Some random last thoughts about RFRA and gay marriage

A friend sent me this poster:

Wedding cake ordered to make

I emailed my friend back, and thought I’d share with you the random thoughts the poster triggered in my fevered brain:

We know that gay lefties, each thinking of him or her (or its) self as a modern-day Rosa Parks, aren’t just stumbling into these bakeries or photographic studios by accident, but are, instead, deliberately targeting Christians. It’s the nature of the target, of course, that explains why these self-styled activists are no Rosa Parks. Parks targeted government discrimination. These lefties are targeting individual freedom of religion, freedom of speech, and freedom of association. Huge difference.

And here’s another “one more thing” to say about this gay mafia: Because they’re targeting good Christians, I can bet you the Lefties assume that the same people who place such value in their relationship with Christ would never dream of spitting in food — or doing something even nastier. If you watched that icky movie The Help, you remember that the black woman got audience applause for baking her own feces into a pie. The Left knows, however, that someone who will sacrifice a job rather than betray his faith won’t really do something like that.

[VIDEO] Are outraged members of the gay mafia going to descend on this Muslim bakery?

Mind you, I don’t have a problem with the Muslim baker refusing to decorate a cake with words and/or images he finds religiously offensive.  He’s not advancing hate; he’s refusing to have something he hates advanced against him.  I do, however, have a problem with the gay mafia and their Leftist enablers who will never get within striking distance of a Muslim bakery.  This is not about cake; this is about destroying Christians:

Kudos to Steve Crowder for setting the stage for the gay mafia and other Leftists to show their epic hypocrisy.

American Christians are the new blacks; and Leftists own the new Jim Crow movement

Christians and homosexuals gaysI’m reprinting here a post I wrote almost five years ago about the fact that the problem with Jim Crow wasn’t Southern racism, it was the fact that governments in Southern states had institutionalized that racism. The problem, I pointed out, wasn’t one of bigoted individuals; it was one of government taking sides.

I think many of the principles I stated then apply very well now, except that the gay mafia is demanding that the government exert its considerable weight, not against blacks, but against Christians. (Interestingly, to the extent many Christian blacks are hostile to gay marriage, there’s an irony in Democrats once again urging the government to go after them.)

***

Civil rights are much discussed lately, primarily because Progressives with bully-pulpits are furious that Glenn Beck held a rally at the Lincoln Memorial on the 47th anniversary of Martin Luther King’s famous civil rights rally at that same location.  To hear them tell it, in the wake of the “Civil Rights Movement,” civil rights are entirely a black thing, and whites who parade around in the civil rights mantle are manifestly racists.

It says much about the Orwellian twists the Progressive mind takes that its spokespeople can, with a straight face, confine civil rights to a single race.  The whole Progressive concept is oxymoronic, because civil rights, by definition, extend to all citizens within the civitas, not just citizens of a specified color.  (And isn’t that the point King was trying to make?)  The idiocy emanating from the Left might be merely amusing, but for the fact that the Left is working hard to ensure that this definition applies to all future generations.  After all, it was Arne Duncan, Obama’s Education Secretary, who appeared at Al Sharpton’s poorly-attended counter rally to announce that education is “the civil rights issue of our generation.”

All of this points to the fact that, in the years since Martin Luther King’s pivotal moment in the sun, the Left has redefined civil rights into a concept that would be utterly alien to Martin Luther King — and that is alien to most people who aren’t Progressives or self-styled “liberals.”  It’s therefore time, in Health and Human Services Secretary Kathleen Sebelius’ memorable words, for some “reeducation.”

To me, and perhaps to you, “civil rights” are those inherent rights that automatically extend to all citizens in a free country.  Thomas Jefferson articulated the broadest outlines of these rights in the Declaration of Independence:

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. — That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, — That whenever any Form of Government becomes destructive of these ends, it is the Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.

