Wednesday, February 22, 2017

The mysteries of the JESUS PRAYER

A fine blog to check out: Eastern Christian Books. It is run by Adam DeVille who teaches at the University of Saint Francis in Indiana.

Several years ago, he interviewed Orthodox priest John McGuckin (pictured).

One of the things Father mentions is the movie project he helped with -- traveling to assorted Christian monasteries around the world, gathering insights from holy men of God about recovering the love of prayer.

Here are 30 minutes of excerpts from that film.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Catholic Sociobiology: The Idea of the Holy

by David Pence

Rudolph Otto (1869-1937) was the Chairman of Theology at Marburg University in Germany. The Lutheran theologian’s book Das Heilige (1917) has never gone out of print, and has been translated in over 15 languages. It influenced both Karl Barth and Mircea Eliade. Otto’s unique depiction of the Divine was triggered by his 1910-1911 trip to the East when he visited North Africa, Egypt, Palestine, India, China, and Japan. After that (says his friend and English translator, John Harvey) he would see Christianity always in terms of humanity and as a culmination of the world religions more than a truth to be upheld against the arrogance of Western science. He set aside his argument with the materialists and took up a broader conversation with men trying to know God. He thought his earlier work was important, but now he had become a global Christian not a disputant in the quarrels of the West. In his introduction to the 1923 English translation he wrote, "I spent many years of study upon the rational aspect of that Supreme Reality we call God and the results of my work are contained in my books (e.g. Naturalism and Religion, 1907). I feel no one ought to concern himself with the ‘Numen ineffable’ who has not already devoted assiduous and serious study to the ‘Ratio aeterna.’"

Otto objected to reducing God to a set of ethics or a universal morality of humanity. Something fundamental to religion was missing in such projects. He defined this as "Holiness -- the holy -- is a category of interpretation and valuation peculiar to the sphere of religion." He had taught comparative religion enough to know that such studies often lead to a subjectifying of religion. It was no longer the divine that was being studied, but men and their many ways of mistaking psychological experiences for an encounter with God. Such a book was written by American psychologist-philosopher William James: The Variety of Religious Experiences (1902).

Rudolph Otto wrote a very different book. He set out to explain certain characteristics of the Holy -- of the mysterium tremendum et fascinans.  He has several important things to say about the human soul and man’s capacity for the holy, but first he described what was outside of man. He tried to isolate the particular element of the holy that is beyond absolute goodness or ethical perfection.
"Our inquiry into that element which is separate and peculiar to the holy… minus its moral factor… minus its rational factor all together. By means of a special term we shall keep the meaning apart and distinct -- beyond the meaning of goodness. For this purpose I adopt a word coined from the Latin 'numen.' Omen has given us ominous and there is no reason why from the word numen we should not similarly form a word numinous."

He proposed studying the external fact of the numinous as well as the numinous state of mind, but it is contrary to his project to identify the object with the one who perceives it. We can talk about listening and appreciating music but that would never give us permission to discard the orchestra. This is always a problem in talking religion with the modernists who reduce the conversation to the faith of believers, which starts as psychology and ends in pathology. The modern must reduce the experience of the numinous to a state of mind or desire or deficiency on the part of the believer without paying any heed to the reality of the spiritual being encountered. Otto is not trying to convince moderns of God’s presence. He is helping those around the world and through history who have reported their encounters by introducing a vocabulary -- the numinous, the mysterium tremendum et fascinans. In the early chapters he even requests "those who cannot call to mind a moment of deeply felt religious experience to read no farther." He will not trouble the blind with lectures on color. Otto also insists for his reader that we will understand better the Holy, and man’s capacity for the Holy, if we focus on what is unique in religious experience. To be rapt in worship is one thing. To be morally uplifted by the contemplation of a good deed really is something else.

Mysterium tremendum et fascinans.

Otto’s book is 200 pages long and there are a full twenty pages describing these three words. It is worth it to read them.

Mysterious has to do with total otherness. It invites reflection, if not comprehension.

Tremendum is the terribleness inciting wonder, awe, and fear. Something can be so terribly potent that it would be fatal to even innocently touch it -- like the man struck dead after steadying the ark. There are constant warnings in the Old Testament that if one would see G-d face to face, he would not live. When we are confronted by this reality of tremendum we know. We fall to our knees, not to embrace but worship while shielding our eyes. The tremendum is the fear of the Lord. Sensing that one is in the presence of such a power, there is an "inner shudder."
Fascinans: "Love, mercy, pity, comfort, religious bliss and even a strange ravishment, rising often to dizzying intoxication; the Dionysiac element of the numinous."

"These two qualities, the daunting and the fascinating, combine in a strange harmony of contrasts… that from the daemonic dread onwards is at once the strangest and most noteworthy phenomenon in the whole history of religion...The creature cowed and cast down… and yet it allures with a potent charm."

The Holy, says Otto, is 'a priori.' We do not have fathers and project the fatherhood of God. We are not afraid of a snake and then fear the devil. Both the Holy and our ability to perceive the Holy are a priori to other experiences. Experiences are often analogous, but the soul has an eye of its own. A capacity for the divine is a defining characteristic of the human soul. Our three numinous faculties (the intellect, the will, and the heart) let us know, choose, and desire not just physical objects but the spiritual realities. These faculties "issue from the deepest foundation of cognitive apprehension that the soul possesses."

