Thursday, September 20, 2012

Odds and ends 9/20/2012

Thomas Haine writes in “Tim Tebow’s Vocation”:

Only moments after his dramatic come-from-behind win against the New York Jets in November, Tebow sat down with NFL commentators. The interviewer asked, “what comes over you with five minutes to go?” Tebow responded, “Well, first and foremost, I gotta thank my Lord and Savior Jesus Christ and thank my team mates...” Should Tebow tone this kind of answer down?

Perhaps Tebow should not talk and act as if every win and success is almost miraculous, as if God’s intervention is the primary cause of it. Such talk might obscure the fullness of the truth by hiding other contributing factors. God is the cause of all things and our natural order. He intervenes in his natural order as he sees fit; we call these “super” natural interventions miracles. Throwing a football is probably not, then, supernatural or miraculous at all, and neither is winning a football game. If we were to thank God exclusively after either, we may be obscuring the fact that God enabled his creation-the natural rather than supernatural order-to accomplish his will for itself.

It’s an implicit distinction that Tebow confirmed in an interview with Skip Bayless, but some people just don’t understand. The vile Charles Pierce writes:

Earlier this week, some kids were suspended at a high school on Long Island for “Tebowing” - dropping to one knee in prayerful contemplation - in the hallways. Asked for his reaction, Tebow replied, “You have to respect the position of authority and people that God has put in authority over you, so that’s part of it. But I think it does show courage from the kids, standing out and doing that, and some boldness.”

First of all, God is involving Himself in how they select principals to run the high schools on Long Island? That’s a bear of an interview process right there. And you will note the obvious passive-aggressiveness in the second part of the answer. Obey your principal because God got him the job, but, damn, these kids are brave in their faith to defy the principal’s authority and, by extension of the first point, God’s.

Noemie Emery writes an excellent piece over the Washington Examiner:

It was in the failure of this man [Obama] of the world to embrace his role as the leader of one part of the world against the more dangerous other that the seeds of his failure were planted. Instead of raising the West, he has tried to merge the two sides and make them seem equal, stressing the flaws of the West and its allies, not taking democracy’s side.

Bret Stephens over at the Wall Street Journal writes in “Muslims, Mormons and Liberals”:

The “Book of Mormon”-a performance of which Hillary Clinton attended last year, without registering a complaint-comes to mind as the administration falls over itself denouncing “Innocence of Muslims.” This is a film that may or may not exist; whose makers are likely not who they say they are; whose actors claim to have known neither the plot nor purpose of the film; and which has never been seen by any member of the public except as a video clip on the Internet.

No matter. The film, the administration says, is “hateful and offensive” (Susan Rice), “reprehensible and disgusting” (Jay Carney) and, in a twist, “disgusting and reprehensible” (Hillary Clinton). Mr. Carney, the White House spokesman, also lays sole blame on the film for inciting the riots that have swept the Muslim world and claimed the lives of Ambassador Chris Stevens and three of his staff in Libya.

So let’s get this straight: In the consensus view of modern American liberalism, it is hilarious to mock Mormons and Mormonism but outrageous to mock Muslims and Islam. Why? Maybe it’s because nobody has ever been harmed, much less killed, making fun of Mormons.

Meanwhile James Taranto, also of the WSJ, writes his own piece on the subject:

The photo of Nakoula Basseley Nakoula being led from his Cerritos, Calif., home has become an Internet sensation, giving rise, among other things, to a popular QuickMeme and a call from Glenn Reynolds for President Obama’s resignation: “By sending—literally—brownshirted enforcers to engage in—literally—a midnight knock at the door of a man for the non-crime of embarrassing the President of the United States and his administration, President Obama violated that oath [to the Constitution]. You can try to pretty this up (It’s just about possible probation violations! Sure.), or make excuses or draw distinctions, but that’s what’s happened. It is a betrayal of his duties as President, and a disgrace.”

