Monday, April 27, 2015

Map on Monday: SUNNI ARAB STATES

LINGUISTIC AND COMMUNAL LOYALTIES OF THE MIDEAST AND CENTRAL ASIA: A THREE PART SERIES ON THE ARABS, PERSIANS, AND TURKS


PART I: THE SUNNI ARAB STATES

by A. Joseph Lynch

The map above depicts the Arab world in terms of language rather than ethnicity or in terms of the Sunni-Shia division of Islam. While the term "Arab world" is often haphazardly used to connote the entire Islamic world, defining the actual geographic limits of the Arab world is difficult to determine. The nations of the Mashriq ("the pace of sunshine"), or Islamic lands between the Mediterranean and Persia, may be Arab ethnically and linguistically but they are not all Sunni Arab states. Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Bahrain and Lebanon all boast either Shia majorities or large minorities. Given the recent turmoil in the region we may consider the following list as the Sunni Arab states of the Mashriq: Jordan, Kuwait, Qatar, United Arab Emirates, Oman, and Saudi Arabia.

The nations of the Maghreb ("where the sun sets") are considered "Arab" states despite their Berber ethnic ancestry. The Arabic language and Sunni Islamic faith, combined with its history in the first century of Islamic expansion between AD 632-732, roots the Maghreb firmly in the Arab world.
Sharing in a strong regional identity, the states of the Maghreb forged the Arab Maghreb Union in February 1989. (Algeria: 39 million pop.; Libya: 7 m; Mauritania: 3 m; Morocco: 32 m; Tunisia: 11 m.)  Although there are rivalries and conflicts within the union, particularly over the fate of Western Sahara (part of Morocco or an independent state?), the AMU boasts a collective population of 88.5 million, and significant amounts of phosphate, oil, and gas. Its geographic location near western Europe and past relationship to the former French colonial empire makes it an important connector to mainland Europe.

With a population of 86 million, Egypt is by far the largest Sunni Arab state (Algeria by comparison ranks #2 at a population of 38.7 million, less than half that of Egypt). Although it is geographically in the Maghreb, its cultural and history tie it more closely to the Mashriq. Rather than being identified with either half, however, Egypt is treated as the center or heart of the Sunni Arab world. It is for this reason that the Arab League - the regional organization of Arab states - is headquartered in Cairo.

MEMBER NATIONS OF THE ARAB LEAGUE
The Arab League was founded on March 22, 1945; and has grown steadily over the decades to include twenty-two member states (Syria, however, has been suspended since November 2011). The total population of the Arab League member states stands at about 366 million. Although the League has no official military body, its leaders in 2007 reactivated a joint defense and peacekeeping force (the former Arab Liberation Army) which had been dissolved since the end of the 1948 Arab-Israeli War. This force includes over 3 million active duty men and another 2.2 million in reserve. While it is highly unlikely that this pan-Arab military force would be brought to bear as a unified whole, ten Sunni Arab nations of the Arab League have begun military operations in Yemen -- not against the Sunni Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula but, rather, against Shiite Muslims.

It is to these Shiites and to the Persian civilization that we shall turn in part two of this series.

Sunday, April 26, 2015

'Good Shepherd Sunday' -- The Shepherd: Protector or Nursemaid?


by David Pence


“I am the good shepherd. The good shepherd lays down his life for the sheep. He who is a hired hand, and not a shepherd, who doesn't own the sheep, sees the wolf coming, leaves the sheep, and flees. The wolf snatches the sheep, and scatters them. The hired hand flees because he is a hired hand, and doesn't care for the sheep. I am the good shepherd. I know my own, and I'm known by my own; even as the Father knows me, and I know the Father. I lay down my life for the sheep.”         (from the Gospel of John, read on Good Shepherd Sunday)

The heart of the shepherd is that of a protector ready to shed his own blood in the face of wolves attacking the sheep. It is unfortunate that the dominant iconography of the good shepherd is not a man standing in front of his flock taking on a wolf, but the image of a usually mawkish Jesus cuddling a lamb in his arms. Now Christ himself said in Scripture that he would leave the ninety-nine sheep to go find the lost one, and "lay it on his shoulders, rejoicing." That image was also well known in the ancient world as the kriophoros—the “ram bearer” as a figure preparing for sacrifice.

