Monday, January 31, 2011

Yoder, Augustine and Christendom: What is the Real Politics of Jesus?

I continue to ponder the implications of Peter Leithart's brilliant answer to John Howard Yoder in his Defending Constantine: The Twilight of Empire and the End of Sacrifice. I am trying to think through the question of why Yoder advocates a minority church and pacifism for all disciples as the core of that minority church and why he rejects all of Christendom as "Constantinian" and thus heretical.

The problem I have with Yoder at this point is that as Yoder's influence grows and spreads among left-wing Evangelicals and liberal Protestants alike, the theology that emerges from those who are influenced by him is, all too often, individualistic and privatized. For example, many (most) of those influenced by Yoder are acquiescing in the redefinition of marriage by the State.

Now, the Evangelical Left, which is influenced by Yoder, will jump all over me at this point and angrily deny my charge on the basis that they have embraced a socialist ideology which they see as communal. In their account, it is the conservative Evangelicals who are buying into modernity by accepting the marginalized place the church is afforded in late modernity. They are different because they proclaim peace and justice and concern for the poor expressed in welfare statism or democratic socialism.

But what if socialism and the liberal democratic state are simply parodies of true community? What if, as Alasdair MacIntrye recognized, they mask a deep individualism at their roots which is more modern than Christian? Suppose we apply an Augustinian analysis to the modern welfare state. Should we not conclude that the modern state is - precisely to the extent that it privatizes Christianity - deeply idolatrous and pagan?

In the light of these musings, listen to Stanley Hauerwas' comments on Defending Constantine.

Leithart does not think his disavowal of pacifism means he has to reject Yoder's contention that Jesus has a politics. In order to defend his own understanding of the politics of Jesus, he introduces a theme I can only hope he will develop in the future: his defense of Constantine turns on his claim that as a Christian, Constantine ended the Roman sacrificial system. Accordingly Constantine "desacrificed" the Roman political order because he understood that Jesus was the end of sacrifice. The church, for Augustine, is the embodiment of Christ's sacrifice, and this creates a new political reality necessary to keep the state appropriately modest.

It seems to me that what Leithart sometimes calls the "desacrificing" of the Empire, and other times the "baptism" of the Empire, could also be called the "conversion of the Empire." But misunderstanding lurks at every turn here. This "conversion" is the renouncing of idolatry by the Empire, not the turning of the Roman State into the Church. When the State becomes a Church we have a deformation of Christendom. Rather, what happens when the Roman State ceases sacrificing to the gods is that it becomes secular (i.e. belonging to this age between the two comings of Christ, destined to pass away at the end of the age).

Implicit in the ceasing of sacrifice is the recognition of the Church as an alternative polity, a community which proclaims the sacrificial death of Jesus Christ as the call to worship the True God alone through the sacrifice of Christ and therefore to cease from sacrificing to the gods. Yet, in recognizing the Lordship of Christ, the State does not become a Christian State in the sense of the Church taking over the State; instead the State recognizes the existence and legitimacy of an alien polity within its territory - the Church. The Church is the embodiment of true religion so the State no longer has to be religion in and of itself. It is Christian precisely by being secular.

The Church is the node at which Christendom connects to Divine Revelation and therefore its preaching of God's will has authority for all within Christendom including rulers. But rulers still rule according to prudence and are justified in making space within Christendom for dissenters (Jews, pagans, Muslims, atheists). This is where tolerance came from historically. The Church proclaims moral truth; rulers practice statecraft. We have two sources of authority in society, not just one. Neither the Church leaders or the political leaders are all-powerful.

The problem with Yoder is that his view of conversion is all or nothing. For him, either Constantine becomes a pacifist or he remains pagan. The conversion of the state, for Yoder, can only mean a theocracy and he, quite understandably, cannot imagine a violent theocracy being a proper witness to Jesus Christ in this world. (It is significant that separated Anabaptist communities have quite often become Constantinian mini-Christendoms.).

Yoder failed to recognize that for a state to be converted might look different from what it would mean for an individual to be converted. We as individuals are not converted to secularism, but to Christian discipleship. For you or me, to become a Christian means to worship God through Christ. But for the state to be converted means for it to cease sacrifice and not presume to worship at all. Why? Because it recognizes that worship happens in the Church and that the State is not the Church.

Yoder has to dismiss all Christendom as Constantinian and evil because he does not recognize that there are three, rather than two, ways for the State to be the State. The State can either be a pagan idolatrous State or a Theocratic, Church-dominated State, but it can also be a modest, limited government that recognizes that it is not ultimate or Divinely sanctioned in and of itself. It can recognize its limits precisely by doing what Constantine did: that is, by ending sacrifice and recognizing the truth of the Gospel and the role of the Church as a polity distinct from the State with its own proper role to play in Christendom.

Such a State will not presume to re-define marriage by fiat, nor will it authorize the killing of the pre-born, the young, the sick, the elderly or the handicapped. It will not require its citizens to be practicing Christians, but it will encourage them to be such. It will give many advantages to the Church, make holidays conform to the Christian calendar and seek to promote marriage and the family as the foundations of a healthy society. It will be open to civil society and avoid totalitarian tendencies to meddle in the lives of individuals to the extent compatible with law and order. It is appropriate to call such a State "Christian" so long as you know what that means. You know what it means if you can give an account of why a "Christian" State must be secular and give individuals the freedom to believe or not.

It is my conviction that Yoder's theology plays into the hands of late modern, Statism by not calling the State to the conversion that is proper to the state. Because of this error, Yoder can only imagine a minority Church ever existing and thus he equates Christendom with unfaithfulness. Meanwhile, the State is left free to proceed on the path to its own divinization. Just as the Roman Emperors gradually began to accept worship, so the late modern State gradually assumes Divine prerogatives.

To hold, as Yoder does, that the State cannot be converted without becoming pacifist and thus committing suicide, is to determine ahead of time what God's Spirit is allowed and not allowed to do in history. If Kenya, for example, goes from being 9% Christian in 1900 to being 91% Christian in 2000, (which it did), then we have Christendom like it or not. A true Christian political theology must allow for such a possibility and have something constructive to say to Christian politicians in Kenya. What is has to say is the true politics of Jesus, but ironically we need to look to the Augustinian tradition rather than the Anabaptist tradition for help in spelling out that politics.

How Important is Theology?

Here is a good interview with Michael Horton, author of a new systematic theology entitled: The Christian Faith: A Systematic Theology for Pilgrims on the Way (Zondervan, 2010). (HT Darryl Dash)

I have my copy ordered and am looking forward to reading it with great anticipation. Here is one of the most interesting questions and answers from the interview:

Matthew: If there was one thing you could say to pastors about the need for good theology, what would it be?

Horton: We’re soul doctors. Not only do medical doctors dedicate years to formal instruction, they are regularly engaged in seminars, conferences, and training programs for continuing education. We all want doctors who not only have good bedside manner and can manage a staff; we look for expertise in the healing field.

Similarly, bad theology can be deadly. According to the latest Pew study, evangelical Christians trailed atheists and Mormons in understanding basics of the Bible and Christian doctrine as well as other religions. Something is wrong, and part of that is the false choice that many assume when it comes to doctrine and life, creeds and deeds, knowing and doing.

Read Part I of the interview here. Part II is supposed to be posted today.

Update: Now it is up here.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

Defending Constantine by Peter Leithart: A Brief Review

The title "Defending Constantine: The Twilight of an Empire and the Dawn of Christendom" should have been "Defending Constantine from John Howard Yoder." This is not meant, I hasten to add, as a put-down. This is a splendid book and by far the most substantial response to Yoder's The Politics of Jesus to date.

Yoder's theology is interwoven with history in intriguing and rich ways and Leithart's work displays a similar inter-weaving of history with theology that take both seriously while recognizing that, in the end, it is the theology that matters crucially.

Some may have been surprised by Stanley Hauerwas' extremely positive review of this book recently in The Christian Century, but Hauerwas is right to discern in Leithart a worthy opponent and a very attentive reader of Yoder. I want to offer three points on which I think Leithart is right in this book and Yoder is wrong and then ask the question of whether Leithart's critique of Yoder is fatal to Yoder's version of the politics of Jesus, and in particular to Yoder's call for all Christians in all times and all places to embrace pacifism. In conclusion, I will return to the issue with which Hauerwas ends his review: the question of contemporary liberal democracies as sacrificial states due to their lack of openness to the Church as a "model city."

First, it should be recognized that Leithart has demonstrated the failure of Yoder's historical argument for the "fall of the Church" in the fourth century from a pacifist community to a chaplaincy status vis a vis the Roman state. Clearly, the Church got in bed with Rome and no one can deny that abuses, failures and shameful incidents followed in due course. Leithart has no interest in denying such facts of history. But Leithart raises two questions: (1) has Yoder demonstrated that the early church (pre-fourth century) was pacifist and (2) was the influence of pagan society on the Church a one-way street or did the Church actually change Rome as well as being partially corrupted herself?

