Religion in Foreign Policy

A protester at a rally against ISIS organised by Muslims in Edinburgh (PA)

A protester at a rally against ISIS organised by Muslims in Edinburgh (PA)

It is undeniable that we are suffering a failure of education, including education in our faiths, especially Christianity. This is evidenced not only by our lack of knowledge of our history of our society but also of our church history, and our churches’ teaching. A large proportion of our populations, even those that will admit to Christianity, claim to be spiritual but not religious. Nor is this new, it’s been going on in the US since the sixties, perhaps longer in the UK.

Professor John Charmley, writing in the Catholic Herald posits that:

Education in “spirituality”, while a useful corrective to a tendency towards utilitarianism verging on the Gradgrindian, does not fill the gap left by the ebb of faith in our society.

What Benedict XVI called the “dictatorship of relativism” is relativistic about everything except itself. It seeks to dissolve the organic fabric of established order and replace it with its own, appropriating Orwell’s insight that you cannot express things you do not have words for – which is why it tries so hard to change the language. A world in which a man can be a “mother” and priests can wonder whether the Holy Spirit is feminine, without asking what it then means to say that Our Lord was incarnate by the Holy Spirit of the Virgin Mary, is one in which Christian anthropology has vanished from the public square.

The effects of this go wider than the Church. A state department or a Foreign Office full of political science graduates will tend to analyse things through certain lenses, which is why they will advise politicians to say of ISIS that it is not “Islamic”, and instead, use the language of terrorism and national security. This plays well to an agenda of not upsetting an abstraction called “Muslim opinion”, but is it true? We deal with terrorists, in part, by isolating their political demands and seeing what deal can be struck.

But if, as history suggests, ISIS shares many characteristics which inspired the initial Islamic conquests, its demands are not likely to be ones to which we can agree. If we do not understand this, and if we insist on a reductionist approach to religion, which sees it as an adjunct to secularist definitions of quality and inclusion, then, unable even to ask the right questions, we are unlikely to get close to the right answers.

True, isn’t it? How many times have we groaned in frustration when the State Department made some pronouncement about ISIS, that betrayed a lack of understanding, not only of ISIS but even Christianity, perhaps even American patriotism? It’s rather like sending the Chicago Bears to play cricket, about the only thing they have in common is that there is a contest and some sort of ball. They are not only not on the same page, they are not in the same library.

He comments here that our newspapers no longer have specialist religious reporters, which is true, but given the appalling job they do reporting anything these days, I’m not entirely sure that it’s a bad thing.

Does the Church have a part to play here? Blessed John Henry Newman wrote that “the Gospel requires the reception of definite and positive Articles” and the reverent acceptance of the “doctrinal Truths which have come down to us”. It is even more the fashion of our age than it was of his to ignore this wisdom in favour of a vague belief in personal spirituality; recovery of his ideal is essential both to good catechesis and a wider religious literacy. The idea of a received truth, which cannot be changed at the whim of fashion or a majority, is at the heart of the faith once received – and of other faiths too. As Newman wrote: “Faith is a state of mind, it is a particular mode of thinking and acting, which is exercised, always indeed towards God, in very various ways.” This non-reductionist way of thinking about faith is one way in which the Church could help fill the gaps in our public discourse.

Perhaps even more to our point, they might actually have some inkling of understanding what motivates people like ISIS, or Iran and Saudi Arabia, and what also de-motivates them. Realpolitik was, perhaps, a useful club for beating godless communists, who already understood that Marx and Lenin were false gods, and bringing them to heel. It is much less likely to work on people who actually do believe in their God, no matter how false we may believe them to be.

In truth, many of these people appear to have gone so far done this Gradgrindian road that they no longer even understand what Conservatives speak of when we talk of the meaning of the Constitution, or the effects of Manga Charta, all has become political, that is to say, in flux and subject to change at the drop of a poll number, with the change itself instantly disappearing into the ‘memory hole’. “We’ve always been at war with Oceania”. don’t you know?

