Saturday, April 18, 2015
Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, April 18
by David Pence
NETANYAHU VS IRAN -- AN EXCESS NOT SHARED
Prime Minister Netanyahu has added a new hurdle for the Iranians. It is a hurdle he has not presented to the Sauds who have now become his de facto allies in the Mideast. His demand that recognition of Israel be part of any nuclear deal was rejected by a former Mossad chief who has disagreed for many years with Netanyahu's assessment of Iran's nuclear threat to Israel.
A MAN OF HIS NATION
An excellent profile of Chinese leader Xi Jinping who Lee Kuan Yew called a man of Nelson Mandela type character.
For Xi Jinping, the Party is the corporate body that both he and his father gave their lives to. Both had severe setbacks in the Cultural Revolution, but both see the Party as the collective instrument which liberated and still governs their huge nation. Their commitment is not to an ideology, but a living group of fellow soldier-workers. He believes the Communist Party of the Soviet Union fell because of the personal corruption of its members. His anti-corruption program has made him 100,000 enemies and a million friends. He thought Mikhail Gorbachev was "not man enough" to defend the Party through his reform agenda. Reform is good; loss of public order is a catastrophe. He considers most democracy and human rights NGO's as foreign agents attempting to destroy civic order and ultimately effect regime change. He believes there is a crisis in faith in China which the Party must address. This is part of the motivation of his "China Dream." He considers unfettered Internet, unbridled drugs, and sexual immorality as "Western freedoms." He, like Pope Francis, is "a round man with a square center" -- which is a Chinese aphorism for an affable personality draping a set of core commitments.
After reading about the relationship of Xi Jinping to red cadres and his understanding of their tie to the sacred goods and memory of the nation, this article about a TV personality being punished for criticism of Mao Tse Tung takes on more meaning.
FIRST THE SHIA, THEN THE CHRISTIANS, THEN THE JEWS -- GETTING RELIGIOUS WARS STRAIGHT
The bombing attack led by Saudi Arabia against the Shia Houthis of Yemen is best understood as the House of Saud crossing international boundaries to attack a rival religious group with no air defense. Days before the bombing, 140 Shia worshipers were killed at worship in coordinated bombings of Shia mosques in Yemen. A group no one has ever heard of (ISIL of Yemen) took credit for the attack, but it is much more likely that Salafist Sunnis of Yemen or AQAP killed men who were praying in the unauthorized manner of Shia Muslims. That attack against Muslim worship was followed by the Saudi-led air raids.
A 'NY Times' article debunking the notion that the Houthis are some kind of Iranian surrogate. The excellent international correspondent (Ishaan Tharoor) of the 'Washington Post' makes a similar argument explaining the Houthis as agents of their own history.
RELIGIOUS INSIGHTS FROM THE WEEK:
BOSTON BOMBERS AND CATHOLIC BISHOPS ON JUST PUNISHMENT
The Boston Marathon bomber, Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, was found guilty in Boston on April 8 on 30 counts of related charges. Several of the federal charges can be punished with the death penalty. Massachusetts has not executed a prisoner since 1947; and abolished the death penalty in 1984. A group notorious for failing to mete out justice to perpetrators of crimes crying out for capital punishment were front and center in arguing against the death penalty. Sean O'Malley and the Massachusetts bishops apparently did not see the irony in their posturing as moral authorities on the question of just punishment for capital crimes. They showed also they have not visited many prisons lately, and have no understanding of the evangelical potential of a martyr behind bars: “The defendant in this case has been neutralized and will never again have the ability to cause harm." That is the statement of soft men who don't remember either Malcolm X or the Apostle Paul.
MISSING THE POINT
Why do young men become bombers? This 'Boston Globe' writer in her new book and this article has coined a new term, "Medina Muslims", to describe jihadists in the making -- often well-educated expatriates. She will become an expert soon. Her research into the biographies of the new jihadists is excellent. Her depiction of the reformation actually occurring in Islam -- the Sunni Salafist purification movement is sorely deficient. She has no sense of this being a contest between groups of males contesting communal leadership. Likewise, her understanding of man's search for God and the willingness to live and die for the highest good is buried by her sociological sensibilities. Ayaan Hirsi Ali is a favorite media authority on Islam. She is Somali-born, a champion of women's rights, and an atheist. Her name rings of east Africa, but her loyalties are to the de-sacralized ideologies of Harvard Square.
GOD, DEMONS, AND SEXUALITY -- THE PONTIFICAL COUNCIL FOR THE LAITY KEEPS GETTING MORE INTERESTING
An interview on demons and the spirit of sexuality by a member of the Pontifical Council for the Laity reminds us that the approach to sexuality in the Francis era is deeper and more anthropological than either his critics or fans can understand. The work of St John Paul II goes on. We can't wait until this creativity turns from male-female marriage and female virginity to contemplate patriarchal fraternity.
From the 'Minneapolis Star Tribune' editorial page (which also keeps getting better every year), a Harvard professor recounts the insights of Jonathan Haidt's book, Righteous Minds:Why Good People are Divided by Politics and Religion. He says employing the categories of the sacred, authority, and loyalty are the real differences between American liberals and conservatives. The book is an outstanding paradigm changer; and this is the clearest short summary of its most penetrating insight.
AN AFRICAN BISHOP
Cardinal Robert Sarah shows why the bishops of Germany should listen to the bishops of Africa. All those who associate Pope Francis with the demotion of prissy legalists of the West should note that more vigorous masculine voices of orthodoxy (like Cardinals Pell of Australia and Sarah of Guinea) have been placed in positions of real authority.
THE ARGENTINIAN BISHOP OF ROME SPEAKS OF MEXICO AND RECOUNTS THE FIRST TWO YEARS
In an interview reviewing the first two years of his papacy, the Pope promises a trip to Mexico and says the devil is still angry with Mexico for the apparition of Our Lady. Her appearance at Guadalupe as a mestizo is meant to highlight the American charism of mixing ethnicities to forge a single people. He also predicted a short papacy for himself, but no mandated age of retirement for popes.