The Eye of Sauron

The Behemoth Prism program, under which the Federal NSA snoops on essentially all the phone calls and web activity of all Americans, is operated for the ostensible purpose of protecting us from Moslem terrorist plots developing on American soil. We do indeed need to counter the threat of terrorism within our borders. But there would be no such terrorism in the first place – or, at least, very little – if there were no Moslems in North America. What it amounts to, then, is that our governors are keeping track of everything Americans say electronically *so that* they can keep welcoming Moslems to this country with open arms – and keep alive the threat of Moslem terrorism. The program is needed so that the program can be kept needful.

Would the Prism program exist if there were no Moslems in North America, or therefore any Moslem terrorism? Of course. It’s just that in that case our overseers would be forced to trot out some other rationale for its existence; war with EastAsia, perhaps, rather than with NearEastAsia.

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Is It Possible to Discriminate and Still Be a Christian?

This is a guest post by regular commenter Finn McCool

This very question has been percolating in my mind for many years now. I am a middle-aged man and I have never heard a sermon preached in any church which did not at least tacitly affirm the standard liberal view; i.e. that all discrimination is sinful. You may be wondering if I have any standing that would qualify me to speak on such a delicate subject. Well, I can tell you that I am an ordained presbyter, with orders in one of the conservative “alphabet soup” Anglican groups (e.g. ACC, ACNA, APCK, REC, etc.). I have an M. A. in Theology from a conservative, evangelical seminary, and I have been employed as a Bible instructor in a small Christian high school for close to ten years. I teach the Bible for a living, and in working through the scriptures I am daily reminded that the Triune God of the Bible is far tougher than the Unitarian god in whom “we trust” as Americans.

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The uniquely anti-modern religion

We’re always being told that Christians need to find a way to “embrace the modern world” or find our “own way to be modern”.  The quick reply, of course, is that one should not embrace evil and vulgarity just because they happen to be popular right now.  If something in modernity is good, let it argue itself on its merits.  This reply can be addressed to anyone, but for Christians the stakes are particularly high.

Before this year, my impression was that all religions were eroded by modernity, with Judaism being hardest hit, then Christianity, then Islam, but all of them facing the same grim fate if liberalism is not overturned.  I’d been hearing reports (e.g. the one linked by Kristor a while back) for some time that Orthodox Judaism is actually thriving in the modern world, but it took a long time for this (to me) counterintuitive fact to sink in.  In fact, it seems that Christianity is, among the world religions, uniquely maladapted to modernity; it’s response more resembles that of tribal animism.  Both liberal and conservative Christianity are in manifest decline over all the former lands of Christendom.  Meanwhile, Islam inspires its youth in ways Christianity can’t even fathom.  Liberal and Orthodox Judaism are both succeeding by their own measures (e.g. worldly accomplishment and retaining the next generation, respectively).  Hindus never feel the need to explain why their pantheon of gods and fantastic mythology is consistent with modern science and history.  Neither Hindus nor Muslims feel the need to judge their own historical behavior against liberal norms.  It’s as if everyone knows who modernity is aimed at.  Conservative Jews who want to separate themselves from modern corruptions don’t have to reject the core modern narrative of heroic oppressed minorities versus the evil and stupid white Christians.  Indeed, they can embrace it with zeal.  (I hope most of them don’t, but the point is that when they do it just means despising another group, not their own selves and ancestors.)  They can insist to hostile outsiders that by embracing their heritage, they are defying all those anti-semitic, medieval-minded Christians in the red states, and are thus being supremely modern.  The core of modernity is hatred for Christianity.  Other groups can be modern “in their own way”, because this just means they can hate Christians in their own way.  Christians don’t have that option.

Thus, this article is interesting, but it gets things exactly backwards.  It argues that because modernity grew out of Christianity, Islam will be able to smoothly modernize to the extent that it is similar to Christianity.  The truth is the reverse.  Religions are able to smoothly accept modernity (i.e. contemporary anti-Christian bigotry) to the extent that they can differentiate themselves from Christianity.  Islam’s modernization problems come from that faith’s similarity to ours.