But the shepherd in todays Gospel is in a different stance. There are many traits of the Shepherd which Scripture teaches beginning with the clarity and recognition of his voice by his sheep. Abel and Abraham and the first Christmas witnesses were all shepherds. I always think of those noble shepherds of Christmas night coming to protect the babe in the cave from wolves and beasts, who in nature often sense the vulnerability of birthing. Certainly, Satan might have thought to send an animal precursor to Herod’s men. But Joseph had his shepherd brothers there. Like so many times in history when strong good men are present, there is no vicious tale to tell and thus the work of the protective peacemakers is unheralded.

The greatest of the shepherds until Christ was, of course, King David. He has never been confused with a nursemaid. David was consecrated by Samuel, but he won the allegiance of the men of Israel by his courage against a wolf-giant that had frightened Saul’s soldiers into their tents. When King Saul berated David as no match for Goliath, the son of Jesse reminded him:

“When a lion or a bear came and took a lamb from the flock, I went out after him and [attacked him], and rescued it from his mouth; and when he rose up against me, I seized him by his beard and struck him and killed him. Your servant has killed both the lion and the bear; and this uncircumcised Philistine will be like one of them, since he has taunted the armies of the living God.”

        David as valiant protector

The pope wears a pallium over his shoulders made of lamb’s wool to show his authority as a shepherd. Let us make for every bishop a new icon of the Good Shepherd—a picture or statue of a man seizing and striking a lion or bear to protect his flock. The feast of the Good Shepherd reminds us that the first service of the ruler is to protect—even if that means death. For today’s priesthood that means to risk reputation and career pathway to clean out the soft wolves among the shepherds, those men who have emasculated the apostolic fraternity. This corruption of the masculine protective personality has paralyzed the nations of Christendom. Our fathers have left us wealthy, well-organized  and well-armed; but as our fellow Christians are slaughtered in Africa and the Mideast, we watch like hirelings behind the bushes.

The evil we are hiding from was foretold in the Book of Revelation. Satan was infuriated that he could not harm the woman who was giving birth to her Son. "Enraged at her escape, the dragon went off to to make war on the rest of her offspring, on those who keep God's commandments and give witness to Jesus."

Lest we allow ourselves to become too comfortable that this bloodletting from afar is an inevitable work of the Evil One causing us sadness but no protective response, we should look to Revelation again for the last of the Biblical references to the Shepherd: "She gave birth to a Son -- a boy destined to shepherd all the nations with an iron rod."

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, April 25


by David Pence



IRAN, THE BOMB, AND HUMAN RIGHTS

Do sanctions and blockade lead to peace or human rights? Consider this article about an Iranian dissident who supports both Nuclear Deal and Human Rights. He reminds us what most Americans do not appreciate as deeply as Iranians. Iran has been at war with the US and Israel since the 1979 revolution. Slogans such as Death to America! and Death to Israel! do not state  the theology of Iran, but their state of war. "Kill the Hun" and "Destroy the Japs" is how we said it in America when we were at war with those two countries. The religious revolution in Iran drastically altered the landscape of alliances for both  Israel and the US in the Mideast. It has been hard to reconfigure these relations even though Sunni extremism has recast the region in the last decade.


