RELIGION, NATION, MARRIAGE: THE LOYALTIES OF MEN
PRAY, WORK, STUDY, PROTECT: THE DUTIES OF MEN


Saturday, December 31, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 31

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


I. POPE FRANCIS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

KEEP THE OCTAVES - IT IS STILL CHRISTMAS AND HANUKKAH: A blessed Christmas and remember the real lesson of Hanukkah.

AFTER TWO ARABS AN ITALIAN AS APOSTOLIC ADMINISTRATOR OF JERUSALEM PATRIARCH: There are no two state negotiations right now. A new man for a new age?

A NEW LEADER FOR OPUS DEI
 Opus prelate dies.

CHRISTIAN PERSECUTION IN EGYPT: Egypt’s Christians and the source of persecution. By Gabriel Said Reynolds, a professor of Islamic studies and theology at the University of Notre Dame. He knows the difference between Shiites and Sunni and understands the Salafist Sunni as the principal force for terror.


II. ISLAM AND THE MIDDLE EAST

CHARLES KRAUTHAMMER - WRONG FROM THE START:  Fox News commentator Charles Krauthammer has an enthusiastic fan and media base praising him as a great conservative intellectual. I have watched him for years and find him tendentious and narrowly single minded. He seems the opposite of a serious intellectual but in the land of the blind, he is called perceptive. He never understood Trump. His views on foreign policy tend to mimic the Likud Party with no attribution. He has been for multiple military interventions in the Mideast and has seldom distinguished Shia from Sunni in his commentary. He is always willing to depict Putin as a bully and Obama as a wimp. His take on Syria shows no understanding of the huge change taking place in relations in the Mideast. He treats a good thing (the reestablishment of Syrian state rule in Aleppo) as a disaster. As usual, he pulls out President Obama for one last tongue lashing. His highly personalized emotional commentary  is a big reason the Mideast seems so confusing to so many who watch the news every night at Fox.

TURKEY AND RUSSIA - AN ASSASSINATION: This assassination may cement the Russian Syrian Turkey alliance rather than disrupt it. If Turkey’s Erdogan is to reconcile with Russia, he will have to change his long standing opposition to Syria’s Assad. He may be joining the coalition of the established states which includes Iran and Syria against the jihadist revolutionaries. This Wash Post story describes what is happening very well but it can not see that the way President Trump will respond to this is not by weaning Turkey back to the West but by joining the Russo-Turkey alliance. When will it begin to strike the established media that Donald Trump's understanding of international relations is far more reality based than the think tanks who so uniformly opposed him?

TRUMP AND ISRAEL: Trump's new envoy to Israel - not wedded to two state policy. David Goldman, Spengler, on Jewish neocons and election. No serious nationalist will ask Israel to surrender the territory that gives it defensible borders.

BRITAIN CONSERVATIVES WILL HELP THE GULF MONARCHIES AGAINST IRAN: When Iranians finally overthrew the colonially-imposed Shah, they made enemies of America, Israel and Britain. Britain returns to make deals with the Gulf Monarchs. The US should not go down this path. Iran should not be treated as a pariah state because they overthrew an emperor propped up by foreigners. They have established a religious nation state. Welcome to the future.


III. RELATIONS WITH RUSSIA

QUIT POKING THE BEAR: An excellent review of US-Russian relations since the end of the Cold War by Robert Merry at the National Interest. From the comments to his article are some facts about Soviet leaders to distinguish them from the Russian nation. "I also remind you that Soviet Union and Russia are different countries. The Soviet Union was led by Lenin (half Russian - half Tatar), Stalin (Georgian), Khrushchev (Ukrainian), Brezhnev (Ukrainian), Andropov (Russian), Chernenko (Ukrainian) and Gorbachev (Russian). It was a system, not a nation."

TRUMP AND RUSSIA, McCAIN AND CLINTON ON DISRUPTING ELECTIONS: Pat Buchanan continues as one of the two or three most perceptive journalists of our time. By far the most consequential aspect of a Trump foreign policy will be a new emphasis on diplomacy with the other major world powers.

A RUSSIA R&G ROUND UP: Gorbachev, Russia and US - the rise of a new union? Niall Ferguson on Russia and US. He is a historian and calls this “the Russian question.” We can't agree with his conclusions but he is formulating a big part of the story on a basic question. Orthodox Church, Putin’s Russia,  and one of the world’s highest abortion rates. The attempt by Putin to bring religion and nationalism to revitalize a people corrupted by a century of atheism should not be criticized because the popular culture is so depraved.


IV. AROUND THE WORLD R&G ROUND UP

FAMILY OF FRENCH NATIONALISM: Excellent depiction of three generations of the Le Pen family. The youngest is the most seriously Catholic of France's first family of the Right.

FROM PORTUGAL, A NEW UN SECRETARY, PRO-LIFE, PRO-MARRIAGE PRO-REFUGEE: William Kirkpatrick thinks those aren’t three equal goods.

POLAND RETURNING TO GOD AND NATION AS THE WEST FRETS. THEIR REVOLT AGAINST A SUPREME COURT RUN AMOK: The Polish Law and Justice Party is attempting to weaken the sovereignty of its high court which uses its oversight role to significantly restrict the kind of laws allowed in Poland. Jaroslaw Kaczynski, who holds no office but is the leader of the party, has called the court “the bastion of everything in Poland that is bad” for obstructing what he sees as the popular will. This sounds familiar to Americans who have seen the police power of states abolished by courts in matters of sexual conduct. The New York Times and European commission are distraught that the nation of Poland is emerging again to fight the culture of death spread by a superstate. This is not a revolt against the rule of law as the Times says. This is a movement to replace the bipolar tyranny of the sovereign individual and the superstate with a rule of law by political communities of fellow citizens. The institution favored most by the superstate is the Court which in the name of individual autonomy destroys the policing function of local communities and the religious basis of laws regulating sexual behavior.

The man who describes this best is Polish philosopher and public official Ryzsard Legutko author of The Demon in Democracy. This book is a brilliant depiction of how communism and the new sexual ideology of the West are both offspring of the atheist modern project for egalitarianism. No sovereignty of God, no hierarchy of nation or church, no distinction of male and female---these characteristics of the egalitarian project reveal the modern West and Communism as two faces of that same old serpent.

Anne Applebaum wrote very important pieces on the Soviet Gulag. She is married to a progressive western style Polish official now out of office. She joins the western chorus praising women’s freedom to abort and a primacy of press and courts that is being challenged by the new religious patriots and Polish nationalists. Not everyone who was reliably anti Soviet is now pro religion and nation.

CHINA AND PAKISTANDevelopment as Policy.

NIALL FERGUSON ON TRUMP, KISSINGER, AND THE WORLD: Ferguson is probably one of the best historians in the world today, certainly the best British historian. After lucid works on the history of finance and the British empire , he has devoted over a decade to the life and work of Henry Kissinger. Here is an interview with him on the new Trump administration. He sees the cabinet as very strong and is very much in favor of new less confrontational relations with Russia and China and a more focused fight against radical Islam. American Interest (the online journal) has been very disappointing in the last few years as a place to learn. They upgraded their content by tapping this historian on diplomacy.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

December 28: The Feast of the Holy Innocents


[first published December 28, 2014]


David Pence writes:


The birth of a baby in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago revealed to chosen witnesses what his mother had kept hidden for nine months, and his Father in heaven had concealed before the foundation of the world. The angels sang hosanna from heaven, three wise rulers knelt to recognize a new kingdom was being established, and all wisdom would be recast in light of the star over the manger. The Jewish shepherds were there to acknowledge their Messiah and keep away the wolves. For whenever innocence and purity show their face in this still-fallen world, the wolves gather to destroy.