I, too, was very upset at the filmmaker’s “perp walk” in front of the press. Taranto continues:

The “optics,” as the politicos say, were terrible. It certainly doesn’t look voluntary in the photos. But that could have been the fault of the “news media encampment” that, according to the Times, had “kept 24-hour watch outside his front door.” The large police presence—we count at least five officers in the QuickMeme photo—might well have been for protective rather than coercive purposes.

Nakoula’s face is covered in what the Times describes as a shawl. It seems a metaphor for the suppression of individual freedom by the American state. In truth, it was probably a sensible precaution. If you were in Nakoula’s position, you wouldn’t want murderous Islamist thugs to know what you look like either.

Yet even if law enforcement’s treatment of Nakoula was entirely above board, critics of the administration have good reason for suspicion that it is hostile to civil liberties. On Friday, Politico reports, the White House asked Google, which owns YouTube, “to review the video to see if it was in compliance with their terms of use,” in press secretary Jay Carney’s words. Having already done so and finding it compliant, Google rejected the implicit censorship request.

Christopher Chantrill writes an interesting blog post on the Chicago Teachers Union strike. Echoing Wendell Berry, Chantrill draws a parallel between the teachers and factory workers.

The factory workers had a perfectly good reason to be angry. The factory system turned them into mechanical robots. They hated that and so they formed labor unions to fight the system that had humiliated them.

Centralized public education has become the same way, with teachers fitting into the huge bureaucratic machine like cogs, graduating students who will fit like cogs into other huge bureaucratic machines, all bound together in and endless, pointless spinning.

They ended up destroying those good jobs and those good wages. Because they hated those jobs and everything associated with them: the bosses, the assembly line, the foremen, Frederick Taylor, and the infernal speed-up.

The union workers ended up like the woman scorned. Nothing would satisfy them but to destroy the people that had humiliated them, even if they destroyed themselves in the process.

But, as the Frankfurt School lefties pointed out, the problem is not just the mechanical factory system, the bosses, and the unjust domination of the workers. Every system of “instrumental reason” is a system of domination, a means to dominate nature and other men. That goes for bureaucratic government just as much as the evil robber barons of the factory system. The system dominates government workers just as much as factory workers.

Contrast this with Richard Burton’s telling of his coal miner father, who loved his job.

Robert Royal writes on “social justice” at The Catholic Thing:

Old school Catholics learned that justice comes in three forms: commutative, the just exchange between two parties, on which all other forms depend; distributive, which requires that goods and services be reasonably distributed in the community (This is different from redistribution; redistributionist schemes in the twentieth century led to quite unjust, even tyrannical regimes); and the general justice enshrined in law.

Social justice crept in under the same assumptions as socialism, Marxism, and other kinds of social engineering: the belief that there is some “scientific” analysis of society that allows us to establish “programs” and “systems” (two words that always demand close scrutiny) that will produce social justice. In this perspective, all that is missing is will - and advocates usually suggest that dark forces, namely business people, are the only obstacles.

Francis J. Beckwith writes in a superb article titled “If Not ‘Under God,’ then What?”:

The whole point of inserting “under God” in the Pledge was neither “religious” nor an appeal to “tradition.” It was to address the philosophical claim that our natural rights, grounded in the natural law, are imparted to us by an Eternal Lawgiver, and how that claim differs from the understanding of rights embraced by a government, the Soviet Union, committed to atheistic materialism.

As evidence of this, Beckwith excerpts the 1954 Congressional Record:

At this moment of our history the principles underlying our American Government and the American way of life are under attack by a system whose philosophy is at direct odds with our own. Our American Government is founded on the concept of the individuality and the dignity of the human being. Underlying this concept is the belief that the human person is important because he was created by God and endowed by Him with certain inalienable rights which no civil authority may usurp. The inclusion of God in our pledge therefore would further acknowledge the dependence of our people and our Government upon the moral directions of the Creator. At the same time it would serve to deny the atheistic and materialistic concepts of communism with its attendant subservience of the individual.

Finally, don’t miss this gem from the editor’s preface:

We’re now living in a time in which God is no longer thought of by many as the source of our freedom, but as a delusion and a limitation on it.

I address that in depth in “Perfectibility of man.”

