Saturday, April 30, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, April 30

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


OUR TRUE ENEMY - THE SAUDIS: Jeb Bush never heard of the 28 pages. It cannot be in our national interest nor soothing to our better angels that we are implicated so deeply in the starving of  Yemen. To fight terrorism, start with the Saudis.

ISRAEL’S COLD ALLIANCE WITH ARABS AGAINST IRAN: This is a good explanation of the thinking behind the Israel-Saudi truce. Whether it still applies is a major question. It was Israel’s view that Iran would unite their fellow Muslims  around the common objective of destroying Israel. The Persian Shiites knew they had many differences with the Sunni Arabs. Thus hatred of the common enemy would be their strategy for regional dominance.

ON SAUDI ARABIA - EXCELLENT TALK BY BRUCE REIDEL, A TRUE MIDEAST EXPERTMr. Reidel of the Brookings institute is as blinded by feminism as most Beltway experts but he is also very observant and articulate. He can describe complicated political situations in a way that all can learn from him. This speech is the best public description of the succession players in Saudi Arabia. The new King Salman (over 80), the Crown Prince bin Nayef (in his 50’s, competent anti-terrorist fighter, and pro-American), and the Deputy Crown Prince - King Salmon's favorite son in his 30’s. Muhammed bin Salman is not his oldest son, but his favorite, and he is culturally a Wahhabi enforcer. The bombing campaign against Yemen’s Shiites is his signature claim to warrior status. Reidel also outlines the Saudi relationship to nuclear weapons - they have in place delivery missiles, and the alliance with Pakistan who makes the warheads. Those missiles came from China.

Mr. Reidel places the momentary alliance with Israel in perspective by reminding us of the Dome of the Rock and Jerusalem. It is interesting that the best book on Saudi Aarbia (Hatred’s Kingdom by Dore Gold) was followed by the same author’s The Fight for Jerusalem. Mr. Reidel was quite accurate in ascribing the brutal war against Yemen’s Shiites to the Deputy Crown Prince. He was quite accurate in saying the war could not be fought for a single extra day without the United States and United Kingdom’s technical aid. But he is utterly remiss in never mentioning that the "rebels" who are being killed are Shiites, and that is why they and not ISIS or Al Qaeda Sunnis in Yemen are being slaughtered from the air (video at 1 hour, 25 minute mark). A short article on main actors.


EUROPE AND ISLAM: HOW SPLITTING THE CHRISTENDOM OF THE MEDITERRANEAN LED TO NORTHERN EUROPE: Robert Kaplan at his geographic best reminding us how the Christendom which once surrounded the Mediterranean was cut in half in the seventh century and led to the Europe of differing states and increasing individual rights. Mr. Kaplan cannot even imagine that it is the reemergence of Christianity which will be the basis of the European nations capable of both integrating and converting immigrant Muslims. It is instructive to have someone  like Mr. Kaplan who is so blatantly anti-religion and nation to formulate the case for the West. It shows the paucity of the argument.  He properly identifies the central value of his godless West-"Individual Rights and Agency." Here is his conclusion about the dilemma of building the West without those retrograde nations.
Europe has responded by artificially reconstructing national-cultural identities on the extreme right and left, to counter the threat from the civilization it once dominated.

Although the idea of an end to history—with all its ethnic and territorial disputes—turns out to have been a fantasy, this realization is no excuse for a retreat into nationalism. The cultural purity that Europe craves in the face of the Muslim-refugee influx is simply impossible in a world of increasing human interactions.

“The West,” if it does have a meaning beyond geography, manifests a spirit of ever more inclusive liberalism. Just as in the 19th century there was no going back to feudalism, there is no going back now to nationalism, not without courting disaster. As the great Russian intellectual Alexander Herzen observed, “History does not turn back … All reinstatements, all restorations have always been masquerades.”

The question is thus posed: What, in a civilizational sense, will replace Rome? For while empire, as Said documented, certainly had its evils, its very ability to govern vast multiethnic spaces around the Mediterranean provided a solution of sorts that no longer exists.

Europe must now find some other way to dynamically incorporate the world of Islam without diluting its devotion to the rule-of-law-based system that arose in Europe’s north, a system in which individual rights and agency are uppermost in a hierarchy of needs. If it cannot evolve in the direction of universal values, there will be only the dementia of ideologies and coarse nationalisms to fill the void. This would signal the end of “the West” in Europe.
AUSTRIA: A PROTECTOR NATIONALIST SHOCKS THE REIGNING PARTIES: The first round doesn’t determine the presidency but a message is being sent.

RUSSIA, CHINA, AND THE SOUTH CHINA SEA: The Russians take a hands-off approach which China appreciates.

CALL US CZECHIA: (If you think there is still a country called Czechoslovakia, catch up here). A good historical and geo-political look at the world from the vantage of Prague.

IRISH EASTER RISING 100-YEAR ANNIVERSARY - A REFLECTION: The Easter Rising in 1916 was suppressed. The Anglo-Irish war (1919-1921) ended with an Irish Free State still inside the British Empire. There was a different settlement for the Protestant counties of Ulster-Northern Ireland. An even more bloody Irish civil war followed between Catholics who opposed and those who favored the treaty creating the free state. A good review and reflection on blood sacrifice and the nation.

GEOGRAPHY AND CURRENT EVENTS - KNOW YOUR CHOKE POINTS: This week at AOA our Map on Monday showed seven geostrategic choke points. In the last several weeks, we have linked to stories about China building small islands to control the South China sea; Russia defending their naval port in Crimea and their air dominance of the Baltic Sea; Israel, Saudi Arabia, and Egypt agreeing to an island sale near the Gulf of Aqaba - all are current events built on choke points. "Teach your sons geography, and they will never be prisoners of ideology."


ANDREW JACKSON: The opponent of the Bank gets dissed by the Treasury. But never fear. Pat Buchanan and James Webb use the opportunity to remind us of a crucial time in the formation of the American republic, and the role Jackson played in that movement. Harriet Tubman is a great lady - a gun-toting evangelical Christian who risked her life that others may be free. But to set her against Jackson who also risked his life to set us free is like trying to fight Sunni Salafists by aiming pistols at Shia Iran and Christian Russia. Consolidate your friends and isolate your enemies - that must be our cry. At home that means linking fighting protective America with our drive for interracial brotherhood. What sick wily mind would set these two warriors against each other?


GENDER POLICE AND SPORTS: ESPN Fires Schelling for a manly defense of the girl's bathroom. The network should receive the JERRY SANDUSKY NOTHING HAPPENING HERE award for moral obtuseness.

PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS: Hillary Clinton: How she became a hawk. Mrs. Clinton cultivated certain military men to buttress her once and future claim to become their leader. There is no talk here of an overall strategic goal or vision of our nation among the nations, but a lot of concern over developing relationships and contacts for the next step up the career ladder.

Donald Trump - culture warrior. I do not quite understand the full import of this article but there is something very serious here. The author is arguing that the breakup of the politically correct leftist culture of death will not first be accomplished by saints. To establish sanctity and sanity we may have to welcome some very  unfamiliar  allies like right wing video games and bombastic nationalists. It is mindful of the crude fighting Irishmen who came to the aid of the Scottish warrior in Braveheart.
An excellent example of this is an article titled “A Counterproductive Alliance,” discusing the increasing friendliness to right-wing ideas among video game fans after the #Gamergate controversy. The gist of the article can be summed up as: “How will we maintain our air of moral superiority if people show up to CPAC in costumes instead of blazers and bowties?” Never mind that #Gamergate and movements like it were the most successful backlash against political correctness: for some “conservatives,” saying yes to potential allies was too much to bear if it meant hobnobbing with the sorts of people who’ve never read a Bible or owned a varsity jacket.

