Saturday, July 4, 2015

JULY 4 -- The American Covenant: Brotherhood under God

[first published 4 July 2014]

David Pence writes:

The Battles of Lexington and Concord were fought by local militias on April 19, 1775.  American militiamen were protecting a large cache of military supplies in Concord from British seizure.

The militias would not be enough to defeat the mighty British Army, so the Continental Army was formed by a resolution of the Continental Congress on June 14, 1775. The Congress commissioned George Washington as Commander-in-Chief of that army five days later.

Gen. Henry Knox: self-educated artilleryman

The British evacuated Boston – on March 17, 1776 – after militia and Continental forces besieged the city for 11 months.  The stalemate was turned when the Knox Expedition to the newly captured Fort Ticonderoga brought 60 tons of captured heavy artillery over difficult terrain in mid-winter to bear on the encircled British.  (This is now celebrated as “Evacuation Day” in Massachusetts along with another feast of national identity: Saint Patrick’s Day.)

The Declaration of Independence was signed in Philadelphia on July 4, 1776.
It was, indeed, a declaration of inalienable rights:
'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.'

But if all men are born free and equal, why everywhere are men enslaved?
Because their fathers did not secure these rights by forming a well-armed covenant with other men by which rights could be protected against tyrants, criminals, and unfettered passions. Our founding fathers made and enforced such a covenant. They protected their armaments at Concord and captured the cannons of Ticonderoga, one year before they declared on paper their Independence. As my daddy used to say: "You want to change the world?  Bring large groups of armed men into agreement." That’s why we are grilling hot dogs and waving flags on July 4th.

We rejoice because men loved each other with the sacrificial love of fellow citizens under God.  They broke one form of blood kinship and hereditary rule with the English to assert the more powerful and democratic bloodshed brotherhood of republican military duty. They formed a nation for all on a brotherhood for adult males only. Their brotherly love spoke in the language of honor codes and Providence.
'That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men…And for the support of this Declaration, with a firm reliance on the protection of Divine Providence, we mutually pledge to each other our Lives, our Fortunes, and our sacred Honor.'

If the oft-quoted second paragraph of the Declaration is about the rights of every person in principle, then the seldom-quoted last line is about the sacred masculine blood oath which won those rights in practice. The words declaring the rights of men were sealed authoritatively by the sacrificial fraternal acts at Lexington and Concord.

While the nation as a single organism embraces all men, women, and children, the fundamental bond which makes the nation possible through time is a trans-generational masculine fraternity of sacrifice. No authoritative covenant by men in arms – no rights of man. No communal authority – no individual liberty.

We are not the founders of our nation. The adult men of this generation are challenged to receive and transmit a patrimony already established. Some men find themselves in a time and place which demand a founding. This is not our situation in the America of today. The fireworks of the Fourth celebrate our good fortune. We are not called to found a city, but to be the watchmen of her walls already built by the sweat and bought by the blood of men who went before us. 

America is the sweetest fruit of the Protestant Reformation. Laymen had to separate themselves into the communal fellowship of nations, to free themselves from the temporal rule of the Catholic Church. (This freed the Church to clarify Her spiritual mission.)

The American continents provided a vast and separate land where the dynamic interplay of the nations of Noah and the seed of Abraham might bring forth the will of Providence. Adam and his sons, Noah and his sons, Abraham and his seed, Jacob and his sons – these communal forms of patriarchal fraternity are now found in the apostolic Church and the national brotherhoods. In America they were made incarnate  by the biblical leadership structures of Protestant congregations, and the military structures of local and state militias. These sacred bonds of civic and ecclesial masculine duty settled the wilderness and – in God’s appointed time – will cast out the Father of Lies and restore all things in Christ.  

BACKGROUND: Monsieur Renan on the spiritual nature of the nation.

Dr. Pence on America as a Christian nation: part 1 and part 2.

Friday, July 3, 2015

Friday BookReview: Harry Truman

                                                   "I tried never to forget who I was                                                                                           
                                                    and where I'd come from                                                                                                                   
                                                    and where I would go back to."