Beckwith hit a home run in an earlier article about Chick-fil-A Appreciation Day. There is a hint of “Herem” here.

It is one thing to allow and celebrate moral and religious diversity when there is a broadly shared understanding on what sorts of institutions are vital to the common good and civil society. It is quite another when that shared understanding breaks down - when the very question of what is essential to civil society is itself in dispute.

R.R. Reno rebuts Dinesh D’Souza’s thesis that President Obama’s ideology is anti-colonialism. His analysis jives with my own doubts. While D’Souza’s argument made sense to me, it didn’t seem necessary. Reno claims D’Souza’s argument is misleading because he ascribes Obama’s ideology to a foreign entity, when in fact its source would more usefully be described as domestic.

Obama is very much a man formed by American culture. He is, in fact, our first therapeutic president. He doesn’t so much have beliefs as critical perspectives, not convictions but instead expertise. He doesn’t confront our enemies, but rather tries to understand them, empathize, and gain their trust-perhaps in order to help overcome their fears and learn how not to hate.


Obama strikes me as an intelligent, ambitious, and fully committed representative of the therapeutic American liberalism of our day.

At its worst it’s a smug liberalism that refuses to see itself as an ideology but instead postures as our national (and global!) guidance counselor, which explains why Obama can push for liberal policies while insisting that he is nonpartisan. The therapist, after all, has no “interests,” only “understanding.”

Carrying on the theme of Paul Ryan vis-à-vis Ayn Rand, R.R. Reno writes:

In his attack on Ryan, [Leon] Wieseltier takes pains to show that Ryan isn’t all that sophisticated when it comes to moral, social, and political philosophy. If that’s the case-and Wieseltier is probably right-then why assume that Ryan was a careful, exacting reader of Rand as a teenager? Why suppose that he zeroed in on Rand’s metaphysical individualism and her most strident assertions of selfish egoism?

Why not assume something a good deal less theoretical? Ryan, whose father had just died, was no doubt feeling an acutely vulnerable and fearful of an uncertain future. Then he read Rand and saw in her the rather commonplace wisdom that a healthy, intelligent young man ought to try to make his own future, even against bad odds? That’s the broad “can do” Americanism that most young readers take from Atlas Shrugged, not Rand’s hyper-individualism and anti-Christian ideology of unrestrained self-assertion.

National Review‘s Mario Loyola also critiques Wieseltier’s piece:

In fairness to Wieseltier, the piece is not really about Paul Ryan at all. It’s more about the radically individualistic character of John Galt in Ayn Rand’s Atlas Shrugged, whom Wieseltier uses to fill in the blanks about Ryan. But, as in so many Maureen Dowd columns, subject and metaphor become transubstantiated, and the author ends up writing a piece of pure fiction.

“The ideal of self-reliance in America,” he writes, “has always been attended by a corollary of indifference to others, of nastiness.” That may well be the view among American liberals, but I once met a French graduate student who was researching why rich people give so much more to charity in America than in Europe. Go figure.

David Sessions reviews Religion for Atheists, by Alain de Botton. He sums up accurately what Thoreau called the “quiet desperation” people suffer through their whole lives, an integral part of being that, unmitigated by the transformative power of Grace, expresses itself as panicked unfulfillment in the post-Christian West.

At its best, Religion for Atheists is a chronicle of the smoldering heap that liberal capitalism has made of the social rhythms that used to serve as a buffer between humans and the random cruelty of the universe. Christian and Jewish traditions, Botton argues, reinforced the ideas that people are morally deficient, that disappointment and suffering are normative, and that death is inevitable. The abandonment of those realities for the delusions of the self-made individual, the fantasy superman who can bend reality to his will if he works hard enough and is positive enough, leaves little mystery to why we are perpetually stressed out, overworked, and unsatisfied.

