes the war between jihadi barbarism and Western decency, and diminishes the memory of those (including thousands of brave Muslims — Iraqi, Pakistani, Afghan and Western) who have died fighting it.

See? With the right definitions it is all fixed. The problem goes away. Planes and cars just blow up for no good reason and so the government cannot be held responsible for that sort of thing. And, after all, Islam is the religion of peace. Really. They said that if we did not say that then they would blow us up. So religion of peace is what they are. End of problem.

Freedom of Religion or Freedom of Worship?

Since the 18th century "Enlightenment" Christianity has been under attack in Western culture from those who hate the West and the ways in which Christianity has shaped Western culture. But the removal of Christianity from its role as the religious basis of Western science, law, religion, morality and art creates a vacuum which must be filled by something. The assumption that many well-meaning people have always made is that what comes after Christianity is pluralism or tolerance of a wide diversity of viewpoints. This idea implies that people of various traditional religions and various secular philosophies will be able to live out their convictions without being forced to adhere to an established, state-sponsored religion. Sounds good, right? But what if it is a practical impossibility?

We are not only living in a post-Christian era of Western culture, we are living on the cusp of a new civil religion of secularism. So far it has appeared that we could manage our way through the thickets of tolerance of diverse lifestyles, but now the intensification of the sexual revolution's attack on the family as manifest in the advent of "homosexual rights" has brought us to a point of near open civil war. There seems to be no way to give the homosexual rights advocates (many of whom, it should be pointed out, are not homosexuals) what they want without crushing the rights of Christians.

This is why, as this story notes, we are witnessing the shift in the language of the Obama administration from "freedom of religion" (a wide concept) to "freedom of worship" (a much narrower concept). Freedom of worship is similar to what the old USSR meant by freedom of religion, a concept which was enshrined in the Soviet constitution but interpreted so narrowly that parents could be forbidden to take their children to Sunday School. Freedom of worship applies to the private thoughts you think to yourself, but it does not necessarily extend to your speech in public. Freedom of worship covers what you do for an hour in a private building on Sunday morning (or Friday night), but it does not extend to how you dress for work or school or to conscientious objection to performing abortions if you are a nurse, for example. Freedom of worship allows a state to appear tolerant and open as it assumes a totalitarian control of the speech and actions of citizens outside a narrow band of activity so thin as to be insignificant.

The relentless narrowing of the freedom of Christians to be Christians in public that is occurring in contemporary Western culture is a lot more serious than simply banning prayer in public school or firing a professors for teaching Catholic doctrine or requiring nurses to go against their consciences by taking part in abortions. All these issues are serious and important, but no one of them would constitute a legal, political and social emergency in itself. But when they become a pattern of events evidently flowing from a unified and organized ideology promoted by the power of the state, then we have a major cultural crisis.

Christians have to come to grips with the possibility that the current era of religious tolerance, in which Christianity was neither established or persecuted, is drawing to a close and the establishment of a new religion based on secularism, scientism, relativism and the will to power is at hand. It may be the case that what we took for the dawning of the age of tolerance was merely a transitional phase between the fall of one religion and the consolidation of the power of its replacement. And we may have to come to grips with the fact that the new religion is far more oppressive, far less benign, much more detrimental to minorities, women, and yes, even homosexuals, than officially-established Christianity ever was.

The new religion is based on cultural and moral relativism, rather than natural law, so law will fluctuate as the revolving door of "powers that be" shifts and changes. There will be no absolute principles, no bottom line values, no laws than cannot be undone by the stroke of a pen after a vote in the legislature. Such a world will be ideal for the powerful and rich and hellish for the weak and the poor. People make assumptions all the time about what this brave new world will be like and, in particular, they assume that liberal humanitarianism will be embraced by all. But there is no logical or historical reason to suppose that the new world will be more like the US than the USSR, that it will be characterized by social democracy rather than the Gulag, by universal human rights than by the enslavement of the weak by the strong.

A culture based on relativism, scientism and secularism must necessarily be one in which there are no absolute principle upon which human rights, human dignity and human freedom can be based. Think about that for a moment. That is what we lose by purging Western civilization of its Judeo-Christian foundations. Is that really liberation? Or is it a surrender to slavery and the unleashing of greed?

If we as Christians admit the argument sketched above, what then are we compelled to do? The answer has to do with the issue of freedom of religion. Not for our own sake, but for the sake of the poor, the weak and the vulnerable, Christians must contend for the re-establishment of Christianity as the official religion of the West. It is painful for me to admit this because I labored long under the illusion that we could preserve freedom and tolerance with Christianity as a persecuted sect and now I have to admit that this simply is not possible. Western culture has created a society in which there is more room for personal freedom, more respect for human dignity and more regard for the weak than any other civilization in the history of the world and Christianity has been the lynch pin of this achievement. Those who deny this are culpable in the fall of the West and the rise of tyranny and these people must not be allowed to seize control of our culture.

