Saturday, December 22, 2007

Steyn Doesn't Get Much Better Than This

Faith and Science – Collectively Barren:

(I)f Christianity is merely a "myth", it's a perfectly constructed one, beginning with the decision to establish Christ's divinity in the miracle of His birth. The obligation to have children may be a lot of repressive Catholic mumbo-jumbo, but it's also highly rational. What's irrational is modern EUtopia's indifference to new life.

I recently had a conversation with an EU official who, apropos a controversial proposal to tout the Continent's religious heritage in the new constitution, kept using the phrase "Europe's post-Christian future". The evidence suggests that, once you reach the post-Christian stage, you don't have much of a future. Luke, a man of faith and a man of science, could have told them that.

No, I'M Muhammad! No, I'M Muhammad ...

'Muhammad boys' prove 'Islam will enter every house in Europe' -- Terror leader boastful after Britain stats list most popular baby names. Well, they'll have a helluva time trying to get the right kid's attention at street rallies ...

Meanwhile, a Russian Orthodox official says things aren’t so bleak for Europe.

Whose "Army" Are You With?

Father Barron brings the subversive message of Christmas: the Kingdom of Heaven is not with the powerful -- one might say, the petro-driven, death-dealing powers vying for supremacy in conventional cultural terms -- but with the true King of whom the angels sing. [HT: Creative Minority Report]

Coulombe Compendium

If one has the opportunity, I suggest that the reader ponder some of the thoughts and surmises of Charles A. Coulombe, stout fellow and papal knight. His pieces Europe and the Empire and, more recently, Could the Latin Mass Save Western Civilization? contain notions well worth savoring and inwardly digesting.

... Pray for Us Now & At the Hour of Our Death

Friday, December 21, 2007

Christmas in the Trenches

John McCutcheon relates the amazing events of the Christmas Truce of 1914.

A Christian Christmas in Snowy Iran

William Wedin offers a photo essay and beautiful reflection on our brothers and sisters existing and, seemingly, thriving in a snowy and festive Iran. A must view/read. [HT: Andrew Cusack]

One may not agree with Dr. Wedin's surmise about the nature of Iran, but the photos show the heart, the resiliency, the spirit of people of goodwill who will celebrate our Savior's birth where ever they may live in God's good creation.

Thursday, December 20, 2007

The Primitive Sacred & Ritual Victims

A clear enough demarcation for determining who may or may not be a certified and sanctioned victim of human sacrifice. [HT: Jihad Watch]

Wednesday, December 19, 2007

The Tribal Roots of Islam

Philip Carl Salzman examines The Middle East’s Tribal DNA in the winter volume of The Middle East Quarterly. Priceless is the following:
Arabs are taught, and many have taken to heart, that honor is more important than wealth, fame, love, or even death. Imbued with such a sense, today's Arab finds himself in an untenable situation: Juxtaposing their recent history to the years of glory under Muhammad, Arabs can see only defeat visited upon defeat. First there was the breakdown of Arab solidarity and fighting among the Arabs themselves, then the Turkish Ottomans conquered the region. The decline and fall of the Ottomans led to conquest and occupation of almost all Arab lands by the Christians of Europe. Even their successful anti-colonial struggles turned into empty victories with Arab populations subject to power-hungry rulers, sadistic despots, or religious fanatics.

What honor can be found in defeat and oppression? And what self-respect can Arabs find without honor? In a world of defeat and failure, honor can be found only in resistance. Arab self-respect demands honor be vindicated through standing and fighting, no matter what the cost. In a 2006 interview, Pierre Heumann, a journalist with the Swiss weekly Die Weltwoche, asked Al-Jazeera editor-in-chief Ahmed Sheikh whether enmity toward Israel is motivated by self-esteem. Sheikh explained, "Exactly. It's because we always lose to Israel. It gnaws at the people in the Middle East that such a small country as Israel, with only about 7 million inhabitants, can defeat the Arab nation with its 350 million. That hurts our collective ego" ... Lebanese poet Khalil Hawi echoes a similar theme in his 1979 volume Wounded Thunder in which he laments the failure of the Arabs to defeat Israel. "How heavy is the shame," Hawi asks. "Do I bear it alone?"

[ ... ]

Indeed, everywhere along the perimeter of the Muslim-ruled bloc, Muslims have problems living peaceably with their neighbors. Muslims may only comprise one-fifth of the world's population, but in this decade and the last, they have been far more involved in inter-group violence than the people of any other civilization.
Probably the most telling comment in the essay is this: 'The Arab saying, "Me against my brother, me and my brother against my cousin; me, my brother, and my cousin against the world," holds true.'

If the Arab Council in Damascus from Lawrence of Arabia comes to mind (pictured above) -- or a Flannery O'Connor character or two -- comes to mind as you read, don't be surprised. [HT: Liberty and Culture]

Rabbi Neusner on BXVI

The editor of the Jewish Encyclopedia has complimentary things to say of Pope Benedict XVI in "BLESSED ARE YOU WHO HAVE THE POPE..." -- An Interview with Rabbi Jacob Neusner.
[HT: New Advent]

Petulant Plotter Pouts About Pontiff

By now, everyone has seen the headline that Al-Qaida's Ayman al-Zawahri found the historic meeting between the Holy Father and a Saudi monarch "offensive to Islam and Muslims." Big deal. So what.