What is dismaying about Religion for Atheists is how deeply it embodies the ideology of the present-how it can describe so well the anxiety, isolation, and disappointment of secular life and yet still fail to identify their source. Botton’s central obsession is the insane ways bourgeois postmoderns try to live, namely in a perpetual upward swing of ambition and achievement, where failure indicates character deficiency despite an almost total lack of social infrastructure to help us navigate careers, relationships, parenting, and death. But he seems uninterested in how those structures were destroyed or what it might take to rebuild them, other than a few novelties like a restaurant where patrons are guided into intimate confessions with strangers, or temples without gods. Botton wants to keep bourgeois secularism and add a few new quasi-religious social routines. Quasi-religious social routines may indeed be a part of the solution, as we shall see, but they cannot be simply flung atop a regime as indifferent to human values as liberal capitalism.

I’ve been told twice to my face that I’m going to hell. Being told you’re going to hell is a kind of rite of passage for seculars at Baylor University, a Baptist college. I never believed it, and as I gain faith in Christ I still don’t believe it.

Robert A. Ratcliffe writes over at Ministry Matters:

Why aren’t we telling the world that for centuries mainstream Christian theologians have held to the inclusivist view, which states that the world is saved by the grace of Christ, even when it doesn’t know that’s who’s saving it? Why aren’t we letting folks know about the pluralist approach, which believes that Christianity is one among many paths to the transcendent? Why aren’t we talking about Karl Barth’s conviction that all religions-Christianity included-fall short of the gospel, leading God to apply the grace of Christ to all? Why aren’t we talking about so many other theological approaches that seek to insist both on the uniqueness and centrality of Christ and on God’s determination to be reconciled to all God’s children, not just the members of the Christian club?

Herman Cain could have been President of the United States. I liked his simple economic policy proposals. I liked how he accused the Left of enslaving Americans in welfare state dependency, and stuck to his guns when pressed on it by enraged liberals.

I was apoplectic about the ginned up “scandal” surrounding his supposed sexual harassment of female colleagues, notably a pass he made at a naïve Sharon Bialek. In order to torpedo the Cain candidacy, the media put on thicker than usual blinders to the truth about men and women in the workplace. It was refreshing to read Bob Weir’s piece over at the American Thinker:

What exactly constitutes sexual harassment? Cain mentioned in an interview that he may have occasionally complimented a woman on the way her hair looked, or some other innocuous observations. Isn’t that what men have been doing since the dawn of time? When did it become obnoxious to recognize and comment on a woman’s looks?


During a saner time in our history, women stood up for themselves with a sharp slap to the face of a masher, or else they deftly handled a rude comment with an acerbic comeback. The one in charge was always the woman because she could pick and choose which amorous male to encourage. Additionally, when women are the pursuers, as is often the case now, they don’t get their faces slapped or end up in court defending a charge of harassment. How many men would be willing to get on the stand and say, “Your honor, that woman pinched my bottom”?

Although it’s true that men have become somewhat feminized over the past few decades, I believe that most women have little respect for a guy who has surrendered his manhood to the whims of a politically motivated emasculation. In other words, guys are still going to flirt.

The problem men have today is that they have a difficult time figuring out what the rules are. If they pay a sincere compliment to a woman, will they be liable for some punishment, be it now or in the future?

Peter J. Leithart writes in “The Nude in a Pornographic Age”:

Bodies, [John Paul II] argues, are expressions of spirit, and human bodies are made for personal communication and communion. Artists cannot avoid objectifying bodies to some degree, since all art uproots the human form from its real-life personal subjectivity: Painted bodies don’t look back at the viewer. For this reason, the depiction of the human body in art is never “merely aesthetic, nor morally indifferent.” Depicting the body, clothed or not, is inevitably an ethical problem.

Modern art commonly fails this ethical test because it operates on the “naturalistic” premise that “everything that is human” has a right to be depicted in art, no matter how shameful or disgusting. John Paul doesn’t object to naturalism by taking refuge in “idealistic” art. Rather, naturalism fails because it doesn’t tell the whole truth about man. In its pornographic guise, naturalism reduces the body to an object “intended for the satisfaction of mere concupiscence.” In its aesthetic guise, it often makes the body an object of terror and shame. It is not that naturalism is too truthful; it is not truthful enough, since it denies the central truth that human bodies are created for communion and mutual gift, to express the human spirit, to unveil God’s image on earth.