I do not think that any fair-minded reader of Liethart's scholarly, historical research interspersed with his close reading of Yoder's writings will fail to conclude that Yoder did not prove that the early Church had a pristine, pre-Constantinian, purely pacifist character which it then was able to lose in its rush to embrace Constantine's offer of Imperial wealth, prestiege and power. It could not fall from a height it had never attained.

The evidence for Christian participation in war and violence is mixed all through the first three centuries and Yoder's method, upon encountering evidence of Christian's serving in the army or other evidence of Christian non-pacifism, is simply to interpret it as "creeping Constantinianism," that is, as Constantinianism before Constantine. This is an exceedingly weak rationalization, trading as it does on the assumption that where the sources are silent they would all, if known, reveal a pacifist church from which the examples of Christians serving in the army in the known sources are deviations.

Now, Leithart recognizes that the historical argument cannot be decisive. Even if the early Christians were not pacifist, perhaps they should have been. But to the extent that Yoder delegitimizes the post-Constantinian Church so easily and thoroughly, this means that his argument from history is not valid. We will see how easily the fall of the Church narrative leads Yoder to dismiss Augustine in due course.

Secondly, Leithart easily demonstrates how horribly unfair Yoder was toward Augustine and how Yoder's failure to wrestle with Augustine's philosophy of history undermines much of the force of Yoder's criticism of Christendom. Yoder makes no distinction between Eusebius and Augustine, even though it was Augustine, more than anyone else, who enabled the Church to extricate itself from the shallow, over-realized political theology of Eusebius. Leithart even makes the point that Eusebius himself was more nuanced than he is often given credit for being.

But Yoder's failure to come to grips with Augustine, combined with the failed "fall of the Church narrative," is what sinks his understanding of Constantinianism. Yoder simply did not have Augustine's robust and differentiated eschatology and so fell into the same trap as Eusebius. Just as Eusebius viewed the conversion of Constantine and the Christianization of the Roman Empire as the dawning of the kingdom of God, Yoder viewed the same events as the fall of the Church. Both overstated what was happening. The one who kept his head and worked out a view of history in which both state and Church are necessary and neither can do without the other during this time between the first and second comings of Christ was Augustine. In so doing, Augustine laid the foundation for Christendom - not the unmitigated disaster of racism, violence, persecution, colonialization, exploitation, greed etc. imagined by so many - but the attempt to fashion a society in which the vast majority of people, including the rulers, confess Christ as Lord. For Augustine, the Church contains both true believers and hypocrites and the State can be either demonic or restrained and sometimes fluctuates wildly between the extremes. This sounds like Western history.

Thirdly, Leithart's explanation of in what sense Constantine "Christianized" the Roman Empire is suggestive and insightful. He says that Rome was "baptized" by Constantine's initiative in halting pagan sacrifice; in so doing Constantine "desacrificed" the Roman empire (pp. 326ff). The death of Christ means the end of sacrifice and Constantine implemented that in the Roman world. Hauerwas appreciates this insight and writes:
Leithart seems to be of two minds about the implications of this for understanding our current political alternatives. He observes that America is not a sacrificial polity and that "we have Constantine to thank for that," but he also claims that because the modern state, now shaped by the nihilism of modern politics, refuses to welcome the church as the model city necessary for judgment, it has again become a sacrificial state. Yoder could not have said it better. In fact, in some of Yoder's last work he sounded very much like Leithart on sacrifice as he sought to remind us that one of the realities that sacrifice names is war.
Hauerwas nicely captures Liethart's ambivalence at this point. Quite rightly, Leithart wants to say something positive about modern Western society. Insofar as it remains Christendom - or, at least, what comes after Christendom - it is "desacrificed" and this is a good thing. However, Leithart's cryptic comments about "the nihilism of modern politics" point to a reality that we have to consider. (One hopes Leithart will spell out his political theology in more detail in future writings.) Hauerwas is right to name war as one of the sacrifices made in the modern state and as one of its pagan features.

But, to say "war" is too abstract. Here I suspect Leithart would push back and remind us, in an Augustinian fashion, of the ambiguities of why people fight. For a Christian to participate in war is not always to participate in pagan sacrifice. This is the heart of the disagreement between Leithart and Augustine, on the one side, and Yoder and Hauerwas, on the other.

I suggest that if we really want to point to a clear and unambiguous example of the "resacrificing" of modern, Western, liberal democracies, we should point to the clearly sacrificial practice of abortion in the name of the sexual revolution. Our daily sacrifices to the god Pleasure condemn our societies as pagan and unbelieving. Maybe another Constantine would not be such a bad thing.

Does this book constitute a comprehensive and final answer to Yoder's call for the Church to embrace pacifism as its essential posture in this world? My reading of Augustine over the past five years has convinced me that it is time to move on from Yoder's version of the politics of Jesus and be much less hasty in dismissing Christendom as I, like many others, have been. In truth, the only reason Leithart's book did not convince me of the absoluteness of pacifism as the essence of the Church's witness is that I had already been convinced by Augustine. But I predict that Leithart's book will lead many to re-consider their "Yoderian" position and ponder the possibility of a politics of Jesus that moves beyond doctrinaire pacifism.

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

The Tide of Public Opinion is Finally Turning Against Abortion in the US

At long last, 38 years after Roe v. Wade, the tide of public opinion has finally turned against abortion. I believe that Roe v. Wade could be overturned within five years, providing President Obama is defeated in 2012. The next president will likely get to appoint a replacement for one of the aging liberals on the Supreme Court and practically any Republican candidate who gets elected will probably nominate a pro-life justice.

Consider this poll from Fox News showing that, between 1997 and 2010 the pro-life number has gone from 40% to 50% while the pro-choice number has gone from 50% to 42%. If you scroll down in the above link, you will see further evidence of the trend from other polls. For example, Gallup has seen the pro-life number steadily track upward.

Perhaps more important than polling is this news note from New Jersey:
After watching Gov. Chris Christie try to burnish a reputation as a fiscal conservative, political analysts said the New Jersey governor on Monday significantly broadened his national credentials as a social conservative by joining abortion protesters at a rally and encouraging them to "stand up and speak strongly in favor for the protection of every human life."

Christie spoke to the crowd from the top step outside the Statehouse, with the temperatures in the teens and the governor not in a topcoat. But there were other reasons why the five-minute speech was unusual.

Marie E. Tasy, executive director of New Jersey Right to Life, said it was the first time a New Jersey governor had addressed a pro-life rally. The event marked the 38th anniversary of the U.S. Supreme Court Roe v. Wade decision.

Christie had been silent on abortion during his first year in office and didn't refer to social views when he slashed funding for family planning from the state budget, saying that was a fiscal decision.

The Governor of New Jersey is now pro-life. Just think of how incredible that actually is. The tide is turning.

The Abortion Industry Protected The Philadelphia House of Horrors

The National Association of Abortion Providers knew about the Philadelphia House of Horrors, but did not report it to the police. From Jill Stanek's blog comes this piece:

The National Abortion Federation touts itself as “the professional association of abortion providers in North America.”

NAF claims to have a membership of 400 abortion mills. There is a screening process to join. which abortionist Kermit Gosnell attempted in November 2009, “apparently, and astonishingly, the day after Karnamaya Mongar died,” according to a Grand Jury report released on January 20, which charged Gosnell and 9 accomplices with 8 counts of murder, including Mongar’s.

Upon receiving Gosnell’s application, an unnamed NAF evaluator assessed his Philadelphia mill, Women’s Medical Society, on December 14 and 15, 2009. According to the Grand Jury report, “It was the worst abortion clinic she had ever inspected,” and NAF denied Gosnell’s application.

Although initially hiding the fact, Gosnell eventually told the inspector about Mangor’s death.

But, according to the report, the NAF inspector “just never told anyone in authority about all the horrible, dangerous things she had seen.”

I submit that more than that, the NAF inspector admitted observing profuse illegalities she never reported either, such as nonphysicians giving sedation and open defiance of Pennsylvania’s 24-hr waiting period. She also noted several unsafe practices, such as not monitoring mothers after their abortions and leaving them unattended – overnight.

Read the rest here, if you have the stomach for it. And these people have the nerve to portray themselves as being on the side of women! You have to wonder what else will crawl out if we turn over a few more rocks. The abortion industry is an evil, demonic power that needs to be fought.

How Extreme is Obama on Abortion? He Would Not Make the Philadelphia House of Horrors Illegal

As shocking as the stories from the Philadelphia House of Horrors are - accounts of infants born alive but murdered by the abortionist with scissors immediately after birth - there is another shocking angle to this story. The current president of the United States is so extremist in his pro-abortion views that he favors these barbaric crimes being made legal.