But from a mimetic point of view, it is significant. When the Model in the Model-Rival template welcomes the Rival to his tent (okay, St. Peter's Basilica), smiles and gifts are exchanged, it is an acknowledgment of a forthrightness to dialog, discuss differences, cooperate. Equally important is the display of this gesture to the world since what is happening is mimetic rivalry on a planetary scale. This scandalizes al-Zawahri tremendously for two reasons.

First, it takes the power to define and dictate the terms of discourse away from Al-Qaida: the Pope and King Abdullah are the prime actors on this stage, not the -- pardon the expression or not -- flea-bitten terrorists whose false ontological substantiation comes from a alchemical brew of media attention and the primitive Sacred. To share the lime light is galling to the petulant boys of bombs and roses. In a word, "offensive".

Secondly, it is an extremely powerful piece of theo-drama and, if you will, "anthro-drama". Maybe there is an indication in such a historical meeting that the God of Abraham, Isaac, and Jacob truly is the God of Esau as well. Perhaps progressive revelation will bring us to a place not of rivalry but of mutual humility and respect one day, by God's grace.

But al-Zawahri cannot fathom this, blind and deaf to what Saint Stephen saw as he was stoned by the Al-Qaida of his day. And this is the point: the Holy Father can understand al-Zawahri, but al-Zawahri cannot understand the Holy Father.

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

Little Sisters Around the Bushes

No beating around the Bushes for the Little Sisters of the Poor here, reports the Anchoress. Hm. Wonder where the MSM was?

Suffer the Little Children

Mark Shea on Herod Would Be Proud.

Orientalism & Self-Pity

Michael Weiss reviews Ibn Warraq's book criticizing the concept of "Orientalism" of Edward Said:
Ibn Warraq, a scholar of Islam and the author of the recently released "Defending the West: A Critique of Edward Said's Orientalism," pointed out this macabre fact to me over the phone as a sign of what went wrong with postcolonial studies — the academic field more or less founded by Said, which, in an effort to examine the relationship of conqueror to conquered, placed a dime-store psychology of empire at the center of every discussion of "East meets West."

[ ... ]

"'Orientalism,'" Mr. Warraq writes, "taught an entire generation of Arabs the art of self-pity … encouraged the Islamic fundamentalist generation of the 1980s, and bludgeoned into silence any criticism of Islam." Though it's Mr. Warraq's plaint that the book "stopped dead the research of eminent Islamologists who felt their findings might offend Muslims' sensibilities," it is not merely an abstract charge, but personally felt. "Ibn Warraq" is an Arabic pseudonym, meaning "son of a stationer, book-seller, paper-seller," which this Indian-born writer assumed after witnessing the critical reception Islamists gave Salman Rushdie, all the while claiming themselves as victims. Read all …

Monday, December 17, 2007

Head South to Stay, Mark

Spencer gives further details on the kangaroo courts trying to silence Chestertonian author and wit, Mark Steyn.

Witches vs. Baby Jesus

Stephen Vincent Benet gave us "The Devil and Daniel Webster." Bob Lonsberry gives us what I'll call "The Pentacle Debacle":
See, Baby Jesus ticks off witchcraft people. They're all about tolerance for themselves, but are pretty darned intolerant of others. That's how this whole diversity thing goes. Acceptance is demanded for everything — except the values, opinions, faith and culture of the majority. Multiculturalism is about the sanitizing of culture, about the eradication of the mainstream culture.
So, like I said, the witchcraft people got ticked off. Though there might just have been one of them. At any rate, figuring that actually walking up and urinating on the Baby Jesus would stir up the locals, it looks like folks decided to go for the next best thing. That's how the 10-foot by 10-foot Wicca symbol got built in the shadow of the stable. It was a big square, with a dark blue background and a white circle. Inside the white circle was a white five-pointed star against a light-blue background. That's a pentacle.
And the Wicca lady — who looks nothing like Elvira or Elizabeth Montgomery — said it had to go up now because the winter solstice is some sort of witchcraft holiday or something. Read all … [HT: Spirit Daily]

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Lift High the Cross

All you have to do is hold up a cross in front of some people and this happens. And this. And this.

People who are this intolerant of others' truth claims, yet who expect their beliefs to be accommodated to the point of obsequious fawning and kowtowing due to their violent tendencies need to be stood up to before the likes of Krystallnacht begin to happen again. The primitive Sacred is alive and growing again in our world. It is demanding and arrogant, wealthy due to the West's oil addiction, enabling, and codependent behavior, and possessed of a self-righteousness that comes from its imperviousness to influence by the Gospel.

When will soccer teams, voters, all men of goodwill, and the chivalrous who believe in legitimate defense stop being ashamed of the Cross of Christ?

What Atheism and Islam Have In Common

ONE MAY ASK the imponderable question (at first): What do the hatreds of Islam and secular atheism (either the so-called scientific or superficial postmodern denizen brand) for Judaism and Christianity have in common?

