Barack Obama, in his own words, on Islam and Christianity

obama-churchBarack Obama self-identifies as a Christian.  He seems, though, to find Christianity troubling.  Meanwhile, although he denies being a Muslim, he obviously finds it an emotionally and aesthetically attractive belief system.  Why do I say this?  Because someone was good enough to assemble a list of his statements about both religions, and to put them side-by-side:

Obama on Islam:

1. “The future must not belong to those who slander the prophet of Islam”

2. “The sweetest sound I know is the Muslim call to prayer”

3. “We will convey our deep appreciation for the Islamic faith, which has done so much over the centuries to shape the world — including in my own country.”

4. “As a student of history, I also know civilization’s debt to Islam.”

5. “Islam has a proud tradition of tolerance.”

6. “Islam has always been part of America”

7. “we will encourage more Americans to study in Muslim communities”

8. “These rituals remind us of the principles that we hold in common, and Islam’s role in advancing justice, progress, tolerance, and the dignity of all human beings.”

9. “America and Islam are not exclusive and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles of justice and progress, tolerance and the dignity of all human beings.”

10. “I made it clear that America is not – and will never be – at war with Islam.”

11. “Islam is not part of the problem in combating violent extremism – it is an important part of promoting peace.”

12. “So I have known Islam on three continents before coming to the region where it was first revealed”

13. “In ancient times and in our times, Muslim communities have been at the forefront of innovation and education.”

14. “Throughout history, Islam has demonstrated through words and deeds the possibilities of religious tolerance and racial equality.”

15. “Ramadan is a celebration of a faith known for great diversity and racial equality”

16. “The Holy Koran tells us, ‘O mankind! We have created you male and a female; and we have made you into nations and tribes so that you may know one another.’”

17. “I look forward to hosting an Iftar dinner celebrating Ramadan here at the White House later this week, and wish you a blessed month.”

18. “We’ve seen those results in generations of Muslim immigrants – farmers and factory workers, helping to lay the railroads and build our cities, the Muslim innovators who helped build some of our highest skyscrapers and who helped unlock the secrets of our universe.”

19. “That experience guides my conviction that partnership between America and Islam must be based on what Islam is, not what it isn’t. And I consider it part of my responsibility as president of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”

20. “I also know that Islam has always been a part of America’s story.”

Obama on Christianity:

1. “Whatever we once were, we are no longer a Christian nation”

2. “We do not consider ourselves a Christian nation.”

3. “Which passages of scripture should guide our public policy? Should we go with Leviticus, which suggests slavery is OK and that eating shellfish is an abomination? Or we could go with Deuteronomy, which suggests stoning your child if he strays from the faith?”

4. “Even those who claim the Bible’s inerrancy make distinctions between Scriptural edicts, sensing that some passages – the Ten Commandments, say, or a belief in Christ’s divinity – are central to Christian faith, while others are more culturally specific and may be modified to accommodate modern life.”

5. “The American people intuitively understand this, which is why the majority of Catholics practice birth control and some of those opposed to gay marriage nevertheless are opposed to a Constitutional amendment to ban it. Religious leadership need not accept such wisdom in counseling their flocks, but they should recognize this wisdom in their politics.”

6. From Obama’s book, The Audacity of Hope: “I am not willing to have the state deny American citizens a civil union that confers equivalent rights on such basic matters as hospital visitation or health insurance coverage simply because the people they love are of the same sex—nor am I willing to accept a reading of the Bible that considers an obscure line in Romans to be more defining of Christianity than the Sermon on the Mount.”

7. Obama’s response when asked what his definition of sin is: “Being out of alignment with my values.”

8. “If all it took was someone proclaiming I believe Jesus Christ and that he died for my sins, and that was all there was to it, people wouldn’t have to keep coming to church, would they.”

9. “This is something that I’m sure I’d have serious debates with my fellow Christians about. I think that the difficult thing about any religion, including Christianity, is that at some level there is a call to evangelize and prostelytize. There’s the belief, certainly in some quarters, that people haven’t embraced Jesus Christ as their personal savior that they’re going to hell.”

10. “I find it hard to believe that my God would consign four-fifths of the world to hell. I can’t imagine that my God would allow some little Hindu kid in India who never interacts with the Christian faith to somehow burn for all eternity. That’s just not part of my religious makeup.”

11. “I don’t presume to have knowledge of what happens after I die. But I feel very strongly that whether the reward is in the here and now or in the hereafter, the aligning myself to my faith and my values is a good thing.”

12. “I’ve said this before, and I know this raises questions in the minds of some evangelicals. I do not believe that my mother, who never formally embraced Christianity as far as I know … I do not believe she went to hell.”

13. “Those opposed to abortion cannot simply invoke God’s will–they have to explain why abortion violates some principle that is accessible to people of all faiths.”

14. On his support for civil unions for gay couples: “If people find that controversial then I would just refer them to the Sermon on the Mount.”

15. “You got into these small towns in Pennsylvania and, like a lot of small towns in the Midwest, the jobs have been gone now for 25 years and nothing’s replaced them. And they fell through the Clinton Administration, and the Bush Administration, and each successive administration has said that somehow these communities are gonna regenerate and they have not. And it’s not surprising then they get bitter, they cling to guns or religion or antipathy to people who aren’t like them or anti-immigrant sentiment or anti-trade sentiment as a way to explain their frustrations.”

16. “In our household, the Bible, the Koran and the Bhagavad Gita sat on the shelf alongside books of Greek and Norse and African mythology”

17. “On Easter or Christmas Day, my mother might drag me to church, just as she dragged me to the Buddhist temple, the Chinese New Year celebration, the Shinto shrine, and ancient Hawaiian burial sites.”

18. “We have Jews, Muslims, Hindus, atheists, agnostics, Buddhists, and their own path to grace is one that we have to revere and respect as much as our own”

19. “All of us have a responsibility to work for the day when the mothers of Israelis and Palestinians can see their children grow up without fear; when the Holy Land of the three great faiths is the place of peace that God intended it to be; when Jerusalem is a secure and lasting home for Jews and Christians and Muslims, and a place for all of the children of Abraham to mingle peacefully together as in the story of Isra— (applause) — as in the story of Isra, when Moses, Jesus, and Mohammed, peace be upon them, joined in prayer. (Applause.)”

20. “I believe that there are many paths to the same place, and that is a belief that there is a higher power, a belief that we are connected as a people.”

