Last week, several news outlets published stories about an effort to get more Israeli Arab Christians to volunteer for the I.D.F. You may read Fox News’ article, “Push to recruit Israel’s Arab Christians in the military splits the community” or “In Arab Israel, a battle over Christian conscription” and “Despite threats, threefold rise in Christian IDF enlistment” in The Times of Israel. Evidently, an Orthodox priest in Nazareth has created controversy by encouraging members of his flock to join, which has triggered some backlash from other Arab Israelis. I hope that the priest’s efforts cultivate good fruit. The more the Arab minority invests itself in the common good of the Israeli state, the more both Jews and Arabs will be inclined toward mutual trust and goodwill—and consequent peace—in the holy land. Moreover, minority military recruitment will facilitate the success of the “one state solution” about which I wrote last year in “West Bank Woes.” Concerning which, I watched a news documentary about the West Bank earlier this month that suggested that Palestinian youth have rejected the two state dream of their parents and grandparents. Instead, many want full citizenship in Israel with the right to live, work, and travel from the Mediterranean to the River Jordan. I wish them well in A.D. 2014. Many blessings to you, too, in the new year.
Robert Bonomo has posted an article on Pravda about The New York Times and its coverage of Vladimir Putin: “Vladimir Vladimirovich and the Grey Lady.” It allows some smirk inducing moments.
I wish the new calendarists out there a lovely Christmas Eve and a happy Christmas feast with their loved ones.
Below is a debate organized by the Oxford Museum of Natural History between John Lennox, Fellow in Mathematics and Philosophy of Science at Green Templeton College, and Richard Dawkins, husband of Lalla Ward, who played Romana on Doctor Who. The two Oxford men debate points from Dawkins’ book, The God Delusion.
As always, I indulge in my dirty habit of reading internet comments. It fascinates me that the commentators all watched the same debate but came away with such strikingly different opinions of how it went. Among the expected comments, I found this jolly quip:
VANITYBONET: “What is God, a kindergartener playing hide and seek like a little brat? God should not have to be sought, because left to one’s own devices void of logic and reason anything can be found that automatically aligns with what the individual is seeking regardless of there being no proof of its existence. If God is real, there should be absolutely no reason that He cannot find a way to reveal himself to everyone in such a way as to make His existence irrefutable.”
pappasgirl283: “You mean, like DNA, the night sky, how we are fearfully and wonderfully made . . .”
Follow that yonder star, folks.
I hope that everyone is having a fruitful Advent.
You all must know about the Duck Dynasty furor that news outlets and blogs have been mining for the past week. There are three editorials that express my sentiments well. First, Camille Paglia vents outrage at the thin-skinned intolerance of the homosexualist activists and of their corporate flatterers in a radio interview with Laura Ingraham, covered at the Daily Caller: “Paglia: Duck Dynasty uproar ‘utterly fascist, utterly Stalinist.’” Paglia further observes:
“I think that this intolerance by gay activists toward the full spectrum of human beliefs is a sign of immaturity, juvenility,” Paglia said. “This is not the mark of a true intellectual life. This is why there is no cultural life now in the U.S. Why nothing is of interest coming from the major media in terms of cultural criticism. Why the graduates of the Ivy League with their A, A, A+ grades are complete cultural illiterates, etc. is because they are not being educated in any way to give respect to opposing view points.”
“There is a dialogue going on human civilization, for heaven sakes. It’s not just this monologue coming from fanatics who have displaced the religious beliefs of their parents into a political movement,” she added. “And that is what happened to feminism, and that is what happened to gay activism, a fanaticism.”
What I fail to understand is why the social fringe is so vested in changing bourgeois opinion of them. Don’t they have a higher opinion of themselves that coexists with their already low opinion of the masses? Of course, I can see why one would not want a populace so intolerant of his sexual decisions that lower class Irish cops frequently disrupt his erotic escapades at the bath house—that would be understandably humiliating, inconvenient, and sometimes painful—but there is a wide grey area between the Buggery Act and state sanctioned and celebrated sodomy. Do we really need Christian Sunday School teachers with rainbow pins for the love that dare not speak its name to feel safe?