Presidents Johnson and Truman with wives, flanking HHH

How can one not gratefully doff his hat to the simple man from Missouri -- he who had to take over the large chair of Mr. Roosevelt in the midst of our desperate war against the Axis? Harry Truman spoke bluntly, refused to put on airs, read through the Bible again and again, and loved his (difficult) Bess purely.

Here are excerpts from a review of David McCullough's biography of President Truman -- by Wisconsin professor Stanley Kutler:
Shortly after John F. Kennedy became president in 1961, a bumper sticker appeared with the following line: "I Miss Ike." Below, in smaller letters, there was an additional message: "Hell, I Even Miss Harry." 
Eight years after leaving the White House with only a 23 percent approval rating in the polls, Harry Truman was on his way to folk idol status -- aided no doubt by the failures and mediocrities who succeeded him in the presidency. But now, nearly 40 years later, David McCullough`s splendid biography confirms that Truman`s record and character make him one of our more remarkable and successful presidents in his own right. 
After Franklin D. Roosevelt died, many Americans received a rude shock when they heard the unknown Truman's Missouri twang as he addressed Congress on April 16, 1945. But the loss of FDR, whom many knew as their only president, also unleashed a flood of goodwill toward his successor. "I was tired of Eastern accents," wrote a woman from Indiana. And a New Yorker said that he had "never known a man named Harry who really amounted to a damn," but that Truman had his support anyway. Truman`s anonymity proved a blessing, for he did not have the entrenched, bitter enemies such as Roosevelt had raised during his long tenure. 
Truman joined the Senate in 1934. He won a bitter primary fight for re-nomination in 1940, despite Roosevelt`s tacit support for his opponent. Four years later, a cabal of administration insiders and politicos conspired -- no other word will do -- to persuade Roosevelt to drop Vice President Henry Wallace and select the Missourian. Truman`s sponsors sensed that Roosevelt had little likelihood of surviving another term; they recognized, to be blunt, that they were selecting the next president of the United States. 
Harry Truman was born in 1884. His family reflected the political and social divisions resulting from slavery that had nagged Missouri since its beginnings in 1820. Truman`s grandparents had been slaveowners; his mother, who had an enormous influence on him, remained an unreconstructed rebel. He always recalled his childhood as especially happy, with warm memories of family, friends, teachers. Truman was a studious child and developed a lifelong love for reading -- whether history or the poetry of Alfred Tennyson. He learned the virtues we commonly celebrate: family, hard work, thrift, and responsibility. 
Truman was nearly 30 when he became engaged to the only woman who ever interested him. "How does it feel to be engaged to a clodhopper who has ambitions to be Governor of Missouri and Chief Executive of the U.S.?" he asked Bess Wallace in 1913. During World War I, "Captain Harry" commanded an artillery battery. After an unsuccessful postwar business venture, Truman acknowledged his ambition and plunged into what became his life`s work: politics. He became a county official and served with exceptional honesty and efficiency. But as part of the infamous Pendergast organization that dominated local politics in Kansas City, Mo., he always carried the burden of being a "machine politician."          

