Monday, May 29, 2017

Map on Monday: America's Unified Combatant Commands

The map above (click to enlarge) explains how the United States military has arranged structures of command and authority for engaging in military conflict throughout the world. Historically forged out of the crucible of the Second World War, each Command is led by a four-star General or Admiral who is given command over the forces operating within his "Area of Responsibility" (AOR). The United States Central Command (USCENTCOM), for example, is currently headed by General Lloyd Austin, who effectively commands military units within the Mideast with the exception of Israel (which falls under the boundaries of the United States European Command).

The six regional or geographical Commands, along with some of their primary responsibilities, include:
  1. United States Africa Command (all Africa with the exception of Egypt)
  2. United States Central Command (Mideast minus Israel, Afghanistan, Pakistan, central Asia)
  3. United States European Command (Europe, Russia, Turkey, Israel, Caucasus region)
  4. United States Northern Command (the United States, Canada, Mexico)
  5. United States Pacific Command (India but not Pakistan,  China, Japan, Australia, Philippines, Vietnam, Indonesia, the Koreas) 
  6. United States Southern Command (Cuba, South America, Latin America)

In addition to the six geographically-structured Commands, there are three additional Commands described in functional terms: United States Special Operations Command (responsible for US Special Forces and Special Operations units); United States Strategic Command (responsible for operations in space, missile defense, nuclear weapons, and military intelligence); and United States Transportation Command (responsible for global defense transportation and military logistics).

In future Map on Monday posts, we will return to each of the six geographic Unified Combatant Commands for further examination and analysis.

President Bush meets with the Joint Chiefs and United Combatant Commanders

President-elect Donald Trump selected two former combatant commanders (and Marine Corps generals) to act as his secretaries of defense and homeland security. General James "Mad Dog" Mattis, nominated for defense, was the commander of the Central Command from 2010-2013. Mattis is also known as the "warrior monk" for his dedication to military service and study, and having no family. Great Mattis quotes and stories abound. General John Kelly, nominated for homeland security, commanded the Southern Command from 2012-2016. His former position undoubtedly gave him great insight into America's south and central American allies, the region's drug smuggling problems, and the need to maintain strong American border security. A general like Mattis, Kelly has also experienced the sacrifice of family for military service: his son, First Lieutenant Robert Kelly, was killed in Afghanistan in 2010.

In addition to Generals Mattis and Kelly, President Trump appointed General H.R. McMaster as his National Security Advisor. McMaster, though not a former combatant commander, was one of America's most capable generals in the Iraq war while also spending time in Afghanistan. His refusal to use the phrase "radical Islamic terrorism" because he sees the terrorists as "un-Islamic" is helpful in clarifying friend and foe in the current religious war. We hope President Trump adopts a similar view in his approach to Islam and terrorism.

Retired Marine Generals and former Combatant Commanders, John Kelly (left) and James Mattis (center), have been nominated to serve President-elect Donald Trump as the new Secretaries of Homeland Security and Defense respectively. General McMaster (right) is President Trump's National Security Advisor.

Saturday, May 27, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: May 27

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch

President Trump, Saudi Arabia and the Sunnis 

President Trump's visit to three sacred lands was a dramatic reformulation of the war on terror in a religious key. In Riyadh, the capital of Saudi Arabia, the home of Mecca and Medina, President Trump addressed fifty Sunni and Arab heads of states. His major message was that civilized nations must form a coalition against "barbaric criminals." Religious language and national loyalties were unmistakable. "Terrorists do not worship God, they worship death." "If we do not stand in condemnation of this we will be judged not only by our people and by history [the Marxists' favorite line] but we will be judged BY GOD."  "The nations of the Mideast cannot wait for American power to crush this enemy for them. A better future is possible only if your nations drive out the extremists and terrorists. Drive. Them. Out. DRIVE THEM out of your places of worship. DRIVE THEM  out of your communities. DRIVE THEM OUT of your holy land. And DRIVE THEM OUT OF THIS EARTH. " "This means honestly confronting the crisis of Islamist extremism and the Islamist terror groups it inspires." "Religious leaders must make this absolutely clear: barbarism will deliver you no glory. Piety to evil will bring you no dignity. If you choose the path of terror, your life will be empty, your life will be brief, and your SOUL WILL BE CONDEMNED."

This the exactly the religious message that must be delivered to Sunni nations and young Muslim men. For the greatest conflict within Islam is not Shia vs Sunni, but one type of Sunni against everyone else. In Trump's speech there was a specific condemnation of two Shiite groups: Iran and the Houthis of Yemen. However, this was a talk to a "coalition of nations" about Sunni jihadists (the Wahhabi salafists) who specifically reject the nation as a non-Islamic form of social organization. Especially when King Salman dies, what will it mean for a coalition of Muslim nations set against the Salafist death cult to "drive them out of your holy land"?        

In Israel he was the first President ever to visit the Western Wall and pray. He visited the Church of the Holy Sepulcher where Jesus was buried, as well. He called Jerusalem "a sacred city" and the Western Wall "a monument to God's presence and man's perseverance." This was not lost on Israeli reporters who said it was the real-estate trader Trump who first brought God to land negotiations in the Promised Land.

At the Vatican he met with the Pope for thirty minutes and promised at the end, "I will remember what you said." The "great honor" of that meeting left President Trump "more than ever committed to peace in the world." Trump's peace platform set him apart from the huge Republican field of war hawks he defeated in the primaries. This is never mentioned in sophisticated conservative Catholic commentaries because long ago to win tepid pro-life support from Republicans like John McCain the Catholic "intellectuals" gave their considerably more fervent support to a Darwinist foreign policy agenda. Trump is still fighting the 'perpetual war' foreign policy neocons and their Fox news allies in the first months of his presidency. After Mr. Trump and the pope met, there was an equally important but longer discussion at the Vatican. The 50-minute meeting between Trump, McMaster, Kushner and Tillerson with the top two Vatican diplomats is a welcome signal that a US-Vatican Axis is being developed for the diplomatic peacemaking ahead.

Trump's speech to NATO leaders telling them to pay their share for defense rather than promising immediate war with Russia over border incidents was a great disappointment to Republican war hawks, the new Democrat war hawks, and the old Fox News Russian despiser, Charles Krauthammer.

Finally, the beautiful women of the presidential party wore no veils in Riyadh but respected the sexual segregation of worship at the wall in Jerusalem. They were looking quite modest and beautiful in their Vatican mantillas. In this year of Fatima, Mrs. Trump from Catholic Slovenia asked the Pope to bless her rosary. The world's oldest living cultures sanctify the separation of the sexes. They reveal in their customs and organization of space that a culture of life must be a culture of protection, and a culture of protection separates the mothers from the soldiers.


THE PATRIARCH AND THE POPE: Patriarch Kirill on meeting with Pope Francis emphasizes persecuted Christians.




IRAN'S ELECTIONBefore the Vote, After the VoteReformers win in Tehran and country.

TWENTY TWO YOUNG PEOPLE SLAIN -- CANDLELIGHT VIGILS MAY NOT BE ENOUGHThe righteous anger of citizensThe father of the killer in Manchester was a "salafist jihadist" who fled the Khadafi regime in Libya. The father said his son was headed to Saudi Arabia in a few days and everything seemed normal. This is a preliminary report but it reminds us that the Salafist jihadist form of Islam is particularly appealing to young males not in traditional Muslim villages raised under the three largest legal traditions in Sunni Islam. Fed by Saudi ideology, the "de-territorial" Muslim is especially ready for the Salafist murder narrative of Islam. This kid was not rebelling against his father. Once again the grand narrative and the ties of this terrorist will not be linked to Shia Iran but to the Hanbali school of Salafist jihadism taught in Saudi Arabia for export.