In a rambling article, First Things editorial board member Michael Novak writes:

Those who insist that the best way to achieve the common good, and to attain social justice, is to give more resources (and control) to the federal state, had better go looking for some evidence somewhere that undergirds their self-righteousness. They insist that others of us, who do not support the expenditure of more state money, are immoral. Yet the first moral obligation, Blaise Pascal wrote, is “To think clearly.”

Another handy quote from Pascal: “[Man] conceives a mortal hatred against that truth which blames him and convinces him of his faults.”

Joe Carter writes in “The Mutual Help Model of Marriage”:

Adam didn’t need a “soulmate,” for he already had the most perfect lover of his soul already in his Creator. What he needed was a “helper,” someone like himself who could share his burdens, his joys, his humanity. God’s immanent nature was a presence that provided all the love that Adam needed. But God’s transcendent nature prevented him from being the type of companion that the first man would need to fulfill his role in the Garden. Adam needed someone both enough like himself to share a mutual understanding and different enough to provide a degree of uniqueness and mystery.

S. Adam Seagrave writes in the Public Discourse:

Left unregulated by the government, most consequences of relationships—such as warm, fuzzy feelings, mutual goodwill, and trust—will not become socially destructive; procreation, on the other hand, is an entirely different story. Procreation, from a political perspective, is a double-edged sword: while it is essential for the continued existence of any society (and thus of primary importance), it can also represent a significantly damaging and even destructive social burden. The problematic aspect of procreation, from a political perspective, consists in the enormous expenditure of time, expense, and care needed to ensure the survival and development of helpless children.

In our state of nature, characterized as it is by a total absence of marriage’s mundane legal aspects, procreation would be highly problematic. While some children would still be born to and raised by the couples from which they originated, many more would be at least partially raised outside of such relationships. More men would tend to father more children with multiple women, and many of these children would lack the care and support necessary to their development as human beings and, frequently, to their very survival. For all of the well-documented social problems that arise from irresponsible procreation in today’s political societies, and to which admirable efforts such as President Obama’s Responsible Fatherhood Initiative are directed, the situation in our state of nature would be far worse.

Carson Holloway writes in “Inequality and Elite Failure”:

[Liberals] are dogmatic egalitarians, harboring an almost religious reverence for equality. For them, equality must be understood as simply good in itself and as a cause of only good consequences. Anything that is wrong with our society can be traced to some kind of inequality and can be solved by moving in the direction of greater equality. They fail to notice that the social problems they seek to solve often only appear as problems on the supposition that human beings must be equal in the status and benefits they enjoy. Despite their claims to skeptical rationality, they are incapable of skepticism about equality as an ideal.

These tendencies can be seen in two of the major policy preoccupations of contemporary American liberals: same-sex marriage and health care reform. The establishment of same-sex marriage could not be of any interest to the nation as a whole on purely pragmatic grounds. The question directly affects the interests of only a small minority of Americans. For that minority, it affects their material interests only slightly, and those interests could be secured by relatively limited modifications in the law (regarding, say, inheritance, power of attorney, and hospital visitation), without redefining marriage. None of this would be satisfactory for liberal advocates of same-sex marriage, however, because what really rankles them, what they regard as the real “problem” that must be solved, is the simple inequality that society has established between marriage and other kinds of relationships that it chooses, so far, not to recognize or endorse.

Similarly, liberals have tried presenting the recent health care reforms as a kind of practical approach to a practical problem: the problem of increasing health care costs. It is evident to anyone, however, that the problem of rising costs could be solved very readily by reforms of a very different kind, namely by market-oriented reforms. Such reforms would tend to control costs by requiring citizens to pay individually for their own health care. Such a solution is unacceptable to liberals because of the inequalities that would necessarily accompany it: those with more money would be able to purchase more and better health care than those with less money.

Robert P. George’s response to the first question posed by National Review’s Kathryn Jean Lopez reads like a salvo of wisdom. I swear I didn’t read this before writing “Ballot Question 6.”