Beat Dominant Culture at Its Own Game

This leaves the Right in a vulnerable and very unenviable spot: the most anachronistic elements of right-wing politics have rendered us too unimaginative to create a counterculture of our own, and too snobbish to appropriate the elements of the dominant culture that could serve as building blocks.

What’s a conservative who wants to stop culture, and thus politics, from being dragged to the far Left do? Answer: He or she has to hope that some part of mainstream culture co-opts the Right. Pray, in other words, that some Prometheus comes along who’s willing to steal fire from his fellow cultural elites to give to the Right’s forgotten constituencies, even if it annoys their more refined leaders.

Oh look, it’s Donald Trump. Trump, alone among the 2016 Republican candidates, has been willing to seize the banner of the Right in the current culture war, and plant it straight in the backs of his fallen leftist antagonists. Trump did this the way countercultural warriors are supposed to win fights: he beat the dominant culture at its own game by rejecting their assumptions about what was allowed.

He does not play by the rules, and that makes him less predictable and more dangerous. What Ronald Reagan and Trump have in common is obvious: an incredible capacity to use the media to captivate the American people. One learned this in Hollywood, the other in reality TV, but both deployed this skill to great effect.

There is, of course, a big difference, as well: everyone knows Reagan cast himself as a sunny, heroic figure. Trump, on the other hand, is taking his cues from his time as a pro-wrestling heel personality, i.e., a comically larger-than-life villain. But there’s a neat thing about villains, or at least well-done ones: they get to show where people’s ideas of good and evil fall flat. Trump does this brilliantly to the Left. He has taken the humiliating mockery that the media has trained so effectively on “hicks,” Christians, and Republicans, and turned it round to expose the smug, mostly leftist Babbits and young fogies of the Acela Corridor as no less ridiculous.

Friday, April 29, 2016

Friday BookReview: "Bonds of Affection" by Matthew Holland

(first published July 6, 2012)

"We shall find that the God of Israel is among us, when ten of us shall be able to resist a thousand of our enemies..."
                         (John Winthrop, governor of Massachusetts Bay Colony)

Some excerpts from a review by Dr. Pence of BONDS OF AFFECTION:

With most thinkers, Matthew Holland does not find eros in political life but neither does he build civic bonds on the philia of fraternal friendship. When he says 'civic charity' he means a civic life animated by agape -- that distinctive Christian love that "includes concern for another's standing before God even when others mean us harm." This of course has implications for how we treat our enemies and our fellow citizens...

Professor Holland finds agape informing the language and political goals of American leaders for two centuries by studying several key authors and texts: John Winthrop ("A Model of Christian Charity," 1630); Thomas Jefferson (rough draft of the "Declaration of Independence," 1776, and his "First Inaugural Address," 1801); and Abraham Lincoln ("Second Inaugural," 1865). Holland takes seriously Christian charity as a realistic way to deal with public life. He convincingly argues, that for both Lincoln and Jefferson, it was the realistic crucible of office which forged a deeper sensibility of the necessity of the bonds of charity in civic life. Holland's treatment of Jefferson is especially careful. Holland does not play the Christian alchemist turning Enlightenment rights into Christian love, but he reminds us that even the most rights-oriented of Jefferson's writings ends with a bond: "we mutually pledge to each other our lives, our fortunes and our sacred honor." Holland reminds us this was no idle pledge. To secure that bond, one out of every hundred Americans lost their lives.
Jefferson Memorial

If Holland finds "bonds to the death" where others only found rights, he also finds analogical political forms in the New Testament where others tend to look for political narrative in the Old Testament alone. He quite rightly locates the sacrificial duties of soldiers in a pivotal moment in the Christian narrative -- Christ's Last Supper when he commands mimesis [imitation] and then sets out to lay down his life for his friends. Christian military men have always seen this obvious link -- political scientists almost never do. This is one of the great strengths of the book: Holland is both attentive to religious sensibilities and appreciative of military sacrifice. In fact, quite unlike the pagan warrior crowd, he shows that the patriotism of soldiers and the sacrificial love of agape are interlocking constituents of civic charity...

Here are four important ideas I learned... I may have heard variants on these ideas before, but Holland's charity theme clarifies and deepens the political union of men as fellow citizens:

1) All men possess rights but the point is to exercise them. This can only be done if we secure rights; and this is done by entering into a bond of agreement -- for this, we institute governments. No agreement, no rights. No civic love, no individual liberty. Possessing rights might be universal but exercising rights only occurs where rights have been secured by forming a real government in some time and place. Because of evil in the world this can only happen when men pledge their lives to protect these liberties. This is not a contract calculation by an individual, but an entry into a community of shared affections pledging personal honor and lives to each other and a new corporate entity.

2) Secular tyranny does not fear religion because it separates people but because it might unite us. Holland taught this by reminding us of Tocqueville's insight: "A despot will forgive his subjects that they do not love him as long as they do not love each other."

3) Lincoln's 1838 speech to the young men in the Springfield Lyceum was about giving up hatred and passions by living inside the law. Men must be united by civic affection to governance as well as each other. I was newly struck in that speech (having read it at least twice before) how much Lincoln felt he had to deal with men's hatred. Thus his language is built on authority and affection more than rights. At the Lyceum, Holland emphasizes that Lincoln does not soothe, but is demanding of the assembled young men. See the brave acts of the ancestors -- you benefit from this but as of yet you have done nothing to continue their work. (If only leaders, especially so-called conservatives, would so speak to young men at our elite universities and think-tanks with such demands.)

4) Here is Holland's eloquent description of political prudence in Lincoln: "To do this effectively meant for Lincoln assiduously gathering facts, contemplating history, anticipating implication, working out an argument against its best counterattack, and allowing time, circumstance, public promotion and private negotiation to settle things into a workable solution. His self-chosen metaphor was pilots on a western river who knew they wanted to get downstream but only steered from point to point as they could see, which was often not far."

[Professor Holland also provides] a powerful and sympathetic treatment of the much-neglected, but most important, novel in American history: Uncle Tom's Cabin.

    John Winthrop, who died in 1649, served as governor for twelve years

Monday, April 25, 2016



by A. Joseph Lynch

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

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

Saturday, April 23, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, April 23

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


THE POPE’S MESSAGE TO THE WORLD AND MUSLIMS: Bringing several Muslim refugee families from Syria to Rome with him (where a Christian community will take them in) was the Pope’s dramatic and orderly way of sending the Christian message. God does have companions, and we who are made in His image are also the companions to those who have lost their homes.

THE POPE AND CONSERVATIVE CATHOLIC INTELLECTUALS - CHARITY DOES NOT ABIDE: Alan Jacobs (a non-Catholic) concludes from the outside that for many "orthodox Catholics" Pope Francis will never get it right. He doesn't blame the Pope. There seems to be an adolescent inability of academics to show respect (much less piety) toward the men who hold or compete for positions of authority in civic and religious life. That seems true of the pristine critics of "not Catholic enough" Pope Francis, and the effete and stringent pro-life academics who shriek at the more blatantly imperfect Mr. Trump.

POPE FRANCIS AND CHINA - GETTING IT RIGHT: A good explanation of the Pope's approach to China at Foreign Affairs by Victor Gaetan.

