Month: February 2015

Are the 21 Coptic martyrs pro-Israel enough for Ted Cruz?

Amen, senator.

Ted Cruz apparently said at CPAC this week that “the president needs to stand up and defend the beheaded Coptic Christians in Egypt,” and he’s been mentioning them frequently for the last week or so.

At the In Defense of Christians Summit he trolled last September, one of his last lines was, “If you will not stand with Israel and the Jews, then I will not stand with you.”

It’s no secret that the Copts have some issues with Israel, and representative of the Coptic Patriarch was in the room that night. Was he one of the ones Cruz believes was “consumed with hate”?

At the very least, the junior senator from Texas has contradicted himself. Which one is it? Does he stand with the Coptic Church, regardless of its politically inconvenient relationship with Israel, or are the 21 Coptic martyrs simply a useful prop to criticize the administration and call for ever more aggressive military action in the Middle East?

I think we all know the answer, but let us hope we are wrong. Cruz’s IDC line is basically straight out of the John Hagee playbook, who’s said before in interviews that “if you are not for Israel and the Jewish people, you either are biblically ignorant or you’re not a Christian.” They are both Baptists, and as we were reminded last week by a blog post at some Montana hate preacher’s website that went viral, Baptists have significant differences with Coptic Christianity.

There’s some evidence Hagee and Cruz are close; not long after the IDC provocation, Ted Cruz’s father, a twice-divorced former Catholic-turned-Baptist preacher, headlined at the San Antonio-based church of John Hagee, chairman of Christians United for Israel. He also has some odd beliefs about Jesus and the end of the world:

In Hagee’s latest, Four Blood Moons, he advances the theory that a series of lunar events that started on April 2014 means that “in these next two years, we’re going to see something dramatic happen in the Middle East involving Israel that will change the course of history in the Middle East and impact the whole world.”

Hagee keeps saying this stuff; CUFI keeps separating itself from the rapture-ready bestsellers. On Monday I asked David Brog, the Jewish executive director of CUFI, whether Four Blood Moons was informing any of Hagee’s or the activists’ thinking about the crisis in Israel or Russia.

“Absolutely not,” said Brog. “Outside observers don’t give evangelicals credit for being able to hold two different ideas in their heads. There’s often confusion, when it comes to evangelical support for Israel, because evangelicals, like a lot of Jews, believe that we may be living in a messianic time. Of course, in the Jewish case, no one ever says—‘Ah, that’s why you support Israel, you think you’re going to bring the messiah.’ It’s black letter Christian theology that the date of the second coming was set eons ago.”

A politically necessary dodge, to be sure, but frankly it strikes me as complete nonsense given how politically active these people are; ‘We’re not trying to bring about the end times, we just want to bomb Iran.’ Later in November Hagee, and the younger Cruz appeared together at the Zionist Organization of America dinner, where the former called the president “one of the most anti-Semitic presidents in the history of the United States of America.”

Obama can’t be worse than Nixon on that score, but at any rate, it’s far from the worst thing Hagee has said:

Now, before we go any further, let me note that I consider myself a supporter of Israel and believe my record bears that out. I was the first to publish this expose by Edwin Black on the Palestinian Authority vetting acts of terrorism for whether they qualified as martyrdom operations, and had the author on the radio when I was subbing for Mike Church to talk about it afterward. I brought on an Orthodox Jew and Israeli citizen to help edit my section at the Daily Caller, and have published a founder of the Wiesenthal Center. It would be difficult for me to run a more pro-Israel opinion page. Maybe Robert Spencer would say I should stop publishing moderate Muslims too, that would be one way I guess — he goes after me whenever I publish one — but I refuse to do that.

However, I also hew to George Washington’s warning about entangling alliances, and sure am put off by the creepy theopolitics and political litmus tests of Christian Zionists like Hagee and Cruz. What seems beyond question to me is that it is going too far for a professed Christian to claim, in political apologias for the state of Israel, that “Jesus did not come to earth to be the Messiah.” It really says something about the state of the Christian right that a man like Hagee can state what seems to me a clearly heretical idea such as this and still be treated with respect.