From the editors of National Review Online comes this sobering piece: "Ho Hum Horror"
"The case of Kermit Gosnell reached the newspapers just a few days before the 38th anniversary of Roe v. Wade. President Obama did not mention Gosnell in his official statement celebrating the anniversary. But the case sheds more light on Roe’s import than the statement did.

Obama did not refer to the word “abortion,” preferring instead to discuss “reproductive freedom” and the “fundamental principle” that “government should not intrude on private family matters.” The stories about Gosnell were a little less abstract. They told of a clinic where dirty instruments spread venereal disease, cats roamed and defecated freely, and some patients died. The state government conducted essentially no oversight; administrations of both parties wanted to keep abortion as free from governmental intrusion as possible.

Gosnell’s Philadelphia clinic’s lack of hygiene is not the detail that has captured the most attention, or inspired the most outrage. It turns out that Gosnell frequently, perhaps hundreds of times, fully delivered intact fetuses and then used scissors on the newborn. In his words, he engaged in “snipping” to “ensure fetal demise.” In many cases, the fetuses were in the third trimester.

This procedure, sometimes called a “live-birth abortion,” is illegal. But not thanks to President Obama. As a state legislator in Illinois, he argued that the law should offer no protection to neonates if they had been delivered before viability. He said that protecting them would violate Roe v. Wade and undermine the right to abortion. What looked like infanticide to most people was for him, it must be inferred, a “private family matter.” When Gosnell applied his scissors to pre-viable children, he was, on Obama’s terms, merely exercising a cherished freedom.

Credit Obama with a real insight: The physical location of a human being conceived five months ago may mark the difference between whether he is considered a “fetus” or an “infant,” but it cannot mark a moral difference. Nor can it make a moral difference whether this being is partly inside the womb. When Congress moved to ban partial-birth abortion, most liberals took the view that any prohibition had to include a health exception: If in the judgment of the abortionist the safest method of . . . ensuring fetal demise . . . was to partly deliver the fetus, crush its skull, vacuum its brains, and then deliver the rest, then he had to be free to do so — at any stage of pregnancy. President Obama favored this health “exception.”

Read the rest here. This man must go; his position on this atrocity is beyond the pale of civilized discourse.

Monday, January 24, 2011

How the US Supreme Court Aids and Abets Back Alley Abortionists Under the Guise of "Choice"

I sort of vaguely knew this, but it needs to be pointed out now in view of the discovery of the horrors in Philadelphia. The Philadelphia "House of Horrors" situation is likely just the tip of the iceberg.

From The Weekly Standard comes "The Supreme Court's Back Alley Runs Through Philadelphia"

Since the fall of 2009, officials have investigated the conditions in an abortion clinic run by Dr. Kermit B. Gosnell.

The Philadelphia District Attorney has charged Gosnell with murder for killing an abortion patient and seven babies after they were born. The grand jury report found, among other things, that there had been reports of the exceedingly vile practices at the clinic for nearly 20 years without any action being taken.Philadelphia’s clinic conditions and lackadaisical approach to regulating clinics are the direct result of the “fine print” in Roe.

Because the Justices who decided Roe foolishly believed that abortion had few risks and that doctors should have complete discretion to decide how to do abortions in the first trimester, they basically said that state and local officials can’t regulate in the first trimester, when 90 percent of abortions are done, and that they can try in the second trimester—if they dare.

But the Justices then empowered the federal courts and attorneys for abortion providers to thwart every effort by public health officials to regulate. Federal courts across the country spent the next decade implementing that edict, and by the end of the 1980s, the federal courts had struck down attempts by Chicago and many other cities to regulate clinics in the first trimester. As Edward F. King, the Deputy Director of the Chicago Medical Society told the Chicago Sun Times in 1978, “The courts very effectively knocked the Department of Health out of the picture.

We’re not even entitled to cross the threshold of these clinics.”

This is how the Justices have hobbled public health officials for the past 38 years in dealing with abortion clinic conditions, in Philadelphia and many other cities.

The Supreme Court compounded the problem in 1983 by extending its edict in Roe and invalidating regulations even in the early second trimester.

Roe also empowered any back-alley abortionist with an M.D. to go into court after January 22, 1973 to challenge clinic regulations as an “unconstitutional burden.”

In Chicago, for example, the federal appeals court struck down Chicago’s clinic regulations, and three years later, in November 1978, the Chicago Sun Times published a 12 part series on terrible abortion clinic conditions, based on an undercover investigation with the Better Government Association.

When Illinois tried to enact new regulations to deal with the findings of the Sun Times and the BGA, an abortion provider again challenged those regulations and got the federal courts to strike them down in the 1980s.

The Justices also empowered abortionists to challenge clinic regulations in court and to speak for women about the care that women want and need, as though the interests of abortionists and those of women are identical.

Is that true for any other area of medicine?

On top of all that, a federal law (the Civil Rights Attorneys Fees Act of 1976) has been interpreted by federal courts to require that the attorneys for the abortionists get their attorneys fees paid by state tax dollars when they get the clinic regulations struck down. That too inhibits public health officials from doing anything unless the most extreme conditions in clinics are discovered.

Some states have some clinic regulations and there is, of course, some political and administrative discretion in enforcing some clinic regulations. The Philadelphia grand jury concluded that

“...[t]he Pennsylvania Department of Health abruptly decided, for political reasons, to stop inspecting abortion clinics at all…. With the change of administration from Governor Casey to Governor Ridge, officials concluded that inspections would be ‘putting a barrier up to women’ seeking abortions.”

Read the rest here. What a sick joke it is to argue that the abortion industry is necessary for women's "health."

Remember: they are not "pro-choice" they are "pro-murder."

Remembering Communism

Here is a link to an interesting website: The Global Museum on Communism. Many people today seem to be rather uninformed and naive about the horrifying impact Communism has had on our world. 100 million victims in the 20th century caused by a totalitarian system that preaches "scientific socialism" and "equality" is an astonishing outcome. I challenge you with the idea that no matter how bad you think Communism was and is, you probably underestimate how purely evil it actually is.

This site is a good resource for homeschoolers.

A great book on Communism, for those who want a short introduction to its history by a leading historian is: Richard Pipes, Communism: A Brief History.

A longer book which documents the horrors of Stalin's Russia is Robert Conquest, The Great Terror: A Reassessment.

Of course, the books by Alexander Solzhenitsyn are essential. A good one to start with is his short novel, One Day in the Life of Ivan Denesovich.

Also essential is Solzhenitsyn's The Gulag Archipelago. The original three-volume work is abridged in an abridged, one-volume paperback edition.

Finally, I would recommend a book by a team of French scholars entitled: The Black Book of Communism. (I have the paperback edition; I think it is available from This book continues Solzhenitsyn's work by covering not merely Russia or the Soviet Union, but the whole world. It is an act of remembrance which refuses to let the victims go unknown, unlamented and unheeded.

"Those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it." 
- George Santayana

Dependence Day: Mark Steyn Proposes a National Holiday for Broken Britain

Mark Steyn is one of the most talented writers living today. His essays are witty, articulate and interesting enough to read for the pure entertainment value whether you agree with him or not. His recent essay, "Dependence Day," in The New Criterion, is hilarious, sad, informative, and thought-provoking all at the same time. Here is his theme:
If I am pessimistic about the future of liberty, it is because I am pessimistic about the strength of the English-speaking nations, which have, in profound ways, surrendered to forces at odds with their inheritance. “Declinism” is in the air, but some of us apocalyptic types are way beyond that. The United States is facing nothing so amiable and genteel as Continental-style “decline,” but something more like sliding off a cliff.
His concern is to warn Americans of the consequences of pursuing the Obama-led agenda of turning the US into a European-style social democracy. The fact that the US is facing a temptation to turn the welfare state model that FDR started and LBJ expanded into a full-fledged European-style social democracy is indicative of the cultural decline of the Angl0-Saxon people and the resulting decline of Anglo-Saxon influence in the world. This influence is vast and hugely positive on balance.
Insofar as the world functions at all, it’s due to the Britannic inheritance. Three-sevenths of the G7 economies are nations of British descent. Two-fifths of the permanent members of the U.N. Security Council are—and, by the way, it should be three-fifths: The rap against the Security Council is that it’s the Second World War victory parade preserved in aspic, but, if it were, Canada would have a greater claim to be there than either France or China. The reason Canada isn’t is because a third Anglosphere nation and a second realm of King George VI would have made too obvious a truth usually left unstated—that the Anglosphere was the all but lone defender of civilization and of liberty. In broader geopolitical terms, the key regional powers in almost every corner of the globe are British-derived—from Australia to South Africa to India—and, even among the lesser players, as a general rule you’re better off for having been exposed to British rule than not: Why is Haiti Haiti and Barbados Barbados?