SANDERS AND THE POPE: Bernie Sanders went to the Vatican for a conference on Centissimus Annum. Senator Sanders favors a lot in Catholic teaching that is "much more left than right," no doubt. Sanders' lifelong ideological commitment to socialism is deeply atheistic. His concept of human dignity denies the human soul and demonizes the wealthy. That is a problem. On the other hand, he is genuinely taken with the Pope and even spoke of the human soul in later remarks.

Sanders' talk at Vatican Conference.

A Brief Meeting Outside the Breakfast Room (FROM ROBERT MOYNIHAN LETTER #31 INSIDE VATICAN):
In the end, Bernie Sanders met Pope Francis, briefly.

It happened at about 6 a.m. this morning, outside the dining room of the Domus Santa Marta, where the Pope lives, and it lasted for "about five minutes," one onlooker said.

"A real honor"

Pope Francis met Bernie Sanders and his wife, Jane, briefly this morning outside the breakfast room of the Domus Santa Marta, where the Pope lives.

Bernie and his wife Janet had both been invited to be guests for the night in the Domus.

They reportedly stayed on the same floor as the Pope.

The two were seen in the reception area, carrying their own bags.

Sanders advisor Prof. Jeffrey Sachs, also a guest in the Domus for the night -- he frequently stays in the Domus when he attends conferences of the Holy See's Pontifical Academy for Social Sciences, where Bernie gave his 10-minute talk yesterday afternoon -- was also present nearby, and estimated that the meeting lasted "for five minutes."

There are no photos of the meeting.

"We had an opportunity to meet with him this morning," Sanders told Ken Thomas of the Associated Press later in the morning. "It was a real honor for me, for my wife and I to spend some time with him. I think he is one of the extraordinary figures not only in the world today but in modern world history."

Sanders said it was a brief meeting. "I told him that I was incredibly appreciative of the incredible role that he is playing in this planet in discussing issues about the need for an economy based on morality, not greed.”
Robert Royal at The Catholic Thing is not happy with Socialism at the Vatican.



THE SAUDIS, ISRAEL, AND EGYPT:  Israel was in on the transfer of islands - watch the choke points.

IF YOU CAN'T RUN FOR PRESIDENT - BE A SENATOR AND SAVE US FROM THE SAUDIS: Senator Rand Paul and Democrat Chris Murphy join to start putting limits on the Saudi arms bazaar. This is one way to begin disengaging ourselves from the religious persecution of Yemen's Shiiites and begin a true reappraisal of our alliance with the Wahabbis.

More good news from the Senate - Al Franken and Ted Cruz on the same side of an important initiative against the Kingdom.

SAUDI ARABIA AND THE MUSLIM BROTHERHOOD: While Wahhabi-led Saudi Arabia and the Muslim Brotherhood share an "Islamist" outlook, there are several essential differences between them that made them rivals. The Muslim Brotherhood is much less kin and tribe-oriented, allowing many more men social recognition and opportunities for leadership. The MB has an emphasis on Jerusalem as a Holy City rivaling Mecca. The MB is willing to make alliances with non-Muslim groups in order to create states in which they are free to pray and teach. This article is an invaluable historical explanation of this important divide in the Sunni world.

THINKING THEOLOGICALLY ABOUT THE LAND OF ISRAEL AND THE THEOLOGICAL IMPORT OF TERRITORIAL CIVIC BONDS: From the new Providence magazine (devoted to Christianity and American foreign policy), an article on A new Christian Zionism:
The Land continued to be at the heart of the biblical story: “Of all the promises made to the patriarchs it was that of the land that was the most prominent and decisive.”[viii] Elmer Martens estimated that eretz (land) is the fourth most frequent noun or substantive in the Hebrew Bible, and is more dominant statistically than the covenant.[ix] By my own counting, the eretz of Israel is either directly referred to or implied more than one thousand times in Tanakh, the canon of the Hebrew Bible. Of the 250 times that covenant (b’rit) is mentioned, in 70% of those instances, 177 times, covenant is either directly or indirectly connected to the land of Israel. Of the 74 times that b’rit appears in Torah, 73% of those times, or 54, include the gift of the land, either explicitly or implicitly. According to the Dictionary of Biblical Imagery, “Next to God himself, the longing for land dominates all others [in the Hebrew Bible].”[x] In other words, when the biblical God calls out a people for himself, he does so in an earthy way, by making the gift of a particular land an integral aspect of that calling.
"SCIENCE" TAKES A GUESS AT WHEN THE BIBLE WAS WRITTEN: This paper was published in a reputable scientific journal purporting to offer a possible dating for biblical texts based on literacy rates among Jews about 600 BC. From a few inscriptions, they deduce that five different people wrote them and posited that most forts had maybe 30 soldiers and, so, there was a high rate of literacy. Written texts need high literacy rates they tell us. (No one knows who made up that rule). Thus, one possible time of Bible authorship was 600 BC. This is called reasoning from empirical evidence. This is actually more coherent than some of the wild theories that can spring from discovering a broken shard in an old village site. If only theologians would look with a sense of humor and common sense at some of these "social science studies." They would not be so cowed by the conceits of Modern Science.


WHEN ALLIES (LEANING ON AMERICA) PICK FIGHTS WITH THEIR BIGGER NEIGHBORS: Pat Buchanan on dangers of war with entangling alliances. Why they endanger our future by precipitating possible wars and precluding new relationships with more significant actors.

CHINA, ASIAN NATIONS, AND THE SOUTH CHINA SEA: A review of the present alignment of forces.

POKING RUSSIA; POKING BACK: Build up in Baltic Sea by U.S. and saber rattling by Russia - A new policy desperately needed. Are they buzzing our ship or is our warship in the Baltic Sea menacing their port of Kaliningrad?

UNDERSTANDING RUSSIA: A critic of American Conservative writer Rod Dreher suggested to him that he did not understand Russia. Dreher often joins in the mainline criticism of Putin as a bully or thug. Mr. Dreher was intellectually honest enough to highlight these resources which his critic suggested.
1. "Casino Moscow" by Andrew Brezinski (Zbigniew Brzezinski's nephew who dropped a ‘z’ from his surname). It’s about his time as a reporter in Russia during the Yeltsin Era, where he saw upfront the insanity that accompanied the plundering of the country, including by Nemtsov.

2. "Godfather of the Kremlin – Boris Berezovsky and the looting of Russia" by Paul Klebnikov. Here you’ll learn about the building of the oligarchy during that era, and how men like Berezovsky used the Chechen Mafia to eliminate rivals through bombings and assassinations. Klebnikov, a writer for Forbes magazine, paid for this book with his life, as even the UK Telegraph accuses Berezovsky of ordering the hit.
EUROPEAN OFFICIAL REPENTS: Maybe it isn't all Islamophobia. The new German Right. Here are paragraphs about two thinkers who are replacing the guilt-ridden German post-WWII social consensus. The German nation will rise again. Will it be within a Christian sensibility? This will not happen if a concern for thymos and love of nation is left to a godless intellectual right. Germany has already lived that story. A major cultural problem is that so much of the paid Catholic hierarchy is besot with the gender ideology of feminism and homosexuality. The very large homosexual subculture among Catholic clergy is matched by the state-paid Lutherans, except they are open and flagrant in their profanation. For now, the young men in German streets looking for the nation as a sacred disciplined covenant will not find it among Church men.
AfD intellectual, Marc Jongen, who is a former assistant of the well-known philosopher Peter Sloterdijk. Jongen has not only warned about the danger of Germany’s “cultural self-annihilation”; he has also argued that, because of the cold war and the security umbrella provided by the US, Germans have been forgetful about the importance of the military, the police, warrior virtues—and, more generally, what the ancient Greeks called thymos (variously translated as spiritedness, pride, righteous indignation, a sense of what is one’s own, or rage), in contrast to eros and logos, love and reason. Germany, Jongen says, is currently “undersupplied” with thymos. Only the Japanese have even less of it—presumably because they also lived through postwar pacifism.