Read also Charles Cooke’s “A&E’s Problem — And Ours” in National Review. Cooke quickly affirms the network’s right to fire whomever they wish, but he notes that their decision to do so betrays a cancer in contemporary culture. Cooke writes:
People attempting to justify the private removal of those who say things they dislike rely on a host of weasel words and the habitual laziness of the population at large. They say that we have to think about “standards,” and “values,” and “feelings,” and “inclusion” and, too, about what is “acceptable.” What does this actually mean in practice? Robertson made his comments in GQ, which evidently considered them acceptable enough to print. I am a non-Christian who disagrees with Robertson on the question of gay marriage. What do the censors think is going to happen to me if I come across Robertson’s interview. Will I die? Will I break out in lesions? Will I go bankrupt? Will I immediately start lynching homosexuals? What might my complaint be: “Well, strike me down. I can’t believe it. I was just minding my own business reading this magazine, and then this guy I don’t know who makes duck calls said something I don’t like, and then . . . ” — well, and then what? Here’s the thing: I’m in favor of gay marriage; Phil Robertson thinks homosexuality is a sin. So bloody what? I’m happy to listen to him.
It is telling what we allow and what we don’t. Phil Robertson’s words quite literally affected nobody. They’re words. Meanwhile, Jennifer Lawrence argued that it should be illegal for Americans to call people “fat” on television: In other words, she actually advocated for her fellow citizens to be arrested for speaking. Robertson related what he believes; Lawrence, however mildly, called for the state to start punishing people for expressing themselves. The latter transgression is infinitely worse, but she will likely lose no work for having expressed it.
Finally, Larry Alex Taunton has a well considered piece in The Atlantic, “The Genuine Conflict Being Ignored in the Duck Dynasty Debate.” He addresses the absurd public reaction by GLAAD, which may be one of the more obnoxious things that I have read in some time (quite a feat in this age of insanity). It is as if GLAAD’s administrative office were staffed by feeble minded, emotionally twisted drama queens. Interesting. Taunton writes:
Instead of acknowledging this tension, however, A&E, GLAAD, and their supporters have responded with disingenuous expressions of shock and horror. And it matters that it’s disingenuous, because if they actually acknowledged that there is a genuine conflict between orthodox Christianity and homosexual sex (along with several forms of heterosexual sex) they would have to confront head-on the fact that calling for a boycott or pressuring for Robertson’s suspension tells orthodox Christians that their religion is no longer acceptable, and that’s not a very politically correct thing to do. Right now, they are trying to weasel out of it by characterizing Robertson as a backwoods bigot who takes his moral cues from Deliverance rather than from a straightforward reading of the Bible and the historic teachings of the Christian religion.
What a mess the West has become. Veni, veni, Emmanuel . . .
Happy feast of Saint Ambrose, one of my favorite Western saints! Also, this coming Sunday will be the feast of the Conception of the Theotokos (December 9—and December 22 as it currently falls on the Gregorian calendar).
As far as I know, we celebrate the conceptions of three persons—the Theotokos, John the Baptist, and Jesus. I always think of that fact when someone tries to justify abortion by pointing to the quickening debate among rabbinical Jews or the medieval schoolmen. Anyway, the feast of the Conception of the Theotokos started in the East and spread to the West, like so many Christian commemorations. However, the date was eventually transferred in the West from December 9 to December 8 in order to be exactly nine months before September 8, when everyone celebrates the feast of the Theotokos’ nativity. What the Westerners failed to understand was that the discrepancy was intentional, just as John the Baptist’s conception is celebrated on September 23 while his birthday is June 24. New Advent’s Catholic Encyclopedia states that some Western dioceses also celebrated the Conception of John, but they, again, transferred the feast to September 24 to make the date accord with the saint’s nativity celebration. There we see that old Western reflex to correct what it in ignorance fails to appreciate. Such reminds me of Chesterton’s fence:
In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.
The gestation period discrepancies for the Theotokos and John the Baptist are like the number of fingers that the characters have in The Simpsons or like Persian or Arabian rugs. In The Simpsons, every cartoon human being has four fingers on a hand (or less), while only God is shown with five fingers (according to the Simpsons Wiki, a production mistake—or perhaps divine inspiration!). Similarly, rugs and tapestries from Islamic cultures have slightly flawed designs. Both conventions symbolize that perfection is only truly found in God. As such, baby Mary bakes too little and baby John bakes too long, but Jesus Christ God incarnate bakes just right, from March 25 to December 25. Merry Christmas!
Kristor published a brief but wonderful reflection on sex yesterday on the Orthosphere that suits well the occasion of the Conception of the Theotokos: “Sex Matters.” The post goes beyond the important but limited discussion of sexuality that one finds in traditionalist discourse:
The ultimate end of sex – which is to say, the true end of sex - is the actualization of human souls in the lives of immortal persons who by virtue of their very existence have the option of enjoying forever the Beatific Vision, and the endless other beauties of Heaven outside the throne room. Each life that succeeds to Heaven represents an infinite increase in the realized value of Creation. A forgone human life then represents an infinite cost to the whole economy of Heaven, forever and ever. Being himself infinite, God can of course cover that defect of creaturely perfection with no problem; but for all the other citizens of Heaven, the failure to implement a single tiny life is a catastrophic injury to the wealth of glory they might have enjoyed, had the imperfection of procreative potential implicit in creation ab initio never occurred. . . .