DUTERTE DECLARES MARTIAL LAW IN PHILIPPINES FOR ISLAND COMMUNITY OF 22 MILLION: A police chief beheaded, a priest kidnapped, the southern isles and the Salafists.  AOA background map and profile of the Philippines.

A TALE OF TWO CITIES - BETHLEHEM AND NAZARETHOne of these cities switched from control by Israel to control by Palestinians in 1995. Since then, the Christian population dropped from 20% to 2%.



SOLZHENITSYN, CHRISTIANITY, RUSSIA, AND THE WEST: By Joseph Pearce. "At another point in the interview, Solzhenitsyn declared that he no longer saw Russia as being distinct from the West but that, on the contrary, Russia and the West were essentially part of the same threatened Christian civilization, and that both had succumbed to the evils of post-Enlightenment modernity."

Our argument at AOA is that Russia and America are two parts of Christian civilization reemerging from godless Modernism which was an attempt to construct a civilization based on science and technology without God. The West elevated democracy and individualism while Russia fell to Marxism -- a form of science applied to social structure. Marxism is an utterly Western ideology and another bitter fruit of Modernists. Feminism has taken its place and settled over the "West"-- a polite word for the white peoples of Europe and the US with the old white dominions of the British Empire. A Christian Europe with Russia as a member allied with the Christian Americas could bring world peace. But we have to shake the godless paradigm. As A. Joseph Lynch wrote, "Weep not for the West, build global Christianity."

LEAKING SECURITY IS DEADLY -- THE CHINESE EXPOSURE AND EXECUTION OF US SPIES: The NYTimes is still a newspaper. This is good reporting of a deadly business. Does the Times see its own willingness to compromise present-day national security leaks may have dire consequences as well?

The national security leaks by Americans  to the NY Times about the name of the Manchester bomber, pictures of the early carnage and descriptions of the bomb were properly condemned by Britain's leaders as harmful to their ongoing police response to the terror. The Brits expected that intel to US agencies would not reach the US press and tip off terrorists about what officials knew about them. This national security official leaking to the press hurt an ongoing operation by our ally rather than their usual target: President Trump. Maybe this will wake government and press alike. This should be an ample trigger for patriots of both parties to understand the urgency of sealing presidential and top intel information from betrayal. Much more than "campaign collusion by Russians," this security betrayal by Americans is real news demanding that President Trump and our government get control of the ship of state.

Friday, May 26, 2017

Friday BookReview: "Grassroots Asian Theology" -- Simon Chan on perfecting the Body of Christ in Asia

[first published March 6, 2015]

by David Pence

Simon Chan is an Oxford PhD in theology, as well as a Pentecostal. He lives in Singapore, the city-state which under the unique leadership of Lee Kuan Yew developed an Asian model of economic dynamism and social order without losing its distinctive ethical and communal identity. Dr. Chan teaches at Trinity Theological College where classes are taught in English and Chinese. A member of the Pentecostal Assemblies of God, he immersed himself in Catholic and Orthodox traditions to write a book several years ago on liturgical theology (reviewed here). He lives in an ethnically-dominated Chinese city state with a strong interracial civic identity, at the tip of an Islamic peninsula (Malaysia) and in the midst of an island chain constituting the largest of all Muslim nations (Indonesia). He is a man who understands intersections.

Like Singapore's founding father and the Catholic Church's Holy Father, he rejects the individualism and rationalism of the Western Enlightenment as the inevitable blueprint for human development. Dr Chan criticizes the "elite theologians" who speak for Asia in the language of egalitarianism and structures of oppression. He calls the concerns of most third world theologians as "no more than social critiques which NGOs like Amnesty International and Greenpeace can do better." He echoes the pope who laments churchmen who would shrink the message of the Gospel to the agenda of a "pitiful NGO."

In the first chapter of Grassroots Asian Theology -- Professor Chan's newest book -- he argues that "the living faith of the people of God (living tradition) is the locus of primary theology"... Professional theologians must "listen carefully what the spirit of truth who indwells the church is saying through the people of God." This is precisely the message of Pope Francis, who rejected the Marxist version of liberation theology of French and Spanish intellectuals for the wisdom of the faithful holy people of God (santo pueblo fiel de Dios). The pope from Argentina and the professor from Singapore find the ecumenism of Pentecostal prayer a much more fruitful locus of the Spirit than theological conferences advocating for the third world. Chan repeats a favorite quote: "The theologians opted for the poor and the poor opted for Pentecostalism."
Phat Diem Stone Cathedral (Vietnam)

The book is organized by chapters treating particular Christian truths in an Asian context: 1)The Nature of God, 2) Humanity and Sin, 3) Christ and Salvation, 4) The Holy Spirit and Spirituality, and 5) The Church. In the epilogue he, then, ties these categories into a simple narrative. It turns out that an authentic Asian theology is not just for Asia but for the whole Church. He is also very clear that Christianity is not to be drowned in some "larger" cultural context. The coming of Christ and the establishment of the Church is not a particular pointing to a larger human truth. Human cultures are particular manifestations of vestigia Dei -- the footprints of God -- but they must be baptized and completed in a Church that incorporates the human species in the trinitarian communion as the Body of Christ. This inculturation will not sing of the anonymous Christians.  Simon Chan clearly says he is no Paul Tillich burying Christ in the ground of our being, but much more a Karl Barth confronting every culture with the reality of Christ. He goes further on the church:
“The church precedes creation in that it is what God has in view from all eternity and creation is the means by which God fulfills his eternal purpose in time. The church does not exist in order to fix a broken creation, rather creation exists to realize the church.”
Each chapter teaches several lessons, not only about Asian culture but the truth of the Christian religion.

The Trinitarian Nature of God                                                                                                                                                                                    

"Unlike the western church in the last two hundred years, the question has not been about God's presence or absence, or whether God exists or not. Especially in the world of primal religions, God's existence is never in doubt but always presupposed. The question is not about God's existence. It is about his identity and his nature." The task is "to commend the Christian view."

"In Islam, the primary attribute of God is power. In the strict monotheism of Islam, love could be actualized only after God created. In Christianity the eternal love of the Father for the Son highlights another important feature in the Muslim convert's experience of God: the decisive turning point is almost always a personal encounter with Jesus Christ as the Son of God; they almost always involve Jesus coming to them in a dream or vision or in some deeply existential moment."

In the Chinese context there are several aspects of the Trinity in both primal aspects and philosophical systems that are set against the Western egalitarian and feminist ideologies of the modern university. The "yin-yang relationship establishes a complementarity or the irreducible distinction of the male and female. The denial of gender distinction is an ontological sin, for God made man and woman to complement each other." Man and woman are both made in God's image. As Pope Francis has said, there is still great need to better  formulate a theology of the feminine. This is a deficit that cultures steeped in the Tao may help rectify. It will not be a solution to discover the feminine as the Holy Spirit though that is discussed in this provocative chapter.

