by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch
I. POPE FRANCIS AND THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
THE POPE LOOKS TO THE EAST: While Catholic conservatives debate the orthodoxy of the Pope, he looks to Russia and China seeking constructive steps toward Christian Unity with Russia and fulfilling the ancient Jesuit mission to the East of Francis Xavier and Matteo Ricci. On the 100th anniversary of Fatima, the naval gazing of Catholic intellectuals is stunning as that "horrible vulgar" President Trump tries to make peace with the Russia that Catholics have spent a century praying for.
THE POPE AND ISLAM: The Pope reaches out to Sunni Egyptian Imam.
HOMOSEXUAL WING OF CATHOLIC BISHOPS SAYS NO TO BARRIERS ON ENTRY/EXIT POINTS: Let those who have ears, hear.
LUTHER, THE DEVIL AND POPE FRANCIS: The last witness in The Trial of Martin Luther (see review of the play) is Pope Francis. The Devil prosecuting Luther scoffs at the Pope, "How can you be here defending him? He is the Catholic Church’s worst enemy." "No," says the Pope, “that would be you."
THE SHACK - ENDING THEOLOGICAL PATRIARCHY: Why The Shack was a popular book-now the movie.
2017 FATIMA AND RUSSIA: Msgr. Charles Pope in a fervent plea to pray and discern in this pivotal year. And yet he seems to miss the incredible opening to Russia that is occurring right at this critical juncture to provide the possibility of a new Christian unity after the disastrous bloody 20th century.
CELIBACY - A JEWEL OF THE KINGDOM: A young priest explains.
REAWAKENING OF CHRISTIAN CIVILIZATION IN EASTERN EUROPE: Stephen Turley at Imaginative Conservative sees some hopeful signs.
RUSSIA REVISITS THE ANTI-EVANGELICALISM LAWS: Laws aimed at jihadism strike at biblical evangelicals. Appeals in process.
A SECULAR CROWD PROTESTS RETURN OF MUSEUM TO ORTHODOX CHURCH IN RUSSIA: The museum was a beautiful Orthodox Church seized by the Soviets and made into a museum. President Putin returned the church to be sacred once again and the crowd yelled "Give us Barabbas".
THE GOD GAP: The so-called "God gap" (also known as the "pew gap") held steady, with religious believers who claimed weekly worship attendance backing Trump over Hillary Clinton, 56 percent to 40 percent. Voters who said they never attend religious services backed Clinton by a 31-point margin, 62 percent to 31 percent.
II. ISLAM AND THE MIDDLE EAST
IRAN, ISRAEL, THE SAUDIS, AND US POLICY: We are in a very dangerous time for the new Trump administration. It is mindful of the early days of the Kennedy administration as the new President carried out the previously planned Bay of Pigs invasion. There is a significant consensus among Republican lawmakers and military opponents of President Obama that the greatest enemy and state sponsor of terror is Iran. Wahhabi Islam from Mecca to Riyadh to Raqqa agrees. Israel under Benjamin Netanyahu sees Iran as an existential threat to Israel. The Saudis and the Salafist clerics who guard Mecca and Medina see armed Shiites and particularly Shiite states as the greatest threat to Islam. That is the real reason for the treacherous bombing war against the Shiites of Yemen. This is also why “our Saudi allies” never approved of the elected government of Iraq. Prime Minister Netanyahu sees the Wahhabi versus Shiite fight as a welcome relief from Muslim unanimity in hatred of Israel. Israel and the royal family in Saudi Arabia have become de facto allies in the attempt to enlist the US in an anti Iranian campaign. At AOA we have argued this is a strategic error and distracts us from the religious war in which Wahhabi Sunnis not Iranian Shiites are our principal enemy. None of the major terrorist groups in Russia, China, and Nigeria nor Al Qaeda nor ISIS are Shiites. It does not help our chance of a real policy debate that so much of the anti Trump rhetoric has become so hysterical. We need a debate about allies and enemies in the Mideast. That is a principal duty of the Senate.