PC is Jizya

In the comments of Dr. Bertonneau’s most recent portion of his valuable series on TS Eliot, I wondered idly why the Powers decided that we ought to use “Muslim” in place of the traditional “Moslem.” There followed some interesting offline conversations with Ilion and another regular commenter at the Orthosphere, which led to the discovery of some unexpected connections to apparently unrelated issues.

Really, should we ever be surprised at such discoveries? In a coherent world, how could anything fail to be connected to everything else, whether trivially or not? What is thought but an exploration of that network of connections?

This post then is mostly a recapitulation of the exploration I undertook with Ilion and my other correspondent. My thanks to them both.

What did the exploration unfold? “Language is an instrument of power, whether we want to think of it that way or not. E.g., I doubt you would say that the move from AD and BC to CE and BCE was innocent of political implication.” Ergo: Politically correct speech is a type of jizya, the head tax Muslims imposed on infidels under their power: Christians, Jews, &c.

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“The Other Iranian Revolution”

That’s the title of an article in Christianity Today in which Matthias Pankau and Uwe Siemon-Netto report on an encouraging phenomenon among Moslems in Germany and, by implication, throughout the House of Islam. The title is an exaggeration, but the phenomenon to which it refers is worth knowing.

To quote from the article:

Some German clerics speak of a divinely scripted drama that includes countless reports of Muslims having visions of Jesus. According to Martens and others interviewed for this article, most of these appearances follow a pattern reported by converts throughout the Islamic world [emphasis added]: Muslims see a figure of light, sometimes bearing the features of Christ, sometimes not. But they instantly know who he is. He always makes it clear that he is Jesus of the Bible, not Isa of the Qur’an, and he directs them to specific pastors, priests, congregations, or house churches, where they later hear the gospel. Continue reading

I disagree: when is it not appropriate to beat your wife?

I just know I’m going to get grief for this, but long-time readers know I have a mischievous streak that causes me to always sympathize with an obvious villain.  I was pleased to see the obviously gallant Michael Avramovich, in his recent Mere Comments post, doesn’t just invite Muslims to be “partners for social justice” or some liberal crap like that; he invites them to leave their false religion and embrace Jesus Christ as their Saviour.  The dude talks like a Christian.  However, we must be careful that it is Christ Himself we promote to the infidel and not our contingent cultural norms, rightly though we cling to them ourselves.

Avramovich is outraged at Muslim cultures’ supposed permissiveness towards domestic violence.  The Koran says that a husband may punish a disobedient wife by swatting her with a toothbrush-size stick, which a millenium-and-a-half later has led to the following:

one-half of ever-married Egyptian women agree that a husband is justified in beating his wife for at least one of the following reasons: She goes out without telling him (40 percent), neglects the children (40 percent), argues with him (37 percent), refuses to have sex with him (34 percent), or burns food (19 percent). Seventeen percent of the women surveyed agreed that a husband is justified in beating his wife for all five reasons.

And yet the Muslims say they don’t endorse spousal abuse!  Surely this is a case of the sinister “taqiyya” in action.  Well, wait.  It depends a lot on what these Egyptian girls understand by the word “beating”.  Here’s a question for you:  what is your position on spanking?  Is corporal punishment of children a human rights abuse that should be outlawed?  Not being a liberal twit, I assume your answer is “no”.  Well, then, does that mean that you endorse child abuse, since you’re okay with using “violence” against children?  In the context of children, most people realize that there’s a difference between swatting a kid on the behind as a calm, measured disciplinary action and flying into a rage and breaking his arm.  Now, suppose we had a custom of spanking our wives when they’re disobedient, which is worse than flicking them with toothbrushes.  “Outrageous”, you say?  Well, if corporal punishment is such a uniquely horrible form of punishment, shouldn’t we reserve it for adults rather than for children?  “But it’s demeaning because it’s a punishment for children”, you say?  Well, as soon as we start applying it to adults, that will cease to be a problem.  Now, I personally don’t use corporal punishment of any kind on my wife or daughter, but I wouldn’t say that the natural law absolutely forbids it.  Of course, some brutal men go much further than toothbrush swatting or spanking, but such abuse is condemned by Islam as much as by Christianity.  It could be that those Egyptian gals really think it’s okay for them to be thrashed to within an inch of their life for burning the food, but I doubt it.  Cultural context is everything.