In 1934, he leaped from his obscure political post to the U.S. Senate. Truman always was a bit of a latecomer; he married late, and he chose his career when he was nearly 40. But when he found politics, a close relative remarked, "he struck his gait." A politician, and always proud to say so, he mocked the notion of being a statesman. "When a good politician dies he becomes a statesman," Truman said. He liked being alive, "he liked being Harry Truman," McCullough writes. 
Truman loyally supported the New Deal. But his 1940 re-election gave him a new sense of direction and independence. He was respected on both sides of the Senate aisle. During the war, he distinguished himself as chairman of a committee investigating defense production and military contracts. He remained relatively obscure, but knowing insiders acknowledged his growing importance. Washington correspondents ranked him among the 10 most important persons to the war effort -- the only congressman included... 
Truman`s first year as president was nearly as demanding as those Lincoln and FDR confronted in 1861 and 1933. Truman brought the war to a successful conclusion, having decided to use the atomic bomb. He dealt with the disintegrating Soviet alliance; he grappled with the conflicting pressures for demobilization and the growing demands to maintain American military dominance and he led the nation to an orderly reconversion to a peacetime economy. 
To be sure, he stumbled on occasion: "To err is Truman," partisan critics joked. Nevertheless, his decisions and policies set the course for American society for the next three decades, one that engaged the nation in international affairs and promoted the most sustained growth and prosperity the nation had ever known. And he balanced budgets. 
The momentous achievements of his first term are the basic markers for Truman`s presidency. His containment policy, coupled with the contradictions and failures of the Soviet system, eventually resulted in the disintegration of the Soviet Union. All subsequent presidents followed his lead, including those who built their political careers attacking containment as cowardly. 
Domestically, Truman`s bold, innovative support for civil rights set the agenda for the ongoing struggle for equality in American life. When segregationist Strom Thurmond abandoned the Democrats over this issue in 1948, he admitted he had never objected when Roosevelt had made similar promises on civil rights. "But Truman really means it," Thurmond noted. 
Despite Truman`s memorable victory in 1948, his second term proved anticlimactic, if not disappointing. His Fair Deal proposals ran into staunch Republican and Dixiecrat opposition, and the Korean War was an albatross from June 1950 to the end of his term. In some ways, the Korean conflict brought out the best in Truman, but the limited war frustrated the nation, eroded his popular and congressional support and squeezed the joy out of his presidency. His advisers feared that requesting official congressional sanction for the war might compromise the president`s authority as commander-in-chief; bad advice, for it led to increasing partisan conflict. 
Truman`s record was not without failures, either of judgment or purpose. He could "shoot from the hip," blunder badly on occasion and be incredibly naive. ("I like old Joe [Stalin]! He is a decent fellow." "Well, I guess I goofed," he admitted to reproachful aides)... 
Truman is an elegantly written, even moving, work. McCullough has mined the papers of Truman and his associates to invariably find the insightful revelation. He has used his sources wisely and shrewdly to paint an unforgettable portrait... 
Truman surrounded himself with first-rate advisers (George Marshall, Dean Acheson, and Clark Clifford among them), weighed conflicting views and decisively acted. On his famous whistle-stop tour during the 1948 election, he disarmingly told his audiences: "You don`t get any double-talk from me. I`m either for something or against it, and you know it. You know what I stand for." And they did. 
In this era of sound bites and reading lips, we no longer believe political leaders in the same way... Truman knew himself, and he rarely trimmed his sails to momentary fashions. He was, as Dean Acheson aptly described him, the "captain with a mighty heart." We may never see the likes of him again.                                                          

Walking with the priest who had been chaplain of Battery D in WWI

Here is a perfect video piece to watch on this Independence Day weekend: Mr. McCullough chats with Morley Safer about Harry Truman -- as well as George Washington, Ben Franklin, and the events that unfolded in the summer of 1776 at Philadelphia.

UPDATE: Take a look at this reflection on Mr. Jefferson and Mr. Lincoln.

Monday, June 29, 2015


[first published June 29, 2014]

by Dr. David Pence

Every Sunday at Mass, Catholics stand to profess in the Creed that we believe in "the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church." What does it mean to say the Church is Apostolic, and why is the feast of St. Peter and St. Paul one of the ten holy days of obligation in the Catholic Church? The feast day reminds us that the Church wants us to reflect on these men and their office as apostles, in the same way we reflect on Mary’s Immaculate Conception or Christ’s Ascension into heaven. These are central truths that organize the way we understand reality and live our common life as a Church.

Saint Paul

Both Peter and Paul had their names changed in their encounter with Christ.  Saul became Paul and Simon was re-named Peter.  Christ the new Adam re-organized humanity, not as the blood sons of Adam and Eve, but now as a sacral brotherhood that would allow entry into the life of the Trinity. “Those whom He foreknew, he predestined to share the image of His Son, that the Son might be the firstborn of many brothers.” David drew Jonathan (the blood son of Saul) away from his own kinship claims to succession, into the newly anointed Davidic Kingdom.  So Christ configured the first twelve apostles -- all loyal sons of Jacob -- into the new priesthood that would be the twelve foundation stones of the Church. Calling Paul an apostle a decade later showed that some vital aspect of the apostolic duties and office of the original Twelve would live on in other elected men through the ages. The joining of Paul to the apostolic office and his mission to the Gentiles gives evidence that the Church built on a highly localized brotherhood of Galileans was to spread all over the earth, and yet still be fully manifested in such crucial Catholic local forms as the parish Mass and the diocesan Bishop.