Jefferson stated unambiguously that these unalienable rights — the ultimate civil liberties, if you will — do not come from government.  They exist independent of government.  Government’s job is not to create those rights, but to safeguard them.  Government cannot hand them out, not can it take them away.  They just are.  And if government fails to provide the proper safeguards or, worse, itself threatens these unalienable rights, it is not the rights that are illegitimate, it is the government.

Very soon after the American Revolution ended, our Founders recognized that the federal government needed some guidance if it was to maintain its legitimacy and provide a stable structure for its citizens without destroying their rights.  To that end, in 1791, the Founders enacted the Bill of Rights (i.e., the first ten amendments to the United States Constitution).  They are short and sweet, and are notable for the way in which, rather than extending government power, they severely restrict its power over citizens:

Amendment 1 – Freedom of Religion, Press, Expression.

Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.

Amendment 2 – Right to Bear Arms.

A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear Arms, shall not be infringed.

Amendment 3 – Quartering of Soldiers.

No Soldier shall, in time of peace be quartered in any house, without the consent of the Owner, nor in time of war, but in a manner to be prescribed by law.

Amendment 4 – Search and Seizure.

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated, and no Warrants shall issue, but upon probable cause, supported by Oath or affirmation, and particularly describing the place to be searched, and the persons or things to be seized.

Amendment 5 – Trial and Punishment, Compensation for Takings.

No person shall be held to answer for a capital, or otherwise infamous crime, unless on a presentment or indictment of a Grand Jury, except in cases arising in the land or naval forces, or in the Militia, when in actual service in time of War or public danger; nor shall any person be subject for the same offense to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb; nor shall be compelled in any criminal case to be a witness against himself, nor be deprived of life, liberty, or property, without due process of law; nor shall private property be taken for public use, without just compensation.

Amendment 6 – Right to Speedy Trial, Confrontation of Witnesses.

In all criminal prosecutions, the accused shall enjoy the right to a speedy and public trial, by an impartial jury of the State and district wherein the crime shall have been committed, which district shall have been previously ascertained by law, and to be informed of the nature and cause of the accusation; to be confronted with the witnesses against him; to have compulsory process for obtaining witnesses in his favor, and to have the Assistance of Counsel for his defence.

Amendment 7 – Trial by Jury in Civil Cases.

In Suits at common law, where the value in controversy shall exceed twenty dollars, the right of trial by jury shall be preserved, and no fact tried by a jury, shall be otherwise re-examined in any Court of the United States, than according to the rules of the common law.

Amendment 8 – Cruel and Unusual Punishment.

Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted.

Amendment 9 – Construction of Constitution.

The enumeration in the Constitution, of certain rights, shall not be construed to deny or disparage others retained by the people.

Amendment 10 – Powers of the States and People.

The powers not delegated to the United States by the Constitution, nor prohibited by it to the States, are reserved to the States respectively, or to the people.

To summarize in modern English, our “life, liberty and pursuit of happiness,” “unalienable rights” that come from “the Creator,” are preserved only if we have a federal government that, as to the citizens within its borders:

  • has “no desire to make windows into men’s souls” (1st Amendment);
  • allows them to speak freely, whether the government likes that speech or not(1st Amendment);
  • allows a press unconstrained by government threats or requirements(1st Amendment);
  • let’s them to rally together (1st Amendment);
  • listens to their concerns (1st Amendment);
  • lets them arm themselves (2nd Amendment);
  • protects them from the reach of the government’s own military and police (3rd and 4th Amendments);
  • makes the home inviolate, with the burden on the government to prove a pressing need to breach that privacy (4th Amendment);
  • ensures that a citizen suspected of a crime is held only subject to a clearly stated charge, is prosecuted only once, is brought swiftly to trial, has a fair trial, may have the facts of his case judged by his peers, and cannot be bullied to convict himself out of his own mouth (5th, 6th and 7th Amendments);
  • establishes that, in any case, not just a civil one, the citizen may have a jury of his peers and may not lose his life, liberty or property without a full, fair trial (7th Amendment);
  • prevents the government from stealing private property (5th Amendment); and
  • never inflicts cruel or unusual punishment on any citizen (although the reference to capital crimes in the 5th Amendment indicates that execution does not fall within those parameters) (8th Amendment).

