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


Tuesday, January 31, 2017

CATHOLIC SOCIOBIOLOGY: Russell Hittinger and the Nature of the Polity in Catholic Social Thought


[first published March 15, 2016]


                                     
Mr. Hittinger (L) at the Vatican with economist Joseph Stiglitz

F. RUSSELL HITTINGER is chairman of the Catholic Studies department at the University of Tulsa, and is on the governing council of the Pontifical Academy of St. Thomas Aquinas. He is one of very few Catholic thinkers who addresses the clerical hostility toward "fraternity" in the early formation of Catholic social thought. The communal claims of man as citizen were too totalizing for papal authors to concede.  While the Church was jealous in asserting her supremacy as an institution to the nation-state  in its ascendance (1800-1960) there are "perplexities" in how the church should describe the polity as the nation-state seems to be weakening.

This is his introduction to an essay
Toward an Adequate Anthropology: Social Aspects of Imago Dei in Catholic Theology
"Can you be the Imago Dei on your own?
Modern Thomism on the Social Character of Human Existence"

Catholic social doctrine (hereafter 'CSD') began in response to the new anthropological and political creed of “Man and Citizen” that swept from France to the rest of Europe and her former colonies in the late 18th and 19th centuries. This creed of "liberty, equality, and fraternity" considered the human person in two ways: first, as a being of nature, having natural liberties and rights which had been obscured or broken by the historical social order; second, as a citizen, standing equally among other citizens before the State. Fraternity was associated preeminently, if not exclusively, with citizenship; for as Rousseau among others had argued, membership in the State reconstitutes the broken relations of nature and history. Other social memberships claiming their origins in nature, history, or divine revelation were deemed legitimate only insofar as they were either the private choice of individuals, or insofar as they were permitted or “conceded” by the State.
                                   

Catholic thinkers, both clerical and lay, quickly targeted the ideal of fraternity as the most troubling part of the new creed. Cardinal Chiaramonti of Imola (the future Pius VII, later kidnapped and held in solitary confinement by Napoleon), put on his letter-head: “Liberty, Equality, and Peace in our Lord Jesus Christ.”[1]  Throughout the 19th century, Catholic thinkers attempted to identify social domains having a sacred solidarity not reducible to state citizenship. During the pontificate of Leo XIII (1878-1903), the pattern for CSD was well established. The Church took a scissors-like approach to the State, limiting and contextualizing citizenship according to higher and lower social orders. From below by marriage and family; and from above, the Church.

In a footnote from the same essay there is a hint toward the possibility of developing a more communio approach to the polity.

 [1] ...For his part, Leo XIII contended that “liberty, equality and fraternity” had its grounding in the relations of the divine Trinity. ...By this polemical flourish, Leo did not mean to conflate nature and grace, much less to suggest that Christian Trinitarian theology is merely another way to restate the Rights of Man and Citizen. Rather, he meant to remind his flock that they already have a more adequate understanding of these things.


We have tried at AOA to answer this polity question. Grounded in the sacramental life of the Church and drawing from the patriarchal fraternity of the priesthood, we have looked to studies of human male territoriality and hierarchy in biology to argue that the polity is a masculine form of communion. Theistic citizenship is as dependent on its single-sex group character as religious marriage is dependent on heterosexual monogamy. Grounded in the biblical narrative of the nation of Israel and the command to baptize the nations, we have also argued that each nation is a spiritual communion of men with a common good under God. The nation is as fundamental a Christian social form as marriage, though not a sacrament. The nations as social bodies must not be turned over to ethnic pagans because of the failure of Christian men to understand our loyalty patterns. Men, women and children belong to the national body but the structural lattice of the community is the shared protective duties and bond of the men. Sanctifying the religious, civic and domestic loyalty patterns of humanity is what we call Catholic Sociobiology.

Here are some excellent talks by Professor Hittinger at the Lumen Christi Institute in Chicago:

On the theo-political problem.

On the Declaration of Religious Liberty at Vatican II.

A very instructive article from 'First Things' magazine in which Hittinger contrasts the more sacral view of the State found in Leo XIII with John Paul II in Centissimus Annum which had no references to the State "as in the image of Divine governance.”  Hittinger left it as a question if a rights based personalism would be an adequate conception of the polity. He does remind us of the historical trauma from which new leaders emerged from the captive nations of the Soviet Union. He quotes Czech President Vaclav Havel, “in favor of a political system based on the citizen and recognizing all his fundamental civil and human rights in their universal validity." The state he said must be based on rights rather than “nationality” or “religion”. This statement from a poetic hero of the aftermath of Soviet tyranny is understandable. It is also true that Havel resigned as President when Czechoslovakia split into Czech and Slovak republics based on language, ethnic and religious differences. We must judge both Havel’s attempt at governance and the encyclical’s conception of the State as sorely deficient in providing a proper theocentric anthropology of solidarity as the basis of the polity.

Our full set of essays on Catholic Sociobiology are outlined and linked here.

Saturday, January 28, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, January 28

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


I. POPE FRANCIS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH

POPE FRANCIS, CARDINAL BURKE, AND THE KNIGHTS OF MALTA:
According to Vatican Insider.  A strange report. As this settles out, Cardinal Burke will not fare well.
The Pope and the Knights in Argentina.
Pope accepts resignation, nullifys previous firing as the Council agrees
Disorder in the Order by Edward Pentin at Nat Catholic Register. The Background Story.
The New York Times: Adding some facts and some slant to the tale. The Knights and the Pope 

CATHOLICS IN THE CONGOThe Church and the nation.

CATHOLICS IN TRUMP ADMINISTRATION - JFK DEMOCRATS HAVE A NEW LEADERProfiles of a new lineup.

CATHOLIC PRIESTS, LAWYERS, AND SNAP: A lawsuit against the so-called sex abuse victims group SNAP. It has always seemed that the abuse lawyers and SNAP were much more interested in robbing the deep pockets of the Catholic Church rather than clearing the homosexual-sexual predators and the lavender cover-up culture in the American episcopacy and priesthood. This lawsuit is no surprise.

CATHOLICS IN CONFESSION: The miracle of the confessional box and the presence of Christ on earth.

POPE ON TRUMP AND POPULISM: On Trump the Pope said to wait and see. On populism he said sometimes people look for a savior and Hitler and Germany are a European example. But Pope Francis like Trump is no fan of globalism. He is a populist when the populism is structured by the loyalties of the nation. He is much more Juan Peron than Karl Marx or Adam Smith. Don’t look now but that is true of President Trump as well. Pope Francis did not refer to his Argentine roots but gave another nationalist example that is his favorite. You will not read about this in a media that never quotes all of Pope Francis and always tries to recruit anti Trump interpretations.
(FROM MOYNIHAN VATICAN LETTERS REPORT) In this context, it seems interesting that, a few paragraphs later in this same interview - in a passage that has not been picked up yet by many journalists - the Pope speaks in a positive way of a "populist" phenomenon in Latin American politics which he praises and says was "heroic" in defending the life of the people and nation of Paraguay from those who were "selling out" the nation.

Francis says: "So Latin America must rearm itself with political groups that recover the strength of the people. The biggest example for me is Paraguay after the war. The country lost the War of the Triple Alliance and was left almost entirely in the hands of women. And the Paraguayan woman felt that she had to rebuild the nation, defend their faith, defend their culture and defend their language, and she did it. The Paraguayan woman. She wasn't a cipaya [a word the Pope defines as "the one who sells his homeland to the foreign power who pays him the most"], she defended what was hers, at the expense of anything, but she defended it, and she repopulated the country. I think that she is the most glorious woman in the Americas. That is the case of a position that never gave up. Of heroism.”

JANUARY 28, THE FEAST OF ST THOMAS AQUINAS
Let us now praise famous men.


II. ISLAM AND THE MIDDLE EAST

BEAUTY AND THE BEAST GO TO SYRIA: THE ANTIWAR LEFT TAKES A WELCOME INITIATIVE: Kucinich and Tulsi Gabbard meet Syrian President Assad. Gabbard's video of her trip, praying with Christians whose protector is Assad.

IN BAHRAIN, THE SHIITES TORTURED THEN EXECUTED: The Shiite majority country is ruled by Sunni royalists and militarily supported by the Saudis. Policemen were definitely killed. Now Shiites have been definitely killed. The suppression of Shiite populations wherever they try to overthrow Sunni tyranny goes on.

AN EGYPT-SAUDI RIFT - IS AN ALLIANCE ENDING? This is a highway we want to drive through, supporting Egypt as a true Sunni Arab nation state.