The Trinity as a declaration of Patriarchy (the rule of the father) and Filial Piety (the obedience of the son) is another fundamental truth which might be understood at a much deeper level in societies that do not apologize for patriarchy or customs of primogeniture. Again, the Asian customs in which a domestic female serves the more public father-son axis is not to be scrubbed clean by western ideologues, but learned from by all Christians. The Patriarchal household is a cross-generational passing from Reverend Father to Beloved Son and brothers. The traditional biblical household looks more like the western ranchers of TV's 'Bonanza' (the father and his sons) than the suburban family (Ozzie and Harriet and brood). Patriarchal fraternity is the shared nature of both the ancient household and the Catholic diocese. Thus, Asian cultures don't have to be taught this but they will need to be introduced to the eldest brother of us all -- Jesus Christ, the first and only begotten Son of the Father.

Humanity and Sin

"The nature of humanity and sin needs to be defined against two forms of reductionism: the sociopolitical reductionism found in Asian and Latin American liberation theologies and the individualistic reductions of modernity found predominately in the West." The understanding of man as embedded in a relationship with God, the spirit world, our ancestors, our families, and our countries is a description of reality -- not a quaint quirk of the Asians. This reality is acknowledged in a several-thousand-year tradition of Chinese depiction of ordered hierarchical human relationships as a manifestation of an ordered Universe. "On the question of human relations, the modern tendency to read democratic egalitarianism into all aspects of human relations needs to be seriously questioned in the light of the larger Catholic and Orthodox traditions based on an ordered Trinity and the Asian concept of an ordered universe.

The concept of sin as shame and dishonor has New Testament affinities where sin is more an infinite affront against God's honor than a breach of a legal code, more relational and communal than private and juridical. The biblical concept of shame and honor shows that the Christian life is really about community and relationships and how they must be ordered, and as such it addresses wider concerns than the Asian context." Honor and shame behaviors and categories are the real parameters of any public culture. This is understood most acutely in the densest areas of human population where men must live together by public codes and ritualistic manners that indicate a sense of place and decorum.
Christianity was a radical new honor code which replaced paganism. At the summit  of this new honor code was the weekly public Word/Action of Eucharistic worship in which the whole community led by a big brother (the bishop) would gather in praise, adoration, and honor to the Living God who made the universe. Any oppositional cult to Christianity (like the modern-day sexual inversion ritual) seeks above all to replace our sensibilities with new definitions of public pride and forbidden utterances. Understanding Christianity as an honor code is not learning something new from Asia, but returning to more fundamental biblical categories which we had lost. This ressourcement will emphasize grandeur and primacy to our worship in honoring God, and secondarily point us to better strategies in cultural debates. In dealing with depravities masked as love or freedom, polite natural-law debates in which all involved strive to show how tolerant and personally sweet they can be to each other in the name of Christian love may not be the best honor/shame approach.
Christ and Salvation

"For elite theologians, liberation is freedom from poverty and political oppression. For the grassroots, liberation is physical and psychospiritual: healing of bodies and freedom from the fear of evil spirits and fatalism. The Christ of elite theologians is encountered in dialogues with religion, cultures, and the poor. The Christ of grassroots Christianity is encountered in Christophanies, healings, and deliverance from demonic spirits, big and small instances of answered prayers and other providences. Asian Christianity stresses the cosmic, corporate, and progressive nature of salvation while Western evangelicalism tends to emphasize the juridical and individual nature of salvation and depicts salvation as a crisis event. The most distinctive contribution of Asian grassroots Christianity is Jesus as ancestor mediator. This provides a theological basis for addressing one of the most intractable issues -- ancestor veneration and the communion of saints."

This whole discussion about Christ as the elder brother from the beginning -- the oldest ancestor --may help us offer a better description of salvation than snatching the living as saved from those they venerate as lost. Evangelizing a culture tied to the living dead provides a new impetus to reflect on the communal meaning of Christ's baptism. He was after all the new Adam. When He was immersed in the Jordan, who knows how far in time and space He swam to gather in his flock? We already ask the same questions of the meaning of His descent into Hell. The Asian understanding of mediator and rituals makes the culture particularly open to Christ’s sacerdotal priesthood as well as preachers who come with real priestly authority and status.

The Holy Spirit and Spirituality                                                                                                                                             
In this chapter, Chan generously quotes John Paul II and then makes some startling statements of his own as a Pentecostal. From JPII:  "The presence of the Spirit in creation and history points to Jesus Christ in whom creation and history are redeemed and fulfilled. The Holy Spirit's universal presence can never be separated from his activity within the Body of Christ, the Church."                                                                                                                                                         
And Chan: "The Spirit who, like the wind, blows where He wills, is at once the agent who universalizes the particular in its concreteness rather than reduces the particular to general and abstract principles. The cosmic Christ then is His Eucharistic presence in the Church. That is not to say he cannot be present outside the Eucharist but if He is present elsewhere, it is to lead men and women -- indeed the whole creation -- into Eucharistic Communion with the Church."
The Church                               

Of all the discussions in this intriguing book, Chan's ecclesiology best shows his ability to synthesize grassroots and ancient tradition. He shows his catholicity by coupling his respect for Watchman Nee's church planting with his deeply Orthodox explanation of the communion of saints as a communion of holy things grounded in sacraments. He ties all this to a very corporate sensibility of the Last Judgment. Like the Chinese lunar new year when there is a great return to founding households and villages, so he quotes the Book of Revelation describing the in-gathering in the new Jerusalem for the nuptial reunion. Integration in communion is not a ticket to salvation. It is the nature of salvation. Dr. Chan discusses integrating ancestor veneration in a set of rites centered on the communion of saints as he puzzles over the lack of ontology in most mainline church discussions of ecumenism. That deficit sends him to such contemporary phenomenon as Watchman Nee's local church and such ancient traditions as communio sancta (the holy things, not just holy persons, which unite the living and the dead in a sacramental church life).

Grassroots Asian Theology is a remarkable synthesis of the Christian Creed and the patrimony of Asian cultures. Reading this book is a pivot toward Asia which points one to Christ. The Church is very much like one of my nephews born with an out-sized head. It took him years to grow into that big head of his, but now we see him as a whole boy in perfect proportion. The Church had a perfect Head from the beginning. Reuniting with the grandsons of Noah who have shaped the nations of Asia is going to help us all live out our corporate human destiny as a more perfectly proportioned and fully matured Body of Christ.
Dali Catholic Church (southern China)

UPDATE: Here is Richard Mouw's take on the book.

And more insights from Dr. Chan on worship (as well as assorted links).

Wednesday, May 24, 2017

The largest Christian pilgrimage in Russia

Cathedral of the Holy Dormition (Kirov)

Board an eastbound train in Moscow and ride for eleven hours: you'll arrive in the Kirov Oblast. Each year in June that region of Russia hosts a 90-mile pilgrimage to celebrate the discovery of an icon of Saint Nicholas the Wonder-worker.

(He is the 4th-century Greek bishop whose legend came down to us, via Dutch culture, as Santa Claus. He was present at the Council of Nicaea and was vigorous in his defense of Orthodox Christianity against the Arian heresy. Legend says he slapped the mouth of Father Arius at that famous Council. Throughout his life he was a giver of secret gifts as well. Born in present-day Turkey, this Greek-speaking defender of orthodoxy and giver of gifts links the mystic chords of memory tying Russia and Europe to their common Christian origins.)