The list doesn’t mean that Obama isn’t a troubled, doubting Christian, or that he’s a closet Muslim.  As Queen Elizabeth I said, it’s not up to us to make windows into men’s souls. But the list of those statements, all of which I remember him making in real-time, strongly indicate that, whatever his actual beliefs, Obama’s affinity (which is different from his faith) seems to hew towards Islam, rather than to the Judeo-Christianity that has for so long underpinned our nation.

Currently, you can find the list here and here.  I found it at American Thinker.

 

Secularists: It’s Christians who are killing Christianity

A joyous full immersion baptismBefore I explain how Christians are killing Christianity (at least according to Alternet and Salon), a short anecdote:  I have friends who used to joke that they would take up smoking when their kids were teens.  Why?  So that the kids, who they assumed would be rebellious, would rebel against Mom and Dad by not smoking.  And now back to Alternet/Salon, where an atheist triumphantly reports that, not only is Christianity dying in America, but also that children raised in Christian homes are part of the demographic most enthusiastically embracing atheism:

The fastest growing religious faith in the United States is the group collectively labeled “Nones,” who spurn organized religion in favor of non-defined skepticism about faith. About two-thirds of Nones say they are former believers. This is hugely significant. The trend is very much that Americans raised in Christian households are shunning the religion of their parents for any number of reasons: the advancement of human understanding; greater access to information; the scandals of the Catholic Church; and the over-zealousness of the Christian Right.

Speaking facetiously, I would suggest that, as children in Christian households become teens, their parents ought to indulge in a little Satan worship to help drive their rebellious youngsters back into the religious fold.  On a more serious note, the fact is that young people do rebel . . . and that older people seem to crave faith.  It’s natural when you’re invincible (as all young people are) to feel that you don’t need a God.  And it’s equally natural that, as you age, and see the chaos inherent in the world and feel mortality breathing down your neck, that faith starts to seem like a light and a refuge.  I wouldn’t immediately start panicking about non-religious millennials.

Another analogy relevant to this issue:  Imagine a family with a dog.  One owner hates begging dogs and refuses to feed the dog table scraps.  The other owner loves feeding table scraps.  Torn between the two owners, it’s no contest:  The dog will become a beggar.  The lowest common denominator behavior always wins.

Christianity makes demands upon its adherents.  You have to elevate yourself against your baser instincts.  American secularism, by contrast, encourages people to indulge their baser instincts (mostly their sexual ones).  In a competition between the two, the lowest common denominator behavior will prevail.

Here’s hope, though:  Humans aren’t dogs.  Dogs will beg until they’re too fat to move and everyone hates having them around . . . and they’ll still beg.  Humans, however, have a sense of self-worth that dogs lack.  Unlike dogs, humans have to look at themselves in the mirror and many of them who have spent years living the self-indulgent life of the secularist don’t like what they see.  Religion promises redemption.

Anyway, this is a bit of a choppy post, so I’d very much like to hear what you have to say on the subject.  I think what I’m trying to say is that Christians shouldn’t give up the fight to raise their children in the faith, no matter the numbers.  And having said that, here’s one more choppy point:  secularism ultimately is very thin gruel, since it doesn’t offer answers addressing every thinking person’s existential anxiety.  Faith always fills the vacuum . . . and Islam is the most aggressive faith in the world, one that has no compunction about alternately enticing and bullying lost souls to get on board.

(And while we’re on the subject of faith, David Goldman analyzes the faith underlying modern secularism.)

Liberal tolerance

Man with mouth taped shut1.  British Christians are slowly being banned from advocating traditional Christian views . . . such as the belief that marriage should involve one man and one woman.  The only allowable morality is that which does not align with traditional Judeo-Christian doctrines.

2.  A well-known Hispanic actress was fired from play because she supports a Tea Party candidate.  “‘Of course she has the right to say whatever she wants. But we’re in the middle of the Mission [District in San Francisco]. Doing what she is doing is against what we believe,’ Lopez [wife of far Left S.F. Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi] said.”  In other words, Hispanics are not allowed not hold any views inconsistent with the Democrat party platform.

3.  Andrew Cuomo, governor of New York:  “The Republican Party candidates are running against the SAFE Act — it was voted for by moderate Republicans who run the Senate! Their problem is not me and the Democrats; their problem is themselves. Who are they? Are they these extreme conservatives who are right-to-life, pro-assault-weapon, anti-gay? Is that who they are? Because if that’s who they are and they’re the extreme conservatives, they have no place in the state of New York, because that’s not who New Yorkers are.”  Support the Second Amendment?  New York is not the place for you.  Agree with roughly half the country that pregnant women aren’t the ones making a “sacrifice” when they abort a fetus?  Leave New York.  Now!!

That’s just from the past couple of days.  Please feel free to add any I missed.

Thoughts on the Robertson kerfuffle

Phil-Robertson-813x1024In random order:

1.  A&E is not a government entity and is within its rights to make insanely stupid, bigoted decisions.

2.  Phil Robertson doesn’t need A&E but, judging by his show’s popularity, A&E needs him.

3.  GLAAD is a fascist organization.  A friend of mine who was watching CNN caught a GLAAD advocate said that the world is changing and Robertson needs to “…get in line.”  In other words, my friend accurately notes, GLAAD is saying that Robertson is guilty of thought crimes.  How very Orwellian.

4.  As others have noted, and contrary to the Drudge headline, Robertson did not go on a “rant,” nor did he compare homosexuality to bestiality.  What he said was (1) that, physically and emotionally, the homosexual act makes no sense to him; (2) that the Bible characterizes homosexual acts as a sin, as it does several other sexual behaviors, including adultery; and (3) that, while he’s bewildered by homosexual acts, it’s God’s responsibility, not his, to decide whether and what consequences sinful acts deserve.

5.  Nobody knows what the contract is with the other members of the Robertson clan, so it’s still up in the air whether they will be allowed to leave or to speak of Robertson’s beliefs when they start filming next year’s season.  (This year’s episodes are already filmed.)  It’s also unknown whether, contract or not, the other members will nevertheless stage a walk-out or something.

6.  You can boycott A&E if you want, but they’ll never know unless you’re a Nielson household.  The better thing to do is to boycott companies that advertise on A&E.  Indeed, the best thing to do is to copy GLAAD and other “queer rights” organizations, and to make the advertisers completely miserable.  Remember — always follow the money.

7.  It amazes me that our “first gay president” hasn’t yet waded in this matter.  It is, after all, the only issue that seems to stiffen his backbone.

8.  One wonders if there are enough people left in America who care enough to push back against these attacks on speech and faith.  I know there are people who care, of course.  I’m just wondering whether there are still enough of them, and they are exercised enough, and powerful enough, to make a difference.