THE SAUDI-ISRAELI ALLIANCE - A GOOD HISTORY: By Michael Totten at World Affairs. We don’t agree with a continuation of this strategy which undermines the US goal of displacing Salafist Jihadism in Sunni Islam. But this is excellent historical reporting of how we got here.

SUMMARY OF SYRIA BY JOSHUA LANDIS - AMERICA’S TRUE EXPERT DOESN'T BUY THE THINK TANK LINEExcellent interview and summary including present alternatives for Trump administration. The Russians and Assad read the situation. The democracy revolution of McCain and Clinton was western hubris. By arming the revolution which failed we added to the death toll without advancing freedom. Democracy was never a goal and the idea of a unified Syrian national identity apart from the Assad coalition is a fantasy.

THE GLOBALISTS ARE ALL NATIONALISTS FOR THE ONE NATION THAT DOES NOT EXISTJimmy Carter and Palestine. The Vatican calls Palestine a State while encouraging European integration and disdaining borders. One man who died for the mythical Palestinian nationalism was Robert Kennedy. One man who killed for his "country" was Sirhan Sirhan. He was not an Islamic terrorist but a Christian Arab nationalist who killed for the cause. There is a real nation-state in the region of Palestine. It is called Israel with an eastern border at the Jordan River. Most of the Mideast nations do not recognize her as a nation-state. That is a very big problem for international order. Erecting a new nation-state in the midst of Israel for a "national community" that only defined itself after they were no longer under the rule of Jordan’s King is one of the principal errors in clear thinking about religion, ethnicity, and the nations in the Mideast.

TWO MEETINGS ON THE SAME DAY -- ONE REALITY BASED ABOUT WATER AND INFRASTRUCTURE; ONE A GLOBAL FANTASY ABOUT AN IMAGINED COMMUNITY (JAN 15, 2017):

Netanyahu - Paris Conference Pushes Peace Further Away: Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu told the Israeli Cabinet on Sunday: "The conference convening in Paris today is a useless conference. It is being coordinated between the French and the Palestinians. Its goal is to try and force terms on Israel that conflict with our national needs. Of course it pushes peace further away because it hardens the Palestinian positions and it also pushes them away from direct negotiations without preconditions. I must say that this conference is among the last twitches of yesterday's world. Tomorrow's world will be different - and it is very near." (Prime Minister's Office) 

Israel, PA to Renew Joint Water Committee after Six Years: Israel and the PA signed an agreement on Sunday to renew the activity of the Joint Water Committee to improve and modernize the West Bank water infrastructure. The committee has not met regularly for six years. The agreement will allow the laying of new pipes for water and sewage quickly and efficiently. Maj. Gen. Yoav Mordechai, Israel's Coordinator of Government Activities in the Territories (COGAT), said, "The signing of this water agreement proves that it's possible to reach understandings and agreements when we discuss issues substantively, bilaterally, clean of extraneous issues, regarding natural resources and additional infrastructures that affect the entire population. Over the past year and a half we've signed four agreements: on electricity, water, mail and 3G cellular infrastructure, which is intended to improve the quality of life for all the populations...

III. PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS

HOPES FOR THE NEW PRESIDENTOn President Trump's inauguration.

PARDONS AND COMMUTATIONSTo Rivera of FALN (Armed Forces of Liberation for Puerto Rico); to Bradley Manning (aka Chelsea).

TRUMP NATIONAL AGENDA VS GLOBALISTS: Pat Buchanan warns about old entangling alliances that serve us no more.

PROFILES:
Steve Bannon and Kellyanne Conway.

TRUMP, THE ELITES AND THE ROTARY: Catholic commentator Austin Ruse at his best.

BEN RHODES REFLECTING ON FOREIGN POLICY AND THE OBAMA ADMINISTRATION:
Lets say you have 10 minutes to read an interview and you want to learn more about the real world we live in and what America’s role should be. You can choose between Madeline Albright, Condi Rice, Hillary Clinton, George Bush, John McCain, or Ben Rhodes of the Obama administration. Do not hesitate. Read Ben Rhodes. The most important characteristic of the Obama administration he says was "engagement." This preference for diplomacy over military action was a sea change from the neocon and liberal interventionism which united Hillary Clinton, George Bush, John McCain, and Marco Rubio. If we can get conservatives to stop calling President Obama the worst president ever and ask progressives to stop labeling President Trump as a new Hitler, we will see that what Trump advocates and Obama and Rhodes came to see have remarkable similarities. There are several examples but the most important is that President Obama resisted the "Washington Playbook" and did not escalate against president Assad of Syria. That would have made the new alliance with Syria and Russia against ISIS impossible for President Trump. President Obama allowed himself to be called weak, puny and a reincarnation of Neville Chamberlain. But we are engaged with Iran and not in direct military conflict with Russia and Syria because of his initiatives. This leaves a pathway for Mr. Trump to "unite the civilized world" against ISIS and the Salafist jihadists who are the real enemy.

TUCKER CARLSON ON TRUMP: From a year ago.


IV. EUROPE, RUSSIA, AND NATIONALISM

IN EUROPE A PRESIDENT OF A NATION WHO IS CALLED PRO-RUSSIAN BECAUSE HE WILL MEET WITH HIS REGIONAL NEIGHBOR: Czech President to meet with President Trump.

THE WORLDWIDE MOVEMENT IS NOT POPULISM BUT A RETURN OF THE NATION-STATE: A meeting of different national leaders in Koblenz, Germany. These are not "protesters or anti-establishment." They are adults who understand the nature of political life and the centrality of the nation-state as a military and economic actor. This is true inter-nationalism.

THE CASE FOR A GRAND ALLIANCE WITH RUSSIA: Pieto at National Interest. AOA on Russia as an ally and as a nation. Buchanan on Putin -- a cultural take. Kissinger on Putin, Trump, and Tillerson.

SUPPORT FOR EUROPEAN UNION - RELIGIOUS DIVIDE: Catholics have always been more for integration while Protestants much less: Why?

DAVOS MAN - THE INTERNATIONALIST ELITE AFTER TRUMP AND BREXIT: A good NYTimes reflection with some embarrassing quotes.

January 28: St Thomas Aquinas, Priest and Scholar


[first published January 28, 2015]


by David Pence


The "scientific revolution" was a centuries-long project of dividing man from the primary powers of his intellect to synthesize, categorize, and know as a sacral being in terms of a sacred whole. The modern scientist came to think very much of himself and very little of man. Hundreds of years before that egotistical destabilizing fragmentation, a great Dominican saint rose in Italy to do just the opposite.  Thomas Aquinas was educated by the greatest natural philosopher (student of physical and biological sciences) of his time: Albert the Great. He benefited from the rediscovery of Greek texts of Aristotle and thus learned the metaphysics, ethics, politics, and categories of the Greeks. He knew the Bible intimately and prodigiously. His New Testament commentary, verse by verse, is a compilation of the Church Fathers' commentary as well.

His purity was no small part of his clear vision; and his humility no incidental in his ability to properly categorize. He was called the 'angelic doctor' because the towering intellectual understood the metaphysical necessity and scriptural testimony of those spiritual beings who so embarrass the modern Catholic PhD. Above all, he knew how to pray first -- and write and formulate from that posture. The best biography of Aquinas is G.K. Chesterton's The Dumb Ox.

The online site Universalis, which provides the prayers of the Daily Office in a usable everyday form, also provides a short bio of saints of the day. Below is their excellent synopsis.

To honor St. Thomas, consider going to Universalis and joining the worldwide church in one or more of her daily prayers. It will aid your struggle for holiness and make you smarter as well.
                                                                                   
                                                                   

St. Thomas Aquinas (1225 - 1274)             
"He was born of a noble family in southern Italy, and was educated by the Benedictines. In the normal course of events he would have joined that order and taken up a position suitable to his rank; but he decided to become a Dominican instead. His family were so scandalized by this disreputable plan that they kidnapped him and kept him prisoner for over a year; but he was more obstinate than they were, and he had his way at last. 
"He studied in Paris and in Cologne under the philosopher Saint Albert the Great. It was a time of philosophical ferment. The writings of Aristotle, the greatest philosopher of the ancient world, had been newly rediscovered, and were becoming available to people in the West for the first time in a thousand years. Many feared that Aristotelianism was flatly contradictory to Christianity, and the teaching of Aristotle was banned in many universities at this time – the fact that Aristotle’s works were coming to the West from mostly Muslim sources did nothing to help matters. 
"Into this chaos Thomas brought simple, straightforward sense. Truth cannot contradict truth: if Aristotle (the infallible pagan philosopher) appears to contradict Christianity (which we know by faith to be true), then either Aristotle is wrong or the contradiction is in fact illusory. And so Thomas studied, and taught, and argued, and eventually the simple, common-sense philosophy that he worked out brought an end to the controversy. Out of his work came many writings on philosophy and theology, including the Summa Theologiae, a standard textbook for many centuries and still an irreplaceable resource today. Out of his depth of learning came, also, the dazzling poetry of the liturgy for Corpus Christi. And out of his sanctity came the day when, celebrating Mass, he had a vision that, he said, made all his writings seem like so much straw; and he wrote no more. 
"Let us pray for the Holy Spirit to inspire us, like St Thomas, to love God with our minds as well as our hearts; and if we come across a fact or a teaching that seems to us to contradict our faith, let us not reject it but investigate it: for the truth that it contains can never contradict the truth that is God."