The day after Christmas, the Church reminds all whose hearts were warmed by the babe in the manger that Stephen was stoned for attesting to the baby-Savior’s true identity. Three days after Christmas, the Church liturgically remembers the Feast of the Holy Innocents. The three wise kings had bent their knees in homage and conformed their minds in faith. But a proud and ignorant Herod ordered a horrible bloodletting, so the screams of Jewish mothers losing their sons might erase the songs of joyous angels welcoming the Son of God.

Vigilant Joseph was warned in a dream of the danger and led his holy family hundreds of miles across hills and desert to the safety of Egypt. He must have pondered the death of so many of his countrymen as he guarded his sacred charges during the flight.

The Church also ponders their deaths on this day, and awards to those Holy Innocents the keys to the kingdom granted to martyred saints. Possibly their deaths and celestial fate may be a lesson for all who have suffered death as an "innocent:" the children at the time of Noah’s flood, the dutiful soldier drowned in the Red Sea, the cremated and tortured prisoners of the tyrants, the villagers buried by molten lava or a raging sea. This day we reflect on how deeply ingrained and inescapable is suffering to the Christian vocation. And, possibly, this day we can also find meaning in those other deaths of innocents -- the child or mother or father who appear on God’s strange and deadly list of patients afflicted by infection or malignancy. May all who experience the mysterious reality of human suffering know the crown of glory bestowed upon the Jewish baby boys who were killed at the births of Moses and of Our Lord.


UPDATE -- From a sermon by Saint Quodvultdeus (a student of Saint Augustine):
"When they tell of one who is born a king, Herod is disturbed. To save his kingdom he resolves to kill him, though if he would have faith in the child, he himself would reign in peace in this life and for ever in the life to come. 
"Why are you afraid, Herod, when you hear of the birth of a king? He does not come to drive you out, but to conquer the devil...  
"How great a gift of grace is here! To what merits of their own do the children owe this kind of victory? They cannot speak, yet they bear witness to Christ. They cannot use their limbs to engage in battle, yet already they bear off the palm of victory."

FINALLY -- on this day, we Americans are mindful of our own slaughter of innocents. In some ways it is more horrible that Rachel, instead of weeping, is the one who brings her babe to be slaughtered for career or convenience. Feminism is a bloody Pharaoh. When the sacred goods and the innocents are defiled, sometimes we must cover our own and flee as did Joseph. Other times we must remember  the Maccabees at Hanukkah and gather our brothers under the Father to stop the evil.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

CATHOLIC SOCIOBIOLOGY -- The Sacred as Reality: The Religious Insights of Mircea Eliade


by David Pence

"Christ entered history as a community, a society not simply as a message. The form taken by the community’s life is Christ within society. The Church does not simply infiltrate culture. The Church is a culture in its own right. Christ creates culture by forming another city, another sovereignty with its own social and political life..."

IN TERMS OF SPACE
"At the beginning of the third century the building of catacombs--they were not hideouts during persecution; they were burial grounds and places of worship and their locations were not secret. The transition from models of accommodation and adaptation that were materially invisible to a new level of Christian identity that was palpable and visible. Christians created a material culture that was tangible occupied space, was public and was distinctively Christian."

IN TERMS OF TIME
"For the early Christians there was only one day, the day of the Resurrection celebrated each time the community gathered, normally on Sunday...Over time other feasts were celebrated. The Christian year was organized into two major cycles-one centered on his birth; the other on his suffering, death and resurrection. Like the earliest (and later) Christian art, the liturgical year had a narrative shape drawn from the Scriptures, particularly the Gospels. Through ritual it imprinted the Biblical narrative on the the minds and hearts of the faithful, not simply as a matter of private devotion but as a fully public act setting the rhythm of communal life."

These descriptions of sacred time and sacred space in Catholic culture are by Robert Louis Wilken. His brilliant book, The Spirit of Early Christian Thought, explains why Christianity was best described not so much as a Belief, as a Way.

To better appreciate the categories of sacred time, space, and person, it is instructive to learn from one of the great students of worldwide religious practice. A thinker shaped by the Eastern tradition of Orthodoxy has looked at multiple ancient religious traditions. His unique formulation allows us to understand man in his seeking, God in His revelation, and the Church in its sacralizing mission in an ever more profound way.

Romanian émigré Mircea Eliade (1907-1986) taught at  the University of Chicago, writing novels and books including two classics on the nature of religion: The Myth of the Eternal Return (1949) and The Sacred and the Profane (1957). His influence on current political thinkers is unfortunately limited but Professor Francis Oakley carries his mantle well in this reflection on mankind's most durable form of government-the sacral office of  Kingship.  

                                                     
Professor Eliade in 1959

From The Myth of the Eternal Return:

"Archaic ontology is the conception of being and reality which can be read from the behavior of the man of the pre-modern societies. It is useless to search archaic languages for terms like "being" and "non being" or "real" and "unreal"… But if the word is lacking, the thing is present -- in a coherent fashion -- through symbols and myths."
"Objects and acts acquire a value and in so doing become real because they participate, in one way or another, in a reality that transcends them. A stone becomes sacred – and hence is saturated with being – because it constitutes a hierophany (a manifestation of the sacred higher order) because in some way it commemorates a mythical act."

"For archaic man, reality is a function of the imitation of a celestial archetype. Reality is conferred through participation in the "symbolism of the Center" …  "Cities, temples, houses become real by the fact of being assimilated to the center of the World (axis mundi)."
"Rituals and gestures acquire meaning only because they deliberately repeat such an act posited ab origine by gods, heroes, or ancestors."
"The man of traditional culture sees himself as real only to the extent that he ceases to be himself and is satisfied with imitating and repeating the gestures of a Divine Other."

"A second aspect of primitive ontology -- that a being attains reality only by the repetition of certain paradigmatic gestures and acquires reality only through that action alone, there is an abolition of profane time or history. He who reproduces the exemplary gesture thus finds himself transported to the mythical epoch in which the revelation took place.  'In illo tempore' at that sacred time 'once upon a time.' --

"The abolition of profane time and the individual’s projection into mythical time do not occur except at essential periods when the individual is truly himself -- on the occasion of important acts of eating, generation, ceremonies, hunting, fishing, war and work. The rest of his life is spent in profane time which is without meaning and in a state of becoming."
           
                                                         
[A previously performed Act of God -- ritually repeated by man -- is what reunites man’s being with reality]


"Archaic man sets himself in opposition to history -- he lived in conformity to extra human models, in conformity with archetypes that respected the 'law' of hierophany -- a revelation of some sacred act that occurs in illo tempore (at that particular sacred time)."

Thus the norms of real existence were "exemplary acts that the divine beings did first. Man realized his real identity by repeating those sacred acts throughout the course of his life."

The Myth of the Eternal Return provided a language and perspective for the Christian to better understand his own tradition. The liturgical ordering of sacred space, time, and matter  imitates the work of God in Creation -- and Christ in his life, death, and resurrection.
The book was Eliade’s attempt to argue against the historical determinism of his time. He tried to shake sense into homo ratio that archaic man knew something about human nature that modern man was losing. The sacred is reality; and man is most man when he is homo religiosus.