As for Cruz, we should insist that he clarifies his position. Does he think the 21 martyrs had it coming, being part of a church that fails to recognize Israel as the hope of Middle Eastern Christians, as he has suggested they should?

Some may object to my bringing this up, that I’m politicizing the murders, or gainsaying both Israel and Ted Cruz at an important time, or that unity and deference are called for in the face of tragedy. Indeed, one could interpret the U.K.-based Coptic Bishop Angaelos’s worries that way, as expressed to TheDC’s own Ivan Plis:

While touched by the “immense amount of concern” he had received for his slain brethren, he said he was “very wary of them being used to make a political point” by those unfamiliar with the Copts and their church.

What Ted Cruz is doing here is trying to make a political point, and the most charitable spin one could put on his IDC provocation is that he was “unfamiliar with the Copts and their church.” To my mind, asking these questions is very much in the spirit of Bishop Angaelos’s concerns.

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Striving to cease being “Addicted to Distraction”

0600 – Wake up, start coffee maker.

0605 – Check Twitter for new “notifications.” Check email for new posts from Dampier, Land, Social Matter, The Mitrailleuse. Etc. Check Drudge to see if the world ended overnight.

0620 – Begin reading local newspaper. Front section is a mish mash of local crime, state legislature blather, Christians beheaded by ISIS, chickens loose on a California freeway after falling off a truck, train crashes in West Virginia, snow storms Back East. Etc.

0645 – Begin making breakfast and lunch for me and my son. For the first time so far today, deal with something real.

Periodically throughout day – repeat check-check-check. Get angry at Mitch McConnell for giving in on “clean DHS funding bill.” Obama wins again. The country is going to shit. The goddam Democrats are blocking everything good and holy, except for bringing millions more illegal aliens who will eventually vote for them and for more welfare. Pope Francis is quoted as saying he’s just skippy with homos having anal sex…or at least that’s what the Lamestream Media want you to believe about him. Greece elects hard-lefties who promise to screw the EU, and it’s hard not to get excited/concerned about that, either because they’re hard-left a-holes or because it would be so delicious to see the EU collapse like the craptacular, multiculti house of cards it truly is. Tweet the blog posts from the people you like that were posted in the last six hours. Throw in a couple of original tweets about how the Oscars are a disgusting sewer hole of Political Correctness. Check Drudge again to see if the world ended while you weren’t noticing. Don’t resist clicking on the story about a man having a freaking baby. Don’t resist clicking on the link at the bottom to “8 Hottest Hotties in their Hottest bikinis.”

Etc.

Read Dr. Bruce Charlton’s new book Addicted to Distraction. It’s free, and it’ll take you an hour. May you never look at Mass Media the same. We are indeed addicted to distraction, you and I and most of the people who immerse themselves in the Mass Media. Which is just plain most people in the West, and soon the world.

1878bruce_resized

Dr. Charlton makes the point often missed: the media aren’t “biased” to the Left, the Medium is the Message, and the message is that everything is someone’s opinion, everything is “relative.” Even when media presents something good, heroic, charitable, it’s immediately subject to analysis and criticism, to dissection of motive, to questioning on whether the White Cismale who saved a kid from drowning was just another Macho stereotype.

We thought we would use the Web for our purposes, us conservatives, men of the Right, Traditionalists, Neoreactionaries. The Left controlled the Old Mass Media, the NYTWAPO and NBABCBS, but we would seize our chance for every man and woman jack to blog and comment and share our perspective, to go around the Gatekeepers, to form our own networks and “get our message out.”

We were wrong. We were assimilated. We continued to click on the Mass Media, to respond, respond, respond to all of the relativism and the bullshit, to “strike back” at Obama and Reid and Pelosi and Jezebel and Buzzfeed,  Slate and Salon, to the married fags and the trannies and the Slut Walkers, the beheaders and terrorists, the escaped tigers and maniacs, the Kardashians and Housewives; to the Daily Spew.