All of the above are the explicitly stated limitations the Founders placed upon the federal government.  It took eight amendments to drive those points home.  But to reiterate just how severely constrained the United States’ federal governments’ power is vis a vis the citizens within its borders, the Founders made two further points:  While the amendments are to be understood to control the federal government, they cannot be read to mean that American citizens have only those rights enumerated in the first eight amendments (9th Amendment).  Instead, those ostensibly stated affirmative “rights” are actually limitations on the government.  All else remains to a free people.

And if that isn’t clear enough, the 10th amendment says that, unless the Constitution specifically reserves an affirmative right for the federal government, or prohibits it to a state, all other rights — the universe of rights, whether or not articulated — belong to the states or the people within those states.

This is small government writ large.  Civil rights mean small government, with the government limited primarily (although not entirely) to protecting citizens from itself.

Martin Luther King understood this.  The Civil Rights movement was a stand against overt government encroachment on the rights of black people.  The Southern States, ignoring the Declaration’s acknowledgment that all men inherently possessed civil rights, used the government as a weapon against the black people within its borders.  The real problem blacks faced wasn’t that their fellow white citizens behaved hostilely, and even murderously, towards them.  Had the government fulfilled its policing responsibilities and stepped forward to protect those citizens, Jim Crow would have been a short-lived phenomenon.  The real problem was that Southern government itself encroached on citizens’ freedom.

It was Southern government that legislatively segregated schools, segregated housing, segregated business establishments, segregated marriages and enacted barriers between blacks and ballots.  It was Southern government that was a “Form of Government [that had become] destructive of these ends [life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness for black people],” making it the civil  “Right of the People to alter or to abolish it, and to institute new Government, laying its foundation on such principles and organizing its powers in such form, as to them shall seem most likely to effect their Safety and Happiness.”

In the sixty years since the Civil Rights movement, the Left has entirely perverted the whole notion of civil rights.  Civil Rights as the Founders intended meant the right of all citizens, regardless of race, color, religion, sexual, gender, etc., to be free of government constraints (although the government’s police powers certainly required the government to protect citizens when others amongst them worked to injure them or constrain their basic freedoms).  Civil Rights as the Left demands it has become an all powerful government that is responsible for redistribution wealth, property, access to government and even happiness, from whites to blacks.

The Bookworm Beat 2-6-15 — the “Fearless Friday” edition and Open Thread

Woman writingObama’s adversarial relationship with Christianity

What did we expect already from yesterday’s Prayer Breakfast? Obama long ago put the world on notice that he’s going full Bulworth (i.e., after six years in office, he intends, finally, to stop lying and speak the truth).

While before Obama just let out peevish little trickles of animosity, anyone paying attention could tell that:

(a) he’s profoundly ignorant about history — not just American history, but any history, including Muslim and Christian history;

(b) he hates Christians and Christianity;

(c) he hates America, no matter that this nation twice elected him as president (with a little help from the IRS, of course); and

[Read more...]

This one reduced me to sputtering incoherence

I’ve had about 5 minutes at my computer all day long, time that included checking out my friends’ Facebook pages. While waiting for a sales person, I caught this one which, as I noted in the post caption, reduced me to sputtering incoherence. Yes, this is the new meme: If you don’t think our borders should be overrun by illegal aliens, you’re un-Christian:

Republican Christians

I still don’t have time to write, and I can’t think of a short, intelligent, non-defensive, expose-the-stupidity comeback. Help?

Thinking about it, maybe there is no comeback. Maybe when you’re dealing with a world view that enthusiastically applauds having the border overrun with a hundreds of thousands of unattended children, criminals, and possible terrorists, many of whom are carrying diseases ranging from the unpleasant to the terribly dangerous, there is nothing anyone can say to counter a poster that says it’s un-Christian to want to return these people to their own lands.