HOUTHI BOMBING OF SAUDI SHIP IS NOT AN ATTACK ON US BY IRAN BUT A DEFENSE BY A SMALL SHIITE TRIBE OF YEMEN AGAINST SAUDI AGGRESSION
For over a year the Saudis have led a bombing campaign against the Shiite Houthis of Yemen. The war has been condemned in many forums but is defended by the Saudi defense minister as part of the larger war against Iran in the Mideast. On Mon Jan 30 Houthi soldiers conducted an attack on a Saudi warship. This is being conflated as an act of aggression by Iran against the US. If we are looking for fake news--this is it. Now more than ever we need journalists and senators who know enough geography and history to tell this story correctly so we are not drawn into a war with Iran that Saudi Arabia and Israel are already engaged in. This is not in our national interest and undermines our new strategic strategy against the Salafist Sunnis behind ISIS. This is a critical moment in redefining a strategy that puts America first. We have argued for several years that the legitimate defense by Shiites against the oppressive cleansing ideology of the Wahhabists of Saudi Arabia, Al Qaeda, ISIS and Boko Haram make them our most logical cobelligerents in the religious war against jihadist terrorism.
TRUMP - THE SIKHS AND THE HINDUS: New alliances as Trump realigns the civilized world and discards the obsolete Cold War alignments that pitted us against the two most populous countries in the world.
TRUMP ISRAEL AND THE ONE STATE REALITY: Ishaan Tharoor of the Washington Post often is a good reporter on foreign affairs. He is unhinged about President Trump but he is accurately pointing to what a nationalistic realism means for the myth of Palestine. The two-state “solution” was never a solution. It is a distraction and a false flag. We should quit saluting and Mr T. is sensing that might happen under President Trump.
PETRAEUS IN ISRAEL - STOP SHIITE HEGEMONY: This is exactly the policy we must debate and reject. This is the Gulf State Monarchy Manifesto. I am afraid General Petraeus is the epitome of the well connected military-think tank elite who have bought the Saudis-are-our-allies perspective. Israel is a perfect venue for that line and an Israeli-Saudi inspired war against Iran is the most dangerous temptation to the early Trump administration.
TWO PRINCIPLED LEFTISTS CALL FOR ENDING WAR AGAINST SYRIA AFTER VISITING ASSAD: The articulate beauty from Hawaii and the good-natured beast from Cleveland both made a lot of sense and Tucker Carlson of Fox News let them speak.
ISRAEL, NATIONALISM, AND GLOBALISM: A new prism will help Israel.
III. CULTURE OF LIFE, CULTURE OF PROTECTION
THE WOMAN’S MARCH - THE LEFT TRADES IN THE WORKING CLASS FOR THE FEMINISTS: Paul Kengor a simple small college professor is the prototype of the men who will lead the restoration of Christian and American culture from their local watchtowers. His reportage on the march.
THE PRO-LIFE MARCH IN DC - AN ADMINISTRATION THAT FIGHTS FOR ITS PEOPLE AND THE UNBORN: Leftist politicians always seem vociferous and unashamed in their support of abortion and Planned Parenthood. John McCain and Mitt Romney who had the pro-life establishment solidly with them always seemed embarrassed. Many pro-life leaders were especially cruel to Donald Trump during his campaign but evangelicals and pro-life foot soldiers were much more loyal. President Trump uniquely blasted the media for their typical anemic coverage of the Annual Pro-life March last week while his administration gave more public fighters to the March than pro-lifers had ever seen.
FRAMING THE CULTURE WAR: We believe in one Father God - the patriarchy; the protective brotherhood of men assigned within territorial boundaries as national covenants; the sanctity of heterosexual monogamous marriage; the female duty of motherhood; the innocence of childhood and virginity; the sanctity of life as a gift from God. They promote the bliss of drugs; sodomy betwixt males; the Administrative State over local republics and nations; abortion as female medical care; pornography as sex education; and child sacrifice for career and female autonomy. In broadest terms we seek to live in a sacral hierarchy defined by duties, obligations, and loyalties while they seek to live in a free zone universe of autonomous individuals regulated by a leviathan administrative state.