To give you some idea of the scale of this event, five years ago the number of participants was 35,000 (making it larger than the Boston Marathon).

Patriarch Kirill recently remarked, "Almost all houses in the past -- and Orthodox people today -- have three icons at their homes: the icon of the Savior, the Holy Virgin, and St. Nicholas."

Here are some more pictures of the pilgrimage.

Russian believers have been celebrating the past few days as precious relics of Saint Nicholas arrived in Moscow from their permanent home in Bari -- an Italian city on the Adriatic Sea. The photo shows the procession from the airplane.

Basilica of Saint Nicholas in Bari

Tuesday, May 23, 2017

CATHOLIC SOCIOBIOLOGY: Getting the universe right

[first published April 12, 2016]

All of physical reality is in some way a sacramental expression of deeper spiritual truths. There is so much violence and dissipation in the Universe that, often, scientists (especially physicists) take a dim view of the Creator's Benevolence or any notion that mankind's eventual outcome is anything but another extinction event.

Dr. Pence had teaching licenses in Earth and Space Science, as well as Life Science. He thought the depressed physicist was seeing something very real in the violence of the Universe. At the same time, many Catholic apologists downplay the radical divergence in the fate of most of the physical Universe and the election of the biosphere and earth for mankind. Here is  Dr. Pence’s essay: We must get the Universe right.

Monday, May 22, 2017

Map on Monday: KURDISTAN

The Physical Ecology, Communal Loyalties, and Geopolitics of Kurdistan

By. A. Joseph Lynch

There is an important distinction to be made between a nation and a state. Where “state” refers to the authoritative governing body over a specific people, land area with specific borders, and natural resources, a nation is the a deep union of people often characterized by a shared culture, religion, language, and ethnicity. In most cases, a nation has a state, or governing apparatus. But sometimes many nations are bound within one state, as is often the case with empires. The lands that once were governed by the empire of Austria-Hungary, for example, are today many distinct nation states. Other nations, however, have been kept from forming their own states due to stronger neighboring nation states who use their political and military strength to make sure a nation never gains an independent state. Such is the case with the Kurds.

I. The Physical Ecology of Kurdistan

Worldwide the Kurds number over 30 million living largely in Iraq, Iran, Syria, and Turkey (see map above). Kurdish hopes for a potential independent nation state are centered in what is known as Iraqi Kurdistan. This northern region of Iraq, already treated as an semi-autonomous region, is home to just over five million Kurds. The physical geography of Kurdistan is in many ways as different from the rest of Iraq as its Kurdish inhabitants. Kurdistan is situated along the Zagros Mountains (which also form much of the Iran-Iraq border), which, combined with the slightly higher latitude, makes it a much wetter and greener region than the areas to its south. Kurdistan’s mountain terrain is also home to many mineral resources: coal, copper, gold, iron, limestone, marble, and zinc. Kurdistan also has the world's largest deposit of rock sulfur. Like the rest of the region, however, Kurdistan has access to large deposits of energy reserves. In addition to the four billion barrels of proven oil reserves, it is estimated that Kurdistan has another 45 billion barrels of unproven oil reserves.

II. The Communal Loyalties of Kurdistan

The Kurds are a distinct ethnic group in the Middle East. They have a long heritage and history in the region, claiming as their own the great military commander: Saladin. Saladin defeated the medieval Crusader states and eventually ruled over lands stretching from upper Mesopotamia (modern day Kurdistan), through Syria, to Egypt, and along the Red Sea coast to Yemen. Like Saladin, the Kurds follow the largest branch of Islam called Sunni Islam. Despite belonging to the largest branch of Islam, the Kurds are a minority ethnic group distinct from the larger and stronger Arabs to the south. This has placed the Kurds outside of the pan Arabic movements that bind many of the Sunni Arab states. The Kurds also speak a form of Iranian, making them linguistically closer to their neighbors to the east. But here deeper religious divisions come to the fore: where the Kurds are Sunni, the Iranians are Shia. Looking to the north, the Kurds are both ethnically and linguistically different from the Turks, who see their minority Kurdish population as a threat. There are multiple military and governing structures that bind Kurds across the region. The Iraqi Kurds are governed semi-autonomously from Irbil under the KRG (Kurdish Regional Government), protected by the Peshmerga (a Kurdish military force numbering nearly a quarter million soldiers). They are led by the KDP’s (Kurdistan Democratic Party) Massoud Barzani. In Syria a Kurdish political party known as the PYD (Democratic Unity Party) is aligned with military forces called the People’s Protection Units (or YPG) to fight against ISIS. Complicating this is a banned Kurdish political party from Turkey known as the Kurdish Workers’ Party (or PKK) which has been at war with the Turkish government for four decades. They are left wing and one of the few fighting forces with a substantial female component(15-30%). The PKK, aligned with the PYD in Syria, and based in areas near Iraqi Kurdistan, have created a complicated geopolitical situation between Turks and Kurds.

III. The Geopolitics of Kurdistan

The physical ecology and communal loyalties as outlined above play a crucial role in Kurdistan’s geopolitics. International attention first came to the Kurds during Saddam Hussein’s chemical attacks on Kurdish lands.  The important role the Kurdish Peshmerga played in toppling the Saddam regime and years later in expelling ISIS are strong arguments for Kurdish independence. The Kurds have increased in strength, fought off a relentless attack from ISIS, captured much of the Syria-Turkish border, and are now working to conquer the ISIS capital at Raqqa, Syria (ed: accomplished 2017). The Trump Administration is now prepared to arm the Kurds directly rather than through Baghdad. Kurdish gains have impressed many on the international stage, however, they have struck fear into their neighbors who do not wish to see an independent Kurdistan. A Kurdish state exerts international pressure on countries like Iran, Turkey, and Syria to allow Kurdish borders to expand from northern Iraq into their territories where large numbers of Kurds live. Despite this threat, Iranian-Kurdish relations are good. Both share a common linguistic heritage, minority status in the Muslim world, and a common enemy in ISIS. As noted in the communal loyalties section above, Kurdish-Turkish relations are at a low. Turkish involvement in Syria, for example, has focused almost exclusively on fighting the Kurds and making sure the Kurds do not capture the Syrian-Turkish border region. In April 2017, Turkish warplanes also struck Kurdish targets in Syria and Iraq. It remains to be seen what the future holds for the Kurds, but the eyes of the world will be on them in the months ahead should they successfully conquer the ISIS capital.

Saturday, May 20, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: May 20

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch 


Saudi Arabia May 20-21; Jerusalem, Bethlehem May 22-23; Vatican, Rome May 24

President Trump is deliberately framing his first foreign trip as a kind of pilgrimage to the capitals of the three great monotheistic religions. The only way to understand the historical and geopolitical causes and solutions of this war is to talk religion and nations. This is a respectful and deeply intelligent gesture. For now President Trump seems to be doubling down with the Israel-Saudi alliance against Shiite Iran. The huge arms deals of both President Trump and Obama have encouraged the indefensible bombing campaign of the Saudis against the Houthi Shiites of Yemen. This is the signature program of King Salman's favorite son (31-yr-old Deputy Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman) who is consolidating all the protective institutions under his control, though he is second (he's not the Crown Prince) in line for succession. His militant anti-Shiite campaign is to curry favor with the Wahhabi clerics to support him in a succession battle with many older relatives with claims to the throne as well. The argument that the Houthis are Iranian proxies is a Saudi smokescreen to hide their genocidal hatred of Shiites in their homeland, in Iraq, in Iran and in Syria.   The Wahhabi Salafist form of Sunni Islam preached in the Kingdom sees the purification of Islam as depending on the destruction of any serious Shiite military power. Whenever they kill a Shiite they tell the West: "Don't look, just another Iranian proxy." The Israelis are not anti-Shiite, but they have been at war with Iran since 1979 and see them as the one nation powerful enough to be a real threat to their existence. Thus they have allied with the state sponsor of the religious purification movement that gave us 9-11.