Barack Obama: muddle headed multiculturalist

Rogier_van_der_Weyden_009

I may not be Christian, but I know this much about Christmas:  it’s a holy day that celebrates the birth of Jesus Christ.  I also know that those who believe that Jesus Christ is the son of God and mankind’s savior call themselves, not coincidentally, Christians.

See, it’s a package deal:  Christians and Christmas.  Muslims consider Christ a prophet, but do not build their faith around him.  Jews consider Christ a rabbi, but parted ways 2,000 years ago with those of their co-religionists who beheld in him something much greater.  Other world religions don’t even include Jesus in the panoply.  Let me say this again:  Christians and Christmas, the package deal.  While we non-believers enjoy the trees, the ornaments, the songs, and the lights, Christians focus like lasers on Christmas’s raison d’etre.

I mention all of this, in repetitive detail, just to point out how reflexive multiculturalism turns people inanely stupid, including allegedly intelligent and Christian people like Barack Obama (emphasis added):

The First Family helped light the National Christmas Tree Friday night, amid a festive celebration of musicians and costumed characters.

President Obama said Christmas is a time “we celebrate the birth of a child who came into the world with only a stable’s roof to shelter Him.”

He also made this statement about Christmas: “It’s a message both timeless and universal — no matter what God you pray to, or if you pray to none at all.”

Hat tip:  Gateway Pundit

I truly do understand that Obama was trying to make a point about “peace on earth and good will to man,” which is the universalist message that Christians (very nicely, I might add) append to the holiday.  Nevertheless, all that Obama managed to do was to come off sounding . . . dumb.

Still, I am thankful for one thing, which is that Obama’s mindlessly multiculturalist babel gives me the perfect opening to post my favorite Christmas song. I love the song and I love the way Josh Groban sings it:

A joyous picture

I don’t know what the story is behind this baptism picture that I found while writing up this post for Mr. Conservative, but I like the joyousness it radiates.  (When I say “I don’t know what the story is,” what I mean is that, while I understand that it’s a full-immersion baptism, I don’t know who the people involved are.  I just like their expressions, which speak of intense happiness.)

A joyous full immersion baptism

Pentagon will court martial people charged with religious proselytizing

SECNAV prayers with Marines and Sailors at Fallujah in 2006

In connection with my post about the Left’s fierce hatred for Christianity (which burns bright alongside its antisemitism and pathological love and respect for Islam), I wrote about the Pentagon’s decision to partner with Michael Weinstein, a rabid anti-Christian who’s set his sights on the military. The next phase in this secularist crusade is the Pentagon’s announcement that, why yes, we will be court martialing proselytizing.

Of course, everything’s vague.  Are you proselytizing if you say a personal prayer?  If you ask a subordinate what his faith is?  If you’re a military chaplain whose responsibility is to minister to people souls?  What about if you hold an after hours Bible study group in your home?

The one thing we know for certain is that if you scream Allahu Akbar and kill 12 or 13 people, and wound more than twice that many, it has nothing to do with religion.

At the end of the day, Obama will have been transformative in three significant ways, with most people paying attention only to the first two:  (1) he will have destroyed the American economy; (2) he will have destroyed America’s top dog position in the world; and (3) he will have destroyed the American military, by turning it into the perfect Leftist model:  anti-Christian, anti-heterosexual, anti-male, and anti-American.

You can sign a petition here challenging the Pentagon’s decision to partner with a rabid anti-Christianist.

And here’s the post I wrote for Mr. Conservative about today’s news:

The Pentagon was unmoved by religious extremism in the military when Major Nidal Hassan, a devout Muslim in full Allahu Akbar mode killed 13 people at Fort Hood and wounded 32 others. That, we were assured, had nothing to do with religion. Based upon a relentless Leftist drumbeat, however, one directed at Christian “monsters” in the military who actually believe in God and want to share the gospel, the Pentagon has released an official statement affirming that it will court martial “proselytization.”