SAUDI ARABIA BOMBS THE SHIA OF YEMEN

The New York Times reports the obvious displeasure of the Iraq government with the Saudi bombing of the Shia Houthis of Yemen. The military response of the Saudis to ISIL  in Iraq and AQAP in Yemen is miniscule compared to the ferocity of the bombings and blockade against the Houthis. The real enemies of the Sauds are  Shia insurgencies -- the target was not the nation state of Iran but the communal religious enemy of Wahhabis: the Shia. The greatest danger from various Salafi Sunni movements  to the US homeland comes from Al Qaeda of the Arabian Pennisula.  Why don't the Saudis bomb those enemies of ours instead of the Shia Houthis?  The Saudi bombing in fact has greatly aided AQAP. The foreign minister of Iraq (the government that was elected after the US overthrow of the secularist dictatorship of Saddam Hussein) asks the same question. The bombs were dropped. Shia were killed. For a moment the bombing had stopped. Then bombing resumed. Food shortages and access to necessities brought in by sea are as pressing a problem for Yemen Houthis who have armed themselves to protect themselves in this war-torn land. Armed Shia are considered a threat to Wahhabi Muslims even if they are in their own land. The strangest scenario is the clueless American press asking about Iranian arms while watching in plain daylight Saudi airplanes (fueled and directed by American intelligence) bombing the cities of their religious foes battling AQAP in another country.

Pat Buchanan provides a good summary of the opposing forces in Yemen.


ON TO ROME ACROSS THE SEA

The death of a thousand migrants trying to cross the Mediterranean from Libya to Italy is another cruel reminder that the NATO bombing campaign against the Libyan state in 2011 didn't quite end the way NATO explains at their site on NATO and Libya.  One video ends with pictures of women and children waving peace signs and a text declaring: "By the end of 2011, Libya was a free country." The reality of Libya is mindful of the 1970 era right after the 'peace and love summers' in San Francisco, when bikers and thugs took over the hippies' neighborhood. The lesson remains. Order is necessary for liberty; and the killing of a dictator must be followed by the construction of a state, or he will be replaced by a hundred pirates and a thousand petty tyrants.  

Looking at a map of the Mediterranean we see the Roman target that Hannibal saw from Carthage (present day Tunis in Tunisia). We see the land across the sea that present-day migrants from the failed states of northern Africa pray for. Finally, we are reminded of the strategic role of Malta as a small island between warring empires. On to Rome! is an ISIL phrase that resonates -- may the Knights of Malta intervene again.


EAST AFRICA: SMALL MOVEMENTS IN FAILED SMALL ISLAMIC STATES TORMENT CHRISTIAN MEN FROM LARGE ENFEEBLED CHRISTIAN STATES

Ethiopia has been Christian since the first century. Christianity became a state religion in the same century as Constantine's Rome (330 AD). Ethiopia is 90 million strong (two-third Christian, the rest Muslim). On April 20, 2015, the nation watched an ISIL video of 30 Christian countrymen beheaded in Libya (6 million; 97% Sunni Islam) because they would not deny Christ. Every man killed could have saved his life by renouncing Our Lord. Two weeks earlier on Holy Thursday the Christian country of Kenya (45 million;  65% Christian) had a university border town attacked by four Islamic fighters of Somalian al Shabab. There were 150 Christian students killed on Holy Thursday -- some at a Holy Week prayer service, others separated from Muslim students in dormitories and classrooms. Somalia, the coastal country home of al Shabaab, is 99% Muslim with a population of 10 million.  The fleeing Christians of Quaroqish needed armed Christian protection as ISIL advanced.  A good summary of the last several weeks and a question for American Christians.


FIGHTING LIKE A GIRL

There is something about the new way of war: sanctions against whole populations;  high flying unmanned drones killing a man in his home and village; an aversion to boots on the ground; a behind-the-glass theme that I will kill for my country but not die. War by regulations favors bureaucrats, not special forces; thus the ladies of the European Union have opened up yet another front against the Russians.


AS RELIGION DECLINES IN EUROPE, PAGAN NATIONALISM RISES AS THE NEW COMMUNAL IDENTITY.  ATHEISTIC EUROPEAN  BUREAUCRACY CAN DAMAGE ENEMIES, LESS ABLE TO FOSTER LOYALTY

'Ummah' is an important Arabic concept for nation or community. It is a missing  word and concept in all too many "realist" schools of foreign policy. Here it applies to Scotland, and shows us that the loss of religion in Europe is going to be filled by some kind of Ummah -- most likely a hyper-nationalism undisciplined by the universal moderating tendencies of religion.This is what happend as atheistic Communism threatened Europe in the 1920's and 30's, and Adolph Hitler argued that only a return to a hardy racial pagan warrior past could save Germany from the revenge of the Western powers and the perfidy of the Bolsheviks. Today in every country in Europe, the banner of nationalism has been ceded to the irreligious. Is the political party SNP the new Church of Scotland?