The fraternal relationship of Christ to his chosen men forms the living sinew of the new Temple, in which the presence of God will be carried to the ends of the earth. This is the sacramental order that the Church establishes as the central organism to reorder humanity under the Father. Holy Orders is the third of the sacraments which imprint an indelible mark on the soul; and, like Confirmation, it shows again how indispensable is the communion of the bishops to the Church’s sacramental order. Peter and the apostles live on in the pope and the bishops, and the bishop and his diocesan priests. These are the patriarchal fraternities that mirror the Trinity, and provide the Catholic framework for the baptizing of nations, and the public ordering of human beings necessary to prepare for the Second Coming.

To this priestly apostolic order are given particular powers to forgive sins, cast out demons, and definitively proclaim the message that God dwells among us and invites us to dwell in Him.  This priestly authority to beseech the Father -- to send the Spirit to bring us back in the presence of the Son’s sacrifice -- is the Mass. The priests have been given the keys to a mysterious "time/space machine" which binds dispersed humanity into the one Body of Christ.

"Crucifixion of St.Peter" - Rubens

It was Peter’s proclamation, not that Christ was the Messiah (a big deal in itself) but that he was the Son of the living God, that evoked from Christ His ordaining of the Petrine office. Christ did not award Peter’s faith. In fact, he told him clearly that Peter was not talking on his own. The Holy Spirit allowed Peter to profess the divinity of Christ, and upon that central theological truth was the Church built. The real rock is not so much Peter, but the accurate testimony of Peter that Jesus is God-become-man.  Christ is the cornerstone, and the apostles are the twelve foundation blocks. The keys are given to Peter to unlock mysteries in teaching, and unlock jail cells in releasing men from their sins. It is no mistake that the second reading of the feast day is an angelically engineered jailbreak for Peter -- recalling an earlier prison tomb that was evacuated so that hell might be harrowed. The priestly powers  are conferred, not on every man who chooses Christ, but on certain men whom Christ chooses.  Peter was not Superman dressed like a fisherman who burst out of prison to work miracles.  He was Peter who was led out of prison by an angel, and called out of his fishing boat by Our Lord. And that Peter was given the authority to work the miracles of healing the sick and, more importantly, forgiving men their sins.

Christ asked, “Who do men say the Son of Man is?”  Whenever Christ called himself the Son of Man, he was affirming his human identity. In Hebrew, he would have called himself the Son of Adam.  Peter, by power of the Holy Spirit, answers Christ’s directed question to the apostles about his identity: “Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God.” That was the instance the Holy Spirit spoke through Peter, speaking for the whole church with an infallible statement. We share that infallible authority every time we also comply with the Spirit, and read Scripture or profess the Creed together at Mass. It is all part of being an apostolic church with real authority given by Christ through the Spirit.

In these recent weeks of the Church liturgical year, we meditated on the coming of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the Trinitarian nature of God on Trinity Sunday, and the presence of Christ in the Eucharist on Corpus Christi. Today let us give thanks and praise for the Apostolic priesthood that makes the bridge between those spiritual realities and our lives in the practice of our sacramental life.  


Saturday, June 27, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, June 27

by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


In Yemen there are people starving. This disaster is true religious persecution: evidence of Saudi savagery toward an enemy religion in a foreign country. Where are the defenders of national sovereignty who objected so strongly to the voluntary union of Crimea and Russia? Shouldn't the  bombing and embargo against the Shiites of Yemen by salafist Sunnis of Saudi Arabia evoke an even greater outrage? Recently leaked Saudi documents revealed Riyadh's goal of limiting Shiite Islam throughout the region as well as tracking Shiites as far away as the Philippines and Australia.


Essayist and Russian translator Paul Grenier has written two thoughtful articles which challenge the mainline views on Russia: one about  a conference of Russian political thinkers and another on rethinking the three Russian writers (Berdyaev, Solovyev, Ilyin) whom Putin has recommended and often quotes.

The 'Wall Street Journal' has published a terrific summary of Russia after three revolution - the French, the Bolshevik and 1991 collapse of Soviet Union. A recurring theme of post-revolutionary Russians is their unique heritage as Russians: the spiritual leaders of Eurasia [if body of article not available, type in title at Google].