This official statement followed close on the heels of a Breitbart report breaking the news that the Pentagon has taken on as a consultant Michael “Mikey” Weinstein, the fanatically anti-Christian founder of the misnamed Military Religious Freedom Foundation. The Pentagon and Weinstein are partnering to create court-martial procedures aimed at punishing Christians.

Weinstein’s concerns about alleged Christian proselytizing in the military don’t sound either temperate or rational. Mikey says that 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.” They’re also “evil, fundamentalist Christian creatures” and “bandits” who “coagulate their stenchful substances.” Go on, Mikey. Don’t hold back. Tell us what you really think.

Mikey has been pushing his anti-Christian agenda hard, everywhere. Here you can see him selling his stuff to Progressives at the Huffington Post who, despite bandying about the phrase “First Amendment,” seem incapable of understanding that the Founders didn’t ban religion, they just banned an official federal religion:

We all acknowledge that any officer who uses his power in the military to coerce those serving under him to do something for non-military reasons deserves to be disciplined, and that’s true whether the officer uses that power for sexual harassment, fraud, theft, or forced conversions. With Mikey on board, though, it begins to seem possible that, if a Christian officer even mentions faith or God, a subordinate with a bone to pick can destroy his career. As Breitbart says:

So President Barack Obama’s civilian appointees who lead the Pentagon are confirming that the military will make it a crime–possibly resulting in imprisonment–for those in uniform to share their faith. This would include chaplains—military officers who are ordained clergymen of their faith (mostly Christian pastors or priests, or Jewish rabbis)–whose duty since the founding of the U.S. military under George Washington is to teach their faith and minister to the spiritual needs of troops who come to them for counsel, instruction, or comfort.

This regulation would severely limit expressions of faith in the military, even on a one-to-one basis between close friends. It could also effectively abolish the position of chaplain in the military, as it would not allow chaplains (or any service members, for that matter), to say anything about their faith that others say led them to think they were being encouraged to make faith part of their life. It’s difficult to imagine how a member of the clergy could give spiritual counseling without saying anything that might be perceived in that fashion.

This writer is Jewish. When she was a young and stupid Leftist, she took offense when Christians spoke about their faith to her. Since then, however, she’s grown up and learned that there’s a gaping chasm separating Christians who, through words only, want to share with her the benefits of their faith, in this life and the next, and practitioners of other religions who believe that the best and only way to spread their faith is through fire and sword. We’re not converting any time soon, but we appreciate the generosity of spirit our Christian friends show, as well as their graciousness when we (politely) refuse their efforts. We’re much less impressed by the “Allahu Akbar” school of conversion.

Even uber-liberal Bill Maher (who’s nominally Jewish and, like a good Leftist, actually hostile to all religions but for worship of the State) knows that it’s “liberal bullshit” to pretend that Christians are a threat to America’s safety and well-being.

Proving that, contrary to all stereotypes (and some statistics), there are stupid Jews

Please, please, please tell me the Rabbi was writing with tongue fixed firmly in cheek:

I’ve got a Tim Tebow problem.

I want to root for the guy, but I’m afraid of what will happen if the hulky Denver Bronco quarterback continues to pull off what is fast becoming the Greatest Gridiron Story Ever Told.

[snip]

If Tebow wins the Super Bowl, against all odds, it will buoy his faithful, and emboldened faithful can do insane things, like burning mosques, bashing gays and indiscriminately banishing immigrants.  While America has become more inclusive since Jerry Falwell’s first political forays, a Tebow triumph could set those efforts back considerably.

That has to be a satire, doesn’t it?  It’s all a big joke, right?  If not, I’m deeply embarrassed that an MOT (member of the tribe) would be such a prejudiced idiot.  He worries me.  I don’t read the Bible often, but I do seem to recall that God does not take it well when his MOTs turn stupid.

I’m tired, and struggling to get beyond calling this guy, as I did, a prejudiced idiot.  Fortunately, others are not tired.  Duane Lester sums up the Rabbi’s foolishness thusly:

Rabbi Joshua Hammerman somehow believes the moral equivalency nonsense regarding Christians and Muslims. You see, if the Muslims will riot over a cartoon of Mohammed, then surely those football fueled fundies will go into a frenzy over one of their own beating all the odds and winning the Lombardi Trophy.