None of this is to say that only people of faith can understand other religious people, but it is to suggest that they can bring to the study of such things a language, and an understanding, not readily available from an education system which studies the many epiphenomena of religion without understanding the phenomenon itself.

Professor John Charmley is head of the Interdisciplinary Institute at the University of East Anglia, Norwich

From the CatholicHerald.co.uk » How religious is ISIS?.

There is also a podcast that Professor Charmley did with the Catholic Herald, link below, which extends his points very well. I know some of my readers find the British somewhat hard to understand but, I think you’ll find him to be quite easy to comprehend.

http://www.catholicherald.co.uk/?powerpress_embed=84223-podcast&powerpress_player=mediaelement-audio

What Happened In The Aftermath Of Charleston Shooting Was No Surprise

African Methodist Episcopal Church

African Methodist Episcopal Church (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The author here, Jay Caruso, had something important to say about the aftermath of the Charleston shooting. I’m giving you the meat of it, but that is no reason why you shouldn’t read his article, as always the author’s context us important.

On the flip side, so much of the negative side of what you’ve heard of the south is largely false. Northern liberal elites whose only time spent in the south is getting a connecting flight in Atlanta, would have you believe the south is still a hotbed of racism that existed in the 1950′s and 1960′s with Bull Connor types lurking about in every small town from North Carolina to Mississippi.

Naturally, there is racism in the south. No more so however, than I have seen in the north. I heard far more racial slurs being spouted by people living in progressive blue states than I ever have since living down here. Yes, there is the occasional white trash lowlife riding around with his confederate flag somewhere on his pickup truck and hoping one day that south will rise again, but these idiots exist in a vacuum. They overwhelmingly represent a bygone era.

It’s no surprise that leftists almost seem to be upset by what happened in the aftermath of the horrific murders committed at the Emanuel African Methodist Episcopal Church. Others were blown away in surprise at what happened.

The only people not surprised are those who actually live in the south. 

What Happened In The Aftermath Of Charleston Shooting Was No Surprise | Pocket Full Of Liberty.

Well, not exactly. I suspect many of us in the Trans-Mississippi West were equally unsurprised, and for much the same reason, It was a show of mercy and grace that is within keeping with what we believe as real Christians. That doesn’t mean that we don’t think he should be prosecuted, just that we learned the Lord’s lesson, and we know that our health demands that we publically forgive him. Powerful testimony it was, and from a famous Christian denomination, the African Methodist Episcopal Church.

To be honest, it’s been a very long time since I spent any amount of time in the south, well over thirty years, but my memories are almost all good ones, and, in fact, the last time I was down south was in Charleston which is a beautiful city in a beautiful state. I think the time is coming for me to visit again because it sounds like it hasn’t changed much in it’s essentials.

What I really saw was the old America, that sometimes we despair of, working together to help our fellow man, mourning our losses together, praying for all concerned, and getting on with life.

What could be more American, or more Christian, than that? And yes, all concerned have been, and will remain, in my prayers as well. God Bless ’em all.

Around the Web This Week

6a76f4a3-4ad2-4ae2-8a3b-c092e85586afSort of a compendium of odds and ends today, without a lot of commentary from me.

My dearest friend, partner and editor here, Jessica, is celebrating the third anniversary of her blog today, although she is only present in spirit, because of her health problems. My post about it is here.

The Federalist had a bit more on the Amtrak wreck, I think he makes some valid points, especially regarding the unseemliness of many reactions.

The deadly Amtrak derailment this week spawned a frenzy of sleazy opportunism on social media as lefties rushed to declare—before any evidence of the cause of the accident was available—that it clearly showed the need for more federal billions to subsidize Amtrak.

As the official investigation has released actual information, it seems likely that the real cause was excessive speed: the train was traveling at more than 100 miles per hour as it entered a tight curve where the safe limit was 50 miles per hour. How is more government spending supposed to prevent this kind of operator error?