For more on this, I recommend Noisy Room’s take.

The reason that liberals hate Christianity, but ignore Islam

One of the things that’s frustrating for non-liberals and non-Progressives is Leftists’ refusal to look Islam in the face (so to speak).  Yes, there are crazy people who are Christians and there are entire Christian sects that are crazy (such as the Westboro Baptists or Warren Jeffs’ polygamist Mormon cult).  The fact remains, however, that Christians as a whole, whether they belong to big churches or small ones, do not embrace or practice terrorism to achieve their political or religious goals.

Muslims, by contrast, routinely practice terrorism to achieve goals that are simultaneously religious and political, owing to Islam’s fusion of God and state.  Even though it’s remarkably simple to tie Islam to terrorism (9/11, the underwear bomber, the Fort Hood shooter, the attempted Portland Christmas tree massacre, the Boston Marathon bombing), Leftists scurry around like cockroaches exposed to the light in their desperate attempt to avoid acknowledging Islam’s violent heart.

Today, I read one thing and wrote another, both of which address Leftist hatred for Christianity, even though modern Christianity and genuine Judaism (as opposed to the hard Leftism that masquerades as “reform Judaism”) are the most humane, civilizing forces the world has ever seen.  With their focus on justice and grace, they rid the world of slavery, ended child labor, advanced women’s status and, in Israel’s case, fought a 60-year war without sinking to the level of her enemies.  But the Left truly hates them and seeks to undermine them at every turn.

The article I read on this subject is Benjamin Wiker’s “Why aren’t liberals more critical of Islam?” In it, he posits that, because secularism arose within and in opposition to a Christian Europe and America, Christianity was its original enemy.  Giving proof, however, to my repeated claim that “Progressives” are actually profoundly “regressive,” secularists (i.e., Leftists) continue their battle with Christianity despite that particular war having ended long ago. Judaism and Christianity absorbed the better parts of secularism while holding on to their core religious principles.

Because they are locked forever in an ideological time warp, says Wiker, liberals (or Progressives or Leftists or whatever else they call themselves to avoid the taint their ideas leave behind) cannot contemplate the possibility that there is another enemy, greater than their old foe Christianity.  Which brings me to a post I did today for Mr. Conservative.  It concerns Michael ‘Mikey’ Weinstein, founder of the Military Religious Freedom Foundation, and one of the most rabid anti-Christians you will ever meet.

When I wrote the post this morning, it made me uncomfortable that such a venomous man is somehow Jewish, whether genetically or in actual practice.  I hate to see that kind of hatred emanate from a group with which I’m affiliated.  However, having read Wiker’s essay, I realize that my concern is unfounded.  Weinstein’s hostility to Christians isn’t because he’s Jewish, it’s because he’s a Leftist.   (Not all Jews are Leftists, and not all Leftists are Jews, but those Jews who are Leftists are amongst the most extreme Leftists.  Mikey’s in that category.)

Here’s my Mr. Conservative post.  See what you think:

SECNAV prayers with Marines and Sailors at Fallujah in 2006

The Obama government sure knows how to pick ‘em. Right now, the Pentagon is concerned about religious intolerance in the American military. When people who are neither Leftists nor career politicians in thrall to the White House think of intolerance in the military, they think of Major Nidal Malik Hasan who went on an “Allahu Akbar” shooting spree at Fort Hood, killing 13 people and injuring more than thirty. The Pentagon, though, isn’t fooled by these false trails. It knows who the really intolerant people in the military are: Christians.

To that end, the military has brought in Michael Weinstein, Esq., a “religious tolerance” specialist and the man who founded the Military Religious Freedom Foundation (“MRFF”). Michael knows all about tolerance. Or at least, he knows all about tolerance in the Obama era. To Michael (or “Mikey” as he likes to be known), a good way to express tolerance is to call Christians “monsters” or, even better “bloody monsters.”

According to Mikey’s tolerant world view, Christians who serve in the American military are “well-funded gangs of fundamentalist Christian monsters who terrorize their fellow Americans by forcing their weaponized and twisted version of Christianity upon their helpless subordinates in our nation’s armed forces.” And that’s just Mikey’s throat-clearing.

Troll through an article Mikey wrote in The Huffington Post to justify his tolerant attack on alleged Christian intolerance in the American military, and you’ll learn quickly that the people he’s out to destroy (tolerantly, of course) are “evil, fundamentalist Christian creatures.” They are “bandits” who “coagulate their stenchful substances” in religiously-based organizations that support traditional marriage and oppose abortion. Don’t be fooled by these old-fashioned values, though. In fact, says Mikey, “The basis of their ruinous unity is the bane of human existence and progress: horrific hatred and blinding bigotry.”

What inspired Weinstein’s apopletic rage is the fact that conservatives took offense when the military piggy-backed on a delusional Southern Poverty Law Center screed and identified conservative Christians as the greatest terrorist threat in America. Because these groups use hate-filled language, Mikey says, such as “God Hates Fags” or “Thank God for IEDs,” they’re obviously one step away from committing a bomb attack in a major American city. (It’s so magical. It’s as if 9/11, Fort Hood, and the Boston bombing never happened!)

If Mikey is correct, that toxic, hate-filled rhetoric is all one needs to prove that a person or organization constitutes an imminent danger, then Mikey better start looking over his shoulder. Considering the “evil, fundamentalist Christian creatures,” “bandits (who) coagulate their stenchful substances,” and “monsters” who inhabit his rhetorical world, he looks like he’s ready to blow.

What Mikey can’t comprehend is that, while mainstream Christians and conservatives routinely condemn and distance themselves from organizations such as the Westboro Baptist Church, Mikey gets to disseminate his particular brand of hate-filled, toxic intolerance at a major Progressive internet outlet.

Even worse than the applause he’s getting from the mainstream Left is the fact that he’s been taken on by the Pentagon as a consultant to help develop new policies on religious tolerance in the military. These new policies will include rules for court-martialing military chaplains who use the Christian gospel when they counsel the American troops under their care. Or, as MRFF Advisory Board member Larry Wilkerson told The Washington Post, they essentially sexually assaulting the troops with their God talk.

No kidding. Wilkerson says that “Sexual assault and proselytizing are absolutely destructive of the bonds that keep soldiers together.” Lest there be any misunderstanding, Mikey clarified to The Post what Wilkerson really meant:

This is a national security threat. What is happening [aside from sexual assault] is spiritual rape. And what the Pentagon needs is to understand is that it is sedition and treason. It should be punished.