And of course the pre-eminent power of the age derives its political character from eighteenth-century British subjects who took English ideas a little further than the mother country was willing to go. In his sequel to Churchill’s great work, The History of the English-Speaking Peoples, Andrew Roberts writes:

Just as we do not today differentiate between the Roman Republic and the imperial period of the Julio-Claudians when we think of the Roman Empire, so in the future no-one will bother to make a distinction between the British Empire–led and the American Republic–led periods of English-speaking dominance between the late-eighteenth and the twenty-first centuries. It will be recognized that in the majestic sweep of history they had so much in common—and enough that separated them from everyone else—that they ought to be regarded as a single historical entity, which only scholars and pedants will try to describe separately.

If you step back for a moment, this seems obvious. There is a distinction between the “English-speaking peoples” and the rest of “the West,” and at key moments in human history that distinction has proved critical.

The British Empire was, of course, conservative. It stood for old-fashioned virtues and for tradition. It also stood for the rule of law and objective morality. So, naturally, it is attacked by today's Left with the old, tired, worn-out accusation of "fascism." Steyn isn't buying that for a moment.
It’s interesting to learn that “anti-fascism” now means attacking the British Empire, which stood alone against fascism in that critical year between the fall of France and Germany’s invasion of Russia. And it’s even sadder to have to point out the most obvious fatuity in those “anti-fascist groups” litany of evil—“the British Empire’s association with slavery.” The British Empire’s principal association with slavery is that it abolished it. Before William Wilberforce, the British Parliament, and the brave men of the Royal Navy took up the issue, slavery was an institution regarded by all cultures around the planet as as permanent a feature of life as the earth and sky. Britain expunged it from most of the globe.
Ever since the early 20th century socialists and communists have been calling the conservatives, the Right and actual liberals "fascists." The association of "right-wing" and "fascist" in the public mind is a masterpiece of propaganda with absolutely no basis in history whatsoever.

Fascism is a form of Statism, as is Communism. To accuse those on the Right of "Fascism" while building a statist society is the tactic of today's Left. And the statist society under construction is destructive of human dignity:
What happens when, as a matter of state policy, you debauch your human capital? The United Kingdom has the highest drug use in Europe, the highest incidence of sexually transmitted disease, the highest number of single mothers; marriage is all but defunct, except for toffs, upscale gays, and Muslims. For Americans, the quickest way to understand modern Britain is to look at what lbj’s Great Society did to the black family and imagine it applied to the general population. One-fifth of British children are raised in homes in which no adult works. Just under 900,000 people have been off sick for over a decade, claiming “sick benefits,” week in, week out, for ten years and counting. “Indolence,” as Machiavelli understood, is the greatest enemy of a free society, but rarely has any state embraced this oldest temptation as literally as Britain. There is almost nothing you can’t get the government to pay for.
This kind of Statism is deadly to human dignity, individual liberty and a vital civil society. And like Fascism, it is a kind of political religion:
For its worshippers, Big Government becomes a kind of religion: the state as church. After the London Tube bombings, Gordon Brown began mulling over the creation of what he called a “British equivalent of the U.S. Fourth of July,” a new national holiday to bolster British identity. The Labour Party think-tank, the Fabian Society, proposed that the new “British Day” should be July 5th, the day the National Health Service was created. Because the essence of contemporary British identity is waiting two years for a hip operation. A national holiday every July 5th: They can call it Dependence Day.
I laughed so hard when I read this that I thought I was going to cry. In this case it is not laugh or cry; both are in order.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

They are Pro-abortion, Not Pro-choice

It is a scandal and an outrage that so-called "pro-choice" advocates have voted down a bill in Parliament that would make the coercion of a woman into having an abortion a crime. Anybody who has spent any time around a crisis pregnancy center knows that this is a huge problem in Canada. How anybody could possibly oppose a bill like this is beyond comprehension.

One thing it proves is that people who voted against it are not pro-choice, but pro-abortion. Our society throws pregnant women to the wolves and calls it "compassion." It calls for choice and then turns a blind eye when coercion is applied to women who want to make the choice for life. It is positively Orwellian and shows that we are dealing with a deep-seated spiritual evil.

From The Interim:
On Dec. 15, the House of Commons voted down C-510, a private member's bill that would have amended the Criminal Code to add coercing an abortion to its list of offenses. Rod Bruinooge (C, Winnipeg South), who introduced the bill, said it was necessary to ensure that pregnant women did not have to choose between protecting themselves and the children they were carrying. The bill was dubbed Roxanne's Law after Roxanne Fernando, a Winnipeg immigrant who was beaten and left to die at the side of a road in 2007 by her boyfriend and his accomplices, reportedly after she refused his demand to have an abortion.

Abortion advocates both inside Parliament and out insisted that C-510 was a stealth pro-life bill intent on granting precedent-setting rights to the unborn. NDP MP Irene Matheyssen and Liberal MP Marlene Jennings were among those who spoke against the bill in early November, describing it as an assault on "a woman's right to choose." Campaign Life Coalition British Columbia president John Hof said in a press release that C-510 "was about ensuring women were making the decision without pressure." CLC national president Hughes said it was ironic that those who chortle choice would oppose a measure aimed at preventing coercion.

Justice Minister Rob Nicholson and other Conservative opponents of C-510 said the bill was redundant because coercion was already against the law. Bruinooge responded that such an argument was "cover" for the bill's opponents. He explained, "The fact that no one has ever been charged with coercing an abortion in Canada is absolute proof that clarification of the law is desperately needed."

Another scandal is that Prime Minister Stephen Harper voted against this bill. This is outrageous and unforgivable. It is enough to make me reconsider voting Conservative in the next election. It looks like pro-life Canadians have no party to vote for and no voice - just like the innocent unborn and their mothers.

On Civility and Restrained Political Rhetoric Obama is a Hypocrite

Last week I wrote my first ever positive post about Barack Obama. It wasn't hard. As an open-minded person, I have no problem giving credit is due. But, on the other hand, I also have no problem pointing out that saying the right thing is good, but then contradicting in your actions the ideals expressed in your words is utter hypocrisy.

Niles Gardner points out in his post today in the Daily Telegraph that the: "Democratic Congressman’s comparison of Republicans with Nazis is met with deafening silence from President Obama and America's liberal elites." He writes:
In what has to be a leading candidate for the most inflammatory, ignorant and downright offensive political statement of the year, Congressman Steve Cohen (D-TN) compared Republican opposition to President Obama’s health care reforms to the tactics of Adolf Hitler’s henchman Joseph Goebbels and the genocidal regime in Nazi Germany. In a deeply insensitive and tasteless manner he also invoked the Holocaust to hammer home his point, in a speech to an almost empty House of Representatives on Tuesday evening, comments which have already drawn a sharp rebuke from the National Jewish Democratic Council. The video of the Congressman’s bizarre rant can be viewed here. CBS News Political Hotsheet has transcribed some of his remarks :

“They don’t like the truth so they summarily dismiss it. They say it’s a government takeover of health care, a big lie just like [Nazi propagandist Joseph] Goebbels. You say it enough, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, you repeat the lie, and eventually, people believe it. Like blood libel. That’s the same kind of thing.”

… “The Germans said enough about the Jews and the people believed it and you had the Holocaust. You tell a lie over and over again. And we’ve heard it on this floor: Government takeover of health care.”

Gardner is reasonable and correct to say:
A week ago in Tucson President Obama urged a more civil public debate in the United States. He should now put his rhetoric into action by condemning and distancing himself from the extreme remarks made by one his own supporters.
Thomas Lifson at American Thinker has an update:
Rep. Steve Cohen (D-Tenn) is refusing to apologize for his words on the House floor likening GOP opponents of ObamaCare to Goebbels, and invoking the Holocaust. So far, neither Robert Gibbs nor President Obama has commented on this obvious slap in the face to the President's call for civility. This would seem to be an obvious opportunity for the President to triangulate and win over independents - a Sistah Souljah moment. But is he willing to antagonize an ObamaCare supporter?

Meanwhile, even liberal Jewish groups that support Obama are condemning Cohen's words. JTA reports:
"The National Jewish Democratic Council criticizes the comments of Representative Steve Cohen (D-Tenn.), which compared Republicans to the Nazis and unfortunately reintroduced the Holocaust into the health care debate," said the umbrella body for Jewish Democrats. "As we have said repeatedly, invoking the Holocaust to make a political point is never acceptable -- on either side of the aisle."

J Street, a liberal pro-Israel group that endorsed Cohen in the last election, also called on Cohen to apologize.