Professor Otto died just as his country was being drawn into a mysterium tremendum et fascinans which most certainly was not holy. It was, however, another kind of proof that what he wrote about was closer to reality than the stunted world of rationalists and empiricists who understood neither the racial movement of the Nazis nor the spiritual depths of religion.

Numen:  a divine presence over a thing;  (derived from a nod, as if the Divine Presence is a gesture from God nodding to us.)

Monday, February 20, 2017

President George Washington: All Praise the Patriarch

by David Pence

This Monday’s federal holiday officially commemorates the birthday of our first president George Washington (b. Feb 22, 1732). In many states this is called Presidents Day and is meant to both commemorate the men who were presidents and honor the office which they held. In five states (including our own Minnesota) those February Presidents Lincoln and Washington are the special objects of our civic honor.

Patriarchy means rule of the father. A patriarch can also mean the beginning father or the founding father. Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob (Israel) are called the patriarchs of Judaism. Christianity is deeply patriarchal with the model prayer taught by Jesus asking God our father that the rule of the father in heaven be extended over all the earth. Americans have always referred to Washington as a founding father, and our most affectionate name for Lincoln came from the black tradition: 'Father Abraham.'

We honor George Washington today for leading our first national army to victory in winning independence from the British, for acting 8 years as our first president under the 1787 Constitution, and for giving up the office of authority establishing a tradition of peaceful succession for the commander-in-chief of the military. "First in war, first in peace, first in the hearts of his countrymen." In Washington’s farewell address to his troops, he prayed that the brotherly bonds of affection forged in war would animate the bonds of citizenship in the new republic. Men who believed in republics rather than monarchy still believed in authority, fatherhood, and God. They knew that men in protective and productive civic groups needed strong leaders with considerable discretion to act for the group. As Washington wrote:

"It is impossible to govern the world without God. It is the duty of all nations to acknowledge the Providence of Almighty God, to obey his will, to be grateful for his benefits and humbly implore his protection and favor."

There is in our land a hatred of the father and a rebellion against authority which destroys community. It is a repudiation of God the Father and disrespect for authority figures from the local policeman to the President. Abraham Lincoln in one of his first public speeches as a young man to the Young Men’s Lyceum of Springfield decried the mobs and hate and violence that were infecting public life and replacing the civic bonds of affection that come from men living under God and the Law together. (See Matthew Holland’s Bonds of Affection describing the twofold love of American civic life.) President Trump reminded us in his inaugural that the loyalty of patriotism by its very nature deepens the loyalty of Americans to one another.

There can be no community if there is no authority and respect for law. The baby boomers were wrong and that disastrous party is now over. The adolescent death yelp we are hearing across the nation is a primal recognition that a certain kind of partying is coming to an end. There can be no civic peace in our cities unless there is a commitment to fatherhood in our families. But we do not have to wait a generation for a spiritual renewal of marriage. There are city fathers in blue patrolling every city in America. And a great blessing of the civic life our founding fathers left us is that patriots and policemen are the fathers of all in our territory. If the criminals are getting the upper hand in certain neighborhoods, then there are American fathers garbed in blue who can come in and take care of our spiritual widows and orphans. It is the predators that want to keep the protectors off their turf.   Patriarchy is not the problem -- it is the solution.

Let us build our country. Let us thank our God. Let us honor our fathers.   

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, Feb. 18

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


ONE STATE; TWO STATES: The visit of Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu to President Trump allowed two nationalists a time to look at the Mideast and the world together. It is essential that there be trust because there is a significant divergence of strategies between the two countries that must be resolved. The anti-Trump hysteria is blocking both US senators and American journalists from articulating these differences for public discussion. Israel has never seen ISIS as a major threat. In fact, they welcome the concentration of Wahhabi jihadists on the destruction of the Shiite state of Iran. Israel has been at war with Iran since the overthrow of the shah in 1979, and has seen them as the one country in the region with the most capacity to destroy their state.They have been de facto allies with the Saudis now for years. Mr Trump has his eyes on destroying the ISIS caliphate and is willing to make an alliance with Syria and Russia to do so. The Russians and Syrians understand the Christian-Shiite-Sunni coalition is necessary to isolate and defeat the Salafist jihadists whose true spiritual base is in the Wahhabi clerics who now control the holy sites of Islam in Mecca and Medina. The Syrians are deeply allied with Iran and a Lebanon coalition which prominently includes the Shiite fighting force of Hezbollah -- another sworn enemy to Israel. This is the real dilemma which our senators and journalists could focus on to help our countrymen figure out as candidate Trump said, "what the hell is going on."