FINDING THE RIGHT VOCABULARY IN RESTORING CHRISTIAN  CULTURE IN AMERICA

Prophetic religion, not civil rights, is what ended Jim Crow in the American South.  Only when the nature of the debate became biblically grounded (not rights-oriented) did a Spirit-led movement triumph. Our cultural dilemna today is that once again we need to reframe the debate to rekindle the Spirit. Jennifer Morse makes a compelling argument why religious liberty is not the right flag.  Christianity vs the Sexual Revolution is a better hill to take. Austin Ruse aims his hammer at the same nail when he writes that men don't march for natural law.


WHAT WE COULD LEARN FROM CHINA IN FOREIGN POLICY

China has its own jihadist warriors coming from the Turkic Muslim Uighurs in the western province of Xinjiang. Controlling this area depends on making allies with the foreign neighbor who could shut down the rebels or be their refuge. The pivotal  country is Sunni Pakistan with their nuclear weapons, and their own dilemma of Salafist agitation against the state. China supplied some military aid (as always, the type of aid which Pakistan can point against perennial rival India). The preponderance of China's aid, however, will build infrastucture helping Pakistan as a country and strengthening claims of the state to serve their population. The Chinese are contributing real wealth that underlies the stability of their allied states as they complete another Silk Road project -- this time Pakistan. When the Chinese think infrastucture, they think big at home as well as abroad.    


DEATH OF CARDINAL GEORGE OF CHICAGO AND RESIGNATION OF ARCHBISHOP FINN OF KANSAS CITY

On April 17, 2015, Cardinal Francis George died. He was installed as eighth archbishop of Chicago in 1997 to fill a vacancy left by the death of Cardinal Joseph Bernardin (November 1996). He was the first native Chicagoan to assume the office. These two reflections on his life by Father Barron and George Weigel tell us many good things about him. This criticism documents a failure to rule and protect.  Cardinal George had an authentic kind of humility and a desire to to restore a "simply Catholic" culture. Many pictures of him are in a reflective mode depicting him as great intellectual.  He did not see himself that way. The much more consequential Chicago prelate was his predecessor, Cardinal Bernadin. Cardinal George was not a strong enough man to reform the deep-seated corruption and lavenderizing of the Chicago priesthood. In civic matters, he did not understand the most rudimentary of political institutions.  He once said:
“Instead of a world living in peace because it is without religion, why not imagine a world without nation states?… 
“Few there are, however, who would venture to ask if there might be a better way for humanity to organize itself for the sake of the common good. Few, that is, beyond a prophetic voice like that of Dorothy Day, speaking acerbically about ‘Holy Mother the State’..."
Cardinal George was the poster man of the exhausted bishop. His intellectual orthodoxy remained in the realm of ideas. He never enacted the orthopraxy of the protective shepherd. He threw up his hands to the world of men, nations, and war. When he had hiring powers and unopposed leadership he improved institutions like Mundelein Seminary. Some of his writing and a few of his quotes were trenchant. But he was no ruler of men. When he faced a predator like Father Dan McCormack, he ran away like the hireling -- and the wolf devoured his black male sheep. That was his most publicized failure to protect, but it was not an exception. He has left Chicago Catholics, and particularly young males, in the care of one of the nation's most deeply compromised presbyterates. He goes now to face the Good Shepherd. It is not clear he will rest in peace.