"J Street strongly opposes the use of Holocaust imagery and Nazi metaphors in American political debate," the group said in a statement. "We have spoken out strongly in the past when it was used by those who we oppose politically, and we also ask our friends to refrain from using such language. We call on Congressman Cohen to apologize for these remarks, and urge him and all American political leaders to refrain from the use of such imagery in the future."
My guess is that his minions are carefully studying the polling.
So I guess there is no reason to take Obama's speech, which gave him a bump in the polls, very seriously. We already knew that for most Democratic politicians and activists and their minions in the biased, liberal media, all this talk of "toning down the rhetoric" and "civility" was just cynical, partisan posturing. Now, however, we have evidence (as if more was actually required) that the president of the United States is so extremely partisan that even his good speeches are to be taken with a grain of salt. In short, he is not only a divisive and partisan politician, he is also a hypocrite.

Conservatives and Republicans would be perfectly justified from now on in just tuning out all that Democratic, liberal noise about "blah, blah, civility, blah, blah, rhetoric, blah, blah." It is not worth listening to, let alone taking seriously.

Wednesday, January 19, 2011

Baptism without Christ

This article from Virtue Online, UK: Anglican church offers 'baptism lite' to attract non-worshippers, by Steve Doughty fits into the "you either have to laugh or cry" category. It requires a good fisking. [My comments in red and square brackets.]
Church of England baptism services may be re-written to remove some references to Christianity. [What hath Athens to do with Jerusalem? What hath Christianity to do with the good old C of E?]

The plan for a new 'baptism lite' service designed to make christenings more interesting to non-churchgoers will be considered next month by the Church's parliament, the General Synod. ["Baptism lite"? What next? 8 minute sermons, 35 minute services, 7 Commandments (your choice), the Silver Rule?]

Supporters say the baptism service should be 'expressed in culturally appropriate and accessible language' that is readily understood by 'non-theologically versed Britons'. But traditionalist clergy said the idea amounted to 'dumbing down'. [There is a pretty big difference between saying the same thing in other words and de-Christianizing an act of worship. Otherwise bowing down to Jupiter and to the Holy Trinity would be the same thing.]

The plan for a new ¿baptism lite¿ service designed to make christenings more interesting to non-churchgoers will be considered next month by the Church¿s parliament. [More interesting? Will they feature go-go dancers and performing seals too? Just asking.]

The plan for a new 'baptism lite' service which uses 'accessible language' and makes christenings more interesting to non-churchgoers will be considered next month by the Church's parliament.

The new service would be used at 150,000 christenings each year. If the plan is accepted, it will be the third full re-write of the baptism ceremony in around 30 years - the version in the Church's Book of Common Prayer went virtually unaltered for more than 400 years until 1980. [Three re-writes in 30 years? This is just a joke. Will they use focus groups? Polling? Maybe they could hold a contest to suggest new names for the ritual. Or maybe they let the parents write their own services - wait don't anyone suggest that!]

Complaints centre on three sections of the baptism service from the Church's latest prayer book, Common Worship, authorised for use in 1997. [They actually got complaints?]

In one, parents, godparents or an adult being baptised are asked to 'reject the devil and all rebellion against God' and to renounce 'the deceit and corruption of evil'. They are asked to 'submit to Christ as Lord'. [I suppose renouncing the devil is a lot to ask of modern people; it could be considered 'exclusionary.' And as for submitting to Christ, how can that be expected of non-Christians? But wait, if they are non-Christians, why are they wanting baptism for their children?]

The Reverend Dr Tim Stratford, from Liverpool, who is putting the plans before the synod, said in a paper that 'there remains some unhappiness about the language not being earthed enough'. [What on does 'earth enough' mean? Is it some obscure British expression? Or is it some sort of pagan criterion? Sometimes you can't understand a word these liberal say.]

He added: 'The concern is one of the language not making strong enough connections to life choices in such a way that it can be heard.' [Hmm . . . what life choices could he mean? And what would the language have to do to make connection with those life choices? Is it just me or is this a case of trying to say something without actually saying it because it would sound utterly appalling and ridiculous if one just came out and said it plainly?]

Dr Stratford and his supporters have also called for a new version of prayers that refer to the symbolic role of water in baptism.

He said that among clergy from poor and inner city parishes 'there was a strong plea for a shorter prayer in direct but poetic language that allows the Gospel to resonate better with people's experience of life'. [Here we see straightforward liberal Protestant thelogical method in action: we discover truth is human experience rather than in Scripture.]

He added: 'This was not a plea for a prayer in Scouse, but for a prayer that the majority of non-theologically versed Britons would understand.' A third part of the service was condemned as too long and not 'direct'. [Wouldn't it be a better idea for the Church to try to teach some theology to these folks instead of pandering to their ignorance? That is what the people who evangelized England in the first place did and it seemed to work rather well.]

Stephen Parkinson, of the Anglo-Catholic Forward in Faith organisation, said there were problems with the 1997 service, but added: 'Simply dumbing it down is not the answer.' [Well, that much is incontrovertable.]

Bishops indicated yesterday that if the Synod accepts the argument a committee will be instructed to begin writing a new baptism service, but they warned that such re-writing would raise arguments over faith and doctrine. [Dastardly inconvenient stuff, all that faith and doctrine. Maybe the Church would be better off ditching it; might boost attendance, especially if they bring in the trained seals.]

William Fittall, secretary general of the synod, said that bishops are 'clear that now is not the time to embark on the long and complex process involved in such a revision or replacement'. [If not now, when? If not the CofE bishops, who?]
They haven't actually done this yet, of course. The fact that they could even seriously consider it is revealing, hilarious, sad and scandalous all at the same time. In honor of those proposing this idea, I give you my nominee for the C of E Baptism Rewriting Committee: Standford Nutting.

Barbaric Horrors in Philadelphia: When Will We Awake to the Injustice of Abortion?

Anyone who thinks that our society is advanced, enlightened, progressive and that the left-wing, feminist agenda that is so dominant in our society is a good thing might want to digest the following AP report:
An abortion doctor who catered to minorities, immigrants and poor women was charged with eight counts of murder in the deaths of a patient and seven babies who were born alive and then killed with scissors, prosecutors said Wednesday.

Dr. Kermit Gosnell, 69, made millions of dollars over 30 years, performing as many illegal, late-term abortions as he could, prosecutors said. State regulators ignored complaints about him and failed to visit or inspect his clinic since 1993, but no charges were warranted against them, District Attorney Seth Williams said.

Gosnell "induced labor, forced the live birth of viable babies in the sixth, seventh, eighth month of pregnancy and then killed those babies by cutting into the back of the neck with scissors and severing their spinal cord," Williams said.

Williams said patients were subjected to squalid and barbaric conditions at Gosnell's Women's Medical Society.

Authorities went to investigate drug-related complaints at the clinic last year and stumbled on what Williams called a "house of horrors."

"There were bags and bottles holding aborted fetuses were scattered throughout the building," Williams said. "There were jars, lining shelves, with severed feet that he kept for no medical purpose."

The clinic was shut down and Gosnell's medical license was suspended after the raid.

This is what all the supposedly "enlightened" and "progressive" and "pro-choice" social policies have led to. A society that does not recoil in horror and rethink the direction in which it is going is a society under the judgment of God.

May God have mercy on this man's soul. The State, however, should give him him nothing but justice. And, to be clear, justice in this case is due punishment for murder.

Monday, January 17, 2011

Political Liberalism, RIP

Rick Moran at American Thinker Blog reflects on an article in the Weekly Standard by P. J. O'Rourke entitled "The Times Loses It" asking if liberalism is dead. He quotes O'Rourke as follows:
A reaction so disproportionate and immaterial to a news story by a news organization is indicative of trouble in the body politic​-​trouble almost as severe as that which the Times claims the Giffords shooting indicates. I worry that in the tremors and hysteria of the Times we're seeing the sad end of liberalism.

Its passing is to be mourned, perhaps most by true conservatives. Civilization owes a debt to liberal politics. From the Reform Act and the religious emancipation fight of the British Whigs to the American civil rights movement, liberals have in fact held positions on political high ground (though not during Clinton's exploitation of the Oklahoma City bombing). Liberals have seen government as a force for good, and sometimes it can be. World War II comes to mind. While conservatives have delighted in the free market, liberals have been there to remind us that all freedoms, including market freedoms, entail responsibilities. At the very least it can be said that we conservatives would not be so upright in our ideals if we hadn't been pushing against liberals.

But liberalism, as personified by the New York Times, became a dotty old aunt sometime during the Johnson administration. She's provincial, eccentric, and holds dull, peculiar views about the world. Still, she has our fond regard, and we visit her regularly in her nursing home otherwise known as Arts and Leisure and the Book Review. Or we did until Sunday, January 9, when she began spouting obscenities and exposing herself.