Sloterdijk has distanced himself from Jongen’s self-declared “avant-garde conservatism.” But the “psycho-political” perspective Jongen adopts is one of Sloterdijk’s philosophical trademarks. In his 2006 volume Rage and Time, in which he also takes his cues from Nietzsche, Sloterdijk argued that in the West thymos had been largely forgotten because of the dominance of eros in consumer capitalism, with the result that envy and resentment dominate the inner lives of citizens. He echoed Francis Fukuyama’s argument in his The End of History and the Last Man that pacified liberal democracies generally fail to find a proper place for “thymotic energies,” and Sloterdijk has said explicitly that, in confrontations with Islam, the West needs to rediscover the role of thymos. Just like Jongen, who criticizes the EU for being “post-thymotic.”

Friday, April 22, 2016

Friday BookReview: tribute to Fr. Alexander Schmemann

Father Schmemann and wife visiting with Solzhenitsyn

From a 2001 essay of appreciation by 'First Things' editor Father Richard Neuhaus:

Father Alexander Schmemann (1921-1983) is one of the very important people in my life. It is not simply that he helped form some of my ideas, especially about liturgy, or gave me a feel for realities about which I knew little, such as Orthodoxy. He was a great spirit; he lived robustly; he had a confident but not corrosive disdain for the banalities of fashionable thought. He was older and more cosmopolitan than I. He was fun to be with, and one left every meeting with the sense that life could be more, and the resolve to let it be so.

As a young man I first encountered Fr. Schmemann through his books, especially For the Life of the World, Of Water and the Spirit, and The Historical Road of Eastern Orthodoxy (all published by St. Vladimir’s Press). Later we would occasionally share the platform at ecumenical conferences, but I did not get to know him well until the days in Connecticut that produced "The Hartford Appeal for Theological Affirmation" of 1975. After that, I cherished Fr. Alexander as a friend and we would occasionally get together for lunch when he had business in the city, although not often enough, at least in my view. At our last lunch, on Lexington near 60th, not long before his final illness, he noted with disapproval the anorexic waitresses and expatiated engagingly on why the fashions of androgyny are part and parcel of the propensity for abstraction that is the fatal flaw of Western culture. I found the argument entirely convincing. There was for Fr. Alexander no divide between the sacred and secular, between the subjects of, for instance, unisex fashions and baptismal grace. Reality was all of a piece, and all charged with the presence and promise of Christ. In his case Tom Wolfe’s phrase applies: He was a man in full. Or so he seemed, and so he seems, to me.

St. Vladimir’s has now published The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann, 1973-1983. It is a big book of some 350 pages and, after I had finished reading it, I wished for more. Much of it is very intimate, and there is always the matter of the ethics of publishing a private journal. But his wife Juliana (the beloved “L.” who appears on almost every page, Liana being the diminutive of her name) made the right decision in translating the journals from the Russian and French and putting them into book form... 

Russian Orthodoxy in the U.S. he found incorrigibly quarrelsome. “The function of a quarrel is in allowing people to feel principled, to serve the cause, i.e., to feel alive. . . . And free time can be filled with a quarrel. The law of émigré life: those who don’t like to quarrel organize balls and can also keep busy—endlessly—reconciling those who quarrel. And those who enjoy quarrels quarrel! But the function of both is the same.” He writes, “I mainly feel like a stranger in the midst of the typically Russian ‘cozy’ atmosphere of the Church: Russian piety, complete self-assurance, the absence of any anxiety, any doubt, any questioning..." 

Again and again, he returns to what is intellectually and culturally stifling in Orthodoxy. “To change the atmosphere of Orthodoxy, one has to learn to look at oneself in perspective, to repent, and if needed, to accept change, conversion. In historic Orthodoxy, there is a total absence of criteria for self-criticism. Orthodoxy defined itself: against heresies, against the West, the East, the Turks, etc. Orthodoxy became woven with complexes of self-affirmation, an exaggerated triumphalism: To acknowledge errors is to destroy the foundations of true faith.” On December 23, 1976, after a series of difficult meetings at the seminary, Fr. Alexander writes: “My point of view is that a good half of our students are dangerous for the Church—their psychology, their tendencies, a sort of constant obsession with something..." 

A year earlier he had written: “What used to be an organic, natural style became stylization, spiritually weak, harmful. The main problem of Orthodoxy is the constraint due to style, and its inability to revise it; a prevalent absence of self-criticism, of checking the tradition of the elders by Tradition, by love of Truth. A growing idolatry.” Seminarians and clergy, he said, wear their cassocks and beards as an armor against life and thought... 

Fr. Alexander had a somewhat grudging admiration for the energy and vision of John Paul II, but doubted that he could reverse the “collapse” of Catholicism following the Second Vatican Council. November 24, 1980: “According to human reasoning, the whole of our Orthodoxy hasn’t got a chance. If the Pope cannot cope, what about us? So, to worry about the Church that so obviously does not want to be saved by my recipes, by our recipes, is sinful in the final analysis: It comes from pride. For God has chosen what is totally meaningless and worthless” (1 Corinthians 1:26ff.). A month earlier, he notes that it is only in the Liturgy that things come together: “I become filled with disgust for the role I have been playing for decades. I have fear and apprehension at having to immerse myself in the affairs of the seminary and the Church. I feel that everybody around me knows what to do and how and what for, but I only pretend to know. In fact, I don’t know anything; I am not sure of anything; I am deceiving myself and others. Only when I serve the Liturgy am I not deceitful. And I will say it again: all of life flows out of—and is connected with—the Liturgy! I feel a collapse of any energy—especially spiritual. I would like to leave!”...

The regularly recurring periods of dissatisfaction are just as regularly broken, usually by the Liturgy. February 25, 1974: “‘Clean Monday’—first day of Great Lent. I spent Saturday and yesterday in Endicott, New York. Joyful impression from the services and the people. After days of inner rebellion, such a clear indication: stop rebelling, there is nowhere to go. The Church is your body and blood; you are wedded to the Church through your priesthood”...

Among his greatest frustrations, and satisfactions, was his relationship with Alexander Solzhenitsyn. During the years of the Cold War, Fr. Alexander’s sermons were broadcast into the Soviet Union by Radio Liberty, making him an enormously popular figure in Russia. Solzhenitsyn was a great fan, and when he was exiled in 1974, one of the first things he did was to ask Fr. Alexander to visit him in Zurich, his temporary home. In the following years, Fr. Alexander was often with Solzhenitsyn, including a long drive up to the Ottawa Valley of Canada in search of a place to establish a “piece of Russia” in the West, which turned out to be in Vermont. On that first visit, he and Solzhenitsyn were alone for a few days in a mountain cottage forty minutes outside Zurich. “S. is obviously a Russian intelligent. No comfort, no armchair, no closet. Everything reduced to a strict minimum. His clothes are those he wore when he came out of Russia. Some sort of cap, officer’s boots. ‘I have so many questions’—our conversation is prepared, he has a list of questions.” Upon Fr. Alexander’s return from Zurich, June 17, 1974: “Only much later will I be able to sum up what were these most significant days of my life.”