Their meeting also exposed another public fantasy in need of light. In this age in which the global elite is adamantly against the nation-state, there is one imagined community whose national flag they venerate. They meet and pass resolutions imagining a separate Palestinian nation which deserves a state carved out of the West Bank of Israel. Israel won her borders the old-fashioned way: by repelling invaders and establishing a border of defensible geographic barriers. Read thirty years of Prime Minister Netanyahu's speeches or writings. When he says he is all for "two states" he assures us that the territory of the "State of Palestine" would be under the protection of the military and national defense needs of Israel. That is not a separate state. If you have no borders, you don’t have a country. If you don’t make your own national defense in terms of your own needs, you are not a nation. The policy of allowing a true independent state of Palestine, spanning the strategic highlands of Judea and Samaria, narrowing to 9 miles from the Mediterranean, owning a third of Israel’s fresh water sources -- that policy has been dead for a decade. Mr. Trump didn’t cause that. He just has a knack for bringing up the obvious.  


POPE FRANCIS AND SSPX - COULD HE BRING THEM BACK? The Pope’s traditionalists and how he covered them in Argentina. Our take on the Pope, Trump, and Peron. By far the best article we have seen about Argentina theological political history - Pope Francis, Peron and God’s People by Claudio Remeseira.

BOY SCOUTS AND GIRLSPaul Kengor on the Boy Scouts new policy of admitting transgender. He is very hard and very right but we must understand until we get a base from which to protect these groups, their treasuries will be opened to lawsuits. Sometimes you circle the wagons in a humiliating posture of submission to keep your core to fight another day.


NEW YORK TIMES AND NPR FANTASY WORLD ABOUT BANNON AND VATICAN FAR RIGHT: Their "reporting" of a far right alliance against Pope Francis. President Trump is not far right in any sense of the word. Robert Moynihan of Inside Vatican skewers NYT "fake news”. Our take on President Trump and Pope Francis: they have very different civilizational roles but there are striking similarities.

POLISH PHILOSOPHER BY A KENTUCKY PHILOSOPHER: A terrific review of The Demon in Democracy.


YEMEN AND AQAP: The civil war against Shia Houthis has brought AQAP into coalition with mainline Sunni groups and will enhance their abilities to target the West in 2017. This is from the military information service: Janes analysis on Yemen risk. This situation is directly analogous to the "jihadification of the Sunni coalition" against Assad in Syria. A good review - the Houthis are not the Iranians and we are not the Saudis. Why put “Iran on notice” for the Houthis defending themselves against the Saudis?

ONE LESS IRAN HAWK IN TRUMP WHITE HOUSEA troublesome fact. General Michael Flynn is very much like Rudy Giuliani. He was a necessary and important part of the war that was the Trump campaign. But he is not suited for the kind of coalition building necessary to replace our bellicose foreign policy with a consort of great powers.  His press briefing "Putting Iran on notice" was a much worse offense than talking sanctions in December with the Russians. His not coming clean with Vice President Pence was inexcusable.  President Trump is a good judge of character and competence. He knows when someone doesn’t quite fit. Flynn was unjustly framed but  his own character faults led to his departure. The good patriot was properly let go after being improperly accused.   Flynn, Giuliani, Palin, Gingrich - good campaign warriors but no longer good for governance. The problem remains with the so called deep state (those elements of government that do not change with elections but often make policy through their own long term relationships). This was not a moral whistleblower but an act to subterfuge the ability of the elected executive to conduct foreign relations.  

WHY AREN’T THE SAUDIS ON THE REFUGEE BAN: The Trump administration started with countries with the least control of their own populations and borders.  That does not describe Saudi Arabia. Possibly they have bought the Saudi line about Iran being the biggest source of terrorism. Maybe they are supporting the Israel emphasis. They continually depict Iran as the leading state sponsor of terrorism.  The US is deeply tied to the Saudis-from think tanks to university chairs to high finance.  It could also be the more than  60,000 Saudi students here.

PAKISTAN: A US GENERAL IN AFGHANISTAN SUGGESTS A REEVALUATIONIs Pakistan our ally? Our book review series to put this in more perspective.

CLINTON, PODESTA, AND SAUDI ARABIA: Tony, the brother of John Podesta, Clinton campaign director is a paid ($140,000/month) Saudi agent.

THE SUNNI ALLIANCE IS FRACTURING - FROM MIDEAST FORUM: Mideast Forum is a commentator on US policy always from the perspective of an uncritical Israel support group. They are perceptive though in their assessments of Mideast countries. Here is the best description of the very important rift between the Saudis and the Egyptians in the so-called “moderate alliance”. This was taken from Jerusalem Post article by Jonathan Speyr, Feb 4, 2017:
Observe: Saudi Arabia was the first country to express support for the military coup in Egypt on July 3, 2013. The friendship between Cairo and Riyadh looked set to form a Sunni Arab bulwark against both the Iranian advance and the ambitions of Sunni radical political Islam. That is not the way it has turned out. On a number of key regional files, the two are now on opposite sides.

In Syria, Saudi Arabia was and remains among the key supporters of the rebellion. The Assad regime, as a client of Iran, was a natural enemy for the Saudis. The Egyptians, however, saw and see the Syrian war entirely differently – as a battle between a strong, military regime (like themselves) and a rebellion based on Sunni political Islam. In November 2016, President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said that Assad's forces were "best positioned to combat terrorism and restore stability" in the country. Sisi identified this stance as part of a broader strategy, according to which "our priority is to support national armies... and deal with extremist elements. The same with Syria and Iraq."