UPDATE: Don't miss this short video on Aquinas' central teaching on nature and grace, by Taylor Marshall; and another on the reasons why Catholic men in every generation should love the Italian saint (who's buried in the southwest of France).

                                               
Tomb of Thomas

Friday, January 27, 2017

Friday BookReview: YEMEN expert Gregory Johnsen



[first published January 30, 2015]


The Gate to the old section of San'a, the capital of Yemen

by David Pence


The finest book in recent years on that poorest of Arab states was written by Gregory D. Johnsen.

Here is a review by Georgetown University professor Daniel Byman:
Whether you support or oppose the broader U.S. war on terrorism, you are likely to use Yemen to prove your point. Those who are optimistic about the struggle contend that the Al Qaeda core has taken repeated body blows in Pakistan and decry the seemingly endless expansion of the battlefield to obscure fields of jihad like Mali. For the United States to obsess about remote and chaotic Yemen, they contend, is a mistake. Critics counter that Al Qaeda has metastasized. They often accept that the core in Pakistan is weakened but contend that affiliates like the Yemen-based Al Qaeda of the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) are deadly threats to the United States.
The Obama administration seems to agree with the pessimists, stepping up its drone campaign in Yemen and otherwise putting the country at the center of counterterrorism. Indeed, in contrast to the inherited wars of Iraq and Afghanistan, the Yemen campaign is very much President Obama’s war.  AQAP even announced itself just as Obama came into office. The mix of drone attacks and a light special operations force presence the United States deploys in Yemen may, after the withdrawal of most U.S. forces from Afghanistan in 2014, be the model for how the United States fights terrorism in other developing countries.
Yemen (like Mali, for that matter) is a country of mystery to nearly all Americans, including most policymakers and academics. Experts are few and far between, and the chaos and violence of the country make field research difficult. Similarly, the associated force protection limits make it almost impossible for diplomats to mingle and gain country knowledge. Fortunately, Gregory D. Johnsen – a Princeton Ph.D. candidate who studied and worked in Yemen – is helping us fill this void. Johnsen has emerged as perhaps the country’s top expert on Yemen, and his book The Last Refuge: Yemen, Al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia is a welcome resource on terrorism there and the problems and limits of U.S. policy.
The Last Refuge describes the evolution of Al Qaeda and the U.S. response from a Yemeni point of view. It is clearly written, with many engaging stories and compelling personalities to move along a history that might otherwise be confusing or esoteric. For some events, like the attack on USS Cole in 2000, Yemen is at the center of the story. Yet for others, including the Arab response to the Soviet invasion and even the 9/11 attacks, Yemen or Yemenis play a role, and Johnsen gives familiar tales a distinct twist.
Yemen’s terrorism problem began well before the emergence of AQAP and is far from a simple story. The Yemeni government often encouraged young men to travel to Afghanistan to fight the Soviets in the 1980s, with important tribes and mosques often acting on their own as well. Many of these jihadists returned, and in the early 1990s the government of Ali Abdullah Salih used them to undercut their rivals, particularly the Socialists who had long controlled South Yemen. Yet for much of this time the jihadists often acted on their own, going after U.S. and Western targets and otherwise veering from the course the Yemeni government set before them. Not surprisingly, crackdowns and dragnets – when they do come – are often riddled with holes. Further complicating this story, the Yemeni jihadist movement is in near-constant flux, with an “old guard” that fought in Afghanistan and struggled in Yemen in the 1990s now overtaken by a more radical set that often fought in Iraq and is far more hostile to the Yemeni government itself, to say nothing of the United States. So policies that worked at least somewhat for the old set come up short for the new breed.
Johnsen makes clear that Yemeni jihadists, unlike the Arabs hiding out in remote parts of Pakistan, are part and parcel of Yemeni society. Some of these jihadists are from important tribes or have intermarried with leading Yemenis. This creates a counterintelligence problem, as planned counterterrorism operations are often leaked to the targets. Even more important, it makes the Yemeni government hesitant to act, as it would alienate important societal players. From a U.S. point of view, it also means that drone strikes that kill bystanders end up alienating important tribes and voices in Yemen – far more so than a similar campaign in Pakistan. Perhaps most troubling, Yemen in some ways needs a jihadist problem to ensure that the spigots of U.S. aid remain open. As Johnsen acidly contends, “Without Al-Qaeda, Yemen was just one more poor country.”
                                   
                                                      
Johnsen also makes clear that the jihadists, while committed fighters, are hardly supermen.  In one 1998 plot, attackers come from the United Kingdom to work jointly with local Yemenis. The newbies, however, drive the wrong way – the British way – around a traffic circle and attract police attention (given my experience with how Yemenis drive, this is a remarkable accomplishment). They flee and get caught after crashing the car. Other raids are otherwise botched in ways large and small, with many lives saved inadvertently. 
The Last Refuge has its limits. Written for a popular audience, it is stronger on description than analysis. Though it criticizes U.S. policy toward Yemen, it doesn’t offer much by way of alternative so some difficult questions, like how the United States should handle AQAP if it stops the drone strikes of which Johnsen is so critical, are left unanswered.  The ending of the book is strangely flat and abrupt. And perhaps most important, given the emphasis on Yemen, the ignorance of most Americans on this increasingly important country, and Johnsen’s considerable expertise, the book would have benefited from more of a primer on Yemen’s history, society, and politics.
However, these are relatively minor critiques: Johnsen has produced a keeper that will enlighten readers of all levels of expertise. Given the book’s timeliness, empirical depth, and narrative ease, The Last Refuge should be read anyone who wants to learn more about Yemen and better understand the perils of the new frontiers of U.S counterterrorism policy.                                                             
                                                                             

And here is an except from a review by Andrew Wojtanik, who runs a blog focusing on "the world's forgotten conflicts":
Most counterterrorism wonks know the basic story of al-Qaeda’s rise: the brainchild of a rich and charismatic Saudi (Osama bin Laden) and an Egyptian doctor-cum-theologian and terror organizer (Ayman al-Zawahiri); jihad against the Soviets in 1980s Afghanistan; the move to Sudan; the 1996 and 1998 fatwas; the move back to Afghanistan; the Embassy bombings; 9/11.
What observers are less likely to understand is the story of al-Qaeda’s enigmatic “affiliates.”
It is here where Gregory Johnsen’s excellent narrative of the rise, fall, and resurrection of al-Qaeda in Yemen—arguably the terror network’s most potent affiliate today—fills in some of the gaps. Truly the first full-length book (in English) on the subject, Johnsen’s The Last Refuge: Yemen, al-Qaeda, and America’s War in Arabia follows the group of al-Qaeda-inspired jihadists who have terrorized Yemen and the Arabian Peninsula from their inception in the early 1990s to today.
Johnsen begins his book appropriately by explaining its title. He writes that tradition says that Muhammad, the central prophet of Islam, proclaimed once in the seventh century: “When disaster threatens, seek refuge in Yemen.” While Muhammad himself was successful in battle, men and women for centuries to come would heed his valuable advice, fleeing invading armies or powerful tyrants to the remote hills of Yemen: the last refuge of the Middle East.
                                     