The Sacred and the Profane is an even more accessible book for the Christian. If archaic man tried to conform himself to sacred acts already performed, the Christian liturgically participates in the historical divine act whereby God entered into history.  Thus, in the Eucharist, the Christian is no longer abolishing historical time but bringing it into union with Christ who is both the Perfection of Nature and the Lord of History. While the Eucharist is a kind of "sacred time machine", The Mass also reconfigures space.   The altar at the time of the Eucharist becomes the axis mundi--the center of the world.  The Christian priest establishes sacred order out of chaos. He expels the Evil One. That is how man participates in God’s initial (ab origine; in illo tempore) work of creation and His subsequent cleansing of Heaven.
 We are perfected in acts of the liturgy but like ancient man, daily life takes on a sacred dimension as well. Eliade’s reflections show why men love sports, war, fishing, and hunting. The thrill of the chase and the exaltation of the kill are primordial acts which link man in the Divine Drama. Those primal acts of contest (no less than acts of communion like eating, marrying, and worship) mimic actions already performed by God and perfected in the Body of Christ.


From The Sacred and Profane:
"The abyss that divides the two modalities of experience -- sacred and profane -- will be apparent when we come to describe sacred space and the ritual building of human habitation or the varieties of the religious experience of time, or the relations of religious man to nature and the world of tools or the consecration of human life itself, the sacrality with which man’s vital functions (food, sex, work, and such) can be charged. Simply calling to mind what work and home and tools have come to mean for modern non-religious man will show with the utmost vividness how this distinguishes him from archaic man or even from a peasant of Christian Europe."
                                     

[Keeping liturgical time incorporates the Christian personally into a communal history, which binds the Church as a Body into the Divine unfolding of God’s Ultimate Plan for creation]    


Our essays on Catholic Sociobiology

Sunday, December 25, 2016

CHRISTMAS: “Mortals, join the mighty chorus / which the morning stars began”


[first published Christmas 2013]


David Pence writes:

On April 30, 1916, Germany and Austria introduced the first Daylight Savings Bill to reduce the evening use of lamplight fuel during the Great War. This resetting of clocks was to better harmonize man’s calculation of time with the physical experience of daylight in the summer months of the Northern Hemisphere.

On December 25th of every year, there is a world-wide resetting of our spatial-temporal and emotional clocks to an axial experience in the story of man. Every nation looks to Bethlehem, and remembers that in the time of Augustus Caesar a new Adam came to light their way. Our calendars pivot from B.C. (before Christ) to A.D. (annos Domini: the years of the Lord.) In the midst of that blessed night the Incarnation of Our Lord, which for months had been hidden in Our Lady, was made manifest to the Jewish shepherds of Israel. Days later the manifestation ('epiphany') would be experienced by the searching men of the Gentiles. It was a day that reordered the palette of human feelings by elevating joy in God’s presence over all the other emotions. The child in a crib reorganized the physical world bending a star toward Bethlehem to signal that all of matter had a new center of gravity.

Let angels and men sing the Good News – that the Creator of heaven and earth has come to pitch his tent among us. Let us rejoice and be glad.

                                         



UPDATE:

N.T. Wright on the word made flesh.


And finally, from Dale Ahlquist and the American Chesterton Society --


Why is celebrating Christmas an act of defiance?

We should not be surprised that Christmas is controversial. After all, as G.K. Chesterton points out, the word consists of the two most controversial and divisive words in the world: Christ and Mass. And so, in a culture that is increasingly anti-Christian, and especially anti-Catholic, we can expect that celebrating Christmas is going to be counter-cultural.

But we are not celebrating it in order to defy the culture. We are celebrating it because we are happy. We commemorate a joyful event, and we commemorate it joyfully. Of course we will sing and pray and worship. We will also eat and drink and laugh. But the celebration is still an act of defiance. What we are defying, however, is much bigger than our current culture. It goes back much further. It goes back to Pagan times.

“Why, course!” you say. “The pagans didn't like Christianity, and so naturally, celebrating Christmas was an act of defiance against the ancient pagan culture.”

No, that's not what I'm talking about. In fact, Christmas is not an act against the Pagan culture, it is an act very much in keeping with the Pagan culture.

“What?” you ask, slightly startled.

You heard me. Chesterton says it is the one celebration that survives out of all the ancient festivals that once covered the whole earth: “Christmas remains to remind us of those ages, whether Pagan or Christian, when the many acted poetry instead of the few writing it.”

“What?” you ask again, because you have no idea what that means.

I will try to explain, and I will keep quoting Chesterton, who says there is in this old festival something that is both Pagan and Christian: “... that trinity of eating, drinking and praying which to moderns appears irreverent, the holy day which is really a holiday.”

You still seem puzzled, so you ask: “Are you saying Christmas is a Pagan celebration? That the Christians simply borrowed it from the Pagans?”

No, that's not what I'm saying. The Christian meaning of Christmas is certainly not borrowed from anywhere. It is unique. We believe that a virgin gave birth to God Incarnate, that the divine babe was worshipped by angels and shepherds and eastern kings, that he came into the world to save the world from the eternal self-destruction of sin. It was this good news that changed the Pagan world forever. How did it change? It became Christian.

But the celebration of Christmas, a feast that has continued for two thousand years and has spread across the world like light from heaven, has fulfilled a need that men have had for at least the two thousand years that preceded it, that continued through the next millenia after it as the Gospel spread to lands where similar feasts were held in the names of gods who are now no more than footnotes. The feast remained after the Pagan gods were gone. It became the Christmas feast, but the feast itself had an important meaning that also remained even after it was christened.

“Explain,” you say, now losing your patience.

No, I respond. I will have Chesterton explain: “Christmas occurs in the winter. It is the element not merely of contrast, but actually of antagonism. It preserves everything that was best in the merely primitive or pagan view of such ceremonies or such banquets. If we are carousing, at least we are warriors carousing. We hang above us, as it were, the shields and battle-axes with which we must do battle with the giants of the snow and hail. All comfort must be based on discomfort. Man chooses when he wishes to be most joyful the very moment when the whole material universe is most sad. It is this contradiction and mystical defiance which gives a quality of manliness and reality to the old winter feasts which is not characteristic of the sunny felicities of the Earthly Paradise.”

A feast in the middle of winter is defiant of the winter. A fire blazing indoors is defiant of the cold world outside. It is a bold act of faith to have such when the circumstances are completely against it. It represented hope on the part of Pagans. It represents fulfillment on the part of the Christians, for Christ has come. And it is fitting that Christ should come in our “bleak midwinter.” He is the light that comes into a dark world. He is the hope that comes in the middle of despair. The lonely world has been crying out for him. And he has come. His name is Emmanuel. God is with us.

The darkness has not overcome the light. The brute cold has not quenched the flame. So of course we celebrate. And the celebration itself has warmed the whole world. Even the newly-polished pagans and the half-hearted heathens of the modern world, who avoid Christ, cannot help celebrating with the Christians at Christ's birth. They want to join the winter feast rather than pretend to prefer the cold. Christmas is lovable, and they know it. Love and joy come to you, and to you a wassail, too.

                                                     

Saturday, December 24, 2016

Father and Sons Defending the Sacred: The Real Hanukkah Lesson for Christians


by David Pence


Hanukkah begins this evening. It will end in eight days. It is not "the Jewish Christmas." Several hundred years before Christ, the Greeks, the very cosmopolitan educated Greeks, ruled over Palestine. When Antiochus had become the ruler he sought a uniformity of customs and loyalty. Circumcision -- that sign between Abraham and G-d that all the males would shed their own blood to be united as a people in Covenant with the Almighty -- was banned. The sacred precincts of the temple were defiled. Women who had their sons circumcised "were publicly paraded with their babies hanging at their breasts and then thrown from the top of the city wall."

                             

"... the Gentiles filled the temple with debauchery and revelry; they amused themselves with prostitutes and had intercourse with women even in the sacred court. They brought into the temple things that were forbidden, so the altar was covered with abominable offerings prohibited by the law." Most defilements were done by consenting adults and there were plenty of Jewish collaborators. "There was great mourning for Israel. Virgins and young men languished and the beauty of the women was disfigured. Her sanctuary was desolate as a desert. She became a stranger to her own offspring. Her feasts were turned into mourning, her sabbaths to shame, her honor to contempt. Her dishonor was as great as her glory had been and her joy was turned into mourning."