ABORTIONS AND FERTILITY RATE DROP IN US: The Guttmacher Institute, an abortion research firm with historical ties to Planned Parenthood, reports that the abortion rate dropped 13% over a period of three years to 16.9 abortions in 2011 for every 1,000 women between the ages of 15-44. The annual number of children aborted in the U.S. dropped to under 1.06 million in 2011 from 1.21 million in 2008, when the rate was 19.4 abortions per 1,000 women. The study shows the abortion ratio (abortion/pregnancy) has declined, but only slightly. In 2011, 21.1 women out of 100 opted for abortion instead of birth. It shows that at least one more woman out of 100 pregnancies (not ending in miscarriage) is choosing giving birth instead of abortion than in 2008, when the abortion ratio was 22.5 women out of 100. Guttmacher’s researchers point out that U.S. women had fewer pregnancies in 2011 than 2008: Not only did the abortion rate decline 13%, but the birth rate dropped by 9%. Michael New, a U.S. political scientist and research associate at Reproductive Research Audit, said the country is experiencing a decline in the fertility rate that coincides with the Guttmacher study. The total fertility rate (projected number of children per woman in her time of fertility15-44) dropped from 2.12 in 2007, the rate needed to replace the population, to 1.89 in 2011. The world fertility rate was 4.9 in the 1950’s and 60’s and is about 2.5 since 2000.
IV. RELIGION AND NATIONALISM
A NATIONALIST IS NOT A GLOBALIST. HE IS AN INTERNATIONALIST: Nations relate to each other as nations. International relations are to nations what interpersonal relations are to persons. Here are Walter Russell Meade’s the Eight Great Powers in 2017. We would add Brazil and await an emergence of an African nation. We are in a multi-polar world under one God. Our best statesmen will understand our shared humanity as a species while recognizing the beneficial necessity of national and regional patterns of communal existence.
WHITE TRIBES, WILLFUL POPULISTS, AND AMERICAN NATIONALISTS: Rod Dreher at American Conservative almost always has some interesting read at his column site there. This letter from a white guy deserved to be answered. The tribes of Israel united by forming a nation under God (see Old Testament). That is the American solution as well. Look at our football loyalties! Territory not skin color defines the male patriot. Christian intellectuals are very confused and so is our tribal white guy. Let us be clear - religion and nation define our communal loyalties and identities. A populist elevates the will of some “people.” They will not care about borders and boundaries. The Tower of Babel was a populist project. A nationalist is tied to a flag, a religious tradition, a law and a territory. He wants his borders and boundaries secured. There is a willful desire on the left to equate nationalism with white racism. There is an inadequacy among the right to refute this.
RESTRICTING IMMIGRATION: The vetting begins. John Militmore has a short review of the order and numbers on Syrian refugees the last 5 years. The first day of the restriction, 385,000 passengers entered the country. 109 were held at their airport of arrival and 175 not allowed to board from an incoming country. The four most populous Muslim countries, Indonesia, Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh all have over 150 million Muslims. These South Asian countries are not on the ban list. The 3 most populated Muslim countries in the Mideast - all with over 70 million Muslims - are Turkish Turkey, Persian Iran and Arabic Egypt. Only Iran is on the ban list. This is not a Muslim ban. It is a geographic risk assessment of where trouble will come from when the territorial entity of ISIS is decapitated. Here is a more detailed description of what the order does and doesn’t do.
MEXICO AND US - WHAT WE TRADE WITH EACH OTHER: A good quick review.