The vote in New York to redefine marriage advances the cause of loosening norms of sexual ethics, and promoting as innocent — and even “liberating” — forms of sexual conduct that were traditionally regarded in the West and many other places as beneath the dignity of human beings as free and rational creatures. Early advocates of this cause, such as Margaret Sanger, Alfred Kinsey, and Hugh Hefner, proposed to “liberate” people from “repressive” moral standards that pointlessly deprived individuals of what they insisted were harmless pleasures, and impeded the free development of their personalities. They attacked and ridiculed traditional norms of sexual conduct as mere “hangups” that it was long past time for sophisticated people to get over. By the early 1970s, their basic outlook had become the mainstream view among cultural elites in the U.S. and elsewhere in the West. Although Sanger was a racist and a eugenicist, though Kinsey was a liar and a fraud, though Hefner was a buffoon, the liberationist view they had championed eventually hardened into something very close to a matter of orthodoxy in elite circles, and liberalism as a political movement went for it hook, line, and sinker. Devotion to “sexual freedom” had been no part of the liberalism of FDR, George Meaney, Cesar Chavez, Hubert Humphrey, or the leaders and rank-and-file members of the civil-rights movement. Today, however, allegiance to the cause of sexual freedom is the nonnegotiable price of admission to the liberal (or “progressive”) club. It is worth noting that more than a few conservatives have bought into a (more limited) version of it as well, as we see in the debate over redefining marriage.

As Sherif Girgis, Ryan Anderson, and I argue in our Harvard Journal of Law and Public Policy article, once one buys into the ideology of sexual liberalism, the reality that has traditionally been denominated as “marriage” loses all intelligibility. That is true whether one regards oneself politically as a liberal or a conservative. For people who have absorbed the central premises of sexual liberation (whether formally and explicitly, as liberals tend to do, or merely implicitly as those conservatives who have gone in for it tend to do), marriage simply cannot function as the central principle or standard of rectitude in sexual conduct, as it has in Western philosophy, theology, and law for centuries. The idea that sexual intercourse (the behavioral component of reproduction) consummates and actualizes marriage as a one-flesh union of sexually complementary spouses naturally ordered to the good of procreation loses its force and even its sense. The moral belief that sex belongs in (and only in) marriage, where it is of unitive as well as procreative significance, and where the unitive and procreative dimensions are intrinsically connected (though not in a mere relationship of means to end), begins to seem baseless — the sort of thing that can be believed, if at all, only on the authority of revealed religion. As a result, to the extent that one is in the grip of sexual-liberationist ideology, one will find no reason of moral principle why people oughtn’t to engage in sexual relations prior to marriage, cohabit in non-marital sexual partnerships, form same-sex sexual partnerships, or confine their sexual partnerships to two persons, rather than three or more in polyamorous sexual ensembles.

Moreover, one will come to regard one’s allegiance to sexual liberalism as a mark of urbanity and sophistication, and will likely find oneself looking down on those “ignorant,” “intolerant,” “bigoted” people — those hicks and rubes — who refuse to get “on the right side of history.” One will perceive people who wish to engage in conduct rejected by traditional morality (especially where such conduct is sought in satisfaction of desires that can be redescribed or labeled as an “orientation,” such as “gay” or “bisexual,” or “polyamorist”) as belonging to the category of “sexual minorities” whose “civil rights” are violated by laws embodying the historic understanding of marriage and sexual ethics. One will begin congratulating oneself for one’s “open-mindedness” and “tolerance” in holding that marriage should be redefined to accommodate the interests of these minorities, and one will likely lose any real regard for the rights of, say, parents who do not wish to have their children indoctrinated into the ideology of sexual liberalism in public schools. “Why,” one will ask, “should fundamentalist parents be free to rear their children as little bigots?” Heather’s two mommies or Billy’s two mommies and three daddies are the keys to freeing children from parental “homophobia” and “polyphobia.”