Mikey hates everything. Or at least he hates everything that has to do with Christianity. He foams at the mouth, spittle flying, when he talks about Christians, imagining them guilty of the most heinous crimes. The problem is that it’s not Christians committing the crimes he imagines. The major terrorist crimes come from the Islamists, something that Mike and his friends on the Left refuse to acknowledge. It’s bad when even arch-liberal Bill Maher calls this denial “liberal bullshit.”

Speaking of committed, though, in a sane world Mikey’s delusions would have him being checked out by psychiatrists as a clear and present danger. In our insane world, psychiatrists are used to disarm our veterans and the delusional, hate-filled, spittle-flecked Mikey gets to work with the Pentagon to create a tolerance policy that ensures that military chaplains will be court martialed for doing their jobs.

If troops are indeed being punished or ostracized because they don’t embrace a particular form of Christianity, the military has to address that. But Mikey makes it clear that, for him, being Christian is the real problem. In that regard, he’s the typical Leftist who says that the First Amendment, rather than giving people the right to worship, means that the Christian religion must be erased from America.

(End of the Mr. Conservative article, beginning of my last comment on the subject.)

As for me, I think that people who are willing to fight and die for their country in a constitutionally-bound military run by civilians, in a nation controlled by the First Amendment, should be allowed to practice their religion without Leftists denying them the comfort of knowing that, as they go into battle, God walks at their side.

President Obama’s church is the Chapel of (Progressive) Democracy

Best of the Web posts a 2004 interview with Cathleen Falsani of the Chicago Sun-Times in which Obama defines sin, not along traditional Christian or Muslim lines, but along self-referential lines:

Falsani: Do you believe in sin?

Obama: Yes.

Falsani: What is sin?

Obama: Being out of alignment with my values.

The President, when he made that statement about the measure of sin being his own values, might have had in the back of his head the unspoken qualifier that his values are “Christian.” I doubt it, though, because I have found the definitive doctrine of Obama’s faith. Joan Allen, in the 2000 movie The Contender, recites the doctrinal beliefs of what she calls a church based in “this very chapel of democracy.”  I think her church could be more accurately described as The Church of Progressive Political Belief, and it’s clear that President Obama is a devout member.

Here’s the video, followed by a transcript with my interlineations:

Mr. Chairman, Ladies and Gentleman of the Committee.  Remarkably enough, it seems that I have some explaining to do.  So, let me be absolutely clear.

I stand for a woman’s right to choose.

[So does the President, and he stands for making everyone in America, including religious institutions and religious worshippers that are doctrinally opposed to that "right," pay for women's choices.]

I stand for the elimination of the death penalty.

[This has not been an issue for our president, although he does seem uncommonly fond of drones.]

I stand for a strong and growing armed forces because we must stamp out genocide on this planet, and I believe that that is a cause worth dying for.

[Here we have an early articulation of R2P -- responsibility to protect.  In the Progressive canon, our country is not worth fighting for and dying for.  Genocide -- provided that those on the receiving end of genocide are neither Christians nor Jews -- is the real reason a Progressive United States should have a military.  In this regard, it's ironic that president Obama not only presided over two wars, but started a third.]

I stand for seeing every gun taken out of every home.  Period.

[Three words:  Fast and Furious.]

I stand for making the selling cigarettes to our youth a federal offense.

[Because, really, who needs education, the marketplace of ideas, and free will?]

I stand for term limits and campaign reform.

[Obama hasn't said much about term limits, but he's made it clear that his idea of campaign reform is to stifle corporate speech, despite the fact that corporations are aggregations of citizens and pay taxes; and that his personal contribution to campaign reform is to campaign more than all the other presidents since Nixon put together.]

And, Mr. Chairman, I stand for the separation of Church and State, and the reason that I stand for that is the same reason that I believe our forefathers did. It is not there to protect religion from the grasp of government but to protect our government from the grasp of religious fanaticism.

[The Founders could not have made it more clear that Freedom of Religion, which is contained in the First Amendment, protects religion from government, not vice versa.  The Amendment's language is unequivocal:  "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion." There's nothing in there mandating that no religious person can serve in Congress or have a say in America's government.]

Now, I may be an atheist, but that does not mean I do not go to church. I do go to church. The church I go to is the one that emancipated the slaves [that would be the Republican sect of the church], that gave women the right to vote, that gave us every freedom that we hold dear. My church is this very Chapel of Democracy that we sit in together, and I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes. I need my heart, my brain, and this church.  [And there you have it -- President Obama's creed writ large:  "I do not need God to tell me what are my moral absolutes.  I need my heart, my brain, and this (Progressive) church.]

The difference between a Sharia state and a Christian state

The Daily Mail created a lovely matched set, showing side-by-side stories that perfectly illustrate the difference between life in a 21st century Sharia state and life in a 21st century Christian state:

Life in a Sharia state:  “We, the state, are going to kill gays.”

Life in a Christian state:  “I’d like to warn you (admittedly quite rudely) that, in the afterlife God is going to have problems with gays.”

If you’re gay, neither is very nice, but one is insulting, while the other is deadly.  Those who live within a minority community, whether because of race, religion, sexual orientation, etc., might want to think long and hard about whether they want to promote a culture that kills those it dislikes or a culture some of whose members yell at them.  I mention this because the Leftist collective backs the first type of culture; while the much-reviled Western conservatives support the second.

(P.S.  For those wondering why the Daily Mail is the most popular news website in the world, it might have something to do with the fact that it identifies Ihjaz Ali, Kabir Ahmed, and Razwan Javed as “muslim fanatics.” The American press would have wondered why these three men, who just coincidentally happen to have non-American names, suddenly turned against gays — and then would have posited, loudly and often, that Sarah Palin published an ad or made a speech using coded language that triggered this mass homophobia.)

Anne Rice and neo-paganism *UPDATED*

My book club group met the other night to discuss William Manchester’s book A World Lit Only by Fire: The Medieval Mind and the Renaissance: Portrait of an Age. The title is something of a misnomer. It’s only a “portrait of an age” if you want to read a thousand years of medieval history crammed into a single chapter, and written in a style that’s a cross between the National Enquirer (in its pre-Carol Burnett, dishonest days) and Vanity Fair (in “full disdain for conservative shibboleths” mode).  The book is distinguished by being salacious, ill-informed, and anti-Catholic — and it is, for a history book, a very easy read.  I think all these factors explain why it is a regular part of high school and college curricula.

Of course, not all of Manchester’s book is a biased muddle.  One of the things he does well is to describe the way in which the Roman world, with its Christian sub-set, collided with the pagan world.  This collision, and the subsequent “conversion” of the pagans, resulted in the medieval Catholic faith.