Dr. Charlton is a blogger himself, of course, and he’s quite frank in his assessment that not only is he mired in the Mass Media, too, but his efforts to escape the addiction are subject to constant temptation and periodic backsliding. But it’s a fight well worth making, not in an effort to save the society, but to save your soul. You might with profit read his piece The Psychological Basis of Self-Remembering as an aid.

It is possible, if barely, to continue to use the web and to post articles on real things without remaining in the Mass Media matrix. I’m going to try.  My strength is the examination of Old Stuff, anyway. Like Dr. Charlton, I know I’ll backslide, just like with the Commandments I’m taught in the Church. These human frailties are the base upon which the Mass Media was built.

The Church, at least, has the Sacrament of Reconciliation.

Hopefully, as the media continue to lead society toward the drain we can, like AA members, help each other retain a measure of sanity.

Will Herberg and the agony of liberal religion

The collapse of the Christian right, and the delayed backlash that has aroused the classic paranoid style of American politics in contemporary liberalism, has barely even begun to suggest the full ramifications of the United States catching up to the rest of the developed world in the steep decline of religion. It would seem a good time to reconsider the self-understanding of religion in American life that emerged in the 1950s, that to one degree or another would be definitive for the postwar era. And as it happens, the leading academic chronicler and interpreter of that moment (in however problematically dated terms) also offered the most compelling philosophical understanding of the promise, pitfalls, and paradox of liberal religion that defined his moment and remains no less relevant today.

Will Herberg, a Jewish-socialist-atheist who in middle age embraced and championed an interpretation of Judaism arguably owing more to Christian existentialism than rabbinic tradition, was the most celebrated philosopher of Judaism in America in the 1950s, yet is profoundly unfashionable to the extent he is even remembered at all by American Jews today. Born in 1901 to avowedly socialist and atheist Jewish immigrant parents, Herberg joined the newly formed Communist Party as a teenager but was one of many premature anti-Communists to leave the party with Bukharin follower Jay Lovestone; a connection that led to years of gainful employment with the International Ladies Garment Workers Union, led by the irrepressible anti-Communist David Dubinsky.

Ever the garrulous intellectual, the madness of a world rushing toward war and totalitarianism thoroughly dissembled Herberg’s frankly religious faith in Marxism and led him on a search for the genuine article. He befriended Reinhold Niebuhr, who urged him to first consider returning to Judaism before he could in good conscience bless a conversion to Christianity, pointing him directly across the street, literally, from Manhattan’s Union Theological Seminary to the Jewish Theological Seminary.

In 1947 Herberg published in the young, relatively ecumenical Commentary his personal confession, “From Marxism to Judaism,” lacking noticeable anti-communist fervor and describing the journey in a curiously value-neutral tone from one faith to another. He declared in what was essentially his mission statement that “The worship of a holy and transcendent God who yet manifests himself in history saves us alike from the shallow positivism that leaves nature and history and life all without ultimate meaning, from a pantheism that in the end amounts to an idolatrous worship of the world, and from a sterile other-worldliness that breaks all connection between religion and life.” He went on to warn that “we are witnessing the gradual corrosion of faith by the naturalistic and secularist temper of the time. It is a corrosion that can and must be arrested and undone by a vital theology, cast in contemporary terms.”

The definitive statement of Herberg’s philosophy of Judaism was in his widely acclaimed 1951 book Judaism and Modern Man, borrowing heavily from the thought of such Christian friends as Niebuhr and Paul Tillich yet animated by his deep commitment to Judaism. Herberg offered a radical affirmation of Judaism’s first principles for the modern world:

Idolatry, in Jewish thinking, is the root source of all wrongdoing and moral evil. But to grasp the full scope and significance of this principle it is necessary to understand the essential meaning of idolatry. Idolatry is not simply the worship of sticks and stones, or it would obviously have no relevance to our times. Idolatry is the absolutization of the relative, it is absolute devotion paid to anything short of the absolute. What idolatry does is to convert its object into an absolute, thereby destroying the partial good within it and transforming it into a total evil. Contemporary life is idolatry-ridden to an appalling degree. Man, it cannot be too often repeated, must fix his devotion and anchor his being in something ultimate, and if it is not the Living God, it will be some spurious substitute.