Against this sexual perversity so deeply linked with the defilement of sacral things, Mattathias and his five sons withdrew from the over-educated Greeks who scoffed at their ancient purity codes and rituals of divine worship. Before they organized to fight, the patriarch and the brothers "tore their garments, put on sackcloth and mourned bitterly." They knew the evil that had befallen their fellow Israelites followed their infidelity to G-d. They also knew they must organize to fight. They had seen a group of Israelites come before the Greeks and "refuse to profane the sabbath. Then the enemy attacked them and they did not retaliate... and they died with their wives and their children and their cattle to the number of a thousand persons." Mattathias resolved: "If we all do as our kinsmen have done and do not fight the Gentiles for our lives and our traditions they will soon destroy us from the earth. Let us fight against anyone who attacks us on the sabbath so that we may not all die as our kinsmen died in the hiding places." Mattathias and his men tore down the pagan altars. They also forcibly circumcised any uncircumcised boys they found in the territory of Israel." They stitched back together the only bond capable of ridding the land of abominations. They conscripted their state anew to guard the sacred of old.      
                
Sculpture of Mattathias by Boris Schatz (d. 1932)


"When the time came for Mattathias to die, he said to his sons, 'Arrogance and scorn have now grown strong, it is a time of disaster and violent anger. Therefore, my sons, be zealous for the law and give your lives for the covenant of our fathers." He appointed his son Simeon because of his wisdom to be "like a father to them," and appointed his son Judas (called Maccabeus, the 'hammer') to be "the leader of your army and direct the war against the nations." His sons and the men they gathered around them defeated the Greeks. They tore down the defiled altar and built a new one with uncut stones. They repaired the sanctuary and purified the courts. On the anniversary of the day the Gentiles had defiled the temple they reconsecrated the sacred precinct with song and acts of worship. For eight days they celebrated the dedication, and then "Judas and his brothers and the entire congregation of Israel decreed that the days of the dedication of the altar should be observed with joy and gladness on the anniversary every year for eight days…"

There are many tales of noble martyrs who refused to profane the commands of the Lord before the Maccabees restored a civic order in consonance with G-d's decrees. In the Book of Maccabees the most notable was the mother and her seven sons who refused to defile themselves by eating pork. The holy mother watched her sons be tortured and killed and urged them one after another to persist in courage. Then "her womanly heart with manly courage" was pierced as well. When the Church recounts this re-dedication of the temple in her late November liturgy she couples the reading from Maccabees with the Gospel of Jesus cleansing the temple. Two centuries after the Maccabees, the Jewish convert from Tarsus asked Christians, "Do you not know that you are a temple of the  Holy Spirit?"

For eight days let us Christians look for the lights of the candles shining forth from Jewish homes. They are not lit for the use of the household, but to give glory to G-d by reminding all who see them that the sacred practices of a culture can only be protected if there are fathers and sons who will covenant together under God to fight for them.
                             
Hanukkah candles in Jerusalem

Friday, December 23, 2016

Friday BookReview -- Calvin and Geneva: Light for the City


(first published August 26, 2011)


        
by David Pence    




                                                         
This 130-page book by a late professor of speech at Calvin College is a masterpiece of religious and political argument. If you think America's Protestant past has made us libertarian individualists, this book might reorient your mind to the deep communal roots of that peculiarly American patriot -- with his gun, his plow, and his Bible.

The Russian communist Leon Trotsky (1879-1940) called Marx and Calvin the two greatest revolutionaries of the West. Professor De Koster reminds us that one's Utopia and "new man" led to the Gulag; while the other's obedience to the Word Proclaimed led to the civic bonds of city and nation.

John Calvin (1509-1564), the French-speaking theologian of the Protestant Reformation, had studied Latin and philosophy to become a priest but turned to law school at age 16. It was there that "God, by a sudden conversion, subdued and brought my mind to a teachable frame... " At age 27, Calvin fled the Catholic persecutions in France that followed the Affair of the Placards (Oct 17, 1534). All over France (including on the bedchamber door of the King), anti-Catholic posters deriding the "horrific abuses of the papal Mass" appeared that morning in the best-orchestrated street theatre of the religious wars. The Catholics of the time were not so appreciative. They took the desecration of the Mass a good deal more seriously than Catholics in our own age. Calvin and many other known Protestants fled for their lives. How God works His ways!
It was Calvin's fate that before reaching the "scholarly seclusion of Strasbourg" to continue work on the seminal governing text of the Reformation (Institutes of Christian Religion) he would encounter a French-speaking Swiss town in need of civic and ecclesial organization after the expulsion of its Catholic bishop. "It was to be town, not gown, as his destiny."

De Koster adds, "God chose to demonstrate through Calvin, Calvinists, and their impact upon the western world that His Word can be preached into that highest aspiration of human wisdom, old and new and Divine -- the City... the civis of Cicero, the polis of Aristotle, the civitas Dei of Augustine."

Professor De Koster finds in the Calvinist religious doctrine of predestination the soil for a Christian life of liberty in the City. The question of individual salvation which so inflamed the Lutheran/Catholic debates was settled for Calvin by God's foreordaining salvation or damnation for each individual soul. Calvin's perspective is found in his letter answering the Catholic cardinal Sadolet (who had urged the citizens of Geneva to return to the Catholic sacraments for the good of their souls):
"It is not a very sound theology to confine a man's thought so much to himself and not to set before him as the prime motive of his existence -- zeal to illustrate the glory of God. For we are born first of all for God and not for ourselves. This zeal ought to exceed all thought and concern for our own advantage... It certainly is the part of the Christian man to ascend higher than merely to seek and secure the salvation of his own soul."

This startling claim condemns tent evangelism as the best way to save souls, in the same breath that it derides Catholic sacramental grace dispensaries.

What then is Christianity about? "Let each of us remember," Calvin says, "that each has been created by God for the purpose of laboring and of being vigorously employed in His work, and that not only for a limited time, but till death itself and that he should not only live but die to God." Besides useful labor the Christian is meant to give glory to God by living in a highly ordered civic community -- to make a shining "city on the hill." Calvin's signature masterpiece -- his Institutes which was published in 1559 -- culminates in the fourth book with a dissertation on both ecclesial and civic organization.

Because one's salvation is already determined,  the Christian living in the interim is to give glory to God by carrying out his task in the church, at work, and in the civic community. The City is not the Church, but Calvin's City is shaped by the Word and disciplined by the civil government:
"The function (of government) among men is no less than that of bread and water, sun and air; indeed its place of honor is far more excellent. For it sees to it as all these do that men breathe, eat and drink, and are kept warm. It embraces all these activities when it provides for them living together. It does not look to this only, I repeat, but also prevents idolatry and sacrilege against God's name, blasphemies against the truth and other public offenses against religion from arising and spreading among the people. It keeps the public peace, and provides that each man keep his property safe and sound, that men can carry on blameless intercourse and that honesty and modesty may be preserved among men. No one ought to doubt that civil authority is a calling not only holy and lawful before God but also the most sacred and by far most honorable of all callings in the life of mortal man."
This city is not the church. But the city is the communal day-to-day way men give glory to God. De Koster explains: "God's Word comes to all upon the pages of Holy Scripture, incarnate in the language there prevailing. The sermon is the divinely prescribed manner of broadcasting that Word into time, world, and history. It is God's way for getting His Will incarnate in human behavior. The goal of the ordained preacher is to bring God's word into incarnation in the creation of the city and the maturation of the soul."