Archbishop Robert Finn resigned on April 20 as archbishop of St Joseph/Kansas City . We had urged the same in 2012. This article from the National Catholic Reporter recalls a lot of painful details.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Friday BookReview: "Bleak House" by Dickens


"After his decisive victories Napoleon 
began to put his house in order; 
after his decisive victories Dickens also
 began to put his house in order. 
The house, when he had put it in order, was Bleak House."
                  (G.K. Chesterton)



When 'Time' magazine recently ranked Charles Dickens' greatest novels, this tale of an endless "scarecrow of a legal suit" came out on top.

                     


From a review by Grace Pennington:
As with every other Dickens in my experience, I read the first half of the book in about two months and the last half in about two days.  Yes, it takes some time to get into.  But once it sucks you in, there’s no escape.  The compelling situations, fascinating characters, and intricate mysteries keep you turning pages to the very end, and leave you wanting more. 
While Bleak House itself is a good place, the word “bleak” in the title gives an accurate description of the book’s tone.  Though Dickens’ usual macabre touch is mostly lacking, there is no denying that it’s a bleak tale on many levels.  But the hope is there, very plainly, alongside the serious warnings.  If I had to label the message of Bleak House, I would say that it is a story that contrasts wisdom and folly. 
Capable, conscientious, affectionate Esther Summerson knows nothing of her lineage, having been brought up by her godmother.  Her life is one of misery and solitude until she is placed under the care of her guardian, Mr. Jarndyce, an eccentric, warm-hearted bachelor.  Mr. Jarndyce’s two other wards – cousins Richard and Ada – adore Esther as well, and she finds herself completely happy and loved for the first time in her life. 
But the Jarndyce family has a curse hanging over them in the form of a court case – “Jarndyce and Jarndyce” – which has been dragging out for years.  Fortunes have been spent, men have taken their own lives, and it has become the laughingstock of the courts.  No one remembers what it is about, and Mr. Jarndyce would prefer to forget the whole thing.  But when Richard begins to become obsessed with it, Esther and her guardian are afraid it will destroy him. 
Then slowly, darkness enters Esther’s own life, in many forms.  She learns of her shameful heritage and her tortured mother.  Illness robs her of her beauty, and she is brought face-to-face with the poverty and tragedy of the poorer classes.  She watches as Ada’s heart breaks over Richard’s folly.  She sees intrigue ruin the lives of those close to her, and learns that people are not always what they seem. 
Through it all, her bright, kind personality shines, as she casts sunshine on those around her, always thinking of others before herself.  And she finds that even in the darkness, hope can prevail... 
Starkly contrasting is the haughty, anguished Lady Dedlock.  The self-centered actions of her youth bring trouble on everyone around her, cause her constant fear, and threaten to destroy her marriage.  Even when her softer side is manifest, the way she shows it is selfish and thoughtless, with a couple of rare exceptions.  Lady Dedlock is a confused, tortured woman, one whom it is hard to love but very easy to pity. 
Then there’s Mrs. Jellyby.  Mrs. Jellyby, mother of eight children, wife to Mr. Jellyby, and obsessed with a mission – Africa.  This woman dedicates her life to Africa, constantly writing, speaking and working, all to help the poor people of Booriboola-Ga be able to have coffee.  Meanwhile, her children get hurt and get into trouble, her house is an utter disaster, her husband has become so weary of life he can hardly hold his head up, and her oldest daughter Caddy learns to almost hate her.  Such a noble woman!  One of the most touching lines in the book comes when Mr. Jellyby pleads with Caddy on the eve of her wedding; “Please, don’t ever have…a mission.”


A couple other characters must be mentioned --

Mr. Guppy is an eccentric law clerk who immediately falls head-over-heels for the astonished Miss Summerson. Take a look.

Mr. Skimpole is a sponger who would have fit right in during San Francisco's summer of love: "I am a child; play with me!
"I only ask to be free. The butterflies are free. Mankind will surely not deny to Harold Skimpole what it concedes to the butterflies!"

                                                     


UPDATE: The clip of Mr. Guppy is from the 2005 version. Here is the initial episode.

Diana Rigg starred in the 1985 production (opening segment here).