This, in short, is the paradox of liberal religion, if not a historic paradox at the heart of Judaism itself, whose profound relevance to modernity Herberg was unique in recognizing. If only the absolute, the Living God, is sacred, how, ultimately, can any institution effectively affirm and uphold the sacred without in one way or another succumbing to idolatry?

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The radicals are the only ones we read

Remember the donkey, Benjamin, from Animal Farm? He is a dissident intellectual who sees how things really are, providing exposition to the reader about how the ridiculous, surreptitious deception defines the post-revolution farm. He’s not a resister, he’s not a rabble-rouser and he’s not counter-revolutionary. He is passive, and he passively speaks the sober truth, with neither a delusion of living under a reasonable system or delusion of being able to change that system. That’s the only reason why he can occupy his strange position — he is an utterly defeated fellow with nothing to lose and no reason to speak anything but the harsh truth. This is the mystique of the neoreactionary.

The neoreactionary is the guy at the end of the movie that tells everyone exactly how he feels about them. He’s already lost his job, or lost the battle, or he’s just had an epiphany about how he’s been full of shit the whole time (does anyone else remember Talk Radio?) That’s why people actually read neoreactionary blogs instead of those of, say, Stormfront.org buffoons, despite the two being about equal in political incorrectness. Where white nationalists might have laughable fantasies about a “white revolution” and coming neo-Nazi order, neoreactionaries are acutely aware of the insurmountable obstacles that face an anti-mass movement. Nick Land writes:

Neoreactionary realism, in contrast, is positively aligned with the recession of demotic sustenance. If this were not the case, it would exhibit its own specific mode of democratic politics — an evident absurdity. Any suggestion of frustrated rage, tilting into terroristic expressions, would immediately reveal profound confusion, or hypocrisy. Lashing the masses into ideological acquiescence, through exemplary violence, cannot imaginably be a neoreactionary objective…

“What is to be done?” is not a neutral question. The agent it invokes already strains towards progress. This suffices to suggest a horrorist response: Nothing. Do nothing. Your progressive ‘praxis’ will come to nought in any case. Despair. Subside into horror. You can pretend to prevail in antagonism against ‘us’, but reality is your true — and fatal — enemy. We have no interest in shouting at you. We whisper, gently, in your ear: “despair”. (The horror.)

Compare this to the embarrassing pretensions of power that “anti-establishment” types have: libertarians saying “smash the state,” feminists saying, “smash the patriatrchy,” and socialists saying, “smash capitalism.” There is clearly no smashing of any of these types going on and no plausibility of it happening either. It’s a game of make-believe that the neoreactionaries do not play.

Progressive intellectuals, even the Marxist ones, are toiling in the status quo. Apparently fresh academia-intelligentsia-social media trends are just new exegesis of old progressive canon. Criticism of Patricia Arquette’s progressive Oscar acceptance speech is being made from the exact same assumptions about the nature of justice human interaction that Patricia Arquette’s speech itself is built upon. Even conservatives attempting to implement conservative ideas work within the status quo by using proxy arguments: “We should cut welfare because welfare leads to bad results for the poor,” or the ever eye roll inducing, “Liberals are the real racists for supporting affirmative action!” Both of these talking points, regardless of their truth value, are ultimately competing in the rat race of finding creative ways to dignify progressive assumptions. Conservatives don’t seem to realize that their proxy arguments are always going to be inferior to the real thing. This doesn’t mean that the progressives are wrong — they are just operate in the same kind of criticism-insulated environment that the medieval scholastics existed in.

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Sacred Harp 117: ‘Babylon is Fallen’

Hail the day so long expected,
Hail the year of full release.
Zion’s walls are now erected,
And her watchmen publish peace.
Through our Shiloh’s wide dominion,
Hear the trumpet loudly roar,
Babylon is fallen to rise no more.