We observe in the Times a bizarre overreaction to people and things that can be construed as "antigovernment." (And all people and most things often can be so construed, e.g., the man who just got a speeding ticket.) The Times has become delusional, going from advocating big government to believing that it is the big government. Americans being somewhat disgruntled with big government, the Times imagines itself under attack from every side, even, no doubt, from within.

The reason I refer to "The Left" a lot on this blog is that for the past 50 years liberals have increasingly lost vigor and energy and have allowed themselves to be co-opted by socialists sympathetic to the New Left and by the New Left itself. All the energy and passion on the left is on the far left and what used to be the liberal center no longer holds. Increasingly politics is polarized into a right versus left confrontation as in the homosexual rights movement, extreme feminism and redistributionist tax and spend social democracy.

The homosexual who just wants to be left alone but does not want to effect a social revolution and the women who simply want fairness but reject Marxist analysis increasingly have no voice on the Left. They are simply "officially approved victims" who have a useful role to play in the revolution whether they like it or not.

Real Liberalism as described by O'Rourke made an alliance with conservatives against Marxist revolution and dictatorship. In exchange for the creation of the welfare state, they agreed to oppose Communism. But now the alliance has ended and, having attained the welfare state liberals now want more and find themselves in bed with socialists and full-blown Marxists like Bernie Sanders and Van Jones. There is no future for liberalism as a political philosophy or a movement in that alliance. They are merely cannon fodder, useless idiots and respectable front men. The hard men in the background call the shots.

Is this the end of liberalism in the West? I fear so. The choices now become much harder and the only defenders of individual liberty left are conservatives. To be liberal now is to be conservative. It really has come to that.

Saturday, January 15, 2011

The Liberal Narrative: Its Deja Vu All Over Again

The media reaction to the Giffords shooting last week followed a predictable and tired old script. As Yogi Berra, the most famous mangler of the English language prior to George W. Bush, said: "It's deja vu all over again." Jonathan Kay's terrific piece in today's National Post makes this point forcefully:
"An American politician takes a bullet to the head in broad daylight. Three days later, under the headline “The spiral of hate,” The New York Times editorial board has this to say about it: “None of us can escape a share of the fault for the spiral of unreason and violence that has now found expression in [gunfire].” In the same spirit, the chief justice of the U.S. Supreme Court blames the act on “the hatred and bitterness that has been injected into the life of our nation by bigots.” A leading Christian leader adds that the shooting stemmed from a “sin in the hearts of man not only in this country, but the world over. That is, the sin of prejudice.”

Unreason. Hatred. Bitterness. Prejudice. This more or less summarizes the liberal chorus heard in the days after the Tucson shooting of Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords. But all of the words quoted in the paragraph above were spoken or printed in 1963, in the days immediately following the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. Then, just as now, the American intelligentsia felt a reflexive certainty that what they’d witnessed was not an act perpetrated by just one man, but rather a mere symptom of a great body of societal evil.

Just as initial media commentaries about Jared Lee Loughner’s crazed act focused on right-wing opposition to health-care reform and immigration, many 1963-era journalists assumed that Lee Harvey Oswald’s act of murder was, in some vague way, connected to the Civil Rights Act. The day after JFK’s death, the Times printed an article entitled “Why America Weeps: Kennedy Victim of Violent Streak He Sought To Curb In Nation,” promoting the idea that JFK’s killer somehow stood in moral solidarity with “those who wanted to be more violent in the racial war.” Playing on this notion, President Lyndon Johnson would tell Congress, two days after JFK’s funeral, “no memorial oration or eulogy could more eloquently honour President Kennedy’s memory than the earliest possible passage of the civil rights bill.”

All of this was nonsense. Just as Loughner is a clinical lunatic whose views have nothing to do with politics or race relations (he once told his community-college professor that the numbers 6 and 18 are actually the same), so too was Oswald a devout Marxist whose views had nothing to do with right-wing politics."

Read the rest here.

The official liberal narrative is that the Right is made up of ignorant yahoos from the South who are angry and always ready to lash out against anybody who challenges the status quo in the name of justice. Liberals, on the other hand, are thoughtful, urban, educated people who are never angry, just sad at the conservative tendency to "over-simplify" and "over-react." This narrative is very appealing because it relieves the individual of the need to think for himself in that it allows one to function efficiently within the bubble of the liberal environment of academia without worrying that the party line might be wrong on this or that point.

I had a frustrating conversation the other day with a person whose liberal prejudices forced him to think out of this narrative so totally that he could not quite get his head around the fact that I was an intellectual, well-read, thinking person who had lost my liberal faith. Liberals seldom meet people like me and find it hard to quite believe we exist.

Kay is right to see the parallels between the Kennedy assassination and the Giffords shooting, although there is actually one crucially important difference. The best evidence we have is that Lee Harvey Oswald was a communist and ideologically motivated, whereas Loughner is just mentally ill. While Loughner is not an example of the truth of the liberal narrative, Oswald actually contradicts it. He is an example of unreasoning, hateful, left-wing violence.

Yet Kay is right to observe that:
Even after all the reporting that’s been done on Loughner’s past, the myth that he is in some way emblematic of Tea Party culture likely will remain embedded in American political lore, just as left-wing conspiracy theorists still claim Oswald was a front man for the CIA and the military-industrial complex. As the JFK example shows, the modern, politically engaged mind is drawn to interpret every fresh tragedy through the lens of their pre-existing dogmas.
The damage was done in the first 48-72 hours after the shooting. The lies were spread and the narrative constructed before anyone even knew the facts about who Loughner was one way or the other. This was deliberate. As the old saying goes, "a lie gets half way around the world before the truth gets its pants on." In this case, there will always be a subliminal link in the public consciousness between Sarah Palin, Glenn Beck, Rush Limbaugh, and the Tea Party, and this tragic act of violence. This lie will not be overturned by the facts because the pre-existing narrative embraced by liberals is stronger than facts and evidence. The lie fits the paradigm but the facts do not; so much the worse for the facts. Philosopher of science, Thomas Kuhn, explained the power of the paradigm in his book, The Structure of Scientific Revolutions.

Of course, there are other inconvenient truths about this incident. One is the way the attempt to tie Sarah Palin to murder has contributed to an unleashing of hatred against her. It is so bad that it would not be a surprise if some left-wing nut went after her with a gun or a knife. Here is a story about the filth and violent talk recently observed on Twitter. The Left is quite calm about violence against conservatives. Whatever they may say for public consumption the truth is that hard core leftists consider revolutionary violence to be justifiable and the more squishy liberals just keep their mouths shut when violence against conservatives occurs.

The hypocrisy is breathtaking; the leftist narrative marches on. And it's deja vu all over again and again.

Friday, January 14, 2011

What is Going On in Europe?

From CNA news comes this astonishing story: "New EU School Calendar Omits Christian Holidays."
A 2011-2012 school calendar published by the European Union has omitted Christian holidays, while continuing to note important Jewish and Muslim celebrations.

The European Union has printed three million copies of the calendar which will be distributed free-of-charge to students who request them.

Former French politician and government minister, Christine Boutin, wrote in her blog Jan. 11 that the calendar leaves out Christianity, “the religion practiced or recognized as forming the cultural assembly of our ‘old’ continent.”

Boutin is a consultant for the Pontifical Council for the Family, as well as president of the Christian Democratic Party in France. She went on to lament that Christianity has “fallen into the limbo of collective ignorance.”

While Christian holidays such as Christmas and Easter are missing from the calendar's pages, days commemorating “Sikh Baisakhi-Day, the Jewish Yom Kippur holiday, the Muslim holiday Aid-el-Kebir,” remain in place,” Boutin continued.

The Christian Democratic Party in France called the omissions “unacceptable” and has filed a petition asking that the calendars not be distributed as printed, but that students be given versions that include Christian holidays.

Read it all here.

What on earth is going on in the EU? What twisted kind of self-loathing causes people to hate their own history and culture so much that they go to such ridiculous lengths to be offensive? Have all the adults left the building? Is the ground being laid for the open persecution of European Christians? I can't even formulate the words to analyze what is going on here in a way that makes sense of it. It is so bizarre as to be beyond rational comprehension. Anyone care to take a crack at a reasoned explanation for such behavior?

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

A Great Speech from President Obama in Tucson - Whoever Wrote It Is a Conservative!

Barack Obama gave a moving, eloquent, and, most importantly, true speech tonight in Tucson, Arizona. Now, don't have a heart attack just because I'm praising the politician I disagree with more often than any other. He could be wrong on every other issue in the world, but that would not make him wrong on this one.