This places Egypt and Saudi Arabia, supposedly the twin anchors of the "moderate" bloc, at loggerheads in two key areas.

In Libya, in line with this orientation, too, Egypt, along with the UAE, fully supports Gen. Khalifa Haftar and his forces in the east of the country. Saudi Arabia, by contrast, is largely indifferent to events in that area. In Yemen, meanwhile, the Egyptians have offered only halfhearted support to Saudi Arabia's war against the Houthis. This, in turn, relates to a further key difference between the two – regarding relations with Iran.

While the Saudis see the Iran-led regional bloc as the key regional threat to their interests, the Egyptians are drawing closer to Tehran. The two countries have not had full diplomatic relations since 1980. But the Iranians acknowledged their common stance on Syria, when Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif specifically requested of John Kerry to invite Egypt to send a delegation to talks on Syria in the Swiss city of Lausanne on October 15, 2016. In the same month, to the Saudis' fury, Cairo voted for a Russian-backed UN Security Council resolution allowing the continuation of the bombing of rebel-held eastern Aleppo.

In turn, when Saudi oil giant Aramco announced the cessation of fuel transfers to Egypt, Sisi declared that "Egypt would not bow to anyone but God," and the government of Iraq agreed to step in to make good the shortfall, at the request of Iran and Russia. So the core Egyptian-Saudi alliance is fraying.

Israel views its chief concerns as Iranian expansionism and Sunni political Islam; Egypt is concerned only with the latter of these. Saudi Arabia meanwhile, is increasingly concerned only with the former. Representatives of King Salman met late last year with officials of the Muslim Brotherhood in Istanbul, London and Riyadh. On the agenda was the possible removal of the Brotherhood – Egypt's key enemy – from Saudi Arabia's list of terrorist organizations. Salman has taken a view of Sunni political Islam far more forgiving than that of his predecessor, King Abdullah. This, in turn, has led to Saudi rapprochement with Turkey, whose leader despises the Egyptian president for overthrowing his fellow Muslim Brothers. Thus, the three main corners of the "moderate" alliance are drifting in different directions – Riyadh appears headed toward rapprochement with political Islam, while maintaining opposition to Iran. Egypt is moving toward Russia, Syria, Iraq and a stance of support for strong states.


CHINA'S FOREIGN POLICY AND AFRICAN RAILROADS: Their strategy of development-not-confrontation is something we can learn from. It is particularly embarrassing when we compare the arms shipments of US foreign trade and the infrastructure emphasis of the Chinese. Public Works is the English translation of LITURGY - a work done for the sake of a people.

JAMES KURTH - RELIGIOUS GEOSTRATEGIST: Splitting Islam - written in 2005 beating AOA by five years in figuring out the Shia/Sunni faultline. The Protestant Deformation - a brilliant analysis of how American foreign policy has suffered from our own internal corruption as a nation. Kurth's Lecture on Huntington. He was Huntington’s student. Great analysis of one of the fundamental paradigms we respond to at Christian Realism. The Real Clash - the greatest war he says is not between the West and Islam but within the West: multiculturalism vs. American Idea. Franco, Spain, Catholic - Catholic Integralism, and the failure of godless democracy.

A FOUNDING INITIATIVE DEFINING THE POST COLD WAR WEST: New Atlantic Initiative Margaret Thatcher speech in 1996. She reminds us covenants without swords are just words and proposes that the West act as an Atlantic alliance of nations not a European superstate. She is in favor of drawing all of eastern European nations into EU and NATO. She has no sense of the Islamic religious contribution to defeating the Soviet Union. She has little sympathy for Russia which she sees as culturally crippled by years of Soviet rule. Her speech is one event that helped forge the coalition that animated the baby boomer worldview of the white West as a universal civilization of law and human rights. Lady Thatcher was a charming principled woman who was important personally in building the relationship of cooperation between  US President Reagan and  Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev.  She was a catalyst if not a principal in fostering the  relationship that ended the Cold War. She opposed German reunification and never really appreciated the male national leaders and fighters in the darker more southern countries like Afghanistan and Argentina.


AMERICA FIRST IS OUR NEW POLICY BUT AMERICA EVERYWHERE IS STILL OUR REALITY. TALK ABOUT BOOTS ON THE GROUND! There are 150,500 American troops stationed in 70 countries that cost the American taxpayer an annual $85-100 billion, according to David Vine, a professor at American University and author of Base Nation: How US Military Bases Abroad Harm America and the World.  The largest aid recipient is Japan, where 48,828 U.S. military personnel are stationed at a cost of $27 billion. Germany, with 37,704 U.S. troops, receives aid equivalent to $21 billion; South Korea, with 27,553 U.S. troops, receives $15 billion; and Italy receives at least $6 billion. Kuwait and Bahrain, whose American bases are home to over 5,000 U.S. military personnel apiece, receive military aid almost equal to what Israel receives. U.S. air and naval forces constantly patrol the Northern, Baltic, and China Seas to protect American allies in Europe and in the Pacific - at American expense. For more, watch this short video on America's global military presence.