                                     

                            
         "It is said that the children of the very poor
 are not brought up, but dragged up."



Monday, April 20, 2015

Map on Monday: GEOSTRATEGIC CHOKE POINTS




GEOSTRATEGIC CHOKE POINTS: CRITICAL ZONES OF CONTROL FOR COMMERCIAL AND MILITARY ACTIVITY 

by A. Joseph Lynch

 71% of the world's surface is covered by water. The map above depicts seven geostrategic choke points along waterways that are vital links for commerce and military seafaring. Controlling access to waterways in war and peace often involves attacking or defending these chokepoints.

Despite being thousands of miles from Europe, the Strait of Malacca, for example, has been significant for European powers dating back to the Portuguese and British. The Japanese naturally sought control of the strait in December 1941. Russia looks to the Danish Straits in its north and the Bosporus to its south for its fleets from St. Petersburg and Crimea to access the open waters. Fleets from the Crimea still have to pass through either the Suez Canal and the Strait of Bab El-Mandeb if they wish to reach the Arabian Sea or through the umarked Strait of Gibraltar to enter the Atlantic. About 35% of the world's shipped oil passes through the Strait of Hormuz, making it a vital choke point for many nations' energy demands. Any conflicts between Sunni(Saudi Arabia) and Shia(Iran) will have that narrow seaway as a major military concern.  Finally, the Panama Canal allows shipping to cross through central America rather than around the southern tip of South America. The canal is a vital point of communication and military sea transport for the United States Navy.

Saturday, April 18, 2015

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, April 18


by David Pence


NETANYAHU  VS IRAN -- AN EXCESS NOT SHARED 

Prime Minister Netanyahu has added a new hurdle for the Iranians. It is a hurdle he has not presented to the Sauds who have now become his de facto allies in the Mideast.  His demand that recognition of Israel be part of any nuclear deal was rejected by a former Mossad chief who has disagreed for many years with Netanyahu's assessment of Iran's nuclear threat to Israel.



A MAN OF HIS NATION

An excellent profile of Chinese leader Xi Jinping who Lee Kuan Yew called a man of Nelson Mandela type character.

For  Xi Jinping, the Party is the corporate body that both he and his father gave their lives to. Both had severe setbacks in the Cultural Revolution, but both see the Party as the collective instrument which liberated and still governs their huge nation. Their commitment is not to an ideology, but a living group of fellow soldier-workers. He believes the Communist Party of the Soviet Union fell because of the personal corruption of its members. His anti-corruption program has made him 100,000 enemies and a million friends.  He thought Mikhail Gorbachev was "not man enough" to defend the Party through his reform agenda. Reform is good; loss of public order is a catastrophe. He considers most democracy and human rights NGO's as foreign agents attempting to destroy civic order and ultimately effect regime change. He believes there is a crisis in faith in China which the Party must address. This is part of the motivation of his "China Dream." He considers unfettered Internet, unbridled drugs, and sexual immorality as "Western freedoms." He, like Pope Francis, is "a round man with a square center" -- which is  a Chinese aphorism for an affable personality draping a set of core commitments.

After reading about the relationship of Xi Jinping to red cadres and his understanding of their tie to the sacred goods and memory of the nation, this article about a TV personality being punished for criticism of Mao Tse Tung takes on more meaning.



FIRST THE SHIA, THEN THE CHRISTIANS, THEN THE JEWS -- GETTING RELIGIOUS WARS STRAIGHT

The bombing attack led by Saudi Arabia against the Shia Houthis of Yemen is best understood as the House of Saud crossing international boundaries to attack a rival religious group with no air defense. Days  before the bombing, 140 Shia worshipers were killed at worship in coordinated bombings of Shia mosques in Yemen.  A group no one has ever heard of (ISIL of Yemen) took credit for the attack, but it is much more likely that Salafist Sunnis of Yemen or AQAP killed men who were praying in the unauthorized manner of Shia Muslims. That attack against Muslim worship was followed by the Saudi-led air raids.  