The friendship with Solzhenitsyn was often rocky. Solzhenitsyn was single-minded, obsessed, and something of a fanatic, although Fr. Alexander does not use that word. He unceasingly defended Solzhenitsyn publicly from his many detractors. His private thoughts were frequently very different. January 10, 1975: “The rapport with Solzhenitsyn made obvious for me our essential difference. For him there is only Russia. For me, Russia could disappear, die, and nothing would change in my fundamental vision of the world. ‘The image of the world is passing.’ This tonality of Christianity is quite foreign to him.” “I know that S. himself does not hesitate to offend people right and left in the rudest manner. I personally think that to defend him would be to tell him the truth. I really do not want to take part in that struggle. . . . As for Solzhenitsyn, I will defend what I heard through his creative art, but I remain free of his ideology, which for me is quite foreign.” March 4: “I am thinking about Solzhenitsyn and his idolizing obsession with Russia.”

In May, after just the two of them had spent every hour together for four days, Fr. Alexander reflects on the words of Jesus, “Where your treasure is, there will your heart be also.” He writes of Solzhenitsyn: “His treasure is Russia and only Russia; mine is the Church. He is devoted to his treasure in a way that none of us is devoted to ours. His faith, I think, will move mountains, while ours—mine in any case—will not. . . . A great man! In the obsession with his vocation, his mission, in the total identification with it—without doubt a great man. Truly, out of him flows strength!” Then this insight on the chemistry, so to speak, between them: “In these days spent with him, I had the feeling that I was the older brother dealing with a child, capricious and even spoiled, who will not ‘understand’—so better for me to give in (‘you are older, so give in!’) for the sake of peace, agreement, and in the hope that ‘he might grow up and understand.’ I am a student from a higher grade dealing with a younger one for whom one needs to simplify, with whom one has to speak 'at his level.'"
Russian Cathedral of Paris

Fr. Alexander and I discussed whether he had ever thought of becoming Roman Catholic. As a young man in Paris, he said, he mused about it, but it probably had more to do with Paris being a city of the Catholic West than with the Catholic West. My impression is that there was never a serious wrestling with the question, as in a crisis, although he drew deeply on the Catholic theology that informed the Second Vatican Council. In these journals of his mature years, interest in Western Christianity is very limited. He was intensely engaged ecumenically—lecturing and consulting everywhere, it seems—but these were travels in another country. Catholicism, especially in its Jesuit expression, he found distasteful for its preoccupation with rules, whether in enforcing them or breaking them. He cites favorably this from Leon Bloy: “It seems to me that St. Ignatius’ Exercises correspond to the ‘Method’ of Descartes. Instead of looking at God, one looks at oneself. . . . Psychology invented by Jesuits: a method consisting in continually looking at oneself in order to avoid sin. It is contemplating evil instead of contemplating goodness. The devil substituting for God. This seems to be the genesis of modern Catholicism.”

In 1976 he lectures for eight days at the Lutheran seminary in Chicago. “In all our conversations with students and professors I am struck by their unconscious tendency to follow fashion, to achieve success. They seem to need to ‘dress like everybody else’—the same in theology.” A few days later, he lectures at the Liturgical Institute of Valparaiso University, another Lutheran center. This moves him to try to formulate the difference between Orthodoxy and Western Christianity. “Put simply: the Orthodox man begins with the ‘end,’ with the experience, the breakthrough, the very reality of God, the Kingdom, Life—and only afterwards does he clarify it, but in relation to the experience he has had. The Western man rationally arrives at and evokes the ‘end’ from a series of premises. The Orthodox often expresses that ‘end’ quite poorly in theology. For the Westerner, the end somehow disappears, is diluted in elaborate constructions. (I need to express this problem better.)”

A year later, March 15, 1977: “Religion needs a temple, not the Church. The temple’s origin is religion. Thus in the Gospel: ‘I will destroy this temple. . . .’ The Church has a Christian origin. However, our Church has identified itself long ago with the ‘temple,’ has dissolved itself in the temple, and (this means) has returned to the pagan temple as its religious sanction. Protestantism was an attempt to save the faith, to purify it from its religious reduction. But the Protestants have paid a heavy price for denying eschatology and replacing it with personal individual salvation; and therefore, essentially, denying the Church. The greatest anachronism, on a natural level, was to be found in the Catholic Church. Catholicism was possible only while one was able to deny and limit the freedom of the person, the basic dogma of the new times. While trying to change its course, to merge with freedom, Catholicism simply collapsed, and I do not see how its revival could be possible (unless fascism can get hold of the human race and deny the explosive synthesis of freedom and the person).” Packed into that paragraph are, I believe, Fr. Alexander’s core convictions about Orthodoxy, Catholicism, and Protestantism, and they reward reflection, whatever one’s ecclesial allegiance...

April 6, 1977, and he has been reading about courses in Great Western Ideas: “It would be useful to teach a course entitled ‘Great Western Errors,’ following approximately this plan: Rousseau and ‘Nature,’ with a capital N; The Enlightenment and ‘Reason,’ capital R; Hegel and ‘History,’ capital H; Marx and ‘Revolution,’ capital R; and finally, Freud and ‘Sex,’ capital S—realizing that the main error of each is precisely the capital letter, which transforms these words into an idol, into a tragic pars pro toto.” The protest of Fr. Alexander’s life and thought was against the closures of totalism—whether political and ideological totalism, as in totalitarianism, or the total explanations proposed by theology or philosophy. Only Christ is total, he insisted, and Christ is unlimited openness.

In February 1979, Fr. Alexander is entranced by the appalling fanaticism of Ayatollah Khomeini in Iran, and at the same time thinking about John Paul II’s visit to New York. “So at the end of the twentieth century, here is the power of religion! What else could mobilize so many millions of people; provoke such expectation, such enthusiasm? The power, and, at the same time, the ambiguity of the Ayatollah; not one word about love, peace, the transcendence in God of all petty divisions. And the threat of a holy war. The Pope, in a sense, speaks only about love. Frightening face of Islam . . . hence, this Khomeini in the end will give nothing to his people (who are so happy with him) except grief, hate, and suffering. Whereas from the Pope’s visit, only joy, only hope—even if nothing comes of it.” And in the end Fr. Alexander suspected that not much would come of it—for the renewal of Catholicism, of the West, of the world.