Cycles of History, Hiatuses of Civilization, and the Western Prospect

Introduction. A correspondent who has made a notable success in the financial world recently sent me two essays – of which he was the author – that revealed a keen sense of history, anthropology, and literature, as applied to the analysis large-scale economic trends.  Whereas my own extremely limited economic knowledge inclined me at first to trepidation, I soon found the writer’s insistence on the human character of markets and money refreshing.  I had recently taken over my department’s “Business in Literature” course, in the context of which, at the beginning of the semester, I asked the students to read The Gift (1925) by Marcel Mauss.  The Gift proposes, among other theses, that the modern market remains human only insofar as it preserves certain archaic customs related to gift giving.  Why does a restaurateur put bread on the table as soon as the guest sits down?  When the guest takes the bread, he has accepted a gift, and he must reciprocate the gift-giver somehow – say, by buying a meal.  No doubt in a “planned economy,” the planners would reject le pain à volonté as an inefficient allocation of resources, whereupon the transaction would become purely transactional and less-than-fully human.  The restaurateur’s gesture contributes, in its gentle way, to civilization.  The planner’s rational objection de-civilizes.  Indeed, the planner is likely a plunderer also, with a covetous redistributive interest in the guest’s domestic larder.

Like Mauss’s idea of archaic exchange, my correspondent’s idea of finance refused to isolate economics from other institutions including religion.  The human element will appear to efficiency experts as exiguous to the economic paradigm when in fact it is essential.  By a coincidence, I was also teaching my “Science Fiction” course during the same semester, where a number of the texts dealt with history on a large scale, using the actual historical knowledge as the basis of speculating about the future, near and far.  The same texts insisted that civilization tends to be a transient affair – canceled fairly regularly by catastrophes of various kinds, human and natural.  My correspondent in his writings indicated a similar intuition.  His vision of economic promise found its balance in his wisdom about political miscalculation, ideological perversity, and the unforeseen.  I wanted to respond to the writer’s two rich texts.  What follows, protecting the correspondent’s anonymity, is that response.  I tried to place my appreciation of the essay-writer’s vision in context of my own recent reading, with the emphasis on one or two new titles by the literary anthropologist René Girard, Emmet Scott’s re-consideration of Henri Pirenne’s claim that Classical civilization survived until about 650 AD, in Mohammed and Charlemagne Revisited (2012), and the works of two Edwardian futurists whom I particularly cherish, H. G. Wells and W. Olaf Stapledon.  I ask my readers to trust me.  The mixture is not as arbitrary as it sounds.

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Modern Architecture, Islam, & the Indispensability of the Trinity

From time to time the Orthosphere publishes essays submitted by readers. This essay, by frequent commenter Dale James Nelson, is our first. It is particularly apt for Maundy Thursday.

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On March 16, at his Miscellany, Dr. Bruce Charlton posted a brief entry under the title A Soul-less Building vs. a Soul-Destroying Building. He wrote, “A building that actively sucks-out your soul is worse than a building which is a desert for the soul.”

Reading Dr. Charlton’s entry, I remembered part of an essay by Roger Scruton, The West and the Rest, published in 2002. If you’re like me, you tend to skim or skip long quotations in blogs.  Please do read the following passages from Scruton. They speak to Dr. Charlton’s point about architecture – living spaces, work places – that nurture the soul – or that, as is the way of modernity, starve or damage the soul.

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Is the enemy of our enemy our friend?

That is, are orthodox, anti-modernist Muslims, to use a bit of Leninist jargon, “objective allies” of the Orthosphere right? I previously thought they were, but I’ve now increasingly come to think that any kind of alliance with Islam would be neither pragmatically useful nor morally acceptable. Here, in relatively succinct form, are the four main reasons for this change of heart (I will probably return to this subject in greater detail later):

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