A 'NY Times' article debunking the notion that the Houthis are some kind of Iranian surrogate.  The excellent international correspondent (Ishaan Tharoor) of the 'Washington Post' makes a similar argument explaining the Houthis as agents of their own history.



RELIGIOUS INSIGHTS FROM THE WEEK:

BOSTON BOMBERS AND CATHOLIC BISHOPS ON JUST PUNISHMENT

The Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was found guilty in Boston on April 8 on 30 counts of related charges. Several of the federal charges can be punished with the death penalty. Massachusetts has not executed a prisoner since 1947; and abolished the death penalty in 1984. A group notorious for failing to mete out justice to perpetrators of crimes crying out for capital punishment were front and center in arguing against the death penalty. Sean O'Malley and the Massachusetts bishops apparently did not see the irony in their posturing as moral authorities on the question of just punishment for capital crimes. They showed also they have not visited many prisons lately, and have no understanding of the evangelical potential of a martyr behind bars:  “The defendant in this case has been neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm." That is the statement of soft men who don't remember either Malcolm X or the Apostle Paul.


MISSING THE POINT

Why do young men become bombers? This 'Boston Globe' writer in her new book and this article has coined a new term, "Medina Muslims", to describe jihadists in the making -- often well-educated expatriates. She will become an expert soon. Her research into the biographies of the new jihadists is excellent. Her depiction of the reformation actually occurring in Islam -- the Sunni Salafist purification movement is sorely deficient. She has no sense of this being a contest between groups of males contesting communal leadership. Likewise, her understanding of man's search for God and the willingness to live and die for the highest good is buried by her sociological sensibilities. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a favorite media authority on Islam. She is Somali-born, a champion of women's rights, and an atheist. Her name rings of east Africa, but her loyalties are to the de-sacralized ideologies of Harvard Square.


GOD, DEMONS, AND SEXUALITY -- THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE LAITY KEEPS GETTING MORE INTERESTING

An interview on demons and the spirit of sexuality by a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity reminds us that the approach to sexuality in the Francis era is deeper and more anthropological than either his critics or fans can understand. The work of St John Paul II goes on. We can't wait until this creativity turns from male-female marriage and female virginity to contemplate patriarchal fraternity.

From the 'Minneapolis Star Tribune' editorial page (which also keeps getting better every year), a Harvard professor recounts the insights of Jonathan Haidt's book, Righteous Minds:Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. He says employing  the categories of the sacred, authority, and loyalty are the real differences between American liberals and conservatives. The book is an outstanding paradigm changer; and this is the clearest short summary of its most penetrating insight.


AN AFRICAN BISHOP

Cardinal Robert Sarah shows why the bishops of Germany should listen to the bishops of Africa.  All those who associate Pope Francis with the demotion of prissy legalists of the West should note that more vigorous masculine voices of orthodoxy (like Cardinals Pell of Australia and Sarah of Guinea) have been placed in positions of real authority.


THE ARGENTINIAN BISHOP OF ROME SPEAKS OF MEXICO AND RECOUNTS THE FIRST TWO YEARS

In an interview reviewing the first two years of his papacy, the Pope promises a trip to Mexico and says the devil is still angry with Mexico for the apparition of Our Lady. Her appearance at Guadalupe as a mestizo is meant to highlight the American charism of mixing ethnicities to forge a single people.  He also predicted a short papacy for himself, but no mandated age of retirement for popes.

Friday, April 17, 2015

Friday BookReview: The Spiritual Ignorance that Blinds us to "Saudi Arabia: Hatred's Kingdom"



by Dr. David Pence


Jahiliyya is an Islamic term for the state of spiritual ignorance where man resides when he  understands society and history only in terms of man-made laws. When man is enlightened by Islam, he comes to see the world in its fullness as God's creation. The more we submit to God ('Islam'), the more we can see the entirety of science, human history and man's ultimate purpose and destiny. Jahiliyya was a traditional term that referred to  societies before the Prophet came. Now it is often used to describe the modern West and Arab societies that have organized themselves as secular nationalists elevating the power of states and rulers over the primacy of God. There are parallels in Augustine's contrast of the City of God and the City of Man; in Pope Benedict's description of the West as a state of "practical atheism"; and in Pope Francis' similar depiction of "libertine atheism."