This is not a narrow notion of church employees lobbying legislators for favorite bills or churchmen "speaking out on the issues." This is making new men through obedience to the Word of God and those new citizen-men shaping a particular kind of City. It is the opposite of Utopia.

This richly textured vision of Christian men shaping the city for the glory of God is the super glue of social capital. All men in the city are meant for the same common good: to know and love God, and we are all bound to one another in mutual love and concern as we carry out that high-minded goal. The city in time and history can never repudiate God as Sovereign, or it will fail in its appointed role in the Divine Drama -- and cities and nations have real roles in Salvation History.

Calvin, Augustine, and all Christian citizens of their own nations and cities are builders of proper cities if the civic order provides for all men a setting in which we can know God. This transcendent common good is what overcomes factional self-interest and guards against the hubris of powerful cities and nations who mistake the sources and ends of their own prosperity. The question for the city is the question for man: do you live for yourself or do you exist for God? The so-called "realists" of our own day promote self-interest and the 'will to power' to replace love of God, love of neighbor, and the pursuit of justice as our national ends. The nation bent on negotiating self-interest amidst the nations in the name of realism has abandoned the fundamental reality -- the sovereignty of God and the common destiny of all men to know and carry out His Will.  Not too realistic.

This book is written with a clarity and verve of a man who has listened to the Word and had his heart circumcised by its sword. His voice reminds us that the great souls who shape nations and cities are first forged in the setting in which "pulpits loyally proclaim the lordship of Christ after the manner of Geneva." The City is spoken into existence from the pulpits.  First there was the religious Great Awakening, then there was the American Revolution.

Professor De Koster closes with a chapter called 'Mother of Cities: a Glimpse of the Record.' It is a series of succinct paragraphs describing the cities and countries shaped by the Calvinist "world power" -- Scotland, the Netherlands, Cromwell's England, New England, and the city which shaped our American civilization as surely as London, Athens, Rome, and Jerusalem -- Calvin's Geneva.

Thursday, December 22, 2016

Christian Realism: Learning from Huntington while teaching him Religion


(first published June 23, 2016)



by David Pence



Last week we reviewed Samuel Huntington’s paradigm-shifting book on The Clash of Civilizations and the Remaking of World Order. This week we want to redraw his map by asserting his fundamental thesis more aggressively than his Harvard-educated mind would allow him. In his book’s last chapter ('The West, Civilizations, and Civilization') he lays out his concluding two mandates. First, America must reassert itself as a "Western People" (against multiculturalists who do not accept the American Creed, and immigrants who will not assimilate). If America cannot defend the West then there will be no West, he says. He, strangely, does not see the loss of a living allegiance to God as a major problem. "The erosion of Christianity among westerners is likely to be at worst only a very long-term threat to the health of western civilization." He cites the "declining proportions of Europeans who profess religious beliefs, observe religious practices, and participate in religious activities. This depicts not hostility to religion but indifference. Swedes are probably the most un-religious people in Europe, and yet you cannot understand the country unless you see all its practices fundamentally shaped by Lutheran heritage." The Harvard professor approves of a West created by a religion, but maturing away from it. He does see a threat, however.

"A more immediate and dangerous challenge to the American Creed (liberty, democracy, individualism, equality under the law, constitutionalism, and private property)… is the challenge from intellectuals and publicists in the name of multiculturalism." Their assault, he sees, as "substituting the rights of individuals with the rights of groups defined largely in terms of race, ethnicity, sex, and sexual orientation." He argues further that if Americans lose their western identity, the West cannot survive. America is the indispensable core state of the West.

While he circles the western wagons, he warns that the West is NOT a universal civilization and cannot try to be one. "The Western belief in the universality of Western culture suffers three problems: it is false, it is immoral, and it is dangerous." Other than that, go for it!!

With all respect to the professor he has developed a major blind spot in his thinking. Call it the "atheist cataract." It can be environmentally induced from the air and water of Ivy League colleges. Those colleges themselves are beautiful communal institutions of learning which have betrayed the mother religions which gave them birth. Those once-Christian institutions now perpetuate the theories that Huntington knows are dissolving our national identity. Huntington shows graphs with a straight linear relationship of belief in God and national identity. He incisively depicts the de-nationalization of the elites and their loss of religion. He posited at the beginning of his book on civilizations that the most essential element in civilization is religion… and yet… and yet.

                         


In his world map showing the new paradigm he splits three huge Christian civilizations -- the Orthodox, the Latin, and the West from each other. There are three persons in One God says the Christian, just before the jihadist cuts off his head. But the Harvard professor immersed in the acids of modernity could not profess our baptismal Ummah. He split what is one into three, and if we follow him we will lose them all. The last time we let this happen, the Nazi and Soviet monstrosities were spawned. How very Protestant of him to not see the Latin Catholics and Eastern Orthodox as Christian brothers; how very Harvard-like indeed.

And yet much of the material Huntington highlights in his work is a powerful argument for Christian realism. His blind spot is that he cannot see the full living reality of global Christianity. That same blind spot significantly diminishes his understanding of American identity. He cannot see that our common religion and allegiance to a Living God binds Protestant college professors to the southern immigrant Christians who roof our houses and grow our food. We are Christian brothers and can be American citizens together. The same pinched view of Christianity which blinds Mr. Huntington to our common links with the Russians stops him from seeing that immigration from Latin America makes the United States more Christian not less. Apparently, he does not meet these fellow Christians and future citizens at church on Sundays; and they are outside the building mowing the lawn during faculty meetings.

Huntington is absolutely correct that the West should not seek to universalize itself. For his depiction of the West has lost the transcendent reality which allows universality -- a relationship with a God who created humanity, and Christ who has come to return all the nations to the House of the Father. Christianity is universal and the nations who have grown out of her soil can form deep bonds with one another and peaceful bonds with other nations who come forth from the same Creator. We are not Darwinists plotting a war of all against all. It is deeply woven into the Christian biblical narrative that there will be many nations. That is the wide-radius trust that Christianity engenders. Christianity is the soil of our liberal democracy, but as Eisenhower said in his first inaugural: "Honoring the identity and the special heritage of each nation in the world, we shall never use our strength to try to impress upon another people our own cherished political and economic institutions." God is really very big and he can handle the many political and economic forms which develop among the different nations.

There is a huge blind spot in this great teacher. Let us learn from Mr. Huntington and take his thesis seriously. But we must remind him there is no Western civilization without Christ, and there is no Body of Christ without the baptized nations -- Catholic, Orthodox, and Protestant. Let us take the professor seriously. Let us speak of civilizations and regional powers but let us properly define the civilizations. Among the emerging civilizations, America is built on global Christianity and we are part of a tapestry with many national forms. The "West" is a dying alliance of states without souls who are using their technological advantage against more robust cultures in an expensive and destructive death rattle. Of course, the West shouldn't universalize. The West should dissolve and let the nations of Europe reemerge as Christian nations in consort with the American nations and Russia- that other great regional and national manifestation of Christianity.  Global Christianity in many national forms is ready to make peace among the nations whenever possible, and decisive war when necessary. Huntington’s paradigm is very rich indeed. He has that great honor of writing something that so corresponds to the truth that its full import can only be understood when new students discover its most profound implications.