                                                       
This theme—of falling, hiding away, and rising again—is woven throughout the book, beginning with the oft-neglected narrative of bin Laden’s powerful hand in establishing an al-Qaeda sanctuary in Yemen in the early 1990s. After the war in Afghanistan, many Yemeni adherents of al-Qaeda returned home (some at the request of bin Laden himself) and fought alongside President Ali Abdullah Saleh’s forces during a brief civil war in 1994 that drove communism in the country to the grave. But instead of being rewarded for their contributions to a decisive victory, the hardened Islamist fighters were cast away by Saleh’s long-standing government, proscribed as enemies of the state.
The jihadists, focused particularly on expelling Western influence from their homeland, fought back. The increasingly sophisticated and well-organized jihadists stepped up attacks against Saleh’s government (considered kufr: infidels of the faith) and Western targets in Yemen throughout the latter half of the decade.
But al-Qaeda’s strength in Yemen was short-lived. The 2000 USS Cole attack in Aden caught the US’ attention, and 9/11 prompted an American response that aimed to root out al-Qaeda’s presence anywhere and everywhere across the globe. President Saleh signed up to offer his assistance, giving the US a green light to take the fight to Yemen. In 2002, the Bush administration’s first ever documented drone strike killed Abu Ali al-Harithi, al-Qaeda’s leader in Yemen, and the regional affiliate virtually disintegrated thereafter. Other prominent jihadists were locked up.
It was not until after February 2006, when 23 terrorists (including several former Guantanamo Bay detainees) escaped prison in Sana’a by digging out à la Shawshank Redemption style, that the modern-day al-Qaeda in Yemen was born. Led by Nasir al-Wihayshi (bin Ladin’s former personal secretary) and Qasim al-Raymi, the Yemeni fighters rebuilt their network and joined up with a smaller group of Saudis to form al-Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsula (AQAP) in 2008. As Salih’s government was distracted by a recalcitrant conflict in Yemen’s north (the Houthi rebellion), AQAP quickly reconstituted its strength, finding refuge among sympathetic tribes deep in the remote hills of the country’s south, center, and east. From 2008 onwards, the group became a local, regional, and eventually global menace.
                                                                
In 2013 Mr. Johnsen offered several suggestions for improving our fight against al-Qaeda.

In 2014 the Shiite Houthi tribesmen of the western regions took control of the capital San’a. This brought a violent response from across the border by the new Salman rulers of Saudi Arabia. Such intense aggression had never been mounted against AQAP.  A massive bombing camp aimed at the Shiites with technical support from the United States has killed thousands of civilians. The Saudis led by the King’s favorite son and second in line of succession Mohammed bin Salman (b1985) have justified the carnage by labeling the uprising as an Iranian encirclement. An Oct 2016 mapping of the war. The youngest defense minister in the world is currying favor with Wahhabi clerics in his willingness to decimate the neighboring Shiites. He will need their support in the succession fight after his 81 yo father dies.

Here is the audio and transcript of an NPR interview Johnsen did shortly after his book was published. He was back on NPR in April 2015, describing how the recent bombing campaign of Saudi Arabia against the Houthis of Yemen is helping Al Qaeda

For a closer look at Yemen in geographical context, see our Map on Monday.
For an excellent 50 min documentary on the last decades of British rule(1850-1967) in Aden, see this video.

Thursday, January 26, 2017

Christian Realism: Professor Mahoney on Manent, De Gaulle, and Solzhenitsyn


[first published April 14, 2016]


by David Pence


Professor Daniel Mahoney, who has written penetrating studies of Charles de Gaulle (De Gaulle: Statesmanship, Grandeur, and Modern Democracy) and Alexander Solzhenitsyn (Solzhenitsyn: The Ascent From Ideology), has been a major force in bringing Pierre Manent's thought to the English-speaking world. Dr. Mahoney has grounded his work in history, not by the epochal narrative sweeps of Dawson but by renditions of political biography. He is that rare academic who is steeped in political philosophy, but tests himself by writing history. He teaches at Assumption College in Worcester, Massachusetts.

The Theo-political thought of Pierre Manent by Daniel Mahoney.

Here are excerpts:

The 'sacred nation' and a Christian society coexisted with a lay or neutral state. These political and spiritual elements were never wholly separate, as one saw in the l’union sacrée that brought Catholic and secular Frenchmen together in defense of the nation during World War I. The wounds of the Dreyfus Affair were partly healed in this great rassemblement of the French people. The French state also never reduced itself to the single desideratum of protecting (ever-expanding) individual rights. Under Charles de Gaulle, the state embodied the dignity of France, even its "grandeur." As a statesman, de Gaulle strove to overcome divisions—partisan, religious, and ideological, Left and Right—and defended the independence of the state. The Cultural Revolution embodied by May 1968 challenged the vision of the "man of June 18th, 1940." Authority, in every aspect of state and society, came under assault, and society began to undo its bonds. The rights of man were increasingly understood in contra-distinction to the rights of the citizen. Individualism went hand in hand with a theoretical and practical antinomianism. Public institutions found themselves redefined as "docile instruments" at the service of a conception of rights that made no serious moral or civic demands.

The political form of the nation was crucial to this unprecedented collaboration between the pride of the acting citizen and the humility of the Christian. In Beyond Radical Secularism, Manent suggests that the intimate union, not separation, of religion and politics is the key to the European adventure. Of course, Christianity is no mere instrument of the political order: it is ultimately independent of every human order. This intimate union can readily coexist with the institutional separation of Church and state, and it makes possible the mixing of Roman virtues, such as courage and prudence, "with a faith in a God who is a friend to every person."

Beyond Radical Secularism contains beautiful reflections on the Jewish Covenant (l’Alliance in French). Manent pleads with contemporary Jews not to take their bearings from the ultimate crime—the Shoah or Holocaust—but rather to remain confident in the promises of God. It was the Jews who first brought divine friendship to nations, and we in the West must bow before this idea of the Covenant, which is not exactly rational but is not simply irrational, either. To restore the credibility of the Covenant, one must recover a sense of the dignity of the human association, the nation, "that bore the Covenant until the European arc was broken." Now that Jews have reassembled in a great, self-governing nation, Europeans can repudiate the nation only by "fatally wounding the legitimacy of Israel." That would be an affront to an admirable national effort of self-government and to whatever trust is left in the friendship of God.

Manent thus proposes a "social contract" with French Muslims that accepts them as they are, along with their moral practices, with two notable and crucial exceptions. He argues that the burqa is inadmissible because "it prevents the exchange of signs by which a human being recognizes another human being." [See our previous praise of Manent’s work on the nation as Covenant with our objection to his Burqa/Ummah restraints]. Europeans have never covered their faces. This "lugubrious servitude" is incompatible with a free society. France has the "right and duty to impose the most absolute prohibition on this manner of dress." The second prohibition is that of polygamy. The family, with one husband and one wife, is the building block of civil society and an indispensable pillar of a free society.

Manent recognizes that the increase in open acceptance of Muslim ways (e.g., dietary restrictions in schools, separation of boys and girls in certain social activities) comes with certain risks. Those risks can be compensated for by active efforts to preserve or reinforce the "ancient constitution" of France. To begin with, Muslims must accept that they live in a nation of a Christian mark with a strong and enduring Jewish presence. They must break with the umma, a universal Islamic empire, and proclaim their loyalty to France. They must wean themselves of reliance on foreign funding and repudiate extremism of every kind. Most of all, they must stop hiding behind accusations of Islamophobia.
                                 
De Gaulle with Konrad Adenauer in Bonn, 1958

In Mahoney's work on Charles de Gaulle he shows the French statesman defined the common European civilization in a very different manner than Western Civilization college courses. Individual liberty sprang from the Gospel's recognition of the sacred value and dignity of every ensouled being. The real source "is not classical antiquity and its discovery of philosophy and politics but the Gospel's recognition of the spiritual dignity and equality of all men before God." De Gaulle grounds civilization in Christianity, medieval institutions, nations with sacral identities and men with souls. Mahoney contrasts de Gaulle's vision of a Europe of organic nations with the transnational project that created a huge bureaucratic state populated by individuals with no sense of national duties and exaggerated claims of individual rights. He cites Charles de Gaulle:
"I do not believe that Europe can have any living reality if it does not include France and her Frenchmen, Germany and its Germans, Italy and its Italians and so forth. Dante, Goethe, Chateaubriand belong to all of Europe to the very extent that they were eminently Italian, German, and French. They would not have served Europe well if they had been stateless or if they had written in some kind of integrated Esperanto or Volapuk."  

From Mahoney's book on Alexander Solzhenitsyn:
He (Solzhenitsyn) dissects Andrei Sakharov's 'Saint Simonian' vision of world government and scientific management of the international economy guided by spiritually sensitive experts and administrators. Solzhenitsyn is among those who "set the highest value on the existence of the nation, who see in it not the ephemeral fruit of social formations but a complex vivid unrepeatable organism not invented by man." Solzhenitsyn speaks of "the profoundest similarity between the individual and the nation," a similarity that "lies in the mystical nature of their givenness." Nations. like individuals, "can change beyond recognition in the course of their lives... Because of the mutability of all existence, a nation can no more live without sin than an individual."


Monday, January 23, 2017

Map on Monday: SYRIA



This post originally appeared on Anthropology of Accord on September 14, 2015. Click here to read our Map on Monday: SYRIA post.