Rabbi Hammerman is a fool. If, God forbid, the Denver Broncos win the Super Bowl, there might be riots in Denver, but it will be Budweiser Coors fueling the action, not Christian fundamentalism.

Ace takes on the Rabbi with equal fervor:

Certainly there is a history of pogroms in Europe, and, in America, discrimination. Such fears are not entirely unfounded.

But the idea of a new age of pogrom based upon the Tim Tebow throwing a football seems to be a reactionary one, conceived in hatred, executed in bitterness.

It just seems to be dressing up a tribalistic hatred in some socially-acceptable clothing. Oh it’s not that I hate Christians and their false god or anything. It’s just that I fear they are monsters who will go insane in religious ecstasy if a football hero wins a big game.

Look, I really do believe in tolerance and acceptance and… well, amity, especially among Jews and Christians, who seem to be getting along pretty well.

But tolerance is a two-way street. Those who desire tolerance of the practice of their own religion are hypocrites if they do not permit others to practice their own.

And dreaming up fantastical Protocols of the Elders of Bethlehem murder scenarios doesn’t sound very tolerant to me. It seems to suggest it is inherently evil to proclaim the Christian faith.

Having read Ace, I’ll add one thing:  the Rabbi is not a Rabbi as Hillel or Rambam, or any of the great Jewish thinkers would have understood.  This Rabbi’s temple is the Synagogue known as Beth Liberal, a house of worship dedicated to secularism.

(Just a little reminder that I think very highly of Tim Tebow, not just as a football player, but as a human being.  I hope this doesn’t mean I have to renounce my Jewishness.)

Israel, American Jews, American Christians and a whole bunch of other stuff too

I struggled for a few minutes to find a clever title for this post that would convey the volume of information I’m about to download from my brain, but realized I couldn’t.  A laundry list description will just have to do.

You see, last night, I had the pleasure of attending a Hanukkah party that the NorCal chapter of the Republican Jewish Coalition hosted.  What wasn’t surprising was that conservative Jews attended the party.  What was surprising was that they came from all over the Bay Area. Apparently the opportunity to get together with fellow conservative Jews is a beguiling one, even if one has to travel a hundred miles or so to do it.

What was even more surprising, and was also tremendously heartening, was the number of non-Jews who attended out of a feeling of solidarity with Israel.  It was a reminder in the flesh of the fact that America’s tiny percentage of Jews, standing alone, cannot account for America’s (not the administration’s, but America’s) long-standing support for Israel.  That strong support comes about because America’s Christian population respects and believes in that small, democratic Jewish state, a nation surrounded by hostile forces inimical, not only to Israel, but to America as well.

Another draw for the party was the speaker:  syndicated columnist Joel Mowbray.  I’ve enjoyed Joel’s writing for years, and hoped that he’d be as delightful a speaker as he is a writer (some writers, sadly, do not translate well to the spoken word).  Happily, he exceeded my expectations.  He’s a charming speaker, offering everything you’d hope for:  pleasant voice and cadence, good sense of humor, a well-informed mind, and an easy verbal lucidity.

Joel spoke about the situation in Israel today and he was surprisingly optimistic.  He says that Israel is enjoying an extremely prosperous time right now, with a growing economy and a significant lack of terrorist violence.  The targeted killings in the West Bank and Gaza, Operation Cast Lead, and the Hezbollah War all served, temporarily at least, to quiet the terrorists and give Israelis a respite. Further, the setbacks to Iran’s nuclear program, especially Stuxnet, have given the Israelis (not to mention the Arab nations around them) some breathing room.

Israelis fully understand, though, that this is merely a respite, rather than a lasting peace.  A nuclear Iran is an impossible-to-contemplate game-changer, not just in the Middle East, but throughout the world.  The Israelis are planning accordingly, both defensively and offensively.  In other words, they are being smart, rather than burying their heads in the sand.