This speech is a powerful rebuke to the left-wing media, activists and politicians who have kicked the hate machine into high gear over the past few days in order to turn a tragic event perpetrated by a madman into an excuse to demonize Sarah Palin and all conservatives and score cheap political points. (Yes, I'm referring to Paul Krugmann and the New York Times. See the previous post.) No, he didn't name them; he didn't have to. It was painfully clear:

You see, when a tragedy like this strikes, it is part of our nature to demand explanations – to try to impose some order on the chaos, and make sense out of that which seems senseless. Already we've seen a national conversation commence, not only about the motivations behind these killings, but about everything from the merits of gun safety laws to the adequacy of our mental health systems. Much of this process, of debating what might be done to prevent such tragedies in the future, is an essential ingredient in our exercise of self-government.

But at a time when our discourse has become so sharply polarized – at a time when we are far too eager to lay the blame for all that ails the world at the feet of those who think differently than we do – it's important for us to pause for a moment and make sure that we are talking with each other in a way that heals, not a way that wounds.

Scripture tells us that there is evil in the world, and that terrible things happen for reasons that defy human understanding. In the words of Job, "when I looked for light, then came darkness." Bad things happen, and we must guard against simple explanations in the aftermath.

For the truth is that none of us can know exactly what triggered this vicious attack. None of us can know with any certainty what might have stopped those shots from being fired, or what thoughts lurked in the inner recesses of a violent man's mind.

So yes, we must examine all the facts behind this tragedy. We cannot and will not be passive in the face of such violence. We should be willing to challenge old assumptions in order to lessen the prospects of violence in the future.

But what we can't do is use this tragedy as one more occasion to turn on one another. As we discuss these issues, let each of us do so with a good dose of humility. Rather than pointing fingers or assigning blame, let us use this occasion to expand our moral imaginations, to listen to each other more carefully, to sharpen our instincts for empathy, and remind ourselves of all the ways our hopes and dreams are bound together.

After all, that's what most of us do when we lose someone in our family – especially if the loss is unexpected. We're shaken from our routines, and forced to look inward. We reflect on the past. Did we spend enough time with an aging parent, we wonder. Did we express our gratitude for all the sacrifices they made for us? Did we tell a spouse just how desperately we loved them, not just once in awhile but every single day?

So sudden loss causes us to look backward – but it also forces us to look forward, to reflect on the present and the future, on the manner in which we live our lives and nurture our relationships with those who are still with us. We may ask ourselves if we've shown enough kindness and generosity and compassion to the people in our lives. Perhaps we question whether we are doing right by our children, or our community, and whether our priorities are in order. We recognize our own mortality, and are reminded that in the fleeting time we have on this earth, what matters is not wealth, or status, or power, or fame – but rather, how well we have loved, and what small part we have played in bettering the lives of others.

Read it all here.

This was a thoroughly conservative speech. How so?

1. He praised the heroics of the people who risked their lives to take down the gunman, tried to shield their loved ones from the bullets with their bodies and kept Congresswoman Giffords from bleeding to death even as the shots continued. He praised virtue. This is important because it demonstrates an awareness of the reality of good and evil and personal moral responsibility.

2. He said that we cannot know what caused this man to do what he did; sometimes Providence is inscrutable. We don't know why some things happen. Sometimes the presence of evil in the world is the best explanation we have. This was an implicit rejection of the Enlightenment faith in reason as able to solve all problems and prevent all tragedies. It is a tragic, rather than a Utopian, view of life, which is a deeply conservative position.

3. He told people to stop exploiting this event as an excuse to score cheap political points against their opponents and he refrained from descending to that level himself.

This speech will be welcomed by thinking conservatives, although many who are embittered by the partisanship of the last few days will have difficulty being gracious. But if this speech had been given by a conservative it would be hailed as a masterpiece.

On the other hand, this speech poses a real dilemma for the Left. If they criticize it they basically throw Obama in the same bag as Sarah Palin and make themselves look even more extreme than they do now. But if they praise it, they thereby damn themselves. What a dilemma! Well done, Mr. President!

Leftist Hate Speech Compounds the Arizona Tragedy

Charles Krauthammer has the definitive statement on the reaction to the Tuscon shooting tragedy. He calmly dissects the true haters.
The charge: The Tucson massacre is a consequence of the "climate of hate" created by Sarah Palin, the Tea Party, Glenn Beck, Obamacare opponents and sundry other liberal betes noires.

The verdict: Rarely in American political discourse has there been a charge so reckless, so scurrilous and so unsupported by evidence.

As killers go, Jared Loughner is not reticent. Yet among all his writings, postings, videos and other ravings - and in all the testimony from all the people who knew him - there is not a single reference to any of these supposed accessories to murder.

Not only is there no evidence that Loughner was impelled to violence by any of those upon whom Paul Krugman, Keith Olbermann, the New York Times, the Tucson sheriff and other rabid partisans are fixated. There is no evidence that he was responding to anything, political or otherwise, outside of his own head.

A climate of hate? This man lived within his very own private climate. "His thoughts were unrelated to anything in our world," said the teacher of Loughner's philosophy class at Pima Community College. "He was very disconnected from reality," said classmate Lydian Ali. "You know how it is when you talk to someone who's mentally ill and they're just not there?" said neighbor Jason Johnson. "It was like he was in his own world."

His ravings, said one high school classmate, were interspersed with "unnerving, long stupors of silence" during which he would "stare fixedly at his buddies," reported the Wall Street Journal. His own writings are confused, incoherent, punctuated with private numerology and inscrutable taxonomy. He warns of government brainwashing and thought control through "grammar." He was obsessed with "conscious dreaming," a fairly good synonym for hallucinations.

This is not political behavior. These are the signs of a clinical thought disorder - ideas disconnected from each other, incoherent, delusional, detached from reality.

It should be noted in this connection that Krauthammer is a psychiatrist. Read the rest here.

Sarah Palin's statement on the topic was dignified, heartfelt, sober and articulate. Clearly she is one of the few adults in the room at this moment. Leaders show their true colors under stress and good leaders grow in stature when attacked. She says:

Like millions of Americans I learned of the tragic events in Arizona on Saturday, and my heart broke for the innocent victims. No words can fill the hole left by the death of an innocent, but we do mourn for the victims’ families as we express our sympathy.

I agree with the sentiments shared yesterday at the beautiful Catholic mass held in honor of the victims. The mass will hopefully help begin a healing process for the families touched by this tragedy and for our country.

Our exceptional nation, so vibrant with ideas and the passionate exchange and debate of ideas, is a light to the rest of the world. Congresswoman Giffords and her constituents were exercising their right to exchange ideas that day, to celebrate our Republic’s core values and peacefully assemble to petition our government. It’s inexcusable and incomprehensible why a single evil man took the lives of peaceful citizens that day.

There is a bittersweet irony that the strength of the American spirit shines brightest in times of tragedy. We saw that in Arizona. We saw the tenacity of those clinging to life, the compassion of those who kept the victims alive, and the heroism of those who overpowered a deranged gunman.

Like many, I’ve spent the past few days reflecting on what happened and praying for guidance. After this shocking tragedy, I listened at first puzzled, then with concern, and now with sadness, to the irresponsible statements from people attempting to apportion blame for this terrible event.

President Reagan said, “We must reject the idea that every time a law’s broken, society is guilty rather than the lawbreaker. It is time to restore the American precept that each individual is accountable for his actions.” Acts of monstrous criminality stand on their own. They begin and end with the criminals who commit them, not collectively with all the citizens of a state, not with those who listen to talk radio, not with maps of swing districts used by both sides of the aisle, not with law-abiding citizens who respectfully exercise their First Amendment rights at campaign rallies, not with those who proudly voted in the last election.

The last election was all about taking responsibility for our country’s future. President Obama and I may not agree on everything, but I know he would join me in affirming the health of our democratic process. Two years ago his party was victorious. Last November, the other party won. In both elections the will of the American people was heard, and the peaceful transition of power proved yet again the enduring strength of our Republic.

Vigorous and spirited public debates during elections are among our most cherished traditions. And after the election, we shake hands and get back to work, and often both sides find common ground back in D.C. and elsewhere. If you don’t like a person’s vision for the country, you’re free to debate that vision. If you don’t like their ideas, you’re free to propose better ideas. But, especially within hours of a tragedy unfolding, journalists and pundits should not manufacture a blood libel that serves only to incite the very hatred and violence they purport to condemn. That is reprehensible.

Martin Knight points out that by their own standards, the Left is apparently trying to have Sarah Palin killed:

But from Paul Krugman of the New York Times drawing a direct causal link between Sarah Palin’s innocuous graphic targeting vulnerable Democrats (including Giffords) to defeat at the polls and the shooting, to Michael Daly of the NY Daily News asserting in his article headline that “Rep. Gabrielle Giffords’ blood Is On Sarah Palin’s Hands … to Markos Moulitsas’ obviously gleeful “Mission Accomplished, Sarah Palin” tweet, and Wolf Blitzer giving serious air time on CNN to the idea that the attack on Gabrielle Giffords was as a direct result of Sarah Palin’s rhetoric in opposition to the Obama agenda, there seems to be a concerted effort in the “mainstream” media to try and convict Sarah Palin of Jared Loughner’s actions.