As distinguished physical chemist and philosopher Michael Polanyi has demonstrated, scientific "objectivity" and "detachment" are myths. Scientists put faith in a multitude of factors: an empirical reality that is perceptible and measurable; laws of cause and effect that apply universally; a research community whose findings are dependable and free from fraud. "We must now recognize belief once more as the source of all knowledge ..." Polanyi said. "No intelligence, however critical or original, can operate outside such a fiduciary (faith-based) framework" [From Scott Hahn's book, Reasons to Believe, p. 18]. To think otherwise is to doom all human thought to mere nihilism and meaninglessness. John Polkinghome, former Professor of Mathematical Physics at Cambridge, levels this criticism at R. Dawkins’ and John Humphrys’ shallow scientific triumphalism here.

And what of Islam? As scientific reductionism views reality from the paradigm of a certain set of presuppositions that exclude God, Islam regards reality with its deity, "Allah", from the viewfinder of a certain set of presuppositions that seem to the Christian who breaths the air of the freedom of faith and reason to be pretty drab and hopeless by comparison. "Allah" and indeed all of reality are in no way conscripted to rules and laws, even those imposed by the deity. The only -- the only -- bit of truth and wisdom in the worldview of Islam tossed to a faithful race of slaves are the scraps of paper called the Koran. Everything else is flux, chaos, warfare, and death. No wonder even moderate Muslims consider the pharisaically legalistic hard-liners with a respect due to "holy" men! Hell -- if the "lifeline" is all there is, those who cling to it most stubbornly, consistently, and ferociously ARE the "good guys"!

Both scientific reductionism and hard-line Islam despise the Biblical faith of Jews and Christians because it has been around a lot longer, has thought about such matters as their presuppositions alot longer, and, without wanting to sound triumphalistic, KNOWS a lot more about faith and reason than either of them too. It falls, once again, into the Model/Rival template of RenĂ© Girard's mimetic theory, with the Biblical faiths' truth claims being the object of fascination and scorn and desire. As Jean DePuy has said, desire (anthropologically speaking) is "a secret fascination for the apparent autonomy of the other which cannot rest until it has demystified it.” And Hamerton-Kelly: "The failed mind is a mind enslaved. It desires not only to possess the other, but to consume or destroy. It wishes not only to imitate the other, nor merely to possess itself in the other, but to destroy the other as the place where the self is alien to the self.”

And here we see the meeting-place of atheism and Islam: a mutual desire "not only to possess," but "to consume ... to destroy" the place occupied by the Church, her deposit of faith and reason, and all that has been influenced by this Other. They look like formidable foes, these two. Which side would you say you find yourself? One has hope, as the Holy Father, Benedict XVI has proclaimed. The others offer slavery and drudgery on the one hand, and nihilistic hopelessness on the other. You choose.

Browbeating, Dhimmitude and Heresy

Spencer at Jihad Watch states the obvious that politically correct multiculturalists miss: "When the issue is Islam, debate – or disagreement – is hazardous."

Gil Bailie in his series on Dante's Divine Comedy points out that heresy clogs, stops up, narrows, and crimps human life as it is supposed to be lived in God's economy of grace. (For God's sake, do women really belong in shapeless burqa sacks and afraid for their lives? Talk about proof of the Fall). Heresy also always attacks the two foundations of Christian belief: the Incarnation and the Trinity. Is it any wonder that Dante placed the Prophet in Circle 8 of h-e-double-hockey-sticks?

UPDATE: This just in -- for “un-Islamic behaviour”. Gee, um, what a surprise.

News, Hope, and A Message in a Bottle

Father Robert A. Gahl, Jr., Associate Professor of Ethics at the Pontifical University of the Holy Cross in Rome, offers an essay on the Holy Father's Spe Salvi.
In an essay entitled Message in a Bottle the Louisiana novelist and philosopher Walker Percy explained the difference between “information” and “news” with the shipwreck example. In Spe Salvi, Saved in Hope Benedict XVI's recent encyclical on Christian hope, he offers a deeper distinction by contrasting that which is merely “informative” with that which is “performative”. Like Percy's “news”, Benedict's use of the term “performative” emphasizes the efficacy of Christian hope.

Drawing from British philosopher of language J. L. Austin and his theory of “performative utterances”, Benedict proposes that Christians tend to under-appreciate the vitality of their own hope because of habituation, almost as though it were a drug whose effects wear off with time. Due to such habituation, Christians can fail to appreciate the greatness of that in which they hope and therefore sometimes set their sights on a less lofty goal. In doing so, they miss the whole point of Jesus's message. They set their sights on salvation in this world rather than the next. To use the phrase made famous by political philosopher Eric Voegelin, they “immanentize the eschaton”. Hope in this world is no Christian hope.

Although primarily for bishops, Benedict addresses an audience much broader than the Catholic Church. In fact, Spe Salvi challenges nearly everyone on the planet, from agnostic secularists who set their sights on economic development and scientific progress to Marxist revolutionaries, and everyone in between, including Lutherans and neo-pagan environmentalists. Continue reading …
For the full text of Spe Salvi go here.