The word conversion in the previous paragraph deserves those scare quotes because most of those conversions did not involve informed people making a genuine commitment to the new Christian faith.  Instead, the vast majority of those conversions were nominal only.  If a pagan king converted, all of his subjects “converted” too, although few, if any of them, embraced Christianity’s teachings — including monotheism and the acceptance of Christ as their savior.

The end result was that these newly baptized Christians, many of whom inevitably ended up working within the Church itself, simply grafted their still-existing pagan beliefs onto the completely unfamiliar gospels.  Sometimes this grafting was innocuous.  an good example was the way in which Christ’s birth, which didn’t have a fixed date in the Bible, ended up getting blended with the date of a pagan winter celebration.  No harm, no foul.  Sometimes this grafting was magnificent, since the doctrine of transubstantiation put a final end to the pagan obsession with both animal and human sacrifice.  I don’t know about you, but I consider that one of the greatest leaps forward in human civilization.

Sometimes, however, the intermingling of paganism and Christianity was quite damaging.  The specific damage I’m thinking of is the way the pagans co-opted Christianity as an arm of the state.  I don’t need to remind any of you that this was not Christ’s intent.  He anticipated the founding fathers by more than 1,700 years when he said “Render unto Caesar the things which are Caesar’s, and unto God the things that are God’s.”  (Matthew 22:21.)  In the pagan world, however, church and state had long been inextricably intertwined, and the newly Christianized pagan rulers continued to believe that religion and the state were one and the same.

This meant that pagan political and social ideologies were woven into Christian doctrine.  Now, I’m not Christian, and I haven’t read the New Testament closely in about 30 years, but I’m pretty darn sure that Christ never talked about the Augustinian notion of forced conversions and the merits of religious war, about death for heretics, about saints and relics, or about myriad other practices and procedures that became regular fare, both inside and outside of the walls of the medieval church.  Christ’s silence notwithstanding, all of these beliefs and practices became, in the minds of the common people, core religious doctrine, inseparable from Christ’s teachings.  In other words, popular culture became one with the Gospels, never mind what the Gospels themselves actually said.

Anyway, that’s my take on the worst excesses of the medieval Catholic church, excesses that were cleared away by both the Protestant reformation and by the Catholic Church’s own counter reformation in the wake of the 16th century upheavals.  While Christianity may ostensibly have been in the ascendant by the 6th century or so, the fact is that paganism itself didn’t really vanish for another 1,000 years.

And where does Anne Rice come into all of this?  She comes in because, after her much-heralded “kiss and make up” with the church of her childhood (an announcement that allowed her to publicize a new line of books imagining Christ’s life), she’s now in the process of a much-heralded “break up” from the church of her childhood.  On facebook (what better place to discuss faith), she announces thusly (emphasis mine):

I quit being a Christian. I’m out. In the name of Christ, I refuse to be anti-gay. I refuse to be anti-feminist. I refuse to be anti-artificial birth control. I refuse to be anti-Democrat. I refuse to be anti-secular humanism. I refuse to be anti-science. I refuse to be anti-life. In the name of Christ, I quit Christianity and being Christian. Amen.

In other words, Rice is upset that the Christian churches refuse to layer over Christ’s teachings the beliefs of modern liberalism.  Just as the pagan rulers wanted (and were able to) overlay their political and religious belief systems directly onto Christ’s original message, Anne Rice wants to put the modern Democratic playbook into Christ’s mouth.

The Bible (Old Testament and New, together) was written over the course of almost about 1,500 years, with the first 1,000 years encompassing the Old Testament, followed by a few centuries’ pause, followed by the short window in time during which the New Testament came into being.  There are, therefore, thousands of ideas and edicts in the combined books of the Bible, although I’d argue that the core tenets that inform modern Judeo-Christian culture are the Ten Commandments and Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.

However, much to Rice’s manifest distress, in all those books, and all those hundreds of years, neither God, nor the Prophets, nor Christ himself remembered to say the following:

We will lead to defeat the epochal, man-made threat to the planet: climate change. Without dramatic changes, rising sea levels will flood coastal regions around the world. Warmer temperatures and declining rainfall will reduce crop yields, increasing conflict, famine, disease, and poverty. By 2050, famine could displace more than 250 million people worldwide. That means increased instability in some of the most volatile parts of the world. Never again will we sit on the sidelines, or stand in the way of collective action to tackle this global challenge. Getting our own house in order is only a first step. We will invest in efficient and clean technologies at home while using our assistance policies and export promotions to help developing countries preserve biodiversity, curb deforestation, and leapfrog the carbonenergy-intensive stage of development.

We will reach out to the leaders of the biggest carbon emitting nations and ask them to join a new Global Energy Forum that will lay the foundation for the next generation of climate protocols. China has replaced America as the world’s largest emitter of greenhouse gases. Clean energy development must be a central focus in our relationships with major countries in Europe and Asia. We need a global response to climate change that includes binding and enforceable commitments to reducing emissions, especially for those that pollute the most: the United States, China, India, the European Union, and Russia.

This challenge is massive, but rising to it will also bring new benefits to America. By 2050, global demand for low-carbon energy could create an annual market worth $500 billion. Meeting that demand would open new frontiers for American entrepreneurs and workers.

You may recognize that language as coming directly from the Democratic Party platform for 2008. When Rice castigates the Church for being “anti-Democrat”, it’s pretty obvious that she thinks that modern Christian Churches ought to make  the above words part of their official doctrinal position, tracing them right back to the Sermon on the Mount.

In other words, Rice is a neo-Pagan.  She doesn’t want to take the Bible on its own terms.  Instead, she wants to graft her own belief systems right onto the Bible.  This is quite different from our (appropriate) modern decisions to ignore some of the Bible’s more difficult passages, such as its instructions to kill witches.  Cherry-picking a little is one thing.  Doing what the pagans did, and simply grafting non-Biblical values on top the old, is something else entirely.

UPDATE:  The Anchoress, who has a deep and rich knowledge of Catholicism, and an abiding love for the faith, takes Rice to task for her silly outburst.  Bruce Kesler weighs in too, quite beautifully, in both poetry and prose.

UPDATE II:  Since I opened this post by saying that William Manchester’s anti-Catholic diatribe is required reading at many schools, this seems like an appropriate place to link to a take-down of Howard Zinn, who dominates America’s U.S. History studies.