Later that year, in October, he is lecturing at the Catholic Union in Chicago. He comments on the determinedly fashionable Jesuits and Franciscans, other priests and nuns, all in glaringly multi-colored lay clothing, all demonstrating that they are “with it,” and all quite indifferent to the renewal for which the Pope is calling. He reflects that in 1870, when infallibility was defined, there was the schism of the Old Catholics. “But at that time, the great majority of theologians were ultramontane and the schism was hardly noticed. Whereas now, it is not just a majority but theology as a whole, the whole thought in Catholicism that is against the monolith, against the papacy as it is now. After only a week of the unheard of triumph of the Pope and the papacy [during the New York visit], these Jesuits and nuns look and behave as if ‘nothing was the matter,’ as if all of it had nothing to do with them. They are not even angry, or sad, or hopeless.” On the one hand, the spiritual resurgence led by the Pope; on the other, the complacent progressivism of the Catholic theological establishment. One or the other would prevail, thought Fr. Alexander, leading to a schism that would make 1870 pale by comparison...                                
                          (Jesuit priest Daniel Berrigan, constantly in "prophetic" overdrive, epitomized the 1960s)

Then, on October 13, 1977, perhaps as succinct a statement of Fr. Alexander’s theology as is to be found: “I realized that ‘theologically’ I have one idea—the eschatological content of Christianity, and of the Church as the presence in this world of the Kingdom, of the age to come—this presence as the salvation of the world and not escape from it. The ‘world beyond the grave’ cannot be loved, cannot be looked for, cannot be lived by. Whereas the Kingdom of God, if one tastes it, be it a little, cannot be not loved! Once you love it, you cannot avoid loving all creation, created to reveal and announce the Kingdom. This love is already transfigured. Without the Kingdom of God being both the beginning and the end, the world is a frightening and evil absurdity. But without the world, the Kingdom of God is incomprehensible, abstract, and in some way absurd.”

In the afterword to the journals, Fr. John Meyendorff, Fr. Alexander’s successor as dean of St. Vladimir’s, writes that Fr. Alexander’s theological worldview was essentially shaped during the Paris years, and under the influence of Catholic thinkers such as Jean Danielou and Louis Bouyer. “It is from that existing milieu,” writes Fr. Meyendorff, “that Father Schmemann really learned ‘liturgical theology,’ a ‘philosophy of time,’ and the true meaning of the ‘paschal mystery.’ If the legacy [of these French Catholics] was somewhat lost within the turmoil of postconciliar Roman Catholicism, their ideas produced much fruit in the organically liturgical and ecclesiologically consistent world of Orthodoxy through the brilliant and always effective witness of Fr. Schmemann.” The journals leave no doubt that Fr. Alexander was not nearly so confident of the effectiveness of his witness, and certainly had no illusions about his vision flourishing in Orthodoxy.

Throughout Fr. Alexander’s books, and especially the journals, is a running polemic against religion, as distinct from authentic Christianity centered in the revelation of God in Christ. The unspeakably tragic error, he insisted, was to think that Christianity is a subcategory of “religion,” when in fact Christ explodes from within history all human constructions of reality, religious or otherwise, thus illumining with the divine the world of which we are part. I have not gone back to check out all the books, and I never asked him about it, but it is striking that in the journals there is no reference to Karl Barth. In twentieth century theology, that running polemic that pits Christ against religion is most closely associated with Barth. One wonders if there was not some significant influence, or, quite possibly, Fr. Alexander arrived at these insights on his own. He clearly had no use for the proponents of “religionless Christianity” who had their fifteen minutes in the 1960s, but he just as clearly wanted to distance Christ and Christianity from what he viewed as the stifling habits and thought forms of “religion.” Even “piety” is regularly dismissed as a distortion, and he rails against those who came to confession with all sorts of complicated “spiritual problems.” (He spent endless hours hearing confessions, and hated it.) His answer to the scrupulous and the spiritually self-preoccupied was, “Live!” Which is to say, his answer was, “Christ!” Although Barth is not mentioned, and maybe was never seriously read, Fr. Alexander’s thought was, in important respects, strikingly Barthian. Barthianism with a real Church and a real Liturgy...

After walking by the Seine in Paris: “Europe’s dream is ending; its ground is breaking. Europe is becoming a pitiful caricature of America, unable to become the ‘original,’ but an imitation denying its own originality. . . . The real France wants to become America. America does not want to become Europe, therefore it is genuine, whereas Europe is steadily losing its genuine character.” He admires the simplicity of a presidential inauguration (Jimmy Carter’s) and the peaceful transfer of power. “But what delights me is America, its deep essence, America which has found—alone in the whole world—a formula, almost miraculous, of government and society not turned into idols, but combining living tradition with life. I thought again of Solzhenitsyn: Here is what he should look at, research, humbly learn from. But no! only they can teach the world from under the rubble, only they know! Neither S. nor, in general, Europeans will ever try to understand.”

But then there is the American principle of equality, also between the sexes. “In that sense, our culture is demonic, for at its basis is comparison. Since comparison always, mathematically, leads to the experience and the knowledge of inequality, it always leads to protest. Equality is based on the denial of distinctions, but since they exist, the wish for equality calls to fight them, to force equalization on people, and, what is even worse, to refuse these distinctions, which are the essence of life. The person—man or woman—who hungers for equality is already emptied and impersonal because a personality is made of what distinguishes it from others and not submitted to the absurd law of equality. To the demonic principle of comparison, Christianity opposes love. . . . Equality cannot exist in this world because the world was created by love and not by principles. And the world thirsts for love and not equality.” At another place: “Man looks for rules; a woman knows exceptions. But life is a continuous exception to rules. Wherever there is genuine life, there reigns not a rule but an exception. Man fights for rules. Woman has a living experience of the exception.”

Another afternoon in the confessional: “Students’ confessions. Always sex. I am beginning to think that this sin is useful; otherwise they would consider themselves saintly and plunge into guruism. As it is, they are half convinced [of their spiritual achievements]. So this sting in the flesh is useful. It cuts us down to size.” He could not work up in himself the outrage against homosexuality that some thought appropriate, but it seemed to him very sad. “The question is not at all whether it is natural or unnatural, since this question is generally inapplicable to fallen nature, in which—and this is the point—everything is distorted, everything, in a sense, has become unnatural. . . . Homosexuality is a manifestation of the ‘thorn in the flesh’ which tortures in various ways, but tortures every one. In the fallen world nothing can be ‘normalized,’ but everything can be saved.” He reads Proust, Gide, Julien Green, and reflects on “the frightening burden of homosexuality.” “I think what matters most is the sense of a dead end, of insatiable thirst which cannot be transformed into life. At the end, there is not only a wall but a mirror. In the fallen world, everything strictly sexual is ugly, distorted, base. In a ‘normal’ human being, there is at least the possibility of transforming the ugliness and thus eliminating it. For homosexuals, this possibility, this promise, this appeal, this door—do not exist”...

I could go on, and I have. But I do hope others will want to read the journals, although perhaps not with an interest as intense as those who received the gift of knowing him personally. I am grateful that he was part of my life, and I, at least in a minor way, part of his. His son, the distinguished journalist Serge Schmemann, writes in the foreword: "Fr. Alexander was diagnosed with terminal cancer on September 21, 1982. After several months of silence in the journal, he made one final entry on June 1, 1983, describing how even those months became, in the end, almost a celebration. Six months later, he died at home in Crestwood, New York, with his family and colleagues around him. His last words, after receiving Holy Communion a day earlier, before lapsing into a coma, were ‘Amen! Amen! Amen!'"

In that final entry of June 1983, Fr. Alexander wrote, "For eight months I have not written in this journal. Not because I had nothing to say; on the contrary, never, I believe, did I have so many thoughts and questions and impressions; but because I was constantly afraid of the height where my sickness had lifted me, afraid of falling from it." There follow words of gratitude for family and friends, and then this final line of The Journals of Father Alexander Schmemann:
"What happiness it has all been!"

UPDATE:  "On 30 December 1922 the Bolshevik government expelled some 160 prominent intellectuals on the so-called Philosophers' ships." 

Among the group were Orthodox Christian philosophers Sergei Bulgakov and Nikolai Berdyaev (below right), both of whom ended up living in Paris:




To situate this in time, the expulsions occurred roughly a year before Lenin died -- and a year after the birth of Alexander Schmemann (into a family of Russian émigrés in Estonia).