THE AMERICAS AND AMERICASpanish element in our national character by Walt Whitman.
"The seething materialistic and business vortices of the United States, in their present devouring relations, controlling and belittling everything else, are, in my opinion, but a vast and indispensable stage in the new world’s development, and are certainly to be follow’d by something entirely different—at least by immense modifications. Character, literature, a society worthy the name, are yet to be establish’d, through a nationality of noblest spiritual, heroic and democratic attributes—not one of which at present definitely exists—entirely different from the past, though unerringly founded on it, and to justify it. To that composite American identity of the future, Spanish character will supply some of the most needed parts. No stock shows a grander historic retrospect—grander in religiousness and loyalty, or for patriotism, courage, decorum, gravity and honor."
The Americas are the continents of where two Christian missionary movements and a settlement mission have merged. None of these nations can understand their relations with their neighbors if they reject the Christian brotherhood at our base. No one can understand the public missionary nature of Christianity if they do not appreciate the civilized territorial communities - the nations - which are its fruit. Brotherly love among Christians leads to a desire for law in the territory where Christians worship and raise families.

Friday, February 17, 2017

Friday BookReview: George Washington by Flexner

(first published November 27, 2015)

[My original plan was to feature the George Washington biography by Ron Chernow, but after browsing awhile it seemed less gripping than his tale of Alexander Hamilton... so I opted for a favorite from a few years back: The Indispensable Man by the late James Thomas Flexner. His life of Washington is now available in an illustrated edition by Sterling Signature.]


The prime song of thanksgiving that Americans can offer to God is that we should be blessed with such a patriarch as Mr. Washington!

His character was such, that it calls to mind a description from Holy Scripture:
"Now the man Moses was very humble, more than all men who were on the face of the earth."

Napoleon and Stalin and Mao are cheered in many quarters as true nationalists. If we're going to cut so much slack for butchers and megalomaniacs, we'd best be honest and call our Founding Father a demigod.

George Washington's election by Congress as chief commander had been unanimous (June 16, 1775) -- "Washington was the most celebrated veteran of the French and Indian War who was still young enough to lead a new contest." Then the chore began of building up the Continental army from nothing.

A week later, "Washington's party set out to join his army in Cambridge, Massachusetts." They passed through New York City; while there, he "heard that a great battle had been fought outside Boston for the control of Bunker Hill." The British army had been victorious, but at the cost of many casualties.

"Arriving in Cambridge, he quickly discovered that no one gave or obeyed any orders. The militiamen, having elected their officers, expected due subservience to the sovereign voters."

Washington saw that his first duty was to establish a good officer corps, and began by discharging or prosecuting assorted incompetents. He soon learned the bad news that he only had 12,000 healthy soldiers -- and a mere 36 barrels of gunpowder (less than nine rounds a man). "He cautiously kept the fact that his army was defenseless from all but two or three key men."

George Washington had an innate martial dignity ("Not a king in Europe but would look like a valet de chambre by his side.")

General Washington said:
"The Continental Congress having now taken all the Troops of the several Colonies, which have been raised, or which may be hereafter raised, for the support and defence of the Liberties of America; into their Pay and Service: They are now the Troops of the United Provinces of North America; and it is hoped that all Distinctions of Colonies will be laid aside; so that one and the same spirit may animate the whole, and the only contest be, who shall render, on this great and trying occasion, the most essential Service to the great and common cause in which we are all engaged."

Deeply influenced by Tom Paine's Common Sense, "on January 31, 1776, Washington first acknowledged (in writing) the possibility of independence."

Looking back at the beginning of the Revolutionary War, he summed up: "Not then organized as a nation... we had no preparation. Money, the nerve of war, was wanting. The sword was to be forged on the anvil of necessity."

Federal Hall on NYC's Wall Street,
where our first president was sworn in (30 April 1789)

George Washington wore to his inauguration a great rarity: a suit made from cloth woven in the United States!

President Washington's address that day was delivered with trembling voice and hands. The religious passages took up almost a third of the speech. He expressed "my fervent supplication to that Almighty Being who rules over the universe, who presides in the Councils of Nations, and whose providential aids can supply every human defect."

Here is the closing paragraph:
"Having thus imported to you my sentiments, as they have been awakened by the occasion which brings us together, I shall take my present leave; but not without resorting once more to the benign parent of the human race, in humble supplication that since he has been pleased to favour the American people, with opportunities for deliberating in perfect tranquility, and dispositions for deciding with unparellelled unanimity on a form of Government, for the security of their Union, and the advancement of their happiness; so his divine blessing may be equally conspicuous in the enlarged views, the temperate consultations, and the wise measures on which the success of this Government must depend."

Mr. Flexner writes: "The famous orator, Fisher Ames, was amazed by the effect of Washington's simple delivery... The whole audience, even Vice President John Adams, who was passionately jealous of Washington, was greatly moved."

Here is a 15-minute segment of an interview Mr. Flexner gave to Bill Moyers.

King George III asked his American painter, Benjamin West, what George Washington would do after winning independence. West replied, “They say he will return to his farm.”

“If he does that,” the incredulous monarch said, “he will be the greatest man in the world.”