An update on how the election of Donald Trump may effect an alliance with Russia and Syria’s Assad. This would bring a dramatic change of strategy which we have advocated for several years.


The most significant voice one should hear on Syria is from the University of Oklahoma. Again, we find far from the DC think tanks (though he has spoken to them) real academic experts who know their disciplines, but have not risen as high as they might among the Eastern elite. Joshua Landis (b. 1957) grew up in Saudi Arabia and Lebanon. He is fluent in French and Arabic. He heads Oklahoma’s Center for Middle East Studies, and runs the always astute Syria Comment.

This excellent interview from that blog includes alternatives for the Trump administration. Professor Landis concludes that President Assad and the Russians view the situation much more accurately than US policymakers. The democracy revolution of Senator McCain and Secretary Clinton was western hubris. By arming the revolution which failed, we added to the death toll without advancing freedom. Democracy was never a goal of the participants, and the idea of a unified Syrian national identity apart from the Assad coalition is a fantasy.


The shift in policy toward a concert of the civilized nations received a huge boost in late 2016 as a rift between Saudi Arabia and Egypt developed on Syrian policy. The Egyptians have come to see the destabilization of Syria’s Assad is a prescription for disaster.  A major emphasis in the realignment of forces should be supporting Egypt as a responsible Sunni Arab nation state ready to help extricate the demonic Salafist influence from Islam.

Friday, January 20, 2017

America's new president

                     

by David Pence

                                 
Donald J. Trump, 45th president of the United States


From his inaugural address:


"It is time to remember that old wisdom our soldiers will never forget: That whether we are black or brown or white, we all bleed the same red blood of patriots, we all enjoy the same glorious freedoms, and we all salute the same great American Flag.

And whether a child is born in the urban sprawl of Detroit or the windswept plains of Nebraska, they look up at the same night sky, they fill their heart with the same dreams and they are infused with the breath of life by the same almighty Creator."



At AOA, we were enthusiastic backers of President Trump. We tried to assemble the best of the arguments for him during the campaign. This was our first impression of why he won, and what it will mean. We think his reversal of our failed Syrian policy initiates the strategy needed to crush ISIS. His attempt to normalize relations with Russia could be an epoch-changing moment in the history of Christianity and the progress of nations toward international fraternity. We believe his election is a return of the adults after the American sexual  revolution with its deep analogies to the disastrous Chinese cultural revolution. 

We look forward to a renewal of interracial accord based on a more public expression of Christian brotherhood and our common national identity across color lines as fellow Americans. Or as President Trump put it: "When you open your heart to patriotism, there is no room for prejudice.”  We see nationalism as an integrating form of territorial community that is an antidote to racial and class hatred. The shared duty of American men to protect all our women and children forms the brotherhood of male citizenship. That communal identity as the mark of masculine maturation is the missing link to male socialization in our cities and countryside. We give thanks to God, and promise to respect his Name and Commandments once again in America. It is only under God that America will be great again. Let us fortify our new president by building American brotherhood in every city, county and state of our beloved country. Let us join men of faith everywhere and rejoice, "God is Great!"


\UPDATE: Which news reporter understands Mr. Trump and the men around him most clearly? His name is Robert Costa -- and this discussion will convince you.  

                          
  "Through our loyalty to our country, we will rediscover our loyalty to each other."


Thursday, January 19, 2017

CHRISTIAN REALISM: Lev Gumilev, Eurasia, and the Russian Soul


by Dr. David Pence


Lev Gumilev (1912-1992) was a Russian writer, anthropologist, and historian who played a pivotal role in defining the Russian national identity and her historical mission.

(We draw from a comprehensive Masters thesis by Alexander Titov and a Financial Times article by Charles Clover called "Lev Gumilev: Passion, Putin, and Power.")

                               

Gumilev is not a religious thinker, but many of his insights are amenable to baptism. He was part of a synthetic Marxist tradition that meant to link the study of physical nature, biological development, and human history in a single paradigm. His father was executed when he was 9. He spent years in Soviet prison camps. His mother was a famous Russian poet: Anna Akhmatova. He had a love-hate relationship with her, and once said if he was killed in the camp, "for her, my death will be a pretext for some graveside poem: how poor she is, she has lost her son. Nothing more." Introducing Gumilev’s categories provides a small window to the Russian soul and a rich vocabulary to discuss communal identity and nationalism in history.

In a 2012 speech, Russian President Vladimir Putin employed a key Gumilev concept.

Putin’s definition of 'passionarity' (from the Latin word passio) was a slightly sanitized one. "Moving forward and embracing change" was one way of putting what Gumilev meant, though more accurate would be something like "capacity for suffering." It was a word with allusions to the New Testament and the crucifixion, that had been dreamt up by Gumilev during his 14 years in Siberian prison camps. In 1939, while digging the White Sea Canal and daily watching inmates die of exhaustion and hypothermia, Gumilev invented his theory of passionarnost. The defining trait of greatness -- he would write in Ethnogenesis and the Biosphere, the book that established his ideas (written in 1979 and circulated in samizdat form during the ensuing decade) -- was sacrifice.
             
President Putin

Observing inmates forced to behave like beasts in order to survive had taught him that the virtues of society, friendship, and brotherhood were not a mark of human advancement but an instinctual urge, common to all humans at all times, "to distinguish us from them." Gumilev wrote that the principle of komplimentamost was initially devised while serving his first prison sentence in Norilsk. At the labor camp the necessary condition of survival was the ability to form informal links with other inmates, which formed small groups of two to four people who helped and supported each other. He argued that these groups were formed on the basis of mutual sympathy, rather than rational calculation. [The basis of ethnos will be komplimentarnost -- a subconscious attraction of one for another -- these types of union are called konsortsii and konvictsii.]



 AN EXPERT ON THE EASTERN TRIBES WHO CONQUERED BY MARTIAL SOLIDARITY
"Working as a historian from the late 1950s to the end of his life, Gumilev became a renowned expert on the steppe tribes of inner Eurasia: the Scythians, the Xiongnu, the Huns, Turks, Khitai, Tanguts, and Mongols. Their history did not record the progress of enlightenment and reason, but rather an endless cycle of migration, conquest, and genocide. Every few hundred years, nomads would sweep out of the steppes, plunder the flourishing kingdoms of Europe, the Middle East, or Asia, and then vanish into history’s fog just as quickly as they had come. The victors in these struggles were not the societies that led the world in technology, wealth, and reason. Instead, they had something that Machiavelli described as virtù, or martial spirit, while the medieval Arab philosopher Ibn Khaldun described the tribal solidarity of nomadic raiders of civilised cities as asabiyya."



ETHNOS
"In 1970, Gumilev published an article in the journal Priroda (Nature), in which he laid out the idea of the 'ethnos' — something similar to a nation or ethnic group — which he described as the most basic element of world history: the national or ethnic self-identification that is "a phenomenon so universal as to indicate its deep underlying foundation." Drawing on his labor-camp theories, he argued that ethnoi were not social phenomena, but rather the result of a biological instinct to acquire a "stereotype of behaviour" early in life.
"There is not a single person on earth outside of an ethnos," he was fond of saying. "Everybody will answer the question, ‘What are you?’ with ‘Russian, ‘French’, ‘Persian’, ‘Maasai’ etc, without a moment’s hesitation."

For Gumilev, the existence of ethnoi was the result of "passionarity" — the instinct to self-abnegation. What distinguishes an ethnos from a jumble of languages, religions. and historical experiences is a common purpose, and the willingness of members to sacrifice themselves for it. Ethnoi, he theorised, always start with the actions of a small group of "passionaries."


ETHNIC FIELD, SUPER-ETHNOS
The concept of the ethnic field helped to explain why ethnoses could live under the influence of other cultures while preserving their unique identity. At an encounter of two different rhythms there could be either a harmony which would lead to ethnic fusion, or disharmony which would lead to annihilation. Ethnoses in the same superethnos had harmonious ethnic frequencies, while an alien superethnos was most likely to have a dissonant ethnic rhythm.

Gumilev offered the following classification of different ethnic groups. The superethnos was the largest ethnic unit, which he defined as ‘a group of ethnoses, which appears simultaneously in the same region, and which manifests itself in history as a mosaic-like integrity.’ They were real units, not abstract conceptions of historians.

A superethnos was a system of a higher order than an ethnos. Development of a superethnos was determined by a combination of passionary impulses, geography and ethnic pre-history. As was remarked earlier, for Gumilev, the behavioural stereotype of an ethnos had a close relation with its environment. It was impossible to have the same behavioural stereotype in different geographical environments. This was one of the main reasons for the impossibility of a single culture for humankind.