Check out this fascinating web-page, by the author of a book on the subject.                 

Wednesday, April 20, 2016

The threat from assorted Sunni nations


In the Sunni/Shia war (where the Sunnis make up 85 percent of the world's Muslims), are you saying we should side with the outnumbered Shias?

Dr. David Pence: About 95% of terrorist attacks in the world stem from a “reformist" Sunni movement called the Salafists. 'Salafi' means ancestor, and this movement wants to purify Islam by going back to the practices and purity of the first-generation ancestors. The Wahhabis who run the religious establishment of Saudi Arabia, the 9/11 hijackers, the Taliban, Al Qaeda, ISIS, AQAP and Boko Haram are all Salafist Sunnis. When the U.S. toppled Saddam Hussein (a secular Sunni), we inadvertently allowed a new Shiite-majority state to come into existence in Iraq. They are and always will be an ally of Shiite Iran. The Salfaists hate the Shiites more than they hate Jews and Christians, because they see them as traitors. Jihadist Sunnis across the Mideast could not tolerate a Shiite democracy in Iraq. They  blew up Shiite holy sites to turn the war into a Shia-Sunni battle. ISIS is their most successful creation. Because of our long ties with the Sunni states of Pakistan and Saudi Arabia, and the hostage crisis with Iran in 1979, we have been unable to see that our natural allies in the fight against Salafist Sunnis will include the Shia. There are many Sunni governments like Indonesia, Jordan, and Egypt who are set against the Salafists. They will join us once we name the enemy clearly and show we are going to destroy them. 

Let's talk about several of our ostensible Sunni "allies" -- beginning with Pakistan. It is the 6th largest country in the world (almost 200 million). And it is where Osama bin Laden was living in peace, an easy walk from their main military academy.

Pence: They also hold the "Muslim bomb." Their first nuclear bomb test was in 1998. They have over a hundred warheads. AQ Khan, the father of Pakistan’s nuclear program, is widely believed to have sold significant information aiding the development of both the Iranian and North Korean programs. Pakistan’s intelligence services and military are rife with an extreme Salafist ideology, and many of the Pakistani mosques are financed by the Saudi Wahhabi movement.They are our true enemy in South Asia, and we should help Afghanistan and India oppose them. There is much more realism in Washington foreign policy circles and think-tanks about them than about the Sauds. 

Our review of five books on Pakistan.

In Egypt (pop. 91 million), the Obama administration took a neutral stance toward the Muslim Brotherhood during its year in power.

Pence: The Muslim Brotherhood won the 2012 election by a million votes and without fraud. They are part of the Salafist Sunni movement but work through elections and education. Their "democratic" government, however, was a real threat to the Coptic Christians of Egypt and the few Egyptian Shiites (less than a million) and the Egyptian secularists. The Saudi ruling family viewed the Muslim Brotherhood and its populist tactics  as a threat to their royalist ideology. The Saudis actually supported the 2013 military coup by Egyptian General Abdel el-Sisi against President Mohammed Morsi, who is now in prison under a death sentence. President el-Sisi has gone to Coptic Easter services as a sign of religious toleration. In January 2015, he made a major speech to Islamic scholars and said, "We are in need of a religious revolution. You, imams, are responsible before Allah. The entire world is waiting for your next move." So, we have a government which overthrew a democratically elected salafist party (the Muslim Brotherhood) but protects religious minorities. And in this case, the Saudis who are the ideological center for salafist Sunnis were against the Muslim Brotherhood. 

How do you view Turkey (79 million), one of the members of NATO?

Pence: With the fall of the Ottoman Empire in the early 1920s, the secular nation of Turkey emerges. There was great affinity in post-WWI Germany for their nationalist project and rejection of the Versailles Treaty. Turkey’s Kemal Ataturk was a militant secular nationalist.  He was a Turk, not an Arab. He banned the headscarf, and exiled the Caliph in 1924. The present party (AKP) under President Erdogan has won pluralities since 2002. They formed to oppose the militant secularism and corruption of Ataturk's successors. They favor EU membership as well as Islamic principles. It is a contested country, but the present government seems much more interested in fighting independence-minded Kurds and arch-enemy Russia than their Sunni cousins in ISIS. Because Turkey is in NATO, they would claim any battle with Russia should involve the US and Europe on their side against Christian Russia. It would be an ugly replay of the Crimean War [mid-1850s] when the Christian nations of the West teamed up with Ottomans against the Orthodox czar of Russia. 

There is a growing movement in America to question our alliance with Saudi Arabia (31 million people). Do you favor an abrupt rupture in our relations?

Pence: The collusion with the Saudis by both the Bush and Obama administrations is mind-boggling. I think when some of our more ambitious senators stop running for president, they will start exposing this disaster and take actions. Donald Trump has been alluding to this through his campaign but the foreign policy challenged journalists have missed his messages. Even a little US pushback will be too much for the spoiled royals, and they will probably break off relations with us. We should prepare now by evacuating our people. I see the Saud family as protecting an ever-narrowing base within the area. About 9 million of that population you cite are foreigners who do all the manual and service labor. Like Iraq and Syria, the country is going to be reconstituted along new borders and loyalty patterns. Relinquishing control of the Muslim holy cities by Wahhabi Salafists has to be part of any counter-reformation in the Sunni world. The Eastern Province, with large Shia populations, is where the oil is.  

Qatar, a tiny nation of 2.5 million people, is home to Al Jazeera. The network was started twenty years ago, and now has 82 bureaus around the world. What role are they playing in the Sunni revolution?

Pence: Qatar has the worst record in the region for fighting terrorism, and most Qataris follow a Wahhabi interpretation of Islam. Despite this, the United States has strong ties with them, maintaining CENTCOM's forward regional headquarters at Qatar's Al Udeid Air Base. 
Qatar is a force inside the Wahhabi movement that is often at odds with the Saudi monarchs. Their support of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and more populous forms of Salafism ultimately threatens the hereditary rulers of the House of Saud. 

Our Maps on Monday series looked at the Sunni Gulf States and an overview of the Sunni Arabs.

Monday, April 18, 2016


Christianity: The Global Faith that Comprises the Majority of the World's Nations

by A. Joseph Lynch

The above map displays the Christian nations of the world, with purple-coding for those nations whose Christian population exceeds 50% and the pink-coding for nations where Christianity comprises 10%-50% of the population. Christians should resist ideologies that split the baptized Body of Christ into the West, the Latins, and the Slavic Orthodox. These regional distinctions obfuscate our underlying unity as Christians and our distinctive political forms as nations.   

In a previous Map on Monday, we presented a map of the top ten most populous Christian nations. Only one of those nations - Italy - was located in Europe. What's more, although neither Nigeria nor China are shown above as purple, they are nevertheless host to the sixth and eighth largest populations of Christians in the world. Christianity is truly a global faith that is rapidly increasing throughout the world. 

Philip Jenkins, author of The Next Christendom: The Coming of Global Christianity (book review coming soon), notes that  10 million Africans were Christian in the year 1900 - but this number is projected to be 633 million by 2025. The 2025 projection for Christian populations of Latin America and Asia will grow to 640 million and 460 million Christians respectively.

A mere glance at today's map reveals the stunning majority of the world's nations having a Christian majority, yet few of these nations have acted to protect persecuted Christians. In a Minneapolis Star Tribune essay regarding Christian persecution, Dr. Pence rightly asks "Where are the Christian nations?" 