Oh, and contrary to the media’s “Amtrak fan fiction,” as Sean Davis calls it, Congress just authorized $1.4 billion in new subsidies to Amtrak less than five months ago. So there goes that narrative.

There is obviously something unseemly about this—far more unseemly than a violinist distraught over not being able to retrieve the source of her livelihood. This is a tragedy in which people were killed and injured, yet many a media hack’s first thought was about how to score political points against Republicans.

More at The Federalist

National Review has something to say about Paul Krugman’s Pretense of Economic Knowledge

It is wrong to call economics “the dismal science.” Dismal, yes; science, no.

Econometrics and mathematical modeling are enormously valuable, but they also contribute to the pretense of knowledge, which is a lethal intellectual epidemic to which the scientist manqués of the economics world are especially vulnerable. There are competing factions and schools of thought within the proper sciences, of course, but the outsize role played by economic schools — from New Keynesians to Austrians — is evidence of the corrupting influence of politics, which distorts economic analysis in both its weak form (simple political affiliation) and its strong form (servile political advocacy). And as with the scientific case of freelancing gadflies such as Neil deGrasse Tyson, economists damage their individual and corporate credibility the farther they stray from their fields of genuine expertise. It is no surprise that, e.g., purported science guy Bill Nye until recently held foolish and ignorant views on genetically modified crops, views of which he has, to his credit,repented. Nye, who holds a bachelor’s degree in engineering, is more a science enthusiast than a scientist, much less a scientist with any particular expertise in agricultural genetics. There is no reason to suppose that he has particularly well-informed views on any given question, and the temptations of cultural affiliation — the people who are terrified of GMOs are many of the same people who care deeply about climate change and the contents of Texas high-school biology curricula — often lead us astray.

More at National Review

As all know, I’m no particular fan of Jeb Bush, not least because I think there must be a Democrat not named Clinton, and a Republican not named Bush qualified to run for President. I’m not much of a fan of dynasties (at least in America, I rather like Queen Elizabeth, although Prince Charles, not so much, which highlights the problem). In any case, Jeb said some very cogent things about Christianity last weekend at Liberty University.

[…] Giving a fiery speech last month at Tina Brown’s “Women in the World Summit,” Clinton plainly said: “Deep-seated cultural codes, religious beliefs and structural biases have to be changed” so that women can have unfettered access to “reproductive health care and safe childbirth.”

One would like to imagine that Clinton was speaking only about primitive cultures where children are forced into marriage and childbearing, or where genital cutting is common. But we know that she also meant religious conservatives closer to home whose beliefs get in the way. She explicitly criticized Hobby Lobby for not paying for its employees’ contraception.

By contrast, Jeb Bush, who will become the GOP nominee if Republicans are smart, assumed a much different tone and direction in his recent commencement address at Liberty University.

“How strange, in our own time, to hear Christianity spoken of as some sort of backward and oppressive force,” he said. “It’s a depressing fact that when some people think of Christianity and of Judeo-Christian values, they think of something static, narrow and outdated. . . . I cannot think of any more subversive moral idea ever loosed on the world than ‘the last shall be first, and the first last.’ ”

He also spoke of what our world would have been like without the “unalloyed compassion, such genuine love, such thorough altruism,” as Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. described Christianity.

It would be defined, Bush said, by “power without restraint, conflict without reconciliation, oppression without deliverance, corruption without reformation, tragedy without renewal.”

He’s right, of course. More at The Washington Post.

And three links on the British general election, which may well have lessons for us, as well

Dan Hannan: Left’s hatred devoured its own election campaign

Charles Utley: Time to Reflect on the Past and the Future

UEA’s Eastminster: UEA’s experts react to the General Election 2015 result

Enjoy!

What You Should Know About The Armenian Genocide

armenian-genocide-02-jpg

This comes from that dead period before America thought as a world power, and besides we were paying attention, if at all, to the Great War, especially the western front, so we never heard much at all about it.