The visit in Rome will bring new eyes to these matters. President Trump and Pope Francis have very different job descriptions and world roles. We have seen strong Peronist tendencies in both men, and expect an interesting first meeting that could lead to important Gingrichian contacts in the future. The Pope and the President are not in any way two deeply incompatible personalities suggested by so many political and religion commentators who understand neither man.

 Any religious understanding of the Islamic conflict will eventually have to hear Orthodox Russia and Shiite Iran explain "the rest of the story." The same day Trump meets with the Arabs in Riyadh, the Persians of Iran will be holding an election of their own. Rome understands there are more civilizations to be heard from. If at some point a major news network could escape from the Trumpian hysteria, there is a very complicated, very interesting but very understandable religious and political situation here that needs clear reporting and description.         


THE VATICAN, RUSSIA, MIKE PENCE, FRANKLIN GRAHAM AND PERSECUTED CHRISTIANS: Christian unity, Vatican diplomacy, and the role of the Orthodox Church in the life of the Russian nation have all been concerns of Robert Moynihan for years. He is a good source. Now, it seems, Protestants like Franklin Graham and Mike Pence are learning about these connections in the post-Soviet Russia. Could it be in the 'weirder than fiction' camp that Callista Gingrich, as ambassador to the Vatican, may play a role too?

MIDEAST CHRISTIANS - A BRIEF HISTORY OF THE THEOLOGICAL CONTROVERSIES THAT BEGET THE EASTERN RITES AND CHURCHES: by Martino Diez. He is scientific director of the Oasis International Foundation and researcher in Arabic Language and Literature at the Catholic University of Milan.


THE GLOBALIST LEADERS OF THE EUROPEAN UNION - NO GOD, NO NATIONS, NO KIDS! "According to a new study, a quarter of European women born in the 1970s may remain childless. That trend is reflected in the fact that Europe’s most important leaders are all childless. That’s the case with the German chancellor, and with the British, Swedish, Dutch, Italian, Scottish, and Luxembourg prime ministers. The newly elected president of France, Emmanuel Macron, is also childless and is likely to remain that way since the 39-year-old is married to his 64-year-old former teacher." William Kirkpatrick at Crisis magazine.


WHICH WAY SYRIAKurdistan and a buffer state?

AQAP CALLS FOR SIMPLE ATTACKS INSIDE WESTERN COUNTRIES:" We don't believe in nationalism. We believe in the Ummah. You are not alone. You are acting for the Body."

THE ODD COUPLE SENATORS FROM SAUDI ARABIA ARE LINDSEY GRAHAM AND JOHN MCCAIN: McCain in Riyadh. McCain with the UAE military chief. McCain and Graham promise "a fix" of anti-Saudi law favored by 9/11 families. A left-wing expose of McCain financial ties. McCain non-profit and Saudi charity.

ISRAEL DROPPING THE WESTERN MYTHIsraelis are not Europeans with guns.



GIRL SCOUTS AND CATHOLICSSorting out socialization strategies. We are going to raise boys and girls to become men and women. How should we do that? Who do we trust?

MINNESOTA BISHOPS, LIKE MINNESOTA DFL, STILL BEAR THEIR LAVENDER MAFIABishop Hoeppner shows his colors - one of Winona's finest. Now in Crookston. Bishop Hoeppner, as Vicar General of the Winona Diocese, was part of the corrupt mostly homosexual inner circle of that diocese which has recently declared bankruptcy to pay lawsuits for the fraction of their priestly abuse cases that actually  came to litigation. A more complete story of how Bishop Hoeppner threatened an honest deacon and concealed a corrupt homosexual monsignor. Finally there is a brave priest standing with the layman against the bishop.

ANTHONY ESOLEN ON SEXUAL CONFUSION: "Consider how many of our political conflicts are predicated upon denying nature, or upon embracing the unnatural and perverse. Any farmer’s kid could tell you the difference between a cow and a bull, but we pretend for political purposes that it is all a matter of perception. Our grandparents did not have ultrasounds, so they wondered about the sex of a child before it was born. We are more sophisticated now. We wonder about it after."


THE FATHER, THE SON, AND PILGRIM'S PROGRESS: Matthew Schmitz at First Things.



"So what does ‘white left’ mean in the Chinese context, and what’s behind the rise of its (negative) popularity? It might not be an easy task to define the term, for as a social media buzzword and very often an instrument for ad hominem attack, it could mean different things for different people. A thread on “why well-educated elites in the west are seen as naïve 'white left' in China” on Zhihu, a question-and-answer website said to have a high percentage of active users who are professionals and intellectuals, might serve as a starting point.

The question has received more than 400 answers from Zhihu users, which include some of the most representative perceptions of the 'white left'. Although the emphasis varies, baizuo is used generally to describe those who “only care about topics such as immigration, minorities, LGBT and the environment” and “have no sense of real problems in the real world”; they are hypocritical humanitarians who advocate for peace and equality only to “satisfy their own feeling of moral superiority”; they are “obsessed with political correctness” to the extent that they “tolerate backwards Islamic values for the sake of multiculturalism”; they believe in the welfare state that “benefits only the idle and the free riders”; they are the “ignorant and arrogant westerners” who “pity the rest of the world and think they are saviours.”

In an academic-style essay that was re-tweeted more than 7000 times on Weibo, a user named ‘fantasy lover Mr. Liu’ ‘reviewed’ European philosophy from Voltaire and Marx to Adorno and Foucault, concluding that the ‘white left’ as a 'spiritual epidemic' is on its way to self-destruction. He then stated that Trump’s win was only “a small victory over this spiritual epidemic of humankind”, but “western civilization is still far from its self-redemption.”

At AOA we have argued what they call the "white left" is the remnant of the WASP elite. The globalist gender ideology faction is the privileged white baby-boomer generation and their children who have broken the three fundamental loyalties: 1) to God and religion, 2) to marriage and family, and 3) to country and military brotherhood.    

The Chinese see the spiritual nature of this depravity very clearly. How much longer must we endure the "baizuo"?

SOUTH KOREA'S NEW PRESIDENT: This is a very good time for a leader in favor of dialogue as tension rises and that's what we got. Good cop, bad cop may give more movement than the strategic patience strategy. Remember President Trump also said in the right situation talking with the North Korea leader would be good. Even more important is for the Koreans to talk. The end game in Korea is the political order of a reunited Korea -- one of the last tragic national divisions of the WWII/Cold War era.

Friday, May 19, 2017

Captains Courageous: Kipling and Esolen on Boys to Men

(First published July 10, 2012)

Certainly one of the most fascinating professors in America is Anthony Esolen [who recently exited the hopelessly "PC" Providence College]. The man has a deep understanding of God’s purposes in creating two sexes:
"Look round. Not one road, building, airport, ship, truckload of food, pipe full of oil, string of wires binding the world – not one nation worth fighting for, nor any army that can fight – comes to us without the love that nowadays dare not speak its name, the camaraderie of men who unite to tackle a difficult or dangerous job."