GOODBYE TTP. HELLO UNIONS. GOODBYE FEMINISTS, HELLO WOMEN AND CHILDREN OF THE WORLD: Jimmy Hoffa of the Teamsters applauds President Trump and his willingness to reverse job killing trade policies that Teamsters have fought against for decades. Republicans are not amused. This has been a core tenet of Republican Reaganite philosophy which is being fatally reversed by Republican Trump. Republican free traders feel how non-government laborers felt when Bill Clinton betrayed the industrial working man for the new knowledge jobs of globalism. The new workingman’s party is emerging and by the looks of the reinstatement of the Mexico City policy cutting of foreign aid for organizations doing abortions, this labor party is going to be prolife.
FILLON OF FRANCE: A man to listen to. He was against the anti-Russian policies of other European nations. A vision for Europe which is multi-polar and respectful of religious and national traditions but not pushing to leave the EU. The French are engaged in a great debate and they are articulate. Also It seems a different kind of personality is stepping forward in political leadership. Another take on him is at First Things - France’s Catholic Moment.
UKRAINE AND POLAND FIND IN THEIR HISTORIES MORE THAN RUSSIA AS AN ENEMY: If they become allies, it will be a decidedly new stance for each of them.
V. PRESIDENTIAL POLITICS
WHO WAS JOHN BRENDAN? The outgoing CIA chief man voted for Communist Gus Hall for President and was openly scornful of President Trump. A man very much in step with all things Saudi. We will learn more now that he has lost control of the CIA. Another ex-CIA head working double time against President Trump was Mike Morrell. Here is a good article distinguishing the top CIA officials from the field workers. Here is an explanation of the organizational reform that Brennan initiated. Whether this was a good or bad idea should not be tied to an evaluation of Brennan’s character but argued as a question of management.
WHO IS STEVE BANNON? The following comes from Robert Moynihan's letter from the Vatican:
"Who is Steve Bannon? Bannon, 63, is the Chief Strategist of the president, and who since January 28, 2017, serves as a regular attendee of the Principals Committee of the National Security Council. In short, he is the man with the "strategic vision" for the United States in this presidency. In this role, with regard to the great questions facing our culture, questions which have been playing out over many years already, and will continue to play out after this administration is over, Bannon may be even more important than Trump himself.
This former head of Breitbart News (where he succeeded the news agency's founder, Andrew Breitbart, after Breitbart's sudden death at age 43) is a soft-spoken Virginian, born in Norfolk into an working class Irish Catholic family. His father was a telephone lineman. He studied at Virginia Tech, graduating in 1976 with a degree in urban planning. He then became an officer in the United States Navy for seven years in the late 1970s and early 1980s, serving on the destroyer USS Paul F. Foster as a Surface Warfare Officer in the Pacific Fleet, and stateside as a special assistant to the Chief of Naval Operations at the Pentagon.
He earned his master's degree in National Security Studies from Georgetown's School of Foreign Service, then attended Harvard Business School, earning an MA in business administration. He joined Goldman Sachs in their department of mergers and acquisitions. He soon founded his own company, Bannon and Company, and soon made a small fortune on what was in part a "lucky break" -- as part of the sale of Castle Rock Entertainment to Ted Turner, he obtained serial rights to five television shows, including the Seinfeld series, which turned out to be quite lucrative. He sold Bannon and Company in 1998.
In the 1990s, he became an executive film producer in Hollywood, producing 18 films. After making a documentary about Ronald Reagan in 2004, his film-making began to become more political, including a film on Sarah Palin called The Undefeated. In those years, he became a founding member of Breitbart News, a conservative web-based news agency. After the death of Andrew Breitbart in 2012, Bannon succeeded him as executive charirman, and so became a leader of the global news business with an agenda: "We think of ourselves as virulently anti-establishment," Bannon once said, "particularly 'anti-' the permanent political class."