Football, faith and the media

Well, I finally got around to seeing The Blind Side.  For those unfamiliar with the movie, it retells the true story of Michael Oher, a profoundly disadvantaged black boy who ended up as a scholarship student at a Christian academy in Memphis.  Sean and Leigh Anne Tuohy, parents at the school, stumbled across him, and eventually took him into their home and family.  With the Tuohy family’s help, he graduated from high school, went to Ole Miss on a football scholarship, and was eventually a first round NFL draft pick.  You can read his story in the New York Times article that served as the basis for the movie.

I have to say here and now that I really dislike most new movies that I see.  I find them boring, and the values usually offend me.  My husband is resigned to the fact that there’s a 90% likelihood that I’ll walk out on any movie within the first 10 minutes.  But I sat and watched The Blind Side to the end, including the credits.  It’s that rare story of good people doing good things.  With the exception of a single jerky football player and the drug dealers from Michael’s old neighborhood, the movie shows people motivated to do well for a child who was truly lost in the system.

As many of you already know, the movie makes no bones about the Christian values driving those who got involved in Oher’s life.  A Christian academy took Michael in (admittedly with something of an eye to his football potential), and Leigh Anne explicitly viewed her acts through the lens of Christian charity.   While the movie doesn’t preach Christian doctrine, it does say something rare in Hollywood movies:  Christians are good people and they are not bigots, even Southern Christians.

Others who have seen the movie (SPOILER ALERT) have noted that Hollywood did manage to get in a few anti-Republican digs, but they were minimal.  When Leigh Ann, frustrated with an endless line at a government office asks the rude, gum-chewing clerk who’s in charge, the clerk points to a picture of George Bush.  Anyone who isn’t half dead realizes, of course, that the United States President is not directly in charge of the lackadaisical behavior at a Memphis government office.  Leigh Ann just ignores the foolish dig and powers on ahead.

The biggest “political” moment in the movie comes when Miss Sue, a private tutor played by Kathy Bates, makes a confession to Leigh Ann during her job interview:  She’s a Democrat.

I think the movie-makers were trying to show that it’s scary, and that one needs to be secretive, in order to be a Democrat in Republican country.  Leigh Ann’s response, however, was pitch-perfect, and I know this because I was a Democrat in Southern Republican country.  She looks blank (“why would someone make a big deal about this confession?”), mutters a polite word, and moves on.  No diatribes, no insults.  It’s very real, and it says something about both Democratic expectations and Republican realities.  (SPOILER ALERT OVER.)

Even though I saw the movie a couple of days ago, I was thinking of it today because of Stuart Schwartz’s article about the fear and loathing the mainstream sports media feels towards Tim Tebow.  (Don Quixote, who knows his sports, read the article and he says that, while Schwartz misunderstands some of the jabs as being aimed at Tebow’s faith rather than his slightly goofy football, the gist of the article is correct.)  Here’s a flavor of what Schwartz has to say about the media’s approach to an overtly Christian NFL player (hyperlinks omitted):

Get accused twice of rape (Ben Roethlisberger, Pittsburgh), repeatedly abuse your wife (Michael Pittman, Tampa Bay), regularly strangle and drown hapless dogs (Michael Vick, Atlanta)? Ah, well, boys will be boys, it is society’s fault — and besides, women and dogs don’t wear Super Bowl rings. But pray, work with the poor, and refuse to engage in casual sex — there’s something seriously wrong with you. Or, as one Sports Illustrated writer put it, you are a certified “wackdo.”

[snip]

With rare exception (Denver Post columnist Woody Paige predicted stardom, maintaining that murder and mayhem are not the only qualifications for NFL success), the journalists have delighted in disparaging the Tebows as too “Christiany,” a journalistic synonym for “fascist.” You know, the kind of people whose vocal love for Jesus conjures up thoughts of a “Nazi rally,” as the largest Boston sports radio station described a family gathering.

[snip]

Positively un-NFL, so much so that one front-office executive announced to Yahoo Sports that “I don’t want any part of him” and his nutty views. Yahoo Sports columnist Les Carpenter, reacting to this, noted that Tebow, “known for his goodness[,] has actually drawn a more visceral reaction [from the NFL and sports journalism establishment] than those players who are at their core, truly bad.”

But Tebow continues being Tebow. He responds with good-natured humor to a jeering press that accuses him of being a virgin with a simple statement: “Yes, I am.” And he goes on to explain the importance of commitment and marriage and ends with noting the discomfort in the room: “I think y’all are stunned right now.”

…To which Pro Sports Daily responded “Don’t be shocked if some of these guys want to take him out and kill the legend that is Tim Tebow.” NCAA Football Fanhouse expressed dismay that “the most popular player in SEC history is saving himself for marriage.” “Unbelievable” when he can have any girl he wants.

What is wrong with this guy? The Washington Post brought in professional atheist Richard Dawkins to reassure its readers that the NFL has nothing to fear. Too many hits from the blind side did not produce this “dummy.”

There is something very wrong with a milieu that routinely excuses violence and vice, and that is genuinely frightened of goodness, the same goodness that saw Michael Oher rescued from an abysmal vacuum of poverty and neglect.

You know that I like matching things up.  I look for articles and stories that provide stark contrasts or that reinforce each other.  Here, we have two stories about faith.  One about its power, and the other about the fear it inspires.

I’m not a person of faith.  I think it would be wonderful and comforting to believe in God, but I don’t.

I’m also not a fool.  I don’t disc0unt the notion of God, because there is too much that neither I, nor anyone else, can explain or understand.  To deny God’s existence is so audacious an act, I would basically be arrogating God-like status for myself.  My cautious view, lying in a gray zone that encompasses atheism and agnosticism is, as I often say to the children, that something preceded the Big Bang.

Mostly, though, regardless of my personal religious views, I’m someone who likes American Christians (by which I mean those people who worship God, not those who worship liberalism as shaped through PC churches that periodically make a nominal nod in the Bible’s direction).  In my experience — and I lived in the American South when I was a Jewish atheist Democrat — American Christians are truly good people.

Yeah, sure there are the Sunday Christians who practice fraud on Monday, and there are the ones who are racists or antisemites, but that’s not the face of the vast majority of American Christians.  Their faces are the same face that the Tuohys and the Tebows show:  hard-working, committed to traditional morality, generous with hearts and homes, and deeply aware of the value of life.  This last — this reverence for life — is not just focused on the abortion issue.  Instead, it manifests itself as a generalized belief that ordinary people are worthy.  People aren’t cogs, or PC labels, but individuals, imbued with a spirit that deserves respect.