NATIONAL CHARACTER AND PASSIONARNOST
"The concept of a ‘national character’ similar in all periods of an ethnos’ dynamic life was a myth. Gumilev gave an example of how attitudes had changed in the nineteenth century Russia. The ancestors of Ranevskaia in Chekhov’s The Cherry Orchard had planted the orchard which she frittered away. Merchants from Ostrovskii’splays squandered capital accumulated by their grandfathers. What was more typical of the ‘Russian psychological type’ - the determined accumulation or the frivolous waste?"


GUMILEV AND RUSSIAN HISTORY
"There are four central themes in Gumilev’s thought on Russian history. First, he argued that there was a distinction in principle between Kievan Rus and Muscovite Russia. Second, he emphasised the positive effects of the Mongol influence on Russia." (The experiences of being overwhelmed by fighting nomadic tribes helped shaped the Eurasian  "stereotype of behavior" that made the Russian national identity. He did not see the Mongol Yoke as a negative experience that retarded Russia but as a behavioral overlay that made them warriors.)
"Third, Gumilev stressed the emergence of a distinct behavioural stereotype as the key to understanding Russian history. Finally, he interpreted Russian history in terms of the phases of ethnogenesis.

Alexander Nevsky’s famous victory over the Teutonic knights on Lake Peipus in April 1242 forestalled but did not completely remove the danger of a German offensive. Nevsky went on to crush a major rebellion in Novgorod in 1257-58 with Mongolian assistance… He received military aid in exchange for a tribute to the Golden Horde. Gumilev observed that 'if one cannot protect oneself, one has to pay for protection against one’s enemies.'

                           

For Gumilev, an important question was whether Alexander Nevsky [pictured] was the last prince of Ancient Rus or the first prince of the future Great Russia, which for Gumilev was mutually exclusive. Gumilev argued that Alexander Nevsky and his supporters’ selfless behavior was in contrast to the prevalent behavior of Rus in the twelfth and thirteenth century which he called 'a narrow-minded egoism.'

'…there emerged a new generation [which was] heroic, sacrificial, and patriotic. In other words, a people emerged who considered an ideal (or a distant prognosis) to be higher than their personal interests or accidental wishes. Although in the thirteenth century there very few of them, in the fourteenth century their children and grandchildren constituted a considerable part of society and were the embryo of a new ethnos, later called the Great Russians.'

First, he formulated a new behavioral model -- altruistic patriotism -- which for several centuries was the basis of Russia’s development. Second, he started the tradition of union with the Asiatic peoples, founded on ethnic and religious tolerance. This allowed the creation of the multi-ethnic Russian state. Finally, Alexander’s direct descendants built a new Russia from their base in Moscow.
The basis of Alexander Nevsky’s policies, which in Gumilev’s view saved the Russian ethnos at a crucial period of its history, was opposition to the West and alliance with the Mongols."


COMMUNAL IDENTITY AS A BEHAVIORAL CONSTRUCT
    (this is a crucial insight applicable to the role of  liturgy in the formation of conmmunal identity)
"Gumilev emphasised that most believers were ignorant of the intricate details of theological dogmas, but that this did not stop them from having firmly held beliefs. 'They simply feel the phenomenon of a world view (mirooshchushchenie) of one or the other religions and choose that version [of a religious creed] which best suits their psychological disposition.' In Gumilev’s theory, a person’s ethnic identity was formed in the early stages of their life through behavioral mimicry of their family and friends. This identity had a non-voluntary nature and, once formed, it was impossible to change."

   
RELIGIOSITY AND THE RUSSIAN SOUL
"...it was based on a deep psychological pre-disposition of Russians towards this religion. On this view, the preservation of Orthodoxy was the most important factor for Russian identity in the Middle Ages."


MONGOLS WERE NOT A YOKE, BUT INTEGRAL TO THE RUSSIAN CHARACTER
"The alliance with the Mongols allowed Russia to preserve this most precious institution of the Orthodox Church, the safe-keeper of the unique Russian identity. In contrast to the Western Europeans, who were engaged at that time in religious crusades, the Mongols professed religious tolerance as a state policy. The Iasa of Genghis (Law Code) offered protection to any religion on condition of submission to the political authority of the Great Khan. The importance of Gumilev’s analysis for understanding Russian history lies in his view of the Russian lands as part of the socio-political system of the Mongol empire. The formation of a Russian ethnos under these circumstances had important consequences for later Russian history. Although Gumilev’s arguments are often extreme and uncompromisingly anti-Western as well as favorable to the Mongols, his work on this subject had an important influence on the debate about Russian identity. Modern Russian historians of Russia’s relations with the Tataro-Mongols have to take Gumilev’s views into account. Krivosheev argues, for example, that Gumilev’s ideas on Russia’s relations with the Mongols can no longer be simply dismissed as ‘not serious’ or ‘unscholarly’. [page 315] In this way, Gumilev helped to undermine the traditionally anti- Mongolian focus of Russian historiography.”

MONKS AND RUSSKIES -- FOREVER BOUND
"In this new spiritual climate, the old Byzantine ascetic tradition of hesychasm, which had originated on Mount Athos in Greece, began to spread in Russia. It held that a person was capable of entering into a direct, personal contact with energies emanating from God. Religion should, therefore, be based on the experience of communication with God, rather than on logical premises as was the case with theology and philosophy. Hesychast monks were distinguished by their constant concentration and meditation: the name ‘hesychasm’ comes from the Greek word for ‘being silent’ or ‘being at rest.’

Gumilev argued that Athos was the center of an ideological alternative to Constantinople’s policies of rapprochement with the Latin Church, and because Athos opposed union with the West, hesychasm became popular amongst Russians. The growth of hesychast monastic centers in the fourteenth century, the most famous of which was the Monastery of the Holy Trinity [pictured] founded by Sergii of Radonezh in 1337, had far- reaching consequences."

                             


THE INTEGRATIVE ROLE OF THE ORTHODOX CHURCH
"The only force which kept together the new emerging ethnic system was the Orthodox Church, for 'religious apostasy was considered as an exit from the system, as treason.' In these circumstances, an alliance of the metropolitan of Kiev and All Rus with Moscow was the key to Moscow’s fourteenth-century rise. Gumilev argued that the political system which emerged in fourteenth century Russia was a theocracy."


Christianity is the superethnos that resonates with every ethnos built on the sacrificial personality of passionarnost. The Church was built on the konsortsii of apostolic affinity. Christianity is not built by destroying the nations, but baptizing them. May the insights of Lev Gumilev help Russians understand their spiritual destiny.


Tuesday, January 17, 2017

Catholic Sociobiology: EO Wilson and Henri de Lubac


[first published February 23, 2016]







by Dr. David Pence


Sociobiology is a discipline in biology pioneered by E.O. Wilson with the publication of his massive Sociobiology: The New Synthesis in 1975. Wilson understood that particular social behaviors and bonding patterns of organisms led to survival for the group. He wanted to show that traits that foster optimal social organization for animals are selected and transmitted in accordance with the standard evolutionary model. He also wanted to apply this to human nature and the study of anthropology and history, since we too are a social group of animals worth studying. He wanted to introduce a biological basis for sociology.

His work infuriated University leftists and feminists. Wilson refocused evolutionary study from the study of individual traits and genes to looking at social groups and interactions as a whole. Before he did this more synthetic work, he was the world’s leading authority on ants. Ants and bees are organisms that live in communities of intense social cooperation. They are called "eusocial organisms." Studying them drives a man to think in wholes. In a later book Wilson argued that the intense wide-scale cooperation of humans made us eusocial as well. Wilson understood the link between survival and social cohesion. Here is a stunning two hour documentary on his work.
                                 

Catholics steeped in the sacramental order make a similar claim in proposing the Eucharistic church as the social cohesion insuring eternal life. The Church upholds an even more striking trait of humans: that we are capable of species-wide social cohesion.  Unlike ant colonies and bee hives, humans are not forever restricted to the local tribe.

Wilson looked beyond the single gene in the single individual to the whole group and its interrelationships. Henri de Lubac was a Catholic theologian who proposed a similar paradigm shift.  He understood Catholicism as a transformative culture for a species -- more than a means for individual souls to be saved. He did not deny the salvation of individuals, but he thought that function secondary to the communal reality. One of our AOA writers has written a synthetic summary of four of de Lubac’s’ works. Catholic sociobiology starts with a theocentric understanding of human nature, and ends with the ecclesial social cohesion of the Body of Christ.