Pushing the "tough woman" forward - a bipartisan error: diplomat Vickie Nuland.

(Here is an article about her husband, Robert Kagan, and his working relationship with Mrs. Clinton).


An excellent review of the role of the CIA in policy and strategy under President Obama.

The deep inroads of Sunni Muslims in shaping "interfaith dialogue" and the American perception of Islam are revealed in a new book Catastrophic Failure by Stephen Coughlin.


The most established nuclear power in the Mideast is Israel. The most aggressive nuclear power in the Mideast is Pakistan. Pakistan normally directs its enmity toward their old countrymen - the Hindus of India. A new generation in Pakistan may turn their attention to the struggle for Sunni dominance in the Mideast. If that happens, Israel and the Shia states will be most at risk with only Israel able to play the nuclear card in response. We are not aware of a clear and comprehensive narrative explaining the changing rules of membership in the nuclear club, and the Byzantine history of how different countries came to their possession of nuclear power or nuclear weapons.


Rod Dreher of 'American Conservative' on the basic theological-anthropological insights of the Pope's encyclical Laudato Si. David Brooks of the 'NY Times' offers a criticism that stings; while Phil Lawler shares a good summary at Catholic Culture.


The killing of nine black Christians at a Bible study in Charleston, South Carolina, by a twenty-one year old lone-wolf male was certainly a godless act of racial disdain. Unlike the pseudo-race events of Ferguson, Missouri, and Baltimore, Maryland, which led to rioting, this real act of racism was answered with the powerful response of Christian love. Let the Dixie flag come down and let us raise the Cross high over our beloved Stars and Stripes so we might be one nation again under God. The miracle in Charleston-America and the public profession of Christianity.

Friday, June 26, 2015

Friday BookReview: DANTE (d. 1321)


Dante was born in Florence, where he achieved literary renown and political power... but was forced into exile for twenty years, and died in his mid-50's in Ravenna on the east coast of Italy.

Here is a brief video introduction to his DIVINE COMEDY. 

The journalist Rod Dreher has a new book on how that classic work lifted him out of illness and the 'slough of despond' -- and renewed his heart to appreciate the glory of the eternal Lord.


The thing that jumped out at me in Dreher's musings was his insistence that Dante Alighieri kept two things in balance -- he absolutely loved Holy Mother Church, while he shook with hatred toward clerics who had made their peace with the stench of deep corruption:
"The poet was able to stare down the evil of the clergy, including its Supreme Pastors, condemn them as devils, and yet affirm the goodness of God through the Church, despite its rotten state. This astounded me."    (page 157)
Rod Dreher told a friend: "Dante decided that his wrath was keeping him from doing what he needed to do to get back on the straight path. Virgil told him to use good memories, peaceful memories, to fight off the ones that provoked him to wrath."

I wasn't expecting so much of the tale told by Mr. Dreher to revolve around his family in rural Louisiana, but it works well as a vehicle to gradually draw the reader into the medieval world of Italy and to appreciate the poet's imaginative limning of what awaits each of us when "the roll is called up yonder."

Dreher came to realize that when he moved back to the small town of his parents, he "made false idols of family and place" -- not making those goods subservient to "the ultimate good, which is unity with God." Hoping for a deep reconciliation with his father, Rod ended by realizing that he was "searching for unconditional love where it cannot be found... I had enthroned family and place -- and their personification, my father -- in my heart in the place of God. This was the greatest sin that led me to the dark wood in the middle of the journey of my life."

Mr. Dreher is also blessed to have a wise pastor (a former cop who got burnt out) instructing him:
"The Church is a spiritual hospital... Grace is the medicine that will heal us. Prayer and fasting open our souls to grace."

How did Dante Alighieri view sin? As a metaphysical phenomenon.
Mr. Dreher explains: "To sin is to introduce disharmony into the system... [T]he entire universe runs on the power of love. Sin, therefore, can be thought of as being like a blood clot that disrupts the smooth flow of love... Sin is not an abstract idea but something that is woven into the fabric of reality."    (page 130)

The historian Christopher Dawson called Dante the "truest son of Thomas Aquinas." In the poem, the Florentine encounters the Angelic Doctor who urges humility and patience on him -- to rein in his judgment of others, to "affirm the goodness of life despite its injustices." Exile is the human condition; thus, begging mercy from God -- and being merciful -- is our only hope.