UPDATE: Take a look at this blog on presidential biographies.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Christian Realism and Global Christianity

Weep Not for the West – The Faithful Nations of Global Christianity are the emerging forms of the new Christendom

by A. Joseph Lynch

“Western civilization is inseparable from Christian civilization, and the latter is the more fundamental and intelligible unit.” -Christopher Dawson

The Christian nations of the world. Purple represents nations at least 50% Christian.

Fifty years after Dawson’s statement, western civilization has become a soulless technological super state for individuals no longer bound by the loyalties of religion, nation, or marriage. “The more fundamental intelligible unit” - Christianity has dramatically reemerged in lands where it was smothered and has appeared anew in lands across the globe as a dynamic transnational culture of many languages, ethnic groups and nations. “The West” has deliberately built post-WWII institutions and narratives divorcing it from religious obligations. It has become a well-armed, anti-Russian, anti Serbian alliance of Europe’s white people and the old white dominions of the British Empire. The WASP hive is dying. The death of the globalist West mimics that other failed atheist project of modernity – the scientific socialism of Marx. Both the Modern West and worldwide Communism justified themselves as scientifically enlightened and inevitable, but the psalmist knew better: "Unless the Lord builds the house, the laborers work in vain."

The Christian movement outgrew the West. It followed its missionary dynamic and returned to its historical roots. It is manifested today in multiple civilization forms. Four authors have in recent years drawn on history, maps, demographics, and theology to help awaken us to the reality that is Global Christianity. Philip Jenkins in his 2011 The Next Christendom laid out the new demographic reality for those of us bound by sacramental identities. Simon Chan in his Grassroots Asian Theology has introduced the individualistic "West" to the more communal and hierarchical categories of Confucian thought. He has written a book as important as Jenkin’s seminal work in terms of opening our eyes and ears to the whole of the Living Body of Christ on earth today. Cardinal Robert Sarah’s God or Nothing, introduces a deeper voice steeped in prayer whose radical theo-centric orientation allows a sharper denunciation of the demons besetting America and Africa in geopolitics. Finally Harvey Cox’s Fire from Heaven  tells the bracing story of “The Rise of Pentecostal Spirituality and the Reshaping of Religion in the Twenty-First Century.” This quartet of authors bespeak the new global Christianity.

Jenkins challenges two great myths: 1) the myth that Christianity is in decline; and 2) the myth of "Western" Christianity. These two myths are closely connected. In Europe and North America, Christianity appears to be in decline. The numbers of Catholics in Europe are projected to drop ten million between 2000 and 2025. In the United States, the Christian mainline denominations see their shrinking urban churches. But America is not Europe and the refugees that come to our country are not the refugees crowding into Germany. Two-thirds of all immigrants arriving in the United States are Christians and 40% are Catholic. Immigration, says Jenkins, is "indeed changing America: from a Christian nation to an increasingly Christian nation." America’s dying globalist elites are a manifestation of the godless West. Her emerging national identity will be as the bellwether of global Christianity.

To question the myth of western Christianity is to open one’s eyes to a socially vibrant and theologically orthodox religion that includes many more peoples, languages, cultures, and skin colors than are found in the global north. By the year 2050, an estimated 80% of the world’s Christians will be of a non-white ethnicity. Indeed, about one-third of all Christians will live in Africa by 2050 and that number will exceed all Christians living in the year 1900. Our culture is not dying if we remember our culture is defined by sacramental identities. The atheist, modern West is decaying and Charlie Hebdo was murdered. But it is hardly a death knell for the renewal of Christendom when our enemies who have denigrated us for half a century lose their momentum.

Jenkins argues that this is a return to the first thousand years of Christianity. During this time, Christianity radiated out from Jerusalem, bringing the faith to far off lands like Italy, France, and England – but also to places like Africa, Persia, India, and even China. Christianity was always more global than western. It was in the Middle East on the Asian continent, not Italy or France, where the first Christians were baptized. In the days of the early Church Fathers, the faith was defended largely by Greek-speaking eastern Christians. St. Augustine, the "West’s" greatest Church Father, was African, not European. The first monks were Egyptians and Syrians, not Benedictines or Franciscans. Rome had the papacy – the successor of Peter and the lynchpin of ecclesial unity – but the south and east held the vast majority of early Christians and theologians. When Christ commissioned the Apostles, he sent them East as well as West.

The rise of Islam slowly isolated Christianity westward. Mongol invasions allowed a resurgence of   Christians in China during the Yuan dynasty(1271-1378). Christians had been admitted then suppressed during the Tang dynasty (618-907 AD). There would be a similar prominent acceptance and then suppression for Jesuits during the Ming dynasty (1368-1644). Christianity never died in southern India (where you can still visit the tomb of St. Thomas the Apostle). Even under Ottoman Islamic rule, Christians and Jews comprised 25% of the empire’s population in 1900.

The reemergence of global Christianity began with the missionary movements which coincided with the Age of Exploration. Mary’s apparition as a Mestizo princess to St. Juan Diego in 1531 brought more Catholics to the faith in Central America than were lost to the Protestants of northern Europe. During the sixteenth century Manila became a full-fledged Archdiocese, Jesuits began making inroads in Japan and China, and Kongolese kings were spreading the faith in Africa and receiving the title "Defender of the Faith" from the Pope. Among these Catholics from the Kongo were the first slaves sold in the New World.