I think it is this respect for the individual that is so frightening to the liberal establishment.  Individualism and Big Government are antithetical.  As, England, my favorite socialist example, shows, once Big Government takes over the functions individuals once served (as parents, employers, caregivers, etc.), hard-work, morality, and generosity fly out the door. You end up with a country that veers wildly between excessively tight control (those kumquats had better be the right size) and complete anarchy (as demonstrated by England’s soaring alcoholism, assault, murder, child abuse, SDT, and illegitimate children statistics).

Worse, those countries that have moved beyond England into hard-core Communism demonstrate that, once the collective is transcendent, the individual has no value at all.  Even as government benefits are being showered on the collective (free homes, free health care, free whatever), the individual is being sent to gulags and concentration camps.

I know that I’ve traveled a long way from a surprisingly sweet and good Hollywood movie to the gas chambers, but it is a continuum.  As the media’s relentless attacks on Tebow’s fierce individualism show, the Left fully understands that people like Tebow and the Tuohys undermine the hegemony it seeks.  And as ordinary Americans need to understand, the utopian hegemony the media imagines will arise when the Tebows are gone, is in reality a totalitarian world devoid of all human kindness.

God and conquerors

I just finished reading a very bad book, although I owe it thanks for leading me down some interesting intellectual paths.  The book is Derek Wilson’s Charlemagne, which came my way through my book club (and it’s because of the book club that I actually finished a book I normally would swiftly have abandoned).  The book’s failure lies, not in its subject matter (natch), but in the writing, which is confused, facile and unable to support its fundamental principle that Charlemagne is the founder of modern Europe.

In fact, as one of the book club members pointed out, Charlemagne was the founder of of something much more important than some amorphous “Europe”.  Instead, Charlemagne inaugurated Christendom.

But for Charlemagne’s commitment to creating a federation of formerly Pagan territories owing allegiance to the Papal view of Christianity, the world as we know it would never have existed.  He stood as the bulwark to the pressures if Islam from the south and west, and anarchy (in the form of Vikings, Saxons, Magyars and Bulgars to the north and east).  Further, since anarchy is explosive, but not lasting, there’s no doubt but that the Islamic pressure, which matched Charlemagne in single-minded devotion to a religious idea, which have been the ultimate victor.  The book’s author managed not to touch upon any of this.

The book’s failures aside, it did get me thinking about today’s religious wars and, more specifically, about the nature of religious wars.  As you know, I was raised in a completely liberal environment (San Francisco and Berkeley in the 60s, 70s and 80s).  Although I’ve conquered that liberalism intellectually, I still have some nice knee-jerk reactions left in me.  One of those kicked in when I read about Charlemagne systematically overthrowing pagan people (Celts to the west, Saxons to the north, etc.), and forcing Christianity on them.  It just seem to be so wrong that some imperialistic Christian bully would deprive those sweet tree-worshippers of their indigenous religious beliefs.  After all, aren’t we all supposed to worship Mother Gaia now?

Fortunately, reason kicked in.  Those tree-worshippers were anything but sweet.  For almost all of them, human sacrifice was the name of the game.  Whether drawing “volunteers” from their own ranks or committing mass slaughter against their enemies, these tree-hugger pagans engaged in brutish practices that we now pretend never existed.

We can get some glimpse into these practices, however, by looking at what marauding, Christianizing Europeans found when they met Native Americans on our shores.  Contrary to what is taught in public schools, many of the native tribes were not merely benign hunters and gatherers, or noble, PC warriors.  Instead, as Danny Lemieux explained in an email correspondence with me:

I love reading about the history of that period [early European contact with North America], especially given the involvement of my French forebears.  A wonderful read on the subject that links that past to our present is Phil Marchand’s book Ghost Empire: How the French Almost Conquered North America.  It’s an easy, entertaining and highly thoughtful book.  A good movie on that period is the Canadian Black Robe, which came out right about the time of “Dances with Wolves” but was xxxx-times better. Another excellent (but very long read) is the very authoritative Crucible of War: The Seven Years’ War and the Fate of Empire in British North America, 1754-1766 by Fred Anderson, probably the leading authority on the French & Indian War.

The descriptions of what the Indians used to do to other tribes and captives are horrific.  They went well beyond cannibalism, and included forcing captured women to roast their babies live on spits before making them eat them, flaying prisoners alive, and consuming the flesh from living prisoners (the likely origin of a particularly bloody scene in Michael Crichton’s book State of Fear, warning about where the eco-environmental Gaia movement is taking us.)  Ghost Empire has a very interesting and sad discourse about how the Hurons tried to change their ways and modernize themselves in the original settlement of Detroit under the leadership of the black robes.

As Danny’s last sentence indicates, many of the Indians were grateful for an alternative to the horrors of their own religious and tribal practices.  It is reasonable to believe, therefore, that a significant number of the pagans that Charlemagne subdued were equally grateful for a respite from the horrific demands of the own societies.  After all, as Danny explains:

A forgotten trait of the Carthaginians is that they were worshippers of Baal (another name for Satan). Carthage had a large bronze statue of Baal with outstretched hands under which a large fire was built during an annual ritual. First-born babies were placed on those hands and roasted alive. The Carthaginians were loathed by other Mediterranean cultures (including the Jews). When the Romans finally defeated them, they found piles and piles of children’s bones.

As Chesterton put it, the Romans were pagans but they understood the difference between good and evil. They made sure no structure of Carthage remained standing. Shortly afterwards, Roman Society degenerated and was on its last legs until revitalized by Christianity. For the Druids, it was the Burning Man and other ceremonies. Ditto for the Aztecs. Might I suggest that we have a similar phenomenon at work in our society today, or am I being too un-PC harsh?

And then, suddenly, there was Christianity.  I’m not blind to the nuances of Christianity.  I understand them intellectually, although they do not resonate with me spiritually.  In that way, I’m pretty much like the smart pagan after his first lecture from the missionary.

The one thing, though, that all pagans understood right away, whether or not they grasped the greater subtleties of Christianity, was the fact that the days of human sacrifice were over.  What came through loud and clear was that Christ had offered himself as the ultimate sacrifice for all mankind.  You no longer needed to slaughter your babies, burn your youth, or behead all of your enemies to placate the invisible forces that dominated the world.  Instead, through the miracle of transubstantiation, you only needed to drink the wine and eat the wafer.  What a blessed relief!