Here are a few selections from Mr. Lynch’s paper:  
"For de Lubac, the twin ruptures of the natural from the supernatural and the individual from the social can only be healed in Christ. It is precisely in Christ that man arrives, united in one body, at his supernatural end. Christ, 'in the fullness of time,' comes at the end of a history that is both cosmic and salvific. He is both the cosmic Christ through and for whom all things are made, as well as the New Adam in whom man, radically individualized by sin, is reconstituted and redeemed." 
"Since the nineteenth century the work of atheist humanists like Comte, Marx, and their successors have attempted to offer a coherent plan for the human race. Atheistic humanism bound humanity together in a death clasp -- yet that formulation seemed more heroic than the Christian narrative of escaping to eternal safety one coward at a time. For de Lubac, Christianity cannot defeat atheist humanism without presenting its own coherent vision of man. This vision, however, first requires a return to a theocentric and Christocentric understanding of humanity. Sinful man, broken and individuated, has been severed into his constituent parts. In this state he cannot regenerate himself like a plant; but, like a body, only decompose. This is not to say that after sin human nature is utterly corrupted, but rather that human nature is fallen and doomed to eternal death if it remains in its atomized state. Man must be, so to speak, ‘re-Adamized’ if he is to be de-atomized." 
"For de Lubac, there was a profound convergence in Scotus’ rejection of a sin-centric Incarnation and Chardin’s appreciation for creation’s relation to the Son, for whom and through whom it was made. Scotus, Chardin, and de Lubac would all agree that it was for the sake of the Incarnation that God created the heavens and the earth."

"Every physicist knows that mankind and the earth as a viable planet will not be here in a few billion years. We are in a life and death struggle that encompasses both matter and spirit. If we depend only on matter, the laws of nature are relentlessly against us in the long term. Man’s only hope to escape an ultimate death is to corporately bind himself to the living Christ in his Mystical Body, the Church. De Lubac’s Catholic vision of man was of man as a whole. He agrees with the atheistic humanists that we humans are tied together, but not in a death clasp waiting for a meteor to hit or the heat from an expanding Sun to end our sorry tale. Humanity is drawn together in the Church as a corporate Body so we experience our common destiny, which will surpass the limiting laws of matter and space. Our common destiny is a transcendent one -- eternal life in Christ."  

Our full set of essays on Catholic Sociobiology 

Monday, January 16, 2017

In remembrance of Martin Luther King: Sacred Selma is no bridge to Sodom


[first published March 17, 2015]


by David Pence
                               
One of the themes preached at Brown Chapel Church in Selma, on the day before the 50-year commemoration of 'Bloody Sunday,' was how the liberated Israelites forgot their true destination and were soon worshiping false gods in the wilderness.
                           

In the spring of 1965, local Negro Christians led a procession across the Alabama River in response to the shooting of a black Baptist deacon, Jimmie Lee Jackson, two weeks earlier. The purpose of the march was to link the shooting to the need for black voting rights in the state. The destination was Montgomery, the capital 50 miles away. When the marchers left the city limits and crossed the Pettus Bridge they came under the jurisdiction of the county sheriff and state patrol. The sheriff, Jim Clark, had called all white males over 21 to be deputized as a county posse. The state troopers were George Wallace’s men, and eager to strike a blow for a segregated "Heart of Dixie." Several national TV camera crews recorded the onslaught. A nation still capable of moral outrage was shocked.

It was several days later that Reverend Martin Luther King and ministers from across the land came for the second Selma march. They only went to the end of the bridge, obeying a federal injunction against completing the march to Montgomery. After kneeling in prayer where the violence had occurred, they then turned around. Some of the younger black activists criticized King and dubbed that day "Turnaround Tuesday." It wasn't a compliment.

The third march (Mar 21-25,1965) two weeks later was allowed and protected by federal military policemen, army troops, and a federalized Alabama national guard. They completed the march to the state capitol in Montgomery four days later. This time, preachers from all over the country and famous entertainers were in the crowd to hear Reverend King's "How Long, Not Long" speech. He praised "white Americans who cherish their democratic traditions over ugly customs and privileges of generations to come forth boldly to join hands with us." He gave a history lesson on Jesus and Jim Crow:
If it may be said of the slavery era that the white man took the world and gave the Negro Jesus, then it may be said of the Reconstruction era that the southern aristocracy took the world and gave the poor white man Jim Crow. (Yes, sir) He gave him Jim Crow. (Uh huh) And when his wrinkled stomach cried out for the food that his empty pockets could not provide, (Yes, sir) he ate Jim Crow, a psychological bird that told him that no matter how bad off he was, at least he was a white man, better than the black man. (Right sir) And he ate Jim Crow. (Uh huh) And when his undernourished children cried out for the necessities that his low wages could not provide, he showed them the Jim Crow signs on the buses and in the stores, on the streets and in the public buildings. (Yes, sir) And his children, too, learned to feed upon Jim Crow, (Speak) their last outpost of psychological oblivion. (Yes, sir)
He explained the many contorted forms of segregation that it took to divide a Christian nation by color:
 They segregated southern money from the poor whites; they segregated southern mores from the rich whites; (Yes, sir) they segregated southern churches from Christianity (Yes, sir); they segregated southern minds from honest thinking; (Yes, sir) and they segregated the Negro from everything. (Yes, sir).  
But for this Christian movement the cry of "no justice, no peace" was not a threat of violence but the continued soul-power of love restoring men to brotherhood:
"And so I plead with you this afternoon as we go ahead: remain committed to nonviolence. Our aim must never be to defeat or humiliate the white man, but to win his friendship and understanding. We must come to see that the end we seek is a society at peace with itself, a society that can live with its conscience. And that will be a day not of the white man, not of the black man. That will be the day of man as man."
Finally he reminded us that persistence in protest does not come from the defiant wills of clenched fists, but the open hearts of men who trust in God:

"How long will justice be crucified, (Speak) and truth bear it?" (Yes, sir)I come to say to you this afternoon, however difficult the moment, (Yes, sir) however frustrating the hour, it will not be long, (No sir) because "truth crushed to earth will rise again." (Yes, sir)How long? Not long, (Yes, sir) because "no lie can live forever." (Yes, sir)How long? Not long, (All right. How long) because "you shall reap what you sow." (Yes, sir)How long? (How long?) Not long: (Not long)Truth forever on the scaffold, (Speak)Wrong forever on the throne, (Yes, sir)Yet that scaffold sways the future, (Yes, sirAnd, behind the dim unknown, Standeth God within the shadow, Keeping watch above his own.How long? Not long, because the arc of the moral universe is long, but it bends toward justice. (Yes, sir)How long? Not long, (Not long) because:Mine eyes have seen the glory of the coming of the Lord; (Yes, sir)"
Reverend King called President Johnson's speech, given ten days earlier on the Voting Rights Act, "an address that will live in history as one of the most passionate pleas for human rights ever made by a president of our nation"; and he noted it was given by a "president born in the South."

After his speech to a joint session of Congress, LBJ ordered that protection be provided to the Selma marchers. He challenged an attentive, wary, sparsely applauding legislature:
"The issue of equal rights for American Negroes is such an issue. And should we defeat every enemy, should we double our wealth and conquer the stars, and still be unequal to this issue, then we will have failed as a people and as a nation. For with a country as with a person, 'What is a man profited, if he shall gain the whole world, and lose his own soul?' "
The Voting Act became law on August 8, 1965.

John Lewis, congressman from Georgia, was one of the few men who spoke at the 50-year commemoration who also marched on Bloody Sunday. In his short and stirring speech before President Obama’s address, Lewis quoted LBJ's opening words to Congress: "At times, history and fate meet at a single time in a single place to shape a turning point in man's unending search for freedom. So it was at Lexington and Concord. So it was a century ago at Appomattox. So it was last week in Selma, Alabama."

Johnson said in the same Selma-inspired speech: "I want to be the president who helped to end hatred among his fellow men and who promoted love among the people of all races, all regions, and all parties." John Lewis began his talk not addressing the dignitaries, not even the president. He said, "Beloved brothers and sisters." He said we are here to "renew the soul of America." The movement was about love -- and John Lewis still remembered. It was about love of God and love of neighbor. It was not about black men yelling 'racist' at white men, but calling them brothers and calling them to love as Christ had commanded us. It always began in churches; and there was a lot of spiritual healing and calling on Jesus to grant courage. It was about redeeming love; and we cannot properly remember this day without remembering that building the spiritual bond of civic charity was driven by the redeeming suffering love of the Gospel.  