Now, New York is obviously one of the most socially liberal states in the Union. There are, to be sure, many New Yorkers who reject sexual-liberationist ideology and believe in true marriage, which is why pro-marriage forces in the state were able to put up quite a fight, but they are not well-represented in the elite sector of society and at the moment they lack the powerful political leadership one finds on the other side. There is no Chris Christie at the helm in New York. Gov. Andrew Cuomo and Mayor Michael Bloomberg, the state’s two most powerful and influential politicians, plainly buy much, if not all, of the ideology of sexual liberalism and publicly lead their lives in accordance with it. Although they claim to be supporters of marriage who merely want to “expand” the institution (or expand “access” to the institution) out of respect for what they regard as the civil rights of people to have their romantic partnerships (whatever their shape) recognized and legitimated by the state, both are reported by New York media to openly cohabit with women with whom they are not married. They do this not in defiance of their stated beliefs about sexual morality and marriage, but in line with those beliefs. Neither supposes that he and his mistress are setting a bad example for children or undermining the public’s faith in important marital norms. As orthodox sexual liberals, neither the governor nor the mayor believes in a conception of marriage in which marriage is normative for sexual partnering; indeed, neither believes in norms of sexual morality as traditionally conceived, even apart from any question about same-sex partnerships. Both regard “civil marriage” as nothing more than the legal blessing of romantic partnerships, and neither gives any indication of ever having remotely considered an alternative view. Both have so thoroughly absorbed the premises of sexual liberal ideology that the possibility of an alternative doesn’t cross their minds. For them, it is all a matter of “us urbane, sophisticated, tolerant, open-minded, defenders of civil rights, against those ignorant, intolerant, hateful homophobes.

Adam Nicolson over at the Wall Street Journal writes on the decline of biblical literacy:

Up until, say, 100 years ago, biblical literacy would have been practically mandatory. If you didn’t know what “the powers that be” originally referred to, or where “the writing on the wall” was first seen, or what was meant by “the patience of Job,” “Jacob’s ladder” or “the salt of the earth” – if you didn’t know what an exodus was or a genesis, a fatted or a golden calf – you would have been excluded from the culture.

It might be said that a civilization consists, at its core, of these easily transmitted packages of implication. They are one of the mechanisms by which cultures can be both efficient and rich. You don’t have to return to first principles every time you wish to communicate. You can play your present tune on a received instrument, knowing that your listener hears not only your own music but the subtle melodies of those who played it before you. There is a common wisdom in common knowledge.

But does this Bible-informed world still exist? I would guess that on the whole, and outside committed Christian groups, biblical literacy is a thing of the past.

And the momentum of the past is giving out.

Matthew Hennessey writes in “Nancy Pelosi, Devout Catholic”:

I happened to watch a YouTube video recently of Rick Santorum’s much discussed August appearance on CNN’s Piers Morgan Tonight. In it, the twice-married British tabloid editor and America’s Got Talent judge hectored the Catholic former Pennsylvania senator to admit that his (and by extension, his church’s) positions on same-sex marriage “are bordering on bigotry.” Santorum wouldn’t take the bait, countering that Morgan’s characterization of the Church’s position was itself bigoted. To which the host somewhat predictably replied, “Well, I’m a Catholic too, and I just think that unfortunately we’re in a different era now, we’re in a modern world.”

Santorum’s rejoinder-that truth isn’t truth if it changes from era to era-was a consistent and entirely reasonable response to Morgan’s relentless attempts to provoke and embarrass him. As a viewer (and, dare I say it, as a Catholic), what I would have preferred Santorum had said was, “You say you are a Catholic. Can you prove it?”

These pseudo-Catholics are having a laugh at the expense of all those who attend Mass, are committed to their faith, and respect the magisterium. For Nancy Pelosi to call herself a Catholic, while accusing actual Catholics of opposing abortion out of some desire merely to hurt women simply beggars belief. The onus should be on Nancy Pelosi and those like her to substantiate their claims of faith. To paraphrase the Marx brothers: Who are you gonna believe, me or your lying eyes?

Bruce Walker writes in “Why They Hate Us”:

There is a vast divide of faith which separates conservative Americans and Israelis on one side and the rest of mankind, which hates them, on the other. Americans are profoundly religious, and despite a full court press by secular progressives over sixty years, “Red State” America is much more religious than “Blue State” America – and America, taken as a whole, is dramatically more religious than European nations, with the percentage of Americans who consider religion “very important” 50%, compared to 22% in Spain, 21% in Germany, 17% in Britain, and 13% in France.