Guided by Virgil (L), Dante visits the gluttons in Purgatory

Dreher praises the audio teaching series on Dante's classic by Bill Cook and Ron Herzman. A listener's review included this anecdote: 
"[The two men have had] extensive experience in teaching Dante (a) at the university level, (b) in the Attica maximum security prison [in western New York], and (c) to a group of monks. One of the fascinating revelations was how the young university students preferred reading 'Inferno'; the prison inmates preferred 'Purgatorio'; and the Trappist monks preferred 'Paradiso.' 
But what about Dante's original readers in the Middle Ages? ... [They] would have embraced the totality of the mystical experience, as opposed to any single portion of the poem."

The character Dante says: "Then it was clear to me that everywhere in heaven is Paradise, even if the grace of the highest Good does not rain down in equal measure."
(All forms of Procrustean egalitarianism -- along with mindless libertarianism -- will forever cease, along with so much else, when we depart this vale of tears.)

Here is an EWTN interview with Mr. Dreher.

UPDATE: Take a listen to this sublime Franz Liszt meditation on the DIVINE COMEDY.

Here is an excerpt from an essay that Mr. Dreher wrote for 'Intercollegiate Review' --
For Dante, all sin results from disordered desire: either loving the wrong things or loving the right things in the wrong way.This is countercultural, for we live in an individualistic, libertine, sensual culture in which satisfying desire is generally thought to be a primary good.  

For contemporary readers, especially young adults, Dante’s encounter with Francesca da Rimini, one of the first personages he meets in Hell, is deeply confounding. Francesca is doomed to spend eternity in the circle of the Lustful, inextricably bound in a tempest with her lover, Paolo, whose brother—Francesca’s husband—found them out and murdered them both.
Francesca explains to Dante how she and Paolo fell into each other’s arms. How could she have controlled herself? she says. 

"Love, that excuses no one loved from loving, / Seized me so strongly with delight in him / That, as you see, he never leaves my side. / Love led us straight to sudden death together." 

She ends by saying that reading romantic literature together caused them to fall hopelessly and uncontrollably in love—unto death, at the hands of her jealous husband.
To modern ears, Francesca’s apologia sounds both tragic and beautiful. But the discerning reader will observe that she never takes responsibility for her actions. In her mind, her fate is all the fault of love—or rather, Love. We know, however, that it is really lust, and that her grandiose language in praise of romantic passion is all a gaudy rationalization. It’s a rationalization that is quite common in our own time, as everything in our popular culture tells us that desire is the same thing as love, and that love, so considered, is its own justification.

Monday, June 22, 2015


An Introduction to the Religious, Ethnic, and Geopolitical Makeup of the Horn of Africa

By A. Joseph Lynch

The "Horn of Africa" refers to the far eastern region of Africa which juts out into the Indian Ocean. Although Somalia comprises much of the horn itself - aptly called the Somalian peninsula - the region also includes Eritrea, Djibouti, and Ethiopia.

Christian Ethiopia is by far the region's dominant nation. Not only does it control 60% of the region's land area, Ethiopia is home to roughly 85% of the region's 100 million people. Ethiopia's Lake Tana provides the source of the Blue Nile flowing out of Ethiopia's highland core where the capital city of Addis Ababa sits at the foothills of Mt. Entoto. Ethiopia is, however, landlocked and dependent on its neighbors (mostly Djibouti, Kenya, and Somalia) for transportation of its exports. Ethiopia is the continent's greatest supplier of coffee, and also exports agricultural goods and gold. Militarily speaking, Ethiopia has an army of roughly 135,000 men with another 3,000 in air forces. The landlocked nation has no navy. Ethiopia is also the third largest Christian nation in Africa (behind only Nigeria at #1 and the Democratic Republic of Congo) and the ninth largest in the world. Christian roots in Ethiopia run deep as the evangelist St. Matthew brought the faith to Ethiopia in the first century, and Scripture records St. Phillip's conversion of the Ethiopian court official (see Acts 8:26-38). Christianity was made the state religion of Ethiopia around the year AD 330, but with the rise of Islam across north Africa in the seventh century Ethiopia was cut off from its brethren in the north.