The excerpt is from his review of Rudyard Kipling's sea yarn about a spoiled teenage boy who is hurled into the disciplined life of a fishing boat, and forced to quickly grow up.

And this interview with Mr. Esolen from 2007 is full of straight talk about masculinity, such as the following:
"It is men, not women, who create the civil order; as it is women, not men, who create the domestic order."

"A man loves his own family, but he also loves his family by refusing to subject the entire civil order to the welfare of his family..." 

"Jesus organizes [his apostles] into a battalion of sacrifice... He is remarkably sparing in his praise of them... From his apostles he seems to prefer the love that accompanies apprehension of the truth, rather than love born of his own affectionate actions toward them."

UPDATE:  This oldtime video in six parts [narrated in English] will give you a good understanding of the fishermen in Kipling's tale -- the individual dories that row away from the mother schooner to harvest the fruit of the sea.

Here's an interesting essay on Rudyard Kipling and the First World War. His haunting poem: Kipling's Recessional.  Britain's favorite poem is still Kipling's description of manhood:  "If".

Kipling (1865-1936) was born in Bombay in British India

Thursday, May 18, 2017

What is Realism in Foreign Policy?

[first published February 25, 2016]

by David Pence

Realism in foreign policy has many definitions with modifications (neo, classical, structural). It is identified with thinkers such as Hans Morgenthau, Kenneth Waltz, Robert Jervis, Stephen Walt and John Mearsheimer.
 Professor Morgenthau (d. 1980)

Four Standard Principles of International Relations:
1) The international order is anarchic -- there is no ultimate authority governing nations in perpetual conflict
2) The principal actors are nation-states (not class conflict as in Marxism)
3) Nation states are rational but self-interested, seeking to maximize power in order to insure survival
4) Mankind is inherently selfish and competitive
Consequences of this approach lead to descriptions of international relations in terms of polarity, hegemony, and balance of power.

A good discussion of realism by Columbia professor Richard Betts.

A review of the principles of realism by Professor John Mearsheimer applied to China.

A very short lesson from Henry Kissinger.

Mearsheimer calls himself an "offensive realist" and explains why the principles of realism lead nations to seek regional hegemony. He says it is no longer possible to be a world hegemon (dominant power). He argues that while the US cannot be the world hegemon, we should work to insure that no other country becomes a dominant regional power. He says that if we allow a regional power to develop, then that power could become a relative threat to our region as a "peer competitor." He is a very clear and engaging speaker. This kind of thinking, however, leads to an American foreign policy aimed at encircling and weakening three nations which could become dominant regional powers: China, Russia, and Iran. This thinking appeared to be the dominant paradigm of the Hillary Clinton, Jeb Bush, Rubio, Cruz, and Christie campaigns in the 2016 presidential election.

[ed: The Christian Realism which we advocate at AOA has a very different set of core principles.]

A body of thought in dialogue with the realists -- but stressing geopolitics, history, and culture -- is advocated by the Foreign Policy Research Institute. Here's a terrific overview by Ron Granieri on What is Geopolitics and Why does it Matter.

Wednesday, May 17, 2017

A 17th-century artist and monk of southern Spain

The reaction of Theodore Dalrymple to Juan Sánchez Cotán:
A few years back, the National Gallery held an exhibition of Spanish still-life paintings. One of these paintings had a physical effect on the people who sauntered in, stopping them in their tracks; some even gasped. I have never seen an image have such an impact on people. The painting, by Juan Sánchez Cotán, now hangs in the San Diego Museum of Art. It showed four fruits and vegetables, two suspended by string, forming a parabola in a gray stone window. 
Even if you did not know that Sánchez Cotán was a seventeenth-century Spanish priest, you could know that the painter was religious: for this picture is a visual testimony of gratitude for the beauty of those things that sustain us. Once you have seen it, and concentrated your attention on it, you will never take the existence of the humble cabbage—or of anything else—quite so much for granted, but will see its beauty and be thankful for it. The painting is a permanent call to contemplation of the meaning of human life, and as such it arrested people who ordinarily were not, I suspect, much given to quiet contemplation.

Sánchez Cotán (d. 1627) became a Carthusian monk. Their life, says Thomas Merton, "is notable above all for its single-minded insistence on silence and solitude. All monastic orders recognize that the monk is supposed to live in some sense alone with God. The Carthusians take this obligation as literally as they can."

What is the motto of the order? Stat crux dum volvitur orbis ("the Cross is steady while the world is turning.")

Here is another writer's take on the painting.

Tuesday, May 16, 2017

CATHOLIC SOCIOBIOLOGY: The unity of man and cosmos

[first published April 5, 2016]

Much of modern thought explains the laws of physical matter and the Universe in one lexicon; and principles to understand man and ethics in another.

Remi Brague looks at different cultures that unified man and the cosmos, and revolutions that separated them: The Structure of the Cosmos and the Purpose of Man.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Dr. Pence has a lengthy essay in the Minneapolis 'Star Tribune.' 
[A much more readable version is in our Essays section].

Certainly we can summon the nimbleness as a nation to re-order our alliances.


Saturday, May 13, 2017

Religion and Geopolitics Review: May 13, 2017

by Dr. David Pence and A. Joseph Lynch


Today is May 13, 2017. It is 100 years since the girls in Portugal saw the Lady at Fatima. Her message was about prayer and a turning of hearts in consonance with the hearts of Our Lady and Our Lord. Let us calibrate our hearts and order our loves. She has promised the conversion of Russia. Let us approach that miracle with Russian Christians with the hearts of two lost Christian brothers who need one another to confess our sins and face our common demonic enemy. When we approach the world as brothers we will see more clearly. We know at the heart of reality is an ordered hierarchical love relationship of Father, Son and Holy Spirit. Bowing to the Sacred Hearts is ordering our loves to include all mankind. Mankind is a symphony of nations and Our Lady has assured us that Russia can be converted. We cannot leave this national moment to atheists. We are being distracted from fraternity by hysteria. Let us be silent and pray. Why the deep hatred now for Russia as she recovers the soul of her own Christian nation after a century of armed atheistic science?

In our own land many people fell away. They were not physically oppressed but spiritually bored. We ask God, however,  to look not upon our sins but the faith of the Church. Many simple people prayed the Hail Marys after every Mass. They petitioned in a thousand chapels of adoration. They kept  Mass and Confession on First Fridays and First Saturdays. Let us hope God hears His little ones. The message of the loving hearts and Christocentric love is not to be home-bound. Let us bring the message of love and fraternity among the nations and within our own nation. Let us ask forgiveness for our sins as a nation that we have celebrated the abominations. Let us chastise the criminal and embrace the immigrant. Let us save our hatred for the Serpent, and love our brother nations with the heart of the Anointed One drawing all the nations under his Kingship. Our Lady spoke with children but she wants men of authority to heed her words and adopt the way of her heart. Let us build a brotherhood in Christ of holy priests and righteous nations  and so honor our Immaculate Virgin and Merciful Mother.  