All her merchants stand with wonder,
What is this that comes to pass:
Murm’ring like the distant thunder,
Crying, “Oh alas, alas.”
Swell the sound, ye kings and nobles,
Priest and people, rich and poor;
Babylon is fallen to rise no more.

Blow the trumpet in Mount Zion,
Christ shall come a second time;
Ruling with a rod of iron
All who now as foes combine.
Babel’s garments we’ve rejected,
And our fellowship is o’er,
Babylon is fallen to rise no more.

The brown scare goes after libertarians, endorses throwing rocks at Pope Benedict

                                             Once more
My quondam dean in University Hall
Stands in the breach of peace, whence he will call
Down fire on the bald, woolly heads of all
Professors of the other point of view,
Who, flanked and enfiladed and too few,
Will soon throw down their dated arms of course,
And yield themselves to a superior force
Of well-drilled intellectual police,
Sworn on honor to enforce the peace.

— L.E. Sissman, “Peace Comes to Still River, Mass.”

I got in trouble on Twitter the other day, for quoting a post by Henry Dampier. Jesse Spafford, a writer who has contributed to the flagship magazine of Brooklyn leftism, the New Inquiry, says I shared “an essay lamenting that the Nazis lost WWII.” Readers can decide whether the following passage “laments” that:

Imagining that the Nazis won World War II is a popular jumping-off point for a lot of speculative fiction. The reader is supposed to feel glad that the Nazis did not in fact, win. Unfortunately, a more brutal, cruel, and anti-human government won World War II — the Soviet Union.

This is a heterodox version of the story, maybe, but not that controversial, and certainly not the exclusive domain of Nazi apologists.’Yalta could have gone better’ is a fairly well-accepted point of view. That Dampier quote is straight out of Pat Buchanan, though by no means confined to the populist corner of the right. Or even just the right. The independent left Tribune, of which George Orwell was literary editor, objected to the Yalta agreement. And here’s Dwight MacDonald in the 1952 debate with Norman Mailer at Mount Holyoke:

… the only historically real alternatives in 1939 were to back Hitler’s armies, to back the Allies’ armies, or to do nothing. But none of these alternatives promised any great benefit for mankind, and the one that finally triumphed has led simply to the replacing of the Nazi threat by the Communist threat, with the whole ghastly newsreel flickering through once more in a second showing.

Who knew MacDonald was a Nazi apologist? I’m sympathetic to Christopher Lasch’s criticism of him famously, and grudgingly, “choosing” the West, which he lodges in The New Radicalism in America, that “to “choose” between the two, however, was to assume that conflict between Russia and the West could not be avoided. If one assumed such a conflict, one had to choose — as most people had felt obliged to choose between Hitler and the West.”

At this point, I suppose it’s worth noting that by the standards of the anti-colonial style that dominates the left today, to “choose” the West at all is to side with a kind of fascism. You’d have to ask Spafford about that one, but it is at least clear that, to our Pomona philosophy graduate, it is impossible to think both that Nazis are bad and the post-World War II peace conceded far too much to the Soviet Union; the only person who could possibly think that is a Nazi apologist. It went on like this for a while before I blocked him and he tweeted about it.

I’d go so far as to say there’s one thing about about all of this that resembles the way the Stalinist left in America behaved after Operation Barbarossa, insinuating pacifists and Trotskyites were on Hitler’s payroll. In his tweet, Spafford cc’d Michael Goldfarb, the registered foreign agent and chairman of the Free Beacon, a neoconservative website that publishes unverified, fake propaganda from Senate offices intended to gin up the case for war in Ukraine. Spafford, a committed leftist, is not only aping Debbie Wasserman Schultz, but making common cause with neoconservatives to do so. This is interesting not just because the Free Beacon is staunchly pro-Israel (Spafford thinks Israel is fascist too). It also speaks to the idea that the neoconservative and left-wing narratives about World War II are roughly the same.

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