Lewis remembered: "We walked down that sidewalk over there. With a kind of military discipline, we were so peaceful, so quiet." Listen to the voice of Lewis, listen to his plea, and the spiritual echo of that day will come clear. Only their prayer time in a church when they were not so quiet had armed them for what would come next. It was not "their will against the will of the policemen," as the president said. For when Israel fights its enemies depending only on itself -- on its own will -- it always loses. These men and women knew they were following the will of God, and that is why eventually as Lewis said, "they knew the truth would win out." It was not their will that triumphed that day. Someone else was writing in His own hand, turning the soul-force of unrequited suffering into Victory.

                             
Rev King flanked (at far L) by Rev Abernathy and (far R) by John Lewis

It was shortly after Selma that a lot of chosen people forgot, again, where they were marching and Who was directing their march. Five months later the first great urban burning and looting riot would occur in Watts, California. That looked a lot more like the revelry at the Golden Calf, than the redeeming march through the parted waters of the Red Sea. Younger men turned the movement for Christian brotherhood into something very different -- black power, color identity, hatred, and a glorification not of redemptive suffering but redemptive violence. The Christian themes of following God’s will and reuniting a beloved community in the brotherhood of men under the Fatherhood of God gave way to color consciousness, sexual licentiousness, envy, greed, and wrath. “Soul” which once meant that spiritual principle of human life, which was instantly recognizable by men of every color, was turned on its head and came to be shorthand for “Black.” The jutting of the chin, the militant posture on college campuses, and the celebration of the criminal inside the confines of black ghettos had replaced the open hearts and hands seeking love.

The devil loves to tear apart. He is a divider and a liar from the beginning. He loves to come disguised as an angel of light, fighting for liberation but still peddling his same old chains of slavery.
And just what the racists had predicted started to happen. All the moral capital of the innocent, beaten by lawmen, was set aside. The march for freedom was perverted into a license for revelry -- just like the pagan erotic cult at the foot of Mount Sinai that had so angered Moses. The higher morality of love over law became the immorality of disrespect for authority and the law. "The Man" became the enemy. Another kind of male became the Superfly. Then, the greatest metaphysical error in American political history insured that the movement among men for the equality of public brotherhood was hijacked by the protest of middle-class white women against the sexual order of marriage and familial duty. This was coupled with a wild sexual rut among the males, again masquerading as a freedom train. The women said they would not be mothers and clamored for abortion, while the men said they would not be soldiers and ran from their protective duties. So many times during this forty years of wandering, the devious cults of "self" came cloaked in the sacred cloth of Selma.
                                 
"The Adoration of the Golden Calf" by Nicolas Poussin (1634)

White feminists were quite content that black men were into separatism. Back then, black men did not treat the analysis of the white chick with the obeisance we see now. The feminists left the black man his urban streets and the prisons. She and her soft white male allies took the universities, churches, and public service unions. Later, a crass calculation of everybody against the white male (down with patriarchy!) would lead to the diversity racket of electoral majorities and cottage industries in big cities, universities, and the world of non-profits. As Eric Hoffer said, "Every great cause begins as a movement, becomes a business, and eventually degenerates into a racket."

Black men who wanted to progress in public office drank the feminist Kool-Aid in public speeches and policy, if not in their personal lives. Religious institutions rejected the patriarchy of the Lord's Prayer for the gender obfuscation of inclusion. The widows begged for husbands and the orphans for fathers -- and in the name of civil rights we gave them sexual anarchy, making more spiritual widows and orphans than ever before in our history. Under the rubric of diversity, a coalition was struck of rights and reparation, the black power movement, the feminists, and finally the homosexuals. The party of city immigrants and working men turned into an umbrella for diversity. God was exiled, the beloved community abandoned, and idols erected by a coalition of the oppressed.

The faith-healing, Scripture reading, and Gospel singing that broke the back of racism were sent to the back of the bus. It could be resurrected when needed for nostalgia, but it could no longer be taken seriously as a spiritual organizing principle. It was not a worship of the mighty God, though He still could be evoked for the closing of speeches. It was a celebration of "us," of the humanistic pride that turned worship of God into a celebration of congregations. The people celebrate themselves, savoring the wounds of their parents while rejecting their wisdom. This communal celebration of self had happened long ago. The people set out to make a name for themselves and forgot God. They built a tower at Babel.

The ordered relationship of sexual fidelity in marriage, the purity in thought and speech toward the sacred goods of God’s name and the marriage act -- these ordered relationships became the enemy of the new freedom divorced from freedom’s Author. And that public form of Christian love -- fraternal brotherhood among adult men -- now became the love "that dare not speak its name." It became a mantra of militant black men that they did not seek to love or to be loved by the white man. Brotherhood was for wimps, and soon the wimps would rule in a way no American man of fifty years ago could ever imagine.

The integrated body politic, the black and white males in a posse for justice who would protect the widows and orphans of every color -- that dream became a joke. The marriage of a black man and white woman or a white man and black woman -- that sacred bond was now allowed. But in a bizarre twist that could only come from the twisted Father of Lies, this natural love has now become a rallying flag to honor the unnatural. Those who marched at Selma would wonder at a president who diluted their blood with such acts of sexual sacrilege. All of us who were in the movement, we exchanged our glorious God for a grass-eating bull. Elections indeed were won, a coalition with those serving other gods was struck…but what doth it profit?
                                     
Bloody Sunday in Selma

There are many more female black faces in high places, and yet so many more male black faces in jail. Every third pregnancy by a black female is aborted -- five times the rate of white women. There are black males in elected offices, but all must worship at the altar of feminism to be admitted to the club.

In his speech at Selma, President Obama broke open the moral capital of the Selma "bank account" and distributed blank checks to the sexual pretenders. It had been his honest claim as a black man to that social capital which helped him defeat an entitled feminist for the presidency in 2008. But any honest assessment of Mr. Obama reveals he has done much more for the sexual revolutionaries than for interracial brotherhood among men. He said he would be Joshua, but the feminist brain chip is the paradigm most deeply implanted in his heart. The sense of solidarity with the men of his country or the men of other cultures who rule by the traditional male forms of patriarchy and fraternity is not part of the moral grammar of this mother's son. He considers patriarchy an evil, and masculine fraternity as fun for the playground but oppressive in religion and politics.

The billy clubs and tear gas of Sheriff Clark could crack open a man's head and break up a marching crowd, but they could never touch the movement's soul. But now the blood of the martyrs has been polluted at an altar to a foreign god in the wilderness. Our souls no longer rest in the Lord. The shame of our president is that his speech at Selma was a sacrilege against a sacred space. The president, whom so many of us voted for as an act of racial reconciliation, once again used his pulpit to preach not the saving grace of brotherhood but the enslaving confusion of the sexual revolution.

The Christian movement brings us back to the original promise of the country and the truth of Scripture. Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God. Real peace comes from deeper and broader bonds. The tenor of the Christian movement, even in its dreams, was a return to some order that lay at the heart of our nature as creatures of God with human souls. It was a check written long ago which we had come to cash. We were not looking for endless change, and more and more categories of the oppressed that might be released from social obligations and rules of decorum. We were seeking something old -- that men might live like brothers, that a man and woman might marry and raise their family in peace, that elders would be called Mister and Missus.

Selma was a place in history where the fate of a nation was hinged. It still is such a place.  As President Johnson said:
"There is no Negro problem. There is no Southern problem. There is no Northern problem. There is only an American problem. And we are met here tonight as Americans -- not as Democrats or Republicans -- we are met here as Americans to solve that problem."
                                                         
President Johnson

Every crucial speech from that era reminds us this was a Christian movement of brotherhood that was deeply resonant with the initial Christian movement that formed the colonies and towns of America’s Protestant seaboard.

We cannot leave the interpretation of this day to the mistaken notion that sexual disorder is Selma's fruit. The bridge from Selma led to Montgomery, not Sodom. Montgomery was the city where the Reverends King and Abernathy first joined as ministers to unite the Negro community as Christians, and renew the whole city as a "Beloved Community" of fellow citizens. Sodom was destroyed; Montgomery was to be renewed. Selma was a spiritual movement that galvanized white and black people across the country. That’s why, within two weeks of Bloody Sunday, armed American white men protected the marchers from their persecutors. That’s why five months later a Voting Rights Act could be passed. If we can unite ourselves again under God and sing His praises loudly, then we can renew a brotherhood of fathers to socialize all our young men -- black, white and Hispanic -- into the Christian form of masculine love that is citizenship.

This spiritual renewal of the American soul is how the South will rise again. Let us be renewed in the public Biblical faith and Christian love of Selma. It is the road to the New Jerusalem which will shine with the glory of God when He comes to dwell amidst His people. Let us not ignore the living Lord or surely we shall be chastised; and the blood drawn at Selma will lose its sacred power "to renew the soul of America."