HOMOSEXUALS IN CATHOLIC MALE RELIGIOUS ORDERS: Bishop John Stowe argues for more mercy and less talk of disordered sexuality in his talk to male religious superiors. He follows with a public friendly encounter with New Ways Ministry -- a group trying to change church teaching on homosexuality. For forty years most US male religious orders and a plurality of seminaries have been extremely "gay friendly" to priest applicants. It is Catholics, not Unitarians, who have huge same-sex institutions particularly susceptible to the demoralizing effects of tolerating an abomination. Homosexuality in male religious orders is like incest in a family: it destroys the group bonds based on non-erotic forms of love. The problem with Catholic practice is not that we have failed to welcome   homosexuals in the priesthood. Quite the opposite. The problem is that we have a general teaching defining homosexuality as intrinsically disordered and a clerical practice of welcoming intense erotic male bonds. We are living a lie. It is actually a step toward reform the more homosexual priests and bishops become emboldened. They are deeply meshed in the episcopacy, chanceries, seminaries and religious orders. All the insiders know this. Now Catholics in the pews, as well as fellow Christians and fellow Americans  will get to see the real reason that Catholic politicians are so confused about publicly ordered sex roles.  Pope Francis has said when evil presents itself as a good (an angel of light), it is often best to allow it room rather than initial opposition. These kind of lies are best exposed in as much light as possible.

ANTHONY ESOLEN, THE AMERICAN CATHOLIC POET PROFESSORMoves from Providence College in Rhode Island to St. Thomas More in New Hampshire. His own Benedict Option. He explains.

RELIGIOUS FREEDOM IS NOT AN INDIVIDUALISTIC CLAIM BUT ROOTED IN MAN'S OBLIGATION TO WORSHIP GOD: Gunnar Gunderson explains why religious liberty is not a license for Satanism.

GOOD NEWS VS FAKE NEWS: A CHRISTIAN SOLDIER WITHDRAWS AS SECRETARY OF THE ARMY -- ANY STORY HERE? The withdrawal of Tennessee senator Mark Green to be considered for the Secretary of the Army after the nonchalant approval by the Senate of homosexual Eric Fanning by President Obama shows Christians are losing the battle about the properly ordered loves of a nation under God. The fear of top military officials to back Mr. Green and the negative comments of Sen. John McCain (currying favor with the media and sexual Left) did not bode well for the ex-soldier. The sexual confusion in our military after three baby-boomer administrations have tried to destroy the masculine nature of our fighting force will not be fixed from within. There is no more politically correct social environment than official military institutions where any sign of "sexism, homophobia or a commitment to the gender binary" is considered evidence of an inability to lead the "new sexually diverse" military.  "We are all soldiers. We are all professionals. We have a technological job to do. No men here. No women here. It is a job. It is a profession which has nothing to do with the traditional gender role of male social protection." This is exactly the Catch-22 logic that filled Catholic seminaries in the 1970's and 80's as homosexuals and feminists tried to break down that ancient all-male gender code. Masculine seminarians who resisted were deemed unfit to lead the new non-patriarchal non-fraternal church that the gay priests and feminist nuns promised was right around the corner. The protector males were told to leave (see Goodbye, Good Men). We all know what came next.

Defending public male protective roles is a major part of the movement to make America great again by bringing her back to common sense and biblical morality. This is a battle not for President Trump or his military leaders right now. First, the Christians must take back the moral high ground and wage this battle as Christians.

The Good News is that God is sovereign and our nation's covenant under God is built on a public brotherhood of men and monogamous marriage covenants between man and woman. The fake news is that freedom of speech and religion means we ban the Our Father in public settings and we allow profanity, obscenity, and blasphemy to drown our public life. The Good News is that all men are brothers in Christ and a Christian nation extends that brotherhood to men of every color, religion, and social class inside our territorial boundaries to form the sacred covenant of the nation. The fake news is that all-male civic groups should be banned and male couples should be honored. The Good News is that motherhood has been sanctified by Jesus being born of a virgin-mother. The fake news is that the domestic violence of abortion is maternal health care that should be subsidized. Good News vs fake news from the Christian front.

The tip of the spear in this struggle is not opposition to the twin abominations of sodomy and abortion, but a positive reassertion of Christian brotherhood and manly civic friendship as the proper love between fathers, sons, and brothers whose covenant forms the American nation. We cannot allow the US military to undergo the sexual brainwashing that corrupted so many Catholic seminaries in the 1970's and 1980's.


ON JORDAN: An excellent summary of the growing split between the Muslim Brotherhood and the Hashemite Kingdom.

TRUMP MEETING THE SAUDIS: An excellent short historical review of American-Saudi relations by Bruce Riedel, a very well-informed commentator who never fails to show Americans another way to ally with the Saudis. He is always worth reading. But...

THE SAUDI PLAN TO TAKE A PORT IN YEMEN TO CUT OFF FOODStarving Shiites is one way to strike at the Iranians. Should the US really be part of this?

ON ISRAELI POLICY IN MIDEAST: This is an article at American Conservative by an ex-CIA man, Philip Giraldi. It is about changing alliances and goals in Syria with special emphasis on the goals of Turkey, Israel, and Saudi Arabia. The article is particularly good at outlining two important lines of thinking in Israeli strategy -- the Yinon Plan of 1982 and the American neoconservative 1996 paper called "A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm." Between these two documents was a fundamental realization among Israeli national security thinkers that the existential threat to Israel was not the Palestinian fight, but strong regional states who might strike them with nuclear weapons or population-killing technology. For Israel the states of  Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Iran were all much more serious threats than Palestinians. They are much more manageable when fighting in balkanized civil wars. Giraldi, like most men of his generation in the military and CIA, does not take the virulent Salafist character of the Saudis enough into account. But the nature of Israeli policy and the Saudi commitment to an anti-Assad campaign is well outlined.


ON FRANCE: The rural periphery, the metropolitan Parisians, the nations, and Brussels. A nation faces the perils of globalism where Christopher Caldwell reviews a French geographer's explanation of the French elections. Terrific work at the City Journal. The French election was 66% for Macron and 33% for Le Pen showing there is a good base for a better representative of the French nation. In many ways Ms. Le Pen is much more like Hillary Clinton of an old party than the Donald Trump of a new national movement. Three reasons why she was not really the Donald Trump of France. Donald Trump said he would protect Christians here and abroad. Le Pen is militantly atheist. She is as much against the public cross as the veil of Muslims (so much for Christianity which is the soul of both France and America). Donald Trump loves his father. Ms. Le Pen betrayed her dad (so much for patriarchy and filial piety). Mr. Trump fought his way to the top. Ms. Le Pen inherited a party from her father and got hold of it by siding with opportunists of her own generation willing to sacrifice the old man without ceremony (so much for true leadership). A non-inspiring female driven by personal ambition made her way up the party hierarchy by way of familial ties -- whose profile is that?

CHINA, AFRICA, AND FISHING: There is surely another side to this story but this reminder about the basic world food economy and the role of fisheries in supplying protein is important. Man doth not live on bread or rice alone.