                 


Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Catholic Sociobiology: A NEW PARADIGM

I. Catholic Sociobiology and Natural History
1  Introduction to Catholic Sociobiology: Chardin and de Lubac
2  Catholic Sociobiology: EO Wilson and Henri de Lubac
3  Catholic Culture as adaptation and natural selection
4  Getting the Universe Right
5  Man and Cosmos: A Review of Remi Brague
6  God, Nature, and Violence
7  When God Created Matter
8  Was there an Adam and Eve? 
9  Max Planck on God, Religion, and Science

II. Communio Theology
10  Being as Communion: John Zizoulas
11  Communio theology: Rowland and Popes
12  Marital Love: Three Popes   
13  Trinity Sunday and Masculine Communio

III. Patriarchy, Fraternity, and Communio
14  Patriarchal Fraternity and the Original Mission of Adam
15. Consecrating Masculine Fraternity
16. What is an Apostolic Church?
17  Fraternity as Political Category
18  Russell Hittinger and the Polity in Catholic Social Teaching
19 Fatherhood, Filiation and Fraternity: Scripture on the Beloved Son and Brotherhood

IV. Visual and Liturgical Representation 
of Catholic Sociobiology
20  Icons of Catholic Sociobiology
21  Apostolic Fraternity and Marian Femininity (two audio-talks with visuals)
22  Feasts of Communio: Trinity and Corpus Christi
23  Eucharist in Holy Week: Space/Time/Person

V. Nature of Religion
24  The Sacred as Reality: Mircea Eliade
25  Idea of the Holy: Rudolph Otto
26  Durkheim and Douglas: Religion as the Solidarity of Shared Classifications
27  Mary Douglas: Purity as Danger and How Institutions Think

VI. Liturgy, Culture and Character
28  Liturgical Theology: Chan and Schmemann
29  Liturgical Theology: Fagerberg, Kavanaugh, Schmemann
30  Authority, Character, Culture: Lasch, Adorno, and Rief

VII Perfecting the Person: Virtues, Emotions, and Ordering our Loves
32  Morality the Catholic View: Servais Pinckaers, O.P.
33  The Logic of Desire: Aquinas on Emotion by Lombardo
34  Spiritual Reality and a Full Palette of Human Emotions
35  Whet, Suppress and Reorder: Aiming virtues at the emotions
36  The Heart by von Hildebrand
37  Status, the State of Grace and the Social Emotions of Honor and Shame
38  From Personal Piety to the Kingship of Christ: The Ordered Loves of the Sacred Heart

Saturday, December 17, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, December 17

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


I. POPE FRANCIS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

MEN WITH DEEP-SEATED HOMOSEXUAL TENDENCIES SHOULD NOT BE ADMITTED TO SEMINARY FORMATION FOR PRIESTHOOD: A new document from the Vatican on seminaries and priestly formation is very clear. It should also be clear that abbots and bishops should wash out monks and priests in active ministry who are homosexuals, and remove this debilitating presence from the collegial priesthood or monastery life. The abuse of young males throughout the Church was perpetrated by homosexual bishops and priests, and their continued presence in the priesthood and episcopacy is seriously undermining the deepening of a dynamic fraternal priesthood and synodal episcopacy. The patriarchy, filiation,  and fraternity needed in the missionary work of the apostles are deeply compromised by men afflicted with a tendency to spiritual incest.

Certainly it is the height of contradiction that many priests involved in the formation of priests are plagued by the impediments which the Church says once again are unacceptable in seminarians.

The document says when it comes to gay men who want to enter the seminary, or discover they have "homosexual tendencies" during the formation years, the Church, "while profoundly respecting the persons in question, cannot admit to the seminary or to holy orders those who practice homosexuality, present deep-seated homosexual tendencies or support the so-called ‘gay culture.’"

It also says that the Church can’t overlook the "negative consequences that can derive from the ordination of persons with deep-seated homosexual tendencies."

This reiterates the 2005 document released under the pontificate of Pope Benedict. Many seminary directors and religious order formation directors opposed that ruling and said the prohibition applied only to men actively and presently involved in homosexual relations. Some went so far as to celebrate "the gift of gay celibacy." The huge homosexual lobby in the North American and European Church missed the point then and we can expect they will miss the point now as we hear about the thousands of current faithful "gay celibates" in today’s priesthood. The attempt by European bishops to praise homosexual relations was a scandal thwarted by African, Australian, and Eastern European bishops during the Synod on the Family. That corruption should have led to an inquiry and discipline. But it has been completely overlooked as the fastidious conservative dissenters go after Pope Francis while the 'lavender priest' lobby in New York, San Diego, Chicago and Washington DC goes unreported and unconfronted. Many of us have long said that among the "super orthodox" there is a type of homosexual personality which is the opposite of great-souled magnanimity. That personality, that tendency to rigidness is a problem that strikes at the core of priestly formation.  Here is one of the better doctors who writes seriously about homosexuality. We live in an era presenting a unique opportunity for a reconfiguration of the nations in light of the fraternity of global Christianity. But half the Catholic "public intellectuals" are trying to foment discontent against the pope and his pastoral initiative to divorced Catholics. It is pathetic and mindful of how many of the same conservative intellectuals could not relate to Donald Trump as he established civic leadership. The bubble of the "principled elite" is obvious; their inability to understand either Pope Francis or President-elect Trump is in some way related. How to explain that is not so obvious.

POPE FRANCIS ON HELL - NOT A TORTURE CHAMBER: "Eternal damnation is not a torture chamber. That’s a description of this second death: it is a death. And those who will not be received in the Kingdom of God, it’s because they have not drawn close to the Lord. These are the people who journeyed along their own path, distancing themselves from the Lord and passing in front of the Lord but then choosing to walk away from Him. Eternal damnation is continually distancing oneself from God. It is the worst pain, an unsatisfied heart, a heart that was created to find God but which, out of arrogance and self-confidence, distances itself from God."

POPE FRANCIS ON THE SYNODAL CHURCH AND THE FOUR TEMPTATIONS OF MEDIAExcellent article from Crux.

THE UNSEEMLY WAR AGAINST POPE FRANCISPart One of a National Catholic Reporter series that is seeing the Catholic "neocon" project quite clearly. The conservative dissenters are creating a kind of media-centric univocal alternate magisterium. Their insular band of experts centered around a shrinking net of conservative Catholic media outlets has a very different spirit than the face-to-face give and take of the last synods under the Holy Father.

POPE FRANCIS AND THE WOMANLY SIDE OF THE YOUNG RIGIDS: I find this a beautiful reflection and his implications about the masculinity of certain Daughters of Trent are right on. An example on the feast of Our Lady of Guadalupe, the blog entry of Fr Z was all about his rose vestments with lots of pictures of himself. Self-absorption is what Pope Francis means by priests adopting a "worldliness" that is devastating to the priesthood. From his reflection:
"About rigidity and worldliness, it was some time ago that an elderly monsignor of the Curia came to me, who works, a normal man, a good man, in love with Jesus – and he told me that he had gone to buy a couple of shirts at Euroclero [the clerical clothing store in Rome] and saw a young fellow – he thinks he had not more than 25 years, or a young priest or about to become a priest – before the mirror, with a cape, large, wide, velvet, with a silver chain. He then took the Saturno [wide-brimmed clerical headgear], he put it on and looked himself over. A rigid and worldly one. And that priest – he is wise, that monsignor, very wise – was able to overcome the pain, with a line of healthy humor and added: ‘And it is said that the Church does not allow women priests!’. Thus, does the work that the priest does when he becomes a functionary ends in the ridiculous, always."
As an antidote to frilly priests playing the orthodox card let us ponder the Americas and the significance of Our Lady of Guadalupe in the emerging era of religious nations.

IN VIETNAM, CHRISTMAS WILL BE ABOUT THE BIRTH OF CHRIST, AND JOY WILL RESOUND: A church hardened by battle will be a light to the nations. A report on Catholics in Vietnam.