The two 20th century Pentecosts of global Christianity are the Pentecostal movement and the Second Vatican Council of the Catholic Church. One movement is like the wind of the Spirit experienced in the household of Cornelius and witnessed by Peter. Fire from Heaven is an eloquent description  of this worldwide Cornelius event -- by a man who earlier had authored his tale of the modern West called The Secular City.

The other Pentecost was centered on the successors of the apostles who had been inspired 2000 years ago in the upper room. The still unfulfilled Second Vatican Council (1961-1965) brought the worldwide fraternity of Catholic bishops inside a European-dominated framework with the principal corporate actors still German and Italian bishops. But the Spirit was shaping a much larger organism to be manifested in the century to follow. A Slavic Pope and ever more dynamic non-European bishops had listened and learned the centrality of local bishops in a more Eucharistic formulation of the Church. The work of the Council built on the missionary work of the previous century that had produced an effective local clergy in multiple mission lands. This convergence led to an explosive growth of the Church throughout the world. Catholicism in Africa alone increased by an estimated 6,708 percent. More Catholics are baptized annually in the Philippines than in France, Spain, Italy, and Poland combined. The Holy Spirit’s work during that twentieth century Pentecost in Rome reached across the global Church to find a Pope from "far away" to solidify this movement to the periphery. For those who feared the theological orthodoxy of the "youthful" global Christians, the problem emerged instead among well-paid Germans. Nigeria is home to the largest Catholic seminary in the world. Over one thousand men are studying there for the priesthood. The largest seminary in the United States by comparison has around two hundred seminarians. German Cardinal Walter Kasper said that the traditional African bishops "should not tell us too much what we have to do" concerning homosexuality since African Catholics treat that peculiar practice as "a taboo." It was the African unambiguous position on gender ideology in the Synod on the Family that carried the day and was proclaimed by the supposedly relativist Pope Francis. "There is nothing remotely analogous between homosexual relations and marriage" is how he put it. His text and tone condemned the masquerade of a tabooed abomination as a sacrament. The language of Cardinal Sarah was similarly blunt. He named the two demonic forces we face as a Church: western gender ideology and Muslim jihadism.

The West is dying. Marx and Freud are dead. But the global Christian culture is flourishing. While Africa is ascendant, Latin America remains dominant. By 2025, over 600 million Catholics will live in Latin America, a staggering rise of 150 million people since the turn of the twenty-first century. The Church lives there among nations with settled borders and identities that saved their citizens from the twentieth century’s world wars. The vast majority of these nations south of America’s borders gained independence by 1830 and have coexisted in relative peace ever since. Despite a bloody flirtation with Marxism, Latin America is an example of national and political embodiments of Catholic life and culture where international peace abides between fellow Catholic nations. Both Philip Jenkins and Austen Ivereigh, author of the Pope Francis biography, The Great Reformer, attest to the piety and devotion of the average Latin American Catholic. Pope Francis sees in these humble, saint-loving, rosary-praying Catholics the santo pueblo fiel de Dios – God’s holy faithful people. Here the "voice of people" is not a clamoring for women priests, abortion, or gay marriage. For Francis, listening to the flock means entering into the common prayer life and devotions of the people. These devotions, particularly to Mary, are what rooted the faith deep in Latin American soil. The Marxist bloodbath is receding, the gender ideology copycats still rule, but this great continent of settled national identities and a common faith will soon become a "source church."

Across the Pacific, the Asian continent is experiencing its own steady embrace of Christianity. Between 2000 and 2025, the number of Christians in Asia will increase by around 50 million. By 2050, China and the Philippines alone may account for almost 250 million of the world’s Christians. In his book, Grassroots Asian Theology, Simon Chan argues that Asian soil is ripe for a Christian harvest. Chan notes that Asian culture emphasizes the role of the father and the filial piety of his sons, and that this deeply embedded cultural reality has readied Asians to accept the Gospel message of the Son’s obedience to the Father. Chan further believes that Asian societal views on shame and dishonor is a better description of sin than the more common (and less biblical) juridical emphasis on the individual breaking a divine law. Asia’s traditional emphasis on one’s ancestors and the rituals which surround them have also helped Asia prepare to receive the communion of saints and the nature of the Church as the Body of Christ transcending time and space, uniting the living and dead in Christ. Soon this convergence of humanity’s oldest political state and Christianity will produce just the kind of patriarchal personalities needed to re-Christianize the emasculated West.

We have elected our first Latin American Pope and it is only a matter of time before African and Asian prelates succeed Peter. The Holy Spirit is continuously active in the world and through the Church. If the West enters a Dark Age of faithlessness, there is a light to the south. Let us not weep that the Western desert of our last forty years will be left behind in its decadence. Let us welcome the southern missionaries and marvel at that other global miracle – the return of Mother Russia to Christianity. Our southern and eastern brothers are confronting a western heart of darkness and inviting a new concert of God-centered nations.