Already, in the comments sections of the New York Times, New York Daily News and numerous other “mainstream” newsmedia outlets’ websites, liberal commenters are calling for Sarah Palin’s arrest and the seizure of her assets. Others are darkly hinting that she should be made to “suffer” the same fate as Rep. Giffords - for which they hold Palin responsible - with not much condemnation from other liberal commenters.

Which is what leads me to believe that this isn’t the typical liberal leap to reap a political benefit from others’ personal tragedy, but using the same logic as used by Markos Moulitsas, Paul Krugman, Michael Daly et al. an attempt to pre-justify an attack on the lives of Sarah Palin and members of her family. According to liberal journalists and bloggers, Sarah Palin - via her uniquely incendiary murder-inducing rhetoric - is personally responsible for Jared Loughner’s attack on Rep. Giffords.

Well then, what could be more incendiary than asserting that one is directly responsible for the death of a 9 year old girl, the death of a Federal Judge and the shooting of a Congresswoman in the head? By their own logic, this would certainly lead to an individual - convinced by Daly, Moulitsas et al that Sarah Palin has gotten away with murder - purchasing a gun, leveling it at Sarah Palin, perhaps when she’s at a book signing, or lounging at the pool with her husband and children, and opening fire.

I would certainly hope that this is not what Michael Daly, Markos Moulitsas, Paul Krugman, Jane Fonda, etc. are hoping for deep down. But given their own presumably sincere belief that “reckless” political speech leads to violence, and given the unseemly speed with which they have recklessly decided to heap responsibility on Sarah Palin with no facts to back them up and many to count against them, I am forced to conclude that they are, at best, neutral, and at worst, desirous of Sarah Palin being subjected to serious (even fatal) bodily harm.

Fortunately, it appears that the Left's attempt to politicize this tragic event is not working. Less than a third of Americans are buying the left-wing spin that it is the fault of conservatives for opposing the left-wing agenda for the country. The Left would exploit this event for its agenda on limiting free speech, demonizing the right, pushing gun control and diminishing the political threat they clearly see Sarah Palin as posing to their agenda. But thankfully the public is not buying what the Left is peddling.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Jesus Awareness Week at University of Toronto

Several Christian organizations, including Ravi Zacharias Ministries, Westminster Chapel, Chinese Gospel Church and others, are sponsoring "Jesus Awareness Week" at the University of Toronto from Jan. 21-27, 2011. Speakers include Joe Boot, Dan MacDonald, Andy Bannister and Scott Masson. Please pray for this evangelistic outreach to one of the most secular parts of Toronto.

Visit the website here for schedule and other information.

What Real Hate Speech Sounds Like

Given the way the leftist hate machine has flooded the media with a cynical attempt to blame Sarah Palin for the mentally deranged man who shot the Democratic Congresswoman the other day, I thought it might be time to have a reminder of what actual hate sounds like. The Left accuses conservatives of inciting murder and then proceeds to moralize about the need to tone down the rhetoric. They go after Palin and other conservatives in a hypocritical manner only because she is an impediment to their reaching their goals.

But they never seem to find time to criticize this:

If you want incitement to violence, here is the real thing. Does anybody on the Left want to denounce this? Could we have this on TV 24/7 for a few days? Would President Obama care to weigh in? How about MSNBC? No, why not?

Monday, January 10, 2011

Conservative Ideas Work in Contemporary Cities: Liberal Ones Do Not

Here is a great article in the City journal by Heather MacDonald on the failure of liberal, welfare state, big government policies in America's cities between the 1960s and the 1990s and also on the major turn around in those same cities since the welfare reforms of the mid-1990s. She begins:

Conservative ideas are responsible for the two great urban-policy successes of the last quarter-century: the breathtaking drops in crime and in welfare dependency since the early 1990s. You’d never know it from members of the opinion elite, however, who have rarely recognized these successes, much less their provenance. So let’s recapitulate an epic battle about the foundations of social order, a battle that had not just a clear winner but also a clear loser: the liberal policy prescriptions for cities that many opinion makers and politicians still embrace. New York has been at the center of this battle because so many of the bad ideas that wreaked havoc on cities hatched there. Fortunately, so did many of the antidotes.

Liberal urban policy was based on several core assumptions. Number One: multigenerational poverty was the result of structural forces—above all, of rapacious capitalism and racism. It could never be the result of bad decision-making or a deficit of personal responsibility. Number Two: though men were still, alas, required for conceiving a child, they were purely optional for raising one. (Corollary: the role of illegitimacy in creating and perpetuating poverty could never be acknowledged.) Number Three: low-wage work was demeaning and pointless. It was better to receive a monthly welfare check than to labor at an entry-level job. Number Four: crime was an understandable and inevitable reaction to economic injustice and discrimination. (Corollary: the police could not lower crime; only government social programs and wealth-redistribution schemes could.) Together, these four conceits composed the most dangerous idea of all: that the bourgeois values of order, self-discipline, and respect for the law were decorative afterthoughts to prosperity, rather than its very precondition.

From the 1960s onward, liberal policymakers put these notions into practice, just as radical disorder was breaking out in American cities. In the name of economic justice, the welfare-rights movement, the brainchild of two New York academics, sought to eliminate all remaining stigma associated with the dole and to sign up as many people for welfare as possible. Within three years, welfare rolls in big cities had doubled. The urban riots of the 1960s heralded a decades-long outbreak of crime. A presidential commission responded to the growing anarchy in 1967 by recommending that prison sentences be shortened or eliminated and that the police focus on coordinating social services to offenders rather than on making arrests. The states complied, and the national incarceration rate dropped through the 1970s, while judges diverted offenders into social programs. Crime kept rising.

By the early 1990s, the fruits of this liberal monopoly over urban policy were in clear view. New York City homicides topped 2,000 in 1990. Drug dealers controlled the streets in the city’s poorest neighborhoods; children slept in bathtubs to avoid stray bullets from the dealers’ gun battles. Small businesses fled the city, unable to withstand the assaults on their employees and the constant break-ins. Manhattanites posted pathetic little NO RADIO signs in their cars, hoping for mercy from the circumambient thieves. The national welfare caseload was up fivefold, as was the nation’s illegitimacy rate. In New York City, one in seven residents was on welfare.
The failure of liberal, welfare-state policies is obvious. But do conservative emphases on individual responsibility, the dignity of even low-paid work, family values and law and order actually work any better? The answer is that the evidence is in and the debate is over. The conservative approach works.
President Bill Clinton, to his credit, ignored these doomsayers and in 1996 ended the lifetime welfare entitlement. The same women who, the advocates had said, were incapable of working or were unwanted by the economy entered the workforce in droves. The welfare rolls dropped 66 percent, and black child poverty experienced its greatest drop in history. In New York City, where Mayor Rudolph Giuliani had started asking people to go to work a year before federal welfare reform passed, the welfare rolls have dropped 70 percent. New York now has the lowest child poverty rate of the eight largest U.S. cities. . .

However significant the rout of the poverty-industrial complex, New York’s demolition of conventional thinking about crime was even more momentous. Since 1990, New York has experienced the largest and longest sustained drop in street crime of any big city in the developed world. In less than a generation, many major felonies have fallen 80 percent or more. New York did this by rejecting everything that the criminology and social-work professions counseled about crime. Police Chief William Bratton announced in 1994 that the police, not some big-government welfare program, would lower crime by 10 percent in just one year. He not only met his goal, he bested it—by ruthlessly holding precinct commanders accountable for the safety of their beats, by the rigorous analysis of crime data, and by empowering street cops to intervene in suspicious behavior before a crime actually happened.

Just as the liberal philosophy of exempting the poor from bourgeois standards of behavior set up a vicious cycle of fatherlessness, crime, and dependency, the conservative philosophy of universal standards set up a virtuous cycle of urban renovation. With crime in free fall across New York in the 1990s, the tourism and hospitality industries boomed, triggering demand for the low-skilled welfare mothers whom welfare reform was nudging into the workplace. Businesses moved back into formerly violence-plagued areas, creating more jobs. Neighborhoods were transformed.

Read it all here.

Is New York City a Utopia? No, but that is not the criterion conservaives use for evaluating social policy. That is the liberal goal. For conservatives, what matters is that the situation is actually better! For liberals that is irrelevant because conservatives aren't trying for Utopian solutions so their aspirations are not as high and in the politics of good intentions this is all that matters. Facts are irrelevant and incremental progress is despised. Conservatives know that Utopia is a pipe dream and so are fixated on making things a bit better than they were and so are much more useful in the real world than the left-wing ideologues.