GK CHESTERTON ON THE GREAT AMERICAN POLITICAL IDEA; AND DALE AHLQUIST ON THE ONLY RELIGION THAT CAN SUSTAIN IT: Chesterton and Ahlquist on the Church and the nation we love so dearly.


II. ISLAM AND THE MIDDLE EAST

EGYPT COPTIC CHURCH BOMBED: President al-Sisi declares three days of mourning. Egypt has the largest Christian population of any Mideast country - about 10% of Egypt’s 82 million people. The Muslim Brotherhood won a clear victory in the national elections of 2012. The winner of that election, Mohamed Morsi, was overthrown in a military coup in April of 2013. He is in prison under a death sentence. Abdel Fattah el-Sisi led the coup and won the subsequent election. Just after the coup in August 2013, the Rabaa massacre of 650-1000 Brotherhood protesters solidified the hold of Sisi over the government. Christians largely supported the coup and subsequent election of Sisi. They saw their security eroding under the elected Brotherhood government. Egypt is the prime example in the Arab Spring where democracy did not lead to freedom. There was an institutional Egyptian State that could reassert itself after the election, but obviously the conflict persists. Several times President el-Sisi has called on imams to lead “a religious revolution" to reject the jihadist ideology of the Salafist Sunnis and others.

ALEPPO IS RETAKEN BY GOVERNMENT OF SYRIA - MANY INNOCENTS DIE. WHO REALLY IS TO BLAME?
See our 'Map on Monday' on Syria for geography, communal loyalties and history of the country. At the end is an excellent 10-minute Vox video explaining the Syrian civil war and players since 2011. The US decided after bloody anti-Assad demonstrations to covertly (then openly) support demonstrators turned rebels and seek to overthrow the Syrian government. Our support goaded on by the Saudis has added to the death and destruction that comes with failed rebellions. Arming demonstrators to turn protests into regime change has ended in disaster in Syria. This is a bipartisan failure with Hillary Clinton and John McCain both in the "overthrow Assad club." President Obama fortunately did not deepen our involvement in 2013 over the chemical weapon controversy. The US people were heavily opposed to intervention at the time, though the think tank establishment and Arab Spring politicians wanted a formal attack. President Obama could never, however, fully break with the anti-Assad  policy. He left Syrians in the worst of all worlds with enough money and arms to wage war but not enough support to win it. Mr Trump has implied he will significantly change the Republican interventionist policy on Syria.

(An historical aside: many believe the CIA post in Benghazi overrun in September 2012 was facilitating arms flows to the Syrian rebels.)

UN Ambassador Samantha Powers has filled the UN halls with her plaintive lament for the children dying in Aleppo. She blames the evil Russians and the legitimate government of Syria for all the dead bodies. She quizzically shrieks, "How can you kill your own people?" We might evoke President Lincoln to remind her that is always the sad reality in civil wars. You kill your own people because that is who is shooting at you. Her sentimental unhistorical "career" as a tough feminist fighter comes to a close as she neglects to report that the jihadist rebels who opposed President Assad wouldn’t let the women and children Aleppo flee as the battle drew to an end. She made no mention of the disastrous US policy that fomented this bloody no-win rebellion.

MRS. CLINTON, WIKI LEAKS, AND SAUDI FUNDING OF TERRORISM: The connection is undeniable.

IRAN AND THE SHIITE CORRIDOR: A very helpful primer.

SECRETARY OF STATE DESIGNATE DISAGREES WITH THE SAUDIS - SEES NORTH AMERICA AS NEXT SWING PRODUCER. A MAN WITH A GEOLOGICAL MAP IN HIS HEAD: Rex Tillerson and Oil supply Debate.

THE WAR AGAINST THE SHIITES OF YEMEN - WE SHOULD FEAR A JUST GOD FOR THE ROLE WE HAVE PLAYED IN AIDING THIS SAUDI BARBARISM AGAINST THEIR SHIITE ENEMIES. THIS IS NOT ABOUT FIGHTING IRAN: The Yemen disaster.

BORIS JOHNSON AND THE SAUDIS - WHOOPS, BRITISH FOREIGN SECRETARY TELLS THE TRUTH: Don’t criticize the Saudis.



III. A CULTURE OF LIFE IS A CULTURE OF PROTECTION

DEATH PENALTY AND POLICE POWER: California voters were very clear.

FINALLY SHUTTING DOWN THE 'VAGINA MONOLOGUES': Mt Holyoke pulls a defeat from the jaws of victory with its weird, ever weirder, morality play.

NFL FOOTBALL PLAYER TELLS HIGH SCHOOL MALES TO PROTECT WOMEN: That’s when he got in trouble. This disagreement highlights the most fundamental clash in the culture war. Ricardo Lockette, the man and the message is the winning strategy to socialize males as protectors and citizens. This is what feminism has been thwarting for forty years. If the Trump victory means anything culturally it must be that blue collar workers and male athletes are granted their identity as male protectors again. This can start with the NFL throwing away their pink shoes and adopting a "real men are protectors, American brothers and fellow citizens" theme.

TWO BEAUTIFUL WOMEN SAY WHY THEY ARE PRO-TRUMP: One is a daughter of AOA so we have breached our usual impenetrable wall of leaving family in private.

MILO Y INTERVIEWS THE PIZZA OWNERS IN INDIANA AFTER TRUMP ELECTION: Remembering the sexual left terrorism against a small town bakery. Milo Y helps us get the next laugh if not the last one. His own brand of humor should be an epiphenomenon, not the culture of a Christian nation.

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday BookReview: IRAN



[first published February 20, 2015]


by David Pence
                            
                                                               
The changing of the portraits 1979


Two of the most articulate foreign policy experts who strongly favor closer U.S. relations with Iran have laid out their case in Going to Tehran: Why the United States Must Come to Terms with the Islamic Republic of Iran. This hour-long interview with professors Flynt Leverett and his wife Hillary Mann is the best summing up of their views.


The holy city of Qom

Here is a reaction to the book by a Russian immigrant to America:
This is a well-written, frank, and courageous book. The master idea is that there are unpleasant times ahead for the US unless it changes its policy from a hegemony-oriented policy to a modus-vivendi-oriented policy. The conclusion of the book is: it's time for an American president to go to Tehran.
It offers an unorthodox analysis of Iran and is a scathing criticism of the US's foreign policy. The authors argue that the US is simply on the wrong trajectory leading to very unpleasant outcomes. The Grand Strategy of the Obama's administration (like the administrations before him) has been to effect a "regime change" in Iran. It has been endorsed and pursued semi-silently, not openly. The strategy is to topple the Iranian regime "by other means" and replace it with a puppet regime made of the Iranian émigrés, cranks, Saudi-backed militant lunatics and double-agents. This unpleasant compote we can observe today in Syria. The strategy is extremely ill-advised. The "other means" are: 1] a run on the Iranian currency; 2] sanctions and embargoes against Iran; 3] cyber-weapons and "worms" targeting Iran's nuclear facilities; 4] targeted assassinations of top Iranian nuclear scientists; 5] sanctions against Russia, its banks and firms doing business with Iran.
This strategy may prove successful. But the collateral damage will be very unpleasant for the US. Apart from putting the world of international relations in flames, one of the victims will be the relations with Russia -- my former country -- which has been already much frayed because of the conflict in Syria and the US's support of the anti-Putin opposition last year.