Saturday, April 16, 2016

Religion and Geopolitics Review: Saturday, April 16

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


POPE FRANCIS ON LOVE AND MARRIAGE: The English Spectator says there was no Francis revolution. African bishops and the Pope's highly traditional view of sacral sex and family would not allow the fantasy of some western bishops.

The text of Amor Laetiti. Bishop Robert Barron's initial reaction to Amoris Laetiti.

The Holy Father begins with the Good News of Love: The Joy of Love experienced by families is also the joy of the Church. As the Synod Fathers noted, for all the many signs of crisis in the institution of marriage, “the desire to marry and form a family remains vibrant, especially among young people, and this is an inspiration to the Church”. As a response to that desire, “the Christian proclamation on the family is good news indeed”.

The Bible which is "full of families and love stories" beginning with "the majestic early chapters of Genesis" Theologically “the couple that loves and begets life is a true, living icon . . . capable of revealing God the Creator and Savior.” “the couple’s fruitful relationship becomes an image for understanding and describing the mystery of God himself. . . . The triune God is a communion of love, and the family is its living reflection.”

ALL PROBLEMS NOT SOLVED 'EX CATHEDRA': 3. Since “time is greater than space”, I would make it clear that not all discussions of doctrinal, moral or pastoral issues need to be settled by interventions of the magisterium. Unity of teaching and practice is certainly necessary in the Church, but this does not preclude various ways of interpreting some aspects of that teaching or drawing certain consequences from it.

HOMOSEXUAL RELATIONS NOT REMOTELY SIMILAR TO MARRIAGE: 251. In discussing the dignity and mission of the family, the Synod Fathers observed that, “as for proposals to place unions between homosexual persons on the same level as marriage, there are absolutely no grounds for considering homosexual unions to be in any way similar or even remotely analogous to God’s plan for marriage and family”. It is unacceptable “that local Churches should be subjected to pressure in this matter and that international bodies should make financial aid to poor countries dependent on the introduction of laws to establish ‘marriage’ between persons of the same sex”.

IRREGULAR SITUATIONS: As for the way of dealing with different “irregular” situations, the Synod Fathers reached a general consensus, which I support: “In considering a pastoral approach towards people who have contracted a civil marriage, who are divorced and remarried, or simply living together, the Church has the responsibility of helping them understand the divine pedagogy of grace in their lives and offering them assistance so they can reach the fullness of God’s plan for them”, something which is always possible by the power of the Holy Spirit.

298. The divorced who have entered a new union, for example, can find themselves in a variety of situations, which should not be pigeonholed or fit into overly rigid classifications leaving no room for a suitable personal and pastoral discernment.

One thing is a second union consolidated over time, with new children, proven fidelity, generous self giving, Christian commitment, a consciousness of its irregularity and of the great difficulty of going back without feeling in conscience that one would fall into new sins. The Church acknowledges situations “where, for serious reasons, such as the children’s upbringing, a man and woman cannot satisfy the obligation to separate” (329).

There are also the cases of those who made every effort to save their first marriage and were unjustly abandoned, or of “those who have entered into a second union for the sake of the children’s upbringing, and are sometimes subjectively certain in conscience that their previous and irreparably broken marriage had never been valid”.

Another thing is a new union arising from a recent divorce, with all the suffering and confusion which this entails for children and entire families, or the case of someone who has consistently failed in his obligations to the family.

It must remain clear that this is not the ideal which the Gospel proposes for marriage and the family. The Synod Fathers stated that the discernment of pastors must always take place “by adequately distinguishing”, with an approach which “carefully discerns situations”. We know that no “easy recipes” exist.

GENDER IDEOLOGY: 56. Yet another challenge is posed by the various forms of an ideology of gender that “denies the difference and reciprocity in nature of a man and a woman and envisages a society without sexual differences, thereby eliminating the anthropological basis of the family. This ideology leads to educational programmes and legislative enactments that promote a personal identity and emotional intimacy radically separated from the biological difference between male and female. Consequently, human identity becomes the choice of the individual, one which can also change over time”. It is a source of concern that some ideologies of this sort, which seek to respond to what are at times understandable aspirations, manage to assert themselves as absolute and unquestionable, even dictating how children should be raised.
ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE -- BEYOND THE BEATLES: Chapter Four is a beautiful reflection on Saint Paul's "Love Homily." Read and savor.

MOST STARTLING FOR ME PERSONALLY: What was most startling about the "personal advice" in the exhortation, was it made me think how I could love much better as a husband. My usual approach to practical advice on love and marriage is to see how clearly it applies to my wife.


ISRAEL AND THEIR EMBARRASSED ARAB ALLIES: Don't meet me under the lime trees.


DRONE PROGRAMS - ARE MALE GROUPS THE SIGNATURE OF AN ENEMY: Large male groups - drone targets; many were in Pakistan - are we at war with them?

SYRIAN CHRISTIANS: GET THEM OUT NOW: If we can't agree which Muslims to let in, let's agree which Christians to save.

SAUDI ROLE IN 9-11: The week after a critical PBS special on Saudi Arabia, CBS program 60 Minutes investigated the Saudi role in the attack. A particular focus was to press for the release of 28 pages censored from the original 9-11 report. Republican and Democratic members of the 9-11 Commission who issued the report, as well as lawyers of the victims, believe that release will lead to much more investigation into the culpability of the Saudis in that attack and the ongoing support of jihadist terrorism throughout the Islamic world.


WHO IS MAD AT WHOM AND WHY: Christopher Lasch, Donald Trump, and the revolt of working people against the elites.

DONALD TRUMP: Mr. Trump's Jewish (Orthodox) son-in-law.

The applicable statute, 18 USC 793, however, does not even once mention the word “classified.” The focus is on “information respecting the national defense” that potentially “could be used to the injury of the United States or to the advantage of any foreign nation.” 793 (f) specifically makes it a crime for anyone “entrusted with … any document … or information relating to the national defense … through gross negligence (to permit) the same to be removed from its proper place of custody.” A jury (not a Democrat or Republican political administration) is, of course, the best body to determine gross negligence on the facts of this case.

The courts have held repeatedly that “national defense information” includes closely held military, foreign policy and intelligence information and that evidence that the information is classified is not necessary for a prosecution.

Evidence that the information was upon later review found to be classified, however, as is the case with approximately 2,000 Clinton messages, is of course one kind of proof that the information met the test of “national defense information” in the first place. (See U.S. v. Rosen and Weissman, 445 F. Supp. 2d 602 (E.D. Va. 2006) pertaining to a different provision but containing a good summary of law on national defense information and classified information.)

Information does not have to be “marked classified” to be protected because information is often originated and distributed before any security officer can perform a review and put a classification mark on it.


ASIA AND CHRISTIANITY: The unique case of Korea.

RUSSIAN FOREIGN POLICY - A LONG VIEW FROM THEIR SECRETARY OF FOREIGN AFFAIRS: Sergey Lavrov’s article for "Russia in Global Affairs" magazine, March 3, 2016, Russia as a civilization. Lev Gumilev - a historian who matters in Putin's Russia.

UKRAINE: THE RECENT RELIGIOUS HISTORY: The whole tangled tale from a very reputable and balanced source - Moynihan letter from INSIDE THE VATICAN.


MASCULINITY: Pornography and the dissipation of masculinity.

ON WOMEN: Countries that restrict female attire for religious or secular reasons. Camilla Paglia on abortion.