At around nine million people and about one third of the region's land area, Somalia is the second largest country in the Horn of Africa and the region's largest Sunni Muslim country. Where Ethiopia has no coastline, Somalia has the longest coastline in Africa and is situated near the geostrategic choke point of the Bab El-Mandeb strait (which links the Mediterranean-Suez-Red Sea to the Gulf of Aden and Arabian Sea). Despite its access to the sea and its strategic location, Somalia has been wracked by civil war for decades. While some stability is growing from its southern coastal region around the capital of Mogadishu, Islamic terrorists networks (like Al-Shabab) remain strong in the southern hinterlands while the northern-most region of Somaliland (the former British colony) has declared independence and is considered an autonomous region within the country, Dangers from Isalamist forces have led to interventions by Christian Ethiopia (2006-2009) and Christian Kenya (2011's Operation Linda Nchi - "Protect the Country").

Eritrea is the region's other country with a substantial coastline. Unlike Somalia, however, Eritrea's coast is contained within the Red Sea, oriented toward Saudi Arabia and Yemen, and its southern-most point is located at the northern boundaries of the strategic Strait of Bab El-Mandeb. Eritrea is also torn between Islam and Christianity -- with Christianity holding a slight majority in the nation. Having been incorporated into Ethiopia in the years after World War II, Eritrea fought a 30-year war of independence from Ethiopia ending in 1993. From 1998-2000, Eritrea sparked (and lost) a border war with Ethiopia. With Ethiopia still holding lands in Eritrea, the region's two most populous Christian nations have relatively poor relations with one another. Eritrea also began a short border war with its southern Islamic nation of Djibouti and yet holds a observer status in the Arab League. Eritrea, it seems, is thus neither integrated into the Islamic nor Christian worlds. Eritrea's strategic location and large copper, gold, granite, marble, and potash reserves, however, make it a potentially important regional ally to whoever can forge a lasting relationship.

With a population just under that of South Dakota (approximately 810,000) and amassing just 1% of the region's land area, Djibouti is the Horn of Africa's smallest country. In spite of this, the port city and capital of Djibouti City, provides an important commercial hub at the entrance of the Bab El-Mandeb strait. Although Djibouti is 94% Sunni Muslim and only 6% Christian, it practices religious freedom and acts as a key partner of Christian Ethiopia as 70% of all port activities involve shipments for the landlocked nation. As a member of the Arab League, Djibouti also maintains strategic ties to the wider Sunni-Arab world.

Saturday, June 20, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, June 20

                                              by David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


Hugh Pope on lessons from NATO's only Muslim-majority nation.


China's infrastructure projects to rival Roman roads.

From Pepe Escobar of 'Asia Times' on China's open seas and new Silk Road.


Rebuilding our diplomatic corps.


International Yoga Day proposed by India's President Modi sparks interesting communal responses.


Iran's Ayatollah Khomeini and the Soviet-era Gorbachev on God and the State. Gorbachev did not take the Iranian's chastisement well, but Vladimir Putin as president of Russia is much more religious in geopolitical thinking than secular westerners can imagine. From 'Asia Times.'

Alexander Dugin is one of the most important intellectuals helping to shape the Putin view of Russia's role in the world.


June 15, the Magna Carta: 800 years ago. Not so much a document celebrating the rights of all men, it was recognition of a plurality of institutions under law and God -- the king, the Church, the barons. It was a blow against the autonomy of tyranny, not a celebration of the autonomy of all men. The role of religion and the Church in the Magna Carta,


When the US reevaluates our policy of allying with the Saudi approach to Sunni Islam, we might consider three Muslim (but non-Arab) nations of the northern tier: Three Musketeers of non-Arab Muslims.

The participation of the U.S. in the Saudi bombing and economic blockade campaign against the Houthi Shiittes of Yemen cries out as religious persecution -- and we are on the wrong side. The anti-Shiite rhetoric has turned to violence against the minority Shiites in Saudi Arabia.


Is the Church a criminal or are there criminals in the Church?


Five Catholic cardinals and 45 bishops meet in Ghana.