Reluctantly, the conclusion I have come to is that we need to re-invent the idea of the Christian West. We need to understand ourselves as officially Christian - not in the sense of having state churches on the European model - but as a Christian society with religious freedom as in the United States. The only way we can do this is by the preaching of the Gospel and prayer for a God-sent revival. But when the revival comes, we must not be shy about "imposing" our principles upon our society. We need to make our society more Christian and re-establish natural law as the foundation of our law, politics and culture. This will not be done by pagans; it can only be done by Christians and Jews working together with people of good will who recognize the natural law. To expect a secularized society founded on relativism to recognize the metaphysical principles that undergird ordered liberty is unrealistic.

Freedom of worship must give way to freedom of religion and the greater the freedom Christians and Jews have to practice their religion in public the greater good will flow to all members of our society. This is the bedrock conviction upon which all effective Christian political activism depends. Forget the revolution and socialism; long live man in the image of God, limited government, the Ten Commandments as the basis of jurisprudence and all the social blessings that flow from these unchanging metaphysical truths.

Monday, July 19, 2010

Update on the Howell Firing at U. of Illinois

Patrick T. Gillen has some good comments on the dismissal of Ken Howell from the University of Illinois for teaching what Catholic Church teaches on homosexuality in a course on the teachings of the Catholic Church in an op ed piece in today's Washington Times.

Set aside the obvious absurdity (and injustice) of firing a man for teaching about the subject he was supposed to teach in order to ask an even more fundamental question. How did we get to the point where Robert McKim, head of the Department of Religion at a major public university and founder of its "queer studies" major to boot, can relieve a man of his duties for teaching about a perspective that merits discussion in any department of religion worthy of its name?

I think Mr. Howell has been treated so unjustly because he is caught up in a larger struggle over the very purpose of public universities during a period many academics call postmodern. The treatment of Mr. Howell compels us to ask this question: What is the purpose of the public university and academic freedom in our present day?

I say we must ask this question because when I read about Mr. Howell's predicament, it called to mind a poem titled "The Lie" that I read as a student years ago. In it, the author, on the brink of death, sends his soul on a "thankless errand," to "give the world the lie." The errand consists in conveying to the powers of his day messages that give the lie to their pretensions.

Among the messages sent is this one: "[T]ell schools they want profoundness, and stand too much on seeming."

Mr. Howell's deplorable situation reflects a crisis in public education, a crisis that threatens to replace something profound with a counterfeit. At its best, the university, including the public university, has a noble mission - to help students find truth, including the truth about the human person. The very presence of departments of religion in public universities is a reflection of this high aspiration, resting as it does on recognition of the simple fact that genuine insights are derived from systems of thought we tend to categorize as religious nowadays. So too, the commitment to academic freedom is rooted in the search for truth, not the mere desire of academics to pursue their fancies - although one may be excused for thinking so when we read about "queer studies" and the like.

The university's willingness to offer the course taught by Mr. Howell reflects a profound commitment to academic freedom and true education - not mere indoctrination. Mr. Howell's willingness to address forthrightly controversial issues from a perspective that he knew would be unpopular reflects a profound commitment to the academic calling at its best, one of service to students who seek truth. The effort to purge Mr. Howell from the university is a betrayal of these profound commitments.

Read it all here. I would have no problem with the university having a course in "Queer Studies" taught by someone who was pro-homosexual as long as it also offered courses like the one Dr. Howell teaches on Christian doctrine and ethics. Let the students explore the debate. The problem is that Christians are tolerant and pro-homosexual crusaders are not. That is the essence of the problem.

So what does a liberal democracy do when confronted by people who utilize the tolerance it provides to take away the freedoms of those with whom they disagree? What happens when a segment of the citizens of a liberal democracy reject tolerance and work to establish a totalitarian dictatorship of relativism? I guess the only choices are to submit and give up our own freedom of religion or else recognize that this is a fight that only one side can win and work to repress the other side. People of good will who value tolerance ought to work to roll back the legislative agenda of the sexual revolution ideologues. Like all revolutions, this one will only succeed by destroying what it rebelled against. In this case we cannot let the freedoms of the West be destroyed by those who value the will to power over natural law.

Thomas Peters has an update on the case here. Ironically, as Peters reports, even the "Atheists, Agnostics and Free Thinkers at UIUC are alarmed by this ideological purge. They should be. Students of the French Revolution know how quickly the revolution devours its own children.

Further Update: Here is a story on students organizing in support of Dr. Howell.