Among the many antagonistic reviews in the mainstream media was one written by Laura Secor in the 'NY Times.' An excerpt from that essay of March 1, 2013:
The concluding pages of Going to Tehran argue that American policy makers cannot resolve their impasse with Iran’s government so long as they imagine they can isolate it, strangle it, bombard it, dislodge it or simply wait for it to fall. Rather, a visionary American administration should take the Islamic Republic seriously as a strategic partner and negotiate a comprehensive agreement covering all outstanding issues between the two nations. 
The Leveretts compare such a diplomatic enterprise with President Richard Nixon’s opening to China. They suggest that outreach would start with assurances that the United States will not seek to invade or topple the Islamic Republic; that Iran can enrich uranium on its own soil, but with international safeguards; and that the Arab-Israeli peace process will include the Iranians and take account of Iranian interests...
Going to Tehran is too one-sided to illuminate much about the history of relations between the United States and Iran. For that, readers would be well advised to pick up Becoming Enemies, a fascinating collection of declassified documents and expert and participant commentary from the time of the Iran-Iraq war, co-authored by six scholars... 
                                                                                                 


Here are portions of a long 'Foreign Affairs' essay by Miss Secor on two other books regarding Iran:


Days of God: The Revolution in Iran and Its Consequences. By James Buchan. Simon and Schuster, 2013, 432 pp. $27.99.

Revolutionary Iran. By Michael Axworthy. Oxford University Press, 2013, 528 pp. $34.95.


"There is something irresistible about the story of Iran’s last shah, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi. The pampered, foreign-educated son of a dour autocrat, Mohammad Reza ascended to the Peacock Throne in 1941, at age 21. He was weak and malleable, surrounded by sycophants and schemers, beholden to foreign powers that treated him with contempt. Nearly unseated by his popular prime minister, Mohammad Mosaddeq, in 1953, the shah retained his throne with American and clerical connivance...

"The story of the shah is compelling in the way of fiction: the tragic antihero friendless in his gilded palace, unable, for want of character and common experience, to see the shadow he himself has cast. But if the monarchy is the stuff of literature, the story of Iran’s postrevolutionary Islamic Republic calls for sociology instead. Reading Iranian history as written by Westerners, it is impossible to miss this dramatic reversal of emphasis. Inevitably, accounts of prerevolutionary Iran foreground the shah, his court, and its foreign patrons. But the revolution forced Iranian society, with all its cleavages and complexities, its aspirations and refusals, into the light of historical explanation. For all the Western intimacy with the Pahlavi court, and for all the opacity of the Islamic Republic, Westerners see Iran more clearly now.

"Two magisterial new books by British scholars of Iran make the best of this historical divide and the continuities that span it. James Buchan’s Days of God, a survey of the Pahlavi years, with spectacular detail on the revolution itself, includes some deft portraiture and notes of literary grace. Buchan, who lived in Iran in the late 1970s, writes with an irreverence and confidence born of long familiarity, and the Iran of his history feels vibrantly present. Still, his history moves largely from the top down until 1979, when the revolution forces the old protagonists from the scene. Michael Axworthy’s precise and judicious Revolutionary Iran carries the country’s history forward as a contest among political visions and social forces. Axworthy’s Iran is less lived-in and more abstract than Buchan’s, but in another sense, more fully dimensional.

"To read these two books together is to understand the revolution as something other than a historical rupture. It is to sense that when looking at Iran before and after the revolution, one is turning a kaleidoscope, reconstituting a new picture from the same elements...

"Mohammad Reza, as Buchan portrays him, was a stateless creature of an international aristocracy to which he never properly belonged, perched awkwardly atop a country that never properly belonged to him. His father founded the Pahlavi dynasty from nothing, having seized power as a low-level military officer of obscure origins...

"Beyond the palace gates, Iran convulsed with social upheaval that threw its inequities into sharp relief. Hundreds of thousands of rural Iranians, displaced by land reform, swelled the country’s cities, many of them settling in slums and shantytowns. Between 1930 and 1979, Tehran’s population leapt from around 300,000 to about five million (today it is close to 14 million), poor youth from traditional families living cheek by jowl with the cosmopolitan sons and daughters of the modern middle class and with casually entitled foreigners. The structures of old Iran -- the bazaar as the center of commerce, the low houses turned in on private courtyards, the neighborhood cleric as moral arbiter -- heaved beneath the pressure of the emerging megacity...

"Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, a charismatic cleric distinguished as much by his mystical cast of mind as by his ferocious opposition to the shah... first rose to prominence when he organized opposition to a 1963 law conferring on women the right to vote and to run for city councils. Not long after, he tapped into the rich vein of public indignation by speaking out ringingly against the shah’s apparent capitulation to American whims. As early as 1943, he had envisioned an Islamic state governed by a learned cleric and with no legislation but the word of God...                              

"Buchan portrays Khomeini as a lifelong radical, an aggressively political man within a clergy that was largely quietistic. Khomeini exuded a cold-blooded ambition that the head of SAVAK once said made his hair stand on end. In his presence, writes Buchan, one felt “as if some figure of fathomless authority had appeared and with a single glare brought modernity . . . to an end.” Forceful and uncompromising, Khomeini conceded nothing to courtesy, to diplomatic niceties, or, in the end, to the softer yearnings of his own people. “Within Creation, he seemed to be but imperfectly detained, like a passenger in an airport lounge in thick weather,” Buchan muses. “In the West, having done with Scholasticism long ago, we cannot understand a man who could know so much and, at the same time, so little. His mystical writings pass over our heads and his political statements . . . beneath our notice.”
                   

"Axworthy’s Khomeini cuts a strikingly different figure. According to Axworthy, as the first supreme leader of the Islamic Republic, Khomeini acted with a detached impartiality, often wincing at the application of violence. Axworthy contends that Khomeini sought to end the Iran-Iraq War in 1982, after Iran regained the territory it had earlier lost, and only reluctantly acceded to the Revolutionary Guards’ judgment that it would be better to invade Iraq and pursue the ouster of Saddam Hussein. Axworthy believes that judgment was sound...

"Throughout the 1980s, the Islamic Republic forged itself in the white heat of conflict, both foreign and domestic. The Iran-Iraq War cost hundreds of thousands of lives... At home, the revolutionaries who had toppled the shah found themselves divided over the very fundamentals of the new regime: whether it should embrace theocracy or republicanism, socialism or mercantilism, liberty or justice. As the radical clerics around Khomeini closed ranks, opponents of the new revolutionary order faced everything from firing squads to street combat, culminating in the execution of thousands of political prisoners in 1988. The opposition that the Islamic Republic did not decimate, it intimidated into silence. Prisons that had been built by the shah filled to many times their capacity, such that cellmates had to take turns sleeping because there was not enough room to lie on the floor. Although the new regime discontinued methods of torture deemed un-Islamic, it came up with new ones. By the time of Khomeini’s death, in 1989, a stable order had emerged from a level of violence unprecedented in Iranian history."

                                       
Tehran

Of the few Islamic nations with a majority Shiite population, Iran is the biggest (followed by Iraq and Azerbaijan). 

Iran is the 17th largest country with almost 80 million people, more than twice the number in Iraq.

[Saddam Hussein -- whose party was basically secular Sunni -- welcomed the Iranian revolution, but the two countries soon were fighting. Their long war ended in a 1988 stalemate.]
[Iran and Israel have been at war since the revolution when Israel lost an ally in the Shah. This war with multiple fronts and acts of sabotage has greatly confused the ability of the United States to center anti terrorism efforts on the Wahhabi source in Saudi Arabia. Israel has struck a de facto alliance with the Saudis in their mutual disdain for an Islamic Iran. This war between two nations has  not been explained well by journalists or policymakers in American foreign policy. This conflict has been a source of great confusion in which Israel’s aims and ours are not the same. It really is not enough to depict two sources of terrorism -one Shia from Iran  and another Sunni from Saudi Arabia. A Shiite Islamic Iran is a fact like the Jewish State of Israel is a fact. We need to deal with them both.]