But it happened exactly a hundred years ago starting today. It can be considered a precursor to the Nazi Holocaust, or ISIS or other things in the twentieth century, progressing right up to yesterday.

We should probably note that Turkey (and a few other nations) deny the term Genocide, although not the fact. They claim that the term is inapplicable because they didn’t plan on killing all those people. I have a low opinion of nation-states using incompetence as a defense, but that’s what it is.

From The Federalist:

April 24 marks the centennial of the Armenian Genocide, a massive tragedy that brutally snuffed out the lives of up to 1.5 million Armenian Christians in the Ottoman Empire.

It was a systematic attempt to exterminate an entire race of people. And now, on the one hundredth commemoration, President Obama joins those who deny it byrefusing to call it was it was: genocide. This is the seventh time he’s retracted his 2008 election-year promise that if elected he would recognize the Armenian genocide.

As the granddaughter of genocide survivors, it’s personal for me, and I grew up knowing all about it. But too few people today are even aware of what took place in that part of the world exactly 100 years ago.

Unfortunately, as philosopher George Santayana noted, those who cannot remember the past are condemned to repeat it. We can see today how the calamity that befell the Armenians 100 years ago seems to be repeating itself in the wholesale slaughter of Christians in the Middle East by ISIS and other terrorist groups. So I’d like to offer a bit of a primer on the Armenian Genocide.

What Happened?

About 1.5 million Armenian Christians were systematically slaughtered by the government of the Ottoman Empire. It was jumpstarted on April 24, 1915, when hundreds of Armenian community leaders and intellectuals were rounded up in Constantinople, arrested, and killed.

Young Armenian women who were not raped and killed could end up Islamified and taken in as wives or concubines.

The goal was to exterminate every Armenian Christian, whether child, woman, or man. The killings themselves often included all manner of butchery, torture, and humiliation. My grandmother lamented the crucifixion of her father, who was known in the village as a holy man.

Another part of this extermination program involved deportations that forced Armenians out of their homes and basically put them on death marches into the Syrian Desert. Many died of starvation and exhaustion on these caravans. Others succumbed to diseases like typhus in lice-infested camp conditions. Young Armenian women who were not raped and killed could end up Islamified and taken in as wives or concubines. My grandmother’s younger sister was taken into a harem.

Some of the most harrowing accounts of the murders are included in the extraordinary memoirs of the survivor Bishop Grigoris Balakian, entitled “Armenian Golgotha.” For in depth documentation of the genocide online, I recommend this website.

Continue reading What You Should Know About The Armenian Genocide.

Erastianism; John Stuart Mill, and the Saviour State

images10This is an outstandingly interesting (albeit long) article. I don’t agree with all his premises, especially with regard to intentions but he’s very good on outcomes. In any case he’ll make you think.  By Douglas Farrow writing for Touchstone magazine:

The Audacity of the State

Jeremiah Wright’s 1990 sermon, “The Audacity to Hope,” which lent Barack Obama the title of his electioneering book, has the story of Hannah as its text, and a painting by G. F. Watts

as its foil. Whether the lecture at which Wright first heard of the painting, or his own subsequent reading, included a consultation of G. K. Chesterton’s 1904 treatment of Watts, I can’t say. […]

The Savior State

When I speak of the audacity of the state, the kind of state I have in mind is what we may call the savior state. The main characteristic of the savior state is that it presents itself as the people’s guardian, as the guarantor of the citizen’s well-being. The savior state is the paternal state, which not only sees to the security of its territory and the enforcement of its laws but also promises to feed, clothe, house, educate, monitor, medicate, and in general to care for its people. Some prefer to call it the nanny state, but that label fails to reckon with its inherently religious character. The savior state does have a religious character, precisely in its paternalism, and may even be comfortable with religious rhetoric. […]

Re-Sacralized State

We can hardly be surprised at this. The Erastianism which (to speak anachronistically) had long been trying to get the upper hand in Christendom, managed to do so in the wake of the Lutheran Reformation, though it was in England that it first succeeded. The year 1534 brought the Act of Succession, and a mandatory oath of allegiance that included assent to everything declared by parliament about marriage in general and about Henry’s in particular. Later that year, the Act of Supremacy also established the king’s ecclesiastical jurisdiction, making no mention of the proviso formerly attached to it by the bishops: “as far as the law of Christ allows.”