Of course, the acceptance of Christ and the abandonment of pagan brutalities did not end the horrors of life in the pre-modern era.  (Although our periodic convulsions, whether in Germany, the Soviet Union, China or elsewhere remind us that man is always prone to horror.)  Life in Europe then was undoubtedly Hobbesian: “The life of man, solitary, poor, nasty, brutish, and short.”  Whether for the benefit of the state or the church, people who ran afoul of the authorities were routinely burned, flayed, beheaded, dislimbed, disemboweled, blinded, etc.  Nevertheless, under Christianity’s civilizing rule, it was still better than before.  Christianity also paved the way to the abolition of slavery, the end of child labor and the civil rights movement.  It was a slow process, but it was definitely a process.

So here I am, coming out in favor of an imperial urge to spread religion.  Why, then, am I so opposed to Islam’s same impulse?  The answer is simple.  All religions are not created equal.  Just as Christianity was superior to the paganism that preceded it, so too is it superior to the aggressive Islamism that now seeks to dominate.

Christianity increased the rights of man, and this is true even in times when men’s rights were limited almost beyond our modern conception.  Sharia Islam aims to decrease the rights of man, and destroy the rights of women.  We would trade the intellectual freedom and equality that are the gifts of Charlemagne’s Christendom and receive, instead, a stifling doctrinal world, with feudal practices.  It’s a bad deal and we are right to resist it.  No PC thoughts should pollute our will.

BBC religious program to be headed by a Muslim

Right now, Church of England officials are upset that the BBC’s religious programming department (which is, apparently, a very important department) is going to be headed up by a practicing Muslim.  It is unclear whether he got the position as a result of political correctness or employment mandates, but there he is.  Of course, the proof of the pudding is in the eating, and we’ll have to wait and see whether Aaqil Ahmed carries out his new assignment with admirable even handedness — or not.  One wonders, though, what recourse there will be if the latter proves to be the case.

Ch-ch-ch-changes come again to England

It’s been a long time since I’ve read anything this sad. It comes from the Church of England’s own newspaper:

If recent reports of trends in religious observance prove to be correct, then in some 30 years the mosque will be able to claim that, religiously speaking, the UK is an Islamic nation, and therefore needs a share in any religious establishment to reflect this. The progress of conservative Islam in the UK has been amazing, and it has come at a time of prolonged decline in church attendance that seems likely to continue.

This progress has been enthusiastically assisted by this government in particular with its hard-line multi-cultural dogma and willingness to concede to virtually every demand made by Muslims. Perhaps most importantly the government has chosen to allow hard-liners to act as representing all Muslims, and more liberal Muslims have almost completely failed to produce any leadership voices to compete, leading many Britons to wonder if there are indeed many liberal Muslims at all, surely a mistake.

At all levels of national life Islam has gained state funding, protection from any criticism, and the insertion of advisors and experts in government departs national and local. A Muslim Home Office adviser, for example, was responsible for Baroness Scotland’s aborting of the legislation against honour killings, arguing that informal methods would be better. In the police we hear of girls under police protection having the addresses of their safe houses disclosed to their parents by Muslim officers who think they are doing their religious duty.

While men-only gentlemen’s clubs are now being dubbed unlawful, we hear of municipal swimming baths encouraging ‘Muslim women only’ sessions and in Dewsbury Hospitals staff waste time by turning beds to face Mecca five times a day — a Monty Pythonesque scenario of lunacy, but astonishingly true. Prisons are replete with imams who are keen to inculcate conservative Islam in any inmates who are deemed to be culturally ‘Muslim’: the Prison service in effect treats such prisoners as a cultural block to be preached to by imams at will. Would the Prison service send all those with ‘C of E’ on their papers to confirmation classes with the chaplain?! We could go on.

The point is that Islam is being institutionalised, incarnated, into national structures amazingly fast, at the same time as demography is showing very high birthrates. Charles Taylor’s new and classic work on the Secular Age charts the rise of the secular mindset and what he calls the ‘excarnation’ of Christianity as it is levered out of state policy and structures. Christianity is now regarded as bad news, the liberal elite’s attack developed in the 1960s took root in the educationalist empire, and to some extent even in areas of the church.

Today the Christian story is fading from public imagination, while Islam grows apace. There needs to be some fresh thinking in this area where the claims of Christ are sensitively explained. Our church leaders must develop ways of explaining this, as our feature on mission and evangelism this week demonstrates.

Thirty years is a long time and things can still turn around – but the combination in England of inertia and hostility to the old establishment are so strong that it’s unlikely that any one will have the energy to make the change.

England once was pagan (Celtic and Roman), then Christian (early Christians), then pagan again (those Vikings and Danes pushing against the nascent Christian movement), and then well-and-truly Christian, a status that lasted more than a thousand years.

England’s Christianity was extremely significant to the entire Western world. Its empire — and its Christian values — touched everything. Indeed, its Christian values are the genesis of the United States of America, both because of the influx of disaffected British Christians who came here (bringing their dissident, but still very British beliefs) and because of the way the Founders interpreted their British-inspired religious beliefs.

Now, it looks as if England will be newly incarnated as a Muslim nation. I fear that this new religious identity will also shape our Western World.

One last thought on the subject: I suggest that Britain’s Jews get the Hell out of Dodge while they can still do it on their own terms. Otherwise, they may find themselves either quite dead, or forced out with the clothes on their back, as already happened to 20th Century Jews who were unlucky enough to live in Muslim-dominated countries after the fall of the British Empire.

Hat tip: LGF

Quick picks

I’ve got a project, and pretty much exhausted myself writing this morning’s post (too much thinking, dammit!), so I’ll just give you links to some stories that caught my eye today.

1.  John Hawkin’s writes about five top conservative female bloggers and discusses how they face different challenges from their male peers (not that they’re whining, mind you).

2.  Dennis Prager gives a handy-dandy list of questions for conservatives contemplating colleges for their children.  The quiz is easy, but I can guarantee you that you probably won’t like the answers you get.

3.  Robert Knight and Laer both examine Obama’s surprising theology, which effectively reduces the entire Bible to a couple of quotations from the Sermon on the Mount, that Obama interprets in his own unique, liberal way.

4.  The New York Times, no doubt forgetting momentarily what it is and what it stands for, has an interesting article about the fact that young Iraqis, rather than turning against Americans, are turning against their own fanatical religious leaders and their interpretation of Islam.  Although the Times doesn’t say so, I see it as a sort of “If you build it, they will come,” meaning that, if you build a viable alternative to fanaticism (something multiculturalists refuse to countenance), people will follow you.

5.  Neo-Neocon riffs brilliantly on the fact that Obama seems to be believing his own press as the new political Messiah whose inevitability transcends any rational analysis.

6.   Christopher Hitchens, who wields language like a scalpel, writes about the meaninglessness of modern political discourse.