I met and came to know Bannon when he spent several days in Rome two years ago. We spoke at some length about the Vatican, Church history in general and the resignation of Pope Benedict XVI in particular, and also about Russia and the authenticity and possible meaning of that country's spiritual renewal in the past 25 years. Since he became Trump's "idea guy" a few months ago, Bannon has been much more in the public eye than ever before. In order to understand Bannon, it seems fitting to study a talk that he gave in the summer of 2014 to a conference held inside the Vatican. (full text printed below) In these unusually in-depth remarks, Bannon makes the following 10 key points. I quote from his talk:
(1) "The underlying principle is an enlightened form of capitalism... That capitalism really generated tremendous wealth. And that wealth was really distributed among a middle class, a rising middle class, people who come from really working-class environments and created what we really call a Pax Americana. It was many, many years and decades of peace."
(2) "It’s a very unpleasant topic, but we are in an outright war against jihadist Islamic fascism. And this war is, I think, metastasizing far quicker than governments can handle it."
(3) "One thing I want to make sure of, if you look at the leaders of capitalism at that time, when capitalism was I believe at its highest flower and spreading its benefits to most of mankind, almost all of those capitalists were strong believers in the Judeo-Christian West. They were either active participants in the Jewish faith, they were active participants in the Christians’ faith, and they took their beliefs, and the underpinnings of their beliefs was manifested in the work they did."
(4) "The central thing that binds that all together is a center-right populist movement of really the middle class, the working men and women in the world who are just tired of being dictated to by what we call the party of Davos."
(5) "And so the fight here — and that’s why the media’s been very late to this party — but the fight you’re seeing is between entrepreneur capitalism... and the people like the corporatists that are closer to the people like we think in Beijing and Moscow than they are to the entrepreneurial capitalist spirit of the United States."
(6) "That’s why to me, it’s incumbent upon freedom-loving people to make sure that we sort out these governments and make sure that we sort out particularly this crony capitalism so that the benefits become more of this entrepreneurial spirit and that can flow back to working-class and middle-class people."
(7) "We have to face a very unpleasant fact. And that unpleasant fact is that there is a major war brewing [with the Islamic Caliphate], a war that’s already global. It’s going global in scale, and today’s technology, today’s media, today’s access to weapons of mass destruction, it’s going to lead to a global conflict that I believe has to be confronted today."
(8) "When Vladimir Putin, when you really look at some of the underpinnings of some of his beliefs today, a lot of those come from what I call Eurasianism; he’s got an adviser who harkens back to Julius Evola and different writers of the early 20th century who are really the supporters of what’s called the traditionalist movement, which really eventually metastasized into Italian fascism."
(9) "I’m not justifying Vladimir Putin and the kleptocracy that he represents, because he eventually is the state capitalist of kleptocracy. However, we the Judeo-Christian West really have to look at what he’s talking about as far as traditionalism goes — particularly the sense of where it supports the underpinnings of nationalism — and I happen to think that the individual sovereignty of a country is a good thing and a strong thing. I think strong countries and strong nationalist movements in countries make strong neighbors, and that is really the building blocks that built Western Europe and the United States, and I think it’s what can see us forward."
(10) "And I would ask everybody in the audience today, because you really are the movers and drivers and shakers and thought leaders in the Catholic Church today, is to think, when people 500 years from now are going to think about today, think about the actions you’ve taken — and I believe everyone associated with the Church and associated with the Judeo-Christian West that believes in the underpinnings of that and believes in the precepts of that and want to see that bequeathed to other generations down the road as it was bequeathed to us, particularly as you’re in a city like Rome, and in a place like the Vatican, see what’s been bequeathed to us — ask yourself, 500 years from today, what are they going to say about me? What are they going to say about what I did at the beginning stages of this crisis?"
So Bannon says that he supports the great institutions and accomplishments of the Judeo-Christian West, and wants to fight to preserve them; that he rejects the crony financial capitalism which is hurting the middle class and the working man in the West and around the world, and that he wants to have more economic justice; and that he is very concerned about the rise of radical, militant Islam. And these three key ideas seem to be the key ideas that lie behind the decisions of the Trump administration during its first 10 days in office."