There are few fields of study in which ignorance of God and deliberate blindness to the religious dimension of men and nations is so pronounced as American foreign policy. It is even more irritating that defining the interplay of nations in the narrowest of Social Darwinist terms is trumpeted as Realism.

The most damming evidence that our foreign policy is not rooted in religious reality is that fourteen years after 9-11, the American Senate is treating the House of Saud and their Wahhabi religious establishment as our allies as the Salafist Sunnis attempt to exterminate and suppress Shia Muslims in the Mideast. Because there is no religious lens to see this battle we adopt the Saudi/Israeli depiction of all Shias as surrogates of Iran… and Iran must be destroyed.
             

Hatred's Kingdom: How Saudi Arabia Supports the New Global Terrorism (2003) by Dore Gold grew out of the author's doctoral thesis at Columbia in the 1980's. James Woolsey, former director of the CIA, praises the book: "The Saudi establishment has accepted a Faustian bargain, buying protection for itself by financing Wahhabi hatred around the world. If you read one book to understand the roots of al-Qaeda's fury and the hostility to us within the Muslim world, it should be this -- Dore Gold's superbly told history of the Wahhabis."

We are engaged in a religious war but there seem to be no senators or presidential candidates who can propose a policy that would come to grips with the roots of this war which Mr. Gold has described in his book. Reading the non-partisan Congressional Research Service report by Christopher Blanchard on Saudi Arabia ("Background and U.S. Relations") is as depressing as listening to Bill O'Reilly on Fox News pontificate that "Shia-Sunni, Sunni-Shia -- the American people don't care about that." In the CRS report there is a nice section on gender relations and women driving cars while the Shia of the Eastern oil provinces are mentioned as a minority who "create continuing strains on public order and overall stability." The restrictions on Shia to carry out many of their public processions and religious practices, or to worship in their customary manner as Muslims in the holy cities, didn't make the report. Mr. Blanchard, the non-partisan Congressional expert, may not understand the Faustian bargain at the heart of the House of Saud but he is featured on a prominent Saudi/U.S. website as a Mideast expert. Gold quotes a Bernard Lewis analogy to better grasp the Wahhabi ideology:
"Imagine if the Ku Klux Klan or Aryan Nation obtained total control of Texas and had at its disposal all the oil revenues, and used this money to establish a network of well-endowed schools and colleges all over Christendom peddling their particular brand of Christianity. This is what the Saudis have done with Wahhabism. The oil money has enabled them to spread this fanatical, destructive form of Islam all over the Muslim world and among Muslims in the west. Without oil and the creation of the Saudi kingdom, Wahhabism would have remained a lunatic fringe in a marginal country."
                           
                                                           

The importance of the religious ideological side of this war is captured by the late Lee Kwan Yew as he talks of Islam extremism in Asia: "In killing the terrorists, you will only kill the worker bees. The queen bees are the preachers, who teach a deviant form of Islam in the schools and Islamic centers, who capture and twist the minds of the young..."

A previously published AOA video interview with the author and excerpts of a book review of Hatred's Kingdom that appeared in 'Commentary' magazine can be found here.

The CRS report, mentioned above, documents $90 billion in weapons sales from the U.S. to the Sauds from 2010-14 as another mutual interest. This excellent article sums up the numerous other lobbying and Congressional ties that bind our government officials and the monarchy's clan.

Jahiliyya is a religious ignorance. It is spiritual blindness. Until Americans remove the atheist cataract from our eyes in public life and foreign policy, we will not understand the spiritual nature of the war that our Christian nation is now called to fight. Our spiritual confusion has led us to make war against our natural allies and play the foolish friend to our most lethal enemy.