Most of the questions in the room expressed concern about Iran and about President Obama’s manifest hostility to and disdain for Israel.  Joel believes (and I agree) that Obama will not go too far in undercutting Israel should the bombs start to fly.  He also believes (and I agree) that Americans will support Israel.  The other countries will huff and puff, in a very ugly way, but they too will be happy should Israel succeed in destroying Iran’s nuclear pretensions.  As Joel pointed out, the situation in North Korea is a useful illustration of the impossible Hobson’s choice that arises when you have a rogue nation armed with nuclear weapons.

I asked Joel about American Jewish voting trends in the 2012 elections.  He said that, except for those implacably wed to liberalism, signs are good for a shift away from the Democratic party.  (To which I’ll add that we can only hope that American Jews finally start living up to their reputation for intelligence.)  It occurred to me that the recent attacks against Glenn Beck, charging him with antisemitism because he is going after George Soros, may be a preemptive attempt to keep the Jews on the Progressive reservation.

After Joel’s speech, I got the opportunity to talk to some old friends and some new ones.  One of my old friends asked me an excellent question:  What is it with the self-loathing Jews?  My response to him is that they are desperately trying to deflect attention from themselves.  “You say you hate Jews?  Well, so do I.  Heck, I hate them even more than you do.  So if you ever feel like attacking Jews, you can just ignore me.”

From that, we talked about how supportive American Christians are of Jews and Israel.  My friend opined, correctly I think, that part of the reason American Christians identify strongly with Jews is because American Christians are versed in both the Old and the New Testaments.  He pointed out that, in Europe, the Old Testament is virtually ignored.  Not only does that mean they hear only that part of the Bible hostile to Jews, it also deprives them of the ability to understand and appreciate the Jews’ rich history and their deep ties to the Holy Land.

Barbara Tuchman, incidentally, makes a similar point in her wonderful book, Bible and Sword: England and Palestine from the Bronze Age to Balfour, about the philosemitism that characterized the Jewish upper classes in the years leading to the Balfour declaration.  Because they were steeped in the Old Testament, the Brits, while they wouldn’t dream of dining with a Jew, thought it was a fine thing to reestablish a Jewish nation in the ancient homeland.  Nowadays, between oil and Leftism, it’s hard to imagine a Britain that doesn’t waiver between vicious and virulent antisemitism, but that wasn’t always the case.

It was truly a revitalizing evening.  Not only was Mowbray’s cautious optimism comforting, it was a very real pleasure to be in a room full of Jews and non-Jews alike, all of whom share a deep commitment to liberty and individual freedom, whether exercised in America or abroad.

Cross-posted at Right Wing News

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.

Something’s missing this season

Don Quixote and I were at the local mall.  The mall was getting ready for the shopping season, and it has some special events planned.  It even had a sign:

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If you’re like DQ and me, you realize that something is missing from the sign:  there’s no mention of the actual holiday being celebrated, with the exception of a reference to some guy named Santa and a title allocated to December 24th — Christmas Eve.  Otherwise, we’re simply assured there are events going on to celebrate something, but we’re never told what the something is.

As a Jewish kid (admittedly, non -eligious, but definitely still Jewish), who grew up in a majority Christian culture that wasn’t embarrassed about showing itself, I adored the blessings of beautiful music, lovely images, and general joie de vivre.  At school, I learned all the carols, religious and secular, and can still belt them out with the best of them.  My kids know only Frosty, Rudolph, and Jingle Bells — good songs all, but such a minute fraction of the rich Christmas repertoire.  It’s only through their involvement in choral groups that they’re being exposed to the beautiful things men and women created as part of their religious celebrations and faith.

I’ll leave you with an antidote to the above sign, and an urge that you wish your friends a “Merry Christmas,” as well a happy or merry “whatever it is that they celebrate” this holiday season.  And if your friends are like me, they’ll appreciate the fact that, in America, people share their holiday celebrations without rancor or pressure.