Christendom, of course, had already seen many princes who were determined to make the church do their bidding. But Henry, by writing his supremacy into the laws of the realm, inaugurated a new era. In that era, the ongoing process of subordinating religion to the demands of the state would outrun the monarchy as such, and the Church of England too. Not merely some, butallof the church’s authority over things public would gradually be expropriated, binding even the conscience—as the Act of Succession already did—to the authority of the state.

Today we live in a society that shrinks in horror from the very idea of established religion, something the American Constitution in any case forbids. Yet we live, even if we live in America, in states increasingly ready to withdraw conscience clauses not only from public servants but also from doctors and druggists and so forth, requiring them to violate the teachings of their religion and the dictates of their consciences in order to demonstrate their allegiance to the state.

In Britain, and increasingly in North America, even churches and charitable organizations are not exempted from laws that demand conformity to state-endorsed ideologies loaded with religious implications. Penalties for violation include heavy fines or even imprisonment. Thus have we come round to accepting Erastus’s invitation to the state to punish the sins of Christians, supplanting the church’s sacramental discipline. We have come round, that is, to the de-sacralization of the church and the re-sacralization of the state, which is once again taking a tyrannical turn.

Keep reading: Touchstone Archives: The Audacity of the State.

Specifically, I have trouble with his underlying assumptions about the Enlightenment, about John Stuart Mill, and about Christianity’s inherent hostility to the individual rather than ecclesiology. Still more would I dispute libertarians antipathy to the family, it may be true of some but most are far more family friendly than the sacralized state.

But whatever their intention, in many ways, what he says here, is where we are. That is our baseline and it’s up to us to guide where we want to go.

“My special tender friend”: The Long History of More and Cromwell

d9509e_a1183470b7ad4b3c9b79592ae6954221I ran across this earlier this year when Wolf Hall was running in the UK. Since it is running now on Masterpiece Theater, it seems a good time to bring it forward. It’s very good television, just don’t confuse it with objective history, it’s not, there’s a fair amount of propaganda in it.

Here’s Dr. Joanne Paul:

I like to think of More and Cromwell on some sort of bizarre historical seesaw. It seems that when one is up, the other is inevitably down. In A Man for All Seasons, More is the glorified protagonist, so Cromwell becomes the conniving enemy. In Hilary Mantel’s Wolf Hall, Cromwell is the hero, or at least antihero, and so More is given a less sympathetic portrayal.

Much of what we think we know of their relationship comes from More’s earliest biographers, who were keen to place the two men in precisely this sort of opposition. For instance, it is from More’s first biographer, William Roper, that we get the story of More, upon his resignation as Chancellor, advising Cromwell: “you shall, in your counsel-giving unto [the King], ever tell him what he ought to do, but never what he is able to do…. For if a Lion knew his own strength, hard it were for any man to rule him”. And Cromwell, in Roper’s version, teases and flatters More while he is in the Tower, prompting his reflections on “eye flattering fortune”

But how much do we really know about More and Cromwell – their relationship, what they thought of one another? We know the end of the story – or we think we do – the two men face off, and Cromwell wins, until he too is cut down. But is that the right way of thinking about it?

The two were probably born about the same time only about 5 miles apart; More in Cheapside, Cromwell in Putney. Neither came from particularly prestigious roots, More’s ancestors were brewers, bakers and candlestick makers, Cromwell’s father was a blacksmith and merchant. The main difference between the two men’s early lives seems to have been their paternal fortunes. More’s father was an up-and-coming lawyer, Cromwell’s was a brute and a drunk.

Continue reading: Dr Joanne Paul | Renaissance Historian | “My special tender friend”: The Long History of More and Cromwell.

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