A third Great Awakening in Christian multi-ethnic America will be part of the Global Christian movement. It remains the only coherent alternative to the jihadists of the Mideast and the atheism of the white West. An American president who takes seriously the reality of Global Christianity will assemble a very different concert of allies than the old paradigm. Our foreign policy will no longer be dictated by the social Darwinist "realism" of the neoconservative Right nor the "ideological colonization" of the sexual Left. If our nation is to live, America will reject the dying atheist West and embrace the spiritual renewal of Global Christianity.

Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Argentina’s Juan Peron: A common thread between President Trump and Pope Francis -- similar men in very different roles

by David Pence

Juan Peron (1895-1974) was elected president of Argentina twice from 1946 to 1955 when he was removed in a coup d’etat. He was elected again in 1973, and died in office July 1974. He understood Christianity as the soil of the nation and the military as her guardian. He was formed in a rigorous Catholic boarding school and then entered a military school to complete his training. He and his wife Evita were popular and successful leaders for most of his first two terms.

After WWII, the emergence of the worldwide Communist movement drew countries and conflicts into the bipolar paradigm of America vs. the Soviet Union. Juan Peron was a different voice and led a different kind of national social movement. He was a military man but identified first and foremost with the workers. He wanted some industries nationalized but did not believe class conflict was more fundamental than national solidarity. He looked more to Christ than Marx or Adam Smith as the base of his humanism. In two speeches on Peronism in 1948 and 1950 he defined the movement:
"Perónism is not learned, nor just talked about: one feels it or else disagrees. Perónism is a question of the heart rather than of the head. Fortunately I am not one of those presidents who live a life apart, but on the contrary I live among my people, just as I have always lived; so that I share all the ups and downs, all their successes an all their disappointments with my working-class people. I feel an intimate satisfaction when I see a workman who is well dressed or taking his family to the theatre. I feel just as satisfied as I would feel if I were that workman myself... 
"They are good Argentines, no matter what their origin, their race or their religion may be, if they work every day for the greatness of the Nation, and they are bad Argentines, no matter what they say or how much they shout, if they are not laying a new stone every day towards the construction of the building of the happiness and grandeur of our Nation."

From The Twenty Truths of Peronism, 1950
4. There is only one class of men for the Perónist cause: the workers.
11. Perónism desires the establishment of national unity and the abolition of civil strife. It welcomes heroes but does not want martyrs.
12. In the New Argentina the only privileged ones are the children.
13. A Government without a doctrine is a body without a soul. That is why Perónism has established its own political, economic, and social doctrines: Justicialism.
14. Justicialism is a new philosophical school of life. It is simple, practical, popular and endowed with deeply Christian and humanitarian sentiments.

Juan with Eva, who died in 1952

Donald Trump is not a man of the left or right. He centers his political loyalty on America and speaks for the forgotten laboring man. He has no antipathy to the rich nor a desire to eliminate the bosses. His foes are those who are globalists before patriots. His foreign policy is good will to all; but America first. He too has an Evita.

His mixture of left-right appeal and willingness to be a strong leader of an activist government building public works infrastructure would be appreciated by Peron. Trump sees Christianity and economic nationalism, not free markets, as the religious and economic base of America. His critics think he does not speak like a president.

Pope Francis in Argentina was sympathetic to the earliest rendition of Peron and his movement. The Argentine archbishop had icy relationships with the modernist Peronists like the secular feminist President Cristina de Kirchner. Kirchner is to Peron what Hillary Clinton is to John Kennedy: same label but not quite the same deal. Pope Francis sees global capitalism and international finance as an organized kleptocracy. He sees the nation as a primary locus of solidarity in politics, the way he sees the parish as the local base of solidarity in church life. He refuses to reduce political life to liberty and equality saying there must be fraternity as well. He refers to the Falkland Islands as the Malvinas.  His cry for the workingman has been for land, labor, and lodging. His theology finds the locus of the people not in the divide of the working class against the rich but in the faithful people united as a nation. His peculiar Latin and Argentine political theology is not Marxist liberation nor globalist liberalism.  He doesn’t speak in either voice. His critics think he doesn’t speak like a pope.

The pope for all of humanity and the president for the largest Christian country have very different roles as they speak for their different interlocking social bodies. The pope sees refugees as fellow humans who need a place to stay -- Joseph and Mary fleeing to Egypt. The president sees refugees as possible murderers of his people and acts to keep them away. Christianity is speaking in two voices. The pope must call men to sit and talk all the time. The president must also sit and talk. But sometimes he must kill, and then sit and talk again. The pope must not shed blood. The president must not shirk from shedding blood to build the tranquility of order. They have very different roles. After the president sheds blood, he will need a Christian who did not. In Christian civilization, there are many presidents protecting distinct peoples. There is one pope speaking for the species.

We should not let these different roles obscure how very similar these two new leaders of this new epoch are. They have both broken through the conservative-liberal stalemate by opening new fronts in the life of the church and nation. They are both men shaped by a Christian notion of politics in which Christian love and loyalty runs through the corporate form of the nation. They both confound the intellectual class. The pope now is reviled by the right, while the president is reviled by the left. Give them time and for each the reviling will soon come from the other wing. They are both strongly conscious of the man who works with his hands  for his bread and lodging. They must both heed the will of God and be open to the Spirit. They both know we are in an epochal change of relations between men and nations. And thanks to each of them, so we are.