PRESIDENT FORD ASKED DEMOCRATS TO HELP REFUGEES FLEEING FROM COMMUNISTS IN VIETNAM -- IT WAS 1975: He wrote in his memoirs about the problem of the Vietnamese refugees: "More than 120,000 of them had managed to escape, but they had nowhere to go. Thailand didn't want them. Neither did Malaysia, Indonesia nor the Philippines. The United States, I felt, had a special obligation to them, and on April 30 I asked Congress to approve a bill that would provide $507 million for their transportation and care. The House rejected my request on May 1st. Unbelievable!"
What twisted hatred could take such a position? The refugees were not potential terrorists but soldier-allies and their families who needed safe harbor. Those who shut the door were not jingoist hard-hearted conservatives, but self-righteous liberal Democrats who washed their hands clean of the Vietnam War by leaving the boat people in the muddy bloody waters of the Mekong Delta.

SOLZHENITSYN ON NATIONS: "Literature transmits condensed and irrefutable experiences from generation to generation. Language and literature preserve and protect a nation's soul. Nations are the wealth of humanity: its generalized personalities. The least of them has its own special colors and harbors within itself a special aspect of God's design... Nations are like individuals -- they can sin and they must repent."



BARRY, WE BARELY KNEW YE: From a new biography, Obama told his former girlfriend that he considered and then decided against going gay. He reasoned that "a same-sex relationship would be less challenging and demanding than developing one with the opposite sex." That's one way to think about it. As we delve further into the mind of Barack Obama and as his life post-presidency reveals itself, we will see he is best understood as the son of a white feminist anthropologist. It turns out a white feminist anthropologist of his own generation was a major love influence as well. Both his mother and former girlfriend can be proud. He carried out their project better than anyone could have dreamed. He built the public sisterhood everywhere he could from the chief of White House ushers to the head of a US military regional command center. It is another reason Hillary had trouble  motivating the sexual left -- there really was no more sexual confusion to spread. The son of Stanley Ann Dunham got there first.

JOHN HORVAT ON THE NEED FOR CAPTAINS -- AQUINAS ON AUTHORITY: "This is largely because people do not have a proper notion of what captains are. They think authority consists only in ordering people to do things. They do not realize it also involves unifying, reassuring, and harmonizing. Saint Thomas Aquinas defines authority as an animating and ordering intelligence, the vis regitiva that overcomes the resistance of the individual tendencies in men, organically directing and coordinating many wills toward the common good. Thus, captains respect order and do not violate the rules, however difficult or absurd such rules might appear. Captains do not pander to those under them to please them. They do not make grand promises yet fail to mention the sacrifices needed to get the job done. Captains recognize that people need direction, and act accordingly."

WOMEN IN VEILS -- A CHRISTIAN TRADITION: It is hard to imagine a movement that would do more to restore a holy order to public life than for women to wear hats and veils in America. Especially veils in Church.


Friday, May 12, 2017

Who Decided the Books of the Bible?

The Bible is The Book (biblos=Greek for book). It is the revealed Word of God. It was written by inspired writers but they were not secretaries taking down dictation. There were many holy writings in Judaism and early Christianity but not all came to be held as Holy Scripture. The Bible we have today didn't fall from the sky. This is particularly true for the list of books that are included in the Bible. Below is a short six-step description of how the Bible we have today came into existence, the role of the Catholic Church in its creation, and why Catholics and Protestants have a slightly different list. What follows is also accessible in single-page handout which can be viewed and downloaded for use in parish and school  religious education classes.


TORAH (or PENTATEUCH): The first five books of the Old Testament. Traditionally authored by Moses.

HISTORICAL BOOKS: Told the story of Israel from the time of Joshua’s conquest of the Promised Land to Israel’s war against the Greeks in the decades prior to the coming of Christ.

WISDOM BOOKS: These books gave instruction and insight regarding the pursuit of God and human virtue.

PROPHETIC BOOKS: Writings of the Major and Minor Prophets warning Israel to turn away from sin and towards the LORD.


TRANSLATION: Many Jews in the first century lived outside of the Holy Land and spoke Greek. In order to make the Hebrew-language Bible accessible to Jews who did not speak Hebrew, translations were made into Greek. The most important of these is known as the Septuagint (translated 3rd century BC).

SEPTUAGINT: Greek translation of the Hebrew Bible made in Alexandria, Egypt. With the Septuagint, Greek-speaking Jews throughout the Mediterranean world had the Hebrew Bible in a language they understood. It’s also the translation used by Jesus, the Apostles, and the early Church.


CANON: A definitive list of Biblical books. Determining what books to include in the Bible was entrusted to the Catholic Church. While there is a full canon of all Biblical books, we can also talk about the Old Testament canon and later the New Testament canon. The full Biblical canon was not complete until AD 382 (see Step Five).

OLD TESTAMENT CANON: A list of books in the Old Testament. Jews at the time of Jesus had not yet finalized which books were canonical according to Judaism. In time this would mean that Jews and Christians would have to decide what Old Testament books to include in their Bibles. For this reason, Jews, Protestants, and Catholics, have different Old Testament canons. 

COUNCIL OF JAMNIA: A meeting of Jewish scholars thought to have taken place in the late 1st or early 2nd century to finalize the Hebrew Canon. While the historicity of this council has been questioned, the Jewish community by the 2nd century settled on a Hebrew Canon that rejected any Old Testament books not found written in Hebrew. Some books, like I Maccabees, were rejected for this reason only to be rediscovered among the Dead Sea Scrolls in Hebrew centuries later. Protestants accepted the Hebrew canon of 39 books while Catholics kept all 46 books of the Greek Septuagint used since Apostolic times. Both Protestants and Catholics agree on the 27 books of the New Testament.


GOSPELS: Matthew, Mark, and Luke (written between AD 50-70); John (c. AD 90).

HISTORICAL LITERATURE: The Acts of the Apostles was written in the 60s.

EPISTLES/LETTERS: The letters of St. Paul were written in the 50s-60s. The “Catholic” epistles were written during or after this period.

APOCALYPTIC LITERATURE: The Book of Revelation was written in the 90s but there is some evidence to date it to the 60s. 

OTHER BOOKS: Other first century books were read at Masses during the first centuries of the Church. These included the Didache, 1 Clement, Barnabas, and the Letters of St. Ignatius.


COUNCIL OF ROME (AD 382): After nearly 300 years of reading scripture during the sacred liturgy, Pope St. Damasus I sought to make a final Biblical Canon for the Church and a new translation of that canon into Latin for the Latin-speaking Christians (the New Testament was written in Greek). In AD 382, the Pope led a local Roman council to decide this. 

CATHOLIC BIBLICAL CANON: The Council of Rome used the canon found in the Septuagint—which Judaism after Jesus did not accept—for its Old Testament canon and approved the 27 books we still use today in the New Testament.

THE VULGATE: Commissioned by the Council of Rome, St. Jerome left Rome for Bethlehem with assistants to translate the canonical list of books into Latin. Their work led to the Vulgate, used by the Church for centuries to come.

CATHOLIC ENGLISH TRANSLATIONS: Douay–Rheims (1582—New Testament/1610–Old Testament), Jerusalem Bible (1966), Revised Standard Version: Catholic Edition (1966—used in the English Catechism), New American Bible (1960–used at Masses in the United States).


APOCRYPHA: Books that, while spiritually edifying, are not considered canonical and thus not part of sacred scripture, the inspired Word of God.

JEWISH AND PROTESTANT APOCRYPHA: Books of the Old Testament, accepted by Catholics, but rejected by Jews and Protestants. Catholics call these books the Deuterocanonical books. 

CATHOLIC APOCRYPHA: The books of the Catholic Apocrypha would include books like III Maccabees (of O.T. times) and Barnabus (of N.T. times).