Sex is the way God has arranged to generate gods. For all Christians, then, it’s a really big deal, almost the best thing there is.
“Sex is the way God has arranged to generate gods.” What a fantastic quotation! Downright Athanasian!
Please make sure to read Arakawa’s comment on the post, as well.
Kristor’s idea leads to many questions, including Lydia’s comment in the thread. In short, how does the principle of plenitude providentially play out when it comes to rational beings? Are the Mormons onto something when they postulate premortal intelligences, waiting for their chance to become incarnate? The blessed Origen thought it a possibility. For we all exist eternally in the mind of God, but, then, God knows from all eternity what rational agents will do and thereby creates the world accordingly. Are there unrealized souls (in the fullness of time) whom God knows, whose existence is thwarted due to human sin—or even due to the necessary limitations of creation, as Lydia’s comment implies? For any good that we creatures of space and time do means that we are not doing many other good things. Limitation requires limiting choices. Any possible world seems to fall short of the total goodness that God knows to be possible in creation. However, as I wrote in “Does Quantum Physics Make It Easier to Believe in God?,” it is not clear to me that “our world” is “the world.” Perhaps, we are just modal chauvinists, while all the rational beings whom God creates and knows do get born, though not in each possible world. Fascinating thoughts! Regardless, God is great. Have a blessed feast and a beneficial remainder of Advent!
Russia continues to surprise me. On the twentieth anniversary of the Russian constitution, President Putin made some interesting remarks in his state of the nation address today. Read The Independent‘s “President Vladimir Putin hails Russia’s ‘defence of traditional values’ in his state of the nation speech”:
In a ceremony full of pomp and circumstance, Mr Putin made a particularly thinly-veiled attack on the West’s more liberal attitudes toward gay rights, saying Russia would defend against “genderless and fruitless so-called tolerance” which he said allows “good and evil” to be equal.
“In many countries today, moral and ethical norms are being reconsidered; national traditions, differences in nation and culture are being erased,” Putin said, speaking in a gilded Kremlin hall packed with hundreds of officials, journalists and other public figures.
“They’re now requiring not only the proper acknowledgement of freedom of conscience, political views and private life, but also the mandatory acknowledgement of the equality of good and evil, which are inherently contradictory concepts,” he said.
Everything is always getting better and worse—in different places and in different ways. Good for Russia; they have had a nasty time of late, and they are ready for a rebirth. Would that day come soon for us in the West! However, I fear that we might have to go through our own version of hell first before the people are ready to repent. One would think that we would have all learnt how this whole cycle works from the Hebrews and thereby avoided many unpleasantries. Yet, one has to make his own mistakes and learn from them, it seems.
Two of my favorite cultural commentators have recently written about the “knockout game” wherein urban youth of an undisclosed ethnicity “randomly” try to knock out strangers of a different undisclosed ethnicity with one punch. Read John Derbyshire’s “It’s Obvious What the Knock-Out Game Is about” on Vdare and Ann Coulter’s “Liberals talk race and crime - and hilarity ensues!” and “Words with fiends.” Lady Ann has fun with leftist inanity, shooting down lies and obfuscation with her statistical semi-automatic. Derbyshire’s article, though, is ultimately more interesting. Derbyshire is not confused or surprised by the knockout game. He rather asks what has caused Western whites to become so craven—seemingly alone among peoples for their lack of (group) self interest. His question reminds me of the words of the late Lawrence Auster, “In all of human history, have there ever been human beings as cowardly and contemptible as contemporary white liberals?”
True to Derbyshirean form, Derb explores some theories, wherein he mentions Nietzsche. However, he does not include Nietzsche’s critique of the West, including and especially the “last man”—the human form which modern Western civilization has been cultivating for several generations. Nietzsche has more to offer on the topic; I wonder if the self destructive behavior of the modern West is due, in some part, to the drive for mastery. Having conquered the world, the successful West has perhaps become cannibalistic in its need to dominate an other—and so one’s own furnishes the perfect other. I do not thereby deny the nihilistic tendencies of modernity, the follies of individualism, liberalism, and egalitarianism, or the historical consequences of total war, deracinated industrialized society, and dehumanizing technocracy. I moreover recall the wisdom of scripture, “Pride goeth before destruction, and a haughty spirit before a fall.” Yet, the exact mechanism of such a fall and the nature of such haughty spirit likely involve many complex particularities, and the ever insightful and prophetic Freddy may contribute to a fuller understanding of our sorry lot.