The Bolsheviks long ago recognized that chic European (or American) agnosticism was politically very close to militant Islam, which is why virtually every Muslim “leader” of the last sixty years has also wholeheartedly embraced some incarnation of socialism and rejected our foundational documents’ famous language about all men being endowed by our Creator with certain inalienable rights.

This is also why Keller, in his 1936 book Church and State on the European Continent, wrote: “Fritz Lieb compares Bolshevism with Islam, the strongest enemy of the Christian faith[.] ... Leninism is a camouflaged secular religion[.]” This is why, during the 1950s, Moscow was writing of the “progressive role” played by mullahs and why in a November 1951 article in the Telegraph-Herald, William Ryan noted: “Communists have infiltrated in the Muslim brotherhood, now in the forefront of the chaos in Egypt after having been suppressed by some time.”

It also explains why the Soviet Union so passionately and wickedly supported Arab Muslims in their war against Jews in Palestine before the Second World War began. The Jewish people and religiously serious Christians are the common enemies of all those unsavory groups which seem, only superficially, to have nothing in common.

Henrik R. Clausen reviews Modern Day Trojan Horse: The Islamic Doctrine of Immigration:

As has been pointed out by Robert R. Reilly (The Closing of the Muslim Mind) and others, Islam as a theological system has, step by step, lost the connection to Hellenic thought and ideals, respect for reason, the notion of causality (that laws of nature govern the physical world), the notion of individual responsibility, and has devolved into a Rule of Will, commonly known as ‘despotism’. Instrumental in this rule is the Shariah, as established and interpreted by the Islamic clergy.

Islam today consists mainly of its legal code, the Shariah. Islamic law is derived from the life and actions of Muhammad. Codifying his life into law has been a major undertaking by Islamic scholars through the centuries, resulting in detailed manuals of conduct like Reliance of the Traveller, which describe in detail how a pious Muslim is supposed to behave.

All Western attempts at establishing a totalitarian state have failed miserably. In the Islamic Middle East, however, the religious authority of Muhammad, combined with extensive enforcement on every level of society, regulating every aspect of human behaviour is largely successful, largely due to the religious prestige associated with interpreting Islamic law accurately.

The grand ambition of Islamists is to implement this system everywhere in the world.

The always wise Thomas Sowell writes in“Depending on Dependency”:

Milton Friedman pointed out that the heyday of free market capitalism in the 19th century was a period of an unprecedented rise in philanthropic activity. Going even further back in time, in the 18th century Adam Smith, the patron saint of free market economics, was discovered from records examined after his death to have privately made large charitable donations, far beyond what might have been expected from someone of his income level.

Helping those who have been struck by unforeseeable misfortunes is fundamentally different from making dependency a way of life.

Although the big word on the left is “compassion,” the big agenda on the left is dependency. The more people who are dependent on government handouts, the more votes the left can depend on for an ever-expanding welfare state.

Optimistic Republicans who say that widespread unemployment and record numbers of people on food stamps hurt President Obama’s reelection chances are overlooking the fact that people who are dependent on government are more likely to vote for politicians who are giving them handouts.

Outspoken atheist Penn Gillette writes in the Los Angeles Times:

Atheists are growing way fast, from under 2% to about 8% just in this century. If you throw in self-labeled agnostics and those who identify as not religious, you’re getting up to around 20%. Evangelicals are about 26%, Catholics about 23%, Jews, 1.7%, Mormons also 1.7% — if you start breaking Christians up into their smaller groups, nonbelievers come close to being the dominant religion, if you can call no religion a religion, like calling not collecting stamps a hobby.

Let’s just hope our politicians keep expanding the group of people they want to serve. Rather than embracing Christian as the magic word of politics, we can move on to the truly magical word: American. And maybe we can even go a step further and make the magic word “humanity.”

Spoken like a true humanist. I admit I have no idea what that stamp collecting reference is about.

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